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Five Hundred Dollars or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret   By: (1832-1899)

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Slowly through the village street walked an elderly man, with bronzed features and thin gray hair, supporting his somewhat uncertain steps by a stout cane. He was apparently tired, for, seeing a slight natural elevation under a branching elm tree, he sat down, and looked thoughtfully about him.

"Well," he said, "Lakeville hasn't changed much since I left it, twenty years since. Has there been any change among those who are near to me? I don't know, but I shall soon find out. Shall I receive a welcome or not? There ought to be two families to greet me, but "

Here a boy appeared on the scene, a boy of fifteen, with a sturdy figure and a pleasant face, whose coarse suit indicated narrow means, if not poverty. Seeing the old man, with instinctive politeness he doffed his hat and with a pleasant smile bade him good morning.

"Good morning," returned the traveller, won by the boy's pleasant face and manner. "If you are not in a hurry won't you sit down by me and answer a few questions?"

"With pleasure, sir; my business isn't driving."

"This is Lakeville, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

"I used to know the place a good many years since. It hasn't grown much."

"No, sir; it's rather quiet."

"Chiefly a farming region, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir; but there is a large shoe manufactory here, employing a hundred hands."

"Who is the owner?"

"Squire Marlowe."

"Ha!" ejaculated the old man, evidently interested. "Albert Marlowe, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir; do you know him?"

"I haven't met him for twenty years, but we are acquainted. I suppose he is prosperous."

"He is considered a rich man, sir. He is a relation of mine."

"Indeed! What then is your name?" asked the old man, eagerly.

"Herbert Barton most people call me Bert Barton."

Bert was surprised at the keen scrutiny which he received from the traveller.

"Was your mother Mary Marlowe?" the latter asked.

"Yes, sir," returned Bert. "Did you know her, too?"

"I ought to; she is my niece, as the man you call Squire Marlowe is my nephew."

"Then you must be Uncle Jacob, who has lived so many years in California?" said Bert, excitedly.

"The same."

"Mother will be very glad to see you," added Bert, cordially.

"Thank you, my boy. Your kind welcome does me good. I hope your mother is well and happy."

"She is a widow," answered Bert soberly.

"When did your father die?"

"Two years ago."

"I hope he left your mother in comfortable circumstances."

Bert shook his head.

"He only left the small house we live in, and that is mortgaged for half its value."

"Then how do you live?"

"Mother covers base balls for a firm in the next town, and I am working in the big shoe shop."

"Doesn't Squire Marlowe do anything for your mother?"

"He gave me a place in the shop that is all."

"Yet he is rich," said the old man, thoughtfully.

"Yes, he lives in a fine house. You can see it down the street on the other side that large one with a broad piazza. He keeps two horses and two handsome carriages, and I am sure he must have plenty of money."

"I am glad to hear it. I have been a long time among strangers. It will be pleasant to come to anchor at the house of a rich relation. Where does your mother live?"

"In a small cottage at the other end of the street. Won't you come home with me, Uncle Jacob? Mother will be glad to see you."

"I must call at Albert Marlowe's first. What family has he?"

"He has one boy about my own age."

"I suppose you are very intimate being cousins."

Bert laughed.

"He wouldn't thank you for calling us cousins," he answered. "Percy Marlowe is a boy who thinks a good deal of himself. He puts on no end of airs."

"Like his father before him. Is he a smart boy?"

"Do you mean in his studies?"

"Yes... Continue reading book >>

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