THE SEALED PACKET

One day, in looking over his trunk, Scott’s eye fell on the sealed
packet, referred to at the opening of this story, which was inscribed:

_For my Son._

_To be opened a year from my death._

Singularly, the next day would be the anniversary of his father’s
passing away.

Scott had been so busy that he had given little thought to this packet.
Now his interest was excited, and the next day he broke the seal, and
read the letter which it contained.

It ran thus:

“MY DEAR SCOTT: When you open this packet twelve months will have
passed, and I hope you will be in a position to live comfortably on
your earnings. I assume that you will be in the employ of Ezra
Little, who I understand is well to do, and who will not, I think,
turn his back upon a needy relative.

“You will find nothing in this letter that will provide for your
future prospects. Indeed, I wish to pass on to you a debt which I
am unable to pay.

“During early manhood, I received many favors from a young man
named Robert Kent, who afterward emigrated to America. I heard a
report two years since that he had been unfortunate, and that his
family was suffering. I should like to be able to help him in
memory of the past, but my life is nearing the end. Should you ever
fall in with Mr. Kent or his family, if you can do anything for
them on your father’s account, I shall be very glad. It may seem
strange that I give you this legacy of duty, considering that I
leave you well-nigh penniless, but I have confidence that sooner or
later you will succeed, and I hope you may be in a position to help
my early friend or his family.

“The only clew I can give you as to my old friend’s whereabouts is,
that he was an artist by profession, and that he went to New York.
Probably, if living, he is in that city, or near it. You may not be
in a position to help him, but I should like to have you make his
acquaintance, and tell him that I have not forgotten him or his
past kindness.”

There was something more, but this was the substance of the letter. It
was sufficient to interest Scott greatly.

“I wish I could find my father’s friend,” he reflected. “Though but a
year has passed, I am amply able to pay the debt which my poor father
owed. It would be pleasant, besides, to see one of his friends.”

Naturally, Scott’s first reference was to the New York directory. He
found numerous Kents, but none that seemed likely to be Robert Kent.
There was no artist of that name included in the list.

He thought of advertising, but this would involve a greater degree of
publicity than he desired, and might lead to attempted imposture.

A month passed, and Scott was as perplexed as ever. To seek for any
particular man in a crowded city like New York was like seeking a needle
in a haystack. Besides, he might have left New York and gone to some
other city, perhaps to the West.

Yet the man of whom he was in search was, at that very moment, occupying
a shabby lodging on Bleecker Street, with his wife and two children.
Moreover, his son, a boy a few months younger than Scott, was employed
by Ezra Little, in his Eighth Avenue store, at a salary of three
dollars a week.

Let us look in upon the Kents in their humble home.

The apartments consisted of three rooms, after the usual fashion of New
York tenements. In the one large room, sitting in a big rocking-chair,
was a man of middle age, with an expression of pain upon his delicate
and refined features. He had been for some time the victim of a
rheumatic affection which at times prevented him from working.

At half-past six the door opened, and a slender, dark-haired boy entered
the room.

“How do you feel, father?” asked the boy, with a glance of sympathy
toward his suffering parent.

“No better, Harold. It is very trying to be tied hand and foot by pain
when I ought to be at work.”

“If your father would worry less,” said Mrs. Kent, a pleasant-looking
woman, somewhat younger than her husband, “he would be more likely to
get well.”

“How can I help worrying, Clara? We are barely able to live when I can
work. Now, with only Harold’s wages coming in, it is difficult to tell
how we shall come out. Did you ask Mr. Little if he would raise you,
Harold?”

“Yes, father; but he only shook his head, and told me he could get
plenty of boys at the wages he paid me, and perhaps for less.”

“Yet he is rich,” said Mr. Kent, bitterly. “He and his can live on the
fat of the land.”

“Has he a son?” asked Mrs. Kent.

“Yes, mother. He has one son–Loammi.”

“Do you know him?”

“Yes, a little.”

“What sort of a boy is he?”

“He is the most disagreeable boy I ever met When he comes to the store
he struts through it as if he were a prince.”

“His father was poor enough in the old country.”

“He is rich now.”

“If I were rich now, I would only be too glad to help those who were
less fortunate than myself. I had one friend in England, an artist, like
myself, John Walton, who would have done the same. I wish he were in
Ezra Little’s place.”

“Did he have a son named Scott.”

“I think it probable. He married a Scott.”

“Then he may be in New York. I have heard that there was a boy named
Scott Walton in the store a year since.”

“That must be his son,” said Mr. Kent, eagerly. “Is he in the store
now?”

“No. I understand that he and Loammi could not get along together, and
he was discharged. But I was told that his father was dead.”

“Poor Walton! I am sorry to hear it. It seems to me that it is those who
best deserve to live who are summoned first.”

“Harold,” said his mother, “will you go to the grocery at the corner and
get a quarter of a pound of tea and half a pound of butter?”

“Yes, mother, but–shall I pay for them?”

“Ask Mr. Muller to trust us till Saturday night, when you get your
week’s salary.”

Harold took his hat and went downstairs.

The grocery store was kept by a stout, good natured German named Muller.
It was a small place, but Herr Muller did a thriving trade.

Harold entered the store and preferred his request.

“And how is your poor father, Harold?” asked the grocer.

“He is in a good deal of pain from rheumatism, Mr. Muller.”

“That is too bad. And how is business with him?”

“Very poor,” answered Harold, soberly.

“That is bad. How much does he charge now for a portrait?”

“Ten dollars.”

“I have been thinking I might get him to paint me. In a month, my wife
and I will be twenty-five years married. That is what they call a silver
wedding. Gretchen wants to have my portrait to show our friends on that
occasion.”

“My father will be very glad to paint it, Mr. Muller.”

“But he can’t work now.”

“He will soon be able, I am sure.”

“Well, if he can do it in time. We wouldn’t like to be disappointed.”

“I am sure he will do his best.”

Harold carried home the welcome intelligence to his father. It made Mr.
Kent somewhat more cheerful.

Ten dollars would help him not a little, though the time had been when
he received seventy-five dollars for a portrait no better than he
produced now for ten.

“Now, father, you must get well as soon as you can,” said Harold.

“Ah, no need to say that.”

“I am afraid your father will only worry the more if he finds that he
is not soon in a condition to work.”

“It seems so little to make a portrait for ten dollars,” added Mrs.
Kent.

“I should only be too glad if I could get all the work I could do at
that price.”

The new order somewhat cheered the poor artist. Once, in his early days,
he was ambitious, and hoped for a reputation; but long since his
ambitions had faded, and he was content and glad to work for a bare
livelihood.

Even now, he would not have succeeded but for the small help his son was
able to give him. Three dollars a week in many an unfortunate household
in the metropolis plays an important part in the finances of a poor
family.

But a new trial was in store for the Kent family. The next day, just
before the store closed, Loammi visited it.

He wanted to ask a favor of his father, and as he walked through the
store he looked about him with the air of a prince of the blood royal.
It happened that as he passed along he managed to drop his handkerchief.
Instead of picking it up himself, he signaled to Harold Kent to do it.

“Pick up my handkerchief, boy!” he said, in a lofty tone.

“I can’t leave my place behind the counter.”

“Pick it up, I say!” said Loammi, stamping his foot.

“That is not what I am hired to do,” retorted Harold, indignant at the
other’s tone.

“What is your name?”

“Harold Kent.”

“I won’t forget it,” said Loammi, significantly.

When, on Saturday night, Harold was paid his weekly wages he was told
that he need not report for duty on Monday morning.

“Why is this?” asked Harold, in dismay.

“Loammi has complained of you,” he was told.

It was too late to appeal to the superintendent, and Harold left the
store, grief-stricken and discouraged.

Walking along Eighth Avenue, Scott Walton saw a boy coming out of Ezra
Little’s store with sad face and eyes red as with weeping. The boy was
poorly dressed, and Scott’s experience of poverty had been so recent
that he felt quick sympathy.

“Are you in trouble? Can I assist you?” he asked, kindly.

Harold turned to see who was addressing him.

“I have just lost my place,” he said, briefly.

“Were you working for Mr. Little?”

“Yes.”

“How did you lose your place? Tell me, if you don’t mind.”

“I offended Mr. Little’s son, Loammi. He got me discharged.”

“I am not surprised to hear it. Loammi got me discharged some months
ago.”

“You!” exclaimed Harold, in surprise, for he noticed that Scott was
handsomely dressed.

“Yes.”

“But you are not a poor boy. You do not mind it.”

“I was a poor boy then. How much salary did you receive?”

“Three dollars a week.”

“I think I can promise you five dollars a week with another firm.”

“Can you?” asked Harold, overjoyed. “But how can you? You are only a
boy.”

Scott smiled.

“I have some influence with the firm of Tower, Douglas & Co. I think
they will take you on at my request. But where do you live, and what is
your name?”

“I live at 940 Bleecker Street, and my name is Harold Kent.”

“You are not related to Robert Kent?” said Scott, in excitement.

“He is my father.”

“He is an Englishman, is he not?”

“Yes; do you know him?”

“Not yet, but I mean to. If you are going home, take me with you.”

“I shall be glad to do so, but may I ask your name?”

“My name is Scott Walton. Our fathers were friends, and I will be your
father’s friend.”

“I have heard my father speak of your family. He will be delighted to
see you–and is your father living?”

“No; father is dead. I judge that you are poor.”

“Yes, very poor. My father is an artist, but he has very little to do.
Lately he has taken to portrait painting, but he only gets ten dollars
for a portrait. Now he is sick with rheumatism and cannot work.”

“Cheer up, Harold! Better times are in store for you. I am prosperous,
and my father commissioned me to seek you out and help you.”

Scott followed Harold up into the poor apartment occupied by his father.
As he entered the room, Mr. Kent looked in surprise at his companion.
“Is this one of your fellow clerks, Harold?” he asked.

“No, father. I have been discharged from Mr. Little’s store, and I have
no fellow clerks.”

Mr. Kent’s countenance fell.

“Then we have no income,” he said, sadly. “It only needed this blow. Why
were you discharged?”

“It was on account of Loammi Little, but don’t be troubled, father. I
am to have a better place, at five dollars a week.”

“Who will give it to you?”

“I will see that he has such a place, Mr. Kent,” said Scott.

“But–why should you feel an interest in my poor boy?”

“Because my name is Scott Walton, and you were a friend of my poor
father.”

“Not John Walton’s son?”

“Yes; I have been looking for you for a month. This evening fortune
threw your son in my way. He tells me that you have been unfortunate.”

“I am sick and out of work, but you–you look prosperous.”

“I am.”

“Did your father leave property?”

“No, but I have met with good friends.”

“Has Ezra Little treated you better than he has Harold?”

“Ezra Little took me into his store, and after a few week discharged me,
as a result of Loammi’s meanness and falsehood. I met with other
friends, secured another situation, and I am able to help you, Mr. Kent.
I want you to find better rooms.”

“But I cannot pay the rent of these.”

Scott drew out his pocketbook and selected five ten-dollar bills.

“Take this,” he said, “and when you have moved I will see what more I
can do for you.”

“Fifty dollars!” ejaculated the artist, in amazement. “Can you afford
this?”

“Easily. I will tell you later how I have prospered.”

“Won’t you stop and eat supper with us, Mr. Walton?” asked Mrs. Kent.

“Gladly, if you will call me Scott. I want to ask Mr. Kent about his
early acquaintance with my poor father.”

The evening was spent in social chat, and it was ten o’clock before
Scott left his new friends.

“I shall expect to see you on Monday morning at the store, Harold,” he
said, as he went away.

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