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Title: Oscar - The Boy Who Had His Own Way
Author: Aimwell, Walter, 1822-1859
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Oscar - The Boy Who Had His Own Way" ***

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The Aimwell Stories

OSCAR:

Or The Boy Who Had His Own Way.

by

WALTER AIMWELL,

Author of "Clinton," "Boy's Own Guide," Etc.

With Illustrations.



[Frontispiece: Winter Scene on Boston Common.]

[Title-Page: Vignette.]



Boston:
Gould and Lincoln,
69 Washington Street.
New York: Sheldon and Company.
Cincinnati: Geo. S. Blanchard.
1861.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by
Gould and Lincoln,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court,
of the District of Massachusetts



PREFACE.

In the story of OSCAR is portrayed the career of a bright but somewhat
headstrong boy, who was over-indulged by his parents, and who usually
managed to "have his own way," by hook or by crook.  The book is designed
to exhibit some of the bad consequences of acquiring a wayward and
lawless spirit, and of falling into indolent, untruthful, and disobedient
habits.  These are its main lessons, intermingled with which are a
variety of others, of scarcely less importance to the young.

_Winchester, Mass._



ADVERTISEMENT.

"PRECEPTS MAY LEAD BUT EXAMPLES DRAW."


"THE AIMWELL STORIES" are designed to portray some of the leading phases
of juvenile character, and to point out their tendencies to future good
and evil.  This they undertake to do by describing the quiet, natural
scenes and incidents of everyday life, in city and country, at home and
abroad, at school and upon the play-ground, rather than by resorting to
romantic adventures and startling effects.  While their main object is to
persuade the young to lay well the foundations of their characters, to
win them to the ways of virtue, and to incite them to good deeds and
noble aims, the attempt is also made to mingle amusing, curious, and
useful information with the moral lessons conveyed.  It is hoped that the
volumes will thus be made attractive and agreeable, as well as
instructive, to the youthful reader.

Each volume of the "Aimwell Stories" will be complete and independent of
itself, although a connecting thread will run through the whole series.
The order of the volumes, so far as completed, is as follows:--

   I.  OSCAR; OR, THE BOY WHO HAD HIS OWN WAY.
  II.  CLINTON; OR, BOY-LIFE IN THE COUNTRY.
 III.  ELLA; OR, TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF.
  IV.  WHISTLER; OR, THE MANLY BOY.
   V.  MARCUS; OR, THE BOY-TAMER.
  VI.  JESSIE; OR, TRYING TO BE SOMEBODY.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

A KITCHEN SCENE.

Bridget and her little realm--A troop of rude intruders--An imperious
demand--A flat refusal--Prying investigations--Biddy's displeasure
aroused--Why Oscar could not find the pie--Another squabble, and its
consequences--Studying under difficulties--Shooting peas--Ralph and
George provoked--A piece of Bridget's mind--Mrs. Preston--George's
complaint--Oscar rebuked--A tell-tale--Oscar's brothers and sisters--His
father and mother.


CHAPTER II.

OSCAR IN SCHOOL.

Oscar's school--The divisions and classes--Lively and pleasant
sights--Playing schoolmaster--Carrying the joke too far to be
agreeable--Oscar's indolence in school--Gazing at the blackboard--A
release from study, and an unexpected privilege--Whiling away an
hour--Doing nothing harder work than studying--A half-learned lesson--A
habit of Oscar's--A ridiculous blunder--Absurd mistakes of the British
government about the great lakes--Oscar less pardonable than
they--Another blunder--Difference between guessing and knowing--Oscar
detained after school--His recitation--Good advice--Remembering the
blackboard--Willie Davenport--A pounding promised.


CHAPTER III.

PAYING OFF A GRUDGE.

Whistler--Why Ralph liked him--Why Oscar disliked him--A caution--A
sudden attack--An unexpected rescue--The stranger's advice--A brave
and manly answer--Whistler refuses to expose Oscar's name--The
boys separate--George's report of the scene, and Ralph's
explanation--Oscar's return--His sister's rebuke--His mother's
inquiries--Misrepresentations--Willie exonerated--Forgiving
enemies--An unpleasant promise called to mind--Mr. Preston's action
in the matter--Oscar refuses to punish himself--The chamber--A
surprise--Falsehood--Exposure--The account settled--Silence--Late
rising and a cold breakfast--What Mrs. Preston said--Its effect upon
Oscar--Concealed emotion--Mistaken notions of manliness--Good impressions
made--George's narrow escape.


CHAPTER IV.

THE HOTEL.

Alfred Walton--His home--Hotel acquaintances--Coarse stories and
jokes--Andy--His peculiarities--Tobacco--A spelling lesson--The
disappointment--Anger--Bright and her family--Fun and mischief--The owner
of the pups--A promise--A ride to the depôt--A walk about the
building--Examining wheels--The tracks--An arrival--A swarm of
passengers--Two young travellers taken in tow--Their story--Arrival at
the hotel--A walk--Purchase of deadly weapons--A heavy bill--Gifts to
Alfred and Oscar--A brave speech for a little fellow--Going home.


CHAPTER V.

THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS

The Sabbath--Uneasiness--Monday morning--A pressing invitation to play
truant--Hesitation--The decision--Oscar's misgivings--Manners of the two
travellers--A small theft--Flight--A narrow escape--A costly cake of
sugar--The bridge to Charlestown--The monument--The navy yard--Objects of
interest--Incidents of Joseph's life--A slight test of his
courage--Oscar's plans--Going to dinner--A grand "take in"--Alfred's
disclosures--Real character of the young travellers--Their tough
stories--A mutual difficulty--Confessing what cannot be concealed--Good
advice and mild reproof--The teacher's leniency explained.


CHAPTER VI.

WORK.

A command--Passing it along--Reluctant obedience--A poor excuse--A bad
habit--Employment for vacation--Oscar's opposition to the plan--Frank
the errand-boy--Thanksgiving week--A busy time--Oscar's experience as
store-boy--Learning to sweep--Doing work well--A tempting invitation--Its
acceptance--A ride--Driving horses--The errand--The return--Oscar
at the store--Sent off "with a flea in his ear"--The matter
brought up again--Oscar's excuse unsatisfactory--Ralph's services
rewarded--Difference between the two boys.


CHAPTER VII.

THANKSGIVING DAY.

Grandmother's arrival--Surprises--Presents--Oscar at a
shooting-match--Bad company--Cruel sport--Home again--Prevarication--A
remonstrance--Impudence, and a silent rebuke--The dinner--A stormy
afternoon--A disappointment--Evening in the parlor--A call for
stories--How the Indians punished bad boys--What Oscar thought of it--An
Indian story--The hostile party--The alarm--The stratagem--The onset--The
retreat--The victory--Laplot River--Widow Storey's retreat--Misfortunes
of her husband--Her enterprise and industry--Fleeing from the
British--The subterranean abode--Precautions to prevent discovery--Uncle
James--The fellow who was caught in his own trap--Old Zigzag--His
oddities--His tragic end--How the town of Barre, Vt., got its name--A
well-spent evening.


CHAPTER VIII.

GRANDMOTHER LEE.

One of her habits--Ella's complaint--Alice's reproof--Ella's rude reply
to her grandmother--A mild rebuke--A sterner reproof--Shame and
repentance--Popping corn--George's selfishness--A fruitless search for
the corn-bag--Bad Temper--An ineffectual reproof--George's obstinacy--How
he became selfish--Difficulty of breaking up a bad habit--What he lost by
his selfishness--Oscar's dog--He is named "Tiger"--His portrait--His
roguishness--Oscar's trick upon his grandmother--Unfortunate
ending--Tiger's destructiveness--A mystery, and its probable
solution--Oscar's falsehood--Tiger's banishment decreed, but not carried
out--Grandmother Lee's remonstrance with Oscar--Bridget's onset--Oscar's
excuse--Moral principle wanting--Mrs. Lee's departure.


CHAPTER IX.

WINTER SPORTS.

Coasting--Oscar's sled--Borrowing and lending--A merry scene on the
Common--Various sleds and characters--A collision--Damage to Ralph and
the "Clipper"--Not accidental--The guilty parties called to account--No
satisfaction obtained--Ralph's trouble--Oscar's anger--His revenge--A
fight--His termination--Skating--Tiger on the ice--His plunge into an
air-hole--His alarm and escape--Going home--Unfounded fears
awakened--Tiger's shame--A talk about air-holes--What they are for, and
how they are made--Skaters should be cautious--A change in Tiger's
habits--A great snow-storm--Appearance of the streets--Fun for the
boys--A job for Oscar--He is wiser than his father--Nullification of a
command--The command repeated--Icy sidewalks--Laziness and its excuses--A
wise suggestion--Duty neglected--Oscar called to account--His
excuses--Unpleasant consequences of his negligence--The command repeated,
with a "snapper" at the end--The dreaded task completed.


CHAPTER X.

APPEARANCES.

A compulsory ride--Merited retribution--A sad plight for a proud
boy--Laughter and ridicule--Oscar's neatness and love of dress--The
patched jacket--Oscar's objections to it--Benny Wright, the boy of many
patches--His character--The jacket question peremptorily settled--A
significant shake of the head--A watch wanted--Why boys carry
watches--Punctuality--Oscar's tardiness at school--The real cause of
it--Thinking too much of outside appearances--Character of more
consequence than cloth--An offer--The conditions--A hard question--How to
accomplish an object--Oscar's waywardness--Boarding-school
discipline--The High School--An anticipated novelty.


CHAPTER XI.

THE MORAL LESSON.

Oscar's shrewdness--His reputation for integrity--A new
want--Perplexity--A chance for speculation--A dishonest
device--Its success--Secrecy--The fraud discovered--Oscar's
defence--Restitution refused--Indignation--The Monday morning
lesson in morals--Dishonesty--Rectifying mistakes--The principle
unfolded--Restoring lost articles--A case for Oscar to decide--His
reluctant decision--Taking advantage of another's ignorance--Duty of
restitution--Other forms of dishonesty--Better to be cheated than to
cheat--Effect of the lesson upon Oscar.


CHAPTER XII.

SICKNESS.

Wet feet--A command disobeyed--Dabbling in the water--Playing
on the ice--An unexpected adventure--Afloat on an ice-cake--A
consultation--Danger and alarm--Spectators--A call for help--A critical
situation--The rescue--Effects of the adventure--Feverish dreams--Strange
feelings--The doctor's visit--Lung fever--The Latin prescription--Oscar's
removal--He grows worse--Peevishness--Passing the crisis--Improved
behavior--Getting better--General rejoicings--Further improvement--Return
of a bad habit--Fretfulness and impatience--A dispute--First attempt to
sit up--Its failure--First day in an easy chair--The sweets of
convalescence--Danger of a relapse.


CHAPTER XIII.

GETTING WELL.

Hunger--An evil suggestion--First visit down stairs--Midnight
supper--Weakness and exhaustion--An ill turn--The doctor's visit--The
mystery explained--Contents of a sick boy's stomach--The doctor's abrupt
farewell--His recall--Promise of obedience--Punishment for
imprudence--Directions--Effects of the relapse--Slow recovery--The
menagerie procession--A wet morning--Disobedience--Exposure, and its
consequences--Reading--The borrowed book--The curious letter--Puzzles,
with illustrations--Guessing riddles--Oscar's treatment of Benjamin--His
present feelings towards him--Ella's copy of the letter--Oscar's growing
impatience--An arrival--Uncle John--The loggers--Cousins never seen--A
journey decided upon--Solution of riddles, conundrums, &c.


CHAPTER XIV.

THE JOURNEY.

Setting out--A long and wearisome ride--Portland--The hotel--Going
to bed--The queer little lamp--Lonesomeness--The evening
prayer--Morning--Breakfast--The railroad depôt--Oscar's partiality for
stage-coaches and good horses--Eighty miles by steam--Dinner--The
stage-coach--An outside seat--The team and the roads--Villages--Mail
bags--Forests and rivers--End of the stage ride--Jerry--An
Introduction--A ride in a wagon--Bashfulness--An invisible village--The
journey's end--Mrs. Preston--More shy cousins--Supper--Evening
employments--Attempting to "scrape acquaintance"--Mary tells Oscar his
name--More questions--The tables turned--Getting acquainted in bed.


CHAPTER XV.

BROOKDALE.

A dull morning--New acquaintances--Inquiries about Jerry's school-time--A
long vacation--Work--Playmates--Rain--A fine sunrise--The distant pond--A
call to breakfast--Preliminary operations--Jerry's uncombed head--Oscar's
neatness--Jerry sent from the table--Bad manners--Bathing in the pond--An
anticipated pleasure interdicted--The river--A walk--The pond--Map of
Brookdale--Going to ride--The Cross-Roads--Billy's speed discussed--The
variety store--All sorts of things--Oscar's purchase--Returning
home--Short evenings--A nap--A queer dream--Oscar's smartness at
dreaming--Making fun of a country store--Mary's question--Crying
babies--Teasing--Walking backwards--A trip and a fall--A real crying
baby--Mary comforted--Jerry cuffed--Mortification.


CHAPTER XVI.

IN THE WOODS.

Forgotten medicine and renewed health--An excursion
planned--A gun wanted, but denied--Setting out on a long
tramp--Swamps--Upland--Brooks--How Brookdale got its name--Cutting
canes--Birch and beech--How to crook the handle of a cane--The philosophy
of it explained--The cigars--Fine groves--Stopping to rest--The
forest described--Birds and guns--Other game--Jim Oakley's strange
animal--Moose--The man who met a bear--A race--Mysterious disappearance
of the bear--The probable cause of his visit--The boy who killed two
bears--Oscar's courage--Prospect Rock--A fine view--The rabbit--The
woodchuck's hole--Crossing a swamp--Mosquitoes--The pond--The
hermit's hut--Some account of "Old Staples"--Buried treasures--Making
a fire--Baking potatoes and toasting cheese--Drinking pond
water--Dinner--Hunting for the hermit's money--What they meant to do with
it--A bath proposed--Smoothing over the matter--Going Into water--Drying
their hair--Going home--Lost In the woods--Arrival home--One kind of
punishment for wrong-doing.


CHAPTER XVII.

CLINTON.

The missing cap--Splitting wood--Jerry and Emily--A quarrel begun--The
cap found--A drink of buttermilk--Oscar's opinion of it--Jerry's love for
it--Another delay--Feeding the fowls--A mysterious letter--The Shanghae
rooster's complaint--Curiosity excited--The suspected author--Clinton's
education--Keeping dark about the letter--Who Clinton was--Where
he lived--Killing caterpillars--How caterpillars breed--The young
turkeys--The brood of chickens--The hen-coop--Clinton's management of
the poultry--His profits--Success the result of effort, not of luck--The
"rooster's letter" not alluded to--The piggery--The barn--"The horse's
prayer"--A new-comer--Her name--A discovery--Relationship of Clinton to
Whistler--Mrs. Davenport--Oscar conceals his dislike of Whistler--The
shop--Specimens of Clinton's work--Going home.


CHAPTER XVIII.

THE LETTER.

A forgotten duty called to mind--Letter writing--A mysterious
allusion--The private room--No backing out--Making a beginning--Getting
stuck--Idling away time--Prying into letters--A commotion among the
swallows--Teaching the young ones how to fly--A good lesson lost--Mary
and her book--Her talk about the pictures--A pretty picture--A wasted
hour--Making another attempt--His success--Effects of being in earnest--A
copy of Oscar's letter--Emily's inquisitiveness--A rebuke--The message
she wanted to send--The meadow lot--Mulching for trees--Going to the old
wood lot--Cutting birch twigs-Forgetting to be lazy--The load--A ride to
the Cross-Roads--Mailing the letter--Paying the postage in advance.


CHAPTER XIX.

THE RECALL.

Hankerings after a gun--A plan--Jim Oakley's gun--A dispute--An open
rupture--The broken gun--Going home mad--A call from Clinton--The
toiler--Summons home--Disappointment--Bad feeling between Oscar and
Jerry--How they slept--Remarks about their appearance at the breakfast
table--Borrowing trouble--Another visit proposed--Jerry's explosion of
anger--His imprudence--Confinement down cellar--An unhappy day--"Making
up" at night--A duty neglected--Inquiries about the gun--Starting for
home--A pleasant drive--The stage-coach--The cars--Luncheon--Half
an hour in Portland--The Boston train--A spark in the eye--Pain and
inflammation--Boston--Ralph's surprise--Welcome home--The eye-stone--The
intruder removed.


CHAPTER XX.

DOWNWARD PROGRESS.

Oscar's dread of going to school--Unsuccessful pleas--Oscar at
school--His indifference to his studies--A "talent for missing"--A
reproof--Kicking a cap--Whistler's generosity--Benny Wright--Oscar's
bad conduct--Regarded as incorrigible--The tobacco spittle--Oscar's
denial--Betrayed by his breath--A successful search--The teacher's
rebuke--The new copy--Its effect--A note for Oscar's father--What it led
to--Concealment of real feelings--Bridget's complaint--The puddle on the
kitchen floor--Oscar's story--Conflicting reports--A new flare-up--The
truth of the matter--Bridget's departure--Examination day--The
medals--The certificate for the High School--A refusal--Bitter fruits of
misconduct.


CHAPTER XXI.

NED MIXER.

Vacation--Associates--Edward Mixer--His character--Loitering around
railroad depôts--An excursion into the country--The railroad
bridge--Fruit--A fine garden--Getting over the fence--Looking for birds'
nests--Disappearance of Edward and Alfred--A chase--Escape of the
boys--Hailing each other--Edward's account of the adventure--A grand
speculation--Pluck--Secrecy--Curiosity not gratified--Arrival of Oscar's
uncle--The officer's interview with Mr. Preston--The real character and
history of Ned--Timely warning--Oscar's astonishment--What he knew
concerning Ned--A hint about forming new acquaintances--Oscar's
removal from city temptations decided on--A caution and
precaution--Departure--Ned's arrest and sentence--The "grand speculation"
never divulged.



Illustrations.


WINTER SCENE ON BOSTON COMMON . . . . . .  FRONTISPIECE

VIGNETTE . . . . . . . . . TITLE-PAGE

PLAYING SCHOOLMASTER.

THE ASSAULT.

BRIGHT AND HER FAMILY.

THANKSGIVING MARKET SCENE.

TIGER'S COUNTENANCE.

THE OVERTURN.

AFLOAT ON THE ICE.

A QUEER NAME.

THE DOUBLE FACE.

THE CAT-ERECT.

MAP OF BROOKDALE.

THE DINNER IN THE WOODS.

MARY AND THE PICTURE-BOOK.

THE STAGE-COACH.

HUNTING FOR BIRDS' NESTS.



OSCAR.


CHAPTER I.

A KITCHEN SCENE.

Bridget, the Irish servant girl, had finished the house-work for the
day, and sat down to do a little mending with her needle.  The fire in
the range, which for hours had sent forth such scorching blasts, was
now burning dim; for it was early in October, and the weather was mild
and pleasant.  The floor was swept, and the various articles belonging
in the room were arranged in their proper places, for the night.  The
mistress of the kitchen,--for Bridget claimed this as her rank, if not
her title,--was humming a queer medley of tunes known only to herself,
as her clumsy fingers were trying to coax the needle to perform some
dextrous feat that it did not seem inclined to do in her hands.  What
she was thinking about, is none of our business; but whatever it was,
her revery was suddenly disturbed, and the good nature that beamed from
her face dispelled, by the noisy clattering of more than one pair of
little boots on the stairs.  In a moment, the door opened with a jerk
and a push, and in bounded three boys, with as little display of
manners or propriety as so many savages might exhibit.  The oldest
directed his steps to the closet, singing, as he peered round among the
eatables:

  "Eggs, cheese, butter, bread,--
  Stick, stock, stone-dead."


"Biddy," he continued, "I 'm hungry--give me something to eat, quick."

Bridget paid no attention to this demand, but only twitched her needle
with a little more energy.

"I say, Biddy," continued the boy, "what did you have for supper?
Come, give me some, I 'm half starved."

"And why did n't ye come when the supper was ready, if ye wanted any?"
said Bridget.  "If ye won't ate with the rest, it's not me that will
wait upon ye, Master Oscar."

"Well," continued Oscar, "if you won't help me, I guess I can help
myself.  Ralph, what did you have for supper?"

The boy addressed named over several articles, among which were cake
and mince-pie, neither of which could Oscar find in the closet.

"Where did you put the pie, Biddy?" he inquired.

"It 's where ye won't find it," replied Bridget, "that's jist where it
is."

"I bet I _will_ find it, come now," said Oscar, with a determined air;
and he commenced the search in earnest, prying into every covered dish,
opening every drawer and bucket, and overhauling and disarranging every
part of the closet.  Bridget was just then in too irritable a mood to
bear this provoking invasion of her realm with patience.  In an angry
tone, she ordered the intruder to leave the closet, but he took no
notice of the command.  She repeated the order, making it more emphatic
by calling him a "plague" and a "torment," but he did not heed it.
Then she threatened to tell his parents of his misconduct, but this had
no effect.  Oscar continued his search for some minutes, but without
success; and he finally concluded to make his supper of bread and
butter, since he could find nothing more tempting to his appetite.

The fact was, Oscar was getting in the habit of being absent from his
meals, and calling for food at unseasonable hours, much to the
annoyance of Bridget.  She had complained of this to his mother several
times, without effect; and now she thought she would try a little
expedient of her own.  So, when she cleared away the supper-table that
evening, before Oscar came home, she hid away the cake and pies with
which the others had been served, and left only bread and butter in the
closet.  She gained her end, but the boy, in rummaging for the hidden
articles, had made her half an hour's extra work, in putting things to
rights again.

As Oscar stepped out of the closet, after his solitary supper, he moved
towards the youngest of the other boys, saying:

"Here, George, open your mouth and shut your eyes, and I 'll give you
something to make you wise."

George declined the gift, but Oscar insisted, and tried to force it
upon him.  A struggle ensued, and both rolled upon the floor, the one
crying and screaming with anger, and the other laughing as though he
considered it good fun.  George shut his teeth firmly together, but
Oscar succeeded in rubbing enough of the mysterious article upon his
lips to enable him to tell what it was.  It proved to be a piece of
pepper, a plate of which Oscar had found in the closet.

This little experiment, however, did not leave George in a very
pleasant frame of mind.  It was some time before he got over his
blubbering and pouting.  Oscar called him a "cry-baby," for making such
a fuss about a little bit of pepper, which epithet did not aid him much
in forgetting the injury he had received.

After awhile, quiet and harmony were in a measure restored.  Ralph and
George got their school-books, and began to look over the lessons they
were to recite in the morning; but Oscar not only remained idle,
himself, but seemed to try to interrupt them as much as possible, by
his remarks.  By-and-bye, finding they did not take much notice of his
observations, he took from his jacket pocket a small tin tube, and
commenced blowing peas through it, aiming them at his brothers, at
Bridget, and at the lamp.  Ralph, after two or three had taken effect
on his face, got up in a pet, and took his book up stairs to the
sitting-room.  George scowled and scolded, as the annoying pellets flew
around his head, but he did not mean to be driven away by such small
shot.  Bridget, too, soon lost her patience, as the peas rattled upon
the newly-swept floor.

"Git away with yer pays, Oscar," said she; "don't ye be clutterin' up
the clane floor with 'em, that's a good b'y."

"They aint 'pays,' they are _peas_," replied Oscar; "can't you say
peas, Biddy?"

"I don't care what ye call 'em," said Bridget; "only kape the things in
yer pocket, and don't bother me with 'em."

"Who 's bothering you?" said Oscar; "me 'pays' don't make any
dirt--they 're just as clean as your floor."

"Ye 're a sassy b'y, that's jist what ye are."

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

"Faith, if it was me that had the doin' of it, I bet I 'd larn ye
better manners, ye great, impudent good-for-nothin', if I had to bate
yer tin times a day."

"You would n't, though, would you?" said Oscar; and he continued the
shower of peas until he had exhausted his stock, and then picked most
of them up again, to serve for some future occasion.  He had hardly
finished this last operation, when his mother, who had been out,
returned home.  As soon as she entered the kitchen, George began to
pour out his complaints to her.

"Mother," he said, "Oscar 's been plaguing us like everything, all the
evening.  He got me down on the floor, and rubbed a hot pepper on my
mouth, and tried to make me eat it.  And he's been rummaging all round
the kitchen, trying to find some pie.  And then he went to shooting
peas at us, and he got Bridget real mad, and Ralph had to clear out, to
study his lesson.  I told him--"

"There, there, George, that will do," replied his mother; "I am sick of
hearing these complaints.  Oscar, why is it that I can't stir out of
the house, when you are at home, without your making trouble with
Bridget or the children?  I do wish you would try to behave yourself
properly.  You are getting the ill-will of everybody in the house, by
your bad conduct.  I really believe your brothers and sisters will
begin to hate you, before long, if you keep on in this way.  For your
own sake, if for nothing more, I should think you would try to do
better.  If I were in your place, I would try to keep on good terms
with my brothers and sisters, if I quarrelled with everybody else."

Oscar made no reply to this, and the subject was soon dropped.  His
mother was too much accustomed to such complaints of his misconduct, to
think very seriously of them; and he was himself so used to such mild
rebukes as the foregoing, that they made little impression upon his
mind.  The boys, who all slept in one chamber, soon retired for the
night; but Oscar took no further notice of the occurrences of the
evening, except to apply the nickname of "mammy's little tell-tale" to
George--a title of contempt by which he often addressed his little
brother.

I am afraid that the title of "tell-tale" was not wholly undeserved by
George.  True, he often had just cause of complaint; but he was too
ready to bring whining accusations against his brothers and sisters,
for every trifling thing.  He complained so much that his mother could
not always tell when censure was deserved.  It had become a habit with
him, and a dozen times a day he would go to her, with the complaint
that Oscar had been plaguing him, or Ella had got something that
belonged to him, or Ralph would not do this or that.

George, who was the youngest of the children, was at this time seven
years old; Ralph was two years and half older, and Oscar, who was the
oldest son, was about half way between thirteen and fourteen.  They had
two sisters.  Alice, the oldest, was fifteen years of age, and Eleanor,
or Ella, as she was commonly called, was about eleven.

The father of these boys and girls was a shop-keeper in Boston.  His
business required so much of his attention, that he was seldom with his
family, except at meal-times and nights.  Even in the evening he was
usually at the shop; but when it so happened that he could remain at
home after tea, it was his delight to settle himself comfortably down
in the big rocking chair, in the well-lighted sitting-room, and to muse
and doze, while Alice sang, and played upon the piano-forte.  He had so
many other cares, that he did not like to be troubled with bad reports
of his children's conduct, This was so well understood by all the
family, that even George seldom ventured to go to him with a complaint.
The management of domestic affairs was thus left almost entirely with
Mrs. Preston, and she consulted her husband in regard to these matters
only when grave troubles arose.

I have thus briefly introduced to my readers the family, one of whose
members is to form the principal subject of the following pages.



CHAPTER II.

OSCAR IN SCHOOL.

The school which Oscar attended was held in a large and lofty brick
building, a short distance from the street on which he lived.  His
brothers attended the same school, but his sisters did not, it being
only for boys.  The pupils numbered four or five hundred--a good many
boys to be together in one building.  But though belonging to one
school, and under the control of one head master, they did not often
meet together in one assembly.  They were divided into eight or ten
branches, of about fifty scholars each, and each branch had its own
separate room and teacher.  There were however, only four classes in
the whole school; and a this time Oscar was a member of the first, or
highest class.  There was a large hall in the upper story of the
building, in which the entire school assembled on exhibition days, and
when they met for the practice of singing or declamation.

There were lively and merry times in the vicinity of the school-house,
I can assure you, for half an hour before the opening of school, and
for about the same length of time after the exercises closed.  Four
hundred boys cannot well be brought together, without making some stir.
Every morning and afternoon, as the pupils went to and from school, the
streets in the neighborhood would for a few minutes seem to swarm with
boys, of every imaginable size, shape, manners, dress, and appearance.
Usually, they went back and forth in little knots; and with their books
and slates under their arms, their bright, happy faces, their joyous
laugh, and their animated movements, they presented a most pleasing
sight,--"a sight for sore eyes," as a Scotchman might say.  If anybody
disputes this, he must be a sour and crabbed fellow.

Oscar, although not the most prompt and punctual of scholars, used
occasionally to go to school in season to have a little fun with his
mates, before the exercises commenced.  One day, entering the
school-room a little before the time, he put on an old coat which his
teacher wore in-doors, stuck a quill behind his ear, and made a pair of
spectacles from some pasteboard, which he perched upon his nose.
Arranged, in this fantastical manner, he seated himself with great
dignity in the teacher's chair, and began to "play school-master," to
the amusement of several other boys.  It so happened that the teacher
arrived earlier than usual that day, and he was not a little amused, as
he suddenly entered the room, and witnessed the farce that was going
on.  Oscar jumped from his seat, but the master made him take it again,
and remain in it just as he caught him, with his great-coat, pasteboard
spectacles and quill, until all the scholars had assembled, and it was
time to commence the studies of the day.  This afforded fine sport to
the other boys, but Oscar did not much relish the fun, and he never
attempted to amuse himself in that way again.

[Illustration: Playing Schoolmaster]

I am sorry that this harmless piece of roguery is not the most serious
charge that candor obliges me to bring against Oscar.  But to tell the
truth, he was not noted either for his studious habits or his correct
deportment; and there was very little prospect that he would be
considered a candidate for the "Franklin medals," which were to be
distributed to the most deserving members of his class, when they
graduated, the ensuing July.  And yet Oscar was naturally a bright and
intelligent boy.  He was quick to learn, when he applied himself; but
he was indolent, and did not like to take the trouble of studying his
lessons.  Whenever he could be made to take hold of a lesson in
earnest, he soon mastered it; but the consciousness of this power often
led him to put off his lessons to the last minute, and then perhaps
something would happen to prevent his preparing himself at all.

A day or two after the "kitchen scene" described in the preceding
chapter, Oscar was sitting at his desk in the school-room, with an open
book before him, but with his eyes idly staring at a blackboard affixed
to one of the walls.  The teacher watched him a moment, and then spoke
to him.

"Oscar," he said, "what do you find so very fascinating about that
blackboard?  You have been looking at it very intently for several
minutes--what do you see that interests you so!"

Oscar hung his head, but made no reply.

"Are you ready to recite your geography lesson?" continued the master.

"No, sir."

"Why do you not study it, then'"

"I don't feel like studying," replied Oscar.

"Very well," said the teacher, quite pleasantly; "if you don't feel
like it, you need n't study.  You may come here."

Oscar stepped out to the platform on which the teacher's desk was
placed.

"There," continued the master, pointing to a blackboard facing the
school, "you may stand there and look at that board just as long as you
please.  But you must not look at anything else, and I would advise you
not to let me catch your eyes turning either to the right or the left.
Now mind and keep your eyes on the board, and when you feel like
studying let me know."

Oscar took the position pointed out to him, with his back towards the
boys, and with his face so near the blackboard, that he could see
nothing else without turning his head--an operation that would be sure
to attract the attention of the master.  At first he thought it would
be good fun to stand there, and for awhile the novelty of the thing did
amuse him a little.  When he began to grow weary, he contrived to
interest himself by tracing out the faint chalk-marks of long-forgotten
problems, that had not been entirely obliterated from the blackboard.
This afforded employment for his mind for a time; but by-and-bye he
began to grow tired and uneasy.  His eyes longed to see something else,
and his legs were weary of standing so long in one position.  He
wondered, too, whether the boys were looking at him, and whether they
smiled at his strange employment.  At last, after doing penance about
an hour, his exhaustion got the better of his stubbornness, and on
informing the master that he thought ho could study now, he was
permitted to take his seat.

After returning to his desk, Oscar had but little time to finish
learning his geography lesson, before the class was called out to
recite.  As was too often the case, he was but half prepared.  The
subject of the lesson was New York State.  Several of the questions put
to Oscar were answered wrong, either wholly or in part.  When asked
what great lakes bordered on New York, he replied:

"Lake Erie and Lake Superior."

When the question was given to another, and correctly answered, Oscar
exclaimed:

"That's what I meant--Erie and Ontario; but I was n't thinking what I
said."

This was somewhat of a habit with Oscar.  When he "missed" a question,
he was very apt to say, after the next boy had answered it, "I knew,
only I could n't think," or, "I was just going to say so."

Another question put to him was, whether the water of the great New
York lakes was fresh or salt.  Oscar replied that it was salt.  It is
but justice to add, how ever, that nothing was said in the lesson of
the day, on this point, although the question had occurred in a
previous lesson.  Noticing that several of the boys laughed at Oscar's
blunder, the teacher remarked:

"That was a very foolish answer, Oscar, but you are not the first nor
the wisest person that has made the same mistake.  When the British
went to war with us, in 1812, it is said that all their war vessels
intended to navigate the lakes, were furnished with tanks and casks for
carrying a full supply of freshwater; and I have been told that an
apparatus is still in existence in one of the Canadian navy yards,
which the English government sent over, some years ago, for distilling
fresh water from Lake Erie.  But an American school-boy of your age
ought to know better than this, if an English lord of the admiralty
does not.  These great lakes are among the remarkable features of our
own country, and every American child should know something about them.
I should suppose," continued the teacher, "that a boy who could afford
to look steadily at nothing for an hour, might take a little pains to
inform himself about so common a matter as this, so as not to appear so
ridiculous, when a simple question is asked him."

Before the lesson was concluded, Oscar made still another mistake.
There was an allusion in the lesson to the great fire of 1885, by which
an immense amount of property in New York city was destroyed.  When the
teacher asked him how many buildings were said to have been consumed,
he replied:

"Three hundred and fifty--five hundred and thirty--no, three hundred
and fifty."

"Which number do you mean?" inquired the master.

"I aint sure which it is," replied Oscar, after a moment's hesitation;
"it's one or the other, I don't know which."

"You are about as definite," said the teacher, "as the Irish recruit,
who said his height was five feet ten or ten feet five, he was n't
certain which.  But are you _sure_ that the number of buildings burnt
was either three hundred and fifty, or five hundred and thirty?"

"Why--yes--I--believe--it was one or the other," replied Oscar,
hesitatingly.

"You _believe_ it was, do you?  Well, I believe you know just nothing
about the lesson.  You may go to your seat, and study it until you can
answer every question; and after school I will hear you recite it, and
remember, you will not go home until you _can_ recite it."

The class continued their recitation, and Oscar returned to his seat,
and commenced studying the lesson anew.  It was already late in the
afternoon, and as he did not like the idea of stopping after school, he
gave pretty close attention to his book during the rest of the session.
About fifteen minutes after the school was dismissed, he told the
teacher he was prepared to recite, and he succeeded in getting through
the lesson with tolerable accuracy.  When he had finished, the teacher
talked with him very plainly about his indolent habits in school, and
the consequences that would hereafter result from them.

"I would advise you," he said, "to do one of two things,--either commit
your lessons perfectly, hereafter, or else give up study entirely, and
ask your father to take you from school and put you to some business.
You can learn as fast as any boy in school, if you will only give your
attention to it; but I despise this half-way system that you have
fallen into.  It is only wasting time to half learn a thing, as you did
your geography lesson this afternoon.  You studied it just enough to
get a few indistinct impressions, and what little you did learn you
were not sure of.  It would be better for you to master but one single
question a day, and then _know_ that you know it, than to fill your
head with a thousand half-learned, indefinite, and uncertain ideas.  I
have told you all this before, but you do not seem to pay any attention
to it.  I am sorry that it is so, for you might easily stand at the
head of the school, if you would try."

Oscar _had_ received such advice before, but, as his teacher intimated,
he had not profited much by it.  If anything, he had grown more
indolent and negligent, within a few months.  On going home that night,
Ralph accosted him with the inquiry:

"What did you think of the blackboard, Oscar?  Do you suppose you
should know it again, if you should happen to see it?"

"What do you mean?" he inquired, feigning ignorance.

"O, you 've forgotten it a'ready, have you?" continued Ralph.  "You
don't remember seeing anything of a blackboard this afternoon, do you?"

"But who told you about it?" inquired Oscar; for though both attended
the same school, their places were in different rooms.

"O, I know what's going on," said Ralph; "you need n't try to be so
secret about it."

"Well, I know who told you about it--'t was Bill Davenport, was n't
it?" inquired Oscar.

Willie and Ralph were such great cronies, that Oscar's supposition was
a very natural one.  Indeed, Ralph could not deny it without telling a
falsehood, and so he made no reply.  Oscar, perceiving he had guessed
right, added, in a contemptuous tone:

"The little, sneaking tell-tale--I 'll give him a good pounding for
that, the first time I catch him."

"You 're too bad, Oscar," interposed his brother; "Willie did n't
suppose you cared anything about standing before the blackboard--he
only spoke of it because he thought it was something queer."

Seeing Oscar was in so unamiable a mood, Ralph said nothing more about
the subject, at that time.



CHAPTER III.

PAYING OFF A GRUDGE.

The morning after the events just related, as Ralph was on his way to
school, he fell in with Willie Davenport, or "Whistler," as he was
often sportively called, by his playmates, in allusion to his fondness
for a species of music to which most boys are more or less addicted.
And I may as well say here, that he was a very good whistler, and came
honestly by the title by which he was distinguished among his fellows.
His quick ear caught all the new and popular melodies of the day,
before they became threadbare, which gave his whistling an air of
freshness and novelty that few could rival.  It was to this
circumstance--the quality of his whistling, rather than the
quantity--that he was chiefly indebted for the name of Whistler.  Nor
was he ashamed of his nickname, as he certainly had no need to be; for
it was not applied to him in derision, but playfully and good-naturedly.

Whistler and Ralph were good friends.  There was a difference of
between two and three years in their ages, Whistler being about twelve
years old; but their dispositions harmonized together well, and quite a
strong friendship had grown up between them.  A very different feeling,
however, had for some time existed between Oscar and Whistler.  They
were in the same class at school; but Whistler studied hard, and thus,
though much younger than Oscar, he stood far before him as a scholar.
This awakened some feeling of resentment in Oscar, and he never let
slip any opportunity for annoying or mortifying his more industrious
and successful class-mate.

On their way to school, on the morning in question, Ralph told Whistler
of Oscar's threat, and advised him to avoid his brother as much as
possible, for a day or two, until the affair of the blackboard should
pass from his mind.  Whistler heeded this caution, and was careful not
to put himself in the way of his enemy.  He succeeded in eluding him
through the day, and was on his way home from school in the afternoon,
when Oscar, who he thought had gone off in another direction, suddenly
appeared at his side.

"You little tell-tale, you," cried Oscar, "what did you tell Ralph
about the blackboard for!  I 'll learn you to mind your own business,
next time, you mean, sneaking meddler.  Take that--and that," he
continued, giving Whistler several hard blows with  his fist.  The
latter attempted to dodge the blows, but did not return them, for this
he knew would only increase the anger of Oscar, who was so much his
superior in size and strength, as well as in the art of fisticuffs,
that he could do just about as he pleased with him.  The affray,
however, was soon brought to an unexpected end, by a gentleman who
happened to witness it.  Seizing Oscar by the collar of his jacket, he
exclaimed:

"Here, here, sir! what are you doing to that little fellow?  Don't you
know enough, you great lubber, to take a boy of your own size, if you
want to fight?  Now run, my little man, and get out of his way,"
continued the stranger, turning to Whistler, and still holding Oscar by
the collar.

[Illustration: The Assault.]

Whistler hesitated for a moment between the contending impulses of
obedience and manliness; and then, drawing himself up to his full
stature, he said, with a respectful but decided air:

"No, sir, I have n't injured him, and I won't run away from him."

"Well said, well said--you are a brave little fellow," continued the
gentleman, somewhat surprised at the turn the affair was taking.  "What
is your name, sir?"

"William Davenport."

"And what is this boy's name?"

"Oscar," replied Willie, and there he stopped, as if unwilling to
expose further the name of his abuser.

"Well you may go now, Oscar," said the gentleman, relinquishing his
hold; "but if you lay your hands on William again, I shall complain of
you."

The two boys walked off in opposite directions, the gentleman keeping
an eye upon Oscar until Whistler was out of his reach.

A little knot of boys was drawn together by the circumstance just
related, among whom was George, Oscar's youngest brother.  He witnessed
the attack, but knew nothing of its cause.  As he went directly home,
while Oscar did not, he had an opportunity to report to his mother and
Ralph the scene he had just beheld.  Ralph now related to his mother
the incident of the preceding day, which led to the assault; for,
seeing Oscar's unwillingness to have anything said about it, he had not
mentioned the matter to any one at home.  Ralph was a generous-hearted
boy, and in this case was actuated by a regard for Oscar's feelings,
rather than by fear.

Oscar did not come home that night until after dark.  As he entered the
sitting-room, Alice, who was seated at the piano-forte, broke short off
the piece she was playing, and said, looking at him as sternly as she
could,

"You great ugly boy!"

"Why, what's the matter now?" inquired Oscar, who hardly knew whether
this rough salutation was designed to be in fun or in earnest; "don't I
look as well as usual?"

"You looked well beating little Willie Davenport, don't you think you
did?" continued his sister, with the same stern look.  "I 'm perfectly
ashamed of you--I declare, I did n't know you could do such a mean
thing as that."

"I don't care," replied Oscar, "I 'll lick him again, if he does n't
mind his own business."

As Oscar did not know that George witnessed the assault, he was at a
loss to know how Alice heard of it.  She refused to tell him, and he
finally concluded that Whistler or his mother must have called there,
to enter a complaint against him.  Pretty soon Mrs. Preston entered the
room, and sat down, to await the arrival of Oscar's father to tea.  She
at once introduced the topic which was uppermost in her mind, by the
inquiry:

"Oscar, what is the trouble between you and Willie Davenport?"

"Why," replied Oscar, "he 's been telling stories about me."

"Do you mean false stories?"

"Yes--no--not exactly false, but it was n't true, neither."

"It must have been a singular story, to have been either false nor
true.  And as it appears there was but one story, I should like to know
what it was."

"He told Ralph I had to stand up and look at a blackboard an hour."

"Was that false?"

"Yes," said Oscar, for in replying to his mother, of late, he had
usually omitted the "ma'am" (madam) which no well-bred boy will fail to
place after the yes or no addressed to a mother; "yes, it was a lie,
for I need n't have stood there five minutes, if I had n't wanted to."

"Did you stand before the blackboard because you wanted to, or was it
intended as a punishment for not attending to your lesson!"

"Why, I suppose it was meant for a punishment, but the master told me I
might go to my seat, whenever I wanted to study."

"Then," said Mrs. Preston, "after all your quibbling, I don't see that
Willie told any falsehood.  And, in fact, I don't believe he had any
idea of injuring you, when he told Ralph of the affair.  He only spoke
of it as a little matter of news.  But even if he had told a lie about
you, or had related the occurrence out of ill-will towards you, would
that be any excuse for your conduct, in beating him as you did this
afternoon!  Do you remember the subject of your last Sabbath-school
lesson?"

Oscar could not recall it, and shook his head in the negative.

"I have not forgotten it," continued his mother; "it was on forgiving
our enemies, and it is a lesson that you very much need to learn.  'If
ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive
your trespasses,'--that was one of the verses of the lesson.  It is
noble to forgive, but it is mean to retaliate.  You must learn to
conquer your resentful spirit, or you will be in trouble all the time.
I shall report this matter to your father when he comes.  I suppose you
remember what he promised you, when you had your fight with Sam Oliver?"

Oscar remembered it very distinctly.  On that occasion, his father
reprimanded him with much severity, and assured him that any repetition
of the fault would not go unpunished.

Mr. Preston soon came in, and as the family sat at the tea-table, he
was informed of Oscar's misconduct.  After scolding the culprit with
much sharpness, for his attack upon Willie, he concluded by ordering
him immediately to bed.  Although it yet lacked two hours of his usual
bed-time, Oscar did not consider his punishment very severe, but
retired to his chamber, feeling delighted that he had got off so much
easier than he anticipated.  Indeed, so little did he think of his
father's command, that he felt in no hurry to obey it.  Instead of
going to bed, he sat awhile at the window, listening to the music of a
flute which some one in the neighborhood was playing upon.  Presently
Ralph and George, who slept in the same chamber with him, came up to
keep him company.  They amused themselves together for some time, and
Oscar quite forgot that he had been sent to bed, until the door
suddenly opened, and his father, whose attention had been attracted by
the noise, stood before him.

"Did n't I tell you to go to bed an hour ago, Oscar?" he inquired.

"Yes, sir."

"Why have n't you obeyed me, then?"

"Because," said Oscar, "I 've got a lesson to get to-night, and I have
n't studied it yet."

"If you 've got a lesson to learn, where is your book?" inquired his
father.

"It 's down stairs; I was afraid to go after it, and so I was trying to
coax Ralph to get it for me."

"O, what a story!" cried George; "why, father, he has n't said one word
about his book."

This was true.  Oscar, in his extremity, had hastily framed a
falsehood, trusting that his assurance would enable him to carry it
through.  And he would probably have succeeded but for George; as
Ralph, in his well-meant but very mistaken kindness for Oscar, would
not have been very likely to expose him.  But the lie was nailed, and
Oscar's bold and wicked push had only placed him in a far worse
position than he occupied before.  His father, for a moment, could
scarcely believe his ears; but this feeling of astonishment soon gave
way to a frown, before which Oscar cowered like a sheep before a lion.
Mr. Preston was a man of strong passions, but of few words.  Having set
forth briefly but in vivid colors the aggravated nature of Oscar's
three-fold offence,--his attack upon Willie, his disobedience when
ordered to bed, and the falsehood with which he attempted to cover up
his disobedience,--he proceeded to inflict summary and severe
chastisement upon the offender.  It was very rarely that he resorted to
this means of discipline, but this he deemed a case where it was
imperatively demanded.

Silence reigned in the boys' chamber the rest of the night.  Oscar was
too sullen to speak; Ralph silently pitied his brother, not less for
the sins into which he had fallen than for the pain he had suffered;
and George was too much taken up with thinking about the probable
after-clap of this storm, to notice anything else.

Oscar was fond of his bed, and was usually the last one of the family
to rise, especially in cool weather.  On the morning after the
occurrences above related, he laid abed later than usual even with him.
His father had gone to the store, and the children were out-doors at
play, before he made his appearance at the breakfast-table.  He sat
down to the deserted table, and was helping himself to the cold
remnants of the meal, when his mother entered the room.  Oscar noticed
that she looked unusually sad and dejected.  After sitting in silence a
few moments, she remarked:

"You see how I look, this morning, Oscar.  I did not sleep half an hour
last night, and now I am not fit to be up from my bed--and all on your
account.  I am afraid your misconduct will be the death of me, yet.  I
used to love to think how much comfort I should take in you, when you
should grow up into a tall, manly youth; but I have been sadly
disappointed, so far.  The older you grow, the worse you behave, and
the more trouble you make me.  Do you intend always to go on in this
way?"

Oscar nervously spread the slice of bread before him, but made no
reply.  His mother continued her reproofs, in the same sad but
affectionate tone.  She appealed to his sense of right, to his
gratitude, and to his hopes of future success and respectability in
life.  She described the sad end to which these beginnings of
wrong-doing would inevitably lead him, and earnestly besought him to
try to do better, before his bad habits should become confirmed.  Her
earnest manner, and her pale, haggard cheeks, down which tears were
slowly stealing, touched the feelings of Oscar.  Moisture began to
gather in his eyes, in spite of himself.  He tried to appear very much
interested in the food he was eating, and to look as though he was
indifferent to what his mother was saying.  And, in a measure, he did
succeed in choking down those good feelings which were beginning to
stir in his heart, and which, mistaken boy! he thought it would be
unmanly to betray.

Yes, he was mistaken--sadly mistaken.  Unmanly to be touched by a
mother's grief, and to be moved by a mother's tender entreaties!
Unmanly to acknowledge that we have done wrong, or to express sorrow
for the wrong act!  Unmanly to resolve to resist temptation in the
future!  Where is this monstrous law of manliness to be found?  If
anywhere, it must be only in the code of pirates and desperadoes, who
have renounced all human laws and ties.

The school hour was at hand, and Oscar was obliged to start as soon as
he had finished his breakfast.  Had he not stifled the better
promptings of his heart, and thus done violence to his nature, he would
not have left his mother without assuring her that he felt sorry for
his misconduct; for he _did_ feel some degree of regret, although he
was too proud to acknowledge it.  His mother, however, saw some tokens
of feeling which he could not wholly conceal, and she left him with a
sad heart, but with the hope that at least some faint impression had
been made upon him.

And, indeed, some impression was made upon Oscar's heart.  The feeling
of sullenness with which he awoke, had subsided into something
resembling "low spirits."  Nor was this all the effect his mother's
conversation had upon him.  As he lay awake in the morning, he had
planned the secret destruction of a beautiful sled which had been given
to George, the winter previous, and which was very precious in the eyes
of the owner; but now he relinquished this mean and revengeful design.
Little George thus escaped the dreaded "after-clap," but he never knew
what a blow it would have been, nor how near he came to feeling its
full force.



CHAPTER IV.

THE HOTEL.

One of Oscar's most intimate companions was a boy of about his own age,
named Alfred Walton, who attended the same school with him.  Alfred's
father was dead; but he had a step-father, whom he called father, and
with whom he lived.  His home was to Oscar a very attractive one; for
it was a public house, and had large stables and a stage-office
attached, and was usually full of company.  Alfred's step-father was
the landlord of the hotel, and of course he and his young friends were
privileged characters about the premises.  Oscar and Alfred were
together a great deal of the time, when out of school, and quite a warm
friendship existed between them.  On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons,
and during the other play hours of the week, Oscar might generally be
found about the hotel premises, or riding on the coaches with Alfred.
He only regretted that he could not stay there altogether; for he
thought it must be a fine thing to live in such a place, where he could
do pretty much as he pleased, without anybody's interference.  Such, at
least, seemed to be the privilege of Alfred; for everybody, from his
step-father down to the humblest servants, appeared to have too much
other business on their hands to give much attention to his boyish
movements.

Oscar made many acquaintances at the hotel, not a few of which were
anything but desirable for a boy of his age and character.  He was on
chatty terms with all the stage-drivers, hostlers, and servants about
the premises, and also got acquainted with many strangers who stopped
there for a season.  He was very fond of listening to the stories of
the drivers and other frequenters of the stage-office, and he would sit
by the hour, inhaling the smoke of their cigars, admiring their long
yarns, and laughing at the jokes they cracked.  Much of this
conversation was coarse and even vulgar, such as a pure mind could not
listen to without suffering contamination, or at least a blunting of
its delicate sensibilities.  It is a serious misfortune for a youth to
be exposed to such influences, but Oscar did not know it, or did not
believe it.

Among the hangers about the stable, was a queer fellow who went by the
name of Andy.  His real name was Anderson.  He was weak-minded and
childish, his lack of intellect taking the form of silliness rather
than of stupidity.  Indeed, he was bright and quick in his way, but it
was a very foolish and nonsensical way.  He was famous among all the
boys of the neighborhood, for using strange and amusing words, and
especially for a system of spelling on which he prided himself, and
which is not laid down in any of the dictionaries.  He afforded much
sport to the boys, who would gather around him, and give him words by
the dozen to spell.  The readiness and ingenuity with which he would
mis-spell the most simple words, was quite amusing to them.  He never
hesitated, nor stopped to think, but always spelt the given word in his
peculiar way, just as promptly as though he did it according to a rule
which he perfectly understood.

One Saturday afternoon, as Oscar and Alfred were looking about the
stable, Andy suddenly made his appearance, and asked them for a bit of
tobacco.  Both of the boys, by the way, wished to be considered
tobacco-chewers, and usually carried a good-sized piece of the vile
weed in their pockets, though it must be confessed that the little they
consumed was rather for appearance sake, than because they liked it.
They also smoked occasionally, for the same reason.

"You must spell us a word or two, first," said Alfred, in reply to
Andy's request.

"No, I can't stop--got important business to negotiate," replied Andy.

"Yes, you must," continued Alfred; "spell fun."

"P-h-u-g-n," said Andy.

"Spell hotel," continued Alfred.

"H-o-e-t-e-l-l-e."

"Spell calculate," said Oscar.

"K-a-l-k-e-w-l-a-i-g-h-t--there, that 'll do," continued Andy.

"No, spell one more word--spell tobacco, and you shall have it," added
Alfred.

"T-o-e-b-a-c-k-k-o-u-g-h--now hand over the 'baccy.'"

"I have n't got any--have you, Oscar?" said Alfred

Oscar fumbled in his pockets, but there was none to be found.

"You mean, contemptible scalliwags!" exclaimed Andy, "why did n't you
tell me that before?  You catch me in that trap again, if you can!" and
he walked off in a passion, amid the laughter of Oscar and Alfred.

"Let's go and see the pups, Alf," said Oscar, after they had got done
laughing over the joke they had played upon Andy.

Alfred's step-father had a fine dog of the hound species, with a litter
of cunning little pups.  A bed had been made for her and the little
ones in a corner of the yard, adjoining the stable, with a rough
covering to shelter them from wind and storms.  The pups were now
several weeks old.  There were five of them, and a fat and frolicksome
set they were too.  As the boys approached them, they were frisking and
capering as usual; tumbling and rolling over one another, climbing upon
the back of their mother, and pulling and barking at the straw.  Their
mother, whose name was Bright, sat watching their gambols with a very
affectionate but sedate look.  Perhaps she was wondering whether _she_
was ever so mischievous and frisky as these little fellows were.  When
the pups looked up and saw the boys, they stopped their fun for a time,
for they were not yet much accustomed to company.  Bright, however,
knew both Alfred and Oscar; and as she was a dog of good education and
accomplished manners, she did not allow herself to be disconcerted in
the least by their presence.

"You did n't know father had given all the pups but one to me, did you,
Oscar?" inquired Alfred.

"No,--has he, though?" asked Oscar.

"Yes, he has.  I knew I could make him say yes, and so I teased him
till he did.  He 's going to pick out one, to keep, and I 'm to have
all the rest."

"That's first-rate," said Oscar; "and you 'll give me one, won't you?"

"Yes, you may have one," replied Alfred; "but don't tell the boys I
gave it to you, for I mean to sell the others."

"Then I 'll pay you for mine," continued Oscar; "I can get the money
out of father, I guess."

"No, you shan't pay for it, for I meant you should have one of them, if
you wanted it," replied Alfred.

"Thank you," said Oscar, "I should like one very much."

After looking at the dogs awhile, and canvassing their respective
merits, they happened to notice that one of the drivers was about
starting off with his coach.

"Halloo, Mack!" cried Alfred, "where are you going!"

"To the depôt," replied the driver.

"Let's go, Oscar," said Alfred; and both boys ran for the coach, the
driver stopping until they had climbed up to his seat.

A ride of five minutes brought them to the depôt, where the driver
reined up, to await the arrival of a train, which was nearly due.  Many
other carriages, of various kinds, were standing around the depôt, for
the same purpose.  Oscar and Alfred rambled about the building and
adjoining grounds, watching the operations that were going on; for
though they had witnessed the same operations many times before, there
is something quite attractive about such scenes, even to older heads
than theirs.  On one track, within the depôt, were six or eight cars,
beneath which a man was crawling along, carefully examining the running
gear, and giving each wheel two or three smart raps with a hammer, to
see if it had a clear and natural ring.  These cars had lately arrived
from a distant city, and must undergo a careful scrutiny before they
are again used.  If any break or flaw is discovered, the car is sent
out to the repair-shop.  On another track, the men were making up the
next outward train.  The particular baggage and passenger cars that
were to be used, had to be separated from the others, and arranged in
their proper order.  Another track was kept clear, for the train that
was soon to arrive.  Two or three locomotives, outside of the depôt,
were fizzing and hissing, occasionally moving back or forward, with a
loud coughing noise, or changing from one track to another.

The bell of the looked-for train was at length heard.  The engine, as
it approached, was switched upon a side-track, but the cars, from which
it had been detached, kept on their course until the brakes brought
them to a stand in the depôt.  The passengers now swarmed forth by
hundreds--a curious and motley crowd of men, women, and children;
good-looking people, and ill-looking ones; the fine lady in silk, and
the rough backwoods-man in homespun; the middle-aged woman in black,
with three trunks and four bandboxes, and the smooth-faced dandy, whose
sole baggage was a slender cane.

The cars were at length emptied of their living freight, and most of
the passengers had secured their baggage.  Those who wished to ride,
had mostly engaged seats in the various hacks and coaches, whose
drivers accosted every passenger, as he got out of the cars, with their
invitations to "ride up."  Alfred and Oscar now started to look after
the stage-coach in which they rode to the depôt.  They found it loaded
with passengers and baggage, and the driver was talking with two small
lads, of from twelve to thirteen years of age.

"Here, Alf," said the driver, "you are just the fellow I want, but I
thought you had gone.  These boys want to go to the hotel, but I have
n't room to take them.  They say they had just as lief walk, and if you
'll let them go with you, I 'll take their trunk along."

This was readily agreed to.  The driver made room for the trunk on the
top of the coach, and the young strangers started for the hotel, in
company with Alfred and Oscar.  As they walked along, they grew quite
sociable.  The two new-comers,--who, by the way, were quite respectable
in their appearance,--stated that they belonged in one of the cities of
Maine, and had never been in Boston before.  They were brothers; and
both their parents being dead, they said they were on their way to the
west, where they had an uncle, who had sent for them to come and live
with him.  They had a good many questions to ask about Boston, and said
they meant to look around the city some the next day, as they must
resume their journey on Monday.  Alfred said he would go with them, and
show them the principal sights; and Oscar, too, would have gladly
volunteered, were it not that his father required him to go to church
and the Sabbath-school on that day, and to stay in the house when not
thus engaged.

The boys had now reached the hotel, where the trunk had already
arrived.  A room was appropriated to the young guests, and Alfred and
Oscar conducted them to it, and remained awhile in conversation with
them.  By-and-bye, the oldest of the strangers asked Alfred if he would
go and show them where they could buy some good pistols.  Alfred
readily agreed to this, and the four boys started off towards the shops
where such articles are sold.  On their way through the crowded
streets, the new-comers found much to attract their attention.  They
seemed inclined to stop at every shop window, to admire some object,
and it was nearly dark when they reached the place where they were to
make their purchase.  Here, amid the variety of pistols that were
exhibited to them, they were for a time unable to decide which to
choose.  At length, however, aided by the advice of Alfred and Oscar,
they picked out two that they concluded to buy.  They also purchased a
quantity of powder and balls, and then desired to look at some dirks,
two of which they decided to take.  Some fine pocket-knives next
arrested their attention, which were examined, and greatly admired by
all the boys.  The oldest of the strangers, who did all the business,
concluded to take four of these, and then settled for all the articles
purchased.  The bill was not very small, but his pocket-book was
evidently well supplied, and he paid it with out any difficulty.

After they had left the store, the oldest boy gave Oscar and Alfred,
each, one of the pocket-knives, to pay them for their trouble, as he
expressed it.  They were much pleased with their present, and felt very
well satisfied with their afternoon's adventure.  They were a little
surprised, however, that their new friends should think it necessary to
invest so largely in weapons of defence; and on their hinting this
surprise, the boy who purchased the articles said, with a careless,
business-like air:

"O, we 've got to travel a good many hundred miles, and there 's no
knowing what rough fellows we may fall in with.  But give me a good
revolver and dirk, and I bet I will take care of myself, anywhere."

The seriousness with which this brave language was uttered by a boy
scarcely yet in his teens, would have made even Alfred and Oscar smile,
but for the consciousness of the new knives in their pockets.

It was now quite dark, and on coming to a street which led more
directly towards his home, Oscar left the other boys, with the promise
of seeing them again Monday morning.



CHAPTER V.

THE YOUNG TRAVELLERS.

The Sabbath came, and a fine autumnal day it was.  Oscar's thoughts
were with Alfred, and the boys whose acquaintance he had made the
afternoon previous; but there was little chance for him to join them in
their walks on that day.  He could not absent himself from church or
the Sunday-school, without his parents' knowledge; and Mr. Preston had
always decidedly objected to letting the children stroll about the
streets on the Sabbath.  Oscar felt so uneasy, however, that in the
afternoon, a little while before meeting-time, he left the house slyly,
while his father was upstairs, and walked around to Alfred's.  But he
saw nothing of the boys, and was in his accustomed seat in the church
when the afternoon services commenced.

The next morning, Oscar rose earlier than usual, and as soon as he
could despatch his breakfast, he hurried over to the hotel.  The
travellers had concluded to defer their journey one day longer, that
they might have a better opportunity to see Boston; and when Oscar
approached them, they were trying to persuade Alfred to stay away from
school, and accompany them in their rambles.  They immediately extended
the same invitation to Oscar.  Both he and Alfred felt very much
inclined to accede to their proposition, but they were pretty sure that
it would be useless to ask their parents' consent to absent themselves
from school for such a purpose.  The point to be settled was, whether
it would be safe to play truant for the day.  Seeing that they
hesitated, the oldest boy, whose name was Joseph, began to urge the
matter still more earnestly.

"What are you afraid of?" he said; "come along, it's no killing affair
to stay away from school just for one day.  You can manage so that
nobody will know it; and if they should find it out, it won't make any
difference a hundred years hence.  Come, now, I 'll tell you what I 'll
do; if you two will go around with us to-day, I 'll give you a quarter
of a dollar apiece."

Oscar and Alfred, after some little hesitation, yielded to their
request, and the four boys started on their tramp.  It was not without
many misgivings, however, that Oscar decided to accompany them.  With
him, the chances of detection were much greater than with Alfred.  No
brothers of the latter attended school, to notice and report his
absence.  With Oscar, the case was different, and he did not see
exactly how his truancy was to be concealed from his parents and
teachers.  But as Alfred was going with the boys, he finally concluded
that he, too, would run the risk for at least half a day, and trust to
luck to escape punishment.

It was decided to go over to the neighboring city of Charlestown,
first, and visit the Monument and Navy-Yard, both of which the young
strangers were quite anxious to see.  Joseph, the oldest and most
forward, began to be on quite intimate terms with Oscar and Alfred.  He
threw off every restraint, and laughed and talked with them just as if
they were old acquaintances.  One thing very noticeable about him, was
his profanity.  Neither Alfred nor Oscar, I am sorry to say, was
entirely free from this wicked and disgusting habit; but they had made
so little advance in this vice, compared with their new friend, that
even they were slightly shocked by the frequent and often startling
oaths of Joseph.

The younger lad, whose name was Stephen, appeared to be quite unlike
his brother.  Though sociable, he was less gay and more reserved than
Joseph, but he seemed to be much interested in the novel sights that
met his eye at every step.

On their way, the boys came to a cellar which was occupied by a dealer
in fruits and other refreshments.  Around the entrance were arranged
numerous boxes of oranges, apples, nuts, candy, and similar articles,
to tempt the passer-by to stop and purchase.  The owner was not in
sight, and Joseph, as he passed along, boldly helped himself from one
of the boxes, taking a good hand-full of walnuts.  On looking around, a
moment after, he saw a man running up the cellar steps, and concluded
that he, too, had better quicken his pace.  He accordingly started on a
brisk run, the other boys joining in his flight.  The man, who happened
to witness the theft from the back part of the cellar, soon saw that
pursuit would be useless, and contented himself with shaking his fist,
and uttering some anathemas which were inaudible to those for whom they
were intended.

"That was a pretty narrow escape, was n't it?" said Joseph, after they
had got a safe distance from the man.

"It was so," replied Alfred; "and it was lucky for you that he did n't
catch you."

"Why, what do you suppose he would have done?"

"He would have taken you up for stealing, I guess, for he looked mad
enough to do anything," said Alfred.

"Stealing?  Pooh, a man must be a fool to make such a fuss about a
cent's-worth of nuts," replied Joseph.

"I knew a boy," said Oscar, "who stole a cake of maple sugar from one
of these stands, and his father had to pay two or three dollars to get
him out of the scrape."

"I would n't have done it," said Joseph; "I 'd have gone to jail
first--that 's just my pluck."

"But the boy did n't do it--it was his father that paid the money,"
added Oscar.

"O, then, I suppose the boy was n't to blame," said Joseph, with all
seriousness; as though he really believed that somebody was to blame,
not for stealing the maple sugar, but for satisfying the man who had
been injured by the theft.

They were now upon one of the bridges which cross Charles River, and
connect the cities of Boston and Charlestown.  After passing half-way
over, they stopped a few minutes to gaze at the scene spread out around
them.  Oscar and Alfred pointed out to the strangers the various
objects of interest, and they then continued their walk without
interruption until they reached the Monument grounds, on Bunker Hill.
After examining the noble granite shaft which commemorates the first
great battle of the American Revolution, they threw themselves down
upon the grass, to contemplate at their leisure the fine panorama which
this hill affords on a clear day.

After lingering half an hour around the Monument, they turned their
steps towards the Navy-Yard.  On reaching it, they found a soldier
slowly pacing back and forth, in front of the gate-way; but he made no
objection to their entering.  Joseph and Stephen, who had never before
visited an establishment of this kind, were first struck by the extent
of the yard, and the air of order and neatness which seemed everywhere
to prevail.  They gazed with curiosity upon the long rows of iron
cannons interspersed with pyramids of cannon-balls, piled up in exact
order, which were spread out upon the parks.  Then their wonder was
excited by the dry-dock, with its smooth granite walls, its massive
gates, and its capacious area, sufficient to float the largest frigate.
The lofty ship-houses in which vessels are constructed, and the long
stone rope-walk, with its curious machinery, also attracted their
attention.  So interested were they in these things, that nearly two
hours elapsed before they started for home.

On their way back to the hotel, Joseph entertained Alfred and Oscar
with some incidents of his life.  His mother, he said, died when he was
quite young.  His father went to sea as the captain of a ship, two
years before, and had never been heard from.  He had rich relatives,
who wanted him to go to West Point and be a cadet, but he did not like
to study, and had persuaded them to let him and Stephen go and live
with their uncle at the west, who had no boys of his own, and wanted
somebody to help him to manage his immense farm.  Such, in brief, was
Joseph's story.

On their return route, the boys were careful to avoid passing by the
cellar from which Joseph had stolen the nuts.  With all his pluck and
bravery, he did not care about meeting the man whose displeasure he had
excited a few hours before.

It was twelve o'clock before the boys reached the hotel.  Oscar, during
the latter part of the walk, had been unusually silent.  He was
thinking how he should manage to conceal his truancy, but he could not
hit upon any satisfactory plan.  The more he reflected upon the matter,
the more he was troubled and perplexed about it.  He might possibly
hide his mis-spent forenoon from his parents, but how should he explain
his absence to his teachers?  He could not tell.  He decided, however,
to see his brothers before they should get home from school, and, if
they had noticed his absence, to prevail upon them to say nothing about
it.

"You 'll be back again after dinner, Oscar?" said Alfred, as his friend
started for home.

"Yes," replied Oscar, with some hesitation; "I 'll see you before
school-time."

"School-time?  You don't intend to go to school this afternoon, do
you?" inquired Alfred.

Oscar did not reply, but hastened homeward.  He soon found Ralph and
George, but as neither of them spoke of his absence from school, he
concluded that they were ignorant of it, and he therefore made no
allusion to the subject.

After dinner, Oscar had about half an hour to spend with Alfred; for he
felt so uneasy in his mind, that he had decided not to absent himself
from school in the afternoon.  He had gone but a short distance when he
met his comrade, who had started in pursuit of him.

"Well," said Alfred, "we 've been taken in nicely, that's a fact."

"Taken in--what do you mean?" inquired Oscar.

"Why, by those young scamps that we 've been showing around town."

"I thought they told great stories," said Oscar; "but what have you
found out about them?"

"I 've found out that they are the greatest liars I ever came
across--or at least that the oldest fellow is," replied Alfred; and he
then went on to relate what transpired immediately after Oscar left
them, on their return from Charlestown.  The landlord, it seems,
requested the two strange boys to step into one of the parlors; and
Alfred, not understanding the order, accompanied them.  They found two
men seated there, the sight of whom seemed anything but pleasant to
Joseph and Stephen.  These men were their fathers--for the boys were
not brothers, and Joseph's account of their past life and future
prospects was entirely false.  They had run away from home, and the
money which they had so profusely spent, Joseph stole from his father.
The men, who had been put to much trouble in hunting up their wayward
sons, did not greet them very cordially.  They looked stern and
offended, but said little.  Joseph was obliged to deliver up his money
to his father, and they immediately made preparations for returning
home by the afternoon train.

"Well," said Oscar, when Alfred had concluded his story, "I did n't
believe all that boy said, at the time, but I thought I would n't say
so."

"Nor I, neither," said Alfred.  "I guess he did n't expect his father's
ship would arrive so suddenly, when he tried to stuff us up so."

"Did your father know you went off with them in the forenoon?" inquired
Oscar.

"Yes, but he did n't care much about it.  He told me I must go to
school this afternoon, and not stay away again without leave."

The rules of the school required a written note of excuse from the
parents, in case of absence.  Neither of the boys was furnished with
such an excuse, and after a little consultation, they concluded that
their chances of escaping punishment would be greatest, if they should
frankly confess how they had been duped and led astray by the young
rogues whose acquaintance they had so suddenly and imprudently formed.
They supposed that the peculiar circumstances of the case, coupled with
a voluntary confession, might excite some degree of sympathy, rather
than displeasure, towards them.  To make the matter doubly sure, it was
arranged that Alfred should speak to the master about the matter before
school commenced.

When the boys reached the school-room, they found the master already at
his desk.  He listened with interest to Alfred's story of the runaways,
and was evidently pleased that he had so frankly confessed his fault.
As the hour for commencing the afternoon session had arrived, he told
Alfred and Oscar they might stop after school, and he would take their
case into consideration.

The afternoon passed away, without any unusual occurrence.  When school
was dismissed, the teacher called Alfred and Oscar to his desk, and
gave them some excellent advice in regard to forming acquaintances, and
yielding to the solicitations of evil associates.  He told them that
the deception which had been practiced upon them, should serve as a
lesson to them hereafter.  They should not form sudden acquaintances
with strange and unknown boys, but should choose their associates from
among those whom they knew to be of good habits.  He also earnestly
cautioned them against yielding to the enticements of those who would
persuade them to do wrong.  He told them that whenever they laid the
blame of their faults upon others, they made a sad confession of their
own moral weakness.  They must often encounter temptations, and evil
examples and influences, even if they took pains to avoid them; but
they were not obliged to yield to these influences.  They must learn to
resist temptation, or they would speedily be swept away before it.

Having faithfully pointed out their error and danger, the teacher
dismissed the boys.  They listened respectfully to his advice, and,
when they were beyond his hearing, chuckled over their escape from a
species of admonition that might have proved far more feeling and
affecting, if not more salutary, than the kindly-meant reproof which
had been administered to them.  The leniency of the teacher, however,
must be attributed to his not fully understanding the character of
their offence; for Alfred had so artfully represented the facts of the
case, as to make their truancy appear in a milder light than it
deserved to be regarded.



CHAPTER VI.

WORK.

"Oscar, go down cellar and get some coal," said Mrs. Preston one
evening, when the fire was getting low.

"I 'm reading--you go and get it, Ralph," said Oscar, without looking
up from the newspaper in his hand.

"No, I shan't," replied Ralph; "I 've done all your chores to-day, and
I won't do any more."

"Tell Bridget to bring it up, then," added Oscar, his eyes still
fastened upon his paper.

"Oscar," said Mrs. Preston, sharply, "I told you to get it, and do you
obey me, this minute.  Bridget has worked hard all day, and Ralph has
already had to do several errands and jobs that you ought to have done,
and that is the reason why I did not ask them to get the coal.  You
have done nothing but play, when you were out of school, since morning,
and now, when I ask you to do a trifling thing, you try to shirk it
upon somebody else.  I do wish you would break yourself of your
laziness, and have a little consideration for other people."

Oscar reluctantly obeyed his mother's order.  Indeed, it was seldom
that he was very prompt to obey, when any kind of labor was required of
him.  He had a peculiar knack of getting rid of work.  If he was
directed to do a thing, he was almost sure to try to coax Alice, or
Ella, or Ralph, or Bridget, or somebody else, to do it for him.  He
never taxed his own legs, or hands, or muscles, when he could make use
of other people's.  This lazy habit was a source of no small anxiety to
his mother, and was a constant annoyance to all the family.

"Well, you did make out to get it," said Mrs. Preston, in a pleasant
tone, when Oscar returned with the coal.  "I hope it did n't hurt you
much."

"I was n't afraid of its hurting me," said Oscar "but I was reading,
and did n't want to stop."

"I am afraid that is only an excuse," replied his mother.  "It has
really got to be a habit with you to call upon somebody else, whenever
you are told to do a thing.  We have all noticed it, a hundred times,
and you alone seem to be blind to it.  In a year or two, when you are
old enough to leave school, and go to a place, what do you suppose you
will be good for, if you keep on in this way?  Why, the man who should
take you into his employ, would have to hire another boy on purpose to
wait upon you."

"It is just as mother says, Oscar," added his eldest sister, Alice.
"It was only this morning that Bridget was scolding, because you wanted
to be waited upon so much.  She says you make her more trouble than all
the rest of us together."

Oscar could not deny these charges, and so he said nothing, but
appeared to be reading his newspaper very intently.  Mr. Preston came
in soon after, and the family sat down to tea.

"Oscar," said Mr. Preston, "next week is vacation, is it not?"

"Yes, sir," replied Oscar.

"Well, I shall want you in the store a part of the time," continued his
father.  "Frank is going home to spend Thanksgiving, and as it will be
a busy week with us, we must have somebody to take his place."

"Why can't Henry do the errands while Frank is away?" inquired Oscar.

"Because Henry will have as much other work as he can attend to,"
replied Mr. Preston.

"I don't see why you let Frank go off at such a time," said Oscar,
pettishly.

"It is not necessary that you should see," replied his father.  "I can
manage my business without any advice from you, and I don't want you to
call me to account for what I do.  I have given Frank a vacation, and I
shall expect assistance from you--that is all it is necessary for you
to know about it."

Frank was the errand-boy in Mr. Preston's shop.  Henry, upon whom Oscar
wished to lay the burden occasioned by Frank's absence, was a young
clerk, who had formerly served as chore-boy, but was now quite useful
as a salesman.

It was evident, from Oscar's looks, that he did not much relish the
idea of taking Frank's place for a week.  His mother, noticing this,
said:

"Why, Oscar, I thought you and Frank were good friends, and I should
suppose you would be willing to relieve him a few days.  The poor boy
has been away from his mother nearly a year, and it is natural that he
should want to go home and spend Thanksgiving.  If you were in his
place, and he in yours, don't you think you should like the arrangement
your father proposes?"

"I suppose I should," replied Oscar; "but it's hard for me to lose my
vacation, for the sake of letting him have one."

"You will not lose all your vacation," said his father "If you are
lively, you can do all I shall want you to do in four or five hours,
and have the rest of the day to yourself."

"And I 'll help you, too," said Ralph, who was always ready to offer
his assistance in such a case as this.

"Thanksgiving week" soon arrived, and the busy note of preparation for
the approaching festival was heard throughout the house.  Bridget was
invested with a new dignity, in the eyes of the children, as she
bustled about among the mince-meat and the pie-crust, the eggs and the
milk, the fruit and the spices, that were to be compounded into all
sorts of good things.  The house was filled with savory odors from the
oven, and long rows of pies began to fill up every vacant space in the
closet.  Mrs. Preston was busy, superintending the operations of the
household; while Alice and Ella rendered such assistance as they could,
in the chopping of pie-meat, the paring of apples, the picking of
raisins, &c.  The boys, for their share, had an unusual number of
errands to run, to keep the busy hands inside supplied with working
materials.  Oscar, however, was released for the week from all home
chores, in consideration of his engagements at the store.

Oscar did not find his duties as temporary store-boy quite so irksome
or disagreeable as he anticipated.  The work was light, and the novelty
of it served to offset the confinement, which he had dreaded more than
anything else.  With some assistance from Ralph, he managed to do all
that was required of him, and still have several hours each day for
play.  He also had an opportunity to learn some useful lessons during
the week.

One morning, his father sent him up-stairs to sweep out a room which
was devoted to a certain branch of the business.  Happening to go into
it an hour or two after, Mr. Preston observed that it was in a dirty
state, and called to Oscar to get a broom and sprinkler, and come up.

"I told you to sweep this room out," said he, as Oscar made his
appearance; "did you forget it?"

"I _have_ swept it," said Oscar, in a tone of surprise.

"You have?" exclaimed Mr. Preston, with an air of incredulity; "I guess
you are mistaken.  You may have shaken the broom at it, but I don't
think you swept it.  See there--and there--and there,"--and he pointed
out numerous little heaps of dirt, and scraps of paper, which had
escaped Oscar's broom.  "Now," he continued, "let me show you how to
sweep.  In the first place, always sprinkle the floor a little, to
prevent the dust flying, as I told you a day or two ago.  You omitted
that this morning, did n't you?"

"Yes, sir," replied Oscar.

"Well, just remember it hereafter, for the dust injures the goods.
There 's water enough, now pass me the broom, and I 'll show you how to
handle it.  Look, now--that 's the way to sweep--get all the dirt out
from the corners and crevices, and along the edges, and under the
counters.  Use the broom as though you meant to do something, and were
not afraid of it.  There, that 's the way to sweep clean--so--and so,"
and Mr. Preston continued his explanations and illustrations, until he
had swept the entire floor.

"There, now, does n't that look better?" he added, after he had
finished sweeping.  "If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth
doing well--that's the true doctrine, Oscar.  I hope you won't get in
the habit of making half-way work with whatever you undertake.  If I
never expected to do anything but sweep chimneys or dig clams for a
living, I would do it thoroughly and faithfully.  Of all things, I
despise a lazy, slovenly workman."

It was a very common thing with Oscar to slight his work, when he could
not get rid of it entirely.  This was partly the result of a want of
interest in it, and partly the result of habit.  The child who performs
a task reluctantly, will not be very likely to do it well.

The day before Thanksgiving, as Oscar was on his way to the store,
after dinner, he met Alfred Walton.

"You 're just the chap I 'm after, Oscar," said Alfred; "I'm going out
to Cambridge, all alone in a wagon, and I want you to go with me.
Come, jump in and go, won't you?"

This was a tempting invitation to Oscar, but he did not see how he
could accept it.  He was needed at the store more than ever, that
afternoon, but it was too bad to lose such a fine chance to enjoy
himself.  Alfred was in a hurry, and could not stop long for him to
consider the matter.  So he concluded to run home, and ask his father's
permission, while Alfred went and got the horse ready.  But when he got
home, his father had left.  He found Ralph, however, who readily agreed
to take his place at the store, for the afternoon; and on the strength
of this arrangement, he hurried to the hotel and rode off with Alfred.

It was a mild, pleasant afternoon, and the boys had a fine ride.
Alfred had been among horses so much, that he understood their
management pretty well, and was a very good driver.  He prided himself
on his ability to turn a neat corner, and to steer through the
narrowest and most crooked passage-ways, such as abound in the
contracted and crowded streets of a city.  When they reached the broad
avenues of Cambridge, he allowed Oscar to take the reins awhile, at his
request.

Alfred's step-father had been out to Cambridge, in the forenoon of the
same day, and had purchased a horse at the cattle-market which is held
weekly at that place.  As he was obliged to return home by the cars, he
left word that he would send out for the horse, in the afternoon.  This
was Alfred's errand.  After several inquiries, the boys found the man
who sold the horse.  Having examined the new purchase, and freely
expressed their opinions of the animal's "points," they hitched his
halter to the wagon, and set out for home.

The sun was rapidly descending, when the boys reached the hotel stable.
Oscar, who felt somewhat uneasy about his absence from the store,
turned his steps in that direction, soon after he alighted from the
wagon.  He found all hands very busy, and for a long time no one
appeared to notice him.  At length his father happened to come to the
part of the shop where he was, and asked him where he had been all the
afternoon.  Oscar proceeded to explain the cause of his absence, but
Mr. Preston was in too much of a hurry to listen to his long excuses,
and so he cut him short, and told him, in not very pleasant tones, that
Ralph had done the work, and he (Oscar) might go home again, just as
soon as he pleased--a privilege of which he quickly availed himself.

At the tea-table, that evening, Mr. Preston expressed his displeasure
with Oscar's conduct in very pointed terms.  Oscar now explained the
circumstances of his going away--his attempt to get his father's
consent, and the promise of Ralph to supply his place.  But the
explanation did not satisfy Mr. Preston.  He said Oscar knew he was
needed that afternoon, and he ought not to have asked to go away, or
even to have thought of it.  Even if Ralph was willing to do his work,
he did not like his putting so much upon his younger and weaker
brother.  He then complimented Ralph for his industry, and his
willingness to make himself useful, and held him up to Oscar as a
pattern he would do well to imitate.  He concluded his lecture to the
latter, by drawing from his pocket a quarter of a dollar, and
presenting it to Ralph, as a reward for his services.  This touched
Oscar's feelings rather more than his father's reproofs.  He thought to
himself that he had performed as much work in the store as Ralph, to
say the least, and was therefore as much entitled to a reward as he.
There was this difference, however, which he entirely overlooked: Oscar
did his share of the work reluctantly and from compulsion; Ralph did
his cheerfully and voluntarily, and solely for the purpose of making
himself useful.



CHAPTER VII.

THANKSGIVING-DAY.

Thanksgiving-Day had come.  Among the multitude of good things it
brought with it, not the least important, in the eyes of the children,
was a visit from their grandmother, Mrs. Lee, who arrived the evening
previous.  She was the mother of Mrs. Preston, and lived in a distant
town in Vermont.  She had not visited the family for several years, and
the children and their parents were all very glad to see her once more.
She was much surprised to find how the young folks had grown since she
last saw them.  Alice had shot up into a young lady, Oscar, who she
remembered as "a little bit of a fellow," was a tall boy, Ella, too,
was quite a miss, and Georgie, "the baby," had long since exchanged his
frock for the jacket, trowsers, and boots, of boyhood.  All these
changes had happened since their grandmother's last visit; and yet she
was just the same pleasant, talkative old lady that she was years ago.
The children could not discover that time had left so much as one new
wrinkle on her well-remembered face.

[Illustration: Thanksgiving Market Scene.]

After breakfast, their grandmother proceeded to unpack her trunk.  From
its capacious depths she drew forth sundry articles,--specimens of her
own handiwork,--which she distributed among the children, as gifts.
They were all articles of utility, such as warm, "country-knit" mittens
and socks for the boys, and tippets and stockings for the girls.  A
large bag filled with nuts, and another of pop-corn, were also among
the contents of the trunk, and were handed to the children to be
divided among them.

In accordance with an agreement made the day before, Oscar soon left
the house, and went in search of Alfred.  Having found him, they set
out for South Boston, in company with two or three boys, to witness a
shooting-match got up by a man who worked about the stable.  The spot
selected for the sport was a retired field, where there was little
danger of being interrupted.  On reaching the ground, the boys found a
small collection of young men and lads already engaged in the cruel
amusement; for the mark was a live fowl, tied to a stake.  The company
assembled were of a decidedly low order, and Oscar at first felt almost
ashamed to be seen among them.  Smoking, swearing, betting, and
quarrelling, were all going on at once, interspersed with occasional
shouts of laughter at some vulgar joke, or at the fluttering and cries
of a wounded fowl.  Sometimes a poor chicken would receive several
shots, before its misery would be terminated by a fatal one.  When one
fowl was killed, a fresh one was brought forth.  Each man who fired at
the mark, paid a trifling sum for the privilege, and was entitled to
the fowl, if he killed it.

Oscar and his young companions lingered around the grounds for an hour
or two, familiarizing themselves with scenes of shameful cruelty, and
breathing an atmosphere loaded with pollution and moral death.  The
repugnance which Oscar at first felt to the party and its doings was so
far overcome, that before he left he himself fired one or two shots,
with a rifle which was lent to him.

Oscar reached home before the hour for dinner.  As he entered the
sitting-room, his mother, who had missed him, inquired where he had
been all the forenoon.

"I 've been with Alf," he replied.

His mother did not notice this evasion of her question, but added:

"Why do you want to be with Alfred so much?  It seems to me you might
find better company.  I 'm afraid he is not so good a boy as he might
be.  I don't like his looks very much."

"Why, mother," said Oscar, "Alf is n't a bad boy, and I never heard
anybody say he was.  I like him first-rate--he 's a real clever fellow."

"He may be clever enough, but I do not think he is a very good
associate for you," replied Mrs. Preston.

"Who ought to know best about that, you or I?" said Oscar, with a
pertness for which he was becoming a little too notorious.  "I see Alf
every day, but you don't know hardly anything about him.  At my rate, I
'll risk his hurting me."

Oscar's grandmother looked at him with astonishment, as he uttered
these words.  He felt the silent rebuke, and turned his head from her.

"Well," added Mrs. Preston, "if Alfred is not a bad boy himself, I do
not believe that the kind of people you spend so much of your time
with, around the hotel-stable, will do either you or him any good.  The
lessons a boy learns among tavern loungers do not generally make him
any better, to say the least.  I wish you would keep away from such
places--I should feel a good deal easier if you would."

The subject was dropped, and dinner,--the event of Thanksgiving-day, in
every New England home,--soon began to engross the attention of the
household.  It was a pleasant feast, to old and young.  The children
forgot all their little, fanciful troubles, and the traces of care were
chased from their parents' brows for the hour.

The afternoon was stormy, and the children amused themselves with
in-door sports.  After tea, however, Oscar asked his father for some
money, to buy a ticket to an entertainment that was to take place in
the evening.  But both his parents thought he had better stay at home,
with the rest of the family, and he reluctantly yielded to their
wishes, coupled with the promise of a story or two from his
grandmother, about old times.

A cheerful fire was burning in the grate, when the family returned to
the parlor, from the tea-table.  The lamps were not yet lit, although
the gray twilight was fast settling down, and the ruddy coals began to
reflect themselves from the polished furniture.  Mrs. Preston was about
to light the lamps, when Ella exclaimed:

"No, no, mother, don't light the lamps--let's sit in the dark awhile,
and then grandmother's stories will seem twice as romantic.  You don't
want a light, do you, grandmother?"

"No," said the grandmother, "I can talk just as well in the dark.  But
I don't know as I can tell you any very interesting stories.  I can't
think of anything now but what you have already heard.  That's just the
way when I want to tell a story.  If I was all alone, I should think of
lots of things to tell you."

"Can't you tell us something about the Indians?--I like to hear about
them," said Oscar.

"You would like to know how they served naughty boys, would n't you?"
inquired his grandmother; and if the room had not been quite so dark,
Oscar would have seen something like a roguish twinkle in her sober
gray eye, as she spoke.

"O yes, grandmother," interrupted Ella, "that will suit him, I know.
At any rate, it ought to interest him--so please to tell us what they
did to their bad boys, and perhaps we shall learn how to serve Oscar."

"And while you are about it, grandmother," said Oscar, "tell us what
they did to naughty girls, too."

"I don't know how they punished girls," said the old lady; "but I have
heard it said that when they wished to punish a boy very severely, they
made him lie down on the ground, upon his back.  They then put their
knees on his arms, and held his head back, while they took into their
mouth some very bitter stuff, made from the roots of a certain plant,
and squirted it into the boy's nose.  They kept repeating the dose,
till the poor fellow was almost strangled, and I suppose by that time
he was cured of his fault."

"Pooh, was that all?" said Oscar; "I thought something terrible was
coming."

"I guess you would not like to try the Indian remedy more than once,"
replied his mother; "but if you think it is so pleasant to take,
perhaps your father will give you a taste of it, one of these days, if
you do not behave better than you have done of late."

"Did you ever get frightened by the Indians, grandmother?" inquired
Ralph.

"No," replied the old lady; "there were plenty of them around, when I
was a little girl, but they had got to be quite civil, and we were not
afraid of them.  I wish I could remember all the stories my mother used
to tell me about them--they were plenty and troublesome, too, in her
day.  I recollect one fight that took place in our neighborhood, when
she was young.  One evening, a man who was returning from another
settlement, happened to discover a party of Indians, making their way
very quietly up the river in their canoes, towards our little village.
He watched their movements as narrowly as possible, but was careful not
to let them see or hear him.  When they got within about half a mile of
the settlement, they pulled their canoes ashore, and concealed them
among the bushes.  They meant to creep along very slowly and slily, the
rest of the way, and then fall suddenly upon the whites, and murder and
plunder them before they could know what the matter was.  But the man
who discovered them hurried on to the settlement, and gave the alarm.
Ten men was all he could muster, for there were but a few families in
the town.  These men armed themselves, and by the time they were ready
for action, the Indians had already begun their work of plunder.

"But the Indians were not cunning enough for the white folks, that
time.  The settlers formed themselves into two parties--one of seven
and one of three men.  The three men went down very cautiously to the
Indian's landing-place, and after cutting slits in their bark canoes,
they hid themselves, and awaited the result.  While they were doing
this, the other party made such a furious and sudden attack upon the
enemy, that the Indians thought they were assailed by a force far
superior to their own, and so they fled as fast as they could.  When
they reached the landing-place, they jumped pell-mell into their
canoes, and pushed out into the stream.  Now they thought they would
soon be out of the reach of harm; but, to their astonishment, the
canoes began to fill with water, and were entirely unmanageable.  The
three men in ambush now began to attack them, and pretty soon the other
seven came to their aid, and in a little while the Indians were all
shot or drowned, and not one of the party escaped, to inform their
kindred what had befallen them.  The stream on which this happened is
called Laplot River.  Laplot, they say, means 'the plot,' and a good
many people think the river got its name from the stratagem of the
settlers, but I don't know how that is."

After musing awhile in silence, Ralph called for another story.

"Let me see," said his grandmother; "did I ever tell you about Widow
Storey's retreat, in the Revolution!"

"No ma'am," said Oscar; "I've read about General Burgoyne's retreat;
but I never heard of Widow Storey before: who was she?"

"O, it was n't that kind of a retreat that I meant," said his
grandmother; "but I will tell you who she was.  She lived in Salisbury,
some twenty or thirty miles from where I belong.  Her husband was the
first man who settled in Salisbury, but he was very unfortunate.  After
he had worked hard, and got a log cabin ready for his family, it took
fire, and was destroyed; and he himself was killed by the fall of a
tree, soon after.  But his widow was a very smart woman; and though she
had eight or ten small children, she moved on to the place her husband
had selected; and the proprietors of the township gave her a hundred
acres of land to encourage and reward her.  She worked just like a man,
and didn't mind chopping down trees, and cultivating the soil, with her
own hands.  But by-and-bye the Revolution broke out, and as there were
British soldiers in the neighborhood, she was afraid they would make
her a visit.  She fled several times to another town, where there was
less danger; but after awhile a new idea entered her head, and she
proceeded to carry it out, with the aid of a man who lived near her.
The idea was, to construct a hiding-place, where the British could not
find them, if they should pay her a visit.  They selected a spot on
Otter Creek, and dug a hole right into the bank, horizontally.  The
hole was a little above the water, and was just large enough for a
person to crawl into.  It was so covered up by bushes that hung from
the bank, that a stranger would not notice it.  This passage led to a
large lodging-room, the bottom of which was covered with straw.  Good
comfortable beds were prepared, and here the families found a secure
retreat, until the danger was past."

"That was complete," said Oscar; "but I should think the British might
have tracked them to their retreat, for it's likely they had to go home
pretty often, to get food, and look after things."

"Yes," added his grandmother; "but they reached their retreat by a
canoe, so that no footsteps could be seen leading to it; and they were
careful not to go out or in during the day-time.  I have heard my
brother James tell about it.  I believe he saw the very hole once,
where they went in."

"Uncle James was a famous hand for telling stories," remarked Mrs.
Preston.  "I shall never forget what a treat it was to me, when I was a
child, to have him come to our house.  I used to run out and meet him,
when I saw him coming, and coax him to tell me a good lot of stories
before he went off.  I can remember some of them even now.  He used to
tell a story of a crabbed old fellow, who was very much annoyed by the
boys stealing his apples.  So, after awhile, he got a spring-trap, and
set it under the trees, to catch the young rogues.  But the boys got
wind of the affair, and the first night he set it, they picked it up,
and very quietly put it on his door-step, and then went back to the
orchard, and began to bellow as though they were in great distress.
The old man heard the uproar, and started out, in high glee at the idea
of catching his tormentors; but he hardly put his foot out of the door,
before he began to roar himself, and he was laid up a month with a sore
leg."

"That was old Zigzag," said the grandmother; "I knew him very well."

"Old Zigzag!--what a funny name!" exclaimed Ralph.

"That was n't his name, although he always went by it," added the old
lady.  "He was a very odd character, and one of his peculiarities was,
that he never walked directly towards any place or object he wished to
reach, but went in a 'criss-cross,' zigzag way, like a ship beating and
tacking before a head-wind.  He was a hard drinker, and was almost
continually under the influence of liquor, and perhaps that was the
cause of his singular habit.  He was a terribly ugly fellow, when he
was mad, and the boys used to tease him in every possible way; but wo
to them if he got hold of them.  He lived all alone, for he never had
any wife or children; and he would not allow anybody to enter his
house, on any account, but always kept the door locked.  If his
neighbors had business to transact with him, he would step into the
yard and attend to them; but even in the severest weather, he would not
let them cross his threshold.  He never would speak to or look at a
woman, and would always avoid meeting them, if possible.  Poor fellow,
he had a dreadful end.  He was missing for several days, and at last
some of the town's-people broke into his house, and found him dead,
with his head badly burned.  They supposed he was intoxicated, and
fell, striking his head upon the andiron, which stunned him; and while
he lay helpless, he was so badly burned that he soon died.  And that
was the last of poor old Zigzag."

"There was another story Uncle James used to tell, about the naming of
Barre, in Vermont; do you recollect it, mother?" inquired Mrs. Preston.

"Yes, indeed, and I 've heard old Dr. Paddock tell it many a time.  He
was there, and saw it all.  The people did n't like the name of their
town, which was Wildersburgh, and determined to have a new one, and so
they met together in town-meeting, to talk the matter over.  One of the
leading men came from Barre, Massachusetts, and he wanted the town to
take that name.  Another prominent citizen came from Holden,
Massachusetts, and he insisted that the town should be called Holden.
The people liked both of these names well enough, and it was finally
determined that the question should be decided by a game of boxing,
between these two men.  So the meeting adjourned to a new barn, with a
rough hemlock plank floor, and the contest commenced.  After boxing
awhile, one of them threw the other upon the floor, and sprang upon him
at full length; but the one who was underneath dealt his blows so
skilfully, that his opponent soon gave in; and rolling the Holden man
out of the way, he jumped up and shouted, 'There, the name is Barre!'
and Barre it hasten, to this day.  The next day, the man who won this
victory had to call on the doctor to extract from his back the hemlock
splinters he had received while struggling on the barn floor."

Thus the evening was beguiled with stories, mingled with a few songs by
Alice and Ella, and a few favorite airs upon the piano-forte.  Before
the hour of retiring arrived, even Oscar was quite reconciled to the
loss of the evening's entertainment away from home which he had
promised himself.



CHAPTER VIII.

GRANDMOTHER LEE.

Mrs. Lee, the grandmother of the Preston children, remained with the
family for several weeks, after Thanksgiving.  Her visit was, on the
whole, a pleasant one, though there were some shadows thoughtlessly
cast over it by the children.  Age had somewhat impaired her sense of
hearing, but yet she always wanted to understand everything that was
said in her presence.  Often, when the children were talking to each
other in a low tone, she would ask them what they were saying.  Ella
did not like these interruptions, and was the first to complain of them.

"O dear," said she, one day, "I do wonder what makes grandmother so
inquisitive.  I really believe she thinks we are talking about her all
the time.  I can't open my mouth, but she wants to know what I said.
Don't you think she is getting childish, Alice?"

"Why, Ella!" exclaimed Alice, in astonishment, "I should think you
would be ashamed to speak so of your poor old grandmother.  What do you
think mother would say if she knew what you said!"

"I can't help it," replied Ella; "I don't see why grandmother need be
so curious about every little thing that's said.  I mean to ask her
some time when I have a good chance."

"I should think you had better, Miss Impudence," said Alice; "perhaps
she would like to have you give her some lessons in good behavior."

Alice did not for a moment suppose that her sister meant to speak to
their grandmother upon this subject.  But she had miscalculated the
pertness of Ella.  A day or two after this, as several of the children
were talking among themselves, the attention of the old lady was
arrested.  She could not hear distinctly what they said, but Oscar took
a prominent part in the conversation; and a moment after, on his
leaving the room, she asked Ella what he wanted.

"O, it was n't anything that you care about, grandma'am," replied Ella.

"Is that the way your mother teaches you to answer questions, Ella?"
inquired Mrs. Lee, in a mild, reproachful tone.

"No, no, grandmother," replied Alice, with considerable earnestness; "I
shall tell mother how impudently she spoke to you.  A boy has given a
little dog to Oscar, and that was what he was telling us about, just
before he went out."

"Why, grandmother," added Ella, "I did n't mean to be impudent; but I
've noticed that you always want to hear what everybody says, even when
they are not talking to you, and mother says that is n't polite."

"I am much obliged to you, my dear," replied her grandmother, very
meekly; "after I have taken a few more lessons from you, perhaps I
shall know how to behave."

The feelings of the old lady were more hurt by the rudeness of Ella,
than her mild rebukes indicated.  Alice felt bound to inform her mother
of what had taken place; and Mrs. Preston was greatly mortified, on
learning that her little daughter had spoken so impudently to her aged
mother.  She apologized for Ella, as well as she could, by saying that
she was naturally forward and impulsive.  At noon, when the children
returned from school, she called Ella into a room by herself, and
talked with her about her conduct.  At first, Ella tried to justify
herself; but after awhile her better nature triumphed, and she felt
heartily ashamed of her treatment of her grandmother.  To think that
she, a girl eleven years old, should have attempted to teach her aged
grandmother politeness, and in such an uncivil way, too!  No wonder she
hung her head in shame.

To be candid, perhaps Ella's grandmother was a little too inquisitive
to know what was going on around her.  But this was one of the
infirmities of old age which were slowly stealing upon her, and which
the young should regard with pity and forbearance, but never with a
censorious spirit.

Ella was really a good-hearted girl, when her generous feelings were
aroused.  From that day, she treated her grandmother with marked
kindness and respect; and her unfortunate attempt to rebuke the
venerable woman was never alluded to again.

Among the articles which Mrs. Lee brought from the country, for the
children, was a small bag of corn for popping.  One evening, George
happened to think of this corn, which none of them had yet tried; and
partly filling one of his pockets from the bag, he slipped quietly into
the kitchen, and commenced popping it by Bridget's fire.  There was no
person in the kitchen but himself, and putting a handfull of corn in
the wire popper, it soon began to snap and jump about, the hard, yellow
kernels bursting forth into light and beautiful milk-white balls.  But
by-and-bye the savory odor of the corn found its way up stairs, and
Ella and Ralph ran down to get their share of the treat.  George had
put the corn upon the table to cool, as fast as it was popped; but when
he heard footsteps approaching, he scrambled it into his pocket as
quick as possible.

"Halloo, popped corn!  Give me some, Georgie, won't you?" said Ralph.

"And me, too," added Ella.

"No I shan't, either," said George; "I popped it for myself."

"You're real stingy," replied Ella; "but no matter, Ralph and I will
pop some for ourselves.  Where is the bag?"

"You must find it for yourselves--I had to," was George's selfish
reply, as he gathered the last of his popped corn into his pocket,
badly burning his fingers, in his anxiety lest his brother or sister
should get hold of a kernel or two.

Ella and Ralph commenced searching for the bag of corn, but they could
not find it.  They looked in every place where they supposed it might
be, but in vain.  Their mother had gone to bed with a sick headache, or
they would have ascertained where it was from her.  At length they gave
up the search, and returned to the sitting-room, in no very pleasant
frame of mind.

"I do declare, George," said Ella, "you are the meanest boy I ever
heard of."

"Why, what is the matter with George?" inquired his grandmother.

"He 's been popping some of the corn you gave us," replied Ella; "and
he won't give us a kernel of it, nor tell us where the bag is, so that
we can pop some for ourselves."

"Why, George," said Mrs. Lee, "that is too bad; I would tell them where
the corn is, for I intended it as much for them as for you."

"I don't care," said George; "they've called me mean and stingy, and
now they may find it for themselves."

"We did n't call you mean and stingy till you refused to tell us where
it was," added Ella.

"If I could find it, I guess you would n't get another kernel of it,"
said Ralph, addressing George; "I'd burn it all up first."

"No, no, Ralph, that is wrong," replied his grandmother.  "The corn is
n't worth quarrelling about.  If George wants to be selfish, and keep
it all to himself, I 'll send down some more for the rest of you, when
I go home.  But I guess Georgie does n't mean to be selfish," she
added, coaxingly; "he only wants to plague you a little, that's all.
He 'll tell you where he found the corn, pretty soon."

George, who was growing uneasy under this combined attack, now
retreated to bed, leaving his grandmother more astonished than ever at
his obstinacy.

"There," said Alice, "it's of no use to try to drive or coax him out of
his selfishness.  Mother says he 'll outgrow it by-and-bye, but I don't
see as there is any prospect of it.  You know what made him so selfish,
don't you, grandmother?"

"I am afraid he has been humored too much," replied Mrs. Lee.

"Well, he has been," added Alice; "but you know when he was little, he
was very sick for a whole year, and the doctor said he must n't be
crossed any more than we could help, for crying and fretting were very
bad for him.  So he had his own way in everything, and if we children
had anything he wanted, we had to give it to him, and let him break it
to pieces, for he would scream as loud as he could, if we refused him.
This was the way he got to be so selfish; and now he thinks we must
humor him just as we did when he was sick."

"There is some little excuse for him, if he fell into the habit when he
was very young and sick," observed Mrs. Lee; "but he is old enough and
well enough now to know better, and ought to be broken of the fault."

"Father and mother have tried to break him of it," replied Alice, "but
they have not succeeded very well yet.  They have talked to him a good
deal about it, but it does no good."

The next day, the children found the bag of corn, and their mother told
George she should punish him for his selfishness by not letting him
have any more of it.  The corn was accordingly divided among the other
children, and thus George, in trying to get more than his share,
actually got less than the others did.

It was about this time that Oscar came into possession of the pup which
Alfred Walton had promised him two or three weeks before.  He at first
had some difficulty in obtaining the consent of his mother to bring it
home.  She thought it would be troublesome, and tried to dissuade him
from taking it; but Oscar's heart was so strongly set upon the dog,
that she at length reluctantly assented to its being admitted as an
inmate of the family.

Fastening a string to the neck of the dog, Oscar led him to his new
home, where he received every attention from the younger members of the
family.  Quite a grave discussion at once ensued, as to what the name
of the new-comer should be.  Each of the children had a favorite name
to propose, but Oscar rejected them all, and said the dog should be
called "Tiger;" and so that became his name, but it was usually
abbreviated to "Tige."

[Illustration: Tiger's Countenance.]

Tiger had grown very rapidly, and was now about twice as large as he
was when Alfred promised Oscar one of his litter of pups.  He was a
handsome fellow, especially about the head, as you may see by his
portrait.  At times, he looked as old and grave as his mother; but for
all that, he was a great rogue, and there was very little dignity or
soberness about him.  He was brim-full of fun, and would play with
anybody or anything that would allow him to take that liberty.  He
would amuse himself for hours with an old shoe or rag that he had found
in the street, and it seemed as if he never would get tired of shaking,
and tearing, and biting it.  This disposition sometimes led him into
mischief, in the house; but he was always so happy, so good-natured and
so affectionate, that it was difficult to blame him very hard for his
misconduct.  If Oscar's grandmother happened to drop her ball of yarn,
when Tige was about, he would seize it in an instant, and she would
have to work hard to get it away from him.  She kept her work in a bag,
which she usually hung upon the back of a chair; but one day, the
little rogue pulled the bag down upon the floor, and had its various
contents scattered all about the room, before the old lady noticed what
he was doing.

These mischievous pranks were very amusing to Oscar, and he set all the
more by Tiger, on account of this trait in his character.  The other
members of the family, too, seemed to enjoy the sport he made; and it
was easy to see that even old Mrs. Lee, though she pretended to be
angry with the dog for his mischievousness, was in reality pleased with
the attentions he bestowed upon her and her knitting-work.

Oscar's grandmother usually retired to her chamber, soon after dinner,
to take a short nap.  One noon, after she had been scolding, with
assumed gravity, about the dog's mischievousness, Oscar thought he
would play a joke upon the old lady; so, on rising from the
dinner-table, he carried Tiger up to her bed-room, and shut him in.  He
wanted to conceal himself somewhere, and witness the surprise of his
grandmother, when she should open the door, and the dog should spring
upon her; but it was time to go to school, and he could not wait.

It so happened that Mrs. Lee did not take her nap so early as usual
that day.  When she did go to her chamber, Tiger, impatient of his long
confinement, sprang out so quickly, that she did not observe him.  But
such a scene as met her gaze on entering the chamber!  The first thing
that caught her eye, was her best black bonnet lying upon the floor,
all crumpled up and torn into shreds, looking as though it had been
used for a football by a parcel of boys.  She entered the room, and
found a dress upon the floor, with numerous marks of rough handling
upon it; while towels and other articles were scattered about in
confusion.  The cloth upon the dressing-table had been pulled off, and
the articles that were kept upon it were lying upon the floor,
including a handsome vase, which, in the fall, had been shattered to
pieces.  There was in the chamber a stuffed easy-chair, the covering of
which was of worsted-work, wrought by Mrs. Preston when she was a young
girl.  This chair, which was highly valued as a relic of the past, was
also badly injured.  A part of the needle-work, which had cost so many
hours of patient toil, was torn in every direction, and some of the
hair, with which the cushion was stuffed, was pulled out, and scattered
about the floor.

As soon as Mrs. Lee had fully comprehended the extent of the mischief,
she went to the stair-way, and called her daughter.  A glance satisfied
Mrs. Preston that Tiger must have been there; and she was confirmed in
this belief by Bridget, who remembered that the dog came down into the
kitchen, just after Mrs. Lee went up.  But they could not tell how the
little rogue got shut into the room.  They concluded, however, that
some of the children did it by accident, or that the dog slipped in
unperceived when Mrs. Lee came out from the chamber before dinner.

Oscar did not go directly home from school, but as soon as he entered
the house, he learned what Tiger had done, from the other children.  He
felt sorry that what he intended as a harmless joke, should end in so
serious a matter; but he determined that no one should know he had a
hand in it, if he could prevent it.  He regretted the destruction of
property, but this feeling did not cause him so much uneasiness as his
fear of losing his dog in consequence of this bad afternoon's work.
His mother, as soon as she saw him, inquired if he had been to his
grandmother's chamber that noon.  He replied that he had not.  She
inquired if he let Tiger into it, and he answered in the negative.  His
mother questioned him still further, but he denied all knowledge of the
matter.

It was not very hard work for Oscar to tell a lie, now, for practice
makes easy.  He could do it, too, in such a plausible and seemingly
innocent way, that it was difficult to believe he was deceiving you.
His falsehoods, in this instance, were readily believed; and as all the
other children denied having any knowledge of the affair, it was the
general conclusion that Tiger must have obtained admittance to the
chamber accidentally and unperceived.

When Mr. Preston came home to tea, and saw what the dog had done, he
was very angry with poor Tiger, and told Oscar he must sell him or give
him away, for he would not have such a mischievous animal about the
house another day.  A day or two after, Mrs. Preston replaced the
articles belonging to her mother that had been injured, and the
excitement about the dog soon died away.  Oscar did not try to get rid
of his pet; but he was careful not to let him stay in the house much of
the time especially when his father was at home.

"Oscar," said his grandmother a day or two after as he came into the
kitchen with Tiger, "I thought your father told you he would n't have
that dog around here any more."

"O, he did n't mean so," replied Oscar; "he was mad when he said that,
but he 's got over it now.  Besides, I don't let Tige stay in the house
much."

"A good dale ye cares for what yer father says," remarked Bridget, who
was never backward about putting in a word, when Oscar's delinquencies
were the subject of conversation.

"You shut up, Bridget,--nobody spoke to you," replied Oscar.

"Shet up, did ye say?  Faith, if ye don't git shet up yerself where ye
won't git out in a hurry, afore ye 're many years older, it 'll be
because ye don't git yer desarts.  Ye 're a bad b'y, that ye are, an'--"

"There, there, Biddy," interrupted Mrs. Lee, "I would n't say anything
more--it only aggravates him, and does no good.  But, Oscar," she
added, "I 'm sorry you don't pay more attention to what your father
says.  It's a bad habit to get into.  I knew a disobedient boy, once,
who came to the gallows; and I 've known several others who made very
bad men."

"But you don't call me disobedient, do you, grandma'am?" inquired Oscar.

"I don't know what else to call it," she replied, "if your father tells
you to do a thing, and you take no notice of it."

"But father does n't want me to give Tige away--I don't believe he 's
thought of it again since that night."

"Then, if I were you," replied his grandmother, "I would ask his
consent to keep the dog.  If he did n't mean what he said, that night,
you will be safe enough in asking him."

But this was a kind of reasoning that Oscar could not appreciate.  If
he could carry his point just as well without his father's formal
consent, he thought it was useless to ask any such favor.  As long as
he could keep his dog, it was all the same to him whether his father
withdrew his command, or silently acquiesced in his disobedience of it.

But grandmother Lee's visit was drawing to a close, and early one
bright, cool morning, in the latter part of December, the coach called,
to take her to the railroad depôt; and after a few kisses, and words of
affectionate advice, and lingering good-byes, she departed on her
homeward journey.  Of those she left behind, next to her own daughter,
the saddest of the group was little Ella, who, for many days, missed
the pleasant face of her good old grandmother.



CHAPTER IX.

WINTER SPORTS.

It was now mid-winter, and a few inches of snow lay upon the frozen
ground, sufficient to make pretty fair sleighing for a few days, and to
afford good coasting for the boys on the hill-sides.  The favorite
place for this amusement, among the boys in Oscar's neighborhood, was
the Common.  Here they always found good, long, smooth coasting-places,
when there was any snow on the ground; and there was no danger of
tripping up foot passengers, or getting under the heels of the horses,
or being tapped on the shoulder by a policeman, which often happened to
boys who coasted down the steep streets of the city,--a practice, by
the way, prohibited by a city law.

Oscar had a handsome new sled, which was a new year's present from his
father.  It was long and narrow, the two steel-shod runners projecting
forward far beyond the top or seat, and ending in sharp points.  It was
painted light blue, and varnished.  Upon the sides, in gilt letters,
was its name--CLIPPER; and upon its top it bore the initial of Oscar's
name, with an ornamental device.  It had what a sailor would call a
decidedly rakish look, and was really a fast as well as a stylish
"team," to use the term by which Oscar usually spoke of it.  It even
eclipsed George's small but elegant sled, which, the winter previous,
had been regarded as the _ne plus ultra_ of sled architecture.

Ralph's sled, by the side of these, presented a very cheap and
antiquated appearance, and it was seldom that he took it with him to
the Common.  He often borrowed Oscar's, however, when it was not in use
for his elder brother, with all his faults, was not selfish boy, but
was willing to lend his property to others, when he was not using it
himself.   One pleasant Wednesday afternoon, a portion of the week
always devoted to recreation by the Boston school children, Ralph
obtained leave to take the "Clipper" with him to the Common.  George
also went with him with his sled.  The coasting is very good, and some
hundreds of boys are enjoying it.  Long lines of sleds, freighted with
from one to three or four juveniles, are dashing down in various
directions from the Beacon Street mall; and an odd collection of
juveniles and sleds it is, too.  There comes a chubby, red-faced lad,
with his exact counterpart, on a smaller scale, clinging on behind him
with one hand, and swinging his cap with the other.  Their sled is
called the "Post-Boy," and it seems to "carry the males" very
expeditiously.  Close at their heels is a pale, poetic youth, lightly
skimming over the inclined plane upon a delicate craft that looks like
himself, and which he calls the "Mystery."  Here comes a rude,
unpainted sled, with two rough but merry youngsters lying prone upon
it, one over the other, and their heels working up and down in the air
in a most lively manner.  Anon goes by an aristocratic-looking craft,
bearing upon it a sleek and well-dressed boy, whose appearance speaks
of wealth, indulgence, and ease.  His sled is appropriately named the
"Pet;" but in gliding down the icy track it strikes a tree, and its
pampered owner is sent sprawling upon his back, in a very undignified
way, while his "Pet" gives him the slip and soon finds the bottom of
the hill.  Poor fellow! we wonder if this is an omen of what is to
befall him in sliding down the hill of life.  And here comes the
"Clipper" itself, with our Ralph seated proudly upon it, and apparently
enjoying the fleet and beautiful sled as much as though it were really
his own.  And there, too, comes George, with his pretty "Snow Flake;"
and close behind him are the "Tempest," and the "Yankee Doodle," and
the "Screamer," and the "Snow ball," and the "Nelly," and the "Racer,"
and a host of other craft, of every imaginable appearance, and strided
by all sorts of boys.

Ralph and George spent an hour or two upon the Common.  Nothing
occurred to mar their pleasure till just before they started for home,
when Ralph met with an adventure that sadly ruffled his temper.  He was
descending the hill upon his sled, when another craft, having two boys
upon it larger than himself, managed to run into him.  The "Clipper"
being lightly loaded, the other sled descended with greater impetus;
and the force of the collision, together with a vigorous kick from the
stout boots of one of the boys, overturned Ralph upon the steepest part
of the hill.  He quickly picked himself up, and, forgetful of self, his
first care was to see whether Oscar's sled had sustained any damage.
When he beheld the marks of the rough encounter, in the form of sundry
ugly scratches upon the polished sides of the "Clipper," the tears came
in his eyes; and it was some time before he noticed that he himself
bore upon his hands and knees several unmistakable tokens of the
collision.

Ralph knew very well that the collision was not accidental.  The kick
of the boy who guided the sled, and the hearty laugh of both its
occupants, when Ralph was overturned, satisfied him that he had been
run down purposely.  He did not know the names of the boys, having only
met them occasionally on the Common.  They soon came along again, on
their way up the hill, and Ralph asked the owner of the sled why he run
him down.

"Because you got in our way," replied the boy.

"No, I did n't," said Ralph; "there was room enough for you to go by,
but you steered out of your course, and gave my sled a kick, too."

"Don't you tell me I lie, you little snipper-snapper," answered the boy
"or I 'll put you in my pocket, and carry you off."

"See what you did," continued Ralph, pointing to the scratches on the
"Clipper;" "I should n't care anything about it, but the sled is n't
mine.  I borrowed it of my brother, and it had n't a scratch on it when
I took it."

"Pooh," said the other boy, "that does n't hurt it any.  I 'll be bound
it will be scratched worse than that, before the winter 's over.  If
you get in my way with it again, I shall serve it worse than I did this
time."

The boys passed on their way, and Ralph and George, whose "fun" had
been thus suddenly and unjustly spoiled by their insolent and
domineering companions, concluded to return home.  Poor Ralph dreaded
to meet Oscar; but yet he hunted him up, as soon as he got home, and
told him what had befallen the beautiful sled.  Oscar was very angry
when he heard the story, but he generously acquitted his brother of all
blame in the matter, and declared that he would pay back the boy who
had thus taken advantage of his weakness.  He knew the offender, from
Ralph's description, and from the name of his sled, which was the
"Corsair."  He even proposed to go directly to the Common, and settle
the account at once; but Ralph, in whose heart revenge held a very
small place, persuaded him out of the notion.

But Oscar, unlike Ralph, was not the boy to forget or forgive an
injury.  A day or two after the occurrence just related, while coasting
on the Common, he fell in with the boy who run into his brother.
Keeping his eye upon him until he could catch him a little aside from
the other boys, when the favorable moment came, he suddenly dealt him a
severe blow, which nearly knocked him over, accompanying it with the
remark:

"There, take that for running down my little brother, when he was
coasting with my sled, the other day."

The other boy, without saying a word, sprang at Oscar, and, for a
moment or two, blows and kicks were freely exchanged.  But though they
were about of a size, it was evident that Oscar was the stronger or
most resolute of the two, and his antagonist soon gave up the contest,
but not until he had been pretty roughly handled.  Other boys soon came
flocking around, to whom Oscar explained the cause of the assault; but
his antagonist denied all knowledge of the affair for which Oscar had
attacked him.  An angry war of words ensued, but the excitement finally
subsided without any further resort to blows, and Oscar returned home,
well pleased with his adventure.

One of Oscar's favorite winter amusements was skating.  Early in
winter, as soon as the little pond on the Common was frozen over, he
might be seen gliding over the smooth ice; but later in the season,
when there was good skating on "Back Bay," he preferred that locality,
because of its greater extent.  Tiger usually accompanied him in his
skating excursions, and seemed to enjoy the sport as much as his master
did.  It was amusing to see him try to make a short turn, in running
upon the ice.  He would slide some distance before he could change his
course.  Oscar would often plague him, when he was in full chase after
his master, by suddenly turning upon his skates, and taking a contrary
direction, leaving Tiger to get back as he could.

But an event happened, one day, that almost wholly cured Tiger of his
fondness for this kind of sport.  He was gaily tripping over the ice,
by the side of his young master, when the latter suddenly turned about,
and Tiger, in his haste to follow him, slid directly into an air-hole.
This was probably the first time he had enjoyed so extensive a cold
bath; and as he was not a water-dog, it is not surprising that he was
terribly frightened.  His piteous cries brought Oscar to his relief,
who could not help laughing at the sorry plight in which he found his
half-drowned canine friend.  He was floundering and paddling about in
the water, now lifting himself almost out, upon the edge of the ice,
and now slipping off again, and plumping over-head in the uncomfortable
element; his intelligent countenance, in the meantime, wearing the
impress of despair.  But Oscar soon helped him from his disagreeable
position.  Finding himself on his legs again, he did not resume his
sport; but, shivering with cold, and dripping with water, almost at the
freezing point, and with his head hanging downward, and his tail
drooping between his legs, he started towards home--a wiser and a
sadder dog.

When Oscar got home, he found the family some what alarmed for his own
safety.  Tiger had arrived some time before, and as it was evident that
he had been overboard, and as he was known to have gone off with his
master, Mrs. Preston felt some anxiety, not knowing but that both Oscar
and the dog had broken through the ice.  But his arrival dispelled all
fears, and his account of Tiger's misfortune served to amuse the
children for the rest of the day.  As for Tiger himself, he seemed
heartily ashamed of the part he had played, and could hardly be
persuaded to leave the chimney-corner for a moment, or even to look up,
when the children inquired for his health.

"I don't see what good air-holes do.  I wonder if anybody knows what
they are for," exclaimed Ralph, as the children and their mother were
seated around the sitting-room table in the evening.

"They are traps set to catch skaters, I suppose," said Oscar.

"And dogs," added Ella.

"But don't you know what they are for, Alice?" continued Ralph.

"Yes," replied Alice, who had studied natural philosophy at school,
"they are the breathing holes of the fishes.  Fishes can't live without
air, any better than we can; and a pond or river frozen over solid,
without any air-holes, would be as bad for them as a room from which
all fresh air was shut out would be to us.  You can sometimes catch
fish very easily by cutting a hole in the ice, for if they feel the
need of air, they will rush right up to the opening."

"But how are the air-holes made?" inquired Ralph.

"I believe," replied Alice, "that they are generally made by springs
that bubble up from the bottom.  These springs come from the earth, and
the water is so warm that it gradually thaws the ice over them.  The
fish often finish the process by jumping up through the ice before it
has entirely melted.  When the cold is very intense, and these springs
have frozen up, some of the water is absorbed by the earth, which
leaves a vacuum or empty space between the ice and the water; and then
the ice gives way under the weight of the atmosphere, and air is
admitted into the water beneath."

"Well, I 'm glad air-holes are good for something," said Oscar; "they
're troublesome enough to skaters.  Jim Anderson skated right into one
the other day, and came pretty near getting drowned.  But I always keep
my eyes open for them.  I never got into one yet."

"You cannot be too careful when you are on the ice," remarked Mrs.
Preston.  "I felt so uneasy, that I was just going to send Ralph in
search of you, when you got home."

After that day it required considerable coaxing to induce Tiger to go
upon the boys' skating-ground.  He manifested a decided preference to
remain upon the shore, and look on; and when he did venture to
accompany his master, he kept close by his side, and travelled over the
treacherous ice with a degree of circumspection, which said very
plainly, "You won't catch me in that scrape again, master Oscar!"

But there was nothing that the boys enjoyed more at this season of the
year, than a real good snowstorm.  Such a storm they were favored with
during this month.  It came on in the evening, and the next morning,
when they arose, their basement windows were more than half buried up
in snow, and the drifts, in some places, were higher than Oscar's head.
The streets were deserted and almost impassable.  Thick crusts of snow
hung over the roofs of the long blocks of houses; while the blinds,
windows, doors and balustrades were heavily trimmed with the same
delicate material.  The huge banks which stretched themselves along the
street and sidewalk, were as yet undisturbed; for the few passers-by
had been glad to pick their way through the valleys.  The wind roared
and piped among the chimneys and house-tops, and whisked through narrow
passage-ways, and whistled through the smallest cracks and crevices, in
its merriest and busiest mood.  Now it would scoop up a cloud of snow
from the street, and bear it up far above the house-tops, and then it
would repay the debt by gathering a fleecy wreath from some neighboring
roof, and sweeping it into the street beneath.  The storm still
continued with unabated severity, and the air was so full of snow, that
one could hardly see the length of the street.

After a hasty breakfast, the boys tucked the bottoms of their trowsers
into their boots, and sallied forth, to explore the half-buried
streets.  And now the light snow-balls began to fly thick and fast, and
every few moments, one and another would measure his full length in
some deep drift, which for a moment almost buried him from sight.
Tiger, who accompanied them, entered fully into the sport, and very
good-naturedly received his share of the snowballs and snow-baths.  But
their exercise was too violent to be continued a great while.  They
soon returned home, coated with snow from head to heel, and the cheeks
of the boys glowing with health and enjoyment.

"After you get rested, Oscar," said Mr. Preston, who was just leaving
for the store, "I want you to shovel a path in front of the house."

"What is the use?" inquired Oscar.  "The storm is n't over yet, and if
I make a path, it will fill right up again."

"No it won't," replied his father.  "I don't think it will storm much
longer; and the snow is so light, now, that you can shovel it easily,
but if you leave it till noon, it maybe trodden down hard.  You need
not clean off the whole side-walk now; only make a comfortable
passage-way, and perhaps I will help you finish the job at night."

Oscar still thought it would be a waste of labor to shovel a path then,
and he did not evince any haste in obeying his father's order.  After
loitering about the house a long time, he took the shovel, and worked
lazily at the path for awhile.  Although he only undertook to cut a
narrow passage-way through the drift in front of the house, he worked
with so little spirit, that when the time came for him to get ready for
school, he had not half completed the task.  He asked permission to
stay at home and finish his path, but his mother did not think this
necessary, and refused her consent.  So he went to school, and in the
meantime the storm died away, and the clouds dispersed.

Towards noon the door-bell rang, and on Bridget going to answer it, a
little printed paper was handed to her, directing the occupant of the
house to have the snow removed from his sidewalk within a given number
of hours.  After school, Oscar thought no more of his path, but went
off with Alfred Walton, and did not go home until dinner-time.  He had
but little time now to shovel snow; but his father told him to be sure
and come home directly from school, in the afternoon, and not to play
or do anything else until the sidewalk was cleared off.

Oscar accordingly went home after school, and resumed his work.  He
found that the snow was trodden into such a solid icy mass, that an axe
was necessary to cut it up in some places.  He was not the boy to hurt
himself with hard labor, and although he kept his shovel at work in a
leisurely way, he did not accomplish much, except the removal of a
little snow that had not got trodden down.  Wearied at length with his
feeble and fruitless efforts, he returned into the house, saying to his
mother:

"There, I can't get the snow off the sidewalk, and it's of no use to
try.  It's trodden down just as hard as ice.  Besides, if I should
shovel it all off, there will be an avalanche from the top of the house
to-night, that will bury the sidewalk all up again.  The snow is
sliding off the roofs, all around here;--have n't you heard it, mother?"

"Yes, I thought I heard it," replied Mrs. Preston; "but if you can't
get the snow off the sidewalk, you had better speak to your father
about it, when he comes home, and perhaps he will help you, or hire
somebody to do it for you.  It must be got off as soon as possible, for
the police have notified us to attend to it."

In spite of this advice, Oscar neglected to speak to his father in
regard to the matter, and no one else happening to think of it, nothing
was said about it.  The next morning, he chopped away upon the ice a
little while, but getting tired of it, he soon abandoned the job, and
went to play.  When Mr. Preston came home to dinner, an unusual cloud
was on his brow; and as soon as Oscar came in, the cause was explained.

"Oscar," he said, "why did you not shovel the snow from the sidewalk,
as I told you to, yesterday morning?"

"I tried to," replied Oscar; "but it was trodden down so hard, I could
n't get it off."

"But you should have done it before it got hardened.  I told you to
clear a passage-way, yesterday morning.  That would have saved the rest
from getting trod down, and at noon you could have finished the job.
Why did you not do as I told you to?"

"I did begin to make a path," replied Oscar; "but I did n't have time
to finish it, and when I got home from school, the snow was all trodden
down hard."

"Did n't have time?" said his father; "what do you tell me such a story
as that for?  You could have made all the path that was necessary in
fifteen or twenty minutes, if you had been disposed to do it.  By
neglecting to obey me, you have got me into a pretty scrape.  I have
had to go before the Police Court, this forenoon, and pay a fine and
costs, amounting to over five dollars, for your negligence and
disobedience.  And now," he added, "you may try once more, and see if
you can do as I tell you to.  As soon at you have done dinner, take the
hatchet and shovel, and go to work upon the sidewalk; and don't you
leave it until the ice is all cleared off.  As sure as you do, I will
dust your jacket for you when I come home to-night, so that you will
not forget it for one while."

Oscar thought it best to obey his father this time.  It being Saturday,
school did not keep, in the afternoon, and he had ample time to
complete the task, although it was time which he intended to spend in a
different way.  Ralph, however, volunteered his assistance, and before
the middle of the afternoon, the task was finished.



CHAPTER X.

APPEARANCES.

Those who impose upon the weak, sometimes get punished for their
meanness in an unexpected manner.  This truth was very effectually
impressed upon Oscar, one March morning, as he was going to school.
The streets were in a very bad condition, being several inches deep
with a compound of snow, water, and mud, familiarly known as "slosh."
Just before reaching the school-house, he overtook two little boys with
a sled, and throwing himself upon it, he compelled them to drag him
along.  It was hard sledding, and the boys naturally objected to
drawing such a heavy load; but Oscar kept his seat, and compelled them
to go on.  For a few minutes, he rode along very quietly, although his
span of youngsters, who were continually muttering to themselves, did
not seem to enjoy the sport as well as he did.  But, by a dexterous
movement, they soon balanced the debtor and creditor account.  Giving
the sled a sudden jerk and lurch, in one of the sloppiest places they
had met with, their lazy passenger was thrown backward into the mud,
and imprinted a full length picture of himself in the yielding
material.  The incident happened almost in front of the school-house,
and as Oscar rose from the mud, he was greeted by the shouts and
laughter of a hundred boys who witnessed the scene.  Several men, also,
who were passing at the time, joined in the laughing chorus; and one,
who had observed the whole affair from the beginning, told Oscar the
boys had served him just right.

[Illustration: The Overturn.]

Ralph came to the relief of his brother, and having wiped off as much
of the mud and water from his back as he could, with a handkerchief,
Oscar started for home, wet to his skin.  He was keenly sensitive to
any mortification of this kind, and it was a bitter pill for him to
appear in the crowded streets in such a plight.  He imagined everybody
he met or overtook was staring at him, and laughing at the figure he
cut, and he wanted to hide his face from their sight.  He never went
home from school so fast before; but when he had changed his dress, and
washed the dirt from his hands and face, it was too late to return.  In
the afternoon, when he made his appearance at school, he was quite
generally greeted with the significant nickname of "Stick-in-the-mud,"
and had to stand a most remorseless fire of wit, pleasantry, and
ridicule the rest of the day, both at home and in the street.

Oscar thought quite as much as was proper of outward appearances.  He
was commendably neat in his personal habits, and was seldom caught with
dirty hands and face, or uncombed hair, or soiled and ragged dress.  He
loved to dress well, too, and no amount of persuasion could induce him
to wear a garment, if he fancied it did not set right, or was much out
of fashion, or had an old and patched-up look.  In such a case, nothing
but the stern arm of authority was sufficient to overcome his
prejudices.

"There," said his mother one evening, after spending some time over one
of his jackets, which had become a little worn at the elbows; "there,
that will last you a spell longer, and look almost as well as it ever
did, too."

Oscar examined the garment.  It was neatly mended, and looked very
well; but his eye rested upon a slight patch upon one of the elbows,
which entirely spoilt it for him, although it had previously been a
favorite garment.

"It's too small for me," he said; "why can't you keep it for Ralph?"

"No, you needn't keep it for Ralph," quickly replied the owner of that
name; "I haven't had anything but your old clothes to wear for a year
or two, and I should think it was my turn to have some of the new ones,
now.  Make him wear that out, mother, won't you?"

"Yes, I intend he shall wear it awhile longer," replied Mrs. Preston.
"It looks well enough for any body."

"But see that detestable patch," said Oscar; "I don't want to wear
_that_ to school; folks will think I have borrowed one of Ben. Wright's
old jackets."

Ben Wright was one of Oscar's schoolmates.  He was the son of a poor
widow, and was the most be-patched boy in Oscar's class, at the head of
which he stood.  As he had nothing to recommend him but fine
scholarship, exemplary deportment, and a good character, in school and
out, he was a boy of little consequence in the eyes of Oscar.

"I wish you were _worthy_ to wear one of Benny's old jackets," replied
Mrs. Preston.  "If you were half as good a boy as he is, I would not
complain.  But you need not be afraid that anybody will mistake you for
him, even if you _do_ wear a patched garment."

"I believe you think Ben. Wright is a little angel," said Oscar, who
never liked to hear his humble but diligent classmate praised.

"I think he has some traits that you would do well to imitate," replied
his mother.

"I shall think I am imitating him, when I get that thing on," added
Oscar, in a contemptuous manner, alluding to the jacket.

"There, that will do, Oscar," replied Mrs. Preston, "You've said enough
about the jacket; don't let me hear another word of complaint.  I took
a great deal of pains to mend it neatly, and it looks well enough for
you or any other boy.  You may put it on to-morrow morning, and don't
you leave off wearing it till I tell you to."

Oscar nodded his head in a way that seemed to say, "You 'll see how
long I wear it;" but his mother did not observe the motion.  He had a
short and easy way of getting rid of garments that he disliked.
Somehow other they were sure to waste away in a much faster manner than
those he had a fancy for; or, perhaps they would be rendered suddenly
useless, by some mysterious accident.  But he would never admit that
their period of usefulness had been purposely shortened, though
suspicions of this kind were occasionally hinted.

Soon after this, Mr. Preston entered the room, and took a seat by the
fire  He pulled out his watch to wind it up, as was his custom just
before bed-time, when Oscar said:

"Father, I wish you would buy me a watch.  Frank King, and Bill
Andrews, and Charlie Grant, and almost all the large boys that I know,
have got watches, and I should think I might have one too; why can't I,
father?"

"What do they do with watches?" inquired Mr. Preston.

"Why, what does anybody do with them?  They carry them to tell the time
of day, of course," replied Oscar.

"And to make a display of watch-chain," added his father.

"No, that isn't it," replied Oscar; "but it's convenient to have a
watch with you.  You don't know how I 'm plagued to tell what time it
is, sometimes.  It would make me a good deal more punctual, if I had
one.  I was late to school this morning, but it was n't my fault, for I
did n't know what time it was until I got to the school-house, and
found that the boys had all gone in."

"When I was of your age," said Mr. Preston, "boys never thought of
carrying watches, and yet they were taught to be as punctual as the
clock, in their attendance at school.  If I had been tardy, and tried
to excuse myself by saying that I had no watch, I should have got
laughed at by the whole school.  But where were you this morning, that
you did not know when it was school-time?"

"Over to Alf. Walton's."

"And couldn't find a time-piece about the premises?"

"Why--no--I--forgot--" replied Oscar, somewhat embarrassed by the
question.

"Just as I supposed," added his father; "you got along with that boy,
and forgot all about your school; and it would have been just the same,
if you 'd had half a dozen watches in your pocket."

"O no, father," said Oscar; "for if I 'd had a watch about me, I should
have looked at it."

"Well," added Mr. Preston, "if you don't care enough about punctuality
to take a little trouble to ascertain what time it is, when you have an
engagement, I don't think a watch would help you any in acquiring the
habit.  You have n't made out a very strong case."

"No," remarked Mrs. Preston, "he wants a watch for show, and not
punctuality,--that's plain enough.  He has just been making a great
fuss because I put a little bit of a patch on the elbow of his jacket.
He is getting to be quite fastidious, for a gentleman of his size."

"If you would think a little less of outside appearances, Oscar,"
continued his father, "and a little more of inward character, your
judgment of men and things would not be quite so much at fault as it is
now.  If you judge of boys or men by the cloth and watches they wear,
and select your companions accordingly, you will soon find that you
have got a pretty set of friends.  And so, too, if you think you can
secure the good opinion and respect of the world, merely by dressing
well, you are greatly mistaken.  You must learn to judge people by
their characters, and not by their dress or appearance.  If I could see
you trying to form a good character, I should care very little what
sort of garments you wore.  I would buy you a watch, or anything else
in my power, if it would only make you behave better.  In fact, I will
make you a handsome offer now, if you wish."

"Well, what is it?" inquired Oscar.

"I will agree to give you a nice watch, in six months from this time,
if you will do three things," continued his father.

"What are they?" inquired Oscar; "are they things that I can do?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Preston; "you can do them if you will only try.
The first is, that you render prompt obedience to your parents, during
these six months.  Is n't that within your power?"

"Yes, sir," replied Oscar, somewhat reluctantly.

"The second is," continued Mr. Preston, "that you behave toward your
playmates and all other people in such a way, that no serious complaint
shall be made against you.  Can you do that, if you try?"

"Yes, sir, I guess so," replied Oscar.

"And the last condition is, that you give sufficient attention to your
studies to gain admission to the High School, at the end of the term.
Is that in your power?"

"I suppose it is," said Oscar.

"You admit, then, that you _can_ keep these conditions," continued his
father; "the question now is, _will_ you do it?"

That was a hard question for Oscar to answer.  He hesitated, and
twisted about in his chair, and at length replied:

"Why, I don't suppose I should make out, if I tried."

"No, you certainly would not, if that is your spirit," replied his
father.  "You cannot accomplish anything unless you have some
confidence that you can do it, and firmly resolve to try.  You just
admitted that you could keep these conditions, but it seems you are not
willing to make the attempt.  You want a watch, but you don't intend to
obey your parents, or to conduct yourself properly, or to attend to
your lessons, for the sake of getting it--that's what you mean to say,
is it not?"

Oscar remained silent.

"I am sorry," continued his father, "that you will not take up with my
offer; for though I do not think it important that you should get the
watch, it is important that you should reform some of your habits.  You
are getting to be altogether too wayward and headstrong, as well as
vain."

"If I get into the High School next summer, may I have the watch?"
inquired Oscar.

"No," replied his father, "not unless you comply with the other
conditions.  But I want you to remember what I told you the other day,
that if you don't get into the High School at that time, I shall send
you to some boarding-school away from home, where you will be made to
study, and to behave yourself too.  If strict discipline can do
anything for you, you shall have the benefit of it, you may depend upon
that."

Oscar was now two-thirds of the way through his last year in the school
he attended.  His parents were anxious that he should go through the
High School course of studies, and, indeed, he had applied for
admission to that school the summer previous to this, but did not pass
the examination.  There was still some doubt whether he would succeed
any better at the next examination; and in case of his failure, his
parents had decided to send him to a boarding-school in the country.
But there was nothing very alarming to him in the idea of going into
such an establishment, notwithstanding all his father said of the
strict discipline to which he would be subjected.  There would be a
novelty about it, he imagined, that would make it quite pleasant.
Consequently, he cared very little whether he was accepted as a High
School pupil or not.



CHAPTER XI.

THE MORAL LESSON.

Oscar had the name among his fellows of being a shrewd and sharp boy at
a bargain; and, like too many men who have acquired a similar
reputation, he was not over-scrupulous in his manner of conducting his
business operations.  If he could drive a profitable trade, it mattered
little _how_ he did it; and if somebody else lost as much as he gained
by the bargain, that was not his business; every one must look out for
himself.  So he reasoned, and so constantly did he act on this
principle, that, to tell the truth, his integrity was by no means
unimpeachable among his comrades.  It was a very general opinion, that
in many of their boyish games, such as marbles, he would cheat if he
could get a chance; and the notion was equally prevalent, that in a
bargain, he was pretty sure to get decidedly the best end.

Oscar was very desirous that his dog Tiger should wear a brass collar,
by way of ornament and distinction.  All other respectable dogs bore
upon their necks this badge of ownership, and he thought it highly
important that Tiger should be on a good footing with his canine
friends.  But how to get the collar, was the question that perplexed
him.  He had asked his father to buy it, and met with a flat refusal.
He had even called at several shops, and inquired the price of the
coveted article, but it was hopelessly beyond his means.  The subject
lay heavily upon his mind for several days, for when he took a notion
that he wanted a thing, it was hard to reason or drive him out of it.
His thoughts and his dreams were of brass dog-collars, and his talk
among his companions run upon the same theme.  At length, while
prosecuting his inquiries, he happened to learn that a little boy who
attended his school, owned just such a collar as he wanted, and had no
dog to wear it.  Here was a chance for a speculation.  Oscar lost no
time in seeing this boy, and in getting his lowest price for the
collar, which was fifty cents.  This was much less than the price at
the shops, and Oscar thought his father might be induced, by this fact,
to let him have the money to purchase it; but Mr. Preston did not think
Tiger needed any such appendage, and Oscar's request was again denied.

Oscar now set his wits to work to devise a way of buying the collar,
without his father's aid.  He looked over the little collection of
"goods and chattels," which he called his own, to see what there was he
could exchange for the article he wanted.  His eye soon fell upon a
brass finger ring, and his plan was quickly formed.  The ring had been
tumbled about among his playthings for a year or two, and was now dull
and dingy; but he remembered that he once cleaned and polished it, so
that it looked very much like gold, so long as the lustre lasted.  He
subjected it to this process again, and it soon looked as well as the
plain gold ring he wore upon his finger, which it somewhat resembled in
size and color.  Substituting it for the gold ring, he wore it to
school that afternoon; and a little negotiation, after school was
dismissed, settled the business--the coveted dog-collar was his!
Indeed, so craftily did he conduct the bargain, that he made the other
boy throw in a pretty ivory pocket-comb to boot!  The little boy who
was thus cruelly deceived, supposed he was buying the ring that Oscar
usually wore; and, in truth, Oscar did give him to understand, in the
course of the barter, that it was fine gold, a point on which the other
boy did not appear to have much doubt.

Oscar did not dare to tell any one what a good bargain he had made, for
fear that the other boy would hear of it.  Tiger appeared with a
handsome collar around his neck the next morning; and all the
explanation any one could get from his young master was, that he
"traded for it."

A week or two elapsed before Oscar's victim discovered the imposition
that had been practiced upon him.  The ring, which had been proudly
worn, at length began to look dim and brassy; and on being submitted to
careful inspection, it was pronounced by competent authority to be not
worth one cent.  The owner was of course indignant, and he went at once
to Oscar, and demanded a return of the collar and comb.  But Oscar
laughed at the proposal.

"A bargain is a bargain," said he, "and there can't be any backing out,
after it's all settled.  You agreed to the trade, and now you must
stick to it."

"But it was n't a fair bargain," said the other boy; "you told me the
ring was gold, and it is nothing but brass."

"No, I did n't tell you it was gold," replied Oscar.  "You imagined
that.  And I did n't tell you it was the one I wore either,--you
imagined that too.  It was my other ring that I said was gold, and I
told you it cost two dollars, and so it did.  I never told you this
ring was gold,--I recollect perfectly about it."

"Well, you know I supposed it was gold, or I would n't have traded for
it," replied the boy; "and besides, you made me think it was gold,
whether you really said it was or not."

"That was your look-out," said Oscar.  "When a man sells a thing, he is
n't obliged to run it down.  You must look out for yourself when you
make a bargain--that's what I do."

"I should think you did," replied the other; "and I guess I shall
remember your advice, if I ever trade with you again.  There's your old
ring: now give me back my collar and comb," he continued, handing the
ring to Oscar.

"I shan't do any such thing," said Oscar, and he refused to take the
ring, and turned upon his heel, leaving the other boy in no very
pleasant state of mind.

"Then you 're a great cheat and a swindler," cried the victim,
gathering courage as Oscar retreated.

"And you 're a little greeny," replied Oscar, with a loud laugh.

Oscar had prepared his mind for this explosion of indignation, and
though he did not care much about it, he was glad it was over with.  He
regarded the transaction which led to it as a shrewd business
operation, to be chuckled over, rather than repented of; and he had no
idea of spoiling it all, by undoing the bargain.

In Oscar's school, it was customary for the first class (of which he
was a member) to devote the first half hour of every Monday morning to
a lesson in morals.  In these lessons, the duties which we owe to God,
to ourselves, and to one another, were explained and enforced.
Although a text-book was used, the teacher did not confine himself to
it, in the recitations, but mingled oral instruction with that
contained in the printed lessons, often taking up incidents that
occurred in school, to illustrate the principle he wished to establish.

It so happened that on the Monday morning after the occurrence just
related, the subject of the moral lesson was dishonesty.  The various
forms of dishonesty,--theft, robbery, fraud, &c.,--were explained, and
the distinction between them pointed out.  The teacher then proceeded
as follows:

"A gentleman was riding in the cars, one evening, when a newsboy passed
through the train, and he purchased a paper, giving the boy by mistake
a gold eagle instead of a cent.  The boy noticed the mistake, but said
nothing about it.  Albert, you may tell me what you think of that boy's
conduct."

"It was dishonest," replied Albert; "because he knew that the money did
not belong to him, and yet he kept it."

"But did not a part of the blame belong to the man who made the
mistake?" inquired the teacher.

Albert, after thinking a moment, replied:

"He was to blame for his carelessness, but not for the boy's
dishonesty."

"You are right," said the teacher.  "The boy was guilty of stealing,
just as much as if he had picked the man's pocket, or broken into his
house.  But suppose, instead of the mistake being to the amount of ten
dollars, it had only been a few cents,--how then?"

"It would have been just the same," replied the boy.

"But what if the man was very rich, and would never feel the loss,
while the boy was poor, and needed the money?"

"That would have made no difference," replied Albert.

"Very good," continued the teacher; "when an honest man discovers a
mistake in his own favor, he always hastens to rectify it.  He will
receive only what he is entitled to.  Robert," he added, addressing an
other pupil, "how is it with regard to lost articles?"

"When we find anything that has been lost," replied the boy addressed,
"we should try to ascertain the owner, and return the article to him."

"Is there any guilt in neglecting to do this?"

"Yes, sir, it is a kind of dishonesty."

"You are right," added the teacher; "the courts often punish men for
this very offence, for it is a species of theft.  And how of borrowing
articles, and neglecting to return them,--is that honest?"

"It is not," replied Robert.

"Oscar," continued the teacher, "you may give your opinion of this
case: suppose one of your acquaintances wants a certain article
belonging to you, and by way of barter, offers you a finger-ring for
it.  You take it for granted that the ring is gold, but a week or two
after the bargain is concluded, you discover that it is of brass, and
of no value what ever.  The other boy knew all the while it was brass,
and also knew you supposed it was gold.  What should you say of such a
transaction?   Was it honest?"

Oscar turned red, and looked confused, as this question was put to him.
It was a minute or two before he made any reply, and then he said, in a
hesitating manner:

"If the other boy did n't _tell_ me it was gold, I don't see as he was
to blame."

"But we will suppose there was no need of his telling you so," added
the master; "we will suppose he managed the bargain so adroitly, that
you never suspected he was not dealing fairly with you.  In that case,
should you think he had acted honestly towards you?"

"No, sir," replied Oscar, but it came out with the utmost reluctance.

"Certainly not," said the teacher; "it is dishonest to take advantage
of another's ignorance, or simplicity, or necessity, in a bargain.
Overreaching in trade is often dignified with the name of shrewdness,
but, for all that, it is contrary to the rule of honesty.  And now I
have one more question to ask you: After you have discovered how your
comrade has imposed upon you, what should you expect of him?"

Oscar made no reply.

"Should you not expect him to make full restitution?"

"Yes, sir," he replied, in a scarcely audible voice.

"Of course you would," continued the master; "and if he refused, he
would deserve double punishment."

Several other forms of dishonesty were then considered, such as the
following;--withholding from another his just dues; contracting debts
which we know we cannot pay, or making promises we know we cannot
fulfil; wasting or injuring the property of others, &c.  In concluding,
the teacher remarked, that it was not very pleasant to feel that we had
been wronged and cheated; but there was another feeling, a
thousand-fold more to be dreaded--the feeling that we have wronged and
cheated others.  And so ended the moral lesson for that morning.

The particular bearing of this lesson upon Oscar, and the pertinency of
the "case" he was called to decide upon, were not generally known to
the class, though their suspicions might have been somewhat excited by
his confusion, and his reluctance to answer the questions put to him.
The teacher had been informed of Oscar's dishonest bargain by the boy
who suffered from it, and he chose this way to impress upon him the
immorality of the transaction.  He concluded, however, to give him an
opportunity to make a voluntary restitution, and so no further
reference was made to the matter.

Oscar was wise enough to heed the warning.  Before night, the brass
dog-collar and the ivory pocket-comb were returned to their rightful
owner.



CHAPTER XII.

SICKNESS.

"You have got a bad cold, Oscar," said Mrs. Preston one evening towards
the close of winter, as Oscar came in from his play, and was seized
with a coughing spell.  "And no wonder," she added, on glancing at his
feet; "why, do you see how wet the bottoms of your pantaloons are?  I
should like to know where you have been, to get so wet--it is strange
that you will not keep out of the water."

"I should like to know how anybody could help getting wet feet this
weather, with the slosh up to your knees," said Oscar.

"I could walk about the streets all day without going over my shoes,"
replied his mother, "and so could you, if you tried to.  I believe you
go through all the mud-puddles you can find, just to see how wet you
can get.  But it won't do for you to sit down in this condition.  Take
off your wet boots, and run up stairs and put on a pair of dry
pantaloons and some dry stockings, and then you may sit down to the
fire and warm yourself."

"I don't want to change my pantaloons and stockings," said Oscar; "I
'll take off my boots and dry myself--that will do just as well."

"No it won't," replied his mother; "you had better change your clothes,
for you've got a real bad cold now, and I don't want you to get any
more.  Come, do you hear me?  Run up to your chamber and put on some
dry clothes."

Oscar paid no attention to the command, but after removing his wet
boots, sat down before the range to dry his feet and legs.  Such
instances of disobedience were too common in the family to attract any
special notice, and Mrs. Preston said nothing more about the matter.

Oscar, that afternoon, had been down to the shores of Charles River,
near Cambridge Bridge, with Alfred Walton and several other boys.  They
had been amusing themselves upon the ice that had formed along the edge
of the river, and which was now breaking up.  They loosened some of the
large cakes, and set them floating off upon the current towards the
ocean.  It was in this way that Oscar got his feet so wet.

The next afternoon, when school was dismissed, Oscar, forgetting his
wet feet and his cold, went again to the same place, with several of
his cronies.  Tiger also accompanied the party, for his master seldom
went anywhere without him, except to school.  The boys amused
themselves, as on the previous day, with shoving off large blocks of
ice into the stream, and with running rapidly over floating pieces that
were not large enough to bear them up.  Sometimes they narrowly escaped
a ducking, so venturesome were they; and all of them got their feet
pretty thoroughly soaked.

It happened, after awhile, that a cake of ice upon which the boys were
all standing, got disengaged from the shore, unperceived by them, and
commenced floating into the river.  They were all at work upon another
ice-block, trying to push it off, and did not notice that they were
going off themselves, until they were several feet from the shore.  The
distance was too great to leap, and the water was so deep that none of
them dared to jump off from their precarious footing.

"Well, this is a pretty joke," said one of the boys, with some
appearance of alarm.  "I should like to know how we are going to get
out of this scrape?"

"Get out of it?--who wants to get out of it?" replied Oscar.  "I don't,
for one--we shall have a first-rate sail down into the harbor; shan't
we, Alf?"

"The tide will take us right under the bridge, and I 'm going to climb
up one of the piers," said Alfred, who appeared to be thinking more of
a way of escape than of the pleasures of the trip.

"Pooh, I shan't get off there," said Oscar.  "I 'm in for a sail, and
if the rest of you back out, I shan't.  You 'll go too, won't you, Tom?"

Before Tom could answer, they all began to notice that their ice-cake
gave signs that the burden upon it was greater than it could safely
bear.  The swift current began to whirl it about in a rather
uncomfortable manner, and it was gradually settling under water.  They
all began to be very much alarmed--all but Tiger, who did not quite
comprehend the situation of affairs, and who looked up into the boys'
faces with an expression of curiosity, as though he wanted to say:

"I wonder what mischief these little rogues are up to now?"

Several people who were crossing the bridge now noticed the perilous
situation of the boys, and stopped to look at them.  As soon as Alfred
noticed them, he cried out slowly, at the top of his voice:

"Halloo, there! send us a boat, will you? we 're sinking!"

[Illustration: Afloat on the Ice.]

There was some doubt whether the people on the bridge understood the
cry, and the other boys repeated it as loud as they could, in the
meantime also trying to manifest their want by signs and gestures.
Some of the spectators upon the bridge, who were now quite numerous,
shouted back in reply; but the boys, being to their windward, could not
understand what they said.  Their frail support was now moving rapidly
along, and whirling about in the eddies more alarmingly than ever.  It
had sunk so low that they were all standing in the water, and they
expected it would shortly break to pieces and precipitate them all into
the river.  There were four of them upon the cake, besides the dog.
The two youngest boys began to cry with fright; but Oscar and Alfred,
though they were as much alarmed as the others, did not manifest it in
this way, but were looking anxiously towards the bridge and the shore
for relief.

The boys were not long kept in this dreadful state of suspense; for
pretty soon they discovered a boat putting out towards them from the
end of the bridge.  There were two men in it, each of whom was plying
an oar.  They called out to the boys not to be frightened, and in a few
minutes they were alongside the fugitive ice-cake, whose living freight
was safely transferred to the boat.  The boatmen then pulled for the
wharf from which they came, and the rescued party had the pleasure of
standing once more upon firm ground.  They were so overjoyed at their
escape that they forgot to thank the men who had taken so much trouble
to rescue them.  They were not ungrateful however; though it would have
been better if their words as well as their looks had expressed the
sentiment they felt.  As soon as they reached the wharf, the men
advised them to run home and dry themselves, which they proceeded to do.

When Oscar reached home, he was so hoarse, from hallooing, that he
could not speak aloud.  When his mother heard of his exposure, and saw
how wet he was, she was much concerned for him.  She wished him to
change his damp clothing, but he did not think it necessary, and
instead of complying with her desire, he sat down to the fire and dried
himself.  He had but little appetite for supper; and a headache coming
on in the evening, he retired to bed early.  Before dong so, however,
he took a dose of medicine which his mother had prepared, to "throw
off" his cold.

After a feverish and restless night--in which, in his troubled dreams,
Oscar had floated to sea upon a small piece of ice, and, after a long
agony, foundered alone in fathomless waters--he awoke in the morning
feeling very strangely.  Every few moments a cold chill ran through his
body, that made him shiver until the bed trembled beneath him.  His
head ached badly, and there was also a pain in his back.  He tried to
raise himself up, but his arms had lost their strength, and he was
barely able to support himself a moment upon his elbow.  By-and-bye his
brothers, who slept in the same room in another bed, got up, and Oscar
informed them that he was too weak to get off the bed.  They soon
called in their father and mother, who, after looking at the sick boy,
concluded to send for a physician.

After breakfast, Ralph was despatched for the doctor, who soon arrived,
and was conducted into Oscar's chamber.  Seating himself upon the
bedside, he took the sick boy's wrist into his hand, and began to talk
with him very pleasantly, asking him various questions about his
feelings, the manner in which he took cold, &c.  Having ascertained all
the facts and symptoms of the case, he told the family he thought Oscar
was suffering from an attack of lung fever, and he then gave directions
as to the manner in which the disease should be treated.  He also wrote
a recipe for some medicine, to be procured at the apothecary's.  The
terms used in it were Latin, and very much abbreviated, besides, so
that they were unintelligible to Mrs. Preston; for this is a custom
among physicians, that has come down from ancient times.  Seeing Mrs.
Preston was in some doubt about the prescription, he explained to her
what the articles were that composed it, and the effect they would have
upon the patient.

After the doctor had gone, it was decided to remove Oscar into another
chamber, in a lower story, where he would be more comfortable, and
where, also, it would be more convenient to wait upon him.  Wrapping
him up warmly in the bed-clothes, his father took him in his arms, and
carried him to the room he was to occupy for the present.

In spite of his medicine, Oscar continued to grow worse, through the
day.  He longed for night to come, that he might go to sleep; but when
it came, it did not bring with it the refreshing slumber of health.
Short naps and troubled dreams alternated with long, weary hours of
wakefulness; and the sun, at its next rising, found him sicker than
before.  The pains in his head and chest were more severe; his skin was
hot and dry; his cheeks were flushed with fever; he breathed with
difficulty, and his cough had become quite distressing.  He felt cross
and fretful, too, and nothing that was done for him seemed to give him
satisfaction.  He was unwilling that any one should attend upon him,
except his mother, and refused to receive his food or medicine from any
hand but hers.  If she happened to be absent from his room more than a
few moments, when he was awake, he would insist upon her being called
back.

But though Oscar would not allow his mother to leave him, she did not
suit him much better than the other members of the family.  It was with
considerable difficulty that she could coax him to take the medicines
the doctor had ordered.  Then she was obliged to deny him all forms of
nourishment, except a little gum-arabic water,--an arrangement at which
he complained a good deal.

Oscar's fever continued to run for more than a week, the violence of
the disease increasing from day to day.  Then a favorable change took
place, and the doctor told him the fever had turned, and he was getting
better.  For a day or two before this, however, he was very ill; so
ill, indeed, that he submitted to whatever the doctor ordered, without
a word of complaint.  He felt that there was danger, and he dare not
stand in the way of the means used for his recovery.  To this, perhaps,
he owed the favorable turn the disease had taken; for had he refused to
take his medicines, as he did at the commencement of his sickness, or
even had he only engaged in a fruitless but exhausting contest with his
mother, the scale might have turned the other way, and the fever ended
in death.

Getting better!  That was the best news Oscar had heard for many a day.
He almost wanted to kiss the lips that spoke those encouraging words.
He always liked Dr. Liscom, but never so well as at that moment.  It
was good news to all the household, too, and flew quickly from one to
another.  In fact, the children grew so jubilant over it, that their
mother had to remind them that Oscar was yet too sick to bear any noise
in the house.

"O dear," said George, "I 've got tired of keeping so still.  How long
will it be before we can make a real good noise, mother?"

"And how long before I can sing, and practice my music-lessons,
mother?" inquired Ella.

"And how long before Oscar can go out and play?" inquired Ralph, more
thoughtful for his sick brother than for himself.

"I can't tell," replied their mother; "you must all keep still a few
days longer, for Oscar is very weak now, and the noise disturbs him.
The doctor thinks it will take several weeks for him to get fully well,
but he will soon be able to sit up, I hope."

The next morning, Oscar felt decidedly better, and so he continued to
improve day by day.  But his old impatience soon began to return.  He
grumbled every time the hour returned to take his drops, and he fairly
rebelled against the food that was prepared for him--a little weak
gruel, when his appetite was clamoring for a hearty meal of beef and
potatoes!  During his sickness, many little delicacies had been sent in
to him by friends and neighbors, and from most of these too he was
still debarred by the inexorable doctor.  He teased his mother to let
him have things the doctor had forbidden, and was offended with her
when she refused.  He thus made a great deal of unnecessary trouble and
suffering for his mother, who had served him so devotedly through this
sickness that her own health was giving way.

A day or two after his fever turned, Oscar wished to sit up in a chair,
and begged very hard to be allowed to get up from the bed.

"Why, Oscar," said his mother, "you could not sit up two minutes, if I
should put you in a chair.  You have no idea how weak you are."

"No, I aint weak," replied Oscar; "I bet you I can walk across the room
just as well as you can--you don't know how strong I 've grown within a
day or two.  Come, mother, do let me get up, will you?"

"You are crazy to talk so, my son," answered Mrs. Preston.  "If you
should try to stand up, you would faint away as dead as a log.  It will
be a week before you are strong enough to walk about."

"I believe you mean to keep me sick as long as you can," was Oscar's
unfeeling reply.  "I am tired almost to death of laying a-bed," he
added, and the tears began to gather in his eyes.

His mother felt hurt by these words, but she attributed them to the
weakening and irritating influence of disease, and forgave them as
quickly as they were uttered.  She even yielded to his wishes so far as
to offer to let him sit up in bed a little while.  He gladly acceded to
the proposal, and putting his arms around her neck, she slowly raised
him up; but he had no sooner reached an upright position than his head
began to "fly round like a top," and he was very glad to be let down
again to his pillow.  This little experiment satisfied him for the day.

It was a fine April morning when Oscar was first taken up from his sick
bed, and placed in an easy chair, well lined with blankets and
comforters.  This was a memorable event in his life, the first time he
sat up after nearly three weeks' confinement to his bed.  He was
dragged to the front window, from which he could see the people upon
the street below.  How familiar, and yet how strange, everything and
everybody looked to his sick eyes!  And then, to have his toast and
drink set before him upon a corner of the table, where he could help
himself, and eat and drink with some comfort,--was n't that "grand," to
use his own expressive term!

Oscar's recovery was now pretty rapid, but his mother had to watch him
very sharply, to prevent him from running into excesses, to which his
impatience continually prompted him.  It was hard to make him realize
that there was yet some danger of a relapse, and that prudence would be
necessary for several weeks to come.



CHAPTER XIII.

GETTING WELL.

Oscar had reason to remember the first time he went down stairs, after
his fit of sickness.  It was in the night-time.  He awoke, feeling
quite hungry; for he was yet kept on a spare diet, which was far from
satisfying the cravings of his appetite.  He was alone in his room, and
all the rest of the family were asleep.  A lamp was burning dimly in
the fire-place of his chamber, and the door that led into his mother's
room was open, that she might be ready, at the least sound of alarm.
After thinking the matter over a few minutes, and satisfying himself
that no one in the house was awake, he determined to go down stairs in
quest of something to eat.

"What is the use of starving a fellow to death, because he has been
sick!" he said to himself.  "I might as well die one way as another;
and if there 's anything to eat in the house, I'm bound to have it.  I
've lived on slops and toasted bread three weeks, and I can't stand it
any longer."

He accordingly got up, and taking the lamp, stole very cautiously into
the entry, and down stairs, having nothing but his night-clothes upon
him.  The snapping of the stairs, under his tread, was the only noise
that was heard, and this did not awake any of the household.  He
proceeded at once to the kitchen closet, and commenced helping himself
with a free hand to its contents.  He began upon a dish of corned beef
and vegetables, from which he partook quite liberally.  He then hastily
swallowed a piece of mince-pie, and a slice or two of cake, when, the
night air beginning to feel chilly, he hurried back to bed.  This last
operation was by no means so easy as he had imagined it would be.  His
knees were very weak and "shaky," and it seemed as though they could
not support him, when he undertook to go up stairs.  He was alarmed,
and would have given up the attempt, and called for help, but for the
dread of being caught in such a flagrant act of disobedience.  So he
persisted in his efforts, and finally reached his chamber, quite
exhausted.

After a heavy and troubled sleep, Oscar awoke in the morning, feeling
quite wretchedly.  As soon as his mother entered the room, her quick
eye detected the unfavorable change; but he did not seem inclined to
complain much of his feelings, and appeared averse to conversing about
them.  She ascertained, however, after awhile, that Oscar was more
feverish than he had been, that he had a severe pain in his chest, and
that his cough was worse.  Many were the surmises thrown out, by his
father and mother, as to the probable cause of this change in his
symptoms; but as for himself, he seemed entirely at a loss to account
for the mystery, and left them to form their own conjectures.

The doctor, who now visited Oscar only two or three times a week, was
sent for after breakfast.  When he arrived, he questioned Mrs. Preston
very closely as to the manner in which the patient had been treated,
and he also addressed many inquiries to Oscar; but he learned nothing
from either that could account for the renewed attack of fever.  He sat
a few moments, in a thoughtful mood, seemingly at a loss what to say,
when Oscar, who had complained much of nausea for the last half hour,
began to show symptoms of vomiting.  A basin was brought, and the
contents of his stomach were quickly discharged into it.

The mystery was now explained.  Mrs. Preston looked on in silent
astonishment, while the doctor could hardly repress his anger at this
exhibition of the contents of his patient's stomach.  There were great
pieces of unmasticated meat and potato, mixed up with a porridge of
half-dissolved pie and cake, the whole forming a medley of hearty and
indigestible substances, that would have taxed the strong stomach of a
healthy man.

"Well," said the doctor, turning to Mrs. Preston, when Oscar got
through, "what does all this mean?"

"I know not; you must ask him," replied Mrs. Preston.

The same question, put to Oscar, brought from him a reluctant
confession of the last night's folly.  When he had concluded, the
doctor arose, and taking his hand, said:

"I will bid you good-bye.  It's of no use for me to attend upon you any
longer, if you abuse my confidence in this way.  If you want to kill
yourself I won't stand in your way.  Good morning."

Before Oscar recovered from his astonishment, the doctor had reached
the entry.  Addressing his mother who was following him, he said:

"Call him back, mother--tell him I won't do so again--call him back."

The doctor heard the message, and returned.

"I will consent to prescribe for you only on one condition," he said;
"and that is, that you will agree to do precisely as I tell you to.
You must take the medicines I order, and eat only what I tell you to,
or I will have nothing more to do with you.  Do you agree to that?"

"Yes, sir," replied Oscar.

The doctor resumed his seat, and felt the patient's pulse.  He had not
yet got entirely over his irritation, and, turning to Mrs. Preston, he
remarked:

"If the patient was a little stronger, my first prescription would be a
smart external application of birch or ratan; but, as it is, we shall
have to omit that for the present.  You need not think you will escape
punishment, however," he continued, turning to Oscar.  "This scrape of
yours will put you back more than one week and if you are not careful
you may never get your health again.  You may trifle with the doctor,
but you can't trifle with the lung fever."

The doctor then gave directions as to Oscar's diet and medicine, and
departed, but not until he had again warned him against leaving the
room without his mother's consent, or eating any articles forbidden by
her.

Oscar found no opportunity after this to evade the commands of the
doctor, had he been so disposed, for some one was always with him by
day and night.  Still, his recovery seemed to have been checked very
much by his relapse, and the doctor's skill was taxed pretty severely
to bring the fever to a favorable termination.  As it was, his attempt
was not fully successful; for the fever, in spite of all he could do,
left behind it a cough, and a weakness of the lungs, which gave Oscar's
parents no little alarm at times.

For a fortnight after his midnight supper, Oscar allowed his mother and
the doctor to do just as they pleased with him.  He yielded to their
wishes, and their orders were law to him.  At the end of that time the
doctor discontinued his regular visits.  Oscar was now able to go
out-doors a little in very pleasant weather; but his cough rendered
prudence still very necessary.  His confinement, however, was daily
growing more irksome, and sometimes he disregarded the positive
commands of his parents by going out when the weather was unsuitable.

One morning, a menagerie, or collection of wild beasts, was to enter
the city in grand procession.  There were to be several elephants and
camels on foot, besides hundreds of other animals (invisible) in
carriages.  There was also to be a mammoth gilt chariot, filled with
musicians, and drawn by ever so many horses.  The procession was to
pass very near the street where Oscar lived, and he intended to go and
see it; but when the morning came, there was a cold, drizzling rain,
with an uncomfortable east wind, and his mother told him he must not
think of going out.  He did think of it, however, and not only thought
of it, but went.  While his mother was up stairs, he quietly slipped
out, and went to the corner the procession was expected to pass.  There
he waited about an hour, until he became thoroughly wet and chilled,
and then returned home, without seeing the sight; for the showmen had
shortened their intended route on account of the storm.  He entered the
house, vexed by his disappointment and the uncomfortable plight he was
in; and when his mother mildly reproved him for his conduct, and
entreated him to be more careful of himself, he only replied that he
did not wish to live, if he must be shut up in the house all the time.
This act of imprudence and disobedience made him a close prisoner in
the house for several days, besides causing him no little suffering.

Oscar employed much of his leisure time in reading, during his
confinement in-doors.  His acquaintances lent him many interesting
books, with which he beguiled the weary hours.  One day, happening to
think of a volume belonging to his classmate, Benjamin Wright, which he
thought he should like to read, he sent word by Ralph that he wished to
borrow it.  The next morning Benjamin brought it to school, and Ralph
took it home to Oscar.  On removing the paper in which it was wrapped
up, a letter dropped out, which Oscar found was directed to himself.
He opened it, and a smile lit up his countenance as he glanced over the
sheet, which was filled up with drawings and writing of an amusing
character.  Benjamin was quite famous among the boys for the skill and
facility with which he made sketches, and in this letter he had given a
curious specimen of his artistic talent.  The following is a copy of
this production:


DEAR OSCAR:

  I am sorry to hear you 're in weakness and pain,
  And I send you a book to beguile your tired brain;
  I send also some puzzles, to stir up your wit,
  And tempt you to laugh, when you really don't feel like it one bit!

[Illustration: A Queer Name.]

  What a queer name!

  What do we all do when we first get into bed?
  Why is swearing like an old coat?
  What is that which is lengthened by being cut at both ends?

  My first, if you do, you won't hit;
  My second, if you do, you will have it;
  My whole, if you do, you won't guess it.

[Illustration: The Double Face.]

  Turn me over, pray.

  A word there is, five syllables contains;
  Take one away, no syllable remains.

  What is that which is lower with a head than without one?
  Who was the first whistler?
  What tune did he whistle?
  How do you swallow a door?
  What is that which lives in winter, dies in summer, and
    grows with its root upwards?
  If you were to tumble out of the window, what would you fall against?

[Illustration: The Cat-Erect.]

  Why is this like the Falls of Niagara?
  If my puzzles are simple, and my pictures a fright,
  Then just laugh at me, and it will all
    B. WRIGHT.


This letter was the prime source of attraction to all the children, the
rest of the day; and its reception formed an era in Oscar's sick-day
experience, not easily to be forgotten.  All the family, from Mr.
Preston down to little George, set themselves to work to guess out the
riddles; but in some of them, they found more than their match.  To
Oscar, however, the letter was something more than a collection of
drawings and puzzles.  It was a token of interest and sympathy from a
boy towards whom he had never manifested a very friendly spirit.
Benjamin's high standing in the school, both for scholarship and
behavior, had awakened in Oscar a secret feeling of jealousy or
resentment towards him.  He was a poor boy, too, and this by no means
increased Oscar's respect for him.  But now, Oscar began to feel
ashamed of all this; and as instances of his unkind treatment of his
generous classmate came up in remembrance, he wished he had the power
to blot them from existence.  He determined thenceforth to "stand up"
for Benjamin, and began to plan some way of making a return for his
manifestation of good feeling.

Ella wanted to carry Benjamin's letter to school, to show to the girls,
but Oscar would not allow it to go out of his hands.  She then begged
the privilege of copying it, to which he consented.  She did the best
she could, no doubt, but her drawings probably did not quite do justice
to the subjects; for Oscar declared that her copy was more comical than
the original.  She lent it to some of her schoolmates, one of whom was
roguish enough to show it to Benjamin himself!  He laughed heartily at
the caricature; but thinking it was getting him rather more notoriety
than he wished, he put it in his pocket, and that was the end of it.

In consequence of his many acts of imprudence, Oscar got along very
slowly in his recovery.  Yet he was daily growing more impatient of his
long confinement, and the utmost vigilance of his parents was necessary
to restrain him from doing himself harm.  During stormy weather, which
was not rare at that season of the year, he was not allowed to go out,
and the time passed heavily with him.  One rainy afternoon, as he was
sitting listlessly at a front window, watching for some object of
interest to pass, a coach stopped at the door, and his heart beat high
at the thought of his dulness being dispelled by the arrival of
"company."  The driver opened the coach door, and out jumped a stout,
brown-faced man, whom Oscar at once recognized as his uncle, John
Preston, from Maine.

The arrival of Uncle John was soon heralded through the house, and a
warm greeting extended to him.  He usually visited the city thrice a
year on business, and on such occasions made his brother's house his
stopping-place.  He lived in the town of Brookdale, where he had a
family; but he was engaged in the lumber business, and generally spent
the winter months in the forests of Maine, with large gangs of loggers,
who were employed to cut down trees, and convey them to the banks of
the streams, where they were floated down to the mills in the spring
freshets.  These forests are far from any settlement, and the
lumber-men live in log-huts, in a very independent and care-for-nobody
sort of way.  Oscar had often heard his uncle describe their manner of
life, and, to him, there was something quite fascinating about it.  He
thought he should like the logging business very much--all but the
_working_ part of it; he was afraid that would spoil the whole, for his
Uncle John always represented it as being pretty hard work.

Oscar had four cousins in Brookdale, the children of his Uncle John,
none of whom he had ever seen.  He had many questions to ask about
them, in the course of which he expressed a wish that he might visit
them.  His uncle replied that he should like to take him home with him,
and, as he was sick, he thought the journey might do him good.  He
afterwards talked with Oscar's parents about the matter, and they
finally concluded to let him go, hoping that a few weeks in the country
would improve his health.


NOTE.--The following are the solutions of the puzzles, &c., in
Benjamin's letter, contained in this chapter.  The first puzzle is the
name of Oscar Preston, enigmatically expressed.  2. Make an impression.
3. It is a bad habit.  4. A ditch.  5. Mistake.  6. Monosyllable.  7. A
pillow.  8. The wind.  9. "Over the hills and far away."  10. Bolt it.
11. An icicle.  12. Against your inclination.  13. It is a cataract
(cat erect).



CHAPTER XIV.

THE JOURNEY.

Oscar's valise was well packed for his journey, and many were the
injunctions given him by his mother, in regard to his conduct during
his absence from home.  The morning for his departure soon came, and,
in company with his uncle, he proceeded to the depôt, and took the cars
for Portland.  It was a mild spring morning, near the close of May.
Oscar secured a seat by a window, from which he could see the country
they passed through; while his uncle, to whom the journey was no
novelty, seated himself by his side, and was soon absorbed in his
morning newspaper.

The keen relish with which Oscar set out upon his long ride gradually
wore off, and he began to feel weary long before the train reached its
destination.  It was just noon when they arrived at Portland; and as it
was too late to reach Brookdale that day, Oscar's uncle concluded to
stop there until the next morning.  They proceeded to a hotel, where
they booked their names, and were shown to a chamber.  After dinner,
Mr. Preston took Oscar to walk, and showed him some of the most notable
places about town.  But the latter felt too tired to walk about a great
deal, and spent most of the afternoon in the hotel, while his uncle was
off attending to some business.

After supper, Mr. Preston again went out to make some calls.  He
invited Oscar to go with him, but he preferred to remain in the hotel.
He lounged awhile in the bar-room, as it was called (though there was
no bar in it), listening to the conversation of the men who had
gathered there.  At length, beginning to grow sleepy, he retired to his
chamber, taking with him a queer little lamp the landlord gave him,
which appeared to hold only about a thimblefull of oil.  Oscar thought
it was a stingy contrivance, and had some notion of sitting up to see
how long it would burn; but his eyelids grew heavy, and he gave up the
idea.  Throwing off his clothing, he extinguished his diminutive lamp,
and took possession of one of the beds in the room, of which there were
two.  As he composed himself to sleep, a slight sense of lonesomeness
stole over him, when he remembered that he was alone in a strange house
and a strange city, more than a hundred miles from his home; and almost
unconsciously he found himself reverently repeating the little prayer
he had been taught by his mother in infancy, but which of late years,
in his sad waywardness, he had outgrown and almost forgotten:

  "Now I lay me down to sleep,
  I pray the lord my soul to keep;
  If I should die before I wake,
  I pray the lord my soul to take."


He had occasionally repeated to himself this simple but appropriate
evening petition during his late illness; but, strange to tell, for
several years previous to that time, the thought of asking anything of
the great Giver of all good had scarcely ever entered his mind.

Oscar was soon fast asleep, and the next thing he was conscious of was
the striking of a strange church-clock, that awoke him in the morning.
His uncle was dressing himself, and the sun was shining in at the
window.  For a moment, he was puzzled to determine where he was; but
his recollection returned when his uncle remarked:

"Come, Oscar, it is time to get up,--we have got to be at the depôt in
an hour."

Oscar jumped out of bed, and was dressed and ready for the breakfast
table before the bell rang.  After the morning meal was
despatched,--for it was literally a work of despatch, judging from the
celerity with which the heaping plates of hot biscuits and beef-steak
disappeared from the long table,--Mr. Preston settled with the
landlord, and proceeded with Oscar to the railroad depôt.

"How much further have we got to go?" inquired Oscar, after they had
taken their seat in the car.

"About one hundred and twenty miles," replied his uncle; "and
thirty-five of it will be in a stage-coach--that is the worst of the
whole journey."

"I shall like that part of it first-rate, I guess," said Oscar.  "If
they have good horses, I know I shall."

"You will find out how you like it, before night," added Mr. Preston,
with a smile.

The cars were soon on their way, and Oscar's eyes and attention were
fully engaged in taking note of the scenery from the windows.  The
appearance of the country did not differ much from that through which
he passed the day previous; and long before he reached the end of his
eighty-miles' ride, his attention began to flag, and his eyes to grow
weary.  It was about eleven o'clock, when they arrived at the depôt at
which they were to leave the train.  Here they had an opportunity to
rest an hour, and to take dinner, before resuming their journey.

After dinner, the stage-coach made its appearance, and the passengers
began to stow themselves away within it, Oscar mounted the outside, and
took a seat with the driver, with whom he was soon on intimate terms.
All things being ready, the horses started, at the familiar "Get up!"
and they were on their way toward Brookdale.

The horses did not prove quite so smart as Oscar hoped they would, and
the coach was a heavy and hard-riding concern, compared with those he
was accustomed to ride upon at home.  But the road was good, though
hilly, and the scenery, much of the way, was very pleasant.  The
driver, too, was quite talkative, and Oscar being the only outside
passenger, enjoyed the full benefit of his communicativeness.
Occasionally they passed through a village, with its rows of neat white
houses, its tall church steeple, its bustling store, and its groups of
children playing in the streets.  Now and then they stopped a few
moments, to leave a passenger, a package, or a mail-bag; for the strong
leathern bags, with brass padlocks, which the driver had carefully
packed away under his box, contained the United States' mails for the
towns along his route.

As they advanced on their way, the villages became less frequent, the
farm houses were more scattering, and the country grew more wild.
Sometimes the road extended for miles through thickly-wooded forests.
Occasionally they would come in sight of a river, and, perhaps, would
hear the clatter and whizzing of a saw-mill, or get a glimpse of a raft
of logs floating lazily down the stream.  It was about six o'clock when
the stage stopped at the post-office of a small settlement, and the
driver told Oscar he was going to leave him there.  His seat had grown
tiresome, during the last few hours, and he was by no means sorry to
leave it.

"Well, Jerry, here I am again," said Mr. Preston, addressing a boy who
stood by.  "How are all the folks at home?"

"They are well," replied the boy addressed.

"This way Oscar," said Mr. Preston, pointing to a horse and wagon on
the opposite side of the street.  "Oscar, this is your cousin Jerry,"
he continued, and the boys shook hands with each other, in
acknowledgment of the introduction.

Oscar now learned that they were yet five miles from Brookdale, and
that as the stage did not pass any nearer to his uncle's, Jerry had
come over with a horse to take his father home.  There being but one
seat to the wagon, Mr. Preston and Oscar took possession of it, while
Jerry seated himself on the floor behind them.   While on the way to
Brookdale, Oscar addressed several remarks to his cousin; but the
latter seemed shy, and they did not get acquainted with each other very
fast.  They passed but very few houses, and Oscar looked in vain for
any signs of a village.  At length, when he thought they could not be
far from their journey's end, he inquired:

"Where is the village, uncle John?  Shan't we see any of it, going to
your house?"

"This is the village," replied Mr. Preston.

"This a village!" exclaimed Oscar; "why, I don't see any houses."

"This is all the village there is," replied his uncle; "there are
hardly any two houses in sight of each other in the town."

They were now approaching an old, two-story farmhouse, in the doorway
of which a woman and several children were standing, looking towards
them.  This proved to be the end of their journey.  Having driven the
wagon into the large barn which stood nearly opposite the house, Mr.
Preston left Jerry to put up the horse, and proceeded at once to the
house with his nephew.  Mrs. Preston had seen Oscar in Boston, and came
out to meet him.  She welcomed him very cordially, and inquired after
all the other members of the family.  She then introduced him to his
three other cousins, Emily, Harriet, and Mary, all of whom were younger
than Jerry, and quite as shy and silent as he, at the presence of a
stranger.

Supper was now ready, and all the family, including James, the hired
man, seated themselves at the table.  Mr. Preston, during the meal,
talked freely of what he had seen and done since he left home; but the
children maintained their gravity and silence, though Oscar tried hard
to break the ice of restraint with Jerry, who sat by his side.  A
strange face was an unusual thing among them, and they could not get
over it in a moment.

After supper, Mrs. Preston and her oldest daughter cleared off the
table and washed the dishes; James and Jerry went out to the barn; Mr.
Preston sat down to a table to examine some papers he had in his
pocket-book; while Harriet and Mary remained, to keep Oscar company.
The latter now began to make advances towards his youngest cousin, who
was the prettiest and most interesting of the children.   A little
coaxing brought her to his side.

"Do you know what my name is, Sissy?" he inquired.

"Yes; it's Oscar," she replied.

"Oscar what?" he inquired.

"Cousin Oscar," she answered, after a little hesitation.

"Yes, but that is n't all of it," replied Oscar; "don't you know the
other part of it--Cousin Oscar----what?"

Mary looked thoughtful a moment, and then replied, in a confident tone,
"Boston."

Oscar could not help laughing at this amusing mistake, and Mary,
feeling hurt at the liberty he took, began to move away; but he held
her by the hand, saying:

"No, don't go yet, Sissy--you got my name almost right, after all.
Cousin Oscar Preston, from Boston,--that was what you meant to say, was
n't it?"

"Yes," replied Mary.

"Now tell me what your name is?" continued Oscar.

"Mary Preston," she replied.

"And how old are you?"

"I 'm going to be six next winter," she answered, with animation.

"Very well,--you 're a smart little girl," replied Oscar.

"How old be you?" inquired Mary, now turning the table upon her
questioner.

"I 'm fourteen," said Oscar.

"You 're a smart little boy," added Mary, with a roguish twinkle in her
eye, and she darted out of the room with a merry laugh.

After that, there was no more shyness between Mary and Oscar.  With the
older children, however, Oscar did not get acquainted quite so easily,
particularly with the girls.  He made but little progress with any of
them that evening, until he retired with Jerry, with whom he was to
sleep during his visit.  After they had got into bed, Jerry's tongue
was loosed, and before they went to sleep his reserve had almost
entirely vanished.



CHAPTER XV.

BROOKDALE.

The next morning the air was extremely raw and chilly, and there were
strong indications of rain.  Oscar's uncle and aunt advised him so
earnestly not to expose himself to the cold and damp wind, that he did
not extend his rambles any further than to the barn that day.  But if
he did not go far, he made many new acquaintances.  Having made sure of
Jerry and Mary, he left his other two cousins to "surrender at
discretion," and turned his attention in another direction.  His first
performance was to introduce himself to Billy, the horse, who was
eating the breakfast James had just given him.  After rubbing and
talking to him awhile, he paid his respects to a pair of oxen and three
or four cows, which he helped James and Jerry to drive into the pasture
near the barn.  He next visited the hogs, and then the hens.  This
completed the list of life stock on the farm.  He then had a frolic
with Jerry in the hay-loft, in the midst of which he suddenly stopped
and inquired:

"Is n't it almost time for you to go to school, Jerry?"

"No," his cousin replied, with a laugh, "it wants just six months of
it."

"Six months!" exclaimed Oscar; "what do you mean?  Don't you go to
school?"

"Yes, I go when there is any school; but it does n't commence till next
December," replied Jerry.

"That's a queer idea," said Oscar; "I should like to know how long your
school keeps, after it begins."

"It keeps three months," replied Jerry.

"I should like that first-rate--I wish I lived here," said Oscar; "I
have to go to school all the time.  But why does n't your school keep
more than three months?"

"I don't know," replied Jerry; "I guess it's because folks are too
stingy to pay for it.  They 've been talking of having a summer school,
but I don't believe it will amount to anything."

"I should hope it would n't if I lived here," said Oscar.  "What
capital times you must have!--no school to bother you, and no lessons
to get.  But I suppose you have to work some--don't you?"

"No, not much," said Jerry; "I help a little in planting and haying
time, and have a few chores to do about the house,--that's all."

"Do you have many boys to play with?" inquired Oscar.

"There are boys enough," replied his cousin, "but they are scattered
all over town,--that's the worst of it.  There is only one fellow of my
age that lives near here, and he's half a mile off."

"If you call that near, I should like to know what you call distant,"
said Oscar.  "I 'm afraid I should be lonesome if I lived here."

"Halloo, it rains!" said Jerry, as the big drops began to sound upon
the roof over their heads.

"Then I 'm going in," added Oscar, and they both started for the house.

It proved to be a rainy day, and Oscar was obliged to find his
amusement in-doors through its remaining hours.  With his four cousins
to help him, this was not a very difficult matter.  When he retired at
night, he felt quite at home in his new quarters.

The sun rose clearly the next morning, and everything looked the more
beautiful for the rain.  To Oscar, the fields not only seemed greener,
but the hills looked higher, and the trees more majestic, than they did
the day before.

"Why," he exclaimed, as he stood before the chamber window, "there is a
pond away off there, is n't there?  I did n't know that before."

"Yes, that's a pond," replied Jerry, "and we 've got a small river,
too, but you can't see it from here.  We 'll go over to the pond, some
warm day, and go into water; it's a real good place to bathe."

"Perhaps we 'll go to-day," said Oscar; "it looks as though it were
going to be real warm."

Mrs. Preston now called to the boys that breakfast was ready, and they
hurriedly finished dressing themselves, and descended to the kitchen.
Having washed his face at the sink, Oscar stepped to the door, and used
his pocket-comb; but Jerry was in too great a hurry to go through this
last operation, and he was about taking his seat at the table, with his
hair standing up in every direction, when his father inquired:

"Jerry, what have you been doing to your head?"

"Nothing," replied Jerry, with a look of surprise.

"Well, I think you had better do something to it, before you come
here," said his father.  "Oscar will think you were brought up among
the wild Arabs, if you come to the table with such a mop of hair as
that about your head.  Don't you see how nicely he has smoothed his
hair?"

"He's got a comb of his own.  I wish you would buy me one, father,"
said Jerry.

"Don't stand there talking--go and comb your hair," said Mr. Preston,
somewhat sharply.

To tell the truth, Jerry did need a lesson in neatness; and in this
respect, Oscar was a very good model for him to imitate.  Having
reduced his snarly locks to something like order and smoothness, Jerry
took his seat at the table, much improved in appearance.

"You 'll have a chance to go about some to-day, Oscar," said Mr.
Preston; "it's about twenty-five degrees warmer than it was yesterday."

"Father," said Jerry, "I and Oscar--"

"I and Oscar--where did you learn your manners?" interrupted his mother.

Jerry was for a moment in doubt whether to be offended or not at this
second unexpected lesson in good-breeding; but he finally concluded to
make the best of it, and went on with his story:

"Oscar and I, then--were going over to the pond this forenoon, and I
guess it will be warm enough for us to go into water.  Should n't you
think it would?"

"No, indeed," replied Mr. Preston, "you mustn't think of such a thing.
It's only the first of June, and you ought not to go into water for two
or three weeks yet.  Besides, Oscar 's an invalid, and I should n't
like to have him go in, even if it was warm enough for you.  I would
n't walk about much, either, at first," he continued, addressing Oscar.
"You 're weak, and must look out, and not overdo yourself.  This
afternoon, when the horse is at leisure, Jerry shall give you a ride;
so you had better not go far this forenoon."

The river of which Jerry spoke is a small stream that has its source in
the lake Oscar saw from the chamber window.  It flows in a
south-westerly direction, crossing the road on which Mr. Preston lived,
not far from his house.  A small bridge is thrown over the river at
this point.  After breakfast, Jerry and Oscar walked down to this
bridge, and then, leaving the road, followed the river through the
fields and woods, to its fountain-head.  Here they found a beautiful
sheet of water, more than half a mile across, in one direction, with an
irregular shore, fringed most of the way with woods.  A two-masted
sail-boat was riding at anchor, a little off from the shore, which
Oscar regarded with wishful eye; but as it did not belong to Mr.
Preston, and they could not reach it without going into the water, it
was of no use to think of taking a sail.  They now walked along the
edge of the pond, some distance, and after wandering some time in the
woods, they returned home by a circuitous route.

The annexed map of Brookdale will show the location of the pond, river,
&c.  Jerry lived in the house numbered 2.

[Illustration: Map of Brookdale.]

Oscar and Jerry spent the rest of the forenoon in the barn and
wood-shed, and in the fields immediately around the house.  After
dinner, Mr. Preston told the boys they could have the horse and wagon,
and as the family wanted some groceries, they might ride over to the
store and get them.  They accordingly tackled up the team, and were
soon on their way.

The store at which Mr. Preston traded was at the village where the
stage left Oscar, which goes by the name of the "Cross-Roads," from the
fact that two of the principal thoroughfares of that section of country
cross at this point.  Though this store was about five miles distant,
there was no other one nearer to Mr. Preston's.  The boys had a fine
ride over to the village.  Oscar drove, and was quite anxious to put
Billy to a test of his speed; but as his uncle told them not to hurry,
because the horse had been worked some in the forenoon, he did not dare
to make any experiment of this kind.  Jerry assured him, however, that
he once drove Billy over to the Cross-Roads in just twenty minutes,
which was the quickest time he had ever been known to make.  He thought
this a remarkable feat; but Oscar did not seem much astonished at it,
and said he knew of horses that could go a mile in three minutes, and
even in less time if the road was smooth and level.

After riding about three-quarters of an hour, they arrived at the
Cross-Roads, and drove up to a post and chain for tying horses in front
of the store.  The store was kept in a large wooden building.  Over the
door was the sign, "J. FLETCHER, VARIETY STORE;" and the shutters were
covered with columns of names of articles sold within, such as "Bacon,"
"Cheese," "Flour," "Grain," "Shoes," "Dry Goods," &c.  Another sign in
one of the windows indicated that this was also the post-office of the
village.

The boys went into the store, and while Jerry was ordering the articles
his mother had sent for, Oscar improved the opportunity to look around
the premises.  It was to him a queer assortment of goods.  There seemed
to be a little of everything for sale.  Here you could buy of one
salesman articles that you could obtain in Boston only by visiting a
dozen different shops.  Groceries and dry goods, country produce and
hardware, boots, shoes, and hats, confectionary and fancy articles,
stoves and children's toys, were in most neighborly companionship.
Before leaving the store, Oscar invested a few cents in candy and
cigars; for his father had given him a little spare change beyond what
was necessary to defray the expenses of the journey.  He shared the
candy with Jerry, and put the cigars in his pocket for future use.

Jerry having finished his business at the store, they set out on their
return, and arrived home in safety and without meeting with any
remarkable adventure.  The boys employed themselves the rest of the
afternoon in planning excursions and amusements, and before they got
through, they had laid out "fun" enough to occupy them for several days.

The evenings were now quite short, and as it was the custom to retire
to bed early at Mr. Preston's, it frequently happened that no lamps
were lit in the house for several days in succession.  As twilight came
on that evening, Oscar, who began to feel pretty tired, laid down upon
the sofa in the sitting-room, and in a few minutes was fast asleep.
Jerry got a straw, and was about to tickle his ear, when his mother
stopped him.  Oscar's nap, however, was a short one, and suddenly
waking up, he began to laugh.

"I guess you had a pleasant dream," said his aunt.

"I had a real funny one," replied Oscar.  "I thought you sent me over
to the store to get some things, and when I got there, I had them all
jumbled together in my head, and I told the man I wanted a yard of
molasses, and a pound of calico, and a gallon of shingle-nails, and I
did n't know what else.  And I thought the man laughed, and asked me if
I would take them loose, or have them done up in a rag.  Then another
boy that was in the store set up a loud laugh, and that woke me up.  I
wonder how long I slept--do you know, aunt?"

"Only two or three minutes," replied Mrs. Preston.

"I was real smart, then," replied Oscar; "for you gave me my errand,
and I harnessed the horse and drove away over to the Cross-Roads, and
went through the scene in the store, and woke up again, all in two or
three minutes.  I thought I 'd been asleep half an hour."

"I should think you 'd dream about the store," said Jerry; "you 've
made fun enough about it, if that 's all."

"Well, I 'll leave it to aunt if it is n't odd to see such a queer lot
of stuff in one store; I 've heard about country stores, but I never
saw one that would come up to that before.  It is almost equal to going
into a fair, to go in there.  There was everything you could think of,
from a grindstone to a pop-gun."

"There is n't business enough to support more than one trader, and that
is the reason why Mr. Fletcher keeps such a variety," said Mrs. Preston.

"I know that," said Oscar, "and I suppose the folks are glad to have
him keep all sorts of knick-knacks; but it seems queer to me, to see
groceries and dry goods, and everything else, in the same shop."

"Did you see any babies there?" inquired little Mary, who was amusing
herself by walking around the room backwards.

"What sort of babies--live ones, or rag ones, or wax ones?" inquired
Oscar.

"No, none of them," replied Mary; "I mean crying babies, like Annie
Davenport's."

"O, you mean those little dolls that make a squeaking noise when you
squeeze them.  No, I believe I did n't see any," said Oscar.

"No, Mr. Fletcher would n't keep such silly things as them," said
Jerry, who was very fond of teasing his sisters.

"No, they aint silly, either, are they cousin Oscar?" said Mary.

"No," replied Oscar, "seeing it's you, they aint silly."

Mary was continuing her backward walk around the room, and was just at
that moment passing before Jerry, when he suddenly put out his foot,
and stumbling over it, she fell heavily upon the floor, striking her
head against a corner of the sofa.  A loud scream immediately followed
this mishap, and as the author of it hastened to raise up his sister,
he was himself a little frightened; but seeing no blood flowing from
her head, he concluded she was "more scared than hurt," and tried to
turn the affair into a joke, saying:

"There, sis, you're a little crying baby yourself, now.  Come, stop
your noise; you 've blubbered enough about it.  It didn't hurt you, did
it?"

"Come here, dear, what is the matter?" said Mrs. Preston, who had left
the room a moment before, and hurried back on hearing Mary scream.

"Jerry knocked me over," said Mary, sobbing bitterly, as her mother
lifted her up into her lap.

"Where did it hurt you, dear?--there?  Well, let mother rub it, and it
will feel better soon.  Jerry is a naughty boy to do so.  Why need you
torment your little sister so?" Mrs. Preston added, turning to Jerry.

Mr. Preston, who had been sitting upon the door-step, smoking his pipe,
as was his custom in the evening, came in, on hearing the uproar; and
having ascertained what the trouble was, he boxed Jerry's ears pretty
severely, and sent him off to bed.  Oscar soon followed him; but Jerry
was so mortified at the rough handling he had received, that he
scarcely spoke again that night.



CHAPTER XVI.

IN THE WOODS.

It was soon evident that the air of Brookdale agreed with Oscar.  He
was fast gaining his strength, and the increased fulness and color of
his countenance betokened returning health.  No part of this
improvement was to be attributed to the bottle of cough drops his
mother packed away in the bottom of his valise, and charged him to take
every morning and night; for the drops were not very palatable, and he
had not opened the bottle since he left home.  In fact, he had by this
time quite forgotten both the medicine and his mother's injunction.

So rapid was the improvement in Oscar's health, that two or three days
after his trip to the Cross-Roads, Mr. Preston gave his consent to an
excursion he and Jerry had planned, which was to occupy a whole day.
"Old Staple's Hut," as it was called, was the place they proposed to
visit.  It was about four miles distant, beyond the hills in the
north-east part of the town, represented in the upper corner of the map
of Brookdale.  They were to carry their dinner, and Mrs. Preston
accordingly filled a small basket with eatables.  While she was doing
this, Jerry took Oscar aside and said:

"There is one thing more we want, and that is father's gun.  I know he
won't let me have it, but I guess he would lend it to you, if you
should ask him."

"Yes, we must have a gun," replied Oscar; "and I should just as lief
ask him for it as not."

Oscar hunted up his uncle, and made known his request.  Mr. Preston
hesitated a moment, and then inquired:

"Does your father allow you to use a gun at home?"

"He never says anything about it, either way," replied Oscar.

"Well, I guess you had better not take the gun," said Mr. Preston.  "I
'm afraid you might get hurt,--that's all I care about.  I don't allow
Jerry to use firearms, and I should n't like to put anything of the
kind into your hands without your father's consent."

"But I 'll be very careful if you 'll let me have it," added Oscar.  "I
've fired a gun several times, and know how to handle it."

"No, I think you had better not carry the gun with you," replied his
uncle.  "If you used it, Jerry would think he must, and I know he is
too careless to be trusted with it.  He 'd shoot you, just as like as
not, if he did n't kill himself."

Mr. Preston's tone was so decided, that Oscar saw it would be useless
to say anything more about the gun, and so he and Jerry were obliged to
abandon the idea of taking it with them.  Taking their basket of
provisions, they accordingly set out on their long tramp.  Leaving the
road, and turning into a footpath through the fields, they passed close
by the upper edge of the pond.  In this part of their walk there was a
good deal of swamp land, and a number of brooks to cross.  Sometimes
they had to pick their way along upon stones which had been placed at
regular intervals in wet places, or upon old logs that served for
bridges; and at times it required no little skill in balancing to avoid
getting a wet foot.  After they had got beyond the pond, however, the
land gradually ascended, and was mostly occupied as pastures for
cattle.  But they still occasionally came to a brook, flowing down from
the hills towards the pond.  Most of them were so narrow, they could
easily jump over them; but in one instance they were obliged to take
off their shoes and stockings and wade across.

"Now you see why this place is called Brookdale," said Jerry, after
they had passed four or five of these little streams.

"Is that the reason, because there are so many brooks?  I never thought
of that before," said Oscar.

"Yes, that's it," replied Jerry.  "In the spring these brooks make
quite a show; but they get low in the summer, and generally dry up in
August, unless it's a very wet season."

"I 'm going to cut me a cane," said Oscar, taking out his knife; "I see
a real straight and handsome one in there," and he pointed to a thicket
they were approaching.

"That's nothing but birch--that won't make a good cane," replied Jerry;
"stop a minute, and I 'll find you something better."

After looking about a little, Jerry found some beeches, which he said
would make good canes.  They accordingly cut two of the straightest and
handsomest.

"I mean to try an experiment with mine," said Oscar, "and see if I
can't crook the top of it.  Do you know how they do it, Jerry?"

"No, I always thought they grew in that shape," replied Jerry.

"A man told me they boiled the end of the stick and then bent it," said
Oscar.  "He said that was the way all the hooked canes were made.  I
don't know whether he knew or not, but I mean to try it some day, and
see how it works."

"I don't believe in that," said Jerry.  "It is n't very likely you can
bend such a stick as that without breaking it; just see how stiff it
is."

"I don't care, I'll try it, just to satisfy myself," replied Oscar.

Oscar was right in regard to bending wood.  The hooked-top
walking-sticks are made in the way he described,--by boiling the end,
and then bending it into an arch.  In boiling wood, several substances
which enter into its composition are dissolved, and others are
softened, so that it is rendered flexible.

The boys trudged slowly on their way, now aided by their canes, which,
in a long walk, are of no slight service to the pedestrian.  As they
sauntered along, chatting, singing, and whistling, as merrily as the
birds around them, Oscar remembered the cigars he bought at the store,
and soon the pure atmosphere of the fields was polluted with the vile
odor of bad tobacco.  Oscar had been in the habit of smoking
occasionally for some time; but though he considered it a manly
accomplishment, he was very careful not to let his parents know that he
was addicted to it.  He prevailed upon his cousin to take a cigar; but
Jerry was not very partial to tobacco, and a few whiffs satisfied him
for that occasion.

They had now reached the foot of the long, steep hills, over which they
must climb.  These hills were thickly wooded most of the way, forming
beautiful groves, cool, dark, fragrant with resinous odors, and softly
carpeted with moss and decayed leaves.  Oscar and Jerry concluded to
rest a few minutes before scaling the hills.  Selecting a favorable
spot, they stretched themselves at full length upon the ground, and
looked up towards the distant tree-tops.  It was a pine forest, and the
trees were as straight as an arrow, and so tall that their tops almost
seemed among the clouds.  The moaning of the wind among the topmost
branches sounded like the distant roar of the sea.  Birds were skipping
merrily among the "tasselled boughs," and curiously eying the young
strangers who had invaded their solitude.

"O, how I wish I had that gun now!" said Oscar, as a fine plump robin
lit on one of the lower branches of a tree right over his head.

In repay for this generous wish, Signor Robin executed one of his
choicest songs in his handsomest style, and, without waiting for an
encore from his audience, darted off and was quickly out of sight.  But
it is probable the audience thought more of the "good shot" he
presented, than of the sweet strains he poured forth for their
entertainment.

"There's better game than that in these woods," said Jerry, after the
robin had taken his departure.

"Is there anything besides birds?" inquired Oscar.

"Yes," replied Jerry, "there are rabbits, and woodchucks, and weasels,
and skunks, and squirrels; and some folks say there are wild-cats here,
but I don't know about that.  Jim Oakley, a fellow who lives about a
mile from our house, comes over here gunning very often; and he says he
saw a real savage-looking creature here, a few weeks ago, that he took
to be a wild-cat.  He fired at it, but it got clear of him.  He says it
looked a good deal like a cat, only it was larger, and had a little
short tail.  I wish he 'd killed it.  I should like to know what it
was.  I never saw a wild-cat; did you?"

"No," replied Oscar.

"But that was n't equal to something a man came across in the woods the
other side of these hills, two or three years ago," continued Jerry.
"What do you suppose it was?"

"I don't know; was it a moose?" inquired Oscar.

"No," replied Jerry; "moose come down into this neighborhood, once in
awhile, but that was n't what I was going to tell you about.  There is
a road through these woods, a little beyond the hills.  It is n't
travelled much, except by the loggers in the fall and spring.  A man
was riding along this road, one afternoon in summer, when he suddenly
came across a monstrous black bear.  As soon as the bear saw him, he
squat down on his haunches, right in the middle of the road, and began
to show his teeth.  The man didn't dare to drive by him, and his horse
was so frightened that it was as much as he could do to hold him in.
He had a loaded revolver with him, but he knew there was n't much hope
of killing the bear with that.  So he turned his horse about, and
concluded to go back to the nearest house, and get a gun and somebody
to help him kill the bear.  The bear sat still, watching him, as much
as to say, 'If you'll let me alone, I 'll let you alone;' but just as
the man was starting up, he thought he would try his pistol, and so he
blazed away at the bear.  Two or three of the shot hit the bear in the
shoulder.  They did n't hurt him much, only enough to rouse his dander;
but he sprang up as quick as lightning, and started after the team.
The man whipped up his horse, and the bear 'pulled foot' after him, and
did n't give up the race till he had run about a quarter of a mile.
The man said if he had been afoot, the bear would have beat him at
running, but he could n't keep up with the horse.

"Well, the man went back three or four miles, and got another man to go
with him in search of the bear.  They armed themselves with guns and
hunting-knives; but when they drove back to where the man met the bear,
they could n't find anything of him.  They traced his tracks into the
woods, but after awhile they lost them, and as it was getting late,
they gave up the hunt; and nobody hereabouts has seen that bear from
that day to this."

"Perhaps he's about here now--who knows?" said Oscar.

"No, I guess he went right back to the place he came from," replied
Jerry.  "Somebody would have seen him, if he 'd stayed around here."

"Where do you suppose he came from?" inquired Oscar.

"From way back in the woods, fifty miles from here," replied Jerry.
"There had been great fires in the woods that summer, and I suppose he
got burned out, or frightened, and that was the reason he came down
this way."

"I should like to meet such a customer," said Oscar; "only I should
want to have a good double-barrelled gun with me.  I read in a
newspaper, the other day, about a boy up in New Hampshire, who met a
bear and two cubs, all alone in the woods.  He had a gun with him, and
killed the old one, and one of the cubs, but the other cub got off.
That was doing pretty well, wasn't it?"

"'Twas so," said Jerry; "but I guess you would n't have done quite so
well as that."

"I bet I should have tried, at any rate," said Oscar, who really was
not deficient in courage, though he had hardly practiced hunting enough
to justify him in believing that he could master so savage an animal as
a bear.

Having rested themselves, the boys resumed their journey, and after ten
minutes' hard work, reached the top of the range of hills.  The highest
summit was a bare ledge of rock, and they concluded to climb to the top
of it, for the sake of the view to be obtained.  It was called
"Prospect Rock," and was very appropriately named.  As the boys stood
upon it, the country for miles around was spread out at their
feet,--houses, and cultivated fields, and forests, and roads, and
narrow streams.  A distant mountain was visible in the west, which
Jerry said was about twenty miles off, though it seemed much nearer.
After enjoying the scene a few minutes, they began to descend the hill
on the other side.  They kept their eyes open, for game, but they saw
only a few squirrels, and one rabbit, which bounded off, and was out of
sight in a moment.  Jerry pointed out to Oscar a woodchuck's hole, near
the foot of the hill.

"I should like to see a woodchuck," said Oscar; "what do they look
like?"

"They 're about as big as a rabbit, and are of a brownish color,"
replied Jerry.

"Do you suppose there's one in that hole?" inquired Oscar; "let's see
if we can't scare him out."

"I don't know whether there is or not," replied Jerry; "but if there
was, we could n't dig him out without shovels.  They burrow real deep.
If we had brought a dog with us, how he would dig into that hole!"

"I wish I had my Tiger here," said Oscar; "it's too bad father would
n't let me bring him with me."

Oscar thrust his cane into the hole, but did not reach the end of it;
and if the occupant of the tenement was within, he did not think it
worth while to show himself.  The boys accordingly renewed their
journey.  After they had reached the foot of the hill, they had to
cross a swamp.  With its wet and miry bottom, and its dense growth of
vines, bushes, and small trees, this was no easy matter; but they
succeeded in getting through with no damage save wet feet, a few slight
scratches, and a good many mosquito bites.  This latter trouble was the
most serious of all.  The mosquitoes were large and ferocious.  They
bit right through jacket, vest, and all, and Oscar declared that their
sharp stings even penetrated his boots.

After the boys emerged from the swamp, they came to the road in which
the man met a bear.  They followed this road a short distance, till it
brought them to the shore of a large and beautiful pond.  Leaving the
highway, they now walked along by the edge of the water, and soon came
to the old hut they were in pursuit of.  It was but a few rods from the
pond, and was directly under the brow of a steep and rocky hill.  It
had a very old and decayed appearance.  The roof had fallen in, the
door had disappeared, and the single window was without sash or glass.
It contained but one apartment, and that was very small, and so choked
up with rubbish that the boys did not try to enter.

"Well, that must have been a great place for a man to live in," said
Oscar, after he had inspected the premises.  "How long has the old
fellow been dead?"

"I don't know," said Jerry; "it must be fifteen years, for he died
before I was born."

"I wonder what he lived here for; does anybody know?" inquired Oscar.

"No, he was a hermit, and that's all anybody knows about him.  They say
he used to have a garden, and raised everything he wanted to eat.  In
the summer time he used to work a good deal for two or three farmers
that lived over at Cedar Hill, at the further end of the pond.  He had
a little skiff, and rowed back and forth in that.  He never used to
spend any money, and people say he must have had all of a thousand
dollars, that he had earned, when he died; but nobody knew what became
of it.  They suppose he buried it about here somewhere, or hid it in
some rock."

"A thousand dollars!" said Oscar; "I 'm going to hunt for that; what
will you bet I won't find it?"

"Pooh!" replied Jerry, "people have searched all round here, and dug
holes, and pulled up the floor of the hut, more than a hundred times;
and I guess there's no danger of your finding the money now."

"I 'm going to try, at any rate," said Oscar, and he get up from the
stone upon which he was seated.

"Stop, don't go now," said Jerry; "let's make a fire and get dinner
first--I 'm just about half starved."

Oscar fell in with this suggestion, and they gathered together a lot of
brush and other dry wood, and soon had a good fire kindled against a
large stone, which happened to be hollowed out something like a
fireplace.  Among the provisions they had brought with them were half a
dozen potatoes, which they buried in the embers after the fire had got
well under way.  While these were baking, they employed themselves in
gathering wood and watching the fire.  They also found some slices of
cheese in their basket, which they toasted by holding it before the
fire upon the point of a sharp stick.  When their preparations for
dinner were about completed, Oscar inquired:

"Where shall we find some water to drink?  Is there a spring about
here?"

"Water, why, there's plenty of it," replied Jerry pointing to the pond.

"What! you don't mean to drink pond water, do you?" said Oscar,
somewhat surprised.

"Yes I do," replied Jerry; "that's good water--old Staples drank it all
the time he lived here."

"Well, come to think of it, I suppose it is good," said Oscar; "for our
Cochituate water, in Boston, is nothing but pond water.  It seems
queer, though, to dip it right out of the pond; but I suppose it is
just as good as though we drew it from an aqueduct."

There was a tin dipper in the basket, and Oscar took it, and went down
to the pond, to try the water.  He found it clear, and agreeable to the
taste, though not very cold.  Filling the dipper, he returned to the
fire, where Jerry now had the dinner in readiness.  They found a large
flat stone, which answered for a table, and spreading their provisions
upon it, they threw themselves upon the grass, and began to eat.  The
potatoes were nicely roasted, and, indeed, all the articles that helped
to form their rural repast, tasted uncommonly well.  Even the pond
water, Oscar confessed, would have been equal to the Cochituate, if
they had only had a little ice to put in it.

[Illustration: The Dinner in the Woods.]

After dinner, Oscar commenced his search for the hidden treasures, and
Jerry, impelled by sympathy, joined in the hunt, though with no very
sanguine expectations of finding the hermit's gold.  They examined the
hut, and poked over the rubbish, within and about it.  They walked over
the ground, around the cabin, turning over stones, looking after holes
in the trunks of trees, and peering curiously into every crack and
crevice they could find.  They then climbed up the rocks behind the
hut, and patiently continued their search, talking earnestly, the
meanwhile, about what they should do with the money, if they found it.
Oscar said if he found the money, he should buy the best horse he could
find.  He should not go to school any more, but should spend his time
in riding, and going to places of amusement.  If his father did not
like it, he should leave home, and board at a hotel.  Jerry, on the
other hand, wanted to see the world.  If _he_ found the money, he was
going to travel all over the country.  After visiting the great
Atlantic cities, he should go to California, and stop a few months,
just long enough to dig a few thousand dollars out of the mines--and
then he should push on to China, and India, and Europe, and come home
in one of the Collins steamers.  It was finally agreed, however, that
if either of them found the treasure, it should be equally divided
between them, and with this friendly understanding, they renewed their
search, with fresh zeal.

"It's real hot; what do you say about going into water?" inquired
Oscar, after they had ransacked the neighborhood pretty thoroughly, and
worked themselves into a perspiration.

"I 'll go in if you will," said Jerry.  "Father did n't tell us not to
go in to-day--I was afraid he would; but he did n't say anything about
it."

"He need n't know it, if we do go in," suggested Oscar, who knew very
well that his uncle would not approve of his bathing so early in the
season, and so soon after his sickness.

"No, he won't know anything about it," added Jerry; "and I don't
believe it can do us any hurt, for it is as warm as it is in the middle
of summer.  I 've been into water many a time, when it was colder than
it is now."

They did not debate the question long, but throwing off their clothes,
they soon plunged into the clear lake.  The water did not feel quite so
warm to their bodies, as it tasted when they washed down their dinner
with it.  Still, it was not very cold; and as the place was quite
convenient for bathing, having a hard, gravelly bottom, with a gradual
slope, they enjoyed their dip in the water as well as they _could_
enjoy a forbidden gratification.

After they had dressed themselves, they sat a little while with their
caps off, that the warm sun might dry their hair, and thus remove all
evidence of their stolen pleasure.  This accomplished, they concluded,
from the position of the sun, that it was time to start for home; and
taking their basket and canes, they commenced their homeward march.
They met with no incident of any moment in returning, except that they
got off their course at one time; but Jerry, who was quite at home in
the woods, soon found where he was, and set himself right again.  The
last two miles of their jaunt were the hardest of all, especially to
Oscar, who was more troubled with sore feet and stiff legs than Jerry.
They were both, however, as tired and hungry as need be, when they got
home.

No questions were asked about their going into water.  This was
fortunate, for it probably saved them from the additional guilt of
falsehood.  They experienced no punishment for their disobedience,
except the consciousness that they had committed a wrong act.  To some
boys, that alone would have been no slight punishment; but I fear this
was not the case with Oscar and Jerry.



CHAPTER XVII.

CLINTON.

"Come, Jerry, let's go over to Clinton's this forenoon," said Oscar,
the morning after their excursion to the hermit's hut.

"Agreed," replied Jerry, "we 'll start right away as soon as I can find
my cap.  Let me see---where did I leave it, I wonder?"

"Jerry," said Mrs. Preston, who overheard this conversation, "bring me
in an armfull of wood before you go."

"I 'll get the wood while you 're looking for your cap," said Oscar,
and he started for the wood-house.

Oscar almost repented of his offer when he discover ed that there was
no wood split.  However, he took the axe and split a few logs, and
carried them into the kitchen.  Jerry had not yet found his cap, though
he had searched all over the house for it.  He began to suspect some
one had played a trick upon him by hiding his cap, and when Emily
laughed at his impatience, he concluded she was the guilty one.  In
vain she protested that she had not seen the missing cap, and did not
know where it was.  He searched every part of the girls' chamber, and
then, in his vexation, he pulled Emily's bonnet from off her head, and
tossed it out of the window into an apple-tree, in the branches of
which it lodged.

It was now Emily's turn to fly into a pet, and she availed herself of
the opportunity.  Running to her mother, she reported what Jerry had
done, setting off his foolish conduct in the worst possible light.
Jerry soon made his appearance in the kitchen, and retorted upon his
sister by charging her with having hid his cap.  Mrs. Preston tried to
settle the difficulty by directing Jerry to get Emily's bonnet out of
the tree, and ordering Emily to tell Jerry where his cap was, if she
knew; but Emily protested she knew nothing about the cap, and her
brother did not seem inclined to obey his portion of the decree, while
his sister failed to comply with hers.  The quarrel was thus becoming
more and more complicated, when Oscar suddenly entered the room with
the lost cap in his hand.

"Here's your cap, Jerry," he said; "I found it just where you left it
last night, out in the barn.  Don't you remember, you threw it at the
cat to scare her?"

"Yes, so I did, and I forgot to pick it up again," said Jerry.

"There, do you believe me now?" said Emily, with an air of triumph.

Jerry did not stop to reply; but, going into the garden, he climbed the
apple-tree, and tossed the bonnet down to Emily.

"Now I 'm ready to start, just as soon as I 've had a drink of
buttermilk," said Jerry to Oscar; "come into the buttery and get some,
won't you?"

There was only one bowl-full of buttermilk left from the morning's
churning, but Mrs. Preston told the boys they might have that.  Jerry
proposed that they should "go snacks," and gave the bowl to Oscar that
he might drink his share first.  The latter took one mouthful, but
quickly spit it out, and puckered his face into all sorts of shapes.

"Ugh!" he exclaimed, "you don't call that sour stuff good, do you?" and
he handed the bowl back to Jerry, with a look that would have soured
the buttermilk, if it had not already undergone that process.

As soon as Jerry could get over laughing at his cousin's grimaces, he
swallowed the contents of the bowl, and then smacking his lips, said:

"There, don't you think I like it?  You just drink it a few times, and
then see if you don't like it, too.  I could drink a quart of it now if
I had it."

"You may have it, for all me; I don't want any more of it," replied
Oscar.

"Jerry, have the hens been attended to?" inquired Mrs. Preston, as the
boys were about starting from home.

"I don't know--I have n't fed them," replied Jerry.

"You ought to know whether they are seen to or not; it's your business
to take care of them," said his mother.  "Don't you go off this morning
till you have fed them.  You ought to have done it an hour ago."

The care of the fowls had been committed to Jerry, but he did not feel
much interest in them, and needed to be reminded of his duty pretty
often.  His negligence had been more marked than ever since Oscar's
arrival, and more than once the hens had been without food and water
nearly a whole day because he forgot to attend to them.  Jerry now went
back, in obedience to his mother, and gave the fowls their usual
allowance of corn, and a vessel of fresh water.  He also looked into
the nests to see if there were any new-laid eggs; and he was not a
little surprised to find in one of them a small billet, neatly folded
up, and addressed, "_To Master Jerry_."  He looked at it a moment, and
tried to imagine what it could be; then he opened it, and read the
following, which was neatly written with a pencil:


"THE HENROOST, June 12th.

"MASTER JERRY:"

"I have determined to write you a few words in behalf of my dear
suffering family.  The sun is scorching hot, and yet we have not got a
drop of water to save us from parching up.  My poor biddies have been
walking back and forth all day, panting for water, and calling for it
as plainly as they could speak; but all in vain.  We have received our
food at very irregular times, too, and sometimes we have had to keep
fast nearly all day.  If I were the only sufferer, I would say nothing
about it; but I cannot bear to see my poor flock dying by inches in
this way.  Do take pity on us, and see that we have plenty of corn and
water hereafter.  Some of my family, who pride themselves on being good
layers, complain that since you have kept us shut up in such narrow
quarters they cannot find anything to make their egg-shells of.  Now,
if you would give us some old burnt bones, pounded up fine, or a little
lime, once in awhile, I do not think you would lose anything by it.
And as you will not let us go out to scratch for ourselves, what is the
reason that you cannot dig us a few worms occasionally?  It would be a
great treat to us.  I hope you will heed my suggestions.  If you do
not, I can assure you of two things: you won't have many eggs this
summer; and fat chickens will be a scarce article in this neighborhood
next Thanksgiving time.  But Mrs. Yellowneck has just laid an egg, and
I must help her cackle over it; so I will write nothing more at
present, but sign myself

"Your faithful, but afflicted,

"SHANGHAE ROOSTER."


Before Jerry had finished reading this mysterious letter, Oscar, who
wondered at his long absence, went to see what the matter was, and
found his cousin deeply absorbed in the document.  After Jerry had read
it, he handed it to Oscar, telling him where he found it.

"Well, that is queer," said Oscar, after he had read it.  "Who do you
suppose wrote it?"

"I know where it came from well enough," said Jerry; "keep dark--don't
say anything about it," he added, as he put the letter in his pocket.
Then stepping to the kitchen-window, he inquired, "Mother, was Clinton
over here yesterday?"

"I believe he was," replied Mrs. Preston.

"That accounts for it," said Jerry to Oscar; "that letter sounds just
like Clinton.  I knew he wrote it just as soon as I saw it."

"But can he write as well as that?" inquired Oscar.

"Yes, he 's a very good writer," replied Jerry.  "He ought to be, for
he has to get a lesson every day, just as though he went to school, and
recite to his mother in the evening.  I wish I knew as much as he does,
but I should n't want to study so hard."

They had now started on their way to Clinton's.  The Shanghae letter
continued to be the topic of remark for some time.  It was finally
concluded that they should say nothing to Clinton about it.  To tell
the truth, Jerry felt a little mortified at the deserved rebuke he had
received, and he thought the easiest way to get over it would be, to
pretend that the letter had never reached its destination.

Clinton Davenport, the suspected author of this letter, lived in the
nearest house to Mr. Preston's.  The house is marked 1, on the map of
Brookdale.  He was three or four months younger than Jerry, and, like
him, was an only son.  They had been intimate playmates from early
childhood, though their tastes and dispositions were very different.
Clinton was an industrious boy.  He liked to work, and took an interest
in all his father's plans and labors.  He was an ingenious boy, too;
and, in addition to his other commendable traits, he was a good scholar.

Oscar had seen Clinton once or twice, at Jerry's house, but this was
his first visit to him.  They soon came in the sight of the house.  It
was a neat, but plain cottage, situated near the foot of a hill.  There
were several noble oaks around it, and fruit trees in the rear.
Luxuriant vines were trained around and over the front door.  A large
and substantial barn stood a little one side, and back from the road,
with its great doors swung open.  On a tall pole, behind the house,
there was a complete miniature of the cottage, which appeared to be
occupied by a family of birds, who were constantly flying back and
forth.  This pretty birdhouse Clinton had made with his own hands the
previous winter.

When Oscar and Jerry reached the house, they saw Clinton doing
something in the orchard, behind the buildings, and walked along
towards him.  They found him employed in destroying caterpillars'
nests, in the apple-trees.  He had a light ladder, with which he
ascended the trees; and having his hands protected by a pair of old
gloves, he swept down the nests, and destroyed the young caterpillars
by the hundred.

"This is n't very pleasant work," said Clinton, "but it has got to be
done.  I've been all over the orchard this morning, and this is the
last tree I 've got to examine.  I shall be done in a few minutes, and
then I 'll walk around with you."

"I should like to know where all these caterpillars come from," said
Oscar; "do they come up from the ground?"

"No," replied Clinton.  "A miller lays the eggs, the summer before, on
a branch of the tree, and there they stay till about the first of June;
then they hatch out, and build their nest.  The nests look something
like tents, don't you see they do?"

"Yes, so they do," said Oscar.

"That's the reason they are called tent-caterpillars.  There are three
or four hundred of them in every nest.  In about a month from now, they
would all turn into millers, if nobody disturbed them, and lay millions
of eggs for next year's crop."

"That 's curious--I 've learnt something new by coming here," said
Oscar.

"There, I believe that's all," said Clinton, as he cast his eye over
the tree; "now come and see my turkeys."

Jerry slyly winked at Oscar, and both thought of the Shanghae rooster's
letter; but they said nothing, and followed Clinton to a tree near the
barn, where there was a large, motherly hen, surrounded by her happy
brood.  They were young turkeys, but it was all the same to the poor
simple hen.  She had set four weeks upon the eggs from which they were
hatched, and no wonder she honestly believed they were her own
children.  To confess the truth, they did look so much like chickens,
that a city boy like Oscar would hardly have suspected they were
turkeys, if he had not been told that they were.  They were black, and
of about the size of chickens of their age.  They had also the sharp,
piping cry of genuine chickens.  But their necks were a little longer
than usual, and that was almost the only badge of their turkeyhood.
The hen was confined to the tree by a string, to prevent her roving
off.  A barrel turned upon its side, served them for a house at night.

There was another hen, confined under a tree near by, which was the
proud mother of a large brood of chickens.  There were about
twenty-five of them, but though they now constituted one brood, they
were hatched by two hens.  Clinton said he usually managed to set two
hens together, so that one of them might bring up all the chickens,
thereby saving some trouble for himself, as well as one hen's time,
which was of some value to him.  Hens do not seem to have much
knowledge of arithmetic, and biddy was apparently unconscious of any
difference between twelve and five-and-twenty.

A loud and prolonged "Cock-a-doodle-do-o-o-o" now attracted Oscar to
the hen-yard near by, behind the barn, where the rest of Clinton's
poultry were confined.  It was a large enclosure, connected with a
shed, in which the fowls roosted and laid their eggs.  Its occupants,
and indeed all the poultry on the place were the exclusive property of
Clinton, and he took the entire management of them in his own hands.
He raised the corn they consumed on a patch of ground his father gave
him for the purpose.  He sold his eggs, chickens, and turkeys to whom
he pleased, and kept a regular account in a book of all his business
transactions.  Of course, all the money he made was his own, and he
told Oscar he had nearly seventy-five dollars in the bank, which he had
earned in this way.

"I don't see how you do it," said Jerry; "I could n't make anything
that way if I should try.  I don't believe our hens more than pay their
way, if they do that."

"If you should manage as I do, I guess you would make something,"
replied Clinton.

"No, it isn't my luck," said Jerry; "if I worked ever so hard, I should
n't be any better off for it."

"I don't believe that," said Clinton; "there 's no luck about it.  Any
boy could make out just as well as I have done, if he took the same
trouble.  You try it, now, and see."

"No, I shan't try, for I know just as well as I want to, how it would
turn out," replied Jerry.

"How can you know if you never tried it?" inquired Clinton.

Jerry did not answer this question, and perhaps he could not.  He
preferred to comfort himself with the foolish plea of the lazy, that he
was not one of "the lucky ones," and it was useless for him to think of
succeeding in anything of that kind.

Clinton did not make the most distant allusion to the Shanghae
Rooster's letter, although Jerry felt sure that he knew all about it.
The latter also avoided all reference to it.  Oscar could hardly keep
from introducing the matter, but his cousin's injunction to "keep dark"
prevailed, and he was able to restrain his impatient tongue.

The boys now took a look at the piggery, where they found several fat,
dignified grunters, together with a family of little squealers, who
seemed quite too clean and delicate to occupy such an enclosure.  They
then went all over the great barn, which happened to be tenantless, the
cows being at pasture and the oxen and horse off at work.  Oscar's
attention was attracted to a scrap cut from a newspaper, which was
pasted upon one of the posts of the horse's stall.  It read as follows:

  "THE HORSE'S PRAYER.

  "Up hill, spare thou me;
  Down hill, take care of thee;
  On level ground, spare me not,
  Nor give me water when I 'm hot."


Clinton said he found these lines in a newspaper about the time he
began to drive alone, and he stuck them up upon the stall that he might
not forget them.

"Hallo, who is this?" inquired Oscar, as a little curly-haired girl of
six years came tripping into the barn.

The little girl to whom the inquiry was addressed turned a shy and
roguish look towards the strange boy, and then edged along to Clinton,
and nestled her little hand in his.

"Can't you tell him who you are?" inquired Clinton.  "He came all the
way from Boston, where cousin Ettie and cousin Willie live.  He 's
Jerry's cousin, and little Mary Preston's cousin.  Now you'll tell him
what your name is, won't you?"

"Annie Davenport--that's my name," she replied, in her artless, winning
way.

"Then you're Clinton's sister, are you?" inquired Oscar.

"Yes, and he 's my brother," she quickly added, with a proud look that
greatly amused the boys.

"Did you say you have a cousin Willie in Boston, Clinton?" continued
Oscar.

"Yes, Willie Davenport," replied Clinton.

"I know him--he's about your size, is n't he? and his father is a
lawyer?"

"Yes, that's him--why, I want to know if you know him?"

"O yes; he goes to our school.  The boys have nicknamed him Whistler,
because he whistles so much; but he 's a real clever fellow, for all
that.  My brother Ralph is quite intimate with him.  It's strange that
I never knew before that he had relations down here," added Oscar.

"Do you know his sister, Ettie?" inquired Clinton.

"No, I never saw her," replied Oscar.

"Come into the house with me,--I must tell mother we 've heard from
Boston," said Clinton.

They all entered the house, and Mrs. Davenport was soon informed of the
pleasant discovery they had made, and had many questions to ask
concerning her Boston friends.  Oscar seemed to become at once an old
acquaintance.   The fact that he was a schoolmate of Willie gave him a
direct passport to the good graces of all the family.  When Oscar
called to mind his peculiar relations towards Willie, this unlooked-for
friendship was not particularly agreeable to him; for he was not, and
never had been, on very friendly terms with Clinton's cousin.  This,
however, was more than he dared say to Clinton, and so he concealed his
dislike of Willie as well as he could.

After sitting in the house a little while, Clinton invited Oscar and
Jerry into the "shop," which was a room back of the kitchen, where Mr.
Davenport kept a variety of carpenter's tools.  Here, in cold and
stormy weather, Clinton's father mended his broken tools and
implements, and performed such other jobs as were required.  Clinton,
too, spent many odd moments at the work-bench, and patient practice had
made him quite a neat and skilful workman.  He showed the boys several
boxes, a pine table, and a cricket, made entirely by his own hands,
which would have done no discredit to a regular carpenter.

After remaining an hour or two with Clinton, Oscar and Jerry started
for home, well pleased with their visit.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE LETTER.

"Oscar, you have n't written home since you came down here, have you?"
inquired Mr. Preston one morning at the breakfast table.

"No, sir," replied Oscar.

"Well, you ought to write," added Mr. Preston; "your mother told you
to, and I suppose she has been looking for a letter every day for a
week or more.  It's over a fortnight since you left home, and your
folks will feel anxious about you, if they don't hear from you soon.
You 'd better write a letter to them this morning, before you do
anything else, and then it will be out of the way.  I shall either go
or send over to the post-office to-day, and the letter will start for
Boston to-morrow morning, and get there the next day."

"O dear, I hate to write," said Oscar.  "Why can't you write to mother,
aunt, and tell her how I am?"

"No, no," said Mr. Preston, "that won't do.  You promised your mother
that you would write yourself, and she 'll expect to hear from you, and
not from somebody else.  Your aunt can write, if she chooses, but you
must write too.  I 'll give you a pen and some paper and ink after
breakfast, and you can write just a much as you please."

"I guess it won't be much--I don't know how to write a letter," replied
Oscar.

"A boy of your age not know how to write a letter--and been all your
lifetime to such grand schools as they have in Boston, too!  I don't
believe that," said Mr. Preston, shaking his head.

"I shall have to go and see the Shanghae Rooster," said Oscar, looking
at Jerry very knowingly.

Jerry laughed at this allusion, but the others did not appear to
understand its meaning.  It was evident that they were innocent of all
knowledge of the mysterious letter; and as Jerry wished them to remain
so, he adroitly turned the remark by replying:

"No you won't--father has got plenty of steel pens."

After breakfast, Mr. Preston told Oscar to follow him.  They went up
stairs, and Mr. P. took a key from his pocket, and unlocked the door of
what was known by the name of "the private room."  It was a very small
apartment, and was originally designed for a closet or store-room; but
Mr. Preston now used it as a sort of office.  Here he kept his business
papers, and here he did what little writing he had to do.  There was
one window in the room, which looked out upon the garden in the rear of
the house.  The furniture consisted of a chair, a small portable desk,
placed upon a table, an old map of the State of Maine, a dictionary,
almanac, and several other odd volumes and pamphlets.

"There," said Mr. Preston, "you may sit right down to my desk, and
write as long as you please, if you won't disturb my papers.  There are
paper, ink, pens, and wafers--you can use what you want.  When you get
done, lock the door, and give the key to your aunt."

Oscar found there was no backing out from a letter this time; so he sat
down, and tried to make up his mind to face the dreaded duty.  He heard
his uncle tell the children not to interrupt him, till he had finished
his letter; and when Mr. Preston and his man James went off to work,
Jerry accompanied them.  Oscar was thus left to himself.  After
thinking about the matter a few moments, he dipped his pen in the
ink-stand, and, having consulted the almanac, wrote the proper date for
the letter, together with the address, "Dear Mother."  Here he came
suddenly to a stand.  He was at a loss how to commence.  He sat
uneasily in his chair, now nibbling the end of the pen-holder, and now
running his fingers slowly through his hair, as if to coax out the
thoughts he wished to express.

At length he got started, and wrote several lines without stopping.
Now he thought he should go ahead without further trouble; but he soon
found himself again brought to a dead halt.  He began to scribble and
draw rude figures upon a piece of waste paper, hoping the next
sentence, in continuance of his letter, would soon pop into his head;
but instead of anything popping in, his ideas began to pop out, so that
he almost forgot the letter, amid the unmeaning flourishes his pen was
making.  Then, suddenly thinking of the scarcely-commenced task before
him, he read and re-read the few lines he had written, but could not
determine what to say next.  Lifting up the lid of the desk, he found a
variety of bills, receipts, accounts and letters scattered about.
Disregarding the injunction of his uncle, and in violation of one of
the plainest rules of good breeding, he concluded to open one of the
letters, and see if he could not gain some hint from it, to aid him in
completing his own.  The letter he opened proved to be a short business
message, and it was written in such a difficult hand, that he could not
read half the words.  He then looked into several other letters, but
none of them afforded him any aid.

After idling away half an hour in this manner, he resumed his letter,
and began to make some progress upon it, when the lively chirping and
twittering of a party of birds in an apple-tree near the window,
attracted his attention.  He laid down his pen, and watched their
movements awhile.  They were swallows; and from their actions, Oscar
soon discovered that the old birds were teaching their little ones how
to fly.  There were several nests of these swallows, under the rafters
of Mr. Preston's barn; and as they had recently had accessions to their
families, Oscar concluded this must be the first appearance of the
new-comers in public.  The old birds fluttered back and forth,
twittering and talking to the young ones all the while, and trying to
entice them to commit themselves again to their wings.  The little
fearful things looked doubtingly, first one way and then another, as
though they would gladly launch away upon their destined element, if
they were only sure they should not tumble ingloriously to the ground.
The clamor of the old ones increased every moment.  They called and
coaxed more earnestly, and fluttered more impatiently, until at length
the young birds worked up their courage to the requisite point, and
away the whole flock darted, towards the barn.

Now that the swallows were out of his way, Oscar returned to his letter
once more.  Had he learned a lesson of self-confidence from the example
of the little swallows, the few minutes he spent in watching their
movements would have been well employed.  But instead of his confidence
increasing, he was now almost sick of the sight of the letter, and
began to doubt whether he should ever finish it.  While he was
hesitating whether he had better tear it up, or try once more to go on
with it, a sweet childish voice from the garden engaged his attention.
He looked from the window, and saw little Mary sitting down upon the
grass, in a shady spot, with a large book open before her.  She was
looking at the engravings in the volume, and was talking very earnestly
to herself, and to the figures in the pictures.

"There is Emily," she was saying, "and there is father with a shovel;
and this one is me, and that is Jerry, and that's Oscar, carrying a
basket.  I guess they 're going to dig potatoes.  O, what lots of
houses over the other side of the pond; and there 's one, two, three,
five, ten, eight meeting-houses, too.  It must be Boston, I guess,
there are so many houses there.  And there's a great boat coming--O
what a smoke it makes!--and it's got wheels, too.  Now we'll get right
into it, and go and see Uncle Henry and all the folks.  Stop, stop, you
boat!  Now that's too bad--it goes by, and we can't go to Boston."

[Illustration: Mary and the Picture-Book.]

Thus little Mary continued to talk to the pictures and to herself,
unconscious that any one was listening to her.  She was a pretty child,
and, all unknown to herself, she made almost as attractive a picture as
any in her book, with her fair face, her flowing hair, and her clean
dress, set off by the green grass and climbing vines around her.  Oscar
sat listening to her childish prattle for some time, when the striking
of the kitchen clock reminded him that he had been seated at the desk
an hour, and had not yet written a dozen lines.  He was about to tear
up the sheet of paper over which he had sat (but not labored) so long,
and give up the attempt.  Then he thought of his promise to write, and
how ashamed he should feel to have his uncle's folks know that he had
tried a whole hour, and could not write a letter to his own mother.  He
finally determined to make one more attempt.

Finding that the sound of Mary's voice disturbed him, Oscar now shut
down the window, and thus cut off all communication with the outer
world, except by the eye.  He soon got under way again with his letter,
and, to his own surprise, he went along quite easily and with
considerable rapidity.  The reason of this was, he was now really in
earnest, and had given his mind wholly to the letter.  Before, his
thoughts were flitting from one trifle to another; now they were
directed to the object he wished to accomplish.  Before the clock
struck the next hour, the letter was finished, sealed, and directed.
It was quite a respectable sort of a letter, too.  When he had got
through, Oscar was himself surprised to find that he could write so
good an epistle.  The spelling, punctuation, and penmanship might have
been improved, but in other respects the letter was creditable to him.
I will print it as he intended it should read, and not precisely as he
wrote it:


"BROOKDALE, June 15, 185--.

"DEAR MOTHER:

"I suppose you are looking for a letter from me, and I meant to have
written before this, but somehow I have neglected it.  I got here safe
the next day after I left home.  We stopped one night in Portland, and
put up at the ---- Hotel.  The next day we rode in the cars all the
forenoon, and in the stage all the afternoon.  The stage does not go
within five miles of uncle's, but Jerry went over with a horse and
wagon to get us.  I like Brookdale first-rate.  It is a real
countryfied place, but I like it all the better for that.  The nearest
house to uncle's is half a mile off; and, by the way, tell Ralph that a
cousin of Whistler's lives there.  His name is Clinton Davenport.  I
have got acquainted with him, and like him very much.  I like Jerry,
too.  We have capital times together.  All the boys here are rather
'green,' as we say in Boston; and you would laugh at the ideas they
have of city things; but I suppose they think I am green about country
things, and so we are square.  I have lots of rides, and good long
walks, too.  A few days ago, Jerry and I walked four or five miles
through the woods and pastures, to an old hut where a hermit used to
live.  They say he was a miser, and buried his money there, and people
have dug for it, but nobody has found it.  We carried our provisions,
and made a fire, and ate dinner there.  There is a fine pond close by,
where we got our water to drink.

"There are lots of birds here.  We are going to set some snares in the
woods, and catch some.  There are some swallows' nests in uncle's barn,
just over the door.  You can look right up into them, and see the
birds.  They are quite tame.  They are just making their young ones
learn how to fly.  It is real amusing to see them.

"Uncle has quite a large farm.  I forget how many acres he told me
there was, but it is a good many.  They have cows, and pigs, and hens,
and live in real country style.  I have learned how to make butter, but
I have not learned to like buttermilk yet.  I can't bear it, but all
the other folks think it is a great treat.  The schools don't keep here
but three months in the winter, so Jerry and I are together about all
the time.  We sleep together, too.  I almost forgot to tell you that I
have got quite strong and hearty again.  My cough is gone, and aunt
says I look a good deal better than I did when I came here.  I want to
hear from home, but I hope you won't send for me to go back just yet.
But I am tired of writing, and must close up my letter.  Excuse errors
and bad writing.  Give my love to all the family, including Tiger.

"Your affectionate son,

"OSCAR."


Oscar felt quite relieved when his letter was ready for the
post-office.  Having locked up the little room, he carried the key to
his aunt.

"Have you written your letter?" inquired Mrs. Preston.

"Yes, ma'am," replied Oscar.

"Where is it?  You 're going to let me read it, aint you?" inquired
Emily.

"There it is," said Oscar, taking the letter from his jacket pocket;
"but I guess you won't read it, miss."

"Yes, do let me read it," persisted Emily, who really had an undue
proportion of inquisitiveness in her nature.

"No, I can't; it's sealed up," replied Oscar.

"Then tell me what you wrote, won't you?" continued Emily.

"Why, you silly child, what business is it to you what he wrote?" said
her mother.  "Don't ask any more such foolish questions; Oscar will
think you have n't got common sense if you do."

"Did you write anything about me?" continued Emily, in a lower tone.

"Did you hear me, Emily?" inquired Mrs. Preston, in a sharper tone.

"O no, I did n't write much," said Oscar, in reply to Emily; "there's
nothing in the letter that you would care about seeing."

"I did n't know you were going to seal up the letter so soon.  I wanted
to send a message to Alice and Ella," continued Emily.

"You are too late now," replied Oscar; "but I 'll give you a chance
next time.  What message do you want to send?"

"You must n't be so inquisitive," said Emily, with a laugh; "just as
though I were going to tell you, when you would n't let me read the
letter!"

"Well, I can tell you one thing,--I don't want to know," replied Oscar.
"Aunt Eliza, do you know where Jerry is?"

"He has gone with his father down to the meadow lot," replied Mrs.
Preston.  "I guess they will be back before a great while."

Oscar set out for the "meadow lot," which was a quarter of a mile from
the house, on the other side of the river.  He had not gone far,
however, when he met Mr. Preston and Jerry returning.

"I 've written my letter, uncle, and it's all ready to go to the
post-office," said Oscar; "can't Jerry and I carry it over?"

"I 'll see about that this afternoon," said Mr. Preston; "I 've got
something else for Jerry to do now."

"I 'm going over to the old wood-lot to get a load of mulching," said
Jerry to Oscar; "and you can go too, if you want to."

"Mulching--what is that?" inquired Oscar.

"It's stuff that they put around young trees, to keep the roots from
drying up in summer," replied Jerry.  "You know all those small apple
and pear trees back of the barn? well, it's to put around them."

Having reached the house, the boys ate some luncheon, and then
proceeded to tackle Billy into the hay-cart.  After Mr. Preston had
given Jerry sundry cautions and directions, which the latter seemed to
think quite unnecessary, the boys hopped into the cart, and drove off
towards the woods.  Mr. Preston owned several tracts of woodland in
Brookdale.  The lot to which the boys were going, was called the "old"
one, because the wood had all been cut off once, and it was now covered
with a young growth, not large enough for firewood.  It was but a short
distance from the house, and the boys soon reached the spot, and
commenced operations.  They were each provided with large jack-knives,
and with these they proceeded to lop off the young and tender ends of
the birches, which trees were quite abundant in that spot; for birches
are very apt to spring up after a pine forest has been cleared away.
Many of the trees were yet so small, that the boys did not have to
climb up to reach the branches.

Though all this was really work, it seemed so much like play to Jerry
and Oscar, that they actually _forgot to be lazy_.  The consequence
was, the job was done before they thought of it.  Gathering up the
heaps of small twigs scattered around them, they threw them into the
cart, and found they had quite a respectable load; respectable in bulk
at least, though not a very heavy burden for Billy.  Taking their seats
upon the top of the mulching, which was almost as soft as a load of
hay, they drove back to the barn, and alighted.  Mr. Preston now
appeared, and led the horse into the orchard, where, with the aid of
the boys, he scattered the birch twigs around the young trees, so as to
protect their roots from the fierce heat of the sun.  There was not
enough for all the trees, but he told them they need not get any more
at that time.

After dinner, Mr. Preston said he should have to go over to the
Cross-Roads himself, as he wanted to see a man who lived there; but he
told Oscar he might go with him, if he wished.  Oscar accepted the
invitation, and they were soon on their way, leaving Jerry not a little
disappointed that he could not go with them.  Oscar handed his letter
to the postmaster, who marked it with the stamp of the office, and
deposited it in the mail-bag, Mr. Preston stopped to purchase a few
articles in the shop where the post-office was kept.  When he was ready
to start, he inquired:

"Have you mailed your letter, and paid your postage, Oscar?"

"I 've mailed it, but I did n't pay the postage," replied Oscar.

"That was n't right," said his uncle; "when you mail a letter to a
friend, you should always pay the postage.  If you pay it now, in
advance, it will be only three cents; but if the postage is not paid
till the letter is delivered, it will be five cents."

"I did n't think of that," said Oscar; "I wonder if it is too late to
pay it now?  I 'll go and see."

On making known his request, the postmaster drew forth the letter from
the bag, and imprinted another stamp upon it.  Oscar paid the three
cents, and departed, with his uncle.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE RECALL.

Oscar was bent upon going a-gunning.  He had allowed his mind to dwell
upon the idea, until it seemed to him as though he could no longer
resist the impulse to play the sportsman, without a sacrifice of his
happiness.  His uncle, it is true, had tried to dissuade him from it,
and had positively refused to lend him his gun.  But there were other
guns in Brookdale, and everybody was not so particular as Mr. Preston
about trusting boys with fire-arms.  Why could n't he borrow a gun of
somebody else?  So he asked himself; and by-and-bye he put the same
question to Jerry.  Jerry heartily entered into the proposal.  He
thought Jim Oakley would lend him a gun.  At any rate, he was not
afraid to ask him.  Jim was a famous gunner, in that region.  He had
several fowling-pieces; and if he would not lend them his best rifle,
it was not likely that he would refuse them one of his old guns.  So
Jerry reasoned, and Oscar fully agreed with him.  They went to see Jim,
that very afternoon, and by dint of teasing, they got the gun, together
with a small quantity of powder and shot.  Thus armed, they set out for
the woods, in quest of game.

They had been in the woods but a short time, and had not yet shot
anything, though they had fired several charges, when a dispute arose
between them about the gun.  Jerry claimed a right to it half the time,
on the ground that he had borrowed it.  Oscar was willing that he
should use the gun occasionally, but he resisted his claim to it half
the time.  He contended that the gun was loaned to him, and besides, he
had agreed to pay the owner for all the ammunition they used.  The
dispute waxed warmer and warmer.  Oscar was obstinate, and Jerry grew
sulky.  It was the first serious difficulty that had arisen between
them.  Neither of them, as yet, knew the other's temper, but now they
were in a fair way of finding each other out.  It was the clashing of
two strong wills.  Oscar soon saw that their sport was at an end for
that day, and throwing down the gun and powder flask upon the grass, he
said, in an angry tone:

"There, take the old thing, and do what you please with it; and when
you carry it back, see that you pay for the powder, for I won't."

So saying, he turned upon his heel and walked off.  He had not gone far
when Jerry, who had picked up the gun, called out:

"Here! you 've broken the trigger, throwing it down so.  You may carry
it back yourself now, I won't."

"I shan't carry it back," replied Oscar; "you say he lent it to you,
and you may take care of it now."

Oscar went back to his uncle's, leaving Jerry and the gun to keep each
other company.  Not feeling in a very pleasant mood, Oscar did not go
into the house, but loitered around the barn, avoiding the family as
much as he could.  Pretty soon he saw Clinton driving up, and he
stepped inside of the barn, as he did not care about speaking with him.
Clinton stopped however, when opposite to the barn, and called to him.

"What would you give for a letter from home?" said Clinton, when Oscar
made his appearance.

"I don't know--why, have you got one for me?" inquired Oscar, with
remarkable coolness.

"That's for you, I guess," said Clinton, handing him a letter.  "I 've
been over to the post-office, and as I happened to see a letter
directed to you, I thought I would take it along with me."

"That's right, I'm glad you did," said Oscar, taking the letter.  "Much
obliged to you for your trouble," he added, as Clinton drove off.

Oscar now went into the barn, and, seating himself upon a stool, opened
and read his letter.  It was from his mother.  She acknowledged the
receipt of his letter, and expressed much gratification at hearing that
he was well and enjoying himself.  His father, she wrote, thought he
had better return home, and resume his place at school, from which he
had been absent nearly three months.  The term would close in about a
month, and he wanted Oscar to be prepared to enter the High School at
that time.  Then followed various little messages from the children,
directions about his journey home, &c.  In closing, she requested him
to return that week, that he might be ready to go to school the
following Monday.

Oscar was not very much pleased with the contents of the letter.  He
did not expect to be recalled so suddenly.  He had hoped that, at any
rate, he should not be sent to school again that term.  But, his plans
and hopes were all overturned by this letter.  He went into the house,
and told the news to his aunt, who expressed regret that he was to
leave so soon.

By-and-bye Jerry came home, but he brought the same scowl upon his face
that Oscar left with him up in the woods.  Oscar, too, was as "stuffy"
as ever.  No words passed between the two, and each seemed bent upon
giving the other a wide berth.  At the supper table, something was said
about Oscar's letter, and his going home; but Jerry was too obstinate
to ask any questions, and so he remained in tormenting uncertainty in
regard to the matter.  Oscar, too, had some curiosity about the gun,
but he did not intend to "speak first," if he never spoke again to his
cousin.

During the whole evening, Oscar and Jerry were at the opposite poles of
the little family circle.  When Oscar retired for the night, he found
Jerry not only abed, but asleep, or pretending to be.  It was a wonder
that both did not tumble out of bed that night; for each slept upon the
extreme edge of the mattress, as far as possible from the other.

When Oscar awoke in the morning, he found himself alone, Jerry having
quietly arisen and slipped out of the room, without disturbing him.
They did not see each other until they met at the breakfast table.
Here, their sober and quiet demeanor, so unusual with them, soon
attracted notice.

"See how down in the mouth Jerry is!" said Emily.  "He looks as though
he had lost all his friends.  And Oscar does n't look much better
either, poor fellow!"

Both boys changed color, and looked queerly, but they said nothing.

"Never mind, boys," said Mrs. Preston, "you 've got one day more to
enjoy yourselves together.  You 'd better make the most of that, while
it lasts, and not worry about the separation till the time comes."

"That's good doctrine," said Mr. Preston; "never borrow trouble, for it
comes fast enough any way.  Come, cheer up, Oscar, you have n't gone
yet."

"It's too bad to make me go home so soon--I thought I was going to stay
here a month or two," said Oscar, who was very willing that his unusual
demeanor should be attributed entirely to his summons home.

"You must ask your father to let you come down and spend your
vacation," said Mr. Preston.  "I expect to go up to Boston about that
time, and I guess he will let me bring you home with me."

"I should like to come," said Oscar, "but I don't believe father will
let me, it's so far."

"O yes, he will, when he knows what good friends you and Jerry are,"
replied Mr. Preston.

"Jerry 's crying, as true as I 'm alive!" exclaimed Emily, who had been
watching the workings of her brother's face for several moments, and
thought she saw moisture gathering in his eye.

"No I aint, either!" replied Jerry, in such a prompt and spiteful tone,
and with such a scowl upon his face, that all the others, including
even Oscar, joined in a hearty laugh.

"I hope you feel good-natured," said his mother; "Oscar's going off
seems to have had a queer effect upon you."

"I don't care, you 're all picking upon me--it's enough to make anybody
cross," said Jerry, in a surly tone.

"You're mistaken--nobody has picked upon you," replied his mother.

"Yes, you have, too," responded Jerry.

"Jerry! don't let me hear any more of that--not another word," said Mr.
Preston, sternly.

"Then you 'd better make Emily hold her tongue," said Jerry.

"Hush! do you hear me?" said Mr. Preston, with considerable excitement.

Jerry undertook to mutter something more, when his father jumped up,
and, taking him by the collar, led him to the cellar-door, and told him
to go down and stay until he was sent for.  Then, shutting the door,
and turning the button, he resumed his seat at the table, and the
family finished their meal in silence.

Jerry was released from his confinement soon after breakfast; but the
unfortunate affair at the table continued to weigh heavily upon his
mind.  Throughout the rest of the day, he kept out of everybody's way,
and said nothing, but looked sour, cross, and wretched.  Oscar, too,
felt very unpleasantly.  He found it hard work to amuse himself alone.
He was a boy of strong social feelings, and abhorred solitary rambles
and sports.  It was a long and dull day, and when he retired to bed at
night, he almost felt glad that it was his last day in Brookdale.

Soon after he had got into bed, Jerry, who had retired before him,
called out:

"Oscar!"

"What?" inquired the other.

There was a long pause, during which Jerry hitched and twisted about,
as if hesitating how to proceed.  He at length inquired:

"Are you mad with me?"

"No," replied Oscar, somewhat reluctantly, and in a tone that was
almost equivalent to "yes."

"I don't want you to go off without making up with me," added Jerry;
and as he spoke, his voice trembled, and had it been light enough,
Oscar might have detected something like moisture in those very eyes
that had flashed in anger at Emily in the morning, for reporting the
same thing of them.

"I 'm ready to make up with you," replied Oscar, turning over toward
Jerry.

Having thus broken the ice, the constraint and reserve that had existed
between them since the previous day, gradually melted away, and they
were once more on sociable terms, although their intercourse was not
quite so free and unembarrassed as it was before their quarrel.  In
fact, they did not properly heal up the difficulty between them,
inasmuch as neither made any confession or apology--a duty that both
should have performed, as they were about equally guilty.  Oscar's
first inquiries were concerning the gun.  Jerry told him that he
carried it home, and that the owner was quite angry, when he saw the
damage it had sustained, but said nothing about making the boys pay for
it.

The next morning the family arose at an earlier hour than usual, as
Oscar had got to be on his way soon after sunrise.  It was decided that
Jerry should drive him over to the Cross-Roads.  Accordingly, after a
hasty breakfast, he bade them all good-bye, one by one, and taking a
seat in the wagon with Jerry, started for home.  It was delightful,
riding while the birds were yet singing their morning songs, and the
grass was spangled with dew, and the cool air had not felt the hot
breath of the sun; but the separation that was about to take place, and
the unpleasant recollection of their recent quarrel, lessened their
enjoyment of the ride very much.  They reached the Cross-Roads nearly
half an hour before the stage-coach came along.  At length it drove up
to the post-office, and Oscar, mounting to the top, took a seat behind
the driver.  The mail-bag was handed to the driver, and the coach
started again on its way, Oscar bowing his farewell to Jerry, as they
drove off.

[Illustration: The Stage Coach.]

Nothing of special interest occurred the forenoon's ride.  The coach
reached its destination about eleven o'clock and Oscar had barely time
enough to brush the dust from his clothing, and to obtain a drink of
cold water, when the signal was given for the cars to start, and he
took his seat in the train.  His thoughtful aunt had placed a liberal
supply of eatables in the top of his valise, and to that he now had
recourse, for his long ride had given him a sharp appetite.  There were
but few passengers in the train when it started, but at almost every
station it received accessions.

On reaching Portland, Oscar found that he had nearly half an hour to
spare, before taking the Boston train; for it was his intention to "go
through" in one day, which his early start enabled him to do.  After
treating himself to a few cakes, which he purchased at a refreshment
stand in the depôt, he walked about until it was time to take his seat
in the cars.

The clock struck three, and the train started.  One hundred and eleven
miles seemed to Oscar a long distance to travel, at one stretch,
especially after riding all the forenoon; and, indeed, he did begin to
feel quite tired, long before he reached the end of the journey.  To
add to his uneasiness, a particle of cinder from the locomotive flew
into his eye, and lodged there so firmly that all his efforts to remove
it were in vain.  In a little while, the eye became quite painful, and
he was obliged to keep it closed.  A kind-looking gentleman, who sat
near him, noticed his trouble, and offered to assist him in removing
the mote; but it was so small that he could not find it.  He advised
Oscar not to rub the inflamed organ, and told him he thought the
moisture of the eye would soon wash out the intruder, if left to
itself.  Oscar tried to follow this advice, but the pain and irritation
did not subside, and he closed his eyes, and resigned himself to
darkness.

The nine o'clock bells of Boston were ringing, as Oscar left the depôt
and turned his steps homeward.  He hurried along through the familiar
streets, and had just turned the corner from which his home was in
sight, when somebody jumped suddenly from a dark passage-way, and
seized him by the hand.  It was Ralph, who had been on the watch for
his brother half an hour, and, concealed himself just as he saw him
approaching.  Each gave the other a cordial greeting, and then they
hastened into the house, where Oscar found the rest of the family
waiting to receive him.  The general commotion that followed his
arrival, aroused Tiger from the comfortable nap he was taking on a mat,
and on hearing the well-remembered tones of his master's voice, he
sprang toward Oscar, and nearly knocked him over with his
demonstrations of welcome.

So Oscar was at home again; and from the welcome he received, he
learned that there is pleasure in getting back from a journey as well
as in setting out upon one.  His inflamed eye soon attracted the notice
of his mother, and she examined it to see if she could detect the cause
of the irritation; but the troublesome atom was invisible.  She then
said she would try the eye-stone, and, going to the drawer, she got a
small, smooth, and flat stone, and told Ella to go down into the
kitchen and bring up a little vinegar in a saucer.  On putting the
stone into the vinegar, it soon began to move about, as though it were
possessed of life.  When it had become sufficiently lively, Mrs.
Preston wiped it dry, and put it between the lid and ball of Oscar's
inflamed eye.  After it had remained there a few minutes, he allowed it
to drop into his hand, and on a close-examination, he found that it had
brought with it the offending substance that had caused him so much
pain.  It was a little black speck, so small that it was barely
perceptible to the unaided eye.  It now being quite late, Mrs. Preston
thought that further inquiries and answers concerning Oscar's visit had
better be deferred till morning, and the family soon retired to their
beds.



CHAPTER XX.

DOWNWARD PROGRESS

The next day was Saturday.  Oscar was off most of the day with his
comrades, among whom he was quite a lion for the time.  During one of
the brief intervals that he was in the house, his mother said some
thing about his going to school on Monday.

"O dear, I don't want to go to school again this term," said Oscar.
"What's the use?  Why, it 's only four or five weeks before the term
will be through."

"I know that," replied his mother, "but your father is very anxious
that you should get into the High School, and he thinks you can do it
if you finish up this term."

"I can't do it--I 've got all behindhand with my studies," said Oscar.

"O yes, you can if you try," replied his mother.  "You might have got
into the High School last year if you had studied a little harder.  You
were almost qualified then, and I'm sure you ought to be now.  If you
find you are behind your class in your lessons, you must study so much
the harder, and you 'll get up with them by-and-bye."

"But I don't believe it will do me any good to be confined in the
school-room," continued Oscar.  "I don't think I'm so strong as I was
before I was sick."

"Well," said Mrs. Preston, "when you 're sick you need not go to
school; but I guess there 's no danger of your staying at home for that
reason, at present.  You never looked better in your life than you do
now."

Oscar tried his pleas again in the evening with his father, but with
quite as poor success.  He saw that it was fully determined that he
should resume his seat at school, and he reluctantly submitted to this
decision.  When Monday morning came, he proceeded to school, but found
that his old desk was in possession of another boy.  The head teacher
in Oscar's department soon appeared, and seemed quite glad to see him
once more.  He appointed Oscar a new seat, and told him he hoped he
would study so diligently as to make up for lost time.

The hopes of Oscar's teacher and parents were doomed to disappointment.
It was soon evident that he cared less about his lessons than ever.  He
was behind his class, and instead of redoubling his efforts to get up
with them, he became discouraged and indifferent.  His recitations were
seldom perfect, and often they were utter failures.  His teachers
coaxed, and encouraged, and ridiculed, and frowned, and punished, all
in vain.  One day, after Oscar had blundered worse than usual, the
teacher who was hearing the recitation said to him, in a despairing
tone:

"You remind me, Oscar, of what one of the old Roman emperors said to an
archer who shot his arrows a whole day, and never once hit the mark.
He told him he had a most wonderful talent for missing.  So I must say
of you--you 've got the greatest talent for missing of any boy I know."

Seeing a smile on the faces of Oscar's classmates, he added:

"But this is too sober a matter to make light of.  If you could not get
your lessons, it would be a different matter; but I know, and you know,
that this is not the trouble.  You are quick enough to learn and to
understand, when you have a mind to be.  If you would only try to get
your lessons as hard as the other boys do, you would n't be at the foot
of the class a great while.  If you keep on in this way, you will see
your folly as plainly as I see it now, before you are many years older."

This admonition had little effect upon Oscar.  When school was
dismissed, a few minutes after, he rushed out with as light a step as
any of his comrades, and his gay laugh was heard as soon as he reached
the entry.  In the general scramble for caps, one had fallen from its
peg, and instead of replacing it, two or three of the boys were making
a football of it.  Oscar joined the sport, and gave the cap a kick that
sent it part of the way down stairs.  A moment after, he met Willie
Davenport returning with it.

"Halloo, Whistler, that is n't your cap, is it?" inquired Oscar.

"No, but it's _somebody's_," said the good-hearted boy, as he brushed
off the dust, and put the lining back into its place.  He was about
hanging it up, when Benny Wright appeared, and claimed it as his
property.

Had Oscar known that the cap was Benny's, he would not have made a
foot-ball of it.  He remembered the kind epistle he received, when
sick, and the amusement it afforded him, when amusements were scarce.
Since his recovery, he had treated Benny with much more consideration
than before, and quite a kindly feeling had sprung up between them.

Oscar's inattention to his studies was not his only fault at school.
His general behavior was worse than it had ever been before.  Vexed
that he was compelled to return to school so near the expiration of the
term, it seemed as though he was determined to make as little
improvement in his studies, and as much trouble for his teachers, as he
could.  He not only idled away his own time, but he disturbed other
boys who were disposed to study.  He was repeatedly reproved and
punished, but reproof and punishment did no good; on the contrary, they
seemed rather to make him worse.  The teachers at length gave him up as
incorrigible, and consoled themselves with the thought that his
connection with the school would cease in two or three weeks, at which
time his class would graduate.  They still aimed to keep him in check,
during school hours, but they ceased spending their time and breath in
trying to bring about a reformation in his conduct.

One day as the scholars were engaged in writing, the master, while
passing along among the boys, and inspecting their writing-books,
noticed that somebody had been spitting what appeared to be tobacco
juice, near Oscar's seat.  This was a violation of the rules of the
school, and the teacher concluded not to let it pass unnoticed.  Having
no doubt, from several circumstances, that Oscar was the offender, he
said to him:

"Oscar, what are you chewing tobacco in school for, and spitting the
juice on the floor?"

"I have n't chewed any tobacco this afternoon," replied Oscar.

"What is it, then, that you have been spitting upon the floor?"
inquired the teacher.

"I have n't spit upon the floor," replied Oscar.

"Who did that?" continued the teacher, pointing to the puddle upon the
floor.

"I don't know," said Oscar; "it was there when I took my seat."

It was possible that Oscar told the truth, but the teacher had his
doubts.  He might perhaps, have settled the matter at once by putting a
question to one or two of the boys who sat near the supposed offender
but as he always avoided the system of making one boy inform against
another, when he could properly do so, he took another course.  He told
Oscar, if he had any tobacco in his mouth, or anywhere about his
person, to give it up to him.  Oscar declared that he had none.

"Let me look into your mouth," said the teacher.

Oscar had a small piece of the weed in his mouth, which he tucked
behind his upper lip with his tongue, and then opened his mouth.  The
teacher of course saw nothing but what belonged there.  He _smelt_
something, however, that left him no longer in doubt that Oscar had
told a falsehood.

"I can't see your cud, but I can smell it plain enough," said the
master; "and I 'll examine your pockets, if you please."

Oscar was far from pleased with this proposition, and tried to prevent
its being carried into effect.  The master, however, easily overcame
the difficulties he put in the way, and running his hand into the
pocket which he seemed most anxious to defend, brought forth a piece of
tobacco large enough to kill a horse!

"What is that?" he inquired, holding the contraband article before
Oscar.

Oscar neither looked at it nor made any reply.

"And you are the boy who said a moment ago that you had no tobacco
about you," continued the master "I declare I don't know what to do
with you.  I have said and done all that I can to make a better boy of
you, and now I shall report this matter to your father, and let him
settle it with you.  But I want you to remember one thing.  When you
tell me a lie, you break God's law, and not mine; and you can't settle
the matter in full with me, or any other human being."

The teacher then threw the piece of tobacco out of the open window, and
taking Oscar's writing-book, told him he would set a new copy for him.
He soon returned, with the following line written upon the top of a
clean page:

"_Lying lips are abomination to the Lord._"

As Oscar wrote this fearful sentence over and over again, he could not
fully escape the force of its meaning.  It reminded him of his feelings
during his recent illness, when at times the terrible thought that his
sickness might possibly be unto death intruded upon his mind.  But
thoughts of God, and death, and a future world, were alike unpleasant
to him, and he banished them as speedily as possible.

During the afternoon, the principal of the school wrote a letter to Mr.
Preston, informing him of Oscar's indolence and bad conduct, and
referring particularly to the incident that had just occurred.  By way
of offset to the complaint, he spoke in very high terms of Ralph, who
attended the same school, but was in another department and another
room.  He sent the letter by Ralph, but told him not to let Oscar know
anything about it.  Ralph had some suspicions of the nature of the
letter, but he did his errand faithfully, going directly from school to
his father's store.

Mr. Preston was at first very much irritated by the teacher's
complaints of Oscar's misconduct; and could he have taken the culprit
in hand at the time, he would probably have handled him rather roughly.
But several days elapsed before he found it convenient to talk with
Oscar about the matter, and by this time his passion had subsided into
anxiety and sorrow.  He showed Oscar the letter, in which he, the
eldest son, was severely censured, and his little brother was so highly
commended.  With tears in his eyes, he warned him of the dangers before
him, and entreated him to change his course.

Oscar had never seen his father exhibit so much emotion before.
Usually, on such occasions, he was stern, if not passionate; more ready
to threaten and punish than to appeal to the heart and conscience.
Now, all this was changed, and sorrow seemed to have taken the place of
anger.  Oscar was somewhat affected by this unusual manifestation of
parental anxiety.  He was pretty well hardened against scoldings and
threatenings, but he did not know how to meet this new form of rebuke.
He tried to conceal his feelings, however, and preserved a sullen
silence throughout the interview.

This affair made no abiding impression upon Oscar.  In a day or two it
was forgotten, and the slight compunctions he felt had entirely
disappeared.  But the schoolmaster's complaint was soon followed by
another that was quite as unpleasant.  As Mrs. Preston was sitting at
her sewing, one day, the door suddenly opened, and in came Bridget, the
servant girl, with a face as red as rage and a hot fire could make it.

"I'll be goin' off this night, ma'am--I'll pack me chist, and not stop
here any longer at all," said Bridget, in a tone that betokened her
anger.

"Going off--what do you mean?  You don't say you 're going to leave us
so suddenly, Biddy?" inquired Mrs. Preston, with surprise.

"Yes, that I be," replied Bridget, very decidedly; "I 'll not be after
staying in the same house with that big, ugly b'y, another day."

"Who, Oscar?  What has he done now?" inquired Mrs. Preston.

"He's did nothing but bother the life out o' me ivery day since he coom
back, that's jist all he 's did," replied Biddy.  "Jist now, ma'am, he
slopped over a hull basin o' dirty whater right on to the clane floor,
and thin laffed at me, and sassed me, and called me, all sorts o' bad
names--the little sass-box!  It's not the like o' Bridget Mullikin that
'll put up with his dirty impidence another day.  I 'd like to live
with ye, ma'am, and Mister Pristen, good, nice man that he is but I
can't stop to be trated like a dog by that sassy b'y."

"I 'll go and see what he has been about," said Mrs. Preston, laying
down her work.

When they reached the kitchen, Oscar was not to be found.  There was
the puddle of dirty water upon the floor, however, and so far Bridget's
story was corroborated.  As she proceeded to wipe it up, she continued
to speak in not very complimentary terms of the "ugly b'y," as she
delighted to call Oscar.  It was in vain that Mrs. Preston attempted to
soothe her ruffled spirits.  She refused to be comforted, and insisted
upon taking her departure from the house that night.

Oscar did not make his appearance again until late in the afternoon.
When his mother called him to account for his treatment of Bridget, he
denied the greater part of her story.  He said that the basin of water
was standing upon the floor, and that he accidentally hit it with his
foot, and upset it.  He denied that he called her bad names or was
impudent, but he admitted that he laughed, to see her so angry.  He
also complained that she was as "cross as Bedlam" to him, and "jawed"
him whenever he entered the kitchen.

Mrs. Preston, puzzled by these contradictory stories, brought the two
contending parties face to face, in hope of either eliciting the truth
or effecting a treaty of peace between them.  She failed in both
objects, however.  Bridget not only adhered to her first statement, but
boldly accused Oscar of sundry other misdeeds that had come up in
recollection since the first outbreak; while Oscar, on the other hand,
stoutly denied most of her charges, and insisted that she was
ill-natured, and irritated him in every possible way.  The contest
finally waxed so warm between them that Mrs. Preston was obliged to
interpose, and to withdraw with Oscar.

Mrs. Preston never ascertained the real facts in the case.  Candor
compels me to say that Bridget's complaints were essentially true.
Knowing the poor Irish girl's weak side (her quick temper), Oscar had
for some time taxed his ingenuity to torment her, for the sake of
hearing her "sputter," as he termed it.  He was not only impudent, and
applied offensive names to her, but sometimes he purposely put her to
extra labor and trouble by misplacing articles, making dirt about the
house, &c.  These things were a sad annoyance to Bridget, and she soon
came to regard Oscar as "the plague of her life," and treated him
accordingly.  He did very wrong to annoy her in this way; and she was
foolish to take so much notice of his hectoring.  The ill-will thus
established between them grew day by day, until it resulted in the open
rupture just described.  But Mrs. Preston did not give full credit to
Bridget's story.  She believed the difficulty was owing quite as much
to Biddy's irritable temper and ignorance as to Oscar's impudence, and
consequently the latter escaped with a slight reprimand.  She also
prevailed upon Bridget to remain with them the week out, thinking she
would by that time get over her anger.  But, to the surprise of all,
when Saturday night came, Bridget took her departure.  She had got
another "place," where she would be out of the reach of the provoking
Oscar.

The week for the annual examination of the public schools soon arrived.
Oscar begged hard, but in vain, for permission to absent himself, on
the eventful day that the grave committee and other distinguished
visitors were to sit in judgment upon the condition of the school to
which he belonged.  But though he was present, he did not appear to
much advantage among the "bright particular stars" of the day; and as
one and another of the flower of his class were called out, to receive
the "Franklin medals," his name was not heard, and no silken ribbon,
with silver medal attached, was hung around his neck.

The same day, in obedience to the orders of his father, but very much
against his own inclination, Oscar applied to the head master for the
certificate required of boys who present themselves for admission to
the High School.  The teacher seemed a little puzzled what reply to
make.  At length he said:

"Do you know what kind of a certificate is required?"

"Yes, sir," replied Oscar, who had read the advertisement in the paper
that morning.

"The certificate must say that you are a boy of good character, and
that your teacher believes you are qualified for admission to the High
School," continued the master.  "Now I want to ask you if you think I
can honestly say that of you?"

Oscar hung his head in shame, but made no reply.  It had turned out
just as he feared it would.

"It is very hard to refuse such a request," continued the teacher;
"but, really, if I should give you the certificate, I am afraid it
would do you no good, while it might do me some harm, for I don't like
to have my scholars rejected.  I cannot honestly say that I think you
are qualified for the High School; and besides your conduct has been
such of late, that I do not see how I could give you a very high
recommendation.  I would advise you to give up the idea of applying for
admission.  I am very sorry it is so, but that will not help the
matter."

What could Oscar say to this?  He said nothing, but his looks betrayed
the deep mortification he felt, and moved his teacher to pity, while he
denied his request.  Nor was this the end of Oscar's troubles.  He had
got to face his father, and to confess to him that he was found
unworthy even to be a candidate for the school for which he had so long
been preparing.  In doing this, he smoothed over the matter as well as
he could; but at best it was a bitter thing to him, and thus he began
to experience some of the sad but natural effects of his own misconduct.



CHAPTER XXI.

NED MIXER.

The long summer vacation had now commenced.  Oscar wished to spend it
at Brookdale, but his parents did not seem much inclined to yield to
his wishes.  They had not yet fully determined what to do with him;
whether to send him to a private school, when the vacations were over,
or to put him to work in some shop or store.  Meanwhile, Oscar was
idling away his time about the streets, and devoting all his energies
to the pursuit of amusement.  His favorite place of resort continued to
be the hotel where Alfred Walton lived.  Here he found congenial
spirits in Alfred, and Andy the speller, and the several drivers and
hostlers, with whom he was on intimate terms.  Here, too, he often met
with strangers who took his fancy.

At this time, a boy named Edward Mixer was boarding at the hotel.  He
had lately come to Boston from another city, and Oscar and Alfred were
soon captivated by his free and easy manners, and his sociable
qualities.  He was between fifteen and sixteen years old, and
represented that he was travelling about, to see the world.  He said he
had plenty of money, and should have a great deal more, when he became
of age.  He was fashionably dressed, and Oscar and Alfred felt proud of
his acquaintance, and were soon on terms of intimacy with him.

It was not long before Oscar discovered that Edward was a very bad boy.
His conversation was low and profane, and he seemed to take special
delight in relating sundry "scrapes," in which he himself figured in a
character that was something worse than mischievous, and bordered on
the criminal.  He "talked large," too, amazingly large; and Oscar and
Alfred were at length forced to the reluctant conclusion that he was an
unmitigated liar.  But these were small faults, in their view.  They
considered Ned a capital fellow, and a right down good companion, in
spite of these little drawbacks, and they sought his company as much as
ever.

Ned spent a good deal of his time around the several railroad depôts.
He seemed to have quite a mania for such places.  Oscar and Alfred
often accompanied him to these favorite old haunts of theirs.  One
morning, as the three were loitering around a depôt, having nothing in
particular to amuse themselves with, an excursion on foot into a
neighboring town was proposed, and all readily agreed to the
suggestion.  They immediately set out, accompanied by Oscar's dog,
Tiger.  They walked along the railroad track, and crossed the river by
the railroad bridge, thus saving their tolls, besides many extra steps.
They passed several small sign-boards, on which was painted the
warning, "_No Person allowed to cross this Bridge_;" but this did not
check their progress, and as no one interfered with them, they were
soon safely over the river.  They still followed the track for some
distance, until they had reached the open country, and then they turned
off into the green fields.

There were many fine orchards and gardens on every side, but ripe
fruits and berries were very scarce.  Strawberries and cherries had
pretty much disappeared, and it was not yet time for plums, peaches,
and early apples and pears.  Ned appeared to regret this very much.

"Just see there!" he exclaimed, as they approached a large garden,
remote from any house, whose trees were loaded with green fruit.  "What
fine picking we should have, if it were only a few weeks later!  I mean
to come out here again next month, you see if I don't.  We must mark
this place; let me see; there's an old rough board fence--I shall
remember that, I guess.  Didn't you ever rob an orchard, Alf?  I've
robbed more than you could shake a stick at.  I 'm a first-rate hand at
it, I can tell you--never got caught in my life; but I've come pretty
near it, though, a good many times.  Hold on--I 'm going to get over
the fence, and see what they 've got.  Those plums over there look as
if they were pretty near ripe.  Come, Alf and Oscar, won't you get
over?"

"You two may," said Oscar, "but I 'll stay here with Tiger.  He might
bark if we all got over, where he could n't see us."

Edward and Alfred were soon upon the other side of the fence.  While
they were exploring the garden, Oscar's attention was attracted to a
dense thicket, from which two or three birds suddenly flew on his
approach.  He thought there might be a nest there, and concluded to see
if he could find it.  Carefully brushing aside the leaves and twigs, he
began to hunt for the suspected nest, while Tiger stood looking on.
Absorbed in this occupation, he lost sight of his comrades.

[Illustration: Hunting for Birds' Nests.]

After searching for several minutes, Oscar found a small nest, within
his reach, but it was empty.  He turned to inform the other boys of his
success, but they were nowhere to be seen.  He walked along by the
fence, but could see nothing of them.  He was afraid to call to them,
lest the owner of the garden might hear, and take the alarm.  He
listened, but could not hear them.  He walked along still further, and
kept his eyes wide open, but they were not to be seen.  He concluded
they were playing a trick upon him, and had hid themselves.  If that
was the game he thought, he would not worry himself about it.  He
accordingly turned about, and was going to sit down and wait for them
to make their appearance, when he happened to espy them in a distant
field, running at the top of their speed, with a man in full chase
after them.  It was soon evident that the boys were gaining on their
pursuer; but they were approaching a brook, over which there was no
bridge, and the man probably supposed that would bring them to a stand.
It did not, however, for they ran right through the shallow water,
without stopping to think about it.  The man did not think it prudent
to follow their example, and he accordingly gave up the chase, and went
back with dry feet.

After Edward and Alfred had got rid of their pursuer, they began to
look around for Oscar.  The latter, putting his fingers into his mouth,
gave a loud and shrill whistle, which they immediately recognized, and
answered in a similar way.  Oscar started towards them, and taking a
wide sweep through the fields, they all came out together upon the
highway.  They did not think it safe to remain long in the
neighborhood, and so they hurried on towards Boston.  It appeared, from
Edward's story, that he and Alfred knocked a few hard peaches from a
tree, while in the garden, but they proved unfit to eat.  They also
found some ripe currants, and were leisurely helping themselves, when
they heard somebody ask them what they were about.  They turned, and
saw a man approaching; whereupon, without stopping to answer his
question, they leaped over the fence, and took to their heels, the man
following closely upon them.  The conclusion of the race Oscar had
witnessed.

As they were walking home, and talking about various matters, Edward
suddenly gave the conversation a new turn, by inquiring:

"Boys, do you want to go into a grand speculation with me?"

"Yes, what is it?" was the response of both the others.

"We should make something handsome out of it, but we should have to run
some risk," continued Edward.  "I've got the scheme all laid out, so
that I know just how to go to work.  But it's no use talking about it.
I don't believe either of you have got pluck enough to go into it."

"I 've got pluck--the real, genuine article; try me, and see if I have
n't," said Alfred.

"So have I," said Oscar; "I should like to have you show me a boy
that's got more pluck than I have, when I get stirred up."

"Pooh, you don't know what pluck is, neither of you," replied Edward.
"What would you do if a policeman should nab you?"

"I should run, just as _you_ did, when the man caught you stealing
fruit," said Oscar, with a laugh.  "That's a specimen of _your_ pluck,
aint it?"

"But what is the speculation you were telling about?" inquired Alfred.

"I guess I shan't tell you about it now," replied Edward.  "I 'm afraid
you would n't keep it to yourselves."

"Yes we will.  _I_ will at any rate," said Alfred.

"So will I," added Oscar.

"If I let you into the secret, and you should blab it out, I would n't
mind killing both of you," said Edward, with forced gravity, which he
could not long maintain, it gradually relaxing into a smile.  "I mean
what I say," he added, "you needn't laugh at it."

Both the others renewed their promise to keep the matter a secret; but
Edward, after talking about his scheme a quarter of an hour longer, and
exciting the curiosity of the others to the highest point, finally
informed them that he could not let them into the secret then, but that
he would tell them all about it in a few days, if he was sure that they
would keep it to themselves.

Oscar saw Edward almost every day, and often inquired about his
speculation, but got no definite answer.  He and Alfred both felt very
curious to know what it was; but though expectation was on tiptoe, it
was not gratified.  Edward assured them, however, that things were
nearly ready, and that in a few days he would let them into the
mysterious scheme.

Oscar's uncle, from Brookdale, was now in the city, and was stopping
for a few days at Mr. Preston's.  He no sooner arrived, than Oscar
applied to his parents for permission to return with him to Maine; but
they did not give much encouragement to his proposal, although his
uncle said he should like to have him make his family another visit.
Oscar, however, daily renewed his request, for he believed that he
should yet accomplish his object by teasing.

The day before Oscar's uncle was to return to his home, a gentleman
called into Mr. Preston's store, and told him he wished to see him
alone.  Having with drawn to a private room, the stranger introduced
himself as an officer of the police.

"You have a son fourteen or fifteen years old?" inquired the officer.

"Yes, I have," replied Mr. Preston.

"Are you aware that he is getting into bad company?" continued the
officer.

"No, sir," said Mr. Preston.

"Well," resumed the other, "I 've called to acquaint you of a few facts
that have come to my knowledge, and you can act in the matter as you
think best.  There is a young fellow stopping at the ---- Hotel, who
came to this city a few weeks ago, and who calls himself Edward Mixer.
He is a little larger than your son, and is well dressed, and looks
like a respectable boy; but for a week or two past we have suspected
that he was a rogue.  He hangs around the railroad depôts, and as
several persons have had their pockets picked, when getting out of the
cars, since he made his appearance, we began to watch him.  We have got
no evidence against him yet; but yesterday I pointed him out to a New
York policeman, who happened to be here, and he says he knows him well.
It seems he is a regular pickpocket by profession, and has served a
term at Blackwell's Island. [1]  He was liberated last month, and came
on here to follow the business where he isn't known.  But we keep a
sharp eye on him, and as we have noticed that your son is quite
intimate with him, I thought it my duty to inform you of it.  I don't
suppose your boy knows the real character of this fellow, or has
anything to do with his roguery; but it isn't safe for him to be in
such company, and I thought you ought to know what is going on."

Mr. Preston thanked the officer very cordially for the information, and
promised to see that Oscar was immediately put out of the way of danger
from this source.  When he went home at noon, he had a long private
interview with his son, and informed him of the disclosures the officer
had made.  Oscar was not a little astonished to learn that the genteel
and sociable Ned Mixer, whose company he prized so highly, was a thief
by trade, and was fresh from a prison.  He assured his father that he
knew nothing of all this.  This was true; but after all Oscar knew too
much of the character of Ned to believe him to be a good boy, or a safe
companion.  He had heard him swear and lie.  He had also heard him
sneer at virtue, and boast of deeds that no well-ordered conscience
would approve.  And yet he courted his company, and considered him a
"capital fellow"!  O, foolish boy!

But Oscar's plea of ignorance did not fully excuse him, even in the eye
of his father, who did not know how little force that plea really had.

"I don't suppose you knew his character," said Mr. Preston; "but are
there not good boys enough in the neighborhood for you to associate
with--boys that have always lived here and are well known--without your
cultivating the acquaintance of every straggler and vagabond that comes
along?  I wish you would not make yourself so intimate with Tom, Dick,
and Harry, before you know anything about them.  I 've cautioned you
against this a good many times, and now I hope that you 'll see there
is some cause for it.  If this intimacy had gone on a few weeks longer,
it might have ruined you and disgraced your mother and me."

After consultation with his wife and brother, Mr. Preston concluded to
let Oscar go down to Brookdale; and remain until they could make some
permanent arrangements for him elsewhere.  He did not think it safe for
him to remain longer exposed to the temptations of the city.  He
charged Oscar not to speak again to Ned, and not to inform any one of
the facts he had learned about him, lest it might thwart the efforts of
the police to detect his rogueries.  On second thought, he concluded to
take Oscar to the store with him that afternoon, to prevent the
possibility of an interview between him and Ned.  Oscar thus remained
under the eye of his father through the day.  In the evening he packed
his valise for the journey, and the next morning he started for
Brookdale with his uncle.

A day or two after Oscar's departure, Ned was arrested in the act of
picking a lady's pocket at a railroad depôt.  Being unable to obtain
bail, he was committed for trial.  When his case came up in court, he
was brought in guilty; and it appearing, from the testimony of the
officers, that, though young, he was quite old in crime, he was
sentenced to one year in the House of Correction.

Oscar never ascertained the nature of Ned's "grand speculation," and
probably it was well for him that he did not.  Had he been let into the
secret, and had the scheme been carried into effect at the time it was
first talked of, I might have been obliged to add another and a still
sadder chapter to the history of "THE BOY WHO HAD HIS OWN WAY."


[1] The New York Penitentiary.





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