Mark so represented his school difficulty to his father that he incurred but slight censure.
Indeed, Mr. Manning was so absorbed in plans for getting the greatest enjoyment out of the estate of which he had obtained possession by doubtful means that he didn't care to be disturbed about such a trifle as his son's suspension.
He felt more disposed to blame Frank, whom Mark charged with betraying him.
"What does Frank say about it?" asked Mr. Manning.
"Of course he denies it," said Mark, "but it can't be any one else."
"He is acting very unwisely," said Mr. Manning, compressing his thin lips.
"So I told him, but he said he didn't mean to be a dependent on you long."
"How is he going to avoid it?'
"I don't know."
"I have had some intimation from Col. Vincent, who appears to be in his confidence. He wants to leave us."
"To go away?"
"But you won't let him?"
"I have been thinking about that, Mark, and I may give my permission. The fact is, he stands in the way of some plans I have formed. I am thinking of traveling."
"Not without me?" said Mark, hastily.
"No; you shall go with me, but I don't care to take Frank."
"You might leave him at school."
"I might, but how do I know that he might not hatch some mischief while we are gone?"
"He might make some fuss about the property," suggested Mark.
"Has he hinted anything of that kind to you?" asked his father, quickly.
"Yes. Only yesterday he said that the property belonged by right to him."
Mr. Manning looked thoughtful, and watched Mark narrowly to see if from his manner he could divine the boy's intentions.
Later that same evening, Mark having retired early in consequence of a headache, Frank found himself alone with his stepfather, and took advantage of the opportunity to speak of the plan he had formed.
"Mr. Manning," he said, "if you are at leisure, I should like to speak with you a few minutes."
"Proceed," said his stepfather, waving his hand.
"But a week remains of the school term. Did you propose that I should return there at the end of the vacation?"
"Humph! I had not thought much on the subject."
"It has all along been intended that I should go to college when prepared, but I don't think I care much about it."
"In that case," said his stepfather, with alacrity, "you would only be throwing away time and money by going."
He was quite ready to agree to Frank's surrender of the college plan for two reasons.
A college course would be expensive. Again, should he turn his attention to the law, he might hereafter give him trouble about the estate.
"I don't think I should throw away my time, for, if I went to college, I should go there to work faithfully; but I have a fancy for a more stirring life."
"It might be a good plan for you to learn a trade," said Mr. Manning, reflectively.
"Learn a trade!" exclaimed Frank, in surprise.
"Yes; it would always enable you to earn a living."
"Do you intend Mark to learn a trade?" asked Frank, quickly.
"No; his case is very different from yours."
"Why it is different?"
"It is not necessary for me to explain," answered his stepfather, stiffly.
"If there were any need of it, Mr. Manning, I would not object to learn a trade," said Frank. "I have no false pride on the subject. But my tastes are more for mercantile business."
"I may be able to find you a place somewhere. I have a friend in the dry-goods business, who would receive you at my recommendation."
"Thank you!" said Frank, hastily. "But if you will allow me, I would prefer to look around for myself."
"What is it you want, then?"
"Your permission to go out into the world, and try to make a living."
"And if you don't," said Mr. Manning, "I suppose you expect me to defray your expenses?"
"If I did have such an expectation, I think I should be justified, in view of the large property which my mother left," said Frank, pointedly.
"She left it to me," said his stepfather.
"So it appears, at any rate. But I shall not call upon you to pay my board. Give me your permission to go where I please, with a small sum of money to start me, and I shall be satisfied."
"And what will the world say? That I, your stepfather, to whom you have a right to look for maintenance, had driven you out to earn your living! It would be unjust, of course, but the world is ever unjust."
And Mr. Manning assumed a look of wronged innocence, which would have imposed on anyone who knew him but slightly.
"I shall defend you from any such charge," said Frank. "I shall say that you were only yielding to my request."
"I will think of it, my dear boy," said Mr. Manning, graciously. "I already feel inclined to grant it, because it is your request. I shall be sorry to be separated from you; but I am willing to sacrifice my own feelings, if it will give you pleasure."
This did not impose upon Frank, who had a correct idea of the degree of fondness which Mr. Manning had for his society, but he was too well satisfied with the prospect of obtaining the permission he desired to imply any doubts.
"Again," continued his stepfather, "whatever you may say to the contrary, I know that the world will censure me; but I shall have the approval of my own conscience, and with that I can defy the world."
Mr. Manning certainly did look like a righteous man when he said this, and he beamed upon his stepson with a glance that was actually affectionate.
"Go back to school," ho said, "and when you return I shall be able to give you a definite answer."
Indeed, nothing could have suited Mr. Manning's plans better. He would get rid of the care and nearly the whole expense of his obnoxious stepson, while with his son Mark he would be spending the revenues of the estate which belonged to Frank.
During the coming week he arranged his plans for a prolonged absence from the Cedars. He wrote to New York to engage passage on a steamer bound for Liverpool, and quietly waited for the end of Frank's school term to release him from a care which had grown burdensome.
Frank returned to the Bridgeville Academy without Mark. As may be supported, however, he did not feel the loss of his society.
He at once communicated to his chosen friend, Herbert Grant, his probable departure from school.
"I am sorry to hear it, Frank," said Herbert, soberly. "Do you think you are acting wisely?"
"I am not acting as I would have done had my mother lived," answered Frank; "but you must remember that my position in life has very much changed. I am a poor boy."
"Hardly that, when there is so much property in the family."
"I know Mr. Manning too well to believe that I shall derive much benefit from it. No, Herbert, I have my own living to make, and I want to make it in my own way."
"It is a sad change for you, Frank."
"No, I can't say that. I don't know how it is, Herbert, but I am rather glad to have all this thrown upon me. I enjoy feeling that I have got to work."
"I have a chance of enjoying the same feelings," said Herbert, with a smile.
"I wish we could start together, Herbert. Couldn't you go with me?"
Herbert shook his head.
"Father has a plan for me," he said. "I am to learn his trade, and shall commence next week. I don't particularly like it, but it is well to have a trade to fall back upon."
"Mr. Manning wanted me to learn a trade."
"There is no occasion for your doing so."
"I don't know about that. If I had a particular fancy for any, I wouldn't mind choosing it, but I am better suited for something else."
"What is your plan? What will you do first?"
"My father has a cousin in the city of Newark, New Jersey, only a few miles from New York. Four years ago, he and his family made us a visit, and he was urgent then that we should return the visit. I will, first of all, go to him, and ask his advice. He is a business man, and he may be able to put me in the way of obtaining a position."
"I think you will succeed, Frank, but it will be harder than you think for. You don't know what poverty is yet. I have never known anything else."
"If I do succeed, Herbert, I may be able to find something for you."
"I wish you might," Herbert replied; but he was not as sanguine as Frank.
He understood, better than his friend, that for a boy to set out alone into the great world to earn a living is a serious undertaking.
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