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Harper's Round Table, August 27, 1895   By:

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[Illustration: HARPER'S ROUND TABLE]

Copyright, 1895, by HARPER & BROTHERS. All Rights Reserved.







Tony Bronson was the son of a man who had made a great deal of money in a doubtful line of business by rather shady proceedings. In other words, he was not strictly honest, and had amassed a large fortune in a manner that would not bear investigation.

Of this Tony, of course, was ignorant; but he inherited from his father a mean spirit and a determination to turn every circumstance to his own account. He had been sent early to St. Asaph's School that he might associate with the sons of gentlemen and become a gentleman himself, but he had acquired only the outward veneering. His manners were most courteous, his language carefully chosen, and he had sufficient wit to enable him to readily adapt himself to his companions, but he had not the instincts of a true gentleman. He was mean, he was something of a coward, and he was very much of a bully.

Years ago, soon after the two boys first met at St. Asaph's, Neal detected Tony in a cowardly, dishonorable action, and had openly accused him of it. Tony never forgave him, but he bided his time. With an unlimited amount of pocket money of his own, he soon discovered that Neal was running short. When a convenient opportunity came he offered to lend him a small sum. Neal, after a moment's hesitation, weakly accepted the money, assuring himself that it was only for a short time, and that he could easily repay it, and then have no more to do with Bronson. It saved him trouble.

Thus it had gone on. The time never came when Neal felt able to pay the debt; on the other hand, he borrowed more, and now it had reached alarming proportions. His monthly allowance, when it arrived, was gone in a flash, for Neal had never been in the habit of denying himself. It would have been hard for him to explain why he did not go frankly to his sister, tell her the whole story, and ask for her help, except that he was thoroughly ashamed of having placed himself in such straits and did not want to acknowledge it.

Tony Bronson had become intimate with Tom Morgan at St. Asaph's, Tom not being particular in his choice of friends. In that way he had come to visit the Morgans in Brenton. His handsome face and apparently perfect manner attracted many to him who could not see beneath the surface, and his languid man of the world air made an impression.

He cultivated this to the last degree. He was not naturally so lazy, but he thought it effective.

When he said to Edith that he wished to tell her something about Neal Gordon, she looked at him in still greater surprise.

"I want to ask your help, Miss Franklin. A girl can manage these things so much better than a fellow. I like Gordon immensely, and I want to do all I can to help him out of a scrape."

"Does he know that you are speaking to me about him?"

"No, of course not. The fact is "

"Then I think, Mr. Bronson," interrupted Edith, gently, but with decision, "that perhaps it would be better for us not to discuss him."

"But you quite misunderstand me, Miss Franklin. I am speaking only for his own good. I can't bear to see a fellow going straight to the bad, as I really am very much afraid he is, and not lift a finger to help him. I thought if I told you that perhaps you might speak to his sister "

Edith interrupted him again, with heightened color. "I can do nothing of the sort. Nothing would induce me to speak to Mrs. Franklin on the subject. I I couldn't possibly."

Bronson looked at her compassionately.

"Ah, it is as I thought! You and Mrs. Franklin are not congenial. I am so sorry."

Edith said nothing. She knew that he should not make such a remark to her, a perfect stranger. She felt that he did not ring true... Continue reading book >>

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