Two Boys and a FortuneMay 6, 2007
So, there’s this family called the Pells. They live in a town called Marley just outside Philadelphia, and there are six of them: Mrs. Pell, fifteen-year-old twins Roy and Rex, two girls called Eva and Jess, and adoptive son Sydney, who is a grown man and a lawyer. They’re poor, and Rex bitches about it a lot. Rex is charming and selfish and feels bad about not being able to do entertain his friends in the style to which they’re accustomed. Roy only feels bad that he can’t do more to help out the family.
One day during the summer, Roy sees the local miser, Mr. Tyler, fall as he’s crossing the railroad. Roy rescues him, and the old man is extremely grateful — so much that he has Sydney Pell help him make a will leaving all his money to Mrs. Pell. Roy is uneasy about this, especially when they find out the next day that Mr. Tyler died that very night.
Summarizing a book like this is difficult, because if I put in the hints that help you figure out the mystery later on, it will be too easy to guess, but if I don’t, the exciting conclusion will seem kind of arbitrary. In this book’s case, the conclusion is arbitrary, but the mystery that’s solved just before that isn’t. So I’ll say this: from here on, Sydney acts kind of suspicious and literally worries himself sick.
So, the Pells have a fortune. They all have different opinions on what they should do with it. Roy doesn’t want their lifestyle to change too much, but the rest of the family compromises on moving to Philadelphia. They end up living next to a family called Harrington, and Rex makes friends with Dudley Harrington, who is a sophomore at Yale and the most ridiculous kind of dandy. Rex admires him very much. When the summer ends and Harrington has to return to New Haven, he invites Rex to make the trip with him, and offers a stop in New York as incentive. Mrs. Pell won’t give him her permission, but one of Rex’s friends from Marley has invited him for a visit, and when the time comes to leave, Rex gets on the New York train with Harrington instead of the Marley one.
In New York, Rex is rapidly disillusioned. A bunch of Harrington’s friends come over to their hotel room, and they’re all kind of disgusting and they smoke and drink a lot. Rex is so grossed out that he leaves the hotel, planning to take the next train home, but pretty much as soon as he gets outside, he’s hit over the head and robbed.
When I first went to sleepaway camp when I was about ten, people would hear that I was from New York and ask me if I’d ever been shot.
Anyway. Rex gets up and finds that all he’s got left is seventy-five cents. that only gets him to somewhere in New Jersey, and from there he starts walking. He soon becomes ill, and a kind-hearted tramp, a boy called Miles Harding, helps him to the nearest house. The house belongs to a widow and her daughter, and they’re impressed enough by Rex’s nice clothes that they bring him inside and call the doctor. They let Miles stay too, and eventually gives him a job. The doctor finds that Rex has a fever and won’t be able to be moved for a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, the folks at home start to get worried about Rex. Roy goes to Marley and finds that no one there has seen him for a while. It’s not hard to figure out that he went with Harrington, but when they telegraph him at Yale, Harrington tells them that Rex left him in New York. Roy goes to New Haven himself to see what he can find out, but comes up empty.
About a week later, Rex gets well enough to be aware of his surroundings and has Miles send Roy a telegram. To make a long story short, eventually Rex gets home and is somewhat less of an idiot. He also stays friends with Miles, who comes to visit them sometimes. They try to find the parents that deserted Miles when he was a baby, and when Sydney hears their name — Darley — he almost dies of shock. The thing I didn’t disclose earlier was that Mr. Tyler had an employee named Darley who he liked very much, but then quarreled with and lost sight of.
Sydney finds Miles’ father, who has gone insane, and then discloses to Roy and Rex that Mr. Tyler made to wills, one leaving everything to Roy, and the other leaving everything to Darley. Sydney destroyed the second will.
So, the Pells move out and the Darleys move in. The Pells go out west to run an inn owned by a friend of Mrs. Pell, and Rex somehow manages to stop being such a selfish brat. Miles and his father come to visit for the summer, and the book ends with Miles announcing to the twins that Mr. Darley, who is apparently no longer insane, and Mrs. Pell are engaged. Which is nice, but maybe a bit too convenient, and definitely unexpected.
Overall, I liked this book (I didn’t say what it was, did I? It’s called Two Boys and a Fortune, and it’s by Matthew White). The twins were fun, although Roy was lots nicer than Rex and should have had a larger share of the story. After they first inherited the money, I kept getting mad at the others for not making more of Roy, considering that if it wasn’t for him they wouldn’t suddenly have half a million dollars — a big deal in 1907.
I find myself wondering why dissolute young men in this kind of book only ever drink punch.