"What is it?" asked Arthur. "I don't know. You can read the telegram for yourself." "Must you go home?" asked Arthur, in a tone of regret. "Yes. When is there a train?" "At three this afternoon." "I will take it. I must go and see Dr. Crabb."
"A telegram for you, Andy!" said Arthur Bacon, as he entered the room ofAndy Grant in Penhurst Academy.
"A telegram!" repeated Andy, in vague alarm, for the word suggestedsomething urgent--probably bad news of some kind.
He tore open the envelope and read the few words of the message:
"Come home at once. Something has happened.
"What can it be?" thought Andy, perplexed. "At any rate, mother is well,for she sent the telegram."
"What is it?" asked Arthur.
"I don't know. You can read the telegram for yourself."
"Must you go home?" asked Arthur, in a tone of regret.
"Yes. When is there a train?"
"At three this afternoon."
"I will take it. I must go and see Dr. Crabb."
"But won't you come back again?"
"I don't know. I am all in the dark. I think something must havehappened to my father."
Dr. Crabb was at his desk in his library--it was Saturday afternoon, andschool was not in session--when Andy knocked at the door.
"Come in!" said the doctor, in a deep voice.
Andy opened the door and entered. Dr. Crabb smiled, for Andy was hisfavorite pupil.
"Come in, Grant!" he said. "What can I do for you?"
"Give me permission to go home. I have just had a telegram. I will showit to you."
The doctor was a man of fifty-five, with a high forehead and anintellectual face. He wore glasses, and had done so for ten years. Theygave him the appearance of a learned scholar, as he was.
"Dear me!" he said. "How unfortunate! Only two weeks to the end of theterm, and you are our _primus_!"
"I am very sorry, sir; but perhaps I may be able to come back."
"Do so, by all means, if you can. There is hardly a pupil I could notbetter spare."
"Thank you, sir," said Andy gratefully. "There is a train at threeo'clock. I would like to take it."
"By all means. And let me hear from you, even if you can't come back."
"I will certainly write, doctor. Thank you for all your kindness."
Penhurst Academy was an endowed school. On account of the endowments,the annual rate to boarding scholars was very reasonable--only threehundred dollars, including everything.
The academy had a fine reputation, which it owed in large part to thehigh character and gifts of Dr. Crabb, who had been the principal fortwenty-five years. He had connected himself with the school soon afterhe left Dartmouth, and had been identified with it for the greater partof his active life.
Andy had been a pupil for over two years, and was an excellent Latin andGreek scholar. In a few months he would be ready for college.
Dr. Crabb was anxious to have him go to Dartmouth, his own _alma mater_,being convinced that he would do him credit and make a brilliant recordfor scholarship. Indeed, it was settled that he would go, his parentsbeing ready to be guided by the doctor's advice.
From Penhurst to Arden, where Andy's parents lived, was fifty miles.Starting at three o'clock, the train reached Arden station at five.
As Andy stepped on the platform he saw Roland Hunter, the son of aneighbor.
"How are you, Andy?" said Roland, with a cheerful greeting. "How do youhappen to be coming home? Is it vacation?"
"No; I was summoned home by a telegram. Is--are they all well at home?"
"Yes, so far as I know."
Andy breathed a sigh of relief.
"I am glad of that," he said. "I was afraid some one in the family mightbe sick."
"I don't think so. I would have heard, living so near."
"Father is well, then?"
"Come to think of it, I heard he had a bad headache."
"At any rate, it isn't anything serious. Are you going home? If you are,I'll walk along with you."
"We can do better than that; I've got uncle's buggy on the other side ofthe depot. I'll take you, bag and baggage."
"Thank you, Roland. My bag is rather heavy, and as it is a mile to thehouse, I shall be glad to accept your offer."
"Bundle in, then," said Roland, merrily. "I don't know but I ought tocharge you a quarter. That's the regular fare by stage."
"All right! charge it if you like," rejoined Andy, smiling. "Are yourfolks all well?"
"Oh, yes, especially Lily. You and she are great friends, I believe."
"Oh, yes," answered Andy, with a smile.
"She thinks a good deal more of you than she does of me."
"Girls don't generally appreciate their brothers, I believe. If I had asister, I presume she would like you better than me."
Roland dropped Andy at his father's gate.
It may be said here that Mr. Grant owned a farm of fifty acres, thatyielded him a comfortable living when supplemented by the interest onthree thousand dollars invested in government bonds. On the farm was ahouse of moderate size which had always been a pleasant home to Andy andhis little brother Robert, generally called Robbie.
Andy opened the gate and walked up to the front door, valise in hand.
The house and everything about it seemed just as it did when he left atthe beginning of the school term. But Andy looked at them with differenteyes.
Then he had been in good spirits, eager to return to his school work.Now something had happened, he did not yet know what.
Mrs. Grant was in the back part of the house, and Andy was in thesitting room before she was fully aware of his presence. Then she camein from the kitchen, where she was preparing supper.
Her face seemed careworn, but there was a smile upon it as she greetedher son.
"Then you got my telegram?" she said. "I didn't think you would be hereso soon."
"I started at once, mother, for I felt anxious. What has happened? Areyou all well?"
"Yes, thank God, we are in fair health, but we have met withmisfortune."
"What is it?"
"Nathan Lawrence, cashier of the bank in Benton, has disappeared withtwenty thousand dollars of the bank's money."
"What has that to do with father? He hasn't much money in that bank."
"Your father is on Mr. Lawrence's bond to the amount of six thousanddollars."
"I see," answered Andy, gravely, "How much will he lose?"
"The whole of it."
This, then, was what had happened. To a man in moderate circumstances,it must needs be a heavy blow.
"I suppose it will make a great difference?" said Andy, inquiringly.
"You can judge. Your father's property consists of this farm and threethousand dollars in government bonds. It will be necessary to sacrificethe bonds and place a mortgage of three thousand dollars on the farm."
"How much is the farm worth?"
"Not over six thousand dollars."
"Then father's property is nearly all swept away."
"Yes," said his mother, sadly. "Hereafter he will receive no help fromoutside interest, and will, besides, have to pay interest on a mortgageof three thousand dollars, at six per cent."
"One hundred and eighty dollars."
"Altogether, then, it will diminish our income by rather more than threehundred dollars."
"That is about what my education has been costing father," said Andy, ina low voice.
He began to see how this misfortune was going to affect him.
"I am afraid," faltered Mrs. Grant, "that you will have to leaveschool."
"Of course I must," said Andy, speaking with a cheerfulness which he didnot feel. "And in place of going to college I must see how I can helpfather bear this burden."
"It will be very hard upon you, Andy," said his mother, in a tone ofsympathy.
"I shall be sorry, of course, mother; but there are plenty of boys whodon't go to college. I shall be no worse off than they."
"I am glad you bear the disappointment so well, Andy. It is of you yourfather and I have thought chiefly since the blow fell upon us."
"Who will advance father the money on mortgage, mother?"
"Squire Carter has expressed a willingness to do so. He will be herethis evening to talk it over."
"I am sorry for that, mother. He is a hard man. If there is a chance totake advantage of father, he won't hesitate to do it."