Dick Hamilton's Fortune/31

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"Look! Look!" cried the crowd, again and again.

And there was no small cause for wonder; for, though the inventor was falling to earth, he had hold of one of the immense bat-like wings. It acted exactly as a parachute, the air catching under the curved surface. Thus the inventor came down so slowly that he was not in the slightest danger. It was a wonderful escape.

No sooner had he alighted than he hurried up to where Dick stood, his face showing the sorrow he felt.

"Vell, my young friend," said Herr Doodlebrod, "ve haf made vun grand mistake. But I know vat der trouble vas. I need a stronger propellor. Ve vill make vun at vunce, und haf anodder test."

"I'm afraid it will be too late for me," remarked Dick, ruefully.

"Ach, dot iss so," assented the German. "But neffer mind. I shall yet fly. I vill at once proceed to build a new machine. I vill make some more shoes until I haf saved money enough, und den I try again," and he smiled as though what had just happened was the thing he had always desired.

The crowd gathered about the disabled airship, which was mostly consumed by the flames before it had reached the earth. Herr Doodlebrod had the men save what they could, and, not a bit discouraged, he set about packing up the remnants to take away.

"Too bad," remarked Colonel Claflin, "but such accidents will happen. He's a cool fellow, at any rate."

Dick and his father went home together in the runabout, the colonel declining their invitation to pay them a visit. The German inventor went away and that was the last seen of him.

Swiftly the days passed, and in sheer desperation Dick invested several hundred dollars in three different schemes. But none of them paid. In one he lost all his money and in the others he got his money back and that was all.

"It's no use!" he groaned to himself. "I guess it takes a brighter fellow than I to make money."

Mr. Hamilton did not say much, but he was almost as anxious as his son, for he did not wish to see Dick fail.

One morning Mr. Hamilton went out with Dick in the youth's runabout.

"Well, my son, to-morrow is your birthday," remarked the parent, after speaking of many things in general.

"I know it, dad," was the gloomy answer. And then Dick went on: "I suppose there is no way of getting clear of the provisions of that will?"

"I know of none. Your dear departed mother's wishes must be respected."

"Oh, dear!" Dick gave a long sigh. "Well perhaps I can stand Uncle Ezra, but it's going to be a—er—a stiff proposition."

"I'm sorry," commented Mr. Hamilton. "But perhaps it will be a good thing for you. Your Uncle Ezra has excellent discipline, and he's a good man of business."

"I don't doubt that, dad."

Father and son did not say much during the ride home, as each was busy with his thoughts. As Dick went up the steps of the Hamilton mansion the butler met him at the door.

"Your Uncle Ezra is here," he announced.

"Oh, dear!" commented Dick, with a groan.

"Ah, Nephew Richard," was Mr. Larabee's greeting when Dick found him in the library. "I've come to pay you a little visit, you see. I happened to remember that to-morrow is your birthday, and, according to the—to the provisions of your mother's will you may be going to pay me a visit. I can't say I altogether approve of that will, still we will not discuss that now. The main thing is, Have you made the paying investment called for?"

"No, I haven't, Uncle Ezra."

"Hum, well, I didn't think you would. Boys have no head for business nowadays. I knew your money would do you little good. So you are to come and live a year with me, eh?"

"I suppose so. Yes, of course, Uncle Ezra," and Dick tried to make his voice sound cheerful, but it was hard work when he thought of the gloomy house.

"Well, I told Samanthy I'd bring you back with me, and she's going to have your room all ready. Then, too, I've arranged to send you to a good boarding school. It is taught by a friend of mine; a man who doesn't believe in nonsense."

Dick could see, in fancy, the kind of a school Uncle Ezra would pick out, and he could also fancy the principal of it, a harsh, stern old man. He sighed, but there was no help for it.

"So I will take you away with me to-morrow," went on Mr. Larabee, rubbing his hands as if delighted at the prospect. "I shall—Gracious goodness! What's that?" he exclaimed, jumping from his chair, as a loud growl sounded from under the library table. "Have you a wild animal in here. Nephew Richard?"

"I guess it's my bulldog. Grit," replied Dick. "Here, Gibbs," calling the butler, "have Grit taken to the stable."

Grit was led away, growling out a protest.

"I can't bear dogs," said Uncle Ezra. "You'll not be allowed to have one at The Firs, so you had better get rid of this one."

"Oh, I suppose I can leave Grit home," answered Dick, with a sigh, "Can I get you something to eat, Uncle Ezra?" he asked, trying to be hospitable.

"No, thank you, Nephew Richard. I never eat between meals, nor do I allow it at my house. Three times a day is enough to eat."

"Maybe you would like some lemonade; it's quite warm to-day." Dick was both hungry and thirsty.

"No, lemonade is bad for the liver, I have heard. You may get me some plain water, if you please."

"And I've got to live a year with him," mused Dick as he went out to get his uncle a drink. "Why, oh why, didn't some of my investments succeed?"

Dick spent a miserable evening with his uncle. Mr. Hamilton came home from the bank, whither he had gone after the ride, and greeted his brother-in-law.

"Well, I guess you'll have to take Dick back with you," said the millionaire, with an attempt at cheerfulness.

"I intend to, and when he comes back from living with me he'll be a different lad," said Mr. Larabee, grimly.

"I guess that's true enough," thought Dick.

He dreamed that night that he went to his uncle's house in an airship, and when they got there it turned into a vault in a cemetery and he was made a prisoner in it. He awoke with a start to find his uncle calling to him from the hall outside his door.

"Come, Nephew Richard," said Mr. Larabee. "It's six o'clock, and you'll have to get up early when you're at my house. Might as well begin now."

"Oh, this is a beautiful birthday," said Dick, with a groan, as he began to dress. "Six o'clock! Ugh!"

It was arranged that they were to take an early train to Dankville, and, soon after breakfast, Dick, having packed his suitcase, and arranged to have his trunk forwarded to him at The Firs, went to the library where his father and uncle were waiting for him.

"Well, Dick," remarked Mr. Hamilton, with a little catch in his voice, for he hated to part with his son, though he knew the experience might be good for him. "I guess it's time to say good-bye."

"I suppose so," replied Dick, trying to keep back the tears, which, in spite of all he could do, would come to his eyes.

"Yes, we must be going," agreed Mr. Larabee. "I'll write to you, Mortimer, and let you know how Dick gets along. I have no doubt but I'll make a fine man of him. Too much wealth is bad for a young man. Come along. Nephew Richard."

Dick started to leave the room. At that instant the doorbell rang and Gibbs, answering it, came into the library and announced:

"Mr. Henry Darby and his son, to see Mr. Dick."

"I guess they have come to say good-bye," said the millionaire's son. "Show them in, Gibbs."

"Hank" Darby did not need any "showing." He was in the library as Gibbs turned to go back to the door.

"Excuse this intrusion," he began, "but I am in a hurry. I have a very important scheme on and I must attend to it at once. But my son insisted that we come and tell Mr. Dick what has happened, he being a partner in our enterprise—The International and Consolidated Old Metal Corporation."

"Yes, Dick!" cried Henry, unable to wait for his father to tell the news in his slow, pompous way. "Things are in fine shape. In fact the old metal business can now pay a dividend."

"A dividend?"

"Yes, you remember me telling you about a lot of old scrap-iron and steel dad bought, thinking it had platinum in it?"

"Yes, and it didn't have any in."

"Merely an error in judgment," murmured Mr. Darby. "Any business man, with large schemes on hand, is liable to make them."

"Well, while the metal didn't have any platinum in it, it had a peculiar quality of steel. It is very valuable, and I—that is we"—turning toward his father—"have just sold it to a large firm that wants it to make some very fine springs with."

"Yes, the deal is just completed," broke in Mr. Darby. "My judgment in that old metal is confirmed. I have accepted an offer of two thousand dollars for it. Under the terms of the incorporation papers one-half of that goes to Dick, I now take pleasure in handing you my check for that amount, as president of The International and Consolidated Old Metal Corporation," and with a grand air "Hank" handed Dick a slip of paper.

"Is this mine?" asked the millionaire's son, in some bewilderment.

"It is," replied Mr. Darby. "It is part of the return from your investment of two hundred and fifty dollars which you put into the firm of which I am president, you treasurer, and my son secretary and general manager."

"That is, I collect the old iron and sell it," explained Henry, seeing that Mr. Larabee looked puzzled. "Dick was kind enough to invest some money with our company last year, and I am glad I can make a return for him—or, rather, dad can, for he bought the metal that turned out so valuable."

"Then—then—" began Dick, a light slowly breaking over him, "without intending it, I have made a good, paying investment. A thousand dollars for two hundred and fifty is good, isn't it, dad?"

"Fine, I would say," cried Mr. Hamilton, with a smile.

"And this is my birthday! The year is just up!" went on Dick. "I—I won't have to go and live with Uncle—"

He stopped in some confusion.

"Do you mean to tell me that this is a bona-fide investment, Mortimer?" asked Mr. Larabee, turning to his brother-in-law.

"Perfectly legal and legitimate," interrupted Mr. Darby. "Here is a copy of the incorporation agreement."

"Well," remarked Uncle Ezra, with a disappointed air, "I suppose you have fulfilled the conditions of your mother's will, Nephew Richard. I congratulate you," and he shook hands rather stiffly.

"Well, who would have thought it?" gasped Dick, hardly able to believe his good fortune. "I never gave that investment a thought—in fact, I never considered it an investment, Henry."

"It was, all the same, and I'm glad I am able to do you a favor, for you did me a mighty good turn. The old metal business is in fine shape, and I have more than I can attend to."

"Yes, we must be going, I have a big scheme on hand," put in Mr. Darby. "A very big scheme, there are enormous possibilities in it. Enormous, sir!"

"If they only come out," said Henry, with a laugh, as he and his father withdrew.

"Well, if you are not to come back with me, I suppose I may as well be going," remarked Uncle Ezra, after a pause. "Samanthy will be looking for me. I'll say good-bye."

He turned to go, and at that instant an ominous growl came from under the library table.

"What's that?" asked Mr. Larabee in alarm.

"I—I think it's Grit," replied Dick, trying not to laugh.

"That bulldog again!" exclaimed Mr. Larabee. "I hate dogs! I wish—"

But what he wished he never said, for Grit, seeming to know that an enemy of his master was present, rushed from under the table, and, with opened mouth, though he probably would not have bitten him, rushed at Uncle Ezra.

"Here, Grit!" cried Dick. "Come back here this instant!"

But, with a wild yell, Mr. Larabee ran from the room, followed by the dog. Out through the hall and down the steps Dick's uncle ran, the dog growling behind him. But Gibbs captured Grit at the front door and held him.

"Grit! Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" asked Dick, trying not to laugh. But Grit growled in a way that seemed to say he was not in the least ashamed.

Mr. Larabee hurried off down the street, not once looking back.

"Well, that was a narrow escape," murmured Dick. "Eh, dad?"

"I suppose so. Still a visit to your uncle's house might have done you good," added the millionaire, with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Now, dad," went on Dick, "I suppose that as I have fulfilled all the conditions of the will I may do pretty nearly as I please."

"Not altogether," and the millionaire spoke rather gravely. "It is true you will have a certain control of your money left you by your mother, but you remember I told you, a year ago, there were certain other provisions of the will. One of them is that you attend a good military school."

"A military school!" exclaimed Dick, his eyes sparkling. "That will be fine."

"Yes, but wait. The conditions are that you attend there and become popular with the students in spite of your wealth. In short, that you make your own way up without the aid of your millions, and become one of the upper classmen through your own efforts. It is not going to be as easy as you think, but I trust you can do it. There is no great hurry about it. I will give you a few months of leisure and then you must get ready for a new life."

"Oh, dad, I think it will be fine!" exclaimed Dick; "I've always wanted to go to a military academy!" But he little knew of what was in store for him. Those who wish to follow the further adventures of the young millionaire will find them set forth in the second volume of this series, entitled "Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days; or the Handicap of a Millionaire's Son."

"Well, Grit, you certainly routed Uncle Ezra," said Dick, as he patted the ugly head of his pet. "I don't know as I blame you. But it's all over now, though I had some stirring times while it lasted." And, whistling gaily, Dick went out to deposit in the bank his thousand-dollar check, the profits of his one paying investment.