Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XVIII
Jasper lost no time in acquainting his uncle with Rodney's extraordinary good fortune. James Redwood was surprised, but not all together incredulous.
"I don't understand it" he said, "but Ropes appears to be a boy of truth. Perhaps he may have exaggerated the amount of his salary."
"I hardly think so, uncle. He gave me a tip top dinner down on Park Row."
"He may have been in funds from selling the articles taken from the store."
"That's so!" assented Jasper, who had the best possible reason for knowing that it was not so.
"I wish the boy well," said his uncle. "He always treated me respectfully, and I never had anything against him except the loss of stock, and it is not certain that he is the thief."
"I guess there isn't any doubt about that."
"Yet, believing him to be a thief, you did not hesitate to accept a dinner from him."
"I didn't want to hurt his feelings," replied Jasper, rather sheepishly.
"Do you know what sort of a place he has got, or with what house?"
"No; he wouldn't tell me."
"He thought perhaps you would inform the new firm of the circumstances under which he left us. I don't blame him, but I am surprised that he should have been engaged without a recommendation."
"Shall you tell Mr. Goodnow?"
"Not unless he asks about Ropes. I don't want to interfere with the boy in any way."
In the store, as has already been stated, Jasper succeeded to Rodney's place, and in consequence his pay was raised to seven dollars a week. Still it was not equal to what it had been when he was receiving additional money from the sale of the articles stolen by Philip Carton and himself.
The way in which they had operated was this: Philip would come in and buy a cloak or a dress pattern from Jasper, and the young salesman would pack up two or three instead of one. There was a drawback to the profit in those cases, as Carton would be obliged to sell both at a reduced price. Still they had made a considerable sum from these transactions, though not nearly as much as Mr. Goodnow had lost.
After the discovery of the theft and the discharge of Rodney, the two confederates felt that it would be imprudent to do any more in that line. This suspension entailed heavier loss on Carton than on Jasper. The latter had a fixed income and a home at his uncle's house, while Philip had no regular income, though he occasionally secured a little temporary employment.
In the meantime Rodney had commenced his tutorship. His young pupil became very fond of him, and being a studious boy, made rapid progress in his lessons.
Mr. Sargent felt that his experiment, rash as it might be considered, vindicated his wisdom by its success. At the end of a month he voluntarily raised Rodney's salary to twenty dollars a week.
"I am afraid you are overpaying me, Mr. Sargent," said Rodney.
"That's my lookout. Good service is worth a good salary, and I am perfectly satisfied with you."
"Thank you, sir. I prize that even more than the higher salary."
Only a portion of Rodney's time was spent in teaching. In the afternoon he and his charge went on little excursions, generally to Central Park.
One holiday, about four months after the commencement of Rodney's engagement, he was walking in the Park when he fell in with Jasper. Jasper's attention was at once drawn to the little boy, whose dress and general appearance indicated that he belonged to a wealthy family. This excited Jasper's curiosity.
"How are you, Rodney?" said Jasper adroitly. "It is a good while since I met you."
"Who is the little boy with you?"
"His name is Arthur Sargent."
Rodney gave this information unwillingly, for he saw that his secret was likely to be discovered.
"How do you do, Arthur?" asked Jasper, with unwonted affability, for he did not care for children.
"Pretty well," answered Arthur politely.
"Have you known Rodney long?"
"Why, he is my teacher," answered Arthur in some surprise.
Jasper's eyes gleamed with sudden intelligence. So this was Rodney's secret, and this was the position for which he was so well paid.
Rodney bit his lip in vexation, but made no remark.
"Does he ever punish you for not getting your lessons?" asked Jasper without much tact.
"Of course not" answered Arthur indignantly.
"Arthur always does get his lessons," said Rodney. "I suppose you have a holiday from work today, Jasper."
"Yes; I am glad to get away now and then."
"I must bid you good morning now."
"Won't you let me call on you? Where do you live, Arthur?"
The boy gave the number of his house.
Jasper asked Arthur, thinking rightly that he would be more likely to get an answer from him than from Rodney. He walked away triumphantly, feeling that he had made a discovery that might prove of advantage to him.
"Is that a friend of yours, Rodney?" asked little Arthur.
"I have known him for some time."
"I don't like him very much."
"Why?" asked Rodney with some curiosity.
"I don't know," answered the little boy slowly. "I can't like everybody."
"Quite true, Arthur. Jasper is not a special friend of mine, and I am not particular about your liking him. I hope you like me."
"You know I do, Rodney," and he gave Rodney's hand an assuring pressure.
Ten minutes after he left Rodney, Jasper fell in with Carton. The intimacy between them had perceptibly fallen off. It had grown out of business considerations.
Now that it was no longer safe to abstract articles from the store, Jasper felt that he had no more use for his late confederate. When they met he treated him with marked coldness.
On this particular day Carton was looking quite shabby. In fact, his best suit was in pawn, and he had fallen back on one half worn and soiled.
"Hello!" exclaimed Jasper, and was about to pass on with a cool nod.
"Stop!" said Philip, looking offended.
"I am in a hurry," returned Jasper. "I can't stop today."
"You are in a hurry, and on a holiday?"
"Yes; I am to meet a friend near the lake."
"I'll go along with you."
Jasper had to submit though with an ill grace.
"Wouldn't another day do?"
"No; the fact is, Jasper, I am in trouble,"
"You usually are," sneered Jasper.
"That is so. I have been out of luck lately."
"I am sorry, but I can't help it as I see."
"How much money do you think I have in my pocket?"
"I don't know, I am sure. I am not good at guessing conundrums."
"Just ten cents."
"That isn't much," said Jasper, indifferently.
"Let me have a dollar, thats a good fellow!"
"You seem to think I am made of money," said Jasper sharply. "I haven't got much more myself."
"Then you might have. You get a good salary."
"Only seven dollars."
"You are able to keep most of it for yourself."
"Suppose I am? You seem to know a good deal of my affairs."
"Haven't you any pity for an old friend?"
"Yes, I'll give you all the pity you want, but when it comes to money it's a different matter. Here you are, a man of twenty six, ten years older than me, and yet you expect me to help support you."
"You didn't use to talk to me like that."
"Well, I do now. You didn't use to try to get money out of me."
"Look here, Jasper! I am poor, but I don't want you to talk to me as you are doing."
"Indeed!" sneered Jasper.
"And I won't have it," said Carton firmly. "Listen to me, and I will propose a plan that will help us both."
"What is it?"
"You can easily secrete articles, if you are cautious, without attracting notice, and I will dispose of them and share the money with you."
Jasper shook his head.
"I wouldn't dare to do it" he said. "Somebody might spy on me."
"Not if you are careful."
"If it were found out I would be bounced like Ropes."
"What is he doing? Have you seen him lately?"
"He is getting on finely. He is earning fifteen dollars a week."
"You don't mean it?"
"Yes I do."
"What firm is he working for?"
"For none at all. He is tutor to a young kid."
"I didn't know he was scholar enough."
"Oh yes, he knows Greek and Latin and a lot of other stuff."
"Who is the boy?"
"I don't feel at liberty to tell. I don't think he would care to have you know."
"I'll tell you what you can do. Borrow five dollars of him for me."
"I don't know about that. If I were to borrow it would be for myself."
"You can do as you please. If you don't do something for me I will write to Mr. Goodnow that you are the thief who stole the cloaks and dress patterns."
"You wouldn't do that?" exclaimed Jasper in consternation.
"Wouldn't I? I am desperate enough to do anything."
After a little further conference Jasper agreed to do what was asked of him. He did not dare to refuse.