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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 18071

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

I went to my work on Monday morning, and Plane and Plank were to employ me for the day. Certainly I never went to work so cheerfully in my life, for somehow all my mishaps seemed to have been turned into blessings. When I found my father a miserable drunkard and outcast, that seemed to me the greatest mishap which could possibly befall me. But now he was a new man, through the blessed ministrations of Mrs. Greenough; and through him I hoped to find the highest of earthly bliss in our reunited family.

My mishaps with the villains who had stolen my money, and who had probably intended to force me into a course of crime, had given me such a powerful friend as Mr. Rockwood. My father had been appointed his agent, with a salary at the rate of twelve hundred dollars a year for the first three months, with a promise of an increase, if he was faithful and steady. I fully believed that my father was sincere, and that, as he said, it would be quite impossible for him to drink another drop of liquor. I believed it, because I knew that he prayed to God morning, noon, and night for strength; and I was sure that he whom God helps cannot fail.

Mr. Clinch gave me permission, at nine o'clock, to be absent the rest of the day, if necessary. He was curious to know what business I had at the courts, and I told him enough of the story to enable him to understand the situation.

"I was sure that Morgan Blair was getting into bad ways," said Mr. Clinch. "I tell you, Phil, when a young fellow is lazy, and don't take any interest in his business, he is getting into a bad way. All I want to know about a boy is, whether he feels an interest in his business or not. Then I can tell pretty well about his morals."

"I think he fell into bad company, sir."

"Of course he did; idlers always fall into bad company. A young fellow must have a taste for bad company before he can be led a great ways out of the right track. The first bad company a young fellow keeps is himself. If he don't begin there, he won't begin anywhere else. Those are my sentiments."

Mr. Clinch talked to me while I was preparing to go to the station-house; and when I was ready I hastened to the place appointed. I found Mr. Rockwood and both the Gracewoods there, with Lynch and Blair in irons. They looked pitiable enough now. They had been arrested at the very moment when they considered themselves entirely successful in their wicked enterprise, and of course the shock of disaster was very heavy.

"You are an old one, Phil Farringford," said Lynch, with a sickly smile. "You have brought me to grief finally. If I can get out of this scrape, I don't know but I should be willing to go to a prayer-meeting with you."

"It would do you good," I replied. "Why were you so determined to rob me, Lynch?"

"Because I thought you were a great deal fatter pullet than you turned out to be. I heard you and that gentleman," he added, pointing to Mr. Henry Gracewood, "talking pretty large about your money. As you exhibited some of it, I was satisfied that you really had the gold, and I thought it would do me more good than it would you. However, you were so full of fight that I gave it up till you vexed me so here in the city. After I had given you back your hundred dollars, I was determined to be even with you. Then I followed, and made the acquaintance of my good friend Morgan Blair."

"Yes; and I wish you had been at the bottom of the Mississippi before I had ever seen you," blubbered Blair, his eyes filling with tears.

"After listening to that highly interesting story about the Rockwoods, I decided that my friend Blair should be the last of the Rockwoods. You were very obstinate, Phil; very. After that affair at the station-house, I made the acquaintance of Mr. Gracewood. I supposed, at first, that he was the one who had signed that note of yours, Phil. I wanted the note then, but I soon found that I was mistaken. About the same time I found the wounded man had a large sum of money upon him, and I was more anxious to get this. I told Mr. Gracewood that I knew a young man who had seen his brother, and then I got the whole story."

"What did you want of me?" I asked.

"That's the point; I wanted you, because you knew Mr. Gracewood's brother. He would trust you, for you go to prayer-meetings. He told me all about his brother; and I thought if I could get that note, he would pay it; but that was to be Blair's perquisite-what he could get of it. The sick man told me he had the care of his brother's property, and would pay anything on his account that was right."

"But did you mean to have me help you steal the twenty-four thousand dollars?" I demanded.

"That was what I wanted you for; and when we left you in the room, I went down to see Mr. Gracewood. I intended to tell him, as a friend, that it was not safe to keep such a sum in such a house. I meant to advise him to send it to the bank by you."

"And then to rob me?"

"Well, you needn't call it by such a hard name; but you never would have got out of the house with the money. I have played and lost, and now I make the best of it. When you left the room, we heard you on the roof; but I expected you back very soon, for I knew you could not escape in that direction. I was humane too, for I was afraid you would break your neck, and spoil all my plans; I placed the ladder at the skylight, so that you could return without danger."

"Why did you send to my boarding-house for my money?"

"Simply to ascertain whether you were there. When you came back, I sent a note down to Mr Gracewood, and thus brought you together. While you were talking together, I went down into Mr. Gracewood's room, in order to ascertain, if I could, where he kept the package of money. Of course I did not suppose he had left it there; but, to my surprise, I found it between the two beds. I took possession, and Blair and I left then. I intended to be a hundred miles from St. Louis before daylight the next morning. Instead of that, we were nabbed by this excellent gentleman as soon as we stepped upon the sidewalk."

"I was watching you all the time," added the detective.

"And the game is up, and lost," said Lynch.

"A very stupid game it was, too."

"It may look so now; it did not then. It would not have been a hard job to persuade a sick man in a gambling-house to send his money to the bank for safe keeping."

"I don't think it would," said the invalid.

"Did you expect him to trust Phil at sight?" asked the detective.

"Not at all. Phil goes to prayer-meetings, and I thought he would be willing to spend most of the time, from Saturday night till Monday morning, with the sick brother of his best friend. By Monday noon he would have been willing to trust him with all he had in the world."

"I think he would," added Henry Gracewood.

"If he had sent me to the bank with the money, it would have gone there," I said, confidently.

"Perhaps not," replied Lynch.

"There would have been a big fight, at any rate," I continued. "I would not have given up the money while I had an arm left."

"Well, gentlemen, it is time to take the prisoners before the court," said Mr. Bogart.

They were taken to the court; Lynch pleaded guilty, and Blair, after telling a pitiful story of the manner in which he had been led away, put in the same plea. In due time the older villain was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, and the novice to one year. Mr. Gracewood recovered his money, and I did mine. Thus the wretch who had been persecuting me since he came on board the steamer on the Missouri to the present time, was disposed of.

The brothers Gracewood remained at the hotel a week. The case of the penitent was known to the public, and to his own family. Those who loved him forgave him; and he could afford to be independent, in a measure, of the opinions of others. His fortune was still ample for his support in elegance and luxury, and his brother lost nothing by his misdeeds.

Mr. Henry Gracewood paid me the fifteen hundred dollars, which, by the kindness of Mr. Rockwood, became my property. It was deposited in three savings banks. The health of Mrs. Gracewood was very much impaired by her illness, and the most skilful physician in the city recommended a change of climate, advising her to live in the south of France during the winter. This was a heavy blow to me, for I had counted upon the society of the Gracewoods, especially of Ella. The season was advancing, and the family were obliged to hasten away. With a heavy heart I bade good by to them, and it was years before I saw them again.

I attended to my work diligently and faithfully, and gave entire satisfaction to my employer. But I found that Plane and Plank was hard work, and city life did not agree with me as well as that in the wilds of the upper Missouri. Still, I was very happy, though I was troubled with a longing desire to see my mother.

With the money restored to me after the arrest of the robbers, I purchased a suit of

nice black clothes for my father; and when he was dressed in them, he looked like the new man that he was. He was paler and thinner than when I had first seen him, but I was proud of his appearance. Though not in robust health, he was able to enter at once upon the duties of his position as the agent of Mr. Rockwood.

We continued to live at Mrs. Greenough's, who felt quite as much interest in both of us as though we had been her nearest relatives. A smaller room over the entry was fitted up for me, and my father took my chamber. Here he kept his account-books, and did all his writing. I suppose that he was often tempted to drink, but I am certain that he never yielded. He always attended every service at the church. Mrs. Greenough had both reformed and converted him, though I think my presence had some influence with him.

I had work at my trade all winter; but my father insisted upon paying my board as well as his own, and I saved nearly all my money. I went to an evening school, and studied book-keeping. In fact I spent most of my leisure hours in study. I reviewed my old branches. My father was a very well educated man, and assisted me in my efforts to improve my mind. He instructed me in the usages of business, and helped me with my accounts.

In the spring, Mr. Lamar offered my father a much larger salary than he was receiving; but his employer promptly doubled his present pay, so well was he satisfied with his services. During the summer season, besides taking charge of the rents and repairs of the tenements, he built several new houses for Mr. Rockwood, which were leased to good tenants. His position was, therefore, one of great responsibility, but he was competent to fill it. He did his employer's business as though it had been his own.

We were both doing exceedingly well, and were in the main contented and happy, though I could not be entirely satisfied while my mother was separated from us. I said so much about this subject, that my father wrote to Mr. Collingsby, in Chicago, informing him that "the long-lost son" had been found. No answer was received; and another letter was written, which, however, produced no better result. Evidently Mr. Collingsby did not believe the statements contained in the letters, and he took no notice of them. Foiled in this manner, we were compelled to drop the matter for the time.

I worked at my trade for two years; and at the end of that time, although I was only fifteen, I did not think there was much more for me to learn in that business. Probably I should have continued to work at it, however, if Mr. Clinch had not abandoned his trade to go into the lumber business in Michigan. I had learned book-keeping pretty thoroughly, and I did not care to find a new place as a carpenter. I was rather desirous of practising what I had learned on the subject of accounts, and, with the advice of my father, I concluded to abandon, for the present, the Plane and Plank.

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Transcriber's Note:

The punctuation and spelling are as printed in the original publication with the exception of the following: Page 33 oocasion is now occasion.

Page 63 transportion is now transportation.

Page 170 cheerfuly is now cheerfully.

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