Of this the reader will hear everything in the next chapter.
MR. PERCIVAL’S PROPOSAL
One morning, after writing several letters for his employer, the young secretary asked Mr. Percival if he had any further commands.
The old gentleman answered thoughtfully:
“I have been thinking of asking you to do me an unusual service.”
“I shall be very glad to serve you in any way, Mr. Percival,” said Frank, promptly.
“I have no doubt of it,” said the old gentleman, kindly. “I have observed your willingness to undertake any duty, and, still more, your disposition to perform it thoroughly. In this particular case, however, I have been considering whether a boy of your age would be competent to do what I desire.”
Frank was not self-distrustful, neither was he over-confident. He was naturally energetic and ambitious to distinguish himself, and not afraid to undertake any difficult task.
“Will you try me, Mr. Percival?” he said. “I will do my best to succeed.”
“I am quite inclined to try you, Frank,” said Mr. Percival; “the more so because I know of no one else in whom I could confide. But I must give you an idea of what I have in view. It would require you to make a journey.”
Frank listened to this gladly. To a boy of his age, who had seen but little of the world, a journey offered attractions.
“I should like to travel,” he said.
“I have no doubt about that,” said Mr. Percival, smiling. “At your age I am sure I should have been equally willing to see something of the world, though traveling involved at that time far more hardships than at present. Now, however, I like best to stay by the fireside, and should dread very much a journey to Minnesota.”
“To Minnesota!” exclaimed Frank, with sparkling eyes.
He had not thought of a journey so extended.
“Yes; it would be necessary for you to go out to Minnesota. Ordinarily, a man can best look after his own affairs; but in the present instance, I suspect that you could do better than myself. I don’t mean this as a compliment, but a boy like you would not be suspected, and so could discover more than I, from whom facts would be studiously concealed. But, of course, you don’t understand my meaning. I will explain, and then you can comprehend me.”
Frank was all attention.
“You must know that I own a good deal of property in a certain township in Southern Minnesota. When a young man, I bought three hundred and twenty acres of land in the township of Jackson, obtaining it at a slight advance on government rates.
“Some improvements had been made, and I was induced to visit the place. I found but three families in residence, but I saw also that the place had large natural advantages, water-power, etc., and presented an unusually favorable site for a village. I had considerable means, and started the village by erecting a dozen houses, a store, a sawmill, gristmill, and so on.