Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XX
Jasper had little doubt that his letter would lead to Rodney's loss of position. It was certainly a mean thing to plot another's downfall, but Jasper was quite capable of it. Had he secured the loan he asked he would have been willing to leave Rodney alone, but it would only have been the first of a series of similar applications.
It was several days before Jasper had an opportunity of learning whether his malicious plan had succeeded or not. On Sunday forenoon he met Rodney on Fifth Avenue just as the church services were over. He crossed the street and accosted the boy he had tried to injure.
"Good morning, Ropes," he said, examining Rodney's face curiously to see whether it indicated trouble of any kind.
"Good morning!" responded Rodney coolly.
"How are you getting along in your place?"
"Very well, thank you."
"Shall I find you at your pupil's house if I call there some afternoon?"
"Yes, unless I am out walking with Arthur."
"I wonder whether he's bluffing," thought Jasper. "I daresay he wouldn't tell me if he had been discharged. He takes it pretty coolly."
"How long do you think your engagement will last?" he asked.
"I don't know. I never had a talk with Mr. Sargent on that point."
"Do you still give satisfaction?"
Rodney penetrated Jasper's motives for asking all these questions, and was amused.
"I presume if I fail to satisfy Mr. Sargent he will tell me so."
"It would be a nice thing if you could stay there three or four years."
"Yes: but I don't anticipate it. When Arthur get a little older he will be sent to school."
"What will you do then?"
"I haven't got so far as that."
"I can't get anything out of him," said Jasper to himself. "I shouldn't be a bit surprised if he were already discharged."
They had now reached Madison Square, and Jasper left Rodney.
The latter looked after him with a smile.
"I think I have puzzled Jasper," he said to himself. "He was anxious to know how his scheme had worked. He will have to wait a little longer."
"If Mr. Sargent keeps Ropes after my letter he must be a fool," Jasper decided. "I wonder if Ropes handles the mail. He might have suppressed the letter."
But Rodney was not familiar with his handwriting, and would have no reason to suspect that the particular letter contained anything likely to injure him in the eyes of Mr. Sargent.
Later in his walk Jasper met Philip Carton. His former friend was sitting on a bench in Madison Square. He called out to Jasper as he passed.
"Come here, Jasper, I want to talk with you."
Jasper looked at him in a manner far from friendly.
"I am in a hurry," he said.
"What hurry can you be in? Come and sit down here. I MUST speak to you."
Jasper did not like his tone, but it impressed him, and he did not dare to refuse.
He seated himself beside Philip, but looked at him askance. Carton was undeniably shabby. He had the look of a man who was going down hill and that rapidly.
"I shall be late for dinner," grumbled Jasper.
"I wish I had any dinner to look forward to," said Carton. "Do you see this money?" and he produced a nickel from his pocket.
"What is there remarkable about it?"
"It is the last money I have. It won't buy me a dinner."
"I am sorry, but it is none of my business," said Jasper coolly. "You are old enough to attend to your own affairs."
"And I once thought you were my friend," murmured Philip bitterly.
"Yes, we were friends in a way."
"Now you are up and I am down-- Jasper, I want a dollar."
"I dare say you do. Plenty want that."
"I want it from you."
"I can't spare it."
"You can spare it better than you can spare your situation."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Jasper, growing nervous.
"I'll tell you what I mean. How long do you think you would stay in the store if Mr. Goodnow knew that you were concerned in the theft from which he has suffered?"
"Was I the only one?"
"No; I am equally guilty."
"I am glad you acknowledge it. You see you had better keep quiet for your own sake."
"If I keep quiet I shall starve."
"Do you want to go to prison?"
"I shouldn't mind so much if you went along, too."
"Are you crazy, Philip Carton?"
"No, I am not, but I am beinning to get sensible. If I go to prison I shall at least have enough to eat, and now I haven't."
"What do you mean by all this foolish talk?"
"I mean that if you won't give me any money I will go to the store and tell Mr. Goodnow something that will surprise him."
Jasper was getting thoroughly frightened.
"Come, Philip." he said, "listen to reason. You know how poor I am."
"No doubt. I know you have a good home and enough to eat."
"I only get seven dollars a week."
"And I get nothing."
"I have already been trying to help you. I went to Ropes the other day, and asked him to lend me five dollars. I meant it for you."
"Did he give it to you?"
"He wouldn't give me a cent. He is mean and miserly!"
"I don't know. He knows very well that you are no friend of his, though he doesn't know how much harm you have done him."
"He's rolling in money. However, I've put a spoke in his wheel, I hope."
"I wrote an anonymous letter to Mr. Sargent telling him that Ropes was discharged from the store on suspicion of theft."
"You are a precious scamp, Jasper."
"What do you mean?"
"You are not content with getting Ropes discharged for something which you yourself did----"
"And you too."
"And I too. I accept the amendment. Not content with that, you try to get him discharged from his present position."
"Then he might have lent me the money," said Jasper sullenly.
"It wouldn't have been a loan. It would have been a gift. But no matter about that. I want a dollar."
"I can't give it to you."
"Then I shall call at the store tomorrow morning and tell Mr. Goodnow about the stolen goods."
Finding that Carton was in earnest Jasper finally, but with great reluctance, drew out a dollar and handed it to his companion.
"There, I hope that will satisfy you," he said spitefully.
"It will--for the present."
"I wish he'd get run over or something," thought Jasper. "He seems to expect me to support him, and that on seven dollars a week."
Fortunately for Jasper, Philip Carton obtained employment the next day which lasted for some time, and as he was paid ten dollars a week he was not under the necessity of troubling his old confederate for loans.
Now and then Jasper and Rodney met, but there were no cordial relations between them. Jasper could not forgive Rodney for refusing to lend him money, and Rodney was not likely to forget the anonymous letter by which Jasper had tried to injure him.
So three months passed. One day Mr. Sargent arrived at home before it was time for Rodney to leave.
"I am glad to see you, Rodney," said his employer. "I have some news for you which I am afraid will not be entirely satisfactory to you."
"What is it, sir?"
"For the last three years I have been wishing to go to Europe with my wife and Arthur. The plan has been delayed, because I could not make satisfactory business arrangements. Now, however, that difficulty has been overcome, and I propose to sail in about two weeks."
"I hope you'll enjoy your trip, sir."
"Thank you. Of course it will terminate, for a time at least your engagement to teach Arthur."
"I shall be sorry for that, sir, but I am not selfish enough to want you to stay at home on that account."
"I thought you would feel that way. I wish I could procure you another position before I go, but that is uncertain. I shall, however, pay you a month's salary in advance in lieu of a notice."
"That is very liberal, sir."
"I think it only just. I have been very well pleased with your attention to Arthur, and I know he has profited by your instructions as well as enjoyed your companionship. I hope you have been able to save something."
"Yes, sir, I have something in the Union Dime Savings Bank."
"That's well. You will remain with me one week longer, but the last week Arthur will need for preparations."
Two weeks later Rodney stood on the pier and watched the stately Etruria steam out into the river. Arthur and his father were on deck, and the little boy waved his handkerchief to his tutor as long as he could see him.
Rodney turned away sadly.
"I have lost a good situation," he soliloquized. "When shall I get another?"