|Rights||No Copyright - United States (NoC-US)|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Article Title||Ned Alvord's Trials|
NED ALVORD'S TRIALS "Well, I'll give you a trial, Ned. Come back to-morrow, and we'll see what you're fit for." <br><br> "Thank you, Mr. Erless I'll do my very best to please you," and, touching his hat, Ned Alvord walked off with a quick, light step. <br><br> A youth of about eighteen, very seedy as to clothes, but with a resolute mouth and frank gray eyes, that somehow conveyed to you the idea of strong will and cheerful energy; such was Ned Alvord. <br><br> "Is it possible, Erless, that you are going to take Jim Alvord's son into your store?" said a friend who was standing near. <br><br> "And why not?" asked the merchant pleasantly "Every one dings in my ears that the boy's father was a drunken vagabond, whom death only saved from the penitentiary, and that the eldest brother would be there if he had his deserts. The fact is, the lad has a feeble mother, and she has two little children besides him to support, and I don't see why because of the family, [UNREADABLE] the others should be left to starve." <br><br> "I don't mean that," said Mr. Prescott, "but it seems to me to run a risk in taking the boy into your store. I believe that evil tendencies are transmitted from father to son, and will develop under temptation. This boy had the same surroundings, the same training as his brother, why should he be different?" <br><br> "He is different, at all events," said Mr. Erless "I have watched him, and I believe he has the making of an honest capable man in him. His mother is a good woman though weak. Ned is head, hands and everything else to her. I shall try him." <br><br> Mr. Prescott shrugged his shoulders and walked off, thinking, most likely that his friend Erless was very foolish. He was not a hard-hearted man, nor had he any personal ill-will against the boy, but he was one of those who believe that children are very apt to inherit the good or evil qualities of their parents. <br><br> Ned hurried-home with a light heart. <br><br> "At last I've goat a place, mother, and with whom do you think it is?" he cried. "Mr. Erless, who has the largest store in Covington. I'm to begin at the bottom of the ladder as errand boy. But I'll work up, see if I don't. Isn't it a streak of good luck for us, mother?" <br><br> Mrs Alvord was a thin, worn-out looking woman, with a nervous manner, red eyes full of care and trouble. The news was certainly cheering, but a life of misery seems to unfit the mind to realize in a moment any favorable change in its conditions. <br><br> "I suppose it is, Ned," she answered in a hesitating manner. "But every one is going to watch you, expecting you will do something wrong. I suppose they shouldn't be blamed, though." <br><br> "It is cruel, it is unjust!" Ned cried out, passionately. <br><br> "It is hard and cruel," his mother answered," but I ought to rejoice that at last you have an opportunity of lifting some of the disgrace from your name. Ah, my boy, if every one knew you as I do!" <br><br> She laid her hand caressingly on his head, and the two children climbed up on his knees. It was a poor little home, but is was a very bright one that night Mother and son sat up until late, discussing the possibilities which might grow out of the first glimpse of a better day. <br><br> Perhaps my readers may smile that so much was made of this little gleam of fortune. But they must remember that a minute point of light is unutterable joy to a poor wretch who is lost and groping in a dark cavern. <br><br> Bright and early the next day Ned entered upon his new duties. He was quick to learn, and so active and willing that at the end of the month, Mr Erless, in paying him the small wages added a few words of commendation. <br><br> The months passed on, and the boy grew steadily in the favor of his employer, until no one in the establishment was more trusted than himself. He had the keys to the store, as none of the clerks slept in the building, and it was his business to sweep out every morning. One night he returned home excited and flushed. <br><br> "Mr. Erless has raised my wages," he cried. "Now I can repair this house, and we can be so comfortable and happy. Why, what is the matter, mother you look so wretched?" <br><br> He noticed her hands clasping and unclasping in nervous agitation, her odd movement in her days of trouble. <br><br> "He has come back," she whispered, looking toward an inner room. No need to ask who he was, the wild vagabond brother, whom nothing but a legal quibble had saved from the penitentiary. The thief whom they had never thought of without a blush, was at home again. Since he left Covington, two years ago, nothing had been heard of him, and the wretched mother felt with a shudder that the news of his death would be best she could expect to receive of him. <br><br> He entered, a course, burly looking ruffian with a loud overbearing voice and manner. <br><br> "Hulloa, youngster, you here! Don't seem overglad to see your elder brother. Blessed if you ain't the same slip of a boy, without a bit of muscle yet! So you are playing nigger for old Erless, are you? Catch me in that sort of business. I will be my own master and nobody's servant as long as I live. Well, old woman, if I am the prodigal son, you ain't treating me in a Scripture-like manner. Blessed if you have offered me a bite since I came in." <br><br> "I forgot that you must be hungry, Dick," she said, in a troubled voice, rising from her chair and hastily setting the supper on the table. <br><br> Ned noticed with a pang that the old cowed, frightful look had come back into her eyes. His mother always feared her bad son, quite as much as she did his bad father. <br><br> There was no conversation that night. Dick talked and cursed a while, and then went to bed; and the his mother went to bed; afraid to discuss his return within his hearing. Poor Ned sat by the embers, his face buried in his hands, and a cruel pressure on his heart. <br><br> Had Dick come to disgrace them again, to make them miserable, and also ashamed to hold up their heads among their neighbors? The shadow had crossed the threshold once more, and were they to sicken in it again? But as he sat there, some other thoughts began to strengthen him for the conflict he saw impending. <br><br> "I have my employer's confidence and he will not turn me off because Dick has come back, although he is bad. If possible, I will do my duty still more strictly." <br><br> Had his mother been a stronger woman he knew that Dick would not have been allowed to bring the leprosy of his life among them again. She would have sent him off; but bad treatment had broken her will, and besides she feared her son. <br><br> "So wild Dick has got back," said Mr. Erless the next morning to Ned. [Unreadable line].. cause he has nowhere else to go?" <br><br> "I do not know, sir," he answered, frankly. "We asked him no questions last night." <br><br> "Bad thing for you and your mother," said the merchant. "Better have nothing to do with him. If your mother knew her duty she would ship him this day. I have one warning to give you, Ned, and you must heed it-never speak of the business of the store before that man I trust you," looking keenly at Ned, "and you must show yourself worthy of my confidence." <br><br> "He distrusts me already," thought poor Ned, with swelling heart, "or he would not put my duty before me with that look on his face." <br><br> He went to work with his usual alacrity, but his step was heavy and his face very grave. <br><br> Somehow, as the days passed on, Dick seemed so much quieter than usual that all Ned's forebodings were forgotten. Dick was still lazy and shiftless - he did not try to make a living, but spent most of his time at the grog-shops, though, he did not get as tipsy as he used, and was less quarrelsome and noisy. In fact, he seemed to have settled down into a bar-room loafer, one of those who are treated by weak customers, and oftener die in gutters than in jails. <br><br> One night two respectable-looking strangers were at the bar where he was drinking. There was no sign of greeting between them and the vagabond. They had entered to ask some questions as to the locality of a certain boarding house on that street but when Dick went out they followed him, not only down the street but out of the town, to a bridge in an unfrequented spot. There he stopped and waited for them. <br><br> "You've kept me watin' [waiting] everlastingly in this old sleepy village," he said, with an oath. <br><br> "Had to get up an outfit," laughed one. "You see we are government surveyors come to take of a claim, and we had to learn some of their lingo. What have you got for us? Of course you've been prospecting?" <br><br> "Two or three farmers have got lots of money in their homes and don't even lock their doors. I have managed to get a plan of some of them and learn where the valuables are kept. Then there is Erless' store, but then I can get the key of that, and we will walk in quietly and help ourselves. You see my brother is clerking there and keeps the key." <br><br> "One of us, eh?" <br><br> "Not much, A goody boy, and I will have to steal the key. We will put off that job to the last, being the easiest." <br><br> After some more conversation the men separated. The two surveyors went quietly to their work the next day. Before the end of the week two of the wealthiest men in the neighborhood were robbed of plate, jewelry, rich clothing, and large sums of money. <br><br> No suspicion rested on the two quiet men who worked so steadily, or the bar-room loafer whose desires were bonded by a drink, Ned, however, watched his brother sharply, for he had now commenced to stay out all night, and when he came in he was not intoxicated. <br><br> "Where is he if he is not in the barrooms?" he wondered. "He is certainly is not there, for when he goes there he never comes away sober." <br><br> One evening in closing the back shutters of the store the bolt was found to be broken. It was too late to have it repaired, so Mr Erless and Ned fastened the shutter as securely as they could on the inside. <br><br> Mr. Erless told Ned that he thought any one could enter this window from the outside, but then, no one knew of the broken bolt, and if thieves visited him that night they would probably come to the front window. He thought that after this, Ned must sleep in the store. <br><br> About midnight Ned was awakened by a step on the floor. He sprang up in bed and listened. He thought he heard the front door open and close. He put his hand under his pillow, where in his anxiety he had placed the key of the store. It was gone. His forebodings were realized. <br><br> Mr Erless lived at the other end other the town, and he could not reach him in time to give him a warning. The self-possession and coolness of the boy returned to him in this extremity, and throwing on his clothes hastily he left the house. <br><br> On the way to the store porter, a stalwart colored man. He called him up and waited for him to arm himself and then the two hurried on to the store. He took no arms himself. Was it not his own brother who was the robber? <br><br> In a few minutes they were at the broken window and had entered the store. They waited for a quarter of an hour before the key, softly turning in the lock, told them the robbers where at the hand. <br><br> Ned was on one side of the door and the porter on the other, and as the first man entered they seized him, but, being unprepared for numbers, Ned, was struck down by the second robber, and the one they had caught easily escaped. <br><br> The porter shouted, loudly for help and between the surprise and noise the men turned and fled without any further attempt at violence. Several persons were speedily on hand. The porter asked Ned if he was much hurt<br><br> "Yes," Ned answered faintly; "my arm is broke. Somebody please run for Mr. Erless and tell him I would like to see him to night as my mother's after he as seen that all is right here. Will somebody please help me home? <br><br> His arm, severely fractured, was dressed by the surgeon before Mr Erless reached him. <br><br> "My boy," he said with emotion, taking Ned's hand, you have saved my property at the risk of your life, and I am very grateful to you for it. Tell me all the circumstances? Could you recognize [unreadable section} sadly, " I found my key stolen from under my pillow, and I guessed what would happen. Please ask me no questions, Mr. Erless, if you think I have done my duty. I was very happy with you, but sir, I must give up my situation. I feel that circumstances that I cannot control demand this." <br><br> "You will not leave me, my young friend," said the merchant, decidedly. "The thieves have escaped, and no one knows who they are. I shall not take any measures to be certain; but whoever they are in no way affects you to your injury. No, Ned; tested well, honesty and truth are stronger then all the evil repute that can ever attach to those of your own blood. I cannot spare you now."