Frank had fixed upon the Tuesday morning succeeding the close of the academic term for his departure from home. Monday was devoted to a few necessary preparations and a few calls on old friends, among them Col. Vincent, the owner of Ajax.
"My dear Frank," said the colonel, kindly, "I feel a strong interest in your welfare, more especially because of the wrong which I do not scruple to say has been done you. What does Mr. Manning say to your plan?"
"He makes no objection," said Frank.
"Suppose he had done so?"
"I would not have run away. He is my stepfather and guardian, and I would have endured staying at home as well as I could."
"There you are right, Frank. Though I have a poor opinion of Mr. Manning, he is not likely to treat you in a manner to justify your going away without his permission. From what I have heard within the last week, I suspect that he feels relieved to have you go."
"What have you heard, sir?"
"That Mr. Manning will shortly sail for Europe, taking Mark with him."
Frank was surprised, having no suspicion of this.
"Now are you not sorry that you have decided to go out into the world to earn a living when you might have seen something of the Old World?"
"Mr. Manning would never have taken me along," answered Frank, quietly, "nor should I have enjoyed traveling with him and Mark."
"Of the two, who would interfere the more with your enjoyment?"
"Then you prefer the father to the son?" said the colonel.
"The father has much more agreeable manners. I don't think Mark could be agreeable if he tried."
Col. Vincent smiled.
"Perhaps you are right, Frank," he said. "Now, as your father's old friend, I shall exact a promise from you."
"What is it, sir?"
"You are going out into the world to earn your own living. Boys of your age are apt to think it an easy thing. I have seen more of life, and I am sure you will find it more difficult than you suppose. You may find yourself in difficulty, possibly in want. In that case, promise to let me know, and I will come to your assistance."
"I will, sir," answered Frank.
The time came for Frank to say good-bye to Mr. Manning and Mark, and the house which had been his home from infancy.
His stepfather handed him a small pocketbook.
"Frank," he said, "in this pocketbook you will find twenty-five dollars. It is not much, but—"
"I am satisfied, sir," said Frank. "It won't be long before I am earning something."
"I hope your anticipations may be realized, but it is possible that you may require help."
"I think not, sir."
"I will authorize my banker to pay you the same sum—twenty-five dollars—every three months. Of course, it is not enough to support you; but, as you say it is your intention to procure a place—"
"It will probably be enough to make up any deficiency that may exist in your income. I am aware that you do not regard me as—as I would like to have you; but I am resigned to be misunderstood, and I merely call your attention to the fact that I have given you my free permission to carry out your own plans and have given you more assistance than you asked for."
"That's true, sir."
"Should anyone in your hearing condemn me for what I have done, I depend upon your defending me."
"I will state the facts, sir. I will take the entire responsibility for anything that may result from the step I have taken."
Mr. Manning looked well pleased. Things were taking the course he desired, and for the paltry sum of one hundred dollars a year, he was getting rid of an obnoxious stepson, while appearing to confer a favor upon him.
"Perhaps you are right, Frank," said his stepfather, disguising the satisfaction he felt. "If, however, you should find that you have made a mistake, you will do me the justice to remember that I gave you your choice."
Knowing, as he did, that the offer was not genuine, Frank remained silent. He could not make up his mind to express gratitude, and therefore said nothing.
Here the carriage drove up to the door to convey Frank to the railway station. Mindful of appearance, Mr. Manning accompanied him to the cars, and in presence of several neighbors bade him an effusively affectionate farewell.
So Frank was fairly started on his campaign.
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