The Beginning of the End

Mrs. Vernon was sitting up waiting for Robert’s return. She at once saw by his face that something was wrong.

“How did you get hurt?” she cried, as she noticed the court-plaster on his forehead.

“It’s a long story, Mrs. Vernon,” he answered, as he dropped into a chair. “I’m afraid you will be very angry when I tell you all.”

“Why, Robert, what has happened?”

“I allowed your nephew to slip through my fingers.”

“And that bruise on your head?”

“He did that. He knocked me senseless and robbed me of my watch, my pocketbook, and also that diamond scarfpin you gave me.”

“And he has robbed me too,” added the lady. “Robert, I am very sorry for you!” And she caught his hand.

“Robbed you!” he ejaculated. “You mean that check?”

“No, more than that. He took some of my jewelry the last time he visited me.”

Again Robert had to tell his tale, and this time he related all of the details, for he felt that it would not do to hold back anything from the lady. She listened with her face growing whiter every instant.

“He is a terrible villain, Robert,” she gasped at last. “So he did not sail for Australia, after all.”

“No. I think he must be still hiding in Liverpool.”

“Were it not for the scandal I would place a detective on his track. The attack on you was a most cowardly one.”

“I don’t believe he will worry either of us again very soon,” said the boy. “He is too much afraid of arrest.”

“He knows I am very indulgent,” she sighed.

“Yes, but he knows he now has me to deal with as well as yourself, and he won’t expect to find me so tender-hearted.”

“That is true.”

“If he shows his nose again I will make him give up what he stole and then threaten him with immediate arrest if he comes near us a second time,” went on our hero warmly.

They figured up between them that Frederic Vernon, after disposing of the stolen things, would have about three thousand dollars in his possession.

“That will probably keep him for twelve months, since he used to expend that amount yearly,” said Mrs. Vernon. “Oh, I sincerely trust I never see or hear of him again.”

She promised to make good Robert’s loss.

“I will buy you another scarfpin when we go back to London,” she said, “and also another timepiece.”

“The watch came from my father,” answered Robert. “I would like to get it back if I could.”

“We will notify the Liverpool police to search for it in the pawnshops.”

On the next day Mr. Goodall received a call from Robert, who paid the farmer the money coming to him, and gave him a gift in addition.

“I shall not forget your kindness, Mr. Goodall,” he said. “I trust some day I shall be able to do as much for you.”

“Perhaps some day you’ll meet my son John in America,” replied the farmer. “If so, and you can give him a lift, that will please me more than anything else.”

“I’ll remember, if we ever do meet,” said Robert.

The Liverpool police were notified, and inside of thirty-six hours the watch was recovered from a pawnbroker who had loaned two pounds on it. But the jewelry could not be traced.

Ten days passed, and then Mrs. Vernon received several additional letters from Chicago urging her to return home. Robert also received a very interesting letter from Livingston Palmer, but no communication from his mother, which disappointed him not a little.

“I would like to know how she and Mr. Talbot are getting along,” he thought. “I hope he isn’t making her any fresh troubles.” He did not know that his mother had written, telling of her hard lot, and that Mr. Talbot had intercepted the communication and burnt it up.

“I think we had better sail for New York next Saturday, Robert,” said Mrs. Vernon. “I do not wish to lose anything by not being in Chicago if my presence is required there.”

“I am more than willing,” he answered promptly.

“You do not like England then?”

“Oh, I can’t say that. But I like the United States better.”

“So do I, and that is natural, for both of us were born and brought up there.”

Friday night found them in Liverpool, and here they engaged passage on one of the fastest transatlantic vessels running to New York. By Saturday afternoon they were well out on the ocean.

On the whole, the trip to England had done both Mrs. Vernon and Robert a good deal of good. Robert’s face was round and ruddy, and he looked what he was fast becoming, a young man.

“They won’t be able to call you a boy much longer,” said Mrs. Vernon, during the trip. “I suppose you will soon be sporting a mustache.” And she laughed.

“I guess I can wait a while for that,” answered Robert. “But I won’t mind if people think you have a young man for a secretary, instead of a boy. Some folks don’t like to trust their business with a boy.”

“I am perfectly willing to trust you, Robert.”

“A man might have been smarter in Liverpool than I was.”

“I don’t think so. You were taken off your guard, and that might happen to anyone.”

The voyage passed without special incident outside of a severe storm which was encountered on the third day out. During this storm all of the passengers had to remain below, and meals were served only under great difficulties.

“This is not so pleasant,” observed Robert. “But I suppose we have got to take the bitter with the sweet.”

“I shall be thankful if we don’t go to the bottom,” said Mrs. Vernon, with a shudder.

The storm lasted for twelve hours, and then departed as speedily as it had come, and the balance of the trip proved ideal, for at night there was a full moon, making the ocean look like one vast sheet of silver.

It was about four o’clock of an afternoon when they came in sight of New York harbor. From a distance they made out the statue of Liberty.

“Home again!” cried Robert. “I tell you there is nothing so good as the United States.”

“Right you are, young man,” replied a gentleman standing near. “I have traveled in many foreign countries, but give me the States every time.”

They anchored at Quarantine over night, and landed at the pier ten o’clock the next morning. One day was spent in New York, and then they took the train for Chicago.

It made Robert’s heart swell with delight to tread the familiar streets of Chicago once more. It seemed to him that he had been away a long time.

Mrs. Vernon had sent word ahead that she was coming, and at the depot a coach awaited her to take the lady and Robert to the handsome mansion of Prairie Avenue. Here Martha, the maid, met them at the door, her good-natured face wreathed in smiles.

“Welcome home again, Mrs. Vernon!” she cried joyfully. “And glad to see you, Master Robert.”

“I am glad to be back,” answered Mrs. Vernon.

Robert was soon back in his old room, and the expressman brought in the trunks. By night the youth was as much settled as he had ever been, and the same can be said of the lady who had made him her private secretary.

Mrs. Vernon’s first move in the morning was to settle domestic affairs. Two days later Mr. Farley called upon her, and her next move was to attend a meeting of the stockholders of one of the companies in which she was interested.

“If you wish you can take a run home, Robert,” she said, before going away.

“I thought, if you did not mind, I would go home over next Sunday,” he replied.

“Then you can do that. But I shall not need you to-day.”

“Then I’ll take a walk downtown and see how matters look.”

Before going out Robert wrote a long letter to his mother, telling of his adventures in England, and stating when he was coming home.

As he had done with the other letters, he marked this for Personal Delivery only, and sent it in care of the postmaster at Granville, that his step-father might not get hold of it.

His first call was at Mr. Gray’s office, where he found Livingston Palmer behind the desk as usual.

“Right glad to see you, Robert,” cried the clerk. “And I must thank you for that gift of yours.”

“I trust you had a good time on your money, Livingston.”

“Well, I didn’t spend it foolishly, I can tell you that. I have learned a lesson, Robert. I am saving my spare money, and I am putting in most of my nights in learning stenography and typewriting. I have an offer of twenty-five dollars per week if I learn stenography thoroughly, and I am pegging away at it for all I am worth.”

“I am glad to hear it,” answered Robert heartily. “I have taken up stenography myself,” and such was a fact.

The conversation lasted for quarter of an hour, and then our hero mentioned Dick Marden.

“Why, he is in town and at the Palmer House,” said Livingston Palmer. “I saw him yesterday afternoon. You had better call on him. I know he will be glad to see you.”

“I certainly will call on him, and at once,” said Robert, and moved off without further delay.

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