Harper's Round Table, August 27, 1895 online

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Produced by Annie McGuire

[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.

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Tony Bronson was the son of a man who had made a great deal of money in
a doubtful line of business by rather shady proceedings. In other words,
he was not strictly honest, and had amassed a large fortune in a manner
that would not bear investigation.

Of this Tony, of course, was ignorant; but he inherited from his father
a mean spirit and a determination to turn every circumstance to his own
account. He had been sent early to St. Asaph's School that he might
associate with the sons of gentlemen and become a gentleman himself, but
he had acquired only the outward veneering. His manners were most
courteous, his language carefully chosen, and he had sufficient wit to
enable him to readily adapt himself to his companions, but he had not
the instincts of a true gentleman. He was mean, he was something of a
coward, and he was very much of a bully.

Years ago, soon after the two boys first met at St. Asaph's, Neal
detected Tony in a cowardly, dishonorable action, and had openly accused
him of it. Tony never forgave him, but he bided his time. With an
unlimited amount of pocket-money of his own, he soon discovered that
Neal was running short. When a convenient opportunity came he offered to
lend him a small sum. Neal, after a moment's hesitation, weakly accepted
the money, assuring himself that it was only for a short time, and that
he could easily repay it, and then have no more to do with Bronson. It
saved him trouble.

Thus it had gone on. The time never came when Neal felt able to pay the
debt; on the other hand, he borrowed more, and now it had reached
alarming proportions. His monthly allowance, when it arrived, was gone
in a flash, for Neal had never been in the habit of denying himself. It
would have been hard for him to explain why he did not go frankly to his
sister, tell her the whole story, and ask for her help, except that he
was thoroughly ashamed of having placed himself in such straits and did
not want to acknowledge it.

Tony Bronson had become intimate with Tom Morgan at St. Asaph's, Tom not
being particular in his choice of friends. In that way he had come to
visit the Morgans in Brenton. His handsome face and apparently perfect
manner attracted many to him who could not see beneath the surface, and
his languid man-of-the-world air made an impression.

He cultivated this to the last degree. He was not naturally so lazy, but
he thought it effective.

When he said to Edith that he wished to tell her something about Neal
Gordon, she looked at him in still greater surprise.

"I want to ask your help, Miss Franklin. A girl can manage these things
so much better than a fellow. I like Gordon immensely, and I want to do
all I can to help him out of a scrape."

"Does he know that you are speaking to me about him?"

"No, of course not. The fact is - "

"Then I think, Mr. Bronson," interrupted Edith, gently, but with
decision, "that perhaps it would be better for us not to discuss him."

"But you quite misunderstand me, Miss Franklin. I am speaking only for
his own good. I can't bear to see a fellow going straight to the bad, as
I really am very much afraid he is, and not lift a finger to help him. I
thought if I told you that perhaps you might speak to his sister - "

Edith interrupted him again, with heightened color. "I can do nothing of
the sort. Nothing would induce me to speak to Mrs. Franklin on the
subject. I - I couldn't possibly."

Bronson looked at her compassionately.

"Ah, it is as I thought! You and Mrs. Franklin are not congenial. I am
so sorry."

Edith said nothing. She knew that he should not make such a remark to
her, a perfect stranger. She felt that he did not ring true. And yet she
could not bring herself to administer the reproof that Cynthia would
have given under like circumstances.

"I am afraid I have offended you," said Bronson, presently; "do forgive
me! And if you like I will say no more about the bad scrape Gordon is
in. I thought perhaps I could prevent a letter coming from the faculty,
but I see it's of no use. I'm awfully sorry for the fellow. You don't
really think you could do anything to influence his sister?"

At last Edith found her voice.

"I don't think I can. And if you don't mind I would rather not discuss
the Gordons - I mean, Mrs. Franklin and her brother."

"Certainly not, if you don't wish, and you won't repeat what I said, of
course. If we can't help him, of course we had better not let it get out
about Gordon any sooner than necessary. But holloa! What's this? The
carpet seems to be getting damp."

It undoubtedly was, and gave forth a most unpleasantly moist sound when
pressed. Upon investigation they found that the bottom of the canoe was
filled with water. They had sprung a leak.

"We had better get back as quickly as possible," said Edith, rather
relieved to have the conversation come to an end. "Is there a sponge
there? I can bail if it gets any worse."

But no sponge was to be found, and it rapidly grew worse; Edith's skirts
were damp and draggled. Presently there was an inch of water above the

"We shall sink if this goes on," she said.

"Oh, I fancy not," returned Bronson, easily; "we haven't very far to

But their progress was not rapid, and the pool in the canoe grew deeper.

"Perhaps you will lend me your cap," said Edith; "I can use it as a
dipper." He did so, and she bailed vigorously. "It must be a very large
leak. I suppose we got it on that rock in the rapids, and we scraped
again just before we tied up, which made it worse. If it were our boat I
would not care, but I think it is Neal's."

She was so occupied that she did not see Bronson smile. His smile was
not attractive, though his teeth were perfect.

Matters would have gone badly with them if they had not at this moment
met Jack and Kitty Morgan in the Franklins' canoe.

"What's the row?" called Jack.

"Nothing much," said Bronson. "We've sprung a little leak, that's all."

"A little leak! I should think so. My eye! Why, man, you must have a
regular hole for the water to come in like that. Where have you been,
anyhow? You had better put in here at this little beach and step over
into my boat."

"What's the matter with stepping over right where we are? No need of
going to shore."

Jack eyed him with curiosity and contempt. He looked so much like
Cynthia that Bronson felt withered. He did not care for Cynthia, for he
knew that she did not like him.

Jack did not speak at once, but paddled towards the bank. Then he said:

"You won't try stepping from one canoe to another in mid-stream if I
have anything to say about it."

The change was safely accomplished, and they proceeded down the river
towing the injured boat, the carpet and cushions having been transferred
with the passengers. Relieved of the weight it did not fill as rapidly,
and they at last reached the picnic-ground.

Bronson was mortified at coming back in such ignominious plight, but he
made the best of it.

"I am awfully sorry, Gordon, if it is your canoe. It must have been
pretty frail, though, to go to pieces at a mere scratch."

"She's the finest cedar canoe to be found in the city of Boston, and it
would take more than a mere scratch to do her up this way. From
appearances I should say you had pounded round on the rocks pretty
freely," growled Neal, who had turned the boat upside down, and was
examining it carefully.

Bronson stooped over him. For the moment they were alone.

"Of course I would feel worse about it if it were any one's but yours.
As it is, we'll just call ten off that fifty still owing. That will go
towards repairs. More than cover them, I should say."

Then he sauntered off, his hands in his pockets.

"What a cad the fellow is!" muttered Neal. "It would give me real
pleasure to knock him down."

"I heard him," said Cynthia. Her cheeks were red and her blue eyes had
grown very dark. "He is an odious, hateful creature, and I _de-spise_

Having delivered herself of this, Cynthia felt better.

They all went home soon afterwards, Edith leaving earlier in the
carriage with Mrs. Franklin, for her shoes and skirts were too wet for
her to wait for the slower movements of the canoes. It was an
unfortunate ending to the day, and Edith was uncomfortable also about
her conversation with Bronson. She knew that she ought not to have
listened to a word of it.

She wondered if it were really true that Neal was in difficulty. She
thought she must talk it over with Cynthia that night. Of course Cynthia
would stand up for Neal, that went without saying, but it was always a
relief to Edith to talk things over with her.

It was a rather silent drive home, and Mrs. Franklin sighed to herself
when Edith barely replied to her remarks. It seemed perfectly hopeless;
she and Edith would never grow any nearer to each other; but there was
nothing to be done.

That night, when the girls went to their room, Edith was spared the
necessity of opening the subject, for Cynthia began at once.

"What a perfectly hateful creature that Bronson is! I don't see how you
could go on the river with him, Edith. I think you got well paid for

"I don't see why you dislike him so, Cynthia. You take such tremendous
prejudices. He is awfully handsome."

"Handsome! I don't admire that style. That
la-da-da-it-is-I-just-please-look-at-me kind doesn't go down with me."

Cynthia thrust her hands into imaginary pockets, leaned languidly
against the bedpost, and rolled her eyes.

"Er - Miss Franklin - carn't I persuade you to go out on the rivah?" she
said, with an exaggerated manner and accent, and a throaty voice.

Edith laughed. Cynthia was a capital mimic.

"I like a broad A, and, of course, I never would use anything else
myself, but his is broader than the Mississippi. It just shows it isn't
natural to him. To hear him talk about 'darmp grarss,' and he'd just
come from 'South_armp_ton.' He is a regular _sharm_ himself. I dare say
he was brought up to say 'ca'm' and 'pa'm' and 'hain't' and 'ain't.'"

"Cynthia, what a goose you are!"

"Well, I can't bear him, and neither can Neal. Jack doesn't like him

"There, that is just it. You are so influenced by Neal and Jack. Tony
Bronson spoke very nicely of Neal, as if he were a true friend of his."

"Pooh! Much friend he!"

"Well, he did, Cynthia, and that is just what I want to talk over with
you. Neal must be in some terrible scrape."

"Has that Bronson been telling you about that?" cried Cynthia,

"Oh, then it is really true! I thought it must be."

"No, it isn't - at least, not what Bronson told you. I am just certain
that whatever he told you wasn't true," said Cynthia, who felt that she
had said more than she should. "I shouldn't think you would have
discussed Neal with him. Neal is one of our family."

"I didn't," said Edith, somewhat curtly, "though I don't exactly see why
you should speak of Neal Gordon as one of our family. I told Mr. Bronson
I preferred not to talk about him. But he spoke so nicely of Neal, and
said he wanted to help him, and he was afraid the faculty would write
about him, and he wanted to get him out of the scrape if he could."

"Oh, the hypocrite! But what is the scrape? Did he say?"

"No, I wouldn't let him. But it is absurd to call him a hypocrite,
Cynthia. I shall never believe it unless you tell me why you think so."

"I can't do that, but I _know_ he is," said Cynthia, stoutly. "You have
just got to take my word for it, for I can't explain."

The girls talked far into the night, but Edith was not convinced. She
felt that there was something at the bottom of it all, for Cynthia could
not deny it. After all, she was sorry. Edith liked Neal, a Gordon though
he was. But she did not doubt that he was in a difficulty of some kind.

The summer was over and the glorious autumn leaves dropped from the
trees, leaving the branches bare and ready for the coming of snow. One
could see the course of the river plainly now from Oakleigh windows.
Beautiful October was swallowed up by chill November, and the wind grew
biting. One was glad of the long evenings, when the curtains could be
drawn and the lamps lighted early to shut out the gray skies and dreary

Neal was back at St. Asaph's, and the winter work had begun. Cynthia and
Jack went every day to Boston, and Edith also went in three times a week
for lessons. She objected to this on the plea of expense, much as she
desired a thorough education. She greatly feared her step-mother had
brought it about. But her father reprimanded her sharply when she said
something of this, and insisted that she should do as he desired.

The poultry had already begun to bring in a little money, for Jack sold
a few "broilers" to his mother at market prices, though she usually
added a few cents more a pound.

"They are so delicious, Jack," said she; "better than I could get
anywhere else, and worth the money."

He kept his accounts most carefully, and it was pleasant to write down a
few figures on the page for receipts, which thus far had presented an
appalling blank.

In due time came a present to Edith from Aunt Betsey: a package
containing an old-fashioned camel's-hair scarf that had belonged to
"Grandmother Trinkett," and, scattered among its folds, five ten-dollar
gold pieces.

Government had proved worthy of the old lady's trust, for the money had
come safely; but then she had actually addressed the package clearly and

Edith, of course, was much pleased, and notwithstanding her aunt's
suggestion that she should place it in the savings-bank, she determined
to expend the money in a handsome winter suit and hat. She dearly loved
nice clothes.

Cynthia looked somewhat scornfully at the new garments.

"If Aunt Betsey sends me fifty dollars, you won't catch me spending it
on finery," she informed her family. "I have other things to do with
_my_ money."

She did not know how truly she spoke, nor what would be the result of
her manner of spending Aunt Betsey's present.

The fall slipped quickly by, and the Christmas holidays drew near. Neal
was coming to Oakleigh, and many things were planned for the
entertainment of the young people.

Cynthia went about fairly bursting with excitement and secrets. This was
her best-loved time of the whole year, and she was making the most of

The 25th of December fell on a Wednesday this year, and Neal came down
from St. Asaph's on Monday, to be in good season for the festivities of
Christmas Eve. Plenty of snow had fallen, and all kinds of jolly times
were looked for.

Outside the scene was wintry indeed, and the white walls of Oakleigh
looked cold and dreary in the sitting of snow which lay so thickly over
river, meadow, and hill, but in the house there was plenty of life and
cheery warmth. Great fires burned briskly in all the chimneys, and the
rooms were bright and cozy with warm-looking carpets and curtains and
comfortable furniture. There had been a good deal done to the house,
both outside and in, since the coming of Mrs. Franklin. Edith still
maintained to herself that she did not like it, but every one else
thought matters vastly improved.

"Hurray! hurray!" cried Jack, rushing into the house on Tuesday and
slamming down his books; "good-by to school for ten days! It was a mean
shame that we had to have school at all this week. Neal, you were in
luck. St. Asaph's must be mighty good fun, anyhow. By-the-way,"
continued he, holding his chilled hands to the fire, "I saw that Bronson
fellow in town to-day - the one that smashed your canoe."

"You did?" said Neal, glancing up from his book, while Cynthia gave an
exclamation of disgust.

"Yes," said Jack, "and he said the Morgans had asked him out here for
the holidays, so I guess we are in for another dose. It strikes me they
must be pretty hard up for company to want him."

Neal said nothing. Edith looked up from her work and watched him
sharply, but his face told little.

"Hateful thing!" exclaimed Cynthia. "I would like to pack my trunk and
take a train out of Brenton as he comes in on another."

"I can't see why you all dislike him so," observed Edith. "You detest
him, don't you, Neal?"

"Oh, Edith, do hush!" cried Cynthia. "Yes, of course he does; he's
hateful." But Neal still said nothing, and Edith got no satisfaction.

Christmas Eve closed in early. At about four o'clock it began to snow,
and the wind blew great drifts against the side of the house. Every one
said it was going to be an old-fashioned Christmas.

It was the custom in the Franklin household to look at the presents that
night. As Cynthia said, when arguing the point with some one who thought
it a shocking idea to see one's gifts before Christmas morning, it made
it so much more exciting to open their own packages, and to look at
their treasures by lamplight. Then in the morning they had the pleasure
of seeing them a second time, and of investigating their stockings,
which, of course, were hung ready for the coming of Santa Claus.

After supper Jack and Neal carried in the great clothes-basket which for
days had been the receptacle for packages of all sizes and kinds, those
that had come by post and those which the family themselves had
carefully tied up, until now it looked like Santa Claus's own pack.

Mrs. Franklin presided at the basket and read the names, and when the
colored ribbons were untied and the tempting-looking white parcels were
opened, there were shrieks and exclamations of delight, for every one
declared that this particular gift was just what he or she most desired.

Each one had a table covered with a white cloth, upon which to place his
treasures, and when all was done the "long parlor" at Oakleigh looked
like a fancy bazar, so many and varied were the articles displayed.

There was an odd-looking package addressed to Jack and Cynthia. It was
heavy and covered with postage-stamps in consequence, and proved to be a
large box stuffed with straw.

"What under the sun is it? Of course it's from Aunt Betsey," said Jack,
as he rooted down into the hay, scattering it in all directions. Out
came what appeared to be an egg tied up with old-fashioned plaid ribbon,
and an ancient-looking beaded purse. The purse was marked "Cynthia," so
Jack appropriated the egg, but with an exclamation of chagrin.

"She is sending coals to Newcastle," said he. "Aunt Betsey must have
thought it was Easter. But it is the queerest-feeling egg I ever came
across. It's as heavy as lead."

He shook it and held it up to the light.

"Ha, ha!" said he; "a good egg! I'd like to have the machine packed with
just such eggs."

Inside were ten five-dollar gold pieces, and Cynthia found the same in
her purse.

"I will put mine away for a 'safety' in the spring," said Jack, clinking
his gold with the air of a miser, and examining the empty egg-shells.
"Isn't Aunt Betsey a daisy and no mistake? Just see the way she's fixed
up this egg-shell; she cut it in half as neat as a pin. I don't see how
she ever did it."

"I wish I had an Aunt Betsey," remarked Neal; "those gold pieces would
come in pretty handy just now."

"Aunt Betsey is so fond of giving gold," said Cynthia. "She always says
it is real money, and bills are nothing but paper. I shall put mine away
for the present, until I think of something I want terribly much, and
then I will go grandly to Boston and buy it like a duchess. Goody
Two-shoes, but I feel rich!"

And she danced gayly up and down the room, waving her purse in the air.

Neal had very nice presents, but he was disappointed to find that there
was no money among them. He suspected, and correctly, that his sister
and her husband had thought it wiser not to give him any more at

"Then I'm in for it," thought he. "I'll have to ask Hessie, and there'll
be no end of a row. Of course she will give it to me in the end, but it
would have been nicer all round if she had come out handsomely with a
Christmas check. Of course these skates are dandy, and so is the
dress-suit case and the nobby umbrella and the sleeve-buttons; but just
at present I would rather have the cash they all cost."

He said something of this afterwards to Cynthia.

"Bronson is screwing me for all he's worth," said he. "I'll have to get
the money somehow, and fifty dollars is no joke. Of course, I'm not
going to take off the ten he so kindly offered for the canoe; I'd like
to see myself! If Hessie doesn't see matters in the same light I'll have
to do something desperate. But, of course, she will give it to me."

"Neal," said Cynthia, impulsively, "if mamma doesn't give you the money
you must borrow it of me. There is that fifty dollars Aunt Betsey has
given me. You can have it just as well as not."

"Cynthia, you're a brick, and no mistake," said Neal, looking at her
affectionately, "but you know I wouldn't take your money for the world.
You must think me a low-down sort of fellow if you think I would."

"How absurd! It is a great deal better to owe it to me instead of to a
stranger like Bronson, or any one else. I'm sure I think of you just as
if you were my brother, and Jack wouldn't mind taking it. You can pay it
back when you get your own money."

"Yes, nine years from now," said Neal. "No, indeed, Cynth, I'll have to
be pretty hard up before I borrow of a girl."

"I think you are too bad," said Cynthia, almost crying. "I don't see the
difference between a girl and anybody else. I don't need the money; I
don't know what to buy with it. I would just love to have you take it.
It would be lovely to think my money had paid your debts, and then you
could start all fresh. Please, Neal, say you will if mamma does not give
it to you."

But Neal would not promise.




The bicycle corps of a military academy near Chicago recently made a
journey on wheels from that city to Springfield and back again, camping
at night wherever darkness overtook them, foraging among the neighboring
farm-houses for their subsistence, and conducting themselves on the
whole as if they were actually in the field on active service. A guard
was posted as soon as camp was pitched in the evening, and sentries kept
watch throughout the night, keeping away all intruders, and seeing to
it that none of the cadets ran the lines to visit a near-by village, or
to milk some unprotected cow in a neighboring farm-yard. The boys did
their own cooking, which at times was marvellous to look upon, and
fearful to digest; but they all lived through the experience, and got
back to the school in the best of health and condition. A week was
occupied in making the trip, and the experience and general knowledge of
bicycling which the cadets acquired in that time was such as they
doubtless could never have obtained in any other way. There were
seventeen in the party, including the Major commanding, who was one of
the instructors at the academy, and each wheelman carried about thirty
pounds of baggage, consisting of a change of under-clothing, a blanket,
a shelter tent, arms, and cooking utensils. The incidents of the journey
were many, and the element of adventure was not lacking.

Of course there were a number of accidents to the machines, one of the
most serious occurring about the fourth or fifth day out when about
eighty miles from Springfield. It was a creeping tire, and no amount of
cement or tire-tape could be made to stop it. A total of eight valves
was torn off in that one day, which, with the delay caused by punctures
from thorn-hedges, cost a great loss of time. When within ten miles of
Springfield, with a heavy thunder-storm coming up behind them, the tires
of two wheels got badly punctured, and a halt had to be called. It was
thought that repairs could be quickly effected, but this proved not to
be the case, and the main body was thereupon ordered to push on, while
the disabled riders were left to complete their patching, with orders to
catch up as soon as possible. But night and the storm came on rapidly,
and under these unfavorable circumstances the cadets were unable to
locate the punctures. They therefore determined to camp for the night,

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Online LibraryVariousHarper's Round Table, August 27, 1895 → online text (page 1 of 7)