“HERE’S your health, Peggy!” said Lyman, emptying his glass.
“Thank you, sir!” said Peggy, following his example. “You’re very kind,
I’m sure, and I ought to remember you, but my memory ain’t what it was.”
“So you don’t remember me?”
“I can’t remimber that I iver set eyes on your face before, sir.”
“Then you don’t remember the man that brought you a small child to take
care of near six years ago?”
“Shure it’s himself!” ejaculated the old woman, peering curiously into
Lyman’s face. “I only saw you twice, and that’s why I forgot. Shure it
was a cruel thrick you played upon a poor old woman, when you gave her a
baby to take care of, and then, five long years never sent her even a
penny. It’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars I’ve spent on little Jack,
and he no kin to me!”
“No doubt he has been brought up in the lap of luxury! He looks like
it,” said Lyman with an amused smile.
“And now you’ve come to pay me all I spent on the child?” insinuated
“Well, not just yet. The fact is, Peggy, unavoidable circumstances
prevented my communicating with you, and the same won’t admit of my
paying over the hundreds of dollars that Jack has cost you.”
“Then what do you want of me?” inquired the old woman disappointed.
“I think I can see a way by which both of us can make something out of
the boy. By-the-way, it strikes me just at present that he is supporting
you instead of you taking care of him.”
“He only brings in a few pennies a day,” said Peggy. “Shure it’s hardly
enough to pay his salt.”
“Then Jack must be immoderately fond of salt. However, I’ll let you into
a secret. His grandfather is looking for him.”
“Yes; no doubt you are surprised that Jack possesses a grandfather, but
that is a fact. His grandfather is my uncle, and what is more to the
purpose he has a fair property.”
“And little Jack is goin’ to be rich?” gasped Peggy in amazement.
“Well, I don’t know! That depends on whether we allow his grandfather to
“And why shouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he be givin’ a big reward?”
“That is where you come to the point, my good Peggy. If he will make it
worth our while, we may restore him to the old gentleman.”
“And how much would he be givin’, d’ye think?” asked Peggy, her
bead-like eyes sparkling with greed.
“I shouldn’t wonder, Peggy, if you might get a hundred dollars out of
“A hundred dollars—after my takin’ care of the boy ever since he was a
babby. Now you’re jokin’.”
“Well, you see, his grandfather isn’t a rich man—” explained Lyman,
fearing he had unduly raised the expectations of the old woman.
“You said he was!” retorted Peggy sharply.
“I said he had a comfortable property—for a country town. That means a
few thousand dollars.”
“He sha’n’t have him for such a thrifle,” snapped Peggy.
“The police might take him from you, without your getting a cent.”
“How would they know, unless you told ’em?” asked Peggy suspiciously.
“Look here, Peggy!” said Lyman in a conciliatory tone. “We’ve got to
stand by each other in this thing. Just leave the matter in my hands,
and I’ll manage it as well as I can. I’ll get as much money from the old
gentleman as I can.”
“And you’ll give me half?”
“Of course—that is, after necessary expenses are paid.”
“And what am I to do then?”
“Nothing, except to stay here, and see that nobody gets hold of Jack.
Does he know who he is?”
“He thinks I’m his aunt.”
“And is proud of the connection, no doubt,” said Lyman, who could not
restrain his tendency to sarcasm. “Well, perhaps that is as well. Don’t
let any one know that it is not true. We can keep quiet till the time
comes to make it known. Now, I’ll leave you, and take the first step by
writing to my uncle. Good afternoon, Peggy! I’ll call again in a day or
“Couldn’t you leave me a dollar or two before you go?” whined Peggy. “Me
health is very poor, and I can’t work, and it’s only a few pennies the
boy brings in.”
“You’re better off than I am,” said Lyman curtly, “for I am out of
employment and I have no boy to bring me in pennies. I don’t know but
I’d better take Jack at once, and then you won’t have to take care of
“I’ll kape him,” said the old woman hurriedly—for she had no wish to
lose the income the match boy brought in, small as it was. “I’ll kape
him, for he’s used to me life, and he’s happier here.”
“Just as you like, Peggy!” returned Lyman with a smile at the success of
his stratagem. “I’d help you if I could, but I’m almost at the bottom of
my purse as it is. I’ll see you again in a day or two, and report
“I’ve done a good day’s work,” reflected Lyman, as he picked his way
downstairs, nearly slipping on a piece of orange peel on one of the
steps. “It was a piece of good luck, my finding Jack so soon after
seeing that St. Louis paper—but I must write an effective letter to my
“CHICAGO, _September 7, 18—_.
“MY DEAR UNCLE:
“I am afraid you are feeling anxious about me, and I will therefore
relieve your affectionate solicitude, by saying that I am well in
health, but low—very low in pocket. It costs more to live in Chicago
than in Pocasset, and the sum of money with which you provided me is
nearly gone. As I am a little afraid this hint won’t be sufficient
to open your heart, let me add that I can make it worth your while
to be generous.
“It has come to my knowledge that you have sent out Mark Manning in
search of your grandson. How you came to suspect that my cousin left
a boy I can’t imagine, but I don’t mind telling you that you are
correct. She did leave a boy, whose name is Jack Ransom. He is now
about eight years of age. I know where he is and can lay my hands
upon him at any moment. Whether I will or not depends on how you
propose to deal with me. Of course it isn’t to my interest that the
boy should be found, as outside of him I am your natural and legal
heir. I know that Mark Manning is scheming to get possession of your
property when you are gone, but I am sure you wouldn’t throw it away
on a stranger, when your brother’s son is living.
“Now, Uncle Anthony, I am going to make you a proposition. Bear in
mind, if you please, that I am the only one who can restore little
Jack to you. Only one other person knows about him and she never
heard of you, and doesn’t know Jack’s last name. If you will
guarantee me five thousand dollars within three months, two thousand
being cash down, I will myself bring on little Jack, and place him
in your arms. Now, I am sorry to say that the boy has a miserable
home, and is scantily supplied with the necessaries of life. A
miserable career of poverty and perhaps crime, awaits him unless you
come to my terms. Let me know as soon as possible what you propose
“A letter directed to me at the Chicago post-office will reach me
“Your affectionate nephew,
Anthony received this letter in due time, and deemed it of sufficient
importance to warrant a visit to New York. He wished to lay it before
Mr. Hardy, and ask his advice.