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   Chapter 18 A PLOT AGAINST ANDY.

Andy Grant's Pluck By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8079

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


Some six weeks later, about the middle of the forenoon, a Western Union

Telegraph boy entered the store and handed Mr. Flint a telegram.

Tearing it open, the jeweler read the contents and seemed quite agitated.

"Mr. Rich," he said, turning to the head clerk, "I have bad news. My only brother is dangerously sick. This dispatch says that if I wish to see him alive I must start at once."

"Where does he live?"

"In Denver, Colorado."

"That is a long way off."

"Yes. I don't see how I can leave the business, but I cannot bear to think of my brother dying without my seeing him again."

"I think, sir, that I can keep things straight. I have been with you for six years."

"True, and you know the business thoroughly. Besides, you can write or telegraph me, if need be, every day."

"I will do so, sir. You can depend on me."

"Besides, you will have Andrew to help you. He is a good and faithful boy."

To this Simon Rich made no reply, but there was a look on his face that boded no good for Andy.

"I think I will go home at once and get ready. It is necessary that I should start immediately. I shall have no time to give you directions, but I will write you as soon as I reach Denver."

"Very well, sir," said Simon Rich, smoothly. "Make your mind quite easy.

All will go well during your absence."

Half an hour later, when Andy returned from an errand, Mr. Flint was gone.

"I have a message for Mr. Flint," said Andy, as he entered the store.

"You can give it to me."

"I was told to deliver it to Mr. Flint personally."

"You will find that rather a hard job, young man," said Rich, with a sneer.

"I don't understand you," returned Andy, in surprise.

"Mr. Flint is on his way to Denver by this time."

"Does he go on business?"

"He has received news that his only brother lies there at the point of death."

"How long will he be gone?" asked Andy, who began to understand that this was likely to prove bad news for him.

"Probably not less than three weeks. Of course, I shall manage the store while he is away. Did you hear that?"

"Yes."

"And I want you to understand," continued Rich, in a bullying tone, "that I won't stand any nonsense from you. You will have to attend strictly to business. I sha'n't be such an easy-going boss as Mr. Flint."

"I always aim to do my duty," said Andy.

"You will find it best to do so while I am in charge. Now, don't stand gaping there, but go to work."

Andy was moved to an angry reply, but thought it prudent to refrain. He realized that for three weeks, and probably longer, he was to be at the mercy of a man who evidently disliked him.

How he should be able to stand it he did not know. He determined, however, to do his duty as well as he knew how, and not to reply when the head clerk was insolent and abusive.

About an hour later Simon Rich gave him a postal, which he directed him to drop in the nearest mail box.

It was addressed to John Crandall, Andy's predecessor, and ran thus:

"DEAR JOHN: Come around as soon as you can. I have news for you.

Your uncle,

SIMON RICH."

About four o'clock John Crandall entered the store.

"Andrew," said Rich, "you may go to the branch post office at Ninth

Street and get a dollar's worth of postage stamps."

Andy understood that stamps were not needed, and that the errand was devised to get him out of the way. However it was his duty to obey.

When he was fairly out of the store, John asked, with some curiosity:

"What is the news you were going to tell me, Uncle Simon?"

"Mr. Flint has started for Colorado, and I am in full charge of the store," answered Rich, with a triumphant smile.

"Golly! That's great news!" exclaimed John. "Now you can discharge that cub and get me in again."

"I mean to, but you will have to wait a few days."

"Why need I?"

"Because I must have a good excuse for bouncing him. Mr. Flint will inquire, you know."

"I should think it would be easy to invent one."

"Well, not altogether ea

sy, but I have a plan. You see, the boy is one of the goody-goody kind who has no bad habits. If I could catch him playing pool, or anything of that kind, there would be no trouble; but he is one of your model boys."

"Like me," suggested John.

"I never took you for a model boy. Still, you are my nephew, and I must do the best I can for you."

"What is the plan you have thought of?"

"I haven't fully decided; but come in to-morrow, and I may think of something by that time."

"I wish I was here now. It will be good fun, now that old Flint is gone."

"Be careful not to say 'old Flint' before Andrew. He might repeat it to the boss when he returns."

"If he should I would punch his head," said John, promptly.

"I don't think I would advise you to do that," said Simon Rich, shrewdly.

"Why not? I could lick him with one hand."

"If you ever get into a fight with him you will need two. He is strong and muscular."

"You seem to be taking his part, Uncle Simon."

"Not at all, but I won't shut my eyes to facts. Andrew is much stronger than you are."

John did not look well pleased, but his uncle added:

"In this case, however, it is not a matter of strength. We must use cunning."

"All right, uncle. You know best, of course."

"Of course I know best. All you have to do is to be guided by me. We must get rid of him in such a way that Mr. Flint will approve of my action."

"It will be a great day for me when I take his place."

"Exactly. Be patient, and it will come about. Meanwhile I want you to treat him as a friend."

"Why?"

"So that he won't suspect that there is any conspiracy against him."

"I see. You are a smart one, Uncle Simon."

"I flatter myself that I know what I am about," returned Rich, complacently.

Andy was considerably surprised at the kindness with which he was treated, during the next few days, by the head salesman. He had expected something very different. He began to think he had misjudged Mr. Rich.

He was still more surprised when the next day at his lunch hour he was invited to the Dairy Kitchen by John Crandall. He did not care to accept, but John insisted upon it, and he thought it would be rude to refuse.

John chatted very pleasantly during the meal, and Andy was both surprised and pleased.

"Have you got a new place?" he asked.

"No, but uncle thinks he can get me one before long."

"I hope it will be a good one."

"Oh, I think it will," said John, showing his teeth and smiling significantly.

So passed several days, and Andy began to think that Mr. Rich had become his friend. But at length the storm broke.

One day, as he entered the store, he noticed that Simon Rich was looking grave and stern.

"Andrew," he said, without preface, "something very disagreeable has happened."

"What is it, Mr. Rich?"

"A gold watch has disappeared from this case."

"A valuable one?" asked Andy, innocently.

"It is one that retails at fifty dollars. I would not have had this occur during Mr. Flint's absence for twice that sum."

"Have you any idea of what has become of it?"

"Not at present, but as you and my nephew are in the store so much, of course you would have opportunities of taking it."

"Uncle Simon," said John, who was present, "I insist on your searching me."

"I will do so, though I am sure neither you nor Andrew is at fault."

"Search me, too, Mr. Rich," said Andy, fearlessly.

Nothing was found on John, but thrusting his hand into the upper pocket of Andy's vest, Simon Rich drew out a folded paper.

"What is this?" he cried. "A pawn ticket for a gold watch? What does this mean?"

"Let me see it," said Andy, dumfounded.

It was a ticket issued by a Third Avenue pawnbroker for a gold watch, on which ten dollars appeared to have been loaned. The name of the borrower appeared as A. Grant.

"Miserable boy!" said the salesman, severely; "so you have turned thief.

What a hypocrite you must be!"

"I don't know what it means," faltered Andy, quite overwhelmed.

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