Under Sealed Orders by H. A. Cody
Chapter X. When Dreams Come True
"Isn't this lovely!" Betty exclaimed, as she stood in the middle of the large room which had been assigned to David.
It was the second day since their arrival at the Petersons' house, and their delight at everything was not only amusing to Mrs. Peterson but somewhat pathetic as well. She could not account for the girl's remarkable care of the old man. She would allow nothing to interfere with her attention upon him, and she arranged a cosy spot by the big north window where he could sit and listen to the sound of his beloved falls.
"You will spoil him," Mrs. Peterson told her once when they were alone in the kitchen. "You will make him as helpless as a child. It is not good for men to be waited upon too much."
"Are you not afraid of spoiling your husband, then, Mrs. Peterson?" Betty replied. "You treat him just like a child."
"Oh, but he is an invalid, and can't help himself. That is the reason why I have to wait upon him."
"But Mr. David is a wonder," Betty insisted, "and he must not be neglected."
There was such an expression of admiration in the girl's eyes that Mrs. Peterson had not the heart to smile at her enthusiasm.
"In what way is he a wonder?" was all she asked, as she went on with her work.
"Oh, he has a great thing in his head, which he is thinking about all the time. It has to do with the falls, and he has told me a whole lot about it. He will be very rich some day, and we are going to have such a nice house of our own. You see, I am to be his housekeeper, and nurse him when he is sick."
It was a great pleasure for Captain Peterson to have David and Betty at the house. No longer did he have to sit alone for hours upon the verandah as he had an audience now to listen to his tales of the sea and the places he had visited. David was a good listener and enjoyed hearing the yarns, although he kept one ear open for the sound of the falls. Nothing must interfere with his interest up there.
One afternoon the captain was speaking about England, and mentioned Liverpool. David became unusually interested, and even let his pipe go out as he sat with his eyes fixed intently upon the captain's face.
"You seem to know Liverpool pretty well," he at length remarked, as the captain paused to re-light his pipe.
"Should say so," was the reply. "Guess I know about everything there worth knowing, especially along shipping lines."
"There must be some big firms there, eh?"
"Big! I should say so. Why, I could name a dozen right offhand, which have ships sailing around the world. Now, there's the Dockett concern, for instance. Holy smokes! but they're wealthy. If I told you the business they do you wouldn't believe me."
"No?" David laid his pipe upon the verandah railing. He had to do it because his hand was trembling so violently that he could hold it no longer.
"Indeed you wouldn't," the captain continued, not noticing his companion's agitation. "And you should see old Dockett himself, who owns it all, so I understand."
"What about him?" David asked in a voice scarcely above a whisper. For once he had forgotten his beloved falls.
"Ho, ho, I wish you could see him," and the captain leaned back and laughed as he had not laughed for months. "He certainly is a queer one."
"In what way?" David questioned.
"Well, it is hard to explain. He looks like a bear, and he acts like one, too. My, I've heard him get his tongue on men lots of times, and he is a holy terror. But he's a great business man, so I believe, and has made heaps of money."
"What does he do with it?" David asked.
"Piles it up, I guess. He hasn't a chick to leave it to, so I understand."
"Hasn't he a wife?"
"No, not when I last heard of him, which was five years ago. It isn't likely he's married since then."
David was unusually quiet the rest of the day. There was a far-away look in his eyes and nothing interested him, not even the voice of his falls. Betty was quite anxious, and confided her trouble to Mrs. Peterson.
"Do you think he is going to be sick?" she asked. "Suppose he should die, what will become of that great thing he has in his head?"
"Oh, I guess he is all right," Mrs. Peterson soothed. "Perhaps he is thinking out something else, and will surprise us with some new idea."
"Oh, do you think so?" and the girl's eyes grew big with wonder. "Won't it be great if he does!"
David was much brighter the next morning and sat for some time out upon the verandah. Betty had gone to the office for the mail, as Mrs. Peterson was too busy about the house. She did this nearly every day now, and enjoyed the walk. The captain was always anxious to get his daily paper, and sometimes there would be a letter from an old friend.
It was almost noon when Betty arrived. Her cheeks were flushed more than usual and she was greatly excited.
"What's up now?" the captain enquired. "Haven't been scared, have ye?"
"It's a letter for Mr. David!" she replied. "Just think of that!"
"H'm," and the captain gave a grunt of disgust. "Is that all. I thought maybe ye'd seen a ghost. Why should a letter so upset you?"
"Oh, but he never got a letter before since I've known him, and it must be very important."
While the two were talking David rose from his chair and stepped toward Betty.
"A letter for me?" he asked, in a somewhat doubtful voice.
"Yes, here it is. You had better open it at once."
The old man took it in his hand and stood studying it for a few seconds. Then he slowly opened the envelope, and drew forth the letter. As he scanned the contents, his eyes grew suddenly wide with astonishment and his hands trembled violently.
"Oh, Mr. David, what's the matter?" Betty cried as she observed his intense excitement. "Is it some bad news?"
But the old man did not seem to notice her. He stood there, shaking in every limb, staring upon the letter.
"Tell me what it is," the girl again demanded. "I want to know at once."
This imperious order brought David to his senses, and without a word he handed her the letter. Eagerly seizing it, she began to read. It took her longer than the old man to make out its meaning, and when the truth at last dawned upon her mind she gave a glad cry of joy, and her eyes beamed with delight as she turned them upon his face.
"Oh, isn't it great!" she exclaimed. "Five thousand dollars for that thing in your head, Mr. David. Won't you be rich. Now we can have a house of our very own, and I can be your housekeeper!"
"But that isn't all, Betty," David replied. "I am to be Honorary President of the company, just think of that. And they are to carry out my plans and do just what I wish. Girl, my dreams are to come true at last. I shall live to see my beautiful falls bringing a blessing to the entire country. I wonder if people will laugh at me now, and call me crazy."
It was only natural that intense excitement should reign at the Haven for the next few hours. The captain and his wife were greatly impressed by the good fortune which had come so suddenly to old David. They could hardly believe it possible, and they had the feeling that there had been some mistake. But Betty would not hear of such a thing. She was sure that it was all true, and it was due to the wonderful thing that David had in his head.
Dinner was late that day, and they had just finished when Jasper arrived. Then out upon the verandah he heard the remarkable story. It was Betty who told it, while David and the captain sat smoking near by. He was shown the letter as well, the cause of all the excitement. Jasper read it over several times, and then stepping over to David he grasped his hand.
"Allow me to congratulate you, sir," he began. "Such good luck does not come to many in this country. I am so thankful that your plans are to be carried out after all."
"And they are to consult me, and carry out my every wish," David replied. "It is so stated there," and he pointed to the letter.
The enthusiasm of the old man was so intense and childlike that Jasper had not the heart to say one word that would in any way dampen his joy. To him, however, the whole thing was a great puzzle. Was it a joke, he wondered, which some people were playing upon this simple-minded man? A company was mentioned, but its name was not given. And further, why should any company be willing to pay five thousand dollars for David's idea, which was not new? It had been successfully carried out in other localities. Surely a concern which was able to make such a liberal offer must have full and accurate knowledge about hydro-electric plants and what they had accomplished in the past. And why should David be made Honorary President of the company? Was Robert Westcote, the stranger, the cause of it all? He had not heard from him since the day of their visit to Mrs. Bean's, and but for the cheque which he had received he would have been inclined to consider the whole thing as a hoax.
Jasper kept his thoughts, however, to himself, and sat for some time on the verandah taking but little part in the conversation. Betty and the captain did most of the talking, while David sat near with a happy expression upon his face.
"When are you thinking of starting housekeeping on your own account?" the captain enquired. "You'll be so mighty important now that you won't want to stay with us any longer."
"Don't you worry, Captain," Betty laughingly replied. "We're not going to leave you just yet. You see, we haven't any house to go to, and it will take the rest of the summer to make arrangements."
When Jasper left the Haven he walked slowly down the road toward the post office thinking over carefully all that he had just heard. Every day he had been expecting news from Mr. Westcote, giving information as to what was expected of him. Hitherto he had been disappointed. But to-day he was rewarded when the postmaster, in addition to his daily paper, handed him out a letter. Jasper felt that this was the one he had been looking for, and he hurried out of the building and carted homeward. Reaching a shady tree by the side of the road, he sat down upon the ground and tore open the letter. A week of thought and inactivity had made him anxious to know something more of what was expected of him, and he was quite certain that now the veil was to be lifted and the mystery partly solved.
The letter was from Robert Westcote, and although it was somewhat brief it brought him considerable satisfaction. His eyes kindled with animation and his pulse quickened as he considered the message he had just received and meditated upon the possibilities of the future.