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Herbert had never been to Randolph. In fact, he had never been so far away from Wrayburn. He was not afraid of losing his way, however. Here and there along the road guideposts were conveniently placed, and these removed any difficulty on that score.
When he had gone about six miles, the coach rattled by. It had started more than an hour later. Herbert turned out for the lumbering vehicle, and waited for it to pass. There was a boy on top, but such was the cloud of dust that he could not at first recognize him. It happened, however, that one of the traces broke, so that the driver was compelled to make a stop just as he overtook our hero. Then he saw that the boy on top was James Leech.
With James curiosity overcame his disinclination to speak to one so far beneath him.
"Where are you going. Carter?" he inquired.
"To Randolph," was the answer.
"Going to walk all the way?"
"I expect to," said Herbert, not relishing the cross-examination.
"Why don't you ride?"
James did not ask for information. He knew well enough already, but as there are purse-proud men, so there are boys who are actuated by feelings equally unworthy, and it delighted him to remind Herbert of his poverty. Herbert divined this, but he was proud in his way, and answered: "Because I choose."
"Well, you must like the dust, that's all," said James, complacently tapping his well-polished boot with a light cane which he had bought.
"Where are you going?" asked Herbert, thinking it about time for him to commence questioning.
"I'm going to Randolph, too," answered James, with unwonted affability. "I'm going to stop a few days with a friend of mine, Tom Spencer. His father's a rich man—got a nice place there. Didn't you ever hear of Mr. Spencer, the lawyer?"
"I don't think I have."
"That's his father. He makes a load of money by his law business. I think I shall study law some time. Perhaps I'll go into partnership with him. What are you going to be?"
"I don't know yet," said Herbert.
"I suppose you'll be a mechanic of some kind—a carpenter, or mason, or bricklayer."
"Perhaps so," said Herbert, quietly.
"What are you going to Randolph for?" asked James, with sudden curiosity.
"To attend my uncle's funeral."
"What's your uncle's name?"
"The same as mine."
"I suppose he was poor."
"No, he was rich."
"Was he?" repeated James, in some surprise. "What do you think he was worth?"
"About a hundred thousand dollars."
"Sho! you don't say so. Perhaps," continued James, with new-born respect, "he has left you something in his will."
"I don't think so."
"He hasn't shown any interest in us for six years, and I don't think he'll remember us now."
James looked thoughtful. He had never before heard of this relationship, or he would have treated Herbert differently. The mere fact of having a wealthy relative elevated our hero considerably in his eyes. Then, too, there was a possibility that Herbert would turn out a legatee.
"When is your uncle's funeral?" he inquired, after a pause.
"You won't get there in time. You had better get up and ride."
"No, I guess not."
"Well, perhaps I shall meet you at Randolph."
By this time the harness was repaired, the driver resumed his seat, and whipped up the horses to make up for lost time.
"I'm glad I don't think as much of money as James Leech," thought Herbert. "I suppose if my uncle would only leave us a good round sum, he would forget that I once wore patched pants, and accept me as his intimate friend."
This was exactly what James would have done, and Herbert showed that he was not wholly without knowledge of the world in forming the conjecture.
Pausing occasionally to rest, Herbert at length accomplished his journey, arriving at Randolph a little after noon. He stopped just outside the village and ate his frugal dinner, which by this time he was prepared to relish. He then took off his jacket and beat the dust out of it, dusted his shoes, and washed his face in a little brook by the roadside. Having thus effaced the marks of travel, he entered the village and inquired the way to the residence of his late uncle. He found out where it was, but did not go there yet, knowing that there would be preparations going on for the funeral. Neither did he go to the tavern, for he knew that he would be expected to dine there, and this was an expense which he did not feel able to incur. He threw himself down in the shade of a tree, and remained there until after he heard the church clock strike two. He was still lying there when a young man, smartly dressed, sporting a showy watch chain and locket and an immense necktie, came up the street and accosted him.
"I say, boy, can you tell me where old man Carter's house is?"
"Yes," said Herbert. "Do you want to go there?"
"Of course I do. I'm one of the relatives. I've come all the way from
New York to attend the funeral."
"I'm one of the relations, too," said Herbert. "We'll go along together."
"By Jove, that's strange! How are you related to the old chap?" drawled the young man.
"He was my mother's uncle."
"Was he? Well, I'm a second or third cousin, I don't know which. Never saw him to my knowledge. In fact, I wouldn't have come on to the funeral if I hadn't heard that he was rich. Expect to be remembered?"
"I don't think so. He hasn't taken any notice of mother or myself for years."
"Indeed!" said the young man, who was rather pleased to hear this intelligence. "Are there many relations, do you know?"
"I don't think there are."
"That's good. It makes our chance better, you know. I say, what's your name?"
"Same as the old man's?"
"Did he know you was named for him?"
"Then he may leave you something for the name," suggested the other, not very well pleased.
"I don't expect anything. What is your name?"
"Cornelius Dixon. I'm related to the old man on my mother's side."
"Are you in business in New York?" asked Herbert, who, in spite of the queer manners of his new relative, felt considerable respect for one who hailed from so important a city.
"Yes, I'm a salesman in a New York store. Where do you live?"
"About twenty miles from here."
"Some one-horse country town, I suppose. Are you in any business?"
"No," said Herbert, "but I'd like to be. Do you think you could get me a place in New York?"
"Well," said Cornelius, flattered by the belief in his influence which this inquiry implied, "perhaps I might. You can give me your name and address, so I can write to you if I hear of anything. If the old man only leaves me a few thousand dollars, I'll go into business for myself, and then I'd have an opening for you."
"I hope he will, then."
"So do I. That is where we both agree. But perhaps it will be you that will get the cash."
"I don't think so."
"If you do, put it into my hands, and go into partnership with me. I've got business experience, you know; while you're green, countrified, you know. It would never do for you to start alone."
"No, I shouldn't think of it."
"Then it's agreed, is it?" said Cornelius. "If I get a legacy, I'll take you into my store. If you get it, you will go into partnership with me."
"I'm willing," said Herbert, who really believed that his companion had as valuable business qualifications as he claimed. How was he to know that the pretentious Cornelius was only a salesman, at twelve dollars a week, in a dry-goods store on Eighth Avenue?
By this time they had reached the rather dingy-looking house of their deceased relative. The front door was open. They passed through the gate, and, entering, took their places with the mourners.
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