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   Chapter 24 STEPHEN RAY AND HIS SON.

The Young Bank Messenger By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8625

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Leaving Ernest and Luke Robbins on their way to California, our attention is called to other characters who must play a part in the drama of the boy from Oak Forks.

A few miles from Elmira, upon an eminence from which there was a fine view of the surrounding country, stood the handsome country mansion of Stephen Ray, already referred to as the cousin of Ernest's father. It passed into his possession by inheritance from poor Ernest's grandfather, the will under which the bequest was made cutting off his son for no worse a crime than marrying a girl thoroughly respectable but of humble birth.

Stephen Ray, since he came into possession of his uncle's estate, had improved it considerably. He had torn down the old stable and built an imposing new one. The plain carriage which had satisfied his uncle had been succeeded by an elegant coach, and the sober but rather slow horse by a pair of spirited steeds.

Mr. Ray had become pompous, and by his manner made it clear that he considered him self a man of great consequence. He was a local magistrate, and had for years endeavored to obtain a nomination for Congress.

Had he been of popular manners he would probably have succeeded, but he was not a favorite among the poorer classes, and their vote must be considered.

There is an old saying, "Like father, like son," and Clarence, now turned sixteen, the only child of the country magnate, was like his father in all objectionable qualities. He was quite as much impressed with ideas of his own consequence.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon. Mr. Ray sat on the piazza, the day being unusually warm, reading a newspaper. In the street, near by, his son Clarence was moving swiftly on a new bicycle which his father had just purchased for him.

"Out of the way, there!" he called out, as a shabbily-dressed stranger with a weary step plodded along the pathway.

Whether because he was hard of hearing or because his mind was preoccupied, the stranger did not heed the warning, and Clarence, who might easily have avoided the collision, ran into him recklessly. Had the bicycle been moving at a greater rate of speed, he might have been seriously hurt. As it was, he was nearly thrown down.

But he rallied, and seizing the offending rider with no gentle grasp, dragged him from the wheel and shook him vigorously.

"Let me alone, you tramp!" exclaimed Clarence, furiously.

But the stranger did not release his hold.

"Not till you apologize for running into me," he answered sternly.

"Apologize to a man like you!" ejaculated Clarence, struggling furiously for his freedom. "What do you take me for?"

"For an impudent young rascal," was the reply.

"Let me alone, I tell you!"

"Will you apologize?"

"There is no need of an apology. You got in my way."

"You have no business on the sidewalk with your bicycle. It is meant for foot-passengers."

"Do you know who I am?" demanded Clarence, haughtily.

"No, I don't, nor do I care."

"I am Clarence Ray, son of Squire Stephen Ray. He is a magistrate, and he can send you to jail."

These words of Clarence had the effect he desired. The stranger released him and eyed him with close scrutiny.

"So you are the son of Stephen Ray?" he said.

"Yes. What have you to say now?"

"That you had no right to run into me, whoever your father may be."

"I shall report your insolence to my father. I shall charge you with violently assaulting me."

"I might have known you were Stephen Ray's son," said the stranger thoughtfully.

"Do you know my father?" asked Clarence in considerable surprise.

"I am on my way to call upon him."

"I don't think it will do any good. He never gives money to tramps."

"I have a great mind to give you another shaking up," said the man, and in some fear Clarence edged away from him.

It was evident that this shabby-looking stranger had not a proper respect for those who were in a higher station.

"I will tell him not to give you anything," continued Clarence.

"Like father, like son," said the stranger thoughtfully, apparently not disturbed by the boy's threats.

Evidently he was no common tramp, or he would have been more respectful to the son of the man from whom he was probably about to ask a favor.

"You just wait till you see m

y father. He'll give you a lecture that you won't soon forget."

"You'd better get on your wheel, boy, and go right along," said the stranger calmly.

"Do you know where my father lives?"

"Yes, at yonder fine house. I see him sitting out on the piazza. Shall we go along together?"

"No, I don't keep such company as you. Tramps are not my style."

"And yet some day you may be as poor and friendless as myself."

"That isn't very likely; my father is a very rich man."

"I knew him when he was poor."

More and more puzzled by the independent manner of this shabby stranger, Clarence made a spurt, and soon found himself in the grounds of his father's house.

"With whom were you talking, Clarence?" asked Stephen Ray, as his son joined him on the piazza.

"One of the most impudent tramps I ever came across," answered Clarence. "He made an attack upon me, and pulled me from my bicycle."

Stephen Ray's cheek flamed with anger. An insult to his son was an insult to him.

"Why did he do this? How dared he?" he demanded angrily.

"Because I happened to touch him as I passed," answered Clarence.

"He actually pulled you from your bicycle?" asked Stephen Ray, almost incredulous.

"Yes."

"I should like to meet him. I should feel justified in ordering his arrest."

"You will have a chance to meet him. He told me he was going to call upon you there he is now, entering the gate."

Stephen was glad to hear it. He wanted to empty the vials of his wrath on the audacious offender. He prided himself on his grand manner.

He was accustomed to seeing men of the stamp of this stranger quail before him and show nervous alarm at his rebukes. He had no doubt that his majestic wrath would overwhelm the shabby outcast who had audaciously assaulted his son and heir.

He rose to his feet, and stood the personification of haughty displeasure as the poor man, who dared his anger, walked composedly up the path. He now stood by the piazza steps.

"It is well you have come here," began the squire in a dignified tone. "My son tells me that you have committed an unprovoked outrage upon him in dragging him from his wheel. I can only conclude that you are under the influence of liquor."

Stephen Ray waited curiously to hear what the man would say. He was prepared for humble apologies.

"I am no more drunk than yourself, if that is what you mean, Stephen Ray," was the unexpected reply.

Squire Ray was outraged and scandalized.

"You must be drunk or you would not dare to talk in this way. Who authorized you to address me in this familiar way?"

"You are only a man, I believe, Stephen Ray. I have addressed you as respectfully as you have spoken to me."

"Respect to you?" repeated Mr. Ray, disdainfully. "Has the time come when we must be respectful to tramps?"

"A poor tramp is quite as deserving of respect as a rich rascal."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded the squire suspiciously.

"It was a general remark."

"It is well that it was. But it has no application in the present instance. If you are poor I will give you a quarter, but only on condition that you apologize to my son."

The stranger laughed.

"Why should I apologize to your son?" he asked.

"You pulled him off his bicycle. Do you deny it?"

"No, I do not. Do you know what he did?"

"He brushed against you with his wheel, he tells me, accidentally."

"So that is his version of it? He deliberately ran into me."

"I gave you warning. I said 'Out of the way, there!'" interrupted Clarence.

"Yes, but you had no right on the side walk. That is meant for foot-passengers."

"It seems to me, sir, that you are remarkably independent for a man of your rank. Even if it had been as you say, you had no right to assault my son. I might have you arrested on your own confession, but I will forbear doing so on condition that you leave town at once."

"I have a little business with you, first, Stephen Ray."

"If you expect alms, you have come to the wrong man. I don't believe in encouraging beggars."

"I know very well that you are not charitable. You see, I used to be acquainted with you."

"Who are you?"

"My name is Benjamin Bolton."

Stephen Ray looked startled.

"Benjamin Bolton!" he repeated, half incredulous. "I can't believe it."

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