Horatio Alger.

Hector's Inheritance, Or, the Boys of Smith Institute online

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Produced by Carrie Fellman




By Horatio Alger, Jr.

Author of "Eric Train Boy" "Young Acrobat," "Only an Irish Boy," "Bound
to Rise," "The Young Outlaw," "Driven from Home" etc.




Mr. Roscoe rang the bell, and, in answer, a servant entered the library,
where he sat before a large and commodious desk.

"Has the mail yet arrived?" he asked.

"Yes, sir; John has just come back from the village."

"Go at once and bring me the letters and papers, if there are any."

John bowed and withdrew.

Mr. Roscoe walked to the window, and looked thoughtfully out upon a
smooth, luxuriant lawn and an avenue of magnificent trees, through which
carriages were driven to what was popularly known as Castle Roscoe.
Everything, even to the luxuriously appointed room in which he sat,
indicated wealth and the ease which comes from affluence.

Mr. Roscoe looked around him with exultation.

"And all this may be mine," he said to himself, "if I am only bold. What
is it old Pindar says? 'Boldness is the beginning of victory.' I have
forgotten nearly all I learned in school, but I remember that. There is
some risk, perhaps, but not much, and I owe something to my son - -"

He was interrupted by the entrance of the servant with a small leather
bag, which was used to hold mail matter, going from or coming to the

The servant unlocked the bag, and emptied the contents on the desk.
There were three or four papers and two letters. It was the last which
attracted Mr. Roscoe's attention.

We will take the liberty of looking over Mr. Roscoe's shoulder as he
reads the first. It ran as follows:

"DEAR SIR:-I am in receipt of your favor, asking my terms for boarding
pupils. For pupils of fifteen or over, I charge five hundred dollars per
year, which is not a large sum considering the exceptional advantages
presented by Inglewood School. My pupils are from the best families,
and enjoy a liberal table. Moreover, I employ competent teachers, and
guarantee rapid progress, when the student is of good, natural capacity,
and willing to work.

"I think you will agree with me that it is unwise to economize when the
proper training of a youth is in question, and that a cheap school is
little better than no school at all.

"I have only to add that I shall be most happy to receive your young
nephew, if you decide to send him to me, and will take personal pains to
promote his advancement. I remain, dear sir, your obedient servant,


Mr. Roscoe threw the letter down upon the desk with an impatient

"Five hundred dollars a year!" he exclaimed. "What can the man be
thinking of? Why, when I went to school, twenty-five years since, less
than half this sum was charged. The man is evidently rapacious. Let me
see what this other letter says."

The second letter was contained in a yellow envelope, of cheap texture,
and was much more plebeian in appearance than the first.

Again we will look over Mr. Roscoe's shoulder, and read what it
contains. It was postmarked Smithville, and the envelope was disfigured
by a blot. It commenced:

"DEAR SIR:-It gives me pleasure to answer your inquiries respecting
my school. I have about fifty pupils, part of whom, say one-third, are
boarders. Though I say it myself, it will be hard to find any school
where more thorough instruction is given. I look upon my pupils as my
children, and treat them as such. My system of government is, therefore,
kind and parental, and my pupils are often homesick in vacation, longing
for the time to come when they can return to their studies at Smith
Institute. It is the dearest wish of Mrs. Smith and myself to make our
young charges happy, and to advance them, by pleasant roads over flowery
meads, to the inner courts of knowledge.

"Humbug!" muttered Mr. Roscoe. "I understand what all that means." He

"I hope you will not consider three hundred dollars per annum too
much for such parental care. Considering the present high price of
provisions, it is really as low a price as we can afford to receive.

"I shall be glad if you consider my letter favorable and decide to place
your nephew under my charge. Yours respectfully,


"That is more reasonable," said Mr. Roscoe, to himself, as he laid down
the letter. "Three hundred dollars I consider a fair price. At any rate,
I do not propose to pay any more for Hector. I suppose the table is
plain enough, but I don't believe in pampering the appetites of boys.
If he were the master of Roscoe Hall, as he thinks he is, there might be
some propriety in it; but upon that head I shall soon undeceive him. I
will let him understand that I am the proprietor of the estate, and that
he is only a dependent on my bounty. I wonder how he will take it. I
dare say he will make a fuss, but he shall soon be made to understand
that it is of no use. Now to answer these letters."

Mr. Roscoe sat down in a luxurious armchair, and, drawing pen and paper
toward him, wrote first to Dr. Radix. I subjoin the letter, as it throws
some light upon the character of the writer:


"My DEAR SIR:-I am in receipt of your letter of the 8th instant,
answering my inquiries in regard to your school. Let me say at once that
I find your terms too high. Five hundred dollars a year for forty weeks'
board and schooling seems to me an exorbitant price to ask. Really, at
this rate, education will soon become a luxury open only to the wealthy.

"You are probably under a misapprehension in reference to my young ward.
Nephew he is not, in a strict sense of the term. He was adopted - not
legally, but practically - by my brother, when he was only a year old,
and his origin has been concealed from him. My brother, being childless,
has allowed him to suppose that he was his own son. Undoubtedly he
meant to provide for him in his will, but, as often happens, put off
will-making till it was too late. The estate, therefore, goes to me,
and the boy is unprovided for. This does not so much matter, since I am
willing to educate him, and give him a fair start in life, if he acts
in a manner to suit me. I do not, however, feel called upon to pay an
exorbitant price for his tuition, and, therefore, shall be obliged to
forego placing him at Inglewood School. Yours, etc.,


"When this letter is sent, I shall have taken the decisive step,"
thought Mr. Roscoe. "I must then adhere to my story, at whatever cost.
Now for the other."

His reply to the letter of Socrates Smith, A. M., was briefer, but
likely to be more satisfactory to the recipient. It ran thus;


"DEAR Sir:-Your letter is at hand, and I find it, on the whole,
satisfactory. The price you charge-three hundred dollars per annum - is
about right. I hope you are a firm disciplinarian. I do not want Hector
too much indulged or pampered, though he may expect it, my poor brother
having been indulgent to excess.

"Let me add, by the bye, that Hector is not my nephew, though I may
inadvertently have mentioned him as such, and had no real claims upon my
brother, though he has been brought up in that belief. He was adopted,
in an informal way, by my brother, when he was but, an infant. Under the
circumstances, I am willing to take care of him, and prepare him to earn
his own living when his education is completed.

"You may expect to see me early next week. I will bring the boy with me,
and enter him at once as a pupil in your school.

"Yours, etc., ALLAN ROSCOE."

"There, that clinches it!" said Mr. Roscoe, in a tone of satisfaction.
"Now for an interview with the boy."


A stone's throw from the mansion was a neat and spacious carriage house.
The late master of Castle Roscoe had been fond of driving, and kept
three horses and two carriages. One of the latter was an old-fashioned
coach; while there was, besides, a light buggy, which Hector was
accustomed to consider his own. It was he, generally, who used this,
for his father preferred to take a driver, and generally took an airing,
either alone or with Hector, in the more stately carriage, drawn by two

Hector walked across the lawn and entered the carriage house, where
Edward, the coachman, was washing the carriage. As the former is to be
our hero, we may pause to describe him.

He was fifteen, slenderly but strongly made, with a clear skin and dark
eyes and a straightforward look. He had a winning smile, that attracted
all who saw it, but his face could assume a different expression if
need be. There were strong lines about his mouth that indicated calm
resolution and strength of purpose. He was not a boy who would permit
himself to be imposed upon, but was properly tenacious of his rights.

As he entered the carriage house, he looked about him in some surprise.

"Where is the buggy, Edward?" he asked.

"Master Guy is driving out in it."

"How is that?" said Hector. "Doesn't he know that it is mine? He might,
at least, have asked whether I intended to use it."

"That is what I told him."

"And what did he say?"

"That it was just as much his as yours, and perhaps more so."

"What could he mean?"

"He said his father had promised to give it to him."

"Promised to give him my buggy!" exclaimed Hector, his eyes flashing.

"It's a shame, Master Hector, so it is," said Edward, sympathetically.
He had known Hector since he was a boy of five, and liked him far better
than Guy, who was a newcomer, and a boy disposed to domineer over those
whom he considered his inferiors.

"I don't intend to submit to it," said Hector, trying, ineffectually, to
curb his anger.

"I don't blame you, Master Hector, but I'm afraid you will have a hard
time. As your uncle is your guardian, of course he has power over you,
and he thinks everything of that boy of his, though, to my mind, he is
an unmannerly cub."

"I don't know how much power he has over me, but he mustn't expect me
to play second fiddle to his son. I am willing that Guy should enjoy
as many privileges as I do, though the estate is mine; but he mustn't
interfere with my rights."

"That's right, Master Hector. Why don't you speak to your uncle about
it? I would, if I were you."

"So I will, if it is necessary. I will speak to Guy first, and that may
be sufficient. I don't want to enter complaint against him if I can help

"You didn't see Master Guy ride out, did you?"

"'No; I was reading. If I had seen him, I would have stopped him."

"I am afraid it wouldn't have done any good."

"Do you mean that he would have taken the buggy in spite of me?" asked
Hector, indignantly.

"I think he would have tried. To tell the truth, Master Hector, I
refused to get the buggy ready for him, till he brought out a paper from
his father commanding me to do it. Then, of course, I had no choice."

Hector was staggered by this.

"Have you got the paper?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Edward, fumbling in his vest pocket.

He drew out a small scrap of notepaper, on which was written, "My son,
Guy, has my permission to ride out in the buggy. You will obey me rather
than Hector."

This was signed, "Allan Roscoe."

"So it seems my uncle is the trespasser," said Hector. "It is he who
takes the responsibility. I will go and speak to him at once."

"Wait a minute! There comes Master Guy, returning from his ride. You can
have it out with him first."

In fact, Hector had only to look down the avenue to see the rapid
approach of the buggy. Guy held the reins, and was seated in the
driver's seat with all the air of a master. The sight aggravated Hector,
and not without reason. He waited until Guy, flinging the reins to
Edward, leaped from the buggy, then he thought it time to speak.

"Guy," he said, calmly, "it seems to me that you owe me an apology."

"Oh, I do, do I?" sneered Guy. "What for, let me ask?"

"You have driven out in my buggy, without asking my permission."

"Oh, it's your buggy, is it?" said Guy, with another sneer.

"Of course it is. You know that as well as I do."

"I don't know it at all."

"Then I inform you of it. I don't want to be selfish; I am willing that
you should ride out in it occasionally; but I insist upon your asking my

Guy listened to these words with a sneer upon his face. He was about
the same age and size as Hector, but his features were mean and
insignificant, and there was a shifty look in his eye that stamped him
as unreliable. He did not look like the Roscoes, though in many respects
he was in disposition and character similar to his father.

"It strikes me," he said, with an unpleasant smile, "that you're taking
a little too much upon yourself, Hector Roscoe. The buggy is no more
yours than mine."

"What do you say, Edward?" said Hector, appealing to the coachman.

"I say that the buggy is yours, and the horse is yours, and so I told
Master Guy, but he wouldn't take no notice of it."

"Do you hear that, Guy?"

"Yes, I do; and that's what I think of it," answered Guy, snapping his
fingers. "My father gave me permission to ride out in it, and I've got
just as much right to it as you, and perhaps more."

"You know better, Guy," said Hector, indignantly; "and I warn you not to
interfere with my rights hereafter."

"Suppose I do?" sneered Guy.

"Then I shall be under the necessity of giving you a lesson," said
Hector, calmly.

"You will, will you? You'll give me a lesson?" repeated Guy, nodding
vigorously. "Who are you, I'd like to know?"

"If you don't know, I can tell you."

"Tell me, then."

"I am Hector Roscoe, the owner of Roscoe Hall. Whether your father is to
be my guardian or not, I don't know; but there are limits to the power
of a guardian, and I hope he won't go too far."

"Hear the boy talk!" said Guy, contemptuously.

"I wish to treat my uncle with becoming respect; but he is a newcomer
here - I never saw him till three months since - and he has no right to
come here, and take from me all my privileges. We can all live at peace
together, and I hope we shall; but he must treat me well."

"You are quite sure Roscoe Castle belongs to you, are you, Hector?"

"That's the law. Father left no will, and so the estate comes to me."

"Ho! ho!" laughed Guy, with malicious glee.

"If you only knew what I know, you wouldn't crow quite so loud. It's a
splendid joke."

There was something in this that attracted Hector's attention, though he
was not disposed to attach much importance to what Guy said.

"If I only knew what you know!" he repeated.

"Yes; that's what I said."

"What is it?"

"You'll know it soon enough, and I can tell you one thing, it'll
surprise you. It'll take down your pride a peg or two."

Hector stared at his cousin in unaffected surprise. What could Guy
possibly mean? Had his father perhaps made a will, and left the estate
to some one else - his uncle, for example? Was this the meaning of Guy's
malicious mirth?

"I don't know to what you refer," he said; "but if it's anything that is
of importance to me, I ought to know it. What is it?"

"Go and ask father," said Guy, with a tantalizing grin.

"I will," answered Hector, "and without delay."

He turned to enter the house, but Guy had not exhausted his malice. He
was in a hurry to triumph over Hector, whom he disliked heartily.

"I don't mind telling you myself," he said.

"You are not what you suppose. You're a lowborn beggar!"

He had no sooner uttered these words, than Hector resented the insult.
Seizing the whip from Guy, he grasped him by the collar, flung him to
the ground and lashed him with it.

"There," said he, with eyes aflame, "take that, Guy Roscoe, and look out
how you insult me in future!"

Guy rose slowly from the ground, pale with fury, and, as he brushed the
dust from his clothes, ejaculated:

"You'll pay dearly for this, Hector!"

"I'll take the consequences," said Hector, as coldly as his anger would
allow. "Now, I shall go to your father and ask the meaning of this."


Hector entered the library with some impetuosity. Usually he was quiet
and orderly, but he had been excited by the insinuations of Guy, and he
was impatient to know what he meant - if he meant anything.

Allan Roscoe looked up, and remarked, with slight sarcasm:

"This is not a bear garden, Hector. You appear to think you are on the
playground, judging by your hasty motions."

"I beg your pardon, uncle," said Hector, who never took amiss a rebuke
which he thought deserved. "I suppose I forgot myself, being excited. I
beg your pardon."

"What is the cause of your excitement?" asked Mr. Roscoe, surveying the
boy keenly.

"Guy has said something that I don't understand."

"He must have said something very profound, then," returned Allan
Roscoe, with light raillery.

"Indeed, Uncle Allan, it is no laughing matter," said Hector, earnestly.

"Then let me hear what it is."

"He intimates that he knows something that would let down my pride a peg
or two. He hints that I am not the heir of Castle Roscoe."

The boy used the term by which the house was usually known.

Allan Roscoe knit his brow in pretended vexation.

"Inconsiderate boy!" he murmured. "Why need he say this?"

"But," said Hector, startled, "is it true?"

"My boy," said his uncle, with simulated feeling, "my son has spoken to
you of a secret which I would willingly keep from you if I could. Yet,
perhaps, it is as well that you should be told now."

"Told what?" exclaimed Hector, quite at sea.

"Can you bear to hear, Hector, that it is indeed true? You are not the
owner of this estate."

"Who is then?" ejaculated the astonished boy.

"I am; and Guy after me."

"What! Did my father leave the estate away from me? I thought he did not
leave a will?"

"Nor did he."

"Then how can anyone else except his son inherit?"

"Your question is a natural one. If you were his son you would inherit
under the law."

"If I were his son!" repeated Hector, slowly, his head swimming. "What
do you mean by that? Of course I am your brother's son."

"It is very painful for me to tell, Hector. It will be distressing for
you to hear. No tie of blood connects you with the late owner of Castle

"I don't believe you, Uncle Allan," said Hector, bluntly.

"Of course, therefore, I am not your uncle," added Allan Roscoe, dryly.

"I beg your pardon; I should have said Mr. Allan Roscoe," said Hector,
bowing proudly, for his heart was sore, and he was deeply indignant with
the man who sat, smooth and sleek, in his father's chair, harrowing up
his feelings without himself being ruffled.

"That is immaterial. Call me uncle, if you like, since the truth is
understood. But I must explain."

"I would like to know what is your authority for so surprising a
statement, Mr. Roscoe. You cannot expect me to believe that I have been
deceived all my life."

"I make the statement on your father's authority - I should say, on my
brother's authority."

"Can you prove it, Mr. Roscoe?"

"I can. I will presently put into your hands a letter, written me by my
brother some months since, which explains the whole matter. To save you
suspense, however, I will recapitulate. Where were you born?"

"In California."

"That is probably true. It was there that my brother found you."

"Found me?"

"Perhaps that is not the word. My brother and his wife were boarding
in Sacramento in the winter of 1859. In the same boarding house was a
widow, with a child of some months old. You were that child. Your mother
died suddenly, and it was ascertained that she left nothing. Her child
was, therefore, left destitute. It was a fine, promising boy - give me
credit for the compliment - and my brother, having no children of his
own, proposed to his wife to adopt it. She was fond of children, and
readily consented. No formalities were necessary, for there was no one
to claim you. You were at once taken in charge by my brother and his
wife, therefore, and very soon they came to look upon you with as much
affection as if you were their own child. They wished you to consider
them your real parents, and to you the secret was never made known, nor
was it known to the world. When my brother returned to this State, three
years after, not one of his friends doubted that the little Hector was
his own boy.

"When you were six years old your mother died - that is, my brother's
wife. All the more, perhaps, because he was left alone, my brother
became attached to you, and, I think, he came to love you as much as if
you were his own son."

"I think he did," said Hector, with emotion. "Never was there a kinder,
more indulgent father."

"Yet he was not your father," said Allan Roscoe, with sharp emphasis.

"So you say, Mr. Roscoe."

"So my brother says in his letter to me."

"Do you think it probable that, with all this affection for me, he would
have left me penniless?" asked the boy.

"No; it was his intention to make a will. By that will he would no doubt
have provided for you in a satisfactory manner. But I think my poor
brother had a superstitious fear of will making, lest it might hasten
death. At any rate, he omitted it till it was too late."

"It was a cruel omission, if your story is a true one."

"Your - my brother, did what he could to remedy matters. In his last
sickness, when too weak to sign his name, he asked me, as the legal heir
of his estate, to see that you were well provided for. He wished me to
see your education finished, and I promised to do so. I could see that
this promise relieved his mind. Of one thing you may be assured, Hector,
he never lost his affection for you."

"Thank Heaven for that!" murmured the boy, who had been deeply and
devotedly attached to the man whom, all his life long, he had looked
upon as his father.

"I can only add, Hector," said Mr. Roscoe, "that I feel for your natural
disappointment. It is, indeed, hard to be brought up to regard yourself
as the heir of a great estate, and to make the discovery that you have
been mistaken."

"I don't mind that so much, Mr. Roscoe," said Hector, slowly. "It is the
hardest thing to think of myself as having no claim upon one whom I have
loved as a father - to think myself as a boy of unknown parentage. But,"
he added, suddenly, "I have it only on your word. Why should I believe

"I will give you conclusive proof, Hector. Read this."

Allan Roscoe took from his pocket a letter, without an envelope. One
glance served to show Hector that it was in the handwriting of his late
father, or, at any rate, in a handwriting surprisingly like it.

He began to read it with feverish haste.

The letter need not find a place here. The substance of it had been
accurately given by Mr. Allan Roscoe. Apparently, it corroborated his
every statement.

The boy looked up from its perusal, his face pale and stricken.

"You see that I have good authority for my statement," said Mr. Roscoe.

"I can't understand it," said Hector, slowly.

"I need only add," said Mr. Roscoe, apparently relieved by the
revelation, "that my brother did not repose confidence in me in vain. I
accept, as a sacred charge, the duty he imposed upon me. I shall provide
for you and look after your education. I wish to put you in a way to
prepare yourself for a useful and honorable career. As a first step, I
intend, on Monday next, to place you in an excellent boarding school,
where you will have exceptional privileges."

Hector listened, but his mind was occupied by sad thoughts, and he made
no comment.

"I have even selected the school with great care," said Mr. Roscoe. "It
is situated at Smithville, and is under the charge of Socrates Smith, A.
M., a learned and distinguished educator. You may go now. I will speak
with you on this subject later."

Hector bowed. After what he had heard, his interest in other matters was
but faint.

"I shall be glad to get him out of the house," thought Allan Roscoe. "I
never liked him."


Hector walked out of the house in a state of mental bewilderment not
easily described. Was he not Hector Roscoe, after all? Had he been all
his life under a mistake? If this story were true, who was he, who were
his parents, what was his name? Why had the man whom he had supposed to
be his father not imparted to him this secret? He had always been kind
and indulgent; he had never appeared to regard the boy as an alien in

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