Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Jack the Hunchback - A Stroy of Adventure on the Coast of Main
Author: Otis, James, 1848-1912
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 "Jack the Hunchback - A Stroy of Adventure on the Coast of Main" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration]


[Illustration: That which had come out of the east on this bright June
morning was a ship's lifeboat about eighteen feet long.--Page 4.]



JACK THE HUNCHBACK;

  A STORY OF ADVENTURE ON THE
  COAST OF MAINE.

  BY JAMES OTIS,

  _Author of "The Castaways," "A Runaway Brig,"
  "Search for the Silver City," "The Treasure Finders,"
  "With Lafayette at Yorktown," "With Washington at
  Monmouth," "The Treasure of Cocos Island," "Wrecked on
  Spider Island," etc., etc._

  NEW YORK:
  A. L. BURT, PUBLISHER

  Copyright, 1892,
  BY BRADLEY & WOODRUFF.

 _All rights reserved._



CONTENTS.


   CHAPTER                                                          PAGE

      I. ADRIFT                                                        1

     II. AT AUNT NANCY'S                                              14

    III. LEARNING TO MILK                                             28

     IV. PURSUED                                                      40

      V. AN ENCOUNTER                                                 52

     VI. A MENTAL STRUGGLE                                            64

    VII. FARMER PRATT                                                 75

   VIII. A SECOND WARNING                                             88

     IX. THE ALARM                                                    99

      X. SICKNESS                                                    111

     XI. GARDENING                                                   122

    XII. LOUIS'S ADVENTURE                                           137

   XIII. THE SEWING CIRCLE                                           152

    XIV. AFTER THE STORM                                             167

     XV. BROTHER ABNER                                               179

    XVI. A HURRIED DEPARTURE                                         191

   XVII. CAMP MEETING                                                204

  XVIII. A DISASTER                                                  218

    XIX. JACK'S PROPOSITION                                          232

     XX. BILL DEAN                                                   247

    XXI. STARTLING INFORMATION                                       261

   XXII. THE ARRIVAL                                                 273



_JACK THE HUNCHBACK._



CHAPTER I.

ADRIFT.


Tom Pratt firmly believed he was the most unfortunate boy in Maine when,
on a certain June morning, his father sent him to the beach for a load
of seaweed.

Tom had never been in love with a farmer's life.

He fancied that in any other sphere of action he could succeed, if not
better, certainly more easily, than by weeding turnips or hoeing corn on
the not very productive farm.

But either planting or digging was preferable to loading a huge cart
with the provokingly slippery weeds which his father insisted on
gathering for compost each summer.

Therefore, when the patient oxen, after much goading and an unusual
amount of noise from their impatient driver, stood knee-deep in the surf
contentedly chewing their cuds and enjoying the cool footbath, Tom,
instead of beginning his work, sat at the forward part of the cart
gazing seaward, thinking, perhaps, how pleasant must be a sailor's life
while the ocean was calm and smiling as on this particular day.

So deeply engrossed was he in idleness that his father's stern command
from the hillside a short distance away, "to 'tend to his work an' stop
moonin'," passed unheeded, and the same ox-goad he had been using might
have been applied to his own body but for the fact that just as Farmer
Pratt came within striking distance a tiny speck on the water attracted
his attention.

"It looks to me as if that might be a lapstreak boat out there, Tommy.
Can you see anybody in her?"

"I reckon that's what it is, father, an' she must be adrift."

Farmer Pratt mounted the cart and scrutinized the approaching object
until there could no longer be any question as to what it was, when Tom
said gleefully,--

"It must be a ship's boat, an' if she hasn't got a crew aboard, we'll
make a bigger haul than we could by cartin' seaweed for a week."

"Yes, them kind cost more'n a dory," the farmer replied dreamily, as he
mentally calculated the amount of money for which she might be sold. "I
reckon we'll take her into Portland an' get a tidy--"

"I can see a feller's head!" Tom interrupted, "an' it shets off our
chance of sellin' her."

That the boat had an occupant was evident.

A closely shaven crown appeared above the stem as if its owner had but
just awakened, and was peering out to see where his voyage was about to
end.

Nearer and nearer the little craft drifted until she was dancing on the
shore line of the surf, and the figure in the bow gazed as intently
landward as the farmer and his son did seaward.

"It's a boy, father, an' he ain't as big as me!" Tom cried. "Well, that
beats anything I ever saw!"

This last remark probably referred to the general appearance of the
young voyager.

He was an odd-looking little fellow, with a head which seemed unusually
small because the hair was closely cropped, and a bent, misshapen body
several sizes too large for the thin legs which barely raised it above
the gunwales. The face was by no means beautiful, but the expression of
anxiety and fear caused it to appeal directly to Tom's heart, if not to
his father's.

Farmer Pratt was not pleased at thus learning that the boat had an
occupant.

Empty, she would have been a source of profit; but although there was
apparently no one save the deformed lad aboard, he could make no legal
claim upon her.

The craft was there, however, and would speedily be overturned unless he
waded out into the surf at the risk of a rheumatic attack, to pull her
inshore.

Although decidedly averse to performing any charitable deed, he did this
without very much grumbling, and Tom was a most willing assistant.

That which had come out of the east on this bright June morning was a
ship's lifeboat about eighteen feet long, and with the name "Atlanta"
painted on the gunwales.

She was a much more valuable craft than Mr. Pratt had ever seen ashore
on Scarborough beach, and yet he failed to calculate her value
immediately, because as the bow grated on the sand the misshapen boy,
from whose white lips not a word had escaped during all this time,
suddenly lifted what at first appeared to be a bundle of cloth.

This act in itself would not have caused any surprise, but at the same
moment a familiar noise was heard from beneath the coverings.

Farmer Pratt stepped back quickly in genuine alarm and wiped his face
with the sleeve of his shirt as he exclaimed,--

"Well, this beats anything I ever seen!"

"It's a baby, father!" Tom cried, starting forward to take the burden
from the crooked little sailor's arms; but the latter retreated as if
afraid the child was to be carried away, and the farmer replied
testily,--

"Of course it's a baby. Haven't I heard you cry often enough to know
that?"

"But how did it come here?"

"That's what beats me"; and then, as if suddenly realizing that the
apparent mystery might be readily solved, he asked the stranger, "Where
did you come from, sonny?"

"From Savannah."

"Sho! Why, that's way down in Georgy. You didn't sail them many miles in
this 'ere little boat?"

"No, sir. We broke adrift from Captain Littlefield's ship yesterday when
she blowed up, an' the baby's awful hungry."

"Ship blowed up, eh? Whereabouts was she?"

"Out there"; and the boy pointed eastward in an undecided manner, as if
not exactly certain where he had come from.

"What made her blow up?" Tom asked curiously.

"I don't know. There was an awful splosion like more'n a hundred bunches
of firecrackers, an' the captain put Louis an' me in the lifeboat to
wait till his wife got some things from the cabin. While all the sailors
was runnin' 'round wild like, we got adrift. I hollered an' hollered,
but nobody saw us." Then he added in a lower tone, "Louis cried last
night for somethin' to eat, an' he must be pretty hungry now."

"Well, well, well!" and as the thought of whether he would be paid for
the trouble of pulling the boat ashore came into the farmer's mind, he
said quickly, "'Cordin' to that you don't own this boat?"

"She belongs to the ship."

"An' seein's how the vessel ain't anywhere near, I reckon I've as much
right to this craft as anybody else. Where do you count on goin'?"

"If we could only get back to New York I'm sure I would be able to find
the captain's house."

"It's a powerful long ways from here, sonny; but I'll see that you are
put in a comfortable place till somethin' can be done. What's your
name?"

"John W. Dudley; but everybody calls me Jack, an' this is Louis
Littlefield," the boy replied as he removed the coverings, exposing to
view a child about two years old.

Master Tom was delighted with the appearance of the little pink and
white stranger, who was dressed in cambric and lace, with a thin gold
chain around his neck, and would have shaken hands with him then and
there if Jack had not stepped quickly back as he said,--

"He's afraid of folks he don't know, an' if you get him to cryin' I'll
have a worse time than last night. What he wants is somethin' to eat."

"Take 'em right up to the house, Tommy, an' tell mother to give them
breakfast. When I get the boat hauled around (for I've got every reason
to consider her mine), I'll carry both out to Thornton's."

Jack clambered from the craft, disdaining Tom's assistance, and, taking
the child in his arms, much as a small cat might carry a very large
kitten, stood waiting for his guide to lead the way.

Farmer Pratt's son was in no especial hurry to reach home, for while
escorting the strangers he certainly could not be expected to shovel
seaweed, and Jack said as Tom walked leisurely over the hot sand,--

"If you don't go faster, the baby'll begin to cry, for he's pretty near
starved."

"Why not let him walk? He's big enough; his legs are twice as large as
Mrs. Libby's baby, an' he went alone a good while ago."

"I'd rather carry him," Jack replied; and then he refused to enter into
any conversation until they were at the foot of the narrow, shady lane
leading to the house, when he asked, "Who's Mr. Thornton?"

"He keeps the poor farm, an' father's goin' to take you out there."

"What for? We want to go to New York."

"Well, you see I don't reckon you'll get as far as that without a slat
of money, an' father wants to put you fellers where you'll be took care
of for a while."

Jack stopped suddenly, allowed the baby to slip from his arms under the
shade of an apple-tree whose blossoms filled the air with perfume, as he
said angrily,--

"Louis sha'n't be taken to the poorhouse! I'll walk my feet off before
anybody but his mother shall get him."

"You couldn't go as far as New York, an' if he's so hungry you'd better
let him have some bread an' milk."

"How long before your father'll be back?"

"It'll take him a couple of hours to carry the boat down to the Neck,
an' that's the only place where she can lie without gettin' stove."

"Then we'll go into your house long enough to feed the baby, an' I'll
leave before he comes."

"All right," and Tom took up the line of march once more. "I don't know
as I blame you, for Thornton's ain't the nicest place that ever was, an'
I'd rather haul seaweed for a month than stay there one night."

Jack looked wistfully at the little farmhouse with its beds of old
maid's pinks and bachelor's buttons in front of the muslin-curtained
windows, thinking, perhaps, that shelter should be given him there
rather than among the town's paupers; but he made no remark, and a few
moments later they were standing in the cool kitchen while Tom explained
to his mother under what circumstances he had made the acquaintance of
the strangers.

Mrs. Pratt was quite as economical as her husband; but the baby face
touched her heart fully as much as did the fact that the boat in which
the children had drifted ashore would amply repay any outlay in the way
of food and shelter.

She accepted the statement made by Tom, that the children were to be
sent to Thornton's, because the town provided such an asylum, and there
was no good reason, in her mind at least, why it should not be utilized
in a case like this.

Thus, with the pleasing knowledge that her involuntary guests would
remain but a short time and cost her nothing, she set out a plentiful
supply of fresh milk and sweet home-made bread, as she said,--

"Fill yourselves right full, children, for it will rest you to eat, and
after you've had a nice ride, Mrs. Thornton will give you a chance to
sleep."

Jack looked up quickly as if about to make an angry reply, and then, as
little Louis went toward the table eagerly, he checked himself, devoting
all his attention to the child by waiting until the latter had finished
before he partook of as much as a spoonful.

Then he ate rapidly, and after emptying two bowls of milk, asked,--

"May I put some of the bread in my pocket?'"

"Certainly, child; but it won't be needed, for there is plenty to eat at
Thornton's, and most likely in a few days the selectmen will find some
way to send word to the baby's relatives."

Jack put three slices of bread in his pocket before replying, and then,
as with an effort he lifted Louis in his arms, said,--

"We're not goin' to the poor farm, ma'am. We are bound to get to New
York, an' thank you for the bread an' milk."

Just at that moment Mrs. Pratt was intent on carrying the dishes from
the table to the pantry, therefore she did not see the deformed boy
leave the house quickly, Tom following close behind.

Jack heard her call after him to wait until Mr. Pratt should return; but
he shook his head decidedly, and trudged out from the green-carpeted
lane to the dusty road, bent only on saving his little charge from
the ignominy of the poorhouse.

"Say, hold on for father!" Tom cried. "You can't walk even so far as
Saco, an' where'll you sleep to-night?"

"I'd rather stay in the woods, an' so had Louis," Jack replied; and then
in reply to the child's fretful cries, he added, "Don't fuss; I'll find
your mother."

"But how can you do it if the ship has blowed up?" Tom asked, quickening
his steps to keep pace with the deformed boy. "Perhaps mother'll let you
sleep in my bed to-night, an' you won't have to go out to the poor
farm."

"And then again she mightn't, so I guess we won't risk it."

"Have you got any money?"

"Not a cent."

Tom halted irresolutely for a moment, and then his charitable impulses
gained the mastery.

"Here's half of what I've got, an' I wish it was more."

Involuntarily Jack extended his hand for the gift.

Four marbles were dropped into it, and then Tom turned and ran like a
deer as if afraid he might regret his generosity.

The dusty road wound its way among the fields like a yellow ribbon on a
green cloth, offering no shelter from the burning rays of the sun, and
stretching out in a dreary length.

The hunchback plodded steadily on with his heavy burden, and as he
walked the good people in the neighboring city of Portland were reading
in their morning papers the following item:--

     A SINGULAR EXPLOSION.

     The ship "Atlanta" anchored inside the breakwater just before
     midnight, and her master reports a remarkable accident.

     The "Atlanta" loaded at Savannah last week with cotton and
     turpentine, bound for Bremen. Owing to baffling winds she was
     eighty miles off Wood Island yesterday afternoon when an explosion
     occurred which blew off the main hatch, and was followed by dense
     volumes of what appeared to be smoke.

     Believing the ship to be on fire, Capt. Littlefield's first thought
     was of his wife and child, who were on board. The lifeboat was
     lowered, and in her were placed the captain's son and the cabin
     boy, a hunchback.

     Before Mrs. Littlefield could be gotten over the side, the sailors
     reported no fire in the hold, and the vapor supposed to be smoke
     was probably the gases arising from the turpentine stored in porous
     barrels of red oak.

     In the excitement no particular attention was paid to the children
     for some time, since the boat was believed to be firmly secured,
     and the consternation of the captain can be imagined when it was
     discovered that the craft had gone adrift.

     The ship stood off and on several hours without discovering any
     signs of the missing ones, and was then headed for this harbor.

     As a matter of course the captain will be obliged to proceed on his
     voyage without delay; but Mrs. Littlefield is to remain in town
     several days hoping to receive some news of her child, and it is
     believed that the revenue cutter "Cushing" will cruise along the
     shore until the boat is found.

     It is understood that a liberal reward will be offered for any
     information which may be given regarding the whereabouts of the
     children, and until that has been done the editors of this paper
     will thankfully receive tidings of the missing ones in case they
     have been seen or sighted.

     It is particularly desirable that masters of vessels should keep a
     sharp lookout for a drifting boat.



CHAPTER II.

AT AUNT NANCY'S.


Jack toiled manfully on, running until his breath came in such short
gasps that he was forced to walk slowly, and then pressing forward once
more as if expecting Farmer Pratt was in full pursuit, urged to rapid
travelling by the fear that little Louis would be taken to the poor
farm.

Up the long, steep hill, past the railroad station, until three roads
stretched out before him: one straight ahead, another to the right, and
the third to the left.

He believed there was no time for hesitation.

The one leading toward the south was the most inviting because of the
trees scattered here and there along its edges, and into this he turned,
going directly away from the city where Louis's mother awaited tidings
of her darling.

The child grew fretful because of the heat and the dust, and the little
hunchback heeded not his own fatigue in the effort to quiet him.

On he went, literally staggering under his heavy burden, until the
yellow road seemed to mellow into a mist which danced and fell, and rose
and danced again before his eyes until further progress was wellnigh
impossible.

They had arrived at a tiny stream, the banks of which were fringed with
alders, and overhead a wooden bridge afforded a most pleasing shelter
from the sun's burning rays.

Wiping the perspiration from his face, Jack looked back.

No one was in sight.

If Farmer Pratt had come in pursuit he might have mistaken the road, or
turned homeward again some time previous, believing the boat not of
sufficient value to warrant the journey which, if successful, would only
end at the poorhouse.

"Here's where we're goin' to stop, Louis," Jack said, lowering the child
to the ground. "It'll be cool among these bushes, and if we turn into
the fields a bit no one can see us from the road."

Then Jack took off his shoes and stockings, holding them on one arm as
he raised the child with the other, and, wading through the shallow
water, made his way among the bushes a distance of forty or fifty feet
to where the leafy screen would prevent passing travellers from seeing
them.

"I tell you what, the water feels good around a fellow's feet. I'm goin'
to give you the same kind of a dose, an' then you'll be ready to go to
sleep."

Louis, sitting on the grass at the edge of the stream, offered no
objection to the plan, and Jack soon made him ready for the partial
bath.

As the child's feet touched the water he laughed with glee, and Jack's
fatigue was forgotten in his delight at having been able to afford this
pleasure.

After a few moments of such sport the misshapen guardian wiped the pink
feet carefully with his handkerchief, replaced the shoes and stockings,
took from his pocket the bread which was crumbled into many fragments,
moistened them in the brook, and fed his charge until the latter's eyes
closed in slumber.

Not before he had arranged a screen of leaves in such a manner that the
sun would be prevented from looking in upon the sleeping child did Jack
think of himself and then he too indulged in the much-needed rest.

The hours passed until the sun began to sink in the west.

The birds came out from among the leaves and peeped down curiously at
the sleeping children, while a colony of frogs leaped upon a
moss-covered log, croaking in chorus their surprise at these unfamiliar
visitors.

One venerable fellow seemed to think this a most fitting opportunity to
read his sons a homily on the sin of running away, and after the lengthy
lesson was concluded he plunged into the water with a hoarse note of
disapprobation, making such a splash that Jack leaped to his feet
thoroughly awake and decidedly frightened.

The hasty departure of the other frogs explained the cause of the
disturbance, and he laughed to himself as he said,--

"I reckon my hump frightened them as much as they did me."

He made a hurried toilet, bathed Louis's face with his wet handkerchief
until the little fellow awoke, and then continued what was at the same
time a flight and a journey.

"We've got to run the risk that somebody else will try to send us to the
poor farm," he said when they had trudged along the dusty road until the
child became fretful again. "At the next nice-lookin' house we come to
I'm goin' to ask the folks if they'll let me do chores enough to pay for
our lodging."

Fully half an hour passed before they were where this plan could be
carried into effect, and then Jack halted in front of a small white
cottage which stood at the head of an arm of the sea, partially hidden
by the trees.

"Here's where we've got to try our luck," the boy said as he surveyed
the house intently, and almost as he spoke a tiny woman with tiny
ringlets either side her wrinkled face appeared in the doorway, starting
back as if in alarm on seeing the newcomers.

"Goodness me!" she exclaimed as she suddenly observed Jack staring
intently at her. "Why don't you come out of the sun? That child will be
burned brown as an Injun if you stand there long."

Jack pressed Louis closer to him as he stepped forward a few paces, and
asked hesitatingly,--

"Please, ma'am, if you'll let us stay here to-night I'll do up all the
chores as slick as a pin."

The little woman's surprise deepened almost into bewilderment as she
glanced first at Louis, who had by this time clambered down from his
guardian's arms, and then at Jack's boots, which were covered thickly
with dust.

"Oh, I'll brush myself before I come in," the boy said quickly,
believing her hesitation was caused by the dirt on his garments, "an' we
won't be a mite of trouble."

The mistress of the cottage took Louis by the hand and led him, with
Jack following close behind, into the wide, cool hall, the floor of
which was covered with rugs woven with representations of impossible
animals in all the colors of the rainbow.

"Now tell me where you came from, and why it is necessary to ask for a
home?"

Jack hesitated an instant.

The fear that she too might insist on sending Louis to the poor farm
caused him to question whether he had better tell the whole truth, but
another look at the kindly face decided him.

He related his story with more detail than he had to Farmer Pratt, and
when he concluded the little woman said in a motherly tone,--

"You poor children! If the ship exploded there's no one for you to go
home to, and what _will_ become of such a helpless pair?"

"I can't tell I'm sure, ma'am; but I know we ain't helpless"; and Jack
spoke very decidedly now. "I'm big an' can work, so I'll take care of
Louis till we find his father."

"But if the ship was blown all to pieces?" the little woman continued.

"That don't make any difference," Jack interrupted. "We're goin' right
to his house in New York some time, no matter how far it is."

"But it's a terribly long distance, and you children will surely be
sun-struck before you get even to Boston!" Then she added quickly, "Here
I am forgetting that you must be hungry! Come straight away into the
kitchen while I see what there is in the cupboard, for Aunt Nancy Curtis
never lets any one, much less children, want for food very long in her
house."

"Are you Aunt Nancy?" Jack asked.

"I'm aunt to everybody in the neighborhood, which ain't many, and two or
three more nephews won't make any difference. Set right up to the table,
and after you've had a glass of cool milk, a piece of chicken and some
cake I baked to put away for the summer boarders, we'll see what can be
done."

Jack was disposed to be just a trifle jealous of Louis's evident
admiration for this quaint little Aunt Nancy. He had already taken her
by the hand, and, in his baby fashion, was telling some story which no
one, probably not even himself, could understand.

"You are a dear little boy," the old lady said as she led him into the
kitchen; "but neither you nor Jack here is any more calculated to walk
to New York than I am to go to China this minute."

"If you'll let me have a brush I'll get some of this dust off," Jack
said as he glanced at the well-scoured floor and then at his shoes. "I'm
not fit to go anywhere till I look more decent."

"Here's a whisk-broom. Be careful not to break the handle, and don't
throw it on the ground when you're done," Aunt Nancy said as she handed
the brush to Jack. "There's the pump, and here's a towel and piece of
soap, so scrub yourself as much as you please, for boys never can be too
clean. I'll comb the baby's hair while you're gone, and then we'll have
supper."

Louis made not the slightest protest when his misshapen little guardian
left him alone with Aunt Nancy. He had evidently decided that she was a
woman who could be trusted, and had travelled so much during the day
that even a journey to the pump was more than he cared to undertake.

Jack brushed and scrubbed, and rubbed his face with the towel, after
holding his head under the pump, until the skin glowed red, but cleanly.

When he entered the kitchen again where the little woman and Louis were
seated cosily at the table, he was presentable even to Aunt Nancy, in
whose eyes the least particle of dirt was an abomination.

He took the vacant chair by Louis's side, and was considerably
surprised, because it was something so unusual in his experience, to see
the little woman clasp her withered hands and invoke a blessing upon
"the strangers within her gates," when she had thanked her Father for
all his bounties.

"I went to meetin' once down in Savannah," Jack said; "but I didn't know
folks had 'em right in their houses."

Aunt Nancy looked at him with astonishment, and replied gravely,--

"My child, it is never possible to give too much praise for all we are
permitted to enjoy, and one needn't wait until he is in church before
speaking to our Father."

Jack did not exactly understand what she meant, but he knew from the
expression on the wrinkled face that it was perfectly correct, and at
once proceeded to give his undivided attention to the food which had
been put upon his plate with a liberal hand.

How thoroughly enjoyable was that meal in the roomy old kitchen, through
which the summer breezes wafted perfume from the honeysuckles, and the
bees sang at the open windows while intent on the honey harvest!

When the children's hunger was appeased, it seemed as if half their
troubles had suddenly vanished.

Louis crowed and talked after his own peculiar fashion; Jack told
stories of life on board the "Atlanta," and Aunt Nancy appeared to enjoy
this "visiting" quite as much as did her guests.

The housework was to be done, however, and could not be neglected,
deeply interested though the little woman was in the yarns Jack spun,
therefore she said as she began to collect the soiled dishes,--

"Now if you will take care of the baby I'll have the kitchen cleaned in
a twinkling, and then we'll go out under the big oak-tree where I love
to sit when the sun is painting the clouds in the west with red and
gold."

"Louis can take care of himself if we put him on the floor," Jack
replied, "and I will dry the dishes for you; I've done it lots of times
on the 'Atlanta.'"

The little woman could not refuse this proffered aid, although she
looked very much as if she fancied the work would not be done exactly to
her satisfaction, and after glancing at Jack's hands to make certain
they were perfectly clean, she began operations.

Much to her surprise, the deformed boy was very apt at such tasks, and
Aunt Nancy said as she looked over her spectacles at him while he
carefully dried one of her best China cups,--

"Well I declare! If you ain't the first boy I ever saw who was fit to
live with an old maid like me. You are handier than half the girls I
have here when the summer boarders come, and if you could only milk a
cow we should get along famously."

"It wouldn't take me long to learn," Jack said quickly; for he was eager
to assist the little lady as much as possible, having decided in his own
mind that this would be a very pleasant abiding place for himself and
Louis until the weather should be cooler, when the tramp to New York
could be continued with less discomfort. "If you'd show me how once I'm
sure I'd soon find out, and--"

"It won't do any harm to try at all events," Aunt Nancy replied
thoughtfully; "but the cow hasn't come home yet, and there's plenty of
time."

When the dishes were washed and set carefully away in the cupboard, the
little woman explaining to her assistant where each particular article
of crockery belonged, Jack began to sweep the already painfully clean
floor. Aunt Nancy wiped with a damp towel imaginary specks of dirt from
the furniture, and Louis, as if realizing the importance of winning the
affections of his hostess, laid his head on the rag rug and closed his
eyes in slumber before the work of putting the kitchen to rights was
finished.

"Dear little baby! I suppose he's all tired out," Aunt Nancy said as she
took him in her arms, leaving to Jack the important duty of folding one
of her best damask tablecloths, a task which, under other circumstances,
she would not have trusted to her most intimate friend. "I'm not very
handy with children, but it seems as if I ought to be able to undress
this one."

"Of course you can. All there is to do is unbutton the things an' pull
them off."

Aunt Nancy was by no means as awkward at such work as she would have her
guest believe.

In a few moments she had undressed Louis without awakening him, and
clothed him for the night in one of her bedgowns, which, as a matter of
course, was much too long, but so strongly scented with lavender that
Jack felt positive the child could not fail to sleep sweetly and
soundly.

Then laying him in the centre of a rest-inviting bed which was covered
with the most intricate of patchwork quilts, in a room on the
ground-floor that overlooked the lane and the big oak-tree, they left
him with a smile on his lips, as if the angels had already begun to
weave dream-pictures for him.

Aunt Nancy led the way out through the "fore-room," and, that Jack might
see the beauties it contained, she opened one of the shutters, allowing
the rays of the setting sun to fall upon the pictures of two of the dead
and gone Curtis family, an impossible naval engagement colored in the
most gorgeous style, two vases filled with alum-encrusted grasses, and a
huge crockery rooster with unbending feathers of every hue.

This last-named ornament particularly attracted Jack's attention, and
during fully five minutes he stood gazing at it in silent admiration,
but without daring to ask if he could take the brilliantly painted bird
in his hands.

"Handsome, isn't it?" Aunt Nancy asked, turning her head slowly from
side to side while she critically viewed the combination of colors much
as if she had never seen them before.

"Its perfectly splendid!"

"I'm glad you like it. I think a great deal of him; too much to allow a
live rooster on the place crowing around when he can't. It was presented
to me in my girlhood days by a young gentleman whom every one thought
was destined to be an ornament in the world; but--"

Aunt Nancy paused. Her thoughts had gone trooping down the dusty avenues
of the past, and after waiting fully a moment Jack asked,--

"Where is the young gentleman now?"

"I don't know," was the reply sandwiched between two sobs, and then Aunt
Nancy became her old self once more.

She closed the shutters carefully, waved her apron in the air to
frighten away any overbold dust specks, and the two went out on the
long, velvety lane that the little woman might admire the glories of the
setting sun.



CHAPTER III.

LEARNING TO MILK.


A low bench painted green and fastened against the trunk of the old oak,
that there might be no possibility of its being overturned, was the
place where Aunt Nancy told Jack she spent the pleasant summer evenings.

"Except where there are caterpillars around," she added, "and then I
carry the rocking-chair to the stone doorstep. If you could kill
caterpillars, Jack, you would be doing the greatest possible favor, for
they certainly make my life wretched at times, although I don't know why
a person should be afraid of anything God has made."

"Oh, I can kill 'em," Jack replied confidently. "Bring on your
caterpillars when you want 'em killed, an' I'll fix the job. There ain't
any trouble about that."

"But I don't want to bring them on," Aunt Nancy said, hesitatingly. "I
never like to touch the little crawling things, and you will have to do
that part of the work."

"I'll see to it," Jack replied, and believing she would be free in the
future from the pests which interfered with her twilight pleasures, Aunt
Nancy's face took on an expression of complete satisfaction.

"Now let's talk about yourself and the baby," she said. "You must not
attempt to walk to New York while this hot weather lasts, and it would
cost a power of money to go there on the cars."

"I know it," Jack replied with a sigh, "but so long as there isn't a
cent between us, I guess we'll have to foot it."

"I've been thinking why you shouldn't stay here a spell. You make
yourself so handy about the house that I sha'n't mind the extra trouble
with the baby, and there are times while the summer boarders are here
when I do need a boy very badly."

"That's just what I'd like," and Jack spoke emphatically. "If you'll let
us stay two or three weeks I'll pay my way in work, an' see that Louis
don't bother you."

"I believe that will be the best way out of it. The summer boarders are
to come in two or three weeks. Before then I'll write to my brother
Abner, in Binghamton, who'll be sure to know about Capt. Littlefield,
and perhaps he can make some arrangement for your passage."

"Where's Binghamton?" Jack asked in perplexity.

"Why, it's in York State. I ain't certain how near to the big city, but
of course it can't be very far away. Abner's a master hand at readin',
so if he don't happen to know Capt. Littlefield as a friend, he'd be
sure to have heard of him. When he was home here he was acquainted with
everybody for fifty miles around. He could tell you who each man
married, how many children they had, and kept the run of everything that
happened in the neighborhood. I used to say Abner minded other people's
business better than his own, and that _was_ his fault," she added with
a sigh. "But we all of us have our faults, and it's never right to speak
about those of another before we have fairly weighed our own. He's the
one, though, to find the baby's father, so you needn't have any further
trouble regarding it; but wait till we get a letter from him."

Jack was not as confident as Aunt Nancy appeared to be that this
"brother Abner" would know all the people in New York; but he was more
than content to remain where he was for a certain length of time in the
hope of being able to reach the city in some less laborious way than by
walking.

Then Aunt Nancy told him about herself, and of the farm which had
belonged to her father, but descended to her at his death, because Abner
was unwilling to spend his time on land so unproductive that the
severest labor failed to bring forth a remunerative crop.

"It isn't very good, I'll admit," she said reflectively; "but by taking
a few summer boarders I've been able to make both ends meet, and that's
all an old maid like me ought to expect."

"Have you always lived alone?"

"It's nigh on to twelve years since father died, and, excepting in the
summer, I've had neither child nor chick here. An old woman ain't
pleasant company at the best, and if Abner's daughters don't like to
visit their aunt, I can't say I blame them."

"Well I do!" Jack said decidedly. "I think you're the nicest old lady I
ever saw, and I'd be willin' to stay here all the time if I could."

Aunt Nancy was not accustomed to flattery; but it must be admitted, from
the expression on her wrinkled face, that it was far from unpleasant,
and by way of reward she patted Jack on the head almost affectionately.

"Perhaps you won't think so after a while," she said with a smile; and
then as Jack was about to make protestations, she added, "it's time to
go after the cow, and then I'll give you the first lesson in milking."

The farm was not so large that it required many moments to reach the
pasture, for the old lady had only to walk to the rear of the barn where
the crumple-horned cow was standing at the end of a narrow lane awaiting
her coming.

As the animal stepped carefully over the bars after they had been let
down, Jack could not help thinking she was just such a cow as one would
fancy should belong to Aunt Nancy.

She walked in a dainty manner, acting almost as if trying not to bring
any unnecessary amount of dirt into the barnyard, and behaving in every
way as one would say her mistress might under similar circumstances.

"While I go for the milking pail you pull some clover from under the
trees, for she always expects a lunch while being milked," Aunt Nancy
said; and in a few moments Jack had gathered such a feast as caused the
sedate animal to toss her head in disapprobation at the unusually large
amount she was expected to devour after having been cropping pasture
grass all day.

With a pail which had been scoured until it shone like silver, and a
tiny three-legged stool, white as the floor of her kitchen, the little
woman returned.

Then with many a "Co, Bossy! So, Bossy!" as if the quiet-looking animal
was expected to give way to the most violent demonstrations of wrath,
Aunt Nancy placed the stool in the most advantageous position, and said,
as she seated herself,--

"Now watch me a few minutes, and you'll see how easy it is after getting
the knack."

Jack gazed intently at every movement, his eyes opened wide with
astonishment as the streams of milk poured into the pail with a peculiar
"swish," and before the creamy foam had fully covered the bottom he was
quite positive it would be no difficult matter for him to perform the
same operation.

"I can do it now, if you'll get up."

Aunt Nancy vacated the stool without hesitation, for milking seemed such
a simple matter that there was no question in her mind but that it could
be learned in one very short lesson, and Jack sat down.

The cow looked around at this change of attendants, but was too
well-bred to express any great amount of surprise, and the hunchback
took hold of what appeared like so many fat fingers.

Fancying that strength alone was necessary, he pulled most vigorously.

Not a drop of milk came; but he accomplished something, for the animal
tossed her head impatiently.

Jack pulled harder the second time, and then, as Aunt Nancy screamed
loudly, the cow started at full speed for the other side of the yard,
facing about there at the boy whom she believed was tormenting her
wilfully, while she shook her head in a menacing manner.

Fortunately the milk-pail was not overturned; but in preventing such a
catastrophe, Jack rolled from the stool to the ground with no gentle
force, terrified quite as much by Aunt Nancy's screams as by the sudden
movement of old crumple-horn.

"Why, what's the matter?" he asked, as he scrambled to his feet, looking
first at his hostess, and then at the frightened animal.

"I ought to have known a boy couldn't milk," Aunt Nancy said impatiently
and almost angrily. "It seems as if they have a faculty of hurting dumb
beasts."

"But I didn't mean to," Jack said apologetically. "I worked just as you
did, and pulled a good deal harder, but yet the milk wouldn't come."

Aunt Nancy made no reply.

Taking up the pail and stool she walked across the yard, trying to
soothe the cow in the peculiar language she had used when beginning the
task; and Jack, understanding that he had hurt the feelings of both his
hostess and her pet, followed contritely, as he said coaxingly,--

"Please let me try it once more. I am certain I can do it if you'll give
me another chance."

It was not until Aunt Nancy had led the cow back to the pile of clover,
and there stroked her head and ears until she was ready to resume the
rudely interrupted feast, that any attention was paid to Jack's
entreaties.

"I'll show you once more," she finally said, "and you must watch to see
exactly how I move my fingers. It isn't the pulling that brings the
milk, but the pressure of the hand."

This time Jack paid strict attention, and in a few moments began to
fancy he had discovered what Aunt Nancy called the "knack."

But she would not relinquish her seat.

"Take hold with one hand while I stay here, and be careful not to hurt
the poor creature."

Very tenderly Jack made the second attempt, and was so successful as to
extract at least a dozen drops from the well-filled udder.

This was sufficient, however, to show him what should be done, even
though he was at first unable to perform the task, and, thanks to Aunt
Nancy's patience, and the gentleness of the animal, before the milking
was brought to a close, he had so far mastered the lesson as to win from
his teacher a limited amount of praise.

"I don't know as I should expect you to learn at once," she said; "but
you are getting along so well that by to-morrow night I wouldn't be
surprised if you could do it alone. Now I'll go and strain the milk, and
you may split me a little kindling wood if you will. Somehow I have
never been able to use an axe without danger of cutting my feet, and
it's almost like tempting Providence to take one in my hands."

Jack did as he was bidden, and although the axe was decidedly rusty and
very blunt, to say nothing of its being shaky in the helve, before she
finished taking care of the milk he had such a pile of kindlings as
would have cost her a week's labor to prepare.

"Well!" the little woman said as she came from the cool cellar and
surveyed the fruits of his industry, "if you can't do anything else on
a farm but that, it'll be a wonderful relief to me. An axe is such a
dangerous instrument that I always tremble when I touch one."

Jack looked at the ancient tool (which could hardly have inflicted any
injury unless one chanced to drop it on his toes) with a smile, but said
nothing, and after Aunt Nancy had shown him how to fasten the woodshed
door with a huge latch that any burglar over four feet tall could have
raised, she led the way into the house.

The milking pail was to be washed, a solitary moth which had found its
way into the kitchen was to be killed lest he should do some damage to
the rag carpet, and Aunt Nancy lighted a candle with a solemn air.

"This is the last work of the day," she said, "and perhaps I attach too
much importance to it, but I never allow myself to go to bed without
making sure there's no one hidden in the house. We'll examine the upper
part first, and after that has been done I will show you a chamber which
you can have until the summer boarders come. Then we must make different
arrangements, for the house is so small that I'm terribly put to it for
room."

Jack followed the little woman up the back stairs, and each of the four
apartments was subjected to the most rigid scrutiny, the boy holding the
candle while Aunt Nancy not only peered under the beds and behind the
bureaus, but even opened the tiniest closets in search of a supposed
intruder.

"We are safe for another day," she said with a long-drawn sigh of
relief, "and after looking through the fore-room once more I'll lock the
doors."

There was such an air of responsibility about the little woman that
Jack, not fully understanding what she expected to find, immediately
conceived the idea that peaceful though this portion of the country
appeared, it must be a very dangerous neighborhood, for his hostess
could not have taken more precautions had it been known positively that
a band of Indians were lurking in the vicinity.

Nothing more alarming than the moth was found, however, and after the
window fastenings had been carefully examined, Aunt Nancy led the way
back to the kitchen, where she once more surprised her guest by taking
down the well-worn Bible.

In a thin, quavering voice she read therefrom a certain number of
verses in which she seemed to find the greatest satisfaction, and then
replaced the book reverentially on the stand appropriated to its
keeping.

Then, to Jack's further surprise, she knelt by the side of the chair and
began a simple but heartfelt prayer, while the boy nestled around
uneasily, not certain whether it was proper for him to stand up, or
follow her example, therefore he remained where he was.

When the evening devotions had been brought to a close, he felt
decidedly uncomfortable in mind, but did not think it advisable to
expose his ignorance by asking the little woman what he should have
done.

"Now we'll go to bed," Aunt Nancy said as she arose to her feet with
such a look of faith on her wrinkled face as reminded the boy of
pictures he had seen.

Without a word he followed her upstairs to a small room directly over
the kitchen, which, however contracted it might seem to others, was
twice as large as he needed when compared with his quarters on board the
"Atlanta."

Then, as if her aim was to astonish and bewilder him on this first
evening, Aunt Nancy kissed him on both cheeks as she said "Good night,"
and left him to his own reflections.



CHAPTER IV.

PURSUED.


It was a long while before slumber visited Jack's eyelids on this first
night spent at the farm.

To have found such a pleasant resting place after his experience at
Farmer Pratt's, and when the best he had expected was to be allowed to
remain until morning, was almost bewildering; at the same time the
friendly manner in which the kindly faced old lady treated him made a
deep impression on his heart.

During fully an hour he speculated as to how it would be possible for
him to reach New York with Louis, and, not being able to arrive at any
satisfactory conclusion, he decided that that matter at least could
safely be left in Aunt Nancy's care.

Then, all anxiety as to the immediate future having been dissipated, he
thought of various ways by which he could lighten the little woman's
labors.

He laid plans for making himself so useful about the farm that she would
be repaid for her care of Louis, and these ideas were in his mind when
he crossed the border of dreamland, where, until nearly daybreak, he
tried to milk diminutive cows, or struggled to carry enormous tin pails.

Despite his disagreeable dreams, the sleep was refreshing, and when the
first glow of dawn appeared in the eastern sky he was aroused by the
sound of Aunt Nancy's voice from the foot of the stairs.

Jack's first waking thought was a continuation of the last on the night
previous, and, dressing hurriedly, he ran down to the kitchen to begin
the labor which he intended should make him a desirable member of the
family.

To his great disappointment the fire had been built, Louis dressed, and
the morning's work well advanced when he entered the room.

"Why didn't you call me before?" he asked reproachfully. "I meant to
have done all this while you were asleep; but I laid awake so long last
night that it didn't seem possible for my eyes to open."

"I am accustomed to doing these things for myself," Aunt Nancy replied
with a kindly smile, "and don't mind it one bit, especially when the
kindlings have been prepared. I got up a little earlier than usual
because I was afraid there might be some trouble about dressing the
baby; but he's just as good a child as can be, and seems right well
contented here."

"It would be funny if he wasn't," Jack replied as he took Louis in his
arms for the morning greeting.

There was a shade of sorrow in his heart because the child evinced no
desire to remain with him, but scrambled out of his arms at the first
opportunity to toddle toward Aunt Nancy, who ceased her work of brushing
imaginary dirt from the floor in order to kiss the little fellow as
tenderly as a mother could have done.

"It seems as if he'd got all through with me," Jack said sorrowfully. "I
believe he likes you the best now."

"Don't be jealous, my boy. It's only natural the child should cling to a
woman when he can; but that doesn't signify he has lost any affection
for you. It is time old crumple-horn was milked, and we'll take Louis
with us so he won't get into mischief. I'm going to give you another
lesson this morning."

Jack made a vain effort to repress the sigh which would persist in
coming to his lips as the baby crowed with delight when the little woman
lifted him in her arms, and taking the milking pail, he led the way out
through the dewy grass to the barnyard, where the cow stood looking over
the rails as if wondering why Aunt Nancy was so late.

Jack insisted that he could milk without any further instructions, and,
after gathering an armful of the sweet-scented clover, he set boldly to
work while Aunt Nancy and Louis watched him from the other side of the
fence.

This time his efforts were crowned with success, and although he did not
finish the task as quickly as the little woman could have done it, by
the aid of a few hints from her he had drawn the last drop of milk into
the pail before the cow began to show signs of impatience.

Then Aunt Nancy and Louis returned to the house while Jack drove the
meek-eyed animal to the pasture, and when this was done he searched the
shed for a rake.

He succeeded in finding one with not more than half the teeth missing,
and began to scrape up the sticks and dried leaves from the lane, a work
which was well calculated to yet further win the confidence of the neat
little mistress of the farm.

When the morning meal was served, Jack had so far become accustomed to
Aunt Nancy's ways that he bowed his head without being prompted, while
she asked a blessing.

After breakfast was concluded the hunchback proceeded to put into
execution the plan formed on the night previous.

"If you'll tell me what to do I'll go to work as soon as the lane is
cleaned, an' that won't take a long while. I s'pose there's plenty to be
done."

"Yes," Aunt Nancy replied with a sigh, "there's a great deal of work
which a woman can't do; but I don't know as a boy like you would be able
to get along any better than I."

"There won't be any harm in tryin'," Jack said manfully. "Tell me what
it is you want."

"Well, the pasture fence is broken in several places, and I was thinking
of getting Daniel Chick to come an' fix it; but perhaps you might patch
the breaks up so's a cow couldn't get out."

"Of course I can. It ain't much of a job if you've got nails an' a
hammer. I'll tackle it as soon as the lane is finished."

Aunt Nancy explained that the fence to which she referred bordered the
road a short distance above the house, and Jack was so impatient to
begin the labor that, contrary to his usual custom, he took a hurried
leave of Louis.

An hour was sufficient in which to finish the self-imposed task on the
lane, and then, with a very shaky hammer and a handful of rusty nails,
he set out to repair the fence, leaving Louis playing in the kitchen
with the gorgeous crockery rooster, while Aunt Nancy was busily engaged
setting the house to rights generally.

The scene of Jack's first attempt at fence building was fully an eighth
of a mile away, and in a clump of alder-bushes which shut off all view
of the house.

It was by no means a simple task which he found before him.

The posts had so far decayed that an expert workman would have
considered it necessary to replace them with new timbers; but since this
was beyond his skill, he set about mending it after his own fashion.

It must not be supposed that Jack loved to work better than does any
other boy; but he believed it was necessary for him to remain with Aunt
Nancy until such time as he could find an opportunity of continuing the
journey in some more rapid manner than by walking, and the desire to
make himself useful about the farm was so great that labor ceased to be
a hardship.

He had been engaged in this rather difficult task fully an hour, paying
little or no attention to anything save the work in hand, when the
rattle of wheels on the hard road attracted his notice.

Up to this time no person had passed in either direction, and it was
from curiosity rather than any idea the approaching travellers might be
connected with his fortunes, that he peered out from among the
alder-bushes.

Immediately he drew back in alarm.

He had seen, coming directly toward him in a lumbering old wagon and
hardly more than a hundred yards away, Farmer Pratt and his son Tom.

"They're huntin' for me!" he said to himself as he crept farther among
the bushes to conceal himself from view, and a secure hiding place had
hardly been gained when the travellers came to a full stop at the little
brook which ran on the opposite side of the road, in order to give their
horse some water.

As a matter of fact Farmer Pratt _was_ in search of the two who had left
his house so unceremoniously; but now he had no intention of taking them
to the poorhouse.

Quite by accident a copy of a newspaper containing an account of the
explosion on board the "Atlanta," and the information that Mrs.
Littlefield would remain in Portland in the hope of gaining some
information regarding her child, had come into his hands, and it did not
require much study on his part to understand that in the greed to
possess himself of the boat by ridding himself of the children, he had
lost the opportunity of earning a valuable reward.

There was a stormy time in the Pratt household when this fact became
known, and even Master Tom came in for more than his full share of the
scolding because the children had been allowed to go away.

"It would have been as good as a hundred dollars in my pocket if I could
have lugged them youngsters into town," the farmer repeated over and
over again as he blamed first his wife and then his son for what was
really his own fault. "I thought a boat worth twenty dollars would be a
mighty big haul for one mornin', but here was a show of gettin' five
times as much jest by holdin' them two over night, an' you had to let
'em slip through your fingers."

Farmer Pratt dwelt upon this unpleasant fact until he finally convinced
himself that he would have acted the part of a good Samaritan had the
opportunity not been denied him, and very early on this same morning he
started out for the purpose of earning the reward by finding the
castaways.

Jack, crouching among the bushes where he could distinguish the
movements of those whom he considered his enemies, heard the farmer say,
while the half-fed horse was quenching his thirst,--

"I reckon we've got a day's work before us, all on account of you an'
your mother, for that hunchback couldn't have walked as far with the
baby. Most likely he found some one who gave him a lift on the road. The
chances are he's in Biddeford by this time, other folks have heard the
whole story."

Tom made no reply, probably because he feared to say anything which
might again call forth a flood of reproach, and his father added,--

"I reckon our best way will be to push right on to town instead of
huntin' along the road as we've been doin'. Time is gettin' mighty short
if we want to catch him before people know what has happened."

The farmer was so impatient to arrive at the city that the horse was
urged on before his thirst was fully quenched, and as the noise of the
wheels told that the briefly interrupted journey had been resumed, Jack
crept cautiously out from among the bushes to where he could watch the
movements of the travellers until they should have passed Aunt Nancy's
farm.

As may be supposed, he was thoroughly alarmed.

That which he heard convinced him beyond a doubt the farmer was
searching for him, and there was no question in his mind but that it was
for the sole and only purpose of carrying him and Louis to the poor
farm.

"I s'pose Aunt Nancy would up an' tell the whole story if they should
ask her," he muttered, "an' then I'd have to come out an' go along with
'em, 'cause I wouldn't let that man carry Louis off alone."

The color came back to his cheeks, however, and the throbbing of his
heart was lessened as he saw the wagon wheel past the lane without
either of its occupants making any move toward calling at the house.

Most likely neither Aunt Nancy nor Louis were in the yard, and Farmer
Pratt was so eager to reach the town where he believed the children to
be, that, as he had intimated, there was no further stop to be made
along the road.

But Jack's mind was far from being relieved even after the clumsy
vehicle had passed out of sight, for he knew the farmer would return,
failing to gain any information of those he was so anxious to find, and
he might think it worth his while to call at Aunt Nancy's.

Jack had now lost all interest in his work, and seated himself near the
fence trying to decide whether he would be warranted in leaving the
temporary home he had found, to take refuge in flight.

This he might have done on the impulse of the moment but for the
restraining thought that it would be in the highest degree dangerous to
travel in either direction on the road, and to make his way through the
fields and woods was a matter of impossibility, since he had no idea of
the proper course to be pursued.

"I don't s'pose Aunt Nancy'd lie even to save us from goin' to the poor
farm," he said aloud to himself; "but if she would, I'd hide out in the
bushes with Louis till I was sure that man had got through huntin' after
us, 'cause he can't keep this thing up all summer."

This was by far the best plan Jack could devise for the baby's safety,
and yet it seemed hardly possible it would be carried into execution
because of the probable unwillingness of Aunt Nancy to so much as
equivocate.

After thinking the matter over fully twenty minutes without arriving at
any other conclusion which promised the slightest hope of escape from
his pursuers, he decided to boldly ask the little woman if she would
promise, in case Mr. Pratt should call upon her, to say that she had
seen neither of her guests.

"She can't any more'n get mad at it, an' if she won't agree then I'll
take the risk of startin' off once more, but it's goin' to be pretty
tough on both of us."

There was yet considerable work to be done in the way of fence building;
but now Jack had no idea of continuing the labor.

He was so agitated that the shaky hammer lay unheeded on the ground
where it had fallen when he first saw the travellers, and the nails were
left to gather a yet thicker coat of rust as he made his way up through
the line of bushes to approach the house from the rear, not daring to go
boldly around by the road.



CHAPTER V.

AN ENCOUNTER.


Believing his only enemies were those whom he had seen driving up the
road, Jack paid no attention to anything in front of him, save when it
was absolutely necessary in order to guide his footsteps, but kept his
eyes fixed upon the dusty highway.

Owing to the straggling line of bushes, he was forced to make a wide
detour to reach the barn unseen by any travellers, and he had not
traversed more than half the required distance when a loud cry from a
clump of alders which bordered the duck pond caused him to come to a
full stop.

"Hello, Hunchie! What are you doin' here?"

Jack looked up quickly in alarm, fancying the voice sounded like Tom
Pratt's, and for an instant believed his pursuers had apparently
continued their journey only for the purpose of taking him by surprise
in the rear.

There was no person in sight, however, and during a few seconds he stood
motionless, trying to decide whether it would be safest to run directly
toward the farmhouse, or attempt to make his escape through the fields.

Then the question was repeated, and before Jack could have fled, had he
been so disposed, three boys came out from among the alders, approaching
very near as if to prevent flight on the part of the hunchback.

"Who are you?" one of the strangers asked, "an' where did you come
from?"

"I'm Jack Dudley."

"Where do you live?"

"I'm stayin' over to Aunt Nancy Curtis's awhile," Jack replied
hesitatingly, doubtful if it would be well to give these not
over-friendly looking boys all the information they desired.

"What are you doin' there?" another of the party asked.

"Helpin' 'round at whatever she wants done till the summer boarders go
away."

"Oh! So you're the hired man, are you?" the first boy said in a sneering
tone.

"I ain't so very much of a man; but I reckon I can do her work, an' I
mustn't fool 'round here, for I'm pretty busy this mornin'."

"You'll stay till we find out what right you've got to run across this
field," the boy who had first spoken said decidedly. "We've always done
Aunt Nancy's chores, an' you're makin'a big mistake by takin' our job
away."

Jack looked once more toward the road to make certain Farmer Pratt and
his son were not returning.

Then he glanced in the direction of the house, hoping Aunt Nancy might
be in sight, for he understood from the tone and attitude of the
strangers that they were bent on mischief.

Not a person could be seen, and he had no other alternative save to
remain where he was until such time as the boys should be willing to let
him pass.

Any attempt at flight could have been easily checked, since, owing to
his deformity, he was not able to run as fast as others of his age.

Probably he felt just a trifle frightened; but he stood his ground
boldly, determined not to let the strangers see a show of weakness, as
he said,--

"I didn't come here to take any feller's job. Aunt Nancy gave me a
chance to stay this summer, an' I jumped at it, 'cause there's no boy
needs a home more'n I do jest now."

"Well, see here, Hunchie," the elder of the party replied in a
threatening tone, "we don't know how much you need a home, nor we don't
care; but there's one thing certain, you ain't goin' to stay 'round here
this summer." "Us fellers can do all Aunt Nancy's chores an' a good deal
more. The job belongs to us. If you say you'll leave before night, it'll
be all right, an' if not, we'll thump the life out of you."

[Illustration: "Does that mean you ain't goin' to leave?" And the boy
advanced threateningly with clinched fists, until he stood within a few
inches of the deformed lad.--Page 55.]

"Perhaps that can't be done," Jack said calmly, with an assumption of
courage which was far from natural.

"Last summer there was a feller come snoopin' 'round to help on the
summer-boarder business, but he soon found it wasn't safe to steal jobs
from them as lives here the whole year. We jest about killed him."

"Why didn't you stuff his skin an' set it up on the road here, so's
other fellers would know enough not to stop?" Jack asked in a sarcastic
tone as he stepped back a few paces toward a thicker clump of bushes,
where it would be impossible for the strangers to make an attack from
the rear. "You can't be any tougher than you look, an' I guess I'll be
able to keep on livin' till summer's over, even if I do stay."

"Does that mean you ain't goin' to leave?" And the boy advanced
threateningly with clinched fists until he stood within a few inches of
the deformed lad, who now understood that a fight was inevitable.

"It's pretty nigh the size of it," Jack replied; and despite all
efforts, his voice trembled slightly, for he knew full well it would be
impossible to hold his own against three bullies. "But before beginnin'
the row I want you to understand one thing: if I don't work for
somebody, I've got to live out of doors, for I haven't a cent. I ain't
sayin' but the three of you can lick me, of course, but you'll have to
do it every day in the week before I'll leave this farm."

Perhaps the bully was a trifle ashamed for threatening one so much
smaller than himself, and deformed, for, instead of immediately striking
a blow as at first had seemed to be his purpose, he drew back a few
paces to hold a whispered consultation with his companions, after which
he said,--

"Look here, Hunchie, we're willin' to give you a show, but won't allow
no fellers 'round takin' away money we could earn as well as not. Aunt
Nancy's always hired us to do her chores when the city folks was here,
till she got that feller last year, an' then the old fool said she'd
never pay us another cent jest 'cause we didn't jump spry enough to
please her. Now we're goin' to show that it's got to be us or nobody.
We're willin' to wait till to-morrow night if you say you'll go then.
There's plenty of jobs up Old Orchard way, so there ain't any need of
your feedin' on wind."

"Why don't you go there?"

"'Cause we don't want to. This is where we live, an' anything that's to
be done 'round here belongs to us. Now cross your throat that you'll
leave before to-morrow night, an' we won't say another word."

"I'll go an' see what Aunt Nancy thinks about it," Jack replied, not
with any intention of obeying these peremptory demands, but in order to
escape from what was a very awkward predicament.

"You won't do anything of the kind! Promise before leavin' this place or
we'll thump you!"

"Then thump away, for I won't go," Jack replied determinedly as he
backed still farther into the bushes and prepared to defend himself as
best he might against such an overwhelming force, although knowing there
was no question but that he would receive a severe whipping.

"Give it to him, Bill!" the boys in the rear cried. "You can polish him
off with one hand, so there's no need of our chippin' in."

Bill did not wait for further encouragement.

Jack's defence was necessarily very slight, and before he was able to
strike a blow in his own behalf, Bill had him on the ground, pounding
him unmercifully, while his companions viewed the scene with evident
satisfaction.

Jack made no outcry: first, because he feared that by bringing Aunt
Nancy on the scene the fact of Louis's being at the farm would be made
known; and, secondly, he fancied Farmer Pratt might be near enough to
hear his appeals for help.

Therefore he submitted to the cruel and uncalled-for punishment without
a word, although every blow caused severe pain, and when Bill had
pummelled him for fully five minutes the other boys interrupted by
saying,--

"Come, let up on him! That's enough for the first, an' if he ain't out
of town by to-morrow we'll give him another dose. Let's cool him off in
the pond."

Jack struggled in vain against this last indignity. It was a simple
matter for the three boys to lift and throw him half a dozen feet from
the bank into the muddy water.

There was no danger the little fellow would be drowned, for the duck
pond was not more than two feet deep, and as his assailants ran
hurriedly away he scrambled out, presenting a sorry sight as he stood on
the firm ground once more with mud and water dripping from his face and
every angle of his garments.

Jack was as sore in mind as he was in body; but even while making his
way toward the house he did not neglect any precautions which might
prevent his being seen by Farmer Pratt.

He skirted around through the straggling line of alders until he reached
the rear of the barn, and then, coming across crumple-horn's yard, he
was confronted by Aunt Nancy, who had just emerged from the shed.

"For mercy's sake!" the little woman screamed, raising her hands in
dismay as she surveyed the woe-begone Jack, who looked more like a
misshapen pillar of mud than a boy. "Where _have_ you been, and what
_have_ you done to yourself? It _is_ strange that boys _will_ be forever
mussing in the dirt. I thought I'd had some bad ones here, but you beat
anything I ever saw! Why, you must have been rolling in the pond to get
yourself in such a condition."

"Yes, ma'am, I have," Jack replied meekly as he again tried to brush the
mud from his face, but only succeeded in grinding it in more deeply.

"What's the matter with your nose? It's bleeding!" Aunt Nancy screamed
in her excitement; while Louis, who was sitting on the grass near the
broad doorstep, crowed and laughed as if fancying she was talking to
him.

"Three fellers out there tried to make me promise I'd go away before
to-morrow night, an' when I wouldn't, they gave me an awful poundin'.
Then the fun was wound up by throwin' me in the pond."

"Three boys!" and Aunt Nancy's tone was an angry one. "I'll venture to
say William Dean was among the party; and if he thinks he's going to
drive off every decent child in the neighborhood, he is mistaken. I'd do
my chores alone, and wait on the city folks too, before he should come
here again!"

Then Aunt Nancy peered in every direction as if fancying the evil-doers
might yet be in the vicinity where she could punish them immediately,
while Jack stood silent, if not quite motionless, wiping the mixture of
blood and mud from his face in a most disconsolate manner.

Aunt Nancy's anger vanished, however, as she turned again toward the
cripple.

All her sympathies were aroused, but not to such an extent as to smother
her cleanly instincts.

"Did they hurt you very much?" she asked solicitously.

"They wasn't any too careful about hittin'," Jack replied with a feeble
attempt at a smile, to show that his injuries were not really serious.
"If there hadn't been more than one, I'd have hurt him some before he
got me into the pond."

"I wish you had flogged every single member of that party in the most
severe--No, I don't either, for it wouldn't be right, Jack. We are told
when anybody smites us on one cheek, we must turn the other also; but
it's terrible hard work to do right sometimes. I'm glad you didn't
strike them, though I _do_ wish they could be punished."

Again Aunt Nancy showed signs of giving way to anger, and one could see
that a severe conflict was going on in her mind as she tried to obey the
injunctions of the Book she read so often.

As if to turn her attention from vengeful thoughts, she immediately made
preparations for dressing Jack's wounds.

"If you can stand a little more water," she said, "we'll try to get you
into something like a decent condition."

"I reckon I can stand almost anything after the dose I've had," Jack
replied grimly; and Aunt Nancy led him under the pump, stationing him
directly beneath the spout as she said,--

"Now I'll wash the mud off; but if the water feels too cold let me know,
and we'll heat it."

"I'll take it as long as you can keep the handle goin'," Jack replied as
he bent his head and involuntarily drew a long breath preparatory to
receiving the expected shock.

Aunt Nancy could pump a long while when it was for the purpose of
removing dirt; and during the next five minutes she deluged Jack with
the cold spring water until he stood in the centre of a miniature pond,
no longer covered with mud, but dripping tiny streams from every portion
of his face and garments.

Sitting on the grass near by, Louis clapped his hands and laughed with
glee at what he probably thought a comical spectacle designed for his
own especial amusement.

It was not until Jack had been, as he expressed it, "so well rinsed it
was time to wring him out," that either he or Aunt Nancy remembered the
very important fact that he had no clothes to replace those which were
so thoroughly soaked.

"Now what _are_ we going to do?" Aunt Nancy asked in dismay, as she
surveyed the dripping boy, who left little rivers of water behind him
whenever he moved. "You haven't got a second shirt to your back, and I
can't let you remain in these wet clothes."

"I might go out to the barn an' lay 'round there till they dried," Jack
suggested.

"Mercy on us, child, you'd get your death of cold! Wait right here while
I go into the attic and see if there isn't something you can wear for a
few hours. Don't step across the threshold."

This last admonition was unnecessary.

Short a time as Jack had known Aunt Nancy, he was reasonably well
acquainted with her cleanly habits, and to have stepped on that floor,
which was as white as boards can be, while in his present condition,
would have been to incur the little woman's most serious displeasure.

He was also forced to remain at a respectful distance from Louis, who
laughed and crowed as if begging to be taken, and while moving farther
away he whispered,--

"It wouldn't do at all to touch you when I'm so wet, old fellow, but
I'll lug you around as much as you want as soon as I'm dried off. After
Aunt Nancy comes back, I'm goin' to talk with her about Farmer Pratt,
an' see if she'll agree to say we ain't here in case he calls. You an'
I'll be in a pretty hard box if she don't promise to tell a lie for
us."



CHAPTER VI.

A MENTAL STRUGGLE.


When Aunt Nancy returned from the attic, she had a miscellaneous
collection of cast-off garments sufficient to have clothed a dozen boys
like Jack, providing they had been willing to wear female apparel.

"I thought there might be some of father's things upstairs," she said,
examining once more each piece; "but I've given them away. You won't
care if you have to put on a dress for a little while, will you? Here
are some old ones of mine, and it will be a great deal better to use
them than to stand around in wet clothes."

Jack was not at all anxious to masquerade as a girl, and would have
preferred to "dry off," as he expressed it, in the barn; but, fearing
lest he should offend the old lady at a time when he was about to ask a
very great favor, he made no protest.

Aunt Nancy selected from the assortment two skirts, a pair of well-worn
cloth shoes, and a shawl, saying as she handed them to the boy,--

"Now you can go out in the barn and put these on. Then we'll hang your
clothes on the line, where they'll dry in a little while. In the mean
time I'll find some sticking plaster for your face, and a piece of brown
paper to put over your eye to prevent it from growing black."

Jack walked away as if he were about to perform a very disagreeable
task, and by the time Aunt Nancy had carried the superfluous wardrobe
upstairs and procured such things as she thought would be necessary in
the treatment of the boy's wounds, he emerged from the barn looking
decidedly shamefaced.

He knew he presented a most comical appearance, and expected to be
greeted with an outburst of laughter; but Aunt Nancy saw nothing to
provoke mirth in what had been done to prevent a cold, and, in the most
matter-of-fact manner, began to treat the bruises on his face.

A piece of court plaster fully half as large as Jack's hand was placed
over the scratch on his right cheek, another upon a small cut just in
front of his left ear, while a quantity of brown paper thoroughly
saturated with vinegar covered his eye and a goodly portion of his
forehead.

This last was tied on with a handkerchief knotted in such a manner as to
allow the two ends to stick straight up like the ears of a deformed
rabbit.

During this operation Louis laughed in glee. It was to him the jolliest
kind of sport to see his guardian thus transformed into a girl, and even
Aunt Nancy herself could not repress a smile when she gazed at the
woe-begone looking boy who appeared to have just come from some
desperate conflict.

"I s'pose I look pretty rough, don't I?" Jack asked with a faint attempt
at a smile. "I feel like as if I'd been broke all to pieces an' then
patched up ag'in."

"It isn't as bad as it might be," Aunt Nancy replied guardedly; "but out
here where we don't see any one it doesn't make much difference, and to
run around this way a few hours is better than being sick for a week."

"I reckon I can stand it if you can," Jack said grimly, "but I don't
think I want to fix fences in this rig. Them fellers would think I'd put
on these things so they wouldn't know me."

"No indeed, you mustn't leave the house even when your clothes are dry,
until I have seen that Dean boy's father."

"You ain't goin' to tell him about their poundin' me, are you?" Jack
asked quickly.

"Of course I am. You don't suppose for a single moment that I intend to
run the chances of your being beaten to death by them! If Mr. Dean can't
keep his boy at home I'll--I'll--I don't know what I will do."

"Seems to me it would be better not to say anything about it," Jack
replied hesitatingly. "If we go to tellin' tales, them fellers will
think I'm afraid, an' be sure to lay for me whenever I go out."

"I'm not going to tell any tales; but I intend to see if it isn't
possible for me to have a decent, well-behaved boy around this place
without his being obliged to fight a lot of disreputable characters such
as some we've got in the neighborhood."

This is not the time for Jack to make any vehement protests, lest Aunt
Nancy should be provoked because of his persistency, and he changed the
subject of conversation by broaching the matter which occupied all his
thoughts.

"That Mr. Pratt what tried to send Louis an' me to the poor farm drove
past here with Tom jest before them fellers tackled me, an' I heard him
say he was lookin' for us."

"Mercy on me!" Aunt Nancy exclaimed as she pushed the spectacles back
from her nose to her forehead and peered down the lane much as if
expecting to see the farmer and his son in the immediate vicinity. "Why
_is_ he so possessed to send you to the poorhouse?"

"That's what I don't know," Jack replied with a sigh; "but he's after
us, an' if he once gets his eye on me, the thing is settled."

"He has no more right to bother you than I have, and not half as much.
According to your story, he didn't even take the trouble to give you a
decent meal, and I'll soon let him know he can't carry you away from
here."

"But how'll you prevent it if he starts right in an' begins to lug us
off? He's stronger'n you an' me put together, an' if he's come all this
distance there won't be much stoppin' for anything you'll say to him,
I'm afraid. Now don't you think it would be better to tell him I wasn't
here?"

"Mercy on us, Jack! How could I do that when you _are_ here?"

"Well, you wouldn't like to have him lug us off if you knew we'd got to
go to the poorhouse, would you? 'Cause neither Louis nor me ever did
anything to you, or to him either."

"But you sha'n't go there, my dear child. So long as I am willing to
keep you here, I don't see what business it is of his, or anybody
else's."

"It seems as though he was makin' it his business," Jack replied
disconsolately; for he was now beginning to despair of persuading Aunt
Nancy to tell a lie. "If you'd say we wasn't here, that would settle it,
and he wouldn't stay."

"But I can't, Jack; I can't tell an absolute falsehood."

Jack gave vent to a long-drawn sigh as he looked toward the baby for a
moment, and then said,--

"Well, I didn't s'pose you would do it anyhow, so Louis an' me'll have
to start off, 'cause I won't go to that poor farm if I have to walk
every step of the way to New York an' carry the baby besides."

"I don't see why you should talk like that, my child. In the first
place, there is no reason for believing that hard-hearted man will come
here, and--"

"Oh, yes, there is!" and Jack repeated the conversation he had overheard
while hiding in the alder-bushes. "When he finds out we haven't been to
Biddeford, he'll ask at every house on the way back."

"Do you really think he would try to take you if I said to him in a very
severe tone that I would have him prosecuted for attempting anything of
the kind?"

"I don't believe you could scare him a bit, an' there isn't much chance
you'd be able to stop him after he's come so far to find us."

"But I can't have you leave me, Jack," the little woman said in a
quavering voice. "You have no idea how much I've been countin' on your
company."

"You won't feel half so bad as I shall to go," Jack replied mournfully.

"But it is out of the question to even think of walking all that
distance."

"It's got to be done jest the same, an' as soon as my clothes are dried
we'll start. Things will come mighty tough; but they can't be helped."

Aunt Nancy looked thoroughly distressed, and there was a suspicious
moisture in her eyes as she asked,--

"How would it do to lock the doors, and refuse to come down when he
knocked?"

Jack shook his head.

"I don't believe it would work."

"No, it mustn't be thought of, for then we should be acting a lie, which
is almost, if not quite, as bad as telling one."

"How do you make that out?" Jack asked in surprise.

"We shouldn't lock the doors unless it was to give him the impression
that there was no one at home, which would be a falsehood."

The expression on Jack's face told that he failed to understand either
the argument or the spirit which prompted it, and for several moments no
word was spoken.

Then, as a happy thought occurred to him, the boy said eagerly,--

"I'll tell you how it could be done without any lie at all, an'
everything would go along as slick as grease."

"How?" Aunt Nancy asked quickly, as a look of relief passed over her
face.

"I'll watch up the road a piece till I see the team comin'. Then I'll
run back here, get Louis, an' carry him off somewhere."

"Well?" the little woman asked as he paused.

"Why, can't you see how easy it'll be then? You'll only have to tell him
you don't know where we are, an' he'll be bound to leave."

"But, Jack dear, I should know where you were."

"How do you make that out?"

"You wouldn't leave the farm, an' while I--"

"That's jest what you don't know. I didn't tell you where we'd go. It
would be the same thing if we left for New York this minute; you might
think we was on the road somewhere; but that wouldn't make it so."

Aunt Nancy remained silent, and although he did not believe she was
convinced, Jack fancied there was a look of hesitation on her face as if
she might be persuaded into complying with his request, therefore he
added eagerly,--

"You want us to stay here, an'--"

"Indeed I do!" the little woman replied fervently. "I never knew a boy
who seemed so much like our own folks as you do, and since last night it
has been a great relief to think I should have you with me this summer."

"And if Mr. Pratt knows we're anywhere around, he'll snake us away for
certain."

"I don't understand how that can be done, Jack."

"Neither do I; but he has come to do it, an' you can't stop him. Now
I'll promise to go where you'd never guess of our bein', an' then there
wouldn't be the least little bit of a lie in sayin' you didn't know."

"I would do almost anything for the sake of keeping you here, Jack,
except to commit a sin."

"This way you won't be doin' anything of the kind. I reckon my clothes
are dry now, an' I'd better put 'em on so's to be ready to watch for Mr.
Pratt."

Then Jack hurried off as if the matter had been positively settled.

Aunt Nancy gazed after him with an expression of mingled pain and
perplexity on her wrinkled face, and just then Louis crept to her knee,
begging in his odd language to be taken on her lap.

"You dear little creature!" she cried, pressing him to her bosom while
he chattered and laughed. "It would be cruel to send you among the
paupers, when a lonely old woman like me loves you so much!"

Jack looked back just in time to see this picture, and there was no
longer any doubt in his mind but that Aunt Nancy would accede to his
request.

Five minutes later he returned clad in his own garments, which looked
considerably the worse for the hasty drying, and said as he ran swiftly
past the little woman,--

"Don't let Louis go into the house, for I'll want to get hold of him in
a hurry!"

Aunt Nancy began to make some remark; but he was moving so swiftly that
the words were unheard, and the old lady said to herself with a
long-drawn sigh as she pressed the baby yet more closely,--

"I'm afraid it is wrong to do as he wishes; but how can I allow cruel
men to take this dear child from me, when I know he will not be cared
for properly?"

Then she began to think the matter over more calmly, and each moment it
became clearer to her mind that by acceding to Jack's request she would
be evading the truth, if not absolutely telling a lie.

"I can't do it," she said, kissing the baby affectionately. "Much as I
shall grieve over them, it is better they should go than for me to do
what I know to be wrong."

Having thus decided, she hurried up the lane to warn Jack; but before
reaching the road the boy was met coming at full speed.

"Mr. Pratt has just shown up at the top of the hill; he's stoppin' at
the house over there! I'll get Louis and hide."

"But, Jack dear, I have been thinking this matter over, and I can't even
act a lie."

"Why didn't you say so before, when I had a chance to get away?" he
cried reproachfully. "By lettin' me think you'd do it, you've got us
into a reg'lar trap!"

The boy did not wait to hear her reply, but ran to where Louis was
seated contentedly on the grass, raised him in his arms and disappeared
behind the barn, leaving the little woman feeling very much like a
culprit.



CHAPTER VII.

FARMER PRATT.


Aunt Nancy was now in a fine state of perplexity.

Jack's reproachful tone had cut very deeply, and she began to consider
herself responsible for all which might happen because of not having
warned him in time.

"I'm a wicked woman," she said, wringing her hands distractedly, "and
accountable for all that happens now. Why was I so weak as not to give
the dear boy a decided answer when he came from the barn?"

Then she ran to the bars and called after Jack in a whisper; but if any
one had asked why she wanted him to come back just at that time, she
could not have explained.

Returning to the old oak, she was about to sit down again when the
rattle of wheels told that Farmer Pratt was near at hand.

Hardly aware of what she did, the little woman went hurriedly into the
house, and there awaited what must necessarily be a very painful
interview.

A few moments later the man whom Jack looked upon as a merciless enemy
knocked at the door, and Aunt Nancy said feebly, "Come in."

Farmer Pratt entered without very much ceremony, and as the little woman
gazed at his face she fancied, probably from what Jack had told her,
that it was possible to see covetousness and hard-heartedness written on
every feature.

He did not remove his hat, but stood in the centre of the floor, whip in
hand, as he said,--

"Mornin' ma'am, mornin'. I'm from Scarborough, an' my name is Nathan
Pratt. P'rhaps you've heard of me."

Aunt Nancy was about to say she never had, meaning that her neighbors
never had spoken of him as a person of importance; but she checked
herself on remembering this would be a falsehood because of what Jack
had said.

"I have heard the name," she replied faintly.

"I thought so, I thought so. I've lived, man an' boy, in Scarborough for
nigh on to fifty years, an' when that's been done without givin'
anybody a chance to say a word agin me, except that I want my own, as
other folks do, then it would be kinder strange if I wasn't known
within a dozen miles of home."

"Was that all you came here to say?" Aunt Nancy asked.

"Of course not,--of course not"; and the farmer seated himself without
waiting for an invitation. "The fact of the matter is, ma'am, I'm
huntin' for a couple of children what drifted ashore on my place the
other day. One of 'em was a hunchback, an' I must say he is bad, for
after eatin' all the food in my house that he an' the young one wanted,
he run away, leavin' me in the lurch."

"I don't suppose they stole it, did they?" and Aunt Nancy spoke very
sharply, for it made her angry to hear such things said about Jack.

"No, it wasn't exactly that," and the farmer hesitated, as if to give
her the impression something equally wrong had been done by the boy;
"but as a citizen of the town I don't want it said we let a couple of
youngsters run around loose like calves."

"What do you intend to do with them?" the little woman asked severely.

Farmer Pratt had no idea of telling a secret which he believed would be
worth at least an hundred dollars to him, and by keeping it he again
defeated himself.

"They oughter be carried to the poor farm till we can find out who owns
'em. You see I'm as big a tax-payer as there is in Scarborough, an' if
any other town takes care of the children, we're likely to be sued for
the cost of keepin'. Now I don't believe in goin' to law, for it's
dreadful expensive, so I've come out to save myself an' my neighbors
what little money I can."

If Farmer Pratt had told the truth, Aunt Nancy would have done all in
her power to aid him, and Jack could not but have rejoiced, although the
farmer received a rich reward; but by announcing what was a false
proposition, he aroused the little woman's wrath.

She no longer remembered that it was wrong even to act a lie, and
thought only of the possibility that those whom she had learned to love
were really to be taken to the refuge for paupers, if her visitor should
be so fortunate as to find them.

"It seems hard to put children in such a place," she said, with an
effort to appear calm.

"That's only prejudice, ma'am, sheer prejudice. What do we keep up sich
institoots for? Why, to prevent one man from bein' obleeged to spend
more'n another when a lot of beggars come around."

"And yet it seems as if almost any one would be willing to feed a
couple of children who were lost."

"There's where you are makin' a mistake ag'in, ma'am. Youngsters eat
more'n grown folks, an' I know what I'm talkin' about, 'cause I've
raised a family. Heaven helps them as helps themselves, an' when we
find two like the one I'm huntin' for, then I say since heaven won't
take a hand at it, the town should."

Aunt Nancy remained silent, but those who knew her intimately would have
said, because of the manner in which she moved her chair to and fro,
that the little woman was struggling very hard to "rule her spirit."

"I don't reckon you know anything about 'em, ma'am," Farmer Pratt said
after a long pause, during which Aunt Nancy had rocked violently, with
her gaze fixed upon an overbold honey bee who was intent on gathering
the sweets from a honeysuckle blossom which the wind had forced through
the open window.

"I know this much," she replied with vehemence, "that I hope you won't
find the children if it is simply to carry them to the poor farm. We are
told of the reward which--"

"Who said anything about a reward?" the farmer asked in alarm, fearing
that which he wished should remain a secret was already known.

"The Book tells us what shall be the reward of those who give a cup of
cold water only to these His little ones--"

"Oh! is that it?" and the visitor appeared greatly relieved. "I count
myself about as good as my neighbors, but when it comes to keepin' a
parcel of children, after I've paid my taxes to run a place especially
for sich as they, then I say it's a clear waste of money, an' that's as
much of a sin as anything else."

"We won't argue the matter," the little woman replied with dignity, "but
I hope the time will never come that I, poor as I am, can count the
pennies in a dollar when it is a question of giving aid or comfort to
the distressed."

"Since you haven't seen the youngsters, there's no need of my stayin'
any longer, ma'am, but it does seem funny that nobody has run across
'em, when I heard for a fact that they'd come up this road."

Aunt Nancy knew full well that by remaining silent now, she was giving
the visitor to understand she knew nothing about the missing ones; but
just at the moment she would have told a deliberate lie rather than give
Jack and Louis up to such a man, however much she might have regretted
it afterward.

"Of course there's no harm in my askin' the questions," Farmer Pratt
said as he moved toward the door, feeling decidedly uncomfortable in
mind because of the little woman's sharp words.

"Certainly not; but at the same time I am sorry you came."

"Why, ma'am?"

"Because I have learned how hard-hearted men can be when it is a
question of a few dollars. If the children should come to me, they would
be given a home, such as it is, until their relatives could be found."

"If they should come, I warn you that it is your duty to let me know,
for they drifted ashore on my property, an' I've got the first claim."

This was rather more than meek little Aunt Nancy could endure; but she
succeeded in checking the angry words, and rose from her chair to
intimate that the interview was at an end.

Farmer Pratt went out very quickly, probably fearing he might hear more
unpalatable truths, and the old lady watched him until he drove away.

"It was wicked, but I'm glad I did it!" she said emphatically. "The idea
of hunting up such children as Jack and Louis simply to send them among
paupers!"

Not for many moments did the little woman remain in this frame of mind.

After a time she began to realize that she had done exactly what she
told Jack would be impossible--acted a lie, and her conscience began to
trouble her greatly.

She tried to read a chapter in the Book with the hope of finding
something to comfort her, and, failing in this, her thoughts went out to
the children who had left so suddenly.

"Mercy on us!" she exclaimed. "Suppose Jack really has gone away,
believing I would tell that man all I knew about him!"

This idea was sufficient to arouse her to action, and she went behind
the barn, where she called softly,--

"Jack! Jack! Where are you?"

Not until this very feeble outcry had been repeated half a dozen times
did she receive any reply, and then the hunchback, with Louis clasped in
his arms, peered out from among the bushes.

"Has the farmer gone?" he asked in a whisper.

"Indeed he has."

"And you didn't tell him where we was?"

"He never asked the question; but all the same, Jack dear, I did wrong
in allowing him to suppose I knew nothing about you."

"You're the sweetest aunt any feller ever had," the hunchback said
heartily as he came swiftly up and kissed one of the old lady's wrinkled
hands before she was aware of his intentions. "I couldn't believe you
wanted us taken to the poorhouse, so I didn't go very far off."

"I almost wish I hadn't done it, for--No, I don't either! After talking
with that wretch it would have broken my heart to see him take you away!
Give me the baby this minute; it seems as if I hadn't seen him for a
week."

Jack willingly relinquished his charge to the motherly arms extended to
receive the laughing child, and said, as Aunt Nancy almost smothered
Louis with kisses,--

"You sha'n't ever be sorry for what you have done. I'll work awful hard,
an' take care of the baby whenever you've got somethin' else to do."

"I know you are a good boy, Jack, and I wouldn't undo what's been done
if I could; but at the same time my conscience will reproach me, for I
realize that I acted wickedly."

So far as the sin was concerned, Jack did not think it of great
importance, and wondered not a little that as good a woman as Aunt
Nancy should attach so much importance to what, in his mind at least,
was nothing more than a charitable act.

He took care not to give expression to his thoughts, however, and led
the way back to the old oak-tree, where he said,--

"You sit down here awhile, an' I'll go out to make certain that man has
gone. It might be he's waitin' 'round somewhere to find whether we're
really here."

"I don't think there is any danger of that," Aunt Nancy replied as she
seated herself on the bench and fondled Louis until the little fellow
was tired of caresses.

Jack could not be comfortable in mind unless positive his enemy had left
the vicinity, and he walked quite a long distance up the road before
convincing himself of the fact.

When he returned the desire to make himself necessary to the little
woman was stronger than ever, and he proposed to finish the work of
fence mending at once.

"Better wait till after dinner now that it is so near noon," she said.
"We'll have a quiet talk, and then I will start the fire."

"Is it about Farmer Pratt you want to say something?"

"No, we'll try to put him out of our minds. It is the baby."

"What's the matter with him?"

"He must have another frock and some clothes. These are very dirty, and
I'm afraid he'd take cold if I should wash them at night, and put them
on again in the morning."

"Haven't you got an old dress like the one I wore? By pinnin' it up he'd
get along all right."

"Indeed he wouldn't, Jack. Boys can't be expected to know what a child
needs; but it puzzles me how to get the material from the store."

"What's the matter with my goin' after it?"

"It is a very long distance--more than four miles away."

"That's all right; I walked a good deal farther the day I came here.
Jest say what you want, an' I'll go after it now."

"Do you really think you could get back before sunset?"

"I'm certain of it, providin' I don't wait for dinner."

"But you must have something to eat, Jack dear."

"I can take a slice of bread and butter in my hand, an' that'll last me
more'n four miles."

"I have half a mind to let you go," Aunt Nancy said as if to herself,
and Jack insisted so strongly that she finally decided he should do the
shopping.

Not one, but half a dozen slices of bread were spread thickly with
butter as a dinner for the messenger, and then the little woman wrote on
a slip of paper the different articles she needed.

"You must see that Mr. Treat gives you exactly what I've asked for," she
said as she read the list, and explained what the texture or color of
each article should be. "Watch him closely, and be sure he makes the
right change."

Then she gave him the most minute directions as to the road, the time
which should be occupied in the journey, and the manner the goods were
to be brought home.

A basket was provided for the purchases, and Aunt Nancy said as she gave
Jack a ten-dollar note,--

"Tie that in your handkerchief so's to be sure not to lose it, Jack
dear, for it's a great deal of money to a lone woman like me."

He promised to be careful, and kissed the baby good by.

Aunt Nancy leaned over for the same salute, and when it had been given
she said in a sorrowful tone,--

"It is a deal of comfort to have you with me, Jack; but I do wish I had
been bold enough to tell that man the truth, and then refused to let you
go with him."

"It's lucky you didn't, Aunt Nancy, for he'd been bound to have us any
way."

Then Jack walked swiftly down the daisy-embroidered lane, thinking he
was a very fortunate boy indeed in having found such a good friend as
the sweet-faced old lady.



CHAPTER VIII.

A SECOND WARNING.


True to his promise, Jack returned before the sun was very low in the
western sky, and Aunt Nancy expressed the greatest surprise at seeing
him so soon.

"When I send William Dean to the store he needs all day for the journey,
and on two or three occasions it has been late in the evening before he
came back."

"It isn't such an awful long walk, but it makes a feller kinder tired,
an' I s'pose he had to rest a good while before startin' back. I thought
I'd better come the minute the things were ready, 'cause I was afraid
you'd do the milkin'."

"Of course I shall. You don't suppose I'd let you work after that
terribly long walk."

"But I'm goin' to do the chores jest the same," Jack replied; and to
prove his words he carried in the kindlings for morning.

Aunt Nancy was perfectly satisfied with the purchases he made, and until
it was time to bring the cow up from pasture she explained her
intentions in the way of making clothes for Louis.

"This piece of calico isn't as pretty as some I've had from Treat's,"
she said, unfolding the goods, "but it seems to be a good quality, and
that's the main thing. Now, the question is whether I shall make his
frock with a yoke, or plain? What do you think, Jack dear?"

Jack hadn't the faintest idea of what she meant by a "yoke" or a
"frock," but, wishing to please the little woman by giving an opinion,
he answered decidedly,--

"I should make it plain."

"That was just my idea. How queer it is that you should know all about
such things, and have good judgment too!"

Jack came very near smiling because of this praise which he did not
deserve, but was wise enough not to make any reply, and Aunt Nancy
consulted him on every detail until the garment had been fully decided
upon.

Then it was time to attend to old crumple-horn, and when Jack came into
the kitchen again supper was on the table.

In view of the fact that he had had such a long tramp, the little woman
insisted on his retiring very early, and the Book was opened as soon as
the supper-table had been cleared.

On this day Aunt Nancy's evening devotions occupied an unusually long
time, and she prayed fervently to be forgiven for her sin of the
forenoon,--a fact which caused Jack to say when she had finished,--

"It don't seem to me as if you could ever do anything wicked, Aunt
Nancy, an' there ain't any need of fussing about what you said to Farmer
Pratt, for God knows jest how good you are."

"You mustn't talk like that, Jack dear. There are very many times when I
give way to anger or impatience, and there can be no question but that I
as much as told a lie when that man was here."

Jack would have protested that no wrong had been done, but she prevented
further conversation by kissing him on both cheeks as she said, "Good
night."

On the following morning, Aunt Nancy's "man of all work" took good care
she should not be the first one awake.

He arose as the rays of the coming sun were glinting the eastern sky,
and when the little woman entered the kitchen the fire had been built,
the floor swept, and the morning's milk in the pail ready for straining.

Her surprise at what he had done was sufficient reward for Jack, and he
resolved that she should never have an opportunity to do such work while
he was sleeping.

"I begin to feel quite like a visitor," the little woman said with a
cheery laugh as she bustled around in her sparrow-like fashion,
preparing breakfast. "This is the first time in a great many years that
the fire has been made and the milking done before I got up."

Thanks to Jack's labors, the morning meal was unusually early, and when
it had been eaten and the dishes washed, the hunchback said as he took
up his hat,--

"I'll go now an' finish mendin' the fence."

"Wait until I have seen Mr. Dean. I'm afraid those dreadful boys will do
you some mischief."

"I don't reckon they'll be stirring so early, an' it won't take me
more'n an hour longer. While I'm gone, think of somethin' else that
needs to be done, for I'd rather be workin' than layin' still."

"You're a good boy, Jack dear, and I should be very sorry to have you go
away from me now."

"There's no danger of that yet awhile, unless Mr. Pratt takes it into
his head to come this way again," Jack replied with a laugh as he left
the house.

It required some search to find the hammer and nails he had thrown down
when he was so frightened, and then the task of fence mending progressed
famously until a rustling among the bushes caused him to raise his eyes
suddenly.

Bill Dean stood before him, looking particularly savage and threatening.

Jack took a yet firmer grasp of the hammer, resolved to defend himself
vigorously providing there should be no other enemies in the vicinity.

"So you're still here, eh?" Bill asked sternly.

"Looks like it I reckon."

"When are you goin'?"

"I haven't quite made up my mind; but I'll write an' tell you before I
pack my trunk."

Bill stepped forward quickly, but Jack persuaded him to go back by
swinging the hammer unpleasantly near the bully's head as he said,--

"Don't come too near! You served me out yesterday because there was
three in the gang, an' I hadn't anything to defend myself with; but now
matters are a little different."

"Are you goin' to leave this place to-day?" Bill asked, as he retreated
a few paces.

"No, nor to-morrow either."

"Then remember what I say. This is the second warnin' you've had, an'
it'll be the last. Look out for trouble if you're in this town
to-night!"

"I shall be here, an' I want you to remember that somebody besides me
may get into trouble if there's any funny business. Aunt Nancy
threatened to tell your father about what was done yesterday, but I
coaxed her not to, an' I won't say a word another time."

"I don't mind what she says, we'll run you out of this place before two
days go by, so take care of yourself."

"That's jest what I count on doin', an' if you've got any sense you'll
keep away from me."

Bill shook his fist threateningly as near Jack's nose as he thought
prudent, and disappeared among the bushes, leaving the hunchback
decidedly disturbed in mind despite the bold front he had assumed.

"Them fellers can make it hot for me, of course," he said to himself
when the bully had gone, "an' I expect I shall catch it rough, but
almost anything is better than leavin' here after Aunt Nancy has fixed
it so nice with Farmer Pratt."

He worked more rapidly after receiving this second warning, and returned
to the house by the main road instead of going around past the frog
pond.

The little woman was under the old oak making Louis's new garments when
he arrived, and she saw at once by the troubled expression on his face
that something had gone wrong.

"What's the matter, Jack dear?" she asked kindly.

"Matter? I guess I don't know what you mean."

"Indeed you do, so now tell Aunt Nancy all about it. Have you seen that
Dean boy again to-day?"

Jack was forced to confess he had, and in a few moments the little woman
succeeded in learning the whole story.

She insisted that it was necessary for her to see Bill's father at once;
but the hunchback begged her not to do anything of the kind, and she
apparently abandoned the idea.

"Why is it you don't want me to go?" she finally asked.

"Because when any fuss is raised about me, I'm afraid it'll come to
Farmer Pratt's ears somehow, an' he'll be over here again."

"I wish he would, for then I could confess to him that I the same as
told a lie, and defy any one to take you children from me."

"When that time comes we shall have to go," Jack replied despondently;
and Aunt Nancy endeavored to cheer him by displaying Louis's frock,
which was rapidly approaching completion.

During the remainder of the day Jack busied himself around the farm at
such chores as he or Aunt Nancy could find, and when night came nothing
had been heard of those who insisted he must leave the town.

The baby sat under the old oak during the evening in all the bravery of
his new dress, and Aunt Nancy discussed the subject matter of her
proposed letter to "Brother Abner" until it was time to retire.

Then Jack went into his tiny room with a heart full of thankfulness that
his lines "had been cast in such pleasant places," and it seemed as if
his eyes had but just closed in slumber when he was awakened by the
pressure of a soft hand on his face.

Fear would have caused him to rise to a sitting posture very suddenly
but for the fact that the same gentle pressure forced him to remain in a
reclining position, and then he heard a familiar voice whisper,--

"O Jack dear, burglars are trying to get into the house! What _shall_ we
do?"

He was now thoroughly awake, and as the hand was removed from his mouth
he asked in a low tone,--

"Are you certain of that?"

"Absolutely. I thought I heard an unusual noise, and looked out
when--There! _Do_ you hear that?"

"It would be strange if I didn't," Jack replied as the creaking of the
shed door swinging back on its hinges sounded remarkably loud and harsh
on the still night air. "I'll get right up; go downstairs and wait for
me."

"It will be better if I stay in the hall-way," Aunt Nancy said in a
voice, the tremor of which told that she was thoroughly frightened.

Never before had Jack dressed so quickly, and as he did he tried to
think what course should be pursued.

There seemed to be no question but that burglars were on the premises,
and to encounter them single handed and alone would be the height of
folly.

As may be fancied, he had not made a very elaborate toilet when he
joined Aunt Nancy at the head of the stairs.

It was sufficient that he had on enough clothing to admit of his going
out of doors without danger of taking cold.

"Have you got a gun or a pistol?" he asked of the little woman who was
shivering with fear as if with an ague fit.

"No indeed, I never would dare to sleep in the same house with such
things."

"What have you that I can use as a weapon?"

"There isn't a single article in this house which is dangerous except
the carving knife, and that is very dull."

"It will be better than nothing."

"But you surely don't intend to go out there when desperate men may be
laying in wait to take your life!"

"Something must be done; we can't stay shut up here and allow them to do
as they please."

"But you'll be killed, Jack dear"; and poor old Aunt Nancy clung to the
boy in a frenzy of fear. "To think that I've been expecting something of
the kind all my life, and it has come at last!"

A sound as if the shed door had been closed told Jack he was wasting
what might be precious time.

"Get the carving knife quick," he whispered, "and when I go out lock the
door after me."

Aunt Nancy obeyed in silence.

She brought the knife much as though it was the deadliest of weapons,
and put it in Jack's hands with something very like awe.

"Don't kill the men if you can help it," she whispered. "It would be
better to frighten them very badly rather than stain your hands with
blood."

Jack made no reply; but the thought came into his mind that he would
stand a poor chance of frightening a burglar, with nothing but the well
worn knife.

He opened the door softly.

Aunt Nancy stood ready to close and lock it instantly he was on the
outside, and the decisive moment had arrived.



CHAPTER IX.

THE ALARM.


It must be confessed that Jack was not at all eager to face the alleged
burglars.

He knew very well that if there were no more than two he would stand a
slim chance of driving them away, and even one good sized man might make
it very uncomfortable for him.

Had he been left to follow his own inclinations, the outer door would
not have been opened, but he knew Aunt Nancy depended upon him for
protection, and he must make a reputation for courage or be disgraced in
her eyes.

The sky was overcast with clouds, and Jack could not distinguish objects
ten paces away as he stepped on to the broad stone in front of the door.

He heard the key turn in the lock behind him, and this was sufficient to
tell him he need not expect any assistance from the little woman inside.

Grasping the carving knife firmly, he moved forward slowly in the
direction of the shed, and saw a shadowy form dart around the corner of
the building.

Then another, or the same one, returned, approached Jack, and stooped
over as if in the act of placing something on the ground.

An instant later the shadow had disappeared, and Jack saw before him a
thin line of sparks, apparently coming from the solid earth, but not
sufficiently large to cast any light.

Quite naturally Jack's first thought was that the miscreants were trying
to set the buildings on fire, and he ran forward to extinguish what
seemed ready to burst into a flame, when there was a muffled report, the
ground appeared to be a mass of coals, while at the same time a soft,
sticky substance was thrown in a shower upon him.

Jack leaped back in surprise and alarm, and as he did so struck his foot
against some obstruction with sufficient power to throw him headlong.

The explosion, the sudden glare of light, and the shower of he knew not
what, all served to bewilder the boy to such an extent that for the
moment it seemed as if the same force which caused the report had
knocked him down.

The first idea which came into his mind was that he had been shot, for
he remembered having heard that the victim does not feel pain for some
time after a bullet enters his body, and the sticky substance on his
face he thought must be blood.

"That Bill Dean meant what he said, an' has commenced drivin' me out of
town," he muttered to himself, making not the slightest effort to rise,
because he believed it impossible to do so.

The silence was almost oppressive after the loud report.

Jack could hear nothing to denote that there was any one in the
vicinity, and was feeling of his limbs to ascertain the amount of injury
done, when a shrill, tremulous voice from the doorway cried,--

"Jack! Jack dear! Are you hurt much?"

"I'm afraid I'm shot. It seems as if I was bleedin' dreadful!"

"Wait till I can light the lantern, my poor boy"; and the door was
closed and locked again.

By this time Jack had fully persuaded himself he was seriously wounded,
and wondered how long it would be before the pain came.

Two minutes later Aunt Nancy, partially dressed and with an odd little
lantern in her hand, emerged very cautiously from the house.

The fear Jack might be fatally injured was greater than that of the
supposed burglars. Her desire to aid others conquered her timidity, and
the only thought was to bring relief as speedily as possible.

"Mercy on us! What a dreadful thing!" Aunt Nancy exclaimed as she
arrived at the place where Jack was lying at full length on the ground.
"Tell me where you are hurt, my poor child."

"I don't know; but it seems as if somethin' tough must have happened,
for I'm bleedin' terribly."

The little woman knelt by his side, and held the lantern up until its
rays illumined the boy's face.

"I can't see any blood, Jack dear; but you seem to be literally covered
with something yellow."

The boy passed his hand over his face, scraping off the supposed
sanguinary fluid, and examined it carefully by aid of the light.

Then he leaped to his feet very quickly, looking both ashamed and angry.

"It's some kind of a trick Bill Dean's gang have been playing!" he
cried, and at that instant from behind the barn came a shout of
derision, followed by hearty laughter.

"Oh, I wish I was strong enough to flog those wicked wretches!" Aunt
Nancy said, her eyes filling with tears of vexation.

Jack made no reply.

He had taken the lantern from her hand, and was searching carefully in
the immediate vicinity.

It was not long before he and Aunt Nancy decided that the yellow
substance was the seeds and pulp of a pumpkin, and Jack said, as he
picked up several pieces of red paper,--

"Now I know what it means. Those fellers have dug the inside out of a
pumpkin, and put into it a big firecracker. They waited until I came
near the shed before lighting it, an', of course, when the thing
exploded it sent the stuff flyin'."

"Thank goodness it was no worse!" the little woman added, and Jack burst
into a hearty laugh.

Despite the suffering caused by fear, the idea that he had been scared
almost into dying by an exploded pumpkin was comical in the extreme, and
his mirth was not checked until Aunt Nancy asked quite sharply,--

"What on earth are you laughing at?"

"To think how frightened we got about nothing."

"I'm sure it was a good deal. Here we've been forced out of our beds at
this hour of the night, believing burglars were around, and then scared
nearly to death because it appeared as if you were wounded, all on
account of those terrible boys who wanted to have some sport!"

"It can't be helped now, an' the sooner you get into the house the less
will be the chances of your taking cold," Jack replied, checking his
mirth with difficulty as he saw how angry Aunt Nancy really was.

Although it was a practical joke which had caused a great deal of mental
anxiety for a short time, he could not look upon it otherwise than as
funny, except when he realized that this was the first step taken to
drive him out of the town.

The little woman insisted on examining the interior of the shed to learn
if the boys had done any further mischief, and they found fragments of
pumpkin and paper, showing that the "infernal machine" had been
constructed there.

Nothing appeared to have been disturbed, and the two who had been so
unceremoniously awakened returned to the house after the pulp was
scraped with a chip from Jack's face, hair, and clothing.

It was a long time before the boy could induce slumber to visit his
eyelids again that night, but he finally succeeded with such good effect
that he did not awaken until the noise Aunt Nancy made while building
the fire aroused him.

Dressing hurriedly, he went downstairs in time to do a portion of the
work, and when the milk was brought into the house after old crumple
horn had been driven to pasture, Aunt Nancy asked,--

"Do you think you could take care of Louis a little while this
forenoon?"

"Of course I can. Are you going visitin'?"

"Yes; I intend to see if something can't be done to prevent those
wretched boys from carrying on in this manner."

"But, Aunt Nancy--"

"Now don't say a word, Jack dear. Things were very much like this last
summer when I hired a boy from Portland, and no one can tell what might
have happened if he hadn't run away. I know it is wrong to get angry,
but I can't help it. Seems to me I am growing more wicked every day;
yesterday I just the same as told a lie, and last night I did not
control my angry passions."

"But, Aunt Nancy--"

"Don't try to argue with me, or I shall get worse. I am going to see Mr.
Dean at once, and you must keep house till I come back."

Louis's guardian realized that words would be worse than useless at such
a time, and he wisely refrained from speaking, while Aunt Nancy, as if
trying hard to keep her temper within bounds, did the morning work in
ominous silence.

When the last duty had been performed, she directed Jack to take the
baby out under the old oak, and then disappeared for half an hour or
more, at the end of which time she reappeared dressed with scrupulous
neatness, but in the quaintest of fashions.

"I sha'n't be away more than an hour; and if any of those boys show
themselves, be sure to go into the house with Louis at once."

Saying this, she walked swiftly down the lane, and Jack muttered to
himself as she turned the corner into the main road,--

"I'm mighty sorry she's bent on anything of the kind, for I'm certain
there'll be trouble for me come out of it."

Fortunately nothing occurred to cause alarm during the little woman's
absence.

Jack amused the baby, split more kindlings and piled them up in the
shed, being thus occupied when Aunt Nancy returned, looking mildly
triumphant.

"There!" she said in a tone of satisfaction as she seated herself
beneath the old oak and fanned her heated face with a tiny
pocket-handkerchief, "I did control my temper, and I don't think the
Dean boy will trouble either of us again."

"Did you tell his father?"

"I gave him a full account of all which had been done, both this summer
and last. Mr. Dean has promised me nothing of the kind shall ever happen
again, and we are free from that annoyance."

Jack thought, but did not venture to put it into words, that Bill Dean
would not give up the struggle so easily, and felt convinced there was
yet more serious trouble in store for him before the summer came to an
end.

"Do you know, Jack dear, I would give almost anything in the world if I
hadn't told a lie to Mr. Pratt. We should have stood our ground, and
defied him to take you and the baby away, rather than commit a sin."

"But I can't see that you were so very wicked, Aunt Nancy. He would have
carried us off in spite of anything you could say, an' I'm sure you
didn't tell a lie."

"It is on my conscience just the same, Jack dear, and I shall never feel
easy in mind," the little woman replied with a long-drawn sigh.

Jack was really distressed because Aunt Nancy should regret so deeply
what was done in his behalf; but he could think of nothing consoling to
say, since she insisted on believing a downright falsehood had been
told.

"I am also to be condemned for having given way to my temper; but those
boys do try it so severely it is very difficult to remember that he who
'rules his spirit is better than he who taketh a city.'"

Jack looked up in bewilderment.

He did not understand the application of the quotation, and the remark
about taking a city mystified him.

Aunt Nancy was so intent on her own sad thoughts that she paid no
attention to his perplexity, and after a long silence entered the house,
returning a few moments later in her home costume, which the boy thought
more becoming than the antiquated finery she had been arrayed in for the
call on Bill Dean's father.

The little woman did not give Jack the details of her visit to Mr. Dean;
but he felt more confident than ever that it was an ill-advised move, so
far as his own peace was concerned, and but a little time was to elapse
before this was to be proven.

"I believe I will send a line to Brother Abner now," Aunt Nancy suddenly
said. "It is time he learned what has happened; and since we have no
pressing work on hand, you can mind the baby. It isn't as easy for me to
write letters as it used to be. I need a long while in which to compose
my thoughts."

Then the little woman set about the task, and it could be seen it was a
hard one by the manner in which she began.

Watching through the open window, Jack saw her bring pens, paper, and
ink from her chamber to the kitchen, and then nibble at the end of her
penholder as if to derive inspiration from that source.

Had it been some weighty document of state she could not have been more
particular, and fully two hours were spent before the labor was
completed.

"Took me a long while, didn't it?" she asked on coming into the yard
once more. "I believe I've told Abner the whole story, and we'll soon
know if the baby's parents are yet alive."

"Shall I carry it to the post-office?"

"Mercy! no. It is in Treat's store, and I couldn't think of letting you
take that long walk again to-day."

"It won't hurt me a bit."

"You must stay here quietly with me, and to-morrow perhaps you shall
go. There is plenty of time, and who knows if Abner is home now; he's a
master hand at gadding about, which accounts for his being so poor. I've
always told him that 'a rolling stone gathers no moss,' but he laughs it
off by saying he doesn't want to be moss-grown."



CHAPTER X.

SICKNESS.


Now that the important letter had been written, Aunt Nancy was in no
hurry to mail it.

She acted very much as if believing the children would be lost to her
immediately after Abner learned the news, and it was simply a case of
"deferring the evil day."

During the afternoon Jack further endeared himself to the little woman's
heart by patching up the door of the shed in such a manner that it could
not be opened readily, and fastening it with an old padlock he found in
the barn.

"That is just what I have been wanting for a long time," Aunt Nancy
exclaimed in surprise when he called her to see the result of his
labors. "How strange I can't do that as well as you!"

"That's because you're a woman," Jack replied, not a little delighted
with the praise bestowed upon him.

"It may be; but I'm so very much older, it seems as if I should be able
to do such things properly, and yet I can't even drive a nail."

"There'll be no need of your doin' it while I'm 'round."

"And I hope you and Louis will stay a long time; but I suppose it isn't
right to say so, for although there isn't any chance his mother can be
alive after the ship exploded, he has probably relatives who want to see
him."

During the remainder of the day, Jack assisted the little woman with the
housework, and at sunset the two sat in the favorite place under the old
oak, until Louis became unusually fretful.

After trying in vain to soothe him, Aunt Nancy insisted they should
retire, saying as she went toward the house,--

"I am afraid he doesn't feel very well. Are you sure he didn't play in
the sun while I was away?"

"I kept him in the shade as much as I could. Do you think he can be
sick?"

"Not enough for us to worry about, Jack dear. Children are apt to fuss
when everything don't go just right. After I undress him, we'll read the
Book, and then you shall go to bed."

The fact that Louis was not in his usual good spirits and temper
worried Jack considerably, despite the little woman's cheery words, and
when he went to his tiny room it was impossible for him to sleep
immediately.

He had lain awake fully two hours, at times speculating as to how he and
the baby would finally get to New York, and again wondering if it could
be possible that both Captain and Mrs. Littlefield were dead, when the
stairway door was opened, as Aunt Nancy whispered cautiously,--

"Jack! Jack dear! Are you awake?"

The boy was on his feet in an instant.

"What's the matter? Is Louis worse?"

"He seems to be quite sick. Will you dress and come down?"

Jack answered this summons very quickly as he tried to keep back the dry
sob which came into his throat, for it seemed as if the greatest
misfortune which could befall him would be to lose the baby at the time
when he was in such a good home.

He found Aunt Nancy in the kitchen with Louis in her arms.

A fire had been built in the stove, and the little woman was seated in
front of it rocking the baby as she stirred the boiling contents of a
tin kettle.

"Do you know what catnip is when you see it growing?" she asked as Jack
entered the room.

"I don't; but if you'll tell me where to go, I'll hunt for it."

"Light the lantern, so there won't be any mistake, and run out to the
lane. You'll find some growing along the fence. Get as much as will fill
this kettle, and come back as soon as you can."

"Is he very bad?" Jack asked in a trembling voice as he gazed at the
baby's flushed cheeks.

"I never have had much experience with children, but I guess a little
catnip tea will bring him around all right by morning."

"Hadn't we better have a doctor?"

"There is no need yet, and, besides, there isn't one within six miles."

"It don't make any difference how far it is, I'm willin' to walk any
distance for him."

"We will first see what the morning brings forth."

Jack delayed no longer.

The lantern was lighted, and he started at once in search of an herb he
did not even know by sight.

Ten minutes later he returned with an armful of green leaves, and Aunt
Nancy bestowed but one hasty glance upon them when she cried,--

"O Jack, Jack, you've spent your time gathering burdocks! If you can
hold the baby, I'll go after it myself."

"I'd rather try ag'in than have you go out where the grass is wet with
dew."

"It won't hurt me. Take Louis"; and the little woman put the baby in
Jack's arms as she hurried away, lantern in hand.

It seemed to Jack as if she had but left the house before she returned
with the desired herb, and the boy said in surprise,--

"Is that what you call catnip? I saw plenty of it, but didn't think the
leaves were big enough to do any good."

"In this world it isn't the big things which are capable of working the
most benefit, Jack."

"If I hadn't known that before, I should after seeing you, Aunt Nancy.
You're small, but there couldn't be anybody gooder."

Although the little woman said nothing, it could readily be seen that
the compliment pleased her.

She bustled around much like a busy sparrow, putting the herbs in the
kettle, making sundry mysterious decoctions, and otherwise preparing
such things as she thought might be of benefit to the baby.

Jack held Louis meanwhile, and before Aunt Nancy was ready to take him
again he asked in a low tone,--

"Do you think there is any chance he would die?"

"I don't believe he is in any danger now, Jack dear; but all of us
should think of death as something which will come sooner or later."

The boy was silent for a moment, and then he asked abruptly,--

"You pray for everything you want, why don't you do it now so he'll be
sure to live?"

"It wouldn't be right to ask God simply for the child's life."

"Why not?"

"Because He doeth all things well, and we do not know what His purpose
may be."

"But there can't be any good come of takin' Louis away from me, when
he's all I've got."

"That is something you don't know, Jack dear. What God does is right,
and we must bow to His will."

Aunt Nancy spoke in such a solemn tone, or, as Jack afterward expressed
it, "like as if she was in meetin'," that the boy could say no more, but
watched intently every move the little woman made until she was ready to
take the baby in her arms once more.

This night was a long one to both, for neither thought of going to
sleep.

Once Aunt Nancy insisted Jack should lie down; but he pleaded so hard to
be allowed to remain awake, that she said no more, and the two sat with
Louis until daybreak.

During this long time neither spoke until the baby had fallen asleep,
and Jack was on the point of going out to milk the cow, when the little
woman said in a tone very like that of fear,--

"Wouldn't it be a dreadful thing if I should be punished for telling a
lie to Mr. Pratt, by losing Louis just now when we are living so
comfortably?"

"But you didn't tell a lie," Jack replied just a trifle impatiently.

"Both you and I know I did, however much we may try to persuade
ourselves that it isn't so, and I am certain some punishment will
follow."

Jack shook his head incredulously.

He began to understand that it would be useless to attempt to convince
Aunt Nancy she had not committed a grievous sin, and was disposed to
lose faith in a religion which would condemn so good a woman for having
saved himself and the baby from much trouble.

To avoid paining her by saying what was in his mind, he went out to
milk, and on returning found the baby sleeping naturally.

"He seems much relieved," Aunt Nancy said as she put him to bed. "He
will probably sleep a long while, and you had better get some rest."

Jack insisted that he did not need any, and continued doing such chores
as he could find around the house until breakfast was ready, after which
he proposed going to the post-office.

"Now the letter is written it had better be mailed, an' perhaps there
are some things you want from the store."

"I do need a few notions; but it seems too bad to have you walk so far
this hot morning."

"It'll do me good. I can be back by noon, and the weather won't be very
warm while I'm goin' over."

Aunt Nancy allowed herself to be persuaded, because there really were
some groceries she wanted, and after making out a list with infinite
care, cautioning him not to pay more than five cents a pound for the
coarse sugar and eighty cents for the tea, she gave him a lunch to be
eaten during the return journey.

"I don't want you to stay any longer than is necessary; but at the same
time you mustn't hurry too fast," she said, as he walked rapidly down
the lane; and Jack replied,--

"I'll be back by noon, unless something terrible happens."

Although the hunchback could not move as fast as more favored boys, he
"kept at it," to use his favorite expression, and by this means was able
to get over the ground with reasonable rapidity.

He was travelling steadily on, thinking of the baby and Aunt Nancy's
apparently needless sorrow at having acted a lie during Mr. Pratt's
call, when he was aroused to a sense of what was passing around him by
hearing the disagreeably familiar voice of Bill Dean, as he shouted,--

"Hold on there a minute, I want to see you."

Bill was coming across the fields at full speed, and, knowing he could
not escape if the bully should pursue him, Jack halted.

"So you're tryin' to hide behind Aunt Nancy's apron strings, eh?" Master
Dean cried as he reached the road.

"I don't know what you mean."

"Oh, yes, you do. Didn't you send her over to tell my father that I was
goin' to drive you out of town, an' didn't she let on about the lickin'
we give you?"

"That was her business. I tried to stop her, for I can 'tend to my own
battles."

"Perhaps you can; we'll see about that later. Say, what of that man who
was over here huntin' for you?"

Jack's cheeks grew pale.

He understood to whom Bill referred, and it seemed positive the whole
story would be known, despite the sacrifice made by Aunt Nancy.

"Haven't got anything to say, eh? Well, I'm goin' to see him, an' tell
where you are, then we'll see how you like tattlers."

Jack was frightened beyond the power of speech.

He had no idea but that his enemy knew exactly where to find Mr. Pratt,
and firmly believed the time was near at hand when he and Louis would be
forcibly taken away from Aunt Nancy's kindly care.

"That don't seem to strike you very well!" Bill cried with a laugh of
triumph. "We'll have this thing fixed up in short order, an' then I
reckon old Nancy will be ready to hire boys who know their business."

"What makes you jump down on me?" Jack asked piteously.

"You know mighty well. We told you what to do, an' you thought we
didn't mean business. Now you'll soon find out."

Jack hadn't the heart to hold any further conversation with his
tormentor.

His only thought was to hurry on that he might be alone where the matter
could be calmly discussed in his own mind, and walked swiftly away,
followed by Bill's jeering words.

Now indeed he had a cup running over with sorrow. If his enemies knew of
Mr. Pratt, it would not be long before that gentleman learned of his
whereabouts, and it surely seemed as if the time had finally come when
he must start out on the long journey, leaving behind the dearest friend
he had ever met since the day when his mother crossed the dark river.

"There's no help for it," he said resolutely, "an' I've got to look at
this thing right. Bill will tell the farmer right away, an' the sooner
we leave the farther we'll be off when they come to find us."

Thus the matter was settled in his mind that the flight should be
resumed at the earliest moment it might be safe to take Louis out of
doors.



CHAPTER XI.

GARDENING.


It can readily be supposed Jack was not inclined to linger on the road
after this interview with Bill Dean.

That the latter would inform Farmer Pratt of his whereabouts he had no
doubt, and this was a method of driving him "out of town" for which he
was not prepared.

Walking at full speed, running over the descending ground, and trying to
keep on at a good pace when he ascended hills, the journey to Treat's
store was accomplished in a remarkably short time.

He found many customers before him, however, and was obliged to wait
until it should be his turn, although he felt quite certain every moment
was precious.

It was the proprietor of the establishment, who also acted as
postmaster, that waited upon him, and while weighing out the "notions"
Aunt Nancy had sent for, the gentleman said, as if answering his own
question,--

"So you've been hired by Aunt Nancy."

"I'm stayin' there a little while, sir."

"You are, eh? Where do you hail from?"

Jack hesitated an instant, and then replied with a forced laugh,--

"I s'pose I oughter say I belong to the farm, 'cause I haven't any other
home."

"An orphan, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where did your folks useter live?"

Jack was not aware that Mr. Treat had the name of being the most
inveterate gossip in the neighborhood; but felt positive there was no
good reason why he should satisfy his curiosity on this point, more
particularly since, in view of Bill Dean's threats, he wished to keep as
a secret everything concerning himself, therefore said with an
assumption of carelessness,--

"Almost anywhere. You see I was brought up to be a sailor."

"Sho! Is that so? Well now I wouldn't think you'd make much of a fist
shinnin' 'round on the riggin'."

"Even if I am crooked I might be as spry as other fellers."

"That's a fact; but you don't look it"; and then the worthy Mr. Treat
turned his attention to the list Aunt Nancy had written for Jack's
guidance.

When the goods had been made ready the proprietor of the store would
have questioned the messenger further, but the latter hurried away
without replying to what he did not consider it was necessary strangers
should know.

Jack arrived at the farm unusually early, and Aunt Nancy exclaimed as he
came up the lane looking heated and breathless,--

"Well, I declare! It does beat all how you can get over the ground! Why,
I've known it to take Daniel Chick's horse a good bit longer to go to
the post-office and back."

"I was in a hurry to talk with you, an' so come as quick as I could, for
I'm afraid Louis an' I must go away, even after all that's been done."

The little woman looked up quickly in mingled alarm and surprise.

"Why, what has happened, Jack dear?"

For reply the boy repeated that which Bill Dean had said, and added in
conclusion,--

"You see Mr. Pratt will be over here the minute he hears the news, an'
then everything is settled the wrong way."

"Are you certain Bill Dean knows where he lives?"

"Of course he must, else he wouldn't have said what he did."

"I'm sorry to have to doubt his word; but I couldn't put the least
dependence in a thing he says, and there are more than me in this town
of the same opinion. Besides, he is too indolent to walk so far."

"Still there's a chance he might send some word."

"You are right, Jack; but at the same time I wouldn't borrow trouble. In
case that man should come, you can find some way of keeping out of his
clutches until I see the 'Squire."

"What good would that do?"

"I don't know; but it does seem as if we might prevent him from carrying
you and the baby away when I'm not only willing but anxious to have you
both stay with me. I don't believe there is any law to compel children
who have a good home to go to a poorhouse, and if there is the least bit
more bother I'm going to have the matter settled once and for all in the
'Squire's court."

Aunt Nancy spoke in such a decided tone, and seemed so thoroughly
convinced there was a legal remedy for the trouble, that Jack felt
relieved at once.

"I could get out of his way, no matter how close he got to me; but
there's the baby. It might be I was where I couldn't find Louis quick
enough when the farmer came, an' then he'd soon drag him away."

"The baby will be with me, and I promise you there'll be no dragging
when I'm around," the little woman said with considerable dignity. "Keep
up your courage, and I'm sure we shall come out all right, except for
that miserable action of mine yesterday. If I had told the truth then
and defied him, things would seem a great deal smoother now."

"Then I'll hold on a while longer."

"Certainly, and in the future stay close around the house, so those
terrible boys can't make mischief. Did you ever do any gardening, Jack?"

"Do you mean plantin' seeds an' makin' 'em grow?"

"I mean cultivating the ground. No one can force the seeds to grow but
He who rules over all. I would dearly love to have a few string beans
and some cabbages, but it's so expensive hiring the land ploughed that I
haven't been able to afford it."

"I could dig up a good deal with a shovel."

"If you'll try it I will get the seeds, and perhaps we shall have the
pleasure of harvesting our own crops."

Jack was so relieved in mind that he did not feel any fatigue because of
the long walk, and insisted on beginning work in the garden at once.

Despite all Aunt Nancy could say against it, he labored industriously
with the shovel during the next two hours, and at the end of that time
as much ground had been prepared as the little woman thought necessary.

"It won't do to try too much at first," she said musingly, as, with
Louis in her arms, she watched the deformed boy make ready the small
plot between the woodshed and barn. "I'll see about the seeds to-morrow,
and it does seem as if we might put in more than cabbages and beans now
that we've got so much room. I didn't suppose you would care to dig up
very much."

"It isn't such hard work but that I'd be willin' to make one twice this
size; as it is, I reckon you can plant pretty nearly all you want."

Then Aunt Nancy, looking very grave as if the task was one of the
greatest importance, measured the plot into rows, putting in little
bits of wood to mark where each kind of seed should be planted, and when
it was finished she looked thoroughly happy.

"We shall have a famous garden, Jack dear, and it won't be necessary for
me to spend so much money for vegetables when the summer boarders come.
They always wonder why I don't raise my own green stuff."

The garden and the plans concerning it gave both so much pleasure that,
for the time being at least, Farmer Pratt was almost forgotten.

The chores occupied Jack's time during the remainder of the day, and
when he retired it was to fall asleep almost immediately because of
fatigue.

Early next morning Aunt Nancy visited one of the neighbors to procure
seeds, and when another night came every row was planted.

During the three succeeding days Jack remained near the house, never
going farther away than the main road, where he spent his spare time
watching for Farmer Pratt.

It surely seemed as if Bill Dean was ignorant of the gentleman's
address, or, as Aunt Nancy had suggested, was too indolent to make the
journey to Scarborough, for nothing was seen or heard of Tom's father,
and Jack began to feel a certain sense of security.

Louis was as contented as a child well could be, and each day claimed
more of the little woman's affections until she actually began to look
forward with dismay to the coming of the summer boarders, because then
she could not devote to him so much of her time.

Never once was the nightly search for burglars omitted; and when Jack
asked why such a labor was necessary when it was positive no one could
enter the house during the day without her knowledge, she replied with
an ominous shake of the head,--

"We can't say, Jack dear, what might happen. I have done this same thing
for the last fifteen years, and don't intend to be careless now in my
old age."

"But you never found anybody, did you?"

"No, and I hope I never shall; but it would be impossible to sleep if I
neglected what seems like a solemn duty."

On the fourth day after the garden was planted both Jack and Aunt Nancy
visited it twice to see if the seeds had sprouted, and several times did
the sight of a weed cause them the greatest joy for a few moments, since
it seemed certain something in the vegetable line had shown itself.

Like Farmer Pratt, Bill Dean remained out of sight, and the little woman
was confident she had frightened him away.

"We can count on being left alone this summer, Jack dear, for he won't
show his head around here. In all the years I have lived on the farm,
when I went to his father was the first time I ever made a complaint to
a neighbor, and I hope it will be the last, for I do think people should
avoid troubling others with such things. We are told that we must
forgive our brother seventy times seven; but there was no use in doing
that by William, since it made no difference to him whether he was
forgiven or not."

Jack was not so confident that those who threatened to drive him away
had relinquished their purpose; but he said nothing regarding his fears,
since no good could come of alarming the little woman. The day on which
the first cabbage showed two tiny leaves above the surface was a
red-letter day for the amateur gardeners.

Aunt Nancy spent at least two hours admiring it, and the seat under the
big oak was abandoned at sunset in order that she might search for
further proofs of their success.

"There is so much pleasure in having a garden that I shall never again
be without one, that is," she added with a sigh, "if I have you with me.
I can't bear to think that the time may come when we must part."

"May come? Why, it must come, Aunt Nancy. Just as soon as the weather
gets cool, we are bound to start."

"I have been thinking perhaps Louis hasn't any relatives living, and in
that case what would prevent you and he from staying here until I go
down into the valley of the shadow of death?"

"Nothing would suit me better," Jack replied emphatically. "This is the
first home I have ever known, and it will be hard to leave it."

"If you do go, Jack dear, it will be a lonely old woman you leave
behind. I had gotten accustomed to living alone; but now it is
different, and the house would seem deserted without you and the baby.
Yet I am afraid something of the kind must happen to punish me for
telling Mr. Pratt a lie. It is through a crime that I was enabled to
enjoy your company, and we know what are the wages of sin."

Jack was not disposed to allow the conversation to continue in this
channel.

He could not bring himself to believe the little woman had done anything
wrong in letting Farmer Pratt think he and Louis were not there, and it
made him impatient to hear her blame herself so severely.

"You see, Aunt Nancy, we would have to leave whether you done as you did
or not, for how can we tell whether Capt. Littlefield or his wife are
alive unless we go to find out?"

"Oh, Abner will attend to all that! He lived in York State so long that
he knows nearly every one in it by this time, and when we hear from him
the whole story must be known, for interesting himself in other people's
affairs is what exactly suits Abner."

Jack could not be satisfied with this reply.

He believed implicitly everything Aunt Nancy told him, and she was so
positive that there appeared to be no chance for doubt.

The little woman was called from the contemplation of the garden by that
which, for a moment, caused Jack the greatest alarm.

The rattle of wheels was heard from the road, and an instant later Aunt
Nancy said in surprise,--

"Mercy on us! who can that be driving up the lane?"

"It is the farmer comin' for us!" Jack cried excitedly as he caught
Louis from Aunt Nancy's arms, and would have run off at full speed if
she had not restrained him.

"Wait a moment, my child. I don't see any man in the wagon."

Jack looked quickly in the direction of the newcomers and then said,--

"There are two women, but one of them may be Mrs. Pratt."

Again he would have sought refuge in flight but for Aunt Nancy's
detaining hand.

"It is only Mrs. Hayes and Mrs. Souders. I suppose they have come to
make a call, and what _will_ they think at seeing the house in such
confusion?"

Jack, now that his fears were allayed, could not repress a smile at the
idea of Aunt Nancy's house ever being in anything save a cleanly and
orderly condition; but the little woman appeared really distressed
because she had not had an opportunity to inspect it thoroughly before
receiving company.

"Take care of Louis, and stay under the oak-tree until I come out
again," she said, hurrying away to receive the newcomers.

Jack loitered near the barn where he would not be seen until the
visitors had alighted, tied securely the aged horse, whose only
ambition appeared to be to remain motionless, and entered the house.

Then, instead of doing as Aunt Nancy had suggested, he took Louis into
the woodshed, amusing him there for nearly an hour, when the two ladies
departed.

"Where are you, Jack?" the little woman called softly when the horse had
drawn the wagon and its occupants on to the highway.

"What is the matter?" Jack cried, as on emerging from his place of
retreat he saw a look of deepest anxiety on Aunt Nancy's face. "Did they
come here to take us away?"

"It's not quite as bad as that," the little woman replied with a
long-drawn sigh, "but very nearly. What _do_ you suppose they wanted?"

Jack didn't even attempt to hazard a guess, and Aunt Nancy continued in
a mournful tone,--

"They want to hold the monthly sewing circle here day after to-morrow!"

"Well?" Jack asked, surprised that such a request should have caused so
much distress.

"Well? Why, Jack, how can you treat it so lightly? Just think of it!
Only one day to clean house, go to the store, and do all the cooking!"

"I don't see that there'll be very much to do in the way of cleaning
house. It shines like a new three-cent piece already, and how are you
goin' to make it look any better?"

"O Jack! boys don't understand about such things. You can't see in the
corners where the dirt always lodges, and the company will be sure to
find everything that is slighted."

"Well, I can go to the store for you at least."

"I wouldn't allow you to take the chances of seeing William Dean even if
you could do the errands, which is impossible. I must get Mr. Chick to
carry me over in his team, and while I am away you and Louis are to stay
in the house with the doors locked."

"I don't think there is any need of that. Those fellers wouldn't dare to
come here."

"I can't believe they would; but at the same time it will do no harm to
be careful. Now what _shall_ we have for supper?"

"Do you mean to-night?"

"Of course not. It doesn't make any difference what we eat for a day or
two; but we must think very seriously of what is to be cooked for the
circle."

"Have some of your nice biscuits and a piece of cake. If folks can get
anything better than that, they deserve to go hungry."

"O Jack! you don't understand such things. I should be mortified almost
to death if I didn't do as well as Mrs. Souders did when the circle met
at her house last month."

Then Aunt Nancy, looking as if a heavy burden of care had suddenly
fallen upon her, went in to the kitchen, taking Louis with her, that
Jack might be free to milk the cow.



CHAPTER XII.

LOUIS'S ADVENTURE.


On this evening, immediately after supper had been eaten and the dishes
washed, Aunt Nancy announced that it would be necessary for her to call
upon Mr. Daniel Chick.

"If I wait until morning his team may not be at home, and, besides, I
want him to be ready to make an early start. We must be back by noon at
the latest."

"Why not let me go and tell him what you want?" Jack asked.

"Because you don't know where he lives, and then again it is necessary
to pass Mr. Dean's in order to reach his house. William might be at
home, and who knows what would happen?"

Then Aunt Nancy made a hurried toilet, clothing herself in one of those
quaint costumes which Jack did not think at all becoming, and said, as
she entered the kitchen again,--

"You must promise not to step your foot out of doors while I am gone.
Keep everything well locked, and if any one should happen to call don't
show yourself without first learning who they are."

Jack agreed, and while the little woman was absent he rocked Louis to
sleep, swept the floor until one would have said a broom ought to be
ashamed for going over such a cleanly surface with any idea of
collecting dirt, and was in the "fore-room" with a lighted candle
admiring the crockery rooster when Aunt Nancy returned.

"It's me, Jack dear!" she cried as she knocked softly on the door, and
when it was opened, entered with the air of one who has been successful.

"I got there just in time. He was going over to Henry Mitchell's to tell
him he'd haul gravel to-morrow; but of course he had rather go to
Treat's, for the work isn't so hard on either himself or his horse. Now
we must get to bed early, for I told him I wanted to start by sunrise at
the very latest."

"But, Aunt Nancy, you don't mean that I am to stay in the house with the
doors locked all the forenoon, do you? There are lots of things I could
do; but it would be pretty warm if there wasn't any chance for air."

"I suppose you might have the doors open, provided you kept a sharp
watch on the road, and closed them again in case that Dean boy or his
associates should come," the little woman replied thoughtfully.

"What shall I do?"

"You could clean the knives and forks, and wash all the best dishes
through two waters. Be careful when you wipe them, Jack dear, for it
would be terrible if any should be broken."

After these arrangements had been made, Aunt Nancy remained silent a
short time to free her mind from worldly thoughts, and then came the
evening devotions, when the little woman prayed earnestly for the "weary
and heavy laden," which Jack thought was a reference to herself and the
expected company.

It was yet dark next morning when a noise from the kitchen aroused the
hunchback, and hurrying down he found Aunt Nancy busily engaged
preparing breakfast.

"Why, you must have stayed awake all night!" he exclaimed in surprise.

"Indeed I wasn't so foolish as to do anything of the kind; but when I
have work on hand I like to be about it, and goodness knows there's
plenty for me to do between now and to-morrow night."

"Did you wake Louis?"

"No; let him sleep as long as he chooses. You can dress and give him
some bread and milk?"

"That part of it will be all right," Jack replied confidently, and then
he prepared to astonish old crumple-horn by appearing before her while
it was yet so dark that she could hardly see the lunch of clover to
which she was accustomed during milking time.

Breakfast had been cooked, eaten, and the dishes washed before Mr.
Daniel Chick and his venerable horse came up the lane.

Aunt Nancy was not only ready for the journey, but had begun to grow
impatient because of the delay, when he reined up in front of the broad
stone step as he said in a cheery tone, calculated to soothe any angry
feelings,--

"Well, I must say you're a master hand at gettin' up, Aunt Nancy. 'Pears
like as if you was allers on foot like a sparrer."

"I try to do what I have on hand in good season," was the rather sharp
reply. "There would be less poor folks in this world if people didn't
dally round in such a shiftless manner."

Mr. Chick knew full well that this remark was aimed especially at him;
but like a wise man he made no reply lest worse should follow, and
turned the wheels of the wagon that the little woman might have no
trouble in clambering on board.

Aunt Nancy stopped only long enough to give some parting advice to Jack.

"Be sure to keep a sharp watch on the road if you have the doors open,"
she whispered, "and don't go out, even into the yard, unless it is
absolutely necessary, for nobody knows what may happen. When you wash
the best dishes be careful, Jack dear, for I should feel very badly in
case any were broken."

"I'll attend to it in great shape, Aunt Nancy."

"Don't give Louis too much milk at a time, the weather is so hot that it
might curdle on his stomach; and if I don't succeed in getting home
until afternoon, there is some cold meat and cake on the hanging shelf
in the cellar. Don't go without a lunch; it is very unhealthy to work
while you are hungry."

"Who's dallying now, Aunt Nancy?" Mr. Chick cried as he tried to prevent
his horse from nibbling at the honeysuckle-bush.

"If you had come as you agreed I should have had plenty of time to
attend to matters," was the sharp reply; and then with many injunctions
for him to keep a firm hold on the reins, the little woman succeeded in
gaining the rather shaky seat.

"Take good care of Louis!" she cried as the horse ambled slowly down the
lane; and Jack re-entered the house feeling decidedly lonely at the
prospect of being without Aunt Nancy for several hours.

In order to occupy his mind he set about the work laid out, and was so
industrious that before the baby made known the fact of being awake, the
knives and forks had been cleaned.

Fully an hour was spent dressing and feeding Louis, after which he was
allowed to play on the kitchen floor while his crooked guardian washed
the "best dishes."

This was a task which required considerable time, and at eleven o'clock
it was hardly more than half finished.

Then again Louis wanted milk, and when it had been given him he insisted
upon being allowed to go out on the doorstep.

At first Jack was disposed to keep him in the house; but when he became
fretful, gave him his own way, as he said half to himself,--

"I don't s'pose there can be any harm in lettin' you stay here; but if
anything _should_ happen, Aunt Nancy would think I had been careless."

After that he kept a strict watch over the baby, going to the door every
few moments, and on each occasion finding Louis playing contentedly
with a string of buttons the little woman had prepared for him.

The fact that he showed no disposition to leave the broad stone caused
Jack to have less care than usual, and this, coupled with the idea of
cleaning the most elaborate dishes, rendered him oblivious to the flight
of time.

He was brought to a realization of what was passing around by hearing
the rumble of a carriage in the lane, and almost before he could reach
the door, Aunt Nancy was in the house, while Mr. Chick had driven away
at the full speed of his very slow horse.

"Did you get along all right, Jack dear?" the little woman asked, as she
deposited an armful of bundles on the table.

"Yes, indeed. You see there has been plenty of work, and it doesn't seem
any time since you left."

"Where is the baby?"

"On the doorstep. He fussed to go out, an' I thought the fresh air
wouldn't do him any harm."

"Which doorstep?"

"Why here, of course"; and Jack stepped forward only to give vent to a
cry of alarm an instant later. "He isn't here at all! Where do you
suppose he could have gone?"

Aunt Nancy was at the door before he ceased speaking, and gazed up and
down the yard in bewilderment, but without seeing any signs of the
missing baby.

For an instant the two stood gazing at each other in perplexity, and
then Aunt Nancy asked sharply,--

"How long since you saw him?"

"It didn't seem many minutes before you came; but I s'pose it must have
been, else he'd be 'round here now."

"Run up to the barn and see if he is there!"

As she spoke the little woman went down the lane, returning just as Jack
came back.

"He isn't there," the latter said.

"Nor on the road. Of course he must be somewhere near, for children
can't disappear entirely in such a mysterious fashion. Go up the lane
and I'll look back of the barn."

"But then we shall be leaving the barn alone You stay here an' I'll do
the searchin'."

"It wouldn't make any difference if we left the house wide open for a
month, I couldn't stand still while that dear little baby is wandering
around nobody knows where."

Jack understood that it would be useless to remonstrate, and started off
at full speed.

Up to the entire length of the lane he ran without finding that for
which he sought, and then back to the house where he was met by Aunt
Nancy on whose wrinkled face was written fear and anguish.

She did not wait for him to tell her that the search had been in vain,
but cried,--

"Go up through the field from the shed. There is a place where he might
have gotten through the fence, and it would lead directly to the duck
pond if he kept on in a straight line!"

There was a tone in her voice which told of the fear she had regarding
the possible ending of his adventures; and Jack, with a mental prayer
that he would find the little fellow before it was too late, ran across
the enclosure, Aunt Nancy going in the same direction, but at a slight
angle.

The little woman's anxiety gave fleetness to her feet, and she travelled
even faster than Jack could.

Both called loudly from time to time, but without receiving any answer,
and Jack's heart grew heavy as he thought of what might have happened
while he was in the house all unconscious of impending trouble.

As the two neared the pond the figure of a boy could be distinguished
among the foliage of alders running at full speed toward the main road,
and Jack shouted to Aunt Nancy,--

"There goes one of Bill Dean's gang. They know where Louis is."

This caused the little woman to redouble her cries, and a few seconds
later two more boys could be dimly seen as they hurried away, keeping
well within the shelter of the bushes to avoid recognition.

There was no longer any question in Jack's mind but that he would soon
find the baby, nor was he mistaken.

On arriving in view of the pond both saw a rudely constructed raft of
fence rails at least ten yards from the shore, and on it, crowing and
laughing as if he was having the jolliest possible time sat Louis.

"How can we reach him?" Aunt Nancy cried, as she stood wringing her
hands, while the big tears ran down her cheeks. "He will surely be
drowned, Jack! What is to be done?"

The hunchback had no thought of his own safety or discomfort as compared
with that of rescuing the baby.

Without hesitation he ran into the pond, continuing on at risk of being
mired, until the water was above his waist, and the baby held out his
hands to be taken.

[Illustration: Jack ran into the pond, until the water was above his
waist, and the baby held out his hands to be taken.--Page 147.]

"Sit still Louis, sit still an' Jack will come to you!"

It was impossible to run very fast through the water; and to Aunt Nancy,
who stood on the bank in helpless grief, it seemed as if the deformed
lad hardly moved, so slow was his progress.

More than once did it appear as if the baby would attempt to leave the
raft in order to meet his crooked guardian; but by dint of coaxing, Jack
succeeded in persuading him to remain seated until he gained his side.

Then he lifted the child in his arms, staggering ashore to where the
little woman stood waiting to receive him, and the rescue was
accomplished.

Aunt Nancy alternately laughed and cried as she pressed Louis closely to
her bosom, and Jack stood silently by, wondering whether he was to be
scolded for having so grossly neglected his charge.

It was several moments before she paid any attention to the older boy,
and then it was to exclaim,--

"Mercy on us, Jack! I had entirely forgotten you! Run home as soon as
possible, or you will catch your death a cold!"

"A wettin' won't hurt me on a warm day like this. I'm used to such
things."

"But you must change your clothes at once, and there's no other way but
to put on one of my dresses again."

Jack gave no heed to this suggestion, or command, whichever it might be
called. He was trying to understand how the baby could have come so far
without assistance, when Aunt Nancy said suddenly,--

"It doesn't take one loner to realize how the dear little fellow came
here. Those wicked boys must have found him near the shed, and brought
him to this place."

Several poles lying near by told how the raft was forced toward the
centre of the pond, and the fact that three fellows had been seen
running through the bushes was sufficient proof, at least to Aunt Nancy
and Jack, that Bill Dean and his friends had done the mischief.

"I should forget everything I ought to remember if I had that Dean boy
here this minute!" the little woman said angrily as she surveyed the
evidences of the cruel work. "It is a burning shame that such as he
should be allowed among decent people!"

"We don't know for certain that it was Bill Dean," Jack suggested.

"Yes, we do, for there is no other boy in this town who does such
things. I shall see his father again, and when I do it will be very hard
work to rule my spirit."

"It only makes them worse to complain."

"Then I will have him arrested!" And now Aunt Nancy spoke in such an
angry tone that Jack did not venture to reply; but he knew from past
experience that she would soon be sorry for having given way to her
temper.

Again the little woman spoke of Jack's condition as if she had not
noticed it before, and insisted on his coming home at once, although she
could not have supposed he wished to go anywhere else.

Louis apparently had no idea he had been exposed to danger, but laughed
and pulled at the tiny ringlets either side Aunt Nancy's face until her
anger vanished, and she said in a tone of penitence,--

"Really, Jack dear, I get frightened sometimes when I realize how wicked
I am growing. I can't seem to control my temper in anything which
concerns the baby, and goodness knows how it is all going to end. I
began by telling a lie, and now say terrible things on the slightest
provocation, though goodness knows this would have stirred up almost
any one. You see I took the first step, which is the hardest, and now
fall before the least temptation."

"You oughtent talk that way, Aunt Nancy. If everybody was as good as you
are, this would be an awful nice place to live in."

The little woman shook her head as if reproaching him for his words of
praise, but did not continue the subject, because by this time they had
arrived at the house, and it was necessary she should get the garments
Jack had worn once before.

Again the hunchback received a ducking under the pump, and then went out
to the barn to make his toilet.

"Come back as soon as you can, for I want to show you what I bought, and
between us we must decide what we shall have for supper to-morrow."

When Jack returned to the house, Aunt Nancy had her purchases arranged
on the table that he might see them to the best advantage, and then came
the discussion of what was a very important matter in the little woman's
mind.

"I bought citron so as to make that kind of cake if you think it would
be nicer than sponge, though I have always been very fortunate in making
sponge cake, and that is a good deal more than most people can say."

"Why not have both kinds?"

"I declare I never thought of that. It is the very thing, and I'll begin
at once while you finish the dishes. This time we'll see if between both
of us we can't keep Louis away from those wicked boys. I got a nice ham,
for that is always good cold, and I engaged two chickens from Daniel
Chick. Had we better have them roasted or boiled?"

"I thought this was to be only a supper."

"That's what it is; but it would never do to have but one kind of cold
meat. Why, if you'll believe me, Mrs. Souders had chicken, ham, and
tongue, to say nothing of soused pig's feet."

"Your supper'll be better'n hers if you make plenty of hot biscuit."

"I shall surely do that, and have loaf bread besides. I wonder if you
couldn't wait on the table?"

"Of course I can. That was what I did on board the 'Atlanta.'"

"Then we shall get along famously. Now help me clear off one end of this
table, and I'll begin work."

The little woman at once set about the task of preparing food for the
members of the sewing circle, and nothing was done without first asking
Jack's advice.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE SEWING CIRCLE.


So deeply engrossed was Aunt Nancy in the work of making ready for the
supper, that the indignities offered Louis by Bill Dean and his partners
passed almost unheeded for the time being.

It is true that now and then she would speak of what had been done,
announcing her intention of complaining again to Bill's father; but the
words would hardly be spoken before something in the culinary line
demanded her attention, and the subject would be dropped until a more
convenient season.

Jack labored most industriously, beating eggs, sifting flour, washing
pans, and keeping the fire roaring, thus doing his full share in the
important preparations.

Louis was forced to remain in the kitchen, despite his great desire to
get out of doors; and both Jack and the little woman kept strict watch
over him, but happily ignorant of the fact that hidden within the
friendly shelter of the alder-bushes were Bill Dean and his chums
watching another opportunity to get hold of the baby as before.

"The sewin' circle is goin' over to old Nancy's termorrer," Bill said in
a whisper, "an' we won't be smart if we don't get a chance to square off
with Hunchie."

"What do you count on doin'?" Sam Phinney asked.

"That's jest what we've got to fix up. The old woman will have her hands
full of company, an' it seems as if we might rig somethin' that'll pay.
Hunchie won't show himself outside the place, for he knows we're layin'
for him, an' our only show is to sneak in while the supper is goin' on."

"We can easy get in the shed an' wait for something to turn up," Jip
Lewis suggested; and the others thought this a very good idea.

"I'll cook up somethin' between now an' then," Bill said confidently.
"There ain't much chance they'll let that youngster out ag'in, so come,
go over on the hill an' see what the fellers there are doin'."

This had the effect of causing the party to adjourn without anything
having been accomplished save an agreement between the three that,
during the meeting of the sewing circle something should be done toward
settling matters with the boy who insisted upon remaining in town after
they had warned him to leave.

During the remainder of the day Aunt Nancy and Jack worked without
ceasing in the kitchen, and when night came the arrangements for the
company were so nearly completed that the little woman said with a sigh
of relief when she and her crooked-assistant were resting under the old
oak,--

"I declare, Jack dear, it is surprising how much we have done since
noon! I never could have gotten through without you, and don't
understand what I did before you came."

"I wish I could do more. It doesn't seem as if I worked half hard enough
to pay for what you've done to help Louis an' me."

"Bless you, child, I'd be paid a dozen times over if I had nothing more
than your company; and as for work, why, you've done twice as much as
Daniel Chick's daughter would in the same time, and I should have paid
her fifty cents, at least, if you hadn't been here."

"It doesn't seem very much anyhow; but if you're satisfied, why that
settles it, of course. I wonder if Bill Dean's crowd will try to get
hold of Louis again?"

"Not after I've seen his father, and that's just what I intend to do
when the circle meetin' is over. We had better get old crumple-horn in
the yard now so we can go to bed early, for I count on being at work by
sunrise to-morrow."

The chores were quickly done, the house searched once more for possible
intruders, the evening devotions concluded, and Jack went to his tiny
room happy in the thought that he had been of considerable assistance to
Aunt Nancy.

The finishing touches were completed by noon on the following day, and
the little woman was arrayed in all her antiquated finery to receive the
expected guests.

Jack had only the suit of clothes he had worn at the time of leaving the
"Atlanta," consequently very little could be done on his part toward
"dressing up"; but his face shone from repeated applications of soap and
water, his hair was combed until every portion of it looked as if it had
been fastened in place, and his shoes had a very high polish.

Louis's white frock had been washed and ironed, therefore he was, as
Aunt Nancy expressed it, "in apple-pie order, and as pretty a baby as
ever came into Maine."

"I suppose we shall have to put some of the horses in the stable, Jack
dear, for a good many of the people will ride, and the question is
whether you could unharness them?" Aunt Nancy said as she sat in the
"fore-room" awaiting the coming of the guests.

"I never did such a thing; but it can't be hard if a feller watches how
the harness comes off."

"You are smart enough to do almost anything. I'm certain there won't be
trouble," Aunt Nancy said in a tone of conviction, and then the rumble
of wheels on the lane told that the first of the "company" was coming.

The newcomer was Mrs. Souders, who drove a horse Jack felt confident he
could unharness; and as she alighted he stood by the head of the
venerable animal as he had seen regular grooms do in the city.

From that time until nearly three o'clock the hunchback was kept very
busy attending to the stable work.

Not less than ten horses were driven into the yard, and he was expected
to put them in a barn where were but two stalls, including the one it
would be necessary to reserve for old crumple-horn.

It was some time before he could solve the problem, but it was finally
done by hitching several to the fence outside, and standing the
remainder on the thrashing-floor.

The matter of harness and carriages troubled him considerably; but he
believed the owners of the same would be able to recognize their
property, therefore no attempt was made to keep them in regular order.

When the visitors ceased to arrive, and Aunt Nancy told him she did not
think any more were coming, he went to the pump for a thorough wash, and
while thus engaged heard a certain portion of the conversation which
came from the "fore-room" where the members of the circle were supposed
to be working very hard to relieve the poor and distressed by supplying
them with garments, each fashioned according to the fancy of its maker.

Not for a moment would Jack have thought of deliberately playing the
part of eavesdropper; but hearing reference made to Louis and himself,
it was only natural he should linger longer than was absolutely
necessary.

Mrs. Souders was speaking when he first came near the house, and he
heard her say quite sharply,--

"Why, Nancy Curtis, are you thinkin' of adoptin' a couple of children at
your time of life, an' one of 'em a worthless cripple that'll always be
a bill of expense? It seems as if you'd lived long enough in the world
to be more sensible."

"I'd like to know, Sarah Souders, why you think Jack is 'worthless'?"
the little woman asked in a tone of indignation.

"Because he can't be anything else. A hunchback isn't any better than a
reg'lar invalid, an' besides I've always heard it said they are terribly
conceited."

"Then this one is an exception. I never had a girl on the farm that
helped me as much as he does, and as for the baby--"

"That's it exactly," Mrs. Souders interrupted. "It seems that the
cripple isn't enough, but you are determined to make your cross heavier
by taking care of a baby, when it would be better to think of restin'
your old bones."

"If it is a pleasure to me, it would seem as if nothing should be said
against it," Aunt Nancy replied mildly. "I only wish it might be
possible for me to keep the little fellow as long as I live."

Then Jack heard that which told him Aunt Nancy was kissing the baby, and
he said to himself,--

"If these people think Aunt Nancy has no business to keep me here, I
s'pose they are right, an' I oughter go away."

"Of course you've the privilege of doing as you please, Nancy Curtis,"
Mrs. Souders continued, "but I must maintain that it is wrong for you to
be obliged to support two helpless children when it is hard work to make
both ends meet. I am only sayin' this for your own good, Nancy, an' both
Mrs. Hayes an' myself decided it was the duty of some one to talk with
you about it."

The little woman made no reply to this, and Jack was forced to leave the
pump, since his toilet had been completed.

"They've made her believe it," he said to himself as the tears would
persist in coming into his eyes, "an' it's my place to tell her I'll go.
Then she won't have any more trouble with Bill Dean's crowd."

He firmly believed it was necessary he and Louis should leave the farm,
and the knowledge that Aunt Nancy depended upon him during this day, at
least, was a positive pleasure.

It had been agreed he should wait upon the table.

Such dishes as could not well remain on the overladen board were to be
left in the small summer kitchen, and the little woman had arranged a
system of signals by which he could understand what she wanted.

Although it was yet too soon for supper, he went to his post of duty in
order to be ready at the earliest moment Aunt Nancy should require his
services, and there stayed, thinking mournfully of what he had heard.

In the mean while the stable was unguarded, for Jack had no idea danger
was to be apprehended from that quarter, and at about the same time he
entered the kitchen, Bill Dean said to his companions who had followed
him into the shed,--

"I did have a plan for some fun, fellers; but now there's a bigger show
than we ever struck. I don't reckon Hunchie knows very much about
harnessin' horses, an' even if he does we'll set him wild."

"How?" Sam asked in a whisper.

"It ain't likely anybody will go out to the barn till after supper, is
it?"

"Of course not."

"Then all we've got to do is to sneak around back of the stable. I know
how to get in from there, an' we'll mix them harnesses up in sich shape
that even Mike Crane himself couldn't put 'em together in less'n one
day."

"You're a brick, Bill, at fixin' things. Let's hurry, for it'll take
quite awhile."

With decidedly more care than was necessary, the conspirators crept out
of the shed, and, going around by the rear of the buildings, entered the
barn where Jack had left the harness.

There was not one in the party who would not have grumbled loud and long
had he been obliged to work as rapidly and hard as was necessary in
order to effect their purpose; but since it was mischief instead of
useful labor, neither so much as dreamed of complaining.

The harness belonging to the teams driven by Mrs. Souders and Mrs. Hayes
received the greater portion of their attention.

On them nearly every strap was shortened or lengthened, and other parts
interchanged, until one not thoroughly familiar with both could hardly
have recognized the original set.

Each in turn was overhauled, and when the mischief-makers left the barn
there was no question but that Jack would have great difficulty in
untangling the snarl, even if he should ever be able to do so.

"I reckon that will make all hands mad, an' Hunchie's the one who is
bound to get the blame," Bill said with a chuckle of satisfaction as
they stood for an instant at the rear of the barn. "Now where'll we
stay to watch the fun?"

"Out by the cow-yard. The grass is so tall nobody'll ever see us."

This appeared to be a good idea, and the three adopted it at once,
although all believed it must be several hours before Jack would be
called upon to harness the horses.

In the kitchen the deformed boy, with a heart so heavy it seemed as if
he could never smile again, waited patiently until a bustle from the
"fore-room" told that the guests were making preparations to discuss
Aunt Nancy's supper.

"They are getting ready to come," the little woman said excitedly, as
she entered the kitchen hurriedly. "Help me fill these plates with
biscuit, and then cover the rest over and leave them in the oven till
they are needed. I was afraid I should have bad luck with my bread; but
it seems to be all right."

"Them biscuit couldn't be better if the Queen of England had made 'em,"
Jack replied emphatically.

"I'm sure I don't know what kind of a breadmaker she may be; but I
wouldn't like to have it said that even a queen could do better than I,
taking it the whole year through, an' allowing for the trouble that
yeast will sometimes cause."

Aunt Nancy was ready to go into the main kitchen, which on this occasion
had been converted into a dining-room, and Jack followed close behind
with his hands full of plates.

It so chanced that the guests had not waited to be summoned, but came
from the "fore-room" under the pretence of assisting the little woman,
and Jack, who was walking quite rapidly, intent only on carrying the
dishes without accident, ran directly into Mrs. Souders.

That lady had never been celebrated for curbing her temper, and to-day
she appeared to be in a very ill-humor, probably because of something
which may have been said by her friends in the "fore-room."

Therefore, instead of treating the matter as an accident, and
acknowledging she had no business to be standing in the way of those who
were working, she wheeled suddenly and gave the cripple a resounding
blow on the ear, which sent him headlong, scattering plates and biscuit
in every direction.

"You little beggar!" she screamed, as her face grew crimson with rage.
"I didn't come here to have any of your low tricks played on me. If
Nancy Curtis hasn't got spirit enough to give you a lesson, I'll do it
myself."

She stepped quickly toward poor Jack, who stood silent and motionless
surveying the wreck of Aunt Nancy's best crockery, never for a moment
thinking the guest had any idea of inflicting further punishment, and
seized him by the coat collar.

Jack involuntarily threw up his arm to ward off the blow; but the heavy
hand descended twice in rapid succession, and then it was grasped from
behind as the little woman's voice, trembling with suppressed rage, was
heard,--

"Sarah Souders, aren't you ashamed to strike a cripple?"

"Indeed I'm not when it is one like this, whose place is at the poor
farm rather than in decent people's houses"; and the lady would have
repeated the blow but for the fact that Aunt Nancy clung to her with
nervous desperation.

"Don't you _dare_ strike that child again, Sarah Souders!" she cried. "I
am trying hard to rule my spirit, but the struggle may be too much for
my strength, and then I shall say that which would make me sorry
afterward."

"You should be sorry now when you reject the advice of your best
friends," Mrs. Souders replied; but she released her hold of Jack's
collar, and he began gathering up the fragments of crockery and bread.

"If you mean that I ought to throw these children, who have made my life
happier than it has been for many years, out on to a world of such
hard-hearted people as you, then it is time you tried to understand the
meaning of the word 'charity,'" the little woman said with a slight
tremor of the voice as she stepped back a few paces from her angry
guest. "The fault was yours, so far as his running into you was
concerned. He was doing his work, and you were in his way."

"I didn't suppose your foolishness had gone so far that you would uphold
the crooked little beggar when he deliberately insults one who has been
your best friend."

"He had no intention of insulting you, and I do not want him called a
beggar, for he isn't. Even though he was, I have yet to learn that
poverty is a crime."

"I see plainly this is no place for me. The most you can do now is to
turn me out of doors."

"I do not wish to do anything of the kind, but feel called upon to
advise that you think the matter over before speaking again."

"That is sufficient, Nancy Curtis, quite sufficient. Jane Hayes, will
you go with me, or do you prefer to remain?"

"I shall stay here," Mrs. Hayes replied; and with a fling of her skirts,
which was probably intended to express both indignation and injury
received, Mrs. Souders sailed out of the room.



CHAPTER XIV.

AFTER THE STORM.


Jack who had gathered up the fragments and swept the crumbs from the
floor, now looked about him in alarm.

The sense of having been wrongly treated was overpowered by the thought
that he was the cause, however innocent, of plunging Aunt Nancy into new
troubles.

It seemed just then as if he was pursued by some unkind fate which
brought to him and those who befriended him all manner of misfortune.

During fully a minute after Mrs. Souders drifted so majestically from
the room, not a word was spoken.

Aunt Nancy stood leaning against the table, a vivid red spot glowing on
either cheek, and holding her hand over her heart as if to repress its
beatings.

The guests gathered around her, each trying at the same time to express
her opinion of what had occurred,--a proceeding which resulted only in
a perfect Babel of confusion.

The little woman soon recovered her composure sufficiently to remember
her duties as hostess, and said to Jack in a low tone,--

"Do you think you can harness Mrs. Souders's horse? We mustn't forget
the courtesy we owe a guest, no matter what has happened."

"I can do it if she will show me which wagon an' harness is hers. You
see there were so many teams comin' all at once I couldn't keep run of
'em."

"Go out and do the best you can. Very likely she will be at the stable
by the time you get there."

Jack hurried away feeling rather uncertain as to what the result would
be when he was alone with the angry woman, but determined to remain
silent whatever she might say.

On reaching the barn he had but little difficulty in deciding upon the
carriage he believed belonged to Mrs. Souders, and was backing it into
the yard when that lady arrived.

"Are you so stupid that you can't tell one wagon from another?" she
asked sharply.

"Isn't this yours, ma'am?"

"No, it isn't, and you know as well as I do."

"I never saw it but once, an' that was when there were a good many here.
If you'll pick it out, an' show me the harness, I'll soon have the horse
hitched up."

"I suppose Nancy Curtis told you to get rid of me as soon as possible;
what you did in the dining-room wasn't enough, eh?"

"Indeed she didn't; an', if you please, ma'am, I couldn't tell where you
was goin' to step when I had my arms full of dishes."

"You needn't talk to me. If Nancy Curtis is fool enough to put you above
your place, it's no reason why you should think others haven't good
sense. That is my carriage, and the sooner it is ready the better I'll
be pleased."

Jack wheeled out the vehicle she designated, and then asked,--

"Now will you tell me which is your harness an' horse?"

"You're a bigger fool than I took you to be," was the reply, as the lady
rushed like a small-sized tornado into the barn, and, after some
difficulty, succeeded in finding the animal, which was hitched with the
others on the thrashing-floor. "Couldn't even find a stall for him! I
don't know what's come over Nancy Curtis since you brats arrived at this
place!"

Then she examined the pile of harness, expressing her opinion very
forcibly because Jack had laid them on the floor instead of hanging each
set on pegs; but to find her own was more than she could do.

"Take any one of them," she finally said in an angry tone, wiping the
perspiration from her flushed face.

Jack obeyed without a word, but, thanks to the efforts of Bill Dean and
his partners, neither he nor Mrs. Souders could gear the horse.

One set of harness was much too large, and another so small a goat could
hardly have worn it, while all were strapped together in the oddest
fashion.

This Mrs. Souders believed was owing to Jack's carelessness or ignorance
while unharnessing the horses, and the more she struggled to fit one
without regard to ownership the greater became her anger, until it was
almost beyond bounds.

"My husband shall hear of this," she said wrathfully. "Put that horse
right back, and he will come over to undo your wicked tricks. Don't
speak to me, you little pauper," she cried as the cripple was about to
reply; and dealing him a blow on the ear which sent him reeling against
the animal, the lady walked rapidly out of the barn.

Jack rubbed the injured member an instant, looked about ruefully,
wondering what could have happened to the harness, led the horse back to
his place, and went out of the barn just in time to see Mrs. Souders
sailing around the corner of the lane into the main road.

He walked slowly to the house, arriving there as the guests had seated
themselves at the table, and Aunt Nancy, who looked as if she had been
crying, asked,--

"Why didn't Mrs. Souders go with her team?"

Jack told the story of the bewitched harness, adding in conclusion,--

"I took every piece off as carefully as I knew how, and laid them on the
floor, because there wasn't any pegs or nails to hang them on. Now it
seems like as if nothing was right, an' in the whole lot we couldn't
find a single thing which would fit."

The guests looked at each other in surprise and alarm, probably thinking
if Mrs. Souders didn't succeed in getting her team with the entire
collection to choose from, their chances of leaving Aunt Nancy's save by
walking were exceedingly slim.

A flood of questions were poured forth on the hapless Jack, who could
only repeat his former statement.

The matter was now becoming so serious that Aunt Nancy's inviting meal
no longer had sufficient charms to command their attention, and the
entire party insisted on visiting the barn at once to ascertain for
themselves the true condition of affairs.

With the baby in her arms, Aunt Nancy led the way.

Bill Dean and his friends, seeing the procession coming, were not at a
loss to divine the meaning of this sudden exodus from the house.

"This is gettin' too hot for us," Bill said in a whisper. "With all them
old women around we'll be found for certain, an' the quicker we skin out
of here the safer we'll be."

His partners were of the same opinion, only a trifle more frightened,
and their terror caused them to do a very foolish thing.

Instead of crawling under shelter of the grass until they were at a safe
distance, Sam and Jip leaped to their feet, running at full speed toward
the road.

As a matter of course Bill was bound to follow the example, thinking how
pleased he would be to have his hands on Jip for a single moment in
order to punish him for his cowardice, and thus the conspirators stood
revealed.

"I think we can understand now what has happened to the harness," Mrs.
Hayes said as she pointed towards the fugitives, "and I for one say it's
time that Dean boy was made to believe it is dangerous to play such
tricks."

The red spots came on Aunt Nancy's cheeks again as she gazed after the
retreating figures, and from the nervous working of her fingers Jack
understood she was using every effort to "rule her spirit."

As she stood silent and motionless, heeding not the fact that Louis was
pulling her ringlets out of shape, some of the other ladies continued on
to the barn, and a single glance at the mismated harness convinced them
it was useless to attempt straightening matters.

"It is foolish to stand here while the biscuit are getting cold," Mrs.
Hayes finally said. "Let us go and get supper, after which there will be
plenty of time to think over what should be done."

The majority of the party shared this opinion, and Aunt Nancy was
literally led back to her own home, while the guests divided their
attention between the bountiful supper and a discussion as to how Bill
Dean and his associates could best be suppressed.

None of the party had had more than three cups of tea when Mr. Souders
arrived looking very warm because of his long walk, and decidedly angry
in consequence of the report made by his wife.

He first demanded an interview with Jack, who was sitting in the kitchen
fully occupied with his mournful thoughts; but when the ladies began to
explain matters relative to the mischief done, he could not but believe
the hunchback was innocent of the charges brought against him by Mrs.
Souders.

"I'll take Bill Dean in hand myself," he said with an ominous gesture.
"There is plenty of time for that; but I reckon fixing things in the
barn will last longer. Can you lend me the cripple for a while, Aunt
Nancy?"

The little woman called Jack, explained that he was to assist the
gentleman, and as the two went toward the barn she said feelingly,--

"It makes very little difference what people may say, although I would
rather have the good will of a dog than his ill will; but if I can
prevent it that boy shall not leave this farm unless relatives come
forward to claim him."

Several united with Aunt Nancy in praising Jack, and since the others
remained silent there was no opportunity for a disagreeable argument.

It did not require many seconds for Mr. Souders to see that the harness
had been tampered with, and he said in a cheery tone, which was a
delightful contrast to the one used a short time previous by his wife,
as he pulled off his coat,--

"I reckon you an' I have a big contract ahead of us, my boy. It would
puzzle a lawyer to fix all these as they should be, and the most we can
hope for is to put the sets together so the old women may go home. We'll
begin with mine, an' see what can be made of the job."

It was a long and tedious task, and before it had been half completed
Jack was so well pleased with the gentleman that he said
confidentially,--

"Mr. Souders, I don't want you to think I tried to insult your wife. It
was an accident which I couldn't prevent, an' you see for yourself I
wasn't to blame for this muss."

"Don't worry about it, my boy. Mother is a leetle hot-headed with a
powerful dislike to youngsters 'cause she hain't got any of her own; but
I'll venter to say she's sorry as a cat this very minute for what's been
said an' done. If you knowed her little ways you wouldn't mind anything
about it; but I'm put out to think she laid her hands on a poor cripple
like you."

"It wasn't that which made me feel so bad as to have her think I would
act mean."

"She don't believe a word of what she said by this time, an' for that
I'll go bail. There's no use talkin' 'bout it now; I allow you'll see
her ag'in mighty soon. Have you been havin' a great deal of trouble with
Bill Dean?"

Jack was not disposed to tell very much lest it should be thought he was
complaining; but Mr. Souders finally succeeded in drawing from him a
full account of the threats made.

"You sha'n't be troubled any more, my boy, that I'll answer for. Bill is
pretty wild, but I reckon we can tame him down a bit before another day
goes by."

"I wouldn't like any of the fellows to say I'd been carryin' tales,
sir."

"Neither have you. Aunt Nancy's life is bein' worried pretty nigh out of
her, an' that's enough to give me a right to interfere."

Jack did not think it proper to tell anything more regarding his
experiences with the village boys, and, as a matter of fact, would have
preferred saying nothing whatever to Mr. Souders until he had talked
with Aunt Nancy.

Before the gentleman left the barn he so far sorted out the harness that
it was possible to gear up his own team, and Jack thought best to get
each one ready while he had the opportunity to call upon such a valuable
assistant.

When the two returned to the house the supper was ended, and one of the
ladies held Louis in her arms while Aunt Nancy and several of the guests
washed the dishes.

Then Jack milked old crumple-horn, and when the last of the visitors
departed all of the chores had been done, therefore nothing prevented he
and Aunt Nancy from discussing the events of the day.

"I can't say I'm sorry William Dean cut up as he did," the little woman
said, "for it has given Mr. Souders a chance to see what he really would
do, and there is reason to believe the boy will be obliged to mend his
ways."

Jack had very little interest in Bill Dean at that moment.

He was thinking only of the conversation he heard from the "fore-room,"
and had determined the matter should be settled finally before he
retired.

"It seems as if most of the folks think I oughtn't to stay here makin'
you feed me," he began.

"Bless my soul, what has put that idea into your head, my child?"

"I heard what Mrs. Souders said in the front-room before supper."

Aunt Nancy looked around quickly as a shade of displeasure passed over
her face.

"I'm sorry you did hear it, Jack dear; but you must not be so foolish as
to let it worry you. I am old enough to attend to my own affairs, and,
even if I wasn't, Sarah Souders is not the one to whom I should go for
advice."

"But, Aunt Nancy, my being here makes trouble for you with your
neighbors, and I have been thinking it would be better for Louis an' I
to go away at once."

"Your being here has very little to do with the trouble I may have. It
is my own wicked self. I began by telling a lie to that man from
Scarborough, and one sin surely leads to others. You are of great
assistance to me, and I should be more sorry than I can say if you went
away."

Jack was about to make some reply, but before the words could be spoken,
Aunt Nancy checked him by laying her hand on his shoulder as she said,--

"Don't argue the matter, Jack dear. We are all tired enough to go to
bed, and we'll make ready by searching the house again. After what has
happened since noon it wouldn't surprise me the least little mite, if we
found half a dozen burglars in hiding."



CHAPTER XV.

BROTHER ABNER.


When Jack retired on this night he was far from feeling comfortable in
mind.

Aunt Nancy had literally obliged him to cease speaking of the matter,
and during the evening devotions prayed so fervently that she might be
forgiven for acting a lie, it really distressed him.

She had done it solely for him, and he felt personally responsible for
her mental trouble.

It caused the little woman great anxiety as he could well understand
from the fact that she referred to the subject very frequently, and
never ceased to sue for pardon.

As has been said, Jack did not think the little woman did any great
wrong; but since she believed it, the case was as serious to her as if a
deadly crime had been committed.

He remained awake a long while trying to decide what should be done, and
more than once was he tempted to run the risk of calling upon Farmer
Pratt to explain all the circumstances, in order to relieve Aunt Nancy's
mind.

To do this would be, as he firmly thought, neither more nor less than
voluntarily condemning himself to the poor farm; but Louis would be safe
from the ignominy, and he would be doing the little woman a very great
favor.

He had decided upon nothing when sleep visited his eyelids, and on the
following morning there was so much to be done around the house he could
not find any opportunity to study the subject.

Aunt Nancy believed it necessary to clean nearly every portion of the
house, and as a matter of course he assisted.

Louis was really neglected on this day. Having been allowed to play on
the floor to his heart's content, neither his crooked guardian nor Aunt
Nancy paid very much attention to him.

Not until late in the afternoon was the labor brought to a close, and
then the tired ones sought rest under the big oak.

Jack was about to broach the subject which occupied the greater portion
of his thoughts, when the rumble of wheels at the end of the lane caused
him to look up in alarm.

"Who is that?" he asked excitedly, fearing lest it might be a messenger
from Farmer Pratt.

"Only Deacon Downs. He sometimes stops on his way home from Treat's
store to see if anything is needed. I buy a good many vegetables of
him."

On this occasion the deacon had not called for any such purpose.

He reined in his horse near where Aunt Nancy was sitting, and, refusing
her invitation to "get out and visit," unbuttoned his coat in a
deliberate manner, saying slowly as he did so,--

"I found this 'ere for you down to Treat's, an' kinder 'lowed you'd be
wantin' it."

Then fully a moment more was spent before the article referred to was
produced, and, meanwhile, Aunt Nancy was in a mild state of excitement
through curiosity.

"Something for me? What is it, Deacon?"

"Wait till I find the pesky thing. I put it in this pocket so there
shouldn't be any chance of losin' it, an' now I wouldn't be surprised if
it had slipped out."

Aunt Nancy came close to the wagon watching the old gentleman's every
movement, her face expressing the liveliest impatience; but the visitor
did not gratify her curiosity until having found that for which he
sought.

"Here it is," he said, as he handed her a letter, "an' seein's how it's
stamped Binghamton, I wouldn't be surprised if it was from Abner, for I
don't reckon you know anybody but him in York State, Nancy?"

"Of course it's from Abner, and you gave me almost a shock, Deacon, for
I couldn't imagine what you had found of mine."

"I don't allow there's any bad news, eh?" and the visitor waited as if
expecting Aunt Nancy would open the letter at once.

"It's only in regard to some business, Deacon," the little woman replied
in a tone which told she did not intend to read the missive until she
should be alone.

"I don't reckon he's thinkin' of comin' here this summer?"

"Dear me, no. Abner's getting too old to go gallivantin' 'round the
country very much, an' it's a powerful long journey from here to York
State."

"You're right, Nancy; but you know Abner allers was a master hand at
travellin'."

Then the deacon, despairing of getting a glimpse of the letter, urged
the aged horse into a slow trot, and the occupants of the Curtis farm
were alone once more.

"The deacon is a real obliging neighbor," Aunt Nancy said as the rumble
of wheels died away in the distance, "but terribly inquisitive. He
thought I would read Abner's letter so he'd know what was going on, and
perhaps I might have done so if it hadn't been concerning your business,
which should be kept to ourselves."

"Do you s'pose he has found out anything about Louis's father?" Jack
asked, eager to learn the contents of the letter, but not feeling at
liberty to hurry the little woman.

"I don't think there is any doubt about it"; and Aunt Nancy tore open
the envelope with a slowness and deliberation which was almost
provoking.

During the next five minutes Jack waited impatiently to hear "brother
Abner's" reply; but nothing was said until the letter had been read
carefully twice over, and then Aunt Nancy exclaimed as she took off her
spectacles,--

"Well, I declare!"

"Does he know the captain?"

"He's never heard of him! It's so surprising when I think of how many
people he used to be acquainted with when he lived here."

"What does he say about it?"

"Nothing of any consequence, and writes as if he was provoked because I
asked the question. Wants to know how I suppose he can find a man who
was exploded in a vessel at sea; and I can't say but there is
considerable good sense in his asking that, for of course when the ship
blowed to pieces that settled the whole thing."

"But the captain might have been saved, and, besides, while we were in
sight the 'Atlanta' looked whole and sound as before the explosion."

"But if she didn't go to pieces why hasn't the captain come after his
son?"

This was a question which Jack could not answer, and had to remain
silent.

"According to Abner's story, he don't know many of the York State folks
except them as lives in Binghamton. Perhaps he's settling down, and
isn't as newsy as when he was with me."

"If he can't help us, what are Louis an' I to do?"

"Stay here, of course."

"But, Aunt Nancy, I must try to find Louis's relations, even if his
father and mother are dead."

"I reckon you're bound to do that somehow; but there's no sense in
trying to walk to New York while the weather is so hot."

Then the little woman, as if believing the matter had been finally
settled, began to speak of the subject which was very near her heart,
and for at least the hundredth time Jack was forced to listen to her
lamentations because of the equivocation when Farmer Pratt called.

It was particularly hard for him to remain quiet during her
self-accusations, for now that it was useless to expect "brother Abner"
could do anything in the way of learning the details concerning the fate
of the good ship "Atlanta," it seemed in the highest degree important to
decide upon some course of action.

He was well content to stay where he was a certain time; but it seemed
as if he should have at least some idea of what was to be done in the
future.

Aunt Nancy did not give him an opportunity to discuss the matter,
however, and when the hour came to search the house for supposed
burglars he was in a fine state of perplexity.

On the following morning it seemed as if the little woman had dismissed
all such thoughts from her mind, for whenever she spoke to Jack it was
upon anything rather than how he might best accomplish that which he
believed to be his duty.

He noticed she was particularly tender toward Louis, and gave him an
unusual amount of attention when she thought he and she were alone.

It was on this day Mrs. Souders called, and during fully half an hour
was closeted with Aunt Nancy, after which she met Jack in the yard when
her greeting was more than cordial, but never a word was spoken in
reference to the incidents of the day she allowed anger to overcome
judgment.

Since Jack had not expected anything in the way of an apology, he was
agreeably surprised by the change in her manner toward him, and felt
that ample reparation had been made.

What the lady may have said to Aunt Nancy will never be known, for the
little woman maintained the most perfect secrecy regarding it, despite
the fact that Jack questioned her as closely as he dared.

It was on the evening of this day when they were sitting under the old
oak, and Louis was playing in front of them, that Bill Dean walked
boldly into the yard, accosting Aunt Nancy as if he and she were on the
most friendly terms.

Jack was so thoroughly surprised that he experienced the sensation of
one who has suddenly been plunged into cold water, for the assurance of
the boy was more than he could understand until Master Dean handed Aunt
Nancy a printed circular, as he said,--

"I've been hired to carry these around, an' I know you allers go to camp
meetin', so I stopped here first. I s'pose you think I'm kinder tough;
but them as come here lookin' for jobs without wantin' to work ain't so
good as you believe they are."

"I don't intend to argue with you, William; but you know very well I
have good reason to feel harsh toward you."

"Why, what have I done?" and Bill looked as innocent as a lamb.

"It would be better if you asked what you haven't done," and the little
woman spoke in the most severe tone. "In the first place you drove away
a well-disposed boy last summer, and are now trying to do the same by
poor little crippled Jack."

"I don't see how you can say sich a thing, Aunt Nancy"; and Bill assumed
an injured expression.

"Didn't you mix up the harness when the circle met here, and didn't you
try to drown the baby?"

"Me drown a baby?" Bill cried in a horrified tone.

"Yes, it was you and your friends who carried him to the duck pond and
set him adrift on a raft."

"Now, Aunt Nancy, it ain't right to talk agin me in this way"; and a
stranger would have said that Bill was on the point of crying.

"Why, William Dean, I saw you running away!"

"I ain't sayin' you didn't; but that's nothin' to do with the baby. When
I came across the field he was at the pond, an' I didn't know what he
might do to my raft. Before I got up to him he was sailin' like all
possessed, an' when you came I run away for fear you'd want me to wade
in after him."

Aunt Nancy's eyes opened wide in astonishment at this marvellous story,
and while she felt convinced it was false, she would not accuse him of
telling a lie without having something in the way of evidence against
him.

"At least I know you fought with Jack because he wouldn't promise to go
away," she said after quite a long pause.

Louis's guardian tried to prevent this last remark by a look, but was
unsuccessful, and Bill replied boldly,--

"There ain't any use sayin' I didn't, 'cause it's true; but us fellers
only was doin' what we had a right."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Why, we've got a license from the s'lectmen to do all the chores 'round
this neighborhood, an' had to pay a mighty big price for it. Do you
s'pose we'll let any other fellers come in an' take the bread an' butter
outer our mouths after we've scraped the cash together to pay the town
tax for that kind of business?"

This statement was rather more than even Aunt Nancy could credit, and
she said quite sharply,--

"William Dean, I won't have you standing there telling such wrong
stories! You must think I'm a natural born idiot to listen."

"It's the truth all the same, and if Hunchie don't clear out he won't
get along very easy. Good by, Aunt Nancy, I s'pose I'll see you at camp
meetin', for all the old maids will be there."

Bill did not linger in the lane after this last remark, but went quickly
out into the highway, leaving the little woman literally gasping with
surprise and indignation.

"It's no disgrace to be an old maid," she said when it was once more
possible for her to speak; "but I won't have an impudent boy like
William Dean throwing it in my face as if it was something to be
ashamed about."

"I wouldn't pay any 'tention to him," Jack replied consolingly. "You're
nicer than any woman _I_ ever saw, an' he'd be only too glad if you was
as much of a friend to him as you are to me."

Aunt Nancy leaned over and kissed the little cripple on the forehead as
she said in a low tone,--

"You are a good boy, Jack dear, and would be a great comfort to me if we
were never to part until the good God calls me home."



CHAPTER XVI.

A HURRIED DEPARTURE.


It was not until the following morning that Aunt Nancy paid any
particular attention to the circular regarding camp meeting which Bill
Dean had brought.

Then, as Jack came in from milking, she said with a suddenness which
caused the boy to start in surprise,--

"I have been thinking about the camp meeting. What is your opinion?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"You remember the paper which William Dean brought last night?"

"Yes."

"Well, it was the time-table of the trains which run to the grounds.
Somehow your coming upset me so I had forgotten all about the meeting,
and if I should miss it, it would be the first time since I was quite a
young girl."

"When does it begin?"

"Day after to-morrow."

"Why don't you go? I can stay here an' take care of crumple-horn and
Louis well enough."

"Bless you, child, I wouldn't think of leaving you alone three or four
days."

"Would you be gone as long as that?"

"A great many stay the whole week, and I did one year; but it was almost
too tedious."

"Well, both of us couldn't be away at the same time, an'--"

"Why not?"

"Because the cow must be milked an' put in the barn."

"Daniel Chick's daughters have always done that for me, and would
again."

"But what about Louis?"

"I have been wondering whether I couldn't take him with me."

"It would be terrible hard work to lug a baby 'round all the time."

"If you went I should be relieved of the greater portion of that care."

"It seems as if you had pretty nigh made up your mind already."

"There is only one thing which prevents me, and I can't figure it out,"
the little woman said with an air of anxiety.

"What is it?" Jack asked in surprise.

"I don't know that it is prudent to spare the money. You see it won't be
long now before the summer boarders come, and it costs a great deal to
get ready for them."

Jack could make no reply. This was a question about which he was
ignorant, and there was a certain hesitation on his part regarding the
discussion of such a subject when he could do nothing to forward the
matter by pecuniary aid.

No more was said until after breakfast, when Mrs. Hayes came in, looking
excited and breathless.

"Haven't you done anything about going to camp meeting, Nancy Curtis?"
she cried, as she swung the big rocking-chair around and would have sat
on Louis had not Jack called her attention to the fact by pulling the
baby from his dangerous position.

"I was just speaking about it, but don't know as I shall go."

"But you must, Nancy. The children can stay at my house."

"If I went they would go with me," the little woman replied, in a tone
which told she was not willing to discuss that question.

"Very well, there is nothing to prevent. Daniel Chick will take his big
tent, and he says you're welcome to use as much of it as you want."

"He is very good, I'm sure."

"And you'll go, of course? It wouldn't seem like a camp meeting if you
wasn't there; and, besides, we always look to you for the coffee. Deacon
Downs says it's one of the pleasures of the week to drink Aunt Nancy's
Mocha."

"I do try to get the best, and when that has been done any one can make
it good," the little woman said as her withered cheeks flushed with
pleasure at the compliment, while never for a moment did she fancy this
praise might have been given only that she should supply the occupants
of the tent with their morning beverage.

"Then it is settled, you will go?" and Mrs. Hayes arose to her feet. "I
can't stop a minute, but felt I must run over to find out if you'd begun
preparations."

"I haven't, and whether you see me there or not depends. I will let you
know to-morrow."

"But you must go, because we won't take no for an answer."

Aunt Nancy shook her head as if to say the matter was very uncertain,
and the visitor took her departure, insisting that the townspeople
"couldn't get along without their coffee maker."

"I'm sure I don't know what to do," the little woman said with a
long-drawn sigh when she and Jack were alone.

"If you haven't money enough, why not leave me an' Louis here alone?
I'll be awful careful with the house, an' there can't any accident
happen."

"I'm not afraid to trust you, Jack dear; but as I told Mrs. Hayes, it
isn't to be thought of for a minute."

"Ain't there some way I might earn the money?"

"Bless you, no, child. Even if I was willing you should do such a thing,
there isn't any time. The most expensive part of it is that I have
always furnished the coffee for all in the tent, and it does take a
powerful lot to go around. Why, Deacon Downs himself can drink three
cups of a morning, an' then look around sort of wishfully for another. I
always give it to him, too, if there's enough left in the pot."

Jack felt very badly because he could do nothing toward helping the
little woman out of her difficulty, while Louis laughed and crowed as if
he thought the whole affair decidedly comical.

Aunt Nancy bustled around the house performing a great deal of
unnecessary work, her forehead knitted into a frown which showed she
was thinking the matter over in the most serious fashion, and Jack
watched her every movement.

Finally the problem was solved, for her face lighted up as, taking Louis
in her arms and seating herself in the rocking-chair, she said
cheerily,--

"I don't think William Dean would attempt to make trouble for you now,
Jack dear."

"Neither do I. Mr. Souders probably scolded him for mixin' up the
harness, and he won't bother me."

"Do you feel quite certain of that?"

"Indeed I do."

"Then would it be too much of a walk for you to go to Treat's store?"

"Of course it wouldn't, Aunt Nancy. You've only to say the word, an'
I'll be off like a shot."

Jack had seized his hat as he spoke, and appeared to be on the point of
rushing away without waiting for the message, when she stopped him by
saying,--

"There's no need of such haste. It will take me some time to fix the
errand so you can do it. Last season Daniel Chick farmed the back field
for me on shares, and I have quite a lot of wheat on hand. Mr. Treat
wanted to buy it, and now I'm going to accept his offer. In case he
still wants it, you must bring back some things from the store."

"Am I to get the coffee?"

"No, that would be too large a bundle. I'll write Mr. Treat a letter,
and the remainder of the business you can arrange."

Jack was delighted at being able to do something toward settling the
vexed question, and waited very impatiently for the little woman to make
her preparations.

This was quite a long task because a letter was to be written, and after
that a list of articles prepared; but finally Aunt Nancy completed the
work, and Jack set off at full speed with a generous supply of bread and
butter in a neatly tied parcel.

He returned before she fancied he could have more than gotten there, and
brought with him the goods required.

"Mr. Treat says he'll tell Daniel Chick to haul the wheat, and you shall
know how much there is as soon as it can be weighed. If you want
anything more you shall send for it."

"Did he say I could have some money?" Aunt Nancy asked anxiously.

"He told me to tell you to call on for cash or goods up to thirty
dollars, for he was certain it would amount to as much as that."

"Then everything will be fixed without any trouble, and I will tell Mrs.
Hayes we shall go to the camp meeting. Now, Jack dear, lie down a little
while and get rested so you can help me. We must do a great deal of
cooking before to-morrow night."

During the remainder of the afternoon and the day following, the
household was in as great a state of confusion and excitement as when
arrangements were being made for the sewing circle.

Aunt Nancy, assisted by Jack, cooked provisions sufficient to have kept
a much larger family in food fully two weeks; but the little woman
explained she "never liked to go to camp meeting without having
something to give those who might come hungry."

The neighbors, and, more particularly, Deacon Downs, had called to
ascertain if "the coffee maker" was really going, and Daniel Chick
promised to come for her with his wagon at an early hour the following
morning.

The deacon agreed to attend to the transportation of the Mocha, and on
the evening before the journey was to be made everything appeared to be
in "apple-pie order," although to Aunt Nancy's eyes the house was far
from being in a proper condition.

Jack was both tired and excited.

The prospect of going to a camp meeting pleased him wonderfully, for he
had never attended one, and fancied it was something intended for sport
rather than anything serious.

The baskets were packed; Louis's suit of white clothes stiff with starch
and without a blemish; Jack's boots were polished until they shone like
a mirror; and Aunt Nancy spent considerable time bewailing the fact that
she could not afford to buy him a new coat and pair of trousers.

Not until late was the little woman ready to retire, and it appeared to
Jack as if he had just fallen asleep when she awakened him to milk the
cow.

After feeding the animal it seemed as if a very long time would elapse
before it would be possible for him to do the same again, and he patted
her sleek sides affectionately as he explained that one of Mr. Chick's
daughters would take his place during the next three or four days.

It isn't very likely the animal understood what he said, but she was
perfectly willing to part with him, since it was to exchange the stuffy
barnyard for the cool, inviting pasture.

The milk was strained and put out on the doorsteps for Miss Chick, since
Aunt Nancy could not take it with her, and then a hurried breakfast was
eaten. None too soon, either, for the meal had just been finished when
Mr. Chick drove up, fretting considerably because the party were not
ready to get into the vehicle instantly he arrived.

Half a dozen times was Jack sent to make certain this door or that was
fastened securely, and the owner of the wagon worked himself into a
state of profuse perspiration before Aunt Nancy finally announced she
was ready.

Jack thoroughly enjoyed the ride to the depot, four miles away.

The odor of the flowers and grasses was heavy on the cool air; the birds
sang their hymns of thanksgiving that the new day had come; and the
trees whispered together of the goodness of the Creator in making for
his creatures such a beautiful place in which to live.

"It seems almost wicked to enjoy a scene like this when there are so
many poor people who never see the country from one year's end to
another," Aunt Nancy said, as she looked around in delight; and Mr.
Chick replied, speaking much as if he had a cold in his head,--

"It's for us to take all the enjiment that comes in this world, an'
leave others to bear the burdens which are put upon them."

"If that is good doctrine, Daniel Chick, I'd like to know how you'd
fancied a dose of it when you was down with the rheumatiz an' depended
upon the neighbors to gather the crops?"

"That was a different matter, Nancy Curtis."

"In what way?"

"Well, you see--I--I--p'rhaps I can't explain it so's you an' the
children can understand; but there was a difference."

"Only because you can't put yourself in the situation of others. The
Golden Rule is good enough for me yet, and I don't think I'll change it
for yours."

This brief conversation had no effect on Jack, nor would he have thought
it an important matter if Mr. Chick had attempted to prove the little
woman was wrong. His faith in Aunt Nancy was so great that whatever she
said was to him a truth not to be disputed.

On arriving at the depot it was learned they were fully an hour too
early for the train, and Jack mourned the fact that he might have
remained at home long enough to put the barn in better order.

It was a large party who intended to make the journey on this morning,
and to Jack's dismay he saw Bill Dean and his particular friends arrive
about half an hour before the time for leaving.

If it had been possible he would have remained out of sight; but the
station was small, and Aunt Nancy insisted he should stand where she
could keep her eyes on him, consequently it was not many moments before
Master Dean recognized him.

"Oh, dear! _is_ he going? and _must_ we be in fear and trembling of him
all the time we stay?" Aunt Nancy said pathetically as she saw the three
boys approaching. "Keep close to me, Jack dear, and if he attempts any
mischief I'll appeal for help to Deacon Downs."

Bill, however, did not intend to commit any overt act while there were
so many around who would not hesitate about dealing out justice to him
without delay.

He contented himself by walking slowly around Aunt Nancy and Jack, as he
said to Jip Lewis,--

"I didn't think we stood so much of a chance to have a good time at camp
meetin' this year. Here's Hunchie with the old maid, and we'll see that
they don't get lonesome."

Fortunately Aunt Nancy did not hear him, otherwise she might have said
something which would have provoked further and louder threats.

Jack, however, could distinguish every word, and before the three
tormentors finished their promenade he regretted having accompanied the
little woman.

"I ain't afraid they'll get very much the best of me," he said to
himself; "but there isn't goin' to be a great deal of fun if I've got to
keep my eyes open for them all the time."



CHAPTER XVII.

CAMP MEETING.


When the train drew up at the station, Jack was relieved at seeing his
tormentors take their places in a car far ahead of the one he and Aunt
Nancy occupied.

He anticipated no slight amount of enjoyment from this ride behind the
iron horse, and it would be sadly marred if he was forced to listen to
such remarks as Bill Dean and his friends would probably make.

Aunt Nancy sat by the window with Louis in her arms, and Jack took the
seat beside her, watching everything around with the most intense
interest, for it was the first time he had ever journeyed so far on the
cars.

The little woman would have spent considerable of the money received
from the sale of the wheat in buying for her crippled escort such
articles as the newsboy brought, in the hope of tempting customers; but
for the fact that Jack prevented her by whispering more than once,--

"You've paid enough for me already in buyin' the railroad ticket, an'
you must save some to get things for the summer boarders."

"Bless you, child, I ought to be able to take a little pleasure now and
then without thinking constantly of how many pennies there are in a
dollar."

"But this time, Aunt Nancy, you are not using it for yourself. If you
want any of the stuff, why, it's only right you should have it, but
don't buy anything for me."

Then the little woman whispered as she laid her hand affectionately on
his shoulder,--

"It's a comfort to have you around, Jack dear, for you are always
thinking of others and never of yourself."

"A crooked feller like me don't need as much as other folks, an' I'm
sure I get more'n I deserve."

"That could never be, my child," Aunt Nancy replied; and Jack fancied
she wiped a tear from her eye, but it might have been nothing more than
a cinder.

Judging from Louis's expressions of delight, he would have been pleased
had the journey continued all day, and even Jack was a trifle
disappointed because the tenting grounds were reached so soon.

The place at which they disembarked was not a village, but only a grove
of pine-trees bordering the ocean, with a broad strip of shimmering
white sand between the foliage and the water.

It was a little settlement of canvas houses among the pines, the
gleaming white showing vividly amid the sober green, and the dusty paths
here and there resembling yellow ribbons laid on to complete the harmony
of color.

Jack would have remained a long while silent and motionless gazing in
delight at the scene before him, now and then raising his eyes to view
the heaving emerald bosom of the sea beyond, but that Aunt Nancy was
impatient to "settle down" before the morning services should begin.

"It looks pretty, I know, Jack dear, but we mustn't stand dawdling here,
because there is considerable work for us to do. I'll carry the baby,
and you see what can be done with the bundles."

The two were literally laden to the utmost of their strength, as they
stepped from the railway platform.

Such generous supplies had the little woman brought for their bodily
comfort that quite an amount of the belongings would have been left
behind but for Deacon Downs, who kindly offered to take charge of the
remainder of the goods.

In order to find Mr. Chick's tent it was only necessary to follow the
party with whom they had travelled, and in a few moments the little
woman was arranging her provisions in one corner of the huge tent which
had been reserved for her use.

Jack hovered around helplessly.

He wanted to do something toward aiding Aunt Nancy, but camp life was so
new to him he could do nothing more than watch her bird-like movements.

After pinning a towel around Louis's neck to avoid the possibility of
soiling his white frock, the little woman gave him a small slice of
bread and butter, offering some to Jack, but the latter was not hungry.

"If you don't care, I'd rather go down to the beach a little while."

"You shall do that later, Jack dear, but the morning services will
commence very soon, and I want you with me then."

"Will it be a reg'lar meetin' where people preach an' pray like they do
in a church?"

"Certainly, my child; and this is a church, for don't you remember it is
said 'the groves were God's first temples'?"

Jack didn't remember anything of the kind, for his education had been so
sadly neglected he could not read any but the smallest words, therefore
made no answer, and as soon as Louis had satisfied his hunger the three
went to the cleared space where the services were to be held.

Jack watched everything around him with intense interest, and, it must
also be said, to such a degree that he failed to hear a single word
spoken by the preacher.

Aunt Nancy sat with a look of devotion on her face, which to Jack was
very beautiful.

After a time the boy saw the tears rolling down her cheeks, and listened
to the words from the pulpit in order to learn what had caused such
apparent sorrow.

The clergyman was speaking of those who keep the word, but not the
spirit of God's laws, and he failed to find in the teaching anything
which could distress the little woman.

When the sermon was concluded and the three were walking slowly through
the grove, he understood better.

"It seemed as if the minister was talking directly to me, Jack dear,"
she said with quivering lips.

"I didn't hear him say anything that sounded like it, Aunt Nancy, an' I
listened a good deal of the time."

"It was the passage about obeying the word but not the spirit which
applied to my case. You see I didn't _speak_ a lie to Mr. Pratt, and
might try to comfort myself with the idea I had not disobeyed the
commandment; but the meaning of it is, I shouldn't deceive in the
slightest manner."

"I wish we hadn't come here if you're goin' to think of that thing
again."

"Again, Jack dear? Do you fancy it has ever been out of my mind?"

"I thought you'd kinder got over it."

"But I hadn't, and perhaps I was led to come here that I might realize
even more fully what I have done."

"There isn't any need of that, Aunt Nancy"; and Jack began to look
distressed. "Please put it out of your thoughts for a while, an' we'll
go down on the beach."

"I can't, my child. You shall stroll around an hour, after which you
must come back to the tent for dinner."

Jack hardly thought he ought to leave the little woman while she was
feeling badly, but she insisted on his doing so, and he walked slowly
away saying to himself,--

"I never knew religion hurt anybody; but I think Aunt Nancy has too much
of it if she's goin' to fuss so over Farmer Pratt. It won't do to let
her feel as she does, an' the whole amount of the story is I'll have to
leave Louis here while I take the chances of gettin' into the poorhouse
by explainin' things to him."

So deeply engrossed was he in his thoughts that no attention was paid to
anything around until he was brought to a standstill by hearing a
disagreeably familiar voice cry,--

"Hold on, Hunchie, we want to know where you left the old maid!"

Jack had halted involuntarily, and now would have moved on again in the
hope of escaping from Master Dean and his friends, but they barred his
way by closing in upon him.

There was a large crowd on the grounds surging to and fro, therefore the
three boys had little difficulty in forcing Jack to move in this
direction or that as they chose, by pretending the press was so great
they could not prevent themselves from being pushed against him.

"We're goin' down for a swim," Bill Dean said as he linked his arm in
the hunchback's, "an' it'll just about break our hearts if you can't
come with us."

[Illustration: "We're goin' down for a swim," Bill Dean said, as he
linked his arm in the hunchback's.--Page 210.]

"I don't want to do anything of the kind. You know very well a crooked
feller like me couldn't swim, no matter how hard he tried."

"We'll show you how, so don't be frightened"; and Bill motioned for Sam
and Jip to force the intended victim along in the desired direction.

Jack knew perfectly well he could not struggle successfully against his
tormentors, but at the same time he did not intend allowing them to take
him away from the throng where he might find assistance if necessary.

"I don't want to go with you, and shall ask some of these people to help
me if you don't go away."

"Then you'd only be makin' it all the hotter for yourself, 'cause we
count on stayin' here the whole week, an' you can't be tied to the old
maid's apron strings every minute of the time."

"I'll take my chances of that, so keep off or I'll make a disturbance."

Bill had good reason to believe the cripple would carry this threat into
execution, and, not wishing to come in direct contact with the guardians
of the peace, concluded to bring their sport to a close.

"Of course if you don't feel like comin' nobody's goin' to make you, so
we'll say good by."

As he spoke he gave a quick twist of his foot in front of Jack, at the
same instant Jip pushed from behind, and the result was the cripple fell
forward on his face, in the gravel and sand.

The three boys were off like a flash, and as Jack rose to his feet after
some effort, with dusty clothes and a bleeding face, his heart was
filled with anger.

"If I was only strong enough I'd soon show them fellers what it is to
pick on a fellow they thought couldn't help himself!"

He had hardly said these words when a man brushed past him with the air
of one who feels he has a right to considerably more than half the road,
and looking up quickly Jack saw Farmer Pratt.

For an instant he thought the man was pursuing him, and would have taken
refuge in flight, had not the idea occurred to his mind that Mr. Pratt
had come to camp meeting for the same purpose as Aunt Nancy.

"I'm foolish to think he's still chasin' after me," he said to himself,
"though I s'pose he would take Louis an' me with him if he saw us."

Without knowing why he did it, Jack followed a short distance behind the
farmer, as if it was necessary to retain him constantly in sight, and
while doing so thought of Aunt Nancy's distress concerning the alleged
lie.

Now surely would be a good time to sacrifice his own comfort in order to
ease her mind by taking upon his shoulders the blame, and he ran forward
intending, for an instant, to speak with the gentleman.

Then it occurred to him that it would be proper to consult the little
woman first, and he turned back only to doubt again.

It might distress Aunt Nancy yet more to know the farmer was on the
grounds, and Jack wished he knew of some one who could give him the
proper advice.

Deacon Downs was the only person he could think of, and yet he ought not
to tell him of what Aunt Nancy had done.

"I've got to settle this thing myself," he said as he turned resolutely
in the direction of the tent, "and the next thing to do is to talk with
Aunt Nancy herself. She knows more goodness than all these people put
together."

His mind once made up, he was eager to reach the tent, and ran at full
speed, arriving just as Deacon Downs summoned the occupants of this
particular dwelling to dinner.

The little woman was acting as cook, a post of duty to which she had
been elected each year because the remainder of the party knew she would
perform the arduous labors without complaint.

To speak with her now would be to attract the attention of all, and Jack
believed he should wait until a more convenient season.

Therefore he seated himself at the rough table around which all the
others, save Aunt Nancy, were gathered, and tried unsuccessfully to
appear as if nothing unusual had occurred.

Jack's face told of some trouble, however, and when the deacon had
refreshed himself with a large cup of Aunt Nancy's Mocha, he asked in a
severe tone,--

"Master Dudley, is it possible that after living with as good a woman as
Sister Curtis, you allow your passions to tempt you into fighting? Don't
you remember what Dr. Watts says about letting 'dogs delight to bark and
bite, for 'tis their nature,' et cetera?"

Perhaps Jack might have understood the deacon's question, had it not
been for the last word.

What an "et cetera" was he hadn't the slightest idea, and instead of
replying sat staring stupidly at his plate until Aunt Nancy came forward
and asked,--

"What is it about Jack? Has he been doing anything out of the way?"

"By the appearance of his face I should say he had. It is strange boys
will fight in such a place as this!"

"Why, what _has_ happened to you, Jack dear?" the little woman asked
anxiously as she lifted the boy's head by placing her hand under his
chin.

Jack said nothing, and Aunt Nancy asked, as the crimson spots appeared
on her cheeks,--

"Has William Dean been troubling you again?"

"I had rather tell you some other time," Jack replied in a whisper, as
he slipped down from his seat at the table and went toward the scene of
the little woman's culinary operations.

She followed him at once, and the good but rather inquisitive deacon
craned his neck in vain to hear what passed between the two.

"It was Bill Dean; but don't say anything about it now, for I've just
seen Farmer Pratt," Jack said in a low tone; and as Aunt Nancy started
in surprise, a cry of distress came from Deacon Downs's lips.

At the moment Jack spoke, the little woman was in the act of removing
the coffee pot from the stove, for fear its contents should boil over,
when it fell to the ground.

Neither Aunt Nancy nor the hunchback paid any attention to this
catastrophe; but the deacon was so angry he even threatened that Jack
should not be allowed near the tent again.

It is doubtful if his words were heard by the two who were in such
distress of mind.

Aunt Nancy led Jack to the rear of the tent, and there, where no one
could overhear, he told the whole story, concluding by saying,--

"You have felt so bad I had a great mind to go right up an' tell him how
it happened you acted a lie."

"But, Jack dear, then he might drag you off to the poor farm."

"I had rather do that than have you feel as you do about it. Louis could
stay here, an' I wouldn't tell him where you were, no matter how hard he
might try to make me."

"I should go to him myself and confess all," the little woman said after
a pause.

"Then the chances are he'd get hold of both Louis an' me. If it is to be
done, I oughter do it."

"I declare I don't know what is best"; and Aunt Nancy stood with clasped
hands as if expecting Jack would advise. "It is only right I should
atone in some way for that which I did; but the flesh is indeed weak
when it comes to parting with either of you."

"Perhaps there might be some way for me to get clear, an' you'd feel so
much better that I'd be contented to stay almost anywhere."

The little woman made no reply; she remained silent so long Jack began
to be afraid she was ill, and as he stood watching her, the notes of a
song of praise to the Maker rose high above the deacon's querulous
tones, while mingling with it was the murmur of the surf as it rolled up
on the beach, the whole forming a sort of melody which was soothing to
the little hunchback.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A DISASTER.


Not for several moments was Aunt Nancy able to decide what should be
done, and then, as the song died away leaving only the deacon's words to
mingle with the reverberation of the surf, she said in a voice which
sounded strained and harsh,--

"It must be done. You shall bring him here, and I will tell the story
myself. When he comes, take Louis and walk down by the beach for a
while."

The little woman could say no more, for at that moment Deacon Downs
asked in his blandest tones,--

"Do you think it would be possible to make a leetle more coffee, Sister
Curtis?"

Aunt Nancy had never been known to refuse a request which involved only
her own discomfort or labor, and on this occasion there was no exception
to the rule.

"It will be ready in a few minutes, Deacon," she replied in a trembling
voice, at the same time keeping her face turned from the party lest
they should see the tears in her eyes.

Jack understood there was no necessity of any further conversation,
therefore walked slowly away, feeling very much like a fellow who
voluntarily goes to receive unmerited punishment.

He now had no fear of Bill Dean and his friends. The present trouble was
so much greater than any they could cause him that it was as if this
particular trio of boys never existed.

Not until he had walked to and fro for half an hour did he begin to
realize it might not be possible to find the farmer amid the throng.

Each succeeding train brought additional worshippers or visitors to the
grove, and the walks were so densely lined with people that he might
have passed within ten feet of Mr. Pratt without seeing him.

Having made up his mind to that which he considered a sacrifice, he was
impatient to have it finished, and walked rapidly until the afternoon
was more than half spent; but all in vain.

It seemed more than probable he had gone home, or at least Jack so
argued to himself, and returned to the tent looking as if suffering from
some grievous disappointment.

Aunt Nancy was at the flap of the canvas house with an expression of
anxiety on her face, but the baby was nowhere to be seen.

"Where's Louis?" Jack asked in alarm.

"Mrs. Hayes is taking care of him. I thought it best he shouldn't be
seen when Mr. Pratt came. Will he be here soon?"

"I couldn't find him; he must have gone home."

The little woman's face lighted up wonderfully as she cried,--

"O Jack dear, I know it is wicked to say, but I am _so_ glad! It is only
right I should bear the burden I myself have caused; but the thought of
losing you and the baby almost broke my heart."

Then she kissed him on both cheeks, and again did he feel the moisture
of her tears.

"Well, Aunt Nancy, you haven't lost us yet awhile, an' if Mr. Pratt has
gone home that settles the matter for a while."

"Yes, Jack dear, but the sin is yet to be atoned for; it is only a
postponement of the evil day."

"Any way there's no need of worryin' about it now. If, when we get home,
you feel that he should know the truth, it won't be much of a job for me
to walk over to his house, an' then," Jack added with a feeble attempt
at a smile, "they won't have so far to carry me when I'm taken to the
poor farm."

"Don't talk in such a manner, my dear, for I am hoping it won't ever
come to pass."

Jack made no reply.

He felt quite confident the farmer would insist on his going to the home
for paupers, but no good could be done by further distressing the little
woman.

"I declare I'd entirely forgotten you and I have had no dinner," she
suddenly said with a nervous laugh. "I'll get some cold meat and bread,
if there is any left; but it is astonishing how strong people's
appetites are at the seashore, especially during camp-meeting time. We
must get along without coffee, for the deacon fairly swam in that second
pot I made."

"I don't feel so terribly hungry," Jack replied; "but I'll sit down for
the sake of seeing you eat. As to the coffee, that don't trouble me;
water is good enough for boys."

"It is more wholesome I admit; but there's nothing good enough for a
dear heart like yours."

Then the little woman bustled around as Jack had seen her do at home,
and in a few moments a most appetizing lunch was spread, the amount of
food contradicting her fears that all the provisions had been consumed.

The two made a hearty meal, considering all their troubles, and when it
was concluded Jack helped Aunt Nancy set the tent to rights generally,
so when the remainder of the party returned from afternoon services
everything was in proper order.

Mrs. Hayes brought Louis with her, and after delivering him to Jack she
said with a sigh of relief,--

"I declare, Sister Curtis, it is a real pleasure to come to camp meeting
with you. It takes the care off of one entirely. I only wish I had your
knack at going ahead. Now look at me; I'm almost worn out looking after
the baby, and don't feel as if I could do a stitch toward getting
supper."

The other ladies in the party appeared to be in the same condition of
prostration, and the little woman, tired though she was from the labor
of preparing and serving dinner for so many, meekly replied that she was
perfectly willing to give them a rest by performing all the work.

Jack heard the compliment paid by Mrs. Hayes, and understood that it had
been given only for the purpose of getting the little woman to continue
on while the others enjoyed their leisure.

"I'm goin' to help you, Aunt Nancy," he said in a low tone as he went
toward the stove where she was making ready to bake some biscuit. "It's
too bad for you to do all this work while the others are havin' a good
time."

"Oh, I don't mind it, dear, so long as I can be of service to some one.
We are put in this world to help others, and it should be a pleasure."

"But you're doin' all instead of helpin'. Now tell me what I can do, if
you're bound to wait on the whole crowd."

"Take care of the baby, that will be enough."

"He'll stay around here all right," Jack replied as he placed the little
fellow on the grass, giving him some smooth stones to play with.

Then he set about assisting Aunt Nancy, working so industriously that
Deacon Downs said in a tone of faint approbation,--

"That there little hunchback seems right handy if he wants to, an' if he
wasn't so given to fightin' it might be a good thing for Aunt Nancy to
have him around; but when once a boy gets as quarrelsome as this one, it
ain't much use trying to make anything out of him."

The majority of the party were of the same opinion, and from that time
forth it was believed, at least by those who were present when the
deacon spoke, that Jack was a boy who would fight under the slightest
provocation.

Not until the bell had rung as a signal that the evening services were
about to begin did Jack and Aunt Nancy cease their labors.

The other occupants of the tent had already departed, and the little
woman and her assistant were so tired it seemed almost too great an
exertion to walk to the auditorium.

"Why not go to bed?" Jack asked. "I'll take care of Louis until he gets
sleepy, an' then bring him to you."

"No, it would be wrong to remain here when so many truths will be
presented, simply because I chance to be tired."

"Then we'll all go"; and Jack lifted Louis in his arms.

Aunt Nancy enjoyed the services so much that Jack was very glad she had
come; but as for himself he believed the time would have been quite as
profitably spent in sleeping.

On the following morning at daybreak Deacon Downs aroused the hunchback
with a harshly spoken command to build the fire and awaken Aunt Nancy
when it was burning.

"Are you goin' to make her do all the work?" Jack asked as he started to
his feet.

"Don't be impudent!" the deacon said sternly, raising his cane
threateningly. "Learn to do as you are bidden, and in silence."

Jack made no reply, but felt that the little woman whom he loved so
dearly was being imposed upon.

As for Aunt Nancy, she appeared to have no such idea.

Jack awakened her as he had been told, and she arose from the bed of
straw on which she had lain without undressing, uttering no word of
protest.

"I would have let you sleep till noon, but the deacon told me to, an'
was kinder mad when I asked if you'd got to do all the work," Jack said,
his tones proving there was yet anger in his heart.

"You shouldn't have said anything about it, my dear, for it is a
pleasure to me."

"You try to think it is, but I know it's nothin' more than hard work,
while the others are enjoying a long nap."

"We won't say any more about it, Jack dear. Don't you think you could
get me some water?"

"Of course I can"; and Jack labored with a will, relieving the
tired-looking little woman whenever it was possible.

The second day at camp meeting was spent by these two in much the same
manner as the first, as regards work, and Louis received very little
attention.

Jack, in obedience to Aunt Nancy's request, looked again for Mr. Pratt,
but with no better success than before; and after dinner he washed the
dishes in order that the little woman might attend the afternoon
services.

It was a decided relief to him when the day came on which they were to
return home.

He knew Aunt Nancy had worked too hard, and the bustle and confusion
tired him almost as much as the labor.

Gladly he helped gather up the empty baskets, and when the three were on
the cars being whirled rapidly toward home, the little woman said with a
sigh of relief,--

"What a comfort it will be to find ourselves on the farm once more, Jack
dear! I believe I am getting too old to go to such places, and a week's
rest wouldn't be too much to make me feel like myself again."

"If you had gone alone, without tryin' to run a boardin'-house for them
who didn't care whether you had any fun or not, it would have been
different."

"You don't look at the matter in the proper light, my child. They've
always been accustomed to having Aunt Nancy go at such times, and I
couldn't disappoint them as long as I was able to hold up my head."

Jack realized it was useless to continue this conversation, so far as
convincing the little woman that she had been imposed upon was
concerned, and he remained silent.

Never before had the farm looked so beautiful, either to Jack or the
little woman, as when they arrived home that night, and during the
evening devotions Aunt Nancy's thankfulness was made apparent by the
fervently spoken words.

The hunchback's first care, after opening the house, was to visit the
barn to assure himself old crumple-horn had been well taken care of; but
he could not gain much information in the darkness.

The animal was lying in her stall, and appeared to be in good condition.

Notwithstanding the fact that the house had been closed four days, the
search for burglars was made before retiring, and then Jack, after
seeing Louis tucked snugly in Aunt Nancy's bed, went to his cosey little
room feeling confident he would never again have any desire to attend
another camp meeting.

When the morning came he went out with a light heart to milk the cow,
but to his great surprise still found her lying down.

All in vain did he urge her to get up; she refused to move, nor would
she pay any attention to the tempting lunch of sweet clover he placed
in front of her.

Running back to the house he summoned Aunt Nancy, and both spent fully
an hour alternately coaxing and petting the animal.

"She is very sick, Jack dear, there can be no question about that," the
little woman said as her eyes filled with tears. "It would grieve me if
she should die, for I have owned her a long while."

"How many years?"

"I hardly know; but it can't be less than eighteen."

"Then she must be dying of old age."

"I will go right over to Daniel Chick's and ask him to come here. He's a
master hand at doctoring animals."

Then before Jack could offer to go in her steady Aunt Nancy started down
the lane bareheaded, which showed how deeply she felt the possible loss
of her pet.

In a short time Mr. Chick arrived with the little woman, and his verdict
brought no relief to Aunt Nancy's heart.

"All you can do is to knock her in the head, for she'll never get up
again. It's kinder tough on you, I'll admit, for that cow has been a
powerful help, 'specially when the summer boarders are here; but it
won't do any good to fret."

Aunt Nancy made no reply, but walked slowly to the house as if desirous
of being alone.

"She feels mighty bad I allow," Mr. Chick continued, speaking to Jack.
"I've said many times I didn't know how Aunt Nancy would get along if it
wasn't for the cow, an' now I reckon she'll be eatin' her bread without
butter."

"What will she do when the boarders come?"

"That's what I don't know"; and Mr. Chick walked away as if he had no
further concern in the matter.

Jack sat down where he could watch crumple-horn and at the same time
think over this disaster which had come to the little woman.

While he was trying to form some plan, the poor old cow laid her head on
the sweet-scented clover, gave a few short gasps, and ceased breathing
as if from sheer weariness.

Jack stood over her a moment, and then returned to the house, arriving
there just as Aunt Nancy was emerging with Louis in her arms.

"I wouldn't go out there"; and he motioned toward the barn.

Aunt Nancy looked at him an instant, appearing to understand what he
meant, for she re-entered the house, leaving Jack on the doorstep in a
profound study.

He could hear Louis's voice from the "fore-room" now and then, therefore
it was not necessary to tell him the little woman had gone there to hide
her grief.

"I must do something" he said to himself, "an' what I first thought of
seems to be the only show."

Then going to the door of the "fore-room" and knocking gently, he said
in a low tone,--

"Aunt Nancy, could you spare me a little while?"

"Where are you bound, Jack?"

"I'd like to run down to Treat's store if you don't care."

Aunt Nancy opened the door, and Jack noticed her eyes were red from
weeping.

"What is your idea of going there?" she asked in surprise.

"I've got some business that I'd rather not explain till I get back."

"There's nothing to prevent, my child, and I can trust you not to do
anything wrong."

"I should hope you could," Jack replied emphatically. "You shall know
all about it when I come home."

"Don't try to walk too fast, but return as soon as your business is
finished."

Jack promised to do so, and was hurrying up the lane when the little
woman stopped him with these words:--

"I wish you would call at Daniel Chick's and tell him what has happened.
It will be necessary to bury poor old crumple-horn, and he must attend
to it."

"I'll ask him to come over right away"; and Jack resumed his journey,
wondering whether he was on the point of doing that for which Aunt Nancy
would censure him.

"It doesn't make any difference whether she does or not," he said to
himself. "If I told her she wouldn't let me go, so this is the only way
to fix it."



CHAPTER XIX.

JACK'S PROPOSITION.


Jack called at Mr. Chick's house, saw that gentleman and got his promise
to bury old crumple-horn at once, after which he continued on past Bill
Dean's home, fearing no trouble from him since he was yet at the camp
grounds.

On arriving at the store he found Mr. Treat alone, and was greeted with
the question,--

"Hello! Here's Aunt Nancy's young man! How's the old lady after her trip
to the grove?"

"She is well, but tired."

"I'll warrant that. When folks want to go off for a good time they
invite Nancy Curtis, reckonin' she'll do whatever work there is without
grumblin', an' they ain't far out of the way, either. Did the deacon get
his full share of that Mocha she bought?"

"I don't know, sir; but I guess so, I didn't hear him findin' fault."

"Then you can count on his havin' been filled up; _he_ don't buy very
much of that kind of coffee when it's him as has to foot the bills."

Jack had no interest in this subject, and changed it abruptly by
saying,--

"Aunt Nancy's cow died this mornin'."

"Sho! How'd that happen?"

"Mr. Chick thought it must be old age."

"Well I reckon it was. That cow has been in the family quite a spell."

"It'll be hard on Aunt Nancy not to have the milk."

"I 'low you're 'bout right, sonny; it helped make up a good bit of the
old woman's livin', an' she hasn't so much money but that a dollar makes
a big difference."

"That's true, an' I've come to see if I can't help her out in some way."

"You?" and Mr. Treat looked up in surprise. "Why, I thought you hadn't
any great amount of cash on hand."

"And I haven't; but I thought perhaps I might make a trade with you."

"Want to have a dicker of some kind, eh? Well, what have you got to show
up?" and Mr. Treat selected from a pile of pine wood a convenient stick
to whittle, as he assumed a more comfortable attitude preparatory to
indulging in his favorite pastime of "dickering."

"I haven't got anything, sir; but thought there might be work I could
do around here till I'd earned enough to buy Aunt Nancy another cow."

Jack stammered and hesitated until it was a positive pleasure both to
himself and the storekeeper when the speech was finally ended.

"What can you do?" Mr. Treat asked thoughtfully as he fashioned with
infinite care the bit of wood into a toothpick.

"Almost anything, sir. I'd be willin' to work very hard if I could get
the job."

"Have you got any idea what the jobs 'round here might be?"

"It don't make any difference; I'm not afraid of bucklin' down to them."

"How much do you count on earnin'?"

"I want to get enough to buy a cow for Aunt Nancy."

"Do you know what one is worth?"

"No, sir."

Mr. Treat was silent for a moment as if revolving some very weighty
matter in his mind, and said slowly,--

"I've got jest sich a cow as would suit Aunt Nancy; she's a good one,
an' I wouldn't like to part with her for nothin'. Now, if you'd do the
chores 'round here this summer, an' she would put in some of the money
I owe for the wheat, we might strike a trade."

"But I don't want her to pay anything."

"Thought you could do it all yourself, eh?"

"I hoped so," Jack replied in a tone of disappointment.

"Why, I don't reckon you'd earn it in a year. I'd want forty dollars at
the very lowest figger for my cow, an' it would take a mighty smart boy
to git that much in twelve months."

Jack could no longer conceal his feelings, and, seeing he was pained
because of the failure of his plans, Mr. Treat continued in what he
intended should be a soothing tone,--

"I'd be willin' to allow you twenty dollars for a summer's work
previdin' you'd board yourself at Aunt Nancy's. Then she'd only be
called on to pay as much more, an' have twice as good a cow as the one
that's dead."

"How long do you say the summer should last?"

"Well, I wouldn't be hard on you, an' we'd call it quits by the middle
of November."

"How much of that time would it be necessary for me to stay in the
store?"

"From five o'clock in the mornin' till nine at night, the same as is
expected of other boys."

It was the last blow to Jack's hopes. His duty to Louis would prevent
him from remaining in this section of the country such a length of time,
and it was essential he should assist Aunt Nancy in order to pay her for
the food he and Louis consumed.

"Well, what do you think of it?" Mr. Treat asked, as the boy stood
irresolutely for a moment.

"I couldn't because I can't stay here as long as that, and, besides, I
must do something for Aunt Nancy to earn our board."

"That's right, my boy. There's no harm done because we didn't make a
trade; but it shows I'm willin' to help along all I can in a case like
this."

"I'm much obliged to you," Jack replied faintly, and then he started up
the road once more, walking decidedly faster than when he came.

He had counted on being able to ease the sorrow in Aunt Nancy's mind by
buying for her a cow as good as the one she had lost.

He was revolving in his mind half a dozen plans by which the desired
result might be attained, when a voice from the opposite side of the
road caused him to halt.

"How's Aunt Nancy by this time?"

It was Mr. Souders who spoke, and because that gentleman had been so
kind to him on the day when the sewing circle met at the little woman's
house, he decided to tell him the whole story, not from any expectation
of receiving assistance, but in order to relieve his mind.

Mr. Souders listened attentively to all he had to say, and then
replied,--

"Treat was trying to swindle you. His cow isn't worth ten dollars, to
say nothing of forty, an' he wasn't over an' above anxious to give you
too much for your work. Let the matter drop a couple of days an' I'll
see what can be done. We mustn't allow Aunt Nancy to suffer."

There was a world of encouragement in the gentleman's tones, and Jack
felt as if half his troubles had already been removed.

"I'm willin' to do anything I can towards earnin' the money to buy one;
but Louis an' I mustn't stay here till November, an' I don't want her to
use her own money."

"That will be all right, my lad. Go home now, an' I'll see you later."

Jack's heart was quite light when he walked swiftly down the lane
leading to the tiny house, but became heavy again when he saw the little
woman's face.

It was evident Aunt Nancy was mourning deeply the loss of her pet, and
the cripple felt that as yet he had nothing tangible to assuage her
grief.

She looked up inquiringly as he approached, but he offered no
explanation regarding his journey until the question had been asked
directly, and then said hesitatingly,--

"I would rather not tell you, Aunt Nancy. I thought I might be able to
do something, but it was a failure, an' the less we say about it the
better."

"Jack dear," and the little woman was very grave, "when a boy can't tell
his friends what he has been doing it looks as if there was something of
which to be ashamed."

"But in this case there isn't, Aunt Nancy; cross my throat if there is."

"I believe you, my child, but would have much preferred if there had
been perfect confidence between us."

Jack looked up in positive alarm.

The little woman's tone was so different from what he had ever heard
before when she was addressing him, that he actually felt frightened.

"I'll tell you all about it," he said quickly; but Aunt Nancy held up
her hand to prevent his saying anything more.

"If it is something which you wish to keep a secret from me I don't want
to hear it."

Now Jack was distressed, for there could be no question but that he had
displeased his best friend.

"Please listen to me, Aunt Nancy. I did say I wasn't going to tell you,
because I thought perhaps you'd think I was meddlin'. That is, you might
have thought so after I failed; but if the thing had gone through all
right you'd been glad."

Then, disregarding entirely her gestures for him to remain silent, he
told all the story save that relating to his interview with Mr. Souders.

It was yet possible old crumple-horn's place would be filled, but he
believed it best not to raise any false hopes.

When he concluded Aunt Nancy took his face in her hands, bending his
head over until she could kiss his cheeks, when she said in a tremulous
voice,--

"Jack, you are a dear, good boy, and have been a blessing to me from the
hour you first came into this house; but you must not think of taking
any such load upon your shoulders. I would not have permitted it even
had you been able to make a satisfactory bargain with Mr. Treat, and
that is what no person has ever done before to my knowledge. It was not
right to keep from me anything you wished to do, and it is proven in
this case, for if I had known what you thought of attempting, I could
have explained how useless it would be."

"It didn't seem so to me, Aunt Nancy, and I surely believed I could earn
more than twenty dollars by working all summer."

"Not for such a man as the storekeeper. Now you will be obliged to walk
over to Daniel Chick's twice each day for milk, and that will be more
labor than taking care of poor old crumple-horn."

"Perhaps you may get another cow, Aunt Nancy."

"It is impossible, at least during this year. I spent more money at camp
meeting than I could afford, and must now pay the penalty when the
summer boarders come by being forced to buy both milk and butter. It
will make a big hole in my earnings."

Now that there was no cow to care for, the work in Jack's particular
department was very light, and, as he said to Aunt Nancy, it seemed as
if he had hardly begun before the whole was done.

The walk to Daniel Chick's was not as pleasant as taking care of old
crumple-horn, and besides, he would be forced to pass Bill Dean's house
twice each day, a fact which caused him no little disquietude; but he
said nothing regarding this to Aunt Nancy.

The following forty-eight hours passed very quietly on the farm.

The little woman was so thoroughly tired from her labors at camp meeting
that she did not have the ambition to bustle around as usual, and the
greater portion of her time was spent with Jack in the garden.

It is probable that no collection of vegetables ever received more care
than was bestowed by these enthusiastic gardeners.

The smallest weed was detected and instantly pulled up by Aunt Nancy,
while Jack loosened the ground around the roots of each tiny plant until
it seemed certain they would be dwarfed.

Much to Jack's discomfort, hardly an hour passed when the little woman
did not make some reference to Mr. Pratt, and constantly bewailed the
fact that she failed to see him.

"But it wasn't your fault I couldn't find him, Aunt Nancy," Jack finally
said.

"I suppose not; but yet it seems as if my cowardice had something to do
with it."

"You know that couldn't be so, Aunt Nancy; but if you want me to I'll
walk over to his house. It ain't so terribly far."

This proposition had the effect of reducing the little woman to silence,
and during three or four hours Louis' guardian heard nothing regarding
the man whom he had every reason to consider an enemy.

Late on the afternoon of the third day after he had talked with Mr.
Souders, that gentleman's wife drove up, and instead of alighting to
call upon Aunt Nancy, said quite sharply,--

"Samuel wanted me to drive over here for Jack."

"Why, what is the matter?" The little woman asked in alarm.

"Nothing very serious, Nancy Curtis, so don't begin to fret. Sam always
was full of whims, an' I reckon this is one of 'em."

Jack fancied he knew what was wanted, and his heart was very light when
he clambered into the wagon.

"I'll come right back," he cried, as the carriage rolled away, and Aunt
Nancy sat looking at Louis as if speechless with astonishment.

"Is it about the cow?" Jack asked of Mrs. Souders, who sat stiff as a
statue and quite as forbidding looking, holding the reins tightly in
both hands, and paying no attention to the cripple.

She nodded her head, and Jack could not but wonder if she thought her
breath too valuable to be wasted in words.

This was the extent of the conversation during the ride of ten minutes
or more, and the hunchback felt decidedly relieved when it came to an
end.

Mrs. Souders, silent and stern, was quite as disagreeable a companion as
Mrs. Souders angry.

The cause of his having thus been summoned was, as he had hoped, a cow.

In the yard, with a halter on her head and a card tied to her horn,
stood a meek-eyed animal which Jack thought a model of her kind.

Mr. Souders came from the shed as the hunchback alighted, and cried in
his hearty, cheery voice,--

"What do you think of that, lad? Talk about Treat's cow; why, she can't
hold a candle side of this one, and there was a big difference in the
price."

"Is it for Aunt Nancy?"

"Sartin, an' I sent for you to lead her over to the little woman."

"But who's to pay for her?"

"That part of the transaction has been settled already, an' all you have
to do now, is to take the creater away."

"But I wanted to do somethin' toward buyin' her."

"So you have, my boy. Can you read writin'?"

"Not very well."

"Then come here while I tell you what's on the card. I got one of Daniel
Chick's daughters to fix it up so's it would be kerrect."

Then Mr. Souders, after wiping his glasses lest a single word should
escape his attention, read the following:--

  "TO AUNT NANCY CURTIS
  FROM
  JACK DUDLEY,
  TO WHOM THIS COW WAS PRESENTED BY
  SARAH SOUDERS,
  IN TOKEN OF HER REGRET FOR THE UNKIND
  TREATMENT WHICH HE RECEIVED
  AT HER HANDS."

"You see," Mr. Souders explained confidentially as he finished reading
the inscription, "mother has been sorry about what happened over to
Aunt Nancy's, jest as I said she would be, an' this is kind of a
peace-offerin' to you, at the same time a good turn is done the old
woman."

"Then no one else paid for the cow? Your wife did the whole thing?"

"I may have chipped in a bit; but that don't count. Its mother's present
to you an' Aunt Nancy, an' I'm right glad of the chance to help the
little woman along. She'd be in mighty hard lines this summer if she had
to buy butter an' milk."

Jack hardly knew what to do or say.

He was delighted almost beyond bounds at being able to take the cow to
Aunt Nancy, and at the same time it seemed necessary he should thank
Mrs. Souders, but was at a loss to know how it was to be done.

"Where is your wife?" he asked after a pause.

"In the house, an' I reckon she's locked the door. Better not try to say
anything to her. Mother's peculiar, an' flies off dreadfully sometimes,
but her heart's in the right place, my boy, which makes up for a good
many faults. Lead the creater home now, an' I'll venter to say you'll
enjoy seein' Aunt Nancy dance when she knows its hers."

Jack would have attempted to thank Mr. Souders, but the gentleman
prevented him by unfastening the cow's halter, and insisting that the
animal be led away at once.



CHAPTER XX.

BILL DEAN.


Jack was a very proud boy when he came down the lane to the farmhouse
leading the docile animal by the halter.

He hoped to reach the door before Aunt Nancy should see him; but the
little woman was sitting under the old oak wondering what business Mr.
Souders had on hand which required the cripple's presence.

He was half way from the main road to the house when she saw him, and
cried in astonishment,--

"Bless my soul, Jack, have you been and made a trade with Mr. Treat
after what I said?"

"Indeed I haven't! Jest wait till you see what's on this beauty's horn,
an' then you'll know all about it."

Aunt Nancy could not curb her curiosity until the animal was led in, but
ran forward with Louis in her arms, Jack stopping the cow that she might
read that which was written on the card.

The little woman was bewildered.

She could hardly realize the animal was a present until Jack repeated
again and again what Mr. Souders had said, and then it was the
hunchback's turn to be bewildered, for instead of expressing her
gratitude, she sat down on the grass, regardless of possible stains to
her dress, and began to cry heartily.

"Why, I thought you'd be glad," Jack said in a tone of disappointment,
while Louis pulled at the little woman's ringlets to show his sympathy
for what seemed to be grief.

"So--so--so I am--Jack dear; but--but--it doesn't seem right that people
should do so--so--so much for me."

"It wouldn't be enough if they'd sent a thousand cows."

"But for you I might never have had poor old crumple-horn replaced."

"Of course you would. That was wrote on the card only to make me feel
better about what Mrs. Souders did; but she'd given you this all the
same."

Aunt Nancy refused to look at it in that light, and Jack became confused
at being overwhelmed with thanks.

The little woman insisted on tracing the gift directly to his visit to
Treat's store, thus giving him nearly all the credit, until the
conversation became really painful.

"Let's take her out to the pasture, for she must be hungry by this
time," he said, as a means of putting an end to the words of gratitude
which he believed were undeserved.

This aroused Aunt Nancy to a sense of the situation as nothing else
could have done, for the thought that anything around her might be
suffering would always cause her to forget herself, and she followed
Jack, who had lifted Louis to the cow's back to give him a ride.

It was a sort of triumphal procession which halted at the pasture bars
in order that Aunt Nancy might inspect more closely her new pet.

"Seems wrong to say anything disparaging of poor old crumple-horn after
she has served me faithfully for so many years, but I must confess this
cow looks as if she might be a better milker."

"I'll bet she's the best in town," Jack replied enthusiastically, as he
pulled clover for the gentle animal to eat.

"Not quite that, Jack dear, for Deacon Downs has a Jersey that leads
everything."

"At any rate his cow can't be as kind as this one."

"That may be," Aunt Nancy replied meditatively as she kissed the fawn
colored nose. "I do really think we couldn't have found a better
substitute for poor old crumple-horn."

Then the animal was examined critically, without a single flaw having
been found, and not until half an hour was spent in this manner could
she be allowed to enter the pasture.

Aunt Nancy thought it her duty to see Mrs. Souders at the earliest
opportunity in order to thank her for the gift, and decided to do so on
the following morning when the breakfast dishes had been cleared away.

Jack went to clean the stall in the barn for the new cow's occupancy,
and was working industriously when he fancied he heard a cry of distress
coming from the direction of the duck pond.

His first thought was that Louis had strayed again, but on looking out,
both he and the little woman were seen under the big oak, apparently as
happy and contented as well could be.

Believing he had been deceived by his fancy, he resumed the work, but
only to stop an instant later as the cries sounded more distinct.

This time there could be no mistake, and he ran toward Aunt Nancy as he
asked,--

"Do you hear that noise? I'm goin' to see what it means."

As he went rapidly across the fields without waiting for a reply, the
little woman followed him, but her pace was slow because of having the
baby in her arms.

The cries continued almost incessantly, and by them Jack was guided to a
clump of large trees standing near one end of the pond within a few
yards of the spot where Louis had been set adrift on the raft.

It was not necessary to search long for the sufferer.

Lying on the ground, held firmly down by a huge limb of a tree which had
fallen across his breast in such a manner that he could not use his
arms, was Bill Dean.

His face was pale, whether from pain or fear Jack had no means of
ascertaining, for the boy did not wait to be questioned, but cried
piteously,--

"O Hunchie, help me outer this scrape an' I won't ever play tricks on
you agin!"

This promise was not necessary to enlist Jack's sympathy.

It was a boy in agony and not an enemy he saw before him; the only
question in his mind was how the rescue could be effected.

"Lay still, an' I'll do the best I can; but it may hurt a little more
when I try to lift the limb."

Kneeling that he might get his shoulder under one end of the heavy
branch, Jack tried to raise it, but in vain.

He was making the second effort, Bill moaning piteously meanwhile, when
Aunt Nancy arrived, and she, like Jack, thought only of relieving
suffering.

"Where are you hurt, William?" she asked anxiously.

"I don't know, but it seems as if the ache was all over my body."

"How did the accident happen?"

"I was choppin' this limb off to build a new raft, an' it fell on me."

"Can you lift it, Jack dear?"

"I'm afraid not; it's terribly heavy."

"Let me help you."

The two strained and tugged all to no purpose, when, as he paused to
regain his breath and wipe the perspiration from his face, Jack said,--

"I could cut away part of it if I had an axe."

"Mine is around here somewhere," Bill said with a groan.

Jack soon found the tool, and, working very cautiously lest he should
cause the sufferer yet more pain, chopped here and there to remove the
larger twigs, while Aunt Nancy bathed Bill's pale face with her
handkerchief wetted in the pond.

[Illustration: "Where are you hurt, William?" asked Aunt Nancy
anxiously.--Page 252.]

It required nearly half an hour of the most fatiguing labor to perform
the task, and then Jack said as he threw down the axe,--

"When I lift on this end you must try to pull him out, Aunt Nancy."

The first attempt was a failure, but at the second the little woman
succeeded, and Bill was drawn from his uncomfortable position looking
decidedly the worse for wear.

"Can you stand up?" Aunt Nancy asked solicitously as she brushed the
dirt from Bill's hands, and little Louis patted his cheek to show he
wished to take some part in the rescue, even though it only was to
display sympathy.

"I'll try," Master Dean said meekly, and, with the aid of Aunt Nancy and
Jack, the sorrowful looking bully arose to his feet.

It was positive the bones of his legs were not broken, for he stood
erect without difficulty, and, this having been ascertained, Aunt Nancy
proceeded to make a careful examination of his arms and chest.

"I do not believe you are seriously injured, William," she said with a
sigh of relief. "There can be no doubt but that you will be very lame
for a few days; you must bear with it, and thank your Father it is no
worse."

"My father didn't have anything to do with it. He'd given me Jesse if he
knowed I was here cuttin' down the tree."

"I mean your Father in heaven, William, who watches over even the
sparrow's fall."

Bill looked rather shamefaced at having made such a mistake, and said as
he turned half away from his rescuers,--

"I told Hunchie I wouldn't bother him any more if he'd help me out, an'
I'm goin' to stick to my promise."

"It would have been much better if you had arrived at that conclusion
before you were in need of assistance," Aunt Nancy replied gravely. "One
should do right because it is his duty, and not as a reward to others."

"What's the matter now?" Bill asked in surprise. "Do you want me to keep
on roughin' it into him?"

"Certainly not, and I am glad you made the promise. What I meant was
that it would have been better had you done so because you wished to."

"But I didn't till now."

"We won't speak of it further now. Go home and ask your mother to rub
the bruises with liniment. When you feel inclined I would like to have
you come to see Jack and me."

"I ain't goin' 'round to be preached at," Bill replied in his old
defiant tone. "There was enough of that at camp meetin' to last a feller
a month."

"I did not see you at the services."

"Once I had to go when mother caught me jest as the bell was ringin',
an' its the last time I'll get in the same box."

Aunt Nancy shook her head sadly.

She was discouraged, but not so much as to give up the struggle, for it
was her intention to renew it again at a more "convenient season."

"We had best go back, Jack dear, and William will come to-morrow to tell
us how he feels.

"I ain't so sure 'bout that, if you're goin' to stuff a feller with a
lot of sabbath-school talk," Bill said sulkily, as he picked up the axe
and started across the fields without further thanks to his kind
friends.

"He doesn't seem like a very good boy at heart," Aunt Nancy said sadly,
as she raised Louis in her arms; "but we must not judge by outward
appearances. I almost feel condemned for saying anything when my own
sin has not been atoned for. My mind would be much easier if I had seen
Mr. Pratt at the meeting."

"It won't take long to fix that," Jack replied, noting with sorrow the
look of pain which had come over the little woman's face. "It will do
jest as well if I go there an' tell him what you wanted to say."

"But then you would be where they could easily carry you to the poor
farm."

"Well, s'posen they did, what would that 'mount to side of makin' you
feel good? Besides, don't you believe Mr. Souders could make them let me
out?"

"Perhaps he might; I never thought of that."

"I'll leave here to-morrow mornin', an' by night be there."

"Bless your heart, child, I would never think of letting you walk that
long distance. If we should make up our minds that it was best to go,
and I wish I _could_ have the strength to say it, you'd ride in the
cars."

"Why not decide now?"

"Because, Jack dear, it nearly breaks my heart to think there is a
possibility of being obliged to give you up."

"Well, s'posen we go home an' talk the thing over some other time,"
Jack said with an assumption of cheerfulness which was far from natural.

He had suddenly conceived a plan by which the little woman could be
relieved without the pain of deciding that it should be so, and there
was no more than sufficient time to put it into execution.

Aunt Nancy walked back to the house in a meditative mood, Jack talking
about the cow and kindred topics to prevent her mind from dwelling upon
the dreaded subject.

He at once set about doing the chores in an unusually careful manner
when they arrived home.

A large quantity of wood was brought into the kitchen, an extra amount
of water drawn, and the cow given a generous lunch of clover after she
had been driven into the stable.

"Why do you do so much unnecessary work, Jack dear?" Aunt Nancy asked.
"There will be nothing left for morning, and it is bad to have 'idle
hands.'"

"I may as well fix everything now, for you know what you said about
puttin' off till to-morrow. Say, Aunt Nancy, would you lend me a lead
pencil an' a piece of paper?"

"Of course, my child. Are you going to write a letter?"

"Yes, Aunt Nancy, an' you shall see it in the mornin'."

"Better sit down at the kitchen table. If writing is as much of a task
for you as it is for me, you'll need every possible convenience."

"I had rather do it in my room, for you see I don't know very much about
such things, an' it'll come mighty hard, but you won't care if it don't
look very nice, will you?"

"Certainly not, my child. It could only annoy me because I have not
taken advantage of our leisure time to teach you the little I know."

"You are always blamin' yourself, Aunt Nancy, an' I don't like to hear
it. I wouldn't let anybody else talk that way about you."

For reply the little woman patted the boy on the cheek, and then
proposed the nightly search for burglars be made.

After the evening devotions Aunt Nancy gave Jack the articles he had
asked for, and was considerably surprised by the warmth of the boy's
good-night salute.

Once in his room, Jack set about what was for him a formidable task, and
it was late before he completed the following:--

  "DEAR AUNT NANCY I AM GOIN TO SEA THE FARMER & TELL HIM YOU R SORRY
  IF I DONT COME BACK U WILL NO WHERE I AM BUT DONT FEL BAD FOUR I
  LUV U. I CARNT STOP TO MILK

                                  JACK DUDLEY
                                       URE JACK DEAR."

When this had been done Jack looked around the little room as if taking
leave of all it contained, wiped a suspicious moisture from his eyes,
and then dressed, but with his shoes in his hands, crept softly down the
stairs.

The ticking of the clock sounded strangely loud and unnatural; the
silence, save for this clicking noise, was oppressive, and he felt as if
he was about to commit some crime against the woman who had befriended
him.

"It's got to be done, an' I mustn't stand here worryin' about it, or I
might back out," he said to himself.

It was necessary he should think of Aunt Nancy's self accusations and
sorrow before he could nerve himself to raise the window.

He took this method of departing rather than by the door, for he feared
the little woman would be alarmed on learning she had remained in the
house a portion of the night without every place of egress being
securely fastened.

Once outside he gazed around several moments, taking in all the details
of the place where he had spent so many pleasant days, and then, putting
on his shoes, he started up the lane with a heart so heavy it seemed a
positive burden.

The moon shone faintly through the clouds; the night wind murmured
mournfully among the trees, and before him could dimly be seen the road
he believed led him to the paupers' home by way of Mr. Pratt's house.



CHAPTER XXI.

STARTLING INFORMATION.


Realizing that he had a long walk before him, Jack continued on at a
steady pace keeping ever in mind the good he hoped to accomplish.

He did not dare dwell upon the possible ending to the journey lest he
should grow faint-hearted, but tried to persuade himself there would be
some way by which he might escape the threatened ignominy.

By starting at midnight, he expected to arrive at Scarborough early in
the day, and then, in case Farmer Pratt did not attempt to detain him,
it would be possible to return to the farm before sunset.

It was not believed he would meet any travellers at that hour, and the
loneliness, when the shadows danced to and fro athwart the road like
fairy-land monsters, was so great as to make him repent ever having
attempted the undertaking.

As the curtain of night was slowly removed, and the heralds of the
coming morn appeared in the sky, his drooping spirits revived.

He listened with interest to the sounds which proclaimed that day was
awakening. The birds in their leafy homes began to discuss the propriety
of going out in search of the "early worm." The frogs from the watery
dwellings called to their children that it was time to be up and doing
unless they wanted to remain tadpoles forever, and the wind which came
"out of the sea" whispered: Awake! it is the day.

The leaves bowed and courtesied, the waving grasses bent yet lower their
heads, the flowers brought out their sweetest perfumes, and all nature
was quivering with excitement because the kindly sun was about to show
himself once more.

Then as the first golden rays of light shot across the sky and the birds
burst forth into song, Jack felt a certain sense of relief. The words
which he had heard Aunt Nancy speak so often came to his mind, and he
repeated over and over again, understanding the meaning better than ever
before,--

"He doeth all things well."

It was but a little past eight o'clock when he turned the corner which
led to Farmer Pratt's house, and the first person he saw was none other
than Master Tom.

"Hello! Where'd you come from?" that young gentleman cried in surprise.

"Down the road a bit."

"Why didn't you git back before? Father's been lookin' almost everywhere
for you an' the baby."

"Is he still huntin'?"

"No, he gave it up as a bad job a good while ago, for there's no chance
of gettin' the reward now."

"The reward?" Jack asked in surprise.

"Yes; you see the baby's mother went away from Portland, an' father
don't allow there's anybody in town who cares very much about it after
so long a time."

"Louis' mother in Portland?" Jack cried, rapidly growing bewildered.

"Of course; father went in to see her after he made up his mind you'd
gone away; but she wasn't there, so he said it would pay him better to
'tend to the farm instead of runnin' 'round after you fellers."

Jack's eyes were opened wide with astonishment, and Tom began to think
the hunchback had taken leave of his senses.

"What's the matter with you?" he asked sharply, and Jack replied
slowly,--

"I can't make out how Mrs. Littlefield happened to be in Portland when
the last I saw of her was on the 'Atlanta.' Why, the ship was goin' to
Bremen!"

"She come inside the breakwater after you went adrift. It's all in the
papers father's got."

"Why didn't you tell me about it?" Jack asked reproachfully.

"How could I when we didn't know where you was? Me an' father hunted all
'round, but couldn't find hide nor hair of either you or the baby."

"Was your father tryin' to send us back to Mrs. Littlefield?"

"Sure, 'cause he wanted to earn the reward."

"An' I've been keepin' out of his way when I might have given Louis back
to his mother long ago!" Jack cried in dismay.

"You oughter knowed better."

"How could I when he'd threatened to send us to the poor farm?"

"But he didn't."

"He told Aunt Nancy so."

"Who's she?"

"A lady we've been livin' with. Say, Tom, have you got the papers that
tell about Mrs. Littlefield huntin' for us?"

"There's a whole slat of 'em down to the house. Father spent more'n
twenty cents buyin' whatever had anything in it about you."

"Will you give me one?"

"Of course. I know they ain't any good, for I heard him say he'd thrown
away jest so much money on the pesky things."

"Let's go right down an' get one," Jack cried excitedly as he tried to
quicken Tom's movements by pulling at his arm.

Master Pratt was not a boy who could be hurried; he objected to moving
quickly upon any occasion, however important, and said irritably,--

"Don't yank a feller 'round so; if I go back now I'm afraid father'll be
there an' set me to work."

"I'll help you if he does."

"A feller like you wouldn't 'mount to much haulin' rock-weed," Tom said
scornfully.

"But I'll help as much as I can. _Do_ go, Tom; only think what it means
to Louis! His mother will soon find him if I can take one of the papers
back to Aunt Nancy."

"How do you make that out?"

"She'd see where to write to Mrs. Littlefield, an' that would settle the
whole thing."

"Well, I'll go," Master Pratt said with an air such as he fancied a
martyr should wear; "but it's goin' to be mighty hard if I'm set to work
after gettin' so far away from home."

Jack hurried him along as fast as possible, which at the best was a slow
pace, and, on arriving at the Pratt farm, Tom reconnoitred several
minutes, determined not to enter the house if his father was on the
premises.

Mr. Pratt was nowhere to be seen, and Tom whispered,--

"You stay here while I run in an' get it. Mother may be mad if she sees
you hangin' 'round after father has blowed us up so much for lettin' you
go away."

Jack hid himself behind a clump of hollyhocks, and in a few moments Tom
came back with two papers which showed signs of having been subjected to
hard usage.

"Put 'em in your pocket, an' let's skip."

Jack was about to act upon this suggestion when it suddenly occurred to
him that, in the excitement caused by learning Louis' mother was
searching for her child, he had forgotten the reason for his visit.

"I've got to see your father before I leave," he said.

"What for? He won't be very pleasant after losin' all the money the
captain's wife was willin' to pay."

"I can't help that. I'm here with a message from Aunt Nancy, an' it must
be delivered."

"I guess you'll find him down in the potato patch, but I ain't fool
enough to go with you. Hurry up, an' I'll see you on the road, for I
reckon you count on goin' back to that Aunt Nancy."

"Of course, an' I must be there as soon as possible."

Tom pointed out the location of the field, and Jack started across the
ploughed land feeling very light at heart, because it now seemed
probable Louis would soon find his mother.

Farmer Pratt was not aware he had a visitor until Jack had approached
within a couple of yards, and said in a voice which was decidedly
shaky,--

"Good mornin', sir."

"Hello! It's you, eh?"

"Yes, sir," Jack replied, as if believing the gentleman wished for an
answer.

"Well, you young scoundrel, what have you to say for yourself after
cheatin' me out of one hundred dollars? Answer me that, you misshapen
villain!"

"I didn't cheat you, sir."

"Don't contradict me, you miserable cripple, or as sure's my name's
Nathan Pratt I'll strike you with this hoe!"

Jack started back in alarm as the farmer raised the tool, and then,
hoping to bring the interview to a speedy close, said timidly,--

"I came here, sir, to tell you that Aunt Nancy is awful sorry she acted
a lie when you were at the house huntin' for us. She can't be easy in
her mind till she's confessed, an' as she couldn't walk so far I've come
in her place."

"Is that the little woman up on the Saco road with a couple of curls an'
a mighty sharp tongue?"

"She's got two curls."

"I know her! So she lied to me, eh?"

"Not exactly, sir, for you didn't ask straight out if we were there; but
she's awful good and thinks by not tellin' everything it was the same as
a lie, so I come over here to tell you she's sorry."

"So she ought to be, the vixen! The idea of a little drop of vinegar
like her keepin' that baby away from his mother!"

"Did you know, then, that Louis' mother was huntin' for him?"

"Of course I did, or else why would I have gone gallivantin' 'round the
country lookin' for him?"

"Then why didn't you tell her? She'd been only too glad to hear from
Mrs. Littlefield, but you made her believe we'd got to be took to the
poor farm."

The farmer glared at Jack for an instant, and then it flashed across his
mind that the cause of his losing the reward was the lie he told to Aunt
Nancy.

This was not a consoling thought to one who had mourned so deeply over
the loss of the prospective money as had Mr. Pratt, and the only relief
he could find was in scolding Jack.

The cripple listened to his angry words a few seconds, and then, knowing
no good could come of waiting, said as he walked away,--

"I only came over here to tell you Aunt Nancy was sorry, an' there's no
need of stayin' any longer after you know it."

"I'll have her arrested for swindlin' me outer that money!"

"She didn't do anything of the kind, an' it's all your own fault you
lost it," Jack cried, emboldened by the knowledge that he was at a safe
distance from the angry man.

The farmer shook his fist at the cripple in impotent rage, and Jack
hurried out to the road where Tom was waiting to receive him.

"What was goin' on down there?" Master Pratt asked eagerly. "I heard him
hollerin' awful."

"It wasn't much. Your father was kinder mad, but I guess he'll get over
it pretty soon."

"I hope so, for he's been scoldin' about losin' the money ever since he
first saw the papers. Where are you goin' now?"

"Home."

"Why don't you hold on a while an' get rested?"

"It won't do to stop; Aunt Nancy'll be worryin' about me, an', besides,
we've got to send a letter to Louis' mother right away."

Tom insisted that after the service he had rendered it would be nothing
more than a friendly act for the cripple to remain and chat a while, but
Jack would listen to nothing of the kind.

Despite his weariness he set out on the return journey at once, but with
a lighter heart than when he left Aunt Nancy's home.

It was dark when he came down the lane and found the little woman
sitting under the old oak.

"O Jack dear!" she cried in tones of mingled joy and surprise. "It's
really you, and that hard-hearted farmer didn't send you to the poor
farm. But perhaps you couldn't find him," she added as the thought
occurred to her.

"Yes I did, an' I told him you was sorry."

Then Jack related the incidents of his journey, reserving until the last
the startling news which promised to restore Louis to his parents' arms.

Aunt Nancy alternately laughed and cried when she heard the story, and
at its conclusion said,--

"What a lesson that should be to us, Jack dear. If I hadn't acted the
lie Louis would have seen his mother just so much sooner, and I have
been the means of making the poor woman's heart ache longer than was
necessary. You thought it wasn't a sin because I didn't _speak_ the
words which formed the falsehood, and yet you can now see that increased
trouble has been brought about by it."

"But Mr. Pratt told a reg'lar lie."

"That doesn't excuse me in the slightest. If every person in the world
spoke falsely I couldn't plead that it gave me a right to do so. But
come into the house and get something to eat. You must be nearly
famished as well as tired."

"A slice of bread and butter wouldn't taste bad. Where's Louis?"

"I put him to bed an hour ago," the little woman replied as she led the
way in. "After I set the table I'll read the papers you brought so we
can find out what's to be done to let that poor woman know where her
baby is."

Jack insisted there was no reason why the table should be laid for him,
but Aunt Nancy would not listen to his proposition of taking the food in
his hands.

She set out some of the best crockery, and in it placed as tempting a
lunch as the most fastidious boy could have asked for.

Then as Jack ate she read the accounts of the accident on board the
"Atlanta."

"It doesn't state here where the captain lives," she said after a while,
"but I think I know how we can find Mrs. Littlefield. I will write a
letter to the editor of the paper asking for her address, or perhaps it
would save time to send one to her and get him to address it."

"The last plan is the best," Jack said after some thought.

"Then I'll write at once, and you shall take it to the post office the
first thing in the morning."

It was late before the little woman finished what was to her a hard
task, and then she thanked her Father for his wondrous goodness and
mercy in allowing that her sin brought forth no other evil than the
delay in restoring the baby to his mother's arms.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE ARRIVAL.


Bright and early on the following morning Jack set out for the post
office with the letter, and Mr. Treat would have resumed the "dicker"
for the cow immediately after his arrival, but the hunchback prevented
him by saying,--

"I don't want to buy one now. Mrs. Souders gave Aunt Nancy a handsome
creature, and that is all she needs."

"Sho! You don't mean to tell me Sarah Souders gave one right out?"

"That's what she did."

"Then all I can say is, it's a case of fool an' her money soon parted.
Why shouldn't Aunt Nancy pay for things the same as anybody else?"

"She hadn't the money."

"There's where you make a mistake, for we haven't settled for the wheat
yet, an' I've quite a little sum in my hands belongin' to her."

"But that must be used in gettin' ready for the summer boarders."

"Well," Mr. Treat said with a long-drawn sigh, as if pained because he
had been prevented from performing a charitable act, "I can't help it if
the old woman wants sich a cow as Sarah Souders would buy when she can
get a good one from me by puttin' out a little money."

Then the worthy post master took the letter Jack handed him, scrutinized
it carefully, asked if Aunt Nancy was thinking of putting an
advertisement in the papers for summer boarders, and, on receiving a
non-committal answer, finally dropped it in the mail bag.

Jack had waited to see this last act performed, and when the missive
disappeared he hurried home.

It so chanced that he did not arrive there as soon as he had expected.

While passing Mr. Dean's house Bill came out and hailed him with,--

"Say, Hunchie, is the old maid waitin' for me to come 'round so she can
talk Sunday school?"

"Aunt Nancy doesn't do anything of the kind. If you knowed her as well
as I do you'd be mighty glad to be where she was."

"I ain't sayin' that isn't so, an' don't be s'prised if you see me up
there pretty soon."

"Shall I tell her so?"

"No, for it might give the old woman too much of a shock. I only thought
I'd let you know so's you wouldn't get frightened when I came inter the
yard," and with this remark Master Dean re-entered the house, probably
thinking he had paved the way in a very delicate manner for a visit to
the little woman whom he had so often held up to ridicule.

Now that the important letter had really been sent both Aunt Nancy and
Jack were in a nervously expectant frame of mind.

They were unable to decide whether the editor of the newspaper or Mrs.
Littlefield would write first, and anxiously they awaited for some
tidings.

Jack went to the post office for every mail, and the little woman
actually neglected to wipe imaginary specks of dust from the furniture
during three whole days.

At the expiration of this time both were startled at seeing Daniel Chick
drive up the lane with a strange lady in his wagon.

It was at the close of the afternoon, and the two were sitting under the
big oak while Louis nestled snugly in the little woman's arms.

There was no doubt in Aunt Nancy's mind as to who the stranger might be
when she leaped from the carriage, and, seizing the baby in her arms,
covered his face with kisses and tears.

"It's the dear little fellow's mother," Aunt Nancy whispered, as she led
Jack away, "and it is well to leave her alone for a while. She may be
hungry, and we must get supper at once. Send Daniel Chick off while I
start the fire."

It was not an easy matter to dismiss the driver of the vehicle.

He had been unable to extract any information from Mrs. Littlefield, and
wanted to know why she had come to Aunt Nancy's at least three weeks
before the summer boarders should arrive.

"It's the baby's mother, and we want to leave her alone," Jack replied.

"I ain't troublin' of her, am I?" and Mr. Chick crossed one leg over the
other as he gazed at the scene.

"No; but Aunt Nancy said you were to go away now," Jack persisted, and
then, seeing that the gentleman evinced no disposition to leave, he
joined the little woman in the house.

Supper was ready and on the table before Mrs. Littlefield could
relinquish the baby long enough to ask Jack for the particulars of his
adventures.

Then when she came to the door Aunt Nancy said, as her ringlets,
sharing the feelings of the wearer, shook with suppressed excitement,--

"I hope you will have something to eat. You must be hungry by this time,
and Louis shall sit with me while you are at the table."

As she spoke the little woman held out her hands invitingly to the baby,
and he showed every desire to go to her.

"It can be plainly seen that my darling has had a good home," Mrs.
Littlefield replied as she kissed him again and again.

"He has been loved perhaps better than in a house where there were other
children; but almost any one would have given him the same treatment."

"I am afraid not; both he and Jack have been very fortunate. Now I will
take a cup of tea, but had rather hold him myself."

Aunt Nancy beckoned for Jack to be seated although it was not more than
two hours since he had eaten supper, and when the little woman's head
was bowed in devotion she fervently thanked her Father for his wondrous
goodness and mercy in allowing the mother and child to meet again in
this world.

During the meal Mrs. Littlefield asked Jack to tell the story of his
wanderings, and he gave them in detail, not omitting an account of
Farmer Pratt's determination to send them to the poor farm.

"I shall never be able to repay you for all you have done, my boy,"
Louis' mother said feelingly when the cripple concluded. "You are to go
back with me, and I will take care that you have a good home."

Jack had nothing to say in regard to this.

It seemed only natural he should remain with Louis after all that had
happened, but the idea of leaving the farm was not a pleasant one.

He had known Mrs. Littlefield only during such time as she was on
shipboard, and while she had been kind to him it was as nothing compared
with what he experienced during his stay with Aunt Nancy.

Very much was said regarding the children's adventures. Aunt Nancy was
thanked over and over again for all her kindness, and then Louis' mother
intimated that she would like to retire.

"I wish to leave here on the first train to-morrow morning, and have
travelled so long that rest seems necessary now."

The little woman conducted her guest to another apartment, and then,
with Jack's assistance, the kitchen was made tidy once more.

Louis was nestling in his mother's arms in the lavender-scented bed
which Aunt Nancy kept especially for "company," and the little woman and
Jack were under the big oak together for what both believed would be the
last time.

"You must think sometimes, Jack dear, of the poor old maid who is
sitting out here at this same hour wondering where in the big world her
boy and baby are."

"There won't come a day or evening, Aunt Nancy, when I sha'n't think of
you, and remember you are the best friend I or any other boy ever had.
You see I can't say what is in my heart, but if I could you'd know I'd
never forget how good you've been to me."

"The little I have done, Jack dear, was only my duty, and you have paid
me a thousand fold for everything. I haven't been so contented for many
years as since you came here, and but for the wrong committed when Mr.
Pratt called I should have been perfectly happy."

"I'm glad you liked me," Jack said half to himself, "for if you hadn't I
wouldn't have known what a real home was like. It kinder seems as if I
belonged here."

"You _do_ act the same as own folks, and I wonder if Mrs. Littlefield
will take as much comfort with you as I have?"

"But I'm not goin' to stay at her house very long. When the captain
comes home I shall get work on board the 'Atlanta' again. Folks won't
keep me for an ornament, you know, an' I must earn my own livin'."

"Do you like to go to sea?"

"Well, there's some things about it that's pleasanter than stayin'
ashore. The sailors are kinder than the boys in town, an' don't call me
'Hunchie,' or names of that sort."

Aunt Nancy remained silent, as if in deep thought, several moments, and
then said abruptly,--

"You certainly ought to go to school a portion of the time, Jack dear."

"I s'pose I had, for I don't know scarcely anything, an' never had a
chance to learn."

"Can you read?"

"If the words ain't too long; but in printin' there are so few short
ones, that I don't seem to find out what the man who made it meant."

"I should have taught you instead of sitting here idle; but we couldn't
have accomplished a great deal since you came."

"You've had enough to do without botherin' about me."

"But, Jack, you can do a great deal by yourself. Before you go away I
want to give you a little money, and with some of it you must buy a
school book. Then study a certain portion of it each day, until there is
no difficulty in reading any ordinary print. After that will be time
enough to take up other branches, and writing must come with the
reading, as I shall look very anxiously for a letter in your own hand."

"I'll do the best I can, Aunt Nancy, but I don't want you to give me any
money. You haven't much to spare, and that I know."

"I shall share it with you, Jack dear, and you mustn't make any
objection, for after you have gone I shall feel better to know you are
able to buy what little you may want."

Then Aunt Nancy drew from her pocket a small black book which she handed
to the boy as she said in a low tone,--

"This was my father's Bible, and the print is so faint that I can no
longer read it even with glasses."

"Hadn't you rather keep it? It was your father's."

  "No, dear. I have one as you know, and this can be put to no better
  service than teaching you the right way. For my sake, Jack, become a
  good man. Shun evil company, and do unto others as you would they
  should do unto you. I haven't set a very good example in that way since
  you came here; but you have a better temper than I, and for that more is
  expected. Don't be tempted to tell a lie, and then you'll never feel as
  I have since Mr. Pratt called."

"I'll remember all you say, Aunt Nancy, and it would be a mighty
ungrateful feller who'd do anything he thought would make you feel bad."

Then ensued another long interval of silence, during which the sun
finished his work of painting the clouds, and had sunk behind the hills.

"It'll come pretty hard not to see you at night," Jack finally said
thoughtfully.

"Will it, really?" the little woman asked eagerly.

"Of course," and Jack looked up in surprise that such a question should
have been asked. "I don't s'pose I'll ever find a home as nice as this."

"And would you be willing to stay here?"

"Indeed I would if I could get work to pay my way."

"Don't you think it would be lonely when winter comes, and you would be
obliged to remain a greater portion of the time in the house?"

"Not if you was here."

"Then, Jack, I am going to say something I thought ought not to be
spoken of for fear you might do it simply to please me. Why not stay?"

"But I can't find any work 'round here, Aunt Nancy."

"You have contrived to get plenty from the first night I saw you. If
this home seems pleasant there is no reason why you should leave it, and
when the white winged messengers come to carry me to the Father, the
little I leave behind shall be yours. It isn't much, Jack dear, but
would keep you from want, and a delicate boy like you is not able to
fight the hard world. If you were strong and well the case would be
different."

Jack drew a long breath as if the pleasurable surprise was almost
overpowering, and then asked slowly,--

"Do you really want me to live here?"

"Do I want you? If you say you will stay the pain which is now in my
heart will go away in an instant, and I would be the happiest old woman
in the State."

"Then there'll be two feelin' mighty good, Aunt Nancy, for I'm only too
glad of the chance."

The little woman kissed him tenderly, which told better than words that
the invitation really came from the heart.

Not until a late hour that night did the tiny woman and the cripple
leave the bench under the old oak.

Aunt Nancy had many plans for the future, chief among which was giving
Jack an education, and he speculated upon the possibility of tilling so
much of the farm during the coming season as would give him a small
income.

All this was so interesting that for the first time in her life Aunt
Nancy came very near forgetting to search the house for supposed
burglars.

"Mercy on us, Jack! It must be near midnight, and we haven't looked into
a single room yet. I am so excited I hardly know what I'm about."

"I don't believe there would be any harm done if we didn't search the
place for a week," Jack said with a merry laugh; "but we'll go through
the motions all the same."

On the following morning there was very little opportunity for a lengthy
conversation upon the change in the plans as arranged by Aunt Nancy and
Jack.

When she made known the fact that the cripple would remain with her,
Mrs. Littlefield approved heartily of it.

"I am positive he couldn't have a better home," she said, "and will take
it upon myself to see he is not a burden. That much I owe him, if
nothing more, for all he did to make my baby happy and comfortable."

"I am not a rich woman, Mrs. Littlefield," Aunt Nancy said with
considerable dignity, "but I can care for the dear boy while I live."

This concluded the subject, for at that moment Daniel Chick arrived to
take the visitor to the station, and Aunt Nancy and Jack could think of
nothing save the parting with the little fellow they had learned to love
so dearly.

Louis crowed and laughed at the prospect of a ride, and Aunt Nancy said
sadly when he disappeared around the corner of the lane,--

"It almost seems as if he was glad to go away from us, Jack dear."

"I reckon the farm will be kinder lonesome for a day or two, but he's
with his mother, an' that's where he belongs."

"Yes, dear, we mustn't repine. The day will soon come for me when I go
away to my Father, and then you must think the same, for I shall be many
times happier in the eternal city than the baby is now. It will be a
lonely time for you, Jack dear, but only for a short while, after which
the old maid and the cripple will be in the glory and splendor of God's
own light."

Then Aunt Nancy kissed Jack affectionately as she drew him to the
favorite seat, and, under the old oak where so many happy as well as sad
hours have been spent, will we bid adieu to the hunchback and his best
earthly friend.


THE END.



A. L. BURT'S PUBLICATIONS

For Young People

BY POPULAR WRITERS.

52-58 Duarte Street, New York.



=Bonnie Prince Charlie=: A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

The adventures of the son of a Scotch officer in French service. The
boy, brought up by a Glasgow bailie, is a arrested for aiding a
Jacobite agent, escapes, is wrecked on the French coast, reaches Paris,
and serves with the French army at Dettingen. He kills his father's foe
in a duel, and escaping to the coast, shares the adventures of Prince
Charlie, but finally settles happily in Scotland.

"Ronald, the hero, is very like the hero of 'Quentin Durward.' The
lad's journey across France, and his hairbreadth escapes, make up
as good a narrative of the kind as we have ever read. For freshness
of treatment and variety of incident Mr. Henty has surpassed
himself."--_Spectator._


=With Clive in India=; or, the Beginnings of an Empire. By G. A.
HENTY. With 12 full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

The period between the landing of Clive as a young writer in India and
the close of his career was critical and eventful in the extreme. At its
commencement the English were traders existing on sufferance of the
native princes. At its close they were masters of Bengal and of the
greater part of Southern India. The author has given a full and accurate
account of the events of that stirring time, and battles and sieges
follow each other in rapid succession, while he combines with his
narrative a tale of daring and adventure, which gives a lifelike
interest to the volume.

"He has taken a period of Indian history of the most vital
importance, and he has embroidered on the historical facts a story
which of itself is deeply interesting. Young people assuredly will
be delighted with the volume."--_Scotsman._


=The Lion of the North=: A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and the Wars of
Religion. By G. A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by JOHN
SCHÖNBERG. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

In this story Mr. Henty gives the history of the first part of the
Thirty Years' War. The issue had its importance, which has extended to
the present day, as it established religious freedom in Germany. The
army of the chivalrous king of Sweden was largely composed of Scotchmen,
and among these was the hero of the story.

"The tale is a clever and instructive piece of history, and as boys
may be trusted to read it conscientiously, they can hardly fail to
be profited."--_Times._


=The Dragon and the Raven;= or, The Days of King Alfred. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

In this story the author gives an account of the fierce struggle
between Saxon and Dane for supremacy in England, and presents a vivid
picture of the misery and ruin to which the country was reduced by the
ravages of the sea-wolves. The hero, a young Saxon thane, takes part in
all the battles fought by King Alfred. He is driven from his home, takes
to the sea and resists the Danes on their own element, and being pursued
by them up the Seine, is present at the long and desperate siege of
Paris.

"Treated in a manner most attractive to the boyish reader."--_Athenæum._


=The Young Carthaginian=: A Story of the Times of Hannibal. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by C. J. STANILAND, R.I. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

Boys reading the history of the Punic Wars have seldom a keen
appreciation of the merits of the contest. That it was at first a
struggle for empire, and afterward for existence on the part of
Carthage, that Hannibal was a great and skillful general, that he
defeated the Romans at Trebia, Lake Trasimenus, and Cannæ, and all but
took Rome, represents pretty nearly the sum total of their knowledge. To
let them know more about this momentous struggle for the empire of the
world Mr. Henty has written this story, which not only gives in graphic
style a brilliant description of a most interesting period of history,
but is a tale of exciting adventure sure to secure the interest of the
reader.

"Well constructed and vividly told. From first to last nothing
stays the interest of the narrative. It bears us along as on a
stream whose current varies in direction, but never loses its
force."--_Saturday Review._


=In Freedom's Cause=: A Story of Wallace and Bruce. By G. A. HENTY.
With full page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth, price
$1.00.

In this story the author relates the stirring tale of the Scottish War
of Independence. The extraordinary valor and personal prowess of Wallace
and Bruce rival the deeds of the mythical heroes of chivalry, and indeed
at one time Wallace was ranked with these legendary personages. The
researches of modern historians have shown, however, that he was a
living, breathing man--and a valiant champion. The hero of the tale
fought under both Wallace and Bruce, and while the strictest historical
accuracy has been maintained with respect to public events, the work is
full of "hairbreadth 'scapes" and wild adventure.

"It is written in the author's best style. Full of the wildest and
most remarkable achievements, it is a tale of great interest, which
a boy, once he has begun it, will not willingly put on one
side."--_The Schoolmaster._


=With Lee in Virginia=: A Story of the American Civil War. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth,
price $1.00.

The story of a young Virginian planter, who, after bravely proving his
sympathy with the slaves of brutal masters, serves with no less courage
and enthusiasm under Lee and Jackson through the most exciting events of
the struggle. He has many hairbreadth escapes, is several times wounded
and twice taken prisoner; but his courage and readiness and, in two
cases, the devotion of a black servant and of a runaway slave whom he
had assisted, bring him safely through all difficulties.

"One of the best stories for lads which Mr. Henty has yet written.
The picture is full of life and color, and the stirring and
romantic incidents are skillfully blended with the personal
interest and charm of the story."--_Standard._


=By England's Aid=; or, The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604) By
G.A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE, and
Maps. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The story of two English lads who go to Holland as pages in the service
of one of "the fighting Veres." After many adventures by sea and land,
one of the lads finds himself on board a Spanish ship at the time of the
defeat of the Armada, and escapes only to fall into the hands of the
Corsairs. He is successful in getting back to Spain under the protection
of a wealthy merchant, and regains his native country after the capture
of Cadiz.

"It is an admirable book for youngsters. It overflows with stirring
incident and exciting adventure, and the color of the era and of
the scene are finely reproduced. The illustrations add to its
attractiveness."--_Boston Gazette._


=By Right of Conquest=; or, With Cortez in Mexico. By G. A. HENTY.
With full page Illustrations by W. S. STACEY, and Two Maps. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.50.

The conquest of Mexico by a small band of resolute men under the
magnificent leadership of Cortez is always rightly ranked among the most
romantic and daring exploits in history. With this as the groundwork of
his story Mr. Henty has interwoven the adventures of an English youth,
Roger Hawkshaw, the sole survivor of the good ship Swan, which had
sailed from a Devon port to challenge the mercantile supremacy of the
Spaniards in the New World. He is beset by many perils among the
natives, but is saved by his own judgment and strength, and by the
devotion of an Aztec princess. At last by a ruse he obtains the
protection of the Spaniards, and after the fall of Mexico he succeeds in
regaining his native shore, with a fortune and a charming Aztec bride.

"'By Right of Conquest' is the nearest approach to a perfectly
successful historical tale that Mr. Henty has yet published."--_Academy._


=In the Reign of Terror=: The Adventures of a Westminster Boy By G.
A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by J. SCHÖNBERG. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

Harry Sandwith, a Westminster boy, becomes a resident at the chateau of
a French marquis, and after various adventures accompanies the family to
Paris at the crisis of the Revolution. Imprisonment and death reduce
their number, and the hero finds himself beset by perils with the three
young daughters of the house in his charge. After hairbreadth escapes
they reach Nantes. There the girls are condemned to death in the
coffin-ships, but are saved by the unfailing courage of their boy
protector.

"Harry Sandwith, the Westminster boy, may fairly be said to beat
Mr. Henty's record. His adventures will delight boys by the
audacity and peril they depict.... The story is one of Mr. Henty's
best."--_Saturday Review._


=With Wolfe in Canada=; or, The Winning of a Continent. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth,
price $1.00.

In the present volume Mr. Henty gives an account of the struggle between
Britain and France for supremacy in the North American continent. On the
issue of this war depended not only the destinies of North America, but
to a large extent those of the mother countries themselves. The fall of
Quebec decided that the Anglo-Saxon race should predominate in the New
World; that Britain, and not France, should take the lead among the
nations of Europe; and that English and American commerce, the English
language, and English literature, should spread right round the globe.

"It is not only a lesson in history as instructively as it is
graphically told, but also a deeply interesting and often thrilling
tale of adventure and peril by flood and field."--_Illustrated
London News._


=True to the Old Flag=: A Tale of the American War of Independence.
By G. A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE.
12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

In this story the author has gone to the accounts of officers who took
part in the conflict, and lads will find that in no war in which
American and British soldiers have been engaged did they behave with
greater courage and good conduct. The historical portion of the book
being accompanied with numerous thrilling adventures with the redskins
on the shores of Lake Huron, a story of exciting interest is interwoven
with the general narrative and carried through the book.

"Does justice to the pluck and determination of the British
soldiers during the unfortunate struggle against American
emancipation. The son of an American loyalist, who remains true to
our flag, falls among the hostile redskins in that very Huron
country which has been endeared to us by the exploits of Hawkeye
and Chingachgook."--_The Times._


=The Lion of St. Mark=: A Tale of Venice in the Fourteenth Century.
By G. A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE.
12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

A story of Venice at a period when her strength and splendor were put to
the severest tests. The hero displays a fine sense and manliness which
carry him safely through an atmosphere of intrigue, crime, and
bloodshed. He contributes largely to the victories of the Venetians at
Porto d'Anzo and Chioggia, and finally wins the hand of the daughter of
one of the chief men of Venice.

"Every boy should read 'The Lion of St. Mark.' Mr. Henty has never
produced a story more delightful, more wholesome, or more
vivacious."--_Saturday Review._


=A Final Reckoning=: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by W. B. WOLLEN. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

The hero, a young English lad, after rather a stormy boyhood emigrates
to Australia, and gets employment as an officer in the mounted police. A
few years of active work on the frontier, where he has many a brush with
both natives and bushrangers, gain him promotion to a captaincy, and he
eventually settles down to the peaceful life of a squatter.

"Mr. Henty has never published a more readable, a more carefully
constructed, or a better written story than this."--_Spectator._


=Under Drake's Flag=: A Tale of the Spanish Main. By G. A. HENTY.
With full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth, price
$1.00.

A story of the days when England and Spain struggled for the supremacy
of the sea. The heroes sail as lads with Drake in the Pacific
expedition, and in his great voyage of circumnavigation. The historical
portion of the story is absolutely to be relied upon, but this will
perhaps be less attractive than the great variety of exciting adventure
through which the young heroes pass in the course of their voyages.

"A book of adventure, where the hero meets with experience enough,
one would think, to turn his hair gray."--_Harper's Monthly
Magazine._


=By Sheer Pluck=: A Tale of the Ashanti War. By G. A. HENTY. With
full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The author has woven, in a tale of thrilling interest, all the details
of the Ashanti campaign, of which he was himself a witness. His hero,
after many exciting adventures in the interior, is detained a prisoner
by the king just before the outbreak of the war, but escapes, and
accompanies the English expedition on their march to Coomassie.

"Mr. Henty keeps up his reputation as a writer of boys' stories.
'By Sheer Pluck' will be eagerly read."--_Athenæum._


=By Pike and Dyke=: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic. By G.
A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by MAYNARD BROWN, and 4
Maps. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

In this story Mr. Henty traces the adventures and brave deeds of an
English boy in the household of the ablest man of his age--William the
Silent. Edward Martin, the son of an English sea-captain, enters the
service of the Prince as a volunteer, and is employed by him in many
dangerous and responsible missions, in the discharge of which he passes
through the great sieges of the time. He ultimately settles down as Sir
Edward Martin.

"Boys with a turn for historical research will be enchanted with
the book, while the rest who only care for adventure, will be
students in spite of themselves."--_St. James' Gazette._


=St. George for England=: A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth,
price $1.00.

No portion of English history is more crowded with great events than
that of the reign of Edward III. Cressy and Poitiers; the destruction of
the Spanish fleet; the plague of the Black Death; the Jacquerie rising;
these are treated by the author in "St. George for England." The hero of
the story, although of good family, begins life as a London apprentice,
but after countless adventures and perils becomes by valor and good
conduct the squire, and at last the trusted friend of the Black Prince.

"Mr. Henty has developed for himself a type of historical novel for
boys which bids fair to supplement, on their behalf, the historical
labors of Sir Walter Scott in the land of fiction."--_The
Standard._


=Captain's Kidd's Gold=: The True Story of an Adventurous Sailor Boy.
By JAMES FRANKLIN FITTS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

There is something fascinating to the average youth in the very idea
of buried treasure. A vision arises before his eyes of swarthy
Portuguese and Spanish rascals, with black beards and gleaming
eyes--sinister-looking fellows who once on a time haunted the Spanish
Main, sneaking out from some hidden creek in their long, low schooner,
of picaroonish rake and sheer, to attack an unsuspecting trading craft.
There were many famous sea rovers in their day, but none more celebrated
than Capt. Kidd. Perhaps the most fascinating tale of all is Mr. Fitts'
true story of an adventurous American boy, who receives from his dying
father an ancient bit of vellum, which the latter obtained in a curious
way. The document bears obscure directions purporting to locate a
certain island in the Bahama group, and a considerable treasure buried
there by two of Kidd's crew. The hero of this book, Paul Jones Garry, is
an ambitious, persevering lad, of salt-water New England ancestry, and
his efforts to reach the island and secure the money form one of the
most absorbing tales for our youth that has come from the press.


=Captain Bayley's Heir=: A Tale of the Gold Fields of California. By
G.A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by H. M. PAGET. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

A frank, manly lad and his cousin are rivals in the heirship of a
considerable property. The former falls into a trap laid by the latter,
and while under a false accusation of theft foolishly leaves England for
America. He works his passage before the mast, joins a small band of
hunters, crosses a tract of country infested with Indians to the
Californian gold diggings, and is successful both as digger and trader.

"Mr. Henty is careful to mingle instruction with entertainment;
and the humorous touches, especially in the sketch of John Holl,
the Westminster dustman, Dickens himself could hardly have
excelled."--_Christian Leader._


=For Name and Fame=; or, Through Afghan Passes. By G. A. HENTY. With
full-page Illustrations by GORDON BROWNE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

An interesting story of the last war in Afghanistan. The hero, after
being wrecked and going through many stirring adventures among the
Malays, finds his way to Calcutta and enlists in a regiment proceeding
to join the army at the Afghan passes. He accompanies the force under
General Roberts to the Peiwar Kotal, is wounded, taken prisoner, carried
to Cabul, whence he is transferred to Candahar, and takes part in the
final defeat of the army of Ayoub Khan.

"The best feature of the book--apart from the interest of its
scenes of adventure--is its honest effort to do justice to the
patriotism of the Afghan people."--_Daily News._


=Captured by Apes=: The Wonderful Adventures of a Young Animal
Trainer. By Harry Prentice. 12mo, cloth, $1.00.

The scene of this tale is laid on an island in the Malay Archipelago.
Philip Garland, a young animal collector and trainer, of New York, sets
sail for Eastern seas in quest of a new stock of living curiosities. The
vessel is wrecked off the coast of Borneo and young Garland, the sole
survivor of the disaster, is cast ashore on a small island, and captured
by the apes that overrun the place. The lad discovers that the ruling
spirit of the monkey tribe is a gigantic and vicious baboon, whom he
identifies as Goliah, an animal at one time in his possession and with
whose instruction he had been especially diligent. The brute recognizes
him, and with a kind of malignant satisfaction puts his former master
through the same course of training he had himself experienced with a
faithfulness of detail which shows how astonishing is monkey
recollection. Very novel indeed is the way by which the young man
escapes death. Mr. Prentice has certainly worked a new vein on juvenile
fiction, and the ability with which he handles a difficult subject
stamps him as a writer of undoubted skill.


=The Bravest of the Brave=; or, With Peterborough in Spain. By G. A.
HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by H. M. PAGET. 12mo, cloth,
price $1.00.

There are few great leaders whose lives and actions have so completely
fallen into oblivion as those of the Earl of Peterborough. This is
largely due to the fact that they were over-shadowed by the glory and
successes of Marlborough. His career as general extended over little
more than a year, and yet, in that time, he showed a genius for warfare
which has never been surpassed.

"Mr. Henty never loses sight of the moral purpose of his work--to
enforce the doctrine of courage and truth. Lads will read 'The
Bravest of the Brave' with pleasure and profit; of that we are
quite sure."--_Daily Telegraph._


=The Cat of Bubastes=: A Story of Ancient Egypt. By G. A. HENTY. With
full page Illustrations. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

A story which will give young readers an unsurpassed insight into the
customs of the Egyptian people. Amuba, a prince of the Rebu nation, is
carried with his charioteer Jethro into slavery. They become inmates of
the house of Ameres, the Egyptian high-priest, and are happy in his
service until the priest's son accidentally kills the sacred cat of
Bubastes. In an outburst of popular fury Ameres is killed, and it rests
with Jethro and Amuba to secure the escape of the high-priest's son and
daughter.

"The story, from the critical moment of the killing of the sacred
cat to the perilous exodus into Asia with which it closes, is very
skillfully constructed and full of exciting adventures. It is
admirably illustrated."--_Saturday Review._


=With Washington at Monmouth:= A Story of Three Philadelphia Boys. By
JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Three Philadelphia boys, Seth Graydon "whose mother conducted a
boarding-house which was patronized by the British officers;" Enoch
Ball, "son of that Mrs. Ball whose dancing school was situated on
Letitia Street," and little Jacob, son of "Chris, the Baker," serve as
the principal characters. The story is laid during the winter when Lord
Howe held possession of the city, and the lads aid the cause by
assisting the American spies who make regular and frequent visits from
Valley Forge. One reads here of home-life in the captive city when bread
was scarce among the people of the lower classes, and a reckless
prodigality shown by the British officers, who passed the winter in
feasting and merry-making while the members of the patriot army but a
few miles away were suffering from both cold and hunger. The story
abounds with pictures of Colonial life skillfully drawn, and the
glimpses of Washington's soldiers which are given show that the work has
not been hastily done, or without considerable study.


=For the Temple=: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. By G. A. HENTY.
With full-page Illustrations by S. J. SOLOMON. 12mo, cloth, price
$1.00.

Mr. Henty here weaves into the record of Josephus an admirable and
attractive story. The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the march of
the legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem, form
the impressive and carefully studied historic setting to the figure of
the lad who passes from the vineyard to the service of Josephus, becomes
the leader of a guerrilla band of patriots, fights bravely for the
Temple, and after a brief term of slavery at Alexandria, returns to his
Galilean home with the favor of Titus.

"Mr. Henty's graphic prose pictures of the hopeless Jewish
resistance to Roman sway add another leaf to his record of the
famous wars of the world."--_Graphic._


=Facing Death=; or, The Hero of the Vaughan Pit. A Tale of the Coal
Mines. By G. A. HENTY. With full-page Illustrations by GORDON
BROWNE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

"Facing Death" is a story with a purpose. It is intended to show that a
lad who makes up his mind firmly and resolutely that he will rise in
life, and who is prepared to face toil and ridicule and hardship to
carry out his determination, is sure to succeed. The hero of the story
is a typical British boy, dogged, earnest, generous, and though
"shamefaced" to a degree, is ready to face death in the discharge of
duty.

"The tale is well written and well illustrated, and there is much
reality in the characters. If any father, clergyman, or
schoolmaster is on the lookout for a good book to give as a present
to a boy who is worth his salt, this is the book we would
recommend."--_Standard._


=Tom Temple's Career.= By HORATIO ALGER. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Tom Temple, a bright, self-reliant lad, by the death of his father
becomes a boarder at the home of Nathan Middleton, a penurious insurance
agent. Though well paid for keeping the boy, Nathan and his wife
endeavor to bring Master Tom in line with their parsimonious habits. The
lad ingeniously evades their efforts and revolutionizes the household.
As Tom is heir to $40,000, he is regarded as a person of some importance
until by an unfortunate combination of circumstances his fortune shrinks
to a few hundreds. He leaves Plympton village to seek work in New York,
whence he undertakes an important mission to California, around which
center the most exciting incidents of his young career. Some of his
adventures in the far west are so startling that the reader will
scarcely close the book until the last page shall have been reached. The
tale is written in Mr. Alger's most fascinating style, and is bound to
please the very large class of boys who regard this popular author as a
prime favorite.


=Maori and Settler=: A Story of the New Zealand War. By G. A. HENTY.
With full-page Illustrations by ALFRED PEARSE. 12mo, cloth, price
$1.00.

The Renshaws emigrate to New Zealand during the period of the war with
the natives. Wilfrid, a strong, self-reliant, courageous lad, is the
mainstay of the household. He has for his friend Mr. Atherton, a
botanist and naturalist of herculean strength and unfailing nerve and
humor. In the adventures among the Maoris, there are many breathless
moments in which the odds seem hopelessly against the party, but they
succeed in establishing themselves happily in one of the pleasant New
Zealand valleys.

"Brimful of adventure, of humorous and interesting conversation,
and vivid pictures of colonial life."--_Schoolmaster._


=Julian Mortimer=: A Brave Boy's Struggle for Home and Fortune. By
HARRY CASTLEMON. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Here is a story that will warm every boy's heart. There is mystery
enough to keep any lad's imagination wound up to the highest pitch. The
scene of the story lies west of the Mississippi River, in the days when
emigrants made their perilous way across the great plains to the land of
gold. One of the startling features of the book is the attack upon the
wagon train by a large party of Indians. Our hero is a lad of uncommon
nerve and pluck, a brave young American in every sense of the word. He
enlists and holds the reader's sympathy from the outset. Surrounded by
an unknown and constant peril, and assisted by the unswerving fidelity
of a stalwart trapper, a real rough diamond, our hero achieves the most
happy results. Harry Castlemon has written many entertaining stories for
boys, and it would seem almost superfluous to say anything in his
praise, for the youth of America regard him as a favorite author.


="Carrots:"= Just a Little Boy. By MRS. MOLESWORTH. With
Illustrations by WALTER CRANE. 12mo, cloth, price 75 cents.

"One of the cleverest and most pleasing stories it has been our
good fortune to meet with for some time. Carrots and his sister are
delightful little beings, whom to read about is at once to become
very fond of."--_Examiner._

"A genuine children's book; we've seen 'em seize it, and read it
greedily. Children are first-rate critics, and thoroughly
appreciate Walter Crane's Illustrations."--_Punch._


=Mopsa the Fairy.= By JEAN INGELOW. With Eight page Illustrations.
12mo, cloth, price 75 cents.

"Mrs. Ingelow is, to our mind, the most charming of all living
writers for children, and 'Mopsa' alone ought to give her a kind of
pre-emptive right to the love and gratitude of our young folks. It
requires genius to conceive a purely imaginary work which must of
necessity deal with the supernatural, without running into a mere
riot of fantastic absurdity; but genius Miss Ingelow has and the
story of 'Jack' is as careless and joyous, but as delicate as a
picture of childhood."--_Eclectic._


=A Jaunt Through Java=: The Story of a Journey to the Sacred
Mountain. By Edward S. Ellis. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The central interest of this story is found in the thrilling adventures
of two cousins, Hermon and Eustace Hadley, on their trip across the
island of Java, from Samarang to the Sacred Mountain. In a land where
the Royal Bengal tiger runs at large; where the rhinoceros and other
fierce beasts are to be met with at unexpected moments; it is but
natural that the heroes of this book should have a lively experience.
Hermon not only distinguishes himself by killing a full grown tiger at
short range, but meets with the most startling adventure of the journey.
There is much in this narrative to instruct as well as entertain the
reader, and so deftly has Mr. Ellis used his material that there is not
a dull page in the book. The two heroes are brave, manly young fellows,
bubbling over with boyish independence. They cope with the many
difficulties that arise during the trip in a fearless way that is bound
to win the admiration of every lad who is so fortunate as to read their
adventures.


=Wrecked on Spider Island=; or, How Ned Rogers Found the Treasure. By
JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

A "down-east" plucky lad who ships as cabin boy, not from love of
adventure, but because it is the only course remaining by which he can
gain a livelihood. While in his bunk, seasick, Ned Rogers hears the
captain and mate discussing their plans for the willful wreck of the
brig in order to gain the insurance. Once it is known he is in
possession of the secret the captain maroons him on Spider Island,
explaining to the crew that the boy is afflicted with leprosy. While
thus involuntarily playing the part of a Crusoe, Ned discovers a wreck
submerged in the sand, and overhauling the timbers for the purpose of
gathering material with which to build a hut finds a considerable amount
of treasure. Raising the wreck; a voyage to Havana under sail; shipping
there a crew and running for Savannah; the attempt of the crew to seize
the little craft after learning of the treasure on board, and, as a
matter of course, the successful ending of the journey, all serve to
make as entertaining a story of sea life as the most captious boy could
desire.


=Geoff and Jim=: A Story of School Life. By ISMAY THORN. Illustrated
by A. G. WALKER. 12mo, cloth, price 75 cents.

"This is a prettily told story of the life spent by two motherless
bairns at a small preparatory school. Both Geoff and Jim are very
lovable characters, only Jim is the more so; and the scrapes he
gets into and the trials he endures will, no doubt, interest a
large circle of young readers."--_Church Times._

"This is a capital children's story, the characters well portrayed,
and the book tastefully bound and well
illustrated."--_Schoolmaster._

"The story can be heartily recommended as a present for
boys."--_Standard._


=The Castaways=; or, On the Florida Reefs. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

This tale smacks of the salt sea. It is just the kind of story that the
majority of boys yearn for. From the moment that the Sea Queen dispenses
with the services of the tug in lower New York bay till the breeze
leaves her becalmed off the coast of Florida, one can almost hear the
whistle of the wind through her rigging, the creak of her straining
cordage as she heels to the leeward, and feel her rise to the
snow-capped waves which her sharp bow cuts into twin streaks of foam.
Off Marquesas Keys she floats in a dead calm. Ben Clark, the hero of the
story, and Jake, the cook, spy a turtle asleep upon the glassy surface
of the water. They determine to capture him, and take a boat for that
purpose, and just as they succeed in catching him a thick fog cuts them
off from the vessel, and then their troubles begin. They take refuge on
board a drifting hulk, a storm arises and they are cast ashore upon a
low sandy key. Their adventures from this point cannot fail to charm the
reader. As a writer for young people Mr. Otis is a prime favorite. His
style is captivating, and never for a moment does he allow the interest
to flag. In "The Castaways" he is at his best.


=Tom Thatcher's Fortune.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, price
$1.00.

Like all of Mr. Alger's heroes, Tom Thatcher is a brave, ambitious,
unselfish boy. He supports his mother and sister on meager wages earned
as a shoe-pegger in John Simpson's factory. The story begins with Tom's
discharge from the factory, because Mr. Simpson felt annoyed with the
lad for interrogating him too closely about his missing father. A few
days afterward Tom learns that which induces him to start overland for
California with the view of probing the family mystery. He meets with
many adventures. Ultimately he returns to his native village, bringing
consternation to the soul of John Simpson, who only escapes the
consequences of his villainy by making full restitution to the man whose
friendship he had betrayed. The story is told in that entertaining way
which has made Mr. Alger's name a household word in so many homes.


=Birdie=: A Tale of Child Life. By H. L. CHILDE-PEMBERTON.
Illustrated by H. W. RAINEY. 12mo, cloth, price 75 cents.

"The story is quaint and simple, but there is a freshness about it
that makes one hear again the ringing laugh and the cheery shout of
children at play which charmed his earlier years."--_New York
Express._


=Popular Fairy Tales.= By the BROTHERS GRIMM. Profusely Illustrated,
  12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

"From first to last, almost without exception, these stories are
delightful."--_Athenæum._


=With Lafayette at Yorktown=: A Story of How Two Boys Joined the
Continental Army. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The two boys are from Portsmouth, N. H., and are introduced in August,
1781, when on the point of leaving home to enlist in Col. Scammell's
regiment, then stationed near New York City. Their method of traveling
is on horseback, and the author has given an interesting account of what
was expected from boys in the Colonial days. The lads, after no slight
amount of adventure, are sent as messengers--not soldiers--into the
south to find the troops under Lafayette. Once with that youthful
general they are given employment as spies, and enter the British camp,
bringing away valuable information. The pictures of camp-life are
carefully drawn, and the portrayal of Lafayette's character is
thoroughly well done. The story is wholesome in tone, as are all of Mr.
Otis' works. There is no lack of exciting incident which the youthful
reader craves, but it is healthful excitement brimming with facts which
every boy should be familiar with, and while the reader is following the
adventures of Ben Jaffreys and Ned Allen he is acquiring a fund of
historical lore which will remain in his memory long after that which he
has memorized from text-books has been forgotten.


=Lost in the Canon=: Sam Willett's Adventures on the Great Colorado.
By ALFRED R. CALHOUN. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

This story hinges on a fortune left to Sam Willett, the hero, and the
fact that it will pass to a disreputable relative if the lad dies before
he shall have reached his majority. The Vigilance Committee of Hurley's
Gulch arrest Sam's father and an associate for the crime of murder.
Their lives depend on the production of the receipt given for money
paid. This is in Sam's possession at the camp on the other side of the
cañon. A messenger is dispatched to get it. He reaches the lad in the
midst of a fearful storm which floods the cañon. His father's peril
urges Sam to action. A raft is built on which the boy and his friends
essay to cross the torrent. They fail to do so, and a desperate trip
down the stream ensues. How the party finally escape from the horrors of
their situation and Sam reaches Hurley's Gulch in the very nick of time,
is described in a graphic style that stamps Mr. Calhoun as a master of
his art.


=Jack=: A Topsy Turvy Story. By C. M. CRAWLEY-BOEVEY. With upward of
Thirty Illustrations by H. J. A. MILES. 12mo, cloth, price 75
cents.

"The illustrations deserve particular mention, as they add largely
to the interest of this amusing volume for children. Jack falls
asleep with his mind full of the subject of the fishpond, and is
very much surprised presently to find himself an inhabitant of
Waterworld, where he goes though wonderful and edifying adventures.
A handsome and pleasant book."--_Literary World._


=Search for the Silver City=: A Tale of Adventure in Yucatan. By
JAMES OTIS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Two American lads, Teddy Wright and Neal Emery, embark on the steam
yacht Day Dream for a short summer cruise to the tropics. Homeward bound
the yacht is destroyed by fire. All hands take to the boats, but during
the night the boat is cast upon the coast of Yucatan. They come across a
young American named Cummings, who entertains them with the story of the
wonderful Silver City, of the Chan Santa Cruz Indians. Cummings proposes
with the aid of a faithful Indian ally to brave the perils of the swamp
and carry off a number of the golden images from the temples. Pursued
with relentless vigor for days their situation is desperate. At last
their escape is effected in an astonishing manner. Mr. Otis has built
his story on an historical foundation. It is so full of exciting
incidents that the reader is quite carried away with the novelty and
realism of the narrative.


=Frank Fowler, the Cash Boy.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth,
price $1.00.

Thrown upon his own resources Frank Fowler, a poor boy, bravely
determines to make a living for himself and his foster-sister Grace.
Going to New York he obtains a situation as cash boy in a dry goods
store. He renders a service to a wealthy old gentleman named Wharton,
who takes a fancy to the lad. Frank, after losing his place as cash boy,
is enticed by an enemy to a lonesome part of New Jersey and held a
prisoner. This move recoils upon the plotter, for it leads to a clue
that enables the lad to establish his real identity. Mr. Alger's stories
are not only unusually interesting, but they convey a useful lesson of
pluck and manly independence.


=Budd Boyd's Triumph=; or, the Boy Firm of Fox Island. By WILLIAM P.
CHIPMAN. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The scene of this story is laid on the upper part of Narragansett Bay,
and the leading incidents have a strong salt water flavor. Owing to the
conviction of his father for forgery and theft, Budd Boyd is compelled
to leave his home and strike out for himself. Chance brings Budd in
contact with Judd Floyd. The two boys, being ambitious and clear
sighted, form a partnership to catch and sell fish. The scheme is
successfully launched, but the unexpected appearance on the scene of
Thomas Bagsley, the man whom Budd believes guilty of the crimes
attributed to his father, leads to several disagreeable complications
that nearly caused the lad's ruin. His pluck and good sense, however,
carry him through his troubles. In following the career of the boy firm
of Boyd & Floyd, the youthful reader will find a useful lesson--that
industry and perseverance are bound to lead to ultimate success.


=The Errand Boy=; or, How Phil Brent Won Success. By HORATIO ALGER,
JR. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The career of "The Errand Boy" embraces the city adventures of a smart
country lad who at an early age was abandoned by his father. Philip was
brought up by a kind-hearted innkeeper named Brent. The death of Mrs.
Brent paved the way for the hero's subsequent troubles. Accident
introduces him to the notice of a retired merchant in New York, who not
only secures him the situation of errand boy but thereafter stands as
his friend. An unexpected turn of fortune's wheel, however, brings
Philip and his father together. In "The Errand Boy" Philip Brent is
possessed of the same sterling qualities so conspicuous in all of the
previous creations of this delightful writer for our youth.


=The Slate Picker=: The Story of a Boy's Life in the Coal Mines. By
HARRY PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

This is a story of a boy's life in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. There
are many thrilling situations, notably that of Ben Burton's leap into
the "lion's mouth"--the yawning shute in the breakers--to escape a
beating at the hands of the savage Spilkins, the overseer. Gracie Gordon
is a little angel in rags, Terence O'Dowd is a manly, sympathetic lad,
and Enoch Evans, the miner-poet, is a big-hearted, honest fellow, a true
friend to all whose burdens seem too heavy for them to bear. Ben Burton,
the hero, had a hard road to travel, but by grit and energy he advanced
step by step until he found himself called upon to fill the position of
chief engineer of the Kohinoor Coal Company.


=A Runaway Brig=; or, An Accidental Cruise. By JAMES OTIS. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

"A Runaway Brig" is a sea tale, pure and simple, and that's where it
strikes a boy's fancy. The reader can look out upon the wide shimmering
sea as it flashes back the sunlight, and imagine himself afloat with
Harry Vandyne, Walter Morse, Jim Libby and that old shell-back, Bob
Brace, on the brig Bonita, which lands on one of the Bahama keys.
Finally three strangers steal the craft, leaving the rightful owners to
shift for themselves aboard a broken-down tug. The boys discover a
mysterious document which enables them to find a buried treasure, then a
storm comes on and the tug is stranded. At last a yacht comes in sight
and the party with the treasure is taken off the lonely key. The most
exacting youth is sure to be fascinated with this entertaining story.


=Fairy Tales and Stories.= By HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN. Profusely
Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

"If I were asked to select a child's library I should name these
three volumes 'English,' 'Celtic,' and 'Indian Fairy Tales,' with
Grimm and Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales."--_Independent._


=The Island Treasure=; or, Harry Darrel's Fortune. By FRANK H.
CONVERSE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Harry Darrel, an orphan, having received a nautical training on a
school-ship, is bent on going to sea with a boyish acquaintance named
Dan Plunket. A runaway horse changes his prospects. Harry saves Dr.
Gregg from drowning and the doctor presents his preserver with a bit of
property known as Gregg's Island, and makes the lad sailing-master of
his sloop yacht. A piratical hoard is supposed to be hidden somewhere on
the island. After much search and many thwarted plans, at last Dan
discovers the treasure and is the means of finding Harry's father. Mr.
Converse's stories possess a charm of their own which is appreciated by
lads who delight in good healthy tales that smack of salt water.


=The Boy Explorers=: The Adventures of Two Boys in Alaska. By HARRY
PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Two boys, Raymond and Spencer Manning, travel from San Francisco to
Alaska to join their father in search of their uncle, who, it is
believed, was captured and detained by the inhabitants of a place called
the "Heart of Alaska." On their arrival at Sitka the boys with an Indian
guide set off across the mountains. The trip is fraught with perils that
test the lads' courage to the utmost. Reaching the Yukon River they
build a raft and float down the stream, entering the Mysterious River,
from which they barely escape with their lives, only to be captured by
natives of the Heart of Alaska. All through their exciting adventures
the lads demonstrate what can be accomplished by pluck and resolution,
and their experience makes one of the most interesting tales ever
written.


=The Treasure Finders=: A Boy's Adventures in Nicaragua. By JAMES
OTIS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Roy and Dean Coloney, with their guide Tongla, leave their father's
indigo plantation to visit the wonderful ruins of an ancient city. The
boys eagerly explore the dismantled temples of an extinct race and
discover three golden images cunningly hidden away. They escape with the
greatest difficulty; by taking advantage of a festive gathering they
seize a canoe and fly down the river. Eventually they reach safety with
their golden prizes. Mr. Otis is the prince of story tellers, for he
handles his material with consummate skill. We doubt if he has ever
written a more entertaining story than "The Treasure Finders."


=Household Fairy Tales.= By the BROTHERS GRIMM. Profusely
Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

"As a collection of fairy tales to delight children of all ages
this work ranks second to none."--_Daily Graphic._


=Dan the Newsboy.= By HORATIO ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The reader is introduced to Dan Mordaunt and his mother living in a poor
tenement, and the lad is pluckily trying to make ends meet by selling
papers in the streets of New York. A little heiress of six years is
confided to the care of the Mordaunts. At the same time the lad obtains
a position in a wholesale house. He soon demonstrates how valuable he is
to the firm by detecting the bookkeeper in a bold attempt to rob his
employers. The child is kidnaped and Dan tracks the child to the house
where she is hidden, and rescues her. The wealthy aunt of the little
heiress is so delighted with Dan's courage and many good qualities that
she adopts him as her heir, and the conclusion of the book leaves the
hero on the high road to every earthly desire.


=Tony the Hero=: A Brave Boy's Adventure with a Tramp. By HORATIO
ALGER, JR. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Tony, a sturdy bright-eyed boy of fourteen, is under the control of
Rudolph Rugg, a thorough rascal, shiftless and lazy, spending his time
tramping about the country. After much abuse Tony runs away and gets a
job as stable boy in a country hotel. Tony is heir to a large estate in
England, and certain persons find it necessary to produce proof of the
lad's death. Rudolph for a consideration hunts up Tony and throws him
down a deep well. Of course Tony escapes from the fate provided for him,
and by a brave act makes a rich friend, with whom he goes to England,
where he secures his rights and is prosperous. The fact that Mr. Alger
is the author of this entertaining book will at once recommend it to all
juvenile readers.


=A Young Hero=; or, Fighting to Win. By EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth,
price $1.00.

This story tells how a valuable solid silver service was stolen from the
Misses Perkinpine, two very old and simple minded ladies. Fred Sheldon,
the hero of this story and a friend of the old ladies, undertakes to
discover the thieves and have them arrested. After much time spent in
detective work, he succeeds in discovering the silver plate and winning
the reward for its restoration. During the narrative a circus comes to
town and a thrilling account of the escape of the lion from its cage,
with its recapture, is told in Mr. Ellis' most fascinating style. Every
boy will be glad to read this delightful book.


=The Days of Bruce=: A Story from Scottish History. By GRACE AGUILAR.
Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

"There is a delightful freshness, sincerity and vivacity about all
of Grace Aguilar's stories which cannot fail to win the interest
and admiration of every lover of good reading."--_Boston Beacon._


=Tom the Bootblack=; or, The Road to Success. By HORATIO ALGER, JR.
12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

A bright, enterprising lad was Tom the bootblack. He was not at all
ashamed of his humble calling, though always on the lookout to better
himself. His guardian, old Jacob Morton, died, leaving him a small sum
of money and a written confession that Tom, instead of being of humble
origin, was the son and heir of a deceased Western merchant, and had
been defrauded out of his just rights by an unscrupulous uncle. The lad
started for Cincinnati to look up his heritage. But three years passed
away before he obtained his first clue. Mr. Grey, the uncle, did not
hesitate to employ a ruffian to kill the lad. The plan failed, and
Gilbert Grey, once Tom the bootblack, came into a comfortable fortune.
This is one of Mr. Alger's best stories.


=Captured by Zulus=: A story of Trapping in Africa. By HARRY
PRENTICE. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

This story details the adventures of two lads, Dick Elsworth and Bob
Harvey, in the wilds of South Africa, for the purpose of obtaining a
supply of zoological curiosities. By stratagem the Zulus capture Dick
and Bob and take them to their principal kraal or village. The lads
escape death by digging their way out of the prison hut by night. They
are pursued, and after a rough experience the boys eventually rejoin the
expedition and take part in several wild animal hunts. The Zulus finally
give up pursuit and the expedition arrives at the coast without further
trouble. Mr. Prentice has a delightful method of blending fact with
fiction. He tells exactly how wild-beast collectors secure specimens on
their native stamping grounds, and these descriptions make very
entertaining reading.


=Tom the Ready=; or, Up from the Lowest. By RANDOLPH HILL. 12mo,
cloth, price $1.00.

This is a dramatic narrative of the unaided rise of a fearless,
ambitious boy from the lowest round of fortune's ladder--the gate of the
poorhouse--to wealth and the governorship of his native State. Thomas
Seacomb begins life with a purpose. While yet a schoolboy he conceives
and presents to the world the germ of the Overland Express Co. At the
very outset of his career jealousy and craft seek to blast his promising
future. Later he sets out to obtain a charter for a railroad line in
connection with the express business. Now he realizes what it is to
match himself against capital. Yet he wins and the railroad is built.
Only an uncommon nature like Tom's could successfully oppose such a
combine. How he manages to win the battle is told by Mr. Hill in a
masterful way that thrills the reader and holds his attention and
sympathy to the end.


=Roy Gilbert's Search=: A Tale of the Great Lakes. By WM. P. CHIPMAN.
12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

A deep mystery hangs over the parentage of Roy Gilbert. He arranges with
two schoolmates to make a tour of the Great Lakes on a steam launch. The
three boys leave Erie on the launch and visit many points of interest on
the lakes. Soon afterward the lad is conspicuous in the rescue of an
elderly gentleman and a lady from a sinking yacht. Later on the cruise
of the launch is brought to a disastrous termination and the boys
narrowly escape with their lives. The hero is a manly, self-reliant boy,
whose adventures will be followed with interest.


=The Young Scout=; The Story of a West Point Lieutenant. By EDWARD S.
ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

The crafty Apache chief Geronimo but a few years ago was the most
terrible scourge of the southwest border. The author has woven, in a
tale of thrilling interest, all the incidents of Geronimo's last raid.
The hero is Lieutenant James Decker, a recent graduate of West Point.
Ambitious to distinguish himself so as to win well-deserved promotion,
the young man takes many a desperate chance against the enemy and on
more than one occasion narrowly escapes with his life. The story
naturally abounds in thrilling situations, and being historically
correct, it is reasonable to believe it will find great favor with the
boys. In our opinion Mr. Ellis is the best writer of Indian stories now
before the public.


=Adrift in the Wilds=: The Adventures of Two Shipwrecked Boys. By
EDWARD S. ELLIS. 12mo, cloth, price, $1.00.

Elwood Brandon and Howard Lawrence, cousins and schoolmates, accompanied
by a lively Irishman called O'Rooney, are en route for San Francisco.
Off the coast of California the steamer takes fire. The two boys and
their companion reach the shore with several of the passengers. While
O'Rooney and the lads are absent inspecting the neighborhood O'Rooney
has an exciting experience and young Brandon becomes separated from his
party. He is captured by hostile Indians, but is rescued by an Indian
whom the lads had assisted. This is a very entertaining narrative of
Southern California in the days immediately preceding the construction
of the Pacific railroads. Mr. Ellis seems to be particularly happy in
this line of fiction, and the present story is fully as entertaining as
anything he has ever written.


=The Red Fairy Book.= Edited by ANDREW LANG. Profusely Illustrated,
12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

"A gift-book that will charm any child, and all older folk who have
been fortunate enough to retain their taste for the old nursery
stories."--_Literary World._


=The Boy Cruisers=; or, Paddling in Florida. By ST. GEORGE RATHBORNE.
12mo, cloth, price, $1.00.

Boys who like an admixture of sport and adventure will find this book
just to their taste. We promise them that they will not go to sleep over
the rattling experiences of Andrew George and Roland Carter, who start
on a canoe trip along the Gulf coast, from Key West to Tampa, Florida.
Their first adventure is with a pair of rascals who steal their boats.
Next they run into a gale in the Gulf and have a lively experience while
it lasts. After that they have a lively time with alligators and divers
varieties of the finny tribe. Andrew gets into trouble with a band of
Seminole Indians and gets away without having his scalp raised. After
this there is no lack of fun till they reach their destination. That Mr.
Rathborne knows just how to interest the boys is apparent at a glance,
and lads who are in search of a rare treat will do well to read this
entertaining story.


=Guy Harris=: The Runaway. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 12mo, cloth, price
$1.00.

Guy Harris lived in a small city on the shore of one of the Great Lakes.
His head became filled with quixotic notions of going West to hunt
grizzlies, in fact, Indians. He is persuaded to go to sea, and gets a
glimpse of the rough side of life in a sailor's boarding house. He ships
on a vessel and for five months leads a hard life. He deserts his ship
at San Francisco and starts out to become a backwoodsman, but rough
experiences soon cure him of all desire to be a hunter. At St. Louis he
becomes a clerk and for a time he yields to the temptations of a great
city. The book will not only interest boys generally on account of its
graphic style, but will put many facts before their eyes in a new light.
This is one of Castlemon's most attractive stories.


=The Train Boy.= By Horatio Alger, Jr.
12mo, cloth, price $1.00.

Paul Palmer was a wide-awake boy of sixteen who supported his mother and
sister by selling books and papers on one of the trains running between
Chicago and Milwaukee. He detects a young man named Luke Denton in the
act of picking the pocket of a young lady, and also incurs the enmity of
his brother Stephen, a worthless follow. Luke and Stephen plot to ruin
Paul, but their plans are frustrated. In a railway accident many
passengers are killed, but Paul is fortunate enough to assist a Chicago
merchant, who out of gratitude takes him into his employ. Paul is sent
to manage a mine in Custer City and executes his commission with tact
and judgment and is well started on the road to business prominence.
This is one of Mr. Alger's most attractive stories and is sure to please
all readers.



Transcriber's Note:

Italic text is denoted by _underscores_ and bold text by =equal signs=.
Punctuation has been standardised.

The word assauge was changed to assuage.

Variations in spelling, including dialect, have been retained as in the
original publication.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jack the Hunchback - A Stroy of Adventure on the Coast of Main" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home