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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesStruggling Upward; Or Luke Larkin's Luck - Chapter 20. Luke Talks With A Capitalist
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Struggling Upward; Or Luke Larkin's Luck - Chapter 20. Luke Talks With A Capitalist Post by :Kevin_C Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2775

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Struggling Upward; Or Luke Larkin's Luck - Chapter 20. Luke Talks With A Capitalist

CHAPTER XX. LUKE TALKS WITH A CAPITALIST

Luke worked steadily on the task given him by his new patron. During the first week he averaged three hours a day, with an additional two hours on Saturday, making, in all, twenty hours, making, at thirty cents per hour, six dollars. This Luke considered fair pay, considering that he was attending school and maintaining good rank in his classes.

"Why don't we see more of you, Luke?" asked his friend Linton one day. "You seem to stay in the house all the time."

"Because I am at work, Linny. Last week I made six dollars."

"How?" asked Linton, surprised.

"By copying and making out bills for Mr. Reed."

"That is better than being janitor at a dollar a week."

"Yes, but I have to work a good deal harder."

"I am afraid you are working too hard."

"I shouldn't like to keep it up, but it is only for a short time. If I gave up school I should find it easy enough, but I don't want to do that."

"No, I hope you won't; I should miss you, and so would all the boys."

"Including Randolph Duncan?"

"I don't know about that. By the way, I hear that Randolph is spending a good deal of his time at Tony Denton's billiard saloon."

"I am sorry to hear it. It hasn't a very good reputation."


* * * * * * * * *


One day Luke happened to be at the depot at the time of the arrival of the train from New York. A small, elderly man stepped upon the platform whom Luke immediately recognized as John Armstrong, the owner of the missing box of bonds. He was surprised to see him, having supposed that he was still in Europe. Mr. Armstrong, as already stated, had boarded for several weeks during the preceding summer at Groveton.

He looked at Luke with a half-glance of recognition.

"Haven't I seen you before?" he said. "What is your name?"

"My name is Luke Larkin. I saw you several times last summer."

"Then you know me?"

"Yes, sir, you are Mr. Armstrong. But I thought you were in Europe."

"So I was till recently. I came home sooner than I expected."

Luke was not surprised. He supposed that intelligence of the robbery had hastened Mr. Armstrong's return.

"I suppose it was the news of your box that hurried you home," Luke ventured to say.

"No, I hadn't heard of it till my arrival in New York can you tell me anything about the matter? Has the box been found?"

"Not that I have heard, sir."

"Was, or is, anybody suspected?"

"I was suspected," answered Luke, smiling, "but I don't think any one suspects me now."

"You!" exclaimed the capitalist, in evident astonishment. "What could induce any one to suspect a boy like you of robbing a bank?"

"There was some ground for it," said Luke candidly. "A tin box, of the same appearance as the one lost, was seen in our house. I was arrested on suspicion, and tried."

"You don't say so! How did you prove your innocence?"

"The gentleman who gave me the box in charge appeared and testified in my favor. But for that I am afraid I should have fared badly."

"That is curious. Who was the gentleman?"

Luke gave a rapid history of the circumstances already known to the reader.

"I am glad to hear this, being principally interested in the matter. However, I never should have suspected you. I claim to be something of a judge of character and physiognomy, and your appearance is in your favor. Your mother is a widow, I believe?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you are the janitor of the schoolhouse?"

Mr. Armstrong was a close observer, and though having large interests of his own, made himself familiar with the affairs of those whom others in his position would wholly have ignored.

"I was janitor," Luke replied, "but when Mr. Duncan became a member of the school committee he removed me."

"For what reason?" asked Mr. Armstrong quickly.

"I don't think he ever liked me, and his son Randolph and I have never been good friends."

"You mean Mr. Duncan, the president of the bank?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Why are not you and his son friends?"

"I don't know, sir. He has always been in the habit of sneering at me as a poor boy--a working boy--and unworthy to associate with him."

"You don't look like a poor boy. You are better dressed than I was at your age. Besides, you have a watch, I judge from the chain."

"Yes, sir; but all that is only lately. I have found a good friend who has been very kind to me."

"Who is he?"

"Roland Reed, the owner of the tin box I referred to."

"Roland Reed! I never heard the name. Where is he from?"

"From the West, I believe, though at present he is staying in New York."

"How much were you paid as janitor?"

"A dollar a week."

"That is very little. Is the amount important to you?"

"No, sir, not now." And then Luke gave particulars of the good fortune of the family in having secured a profitable boarder, and, furthermore, in obtaining for himself profitable employment.

"This Mr. Reed seems to be a kind-hearted and liberal man. I am glad for your sake. I sympathize with poor boys. Can you guess the reason?"

"Were you a poor boy yourself, sir?"

"I was, and a very poor boy. When I was a boy of thirteen and fourteen I ran around in overalls and bare-footed. But I don't think it did me any harm," the old man added, musingly. "It kept me from squandering money on foolish pleasures, for I had none to spend; it made me industrious and self-reliant, and when I obtained employment it made me anxious to please my employer."

"I hope it will have the same effect on me, sir."

"I hope so, and I think so. What sort of a boy is this son of Mr. Duncan?"

"If his father were not a rich man, I think he would be more agreeable. As it is, he seems to have a high idea of his own importance."

"So his father has the reputation of being a rich man, eh?"

"Yes, sir. We have always considered him so."

"Without knowing much about it?"

"Yes, sir; we judged from his style of living, and from his being president of a bank."

"That amounts to nothing. His salary as president is only moderate."

"I am sorry you should have met with such a loss, Mr. Armstrong."

"So am I, but it won't cripple me. Still, a man doesn't like to lose twenty-five thousand dollars and over."

"Was there as much as that in the box, sir?" asked Luke, in surprise.

"Yes, I don't know why I need make any secret of it. There were twenty-five thousand dollars in government bonds, and these, at present rates, are worth in the neighborhood of thirty thousand dollars."

"That seems to me a great deal of money," said Luke.

"It is, but I can spare it without any diminution of comfort. I don't feel, however, like pocketing the loss without making a strong effort to recover the money. I didn't expect to meet immediately upon arrival the only person hitherto suspected of accomplishing the robbery."

He smiled as he spoke, and Luke saw that, so far as Mr. Armstrong was concerned, he had no occasion to feel himself under suspicion.

"Are you intending to remain long in Groveton, Mr. Armstrong?" he asked.

"I can't say. I have to see Mr. Duncan about the tin box, and concoct some schemes looking to the discovery of the person or persons concerned in its theft. Have there been any suspicious persons in the village during the last few weeks?"

"Not that I know of, sir."

"What is the character of the men employed in the bank, the cashier and teller?"

"They seem to be very steady young men, sir. I don't think they have been suspected."

"The most dangerous enemies are those who are inside, for they have exceptional opportunities for wrongdoing. Moreover, they have the best chance to cover up their tracks."

"I don't think there is anything to charge against Mr. Roper and Mr. Barclay. They are both young married men, and live in a quiet way."

"Never speculate in Wall Street, eh? One of the soberest, steadiest bank cashiers I ever knew, who lived plainly and frugally, and was considered by all to be a model man, wrecked the man he was connected with--a small country banker--and is now serving a term in State's prison. The cause was Wall Street speculation. This is more dangerous even than extravagant habits of living."

A part of this conversation took place on the platform of the railroad-station, and a part while they were walking in the direction of the hotel. They had now reached the village inn, and, bidding our hero good morning, Mr. Armstrong entered, and registered his name.

Ten minutes later he set out for the house of Prince Duncan.

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