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When Nat awoke it was so late that he leaped up and dressed with all possible speed.
"I've got to get a hustle on me, if I mean to do anything," he told himself. "It won't do to dream away one day after another."
He was anxious to get to New York, to try his luck, but being so close to Niagara Falls, he decided to run up to that great wonder, and look at it before striking out for the metropolis.
He had some loose change in his pocket, and did not immediately miss the roll of bills which the sneak thief had so cleverly abstracted from his person.
Leaving the lodging house, he looked up a cheap restaurant, where he obtained a cup of coffee and some rolls for ten cents. Then, seeing a car marked Niagara Falls, he jumped on board.
"Do you go to the Falls?" he asked of the conductor.
Trolley riding was new to him, and he thoroughly enjoyed the trip, which lasted the best part of two hours. The car landed him on the main street of Niagara Falls, and he was told that the Falls themselves were just beyond the public park. Listening, he could readily hear the thunder of the waters—a thunder that goes on day and night, and has for ages.
Feeling dry, he treated himself to a glass of soda, and then asked permission to leave his bundle in the shop where he made the purchase.
"All right," said the proprietor. "Leave it there, with your name on it," and Nat did as requested.
He was soon down in the public park, and then went out on Goat Island. The great falls were a revelation to him—just as they are to all visitors—and he remained for a long time in one spot, gazing first at the American Falls, and then at the Horseshoe or Canadian Falls.
"What an awful mass of water!" was his thought. "How grand! How very grand!"
From Goat Island, Nat walked over to the Three Sisters. On the last of the Three Sisters he sat down on a great rock to look at the rushing and swirling rapids—a sight which to many is as grand as that of the Falls themselves.
"No boat could ever live in that river," he thought, and he was right.
Sitting on a rock he got to thinking of his financial affairs, and felt in his clothing for his bills, to count them over.
When he realized that the money was gone, a sudden cold sweat came out on his brow. He looked around him, and gave a groan.
"I must have dropped the bills somewhere," he muttered. "But where?" Never once did he imagine that he had been robbed, and it may be added here, he never learned the truth.
To look for the money would have been a hopeless task, and Nat did not attempt it. Having gazed around on the rocks, he sat down to review the situation.
"Just twenty-two cents left," he mused, as he counted over his change. "That won't do more than buy a dinner. And what am I to do after it is gone? What a fool I was not to take care of my money. I'm a regular greeny, after all!"
Nat was greatly depressed in spirits, and he gave a sigh that seemed to come from his very soul. Then, gazing up once more, he gave a quick cry of alarm.
A fashionably dressed young man had appeared before him, wearing a button-hole bouquet, and light tan gloves. The fellow had a wild look in his eyes, and was on the point of throwing himself headlong into the swiftly flowing rapids.
"Don't!" screamed Nat, and with one mighty leap, he caught the fashionably dressed young man by the arm, and forcibly hauled him backwards.
"Let—let me go!" was the frightened return. "I—I—let me go!"
"You shan't throw yourself in the rapids!" said Nat. He held the young man tightly. "It's death to do that! Don't you know it?"
"Yes, I know it," was the unsteady answer. Then of a sudden the young man sank down in a heap on the rocks. "Great Heavens! what a narrow escape!"
He was close to fainting, and Nat supported him until he appeared to grow calmer. The wild look left his eyes, and they filled instead with tears.
"I—I was going to—to——" He did not finish. "You—you saved me!"
"You mustn't do anything like that," said Nat. "It's awful to even think about it."
"But I haven't got anything to live for," was the jerked-out answer.
"Oh, yes, you have." And Nat glanced at the well-dressed fellow, with his gold watch and chain, and his large diamond stud. "You're not poor like I am."
"Are you poor?"
"Am I? Wouldn't you think a fellow with only twenty-two cents was poor?"
"Is that all you have?"
"Yes. I had some bank bills, but I lost them. Twenty-two cents is all I've got, but I wasn't going to commit suicide on that account."
The fashionably dressed young man gave a shiver.
"Don't mention it," he whispered. "I must have been clean crazy for the minute. Let us go away from the river and the falls."
"I'm willing," answered Nat, and walked from the islands to the shore park. Here they seated themselves on a bench, some distance away from the water.
"What is your name, if I may ask?"
"Nat Nason. What's yours?"
"Paul Hampton. So you've only got twenty-two cents to your name? Well, you are worse off than I am, after all. I've got money a-plenty."
"What made you dream of doing such a thing?" asked Nat, curiously.
"Would you like to hear my story? Well, it won't do any harm to tell it to you, an utter stranger, and it will relieve my mind. Maybe you can give me some advice."
"If I can I certainly will," answered Nat, promptly.
"Well, to start with," began Paul Hampton, "I am a graduate of Yale University, and a lawyer by profession. I suppose you don't think I look much like a lawyer."
"I don't know much about lawyers," answered Nat, cautiously.
"I practice in Niagara Falls, and also in Buffalo. I have not paid as much attention to the profession in the past as I intend to pay in the future."
"Maybe you don't need the money."
"That is one reason. But there is another, Nat. I fell desperately in love. The fever is at an end now. You drove it out of me, when you stopped me from jumping into the rapids."
Paul Hampton paused long enough to light a cigar. Then he leaned back, and blew a cloud of smoke into the air.
"I was a big fool. I can realize it now," he went on. "I should have passed Grace by long ago."
"Was that the name of the girl?"
"Yes. Her father is well-to-do, and gives her everything her heart desires. Consequently, she has been leading me around like a puppy dog tied to a string."
"I see. That is not very pleasant."
"I thought I loved her, but I fancy now that I was too good for her," continued the fashionably dressed young man. "But let me tell you the whole story.
"I called on Grace for over a month, and finally told her that I loved her. She said she thought her father would never consent to our marriage. Then I asked her if she was willing to elope with me.
"I believe that angered her, but she didn't show it. She said she would think it over, and the next day sent a note saying she would be ready any time I fixed. Oh, what a fool I was to believe her!"
"And she wouldn't elope?" asked Nat.
"It was arranged that she should be in readiness the next morning at four o'clock, and that I should procure a carriage and call for her. We would drive to a minister in the next town, and be married, and then ask her father's forgiveness."
"And she backed out?"
"The morning dawned dark and misty. I had obtained from a livery stable the night before a carriage with a span of horses. At half-past three I drove within a few yards of the house, when, according to agreement, I saw a white handkerchief waving from a window.
"Very soon Grace made her appearance at the door. She was heavily cloaked and veiled, and refused to speak while I hurried her into the carriage. Off we went at a trot towards the next town. We drew up at the door of the leading minister of the place, and I tried to assist my companion to alight from the carriage, when she fell and hurt her ankle on the curb."
"Well, that was too bad," said Nat, sympathetically.
"I asked her if she was hurt, when to my amazement she broke out into a rich Irish brogue: 'It's almost kilt I am!' said she."
"Was she Irish?"
"Irish? No! It was not Grace at all, but her cook. She had put up a cruel joke on me. And that wasn't the worst of it. Grace had told Biddy that I was in love with her, and the ignorant cook believed it."
"And what did you do then?"
"What could I do? I told Biddy it was a trick, and I had to give her ten dollars to keep from making a complaint to the police. Wasn't it dreadful?"
"Yes, it was, but if I were you, Mr. Hampton, I'd consider myself lucky to get rid of such a girl. Supposing she had married you? You would most likely be miserable all your life with her."
At these words, Paul Hampton stared at Nat.
"You are right," he answered, presently. "I was a big fool. After this I shall drop her entirely and stick to my law business."
"Perhaps some day she'll be sorry she treated you so unfairly—when she sees how you are rising in your profession."
"Hope she does. But I don't want any more to do with her," went on Paul Hampton, decidedly. "Let us talk about something else," he added, after a pause. "Did you tell me you were worth only twenty-two cents?"
"Do your folks live around here?"
"My parents are dead."
"Oh! Well, I want to reward you for what you did for me."
"I don't ask any reward."
"Nevertheless, you must accept something," answered the fashionably dressed young man.
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