Beautiful Joe
Chapter 26

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Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


CHAPTER XXVI: THE BOX OF MONEY

"This story," said Mr. Harry, "is about one of the hired men we had last winter, whose name was Jacobs. He was a cunning fellow, with a hangdog look, and a great cleverness at stealing farm produce from father on the sly, and selling it. Father knew perfectly well what he was doing, and was wondering what would be the best way to deal with him, when one day something happened that brought matters to a climax.

"Father had to go to Sudbury for farming tools, and took Pacer and the cutter. There are two ways of going there — one the Sudbury Road, and the other the old Post Road, which is longer and seldom used. On this occasion father took the Post Road. The snow wasn't deep, and he wanted to inquire after an old man who had been robbed and half frightened to death, a few days before. He was a miserable old creature, known as Miser Jerrold, and he lived alone with his daughter. He had saved a little money that he kept in a box under his bed. When father got near the place, he was astonished to see by Pacer's actions that he had been on this road before, and recently, too. Father is so sharp about horses, that they never do a thing that he doesn't attach a meaning to. So he let the reins hang a little loose, and kept his eye on Pacer. The horse went along the road, and seeing father didn't direct him, turned into the lane leading to the house. There was an old red gate at the end of it, and he stopped in front of it, and waited for father to get out. Then he passed through, and instead of going up to the house, turned around, and stood with his head toward the road.

"Father never said a word, but he was doing a lot of thinking. He went into the house, and found the old man sitting over the fire, rubbing his hands, and half-crying about 'the few poor dollars,' that he said he had had stolen from him. Father had never seen him before, but he knew he had the name of being half silly, and question him as much as he liked, he could make nothing of him. The daughter said that they had gone to bed at dark the night her father was robbed. She slept up stairs, and he down below. About ten o'clock she heard him scream, and running down stairs, she found him sitting up in bed, and the window wide open. He said a man had sprung in upon him, stuffed the bedclothes into his mouth, and dragging his box from under the bed, had made off with it. She ran to the door and looked out, but there was no one to be seen. It was dark, and snowing a little, so no traces of footsteps were to be perceived in the morning.

"Father found that the neighbors were dropping in to bear the old man company, so he drove on to Sudbury, and then returned home. When he got back, he said Jacobs was hanging about the stable in a nervous kind of a way, and said he wanted to speak to him. Father said very good, but put the horse in first. Jacobs unhitched, and father sat on one of the stable benches and watched him till he came lounging along with a straw in his mouth, and said he'd made up his mind to go West, and he'd like to set off at once.

"Father said again, very good, but first he had a little account to settle with him, and he took out of his pocket a paper, where he had jotted down, as far as he could, every quart of oats, and every bag of grain, and every quarter of a dollar of market money that Jacobs had defrauded him of. Father said the fellow turned all the colors of the rainbow, for he thought he had covered up his tracks so cleverly that he would never be found out. Then father said, 'Sit down, Jacobs, for I have got to have a long talk with you.' He had him there about an hour, and when he finished, the fellow was completely broken down. Father told him that there were just two courses in life for a young man to take, and he had gotten on the wrong one. He was a young, smart fellow, and if he turned right around now, there was a chance for him. If he didn't there was nothing but the State's prison ahead of him, for he needn't think he was going to gull and cheat all the world, and never be found out. Father said he'd give him all the help in his power, if he had his word that he'd try to be an honest man. Then he tore up the paper, and said there was an end of his indebtedness to him.