Read CHAPTER XVII. of Now or Never, free online book, by Oliver Optic, on


Bath afforded our young merchants an excellent market for their wares, and they remained there the rest of the week.  They then proceeded to Brunswick, where their success was equally flattering.

Thus far Tom had done very well, though Bobby had frequent occasion to remind him of the pledges he had given to conduct himself in a proper manner.  He would swear now and then, from the force of habit; but invariably, when Bobby checked him, he promised to do better.

At Brunswick Tom sold the last of his books, and was in possession of about thirty dollars, twelve of which he owed the publisher who had furnished his stock.  This money seemed to burn in his pocket.  He had the means of having a good time, and it went hard with him to plod along as Bobby did, careful to save every penny he could.

“Come, Bob, let’s get a horse and chaise and have a ride-what do you say?” proposed Tom, on the day he finished selling his books.

“I can’t spare the time or the money,” replied Bobby, decidedly.

“What is the use of having money if we can’t spend it?  It is a first rate day, and we should have a good time.”

“I can’t afford it.  I have a great many books to sell.”

“About a hundred; you can sell them fast enough.”

“I don’t spend my money foolishly.”

“It wouldn’t be foolishly.  I have sold out, and am bound to have a little fun now.”

“You never will succeed if you do business in that way.”

“Why not?”

“You will spend your money as fast as you get it.”

“Pooh! we can get a horse and chaise for the afternoon for two dollars.  That is not much.”

“Considerable, I should say.  But if you begin, there is no knowing where to leave off.  I make it a rule not to spend a single cent foolishly, and if I don’t begin, I shall never do it.”

“I don’t mean to spend all I get; only a little now and then,” persisted Tom.

“Don’t spend the first dollar for nonsense, and then you won’t spend the second.  Besides, when I have any money to spare, I mean to buy books with it for my library.”

“Humbug!  Your library!”

“Yes, my library; I mean to have a library one of these days.”

“I don’t want any library, and I mean to spend some of my money in having a good time; and if you won’t go with me, I shall go alone-that’s all.”

“You can do as you please, of course; but I advise you to keep your money.  You will want it to buy another stock of books.”

“I shall have enough for that.  What do you say?  Will you go with me or not?”

“No, I will not.”

“Enough said; then.  I shall go alone, or get some fellow to go with me.”

“Consider well before you go,” pleaded Bobby, who had sense enough to see that Tom’s proposed “good time” would put back, if not entirely prevent, the reform he was working out.

He then proceeded to reason with him in a very earnest and feeling manner, telling him he would not only spend all his money, but completely unfit himself for business.  What he proposed to do was nothing more nor less than extravagance, and it would lead him to dissipation and ruin.

“To-day I am going to send one hundred dollars to Mr. Bayard,” continued Bobby; “for I am afraid to have so much money with me.  I advise you to send your money to your employer.”

“Humph!  Catch me doing that!  I am bound to have a good time, any how.”

“At least, send the money you owe him.”

“I’ll bet I won’t.”

“Well, do as you please; I have said all I have to say.”

“You are a fool, Bob!” exclaimed Tom, who had evidently used Bobby as much as he wished, and no longer cared to speak soft words to him.

“Perhaps I am; but I know better than to spend my money upon fast horses.  If you will go, I can’t help it.  I am sorry you are going astray.”

“What do you mean by that, you young monkey?” said Tom, angrily.

This was Tom Spicer, the bully.  It sounded like him; and with a feeling of sorrow Bobby resigned the hopes he had cherished of making a good boy of him.

“We had better part now,” added our hero, sadly.

“I’m willing.”

“I shall leave Brunswick this afternoon for the towns up the river.  I hope no harm will befall you.  Good by, Tom,”

“Go it!  I have heard your preaching about long enough, and I am more glad to get rid of you than you are to get rid of me.”

Bobby walked away towards the house where he had left the trunk containing his books, while Tom made his way towards a livery stable.  The boys had been in the place for several days, and had made some acquaintances; so Tom had no difficulty in procuring a companion for his proposed ride.

Our hero wrote a letter that afternoon to Mr. Bayard, in which he narrated all the particulars of his journey, his relations with Tom Spicer, and the success that had attended his labors.  At the bank he procured a hundred dollar note for his small bills, and enclosed it in the letter.

He felt sad about Tom.  The runaway had done so well, had been so industrious, and shown such a tractable spirit, that he had been very much encouraged about him.  But if he meant to be wild again,-for it was plain that the ride was only “the beginning of sorrows,”-it was well that they should part.

By the afternoon stage our hero proceeded to Gardiner, passing through several smaller towns, which did not promise a very abundant harvest.  His usual success attended him; for wherever he went, people seemed to be pleased with him, as Squire Lee had declared they would be.  His pleasant, honest face was a capital recommendation, and his eloquence seldom failed to achieve the result which eloquence has ever achieved from Demosthenes down to the present day.

Our limits do not permit us to follow him in all his peregrinations from town to town, and from house to house; so we pass over the next fortnight, at the end of which time we find him at Augusta.  He had sold all his books but twenty, and had that day remitted eighty dollars more to Mr. Bayard.  It was Wednesday, and he hoped to sell out so as to be able to take the next steamer for Boston, which was advertised to sail on the following day.

He had heard nothing from Tom since their parting, and had given up all expectation of meeting him again; but that bad penny maxim proved true once more, for, as he was walking through one of the streets of Augusta, he had the misfortune to meet him-and this time it was indeed a misfortune.

“Hallo, Bobby!” shouted the runaway, as familiarly as though nothing had happened to disturb the harmony of their relations.

“Ah, Tom, I didn’t expect to see you again,” replied Bobby, not very much rejoiced to meet his late companion.

“I suppose not; but here I am, as good as new.  Have you sold out?”

“No, not quite.”

“How many have you left?”

“About twenty; but I thought, Tom, you would have returned to Boston before this time.”

“No;” and Tom did not seem to be in very good spirits.

“Where are you going now?”

“I don’t know.  I ought to have taken your advice, Bobby.”

This was a concession, and our hero began to feel some sympathy for his companion-as who does not when the erring confess their faults?

“I am sorry you did not.”

“I got in with some pretty hard fellows down there to Brunswick,” continued Tom, rather sheepishly.

“And spent all your money,” added Bobby, who could readily understand the reason why Tom had put on his humility again.

“Not all.”

“How much have you left?”

“Not much,” replied he, evasively.  “I don’t know what I shall do.  I am in a strange place, and have no friends.”

Bobby’s sympathies were aroused, and without reflection, he promised to be a friend in his extremity.

“I will stick by you this time, Bob, come what will.  I will do just as you say, now.”

Our merchant was a little flattered by this unreserved display of confidence.  He did not give weight enough to the fact that it was adversity alone which made Tom so humble.  He was in trouble, and gave him all the guarantee he could ask for his future good behavior.  He could not desert him now he was in difficulty.

“You shall help me sell my books, and then we will return to Boston together.  Have you money enough left to pay your employer?”

Tom hesitated; something evidently hung heavily upon his mind.

“I don’t know how it will be after I have paid my expenses to Boston,” he replied, averting his face.

Bobby was perplexed by this evasive answer; but as Tom seemed so reluctant to go into details, he reserved his inquiries for a more convenient season.

“Now, Tom, you take the houses on that side of the street, and I will take those upon this side.  You shall have the profits on all you sell.”

“You are a first rate fellow, Bob; and I only wish I had done as you wanted me to do.”

“Can’t be helped now, and we will do the next best thing,” replied Bobby, as he left his companion to enter a house.

Tom did very well, and by the middle of the afternoon they had sold all the books but four.  “The Wayfarer” had been liberally advertised in that vicinity, and the work was in great demand.  Bobby’s heart grew lighter as the volumes disappeared from his valise, and already he had begun to picture the scene which would ensue upon his return to the little black house.  How glad his mother would be to see him, and, he dared believe, how happy Annie would be as she listened to the account of his journey in the State of Maine!  Wouldn’t she be astonished when he told her about the steamboat, about the fog, and about the wild region at the mouth of the beautiful Kennebec!

Poor Bobby! the brightest dream often ends in sadness; and a greater trial than any he had been called upon to endure was yet in store for him.

As he walked along, thinking of Riverdale and its loved ones, Tom came out of a grocery store where he had just sold a book.

“Here, Bob, is a ten dollar bill.  I believe I have sold ten books for you,” said Tom, after they had walked some distance.  “You had better keep the money now; and while I think of it, you had better take what I have left of my former sales;” and Tom handed him another ten dollar bill.

Bobby noticed that Tom seemed very much confused and embarrassed; but he did not observe that the two bills he had handed him were on the same bank.

“Then you had ten dollars left after your frolic,” he remarked, as he took the last bill.

“About that;” and Tom glanced uneasily behind him.

“What is the matter with you, Tom?” asked Bobby, who did not know what to make of his companion’s embarrassment.

“Nothing, Bob; let us walk a little faster.  We had better turn up this street,” continued Tom, as with a quick pace, he took the direction indicated.

Bobby began to fear that Tom had been doing something wrong; and the suspicion was confirmed by seeing two men running with all their might towards them.  Tom perceived them at the same moment.

“Run!” he shouted, and suiting the action to the word, he took to his heels, and fled up the street into which he had proposed to turn.

Bobby did not run, but stopped short where he was till the men came up to him.

“Grab him,” said one of them, “and I will catch the other.”

The man collared Bobby, and in spite of all the resistance he could make, dragged him down the street to the grocery store in which Tom had sold his last book.

“What do you mean by this?” asked Bobby, his blood boiling with indignation at the harsh treatment to which he had been subjected.

“We have got you, my hearty,” replied the man, releasing his hold.

No sooner was the grasp of the man removed, then Bobby, who determined on this as on former occasions to stand upon his inalienable rights, bolted for the door, and ran away with all his speed.  But his captor was too fleet for him, and he was immediately retaken.  To make him sure this time, his arms were tied behind him, and he was secured to the counter of the shop.

In a few moments the other man returned dragging Tom in triumph after him.  By this time quite a crowd had collected, which nearly filled the store.

Bobby was confounded at the sudden change that had come over his fortunes; but seeing that resistance would be vain, he resolved to submit with the best grace he could.

“I should like to know what all this means?” he inquired, indignantly.

The crowd laughed in derision.

“This is the chap that stole the wallet, I will be bound,” said one, pointing to Tom, who stood in surly silence awaiting his fate.

“He is the one who came into the store,” replied the shopkeeper.

I haven’t stole any wallet,” protested Bobby, who now understood the whole affair.

The names of the two boys were taken, and warrants procured for their detention.  They were searched, and upon Tom was found the lost wallet, and upon Bobby two ten dollar bills, which, the loser was willing to swear had been in the wallet.  The evidence therefore was conclusive, and they were both sent to jail.

Poor Bobby! the inmate of a prison!

The law took its course, and in due time both of them were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in the State Reform School.  Bobby was innocent, but he could not make his innocence appear.  He had been the companion of Tom, the real thief, and part of the money had been found upon his person.  Tom was too mean to exonerate him, and even had the hardihood to exult over his misfortune.

At the end of three days they reached the town in which the Reform School is located, and were duly committed for their long term.

Poor Bobby!