WHEN Frank returned home and told of what had occurred in Philadelphia,
there was consternation in the Hardy family. Mr. Hardy shook his head
over and over again, and Mrs. Hardy shed bitter tears.
“I was a fool to trust Garrison,” said the disabled husband. “Now, here
he is running away while I cannot even make a search for him.”
“I am afraid that such a search would be useless,” responded his wife.
“And even if he were captured what good would it do, if he has
squandered the money?”
“No good, so far as I am concerned, my dear.” Mr. Hardy heaved a long
sigh. “Do you realize what this means for me?” he went on, bitterly.
“You will have to pay that ten thousand dollars.”
“How much money have you in the bank, Thomas?”
“Nine thousand five hundred dollars.”
“Indeed! I thought you had more.”
“I used to have more, but the competition in business has forced me to
put in additional capital, which I took from the savings bank.”
“Then you will have to take all the money in the bank and make up five
hundred dollars besides?”
“Yes, if they call on me to make good the amount for which I went
“Can you spare the five hundred out of the business?”
At this question Mr. Hardy hung his head.
“I am afraid I cannot, Margy. Business has been very bad lately, and I
have many bills coming due inside of thirty and sixty days.”
At this candid statement Mrs. Hardy grew very pale.
“Oh, Thomas, do you mean that we—we——”
“This will drive me to the wall.” Mr. Hardy gave another sigh and his
voice shook. “I am ruined.”
“That is the one word to use. Competition has almost forced me out of
business, and this affair will take away nearly every cent I possess.”
After this confession the matter was discussed freely until Mr. Hardy
grew so feverish that his wife told him he must be quiet and left to
himself. She passed down into the sitting room and there met Frank.
“Mother, you have been crying,” said the boy, coming up and embracing
“I cannot deny it, Frank; this blow is an awful one.”
“Perhaps it won’t be so bad as you think.”
The lady of the house shook her head.
“It won’t take all of father’s money, will it?”
“Every dollar, Frank.”
“But he will still have the business, won’t he?”
“Not free and clear. He will have to take out of it five hundred
dollars, and pay some bills besides.”
“Your father says he is ruined, and I really think he is. The business
will have to be sold for what it will bring.”
“And what will father do then?”
“I am sure I don’t know. He will have to get well first.”
“I wish I could catch Jabez Garrison. I’d—I’d strangle him!”
“Frank, you mustn’t speak like that!”
“I don’t care, mother. See what mischief he has created.”
“Well, we must face the truth, Frank.” Mrs. Hardy wrung her hands. “I am
sure I do not know what we shall do.”
“I know what I am going to do, mother,” he returned, quickly. “I’ve been
thinking it over ever since I got home.”
“What is that?”
“I’m going to work.”
The fond mother smiled faintly.
“Yes; I’m afraid we shall no longer be able to support you unless you do
“I shall find something to do just as soon as I can, and bring all my
wages home to you. Maybe they won’t be much, but they’ll be something.”
The mother embraced him again.
“Frank, you are truly a son worth having. But it will be too bad to keep
you from high school.”
“Never mind; perhaps I can study at night.”
“If you do that, I’ll help you all I can. But I am sure I do not know
where you can get a position.”
“Oh, I’ll get something. But first of all, I’m going down to father’s
store and do all I can to sell what goods he has on hand.”
“Yes; I was going to ask you to do that.”
True to his word, Frank opened the store bright and early the next
morning. He felt that he must do something, and during the day cleaned
the windows and arranged the goods on the shelves and in the big
storeroom. He also called on several regular customers and asked if they
did not wish fresh supplies.
“So you are going to help your father out, eh?” said one old gentleman.
“I’m glad to see it. Yes, you can send me two bags of oats and a bushel
of corn, and also a barrel of that best flour for the house. I’ll help
you all I can.” And Frank went away delighted with the order.
But the work was not all so agreeable. Some found fault, and others said
they were buying elsewhere. Looking over the old store books, the boy
soon learned that the receipts had been falling off steadily for six
months—ever since the opposition had started.
“I guess it needs an experienced man with more capital than we now have
to make a success of this,” he reasoned, and he was correct in his
surmise. The two rivals carried big stocks, and both were very active,
consequently more than three-quarters of the business of the town and
vicinity went to them.
A few days later Mr. Hardy received a formal notification of what Jabez
Garrison had done and was told that he must “make good” without delay or
the benevolent order would sue him. Following this, Mr. Bardwell Mason
paid him a visit.
“I am very sorry this has occurred,” said the gentleman from
Philadelphia. “But business is business, and the order looks to me to
have this matter straightened out.”
“I do not see what I can do excepting to give the bank notice to hold
that money for you until we have time to look for Jabez Garrison,”
answered Mr. Hardy.
“Have you the whole amount in the bank?”
“I have it, less five hundred dollars.”
“Where is that to come from, if I may ask?”
“I own my business and this house.”
“I see. Then there will be no trouble, Mr. Hardy. I am sorry to bother
you at such a time as this. It looks like hitting a man when he is down.
But you know what these orders are. They look to me to do my duty, and
if I don’t do it some of the members will be sure to make trouble for
“They are not very benevolent in my case.”
“Well, you see, you are not a member.”
The talk was continued for a good hour, and in the end, Mr. Hardy sent a
note down to the bank introducing Mr. Mason, and relating the object of
that gentleman’s call. By this means, the account was, for the time
being, tied up so that Mr. Hardy could not touch it.
On Monday of the following week, Frank was in the store packing up a
small order for delivery, when a dapper young man entered.
“Is Mr. Hardy around?” questioned the newcomer.
“No, sir; my father is at home with a crushed foot,” answered our hero.
“How did he crush it, in the store?”
“No; he had it crushed on the railroad.”
“Oh, was he in that wreck near here?”
“Then I suppose he’ll soak the railroad company good for it?”
“I think he expects them to pay something.”
“I’d soak them for all I was worth,” went on the dapper young man,
sitting down across the counter. “They can stand it, and he can put in
any kind of an old bill he wants to.”
To this Frank did not answer, but continued to put up the order upon
which he had been working.
“I suppose you don’t know who I am,” went on the young man, after he had
lit a cigarette.
“I do not.”
“I’m the representative of the Blargo-Leeds Flour Company. There’s a
bill due us and I want to find out why it hasn’t been paid. Your father
promised to pay it some time ago.”
“How much is it?” asked Frank uneasily, although he knew something of
the bill already.
“Two hundred and sixty-eight dollars. It’s been due now for three
“Well, I’ll try to find out for you.”
“Can’t you pay it now?”
“My firm says that bill has got to be paid inside of the next ten days.”
“Very well; we’ll try to pay it.”
“If you don’t they will sue.” The young man leaped down from the
counter. “Sure you can’t pay it now?”
“No; I haven’t the money.”
“I’ve heard your father is in a peck of trouble over some bond he went
on. I’m sorry for him. But that bill must be paid, remember that. In ten
days, or it’s a suit at law.” And lighting another cigarette, the dapper
young man hurried out as quickly as he had entered.
WHEN Frank went home to dinner he expected to tell both his father and
his mother about the visit from the dapper young man; but he found both
of them so much worried that he did not say a word. He ate his meal in
silence, and hurried back to the place of business as soon as he could.
“I’ll tell them to-night or to-morrow,” he thought. “One thing is
certain: we can’t pay that bill, for we haven’t the money on hand with
which to do it.”
The youth worked hard during the afternoon, and made several sales which
were rather gratifying—one of some middlings which had become slightly
spoiled and which his father had despaired of selling. Frank sold the
stuff for just what it was, so that no fault might be found later.
He was placing the nine dollars he had received in the transaction in
the money drawer, when a dark, middle-aged man came in, and looked
“I suppose Mr. Hardy isn’t here?” he said.
“No, sir; my father is at home with a crushed foot,” answered Frank,
telling what he had repeated many times before.
“I am Jackson Devore, the feed man. I have a bill of ninety dollars that
has been running for some time. I want to know when your father intends
to pay it.”
“I guess he’ll pay it as soon as he can, Mr. Devore.”
“That is what he told me when I saw him last. This bill has got to be
paid at once.”
“I can’t pay it now.”
“Well, if it isn’t paid by the day after to-morrow, I’ll bring suit.”
“The day after to-morrow is the Fourth of July.”
“Well, then, the next day,” snarled Jackson Devore. “And tell your
father I won’t wait a minute longer. He has let his business run down
and go to pieces, and it looks to me like he didn’t intend to pay
anything.” And out of the store bounded the man, shaking his head and
his fist at the same time.
“This is certainly getting interesting,” said Frank to himself. “We will
have to do something soon; that is certain.”
He had exactly twenty-seven dollars on hand, and this cash he took home
at supper time. Then he told his parents of what had happened during the
“I expected it,” groaned Mr. Hardy. “To keep the store going longer
would be folly. I may as well sell out as best I can, and settle these
bills as best I can, too.”
“Who will you sell out to?” asked Frank.
“I’m sure I don’t know. I might offer the place to my rivals.”
“They wouldn’t buy anything but the stock.”
“They might be able to use the fixtures, such as they are.”
“I’ll tell you what I can do,” said Frank. “I can go to each of our
rivals and get them to submit offers. Perhaps they will bid pretty well
against each other—for each wants the business in this town, and they
know your good will is worth something.”
“That is a good idea!” said Mr. Hardy, brightening. “You might go and
see both of them this evening, if you wish.”
“Frank looks tired,” interposed his mother.
“Never mind, mother, I’ll go anyway. Perhaps Mr. Benning and Mr.
Peterson will walk over here and see father.”
“Yes, you might ask them to call,” said the sick man.
A little later Frank went to see Andrew Benning, who lived but a short
distance from the Hardy homestead. He found the storekeeper, who was a
shrewd Yankee, reading the local weekly paper.
“Your father would like to see me, eh?” said the man. “What about,
“He is going to sell out and thought you might like to buy.”
“Hum! Has he set any figger?”
“Well, I’ll call an’ see him first thing in the morning. I don’t reckon
as how the place is wuth much—it’s so run down.”
“Oh, there is quite some stock,” answered our hero. “What time shall I
say you will call?”
“About nine o’clock. I’ll take a look at the place first. Will you be
around there early?”
“At seven o’clock.”
From the Benning home, Frank hurried to the place where Mr. Peterson,
the other rival, boarded.
“I’m sorry for your father,” said Mr. Peterson, who was a young man and
rather pleasant. “I might buy him out if he’ll sell cheap enough.”
“He’ll sell at a fair figure.”
“Do you know what he has on hand?”
“Yes, sir, in a general way.”
“Very well. I’ll go up with you now and see him.” And in a minute more
the two were on the way. When they reached the Hardy home the rival
flour and feed man shook hands cordially with Mrs. Hardy and also with
the sick man.
“So you are going to sell out,” said he to Frank’s father. “Well, I
thought one of us would have to give up pretty soon. The town can’t
support three dealers.”
The matter was talked over, and it soon developed that John Peterson was
as shrewd as Andrew Benning. The best offer he would make was seventy
per cent. of the wholesale value of the stock and a hundred dollars for
the fixtures and good will.
“Seventy per cent. is not enough,” said Mr. Hardy. “I think I can get
“I think Mr. Benning will give more,” said Frank.
“Is he going to have a chance to buy it?” cried John Peterson.
“I shall sell to the highest bidder,” answered Mr. Hardy.
“Oh, then you want us to bid against each other, eh?”
“Can you blame me?”
“Not exactly, Mr. Hardy—but it don’t just look right either. I’ll tell
you what I’ll do—I’ll give you seventy-five per cent. of the value of
“Make it ninety and I’ll take you up.”
“No, that is my best figure.”
“Then I’ll let you know by to-morrow night.”
“Very well,” answered John Peterson, and soon after this he left.
“Do you think that is a fair price, father?” asked Frank, after the
visitor had departed.
“No, my son. But what shall I do?”
“Perhaps Andrew Benning will make a better offer.”
“Let us hope so.”
Early the next morning Frank went to the store and arranged the stock to
the best possible advantage. He was just finishing the work when the
rival dealer came in and began to look around.
Although Frank did not know it, Andrew Benning had, late the evening
before, met John Peterson, and the rivals had talked over the matter of
buying Mr. Hardy out, and reached an agreement by which neither was to
outbid the other. If either got the place he was to divide the goods
with the other and also the fixtures, and both were to settle jointly
for the good will—and then each was to catch what customers he could as
in the past.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, and you can tell your father,” said Andrew
Benning. “I’ll give him sixty per cent. of the value of his stock at
wholesale and fifty dollars for his fixtures and good will.”
“Thank you, but my father can get more than that,” answered Frank,
“All right then, he had better do it,” was Andrew Benning’s retort, and
he stalked out without another word.
But our hero had not reckoned on the plot the rivals had hatched out. On
going to dinner he learned that his father had just received a note from
John Peterson, which ran as follows:
“MR. THOMAS HARDY,
“_Dear Sir_: I have thought over the matter of buying your store out
and have come to the conclusion that the best I can offer you is
sixty per cent. of the regular wholesale value of the stock, and
fifty dollars for all the fixtures. As the place is run down I do
not consider that the good will is worth figuring in the
transaction. This offer is open for one week. Yours ob’t’ly,
“He has dropped to the very figures that Andrew Benning offered,” said
Frank, in dismay.
“I believe they are in league with each other,” sighed Mr. Hardy. “They
know they have me down and that I cannot help myself.”
“Perhaps we can sell the goods elsewhere, father.”
“Possibly, but it will cost money to transport the goods, and few people
want to buy goods that they consider are second-hand.”
“Supposing I try to sell the goods to Mr. Fardale, of Porthaven?”
“You might try it. But Mr. Fardale is as close as Benning, if not
“If he would only give ten per cent. more it would be something.”
“That is true. Well, you can see him the day after the Fourth of July.”
“I will,” answered Frank. “I can go up on the stage,” he added, for
Porthaven was six miles from Claster.
THE people of Claster had arranged for a Fourth of July celebration, and
early in the morning folks began to pour in from the surrounding farms
until the place took on the liveliness of a fair-sized city.
Knowing that some folks would take the opportunity to order or buy
supplies, Frank kept the store open until noon and did quite a fair
business. When he closed up he had twenty-six dollars on hand, which he
took home for safe keeping.
There was a short parade in the afternoon and all of the young folks
went to see this. Little Georgie was particularly enthusiastic and
wanted to follow the brass band all over the line of march.
“I’d like Fourth of July to come every day,” he told his brother and
“I fancy you’d get tired of it soon enough,” said Ruth.
“I’d never get tired of it,” answered the little fellow, positively.
“When I grow up I want to be a drummer in the band.”
[Illustration: “THE SMOKE WAS SO THICK HE COULD NOT SEE WHERE HE WAS
“Do you think you want to carry around the bass-drum, Georgie?”
questioned Frank, with a smile.
“No, I want the little drum—the one that rattles and has two little
sticks,” returned Georgie.
The town people had collected almost a hundred dollars which a committee
had expended in fireworks. These were to be set off at the public
square, only a short distance from Mr. Hardy’s store. At the appointed
time the square was crowded, and the display of fireworks was begun amid
“I love those rockets and Roman candles,” said Ruth, enthusiastically.
“And I like the big pin-wheels,” answered Frank.
With Georgie they had taken a place in front of the store. But they
could not see extra well, on account of a wagon being in the way, and so
moved on to another part of the square.
A flight of rockets was followed by some colored fire and a very
handsome set piece. Then came triangles and flower pots, and another set
piece, and then some of the largest rockets the committee had purchased.
The latter went up with a rush and a roar that made Ruth shrink back in
“I don’t like that—it looks dangerous,” said she.
“It is not as dangerous as it is for those boys to be running around
with blazing brushwood,” answered her brother. “The constable ought to
stop them. They may set something or somebody on fire.”
“Wouldn’t one of those rockets set something on fire if it came down
while it was still burning, Frank?”
“To be sure. We haven’t had rain in so long all the roofs around here
are pretty dry.”
For the end of the celebration there was a set piece of the President of
the United States, and as this lit up there was a wild cheering and
hurrahing, which was changed to a sudden cry of alarm as a man yelled
“Fire!” at the top of his lungs.
“Fire? Where is the fire?” asked several.
“He means the fireworks,” said one onlooker, and several laughed at the
“Fire! fire!” continued the other man. “The feed store is on fire!”
“The feed store?” repeated Frank, with a start. “Can he mean our place?”
“He does!” shrieked Ruth. “See, the smoke is coming out of the upper
“It is our place, true enough!” groaned Frank. “Here, Ruth, take care of
Georgie. Don’t you come over to the fire.”
“Oh, what are you going to do, Frank? Don’t go into the place, please!
You’ll be burnt up!”
“I’ll take care of myself. Now, keep back as I told you.”
Thus speaking Frank darted into the crowd and made his way to the front
of the store, which was located in a small two-story frame structure,
having a flat roof. The upper floor was filled with feed and grain, and
through the front window the flames could readily be seen. As Frank drew
closer there was a crash of glass, and then the flames shot out of the
window, and began to lap the roof.
“Don’t go in there, Frank!” cried several. “The place is a goner. You
can’t save anything.”
“I’m going to save the papers,” answered our hero, determinedly. “Why
don’t you call out the fire department?”
“Bill Wilson did that already.”
Unlocking the front door, Frank made his way inside. All was dark and
filled with smoke. He felt his way to his father’s safe and desk. Soon
he had some papers from the desk in his pocket, and then he knelt down
to open the safe.
The strong box had a combination lock, and as yet Frank was hardly
accustomed to it. In his excitement it was not easy to remember the
proper numbers, and the first time he tried the knob the safe refused to
come open. Then he tried to work the combination again.
By this time the entire lower floor of the building was thick with
smoke, and the flames were already beginning to show themselves in the
vicinity of the back stairway. Frank’s eyes were swimming in tears, and
it was all he could do to get his breath.
“I certainly can’t stand this any longer,” he thought, and gave the knob
of the safe a final turn. Then the door came open and he pulled out the
account books and some private papers in all haste. He had heard his
father say that the safe was worn out, and in no condition to stand the
test of a hot fire.
Scarcely able to stand, Frank felt his way toward the front door. The
entire back and upper part of the building were now ablaze and he could
plainly hear the crackling of the flames above him.
“Frank Hardy, where are you?” called a voice through the smoke.
Frank did not answer, but staggered toward the sound, for the smoke was
so thick he could not see where he was going. Then, just as he felt he
must drop, he received a dash of water in the face, thrown by a member
of the local bucket brigade, for as yet the town boasted of nothing
better than one engine and a company of men, who possessed sixty leather
The water did much toward reviving our hero and in a second more he
almost fell through the front door and out on the stoop of the store. As
he came into view a shout went up.
“There he is!”
“He has had a narrow escape!”
“Did he get burnt?”
“No, he is all right.”
Assisted by willing hands, Frank made his way to a bench in the public
square. Close at hand was a town pump, where men and boys were filling
the leather buckets. Down the square was the hand engine, drawing water
from a nearby cistern. As weak as he was our hero had brought his books
and papers with him, and these he now placed at his side.
“Oh, Frank, are you hurt?” It was Ruth who asked the question, as she
came up with little Georgie.
“No, I’m all right,” Frank answered. “But I guess I’m pretty well
smoked,” he added, coughing and wiping his eyes.
“You should not have gone in such a place.”
“I wanted to save father’s books and papers. The desk will be burnt, I
know, and the old safe isn’t of any account.”
“Do you think they’ll put the fire out?”
“It doesn’t look like it now.”
“It must have been set on fire by the fireworks,” went on Ruth.
“More than likely.”
The firemen were working with a will, and before long Frank started in
to aid them, telling Ruth and Georgie to take the books and papers home.
“Tell mother not to worry about me—that I’ll keep out of danger,” said
He had scarcely spoken when Mrs. Hardy rushed up, all out of breath and
with her face full of fear.
“They told me you had gone into the store,” she gasped. “Are you
“Yes, I’m all right, mother.”
“Thank Heaven for that!”
“Here are father’s papers and account books. I’m afraid the whole place
“Yes, it looks like it—and the next place, too,” answered Mrs. Hardy.
She remained at the fire for only a few minutes and then returned home,
to tell her husband that Frank was safe. Georgie went with her, but Ruth
stayed to see the end of the conflagration.
It was a full hour before the fire was under control. By that time not
only the feed store was gone, but also the butcher shop next door, and a
barn in the rear. Yet many felt that the firemen had done well to save
the surrounding property, considering how dry everything was and what a
breeze was blowing.
“That’s the end of the feed business,” thought Frank. “I hope father is
insured. If he isn’t, the loss will be a heavy one for him—especially
after this Garrison disaster.”
WHEN Frank arrived home he found that his father had been given all the
particulars of the conflagration by the other members of the family and
by several neighbors who had dropped in to tell him the news and
sympathize with him.
The exact origin of the fire was a mystery, but it was generally
accepted as being due to the Fourth of July celebration.
“I hope you are insured, father,” said Frank, after the last of the
neighbors had departed.
“I am insured, Frank, but I have forgotten the exact amount,” was the
reply. “I want you to look over the papers for me.”
“The papers call for twenty-five hundred dollars on stock and two
hundred dollars on fixtures,” said our hero, after a careful reading of
the insurance papers, three in number.
“Then I am fully covered. The stock on hand did not amount to over
eighteen hundred dollars.”
“Then for stock and fixtures you ought to get two thousand dollars.”
“Yes—if I can make the insurance companies toe the mark.”
“That is more than you would have gotten from Mr. Benning or Mr.
“Yes, Frank; I doubt if they would have given me over twelve hundred
dollars—perhaps not over a thousand.”
“In that case—if you can make the insurance companies pay up—the fire
won’t have been such a bad happening after all.”
“No, it will be quite a good thing for us.”
Early on the following morning two insurance men put in an appearance,
and surveyed the ruins carefully. Nothing had been saved of Mr. Hardy’s
belongings, even the safe being rendered absolutely worthless by the
intense heat. After looking around, the insurance men called upon the
sufferer at his home.
“Well, Mr. Hardy, you seem to be suffering in more ways than one,” said
one of the men.
“That is true, Mr. Lane. The town celebrated yesterday at my expense.”
“I should say at our expense,” put in the second insurance man, with a
grim smile. “We are the ones to foot the bill.”
“Well, I am glad, Mr. Watson, that the loss does not fall on me, for it
would ruin me utterly.”
“What do you figure your loss at?”
“I have been looking over the accounts with my son, Frank, who has been
running the store lately, and we figure the stock at eighteen hundred
and forty dollars, and the fixtures at the figure in the papers.”
“Then you claim two thousand and forty dollars?”
“Isn’t that fair?”
“Will you let us go over the stock sheet with you?”
This was done, and at the end of an hour the insurance men said they
would recommend that the company pay Mr. Hardy nineteen hundred dollars
in full for his claims. As this was not such a big cut as he had feared,
Frank’s father said he would accept the amount if the sum was
forthcoming inside of thirty days.
“I am sure I have made a good bargain with the insurance people,” said
Mr. Hardy to his wife, when they were alone. “I have done much better
than if I had sold out to any of my rivals.”
“Yes, and the best of it is, you are now under no obligations to your
rivals,” returned Mrs. Hardy.
“I did not get exactly what I think the stock was worth, but one cannot
expect to get that when one is burnt out.”
“What will you do, Thomas, when they pay the money?”
“Settle the Garrison matter first of all, and then put the balance of
the money in the bank.”
“And after that?”
“I’ll have to get well before I make up my mind. I can do nothing so
long as I am tied down to the house.”
With the store burnt out, Frank scarcely knew what to do with himself.
When the débris was cleared away by the owner of the property, he went
around to hunt for anything of value, but nothing was forthcoming.
Frank was very thoughtful when he came home the following Saturday. He
chopped a big pile of wood, and cleaned up the garden and the cellar.
“I’m going to find something to do next week,” he told his mother. “With
father laid up and the store gone, it won’t do for me to remain idle.”
“I am afraid you’ll not find it easy to get a position in Claster,”
answered Mrs. Hardy, as she placed an affectionate hand on his shoulder.
“I was thinking of looking for a place in Philadelphia, mother.”
“What, away from home!”
“I’ve got to strike out for myself some day.”
“But I hadn’t thought of your leaving home yet, Frank,” his mother went
on, in dismay.
“Well, I’ll look around in Claster first.”
“I wish you would, and in Porthaven, too.”
Frank was enthusiastic about doing something, and that very Saturday
night he asked half a dozen persons he knew for a situation.
But as his mother had intimated, it was next to impossible to find an
opening. Only at one store was anything offered, and the pay there was
but two dollars a week.
“I cannot afford to work for such an amount, Mr. Grimes,” said Frank.
“Well, that’s all I am willing to pay,” returned the storekeeper.
“Plenty of boys would jump at the chance. I thought I’d give you a trial
on your father’s account.”
“Thank you, but I’ll look further.”
Early Monday morning Frank went to Porthaven. As he did not want to pay
the stage fare, which was twenty cents each way, he determined to walk
the distance. But he was scarcely out of town when a boy in a grocery
wagon came up behind him.
“Hullo, Frank!” called out the boy. “If you are going my way, jump in.”
“I am bound for Porthaven, Joe.”
“So am I. Glad I met you,” replied Joe Franklin, who worked for a local
grocer. “I hate to travel such a distance all alone. Where are you
“I am going to look for work,” answered Frank, as he took a seat beside
the grocer’s boy.
“Can’t you get anything to do in Claster?”
“Yes, one job. Mr. Grimes wants me to work for him for two dollars a
“Don’t you work for him, Frank.”
“I don’t intend to. I must earn more.”
“Old Grimes is the hardest man in town to get along with. All of his
clerks are in hot water with him every day.”
“Mr. Wilkins must pay you more than two dollars, Joe?”
“He pays me three and a half, and I am to have four after New Year’s.”
“That is something like. But I want to earn even more—if I can.”
“I suppose you’ve got to do it, now your dad is out of work and laid
“Somebody told my dad you folks had lost a lot of money on some rascal
“It is true, and that’s all the more reason I want to earn something.”
“Can’t your father get anything out of the railroad company for the
“I trust so. But it is pretty hard to fight a big railroad company.”
“Will your father start in the feed business again?”
“I don’t think so. Still, he doesn’t know what he will do. He wants to
get well first.”
So the talk ran until the outskirts of Porthaven were reached. Then
Frank left the wagon and thanked his comrade for the ride.
“When are you going back?” asked Joe.
“I can’t tell you.”
“I’m going back in half an hour. You can ride with me if you will.”
“Thank you, Joe, but I guess I’ll have to stay a little longer,”
answered Frank; and then the two boys separated.
Porthaven was a town considerably larger than Claster and consequently
Frank had a great many more stores and offices to visit. But his quest
for employment here was even less encouraging than at home. Not a single
opening of any kind presented itself.
“This is certainly hard luck,” he thought, as he found himself at the
end of the main street. “I did think there would be at least one
He had brought a lunch with him, and now walked down to the edge of the
small river which ran through Porthaven.
At a beautiful spot bordering the river somebody had placed a bench, and
here he sat down to enjoy the sandwiches and piece of pie his mother had
thoughtfully provided for him.
Frank’s appetite, like that of most growing boys, was good, and it did
not take him long to dispose of his meal.
“Wish I had another sandwich,” he thought, after it was gone. “Tramping
around gives one a very hungry feeling, especially if he doesn’t get any
Not knowing what to do next, Frank remained where he was, and presently
a young man, carrying a small, square hand-bag of black leather, came
strolling towards him.
“Can you tell me how much further it is to Porthaven?” the young man
asked, as he came to a halt, and rested his bag on the end of the bench.
“You are on the outskirts of the town, now,” was our hero’s reply.
“Good! I was afraid I had still a mile or so to go. I missed the stage
from River Bend, and I did not want to waste the time, so I walked over.
It’s pretty hot, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” And now Frank made room so the stranger could sit down, which he
“Are you acquainted in Porthaven?”
“Then perhaps you won’t mind telling me where some of these folks live,”
and the young man brought out a notebook from his pocket.
“I’ll tell you what I know willingly.”
“Live around here, I suppose?”
“No, sir; I come from Claster. I’m looking for work.”
“Oh!” The young man gazed at Frank curiously. “Hard job, isn’t it?”
“Struck anything yet?”
“I can sympathize with you. I was out looking for work, myself, last
summer, and I couldn’t get a single thing that was worth anything.”
“But you are working now?”
“Well, yes; but I haven’t got anything steady. I’m a book agent, and I
get paid for what orders I get, that’s all.”