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- Richard Dare's Venture - 4/35 -
"Hush! I feel that I am sinking, even faster than Dr. Melvin thinks. Listen then to what I have to say."
"I am listening."
"When I'm gone, Richard, you will have to take my place. Your mother is strong, and can do much; but she is a woman, and she, as well as your sisters, will need your help."
"They shall have all that I can possibly give them. I will work, and do all I can."
"I know you will, Richard. You have always been a good boy. I am sorry that I cannot leave you all better off than I'm doing."
"Never mind, father; we will get along."
"I suppose I might have done so if I'd had the courage to strike out," continued Mr. Dare, with a sigh. "I always calculated to do something for myself, but that's all over now. But you take after your mother, the same as your sister Grace, and if you make the right start I feel you will succeed."
"I shall remember what you say."
"Do so. But remember also to be always sober, industrious, and considerate of those around you. Be true to yourself, and to every one with whom you have dealings. You may not get along so fast, but people will respect you more, and your success will be ten times sweeter than it would have been had you risen by pushing others down."
"I shall try to deserve success, even if I don't rise very high, father."
"That's right." Mr. Dare paused for a moment. "I'm sorry that I cannot leave you more of a capital upon which to start in life."
"Never mind; I have a common school education and my health. What more can a boy wish?"
"It is as much as I had upon which to start. But I might have left you more. I deserve a pension as a soldier."
"You never pushed your claim, did you?"
"Yes, once. But I never told any of you, for fear of raising false hopes. I did apply, and it was all straight, but at the last moment the Department decided that I must have another witness to prove my identity, and this I could not get."
"You had one witness, then?"
"Yes. A man named Crawford, who was in our regiment. He was appointed an officer on the same day I was shot; but, as he was appointed _after_ the occurrence they held that his single witnessing was not enough, and so I had to hunt for another."
"And you never found the other?"
"No, though I hunted high and low. Some who saw the affair must be still living, but I have not their addresses, nor do I know how to find them."
"Did you ever advertise in the papers?"
"Yes; I spent fifty dollars in the columns of the leading dailies, but without success."
"You have all the papers in the case?"
"They are in the trunk upstairs. If you can ever push the claim do so--for the others' sake as well as your own."
"I will, father."
"How much it will be worth I do not know, but it may be several thousands of dollars, and that, along with this house, which is free and clear, may suffice to keep the family many a year."
At this juncture a violent fit of coughing seized Mr. Dare, and by the time he had recovered, his wife and the three girls entered.
PREPARING TO START.
Two days later the blinds of the little cottage were closed, and crape hung in solemn black upon the front door. The neighbors, and indeed the whole population of the village, came and went continually--some few with genuine grief and sympathy, and the many others to satisfy a morbid curiosity regarding the man whose life had so suddenly ended.
It was a dismal enough time for the inmates. Richard did all a brave boy can do to comfort his mother and sisters, but he himself needed consolation fully as much as any of them. He had thought much of his father, and the cold form lying in the draped coffin in the parlor sent a chill through his heart that would have an effect in all after life.
At last the funeral was over, and the last of the neighbors had gone away. It was nearly sunset, and the entire family had gathered in the little kitchen to partake of a cup of tea, and to talk over the situation. Mrs. Dare sat in a rocking-chair beside the table, her face plainly showing her intense grief, and near her, on a low stool, sat Richard.
"Well, mother, I suppose I will have to do something very soon now," began the boy. "It won't do for me to remain idle when there is no money coming in."
Mrs. Dare sighed.
"I can't think of money matters yet, Richard," she replied, shaking her head sadly. "It is all so sudden, so unexpected, I cannot realize our terrible loss."
"There isn't a chance for any one in Mossvale," put in Nancy. She herself had been secretly wondering what they were going to do for support.
"So I told mother some time ago," responded Richard. "The few places here are all filled."
"Thought you were going to try New York?" said Grace, who was serving the tea.
"So I was. But--" The boy did not finish, but glanced over to where his mother sat.
"I could hardly bear to have you go away," said Mrs. Dare. "It would be so lonely--your father and you both out of the house. I would rather have you home, even if we had a good deal less to live upon."
"To-morrow I will go out and see what Mossvale has to offer," returned Richard. "In our circumstances it would not be right for me to waste any time."
"Do as you think best," was Mrs. Dare's reply. "You are old enough to think and act for yourself."
But Richard did not wait for the next day before he began his hunt. That evening he called upon Dr. Melvin to obtain some medicine for his mother, and after this portion of his errand was over he broached the subject of securing a position.
"You will find it a hard matter," said the doctor kindly, "unless you wish to go on one of the farms. But they are poor pay, even if you can stand the labor, which I doubt."
"I would not go on a farm unless I could find nothing else," replied the boy. "Could _you_ give me a place?" he asked.
Dr. Melvin nodded his head reflectively.
"I might take you in as an office assistant," he replied. "It would be a good chance to learn medicine. But there would not be much to do, and the pay would be necessarily small."
"Then I couldn't afford to accept it," was Richard's prompt reply. "It is kind in you to make the offer, but I have got to earn enough to support the family."
"I suppose so. Well, I wish you success. I have known you for a number of years, and if you need a recommendation I will give it to you gladly."
"Thank you, doctor. I'll remember that," replied the boy, and after a few more words of conversation he left.
On the following morning he called upon Mr. Barrows, the master painter for whom his father had worked. He found the old workman busy in his shed, mixing up colors for his journeymen to use.
"I suppose you've come down for the money due your father," remarked Mr. Barrows after he had expressed numerous regrets over the sad accident. "Well, here it is, the week in full, and I'm mighty sorry he isn't here to receive it himself, and many another besides," and he held out the amount.
"No, I didn't come for this exactly," replied the boy. "Besides there is too much here," he added, as he counted the bills. "Father did not finish out the week."
"Never mind, you take it anyhow," returned Mr. Barrows briefly. "What was it you wanted?"
"Work. I want to earn something to support my mother and sisters on. We can't live on nothing, and what we have saved up won't last long."
"It's hard luck, Dick, so it is!" exclaimed the old painter. "Tell you what I'll do, though. I'll teach you the trade--teach you it just as good as your father knew it, and pay you a little in the bargain."
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