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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFive Hundred Dollars; Or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret - Chapter 32. Hiram French, Of Chicago
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Five Hundred Dollars; Or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret - Chapter 32. Hiram French, Of Chicago Post by :emailpro Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2804

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Five Hundred Dollars; Or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret - Chapter 32. Hiram French, Of Chicago

CHAPTER XXXII. HIRAM FRENCH, OF CHICAGO

From Harrisburg the dramatic company with which Bert was connected went directly to Chicago.

"We don't like to make such long jumps," said Mr. Pearson, with whom Bert had become quite friendly, "but we could secure Hooley's Theatre this week, and no other. Were you ever in Chicago?"

"No," answered Bert. "I have never traveled much. I suppose you have."

"Yes; I went out to San Francisco last year with the 'Silver King.' You will find Chicago a pleasant city."

"Are the hotels dear?"

"No; only moderate in price. The theatrical people get a discount, you know."

"I think I should rather live in a boarding house."

"That will be cheaper. I don't mind going with you to keep you company."

"Do you know of any good house?"

"I know a very comfortable boarding-house on Monroe Street, kept by Mrs. Shelby, a widow lady. My sister once boarded there, when visiting Chicago."

"That will suit me, I think. Would you mind going 'round with me?"

"I'll take you there, with pleasure."

The two, on arriving in Chicago, went at once to Monroe Street, and called at the boarding-house.

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Pearson," said the widow cordially. "Is your sister with you?"

"Not this time."

"Are you going to play here?"

"Yes; I shall appear at Hooley's Theatre all next week."

"Is that young gentleman your brother?"

"No, he is one of our actors, Mr. Bert Barton."

"He looks young for an actor," said the landlady, surprised.

"I appeared on the stage when I was only twelve. But we have come on business, Mrs. Shelby. Have you a vacant room?"

"Yes; I had one vacated yesterday."

"Suppose Mr. Barton and myself take it for a week?"

"I shall be glad to have you. I can't afford to have my rooms remain vacant."

"What will be your terms?"

"Six dollars each, including board."

"Is that satisfactory, Bert?" asked Pearson.

"Quite so, Mr. Pearson."

"Then we will take possession. I hope it is almost time for a meal, Mrs. Shelby. I am almost famished."

"You will only have to wait an hour. I will show you to your rooms, and then I must be excused, as my presence is required downstairs."

The room shown by the landlady was of fair size and neatly furnished. Bert looked about him in satisfaction.

"I would rather be here than at a hotel," he said.

"So would I, as long as I have a companion," returned Mr. Pearson. "Besides, I shall be saving from four to five dollars a week. I ought to pay more than half of it, as I am receiving a considerably higher salary than you."

"No, Mr. Pearson, I prefer to pay my share. But for you I should be paying more at a hotel."

Bert felt a little diffidence in appearing before a Chicago audience. He had, to be sure, been favorably received in Harrisburg, but he had an idea that in a larger city it would be more difficult to achieve success. The first night undeceived him. He received a liberal share of applause, and was called before the curtain.

"I congratulate you, Bert," said Mr. Pearson. "You seem to have made yourself solid with the audience."

"I am glad that I give satisfaction," returned Bert. "It will encourage me to do better."

"You had better adopt the profession of an actor," continued his friend.

Bert shook his head.

"I prefer to enter a business of some kind," he said. "Though I have succeeded in one part, I am not sure that I should succeed in others."

Bert was about leaving the theatre that night when the call boy brought him a card.

"There is a gentleman at the door would like to see you," he said.

Bert glanced at the card, and found it bore the name of

HIRAM FRENCH.

It was a name he had never before heard, and when he reached the door he looked inquiringly at the middle-aged gentleman who stood before him.

"You are young Barton?" said the visitor.

"Yes; that is my name."

"Are you the son of John Barton, who once worked in the shoe factory of Weeks Brothers?"

"Yes, sir," answered Bert, coloring, for he knew that the stranger must be aware that his father was resting under a criminal charge.

"I thought I could not be mistaken. You look as your father did at your age."

"Then you knew my father as a boy?" said Bert, eagerly.

"I was a schoolmate of his. Later on I was employed in the same factory with him--that of Weeks Brothers."

"Did you know under what circumstances he left the factory?" asked Bert, with some embarrassment.

"Yes, I knew all about it. But I want you to come home and pass the night at my house, and we will talk over that and other matters."

"Thank you, sir. I will give notice to a friend who rooms with me."

Bert found Mr. Pearson, and informed him that he would absent himself for one night from Mrs. Shelby's boarding-house. Then he returned to Mr. French.

"I live on Indiana Avenue," explained the latter. "We shall find a car at the corner of State and Madison Streets."

As they walked to the car, Bert's new friend asked: "How long have you been on the stage, Mr. Barton?"

"Only two weeks."

"You don't mean that that comprises your whole experience."

"Yes. I stepped in at Harrisburg to supply the place of a young actor who was taken sick."

"You act as if you had been trained to it. But how came you to be at Harrisburg? That is not your home?"

"No. As you were my father's friend, I will tell you what brought me out there."

Bert briefly related the story that is already known to the reader. Hiram French listened with great attention.

"I remember Ralph Harding," he said. "He was not popular among his shopmates, especially after his agency in throwing suspicion upon your father."

"Was it generally thought that my father was guilty?" asked Bert.

"No; while circumstances were strong against him, no one could believe that a man whose reputation for integrity was as high as your father's would be guilty of stealing. But the good will of his associates could not help him."

"Did you know Mr. Marlowe?"

"Albert Marlowe? Yes."

"Was he well liked?"

"Not by me. He was far from being as highly respected as your father."

"Yet he has prospered. He is the owner of a factory in Lakeville, and is considered worth thirty thousand dollars."

"I am surprised to hear it. When I knew him he was always in debt."

"If he really took the bonds charged upon my father, that would account for his start in business."

"Exactly so. Now that I think of it, two or three days after the theft, I saw him and Ralph Harding walking together, apparently engaged in earnest conversation. They evidently had a good understanding with each other. I believe you are on the right track, and I heartily hope you will succeed in making your father's innocence evident to the world. John Barton was my favorite friend, and I hope some day to see him in Chicago."

"Are you in business here, Mr. French?"

"Yes; I am in the old line. Like Albert Marlowe, I am the owner of a large shoe factory, and I am worth, I should say, considerably more money."

Hiram French occupied a handsome house on Indiana Avenue, furnished with taste, and was, as his style of living showed, in easy circumstances. He introduced Bert to his wife and daughter, who seemed at once drawn to the young actor. When he left the house the next morning after breakfast he was urgently invited to call again during his stay, and partially promised to do so. But he was in haste to reach Peoria, for there it was he hoped to find a witness that would vindicate his father's name and fame.

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