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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesRufus And Rose; Or The Fortunes Of Rough And Ready - Chapter 15. The Tin Box
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Rufus And Rose; Or The Fortunes Of Rough And Ready - Chapter 15. The Tin Box Post by :Will_Graham Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :3460

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Rufus And Rose; Or The Fortunes Of Rough And Ready - Chapter 15. The Tin Box

CHAPTER XV. THE TIN BOX

"I met my dootiful son this mornin'," remarked Martin to his employer, at their next interview.

"Did you?" said Smith, carelessly, for he felt little interest in Martin's relations.

"Yes; he's in business in Wall Street."

"How's that?" asked Smith, his attention arrested by this statement.

"He's with Turner, the banker. He was going to the bank, with a tin box under his arm. I'd like to have the money there was in it."

"Did he tell you there was money in it?"

"No; but I'll bet there was enough in it to make a poor man rich."

"Perhaps so," said Smith, thoughtfully.

"How old is your son?" he inquired, after a pause.

"Fifteen or sixteen, I've forgotten which. You see he isn't my own son; I married his mother, who was a widder with two children; that's the way of it."

"I suppose he doesn't live with you."

"No; he's an undootiful boy. He haint no gratitude for all I've done for him. He wouldn't care if I starved in the street."

"That shows a bad disposition," said Smith, who seemed disposed to protract the conversation for some purposes of his own.

"Yes," said Martin, wiping his eyes pathetically with a red handkerchief; "he's an ungrateful young scamp. He's set my little daughter Rose ag'inst me,--she that set everything by me till he made her believe all sorts of lies about me."

"Why don't you come up with him?"

"I don't know how."

"I suppose you would have no objections if I should tell you."

"No," said Martin, hesitating; "that is, if it aint dangerous. If I should give him a lickin' in the street, he'd call the police, and swear I wasn't his father."

"That isn't what I mean. I'll think it over, and tell you by and by. Now we'll talk about business."

It was not until the next day that Smith unfolded to Martin his plan of "coming up with" Rufus. It was of so bold a character that Martin was startled, and at first refused to have any part in it, not from any conscientious scruples,--for Martin's conscience was both tough and elastic,--but solely because he was a coward, and had a wholesome dread of the law. But Smith set before him the advantages which would accrue to him personally, in so attractive a manner, that at length he consented, and the two began at once to concoct arrangements for successfully carrying out the little plan agreed upon.

Not to keep the reader in suspense, it was no less than forcibly depriving Rufus of the tin box, some morning on his way home from the bank. This might bring Rufus into trouble, while Martin and Smith were to share the contents, which, judging from the wealth of Mr. Turner, were likely to be of considerable value.

"There may be enough to make your fortune," suggested Smith.

"If I don't get nabbed."

"Oh, there'll be no danger, if you will manage things as I direct you."

"I'll have all the danger, and you'll share the profits," grumbled Martin.

"Isn't the idea mine?" retorted Smith. "Is it the soldiers who get all the credit for a victory, or doesn't the general who plans the campaign receive his share? Besides, I may have to manage converting the securities into cash. There isn't one chance in a hundred of your getting into trouble if you do as I tell you; but if you do, remember your oath."

With this Martin was forced to be contented. He was only a common rascal, while Smith was one of a higher order, and used him as a tool. In the present instance, despite his assurances, Smith acknowledged to himself that the plan he had proposed was really attended with considerable danger, but this he ingloriously managed that Martin should incur, while he lay back, and was ready to profit by it if it should prove successful.

Meanwhile Rufus was at work as usual, quite unconscious of the danger which menaced him. His encounter with Martin gave him a little uneasiness, for he feared that the latter might renew his attempts to gain possession of Rose. Farther than this he had no fears. He wondered at the sudden improvement in Martin's fortunes, and could not conjecture what business he could have engaged in which would give him a hundred dollars a month. He might have doubted his assertion, but that his unusually respectable appearance, and the roll of bills which he had displayed, seemed to corroborate his statement. He was glad that his step-father was doing well, having no spite against him, provided he would not molest him and Rose.

He decided not to mention to Rose or Miss Manning that he had met Martin, as it might occasion them anxiety. He contented himself by warning them to be careful, as Martin was no doubt still in the city, and very likely prowling round in the hopes of finding out where they lived.

It was towards the close of business hours that Mr. Marston, the head clerk, handed Rufus a tin box, saying, "Rufus, you may carry this round to the Bank of the Commonwealth."

"Yes, sir," said Rufus.

It was one of his daily duties, and he took the box as a matter of course, and started on his errand. When he first entered the office, the feeling that property of value was committed to his charge gave him a feeling of anxious responsibility; but now he had become used to it, and ceased to think of danger. Probably he would have felt less security, had he seen Mr. Martin prowling about on the opposite side of the street, his eyes attentively fixed on the entrance to Mr. Turner's office. When Martin saw Rufus depart on his errand, he threw away the cigar he had in his mouth, and crossed the street. He followed Rufus closely, unobserved by our hero, to whom it did not occur to look back.

"It's a risky business," thought Martin, rather nervously. "I wish I hadn't undertaken it. Ten to one I'll get nabbed."

He was more than half inclined to give up his project; but if he should do so he knew he would get into disgrace with his employers. Besides, the inducements held out to him were not small. He looked covetously at the tin box under the arm of Rufus, and speculated as to the value of the contents. Half of it would perhaps make him a rich man. The stake was worth playing for, and he plucked up courage and determined to proceed.

Circumstances favored his design.

Before going to the bank, Rufus was obliged to carry a message to an office on the second floor of a building on Wall Street.

"This is my opportunity," thought Martin.

He quickened his steps, and as Rufus placed his foot on the lower step of the staircase, he was close upon him. Hearing the step behind him, our hero turned, only in time to receive a violent blow in the face, which caused him to fall forward. He dropped the box as he fell, which was instantly snatched by Mr. Martin, who lost no time in making his escape.

The blow was so violent that Rufus was for the moment stunned. It was only for a moment, however. He quickly recovered himself, and at once realized his position. He knew, also, that it was Martin who had snatched the box, for he had recognized him during the instant of time that preceded the blow.

He sprang to his feet, and dashed into the street, looking eagerly on either side for the thief. But Martin, apprehending immediate pursuit, had slipped into a neighboring door-way, and, making his way upstairs, remained in concealment for ten minutes. Not suspecting this, Rufus hastened to Nassau Street, and ran toward the bank, looking about him eagerly for Martin. The latter, in the mean while, slipped out of the door-way, and hurried by a circuitous course to Fulton Ferry, where Smith had arranged to meet him and relieve him of the tin box.

"Have you got it?" asked Smith, who had been waiting anxiously for over an hour.

"Here it is," said Martin, "and I'm glad to be rid of it. I wouldn't do it again for a thousand dollars."

"I hope you'll get more than that out of it," said Smith, cheerfully. "You've done well. Did you have much trouble?"

"Not much; but I had to work quick. I followed him into a door-way, and then grabbed it. When'll you divide?"

"Come round to the house this evening, and we'll attend to it."

"Honor bright?"

"Of course."

Meanwhile Rufus, in a painful state of excitement, ran this way and that, in the faint hope of setting eyes upon the thief. He knew very well that however innocent he had been in the matter, and however impossible it was for him to foresee and prevent the attack, the loss would subject him to suspicion, and it might be supposed that he had connived at the theft. His good character was at stake, and all his bright prospects were imperilled.

Meeting a policeman, he hurriedly imparted to him the particulars of the theft, and described Martin.

"A tall man with a blue coat and slouched hat," repeated the officer. "I think I saw him turn into Wall Street half an hour ago. Was his nose red?"

"Yes," said Rufus.

"He hasn't come back this way, or I should have seen him. He must have gone the other way, or else dodged into some side street or door-way. I'll go back with you."

The two went back together, but it was too late. Martin was by this time at some distance, hurrying towards Fulton Ferry.

Rufus felt that the matter was too serious for him to manage alone, and with reluctant step went back to the office to communicate his loss. A formidable task was before him, and he tried to prepare himself for it. It would naturally be inferred that he had been careless, if not dishonest, and he knew that his formerly having been a street boy would weigh against him. But, whatever might be the consequences, he knew that it was his duty to report the loss instantly.

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