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Thanks to the liberal compensation received from Mrs. Merton, Luke was enabled to supply his mother and Bennie with all the comforts they required, and even to put by two dollars a week. This he did as a measure of precaution, for he did not know how long the engagement at the house on Prairie Avenue would last. If he were forced to fall back on his earnings as a newsboy, the family would fare badly. This might happen, for he found himself no nearer securing the favor of Harold and his mother. The manner of the latter was particularly unpleasant when they met, and Harold scarcely deigned to speak to him. On the other hand, Warner Powell showed himself very friendly. He often took the opportunity to join Luke when he was leaving the house, and chat pleasantly with him. Luke enjoyed his companionship, because Warner was able to tell him about Australia and California, with both of which countries Mrs. Tracy's brother was familiar.
"Mother," said Harold, one day, "Uncle Warner seems very thick with that newsboy. I have several times seen them walking together."
Mrs. Tracy frowned, for the news displeased her.
"I am certainly very much surprised. I should think my brother might find a more congenial and suitable companion than Aunt Eliza's hired boy. I will speak to him about it."
She accordingly broached the subject to Warner Powell, expressing herself with emphasis.
"Listen, Louisa," said Warner, "don't you think I am old enough to choose my own company?"
"It doesn't seem so," retorted Mrs. Tracy, with a smile.
"At any rate, I don't need any instructions on that point."
"As my guest, you certainly ought to treat me with respect."
"So I do. But I don't feel bound to let you regulate my conduct."
"You know what cause I have—we both have—to dislike this boy."
"I don't dislike him."
"Then you ought to."
"He is in Aunt Eliza's employment. While he remains so, I shall treat him with cordiality."
"You are blind as a mole!" said Mrs. Tracy, passionately. "You can't see that he is trying to work his way into aunt's affections."
"I think he has done so already. She thinks a great deal of him."
"When you find her remembering him in her will, you may come over to my opinion."
"She is quite at liberty to remember him in her will, so far as I am concerned. There will be enough for us, even if she does leave Luke a legacy."
"I see you are incorrigible. I am sorry I invited you to remain in my house.
"I was under the impression that it was Aunt Eliza's house. You are claiming too much, Louisa."
Mrs. Tracy bit her lip, and was compelled to give up her attempt to secure her brother's allegiance. She contented herself with treating him with formal politeness, abstaining from all show of cordiality. This was carried on so far that it attracted the attention of Mrs. Merton.
"What is the trouble between you and Louisa?" she asked one day.
"She thinks I am too intimate with your boy, Luke."
"I don't understand."
"I often walk with Luke either on his way to or from the house. Harold has reported this to his mother, and the result is a lecture as to the choice of proper companions from my dignified sister."
Mrs. Merton smiled kindly on her nephew.
"Then you don't propose to give up Luke?" she said.
"No; I like the boy. He is worth a dozen Harolds. Perhaps I ought not to say this, for Harold is my nephew and they say blood is thicker than water. However, it is a fact, nevertheless, that I like Luke the better of the two."
"I shall not blame you for saying that, Warner," returned the old lady. "I am glad that one of the family, at least, is free from prejudice. To what do you attribute Louisa's dislike of Luke?"
"I think, aunt, you are shrewd enough to guess the reason without appealing to me."
"Still, I would like to hear it from your lips."
"In plain words, then, Louisa is afraid you will remember Luke in your will."
"She doesn't think I would leave everything to him, does she?"
"She objects to your leaving anything. If it were only five hundred dollars she would grudge it."
"Louisa was always selfish," said Mrs. Merton, quietly. "I have always known that. She is not wise, however. She does not understand that I am a very obstinate old woman, and am more likely to take my own way if opposed."
"That's right, aunt! You are entitled to have your own way, and I for one am the last to wish to interfere with you."
"You will not fare any the worse for that! And now, Warner, tell me what are your chances of employment?"
"I wished to speak to you about that, aunt. There is a gentleman in Milwaukee who has a branch office in Chicago, and I understand that he wants someone to represent him here. His present agent is about to resign his position, and I think I have some chance of obtaining the place. It will be necessary for me, however, to go to Milwaukee to see him in person."
"Go, then, by all means," said Mrs. Merton. "I will defray your expenses."
"Thank you very much, aunt. You know that I have little money of my own. But there is another thing indispensable, and that I am afraid you would not be willing to do for me."
"What is it, Warner?"
"I shall have charge of considerable money belonging to my employer, and I learn from the present agent that I shall have to get someone to give bonds for me in the sum of ten thousand dollars."
"Very well! I am willing to stand your security."
Warner looked surprised and gratified.
"Knowing how dishonestly I have acted in the past?" he said.
"The past is past. You are a different man, I hope and believe."
"Aunt Eliza, you shall never regret the generous confidence you are willing to repose in me. It is likely to open for me a new career, and to make a new man of me."
"That is my desire, Warner. Let me add that I am only following your own example. You have refused to believe evil of Luke, unlike your sister, and have not been troubled by the kindness I have shown him. This is something I remember to your credit."
"Thank you, aunt. If you have been able to discover anything creditable in me, I am all the more pleased."
"How much will this position pay you, supposing you get it?"
"Two thousand dollars a year. To me that will be a competence. I shall be able to save one-half, for I have given up my former expensive tastes, and am eager to settle down to a steady and methodical business life."
"When do you want to go to Milwaukee, Warner?"
"I should like to go at once."
"Here is some money to defray your expenses."
Mrs. Merton opened her table drawer, and took out a roll of bills amounting to fifty dollars.
"I wish you good luck!" she said.
"Thank you, aunt! I shall take the afternoon train to Milwaukee, and sleep there to-night."
Warner Powell hastened to catch the train, and, at six o'clock in the evening, landed, with a large number of fellow passengers, in the metropolis of Wisconsin.
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