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Tom had already made up his mind upon one point. He would accept the bequest of his old companion, since, in so doing, he was robbing no one better entitled to it. So far as he knew, the old man had no relatives or friends, except himself. But he was determined that, since Jacob had money, he should not be buried at the public expense. He would take so much of the hundred dollars as might be necessary, and place it in the hands of the doctor at Bellevue Hospital to defray the expenses of Jacob's funeral. He would say nothing about it, however, till he had actually found the money. It might be a hallucination of Jacob's, and have no real existence.
"When will he be buried?" he inquired at the hospital.
"Day after to-morrow."
"How much will it cost?"
"Do not trouble yourself about that," said the physician, who judged that Tom was poor. "That will be done at the expense of the city."
"But," said Tom, conscientiously, "he left a little money. At least he told me so. If I find it, I will pay out of it whatever it costs."
"It is not necessary."
"I would rather do it; that is, if I find the money. It didn't do him any good while he was alive, and he lost his life in getting a part of it."
"Then, if you find this money, you may pay the expense of the coffin."
"How much will that be."
"From ten to fifteen dollars."
"I will bring you fifteen dollars to-morrow," said Tom.
Of course Tom might easily have saved this money, and applied it to his own use; but his feeling was one that did him credit. As he had for years supported Jacob, he had of course spent for him much more than the hundred dollars, and so might have considered himself justly entitled to all the money, but this thought never occurred to him.
After leaving the hospital, Tom went home at once. It was his duty now to ascertain whether Jacob had labored under a delusion, or whether he really possessed the money he had spoken of.
Entering the room, he locked the door from motives of prudence. Then, following the directions of the old man, he went to the part of the room indicated, and, getting down on his knees, soon found the board beneath which the treasure lay. Carefully removing it, he lifted from beneath the box already described. By means of the key he opened it, and there lay before him, bright and glittering, the scanty treasure which had been so dear to the old man's heart. But to Tom it did not seem scanty. Brought up as he had been in the hard school of poverty, it seemed like quite a fortune, and he was filled with surprise at Jacob's having accumulated so much. But the old man had taken advantage of Tom's absence during the day to go out on frequent begging expeditions. Whenever he had obtained enough to amount to a gold piece, he was in the habit of carrying it to a broker's and effecting an exchange. So, little by little, he had obtained a hundred dollars, ninety of which were in gold, the remainder in silver.
Tom deliberated what he should do with his treasure. He determined, until his plans were formed, to leave it in the box, taking out only fifteen dollars, to be carried to the hospital to defray the burial expenses. But there was something else besides the money to seek. Jacob had mentioned a paper, in which he had written out something of Tom's previous history, including an account of the manner in which he had wronged him. This paper was also easily found. It was folded once, and lay flat on the bottom of the box. It was somewhat discolored; but, on opening it, Tom found the writing quite legible. It may be a matter of surprise that Tom was able to read the manuscript, as many in his position would have been unable to do. But he had, of his own accord, for several winters, attended the city evening schools, and so was not only able to read and write, but also had some knowledge of arithmetic and geography. I do not claim that Tom was a good scholar, but he was not wholly ignorant. He took the paper from the box, and then, locking it, replaced it in its former place of concealment. He then sat down on a chair, and began to read the manuscript:
"Ten years since," it began, "I was a clerk in the employ of John and James Grey, in Cincinnati. They were merchants, in prosperous business; but John was much the richer of the two. James was, in fact, a poor relation who had been taken in, first as a clerk, afterward as a partner with a small interest, but his profits and share of the business were small, compared with those of the senior partner. John was a thorough gentleman, and a liberal and excellent man. I always got on well with him, and I shall never forgive myself for wickedly consenting to do harm to him and his. I would not have done it, if it had not been in a manner forced upon me; but I know that this is not a full excuse.
"James Grey I never liked. He was a more pompous man than his cousin, and he was often mistaken for the senior partner, because of the airs he put on. But John Grey only smiled at this, and often said, jokingly:
"'You ought to have been in my place, James. I am afraid I don't keep up the dignity of the establishment. I am too quiet.'
"To me, who was only a clerk, though an old and trusted one, James was always supercilious and overbearing. He seemed to look down upon me, though, having only a small interest in the concern, I didn't look upon him as very much my superior.
"John Grey was far different. He always treated me with kindness and politeness, and I felt it a pleasure to serve such a man. It was a great grief to me when he died. I knew well enough that I should feel the change, but I did nor dream of what actually followed.
"John Grey's death took everybody by surprise. He was a stout, robust man, and seemed the picture of health; but it was in this habit of body that his danger lay. He was found one day on the floor of his chamber dead, his death resulting, as the doctors said, from apoplexy. He left considerable property, besides his share in the business. All this was left to his son, then a boy of five years of age. The boy's name was Gilbert. You, Tom, are that boy! Let me tell you how it happened that you, the son of a wealthy father, and the heir to great wealth, are now a poor bootblack in the streets of New York, with no prospects before you but a life of labor.
"According to your father's will, the whole property was left to his cousin, James Grey, in trust for you. But, in case of your death, your guardian was to inherit the whole of the property. If John Grey had known more of the selfish and worthless character of his cousin, he would never have made such a will. But he had perfect confidence in him, and judged him by himself. He did not see that he had exposed him to a very strong temptation, a temptation which, as it proved, he was unable to resist.
"Mr. James Grey, who was boarding with his wife and son, a boy of about your own age, immediately moved to your father's beautiful house, and installed himself there, taking you under his charge. For several months matters went on quietly, and I began to think that I had misjudged my new employer. But I did not know the trouble that was in store for me. First, my whole property, a few thousand dollars which I had saved, had been intrusted to a gentleman in whom I had confidence, and by him invested for me. He failed, dishonestly, as I suspect, and so all my savings were lost. Troubles never come singly, so they say, and so I found out. While I was almost crushed under this blow, another fell upon me. One morning some valuable securities, belonging to the firm, were missing. Of course they were sought for, and, as a matter of form—so Mr. Grey said—the desks of all in the establishment were searched. What was my horror when the missing securities were found in my desk! Of course, this was ruin. My reputation, my future, were in the hands of James Grey. I could not account for the discovery, knowing my innocence; but I now feel sure that my employer put the papers in my desk himself.
"Instead of arresting me, he told me to come up to his house that evening. I came. I protested my innocence.
"He asked me pointedly if I could prove it. I told him no. Then he said that he had a plan in view. If I could aid him, he would forgive my offense, and would not have me arrested. Cautiously he unfolded the plan, and it was this: In consideration of five thousand dollars in gold, I was to carry you off by night, and sail with you to Australia, changing your name to Tom, and must agree nevermore to bring you back to America, or let you know who you were. Of course, I knew that this was only a plot to get possession of the property, and I told him so. He freely admitted it to me, but coolly threatened me with the severest punishment of the law for my supposed crime if I disclosed it, or refused to aid him.
"Well, the result of it all was that I agreed to his terms. It was arranged as had been agreed on, and I left Cincinnati, secretly, with you under my charge. Arriving in New York, I sailed for Australia, under an assumed name. But when I arrived, I didn't like the country. After a year, I took passage in a vessel bound for New York. We were wrecked, and all my money was lost. We were saved by a vessel bound for the same port, and, at length, reached it, penniless. How we have lived since, you know as well as I do. It has been a wretched life; but I never dared to write to Mr. Grey, lest he should have me arrested for embezzling the securities. But I have often hoped that retribution would come upon him, and that you might be restored to your rights. I have heard that he closed up the business, and removed farther West, having proved, by a witness whom he bribed, that you had been drowned in the Ohio River. The body of a poor boy was exhibited as yours.
"If you ever meet James Grey, you will recognize him by this description. He is a large man, with a square face, gray eyes, and a scar on his right cheek, an inch long. I don't know where he got the scar, but it is always red, especially when he is excited."
Tom dropped the paper in his amazement.
"Why," he soliloquized, "it must be the man whose boots I blacked one morning before the Astor House. He must have knowed me, or he wouldn't have asked so many questions."
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