Read CHAPTER V - WAYS THAT ARE DARK of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

With “Old Nick” Frye the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught,” outweighed all the rest. It was not because he especially needed the assistance of Page that he had hired him, although he could serve him in a way; but it was that he could use him as a means to an end in a totally different capacity from copying law reports. John Nason, one of his principal clients, was a wealthy and successful merchant, and both proud and fond of his only son. Frye had heard various stories of the elder Nason, connecting his name with certain good-looking girls that had been or were in his employ, and that vulture, with a keen scent for evil, was only too ready to take advantage of anything, no matter what, so long as it would aid him in his efforts to make the most out of his client. He knew also that Frank was, as the saying goes, “cutting a wide swath.” To use the son’s friend as a means to reach the son, and through him possibly the father, was considered by Frye a wise stroke of policy.

When, a few days after Frank had called upon Page, the latter chanced to mention it to Frye, he made a note of it at once.

“I am glad,” he said cordially, “that your friend has hunted you up. I knew he was away on his yacht when you came, and was going to suggest that you call on him as soon as I knew he was at home. As I told you, cultivate him all you can. He will serve as a door to get you into good society. When did he call?”

“It was one day while you were out,” answered Page, “and he invited me to lunch with him at his club.”

“Which of course you did?” said Frye.

“No, sir; I knew I shouldn’t have time for it during my one hour, and then, you had given me a lot of work to do that day.”

A shade of annoyance came over Frye’s face.

“Well, that’s all right, of course,” he said, “but when he calls again take all the time you need if he asks you out, and,” with a scrutinizing look at Page, “as I said, cultivate him. It’s business. His father is my most valued client, and the more intimate you become with his son the sooner you will have an acquaintance that will be of value to you.”

Page could not quite fathom all this, but the more he thought of what Frye had said the more certain he became that kindly regard for his own welfare did not enter into that shrewd schemer’s calculations. He was more and more disgusted, also, each day, with his employer’s cynical indifference to all sense of honor and honesty, coming to the conclusion that he was no better than a thief at heart.

Beneath Albert’s disposition to adapt himself to those he mingled with lay a vein of sterling good sense, fine honor, and the energy of self-sacrifice, if necessary, and Frye’s attributes were so obnoxious to him as to be simply repulsive. At college he had never indulged in much “larking,” and just why the bond of friendship between himself and the good-natured, self-indulgent, happy-go-lucky classmate, Frank Nason, had been cemented is hard to explain, except upon the theory of the attraction of opposites. When, a few days later, that young man appeared at the office just before closing time, and suggested they “go out for a night’s racket,” as he phrased it, Albert was not inclined to accept.

“What are you up to?” he said as they walked away from the office, “and what do you mean by a racket? If it’s likely to be expensive, count me out; I can’t afford it.”

“Well,” answered Frank lightly, “you are working too hard, and need shaking up, so I thought I’d drop round and do it. We will dine at the club, then go to the Castle Square, where there is a burlesque on and no end of pretty chorus girls. I know two or three of them, and after the show we will take them out to supper; that is all.”

“It’s all right except the end-up,” answered Albert, “and on that I think you had best skip me. As I said, it’s a diversion I can’t afford. I’ve no money to spare to buy wine for ballet girls.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” responded Frank cheerfully. “I’ve asked you out and it’s my treat. I’ll pay the shot this time.”

“I shall pay my share if I go,” asserted Albert firmly, “but I would rather omit the after part. We will have the evening together and then you can go and entertain your chorus girls and I’ll go to my room.”

It was a laudable resolution, but it came hard, for beneath all Albert’s good resolves was lurking desire for a little excitement to break the dull monotony of his life. He had been to the theatre only twice since he came to Boston, desiring to save in every way he could, and only the week before had sent Alice one-third of his first month’s salary. At the club Frank introduced him to several of his friends and of course they were asked to join them in a social glass, which did not tend to strengthen Albert’s resolution. At the theatre the exhilarating music, and the glitter of a stage full of pretty girls in scant drapery, all had their usual effect, and by the time the show was over he found it next to impossible to resist his friend’s urging that they go around to the stage door and meet the girls he had invited to sup with them.

“Mind you, let me pay my share,” whispered Page, and then he found himself being introduced by his first name to two highly colored queens of the ballet, and all four proceeded at once to a private supper-room. Albert found the girls bright, vivacious, and expressive, so far as a superficial use of slang goes: they ordered the choicest and highest-priced items on the bill of fare; called for champagne and drank it freely; addressed their escorts as “Cully,” “Old Sport,” and “Old Stocking;” smoked cigarettes; and talked about their “mashes” in other cities in a way that made Albert grateful that he had been introduced by his first name only.

It was not an immoral proceeding, though not exactly proper, and when in the wee small hours they-with a mistaken sense of gallantry-escorted the two actresses (if such they may be termed) to their boarding-place, Page, at least, was glad to be well rid of them. And when he reached his room, it must be said to his credit, he did not feel particularly proud of himself.

He felt less so the next morning when he received a letter from Alice which said:

My darling brother: I was so pleased when I received your loving letter and the money you sent. You do not know how it hurts me to feel we owe so much, and I have cried over it more than you will ever know. Last week I received my first month’s pay,-thirty dollars,-and I was very proud of it, for it is the first money I ever earned. I took half and put it with the twenty-five you sent and gave it to Mr. Hobbs. I have only six dollars left, for I had to buy some boots and gloves, but that will last me a month, for I’ve not the heart to spend a penny I am not obliged to, until the debts are paid. I had to buy the boots, because walking four miles a day wears them out very fast.

And he had spent twenty dollars the night before to have a couple of ballet girls talk slang, smoke cigarettes, and call him “Cully”!

When he thought of his sweet and loving sister, with her perfect faith in his manhood, walking four miles a day to earn less than two dollars, while he had been induced to spend in one foolish evening as much as she could earn in two weeks, it was no wonder he did not feel proud of himself.