They kept up a brisk conversation, Albert speaking in a loud tone, for he was feeling very merry. "Ha, ha, ha! - but I did think the old fool would hear the brakeman call the station, though. I didn't suppose I could get him any farther than the door. To think of his clambering clear out on the platform, and getting left! He believed every word I told him. What a delicious old simpleton!"
And having exhausted that edifying subject for the moment, he presently began to boast of his plans and prospects.
"I don't believe you stand much of a chance there; they say Luke Conway's awful particular," the stranger heard John remark.
"Pooh! shut up!" cried Albert. "Particular! That's just it, and that makes my chance all the better. I've brought the kind of recommendations that a particular man wants, you see."
"But there'll be lots of other fellows trying for the place."
"Don't care if there's fifty," said Albert, "I'd come in ahead of 'em all. I've got testimonials of character and qualifications from Prof. Howe, Rev. Joseph Lee, Dr. Henshaw, and Esq. Jenks, the great railroad contractor. His name alone is enough to secure me the situation."
At this, the gentleman on the next seat turned and gave Albert a quick, searching glance. But the conceited boy was too much occupied with himself to notice the movement, and kept on talking. Now and then the thought of the victim whom he had so cruelly deceived seemed to come back and amuse him amazingly.
"Wonder where the old man is now. Ha, ha! Do you suppose he has found out where Harrowtown is? Oh, but wasn't it rich to see how scared he was when I awoke him? And how he jumped and scrambled out of the car! 'Pon my word, I never saw anything so comical."
Here the stranger turned again and shot another quick glance, this time from indignant eyes, and his lips parted as if about to utter a stern reproof. But he did not speak.
We will now leave Albert and his fellow-travelers, and follow good Gideon Randal.
It was quite dark when he stepped from the cars. "Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Aaron Harrington?" he inquired of a man at the station.
"There's no such man living here, to my knowledge," was the reply.
"What, isn't this Harrowtown?" asked Mr. Randal, in great consternation.
"No, it is Whipple Village."
"Then I got out at the wrong station. What shall I do?" in a voice of deep distress.
"Go right to the hotel and stay till the train goes in the morning," said the man, pleasantly.
There was no alternative. Mr. Randal passed a restless night at the hotel, and at an early hour he was again at the station, waiting for the train. His face was pale, and his eye wild and anxious. "The stage broke down, and I missed the first train," thought he, "and then that boy told me to get out here. I've made a bad beginning and I'm afraid this trip will have a bad ending."
There were many passengers walking to and fro on the platform, waiting for the cars to come.
Among them was a plain-featured, honest-looking boy, who had been accompanied to the station by his mother. Just before she bade him "good-bye," she said, "Lyman, look at that pale, sad old man. I don't believe he is used to traveling. Perhaps you can help him along."
As the train came into the station, the lad stepped up to Mr. Randal, and said, respectfully: "Allow me to assist you, sir." Then he took hold of his arm, and guided him into the car to a seat.
"Thank you, my boy. I'm getting old and clumsy, and a little help from a young hand comes timely. Where are you going, if I may ask?"
"To Harrowtown, sir. I saw an advertisement for a boy in a store, and I'm going to try to get the situation. My name is Lyman Dean."
"Ah? I'm sure I wish you success, Lyman, for I believe you're a good boy. You are going to the same place I am. I want to find Aaron Harrington, but I've had two mishaps. I don't know what's coming next."
"I'll show you right where his office is. I've been in Harrowtown a good many times."
Half an hour later, the brakeman shouted the name of the station where they must stop. Lyman assisted Mr. Randal off the train, and walked with him to the principal street. "Here's Mr. Harrington's office," said he.
"Oh, yes, thank you kindly. And now could you tell me where Mr. Luke Conway's place of business is?"
"Why, that's the very gentleman I'm going to see," said Lyman. "His place is just round the corner, only two blocks off."
Mr. Randal was deeply interested. He turned and shook the boy's hand, warmly. "Lyman," he said, "Mr. Conway knows me. I am going to see him by-and-by. I am really obliged to you for your politeness, and wish I could do something for you. I hope Mr. Conway will give you the situation, for you deserve it. If you apply before I get there, tell him Gideon Randal is your friend. Good-by."
Fifteen minutes after found Lyman waiting in the counting-room of Luke Conway's store. Albert Gregory had just preceded him. The merchant was writing, and he had requested the boys to be seated a short time, till he was at leisure. Before he finished his work, a slow, feeble step was heard approaching, and an old man stood in the doorway.
"Luke, don't you remember me?" The merchant looked up at the sound of the voice. Then he sprang from his chair and grasped the old man's hands in both his own.
"Mr. Randal! Welcome, a thousand times welcome, my benefactor!" he exclaimed. Seating his guest, Mr. Conway inquired after his health and comfort, and talked with him as tenderly as a loving son. It was evident to the quick perception of the merchant that the good old man's circumstances had changed, and he soon made it easy for him to unburden his mind.
"Yes, Luke, I am in trouble. Aaron Harrington owns a mortgage on my farm. I can't pay him, and he threatens to take my home," said Mr. Randal, with a quivering lip. "I went to his office, but didn't find him, and I thought may be you'd advise me what to do."
- to be continued
The Story "Lyman Dean's Testimonials"
is public domain.