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- Struggling Upward - 5/41 -


"No, it is yours, for you are going to take care of the box."

It was, indeed, quite a windfall, and both mother and son retired to rest in a cheerful frame of mind, in spite of Luke's failure in the race.

"I have been thinking, Luke," said his mother, at the breakfast-table, "that I should like to have you buy a Waterbury watch out of this money. It will only cost three dollars and a half, and that is only one-third."

"Thank you, mother, but I can get along without the watch. I cared for it chiefly because it was to be a prize given to the best skater. All the boys know that I would have won but for the accident, and that satisfies me."

"I should like you to have a watch, Luke."

"There is another objection, mother. I don't want any one to know about the box or the money. If it were known that we had so much property in the house, some attempt might be made to rob us."

"That is true, Luke. But I hope it won't be long before you have a watch of your own."

When Luke was walking, after breakfast, he met Randolph Duncan, with a chain attached to the prize watch ostentatiously displayed on the outside of his vest. He smiled complacently, and rather triumphantly, when he met Luke. But Luke looked neither depressed nor angry.

"I hope your watch keeps good time, Randolph," he said.

"Yes; it hasn't varied a minute so far. I think it will keep as good time as my silver watch."

"You are fortunate to have two watches."

"My father has promised me a gold watch when I am eighteen," said Randolph, pompously.

"I don't know if I shall have any watch at all when I am eighteen."

"Oh, well, you are a poor boy. It doesn't matter to you."

"I don't know about that, Randolph. Time is likely to be of as much importance to a poor boy as to a rich boy."

"Oh, ah! yes, of course, but a poor boy isn't expected to wear a watch."

Here the conversation ended. Luke walked on with an amused smile on his face.

"I wonder how it would seem to be as complacent and self-satisfied as Randolph?" he thought. "On the whole, I would rather be as I am."

"Good morning, Luke!"

It was a girl's voice that addressed him. Looking up, he met the pleasant glance of Florence Grant, considered by many the prettiest girl in Groveton. Her mother was a widow in easy circumstances, who had removed from Chicago three years before, and occupied a handsome cottage nearly opposite Mr. Duncan's residence. She was a general favorite, not only for her good looks, but on account of her pleasant manner and sweet disposition.

"Good morning, Florence," said Luke, with an answering smile.

"What a pity you lost the race yesterday!"

"Randolph doesn't think so."

"No; he is a very selfish boy, I am afraid."

"Did you see the race?" asked Luke.

"No, but I heard all about it. If it hadn't been for Tom Harper you would have won, wouldn't you?"

"I think so."

"All the boys say so. What could have induced Tom to get in the way?"

"I don't know. It was very foolish, however. He got badly hurt."

"Tom is a friend of Randolph," said Florence significantly.

"Yes," answered Luke; "but I don't think Randolph would stoop to such a trick as that."

"You wouldn't, Luke, but Randolph is a different boy. Besides, I hear he was trying for something else."

"I know; his father offered him ten dollars besides."

"I don't see why it is that some fare so much better than others," remarked Florence, thoughtfully. "The watch and the money would have done you more good."

"So they would, Florence, but I don't complain. I may be better off some day than I am now."

"I hope you will, Luke," said Florence, cordially.

"I am very much obliged to you for your good wishes," said Luke, warmly.

"That reminds me, Luke, next week, Thursday, is my birthday, and I am to have a little party in the evening. Will you come?"

Luke's face flushed with pleasure. Though he knew Florence very well from their being schoolfellows, he had never visited the house. He properly regarded the invitation as a compliment, and as a mark of friendship from one whose good opinion he highly valued.

"Thank you, Florence," he said. "You are very kind, and I shall have great pleasure in being present. Shall you have many?"

"About twenty. Your friend Randolph will be there."

"I think there will be room for both of us," said Luke, with a smile.

The young lady bade him good morning and went on her way.

Two days later Luke met Randolph at the dry-goods store in the village.

"What are you buying?" asked Randolph, condescendingly.

"Only a spool of thread for my mother."

"I am buying a new necktie to wear to Florence Grant's birthday party," said Randolph, pompously.

"I think I shall have to do the same," said Luke, enjoying the surprise he saw expressed on Randolph's face.

"Are you going?" demanded Randolph, abruptly.

"Yes."

"Have you been invited?"

"That is a strange question," answered Luke, indignantly. "Do you think I would go without an invitation?"

"Really, it will be quite a mixed affair," said Randolph, shrugging his shoulders.

"If you think so, why do you go?"

"I don't want to disappoint Florence."

Luke smiled. He was privately of the opinion that the disappointment wouldn't be intense.

CHAPTER VI

PREPARING FOR THE PARTY

The evening of the party arrived. It was quite a social event at Groveton, and the young people looked forward to it with pleasant anticipation. Randolph went so far as to order a new suit for the occasion. He was very much afraid it would not be ready in time, but he was not to be disappointed. At five o'clock on Thursday afternoon it was delivered, and Randolph, when arrayed in it, surveyed himself with great satisfaction. He had purchased a handsome new necktie, and he reflected with pleasure that no boy present--not even Linton--would be so handsomely dressed as himself. He had a high idea of his personal consequence, but he was also of the opinion that "fine feathers make fine birds," and his suit was of fine cloth and stylish make.

"I wonder what the janitor will wear?" he said to himself, with a curl of the lip. "A pair of overalls, perhaps. They would be very appropriate, certainly."

This was just the question which was occupying Luke's mind. He did not value clothes as Randolph did, but he liked to look neat. Truth to tell, he was not very well off as to wardrobe. He had his every-day suit, which he wore to school, and a better suit, which he had worn for over a year. It was of mixed cloth, neat in appearance, though showing signs of wear; but there was one trouble. During the past year Luke had grown considerably, and his coat-sleeves were nearly two inches too short, and the legs of his trousers deficient quite as much. Nevertheless, he dressed himself, and he, too, surveyed himself, not before a pier-glass, but before the small mirror in the kitchen.

"Don't my clothes look bad, mother?" he asked anxiously.

"They are neat and clean, Luke," said his mother, hesitatingly.


Struggling Upward - 5/41

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