Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
A MIDNIGHT CRIME.
On the following morning, bright and early, Ralph started out to distribute Mr. Dunham's circulars. He carried the bulk of them in a canvas bag over his shoulder, and took his lunch with him, in case he was not near home during the noon hour.
After leaving a circular at each of a dozen cottages, he came to the stores.
"Hallo, in a new business, eh?" remarked Uriah Dicks as he placed one of the bills on the latter's front counter.
"I guess that don't pay much," sniffed Uriah.
"It pays better than nothing," laughed Ralph.
"You might better have come here to work for me."
"That is a matter of opinion, Mr. Dicks."
"No, it hain't; it's the truth," grumbled the storekeeper. "How long is that makeshift job goin' to last?"
"Exactly! an' then you'll be out again."
"Perhaps something else will turn up in the meantime."
"'Tain't likely. A job in the store would be more respectable than carting around sech trash, which everybody sticks in the fire soon as they get 'em."
The truth was that Uriah was hard pressed for help, his son having gone away on a business trip to Chambersburgh and New York. He had tried to get a boy in vain, all of those in the village knowing his mean ways too well to undertake to work for him.
"This is honest work, and that's enough for me," said Ralph. "I am not ashamed of it."
"Well, suit yourself. Only I won't hold my offer to you open long," warned Uriah.
"Don't hold it open at all, if you can get any one else," said Ralph, and, fearing he was wasting his employer's time, he hurried off to the next place.
"Seems he don't care for a steady place, nohow!" growled Uriah, sourly. "Some boys don't know what's good for them!"
Ralph visited all of the stores, and even left a number of the circulars in the post office, tying them up on a string where the people coming in for letters might tear one off. Mr. Dunham had told him to do this and had given him a special package for that purpose.
While he was at work the clerk in the office, Henry Bott, came out to see what he was doing.
A little talk ensued regarding the circulars. It appeared that Mr. Hooker did not approve of circulars about the place.
"But you leave them there," said Henry Bott, "and I won't take them down unless he especially orders it."
Ralph was about to leave the post office when he brushed against a man who had just come in. The man was Dock Brady.
The boy was about to say something about meeting once more, but Brady gave him no chance. As soon as he saw he was recognized he turned on his heel and walked away again.
"He acts mighty queer," thought the boy. "What can make him wish to avoid me?"
Ralph wondered if he would meet Percy on the hill among the fashionable houses. But he saw nothing of the aristocratic bully, although he even left a circular on the Pagets' front piazza.
By noon the boy had gone through the entire town. Then, after taking lunch, he started on foot for Hopeville, a mile away.
The road was uphill, leading directly from the lake shore. But soon Ralph was overtaken by a man in a farm wagon. It was some one he knew fairly well and the man asked him up on the seat.
"Thank you, Mr. Gillup, I wouldn't mind riding, as it is warm," said Ralph.
"Going to Hopeville with them bills?" asked Mr. Gillup, a farmer.
"Got into a new business since you left the bridge."
"For a time. It won't last long."
"It is a pity they took the bridge job from you. I jest told Ben Hooker, the postmaster, so."
"They acted as they thought best, I presume."
"I understand Squire Paget was at the bottom of it. He appears to be very much down on you."
"It's on account of his son Percy. He wouldn't do the right thing, and we had a row."
"Can't tell me nuthin' about that boy! Didn't I catch him stealin' my choicest pears last summer? If he comes around my place again, I'll fill him full of shot, see if I don't!"
"You had better not, Mr. Gillup! The squire will have you arrested. He won't let any one do the first thing against Percy."
"I ain't afeared of him, Ralph. If he comes around, he'll get the shot, sure pop. But I ain't calkerlatin' he'll come, because I give him warnin', and he's too precious scared o' his hide."
"I can't understand how the squire can put up with Percy's ways," said Ralph, after a pause. "He seems to ride right over his father."
"Squire Paget will rue it one of these days," returned Mr. Gillup, with a grave shake of his head. "Boys as is allowed their own way like that never amount to much."
The conversation helped to pass the time, and almost before they knew it, Hopeville was reached. Ralph thanked the farmer and left the wagon.
After leaving a bill in every store and house in the village, Ralph walked around to the various summer boarding-places. This took time, and ere he had finished it was dark.
"There! I imagine that is one fair day's work done," he said, at last, as he reached his final handful of bills. "I've covered a good many miles since I left home this morning."
He was fortunate enough to catch a ride back with a man who was carting a load of garden truck down to the lake for shipment, and he entered the cottage just as the clock was striking seven.
"Done for the day, and glad of it, mother!" he cried.
"You are not used to tramping around, Ralph," she returned, as she kissed him.
"That's a fact. I don't believe I would make a very good tramp, anyway," he went on.
"I trust you will never be reduced to that," she shuddered.
"No, I'm going to be something better than a tramp."
"Where have you been?" asked Mrs. Nelson.
Sitting down, Ralph told the story of his day's work. Like the true mother she was, Mrs. Nelson was thoroughly interested in all he had to say.
"To-morrow I shall go to Silver Cove and Rickson's Corners," he said. "And the day after to the hotels up at the head of the lake."
"I shouldn't think it would pay Mr. Dunham to advertise in this way."
"I think it will. Up at Hopeville I met a gentleman who read the circular eagerly. He said he had been hunting for a store where he might buy some toys and games for his children, and he is going to visit Mr. Dunham's place to-morrow. Half-a-dozen good customers would pay for the bills and for the distributing, too."
"If Mr. Dunham gets such an increase in trade, perhaps he will give you a place in the store," suggested Mrs. Nelson.
"That's so. I'll speak to him about it."
During the evening meal, Ralph noticed that his mother did not appear to be very well, and presently he asked her about it.
"I have a pain in my side, Ralph," she said. "But I imagine it will get better by morning."
The two retired early. Ralph, worn out by his day's travels, soon fell asleep.
It was nearly two o'clock in the morning when Mrs. Nelson called him.
"It is too bad, Ralph," she said. "But I cannot stand it any longer."
"What is it, mother, the pain in your side?" he asked, springing up.
"Yes. It is growing worse, and I must have something for it."
"Shall I go for Dr. Foley?"
"You may go to his house. Tell him what is the trouble, and ask him to give you a plaster or some liniment for it."
"I will. You are not afraid to stay alone while I am gone?"
"Oh, no, only hurry as fast as you can."
"I will," replied Ralph, quickly.
In a few minutes he was in his clothes and on the way. Dr. Foley lived on the other side of the village, and the boy ran in the direction as rapidly as he could.
Ralph had to pass the building in which the post office was located. He was within a hundred feet of the place when suddenly a muffled explosion reached his ears.
"Hallo, what's that?" he cried to himself, and stopped short.
At first no sound followed the explosion. Then came hasty footsteps, and in the semi-darkness of the early morning he saw two men and a boy run from the post office building and hurry in the direction of the lake.
It was too dark to distinguish more than the forms of the persons and note that they each carried a satchel. In a few seconds they were out of sight.
"Something is wrong," thought Ralph. "What had I best do?"
Half a minute later several men rushed out on the street and toward the post office building. Ralph mingled with the crowd. It was not long before the truth of the matter was revealed. The post office safe had been blown open and robbed.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.