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Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7990

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Mrs. Barton was washing the breakfast dishes, and was alone, Bert having gone to his daily work at the shoe shop, when the outer door opened and Uncle Jacob entered the cottage, valise in hand.

"I've accepted your offer sooner than you expected, Mary," he said.

"You are heartily welcome, Uncle Jacob," responded his niece, with evident sincerity. "If you can put up with our poor accommodations after being entertained in Albert's luxurious home--"

"Don't trouble yourself about that, Mary," interrupted the old man. "Albert doesn't want me. He civilly asked me to find another stopping place."

"You don't mean it!" exclaimed Mrs. Barton indignantly.

"You see," explained Uncle Jacob, with a quiet smile, "his wife was taken suddenly indisposed-after she found I wasn't as rich as she expected."

"I hope you won't take it too much to heart, Uncle Jacob," observed Mary Barton, in a tone of solicitude.

Uncle Jacob's amused laugh reassured her.

"It is just what I expected, Mary," he said, "and I shan't grieve over it much. You ought to have seen how they all looked when I asked Albert's advice about opening a small cigar and candy store in the village. You can imagine what a mortification it would be to my high-toned nephew to have my sign out,


Candy and Cigars.

over a small seven by nine store, when our relationship was known."

"I hope that won't prevent your carrying out the plan, Uncle Jacob. If your gains are small, you can make your home with us and pay what you can afford."

"Thank you, Mary, you are a true friend, and I shan't forget your kind offer. But I never had the slightest idea of opening such a store. I only mentioned it to test Albert."

"But you will have to do something, Uncle Jacob," said Mary Barton, perplexed; "and that would be as easy as anything. Bert could go in the evening and help you if you found it too confining."

"I have something else in view in the city," returned Jacob. "I don't need to earn much you know. I don't set up to be a dude," he added, with a comical glance at his rustic attire, "and I don't mean to board at the Fifth Avenue Hotel."

"I am sorry you can't stay in Lakeville," said Mrs. Barton regretfully.

"I will stay here a week, Mary, to get acquainted with you and your boy. I have taken a fancy to him. He is a fine, manly youth, worth a dozen of such fellows as Percy Marlowe."

"Indeed, he is a good boy," said his mother proudly. "I don't see what I could do without him."

"So, Mary, if you'll show me where you are going to accommodate me, I'll go up and take possession."

"Will you mind my putting you in with Bert? I have but two chambers."

"Not a bit. It will be all the better. If I were going to stay here permanently I would build an extension to the house for you."

"But that would be expensive, Uncle Jacob."

"So it would. I'm always forgetting that I am not a rich man. You see I was rich once. As I told Albert, I have seen the time when I had a hundred thousand dollars to my credit in a bank of Sacramento."

"Oh, Uncle Jacob! Why didn't you invest it in government bonds, and you would have been independent for life?"

"Because I was not so prudent as my niece, I suppose. However, it's no use crying over spilt milk, and I've got a matter of five hundred dollars left."

"But that won't last long, Uncle Jacob."

"Not unless I work. But I'm pretty rugged yet, and I guess I can manage to scrape along."

When Bert came home to dinner, he was surprised and pleased to find Uncle Jacob installed and evidently feeling quite at home.

"I wish I could stay at home this afternoon to keep you company," he said; "but I have only an hour for dinner."

"Business first, my boy!" said the old man. "For pleasure we'll wait till this evening. Is there a livery stable in the village?"

"Yes, sir; Houghton's."

"Then after supper we'll hire a buggy, and you and your mother and I will take a ride."

"But, Uncle Jac

ob, you forget that it will cost a dollar, or perhaps two."

"No, I don't, Mary; but I'm having a vacation, and I want to enjoy myself a little before pitching into hard work again. I am sure you will be the better for a ride."

"Yes, I shall. I haven't had one for months, and it will be a real treat."

"Then we will cast prudence to the winds for once, and have a good time. I suppose you can drive, Bert."

"Oh yes, sir; I like it. I worked for a few weeks in the grocery store, and drove every day. I like a horse."

"So do I; but I don't care much about handling the reins myself. You'll promise not to upset the carriage, as Percy did the other day?"

"Not unless we meet two tramps, as he did," said Bert, laughing.

"I declare, Mary, there is your boy calling his old uncle a tramp."

"And myself, too, uncle."

"That makes it seem a little better. Are you going back to the shop?"

"Yes, uncle; my time is up."

"I'll walk along with you."

As the two walked together, Uncle Jacob took a five dollar bill from his pocket, and handed it to Bert.

"There, Bert," he said, "I want you to give that to your mother toward buying groceries and meat this week, as her expenses will be increased by my being in the house."

"But, Uncle Jacob, we don't want you to pay board."

"I am able to do it, and prefer it, Bert. So say no more about it."

In truth, this donation was a relief to Bert and his mother, for they were compelled to economize closely, and yet wanted to live well while Uncle Jacob was visiting them.

About seven o'clock Bert drove round to the house in a handsome top buggy, drawn by a spirited black horse, the best in Houghton's stable.

"I'll let you have it, Bert," said Mr. Houghton, "because I know you're a careful driver. There are few persons I would trust with Prince."

"You may depend on me, Mr. Houghton."

"I know I can, Bert;" and with a few directions the stable keeper resigned the turnout to Bert.

"You have got a stylish rig, Bert," said Uncle Jacob. "I think we shall have to drive by Albert Marlowe's."

"Just what I would like," remarked Bert, with a smile.

Bert had his share of human nature, and rather enjoyed being seen by his aristocratic relatives in such a stylish turnout.

Supper was over at Squire Marlowe's and the family were sitting on the piazza, the evening being warm, when Percy espied the buggy approaching.

"I wonder who's driving Houghton's best team?" he said.

"By gracious, if it isn't Bert Barton and his mother and Uncle Jacob!" he exclaimed, a minute later.

The squire adjusted his eyeglasses, and looked at the carriage now nearly opposite.

"You are right, Percy," he said.

"What can it mean, Albert?" asked his wife, in bewilderment, as Uncle Jacob bowed from the buggy.

"It means that a fool and his money are soon parted," answered the squire.

"I thought your uncle was poor."

"So he is, and he will soon be poorer from all appearances. Uncle Jacob never was a good financial manager. He was always too liberal, or he wouldn't be as poor as he is now. Why with five hundred dollars he probably feels as rich as a nabob."

"No doubt Bert Barton will help him spend it," said Percy. "It won't last long at any rate, if he drives out every evening."

"When his money is all gone he will probably throw himself on you for support, father."

"I wash my hands of him," said Squire Marlowe, in a hard tone. "If he squanders his money, he must take the consequences."

"I am glad to hear you speak in that way, Albert," commented his wife, approvingly.

Uncle Jacob enjoyed his drive and paid two dollars at the stable without letting the thought of his extravagance worry him.

"I hope you enjoyed it, Mary," he said.

"I don't know when I have enjoyed myself so much, Uncle Jacob."

"Nor I," put in Bert.

"Then I think the money well spent. It makes me feel young again, Mary. I think I made a mistake in staying away so long."

* * *

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