Chapter 33




DICK PUNISHES NICHOLAS.

"Is that man going to stay here?" asked Nicholas, in a tone of dissatisfaction.

"Yes."

"What made you invite him?"

"I couldn't help it, Nicholas. He is my brother."

"I'm ashamed of the relationship."

"I am not proud of it myself, but I can't help paying him a little attention."

"How long is he going to stay?"

"A day or two."

"He'll stay a week or two if you let him."

"I can prevent that."

"How?"

"You'll see."

The manner of Nicholas toward his uncle was far from agreeable. In fact, it was almost insolent. Dick retained his temper out of policy, but he said to himself:

"Some time or other, my fine nephew, I'll pay off old scores. See if I don't."

"Are you going to ride this morning?" he asked the next day.

"I may," answered Nicholas.

"I should like to ride with you."

"I prefer riding by myself."

"Oh, come, nephew. I shan't stay here long. Don't refuse such a small favor."

In consequence probably of the first part of this answer, Mrs. Kent said:

"Nicholas, you'd better take your uncle out this morning and show him a little of the village."

Nicholas grumblingly assented.

So about ten o'clock they started out.

"You've got a good horse here," said Dick.

"He ought to be. Mother paid four hundred dollars for him."

"Did she, though? You ought to have got me to send you one from the West. For half the money I'd have sent you a better one."

"I don't believe it."

"Because you don't know. I do."

"It takes a good driver to drive this horse," said Nicholas.

"Does it? I could drive this horse blindfolded."

He spoke contemptuously, and Nicholas was nettled. He prided himself upon his driving ability, and now his uncle underestimated it.

"The horse is not as easy to drive as you think," he said. "If you don't believe it, take the reins and see."

"All right."

This was what Dick wanted, for he had a plan for revenging himself on his upstart nephew. He drove on till he got to a place where there was a muddy and miry puddle beside the road. Then by a dexterous manœuver, for he understood driving thoroughly, he managed to overturn the wagon, and Nicholas was thrown headlong into the puddle. Dick leaped out just at the right time, retaining his hold on the reins.

Bespattered with mud and drenched with mire, Nicholas arose from the puddle a sorry figure.

"What did you do that for?" he demanded, wrathfully, surveying himself with disgust.

"I'm afraid I can't manage your horse," said Dick, with hypocritical meekness. "He was too much for me."

"Didn't I tell you so?" said Nicholas, triumphing in spite of his woful condition.

"I'm sorry you fell into the puddle. Why didn't you jump, as I did?"

"I didn't have time," said Nicholas, ruefully. "What a figure I am!"

"I suppose we may as well go home."

"Yes," said Nicholas, sullenly. "That comes of giving you the reins."

"You are right," said Dick. "You'd better drive home yourself."

Nicholas took the reins, but it mortified him not a little to see the looks of wonder and amusement which he attracted as he passed through the village.

Dick laughed to himself.

"I rather think, my proud nephew, we're about even," he said to himself.

In the course of the next day Dick ventured to suggest to his sister that a temporary loan would be very acceptable.

"A loan!" she repeated, curling her lip. "Why not say 'gift' at once?"

"I'm willing to put it on that ground," said Dick, unabashed. "Still, I'll give you my note for the amount, if you say so."

"What good would that do?"

"Why, I've got some plans in view which, if successful, will enable me to repay you the money, with interest."

"I have small faith in the success of your plans, Richard."

"I haven't been as lucky as you, sister Helen, I admit; but where would you have been but for your lucky marriage?"

"As to that, I have always taken care of myself," said his sister, coldly.

"May be so. There are some born to good luck."

"How much money do you expect me to give you?" asked Mrs. Kent.

Dick looked at his sister's face attentively. He wished to judge how much there was a chance of getting out of her. His survey was not particularly encouraging. She didn't appear to be a woman easily wheedled out of her money. Still, he spoke up boldly, and said:

"A loan of five hundred dollars, Helen, would be a great lift to me."

"I have no doubt it would," said Mrs. Kent, quietly; "but if you have any expectation of getting that sum from me you know very little of me. I should be a fool to throw away such a sum of money."

"You would be generous."

"I have no ambition to be considered generous," she answered, coldly. "A fool and his money are soon parted. You appear to take me for a fool, but I beg to assure you that you are entirely mistaken."

"How much will you lend me, then?" asked Dick, rather sullenly.

"Don't use that ridiculous word 'lend,' when you know there's no probability of your ever repaying it, even if you should be able."

"Have your own way, Helen."

"I will give you fifty dollars, though in justice to my boy I ought not to do so."

"Fifty dollars!" repeated Dick, chagrined. "Why, that don't pay me for coming East."

"You are right. You would have done better to stay where you were."

"You don't seem to consider, Helen, that we hadn't met for years, and I wanted to see my only sister."

"Suppose I had had no money, would you have come then?" asked Mrs. Kent, with contemptuous incredulity.

"No; I couldn't have afforded it. But, Helen, fifty dollars is nothing at all. You might say a hundred."

"I might say a hundred, but there is no chance that I shall. Are you not ashamed—a great, strong man, as you are—not to be able to support yourself and wife without help from me?"

"Luck's been agin me," said Dick, sullenly. "I could have got ahead but for that."

"How has it been against you?"

"I owned a mining claim in California—it didn't pay anything—and I sold it for ten dollars. The man I sold it to kept working till he struck a vein. He cleared ten thousand dollars."

"As you might have done if you hadn't despaired too quickly."

"Oh, well, it's easy enough to criticise, Helen. You've struck a vein, and you're in luck. No more hard work for you."

"There would be if I gave away my money, five hundred dollars at a time. You needn't complain of my good fortune. I have had my share of work to do. Now I am comfortable, and I mean to keep so."

"No matter what becomes of your poor brother?" whined Dick.

"My poor brother must work as I have done, and he won't starve. Do you think, if I were a man," she said, disdainfully, "that I would stoop to ask help of a woman!"

"Well, let me have the money, then," said Dick, gloomily.

Mrs. Kent drew from her pocket-book five ten-dollar bills and placed them in his hand.

"Don't expect any further help," she said. "In justice to my son I must refuse it."

Dick left the house with an execration.

"Was there ever a more selfish, cold-hearted woman?" he muttered. "It's all for her son, is it? I'd like to choke the whelp!"

With this sentiment the affectionate uncle left his sister's house.



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