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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11033

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

I had heard nothing from Mr. Gracewood since my arrival in St. Louis. He had in his possession all the moneyed property which had come to me from the estate of Matt Rockwood. I had placed no little dependence upon the fifteen hundred in gold, which I regarded as my inheritance; and now an heir appeared, who certainly had a better legal claim than I had.

"Nine hundred dollars!" exclaimed Morgan Blair again, and with as much satisfaction as though this large sum was already in his own hands.

"And after his death we sold off wood and produce enough to amount to over seven hundred dollars more."

"Better and better," added Blair. "Go on, Phil; perhaps you can make it up to two thousand."

"I can't very easily make it any more," I replied.

"Well, I'm satisfied as it is. Now, can you tell me where this money is?"

"A friend of mine has fifteen hundred dollars in gold, and I have his note for it."

"Exactly so; and perhaps you won't object to handing the note over to me, and telling me where I can find your friend."

"I must say that I do object."

"You do?"

"Certainly I do."

"But I am the last of the Rockwoods. Don't you think I look like my uncle Matt?"

"I don't see it."

"Nor I; but my mother said I did. Be that as it may, you must see that this money belongs to me, and not to you."

"I don't even see that."

"Don't be mean about it, Phil."

"I don't intend to be. I have told you the whole truth, and now I don't care about talking any more on the subject."

"That's rather cool. You have my money, and you won't give it to me."

"Certainly not; I don't know anything about you. I never even heard old Matt say he had a sister."

"That's nothing to do with me. He did have one, and I am her son."

"It's no use to say anything more about it. When Mr. Gracewood, who has the money, arrives, I will speak to him about it."

"But I can't wait."

"You must wait."

"Couldn't you let me have a little of it?" persisted he.

"No, I could not. You haven't proved your claim yet."

"I will prove it."

"When you have done so, the money shall be paid."

"But I must go to Vandalia to obtain the proof; and I haven't money enough to pay my expenses."

"I can't help that."

"Haven't you any money?"

"I have, and I intend to keep it for my own use."

"But the money is mine. I am the last of the Rockwoods. I know you have nearly a hundred dollars; or you had before you went into that shop. That money is mine, and when you spend a dollar of it you steal it. That's what's the matter."

"I think you have said enough about it, and we will end up the matter here," I replied, disgusted with his impudence, and wondering how he knew that I had nearly a hundred dollars.

I refused to say anything more, and he threatened me with the terrors of the law, and even with his individual vengeance. He teased me to let him have fifty dollars on account, and declared he would have me arrested if I did not comply. Finally I put on my cap, and he followed me into the street, for I found I could get rid of him in no other way. As soon as he was outside of the door, I made a flank movement upon him, and returned to the house, shutting him out as I entered. He did not trouble me any more that night, but I expected to see him again soon.

I was inclined to believe that he was what he represented himself to be, for I did not see how he could know anything about Matt Rockwood. It was very singular that he had stumbled upon me so blindly, and I regarded my fortune as already lost. I was sorry that Matt's heir had appeared, for I had considered how convenient this large sum of money would be when I began to look for my mother. I had thought, as soon as my father's reformation was in a measure assured, of going to Chicago to see my grandfather, Mr. Collingsby. My wages, even at six dollars a week, would no more than pay my father's and my own board. But I was fully determined to be honest; and, if the fifteen hundred dollars belonged to Morgan Blair, he should have it, as soon as he satisfied me that he was the "last of the Rockwoods," even without any legal forms. The next day my father was a little better, and sat up a portion of the time. Mrs. Greenough nursed him most tenderly, and insisted that I should go to Sunday school and to church in the forenoon. I dressed myself in my new clothes, and when my father saw me he smiled, and seemed to be proud of his boy. I went to Sunday school at the church which my landlady attended; and I realized all my pleasant anticipations of the occasion. I was put into a class of boys of my own age, and listened attentively to the instructions of my teacher, who, I afterwards learned to my surprise, was one of the wealthiest merchants in the city, though he was very plain in his manners and in his dress.

What was so new and strange, and withal so exceedingly pleasant to me, is familiar to all my readers, and I need not describe it. Mr. Phillips, my teacher, had an attentive scholar in me, and immediately took an interest in me. He promised to call and see me some evening, and presented me a class book for use in the school and at home. I was astonished at his kindness and condescension, when Mrs. Greenough told me who and what he was. The services in the church were not less novel and interesting to me; and I am sure that I was deeply impressed by the prayers, the singing, and the sermon. In the afternoon I staid at home with my father, and Mrs. Greenough went to

church. I read the Bible and the library book I had obtained at the Sunday school to him, and he was as much interested as I was. In the evening I went to the prayer-meeting; and when I retired I felt more like being good and true than ever before.

On Monday I was at the plane and plank again, and when night came I was never so tired in my life, not even when I had tramped through the woods for a day and a night. I did not go out; but Mr. Lamar and Mr. Gray called to inquire for my father. As I had told them all about my relations with Matt Rockwood, and that I had the money he had left, I ventured to ask their advice in regard to the claimant who had appeared in the person of Morgan Blair.

"Don't pay him a dollar," said Mr. Lamar, who was a very prudent man, as I had learned before.

"I have no doubt he is the nephew of Matt Rockwood," I replied.

"If he is, he must prove his claim. Do nothing, Phil, without the advice of your friends, especially Mr. Gracewood."

"As he has the money, I shall not be likely to do anything."

"The fellow may be an impostor," suggested Mr. Gray.

"I think that is impossible. He came to me simply to inquire about the country on the upper Missouri, and said he had an uncle up there. Then he gave me the name of Matthew Rockwood. If he were an impostor, he could not have done that."

"Perhaps it is all right as you say; but don't pay him anything till we have the evidence," added Mr. Lamar.

My friends left me, and the door had hardly closed behind them before Morgan Blair called to see me. He pressed me to let him have fifty dollars to enable him to go to Vandalia; but I continued to refuse, and as before he waxed angry and threatened me.

"It's no use, Blair. I shall not let you have a dollar. I have consulted Mr. Lamar and Mr. Gray, and I act under their advice. If you want to do anything about it, go and see them."

"I don't know them, and don't want to know them. My business is with you, and I will follow you till you give me that money. It belongs to me, and I ought to have it."

"You can do as you think best; but following me won't do any good. If you will wait till Mr. Gracewood comes, he will be able to settle the question. He was with us when your uncle was killed. Perhaps Matt spoke to him about his sister."

"Do you doubt my word?"

"No; but if I should pay this money to you, Matt's brother might come after it."

"I tell you he is dead."

"That must be proved."

"I suppose I shall have to prove that I'm not dead myself, by and by."

"If you can prove the rest as easily, as you can prove that, you will be all right. When I hear from Mr. Gracewood I will let you know."

"I can't wait."

"Very well; then go to work at once in the right way."

"What's that?"

"Go to the territory where your uncle lived and died, have an administrator appointed, and he can legally claim the effects of Matt Rockwood," I replied, rehearsing the information imparted to me by Mr. Lamar.

"I can't go up there."

"Go to a lawyer, then, and he will advise you what to do."

"I haven't any money to pay a lawyer. I haven't a dollar left. I lost nearly all I had."

"Lost it? Where?"

"At Forstellar's," he replied.


"Well, I played a little. I wanted to make a little money somehow."

"But you didn't make any?"

"Made it out of pocket."

"I should go to work if I were you."

His confession gave me a new revelation in regard to his character, and I was the more determined not to let him have a dollar. He pleaded, begged, and threatened; but I was firm, and he left me.

When I came home to dinner the next day, I found a letter from Mr. Gracewood in reply to mine. With trembling hands I opened it. The writer began by saying that he was very glad to hear from me, and that he had worried a great deal about me. Mrs. Gracewood had been very sick, but was now slowly improving. He did not think he should be able to leave for St. Louis for two or three weeks. Ella was well, and sent her regards to me. This was favorable news, and I was very much rejoiced to receive the letter. I wrote immediately, giving him a full account of what had happened to me since we parted, and sent the letter by the next mail.

Phil reading the Bible to his Father. Page 212.

My father improved very slowly, but I was not sure that his illness was not a blessing to him, for he was unable to go out of the house, and the process of weaning him from whiskey was thus assisted very materially. On Saturday night, after I had been paid off, I found a letter at the house. I opened it, and looked first at the signature, which was Pierre Lamar. He wrote that he wished to see me about the money matter of which I had spoken to him, and desired me to call at a place in Fourth Street which he designated. In a postscript he requested me to bring the note which Mr. Gracewood had given for the money.

After supper, with the note in my pocket, I hastened to the place indicated. It appeared to be a dwelling-house, and I rang the bell at the front door, which was presently opened by a man in a white jacket. I asked for Mr. Lamar, and was assured that he was in his room. I was conducted up three flights of stairs, and the man knocked at a door. I thought Mr. Lamar ought to be able to afford better accommodations for himself; but the door opened, and I entered the room.

I looked for my friend; but instead of him, I saw only Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne and Morgan Blair.

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