Edward Stratemeyer.

True to Himself : or Roger Strong's Struggle for Place online

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Produced by Jim Weller








TRUE TO HIMSELF


ROGER STRONG'S STRUGGLE FOR PLACE


BY

EDWARD STRATEMEYER




PREFACE

"True to himself," while a complete story in itself, forms the third
volume of the "Ship and Shore Series," tales of adventure on land and
sea, written for both boys and girls.

In this story we are introduced to Roger Strong, a typical American
country lad, and his sister Kate, who, by an unhappy combination of
events, are thrown upon their own resources and compelled to make
their own way in the world.

To make one's way in the world is, ordinarily, difficult enough; but
when one is handicapped by a cloud on the family name, the difficulty
becomes far greater. With his father thrown into prison on a serious
charge, Roger finds that few people will have anything to do with
either himself or his sister, and the jeers flung at him are at times
almost more than he can bear. But he is "true to himself" in the best
meaning of that saying, rising above those who would pull him down,
and, in the end, not only succeeds in making a place for himself in
the world, but also scores a worthy triumph over those who had caused
his parents' downfall.

When this story was first printed as a serial, the author has every
reason to believe it was well received by the boys and girls for whom
it was written. In its present revised form he hopes it will meet with
equal commendation.

Edward Stratemeyer.

Newark, N.J.,
April 15, 1900.




CHAPTER I

THE TROUBLE IN THE ORCHARD


"Hi, there, Duncan Woodward!" I called out. "What are you doing in
Widow Canby's orchard?"

"None of your business, Roger Strong," replied the only son of the
wealthiest merchant in Darbyville.

"You are stealing her pears," I went on. "Your pockets are full of
them."

"See here, Roger Strong, just you mind your own business and leave me
alone."

"I am minding my business," I rejoined warmly.

"Indeed!" And Duncan put as much of a sneer as was possible in the
word.

"Yes, indeed. Widow Canby pays me for taking care of her orchard, and
that includes keeping an eye on these pear trees," and I approached
the tree upon the lowest branch of which Duncan was standing.

"Humph! You think you're mighty big!" he blustered, as he jumped to
the ground. "What right has a fellow like you to talk to me in this
manner? You are getting too big for your boots."

"I don't think so. I'm guarding this property, and I want you to hand
over what you've taken and leave the premises," I retorted, for I did
not fancy the style in which I was being addressed.

"Pooh! Do you expect me to pay any attention to that?"

"You had better, Duncan. If you don't you may get into trouble."

"I suppose you intend to tell the widow what I've done."

"I certainly shall; unless you do as I've told you to."

Duncan bit his lip. "How do you know but what the widow said I could
have the pears?" he ventured.

"If she did, it's all right," I returned, astonished, not so much over
the fact that Widow Canby had granted the permission, as that such a
high-toned young gentleman as Duncan Woodward should desire that
privilege.

"You've no business to jump at conclusions," he added sharply.

"If I judged you wrongly, I beg your pardon, Duncan. I'll speak to the
widow about it."

I began to move off toward the house. Duncan hurried after me and
caught me by the arm.

"You fool you, what do you mean?" he demanded.

"I'm going to find out if you are telling the truth."

"Isn't my word enough?"

"It will do no harm to ask," I replied evasively, not caring to pick a
quarrel, and yet morally sure that he was prevaricating.

"So you think I'm telling you a falsehood? I've a good mind to give
you a sound drubbing," he cried angrily.

Duncan Woodward had many of the traits of a bully about him. He was
the only son of a widower who nearly idolized him, and, lacking a
mother's guiding influence, he had grown up wayward in the extreme.

He was a tall, well-built fellow, strong from constant athletic
exercise, and given, on this account, to having his way among his
associates.

Yet I was not afraid of him. Indeed, to tell the truth, I was not
afraid of any one. For eight years I had been shoved in life from
pillar to post, until now threats had no terrors for me.

Both of my parents were dead to me. My mother died when I was but five
years old. She was of a delicate nature, and, strange as it may seem,
I am inclined to believe that it was for the best that her death
occurred when it did. The reason I believe this is, because she was
thus spared the disgrace that came upon our family several years
later.

At her death my father was employed as head clerk by the firm of
Holland & Mack, wholesale provision merchants of Newville, a thriving
city which was but a few miles from Darbyville, a pretty village
located on the Pass River.

We occupied a handsome house in the centre of the village. Our family,
besides my parents and myself, contained but one other member - my
sister Kate, who was several years my senior.

When our beloved mother died, Kate took the management of our home
upon her shoulders, and as she had learned, during my mother's long
illness, how everything should be done, our domestic affairs ran
smoothly. All this time I attended the Darbyville school, and was
laying the foundation for a commercial education, intending at some
later day to follow in the footsteps of my father.

Two years passed, and then my father's manner changed. From being
bright and cheerful toward us he became moody and silent. What the
cause was I could not guess, and it did not help matters to be told by
Duncan Woodward, whose father was also employed by Holland & Mack,
that "some folks would soon learn what was what, and no mistake."

At length the thunderbolt fell. Returning from school one day, I found
Kate in tears.

"Oh, Roger!" she burst out. "They say father has stolen money from
Holland & Mack, and they have just arrested him for a thief!"

The blow was a terrible one. I was but a boy of fourteen, and the news
completely bewildered me. I put on my cap, and together with Kate,
took the first horse car to Newville to find out what it all meant.

We found my father in jail, where he had been placed to await the
action of the grand jury. It was with difficulty that we obtained
permission to see him, and ascertained the facts of the case.

The charge against him was for raising money upon forged cheeks, eight
in number, the total amount being nearly twelve thousand dollars. The
name of the firm had been forged, and the money collected in New York
and Brooklyn. I was not old enough to understand the particulars.

My father protested his innocence, but it was of no avail. The forgery
was declared to be his work, and, though it was said that he must have
had an accomplice to obtain the money, he was adjudged the guilty
party.

"Ten years in the State's prison." That was the penalty. My father
grew deadly white, while as for me, my very heart seemed to stop
beating. Kate fainted, and two days later the doctor announced that
she had an attack of brain fever.

Two months dragged slowly by. Then my sister was declared to be out of
danger. Next the house was sold over our heads, and we were turned out
upon the world, branded as the children of a thief, to get a living as
best we could.

Both of us would willingly have left Darbyville, but where should we
go? The only relation we had was an uncle, - Captain Enos Moss, - and
he was on an extended trip to South America, and when he would return
no one knew.

All the friends we had had before deserted us. The girls "turned up
their noses" at Kate, - which made my blood boil, - and the boys
fought shy of me.

I tried to find work, but without success. Even in places where help
was wanted excuses were made to me - trivial excuses that meant but
one thing - that they did not desire any one in their employ who had a
stain upon his name.

Kate was equally unsuccessful; and we might have starved but for a
lucky incident that happened just as we were ready to give up in
despair.

Walking along the road one day, I saw Farmer Tilford's bull tearing
across the field toward a gate which had been accidentally left open.
The Widow Canby, absorbed in thought and quite unconscious of the
danger that threatened her, was just passing this gate, when I darted
forward and closed it just a second before the bull reached it. I did
not consider my act an heroic one, but the Widow Canby declared it
otherwise.

"You are a brave boy," she said. "Who are you?"

I told her, coloring as I spoke. But she laid a kindly hand upon my
shoulder.

"Even if your father was guilty, you are not to blame," she said, and
she made me tell her all about myself, and about Kate, and the hard
luck we were having.

The Widow Canby lived in an old-fashioned house, surrounded on three
sides by orchards several acres in extent. She was well to do, but
made no pretence to style. Many thought her extremely eccentric but
that was only because they did not know her.

The day I came to her assistance she made me stay to supper, and when
I left it was under promise to call the next day and bring my sister
along.

This I did, and a long conversation took place, which resulted in Kate
and myself going to live with the widow - I to take care of the garden
and the orchards, and my sister to help with the housekeeping, for
which we received our board and joint wages of fifteen dollars per
month.

We could not have fallen into better hands. Mrs. Canby was as
considerate as one would wish, and had it not been for the cloud upon
our name we would have been content.

But the stain upon our family was a source of unpleasantness to us. I
fully believed my father innocent, and I wondered if the time would
ever come when his character would be cleared.

My duties around Widow Canby's place were not onerous, and I had
plenty of chance for self-improvement. I had finished my course at the
village school in spite of the calumny that was cast upon me, and now
I continued my studies in private whenever the opportunity offered.

I was looked down upon by nearly every one in the village. To
strangers I was pointed out as the convict's son, and people reckoned
that the "Widder Canby wasn't right sharp when she took in them as
wasn't to be trusted."

I was not over-sensitive, but these remarks, which generally reached
my ears sooner or later, made me very angry. What right had people to
look down on my sister and myself? It was not fair to Kate and me, and
I proposed to stand it no longer.

It was a lovely morning in September, but I was in no mood to enjoy
the bright sunshine and clear air that flooded the orchard. I had just
come from the depot with the mail for Mrs. Canby, and down there I had
heard two men pass opinions on my father's case that were not only
uncharitable but unjust.

I was therefore in no frame of mind to put up with Duncan Woodward's
actions, and when he spoke of giving me a good drubbing I prepared to
defend myself.

"Two can play at that game, Duncan," I replied.

"Ho! ho! Do you mean to say you can stand up against me?" he asked
derisively.

"I can try," I returned stoutly. "I'm sure now that you have no
business here."

"Why, you miserable little thief - "

"Stop that! I'm no thief, if you please."

"Well, you're the son of one, and that's the same thing."

"My father is innocent, and I won't allow any one, big or little, to
call him a thief," I burst out. "Some day he will be cleared."

"Not much!" laughed Duncan. "My father knows all about the case. I can
tell you that."

"Then perhaps he knows where the money went to," I replied quickly. "I
know he was very intimate with my father at that time."

Had I stopped to think I would not have spoken as I did. My remark
made the young man furious, and I had hardly spoken before Duncan hit
me a stinging blow on the forehead, and, springing upon me, bore me to
the ground.




CHAPTER II

AN ASSAULT ON THE ROAD


I knew Duncan Woodward would not hesitate to attack me. He was a much
larger fellow than myself, and always ready to fight any one he
thought he could whip.

Yet I was not prepared for the sudden onslaught that had been made.
Had I been, I might have parried his blow.

But I did not intend to be subdued as easily as he imagined. The blow
on my forehead pained not a little, and it made me mad "clear
through."

"Get off of me!" I cried, as Duncan brought his full weight down upon
my chest.

"Not much! Not until you promise to keep quiet about this affair," he
replied.

"If you don't get off, you'll be mighty sorry;" was my reply, as I
squirmed around in an effort to throw him aside.

Suddenly he caught me by the ear, and gave that member a twist that
caused me to cry out with pain.

"Now will you do as I say?" he demanded.

"No"

Again he caught my ear. But now I was ready for him. It was useless to
try to shake him off. He was too heavy and powerful for that. So I
brought a small, but effective weapon into play. The weapon was
nothing more than a pin that held together a rent in my trousers made
the day previous. Without hesitation I pulled it out and ran it a good
half-inch into his leg.

The yell he gave would have done credit to a wild Indian, and he
bounded a distance of several feet. I was not slow to take advantage
of this movement, and in an instant I was on my feet and several yards
away.

Duncan's rage knew no bounds. He was mad enough to "chew me up," and
with a loud exclamation he sprang after me, aiming a blow at my head
as he did so.

I dodged his arm, and then, gathering myself together, landed my fist
fairly and squarely upon the tip of his nose, a blow that knocked him
off his feet and sent him rolling to the ground.

To say that I was astonished at what I had done would not express my
entire feelings. I was amazed, and could hardly credit my own
eyesight. Yet there he lay, the blood flowing from the end of his
nasal organ. He was completely knocked out, and I had done the deed. I
did not fear for consequences. I felt justified in what I had done.
But I wondered how Duncan would stand the punishment.

With a look of intense bitterness on his face he rose slowly to his
feet. The blood was running down his chin, and there were several
stains upon his white collar and his shirt front. If a look could have
crushed me I would have been instantly annihilated.

"I'll fix you for that!" he roared. "Roger Strong, I'll get even with
you, if it takes ten years!"

"Do what you please, Duncan Woodward," I rejoined. "I don't fear you.
Only beware how you address me in the future. You will get yourself
into trouble."

"I imagine you will be the one to get into trouble," he returned
insinuatingly.

"I'm not afraid. But - hold up there!" I added, for Duncan had begun
to move off toward the fence.

"What for?"

"I want you to hand over the pears you picked."

"I won't."

"Very well. Then I'll report the case to Mrs. Canby."

Duncan grew white.

"Take your confounded fruit," he howled, throwing a dozen or more of
the luscious pears at my feet. "If I don't get even with you, my name
isn't Duncan Woodward!"

And with this parting threat he turned to the fence, jumped over, and
strode down the road.

In spite of the seriousness of the affair I could not help but laugh.
Duncan had no doubt thought it a great lark to rob the widow's
orchard, never dreaming of the wrong he was doing or of the injury to
the trees. Now his nose was swollen, his clothes soiled, and he had
suffered defeat in every way.

I had no doubt that he would do all in his power to get even with me.
He hated me and always had. At school I had surpassed him in our
studies, and on the ball field I had proved myself a superior player.
I do not wish to brag about what I did, but it is necessary to show
why Duncan disliked me.

Nor was there much love lost on my side, though I always treated him
fairly. The reason for this was plain.

As I have stated, his father, Aaron Woodward, was at one tune a
fellow-clerk with my father. At the time my father was arrested,
Woodward was one of his principal accusers. Duncan had, of course,
taken up the matter. Since then Mr. Woodward had received a large
legacy from a dead relative in Chicago, or its suburbs, and started
the finest general store in Darbyville. But his bitterness toward us
still continued.

That the man knew something about the money that had been stolen I did
not doubt, but how to prove it was a difficult problem that I had
pondered many times without arriving at any satisfactory conclusion.

I watched Duncan out of sight and then turned and walked slowly toward
the house.

"Roger!"

It was Mrs. Canby who called me. She stood on the side porch with a
letter in her hand.

"You want me?"

"Yes, I have quite important news," she continued. "My sister in
Norfolk is very ill, and I must go to her at once. I have spoken to
Kate about it. Do you think you can get along while I am gone?"

"Yes, ma'am. How long do you expect to be away?"

"If she is not seriously ill I shall be back by day after to-morrow.
You can hitch up Jerry at once. The train leaves in an hour."

"I'll have him at the door in five minutes."

"And, Roger, you and Kate must take good care of things while I am
gone. There are several hundred dollars locked up in my desk. I would
take the money to the bank in Newville, only I hate to lose the time."

"I reckon it will be safe," I replied; "I'll keep good watch against
burglars."

"Do you think you can handle a pistol?" she went on.

"I think I could," I replied, with all the interest of the average
American boy in firearms.

"There is a pistol upstairs in my bureau that belonged to Mr. Canby. I
will let you have that, though of course I trust you won't need it."

"Is it loaded?"

"Yes; I loaded it last week. I will lay it out before I go. Be very
careful with it."

"I will," I promised her.

I hurried down to the barn, and in a few moments had Jerry hooked up
to the family turnout. As I was about to jump in and drive to the
house, a man confronted me.

He was a stranger, about forty years of age, with black hair and
shaggy beard and eyebrows. He was seedily dressed, and altogether
looked to be a disreputable character.

"Say, young man, can you help a fellow as is down on his luck?" he
asked in a hoarse tone.

"Who are you?" I responded.

"I'm a moulder from Factoryville. The shop's shut down, and I'm out of
money and out of work."

"How long have you been out?"

"Two weeks."

"And you haven't found work anywhere?"

"Not a stroke."

"Been to Newville?"

"All through it, and everything full."

I thought this was queer. I had glanced at the Want column of a
Newville newspaper and had noted that moulders were wanted in several
places.

The man's appearance did not strike me favorably, and when he came
closer to me I noted that his breath smelt strongly of liquor.

"I don't think I can help you," said I. "I have nothing for you to
do."

"Give me a quarter, then, will you? I ain't had nothing to eat since
yesterday."

"But you've had something to drink," I could not help remark.

The man scowled, "How do you know?"

"I can smell it on you."

"I only had one glass, - just to knock out a cold I caught. Come, make
it half a dollar. I'll pay you back when I get work."

"I don't care to lend."

"Make it ten cents."

"Not a cent."

"You're mighty independent about it," he sneered.

"I have to be when such fellows as you tackle me," I returned with
spirit.

"You're mighty high toned for a boy of your age."

"I'm too high toned to let you talk to me in this fashion. I want you
to leave at once."

The tramp - for the man was nothing else - scowled worse than before.

"I'll leave when I please," he returned coolly.

I was nonplussed. I was in a hurry to get away to drive Widow Canby to
the station. To leave the man hanging about the house with no one but
my sister Kate home was simply out of the question.

Suddenly an idea struck me. Like most people who live in the country,
Mrs. Canby kept a watch-dog - a large and powerful mastiff called
Major. He was tied up near the back stoop out of sight, but could be
pressed into service on short notice.

"If you don't go at once, I'll set the dog on you."

"Huh! You can't fool me!"

"No fooling about it. Major! Major!" I called.

There was a rattling of chain as the animal tried to break away, and
then a loud barking. The noise seemed to strike terror to the tramp's
heart.

"I'll get even with you, young fellow!" he growled, and running to the
fence he scrambled over and out of sight. I did not wait to see in
what direction he went.

When I reached the porch I found Mrs. Canby bidding my sister good-by.
A moment more and she was on the seat. I touched up Jerry and we were
off.

"It took you a long time to hitch up," the widow remarked as we drove
along.

"It wasn't that," I replied, and told her about the tramp.

"You must be very careful of those men," she said anxiously. "Some of
them will not stop at anything."

"I'll be wide awake," I rejoined reassuringly.

It was not a long drive to the station. When we arrived there, Mrs.
Canby had over five minutes to spare, and this time was spent in
buying a ticket and giving me final instructions.

At length the train came along and she was off. I waited a few moments
longer and then drove away.

I had several purchases to make in the village - a pruning-knife, a
bag of feed, and some groceries, and these took some time to buy, so
it was nearly noon when I started home.

Several times I imagined that a couple of the village young men
noticed me very closely, but I paid no attention and went on my way,
never dreaming of what was in store for me.

The road to the widow's house ran for half a mile or more through a
heavy belt of timber land. We were jogging along at a fair pace, and I
was looking over a newspaper I had picked up on the station platform.
Suddenly some one sprang out from the bushes and seized Jerry by the
bridle.

Astonished and alarmed, I sprang up to see what was the matter. As I
did so I received a stinging blow on the side of the head, and the
next instant was dragged rudely from the carriage.




CHAPTER III

THE MODELS


I had been taken completely off my guard, but by instinct I tried to
ward off my assailants. My effort was a useless one. In a trice I
found myself on the ground, surrounded by half a dozen of the fastest
young men to be found in Darbyville.

Prominent among them was Duncan Woodward, and I rightfully guessed
that it was he who had organized the attack.

"Take it easy, Strong," exclaimed a fellow named Moran, "unless you
want to be all broke up."

"What do you mean by treating me in this way?" I cried indignantly.

"You'll find out soon enough," said Phillips, another of the young
men. "Come, stop your struggling."

"I'll do nothing of the kind. You have no right to molest me."

"Pooh!" sniffed Duncan. "The Models have a right to do anything."

"The Models?" I queried, in perplexity. "Who are they?"

"The Models are a band of young gentlemen organized for the purpose of
social enjoyment and to teach cads lessons that they are not likely to
forget," replied Moran.

"I suppose you are the members," I said, surveying the half-dozen.

"We have that honor," rejoined a boy named Barton, who had not yet
spoken.

"And we intend to teach you a lesson," added Pultzer, a short, stout
chap, whose father had once been a butcher.

"What for?"

"For your unwarranted attack upon our illustrious president."

"Your president? You mean Duncan?"

"Mr. Woodward, if you please," interrupted Duncan, loftily. "I won't
have such a low-bred fellow as you calling me by my first name."

"I'm no lower bred than you are," I retorted.

"Come, none of that!"cried Moran. "We all know you well. We shall at
once proceed to teach you a lesson."

I could not help smile - the whole affair seemed so ridiculous that
had it not been for the rough handling I had received when pulled from
the carriage, I would have considered it a joke.

"You'll find it no laughing matter," said Duncan, savagely, angry, no
doubt, because I did not show more signs of fear. "Just wait till we
are through with you. You'll grin on the other side of your face."

"What do you intend to do with me?"

"You'll see soon enough."


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Online LibraryEdward StratemeyerTrue to Himself : or Roger Strong's Struggle for Place → online text (page 1 of 13)