Chapter 34




HERBERT'S LEGACY

The weeks slipped rapidly away. Herbert succeeded in maintaining himself at his new business, and never failed to have ready the four dollars which he had agreed to pay for board. It was lucky he did, for he soon found that there would be no chance of borrowing from his roommate. Cornelius was always hard up. As he only paid a dollar more board than Herbert, the latter wondered what he did with his twenty dollars a week. But the fact was, Mr. Dixon at present received but half that sum, though pride induced him to represent otherwise. And what, I ask, are ten dollars a week to a young man of fashionable tastes? No wonder he was always short of funds. How could it be otherwise?

Of course it was satisfactory to Herbert to feel that he was paying his way. But still he had a source of anxiety. He felt that he ought— indeed, it was absolutely necessary—to contribute to his mother's support. Moreover, the dreaded day on which the semi-annual interest came due was now close at hand. So far as he could judge, his mother would have nothing to meet it. It seemed inevitable that she should submit to the squire's demand, and sacrifice the house. It was a sad thing to think of, yet there was this consolation: the three or four hundred dollars cash which the squire would pay would tide over the next year or two, until Herbert was older and could earn more.

But, after all, was it certain that he would earn more? Could he sell more papers two years hence than now? That was hardly likely. If he wanted to advance his income, it must be in some other business. Yet, to a boy situated as he was, there was little chance of getting any employment that would make as good immediate returns as selling papers.

So, thinking over these things, our hero was much perplexed, and could see no way out of the difficulty. He had never read "David Copperfield," and had not accustomed himself to expecting something to turn up. He was sensible enough, indeed, to know that it is idle to wait for such chances. Yet, when one does his duty faithfully, things will occasionally turn up, and this was precisely what happened to Herbert.

He was standing at his accustomed post one day, when a pleasant- looking gentleman of fifty, or perhaps a little more, accosted him, inquiring for a particular morning paper.

"I haven't got it, sir; but I will get you one," said Herbert.

"Will you be long?"

"No, sir; I know where I can get one at once."

"Very well, then, I will wait here till you return."

Herbert was as good as his word. As the gentleman paid him, he asked, pleasantly: "How is business, my young friend?"

"Pretty good, sir."

"Can you make money enough to support yourself?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I suppose you are contented?"

"I should be, sir, if I had only myself to look after."

"You haven't a wife and family, I presume," said the gentleman, smiling.

Herbert laughed.

"I hope not yet, sir," he answered. "But I have a mother whom I ought to assist."

"And you cannot?"

"I have not been able to yet. It takes all I can earn to pay my own expenses."

"Does your mother live in the city?"

"No, sir; in the town of Wrayburn, fifty or sixty miles from here."

"Wrayburn?" repeated the gentleman, in surprise.

"Yes, sir; it is a small village. I dare say you never heard of it."

"But I have heard of it. My son passed a few weeks there during the last summer."

It was Herbert's turn to be surprised. He examined the gentleman's face attentively, and it dawned upon him who he was.

"Are you Mr. Cameron?" he asked.

"How is it that you know me?" inquired the other.

"My name is Herbert Carter. I was employed to read to your son. Have you heard from him?"

"We are expecting a letter daily, but the distance is considerable, and we may have to wait for some time yet. So you are Herbert Carter?"

"Yes, sir."

"My son was very much interested in you. He has spoken often of you."

"He was very kind to me."

"Your father was an inventor."

"That was not his business, but he devoted his leisure to invention."

"My son placed in my hands, for examination, a model of his, just before he went away."

"Have you examined it? What do you think of it, sir?" asked Herbert, eagerly.

"I only recently returned from Europe, and have not thoroughly examined it. So far as I have done so, I am inclined to think favorably of it."

Herbert's heart bounded with hope.

"Do you think we can get anything for it?" he asked.

"I think you can. Indeed, if further examination bears out my first favorable impressions, I will myself make you an offer for it."

"I should be so glad, for mother's sake!" exclaimed Herbert.

"My young friend," said Mr. Cameron, "I like your feeling toward your mother. I sincerely hope I may be able to make you a satisfactory offer. By the way, how are you situated? Can you leave the city this afternoon?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then come home with me. You shall be my guest for a week. During that time we will examine and decide about the model."

"Thank you, sir; you are very kind," said Herbert, hesitating.

"What makes you hesitate?"

"I am afraid I don't look fit to visit a gentleman's family."

"Oh, never mind that," said Mr. Cameron, heartily. "We are plain people, and don't value fine dress."

"Will there be time for me to go home first?"

"Yes; you can meet me two hours hence at the St. Nicholas Hotel. I occupy Room 121. On second thoughts, you may as well wait for me in the reading room."

"All right, sir."

Herbert hurried home, arrayed himself in clean clothes, put up a small bundle of necessary articles, and in an hour and a half was at the hotel awaiting Mr. Cameron. He left a note for Cornelius Dixon, explaining that he was called out of the city for a few days, but would write soon. He did not enter into details, for he was not at all certain that things would turn out as he hoped.

Mr. Cameron lived in a substantial country house, with a fine garden attached. Nothing was wanting of comfort in his hospitable home, but he avoided show and ostentation. To Herbert was assigned a large, well-furnished chamber, the best he had ever occupied, and he was made to feel at home. The next day he accompanied Mr. Cameron to the manufactory, which he found to be a scene of busy industry, employing three hundred hands.

"I shall be busy to-day; but to-night I will look at your father's model," said the manufacturer. "Probably it will be three or four days before I can come to any decision."

Herbert passed his time pleasantly for the next three or four days. Yet he could not avoid feeling anxious. Interest day was close at hand, and his hopes might end in failure.

On the fourth day Mr. Cameron said to him: "Well, Herbert, I have made up my mind about your father's invention."

Herbert's suspense was great. His heart almost stopped beating.

The manufacturer went on:

"I consider it practicable, and am disposed to make you an offer for it. Are you authorized to conclude terms?"

"My mother will agree to anything I propose, sir."

"Then this is my offer. The model must be patented at once. I will see to that. Then make over to me half the invention, and I will agree to pay you and your mother one thousand dollars a year for the next ten years."

"Are you in earnest?" gasped Herbert.

"Entirely so," said Mr. Cameron. "Will that satisfy you?"

"I would have accepted a quarter of the sum you offer, sir."

"Better not tell me that," said Mr. Cameron, smiling. "I might take advantage of it. Will you consider it a bargain, then?"

"Oh, how happy my mother will be!" said Herbert.

"Don't you want to go home, and carry the news?"

"I should like to very much."

Then his countenance changed. Two days hence, as he reflected, the interest would be payable. Must they lose the house, after all? If only he had a small part of the money, it would make matters all right.

"Does anything trouble you?" asked the manufacturer, noticing the sudden change in his countenance.

Upon this Herbert told him exactly how they were situated in regard to the house, and in what danger they were of losing it.

"If it's nothing worse that that," said Mr. Cameron, I cheerfully, "you needn't feel anxious. I will advance you; a hundred dollars on account of the contract, and you shall give me a receipt for it."

Herbert's face cleared instantly, and he was warm in his gratitude.

The next morning he started for home.

After all, the little model which his father left behind, had proved to be his most valuable legacy.



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