Chapter 18




UNSATISFACTORY RELATIONS.

Miss Ferguson waited till her brother returned with the dog, who seemed to be in a bad humor.

"My precious Fido!" exclaimed the young lady, as she embraced the little animal. "Did they put him in the dirty baggage car?" Then, turning to Fred, who stood by, she said spitefully: "It was all your work, you impertinent boy. I have a great mind to report you to the president of the road."

Raymond's attention was directed to Fred by his sister's attack.

"Fred Fenton!" he exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes," answered Fred, amused. "I was not aware that it was your sister and a relative of mine when I took sides against her."

"What does the boy mean?" demanded Miss Ferguson haughtily.

"It is Fred Fenton," explained Raymond deprecatingly.

"Does he claim relationship with me?" asked the young lady, looking disgusted.

"No, Miss Ferguson, I don't claim it, though I believe it exists," said Fred.

"A common train boy!" ejaculated the young lady. "This is altogether too much. Raymond, let us go!"

As they left the station the other young lady passenger who had listened eagerly to the conversation asked in a tone of almost painful excitement, "Is that the daughter of Robert Ferguson?"

"Yes, do you know him?" asked Fred in surprise.

"To my sorrow. When my poor father died Mr. Ferguson was appointed executor and trustee of his estate. It was not large, but we supposed it would amount to ten thousand dollars, and perhaps more. Last week my mother received a letter from him stating that he had satisfied all claims against the estate, and that only seventy-five dollars was left. This leaves us well-nigh penniless."

"Is it possible? Do you suspect that any fraud has been practised upon you?"

"My mother feels sure of it, but what can we do? We are poor, and the poor are always friendless," continued the girl bitterly.

"Have you come to New York to see Mr. Ferguson?"

"Yes; my mother wishes me to ask full particulars, and to appeal to him to do us justice. I fear it will be of no avail, but it is the only thing that we can do."

"Pardon me," said Fred, "but we had better be getting on board the ferry-boat, or we shall have to wait till the next."

"Thank you! I hardly know what I am doing."

Fred accompanied the young lady to the ladies' cabin and sat down beside her.

"Can I be of any service to you?" asked the train boy. "It is late for a young lady to arrive in New York."

"I supposed we should reach the city at nine. That is what a neighbor told me. I hardly know where to go," she added timidly. "Can you recommend a cheap hotel or boarding-house?"

"There would be a difficulty about obtaining admission to either this evening."

"Then what shall I do?" asked the girl, looking distressed.

"I think you had better come home with me for to-night. Our home is a very humble one but mother will take good care of you. To-morrow you can make other arrangements if you desire."

"Oh, how kind you are! I should like nothing better, if you really think your mother would not be annoyed."

Fred smiled.

"She is too kind-hearted for that," he said. "Just wait till you see her, and you won't feel any doubt."

"How fortunate I am to fall in with such a friend! I now see how unwise it was for me to take such a late train."

They walked to the Cortlandt Street station of the Sixth Avenue Elevated Road, and ascended the steps. In spite of her anxieties the young lady felt interested in the novel means of locomotion, and asked a variety of questions of the train boy. At Thirty-Third Street they descended, and walking a short distance up Broadway turned down a side street, and were soon at the door of Fred's modest home.

Mrs. Fenton was sitting up, and had come to feel anxious.

"How long you have been away, Fred!" she said.

"Not quite three days, mother."

"But you were never away before. Bertie and I have missed you very much."

"Mother," said Fred, "you don't see that I have company."

Then, for the first time, the widow observed the young lady.

"Who is it, Fred?" she asked, as a wild and improbable suspicion entered her mind. Could it be that Fred, who was only a boy in years, had contracted a marriage and brought his wife home?

"I shall have to ask the young lady to introduce herself," said Fred.

"My name is Ruth Patton," said the girl timidly. "I hope you will not be angry with your son for bringing me here. I am a stranger in the city, and indeed I did not know that the train arrived so late. Your son told me that it would be difficult to get into any hotel or boarding-house at this hour, and I have ventured to throw myself on your hospitality for to-night."

"You are heartily welcome," said Mrs. Fenton, ready to smile at her first wild suspicion. "Remove your wraps, and in ten minutes I can offer you a cup of tea and some eggs and toast. You will sleep the better for a little supper."

"You are a wise woman, mother," said Fred. "You have guessed what I was longing for."

"Let me help you, Mrs. Fenton," said Ruth, already looking more cheerful.

"Then you may toast the bread," said Mrs. Fenton. "I don't dare to trust Fred. I did once to my sorrow, and the toast turned out to be as black as my shoe."

"I can promise to do better than that. I have plenty of experience."

She set herself to the task, as if she felt quite at home, and soon they were able to sit down to a plain but welcome supper.

"Do you know, mother," said Fred, between mouthfuls, "Luella Ferguson was on the train."

"How did you recognize her? Did she speak to you?"

Fred smiled roguishly.

"She did. Shall I tell you what she said?"

"I should be glad to hear it."

"She said: 'Boy, I will report you to the railroad company for insolence.' She's a sweet girl, Cousin Luella!"

"But you were not really insolent?"

Thereupon Fred told the whole story, and his mother agreed with him that Miss Ferguson's conduct was very selfish and unladylike.

"What's more, mother, Miss Patton tells me that Cousin Ferguson has cheated her mother and herself out of ten thousand dollars. I'll tell you about it to-morrow. It is just striking twelve, and I can hardly keep my eyes open."



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