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which proved too strong for him.

Mrs. Hamilton was the possessor of an elegant opera glass, which she
had bought some years previous in Paris at a cost of fifty dollars.
Generally, when not in use, she kept it locked up in a bureau drawer.
It so happened, however, that it had been left out on a return from a
matinee, and lay upon her desk, where it attracted the attention of
Conrad.

It was an unlucky moment, for he felt very hard up. He wished to go
to the theater in the evening with a friend, but had no money.

It flashed upon him that he could raise a considerable sum on the
opera glass at Simpson's, a well-known pawnbroker on the Bowery, and
he could, without much loss of time, stop there on his way down to
business.

Scarcely giving himself time to think, he seized the glass and thrust
it into the pocket of his overcoat. Then, putting on his coat, he
hurried from the house.

Arrived at the pawnbroker's, he produced the glass, and asked:

"How much will you give me on this?"

The attendant looked at the glass, and then at Conrad.

"This is a very valuable glass," he said. "Is it yours?"

"No," answered Conrad glibly. "It belongs to a lady in reduced
circumstances, who needs to raise money. She will be able to redeem
it soon."

"Did she send you here?"

"Yes."

"We will loan you twenty dollars on it. Will that be satisfactory?"

"Quite so," answered Conrad, quite elated at the sum, which exceeded
his anticipations.

"Shall we make out the ticket to you or the lady?"

"To me. The lady does not like to have her name appear in the
matter."

This is so frequently the case that the statement created no surprise.

"What is your name?" inquired the attendant.

"Ben Barclay," answered Conrad readily.

The ticket was made out, the money paid over, and Conrad left the
establishment.

"Now I am in funds!" he said to himself, "and there is no danger of
detection. If anything is ever found out, it will be Ben who will be
in trouble, not I."

It was not long before Mrs. Hamilton discovered her loss. She valued
the missing opera glass, for reasons which need not be mentioned, far
beyond its intrinsic value, and though she could readily have supplied
its place, so far as money was concerned, she would not have been as
well pleased with any new glass, though precisely similar, as with the
one she had used for years. She remembered that she had not replaced
the glass in the drawer, and, therefore, searched for it wherever she
thought it likely to have been left. But in vain.

"Ben," she said, "have you seen my glass anywhere about?"

"I think," answered Ben, "that I saw it on your desk."

"It is not there now, but it must be somewhere in the house."

She next asked Mrs. Hill. The housekeeper was entirely ignorant of
Conrad's theft, and answered that she had not seen it.

"I ought not to have left it about," said Mrs. Hamilton. "It may have
proved too strong a temptation to some one of the servants."

"Or someone else," suggested Mrs. Hill significantly.

"That means Ben," thought Mrs. Hamilton, but she did not say so.

"I would ferret out the matter if I were you," continued Mrs. Hill.

"I intend to," answered Mrs. Hamilton quietly. "I valued the glass
far beyond its cost, and I will leave no means untried to recover it."

"You are quite right, too."

When Conrad was told that the opera glass had been lost, he said:

"Probably Ben stole it."

"So I think," assented his mother. "But it will be found out. Cousin
Hamilton has put the matter into the hands of a detective."

For the moment, Conrad felt disturbed. But he quickly recovered
himself.

"Pshaw! they can't trace it to me," he thought. "They will put it on
Ben."




CHAPTER XXVI
MR. LYNX, THE DETECTIVE


The detective who presented himself to Mrs. Hamilton was a
quiet-looking man, clad in a brown suit. Except that his eyes were
keen and searching, his appearance was disappointing. Conrad met him
as he was going out of the house, and said to himself contemptuously:
"He looks like a muff."

"I have sent for you, Mr. Lynx," said Mrs. Hamilton, "to see if you
can help me in a matter I will explain to you," and then she gave him
all the information she possessed about the loss of the opera glass.

"How valuable was the glass?" inquired Mr. Lynx.

"It cost fifty dollars in Paris," said Mrs. Hamilton.

"But you set a higher value upon it for other reasons? Just so."

"You are right."

"Will you favor me with an exact description of the article?" said the
detective, producing his notebook.

Mrs. Hamilton did so, and the detective made an entry.

"Have you ever had anything taken out of your house by outside
parties?" he asked.

"On one occasion, when my brother was visiting me, his overcoat was
taken from the hatstand in the hall."

"A sneak thief, of course. The glass, however, was not so exposed?"

"No; it was not on the lower floor at all."

"It looks, then, as if it was taken by someone in the house."

"It looks so," said Mrs. Hamilton gravely.

"Have you confidence in your servants? Or, rather, have you reason to
suspect any of them?"

"I believe they are honest. I don't believe they would be tempted by
such an article."

"Not, perhaps, for their own use, but a glass like this may be pawned
for a considerable sum. Being of peculiar appearance, the thief would
be hardly likely to use it himself or herself. Detection would be too
sure."

"No doubt you are right."

"How long has the glass been missing?" resumed the detective.

"Three days."

"No doubt it has been pawned by this time. Your course is clear."

"And what is that?"

"To make a tour of the pawnshops, and ascertain whether such an
article has been brought to any one of them."

"Very well, Mr. Lynx. I leave the matter in your hands. I trust
everything to your judgment."

"Thank you. I will try to deserve your confidence. And now,
good-day. I may call upon you to-morrow."

"Mr. Lynx left the presence of the lady, and went downstairs. He had
just reached the bottom of the staircase, when a thin lady glided from
the rear of the hall, and spoke to him.

"Are you the detective summoned by Mrs. Hamilton?" she asked.

"Yes, madam," answered Mr. Lynx, surveying housekeeper attentively.

"I am Mrs. Hill, the housekeper," said she. "I may add that I am a
cousin of Mrs. Hamilton's."

Mr. Lynx bowed, and waited for further information. He knew who was
addressing him, for he had questioned Mrs. Hamilton as to the
different inmates of the house.

"I stopped you," said Mrs. Hill, "because I have my suspicions, and I
thought I might help you in this investigation."

"I shall feel indebted to you for any help you can afford. Do you
mind telling me upon what your suspicions rest?"

"I don't like to accuse or throw suspicions on anyone," said the
housekeeper, but I think it is my duty to help my cousin in this
matter."

"Undoubtedly," said Mr. Lynx, noticing that she paused. "Proceed."

"You may or may not be aware that my cousin employs a boy of about
sixteen, whom, as I think, she engaged rather rashly, without knowing
anything of his antecedents. He assists her in her writing and
accounts - in fact, is a sort of secretary.

"His name is Benjamin Barclay, is it not?"

"Yes."

"Do you know anything of his habits?"

"He is very plausible. In fact, I think his appearance is in his
favor; but I think he is sly. Still water, you know, runs deep."

Mr. Lynx bowed assent.

"I was disposed," proceeded Mrs. Hill artfully, "to think well of the
boy, and to approve my cousin's selection, until last week he was seen
leaving a well-known gambling house in Thirty-first Street."

"Indeed! That is certainly suspicious."

"Is it not?"

"Who saw him leaving the gambling house, Mrs. Hill?"

"My son, Conrad."

"Curious that he should have been near at the time!"

"He was taking a walk. He generally goes out in the evening."

"Of course your son would not visit such a place?"

"Certainly not," answered Mrs. Hill, looking offended at the
suggestion.

"By the way, are the two boys intimate? Do they seem to like each
other?"

"My Conrad always treats the other boy well, out of common politeness,
but I don't think he likes him very well."

"Is your son in any situation?"

"He is now."

"Was he at the time this Benjamin was engaged by Mrs. Hamilton?"

"No."

"Rather singular that she did not employ your son, instead of seeking
out a stranger, isn't it?"

"Now that you mention it, I confess that I did feel hurt at the slight
to my boy. However, I don't wish to interfere with Cousin Hamilton,
or obtrude my son upon her."

"Strong jealousy there!" thought the detective.

"So you think this Ben Barclay may have taken the glass?" he said
inquiringly.

"I do. Since he visits gambling houses, he doubtless squanders money,
and can find a market for more than he can honestly earn."

"As you say, gambling often leads to dishonesty. Does Mrs. Hamilton
know that her protege visited a gambling house?"

"Yes."

"Mentioned it to him, I suppose?"

"Yes."

"Of course, he denied it?"

"No; he admitted it, but said he received a letter from a stranger
appointing to meet him there. It is rather curious that he couldn't
show the letter, however. He pretended he had lost it."

"Did Mrs. Hamilton believe him?"

"I don't know. I think not, for, though she has not discharged him,
she treats him very coldly."

"Have you any further information to give me?"

"No. I hope this will be of some service to you."

"I think it will. Thank you, and good-afternoon."

"There! I've prejudiced him against Ben," said Mrs. Hill to herself,
with a satisfied smile. "These detectives are glad of a hint, sharp
as they think themselves. If he finds out that it is Ben, he will
take all the credit to himself, and never mention me in the matter.
However, that is just what I wish. It is important that I should not
appear too active in getting the boy into trouble, or I may be thought
to be influenced by interested motives, though, Heaven knows, I only
want justice for myself and my boy. The sooner we get this boy out of
the house, the better it will be for us."

As Mr. Lynx left the house, he smiled to himself.

"That woman and her son hate Ben Barclay, that much is certain, and
look upon him as an interloper and a rival. I rather sympathize with
the poor fellow. I should be sorry to find him guilty, but I shall
not stop short till I have ferreted out the truth."




CHAPTER XXVII
THE TELLTALE TICKET


Conrad still had the pawnbroker's ticket which he had received in
return for the opera glasses, and did not quite know what to do with
it. He didn't intend to redeem the glass, and if found in his
possession, it would bring him under suspicion. Now that a detective
had the matter in charge, it occurred to him that it would be well to
have the ticket found in Ben's room.

The two had rooms upon the same floor, and it would, therefore, be
easy to slip into Ben's chamber and leave it somewhere about.

Now, it chanced that Susan, the chambermaid, was about, though Conrad
did not see her, when he carried out his purpose, and, instigated by
curiosity, she peeped through the half-open door, and saw him place
the ticket on the bureau.

Wondering what it was, she entered the room after Conrad had vacated
it, and found the ticket Conrad had placed there.

Susan knew what a pawnbroker's ticket was, and read it with curiosity.

She saw that it was made out to Ben Barclay.

"How, then, did Master Conrad get hold of it?" she said to herself.
"It's my belief he's trying to get Master Ben into trouble. It's a
shame, it is, for Master Ben is a gentleman and he isn't."

Between the two boys, Susan favored Ben, who always treated her with
consideration, while Conrad liked to order about the servants, as if
they were made to wait upon him.

After Conrad had disposed of the pawn ticket, he said carelessly to
his mother:

"Mother, if I were you, I'd look into Ben's room. You might find the
opera glass there."

"I don't think he'd leave it there. He would pawn it."

"Then you might find the ticket somewhere about."

Upon this hint, Mrs. Hill went up to Ben's room, and there, upon the
bureau, she naturally found the ticket.

"I thought so," she said to herself. "Conrad was right. The boy is a
thief. Here is the ticket made out to him by name. Well, well, he's
brazen enough, in all conscience. Now shall I show it to Cousin
Hamilton at once, or shall I wait until the detective has reported?"

On the whole, Mrs. Hill decided to wait. She could delay with safety,
for she had proof which would utterly crush and confound the hated
interloper.

Meanwhile, the detective pursued his investigations. Of course, he
visited Simpson's, and there he learned that the opera glass, which he
readily recognized from the description, had been brought there a few
days previous.

"Who brought it?" he asked.

"A boy of about sixteen."

"Did he give his name?"

The books were referred to, and the attendant answered in the
affirmative.

"He gave the name of Ben Barclay," he answered.

"Do you think that was his real name?" asked the detective.

"That depends on whether he had a right to pawn it."

"Suppose he stole it?"

"Then, probably, he did not give his real name."

"So I think," said Mr. Lynx quietly.

"Do you know if there is a boy by that name?"

"There is; but I doubt if he knows anything about the matter."

"I will call again, perhaps to-morrow," he added. "I must report to
my principal what I have discovered."

From Simpson's he went straight to Mrs. Hamilton, who had as yet
received no communication from the housekeeper.

"Well, Mr. Lynx," she asked, with interest, "have you heard anything
of the glass?"

"I have seen it," was the quiet reply.

"Where?"

"At a well-known pawnshop on the Bowery."

"Did you learn who left it?" asked Mrs. Hamilton eagerly.

"A boy - about sixteen years of age - who gave the name of Ben Barclay."

"I can't believe Ben would be guilty of such a disgraceful act!"
ejaculated Mrs. Hamilton, deeply moved.




CHAPTER XXVIII
MRS. HILL'S MALICE


At this moment there was a low knock on the door.

"Come in!" said Mrs. Hamilton.

Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, glided in, with her usual stealthy step.

"I really beg pardon for intruding," she said, with a slight cough,
"but I thought perhaps I might throw light on the matter Mr. Lynx is
investigating."

"Well?" said the detective, eying her attentively.

"I had occasion to go into Ben's room to see if the girl had put
things in order, when my attention was drawn to a ticket upon the
bureau. You can tell whether it is of importance," and she handed it,
with an air of deference, to Mr. Lynx.

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"It is a pawn ticket," answered Mr. Lynx attentively.

"Let me see it, please!"

Mrs. Hamilton regarded it with mingled pain and incredulity.

"I need not say," continued the housekeeper, "that I was surprised and
saddened at this evidence of the boy's depravity. Cousin Hamilton has
been so kind to him that it seems like the height of ingratitude."

"May I ask, madam," said Mr. Lynx, "if your suspicions had fastened on
this boy, Ben, before you found the pawn ticket?"

"To tell the truth, they had."

"And what reason had you for forming such suspicions?"

"I knew that the boy frequented gambling houses, and, of course, no
salary, however large, would be sufficient for a boy with such
habits."

Mrs. Hamilton did not speak, which somewhat embarrassed Mrs. Hill.
Mr. Lynx, however, was very affable, and thanked her for her
assistance.

"I felt it my duty to assist Cousin Hamilton," said she, "though I am
sorry for that ungrateful boy. I will now withdraw, and leave you to
confer together."

Mrs. Hill would like to have been invited to remain, but such an
invitation was not given.

"What do you think, Mr. Lynx?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"I think your housekeeper does not like Ben Barclay," he answered
dryly.

"And you don't think him guilty?" she asked eagerly.

"No; the boy isn't fool enough, first, to give his own name at the
pawnbroker's, and next, to leave the ticket exposed in his room."

"How then did it come there?"

Mr. Lynx was saved the trouble of answering by another tap on the
door.

"Who is it now?" he said.

He stepped to the door, and opening it, admitted Susan.

"What is it, Susan," asked Mrs. Hamilton, in some surprise.

"Did Mrs. Hill bring you a pawn ticket, ma'am?"

"And what do you know about it?" demanded Mr. Lynx brusquely.

"And did she say she found it on Master Ben's bureau?"

"Yes, Susan," said the mistress; "what can you tell us about it?"

"I can tell you this, ma'am, that I saw Master Conrad steal into the
room this morning, and put it there with his own hands."

"Ha! this is something to the purpose." said the detective briskly.

"Are you sure of this, Susan?" asked Mrs. Hamilton, evidently shocked.

"I can take my Bible oath of it, ma'am; and it's my belief that he's
tryin' to get Master Ben into trouble."

"Thank you, Susan," said her mistress. "You have done not only Ben,
but myself, a valuable service. You can go. I will see that you do
not regret it."

"Don't tell Mrs. Hill that I told you, or she'd be my enemy for life!"

"I will see to that."

As Susan left the room, Mr. Lynx said:

"You won't require my services any longer. It is clear enough who
pawned the glass."

"You mean - "

"I mean the boy Conrad, whose mother was so anxious to fix the guilt
upon your young secretary. If you have the slightest doubt about it,
invite the young gentleman to accompany you to Simpson's to redeem the
opera glass."

"I will."




CHAPTER XXIX
SOME UNEXPECTED CHANGES


When Conrad came home his first visit was to his mother.

"Has anything been found out about the stolen opera glass?" he asked,
with a studied air of indifference.

"I should say there had," she answered. "I followed the clew you
suggested, and searched the boy's room. On the bureau I found the
pawn ticket."

"You don't say so! What a muff Ben must have been to leave it around
so carelessly! What did you do with it?"

"I waited till Mr. Lynx was conferring with Cousin Hamilton, and then
I carried it in and gave it to them."

"What did they say?" asked Conrad eagerly.

"They seemed thunderstruck, and Mr. Lynx very politely thanked me for
the help I had given them."

"Has Ben been bounced yet?"

"No; but doubtless he will be very soon. Cousin Hamilton doesn't want
to think him a thief and gambler, but there seems no way of escaping
from such a mass of proof."

"I should say not. Do you think she's told Ben? Does he look down in
the mouth?" continued Conrad.

"I haven't seen him since."

When they met at the table Mrs. Hamilton's manner toward Ben was
decidedly frigid, as Conrad and his mother saw, much to their
satisfaction. Ben looked sober, but his appetite did not appear to be
affected.

"Your course is about run, young man!" thought Mrs. Hill.

"I should like to see you after supper, Conrad," said Mrs. Hamilton.
"Come into my sitting room."

"I wonder if she is going to give me Ben's place," thought Conrad,
hardly knowing whether he wished it or not.

With a jaunty air and a self-satisfied smile, he followed Mrs.
Hamilton into her "private office," as she sometimes called it.

"Shut the door, Conrad," she said.

He did so.

"I have heard news of the opera glass," she commenced.

"Mother gave me a hint of that," said Conrad.

"It was stolen and pawned at Simpson's on the Bowery."

"It's a great shame!" said Conrad, thinking that a safe comment to
make.

"Yes, it was a shame and a disgrace to the one who took it."

"I didn't think Ben would do such a thing," continued Conrad, growing
bolder.

"Nor I," said Mrs. Hamilton.

"After all you have done for him, too. I never liked the boy, for my
part."

"So I suspected," said Mrs. Hamilton dryly. "However, I will tell you
what I want of you. I am going down to Simpson's to-morrow to redeem
the glass, and want you to go with me."

"You want me to go with you!" ejaculated Conrad, turning pale.

"Yes; I don't care to go to that part of the City by myself, and I
will take you to keep me company."

"But I must go to the office," faltered Conrad.

"I will send Ben to say that you can't go to-morrow."

"Why don't you take Ben to Simpson's, or the detective?" suggested
Conrad, in great alarm, bethinking himself that it would hardly do to
take Ben, since the attendant would certify that he was not the one
who pawned the glass.

"Because I prefer to take you. Have you any objection to go!"

"Oh, no, of course not!" answered Conrad, not daring to make any
further objection.

In the morning Mrs. Hill came to Mrs. Hamilton, and said:

"Poor Conrad has a terrible toothache! He is afraid he won't be able
to go with you to Simpson's. Will you kindly excuse him?"

Mrs. Hamilton expected some such excuse.

"I will take Ben, then," she said.

"Are you going to keep that boy - after what be has done?" asked the
housekeeper.

"It is inconvenient for me to part with him just yet."

"Then - I hope you will excuse the suggestion - I advise you to keep
your bureau drawers locked."

"I think it best myself," said Mrs. Hamilton. Is Conrad's toothache
very bad?"

"The poor fellow is in great pain."

When Ben was invited by Mrs. Hamilton to go to the pawnbroker's he
made no objection.

"It is only fair to tell you, Ben," said Mrs. Hamilton, that the
person who pawned the opera glass gave your name."

"Then," said Ben, "I should like to know who it is."

"I think I know," said his patroness; "but when we redeem the glass we
will ask for a description of him."

An hour later they entered the pawnbroker's shop. Mrs. Hamilton
presented the ticket and made herself known.

"Will you tell me," she asked, "whether you have ever seen the young
gentleman that accompanies me?"

"Not to my knowledge," answered the attendant, after attentively
regarding Ben.

"Can you remember the appearance of the boy who pawned the opera
glass?"

"He was taller than this boy, and pale. He was thinner also. His
hair was a light brown."

A light dawned upon Ben, and his glance met that of Mrs. Hamilton, so
that she read his suspicions.

"I think we both know who it was that took your name, Ben," she said;
"but for the present I wish you to keep it secret."

"I will certainly do so, Mrs. Hamilton."

"I am placed in difficult circumstances, and have not made up my mind
what to do."

"I hope you won't allow yourself to be prejudiced against me by any
false stories."

"No, I can promise you that. I have perfect confidence in you."

"Thank you for that, Mrs. Hamilton," said Ben gratefully.

"Yet I am about to take a course that will surprise you."

"What is that?"

"I am going to let you leave me for a time, and put Conrad in your
place."

Ben looked bewildered, as well he might. There was nothing that would
have surprised him more.

"Then I am afraid you don't find me satisfactory," he said anxiously.

"Why not?"

"You discharge me from your service."

"No" answered Mrs. Hamilton, smiling; "I have other work for you to
do. I mean to give you a confidential commission."

Ben's face brightened up immediately.

"You will find me faithful," he said, "and I hope I may repay your
confidence."

"I think you will. I will explain matters to you before you reach the
house, as I don't want Mrs. Hill or Conrad to know about the matter.
Indeed, for reasons of my own, I shall let them think that I
discharged you."

Ben smiled; he was not averse to such a plan.

"And now for the business. I own a farm in the western part of
Pennsylvania. I have for years let it for a nominal sum to a man
named Jackson. Of late he has been very anxious to buy it, and has
offered me a sum greater than I had supposed it to be worth. As I
know him to be a close-fisted man, who has tried more than once to get
me to reduce the small rent I charge him, this naturally excites my
curiosity. I think something has been discovered that enhances the
value of the farm, and, if so, I want to know it. You are a boy, and
a visit to the neighborhood will not excite surprise.

"I understand," said Ben. "When do you wish me to start?"

"This afternoon. I have prepared written instructions, and here is a
pocketbook containing a hundred and fifty dollars for expenses."


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