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Mr. Cameron went home on Friday afternoon.
"I shall be back Monday night," he said to Herbert.
But Monday night did not bring him. Herbert didn't think much of it, however, as it was easy to imagine that some engagement had delayed the young collegian. Tuesday morning, however, he received a letter from Cameron, which contained unexpected and unwelcome intelligence. It ran thus:
"MY DEAR HERBERT: When I left you, I fully expected to return on Monday, but an unexpected proposal has been made to me, which I think it expedient to accept. The physician whom I consulted about my eyes recommends a sea voyage as likely to benefit me, and advises me to start at once. A fellow student is intending to sail on Saturday next for Rio Janeiro, and I have decided to go with him. While I hope to reap advantage from the voyage, I regret that our pleasant intimacy should terminate so suddenly. I ought not to use the word 'terminate', however, as I fully intend to keep track of you, if I can, in your future plans. I may be gone some months, perhaps a year, but when I return I shall manage to meet you.
"I have submitted your father's invention to my father, who will examine it when he has leisure, and communicate with you. There may be some delay, as he is obliged to go to Europe for three months on business.
"I am owing you five dollars, but inclose fifteen, which I beg you to accept, with my thanks for your services, and my best wishes for your happiness and prosperity."
This was the letter which Herbert read with feelings of regret, almost bordering upon dismay. He missed the daily companionship of Cameron, for whom he had formed an attachment almost brotherly, and, besides, he was forced to regard the departure of his friend in its bearing upon his material interests. The income upon which he chiefly depended was suddenly withdrawn, and, look where he might, he could not see where he was to supply the deficiency. The fifteen dollars which Cameron had so considerately sent him would, indeed, last some time; but when that was spent what was he to do? This was a question which cost him anxious thought.
It was not till the day afterward that James Leech heard of Cameron's departure. It is needless to say that he took a malicious satisfaction in the thought that his enemy would now be deprived of his main income. He hastened to inform his father.
"What? Cameron gone away? That is unexpected," said the squire.
"Yes; it is sudden."
"Where is he gone?"
"They told me at the hotel that he was going to sail to South America. His eyes are weak, you know, and the doctor thinks the voyage will do him good."
"I wonder he didn't take the Carter boy with him, he seemed infatuated with him."
"He don't care anything about Carter. At any rate, he will forget all about him, now he is away. The beggarly upstart will have to draw in his horns now. He won't put on so many airs, I'm thinking."
"How much did Cameron pay him for reading to him?"
"Five dollars a week."
"A perfectly preposterous price."
"So I think. But he won't get it now."
"They'll find it hard to get along."
"Of course they will. They can't pay you interest on the mortgage now."
"I don't see how they can."
"And you can take possession of the house, can't you?"
"I certainly shall if the interest isn't paid promptly."
"Perhaps Carter would sell his boat now. He was pretty stiff about it before."
"I wouldn't make him an offer."
"If he succeeded in selling the boat he might be able to pay the interest, and delay my getting possession of the property."
"That is true," said James. "I didn't think of that. Besides, you have promised me a sailboat next spring."
"If business is good, as I hope it may be, you shall have one. At present I am rather short of money."
"I thought you always had plenty of money, father," said James, in surprise.
"I have been buying stocks in the city, James, and that has tied up my money. However, I shall probably make a very handsome profit when I sell out. My friend assures me that I stand a chance of making twenty thousand dollars," concluded the squire, complacently.
"That's a big pile of money," said James. "Are you pretty sure of making it?"
"The chances are greatly in my favor. Of course, it depends on the turn of the market."
"If you succeed, will you move to New York, father?"
"I hope you will. This village is awfully slow. New York is the place to see life."
"There are some kinds of life it is not profitable to see," said the squire, shrewdly.
"I don't want to be cooped up in a little country village all my life," grumbled James.
"You won't be. Don't trouble yourself on that score."
"It will do well enough for Carter. He isn't fit for anything but a country bumpkin, but it don't suit me."
"Well, James, you must be patient, and things may turn out as you desire."
At the same time Herbert was holding a consultation with his mother.
"My prospects are not very bright here, mother," he said, rather despondently. "I am ready enough to work, but there is no work to be had, so far as I can see."
"You forget your garden, Herbert."
"Yes; that will help us a little; but I can't expect to clear more than twenty dollars out of it, and twenty dollars won't go a great way."
"It is something, Herbert."
"It isn't enough to pay our next interest bill."
Mrs. Carter looked troubled,
"If I could sell the property for what it cost your father I should be tempted to do it."
"You mean for fifteen hundred dollars?"
"Yes; that would give us seven hundred and fifty dollars over the mortgage."
"I should be in favor of selling, too, in that case; but Squire Leech only offers eleven hundred at the outside."
"He ought to be more considerate."
"He wants to make a bargain at your expense, mother. That isn't all. He is provoked to think you haven't accepted his offer before, and, of course, that won't incline him to be any more liberal." "I am afraid we shall have to part with our home," said the widow, with a sigh.
"There is one hope, mother. I don't like to think of it too much, for fear it won't amount to anything; but father's invention may prove valuable. You know Mr. Cameron's father has agreed to examine it."
"If we could only get two or three hundred dollars for it, it would be a great help."
"If we get anything at all we shall get more. I am afraid we shall have to wait, though, for Mr. Cameron writes me his father is going to Europe for a few months."
"Everything seems against us, Herbert," said his mother, in a despondent tone.
But Herbert was more hopeful.
"If we can only manage to keep along and pay the next interest, I think we'll be all right, mother," he said. "I mean to try, anyway. If there's any work to be had anywhere within five miles, I'll try to obtain it. How much money have you got left, mother?"
"Ten dollars and a half."
"And here are fifteen that Mr. Cameron sent me. No chance of the poorhouse for a month, mother. Before that has gone by something may turn up."
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