Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter III
When it was generally known in the school that Rodney was to leave because he had lost his property much sympathy was felt and expressed for him.
Though he had received more than ordinary attention from the principal on account of his pecuniary position and expectations, this had not impaired his popularity. He never put on any airs and was on as cordial relations with the poorest student as with the richest.
"I'm awfully sorry you're going, Rodney," said more than one. "Is it really true that you have lost your property?"
"Yes, it is true."
"Do you feel bad about it?"
"I feel sorry, but not discouraged."
"I say, Rodney," said Ernest Rayner, in a low voice, calling Rodney aside, "are you very short of money?"
"I haven't much left, Ernest."
"Because I received five dollars last week as a birthday present. I haven't spent any of it. You can have it as well as not."
Rodney was much moved. "My dear Ernest," he said, putting his arm caressingly around the neck of the smaller boy, "you are a true friend. I won't forget your generous offer, though I don't need to accept it."
"But are you sure you have money enough?" asked Ernest.
"Yes, I have enough for the present. By the time I need more I shall have earned it."
There was one boy, already introduced, John Bundy, who did not share in the general feeling of sympathy for Rodney. This was John Bundy.
He felt that Rodney's departure would leave him the star pupil and give him the chief social position in school. As to scholarship he was not ambitious to stand high in that.
"I say, Ropes," he said complacently, "I'm to have your room after you're gone."
"I congratulate you," returned Rodney. "It is an excellent room."
"Yes, I s'pose it'll make you feel bad. Where are you going?"
"I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have done."
"Oh yes, I guess there's no doubt of that. I'm going to get pa to send me some nice pictures to hang on the wall. When you come back here on a visit you'll see how nice it looks."
"I think it will be a good while before I come here on a visit."
"Yes. I s'pose it'll make you feel bad. Where are you going?"
"To the City of New York."
"You'll have to live in a small hall bedroom there."
"Why will I?"
"Because you are poor, and it costs a good deal of money to live in New York. It'll be a great come down."
"It will indeed, but if I can earn enough to support me in plain style I won't complain. I suppose you'll call and see me when you come to New York?"
"Perhaps so, if you don't live in a tenement house. Pa objects to my going to tenement houses. There's no knowing what disease there may be in them."
"It is well to be prudent" said Rodney, smiling.
It did not trouble him much to think he was not likely to receive a call from his quondan schoolmate.
"Here is the balance of your money, Ropes," said Dr. Sampson, drawing a small roll of bills from his pocket, later in the day. "I am quite willing to give you the odd thirty seven cents."
"Thank you, doctor, but I shan't need it."
"You are poorly provided. Now I would pay you a good sum for some of your mother's jewelry, as I told you last evening."
"Thank you," said Rodney hastily, "but I don't care to sell at present."
"Let me know when you are ready to dispose of the necklace."
Here the depot carriage appeared in the street outside and Rodney with his gripsack in one hand and the precious casket in the other, climbed to a seat beside the driver.
His trunk he left behind, promising to send for it when he had found a new boarding place.
There was a chorus of good byes. Rodney waved his handkerchief in general farewell, and the carriage started for the depot.
"Be you goin' for good?" asked Joel, the driver, who knew Rodney well and felt friendly to him.
"It's kind of sudden, isn't it?"
"What makes you go?"
"Bad news, Joel."
"Be any of your folks dead?"
"It is not death. I haven't any `folks.' I'm alone in the world.
It's because I've lost my property and am too poor to remain in school."
"That's too bad," said the driver in a tone of sympathy. "Where are you goin'?"
"To the city."
"Are you goin' to work?"
"Yes, I shall have to."
"If you was a little older you might get a chance to drive a street car, but I s'pose you're too young."
"Yes, I don't think they would take me."
"I've thought sometimes I should like such a chance myself," said Joel. "I've got tired of the country. I should like to live in the city where there's theaters, and shows, and such like. Do you know what the drivers on street cars get?"
"No, I never heard."
"I wish you'd find out and let me know. You can send the letter to Joel Phipps, Groveton. Then find out if it's easy to get such a chance."
"I will. I shall be glad to oblige you."
"You always was obligin', Rodney. I've asked Jack Bundy to do it--you know his folks live in the city--but he never would. He's a mighty disagreeable boy. He never liked you."
"No, I surmise he was jealous of you. He used to say you put on so many airs it made him sick."
"I don't think any of the other boys would say that."
"No, but they could say it of him. Do you think his father is rich?"
"I have always heard that he was."
"I hope he's better about paying his debt than Jack. I lent him twenty five cents a year ago and I never could get it back."
The distance from the school to the station was a mile. Joel fetched the carriage round with a sweep and then jumped off, opened the door, and then helped the passengers to disembark, if that word is allowable.
"How soon does the train start, Joel?" asked Rodney.
"In about five minutes."
"Then I had better purchase my ticket without delay."
"Don't forget to ask about horse car drivers!"
"No, I won't. I should like to have you come to New York. I know no one there, and I should feel glad to see a familiar face."
The train came up in time, and Rodney was one of half a dozen passengers who entered the cars.
He obtained a place next to a stout man dressed in a pepper and salt suit.
"Is this seat engaged?" asked Rodney.
"Yes--to you," and his fellow passenger laughed.
Rodney laughed too, for he saw that the remark was meant to be jocose.
He put his gripsack on the floor at his feet, but held the casket in his lap. He did not like to run any risk with that.
"Are you a drummer?" asked the stout man, with a glance at the casket.
"I thought you might be, and that THAT might contain your samples."
"No, sir. That is private property."
He had thought of telling what it contained, but checked himself. He knew nothing of his companion, and was not sure how far it might be safe to trust a stranger.
"I used to be a drummer myself--in the jewelry line--" continued his companion, "and I carried a box just like that."
"Ah, indeed! Then you are not in that business now?"
"No, I got tired of it. I deal in quite a different article now."
"You don't happen to have any of them with you?"
The stout man roared with laughter, giving Rodney the impression that he had said a very witty thing.
"That's a good one," he remarked, "the best I've heard for a long time. No, I haven't any of the lots with me, but I've got a circular. Just cast your eye over that," and he drew a large and showy prospectus from his pocket.
"If you should be looking for a good investment," he continued, "you can't do any better than buy a lot at Morton Park. It is only eighteen miles from the city and is rapidly building up. You can buy lot on easy installments, and I will myself pick one out for you that is almost sure to double in value in a year or two."
"Thank you," said Rodney, "but I shall have to invest my money, if I get any, in a different way."
"As what for instance?"
"In board and lodging."
"Good. That is even more necessary than real estate."
"How long have you been in the business, sir?"
"About six months."
"And how does it pay?"
"Very well, if you know how to talk."
"I should think you might do well, then."
"Thank you. I appreciate the compliment. What business are you going into, that is, if you are going to the city?"
"I am going to the city, but I have no idea yet what I shall do."
"Perhaps you may like to become an agent for our lots. I shall be ready to employ you as sub agent if you feel disposed."
"Thank you, sir. If you will give me your card, I may call upon you."
The short man drew from his card case a business card. It bore the name
ROYAL BUILDING. NASSAU ST.
Morton Park Lots.
"Come to see me at any time," he said, "and we will talk the matter over."
Here the train boy came along and Rodney bought a copy of Puck, while the agent resumed the perusal of a copy of a magazine. For an hour the cars ran smoothly. Then there was a sudden shock causing all the passengers to start to their feet.
"We're off the track!" shouted an excitable person in front of Rodney.
The instinct of self preservation is perhaps stronger than any other. Rodney and his seat mate both jumped to their feet and hurried to the door of the car, not knowing what was in store for them.
But fortunately the train had not been going rapidly. It was approaching a station and was "slowing up." So, though it had really run off the track, there was not likely to be any injury to the passengers.
"We are safe," said Adin Woods. "The only harm done is the delay. I hope that won't be long. Suppose we go back to our seat." They returned to the seat which they had jointly occupied.
Then Rodney made an alarming discovery. "My casket!" he exclaimed. "Where is it?"
"What did you do with it?"
"Left it on the seat."
"It may have fallen to the floor."
Rodney searched for it in feverish excitement, but his search was vain. THE CASKET HAD DISAPPEARED!