HOW TOBY CLARK LOST HIS JOB

“It’s a shame!” cried Becky Daring, indignantly shaking her scraggly
red locks for emphasis.

“So say we all of us,” observed her brother Don in matter-of-fact
tones. “But that won’t help it, Beck.”

“Wasn’t it all Judge Ferguson’s fault?” asked little Sue, listening
with round, solemn eyes.

“Why, the poor old judge couldn’t help dying, you know,” said Don,
judicially. “And he hadn’t an idea his candle would flicker out so
soon. Old Mr. Ferguson liked Toby Clark and I’m sure, if he’d thought
his own end was so near, he’d have fixed it so his clerk wouldn’t be
left out in the cold.”

“And now Toby hasn’t any job, or any money, or any friends,” remarked
Sue, sighing deeply.

“Yes, he has!” declared Becky. “He has me for a friend, for one, and
all the village to back me up. But friends ain’t bread-an’-butter
and I guess a poor cripple out of work is as bad off as if he hadn’t
a friend in the world. That’s why I say it’s a shame Judge Ferguson
didn’t leave him any money. It’s worse than a common shame–it’s just a
_howling_ shame!”

“Dear me,” said Phoebe, entering the room with a smiling glance at her
younger sisters and brother, “what’s wrong now? What’s a howling shame,
Becky?”

“The way Judge Ferguson treated Toby Clark.”

Phoebe’s smile vanished. She went to the window and stood looking out
for a moment. Then she turned and seated herself among the group.

“You’ve heard the news, then?” she asked.

“Yes. Doris Randolph told us the Fergusons read the will this morning,
and Toby wasn’t mentioned in it,” replied Don.

“That is not strange,” said Phoebe, thoughtfully. “Toby Clark was not a
relative of the Fergusons, you know; he was just a clerk in the judge’s
law office.”

“But he’s a cripple,” retorted Becky, “and he was made a cripple by
saving Judge Ferguson’s life.”

“That is true,” admitted Phoebe. “Judge Ferguson went into
grandfather’s vault, where he suspected all the Daring money had
been hidden by old Elaine, our crazy housekeeper, and while he was
in there, in company with Toby and the constable, old Elaine tried
to shut the heavy door and lock them all up. Had she succeeded they
would soon have suffocated; but Toby stopped the door from closing,
with his foot, which was badly crushed, and so by his quick wit and
bravery saved three lives–including his own. The judge was grateful to
him, of course, and had he lived Toby would have remained in his law
office until in time he became a partner. That his friend and patron
suddenly died and so deprived Toby of further employment, was due to
the accident of circumstances. I do not think anyone can be blamed.”

They were silent a moment and then Sue asked: “What’s going to become
of Toby now, Phoebe?”

“I don’t know. He hasn’t any father or mother; they both died years
ago, long before Judge Ferguson took the boy to work for him. The
Clarks owned a little cabin down by the river–a poor place it is–and
there Toby has lived and cooked his own meals while he studied law in
the judge’s office. He lives there yet, and since the judge died, a
week ago, he has done nothing but mourn for his friend and benefactor.
But Toby will find some other work to do, I’m sure, as soon as he
applies for it, for everyone in the village likes him.”

“Can’t we do something?” asked Becky earnestly. “We owe Toby a lot,
too, for he helped the judge to save grandfather’s fortune for us.”

“We will do all we can,” replied Phoebe, positively, “but we can’t
offer Toby charity, you understand. He is very proud and it would hurt
him dreadfully to think we were offering him alms. I’ll ask the Little
Mother about it and see what she thinks.”

That ended the conversation, for the time, and the younger Darings
all ran out into the crisp October air while Phoebe went about her
household duties with a thoughtful face. She and her twin, Phil, were
the real heads of the Daring family, although the orphans had a “Little
Mother” in Cousin Judith Eliot, a sweet-faced, gentle young woman who
had come to live with them and see that they were not allowed to run
wild. But Phil was now in college, paving the way for mighty deeds in
the future, and Phoebe knew her twin would be deeply grieved over the
sudden death of their father’s old friend, Judge Ferguson. The judge
had also been their guardian and, with Cousin Judith, a trustee of the
Daring estate–a competence inherited from their grandfather, Jonas
Eliot, who had been one of the big men of the county. The fine old
colonial mansion in which the Darings lived was also an inheritance
from Grandpa Eliot, and although it was not so showy as some of the
modern residences of Riverdale–the handsome Randolph house across the
way, for instance–it possessed a dignity and beauty that compelled
respect.

The loss of their guardian did not worry the young Darings so much as
the loss of their friend, for the shrewd old lawyer had been very kind
to them, skillfully advising them in every affair, big or little, that
might in any way affect their interests. Mr. Ferguson–called “Judge”
merely by courtesy, for he had always been a practicing lawyer–had
doubtless been the most highly esteemed member of the community. For
a score of years he had been the confidential adviser of many of the
wealthiest families in that part of the state, counseling with them
not only in business but in family affairs. In his dingy offices,
which were located over the post office in Riverdale, many important
transactions and transfers of property had been consummated, and the
tall wooden cupboard in the lawyer’s private room contained numerous
metal boxes marked with the names of important clients and containing
documents of considerable value. Yet, in spite of his large and varied
practice, Mr. Ferguson attended to all his clients personally and only
a young boy, Toby Clark, had been employed as a clerk during the past
few years.




At first Toby swept out the office and ran errands. Then he developed
an eagerness to study law, and the judge, finding the young fellow
bright and capable, assisted his ambition by promoting Toby to copying
deeds and law papers and laying out for him a course of practical
study. In many ways Toby proved of value to his employer and Mr.
Ferguson grew very fond of the boy, especially after that adventure
when Toby Clark heroically sacrificed his foot to prevent them both
from being hermetically sealed up in old Mr. Eliot’s mausoleum, where
they would soon have perished from lack of air.

Knowing ones declared that so strong was the affection between the
old lawyer and his youthful clerk that Toby would surely inherit the
fine law business some day. But no one realized then that the grizzled
old lawyer’s days were numbered. He had been so rugged and strong in
appearance that it was a shock to the entire community when he was
suddenly stricken by an insidious heart disease and expired without
a word to even the members of his own family. Many grieved at Judge
Ferguson’s death, but none more sincerely than his office boy and daily
companion, Toby Clark. He had no thought, at the time, of his own
ruined prospects, remembering only that his one staunch friend had been
taken from him.

Except that the lawyer’s friendship had distinguished him, Toby was a
nobody in Riverdale. The Clarks, who were not natives of the town but
had strayed into it years before, had been not only poor and lowly
but lacking in refinement. They had not even been considered “good
citizens,” for the man was surly and unsociable and the woman untidy.
With such parents it was wonderful that the boy developed any ability
whatever, and in his early days the barefooted, ragged urchin was
regarded by the villagers with strong disapproval. Then his mother
passed away and a year or so later his father, and the boy was left to
buffet the world alone. It was now that he evinced intelligence and
force of character. Although still considered a queer and unaccountable
little fellow, his willingness to do any odd job to turn an honest
penny won the respect of the people and many gave him a day’s
employment just to help him along. That was how the waif came under
Judge Ferguson’s notice and the old lawyer, a shrewd judge of humanity,
recognized the latent force and cleverness in the boy’s nature and took
him under his wing.

Toby wasn’t very prepossessing in appearance. At nineteen years of
age he was so small in size that he seemed scarcely fifteen. His hair
was unruly and of a dull tow color, his face freckled and red and his
nose inclined to turn up at the point. He was awkward and shuffling
in manner and extremely silent and shy of speech, seldom venturing
any remark not absolutely necessary. The eyes redeemed the boy in
many ways. They were not large nor beautiful, but they were so bright
and twinkled in such a merry, honest fashion that they won him many
friends. He had a whimsical but engaging expression of countenance,
and although a bad conversationalist he was a good listener and so
alert that nothing seemed to escape his quick, keen glance or his big
freckled ears.

“If Toby said all he knows,” once remarked Will Chandler, the
postmaster and village president, “he’d jabber night an’ day. It’s
lucky for us his tongue don’t work easy.”

The only thing Toby inherited from his shiftless parents was a shanty
down by the river bank, on property that no one had any use for, and
its contents, consisting of a few pieces of cheap, much-used furniture.
His father, who had won the reputation of being too lazy to work,
often fished in the river, partly because it was “a lazy man’s job”
and partly to secure food which he had no money to purchase. The
villagers said he built his shanty on the waste ground bordering the
stream–at a point south of the town–for two reasons, one, because he
was unsociable and avoided his fellows, the other, because it saved
him a walk to the river when he wanted to fish. The house seemed good
enough for Toby’s present purposes, for he never complained of it; but
after entering Mr. Ferguson’s office the boy grew neater in appearance
and always wore decent clothes and clean linen. Living simply, he could
afford such things, even on the small weekly wage he earned.

The boy was ambitious. He realized perfectly that he was now a nobody,
but he determined to become a somebody. It was hard to advance much in
a small town like Riverdale, where everyone knew his antecedents and
remembered his parents as little better than the mud on the river bank.
The villagers generally liked Toby and were willing to extend a helping
hand to him; but he was odd–there was no doubt of that–and as he
belonged directly to nobody he was wholly irresponsible.

It is a mystery how the waif managed to subsist before Judge Ferguson
took charge of him; but he got an odd job now and then and never begged
nor whined, although he must have been hungry more than once.

With his admission to the law office Toby’s fortunes changed. The
representative of a popular attorney was entitled to respect and Toby
assumed a new dignity, a new importance and a new and greater ambition
than before. He read in the law books during every leisure moment and
found his mind easily grasped the dry details of jurisprudence. The
boy attended court whenever he was able to and listened with absorbed
interest to every debate and exposition of the law. Not infrequently,
during the last few months, he had been able to call Mr. Ferguson’s
attention to some point of law which the learned and experienced
attorney had overlooked. Toby seemed to live in every case his employer
conducted and in his quiet way he noted the management of the many
estates held in trust by the old judge and the care with which every
separate interest was guarded. The boy could tell the contents of
nearly every one of the precious metal boxes arranged on the shelves
of the oak cupboard, for often the lawyer would hand him the bunch of
slender steel keys and tell him to get a paper from such or such a box.

This trusteeship was the largest part of Mr. Ferguson’s business, for
not many legal differences came to court or were tried in so small and
placid a district. There were other prominent lawyers in neighboring
towns and a rival in Riverdale–one Abner Kellogg, a fat and pompous
little man who had signally failed to win the confidence Judge Ferguson
inspired but was so aggressive and meddlesome that he managed to make a
living.