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

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"Silence!" exclaimed Socrates, annoyed. "Now," he continued, turning
to Ben, "since you know who put the wallet into Roscoe's pocket - a very
remarkable statement, by the way - will you deign to inform me who did
it?"

"James Smith did it!" said Ben, looking over to the principal's nephew,
who was half expecting such an attack.

"It's a base lie!" cried Jim, but his face was blanched, his manner was
nervous and confused, and he looked guilty, if he were not so.

"My nephew?" asked Socrates, flurried.

"Yes, sir."

"It isn't so, Uncle Socrates," said Jim, excited. "I'll lick you, Ben
Platt, when we get out of school."

"You forget yourself, James," said Socrates, with a mildness he would
not have employed with any other pupil.

"I beg your pardon, Uncle Socrates," said Jim, with contrition, "but I
can't be silent when I am accused of things I don't do."

"To be sure, you have some excuse, but you should remember the respect
you owe to me. Then you did not do it?"

"Certainly not, sir."

"So it appears, Platt, that you have brought a false charge against
your fellow-pupil," said Mr. Smith, severely. "I can conceive of nothing
meaner."

"Mr. Smith," said Hector, "what right have you to say that the charge is
false? Is it the denial of your nephew? If he took the wallet he would,
of course, deny it."

"So would you!" retorted Socrates.

"No one saw me conceal it," said Hector, significantly.

Then Wilkins rose.

"Mr. Smith," he said, "I have some evidence to offer."

"Out with it, sir," said the principal, angrily, for he was fighting
against an inward conviction that his nephew was really the guilty
party.

"I was walking along the corridor about the time Platt speaks of Smith's
visit to Roscoe's room, and I met your nephew walking in the opposite
direction. When I entered the room, Platt told me that, half-concealed
by the closet door, he had seen Jim Smith enter and thrust the wallet
into Roscoe's pocket. Soon after, you and Mrs. Smith came into the
room, guided by your nephew, who let you know just where the wallet was
hidden. He had very good reasons for knowing," added Wilkins.

If a look would have annihilated Wilkins, the look directed towards him
by Jim Smith would have had that effect.

"It's a conspiracy against me, Uncle Socrates," said Jim, intent upon
brazening it out. "They're all in league together."

"The testimony of Wilkins doesn't amount to much!" said Mr. Smith. "He
may have seen James in the corridor, but that is by no means a part of
his complicity in this affair."

"Just so!" said Jim, eagerly.

"Ben Platt's evidence ought to count for something," said Hector. "He
saw your nephew putting the wallet into the pocket of my pants."

Socrates was clearly perplexed. In spite of his partiality for his
nephew, the case against him certainly looked very strong.

Hector, however, determined to make his defense even stronger.

"I would like to ask Platt," he said, "at what time this took place?"

"At three o'clock."

"How do you know it was three?" asked the principal, sharply.

"Because I heard the clock on the village church strike three."

"I would like to ask another boy - Frank Lewis - if he heard the clock
strike three?"

Lewis answered in the affirmative.

"Where were you at the time?"

"In the playground."

"What were you doing?"

"Playing ball."

"Was I in the game?"

"Yes."

"How long had the game been going on?"

"Half an hour."

"How long had the game been going on, do you know?"

"From half to three-quarters of an hour."

"Can you remember whether I was with you all the time?"

"You were."

"Now, Platt, will you tell me how long after the wallet was put into my
pocket before Mr. Smith appeared in search of it?"

"Not over half an hour."

"I submit, then," said Hector, in a matter-of-fact manner, "that I was
absent in the playground during the entire time when it was found in
my room. I believe this is what lawyers call an alibi that I have,
fortunately, been able to prove."

"You are a very smart lawyer!" sneered the principal.

The boys were by this time so incensed at Mr. Smith's evident effort to
clear his nephew at the expense of Roscoe, that there was a very audible
hiss, in which at least half a dozen joined.

"Is this rebellion?" asked Socrates, furiously.

"No, sir," said Ben Platt, firmly. "We want justice done; that is all."

"You shall have justice - all of you!" exclaimed Socrates, carried beyond
the limits of prudence.

"I am glad to hear that, sir," said Hector. "If you do not at once
exonerate me from this charge, which you know to be false, and write to
my guardian retracting it, I will bring the matter before the nearest
magistrate."

This was more than Socrates had bargained for. He saw that he had gone
too far, and was likely to wreck his prospects and those of the school.

"I will look into the matter," he said, hurriedly, "and report to the
school hereafter. You may now apply yourselves to your studies."




CHAPTER XXI. THE USHER IS DISCHARGED.



Among the boys of Smith Institute there was but one opinion on the
subject of the principal's wallet. All acquitted Roscoe of having any
part in the theft, and they were equally unanimous in the belief that
Jim Smith had contrived a mean plot against the boy whom he could not
conquer by fair means. There was a little informal consultation as
to how Jim should be treated. It was finally decided to "send him to
Coventry."

As this phrase, which is well understood in English schools, may not be
so clear to my readers, I will explain that Jim was to be refused notice
by his schoolfellows, unless he should become aggressive, when he was to
be noticed in a manner far from agreeable.

Jim could not help observing the cold looks of the boys, who but lately
were glad enough to receive notice from him, and he became very angry.
As to being ashamed of the exposure, he was not sensitive, nor did
he often have any feeling of that kind. Naturally vindictive, he
felt especially angry with the two boys, Ben Platt and Wilkins, whose
testimony had proved so uncomfortable for him.

"I'll thrash those boys if I never thrash another," he said to himself.
"So they have turned against me, have they? They're only fit to black my
boots anyway. I'll give 'em a lesson."

Platt and Wilkins were expecting an attack. They knew that Jim would
seize the opportunity of attacking them singly, and in the absence of
Hector, of whom he was afraid, and with good reason. They concerted
measures, accordingly, for defeating the common enemy.

Jim was stalking about the next day, looking sullen and feeling ugly.
He could not help observing that whenever he approached a group of boys
they immediately scattered and walked away in various directions. This
naturally chafed him, for, having no intellectual resources, he found
solitude oppressive. Besides, he had been accustomed to the role of
boss, and where is a boss without followers?

Tired of the schoolroom precincts, Jim went to walk. In a rustic lane,
much to his delight, he saw approaching him one of the boys who had so
seriously offended him.

It was Ben Platt.

Ben was sauntering along in idle mood when he came face to face with the
dethroned boss.

"So it's you, Platt, is it?" said Jim, grimly.

"I believe it is," answered Ben, coolly.

"I've got a word or two to say to you," said Jim, significantly.

"Say them quick," said Ben, "for I'm in a hurry."

"I'm not," said Jim, in his old tone, "and it makes no difference
whether you are or not."

"Indeed! you are as polite as usual," returned Ben.

"Look here, you young whelp!" Jim broke forth, unable any longer to
restrain his wrath, "what, did you mean by lying about me last evening?"

"I didn't lie about you," said Ben, boldly.

"Yes, you did. What made you say you saw me put that wallet into
Roscoe's pocket?"

"I can't think of any reason, unless because it was true," said Ben.

"Even if it were, how dared you turn against me? First you play the spy,
and then informer. Paugh!"

"I see you admit it," said Ben. "Well, if you want an answer I will give
you one. You laid a plot for Hector Roscoe - one of the meanest, dirtiest
plots I ever heard of, and I wasn't going to see you lie him into a
scrape while I could prevent it."

"That's enough, Platt!" exclaimed Jim, furiously. "Now, do you know what
I am going to do?"

"I don't feel particularly interested in the matter."

"You will be, then. I am going to thrash you."

"You wouldn't if Hector Roscoe were here," said Ben, not appearing to be
much frightened.

"Well, he isn't here, though if he were it wouldn't make any difference.
I'll whip you so you can't stand."

Ben's reply was to call "Wilkins!"

From a clump of bushes, where he had lurked, unobserved hitherto, sprang
Wilkins, and joined his friend.

"There are two of us, Smith!" said Ben Platt.

"I can thrash you both," answered Jim, whose blood was up.

Before the advent of Hector no two boys would have ventured to engage
Jim in combat, but his defeat by a boy considerably smaller had lost him
his prestige, and the boys had become more independent. He still fancied
himself a match for both, however, and the conflict began. But both of
his antagonists were in earnest, and Jim had a hard time.

Now, it so happened that Mr. Crabb, the usher, was taking a solitary
walk, and had approached the scene of conflict unobserved by any of the
participants. He arrived at an opportune time. Jim had managed to draw
Wilkins away, and by a quick movement threw him. He was about to deal
his prostrate foe a savage kick, which might have hurt him seriously,
when the usher, quiet and peaceful as he was by nature, could restrain
himself no longer. He rushed up, seized him by the collar, dragged him
back and shook him with a strength he did not suppose he possessed,
saying:

"Leave that boy alone, you brute!"

Jim turned quickly, and was very much surprised when he saw the meek
usher, whom he had always despised, because he looked upon him as a Miss
Nancy.

"So it's you, is it?" he said, with a wicked glance.

"Yes, it is I," answered the usher, manfully; "come up just in time to
stop your brutality."

"Is it any of your business?" demanded Jim, looking as if he would like
to thrash the usher.

"I have made it my business. Platt and Wilkins, I advise you to join
me, and leave this fellow, who has so disgraced himself as to be beneath
your notice."

"We will accompany you with pleasure, sir," said the boys.

They regarded the usher with new respect for this display of courage,
for which they had not given him credit.

"I'll fix you, Crabb," said Jim Smith, insolently, "and don't you forget
it!"

Mr. Crabb did not deign to answer him.

Jim Smith was as good as his word.

An hour later Mr. Crabb was summoned to the presence of the principal.

Socrates received him with marked coldness.

"Mr. Crabb," he said, "I cannot conceal the amazement I feel at a
complaint which has just been made by my nephew."

"Well, sir?"

Mr. Crabb had nerved himself for the worst, and did not cower or show
signs of fear, as Socrates expected he would.

"James tells me that you attacked him savagely this afternoon when he
was having a little sport with two of his schoolfellows."

"Is that what he says, Mr. Smith?"

"Yes, sir, and I require an explanation."

"You shall have it. The sport in which your nephew was engaged was
attempting to thrash Wilkins. He had him down, and was about to deal him
a savage kick when I fortunately came up."

"And joined in the fight," sneered Socrates.

"Yes, if you choose to put it so. Would you have had me stand by, and
see Wilkins brutally used?"

"Of course, you color the affair to suit yourself," said Socrates,
coldly. "The fact is that you, an usher, have lowered yourself by taking
part in a playful schoolboy contest."

"Playful!" repeated Mr. Crabb.

"Yes, and I shall show how I regard it by giving you notice that I no
longer require your services in my school. I shall pay you up at the end
of the week and then discharge you."

"Mr. Smith," said the usher, "permit me to say that anything more
disgraceful than your own conduct within the last twenty-four hours I
have never witnessed. You have joined your nephew in a plot to disgrace
an innocent boy, declining to do justice, and now you have capped the
climax by censuring me for stopping an act of brutality, merely because
your nephew was implicated in it!"

"This to me?" exclaimed Socrates Smith, hardly crediting the testimony
of his ears.

"Yes, sir, and more! I predict that the stupid folly which has
characterized your course will, within six months, drive from you every
scholar you have in your school!"

"Mr. Crabb," gasped Socrates, never more surprised in his life than
he was at the sudden spirit exhibited by the usher, "I will not be so
insulted. Leave me, and to-morrow morning leave my service."

"I will, sir. I have no desire to remain here longer."

But when Mr. Crabb had walked away his spirit sank within him. How was
he to obtain another situation? He must consult immediately with Hector
Roscoe, in whose judgment, boy as he was, he reposed great confidence.




CHAPTER XXII. THE WELCOME LETTER.



"Hector," said Mr. Crabb, nervously, "I am going to leave the institute
at the end of the week."

"Have you secured another situation, Mr. Crabb?" asked Hector,
hopefully.

"No," answered the usher, shaking his head. "I have been discharged."

"For what reason?"

"For interfering with Mr. Smith's nephew when he was brutally abusing
Wilkins."

"Did Mr. Smith fully understand the circumstances?"

"Yes; but he stands by his nephew right or wrong. He blamed me for
checking his nephew's brutality."

"This is shameful!" said Hector, warmly. "May I ask, Mr. Crabb, if you
have formed any plans?"

"No, except to seek a new position!" answered Crabb. "I fear," he
added, despondently, "that it may be some time before I am so fortunate.
Roscoe, I don't know what to do when I leave the school. I shall barely
have five dollars, and you know I have not only myself, but another to
support."

"Keep up your courage, Mr. Crabb! It is nearly time for me to hear from
the friend in New York to whom I wrote is your behalf. If you can secure
the position of his private tutor - "

"If I can, I will hail it as providential. It will relieve me at once
from all anxiety."

"I don't think I shall long remain here myself, Mr. Crabb," said
Hector. "I came here with the full intention of making the most of the
facilities the institute affords for education, but I find the principal
incompetent, and disposed to connive at injustice and brutality. The
only good I have got here has been derived from your instructions."

"Thank you, Roscoe. Such a tribute is, indeed, welcome," said the usher,
warmly.

"It is quite sincere, Mr. Crabb, and I hope my good wishes may bring you
the advantage which I have in view."

"Thank you, Roscoe. I don't blame you for being disgusted with the
management of the school. You have yourself suffered injustice."

"Yes; in writing home, and charging me with theft, before he had
investigated the circumstances, Mr. Smith did me a great injustice. I
doubt whether he has since written to correct the false charge, as
I required him to do. If not, I shall owe it to myself to leave the
school."

"You will be justified in doing so." The next day brought Hector two
letters. One was from Allan Roscoe, and read as follows:

"HECTOR: I have received from your worthy teacher a letter which has
filled me with grief and displeasure. I knew you had great faults, but
I did not dream that you would stoop so low as to purloin money, as it
seems you have done. Mr. Smith writes me that there is no room to doubt
your guilt. He himself discovered in the pocket of your pantaloons a
wallet containing a large sum of money, which he had missed only a short
time before. He learned that you had entered his chamber, and taken the
money, being tempted by your own dishonest and depraved heart.

"I cannot express the shame I feel at this revelation of baseness. I
am truly glad that you are not connected with me by blood. Yet I cannot
forget that my poor brother treated you as a son; and took pains to
train you up in right ideas. It would give him deep pain could he know
how the boy whom he so heaped with benefits has turned out! I may say
that Guy is as much shocked as I am, but he, it seems, had a better
knowledge of you than I; for he tells me he is not surprised to hear it.
I confess I am, for I thought better of you.

"Under the circumstances I shall not feel justified in doing for you as
much as I intended. I proposed to keep you at school for two years more,
but I have now to announce that this is your last term, and I advise you
to make the most of it. I will try, when the term closes, to find some
situation for you, where your employer's money will not pass through
your hands. ALLAN ROSCOE."

Hector read the letter with conflicting feelings, the most prominent
being indignation and contempt for the man who so easily allowed himself
to think evil of him.

The other letter he found more satisfactory.

It was from his young friend in New York, Walter Boss. As it is short, I
subjoin it:

"DEAR HECTOR: I am ever so glad to hear from you, but I should like much
better to see you. I read to papa what you said of Mr. Crabb, and he
says it is very apropos, as he had made up his mind to get me a tutor.
I am rather backward, you see, not having your taste for study, and papa
thinks I need special attention. He says that your recommendation is
sufficient, and he will engage Mr. Crabb without any further inquiry;
and he says he can come at once. He will give him sixty dollars a month
and board, and he will have considerable time for himself, if he wants
to study law or any other profession. I don't know but a cousin may join
me in my studies, in which case he will pay a hundred dollars per month,
if that will be sastisfactory.

"Why can't you come and make me a visit? We'll have jolly fun. Come
and stay a month, old chap. There is no one I should like better. Your
friend, WALTER Boss."

Hector read this letter with genuine delight. It offered a way of
escape, both for the unfortunate usher and himself. Nothing could be
more "apropos" to quote Walter's expression.

Our hero lost no time in seeking out Mr. Crabb.

"You seem in good spirits, Roscoe," said the usher, his careworn face
contrasting with the beaming countenance of his pupil.

"Yes, Mr. Crabb, I have reason to be, and so have you."

"Have you heard from your friend?" asked the usher, hopefully.

"Yes, and it's all right."

Mr. Crabb looked ten years younger.

"Is it really true?" he asked.

"It is true that you are engaged as private tutor to my friend, Walter.
You'll find him a splendid fellow, but I don't know if the pay is
sufficient," continued Hector, gravely.

"I am willing to take less pay than I get here," said the usher, "for
the sake of getting away."

"How much do you receive here?"

"Twenty dollar a month and board. I might, perhaps, get along on a
little less," he added doubtfully.

"You won't have to, Mr. Crabb. You are offered sixty dollars a month and
a home."

"You are not in earnest, Roscoe?" asked the usher, who could not believe
in his good fortune.

"I will read you the letter, Mr. Crabb."

When it was read the usher looked radiant. "Roscoe," he said, "you come
to me like an angel from heaven. Just now I was sad and depressed; now
it seems to me that the whole future is radiant. Sixty dollars a month!
Why, it will make me a rich man."

"Mr. Crabb," said Hector, with a lurking spirit of fun, "can you really
make up your mind to leave Smith Institute, and its kind and benevolent
principal?"

"I don't think any prisoner ever welcomed his release with deeper
thankfulness," said the usher. "To be in the employ of a man whom you
despise, yet to feel yourself a helpless and hopeless dependent on him
is, I assure you, Roscoe, a position by no means to be envied. For two
years that has been my lot."

"But it will soon be over."

"Yes, thanks to you. Why can't you accompany me, Hector? I ought not,
perhaps, to draw you away, but - "

"But listen to the letter I have received from my kind and considerate
guardian, as he styles himself," said Hector.

He read Allan Roscoe's letter to the usher.

"He seems in a great hurry to condemn you," said Mr. Crabb.

"Yes, and to get me off his hands," said Hector, proudly. "Well, he
shall be gratified in the last. I shall accept Walter's invitation, and
we will go up to New York together."

"That will, indeed, please me. Of course, you will undeceive your
guardian."

"Yes. I will get Wilkins and Platt to prepare a statement of the facts
in the case, and accompany it by a note releasing Mr. Roscoe from any
further care or expense for me."

"But, Hector, can you afford to do this?"

"I cannot afford to do otherwise, Mr. Crabb. I shall find friends, and I
am willing to work for my living, if need be."

At this point one of the boys came to Mr. Crabb with a message from
Socrates, desiring the usher to wait upon him at once.




CHAPTER XXIII. ANOTHER CHANCE FOR THE USHER.



Mr. Smith had been thinking it over. He had discharged Mr. Crabb in the
anger of the moment, but after his anger had abated, he considered that
it was not for his interest to part with him. Mr. Crabb was a competent
teacher, and it would be well-nigh impossible to obtain another so
cheap. Twenty dollars a month for a teacher qualified to instruct in
Latin and Greek was certainly a beggarly sum, but Mr. Crabb's dire
necessity had compelled him to accept it. Where could he look for
another teacher as cheap? Socrates Smith appreciated the difficulty,
and decided to take Mr. Crabb back, on condition that he would make an
apology to Jim.

To do Mr. Crabb justice, it may be said that he would not have done this
even if he saw no chance of another situation. But this Mr. Smith did
not know. He did observe, however, that the usher entered his presence
calm, erect and appearing by no means depressed, as he had expected.

"You sent for me, sir?" said the usher interrogatively.

"Yes, Mr. Crabb. You will remember that I had occasion to rebuke you,
when we last conferred together, for overstepping the limits of your
authority?"

"I remember, Mr. Smith, that you showed anger, and found fault with me."

"Exactly so."

"Why doesn't he ask to be taken back?" thought Socrates.

"I have thought the matter over since," continued the principal, "and
have concluded we might be able to arrange matters."

The usher was surprised. He had not expected that Mr. Smith would make
overtures of reconciliation. He decided not to mention at present his
brighter prospects in New York, but to wait and see what further his
employer had to say.

Mr. Crabb bowed, but did not make any reply.

"I take it for granted, Mr. Crabb, that your means are limited,"
proceeded Socrates.

"You are right there, sir. If I had not been poor I should not have
accepted the position of teacher in Smith Institute for the pitiful
salary of twenty dollars a month."

"Twenty dollars a month and your board, Mr. Crabb," said Socrates, with
dignity, "I consider a very fair remuneration."

"I do not, Mr. Smith," said the usher, in a decided tone.

"I apprehend you will find it considerably better than to be out of
employment," said Socrates, rather angry.

"You are right there, sir."

"I am glad you show signs of returning reason. Well, Mr. Crabb, I have
thought the matter over, and I have a proposal to make to you."

"Very well, sir!"

"I do not wish to distress you by taking away your means of livelihood."

"You are very considerate, sir."

There was something in Mr. Crabb's tone that Socrates did not
understand. It really seemed that he did not care whether he was taken
back or not. But, of course, this could not be. It was absolutely
necessary for him, poor as he was, that he should be reinstated. So Mr.
Smith proceeded.

"To cut the matter short, I am willing to take you back on two
conditions."

"May I ask you to name them?"

"The first is, that you shall apologize to my nephew for your
unjustifiable attack upon him day before yesterday."

"What is the other, Mr. Smith?"

"The other is, that hereafter you will not exceed the limits of your
authority."

"And you wish my answer?" asked the usher, raising his eyes, and looking


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