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Chapter 22


"Well, that was a narrow escape," said Mr. Montgomery, with a sigh of relief. "I think I managed rather cleverly, eh?"

"I wanted to box the boys ears," said Mrs. Montgomery, sharply.

"It wouldn't have been in character, my dear. Ha, ha!" he laughed, softly, "we imposed upon the officer neatly. Our young friend got rather the worst of it."

"Why don't you call things by their right names? He isn't much of a friend."

"Names are of no consequence, my dear."

"Well, what are you going to do next?" asked the lady, abruptly.

"About the ring?"

"Of course."

"I hardly know," said Mr. Montgomery, reflectively. "If it were not for appearing too anxious, I would go back to Ball & Black's now that our young friend is otherwise engaged, and can't interrupt us."

"Suppose we go?"

"Well, you see, it might be considered rather soon for you to recover from your fit. Besides, I don't know what stories this boy may have thought fit to tell about us."

"He didn't have time to say anything."

"Perhaps you are right."

"We want to dispose of the ring as soon as possible, and leave the city."

"That is true. Well, if you say so, we will go back."

"It seems to me now is the best time. The boy will tell his story to the officer and we may be inquired for."

"Then, my dear, I will follow your advice."

Mr. and Mrs. Montgomery turned, and directed their steps again toward Broadway. The distance was short, and fifteen minutes had scarcely elapsed since they left the store before they again entered it. They made their way to the lower end of the store and accosted the same clerk with whom they had before spoken.

"Is your wife better?" he asked.

"Much better, thank you. A turn in the air always relieves her, and she is quite herself again. I have returned because it is necessary for me to leave the city by the evening train, and my time is, therefore, short. Will you be kind enough to show the ring to your employer, and ask him if he will purchase?"

The clerk returned, and said that the firm would pay two hundred and fifty dollars, but must be assured of his right to dispose of it.

"Did you mention my name?" asked the adventurer.

"I mentioned that you were a clergyman. I could not remember the name."

"The Rev. Mr. Barnes, of Hayfield Centre, Connecticut. I have been preaching there for—is it six or seven years, my dear?"

"Seven," said his wife.

"I should think that would be sufficient. You may mention that to Mr. Ball or Mr. Black, if you please. I presume after that he will not be afraid to purchase."

Mr. Montgomery said this with an air of conscious respectability and high standing, which might readily impose upon strangers. But, by bad luck, what he had said was heard by a person able to confute him.

"Did you say you were from Hayfield Centre?" asked a gentleman, standing a few feet distant.

"Yes," said Mr. Montgomery.

"I think you said your name was Barnes?"

"Yes, sir."

"And that you have been preaching there for the last seven years?"

"Yes, sir," answered Mr. Montgomery, but there was rather less confidence in his tone. In fact he was beginning to feel uneasy.

"It is very strange," said the other. "I have a sister living in Hayfield Centre, and frequently visit the place myself, and so of course know something of it. Yet I have never heard of any clergyman named Barnes preaching there."

Mr. Montgomery saw that things looked critical.

"You are strangely mistaken, sir," he said. "However, I will not press the sale. If you will return the ring (to the clerk) I will dispose of it elsewhere."

But the clerk's suspicions had been aroused by what had been said.

"I will first speak to Mr. Ball," he said.

"There is no occasion to speak to him. I shall not sell the ring to-day. To-morrow, I will come with witnesses whose testimony will outweigh that of this gentleman, who I suspect never was in Hayfield Centre in his life. I will trouble you for the ring."

"I hope you don't intend to give it to him," said the gentleman. "The presumption is that, as he is masquerading, he has not come by it honestly."

"I shall not deign to notice your insinuations," said Mr. Montgomery, who concealed beneath a consequential tone his real uneasiness. "The ring, if you please."

"Don't give it to him."

As the clerk seemed disinclined to surrender the ring, Mr. Montgomery said: "Young man, you will find it to be a serious matter to withhold my property."

"Perhaps I had better give it to him," said the clerk, imposed upon by the adventurer's manner.

"Require him to prove property. If it is really his, he can readily do this."

"My dear," said the Rev. Mr. Barnes, "we will leave the store."

"What, and leave the ring?"

"For the present. I will invoke the aid of the police to save me from being robbed in this extraordinary manner."

He walked to the street door, accompanied by his wife. He was deeply disappointed at the failure of the sale, and would gladly have wreaked vengeance upon the stranger who had prevented it. But he saw that his safety required an immediate retreat. In addition to his own disappointment, he had to bear his wife's censure.

"If you had the spirit of a man, Mr. Montgomery," she commenced, "you wouldn't have given up that ring so easily. He had no business to keep it."

"I would have called in a policeman if I dared, but you know I am not on the best of terms with these gentlemen."

"Are we to lose the ring, then?"

"I am afraid so, unless I can make them believe in the store that I am really what I pretend to be."

"Can't you do it?"

"Not very easily, unless stay, I have an idea. Do you see that young man?"

He directed his wife's attention to a young man, evidently fresh from the country, who was approaching, staring open-eyed at the unwonted sights of the city. He was dressed in a blue coat with brass buttons, while his pantaloons, of a check pattern, terminated rather higher up than was in accordance with the fashion.

"Yes, I see him," said Mrs. Montgomery. "What of him?"

"I am going to recover the ring through his help."

"I don't see how."

"You will see."

"How do you do?" said the adventurer, cordially, advancing to the young man, and seizing his hand.

"Pretty smart," said the countryman, looking surprised.

"Are your parents quite well?"

"They're so's to be around."

"When did you come to the city?"

"This mornin'."

"Do you stay any length of time?"

"I'm goin' back this afternoon."

"You didn't expect to meet me now, did you?" asked Mr. Montgomery.

"I s'pose I'd orter know you," said the perplexed youth, "but I can't think what your name is."

"What! Not know Mr. Barnes, the minister of Hayfield Centre? Don't you remember hearing me preach for your minister?"

"Seems to me I do," answered the young man, persuading himself that he ought to remember.

"Of course you do. Now, my young friend, I am very glad to have met you."

"So am I," said the other, awkwardly.

"You can do me a favor, if you will."

"Of course, I will," said Jonathan, "if it's anything I can do."

"Yes, you will have no trouble about it. You see, I went into a jeweler's near by to sell a valuable ring, and they wanted to make sure I was really a minister, and not intending to cheat them. If you will go in with me, and say that you have often heard me preach, and that I am the Rev. Mr. Barnes, of Hayfield Centre, I won't mind paying you five dollars for your trouble."

"All right; I'll do it," said the rustic, considering that it would be an unusually easy way of earning few dollars.

"You'll remember the name, won't you?"

"Yes—Parson Barnes, of Hayfield Centre."

"That is right. The store is near by. Walk along with us, and we will be there in five minutes."

Horatio Alger

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