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Several days passed. On Thursday afternoon Kit arrived in Smyrna, accompanied by his generous California friend Henry Miller. They put up at the hotel, and after dinner Kit walked over to the house occupied by his uncle.
Mr. Watson saw him from the window, and hastening to the door opened it himself.
"Good afternoon, Uncle Stephen," said Kit.
"So you're back!" said his uncle curtly.
"Yes; did you expect me?"
"James Schuyler told me you were coming."
"Yes, I wrote him that he might inform you."
"That was a good thought of yours. I have made arrangements for you."
"I shall take you over to Oakford on Saturday, and place you with Aaron Bickford to learn the blacksmith's trade. This time I'd advise you not to run away."
Kit didn't exhibit any dismay when his uncle informed him of the plan he had arranged for him.
"I will talk this over with you, Uncle Stephen," he said. "With your permission I will go into the house."
"You can stay here till Saturday. Then you will go with me to Oakford."
Kit followed his uncle into the house. "I have something important to say to you, Uncle Stephen," he went on. "Sit down, and I will tell you what I have discovered within the last few months."
Stephen Watson anxiously awaited Kit's communication.
"Can he have found out?" he asked himself. "But no! it is impossible."
"I will give you five minutes to tell me your astonishing discovery," he said, with an attempt at his usual sneer.
"I may need a longer time, but I will be as quick as I can. Among the places where our circus exhibited was Glendale, Pennsylvania. Remembering that you once lived there, I made inquiries about you in the village. I saw the house where you lived for many years. Judge of my surprise when I learned that you were always in extreme poverty. Then I recalled your story of having lent my father ten thousand dollars, in payment of which you took the bulk of his property. I mentioned it, and found that it was pronounced preposterous. I discovered that on the other hand, you were frequently the recipient of money gifts from my poor father. In return for this you have attempted to rob his son. The note which you presented against the estate was undoubtedly a forgery. But even had it been genuine, the property of which you took possession must have amounted to at least twenty thousand dollars."
Stephen Watson had not interrupted Kit by a word. He was panic stricken, and absolutely did not know what to say. He finally succeeded in answering hoarsely: "This is an outrageous falsehood, Christopher Watson. It is an ingenious scheme to rob me of what rightfully belongs to me. You must be a fool to think I am going to be frightened by a boy's wild fiction. Leave my house! I would have allowed you to stay till Saturday, but this is too much. If you come here again, I will horsewhip you!"
But even when he was making this threat his face was pallid, and his glance uneasy.
At this moment the bell rang.
Kit himself answered the call, and returned with his friend, Henry Miller.
"Why, it is Mr. Miller!" said Stephen Watson, who had not forgotten that Miller was very wealthy. "When did you return from California?"
"Kit, have you told your uncle?" asked Henry Miller, ignoring this greeting.
"Yes, and he orders me to leave the house."
"Hark you, Stephen Watson!" said Henry Miller sternly. "You are in a bad box. For over a week Kit and I have been looking up matters, and we are prepared to prove that you have outrageously defrauded him out of his father's estate. We have enlisted a first class lawyer in the case, and now we come to you to know whether you will surrender or fight."
"Mr. Miller, this is very strange. Are you in the plot too?"
"Don't talk of any plots, Stephen Watson. Your fraud is so transparent that I wonder you dare to hope it would succeed. You probably presumed upon Kit's being a boy of an unsuspicious nature. But he has found a friend, who was his father's friend before him, and who is determined that he shall be righted."
"I defy you!" exclaimed Stephen Watson recklessly, for he saw that submission would be ruin, and leave him penniless.
"Wait a minute! I'll give you another chance. Do you know what we are prepared to prove? Well, I will tell you. We can prove that you are not only a swindler but a forger, and our success will consign you to a prison cell. You deserve it, no doubt, but you shall have a chance."
"What terms do you offer?" asked Stephen Watson, overwhelmed by the conviction that what Miller said was true.
"Surrender unconditionally, restore to Kit his own property, and——"
"But it will leave me penniless!" groaned Stephen Watson.
"Just as I supposed. In Kit's behalf, I will promise that you shall not starve. You once kept a small grocery store, and understand the trade. We will set you up in that business wherever you choose, and will give you besides a small income, say three hundred dollars a year, so that you may be able to live modestly."
"But Ralph, my poor boy, what will become of him?"
"I will pay the expenses of his education," said Kit, "and when he leaves school, I will make him an allowance so that he can enter a store and qualify himself to earn his own living. He won't be able to live as he has lived, but he shall not suffer."
"It is more than either of you deserve," said Henry Miller. "I was not in favor of treating you so generously, but Kit, whom you have defrauded, insisted upon it. You ought to thank him on your knees."
Stephen Watson did not speak. He looked the picture of misery.
"Do you agree to this?" asked Mr. Miller.
"I must!" replied Watson, sullenly.
It made a great sensation in Smyrna when Kit took his proper place as the true master of his dead father's estate. Stephen Watson left town suddenly, and Ralph followed him. No sorrow was felt for his reverse of fortune, for he had made no friends in the town. He and Ralph settled down in a small Western city, and started a grocery store. From time to time Kit receives abject letters, pleading for more money, and sometimes he sends it, but always against the advice of Henry Miller, who says rightly that Stephen Watson already fares better than he deserves.
Ralph is turning out badly. His pride received a severe shock when his cousin was raised above him, and he has formed bad habits which in time will wreck him physically, unless he turns over a new leaf.
It is hardly necessary to say that Kit decided not to learn the blacksmith's trade. His old employer, Aaron Bickford, has tried hard to get into his good graces and secure his trade, but Kit employs another man for whom he has a greater respect.
Kit has made more than one visit to the worthy Mayor Grant from whom he received so much kindness when a young acrobat, and a marked partiality for Evelyn, the mayor's pretty daughter, may some day lead to a nearer connection between the families.
Good, like bad fortune, seldom comes singly, and besides recovering his own property, Kit finds himself the favorite and presumed heir of Henry Miller, the wealthy Californian, who has taken up his home with our hero. Last summer they took a trip to California, and Kit was charmed with the wonderful Yosemite Valley and the Geysers. He has decided to become a lawyer, though he will be in a position to live without employment of any kind.
A few months after his return, Kit read in the paper of the killing of Dick Hayden, the miner, in a drunken brawl at Coalville.
He at once took steps to seek out the daughter, Janet, who had rendered him such signal service when he was captured by the ruffians, and brought her to Smyrna, where he provided a happy home for her in a family of his acquaintance.
Nor has Kit forgotten his circus friends. Last year when Barlow's circus returned from its wanderings he invited those whom he knew best, the giant, his two brother acrobats, and Mlle. Lefroy, to pass a week as his guests. For the sake of old times and experiences he is always ready to help poor professionals, and has been a friend in need to many. He knows that with all their weaknesses, they are generous to a fault, and ready to divide their last dollar with a needy comrade. There are some who think Kit shows a strange taste in keeping up acquaintance with his old associates, but like his friend, Charlie Davis, who has also retired from the circus, he will always have a kindly feeling for those with whom he traveled when a Young Acrobat.
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