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Mrs. Nelson was glad to hear that Ralph had procured employment at Glen Arbor. She knew her son understood boats thoroughly, so she was not alarmed over the prospects, even though he had had such a thrilling experience at the time of Dock Brady's rescue.
"It will bring us in money steadily, mother," Ralph said, "and that is what we need."
"I do not know what I would do without you, Ralph," she returned, fondly. "You have been the supporter of the family since your poor father was taken away."
"I've been thinking, mother," went on the son, after a spell of silence. "I have a great mind to use fifteen dollars of that money I have in advertising for those missing property papers."
"Do you think it will do any good?"
"It won't do any harm. I hate to put out the money, but I guess we can stand it now. The boating season will last for two months and more yet."
"Yes, Ralph, and we can save all you earn over six dollars a week. Of course the money is yours----"
"No more mine than my dear mother's," he interrupted. "I think we ought to save what we can."
"It is best, so that we shall not have to touch what is in the bank should you not strike another situation at once after the boating season closes."
"But you are willing I should advertise, are you not, mother?"
"Oh, yes, Ralph. We must obtain the papers, if possible. If there is really a boom in Westville real estate this lake shore property ought to become valuable."
"I thought of putting an advertisement in the County Record, and also one in the Chambersburgh Leader. Those are the principal papers read around here."
"That is so, Ralph, but do you know their rates?"
"I will write and find out."
On Monday night, after a pleasant day on the lake with Mr. Larkins and his young friends, Ralph sat down and wrote the letters. Two days later the replies came back. He found the advertising rates of both journals quite moderate, and at once sent each an advertisement, to appear in the Lost and Found column several issues.
Mr. Larkins liked the sailing and fishing so well, as well as the efforts of the young skipper to please him and his party, that he hired the sloop for both Wednesday and Thursday additional. Ralph took them up and down Big Silver Lake several times, and also through the draw and down Silver Lake.
On the latter trip Ralph saw Percy Paget, who sat on the bridge, talking earnestly to Dan Pickley. The young aristocrat stared hard at Ralph.
"In a new business, eh?" he sneered, as the sloop ran through the draw.
Ralph paid no attention to him, and soon they were too far away from the bridge for Percy to attempt to say more.
"Who is that young man?" asked Mr. Larkins, with a considerable show of interest.
"That is Percy Paget, the son of the village squire," returned Ralph.
"A friend of yours?"
"No sir," and there was a decided ring in the boy's tones. "If anything, he is my worst enemy."
"I imagine he is not a very nice youth," went on the gentleman.
"He is not, sir. He is very overbearing, and will do anything, no matter how mean, if he can't have his own way."
"I believe you, Ralph. I met him once before, at a hotel back of Westville, with a chum of his, and he was telling how he was going to get square with somebody who had done something he did not like."
"Did he say what he was going to do?" asked Ralph, with not a little curiosity.
"He said something about smashing some glass."
"He did!" Ralph was all attention now. "And did he mention any names, sir?"
"I did not hear the whole talk. I believe he spoke of scaring the widow to death."
"I thought so!" returned Ralph, bitterly.
"Why, Ralph, do you know anything of this affair?"
"Indeed I do, sir. The widow he spoke of was my mother. Less than two weeks ago he smashed nearly every pane of glass in our cottage!"
"Really, is it possible!" ejaculated Mr. Larkins. "He must be a thoroughly bad boy."
"He is, sir.
"Did you suspect him?"
"I did. But I had no proofs, and he is rich, while we are poor."
"That doesn't make it right to smash windows," said the young lady, Mr. Larkins' niece.
"I know it, but it makes it harder for one to obtain justice, especially as in this case, when the boy's father is squire."
"I suppose that is so," said Mr. Larkins. "What was the trouble?"
"It's rather a long story, sir, but I'll tell it if you care to listen."
All were more than willing, and Ralph related his trials as the boat sped on its way. He had three close listeners.
"It's too bad!" cried the young lady. "Uncle Will, cannot you help Mr. Nelson recover damages from the Paget boy?"
"I don't know but what I can. Still, my evidence may not be sufficient to prove him guilty."
"I won't bother you to do it," said Ralph. "The glass is in again and paid for, so let it rest. But if he ever tries to do us harm again I'll tell him what I know."
"Do so, and I will give you my address, in case you need my testimony," returned Ralph's patron.
On Friday Ralph was idle, so far as boating was concerned, but he put in a full day in the vegetable garden attached to the cottage, and, as the place needed attention on account of the many weeds, the day was far from lost. On Saturday he went out with several gentlemen, and they liked his treatment so well that they gave him a dollar extra, which, with what Mr. Larkins had given him and his regular wages, made his income for the week nine dollars and a half.
"That's not bad, is it, mother?" he said, as he placed the money in his parent's lap.
"It is very good, indeed, Ralph," she replied. "At this rate you will be getting rich."
"Hardly," he laughed. "But we will be able to save more than we expected."
On that day the boy procured both of the papers in which they had advertised. There was the notice Ralph had written and so unaccustomed were they to seeing their name in print that they read each notice over several times.
The papers circulated through the district, so many saw the advertisement. They asked both Ralph and his mother numerous questions, to which the two answered briefly but politely. They did not wish to say much until the missing papers were brought to light.
Squire Paget also saw the notice. At first he was both surprised and perplexed. Then a shrewd, cunning look came over his face.
"It's that boy's scheme," he muttered to himself. "Oh, but he is sharp, no doubt of that. Of course, he'll soon obtain the papers, and then----" he gave a long sigh. "My plan to make a fortune will fall to pieces!"
All day Sunday, when he ought to have been at church, the squire remained in his library scheming and plotting. That night he left on the evening boat for Chambersburgh.
"I'll find somebody to help me get rid of them," he said. "It's the only way."
On Monday Ralph took out a party of young ladies and gentlemen. He got in at seven o'clock and found two rather rough-looking men awaiting his arrival.
"We understand that boat isn't hired for to-morrow," said one of them. "I suppose we can get her, can't we?"
"Yes, sir, if you pay the price."
"You are Ralph Nelson?"
"I heard you was trustworthy. You can be on hand here at eight o'clock to-morrow morning to take me and my friend out," went on the man.
"Yes, sir. Do you want any bait for fishing, sir?"
"No. We'll go for a sail, and possibly for a little hunting up on the island."
"All right, sir. I'll be ready for you."
The men walked off toward a neighboring saloon. Ralph did not much fancy their looks. He made up his mind that he would not have a very agreeable day with them.
But he was on hand promptly in the morning, and after telling Franchard of the engagement, took aboard the two men, who appeared each with a shotgun and a game-bag.
"Sail to the upper end of the lake, toward the big islands," said the spokesman, and Ralph steered in the direction, never dreaming of what that eventful trip was to bring forth.
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