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Title: Running To Waste - The Story of a Tomboy
Author: Baker, George M. (George Melville)
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 "Running To Waste - The Story of a Tomboy" ***

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Transcriber’s Notes:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Additional Transcriber’s Notes are at the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: BECKY’S LEAP. Page 89.]

_THE MAIDENHOOD SERIES._



RUNNING TO WASTE.

THE STORY OF A TOMBOY.


  BY GEORGE M. BAKER.

  AUTHOR OF “AMATEUR DRAMAS,” “DRAWING-ROOM STAGE,”
  “SOCIAL STAGE,” “MIMIC STAGE,”
  ETC., ETC.

  _ILLUSTRATED._

  BOSTON:
  LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS.

  NEW YORK:
  LEE, SHEPARD AND DILLINGHAM.

       *       *       *       *       *

  Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,
  BY GEORGE M. BAKER,
  In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

       *       *       *       *       *

  TO
  MRS. RACHEL E. BOLES,

  A PATIENT INVALID, WHO WOULD HAVE ME BELIEVE
  THAT A FEW OF HER WEARY HOURS HAVE
  BEEN LIGHTENED BY THE READING OF
  “THE STORY OF A TOMBOY,”

  I Dedicate this Book,

  IN REMEMBRANCE OF A LONG FRIENDSHIP,
  AND IN GRATITUDE FOR MANY
  KIND ACTS.



CONTENTS.


                                    PAGE

  CHAPTER I.

  STOLEN SWEETS.                       7

  CHAPTER II.

  FALLEN FORTUNES.                    22

  CHAPTER III.

  MRS. THOMPSON’S CROSS.              38

  CHAPTER IV.

  BECKY SLEEPER’S CHARITY.            56

  CHAPTER V.

  IN SCHOOL AND OUT.                  73

  CHAPTER VI.

  BECKY’S LAST FROLIC.                90

  CHAPTER VII.

  MRS. THOMPSON DISOBEYS ORDERS.     104

  CHAPTER VIII.

  BECKY’S NEW BIRTH.                 122

  CHAPTER IX.

  TEDDY SLEEPER DINES OUT.           145

  CHAPTER X.

  THE ROMANCE OF A POOR OLD MAID.    161

  CHAPTER XI.

  BECKY BEARDS THE LION IN HIS DEN.  176

  CHAPTER XII.

  AMONG THE WOODPECKERS.             197

  CHAPTER XIII.

  DELIA SLEEPER’S SHIP COMES IN.     215

  CHAPTER XIV.

  TWO YEARS AFTER.                   231



RUNNING TO WASTE.

CHAPTER I.

STOLEN SWEETS.


“Bouncers, Teddy! the roundest and the rosiest. Drop them, quick! My
apron’s all ready for the darlings.”

“It’s very well to say drop _them_; but it’s just as much as I can do
to keep from falling myself. Don’t you see I’m holding on with both
hands?”

“What a fuss you do make! Come down, and let me try. I never saw a tree
yet big enough to scare me.”

“Who’s scart, Becky Sleeper? I ain’t--not by a long chalk. When a
feller’s holdin’ on with both hands, he can’t be expected to pick very
quick--can he?”

“Wind your arm round that branch over your head. There; now you’re all
right, Teddy.”

“That’s so. What a hand you are to contrive! Now look sharp--they’re
coming!”

Becky Sleeper, in imitation of famed “Humpty Dumpty,” sat upon a wall,
where she had no business to be, for the wall was the boundary of
Captain Thompson’s orchard. But there she sat, her feet dangling, her
hair flying, and her hands holding her apron by its corners, intent on
catching the apples which her brother was plucking from the tree above
her head.

An active, wide-awake little body was the girl who was acting as
accessory to the crime--a very common one--of robbing an orchard. Every
movement of her sprightly figure belied the family name. Perched upon
the wall, that cool October morning, she might have sat as a model
for the Spirit of Mischief. A plump, round, rosy face, with a color
in the cheeks that rivaled in brightness the coveted fruit above her,
blue eyes full of laughter, a pretty mouth, with dissolving views of
flashing teeth, teasing smiles, and a tongue never at rest; a queer
little pug nose, that had a habit of twitching a mirthful accompaniment
to the merriment of eyes and mouth, a profusion of light hair, tossed
to and fro by the quick motions of the head,--all these combined to
make a head-piece which would have delighted an artist, brightened
as it was by a few straggling rays of sunshine, that darted through
convenient openings in the mass of foliage above her head.

Miss Becky’s costume, however, did not furnish a fitting finish to her
face and figure, but, on the contrary, seemed much the worse for wear.
A high-neck, blue-check apron showed unmistakable signs of familiarity
with grape and berry juices; the rusty brown dress which peeped out
beneath it was plentifully “sown with tares,” and had a rough fringe at
the bottom never placed there by the dress-maker; a pair of stockings,
once white, had the appearance of having recently been dyed in a
mud-puddle, and a pair of stringless boots, which completed her attire,
were only prevented from dropping off by an elevation of the toes.

With her diminutive figure, her mischievous face, and her eager
interest in the apple raid, she might have been taken for a
thoughtless, giddy child. No stranger would have dreamed she was a
maiden with an undoubted right to affix to her name, age sixteen.

Her companion was a year younger, but greatly her superior in weight
and measure, not much taller, but remarkably round at the waist and
plentifully supplied with flesh. He lacked the activity of his sister,
but was ambitious to emulate her achievements, and to that end panted
and puffed with remarkable vigor.

Becky was an adept in all _boyish_ sports. She could climb a tree with
the activity of a squirrel, ride a horse without saddle or bridle, pull
a boat against the swift current of the river, “follow my leader” on
the roughest trail, take a hand at base ball, play cricket, and was
considered a valuable acquisition to either side in a game of football.

Teddy admired the vigor of his sister, was not jealous of her superior
abilities, although he was unlucky in his pursuit of manly sports.
He had to be helped up a tree, and very often lay at the foot, when
the helper thought he had successfully accomplished his task. Horses
generally dropped him when he attempted to ride; he always “caught
crabs” in boats; was a “muffer” at base ball, and in everybody’s way in
all sorts of games.

These two were companions in roguery, and were a terror to all
respectable people in Cleverly who possessed orchards which they valued
highly, or melon patches which they watched with anxious care; for,
no matter how high the value, or how strict the watch, this pair of
marauders had excellent taste in selection, and managed to appropriate
the choicest and best without leave or license.

Cleverly is a very staid, respectable, triangular township on the coast
of Maine, its southern, or sea line about six miles in length, forming
the base of the triangle, with a small village--Foxtown--at its
eastern point, and a somewhat more pretentious town--Geeseville--at
its western point. From these two places the division lines ran, one
north-east, the other north-west, meeting on Rogue’s River, where a
bridge makes the apex of the triangle. The roads, however, do not
traverse these boundary lines. There is a straight road from Foxtown
to Geeseville, passing over a bridge which spans the river where it
empties into the harbor. South of this highway is known as the fore
side, and here may be found Captain Thompson’s shipyard, a short,
chunky wharf, where occasionally a packet lies, and a blacksmith’s
shop.

A few rods west of the river another road breaks from the highway and
goes straight north. This is the main street of Cleverly. Climbing a
hill from the fore side, the traveller, on entering this street, will
find on the left a tailor’s shop, a country store, the post-office,
then a dozen houses, white, attractive, and roomy. On the right, a row
of neat and tidy houses, four in number; then a carpenter’s shop, the
church, a small school-house, a more expansive “academy,” several fine
dwellings, then a long hill, at the foot of which is a brick-yard,
and, a few rods farther, another settlement known as the “Corner.”
The distance between the fore side and the Corner is about a mile,
and between these two points may be found the wealth, culture, and
respectability of the township.

There is abundance of thrift, with very little “brag” about Cleverly.
Rogue’s River turns a paper mill, a woollen mill, and a nail factory.
Every season a vessel is launched from the ship-yard, and every winter
the academy is well filled with students; every Friday night, winter
and summer, the vestry of the church is crowded with an attentive
audience, and every Sunday the church is surrounded with horses and
vehicles of all sizes, varieties, and conditions; yet the quiet of the
place seems never broken. There is much beauty, with little attempt at
display, about the town. Trees line the street, vines climb about the
houses, shrubs peep out at the palings, and flowers bloom everywhere
without any seeming special assistance from the inhabitants.

There is very little change in the Cleverly of to-day from the Cleverly
of twenty years ago. Then Captain Thompson’s house stood directly
opposite the church, a large, square, two-story front, as grand as any
in the place. At the rear, a lower building, used as a kitchen, ran
out to one still lower, used as a wood-shed; this, in turn, stretched
out to another building, used as a carriage-house, while the barn,
of larger proportions, swung at the end of all; so that, approaching
it from the side, the structure had the appearance of a kite with a
very long tail to it. At the end of the stable was the kitchen garden;
beyond that, the orchard, and on the stone wall which separates it from
the lane, which in its turn separates the whole place from the woods,
patiently sits Miss Becky during this long description.

“Quick, Teddy! Three more will make a dozen; and that’s as many as
I can hold, they’re such whoppers. O, dear! my arms ache now,” said
Becky, after Teddy had employed more time than seemed necessary in
plucking the captain’s mammoth Baldwins.

“Don’t ache any more than mine do, I guess,” grumbled Teddy; “and I’m
all cramped up, too. Don’t believe I’ll ever git down agin.”

“O, yes, you will Teddy. You’re famous for quick descents, you know.
You always come down quicker than you go up; and such graceful
somersets as you do make! It’s better than the circus, any time, to see
you;” and a merry peal of laughter broke from Miss Becky’s lips.

“Becky, Becky! don’t do that!” cried Teddy; “they’ll hear you up at the
house. I wouldn’t have Cap’n Thompson catch me in this tree for a good
deal, I tell you. He’s promised me a whaling if he ever catches me on
his place.”

“Don’t be scart, Teddy. He won’t catch you this time. I can see the
house, and there is not a soul stirring; and, besides, the cap’n’s not
at home.”

“I tell you, Becky, somebody’s comin’. I can feel it in my bones. I’m
comin’ down;” and Teddy made a frantic effort to free himself from the
crotch of the tree, into which he was snugly fitted.

“Not until you make up the dozen, Teddy. Don’t be a goose! I haven’t
watched this tree a week for nothin’. Cap’n Thompson’s gone to the
ship-yard. I saw him ride off an hour ago on ‘Uncle Ned;’ and he never
gets back till dinner time when he goes there.”

“Don’t be too sure of that, Tomboy!”

With a slight scream, Becky turned her eyes from the camp of the enemy
to the lane. Not ten feet from her stood a white horse, and on his back
sat the dreaded enemy--Captain Thompson. A lively trembling of the
branches overhead gave evidence that another party was aware of the
startling interruption to a projected fruit banquet.

Becky looked at the captain. He had a very red face; he seemed to be
in a towering passion, and was, evidently, searching his short, stout
body for a tone deep and terrible enough with which to continue the
conversation. She looked at him with a smile on her face; but, at the
flash of his angry eyes, dropped hers to the apron which contained
the proofs of guilt, then stole a glance at her trembling accomplice,
straightened her little body, and looked defiantly at the horseman.

“So, Tomboy, I have caught you in the act--have I?” thundered the
captain.

“Yes, cap’n, you certainly have, this time, and no mistake,” saucily
answered the tomboy. “S’pose we’ve got to catch it now. What’s the
penalty? Going to put us in the pound, or lock us up in the barn?”

“Neither, Miss Impudence,” thundered the captain. “I’ll horsewhip you
both. Here, you, Master Ned, come out of that tree, quick! D’ye hear?”

That the delinquent did hear, and that he was inclined to obey, was
made manifest by a rustling among the leaves, and the dull thud of a
heavy body as it struck the ground, for Master Teddy, terrified at the
angry voice of the captain, had let go, and landed in a heap outside
the wall.

“Run, Teddy, run! Don’t let him catch you!” cried Becky, in excitement,
dropping her apron.

[Illustration: STOLEN SWEETS. Page 7.]

The round and rosy spoils, being freed, followed the law of
gravitation, and plumped one after another on to the head of the
prostrate Teddy, who was groaning and rubbing his elbows, with a very
lugubrious face.

“If you stir a step, you imp of mischief, I’ll break every bone in your
body,” cried the captain, hastily dismounting, and approaching Teddy,
with a long riding-whip in his hand.

“Don’t you touch my brother! Don’t you dare to touch my brother!” cried
Becky from her perch. “It’s a shame to make such a fuss about a few
apples!”

“It’s a great shame that a girl of your age should be caught stealing
apples,” replied the captain.

“’Tain’t my fault. We shouldn’t have been caught if you’d only staid at
the yard.”

The captain almost smiled; the audacity of the young depredator’s
attempt to shift the responsibility of the theft upon him, really
tickled him. Nevertheless, he approached Teddy, who, having rubbed
himself comfortable, now sat calmly awaiting his fate.

“Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself? Haven’t I told you to
keep off my place? Haven’t I given you sufficient warning? Haven’t I
promised you a thrashing if I caught you here--hey?” roared the captain.

“Yes, cap’n, you did. But I couldn’t help it. I--I--I didn’t want the
apples; b--b--but I wanted to climb the tree for fun; its such a hard
climb, and--and--” stammered Teddy, eyeing the whip.

“Don’t lie, you imp. There’s my apples all round you. You shall sweat
for this, I promise you. Off with your jacket, quick! D’ye hear?”

“Don’t strike him, cap’n; please don’t. He’s not to blame;” and Becky
plunged from the wall, and stood between the captain and her brother.
“He didn’t want the apples--indeed, he didn’t. He don’t like apples--do
you, Teddy?”

Teddy shook his head energetically, with a contemptuous look at the
fruit.

“I helped him up the tree, and I’m to blame for it all. You oughtn’t
to strike a boy for doing all he can to please his sister. If you must
whip somebody, take me.”

“Stand out of the way, Tomboy. Your time will come soon enough--never
fear.” And he pushed her from the path. “Off with that jacket. D’ye
hear?”

Teddy coolly unbuttoned his jacket, and threw it on the grass.

“Don’t tease him, Becky. I’m not afraid of his whip. If it’s any fun
for him, let him lay on. I guess I can stand it as long as he can;” and
Teddy looked defiantly at his adversary.

Becky ran to her brother, and threw her arms about his neck, to shield
him from the whip.

“He shan’t strike you, Teddy. It’s all my fault. He shan’t touch you.”

Captain Thompson was an obstinate man. When he made up his mind to the
doing of an act, nothing could stand in his way. Perhaps this accounted
for the coolness of Teddy in the trying situation in which he was
placed, who, remembering his promise, knew it must be fulfilled, and so
offered no resistance.

“Don’t, Becky. D’ye want to smother a feller? Don’t be a ninny. It’s
got to come. Go home--do.”

“I won’t. He shall kill me before he strikes you.”

Becky’s devotion was blighted in an instant, for the angry man seized
her by the arm and flung her across the lane. She fell to the ground
unhurt, for the grass was thick and soft.

“I’ll teach you to meddle. Don’t come near me till I’ve done with him.
Mind that.”

Becky sprang to her feet, fire flashing from her eyes. She was as angry
now as her tormentor. She picked up a stone, and despite his warning,
approached the captain. He should not strike her brother, she looked
at the house; no one in sight. Down the lane; no one--yes, there stood
Uncle Ned, cropping the grass, unmindful of the group. Ah, the horse!
There was a chance yet to save her brother.

“Now, you scamp, I’ll teach you to rob orchards!” and the whip was
raised.

Spry as a cat, Becky was at the captain’s back in an instant. She
jumped and caught the whip from his hand, then ran for the horse. The
captain quickly turned; but too late. Becky sprang to the saddle,
caught up the rein, lashed the horse, turned, and shouted, “Good by,
Teddy! Good by, cap’n!” and galloped down the lane.

“Come back, come back, you imp of mischief! Come back, I say,” shouted
the captain, running after her.

“Some other time, cap’n; can’t stop now. Good by;” and the saucy girl
turned, waved her hand to the maddened and baffled owner of the
Baldwins, plied the whip briskly, and was out of sight.

The captain, with a muttered “Hang it!”--which was the extent of his
swearing, for he was a deacon,--followed at as rapid a pace as he could
command, leaving Teddy solitary and alone.

The fat boy looked after his persecutor a moment, with a smile upon his
face, then rose, picked up his jacket, put it on, buttoned it at the
bottom, then coolly picked up the trophies of victory, tucked them into
his jacket and his pockets, crossed the lane, crept through a hedge,
and disappeared.



CHAPTER II

FALLEN FORTUNES.


“A stern chase is a long chase;” so, leaving Captain Thompson in
pursuit of the fugitive, we will take the liberty of passing through
his premises to the main street. At the left of the church, opposite
his house, another road ran down a steep hill, crossed Rogue’s River,
by a bridge, ran up another hill, and wound round into the Foxtown
road. At the top of the second hill stood a small brown house, by no
means attractive in appearance, being destitute of paint, climbing
vine, flowers, or other ornamentation. It had not even the virtue of
neatness to recommend it. The gate was off its hinges, and lay in the
road. A crazy barn close by had a pitch towards the river, as though
from sheer weakness it was inclined to lie down for rest, while the
scanty patch of cabbages and beets, the potato hills, few and far
between, and the rickety bean-poles, all had a starved and neglected
appearance.

This was known as the “Sleeper Place,” being occupied by Mrs. Sleeper
and the young people, Rebecca and Edward, better known as Becky and
Teddy. Inside, the house was not much more attractive than the outside.
On the lower floor were four rooms, separated by the entry, from which
a flight of stairs, hidden by a door, led to the garret above. On one
side was a kitchen, with a door leading into Mrs. Sleeper’s bed-room
at the back. On the other side was a sitting-room, with a door leading
to a bed-room back of that, known as Becky’s room. Teddy’s quarters
were above, under the roof. The house was scantily furnished with
old-fashioned furniture and home-made carpets, all of which had seen
their best many years before, and now showed veteran scars of long
service.

In the kitchen were two females--Mrs. Sleeper and Hulda Prime. Mrs.
Sleeper was a small, slender woman, with a face from which much beauty
had faded out, a face which bore but one expression at all times--that
of anxious expectation. All else had died out five years before. Then
she was a bright, cheerful, active wife, merrily singing over her
household cares. Now she was waiting, for time to determine whether she
was a wife or a widow.

In ’49, when the California gold fever attacked so many New England
towns, Captain Cyrus Sleeper was returning from the West Indies with
a cargo of sugar and molasses, in the new ship “Bounding Billow,”
the joint property of himself and Captain Paul Thompson. Touching
at Havana, he was made acquainted with the startling news of gold
discoveries; and, always impetuous, at once turned the bow of his ship
towards California.

A year passed, and Captain Thompson also received startling news.
His runaway partner had reached California, disposed of his cargo at
fabulous prices, and sent the ship home in charge of his mate, and had
started for the mines. To his partner he remitted the whole amount
received for his cargo,--enough to build two ships like the Bounding
Billow,--one half of which, being his own, was to be held by his
partner for the support of his family until his return.

The captain was astounded. The conduct of his partner was so strange,
he believed he must have lost his reason, and never expected to hear
any intelligence of him again. Mrs. Sleeper also received a message
from her eccentric husband, full of glowing descriptions of quick
fortunes made in El Dorado, hopes of speedy return, and bright pictures
of the high life they would lead when “his ship came in.” Since that
time nothing had been heard of Captain Cyrus Sleeper or his fortunes.

The ship was fitted for a second voyage to the West Indies, Mrs.
Sleeper, by Thompson’s advice, going shares with him in the venture.
But it proved disastrous. The ship was wrecked on her return, and Mrs.
Sleeper found herself obliged to live on a very small income. Of a very
romantic nature, her sailor husband always a hero in her eyes, for
a little while she had high hopes of his quick return with an ample
fortune, and chatted gaily of the good time coming “when her ship came
in.” But as time passed, and no message came from over the sea, the
smile forsook her lips, the brightness her cheek, and the hope-light of
her eyes changed to an eager, searching glance, that told of an unquiet
mind and an aching, breaking heart.

She went about her household duties, cooked, scrubbed, and mended,
quietly and silently, but took no pride in her home, no comfort in her
children. The house soon showed evidences of neglect. The children,
without a mother’s sympathy and guidance, were rapidly running to waste.

Just when the money began to give out, Hulda Prime “came to help.”
Hulda was a distant relative of Cyrus Sleeper, by her own showing, as
she was a distant relative of almost everybody in Cleverly. She was
somewhere between forty and sixty: it was hard telling her age. It
could not be told by her hair, for she had none; nor yet by her teeth,
for they were false, or her cheeks, for they were always bright, and
had a natural color which some people were wicked enough to say was not
natural. She was long-favored, long and lean in body, had a very long
face, long nose, and a long chin. She wore a “front,” with two auburn
ringlets dangling at either end, a very tall white cap, carried herself
very erect, and had altogether a solemn and serious demeanor. She left
a “relative” to come and help “dear Delia in her troubles;” though in
what her help consisted was a puzzle which the good people of Cleverly
had never been able to solve. She got her living by “helping.” She
had no money, but she had a large stock of complaints, so many, that
they might have been calendared thus: Monday, rheumatism; Tuesday,
cancer; Wednesday, dyspepsia; Thursday, heart disease; Friday, lumbago;
Saturday, “spine;” Sunday, neuralgia. Or to vary the monotony, she
would start off Monday with “cancer,” or some other disease; but the
week would contain the whole programme. She was very regular in her
habits--of complaining, and was always taken bad just when she might be
of assistance.

This day she was crouched by the fire, her head tied up in a towel, her
body slowly rocking to and fro. It was her neuralgia day.

Mrs. Sleeper stood at her wash-tub near the window, her hands busy in
the suds, her eyes fixed on the distant waters of the bay, her thoughts
away with the ship that never came in. So absorbed was she in her
“waiting” dream, that she did not see Captain Thompson, who for the
last ten minutes had been puffing up the hill in sight of the window;
was not aware of his approach until he stood in the kitchen doorway,
with both hands braced against the sides, breathing very hard.

“So, so! Pur--pur--purty capers those young ones of yours are cutting
up, Delia Sleeper!”

Mrs. Sleeper turned with a start; Aunt Hulda straightened up with a
groan.

“Do you mean Rebecca and Edward, captain? Have they been making any
trouble?” said Mrs. Sleeper, with the faintest sign of interest in her
voice.

“Trouble, trouble!” shouted the captain, so loud that Aunt Hulda gave a
groan, and held her head very hard; “did they ever make anything else?
Ain’t they the pests of the town? Who or what is safe when they are
about? I tell you what it is, Delia, I’m a patient man, a very patient
man. I’ve endured this sort of thing just as long as I mean to. I tell
you something’s got to be done.” And the captain looked very red, very
angry, and very determined.

“I’m sure I try to keep the children out of mischief,” faltered Mrs.
Sleeper.

“No, you don’t. That’s just what’s the matter. You’ve no control over
them. You don’t want to control them. You just let them loose in the
town, like a couple of wildcats, seeking whom they may devour. What’s
the consequence? Look at Brown’s melon patch! He couldn’t find a sound
melon there. Look at my orchard! Despoiled by those barbarians! Here’s
a sample. To-day I caught them at one of my trees, loaded with plunder;
caught them in the act!”

“O, captain! you did not punish them!”

“Punish eels! No; they were too sharp for me. One ran off with my
horse, and a purty chase I’ve had for nothing. The other marched away
with my fruit. But I will punish them; be sure of that. Now, Delia,
this thing must be stopped; it shall be stopped. I’m a man of my word,
and when I say a thing’s to be done, it is done.”

“I’m sure I’m willing to do anything I can to keep them orderly,” began
Mrs. Sleeper.

“Now what’s the use of your talking so? You know you’re not willing to
do anything of the kind. You’re all bound up in your sorrows. You won’t
think of the matter again when I’m gone--you know you won’t. If you
cared for their bringing up, you’d have that boy at school, instead of
letting him fatten on other folks’s property, and bring that girl up to
work, instead of lettin’ her go galloping all over creation on other
folks’s horses. I tell you, Delia Sleeper, you don’t know how to bring
up young ones!”

The captain, in his warmth, braced himself against the door sills so
energetically that they cracked, and a catastrophe, something like
that which occurred when Samson played with the pillars of the temple,
seemed imminent.

“P’raps she’d better turn ’em over to you, Cap’n Thompson,” growled
Aunt Hulda; “you’re such a grand hand at bringin’ up!”

“Hulda Prime, you jest attend to your own affairs. This is none of your
business; so shet up!” shouted the more plain than polite captain.

“Shut up!” retorted Aunt Hulda. “Wal, I never! Ain’t you gettin’ a
leetle _obstroperlous_, cap’n? This here’s a free country, and nobody’s
to hinder anybody’s freein’ their mind to anybody, even if they are
a little up in the world. Shut up, indeed!” And Aunt Hulda, in her
indignation, rose from her chair, walked round it, and plumped down
again in her old position.

“I don’t want any of your interference, Hulda Prime.”

“I know you don’t. But it’s enough to make a horse laugh to see you
comin’ here tellin’ about bringin’ up young uns! Brought up your Harry
well--didn’t yer?”

“Hush, Aunt Hulda; don’t bring up that matter now,” said Mrs. Sleeper.

“Why not?” said Aunt Hulda, whose neuralgia was working her temper up
to a high pitch. “When folks come to other folks’s houses to tell ’em
how to train up their children, it’s high time they looked to home.”

“I brought up my son to obey his father in everything, and there wasn’t
a better boy in the town.”

“I want to know! He was dreadful nice when you had him under your
thumb, for you was so strict with him he darsn’t say his soul was his
own; but he made up for it when he got loose. Sech capers! He made a
tom-boy of our Becky, and was jest as full of mischief as he could
stick.”

“No matter about my son, Hulda Prime; he’s out of the way now.”

“Yes; cos you wanted to put him to a trade after he’d been through
the academy. He didn’t like that, and started off to get a college
education, and you shut the door agin him, and you locked up your
money, and vowed he should starve afore you’d help him. But they do say
he’s been through Harvard College in spite of yer.”

“Hulda Prime, you’re a meddlin’ old woman,” roared the captain,
thoroughly enraged, “and it’s a pity somebody didn’t start you off
years ago--hangin’ round where you ain’t wanted.”

“I never hung round your house much--did I, cap’n?” cried Aunt Hulda,
with a triumphant grin, which evidently started the neuralgic pains,
for she sank back with a groan.

While this passage of tongues was going on inside the house, Miss Becky
appeared in the road, mounted on Uncle Ned, who looked rather jaded,
as though he had been put to a hard gallop. Flinging herself from his
back she entered the door, when the form of Captain Thompson, braced in
the kitchen door-way,--which position he had not forsaken even in the
height of debate,--met her eyes. Her first thought was to regain the
safe companionship of Uncle Ned; but a desire to know what was going on
overcame her sense of danger, and she gently lifted the latch of the
door which opened to the garret stairs, and stepped inside. The warlike
parties in the kitchen covered her retreat with the clamor of their
tongues.

“Now, Delia, I want you to listen to reason,” continued the captain,
turning from the vanquished spinster to the silent woman, who had kept
busily at work during the combat. “You’re too easy with them children.
They want a strong hand to keep them in line. Now you know I’m a good
friend to you and yours; and though Cyrus Sleeper treated me rather
shabbily--”

“My gracious! hear that man talk!” blurted out Aunt Hulda. “It’s no
such thing, and you know it. You made more money out of his Californy
speculation with that air ship than you ever made afore in your life.”

“Will you be quiet, woman?” roared the captain. “I ain’t talkin’ to
you, and don’t want any of your meddlin’.”

“Aunt Hulda, don’t interrupt, please,” said Mrs. Sleeper; “let’s hear
what the captain has to say.”

“Then let him talk sense. The idea of Cyrus Sleeper’s ever treating
anybody shabby! It’s ridikerlous!” growled Aunt Hulda, as she returned
to her neuralgic nursing.

“The young ones want a strict hand over ’em,” continued the captain,
when quiet was restored again. “I’m willing to take part charge of
them, if you’ll let me. They must be sent to school.”

“I can’t afford it, captain. I couldn’t send ’em last year. You know
the money’s most gone,” said Mrs. Sleeper.

“I know its all gone, Delia. What you’ve been drawing the last year is
from my own pocket. But no matter for that. Drinkwater opens the school
Monday. I’ll send the children there, and pay the bills. It’s time
something was done for their education; and I’ll be a father to them,
as they’re not likely to have another very soon.”

“Don’t say that, don’t say that! Cyrus will come back--I know he will.”

“If he’s alive. But don’t be too hopeful. There’s been a heap of
mortality among the miners; and if he’s alive, we should have heard
from him afore this. Chances are agin him. So you’d better be resigned.
Yes, you’d better give him up, put on mourning for a year, and then
look round, for the money’s gone.”

“Give up my husband!” cried Mrs. Sleeper, with energy. “No, no. He
will come back; I feel, I know he will. He would never desert me; and
if he died,--O, Heaven, no, no!--if he died, he would find some way to
send his last words to me. No, no, don’t say give him up. I cannot, I
cannot!” and the poor woman burst into tears.

“Wal, I never!” cried Aunt Hulda. “Look round, indeed! Why, it’s
bigamy, rank bigamy!”

“Well, well,” said the captain, quickly, anxious to avoid another
battle, “do as you please about that; but let’s give the children a
good bringing up. They’ve got to earn their own living, and the sooner
they get a little learning the better.”

“The children should go to school, captain, I know,” said Mrs. Sleeper;
“but I’m afraid they will not take kindly to the change.”

“I’ll make ’em, then. It’s time they were broke, and I flatter myself
I’m able to bring ’em under control. But make no interference with my
plans. Once begun, they must stick to school. It’s for their good, you
know.”

“Very well, captain; I consent; only be easy with them at first.”

“O, I’ll be easy enough, never fear, if they mind me; if not, they must
take the consequences. So, next Monday fix ’em up, and I’ll take ’em
over, and talk to Drinkwater.”

“I’ll have them all ready, captain, and thank you for the trouble
you’re taking,” said Mrs. Sleeper.

“Now, mind! no interference from you or Hulda. If there is--”

“Don’t fret yourself about me, cap’n. Mercy knows I’ve trouble enough
of my own. I declare, there’s that lumbago comin’ on agin,” groaned
Aunt Hulda.

The captain seemed highly delighted at the prospect of a change in the
condition of his enemy, and, with a triumphant smile, backed into the
entry.

“Hallo! there’s my horse, reeking with sweat. Where is that imp of
mischief?” thundered the exasperated captain. “If I catch her--”

“Here I am, cap’n. Clear the coast! Ha, ha, ha! Hooray!”

The voice came from the garret. There was a thundering racket on the
stairs, a crash against the door, which flew open, and Becky, seated
in an old cradle without rockers, burst into the entry. Tired of
listening, she had searched the garret for sport, had dragged this old
emblem of infancy from its hiding-place to the head of the stairs,
seated herself in it, and, regardless of consequences, started for a
slide.

It was a reckless act. As the door flew open, the cradle struck the
captain’s shins, throwing him backwards, and pitching Becky out of the
front door on to the grass. The captain scrambled to his feet, furious
with pain and choler. Becky regained hers quickly and started for the
barn, the captain in hot pursuit. Another stern chase. The captain soon
desisted, mounted his horse, and rode away, while Miss Becky perched
herself on the rickety fence, and saluted the captain’s ears, as he
rode down the hill, with the refrain of the well-known song, “O, dear,
what can the matter be?”



CHAPTER III.

MRS. THOMPSON’S CROSS.


The captain cantered home in no enviable state of mind. His mission had
been successful, in as much as he had gained Mrs. Sleeper’s consent
to his plan for “tying up” her children. Otherwise he felt unhappy
regarding the events of the day. There were still stinging pains in
his ankles and back to remind him of Miss Becky’s exploit, and the
shrill, sarcastic voice of Hulda Prime still rang in his ears. That
so miserable a creature as he considered her should have dared to
criticise his conduct was peculiarly mortifying to his pride. Aunt
Hulda had, indeed, spoken boldly. He was, undoubtedly the greatest man
in Cleverly. Senior deacon in the church, moderator at town meetings,
referee in all disputes, and general adviser of his fellow-townsmen,
he was a man to be treated with respect, a man who would brook
no interference with his plans, a man whose opinions must not be
combatted, and one whom people did not think it safe to thwart. And
this poor old hanger-on at people’s firesides had dared to criticise a
proceeding which others had not the courage to mention in his presence.
And he had not the power to punish her. Poor Aunt Hulda was never
thought so much of before by a man as she was by the captain during his
homeward ride.

Gloomily he rode into the yard, and consigned Uncle Ned to the care of
Phil Hague, his man-of-all-work, who advanced smiling, to meet him,
undeterred by the black looks of his master.

“By me sowl, cap’n, dear, it’s a fine lather yez given owld Uncle Ned.
Is it fur ye’ve rode?”

“No,” shortly replied the captain.

“Is that so? Thin what’s the matter wid the baste? Shure he’s not
looked so wary loike since--since Master Harry--”

“Shut up, you fool!” thundered the captain. “It’s your business to take
care of him, and not to ask impertinent questions.” And he stamped into
the house, muttering, “Am I never to hear the last of that boy?”

Phil scratched his head, and looked after the captain.

“Shure there’s an aist wind blowin’, an’ we’ll have to be afther
scuddin’ under bare poles, jist.”

Gloomily the captain stalked through the various sections of his
establishment, until he reached the front sitting-room, and found
himself in the presence of his wife.

Mrs. Thompson was the queen of Cleverly society. The mention of her
name in any company was enough to make the most silent tongue suddenly
eloquent. She was plump in person and plump in virtues. Her face was
just round and full enough to please everybody. No one had such rosy
cheeks as Mrs. Thompson, “at her time of life too!” There was the
kindliest light in her grey eyes, and the jolliest puckers about her
mouth; and the short gray curls that flourished all over her head
formed a perfect crown of beauty--nothing else. Cleverly folks were
proud of her, and well they might be. She was everybody’s friend. She
not only ministered to the wants of the needy, but she sought them out.
She was the first at the bedside of the sick, and the last to give
them up, for she was as well skilled in domestic medicine as she was
in domestic cooking, and superior in both. She was a wondrous helper,
for she knew just where to put her hands, and an enchanting talker,
for she never spoke ill of anybody. She was a devout sister of the
church, promulgating the true religious doctrines of faith, hope, and
charity with no sanctimonious face, but purifying and warming with the
incense of good deeds and the sunshine of a life cheerful, hopeful,
and energetic. She had her cross to bear--who has not?--but she so
enveloped it in the luxuriant branches of the tree of usefulness rooted
in her own heart, that its burden lay easy on her broad, matronly
shoulders.

On the captain’s entrance she was seated in a low rocking-chair,
darning one of her husband’s socks. She looked up, with a smile upon
her face.

“Ah, father! back early to-day!”

“Father!” snapped the captain, as he flung himself upon a sofa. “Why
will you insist on calling me by that name? Haven’t I repeatedly asked
you not to?”

“So you have Paul, so you have; and I’ve repeatedly disobeyed you,”
cheerfully answered the good woman. “I didn’t mean to; but women are
so forgetful! I’ll be more careful in future, fath--Dear me, there it
is again!”

“There, there! what’s the use of talking to you? But I won’t have it.
I tell you I’m no father. I won’t be a father. When that boy took the
reins in his own hands, I cut him out of my heart. I’ll never, never
own him!”

Mrs. Thompson bit her lips. Evidently the cross was bearing down hard
upon her. Only an instant, and the smile came back.

“You rode up from the bridge. Been over to Delia’s?”

“Yes, I’ve been over to Delia’s. That woman, and that woman’s young
ones, will drive me crazy.”

“Then I wouldn’t go over there, if I were you. Let me be your messenger
in future.”

“No, marm. I’ve taken this case into my own hands, and I mean to
finish it. When Sleeper disappeared, I told you not to go near them,
for I knew that you would be just foolish enough to fix them up so
comfortably, she would lead an idle life; and I wasn’t going to have
anything of the kind going on. She’s got to come to hard work, and she
might as well commence first as last. Its a mystery to me how she’s
got along so well as she has.”

It was no mystery to Mrs. Thompson. She had been forbidden to go, but
not to send; and many and heavy had been the burdens her messengers had
carried across the river to the little brown house on the hill.

“But I’ve settled things now,” continued the captain. “Next Monday the
young ones go to school.”

“Next Monday! No, no; don’t send them then!” cried Mrs. Thompson, with
a shade of alarm in her manner.

“And why not? I’d like to know. Next Monday the term begins.”

“Yes; but--but hadn’t you better wait a few days?”

“Wait? wait? I won’t wait a moment after the doors open. Next Monday
they go, bright and early.”

“Just as you say, Paul,” said Mrs. Thompson, with a sigh. “How is
Delia? looking well?”

“No; she looks bad. Think she might, with that grumbling old crone
fastened on to her.”

“Old crone! Why, Paul, whom do you mean?”

“Hulda Prime. She’s dropped in there to ‘help!’ Help make her
miserable; that’s all she’ll do. Plaguy old busybody, meddling in other
people’s affairs! I wish the town was well rid of her.”

“She is rather an encumbrance--that’s a fact,” quietly replied Mrs.
Thompson. “But we are never troubled with her.”

“She knows better than to come near me,” said the captain, with a wise
shake of the head. “Why, she had the impudence to taunt me with having
turned my own son out of doors!”

“Indeed!” said his wife, hardly able to conceal a smile.

“Yes, she did; and she’d heard that, spite of me, the boy had gone
through college. Plague take her!”

“Indeed! Well, Aunt Hulda never picks her words. She is sometimes very
aggravating.”

“Aggravating! She’s insolent. The idea of her daring to talk so to me!
O, if there was only a law to shut the mouths of such meddling old
tattlers, I’d spend every cent I have but what I’d lock her up where
her voice could never be heard!”

The captain, unable longer to keep quiet, here rose, dashed about the
room two or three times, then darted out, and his angry tirade died
away in the distance as he made his way to the barn.

Mrs Thompson sat quiet a moment, then burst into such a merry peal of
laughter that the Canary in the cage above her head was inspired, and
burst into a torrent of song. The audacity of Aunt Hulda seemed to
affect Mrs. Thompson far less severely than it did her husband, for
that was the cause of her mirth.

Had Captain Thompson really been a bad man, his frequent outbursts
of passion might have terrified, and his fierce threats have pained
her; but a long acquaintance with the defect in his otherwise good
disposition had made these stormy passages too familiar to be dreaded.
His one defect--Mrs. Thompson’s cross--was obstinacy. Give the man
his own way, and he was ready for any good act or work: thwart him in
the slightest particular, and he was immovable. And so Mrs. Thompson,
like a wise woman, never openly arrayed herself against his wishes or
opinions. And yet the captain would have been astonished, had he calmly
investigated the matter, to find how seldom he really had his own way.
This shrewd woman knowing it was useless to combat his stubborn spirit,
was continually setting up safety-rods to attract this destructive
fluid where it could do no harm; contriving plans for him to combat,
herself triumphing in their downfall, while he exulted in his supposed
victory.

Miss Becky’s career was a case in point. She had been pained to see
and hear of the girl’s wild, mischievous pranks, and felt it was time
she should be sent to school. She took occasion one day when, in sight
of the window, Becky had climbed up the lightning-rod on the church,
and seated herself in a window over the door, to call her husband’s
attention to the fact, with the remark that “such exercise must be
excellent for a girl’s constitution.” The captain fired up at once,
denounced such tomboy tricks, and declared the girl should go to
school, or he’d know the reason why.

And so thanks to Mrs Thompson, and not her husband, Becky was to be
turned from the error of her ways. The captain was a liberal man; his
purse was always open to the demands of his wife. She might cover every
bed in the parish with comforters, clothe the poor, and feed the
hungry, to her heart’s content; he would never stop to count the cost.
And so she often managed to repair damages his temper had caused, out
of his own purse.

But the man’s obstinacy had brought one serious disaster, which she
found all her woman’s wit necessary to repair. It had driven their only
child from his home, and made a breach between father and son which
might never be healed.

Harry Thompson, at the age of fifteen, was a leader among the boys of
Cleverly. He was brave, skilful, and mischievous. He was looked upon
as a hero by his playfellows, whom he could incite to the performance
of wonderful gymnastic feats, or to the perpetration of boyish tricks
hardly as creditable. Among his enthusiastic admirers was Becky
Sleeper, then ten years of age, whom, being a special favorite of his,
he took pains to train in all the sports with which he was familiar. He
was then attending the school; no interested student, but very quick
and apt to learn, standing fair in his class. The next year he was sent
to the academy; and a suddenly-acquired taste for learning so fired
his ambitious spirit that at the end of the second year he graduated
at the head of his class, with the reputation of being a remarkable
scholar. Then, hungry for knowledge, he wanted to go to college. But
Captain Thompson had already planned a course for his son. He had
book-learning enough; he wanted him to be a practical man. He should go
into the yard and learn the trade of a ship-carpenter; in time he could
be a builder; and then the son could build, and the father would fit
out and send his ships abroad.

The son demurred. The father’s obstinacy asserted itself; he could
not be made to listen to reason; and the matter ended by the boy’s
proclaiming his determination to go through college, if he had to scrub
the floors to get through, and the father’s threat that, if he left
home, the doors should be closed against his return.

The boy went. The mention of his name was forbidden in his home by the
angry father. He had been gone four years, and the captain seemed as
insensible to his welfare as he did when he pronounced his dictum.

But the mother, she had not held her peace for four long years without
knowledge of her boy. Snugly tucked away among her treasures were
weekly records of her son’s progress, in his own handwriting--tender,
loving epistles, such as make a mother’s heart warm and happy, telling
of true growth in manhood’s noblest attributes, and showing in every
line the blessed power of a mother’s influence.

Despite her cross, Mrs. Thompson was a happy woman, and the
championship of her son by Aunt Hulda was a power to make her merry;
for she knew how her Harry got through college. He didn’t scrub the
floors to get through. O, no! Captain Thompson’s purse paved the way
for a more stately march through the halls of learning.

And so, having had her laugh, Mrs. Thompson called, in a loud voice,--

“Silly!”

Silly, somewhere down in the tale of the kite, answered the summons
with a shrill “Yes, marm,” and in a few minutes entered the room.

Priscilla York was one of Mrs. Thompson’s charity patients--a tall,
ungainly, awkward girl, whom, from pity, the good woman had taken
into her house, with a desire to teach her a few of the rudiments of
housekeeping.

Silly was by no means a promising pupil, her “breaking in” requiring
the breaking up of many dishes and the exercise of much patience.

She was abrupt and jerking in her motion, except when she walked; then
she seemed afraid of damaging carpets, not having been accustomed to
them, and walked on tiptoe, which peculiar footfall caused the heels of
her slip-shod shoes to drop with a “clap-clap-clap,” as she crossed the
oil-cloth on the floor of the dining-room. Her clothes hung loosely on
her, and as she entered the room her arms were stuck stiff at her side,
her mouth wide open, and her eyes staring as though she expected to
hear some dreadful news.

“Silly,” said Mrs. Thompson, “get the covered basket.”

“Yes, marm,” said Silly, and darted for the door.

“Stop, stop, child; I’ve not finished.”

Silly darted back again.

“I want you to get the covered basket, and take some things over to
Mrs. Sleeper.”

“Yes marm;” and the girl darted for the door a second time.

“Silly, stop this instant! What in the world are you thinking of?”

“The covered basket, marm; it’s in the pantry.”

“Silly, when I have finished what I want to say, I will tell you to go.”

“Then you don’t want the covered basket, marm?”

“Get the covered basket, put in it the ham that was left at dinner, a
pair of chickens I cooked this morning, a couple of mince pies, and a
loaf of bread. Do you understand?”

“Yes marm. Basket, ham, chickens, mince pie, bread,” said Silly,
briskly.

“Very well. Those are for Mrs. Sleeper, with my compliments.”

“Yes marm. Basket and all?”

“Bring back the basket, of course. Now go--”

“Yes, marm;” and Silly made a third dart doorward.

“Stop, stop, Silly!”

“You told me to go when you said go; and I was a going to go.”

“That was my mistake, Silly. I want you to go to the pantry, get
a bottle of currant wine, a jar of damson preserves, and a box of
sardines. Can you find them all?”

“O, yes, marm. Currant wine, damson preserves, sardines.”

“Very well. Be careful in handling things. Those are for Aunt Hulda,
with my compliments. Make no mistake, and be sure to tell her I sent
them. Now, Silly, go.”

Silly started at the word “go” so forcibly that she ran plump against
the portly form of the captain, who just then entered.

“Hang it!” roared he; “why don’t you see where you are going, stupid?”

“Stupid” stopped not to tell the reason why, but darted by the captain:
and soon a commotion among the dishes in the pantry made it evident
that Silly was “handling things” none to carefully.

“Where’s that crazy thing going now?” muttered the captain, as he
stalked to the window.

“On one of my errands, Paul; so don’t be inquisitive.”

Had he dreamed that Aunt Hulda’s defence of his boy had turned his
wife’s sympathies in her direction, and that there was likely to be a
shower of goodies poured into the spinster’s lap, he might have been
inquisitive, instead of shouting at that particular moment,--

“Hang it! there’s that boy again! and with my apples, too! He shan’t
escape me this time. No, no.” And the captain darted from the room, and
out into the road, bare-headed.

Teddy Sleeper had waited two hours, in the woods behind the orchard
the return of Becky, supposing that, as she was the leader of the
expedition, after decoying the captain to a safe distance, she would
return to rescue her follower; for Teddy had not sufficient reliance
on his own skill to venture either an attack or a retreat. At last,
getting weary, he crept out into the lane, and from there into the
main street, and started for home. But as he neared the church he was
waylaid by a half a dozen of his cronies, just returning from a game
of base ball, and, of course, very hungry. Catching sight of the fruit
stowed away in Teddy’s jacket, they set up a roar of delight, and
surrounded him.

“Hooray! Ted’s made a haul!”

“Divy’s the thing--hey, Ted?”

“O, come, Ted, don’t be mean.”

“But they ain’t mine; they’re Becky’s,” said Teddy, warding off the
snatches at his plunder as best he could with his elbows.

“Becky’s--are they? Hooray! She won’t care. Divy, Ted. She’s the best
fellow in town.”

Teddy had about made up his mind to unbosom himself to his captors,
when he caught sight of the bareheaded captain emerging from the door.
A shiver ran through him. Hardly a chance for escape now. Nevertheless
he darted round the corner at a lively pace, and down the hill. The
disappointed boys, not having seen the captain, but supposing Teddy was
attempting to escape from them, set up a yell, and started in pursuit.
But Teddy had made a good start, and fear lent unwonted activity to his
legs. So, down the hill they went, Teddy ahead, the boys close at his
heels, and the captain dashing on behind.

With such a load as he carried, Teddy could not long keep up his
gallant pace, and his pursuers rapidly gained upon him. He was almost
to the bridge, and there was Becky cheering and clapping her hands. If
he could only reach her, he felt he was safe. With a quick impulse,
he drew two apples from his bosom, and threw them over his head. The
foremost boy stopped suddenly to pick them up. On a down grade, too!
The result was appalling. In an instant he was on the ground, with his
companions piled upon him. A pitfall in the path of the irate captain.
His ponderous body launched itself upon the heap, and great was the
fall thereof. Screams, groans, and dirt filled the air as Teddy reached
the bridge. The vanquished picked themselves up as best they could,
without a thought of further pursuit, while the conquering _heroes_
marched up the hill, to make, in some secure retreat, a fair division
of the spoils.

[Illustration: ON THE BRIDGE. Page 55.]



CHAPTER IV.

BECKY SLEEPER’S CHARITY.


“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” was a precept by no
means religiously observed at the little brown house on the hill.
Mrs. Sleeper had never been a regular attendant at divine service,
even in her happiest days, and, since her peculiar misfortune, had
almost entirely neglected the church. A part of the day was regularly
spent in poring over the letters of her husband, the effect of which
was to set her weeping for the balance. The young people, left to
their own devices, amused themselves by pitching “quates” behind the
house, playing tag in the barn, or by indulgence in other equally
indecorous sports endeavored to wear out the long day. Aunt Hulda
generally brought forth from their resting-place at the bottom of her
trunk “The Family Physician,” or “Every Woman her own Doctor,” two
standard works for the cure of all diseases, and faithfully consulting
them for remedies to meet her infirmities, or, from old habit, took
the ponderous family Bible into her lap, and in its pages sought
consolation, the Book of Job, however, being the portion which really
soothed her perturbed spirit.

On the Sunday following the disaster on the hill, the afflicted
spinster, in the sitting-room, was groaning over a treatise on cancer,
in “The Family Physician,” that disease being the order of the day in
her system of complaints. It was near the middle of the afternoon,
and Becky, having exhausted the supply of out-door sports, was lying
upon the sofa, and, with a very dissatisfied look upon her face, was
watching Aunt Hulda. Teddy, who seldom lost sight of his sister, was
flattening his nose against the window-pane.

“Aunt Hulda,” said Becky, suddenly, “don’t you think Sunday is an awful
long day?”

“I do, by hokey!” blurted out Teddy. “Can’t get up no fun, nor nothin’.
I’d like to go a fishin’ first rate; but jest as you git a nibble, long
comes some the meetin’-house folks, and begin to talk about breakin’
the Sabbath. And that jest scares off all the fish.”

“And the fishermen, too, Teddy. My sakes, how you did run last Sunday
when Deacon Hill caught you fishing down at the fore side!” said Becky,
with a laugh.

“Plague take him! he jest marched off with my line and bait, too,”
growled Teddy. “It’s none of his business, anyhow.”

“All days are long to a poor, afflicted creeter,” groaned Aunt Hulda.
“But when I was a girl of your age, I did think Sunday was as long
as six week-days beat into one; but then it’s the Lord’s day, and I
s’pose, after all, we can make it long or short, just as we try to do
what he wants us to.”

“Well, I’d like to know what he wants me to do, for I can’t find out
any way to make it short. It’s just hateful, and I wish there wasn’t
any such day,” replied Becky, turning restlessly about.

“Why, Rebecca Sleeper, how can you talk so? One of the things he wants
folks to do is to go to meetin’ regular. You ought to know that well
enough.”

“Does he?” said Becky, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “Seems to
me, Aunt Hulda, you don’t mind very well.”

“Lor, child, I’m a poor, afflicted creeter. He don’t expect me to do
much but bear my troubles patiently; and I’m sure I do that,” said Aunt
Hulda, forcing a look of resignation into her face.

“Don’t think much of goin’ to meetin’ anyhow,” said Teddy. “They always
pokes us up in the gallery, and won’t let us go to sleep; and if old
Fox, the sexton, ketches a feller firin’ spitballs, he jest whacks him
on the head.”

“Then there are other ways to make the day short--readin’ the Bible and
other good books.”

“Yes; ‘Family Physician,’ I s’pose,” said Teddy. “I jest wish I had
Robinson Crusoe: that’s a first rate one.”

“Then a goin’ to see sick folks, and carryin’ ’em little dainties, is
another; and that makes the day short, I tell you,” continued Aunt
Hulda. “When I was a helpin’ Mrs. Lincoln, years and years ago, she
used to say to me Sunday afternoons, ‘Hulda, don’t you want to clap on
your bonnet and run over to the widder Starns with the basket?’ or,
‘Hulda, don’t you want to carry this jelly round to Mr. Peters? He’s
terrible sick.’ And I used to go and go, and never feel a bit tired,
because it was charitable work; and Sundays used to go quicker than
week-days, and I was glad when they come round again. Now there’s
poor Mr. York, Silly York’s father; poor man, he’s most gone with the
consumption; now, if you only had a nice little bit of somethin’ good
to take over to him, you don’t know how good you would feel, and how
the time would fly! O, dear, if I was only strong and well! But what’s
the use of talkin’? Here I’ve got the rheumatics so I can’t walk, and
the neuralogy so I can’t sit still, and I’m afraid there’s a cancer
comin’ on the end of my tongue, and then I can’t talk.”

Here Aunt Hulda ran out her tongue, and commenced exploring it with her
finger to find a small pimple which had made its appearance that day.
Becky lay very quiet on the sofa, watching Aunt Hulda, who, after the
examination of her tongue, plunged into “The Family Physician” with
anxious interest.

“Did she ever delight in doing good?” thought Becky, as she studied
Aunt Hulda’s face with renewed interest. “Everybody calls her a
nuisance, and everybody laughs at her complaints. She take nice things
to sick folks, and feel good in doing it! And she says this is the
Lord’s day--this long, weary day,--and can be made short and pleasant
like the other six! Why, she talks like a minister!”

Aunt Hulda was a new being in the girl’s eyes. She began to reverence
the afflicted spinster. She lay there so quiet that Teddy looked round
in astonishment. His sister had been lying perfectly still for fifteen
minutes. Such an occurrence startled him.

“Becky, what’s the matter? Sick--hey?”

“No, Teddy,” replied Becky, startled in turn; “I’m thinking--that’s
all.”

“Don’t do it. ’Twill make you sick--see if it don’t.”

“I guess not, Teddy,” replied Becky, jumping up. “I’m going into the
kitchen.”

Teddy followed her as she left the room.

“Teddy,” said Becky, solemnly, after she had softly closed the kitchen
door behind them, “I expect we’re awful wicked.”

“Do you, though?” said Teddy, with staring eyes. “What for?”

“Because Sunday’s such a long day. Didn’t you hear what Aunt Hulda
said? It’s the Lord’s day, and we can make it short or long, just as we
try to do what he wants us to.”

“Well, what’s he want us to do?”

“To go to church, and not stay at home and pitch quates.”

“How are we goin’ to church without clo’es? My elbows are all out; so’s
my knees. They’d send us home quick, I tell you.”

“I suppose they would,” replied Becky, thoughtfully. “Well, there’s one
thing we might do--carry something nice to sick folks.”

“We ain’t got nothin’ nice, and don’t know any sick folks,” replied
matter-of-fact Teddy, who failed to see anything time-shortening in
Becky’s project.

“We know Mr. York, who’s got the consumption.”

“Well, we might go and catch some fish and take to him--only I’ve lost
my line.”

“No; something better than that, Teddy. Now you run and get a basket. I
know what to take.”

Teddy went into the wood-shed and soon returned with a very dilapidated
basket.

“That will do nicely. Now let’s see what we can find to put into it,”
said Becky, as she opened the door of the cupboard. “Here’s a bottle of
currant wine; I guess that’s good for consumption; we’ll take that.
And here’s a jar of preserves; they always give them to sick folks;
we’ll take that. And here’s a box of sardines. I don’t know about that.
Well, we’ll take it, any way.”

“Why, Becky, these things are what Mrs. Thompson sent to Aunt Hulda,”
said Teddy, a little alarmed at Becky’s proceedings.

“So they are;” and Becky wavered a moment. “No matter; she’ll send her
some more, I guess. Besides, Aunt Hulda won’t care, for we’re going to
do good with them. There’s a pair of chickens, too; but I guess they’re
most too hearty for sick folks. Now let’s be off.”

With the basket between them, they crept into the wood-shed, from
there into a pasture behind the house, crossed that, climbed a fence,
and struck into the Foxtown road. The Yorks lived upon this road, a
good mile and a half from Mrs. Sleeper’s. The basket was a heavy,
unwieldy affair, in which the “good things” bounced about in a very
unsatisfactory manner; and the couple “changed hands” many times before
they reached their destination.

In answer to Becky’s knock, the door was opened by Mrs. York, a short,
buxom woman with a very pleasant face.

“Becky Sleeper--of all things! What in the world brought you here? and
what have you got there?”

“Thought we’d come over and bring something to Mr. York. He’s
sick--ain’t he?” answered Becky.

“Why, you good little soul! Come right in; my poor man will be dreadful
glad to see you.”

Becky and Teddy accepted the cordial invitation, and were ushered
into the presence of the “poor man.” Mr. York was by no means so far
gone as people imagined. True, there were about him symptoms of the
dread disease which New England makes a specialty; but he was a very
lazy man, and took advantage of any slight cold to house himself and
be nursed by his wife. Mrs. York was not an idle woman; she washed,
ironed, and scrubbed in the neighborhood, when her husband worked at
his trade; the moment he “felt bad” she dropped all outside labor, and
gave her attention to him, magnifying his troubles by her sympathy,
and thus making a “baby” of a man who was strong enough to support his
family, had he the inclination. Of course, in this state of affairs,
there was no income, and the active charity of Cleverly had a loud call
in that direction.

The room was neat and tidy; the “poor man” lay upon a sofa; two of the
five children with which this couple were blessed were playing about
the room; two were at church; the eldest, Silly, was in the next room,
putting away her things, having just returned from Mrs. Thompson’s.

“Only think, father, here’s Becky and Teddy Sleeper come all the way
alone to bring you something nice. Of all things! Why, Becky, I thought
you didn’t care for anything but getting into scrapes and out again.
You’ve got a good heart, any way--ain’t she father?”

Father raised himself on his elbow, with a faint “Yes, indeed,” and
fastened his eyes on the basket, somewhat more interested in the good
things than in the good heart.

“Empty your basket right on to the table, Becky. Did your mother send
’em?”

“No; mother’s sick,” replied Becky, a little defiantly, for the
allusion to scrapes had struck her as not exactly polite under the
circumstances. “No, Mrs. York; I thought I’d pick up something myself.
Here’s a bottle of wine, a jar of preserves, and a box of sardines,”
placing them upon the table. “If they will do Mr. York any good, you’re
welcome to them.”

“Why, they’re real nice, and we’re ever so much obliged to you, Becky.
Where did you get them?”

Becky was silent a moment. She had not expected such a question, was
not prepared to tell the truth, and would not lie, lying being an
infirmity which she detested; not, however, from any prompting of her
moral nature, but because she thought it a cowardly way of getting out
of a scrape.

“Do you think it polite, Mrs. York, to ask so many questions when
people take the trouble to bring you things?” she said, at last, with
an abused look in her eyes.

“No, I don’t, Becky,” replied Mrs. York, with a laugh. “It’s real
mean, and I’ll say no more. You’re a dear, good girl, and you deserve
a better bringing up than you’re getting now. Here’s Silly,--Silly, do
look here; see what these dear children have brought your father--wine,
preserves, sardines! Ain’t they kind?”

Silly stopped short in the doorway, and looked in astonishment first at
the table then at Becky.

“Wine, preserves, sardines! Becky Sleeper, where did you get those
things?”

“It’s none of your business,” replied Becky. “I didn’t come here to be
asked questions.”

“O, you didn’t!” sneered Silly. “I know where you got ’em: you stole
’em!--Mother, they’re the very things Mrs. Thompson sent over to Hulda
Prime yesterday afternoon; and I took ’em.”

“Land of liberty sakes! You don’t mean it!” cried Mrs. York, with
uplifted hands.

“Now, you young ones, take them things right back!” cried Silly,
stamping her foot and jerking her arms about in an extraordinary manner.

“I wouldn’t send them back, Silly,” said her father, with a faint hope
of retaining the delicacies, the sight of which had made his mouth
water. “Perhaps Hulda Prime sent ’em!”

“Hulda Prime, indeed! Ketch her parting with her things; she’s too
mean. No; they shall go back, quick, too. What would Mrs. Thompson say?
Don’t you feel mean, Becky Sleeper?”

From the color of Becky’s face it was evident she was not contented
with the situation. As for Teddy, he was terrified, expecting every
moment the swinging arms of Silly would be attracted to the vicinity of
his ears.

“Now, off with you,” continued Silly, tossing the articles into the
basket; “and don’t you ever show your faces here again. Purty capers
you cut up, Becky Sleeper,” picking up the basket. “Here, take hold of
it,” opening the door. “Now, start yourselves, quick, or I’ll know the
reason why.”

Bang went the door, and the charitable party were in the road, with the
rejected offering still upon their hands. They stood a moment looking
at each other and the closed door behind them, Becky’s face crimson
with shame, Teddy’s eyes, now that he was out of danger, blazing with
anger.

“Well, well,” sputtered Teddy, “here’s a purty kettle of fish. Nice
scrape you’ve got us in now, Becky Sleeper! You ought to know better.”

“Aunt Hulda said this was the Lord’s work,” answered Becky, meekly. “I
was only trying to make the day short and pleasant.”

“Well, if it’s the Lord’s work, you’ve made a botch of it; and if he
sent you here, he made a mistake in the house.”

“Don’t talk so, Teddy; it’s wicked.”

“It’s wickeder to have to lug that basket way round home again. I
won’t do it. Let’s chuck it in the water.”

“No, no, Teddy; let’s take it home. I wouldn’t have believed Silly York
could be so mean. Poor as they are, too!”

“I should think so! Folks don’t get sardines and currant wine every
day.”

“Come, let’s go the shortest way, Teddy.”

They took up the basket, and started homeward. The shortest way was
by the main street, and as they entered it they met the people coming
from church. So, with down-cast faces, the disappointed almoners ran
the gantlet of wondering eyes, attracted by the uncommon sight of two
poorly-dressed youngsters lugging a heavy basket on Sunday.

For the first time in her life Becky was mortified at the condition in
which she found herself. As she passed neatly-dressed girls of her own
age, and heard the laughter which they took no pains to suppress, her
old, defiant manner failed to assert itself, and she hung her head in
shame. To add to her humiliation, when they reached the church, Captain
Thompson was standing on the steps talking with the sexton.

“Heavens and earth! What new caper’s this?” he shouted, making a dash
at the culprits.

Becky, having her head down, had not seen the captain, but she heard
his voice and recognized it. She gave one startled look, dropped the
basket, and ran. Teddy was not slow in following her example. The
captain made a motion as if to follow them, but giving a thought to the
day, and perhaps another to the steepness of the hill they were rapidly
descending, changed his mind, picked up the basket, and entered his
house.

Becky and her accomplice made no stops until they reached home. They
dashed into the sitting-room, breathless and frightened.

“Massy sakes! do you want to take the house down?” cried Aunt Hulda.
“What on airth’s the matter now?”

“Aunt Hulda, I don’t believe you know a thing about making Sunday short
and pleasant,” said Becky, indignantly. “I’ve tried it, and it’s just
as hateful a way of having a good time as ever I saw.”

“Tried it! Tried what?” cried Aunt Hulda.

“Carrying nice things to sick folks, and getting snubbed for your
pains,” said Becky.

“Yes, and gittin’ yer shins barked with plaguy big baskets,” added
Teddy.

“Carrying things! What have you carried? Where have you been?”

“Currant wine, preserves and sardines!” sputtered Teddy.

“Yes, to Mr. York; and got turned out of doors,” added Becky.

“Currant wine! Heavens and airth!” screamed Aunt Hulda, jumping up and
darting into the kitchen with an activity she seldom displayed.

She flew to the cupboard, gave one look, uttered a dismal groan, and
darted back to the sitting-room.

“You hateful young one, you’ve stolen my things! What do you mean?” she
cried, seizing Becky by the shoulder, and shaking her. “Is that the way
you rob a poor, afflicted creeter? What have you done with them? Where
are they?”

“Don’t care where they are! Wish they were at the bottom of the river!
Quit shaking me!”

“Guess they’re safe, Aunt Hulda,” said Teddy, with a grin. “Cap’n
Thompson’s got ’em.”

“Cap’n Thompson!” gasped Aunt Hulda, staring at Teddy. In his hands
she felt they were indeed safe. It was too much. She dropped Becky,
tottered to the sofa, and added a fit of hysterics to the catalogue of
her numerous ailments.



CHAPTER V.

IN SCHOOL AND OUT.


The dazzlingly white school-house opposite Captain Thompson’s mansion
was not used for the public school, which, under the state law, was
necessarily kept in operation at least four months in the year, and
for whose support the people of Cleverly were taxed. That institution
was situated at a point nearer the fore side, a short distance from
the main street, and was in rather a dilapidated condition. In those
days country people had not that pride in handsome and commodious
school-houses which is now eminently a characteristic of New England
villages; and this crazy edifice was likely to serve the purpose for
which it had been erected, years and years before, until it should
crumble to pieces with age or be swept into a pile of kindling-wood by
the fury of a March gale.

Captain Thompson, as a member of the school committee, had endeavored
many times to have the old shell supplanted by a better building,
or at least placed on a more secure footing; but in vain. His
associates--Messrs. Pennywise and Poundfoolish--strictly opposed
reconstruction in any form.

“It was good enough for us; and what was good enough for us is good
enough for our young ones,” was not a very sound argument; but, as it
satisfied the majority, the captain was obliged to give way. He then
carried the matter before the town meeting, with no better success.
There was a strong opposition to any measure he brought forward for
the improvement of the school estate. Not even a bundle of shingles or
a pound of nails could be had for repairs. The “good-enough” argument
prevailed here; and the captain was vanquished.

Then his obstinacy asserted itself. He withdrew from the school
committee, bought the land opposite his house, took men from his
shipyard, hired all the carpenters he could find, and in less than two
months had a very neat and commodious school-house of his own. This he
leased to Rufus Drinkwater, the best teacher the public school ever
had,--a man generally esteemed by the good folks of Cleverly,--and
commenced a warfare against the ancient establishment. Drinkwater’s
term opened a month earlier than the public, the charge for tuition
was very low, and the captain gave notice that he was prepared to pay
the bills, if children wanted to come to “my school,” and parents felt
unable to incur further expense for schooling than that to which they
were subjected by the state tax.

The committee-men laughed when they saw “Thompson’s Folly,” as they
styled the new edifice, going up. But when they saw the children going
in,--and a very respectable procession they made,--and looked into
their almost deserted quarters, they groaned in spirit, forgot the
dignity of office, and railed in unbecoming terms at the “underhand
tricks” of their successful opponent.

There was a satisfied look upon the captain’s face as he stepped into
the road Monday morning, followed by his man-of-all-work. About the
door of the school-house were gathered a dozen or so of young people,
awaiting the appearance of the teacher. It was only half past eight;
and this assembly at so early an hour gave promise of a successful
opening.

“Well, well, little folks, this looks well, this looks well,” said the
great man, good humoredly, as he entered the circle. “‘It’s the early
bird that catches the worm,’ and its the early chicks that pick up the
largest crumbs at the bountiful table of learning.”

The “chicks” looked a little crestfallen as the captain passed among
them, patting a head here, and chucking a chin there; for to boys
and girls ranging from ten to fifteen years of age, these babyish
appellations and familiarities are not cordially welcome.

“Phil, unlock the door.--Everything’s in order, nice and clean; and be
sure you keep it so, little folks.”

“And mind, darlin’s, it’s the captain that’s done it all,” put in Phil,
as he unlocked the door. “Niver be ungrateful, for it is a warm heart
has the captain, though he doesn’t always show it in his face.”

“Come, come, Phil, none of that,” cried the captain, a flash of
“ugliness” springing to his face to give color to Phil’s remark. “Mind
your own business, and open the door.”

“There yez are,” said Phil, throwing open the door. “In wid yez, and
have a raal foine frolic afore the schoolmasther comes. Howld on a
bit. Three cheers for yer binefacthor--Captain Thompson. Now: one, two,
three, and away you go!”

Phil led off with a cheer, in which the young people heartily joined.
The captain turned down the hill, followed by Phil and the continued
cheers of the scholars, who, once started, were not contented with
anything short of three times three, though whether the thought of
their benefactor or the sound of their own voices contributed more to
their enthusiasm, would have been no hard matter to decide.

The captain, evidently impressed with the idea that the young
Sleepers were to be driven to school like unruly cattle, was armed
with his whip, and, that there might be no defeat of his project, had
furnished Phil with a stout stick, and bade him keep a sharp eye on
the youngsters until they were safe in the school-house. Phil followed
meekly, with his weapon under his arm and a broad grin on his face,
for the comicality of the situation highly delighted the warm-hearted
Hibernian, with whom the young people were such favorites that, had
they meditated an escape, he would have managed, by some native
blunder, to aid, and not impede, their attempt.

To the utter astonishment of the captain, when they reached the house,
a transformation had been accomplished. On a block in the yard sat
Teddy, with a clean face, smoothly-brushed hair, clothes well patched,
to be sure, but without a rent, and, strangest of all, shoes and
stockings on his feet. Becky sat in the doorway, with an open book
in her lap, hair well brushed and curled, frock mended, clean apron,
polished shoes, and white stockings. All this was the work of Hulda
Prime. Either in gratitude to Mrs. Thompson, who had quickly returned
the purloined goodies, with the request that the children be made
presentable, or from a desire to astonish her enemy, Hulda had risen at
an early hour, aroused the sleepers, washed, brushed, and mended with
an energy that surprised even the dreamy mother, and, after a lesson in
good behaviour, had set her charge out to dry, until the arrival of the
captain.

Becky had taken the matter very coolly. When told she was going to
school that day, she said,--

“Why, Teddy and I were going up to the Basin to-day.”

“Yes, rafting,” said Teddy. “It’s plaguy mean to spoil a fellow’s fun.”

“No matter,” replied Becky, with a knowing nod of the head; “guess
we’ll go after school, any way.”

When thoroughly scoured and adorned, she took a large book, and sat in
the doorway, where the captain found her.

“Well, young ones, what is it--peace or war? Will you go to school
quietly, or must we drive you?” said the captain, when he had recovered
from his surprise.

“You won’t drive us, captain,” said Becky, looking up, with a smile.
“It would be too hard work. We’re going quietly--ain’t we, Teddy?”

“Yes, if we’re let alone. Ain’t going to be lugged like a calf to the
slaughter-house, any way,” grumbled Teddy.

“You’d better,” growled the captain. “I ain’t forgot your capers in
my orchard. I’m just itching to pay off that score. But I’ll call it
square if you give me no trouble now.”

“All right, captain,” replied Becky; “We’ll go. I’ve been preparing
myself for torture in this blessed book.”

“What book’s that--the Bible, hey?” said the captain.

“It’s ‘Fox’s Book of Martyrs,’ captain; but I can’t find anything about
school in it.”

“Pshaw!” said the captain; “let such books alone. Come, stir your
stumps, or you’ll be late. Now, recollect, if you give me any trouble--”

“Cap’n Thompson, you needn’t be afraid of them young ones; they won’t
eat you!” cried Aunt Hulda, sticking her head out of the kitchen
doorway. “If you and that big Irish lubber can’t handle ’em, better
call on the committee; they’ll help you.”

The taunt was so bitter that the captain raised his whip; but,
recollecting the sex of his opponent, he turned away, with a muttered
“Hang it!” and strode into the road. Teddy and Becky followed, and
Phil brought up the rear. The march schoolward was devoid of stirring
incidents. Occasionally Becky, annoyed at the strict guard kept over
them, would dart to the side of the road. The captain and Phil would
run after her, only to find her picking a flower, or cutting a switch.
The captain would stalk on again, and the captives would exchange
mischievous glances, while Phil would grow red in the face with
suppressed laughter.

The captain had consumed more time than he intended in mustering
his recruits; and it was past nine o’clock when he reached the
school-house. His “chicks,” having exhausted their stock of cheers, had
filed into the school-room, and not averse to Phil’s recommendation,
had indulged in a noisy but good-humored frolic, in which they were
joined by some twenty later arrivals. They were in the midst of an
animated game of tag, when three distinct raps upon the teacher’s desk
made them aware of the presence of a stranger. In an instant there
was profound silence in the room, and all eyes were turned upon the
new-comer. He was a young man, of medium height, broad-shouldered and
full-chested, every movement of his person showing in its powerful
grace the effects of physical culture and out-door exercise. His
face was equally powerful; piercing black eyes, browned skin, and a
determined lock of the under jaw, showed a strong will and a daring
spirit. Yet an occasional comical quiver about his eyes, and a lifting
of his slight moustache by a half smile, and a genial glow of good
humor which beamed through its sternness, as the ruddy cheek glowed
under the brown coating, gave token of the nobility of power, by its
kinship to gentleness and good humor. To all this were added a high
forehead and an abundance of short, curly locks, so that the person of
the stranger was not only calculated to command respect, but admiration
as well.

“My young friends,” said he, “I bear a message from your teacher. He
was taken suddenly ill last Friday night; he is somewhat better this
morning, we think, but unable to be here with you. He has asked me to
take his place, and wishes you to be patient with one who is a new hand
at keeping school. That’s myself,” with a smile. “Will you take me?”

“O, yes, sir!” “Yes, sir!” in full chorus.

“Very well. I think we can agree. Take your places--boys on the left,
girls on the right, as usual.”

There were three rows of forms on each side, for the scholars, with a
broad open space between; there was a platform at the farther end, for
recitations; the teacher’s desk faced this, on a corresponding platform
at the left of the door, and behind his desk was a blackboard affixed
to the wall. The room was lighted by three windows on each side, and
one at the farther end.

The scholars quickly took their places, and Mr. Drinkwater’s substitute
seated himself at the desk, opened the record book, and commenced
calling the names of the scholars of the last term in alphabetical
order. He was among the D’s, had reached the name of Hosea Davis, when
the door was thrown open, and Captain Thompson stalked into the room,
followed by Becky and Teddy.

“Here Drinkwater, here’s a couple of eels that want training.”

The substitute raised his head quickly.

“Harry Thompson!”

“Yes, sir, Harry Thompson,” said the stranger, rising. “I hope I see
you well, sir.”

The captain did not look well. He turned pale, and stared at his son as
though he could not believe his eyes.

“Wh-wh-what does this mean? Why are you here? Where’s Drinkwater?”

“Mr. Drinkwater is ill, sir; taken suddenly last Friday. I have been
stopping with him for a few days, and he requested me to open his
school to-day.”

“He’s no business to do anything of the kind. This is my school; and I
won’t have it.”

The captain was getting angry.

“I understood him to say that the school-house was leased to him, and
that he was expected to get a substitute when unable to attend himself.”

“So he is; but not you, sir, not you. I don’t want any of your
teaching. S’pose you’ll teach these young ones to disobey their
fathers, and run off. No, sir. You are at liberty. I’ll teach myself.”

“That is a point you must settle with Mr. Drinkwater,” said the young
man, quietly. “I have taken command here, and, without meaning to
be disrespectful, propose to hold my position until relieved by Mr.
Drinkwater.”

The captain absolutely foamed with rage.

“You’re an impudent puppy. You’ve no business here, no business in
the place. You’ve disgraced yourself. After what I’ve done for you,
too!” And the captain went into particulars as to what he had done,
commencing a long way back in the young man’s history, and without
giving his son a chance to speak, growing louder and fiercer as his
tongue flew the faster. He was suddenly brought to a stop by a roar of
laughter from the children. He turned to them in amazement, but not by
him was their merriment caused.

While the captain was giving vent to his troubles, Miss Becky had
stepped upon the platform, picked up a crayon, and commenced operations
on the blackboard. As she proceeded, all eyes, with the exception of
those belonging to the captain and his son, were fastened upon her; and
the completion of her picture had brought forth the interrupting roar.

Becky had one talent which had long been hid; she had a genius for
drawing; but never before had this peculiar talent been paraded for
public inspection.

But here, as skillfully executed as chalk would allow, was a drawing
representing “Old Uncle Ned” at full gallop, Becky seated upon his
back, and the captain in full pursuit--so well done, that the captain,
following the direction of all eyes, instantly recognized it. Incensed
he made a dart at Becky; but the nimble artist dodged him, and fled
to the farther end of the room. This produced another roar from the
scholars. The captain checked his pursuit, turned about, and fled from
the room, banging the door behind him.

Harry Thompson rapped the desk, and commanded silence.

“Miss Becky Sleeper, remove that drawing from the blackboard at once,”
he said sternly.

Becky looked up at him with a mischievous smile, which instantly
disappeared, as she met his eye. She meekly obeyed, and the picture
vanished.

“Now, take your place. You, too, Master Teddy.”

Teddy went over among the boys, and Becky followed him. Another roar
from the scholars.

“Silence!” from the teacher. “Miss Becky, you will take your place
among the girls, where you belong.”

Becky went the whole length of the room, scowling at the girls, who had
laughed at her blunder, and took a seat by the window.

Harry concluded his record by affixing the names of Teddy and Becky,
who were the only new scholars.

“The exercises will be very short this morning, and there will be but
one session. I shall only call upon you to read; that concluded, you
will be dismissed for the day.”

He then commenced with the boy nearest him, calling upon them
separately to read--first a boy, then a girl, in regular succession.
They made their own selections, and with varied success. There were
some good readers, none very bad, until they reached Teddy. He stepped
upon the platform, and read “Casabianca” somewhat in this style:--

  “‘The boy stood on the--b-u-r-n-i-n-g--burning deck,
  Whence--whence--whence all butim had sled--no, fled;
  The flames that lit the batil wreck
  Shine--shown--show--round him o’er the dead;’”

which, of course, excited a laugh. It was now Becky’s turn, and she was
called. She did not move. She could read no better than Teddy, and she
was determined not to be laughed at.

“Becky Sleeper, take the platform!” said the teacher, in a stern voice.

“I won’t--there! I didn’t come to school to you: Mr. Drinkwater’s my
teacher.”

Harry Thompson stepped from his desk. The lower jaw came up with an
ominous snap. He went to where Becky sat kicking the form before her,
and looked down at her. She appeared so little, that his anger at her
sauciness vanished at once.

“Becky, you and I will have a private session after school. You will
read to me then, I think, for old acquaintance’s sake,” he said, with a
smile, and returned to his desk. “I am very much obliged to you all for
your attention. School is dismissed. Becky Sleeper will remain.”

There was a rush for out doors, and the school-room was quickly cleared
of all but Becky and the teacher. Teddy had lingered a moment to
exchange a word with Becky, in which “the Basin,” and “wait outside,”
might be distinguished, and then had taken his leave.

“Now, Becky, let me hear you read.”

Becky arose, but instead of stepping to the platform, marched straight
for the door. But not quite fast enough, for Harry stepped before her,
closed the door, and locked it.

“Becky,” said he, “the first duty to be learned in school is obedience
to the teacher. Go to the platform!”

Becky looked up at him with defiance in her glance.

“Harry Thompson, you’re just as mean as you can be. You let those boys
and girls laugh at Teddy and now you want to laugh at me. I won’t read.”

“Go to the platform.”

Becky turned and went to the platform, and farther yet; she threw up
the window, and jumped upon the sill, and all very quickly. Harry saw
her intention at once.

“Becky, Becky, don’t do that,” he cried, running towards her. “It’s ten
feet. You’ll break your neck.”

“Don’t care. I won’t read;” and she leaped. There was a rustling and
tearing among the foliage beneath the window; but when Harry reached
it, Becky was invisible.



CHAPTER VI.

BECKY’S LAST FROLIC.


Teddy Sleeper obeyed Becky’s injunction to wait outside, by passing
round school-house, and down the hill, to the window at the end, that
he might be in readiness should she desire to signal him during her
confinement. He was just in time to witness her descent. She plumped
into a cluster of bushes, and for a moment was lost to sight. Even this
terrific leap did not surprise the phlegmatic Teddy, who had such an
exalted opinion of his sister’s prowess, that, had she jumped from the
steeple of the church, he would have expected her to pick herself up as
coolly as she did now, emerging from the bushes with ruffled plumage,
but without a scratch or bruise.

“Well, Becky, got out sooner than I thought you would. Did he make you
read?”

“No, he didn’t,” replied Becky, with a sneer. “It will take a smarter
teacher than him to make me do what I don’t want to. He’s nothing but a
boy.”

“What will the captain say now, Becky?”

“I don’t care what he says. Guess he don’t like the teacher any better
than I do. Come, let’s get away from here; he’ll be after us.”

“That’s so. Where shall we go?”

“Where we were going this morning. We’ve got time to ‘shoot the Basin’
before dinner.”

So saying, Becky, whose hasty exit from the school-room had not allowed
her to gain possession of her hat, started off bareheaded, followed by
Teddy, along the bank of the river, towards the Corner.

Harry Thompson inherited a streak of the obstinacy which was so
apparent in his father. As Becky disappeared from one side of the
window, he rushed from the other, caught up his hat, unlocked the door,
and hastened down the hill, only to see his unruly pupil climbing a
fence twenty rods away. This convinced him that no bones had been
broken. But he was not inclined to let the matter drop here; so he
returned to the school-room, made all secure, and then started in
pursuit.

As he moved along the bank of the river, the leading event of the
morning was uppermost in his thoughts. The appearance of his father in
the school-room had not been unexpected, and the explanation he had
given of his own presence there was perfectly true. Mr. Drinkwater was
ill, and had sent him as a substitute. Harry, who was well acquainted
with the new school-house affair, had, after consultation with his
mother, who visited him daily at Mr. Drinkwater’s residence, where he
was domiciled for the express purpose of meeting her, accepted the
position that he might try the temper of his father, and pave the way
to a reconciliation, if that were possible. He was quietly awaiting the
conclusion of the captain’s vehement review of “what he had done for
him,” when he expected to have an opportunity to say a word in his own
defence; but Miss Becky’s exhibition of _chalkotype_ art interrupted
the contemplated plea, and sadly disarranged his plans. His only
consolation was, that Mr. Drinkwater would not be able to take charge
of the school for several days, and another meeting might be possible.

Becky, in her turn, occupied a share of his thoughtful attention.
He had looked forward with pleasure to the meeting with his little
playmate, fully expecting that the years which had wrought so much
change in his character, would have shaped the little maid, of whom he
was so fond,--with her quick wit and active spirit,--into something
better than the hoiden he found her. Her saucy movements, her rough
appearance, and her rudeness, had startled him; but, remembering the
influences by which she was surrounded at home, and the artistic touch
displayed at the blackboard, he was convinced that in that little
body were capabilities running to waste, which, trained aright, might
blossom into usefulness. If his good mother only had the trailing of
this wild vine, it would flourish in fruitfulness, and not cumber the
ground. It was not yet too late. He would take his mother into his
confidence.

Full of thoughts like these, Harry went on, keeping a sharp lookout for
the runaway, until he reached the paper-mill at the Corner. Here he
was informed that the young Sleepers had gone farther up the river’s
bank. Undecided whether to go on or retrace his steps, he passed into
the mill, and, meeting his old friend, Mark Small, went over the
building with him, viewing the improvements, in which he became so much
interested that he quite forgot the object of his expedition.

In the mean time, Becky and Teddy had, after a long tramp, and with no
small vaulting of fences and climbing of rocks, reached the Basin.

Rogue’s River, the base of Becky’s future operations, was dammed at
three points. The lower dam was at the fore side, the middle dam just
above the school-house, and the upper dam at the Corner. Here was
located Small’s paper-mill, not a very extensive affair, but which
employed a dozen men and as many girls. In the middle of the river,
about a quarter of a mile above this mill, was a small island, scarcely
twenty feet in circumference, on which flourished a wild growth of
unproductive bushes, with one solitary sentinel of a tree in their
centre; and above this was the Basin. Into this basin, after a winding
flow of ten or twelve miles, increased by several minor streams,
the water poured with considerable power. It lay in the form of a
heart, so often depicted on valentines, or moulded in sugar for the
sweet-toothed. It was about thirty feet from bank to bank, and about
the same distance from the point of entrance to the island, which
shooting into it, gave it a resemblance to the emblem of affection.
Divided by this island, the water swept along on either side in strong,
swift currents. When Harry Thompson, as leader of the boys of Cleverly,
had exhausted all the known means of amusement, his daring spirit
suggested a difficult feat, calculated to carry dismay to the hearts
of his followers, and cause uneasiness to those parents who had an
interest in the safety of their children. He not only suggested it, but
himself performed it, and succeeded in inducing a few of the boldest to
follow his example. This feat was known as “shooting the Basin.” Into
the winding river he launched a log, of which there were many lying
along the banks, a mill hand being employed at this point to draw them
out of the stream. Upon this he stepped, with a long, narrow strip of
board to serve as a rudder, with which to guide his craft. The force of
the stream swiftly carried him into the Basin and towards the island.
It was only necessary to keep “her head” straight, and the island was
reached.

He accomplished the feat, well knowing the danger he incurred; for,
had his craft swerved either to the right or left, he would have
been capsized or carried down the river. Of course there could be no
returning in the same manner. But, to prevent his becoming a Robinson
Crusoe, a tree on the bank was felled so as to bridge the stream from
the bank to the island; and there it had remained ever since.

Becky Sleeper, having seen Harry perform this feat, had desired to
undertake it; but Harry had strongly objected, and the tomboy, having
accepted him as a leader, was obliged to postpone the attempt.

Some recent conversations on old sports between Teddy and herself
had awakened a desire to attempt this feat, and a trip to the Basin
had already been arranged for Monday, when the school programme was
promulgated.

The short session, and Becky’s escape, had made the old arrangement
possible; and the young Amazon and her faithful squire were now on the
banks of the upper stream, after a quick march, ready to launch their
barks upon the tide, careless of consequences.

“Now, Teddy,” said Becky, “I’ll go first: you must watch me closely,
and do just as I do. You ain’t scared--are you?”

Teddy, to tell the truth, was looking rather anxiously at the rushing
stream, the broad basin, and the two foaming channels beyond. The
stream had been swollen by heavy rains, and the feat seemed more
difficult than he had imagined before he set out.

“N-o, of course not,” he said slowly. “If you go, I’m bound to anyway.”

“Because, if you are Teddy, you’d better not try it.”

“I will try, Becky. I ain’t a goin’ to be stumped by a girl.”

“All right. But don’t you start until I reach the island; and be sure
you keep your log pointed right straight at the tree.”

While speaking, Becky had rolled a short, stout log into the water,
picked up a light slab, and was ready for the dash. Stepping lightly
and quickly upon the log, she pushed it into the middle of the stream,
headed it for the tree, and, carefully guiding her craft, shot across
the Basin, and struck the island fairly and squarely.

“Hurrah! I’ve done it Teddy!” she shouted, as she leaped upon the land.

“All right; I’m a comin’. Hooray!” answered Teddy, as he jumped upon
his log, which darted down the stream, Teddy dancing rather lively to
regain his equilibrium, which had sustained a shock by the sudden dart
of his log. He was so busily engaged in this manœuvre that he failed to
head his bark as he should, and, instead of going straight across the
Basin, he swept to the right.

“Teddy, Teddy, what are you about?” shouted Becky. “Turn her head!
quick, quick!”

But Teddy was frightened; his log was rolling over and over, and he
dropped his rudder, fell upon the log, and clasped it, with his legs
in the water, and round into the swifter of the two currents it went,
very near the island. Seeing his danger, Becky ran to the edge of the
island, and attempted to rescue him. She leaned far over, lost her
balance, and fell into the stream. Bungling Teddy clutched the bushes
as he passed, let the log go, and pulled himself to land; but Becky was
swept past the island, and went floating down the river.

Teddy, seeing the danger of his sister, shouted lustily for help. Two
men, at work near the bank, ran down to the water, saw the struggling
girl, but could afford no assistance; but they started off at a swift
pace for the mill. Becky was an excellent swimmer; she was not a bit
frightened, but struck out bravely in a vain attempt to reach the bank.
The stream was strong and swift, and bore her on faster and faster
towards the dam. Skillfully she kept her head above water, and struck
out to reach Teddy’s log, which was just ahead of her. Fast as she
went, the men on the shore flew faster still. It was a case of life and
death. They reached the mill.

“Help, help! there’s a girl in the water!”

Men came running out, women ran to the windows; there was wild
commotion, but no attempt at rescue.

“We can’t help her; she must go over the dam!”

“Throw her a rope--it’s her only chance!”

“Mighty slim chance: she’s too much frightened to catch it. She can’t
be saved!”

“She can be saved! Quick! a long, stout rope!”

It was a commanding voice that spoke, a commanding form that stepped
forward--the school-master, Harry Thompson. Quickly a rope was placed
in his hand.

“Now, three good, strong fellows, follow me!”

He threw off his coat, ran along the bank, winding the rope around
his body, and tying it as he ran. Becky was coming down swiftly, when
the roar of the dam reached her ears. For the first time she felt her
danger. Instantly all power of exertion forsook her. The terrible dam!
the jagged rocks beneath! There was death in the thought, and a shrill
scream rang over the water.

“Help, help! Don’t let me drown! don’t let me go over the dam!”

“Courage, Becky, courage. You shall be saved.”

She recognized the voice, even in her agony. “O, Harry, Harry! save me,
save me!”

Still on and on she swept, and the roar of the dam grew louder and
louder. It seemed to sound in her ears like thunder.

“Now, quick, boys, quick! Give me plenty of rope, and hold on strong!”

Harry Thompson kicked off his shoes and threw away his hat. Becky
was moving towards him, but ten feet from the bank. He measured the
distance with his eye, stepped back a few paces, then ran quickly,
and leaped into the water. The best jumper in the county had well
calculated his distance. He struck the water close beside Becky. He
clasped her quick, she threw her arms about his neck with a scream of
joy, and both sank beneath the water.

Then the good, strong fellows pulled with a will, and in a moment Becky
and her preserver were safe on the bank. Such a shout as the good
fellows sent up, then such a chorus of shouts as the people at the mill
joined to theirs, was never before heard in Cleverly.

But the chorus of rejoicing was unheard by Becky, who lay upon the
bank insensible. The girls from the mill gathered about her, rubbed
her hands, bathed her temples, and used all the customary means of
restoration; but yet she lay there cold and still.

Harry became alarmed. She must be taken home at once.

“Small, bring your wagon--quick! Send a man for the doctor--quick!”

Small’s team was standing at the mill door. In a few moments Harry was
in the wagon, with Becky in his arms, and one of the “good fellows” was
racing down the road, horseback, for the doctor.

Mrs. Sleeper, weak and dispirited, was in the kitchen, standing at
the table, washing the dinner dishes; Aunt Hulda, nursing an attack of
lumbago, was groaning at the fireside. A wagon drove swiftly into the
yard, a moment, and Harry Thompson stood in the doorway, bearing the
insensible form of Becky.

“Mrs. Sleeper, quick! your camphor bottle!”

Mrs. Sleeper dropped the dish in her hands; her eyes glared at the
helpless girl. Her lips parted, but no sound came from them. Then her
eyes closed, her hands clutched the air, and she fell heavily to the
floor. Aunt Hulda ran to her and raised her head.

“Delia Sleeper, what on airth ails you?--Here, you, Henry Thompson,
take that girl into the settin’ room. That’s just like you
Thompsons--always a scarin’ folks to death.--Delia, Delia! what ails
you?”

Aunt Hulda rubbed her, and sprinkled water over her, scolding all the
while. Harry carried Becky to the sitting-room, and laid her upon
the lounge. As he did so, a sigh, and the opening of her eyes, gave
assurance of returning animation; and when, in a few minutes, Dr. Allen
entered, there was no occasion for his services, for Becky was sitting
up, and inquiring for Teddy, who at that moment was coming down the
road, between the mill and the school-house, feeling very wet and mean.

Mrs. Sleeper was carried to her room, and laid upon the bed. Dr. Allen,
finding Becky so comfortable, made the former a visit.

“Doctor, what ails her? Is it stericks?”

The doctor shook his head.

“Worse than that, worse than that!”

“You don’t say so! Goodness gracious! it’s purrellysis.”

The doctor nodded. Aunt Hulda was right. The sudden shock, upon the
long and weary straining for the ever-distant ship, had snapped the
cords of action, and left her powerless.



CHAPTER VII.

MRS. THOMPSON DISOBEYS ORDERS.


“When that grim smith, Adversity, stalks unannounced and unwelcome into
the abode, erects his forge, bares his strong arm, and sets himself to
work among our affections, feeding his fire with earthly treasures,
perhaps too fondly prized; or poisoning the air with unhealthy vapors,
that blight with disease; or shaping upon his anvil the arrows of
death, for instant use among the loved ones,--it is a hard task to
meet him hospitably; to be patient under the agony of his blows; to
realize, in his presence, that in his forge is the soul whitened and
made pliable, that under the heavy hammer he relentlessly wields it is
shaped to nearness of perfection.

“But when time has cooled the beaten soul, then it realizes how much
stronger it has grown through that dread experience; how much better
fitted it is to meet the ever-returning guest; then it recognizes in
this hard-hitting smith, Adversity, an earnest worker for the universal
good.”

Thus preached Parson Arnold, the salaried fountain from which the good
people of Cleverly drew the living waters for their spiritual needs.
His auditors were Captain Thompson and his good wife, to whom the
parson had just communicated the misfortunes of the Sleeper family, on
the day of their occurrence, he having picked up the intelligence at
the blacksmith’s shop, while awaiting the setting of a tooth into an
iron rake, upon which he was now leaning in the sitting-room at Captain
Thompson’s. Perhaps the skill of the agricultural dentist had suggested
the illustration with which he seasoned his short discourse upon the
uses of adversity, for he was an earnest worker both in his Master’s
vineyard and his own, and used both logical and local arguments to
drive home to the hearts of his people the great truth which he
honestly believed.

“Poor soul! struck down in an instant! what will become of the
children?” said Mrs. Thompson.

“The town will have to take care of ’em. After this caper I’ve done
with ’em. I wash my hands of all responsibility,” growled the captain.
“That young tomboy of theirn has kicked about until she’s broke her
mother’s heart; and I hope she’ll have to suffer for it.”

“Nay, nay, brother; we must be charitable. Remember her youth and
inexperience,” the parson mildly remonstrated.

“Well, I ain’t likely to forget it. It’s been a dear experience to me;
and I won’t have anything more to do with them.”

“Don’t say that, Paul,” said Mrs. Thompson, rising from her chair.
“They need kindness more than ever. Their poor mother can no longer
guide them: shall we desert them now?”

“Guide them! Stuff! She never did guide them. If she had, she’d have
been saved all this trouble.”

“Well, well, they’re in the Lord’s hands,” said the parson; “in his
hands who suffers not a sparrow to fall to the ground without his
notice. Leave all to him.”

The parson put on his hat, shouldered his rake, and departed. Mrs.
Thompson attended him to the door, returned, folded up her work,
and left the room. The captain followed her motions with his eyes.
Something was wrong. There was no _heart_ in his obstinacy. He
evidently felt ill at ease. He walked about the room rapidly, as though
endeavoring to rouse up something like an angry spirit; but the fire
would not kindle. Instead of the angry flash which should have shone in
his eye, there was a tear, and the muscles of his mouth quivered with
suppressed emotion. Mrs. Thompson entered the room, equipped in bonnet
and shawl.

“What! going out again, Rebecca?”

“Yes, Paul; I am going at once.” Mrs. Thompson looked almost defiantly
at her husband, expecting the next question, and fully prepared to
answer it. But the second question was indefinitely postponed. It
trembled on the captain’s lips, but something in his wife’s face told
him if he asked it his power to rule was gone forever.

“Well, don’t be gone long; it’s lonesome here without you.”

Mrs. Thompson seemed in turn disappointed, but she said nothing, and
departed. The captain took a seat upon the sofa, whence he had a view
of the road, and deliberately watched his wife.

“Hum! told you so,” soliloquized he; “there she goes--straight down
the hill! There never was such a woman! Deliberately disobeying her
husband. Bless her good heart! I knew she’d go. Never could stand
that--never! It’s wrong. Obedience is a wife’s first duty. Won’t she
make things fly over there! Poor Delia! She shan’t want for physic as
long as I live; and those young ones--well, well, boys will be boys,
and girls will be--tomboys, sometimes, I suppose. There she goes, up
the hill, now. Disobedience,--rank disobedience! I can’t endure the
sight of it, and I won’t! I’ll just saddle Uncle Ned, and go and see
the doctor. She must have constant attendance; and my wife,--no, I
won’t forgive her disobedience--never!”

The captain now went to the window, and watched until his wife
turned into the gate; then, heaving a sigh (more closely resembling
satisfaction than regret), went in pursuit of Phil and Uncle Ned.

Lightning, that swift agent of destruction, has been known, in the
midst of its vagaries, to smite gigantic rocks, and lay open veins of
wealth never before discovered. When the bolt of misfortune struck
the Sleeper house, it brought to light a much-needed treasure in the
person of the forlorn, complaining Aunt Hulda. She seemed electrified
by the stroke that paralyzed the languid mother, and all the powers of
her being sprang into active life. All the theoretical knowledge she
had acquired by her long, useless “helping” of other people, burst into
fruitful bloom. From the moment Mrs. Sleeper was laid upon her bed,
she was the careful, watchful nurse, quietly but hurriedly arranging
everything for the comfort of the invalid, laying her plans for a long
fit of sickness with all the skill of an old campaigner. Nor did her
usefulness end here. From the chamber to the kitchen she flew, washed
and put away the dishes, replenished the fire, swept and tidied up the
kitchen, re-filled the kettle, made up a batch of bread and set it
“rising,” and back again to the bed-side of her patient, without one
thought of her own magazine of combustible troubles ready to explode at
a spark of complaint. All this with a feverish uneasiness, as though
she feared the coming of somebody to take the power to do out of her
hands. A gentle knock at the door of the sick chamber, and the entrance
of Mrs. Thompson, told her the somebody she feared had come.

Mrs. Thompson gave her hand to Aunt Hulda with a quiet smile, and went
to the bed. What there was left of life in the body of Delia Sleeper
seemed concentrated in her face. She could not move foot or hand; but
the same watchful glance was in her eyes, and the shadow of a smile
played about her mouth, as her old friend bent over her and kissed her.

“So kind! so good! I knew you’d come.”

Faint and tremulous was the voice of the invalid.

“Yes, dear heart; I’ve come to nurse you, to make you strong and well
again.”

Aunt Hulda groaned. Her power was slipping from her.

“No, no. Aunt Hulda--so kind--she does everything. She will nurse
me--thank you. Let me--see you often--that’s all.”

The eyes wandered to Aunt Hulda with a beseeching look that Mrs.
Thompson divined at once.

“Bless you child! I’ll not interfere with her. She shall be mistress in
the house; and a good one she’ll make.”

This was said with a smile for Aunt Hulda that warmed the heart of the
spinster towards the visitor. There was a pleased look in the eyes of
the invalid, as those of Mrs. Thompson came back to her full of love
and sympathy.

“Thank you. Come closer. Becky--my Becky--don’t let her believe she
did this. I’ve brought it on myself--the doctor said so. Too much
watching--you know--it’s been wearing upon me. The ship--that never
comes--never, never comes. But it will--I know it will.”

“I wouldn’t speak of that, Delia, now. The ship will come in God’s good
time,” said Mrs. Thompson. “Remember the dear ones here, and trust the
absent one to his care.”

“Yes, yes; but I didn’t,” said the sick one, sighing. “I forgot my
treasures here, hoping to clasp that other every day; and now I’m
punished. Wasted life! Wasted life! Poor little girl! with her mother’s
heart shut against her, drifting away--running to waste; and so smart
and apt to learn! God pity me! God pity me!”

“Leave all to me, Delia. Let no thought of Becky disturb you.”

“I cannot help it. It seems to me as though I had wilfully neglected
her.”

“Not as I have, Delia. With all your household cares, my little
namesake claimed some portion of my attention; and we have not met
for years. Delia, you know the reason. I blame myself for this long
neglect.”

“No, no; you were always a kind, good friend. But I suppose he thought
it best. Becky is in the sitting-room; won’t you see her and comfort
her?”

“Now and always. With Aunt Hulda’s permission, she shall be my especial
charge hereafter.”

“O, you are so good! No wonder people love you.”

Mrs. Thompson kissed her friend, and passed out of the room. Aunt Hulda
smoothed the bedclothes, and looked at her patient inquiringly.

“Yes, go, go,” said Mrs. Sleeper. “But first kiss me, Aunt Hulda--won’t
you my best friend?”

Aunt Hulda made a dash at her lips, and a loud smack resounded through
the room.

“You dear, dear, dear child! May the Lord give me strength to do for
you as you deserve!”

With her apron to her eyes, Aunt Hulda left the room, leaving the
invalid to her solitary vigil. Already was adversity working in her
for good. The mother-love so long repressed in her heart had, by one
of those strange phases of illness, at once asserted itself the ruling
power. Only a few hours had the active forces refused to obey the
will; only a few hours had the brain caught this new power from the
heart; yet it had travelled over years and years of neglect and wasted
opportunity, with bitter regrets that might yet shape themselves into
guiding forces, in the lonely vigils of the years to come.

Becky Sleeper, under the shadow of this sudden visitation, had in turn
received a shock. The terrible sequel to her frolic had, upon her
revival, produced such a nervous state, that for two hours she lay upon
the sofa, trembling and weeping, in the presence of the astonished
Teddy, who never before had seen a tear in the eyes of his volatile
sister. Harry Thompson had, when he found her in no danger, consulted
his own safety by driving to the house of Mr. Drinkwater for a change
of raiment. Aunt Hulda’s attention was required at the bed-side of
her patient, and Miss Becky was left to recover at her leisure. The
period of lamentation having passed away, she lapsed into a state of
dejection, so long and silent that Teddy, weary with waiting for her to
break the silence, quietly fell asleep.

Becky’s thoughts ran over and over the recent events; but in the
midst of them all this was uppermost: “I’ve killed mother.” Again she
swept across the Basin; again clutched at drifting Teddy; again fell
splashing in the water; again glided down the stream, heard the roar of
the dam, the voice of Harry; but all mixed with this one thought, “I’ve
killed mother.” And she buried her head in the sofa, shut her eyes
hard, and thrust her fingers into her ears, in vain attempts to shut
out the thought. What would become of her? Would she be locked up in
jail--hanged? She must be, for it was murder!

Becky was not well skilled in reasoning. She could not have told why
this feeling took possession of her; but there was a dim consciousness
that she must be an awful wicked girl, and that it was somebody’s duty
to punish her for this, and a wild wish that somebody would be quick
about it, and have it all over with. In this state she was conscious
of the opening of the door, and the presence of some one in the room.
There was a light step by her side; a soft hand was placed upon her
head.

“Becky, my child, you are making yourself miserable.”

Becky knew that well enough. Why should she be told what she knew so
well? It was nobody’s business, any way. Why didn’t people attend to
their own affairs? She failed to recognize the voice, and, being in an
ugly state of misery, snatched the soft hand from its resting-place,
and flung it rudely from her, with her eyes defiantly closed.

Mrs. Thompson did not replace the hand, did not repeat the words. She
stood looking at the girl a moment, then passed across the room, and
took a seat by the window. This movement set Becky to thinking. Who
could it be? It was a kind voice, a warm, soft hand. There was no
feeling of punishment in either. Why didn’t the visitor speak again?
How rude she had been! Then there came a long pause. She was listening
intently for some signs of her visitor’s presence. Hush! No; that
was Teddy, snoring. She recognized that; and then--yes, some one was
breathing by the window. Who could it be? Some one quietly waiting for
her to get over her ugly fit. She felt a pair of eyes were fastened
upon her. Wondered if her hair was fit to be seen, if there were any
rents in her dress, and--and--O, dear, this was terrible! She would
know the worst.

Suddenly she sprang up, and looking across the room, met the loving
eyes of Mrs. Thompson; saw a smile wreathing about the lips; saw the
arms of the good woman stretched out to her so invitingly, that,
without further invitation, she ran into them, and nestled her head
among the plaits of Mrs. Thompson’s merino, as if she had an undoubted
right there. Then of course, she fell to crying again.

“O, Aunt Rebecca! you’re so good! and I’m so wicked!”

“No, no, pet. I’m a wicked woman for neglecting you so long. But it’s
all right now. I have you in my arms, just as I had you when you were a
baby; and I don’t mean to let you go. Now tell me what’s the matter.”

“Why, don’t you know? I’ve killed my mother!”

“No, no, pet. Dismiss that fear from your mind. She is very ill;
perhaps may never recover; but the doctor says her disease has been a
long time coming on.”

“And that I tumbled into the water, got most drowned, and frightened
the life out of her,” burst out Becky. “O dear, dear! what will become
of me?” And another deluge of tears swept over the placid bosom of Mrs.
Thompson.

“Hush, hush, dear child! You were not to blame. Any sudden shock might
have caused the disaster.”

“Aunt Rebecca, do you mean to say I am not a bad, wicked girl?”

Becky straightened up with such an air of _injured guilt_ that Mrs.
Thompson looked at her in surprise.

“Becky, how old are you?”

“Sixteen, Aunt Rebecca.”

“Quite a young lady, I declare. Now that mother is laid upon a sick
bed, the care of the house devolves upon you. Girls of sixteen are
usually fitted for that position. Do you feel prepared to attend to
those duties?”

Becky hung her head.

“No, Becky, you are not a wicked girl. But it is time for some good
friend to show you how you have wasted the powers God has given you.
Had you given the same attention to learning to keep house that you
have to playing ball and tag, to robbing orchards and shooting the
Basin, you would have been ready to take your place at your mother’s
bed-side, or to take charge of cooking. You would have gained the good
opinion of everybody, instead of being shunned as a tomboy; and you
would not then have reproached yourself, as you do now, for being the
cause of your mother’s illness.”

“I know it, I know; ’tis all my fault, ’tis all my fault!” sobbed Becky.

“Not altogether your fault, pet. You have had no one to lead you
aright. But ’tis time you learned a young woman’s duties. You are
quick, intelligent, apt to learn. Will you let me give you a few
lessons, Becky?”

“O, Aunt Rebecca, if you don’t hate me, if you will try and make
something of me, I’ll never go out doors again as long as I live!”

Mrs. Thompson smiled.

“Plants will not thrive without air, Becky: you shall have plenty of
it. Now, dry your eyes, and come with me to see mother.”

“Not now, Aunt Rebecca; I’m not fit. I hope you’ll make something of
me; but it’s an awful bad job. One thing I mean to do. I’ll try just as
hard as ever I can to do just what you tell me.”

“That’s right, Miss Becky Sleeper; and if you do what that angel woman
tells you, you are on the straight road to heaven, I can tell you.”

Mr. Harry Thompson came running into the room.

“Don’t scold, mother. I’ve been listening outside the door for the last
five minutes. Let me congratulate you on your promising pupil.”

“I think I can make something of her,” said Mrs. Thompson looking with
pride at her handsome son.

“Not without my help, mother. I know all the good points of that
sportive genius, for, alas! I helped to train them in the wrong way.
So, to make amends, employ me in the good work of training this
wandering vine in the proper direction. What do you say, Miss Becky?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Harry,” said Becky, soberly. “Is it some
new game you want to teach me? If it is, I can’t learn it, for I’ve
promised not to play any more.”

Harry laughed.

“Yes, Becky, ’tis a new game. We’ll call it ‘Excelsior,’ a game which
requires work, and not play.”

“Don’t puzzle the child, Harry,” said Mrs. Thompson.

“Child!” echoed Harry. “Sweet sixteen; and yet she’s but a child.”

“You saved my life, Harry,” said Becky, with tears in her eyes. “I
don’t know as I ought to thank you for doing it, for Aunt Rebecca says
it’s been a wasted life. But I do thank you all the same.”

“Perhaps I’ve brought you into a new life, Becky. I hope I have--the
life of usefulness we all should live.”

“Look out, Becky! she’s drifting!” shouted Teddy, in his sleep. “She’s
drifting! she drifting!”

He moved uneasily in his sleep, started, rolled off his chair, and
_drifted_ on to the floor, with a crash that shook the house.

“Teddy Sleeper, what ails you? Wake up!” cried Becky, running to him,
and shaking him. “Don’t you see we’ve got company?”

Teddy rolled over, sat up, and stared wildly about him.

“I don’t care, Becky Sleeper. I ain’t a goin’ to be stumped by a girl,
any way.”

Harry Thompson laughed so loud that Teddy sprang to his feet in
confusion.

“Stick to that, Teddy, and we’ll make a man of you.”



CHAPTER VIII.

BECKY’S NEW BIRTH.


Into the life thus accidentally opened to her, Becky dashed with the
same vigor and determination which had characterized her dealings with
the sports of tomboyhood.

On the departure of the Thompsons, she marched into the kitchen, and
surprised Aunt Hulda by pulling the table into the middle of the floor,
spreading the cloth, and arranging the dishes for supper.

“Goodness gracious, child! What’s come to you?” cried the spinster, in
astonishment.

“Don’t say a word, Aunt Hulda. I’ve been a bad girl, but I mean to do
better. I’m not going to let you do all the work in this house.”

Aunt Hulda looked at the girl uneasily. Was this madcap endeavoring to
take the reins out of her hands?

“Indeed! Praps you’d like to be mistress, and order me round.”

“No, indeed, Aunt Hulda; you shall be mistress, and I’ll be maid. It’s
little I know, shame on me! but I want to learn; and you know how to
teach so well that I shan’t bother you long with my clumsiness, I
guess.”

“Well, that’s clever. You’re real handy, too; only you’ve put the
knives and forks on the wrong side of the plates.”

“So I have,” said Becky, quickly “changing sides.” “Where are you going
now, Aunt Hulda?”

“After wood; the fire’s getting low. It’s got to be chopped, too. But I
can manage that.”

“No, you must not.--Here, Teddy, bring in a good big armful of wood;
and don’t you never let Aunt Hulda bring another stick.”

Teddy had been standing by the window, gazing, in open-mouthed
astonishment, at Becky’s proceedings. He roused himself at her sharp
call, and obeyed.

“Guess Becky’s a little out of head,” he soliloquized, in the woodshed.
“Got too much water on the brain in the dam.”

Supper finished, Becky washed the dishes, cleared away, and swept
the kitchen, under the direction of Aunt Hulda, and then insisted on
making bread, after careful directions from the mistress. All this was
faithfully reported to Mrs. Sleeper by Aunt Hulda.

“I tell you, Delia, there’s the making of a smart woman in that girl;
and it’s coming out fast.”

When bed time came, Becky went in to her mother with a sad face. The
idea that she had caused her mother’s illness was so strong upon her,
that it could not be easily dissipated. Perhaps it was better so, if it
only strengthened her in her determination to achieve success in the
new life.

“How do you feel to-night, mother?” said Becky choking down a sob, and
laying her hand on her mother’s head, with a caress.

“Happy, Becky, very happy,” said the mother, with a smile. “The
light step of a little woman about the house has made me wonderfully
contented.”

The “little woman” blushed, then said, with a smile she found it hard
to muster,--

“Sick people should not listen. But I’m glad it made you happy, mother.
Shall I stay with you to-night?”

“No; Aunt Hulda will take care of me. Good night.”

“Good night, mother” with a kiss. “Don’t worry about me. I mean to try,
O, so hard--”

She could say no more. The tears would come, spite of her efforts to
repress them; and she ran from the room.

She slept little that night; the new tenant--thought--rambled strangely
about in its unfamiliar quarters, as if uncertain at what task to set
itself, in what corner of this little head to find a resting-place.

Mr. Drinkwater was no better the next morning, and Harry Thompson
opened the school, as usual. He was gratified, on casting his eyes
about the room, to see Becky and Teddy in the places assigned them the
day before; and very much surprised, when the religious exercises were
concluded, to see Becky rise from her place, and march to the centre of
the room.

“Master Thompson, if you please, I was very rude to you yesterday. I
want to beg your pardon before all the scholars.”

“Very well, Miss Becky; you were somewhat rude; but this free
confession amply atones for it. You are forgiven.”

“I want all the scholars to know, if you please, that after school,
when I was told to take my place upon the platform, I jumped out of the
window.”

Harry bit his lip. This was just what he didn’t want the scholars to
know; and they never would have known how he had been outwitted, but
for Becky’s confession. She was altogether too penitent.

“That will do, Miss Becky. You have said quite enough. I shall expect
better conduct from you in the future.”

“I mean to try, sir.”

Becky returned to her seat. She did try hard that day; and not only
that day, but every day, found her trying, and succeeding, too. She
diligently applied herself to the studies assigned her, watched her
conduct carefully, and in a very short time Harry Thompson had reason
to be proud of his pupil. She gave Teddy a helping hand, also. She was
pained to hear the laugh when Teddy blundered; so every night at home
Teddy was carefully tutored by his sister for the next day’s task; and
in a short time he, too, accomplished wonders.

As soon as the brain was trained to systematized labor, Becky’s sharp
eyes traced the difference in her attire and that of the girls about
her; and very soon improvement was noticed in this. Mrs. Thompson,
whose visits to the brown house were now of daily occurrence, taught
her to sew. Material was readily found among the stock of presents the
sailor husband had been accustomed to bring his wife, and which had
never been made up; and thus Becky was as neat and well dressed a girl
as there was in the school. She made quick progress with her studies.
In one branch she excelled all--that of drawing. Harry had introduced
this as a pleasant study, with no idea that Becky had such a genius for
it as she rapidly displayed.

Mr. Drinkwater continued ill all the winter, and Harry kept the school,
by his orders; for, contrary to his expectations, Captain Thompson did
not come into the school. The shrewd proprietor evidently discovered
the trick to bring about a reconciliation, and, with his usual
obstinacy, defeated the well laid plan. And so, autumn gave place to
winter, and the snow lay heavily on the ground. Winter, in turn, gave
place to spring, with all its opening beauties; and school was over.

Harry Thompson stood upon the steps of the school-house, the door
locked behind him for the last time, the key in his hand. His scholars
had gone; up and down the road he could hear their merry voices,
as they wended their ways homeward. But one was left to keep him
company--Becky Sleeper. She stood beside him, anxiously watching
his troubled face; for the master was looking across the road at
the home of his childhood, where he could not now enter. He was
bitterly disappointed in his labors; they had not brought about the
reconciliation for which he had plotted, and which, for his mother’s
sake, he had so longed for. He turned, with a sigh, to Becky.

“Well, little one, school is over.”

“Yes, Harry. It’s been a pleasant time for me. How can I thank you for
having been so kind to me, for having taught me so much, and being such
a dear, kind friend?”

“Yes, I have been able to do you some good, Becky. My labor has not
been fruitless, after all.”

Fruitless! No. One look at the thoughtful face beside him, one glance
at the trim figure, might convince him of that. Six months ago a
hoiden, to-day a woman; bright, young, beautiful, still; but strong,
energetic, persevering, rapidly unfolding the intellectual graces of
true womanhood.

He was fond of his pupil; and to her he was a hero--always had been;
but for the last six months they had been constantly in each other’s
company. Out of school, many of the old familiar ways had been revived.
They had ridden, sailed, rowed, even indulged in an occasional game
of cricket. At her home he was a constant visitor, that being the
established rendezvous for meeting his mother; and mother and son had
diligently wrought--quietly, but earnestly--a great change in her life.
She knew it, and blessed them for it. These two were very dear to each
other, and, without knowing it, were passing beyond the boundaries of
friendship into the perplexing maze of love.

“Harry,” said Becky, suddenly, “where does all the money come from?”

“Money, Becky! What money?”

“The money that gets us all we have at home. Mother’s went long ago;
and yet we are always well supplied with food and clothing. Does it
come from your father?”

“I think it does, Becky. My angel mother possesses a key which unlocks
all his treasures; and I suspect that some of them fly across the
bridge to your home.”

“I thought so. It isn’t right. Is there not some way in which I could
earn money?”

“Well, I don’t know of any. Stay. You might blow the bellows for Fox,
the blacksmith, or get employment in the shipyard.”

“O, stop. That’s not what I want. Couldn’t I work in one of the mills?”

“Yes, I suppose you could; but I wouldn’t, at least until after we’ve
had a consultation with my angel mother.”

“Then let’s have one, quick. I’m determined to earn money some way; and
if you don’t find me something better I _will_ blow the bellows for Mr.
Fox.”

“Well, I’ll come over to-night, and we’ll have a grand council of war.
Good by, Becky.”

“Good by, Harry.”

He turned up the road, and she stood and watched him as he stepped
briskly along, swinging the key in his hand, and whistling merrily.

“He’s just splendid! O, if I was only a man, to follow him into the
world! For this life will not content him long. He’s restless now,
eager to be at work among men. And he’ll go, too. And, O, dear! how
lonesome it will be without him!”

Even then Becky felt a lonesome shadow gliding into her heart with its
oppressive weight, felt the tears gathering in her eyes. Then, when he
was still in sight! How would it be when he should be far, far away?

Yet she stood and watched as he descended the hill, till he was out of
sight; longer still, her eyes fixed upon the spot from which he had
vanished, her thoughts shaping themselves into queer notions of the
future, in girlhood’s flattering mirror of romance, building bright
pictures of renown for him,--her hero,--in which she bore no part.

From this sudden romantic attack she was aroused by the appearance
of another figure in the place on which her eyes were fixed. Slowly
toiling up the hill came a girl, pale-featured, poorly-clad, deformed,
and crippled. With the aid of a crutch she stumped along the path until
she reached the school-house; then, with a pleasant nod to Becky, and a
sigh of relief, she seated herself upon the steps.

Becky returned the nod, and seated herself by the side of the cripple.

“You seem to have a pretty hard time of it.”

“Do I?” said the cripple, smiling. “Well, I suppose to you, who have
two feet to run about on, it does seem hard. But it’s the best I can
do, the best I ever could do; and so I don’t mind it a bit.”

“You don’t mean to say that you like being a cripple,” said Becky, in
astonishment. “I never could be contented in that way--never!”

“No, I don’t think I like it; but I cannot help it. It must always be
so. It’s hip trouble. I only try to make the best of it. The hardest
to bear are the hard, grinding pains that come sometimes. O, they
are terrible! But they come and go; and after they’re gone I’m real
comfortable till--the next.”

“Well, you’re a brave girl, any way,” said Becky. “What’s your name,
please?”

“Why, don’t you know Jenny York? I thought everybody knew me. What’s
yours?”

“Becky Sleeper.”

“What! the tomboy?”

A dark shadow passed across the face of Becky.

“I was the tomboy, Jenny; but I’ve outgrown that name. I think I’m
something a little nearer what a girl of my age should be now.”

“I beg your pardon for speaking so, Becky. I’ve never met you before;
but I’ve always heard of you and your--your--”

“Capers, Jenny. Don’t be afraid. I don’t mind it a bit. Thank goodness,
I’ve outgrown all that folly. But tell me, are you Silly York’s sister?”

“Yes. She’s number one, and I’m number two; then there’s Johnny, three,
and four and five. They’re little tots, and don’t count for much yet.
Silly works for Mrs. Thompson, and I work at the mill.”

“_You_ work! At what mill?”

“The paper mill, sorting rags. It’s profitable business, too. Some
weeks I make five or six dollars.”

What a strange meeting! A little cripple earning six dollars a week,
and a great, strong, healthy girl, who never earned a cent. Becky could
scarcely believe her ears.

“Why, Jenny York, you’re worth a dozen girls like me. I never earned a
cent in my life. I wish I could, though.”

“It’s easy enough. Mr. Small wants some help; he told me so to-day.
The work is not very clean; there’s plenty of dust to get down your
throat, and up your nose, and into your ears. But it never gets into my
eyes thick enough to prevent my seeing the wages every Saturday night.”

Jenny York laughed merrily, making it evident that the dust had no
effect on her good humor.

“There, I guess I’ve had a good rest. I must be going.”

“Let me go with you,” said Becky, springing up, and assisting Jenny to
regain her feet.

“O, thank you! That will be nice. I can put my arm about your waist, if
you’ll let me, and you can shoulder the crutch, if you like, and ’twill
be a pleasant change for me.”

Warm-hearted Becky quickly adjusted herself to the requirements of her
companion, and they started off down the road.

“Do you walk up and down every day, Jenny?”

“O, no. Almost always somebody comes along and gives me a ride.
Everybody is very kind to me, and I get along famously.”

Ah, Jenny, if everybody had your cheerful spirit, how much better
and brighter the world would become! how pleasantly we should all get
along! The hard, grinding times come to all, in different shapes, to be
rightly borne in patience; but between the past and the coming are long
reaches of level life which the sunshine of a contented spirit can make
glad and happy.

That long walk opened a fresh path in the new life to Becky. For two
years Jenny York had worked at the mill. She gave her companion a full
description of her duties, and eagerly pressed her to come and try
her luck. They parted at the door of Mr. York’s house, sworn friends.
Becky, refusing an invitation to enter, remembering her charity visit,
gave Jenny her promise that the next day should find her at the mill.

So homeward tripped Becky, thanking her lucky stars for this
providential meeting, thinking how oddly it had come about that just at
the right moment a weak, crippled girl had been able to point out to
her the road to independence.

The “council of war” that night deliberated long and earnestly on
the question which Becky laid before that body. Harry opposed, Mrs.
Thompson hesitated, Becky was resolute.

“I hate to oppose you, Harry, who have been so good to me. But I can
earn money there; and it’s high time I did something for the support of
the family.”

She had taken the precaution to win Aunt Hulda and her mother to her
side before submitting her plan to the others. Aunt Hulda, whose
admiration for Becky sometimes was unbounded, had been first consulted.
This mark of confidence had won all that remained of Aunt Hulda’s
heart, and she readily acquiesced, as she would have done had Becky
proposed to shingle the church. The mother had read in the sparkling
eyes of her daughter, now so very dear to her, the earnest desire
to work and earn, and could not, if she would, disappoint her. Thus
thrice-armed in a just cause, Becky met her councillors, and bore off
the victory at last.

With these stipulations: she should give just the time daily which had
been occupied by her school duties to rag-picking--no more. She should
perform her household labors as usual, and be ready at other times
for out-door exercise at the will and pleasure of Harry Thompson. His
consent could be gained on no other terms. Mrs. Thompson was doubtful
of the influences which might be brought to bear upon Becky at the
mill, yet could not but admire the spirit she displayed. She hesitated
on Becky’s account a while, then smilingly gave her vote in favor of
Becky, and the field was won.

The next morning found her at the mill equipped for dusty labor. Mr.
Small received her kindly, made a satisfactory bargain with her, and
she at once entered upon her duties.

The paper mill was composed of three buildings; the main section,
comprising the business office, the machine-room, the pulp-vats, and
the bleaching-tubs, was built of bricks. At right angles with this
structure, and attached to it, was a flat-roofed wooden building. In
the lower story of this were stored rags in bags; from this room they
were hoisted to the second story, where they were sorted, then taken
to the main building to be bleached. At the end of this building was
a low, slant-roofed stable. In the sorting-room from ten to a dozen
females were usually employed; and to this section of the paper mill
Becky was assigned.

To no pleasant work did Becky set her hands; in no very pleasant
companionship did she find herself. With the exception of Jenny York,
the “girls” were middle aged and old women, loud-tongued, and very apt
to be quarrelsome. At first Becky tried to make friends with all of
them; but, finding her overtures met with rudeness, she desisted from
further attempts, and drew the closer to the little cripple.

As time passed on, and she grew familiar with her labor, stronger
grew her friendship for Jenny. These two made a corner of their own,
a little removed from the Babel of tongues. Jenny, rejoicing in the
companionship of one so near her age, was always bright and happy.
Becky, catching the inspiration of her cheerful spirit, overflowed with
mirth and humor, and oft-repeated stories of tomboy adventures made
them both merry over their work.

But Becky never lost sight of her independence. She worked gaily, but
she worked with a will; and the sight of her wages when Saturday came
was a reward of merit dearly prized. Steadily she worked through the
hot months of summer, until she could count ninety dollars in her
strong-box; and then a sad disaster befell the mill.

The machinery of a paper mill seldom stops, night or day, save for
repairs. It was in the month of September that it was necessary to
stop for the repair of a broken wheel. The sorting-room, however, was
kept in operation.

At twelve o’clock the “girls” repaired to their homes for dinner--all
but Jenny York. Occasionally Becky staid to keep her company, but not
often, the stipulations with the council requiring her to be punctual
to her meals at home. Certainly Jenny fared all the better for this,
for Becky’s return always added something nice to her plain fare.

But one day Jenny had a fierce attack of her grinding pains, and all
the forenoon she lay upon a couch of bags, and when dinner time came,
spite of her wishes, Becky would not leave her. They were alone; Jenny,
just recovering, was faint and ghostly white; Becky, bending over her,
was bathing her temples, when, suddenly, outside, the cry of “Fire!”
was raised. Becky sprang to her feet, to find the room thickening with
smoke, coming up through the chinks in the floor. A too common accident
in paper mills had occurred. A bag of cotton waste had burst into
flames, and the store-room beneath was a furnace of fire. Her first
thought was--no thought at all. The instinct of self-preservation took
her into the machine-room very quick, and then she thought of Jenny.
She ran back to the terrified girl, crying,--

“Don’t be frightened, Jenny. The mill’s on fire; but I’ll save you.”

She stooped and lifted Jenny in her arms. All the “waste” of her early
life served her well now. Exercise had made that small frame tough and
muscular, and she easily bore Jenny towards the door. But suddenly the
iron doors between the two buildings were closed with a crash. Some
crazy operative, thinking only of the danger to the main building, had
taken this precaution, without looking into the room. Becky dropped her
burden, and flew to the doors. She screamed for help; she beat the iron
with her fists in vain. Then she ran to the windows on the sides; there
were none at the end. But the thick, black smoke, rolling up outside,
obscured the light. No escape there; they were walled in on every side.
The smoke in the room was so thick it was with difficulty they could
breathe.

No escape? Yes, one. Becky cast her eyes aloft. In the centre of
the roof was a scuttle, ten feet above her. Lying along the side of
the room was a ladder. Becky sprang for it. It was very heavy; but
desperation nerved her arms, and it was raised.

All this time Jenny lay upon the floor, watching with wishful eyes the
movements of Becky. O, if she only had a little strength now! Becky
came to her side, and raised her once more in her arms.

“Now clasp me close, and we’ll soon reach the roof, and be out of this
stifling smoke, any way.”

With her heavy burden she toiled up the ladder, rested a moment at the
top, then threw up the scuttle, and reached the roof. There she laid
Jenny down and ran to the edge. Right and left the smoke was rising in
dense volumes; but at the farther end all was clear, and beneath it
was the steep roof of the stable. There was her chance for escape. She
could drop easily; it was but ten feet. But Jenny! The poor girl would
scarce escape without injury. Only a moment she pondered, then ran back
to the scuttle, and descended the ladder, at the risk of her life.
Near the iron doors the flames were shooting up through the floor, and
dancing on the wall. The smoke was stifling. She caught up several
empty bags, and quickly regained her place upon the roof.

“Quick, Jenny, quick! Help me to tear these bags to pieces. We must
have a rope.”

They tore the bags apart, divided them, with the aid of their scissors,
into long, narrow strips; then Becky’s nimble fingers twisted them
together.

“Now, Jenny, I’m going to lower you to the shed; and then we’re safe.”

She fastened the improvised rope about Jenny’s waist, and bore her to
the edge of the roof. She then passed the rope around the chimney.

“Once more, Jenny. Slide over the roof, and hold on to the rope.”

The rope slid through Becky’s hands, and Jenny was upon the roof
below. Then the brave girl, casting loose the trusty cord, advanced to
the edge of the roof, and, supporting herself a moment by her hands,
dropped beside her friend. None too soon; for, while she clung there,
up through the scuttle appeared the flaming head of the advancing
column of fire.

It was still ten feet from the stable to the ground, and no time to be
lost.

“Slide down the roof, Jenny, and drop again. I’ll hold you; never fear.”

She stretched herself flat upon the roof, with the rope in her hands.
Jenny slid down, and dropped as directed. But now a new danger to
Becky arose: the cord had become entangled in her dress; and, as Jenny
descended, she found herself being dragged down the roof. But she held
all the tighter to the rope, fearing the shock to Jenny, should she
fall, more than the danger of being herself plunged headlong from the
roof. Faster and faster they went; she was nearing the edge; she must
go over. No. Suddenly the cord slacked. Jenny had touched the ground.
She dropped the cord, clutched the gutter with all her strength, her
body swung round, and she dropped to the ground, very ungracefully, but
unhurt.

“O, Becky, you’ve saved my life! Can I ever repay you.”

Jenny lay upon the ground, with clasped hands and streaming eyes. Becky
stood by her side, looking ruefully at the burning building. No more
work there.

“Yes, Jenny, I believe I’ve saved both our lives. But there’s one thing
I forgot; and it’s just like me. Your crutch! I might have saved that
too.”

Not quite a thoughtful, earnest woman yet, Becky; but this day the
climbing frolics of the tomboy days have enabled you to glorify
humanity with its proudest triumph--an heroic act!

[Illustration: THE BURNING MILL.--Page 142.]



CHAPTER IX.

TEDDY SLEEPER DINES OUT.


Just before the breaking out of the fire in the paper mill Teddy
Sleeper, sat on the door step awaiting the return of his sister. He
was particularly uneasy on this occasion, having had a long spell of
fishing with no luck, “not even a bite” and was very impatient at the
delay in obtaining a “bite” at home, it being the invariable rule
there, to wait for Becky. Teddy under the wise rule of his sister
had lost much of his gaukiness and rough speech but had lost none
of his rotundity of form and cool, phlegmatic disposition. With him
everything was taken as a matter of course. Nothing ever surprised him
into expressions of wonder, and seldom did he lose his temper. The
sole disturber of his peace was hunger--the foe that has successfully
assailed the good disposition of many wise and great men. Under its
attacks Teddy grew restless and disorderly. He was in a fair way to
do something rash, when his keen eye discovered smoke rolling up over
the paper mill, and the cry of “Fire! fire! fire!” faintly reached his
ears. He rolled off the step, took a long look in the direction of the
smoke, then started down the hill. Reaching the church, he saw Phil
Hague standing before the captain’s house, shading his eyes and looking
up the road. People were hurrying toward the fire.

“Phil, Phil, it’s the paper mill!”

“Is that so? Bedad, its foine kindlings they have there for a blaze.”

“Come on. Let’s get out the ingine.”

“What for, I dunno?” said Phil, scratching his head.

“To put out the fire. Here, Jackson, the ingine. Hold on, Smith, help
run her up. Come on, Phil.”

Teddy run to the engine house, followed by Phil, and Smith and Jackson,
who were on their way to the fire.

The engine was kept next door to the church. It was a heavy,
old-fashioned affair, not much larger than a good-sized wash-tub, had
not been moved for years, and it was very doubtful if it could be made
to work. Of this Teddy took no thought. There was a fire, and the first
thing to be done was to have it on the spot. So they pulled it out and
started down the hill as fast as they could run. Not being experienced
firemen, they did not use any “hold-back” measures, and the consequence
was, half way down the hill they found the “ingine” close upon their
heels, and themselves in danger of being crushed. With one accord they
dropped the rope, and sprang to the sides of the road. “Cataract”--this
was the name by which the extinguisher was known--being deserted by its
leaders, went thundering down the hill and tipped over at the bottom.

“By my sowl,” said Phil Hague, “that’s a quare way of putting out a
fire. The contrary divil’s laid down for a nap.”

“Come on, it ain’t hurt; let’s set it up and lug it up the hill,” said
Teddy hurrying to the prostrate Cataract.

They managed to get it upon its wheels again, tugged up the hill with
their heavy burden, and at last reached the fire. A hose was laid
and the engine manned, but the rusty machine refused to work. All this
time Teddy had been sweating and hurrying to get it in operation. It
was a sore disappointment to him after all his trouble.

Mark Small came along at that moment.

“It’s no use, boys, there’s been no washers on them pumps this five
years.”

There was a laugh from the crowd and Teddy turned away with a very red
face.

“The best engine in the world would be of no use now. She’s got to
burn,” said Small, looking at his buildings, now enveloped in flames.
“Much obliged to you, Teddy, all the same. Tell you what you can do.
There’s little York frightened most to death. Becky got her out just in
time. Just you take my team and get her home. That’s a good fellow.”

Teddy followed the direction of Small’s pointing finger, and saw Jenny
York crouching on the ground beside Becky. In a moment he was beside
the girls.

“Hello, girls, had a narrow squeak of it. Say, Becky, Small says you
got her out. Is that so?”

“Yes, I did, Teddy. Ain’t you glad?” said Becky.

“Glad; you bet I am. Bully for you. Hurrah for Becky Sleeper.”

The crowd took up the shout, and Becky received an ovation. Just then
Small drove up in his wagon.

“Come, Teddy, get the girls home, quick.”

He leaped from his seat and took Jenny in his arms and placed her in
the wagon.

“There’s room for you, too, Becky. Jump in. God bless you, girl. It’s
hard to lose all I have in the world, but it would have been harder to
bear had there been a life lost.”

Becky climbed into the wagon followed by Teddy who took up the reins
and drove away. As they moved off the excited crowd, who had witnessed
Becky’s valor, shouted until Becky was out of sight, “Hurrah, hurrah,
hurrah!” As they flew down the road Jenny poured into the ears of Teddy
Sleeper the exciting narrative of the escape.

“That’s just like her, Jenny. Hi, lively, Spotty. She’s a bouncer, I
tell you. And she’s my sister. Ain’t I proud of her? Oh, no--get up,
Spotty,” cried Teddy, at the conclusion of the narrative. “And I lugged
that plaguy old ingine up all for nothing. She does all the brave
things, and I ain’t no account. Don’t care, she’s my sister. Hi, there,
Spotty, what are ye about? She’s my sister.”

Spotty was the name of Small’s horse--an explanation rather necessary,
in view of the manner in which Teddy mixed his sentences.

Having safely deposited his sister at home, Teddy drove on to Jenny’s
house. Mrs. York was surprised at the appearance of Jenny in the middle
of the day. The family had heard nothing about the fire, and were about
sitting down to dinner when Teddy arrived with his charge.

“Bless the child, where did you come from? What’s the matter?” cried
Mrs. York, appearing in the doorway, as Teddy carefully deposited Jenny
on the step.

“Been a fire! Mill’s gone--clean gone!” said Teddy. “So I brought Jenny
home.”

“Mill’s burned? Sakes alive! How on earth did you get out? Do you hear
that, father? Mill’s gone--clean gone.”

“I got out because Becky Sleeper saved me, mother,” said Jenny,
quietly, as she took her mother’s hand to get into the house. “Had it
not been for her you’d have had no crippled daughter to care for more.”

“My gracious! you don’t mean it,” cried Mrs. York, hastily closing the
door, regardless of Teddy standing outside. Teddy turned away with
a disappointed air. The grateful incense of a boiled dinner had been
wafted to his hungry spirit, through the open door. He remembered the
time, when on a charitable mission, that same door had been closed
to him, and thought that if a little charity should be extended to
him from the other side, hungry as he was he could not refuse it.
He climbed to his seat, took up the reins, and was on the point of
starting off when the door opened again.

“Here, Teddy, Teddy Sleeper, don’t go yet.” It was the voice of Mrs.
York. “You mustn’t mind my shuttin’ the door. I’m so flurried to think
that our Jenny’s come so near never comin’ home again. Come in and have
some dinner. We ain’t got much, but what we have is good, for I cooked
it myself. Don’t be bashful. Come in, and welcome.”

Teddy stopped not for further invitation, but quickly fastened Spotty
and entered the house. The table was spread in the middle of the room,
its centre embellished with a huge platter in which reposed a smoking
piece of corned-beef, almost hidden by the surrounding accompaniment
of turnips, carrots, parsnips, cabbage and potatoes. Near it was an
enormous dish of squash. There was a plate of brown bread, another of
white, a castor, a huge coffee pot, cups and saucers, plates, knives
and forks. Teddy took it all in at a glance. There was enough for all,
he should not be robbing the poor if he helped to dispose of the feast.
Yet the supply of squash so far exceeded the usual provision made for
such an occasion that he could not keep his eyes from it.

“Father” York who was on the lounge, when he entered raised his eyes
and said “How do you do?” in a very weak voice.

“Come, father, dinner’s all on the table.”

“Father” rose quickly, and took his place at the foot of the table.
Mrs. York motioned Teddy to a seat next him. Jenny took her place, and
the two younger Yorks, about four and six years old scrambled to their
places.

“Why, where’s Johnny?” said Mrs. York, about to do the honors at the
head of the table.

“Oh, he’ll be here afore we get through, I guess,” said father York,
“he never loses a meal.”

There was a scrambling at the back door, it flew open, and Johnny York
made his appearance. He was about eleven years old. A redheaded,
freckled-faced boy, with eyes like a sculpin. With much haste he tossed
his hat on the lounge, dragged a chair across the floor, jumped into
his seat, and fastened his eyes upon the dish of squash.

“Squash!” he ejaculated, lifting his plate.

“Wait, sonny, wait; don’t you see we have company,” said Mrs. York.

Johnny looked round the table, saw Teddy, grinned, then fastened his
eyes on his favorite dish.

Mrs. York helped Teddy and Jenny and then looked at Johnny.

“Squash,” answered Johnny to the look.

Into his plate Mrs. York heaped the yellow vegetable in such profusion
that Teddy stared. The youngster seemed not a bit discouraged by the
supply but attacked it at once. The two smaller children were also
helped from the same dish, paying no attention to the contents of the
principal platter. With a great many groans Mr. York supplied his own
plate bountifully, and set to work like a man ravenously hungry. Teddy
kept him company--he had fasted long and he was tempted by a favorite
dinner.

“Teddy,” said Mrs. York, “we can never be grateful enough to that dear
sister of yours, and only think, we turned her away from our doors.”

“Yes,” sighed Mr. York, “and refused her bounty. It was cruel, and if
ever there was a thing a poor sick man hankered for, it was what she
brought.”

“Squash!” burst out Johnny, raising his empty plate.

Teddy stopped eating and looked at Johnny. The boy’s eyes stood out
hungrier than ever. Mrs. York quietly refilled his plate.

“Oh, she’s the dearest girl, mother, you ever saw. If you’d only seen
her in the loft,” said Jenny, “tugging away at that great ladder, and
then carrying me up in her arms, and so gay about it, as though she
did it every day. I was frightened almost to death, but when I saw how
calm she was, it made me quiet. I thought if I must die, it would not
be alone. And then I thought that was selfish and wanted her to go and
leave me to my fate. Oh, mother, it was a happy day for me when she
came to the mill.”

“It was a happy day for us all, Jenny,” said Mrs. York. “What should
we do without our singing Jenny? Have some more beef, Teddy. I declare
you’re not eating anything.”

Teddy looked up to see if she was not making fun of him for he had
already made away with two generous supplies. But, no, there was no fun
in her eye, and he passed his plate.

“Yes,” sighed Mr. York, “we have much to be grateful for. Poor health
is an awful pullback to a man who’s willin’ to do all he can, but to
lose children after they’ve begun to earn something, is a special
dispensation of Providence that goes agin’ the grain. I always told
Small that mill of his would end in--”

“Squash!” sung out Johnny, lifting an empty plate again.

“Squash!” echoed number four.

“Squash!” chimed in number five.

Teddy saw three uplifted plates and ceased to wonder at the enormous
provision. Without a murmur Mrs. York plied the big iron spoon once
more, and the youngsters again set to work.

“And to think that girl should turn out so well after all,” said Mrs.
York. “She was the most harum scarum thing I ever saw when she was a
young girl.”

“Ah, we must never judge by appearances,” sighed Mr. York. “That’s
what I tell Mason when I have my bad spells come on. ‘York,’ he says,
‘don’t be a fool. You’re tough enough if you only keep to work. You’re
as strong and healthy a looking man as I am.’ Ah, he little knows what
a sinking there is my stomach and how weak I get, and don’t have the
least bit of appetite. Ah, I’m slowly but surely fading away, fading
away.”

“Don’t, father, don’t talk so. You make me feel miserable,” said Mrs.
York, laying down her knife and looking at the sufferer with real
distress in her face.

“Well, I won’t,” sighed York, taking up his knife and fork, and dashing
at his plate with vigor. “I know its wrong to distress you, but what
can a man do who feels the all-devouring worm continually crying--”

“Squash!” interrupted Johnny.

“No, sir, no more,” said Mrs. York, firmly. “Mercy sakes, do you want
to turn into a squash vine, and have squashes grow out all over you? No
more.”

Johnny said not a word, but pushed back his chair, grabbed his cap, and
slid out of the back door. The little Yorks who were on the point of
joining their petitions with that of their brother, awed by the stern
tone of their mother, or frightened at the probable result of too much
indulgence, dropped their plates and were silent. Teddy, having fully
appeased his appetite, thought of Spotty.

“I believe I must be goin’. Hadn’t ought to have stopped so long. Mr.
Small will be wanting his horse.”

“Oh, don’t be in a hurry, Teddy. Well, if you must go--come again,
we’ll be glad to see you any time, won’t we, father?”

“Yes, indeed; and your sister, too, and she shan’t be turned out of
doors, if she ever feels like bringing something nice to a poor sick
man,” said Mr. York.

“Don’t, father, speak of such a thing,” cried Jenny. “She’s done enough
for us. Don’t take such a message as that, Teddy, but tell her we all
love her dearly, and will never think of her but as the best girl in
Cleverly.”

“That’s so, Jenny. I knew folks would find out how clever she is,” said
Teddy, “and she’s my sister. Good by. I really must be going,” and
he started for the door. Outside he found Spotty impatiently pulling
at his tether, and jumping into the wagon he started off. As he drove
into the main street he found a group of men and boys discussing the
fire, and by their motions enacting the scene in which Becky had taken
a prominent part. Further on another group with the same subject under
consideration, and a third were on the steps of the church. As he
passed he could hear his sister’s name spoken by one and another. In
a cheerful spirit, with his hungry foe completely vanquished, it is
no wonder that Teddy’s heart glowed at the praises he heard, and felt
proud of its connection with the heroine of the day.

And Becky; how bore she her triumph? Quietly she entered the house and
took her place at her mother’s side.

“No more work to-day, mother, or for many days. The mill is burned to
the ground.”

“Nobody hurt, Becky?” with an anxious look, said the mother.

“No, all safe and sound. Nobody lost anything but Mr. Small.”

Aunt Hulda entered the room at that moment.

“What’s that, Becky? Where have you been? Dinner’s cold as a stone.”

“Jenny was very sick and I couldn’t leave her, and then the mill took
fire and burnt to the ground.”

“Mark Small’s mill burnt. You don’t mean it. Why, it will ruin him,”
gasped Aunt Hulda.

“Yes, I’m afraid he’s lost everything.”

“Oh dear, dear, dear! It’s the Lord’s doin’s and I ’spose we must be
resigned,” cried Aunt Hulda. “And Mark Small’s lost everything,” and
she sat down and rocked briskly, wringing her hands.

“Why, Aunt Hulda, what ails you? You’ll lose nothing. Come, give me my
dinner, I’m as hungry as a bear. I can’t wait; come along,” and Becky
seized Aunt Hulda by main force and dragged her to the kitchen. Not a
word about her adventure to Aunt Hulda, not a word to her mother on
her return. They were left in ignorance until Teddy puffing with haste
burst into the room. He ran at Becky and seized her in his arms.

“It’s all over town. I tell you, everybody’s talking about you. You’re
a heroine, Becky, and I’m your brother.”

“What on airth ails the boy?” shrieked Aunt Hulda. “Is he mad? What’s
Becky done now?”

“What has she done, Aunt Hulda? She dragged Jenny York up on the roof,
tore up the bags and let her down to the ground, when the building was
blazing like fury. D’ye hear that, mother? Our Becky did it. Ain’t you
proud of her? I am.”

Becky freed herself from Teddy’s embrace, wondering what could
have started him to such a proceeding, he always so cool and
undemonstrative. She looked at her mother. The face of the invalid was
flushed, the lips moved yet no words escaped them, but in the eyes
Becky read the rich reward, “Well done, daughter.” She ran to her
mother’s side and put her arms about her neck.

“Poor Jenny York, mother, she must have died without me. Thank Heaven,
I was there, mother. Thank Him that I knew how to save her.”



CHAPTER X.

THE ROMANCE OF A POOR OLD MAID.


If ever a man had reason to be disappointed at the ways of Providence,
that man was Mark Small, owner of the mill, whose earthly possessions
had vanished in fire and smoke. Twenty years before, he had wandered
over from Foxtown, a sunburnt lad, with all his wardrobe--a cotton
shirt, homespun pants, and a straw hat, stuck loosely upon his thin
frame,--and the sad recollection of the death-bed of his father, a
dissipated laborer, firmly fixed in his memory. In search of a job he
stumbled into Capt. Thompson’s kitchen, where he was treated to a good,
warm meal, and afterwards given charge of the captain’s “cattle;” _i.
e._ a lively young horse, and a quiet, orderly cow,--for the captain’s
domestic establishment was then on a very small scale. This work
contented him for five years; when a desire to become a tin-peddler,
induced the captain to equip him with a horse and wagon, and to set
him off upon his travels. A very promising year at this business was
ended by the disappearance of his whole stock from the breaking of a
bridge; and the bankruptcy of that concern was the consequence. Then
he tried book-peddling with considerable success, until one night the
barn, in which he and his library had taken shelter from a storm, was
struck by lightning and burned; he barely escaping with his life.
Then he took to farming;--cut his leg with a scythe, and was laid up
all winter. So fast failures followed all his attempts to rise in the
world, that he jestingly asserted he must have been named Mark, that
misfortune might make no mistake in marking him for its victim. At
length he sought employment at the paper mill, where he prospered; and
in time, by careful saving and shrewd management, was able to purchase
the whole concern. And now fire had again made him penniless. Yet he
sat there, lounging on a stone, humming a tune, and whittling a stick,
as the twilight was gathering, and the flickering flames dying out of
all that remained of his earthly possessions. He was a tall, thin man,
with hollow cheeks, a ring of grizzled beard encircling his throat,
a long, sharp nose, and a pair of rambling, piercing eyes, which were
now fastened upon the fast blackening heap before him. So deeply was he
interested in the last flashes of his expiring treasures, that he was
unconscious of the approach of footsteps, until a hand was laid upon
his shoulder.

“Mark, if it wasn’t the Lord’s doings, I should say that you’re the
worst treated man in Cleverly.”

Mark started, and turned to see the sharp eyes of Hulda Prime looking
into his eagerly. He was not quite sure, but he thought they looked
moist and watery.

“Yes, Hulda, the old tune’s struck up again,”--by which Mark meant his
old follower, misfortune--“I’d kinder lost the hang of it, so long
since I’ve heeded it, but now it seems jist as natral as ‘auld lang
syne.’”

“Mark, I’m real sorry for you. I don’t know as I’m welcome, but I
couldn’t help putting on my bunnet and coming over to see you, if ’twas
only for the sake of ‘auld lang syne’ you tell about.”

“Well, it’s real kind of you, Hulda; something I couldn’t expect; for I
hain’t treated you jest right, nohow.”

Aunt Hulda shivered; it couldn’t be with cold, for the warmth of the
failing embers was still powerful.

“Seems queer you should drop down on me jest then, Hulda; for I’ve been
kinder lookin’ back, and jest when you put your hand on my shoulder, I
was thinkin’ of that day when horse, wagon, tin-ware and peddler, went
through the bridge together.”

Aunt Hulda shivered again, and somehow managed to slip down by Small’s
side. He took no notice of the circumstance, but went on.

“Yes, you were stopping with Mrs. Johnson, helping her with her
thanksgiving. You were a smart girl those days. Not handsome, but
kinder good, wholesome lookin’. Don’t you remember my coming round to
the kitchen and jokin’ you about Cyrus Cheever, who was kinder makin’
up to you; and I sung out to you, ‘Don’t have him, Hulda, wait for me.
I’ll call when I come back, and pop the question.’ But I drove off and
popped through the bridge. Don’t you remember it?”

Hulda Prime answered not. Her elbows were on her knees, her chin in her
hand, her eyes looking into the gleaming ruins, where broken walls and
twisted machinery, stood as monuments of destruction.

Remember it! had she not waited for that return? had she not taken to
heart those playful words? And out of them woven a bright dream, and
built upon it year by year, the only romance of her solitary life.

“I meant it, Hulda, true as gospel I meant it.”

Hulda’s old heart gave a bound. It was no jest after all.

“Yes, if it hadn’t been for that accident, I should have come back and
asked you Hulda, true as preaching. But the old tune struck up, and
’twas no use trying to get up a wedding-dance to such music as that.
And then when I got in luck again, somehow, I kinder got stuck up, and
got used to being my own master; but I did keep kinder thinkin’ on you.
But what’s the use of my tellin’ you all this? we’ve got by, all that
nonsense, and I’m flat on by back agin, and as ‘poor as a puddock.’ I
don’t s’pose it’s very manly in me to go confessing this thing now;
but I’ve kinder felt mean about it, and your comin’, so cleverly and
neighborly like, when I’ve nobody to feel sorry for me, has sorter made
me do it.”

Mark Small shifted about uneasily in his seat, and whittled very
briskly, and tried to whistle; but he found it hard to “pucker,” and
could not muster a note.

Aunt Hulda shivered, and looked off into the ruins; and nursed her chin
in her hand, and thought, “‘We’ve got by all that nonsense,’ have we?”
Perhaps he had. She had not. No! Mark Small had been the idol of her
younger days--her hero--by no means a handsome one; neither brave or
gifted; yet she had loved him dearly, without any hope of being his
wife, and now to find that he had thought of her, had wished to marry
her, was happiness enough to pay for all the waiting, though they might
never come any nearer to each other,--though, as he said, “they had got
by all that nonsense.”

She spoke at last.

“Mark, I’m glad you told me this. You needn’t be ashamed of it,
neither. It’s a manly thing for you to do. It’s wiped out some hard
thoughts I’ve had of you; for I want you to understand that if you’d
come back then, Cyrus Cheever, or any other man, would have been no
consequence at all.”

And because all that nonsense had died out, Hulda’s hand fell upon
Mark’s, and the ruined paper maker dropped his knife, and clasped it;
and both gazed wistfully into the ruins, as the twilight darkened, and
the fires burned dimmer.

“Mark, I am so sorry for you. What will you do now? Your mill is
ruined. ’Twill take a heap of money to build it up again.”

“I don’t know, Hulda; but I ain’t a bit scart. I’ve begun too many
times at the bottom of the ladder, to give up now.”

“Trust in the Lord, Mark, trust in the Lord.”

“That’s good, pious doctrine, Hulda, but I’m kinder unsteady on
religious pints, and I think the Lord does the handsome thing, when he
gives us this world, with all its fruits and products, and store of
materials to work and weave, and brains to think, and arms to work; and
we serve him best when we take all this, on trust, and turn it over,
and work it up, and do the very best we can, givin’ him the glory.
That’s my religion, Hulda, and I mean to live by it. And if I can do
that, I ain’t afraid it won’t carry me over the river. I ain’t agoin’
to trouble him to set me goin’, but jest look ’round, find suthin’ to
do, and then pitch in with a will.”

Hulda groaned in spirit, but kept her lips fast closed. This was not
exactly what Parson Arnold preached, and the self-reliant religion of
Mark Small, had a shade of blasphemy to her orthodox ears.

“Hulda, I wouldn’t sit here any longer if I were you. It’s getting
dark and cold. I’ll walk down the road with you. It’s good of you to
come, and I think I feel better for getting to be good friends with you
again. I thought the old feelin’ had died out, but it hain’t, and if
ever I get on my feet agen,--”

“Is that you, Mark Small?”

A burly form came between them and the light. Hulda recognized it, and
sprang to her feet. Captain Thompson, the last man she expected to meet
stood before them. She darted back of Mark Small, out of the light. The
captain took no notice of her, supposing her one of the employees of
the mill.

“Yes, Captain, here I am, watching the remains. The old mill’s done
for--and so am I.”

The captain came forward with outstretched hands.

“Mark, I am sorry for you. If it had been one of my ships, I couldn’t
have felt worse. I’ve been out of town all day. Just heard of it. Swept
clean away, hey?”

“Yes, Captain, all gone. Some of the machinery might be saved, but it
can do no good. What’s the use of a horse, if you can’t get a stable
for him?”

“Well, the first thing to do is to build a stable for your iron horses.”

“It’s easy enough to talk, but where’s the money coming from?”

“How much will it take to set the mill agoing again?”

“Ten thousand dollars,” said Mark, with a very faint whistle.

“Ten thousand dollars!” echoed the captain, with a louder whistle. “Any
insurance?”

“Not a cent’s worth!” said Mark; “it’s too risky. You see a little
combustible cotton has swept away my fortune in a couple of hours.”

“Nobody hurt, was there?” queried the captain.

“No. Thanks to brave little Becky Sleeper, even the little cripple
was got out. That’s a brave girl, Captain. She’ll be the town talk
to-morrow. Her skill in climbing and lifting stood her friend to-day.
She’s a wide-awake Sleeper. Pity we hadn’t more tomboys like her about.”

“She of any use? you surprise me, Mark.”

Hulda drew a step nearer. With her pet for a subject, the conversation
was becoming interesting.

“Yes, while the building was in flames, she dragged Jenny York to the
roof, and lowered her to the ground;” and Small related the adventure,
painting in glowing colors the heroism of Becky Sleeper.

“Well, well,” said the captain at the close of the narrative, “I’m glad
she’s done something to redeem her bad character.”

Hulda Prime took another step forward, and clenched her fist. The
captain never knew how narrowly he escaped an assault. “The ugly
brute!” she thought, “he should repent that speech.” But remembering
she had no right to interfere in that place, she smothered her ruffled
feelings, and listened.

“And you say ten thousand dollars would be required to rebuild the
mill. A big sum, a very big sum;” and the captain rubbed his hand
thoughtfully.

“Yes, the stock’s gone clean; but my agent in Boston would fill me up,
if I could only get the mill on its legs again.”

“Hem! pays good profit, hey?” asked the captain.

“Splendid! I had a customer for all I could make. Might rebuild on
shares with my agents. I guess they’d come down with five thousand, if
I could show the other five.”

“Would they,” said the captain, lighting up, “then you’re all right,
Small. All right! build it up and set it agoing.”

“Yes, but where’s my five thousand coming from?”

“Out of my pocket, Small. ’Tain’t the first time I’ve set you up in
business. And though you’ve failed many times, I’ve never lost a cent.
You’ve paid me up principal and interest. And the money’s yours, when
you want it to set things agoing. And if your agents won’t go in with
you, why, I will; though where so much money’s coming from, I can’t
exactly see.”

Small sprang to his feet, with eyes full of tears.

“Captain Thompson, you’re a friend worth having; you’ve put new life
into me. I thought my best friend was gone when the old mill burnt; but
I’m all right now.” And he seized Captain Thompson’s hand and shook it
warmly.

“That’s all right, Small. Don’t say any more about it. And don’t let it
leak out; I don’t like to have my doings known.”

“But they shall be known, you ugly old angel,” cried Hulda Prime,
pouncing upon the Captain, and shaking his hand with energy.

“Hulda Prime, you here!” cried the astonished Captain; backing away and
endeavoring to release his hand,--

“Yes, and I bless the Lord I am here, to see such a noble spirit.
Captain Thompson, I’ve said hard things about you, and to your face,
too; but I take ’em all back,--except about Harry--that I will stick
to.”

Remembering what had been said about Harry, the Captain was not well
pleased at the reservation.

“Miss Prime, I am surprised to find you here,” began he, sternly.

“Well, you needn’t be. Mark Small and I are old friends, and so I ran
over to console him and bid him trust in the Lord. And I guess he did,
after all, for nobody else could have sent you here just in the nick of
time. You’re just splendid. Folks round here pity Miss Thompson because
she’s got such a brute of a husband. But they needn’t. You’re just as
good as you can be, and I’ve a great mind to hug you.”

The Captain grew red, and the Captain grew pale. He never felt in such
deadly peril before.

“Come, Captain, shake hands and forgive me.”

She stretched out her hand. The Captain hesitated--then took it.

“You’ll never regret this night’s work as long as you live,--never! And
I’ll never go to sleep at night without a prayer for Captain Thompson.”

“Pray as much as you please, Hulda; I shall need it all. But if we are
to be friends, not a word of what has been said to-night, in Cleverly.
You understand?”

“If you insist on hiding your light under a bushel, I’m not mean enough
to kick it over without your consent. But it’s a shame. Everybody ought
to know what a good man you are.”

The Captain turned on his heel. “Good night, Hulda! Good night, Mark!
I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Good night, Captain! You’ve made my sleep hearty to-night,” cried
Small.

“Good night, Captain. God bless you!” cried Hulda. And so they parted.

The Captain laughed to himself, as he marched into the road; but there
he met his son Harry. He pulled his hat over his eyes, and without
recognition passed him by as he would a stranger.

“The Lord sent him, Mark, to-night, you believe that?” said Hulda, as
the Captain disappeared.

“The Lord put a noble heart in his breast, and it turned him toward
the old mill. It’s the same thing, Hulda; but you and I look at it in
a different light. Now I’ll beau you home. You don’t get a beau every
night, Hulda.”

“I never wanted but one, and he never happened along until to-night.”

They laughed merrily and started off, arm in arm, only a few steps, and
they came plump upon Harry Thompson.

“Hullo! Small, is that you? I came up to offer a little friendly
consolation, but you seem in good spirits. What, Aunt Hulda, you here!
What’s the meaning of this?” and Harry for once, looked very sober.

“The fire is all out, Harry,” said Small, confused.

“Is it?” said Harry, “There’s no danger of its rekindling.” He looked
hard at Aunt Hulda. He could not understand the situation. Until now,
he supposed the two were strangers. Their confused manner was a puzzle,
too.

“There’s no vestige of a flame there,” said Small, “not a spark. All
dead and gone.”

Harry looked as though there was a flame very near to Small, but said
nothing about it.

“I just ran up to look after you, Small, to see that you did not get
down in the mouth, and to say for my mother, that if you need help,
there’s money in her purse at your command. Good night! Look out for
the sparks, Aunt Hulda.” And with a laugh he turned on his heel and
walked away.

“Wonder if the Lord sent him?” growled Mark. Aunt Hulda said nothing.
The situation in which she found herself, was very awkward, and she
trudged along with her arm in Mark’s, very much like a lamb led
to slaughter. This could not continue long however, and e’er they
reached the Sleeper place, their tongues were loosened, and they found
themselves building castles as airy and fleecy as lovers are accustomed
to shape in the years allotted to youth and romance.



CHAPTER XI.

BECKY BEARDS THE LION IN HIS DEN.


With the burning of the mill, Becky’s march towards independence was
stayed for a while by the failure of supplies. There was a disposition
on the part of Cleverly folks to lionize the young girl for the brave
deed she had accomplished. Much to her surprise, people who had before
shunned her took particular pains to call and thank her for the heroism
she had displayed. Deacon Procter’s wife--a woman who, in the tomboy
days, had caught her among the melons, who had told her she was on the
broad road to destruction--smiled upon her kindly, patted her cheek,
and called her a brave, good girl, and the pride of the town. Parson
Arnold, who before had pulled his hat over his eyes, and stepped one
side, when he met her, now benevolently laid his hand upon her head,
with a blessing. Even the boys--Teddy’s cronies--gathered about the
house, and, on her appearance at the door or the window, testified
their approbation of her conduct by loud and prolonged cheering; while
buxom Mrs. York visited the house regularly every day for a week, to
clasp Becky in her arms with such a strength of gratitude that the girl
really feared the breath would be driven from her body.

All this was a source of wonder to her. She had felt a glow of pleasure
when she saw the flush on her mother’s cheek, the tears standing in her
eyes, and a faint smile upon her lips. There was something very warming
to her heart, when Aunt Hulda said, with a shake of the head,--

“What did I tell you? She’s a brave, good girl; and I knew she’d come
out strong when she did come;” with a defiant glance at an invisible
somebody, who might be inclined to doubt her.

Mrs. Thompson’s warm kiss of approval; Harry’s loud “Well done, pet!
I’m proud of you!” all these were very gratifying to her. But these
outward demonstrations seemed to her something to which she was not
entitled, and so dismayed her that she took every opportunity possible
to hide herself on the appearance of visitors.

The destruction of the mill was a bitter disappointment to her. She had
set her heart on earning a hundred dollars. She had reached ninety, and
the opportunity had vanished in fire and smoke. Not all the praise of
Cleverly could compensate her for this loss. But though disappointed,
she was not disheartened; and leaving the ninety safely locked, like
the good woman in the Scriptures, she went searching about to discover
the missing ten.

October came, and school opened once more, Mr. Drinkwater in his place,
and Becky and Teddy among his pupils. For a time the young master,
with his lively interest in their studies and out-door pastimes, his
original way of making the most laborious duties pleasant, was missed;
but Mr. Drinkwater was an earnest teacher, a kind and honorable man,
methodical in his course of training, and under his charge the school
prospered.

Harry Thompson was still an inmate of Mr. Drinkwater’s house, chafing
under the restraint of inaction, yet obedient to the wishes of the
mother to whom he owed his education, whose loving heart could
not harbor the thought of a long absence, and whose faith in the
reconciliation that would place her son in his home was still strong.
How it was to be brought about, she knew not; but this separation was
unnatural; it must have an end. Only have patience, and the perfect
worker, in God’s good time, would mend the broken threads.

One cold November afternoon, Mrs. Thompson, with her knitting needles
busily plying, sat in the sitting-room of the little brown house, now
made very comfortable by the zealous workers. A miniature bonfire
crackled and blazed in the broad fireplace, bountifully supplied by
Harry Thompson, who lazily lounged in a rocking-chair before it, and
divided his attention between a frequent piling of sticks and the
contents of a portfolio in his lap.

Into this cosy retreat, with a rush of cold air, burst Becky Sleeper,
in her usual dashing style, flinging her books on the sofa, her hat in
one corner, her cloak in another, her gloves on the mantel-piece, and
herself into a chair.

“There, Aunt Rebecca! I’ve stood this just as long as I’m a going to.
I must earn money somehow. That hateful ten got into two of my sums
to-day, and completely ruined them. It haunts me. Master Drinkwater
asked me how many straight lines there were in a dollar mark, and I
said ten; how many senses there were, and I said ten; and I got well
laughed at. It’s no use. I never can succeed in anything more until I
earn that ten dollars. So don’t oppose me, for I’m determined to get
work at the woolen mill.”

Having emphatically launched this alarming threat, Becky applied
herself to the task of raising the temperature of that truthful
thermometer,--her nose,--which indicated a state of the weather but
little above zero. This she did by a brisk application of her hand,
with her eyes fastened upon her companions.

“Take care, Becky; you’ll rub it off. It’s very tender, and there’s
but little of it,” said Harry, with a laugh. “Woolen mill, indeed! You
can’t get up a blaze there; it’s brick.”

“Don’t think of such a thing, child. There’s no necessity for your
earning money,” said Mrs. Thompson.

“Necessity or not, I mean to try. To-morrow morning I shall go there,
and ask for work,” replied Becky; “so don’t try to stop me, for I know
it’s right for me to do all I can for the support of the family.”

“Earn money in the woolen mill! Nonsense! Why, there’s talent enough in
this portfolio to give you a handsome living, independent of the dust
and dirt of an ugly, noisy mill.”

“In that portfolio?” said Becky. “What do you mean, Harry?”

“Why, didn’t you know, Becky, that men have made fortunes by their
skill with the pencil and brush?”

“Men! Men can do anything; but girls can’t.”

“Don’t be so sure of that Becky. I know a young lady who earns twice as
much as you ever did in the paper mill, by the use of a pencil.”

“You know a young lady?” said Becky, with a flush. “Who--where? What’s
her name?”

Harry laughed.

“Ah, now you’re getting inquisitive, Miss Becky.”

“I know who it is, Becky,” said Mrs. Thompson. “He’s told me all about
it, and I’ll tell you.”

“Mother, mother,” said Harry, with much sternness, “secrets are sacred.
You must not tell.”

Becky began to feel decidedly uncomfortable. Here was a young lady she
had never heard of. There was a secret, and it must not be told. O,
dear! somebody was coming between Harry and herself. She covered her
eyes with her hand; her face was burning.

“What a silly goose!” she thought, and fell to rubbing her nose again,
which now indicated a very high degree of temperature.

“No matter, Becky,” said Harry, noticing her confusion; “I’ll make
a clean breast of it, and let you into the secret. When I was at
Cambridge, I boarded with a widow who had one daughter. She was about
your age, and her name was Alice. Nice name--isn’t it!”

“I don’t know. Yes--yes,” said Becky; “of course. Didn’t she have any
other name?”

“Certainly--Alice Parks. But Alice is such a pretty name, it’s a pity
it didn’t stand alone, and have no parks about it. Alice--Alice. I do
like that name!”

“Why, Harry, what are you thinking of?” asked Mrs. Thompson, in
surprise.

“Thinking of Alice, of course,” said Becky, with a little snap of
temper. “I don’t see what that’s got to do with a pencil.”

“Then we’ll come to the point--of the story, not the pencil,” said
Harry, who was evidently enjoying the confusion of Becky. “Well, you
must know, I took a great fancy to this girl, she was so pretty, and
so gentle and obliging. They were poor people, and found it hard to
keep up a respectable appearance, and make their home comfortable, and
table inviting. But they did it; and it was just the nicest, cosiest
place in all the world, except home.” Harry sobered here, and looked
at his mother. “Well, Alice had a talent for painting and drawing, and
amused herself in her leisure moments with making sketches and water
colors, with which to adorn their rooms. I was very grateful to them
for their kindness to me; and one day I purloined some of Alice’s
drawings, and took them into Boston. I had often played cricket with
an Englishman,--John Woodfern,--who, I knew, was one of the best
engravers in America. I took the sketches to him, told my story, and
asked him to do something for the girl. He took a fancy to the drawings
at once. He had a fancy for me already; and, fortunately, he had just
taken a contract to supply a children’s magazine, then in successful
operation. He sent for Alice, took a fancy to her, too, and at once set
her to work. She is now a successful artist. So you see, Becky, what a
young girl can do, when she has a smart, enterprising man to help her.
Ahem!”

“Do you think I could do that too?” asked Becky, with sparkling eyes.

“Of course you could. John Woodfern could never refuse such convincing
proofs as are packed away in this portfolio.”

“O, isn’t that splendid! I know I should like that work,” cried Becky,
jumping up and clapping her hands. “I’ll go to Boston at once!”

“Hold on, hold on, aspiring genius!” exclaimed Harry. “You go to
Boston--one hundred and twenty miles! Nonsense! You will stay at home,
and go to school; and when the term is over, we’ll see what can be
done.”

“But I can’t wait. I must have work. O, let me go. I can find the way,
and Mr. John Woodfern, too.”

“No, no; I won’t aid you unless you strictly conform to my wishes. Am I
not right, mother?”

“Yes, Harry,” said Mrs. Thompson; “it’s best that Becky give her
attention to home and school this winter. Be patient, Becky. Harry has
opened an agreeable field of labor to you, where you shall work in good
time.”

“Yes, Becky, I’ve discovered the mine where lie concealed treasures
of wealth, which you shall pick with the point of a pencil. Only wait
until I give you the word.”

Discovered a mine? Ah, Master Harry, you’ve reared a mine of another
sort, and laid a train, and put the match into the hands of a
quick-witted girl. Look out for a speedy explosion.

This new idea so bewitched Becky, that the haunting figures ten were
quickly rubbed out of existence in her day-dreams, to give place to the
Utopian vision of fame and fortune, which Harry had conjured for her
especial benefit. Mother and son departed. The girl sat and gazed into
the fire, with mingled feelings of hope and disappointment. There was
a bright prospect in the future for her. Harry had said she had the
talent; her own heart told her she had the power to accomplish this
new undertaking. But he had put the attempt a long way off, and bade
her be patient. Patience, indeed! Wait until the end of the term--six
months. In that time what an immense sum could be added to her store!
No; she would act at once. Patience, as yet, was no prominent quality
in her volatile disposition; and now, when so easy a victory over the
crushing despot, dependence she so loathed was at her will, she could
not heed its voice. She would act at once. And then the thought of the
dear friends she must disappoint by her disobedience checked her. But
again the ambitious fever raged, and into her musings crept Miss Alice
Parks; Alice, of whom Harry was so fond! She would go. She would see
this paragon, and know why he raved so about her. And so, two desires
mingled in her meditations, the one born of a healthy ambition to
achieve independence, the other springing from a jealous affection, too
mischievous to be the happy tenant of a young girl’s heart.

For three days duty and inclination struggled with Becky for the
mastery. In the afternoon of the fourth day she took from her box the
carefully hoarded sum she had earned at the paper mill, and set out for
school.

That afternoon Captain Thompson, as was his usual custom, was seated
at his desk in the corner of the sitting-room, making up his accounts
for the day. He was alone; his good wife, as was _her_ usual afternoon
custom, was at Mrs. Sleeper’s--a proceeding of which the peppery
captain took not the least apparent notice. But he knew all that had
happened during the year; knew what was happening now--the daily
meetings of his wife and son; the reformation of Becky; his son’s brave
deed in the dam; the girl’s heroism at the burning mill. But he never
made any comments, and to all seemed an uninterested man, wrapped in
ship-building and monetary speculations.

But one single thread connected him with any interest in the Sleeper
affairs. He and Teddy Sleeper had become warm friends. Teddy had
wandered into the ship-yard one day, had watched the ship upon the
stocks, and the men at work, and, desiring some information, had coolly
walked up to Captain Thompson, and asked a question. The captain looked
at him in surprise, then kindly answered him, found he was interested
in the ship, and, to the astonishment of everybody, sat down, and told
him all about it. From that time Teddy’s out-door life was passed in
the ship-yard. After school found him there, and the captain expecting
him. They drove about town together; and people said the boy had got
the right side of the captain, and his fortune would be made.

But not a word of home dropped from Teddy’s lips. The captain never
asked questions in that direction; and Teddy was too shrewd to peril
their friendship by treading on forbidden ground. This day Teddy had
not put in an appearance, and for that or some other reason the captain
was in his unhappiest mood. He blotted his ledger, spilled his ink,
hitched about in his chair, and puffed and worried, until he worked
himself into a steaming mood, that required frequent applications of
his handkerchief. In his highest state of excitement came a knock at
the front door.

“Here, you, Silly, you silly thing! where are you?” he shouted. “See
who’s at the door.”

There was a “clap-clap-clap” in the next room, and Silly York made her
appearance.

“Do you want me, captain?”

“No, I don’t want you. Somebody’s at the door. If they want you,
they’re welcome to you.”

“Do you want me to go to the door?”

“Of course I do. What else are you here for? Start yourself, quick!”

Silly stepped across the room, and opened a door, and passed into the
front entry.

“Here, you! mind! I’m busy, and don’t want to see anybody. Shut that
door!”

Silly slammed the door after her. Then the captain heard a scream, and
Silly’s voice.

“O, you dear little thing! I must hug you! Come right in.”

The door flew open.

“Didn’t I tell you I wouldn’t see anybody?” shouted the captain.

“You don’t know who it is. You wouldn’t shut her out--would you? She
saved my sister!”

“Hang your sister! She--” And then he stopped, for in the room stood
Silly, and the last one he ever expected to meet in his house--Becky
Sleeper.

The captain looked at her in astonishment. He knew her well. They had
never spoken to each other since that first day at school--but he had
watched her since then--was well informed as to her progress. And yet,
the bright, young, well-dressed, graceful girl, with a smile on her
face, standing before him, took him by surprise, and made a _gentle_
man of him at once.

“I hope I do not interrupt you, Captain Thompson,” said Becky, very
gently; “but I have a little business with you; and if you would kindly
give me five minutes, I should be very much obliged.”

The captain got up from his chair, and made a low bow. It surprised him
as soon as it was done; but he couldn’t help it.

“Certainly, Miss Becky, if I can be of service to you,--Silly, you
needn’t stop.”

“But I want to,” said Silly. “She saved my sister.”

Becky laughed.

“I’ll come out and see you before I go,” she said. “You’re not afraid
to trust me alone with the captain--are you?”

Silly looked at the captain and then at Becky, evidently believing that
it was her duty to stay and protect Becky.

“Here; you start your boots--quick!”

The captain mounted his high horse, and Silly started for the kitchen
in a hurry.

“Now, Miss Becky, what have you to say?”

The captain sat at his desk, and motioned Becky to a chair. She did not
obey his motion, but came to his side.

“Captain Thompson, I’ve been wanting to come to you, to thank you for
being so kind to us all, for helping--no, not helping, for you have
done everything. You have given us food and clothing; and without your
aid I don’t know what would have become of us.”

“O, pshaw!” said the captain. “Is that all you came for?”

“No. I came to beg your pardon for being so much trouble to you when I
was a wild tomboy. I was young then; didn’t know how wrong it was. I’m
older now, and see my error.”

The captain looked at her with increasing wonder. Could this be the
tomboy who had snatched his whip from his hand, stolen his horse, and
given him such a chase--this little woman, with her sweet voice and
penitent air? Or was this some new trick?

“Well,” said he at last, gruffly; “is that all you came for?”

“No,” answered Becky. “When I found that we were indebted to you for
food and clothing, when I began to be a better girl, I felt it was mean
to let you do everything, and I, strong and active, doing nothing; so I
went to work in the paper mill. You know how it was destroyed.”

“Yes; and how a brave girl, at the risk of her own life, saved a weak
and helpless companion,” burst out the captain. “O, I know it!”

“Yes,” said Becky, with heightened color, “the mill was burned. I had
saved ninety dollars. O, I did so want to make it a hundred! But I
couldn’t. I meant to bring it to you, to pay you in part for what you
had done for me and mine. But I’ve brought you the ninety.” And Becky
suddenly laid upon the desk before the eyes of the astonished captain
her savings.

The captain started, then stared at the little pile of money very hard,
then harder still at Becky, and back at the money again, until tears
began to drop from his eyes, when, without any further ceremony, he
pulled out his handkerchief, and blubbered like a big school-boy. It
was now Becky’s turn to be surprised.

“O, captain, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I only wanted
to repay you just a little for your kindness. I didn’t mean any
harm--indeed I didn’t.”

“Becky Sleeper, you’re a little angel, and I’m an ugly old brute. Pick
up your money. I don’t want it. To think that I’ve been abusing you all
this time, and you coming in this way to pour coals of fire on my head.
I’m an old fool! Take your money--quick!”

“No, captain, don’t ask me to do that. If you knew what a temptation
that money has been to me, you would never ask me--never.”

“Temptation! What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you, captain, a secret. You must not tell, not even Aunt
Rebecca. You won’t--will you?” Becky smiled at the captain. “Honor
bright.”

The captain smiled at Becky. It was a good-humored smile. They were
getting on famously.

“I’ll keep your secret, Becky, when I get it.”

“Well, then, you must know that I’ve just learned of a very nice way to
make money, one I should like very much. To get it in this nice way, it
is necessary to make a journey to Boston, to see a certain man, and he
would give me drawing, for engravings. Aunt Rebecca--no, Harry--told me
of it; your Harry.”

The captain did not stop her at the mention of that name, a name
forbidden to be spoken in that house. There was a little more color in
his face; but he looked steadily at her.

“I had the money to take me there, and I was tempted to use it;
tempted, O, so hard! till at last I remembered it was your money; and,
to put the temptation from me, I brought it to you. I didn’t want to
until I had the hundred. Now I’m glad I did. Had I gone, I should have
disobeyed Aunt Rebecca, and--Harry.”

“Why disobeyed Aunt Rebecca?” said the captain, quietly dropping the
other party.

“Because _they_,” said Becky, not relishing the dropping game, “forbade
my going until the expiration of the school term.”

“How? _She_ forbid you! It’s a good idea; a nice way of earning money;
and you want to go still?”

“O, indeed I do, if only it was right.”

“Right? Of course it’s right,” said the captain, roused at a chance for
opposition. “_She’s_ no right to prevent you, and I should like to see
her do it. You want to go to Boston. You shall go.”

Becky flushed with pleasure.

“O, if could only go! I know I could succeed. But what would Aunt
Rebecca and--”

“Hang Aunt Rebecca!” shouted the captain, cutting in to prevent the
addition of the other name. “I’ve just as much right to direct your
actions as she has. I’m going to Boston to-morrow morning. You shall go
with me.”

Before the appearance of Becky, the captain had no intention of taking
a journey.

“O, that will be splendid--if I only could.”

“You can, and shall. Go home, get ready, and to-morrow morning at
five o’clock meet me at the school-house. Phil shall drive us over to
Foxtown. We’ll take the cars there, and be in Boston at one. Here, take
your money;” and the captain swept it from the desk, and put it in her
hand. “When I want it, I’ll ask for it.”

“But how can I ever pay you?”

“By shaking hands, and being friends with the old man. You may add a
kiss if you like.”

“A dozen!” cried Becky, throwing her arms about the captain’s neck.
“You dear, good, kind, noble old captain!”

“Now, good by, little one. Be sure and be on time to-morrow morning at
five.”

“When the clock strikes, you’ll find me there. Good by.”

Becky ran home with a happy heart, bounced into the sitting room, and
told them all about it--Mrs. Thompson and Harry; then ran to her
mother’s room, and told her; then to the kitchen, and told Aunt Hulda.
And such a surprised household it would be hard to find.

Harry Thompson frowned, and was inclined to put a stop to the journey;
but his mother looked happy.

“Our little witch has caught the captain. Do not interfere, for out of
this friendship I foresee a happy day for you and me. ‘Let patience
have her perfect work.’”



CHAPTER XII.

AMONG THE WOODPECKERS.


Twenty years ago, in one of the busiest streets in bustling Boston,
up three flights of stairs, sufficiently distant from the tumult of
trade to escape its confusion, and near enough to the sun to receive
the full benefit of its light, “John Woodfern, Designer and Engraver,”
plied his artistic trade, in the enjoyment of a large share of public
patronage. He was a man who held the foremost place in his profession,
renowned for his skill in fastening the fine points and delicate shades
of a drawing upon wooden blocks, whence are produced those pictorial
illustrations which often adorn, and sometimes disfigure, books,
periodicals, and papers. He was also a man of good business habits,
and his establishment was neatly arranged, and conducted in the most
orderly manner.

An Englishman by birth, he brought to this country, besides a clear
head and skilful hands, a love for the roast-beef and ale of Old
England, a warm heart, and a jovial temper, the latter somewhat
obscured by the characteristic fogs of gruffness and blunt speech,
without which no Briton would be content to leave his native land. He
was a large, handsome man of fifty, with light, curly hair, surrounding
a polished pate, in whose centre flourished a single tuft of hair; blue
eyes, and a long, flowing beard.

His establishment was divided into two sections--his own office at the
head of the stairs, and his work-room, from which he was only separated
by a partition, and which he could overlook, through the door, from his
seat.

The office contained a handsome book-case, a desk, and his own
work-table, where he did the finest work. Its walls were adorned with
fine pictures and specimens of his work. Over the desk was displayed,
on brackets, a polished champion cricket bat, ornamented with a silver
plate, on which glistened his name and the match in which it was won.
On his table were the usual implements of his craft--a small stand with
a padded leather cushion, a frame in which was fitted an eye-glass, a
fine assortment of “gravers,” and blocks of wood in various stages of
completion.

The work-room contained three tables, at which were seated three young
men, with their eyes screwed down to eye-glasses, diligently pecking
at drawings on wooden blocks. These young men, “woodpeckers” by trade,
were Woodferns by name, being sons of the proprietor, and, like their
father, all good fellows and skilful workmen. This room was plainly
furnished with three tables and a transfer press, and above them a long
shelf, on which were ranged a row of glass globes, filled with water,
used to concentrate the light in night work.

Mr. Woodfern sat at his table, busily at work putting the finishing
touches to a block, when unattended and unannounced, Miss Becky Sleeper
marched into his presence.

Mr. Woodfern lifted his eye from the glass, and politely turned in his
chair, with a nod to the visitor. The young Woodferns unscrewed their
eyes from the wooden sockets in which they were imbedded, and very
impolitely stared at the intruder.

“Good morning, sir,” said Becky, in her sweetest tones. “Will you be
kind enough to look at these drawings?”

Mr. Woodfern scowled. He had been pestered by an army of aspiring
draughts_men_, of both sexes; and the London fog was on him. He
answered shortly,--

“No, I don’t want any drawings. Good morning,” turned in his chair and
applied his eye to its artificial socket.

A wave of confusion rolled over Becky’s confident spirit. The gruff
voice and the abrupt dismissal had not entered into her calculations.
But she was not disposed to quit the field without a struggle, after so
long a journey; so, gulping down her chagrin, she said,--

“But you don’t understand. I’ve come a long way to get work. My friends
tell me I am competent, and I have specimens of drawing. You’ll surely
look at them.”

“I shall do nothing of the sort,” said Mr. Woodfern, gruffly, not
deigning to raise his eye. “I have all the draughtsmen I want; and I
never employ girls.”

“Why, you give Miss Alice Parks work--don’t you?”

Caught. Mr. John Woodfern, how will you answer that question?

“I have given her work; and a precious sight of trouble she has made
me.”

[Illustration: BECKY MAKES A HIT. Page 203.]

There was some comfort in that to Miss Becky’s jealous heart. Miss
Alice was not quite a paragon, after all.

“Once for all, I don’t want your drawings. I’ve no time to look at
them. Good morning.”

The tone was so chilling that a returning “good morning” trembled
on Becky’s lips. The tears sprang to her eyes. It seemed to her for
a moment that all was lost. But, remembering the friends she must
meet with the story of her defeat, remembering the captain patiently
waiting in the street for her return, she yet lingered, hoping that a
little reflection might produce a change in the temper of this gruff
proprietor, and gain her a hearing. Profound silence; eyes glued to
their sockets; not even the tools of the workmen broke the stillness,
for these woodpeckers tapped no hollow oak tree, but pecked at solid
boxwood, which emits no sound. Her eyes roved about the room until they
fastened on the cricket-bat above the desk. They glistened at the sight.

“O, what a splendid cricket-bat!” she cried.

“Is that yours, sir? Did you win it?”

Mr. Woodfern raised his head, with a faint show of interest.

“Yes, I won it. What do you know about cricket?”

“I know it’s just the most splendid game I ever played,” replied Becky,
with enthusiasm.

“You play cricket!” said Mr. Woodfern, in surprise.

“Yes, indeed; but it was long ago. I was a famous hand at it, too,
though I do say it. Please, sir, let me take it down. I won’t hurt it.”

“Certainly,” said Mr. Woodfern, rising from his chair. “Handle it as
much as you like.”

He took it from its place, put it in Becky’s hands, and resumed his
seat, watching the girl with a lively interest, for cricket was a
passion with him age could not smother. Becky took the bat and handled
it like a true cricketer, placing herself in graceful positions, to
display her knowledge of its use.

“Now, if we only had a ball!”

“If we had! We have,” said Mr. Woodfern, opening a drawer in his table,
and producing a cricket ball. “Now, what next?”

“Bowl me a ball, and you shall see,” replied Becky, placing herself
before an imaginary wicket.

The sight of a cricketer in position was enough to excite the
enthusiastic sportsman; and when Becky shouted, “Play!” without a
moment’s thought he bowled a swift ball. Becky struck quick and hard;
it flew across the room, into the work-shop, and struck a glass globe.
There was a crash, and the imprisoned water poured on to the head of
the youngest woodpecker in a miniature deluge. He sprang up, shouting,
“Help, help!”

“Gracious! what have I done?” faltered the terrified Becky.

Mr. Woodfern colored to the tuft of the oasis in the bald desert on
his head, but quietly rose, shut the door between the two rooms, and
resumed his seat.

“It’s of no consequence. Let me see your drawings.”

So out of the old life a second time had come her deliverance in time
of trouble. Not altogether wasted, after all.

Mr. John Woodfern took the proffered portfolio and placed it in his
lap. As he did so his eyes met Becky’s, and the comical situation in
which he had been placed overpowered him. He threw himself back in his
chair, and burst into a prolonged, loud and hearty peal of laughter.
Having thus effectually dissipated the fog he opened the portfolio, and
examined its contents.

“So, so; this is your work--is it? Very good, fine, excellent! You had
a good teacher, that’s evident; but you have talent, that’s still more
evident. Who is your teacher?”

“Harry Thompson, sir,” replied Becky.

“Harry Thompson of Harvard?” queried Mr. Woodfern.

“He was at Harvard, sir. He’s now at Cleverly--Cleverly, Maine; that’s
where I live,” said Becky.

“Indeed! It’s my old friend. He’s your teacher at cricket, too, I’ll be
bound. Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“If you’ll be kind enough to remember, sir, you were very busy when I
came in. You didn’t give me a chance to tell you anything,” said Becky,
taking a mischievous pleasure in reminding the engraver of his brusque
behavior.

“Hem, hem; that’s so. I was busy, very busy, Miss--Miss--what’s your
name?”

“Rebecca Sleeper, sir. Harry calls me Becky.”

“Well, Miss Becky, I like your drawings; but the fact is you’ve had no
experience in drawing on wood.”

“But I could learn, sir,” said Becky, quickly. “If you only knew how
much need I have of money, you would give me a chance--I know you
would.”

At this moment the door opened, and a young lady made her appearance.
She was taller than Becky, but young and graceful, with a bright,
handsome face, lustrous black eyes, and a profusion of dark ringlets.

“Good morning, Miss Parks,” said Mr. Woodfern, courteously.

Becky started, and stared at the visitor--Harry’s paragon. It must be;
it could be no other.

“Good morning, Mr. Woodfern,” said Miss Parks, gayly. “It’s the day
after the fair, I know; but you will forgive me. I couldn’t finish them
in time.”

The young lady unfastened her reticule, and produced three blocks,
which she laid before the engraver.

“Forgive you?” said Mr. Woodfern. “I don’t know about that. Five
minutes more, and you would have been superceded by this young artist;”
and he pointed to Becky.

Miss Parks looked at Becky, and Becky looked at Miss Parks.

“Miss Parks,” said Mr. Woodfern, “this is Miss Rebecca Sleeper, of
Cleverly.”

A flush of surprise overspread the features of Miss Parks.

“Miss Rebecca Sleeper of Cleverly! Why, it must be Harry’s Becky. You
dear little thing! how glad I am to meet you!” and she advanced with
outstretched hands to Becky.

Becky met her advances with cordiality, though the appellation of “dear
little thing” from a stranger somewhat surprised her.

“Harry has told me all about you. His letters are full of praises
of you; and I know all about the adventure in the mill-dam, and the
burning of the mill. We must be good friends.”

So Harry wrote to her. She must be a very, very dear friend, then; too
dear for her peace of mind. The old jealous feeling crept into Becky’s
heart, so heavy that she could scarcely hold back her tears; but she
did, and answered nervously,--

“Yes; and I’ve heard a great deal about Miss Alice Parks. I’m glad I
met you. It will please Harry to know that I met his dear friend.”

Becky didn’t mean to emphasize the “dear” so strongly; but she noticed
it brought a flush to the face of Alice Parks. It was rather confusing,
and the two young ladies stood looking at each other in silence.

“Miss Sleeper wants work. She has brought me these sketches. Take a
look at them,” said Mr. Woodfern, handing the portfolio to Miss Parks.

The young lady took it, and, seating herself at the desk, immediately
became interested in the drawings. Just then the door of the work-room
opened, and Mr. George Woodfern entered the office. He was a tall,
handsome fellow, the image of his father. On his entrance, Miss Alice
Parks raised her head quickly.

“Good morning, George,” she said, “come and look at these drawings, and
confess I’ve found a rival at last.”

George Woodfern crossed the office, with a quick step and a blushing
face, and joined Miss Alice. The two put their heads together over the
drawings, with such evident pleasure in each other’s society, that had
Alice not been such a _dear_ friend of Harry’s, Becky would have made
a match on the spot. Their conference was long and earnest; and from
their conversation Becky was convinced that they were pleased with
her drawings. In the meantime Mr. Woodfern made himself agreeable to
Becky, showed her how drawings were reversed on wood, and gave her
many hints regarding “shading,” “filling in,” and the nice points of
wood engravings. The young couple at the desk at last finished their
examination.

“Well, Miss Alice, what is the verdict?” asked Mr. Woodfern.

“Employ the young lady, by all means; though I fear ‘Othello’s
occupation’s gone,’ as far as I am concerned. She can draw ever so much
better than poor I.”

Becky blushed with pleasure. So Harry’s friend was her friend too. Mr.
Woodfern took from his drawer the manuscript of two short stories and a
poem. He then selected three blocks of boxwood from a row on his table,
and placed the whole in Becky’s hands.

“Miss Sleeper,” he said, “on the recommendation of this talented young
lady, I shall give you a trial. There are two stories for children, and
a short ‘baby’ poem. The points to be illustrated are all marked. Take
them, consult your friend Harry Thompson, and if you send me three
satisfactory drawings within a fortnight, I will send you my check for
fifteen dollars. If not satisfactory, I pay nothing.”

Becky’s heart thrilled. How kind, how good of Mr. Woodfern! She
thanked him warmly enough, but the words seemed a long way off from
the thanksgiving that glowed in her heart. Mr. Woodfern turned away
abruptly, and entered the work room.

“Now come over here and let me give you a few hints from an experienced
hand. We shan’t want you any more, George.”

George Woodfern laughed, and in turn departed to the privacy of
the work-room; and the two young ladies were left to their own
deliberations.

All this time Captain Thompson was patiently sitting in a carriage at
the entrance, awaiting the return of his charge. On the arrival of the
train in Boston at one o’clock, he had taken a carriage and driven to
the engraver’s. He had been anxious to participate in the interview;
but Becky, fearing his quick temper might cause trouble, had prevailed
upon him to allow her to be the sole carver of her fortunes with the
wood carver. Thus far the peppery captain had enjoyed this, to him,
new sensation hugely. The bright, cheerful, happy demeanor of the
girl, her intelligent and witty conversation, her delight in the fresh
experience of the day, had made him really happy; and his warm heart
bubbled up through its rough exterior with desires to still further
gratify her wishes.

And so he waited patiently a long hour for her return. She came
bounding down the stairs, and leaped into the carriage, her face rosy,
her eyes bright with triumph.

“It’s a success, captain. I’ve conquered, and I’m carrying home lots of
work.”

“Of course you’ve conquered. I knew you would; and we’ve done it
without _their_--her--help, too,” said the captain, chuckling with
triumph. “Now let’s see--we’ve got two hours for dinner and a drive;
and then back to Cleverly.”

They drove to a hotel, had an excellent dinner, took the carriage
again, and Becky was shown the Boston sights, all of which were new
revelations to the country girl, whose delight made the old captain’s
heart glow and glow again.

In due time they took the train for Foxtown, and then Becky related her
adventure, in the course of which Miss Alice Parks appeared upon the
scene.

“She’s a dear friend of Harry’s--your Harry, captain. I shouldn’t
wonder if one of these days she should become his wife.”

Becky said this bravely. The captain could not know what a throb of
pain darted through Becky’s bosom at the thought.

“Become his wife! Nonsense! What are you thinking of, Becky?”

The captain looked fierce and angry, and Becky saw it.

“Well, all I know, he calls her his dear friend, and she calls him her
dear friend, and they write to each other; and that’s the way lovers
do--don’t they?”

The captain stared out of the window, moving uneasily in his seat,
snapping his teeth together very often, all of which Becky saw and took
advantage of. A wild scheme had crept into the girl’s head. Harry and
Harry’s mother had done much for her; it was time she should repay it.
The captain had a wilder scheme in his head, and was in exactly the
right mood to combat the proposed alliance.

“He marry this girl! I’d like to see him attempt it! I’d like to see
him attempt it!”

This came involuntarily from the captain’s mouth after a very long
silence.

“Why, captain,” said Becky, “she’s a splendid girl, and so smart with
her pencil! And if they love each other,”--here she gave a gulp,--“I’m
sure it’s only right that they should marry. And then Harry’s so good!
O, it would be wicked to prevent his happiness. You won’t--will you,
captain?”

The captain said nothing, but grew more and more uneasy; said nothing,
but thought, thought hard. What could he do? He had cast the boy off;
he was his own master. He had no power to accomplish the wish that was
in his mind.

“O, if you only knew how good and kind Harry has been to me, you would
never desire to break his heart.”

Here Becky broke down, and commenced sobbing. The captain started, put
his arm about Becky, and drew her head to his breast, still looking out
of the window, and saying nothing.

Becky’s weeping was of short duration; there was too much at stake;
and so, still lying on the captain’s breast, with his arm about her,
softly and gently she spoke of Harry; of his kindness to her; of
his brave deeds; of the love he had gained from all who knew him;
of his devotion to his mother; rehearsed incidents in his college
life; brought out of his boyhood history little scraps of goodness so
carefully treasured in her grateful heart. If she had been pleading
for Harry’s life, she could not have been more earnest and determined
in the recital of his virtues. And the captain sat there, listening,
saying nothing; and the little pleader babbled on, unaware that at the
captain’s heart the old obstinate roots were being plucked from their
bed; that the warmth of his new love was flowing in thawing out the
long-frozen channel of paternal affection.

The cars reached Foxtown, and still the captain said nothing. The
carriage was in waiting, and an hour’s ride took them to Cleverly. The
captain was silent all the way. Phil drove straight on to the Sleeper
house. It was twelve o’clock. There was a light in the sitting-room. At
the sound of wheels, Mrs. Thompson came to the door. The curtain was
drawn aside, and Becky saw Harry peering out into the darkness. She
jumped from the carriage.

“Won’t you come in, captain?” said Becky.

The captain shook his head.

“I shall come up to see you to-morrow, to thank you for being so kind
to-day. O, I’ve had a splendid time. Good night.”

She approached the carriage, and held out her hand. The captain grasped
it.

“I shall come up to-morrow, captain. Shall I come alone?”

Becky’s voice trembled. She had been trying hard for a triumph. She
feared she had failed.

“No, Becky, no. God bless you, child! Bring him with you; bring Harry
home!”

Phil Hague drove off down the hill at a lively rate, Uncle Ned being
started into a gallop, by an Irish howl, which might have been heard a
mile off.

“Bring Harry home!” Becky heard it; Mrs. Thompson heard it; Harry heard
it. She had triumphed, after all--this little girl, whom Mrs. Thompson
folded to her bosom, whom Harry clasped by the hand. Mother and son
might well be happy. Reconciliation at last. But for Becky, happiness
supreme. She had accomplished this, and hers was the hand commissioned
to bring Harry home.



CHAPTER XIII.

DELIA SLEEPER’S SHIP COMES IN.


Becky received the warm thanks and congratulations of the happy mother
and son with a grateful heart. She had been enabled to repay, in some
part, the love and care they had bestowed upon her. She had conquered
the stubborn father, and lifted the cross from the shoulders of the
patient wife. But she felt that she had been but an instrument shaped
by their hands for the work, and to them she unselfishly gave the
credit of her triumph. Not all, however; one other, who had been her
counsellor and guide; one to whom all her thoughts and actions had
been confessed; one who, with almost supernatural wisdom had taught
her wayward feet to tread the path of duty; who out of her own needs,
had sought peace in the boundless love of a heavenly Father, and had
brought her child into the same tender embrace,--the stricken mother,
who for two long years, helpless upon her bed, had borne all so meekly
and patiently; to her the grateful daughter gave a generous share of
the glory which surrounded this unexpected reconciliation.

That night mother and daughter shared the same couch. Aunt Hulda,
who had a great antipathy to strange beds, banished herself from her
accustomed pillow without a word of complaint, glad to make the child,
who had wound herself about the queer spinster as no other had ever
been able to, happy at any cost. Alone with her mother, Becky’s tongue
flew fast and furious with the recital of her wanderings and workings,
until the weariness of the long, strange day overpowered her nimble
organ of speech. In the middle of a sentence, she dropped asleep, her
mother’s hand fast clasped in hers, all forgotten, even her accustomed
prayer unspoken. But it lay there in the warm, beating, affectionate
heart, and the mother’s lips bore it to the heavenly throne, joined to
her own earnest plea that blessings from the Unseen hand might strew
the path of life with much of happiness for her own precious child.

Having eased his unhappy conscience of the heavy load it had borne
so long, the conquered captain went home in a dazed sort of amazement
at the act which he had committed. He could not regret it, would not
have recalled his words had he the power. There was a warming up of his
stubborn spirit when he thought of the girl who had so craftily spread
for him the net in which he had been captured, but no desire to loose
his bonds, and escape. It was all for the best; they would be a happy
family after the first meeting. But the first meeting bothered the
captain. What could he say to this son who had been shut out from home
so many years? It was a serious question, and one he could not readily
answer. He went home thinking about it: went to bed, still thinking;
and at last fell asleep, to dream of it.

Mrs. Thompson came home, escorted to her door by Harry; said “Good
night,” with a happy heart,--it was to be their last parting in this
strange manner; was not surprised to find her husband missing when she
entered the sitting-room, nor surprised to find him snoring when she
entered the sleeping-room, but had a quiet laugh to herself as she
thought how ashamed the captain tried to appear of his good actions.
She would not disturb him for the world; said nothing to him of the
last night’s work, the next morning, as he fidgeted at the breakfast
table, and looked everywhere but in her face.

The captain did not leave the house, but gave his whole attention to
the preparation of the speech with which he was to meet his long-absent
son. On one thing he was determined--he would be a father still. He had
been disobeyed; it was for the son to ask pardon. He would be cool,
dignified, collected. He watched the bridge road uneasily. At half past
eight he saw Becky leave the gate with her school-books in her hands,
and after came Harry. He left the window at once. It was coming; it
would soon be over. He sat on the sofa, covered his eyes with his hand,
and waited. He did not need to look--he felt their coming. Now they
were on the bridge; now they had passed the school-house, were crossing
the road, were at the door. Yes, a ring! Mrs. Thompson rose from her
chair, looked at her husband, with his face hidden, smiled, and passed
into the entry. Be a man, captain; be a father, cool, dignified,
collected! The door opened; the captain rose to his feet.

“Good morning, captain. Here I am, and here’s Harry.” Becky Sleeper’s
voice.

He looked at her smiling face, beyond her to the manly form of his son,
advancing with outstretched hand, then grasped that hand, and shook it
with nervous energy.

“Harry, my boy, welcome home. I have been a poor father to you. Forgive
and try me again!”

He burst into tears, and sobbed like a child. The hard heart was
melted, and the cool, collected, dignified plans, on which he had so
much depended, were dissipated at the touch of Nature.

Mrs. Thompson quietly drew Becky into the dining-room, and shut
the door, leaving father and son to become better acquainted. The
conference was so long that Becky slipped out of the side door, fearful
of being late to school, after a promise given to Mrs. Thompson that
she would come in and take tea with the reunited family. She kept
her promise, and had the satisfaction of seeing Harry in his right
place, the captain in a jovial fit of good nature, and Mrs. Thompson’s
handsome face radiant with the warm glow of a contented heart.

The captain was not quite content with this quiet reconciliation, but
must kill the fatted calf in honor of his son’s return; and three
days afterwards the good people of Cleverly were surprised by the
intelligence that the Thompsons were to give a party.

And such a party! The Thompson mansion was lighted from bottom to top,
and along the entire reach of the various outbuildings, the trees
were hung with lanterns. A blaze of light outside, a scene of joyous
festivity within. Nobody was forgotten. Parson Arnold, in clerical
black and white, with his wife in a new silk dress,--the gift of Mrs.
Thompson,--benignly circulated among their flock. Mr. Drinkwater was
there, crowding Deacon Proctor into a corner, with the discussion of
a theological point. Poor Mr. York was there, with a feeble cough,
and dilated nostrils eagerly sniffing the air, as the door of the
dining-room occasionally opened, while his buxom wife was busily at
work with Silly, in the kitchen; and little Jenny York was there,
perched on the arm of a sofa, drinking in with rare delight all this
flow of mirth, and light, and gay attire, and pleasant conversation.
The scholars, dressed in their best, played and romped about the
many-roomed mansion to their hearts’ content. And Teddy, the captain’s
favorite, dressed in a new suit,--his patron’s gift,--proudly moved
among the company, with his sister on his arm. And Becky--light and
joyous Becky--was the queen; everywhere she met smiles and kind words
of congratulation, for, somehow, her share in the bringing about of
this happy night had been noised abroad, and all were anxious to do her
honor. A dozen times that night Captain Thompson had clasped her hand.

“It’s all your work, Becky!”

A dozen times the face of Harry Thompson had beamed upon her, “Thanks
to you, Becky!” And every look of the happy mother, as she moved among
her guests, was a silent prayer of thankfulness to Becky.

It was a gay night for Cleverly; and when the door of the dining-room
was thrown open, and the guests assembled about the tables,--whose
crooked legs seemed ready to snap under their burdens of good cheer,--a
night of feasting such as Cleverly had never before witnessed.

At this stage of the proceedings, Teddy, dazzled by the tempting array
of edibles, quite forgot his gallantry, and slipping from Becky’s
side, went in pursuit of a far-off frozen pudding. His place was
quickly supplied by Harry Thompson.

“Well, pet, enjoying yourself, I hope.”

“Enjoying myself! Why, Harry, I never was so happy in all my
life--never!”

“I have a message for you from a dear friend--Alice Parks.”

“Indeed! Have you heard from her lately?”

“Yes, I received a letter from her to-day; and it’s so full of praises
of one Becky Sleeper, that I am really jealous.”

Becky made no reply. Somehow, she did not feel quite so happy now. It
seemed to her that they were getting along very pleasantly, without
having this young lady added to their company. He was jealous, too,
of her evident fondness for the little girl she had befriended. He
must be very much in love with her, then. She looked up, and met such
a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, that she laughed aloud at her own
folly.

“O, Harry, you do like to torment me. I hope you won’t plague her so,
when you get her.”

“When I get her? O, no, Becky, I shall be a different man, a very
different man--when I get her.”

Still the same mischievous look. What could he mean? Was it all
settled, then? Was he sure of her? She turned away, sick at heart,
disappointed at she knew not what. She only wished she was at home.

“Here, Becky, come with me. I have purloined a big dish of goodies, and
hidden it under the sofa in the sitting-room. Come with me; we shall be
alone in there.”

It was the voice of the captain; a welcome relief to her embarrassed
position. Smilingly she took the arm of her friend, and soon they were
comfortably snuggled together on the sofa, and the captain’s teasing
offspring forgotten.

“Ah, Becky, there’s lots of young and gay fellows about to-night; but I
know you will spare a few moments for the old man,” said the captain,
as he produced his “goodies” from beneath the sofa.

“Indeed I will. O, you are so kind to make Harry’s coming home so
pleasant to all of us!”

“Yes, chatterbox; and you were kind to give me the opportunity to do
it. But tell me, what shall we do with him, now we’ve got him home?”

“Why keep him, of course. You don’t think he’ll run away--do you?”

“I’m afraid he will. He’s talking now of going to Boston to study law.
It’s all nonsense. He needn’t do anything but just spend my money.”

“He never would be satisfied with such a life as that. He’d make a
splendid lawyer, I know.”

“Yes; but he can study with Squire Barnes, here at home. There’s few
lawyers can beat him in an argument. If I could only find some way to
keep him here! He’s old enough to marry.”

Becky winced.

“Perhaps he’s thinking of that, and wants to be in Boston, near Alice
Parks.”

“Alice Fiddlesticks!” shouted the captain, upsetting his plate. “Don’t
talk nonsense, Becky.”

“He had a letter from her to-day,” said Becky, innocently unmindful of
the fact that she might be betraying a secret.

“He did--did he?” said the captain, growing red in the face. “I’ll put
a stop to that. He shan’t marry that girl; I won’t have it. I’ll just
have him in here, and know what he means.”

He jumped to his feet, dropping his plate.

“O, captain, don’t say anything to him to-night,” cried Becky, seizing
the captain’s arm, and preventing his leaving the room. “He would hate
me if I made trouble between him and you; and I love him so dearly!
Don’t captain, don’t. You’ll break my heart.”

The little goose dropped the captain’s arm, and fled to the sofa,
covered her face with her hands, and sobbed aloud. The captain stared
at her. It was evident to him she did love Harry; and his hatred of
Miss Alice Parks grew stronger. But it was no time for a scene; and he
sat himself down beside Becky, put his arm around her, and penitently
promised to be quiet, and not interfere. He gradually succeeded in
bringing Becky into a lighter mood; and as the refreshed company from
the dining-room drifted that way, the party on the sofa were hugely
enjoying a joke the captain had perpetrated for the benefit of his
companion.

In due time the dining-room was cleared of the fragments of the feast,
the tables rolled against the walls, and, with Harry as master of
ceremonies, a succession of familiar in-door pastimes was inaugurated
for the younger members of the company. “Fox and Geese,” “Blind Man’s
Buff,” and “Hunt the Slipper,” gave pleasant entertainment to the
light-hearted revellers.

Nor did the happy occasion end here. Mr. Clairborn, the chorester,
had been running about the room, watching Mr. Arnold with a feverish
excitement he found hard to control. At last that worthy individual, to
set a good example to his parishioners, tucked his good wife under his
arm and departed. Then Mr. Clairborn ran to the sofa and from behind it
took a long green bag, of peculiar shape, and from the bag he took--a
fiddle, to the amazement of certain staid neighbors, who thought the
man crazy. Of these people he took not the least notice, but, with his
instrument in full view, marched to the head of the dining-room.

Instantly there was a shout, “A dance! a dance!” A dance in Deacon
Thompson’s house! He’d soon put a stop to that. Anxious looks were cast
in his direction; but he was busy talking to Mrs. York, and took not
the least notice of what was going on about him.

“Hull’s Victory; take your partners!” shouted Mr. Clairborn.

The captain did not move; the company did. There was a moment’s bustle,
and then Mr. Clairborn’s bow went dancing across his fiddle, and twenty
happy couples danced up and down the dining-room. Then came “Virginia
Reel.” “Money Musk,” “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” and a regular succession of
good old contra dances, with a merry accompaniment of glib tongues and
happy laughter. O, captain, you are laying yourself open to a severe
reckoning at the next church meeting. Little cared the stubborn captain
what might come of his folly. “Eat, drink, and be merry.” The lost son
was home again. They might make a bonfire of his old house; but they
should never forget this night.

In the height of their merriment, a strange figure dashed into their
midst. It was Aunt Hulda.

“Stop, quick! Where’s Becky Sleeper?”

The music ceased, and all gazed at the weird figure which, with glaring
eyes and dishevelled hair, stood in their midst.

“Here, Aunt Hulda, what’s the matter?” and Becky stepped from her place
among the dancers.

“O, Becky! Becky! home, quick! Your mother’s had another shock!”

Becky screamed, and ran after Aunt Hulda, who immediately turned
and left the house. There was no more dancing: the company quietly
dispersed. When the last guest had departed, Mrs. Thompson put on her
shawl, and with Harry and the captain, started for the house across the
bridge. The church clock struck eleven.

At that very moment the train entered the depot at Foxtown, and from it
jumped a stout, long-bearded weather-bronzed man.

Aunt Hulda was right. A second stroke of paralysis had fallen upon
Delia Sleeper, sealing the lips that had so often of late uttered
tender words of love to the heart-broken child, who now lay weeping
upon her breast. There was no sign of life upon that pale face, save in
the eyes that wandered from face to face, and sought the open door with
a wishful look. They were all about her,--Aunt Hulda, Mrs. Thompson,
Harry, the captain, Teddy,--all anxiously waiting the verdict of Dr.
Allen. Soon the doctor made his appearance, soberly examined his
patient, gave a few whispered instructions to Aunt Hulda, and left the
room, followed by the captain.

“O, mother, speak to me! only speak to me!” sobbed Becky. “Tell me you
forgive me for leaving you. I didn’t know this was coming--indeed I
didn’t. Forgive me dear, dear mother!”

No sound from the lips, but the eyes sought the dear face with a
troubled look.

“Nay, Becky,” said Mrs. Thompson, “you have done no wrong. It was your
mother’s wish that you should go to-night.”

The roving eyes thanked the good woman for her interpretation of their
language.

“No, no; it was wrong to leave her. She’ll die, and leave me--I know
she will.”

“Hush, Becky,” said Aunt Hulda. “The doctor said she’d rally. Great
care is necessary. Another shock would be fatal.”

Thus admonished, Becky grew very quiet, but knelt at the side of the
bed, with her eyes fastened upon her mother’s. Mrs. Thompson tried to
take her from the room, but she waved her off. Notwithstanding the
doctor’s whispered hope, dread forebodings filled the hearts of all
the watchers of that pale face, with its gleaming eyes. For an hour
that room was as quiet as if beneath a spell. No one there could be of
the least assistance; yet not one departed. So quiet, that the far-off
noise of wheels at that late hour startled them; and a sudden light
dilated the watchful eyes upon the bed. They fastened upon the door,
full of expectancy and hope.

The wheels drew nearer, nearer yet; they stopped before the house. A
moment after there came a hurried tread; the door was thrown open, and
in the room stood the long-expected husband,--Cyrus Sleeper.

“Delia, wife! home, home at last!”

Those wishful eyes fastened upon his face an instant, gleamed brighter
still, and then closed--closed forever. Their work was done.

Faithful eyes; let them be covered. They have watched and waited for
the ship; it has come, freighted with treasure; but not to enrich that
loving heart. The ship has come, to meet another leaving an earthly
port--God’s invisible bark, bearing one more purified soul out into the
sea of eternity, unto the haven of heavenly bliss. Speedy shall be thy
voyage, gentle mother. Behind thee are tears and lamentations, and the
memory of thy patient endurance of adversity’s long trial; before thee
lies the new life. Freed from earthly bonds, eager to do thy Maker’s
work in the great hereafter, loving spirits, with glad hosannas, shall
welcome thy coming to the port of peace.



CHAPTER XIV.

TWO YEARS AFTER.


The little brown house on the hill vanished; in its place stands a
modern mansion, broad and high, attractively arrayed in white and
green, with commodious out-buildings, broad walks and flower-beds about
it; a wide and well-cultivated vegetable patch stretching to the water,
with a young orchard, handsome and vigorous, away to the right. There
are evidences of abundant means in its laying out, and of rare taste in
its nurture. It is still the Sleeper place, and Captain Cyrus Sleeper
is the head of its household. When the earthly remains of Delia Sleeper
had been laid away in the quiet churchyard, and the serious faces of
the gossips of Cleverly had resumed their wonted aspect, eager was the
desire of these curious people to know the cause of the long absence
of the captain; and the stricken household were not long left to the
solitude they coveted.

The captain’s story was very brief. Generally a man of voluble tongue,
the sad scene which had greeted his return home seemed to have so
shocked him, that his communications were abrupt, often rude, and
entirely unsatisfactory to the news-seekers.

He had been to California, among the first adventurers to the Golden
State, had struck gold with the earliest, and at the end of a
year’s absence from home, returned to San Francisco well laden with
treasure. Here a thirst for speculation took hold of him; and, without
experience, he became the gull of a set of sharpers, and in less than
three months was penniless. Back to the mines again, but with a sterner
experience. The mines were overcrowded, gold was harder to find, and
still harder to keep. Yet he worked away for eighteen months, recovered
all he had lost, and came back to San Francisco, determined to start
for home. But this time he had a partner; and before the division of
the hard-won nuggets was made, his partner, thinking a whole loaf
better than half a loaf, vanished with the joint stock, leaving Sleeper
with barely enough to reach home.

At this time news of the gold discoveries in Australia reached
California, and thirsty Sleeper started for the new fount, to fill
his empty pitcher. His good luck returned to him, and, after long and
patient delving, the coveted treasure was in his grasp. Taught wisdom
by experience, he banked his gold as fast as gained, and when he
reached Boston was worth at least three hundred thousand dollars.

He reached home, a wealthy man, to find his wife dying of neglect; to
find she had not heard from him for years. He could not understand it.
Had he written? Certainly, often. But no letters had ever reached her.
Yet when closely questioned, it appeared he had only written twice,
being a man with whom penmanship was a most unmanageable craft, and had
entrusted his epistles to the care of others. He was a fair type of too
many sailors; the bonds of affection held strong at home; but away, the
driving winds and tossing waves snapped them, and they were useless to
guide the giddy rover.

Cyrus Sleeper mourned his wife deeply for a while, and then his
bustling spirit set itself to work. He was proud of his daughter; gazed
upon her with admiration; watched her quick steps and ready tact in
household affairs, and swore a big sailor oath to himself that she
should have the best home in Cleverly. He kept his word. He went to
Captain Thompson, and asked him to take his child until he could build.
The captain took them all--his friend, Becky, Teddy, even Aunt Hulda;
and for a year they were the inhabitants of his house.

Then the old house came down, and the new structure went up. With ready
money and a pushing spirit, Cyrus Sleeper found men and materials ready
at his command; and after a year’s absence the family returned to the
old spot, to find it entirely metamorphosed, as if by the hands of an
enchanter.

During this year Becky had not been idle. Though the necessity for
work had passed away, the spirit of independence still hovered about
her. She had made a contract with Mr. Woodfern, and she determined to
fulfil it. She found drawing on wood no easy matter; but she resolutely
persevered, and in a fortnight sent her three blocks to Mr. Woodfern.
Two were accepted; the third was returned, with the concise message,
“Try again,” and matter for three new illustrations. Emboldened by
her success, she worked at her drawing through the winter, with a
constantly growing love for her task, and ever increasing show of
improvement, until no blocks were returned, and the engraver clamored
for more.

Nor did her usefulness end here. Eager to relieve Mrs. Thompson of a
part of the burden which her large family entailed upon her, she dashed
into domestic affairs with alacrity, and proved an able assistant, and
a ready solver of the mysteries of housekeeping. Another loving and
holy task--the care of her mother’s grave--was never neglected. Daily
the grave, which bore a white slab at its head, on which the name
“Mother” was carved, was visited by her on whose heart that dear name
was so indelibly engraved; and twining vines and fresh white flowers
gave token of the fond affection of the motherless child.

Poor Aunt Hulda having thus unexpectedly become an inmate of Captain
Thompson’s house, where she was treated with the utmost respect, had a
return of her old grumbling programme, to the dismay of Becky. Having
no active employment to keep her mind off herself, it was no wonder
that the appetite she had so long supplied should grow restive. But
not until the spinster spoke of going over to “help” Parson Arnold’s
wife, did Becky hit upon a cure for her nervousness. Then it suddenly
occurred to her that there were others who needed real “help,” and so,
taking Aunt Hulda to her chamber, she spread out a neat little campaign
of charity, in which Aunt Hulda, furnished with a well-filled purse,
and unlimited freedom to call upon her for supplies, was to enact
the _role_ of an angel of mercy, because Becky was “so busy.” This
dispelled the vapors at once. The homely angel took up her mission with
alacrity; and many a poor creature in Cleverly blessed the dear old
maid for her ministrations, with tears of gratitude.

When the new house was finished, and they had moved in, Cyrus Sleeper
walked over to settle with Captain Thompson. He found this no easy
matter. Captain Thompson would not listen to it. He had induced Delia
Sleeper to embark with him in speculation; she had lost all, and it was
his duty to care for her and her children. As for the living during
the year, they had taken them as visitors; were glad to have them, and
would take them again willingly.

Captain Sleeper was determined, and Captain Thompson obstinate; and
they came to pretty high words, and parted, vowing they would never
speak to each other again. Becky tried to reconcile them, and at last
made them agree to leave the matter to a referee for settlement, she
to name the party. To their surprise, she named Aunt Hulda. That
distinguished character immediately locked herself in her room,--for
she had an apartment in the new house.

For a week she worked at accounts, partly drawn from her wise old head.
At the end of that time she called the two captains before her, and
placed in their hands a long bill. “Captain Sleeper debtor to Captain
Thompson,” in which every item of provisions and clothing, that Captain
Thompson had paid for, figured, and the sum total of which amounted to
seven hundred dollars, which Captain Sleeper must pay. Captain Sleeper
wrote a check, payable to the order of Captain Thompson, for one
thousand dollars--he wouldn’t pay a cent less. Captain Thompson took
the check, without a word, wrote across the back of it, “Pay to Hulda
Prime,” and handed it to the astonished woman.

“That’s the fee for your work. Now don’t let’s hear any more about a
settlement.”

The two captains shook hands; Becky hugged Aunt Hulda, and told her
they had served her just right. The spinster tried to speak, but
couldn’t, for her tears. The matter was satisfactorily settled forever,
and the hitherto penniless referee found herself no penniless bride,
when the new mill being in successful operation, Mark Small took her to
a home of her own, and the romantic episode in the life of an old maid
became one of the chronicles of Cleverly.

Teddy Sleeper, by mutual consent of the two captains, was regularly
apprenticed to the trade of ship carpentering--an occupation which soon
reduced his weight, enlarged his muscles, and increased his appetite.
Hard work dissipated his once sluggish disposition; a love for his
trade aroused ambition; and Captain Thompson had the satisfaction of
knowing his _protege_ would in time become a successful ship-builder.

Harry Thompson entered the office of Squire Alden, to study law, to
the delight of his father, and took to work so earnestly that the
scheming captain could not find it in his heart to risk another rupture
by opening his batteries for the purpose of defeating the alliance
which he had many reasons for believing was at some future time to be
completed between his son and Alice Parks.

Two years after the death of her mother found Becky Sleeper mistress of
her father’s home, with unlimited means at her command, yet careful and
prudent in its management, relying upon her tried friends--Aunt Hulda
and Mrs. Thompson--for advice; always cheerful, yet ever earnest, doing
her best for the comfort of all about her, moving easily in her exalted
sphere, with all the roughness of her tomboy days quite worn away, and
the graces of gentle, cultivated womanhood shining all about her.

Cleverly folks were prouder of the young housekeeper than they had
been of the brave girl. Captain Sleeper was a social man, and would
have a lively house, and many and brilliant were the gatherings over
which Becky presided. Yet she liked the neighborly company of Captain
Thompson, or Aunt Rebecca, or Harry best of all. The latter made
himself quite at home there, and of course Cleverly people talked about
it, and made a match at once.

Yet the young people spoken of hardly acted like lovers. They were
not in the habit of secreting themselves among the window curtains,
or wandering down the walks hand in hand, or conversing in that
mysterious language of the eyes so tender and significant. And so at
last the good people believed themselves mistaken, and the wife-seeking
young fellows of the neighborhood took courage, and laid siege to the
richly-endowered heart of Miss Becky Sleeper.

One of the number--Herbert Arnold, son of the pastor, a slim, delicate
young man--became a frequent visitor, and threw longing glances through
the glasses of his gold-rimmed spectacles, and paid much attention to
Aunt Hulda, whose pies were his exceeding delight, and listened to the
captain’s long yarns without a yawn, and went away firmly convinced he
was making an impression upon the heart of Becky. But the young lady
shut the door after him, with a smile, and turned away, to dream of
somebody else.

The last rays of an October sun were decking the broad piazza of the
house with a golden glow. It had been a busy day with Becky, and, a
little weary, she threw open the door, to breathe the air, after her
long season of labor. Sitting on the steps, tracing in the sand
before him with a cane, was Harry Thompson, evidently busy with some
problem. With a smile, she cautiously slipped behind him, and looked at
his work. No difficult problem tasked his cane; only a name written in
the sand--“Becky Sleeper.” She started back, and a flush deeper than
the sun could paint overspread her face.

[Illustration: HARRY WRITES IN THE SAND. Page 243.]

“Why, Harry! you here?”

The name quickly disappeared from the sands, and a flushed face turned
towards her.

“Yes--O, yes--how do you do? Nice evening--isn’t it?” answered Harry,
hurriedly.

“Why, what in the world are you doing there? Why don’t you come in?”

“Thank you; not just now. I’m very busy thinking.”

“Indeed! Then perhaps I’d better retire. I wouldn’t for the world
interrupt your _new_ occupation,” said Becky; and a merry laugh rippled
on her lips.

“That’s right; laugh, Becky. It’s an old occupation, that, very
becoming to you,” returned Harry. “It reminds me of the days when we
were both so young and innocent. Ah, those good old days! We were great
friends then, Becky.”

“I hope we are good friends now, Harry.”

“Of course we are. But now you are quite a woman, full of cares; yet a
brave, good, noble little woman, rich and courted.”

“Thanks to those who trained the vine once running to waste, flatterer.
What I am I owe to those who loved me; what I might have been without
their aid, not all the riches in the world could have prevented.”

“True, Becky. By the by, I have a letter from an old friend will
interest you. Oh such startling news?”

Becky colored, yet compressed her lips resolutely. Always that old
friend.

“From Alice Parks?” she said.

“Yes, from Alice Parks. You know what an interest I take in that young
lady’s welfare, and you shall share in my delight. Look at that.”

He handed her a letter; she took it with a pang of uneasiness;
mechanically unfolded it. There dropped from it two cards, fastened
with white ribbon. Harry picked up the cards and handed them to her.
She glanced at them.

“O, Harry! she’s married!”

“Certainly. Mr. George Woodfern and Miss Alice Parks, after a long and
patient courtship, have united their destinies. The _designing_ young
woman having _engraved_ herself upon the heart of the young engraver,
the new firm is ready for business.”

“O, Harry, I’m so sorry!” faltered Becky.

“Sorry? for what, pray? They’ll be very happy.”

“Sorry for you, Harry. They will be happy; but you--you--you loved her
so dearly--didn’t you?”

“Sorry for me? Well, I like that!” And Harry indorsed his liking with a
hearty laugh. “Loved her? Why, Becky, what put that into your head?”

Becky was confused. She thought of the uneasiness she had caused
Captain Thompson by her suspicions, to say nothing of the uneasiness
she had caused herself.

“Why, Harry, you wrote to her, and she wrote to you; and I told your
father that I thought you were engaged.”

“Indeed! that accounts for the old gentleman’s fidgets when I received
a letter. No, Becky, I admired, and do admire, that young lady; but
love her! make her my wife! I never had the least idea of it. My heart
is engaged elsewhere.”

“Indeed! I never heard of it.”

“That’s my misfortune, then. I have always loved a dear old playmate,
one whom I have watched grow into a strong and beautiful woman; whom I
would not wrong with the offer of my hand until I had fully proved my
power to win my way in the world. Do you know her, Becky?”

He still sat there, looking up into her face, with eyes so full of
strong and tender love, that Becky was almost sure she saw her own
image mirrored there; and her heart beat wildly.

“Becky, must I say more?”

He looked at her mischievously; then turned and traced upon the sands
the name again--“Becky Sleeper.”

“O, Harry, Harry! I’m so glad, so glad!”

She sank down by his side; his arm was about her, and her head was on
his breast. Very much like lovers, now. So thought Mrs. Thompson, as
she stepped inside the gate; so thought two old fellows, who just then
came from the barn towards them.

“Look there, Cyrus, old boy; there’s poaching on your ground.”

“All right, Paul--if my dove must go. It will be tenderly nurtured
there.”

And so, in due time, the “Tomboy” became a lovely bride; and the name
Harry Thompson had shaped upon the sand, was written in the old family
Bible; and another generation of Thompsons sported in the orchard, and
plucked fruit from the old tree where Becky Sleeper had long ago been
found Running to Waste.

       *       *       *       *       *

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       *       *       *       *       *

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       *       *       *       *       *

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       *       *       *       *       *

TROPHIES OF TRAVEL.

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× 9-1/2 inches. With cover in gold and colors, designed by the author.
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THE BEAR WORSHIPPERS OF YEZO AND THE ISLAND OF KARAFUTO; being the
further Adventures of the Jewett Family and their Friend Oto Nambo. 180
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HARRY W. FRENCH’S BOOKS.

OUR BOYS IN INDIA. The wanderings of two young Americans in Hindustan,
with their exciting adventures on the sacred rivers and wild mountains.
With 145 illustrations. Royal 8vo, 7 × 9-1/2 inches. Bound in
emblematic covers of Oriental design, $1.75. Cloth, black and gold,
$2.50.

  While it has all the exciting interest of a romance, it is remarkably
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  Hindu. The illustrations are many and excellent.

OUR BOYS IN CHINA. The adventures of two young Americans, wrecked in
the China Sea on their return from India, with their strange wanderings
through the Chinese Empire. 188 illustrations. Boards, ornamental
covers in colors and gold. $1.75. Cloth, $2.50.

  This gives the further adventures of “Our Boys” of India fame in the
  land of Teas and Queues.

_Sold by all booksellers, and sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price._

LEE & SHEPARD, Publishers, Boston.

       *       *       *       *       *

Young Folks’ Heroes of the Rebellion.

BY REV. P. C. HEADLEY.

SIX VOLUMES. ILLUSTRATED. PER VOL. $1.25.

FIGHT IT OUT ON THIS LINE. The Life and Deeds of General U. S. Grant.

  A life of the great Union General from his boyhood, written for boys.
  Full of anecdotes and illustrations, and including his famous trip
  around the world.

FACING THE ENEMY. The Life and Military Career of General William
Tecumseh Sherman.

  The Glorious March to the Sea by the brave Sherman and his boys
  will never be forgotten. This is a graphic story of his career from
  boyhood.

FIGHTING PHIL. The Life and Military Career of Lieut-Gen. Philip Henry
Sheridan.

  The story of the dashing Cavalry General of the army of the United
  States.--A fighting Irishman.--Full of pluck and patriotism for his
  adopted country. The book is full of adventure.

OLD SALAMANDER. The Life and Naval Career of Admiral David Glascoe
Farragut.

  The Naval History of the great civil war is exceedingly interesting,
  and the life of Admiral Farragut is rich in brave deeds and heroic
  example.

THE MINER BOY AND HIS MONITOR. The Career and Achievements of John
Ericsson, Engineer.

  One of the most thrilling incidents of the war was the sudden
  appearance of the Little Monitor in Hampton Roads to beat back the
  Merrimac. The life of the inventor is crowded with his wonderful
  inventions, and the story of his boyhood in the coal mines of Sweden
  is particularly interesting.

OLD STARS. The Life and Military Career of Major-Gen. Ormsby McKnight
Mitchel.

  “Old Stars” was the pet name given the brave general by his soldiers,
  who remembered his career as an astronomer before he became a
  soldier. His story is full of stirring events and heroic deeds.

☞ Sold by all booksellers, or sent by mail, postpaid, on receipt of
price.

LEE AND SHEPARD, Publishers, Boston.

       *       *       *       *       *

YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD.

BY OLIVER OPTIC.

A Library of Travel and Adventure in Foreign Lands. First and Second
Series; six volumes in each Series. 16mo. Illustrated.

_First Series._

    I. _OUTWARD BOUND_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA AFLOAT.

   II. _SHAMROCK AND THISTLE_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN IRELAND AND
       SCOTLAND.

  III. _RED CROSS_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN ENGLAND AND WALES.

   IV. _DIKES AND DITCHES_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN HOLLAND AND BELGIUM.

    V. _PALACE AND COTTAGE_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN FRANCE AND
       SWITZERLAND.

   VI. _DOWN THE RHINE_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN GERMANY.

_Second Series._

    I. _UP THE BALTIC_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN NORWAY, SWEDEN, AND
       DENMARK.

   II. _NORTHERN LANDS_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN RUSSIA AND PRUSSIA.

  III. _CROSS AND CRESCENT_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN TURKEY AND GREECE.

   IV. _SUNNY SHORES_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN ITALY AND AUSTRIA.

    V. _VINE AND OLIVE_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL. In
       preparation.

   VI. _ISLES OF THE SEA_; OR, YOUNG AMERICA HOMEWARD BOUND. In
       preparation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Notes:

Illustrations have been moved to paragraph breaks near where they are
mentioned.

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except that obvious typos have been corrected.





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