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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11117

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

I repeat that I was startled when I saw the gentleman in the room with the open door. He was the very image of Matt Rockwood, who had taken me from the cold waters of the upper Missouri, and brought me up in his log cabin. Of course I could not believe it was old Matt, for I had seen him fall before the rifle-shot of the Indian, and had wept bitterly over his grave when his remains were committed to the earth.

The gentleman before me was dressed better than old Matt ever clothed himself; but his face was as brown from exposure, and his brow as deeply indented with wrinkles. If I had not known that my foster-father was dead, I should have been willing to declare, at the first glance, that this gentleman was he.

"What do you want, young man?" said he, as I paused rather longer that politeness would tolerate before his door.

His voice was that of Matt Rockwood; and, as I do not care to prolong a sensation, I at once jumped to the conclusion that the person before me was the brother of my foster-father, though Morgan Blair had assured me that he also was in his grave.

"If you please, sir, I would like to speak to you," I replied to his question.

"Come in," he added, laying aside his newspaper. "What is your business with me?"

I entered the room, which was a parlor, and from it a bedroom opened on one side. The apartments were very handsomely furnished, and as the gentleman before me was very well dressed, I concluded that fortune had dealt more kindly with him than with Matt.

"Are you Mr. Rockwood?" I asked, gazing earnestly at him.

"I am."

"Mr. Mark Rockwood?"


"You had a brother, sir?"

"I had."

"And a sister?"

"No; or rather I had two, but both of them died in their childhood," he replied, evidently astonished at my line of questions.

He had no sister, and Morgan Blair's story, as I had suspected after I found him in the company of Lynch, was all a fiction.

"Have you heard from your brother within a few years?" I inquired.

"Not for twenty years. But who are you, young man?" he demanded, evidently supposing that I had known his brother.

At this moment the waiter of whom I had inquired for Mr. Rockwood appeared before the door and looked in.

"What do you want, John?" asked the old gentleman.

"Nothing, sir; the young man with you inquired for your room, and I came to see if he found you," replied the servant, retiring.

"Who are you, young man, and why do you ask me these questions?"

"I have seen your brother Matthew since you have, and I did not know but you might wish to hear about him, though I haven't any good news for you."

"You knew Matthew, then?"

"Yes, sir; I lived with him about ten years. In fact, he brought me up."

"But the last I heard of him, he had gone up the Missouri River."

"Yes, sir; and it was there that I lived with him."

"Where is he now?" asked Mr. Rockwood; and I saw that he was considerably moved.

"I am sorry to say I have no good news to tell you."

"Is he living?"

"No, sir; he died last spring. But I want to tell you, before I say anything more, that no better man than your brother ever lived."

Mr. Rockwood was silent for a few moments. Doubtless the intelligence I communicated revived the memories of the past, when they had been children together.

"I am glad to hear you speak well of him, young man, for really you could not say anything more pleasant of him," said Mr. Rockwood, at last. "Since he is dead, nothing can be more comforting than to know that he was a good man. Matt was always honest and straightforward; but he was almost always unfortunate, he failed in business, and left this part of the country discouraged and disheartened. I hope he was never in want, or anything of that kind."

"No, sir; he always had plenty; and when he died he left some property."

"I'm very glad to hear it, for I have had times when I worried a great deal about it. I tried to find out where he was, but I never succeeded. Were you with him when he died?"

"I was, sir," I replied, not a little embarrassed; for I did not like to reveal the manner of his death.

"Was he sick long?"

"No, sir; he had been troubled with the rheumatism for two or three months; but he was able to be about on crutches at the time he died."

"Did he die of rheumatism?"

"No, sir; he did not die of any disease, nor suffer any pain."

"What do you mean, young man?"

"He was shot, and instantly killed, in a fight with the Indians."

"Poor Matt!" exclaimed Mr. Rockwood, averting his gaze from me.

"I was as near to him as I am to you now when he fell. He never moved or breathed after he went down," I added.

"Well, he had lived his threescore and ten, and perhaps one could not pass away any easier; but it is grating to one's feelings to know that his brother was shot."

I related to him very minutely the history of Matt Rockwood; and he listened, as may well be supposed, with the deepest interest.

"And so you found your father?" said he, as I concluded the narrative.

"Yes, sir; and I hope yet to save him from himself."

"I hope so; and I am willing to do all I can for you and for him."

"Thank you, sir. As I said before, sir, your brother left about a thousand dollars in gold, and by selling wood and produce we made the amount up to about sixteen hundred dollars. A young man, by the name of Morgan Blair, says he is the son of Matt's sister, and claims this money."

Phil before the Door of the Southern Planter. Page 244.

"Matt had no sister

," replied Mr. Rockwood, smiling.

I told him what had happened to me that night; but, as I related the story in a good-natured vein, he was rather amused at it.

"Then you did not come to this hotel to see me?"

"No, sir; I blundered upon you;" and I explained how I had happened to be before his door when he discovered me, and why I had paused there longer than I intended.

He laughed heartily at my story, but I noticed that he suddenly became sad whenever I alluded, directly or indirectly, to his brother.

"We will take care of Mr. Morgan Blair in due time," said Mr. Rockwood. "Now, Phil, what do you do?"

"I am a carpenter."

"Where do you live?"

I gave him Mrs. Greenough's address, and he wrote it down in his memorandum book.

"But I must go home, sir; I ought to have gone long ago. I am afraid my father will think something has happened to me," I continued.

"Well I think something has happened to you. But I will not keep you any longer. I will go home with you, if you have no objection."

"I should be very glad to have you, sir."

"I should like to see your father."

While he was putting on his overcoat, I took Mr. Gracewood's note from my pocket, and tendered it to him.

"What's that, Phil?" he asked.

"It's a note for fifteen hundred dollars-the money your brother left and the proceeds of the sale of some of his property."

"This is the note that those ruffians wanted?" he replied, taking the paper and reading it.

"I think a little of it belongs to me, for I earned it after the death of your brother."

"O, my boy, you shall have the whole of it! I will never touch a penny of it."

"But it does not all belong to me."

"Every mill of it," said he, earnestly. "You took care of my brother when he was sick, and he brought you up. You have a better claim to his property than I have, or should have if I needed it, which I do not."

"You are very kind, sir."

"Only just."

We went down stairs, and I saw that all the people in the hotel treated Mr. Rockwood with "distinguished consideration." At his request, the landlord called a carriage, and I went home in state. I had never been in a carriage before, and I regarded it as a very pleasant mode of conveyance.

"I am sorry I did not see you before, Phil, for I must leave for the south in a day or two," said Mr. Rockwood, as the carriage drove off.

"Do you live at the south?"

"Yes; I have been in Mississippi almost twenty years. I have a large plantation there. I made my fortune down there; but I don't think I shall remain there much longer. The climate don't agree with my wife as well as St. Louis. I have been investing money in this city for several years, and when I can sell my plantation I shall come here to live. I own that hotel and the block of buildings with the flat roof over which you passed. I have to come here two or three times a year to look after the property; and my family generally spend the summer here. I hope I shall see more of you, Phil."

"Thank you, sir."

"If you were a little older, I could give you something better to do than carpentering."

"I like that business, sir, and don't care about leaving it at present."

The carriage stopped at Mrs. Greenough's, and we went up stairs. I was obliged to show my wealthy friend into the kitchen, for there was no fire in the parlor. However, there was not much difference between the two rooms.

"I am so glad you have come home, Phil!" said my landlady, descending the stairs when she heard me. "We have been really worried about you."

"I am all right," I replied; and then I introduced Mr. Rockwood.

Mrs. Greenough apologized for meeting him in the kitchen. She was obliged to stay with Mr. Farringford so much of the time that she did not keep a fire in the parlor. She would make one, if he would excuse her; but the distinguished gentleman declined to excuse her, and thought the kitchen was very comfortable and very pleasant.

"And so you got out, Phil," she added, turning to me.

"Out? How did you know anything about it?" I inquired, very much surprised to find that the intelligence of my adventure had preceded me.

"Why, a policeman has been here with your note."

"My note! What note?"

"Didn't you write a billet to me?" she continued, bustling about to find the important document.

"I am not aware that I did," I replied.

"Why, yes, you did, Phil. Where is it? I must have left it up stairs. I will go up after it."

"But I haven't written any billet," I protested.

"I will show it to you," said she, hastening up stairs to find the note.

"Your friends appear to have doubled on you, after all," laughed Mr. Rockwood.

"I don't understand it, though I remember that in order to save the rascals the trouble of attempting to get any money out of me, I told them I had left my balance at home."

Mrs. Greenough returned with the note, and handed it to me. I read it with astonishment and indignation. My name was signed at the end of it; but, of course, no part of the contents was written by me. In the note I was represented as informing the good lady that I had been arrested, and conveyed to the station-house; but I could be bailed out till Monday by depositing sixty-five dollars with the sergeant of police.

"Who brought this?" I asked.

"A man who said he was a policeman."

"Did you know him?"

"No; but after consulting a long time with your father, we sent the money."

"You did!" I exclaimed.

I concluded that I was sixty-five dollars out.

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