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"Nat, if you wish to do me a favor, do not mention this affair to anybody in New York," said John Garwell, when the pair were on the train, bound for the metropolis.
"I won't say a word, sir."
"There was nothing wrong about it, but I don't want my friends to make a laughing stock of me," added the bachelor.
"I shall never mention it to anybody," returned our hero, and it may be added here that he never did. The matter was also hushed up in Trenton, so nothing more was heard of it.
Our hero was kept very busy for a day or two after his trip into New Jersey. Part of his time was spent over some books, and the balance was used up in running errands, and delivering important papers and documents.
Once again he visited police headquarters, to learn if anything had been heard of Nick Smithers.
"We have learned that he visited Jersey City not long ago," said an official. "But before we could get the authorities to lay their hands on him, he disappeared. We rather think he is in New York again, and if so, we shall do all we can to round him up."
On the following day Nat was sent on an errand up to Forty-second Street. He had to deliver some real estate documents, and this done, he stopped for a moment to look at the Grand Central Depot.
"Thank fortune, I am not quite so green as I was when I landed," he mused.
He was just leaving the vicinity of the station, when, chancing to look down a side street, he saw a sight that filled him with astonishment.
"Uncle Abner, and the Widow Guff!" he murmured. "What are they doing, talking to that seedy-looking fellow?"
Our hero was right. There, near the entrance to a big building, stood Abner Balberry and his bride, and a sharp-eyed but shabbily dressed stranger was talking to them very earnestly.
"Uncle Abner must have married the widow," thought Nat. "More than likely they are on their wedding tour. Wonder what that other fellow wants of uncle?"
Nat's first inclination was to leave the spot, so that his relative might not discover him. But he did not like the looks of the stranger, and so drew closer, to learn, if possible, what the interview meant.
The man had just come past Abner and his wife, and had pretended to pick up a pocketbook.
"Say, did you drop your pocketbook?" he asked, of Abner.
"I—I guess not!" stammered the farmer, and felt to make certain that his own wallet was safe.
"Queer, who did drop this," went on the stranger. "Pretty well filled, too," he added, opening the pocketbook and looking into it.
"Did you jest pick it up?" queried Abner, falling into the trap.
"Sure, right down there. Say, this is a find, ain't it?" and the man smiled broadly.
"That's what it is," said the farmer.
"I wish I could find a pocketbook," sighed Mrs. Balberry.
"I'd like to return this to the owner," went on the stranger. "I don't want to keep anybody's money."
"'Tain't everybody would say thet," was Abner's comment. He wished he had made the find.
"I suppose not, but I believe in being honest." The stranger scratched his head. "Hang me, if I know what to do," he continued.
"What do you mean?"
"I've got to go out of town soon—train leaves in ten minutes. I don't want to take this with me. It don't seem just right."
"Can't you find the owner—I'm sure he would pay us a reward."
"Me find the owner?" stammered the farmer.
"Yes. You might advertise. The pocketbook has got at least a hundred dollars in it. The owner ought to give you twenty-five for returning it."
"Maybe he would."
"I'll tell you what I'll do," said the stranger, earnestly. "You take the pocketbook, and give me ten dollars. If you can find the owner, you can claim twenty-five dollars reward."
"An' supposin' I can't find the owner?"
"Then you can keep the pocketbook."
The temptation was strong, and Abner looked at his newly-made wife.
"Might as well take it, Abner," she said, promptly. "I guess we can find the owner quick enough," and she pinched his arm suggestively.
The farmer drew forth his wallet, and began to count out ten dollars. At the same time the stranger gazed again into the other wallet.
"Must be about a hundred and fifty dollars in this," he said. "I'll trust you to do the square thing by the owner."
"Oh, you kin trust me," said Abner, quickly.
He was about to pass over his ten dollars, when he felt somebody catch him by the arm, and turning, he beheld Nat.
"Nat!" he gasped.
"Not so fast, Uncle Abner!" cried our hero. "You had better keep your money."
"Put your money away."
"See here, what do you mean by interfering?" said the stranger, roughly.
"If he gives up the pocketbook take the ten dollars out of that," went on Nat. "My idea is, there isn't a dollar in the pocketbook."
"That's right, uncle. This is an old game. I heard all about it only a few days ago."
"Oh, you go to grass!" cried the stranger, with a malicious look at Nat, and then he hurried away with all speed.
"Where did you spring from, Nat?"
"I was in this neighborhood on an errand, Uncle Abner. How do you do, Mrs. Guff."
"I'm not Mrs. Guff any more," said the lady. "I'm Mrs. Balberry, your new aunt."
"Oh, so you're married, Uncle Abner."
"Yes," was the answer. "But see here, Nat, I don't understand about thet pocketbook," said the farmer.
"It's simple enough. As I said before, the game is an old one. That fellow had the pocketbook all the time. It was stuffed with old paper, with a dollar bill wrapped on the outside. He wanted to get your money, and if he had gotten it he would have left you with a pocketbook worth about a quarter, with nothing but old paper and a dollar bill in it, and maybe he would have taken the dollar bill out, too."
"Well, I never!" cried Mrs. Balberry. "Did you ever hear of such a swindle!"
"They play all sorts of games in a big city like this. You've got to keep your eyes open."
"I know it," groaned Abner Balberry. "Yesterday, a cabman cheated me out o' fifty cents, an' a boy got a quarter from me by a bogus telegram. I thought something had happened to hum, and when I opened the telegram it had nuthin but a sheet o' blank paper inside!"
"That was too bad."
There was an awkward pause. Now that the farmer had found Nat he hardly knew what to say. He had expected to upbraid his nephew for running away, but the pocketbook episode rather flustered him.
"So you come to New York, didn't you?" he said, slowly.
"Are you working?"
"Yes, and I've got a pretty good job, too."
"I'm in an office downtown."
"How much do you git?"
"What do you think, Uncle Abner?"
"About two or three dollars a week."
"I get seven dollars a week."
"Seven dollars a week—fer a boy!"
"You have been very lucky," put in Mrs. Balberry. "I wish Fred could strike a job like that."
"I'm to have a raise later on," added Nat.
"It wasn't right fer you to run away, Nat," continued his uncle.
"There are two ways of looking at it."
"An' you had no right to set fire to the barn."
"I never did that, Uncle Abner. I wouldn't be so mean."
"And you sold thet cow."
"She was my cow."
"No, she wasn't!"
"I say she was, and I can prove it!"
"Well, we won't quarrel about the cow. What I want to know is, are you behavin' yourself here in the city?"
"I am. I work every day, and I board with some very nice people."
"Ain't squanderin' your earnin's on theaters an' sech?"
"No, I have never seen the inside of a theater."
"Maybe you ain't seen the inside of a church either," came from Mrs. Balberry.
"Yes, I go to church every Sunday."
"Then you don't want to go back to the farm?" came from Abner Balberry.
"No, I am never going back there."
"Don't you know that I am your guardeen?"
"That may be so, Uncle Abner, but I am not going back to the farm."
"You'll go if I say so!"
"No, I won't!" and Nat's eyes flashed fire. "I'm going to support myself, and all I ask is to be let alone."
"Oh, leave him stay, Abner," broke in Mrs. Balberry. "You don't want him, now you have Fred."
The farmer was on the point of saying that Nat as a worker was worth two Freds, but he thought it best to keep silent on that point.
"I'd like to make certain you are stopping with decent folks," said he, after another pause.
"And you won't bother me if I can prove that?" cried our hero, eagerly.
"I guess so, Nat. But you mustn't come down on me fer board an' clothes, later on."
The matter was talked over for a few minutes longer, and in the end Nat led the way to his boarding house and introduced his uncle and Mrs. Balberry to Mrs. Talcott. The surroundings rather pleased Abner Balberry, and he ended by arranging to stay with Mrs. Talcott for several days.
"It's better'n them hotels," said the farmer. "It's more like hum, ain't it, Lucy?"
"Yes, but it ain't quite so high-toned," said the bride, who was inclined to cut a dash whenever the opportunity afforded.
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