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قراءة كتاب Ahead of the Show; Or, The Adventures of Al Allston, Advance Agent

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‏اللغة: English
Ahead of the Show; Or, The Adventures of Al Allston, Advance Agent

Ahead of the Show; Or, The Adventures of Al Allston, Advance Agent

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

head, sprang toward his companion.

In another second the weapon would have descended but for a most opportune interruption.


Farley turned and glared in the direction from which the voice proceeded.

Al Allston stood in the doorway, in his hand a revolver, which was leveled at the head of the would-be assassin.


Al was bowed, by the now obsequious servant, into Mrs. Anderson's elegantly furnished drawing room.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the man, cringingly. "I didn't know that you were a friend of the family, or I wouldn't have spoken as I did. You see, sir, we're a good deal troubled by book agents and such like."

"Wouldn't it be a good idea to be civil to everyone?" said Al. "It would not cost you anything, and you'd be sure to make no mistake."

"Yes, sir. You won't say anything to Mrs. Anderson, will you, sir? It might cost me my place."

"No, no!" returned Al, so impatient to see the mayor's wife that he scarcely heard what the man said.

"Thank you, sir."

At this moment the sound of approaching footsteps was heard, and the servant hastily bowed himself out.

Scarcely had he gone when Mrs. Anderson entered the room, followed by her husband. She was a tall, slender, rather good-looking woman of about thirty; he a short, pompous man, at least ten years his wife's senior.

The lady approached Al with outstretched hands.

"My brave, noble boy," she cried, "how delighted I am to see you! And I did not even know your name until I received your card just now. I am so glad you did not allow yourself to be sent away. But why have you not called before?"

"Yes, why have you not called before?" echoed the mayor, seizing the boy's hands, which his wife had just relinquished.

Al, considerably embarrassed, murmured something about not wanting to intrude.

"Intrude!" cried the lady. "You are, like all heroes, modest to a fault. You will always be a welcome guest here. But sit down; you must spend the evening with us."

"I cannot," began the boy.

"Nonsense! I will take no refusal. He must stay, mustn't he, Mr. Anderson?"

"By all means," smiled the mayor.

"And we will talk about his heroic deed," went on Mrs. Anderson. "It was a fortnight ago, but the scene comes up before me as vividly as if it had been only yesterday—the maddened horses, our child directly in their path, her rescue by this noble boy at the imminent risk of his own life. In another moment she would have been crushed under the feet of the runaway animals had he not sprang forward and dragged her out of danger."

"It was a heroic act," said the mayor.

"It was nothing more than almost anyone would have done, sir," said the blushing lad.

"It was more than anyone else did," returned Mr. Anderson, "and I understand that the affair was witnessed by a dozen or more persons. But why have you not called before? I understood my wife to say that she asked you to come that afternoon. You did not come, and we tried in every way to discover your identity, even going so far as to advertise for you."

"I saw the advertisements, sir," replied Al.

"Ah! and that is why you are here?"

"Oh, no, sir. The advertisements mentioned that you wanted to give me a reward."

"Of course we did. You don't mean to say that it was the fear of having a reward forced upon you that kept you away?"

"Well, sir," replied Al, "I confess that had something to do with it."

The mayor laughed heartily.

"This is really refreshing," he said. "My lad, I am interested in you more than ever, now. Well, I promise you that, if you insist upon it, the subject shall not be referred to this evening."

"But I do not insist," said Al. "The fact is, Mr. Anderson, I came here to-night to ask you to make your promise good."

Both the mayor and his wife stared at the lad in surprise.

"You mean," said the former, "that you are here to claim your reward?"

"That is what I mean, sir."

There was, perhaps, just a shade of disappointment on the face of Mr. Anderson; it may be he was thinking that another idol had been rather rudely shattered. But he only said:

"I am glad you have changed your mind, my boy. What reward do you wish? My little daughter's life is worth more to me than anything else on earth, so you need not be too modest in your request. How much shall it be? I will write a check for any reasonable amount you choose to name."

Al's face flushed.

"I don't want money, sir," he said.

"No? Well, what can I do for you, then? Do you want me to find you a position in my office? Perhaps I can do something for you in that way, if you——"

"Mr. Anderson," interrupted Al, desperately, "you would never guess what I want if you tried until doomsday."

The mayor, very naturally, looked surprised.

"Eh?" he stammered. "Why, r-really, you are a most extraordinary youth. Well, I will try to satisfy your demands, whatever they are. Out with them now."

"You will grant any request I make?" asked Al.

"Anything in reason, my boy."

"Well, sir, I can't explain now just why I ask this favor of you, but I will when there is time; just now there isn't."

"Never mind all that," interrupted Mr. Anderson. "Come to the point; what is it you want me to do?"

"I want you to let Mrs. Anderson appear at the opera house to-night, as she promised."

Both the mayor and his wife started from their seats, their faces showing all the surprise they felt.

"Why, what is it to you whether she appears or not?" asked Mr. Anderson.

"It is everything."

"I do not understand."

"I cannot explain now; but, sir, I assure you that, perhaps, my whole future depends upon whether you grant my request or not."

"Really," gasped the mayor, "this is most extraordinary. Why cannot you explain now?"

"Because the curtain goes up in a good deal less than an hour, and Mrs. Anderson ought to be at the theater now."

Here the lady herself interposed.

"Mr. Anderson," she said, beseechingly, "do let me go! You know I promised, and that in itself is reason enough why I should appear."

"I cannot understand this at all," said the mayor, petulantly. Then turning to Al, he added:

"Boy, I will write you my check for five thousand dollars, if you will withdraw this absurd request."

Five thousand dollars was a good deal more money than Al had ever had in his possession, a good deal more than he was likely to earn as advance agent for a long time to come; but his answer was prompt and positive.

"Mr. Anderson, I don't want your money. I would not accept a penny of it. I only request that you allow your wife to keep her promise and appear to-night. I would not ask this if I thought there would be anything disagreeable to her in fulfilling her promise, but——"

Here Mrs. Anderson interrupted.

"Why, of course there would not," she said. "You know, John, I am so anxious to make my début on the professional stage. Now, do let me go, won't you? You cannot refuse now!"

After a moment's hesitation, the mayor said:

"No, I cannot. You shall go."

It was with difficulty that Al suppressed a sigh of relief.

"There is not a moment to be lost," he reminded the would-be débutante.

"I know it," cried Mrs. Anderson. "Oh, I am so glad you came! Now, don't look so downcast, John; you will be very proud of me when you see me on the stage."

"Humph! Well, we shall