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- Struggling Upward - 20/41 -
who had come to Groveton recently, and had opened a billiard saloon and bar not far from the bank. He was not regarded as a very desirable citizen, and had already excited the anxiety of parents by luring into the saloon some of the boys and young men of the village. Among them, though Squire Duncan did not know it, was his own son Randolph, who had already developed quite a fondness for playing pool, and even occasionally patronized the bar. This, had he known it, would have explained Randolph's increased applications for money.
Whether Tony Denton--his full name was Anthony Denton--had any special object in visiting New York, I am unable to state. At all events it appeared that his business lay in the same direction as that of Prince Duncan, for on the arrival of the train at the New York depot, he followed the bank president at a safe distance, and was clearly bent upon keeping him in view.
Mr. Duncan walked slowly, and appeared to be plunged in anxious thought. His difficulties were by no means over. He had the bonds to dispose of, and he feared the large amount might occasion suspicion. They were coupon bonds, and bore no name or other evidence of ownership. Yet the mere fact of having such a large amount might occasion awkward inquiries.
"Here's yer mornin' papers!" called a negro newsboy, thrusting his bundle in front of the country banker.
"Give me a Herald," said Mr. Duncan. Opening the paper, his eye ran hastily over the columns. It lighted up as he saw a particular advertisement.
"The very thing," he said to himself.
This was the advertisement:
"LOAN OFFICE--We are prepared to loan sums to suit, on first-class security, at a fair rate of interest. Call or address Sharp & Ketchum, No. -- Wall Street. Third floor."
"I will go there," Prince Duncan suddenly decided. "I will borrow what I can on these bonds, and being merely held on collateral, they will be kept out of the market. At the end of six months, say, I will redeem them, or order them sold, and collect the balance, minus the interest."
Having arrived at this conclusion, he quickened his pace, his expression became more cheerful, and he turned his steps toward Wall Street.
"What did the old fellow see in the paper?" thought Tony. Denton, who, still undiscovered, followed Mr. Duncan closely. "It is something that pleased him, evidently."
He beckoned the same newsboy, bought a Herald also, and turning to that part of the paper on which the banker's eyes had been resting, discovered Sharp & Ketchum's advertisement.
"That's it, I'll bet a hat," he decided. "He is going to raise money on the bonds. I'll follow him."
When Duncan turned into Wall Street, Tony Denton felt that he had guessed correctly. He was convinced when the bank president paused before the number indicated in the advertisement.
"It won't do for me to follow him in," he said to himself, "nor will it be necessary--I can remember the place and turn it to my own account by and by."
Prince Duncan went up-stairs, and paused before a door on which was inscribed:
SHARP & KETCHUM BANKERS LOANS NEGOTIATED
He opened the door, and found the room furnished in the style of a private banking-office.
"Is Mr. Sharp or Mr. Ketchum in?" he inquired of a sharp-faced young clerk, the son, as it turned out, of the senior partner.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Sharp is in."
"Is he at leisure? I wish to see him on business."
"Go in there, sir," said the clerk, pointing to a small private room in the corner of the office. Following the directions, Mr. Duncan found himself in the presence of a man of about fifty, with a hatchet face, much puckered with wrinkles, and a very foxy expression.
"I am Mr. Sharp," he said, in answer to an inquiry.
Prince Duncan unfolded his business. He wished to borrow eight or nine thousand dollars on ten thousand dollars' worth of United States Government bonds.
"Why don't you sell at once?" asked Sharp keenly.
"Because I wish, for special reasons, to redeem these identical bonds, say six months hence."
"They are your own?" asked Mr. Sharp.
"They are a part of my wife's estate, of which I have control. I do not, however, wish her to know that I have raised money on them," answered Duncan, with a smooth falsehood.
"Of course, that makes a difference. However, I will loan you seven thousand dollars, and you will give me your note for seven thousand five hundred, at the usual interest, with permission to sell the bonds at the end of six months if the note remains unpaid then, I to hand you the balance."
Prince Duncan protested against these terms as exorbitant, but was finally obliged to accede to them. On the whole, he was fairly satisfied. The check would relieve him from all his embarrassments and give him a large surplus.
"So far so good!" said Tony Denton, as he saw Mr. Duncan emerge into the street. "If I am not greatly mistaken this will prove a lucky morning for me."
LUKE TALKS WITH A CAPITALIST
Luke worked steadily on the task given him by his new patron. During the first week he averaged three hours a day, with an additional two hours on Saturday, making, in all, twenty hours, making, at thirty cents per hour, six dollars. This Luke considered fair pay, considering that he was attending school and maintaining good rank in his classes.
"Why don't we see more of you, Luke?" asked his friend Linton one day. "You seem to stay in the house all the time."
"Because I am at work, Linny. Last week I made six dollars."
"How?" asked Linton, surprised.
"By copying and making out bills for Mr. Reed."
"That is better than being janitor at a dollar a week."
"Yes, but I have to work a good deal harder."
"I am afraid you are working too hard."
"I shouldn't like to keep it up, but it is only for a short time. If I gave up school I should find it easy enough, but I don't want to do that."
"No, I hope you won't; I should miss you, and so would all the boys."
"Including Randolph Duncan?"
"I don't know about that. By the way, I hear that Randolph is spending a good deal of his time at Tony Denton's billiard saloon."
"I am sorry to hear it. It hasn't a very good reputation."
* * * * * * * * *
One day Luke happened to be at the depot at the time of the arrival of the train from New York. A small, elderly man stepped upon the platform whom Luke immediately recognized as John Armstrong, the owner of the missing box of bonds. He was surprised to see him, having supposed that he was still in Europe. Mr. Armstrong, as already stated, had boarded for several weeks during the preceding summer at Groveton.
He looked at Luke with a half-glance of recognition.
"Haven't I seen you before?" he said. "What is your name?"
"My name is Luke Larkin. I saw you several times last summer."
"Then you know me?"
"Yes, sir, you are Mr. Armstrong. But I thought you were in Europe."
"So I was till recently. I came home sooner than I expected."
Luke was not surprised. He supposed that intelligence of the robbery had hastened Mr. Armstrong's return.
"I suppose it was the news of your box that hurried you home," Luke ventured to say.
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