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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDriven From Home; Or Carl Crawford's Experience - Chapter 18. Leonard's Temptation
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Driven From Home; Or Carl Crawford's Experience - Chapter 18. Leonard's Temptation Post by :jacko16 Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1957

Click below to download : Driven From Home; Or Carl Crawford's Experience - Chapter 18. Leonard's Temptation (Format : PDF)

Driven From Home; Or Carl Crawford's Experience - Chapter 18. Leonard's Temptation


Leonard was not a thief, but the sight of the wallet tempted him, under the circumstances. He had set his heart on buying a ticket in the gift enterprise, and knew of no way of obtaining the requisite sum--except this. It was, indeed, a little shock to him to think of appropriating money not his own; yet who would know it? The owner of the wallet was drunk, and would be quite unconscious of his loss. Besides, if he didn't take the wallet, some one else probably would, and appropriate the entire contents. It was an insidious suggestion, and Leonard somehow persuaded himself that since the money was sure to be taken, he might as well have the benefit of it as anyone else.

So, after turning over the matter in his mind rapidly, he stooped down and picked up the wallet.

The man did not move.

Emboldened by his insensibility, Leonard cautiously opened the pocketbook, and his eyes glistened when he saw tucked away in one side, quite a thick roll of bills.

"He won't miss one bill," thought Leonard. "Anyone else might take the whole wallet, but I wouldn't do that. I wonder how much money there is in the roll."

He darted another glance at the prostrate form, but there seemed no danger of interruption. He took the roll in his hand, therefore, and a hasty scrutiny showed him that the bills ran from ones to tens. There must have been nearly a hundred dollars in all.

"Suppose I take a five," thought Leonard, whose cupidity increased with the sight of the money. "He won't miss it, and it will be better in my hands than if spent for whiskey."

How specious are the arguments of those who seek an excuse for a wrong act that will put money in the purse!

"Yes, I think I may venture to take a five, and, as I might not be able to change it right away, I will take a one to send for a ticket. Then I will put the wallet back in the man's pocket."

So far, all went smoothly, and Leonard was proceeding to carry out his intention when, taking a precautionary look at the man on the ground, he was dumfounded by seeing his eyes wide open and fixed upon him.

Leonard flushed painfully, like a criminal detected in a crime, and returned the look of inquiry by one of dismay.

"What--you--doing?" inquired the victim of inebriety.

"I--is this your wallet, sir?" stammered Leonard.

"Course it is. What you got it for?"

"I--I saw it on the ground, and was afraid some one would find it, and rob you," said Leonard, fluently.

"Somebody did find it," rejoined the man, whose senses seemed coming back to him. "How much did you take?"

"I? You don't think I would take any of your money?" said Leonard, in virtuous surprise.

"Looked like it! Can't tell who to trust."

"I assure you, I had only just picked it up, and was going to put it back in your pocket, sir."

The man, drunk as he was, winked knowingly.

"Smart boy!" he said. "You do it well, ol' fella!"

"But, sir, it is quite true, I assure you. I will count over the money before you. Do you know how much you had?"

"Nev' mind. Help me up!"

Leonard stooped over and helped the drunkard to a sitting position.

"Where am I? Where is hotel?"

Leonard answered him.

"Take me to hotel, and I'll give you a dollar."

"Certainly, sir," said Leonard, briskly. He was to get his dollar after all, and would not have to steal it. I am afraid he is not to be praised for his honesty, as it seemed to be a matter of necessity.

"I wish he'd give me five dollars," thought Leonard, but didn't see his way clear to make the suggestion.

He placed the man on his feet, and guided his steps to the road. As he walked along, the inebriate, whose gait was at first unsteady, recovered his equilibrium and required less help.

"How long had you been lying there?" asked Leonard.

"Don't know. I was taken sick," and the inebriate nodded knowingly at Leonard, who felt at liberty to laugh, too.

"Do you ever get sick?"

"Not that way," answered Leonard.

"Smart boy! Better off!"

They reached the hotel, and Leonard engaged a room for his companion.

"Has he got money?" asked the landlord, in a low voice.

"Yes," answered Leonard, "he has nearly a hundred dollars. I counted it myself."

"That's all right, then," said the landlord. "Here, James, show the gentleman up to No. 15."

"Come, too," said the stranger to Leonard.

The latter followed the more readily because he had not yet been paid his dollar.

The door of No. 15 was opened, and the two entered.

"I will stay with the gentleman a short time," said Leonard to the boy. "If we want anything we will ring."

"All right, sir."

"What's your name?" asked the inebriate, as he sank into a large armchair near the window.

"Leonard Craig."

"Never heard the name before."

"What's your name, sir?"

"What you want to know for?" asked the other, cunningly.

"The landlord will want to put it on his book."

"My name? Phil Stark."

"Philip Stark?"

"Yes; who told you?"

It will be seen that Mr. Stark was not yet quite himself.

"You told me yourself."

"So I did--'scuse me."

"Certainly, sir. By the way, you told me you would pay me a dollar for bringing you to the hotel."

"So I did. Take it," and Philip Stark passed the wallet to Leonard.

Leonard felt tempted to take a two-dollar bill instead of a one, as Mr. Stark would hardly notice the mistake. Still, he might ask to look at the bill, and that would be awkward. So the boy contented himself with the sum promised.

"Thank you, sir," he said, as he slipped the bill into his vest pocket. "Do you want some supper?"

"No, I want to sleep."

"Then you had better lie down on the bed. Will you undress?"

"No; too much trouble."

Mr. Stark rose from the armchair, and, lurching round to the bed, flung himself on it.

"I suppose you don't want me any longer," said Leonard.

"No. Come round to-morrer."

"Yes, sir."

Leonard opened the door and left the room. He resolved to keep the appointment, and come round the next day. Who knew but some more of Mr. Stark's money might come into his hands? Grown man as he was, he seemed to need a guardian, and Leonard was willing to act as such--for a consideration.

"It's been a queer adventure!" thought Leonard, as he slowly bent his steps towards his uncle's house. "I've made a dollar out of it, anyway, and if he hadn't happened to wake up just as he did I might have done better. However, it may turn out as well in the end."

"You are rather late, Leonard," said his uncle, in a tone that betrayed some irritation. "I wanted to send you on an errand, and you are always out of the way at such a time."

"I'll go now," said Leonard, with unusual amiability. "I've had a little adventure."

"An adventure! What is it?" Mr. Gibbon asked, with curiosity.

Leonard proceeded to give an account of his finding the inebriate in the meadow, and his guiding him to the hotel. It may readily be supposed that he said nothing of his attempt to appropriate a part of the contents of the wallet.

"What was his name?" asked Gibbon, with languid curiosity.

"Phil Stark, he calls himself."

A strange change came over the face of the bookkeeper. There was a frightened look in his eyes, and his color faded.

"Phil Stark!" he repeated, in a startled tone.

"Yes, sir."

"What brings him here?" Gibbon asked himself nervously, but no words passed his lips.

"Do you know the name?" asked Leonard, wonderingly.

"I--have heard it before, but--no, I don't think it is the same man."

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