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Title: Paul Prescott's Charge
Author: Alger, Horatio
Language: English
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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 "Paul Prescott's Charge" ***

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PAUL PRESCOTT’S CHARGE.

By Horatio Alger, Jr.



Alger Series For Boys. {About 50 Titles} Uniform With This Volume.


     TO
     The Boys
     Whose Memory Goes Back With Me
     To The Boarding School
     At Potowome
     This Volume Is Affectionately Dedicated
     By
     The Author.



PREFACE

“PAUL PRESCOTT’S CHARGE” is presented to the public as the second volume
of the Campaign Series. Though wholly unlike the first volume, it is
written in furtherance of the same main idea, that every boy’s life is
a campaign, more or less difficult, in which success depends upon
integrity and a steadfast adherence to duty.

How Paul Prescott gained strength by battling with adverse
circumstances, and, under all discouragements, kept steadily before him
the charge which he received from his dying father, is fully told; and
the author will be glad if the record shall prove an incentive and an
encouragement to those boys who may have a similar campaign before them.



PAUL PRESCOTT’S CHARGE.



I.

SQUIRE NEWCOME.


“HANNAH!”

The speaker was a tall, pompous-looking man, whose age appeared to verge
close upon fifty. He was sitting bolt upright in a high-backed chair,
and looked as if it would be quite impossible to deviate from his
position of unbending rigidity.

Squire Benjamin Newcome, as he was called, in the right of his position
as Justice of the Peace, Chairman of the Selectmen, and wealthiest
resident of Wrenville, was a man of rule and measure. He was measured
in his walk, measured in his utterance, and measured in all his
transactions. He might be called a dignified machine. He had a very
exalted conception of his own position, and the respect which he felt to
be his due, not only from his own household, but from all who approached
him. If the President of the United States had called upon him, Squire
Newcome would very probably have felt that he himself was the party who
conferred distinction, and not received it.

Squire Newcome was a widower. His wife, who was as different from
himself as could well be conceived, did not live long after marriage.
She was chilled to death, as it was thought, by the dignified iceberg
of whose establishment she had become a part. She had left, however, a
child, who had now grown to be a boy of twelve. This boy was a thorn
in the side of his father, who had endeavored in vain to mould him
according to his idea of propriety. But Ben was gifted with a spirit of
fun, sometimes running into mischief, which was constantly bursting out
in new directions, in spite of his father’s numerous and rather prosy
lectures.

“Han-nah!” again called Squire Newcome, separating the two syllables by
a pause of deliberation, and strongly accenting the last syllable,--a
habit of his with all proper names.

Hannah was the Irish servant of all work, who was just then engaged in
mixing up bread in the room adjoining, which was the kitchen.

Feeling a natural reluctance to appear before her employer with her
hands covered with dough, she hastily washed them. All this, however,
took time, and before she responded to the first summons, the second
“Han-nah!” delivered with a little sharp emphasis, had been uttered.

At length she appeared at the door of the sitting-room.

“Han-nah!” said Squire Newcome, fixing his cold gray eye upon her, “when
you hear my voice a calling you, it is your duty to answer the summons
IMMEJIATELY.”

I have endeavored to represent the Squire’s pronunciation of the last
word.

“So I would have come IMMEJOUSLY,” said Hannah, displaying a most
reprehensible ignorance, “but me hands were all covered with flour.”

“That makes no difference,” interrupted the Squire. “Flour is an
accidental circumstance.”

“What’s that?” thought Hannah, opening her eyes in amazement.

“And should not be allowed to interpose an obstacle to an IMMEJIATE
answer to my summons.”

“Sir,” said Hannah, who guessed at the meaning though she did not
understand the words, “you wouldn’t have me dirty the door-handle with
me doughy hands?”

“That could easily be remedied by ablution.”

“There ain’t any ablution in the house,” said the mystified Hannah.

“I mean,” Squire Newcome condescended to explain, “the application of
water--in short, washing.”

“Shure,” said Hannah, as light broke in upon her mind, “I never knew
that was what they called it before.”

“Is Ben-ja-min at home?”

“Yes, sir. He was out playin’ in the yard a minute ago. I guess you can
see him from the winder.”

So saying she stepped forward, and looking out, all at once gave a
shrill scream, and rushed from the room, leaving her employer in his
bolt-upright attitude gazing after her with as much astonishment as he
was capable of.

The cause of her sudden exit was revealed on looking out of the window.

Master Benjamin, or Ben, as he was called everywhere except in his
own family, had got possession of the black kitten, and appeared to be
submerging her in the hogshead of rainwater.

“O, you wicked, cruel boy, to drown poor Kitty!” exclaimed the indignant
Hannah, rushing into the yard and endeavoring to snatch her feline
favorite--an attempt which Ben stoutly resisted.

Doubtless the poor kitten would have fared badly between the two, had
not the window opened, and the deliberate voice of his father, called
out in tones which Ben saw fit to heed.

“What?”

“Come into my presence immejiately, and learn to answer me with more
respect.”

Ben came in looking half defiant.

His father, whose perpendicularity made him look like a sitting
grenadier, commenced the examination thus:--

“I wish you to inform me what you was a doing of when I spoke to you.”

It will be observed that the Squire’s dignified utterances were
sometimes a little at variance with the rule of the best modern
grammarians.

“I was trying to prevent Hannah from taking the kitten,” said Ben.

“What was you a doing of before Hannah went out?”

“Playing with Kitty.”

“Why were you standing near the hogshead, Benjamin?”

“Why,” said Ben, ingenuously, “the hogshead happened to be near me--that
was all.”

“Were you not trying to drown the kitten?”

“O, I wouldn’t drown her for anything,” said Ben with an injured
expression, mentally adding, “short of a three-cent piece.”

“Then, to repeat my interrogatory, what was you a doing of with the
kitten in the hogshead?”

“I was teaching her to swim,” said Ben, looking out of the corner of
his eye at his father, to see what impression this explanation made upon
him.

“And what advantageous result do you think would be brought about by
teaching of the kitten to swim, Benjamin?” persisted his father.

“Advantageous result!” repeated Ben, demurely, pretending not to
understand.

“Certingly.”

“What does that mean?”

“Do you not study your dictionary at school, Benjamin?”

“Yes, but I don’t like it much.”

“You are very much in error. You will never learn to employ your tongue
with elegance and precision, unless you engage in this beneficial
study.”

“I can use my tongue well enough, without studying grammar,” said Ben.
He proceeded to illustrate the truth of this assertion by twisting his
tongue about in a comical manner.

“Tongue,” exclaimed his father, “is but another name for language I mean
your native language.”

“Oh!”

Ben was about to leave the room to avoid further questions of an
embarrassing nature, when his father interrupted his exit by saying--

“Stay, Benjamin, do not withdraw till I have made all the inquiries
which I intend.”

The boy unwillingly returned.

“You have not answered my question.”

“I’ve forgotten what it was.”

“What good would it do?” asked the Squire, simplifying his speech to
reach Ben’s comprehension, “what good would it do to teach the kitten to
swim?”

“O, I thought,” said Ben, hesitating, “that some time or other she might
happen to fall into the water, and might not be able to get out unless
she knew how.”

“I think,” said his father with an unusual display of sagacity, “that
she will be in much greater hazard of drowning while learning to swim
under your direction than by any other chance likely to befall her.”

“Shouldn’t wonder,” was Ben’s mental comment, “Pretty cute for you,
dad.”

Fortunately, Ben did not express his thoughts aloud. They would have
implied such an utter lack of respect that the Squire would have been
quite overwhelmed by the reflection that his impressive manners had
produced no greater effect on one who had so excellent a chance of being
impressed by them.

“Benjamin,” concluded his father, “I have an errand for you to execute.
You may go to Mr. Prescott’s and see if he is yet living. I hear that he
is a lying on the brink of the grave.”

An expression of sadness stole over the usually merry face of Ben, as he
started on his errand.

“Poor Paul!” he thought, “what will he do when his father dies? He’s
such a capital fellow, too. I just wish I had a wagon load of money, I
do, and I’d give him half. That’s so!”



II.

PAUL PRESCOTT’S HOME.


We will precede Ben on his visit to the house of Mr. Prescott.

It was an old weather-beaten house, of one story, about half a mile
distant from ‘Squire Newcome’s residence. The Prescott family had lived
here for five years, or ever since they had removed to Wrenville. Until
within a year they had lived comfortably, when two blows came in quick
succession. The first was the death of Mrs. Prescott, an excellent
woman, whose loss was deeply felt by her husband and son. Soon
afterwards Mr. Prescott, a carpenter by trade, while at work upon the
roof of a high building, fell off, and not only broke his leg badly, but
suffered some internal injury of a still more serious nature. He had
not been able to do a stroke of work since. After some months it became
evident that he would never recover. A year had now passed. During
this time his expenses had swallowed up the small amount which he had
succeeded in laying up previous to his sickness. It was clear that at
his death there would be nothing left. At thirteen years of age Paul
would have to begin the world without a penny.

Mr. Prescott lay upon a bed in a small bedroom adjoining the kitchen.
Paul, a thoughtful-looking boy sat beside it, ready to answer his call.

There had been silence for some time, when Mr. Prescott called feebly--

“Paul!”

“I am here, father,” said Paul.

“I am almost gone, Paul, I don’t think I shall last through the day.”

“O, father,” said Paul, sorrowfully, “Don’t leave me.”

“That is the only grief I have in dying--I must leave you to struggle
for yourself, Paul. I shall be able to leave you absolutely nothing.”

“Don’t think of that, father. I am young and strong--I can earn my
living in some way.”

“I hoped to live long enough to give you an education. I wanted you to
have a fairer start in the world than I had.”

“Never mind, father,” said Paul, soothingly, “Don’t be uneasy about me.
God will provide for me.”

Again there was a silence, broken only by the difficult breathing of the
sick man.

He spoke again.

“There is one thing, Paul, that I want to tell you before I die.”

Paul drew closer to the bedside.

“It is something which has troubled me as I lay here. I shall feel
easier for speaking of it. You remember that we lived at Cedarville
before we came here.”

“Yes, father.”

“About two years before we left there, a promising speculation was
brought to my notice. An agent of a Lake Superior mine visited our
village and represented the mine in so favorable a light that many of
my neighbors bought shares, fully expecting to double their money in a
year. Among the rest I was attacked with the fever of speculation. I had
always been obliged to work hard for a moderate compensation, and had
not been able to do much more than support my family. This it seemed to
me, afforded an excellent opportunity of laying up a little something
which might render me secure in the event of a sudden attack of
sickness. I had but about two hundred dollars, however, and from so
scanty an investment I could not, of course, expect a large return;
accordingly I went to Squire Conant; you remember him, Paul?”

“Yes, father.”

‘I went to him and asked a loan of five hundred dollars. After some
hesitation he agreed to lend it to me. He was fond of his money and not
much given to lending, but it so happened that he had invested in the
same speculation, and had a high opinion of it, so he felt pretty
safe in advancing me the money. Well, this loan gave me seven hundred
dollars, with which I purchased seven shares in the Lake Superior Grand
Combination Mining Company. For some months afterwards, I felt like a
rich man. I carefully put away my certificate of stock, looking upon
it as the beginning of a competence. But at the end of six months the
bubble burst--the stock proved to be utterly worthless,--Squire Conant
lost five thousand dollars. I lost seven hundred, five hundred being
borrowed money. The Squire’s loss was much larger, but mine was the more
serious, since I lost everything and was plunged into debt, while he had
at least forty thousand dollars left.

“Two days after the explosion, Squire Conant came into my shop and asked
abruptly when I could pay him the amount I had borrowed. I told him that
I could not fix a time. I said that I had been overwhelmed by a result
so contrary to my anticipations, but I told him I would not rest till I
had done something to satisfy his claim. He was always an unreasonable
man, and reproached me bitterly for sinking his money in a useless
speculation, as if I could foresee how it would end any better than he.”

“Have you ever been able to pay back any part of the five hundred
dollars, father?”

“I have paid the interest regularly, and a year ago, just before I met
with my accident, I had laid up a hundred and fifty dollars which I had
intended to pay the Squire, but when my sickness came I felt obliged to
retain it to defray our expenses, being cut off from earning anything.”

“Then I suppose you have not been able to pay interest for the last
year.”

“No.”

“Have you heard from the Squire lately?”

“Yes, I had a letter only last week. You remember bringing me one
postmarked Cedarville?”

“Yes, I wondered at the time who it could be from.”

“You will find it on the mantelpiece. I should like to have you get it
and read it.”

Paul readily found the letter. It was enclosed in a brown envelope,
directed in a bold hand to “Mr. John Prescott, Wrenville.”

The letter was as follows:--


CEDARVILLE, APRIL 15, 18--,

MR. JOHN PRESCOTT:--

SIR: I have been waiting impatiently to hear something about the five
hundred dollars in which sum you are indebted to me, on account of a
loan which I was fool enough to make you seven years since. I thought
you an honest man, but I have found, to my cost, that I was mistaken.
For the last year you have even failed to pay interest as stipulated
between us. Your intention is evident. I quite understand that you have
made up your mind to defraud me of what is rightfully mine. I don’t know
how you may regard this, but I consider it as bad as highway robbery. I
do not hesitate to say that if you had your deserts you would be in the
Penitentiary. Let me advise you, if you wish to avoid further trouble,
to make no delay in paying a portion of this debt. Yours, etc. EZEKIEL
CONANT.


Paul’s face flushed with indignation as he read this bitter and cruel
letter.

“Does Squire Conant know that you are sick, father?” he inquired.

“Yes, I wrote him about my accident, telling him at the same time that
I regretted it in part on account of the interruption which it must
occasion in my payments.”

“And knowing this, he wrote such a letter as that,” said Paul,
indignantly, “what a hard, unfeeling wretch he must be!”

“I suppose it is vexatious to him to be kept out of his money.”

“But he has plenty more. He would never miss it if he had given it to
you outright.”

“That is not the way to look at it, Paul. The money is justly his, and
it is a great sorrow to me that I must die without paying it.”

“Father,” said Paul, after a pause, “will it be any relief to you, if I
promise to pay it,--that is, if I am ever able?”

Mr. Prescott’s face brightened.

“That was what I wanted to ask you, Paul. It will be a comfort to me to
feel that there is some hope of the debt being paid at some future day.”

“Then don’t let it trouble you any longer, father. The debt shall be
mine, and I will pay it.”

Again a shadow passed over the sick man’s face, “Poor boy,” he said,
“why should I burden your young life with such a load? You will have to
struggle hard enough as it is. No, Paul, recall your promise. I don’t
want to purchase comfort at such a price.”

“No, father,” said Paul sturdily, “it is too late now. I have made the
promise and I mean to stick to it. Besides, it will give me something
to live for. I am young--I may have a great many years before me. For
thirteen years you have supported me. It is only right that I should
make what return I can. I’ll keep my promise, father.”

“May God help and prosper you, my boy,” said Mr. Prescott, solemnly.
“You’ve been a good son; I pray that you may grow up to be a good man.
But, my dear, I feel tired. I think I will try to go to sleep.”

Paul smoothed the comforter, adjusting it carefully about his father’s
neck, and going to the door went out in search of some wood to place
upon the fire. Their scanty stock of firewood was exhausted, and Paul
was obliged to go into the woods near by, to obtain such loose fagots as
he might find upon the ground.

He was coming back with his load when his attention was drawn by a
whistle. Looking up he discovered Ben Newcome approaching him.

“How are you, Paul?”

“Pretty well, Ben.”

“How precious lonesome you must be, mewed up in the house all the time.”

“Yes, it is lonesome, but I wouldn’t mind that if I thought father would
ever get any better.”

“How is he this morning?”

“Pretty low; I expect he is asleep. He said he was tired just before I
went out.”

“I brought over something for you,” said Ben, tugging away at his
pocket.

Opening a paper he displayed a couple of apple turnovers fried brown.

“I found ‘em in the closet,” he said.

“Won’t Hannah make a precious row when she finds ‘em gone?”

“Then I don’t know as I ought to take them,” said Paul, though, to tell
the truth, they looked tempting to him.

“O, nonsense,” said Ben; “they don’t belong to Hannah. She only likes to
scold a little; it does her good.”

The two boys sat on the doorstep and talked while Paul ate the
turnovers. Ben watched the process with much satisfaction.

“Ain’t they prime?” he said.

“First rate,” said Paul; “won’t you have one?”

“No,” said Ben; “you see I thought while I was about it I might as well
take four, so I ate two coming along.”

In about fifteen minutes Paul went into the house to look at his father.
He was lying very quietly upon the bed. Paul drew near and looked at him
more closely. There was something in the expression of his father’s face
which terrified him.

Ben heard his sudden cry of dismay, and hurriedly entered.

Paul pointed to the bed, and said briefly, “Father’s dead!”

Ben, who in spite of his mischievous propensities was gifted with a warm
heart, sat down beside Paul, and passing his arm round his neck,
gave him that silent sympathy which is always so grateful to the
grief-stricken heart.



III.

PAUL’S BRILLIANT PROSPECTS.


Two days later, the funeral of Mr. Prescott took place.

Poor Paul! It seemed to him a dream of inexpressible sorrow. His father
and mother both gone, he felt that he was indeed left alone in the
world. No thought of the future had yet entered his mind. He was wholly
occupied with his present sorrow. Desolate at heart he slipped away from
the graveyard after the funeral ceremony was over, and took his way back
again to the lonely dwelling which he had called home.

As he was sitting in the corner, plunged in sorrowful thought, there was
a scraping heard at the door, and a loud hem!

Looking up, Paul saw entering the cottage the stiff form of Squire
Benjamin Newcome, who, as has already been stated, was the owner.

“Paul,” said the Squire, with measured deliberation.

“Do you mean me, sir?” asked Paul, vaguely conscious that his name had
been called.

“Did I not address you by your baptismal appellation?” demanded the
Squire, who thought the boy’s question superfluous.

“Paul,” pursued Squire Newcome, “have you thought of your future
destination?”

“No, sir,” said Paul, “I suppose I shall live here.”

“That arrangement would not be consistent with propriety. I suppose you
are aware that your deceased parent left little or no worldly goods.”

“I know he was poor.”

“Therefore it has been thought best that you should be placed in charge
of a worthy man, who I see is now approaching the house. You will
therefore accompany him without resistance. If you obey him and read the
Bible regularly, you will--ahem!--you will some time or other see the
advantage of it.”

With this consolatory remark Squire Newcome wheeled about and strode out
of the house.

Immediately afterwards there entered a rough-looking man arrayed in a
farmer’s blue frock.

“You’re to come with me, youngster,” said Mr. Nicholas Mudge, for that
was his name.

“With you?” said Paul, recoiling instinctively.

In fact there was nothing attractive in the appearance or manners of
Mr. Mudge. He had a coarse hard face, while his head was surmounted by
a shock of red hair, which to all appearance had suffered little
interference from the comb for a time which the observer would scarcely
venture to compute. There was such an utter absence of refinement about
the man, that Paul, who had been accustomed to the gentle manners of his
father, was repelled by the contrast which this man exhibited.

“To be sure you’re to go with me,” said Mr. Mudge. “You did not
calc’late you was a goin’ to stay here by yourself, did you? We’ve got a
better place for you than that. But the wagon’s waitin’ outside, so just
be lively and bundle in, and I’ll carry you to where you’re a goin’ to
live.”

“Where’s that?”

“Wal, some folks call it the Poor House, but it ain’t any the worse for
that, I expect. Anyhow, them as has no money may feel themselves lucky
to get so good a home. So jest be a movin’, for I can’t be a waitin’
here all day.”

Paul quietly submitted himself to the guidance of Mr. Mudge. He was so
occupied with the thought of his sad loss that he did not realize the
change that was about to take place in his circumstances.

About half a mile from the village in the bleakest and most desolate
part of the town, stood the Poor House. It was a crazy old building of
extreme antiquity, which, being no longer considered fit for an ordinary
dwelling-house, had been selected as a suitable residence for the town’s
poor. It was bleak and comfortless to be sure, but on that very account
had been purchased at a trifling expense, and that was, of course, a
primary consideration. Connected with the house were some dozen acres of
rough-looking land, plentifully overspread with stones, which might have
filled with despair the most enterprising agriculturist. However, it had
this recommendation at least, that it was quite in character with the
buildings upon it, which in addition to the house already described,
consisted of a barn of equal antiquity and a pig pen.

This magnificent domain was under the superintendence of Mr. Nicholas
Mudge, who in consideration of taking charge of the town paupers had
the use of the farm and buildings, rent free, together with a stipulated
weekly sum for each of the inmates.

“Well, Paul,” said Mr. Mudge, as they approached the house, in a tone
which was meant to be encouraging, “this is goin’ to be your home. How
do you like it?”

Thus addressed, Paul ventured a glance around him.

“I don’t know,” said he, doubtfully; “it don’t look very pleasant.”

“Don’t look very pleasant!” repeated Mr. Mudge in a tone of mingled
amazement and indignation. “Well, there’s gratitude for you. After the
town has been at the expense of providin’ a nice, comfortable home for
you, because you haven’t got any of your own, you must turn up your nose
at it.”

“I didn’t mean to complain,” said Paul, feeling very little interest in
the matter.

“Perhaps you expected to live in a marble palace,” pursued Mr. Mudge, in
an injured tone. “We don’t have any marble palaces in this neighborhood,
we don’t.”

Paul disclaimed any such anticipation.

Mr. Mudge deigned to accept Paul’s apology, and as they had now reached
the door, unceremoniously threw it open, and led the way into a room
with floor unpainted, which, to judge from its appearance, was used as a
kitchen.



IV.

LIFE IN A NEW PHASE.


Everything was “at sixes and sevens,” as the saying is, in the room Mr.
Mudge and Paul had just entered. In the midst of the scene was a large
stout woman, in a faded calico dress, and sleeves rolled up, working as
if her life or the world’s destiny depended upon it.

It was evident from the first words of Mr. Mudge that this lady was his
helpmeet.

“Well, wife,” he said, “I’ve brought you another boarder. You must try
to make him as happy and contented as the rest of ‘em are.”

From the tone of the speaker, the last words might be understood to be
jocular.

Mrs. Mudge, whose style of beauty was not improved by a decided squint,
fixed a scrutinizing gaze upon Paul, and he quite naturally returned it.

“Haven’t you ever seen anybody before, boy? I guess you’ll know me next
time.”

“Shouldn’t wonder if he did,” chuckled Mr. Mudge.

“I don’t know where on earth we shall put him,” remarked the lady.
“We’re full now.”

“Oh, put him anywhere. I suppose you won’t be very particular about your
accommodations?” said Mr. Mudge turning to Paul.

Paul very innocently answered in the negative, thereby affording Mr.
Mudge not a little amusement.

“Well, that’s lucky,” he said, “because our best front chamber’s
occupied just now. We’d have got it ready for you if you’d only wrote a
week ago to tell us you were coming. You can just stay round here,” he
said in a different tone as he was about leaving the room, “Mrs. Mudge
will maybe want you to do something for her. You can sit down till she
calls on you.”

It was washing day with Mrs. Mudge, and of course she was extremely
busy. The water was to be brought from a well in the yard, and to this
office Paul was at once delegated. It was no easy task, the full pails
tugging most unmercifully at his arms. However, this was soon over, and
Mrs. Mudge graciously gave him permission to go into the adjoining room,
and make acquaintance with his fellow-boarders.

There were nine of them in all, Paul, the newcomer making the tenth.
They were all advanced in years, except one young woman, who was
prevented by mental aberration from supporting herself outside the walls
of the Institution.

Of all present, Paul’s attention was most strongly attracted towards one
who appeared more neatly and scrupulously attired than any of the rest.

Aunt Lucy Lee, or plain Aunt Lucy, for in her present abode she had
small use for her last name, was a benevolent-looking old lady, who both
in dress and manners was distinguished from her companions. She rose
from her knitting, and kindly took Paul by the hand. Children are
instinctive readers of character, and Paul, after one glance at her
benevolent face, seated himself contentedly beside her.

“I suppose,” said the old lady, socially, “you’ve come to live with
us. We must do all we can to make you comfortable. Your name is Paul
Prescott, I think Mrs. Mudge said.”

“Yes, ma’am,” answered Paul, watching the rapid movement of the old
lady’s fingers.

“Mine is Aunt Lucy,” she continued, “that is what everybody calls me.
So now we know each other, and shall soon be good friends, I hope. I
suppose you have hardly been here long enough to tell how you shall like
it.”

Paul confessed that thus far he did not find it very pleasant.

“No, I dare say not,” said Aunt Lucy, “I can’t say I think it looks very
attractive myself. However, it isn’t wholly the fault of Mr. and Mrs.
Mudge. They can’t afford to do much better, for the town allows them
very little.”

Aunt Lucy’s remarks were here interrupted by the apparition of the
worthy landlady at the door.

“Dinner’s ready, folks,” said that lady, with little ceremony, “and you
must come out quick if you want any, for I’m drove with work, and can’t
be hindered long.”

The summons was obeyed with alacrity, and the company made all haste to
the dining-room, or rather the kitchen, for it was here that the meals
were eaten.

In the center of the room was set a table without a cloth, a table-cloth
being considered a luxury quite superfluous. Upon this were placed
several bowls of thin, watery liquid, intended for soup, but which, like
city milk, was diluted so as hardly to be distinguishable. Beside each
bowl was a slice of bread.

Such was the bill of fare.

“Now, folks, the sooner you fall to the better,” exclaimed the energetic
Mrs. Mudge, who was one of those driving characters, who consider any
time spent at the table beyond ten minutes as so much time wasted.

The present company appeared to need no second invitation. Their
scanty diet had the positive advantage of giving them a good appetite;
otherwise the quality of their food might have daunted them.

Paul took his place beside Aunt Lucy. Mechanically he did as the rest,
carrying to his mouth a spoonful of the liquid. But his appetite was not
sufficiently accustomed to Poor House regime to enable him to relish its
standing dish, and he laid down his spoon with a disappointed look.

He next attacked the crust of bread, but found it too dry to be
palatable.

“Please, ma’am,” said he to Mrs. Mudge, “I should like some butter.”

Paul’s companions dropped their spoons in astonishment at his daring,
and Mrs. Mudge let fall a kettle she was removing from the fire, in
sheer amazement.

“What did you ask for?” she inquired, as if to make sure that her ears
did not deceive her.

“A little butter,” repeated Paul, unconscious of the great presumption
of which he had been guilty.

“You want butter, do you?” repeated Mr. Mudge. “Perhaps you’d like a
slice of beefsteak and a piece of plum-pudding too, wouldn’t you?”

“I should very much,” said Paul, resolved to tell the truth, although he
now began to perceive the sarcasm in his landlady’s tone.

“There isn’t anything more you would like, is there?” inquired the lady,
with mock politeness.

“No, ma’am,” returned Paul after a pause, “I believe not, to-day.”

“Very moderate, upon my word,” exclaimed Mrs. Mudge, giving vent at
length to her pentup indignation. “You’ll be contented with butter and
roast beef and plum-pudding! A mighty fine gentleman, to be sure. But
you won’t get them here, I’ll be bound.”

“So will I,” thought Aunt Lucy.

“If you ain’t satisfied with what I give you,” pursued Mrs. Mudge,
“you’d better go somewhere else. You can put up at some of the great
hotels. Butter, forsooth!”

Having thus given expression to her feelings, she left the room, and
Paul was left to finish his dinner with the best appetite he could
command. He was conscious that he had offended Mrs. Mudge, but the
thoughts of his recent great sorrow swallowed up all minor annoyances,
so that the words of his estimable landlady were forgotten almost as
soon as they were uttered. He felt that he must henceforth look for far
different treatment from that to which he had been accustomed during his
father’s lifetime.

His thoughts were interrupted in a manner somewhat ludicrous, by the
crazy girl who sat next to him coolly appropriating to herself his bowl
of soup, having already disposed of her own.

“Look,” said Aunt Lucy, quickly, calling Paul’s attention, “you are
losing your dinner.”

“Never mind,” said Paul, amused in spite of his sadness, “she is quite
welcome to it if she likes it; I can’t eat it.”

So the dinner began and ended. It was very brief and simple, occupying
less than ten minutes, and comprising only one course--unless the soup
was considered the first course, and the bread the second. Paul left
the table as hungry as he came to it. Aunt Lucy’s appetite had become
accustomed to the Mudge diet, and she wisely ate what was set before
her, knowing that there was no hope of anything better.

About an hour after dinner Ben Newcome came to the door of the Poor
House and inquired for Paul.

Mrs. Mudge was in one of her crusty moods.

“You can’t see him,” said she.

“And why not?” said Ben, resolutely.

“Because he’s busy.”

“You’d better let me see him,” said Ben, sturdily.

“I should like to know what’s going to happen if I don’t,” said Mrs.
Mudge, with wrathful eyes, and arms akimbo.

“I shall go home and report to my father,” said Ben, coolly.

“Who is your father?” asked Mrs. Mudge, for she did not recognize her
visitor.

“My father’s name is Newcome--Squire Newcome, some call him.”

Now it so happened that Squire Newcome was Chairman of the Overseers of
the Poor, and in that capacity might remove Mr. Mudge from office if he
pleased. Accordingly Mrs. Mudge softened down at once, on learning that
Ben was his son.

“Oh,” said she, “I didn’t know who it was. I thought it might be some
idle boy from the village who would only take Paul from his work, but if
you have a message from your father----”

This she said to ascertain whether he really had any message or not, but
Ben, who had in fact come without his father’s knowledge, only bowed,
and said, in a patronizing manner, “I accept your apology, Mrs. Mudge.
Will you have the goodness to send Paul out?”

“Won’t you step in?” asked Mrs. Mudge with unusual politeness.

“No, I believe not.”

Paul was accordingly sent out.

He was very glad to meet his schoolmate and playfellow, Ben, who by his
gayety, spiced though it was with roguery, had made himself a general
favorite in school.

“I say, Paul,” said Ben, “I’m sorry to find you in such a place.”

“It isn’t very pleasant,” said Paul, rather soberly.

“And that woman--Mrs. Mudge--she looks as if she might be a regular
spitfire, isn’t she?”

“Rather so.”

“I only wish the old gentleman--meaning of course, the Squire--would
take you to live with me. I want a fellow to play with. But I say, Paul,
go and get your hat, and we’ll go out for a walk.”

“I don’t know what Mrs. Mudge will say,” said Paul, who had just come
from turning the handle of a churn.

“Just call Mrs. Mudge, and I’ll manage it.”

Mrs. Mudge being summoned, made her appearance at the door.

“I presume, ma’am,” said Ben, confidently, “you will have no objection
to Paul’s taking a walk with me while I deliver the message I am
entrusted with.”

“Certainly,” said Mrs. Mudge, rather unwillingly, but not venturing to
refuse.

“It takes me to come it over the old lady,” said Ben, when they were out
of hearing.

“Now, we’ll go a fishing.”



V.

A CRISIS.


Before sunrise the next morning Paul was awakened by a rude shake from
Mr. Mudge, with an intimation that he had better get up, as there was
plenty of work before him.

By the light of the lantern, for as yet it was too dark to dispense with
it, Paul dressed himself. Awakened from a sound sleep, he hardly had
time to collect his thoughts, and it was with a look of bewilderment
that he surveyed the scene about him. As Mrs. Mudge had said, they were
pretty full already, and accordingly a rude pallet had been spread for
him in the attic, of which, with the exception of nocturnal marauders,
he was the only occupant. Paul had not, to be sure, been used to very
superior accommodations, and if the bed had not been quite so hard, he
would have got along very well. As it was he was separated from slats
only by a thin straw bed which did not improve matters much. It was
therefore with a sense of weariness which slumber had not dissipated,
that Paul arose at the summons of Mr. Mudge.

When he reached the kitchen, he found that gentleman waiting for him.

“Do you know how to milk?” was his first salutation.

“I never learned,” said Paul.

“Then you’ll have to, in double-quick time,” was the reply, “for I don’t
relish getting up so early, and you can take it off my hands.”

The two proceeded to the barn, where Paul received his first lesson in
this important branch of education.

Mr. Mudge kept five cows. One might have thought he could have afforded
a moderate supply of milk to his boarders, but all, with the exception
of a single quart, was sold to the milkman who passed the door every
morning.

After breakfast, which was on the same economical plan with the dinner
of the day previous, Paul was set to work planting potatoes, at which he
was kept steadily employed till the dinner-hour.

Poor Paul! his back ached dreadfully, for he had never before done any
harder work than trifling services for his father. But the inexorable
Mr. Mudge was in sight, and however much he wished, he did not dare to
lay aside his hoe even for a moment.

Twelve o’clock found him standing beside the dinner-table. He ate more
heartily than before, for his forenoon’s labor made even poorhouse fare
palatable.

Mrs. Mudge observed the change, and remarked in a satisfied tone. “Well,
my fine gentleman, I see you are coming to your appetite. I thought you
wouldn’t hold out long.”

Paul, who had worn off something of his diffidence, could not help
feeling indignant at this speech; unaccustomed to be addressed in this
way, the taunt jarred upon his feelings, but he only bit his lip and
preserved silence.

Aunt Lucy, too, who had come to feel a strong interest in Paul, despite
her natural mildness, could not resist the temptation of saying with
some warmth, “what’s the use of persecuting the child? He has sorrows
enough of his own without your adding to them.”

Mrs. Mudge was not a little incensed at this remonstrance.

“I should like to know, ma’am, who requested you to put in your oar!”
 she said with arms akimbo. “Anybody wouldn’t think from your lofty airs
that you lived in the poorhouse; I’ll thank you to mind your own
business in the future, and not meddle with what don’t concern you.”

Aunt Lucy was wise enough to abstain from provoking further the wrath of
her amiable landlady, and continued to eat her soup in silence. But Mrs.
Mudge neer forgot this interference, nor the cause of it, and henceforth
with the malignity of a narrow-minded and spiteful woman, did what she
could to make Paul uncomfortable. Her fertile ingenuity always found
some new taunt, or some new reproach, to assail him with. But Paul,
though at first he felt indignant, learned at last to treat them as they
deserved, with silent disdain. Assured of the sympathy of those around
him, he did not allow his appetite to be spoiled by any remark which
Mrs. Mudge might offer.

This, of course, only provoked her the more, and she strove to have his
daily tasks increased, in the amiable hope that his “proud spirit” might
be tamed thereby.

Mr. Mudge, who was somewhat under petticoat government, readily acceded
to his wife’s wishes, and henceforth Paul’s strength was taxed to its
utmost limit. He was required to be up with the first gray tint of dawn
and attend to the cattle. From this time until night, except the brief
time devoted to his meals, he was incessantly occupied. Aunt Lucy’s
society, his chief comfort, was thus taken from him; since, in order to
rise early, he was obliged to go to bed as soon as possible after day’s
work was finished.

The effects of such incessant labor without a sufficient supply of
nourishing food, may easily be imagined. The dry bread and meagre soup
which constituted the chief articles of diet in Mrs. Mudge’s economical
household, had but one recommendation,--they were effectual preventives
of gluttony. It was reported that on one occasion a beggar, apparently
famishing with hunger, not knowing the character of the house, made
application at the door for food. In an unusual fit of generosity, Mrs.
Mudge furnished him with a slice of bread and a bowl of soup, which,
however, proved so far from tempting that the beggar, hungry as he was,
left them almost untouched.

One day, as Paul was working in the field at a little distance from
Mr. Mudge, he became conscious of a peculiar feeling of giddiness which
compelled him to cling to the hoe for support,--otherwise he must have
fallen.

“No laziness there,” exclaimed Mr. Mudge, observing Paul’s cessation
from labor, “We can’t support you in idleness.”

But the boy paid no regard to this admonition, and Mr. Mudge, somewhat
surprised, advanced toward him to enforce the command.

Even he was startled at the unusual paleness of Paul’s face, and
inquired in a less peremptory tone, “what’s the matter?”

“I feel sick,” gasped Paul.

Without another word, Mr. Mudge took Paul up in his arms and carried him
into the house.

“What’s the matter, now?” asked his wife, meeting him at the door.

“The boy feels a little sick, but I guess he’ll get over it by-and
by. Haven’t you got a little soup that you can give him? I reckon he’s
faint, and that’ll brighten him up.”

Paul evidently did not think so, for he motioned away a bowl of the
delightful mixture, though it was proffered him by the fair hands of
Mrs. Mudge. The lady was somewhat surprised, and said, roughly, “I
shouldn’t wonder if he was only trying to shirk.”

This was too much even for Mr. Mudge; “The boy’s sick,” said he, “that’s
plain enough; if he don’t get better soon, I must send for the doctor,
for work drives, and I can’t spare him.”

“There’s no more danger of his being sick than mine,” said Mrs. Mudge,
emphatically; “however, if you’re fool enough to go for a doctor, that’s
none of my business. I’ve heard of feigning sickness before now, to
get rid of work. As to his being pale, I’ve been as pale as that myself
sometimes without your troubling yourself very much about me.”

“‘Twon’t be any expense to us,” alleged Mr. Mudge, in a tone of
justification, for he felt in some awe of his wife’s temper, which was
none of the mildest when a little roused, “‘Twon’t be any expense to us;
the town has got to pay for it, and as long as it will get him ready for
work sooner, we might as well take advantage of it.”

This consideration somewhat reconciled Mrs. Mudge to the step proposed,
and as Paul, instead of getting better, grew rapidly worse, Mr. Mudge
thought it expedient to go immediately for the village physician.
Luckily Dr. Townsend was at home, and an hour afterwards found him
standing beside the sick boy.

“I don’t know but you’ll think it rather foolish, our sending for you,
doctor,” said Mrs. Mudge, “but Mudge would have it that the boy was sick
and so he went for you.”

“And he did quite right,” said Dr. Townsend, noticing the ghastly pallor
of Paul’s face. “He is a very sick boy, and if I had not been called I
would not have answered for the consequences. How do you feel, my boy?”
 he inquired of Paul.

“I feel very weak, and my head swims,” was the reply.

“How and when did this attack come on?” asked the doctor, turning to Mr.
Mudge.

“He was taken while hoeing in the field,” was the reply.

“Have you kept him at work much there lately?”

“Well, yes, I’ve been drove by work, and he has worked there all day
latterly.”

“At what time has he gone to work in the morning?”

“He has got up to milk the cows about five o’clock. I used to do it, but
since he has learned, I have indulged myself a little.”

“It would have been well for him if he had enjoyed the same privilege.
It is my duty to speak plainly. The sickness of this boy lies at your
door. He has never been accustomed to hard labor, and yet you have
obliged him to rise earlier and work later than most men. No wonder he
feels weak. Has he a good appetite?”

“Well, rather middlin’,” said Mrs. Mudge, “but it’s mainly because he’s
too dainty to eat what’s set before him. Why, only the first day he was
here he turned up his nose at the bread and soup we had for dinner.”

“Is this a specimen of the soup?” asked Dr. Townsend, taking from the
table the bowl which had been proffered to Paul and declined by him.

Without ceremony he raised to his lips a spoonful of the soup and tasted
it with a wry face.

“Do you often have this soup on the table?” he asked abruptly.

“We always have it once a day, and sometimes twice,” returned Mrs.
Mudge.

“And you call the boy dainty because he don’t relish such stuff as
this?” said the doctor, with an indignation he did not attempt to
conceal. “Why, I wouldn’t be hired to take the contents of that bowl. It
is as bad as any of my own medicines, and that’s saying a good deal.
How much nourishment do you suppose such a mixture would afford? And yet
with little else to sustain him you have worked this boy like a beast of
burden,--worse even, for they at least have abundance of GOOD food.”

Mr. and Mrs. Mudge both winced under this plain speaking, but they did
not dare to give expression to their anger, for they knew well that Dr.
Townsend was an influential man in town, and, by representing the affair
in the proper quarter, might render their hold upon their present post
a very precarious one. Mr. Mudge therefore contented himself with
muttering that he guessed he worked as hard as anybody, and he didn’t
complain of his fare.

“May I ask you, Mr. Mudge,” said the doctor, fixing his penetrating eye
full upon him, “whether you confine yourself to the food upon which you
have kept this boy?”

“Well,” said Mr. Mudge, in some confusion, moving uneasily in his
seat, “I can’t say but now and then I eat something a little different.”

“Do you eat at the same table with the inmates of your house?”

“Well, no,” said the embarrassed Mr. Mudge.

“Tell me plainly,--how often do you partake of this soup?”

“I aint your patient,” said the man, sullenly, “Why should you want to
know what I eat?”

“I have an object in view. Are you afraid to answer?”

“I don’t know as there’s anything to be afraid of. The fact is, I aint
partial to soup; it don’t agree with me, and so I don’t take it.”

“Did you ever consider that this might be the case with others as
well as yourself?” inquired the doctor with a glance expressive of his
contempt for Mr. Mudge’s selfishness. Without waiting for a reply, Dr.
Townsend ordered Paul to be put to bed immediately, after which he would
leave some medicine for him to take.

Here was another embarrassment for the worthy couple. They hardly knew
where to put our hero. It would not do for them to carry him to his
pallet in the attic, for they felt sure that this would lead to some
more plain speaking on the part of Dr. Townsend. He was accordingly,
though with some reluctance, placed in a small bedroom upstairs, which,
being more comfortable than those appropriated to the paupers, had been
reserved for a son at work in a neighboring town, on his occasional
visits home.

“Is there no one in the house who can sit in the chamber and attend to
his occasional wants?” asked Dr. Townsend. “He will need to take his
medicine at stated periods, and some one will be required to administer
it.”

“There’s Aunt Lucy Lee,” said Mrs. Mudge, “she’s taken a fancy to the
boy, and I reckon she’ll do as well as anybody.”

“No one better,” returned the doctor, who well knew Aunt Lucy’s kindness
of disposition, and was satisfied that she would take all possible care
of his patient.

So it was arranged that Aunt Lucy should take her place at Paul’s
bedside as his nurse.

Paul was sick for many days,--not dangerously so, but hard work and
scanty fare had weakened him to such a degree that exhausted nature
required time to recruit its wasted forces. But he was not unhappy or
restless. Hour after hour he would lie patiently, and listen to the
clicking of her knitting needles. Though not provided with luxurious
food, Dr. Townsend had spoken with so much plainness that Mrs. Mudge
felt compelled to modify her treatment, lest, through his influence, she
with her husband, might lose their situation. This forced forbearance,
however, was far from warming her heart towards its object. Mrs.
Mudge was a hard, practical woman, and her heart was so encrusted with
worldliness and self-interest that she might as well have been without
one.

One day, as Paul lay quietly gazing at Aunt Lucy’s benevolent face,
and mentally contrasting it with that of Mrs. Mudge, whose shrill voice
could be heard form below, he was seized with a sudden desire to learn
something of her past history.

“How long have you been here, Aunt Lucy?” he inquired.

She looked up from her knitting, and sighed as she answered, “A long and
weary time to look back upon, Paul. I have been here ten years.”

“Ten years,” repeated Paul, thoughtfully, “and I am thirteen. So you
have been here nearly all my lifetime. Has Mr. Mudge been here all that
time?”

“Only the last two years. Before that we had Mrs. Perkins.”

“Did she treat you any better than Mrs. Mudge?”

“Any better than Mrs. Mudge!” vociferated that lady, who had ascended
the stairs without being heard by Aunt Lucy of Paul, and had thus
caught the last sentence. “Any better than Mrs. Mudge!” she repeated,
thoroughly provoked. “So you’ve been talking about me, you trollop, have
you? I’ll come up with you, you may depend upon that. That’s to pay for
my giving you tea Sunday night, is it? Perhaps you’ll get some more.
It’s pretty well in paupers conspiring together because they aint
treated like princes and princesses. Perhaps you’d like to got boarded
with Queen Victoria.”

The old lady sat very quiet during this tirade. She had been the subject
of similar invective before, and knew that it would do no good to oppose
Mrs. Mudge in her present excited state.

“I don’t wonder you haven’t anything to say,” said the infuriated dame.
“I should think you’d want to hide your face in shame, you trollop.”

Paul was not quite so patient as his attendant. Her kindness had
produced such an impression on him, that Mrs. Mudge, by her taunts,
stirred up his indignation.

“She’s no more of a trollop than you are,” said he, with spirit.

Mrs. Mudge whirled round at this unexpected attack, and shook her fist
menacingly at Paul--

“So, you’ve put in your oar, you little jackanapes,” said she, “If
you’re well enough to be impudent you’re well enough to go to work.
You aint a goin’ to lie here idle much longer, I can tell you. If
you deceive Dr. Townsend, and make him believe you’re sick, you can’t
deceive me. No doubt you feel mighty comfortable, lyin’ here with
nothing to do, while I’m a slavin’ myself to death down stairs, waitin’
upon you; (this was a slight exaggeration, as Aunt Lucy took the entire
charge of Paul, including the preparation of his food;) but you’d better
make the most of it, for you won’t lie here much longer. You’ll miss not
bein’ able to talk about me, won’t you?”

Mrs. Mudge paused a moment as if expecting an answer to her highly
sarcastic question, but Paul felt that no advantage would be gained by
saying more.. He was not naturally a quick-tempered buy, and had only
been led to this little ebullition by the wanton attack by Mrs. Mudge.

This lady, after standing a moment as if defying the twain to a further
contest, went out, slamming the door violently after her.

“You did wrong to provoke her, Paul,” said Aunt Lucy, gravely.

“How could I help it?” asked Paul, earnestly. “If she had only abused
ME, I should not have cared so much, but when she spoke about you, who
have been so kind to me, I could not be silent.”

“I thank you, Paul, for your kind feeling,” said the old lady, gently,
“but we must learn to bear and forbear. The best of us have our faults
and failings.”

“What are yours, Aunt Lucy?”

“O, a great many.”

“Such as what?”

“I am afraid I am sometimes discontented with the station which God has
assigned me.”

“I don’t think you can be very much to blame for that. I should never
learn to be contented here if I lived to the age of Methuselah.”

Paul lay quite still for an hour or more. During that time he formed a
determination which will be announced in the next chapter.



VI.

PAUL’S DETERMINATION

At the close of the last chapter it was stated that Paul had come to a
determination.

This was,--TO RUN AWAY.

That he had good reason for this we have already seen.

He was now improving rapidly, and only waited till he was well enough to
put his design into execution.

“Aunt Lucy,” said he one day, “I’ve got something to tell you.”

The old lady looked up inquiringly.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking of a long time,--at least most of the
time since I’ve been sick. It isn’t pleasant for me to stay here, and
I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I sha’n’t.”

“Where will you go?” asked the old lady, dropping her work in surprise.

“I don’t know of any particular place, but I should be better off most
anywhere than here.”

“But you are so young, Paul.”

“God will take care of me, Aunt Lucy,--mother used to tell me that.
Besides, here I have no hope of learning anything or improving my
condition. Then again, if I stay here, I can never do what father wished
me to do.”

“What is that, Paul?”

Paul told the story of his father’s indebtedness to Squire Conant, and
the cruel letter which the Squire had written.

“I mean to pay that debt,” he concluded firmly. “I won’t let anybody say
that my father kept them out of their money. There is no chance here;
somewhere else I may find work and money.”

“It is a great undertaking for a boy like you, Paul,” said Aunt Lucy,
thoughtfully. “To whom is the money due?”

“Squire Conant of Cedarville.”

Aunt Lucy seemed surprised and agitated by the mention of this name.

“Paul,” said she, “Squire Conant is my brother.”

“Your brother!” repeated he in great surprise. “Then why does he allow
you to live here? He is rich enough to take care of you.”

“It is a long story,” said the old lady, sadly. “All that you will be
interested to know is that I married against the wishes of my family. My
husband died and I was left destitute. My brother has never noticed me
since.”

“It is a great shame,” said Paul.

“We won’t judge him, Paul. Have you fixed upon any time to go?”

“I shall wait a few days till I get stronger. Can you tell me how far it
is to New York?”

“O, a great distance; a hundred miles at least. You can’t think of going
so far as that?”

“I think it would be the best plan,” said Paul. “In a great city like
New York there must be a great many things to do which I can’t do here.
I don’t feel strong enough to work on a farm. Besides, I don’t like it.
O, it must be a fine thing to live in a great city. Then too,” pursued
Paul, his face lighting up with the hopeful confidence of youth, “I
may become rich. If I do, Aunt Lucy, I will build a fine house, and you
shall come and live with me.”

Aunt Lucy had seen more of life than Paul, and was less sanguine. The
thought came to her that her life was already declining while his was
but just begun, and in the course of nature, even if his bright dreams
should be realized, she could hardly hope to live long enough to see it.
But of this she said nothing. She would not for the world have dimmed
the brightness of his anticipations by the expression of a single doubt.

“I wish you all success, Paul, and I thank you for wishing me to share
in your good fortune. God helps those who help themselves, and he will
help you if you only deserve it. I shall miss you very much when you are
gone. It will seem more lonely than ever.”

“If it were not for you, Aunt Lucy, I should not mind going at all, but
I shall be sorry to leave you behind.”

“God will care for both of us, my dear boy. I shall hope to hear from
you now and then, and if I learn that you are prosperous and happy, I
shall be better contented with my own lot. But have you thought of all
the labor and weariness that you will have to encounter? It is best to
consider well all this, before entering upon such an undertaking.”

“I have thought of all that, and if there were any prospect of my being
happy here, I might stay for the present. But you know how Mrs. Mudge
has treated me, and how she feels towards me now.”

“I acknowledge, Paul, that it has proved a hard apprenticeship, and
perhaps it might be made yet harder if you should stay longer. You must
let me know when you are going, I shall want to bid you good-by.”

“No fear that I shall forget that, Aunt Lucy. Next to my mother you have
been most kind to me, and I love you for it.”

Lightly pressing her lips to Paul’s forehead Aunt Lucy left the room to
conceal the emotion called forth by his approaching departure. Of all
the inmates of the establishment she had felt most closely drawn to the
orphan boy, whose loneliness and bereavement had appealed to her woman’s
heart. This feeling had been strengthened by the care she had been
called to bestow upon him in his illness, for it is natural to love
those whom we have benefited. But Aunt Lucy was the most unselfish of
living creatures, and the idea of dissuading Paul from a course which he
felt was right never occurred to her. She determined that she would
do what she could to further his plans, now that he had decided to go.
Accordingly she commenced knitting him a pair of stockings, knowing that
this would prove a useful present. This came near being the means of
discovering Paul’s plan to Mrs. Mudge The latter, who notwithstanding
her numerous duties, managed to see everything that was going on, had
her attention directed to Aunt Lucy’s work.

“Have you finished the stockings that I set you to knitting for Mr.
Mudge?” she asked.

“No,” said Aunt Lucy, in some confusion.

“Then whose are those, I should like to know? Somebody of more
importance than my husband, I suppose.”

“They are for Paul,” returned the old lady, in some uneasiness.

“Paul!” repeated Mrs. Mudge, in her haste putting a double quantity
of salaeratus into the bread she was mixing; “Paul’s are they? And who
asked you to knit him a pair, I should like to be informed?”

“No one.”

“Then what are you doing it for?”

“I thought he might want them.”

“Mighty considerate, I declare. And I shouldn’t be at all surprised
if you were knitting them with the yarn I gave you for Mr. Mudge’s
stockings.”

“You are mistaken,” said Aunt Lucy, shortly.

“Oh, you’re putting on your airs, are you? I’ll tell you what, Madam,
you’d better put those stockings away in double-quick time, and finish
my husband’s, or I’ll throw them into the fire, and Paul Prescott may
wait till he goes barefoot before he gets them.”

There was no alternative. Aunt Lucy was obliged to obey, at least while
her persecutor was in the room. When alone for any length of time she
took out Paul’s stockings from under her apron, and worked on them till
the approaching steps of Mrs. Mudge warned her to desist.

*****


Three days passed. The shadows of twilight were already upon the earth.
The paupers were collected in the common room appropriated to their use.
Aunt Lucy had suspended her work in consequence of the darkness, for
in this economical household a lamp was considered a useless piece of
extravagance. Paul crept quietly to her side, and whispered in tones
audible to her alone, “I AM GOING TO-MORROW.”

“To-morrow! so soon?”

“Yes,” said Paul, “I am as ready now as I shall ever be. I wanted to
tell you, because I thought maybe you might like to know that this is
the last evening we shall spend together at present.”

“Do you go in the morning?”

“Yes, Aunt Lucy, early in the morning. Mr. Mudge usually calls me at
five; I must be gone an hour before that time. I suppose I must bid you
good-by to-night.”

“Not to-night, Paul; I shall be up in the morning to see you go.”

“But if Mrs. Mudge finds it out she will abuse you.”

“I am used to that, Paul,” said Aunt Lucy, with a sorrowful smile. “I
have borne it many times, and I can again. But I can’t lie quiet and let
you go without one word of parting. You are quite determined to go?”

“Quite, Aunt Lucy. I never could stay here. There is no pleasure in the
present, and no hope for the future. I want to see something of life,”
 and Paul’s boyish figure dilated with enthusiasm.

“God grant that you do not see too much!” said Aunt Lucy, half to
herself.

“Is the world then, so very sad a place?” asked Paul.

“Both joy and sorrow are mingled in the cup of human life,” said Aunt
Lucy, solemnly:

“Which shall preponderate it is partly in our power to determine. He
who follows the path of duty steadfastly, cannot be wholly miserable,
whatever misfortunes may come upon him. He will be sustained by the
conviction that his own errors have not brought them upon him.”

“I will try to do right,” said Paul, placing his hand in that of his
companion, “and if ever I am tempted to do wrong, I will think of you
and of my mother, and that thought shall restrain me.”

“It’s time to go bed, folks,” proclaimed Mrs Mudge, appearing at the
door. “I can’t have you sitting up all night, as I’ve no doubt you’d
like to do.”

It was only eight o’clock, but no one thought of interposing an
objection. The word of Mrs. Mudge was law in her household, as even her
husband was sometimes made aware.

All quietly rose from their seats and repaired to bed. It was an
affecting sight to watch the tottering gait of those on whose heads the
snows of many winters had drifted heavily, as they meekly obeyed the
behest of one whose coarse nature forbade her sympathizing with them in
their clouded age, and many infirmities.

“Come,” said she, impatient of their slow movements, “move a little
quicker, if it’s perfectly convenient. Anybody’d think you’d been hard
at work all day, as I have. You’re about the laziest set I ever had
anything to do with. I’ve got to be up early in the morning, and can’t
stay here dawdling.”

“She’s got a sweet temper,” said Paul, in a whisper, to Aunt Lucy.

“Hush!” said the old lady. “She may hear you.”

“What’s that you’re whispering about?” said Mrs. Mudge, suspiciously.
“Something you’re ashamed to have heard, most likely.”

Paul thought it best to remain silent.

“To-morrow morning at four!” he whispered to Aunt Lucy, as he pressed
her hand in the darkness.



VII.

PAUL BEGINS HIS JOURNEY.


Paul ascended the stairs to his hard pallet for the last time. For the
last time! There is sadness in the thought, even when the future which
lies before us glows with brighter colors than the past has ever worn.
But to Paul, whose future was veiled in uncertainty, and who was about
to part with the only friend who felt an interest in his welfare, this
thought brought increased sorrow.

He stood before the dirt-begrimed window through which alone the
struggling sunbeams found an inlet into the gloomy little attic,
and looked wistfully out upon the barren fields that surrounded the
poorhouse. Where would he be on the morrow at that time? He did not
know. He knew little or nothing of the great world without, yet his
resolution did not for an instant falter. If it had, the thought of Mrs.
Mudge would have been enough to remove all his hesitation.

He threw himself on his hard bed, and a few minutes brought him that
dreamless sleep which comes so easily to the young.

Meanwhile Aunt Lucy, whose thoughts were also occupied with Paul’s
approaching departure, had taken from the pocket of her OTHER dress--for
she had but two--something wrapped in a piece of brown paper. One by one
she removed the many folds in which it was enveloped, and came at length
to the contents.

It was a coin.

“Paul will need some money, poor boy,” said she, softly to herself, “I
will give him this. It will never do me any good, and it may be of some
service to him.”

So saying she looked carefully at the coin in the moonlight.

But what made her start, and utter a half exclamation?

Instead of the gold eagle, the accumulation of many years, which she had
been saving for some extraordinary occasion like the presents she held
in her hand--a copper cent.

“I have been robbed,” she exclaimed indignantly in the suddenness of her
surprise.

“What’s the matter now?” inquired Mrs Mudge, appearing at the door, “Why
are you not in bed, Aunt Lucy Lee? How dare you disobey my orders?”

“I have been robbed,” exclaimed the old lady in unwonted excitement.

“Of what, pray?” asked Mrs. Mudge, with a sneer.

“I had a gold eagle wrapped up in that paper,” returned Aunt Lucy,
pointing to the fragments on the floor, “and now, to-night, when I come
to open it, I find but this cent.”

“A likely story,” retorted Mrs. Mudge, “very likely, indeed, that a
common pauper should have a gold eagle. If you found a cent in the
paper, most likely that’s what you put there. You’re growing old and
forgetful, so don’t get foolish and flighty. You’d better go to bed.”

“But I did have the gold, and it’s been stolen,” persisted Aunt Lucy,
whose disappointment was the greater because she intended the money for
Paul.

“Again!” exclaimed Mrs. Mudge. “Will you never have done with this
folly? Even if you did have the gold, which I don’t for an instant
believe, you couldn’t keep it. A pauper has no right to hold property.”

“Then why did the one who stole the little I had leave me this?” said
the old lady, scornfully, holding up the cent which had been substituted
for the gold.

“How should I know?” exclaimed Mrs. Mudge, wrathfully. “You talk as if
you thought I had taken your trumpery money.”

“So you did!” chimed in an unexpected voice, which made Mrs. Mudge start
nervously.

It was the young woman already mentioned, who was bereft of reason,
but who at times, as often happens in such cases, seemed gifted with
preternatural acuteness.

“So you did. I saw you, I did; I saw you creep up when you thought
nobody was looking, and search her pocket. You opened that paper and
took out the bright yellow piece, and put in another. You didn’t think I
was looking at you, ha! ha! How I laughed as I stood behind the door and
saw you tremble for fear some one would catch you thieving. You didn’t
think of me, dear, did you?”

And the wild creature burst into an unmeaning laugh.

Mrs. Mudge stood for a moment mute, overwhelmed by this sudden
revelation. But for the darkness, Aunt Lucy could have seen the sudden
flush which overspread her face with the crimson hue of detected guilt.
But this was only for a moment. It was quickly succeeded by a feeling
of intense anger towards the unhappy creature who had been the means of
exposing her.

“I’ll teach you to slander your betters, you crazy fool,” she exclaimed,
in a voice almost inarticulate with passion, as she seized her rudely by
the arm, and dragged her violently from the room.

She returned immediately.

“I suppose,” said she, abruptly, confronting Aunt Lucy, “that you are
fool enough to believe her ravings?”

“I bring no accusation,” said the old lady, calmly, “If your conscience
acquits you, it is not for me to accuse you.”

“But what do you think?” persisted Mrs. Mudge, whose consciousness of
guilt did not leave her quite at ease.

“I cannot read the heart,” said Aunt Lucy, composedly. “I can only say,
that, pauper as I am, I would not exchange places with the one who has
done this deed.”

“Do you mean me?” demanded Mrs. Mudge.

“You can tell best.”

“I tell you what, Aunt Lucy Lee,” said Mrs. Mudge, her eyes blazing
with anger, “If you dare insinuate to any living soul that I stole your
paltry money, which I don’t believe you ever had, I will be bitterly
revenged upon you.”

She flaunted out of the room, and Aunt Lucy, the first bitterness of her
disappointment over, retired to bed, and slept more tranquilly than the
unscrupulous woman who had robbed her.

At a quarter before four Paul started from his humble couch, and hastily
dressed himself, took up a little bundle containing all his scanty stock
of clothing, and noiselessly descended the two flights of stairs which
separated him from the lower story. Here he paused a moment for Aunt
Lucy to appear. Her sharp ears had distinguished his stealthy steps as
he passed her door, and she came down to bid him good-by. She had in her
hands a pair of stockings which she slipped into his bundle.

“I wish I had something else to give you, Paul,” she said, “but you know
that I am not very rich.”

“Dear Aunt Lucy,” said Paul, kissing her, “you are my only friend on
earth. You have been very kind to me, and I never will forget you,
NEVER! By-and-by, when I am rich, I will build a fine house, and you
will come and live with me, won’t you?”

Paul’s bright anticipations, improbable as they were, had the effect of
turning his companion’s thoughts into a more cheerful channel.

She bent down and kissed him, whispering softly, “Yes, I will, Paul.”

“Then it’s a bargain,” said he, joyously, “Mind you don’t forget it. I
shall come for you one of these days when you least expect it.”

“Have you any money?” inquired Aunt Lucy.

Paul shook his head.

“Then,” said she, drawing from her finger a gold ring which had held
its place for many long years, “here is something which will bring you a
little money if you are ever in distress.”

Paul hung back.

“I would rather not take it, indeed I would,” he said, earnestly,
“I would rather go hungry for two or three days than sell your ring.
Besides, I shall not need it; God will provide for me.”

“But you need not sell it,” urged Aunt Lucy, “unless it is absolutely
necessary. You can take it and keep it in remembrance of me. Keep it
till you see me again, Paul. It will be a pledge to me that you will
come back again some day.”

“On that condition I will take it,” said Paul, “and some day I will
bring it back.”

A slight noise above, as of some one stirring in sleep, excited the
apprehensions of the two, and warned them that it was imprudent for them
to remain longer in conversation.

After a hurried good-by, Aunt Lucy quietly went upstairs again, and
Paul, shouldering his bundle, walked rapidly away.

The birds, awakening from their night’s repose, were beginning to carol
forth their rich songs of thanksgiving for the blessing of a new day.
From the flowers beneath his feet and the blossom-laden branches above
his head, a delicious perfume floated out upon the morning air, and
filled the heart of the young wanderer with a sense of the joyousness of
existence, and inspired him with a hopeful confidence in the future.

For the first time he felt that he belonged to himself. At the age of
thirteen he had taken his fortune in his own hand, and was about to mold
it as best he might.

There were care, and toil, and privations before him, no doubt, but
in that bright morning hour he could harbor only cheerful and trusting
thoughts. Hopefully he looked forward to the time when he could fulfil
his father’s dying injunction, and lift from his name the burden of a
debt unpaid. Then his mind reverting to another thought, he could not
help smiling at the surprise and anger of Mr. Mudge, when he should find
that his assistant had taken French leave. He thought he should like to
be concealed somewhere where he could witness the commotion excited
by his own departure. But as he could not be in two places at the same
time, he must lose that satisfaction. He had cut loose from the Mudge
household, as he trusted, forever. He felt that a new and brighter life
was opening before him.



VIII.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


Our hero did not stop till he had put a good five miles between himself
and the poorhouse. He knew that it would not be long before Mr. Mudge
would discover his absence, and the thought of being carried back was
doubly distasteful to him now that he had, even for a short time, felt
the joy of being his own master. His hurried walk, taken in the fresh
morning air, gave him quite a sharp appetite. Luckily he had the means
of gratifying it. The night before he had secreted half his supper,
knowing that he should need it more the next morning. He thought he
might now venture to sit down and eat it.

At a little distance from the road was a spring, doubtless used for
cattle, since it was situated at the lower end of a pasture. Close
beside and bending over it was a broad, branching oak, which promised a
cool and comfortable shelter.

“That’s just the place for me,” thought Paul, who felt thirsty as well
as hungry, “I think I will take breakfast here and rest awhile before I
go any farther.”

So saying he leaped lightly over the rail fence, and making his way to
the place indicated, sat down in the shadow of the tree. Scooping up
some water in the hollow of his hand, he drank a deep and refreshing
draught. He next proceeded to pull out of his pocket a small package,
which proved to contain two small pieces of bread. His long morning walk
had given him such an appetite that he was not long in despatching all
he had. It is said by some learned physicians, who no doubt understand
the matter, that we should always rise from the table with an appetite.
Probably Paul had never heard of this rule. Nevertheless, he seemed in
a fair way of putting it into practice, for the best of reasons, because
he could not help it.

His breakfast, though not the most inviting, being simply unbuttered
bread and rather dry at that, seemed more delicious than ever before,
but unfortunately there was not enough of it. However, as there seemed
likely to be no more forthcoming, he concluded in default of breakfast
to lie down under the tree for a few minutes before resuming his walk.
Though he could not help wondering vaguely where his dinner was to come
from, as that time was several hours distant, he wisely decided not to
anticipate trouble till it came.

Lying down under the tree, Paul began to consider what Mr. Mudge would
say when he discovered that he had run away.

“He’ll have to milk the cows himself,” thought Paul. “He won’t fancy
that much. Won’t Mrs. Mudge scold, thought? I’m glad I shan’t be within
hearing.”

“Holloa!”

It was a boy’s voice that Paul heard.

Looking up he saw a sedate company of cows entering the pasture single
file through an aperture made by letting down the bars. Behind them
walked a boy of about his own size, flourishing a stout hickory stick.
The cows went directly to the spring from which Paul had already drunk.
The young driver looked at our hero with some curiosity, wondering,
doubtless, what brought him there so early in the morning. After a
little hesitation he said, remarking Paul’s bundle, “Where are you
traveling?”

“I don’t know exactly,” said Paul, who was not quite sure whether it
would be politic to avow his destination.

“Don’t know?” returned the other, evidently surprised.

“Not exactly; I may go to New York.”

“New York! That’s a great ways off. Do you know the way there?”

“No, but I can find it.”

“Are you going all alone?” asked his new acquaintance, who evidently
thought Paul had undertaken a very formidable journey.

“Yes.”

“Are you going to walk all the way?”

“Yes, unless somebody offers me a ride now and then.”

“But why don’t you ride in the stage, or in the cars? You would get
there a good deal quicker.”

“One reason,” said Paul, hesitating a little, “is because I have no
money to pay for riding.”

“Then how do you expect to live? Have you had any breakfast, this
morning?”

“I brought some with me, and just got through eating it when you came
along.”

“And where do you expect to get any dinner?” pursued his questioner, who
was evidently not a little puzzled by the answers he received.

“I don’t know,” returned Paul.

His companion looked not a little confounded at this view of the matter,
but presently a bright thought struck him.

“I shouldn’t wonder,” he said, shrewdly, “if you were running away.”

Paul hesitated a moment. He knew that his case must look a little
suspicious, thus unexplained, and after a brief pause for reflection
determined to take the questioner into his confidence. He did this the
more readily because his new acquaintance looked very pleasant.

“You’ve guessed right,” he said; “if you’ll promise not to tell anybody,
I’ll tell you all about it.”

This was readily promised, and the boy who gave his name as John
Burgess, sat down beside Paul, while he, with the frankness of
boyhood, gave a circumstantial account of his father’s death, and the
ill-treatment he had met with subsequently.

“Do you come from Wrenville?” asked John, interested. “Why, I’ve got
relations there. Perhaps you know my cousin, Ben Newcome.”

“Is Ben Newcome your cousin? O yes, I know him very well; he’s a
first-rate fellow.”

“He isn’t much like his father.”

“Not at all. If he was”--

“You wouldn’t like him so well. Uncle talks a little too much out of
the dictionary, and walks so straight that he bends backward. But I say,
Paul, old Mudge deserves to be choked, and Mrs. Mudge should be obliged
to swallow a gallon of her own soup. I don’t know but that would be
worse than choking. I wouldn’t have stayed so long if I had been in your
place.”

“I shouldn’t,” said Paul, “if it hadn’t been for Aunt Lucy.”

“Was she an aunt of yours?”

“No, but we used to call her so, She’s the best friend I’ve got, and I
don’t know but the only one,” said Paul, a little sadly.

“No, she isn’t,” said John, quickly; “I’ll be your friend, Paul.
Sometime, perhaps, I shall go to New York, myself, and then I will come
and see you. Where do you expect to be?”

“I don’t know anything about the city,” said Paul, “but if you come, I
shall be sure to see you somewhere. I wish you were going now.”

Neither Paul nor his companion had much idea of the extent of the great
metropolis, or they would not have taken it so much as a matter of
course that, being in the same place, they should meet each other.

Their conversation was interrupted by the ringing of a bell from a
farmhouse within sight.

“That’s our breakfast-bell,” said John rising from the grass. “It is
meant for me. I suppose they wonder what keeps me so long. Won’t you
come and take breakfast with me, Paul?”

“I guess not,” said Paul, who would have been glad to do so had he
followed the promptings of his appetite. “I’m afraid your folks would
ask me questions, and then it would be found out that I am running
away.”

“I didn’t think of that,” returned John, after a pause. “You haven’t got
any dinner with you?” he said a moment after.

“No.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Come with me as far as the fence, and
lie down there till I’ve finished breakfast. Then I’ll bring something
out for you, and maybe I’ll walk along a little way with you.”

“You are very kind,” said Paul, gratefully.

“Oh, nonsense,” said John, “that’s nothing. Besides, you know we are
going to be friends.”

“John! breakfast’s ready.”

“There’s Nelson calling me,” said John, hurriedly. “I must leave you;
there’s the fence; lie down there, and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

“John, I say, why don’t you come?”

“I’m coming. You mustn’t think everybody’s got such a thundering great
appetite as you, Nelson.”

“I guess you’ve got enough to keep you from pining away,” said Nelson,
good-naturedly, “you’re twice as fat as I am.”

“That’s because I work harder,” said John, rather illogically.

The brothers went in to breakfast.

But a few minutes elapsed before John reappeared, bearing under his arm
a parcel wrapped up in an old newspaper. He came up panting with the
haste he had made.

“It didn’t take you long to eat breakfast,” said Paul.

“No, I hurried through it; I thought you would get tired of waiting. And
now I’ll walk along with you a little ways. But wait here’s something
for you.”

So saying he unrolled the newspaper and displayed a loaf of bread,
fresh and warm, which looked particularly inviting to Paul, whose scanty
breakfast had by no means satisfied his appetite. Besides this, there
was a loaf of molasses ginger-bread, with which all who were born in the
country, or know anything of New England housekeeping, are familiar.

“There,” said John, “I guess that’ll be enough for your dinner.”

“But how did you get it without having any questions asked?” inquired
our hero.

“Oh,” said John, “I asked mother for them, and when she asked what I
wanted of them, I told her that I’d answer that question to-morrow.
You see I wanted to give you a chance to get off out of the way, though
mother wouldn’t tell, even if she knew.”

“All right,” said Paul, with satisfaction.

He could not help looking wistfully at the bread, which looked very
inviting to one accustomed to poorhouse fare.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” he said hesitating, “I would like to eat a
little of the bread now.”

“Mind, of course not,” said John, breaking off a liberal slice. “Why
didn’t I think of that before? Walking must have given you a famous
appetite.”

John looked on with evident approbation, while Paul ate with great
apparent appetite.

“There,” said he with a sigh of gratification, as he swallowed the last
morsel, “I haven’t tasted anything so good for a long time.”

“Is it as good as Mrs. Mudge’s soup?” asked John, mischievously.

“Almost,” returned Paul, smiling.

We must now leave the boys to pursue their way, and return to the
dwelling from which our hero had so unceremoniously taken his departure,
and from which danger now threatened him.



IX.

A CLOUD IN THE MUDGE HORIZON.


Mr. Mudge was accustomed to call Paul at five o’clock, to milk the cows
and perform other chores. He himself did not rise till an hour later.
During Paul’s sickness, he was obliged to take his place,--a thing he
did not relish overmuch. Now that our hero had recovered, he gladly
prepared to indulge himself in an extra nap.

“Paul!” called Mr. Mudge from the bottom of the staircase leading up
into the attic, “it’s five o’clock; time you were downstairs.”

Mr. Mudge waited for an answer, but none came.

“Paul!” repeated Mr. Mudge in a louder tone, “it’s time to get up;
tumble out there.”

Again there was no answer.

At first, Mr. Mudge thought it might be in consequence of Paul’s
sleeping so soundly, but on listening attentively, he could not
distinguish the deep and regular breathing which usually accompanies
such slumber.

“He must be sullen,” he concluded, with a feeling of irritation. “If he
is, I’ll teach him----”

Without taking time to finish the sentence, he bounded up the rickety
staircase, and turned towards the bed with the intention of giving our
hero a smart shaking.

He looked with astonishment at the empty bed. “Is it possible,” he
thought, “that Paul has already got up? He isn’t apt to do so before he
is called.”

At this juncture, Mrs. Mudge, surprised at her husband’s prolonged
absence, called from below, “Mr. Mudge!”

“Well, wife?”

“What in the name of wonder keeps you up there so long?”

“Just come up and see.”

Mrs. Mudge did come up. Her husband pointed to the empty bed.

“What do you think of that?” he asked.

“What about it?” she inquired, not quite comprehending.

“About that boy, Paul. When I called him I got no answer, so I came up,
and behold he is among the missing.”

“You don’t think he’s run away, do you?” asked Mrs. Mudge startled.

“That is more than I know.”

“I’ll see if his clothes are here,” said his wife, now fully aroused.

Her search was unavailing. Paul’s clothes had disappeared as
mysteriously as their owner.

“It’s a clear case,” said Mr. Mudge, shaking his head; “he’s gone.
I wouldn’t have lost him for considerable. He was only a boy, but I
managed to get as much work out of him as a man. The question is now,
what shall we do about it?”

“He must be pursued,” said Mrs. Mudge, with vehemence, “I’ll have him
back if it costs me twenty dollars. I’ll tell you what, husband,” she
exclaimed, with a sudden light breaking in upon her, “if there’s anybody
in this house knows where he’s gone, it is Aunt Lucy Lee. Only last week
I caught her knitting him a pair of stockings. I might have known what
it meant if I hadn’t been a fool.”

“Ha, ha! So you might, if you hadn’t been a fool!” echoed a mocking
voice.

Turning with sudden anger, Mrs. Mudge beheld the face of the crazy girl
peering up at her from below.

This turned her thoughts into a different channel.

“I’ll teach you what I am,” she exclaimed, wrathfully descending the
stairs more rapidly than she had mounted them, “and if you know anything
about the little scamp, I’ll have it out of you.”

The girl narrowly succeeded in eluding the grasp of her pursuer. But,
alas! for Mrs. Mudge. In her impetuosity she lost her footing, and fell
backward into a pail of water which had been brought up the night before
and set in the entry for purposes of ablution. More wrathful than ever,
Mrs. Mudge bounced into her room and sat down in her dripping garments
in a very uncomfortable frame of mind. As for Paul, she felt a personal
dislike for him, and was not sorry on some accounts to have him out of
the house. The knowledge, however, that he had in a manner defied her
authority by running away, filled her with an earnest desire to get him
back, if only to prove that it was not to be defied with impunity.

Hoping to elicit some information from Aunt Lucy, who, she felt sure,
was in Paul’s confidence, she paid her a visit.

“Well, here’s a pretty goings on,” she commenced, abruptly. Finding that
Aunt Lucy manifested no curiosity on the subject, she continued, in a
significant tone, “Of course, YOU don’t know anything about it.”

“I can tell better when I know what you refer to,” said the old lady
calmly.

“Oh, you are very ignorant all at once. I suppose you didn’t know Paul
Prescott had run away?”

“I am not surprised,” said the old lady, in the same quiet manner.

Mrs. Mudge had expected a show of astonishment, and this calmness
disconcerted her.

“You are not surprised!” she retorted. “I presume not, since you
knew all about it beforehand. That’s why you were knitting him some
stockings. Deny it, if you dare.”

“I have no disposition to deny it.”

“You haven’t!” exclaimed the questioner, almost struck dumb with this
audacity.

“No,” said Aunt Lucy. “Why should I? There was no particular inducement
for him to stay here. Wherever he goes, I hope he will meet with good
friends and good treatment.”

“As much as to say he didn’t find them here. Is that what you mean?”

“I have no charges to bring.”

“But I have,” said Mrs. Mudge, her eyes lighting with malicious
satisfaction. “Last night you missed a ten-dollar gold piece, which you
saw was stolen from you. This morning it appears that Paul Prescott has
run away. I charge him with the theft.”

“You do not, can not believe this,” said the old lady, uneasily.

“Of course I do,” returned Mrs. Mudge, triumphantly, perceiving her
advantage. “I have no doubt of it, and when we get the boy back, he
shall be made to confess it.”

Aunt Lucy looked troubled, much to the gratification of Mrs. Mudge.
It was but for a short time, however. Rising from her seat, she stood
confronting Mrs. Mudge, and said quietly, but firmly, “I have no doubt,
Mrs. Mudge, you are capable of doing what you say. I would advise you,
however, to pause. You know, as well as I do, that Paul is incapable
of this theft. Even if he were wicked enough to form the idea, he would
have no need, since it was my intention to GIVE him this money. Who did
actually steal the gold, you PERHAPS know better than I. Should it be
necessary, I shall not hesitate to say so. I advise you not to render it
necessary.”

The threat which lay in these words was understood. It came with the
force of a sudden blow to Mrs. Mudge, who had supposed it would be no
difficult task to frighten and silence Aunt Lucy. The latter had always
been so yielding in all matters relating to herself, that this intrepid
championship of Paul’s interests was unlooked for. The tables were
completely turned. Pale with rage, and a mortified sense of having been
foiled with her own weapons, Mrs. Mudge left the room.

Meanwhile her husband milked the cows, and was now occupied in
performing certain other duties that could not be postponed, being
resolved, immediately after breakfast was over, to harness up and pursue
the runaway.

“Well, did you get anything out of the old lady?” he inquired, as he
came from the barn with the full milk-pails.

“She said she knew beforehand that he was going.”

“Eh!” said Mr. Mudge, pricking up his ears, “did she say where?”

“No, and she won’t. She knit him a pair of stockings to help him off,
and doesn’t pretend to deny it. She’s taken a wonderful fancy to the
young scamp, and has been as obstinate as could be ever since he has
been here.”

“If I get him back,” said Mr. Mudge, “he shall have a good flogging, if
I am able to give him one, and she shall be present to see it.”

“That’s right,” said Mrs. Mudge, approvingly, “when are you going to set
out after him?”

“Right after breakfast. So be spry, and get it ready as soon as you
can.”

Under the stimulus of this inspiring motive, Mrs. Mudge bustled about
with new energy, and before many minutes the meal was in readiness.
It did not take long to dispatch it. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Mudge
harnessed up, as he had determined, and started off in pursuit of our
hero.


In the meantime the two boys had walked leisurely along, conversing on
various subjects.

“When you get to the city, Paul,” said John, “I shall want to hear from
you. Will you write to me?”

Paul promised readily.

“You can direct to John Burges, Burrville. The postmaster knows me, and
I shall be sure to get it.”

“I wish you were going with me,” said Paul.

“Sometimes when I think that I am all alone it discourages me. It would
be so much pleasanter to have some one with me.”

“I shall come sometime,” said John, “when I am a little older. I heard
father say something the other day about my going into a store in the
city. So we may meet again.”

“I hope we shall.”

They were just turning a bend of the road, when Paul chanced to look
backward. About a quarter of a mile back he descried a horse and wagon
wearing a familiar look. Fixing his eyes anxiously upon them, he was
soon made aware that his suspicions were only too well founded. It was
Mr. Mudge, doubtless in quest of him.

“What shall I do?” he asked, hurriedly of his companion.

“What’s the matter?”

This was quickly explained.

John was quickwitted, and he instantly decided upon the course proper
to be pursued. On either side of the road was a growth of underbrush so
thick as to be almost impenetrable.

“Creep in behind there, and be quick about it,” directed John, “there is
no time to lose.”

“There,” said he, after Paul had followed his advice, “if he can see you
now he must have sharp eyes.”

“Won’t you come in too?”

“Not I,” said John, “I am anxious to see this Mr. Mudge, since you have
told me so much about him. I hope he will ask me some questions.”

“What will you tell him?”

“Trust me for that. Don’t say any more. He’s close by.”



X.

MR. MUDGE MEETS HIS MATCH.


John lounged along, appearing to be very busily engaged in making a
whistle from a slip of willow which he had a short time before cut from
the tree. He purposely kept in the middle of the road, apparently quite
unaware of the approach of the vehicle, until he was aroused by the
sound of a voice behind him.

“Be a little more careful, if you don’t want to get run over.”

John assumed a look of surprise, and with comic terror ran to the side
of the road.

Mr. Mudge checked his horse, and came to a sudden halt.

“I say, youngster, haven’t you seen a boy of about your own size walking
along, with a bundle in his hand?”

“Tied up in a red cotton handkerchief?” inquired John.

“Yes, I believe so,” said Mr. Mudge, eagerly, “where did you----”

“With a blue cloth cap?”

“Yes, where----”

“Gray jacket and pants?”

“Yes, yes. Where?”

“With a patch on one knee?”

“Yes, the very one. When did you see him?” said Mr. Mudge, getting ready
to start his horse.

“Perhaps it isn’t the one you mean,” continued John, who took a
mischievous delight in playing with the evident impatience of Mr. Mudge;
“the boy that I saw looked thin, as if he hadn’t had enough to eat.”

Mr. Mudge winced slightly, and looked at John with some suspicion.
But John put on so innocent and artless a look that Mr. Mudge at once
dismissed the idea that there was any covert meaning in what he said.
Meanwhile Paul, from his hiding-place in the bushes, had listened with
anxiety to the foregoing colloquy. When John described his appearance so
minutely, he was seized with a sudden apprehension that the boy meant
to betray him. But he dismissed it instantly. In his own singleness of
heart he could not believe such duplicity possible. Still, it was not
without anxiety that he waited to hear what would be said next.

“Well,” said Mr. Mudge, slowly, “I don’t know but he is a little PEAKED.
He’s been sick lately, and that’s took off his flesh.”

“Was he your son?” asked John, in a sympathizing tone; “you must feel
quite troubled about him.”

He looked askance at Mr. Mudge, enjoying that gentleman’s growing
irritation.

“My son? No. Where----”

“Nephews perhaps?” suggested the imperturbable John, leisurely
continuing the manufacture of a whistle.

“No, I tell you, nothing of the kind. But I can’t sit waiting here.”

“Oh, I hope you’ll excuse me,” said John, apologetically. “I hope you
won’t stop on my account. I didn’t know you were in a hurry.”

“Well, you know it now,” said Mr. Mudge, crossly. “When and where did
you see the boy you have described? I am in pursuit of him.”

“Has he run away?” inquired John in assumed surprise.

“Are you going to answer my question or not?” demanded Mr. Mudge,
angrily.

“Oh, I beg your pardon. I shouldn’t have asked so many questions, only I
thought he was a nice-looking boy, and I felt interested in him.”

“He’s a young scamp,” said Mr. Mudge, impetuously, “and it’s my belief
that you’re another. Now answer my question. When and where did you see
this boy?”

This time Mr. Mudge’s menacing look warned John that he had gone far
enough. Accordingly he answered promptly, “He passed by our farm this
morning.”

“How far back is that?”

“About three miles.”

“Did he stop there?”

“Yes, he stopped a while to rest.”

“Have you seen him since?”

“Yes, I saw him about half a mile back.”

“On this road?”

“Yes, but he turned up the road that branches off there.”

“Just what I wanted to find out,” said Mr. Mudge, in a tone of
satisfaction, “I’m sure to catch him.”

So saying, he turned about and put his horse to its utmost speed,
determined to make up for lost time. When he was fairly out of sight,
Paul came forth from his hiding-place.

“How could you do so!” he asked in a reproachful tone.

“Could I do what?” asked John, turning a laughing face towards Paul.
“Didn’t I tell old Mudge the exact truth? You know you did turn up that
road. To be sure you didn’t go two rods before turning back. But he
didn’t stop to ask about that. If he hadn’t been in such a hurry,
perhaps I should have told him. Success to him!”

“You can’t think how I trembled when you described me so particularly.”

“You didn’t think I would betray you?” said John, quickly.

“No, but I was afraid you would venture too far, and get us both into
trouble.”

“Trust me for that, Paul; I’ve got my eyes wide open, and ain’t easily
caught. But wasn’t it fun to see old Mudge fuming while I kept him
waiting. What would he have said if he had known the bird was so near at
hand? He looked foolish enough when I asked him if you were his son.”

John sat down and gave vent to his pent-up laughter which he had felt
obliged to restrain in the presence of Mr. Mudge. He laughed so heartily
that Paul, notwithstanding his recent fright and anxiety, could not
resist the infection. Together they laughed, till the very air seemed
vocal with merriment.

John was the first to recover his gravity.

“I am sorry, Paul,” he said, “but I must bid you good-by. They will miss
me from the house. I am glad I have got acquainted with you, and I hope
I shall see you again some time before very long. Good-by, Paul.”

“Good-by, John.”

The two boys shook hands and parted. One went in one direction, the
other in the opposite. Each looked back repeatedly till the other was
out of sight. Then came over Paul once more a feeling of sadness and
desolation, which the high spirits of his companion had for the time
kept off. Occasionally he cast a glance backwards, to make sure that
Mr. Mudge was not following him. But Paul had no cause to fear on that
score. The object of his dread was already some miles distant in a
different direction.

For an hour longer, Paul trudged on. He met few persons, the road not
being very much frequented. He was now at least twelve miles from his
starting-place, and began to feel very sensibly the effects of heat
and fatigue combined. He threw himself down upon the grass under the
overhanging branches of an appletree to rest. After his long walk repose
seemed delicious, and with a feeling of exquisite enjoyment he stretched
himself out at full length upon the soft turf, and closed his eyes.

Insensibly he fell asleep. How long he slept he could not tell. He was
finally roused from his slumber by something cold touching his cheek.
Starting up he rubbed his eyes in bewilderment, and gradually became
aware that this something was the nose of a Newfoundland dog, whose keen
scent had enabled him to discover the whereabouts of the small stock
of provisions with which Paul had been supplied by his late companion.
Fortunately he awoke in time to save its becoming the prey of its canine
visitor.

“I reckon you came nigh losing your dinner,” fell upon his ears in a
rough but hearty tone.

At the same time he heard the noise of wheels, and looking up, beheld a
specimen of a class well known throughout New England--a tin pedler. He
was seated on a cart liberally stocked with articles of tin ware. From
the rear depended two immense bags, one of which served as a receptacle
for white rags, the other for bits of calico and whatever else may fall
under the designation of “colored.” His shop, for such it was, was
drawn at a brisk pace by a stout horse, who in this respect presented a
contrast to his master, who was long and lank. The pedler himself was
a man of perhaps forty, with a face in which shrewdness and good humor
seemed alike indicated. Take him for all in all, you might travel some
distance without falling in with a more complete specimen of the Yankee.

“So you came nigh losing your dinner,” he repeated, in a pleasant tone.

“Yes,” said Paul, “I got tired and fell asleep, and I don’t know when I
should have waked up but for your dog.”

“Yes, Boney’s got a keen scent for provisions,” laughed the pedler.
“He’s a little graspin’, like his namesake. You see his real name is
Bonaparte; we only call him Boney, for short.”

Meanwhile he had stopped his horse. He was about to start afresh, when a
thought struck him.

“Maybe you’re goin’ my way,” said he, turning to Paul; “if you are,
you’re welcome to a ride.”

Paul was very glad to accept the invitation. He clambered into the cart,
and took a seat behind the pedler, while Boney, who took his recent
disappointment very good-naturedly, jogged on contentedly behind.

“How far are you goin’?” asked Paul’s new acquaintance, as he whipped up
his horse.

Paul felt a little embarrassed. If he had been acquainted with the names
of any of the villages on the route he might easily have answered. As it
was, only one name occurred to him.

“I think,” said he, with some hesitation, “that I shall go to New York.”

“New York!” repeated the pedler, with a whistle expressive of his
astonishment.

“Well, you’ve a journey before you. Got any relations there?”

“No.”

“No uncles, aunts, cousins, nor nothing?”

Paul shook his head.

“Then what makes you go? Haven’t run away from your father and mother,
hey?” asked the pedler, with a knowing look.

“I have no father nor mother,” said Paul, sadly enough.

“Well, you had somebody to take care of you, I calculate. Where did you
live?”

“If I tell you, you won’t carry me back?” said Paul, anxiously.

“Not a bit of it. I’ve got too much business on hand for that.”

Relieved by this assurance, Paul told his story, encouraged thereto
by frequent questions from his companion, who seemed to take a lively
interest in the adventures of his young companion.

“That’s a capital trick you played on old Mudge,” he said with a hearty
laugh which almost made the tins rattle. “I don’t blame you a bit for
running away. I’ve got a story to tell you about Mrs. Mudge. She’s a
regular skinflint.”



XI.

WAYSIDE GOSSIP.


This was the pedler’s promised story about Mrs. Mudge.

“The last time I was round that way, I stopped, thinking maybe they
might have some rags to dispose of for tin-ware. The old lady seemed
glad to see me, and pretty soon she brought down a lot of white rags.
I thought they seemed quite heavy for their bulk,--howsomever, I wasn’t
looking for any tricks, and I let it go. By-and-by, when I happened to
be ransacking one of the bags, I came across half a dozen pounds or more
of old iron tied up in a white cloth. That let the cat out of the bag. I
knew why they were so heavy, then, I reckon I shan’t call on Mrs. Mudge
next time I go by.”

“So you’ve run off,” he continued, after a pause, “I like your
spunk,--just what I should have done myself. But tell me how you managed
to get off without the old chap’s finding it out.”

Paul related such of his adventures as he had not before told, his
companion listening with marked approval.

“I wish I’d been there,” he said. “I’d have given fifty cents, right
out, to see how old Mudge looked, I calc’late he’s pretty well tired
with his wild-goose chase by this time.”

It was now twelve o’clock, and both the travelers began to feel the
pangs of hunger.

“It’s about time to bait, I calc’late,” remarked the pedler.

The unsophisticated reader is informed that the word “bait,” in New
England phraseology, is applied to taking lunch or dining.

At this point a green lane opened out of the public road, skirted on
either side by a row of trees. Carpeted with green, it made a very
pleasant dining-room. A red-and-white heifer browsing at a little
distance looked up from her meal and surveyed the intruders with mild
attention, but apparently satisfied that they contemplated no invasion
of her rights, resumed her agreeable employment. Over an irregular stone
wall our travelers looked into a thrifty apple-orchard laden with fruit.
They halted beneath a spreading chestnut-tree which towered above its
neighbors, and offered them a grateful shelter from the noonday sun.

From the box underneath the seat, the pedler took out a loaf of bread,
a slice of butter, and a tin pail full of doughnuts. Paul, on his side,
brought out his bread and gingerbread.

“I most generally carry round my own provisions,” remarked the pedler,
between two mouthfuls. “It’s a good deal cheaper and more convenient,
too. Help yourself to the doughnuts. I always calc’late to have some
with me. I’d give more for ‘em any day than for rich cake that ain’t
fit for anybody. My mother used to beat everybody in the neighborhood on
making doughnuts. She made ‘em so good that we never knew when to stop
eating. You wouldn’t hardly believe it, but, when I was a little shaver,
I remember eating twenty-three doughnuts at one time. Pretty nigh killed
me.”

“I should think it might,” said Paul, laughing.

“Mother got so scared that she vowed she wouldn’t fry another for three
months, but I guess she kinder lost the run of the almanac, for in less
than a week she turned out about a bushel more.”

All this time the pedler was engaged in practically refuting the saying,
that a man cannot do two things at once. With a little assistance from
Paul, the stock of doughnuts on which he had been lavishing encomiums,
diminished rapidly. It was evident that his attachment to this homely
article of diet was quite as strong as ever.

“Don’t be afraid of them,” said he, seeing that Paul desisted from his
efforts, “I’ve got plenty more in the box.”

Paul signified that his appetite was already appeased.

“Then we might as well be jogging on. Hey, Goliah,” said he, addressing
the horse, who with an air of great content, had been browsing while his
master was engaged in a similar manner. “Queer name for a horse, isn’t
it? I wanted something out of the common way, so I asked mother for a
name, and she gave me that. She’s great on scripture names, mother
is. She gave one to every one of her children. It didn’t make much
difference to her what they were as long as they were in the Bible. I
believe she used to open the Bible at random, and take the first name
she happened to come across. There are eight of us, and nary a decent
name in the lot. My oldest brother’s name is Abimelech. Then there’s
Pharaoh, and Ishmael, and Jonadab, for the boys, and Leah and Naomi, for
the girls; but my name beats all. You couldn’t guess it?”

Paul shook his head.

“I don’t believe you could,” said the pedler, shaking his head in comic
indignation. “It’s Jehoshaphat. Ain’t that a respectable name for the
son of Christian parents?”

Paul laughed.

“It wouldn’t be so bad,” continued the pedler, “if my other name was
longer; but Jehoshaphat seems rather a long handle to put before Stubbs.
I can’t say I feel particularly proud of the name, though for use it’ll
do as well as any other. At any rate, it ain’t quite so bad as the name
mother pitched on for my youngest sister, who was lucky enough to die
before she needed a name.”

“What was it?” inquired Paul, really curious to know what name could be
considered less desirable than Jehoshaphat.

“It was Jezebel,” responded the pedler.

“Everybody told mother ‘twould never do; but she was kind of
superstitious about it, because that was the first name she came to
in the Bible, and so she thought it was the Lord’s will that that name
should be given to the child.”

As Mr. Stubbs finished his disquisition upon names, there came in sight
a small house, dark and discolored with age and neglect. He pointed this
out to Paul with his whip-handle.

“That,” said he, “is where old Keziah Onthank lives. Ever heard of him?”

Paul had not.

“He’s the oldest man in these parts,” pursued his loquacious companion.
“There’s some folks that seem a dyin’ all the time, and for all that
manage to outlive half the young folks in the neighborhood. Old Keziah
Onthank is a complete case in p’int. As long ago as when I was cutting
my teeth he was so old that nobody know’d how old he was. He was so
bowed over that he couldn’t see himself in the looking-glass unless you
put it on the floor, and I guess even then what he saw wouldn’t pay
him for his trouble. He was always ailin’ some way or other. Now it was
rheumatism, now the palsy, and then again the asthma. He had THAT awful.

“He lived in the same tumble-down old shanty we have just passed,--so
poor that nobody’d take the gift of it. People said that he’d orter go
to the poorhouse, so that when he was sick--which was pretty much all
the time--he’d have somebody to take care of him. But he’d got kinder
attached to the old place, seein’ he was born there, and never lived
anywhere else, and go he wouldn’t.

“Everybody expected he was near his end, and nobody’d have been
surprised to hear of his death at any minute. But it’s strange how some
folks are determined to live on, as I said before. So Keziah, though he
looked so old when I was a boy that it didn’t seem as if he could look
any older, kept on livin,’ and livin’, and arter I got married to Betsy
Sprague, he was livin’ still.

“One day, I remember I was passin’ by the old man’s shanty, when I heard
a dreadful groanin’, and thinks I to myself, ‘I shouldn’t wonder if the
old man was on his last legs.’ So in I bolted. There he was, to be sure,
a lyin’, on the bed, all curled up into a heap, breathin’ dreadful hard,
and lookin’ as white and pale as any ghost. I didn’t know exactly
what to do, so I went and got some water, but he motioned it away, and
wouldn’t drink it, but kept on groanin’.

“‘He mustn’t be left here to die without any assistance,’ thinks I, so I
ran off as fast I could to find the doctor.

“I found him eatin’ dinner----

“Come quick,” says I, “to old Keziah Onthank’s. He’s dyin’, as sure as
my name is Jehoshaphat.”

“Well,” said the doctor, “die or no die, I can’t come till I’ve eaten my
dinner.”

“But he’s dyin’, doctor.”

“Oh, nonsense. Talk of old Keziah Onthank’s dyin’. He’ll live longer
than I shall.”

“I recollect I thought the doctor very unfeelin’ to talk so of a fellow
creetur, just stepping into eternity, as a body may say. However, it’s
no use drivin’ a horse that’s made up his mind he won’t go, so although
I did think the doctor dreadful deliberate about eatin’ his dinner (he
always would take half an hour for it), I didn’t dare to say a word
for fear he wouldn’t come at all. You see the doctor was dreadful
independent, and was bent on havin’ his own way, pretty much, though for
that matter I think it’s the case with most folks. However, to come back
to my story, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable while I was waitin’
his motions.

“After a long while the doctor got ready. I was in such a hurry that I
actilly pulled him along, he walked so slow; but he only laughed, and
I couldn’t help thinkin’ that doctorin’ had a hardinin’ effect on the
heart. I was determined if ever I fell sick I wouldn’t send for him.

“At last we got there. I went in all of a tremble, and crept to the bed,
thinkin’ I should see his dead body. But he wasn’t there at all. I felt
a little bothered you’d better believe.”

“Well,” said the doctor, turning to me with a smile, “what do you think
now?”

“I don’t know what to think,” said I.

“Then I’ll help you,” said he.

“So sayin’, he took me to the winder, and what do you think I see? As
sure as I’m alive, there was the old man in the back yard, a squattin’
down and pickin’ up chips.”

“And is he still living?”

“Yes, or he was when I come along last. The doctor’s been dead these
ten years. He told me old Keziah would outlive him, but I didn’t believe
him. I shouldn’t be surprised if he lived forever.”

Paul listened with amused interest to this and other stories with which
his companion beguiled the way. They served to divert his mind from
the realities of his condition, and the uncertainty which hung over his
worldly prospects.



XII.

ON THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY.


“If you’re in no great hurry to go to New York,” said the pedler, “I
should like to have you stay with me for a day or two. I live about
twenty-five miles from here, straight ahead, so it will be on your way.
I always manage to get home by Saturday night if it is any way possible.
It doesn’t seem comfortable to be away Sunday. As to-day is Friday, I
shall get there to-morrow. So you can lie over a day and rest yourself.”

Paul felt grateful for this unexpected invitation. It lifted quite a
load from his mind, since, as the day declined, certain anxious thoughts
as to where he should find shelter, had obtruded themselves. Even now,
the same trouble would be experienced on Monday night, but it is the
characteristic of youth to pay little regard to anticipated difficulties
as long as the present is provided for.

It must not be supposed that the pedler neglected his business on
account of his companion. On the road he had been traveling the houses
were few and far between. He had, therefore, but few calls to make.
Paul remarked, however, that when he did call he seldom failed to sell
something.

“Yes,” said Mr. Stubbs, on being interrogated, “I make it a p’int to
sell something, if it’s no more than a tin dipper. I find some hard
cases sometimes, and sometimes I have to give it up altogether. I can’t
quite come up to a friend of mine, Daniel Watson, who used to be in
the same line of business. I never knew him to stop at a place without
selling something. He had a good deal of judgment, Daniel had, and knew
just when to use ‘soft sodder,’ and when not to. On the road that he
traveled there lived a widow woman, who had the reputation of being as
ugly, cross-grained a critter as ever lived. People used to say that
it was enough to turn milk sour for her even to look at it. Well, it so
happened that Daniel had never called there. One night he was boasting
that he never called at a house without driving a bargain, when one
of the company asked him, with a laugh, if he had ever sold the widow
anything.

“Why, no,” said Daniel, “I never called there; but I’ve no doubt I
could.”

“What’ll you bet of it?”

“I’m not a betting man,” said Daniel, “but I feel so sure of it that I
don’t mind risking five dollars.”

“Agreed.”

“The next morning Daniel drove leisurely up to the widow’s door and
knocked. She had a great aversion to pedlers, and declared they were
cheats, every one of them. She was busy sweeping when Daniel knocked.
She came to the door in a dreadful hurry, hoping it might be an old
widower in the neighborhood that she was trying to catch. When she saw
how much she was mistaken she looked as black as a thundercloud.

“Want any tin ware to-day, ma’am?” inquired Daniel, noways discomposed.

“No, sir,” snapped she.

“Got all kinds,--warranted the best in the market. Couldn’t I sell you
something?”

“Not a single thing,” said she, preparing to shut the door; but Daniel,
knowing all would then be lost, stepped in before she could shut it
quite to, and began to name over some of the articles he had in his
wagon.

“You may talk till doomsday,” said the widow, as mad as could be, “and
it won’t do a particle of good. Now, you’ve got your answer, and you’d
better leave the house before you are driven out.”

“Brooms, brushes, lamps----”

“Here the widow, who had been trying to keep in her anger, couldn’t hold
out any longer. She seized the broom she had been sweeping with, and
brought it down with a tremendous whack upon Daniel’s back. You can
imagine how hard it was, when I tell you that the force of the blow
snapped the broom in the middle. You might have thought Daniel would
resent it, but he didn’t appear to notice it, though it must have hurt
him awful. He picked up the pieces, and handing them, with a polite bow,
to the widow, said, ‘Now, ma’am, I’m sure you need a new broom. I’ve got
some capital ones out in the cart.’”

“The widow seemed kind of overpowered by his coolness. She hardly knew
what to say or what to think. However, she had broken her old broom,
that was certain, and must have a new one; so when Daniel ran out and
brought in a bundle of them, she picked out one and paid for it without
saying a word; only, when Daniel asked if he might have the pleasure
of calling again, she looked a little queer, and told him that if he
considered it a pleasure, she had no objection.”

“And did he call again?”

“Yes, whenever he went that way. The widow was always very polite to him
after that, and, though she had a mortal dislike to pedlers in general,
she was always ready to trade with him. Daniel used to say that he
gained his bet and the widow’s custom at ONE BLOW.”

They were now descending a little hill at the foot of which stood a
country tavern. Here Mr. Stubbs declared his intention of spending the
night. He drove into the barn, the large door of which stood invitingly
open, and unharnessed his horse, taking especial care to rub him down
and set before him an ample supply of provender.

“I always take care of Goliah myself,” said he. “He’s a good friend to
me, and it’s no more than right that I should take good care of him.
Now, we’ll go into the house, and see what we can get for supper.”

He was surprised to see that Paul hung back, and seemed disinclined to
follow.

“What’s the matter?” asked Mr. Stubbs, in surprise. “Why don’t you
come?”

“Because,” said Paul, looking embarrassed, “I’ve got no money.”

“Well, I have,” said Mr. Stubbs, “and that will answer just as well, so
come along, and don’t be bashful. I’m about as hungry as a bear, and I
guess you are too.”

Before many minutes, Paul sat down to a more bountiful repast than
he had partaken of for many a day. There were warm biscuits and fresh
butter, such as might please the palate of an epicure, while at the
other end of the table was a plate of cake, flanked on one side by an
apple-pie, on the other by one of pumpkin, with its rich golden hue,
such as is to be found in its perfection, only in New England. It will
scarcely be doubted that our hungry travellers did full justice to the
fare set before them.

When they had finished, they went into the public room, where were
engaged some of the village worthies, intent on discussing the news
and the political questions of the day. It was a time of considerable
political excitement, and this naturally supplied the topic of
conversation. In this the pedler joined, for his frequent travel on this
route had made him familiarly acquainted with many of those present.

Paul sat in a corner, trying to feel interested in the conversation; but
the day had been a long one, and he had undergone an unusual amount of
fatigue. Gradually, his drowsiness increased. The many voices fell upon
his ears like a lullaby, and in a few minutes he was fast asleep.

Early next morning they were up and on their way. It was the second
morning since Paul’s departure. Already a sense of freedom gave his
spirits unwonted elasticity, and encouraged him to hope for the best.
Had his knowledge of the future been greater, his confidence might have
been less. But would he have been any happier?

So many miles separated him from his late home, that he supposed himself
quite safe from detection. A slight circumstance warned him that he must
still be watchful and cautious.

As they were jogging easily along, they heard the noise of wheels at a
little distance. Paul looked up. To his great alarms he recognized
in the driver of the approaching vehicle, one of the selectmen of
Wrenville.

“What’s the matter?” asked his companion, noticing his sudden look of
apprehension.

Paul quickly communicated the ground of his alarm.

“And you are afraid he will want to carry you back, are you?”

“Yes.”

“Not a bit of it. We’ll circumvent the old fellow, unless he’s sharper
than I think he is. You’ve only got to do as I tell you.”

To this Paul quickly agreed.

The selectman was already within a hundred rods. He had not yet
apparently noticed the pedler’s cart, so that this was in our hero’s
favor. Mr. Stubbs had already arranged his plan of operations.

“This is what you are to do, Paul,” said he, quickly. “Cock your hat on
the side of your head, considerably forward, so that he can’t see much
of your face. Then here’s a cigar to stick in your mouth. You can make
believe that you are smoking. If you are the sort of boy I reckon you
are, he’ll never think it’s you.”

Paul instantly adopted this suggestion.

Slipping his hat to one side in the jaunty manner characteristic of
young America, he began to puff very gravely at a cigar the pedler
handed him, frequently taking it from his mouth, as he had seen older
persons do, to knock away the ashes. Nothwithstanding his alarm, his
love of fun made him enjoy this little stratagem, in which he bore his
part successfully.

The selectman eyed him intently. Paul began to tremble from fear of
discovery, but his apprehensions were speedily dissipated by a remark of
the new-comer, “My boy, you are forming a very bad habit.”

Paul did not dare to answer lest his voice should betray him. To his
relief, the pedler spoke----

“Just what I tell him, sir, but I suppose he thinks he must do as his
father does.”

By this time the vehicles had passed each other, and the immediate peril
was over.

“Now, Paul,” said his companion, laughing, “I’ll trouble you for that
cigar, if you have done with it. The old gentleman’s advice was good. If
I’d never learned to smoke, I wouldn’t begin now.”

Our hero was glad to take the cigar from his mouth. The brief time he
had held it was sufficient to make him slightly dizzy.



XIII.

PAUL REACHES THE CITY.


Towards evening they drew up before a small house with a neat yard in
front.

“I guess we’ll get out here,” said Mr. Stubbs. “There’s a gentleman
lives here that I feel pretty well acquainted with. Shouldn’t wonder if
he’d let us stop over Sunday. Whoa, Goliah, glad to get home, hey?” as
the horse pricked up his ears and showed manifest signs of satisfaction.

“Now, youngster, follow me, and I guess I can promise you some supper,
if Mrs. Stubbs hasn’t forgotten her old tricks.”

They passed through the entry into the kitchen, where Mrs. Stubbs was
discovered before the fire toasting slices of bread.

“Lor, Jehoshaphat,” said she, “I didn’t expect you so soon,” and she
looked inquiringly at his companion.

“A young friend who is going to stay with us till Monday,” explained the
pedler. “His name is Paul Prescott.”

“I’m glad to see you, Paul,” said Mrs. Stubbs with a friendly smile.
“You must be tired if you’ve been traveling far. Take a seat. Here’s a
rocking-chair for you.”

This friendly greeting made Paul feel quite at home. Having no children,
the pedler and his wife exerted themselves to make the time pass
pleasantly to their young acquaintance. Paul could not help contrasting
them with Mr. and Mrs. Mudge, not very much to the advantage of
the latter. On Sunday he went to church with them, and the peculiar
circumstances in which he was placed, made him listen to the sermon with
unusual attention. It was an exposition of the text, “My help cometh
from the Lord,” and Paul could not help feeling that it was particularly
applicable to his own case. It encouraged him to hope, that, however
uncertain his prospects appeared, God would help him if he put his trust
in Him.

On Monday morning Paul resumed his journey, with an ample stock of
provisions supplied by Mrs. Stubbs, in the list of which doughnuts
occupied a prominent place; this being at the particular suggestion of
Mr. Stubbs.

Forty or fifty miles remained to be traversed before his destination
would be reached. The road was not a difficult one to find, and he made
it out without much questioning. The first night, he sought permission
to sleep in a barn.

He met with a decided refusal.

He was about to turn away in disappointment, when he was called back.

“You are a little too fast, youngster. I said I wouldn’t let you sleep
in my barn, and I won’t; but I’ve got a spare bed in the house, and if
you choose you shall occupy it.”

Under the guise of roughness, this man had a kind heart. He inquired
into the particulars of Paul’s story, and at the conclusion terrified
him by saying that he had been very foolish and ought to be sent back.
Nevertheless, when Paul took leave of him the next morning, he did not
go away empty-handed.

“If you must be so foolish as to set up for yourself, take this,” said
the farmer, placing half a dollar in his hand. “You may reach the city
after the banks are closed for the day, you know,” he added, jocularly.

But it was in the morning that Paul came in sight of the city. He
climbed up into a high tree, which, having the benefit of an elevated
situation, afforded him an extensive prospect. Before him lay the great
city of which he had so often heard, teeming with life and activity.

Half in eager anticipation, half in awe and wonder at its vastness, our
young pilgrim stood upon the threshold of this great Babel.

Everything looked new and strange. It had never entered Paul’s mind,
that there could be so many houses in the whole State as now rose up
before him. He got into Broadway, and walked on and on thinking that
the street must end somewhere. But the farther he walked the thicker the
houses seemed crowded together. Every few rods, too, he came to a cross
street, which seemed quite as densely peopled as the one on which he was
walking. One part of the city was the same as another to Paul, since
he was equally a stranger to all. He wandered listlessly along, whither
fancy led. His mind was constantly excited by the new and strange
objects which met him at every step.

As he was looking in at a shop window, a boy of about his own age,
stopped and inquired confidentially, “when did you come from the
country?”

“This morning,” said Paul, wondering how a stranger should know that he
was a country boy.

“Could you tell me what is the price of potatoes up your way?” asked the
other boy, with perfect gravity.

“I don’t know,” said Paul, innocently.

“I’m sorry for that,” said the other, “as I have got to buy some for my
wife and family.”

Paul stared in surprise for a moment, and then realizing that he was
being made game of, began to grow angry.

“You’d better go home to your wife and family,” he said with spirit, “or
you may get hurt.”

“Bully for you, country!” answered the other with a laugh. “You’re not
as green as you look.”

“Thank you,” said Paul, “I wish I could say as much for you.”

Tired with walking, Paul at length sat down in a doorway, and watched
with interest the hurrying crowds that passed before him. Everybody
seemed to be in a hurry, pressing forward as if life and death depended
on his haste. There were lawyers with their sharp, keen glances;
merchants with calculating faces; speculators pondering on the chances
of a rise or fall in stocks; errand boys with bundles under their arms;
business men hurrying to the slip to take the boat for Brooklyn or
Jersey City,--all seemed intent on business of some kind, even to the
ragged newsboys who had just obtained their supply of evening papers,
and were now crying them at the top of their voices,--and very
discordant ones at that, so Paul thought. Of the hundreds passing and
repassing before him, every one had something to do. Every one had a
home to go to. Perhaps it was not altogether strange that a feeling of
desolation should come over Paul as he recollected that he stood alone,
homeless, friendless, and, it might be, shelterless for the coming
night.

“Yet,” thought he with something of hopefulness, “there must be
something for me to do as well as the rest.”

Just then a boy some two years older than Paul paced slowly by, and
in passing, chanced to fix his eyes upon our hero. He probably saw
something in Paul which attracted him, for he stepped up and extending
his hand, said, “why, Tom, how came you here?”

“My name isn’t Tom,” said Paul, feeling a little puzzled by this
address.

“Why, so it isn’t. But you look just like my friend, Tom Crocker.”

To this succeeded a few inquiries, which Paul unsuspiciously answered.

“Do you like oysters?” inquired the new-comer, after a while.

“Very much.”

“Because I know of a tip top place to get some, just round the corner.
Wouldn’t you like some?”

Paul thanked his new acquaintance, and said he would.

Without more ado, his companion ushered him into a basement room near
by. He led the way into a curtained recess, and both boys took seats one
on each side of a small table.

“Just pull the bell, will you, and tell the waiter we’ll have two
stews.”

Paul did so.

“I suppose,” continued the other, “the governor wouldn’t like it much if
he knew where I was.”

“The governor!” repeated Paul. “Why, it isn’t against the laws, is it?”

“No,” laughed the other. “I mean my father. How jolly queer you are!” He
meant to say green, but had a purpose in not offending Paul.

“Are you the Governor’s son?” asked Paul in amazement.

“To be sure,” carelessly replied the other.

Paul’s wonder had been excited many times in the course of the day, but
this was more surprising than anything which had yet befallen him. That
he should have the luck to fall in with the son of the Governor, on his
first arrival in the city, and that the latter should prove so affable
and condescending, was indeed surprising. Paul inwardly determined
to mention it in his first letter to Aunt Lucy. He could imagine her
astonishment.

While he was busy with these thoughts, his companion had finished his
oysters.

“Most through?” he inquired nonchalantly.

“I’ve got to step out a minute; wait till I come back.”

Paul unsuspectingly assented.

He heard his companion say a word to the barkeeper, and then go out.

He waited patiently for fifteen minutes and he did not return; another
quarter of an hour, and he was still absent. Thinking he might have
been unexpectedly detained, he rose to go, but was called back by the
barkeeper.

“Hallo, youngster! are you going off without paying?”

“For what?” inquired Paul, in surprise.

“For the oysters, of course. You don’t suppose I give ‘em away, do you?”

“I thought,” hesitated Paul, “that the one who was with me paid,--the
Governor’s son,” he added, conscious of a certain pride in his intimacy
with one so nearly related to the chief magistrate of the Commonwealth.

“The Governor’s son,” laughed the barkeeper. “Why the Governor lives a
hundred miles off and more. That wasn’t the Governor’s son any more than
I am.”

“He called his father governor,” said Paul, beginning to be afraid that
he had made some ridiculous blunder.

“Well, I wouldn’t advise you to trust him again, even if he’s the
President’s son. He only got you in here to pay for his oysters. He told
me when he went out that you would pay for them.”

“And didn’t he say he was coming back?” asked Paul, quite dumbfounded.

“He said you hadn’t quite finished, but would pay for both when you came
out. It’s two shillings.”

Paul rather ruefully took out the half dollar which constituted his
entire stock of money, and tendered it to the barkeeper who returned him
the change.

So Paul went out into the streets, with his confidence in human nature
somewhat lessened.

Here, then, is our hero with twenty-five cents in his pocket, and his
fortune to make.



XIV.

A STRANGE BED-CHAMBER.


Although Paul could not help being vexed at having been so cleverly
taken in by his late companion, he felt the better for having eaten the
oysters. Carefully depositing his only remaining coin in his pocket, he
resumed his wanderings. It is said that a hearty meal is a good promoter
of cheerfulness. It was so in Paul’s case, and although he had as yet
had no idea where he should find shelter for the night he did not allow
that consideration to trouble him.

So the day passed, and the evening came on. Paul’s appetite returned to
him once more. He invested one-half of his money at an old woman’s stall
for cakes and apples, and then he ate leisurely while leaning against
the iron railing which encircles the park.

He began to watch with interest the movements of those about him.
Already the lamplighter had started on his accustomed round, and with
ladder in hand was making his way from one lamp-post to another. Paul
quite marvelled at the celerity with which the lamps were lighted, never
before having witnessed the use of gas. He was so much interested in the
process that he sauntered along behind the lamplighter for some time. At
length his eye fell upon a group common enough in our cities, but new to
him.

An Italian, short and dark-featured, with a velvet cap, was grinding out
music from a hand-organ, while a woman with a complexion equally
dark, and black sorrowful-looking eyes, accompanied her husband on the
tambourine. They were playing a lively tune as Paul came up, but quickly
glided into “Home, Sweet Home.”

Paul listened with pleased, yet sad interest, for him “home” was only a
sad remembrance.

He wandered on, pausing now and then to look into one of the brilliantly
illuminated shop windows, or catching a glimpse through the open doors
of the gay scene within, and as one after another of these lively scenes
passed before him, he began to think that all the strange and wonderful
things in the world must be collected in these rich stores.

Next, he came to a place of public amusement. Crowds were entering
constantly, and Paul, from curiosity, entered too. He passed on to a
little wicket, when a man stopped him.

“Where’s your ticket?” he asked.

“I haven’t got any,” said Paul.

“Then what business have you here?” said the man, roughly.

“Isn’t this a meeting-house?” asked Paul.

This remark seemed to amuse two boys who were standing by. Looking up
with some indignation, Paul recognized in one of them the boy who had
cheated him out of the oysters.

“Look here,” said Paul, “what made you go off and leave me to pay for
the oysters this morning?”

“Which of us do you mean?” inquired the ‘governor’s son,’ carelessly.

“I mean you.”

“Really, I don’t understand your meaning. Perhaps you mistake me for
somebody else.”

“What?” said Paul, in great astonishment. “Don’t you remember me, and
how you told me you were the Governor’s son?”

Both boys laughed.

“You must be mistaken. I haven’t the honor of being related to the
distinguished gentleman you name.”

The speaker made a mocking bow to Paul.

“I know that,” said Paul, with spirit, “but you said you were, for all
that.”

“It must have been some other good-looking boy, that you are mistaking
me for. What are you going to do about it? I hope, by the way, that the
oysters agreed with you.”

“Yes, they did,” said Paul, “for I came honestly by them.”

“He’s got you there, Gerald,” said the other boy.

Paul made his way out of the theater. As his funds were reduced to
twelve cents, he could not have purchased a ticket if he had desired it.

Still he moved on.

Soon he came to another building, which was in like manner lighted up,
but not so brilliantly as the theater. This time, from the appearance
of the building, and from the tall steeple,--so tall that his eye could
scarcely reach the tapering spire,--he knew that it must be a church.
There was not such a crowd gathered about the door as at the place he
had just left, but he saw a few persons entering, and he joined them.
The interior of the church was far more gorgeous than the plain village
meeting-house which he had been accustomed to attend with his mother. He
gazed about him with a feeling of awe, and sank quietly into a back
pew. As it was a week-day evening, and nothing of unusual interest was
anticipated, there were but few present, here and there one, scattered
through the capacious edifice.

By-and-by the organist commenced playing, and a flood of music, grander
and more solemn than he had ever heard, filled the whole edifice. He
listened with rapt attention and suspended breath till the last note
died away, and then sank back upon the richly cushioned seat with a
feeling of enjoyment.

In the services which followed he was not so much interested. The
officiating clergyman delivered a long homily in a dull unimpassioned
manner, which failed to awaken his interest. Already disposed to be
drowsy, it acted upon him like a gentle soporific. He tried to pay
attention as he had always been used to do, but owing to his occupying a
back seat, and the low voice of the preacher, but few words reached him,
and those for the most part were above his comprehension.

Gradually the feeling of fatigue--for he had been walking the streets
all day--became so powerful that his struggles to keep awake became
harder and harder. In vain he sat erect, resolved not to yield. The
moment afterwards his head inclined to one side; the lights began to
swim before his eyes; the voice of the preacher subsided into a low and
undistinguishable hum. Paul’s head sank upon the cushion, his bundle,
which had been his constant companion during the day, fell softly to the
floor, and he fell into a deep sleep.

Meanwhile the sermon came to a close, and another hymn was sung, but
even the music was insufficient to wake our hero now. So the benediction
was pronounced, and the people opened the doors of their pews and left
the church.

Last of all the sexton walked up and down the aisles, closing such of
the pew doors as were open. Then he shut off the gas, and after
looking around to see that nothing was forgotten, went out, apparently
satisfied, and locked the outer door behind him.

Paul, meanwhile, wholly unconscious of his situation, slept on as
tranquilly as if there were nothing unusual in the circumstances in
which he was placed. Through the stained windows the softened light fell
upon his tranquil countenance, on which a smile played, as if his dreams
were pleasant. What would Aunt Lucy have thought if she could have seen
her young friend at this moment?



XV.

A TURN OF FORTUNE.

Notwithstanding his singular bedchamber, Paul had a refreshing night’s
sleep from which he did not awake till the sun had fairly risen, and its
rays colored by the medium through which they were reflected, streamed
in at the windows and rested in many fantastic lines on the richly
carved pulpit and luxurious pews.

Paul sprang to his feet and looked around him in bewilderment.

“Where am I?” he exclaimed in astonishment.

In the momentary confusion of ideas which is apt to follow a sudden
awakening, he could not remember where he was, or how he chanced to
be there. But in a moment memory came to his aid, and he recalled the
events of the preceding day, and saw that he must have been locked up in
the church.

“How am I going to get out?” Paul asked himself in dismay.

This was the important question just now. He remembered that the village
meeting-house which he had been accustomed to attend was rarely opened
except on Sundays. What if this should be the case here? It was Thursday
morning, and three days must elapse before his release. This would never
do. He must seek some earlier mode of deliverance.

He went first to the windows, but found them so secured that it was
impossible for him to get them open. He tried the doors, but found, as
he had anticipated, that they were fast. His last resource failing, he
was at liberty to follow the dictates of his curiosity.

Finding a small door partly open, he peeped within, and found a flight
of steep stairs rising before him. They wound round and round, and
seemed almost interminable. At length, after he had become almost weary
of ascending, he came to a small window, out of which he looked. At his
feet lay the numberless roofs of the city, while not far away his eye
rested on thousands of masts. The river sparkled in the sun, and Paul,
in spite of his concern, could not help enjoying the scene. The sound
of horses and carriages moving along the great thoroughfare below came
confusedly to his ears. He leaned forward to look down, but the distance
was so much greater than he had thought, that he drew back in alarm.

“What shall I do?” Paul asked himself, rather frightened. “I wonder if I
can stand going without food for three days? I suppose nobody would hear
me if I should scream as loud as I could.”

Paul shouted, but there was so much noise in the streets that nobody
probably heard him.

He descended the staircase, and once more found himself in the body
of the church. He went up into the pulpit, but there seemed no hope of
escape in that direction. There was a door leading out on one side, but
this only led to a little room into which the minister retired before
service.

It seemed rather odd to Paul to find himself the sole occupant of so
large a building. He began to wonder whether it would not have been
better for him to stay in the poorhouse, than come to New York to die of
starvation.

Just at this moment Paul heard a key rattle in the outer door. Filled
with new hope, he ran down the pulpit stairs and out into the porch,
just in time to see the entrance of the sexton.

The sexton started in surprise as his eye fell upon Paul standing before
him, with his bundle under his arm.

“Where did you come from, and how came you here?” he asked with some
suspicion.

“I came in last night, and fell asleep.”

“So you passed the night here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What made you come in at all?” inquired the sexton, who knew enough of
boys to be curious upon this point.

“I didn’t know where else to go,” said Paul.

“Where do you live?”

Paul answered with perfect truth, “I don’t live anywhere.”

“What! Have you no home?” asked the sexton in surprise.

Paul shook his head.

“Where should you have slept if you hadn’t come in here?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure.”

“And I suppose you don’t know where you shall sleep to-night?”

Paul signified that he did not.

“I knew there were plenty of such cases,” said the sexton, meditatively;
“but I never seemed to realize it before.”

“How long have you been in New York?” was his next inquiry.

“Not very long,” said Paul. “I only got here yesterday.”

“Then you don’t know anybody in the city?”

“No.”

“Why did you come here, then?”

“Because I wanted to go somewhere where I could earn a living, and I
thought I might find something to do here.”

“But suppose you shouldn’t find anything to do?”

“I don’t know,” said Paul, slowly. “I haven’t thought much about that.”

“Well, my lad,” said the sexton, not unkindly, “I can’t say your
prospects look very bright. You should have good reasons for entering on
such an undertaking. I--I don’t think you are a bad boy. You don’t look
like a bad one,” he added, half to himself.

“I hope not, sir,” said Paul.

“I hope not, too. I was going to say that I wish I could help you to
some kind of work. If you will come home with me, you shall be welcome
to a dinner, and perhaps I may be able to think of something for you.”

Paul gladly prepared to follow his new acquaintance.

“What is your name?” inquired the sexton.

“Paul Prescott.”

“That sounds like a good name. I suppose you haven’t got much money?”

“Only twelve cents.”

“Bless me! only twelve cents. Poor boy! you are indeed poor.”

“But I can work,” said Paul, spiritedly. “I ought to be able to earn my
living.”

“Yes, yes, that’s the way to feel. Heaven helps those who help
themselves.”

When they were fairly out of the church, Paul had an opportunity of
observing his companion’s external appearance. He was an elderly man,
with harsh features, which would have been forbidding, but for a certain
air of benevolence which softened their expression.

As Paul walked along, he related, with less of detail, the story which
is already known to the reader. The sexton said little except in the
way of questions designed to elicit further particulars, till, at the
conclusion he said, “Must tell Hester.”

At length they came to a small house, in a respectable but not
fashionable quarter of the city. One-half of this was occupied by the
sexton. He opened the door and led the way into the sitting-room. It
was plainly but neatly furnished, the only ornament being one or two
engravings cheaply framed and hung over the mantel-piece. They were
by no means gems of art, but then, the sexton did not claim to be a
connoisseur, and would probably not have understood the meaning of the
word.

“Sit here a moment,” said the sexton, pointing to a chair, “I’ll go and
speak to Hester.”

Paul whiled away the time in looking at the pictures in a copy of “The
Pilgrim’s Progress,” which lay on the table.

In the next room sat a woman of perhaps fifty engaged in knitting. It
was very easy to see that she could never have possessed the perishable
gift of beauty. Hers was one of the faces on which nature has written
PLAIN, in unmistakable characters. Yet if the outward features had been
a reflex of the soul within, few faces would have been more attractive
than that of Hester Cameron. At the feet of the sexton’s wife, for such
she was, reposed a maltese cat, purring softly by way of showing her
contentment. Indeed, she had good reason to be satisfied. In default of
children, puss had become a privileged pet, being well fed and carefully
shielded from all the perils that beset cat-hood.

“Home so soon?” said Hester inquiringly, as her husband opened the door.

“Yes, Hester, and I have brought company with me,” said the sexton.

“Company!” repeated his wife. “Who is it?”

“It is a poor boy, who was accidentally locked up in the church last
night.”

“And he had to stay there all night?”

“Yes; but perhaps it was lucky for him, for he had no other place to
sleep, and not money enough to pay for one.”

“Poor child!” said Hester, compassionately. “Is it not terrible to think
that any human creature should be without the comforts of a home which
even our tabby possesses. It ought to make you thankful that you are so
well cared for, Tab.”

The cat opened her eyes and winked drowsily at her mistress.

“So you brought the poor boy home, Hugh?”

“Yes, Hester,--I thought we ought not to begrudge a meal to one less
favored by fortune than ourselves. You know we should consider ourselves
the almoners of God’s bounties.”

“Surely, Hugh.”

“I knew you would feel so, Hester. And suppose we have the chicken for
dinner that I sent in the morning. I begin to have a famous appetite. I
think I should enjoy it.”

Hester knew perfectly well that it was for Paul’s sake, and not for his
own, that her husband spoke. But she so far entered into his feelings,
that she determined to expend her utmost skill as cook upon the dinner,
that Paul might have at least one good meal.

“Now I will bring the boy in,” said he. “I am obliged to go to work, but
you will find some way to entertain him, I dare say.”

“If you will come out (this he said to Paul), I will introduce you to a
new friend.”

Paul was kindly welcomed by the sexton’s wife, who questioned him in
a sympathizing tone about his enforced stay in the church. To all her
questions Paul answered in a modest yet manly fashion, so as to produce
a decidedly favorable impression upon his entertainer.

Our hero was a handsome boy. Just at present he was somewhat thin, not
having entirely recovered from the effects of his sickness and poor fare
while a member of Mr. Mudge’s family; but he was well made, and bade
fair to become a stout boy. His manner was free and unembarrassed, and
he carried a letter of recommendation in his face. It must be admitted,
however that there were two points in which his appearance might have
been improved. Both his hands and face had suffered from the dust of
travel. His clothes, too, were full of dust.

A single glance told Hester all this, and she resolved to remedy it.

She quietly got some water and a towel, and requested Paul to pull off
his jacket, which she dusted while he was performing his ablutions.
Then, with the help of a comb to arrange his disordered hair, he seemed
quite like a new boy, and felt quite refreshed by the operation.

“Really, it improves him very much,” said Hester to herself.

She couldn’t help recalling a boy of her own,--the only child she ever
had,--who had been accidentally drowned when about the age of Paul.

“If he had only lived,” she thought, “how different might have been our
lives.”

A thought came into her mind, and she looked earnestly at Paul.

“I--yes I will speak to Hugh about it,” she said, speaking aloud,
unconsciously.

“Did you speak to me?” asked Paul.

“No,--I was thinking of something.”

She observed that Paul was looking rather wistfully at a loaf of bread
on the table.

“Don’t you feel hungry?” she asked, kindly.

“I dare say you have had no breakfast.”

“I have eaten nothing since yesterday afternoon.”

“Bless my soul! How hungry you must be!” said the good woman, as she
bustled about to get a plate of butter and a knife.

She must have been convinced of it by the rapid manner in which the
slices of bread and butter disappeared.

At one o’clock the sexton came home. Dinner was laid, and Paul partook
of it with an appetite little affected by his lunch of the morning. As
he rose from the table, he took his cap, and saying, “Good-by, I thank
you very much for your kindness!” he was about to depart.

“Where are you going?” asked the sexton, in surprise.

“I don’t know,” answered Paul.

“Stop a minute. Hester, I want to speak to you.”

They went into the sitting-room together.

“This boy, Hester,” he commenced with hesitation.

“Well, Hugh?”

“He has no home.”

“It is a hard lot.”

“Do you think we should be the worse off if we offered to share our home
with him?”

“It is like your kind heart, Hugh. Let us go and tell him.”

“We have been talking of you, Paul,” said the sexton. “We have thought,
Hester and myself, that as you had no home and we no child, we should
all be the gainers by your staying with us. Do you consent?”

“Consent!” echoed Paul in joyful surprise. “How can I ever repay your
kindness?”

“If you are the boy we take you for, we shall feel abundantly repaid.
Hester, we can give Paul the little bedroom where--where John used to
sleep.”

His voice faltered a little, for John was the name of his boy, who had
been drowned.



XVI.

YOUNG STUPID.


Paul found the sexton’s dwelling very different from his last home, if
the Poorhouse under the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge deserved such a
name. His present home was an humble one, but he was provided with every
needful comfort, and the atmosphere of kindness which surrounded him,
gave him a feeling of peace and happiness which he had not enjoyed for a
long time.

Paul supposed that he would be at once set to work, and even then would
have accounted himself fortunate in possessing such a home.

But Mr. Cameron had other views for him.

“Are you fond of studying?” asked the sexton, as they were all three
gathered in the little sitting room, an evening or two after Paul first
came.

“Very much!” replied our hero.

“And would you like to go to school?”

“What, here in New York?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, very much indeed.”

“I am glad to hear you say so, my lad. There is nothing like a good
education. If I had a son of my own, I would rather leave him that
than money, for while the last may be lost, the first never can be. And
though you are not my son, Paul, Providence has in a manner conducted
you to me, and I feel responsible for your future. So you shall go to
school next Monday morning, and I hope you will do yourself much credit
there.”

“Thank you very much,” said Paul. “I feel very grateful, but----”

“You surely are not going to object?” said the sexton.

“No, but----”

“Well, Paul, go on,” seeing that the boy hesitated.

“Why,” said our hero, with a sense of delicacy which did him credit,
“If I go to school, I shall not be able to earn my board, and shall be
living at your expense, though I have no claim upon you.”

“Oh, is that all?” said the sexton cheerfully, “I was afraid that it was
something more serious. As to that, I am not rich, and never expect to
be. But what little expense you will be will not ruin me. Besides, when
you are grown up and doing well, you can repay me, if I ever need it.”

“That I will,” said Paul.

“Mind, if I ever need it,--not otherwise. There, now, it’s a bargain on
that condition. You haven’t any other objection,” seeing that Paul still
hesitated.

“No, or at least I should like to ask your advice,” said Paul. “Just
before my father died, he told me of a debt of five hundred dollars
which he had not been able to pay. I saw that it troubled him, and I
promised to pay it whenever I was able. I don’t know but I ought to go
to work so as to keep my promise.”

“No,” said the sexton after a moment’s reflection, “the best course will
be to go to school, at present. Knowledge is power, and a good education
will help you to make money by and by. I approve your resolution, my
lad, and if you keep it resolutely in mind I have no doubt you will
accomplish your object. But the quickest road to success is through the
schoolroom. At present you are not able to earn much. Two or three years
hence will be time enough.”

Paul’s face brightened as the sexton said this. He instinctively felt
that Mr. Cameron was right. He had never forgotten his father’s dying
injunction, and this was one reason that impelled him to run away from
the Almshouse, because he felt that while he remained he never would
be in a situation to carry out his father’s wishes. Now his duty was
reconciled with his pleasure, and he gratefully accepted the sexton’s
suggestions.

The next Monday morning, in accordance with the arrangement which had
just been agreed upon, Paul repaired to school. He was at once placed in
a class, and lessons were assigned him.

At first his progress was not rapid. While living in Wrenville he had
an opportunity only of attending a country school, kept less than six
months in the year, and then not affording advantages to be compared
with those of a city school. During his father’s sickness, besides, he
had been kept from school altogether. Of course all this lost time could
not be made up in a moment. Therefore it was that Paul lagged behind his
class.

There are generally some in every school, who are disposed to take
unfair advantage of their schoolmates, or to ridicule those whom they
consider inferior to themselves.

There was one such in Paul’s class. His name was George Dawkins.

He was rather a showy boy, and learned easily. He might have stood a
class above where he was, if he had not been lazy, and depended too much
on his natural talent. As it was, he maintained the foremost rank in his
class.

“Better be the first man in a village than the second man in Rome,”
 he used to say; and as his present position not only gave him the
pre-eminence which he desired, but cost him very little exertion to
maintain, he was quite well satisfied with it.

This boy stood first in his class, while Paul entered at the foot.

He laughed unmercifully at the frequent mistakes of our hero, and
jeeringly dubbed him, “Young Stupid.”

“Do you know what Dawkins calls you?” asked one of the boys.

“No. What does he call me?” asked Paul, seriously.

“He calls you ‘Young Stupid.’”

Paul’s face flushed painfully. Ridicule was as painful to him as it is
to most boys, and he felt the insult deeply.

“I’d fight him if I were you,” was the volunteered advice of his
informant.

“No,” said Paul. “That wouldn’t mend the matter. Besides, I don’t know
but he has some reason for thinking so.”

“Don’t call yourself stupid, do you?”

“No, but I am not as far advanced as most boys of my age. That isn’t my
fault, though. I never had a chance to go to school much. If I had been
to school all my life, as Dawkins has, it would be time to find out
whether I am stupid or not.”

“Then you ain’t going to do anything about it?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You said you wasn’t going to fight him.”

“That wouldn’t do any good. But I’m going to study up and see if I can’t
get ahead of him. Don’t you think that will be the best way of showing
him that he is mistaken?”

“Yes, capital, but----”

“But you think I can’t do it, I suppose,” said Paul.

“You know he is at the head of the class, and you are at the foot.”

“I know that,” said Paul, resolutely. “But wait awhile and see.”

In some way George Dawkins learned that Paul had expressed the
determination to dispute his place. It occasioned him considerable
amusement.

“Halloa, Young Stupid,” he called out, at recess.

Paul did not answer.

“Why don’t you answer when you are spoken to?” he asked angrily.

“When you call me by my right name,” said Paul, quietly, “I will answer,
and not before.”

“You’re mighty independent,” sneered Dawkins. “I don’t know but I may
have to teach you manners.”

“You had better wait till you are qualified,” said Paul, coolly.

Dawkins approached our hero menacingly, but Paul did not look in the
least alarmed, and he concluded to attack him with words only.

“I understand you have set yourself up as my rival!” he said, mockingly.

“Not just yet,” said Paul, “but in time I expect to be.”

“So you expect my place,” said Dawkins, glancing about him.

“We’ll talk about that three months hence,” said Paul.

“Don’t hurt yourself studying,” sneered Dawkins, scornfully.

To this Paul did not deign a reply, but the same day he rose one in his
class.

Our hero had a large stock of energy and determination. When he had once
set his mind upon a thing, he kept steadily at work till he accomplished
it. This is the great secret of success. It sometimes happens that a man
who has done nothing will at once accomplish a brilliant success by one
spasmodic effort, but such cases are extremely rare.

“Slow and sure wins the race,” is an old proverb that has a great deal
of truth in it.

Paul worked industriously.

The kind sexton and his wife, who noticed his assiduity, strove to
dissuade him from working so steadily.

“You are working too hard, Paul,” they said.

“Do I look pale?” asked Paul, pointing with a smile to his red cheeks.

“No, but you will before long.”

“When I am, I will study less. But you know, Uncle Hugh,” so the sexton
instructed him to call him, “I want to make the most of my present
advantages. Besides, there’s a particular boy who thinks I am stupid. I
want to convince him that he is mistaken.”

“You are a little ambitious, then, Paul?”

“Yes, but it isn’t that alone. I know the value of knowledge, and I want
to secure as much as I can.”

“That is an excellent motive, Paul.”

“Then you won’t make me study less?”

“Not unless I see you are getting sick.”

Paul took good care of this. He knew how to play as well as to study,
and his laugh on the playground was as merry as any. His cheerful,
obliging disposition made him a favorite with his companions. Only
George Dawkins held out; he had, for some reason, imbibed a dislike for
Paul.

Paul’s industry was not without effect. He gradually gained position in
his class.

“Take care, Dawkins,” said one of his companions--the same one who had
before spoken to Paul--“Paul Prescott will be disputing your place with
you. He has come up seventeen places in a month.”

“Much good it’ll do him,” said Dawkins, contemptuously.

“For all that, you will have to be careful; I can tell you that.”

“I’m not in the least afraid. I’m a little too firm in my position to be
ousted by Young Stupid.”

“Just wait and see.”

Dawkins really entertained no apprehension. He had unbounded confidence
in himself, and felt a sense of power in the rapidity with which he
could master a lesson. He therefore did not study much, and though he
could not but see that Paul was rapidly advancing, he rejected with
scorn the idea that Young Stupid could displace him.

This, however, was the object at which Paul was aiming. He had not
forgotten the nickname which Dawkins had given him, and this was the
revenge which he sought,--a strictly honorable one.

At length the day of his triumph came. At the end of the month the
master read off the class-list, and, much to his disgust, George Dawkins
found himself playing second fiddle to Young Stupid.



XVII.

BEN’S PRACTICAL JOKE.


Mrs. Mudge was in the back room, bending over a tub. It was washing-day,
and she was particularly busy. She was a driving, bustling woman, and,
whatever might be her faults of temper, she was at least industrious and
energetic. Had Mr. Mudge been equally so, they would have been better
off in a worldly point of view. But her husband was constitutionally
lazy, and was never disposed to do more than was needful.

Mrs. Mudge was in a bad humor that morning. One of the cows had got
into the garden through a gap in the fence, and made sad havoc among the
cabbages. Now if Mrs. Mudge had a weakness, it was for cabbages. She
was excessively fond of them, and had persuaded her husband to set out
a large number of plants from which she expected a large crop. They were
planted in one corner of the garden, adjoining a piece of land, which,
since mowing, had been used for pasturing the cows. There was a weak
place in the fence separating the two inclosures, and this Mrs. Mudge
had requested her husband to attend to. He readily promised this, and
Mrs. Mudge supposed it done, until that same morning, her sharp eyes had
detected old Brindle munching the treasured cabbages with a provoking
air of enjoyment. The angry lady seized a broom, and repaired quickly to
the scene of devastation. Brindle scented the danger from afar, and beat
a disorderly retreat, trampling down the cabbages which she had hitherto
spared. Leaping over the broken fence, she had just cleared the gap as
the broom-handle, missing her, came forcibly down upon the rail, and was
snapped in sunder by the blow.

Here was a new vexation. Brindle had not only escaped scot-free, but the
broom, a new one, bought only the week before, was broken.

“It’s a plaguy shame,” said Mrs. Mudge, angrily. “There’s my best broom
broken; cost forty-two cents only last week.”

She turned and contemplated the scene of devastation. This yielded her
little consolation.

“At least thirty cabbages destroyed by that scamp of a cow,” she
exclaimed in a tone bordering on despair. “I wish I’d a hit her. If I’d
broken my broom over her back I wouldn’t a cared so much. And it’s all
Mudge’s fault. He’s the most shiftless man I ever see. I’ll give him a
dressing down, see if I don’t.”

Mrs. Mudge’s eyes snapped viciously, and she clutched the relics of the
broom with a degree of energy which rendered it uncertain what sort of a
dressing down she intended for her husband.

Ten minutes after she had re-entered the kitchen, the luckless man made
his appearance. He wore his usual look, little dreaming of the storm
that awaited him.

“I’m glad you’ve come,” said Mrs. Mudge, grimly.

“What’s amiss, now?” inquired Mudge, for he understood her look.

“What’s amiss?” blazed Mrs. Mudge. “I’ll let you know. Do you see this?”

She seized the broken broom and flourished it in his face.

“Broken your broom, have you? You must have been careless.”

“Careless, was I?” demanded Mrs. Mudge, sarcastically. “Yes, of course,
it’s always I that am in fault.”

“You haven’t broken it over the back of any of the paupers, have you?”
 asked her husband, who, knowing his helpmeet’s infirmity of temper,
thought it possible she might have indulged in such an amusement.

“If I had broken it over anybody’s back it would have been yours,” said
the lady.

“Mine! what have I been doing?”

“It’s what you haven’t done,” said Mrs. Mudge. “You’re about the laziest
and most shiftless man I ever came across.”

“Come, what does all this mean?” demanded Mr. Mudge, who was getting a
little angry in his turn.

“I’ll let you know. Just look out of that window, will you?”

“Well,” said Mr. Mudge, innocently, “I don’t see anything in
particular.”

“You don’t!” said Mrs. Mudge with withering sarcasm. “Then you’d better
put on your glasses. If you’d been here quarter of an hour ago, you’d
have seen Brindle among the cabbages.”

“Did she do any harm?” asked Mr. Mudge, hastily.

“There’s scarcely a cabbage left,” returned Mrs. Mudge, purposely
exaggerating the mischief done.

“If you had mended that fence, as I told you to do, time and again, it
wouldn’t have happened.”

“You didn’t tell me but once,” said Mr. Mudge, trying to get up a feeble
defence.

“Once should have been enough, and more than enough. You expect me to
slave myself to death in the house, and see to all your work besides.
If I’d known what a lazy, shiftless man you were, at the time I married
you, I’d have cut off my right hand first.”

By this time Mr. Mudge had become angry.

“If you hadn’t married me, you’d a died an old maid,” he retorted.

This was too much for Mrs. Mudge to bear. She snatched the larger half
of the broom, and fetched it down with considerable emphasis upon
the back of her liege lord, who, perceiving that her temper was up,
retreated hastily from the kitchen; as he got into the yard he
descried Brindle, whose appetite had been whetted by her previous raid,
re-entering the garden through the gap.

It was an unfortunate attempt on the part of Brindle. Mr. Mudge,
angry with his wife, and smarting with the blow from the broomstick,
determined to avenge himself upon the original cause of all the trouble.
Revenge suggested craft. He seized a hoe, and crept stealthily to the
cabbage-plot. Brindle, whose back was turned, did not perceive his
approach, until she felt a shower of blows upon her back. Confused at
the unexpected attack she darted wildly away, forgetting the gap in the
fence, and raced at random over beds of vegetables, uprooting beets,
parsnips, and turnips, while Mr. Mudge, mad with rage, followed close in
her tracks, hitting her with the hoe whenever he got a chance.

Brindle galloped through the yard, and out at the open gate. Thence she
ran up the road at the top of her speed, with Mr. Mudge still pursuing
her.

It may be mentioned here that Mr. Mudge was compelled to chase the
terrified cow over two miles before he succeeded with the help of a
neighbor in capturing her. All this took time. Meanwhile Mrs. Mudge at
home was subjected to yet another trial of her temper.

It has already been mentioned that Squire Newcome was Chairman of the
Overseers of the Poor. In virtue of his office, he was expected to
exercise a general supervision over the Almshouse and its management.
It was his custom to call about once a month to look after matters, and
ascertain whether any official action or interference was needed.

Ben saw his father take his gold-headed cane from behind the door, and
start down the road. He understood his destination, and instantly the
plan of a stupendous practical joke dawned upon him.

“It’ll be jolly fun,” he said to himself, his eyes dancing with fun.
“I’ll try it, anyway.”

He took his way across the fields, so as to reach the Almshouse before
his father. He then commenced his plan of operations.

Mrs. Mudge had returned to her tub, and was washing away with bitter
energy, thinking over her grievances in the matter of Mr. Mudge, when a
knock was heard at the front door.

Taking her hands from the tub, she wiped them on her apron.

“I wish folks wouldn’t come on washing day!” she said in a tone of
vexation.

She went to the door and opened it.

There was nobody there.

“I thought somebody knocked,” thought she, a little mystified. “Perhaps
I was mistaken.”

She went back to her tub, and had no sooner got her hands in the suds
than another knock was heard, this time on the back door.

“I declare!” said she, in increased vexation, “There’s another knock. I
shan’t get through my washing to-day.”

Again Mrs. Mudge wiped her hands on her apron, and went to the door.

There was nobody there.

I need hardly say that it was Ben, who had knocked both times, and
instantly dodged round the corner of the house.

“It’s some plaguy boy,” said Mrs. Mudge, her eyes blazing with anger.
“Oh, if I could only get hold of him!”

“Don’t you wish you could?” chuckled Ben to himself, as he caught a sly
glimpse of the indignant woman.

Meanwhile, Squire Newcome had walked along in his usual slow and
dignified manner, until he had reached the front door of the Poorhouse,
and knocked.

“It’s that plaguy boy again,” said Mrs. Mudge, furiously. “I won’t go
this time, but if he knocks again, I’ll fix him.”

She took a dipper of hot suds from the tub in which she had been
washing, and crept carefully into the entry, taking up a station close
to the front door.

“I wonder if Mrs. Mudge heard me knock,” thought Squire Newcome. “I
should think she might. I believe I will knock again.”

This time he knocked with his cane.

Rat-tat-tat sounded on the door.

The echo had not died away, when the door was pulled suddenly open, and
a dipper full of hot suds was dashed into the face of the astonished
Squire, accompanied with, “Take that, you young scamp!”

“Wh--what does all this mean?” gasped Squire Newcome, nearly strangled
with the suds, a part of which had found its way into his mouth.

“I beg your pardon, Squire Newcome,” said the horrified Mrs. Mudge. “I
didn’t mean it.”

“What did you mean, then?” demanded Squire Newcome, sternly. “I think
you addressed me,--ahem!--as a scamp.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean you,” said Mrs. Mudge, almost out of her wits with
perplexity.

“Come in, sir, and let me give you a towel. You’ve no idea how I’ve been
tried this morning.”

“I trust,” said the Squire, in his stateliest tone, “you will be able
to give a satisfactory explanation of this, ahem--extraordinary
proceeding.”

While Mrs. Mudge was endeavoring to sooth the ruffled dignity of the
aggrieved Squire, the “young scamp,” who had caused all the mischief,
made his escape through the fields.

“Oh, wasn’t it bully!” he exclaimed. “I believe I shall die of laughing.
I wish Paul had been here to see it. Mrs. Mudge has got herself into a
scrape, now, I’m thinking.”

Having attained a safe distance from the Poorhouse, Ben doubled himself
up and rolled over and over upon the grass, convulsed with laughter.

“I’d give five dollars to see it all over again,” he said to himself. “I
never had such splendid fun in my life.”

Presently the Squire emerged, his tall dicky looking decidedly limp and
drooping, his face expressing annoyance and outraged dignity. Mrs. Mudge
attended him to the door with an expression of anxious concern.

“I guess I’d better make tracks,” said Ben to himself, “it won’t do for
the old gentleman to see me here, or he may smell a rat.”

He accordingly scrambled over a stone wall and lay quietly hidden behind
it till he judged it would be safe to make his appearance.



XVIII.

MORE ABOUT BEN.


“Benjamin,” said Squire Newcome, two days after the occurrence mentioned
in the last chapter, “what made the dog howl so this morning? Was you a
doing anything to him?”

“I gave him his breakfast,” said Ben, innocently. “Perhaps he was
hungry, and howling for that.”

“I do not refer to that,” said the Squire. “He howled as if in pain or
terror. I repeat; was you a doing anything to him?”

Ben shifted from one foot to the other, and looked out of the window.

“I desire a categorical answer,” said Squire Newcome.

“Don’t know what categorical means,” said Ben, assuming a perplexed
look.

“I desire you to answer me IMMEGIATELY,” explained the Squire. “What was
you a doing to Watch?”

“I was tying a tin-kettle to his tail,” said Ben, a little reluctantly.

“And what was you a doing that for?” pursued the Squire.

“I wanted to see how he would look,” said Ben, glancing demurely at his
father, out of the corner of his eye.

“Did it ever occur to you that it must be disagreeable to Watch to have
such an appendage to his tail?” queried the Squire.

“I don’t know,” said Ben.

“How should you like to have a tin pail suspended to your--ahem! your
coat tail?”

“I haven’t got any coat tail,” said Ben, “I wear jackets. But I think I
am old enough to wear coats. Can’t I have one made, father?”

“Ahem!” said the Squire, blowing his nose, “we will speak of that at
some future period.”

“Fred Newell wears a coat, and he isn’t any older than I am,” persisted
Ben, who was desirous of interrupting his father’s inquiries.

“I apprehend that we are wandering from the question,” said the Squire.
“Would you like to be treated as you treated Watch?”

“No,” said Ben, slowly, “I don’t know as I should.”

“Then take care not to repeat your conduct of this morning,” said his
father. “Stay a moment,” as Ben was about to leave the room hastily. “I
desire that you should go to the post-office and inquire for letters.”

“Yes, sir.”

Ben left the room and sauntered out in the direction of the post-office.

A chaise, driven by a stranger, stopped as it came up with him.

The driver looked towards Ben, and inquired, “Boy, is this the way to
Sparta?”

Ben, who was walking leisurely along the path, whistling as he went,
never turned his head.

“Are you deaf, boy?” said the driver, impatiently. “I want to know if
this is the road to Sparta?”

Ben turned round.

“Fine morning, sir,” he said politely.

“I know that well enough without your telling me. Will you tell me
whether this is the road to Sparta?”

Ben put his hand to his ear, and seemed to listen attentively. Then he
slowly shook his head, and said, “Would you be kind enough to speak a
little louder, sir?”

“The boy is deaf, after all,” said the driver to himself. “IS THIS THE
ROAD TO SPARTA?”

“Yes, sir, this is Wrenville,” said Ben, politely.

“Plague take it! he don’t hear me yet. IS THIS THE ROAD TO SPARTA?”

“Just a little louder, if you please,” said Ben, keeping his hand to his
ear, and appearing anxious to hear.

“Deaf as a post!” muttered the driver. “I couldn’t scream any louder, if
I should try. Go along.”

“Poor man! I hope he hasn’t injured his voice,” thought Ben, his eyes
dancing with fun. “By gracious!” he continued a moment later, bursting
into a laugh, “if he isn’t going to ask the way of old Tom Haven. He’s
as deaf as I pretended to be.”

The driver had reined up again, and inquired the way to Sparta.

“What did you say?” said the old man, putting his hand to his ear. “I’m
rather hard of hearing.”

The traveller repeated his question in a louder voice.

The old man shook his head.

“I guess you’d better ask that boy,” he said, pointing to Ben, who by
this time had nearly come up with the chaise.

“I have had enough of him,” said the traveller, disgusted. “I believe
you’re all deaf in this town. I’ll get out of it as soon as possible.”

He whipped up his horse, somewhat to the old man’s surprise, and drove
rapidly away.

I desire my young readers to understand that I am describing Ben as he
was, and not as he ought to be. There is no doubt that he carried his
love of fun too far. We will hope that as he grows older, he will grow
wiser.

Ben pursued the remainder of his way to the Post-office without any
further adventure.

Entering a small building appropriated to this purpose, he inquired for
letters.

“There’s nothing for your father to-day,” said the post-master.

“Perhaps there’s something for me,--Benjamin Newcome, Esq.,” said Ben.

“Let me see,” said the post-master, putting on his spectacles; “yes, I
believe there is. Post-marked at New York, too. I didn’t know you had
any correspondents there.”

“It’s probably from the Mayor of New York,” said Ben, in a tone of
comical importance, “asking my advice about laying out Central Park.”

“Probably it is,” said the postmaster. “It’s a pretty thick
letter,--looks like an official document.”

By this time, Ben, who was really surprised by the reception of the
letter, had opened it. It proved to be from our hero, Paul Prescott, and
inclosed one for Aunt Lucy.

“Mr. Crosby,” said Ben, suddenly, addressing the postmaster, “you
remember about Paul Prescott’s running away from the Poorhouse?”

“Yes, I didn’t blame the poor boy a bit. I never liked Mudge, and they
say his wife is worse than he.”

“Well, suppose the town should find out where he is, could they get him
back again?”

“Bless you! no. They ain’t so fond of supporting paupers. If he’s able
to earn his own living, they won’t want to interfere with him.”

“Well, this letter is from him,” said Ben. “He’s found a pleasant family
in New York, who have adopted him.”

“I’m glad of it,” said Mr. Crosby, heartily. “I always liked him. He was
a fine fellow.”

“That’s just what I think. I’ll read his letter to you, if you would
like to hear it.”

“I should, very much. Come in behind here, and sit down.”

Ben went inside the office, and sitting down on a stool, read Paul’s
letter. As our reader may be interested in the contents, we will take
the liberty of looking over Ben’s shoulder while he reads.

New York, Oct. 10, 18--.

DEAR BEN:--

I have been intending to write to you before, knowing the kind interest
which you take in me. I got safely to New York a few days after I left
Wrenville. I didn’t have so hard a time as I expected, having fallen in
with a pedler, who was very kind to me, with whom I rode thirty or forty
miles. I wish I had time to tell all the adventures I met with on the
way, but I must wait till I see you.

When I got to the city, I was astonished to find how large it was. The
first day I got pretty tired wandering about, and strayed into a church
in the evening, not knowing where else to go. I was so tired I fell
asleep there, and didn’t wake up till morning. When I found myself
locked up in a great church, I was frightened, I can tell you. It was
only Thursday morning, and I was afraid I should have to stay there
till Sunday. If I had, I am afraid I should have starved to death. But,
fortunately for me, the sexton came in the morning, and let me out. That
wasn’t all. He very kindly took me home with him, and then told me I
might live with him and go to school. I like him very much, and his wife
too. I call them Uncle Hugh and Aunt Hester. When you write to me, you
must direct to the care of Mr. Hugh Cameron, 10 R---- Street. Then it
will be sure to reach me.

I am going to one of the city schools. At first, I was a good deal
troubled because I was so far behind boys of my age. You know I hadn’t
been to school for a long time before I left Wrenville, on account of
father’s sickness. But I studied pretty hard, and now I stand very well.
I sometimes think, Ben, that you don’t care quite so much about study
as you ought to. I wish you would come to feel the importance of it. You
must excuse me saying this, as we have always been such good friends.

I sometimes think of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge, and wonder whether they miss
me much. I am sure Mr. Mudge misses me, for now he is obliged to get up
early and milk, unless he has found another boy to do it. If he has, I
pity the boy. Write me what they said about my going away.

I inclose a letter for Aunt Lucy Lee, which I should like to have you
give her with your own hands. Don’t trust it to Mrs. Mudge, for she
doesn’t like Aunt Lucy, and I don’t think she would give it to her.

Write soon, Ben, and I will answer without delay, Your affectionate
friend, PAUL PRESCOTT.


“That’s a very good letter,” said Mr. Crosby; “I am glad Paul is doing
so well. I should like to see him.”

“So should I,” said Ben; “he was a prime fellow,--twice as good as I am.
That’s true, what he said about my not liking study. I guess I’ll try to
do better.”

“You’ll make a smart boy if you only try,” said the postmaster,
with whom Ben was rather a favorite, in spite of his mischievous
propensities.

“Thank you,” said Ben, laughing, “that’s what my friend, the mayor of
New York, often writes me. But honestly, I know I can do a good deal
better than I am doing now. I don’t know but I shall turn over a new
leaf. I suppose I like fun a little too well. Such jolly sport as I had
coming to the office this morning.”

Ben related the story of the traveller who inquired the way to Sparta,
much to the amusement of the postmaster, who, in his enjoyment of the
joke, forgot to tell Ben that his conduct was hardly justifiable.

“Now,” said Ben, “as soon as I have been home, I must go and see my
particular friend, Mrs. Mudge. I’m a great favorite of hers,” he added,
with a sly wink.



XIX.

MRS. MUDGE’S DISCOMFITURE.


Ben knocked at the door of the Poorhouse. In due time Mrs. Mudge
appeared. She was a little alarmed on seeing Ben, not knowing how Squire
Newcome might be affected by the reception she had given him on his last
visit. Accordingly she received him with unusual politeness.

“How do you do, Master Newcome?” she inquired.

“As well as could be expected,” said Ben, hesitatingly.

“Why, is there anything the matter with you?” inquired Mrs. Mudge, her
curiosity excited by his manner of speaking.

“No one can tell what I suffer from rheumatism,” said Ben, sadly.

This was very true, since not even Ben himself could have told.

“You are very young to be troubled in that way,” said Mrs. Mudge, “and
how is your respected father, to-day?” she inquired, with some anxiety.

“I was just going to ask you, Mrs. Mudge,” said Ben, “whether anything
happened to disturb him when he called here day before yesterday?”

“Why,” said Mrs. Mudge, turning a little pale, “Nothing of any
consequence,--that is, not much. What makes you ask?”

“I thought it might be so from his manner,” said Ben, enjoying Mrs.
Mudge’s evident alarm.

“There was a little accident,” said Mrs. Mudge, reluctantly. “Some
mischievous boy had been knocking and running away; so, when your father
knocked, I thought it might be he, and--and I believe I threw some
water on him. But I hope he has forgiven it, as it wasn’t intentional.
I should like to get hold of that boy,” said Mrs. Mudge, wrathfully, “I
should like to shake him up.”

“Have you any idea who it was?” asked Ben, gravely.

“No,” said Mrs. Mudge, “I haven’t, but I shall try to find out. Whoever
it is, he’s a scamp.”

“Very complimentary old lady,” thought Ben. He said in a sober
tone, which would have imposed upon any one, “There are a good many
mischievous boys around here.”

Mrs. Mudge grimly assented.

“Oh, by the way, Mrs. Mudge,” asked Ben, suddenly, “have you ever heard
anything of Paul Prescott since he left you?”

“No,” snapped Mrs. Mudge, her countenance growing dark, “I haven’t. But
I can tell pretty well where he is.”

“Where?”

“In the penitentiary. At any rate, if he isn’t, he ought to be. But what
was you wanting?”

“I want to see Mrs. Lee.”

“Aunt Lucy Lee?”

“Yes. I’ve got a letter for her.”

“If you’ll give me the letter I’ll carry it to her.”

“Thank you,” said Ben, “but I would like to see her.”

“Never mind,” thought Mrs. Mudge, “I’ll get hold of it yet. I shouldn’t
wonder at all if it was from that rascal, Paul.”

Poor Paul! It was fortunate that he had some better friends than Mr. and
Mrs. Mudge, otherwise he would have been pretty poorly off.

Aunt Lucy came to the door. Ben placed the letter in her hands.

“Is it from Paul?” she asked, hopefully.

“Yes,” said Ben.

She opened it eagerly. “Is he well?” she asked.

“Yes, well and happy,” said Ben, who treated the old lady, for whom he
had much respect, very differently from Mrs. Mudge.

“I’m truly thankful for that,” said Aunt Lucy; “I’ve laid awake more
than one night thinking of him.”

“So has Mrs. Mudge, I’m thinking,” said Ben, slyly.

Aunt Lucy laughed.

“There isn’t much love lost between them,” said Aunt Lucy, smiling. “He
was very badly treated here, poor boy.”

“Was he, though?” repeated Mrs. Mudge? who had been listening at the
keyhole, but not in an audible voice. “Perhaps he will be again, if I
get him back. I thought that letter was from Paul. I must get hold of it
some time to-day.”

“I believe I must go,” said Ben. “If you answer the letter, I will put
it into the office for you. I shall be passing here to-morrow.”

“You are very kind,” said Aunt Lucy. “I am very much obliged to you for
bringing me this letter to-day. You can’t tell how happy it makes me. I
have been so afraid the dear boy might be suffering.”

“It’s no trouble at all,” said Ben.

“She’s a pretty good woman,” thought he, as he left the house. “I
wouldn’t play a trick on her for a good deal. But that Mrs. Mudge is a
hard case. I wonder what she would have said if she had known that I was
the ‘scamp’ that troubled her so much Monday. If I had such a mother as
that, by jingo, I’d run away to sea.”

Mrs. Mudge was bent upon reading Aunt Lucy’s letter. Knowing it to be
from Paul, she had a strong curiosity to know what had become of him.
If she could only get him back! Her heart bounded with delight as she
thought of the annoyances to which, in that case, she could subject him.
It would be a double triumph over him and Aunt Lucy, against whom she
felt that mean spite with which a superior nature is often regarded by
one of a lower order.

After some reflection, Mrs. Mudge concluded that Aunt Lucy would
probably leave the letter in the little chest which was appropriated to
her use, and which was kept in the room where she slept. The key of this
chest had been lost, and although Aunt Lucy had repeatedly requested
that a new one should be obtained, Mrs. Mudge had seen fit to pay no
attention to her request, as it would interfere with purposes of her
own, the character of which may easily be guessed.

As she suspected, Paul’s letter had been deposited in this chest.

Accordingly, the same afternoon, she left her work in the kitchen in
order to institute a search for it. As a prudent precaution, however,
she just opened the door of the common room, to make sure that Aunt Lucy
was at work therein.

She made her way upstairs, and entering the room in which the old lady
lodged, together with two others, she at once went to the chest and
opened it.

She began to rummage round among the old lady’s scanty treasures, and at
length, much to her joy, happened upon the letter, laid carefully away
in one corner of the chest. She knew it was the one she sought, from the
recent postmark, and the address, which was in the unformed handwriting
of a boy. To make absolutely certain, she drew the letter from the
envelope and looked at the signature.

She was right, as she saw at a glance. It was from Paul.

“Now I’ll see what the little rascal has to say for himself,” she
muttered, “I hope he’s in distress; oh, how I’d like to get hold of
him.”

Mrs. Mudge began eagerly to read the letter, not dreaming of
interruption. But she was destined to be disappointed. To account for
this we must explain that, shortly after Mrs. Mudge looked into the
common room, Aunt Lucy was reminded of something essential, which she
had left upstairs. She accordingly laid down her work upon the chair in
which she had been sitting, and went up to her chamber.

Mrs. Mudge was too much preoccupied to hear the advancing steps.

As the old lady entered the chamber, what was her mingled indignation
and dismay at seeing Mrs. Mudge on her knees before _her_ chest, with
the precious letter, whose arrival had gladdened her so much, in her
hands.

“What are you doing there, Mrs. Mudge?” she said, sternly.

Mrs. Mudge rose from her knees in confusion. Even she had the grace to
be ashamed of her conduct.

“Put down that letter,” said the old lady in an authoritative voice
quite new to her.

Mrs. Mudge, who had not yet collected her scattered senses, did as she
was requested.

Aunt Lucy walked hastily to the chest, and closed it, first securing the
letter, which she put in her pocket.

“I hope it will be safe, now,” she said, rather contemptuously. “Ain’t
you ashamed of yourself, Mrs. Mudge?”

“Ashamed of myself!” shrieked that amiable lady, indignant with herself
for having quailed for a moment before the old lady.

“What do you mean--you--you pauper?”

“I may be a pauper,” said Aunt Lucy, calmly, “But I am thankful to
say that I mind my own business, and don’t meddle with other people’s
chests.”

A red spot glowed on either cheek of Mrs. Mudge. She was trying hard to
find some vantage-ground over the old lady.

“Do you mean to say that I don’t mind my business?” she blustered,
folding her arms defiantly.

“What were you at my trunk for?” said the old lady, significantly.

“Because it was my duty,” was the brazen reply.

Mrs. Mudge had rapidly determined upon her line of defense, and thought
it best to carry the war into the enemy’s country.

“Yes, I felt sure that your letter was from Paul Prescott, and as he ran
away from my husband and me, who were his lawful guardians, it was my
duty to take that means of finding out where he is. I knew that you were
in league with him, and would do all you could to screen him. This is
why I went to your chest, and I would do it again, if necessary.”

“Perhaps you have been before,” said Aunt Lucy, scornfully. “I think
I understand, now, why you were unwilling to give me another key.
Fortunately there has been nothing there until now to reward your
search.”

“You impudent trollop!” shrieked Mrs. Mudge, furiously.

Her anger was the greater, because Aunt Lucy was entirely correct in her
supposition that this was not the first visit her landlady had made to
the little green chest.

“I’ll give Paul the worst whipping he ever had, when I get him back,”
 said Mrs. Mudge, angrily.

“He is beyond your reach, thank Providence,” said Aunt Lucy, whose
equanimity was not disturbed by this menace, which she knew to be an
idle one. “That is enough for you to know. I will take care that you
never have another chance to see this letter. And if you ever go to my
chest again”--

“Well, ma’am, what then?”

“I shall appeal for protection to ‘Squire Newcome.”

“Hoity, toity,” said Mrs. Mudge, but she was a little alarmed,
nevertheless, as such an appeal would probably be prejudicial to her
interest.

So from time to time Aunt Lucy received, through Ben, letters from Paul,
which kept her acquainted with his progress at school. These letters
were very precious to the old lady, and she read them over many times.
They formed a bright link of interest which bound her to the outside
world, and enabled her to bear up with greater cheerfulness against the
tyranny of Mrs. Mudge.



XX.

PAUL OBTAINS A SITUATION.


The month after Paul Prescott succeeded in reaching the head of his
class, George Dawkins exerted himself to rise above him. He studied
better than usual, and proved in truth a formidable rival. But Paul’s
spirit was roused. He resolved to maintain his position if possible. He
had now become accustomed to study, and it cost him less effort. When
the end of the month came, there was considerable speculation in the
minds of the boys as to the result of the rivalry. The majority had
faith in Paul, but there were some who, remembering how long Dawkins had
been at the head of the class, thought he would easily regain his lost
rank.

The eventful day, the first of the month, at length came, and the
class-list was read.

Paul Prescott ranked first.

George Dawkins ranked second.

A flush spread over the pale face of Dawkins, and he darted a malignant
glance at Paul, who was naturally pleased at having retained his rank.

Dawkins had his satellites. One of these came to him at recess, and
expressed his regret that Dawkins had failed of success.

Dawkins repelled the sympathy with cold disdain.

“What do you suppose I care for the head of the class?” he demanded,
haughtily.

“I thought you had been studying for it.”

“Then you thought wrong. Let the sexton’s son have it, if he wants it.
It would be of no use to me, as I leave this school at the end of the
week.”

“Leave school!”

The boys gathered about Dawkins, curiously.

“Is it really so, Dawkins?” they inquired.

“Yes,” said Dawkins, with an air of importance; “I shall go to a private
school, where the advantages are greater than here. My father does not
wish me to attend a public school any longer.”

This statement was made on the spur of the moment, to cover the
mortification which his defeat had occasioned him. It proved true,
however. On his return home, Dawkins succeeded in persuading his father
to transfer him to a private school, and he took away his books at the
end of the week. Had he recovered his lost rank there is no doubt that
he would have remained.

Truth to tell, there were few who mourned much for the departure of
George Dawkins. He had never been a favorite. His imperious temper and
arrogance rendered this impossible.

After he left school, Paul saw little of him for two or three years.
At their first encounter Paul bowed and spoke pleasantly, but Dawkins
looked superciliously at him without appearing to know him.

Paul’s face flushed proudly, and afterwards he abstained from making
advances which were likely to be repulsed. He had too much self-respect
to submit voluntarily to such slights.

Meanwhile Paul’s school life fled rapidly. It was a happy time,--happy
in its freedom from care, and happy for him, though all school boys do
not appreciate that consideration, in the opportunities for improvement
which it afforded. These opportunities, it is only just to Paul to say,
were fully improved. He left school with an enviable reputation, and
with the good wishes of his schoolmates and teachers.

Paul was now sixteen years old, a stout, handsome boy, with a frank,
open countenance, and a general air of health which formed quite a
contrast to the appearance he presented when he left the hospitable
mansion which Mr. Nicholas Mudge kept open at the public expense.

Paul was now very desirous of procuring a situation. He felt that it was
time he was doing something for himself. He was ambitious to relieve the
kind sexton and his wife of some portion, at least, of the burden of his
support.

Besides, there was the legacy of debt which his father had bequeathed
him. Never for a moment had Paul forgotten it. Never for a moment had he
faltered in his determination to liquidate it at whatever sacrifice to
himself.

“My father’s name shall be cleared,” he said to himself, proudly.
“Neither Squire Conant nor any one else shall have it in his power to
cast reproach upon his memory.”

The sexton applauded his purpose.

“You are quite right, Paul,” he said. “But you need not feel in haste.
Obtain your education first, and the money will come by-and-by. As long
as you repay the amount, principal and interest, you will have done all
that you are in honor bound to do. Squire Conant, as I understand from
you, is a rich man, so that he will experience no hardship in waiting.”

Paul was now solicitous about a place. The sexton had little influence,
so that he must depend mainly upon his own inquiries.

He went into the reading-room of the Astor House every day to look over
the advertised wants in the daily papers. Every day he noted down
some addresses, and presented himself as an applicant for a position.
Generally, however, he found that some one else had been before him.

One day his attention was drawn to the following advertisement.


“WANTED. A smart, active, wide-awake boy, of sixteen or seventeen, in a
retail dry-goods store. Apply immediately at--Broadway.”

Paul walked up to the address mentioned. Over the door he read, “Smith &
Thompson.” This, then, was the firm that had advertised.

The store ran back some distance. There appeared to be six or eight
clerks in attendance upon quite a respectable number of customers.

“Is Mr. Smith in?” inquired Paul, of the nearest clerk.

“You’ll find him at the lower end of the store. How many yards, ma’am?”

This last was of course addressed to a customer.

Paul made his way, as directed, to the lower end of the store.

A short, wiry, nervous man was writing at a desk.

“Is Mr. Smith in?” asked Paul.

“My name; what can I do for you?” said the short man, crisply.

“I saw an advertisement in the Tribune for a boy.”

“And you have applied for the situation?” said Mr. Smith.

“Yes, sir.”

“How old are you?” with a rapid glance at our hero.

“Sixteen--nearly seventeen.”

“I suppose that means that you will be seventeen in eleven months and a
half.”

“No, sir,” said Paul, “I shall be seventeen in three months.”

“All right. Most boys call themselves a year older. What’s your name?”

“Paul Prescott.”

“P. P. Any relation to Fanny Fern?”

“No, sir,” said Paul, rather astonished.

“Didn’t know but you might be. P. P. and F. F. Where do you live?”

Paul mentioned the street and number.

“That’s well, you are near by,” said Mr. Smith. “Now, are you afraid of
work?”

“No sir,” said Paul, smiling, “not much.”

“Well, that’s important; how much wages do you expect?”

“I suppose,” said Paul, hesitating, “I couldn’t expect very much at
first.”

“Of course not; green, you know. What do you say to a dollar a week?”

“A dollar a week!” exclaimed Paul, in dismay, “I hoped to get enough to
pay for my board.”

“Nonsense. There are plenty of boys glad enough to come for a dollar a
week. At first, you know. But I’ll stretch a point with you, and offer
you a dollar and a quarter. What do you say?”

“How soon could I expect to have my wages advanced?” inquired our hero,
with considerable anxiety.

“Well,” said Smith, “at the end of a month or two.”

“I’ll go home and speak to my uncle about it,” said Paul, feeling
undecided.

“Can’t keep the place open for you. Ah, there’s another boy at the
door.”

“I’ll accept,” said Paul, jumping to a decision. He had applied in so
many different quarters without success, that he could not make up his
mind to throw away this chance, poor as it seemed.

“When shall I come?”

“Come to-morrow.”

“At what time, sir?”

“At seven o’clock.”

This seemed rather early. However, Paul was prepared to expect some
discomforts, and signified that he would come.

As he turned to go away, another boy passed him, probably bent on the
same errand with himself.

Paul hardly knew whether to feel glad or sorry. He had expected at least
three dollars a week, and the descent to a dollar and a quarter was
rather disheartening. Still, he was encouraged by the promise of a rise
at the end of a month or two,--so on the whole he went home cheerful.

“Well, Paul, what luck to-day?” asked Mr. Cameron, who had just got home
as Paul entered.

“I’ve got a place, Uncle Hugh.”

“You have,--where?”

“With Smith & Thompson, No.--Broadway.”

“What sort of a store? I don’t remember the name.”

“It is a retail dry-goods store.”

“Did you like the looks of your future employer?”

“I don’t know,” said Paul, hesitating, “He looked as if he might be a
pretty sharp man in business, but I have seen others that I would rather
work for. However, beggars mustn’t be choosers. But there was one thing
I was disappointed about.”

“What was that, Paul?”

“About the wages.”

“How much will they give you?”

“Only a dollar and a quarter a week, at first.”

“That is small, to be sure.”

“The most I think of, Uncle Hugh, is, that I shall still be an expense
to you. I hoped to get enough to be able to pay my board from the
first.”

“My dear boy,” said the sexton, kindly, “don’t trouble yourself on that
score. It costs little more for three than for two, and the little I
expend on your account is richly made up by the satisfaction we feel in
your society, and your good conduct.”

“You say that to encourage me, Uncle Hugh,” said Paul. “You have done
all for me. I have done nothing for you.”

“No, Paul, I spoke the truth. Hester and I have both been happier since
you came to us. We hope you will long remain with us. You are already as
dear to us as the son that we lost.”

“Thank you, Uncle Hugh,” said Paul, in a voice tremulous with feeling.
“I will do all I can to deserve your kindness.”



XXI.

SMITH AND THOMPSON’S YOUNG MAN.


At seven o’clock the next morning Paul stood before Smith & Thompson’s
store.

As he came up on one side, another boy came down on the other, and
crossed the street.

“Are you the new boy?” he asked, surveying Paul attentively.

“I suppose so,” said Paul. “I’ve engaged to work for Smith & Thompson.”

“All right. I’m glad to see you,” said the other.

This looked kind, and Paul thanked him for his welcome.

“O.” said the other, bursting into a laugh, “you needn’t trouble
yourself about thanking me. I’m glad you’ve come, because now I shan’t
have to open the store and sweep out. Just lend a hand there; I’ll help
you about taking down the shutters this morning, and to-morrow you’ll
have to get along alone.”

The two boys opened the store.

“What’s your name?” asked Paul’s new acquaintance.

“Paul Prescott. What is yours?”

“Nicholas Benton. You may call me MR. Benton.”

“Mr. Benton?” repeated Paul in some astonishment.

“Yes; I’m a young man now. I’ve been Smith & Thompson’s boy till now.
Now I’m promoted.”

Paul looked at MR. Benton with some amusement. That young man was
somewhat shorter than himself, and sole proprietor of a stock of pale
yellow hair which required an abundant stock of bear’s grease to keep
it in order. His face was freckled and expressionless. His eyebrows and
eyelashes were of the same faded color. He was dressed, however,
with some pretensions to smartness. He wore a blue necktie, of large
dimensions, fastened by an enormous breast-pin, which, in its already
tarnished splendor, suggested strong doubts as to the apparent gold
being genuine.

“There’s the broom, Paul,” said Mr. Benton, assuming a graceful position
on the counter.

“You’ll have to sweep out; only look sharp about raising a dust, or
Smith’ll be into your wool.”

“What sort of a man is Mr. Smith?” asked Paul, with some curiosity.

“O, he’s an out and outer. Sharp as a steel trap. He’ll make you toe the
mark.”

“Do you like him?” asked Paul, not quite sure whether he understood his
employer’s character from the description.

“I don’t like him well enough to advise any of my folks to trade with
him,” said Mr. Benton.

“Why not?”

“He’d cheat ‘em out of their eye teeth if they happened to have any,”
 said the young man coolly, beginning to pick his teeth with a knife.

Paul began to doubt whether he should like Mr. Smith.

“I say,” said Mr. Benton after a pause, “have you begun to shave yet?”

Paul looked up to see if his companion were in earnest.

“No,” said he; “I haven’t got along as far as that. Have you?”

“I,” repeated the young man, a little contemptuously, “of course I have.
I’ve shaved for a year and a half.”

“Do you find it hard shaving?” asked Paul, a little slyly.

“Well, my beard is rather stiff,” said the late BOY, with an important
air, “but I’ve got used to it.”

“Ain’t you rather young to shave, Nicholas?” asked Paul.

“Mr. Benton, if you please.”

“I mean, Mr. Benton.”

“Perhaps I was when I begun. But now I am nineteen.”

“Nineteen?”

“Yes, that is to say, I’m within a few months of being nineteen. What do
you think of my moustache?”

“I hadn’t noticed it.”

“The store’s rather dark,” muttered Mr. Benton, who seemed a little
annoyed by this answer. “If you’ll come a little nearer you can see it.”

Drawing near, Paul, after some trouble, descried a few scattering hairs.

“Yes,” said he, wanting to laugh, “I see it.”

“Coming on finely, isn’t it?” asked Mr. Nicholas Benton, complacently.

“Yes,” said Paul, rather doubtfully.

“I don’t mind letting you into a secret,” said Benton, affably, “if you
won’t mention it. I’ve been using some of the six weeks’ stuff.”

“The what?” asked Paul, opening his eyes.

“Haven’t you heard of it?” inquired Benton, a little contemptuously.
“Where have you been living all your life? Haven’t you seen it
advertised,--warranted to produce a full set of whiskers or moustaches
upon the smoothest face, etc. I got some a week ago, only a dollar. Five
weeks from now you’ll see something that’ll astonish you.”

Paul was not a little amused by his new companion, and would have
laughed, but that he feared to offend him.

“You’d better get some,” said Mr. Benton. “I’ll let you just try mine
once, if you want to.”

“Thank you,” said Paul; “I don’t think I want to have a moustache just
yet.”

“Well, perhaps you’re right. Being a boy, perhaps it wouldn’t be
advisable.”

“When does Mr. Smith come in?”

“Not till nine.”

“And the other clerks?”

“About eight o’clock. I shan’t come till eight, to-morrow morning.”

“There’s one thing I should like to ask you,” said Paul. “Of course you
won’t answer unless you like.”

“Out with it.”

“How much does Mr. Smith pay you?”

“Ahem!” said Benton, “what does he pay you?”

“A dollar and a quarter a week.”

“He paid me a dollar and a half to begin with.”

“Did he? He wanted me to come first at a dollar.”

“Just like him. Didn’t I tell you he was an out and outer? He’ll be sure
to take you in if you will let him.”

“But,” said Paul, anxiously, “he said he’d raise it in a month or two.”

“He won’t offer to; you’ll have to tease him. And then how much’ll he
raise it? Not more than a quarter. How much do you think I get now?”

“How long have you been here?”

“A year and a half.”

“Five dollars a week,” guessed Paul.

“Five! he only gives me two and a half. That is, he hasn’t been paying
me but that. Now, of course, he’ll raise, as I’ve been promoted.”

“How much do you expect to get now?”

“Maybe four dollars, and I’m worth ten any day. He’s a mean old
skinflint, Smith is.”

This glimpse at his own prospects did not tend to make Paul feel very
comfortable. He could not repress a sigh of disappointment when he
thought of this mortifying termination of all his brilliant prospects.
He had long nourished the hope of being able to repay the good sexton
for his outlay in his behalf, besides discharging the debt which his
father had left behind him. Now there seemed to be little prospect of
either. He had half a mind to resign his place immediately upon the
entrance of Mr. Smith, but two considerations dissuaded him; one, that
the sum which he was to receive, though small, would at least buy his
clothes, and besides, he was not at all certain of obtaining another
situation.

With a sigh, therefore, he went about his duties.

He had scarcely got the store ready when some of the clerks entered, and
the business of the day commenced. At nine Mr. Smith appeared.

“So you’re here, Peter,” remarked he, as he caught sight of our hero.

“Paul,” corrected the owner of that name.

“Well, well, Peter or Paul, don’t make much difference. Both were
apostles, if I remember right. All ready for work, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” said Paul, neither very briskly nor cheerfully.

“Well,” said Mr. Smith, after a pause, “I guess I’ll put you into the
calico department. Williams, you may take him under your wing. And now
Peter,--all the same, Paul,--I’ve got a word or two to say to you, as I
always do to every boy who comes into my store. Don’t forget what you’re
here for? It’s to sell goods. Take care to sell something to every man,
woman, and child, that comes in your way. That’s the way to do business.
Follow it up, and you’ll be a rich man some day.”

“But suppose they don’t want anything?” said Paul.

“Make ‘em want something,” returned Smith, “Don’t let ‘em off without
buying. That’s my motto. However, you’ll learn.”

Smith bustled off, and began in his nervous way to exercise a general
supervision over all that was going on in the store. He seemed to be all
eyes. While apparently entirely occupied in waiting upon a customer, he
took notice of all the customers in the store, and could tell what they
bought, and how much they paid.

Paul listened attentively to the clerk under whom he was placed for
instruction.

“What’s the price of this calico?” inquired a common-looking woman.

“A shilling a yard, ma’am,” (this was not in war times.)

“It looks rather coarse.”

“Coarse, ma’am! What can you be thinking of? It is a superfine piece of
goods. We sell more of it than of any other figure. The mayor’s wife was
in here yesterday, and bought two dress patterns off of it.”

“Did she?” asked the woman, who appeared favorably impressed by this
circumstance.

“Yes, and she promised to send her friends here after some of it. You’d
better take it while you can get it.”

“Will it wash?”

“To be sure it will.”

“Then I guess you may cut me off ten yards.”

This was quickly done, and the woman departed with her purchase.

Five minutes later, another woman entered with a bundle of the same
figured calico.

Seeing her coming, Williams hastily slipped the remnant of the piece out
of sight.

“I got this calico here,” said the newcomer, “one day last week. You
warranted it to wash, but I find it won’t. Here’s a piece I’ve tried.”

She showed a pattern, which had a faded look.

“You’ve come to the wrong store,” said Williams, coolly. “You must have
got the calico somewhere else.”

“No, I’m sure I got it here. I remember particularly buying it of you.”

“You’ve got a better memory than I have, then. We haven’t got a piece of
calico like that in the store.”

Paul listened to this assertion with unutterable surprise.

“I am quite certain I bought it here,” said the woman, perplexed.

“Must have been the next store,--Blake & Hastings. Better go over
there.”

The woman went out.

“That’s the way to do business,” said Williams, winking at Paul.

Paul said nothing, but he felt more than ever doubtful about retaining
his place.



XXII.

MR. BENTON’S ADVENTURE.


One evening, about a fortnight after his entrance into Smith &
Thompson’s employment, Paul was putting up the shutters, the business
of the day being over. It devolved upon him to open and close the store,
and usually he was the last one to go home.

This evening, however, Mr. Nicholas Benton graciously remained behind
and assisted Paul in closing the store. This was unusual, and surprised
Paul a little. It was soon explained, however.

“Good-night, Nicholas,--I mean, Mr. Benton,” said Paul.

“Not quite yet. I want you to walk a little way with me this evening.”

Paul hesitated.

“Come, no backing out. I want to confide to you a very important
secret.”

He looked so mysterious that Paul’s curiosity was aroused, and
reflecting that it was yet early, he took his companion’s proffered arm,
and sauntered along by his side.

“What’s the secret?” he asked at length, perceiving that Nicholas was
silent.

“Wait till we get to a more retired place.”

He turned out of Broadway into a side street, where the passers were
less numerous.

“I don’t think you could guess,” said the young man, turning towards our
hero.

“I don’t think I could.”

“And yet,” continued Benton, meditatively, “it is possible that you may
have noticed something in my appearance just a little unusual, within
the last week. Haven’t you, now?”

Paul could not say that he had.

Mr. Benton looked a little disappointed.

“Nobody can tell what has been the state of my feelings,” he resumed
after a pause.

“You ain’t sick?” questioned Paul, hastily.

“Nothing of the sort, only my appetite has been a good deal affected.
I don’t think I have eaten as much in a week as you would in a day,” he
added, complacently.

“If I felt that way I should think I was going to be sick,” said Paul.

“I’ll let you into the secret,” said Mr. Benton, lowering his voice, and
looking carefully about him, to make sure that no one was within hearing
distance--“I’M IN LOVE.”

This seemed so utterly ludicrous to Paul, that he came very near losing
Mr. Benton’s friendship forever by bursting into a hearty laugh.

“I didn’t think of that,” he said.

“It’s taken away my appetite, and I haven’t been able to sleep nights,”
 continued Mr. Benton, in a cheerful tone. “I feel just as Howard
Courtenay did in the great story that’s coming out in the Weekly Budget.
You’ve read it, haven’t you?”

“I don’t think I have,” said Paul.

“Then you ought to. It’s tiptop. It’s rather curious too that the lady
looks just as Miranda does, in the same story.”

“How is that?”

“Wait a minute, and I’ll read the description.”

Mr. Benton pulled a paper from his pocket,--the last copy of the Weekly
Budget,--and by the light of a street lamp read the following extract to
his amused auditor.

“Miranda was just eighteen. Her form was queenly and majestic. Tall and
stately, she moved among her handmaidens with a dignity which
revealed her superior rank. Her eyes were dark as night. Her luxuriant
tresses,--there, the rest is torn off,” said Mr. Benton, in a tone of
vexation.

“She is tall, then?” said Paul.

“Yes, just like Miranda.”

“Then,” said our hero, in some hesitation, “I should think she would not
be very well suited to you.”

“Why not?” asked Mr. Benton, quickly.

“Because,” said Paul, “you’re rather short, you know.”

“I’m about the medium height,” said Mr. Benton, raising himself upon his
toes as he spoke.

“Not quite,” said Paul, trying not to laugh.

“I’m as tall as Mr. Smith,” resumed Mr. Benton, in a tone which warned
Paul that this was a forbidden subject. “But you don’t ask me who she
is.”

“I didn’t know as you would be willing to tell.”

“I shan’t tell any one but you. It’s Miss Hawkins,--firm of Hawkins &
Brewer. That is, her father belongs to the firm, not she. And Paul,”
 here he clutched our hero’s arm convulsively, “I’ve made a declaration
of my love, and--and----”

“Well?”

“She has answered my letter.”

“Has she?” asked Paul with some curiosity, “What did she say?”

“She has written me to be under her window this evening.”

“Why under her window? why didn’t she write you to call?”

“Probably she will, but it’s more romantic to say, ‘be under my
window.’”

“Well, perhaps it is; only you know I don’t know much about such
things.”

“Of course not, Paul,” said Mr. Benton; “you’re only a boy, you know.”

“Are you going to be under her window, Nich,--I mean Mr. Benton?”

“Of course. Do you think I would miss the appointment? No earthly power
could prevent my doing it.”

“Then I had better leave you,” said Paul, making a movement to go.

“No, I want you to accompany me as far as the door. I feel--a little
agitated. I suppose everybody does when they are in love,” added Mr.
Benton, complacently.

“Well,” said Paul, “I will see you to the door, but I can’t stay, for
they will wonder at home what has become of me.”

“All right.”

“Are we anywhere near the house?”

“Yes, it’s only in the next street,” said Mr. Benton, “O, Paul, how my
heart beats! You can’t imagine how I feel!”

Mr. Benton gasped for breath, and looked as if he had swallowed a fish
bone, which he had some difficulty in getting down.

“You’ll know how to understand my feelings sometime, Paul,” said Mr.
Benton; “when your time comes, I will remember your service of to-night,
and I will stand by you.”

Paul inwardly hoped that he should never fall in love, if it was likely
to affect him in the same way as his companion, but he thought it best
not to say so.

By this time they had come in sight of a three-story brick house, with
Benjamin Hawkins on the door-plate.

“That’s the house,” said Mr. Benton, in an agitated whisper.

“Is it?”

“Yes, and that window on the left-hand side is the window of her
chamber.”

“How do you know?”

“She told me in the letter.”

“And where are you to stand?”

“Just underneath, as the clock strikes nine. It must be about the time.”

At that moment the city clock struck nine.

Mr. Benton left Paul, and crossing the street, took up his position
beneath the window of his charmer, beginning to sing, in a thin, piping
voice, as preconcerted between them--

     “Ever of thee,
     I’m fo-o-ondly dreaming.”

The song was destined never to be finished.

From his post in a doorway opposite, Paul saw the window softly open. He
could distinguish a tall female figure, doubtless Miss Hawkins herself.
She held in her hand a pitcher of water, which she emptied with
well-directed aim full upon the small person of her luckless admirer.

The falling column struck upon his beaver, thence spreading on all
sides. His carefully starched collar became instantly as limp as a rag,
while his coat suffered severely from the shower.

His tuneful accents died away in dismay.

“Ow!” he exclaimed, jumping at least a yard, and involuntarily shaking
himself like a dog, “who did that?”

There was no answer save a low, musical laugh from the window above,
which was involuntarily echoed by Paul.

“What do you mean by laughing at me?” demanded Mr. Benton, smarting with
mortification, as he strode across the street, trying to dry his hat
with the help of his handkerchief, “Is this what you call friendship?”

“Excuse me,” gasped Paul, “but I really couldn’t help it.”

“I don’t see anything to laugh at,” continued Mr. Benton, in a resentful
tone; “because I have been subjected to unmanly persecution, you must
laugh at me, instead of extending to me the sympathy of a friend.”

“I suppose you won’t think of her any more,” said Paul, recovering
himself.

“Think of her!” exclaimed Mr. Benton, “would you have me tear her from
my heart, because her mercenary parent chooses to frown upon our love,
and follow me with base persecution.”

“Her parent!”

“Yes, it was he who threw the water upon me. But it shall not avail,”
 the young man continued, folding his arms, and speaking in a tone of
resolution, “bolts and bars shall not keep two loving hearts asunder.”

“But it wasn’t her father,” urged Paul, perceiving that Mr. Benton was
under a mistake.

“Who was it, then?”

“It was the young lady herself.”

“Who threw the water upon me? It is a base slander.”

“But I saw her.”

“Saw who?”

“A tall young lady with black hair.”

“And was it she who threw the water?” asked Mr. Benton, aghast at this
unexpected revelation.

“Yes.”

“Then she did it at the command of her proud parent.”

Paul did not dispute this, since it seemed to comfort Mr. Benton. It is
doubtful, however, whether the young man believed it himself, since he
straightway fell into a fit of gloomy abstraction, and made no response
when Paul bade him “good-night.”



XXIII.

PAUL LOSES HIS SITUATION AND GAINS A FRIEND.


Paul had a presentiment that he should not long remain in the employ
of Smith & Thompson; it was not many weeks before this presentiment was
verified.

After having received such instruction as was necessary, the calico
department was left in Paul’s charge. One day a customer in turning over
the patterns shown her took up a piece which Paul knew from complaints
made by purchasers would not wash.

“This is pretty,” said she, “it is just what I have been looking for.
You may cut me off twelve yards.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Wait a minute, though,” interposed the lady, “will it wash?”

“I don’t think it will,” said Paul, frankly, “there have been some
complaints made about that.”

“Then I shall not want it. Let me see what else you have got.”

The customer finally departed, having found nothing to suit her.

No sooner had she left the store than Mr. Smith called Paul.

“Well, did you sell that lady anything?”

“No, sir.”

“And why not?” demanded Smith, harshly.

“Because she did not like any of the pieces.”

“Wouldn’t she have ordered a dress pattern if you had not told her the
calico would not wash?”

“Yes, sir, I suppose so,” said Paul, preparing for a storm.

“Then why did you tell her?” demanded his employer, angrily.

“Because she asked me.”

“Couldn’t you have told her that it would wash?”

“That would not have been the truth,” said Paul, sturdily.

“You’re a mighty conscientious young man,” sneered Smith, “You’re
altogether too pious to succeed in business. I discharge you from my
employment.”

“Very well, sir,” said Paul, his heart sinking, but keeping up a brave
exterior, “then I have only to bid you good-morning.”

“Good-morning, sir,” said his employer with mock deference, “I advise
you to study for the ministry, and no longer waste your talents in
selling calico.”

Paul made no reply, but putting on his cap walked out of the store. It
was the middle of the week, and Mr. Smith was, of course, owing him a
small sum for his services; but Paul was too proud to ask for his money,
which that gentleman did not see fit to volunteer.

“I am sure I have done right,” thought Paul. “I had no right to
misrepresent the goods to that lady. I wonder what Uncle Hugh will say.”

“You did perfectly right,” said the sexton, after Paul had related the
circumstances of his dismissal. “I wouldn’t have had you act differently
for twenty situations. I have no doubt you will get a better position
elsewhere.”

“I hope so,” said Paul. “Now that I have lost the situation, Uncle Hugh,
I don’t mind saying that I never liked it.”

Now commenced a search for another place. Day after day Paul went out,
and day after day he returned with the same want of success.

“Never mind, Paul,” said the sexton encouragingly. “When you do succeed,
perhaps you’ll get something worth waiting for.”

One morning Paul went out feeling that something was going to
happen,--he didn’t exactly know what,--but he felt somehow that there
was to be a change in his luck. He went out, therefore, with more
hopefulness than usual; yet, when four o’clock came, and nothing had
occurred except failure and disappointment, which unhappily were not
at all out of the ordinary course, Paul began to think that he was very
foolish to have expected anything.

He was walking listlessly along a narrow street, when, on a sudden, he
heard an exclamation of terror, of which, on turning round, he easily
discovered the cause.

Two spirited horses, attached to an elegant carriage, had been terrified
in some way, and were now running at the top of their speed.

There was no coachman on the box; he had dismounted in order to ring
at some door, when the horses started. He was now doing his best to
overtake the horses, but in a race between man and horse, it is easy to
predict which will have the advantage.

There seemed to be but one person in the carriage. It was a lady,--whose
face, pale with terror, could be seen from the carriage window. Her
loud cries of alarm no doubt terrified the horses still more, and, by
accelerating their speed, tended to make matters worse.

Paul was roused from a train of despondent reflections by seeing the
horses coming up the street. He instantly comprehended the whole danger
of the lady’s situation.

Most boys would have thought of nothing but getting out of the way, and
leaving the carriage and its inmate to their fate. What, indeed, could a
boy do against a pair of powerful horses, almost beside themselves with
fright?

But our hero, as we have already had occasion to see, was brave and
self-possessed, and felt an instant desire to rescue the lady, whose
glance of helpless terror, as she leaned her head from the window, he
could see. Naturally quickwitted, it flashed upon him that the only way
to relieve a horse from one terror, was to bring another to bear upon
him.

With scarcely a moment’s premeditation, he rushed out into the middle of
the street, full in the path of the furious horses, and with his cheeks
pale, for he knew his danger, but with determined air, he waved his arms
aloft, and cried “Whoa!” at the top of his voice.

The horses saw the sudden movement. They saw the boy standing directly
in front of them. They heard the word of command to which they had been
used, and by a sudden impulse, relieved from the blind terror which had
urged them on, they stopped suddenly, and stood still in the middle of
the street, still showing in their quivering limbs the agitation through
which they had passed.

Just then the coachman, panting with his hurried running, came up and
seized them by the head.

“Youngster,” said he, “you’re a brave fellow. You’ve done us a good
service to-day. You’re a pretty cool hand, you are. I don’t know what
these foolish horses would have done with the carriage if it had not
been for you.”

“Let me get out,” exclaimed the lady, not yet recovered from her fright.

“I will open the door,” said Paul, observing that the coachman was fully
occupied in soothing the horses.

He sprang forward, and opening the door of the carriage assisted the
lady to descend.

She breathed quickly.

“I have been very much frightened,” she said; “and I believe I have been
in very great danger. Are you the brave boy who stopped the horses?”

Paul modestly answered in the affirmative.

“And how did you do it? I was so terrified that I was hardly conscious
of what was passing, till the horses stopped.”

Paul modestly related his agency in the matter.

The lady gazed at his flushed face admiringly.

“How could you have so much courage?” she asked. “You might have been
trampled to death under the hoofs of the horses.”

“I didn’t think of that. I only thought of stopping the horses.”

“You are a brave boy. I shudder when I think of your danger and mine. I
shall not dare to get into the carriage again this afternoon.”

“Allow me to accompany you home?” said Paul, politely.

“Thank you; I will trouble you to go with me as far as Broadway, and
then I can get into an omnibus.”

She turned and addressed some words to the coachman, directing him to
drive home as soon as the horses were quieted, adding that she would
trust herself to the escort of the young hero, who had rescued her from
the late peril.

“You’re a lucky boy,” thought John, the coachman. “My mistress is one
that never does anything by halves. It won’t be for nothing that you
have rescued her this afternoon.”

As they walked along, the lady, by delicate questioning, succeeded in
drawing from our hero his hopes and wishes for the future. Paul, who
was of a frank and open nature, found it very natural to tell her all he
felt and wished.

“He seems a remarkably fine boy,” thought the lady to herself. “I should
like to do something for him.”

They emerged into Broadway.

“I will detain you a little longer,” said the lady; “and perhaps trouble
you with a parcel.”

“I shall be very glad to take it,” said Paul politely.

Appleton’s bookstore was close at hand. Into this the lady went,
followed by her young companion.

A clerk advanced, and inquired her wishes.

“Will you show me some writing-desks?”

“I am going to purchase a writing-desk for a young friend of mine,” she
explained to Paul; “as he is a boy, like yourself, perhaps you can guide
me in the selection.”

“Certainly,” said Paul, unsuspiciously.

Several desks were shown. Paul expressed himself admiringly of one made
of rosewood inlaid with pearl.

“I think I will take it,” said the lady.

The price was paid, and the desk was wrapped up.

“Now,” said Mrs. Danforth, for this proved to be her name, “I will
trouble you, Paul, to take the desk for me, and accompany me in the
omnibus, that is, if you have no other occupation for your time.”

“I am quite at leisure,” said Paul. “I shall be most happy to do so.”

Paul left the lady at the door of her residence in Fifth Avenue, and
promised to call on his new friend the next day.

He went home feeling that, though he had met with no success in
obtaining a place, he had been very fortunate in rendering so important
a service to a lady whose friendship might be of essential service to
him.



XXIV.

PAUL CALLS ON MRS. DANFORTH.


“Mrs. Edward Danforth,” repeated the sexton, on hearing the story of
Paul’s exploit.

“Why, she attends our church.”

“Do you know Mr. Danforth?” asked Paul, with interest.

“Only by sight. I know him by reputation, however.”

“I suppose he is very rich.”

“Yes, I should judge so. At any rate, he is doing an extensive
business.”

“What is his business?”

“He is a merchant.”

“A merchant,” thought Paul; “that is just what I should like to be, but
I don’t see much prospect of it.”

“How do you like Mrs. Danforth?” inquired the sexton.

“Very much,” said Paul, warmly. “She was very kind, and made me feel
quite at home in her company.”

“I hope she may be disposed to assist you. She can easily do so, in her
position.”

The next day Paul did not as usual go out in search of a situation.
His mind was occupied with thoughts of his coming interview with Mrs.
Danforth, and he thought he would defer his business plans till the
succeeding day.

At an early hour in the evening, he paused before an imposing residence
on Fifth Avenue, which he had seen but not entered the day previous.

He mounted the steps and pulled the bell.

A smart-looking man-servant answered his ring.

“Is Mrs. Danforth at home?” asked Paul.

“Yes, I believe so.”

“I have called to see her.”

“Does she expect you?” asked the servant, looking surprised.

“Yes; I come at her appointment,” said Paul.

“Then I suppose it’s all right,” said the man. “Will you come in?” he
asked, a little doubtfully.

Paul followed him into the house, and was shown into the drawing-room,
the magnificence of which somewhat dazzled his eyes; accustomed only to
the plain sitting-room of Mr. Cameron.

The servant reappeared after a brief absence, and with rather more
politeness than he had before shown, invited Paul to follow him to a
private sitting-room upstairs, where he would see Mrs. Danforth.

Looking at Paul’s plain, though neat clothes, the servant was a little
puzzled to understand what had obtained for Paul the honor of being on
visiting terms with Mrs. Danforth.

“Good evening, Paul,” said Mrs. Danforth, rising from her seat and
welcoming our hero with extended hand. “So you did not forget your
appointment.”

“There was no fear of that,” said Paul, with his usual frankness. “I
have been looking forward to coming all day.”

“Have you, indeed?” said the lady with a pleasant smile.

“Then I must endeavor to make your visit agreeable to you. Do you
recognize this desk?”

Upon a table close by, was the desk which had been purchased the day
previous, at Appleton’s.

“Yes,” said Paul, “it is the one you bought yesterday. I think it is
very handsome.”

“I am glad you think so. I think I told you that I intended it for a
present. I have had the new owner’s name engraved upon it.”

Paul read the name upon the plate provided for the purpose. His face
flushed with surprise and pleasure. That name was his own.

“Do you really mean it for me,” he asked.

“If you will accept it,” said Mrs. Danforth, smiling.

“I shall value it very much,” said Paul, gratefully. “And I feel very
much indebted to your kindness.”

“We won’t talk of indebtedness, for you remember mine is much the
greater. If you will open the desk you will find that it is furnished
with what will, I hope, prove of use to you.”

The desk being opened, proved to contain a liberal supply of stationery,
sealing wax, postage stamps, and pens.

Paul was delighted with his new present, and Mrs. Danforth seemed to
enjoy the evident gratification with which it inspired him.

“Now,” said she, “tell me a little about yourself. Have you always lived
in New York?”

“Only about three years,” said Paul.

“And where did you live before?”

“At Wrenville, in Connecticut.”

“I have heard of the place. A small country town, is it not?”

Paul answered in the affirmative.

“How did you happen to leave Wrenville, and come to New York?”

Paul blushed, and hesitated a moment.

“I ran away,” he said at length, determined to keep nothing back.

“Ran away! Not from home, I hope.”

“I had no home,” said Paul, soberly. “I should never have left there, if
my father had not died. Then I was thrown upon the world. I was sent
to the Poorhouse. I did not want to go, for I thought I could support
myself.”

“That is a very honorable feeling. I suppose you did not fare very well
at the Poorhouse.”

In reply, Paul detailed some of the grievances to which he had been
subjected. Mrs. Danforth listened with sympathizing attention.

“You were entirely justified in running away,” she said, as he
concluded. “I can hardly imagine so great a lack of humanity as these
people showed. You are now, I hope, pleasantly situated?”

“Yes,” said Paul, “Mr. and Mrs. Cameron treat me with as great kindness
as if I were their own child.”

“Cameron! Is not that the name of the sexton of our church?” said Mrs.
Danforth, meditatively.

“It is with him that I have a pleasant home.”

“Indeed, I am glad to hear it. You have been attending school, I
suppose.”

“Yes, it is not more than two months since I left off school.”

“And now I suppose you are thinking of entering upon some business.”

“Yes; I have been trying to obtain a place in some merchant’s
counting-room.”

“You think, then, that you would like the career of a merchant?”

“There is nothing that would suit me better.”

“You have not succeeded in obtaining a place yet, I suppose?”

“No. They are very difficult to get, and I have no influential friends
to assist me.”

“I have heard Mr. Danforth say that he experienced equal difficulty when
he came to New York, a poor boy.”

Paul looked surprised.

“I see that you are surprised,” said Mrs. Danforth, smiling. “You think,
perhaps, judging from what you see, that my husband was always rich. But
he was the son of a poor farmer, and was obliged to make his own way in
the world. By the blessing of God, he has been prospered in business and
become rich. But he often speaks of his early discouragements and small
beginnings. I am sorry he is not here this evening. By the way, he left
word for you to call at his counting-room to-morrow, at eleven o’clock.
I will give you his address.”

She handed Paul a card containing the specified number, and soon
after he withdrew, bearing with him his handsome gift, and a cordial
invitation to repeat his call.

He looked back at the elegant mansion which he had just left, and could
not help feeling surprised that the owner of such a palace, should have
started in life with no greater advantages than himself.



XXV.

AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.


Paul slept late the next morning. He did not hear the breakfast-bell,
and when the sexton came up to awaken him he rubbed his eyes with
such an expression of bewilderment that Mr. Cameron could not forbear
laughing.

“You must have had queer dreams, Paul,” said he.

“Yes, Uncle Hugh,” said Paul, laughing, “I believe I have.”

“When you have collected your wits, which at present seem absent on
a wool-gathering expedition, perhaps you will tell what you have been
dreaming about.”

“So I will,” said Paul, “and perhaps you can interpret it for me. I
dreamed that I was back again at Mr. Mudge’s, and that he sent me out
into the field to dig potatoes. I worked away at the first hill, but
found no potatoes. In place of them were several gold pieces. I picked
them up in great surprise, and instead of putting them into the basket,
concluded to put them in my pocket. But as all the hills turned out
in the same way I got my pockets full, and had to put the rest in the
basket. I was just wondering what they would do for potatoes, when all
at once a great dog came up and seized me by the arm----”

“And you opened your eyes and saw me,” said the sexton, finishing out
his narrative.

“Upon my word, that’s very complimentary to me. However, some of our
potatoes have escaped transformation into gold pieces, but I am afraid
you will find them rather cold if you don’t get down to breakfast pretty
quick.”

“All right, Uncle Hugh. I’ll be down in a jiffy.”

About half-past ten Paul started on his way to Mr. Danforth’s
counting-room. It was located on Wall Street, as he learned from the
card which had been given him by Mrs. Danforth. He felt a little awkward
in making this call. It seemed as if he were going to receive thanks for
the service which he had rendered, and he felt that he had already been
abundantly repaid. However, he was bound in courtesy to call, since he
did so at the request of Mrs. Danforth.

It was a large stone building, divided up into offices, to which Paul
had been directed. Mr. Danforth’s office he found after a little search,
upon the second floor.

He opened the door with a little embarrassment, and looked about him.

In one corner was a small room, used as a more private office, the door
of which was closed. In the larger room the only one whom he saw, was
a boy, apparently about his own age, who was standing at a desk and
writing.

This boy looked around as Paul entered, and he at once recognized in him
an old acquaintance.

“George Dawkins!” he exclaimed in surprise.

The latter answered in a careless indifferent tone, not exhibiting any
very decided pleasure at meeting his old schoolmate.

“Oh, it’s you, Prescott, is it?”

“Yes,” said Paul, “I haven’t met you since you left our school.”

“No, I believe we have not met,” said Dawkins, in the same tone as
before.

“How long have you been in this office?” asked our hero.

“I really can’t say,” said Dawkins, not looking up.

“You can’t say!”

“No, I’m rather forgetful.”

Paul could not help feeling chilled at the indifferent manner in which
his advances were met. He had been really glad to see Dawkins, and had
addressed him with cordiality. He could not conceal from himself that
Dawkins did not seem inclined to respond to it.

“Still,” thought Paul, extenuatingly, “perhaps that is his way.”

As the conversation began to flag, Paul was reminded of his errand by
Dawkins saying, in a tone which was half a sneer, “Have you any business
with Mr. Danforth this morning, or did you merely come in out of
curiosity?”

“I have called to see Mr. Danforth,” said Paul.

“He is usually pretty busy in the morning,” said Dawkins.

“He directed me to call in the morning,” said Paul, sturdily.

“Oh, indeed!” said Dawkins, a little surprised. “I wonder,” he thought,
“what business this fellow can have with Mr. Danforth. Can he be fishing
for a place?”

“Mr. Danforth is engaged with a visitor just now,” he at length
condescended to say; “if your time is not too valuable to wait, you can
see him by-and-by.”

“Thank you,” said Paul, rather nettled, “you are very polite.”

To this Dawkins made no reply, but resumed his pen, and for the next ten
minutes seemed entirely oblivious of Paul’s presence.

Our hero took up the morning paper, and began, as he had so often done
before, to look over the list of wants, thinking it possible he might
find some opening for himself.

About ten minutes later the door of the inner office opened, and two
gentlemen came out. One was a gentleman of fifty, a business friend of
Mr. Danforth’s, the other was Mr. Danforth himself.

The former remarked, on seeing Paul, “Is this your son, Danforth?”

“No,” said the merchant, nodding in a friendly manner to Paul.

“That’s a good joke,” thought Dawkins, chuckling to himself; “Mr.
Danforth must be immensely flattered at having a sexton’s adopted son
taken for his.”

After a final word or two on business matters, and arrangements for
another interview, the visitor departed, and Mr. Danforth, now at
leisure, turned to Paul.

“Now my lad,” he said kindly, “if you will follow me, we shall have a
chance to talk a little.”

Paul followed the merchant into his office, the door of which was
closed, much to the regret of Dawkins, who had a tolerably large share
of curiosity, and was very anxious to find out what business Paul could
possibly have with his employer.

“Take that seat, if you please;” said Mr. Danforth, motioning Paul to
an arm-chair, and sitting down himself, “Mrs. Danforth told me from how
great a peril you rescued her. You are a brave boy.”

“I don’t know,” said Paul, modestly, “I didn’t think of the danger. If I
had, perhaps I should have hesitated.”

“If you had not been brave you would have thought of your own risk. My
wife and myself are under very great obligations to you.”

“That more than repays me for all I did,” said Paul, in a tone of
mingled modesty and manliness.

“I like the boy,” thought Mr. Danforth; “he is certainly quite superior
to the common run.”

“Have you left school?” he inquired, after a pause.

“Yes, sir. Last term closed my school life.”

“Then you have never been in a situation.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Indeed! Before you left school?”

“No, sir, since.”

“You did not like it, then?”

“No, sir,” said Paul.

“And was that the reason of your leaving?”

“No, sir; my employer was not satisfied with me,” said Paul, frankly.

“Indeed! I am surprised to hear this! If you have no objection, will you
tell me the circumstances?”

Paul related in a straightforward manner the difficulty he had had with
Smith & Thompson.

“I hope you don’t think I did wrong,” he concluded.

“By no means,” said Mr. Danforth, warmly. “Your conduct was entirely
creditable. As for Smith, I know of him. He is a sharper. It would have
done you no good to remain in his employ.”

Paul was pleased with this commendation. He had thought it possible that
his dismissal from his former situation might operate against him with
the merchant.

“What are your present plans and wishes?” asked Mr. Danforth, after a
slight pause.

“I should like to enter a merchant’s counting-room,” said Paul, “but as
such places are hard to get, I think I shall try to get into a store.”

Mr. Danforth reflected a moment, then placing a piece of paper before
our hero, he said, “Will you write your name and address on this piece
of paper, that I may know where to find you, in case I hear of a place?”

Paul did as directed. He had an excellent handwriting, a point on which
the merchant set a high value.

The latter surveyed the address with approval, and said, “I am glad you
write so excellent a hand. It will be of material assistance to you in
securing a place in a counting-room. Indeed, it has been already, for I
have just thought of a place which I can obtain for you.”

“Can you, sir?” said Paul, eagerly.

“Where is it?”

“In my own counting-room,” said Mr. Danforth, smiling.

“I am very much obliged to you,” said Paul, hardly believing his ears.

“I was prepared to give it to you when you came in, in case I found you
qualified. The superiority of your handwriting decides me. When can you
come?”

“To-morrow, if you like, sir.”

“I like your promptness. As it is the middle of the week, however, you
may take a vacation till Monday. Your salary will begin to-morrow.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I will give you five dollars per week at first, and more as your
services become more valuable. Will that be satisfactory?”

“I shall feel rich, sir. Mr. Smith only gave me a dollar and a quarter.”

“I hope you will find other differences between me and Mr. Smith,” said
the merchant, smiling.

These preliminaries over, Mr. Danforth opened the door, and glancing
at Dawkins, said, “Dawkins, I wish you to become acquainted with your
fellow clerk, Paul Prescott.”

Dawkins looked surprised, and anything but gratified as he responded
stiffly, “I have the honor of being already acquainted with Mr.
Prescott.”

“He is a little jealous of an interloper,” thought Mr. Danforth,
noticing the repellent manner of young Dawkins. “Never mind, they will
get acquainted after awhile.”

When George Dawkins went home to dinner, his father observed the
dissatisfied look he wore.

“Is anything amiss, my son?” he inquired.

“I should think there was,” grumbled his son.

“What is it?”

“We’ve got a new clerk, and who do you think it is?”

“Who is it?”

“The adopted son of old Cameron, the sexton.”

“Indeed,” said Mrs. Dawkins. “I really wonder at Mr. Danforth’s bad
taste. There are many boys of genteel family, who would have been glad
of the chance. This boy is a low fellow of course.”

“Certainly,” said her son, though he was quite aware that this was not
true.

“What could have brought the boy to Danforth’s notice?” asked Dawkins,
senior.

“I don’t know, I’m sure. The boy has managed to get round him in some
way. He is very artful.”

“I really think, husband, that you ought to remonstrate with Mr.
Danforth about taking such a low fellow into his counting-room with our
George.”

“Pooh!” said Mr. Dawkins, who was a shade more sensible than his wife,
“he’d think me a meddler.”

“At any rate, George,” pursued his mother, “there’s one thing that is
due to your family and bringing up,--not to associate with this low
fellow any more than business requires.”

“I certainly shall not,” said George, promptly.

He was the worthy son of such a mother.



XXVI.

A VULGAR RELATION.


At the end of the first week, Paul received five dollars, the sum which
the merchant had agreed to pay him for his services. With this he felt
very rich. He hurried home, and displayed to the sexton the crisp bank
note which had been given him.

“You will soon be a rich man, Paul,” said Mr. Cameron, with a benevolent
smile, returning the bill.

“But I want you to keep it, Uncle Hugh.”

“Shall I put it in the Savings Bank, for you, Paul?”

“I didn’t mean that. You have been supporting me--giving me board and
clothes--for three years. It is only right that you should have what I
earn.”

“The offer is an honorable one on your part, Paul,” said the sexton;
“but I don’t need it. If it will please you, I will take two dollars
a week for your board, now, and out of the balance you may clothe
yourself, and save what you can.”

This arrangement seemed to be a fair one. Mr. Cameron deposited the five
dollar note in his pocket-book, and passed one of three dollars to Paul.
This sum our hero deposited the next Monday morning, in a savings bank.
He estimated that he could clothe himself comfortably for fifty dollars
a year. This would leave him one hundred towards the payment of the debt
due to Squire Conant.

“By-and-by my salary will be raised,” thought Paul. “Then I can save
more.”

He looked forward with eager anticipation to the time when he should be
able to redeem his father’s name, and no one would be entitled to cast
reproach upon his memory.

He endeavored to perform his duties faithfully in the office, and to
learn as rapidly as he could the business upon which he had entered.
He soon found that he must depend mainly upon himself. George Dawkins
seemed disposed to afford him no assistance, but repelled scornfully
the advances which Paul made towards cordiality. He was by no means as
faithful as Paul, but whenever Mr. Danforth was absent from the office,
spent his time in lounging at the window, or reading a cheap novel, with
one of which he was usually provided.

When Paul became satisfied that Dawkins was not inclined to accept his
overtures, he ceased to court his acquaintance, and confined himself to
his own desk.

One day as he was returning from dinner, he was startled by an
unceremonious slap upon the shoulder.

Looking up in some surprise, he found that this greeting had come from a
man just behind him, whose good-humored face and small, twinkling eyes,
he at once recognized.

“How do you do, Mr. Stubbs?” inquired Paul, his face lighting up with
pleasure.

“I’m so’s to be round. How be you?” returned the worthy pedler, seizing
our hero’s hand and shaking it heartily.

Mr. Stubbs was attired in all the glory of a blue coat with brass
buttons and swallow tails.

“When did you come to New York?” asked Paul.

“Just arrived; that is, I got in this mornin’. But I say, how you’ve
grown. I shouldn’t hardly have known you.”

“Shouldn’t you, though?” said Paul, gratified as most boys are, on being
told that he had grown. “Have you come to the city on business?”

“Well, kinder on business, and kinder not. I thought I’d like to have a
vacation. Besides, the old lady wanted a silk dress, and she was sot on
havin’ it bought in York. So I come to the city.”

“Where are you stopping, Mr. Stubbs?”

“Over to the Astor House. Pretty big hotel, ain’t it?”

“Yes, I see you are traveling in style.”

“Yes, I suppose they charge considerable, but I guess I can stand it. I
hain’t been drivin’ a tin-cart for nothin’ the last ten years.

“How have you been enjoying yourself since you arrived?”

“Oh, pretty well. I’ve been round seeing the lions, and came pretty near
seeing the elephant at one of them Peter Funk places.”

“You did! Tell me about it.”

“You see I was walkin’ along when a fellow came out of one of them
places, and asked me if I wouldn’t go in. I didn’t want to refuse such
a polite invitation, and besides I had a curiosity to see what there was
to be seen, so I went in. They put up a silver watch, I could see that
it was a good one, and so I bid on it. It ran up to eight dollars and
a quarter. I thought it was a pity it should go off so cheap, so I bid
eight and a half.”

“‘Eight and a half and sold,’ said the man; ‘shall I put it up for you?”

“‘No, I thank you,’ said I, ‘I’ll take it as it is.’

“‘But I’ll put it up in a nice box for you,’ said he.

“I told him I didn’t care for the box. He seemed very unwilling to let
it go, but I took it out of his hand and he couldn’t help himself. Well,
when they made out the bill, what do you suppose they charged?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why, eighteen and a half.”

“‘Look here,’ said I, ‘I guess here’s something of a mistake. You’ve got
ten dollars too much.’

“‘I think you must be mistaken,’ said he, smiling a foxy smile.

“‘You know I am not,’ said I, rather cross.

“We can’t let that watch go for any thing shorter,’ said he, coolly.

“Just then a man that was present stepped up and said, ‘the man is
right; don’t attempt to impose upon him.’

“With that he calmed right down. It seems it was a policeman who was
sent to watch them, that spoke. So I paid the money, but as I went out
I heard the auctioneer say that the sale was closed for the day. I
afterwards learned that if I had allowed them to put the watch in a box,
they would have exchanged it for another that was only plated.”

“Do you know anybody in the city?” asked Paul.

“I’ve got some relations, but I don’t know where they live.”

“What is the name?” asked Paul, “we can look into the directory.”

“The name is Dawkins,” answered the pedler.

“Dawkins!” repeated Paul, in surprise.

“Yes, do you happen to know anybody of the name?”

“Yes, but I believe it is a rich family.”

“Well, so are my relations,” said Jehoshaphat. “You didn’t think
Jehoshaphat Stubbs had any rich relations, did you? These, as I’ve heard
tell, hold their heads as high as anybody.”

“Perhaps I may be mistaken,” said Paul.

“What is the name--the Christian name, I mean--of your relation?”

“George.”

“It must be he, then. There is a boy of about my own age of that name.
He works in the same office.”

“You don’t say so! Well, that is curious, I declare. To think that I
should have happened to hit upon you so by accident too.”

“How are you related to them?” inquired Paul.

“Why, you see, I’m own cousin to Mr. Dawkins. His father and my mother
were brother and sister.”

“What was his father’s business?” asked Paul.

“I don’t know what his regular business was, but he was a sexton in some
church.”

This tallied with the account Paul had received from Mr. Cameron, and
he could no longer doubt that, strange as it seemed, the wealthy Mr.
Dawkins was own cousin to the pedler.

“Didn’t you say the boy was in the same office with you, Paul?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ve a great mind to go and see him, and find out where his
father lives. Perhaps I may get an invite to his house.”

“How shocked Dawkins will be!” thought Paul, not, it must be confessed,
without a feeling of amusement. He felt no compunction in being the
instrument of mortifying the false pride of his fellow clerk, and
he accordingly signified to Mr. Stubbs that he was on his way to the
counting-room.

“Are you, though? Well, I guess I’ll go along with you. Is it far off?”

“Only in the next street.”

The pedler, it must be acknowledged, had a thoroughly countrified
appearance. He was a genuine specimen of the Yankee,--a long, gaunt
figure, somewhat stooping, and with a long aquiline nose. His dress has
already been described.

As Dawkins beheld him entering with Paul, he turned up his nose in
disgust at what he considered Paul’s friend.

What was his consternation when the visitor, approaching him with
a benignant smile, extended his brown hand, and said, “How d’ye do,
George? How are ye all to hum?”

Dawkins drew back haughtily.

“What do you mean?” he said, pale with passion.

“Mr. Dawkins,” said Paul, with suppressed merriment, “allow me to
introduce your cousin, Mr. Stubbs.”

“Jehoshaphat Stubbs,” explained that individual. “Didn’t your father
never mention my name to you?”

“Sir,” said Dawkins, darting a furious glance at Paul, “you are entirely
mistaken if you suppose that any relationship exists between me and
that--person.”

“No, it’s you that are mistaken,” said Mr. Stubbs, persevering, “My
mother was Roxana Jane Dawkins. She was own sister to your grandfather.
That makes me and your father cousins Don’t you see?”

“I see that you are intending to insult me,” said Dawkins, the more
furiously, because he began to fear there might be some truth in the
man’s claims. “Mr. Prescott, I leave you to entertain your company
yourself.”

And he threw on his hat and dashed out of the counting-room.

“Well,” said the pedler, drawing a long breath, “that’s cool,--denyin’
his own flesh and blood. Rather stuck up, ain’t he?”

“He is, somewhat,” said Paul; “if I were you, I shouldn’t be disposed to
own him as a relation.”

“Darned ef I will!” said Jehoshaphat sturdily; “I have some pride, ef I
am a pedler. Guess I’m as good as he, any day.”



XXVII.

MR. MUDGE’S FRIGHT.


Squire Newcome sat in a high-backed chair before the fire with his heels
on the fender. He was engaged in solemnly perusing the leading editorial
in the evening paper, when all at once the table at his side gave a
sudden lurch, the lamp slid into his lap, setting the paper on fire,
and, before the Squire realized his situation, the flames singed his
whiskers, and made his face unpleasantly warm.

“Cre-a-tion!” he exclaimed, jumping briskly to his feet.

The lamp had gone out, so that the cause of the accident remained
involved in mystery. The Squire had little trouble in conjecturing,
however, that Ben was at the bottom of it.

Opening the door hastily, he saw, by the light in the next room, that
young gentleman rising from his knees in the immediate vicinity of the
table.

“Ben-ja-min,” said the Squire, sternly,

“What have you been a-doing?”

Ben looked sheepish, but said nothing.

“I repeat, Benjamin, what have you been a-doing?”

“I didn’t mean to,” said Ben.

“That does not answer my interrogatory. What have you been a-doing?”

“I was chasing the cat,” said Ben, “and she got under the table. I
went after her, and somehow it upset. Guess my head might have knocked
against the legs.”

“How old are you, Benjamin?”

“Fifteen.”

“A boy of fifteen is too old to play with cats. You may retire to your
dormitory.”

“It’s only seven o’clock, father,” said Ben, in dismay.

“Boys that play with cats are young enough to retire at seven,” remarked
the Squire, sagaciously.

There was nothing for Ben but to obey.

Accordingly with reluctant steps he went up to his chamber and went
to bed. His active mind, together with the early hour, prevented his
sleeping. Instead, his fertile imagination was employed in devising
some new scheme, in which, of course, fun was to be the object attained.
While he was thinking, one scheme flashed upon him which he at once
pronounced “bully.”

“I wish I could do it to-night,” he sighed.

“Why can’t I?” he thought, after a moment’s reflection.

The more he thought of it, the more feasible it seemed, and at length he
decided to attempt it.

Rising from his bed he quickly dressed himself, and then carefully took
the sheet, and folding it up in small compass put it under his arm.

Next, opening the window, he stepped out upon the sloping roof of the
ell part, and slid down to the end where he jumped off, the height not
being more than four feet from the ground. By some accident, a tub of
suds was standing under the eaves, and Ben, much to his disgust, jumped
into it.

“Whew!” exclaimed he, “I’ve jumped into that plaguy tub. What possessed
Hannah to put it in a fellow’s way?”

At this moment the back door opened, and Hannah called out, in a shrill
voice, “Who’s there?” Ben hastily hid himself, and thought it best not
to answer.

“I guess ‘twas the cat,” said Hannah, as she closed the door.

“A two-legged cat,” thought Ben, to himself; “thunder, what sopping wet
feet I’ve got. Well, it can’t be helped.”

With the sheet still under his arm, Ben climbed a fence and running
across the fields reached the fork of the road. Here he concealed
himself under a hedge, and waited silently till the opportunity for
playing his practical joke arrived.

I regret to say that Mr. Mudge, with whom we have already had
considerable to do, was not a member of the temperance society.
Latterly, influenced perhaps by Mrs. Mudge’s tongue, which made his home
far from a happy one, he had got into the habit of spending his
evenings at the tavern in the village, where he occasionally indulged
in potations that were not good for him. Generally, he kept within the
bounds of moderation, but occasionally he exceeded these, as he had done
on the present occasion.

Some fifteen minutes after Ben had taken his station, he saw, in the
moonlight, Mr. Mudge coming up the road, on his way home. Judging from
his zigzag course, he was not quite himself.

Ben waited till Mr. Mudge was close at hand, when all at once he started
from his place of concealment completely enveloped in the sheet with
which he was provided. He stood motionless before the astounded Mudge.

“Who are you?” exclaimed Mudge, his knees knocking together in terror,
clinging to an overhanging branch for support.

There was no answer.

“Who are you?” he again asked in affright.

“Sally Baker,” returned Ben, in as sepulchral a voice as he could
command.

Sally Baker was an old pauper, who had recently died. The name occurred
to Ben on the spur of the moment. It was with some difficulty that he
succeeded in getting out the name, such was his amusement at Mr. Mudge’s
evident terror.

“What do you want of me?” inquired Mudge, nervously.

“You half starved me when I was alive,” returned Ben, in a hollow voice,
“I must be revenged.”

So saying he took one step forward, spreading out his arms. This was too
much for Mr. Mudge. With a cry he started and ran towards home at the
top of his speed, with Ben in pursuit.

“I believe I shall die of laughing,” exclaimed Ben, pausing out of
breath, and sitting down on a stone, “what a donkey he is, to be sure,
to think there are such things as ghosts. I’d like to be by when he
tells Mrs. Mudge.”

After a moment’s thought, Ben wrapped up the sheet, took it under his
arm, and once more ran in pursuit of Mr. Mudge.

Meanwhile Mrs. Mudge was sitting in the kitchen of the Poorhouse,
mending stockings. She was not in the pleasantest humor, for one of the
paupers had managed to break a plate at tea-table (if that can be called
tea where no tea is provided), and trifles were sufficient to ruffle
Mrs. Mudge’s temper.

“Where’s Mudge, I wonder?” she said, sharply; “over to the tavern, I
s’pose, as usual. There never was such a shiftless, good-for-nothing
man. I’d better have stayed unmarried all the days of my life than have
married him. If he don’t get in by ten, I’ll lock the door, and it shall
stay locked. ‘Twill serve him right to stay out doors all night.”

Minutes slipped away, and the decisive hour approached.

“I’ll go to the door and look out,” thought Mrs. Mudge, “if he ain’t
anywhere in sight I’ll fasten the door.”

She laid down her work and went to the door.

She had not quite reached it when it was flung open violently, and Mr.
Mudge, with a wild, disordered look, rushed in, nearly overturning his
wife, who gazed at him with mingled anger and astonishment.

“What do you mean by this foolery, Mudge?” she demanded, sternly.

“What do I mean?” repeated her husband, vaguely.

“I needn’t ask you,” said his wife, contemptuously. “I see how it is,
well enough. You’re drunk!”

“Drunk!”

“Yes, drunk; as drunk as a beast.”

“Well, Mrs. Mudge,” hiccoughed her husband, in what he endeavored to
make a dignified tone, “you’d be drunk too if you’d seen what I’ve
seen.”

“And what have you seen, I should like to know?” said Mrs. Mudge.

Mudge rose with some difficulty, steadied himself on his feet, and
approaching his wife, whispered in a tragic tone, “Mrs. Mudge, I’ve seen
a sperrit.”

“It’s plain enough that you’ve seen spirit,” retorted his wife. “‘Tisn’t
many nights that you don’t, for that matter. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself, Mudge.”

“It isn’t that,” said her husband, shaking his hand, “it’s a sperrit,--a
ghost, that I’ve seen.”

“Indeed!” said Mrs. Mudge, sarcastically, “perhaps you can tell whose it
is.”

“It was the sperrit of Sally Baker,” said Mudge, solemnly.

“What did she say?” demanded Mrs. Mudge, a little curiously.

“She said that I--that we, half starved her, and then she started to run
after me--and--oh, Lordy, there she is now!”

Mudge jumped trembling to his feet. Following the direction of his
outstretched finger, Mrs. Mudge caught a glimpse of a white figure
just before the window. I need hardly say that it was Ben, who had just
arrived upon the scene.

Mrs. Mudge was at first stupefied by what she saw, but being a woman
of courage she speedily recovered herself, and seizing the broom
from behind the door, darted out in search of the “spirit.” But Ben,
perceiving that he was discovered, had disappeared, and there was
nothing to be seen.

“Didn’t I tell you so?” muttered Mudge, as his wife re-entered, baffled
in her attempt, “you’ll believe it’s a sperrit, now.”

“Go to bed, you fool!” retorted his wife.

This was all that passed between Mr. and Mrs. Mudge on the subject. Mr.
Mudge firmly believes, to this day, that the figure which appeared to
him was the spirit of Sally Baker.



XXVIII.

HOW BEN GOT HOME.


Delighted with the complete success of his practical joke, Ben took his
way homeward with the sheet under his arm. By the time he reached his
father’s house it was ten o’clock. The question for Ben to consider now
was, how to get in. If his father had not fastened the front door he
might steal in, and slip up stairs on tiptoe without being heard.
This would be the easiest way of overcoming the difficulty, and Ben,
perceiving that the light was still burning in the sitting-room, had
some hopes that he would be able to adopt it. But while he was only
a couple of rods distant he saw the lamp taken up by his father, who
appeared to be moving from the room.

“He’s going to lock the front door,” thought Ben, in disappointment; “if
I had only got along five minutes sooner.”

From his post outside he heard the key turn in the lock.

The ‘Squire little dreamed that the son whom he imagined fast asleep in
his room was just outside the door he was locking.

“I guess I’ll go round to the back part of the house,” thought Ben,
“perhaps I can get in the same way I came out.”

Accordingly he went round and managed to clamber upon the roof, which
was only four feet from the ground. But a brief trial served to convince
our young adventurer that it is a good deal easier sliding down a roof
than it is climbing up. The shingles being old were slippery, and though
the ascent was not steep, Ben found the progress he made was very much
like that of a man at the bottom of a well, who is reported as falling
back two feet for every three that he ascended. What increased the
difficulty of his attempt was that the soles of his shoes were well
worn, and slippery as well as the shingles.

“I never can get up this way,” Ben concluded, after several fruitless
attempts; “I know what I’ll do,” he decided, after a moment’s
perplexity; “I’ll pull off my shoes and stockings, and then I guess I
can get along better.”

Ben accordingly got down from the roof, and pulled off his shoes and
stockings. As he wanted to carry these with him, he was at first
a little puzzled by this new difficulty. He finally tied the shoes
together by the strings and hung them round his neck. He disposed of the
stockings by stuffing one in each pocket.

“Now,” thought Ben, “I guess I can get along better. I don’t know what
to do with the plaguy sheet, though.”

But necessity is the mother of invention, and Ben found that he could
throw the sheet over his shoulders, as a lady does with her shawl. Thus
accoutered he recommenced the ascent with considerable confidence.

He found that his bare feet clung to the roof more tenaciously than
the shoes had done, and success was already within his grasp, when an
unforeseen mishap frustrated his plans. He had accomplished about three
quarters of the ascent when all at once the string which united the
shoes which he had hung round his neck gave way, and both fell with a
great thump on the roof. Ben made a clutch for them in which he lost his
own hold, and made a hurried descent in their company, alighting with
his bare feet on some flinty gravel stones, which he found by no means
agreeable.

“Ow!” ejaculated Ben, limping painfully, “them plaguy gravel stones
hurt like thunder. I’ll move ‘em away the first thing to-morrow. If that
confounded shoe-string hadn’t broken I’d have been in bed by this time.”

Meanwhile Hannah had been sitting over the kitchen fire enjoying a
social chat with a “cousin” of hers from Ireland, a young man whom
she had never seen or heard of three months before. In what way he had
succeeded in convincing her of the relationship I have never been able
to learn, but he had managed to place himself on familiar visiting terms
with the inmate of ‘Squire Newcome’s kitchen.

“It’s only me cousin, sir,” Hannah explained to the ‘Squire, when he
had questioned her on the subject; “he’s just from Ireland, sir, and it
seems like home to see him.”

On the present occasion Tim Flaherty had outstayed his usual time, and
was still in the kitchen when Ben reached home. They did not at first
hear him, but when he made his last abortive attempt, and the shoes came
clattering down, they could not help hearing.

“What’s that?” asked Hannah, listening attentively.

She went to the door to look out, her cousin following.

There was nothing to be seen.

“Perhaps you was dramin’ Hannah,” said Tim, “more by token, it’s time we
was both doin’ that same, so I’ll bid you good-night.”

“Come again soon, Tim,” said Hannah, preparing to close the door.

A new plan of entrance flashed upon Ben.

He quickly put on his shoes and stockings, unfolded the sheet and
prepared to enact the part of a ghost once more,--this time for the
special benefit of Hannah.

After fully attiring himself he came to the back door which Hannah had
already locked, and tapped three times.

Hannah was engaged in raking out the kitchen fire.

“Sure it’s Tim come back,” thought she, as she went to the door.
“Perhaps he’s forgotten something.”

She opened the door unsuspiciously, fully expecting to see her Irish
cousin standing before her.

What was her terror on beholding a white-robed figure, with extended
arms.

“Howly virgin, defend me!” she exclaimed, in paralyzing terror, which
was increased by a guttural sound which proceeded from the throat of
the ghost, who at the same time waved his arms aloft, and made a step
towards Hannah.

Hannah, with a wild howl dropped the lamp and fed towards the
sitting-room, where ‘Squire Newcome was still sitting.

Ben sped upstairs at the top of his speed, dashed into his own chamber,
spread the sheet on the bed, and undressed so rapidly that he seemed
only to shake his clothes off, and jumped into bed. He closed his eyes
and appeared to be in a profound slumber.

Hannah’s sudden appearance in the sitting-room in such a state naturally
astonished the ‘Squire.

“What’s the matter?” he demanded of the affrighted servant.

“Oh, sir,” she gasped, “I’m almost kilt entirely.”

“Are you?” said the ‘Squire, “you appear to be more frightened than
hurt.”

“Yes, sir, shure I am frightened, which indeed I couldn’t help it, sir,
for I never saw a ghost before in all my life.”

“A ghost! What nonsense are you talking, Hannah?”

“Shure it’s not nonsense, for it’s just now that the ghost came to the
door, sir, and knocked, and I went to the door thinking it might be me
cousin, who’s been passing the evening with me, when I saw a great white
ghost, ten foot tall, standing forninst me.”

“Ten feet tall?”

“Yes, sir, and he spread out his arms and spoke in a terrible voice, and
was going to carry me off wid him, but I dropped the lamp, and O sir,
I’m kilt entirely.”

“This is a strange story,” said ‘Squire Newcome, rather suspiciously; “I
hope you have not been drinking.”

Hannah protested vehemently that not a drop of liquor had passed her
lips, which was true.

“I’ll go out and hunt for the ghost,” said the ‘Squire.

“Oh, don’t sir. He’ll carry you off,” said Hannah, terrified.

“Nonsense!” exclaimed the ‘Squire. “Follow me, or you may stay here if
you are frightened.”

This Hannah would by no means do, since the ‘Squire had taken the lamp
and she would be left in the dark.

Accordingly she followed him with a trembling step, as he penetrated
through the kitchen into the back room, ready to run at the least alarm.

The back-door was wide open, but nothing was to be seen of the ghost.

“Perhaps the ghost’s up-stairs,” said Hannah, “I can’t sleep up there
this night, shure.”

But something had attracted Squire Newcome’s attention. It was quite
muddy out of doors, and Ben had tracked in considerable mud with him.
The footprints were very perceptible on the painted floor.

“The ghost seems to have had muddy shoes,” said the ‘Squire dryly; “I
guess I can find him.”

He followed the tracks which witnessed so strongly against Ben, to whose
chamber they led.

Ben, though still awake, appeared to be in a profound slumber.

“Ben-ja-min!” said his father, stooping over the bed.

There was no answer.

“Ben-ja-min!” repeated his father, giving him a shake, “what does all
this mean?”

“What?” inquired Ben, opening his eyes, and looking very innocent.

“Where have you been, to-night?”

“You sent me to bed,” said Ben, “and I came.”

But the ‘Squire was not to be deceived. He was already in possession
of too much information to be put off. So Ben, who with all his love
of mischief was a boy of truth, finally owned up everything. His father
said very little, but told him the next morning that he had made up his
mind to send him to a military boarding-school, where the discipline was
very strict. Ben hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry, but finally,
as boys like change and variety, came to look upon his new prospects
with considerable cheerfulness.



XXIX.

DAWKINS IN DIFFICULTIES.


George Dawkins was standing at his desk one morning, when a man entered
the office, and stepping up to him, unceremoniously tapped him on the
shoulder.

Dawkins turned. He looked extremely annoyed on perceiving his visitor,
whose outward appearance was certainly far from prepossessing. His face
exhibited unmistakable marks of dissipation, nor did the huge breast
pin and other cheap finery which he wore conceal the fact of his intense
vulgarity. His eyes were black and twinkling, his complexion very dark,
and his air that of a foreigner. He was, in fact, a Frenchman, though
his language would hardly have betrayed him, unless, as sometimes, he
chose to interlard his discourse with French phrases.

“How are you this morning, my friend?” said the newcomer.

“What are you here for?” asked Dawkins, roughly.

“That does not seem to me a very polite way of receiving your friends.”

“Friends!” retorted Dawkins, scornfully, “who authorized you to call
yourself my friend?”

“Creditor, then, if it will suit you better, mon ami.”

“Hush,” said Dawkins, in an alarmed whisper, “he will hear,” here he
indicated Paul with his finger.

“And why should I care? I have no secrets from the young man.”

“Stop, Duval,” exclaimed Dawkins, in an angry whisper, “Leave the office
at once. Your appearing here will injure me.”

“But I am not your friend; why should I care?” sneered Duval.

“Listen to reason. Leave me now, and I will meet you when and where you
will.”

“Come, that sounds better.”

“Now go. I’m afraid Mr. Danforth will be in.”

“If he comes, introduce me.”

Dawkins would like to have knocked the fellow over.

“Name your place and time, and be quick about it,” said he impatiently.

“Eight o’clock this evening, you know where,” was the answer.

“Very well. Good-morning.”

“Mind you bring some money.”

“Good-morning,” returned Dawkins, angrily.

At length, much to his relief, Duval left the office. Dawkins stole a
side glance at Paul, to see what impression the interview had made upon
him, but our hero, who had overheard some portions of the dialogue,
perceiving that Dawkins wished it to be private, took as little notice
of the visitor as possible. He could not help thinking, however, that
Duval was a man whose acquaintance was likely to be of little benefit to
his fellow clerk.

Throughout the day Dawkins appeared unusually nervous, and made several
blunders which annoyed Mr. Danforth. Evidently he had something on his
mind. Not to keep the reader in suspense, George had fallen among bad
companions, where he had learned both to drink and to gamble. In this
way he had made the acquaintance of Duval, an unscrupulous sharper, who
had contrived to get away all his ready money, and persuading him to
play longer in the hope of making up his losses had run him into debt
one hundred and fifty dollars. Dawkins gave him an acknowledgment of
indebtedness to that amount. This of course placed him in Duval’s power,
since he knew of no means of raising such a sum. He therefore kept out
of the Frenchman’s way, avoiding the old haunts where he would have been
likely to meet him. Dawkins supposed Duval ignorant of the whereabouts
of his employer’s counting-room. So he had been, but he made it his
business to ascertain where it was. He had no idea of losing sight of so
valuable a prize.

Dawkins would willingly have broken the appointment he had made with
Duval, but he did not dare to do so. He knew that the man was well
able to annoy him, and he would not on any account have had the affair
disclosed to his father or Mr. Danforth.

As Trinity clock struck eight, he entered a low bar-room in the
neighborhood of the docks.

A young man with pale, sandy hair stood behind the counter with his
sleeves rolled up. He was supplying the wants of a sailor who already
appeared to have taken more drink than was good for him.

“Good evening, Mr. Dawkins,” said he, “you’re a stranger.”

“Is Duval in?” inquired Dawkins, coldly. His pride revolted at the place
and company. He had never been here but once before, having met Duval
elsewhere.

“He’s up in his room. John show the young gentleman up to No. 9. Won’t
you have a glass of something this evening?”

“No,” said Dawkins, abruptly.

The boy preceded him up a dark and dirty staircase.

“That’s the room, sir,” he said.

“Stop a minute,” said Dawkins, “he may not be in.”

He inwardly hoped he might not. But Duval answered his knock by coming
to the door himself.

“Delighted to see you, mon ami. John, may leave the lamp. That’s all,
unless Mr. Dawkins wishes to order something.”

“I want nothing,” said Dawkins.

“They have some capital brandy.”

“I am not in the mood for drinking tonight.”

“As you please,” said the Frenchman, disappointed; “be seated.”

Dawkins sat down in a wooden rocking-chair, minus an arm.

“Well,” said Duval, “how much money have you brought me?”

“None.”

The Frenchman frowned and stroked his mustache, fiercely.

“What does all this mean? Are you going to put me off longer?”

“I would pay it if I could,” said Dawkins, “but I haven’t got the
money.”

“You could get it.”

“How?”

“Ask your father.”

“My father would rave if he knew that I had lost money in such a way.”

“But you need not tell him.”

“If I ask for money, he will be sure to ask what I want it for.”

“Tell him you want clothes, or a watch, or a hundred things.”

Dawkins shook his head; “it won’t do,” said he. “He wouldn’t give me a
hundred and fifty dollars.”

“Then ask seventy-five, and I will wait a month for the rest.”

“Look here, Duval, you have no rightful claim to this money. You’ve got
enough out of me. Just tear up the paper.”

Duval laughed scornfully, “Aha, Mr. Dawkins,” he said, “that would be
a very pretty arrangement FOR YOU. But I don’t see how it is going to
benefit me. No, no, I can’t afford to throw away a hundred and fifty
dollars so easily. If I was a rich man like your father it would make a
difference.”

“Then you won’t remit the debt,” said Dawkins, sullenly.

“You would think me a great ninny, if I did.”

“Then you may collect it the best way you can.”

“What do you mean by that?” demanded the Frenchman, his face darkening.

“I mean what I say,” said Dawkins, desperately, “Gambling debts are not
recognizable in law.”

“Nothing is said about it’s being a gambling debt. I have your note.”

“Which is worth nothing, since I am a minor.”

Duval’s face became black with rage.

“Aha, my friend,” said he showing his teeth, “this is a very nice game
to cheat me out of my money. But it won’t do, it won’t do.”

“Why won’t it?”

“I shall say a word in your father’s ear, mon ami, and in the ear of
your worthy employer whom you were so anxious for me not to see, and
perhaps that would be worse for you than to pay me my money.”

Dawkins’s brief exultation passed away. He saw that he was indeed in the
power of an unscrupulous man, who was disposed to push his advantage to
the utmost.

He subsided into a moody silence, which Duval watched with satisfaction.

“Well, my friend, what will you do about it?”

“I don’t know what I can do.”

“You will think of something. You will find it best,” said the
Frenchman, in a tone which veiled a threat.

“I will try,” said Dawkins, gloomily.

“That is well. I thought you would listen to reason, mon ami. Now we
will have a pleasant chat. Hold, I will order some brandy myself.”

“Not for me,” said Dawkins, rising from his chair, “I must be going.”

“Will you not have one little game?” asked Duval, coaxingly.

“No, no, I have had enough of that. Goodnight.”

“Then you won’t stop. And when shall I have the pleasure of seeing you
at my little apartment once more?”

“I don’t know.”

“If it is any trouble to you to come, I will call at your office,” said
Duval, significantly.

“Don’t trouble yourself,” said Dawkins, hastily; “I will come here a
week from today.”

“A week is a long time.”

“Long or short, I must have it.”

“Very well, mon ami. A week let it be. Good-night. Mind the stairs as
you go down.”

Dawkins breathed more freely as he passed out into the open air. He was
beginning to realize that the way of the transgressor is hard.



XXX.

A TRAP IS LAID FOR PAUL.


Three months before, George Dawkins had made his first visit to a
gambling house. At first, he had entered only from curiosity. He watched
the play with an interest which gradually deepened, until he was easily
persuaded to try his own luck. The stakes were small, but fortune
favored him, and he came out some dollars richer than he entered. It
would have been fortunate for him if he had failed. As it was, his
good fortune encouraged him to another visit. This time he was less
fortunate, but his gains about balanced his losses, so that he came out
even. On the next occasion he left off with empty pockets. So it went on
until at length he fell into the hands of Duval, who had no scruple in
fleecing him to as great an extent as he could be induced to go.

George Dawkins’s reflections were not of the most cheerful character as,
leaving Duval, he slowly pursued his way homeward. He felt that he had
fallen into the power of an unscrupulous villain, who would have no
mercy upon him. He execrated his own folly, without which all the
machination of Duval would have been without effect.

The question now, however, was, to raise the money. He knew of no one
to whom he could apply except his father, nor did he have much hope from
that quarter. Still, he would make the effort.

Reaching home he found his father seated in the library. He looked up
from the evening paper as George entered.

“Only half-past nine,” he said, with an air of sarcasm. “You spend your
evenings out so systematically that your early return surprises me. How
is it? Has the theater begun to lose its charm!”

There was no great sympathy between father and son, and if either felt
affection for the other, it was never manifested. Mutual recrimination
was the rule between them, and George would now have made an angry
answer but that he had a favor to ask, and felt it politic to be
conciliatory.

“If I had supposed you cared for my society, sir, I would have remained
at home oftener.”

“Umph!” was the only reply elicited from his father.

“However, there was a good reason for my not going to the theater
to-night.”

“Indeed!”

“I had no money.”

“Your explanation is quite satisfactory,” said his father, with a slight
sneer. “I sympathize in your disappointment.”

“There is no occasion, sir,” said George, good humoredly, for him. “I
had no great desire to go.”

Dawkins took down a book from the library and tried to read, but
without much success. His thoughts continually recurred to his pecuniary
embarrassments, and the debt which he owed to Duval seemed to hang like
a millstone around his neck. How should he approach his father on the
subject? In his present humor he feared he would have little chance.

As his father laid down the newspaper Dawkins said, “Wouldn’t you like a
game of checkers, sir?”

This, as he well knew, was a favorite game with his father.

“I don’t know but I should,” said Mr. Dawkins, more graciously than was
his wont.

The checker-board was brought, and the two commenced playing. Three
games were played all of which his father won. This appeared to put
him in a good humor, for as the two ceased playing, he drew a
ten-dollar-bill from his pocket-book, and handed to his son, with the
remark, “There, George, I don’t want you to be penniless. You are a
little extravagant, though, I think. Your pay from Mr. Danforth ought to
keep you in spending money.”

“Yes, sir, I have been rather extravagant, but I am going to reform.”

“I am very glad to hear it.”

“I wish, sir,” said George a moment afterwards, “that you would allow me
to buy my own clothes.”

“I’ve no sort of an objection, I am sure. You select them now, don’t
you?”

“Yes, sir, but I mean to suggest that you should make me an allowance
for that purpose,--about as much as it costs now,--and give me the money
to spend where I please.”

Mr. Dawkins looked sharply at his son.

“The result would probably be,” he said, “that the money would be
expended in other ways, and I should have to pay for the clothes twice
over.”

Dawkins would have indignantly disclaimed this, if he had not felt that
he was not altogether sincere in the request he had made.

“No,” continued his father, “I don’t like the arrangement you propose.
When you need clothing you can go to my tailor and order it, of course
not exceeding reasonable limits.”

“But,” said Dawkins, desperately, “I don’t like Bradshaw’s style of
making clothes. I would prefer trying some other tailor.”

“What fault have you to find with Bradshaw? Is he not one of the most
fashionable tailors in the city?”

“Yes, sir, I suppose so, but----”

“Come, sir, you are growing altogether too particular. All your garments
set well, so far as I can judge.”

“Yes, sir, but one likes a change sometimes,” persisted George, a little
embarrassed for further objections.

“Well,” said Mr. Dawkins, after a pause, “If you are so strongly bent
upon a new tailor, select one, and order what you need. You can tell him
to send in his bill to me.”

“Thank you sir,” said his son, by no means pleased at the manner in
which his request had been granted. He saw that it would in no manner
promote the plan which he had in view, since it would give him no
command of the ready money. It is hardly necessary to say that his
alleged dissatisfaction with his father’s tailor had all been trumped
up for the occasion, and would never have been thought of but for the
present emergency.

“What shall I do!” thought Dawkins, in perplexity, as he slowly
undressed himself and retired to bed.

The only true course, undoubtedly, was to confess all to his father,
to incur the storm of reproaches which would have followed as the just
penalty of his transgression, and then the haunting fear of discovery
would have been once and forever removed. But Dawkins was not brave
enough for this. He thought only of escaping from his present difficulty
without his father’s knowledge.

He rose the next morning with the burden of care still weighing upon
him. In the evening the thought occurred to him that he might retrieve
his losses where he had incurred them, and again he bent his steps to
the gambling house. He risked five dollars, being one-half of what he
had. This was lost. Desperately he hazarded the remaining five dollars,
and lost again.

With a muttered oath he sprang to his feet, and left the brilliant room,
more gloomy and discouraged than ever. He was as badly off as before,
and penniless beside. He would have finished the evening at the theater,
but his recent loss prevented that. He lounged about the streets till it
was time to go to bed, and then went home in a very unsatisfactory state
of mind.

A day or two after, he met on Broadway the man whom of all others he
would gladly have avoided.

“Aha, my friend, I am glad to meet you,” said Duval, for it was he.

Dawkins muttered something unintelligible, and would have hurried on,
but Duval detained him.

“Why are you in such a hurry, my friend?” he said.

“Business,” returned Dawkins, shortly.

“That reminds me of the little business affair between us, mon ami. Have
you got any money for me?”

“Not yet.”

“Not yet! It is three days since we saw each other. Could you not do
something in three days?”

“I told you I required a week,” said Dawkins, roughly, “Let go my arm. I
tell you I am in haste.”

“Very well, mon ami,” said Duval, slowly relinquishing his hold, “take
care that you do not forget. There are four days more to the week.”

Dawkins hurried on feeling very uncomfortable. He was quite aware that
four days hence he would be as unprepared to encounter the Frenchman as
now. Still, something might happen.

Something, unfortunately, did happen.

The next day Mr. Danforth was counting a roll of bills which had been
just paid in, when he was unexpectedly called out of the counting-room.
He unguardedly left the bills upon his own desk. Dawkins saw them lying
there. The thought flashed upon him, “There lies what will relieve me
from all my embarrassment.”

Allowing himself scarcely a minute to think, he took from the roll four
fifty dollar notes, thrust one into the pocket of Paul’s overcoat, which
hung up in the office, drew off his right boot and slipped the other
three into the bottom of it, and put it on again. He then nervously
resumed his place at his desk. A moment afterwards, Paul, who had been
to the post-office, entered with letters which he carried into the inner
office and deposited on Mr. Danforth’s desk. He observed the roll
of bills, and thought his employer careless in leaving so much money
exposed, but said nothing on the subject to Dawkins, between whom and
himself there was little communication.



XXXI.

CONVICTED OF THEFT.


Half an hour later Mr. Danforth returned.

“Has any one been here?” he asked as he passed through the outer office.

“No, sir,” said Dawkins, with outward composure though his heart was
beating rapidly.

While apparently intent upon his writing he listened attentively to what
might be going on in the next room. One,--two,--three minutes passed.
Mr. Danforth again showed himself.

“Did you say that no one has been here?” he demanded, abruptly.

“No, sir.”

“Have either of you been into my office since I have been out?”

“I have not, sir,” said Dawkins.

“I went in to carry your letters,” said Paul.

“Did you see a roll of bills lying on my desk?”

“Yes, sir,” said Paul, a little surprised at the question.

“I have just counted it over, and find but six hundred dollars instead
of eight hundred. Can you account for the discrepancy?”

Mr. Danforth looked keenly at the two boys. Dawkins, who had schooled
himself to the ordeal, maintained his outward calmness. Paul, beginning
to perceive that his honesty was called in question, flushed.

“No, sir,” said the boys simultaneously.

“It can hardly be possible, that Mr. Thompson, who is a very careful
man, should have made such a mistake in paying me,” resumed Mr.
Danforth.

“As we have been the only persons here,” said Dawkins, “the only way to
vindicate ourselves from suspicion is, to submit to a search.”

“Yes, sir,” said Paul promptly.

Both boys turned their pockets inside out, but the missing money was not
found.

“There is my overcoat, sir,” said Dawkins, “will you be kind enough to
search it for yourself?”

Next, of course, Paul’s overcoat was searched.

What was our hero’s dismay when from one of the pockets Mr. Danforth
produced a fifty dollar bill.

“Is it possible?” he exclaimed in as much grief as surprise, “Unhappy
boy, how came you by this money in your pocket?”

“I don’t know, sir,” returned Paul, his cheek alternately flushing and
growing pale.

“I wish I could believe you,” said Mr. Danforth; “where have you put the
other bills? Produce them, and I may overlook this first offense.”

“Indeed, sir,” said Paul, in great distress, “I have not the slightest
knowledge of how this bill came into my pocket. I hope you will believe
me, sir.”

“How can I? The money evidently did not go into your pocket without
hands.”

A sudden thought came to Paul. “Dawkins,” said he, “did you put that
money into my pocket?”

“What do you mean, sir?” returned Dawkins, haughtily. “Is it your
intention to insult me?”

Dawkins could not prevent his face from flushing as he spoke, but this
might easily be referred to a natural resentment of the imputation cast
upon him.

“Paul,” said his employer, coldly, “you will not help your own cause
by seeking to involve another. After what has happened you can hardly
expect me to retain you in my employment. I will not make public your
disgrace, nor will I inquire farther for the remainder of the money for
which you have been willing to barter your integrity. I will pay your
wages up to the end of this week, and----”

“Mr. Danforth,” said Paul, manfully, though the tears almost choked his
utterance, “I am sorry that you have no better opinion of me. I do not
want the balance of my wages. If I have taken so large a sum which did
not belong to me, I have no claim to them. Good-morning, sir. Sometime I
hope you will think better of me.”

Paul put on his coat, and taking his cap from the nail on which it hung,
bowed respectfully to his employer and left the office.

Mr. Danforth looked after him, and seemed perplexed. Could Paul be
guilty after all?

“I never could have suspected him if I had not this evidence in my
hand,” said Mr. Danforth, to himself, fixing his eyes upon the bill
which he had drawn from Paul’s overcoat.

“Dawkins, did you observe whether Paul remained long in the office?” he
asked.

“Longer than sufficient to lay the letters on the desk?”

“Yes, sir, I think he did.”

“Did you notice whether he went to his overcoat after coming out?”

“Yes, sir, he did,” said Dawkins, anxious to fix in Mr. Danforth’s mind
the impression of Paul’s guilt.

“Then I am afraid it is true,” said his employer sadly. “And yet, what a
fine, manly boy he is too. But it is a terrible fault.”

Mr. Danforth was essentially a kind-hearted man, and he cared much more
for Paul’s dereliction from honesty than for the loss of the money.
Going home early to dinner, he communicated to his wife the unpleasant
discovery which he had made respecting Paul.

Now, from the first, Paul had been a great favorite with Mrs. Danforth,
and she scouted at the idea of his dishonesty.

“Depend upon it, Mr. Danforth,” she said decisively, “you have done the
boy an injustice. I have some skill in reading faces, and I tell you
that a boy with Paul Prescott’s open, frank expression is incapable of
such a crime.”

“So I should have said, my dear, but we men learn to be less trustful
than you ladies, who stay at home and take rose-colored views of life.
Unfortunately, we see too much of the dark side of human nature.”

“So that you conclude all to be dark.”

“Not so bad as that.”

“Tell me all the circumstances, and perhaps a woman’s wit may help you.”

Mr. Danforth communicated all the details, with which the reader is
already familiar.

“What sort of a boy is this Dawkins?” she asked, “Do you like him?”

“Not particularly. He does his duties passably well. I took him into my
counting-room to oblige his father.”

“Perhaps he is the thief.”

“To tell the truth I would sooner have suspected him.”

“Has he cleared himself from suspicion?”

“He was the first to suggest a search.”

“Precisely the thing he would have done, if he had placed the bill
in Paul’s pocket. Of course he would know that the search must result
favorably for him.”

“There is something in that.”

“Besides, what could have been more foolish, if Paul wished to hide the
money, than to multiply his chances of detection by hiding it in two
different places, especially where one was so obvious as to afford no
concealment at all.”

“Admitting this to be true, how am I to arrive at the proof of Paul’s
innocence?”

“My own opinion is, that George Dawkins has the greater part of the
money stolen. Probably he has taken it for some particular purpose. What
it is, you may learn, perhaps, by watching him.”

“I will be guided by your suggestion. Nothing would afford me greater
pleasure than to find that I have been mistaken in assuming Paul’s
guilt, though on evidence that seemed convincing.”

This conversation took place at the dinner-table. Mr. Danforth
understood that no time was to be lost if he expected to gain any
information from the movements of his clerk.

George Dawkins had ventured upon a bold act, but he had been apparently
favored by fortune, and had succeeded. That he should have committed
this crime without compunction could hardly be expected. His uneasiness,
however, sprang chiefly from the fear that in some way he might yet
be detected. He resolved to get rid of the money which he had
obtained dishonestly, and obtain back from Duval the acknowledgment of
indebtedness which he had given him.

You will perhaps ask whether the wrong which he had done Paul affected
him with uneasiness. On the contrary, it gratified the dislike which
from the first he had cherished towards our hero.

“I am well rid of him, at all events,” he muttered to himself, “that is
worth risking some thing for.”

When office hours were over Dawkins gladly threw down his pen, and left
the counting-room.

He bent his steps rapidly towards the locality where he had before met
Duval. He had decided to wait some time before meeting that worthy. He
had to wait till another day, when as he was emerging from the tavern he
encountered the Frenchman on the threshold.

“Aha, my good friend,” said Duval, offering his hand, which Dawkins did
not appear to see, “I am very glad to see you. Will you come in?”

“No, I have not time,” said Dawkins, shortly.

“Have you brought me my money?”

“Yes.”

“Aha, that is well. I was just about what you call cleaned out.”

“Have you my note with you?”

Duval fumbled in his pocket-book, and finally produced the desired
document.

“Give it to me.”

“I must have the money first,” said the Frenchman, shrewdly.

“Take it,” said Dawkins contemptuously. “Do you judge me by yourself?”

He tore the note which he received into small pieces, and left Duval
without another word.

Sheltered by the darkness, Mr. Danforth, who had tracked the steps of
Dawkins, had been an unseen witness of this whole transaction.



XXXII.

RIGHT TRIUMPHANT.


George Dawkins resumed his duties the next morning as usual.
Notwithstanding the crime he had committed to screen himself from the
consequences of a lighter fault, he felt immeasurably relieved at the
thought that he had shaken himself free from the clutches of Duval. His
satisfaction was heightened by the disgrace and summary dismissal of
Paul, whom he had never liked. He decided to ask the place for a cousin
of his own, whose society would be more agreeable to him than that of
his late associate.

“Good-morning, sir,” he said, as Mr. Danforth entered.

“Good-morning,” returned his employer, coldly.

“Have you selected any one in Prescott’s place, yet, sir?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because I have a cousin, Malcolm Harcourt, who would be glad to take
it.”

“Indeed!” said Mr. Danforth, whose manner somewhat puzzled Dawkins.

“I should enjoy having him with me,” continued Dawkins.

“Did you like Prescott?”

“No, sir,” said Dawkins, promptly, “I didn’t want to say so before, but
now, since he’s turned out so badly, I don’t mind saying that I never
thought much of him.”

“On the contrary,” said Mr. Danforth, “I liked him from the first.
Perhaps we are wrong in thinking that he took the money.”

“I should think there could be no doubt of it,” said Dawkins, not liking
the sympathy and returning good feeling for Paul which his employer
manifested.

“I don’t agree with you,” said Mr. Danforth, coldly. “I have decided to
reinstate Paul in his former place.”

“Then, if any more money is missing, you will know where it has gone,”
 said Dawkins, hastily.

“I shall.”

“Then there is no chance for my cousin?”

“I am expecting to have a vacancy.”

Dawkins looked up in surprise.

“I shall require some one to fill YOUR place,” said Mr. Danforth,
significantly.

“Sir!” exclaimed Dawkins, in astonishment and dismay.

His employer bent a searching glance upon him as he asked, sternly,
“where did you obtain the money which you paid away last evening?”

“I--don’t--understand--you, sir,” gasped Dawkins, who understood only
too well.

“You met a man at the door of a low tavern in--Street, last evening, to
whom you paid one hundred and fifty dollars, precisely the sum which I
lost yesterday.”

“Who has been slandering me, sir?” asked Dawkins, very pale.

“An eye-witness of the meeting, who heard the conversation between you.
If you want more satisfactory proof, here it is.”

Mr. Danforth took from his pocket-book the torn fragments of the note
which Dawkins had given to Duval.

“Here is an obligation to pay a certain Duval the sum of one hundred and
fifty dollars. It bears your signature. How you could have incurred such
a debt to him you best know.”

Dawkins maintained a sullen silence.

“I suppose you wish me to leave your employment,” he said at length.

“You are right. Hold,” he added, as Dawkins was about leaving the room,
“a word more. It is only just that you should make a restitution of the
sum which you have taken. If you belonged to a poor family and there
were extenuating circumstances, I might forego my claim. But your father
is abundantly able to make good the loss, and I shall require you to
lay the matter before him without loss of time. In consideration of your
youth, I shall not bring the matter before the public tribunals, as I
have a right to do.”

Dawkins turned pale at this allusion, and muttering some words to the
effect that he would do what he could, left the counting-room.

This threat proved not to be without its effect. The next day he came to
Mr. Danforth and brought the sum for which he had become responsible. He
had represented to his father that he had had his pocket picked of this
sum belonging to Mr. Danforth, and in that manner obtained an equal
amount to replace it. It was some time before Mr. Dawkins learned the
truth. Then came a storm of reproaches in which all the bitterness of
his father’s nature was fully exhibited. There had never been much love
between father and son. Henceforth there was open hatred.

We must return to Paul, whom we left in much trouble.

It was a sad walk which he took homeward on the morning of his
dismissal.

“What brings you home so early?” asked Mrs. Cameron, looking up from her
baking, as Paul entered.

Paul tried to explain, but tears came to his eyes, and sobs choked his
utterance.

“Are you sick, Paul?” exclaimed Mrs. Cameron, in alarm.

“No, Aunt Hester.”

“Then what is the matter?” she asked anxiously.

“I have lost my place.”

“Poor boy! I am very sorry to hear it. But it might have been worse.”

“No, not very well, Aunt Hester, for Mr. Danforth thinks I have taken
some of his money.”

“He is very unjust!” exclaimed Aunt Hester, indignantly, “he ought to
have known better than to think you would steal.”

“Why, no,” said Paul, candidly, “I must confess the evidence was against
me, and he doesn’t know me as well as you do, Aunt Hester.”

“Tell me all about it, Paul.”

Aunt Hester sat down and listened attentively to our hero’s story.

“How do you account for the money being found in your pocket?” she asked
at length.

“I think it must have been put there by some one else.”

“Have you any suspicions?”

“Yes,” said Paul, a little reluctantly, “but I don’t know whether I
ought to have. I may be wronging an innocent person.”

“At any rate it won’t do any harm to tell me.”

“You’ve heard me speak of George Dawkins?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t help thinking that he put the fifty dollars into my pocket, and
took the rest himself.”

“How very wicked he must be!” exclaimed Mrs. Cameron, indignantly.

“Don’t judge him too hastily; Aunt Hester, he may not be guilty, and I
know from my own experience how hard it is to be accused when you are
innocent.”

Soon after the sexton came in, and Paul of course, told his story over
again.

“Never mind, Paul,” said Uncle Hugh, cheerily. “You know your own
innocence; that is the main thing. It’s a great thing to have a clear
conscience.”

“But I liked Mr. Danforth and I think he liked me. It’s hard to feel
that he and Mrs. Danforth will both think me guilty, especially after
the kindness which I have experienced from them.”

“We all have our crosses, my boy,--some light and others heavy. Yours, I
admit is a heavy one for a boy to bear. But when men are unjust there is
One above who will deal justly with us. You have not forgotten him.”

“No, Uncle Hugh,” said Paul, reverently.

“Trust in him, Paul, and all will come out right at last. He can prove
your innocence, and you may be sure he will, in his own good time. Only
be patient, Paul.”

“I will try to be, Uncle Hugh.”

The simple, hearty trust in God, which the sexton manifested, was not
lost upon Paul. Sustained by his own consciousness of innocence, and
the confidence reposed in him by those who knew him best, his mind soon
regained its cheerful tone. He felt an inward conviction that God would
vindicate his innocence.

His vindication came sooner than he anticipated.

The next day as the sexton’s family were seated at their plain dinner, a
knock was heard upon the outer door.

“Sit still, Hester,” said Mr. Cameron. “I will go to the door.”

Opening the door he recognized Mr. Danforth, who attended the same
church.

“Mr. Cameron, I believe,” said Mr. Danforth, pleasantly.

“Yes, sir.”

“May I come in? I am here on a little business.”

“Certainly, Mr. Danforth. Excuse my not inviting you before; but in my
surprise at seeing you, I forgot my politeness.”

The sexton led the way into the plain sitting-room.

“I believe Paul Prescott is an inmate of your family.”

“Yes, sir. I am sorry----”

“I know what you would say, sir; but it is needless. May I see Paul a
moment?”

Paul was surprised at the summons, and still more surprised at finding
who it was that wished to see him.

He entered the room slowly, uncertain how to accost Mr. Danforth. His
employer solved the doubt in his mind by advancing cordially, and taking
his hand.

“Paul,” he said pleasantly, “I have come here to ask your forgiveness
for an injustice, and to beg you to resume your place in my
counting-room.”

“Have you found out who took the money, sir?” asked Paul, eagerly.

“Yes.”

“Who was it, sir?”

“It was Dawkins.”

Mr. Danforth explained how he had become acquainted with the real thief.
In conclusion, he said, “I shall expect you back to-morrow morning,
Paul.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Dawkins of course leaves my employ. You will take his place, and
receive his salary, seven dollars a week instead of five. Have you any
friend whom you would like to have in your own place?”

Paul reflected a moment and finally named a schoolmate of his, the son
of poor parents, whom he knew to be anxiously seeking a situation, but
without influential friends to help him.

“I will take him on your recommendation,” said Mr. Danforth, promptly.
“Can you see him this afternoon?”

“Yes, sir,” said Paul.

The next day Paul resumed his place in Mr. Danforth’s counting-room.



XXXIII.

PAUL REDEEMS HIS PLEDGE.


Two years passed, unmarked by any incident of importance. Paul
continued in Mr. Danforth’s employment, giving, if possible, increased
satisfaction. He was not only faithful, but exhibited a rare aptitude
for business, which made his services of great value to his employer.
From time to time Mr. Danforth increased his salary, so that, though
only nineteen, he was now receiving twelve dollars per week, with the
prospect of a speedy increase. But with his increasing salary, he did
not increase his expenses. He continued as economical as ever. He had
not forgotten his father’s dying injunction. He remained true to the
charge which he had taken upon himself, that of redeeming his father’s
memory from reproach. This, at times subjected him to the imputation
of meanness, but for this he cared little. He would not swerve from the
line of duty which he had marked out.

One evening as he was walking down Broadway with an acquaintance, Edward
Hastings, who was employed in a counting-room near him, they paused
before a transparency in front of a hall brilliantly lighted.

“The Hutchinsons are going to sing to-night, Paul,” said Hastings. “Did
you ever hear them?”

“No; but I have often wished to.”

“Then suppose we go in.”

“No, I believe not.”

“Why not. Paul? It seems to me you never go anywhere. You ought to amuse
yourself now and then.”

“Some other time I will,--not now.”

“You are not required to be at home in the evening, are you?”

“No.”

“Then why not come in now? It’s only twenty-five cents.”

“To tell the truth, Ned, I am saving up my money for a particular
purpose; and until that is accomplished, I avoid all unnecessary
expense.”

“Going to invest in a house in Fifth Avenue? When you do, I’ll call.
However, never mind the expense. I’ll pay you in.”

“I’m much obliged to you, Ned, but I can’t accept.”

“Why not?”

“Because at present I can’t afford to return the favor.”

“Never mind that.”

“But I do mind it. By-and-by I shall feel more free. Good-night, if you
are going in.”

“Good-night, Paul.”

“He’s a strange fellow,” mused Hastings.

“It’s impossible to think him mean, and yet, it looks a great deal like
it. He spends nothing for dress or amusements. I do believe that I’ve
had three coats since he’s been wearing that old brown one. Yet, he
always looks neat. I wonder what he’s saving up his money for.”

Meanwhile Paul went home.

The sexton and his wife looked the same as ever. Paul sometimes fancied
that Uncle Hugh stooped a little more than he used to do; but his life
moved on so placidly and evenly, that he grew old but slowly. Aunt
Hester was the same good, kind, benevolent friend that she had always
been. No mother could have been more devoted to Paul. He felt that he
had much to be grateful for, in his chance meeting with this worthy
couple.

It was the first of January,--a clear, cold day. A pleasant fire burned
in the little stove. Mr. Cameron sat at one side, reading the evening
paper; Mrs. Cameron at the other, knitting a stocking for Paul. A large,
comfortable-looking cat was dozing tranquilly on the hearth-rug. Paul,
who had been seated at the table, rose and lighted a candle.

“Where are you going, Paul?” asked Aunt Hester.

“Up-stairs for a moment.”

Paul speedily returned, bearing in his hand a small blue bank-book, with
his name on the cover.

He took out his pencil and figured a few minutes.

“Uncle Hugh,” said he, looking up, “when I get a hundred dollars more, I
shall have enough to pay father’s debt.”

“Principal and interest?”

“Yes, principal and interest; reckoning the interest for a year to
come.”

“I did not suppose you had so much money, Paul. You must have been very
economical.”

“Yes, Uncle Hugh more so than I have wanted to be, oftentimes; but
whenever I have been tempted to spend a cent unnecessarily, I have
always called to mind my promise made to father on his deathbed, and I
have denied myself.”

“You have done well, Paul. There are few who would have had the
resolution to do as you have.”

“Oh yes, Uncle Hugh,” said Paul, modestly, “I think there are a great
many. I begin to feel repaid already. In a few months I shall be able to
pay up the whole debt.”

At this moment a knock was heard at the door. Mr. Cameron answered the
summons.

“Does Mr. Paul Prescott live here?” inquired a boy.

“Yes. Do you want to see him?”

“Here is a letter for him. There is no answer.”

The messenger departed, leaving the letter in Mr. Cameron’s hand.

Somewhat surprised, he returned to the sitting-room and handed it to
Paul.

Paul opened it hastily, and discovered inclosed, a bank-note for one
hundred dollars. It was accompanied with a note from his employer,
stating that it was intended as a New Year’s gift, but in the hurry of
business, he had forgotten to give it to him during the day.

Paul’s face lighted up with joy.

“Oh, Uncle Hugh!” he exclaimed, almost breathless with delight. “Don’t
you see that this will enable me to pay my debt at once?”

“So it will, Paul. I wish you joy.”

“And my father’s memory will be vindicated,” said Paul, in a tone of
deep satisfaction. “If he could only have lived to see this day!”

A fortnight later, Paul obtained permission from his employer to
be absent from the office for a week. It was his purpose to visit
Cedarville and repay ‘Squire Conant the debt due him: and then, to go
across the country to Wrenville, thirty miles distant, to see Aunt Lucy
Lee. First, however, he ordered a new suit of a tailor, feeling a desire
to appear to the best advantage on his return to the scene of his former
humiliation. I must not omit to say that Paul was now a fine-looking
young fellow of nineteen, with a frank, manly face, that won favor
wherever he went.

In due course of time, he arrived at Cedarville, and found his way
without difficulty to the house of ‘Squire Conant.

It was a large house, rather imposing in its exterior, being quite the
finest residence in the village.

Paul went up the walk, and rang the bell.

“Can I see ‘Squire Conant?” he asked of the servant who answered the
bell.

“You’ll find him in that room,” said the girl, pointing to a door on the
left hand of the hall.

“As he doesn’t know me, perhaps you had better go before.”

The door was opened, and Paul found himself in the presence of his
father’s creditor. ‘Squire Conant was looking pale and thin. He was just
recovering from a severe sickness.

“I presume you don’t recognize me, sir,” said Paul.

“Did I ever see you before?”

“Yes, sir; my name is Paul Prescott.”

“Not the son of John Prescott?”

“The same, sir. I believe my father died in your debt.”

“Yes. I lent him five hundred dollars, which he never repaid.”

“He tried to do so, sir. He had saved up a hundred and fifty dollars
towards it, but sickness came upon him, and he was obliged to use it.”

‘Squire Conant’s temper had been subdued by the long and dangerous
illness through which he had passed. It had made him set a smaller value
on his earthly possessions, from which he might be separated at any
moment. When he answered Paul, it was in a manner which our hero did not
expect.

“Never mind. I can afford to lose it. I have no doubt he did what he
could.”

“But I have come to pay it, sir,” said Paul.

“You!” exclaimed ‘Squire Conant, in the greatest astonishment.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did you get the money?”

“I earned it, sir.”

“But you are very young. How could you have earned so much?”

Paul frankly told the story of his struggles; how for years he had
practised a pinching economy, in order to redeem his father’s memory
from reproach.

‘Squire Conant listened attentively.

“You are a good boy,” he said, at length.

“Shall you have anything left after paying this money?”

“No, sir; but I shall soon earn more.”

“Still, you ought to have something to begin the world with. You shall
pay me half the money, and I will cancel the note.”

“But, sir,----”

“Not a word. I am satisfied, and that is enough. If I hadn’t lent your
father the money, I might have invested it with the rest, and lost all.”

‘Squire Conant produced the note from a little trunk of papers, and
handed it to Paul, who paid him the amount which he had stipulated,
expressing at the same time his gratitude for his unexpected generosity.

“Never mind about thanks, my boy,” said ‘Squire Conant: “I am afraid I
have loved money too well heretofore. I hope I am not too old to turn
over a new leaf.”



XXXIV.

HOW PAUL GOES BACK TO WRENVILLE.


While ‘Squire Conant was speaking, Paul formed a sudden resolution. He
remembered that Aunt Lucy Lee was a sister of ‘Squire Conant. Perhaps,
in his present frame of mind, it might be possible to induce him to do
something for her.

“I believe I am acquainted with a sister of yours, ‘Squire Conant,” he
commenced.

“Ha!” exclaimed the ‘Squire.

“Mrs. Lucy Lee.”

“Yes,” was the slow reply; “she is my sister. Where did you meet her?”

“At the Wrenville Poorhouse.”

“How long ago?”

“About six years since.”

“Is she there, still?”

“Yes, sir. Since I have been in New York, I have heard from her
frequently. I am going from here to visit her. Have you any message,
sir? I am sure she would be glad to hear from you.”

“She shall hear from me,” said the ‘Squire in a low voice. “Sit down,
and I will write her a letter which, I hope, will not prove unwelcome.”

Five minutes afterwards he handed Paul an open letter.

“You may read it,” he said, abruptly.

“You have been a better friend to my sister than I. You shall witness my
late reparation.”

The letter was as follows:----

CEDARVILLE, JAN 13, 18--.

MY DEAR SISTER:--

I hope you will forgive me for my long neglect. It is not fitting that
while I am possessed of abundant means you should longer remain the
tenant of an almshouse. I send you by the bearer of this note, Paul
Prescott, who, I understand, is a friend of yours, the sum of three
hundred dollars. The same sum will be sent you annually. I hope it will
be sufficient to maintain you comfortably. I shall endeavor to call upon
you soon, and meanwhile remain, Your affectionate brother,

EZEKIEL CONANT.


Paul read this letter with grateful joy. It seemed almost to good to be
true. Aunt Lucy would be released from the petty tyranny of Mrs. Mudge’s
household, and perhaps--he felt almost sure Aunt Hester would be willing
to receive her as a boarder, thus insuring her a peaceful and happy home
in her declining years.

“Oh, sir,” said he, seizing ‘Squire Conant’s hand, “you cannot tell how
happy you have made me.”

“It is what I ought to have done before. Here is the money referred to
in the letter,--three hundred dollars,--mind you don’t lose it.”

“I will take every care, sir.”

“You may tell my sister that I shall be happy to have her write me.”

“I will, sir.”

Paul left ‘Squire Conant’s house, feeling that he had great cause for
joy. The ‘Squire’s refusal to receive more than half the debt, left him
master of over three hundred dollars. But I am not sure whether he did
not rejoice even more over the good fortune which had come to Aunt Lucy
Lee, whose kindness to him, in his unfriended boyhood, he would ever
hold in grateful remembrance. He enjoyed in anticipation the joy
which he knew Aunt Lucy would feel when the change in her fortunes was
communicated to her. He knew also how great would be the chagrin of Mr.
and Mrs. Mudge, when they found that the meek old lady whom they hated
was about to be rescued from their clutches. On the whole, Paul felt
that this was the happiest day of his life. It was a satisfaction to
feel that the good fortune of his early friend was all due to his own
intercession.

He was able to take the cars to a point four miles distant from
Wrenville. On getting out on the platform he inquired whether there was
a livery stable near by. He was directed to one but a few rods distant.
Entering he asked, “Can you let me have a horse and chaise to go to
Wrenville?”

“Yes, sir,” said the groom.

“Let me have the best horse in the stable,” said Paul, “and charge me
accordingly.”

“Yes, sir,” said the groom, respectfully, judging from Paul’s dress and
tone that he was a young gentleman of fortune.

A spirited animal was brought out, and Paul was soon seated in the
chaise driving along the Wrenville road. Paul’s city friends would
hardly have recognized their economical acquaintance in the well-dressed
young man who now sat behind a fast horse, putting him through his best
paces. It might have been a weakness in Paul, but he remembered the
manner in which he left Wrenville, an unfriended boy, compelled to fly
from persecution under the cover of darkness, and he felt a certain
pride in showing the Mudges that his circumstances were now entirely
changed. It was over this very road that he had walked with his little
bundle, in the early morning, six years before. It seemed to him almost
like a dream.

At length he reached Wrenville. Though he had not been there for six
years, he recognized the places that had once been familiar to him. But
everything seemed to have dwindled. Accustomed to large city warehouses,
the houses in the village seemed very diminutive. Even ‘Squire Benjamin
Newcome’s house, which he had once regarded as a stately mansion, now
looked like a very ordinary dwelling.

As he rode up the main street of the village, many eyes were fixed
upon him and his carriage, but no one thought of recognizing, in
the well-dressed youth, the boy who had run away from the Wrenville
Poorhouse.



XXXV.

CONCLUSION.


At the very moment that Paul was driving through the village street,
Mr. Nicholas Mudge entered the Poorhouse in high spirits. Certainly
ill-fortune must have befallen some one to make the good man so
exhilarant.

To explain, Mr. Mudge had just been to the village store to purchase
some groceries. One of his parcels was tied up in a stray leaf of a
recent New York Daily, in which he discovered an item which he felt
sure would make Aunt Lucy unhappy. He communicated it to Mrs. Mudge,
who highly approved his design. She called the old lady from the common
room.

“Here, Aunt Lucy,” she said, “is something that will interest you.”

Aunt Lucy came in, wondering a little at such an unusual mark of
attention.

Mrs. Mudge immediately commenced reading with malicious emphasis a
paragraph concerning a certain Paul Prescott, who had been arrested
for thieving, and sentenced to the House of Reformation for a term of
months.

“There,” said Mrs. Mudge, triumphantly, “what do you say to your
favorite now? Turned out well, hasn’t he? Didn’t I always say so? I
always knew that boy was bad at heart, and that he’d come to a bad end.”

“I don’t believe it’s the same boy,” declared Aunt Lucy, who was
nevertheless unpleasantly affected by the paragraph. She thought it
possible that Paul might have yielded to a powerful temptation.

“Perhaps you think I’ve been making it up. If you don’t believe it look
at the paper for yourself,” thrusting it into Aunt Lucy’s hands.

“Yes,” said the old lady. “I see that the name is the same; but, for
all that, there is a mistake somewhere. I do not believe it is the same
boy.”

“You don’t? Just as if there would be more than one boy of that name.
There may be other Prescotts, but there isn’t but one Paul Prescott,
take my word for it.”

“If it is he,” said Aunt Lucy, indignantly, “is it Christianlike to
rejoice over the poor boy’s misfortune?”

“Misfortune!” retorted Mrs. Mudge with a sneer; “you call it a
misfortune to steal, then! I call it a crime.”

“It’s often misfortune that drives people to it, though,” continued the
old lady, looking keenly at Mrs. Mudge. “I have known cases where they
didn’t have that excuse.”

Mrs. Mudge colored.

“Go back to your room,” said she, sharply; “and don’t stay here accusing
me and Mr. Mudge of unchristian conduct. You’re the most troublesome
pauper we have on our hands; and I do wish the town would provide for
you somewhere else.”

“So do I,” sighed the old lady to herself, though she did not think fit
to give audible voice to her thoughts.

It was at this moment that Paul halted his chaise at the gate, and
lightly jumping out, fastened his horse to a tree, and walked up to the
front door.

“Who can it be?” thought Mrs. Mudge, hastily adjusting her cap, and
taking off her apron.

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” said Mr. Mudge, unsuspiciously.

“I declare! I look like a fright.”

“No worse than usual,” said her husband, gallantly.

By this time Paul had knocked.

“Good-morning, sir,” said Mrs. Mudge, deferentially, her respect excited
by Paul’s dress and handsome chaise.

“Is Mrs. Lee in?” inquired Paul, not caring to declare himself, yet, to
his old enemy.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Mudge, obsequiously, though not overpleased to find
that this was Aunt Lucy’s visitor; “would you like to see her?”

“If you please.”

“What can he want of the old lady?” thought Mrs. Mudge, as she went to
summon her.

“A visitor for me?” asked Aunt Lucy, looking at Mrs. Mudge somewhat
suspiciously.

“Yes; and as he’s come in a carriage, you’d better slick up a little;
put on a clean cap or something.”

Aunt Lucy was soon ready.

She looked wonderingly at Paul, not recognizing him.

“You are not very good at remembering your old friends,” said Paul, with
a smile.

“What!” exclaimed Aunt Lucy, her face lighting up with joy; “are you
little Paul?”

“Not very little, now,” said our hero, laughing; “but I’m the same Paul
you used to know.”

Mrs. Mudge, who through the half open door had heard this revelation,
was overwhelmed with astonishment and confusion. She hurried to her
husband.

“Wonders will never cease!” she exclaimed, holding up both hands. “If
that doesn’t turn out to be Paul Prescott. Of course he’s up in the
world, or he wouldn’t dress so well, and ride in such a handsome
carriage.”

“You don’t say so!” returned Mr. Mudge, who looked as if he had heard of
a heavy misfortune.

“Yes, I do; I heard him say so with his own lips. It’s a pity you showed
that paragraph to Aunt Lucy, this morning.”

“That you showed, you mean,” retorted her husband.

“No, I don’t. You know it was you that did it.”

“Hush; they’ll hear.”

Meanwhile the two friends were conversing together happily.

“I’m so glad you’re doing so well, Paul,” said Aunt Lucy. “It was a
lucky day when you left the Poorhouse behind you.”

“Yes, Aunt Lucy, and to-day is a lucky day for you. There’s room for two
in that chaise, and I’m going to take you away with me.”

“I should enjoy a ride, Paul. It’s a long time since I have taken one.”

“You don’t understand me. You’re going away not to return.”

The old lady smiled sadly.

“No, no, Paul. I can’t consent to become a burden upon your generosity.
You can’t afford it, and it will not be right.”

“O,” said Paul, smiling, “you give me credit for too much. I mean that
you shall pay your board.”

“But you know I have no money.”

“No, I don’t. I don’t consider that a lady is penniless, who has an
income of three hundred dollars a year.”

“I don’t understand you, Paul.”

“Then, perhaps you will understand this,” said our hero, enjoying the
old lady’s astonishment.

He drew from his pocket a roll of bills, and passed them to Aunt Lucy.

The old lady looked so bewildered, that he lost no time in explaining
the matter to her. Then, indeed, Aunt Lucy was happy; not only because
she had become suddenly independent, but, because after years of
coldness and estrangement, her brother had at last become reconciled to
her.

“Now, Aunt Lucy,” resumed Paul, “I’ll tell you what my plans are. You
shall get into the chaise with me, and go at once to New York. I think
Aunt Hester will be willing to receive you as a boarder; if not, I will
find you a pleasant place near by. Will that suit you?”

“It will make me very happy; but I cannot realize it. It seems like a
dream.”

At this moment Mrs. Mudge entered the room, and, after a moment’s
scrutiny, pretended to recognize Paul. Her husband followed close behind
her.

“Can I believe my eyes?” she exclaimed. “Is this indeed Paul Prescott? I
am very glad to see you back.”

“Only a visit, Mrs. Mudge,” said Paul, smiling.

“You’ll stop to dinner, I hope?”

Paul thought of the soup and dry bread which he used to find so
uninviting, and said that he should not have time to do so.

“We’ve thought of you often,” said Mr. Mudge, writhing his harsh
features into a smile. “There’s scarcely a day that we haven’t spoken of
you.”

“I ought to feel grateful for your remembrance,” said Paul, his eyes
twinkling with mirth. “But I don’t think, Mr. Mudge, you always thought
so much of me.”

Mr. Mudge coughed in some embarrassment, and not thinking of anything in
particular to say, said nothing.

“I am going to take from you another of your boarders,” said Paul. “Can
you spare Aunt Lucy?”

“For how long?” asked Mrs. Mudge.

“For all the time. She has just come into possession of a little
property,--several hundred dollars a year,--and I have persuaded her to
go to New York to board.”

“Is this true?” exclaimed Mrs. Mudge in astonishment.

“Yes,” said the old lady, “God has been bountiful to me when I least
expected it.”

“Can I be of any service in assisting you to pack up, Mrs. Lee?”
 asked Mrs. Mudge, with new-born politeness. She felt that as a lady of
property, Aunt Lucy was entitled to much greater respect and deference
than before.

“Thank you, Mrs. Mudge,” said Paul, answering for her.

“She won’t have occasion for anything in this house. She will get a
supply of new things when she gets to New York.”

The old lady looked very happy, and Mrs. Mudge, in spite of her outward
deference, felt thoroughly provoked at her good fortune.

I will not dwell upon the journey to New York. Aunt Lucy, though
somewhat fatigued, bore it much better than she had anticipated. Mr. and
Mrs. Cameron entered very heartily into Paul’s plans, and readily agreed
to receive Aunt Lucy as an inmate of their happy and united household.
The old lady felt it to be a happy and blessed change from the
Poorhouse, where scanty food and poor accommodations had been made
harder to bear by the ill temper of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge, to a home whose
atmosphere was peace and kindness.

*****

And now, dear reader, it behooves us to draw together the different
threads of our story, and bring all to a satisfactory end.

Mr. and Mrs. Mudge are no longer in charge of the Wrenville Poorhouse.
After Aunt Lucy’s departure, Mrs. Mudge became so morose and despotic,
that her rule became intolerable. Loud complaints came to the ears of
‘Squire Newcome, Chairman of the Overseers of the Poor. One fine morning
he was compelled to ride over and give the interesting couple warning
to leave immediately. Mr. Mudge undertook the charge of a farm, but his
habits of intoxication increased upon him to such an extent, that he was
found dead one winter night, in a snow-drift, between his own house and
the tavern. Mrs. Mudge was not extravagant in her expressions of grief,
not having a very strong affection for her husband. At last accounts,
she was keeping a boarding-house in a manufacturing town. Some time
since, her boarders held an indignation meeting, and threatened to
leave in a body unless she improved her fare,--a course to which she was
obliged to submit.

George Dawkins, unable to obtain a recommendation from Mr. Danforth, did
not succeed in securing another place in New York. He finally prevailed
upon his father to advance him a sum of money, with which he went to
California. Let us hope that he may “turn over a new leaf” there, and
establish a better reputation than he did in New York.

Mr. Stubbs is still in the tin business. He is as happy as the day is
long, and so are his wife and children. Once a year he comes to New York
and pays Paul a visit. This supplies him with something to talk about
for the rest of the year. He is frugal in his expenses, and is able
to lay up a couple of hundred dollars every year, which he confides to
Paul, in whose financial skill he has the utmost confidence.

I am sure my boy readers would not forgive me for omitting to tell them
something more about Ben Newcome. Although his mirthful spirit sometimes
led him into mischief, he was good-hearted, and I have known him do many
an act of kindness, even at considerable trouble to himself. It will be
remembered that in consequence of his night adventure, during which
he personated a ghost, much to the terror of Mr. Mudge his father
determined to send him to a military school. This proved to be a
wise arrangement. The discipline was such as Ben needed, and he soon
distinguished himself by his excellence in the military drill. Soon
after he graduated, the Rebellion broke out, and Ben was at once, in
spite of his youth, elected Captain of the Wrenville company. At the
battle of Antietam he acquitted himself with so much credit that he
was promoted to a major. He was again promoted, and when Richmond was
evacuated, he was one of the first officers to enter the streets of the
Rebel capital, a colonel in command of his regiment. I have heard on
high authority, that he is considered one of the best officers in the
service.

Mr. and Mrs. Cameron are still living. They are happy in the success and
increasing prosperity of Paul, whom they regard as a son. Between them
and Aunt Lucy he would stand a very fair chance of being spoiled, if his
own good sense and good judgment were not sufficient to save him from
such a misfortune. Paul is now admitted to a small interest in the firm,
which entitles him to a share in the profits. As Danforth and Co. have
done a very extensive business of late years, this interest brings him
in a very handsome income. There is only one cause of difference between
him and the sexton. He insists that Uncle Hugh, who is getting infirm,
should resign his office, as he is abundantly able to support the whole
family. But the good sexton loves his duties, and will continue to
discharge them as long as he is able.

And now we must bid farewell to Paul. He has battled bravely with the
difficulties and discouragements that beset him in early life, he
has been faithful to the charge which he voluntarily assumed, and his
father’s memory is free from reproach. He often wishes that his father
could have lived to witness his prosperity? but God has decreed it
otherwise. Happy in the love of friends, and in the enjoyment of all
that can make life desirable, so far as external circumstances have that
power, let us all wish him God speed!





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