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CHAPTER XXIV TONY IS DISCHARGED
Presently Tony came into the yard. He was looking very sober. He had lost the horse, and he didn’t know how to excuse himself. He didn’t feel that he had been to blame, but he suspected that he should be blamed, nevertheless.

What did you do with the horse, Tony?” asked James.

He was stolen from me,” answered Tony.

How could that be?”

“I expect it was the Quaker.”

“The Quaker?” repeated James, in amazement. “Are you sure you’re not crazy—or drunk?”

“Neither one,” said Tony. “It’s a long story, and—?—”

“You must tell it to Mr. Porter, then. He wants to see you right off. But I’ll tell you for your information that the horse is here.”

“Is here? Who brought him?”

“Sam Payson brought him a short time since.”

“Sam Payson! Where did he say he found him?”

“In the woods.”

“Then he might have left it there,” said Tony, indignantly. “What business had he to untie him, and give me all this trouble?”

“You can speak to Mr. Porter about that.”

“Where is he?”

“In the office.”

Tony entered the office.

Mr. Porter regarded him with a frown.

How is this, Tony?” he began. “You leave my horse in the woods to be brought home by another boy. He might have been stolen, do you know that?”

“I’ve been deceived and led into a trap,” said Tony.

What on earth do you mean? Who has deceived and trapped you?”

“The Quaker, who was stopping here. Has he come back?”

“He has settled his bill and left the hotel. What cock-and-bull story is this you have hatched up?”

“It is a true story, Mr. Porter. This man was not a Quaker at all. He was a tramp.”

“Take care what you say, Tony. Do you take me for a fool?”

“He is a man I used to know. When I was coming home he was waiting for me in the woods, only I didn’t know who he really was. He told me there was a man who had fallen into a well in the woods, and he wanted my help to get him out. So I tied the horse and went with him. I wouldn’t have left him but for that story of the man in the well.”

“Go on,” said the landlord. “I warn you I don’t believe a word of this wonderful story of yours.”

“I can’t help it,” said Tony, desperately. “It’s true.”

“Go on, and I’ll give you my opinion of it afterward.”

“Just before we got to the well, a branch took off his hat and wig, and I saw that he was no Quaker, but my enemy, Rudolph Rugg.”

“Rudolph Rugg! A very good name for a romance.”

Tony proceeded:

“Then I tried to get away, but it was too late. The man seized me and threw me down the well. But first he told me that he knew who I was, and that I was heir to a large fortune.”

“Indeed! How happens it that you are not at the bottom of the well still?”

“I got out.”

“So I see. But how?”

“I climbed up by the stones till I reached the rope, and then I found it easy. I hurried to where I had left the horse, but he was gone. I supposed that the Quaker had taken him, but James tells me Sam Payson found him and brought him back.”

“Look here, boy,” said the landlord, sternly, “do you expect me to believe this romance of yours?”

“I don’t know whether you will or not, sir. All I can say is that it is the exact truth.”

“I cannot keep you in my employ any longer. I have been deceived in you, and should no longer trust you. You certainly have mistaken your vocation. You are not fit to be a stableboy.”

“I should like to know what I am fit for?” said Tony, despondently.

I will tell you, then. Judging from the story you have told me, I should think you might succeed very well in writing dime novels. I don’t know whether it pays, but you can try it.”

“Sometime you will find out that I have told the truth,” said Tony.

Perhaps so, but I doubt it.”

“When do you want me to go?”

“You can stay till to-morrow morning. Wait a minute. Here is a five-dollar bill. That is a fair price for the time you have been with me.”

As Tony was going out he came near having a collision with Sam Payson.

Sam looked at him inquiringly.

Have you been bounced?” he asked.

Yes,” said Tony. “It was your fault. What made you take that horse?”

“I was afraid Mr. Porter might lose him. Is he in?”

“Yes. You can apply for my place, if you want to.”

“I mean to.”

Sam went in, and addressed the landlord.

I brought your horse back,” he said.

Thank you. Here’s two dollars for your trouble.”

Sam tucked it away with an air of satisfaction.

Tony tells me he is going away.”

“Yes. He don’t suit me.”

“Wouldn’t I suit you?” asked Sam, in an ingratiating tone.

No; I’ve tried you, and you won’t suit,” was the unexpected reply.

But I brought back the horse,” pleaded Sam, crestfallen.

I’ve paid you for that,” said the landlord. “Didn’t I pay you enough?”

“Yes, sir; but I thought you’d take me back again.”

“I know you too well, Sam Payson, to try any such experiment. The Widow Clark told me yesterday that she wanted to get her boy into a place, and I am going to offer it to him.”

“He don’t know anything about horses,” said Sam.

“He will soon learn. He is a good boy, and industrious. I am sure he will suit me better than you.”

“I wish I hadn’t brought back his old horse,” muttered Sam, as he left the office and went back into the yard. He hoped to triumph over Tony, by telling that he had taken his place, but the opportunity was not allowed him.

Well, Sam, are you going to take my place?” asked Tony.

No, I’m not,” said Sam.

Didn’t you ask for it?”

“The old man had promised it to another boy,” said Sam, sourly.

He’s been pretty quick about it, then,” said James.

A boy that don’t know the first thing about horses,” grumbled Sam.

Who is it?”

“Joe Clark.”

“He’s a good boy; I’m glad he’s coming, though I’m sorry to lose Tony.”

“Thank you, James,” said Tony. “I’d like to stay, but I can’t blame Mr. Porter for not believing my story. It was a strange one, but it’s true, for all that.”

James shrugged his shoulders.

Then you believe you’re heir to a fortune, as he told you?”

“Yes; he had no reason to tell me a lie.”

“What’s that?” asked Sam.

The Quaker gentleman who was here told Tony that he was heir to a large fortune.”

“Ho! ho!” laughed Sam, boisterously. “That’s a likely story, that is!”

“Why isn’t it?” asked Tony, frowning.

You heir to a fortune—a clodhopper like you! Oh, I shall split!” said Sam, giving way to another burst of merriment.

I am no more a clodhopper than you are,” said Tony, “and I advise you not to laugh too much, or I may make you laugh on the other side of your mouth.”

“It’ll take more than you do to do it!” said Sam, defiantly.

I have done it already, Sam Payson, and I’m ready to try it again before I leave town.”

“I wouldn’t dirty my hands with you!” said Sam, scornfully.

You’d better not!”

When Sam had gone, Tony turned to James.

I wonder whether I shall ever see you again, James?” he said, thoughtfully.

I hope so, Tony. I’m sorry you’re going; but you couldn’t expect Mr. Porter to swallow such a tough story as that.”

“Then you don’t believe it, James? I’ll come back some day just to prove to you that it is true.”

“Come back, at any rate; I shall be glad to see you. When do you go?”

“To-morrow morning.”

“Where shall you go first?”

“To New York; but I’ll help you till I go.”

So Tony did his work as usual for the remainder of the day. He felt rather sober. Just as he had found a home, his evil genius, in the character of Rudolph, had appeared and deprived him of it.



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