Copyright
Horatio Alger.

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

. (page 2 of 12)
Online LibraryHoratio AlgerHector's Inheritance, Or, the Boys of Smith Institute → online text (page 2 of 12)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


blood, but as a dearly loved son. Yet, if he had, after all, left him
unprovided for, he had certainly treated Hector with great cruelty.

"I won't believe it," said Hector, to himself.

"I won't so wrong my dear father's memory at the bidding of this man,
whose interest it is to trump up this story, since he and his son become
the owners of a great estate in my place."

Just then Guy advanced toward Hector with a malicious smile upon his
face. He knew very well what a blow poor Hector had received, for he
was in his father's confidence, and he was mean enough, and malicious
enough, to rejoice at it.

"What's the matter with you, Hector?" he asked, with a grin. "You look
as if you had lost your last friend."

Hector stopped short and regarded Guy fixedly.

"Do you know what your father has been saying to me?" he asked.

"Well, I can guess," answered Guy. "Ho! ho! It's a great joke that you
have all the time fancied yourself the heir of Castle Roscoe, when you
have no claim to it at all. I am the heir!" he added, drawing himself up
proudly; "and you are a poor dependent, and a nobody. It's funny!"

"Perhaps you won't think it so funny after this!" said Hector, coolly,
exasperated beyond endurance. As he spoke he drew off, and in an instant
Guy measured his length upon the greensward.

Guy rose, his face livid with passion, in a frame of mind far from
funny. He clinched his fists and looked at Hector as if he wished to
annihilate him. "You'll pay for this," he screamed. "You'll repent it,
bitterly, you poor, nameless dependent, low-born, very likely - "

"Hold, there!" said Hector, advancing resolutely, and sternly facing the
angry boy. "Be careful what you say. If this story of your father's is
true, which I don't believe, you might have the decency to let me
alone, even if you don't sympathize with me. If you dare to say or hint
anything against my birth, I'll treat you worse than I have yet."

"You'll suffer for this!" almost shrieked Guy.

"I am ready to suffer now, if you are able to make me," said Hector.
"Come on, and we'll settle it now."

But Guy had no desire for the contest to which he was invited. He had a
wholesome fear of Hector's strong, muscular arms, aided, as they were,
by some knowledge of boxing. Hector had never taken regular lessons, but
a private tutor, whom his father had employed, a graduate of Yale, had
instructed him in the rudiments of the "manly art of self-defense," and
Hector was very well able to take care of himself against any boy of his
own size and strength. In size, Guy was his equal, but in strength he
was quite inferior. This Guy knew full well, and, angry as he was, he by
no means lost sight of prudence.

"I don't choose to dirty my hands with you," he said. "I shall tell my
father, and it would serve you right if he sent you adrift."

In Hector's present mood, he would not, perhaps, have cared much if
this threat had been carried into execution, but he was not altogether
reckless, and he felt that it was best to remain under Mr. Roscoe's
protection until he had had time to investigate the remarkable story
which he suspected his reputed uncle had trumped up to serve his own
interests.

"Tell your father, if you like," said Hector, quietly. "I don't know
whether he will sustain you or not in your insults, but if he does, then
I shall have two opponents instead of one."

"Does that mean that you will attack my father?" demanded Guy, hoping
for an affirmative answer, as it would help him to prejudice his father
against our hero.

"No," answered Hector, smiling, "I don't apprehend there will be any
necessity, for he won't insult me as you have done."

Guy lost no time in seeking his father, and laying the matter before him,
inveighing against Hector with great bitterness.

"So he knocked you down, did he, Guy?" asked Allan Roscoe, thoughtfully.

"Yes; he took me unawares, or he couldn't have done it," answered Guy, a
little ashamed at the avowal.

"What did you do?"

"I - I told him he should suffer for it."

"Why did he attack you?"

"It was on account of something I said."

"What was it?"

Guy reluctantly answered this question, and with correctness.

"It was your fault for speaking to him when he was feeling sore at
making a painful discovery."

"Do you justify him in pitching into me like a big brute?" asked Guy,
hastily.

"No; but still, I think it, was natural, under the circumstances. You
should have kept out of his way, and let him alone."

"Won't you punish him for attacking me?" demanded Guy, indignantly.

"I will speak to him on the subject," said Allan Roscoe; "and will tell
him my opinion of his act."

"Then shan't I be revenged upon him?" asked Guy, disappointed.

"Listen, Guy," said his father. "Is it no punishment that the boy
is stripped of all his possessions, while you step into his place?
Henceforth he will be dependent upon me, and later, upon you. He has
been hurled down from his proud place as owner of Castle Roscoe, and I
have taken his place, as you will hereafter do."

"Yes," said Guy, gleefully; "it will be a proud day when I become master
of the estate."

Allan Roscoe was not a specially sensitive man, but this remark of his
son jarred upon him.

"You seem to forget, Guy, that you do not succeed till I am dead!"

"Yes, I suppose so," answered Guy, slowly.

"It almost seems as if you were in a hurry for me to die."

"I didn't mean that, but it's natural to suppose that I shall live
longer than you do, isn't it?"

"I suppose so," returned Allan Roscoe, shortly.

"Of course that's what I mean."

"Then, since you are so much better off than Hector, you had better be
more considerate, and leave him to get over his disappointment as well
as he can."

"Shall I send in Hector to see you?" asked Guy, as he at length turned
to leave the room.

"Yes."

"You're to go in to my father," said Guy, reappearing on the lawn; "he's
going to give it to you."

Hector anticipated some such summons, and he had remained in the same
spot, too proud to have it supposed that he shrank from the interview.

With a firm, resolute step, he entered the presence of Allan Roscoe.

"I hear you wish to see me, Mr. Roscoe," he said, manfully.

"Yes, Hector; Guy has come to me with complaints of you."

"If he says I knocked him down for insulting me, he has told you the
truth," said Hector, sturdily.

"That was the substance of what he said, though he did not admit the
insult."

"But for that I should not have attacked him."

"I do not care to interfere in boys' quarrels, except in extreme
cases," said Mr. Roscoe. "I am afraid Guy was aggravating, and you were
unnecessarily violent."

"It doesn't seem to me so," said Hector.

"So I regard it. I have warned him not to add by taunts to the poignancy
of your disappointment. I request you to remember that Guy is my son,
and that I am disposed to follow my brother's directions, and provide
for and educate you."

Hector bowed and retired. He went out with a more favorable opinion of
Allan Roscoe, who had treated the difficulty in a reasonable manner.

Allan Roscoe looked after him as he went out.

"I hate that boy," he said, to himself; "I temporize from motives of
policy, but I mean to tame his haughty spirit yet."




CHAPTER V. PREPARING TO LEAVE HOME.



Allan Roscoe's remonstrance with the two boys had the effect of keeping
the peace between them for the remainder of the week. Guy did not think
it prudent to taunt Hector, unless backed up by his father, and he felt
that the change in their relative positions was satisfaction enough at
present. Besides, his father, in a subsequent conversation, had told Guy
that it was his purpose to place Hector in a boarding school, where the
discipline would be strict, and where he would be thrashed if he proved
rebellious.

"I shall tell Mr. Smith," he added, "that the boy needs a strong hand,
and that I am not only perfectly willing that he should be punished
whenever occasion may call for it, but really desire it."

"Good, good!" commended Guy, gleefully. "I hope old Smith'll lay it on
good."

"I presume he will," said Allan Roscoe, smiling in sympathy with his
son's exuberance. "I am told by a man who knows him that he is a tall
man, strong enough to keep order, and determined to do it."

"I should like to be there to see Hector's first flogging," remarked the
amiable Guy. "I'd rather see it than go to the theater any time."

"I don't see how you can, unless you also enter the school."

"No, thank you," answered Guy. "No boarding school for me. That isn't
my idea of enjoyment. I'd rather stay at home with you. Hector won't be
here to interfere with my using his horse and buggy."

"They are his no longer. I give them to you."

"Thank you, father," said Guy, very much gratified.

"But I would rather you would not use them till after Hector is gone. It
might disturb him."

"That's just why I want to do it."

"But it might make trouble. He might refuse to go to school."

"You'd make him go, wouldn't you, father?"

"Yes; but I wish to avoid forcible measures, if possible. Come, Guy,
it's only till Monday; then Hector will be out of the way, and you can
do as you please without fear of interference."

"All right, father. I'll postpone my fun till he is out of the way.
You'll go with him, won't you?"

"Yes, Guy."

"Just tell old Smith how to treat him. Tell him to show him no mercy, if
he doesn't behave himself."

"You seem to dislike Hector very much. You shouldn't feel so. It isn't
Christian."

Guy looked at his father queerly out of the corner of his eye. He
understood him better than Allan Roscoe supposed.

"I hope you won't insist on my loving him, father," he said. "I leave
that to you."

"I only wish you to avoid coming into collision with him. As for love,
that is something not within our power."

"Will you be ready to go with me to boarding school on Monday morning,
Hector?" asked Allan Roscoe, on Saturday afternoon.

"Yes, sir."

Indeed, Hector felt that it would be a relief to get away from the
house which he had been taught to look upon as his - first by right of
inheritance, and later as actual owner. As long as he remained he was
unpleasantly reminded of the great loss he had experienced. Again,
his relations with Guy were unfriendly, and he knew that if they were
permanently together it wouldn't be long before there would be another
collision. Though in such a case he was sure to come off victorious, he
did not care to contend, especially as no advantage could come of it in
the end.

Of the boarding school kept by Mr. Socrates Smith he had never heard,
but felt that he would, at any rate, prefer to find himself amid new
scenes. If the school were a good one, he meant to derive benefit from
it, for he was fond of books and study, and thought school duties no
task.

"I have carefully selected a school for you," continued Allan Roscoe,
"because I wish to follow out my poor brother's wishes to the letter.
A good education will fit you to maintain yourself, and attain a
creditable station in life, which is very important, since you will have
to carve your own future."

There was no objection to make to all this. Still, it did grate upon
Hector's feelings, to be so often reminded of his penniless position,
when till recently he had regarded himself, and had been regarded by
others, as a boy of large property.

Smithville was accessible by railroad, being on the same line as the
town of Plympton in which Roscoe Castle was situated. There was a train
starting at seven o'clock, which reached Smithville at half-past, eight.
This was felt to be the proper train to take, as it would enable Hector
to reach school before the morning session began. Allan Roscoe, who was
not an early riser, made an effort to rise in time, and succeeded. In
truth, he was anxious to get Hector out of the house. It might be
that the boy's presence was a tacit reproach, it might be that he had
contracted a dislike for him. At any rate, when Hector descended to the
breakfast room, he found Mr. Roscoe already there.

"You are in time, Hector," said Mr. Roscoe. "I don't know how early they
will get up at school, but I hope it won't be earlier than this."

"I have no objection to early rising," said Hector.

"I have," said Allan Roscoe, gaping.

"I am sorry to have inconvenienced you," said Hector, politely. "I could
have gone to school alone."

"No doubt; but I wished an interview with Mr. Socrates Smith myself. I
look upon myself in the light of your guardian, though you are not my
nephew, as was originally supposed."

"I'd give a good deal to know whether this is true," thought Hector,
fixing his eyes attentively upon his uncle's face.

I have written "uncle" inadvertently, that being the character in which
Mr. Roscoe appeared to the world.

"By the way, Hector," said Allan Roscoe, "there is one matter which we
have not yet settled."

"What is that, sir?"

"About your name."

"My name is Hector Roscoe."

"I beg your pardon. Assuming by brother's communication to be true, and
I think you will not question his word, you have no claim to the name."

"To what name have I a claim, then?" asked Hector, pointedly.

"To the name of your father - the last name, I mean. I have no objection
to your retaining the name of Hector."

"What was the name of my father?" asked the boy.

"Ahem! My brother did not mention that in his letter. Quite an omission,
I must observe."

"Then it is clear that he meant to have me retain his own name," said
Hector, decisively.

"That does not follow."

"As I know no other name to which I have a claim, I shall certainly keep
the name of the kindest friend I ever had, whether he was my father or
not," said Hector, firmly.

Allan Roscoe looked annoyed.

"Really," he said, "I think this ill-judged, very ill-judged. It will
lead to misapprehension. It will deceive people into the belief that you
are a real Roscoe."

"I don't know but I am," answered Hector, with a calm look of defiance,
which aggravated Allan Roscoe.

"Have I not told you you are not?" he said, frowning.

"You have; but you have not proved it," said Hector.

"I am surprised that you should cling to a foolish delusion. You are
only preparing trouble for yourself. If my word is not sufficient - "

"You are an interested party. This story, if true, gives you my
property."

"At any rate, you may take your father's - I mean my brother's - word for
it."

"If he had told me so, I would believe it," said Hector.

"You have it in black and white, in the paper I showed you. What more do
you want?"

"I want to be sure that that document is genuine. However, I won't argue
the question now. I have only been giving you my reasons for keeping the
name I have always regarded as mine."

Allan Roscoe thought it best to drop the subject; but the boy's
persistency disturbed him.




CHAPTER VI. SMITH INSTITUTE.



Socrates Smith, A. M., was not always known by the philosophic name
by which he challenged the world's respect as a man of learning and
distinguished attainments. When a boy in his teens, and an academy
student, he was known simply as Shadrach Smith. His boy companions used
to address him familiarly as Shad. It was clear that no pedagogue could
retain the respect of his pupils who might readily be metamorphosed into
Old Shad. By the advice of a brother preacher, he dropped the plebeian
name, and bloomed forth as Socrates Smith, A. M.

I may say, in confidence, that no one knew from what college Mr. Smith
obtained the degree of Master of Arts. He always evaded the question
himself, saying that it was given him by a Western university causa
honoris.

It might be, or it might not. At any rate, he was allowed to wear
the title, since no one thought it worth while to make the necessary
examination into its genuineness. Nor, again, had anyone been able to
discover at what college the distinguished Socrates had studied. In
truth, he had never even entered college, but he had offered himself as
a candidate for admission to a college in Ohio, and been rejected. This
did not, however, prevent his getting up a school, and advertising to
instruct others in the branches of learning of which his own knowledge
was so incomplete.

He was able to hide his own deficiencies, having generally in his employ
some college graduate, whose poverty compelled him to accept the scanty
wages which Socrates doled out to him. These young men were generally
poor scholars in more than one sense of the word, as Mr. Smith did not
care to pay the high salary demanded by a first-class scholar. Mr. Smith
was shrewd enough not to attempt to instruct the classes in advanced
classics or mathematics, as he did not care to have his deficiencies
understood by his pupils.

It pleased him best to sit in state and rule the school, administering
reproofs and castigations where he thought fit, and, best of all, to
manage the finances. Though his price was less than that of many other
schools, his profits were liberal, as he kept down expenses. His table
was exceedingly frugal, as his boarding pupils could have testified, and
the salaries he paid to under teachers were pitifully small.

So it was that, year by year, Socrates Smith, A. M., found himself
growing richer, while his teachers grew more shabby, and his pupils
rarely became fat.

Allan Roscoe took a carriage from the depot to the school.

Arrived at the gate, he descended, and Hector followed him.

The school building was a long, rambling, irregular structure, of no
known order of architecture, bearing some resemblance to a factory. The
ornament of architecture Mr. Smith did not regard. He was strictly of a
utilitarian cast of mind. So long as the institute, as he often called
it, afforded room for the school and scholars he did not understand what
more was wanted.

"Is Mr. Smith at leisure?" Mr. Roscoe asked of a bare-arm servant girl
who answered the bell.

"I guess he's in his office," was the reply.

"Take him this card," said Mr. Roscoe. The girl inspected the card with
some curiosity, and carried it to the eminent principal. When Socrates
Smith read upon the card the name

ALLAN ROSCOE,

and, penciled in the corner, "with a pupil," he said, briskly:

"Bring the gentleman in at once, Bridget."

As Mr. Roscoe entered, Mr. Smith beamed upon him genially. It was thus
he always received those who brought to him new scholars. As he always
asked half a term's tuition and board in advance, every such visitor
represented to him so much ready cash, and for ready cash Socrates had a
weakness.

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Roscoe," said the learned principal,
advancing to meet his visitor. "And this is the young lad. Dear me! he
is very well grown, and looks like he was fond of his books."

This was not exactly the way in which a learned scholar might be
expected to talk; but Mr. Smith's speech was not always elegant, or even
grammatically correct.

"I believe he is reasonably fond of study," said Mr. Roscoe. "Hector,
this is your future instructor, Prof. Socrates Smith."

At the name of professor, which he much affected, Socrates Smith looked
positively benignant.

"My young friend," he said, "we will try to make you happy. Smith
Institute is a regular beehive, full of busy workers, who are preparing
themselves for the duties and responsibilities of life. I aim to be a
father to my pupils, and Mrs. Smith is a mother to them. I am truly glad
to receive you into my happy family."

Hector scanned attentively the face of his new teacher. He was not
altogether prepossessed in his favor. That the reader may judge whether
he had reason to be, let me describe Mr. Smith.

He was a trifle over six feet in height, with yellowish, sandy hair,
high cheek bones, a rough and mottled skin, a high but narrow forehead,
a pair of eyes somewhat like those of a ferret, long, ungainly limbs,
and a shambling walk. A coat of rusty black, with very long tails,
magnified his apparent height, and nothing that he wore seemed made for
him.

Perhaps, as the first Socrates was said to have been the homeliest of
all the Athenians, it was fitting that the man who assumed his name
should also have the slightest possible claim to beauty.

"He may be a learned man," thought Hector, "but he is certainly plain
enough. It is well that he has something to compensate for his looks."

"I hope you are glad to come here, my boy," said Socrates, affably. "I
sincerely trust that you will be contented at the institute."

"I hope so, too," said Hector, but he evidently spoke doubtfully.

"I should like a little conversation with you, Professor Smith," said
Allan Roscoe. "I don't know that it is necessary to keep Hector here
during our interview."

Socrates took the hint.

He rang a hand bell, and a lank boy, of fifteen, appeared.

"Wilkius," said Mr. Smith, "this is a new scholar, Hector Roscoe. Take
him to the playground, and introduce him to Mr. Crabb."

"All right, sir. Come along."

This last was addressed to Hector, who went out with the new boy.

"I thought it best to speak with you briefly about Hector, Professor
Smith," commenced Allan Roscoe.

"Very appropriate and gratifying, Mr. Roscoe. I can assure you he will
be happy here."

"I dare say," returned Mr. Roscoe, carelessly. "I wish to guard you
against misinterpreting my wishes. I don't want the boy pampered, or too
much indulged."

"We never pamper our boarding pupils," said Socrates, and it is quite
certain that he spoke the truth.

"It spoils boys to be too well treated."

"So it does," said Socrates, eagerly. "Plain, wholesome diet, without
luxury, and a kind, but strict discipline - such are the features of
Smith Institute."

"Quite right and judicious, professor. I may remark that the boy, though
reared in luxury by my brother, is really penniless."

"You don't say so?"

"Yes, he is solely dependent upon my generosity. I propose, however, to
give him a good education at my own expense, and prepare him to earn his
living in some useful way."

"Kind philanthropist!" exclaimed Socrates. "He ought, indeed, to be
grateful."

"I doubt if he will," said Mr. Roscoe, shrugging his shoulders. "He has
a proud spirit, and a high idea of his own position, though he is of
unknown parentage, and has nothing of his own."

"Indeed!"

"I merely wish to say that you do not need to treat him as if he were
my nephew. It is best to be strict with him, and make him conform to the
rules."

"I will, indeed, Mr. Roscoe. Would that all guardians of youth were as
judicious! Your wishes shall be regarded."

After a little more conversation, Allan Roscoe took his leave.

So, under auspices not the most pleasant, Hector's school life began.




CHAPTER VII. THE TYRANT OF THE PLAYGROUND.



Under the guidance of the lank boy, named Wilkins, Hector left Mr.
Smith's office, and walked to a barren-looking plot of ground behind the
house, which served as a playground for the pupils of Smith Institute.

Wilkins scanned the new arrival closely.

"I say, Roscoe," he commenced, "what made you come here?"

"Why do boys generally come to school?" returned Hector.

"Because they have to, I suppose," answered Wilkins.

"I thought they came to study."

"Oh, you're one of that sort, are you?" asked Wilkins, curiously.

"I hope to learn something here."

"You'll get over that soon," answered Wilkins, in the tone of one who
could boast of a large experience.

"I hope not. I shall want to leave school if I find I can't learn here."

"Who is it that brought you here - your father?"

"No, indeed!" answered Hector, quickly, for he had no desire to be
considered the son of Allan Roscoe.

"Uncle, then?"

"He is my guardian," answered Hector, briefly.

They were by this time in the playground. Some dozen boys were playing
baseball. They were of different ages and sizes, ranging from ten to
nineteen. The oldest and largest bore such a strong personal resemblance
to Socrates Smith, that Hector asked if he were his son.

"No," answered Wilkins; "he is old Sock's nephew."

"Who is old Sock?"

"Smith, of course. His name is Socrates, you know. Don't let him catch
you calling him that, though."

"What sort of a fellow is this nephew?" asked Hector.

"He's a bully. He bosses the boys. It's best to keep on the right side
of Jim."

"Oh, is it?" inquired Hector, smiling slightly.

"Well, I should say so."

"Suppose you don't?"

"He'll give you a thrashing."

"Does his uncle allow that?"


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Online LibraryHoratio AlgerHector's Inheritance, Or, the Boys of Smith Institute → online text (page 2 of 12)