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THE SCARRED FACE.
We are now about to pass over a space of three years, partly because no incidents of importance marked their passage, though they wrought an important change in our hero. We leave him an uneducated boy of fifteen. We meet him again a youth qualified to appear to advantage in any society. Of course, this change was not wrought without persistent effort. Tom was, as we know, an unusually smart boy, with a quick wit, and an aptness to learn. But talent avails little unless cultivated. Our hero, however, kept up his habit of evening study, at first under Mordaunt's instruction. The latter was amazed at the progress of his pupil. He seemed to fly along the path of knowledge, and to master difficulties almost by intuition. At the end of a year he was as good an English scholar as most boys of his age. But this did not satisfy him. He induced Mordaunt to join him in securing the services of a native French teacher, and was speedily able to read the language with ease, and to speak it a little. He also found it for his interest to learn something of German, on account of the number of German customers which Mr. Ferguson had. To these solid acquirements he added a couple of quarters at a fashionable dancing-school, and the result of all was, that he not only became a good scholar, but was able to appear to advantage in the social gatherings to which Mordaunt and himself were frequently invited.
Maurice Walton was no longer able to laugh at his rusticity, but, on the other hand, was forced to admit to himself, with a twinge of jealousy, that the rough, uncultured boy of former days had wholly eclipsed him in every desirable accomplishment, as well as in the solid branches. For Maurice spent his evenings in quite a different way from our hero—at the billiard-saloon or bar-room, or in wandering about the streets without object. The result was that Mr. Ferguson, detecting the difference between the two clerks, and recognizing the superior value of Gilbert, for he has now laid aside his street-name of Tom, promoted him much more rapidly than Maurice. The latter received but ten dollars a week, after three years' service, while our hero had been advanced to twenty. This was naturally felt by Maurice as a bitter grievance, and he sometimes complained of it to Gilbert himself.
"Ferguson treats me meanly," he said, just after the last rise of Gilbert.
"How is that, Maurice?"
"He won't raise my salary. He is only going to give me ten dollars a week, the same as last year. How much is he going to give you?"
"Just twice as much!" exclaimed Maurice, angrily. "He has no business to make any difference between us."
"I wish he would give you twenty dollars, too," said Gilbert.
"Do you?" asked Maurice, suspiciously.
"Certainly. I am none the better off for your getting small pay."
"If you really feel so, suppose you ask him to give me more."
"I am afraid he would think I was interfering in his affairs."
"Just as I thought. You were not in earnest in what you said. You like to triumph over me because I came here the same time you did, and only get half as much."
Maurice spoke in a bitter tone, which might partly be excused by his mortification and disappointment.
"You are quite mistaken, Maurice," said Gilbert.
"I will believe that when you go to Mr. Ferguson and ask him to raise my salary."
Gilbert reflected a moment, and then said, suddenly:
"I'll do it."
"You will?" asked Maurice, surprised.
"Yes. He may be angry with me, but I'll risk it. Only if he refuses, you won't blame me?"
"No, I won't. You're such a favorite with him that he may do it for you. When will you go?"
Mr. Ferguson was sitting alone in his counting-room when Gilbert entered.
"May I speak with you a moment, Mr. Ferguson?" he asked.
"Yes, Gilbert. What is it?"
"I hope you will excuse me for interfering in what is none of my business, but I promised Maurice I would speak to you."
"Oh, it's on Maurice's business, is it?" said the merchant.
"Yes, sir. He is very much disturbed because you have raised my salary, and have not raised his. I get twenty dollars a week, and he only ten."
"He thinks it unjust, does he?"
"Will you ask him to step into the office, and come back here yourself?"
The two clerks were speedily in the presence of their employer.
"So you think you ought to have a higher salary, Walton?" began Mr. Ferguson.
"I don't think Grey earns twice as much as I do, sir."
"Perhaps you think he does not earn any more."
"I don't see why he does."
"Then I will tell you. You have both been with me about the same length of time, you a little longer, I think, but length of service does not always enhance the value of service. Grey has devoted his evenings to study. He has acquired such a knowledge of German in particular that he can wait upon German customers. He has mastered all the details of the business, which you have not done. You are often late, often inattentive, and are no better clerk now than you were a year ago. That is the reason I am willing to give Gilbert higher pay than you. If you wish to fare as well as he has done, pursue the same course."
"I don't feel like studying in the evening; I am too tired," said Maurice, sullenly.
"Do as you please about that; but there is still another way in which, without any more time, you can make yourself more valuable, and merit increase of pay."
"How is that, sir?"
"Always be on the alert while you are here in the store. Then, in place of an indifferent salesman, you may become a good one—such as I should be very sorry to lose. At present, I confess I should not feel it to be a great loss if you withdrew to another establishment."
Maurice listened sullenly. It chafed his pride to be thus addressed by his employer, in presence of Gilbert.
As they went back to their duty, our hero said:
"I did the best I could for you, Maurice. You can't blame me."
"No, but I blame him. He has no business to be so partial to you. All the difference between us is, that you can jabber Dutch a little. That isn't worth ten dollars a week extra. He's down on me for something or other; I don't know why."
"I don't make any comparison between us, Maurice," said Gilbert. "I am perfectly willing you should get as high pay as I do."
"You are very kind," said Maurice, sarcastically.
"Now, don't get mad with a fellow," said Gilbert, good humoredly. "I can't help it."
But Maurice was sullen all day, and for some days subsequently. He insisted on regarding Gilbert as a successful rival, and would have injured him if he could.
It was about this time that our hero had his thoughts suddenly recalled to the uncle who had defrauded him of his birthright. Walking in Vine street one morning, he suddenly came face to face with the man whose boots he had brushed, more than three years before, on the steps of the Astor House. He knew him at once by the peculiar scar upon his right cheek, of which he had taken particular notice when they first met.
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