DEAN RECEIVES A GIFT

My father says you are to call with the sleeve button, Dean Dunham,
said Brandon Bates, in an imperious tone.

“Very well; I shall be happy to oblige him,” answered Dean, with a
smile. “I will call this evening if you think he will be at home.”

“Yes, he will be at home. And, I say, you’d better tell him the truth.”

“I always do. I judge from your caution that you don’t.”

“If you’re going to talk to me, Dean Dunham,” said Brandon, scowling,
“you’d better be respectful.”

“Then you must deserve my respect.”

The colloquy was interrupted by the ringing of the school bell.

That evening Brandon Bates watched for the coming of Dean, being
curious to learn where it was that he had found the sleeve button. He
accompanied Dean into his father’s private room, where Squire Bates was
sitting at a writing-desk.

“Here’s Dean Dunham, papa!” he said.

“Very well, Brandon, you may withdraw, and leave Dean alone with me.”

“Mayn’t I stay, papa?” asked Brandon, his face elongating with the
disappointment he felt at the unexpected exclusion.

“No, it is not necessary, my son.”

Brandon went out sulkily, and installed himself at the door with his
ear at the keyhole. But he was decidedly nonplussed when Squire Bates,
moving softly to the door, opened it unexpectedly, and he nearly
tumbled in.

“Didn’t I tell you to leave?” demanded his father, sternly.

“I’m going,” answered Brandon, in a shamefaced manner.

“How is your uncle, Dean?” asked Squire Bates, resuming his seat at the
desk.

“Not very well, Squire Bates. He hasn’t been himself since the robbery.”

“Oh, ah! Yes. It was, no doubt, quite a shock to him. Let us hope he
will soon be himself again.”

“I don’t think he will be himself till he recovers the money.”

“I suppose you have not learned anything about it as yet.”

“Well, we have a clew,” said Dean, slowly.

“What sort of a clew?” asked the squire, nervously.

“Well, not enough to speak of yet.”

“By the way,” continued the squire, carelessly, “Brandon tells me you
have found a sleeve button which he thinks belongs to me.”

“Yes, sir, would you like to see it?”

“Certainly, if you have it with you.”

Dean produced from his vest pocket the button already referred to.

“Is it yours?” he inquired.

“It looks very much like one I once owned,” said the squire, taking it
in his hand. “Did you find the mate to it?”

“No,” answered Dean, in surprise. “Is the other button lost also?”

“Yes,” said Squire Bates. “By the by, where did you find it?”

“Only a few feet from the spot where my uncle was robbed—in the
woods,” answered Dean, scrutinizing the face of the lawyer closely
as he spoke. But Squire Bates was prepared for this disclosure, and
betrayed neither surprise nor confusion.

“Indeed!” he said. “This is most interesting. When did you find it?”

“On the day afterwards.”

“It must have been dropped by the person who robbed your uncle, then?”

“That is just what I thought,” said Dean, much surprised by this
apparent confession on the part of the squire.

“I must now tell you that the sleeve buttons, with a small sum of
money, mysteriously disappeared about that time,” the squire continued,
in a confidential manner. “I am inclined to attribute their loss to a
tramp who was seen prowling round my house the day before your uncle’s
misfortune. It looks as if both robberies were by the same person.”

Dean stared at the squire in amazement. He had not foreseen this crafty
explanation, and though he utterly disbelieved in its truth, he saw
no way of discrediting it. The bomb which he anticipated exploding to
the squire’s utter confusion in the light of this statement appeared a
very innocent and harmless one indeed. He kept silent, but the cunning
squire with pleasure noted his discomfiture.

Dean was almost inclined to ask himself if this could be the real
explanation when the thought of his uncle’s description of the robber
occurred to him. But on this point he did not think it would do any
good at present to speak.

“I wish,” added the squire with a smile, “you had found both the sleeve
buttons, as I would in that case have asked your acceptance of them.”

“They are marked B,” objected Dean.

“True; I did not think of that. Let me then ask your acceptance of a
small reward,” and Squire Bates drew from his pocket a silver dollar.

But Dean shrank back. He was convinced in spite of all that Squire
Bates was the robber of Adin Dunham, and he didn’t feel willing to
accept any favor at his hands.

“Thank you,” he answered, “but I don’t care to make money.”

“Perhaps you have all the money you want,” said the squire, with a
sneer which he did not quite succeed in repressing.

“Money is very scarce with all of us, Squire Bates,” said Dean,
gravely, “but I would rather earn what I get. If you will give me the
button I will accept it.”

“What good will it do you?” demanded the Squire, suspiciously.

“Probably none at all. But if this tramp should be found, and proved to
have the other button, it would be good evidence against him, wouldn’t
it?”

“Just so!” said the squire, after a pause. “Well, you may keep it.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I won’t detain you any longer, if you wish to go,” continued the
squire, politely. “Perhaps you would like to remain awhile with
Brandon.”

“If Brandon invites me to stay I will do so,” answered Dean.

“Very well.”

Dean left the room, and out in the yard he found Brandon, awaiting his
appearance with evident curiosity.

“Well,” he said, “did pa haul you over the coals?”

“Why should he? I did him a favor, didn’t I, in finding his sleeve
button?”

“Then he said it was his?”

“Yes.”

“Did he ask you why you didn’t bring it to him before?”

“No, he treated me with great politeness, and asked me to accept the
sleeve button.”

“What?”

Dean repeated his statement.

“But if you keep this the other won’t be any good to him.”

“He says both sleeve buttons were stolen from him the day before my
uncle’s robbery by a tramp—that is, he thinks it was a tramp.”

“Jehu! That’s the first I ever heard of it,” said Brandon, in great
surprise.

“Just as I thought,” said Dean to himself. “Your father can probably
give you all the particulars,” he added aloud.

“But you haven’t told me where you found it, Dean.”

“Your father can tell you that too.”

“What a stiff, disobliging boy you are!” exclaimed Brandon, angrily.
“Why can’t you tell me yourself?”

“I think your father would prefer to tell you himself.”

“Dean you can’t want that button. I’ll give you twenty-five cents
for it.”

“I never give away gifts,” returned Dean.

When Brandon later on plied his father with questions the latter
declined to gratify his curiosity.

“But why did you give Dean the sleeve button, papa?”

“As a reward for his honesty. There, I’m tired of the whole subject,
and prefer to drop it.”

“I wish you had given me the sleeve button.”

“I’ll buy you a new pair when I go to Philadelphia. Will that do?”

Brandon was very well pleased with this promise, and dropped the
subject.

When all the family had retired, Squire Bates took from a secret drawer
in his desk the mate of the missing sleeve button—its counterpart in
every particular.

“I must get rid of this,” he said. “In connection with that boy’s story
its discovery in my possession would be a damaging piece of evidence.”

The next morning Squire Bates rose half an hour before breakfast, and
took a walk in the garden behind the house. He had his cane with him,
which was unusual, as he was not leaving his own grounds. He proceeded
to the lower end of the garden, and then, thrusting the point of the
cane into the soft loam, made in this way a round hole, perhaps eight
inches deep, into which he carefully dropped the solitary sleeve
button, and then filled up the hole again.

“There,” said he to himself in a tone of satisfaction, “that disposes
of the button. Now Dean Dunham can say what he likes, he can’t throw
suspicion on me.”

As he re-entered the house he met Brandon just coming downstairs.

“You’re up early, papa,” he said.

“Yes, I was tired of the bed and got up a few minutes earlier than
usual.”

“Have you been out?”

“Only walking in the garden a few minutes.”

“Haven’t you got a mortgage on Adin Dunham’s place?”

“Yes.”

“Suppose he doesn’t pay up?”

“I don’t think he is able to pay up.”

“Can’t you foreclose the mortgage?”

“Yes, but I shouldn’t like to worry the old man—at present.”

“I was thinking of Dean. He don’t treat me with any respect. He doesn’t
seem to know that you could turn the whole family out of doors.”

“You don’t like Dean, I infer.”

“No, I don’t,” said Brandon, bluntly.

“He is rather independent for a boy in his circumstances,” said the
squire, slowly. “Sometime he may regret it.”

Squire Bates raised his eyebrows slightly, and his words conveyed a
vague threat.

“However,” he added, “he may become more sensible, and understand his
position better. Let us hope he will.”

Brandon was not slow in communicating what had been said to Dean.
The next time they had a difference he said: “You’d better keep good
friends with me, Dean Dunham.”

“Why,” asked Dean, struck by his tone.

“Because my father’s got a mortgage on your uncle’s place, and I may
get him to turn you all out into the street.”

“Has he any idea of doing it?” asked Dean, quickly.

“Not if you behave yourself—that is, not at present.”

“Thank you! You are very kind to give me warning.”

In the evening Dean spoke to his uncle about the matter.

“Uncle Adin,” he said, “Squire Bates holds a mortgage on this place,
doesn’t he?”

“Yes, Dean,” answered his uncle, sadly.

“For how much?”

“Eight hundred dollars. I meant to pay off the mortgage with the
thousand dollars that I was robbed of. I always feel uneasy when I
think of our home being at the mercy of any one, no matter who it is.”

“Do you think the squire wants you to pay up the mortgage?”

“No; he said he was satisfied to have it remain, as it paid fair
interest.”

“Brandon Bates let drop a hint that his father might call it in, if I
didn’t treat him with more respect.”

“Is there any quarrel between you two boys?” asked Adin, somewhat
anxiously.

“Well, we don’t agree very well. He wants me to bow down before him,
and I don’t mean to do it.”

“I hope you won’t quarrel seriously, Dean. His father holds me in his
power, and it’s best to keep on good terms with him.”

“Uncle Adin, I wish you had been able to pay up that mortgage,” said
Dean, earnestly. “I don’t like the squire much better than his son.”

[Illustration: DEAN SPRANG INTO THE BOAT AND PUSHED OFF FROM THE
SHORE.]

“I am afraid there is no hope of it now, Dean,” said Adin Dunham,
sighing, “unless I can get my lost money back.”

“Uncle Adin, I want to help you pay the mortgage, and for that reason I
want you to let me leave home.”

“What have you got in your head, Dean? What good will it do to leave
home?”

“I can earn some money. Here in Waterford there is no chance for a boy
like me to get hold of any.”

“It’s a risky thing for a boy as young as you to start for himself,
Dean. Besides there’s John Roberts, the shoemaker, will take you into
his shop and teach you the business. He told me last week he’d give you
three dollars a week.”

“I want to earn money faster than that, uncle. It would take all that
to pay my expenses.”

“What do you want me to do, Dean?”

“To let me leave home if a good chance offers.”

“I’ll see about it, Dean; but I’m afraid you’re miscalculatin’ your
strength.”

“Thank you, uncle, other boys have succeeded, and I think I can.”

A day or two afterwards, Brandon said to his father, “What do you think
Dean Dunham says?”

“I am sure I can’t imagine,” answered the squire, with a shade of
uneasiness. He feared that Dean might have been speaking out his
suspicions in relation to the robbery of his uncle.

“He says his uncle has consented to let him leave home if a good job
offers. He wants to go out into the world to seek his fortune.”

“It might not be a bad idea,” said Bates.

“I don’t think he’d meet with any success,” said Brandon, sharply. “He
thinks he is awful smart, and would come home with a fortune in six
months.”

“Boys are apt to be sanguine,” said his father, smiling.

“Would you be willing to have me leave home to seek my fortune?”

“No; but your case is different. Dean’s uncle is a poor man.”

“I suppose he could black boots for a living in some large place.”

“Well, bootblacks sometimes make very good pay.”

“You seem to be in favor of Dean’s going away, papa?”

“I feel no particular interest in the matter. I confess I don’t like
the boy, but for his uncle’s sake I hope he may do well. And, now,
Brandon, I must ask you to leave me, as I have some letters to write.”

“That will be a good solution of the difficulty,” soliloquized Renwick
Bates, when he found himself alone. “The boy evidently suspects me, and
I should like to get him out of the way. Some accident might happen to
him, or he might get into some scrape. At any rate, his plan chimes in
with my own wishes, and if I have an opportunity I will help him to
leave Waterford.”

Two days later, as Dean was walking home from the village store with a
small basket of groceries, he met a stranger—a man with very dark hair
and a sallow complexion. He was of medium size, and had a cast in one
eye which gave a sinister expression to his face.

“I suppose you live in the village, boy?” he said.

“Yes, sir.”

“Then perhaps you can direct me to the house of Renwick Bates.”

“Squire Bates?”

“Is that what you call him?” asked the stranger, with an amused smile.

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know him?”

“Yes, sir. I will conduct you to his house, if you wish.”

“Thank you; I wish you would.”

Dean had to go out of his way a short distance, but, being of an
obliging disposition, he did so willingly.

“That is the house, sir.”

“Thank you; I haven’t any change, or I would pay you for your trouble.”

“It is quite unnecessary,” said Dean, hastily. “I don’t care for any
pay.”

“Well, thank you, then.”

“I wonder who that is,” thought Dean. “I don’t like his looks much, and
I wish he hadn’t offered me pay for guiding him. He doesn’t seem to
have been here before.”

As the stranger turned into the front yard, he saw Brandon, sitting on
the bank, whistling.

“I don’t need to ask whose son you are,” said the stranger, smiling.

“Why not?” demanded Brandon, haughtily.

“Those teeth are unmistakable, my young friend.”

“Do you mean to insult me? Who are you, any way?” asked Brandon,
imperiously.

“A friend of your father’s who won’t stand any impudence!” said the
stranger, sharply. “Go into the house and tell him that Peter Kirby
wishes to see him.”

Cowed by the stranger’s manner, Brandon sulkily obeyed.

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