Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XIX
Rodney was considerably surprised one evening to receive a call from Jasper in his room. He was alone, as Mike had been detailed about a week ago for night duty. The room looked more attractive than formerly. Rodney had bought a writing desk, which stood in the corner, and had put up three pictures, which, though cheap, were attractive.
"Good evening, Jasper," he said. "It is quite friendly of you to call."
"I hadn't anything else on hand this evening, and thought I would come round see how you were getting along."
"Take a seat and make yourself at home."
"Do you object to cigarettes?" asked Jasper, producing one from a case in his pocket.
"I object to smoking them myself, but I don't want to dictate to my friends."
"You look quite comfortable here," continued Jasper in a patronizing tone.
"We try to be comfortable, though our room is not luxurious."
"Who do you mean by `we'? Have you a room mate?"
"Yes. Mike Flynn rooms with me."
"Who is he--a newsboy?"
"No. He is a telegraph boy."
"You don't seem to very particular," said Jasper, shrugging his shoulders.
"I am very particular."
"Yet you room with an Irish telegraph boy."
"He is a nice boy of good habit, and a devoted friend. What could I want more?"
"Oh, well, you have a right to consult your own taste."
"You have a nice home, no doubt."
"I live with my uncle. Yes, he has a good house, but I am not so independent as if I had a room outide."
"How are things going on at the store?"
"About the same as usual. Why don't you come in some day?"
"For two reasons; I am occupied during the day, and I don't want to go where I am considered a thief."
"I wish I was getting your income. It is hard to get along on seven dollars a week."
"Still you have a nice home, and I suppose you have most of your salary to yourself."
"Yes, but there isn't much margin in seven dollars. My uncle expects me to buy my own clothes. You were lucky to get out of the store. Old Goodnow ought to give me ten dollars."
"Don't let him hear you speak of him as OLD Goodnow, Jasper."
"Oh, I'm smart enough for that. I mean to keep on the right side of the old chap. What sort of a man are you working for?"
"Mr. Sargent is a fine man."
"He isn't mean certainly. I should like to be in your shoes."
"If I hear of any similar position shall I mention your name?" asked Rodney, smiling.
"No; I could not take care of a kid. I hate them."
"Still Arthur is a nice boy."
"You are welcome to him. What do you have to teach?"
"He is studying Latin and French, besides English branches."
"I know about as much of Latin and French as a cow. I couldn't be a teacher. I say, Rodney," and Jasper cleared his throat, "I want you to do me a favor."
"What is it?"
"I want you to lend me ten dollars."
Rodney was not mean, but he knew very well that a loan to Jasper would be a permanent one. Had Jasper been his friend even this consideration would not have inspired a refusal, but he knew very well that Jasper had not a particle of regard for him.
"I don't think I can oblige you, Jasper," he said.
"Why not? You get fifteen dollars a week."
"My expenses are considerable. Besides I am helping Mike, whose salary is very small. I pay the whole of the rent and I have paid for some clothes for him."
"You are spending your money very foolishly," said Jasper frowning.
"Would I spend it any less foolishly if I should lend you ten dollars?"
"There is some difference between Mike Flynn and me. I am a gentleman."
"So is Mike."
"A queer sort of gentleman! He is only a poor telegraph boy."
"Still he is a gentleman."
"I should think you might have money enough for both of us."
"I might but I want to save something from my salary. I don't know how long I shall be earning as much. I might lose my place."
"So you might."
"And I could hardly expect to get another where the pay would be as good."
"I would pay you on installment--a dollar a week," urged Jasper.
"I don't see how you could, as you say your pay is too small for you now."
"Oh, well, I could manage."
"I am afraid I can't oblige you, Jasper," said Rodney in a decided tone.
"I didn't think you were so miserly," answered Jasper in vexation.
"You may call it so, if you like. You must remember that I am not situated like you. You have your uncle to fall back upon in case you lose your position, but I have no one. I have to hustle for myself."
"Oh, you needn't make any more excuses. I suppose ten dollars is rather a large sum to lend. Can you lend me five?"
"I am sorry, but I must refuse you."
Jasper rose from the chair on which he had been sitting.
"Then I may as well go," he said. "I am disappointed in you, Ropes. I thought you were a good, whole souled fellow, and not a miser."
"You must think of me as you please, Jasper. I feel that I have a right to regulate my own affairs."
"All I have to say is this, if you lose your place as you may very soon, don't come round to the store and expect to be taken back."
"I won't" answered Rodney, smiling. "I wouldn't go back at any rate unless the charge of theft was withdrawn."
"That will never be!"
"Let it be so, as long as I am innocent."
Jasper left the room abruptly, not even having the politeness to bid Rodney good evening.
Rodney felt that he was quite justified in refusing to lend Jasper money. Had he been in need he would have obliged him, though he had no reason to look upon him as a friend.
No one who knew Rodney could regard him as mean or miserly. Could he have read Jasper's thoughts as he left the house he would have felt even less regret at disappointing him.
About two days afterward when Rodney went up to meet his pupil, Mr. Sargent handed him a letter.
"Here is something that concerns you, Rodney," he said. "It doesn't appear to be from a friend of yours."
With some curiosity Rodney took the letter and read it.
It ran thus:
Mr. JOHN SARGENT:
DEAR SIR--I think it my duty to write and tell you something about your son's tutor--something that will surprise and shock you. Before he entered your house he was employed by a firm on Reade Street. He was quite a favorite with his employer, Mr. Otis Goodnow, who promoted him in a short time. All at once it was found that articles were missing from the stock. Of course it was evident that some one of the clerks was dishonest. A watch was set, and finally it was found that Rodney Ropes had taken the articles, and one--a lady's cloak--was found in his room by a detective. He was discharged at once without a recommendation.
For a time he lived by selling papers, but at last he managed to get into your house. I am sure you won't regard him as fit to educate your little son, though I have no doubt he is a good scholar. But his character is bad--I don't think he ought to have concealed this from you out of friendship for you, and because I think it is my duty, I take the liberty of writing. If you doubt this I will refer to Mr. Goodnow, or Mr. James Redwood, who had charge of the room in which Ropes was employed.
Yours very respectually,
"You knew all this before, Mr. Sargent" said Rodney, as he handed back the letter.
"Yes. Have you any idea who wrote it?"
"I feel quite sure that it was a boy about two years older than myself, Jasper Redwood."
"Is he related to the man of the same name whom he mentions?"
"Yes, he is his nephew."
"Has he any particular reason for disliking you, Rodney?"
"Yes, sir. He came round to my room Wednesday evening, and asked me to lend him ten dollars."
"I presume you refused."
"Yes, sir. He is not in need. He succeeded to my place, and he has a home at the house of his uncle."
"He appears to be a very mean boy. Anonymous letters are always cowardly, and generally malicious. This seems to be no exception to the general rule."
"I hope it won't affect your feelings towards me, Mr. Sargent."
"Don't trouble yourself about that Rodney. I am not so easily prejudiced against one of whom I have a good opinion."
"I suppose this is Jasper's revenge," thought Rodney.