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TWO BOYS AND A FORTUNE
Or, The Tyler Will
MATTHEW WHITE, JR., 1907
Among all my books, this one will always occupy a particularly warm spot in my heart; for listen, reader, and I will let you into a little secret. Riddle Creek is really Ridley, and is a true-enough stream, flowing through one of the most charming regions in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The railroad trestle which plays such an important part in the first chapter forms a picturesque feature of the landscape, in full view of a home where I was wont to spend many a joyous holiday-time and which I had in mind whenever I mentioned the Pellery.
Again, the odd little house on Seventh Street, Philadelphia, described in Chapter XXVII, actually existed until pulled down some years since to make room for a big manufacturing plant. I used to visit there every time I went to the Quaker City, and all the furnishings mentioned stand out vividly in my recollection to this day, even to the guitar off in one corner. I never played Fish Pond there, but I have eaten some of the best dinners I ever tasted in that famous kitchen below stairs, which had to serve for dining room as well. That kitchen and the great cat, who used to sun himself in the shop window, loom large in my memories of boyhood.
Matthew White, Jr.
New York City.
Jan. 5, 1907.
THE MAN ON THE BRIDGE
"Look there! I believe that man is actually going to try to cross the trestle."
Roy Pell pulled his sister Eva quickly toward him as he spoke, so that she could look up between the trees to the Burdock side of the railway bridge almost directly above their heads.
"Why, it's Mr. Tyler!" exclaimed Jess, who had a better view from where she sat on the log that spanned Riddle Creek. "Oh, Roy, something's sure to happen to him! He's awfully feeble."
"And there's a train almost due," added Eva. "What can he be thinking of to attempt such a thing?"
"Oh!" and Jess gave a shrill scream. "He's fallen!"
Roy said never a word. He quickly passed his fishing-line to Eva, ran nimbly across the tree trunk to the Burdock side of the creek, and then started to climb the steep bank. The girls sat there and watched him breathlessly, now and then darting a look higher up at the spot on the trestle where the figure that had dropped still lay across the ties, as if too badly hurt to rise.
The two Pell girls and their twin brothers, Rex and Roy, had gone down to sit on the log in search of coolness on this blazing hot July afternoon. Rex had been giving vent to his disgust because he wasn't able to accept the invitation to join a jolly party of friends for a trip to Lake George and down the St. Lawrence. Cause why? Lack of funds.
"You ought to have known you couldn't go when Scott asked you, Rex," Roy had told him. "You would need at least fifty dollars for the outing. And that sum will clothe you for almost a year. And clothes with you, Rex, ought to be of sufficient importance to be considered."
"I suppose I might as well go and tell Scott about it and have it over with," Rex had replied, creasing his handsome forehead into a frown. "I dare say he'll be calling me 'Can't Have It Pell' pretty soon. It was only two months ago I asked for a bicycle and didn't get it, and there was the new pair of skates I wanted last winter."
"Don't be late for tea," Eva called out after him as he made his way to the shore.
She kept her eyes on the trim figure till it was hidden by the trees which grew thick along the road that led up to town.
"Well, if anybody in this world ought to have money it is that good looking brother of ours," remarked Jess with a sigh. "He'd appreciate it so thoroughly. I don't wonder he's crabbed this afternoon. Just think of the chance for a good time he's had to let slip just for lack of a little money."
"Fifty dollars isn't a little money, Jess," returned Roy, casting his line.
"I know it isn't to us, but it is to most of the people we know, Scott Bowman for instance. Do you suppose we shall ever be rich, Roy?"
"We are rich now; at least you and Eva are, in my opinion."
"We rich?" Eva nearly slipped from her position on the log at the statement.
"Why, yes; haven't you both contented dispositions, and isn't that worth a small fortune?"
"But why have you left yourself out, Roy?" Eva wanted to know. "Surely you who never grumble, are satisfied with things."
"No, I'm not." A flash came into the boy's eyes that made him really handsome for the moment. "I'm chafing inwardly all the while at having to be idle this way when it seems there ought to be so much I could do to help along."
"But you are getting ready to do it as soon as you finish school," rejoined his sister. "And you must have a vacation, you know. Besides, think how much you do to help Sydney."
"Oh, I only do a little copying for him now and then."
He was going to add more, but at this point he caught that glimpse of the man on the trestle which brought about the interruption in the talk already described.
Roy soon emerged from the line of shade in his climb up the embankment and the scorching afternoon sun beat down on him mercilessly. But he did not cease his exertions to reach the top as quickly as possible. He knew that a train for the city would be along very soon now; he remembered the curve just beyond the bridge; the engineer could not see whether there was an obstruction in the way, until he should be too close on it to stop.
Then he thought of Mr. Tyler, and of how nobody liked him, with all his money, which he hoarded like a miser. He was probably crossing the bridge now to take the train for the city from Marley, and save the additional five cents he might have to pay if he boarded it at Burdock, which was much nearer his home.
But he was human, he was an old man; he was helpless now, doubtless overcome by the heat. And there was nobody about but Roy to prevent what might be a tragedy.
On he toiled. The loose dirt slid out from under his feet and rattled down the hillside behind him. The perspiration poured from his face in streams. What a contrast this was, he thought, to sitting there over the creek placidly fishing!
He had gained the top now and, scarcely pausing to take a long breath, he ran out over the ties till he reached Mr. Tyler's prostrate form. He had fallen fortunately not very far from the beginning of the trestle, but he was quite unconscious and could not help himself. Roy must carry him away from his dangerous position.
He bent to his task, which was not such an arduous one as might be supposed. Mr. Tyler was little more than a bag of bones, weighing not as much as did Roy himself. The latter picked him up as carefully as he could, not daring to look down lest he should grow dizzy. Then he began to bear his burden back to terra firma.
He had almost reached the ground when the old man stirred and opened his eyes. He started to struggle, but Roy looked down at him and spoke sternly.
"Keep quiet, Mr. Tyler," he said, "or you will have us both over the trestle."
The miser shuddered, but he made no reply and kept perfectly still till Roy placed him on the grass in the shade of a horse chestnut tree. The boy threw himself down beside him, and began to fan himself with his straw hat. The next minute, with a shrill whistle, the train rushed by them.
"You saved my life, Roy Pell," said Mr. Tyler after the skurrying dust raised from the ballast had settled into place. "You are a brave boy."
Roy made no reply. He was still very hot and he was thinking that his whole adventure was very much like a scene in a book.
"I ought to say 'Oh, it is nothing,' I suppose," he reflected with a half smile. "But then that wouldn't be the truth. From the way I feel now it was a good deal."
"I've missed that train, I suppose," Mr. Tyler went on.
At this Roy wanted to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous. And yet it was quite characteristic of this singular old man. But young Pell mopped his face vigorously with his handkerchief to hide his mirth and then said, rising to his feet:
"Do you feel all right, Mr. Tyler?"
"Oh, I guess so," was the reply, and the old man started to get up too.
But he immediately fell back again and a frightened look came into his face.
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