WHEN Nathan Middleton reached home at three o’clock in the afternoon,
his face wore the look of mysterious importance that indicated the
possession of a secret. His wife understood this at once, and asked
“What’s happened, Nathan?”
“What’s happened? Who said anything had happened?”
“Your looks said so.”
“Perhaps my looks will tell you what it is.”
“Nonsense, Mr. Middleton! Don’t keep me in suspense.”
“It’s about Tom.”
“What’s he done?” asked the lady eagerly. “Anything bad?”
“I should say it would be bad for him—and for us too.”
“Do tell me, Mr. Middleton, without beating around the bush all day.”
“Then this is the long and short of it—he’s lost his fortune.”
“Good gracious! How!”
“Bad investments. It’s a pity the money hadn’t been placed in my hands.”
“Has he lost forty thousand dollars?” ejaculated the lady.
“All but a few hundred dollars.”
“Then he’s got enough to pay his board a few months longer.”
“Mr. Sharp says he must leave us at once or pay only five dollars a
“Five dollars a week! Ridiculous!”
“Of course it can’t be, Corinthia. So he leaves us to-morrow morning.”
“Did you get paid for this month?” asked Mrs. Middleton anxiously.
“Yes, I made sure of that.”
“Well,” said the lady. “It’ll be a loss to us, but I ain’t sorry for the
boy. It’ll be a good lesson for him with all his airs and importance.
I’m glad he’ll have to earn his own living.”
“As far as that goes I’m not sorry myself,” said Nathan.
“Does he know it?”
“When are you going to tell him?”
“Be sure and tell him before me. I want to see how he stands it.”
“I meant to, Corinthia. By the way, I think you needn’t have any meat on
at supper. He may as well begin at once to deny himself.”
“A good suggestion, Mr. Middleton.”
Just then the door was opened, and Squire Davenport was ushered in.
“I called to see you about renewing the insurance on my house, Mr.
Middleton,” said he.
“Glad to see you squire.”
“Are you quite well, Mrs. Middleton? I needn’t ask after your young
ward. I left him at my house.”
Mr. and Mrs. Middleton looked at each other. The former coughed.
“Tom leaves us to-morrow,” said Nathan.
“Indeed! You surprise me,” said the lawyer.
“Circumstances render it necessary for him to make different
“Has he become tired of Plympton? James will miss him.”
“I don’t know that he has become tired of it, but he has lost his
fortune, and is now a poor boy.”
“You amaze me,” ejaculated Squire Davenport. “I thought him rich.”
“Three months ago he was worth forty thousand dollars.”
“How has it been lost?”
“By bad investments. I’ll tell you all I know about it,” and Nathan
repeated the information he had heard in the morning.
“Of course,” he concluded, “he must now earn his own living.”
“I see,” said the lawyer. “How does he take it?”
“He doesn’t know it.”
“I’m glad he is to leave Plympton. Of course, I could no longer receive
him at my house as the intimate companion of my son and daughter, if he
is to be a working boy.”
“Certainly not,” said Nathan obsequiously. “Your children have a right
to look higher.”
“Of course,” said the lawyer pompously. “While he was an heir to a
handsome fortune, it was all very well, but social distinctions must be
respected—eh, Mrs. Middleton?”
“You are quite right, I am sure, Squire Davenport,” said Mrs. Middleton.
“The boy may be a common laborer or mechanic.”
“To be sure. Well, Mr. Middleton, I thank you for your information. It
is well that he is not a few years older, or his evident admiration for
Imogene might have led to unfortunate complications.”
“No, doubt,” said Nathan, though remembering the far from flattering
terms in which Tom had often spoken of the young lady, he very much
doubted whether there was any ground for such an apprehension.
An hour later Squire Davenport bent his steps homeward.
On the way he met Tom, just returning from his own house. Usually he had
been very polite and gracious to our hero, but now he walked stiffly by,
very slightly inclining his head, to Tom’s decided amazement.
“What’s up?” thought our hero. “He’s as cold as an iceberg. What have I
been doing, I wonder?”
Tom thought, but in vain. He had been unusually quiet for a week past,
and could not imagine how he had offended the village magnate.
“I suppose I’ll find out sometime,” he thought. “Meanwhile I won’t
trouble myself about it.”
A new surprise awaited our hero. Generally Mr. and Mrs. Middleton were
quite deferential to him. Remembering the twenty dollars a week they
thought it polite to treat him as well as possible.
Now when he opened the door, and was about to go up-stairs, Mrs.
Middleton called out sharply:
“Wipe your feet, will you? Do you think I shall allow a peck of dust to
be tracked up-stairs.”
Tom stared at her in amazement.
“What do you stand gaping at?” demanded Corinthia in the same tone.
“Didn’t you hear what I said?”
“You spoke loud enough for me to hear,” said Tom coolly. “Is anything
the matter with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought you might have eaten something that didn’t agree with you,”
“Well, I declare!” ejaculated Mrs. Middleton. “You beat all for
“I generally treat people well if they treat me well,” said Tom
composedly, “but if you are impudent to me, I shall answer accordingly.”
This was too much for Mrs. Middleton. Had Tom still been rich, he would
have had a right to assume such a tone, but in a poor boy it was
“I’ll tell Mr. Middleton how you treat me!” she said angrily.
“Do,” said Tom, “if you want to.”
“Nathan,” called his wife, opening the door of the apartment in which
her liege lord was reading.
“What is the matter, my dear?”
“Thomas has been impudent to me.”
“Thomas, this is a serious charge,” said Nathan severely.
Here was another surprise for Tom.
“It strikes me you are both crazy,” he said, looking from one to the
other. “Settle it between you. I am going up-stairs.”
“Nathan, will you suffer him to insult me?” screamed Corinthia, showing
signs of hysterics.
Tom did not hear the reply, as he was already entering his room.
“Something’s up,” he said to himself. “I wonder what it is.”
Tom’s curiosity was soon to be satisfied.
WHEN Tom came down stairs to supper he was struck by the naked
appearance of the table. The Middletons had returned to their old
economical fare. Mr. Middleton looked sober, and his wife had a
“Very jolly this!” thought our hero as he sat down in his usual place.
“A little more milk, if you please,” said Tom as Mrs. Middleton passed
his tea, diluted by a spoonful of milk.
“I have given you as much as I take myself,” said Corinthia sourly.
Tom reached over without a word, and taking the milk-pitcher, used what
Mrs. Middleton’s sallow face flushed.
“Did you see that, Mr. Middleton?” she demanded.
“I did, my dear.”
“What do you think of it?”
“I think it very ill-bred.”
Tom looked from one to the other attentively. He didn’t know what to
make of the change in their demeanor.
“Has milk risen in price?” he asked.
“No,” said Mr. Middleton, embarrassed.
“Then why am I to be stinted? Don’t I pay enough board to entitle me to
a decent supply?”
This was a difficult question to answer. Whatever the future had in
store for him, Tom was certainly at this moment paying twenty dollars a
week for his board.
“You make a great fuss about your victuals,” said Corinthia, not very
“I don’t care about being starved in order that you may make a little
more money,” retorted Tom.
“Do you hear that, Mr. Middleton?” ejaculated the lady angrily.
“Young man,” said Mr. Middleton solemnly, “you should not speak lightly
of starving. The time may come when you will want for food.”
“The time has come already, it seems to me,” said Tom with spirit. “I
should like some meat.”
“There is no meat on the table.”
“I suppose there is some in the house,” said Tom quietly.
“You can do without it,” said Corinthia spitefully.
“Will you tell me if anything has happened?” asked Tom, laying down his
knife and fork. “Probably there is some cause for your change of
“Something _has_ happened,” said Mrs. Middleton with a look of spiteful
“I should like to hear what it is.”
“You have lost your fortune.”
“That accounts for it,” said Tom significantly. “I am no longer
surprised. As I am rather interested, will you be kind enough to let me
know all about it?”
“Tell him, Nathan,” said Corinthia.
“Ahem!” said Mr. Middleton. “I regret to communicate bad tidings, but I
was at Centerville this morning, and learned from Mr. Sharp that through
the bad way in which your money was invested when it came into his
hands, the whole has melted away, and you are a beggar.”
“Not quite,” said Tom proudly. “I may be poor, but no one will ever see
“You’ll have to earn your own living,” said Mrs. Middleton spitefully.
“You won’t find it for your interest to turn up your nose at your
“I am more likely to turn up my nose at the want of them—as to-night,”
“You’ll be lucky if you always fare as well.”
“Perhaps so. Will you tell me, Mr. Middleton, if my whole fortune is
gone? Is nothing left?”
“A few hundred dollars remain, I believe.”
“That is better than nothing. So I must now make my own way.”
“I am glad you see it,” sneered Corinthia.
“It seems to me rather a sudden collapse,” said Tom thoughtfully. “I
must ask Mr. Sharp about it.”
“Mr. Sharp wishes you to come to Centerville to-morrow. You will find
that my statement is perfectly correct.”
“I don’t doubt it,” said Tom. “If you and Mrs. Middleton were not quite
convinced that my fortune was gone, you wouldn’t have treated me as you
have this afternoon.”
“Good gracious, Corinthia! Do you hear that?” ejaculated Nathan.
“I hear it, Mr. Middleton, and I am not surprised,” said the lady
venomously. “This is our reward for toiling day and night for this
ungrateful boy. This is our reward for permitting him to upset all our
plans and run riot through the house. And this is gratitude! Oh,
“No, it isn’t,” said Tom. “I don’t see any cause for gratitude, and I
haven’t pretended to feel any. You’ve had twenty dollars a week for my
board, when I could get as good anywhere else for one-third the price,
or some less. I think it’s you that ought to be grateful.”
“Do you hear that, Nathan? It’s an outrage.”
“I hear it, Corinthia, and I agree,” said her husband solemnly.
“May I ask if I am paying at the rate of twenty dollars a week for this
supper?” inquired Tom.
Mr. Middleton was in a quandary. The bill had been paid up to that day,
but for the extra portion of a day he meant to deduct payment out of the
three dollars which had been given for Tom’s traveling expenses. He
could not do this with any fairness unless decent meals were supplied.
“Corinthia,” he said, “you had better send for some meat.”
“Why should I? I don’t think it necessary,” said the lady reluctantly.
“I have my reasons, which you will acknowledge to be good. I will
explain to you afterward.”
Mrs. Middleton complied with her husband’s request, but with no great
show of willingness.
“As this is your last supper under my roof,” he said to Tom while his
wife was gone for the meat, “I wish you to be satisfied.”
“Then I am not to return to Plympton?” said Tom.
“No; it will probably be necessary for you to work for your living at
once. You may, perhaps, go into a shoe-shop, or learn the carpenter’s
“Did Mr. Sharp say that?”
“No; I only suggested it.”
“Thank you. Perhaps you would take me into your office to learn the
“Not with _my_ consent,” said Mrs. Middleton, who reappeared in time to
hear Tom’s question.
“I don’t think it would be advisable,” said Nathan.
“Then perhaps I shall have to go into a shoe-shop, as you suggest. If
there should be an opening in Plympton, perhaps you would give me your
trade for the sake of old times.”
“Perhaps so,” said Nathan dubiously.
Tom helped himself to the meat, and in spite of the bad news he had
heard, displayed his usual good appetite.
“I really believe,” Corinthia remarked afterward to her husband, “that
boy would eat if the house was on fire.”
“Very likely,” said Nathan. “He’s a strange boy.”
At length Tom rose from the table.
“As I’m going to-morrow,” he said, “I will make my farewell calls, and
then come home and pack my trunk.”
THERE was another tea-table in Plympton where Tom’s affairs were
discussed the same afternoon. As the reader will conjecture, I refer to
that of Lawyer Davenport.
“Was Thomas Temple here this afternoon?” he asked when they were all
“Yes,” said Imogene promptly.
“Imogene is setting her cap for him,” said James.
“You should not tease your sister, James,” said his mother. “It is
perfectly natural that Tom should be polite to your sister. He is in her
own social rank, and will possess a fine fortune. What do you say, Mr.
“That the intimacy had better cease,” said the lawyer.
“Really, I can’t understand your reasons,” said Mrs. Davenport.
“What is the matter with Tom?” demanded Imogene.
“I have heard some news about him this afternoon,” said the lawyer,
“which influences me in what I have said.”
“We shouldn’t be too hard upon his boyish scrapes,” said Mrs. Davenport
charitably. “Boys will be boys.”
“It isn’t any boyish scrape.”
“What is it, then?”
“Much worse than that. He has lost his entire fortune!”
“You don’t mean it!” ejaculated his wife.
“It can’t be true, papa,” said Imogene.
“It is perfectly true. I had it from Mr. Middleton, and he received the
information this very day from Mr. Sharp, the boy’s guardian.”
“But how could he lose it?” asked James.
“By bad investments and the failure of large creditors.”
“Has he lost everything?”
“All but a few hundred dollars.”
“Of course, that alters the case very much,” said Mrs. Davenport. “He is
a poor boy now.”
“To be sure. He will have to work for a living. Probably he will become
a common mechanic.”
“Horrible!” exclaimed Imogene, with a shudder.
“Of course, he is no fit companion for our children now.”
“Certainly not,” said Mrs. Davenport decidedly.
“I am not sorry,” said James. “I never liked him. I always thought him
“I hope, Imogene,” said her mother, “you won’t think of encouraging his
visits now,” said her mother. “He is far below you in the social scale.”
“I understand that well enough, mother. I should not be willing to
associate with a working boy.”
“Right, my love! I see that you cherish sentiments worthy of my
daughter. There is nothing like having a proper sense of your own
“You won’t have to complain of me,” said Imogene, tossing her head.
“Nor of me,” said James. “I’ll keep him at a distance, never fear.”
“If he persists in coming here, you must tell him decidedly that he is
not wanted,” said Mrs. Davenport.
“There will be no difficulty,” said the lawyer. “He is to leave town at
once, and probably Mr. Sharp will find him a place.”
“I am glad of that.”
“I am not,” said James. “I should like to see him working at some trade
here in town, so that I could snub him and so pay him off for his
The family had just risen from the supper-table when Tom was ushered
into the room by the servant. The four who had been discussing him and
his affairs looked at each other in a significant manner. Tom was sharp
enough to see that the change in his fortunes was known, and he smiled
“Good-evening, Thomas,” said the lawyer, in a reserved tone. “Do you
bring any message from Mr. Middleton?”
“No, I don’t,” said Tom independently. “I board with Mr. Middleton. I
don’t carry messages for him.”
“It appears to me that you exhibit an unbecoming pride,” said the
“Do I?” cried Tom. “I was only stating a fact, which you didn’t appear
to understand. I came on my own business. You may know that I am to
leave Plympton to-morrow.”
“Have you got a place yet?” asked James with a sneer.
“What kind of a place?”
“I had an idea that you were going to learn a trade.”
“Did you? Where did you get the idea from?”
“You’ve lost your money, haven’t you?”
“So they say.”
“And have got to earn your living.”
“You appear to know all about my affairs. Probably you’re right. Perhaps
you could assist me by some suggestion.”
“If we hadn’t a stable-boy already, I would ask father to take you.”
“Thank you,” said Tom quietly. “It’s a good thing to have friends when
you’re hard up, but I don’t think I’ll trouble you. There is one favor
you can do me, however.”
“If James can conscientiously do you a favor,” said the lawyer
guardedly, “I shall not object to his doing it.”
“Oh, it won’t hurt his conscience,” said Tom laughing. “At any rate it
“I think the tone you employ is hardly appropriate, as you are going to
ask a favor.”
“What is it?” asked James, who felt rather curious, and had no idea what
Tom meant. If he had he would not have felt so complacent.
“Why,” said Tom, “I feel a little delicate, but as I am leaving
Plympton, and am likely to need the money, I should like to have James
pay me the money I have lent him at different times.”
James flushed and looked uncomfortable. His father asked hastily:
“James, have you borrowed money of Thomas?”
“I borrowed a trifle on two or three occasions,” James admitted
“A trifle! How much?”
“Here is the statement,” said Tom. “It amounts to fifteen dollars and a
“It can’t be!” said James.
“You may look over the items,” said Tom.
“Give me the paper,” said the lawyer.
“James, is this correct?” he demanded rather sternly.
“I am almost sure it isn’t,” said James. “I am sure he has put down more
than I borrowed.”
“You know that is false, James Davenport,” said Tom contemptuously.
“I didn’t think you were so mean as to get everything down,” said James.
“I did it because I always keep an account of the money I spend,” said
Tom; “but I will tell you frankly I should never have asked you to repay
it, if you had not chosen to sneer at my loss of fortune.”
“Did you expect my son to treat you just the same as when you were
rich?” asked Mr. Davenport.
“No, for I knew him too well,” said Tom significantly.
“He has acted in a manner entirely proper,” said Mrs. Davenport with
emphasis, “and I venture to say that my daughter, Imogene, agrees with
“I do, ma,” said Imogene.
“Right, my daughter,” said her mother approvingly.
Tom looked at Imogene attentively, but made no comment. He expressed no
surprise, for he felt none.
“If you were about to remain in Plympton,” said Mrs. Davenport, “I
should feel compelled to say that my son and daughter could no longer
associate with you on terms of equality.”
“It is fortunate that I am going then,” said Tom. “I really don’t think
I could live in Plympton if I were deprived of their society.”
“You might see us occasionally if you became our stable-boy,” said
“Thank you,” said Tom, “but I must decline. I am afraid you would want
to borrow all my wages.”
“You are impertinent,” said James angrily.
“So are you,” said Tom with spirit.
“Hush, James!” said his father. “Such discussion is unseemly. In regard
to these sums you have lent my son, Thomas,” he proceeded, “I should be
justified in refusing to repay them, since they were lent to a minor,
who, in the eyes of the law, has no right to contract debts.”
“Do as you like,” said Tom. “If you are unwilling to pay it, James may
regard it as a present from me.”
“I should not wish my son to remain under such an obligation, and I am
quite aware that your present circumstances will not justify you in
making so large a present, or indeed any at all. I therefore repay you.”
Tom received the bank-notes and put them in his pocket-book.
“Thank you,” he said, “both for the money and the consideration for my
poverty. I won’t occupy any more of your time, but will bid you all
good-by. I should be glad to have you send good-by to Mary Somers when
“I’ll do it,” said James. “By the way, you would be a good match for
her. She hasn’t got a cent, and can’t expect anything better than being
a mechanic’s wife.”
“Would you be willing to accept a mechanic for a cousin?” asked Tom,
“We shouldn’t need to be intimate.”
“Very true. That’s a comfort. But we won’t look too far ahead. Good-by.”
And Tom withdrew.
“What a ridiculous pride that boy has,” said Mrs. Davenport.
“He’s very impudent,” said James.
“I’m glad he’s gone,” said Imogene.
“Very probably you will never meet again,” said her father; “if you do,
you can be very distant.”
Poor Tom! A few hours had made a great difference in the demeanor of the
Davenports toward him. Such is life!
IT MUST not be supposed that Tom cared nothing for the loss of his
fortune. He was old enough to know the value of money, and to realize
the great difference it would make in the life that lay before him. But
he was one of those who think it foolish to cry over spilled milk, and
he at once resolved to make the best of his position. As to the loss of
such friends as the Davenports, he cared little. He had always
understood that they cared for him only because he was rich, and he was
neither astonished nor disappointed at the change which had come over
He made two other calls and then returned to his boarding-house. He went
up-stairs to his room and packed his trunk. As he was thus engaged, Mr.
Middleton tapped at the door.
“Come in,” said Tom.
Mr. Middleton entered.
“There is a little matter I wished to speak to you about,” said Nathan.
“Very well, sir.”
“Mr. Sharp paid your board-bill up to to-day.”
“Very well, sir.”
“But there will be one day over, for which no pay has been received.”
“Oh!” said Tom; “there will be no difficulty about that. Tell me how
much it is, and I will pay you.”
Mr. Middleton coughed.
“It can be settled another way,” he said. “Mr. Sharp handed me three
dollars for your traveling expenses. I can take it out of that.”
“Just as you like.”
“I find,” proceeded Nathan, “that one-seventh of twenty dollars is two
dollars and eighty-six cents. I will, therefore, hand you fourteen
cents, and that will make us square.”
Tom’s lip curled, for he fully appreciated Mr. Middleton’s meanness.
“Never mind about the change,” he said. “Keep the three dollars.”
“I am quite ready to pay you the fourteen cents,” said Nathan.
“It’s of no consequence. Keep it to remember me by.”
“I _shall_ remember you, Thomas,” said Mr. Middleton, whose heart was
touched by the unexpected gift. “I am really sorry that circumstances
are to separate us.”
“No doubt you’ll miss my money,” thought Tom; but it was his rule to
treat others as they treated him, and he answered politely:
“I should prefer to have kept my money, but I must take things as they
“You may get a part of your money back; if you do, I shall be happy to
receive you back into my family on the same terms.”
“I can’t tell what my plans will be,” said Tom, who could not pretend
that he wished to return. “If I should desire to return, I will write to
Mr. Middleton on second thoughts had thought it best to treat our hero
well, as there was no knowing but some of the bad investments might turn
out better than was expected.
Tom went to bed early. The next morning the Centerville stage drove
round to the door, and he got on board. Mr. Middleton bade him a cordial
farewell, but Mrs. Middleton had less hopes of the restoration of his
fortunes. She coldly said good-by, and Tom shed no tears at parting.
Before twelve o’clock he entered Mr. Sharp’s office.
“Glad to see you, Tom,” said the lawyer, rising quickly. “I suppose
you’ve heard the news?”
“I am heartily sorry,” said the lawyer. “I hope you don’t think it my
“I haven’t heard the particulars,” said Tom; “but I felt sure you were
not to blame.”
“Sit down, and I’ll tell you all about it,” said Mr. Sharp.
“I was going to ask that favor,” said Tom. “I didn’t get a very clear
idea from Mr. Middleton as to what had happened, or rather how it
happened. He told me I had only a few hundred dollars to look to now.”
“I hope it will be better than that. Ten thousand dollars were lent to
Archibald Armstrong, a New York merchant, who has failed. His estate
will pay something, though very little. If only ten per cent., that
would amount to a thousand. That’s something.”
“To be sure it is,” said Tom.
“Then you have fifteen thousand dollars invested in mining shares. They
are worth very little, but they will sell for something.”
“Do you think I shall get ten per cent. on these?”
“I think you will.”
“Why, that will be fifteen hundred more! Really, things are not so bad
as they might be,” said Tom cheerfully.
“I am glad you take it so well, Tom. But I can’t offer you any hope of
realizing anything from the balance. It was invested in merchandise
shipped to a foreign port, and the vessel, we have every reason to
believe, is lost.”
“Not much chance there,” said Tom.
“We had better give up all hopes in that quarter. As to the other items,
you may depend upon my doing my best for you.”
“Thank you,” said Tom warmly. “It is pleasant to get a little sympathy.
I didn’t get much in Plympton.”
“From Mr. Middleton, you mean.”
“Yes, and others. Mr. and Mrs. Middleton are both as mean as they can
well be. Notwithstanding the liberal board I paid, they tried to starve
me at first, but I wouldn’t stand it, and they had to improve their
“Didn’t they express any sorrow at losing you?”
“Oh, they were sorry enough, but it was at losing the money. Then there
was a lawyer’s family, who were very polite and attentive to me while I
was rich; but as soon as they learned of my reverses, they tried to look
down upon me, but they didn’t succeed very well,” said Tom, with
satisfaction. “I gave them as good as they sent.”
“I’ll warrant that, Tom,” said Mr. Sharp, laughing. “You generally do.”
“I’d like to get rich again just to turn the tables on them,” said Tom
“You must take the world as you find it,” said the lawyer. “There are
more selfish than unselfish people in it. But you musn’t jump to the
conclusion that all men are mercenary.”
“I am sure they are not,” said Tom.
“Keep your confidence in human nature, my boy, and you will be happier.
Don’t become a cynic. It would only make you unhappy. Besides it would
be unjust to the large number of really excellent people, some of whom I
hope you will meet. But to come back to your affairs, what would you
like to do?”
“What can I do?”
“You can go to a boarding-school a year without exceeding the money I
have to your credit. Then if you realize what I think probable, you can
continue yet longer, and still have something to begin the world with.”
Tom looked thoughtful.
“I am sixteen,” he said, “and my education is good, though it might be
better. I have thought I should like to seek my fortune in the world.”
“Don’t decide hastily, Tom. Another year at school would do you good.”
“I know it, and I will take time to consider. But I must know more of
the world first. Give me fifty dollars, and let me go to New York and
look about me. It will keep me there a fortnight. During that time I
will look around and decide how to spend the next year.”
“You have my consent, Tom,” said the lawyer. “The city abounds in
temptations, but you are sixteen, and I trust to your good sense to keep
clear of them. When do you want to go?”
“To-morrow,” said Tom promptly.
“Very well. You will stay at my house to-day, and you can take the
morning train for the city to-morrow. The money shall be ready.”