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- Hector's Inheritance - 6/41 -
"You are in time, Hector," said Mr. Roscoe. "I don't know how early they will get up at school, but I hope it won't be earlier than this."
"I have no objection to early rising," said Hector.
"I have," said Allan Roscoe, gaping.
"I am sorry to have inconvenienced you," said Hector, politely. "I could have gone to school alone."
"No doubt; but I wished an interview with Mr. Socrates Smith myself. I look upon myself in the light of your guardian, though you are not my nephew, as was originally supposed."
"I'd give a good deal to know whether this is true," thought Hector, fixing his eyes attentively upon his uncle's face.
I have written "uncle" inadvertently, that being the character in which Mr. Roscoe appeared to the world.
"By the way, Hector," said Allan Roscoe, "there is one matter which we have not yet settled."
"What is that, sir?"
"About your name."
"My name is Hector Roscoe."
"I beg your pardon. Assuming by brother's communication to be true, and I think you will not question his word, you have no claim to the name."
"To what name have I a claim, then?" asked Hector, pointedly.
"To the name of your father--the last name, I mean. I have no objection to your retaining the name of Hector."
"What was the name of my, father?" asked the boy.
"Ahem! My brother did not mention that in his letter. Quite an omission, I must observe."
"Then it is clear that he meant to have me retain his own name," said Hector, decisively.
"That does not follow."
"As I know no other name to which I have a claim, I shall certainly keep the name of the kindest friend I ever had, whether he was my father or not," said Hector, firmly.
Allan Roscoe looked annoyed.
"Really," he said, "I think this ill-judged, very ill-judged. It will lead to misapprehension. It will deceive people into the belief that you are a real Roscoe."
"I don't know but I am," answered Hector, with a calm look of defiance, which aggravated Allan Roscoe.
"Have I not told you you are not?" he said, frowning.
"You have; but you have not proved it," said Hector.
"I am surprised that you should cling to a foolish delusion. You are only preparing trouble for yourself. If my word is not sufficient--"
"You are an interested party. This story, if true, gives you my property."
"At any rate, you may take your father's--I mean my brother's--word for it."
"If he had told me so, I would believe it," said Hector.
"You have it in black and white, in the paper I showed you. What more do you want?"
"I want to be sure that that document is genuine. However, I won't argue the question now. I have only been giving you my reasons for keeping the name I have always regarded as mine."
Allan Roscoe thought it best to drop the subject; but the boy's persistency disturbed him.
Socrates Smith, A. M., was not always known by the philosophic name by which he challenged the world's respect as a man of learning and distinguished attainments. When a boy in his teens, and an academy student, he was known simply as Shadrach Smith. His boy companions used to address him familiarly as Shad. It was clear that no pedagogue could retain the respect of his pupils who might readily be metamorphosed into Old Shad. By the advice of a brother preacher, he dropped the plebeian name, and bloomed forth as Socrates Smith, A. M.
I may say, in confidence, that no one knew from what college Mr. Smith obtained the degree of Master of Arts. He always evaded the question himself, saying that it was given him by a Western university causa honoris.
It might be, or it might not. At any rate, he was allowed to wear the title, since no one thought it worth while to make the necessary examination into its genuineness. Nor, again, had anyone been able to discover at what college the distinguished Socrates had studied. In truth, he had never even entered college, but he had offered himself as a candidate for admission to a college in Ohio, and been rejected. This did not, however, prevent his getting up a school, and advertising to instruct others in the branches of learning of which his own knowledge was so incomplete.
He was able to hide his own deficiencies, having generally in his employ some college graduate, whose poverty compelled him to accept the scanty wages which Socrates doled out to him. These young men were generally poor scholars in more than one sense of the word, as Mr. Smith did not care to pay the high salary demanded by a first-class scholar. Mr. Smith was shrewd enough not to attempt to instruct the classes in advanced classics or mathematics, as he did not care to have his deficiencies understood by his pupils.
It pleased him best to sit in state and rule the school, administering reproofs and castigations where he thought fit, and, best of all, to manage the finances. Though his price was less than that of many other schools, his profits were liberal, as he kept down expenses. His table was exceedingly frugal, as his boarding pupils could have testified, and the salaries he paid to under teachers were pitifully small.
So it was that, year by year, Socrates Smith, A. M., found himself growing richer, while his teachers grew more shabby, and his pupils rarely became fat.
Allan Roscoe took a carriage from the depot to the school.
Arrived at the gate, he descended, and Hector followed him.
The school building was a long, rambling, irregular structure, of no known order of architecture, bearing some resemblance to a factory. The ornament of architecture Mr. Smith did not regard. He was strictly of a utilitarian cast of mind. So long as the institute, as he often called it, afforded room for the school and scholars he did not understand what more was wanted.
"Is Mr. Smith at leisure?" Mr. Roscoe asked of a bare-arm servant girl who answered the bell.
"I guess he's in his office," was the reply.
"Take him this card," said Mr. Roscoe. The girl inspected the card with some curiosity, and carried it to the eminent principal. When Socrates Smith read upon the card the name
and, penciled in the corner, "with a pupil," he said, briskly:
"Bring the gentleman in at once, Bridget."
As Mr. Roscoe entered, Mr. Smith beamed upon him genially. It was thus he always received those who brought to him new scholars. As he always asked half a term's tuition and board in advance, every such visitor represented to him so much ready cash, and for ready cash Socrates had a weakness.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Roscoe," said the learned principal, advancing to meet his visitor. "And this is the young lad. Dear me! he is very well grown, and looks like he was fond of his books."
This was not exactly the way in which a learned scholar might be expected to talk; but Mr. Smith's speech was not always elegant, or even grammatically correct.
"I believe he is reasonably fond of study," said Mr. Roscoe. "Hector, this is your future instructor, Prof. Socrates Smith."
At the name of professor, which he much affected, Socrates Smith looked positively benignant.
"My young friend," he said, "we will try to make you happy. Smith Institute is a regular beehive, full of busy workers, who are preparing themselves for the duties and responsibilities of life. I aim to be a father to my pupils, and Mrs. Smith is a mother to them. I am truly glad to receive you into my happy family."
Hector scanned attentively the face of his new teacher. He was not
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