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- Facing the World - 5/22 -
"Look at this, Mrs. F.," said her husband, in a hollow voice. "There's no money here--only this piece of newspaper."
"Well, well, of all the fools I ever saw you are about the most stupid!" ejaculated Mrs. Fox. "What you undertake you generally carry through, do you? After all the fuss you've brought down a pocketbook stuffed with waste paper."
"I don't understand it," said Fox, his face assuming a look of perplexity. "Surely the boy told the truth when he said he had fifteen dollars."
"Of course! Joel saw the money--a roll of bills, and saw him take them out of his pocketbook. He must have taken them out. Did you search all his pockets?"
"No; when I found the pocketbook I thought I was all right."
"Just like a man!" retorted Mrs. Fox. "I'll go up myself, and see if I can't manage better than you."
"Then you'd better take this wallet, and put it back in his pocket."
"Give it to me, then."
With a firm step Mrs. Fox took the candle, and took her turn in going up the attic stairs.
MRS. FOX COMES TO GRIEF
Harry confidently anticipated a second visit to his chamber.
He was rather surprised when the door was again opened, and Mrs. Fox entered. Opening his eyes a little way, he saw her, after a brief glance at the bed, go to the chair containing his pantaloons, and put back the deceptive wallet. She was about to prosecute a further search, when Harry decided that matters had gone far enough. He did not fancy their night visits, and meant to stop them if he could.
Chance favored his design. A puff of air from the door, which Mrs. Fox had left wide open, extinguished the candle, and left the room, as there was no moon, in profound darkness.
"Drat the candle!" he heard Mrs. Fox say.
Then a mischievous idea came to Harry. In his native village lived a man who had passed a considerable time in the wild region beyond the Missouri River, and had mingled familiarly with the Indians. From him Harry had learned how to imitate the Indian warwhoop.
"I'll scare the old lady," thought Harry, smiling to himself.
Immediately there rang out from the bed, in the darkness and silence, a terrific warwhoop, given in Harry's most effective style.
Mrs. Fox was not a nervous woman ordinarily, but she was undeniably frightened at the unexpected sound.
"Heavens and earth, what's that?" she ejaculated, and dropping our hero's clothes, retreated in disorder, almost stumbling downstairs in her precipitate flight. Dashing into the chamber where Mr. Fox was waiting for her, she sank into a chair, gasping for breath.
"Good gracious, Maria, what's the matter?" exclaimed her husband, gazing at her in astonishment.
"I--don't--know," she gasped.
"You look as if you had seen a ghost."
"I haven't seen anything," said his wife, recovering her breath, "but I've heard something terrible. It's my belief the attic is haunted. I went upstairs and put back the wallet, and was looking to see if I could find another, when all at once the candle went out, and a terrible noise shook the chamber."
"What was it like, Mrs. F.?"
"I can't tell you. I never heard anything like it before. All I know is, I wouldn't go up there again tonight for anything."
"Did the boy sleep through it all?"
"How can I tell? The candle was out."
"Perhaps he blew it out."
"Perhaps you're a fool Mr. Fox. It wasn't near the bed, and he was fast asleep, for I looked at him. It made me think of--of Peter," and Mrs. Fox shuddered.
Peter had been taken from the poorhouse three years ago by Mr. Fox, and apprenticed to him by the town authorities. According to popular report he had been cruelly treated and insufficiently fed, until he was taken sick and had died in the very bedroom where Mrs. Fox had been so frightened. This may explain how it was that a woman so strong-minded had had her nerves so easily upset.
"We won't talk of Peter," said Mr. Fox, shortly, for to him, also, the subject was an unpleasant one. "I suppose you didn't find another wallet?"
"No, I didn't. You can order the boy to give it up to-morrow. The best thing to do now is to go to bed and rest."
The breakfast hour at the house of Mr. Fox was half past six. Harry was called at six, and was punctual at the table. Mr. Fox cast a suspicious glance at his ward, but the boy looked so perfectly unconcerned, that he acquitted him of any knowledge of the night visit.
"How did you sleep, Harry?" asked Mrs. Fox.
"Soundly, thank you," answered Harry, politely.
"You didn't hear any--strange noises, then?"
"Now, Harry," said Mr. Fox, after breakfast, "we may as well speak of our future arrangements. I have considerable to do on my twenty acres of land, and I can give you work here."
"What compensation do you offer, sir?"
"As a boarder I should have to charge you five dollars a week for your board, and fifty cents extra for your washing--that would go to Mrs. Fox; as well as pay twenty-five cents a week for your mending. That also would go to my wife. Now, if you work for me, I will take off three dollars, making the charge to you only two dollars and seventy-five cents per week."
"Don't you think, Mr. Fox, that is rather low pay for my services?"
"I might say two dollars and a quarter," said Mr. Fox, deliberating.
Harry smiled to himself. He had not the slightest idea of working for any such trifle, but he did not care to announce his determination yet.
"I will pay full price for a week, Mr. Fox," he said, "and during that time I will consider your offer."
"I may not offer you as favorable terms a week from now," said Fox, who wanted to get his ward to work at once.
"I will take my chance of it, sir. I prefer to have a few days of freedom."
"By the way, Harry, don't you think you had better give me your money to keep? You might lose it."
"You are very kind, Mr. Fox; but I am not afraid of losing it."
After breakfast Harry went to walk. His steps naturally tended to the place where he had left the greater part of his treasure. It was possible that he had been seen hiding it, and he thought on the whole it would be better to find another place of concealment.
"Joel," said his mother, "follow Harry, and see where he goes. He may be goin' to hide his money. But don't let him see you."
"All right, mam; I'll do it. I wish I had followed him yesterday."
A position as detective would have suited Joel. Whatever was secret or stealthy had a charm for him.
In the present instance he managed to shadow Harry very successfully. The task was made easier, because our hero had no idea that anyone was following him.
"So he's goin' to the railroad," said Joel, to himself
Arrived at the railroad track, Harry's course diverged to the hillock, at the top of which he had concealed his treasure.
Joel posted himself at a point where he had a good view of the elevation, and could see what Harry was doing. He saw our hero digging at a particular spot, and concluded that he was going to hide the fifteen dollars there. What was his surprise and delight when he saw him dig up and expose to view a large roll of bills.
"Oh, cracky!" ejaculated Joel, "there must be a hundred dollars in that roll of bills. Wouldn't dad open his eyes if he saw it?"
Unconscious of observation, Harry held the money in his hand and deliberated. Then he put it in his pocket, resolved to think over at his leisure its ultimate place of deposit.
Now, unfortunately for Joel, just at this moment he slipped from his perch on the branch of a small tree, and for about half a minute what Harry did was concealed from him. He clambered into the tree again, but only to see Harry filling up the hole again.
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