Horatio Alger.

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

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The method did not immediately occur to him, but after a while he saw
his way clear.

His uncle's bedchamber was on the second floor, and Jim's directly over
it on the third story. Some of the other boys, including Hector, had
rooms also on the third floor.

Jim was going upstairs one day when, through the door of his uncle's
chamber, which chanced to be open, he saw a wallet lying on the bureau.
On the impulse of the moment, he walked in on tiptoes, secured the
wallet, and slipped it hurriedly into his pocket. Then he made all haste
upstairs, and bolted himself into his own room. Two other boys slept
there, but both were downstairs in the playground.

Jim took the wallet from his pocket and eagerly scanned the contents.
There were eight five-dollar bills and ten dollars in small bills,
besides a few papers, which may be accurately described as of no value
to anyone but the owner.

The boy's face assumed a covetous look. He, as well as his uncle, was
fond of money - a taste which, unfortunately, as he regarded it, he was
unable to gratify. His family was poor, and he was received at half
price by Socrates Smith on the score of relationship, but his allowance
of pocket money was less than that of many of the small boys. He made
up the deficiency, in part, by compelling them to contribute to his
pleasures. If any boy purchased candy, or any other delicacy, Jim, if he
learned the fact, required him to give him a portion, just as the feudal
lords exacted tribute from their serfs and dependents. Still, this was
not wholly satisfactory, and Jim longed, instead, for a supply of money
to spend as he chose.

So the thought came to him, as he scanned the contents of the wallet:
"Why shouldn't I take out one or two of these bills before disposing of
it? No one will lay it to me."

The temptation proved too strong for Jim's power of resistance. He
selected a five-dollar bill and five dollars in small bills, and
reluctantly replaced the rest of the money in the wallet.

"So far, so good!" he thought. "That's a good idea."

Then, unlocking the door, he passed along the entry till he came to the
room occupied by Hector. As he or one of the two boys who roomed with
him might be in the room, he looked first through the keyhole.

"The coast is clear!" he said to himself, in a tone of satisfaction.

Still, he opened the door cautiously, and stepped with catlike tread
into the room. Then he looked about the room. Hanging on nails were
several garments belonging to the inmates of the room. Jim selected a
pair of pants which he knew belonged to Hector, and hurrying forward,
thrust the wallet into one of the side pockets. Then, with a look of
satisfaction, he left the room, shutting the door carefully behind him.

"There," he said to himself, with exultation. "That'll fix him! Perhaps
he'll wish he hadn't put on quite so many airs."

He was rather annoyed, as he walked along the corridor, back to his
own room, to encounter Wilkins. He had artfully chosen a time when he
thought all the boys would be out, and he heartily wished that some
untoward chance had not brought Wilkins in.

"Where are you going, Jim?" asked Wilkins.

"I went to Bates' room, thinking he might be in, but he wasn't."

"Do you want him? I left him out on the playground."

"Oh, it's no matter! It'll keep!" said Jim, indifferently.

"I got out of that pretty well!" he reflected complacently.

Perhaps Jim Smith would not have felt quite so complacent, if he had
known that at the time he entered Hector's room it was occupied, though
he could not see the occupant. It so chanced that Ben Platt, one of
Hector's roommates, was in the closet, concealed from the view of anyone
entering the room, yet so placed that he could see through the partially
open door what wras passing in the room.

When he saw Jim Smith enter he was surprised, for he knew that that
young man was not on visiting terms with the boy who had discomfited and
humiliated him.

"What on earth can Jim want?" he asked himself.

He did not have long to wait for an answer though not a real one; but
actions, as men have often heard, speak louder than words.

When he saw Jim steal up to Hector's pants, and producing a wallet,
hastily thrust it into one of the pockets, he could hardly believe the
testimony of his eyes.

"Well!" he ejaculated, inwardly, "I would not have believed it if I
hadn't seen it. I knew Jim was a bully and a tyrant, but I didn't think
he was as contemptible as all that."

The wallet he recognized at once, for he had more than once seen
Socrates take it out of his pocket.

"It's old Sock's wallet!" he said to himself. "It's clear that Jim has
taken it, and means to have it found in Roscoe's possession. That's as
mean a trick as I ever heard of."

Just then Wilkins entered the room. Wilkins and Ben Platt were Hector's
two roommates.

"Hello, Wilkins! I'm glad you've come just as you have."

"What for, Platt? Do you want to borrow some money?"

"No; there is more money in this room now than there has been for a long

"What do you mean? The governor hasn't sent you a remittance, has he?"


"Expound your meaning, then, most learned and mysterious chum."

"I will. Within five minutes Jim Smith has been here and left a wallet
of money."

"Jim been here? I met him in the corridor."

"I warrant he didn't say he had been here."

"No; he said he had been to Bates' room, but didn't find him there."

"That's all gammon! Wilkins, what will you say when I tell you that old
Sock's wallet is in this very room!"

"I won't believe it!"

"Look here, then!"

As he spoke, Ben went to Hector's pants and drew out the wallet.

Wilkins started in surprise and dismay.

"How did Roscoe come by that?" he asked; "surely he didn't take it?"

"Of course he didn't. You might know Roscoe better. Didn't you hear me
say just now that Jim brought it here?"

"And put it in Roscoe's pocket?"


"In your presence?"

"Yes; only he didn't know that I was present," said Platt.

"Where were you?"

"In the closet. The door was partly open, and I saw everything."

"What does it all mean?"

"Can't you see? It's Jim's way of coming up with Roscoe. You know he
threatened that he'd fix him."

"All I can say is, that it's a very mean way," said Wilkins in disgust.

He was not a model boy - far from it, indeed! - but he had a sentiment of
honor that made him dislike and denounce a conspiracy like this.

"It's a dirty trick," he said, warmly.

"I agree with you on that point." "What shall we do about it?"

"Lay low, and wait till the whole thing comes out. When Sock discovers
his loss, Jim will be on hand to tell him where his wallet is. Then we
can up and tell all we know."

"Good! There's a jolly row coming!" said Wilkins, smacking his lips.


Socrates Smith was, ordinarily, so careful of his money, that it was a
very remarkable inadvertence to leave it on the bureau. Nor was it long
before he ascertained his loss. He was sitting at his desk when his
wife looked in at the door, and called for a small sum for some domestic

With an ill grace - for Socrates hated to part with his money - he put his
hand into the pocket where he usually kept his wallet.

"Really, Mrs. Smith," he was saying, "it seems to me you are always
wanting money - why, bless my soul!" and such an expression of
consternation and dismay swept over his face, that his wife hurriedly

"What is the matter, Mr. Smith?"

"Matter enough!" he gasped. "My wallet is gone!"

"Gone!" echoed his wife, in alarm. "Where can you have left it?"

Mr. Smith pressed his hand to his head in painful reflection.

"How much money was there in it, Socrates?" asked his wife.

"Between forty and fifty dollars!" groaned Mr. Smith. "If I don't find
it, Sophronia, I am a ruined man!"

This was, of course, an exaggeration, but it showed the poignancy of the
loser's regret.

"Can't you think where you left it?"

Suddenly Mr. Smith's face lighted up.

"I remember where I left it, now," he said; "I was up in the chamber an
hour since, and, while changing my coat, took out my wallet, and laid it
on the bureau. I'll go right up and look for it."

"Do, Socrates."

Mr. Smith bounded up the staircase with the agility of a man of half
his years, and hopefully opened the door of his chamber, which Jim had
carefully closed after him. His first glance was directed at the bureau,
but despair again settled down sadly upon his heart when he saw that it
was bare. There was no trace of the missing wallet.

"It may have fallen on the carpet," said Socrates, hope reviving

There was not a square inch of the cheap Kidderminster carpet that he
did not scan earnestly, greedily, but, alas! the wallet, if it had ever
been there, had mysteriously taken to itself locomotive powers, and
wandered away into the realm of the unknown and the inaccessible.

Yet, searching in the chambers of his memory, Mr. Smith felt sure that
he had left the wallet on the bureau. He could recall the exact moment
when he laid it down, and he recollected that he had not taken it again.

"Some one has taken it!" he decided; and wrath arose in his heart, He
snapped his teeth together in stern anger, as he determined that
he would ferret out the miserable thief, and subject him to condign

Mrs. Smith, tired of waiting for the appearance of her husband, ascended
the stairs and entered his presence.

"Well?" she said.

"I haven't found it," answered Socrates, tragically. "Mrs. Smith, the
wallet has been stolen!"

"Are you sure that you left it here?" asked his wife.

"Sure!" he repeated, in a hollow tone. "I am as sure as that the sun
rose to-morrow - I mean yesterday."

"Was the door open?"

"No; but that signifies nothing. It wasn't locked, and anyone could

"Is it possible that we have a thief in the institute?" said Mrs. Smith,
nervously. "Socrates, I shan't sleep nights. Think of the spoons!"

"They're only plated."

"And my earrings."

"You could live without earrings. Think, rather, of the wallet, with
nearly fifty dollars in bills."

"Who do you think took it, Socrates?"

"I have no idea; but I will find out. Yes, I will find out. Come
downstairs, Mrs. Smith; we will institute inquiries."

When Mr. Smith had descended to the lower floor, and was about entering
the office, it chanced that his nephew was just entering the house.

"What's the matter, Uncle Socrates?" he asked; "you look troubled."

"And a good reason why, James; I have met with a loss."

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Jim, in innocent wonder; "what is it?"

"A wallet, with a large amount of money in it!"

"Perhaps there is a hole in your pocket," suggested Jim.

"A hole - large enough for my big wallet to fall through! Don't be such a

"Excuse me, uncle," said Jim, meekly; "of course that is impossible.
When do you remember having it last?"

Of course Socrates told the story, now familiar to us, and already
familiar to his nephew, though he did not suspect that.

Jim struck his forehead, as if a sudden thought had occurred to him.

"Could it be?" he said, slowly, as if to himself; "no, I can't believe

"Can't believe what?" demanded Socrates, impatiently; "if you have any
clew, out with it!"

"I hardly like to tell, Uncle Socrates, for it implicates one of the

"Which?" asked Mr. Smith, eagerly.

"I will tell you, though I don't like to. Half an hour since, I was
coming upstairs, when I heard a door close, as I thought, and, directly
afterward, saw Hector Roscoe hurrying up the stairs to the third floor.
I was going up there myself, and followed him. Five minutes later
he came out of his room, looking nervous and excited. I didn't think
anything of it at the time, but I now think that he entered your room,
took the wallet, and then carried it up to his own chamber and secreted

"Hector Roscoe!" repeated Mr. Smith, in amazement. "I wouldn't have
supposed that he was a thief."

"Nor I; and perhaps he isn't. It might be well, however, to search his

"I will!" answered Socrates, with eagerness, "Come up, James, and you,
Mrs. Smith, come up, too!"

The trio went upstairs, and entered poor Hector's room. It was not
unoccupied, for Ben Platt and Wilkins were there. They anticipated a
visit, and awaited it with curious interest. They rose to their feet
when the distinguished visitors arrived.

"Business of importance brings us here," said Socrates. "Platt and
Wilkins, you may leave the room."

The boys exchanged glances, and obeyed.

"Wilkins," said Ben, when they were in the corridor, "it is just as I
thought. Jim has set a trap for Roscoe."

"He may get caught himself," said Wilkins. "I ain't oversqueamish, but
that is too confounded mean! Of course you'll tell all you know?"

"Yes; and I fancy it will rather surprise Mr. Jim. I wish they had let
us stay in there."

Meanwhile, Jim skillfully directed the search.

"He may have put it under the mattress," suggested Jim.

Socrates darted to the bed, and lifted up the mattress, but no wallet
revealed itself to his searching eyes.

"No; it is not here!" he said, in a tone of disappointment; "the boy may
have it about him. I will send for him."

"Wait a moment, Uncle Socrates," said Jim; "there is a pair of pants
which I recognize as his."

Mr. Smith immediately thrust his hand into one of the pockets and drew
out the wallet!

"Here it is!" he exclaimed, joyfully. "Here it is!"

"Then Roscoe is a thief! I wouldn't have thought it!" said Jim.

"Nor I. I thought the boy was of too good family to stoop to such a
thing. But now I remember, Mr. Allan Roscoe told me he was only adopted
by his brother. He is, perhaps, the son of a criminal."

"Very likely!" answered Jim, who was glad to believe anything derogatory
to Hector.

"What are you going to do about it, uncle?"

"I shall bring the matter before the school. I will disgrace the boy
publicly," answered Socrates Smith, sternly. "He deserves the exposure."

"Aha, Master Roscoe!" said Jim, gleefully, to himself; "I rather think I
shall get even with you, and that very soon."


It was generally after vespers that Mr. Smith communicated to the school
anything which he desired to call to their attention. This was to be the
occasion of bringing our hero into disgrace.

The boys assembled, most of them quite ignorant that anything
exceptional was to occur. Hector himself, the person chiefly interested,
was entirely unconscious that he was to be made "a shining mark" for
the arrows of suspicion and obloquy. If he had noticed the peculiar and
triumphantly malicious looks with which Jim Smith, the bully and tyrant,
whom he had humiliated and deposed, regarded him, he might have been led
to infer that some misfortune was in store for him. But these looks he
did not chance to notice.

There were two other boys, however, who did notice them. These were Ben
Platt and Wil-kins, who had very good reasons, as we know, for doing so.

"I believe old Sock is going to pitch into Roscoe at vespers," said Ben,
in a whisper, to his roommate.

"So do I. There's a look about him like that of a tiger about to pounce
on his prey."

"Or a cat with murderous designs on a mouse."

"We must expose the whole thing."

"Of course."

"Won't Jim be mad?"

"Let him! He won't dare to thrash us while Roscoe is round."

There was, indeed, about Socrates Smith an air of mystery, portentous
and suggestive. He looked like one meditating a coup d'etat, or,
perhaps, it might better be said, a coup de main, as the hand is with
schoolmasters, generally, the instrument of attack.

When the proper time arrived, Mr. Smith cleared his throat, as he always
did before beginning to speak.

"Boys," he said, "I have an important, and I may say, a painful,
communication to make to you."

All the boys looked at each other in curiosity, except the three who
were already in the secret.

"You know, boys," continued Socrates, "how proud I am of this institute,
how zealous I am for its good reputation, how unwearied I am in my
efforts for your progress and welfare."

Mr. Smith's unwearied efforts were largely in the line of making out and
receipting bills for tuition, and it may be said that this was to him by
far the most agreeable of the duties he undertook to perform.

"I have been proud of my pupils," continued the principal, "and it has
given me pleasure to reflect that you all reflected credit, more or
less, upon my teaching. I have, also, sought to form your manners, to
train you to fill the positions which Providence may have in store for
you. In a word, while from time to time you may have indulged in little
escapades, slightly-culpable, I have felt that you were all gentlemen."

"What in the world does he mean?" thought more than one puzzled boy.
"What is all this leading to?"

Among those to whom this thought occurred, was Hector Roscoe, who was
very far from conjecturing that all this long preamble was to introduce
an attack upon him.

"But," proceeded Socrates, after a pause, "I have this afternoon been
painfully undeceived. I have learned, with inexpressible pain, that
Smith Institute has received an ineffaceable stigma."

"Old Sock is getting eloquent!" whispered Ben Platt.

"I have learned," continued Socrates, with tragic intensity, "that I
have nourished a viper in my bosom! I have learned that we have a thief
among us!"

This declaration was greeted with a buzz of astonishment. Each boy
looked at his next door neighbor as if to inquire, "Is it you?"

Each one, except the three who were behind the scenes. Of these, Jim
Smith, with an air of supreme satisfaction, looked in a sidelong way at
Hector, unconscious the while that two pairs of eyes - those of Wilkins
and Ben Platt - were fixed upon him.

"I thought you would be surprised," said the principal, "except, of
course, the miserable criminal. But I will not keep you in suspense.
To-day, by inadvertence, I left my wallet, containing a considerable
sum of money, on the bureau in my chamber. An hour later, discovering
my loss, I went upstairs, but the wallet was gone. It had mysteriously
disappeared. I was at a loss to understand this at first, but I soon
found a clew. I ascertained that a boy - a boy who is presently one of
the pupils of Smith Institute - had entered my chamber, had appropriated
the wallet, had carried it to his dormitory, and there had slyly
concealed it in the pocket of a pair of pants. Doubtless, he thought his
theft would not be discovered, but it was, and I myself discovered the
missing wallet in its place of concealment."

Here Mr. Smith paused, and it is needless to say that the schoolroom
was a scene of great excitement. His tone was so impressive, and
his statement so detailed, that no one could doubt that he had most
convincing evidence of the absolute accuracy of what he said.

"Who was it?" every boy had it on his lips to inquire.

"Three hours have elapsed since my discovery," continued Mr. Smith.
"During that time I have felt unnerved. I have, however, written and
posted an account of this terrible discovery to the friends of the pupil
who has so disgraced himself and the school."

Ben Platt and Wilkins exchanged glances of indignation. They felt that
Mr. Smith had been guilty of a piece of outrageous injustice in acting
thus before he had apprised the supposed offender of the charge against
him, and heard his defense. Both boys decided that they would not spare
Jim Smith, but at all hazards expose the contemptible plot which he had
contrived against his schoolfellow.

"I waited, however, till I was somewhat more calm before laying the
matter before you. I know you will all be anxious to know the name of
the boy who has brought disgrace upon the school to which you belong,
and I am prepared to reveal it to you. Hector Roscoe, stand up!"

If a flash of lightning had struck him where he sat, Hector could not
have been more astonished. For a moment he was struck dumb, and did not

"Stand up, Hector Roscoe!" repeated the principal. "No wonder you sit
there as if paralyzed. You did not expect that so soon your sin would
find you out."

Then Hector recovered completely his self-possession. He sprang to his
feet, and not only that, but he strode forward, blazing with passion,
till he stood before Mr. Smith's desk and confronted him.

"Mr. Smith!" he said, in a ringing tone, "do I understand you to charge
me with stealing a wallet of yours containing money?"

"I do so charge you, and I have complete evidence of the truth of my
charge. What have you to say?"

"What have I to say?" repeated Hector, looking around him proudly and
scornfully. "I have to say that it is an infamous lie!"

"Hold, sir!" exclaimed Socrates, angrily. "Shameless boy, do you intend
to brazen it out? Did I not tell you that I had complete proof of the
truth of the charge?"

"I don't care what fancied proof you have. I denounce the charge as a

"That won't do, sir! I myself took the wallet from the pocket of your
pantaloons, hanging in the chamber. Mrs. Smith was with me and witnessed
my discovery, and there was another present, one of the pupils of this
institute, who also can testify to the fact. It is useless for you to
deny it!"

"You found the wallet in the pocket of my pantaloons?" asked Hector,

"Yes. There can be no doubt about that."

"Who put it there?" demanded Hector, quickly.

Socrates Smith was staggered, for he had not expected this query from
the accused.

"Who put it there?" he repeated.

"Yes, sir," continued Hector, firmly. "If the matter is as you state it,
some one has been mean enough to put the wallet into my pocket in order
to implicate me in a theft."

"Of course you put it there yourself, Roscoe. Your defense is very

Hector turned round to his fellow-scholars.

"Boys," he said, "you have heard the charge that has been made against
me. You know me pretty well by this time. Is there any one of you that
believes it to be true?"

"No! No!" shouted the boys, with one exception. Jim Smith was heard to
say distinctly, "I believe it!"

"Silence in the school!" shouted Socrates. "This is altogether
irregular, and I won't have it."

Hector turned to the principal, and said, calmly:

"You see, Mr. Smith, that, in spite of your proof, these boys will not
believe that your charge is well founded."

"That is neither here nor there, Roscoe. Will anyone step up and prove
your innocence?"

There was another sensation. In the second row back a boy was seen to

"Mr. Smith," said Ben Platt, "I can prove Roscoe's innocence!"


There were two persons on whom Ben Platt's declaration made a profound
impression. These were Jim Smith and his uncle, the learned Socrates.
The latter was surprised, for he was fully persuaded that the charge
he had made was a true one, and Hector was a thief. As for Jim, his
surprise was of a very disagreeable nature. Knowing as he did that, he
himself had taken the money, he was alarmed lest his offense was to
be made known, and that the pit which he had digged for another should
prove to be provided for himself.

Socrates was the first to speak after taking time to recover himself
from his surprise.

"This is a very extraordinary statement, Platt," he said. "You say you
can prove Roscoe's innocence?"

"Yes, sir," answered Platt, firmly.

"I wish no trifling here, sir," said the principal, sharply. "I myself
found the wallet in Roscoe's pocket."

"Yes, sir," answered Ben Platt, "I know it was there."

"You knew it was there!" repeated Socrates. "How did you know it was

"Because I saw it put in."

Here Jim Smith's face turned from red to pale, and he moved about
uneasily in his seat. "Could Ben Platt have been hidden somewhere in the
room?" he asked himself, "If so, what was he to do?" There was but one
answer to this question. He must brazen it out, and boldly contradict
the witness. But he would bide his time. He would wait to hear what Ben
had to say.

"Did you put it in yourself?" asked Socrates, savagely.

"No, Mr. Smith, I didn't put it in," answered Ben, indignantly.

"None of your impudence, sir!" said the schoolmaster, irritated.

"I merely answered your question and defended myself," answered Ben.

There was a little murmur among the pupils, showing that their sympathy
was with the boy who had been so causelessly accused by the principal.

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