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The next Sunday Mrs. Clifton and her daughter appeared at church, and Grant had the pleasure of greeting them. He was invited with his sister to take supper with them on the next Monday afternoon, and accepted the invitation. About sunset he met his new friends walking, with the addition of the husband and father, who, coming Saturday evening from New York, had felt too fatigued to attend church. Mr. Clifton, to whom he was introduced, was a portly man in middle life, who received Grant quite graciously, and made for himself acknowledgment of the service which our hero had rendered his daughter.
"If I ever have the opportunity of doing you a favor, Master Thornton, you may call upon me with confidence," he said.
Grant thanked him, and was better pleased than if he had received an immediate gift.
Meanwhile Deacon Gridley kept his promise, and advanced the minister fifty dollars, deducting a month's interest. Even with this deduction Mrs. Thornton was very glad to obtain the money. Part of it was paid on account to Mr. Tudor, and silenced his importunities for a time. As to his own plans, there was nothing for Grant to do except to continue his studies, as he might enter college after all.
If any employment should offer of a remunerative character, he felt that it would be his duty to accept it, in spite of his uncle's objections; but such chances were not very likely to happen while he remained in the country, for obvious reasons.
Three weeks passed, and again not only Mr. Tudor, but another creditor, began to be troublesome.
"How soon is your father going to pay up his bill?" asked Tudor, when Grant called at the store for a gallon of molasses.
"Very soon, I hope," faltered Grant.
"I hope so, too," answered the grocer, grimly.
"Only three weeks ago I paid you thirty-three dollars," said Grant.
"And you have been increasing the balance ever since," said Tudor, frowning.
"If father could get his salary regularly--" commenced Grant.
"That's his affair, not mine," rejoined the grocer. "I have to pay my bills regular, and I can't afford to wait months for my pay."
Grant looked uncomfortable, but did not know what to say.
"The short and the long of it is, that after this week your father must either pay up his bill, or pay cash for what articles he gets hereafter."
"Very well," said Grant, coldly. He was too proud to remonstrate. Moreover, though he felt angry, he was constrained to admit that the grocer had some reason for his course.
"Something must be done," he said to himself, but he was not wise enough to decide what that something should be.
Though he regretted to pain his mother, he felt obliged to report to her what the grocer had said.
"Don't be troubled, mother," he said, as he noticed the shade of anxiety which came over her face. "Something will turn up."
Mrs. Thornton shook her head.
"It isn't safe to trust to that, Grant," she said; "we must help ourselves."
"I wish I knew how," said Grant, perplexed.
"I am afraid I shall have to make a sacrifice," said Mrs. Thornton, not addressing Grant, but rather in soliloquy.
Grant looked at his mother in surprise. What sacrifice could she refer to? Did she mean that they must move into a smaller house, and retrench generally? That was all that occurred to him.
"We might, perhaps, move into a smaller house, mother," said he, "but we have none too much room here, and the difference in rent wouldn't be much."
"I didn't mean that, Grant. Listen, and I will tell you what I do mean. You know that I was named after a rich lady, the friend of my mother?"
"I have heard you say so."
"When she died, she left me by will a pearl necklace and pearl bracelets, both of very considerable value."
"I have never seen you wear them, mother."
"No; I have not thought they would be suitable for the wife of a poor minister. My wearing them would excite unfavorable comment in the parish."
"I don't see whose business it would be," said Grant, indignantly.
"At any rate, just or not, I knew what would be said," Mrs. Thornton replied.
"How is it you have never shown the pearl ornaments to me, mother?"
"You were only five years old when they came to me, and I laid them away at once, and have seldom thought of them since. I have been thinking that, as they are of no use to me, I should be justified in selling them for what I can get, and appropriating the proceeds toward paying your father's debts."
"How much do you think they are worth, mother?"
"A lady to whom I showed them once said they must have cost five hundred dollars or more."
"Do you mind showing them to me, mother?" he asked.
Mrs. Thornton went upstairs, and brought down the pearl necklace and bracelets. They were very handsome and Grant gazed at them with admiration.
"I wonder what the ladies would say if you should wear them to the sewing circle," he said, humorously.
"They would think I was going over to the vanities of this world," responded his mother, smiling. "They can be of no possible use to me now, or hereafter, and I believe it will be the best thing I can do to sell them."
"Where can you sell them? No one here can afford to buy them."
"They must be sold in New York, and I must depend upon you to attend to the business for me."
"Can you trust me, mother? Wouldn't father--"
"Your father has no head for business, Grant. He is a learned man, and knows a great deal about books, but of practical matters he knows very little. You are only a boy, but you are a very sensible and trustworthy boy, and I shall have to depend upon you."
"I will do the best I can, mother. Only tell me what you want me to do."
"I wish you to take these pearls, and go to New York. You can find a purchaser there, if anywhere. I suppose it will be best to take them to some jewelry store, and drive the best bargain you can."
"When do you wish me to go, mother?"
"There can be no advantage in delay. If tomorrow is pleasant, you may as well go then."
"Shall you tell father your plan?"
"No, Grant, it might make him feel bad to think I was compelled to make a sacrifice, which, after all, is very little of a sacrifice to me. Years since I decided to trouble him as little as possible with matters of business. It could do no good, and, by making him anxious, unfitted him for his professional work."
Mrs. Thornton's course may not be considered wise by some, but she knew her husband's peculiar mental constitution, and her object at least was praiseworthy, to screen him from undue anxiety, though it involved an extra share for herself.
The next morning Grant took an early breakfast, and walked briskly toward the depot to take the first train for New York.
The fare would be a dollar and a quarter each way, for the distance was fifty miles, and this both he and his mother felt to be a large outlay. If, however, he succeeded in his errand it would be wisely spent, and this was their hope.
At the depot Grant found Tom Calder, a youth of eighteen, who had the reputation of being wild, and had been suspected of dishonesty. He had been employed in the city, so that Grant was not surprised to meet him at the depot.
"Hello, Grant! Where are you bound?" he asked.
"I am going to New York."
"A little business," Grant answered, evasively. Tom was the last person he felt inclined to take into his confidence.
"Goin' to try to get a place?"
"If any good chance offers I shall accept it--that is, if father and mother are willing."
"Let's take a seat together--that's what I'm going for myself."
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