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- Facing the World - 4/22 -
remained tranquil, and did not appear disturbed by the criticisms elicited by his conduct. He heartily hoped that his guardian's family would not find out how large a sum he had received.
When dinner was over, Harry was about to leave the house, when John Fox said, insinuatingly: "Don't you think you'd better give me that money to keep for you? It will be safer in my hands."
"Thank you, Mr. Fox," said Harry, "but I think I can take care of it myself."
"Fifteen dollars is a good deal of money for a boy like you to carry round with you," said his guardian.
"I don't think I shall lose it, sir," replied the boy.
"Perhaps not, but you will be tempted to spend it wastefully."
John Fox didn't look amiable. He was in doubt whether he might not properly take from his ward the money by force, but it occurred to him that it would be better not to assert his authority quite so soon.
"We will speak of this again," he said.
"It is well I didn't bring all the money home. I wonder how soon Mr. Fox will make another attempt to secure the sum I have with me," thought Harry.
The attempt was made that same night.
Harry was afraid he would be expected to occupy the same room with Joel, in which case he could hope for no privacy, and would be unable to conceal his money, which he had little doubt his guardian intended to secure, either by fair means or foul. It chanced, however, that Joel slept in a small bedroom opening out of his parents' chamber. So Harry was assigned an attic room, in the end of the house, the sides sloping down to the eaves. It was inferior to the chambers on the second floor, but our hero was not disposed to complain. He valued solitude more than superior finish.
Harry's suspicion was roused by the circumstance that his guardian did not again refer to his money, nor did he manifest any disappointment at his ward's declining to intrust him with it.
During the evening, Joel brought out a backgammon board, and proposed to Harry to play. If there would have been anything to read Harry would have preferred entertaining himself in that way, but Mr. Fox didn't appear to be literary. There were a few books in the house, but they were not of an attractive character.
Partly in backgammon, partly in conversation with the son and heir of the Foxes, the time passed till half-past eight o'clock.
"Joel, you can go to bed," said his mother. "It is half-past eight."
Joel yawned, and interposed no objection.
"You may as well go, too, Harry," said Mrs. Fox.
"I am ready to go to bed," said Harry.
In fact, he felt rather sleepy, and anticipated little pleasure in sitting up in the far from exciting company of Mr. and Mrs. Fox.
"Joel!" said his mother, "take this candle and show Harry upstairs in the attic chamber."
So, preceded by Joel, Harry went up two flights of stairs to the attic room reserved for him. It was the only room that had been finished off, and the garret outside looked dark and forbidding.
"I would be scared to sleep up here," said his companion.
"I shall not be at all frightened, Joel," said Harry.
"Good-night. Just hold the candle while I go downstairs."
When he was fairly all alone, Harry began to look about him, to ascertain in what kind of quarters he was to pass the night. To begin with he examined the door, he ascertained that it was a common latch door, and there was no lock. There was nothing to prevent anyone entering the room during the night. There was a small cot bed in one corner, a chair, and an old wooden chest. There was no bureau nor washstand. The absence of the latter annoyed Harry.
He learned afterward that he was expected to go downstairs and wash in a large basin in the kitchen sink--wiping his face on a brown, roll towel which was used by the entire family. This was quite unsatisfactory to Harry, who was scrupulously neat in his tastes.
"This isn't a palace exactly," Harry said to himself.
Then came the thought, "What was he to do with his money?"
Now, it so happened that Harry was the possessor of two pocketbooks--one--shabby, and well worn, which he had failed to throw away on buying another just before he left home. In connection with this, a scheme for outwitting Mr. Fox came into his mind. He folded up a fragment of newspaper, and put it into the old pocketbook, bulging it out till it looked well filled, and this he left in the pocket of his pantaloons.
"Now to hide the other," said he to himself.
He looked about the room seeking for some place of concealment. Finally he noticed in one portion of the floor a square board, which looked as if it might be lifted. He stooped over and succeeded in raising it. The space beneath was about a foot in depth--the lower level being the lathing and plastering of the room below.
"That will do," said Harry, in a tone of satisfaction. "I don't think Mr. Fox will find my money here," and dropping the pocketbook into the cavity he replaced the square board. Then he went to bed and awaited results.
When Harry had gone up to his bed, Mr. and Mrs. Fox naturally began to compare notes respecting him.
"That new boy rides a high horse," said Mrs. Fox, grimly. "Are you going to allow it?"
"He wouldn't give up his money to you, though you are his guardeen."
"Very true, but I mean to have it all the same. I shall go up to his bedroom after he is asleep, and then it will be the easiest thing in the world to take the pocketbook without his knowin' anything about it."
"He'll know it in the mornin'."
"Let him! Possession is nine p'ints of the law, Mrs. Fox."
"He might say you stole it."
"He can't do that, for I'm his guardeen, don't you see?"
A little after ten Mr. Fox, considering that Harry must be sound asleep, decided to make him a visit. He removed his shoes, and in his stocking feet, candle in hand, began to ascend the narrow and steep staircase which led to the attic.
"Shall I go with you, John?" queried his helpmeet.
"No, I guess I can manage alone."
His wife wanted to share in the excitement of the night visit. There was something alluring in the thought of creeping upstairs, and removing by stealth, the pocketbook of the new inmate of their home.
Left to himself, Mr. Fox pursued his way up the attic stairs. They creaked a little under his weight, and, much to his annoyance, when he reached the landing at the top he coughed.
"I hope the boy won't hear me," he said to himself.
He paused an instant, then softly opened the door of Harry's chamber.
All seemed satisfactory. Our hero was lying quietly in bed, apparently in a peaceful sleep. Ordinarily he would have been fast asleep by this time, but the expectation of a visit from his guardian had kept him awake beyond his usual time. He had heard Mr. Fox cough, and so, even before the door opened, he had warning of the visit.
Harry was not a nervous boy, and had such command of himself, that, even when Mr. Fox bent over, and, by the light of the candle, examined his face, he never stirred nor winked, though he very much wanted to laugh.
"All is safe! The boy is sound asleep," whispered Mr. Fox to himself.
He set the candle on the floor, and then taking up Harry's pantaloons, thrust his hand into the pocket.
The very first pocket contained the pocketbook which our hero had put there. Mr. Fox would have opened and examined the contents on the spot, but he heard a cough from the bed, and, quickly put the pocketbook into his own pocket, apprehending that his ward might wake up, and taking up the candle, noiselessly withdrew from the chamber.
After he had fairly gone, Harry had a quiet laugh to himself.
Mr. Fox returned in triumph to his own chamber, where his wife was anxiously waiting for him.
"Have you got it, Mr. F.," she asked, eagerly.
"Got it? Why shouldn't I get it?"
"Well, open it, and let us see what it contains."
This Mr. Fox proceeded to do. But no sooner did his glance rest on its contents than his lower jaw fell, and his eyes opened wide in perplexity.
"Well, what are you staring at like a fool?" demanded his wife, who was not so situated that she could see the contents of the pocketbook.
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