The Luck of a Brave Boy
Frank V. Webster
CHAPTER I—THE YOUNG CHAUFFEUR
“Hand over that money, Andy Nelson.”
“Not on this occasion.”
“It isn’t yours.”
“Who said it was?”
“It belongs to the business. If my father was here he’d make you give it up mighty quick. I represent him during his absence, don’t I? Come, no fooling; I’ll take charge of that cash.”
“You won’t, Gus Talbot. The man that lost that money was my customer, and it goes back to him and no one else.”
Gus Talbot was the son of the owner of Talbot’s Automobile Garage, at Princeville. He was a genuine chip off the old block, people said, except that he loafed while his father really worked. In respect to shrewd little business tricks, however, the son stood on a par with the father. He 2 had just demonstrated this to Andy Nelson, and was trying his usual tactics of bluff and bluster. These did not work with Andy, however, who was the soul of honor, and the insolent scion of the Talbot family now faced his father’s hired boy highly offended and decidedly angry.
Andy Nelson was a poor lad. He was worse off than that, in fact, for he was homeless and friendless. He could not remember his parents. He had a faint recollection of knocking about the country until he was ten years of age with a man who called himself his half-brother. Then this same relative placed him in a cheap boarding school where Andy had to work for a part of his keep. About a year previous to the opening of our story, Dexter Nelson appeared at the school and told Andy he would have to shift entirely for himself.
He found Andy a place with an old farmer on the outskirts of Princeville. Andy was not cut out for hoeing and plowing. He was willing and energetic, however, and the old farmer liked him immensely, for Andy saved his oldest boy from drowning in the creek, and was kind and lovable to the farmer’s several little children. But one day the old man told Andy plainly that he could not reconcile his conscience by spoiling a bright future for him, and explained why.
“If I was running a wagon-shop, lad,” he said 3 enthusiastically, “I’d make you head foreman. Somehow, you’ve got machinery born in your blood, I think. The way you’ve pottered over that old rack of mine, shows how you like to dabble with tools. The way you fixed up that old washing-machine for marm proves that you know your business. Tell you, lad, it’s a crying wrong to waste your time on the farm when you’ve got that busy head of yours running over with cogs, and screws, and wheels and such.”
All this had led to Andy looking around for other employment. The old farmer was quite right—Andy’s natural field was mechanics. He felt pretty happy the day he was accepted as the hired boy in Seth Talbot’s garage.
That position was not secured without a great deal of fuss and bother on the part of Talbot, however. The latter was a hard task-master. He looked his prospective apprentice over as he would a new tool he was buying. He offered a mere beggarly pittance of wages, barely enough to keep body and soul together, and “lodgings,” as he called it, on a broken-down cot in a dark, cramped lumber-room. Then he insisted on Andy getting somebody to “guarantee” him.
“I’ll have no boy taking advantage of me,” he declared; “learning the secrets of the trade, and bouncing off and leaving me in the lurch whenever it suits him. No sir-ree. If you come 4 with me, it’s a contract for two years’ service, or I don’t want you. When I was a boy they ’prenticed a lad, and you knew where you could put your finger on him. It ought to be the law now.”
Fortunately, Andy’s half-brother happened to pass through the village about that time. He “guaranteed” Andy in some manner satisfactory to the garage proprietor, and Andy went to work at his new employment.