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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Bank Messenger - Chapter 2. A Deathbed Revelation
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The Young Bank Messenger - Chapter 2. A Deathbed Revelation Post by :jschulmansr Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :969

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The Young Bank Messenger - Chapter 2. A Deathbed Revelation

CHAPTER II. A DEATHBED REVELATION

Ernest made the best of his way home, for he knew his uncle would be waiting for him.

The old man's eyes were closed, but he opened them when Ernest entered the room.

"Was I gone long?" asked the boy.

"I don't know. I think I fell asleep."

"Shall I give you some of the drink?"

"Yes."

He drank a small amount, and it seemed to brighten him up so much that Ernest said, "You look better, Uncle Peter. You may live some time."

Peter shook his head.

"No, boy," he replied; "my time has come to die. I know it. I would like to live for your sake. You will miss me when I am gone, Ernest?"

"Yes, uncle, I shall miss you very much."

The old man seemed gratified. Ernest was the only one he cared for in all the world.

"I don't care so much about dying, but I am anxious for you. I wish I had money to leave you, Ernest, but I haven't much."

"I am young and strong. I can get along."

"I hope so. You will go away from here."

"Yes, uncle. I don't think I shall care to stay here after you are gone."

"You will need money to take you away."

"There is a little more in the trunk."

"But only a little. It is not quite all I have. I have a hundred dollars in gold laid away for you."

Ernest looked surprised.

"I must tell you where it is while I still have life. Do you remember the oak tree on the little knoll half a mile away?"

"Yes, I know it."

"Dig under that tree five feet in a westerly direction. There is a wooden box about half a foot below the surface of the earth. There's nothing to mark the spot, for it was buried a year since, and the grass has grown over it, hiding all traces of the earth's being disturbed. After I am gone go there and get the money."

"Yes, uncle."

"Don't let any one see you when you visit the spot. It will be best to go at night. There are evil-disposed men who would rob you of it if they had the chance. I am sorry it is so little, Ernest."

"But it seems to me a good deal."

"To a boy it may seem so. Once I thought I might have a good deal more to leave you. Go to the trunk and search till you find a paper folded in an envelope, and inscribed with your name."

"Shall I search now?"

"Yes."

Ernest went to the trunk, and followed the old man's directions. He found the envelope readily, and held it up.

"Is that it, uncle?"

"Yes. Put it in your pocket, and read it after I am gone. Then be guided by circumstances. It may amount to something hereafter."

"Very well, uncle."

"I have told you, Ernest, that I do not expect to live long. I have a feeling that twenty-four hours from now I shall be gone."

"Oh, no, uncle, not so soon!" exclaimed Ernest, in a shocked tone.

"Yes, I think so. If you have any questions to ask me while I yet have life, ask, for it is your right."

"Yes, Uncle Peter, I have long wished to know something about myself. Have I any relatives except you?"

"I am not your relative," answered the old man slowly.

Ernest was amazed.

"Are you not my uncle?" he asked.

"No; there is no tie of blood between us."

"Then how does it happen that we have lived together so many years?"

"I was a servant in your father's family. When your father died, the care of you devolved upon me."

"Where was I born?"

"In a large town in the western part of New York State. Your grandfather was a man of wealth, but your father incurred his displeasure by his marriage to a poor but highly-educated and refined girl. A cousin of your father took advantage of this and succeeded in alienating father and son. The estate that should have descended to your father was left to the cousin."

"Is he still living?"

"Yes."

"But my father died?"

"Yes; he had a fever, which quickly carried him off when you were five years of age."

"Was he very poor?"

"No; he inherited a few thousand dollars from an aunt, and upon this he lived prudently, carrying on a small business besides. Your mother died when you were three years old, your father two years later."

"And then you took care of me?"

"Yes."

"And I have been a burden to you these many years!"

"No! Don't give me too much credit. A sum of money was put into my hands to spend for you. We lived carefully, and it lasted. We have been here three years, and it has cost very little to live in that time. The hundred dollars of which I spoke to you are the last of your inheritance. You are not indebted to me for it. It is rightfully yours."

"What is my uncle's name?"

"Stephen Ray. He lives a few miles from Elmira, on the Erie road."

"And is he quite rich?"

"Yes; he is probably worth a quarter of a million dollars. It is money which should have gone to your father."

"Then the wicked are sometimes prospered in this world!"

"Yes, but this world is not all."

"Has there been any communication with my cousin in all these years?"

"Yes, two years ago I wrote to him."

"What did you write?"

"You must forgive me, Ernest, but I saw you growing up without an education, and I felt that you should have advantages which I could not give you. I wrote to your cousin asking if he would pay your expenses in a preparatory school and afterward at college."

"What did he reply?"

"Go to the trunk. You will find his letter there. It is in the tray, and addressed to me."

Ernest found it readily.

"May I read it?" he asked.

"Yes, I wish you to do so."

It ran thus:

PETER BRANT.

_Sir: I have received your letter making an appeal to me in behalf of Ernest Ray, the son of my cousin. You wish me to educate him. I must decline to do so. His father very much incensed my revered uncle, and it is not right that any of his money should go to him or his heirs. He must reap the reward of his disobedience. So far as I am personally concerned I should not object to doing something for the boy, but I am sure that my dead uncle would not approve it. Besides, I have myself a son to whom I propose to leave the estate intact.

It is my advice that you bring up the boy Ernest to some humble employment, perhaps have him taught some trade by which he can earn an honest living. It is not at all necessary that he should receive a collegiate education. You are living at the West. That is well. He is favorably situated for a poor boy, and will have little difficulty in earning a livelihood. I don't care to have him associate with my boy Clarence. They are cousins, it is true, but their lots in life will be very different.

I do not care to communicate with you again.

STEPHEN RAY.

Ernest read this letter with flushed cheeks.

"I hate that man," he said hotly, "even if he is a relative. Uncle Peter, I am sorry you ever applied to him in my behalf."

"I would not, Ernest, if I had understood what manner of man he was."

"I may meet him some time," said Ernest, thoughtfully.

"Would you claim relationship?"

_"Never!" declared Ernest, emphatically. "It was he, you say, who prejudiced my grandfather against my poor father?"

"Yes."

"In order to secure the estate himself?"

"Undoubtedly that was his object."

"Nothing could be meaner. I would rather live poor all my life than get property by such means."

"If you have no more questions to ask, Ernest, I will try to sleep. I feel drowsy."

"Do so, Uncle Peter."

The old man closed his eyes, and soon all was silent. Presently Ernest himself lay down on a small bed near by. When he awoke, hours afterward, he lit a candle and went to Peter's bedside.

The old man lay still--very still. With quick suspicion Ernest placed his hand on his cheek.

It was stone cold.

"He is dead!" cried Ernest, and a feeling of desolation came over him.

"I am all alone now," he murmured.

But he was not wholly alone. There was a face glued against the window-pane a face that he did not see. It was the tramp he had met during the day at the village store.

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