SQUIRE RENWICK BATES

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for weeks, Sarah,” said Adin
Dunham, as he rose from the breakfast-table on a certain Wednesday
morning in the early part of June.

“Why, father, what do you mean?” asked Mrs. Dunham curiously.

“Because to-day I am to receive a thousand dollars—a thousand dollars
in hard cash,” answered her husband in a tone of exultation.

“Well, I declare!” ejaculated his wife in amazement. “Who on earth is
going to give you a thousand dollars?”

“No one is going to give it to me; it’s my own.”

“How strangely you do talk, Adin Dunham! You ain’t out of your mind,
be you?”

“Not as I know of,” answered her husband with an amused smile.

“Is it really true that somebody is going to pay you a thousand
dollars?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And you say it is your own?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t understand it,” said Mrs. Dunham, with the air of one to whom
a puzzle is propounded and who gives it up.

“Then I’ll explain. You know when Uncle Dan died he left me a piece of
stony pasture land in Rockmount?”

“Yes, I know. You never could sell it, I’ve heard you say ag’in and
ag’in.”

“Well, I’ve sold it at last. There’s a company goin’ to put up a big
hotel just on that spot, and they’ve offered me a thousand dollars for
the land.”

“Couldn’t they find a better buildin’ lot than that?”

“Well, you see it’s located near the lake, and though it’s barren enough
it’s well situated, and there’s five acres of it, plenty of room for all
the buildin’s required. They offered me first seven hundred, then eight
hundred, and finally when they got up to a thousand I caved in—-”

“You what?”

“Well, I agreed to let ’em have it. I’m going over to-day to get the
money.”

“Why, it’ll make us rich, Adin. I never expected you’d be wuth a
thousand dollars.”

“I wonder what Uncle Dan would have said if he’d thought I would have
got so much for the land. He never cared much for me, and he only left
me that because he thought it wasn’t wuth anything. He did better by me
than he expected.”

“What are you going to do with the money, Adin?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll keep it by me till I’ve decided. Perhaps I’ll
invest in gov’ment bonds. I guess they’re about as safe as anything.”

“So I’ve heard, Adin. I suppose the gov’ment ain’t likely to fail.”

“If it is, I guess all the banks will fail too.”

“How are you goin’ over to Rockmount?”

“I’ll borrow neighbor Gould’s horse and buggy. That horse is pretty
strong, and he won’t mind the twenty miles—ten there and ten back.”

“I don’t like to have you travelin’ so far with all that money. S’pose
you should meet with robbers.”

“There ain’t any robbers round here, Sarah. This is a respectable
community.”

“You might meet a tramp.”

“Well, the chances are that he’d be more afraid of me than I would be
of him. I ain’t a child, Sarah. I can lift a barrel of potatoes and put
it in a wagon as easy as most men.”

“Well, Adin, you know best. Hadn’t you better take Dean with you?”

“Why should I take Dean?”

“It would be safer for two than for one.”

“You don’t mean to say that I need a boy of sixteen to protect me? If I
thought I did, I’d stay at home and send Dean by himself.”

“Well, Adin, I don’t want to interfere. It wouldn’t be much use,
either, for you generally have your own way. Have you told any of the
neighbors that you are goin’ for some money?”

“No except Lawyer Bates.”

“What made you tell him?”

“Well, I was in his office the other evenin’, and somehow I was led
into tellin’ it. I gave a sort of hint, and the lawyer he drew it out
of me. Them lawyers are great on cross-examinin’, you know.”

“What did Squire Bates say?”

“He told me I’d better not tell anybody else. He talked for all the
world just like you did, Sarah. You haven’t been chatterin’ with the
squire, have you?”

“No, Adin, I don’t like him well enough for that. I never fancied the
squire. He’s always showin’ those long front teeth of his, like a wild
beast.”

“They ain’t very handsome teeth, I’m bound to admit, Sarah, but the
poor man can’t help himself. He’s as God made him.”

“He gave you good advice at any rate, Adin. There’s so many dishonest
people in the world that it’s best to be careful. Did you tell him when
you were goin’ for the money?”

“I don’t exactly remember. I guess I did.”

“Do you think Squire Bates is a rich man, Adin?”

“I don’t know. He’s a lawyer, and keeps his affairs mighty close.”

“That boy of his—Brandon—is his very image, even to the teeth.”

“Well, he does favor his father considerable.”

“Dean doesn’t like him. He’s a very big feeling boy. He looks down on
Dean because he is the nephew of a poor man.”

“O, he’ll get wiser in time. We mustn’t mind them young folks so much.
Boys will be boys.”

“So they will, but there’s different kinds of boys.”

“I guess there’s room enough in the world for both of them. If they
don’t like each other they can keep apart.”

“Dean is an excellent boy. I don’t know how we should get along without
him.”

“I indorse all that, wife,” said Adin Dunham heartily.

“He’s always cheerful and willin’—always ready to do chores and give
up his own pleasure. I remember last winter he’d set his heart on going
with a skatin’ party, but when I was taken sick, he stayed at home and
tended me, without a word of complaint. He couldn’t have done no more
if he’d been a son instead of a nephew.”

“Just so, wife! Just so! He’s a likely boy, and if he keeps on as he’s
begun he’s sure to do well.”

“He deserves to prosper, and I hope he will. I wish we could do more
for him.”

“So do I, but a carpenter that gets work only about half the time can’t
do what he’d like to.”

Just then Dean came into the house—a broad-shouldered, strongly built
boy, with a frank, open countenance and red cheeks.

“Dean,” said his uncle, “won’t you go over to neighbor Gould, and ask
if he will lend his horse and buggy for the day? I’m goin’ over to
Rockmount.”

“Going to Rockmount?” repeated Dean eagerly. “Will you take me, uncle?”

“Not to-day, Dean. It’s a long ride, and it’ll be easier on the horse
to carry one than two.”

Dean looked disappointed. A ride to Rockmount, which was a considerably
larger place than Waterford, would have been to him a very agreeable
recreation, but he was not a boy to complain or tease when a favor had
been refused. So he indulged in no remonstrance, but went over to Mr.
Gould’s dwelling, only twenty rods away, and preferred the request.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Gould pleasantly. “So your uncle has business in
Rockmount, has he?”

“Yes sir, I suppose so, but he didn’t tell me what it is.”

“Well, tell him not to over drive the Captain.” (This was the rather
peculiar name of Mr. Gould’s horse.)

“I don’t think there’s any danger,” said Dean smiling, for he knew that
Adin Dunham was one of the most deliberate of men, and permitted a
horse to select his own pace.

Adin Dunham got into the buggy, took the reins from Dean, and drove
away.

The pretentious house of Squire Bates stood a little way back from the
road a quarter of a mile further on. The lawyer stood in front of his
gate. He smiled as Adin Dunham drove by.

“Well, Dunham,” he said, “so you are on your way to Rockmount?”

“Yes, squire.”

“And bound on a pleasant errand, too,” continued Bates, with a second
smile.

“Yes, squire. I can’t believe it hardly. It’s a new experience for me.
I never thought I should be worth a thousand dollars.”

“Yes, it’s quite a sum. What do you propose to do with it?”

“I may pay up the mortgage on my place.”

“But suppose I don’t want to receive it?”

“But why wouldn’t you want to receive it?”

“Oh, it’s paying me fairish interest, and I should have to look up
another investment.”

“But you could do that better than I.”

“Come and see me when you get back, and I’ll give you advice. I
wouldn’t trouble myself for every one, but you are a friend and
neighbor,” said Squire Bates, smiling and showing the long white tusks
that gave him so peculiar an appearance.

“Your advice ought to be good, squire. You are used to investin’ money.”

“Yes, I have a good deal to invest,” said Bates. “Which way shall you
return?” asked the squire carelessly.

“I thought I might take the creek road, squire.”

“If it were my case, I would come through the woods. It’s half a mile
shorter.”

“That’s so, and I did think of it, but you and my wife talked to me
about robbers, till I began to think the creek road would be safer.”

Squire Bates laughed in an amused way.

“I rather think your wife and I talked like old women,” he said. “It
seems rather ridiculous to think of robbers in this neighborhood.”

“So it does!” said Adin Dunham eagerly. “I told Sarah so.

“Then you’ll come through the woods?”

“Yes.”

“About what time?”

“Oh, I shan’t stay very long after my business is done.”

“You’ll probably pass through about three o’clock?”

“Well, say four. I’ve got a cousin in Rockmount that I shall take dinner
with, and that’ll take up part of my time. Then I’ve got one or two
errands to do at the stores there. I’m to buy my wife a pair of shoes at
Ingals’s store. He knows just what she wants, and always fits her.”

“There’s one thing I would advise you not to do, neighbor Dunham.”

“What is that?”

“Don’t invite any one to ride home with you.”

“Why not?”

“Well, you’ll have considerable money with you and it might prove a
temptation even to a respectable man. You see to most people it is a
large sum—not to me, for I am better off than the average, but I’ve
read in my law books of a good many crimes that were the result of a
sudden impulse. There’s no reason to be nervous, but it’s well to be
prudent, neighbor.”

“That’s good sense, squire. Thank you for your caution. Well, I must be
getting on.”

“Good luck to you,” said Bates, as he turned and went into the house.

Squire Bates had been for three years a resident of Waterford. He
appeared to have plenty of money, though it was a mystery where it
came from. He professed to be a lawyer, and had an office, but beyond
writing a will or a lease, or some such matter, had no practice to
speak of. This, however, did not seem to trouble him. It was a popular
belief that the care of his property gave him considerable to do. He
had no investments in Waterford except the house he lived in, and a
mortgage on the house and small landed property of Adin Dunham. The
assessors got very little satisfaction out of him when they questioned
him about his taxable property.

“I am taxed elsewhere,” he said briefly.

“But you have some personal property?”

“Oh well, you may put me down for a thousand dollars.”

“It is generally supposed that you have a much larger personal property
than that.”

“I have, gentleman,” answered Bates frankly, “but you know that
government bonds are not taxable.”

That explained it. The board of assessors jumped to the conclusion that
Squire Bates had a large sum in government bonds, and did not pursue
their inquiries further.

There was one thing that puzzled Waterford people about the lawyer.
He often absented himself in a mysterious way, sometimes for weeks at
a time. He never told where he went, nor did his wife and son when
questioned appear to know. At any rate they never gave any information.
He would reappear, as suddenly as he had disappeared, and always
explain briefly that he had been away on business. What the nature of
the business was he did not state, a sensible thing probably, but his
reticence excited considerable remark among his fellow-townsmen, who
did not approve of it.

When Squire Bates re-entered the house he went up to his room—his
library was on the second floor—and locked the door. He sat down in a
rocking-chair, and seemed plunged in thought.

“A thousand dollars!” he soliloquized. “It is a good sum of money.
It would be a great lift to Adin Dunham. It would enable him to pay
off the mortgage on his place, and that would not suit me. I prefer
to foreclose by and by. Upon the whole the money will be better in my
hands than in his. It was well I suggested to him not to come home by
the creek road. That is too open, and would not suit my plans.”

Lawyer Bates rose, and, taking a key from his pocket, opened the door
of a small closet. It was a clothes closet evidently, but its contents
were of a curious character. There was one suit that a fastidious
tramp would have scorned to wear. There were several masks. There were
disguises of different kinds, three wigs, one red, and false beards.
Of what earthly use could these articles be to a respectable country
lawyer?

Not even Mrs. Bates had seen the inside of this closet. Once she
suggested cleaning it, but the curt refusal with which her proposal was
received prevented her making it again.

“I keep my papers in there,” said her husband, “and I am not willing
that they should be disturbed.”

“I would be very careful, Renwick,” said Mrs. Bates. “I would attend to
it myself.”

“You will offend me if you say more, Mrs. Bates,” said her husband,
looking displeased, and she took the hint.

Mrs. Bates was a pleasant, gentle woman who did not put on airs,
and she was much more popular in the village than her husband, whose
face had a singularly disagreeable expression, especially when he
smiled, for then he showed his long white teeth, which, as Mrs. Dunham
expressed it, were like the fangs of a wild beast.

His son Brandon was like his father, even to the teeth. He was a boy of
cruel instincts, haughty and imperious, and disposed to lord it over
his schoolmates and companions. He was heartily tired of Waterford, and
had more than once suggested to his father that it would be wise to
leave it.

“When I want your advice, Brandon, I will ask for it,” said Squire
Bates briefly.

Brandon did not press the matter. He knew his father too well, but he
complained to his mother.

“What on earth can father be thinking of to stay in such a quiet hole
as Waterford?”

“It is a pleasant village, Brandon,” said his mother gently.

“What is there pleasant about it?”

“The people are pleasant.”

“I have no fit associates.”

“There is Dean Dunham, who is about your age.”

“I _hate_ him!” said Brandon passionately.

“Why do you hate him, my son? Mrs. Dunham tells me he is a great
comfort to her.”

“I don’t know anything about that. He is very impudent to me. He seems
to think he is my equal.”

“I am afraid you are too proud, Brandon.”

“Isn’t father the richest man in Waterford, I’d like to know? Dean
Dunham is the nephew of a poor carpenter, who keeps him out of charity.”

“Ah, Brandon, you shouldn’t value people for their money.”

“Dean Dunham is no fit companion for me. If I were in the city, I
should find plenty of associates.”

Gentle Mrs Bates sighed. She could not approve of her son’s pride.

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