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It was with a light heart that Nat went to work for Mr. John Garwell. He felt that his employer was a man to be trusted, and one who would do the best he could for those under him.
"It was a lucky thing for me that I took that walk on the Brooklyn Bridge," he reasoned. "Perhaps I shouldn't have gotten the job otherwise."
The clerk, Wilson, proved kind and considerate, and under him our hero learned rapidly.
"Didn't I tell you that you'd strike luck," said Dick. "Now, all you've got to do is to nurse that job carefully, and you'll be at the top of the firm some day."
"Well, I am going to nurse it as carefully as I can," laughed Nat.
When our hero had time he went to the police headquarters to see if anything had been learned of Nick Smithers.
"Nothing yet," said the officer in charge. "But I think he'll be run down sooner or later."
"I'd like to run him down myself."
"I've no doubt you would."
Nat had been working for Mr. Garwell about a week when he received another letter from Sam Price. Sam wrote, in part, as follows:
"Since I sent my last letter, there have been great changes at your uncle's farm. He has discharged the housekeeper, and some say he is courting the Widow Guff. For all I know they'll be married pretty soon. More than that, I heard somebody say that he was thinking of coming to New York to look for you."
Nat read this communication with close attention. He knew the Widow Guff as a person who took boarders in the town where he had sold his cow. She had three children, and had the reputation of being a rather tart and self-willed woman.
"I shouldn't think Uncle Abner would want to marry that widow," thought Nat. "Wonder what put it into his head? And what put it into his head to come to New York to look for me? I'd rather he would keep his distance."
Nat did not know that for the past few months the Widow Guff had had a hard time of it with a number of her boarders, and could scarcely make both ends meet, yet such was a fact.
One day the widow called on a friend, and from this friend learned that Abner Balberry had discharged his housekeeper, and was keeping house by himself.
"It's a shame for him to be all alone," thought the widow. "And with that nephew of his away, too! Some good woman ought to be keeping house for him."
The widow had long had her eye on Abner Balberry, whom she knew fairly well. She knew Abner was well-to-do, and keeping a boarding house seemed of a sudden a great burden to her.
"Wish I could make Abner propose," she said to herself. "He just ought to have a wife."
So the widow kept on thinking, and by and by her face brightened. She had an idea, which she resolved to put into execution the very first opportunity.
"Fred," said she to her son, a tall gawk of a boy, "I want you to go to Mr. Abner Balberry's house, and ask him if he will stop in and see me the first time he comes to town."
"Wot do yer want, ma?" drawled Fred.
"Never mind, Fred. Just ask him to call. Say I'd like a little advice from him."
Fred shuffled off on his errand, and found Nat's uncle down in the henhouse, searching for eggs.
"Ma wants you to come and see her," said the youth.
"Wants me to come an' see her?" queried Nat's uncle.
"Dunno. Said she'd like some advice."
"All right; I'll come," said Abner.
That afternoon, after milking, he arrayed himself in his best, and drove over to the widow's boarding house. He was glad to make the visit, for since discharging his housekeeper he had found life on the farm rather lonely.
The widow greeted him warmly, and asked him into her parlor, closing the doors, so that nobody might interrupt them. She seemed somewhat embarrassed.
"Fred told me that you would like to see me," commenced Nat's uncle.
"Yes, Abner, I do; but I'm afraid you'll think it strange of me—at least of what I have to say to you."
"Oh, that's all right, Lucy; you know you kin trust me," he replied.
"Suppose,"—the widow cast down her eyes,—"mind, I am only supposing a case—suppose a person should find a pot full of gold pieces in an old well, would the law have a right to touch it, or would it belong to the finder?"
At the mention of a pot of gold, Abner Balberry became exceedingly interested. As we know, he was very miserly, and he realized that a pot of gold would be worth a good deal of money.
"A pot of gold, Lucy," he said. "Why, unquestionably, the law would have nothing to do with it."
"Could the one who had owned the house years before, or lived in the place, come forward and claim it?"
"No, Lucy; I think not."
"Thank you, very much, Abner, for your advice. The—er—question just came into my—er—mind, and I wanted to satisfy myself; that's all."
"Certainly, widow, certainly," answered Nat's uncle. He wanted to ask some questions, but did not dare.
"Now you are here, you must take supper with me," went on the Widow Guff.
"Thank you, Lucy, you are very kind——"
"I know you haven't any housekeeper any more, and nobody to cook for you. Yes, stay by all means."
The widow was a fairly good cook, and Nat's uncle ate with a relish all that was offered to him, ending with a piece of berry pie which was particularly fine. He spent a social hour after the meal, and then drove home in a thoughtful mood.
"Is it possible that the widow really found a pot of gold in the well?" he thought. "She didn't really say so, but it was mighty odd for her to ask me such questions. I'll have to look into this a bit." And then he got to thinking that the widow was not such a bad-looking woman after all, and a wife with a pot of gold would be a very nice thing to possess.
About a week later Abner Balberry had occasion to go to town, to draw a little money from the bank, with which to pay for a cow he had purchased. He was passing the widow's home when she came out on the piazza and nodded to him.
"Good-morning," she said.
"Good-morning," he returned, and stopped for a chat. During the course of the conversation he mentioned his errand, and she said she was going to the bank too. He asked her to ride to the institution, and she accepted the invitation. When they arrived there he told her he would wait until she was through. Then he went around to a side window of the bank, where he might hear what took place.
The widow tripped up to the window.
"Can you give me change for a ten-dollar gold piece?" she asked.
"With pleasure, Mrs. Guff," was the answer, and the change for the gold piece was immediately forthcoming.
"By the way," went on the widow, "the bank is in quite a flourishing condition, is it not?"
"We are doing finely, yes."
"And you receive deposits, do you not?"
"Do you receive as high as—as five thousand dollars?"
"No," answered the cashier, in some surprise. "Three thousand dollars from one depositor is our limit. Do you know of anybody who——"
"It's of no consequence," interrupted the widow, hurriedly. "I only asked out of curiosity. How much interest do you pay?"
"Four per cent. on the first thousand and three per cent. on the remainder."
"Thank you, and much obliged for the change. Good-morning," and the Widow Guff tripped out lightly and hurried up the street.
Abner Balberry had overheard every word and his face was a study as he went into the bank to draw what he wanted, thirty dollars.
"Jest had the Widow Guff here, didn't you?" he said, lightly.
"Yes, Mr. Balberry." The cashier paused. "Do you know if anybody has left her money lately?" he continued.
"Not that I know on? Why?"
"Oh, she was asking what rate of interest we paid, and if we took as high as five thousand dollars."
"I see. Well, I don't know nothin' about it," and Abner Balberry pocketed his money and his bank book, and walked out after the widow.
If he had been in deep thought before he was more so now. Was it possible that the widow had found five thousand dollars?
"She changed a ten-dollar piece," he reasoned. "I reckon I kin see through a millstone when there's a hole through it. Tell ye what, a widder with five thousand in gold ain't to be sneezed at! I wonder if anybody else knows o' this? Hope they don't!"
That evening the farmer sat up till late, thinking the situation over. He did not wish for a wife so much, but he did wish to get his hands on that pot of gold.
"If I want her I'll have to propose before some other feller hears o' this," he told himself.
The farmer made it his business to go to town two days later, and drove past the widow's house very slowly. She saw him from a window, and nodded and smiled.
This was encouraging, and on returning from his errand, he tied up in front of the place, and rang the bell.
"Oh, Abner, I am delighted to see you!" said the widow, on coming to the door. "Come in."
"Thank you, Lucy," he answered, and entered the parlor.
"It was so good of you to come," she simpered. "I wanted somebody to talk to."
"Anything special?" he asked, curiously.
"I have received notice to leave this house. I guess Mr. Haskell, the owner, wishes it for himself." She did not add that her rent was about due, and she did not know how to meet the payment.
"Where do you think of going, widow?"
"I'm sure I don't know, Abner. I haven't a single place. You know I'm all alone in the world."
She looked at him fondly, and he at once fell into the trap.
"Better come an' live with me, Lucy."
"Oh, Abner! What do you mean?"
"I mean that I think a heap o' you, Lucy, an' I'd like you fer my wife. I know as how we could git along fine together," answered Nat's uncle, earnestly. Just then that pot of gold seemed almost within his reach.
The widow blushed, and pretended to be greatly surprised.
"I—I never dreamed of this, Abner!" she whispered. "It's—it's so sudden."
"But you ain't goin' to say no, are you?"
"Well, I—I——" She blushed again. "I must say I like you a great deal, Abner."
"Then say yes."
"Well, I will," declared the widow, and then she allowed him to kiss her. Abner felt very happy, and asked her to set the day at once.
"Bein' as you're to git out o' this house, you might as well give up the boarders, an' come to my house at once," he said.
The widow consented, and said she would marry him in ten days. He drove home almost in a dream, and at once had the house put in order, and actually bought himself a new suit of clothes and a new hat.
"It's a good bit o' money to spend," he reasoned. "But I've got to do the proper thing, or she won't feel like lettin' go o' that gold."
When the time came, they were married in the local church, and then he drove her home. Her furniture had already arrived. She at once took possession of the place, and began to set things to rights.
"I won't ask her about that pot o' gold jest yet," mused Abner. "I'll have to wait a few days at least."
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