Poems & Short Stories: 4,435
Forum Members: 67,986
Forum Posts: 1,216,101
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
The next morning, Mrs. Merton, escorted by Luke, went to make some purchases in the city. Mrs. Tracy went out, also, having an engagement with one of her friends living on Cottage Grove Avenue. Harold went out directly after breakfast, but returned at half-past ten. He went upstairs and satisfied himself that except the servants, he was alone in the house.
"The coast is clear," he said, joyfully. "Now if the key only fits."
He went to his aunt's sitting room, and, not anticipating any interruption, directed his steps a once to the small table, from a drawer in which he had seen Mrs. Merton take the morocco pocketbook. He tried one key after another, and finally succeeded in opening the drawer. He drew it out with nervous anxiety, fearing that the pocket-book might have been removed, in which case all his work would have been thrown away.
But no! Fortune favored him this time, if it can be called a favor. There, in plain sight, was the morocco pocketbook. Harold, pale with excitement, seized and opened it. His eyes glistened as he saw that it was well filled. He took out the roll of bills, and counted them. There were five ten-dollar bills and three fives—sixty-five dollars in all. There would have been more, but Mrs. Merton, before going out, had taken four fives, which she intended to use.
It was Harold's first theft, and he trembled with agitation as he thrust the pocketbook into his pocket. He would have trembled still more if he had known that his mother's confidential maid and seamstress, Felicie Lacouvreur, had seen everything through the crevice formed by the half-open door.
Felicie smiled to herself as she moved noiselessly away from her post of concealment.
"Master Harold is trying a dangerous experiment," she said to herself. "Now he is in my power. He has been insolent to me more than once, as if he were made of superior clay, but Felicie, though only a poor servant, is not, thank Heaven, a thief, as he is. It is a very interesting drama. I shall wait patiently till it is quite played out."
In his hurry, Harold came near leaving the room with the table drawer open. But he bethought himself in time, went back, and locked it securely. It was like shutting the stable door after the horse was stolen. Then, with the stolen money in his possession, he left the house. He did not wish to be found at home when his aunt returned.
Harold had sixty-five dollars in his pocket—an amount quite beyond what he had ever before had at his disposal—but it must be admitted that he did not feel as happy as he had expected. If he had come by it honestly—if, for instance, it had been given him—his heart would have beat high with exultation, but as it was, he walked along with clouded brow. Presently he ran across one of his friends, who noticed his discomposure.
"What's the matter, Harold?" he asked. "You are in the dumps."
"Oh, no," answered Harold, forcing himself to assume a more cheerful aspect. "I have no reason to feel blue."
"You are only acting, then? I must congratulate you on your success. You look for all the world like the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance."
"Who is he?" asked Harold, who was not literary.
"Don Quixote. Did you never hear of him?"
"Then your education has been neglected. What are you going to do to-day?"
"I don't know."
"Suppose we visit a dime museum?"
"That is, if you have any money. I am high and dry."
"Yes, I have some money."
They went to a dime museum on Clark Street.
Harold surprised his companion by paying for the two tickets out of a five-dollar bill.
"You're flush, Harold," said his friend. "Has anybody left you a fortune?"
"No," answered Harold, uneasily. "I've been saving up money lately."
"You have? Why, I've heard of your being at theaters, playing billiards, and so on."
"Look here, Robert Greve, I don't see why you need trouble yourself so much about where I get my money."
"Don't be cranky, Harold," said Robert, good-humoredly, "I won't say another word. Only I am glad to find my friends in a healthy financial condition. I only wish I could say the same of myself."
There happened to be a matinee at the Grand Opera House, and Harold proposed going. First, however, they took a nice lunch at Brockway & Milan's, a mammoth restaurant on Clark Street, Harold paying the bill.
As they came out of the theater, Luke Walton chanced to pass.
"Good-afternoon, Harold," he said.
Harold tossed his head, but did not reply.
"Who is that boy—one of your acquaintances?" asked Robert Greve.
"He works for my aunt," answered Harold. "It is like his impudence to speak to me."
"Why shouldn't he speak to you, if you know him?" said Robert Greve, who did not share Harold's foolish pride.
"He appears to think he is my equal," continued Harold.
"He seems a nice boy."
"You don't know him as I do. He is a common newsboy."
"Suppose he is; that doesn't hurt him, does it?"
"You don't know what I mean. You don't think a common newsboy fit to associate with on equal terms, do you?"
Robert Greve laughed.
"You are too high-toned, Harold," he said. "If he is a nice boy, I don't care what sort of business a friend of mine follows."
"Well, I do," snapped Harold, "and so does my mother. I don't believe in being friends with the ragtag and bobtail of society."
Luke Walton did not allow his feelings to be hurt by the decided rebuff he had received from Harold.
"I owe it to myself to act like a gentleman," he reflected. "If Harold doesn't choose to be polite, it is his lookout, not mine. He looks down upon me because I am a working boy. I don't mean always to be a newsboy or an errand boy. I shall work my way upwards as fast as I can, and, in time, I may come to fill a good place in society."
It will be seen that Luke was ambitious. He looked above and beyond the present, and determined to improve his social condition.
It was six o'clock when Harold ascended the steps of the mansion on Prairie Avenue. He had devoted the day to amusement, but had derived very little pleasure from the money he had expended. He had very little left of the five-dollar bill which he had first changed at the dime museum. It was not easy to say where his money had gone, but it had melted away, in one shape or another.
"I wonder whether Aunt Eliza has discovered her loss," thought Harold. "I hope I shan't show any signs of nervousness when I meet her. I don't see how she can possibly suspect me. If anything is said about the lost pocketbook, I will try to throw suspicion on Luke Walton."
Harold did not stop to think how mean this would be. Self-preservation, it has been said, is the first law of nature, and self-preservation required that he should avert suspicion from himself by any means in his power. He went into the house whistling, as if to show that his mind was quite free from care.
In the hall he met Felicie.
"What do you think has happened, Master Harold?" asked the French maid.
"I don't know, I'm sure."
"Your aunt has been robbed. Some money has been taken from her room."
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.