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It was not till the latter part of the afternoon that the casket arrived. Rodney was occupied with a recitation, and it was only in the evening that he got an opportunity to open it. There was a pearl necklace, very handsome, a pair of bracelets, two gold chains, some minor articles of jewelry and a gold ring.
A locket attracted Rodney's notice, and he opened it. It contained the pictures of his father and mother.
His father he could barely remember, his mother died before he was old enough to have her image impressed upon his memory. He examined the locket and his heart was saddened. He felt how different his life would have been had his parents lived.
He had never before realized the sorrow of being alone in the world. Misfortune had come upon him, and so far as he knew he had not a friend. Even Dr. Sampson, who had been paid so much money on his account, and who had always professed so great friendship for him, had turned cold.
As he was standing with the locket in his hand there was a knock at the door.
"Come in!" he called out.
The door opened and a stout, coarse looking boy, dressed in an expensive manner, entered.
"Good evening, John," said Rodney, but not cordially.
Next to himself, John Bundy, who was the son of a wealthy saloon keeper in the city of New York, had been a favorite with Dr. Sampson.
If there was anything Dr. Sampson bowed down to and respected it was wealth, and Mr. Bundy, senior, was reputed to be worth a considerable fortune.
In Rodney's mood John Bundy was about the last person whom he wanted to see.
"Ha!" said John, espying the open casket, "where did you get all that jewelry?"
"It contains my mother's jewels," said Rodney gravely.
"You never showed it to me before."
"I never had it before. It came to me by express this afternoon."
"It must be worth a good pile of money," said John, his eyes gleaming with cupidity.
"I suppose it is."
"Have you any idea what it is worth?"
"I have no thought about it."
"What are you going to do with it? It won't be of use to you, especially the diamond earrings," he added, with a coarse laugh.
"No," answered Rodney shortly.
"My eyes, wouldn't my mother like to own all this jewelry. She's fond of ornament, but pa won't buy them for her."
Rodney did not answer.
"I say, Ropes, I mustn't forget my errand. Will you do me a favor?"
"What is it?"
"Lend me five dollars till the first of next month. My allowance comes due then. Now I haven't but a quarter left."
"What makes you apply to me, Bundy?"
"Because you always have money. I don't suppose you are worth as much as my father, but you have more money for yourself than I have."
"I have had, perhaps, but I haven't now."
"Why, what's up? What has happened?"
"I have lost my fortune."
John whistled. This was his way of expressing amazement.
"Why, what have you been doing? How could you lose your fortune?"
"My guardian has lost it for me. That amount to the same thing."
"When did you hear that?"
"Is that true? Are you really a poor boy?"
John Bundy was astonished, but on the whole he was not saddened. In the estimation of the school Rodney had always ranked higher than he, and been looked upon as the star pupil in point of wealth.
Now that he was dethroned John himself would take his place. This would be gratifying, though just at present, and till the beginning of the next month, he would be distressed for ready money.
"Well, that's a stunner!" he said. "How do you feel about it? Shall you stay in school?"
"No; I can't afford it. I must get to work."
"Isn't there anything left--not a cent?"
"There may be a few dollars."
"And then," said Bundy with a sudden thought, "there is this casket of jewelry. You can sell it for a good deal of money."
"I don't mean to sell it."
"Then you're a fool; that's all I've got to say."
"I don't suppose you will understand my feeling in the matter, but these articles belonged to my mother. They are all I have to remind me of her. I do not mean to sell them unless it is absolutely necessary."
"I would sell them quicker'n a wink," said Bundy. "What's the good of keeping them?"
"We won't discuss the matter," said Rodney coldly.
"Do you mind my telling the other boys about your losing your money?"
"No; it will be known tomorrow at any rate; there is no advantage in concealing it."
A heavy step was heard outside. It stopped before the door.
"I must be getting," said Bundy, "or I'll get into trouble."
It was against the rule at the school for boys to make calls upon each other in the evening unless permission were given.
John Bundy opened the door suddenly, and to his dismay found himself facing the rigid figure of Dr. Sampson, the principal.
"How do you happen to be here, Bundy?" asked the doctor sternly.
"Please, sir, I was sympathizing with Ropes on his losing his money," said Bundy with ready wit.
"Very well! I will excuse you this time."
"I'm awful sorry for you, Ropes," said Bundy effusively.
"Thank you," responded Rodney.
"You can go now," said the principal. "I have a little business with Master Ropes."
"All right, sir. Good night."
"Won't you sit down, Dr. Sampson?" said Rodney politely, and he took the casket from the chair.
"Yes, I wish to have five minutes' conversation with you. So these are the jewels, are they?"
"They seem to be quite valuable," went on the doctor, lifting the pearl necklace and poising it in his fingers. "It will be well for you to have them appraised by a jeweler."
"It would, sir, if I wished to sell them, but I mean to keep them as they are."
"I would hardly advise it. You will need the money. Probably you do not know how near penniless you are."
"No, sir; I don't know."
"Your guardian, as you are aware, sent me a check for one hundred and twenty five dollars. I have figured up how much of this sum is due to me, and I find it to be one hundred and thirteen dollars and thirty seven cents."
"Yes, sir," said Rodney indifferently.
"This leaves for you only eleven dollars and sixty three cents. You follow me, do you not?"
"Have you any money saved up from your allowance?"
"A few dollars only, sir."
"Ahem! that is a pity. You will need all you can raise. But of course you did not anticipate what has occurred?"
"I will throw off the thirty seven cents," said the principal magnanimously, "and give you back twelve dollars."
"I would rather pay you the whole amount of your bill," said Rodney.
"Ahem! Well perhaps that would be more business-like. So you don't wish to part with any of the jewelry, Ropes?"
"I thought, perhaps, by way of helping you, I would take the earrings, and perhaps the necklace, off your hands and present them to Mrs. Sampson."
Rodney shuddered with aversion at the idea of these precious articles, which had once belonged to his mother, being transferred to the stout and coarse featured consort of the principal.
"I think I would rather keep them," he replied.
"Oh well, just as you please," said Dr. Sampson with a shade of disappointment for he had no idea of paying more than half what the articles were worth. "If the time comes when you wish to dispose of them let me know."
Rodney nodded, but did not answer in words.
"Of course, Ropes," went on the doctor in a perfunctory way, "I am very sorry for you. I shall miss you, and, if I could afford it, I would tell you to stay without charge. But I am a poor man."
"Yes," said Rodney hastily, "I understand. I thank you for your words but would not under any circumstances accept such a favor at your hands."
"I am afraid you are proud, Ropes. Pride is--ahem--a wrong feeling."
"Perhaps so, Dr. Sampson, but I wish to earn my own living without being indebted to any one."
"Perhaps you are right, Ropes. I dare say I should feel so myself. When do you propose leaving us?"
"Some time tomorrow, sir."
"I shall feel sad to have you go. You have been here so long that you seem to me like a son. But we must submit to the dispensations of Providence--" and Dr. Sampson blew a vigorous blast upon his red silk handkerchief. "I will give you the balance due in the morning."
"Very well, sir."
Rodney was glad to be left alone. He had no faith in Dr. Sampson's sympathy. The doctor had the reputation of being worth from thirty to forty thousand dollars, and his assumption of being a poor man Rodney knew to be a sham.
He went to bed early, for tomorrow was to be the beginning of a new life for him.
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