Driven from Home/Chapter XX

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Driven from Home by Horatio Alger
Chapter XX: Reveals a Mystery

"Please read this letter, Mr. Jennings," said Carl.

His employer took the letter from his hand, and ran his eye over it.

"Do you wish to ask my advice about the investment?" he said, quietly.

"No, sir. I wanted to know how such a letter came to be written to me."

"Didn't you send a letter of inquiry there?"

"No, sir, and I can't understand how these men could have got hold of my name."

Mr. Jennings looked thoughtful.

"Some one has probably written in your name," he said, after a pause.

"But who could have done so?"

"If you will leave the letter in my hands, I may be able to obtain some information on that point."

"I shall be glad if you can, Mr. Jennings."

"Don't mention to anyone having received such a letter, and if anyone broaches the subject, let me know who it is."

"Yes, sir, I will."

Mr. Jennings quietly put on his hat, and walked over to the post office. The postmaster, who also kept a general variety store, chanced to be alone.

"Good-evening, Mr. Jennings," he said, pleasantly. "What can I do for you?"

"I want a little information, Mr. Sweetland, though it is doubtful if you can give it."

Mr. Sweetland assumed the attitude of attention.

"Do you know if any letter has been posted from this office within a few days, addressed to Pitkins & Gamp, Syracuse, New York?"

"Yes; two letters have been handed in bearing this address."

Mr. Jennings was surprised, for he had never thought of two letters.

"Can you tell me who handed them in?" he asked.

"Both were handed in by the same party."

"And that was----"

"A boy in your employ."

Mr. Jennings looked grave. Was it possible that Carl was deceiving him?

"The boy who lives at my house?" he asked, anxiously.

"No; the boy who usually calls for the factory mail. The nephew of your bookkeeper I think his name is Leonard Craig."

"Ah, I see," said Mr. Jennings, looking very much relieved. "And you say he deposited both letters?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you happen to remember if any other letter like this was received at the office?"

Here he displayed the envelope of Carl's letter.

"Yes; one was received, addressed to the name of the one who deposited the first letters-- Leonard Craig."

"Thank you, Mr. Sweetland. Your information has cleared up a mystery. Be kind enough not to mention the matter."

"I will bear your request in mind."

Mr. Jennings bought a supply of stamps, and then left the office.

"Well, Carl," he said, when he re-entered the house, "I have discovered who wrote in your name to Pitkins & Gamp."

"Who, sir?" asked Carl, with curiosity.

"Leonard Craig."

"But what could induce him to do it?" said Carl, perplexed.

"He thought that I would see the letter, and would be prejudiced against you if I discovered that you were investing in what is a species of lottery."

"Would you, sir?"

"I should have thought you unwise, and I should have been reminded of a fellow workman who became so infatuated with lotteries that he stole money from his employer to enable him to continue his purchases of tickets. But for this unhappy passion he would have remained honest."

"Leonard must dislike me," said Carl, thoughtfully.

"He is jealous of you; I warned you he or some one else might become so. But the most curious circumstance is, he wrote a second letter in his own name. I suspect he has bought a ticket. I advise you to say nothing about the matter unless questioned."

"I won't, sir."

The next day Carl met Leonard in the street.

"By the way," said Leonard, "you got a letter yesterday?"

"Yes."

"I brought it to the factory with the rest of the mail."

"Thank you."

Leonard looked at him curiously.

"He seems to be close-mouthed," Leonard said to himself. "He has sent for a ticket, I'll bet a hat, and don't want me to find out. I wish I could draw the capital prize-- I would not mind old Jennings finding out then."

"Do you ever hear from your--friends?" he asked a minute later.

"Not often."

"I thought that letter might be from your home."

"No; it was a letter from Syracuse."

"I remember now, it was postmarked Syracuse. Have you friends there?"

"None that I am aware of."

"Yet you receive letters from there?"

"That was a business letter."

Carl was quietly amused at Leonard's skillful questions, but was determined not to give him any light on the subject.

Leonard tried another avenue of attack.

"Oh, dear!" he sighed, "I wish I was rich."

"I shouldn't mind being rich myself," said Carl, with a smile.

"I suppose old Jennings must have a lot of money."

"Mr. Jennings, I presume, is very well off," responded Carl, emphasizing the title "Mr."

"If I had his money I wouldn't live in such Quaker style."

"Would you have him give fashionable parties?" asked Carl, smiling.

"Well, I don't know that he would enjoy that; but I'll tell you what I would do. I would buy a fast horse--a two-forty mare--and a bangup buggy, and I'd show the old farmers round here what fast driving is. Then I'd have a stylish house, and----"

"I don't believe you'd be content to live in Milford, Leonard."

"I don't think I would, either, unless my business were here. I'd go to New York every few weeks and see life."

"You may be rich some time, so that you can carry out your wishes."

"Do you know any easy way of getting money?" asked Leonard, pointedly.

"The easy ways are not generally the true ways. A man sometimes makes money by speculation, but he has to have some to begin with."

"I can't get anything out of him," thought Leonard. "Well, good-evening."

He crossed the street, and joined the man who has already been referred to as boarding at the hotel.

Mr. Stark had now been several days in Milford. What brought him there, or what object he had in staying, Leonard had not yet ascertained. He generally spent part of his evenings with the stranger, and had once or twice received from him a small sum of money. Usually, however, he had met Mr. Stark in the billiard room, and played a game or two of billiards with him. Mr. Stark always paid for the use of the table, and that was naturally satisfactory to Leonard, who enjoyed amusement at the expense of others.

Leonard, bearing in mind his uncle's request, had not mentioned his name to Mr. Stark, and Stark, though he had walked about the village more or less, had not chanced to meet Mr. Gibbon.

He had questioned Leonard, however, about Mr. Jennings, and whether he was supposed to be rich.

Leonard had answered freely that everyone considered him so.

"But he doesn't know how to enjoy his money," he added.

"We should," said Stark, jocularly.

"You bet we would," returned Leonard; and he was quite sincere in his boast, as we know from his conversation with Carl.

"By the way," said Stark, on this particular evening, "I never asked you about your family, Leonard. I suppose you live with your parents."

"No, sir. They are dead."

"Then whom do you live with?"

"With my uncle," answered Leonard, guardedly.

"Is his name Craig?"

"No."

"What then?"

"I've got to tell him," thought Leonard. "Well, I don't suppose there will be much harm in it. My uncle is bookkeeper for Mr. Jennings," he said, "and his name is Julius Gibbon."

Philip Stark wheeled round, and eyed Leonard in blank astonishment.

"Your uncle is Julius Gibbon!" he exclaimed.

"Yes."

"Well, I'll be blowed."

"Do you--know my uncle?" asked Leonard, hesitating.

"I rather think I do. Take me round to the house. I want to see him."