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   Chapter 3 AN HONEST BOY.

Little Miss Joy By Emma Marshall Characters: 6363

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


When little Miss Joy had tripped across the row to her own door, Mrs. Harrison had gone into the house.

The shutters were being taken down from several of the windows, blinds were drawn up, doors opened, and the row was waking to life and the business of life.

Mrs. Harrison went about her usual work of clearing up and dusting and sweeping, and about half-past six she called a boy from one of the opposite houses to take down the shutters of the little shop front.

The boy looked wistfully at her sad face, and asked, "Is Jack ill, please, ma'am?"

"No, not ill," she answered, unwilling to spread the news that he had run away; "not ill; but I am up early."

The boy asked no further question, but said to himself, "Something is up; and here comes Mr. Paterson!"

"Have you found him?" Patience asked, under her breath. "Any news? Any news?"

George passed into the house, for he did not wish to excite observation.

"No-no direct news; but I hear some ships got under weigh about three o'clock. The tide served, and it is just likely that the boy is aboard one. Don't you think me unfeeling now if I say, it is just as well he should go; he may learn a lesson you couldn't teach him."

"The same story, the same trial over again! Oh, how can I bear it?" Patience said, in a voice that filled the honest heart of George Paterson with deep pity and almost deeper pain.

"Well," he said, "this wrangling here was bad for all parties. The boy was always in hot water."

"Because she was so cross-grained-because she hated him. Oh, I cannot, cannot bear to think of it!"

"Pray," said a sharp, shrill voice from the bottom step of the very narrow staircase which led into the still narrower passage, "pray, what is all this about?"

"Jack never came home last night," Patience said in a voice of repressed emotion. "He never came home. He is gone, and I shall never see him again."

"Oh, fiddlesticks!" was the reply. "Bad pennies always turn up. I never knew one in my life that was lost. Mark my words, you have not seen the last of him-worse luck."

"That's not a very pleasant way to talk, Miss Pinckney: you'll excuse me for saying so," said Mr. Paterson. "The boy was a good boy on the whole."

"A good boy!" Miss Pinckney was screaming now. "Well, George Paterson, your ideas of goodness and mine differ. You may please to take yourself off now, for I've no time to spend in gossip;" and Miss Pinckney began her operations by flapping with a duster the counter of the shop, and taking from the drawers certain boxes of small articles in which she dealt.

While she was thus engaged, she suddenly stopped short, and uttered an exclamation of horror, turning a white face to her sister, who was listening to the few words of comfort George had to bestow. "Look here!" she exclaimed; "look here! The secret's out. The little tin cash-box is gone, and the thief is out of reach. What do you say to your good boy now, eh, George Paterson?"

George Paterson took one step into the shop, and said-

"How do you know he took it? He is the last boy I could think of as a thief."

"Of course. Oh, he is a perfect boy-a good boy! I only wish he

had never darkened my doors-the young villain!"

"Hush, now Miss Pinckney. Calm yourself, and let us have a look for the box. Where was it put?"

"Why, in the drawer, to be sure, under the counter. I keep the key of the drawer in my key basket. I always locked it-always. He got the key and opened it. There was four pounds and odd money in it-close on five pounds."

"I am certain," said Patience, "Jack did not steal your money, sister Amelia." Poor Patience was calm now. "It is impossible," she continued. "He was-he was as honest as the day, and as true as gold."

"All that's very fine-very fine indeed. He stole the money, and made off. If he didn't, who did?"

Patience stood wondering for a few moments, going over all that day-that last day. Jack had been at school and out till nearly tea-time; then he had sat with his books till supper; and then came the uproar with his aunt, and he had rushed away-straight out of the house. He could not have stopped in the shop on the way; besides, a plot must have been laid to get the key. It was impossible Jack could be guilty.

She looked at George, and read in his face deep sympathy, and also read there a reassuring smile.

"No," he said. "Whoever is the thief, Jack is innocent. Circumstances may be against him-his running off to sea, and his passion-fit against you-but I believe him to be innocent. You had better leave things as you found them, and I'll call in a policeman. There'll be one on his beat at the end of the row by this time. It is right and just all proper inquiries should be made."

The policeman-a stolid, sober individual, who never wasted words-came at George Paterson's bidding, and looked with a professional eye at the drawer whence the money had been abstracted.

"Box and all gone! That's queer. Key of box fastened to it by a string. Humph! Any servant in the house?"

"No."

"Boy that cleans up and takes down the shutters, eh?"

"No-that is-my nephew was in the house, and," said Miss Pinckney with emphasis, "he ran off to sea last night."

The policeman gave a prolonged "Ah!"

Then he proceeded to examine the lock of the drawer.

"Where's the key?"

"Here, in my key basket. I lock the drawer the last thing, and lock the shop-door myself. You know that, Patience. Speak up."

"Yes, I know it-I know it."

"Well, there seems no certain clue," the policeman said, twisting the key of the drawer round and round in the lock.

"There's this clue," Miss Pinckney said; "my nephew who ran off to sea stole the box. He and I had quarrelled a bit, for he was the most impudent and trying young vagabond. If you wish to know my thoughts, policeman, they are that he took the cash-box."

"There's no proof. We must have proof. But there's suspicion. We must try to track the youngster, find out what ship he sailed in; and when she comes into port, why, we'll keep an eye on the little chap."

The policeman had no more to say just then, and departed, saying to George, who shouldered his tools and followed him, "I know the boy. A sharp one, isn't he?"

"An honest one, if ever an honest boy lived," was the rejoinder, as George Paterson strode away.

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