“Why didn’t you come on the coach, Abel, when you had all that money?” asked Ann, pitifully. “I wonder it hadn’t killed you.”
“Do you suppose I was goin’ to spend that money for coach hire? You dun’no’ how awful hard it come, mother,” replied the old man. He closed his eyes as he spoke; he was weary almost to death.
“He’ll go to sleep again if you don’t talk, mother,” Jerome whispered.
“Well, I’ll lay down side of him, an’ mebbe we’ll both go to sleep,” his mother said, with a strange docility. Jerome assisted her into the bed, then he and Elmira went back to the kitchen.
Jerome motioned to Elmira to be quiet, and cautiously lifted the little japanned trunk and passed it from one hand to the other, as if testing its weight. Elmira watched him with her bewildered, tearful eyes. Finally he tiptoed softly out with it, motioning her to follow with the candle. They went into the icy parlor and closed the door.
“What’s the matter, Jerome?” Elmira whispered.
“I’m afraid there may be something wrong with the money. I’m going to find it out before he does, if there is.”
There was a little padlock on the trunk, but it was tied together with a bit of leather shoestring, not locked. Jerome took out his jack-knife, cut the string, and opened the trunk. Elmira held the candle while he examined the contents. There was a large old wallet stuffed with bank-notes, also several parcels of them tied up carefully.
“It’s just as I thought,” Jerome muttered.
“Some of the money is gone. The gold isn’t here. It might have been the man who roomed with him at Hayes’s Tavern. There have been queer things done there before now. All I wonder is, he didn’t take it all.”
“Oh, Jerome, it isn’t gone?”
“Yes, the gold is gone. Here is the bag it was in. The thief left that. Suppose he thought he might be traced by it.”
“Oh, poor father, poor father, what will he do!” moaned Elmira.
“He’ll do nothing. He’ll never know it,” said Jerome.
“What do you mean?”
“Wait here a minute.” Jerome went noiselessly out of the room and up-stairs. He returned soon with a leathern bag, which he carried with great caution. “I’m trying to keep this from jingling,” he whispered.
“Oh, Jerome, what is it?”
Jerome laughed and untied the mouth of the bag. “You must help me put it into the other bag; every dollar will have to be counted out separately.”
“Oh, Jerome, is it money you’ve saved?”
“Yes; and don’t you ever tell of it to either of them, or anybody else, as long as you live. I guess poor father sha’n’t know he’s lost any of his money he’s worked so hard to get, if I can help it.”