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TRUE TO HIMSELF
ROGER STRONG'S STRUGGLE FOR PLACE
"True to himself," while a complete story in itself, forms the third volume of the "Ship and Shore Series," tales of adventure on land and sea, written for both boys and girls.
In this story we are introduced to Roger Strong, a typical American country lad, and his sister Kate, who, by an unhappy combination of events, are thrown upon their own resources and compelled to make their own way in the world.
To make one's way in the world is, ordinarily, difficult enough; but when one is handicapped by a cloud on the family name, the difficulty becomes far greater. With his father thrown into prison on a serious charge, Roger finds that few people will have anything to do with either himself or his sister, and the jeers flung at him are at times almost more than he can bear. But he is "true to himself" in the best meaning of that saying, rising above those who would pull him down, and, in the end, not only succeeds in making a place for himself in the world, but also scores a worthy triumph over those who had caused his parents' downfall.
When this story was first printed as a serial, the author has every reason to believe it was well received by the boys and girls for whom it was written. In its present revised form he hopes it will meet with equal commendation.
Newark, N.J., April 15, 1900. _________________________________________________________________
THE TROUBLE IN THE ORCHARD
"Hi, there, Duncan Woodward!" I called out. "What are you doing in Widow Canby's orchard?"
"None of your business, Roger Strong," replied the only son of the wealthiest merchant in Darbyville.
"You are stealing her pears," I went on. "Your pockets are full of them."
"See here, Roger Strong, just you mind your own business and leave me alone."
"I am minding my business," I rejoined warmly.
"Indeed!" And Duncan put as much of a sneer as was possible in the word.
"Yes, indeed. Widow Canby pays me for taking care of her orchard, and that includes keeping an eye on these pear trees," and I approached the tree upon the lowest branch of which Duncan was standing.
"Humph! You think you're mighty big!" he blustered, as he jumped to the ground. "What right has a fellow like you to talk to me in this manner? You are getting too big for your boots."
"I don't think so. I'm guarding this property, and I want you to hand over what you've taken and leave the premises," I retorted, for I did not fancy the style in which I was being addressed.
"Pooh! Do you expect me to pay any attention to that?"
"You had better, Duncan. If you don't you may get into trouble."
"I suppose you intend to tell the widow what I've done."
"I certainly shall; unless you do as I've told you to."
Duncan bit his lip. "How do you know but what the widow said I could have the pears?" he ventured.
"If she did, it's all right," I returned, astonished, not so much over the fact that Widow Canby had granted the permission, as that such a high-toned young gentleman as Duncan Woodward should desire that privilege.
"You've no business to jump at conclusions," he added sharply.
"If I judged you wrongly, I beg your pardon, Duncan. I'll speak to the widow about it."
I began to move off toward the house. Duncan hurried after me and caught me by the arm.
"You fool you, what do you mean?" he demanded.
"I'm going to find out if you are telling the truth."
"Isn't my word enough?"
"It will do no harm to ask," I replied evasively, not caring to pick a quarrel, and yet morally sure that he was prevaricating.
"So you think I'm telling you a falsehood? I've a good mind to give you a sound drubbing," he cried angrily.
Duncan Woodward had many of the traits of a bully about him. He was the only son of a widower who nearly idolized him, and, lacking a mother's guiding influence, he had grown up wayward in the extreme.
He was a tall, well-built fellow, strong from constant athletic exercise, and given, on this account, to having his way among his associates.
Yet I was not afraid of him. Indeed, to tell the truth, I was not afraid of any one. For eight years I had been shoved in life from pillar to post, until now threats had no terrors for me.
Both of my parents were dead to me. My mother died when I was but five years old. She was of a delicate nature, and, strange as it may seem, I am inclined to believe that it was for the best that her death occurred when it did. The reason I believe this is, because she was thus spared the disgrace that came upon our family several years later.
At her death my father was employed as head clerk by the firm of Holland & Mack, wholesale provision merchants of Newville, a thriving city which was but a few miles from Darbyville, a pretty village located on the Pass River.
We occupied a handsome house in the centre of the village. Our family, besides my parents and myself, contained but one other member-- my sister Kate, who was several years my senior.
When our beloved mother died, Kate took the management of our home upon her shoulders, and as she had learned, during my mother's long illness, how everything should be done, our domestic affairs ran smoothly. All this time I attended the Darbyville school, and was laying the foundation for a commercial education, intending at some later day to follow in the footsteps of my father.
Two years passed, and then my father's manner changed. From being bright and cheerful toward us he became moody and silent. What the cause was I could not guess, and it did not help matters to be told by Duncan Woodward, whose father was also employed by Holland & Mack, that "some folks would soon learn what was what, and no mistake."
At length the thunderbolt fell. Returning from school one day, I found Kate in tears.
"Oh, Roger!" she burst out. "They say father has stolen money from Holland & Mack, and they have just arrested him for a thief!"
The blow was a terrible one. I was but a boy of fourteen, and the news completely bewildered me. I put on my cap, and together with Kate, took the first horse car to Newville to find out what it all meant.
We found my father in jail, where he had been placed to await the action of the grand jury. It was with difficulty that we obtained permission to see him, and ascertained the facts of the case.
The charge against him was for raising money upon forged cheeks, eight in number, the total amount being nearly twelve thousand dollars. The name of the firm had been forged, and the money collected in New York and Brooklyn. I was not old enough to understand the particulars.
My father protested his innocence, but it was of no avail. The forgery was declared to be his work, and, though it was said that he must have had an accomplice to obtain the money, he was adjudged the guilty party.
"Ten years in the State's prison." That was the penalty. My father grew deadly white, while as for me, my very heart seemed to stop beating. Kate fainted, and two days later the doctor announced that she had an attack of brain fever.
Two months dragged slowly by. Then my sister was declared to be out of danger. Next the house was sold over our heads, and we were turned out upon the world, branded as the children of a thief, to get a living as best we could.
Both of us would willingly have left Darbyville, but where should we go? The only relation we had was an uncle,-- Captain Enos Moss,-- and he was on an extended trip to South America, and when he would return no one knew.
All the friends we had had before deserted us. The girls "turned up their noses" at Kate,-- which made my blood boil,-- and the boys fought shy of me.
I tried to find work, but without success. Even in places where help was wanted excuses were made to me-- trivial excuses that meant but one thing-- that they did not desire any one in their employ who had a stain upon his name.
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