"You have sold the land?" repeated Mr. Ferguson in dismay.
"Then permit me to say that you and your mother have acted like fools!" said Ferguson harshly. "In a matter like this you should have consulted ME. What do you or your mother know about business?"
"I think we did pretty well," said Fred placidly.
"What did you sell for?" asked Ferguson abruptly.
"Six thousand five hundred dollars!" answered the ex-train boy.
Robert Ferguson stared at Fred in amazement and incredulity.
"Don't play any of your practical jokes on me!" he said sternly.
"I don't intend to, sir. We gave Mr. Sloan a power of attorney, and he sold it for us."
"He says he did!" sneered Ferguson. "You will never get the money."
"Excuse me, Mr. Ferguson. We have received the money already."
"When?" gasped the merchant.
"Two days ago."
The face of Robert Ferguson was a study. Disappointed cupidity succeeded his first incredulity. He began to consider that he must convince Fred that he had acted in good faith. With an effort he smoothed down his face and conjured up a smile.
"You quite take my breath away," he said. "I can hardly believe that the land which I thought worthless should have realized such a sum. Have any mines been discovered on them?"
"No, sir; but a village has sprung up in the immediate neighborhood."
"I am heartily glad of it. Tell your mother so. How could I have been so deceived? By the way, it will be best for you to put the money in the hands of some responsible person to take care of for you. As a near relative I shall be glad to invest the amount for you safely along with my own."
"Thank you, sir, but we have already invested it."
Mr. Ferguson frowned.
"I predict that you will lose half of it," he said.
"I don't think so. I had advice in the investment."
"Who advised you?"
"John Wainwright, the banker."
"Do you know him?"
"Yes; he is my employer."
"I believe I remember that Raymond told me so. Of course he is a good adviser. How much does he pay you?"
"Twenty-five dollars a week."
"Do you take me for a fool?" demanded Ferguson angrily.
"No, sir; and you have no right to take me for a liar," answered Fred, firmly.
"But such a salary for a boy of sixteen is ridiculous!"
"It does seem so; but Mr. Wainwright sent me to Canada to recover over ten thousand dollars' worth of stolen bonds, and I succeeded in bringing them back."
Slowly it dawned upon Mr. Ferguson that the youth before him was not only a favorite of fortune, out a remarkably smart boy. He was evidently on the rise. Would it not be politic to take notice of him?
"Fred," he said with sudden friendliness, "I am pleased to hear of your good fortune. You have done credit to the family. We ought to be more intimate. In proof of my desire for closer relations I shall send cards to you and your mother for my Daughter Luella's wedding. She is to be married next Thursday evening to an Italian count. Probably you have suitable attire, or, if not, you can easily obtain it. Give me your address."
"Thank you, sir. I am not sure whether my mother will attend, but I shall be happy to do so."
The door opened, and Raymond Ferguson entered.
"Good evening, Raymond," said Fred pleasantly.
"Good evening," answered Raymond, coldly.
"Your cousin Frederick has been very fortunate," said the elder Ferguson genially. "He and his mother have come into some thousands of dollars, and he is receiving a handsome salary from Mr. Wainwright, the banker. I shall be glad to see you two intimate."
"Is that so?" asked Raymond, thawing.
"I am glad to say it is," answered Fred.
"Would you like to invite your cousin to attend the theater, Raymond?"
"Just what I was going to ask. There is a good play on at Wallack's."
"Very well! Here is a five-dollar bill."
"Come along, Fred," said Raymond, who had made up his mind it would be wise to cultivate the acquaintance of his once despised relative.
Before they parted for the evening, Raymond borrowed five dollars of Fred, and struck up a close friendship with him. While Fred understood perfectly well what had produced this remarkable change in his cousin he was philosophical enough to take the world as he found it, and accepted Raymond's advances.
The next day wedding cards, elaborately engraved were received at Fred's modest home, requesting Mrs. Fenton and her son's presence at the marriage ceremony of Luella Ferguson and Count Vincento Cattelli. But an unexpected circumstance prevented the nuptials from being celebrated.
One evening the count and Miss Ferguson were sitting at supper at Delmonico's. At a table near by sat a gentleman, who watched the young couple with curious attention. He rose finally and approached them.
"Miss Ferguson, I believe," he said.
"I don't know if you remember me, but I dined at your father's house one evening in February. My name is Stanwood."
"I remember you now, Mr. Stanwood. Let me make you acquainted with Count Cattelli."
"I am honored," said Stanwood with a curious smile.
"This lady is my affianced bride," said the count,
"Indeed! I congratulate you. By the way, haven't I met you before?"
"If you have been in Italy, sare. I am Count Cattelli of Milan."
Stanwood smiled slightly, and returned to his own table.
The next day Miss Ferguson received the following note:
What I am about to write will pain you, but I cannot permit you to be grossly deceived. The gentleman whom you introduced to me as Count Cattelli at Delmonico's last evening shaved me last March in a barber-shop in Chicago. He may be a count, but I advise you to speak to your father on the subject. Your well wisher,
Miss Ferguson went into a fit of hysterics, but followed the advice of her correspondent. The count, on being taxed with his deception, first indulged in bravado, but finally acknowledged that he had served as a barber, but still claimed to be a count. Mr. Ferguson, intensely mortified, agreed to give him two hundred dollars if he would leave the city at once. Notices that the wedding had been indefinitely postponed were sent to all who had received cards, and Luella disappeared for a time. There were numerous reports as to the cause of the marriage being postponed, but the secret was well kept. Luella is still unmarried, and is likely to remain so, unless some one marries her for her money.
Ruth Patton is now the wife of Alfred Lindsay. The young lawyer made a private call on Mr. Ferguson, which resulted in the latter disgorging the ten thousand dollars of which he had defrauded Ruth's mother, so that she did not come to her husband portionless.
All goes well with Fred Fenton. He is still in the employ of John Wainwright, on a largely increased salary, and is always a welcome guest at the home of the banker. Rose is as partial to him as ever, and it would not be surprising if she should some day marry the ex-Erie train-boy. Fred and his mother live in a handsome flat up town, and Albert, his younger brother, is making rapid progress as a designer. It looks as if the clouds had passed away, succeeded by the sunshine of permanent prosperity.
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