Dick Hamilton's Fortune/4
DICK BECOMES CELEBRATED
Dick managed to live through the week at his uncle's place, but it was hard work. He was corrected from morning until night. Almost everything he did while in the house, if it was only to pick up a book in the hope of finding something to read, met with a reproof from Aunt Samantha.
"Don't do that," she would say. "You'll make the dust fly about if you disturb the books, and I can't abide dust."
If he wandered about the grounds his uncle would covertly watch him.
"Don't pick up stones to throw," Mr. Larabee would caution the lad. "You might break a window, or take the bark off my favorite apple trees. I never saw such a boy! Why can't you sit still and think? I'm sure you've got enough responsibilities hanging over you, with all that money your mother so foolishly—"
But he had the sense to stop there, for the angry flash in Dick's brown eyes warned him this was a subject he had better not mention to his nephew.
There was never a more happy boy than Dick when the week of probation was up and he could start for home.
"You are going back to that wasteful life of idleness," said his aunt, as she condescended to shake hands with him, and give him her little bird-like kiss. "I hope your visit here has done you good. You may make us a longer one—some day."
"Not if I can help it," thought Dick to himself.
"Come, now," grumbled Uncle Ezra. "I don't want to keep the horse out of the stable any longer than I can help. He might take cold and I'd have to buy some medicine. Saving money is like earning it, as I hope you'll learn, Nephew Richard. I'll teach it to you when you come under my control, as I'm sure you will, for you never can comply with the task your mother so foolishly—"
Dick's hands clinched, and it was lucky that at that moment the horse shied at a piece of paper, requiring all Mr. Larabee's attention to control him, or there might have been a renewal of the quarrel.
Dick breathed a sigh of relief as the gloomy house in the midst of the fir trees was left behind, and he gave vent to an audible exclamation of satisfaction when he was in the train and speeding away from Dankville, for even the name of the place seemed to have an unhappy influence over him.
"Well, are you glad to get back?" asked Mr. Hamilton, as he greeted his son that afternoon.
"Glad, father? Say, give me some of that money, quick! I want to make that paying investment. I never could stand it at The Firs!"
Mr. Hamilton laughed.
"Well, in spite of his queer ways, your Uncle Ezra is a man of sterling character," he said. "He is as true as steel—"
"And just about as hard," interrupted Dick, with a smile.
"But now to business," went on Mr. Hamilton. "I have deposited a large sum to your credit in our bank, and if you will come downtown with me now I'll introduce you to the cashier and see that you get a check book. Then—well, the world is before you, and it's yours—to conquer or be conquered by."
On their way to the bank father and son were greeted by many acquaintances, for Mr. Hamilton was a person of great importance in Hamilton Corners. The town was a good-sized one, situated on the shore of Lake Dunkirk, a large body of water. Mr. Hamilton, besides being president of the Hamilton National Bank, was vice-president of the Hamilton Trust Company, and owned a stone quarry, a brass foundry, large woolen mills, and a lumber concern, all in the town or its immediate vicinity.
He was also a director of the Hamilton, Dorchester and Hatfield Railroad, which ran through the town, and president of the Hamilton Trolley Company. These were all sources of Mr. Hamilton's wealth, and, as he employed many men in the various industries, which he controlled or was interested in, he was regarded as the most important man in the place.
But this did not make him overbearing in character. In fact, he was a very kind man, always ready to help the poor, and as he had begun as a poor boy and made his money by hard work, he had a great sympathy for those not so well off in this world's goods.
Dick took after his father. Though surrounded by wealth all his life, and accustomed to luxury, he was a lad of democratic spirit. He cared little for money in itself, though he appreciated what could be done with it, and he was always willing to use what he had for the benefit or pleasure of himself and his friends. He was ambitious in no small degree, and anxious to succeed in whatever he undertook.
It did not take long to get through with the formalities at the bank, and Dick's eyes sparkled when he saw the substantial balance to his credit. He took the little red check book with an air as though he had used one all his life, put it into his pocket, and, nodding to his father, walked out.
"Well," remarked Mr. Hamilton, with a little sigh, "I hope money doesn't spoil him, for he is a fine lad. But I guess the remembrance of his Uncle Ezra may have a large influence on what he does."
The first person Dick met on emerging from the bank was Henry Darby. He hailed the poorer lad.
"Well, Henry, did you get that load of iron home safe?"
"Yes, and I sold it the next day. I'm much obliged to you for sending that horse. I couldn't get the one I hired from the man, of whom I bought the iron, to go another step. I'd have been there all night if it hadn't been for you."
"That's all right. The next time I meet you in a fix like that I'll tow you home myself."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, I'm going to get an automobile."
"An automobile?" and Henry's eyes opened as wide as possible. The machines were rarely seen in Hamilton Corners.
"Yes. You see, Henry, I've come into some property, and I can spend as much money as I like—of course, not waste it. I've always wanted an auto, and I'm going to get one. I'm going for it now."
"Whew, I wish I was you," exclaimed Henry, with a sigh, as he started down the street after some more old iron he had heard was for sale.
Henry was an energetic lad, always looking for a chance to make money. He lived with his father, who was never called anything else than "Hank" Darby, and who was known as the most "shiftless" man in town. Mr. Darby was always talking of big schemes he was going to put into operation as soon as he could command the capital, but he never got the money. As a consequence he never did anything, but lived off what his son earned.
Dick had decided that his first purchase with his new wealth should be an automobile. He wanted to get a big touring car, but his father suggested that he had better start with a run-about.
"It will be less expensive if you have a smash-up learning how to run it," counseled Mr. Hamilton, and Dick wisely agreed with him.
"When I get my car I'll take a run about the country and see what sort of an investment I'll make," said Dick. "I may want to go in for real estate. There's money in that, isn't there, dad?"
"Yes, if you buy right and sell right. But that business is like everything else, you've got to learn it. However, you are your own master to a certain extent. Good luck to you."
Dick went to a neighboring city that same afternoon and purchased his runabout. He wanted to drive it home alone, but the manager of the garage sent a helper with the boy. But the man did not have much to do, for Dick was very quick and soon learned the different points. In a few days he was able to operate the machine with considerable skill, and he took a number of his boy friends for a spin in the country.
"Want to take a trip?" he called one afternoon to Simon Scardale and Guy Fletcher, whom he saw in front of the billiard room, which place they seemed to frequent very much of late.
"Sure," replied Simon. "Maybe we can get a race with some car along the road. That will be sport."
"Not for me," replied Dick quietly. "I sha'n't race until I know the car better. But come along."
In spite of their rather flashy manners, Dick liked Simon and Guy, as he did nearly everyone, in fact—for Dick Hamilton was a large-hearted youth. He accepted all his acquaintances "at one hundred cents on the dollar" until he learned to value them differently.
The three boys spent a pleasant time whirring about on the country roads.
"What do you think of that property?" asked Dick at length, pointing to a low, swampy tract.
"Why?" asked Guy. "Thinking of buying it?"
"Maybe," replied Dick. "I have a chance to get it cheap. Do you think I could sell it again?"
"Search me," answered Simon. "It looks to be good for ducks, that's all."
"It only needs draining," objected Dick. "I think it would be a good investment, and I came out here to look at it."
"Going into business?" asked Guy, with a sneer. "I thought you didn't have to work."
"Of course I'm going into business, as soon as I finish at school," said Dick, for the term at the academy, where he attended, had recently closed. "I've come into some money lately," he said modestly, for he had not spoken of his fortune to any one yet, "and I want to invest some of my spare cash."
"I'll tell you the very thing!" exclaimed Simon. "I know a stock that's bound to go up ten points in a few days."
"No stocks or bonds for me until I know a little more about them," objected Dick.
"But this is a sure thing," insisted Simon. "I got a tip on it from a friend in New York."
"I've read of too many 'sure things' going wrong," said Dick with a laugh. "I think I'll try real estate for a starter."
Simon looked a little disappointed, but he made up his mind he would try Dick again on that subject, and a strange, cunning look came into his face.
During the trip back Simon tried to learn from the millionaire's son more about his new wealth, but Dick did not give him much satisfaction. However, Simon was sharp, and by dint of skillful hints and questions learned more than Dick thought he had told. Guy, too, was much interested, and a visible change came over his manner.
Guy's father, Peter Fletcher, was president of the Hamilton Trust Company, and, though Mr. Hamilton owned most of the stock of the concern, and had only placed Mr. Fletcher at the head of the institution for business reasons, Guy gave himself as many airs as though his father owned the bank. Learning that Dick had come into possession of some wealth on his own account, though he did not know the source, Guy was somewhat inclined to toady to the youth with whom he was on more or less friendly terms.
It was two days after this, when the evening papers arrived in Hamilton Corners, that a mild sensation was created. There, on the front pages, was what purported to be a picture of Dick Hamilton, while under it was the caption, in big letters:
THE MILLIONAIRE YOUTH.
Then followed a garbled, but fairly correct, account of how Dick, through the will of his mother, had come into possession of fabulous wealth. Of course the figure was put much higher than it really was. In fact, no one but Mr. Hamilton was aware of the exact amount, but this did not stop the writer of the article from guessing at it.
Dick was described as a modern King Midas, and he was credited with sleeping in an ivory bed and eating off of gold plates and the rarest of cut glass. Nothing was said about the peculiar provisions of the will regarding the investment he was to make; but the boundless opportunities open to a youth with unlimited wealth at his disposal were all pointed out.
"Well, if that isn't the limit!" exclaimed Dick, when he saw the paper. "I wonder who did it?"
Perhaps if he had asked Simon Scardale that question that youth might have been confused, but Dick never thought of it.
"It certainly is very unpleasant notoriety," remarked Mr. Hamilton, "but you'll have to put up with it. You are a sort of ward of the public now, and the newspapers think they have a proprietary interest in you. I have been through it all, and so has nearly every other person of wealth. The best way is to pay no attention to it, and to treat with courtesy any newspaper men who may wish to interview you. They have a hard enough life, and if our doings, to a certain extent, interest them, why I, for one, am willing to oblige them as far as I can. I suppose the transferring to your name of some stocks and bonds, that were your mother's, has started this piece of news. Well, you have achieved a certain degree of fame, Dick, my boy."
And Dick found this out to his cost. The article in one paper was followed by others in various journals, until Dick's wealth had been made the comment of newspaper reporters and editors in many cities. But, through it all the youth kept a level head.