Chapter 23




A NEW EXPEDIENT

"I believe your name is Peck?" said Mr. Montgomery, hazarding a guess.

"No, it's Young, Ephraim Young."

"Of course it is. I remember now, but I am apt to forget names. You said your parents were quite well?"

"Yes, they're pretty smart."

"I am glad to hear it; I have the pleasantest recollections of your excellent father. Let me see, didn't you call there with me once, Mrs. Barnes?"

"Not that I remember."

"You must go with me the next time. I want you to know the parents of our young friend. They are excellent people. Do you go back this afternoon, Mr. Young?"

"Yes, I guess so. You don't know of any sitooation I could get in a store round here, do you?"

"Not at present, but I have some influential friends to whom I will mention your name. Suppose, now, I could obtain a situation for you, how shall I direct the letter letting you know?"

"Just put on the letter 'Ephraim Young.' Everybody in Plainfield knows me."

"So he lives in Plainfield," said Mr. Montgomery to himself. "It's as well to know that." Then aloud: "I won't forget, Mr. Young. What sort of business would you prefer?"

"Any kind that'll pay," said the gratified youth, firmly convinced of his companion's ability to fulfill his promise. "I've got tired of stayin' round home, and I'd like to try York a little while. Folks say it's easy to make money here."

"You are right. If I were a business man, I would come to New York at once. For a smart young man like you it offers a much better opening than a country village."

"That's what I've told dad often," said the rustic, "but he's afraid I wouldn't get nothing to do and he says it's dreadful expensive livin' here."

"So it is expensive, but then you will be better paid than in the country. However, here we are. You won't forget what I told you?"

"No—I'll remember," said the young man.

The reappearance of Mr. Barnes and wife so soon excited some surprise in the store, for it had got around, as such things will, that he was an impostor, and it was supposed that he would not venture to show his face there again. The appearance of his rustic companion likewise attracted attention. Certainly, Mr. Montgomery (it makes little difference what we call him) did not exhibit the slightest appearance of apprehension, but his manner was quite cool and self-possessed. He made his way to that part of the counter attended by the clerk with whom he had before spoken. He observed with pleasure and relief that the man who had questioned his identity with any of the ministers of Hayfield Centre was no longer in the store. This would make the recovery of the ring considerably easier.

"Well, sir," he said, addressing the clerk, "I suppose you did not expect to see me again so soon?"

"No, sir."

"Nor did I expect to be able to return for the ring before to-morrow, not supposing that I could bring witnesses to prove that I was what I represented. But fortunately I met just now a young friend, who can testify to my identity, as he has heard me preach frequently in Plainfield, where he resides. Mr. Young, will you be kind enough to tell this gentleman who I am?"

"Parson Barnes, of Hayfield Centre," said the youth, confidently.

"You have heard me preach, have you not, in Plainfield?"

"Yes," said the young man, fully believing that he was telling the truth.

"And I have called on your parents?"

"Yes."

"I think," said the adventurer, "that will be sufficient to convince you that I am what I appear."

It was hard to doubt, in the face of such evidence. Ephraim Young was so unmistakably from the rural districts that it would have been absurd to suspect him of being an artful city rogue. Besides, Mr. Barnes himself was got up so naturally that all the clerk's doubts vanished at once. He concluded that the customer who had questioned his genuineness must be very much mistaken.

"I ought to apologize to you, sir," he said, "for doubting your word. But in a city like this you know one has to be very careful."

"Of course," said the adventurer, blandly, "I do not blame you in the least. You only did your duty, though it might have cost me some trouble and inconvenience."

"I am sorry, sir."

"No apologies, I beg. It has all turned out right, and your mistake was a natural one. If you will kindly return me the ring, I will defer selling it, I think, till another day."

The clerk brought the ring, which he handed back to Mr. Montgomery. The latter received it with so much the more satisfaction, as he had made up his mind at one time that it was gone irrevocably, and put it away in his waistcoat pocket.

"I had intended to buy some silver spoons," he said, "but it will be necessary to wait until I have disposed of the ring. However, I may as well look at some, eh, Mrs. Barnes?"

"If you like," assented the lady.

So the pair examined some spoons, and fixed upon a dozen, which they said they would return and buy on the next day, and then, with a polite good-by, went out of the store, leaving behind, on the whole, a favorable impression.

Ephraim Young accompanied them out, and walked along beside them in the street. He, too, was in good spirits, for had not his companion promised him five dollars for his services, which he had faithfully rendered? Five dollars to the young man from the rural districts was a very considerable sum of money—quite a nugget, in fact—and he already enjoyed in advance the pleasure which he anticipated of telling his friends at home how easily he had earned such a sum in "York." He walked along beside the adventurer, expecting that he would say something about paying him, but no allusion was made by the adventurer to his promise. Indeed, five dollars was considerably more than he had in his possession. When they reached Amity street, for they were now proceeding up Broadway, he sought to shake off the young man, whose company he no longer desired.

"This is our way," he said. "I suppose you are going further. I am very glad to have met you, Mr. Young. I hope you will give our regards to your excellent parents;" and he held out his hand in token of farewell.

"Ain't you goin' to pay me that money?" said Ephraim, bluntly, becoming alarmed at the prospect of losing the nugget he had counted on with so much confidence.

"Bless me, I came near forgetting it! I hope you will excuse me," and to Ephraim's delight he drew out his pocketbook. But the prospect of payment was not so bright as the young man supposed.

"I don't think I have a five-dollar bill," said Mr. Montgomery, after an examination of the pocketbook. "Mrs. Montgomery, do you happen to have a five with you?"

"No, I haven't," said the lady, promptly. "I spent all my money shopping this morning."

"That is unfortunate. Our young friend has rendered us such a service I don't like to make him wait for his money."

Ephraim Young looked rather blank at this suggestion.

"Let me see, I have a hundred-dollar bill here," said Mr. Montgomery. "I will go into the next store, and see if I can't get it changed. Mr. Young, will you be kind enough to remain with my wife?"

"Certain," said Ephraim, brightening up.

Mr. Montgomery went into a shop near by, but made no request to have a hundred-dollar bill changed. He was rather afraid that they might comply with his request, which would have subjected him to some embarrassment. He merely inquired if he could use a pen for a moment; request which was readily granted. In less than five minutes he emerged into the street again. Ephraim Young looked toward him eagerly.

"I am sorry to say, my young friend," he remarked, "that I was unable to get my bill changed. I might get it changed at a bank, but the banks are all closed at this hour."

The countryman looked disturbed.

"I am afraid," continued Mr. Montgomery, "I must wait and send you the money in a letter from Hayfield Centre."

"I'd rather have it now," said Ephraim.

"I am sorry to disappoint you," said the adventurer smoothly; "but after all you will only have a day or two to wait. To make up to you for the delay I have decided to send you ten dollars instead of five. Finding I could not change my bill, I wrote a note for the amount, which I will hand you."

Ephraim received the paper, which the other handed him, and read as follows:

NEW YORK, Sept 15, 18—.

Three days from date I promise to pay Mr. Ephraim Young ten dollars.

JOTHAM BARNES, of Hayfield Centre.

"How will that do?" asked the adventurer. "By waiting three days you double your money."

"You'll be sure to send it," said Ephraim, doubtfully.

"My young friend, I hope you do not doubt me," said the Rev. Mr. Barnes, impressively.

"I guess it's all right," said Ephraim, "only I thought I might like to spend the money in the city."

"Much better save it up," said the other. "By and by it may come in useful."

Ephraim carefully folded up the note, and deposited it in an immense wallet, the gift of his father. He would have preferred the money which it represented: but three days would soon pass, and the ten dollars would be forwarded to him. He took leave of his new acquaintances, Mr. Montgomery shaking his hand with affectionate warmth, and requesting him to give his best respects to his parents. When Ephraim was out of sight he returned to his wife, with a humorous twinkle in his eye, and said:

"Wasn't that cleverly done, old lady?"

"Good enough!" remarked the lady. "Now you've got the ring back again, what are you going to do with it?"

"That, my dear, is a subject which requires the maturest consideration. I shall endeavor to convert it as soon as possible into the largest possible sum in greenbacks. Otherwise I am afraid our board bill, and the note I have just given to my rural friend, will remain unpaid."



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