Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XXIV

"Now," said Mr. Pettigrew, when they were sitting side by side on the upper deck of the Puritan, the magnificent steamer on the Fall River line. "I want you to consent to a little plan that will mystify my old friends and neighbors."

"What is it, Mr. Pettigrew?"

"I have never written home about my good fortune; so far as they know I am no better off than when I went away."

"I don't think I could have concealed my success."

"It may seem strange, but I'll explain--I want to learn who are my friends and who are not. I am afraid I wasn't very highly thought of when I left Burton. I was considered rather shiftless.

"I was always in for a good time, and never saved a cent. Everybody predicted that I would fail, and I expect most wanted me to fail. There were two or three, including my uncle, aunt and the friend who lent me money, who wished me well.

"I mustn't forget to mention the old minister who baptized me when I was an infant. The good old man has been preaching thirty or forty years on a salary of four hundred dollars, and has had to run a small farm to make both ends meet. He believed in me and gave me good advice. Outside of these I don't remember any one who felt an interest in Jefferson Pettigrew."

"You will have the satisfaction of letting them see that they did not do you justice."

"Yes, but I may not tell them--that is none except my true friends. If I did, they would hover round me and want to borrow money, or get me to take them out West with me. So I have hit upon a plan. I shall want to use money, but I will pretend it is yours."

Rodney opened his eyes in surprise.

"I will pass you off as a rich friend from New York, who feels an interest in me and is willing to help me."

Rodney smiled.

"I don't know if I can look the character," he said.

"Oh yes you can. You are nicely dressed, while I am hardly any better dressed than when I left Burton."

"I have wondered why you didn't buy some new clothes when you were able to afford it."

"You see we Western miners don't care much for style, perhaps not enough. Still I probably shall buy a suit or two, but not till I have made my visit home. I want to see how people will receive me, when they think I haven't got much money. I shall own up to about five hundred dollars, but that isn't enough to dazzle people even in a small country village."

"I am wiling to help you in any way you wish, Mr. Pettigrew."

"Then I think we shall get some amusement out of it. I shall represent you as worth about a hundred thousand dollars."

"I wish I were."

"Very likely you will be some time if you go out to Montana with me."

"How large a place is Burton?"

"It has not quite a thousand inhabitants. It is set among the hills, and has but one rich man, Lemuel Sheldon, who is worth perhaps fifty thousand dollars, but put on the airs of a millionaire."

"You are as rich as he, then."

"Yes, and shall soon be richer. However, I don't want him to know it. It is he who holds the mortgage on my uncle's farm."

"Do you know how large the mortgage is?"

"It is twelve hundred dollars. I shall borrow the money of you to pay it."

"I understand," said Rodney, smiling.

"I shall enjoy the way the old man will look down upon me very much as a millionaire looks down upon a town pauper."

"How will he look upon me?"

"He will be very polite to you, for he will think you richer than himself."

"On the whole, we are going to act a comedy, Mr. Pettigrew. What is the name of the man who lent you money to go to Montana?"

"A young carpenter, Frank Dobson. He lent me a hundred dollars, which was about all the money he had saved up."

"He was a true friend."

"You are right. He was. Everybody told Frank that he would never see his money again, but he did. As soon as I could get together enough to repay him I sent it on, though I remember it left me with less than ten dollars in my pocket.

"I couldn't bear to think that Frank would lose anything by me. You see we were chums at school and always stood by each other. He is married and has two children."

"While you are an old bachelor."

"Yes; I ain't in a hurry to travel in double harness. I'll wait till I am ready to leave Montana, with money enough to live handsomely at home."

"You have got enough now."

"But I may as well get more. I am only thirty years old, and I can afford to work a few years longer."

"I wish I could be sure of being worth fifty thousand dollars when I am your age."

"You have been worth that, you tell me."

"Yes, but I should value more money that I had made myself."

Above five o'clock on Monday afternoon Mr. Pettigrew and Rodney reached Burton. It was a small village about four miles from the nearest railway station. An old fashioned Concord stage connected Burton with the railway. The driver was on the platform looking out for passengers when Jefferson Pettigrew stepped out of the car.

"How are you, Hector?" said the miner, in an off hand way.

"Why, bless my soul if it isn't Jeff!" exclaimed the driver, who had been an old schoolmate of Mr. Pettigrew's.

"I reckon it is," said the miner, his face lighting up with the satisfaction he felt at seeing a home face.

"Why, you ain't changed a mite, Jeff. You look just as you did when you went away. How long have you been gone?"

"Four years!"

"Made a fortune? But you don't look like it. That's the same suit you wore when you went away, isn't it?"

Mr. Pettigrew laughed.

"Well no, it isn't the same, but it's one of the same kind."

"I thought maybe you'd come home in a dress suit."

"It isn't so easy to make a fortune, Hector."

"But you have made something, ain't you?"

"Oh, yes, when I went away I hadn't a cent except what I borrowed. Now I've got five hundred dollars."

"That ain't much."

"No, but it's better than nothing. How much more have you got, Hector?"

"Well, you see I married last year. I haven't had a chance to lay by."

"So you see I did as well as if I had stayed at home."

"Are you going to stay home now?"

"For a little while. I may go back to Montana after a bit."

"Is it a good place to make money?"

"I made five hundred dollars."

"Thats only a little more than a hundred dollars a year.

Frank Dobson has saved as much as that and he's stayed right here in Burton."

"I'm glad of that," said Pettigrew heartily. "Frank is a rousing good fellow. If it hadn't been for him I couldn't have gone to Montana."

"It doesn't seem to have done you much good, as I can see."

"Oh, well, I am satisfied. Let me introduce my friend, Mr. Rodney Ropes of New York."

"Glad to meet you," said Hector with a jerk of the head.

"Rodney, won't you sit inside? I want to sit outide with Hector."

"All right, Mr. Pettigrew."

"Who is that boy?" asked Hector with characteristic Yankee curiosity, as he seized the lines and started the horses.

"A rich young fellow from New York. I got acquainted with him there."

"Rich is he?" Jefferson Pettigrew nodded.

"How rich do you think?"

"Shouldn't wonder if he might be worth a hundred thousand."

"You don't say! Why, he beat Squire Sheldon."

"Oh, yes, Squire Sheldon wouldn't be considered rich in New York."

"How did he get his money?"

"His father left him a fortune."

"Is that so? I wish my father had left me a fortune."

"He did, didn't he?"

"Yes, he did! When his estate was settled I got seventy five dollars, if you call that a fortune. But I say, what brings the boy to Burton?"

"His friendship for me, I expect. Besides he may invest in a place."

"There's the old Morse place for sale. Do you think he'd buy that?"

"It wouldn't be nice enough for him. I don't know any place that would be good enough except the squire's."

"The squire wouldn't sell."

"Oh, well, I don't know as Rodney would care to locate in Burton."

"You're in luck to get such a friend. Say, do you think he would lend you a hundred dollars if you were hard up?"

"I know he would. By the way, Hector, is there any news? How is my uncle?"

"I think the old man is worrying on account of his mortgage."

"Who holds it?"

"The squire. They do say he is goin' to foreclose. That'll be bad for the old man. It'll nigh about break his heart I expect."

"Can't uncle raise the money to pay him?"

"Who is there round here who has got any money except the squire?"

"That's so."

"Where are you goin' to stop, Jeff?"

"I guess I'll stop at the tavern tonight, but I'll go over and call on uncle this evening."