Part 3 out of 5
"I will endeavor to justify your confidence," said Henry Morton,
an expression of pleasure lighting up his face.
CHAPTER XVIII. THANKSGIVING AT THE FARM
The chill November days drew to a close. The shrill winds
whistled through the branches of the trees, and stirred the
leaves which lay in brown heaps upon the ground. But at the end
of the month came Thanksgiving--the farmer's Harvest Home. The
fruits of the field were in abundance but in many a home there
were vacant chairs, never more, alas! to be filled. But he who
dies in a noble cause leaves sweet and fragrant memories behind,
which shall ever after make it pleasant to think of him.
Thanksgiving morning dawned foggy and cold. Yet there is
something in the name that warms the heart and makes the dullest
day seem bright. The sunshine of the heart more than compensates
for the absence of sunshine without.
Frank had not been idle.
The night before he helped Jacob kill a turkey and a pair of
chickens, and seated on a box in the barn they had picked them
clean in preparation for the morrow,
Within the house, too, might be heard the notes of busy
preparation. Alice, sitting in a low chair, was busily engaged in
chopping meat for mince pies. Maggie sat near her paring
pumpkins, for a genuine New England Thanksgiving cannot be
properly celebrated without pumpkin pies. Even little Charlie
found work to do in slicing apples.
By evening a long row of pies might be seen upon the kitchen
dresser. Brown and flaky they looked, fit for the table of a
prince. So the children thought as they surveyed the attractive
array, and felt that Thanksgiving, come as often as it might,
could never be unwelcome.
Through the forenoon of Thanksgiving day the preparations
continued. Frank and Mr. Morton went to the village church, where
an appropriate service was held by Reverend Mr. Apthorp. There
were but few of the village matrons present. They were mostly
detained at home by housewifely cares, which on that day could
not well be delegated to other hands.
"Mr. Morton," said Frank, as they walked leisurely home, "did you
notice how Squire Haynes stared at you this morning?"
Mr. Morton looked interested. "Did he?" he asked. "I did not
"Yes, he turned halfround, and looked at you with a puzzled
expression, as if he thought he had seen you somewhere before,
but could not recall who you were."
"Perhaps I reminded him of some one he has known in past years,"
said the young man quietly. "We sometimes find strange
resemblances in utter strangers."
"I think he must have felt quite interested," pursued Frank, "for
he stopped me after church, and inquired who you were."
"Indeed!" said Henry Morton quietly. "And what did you tell him?"
"I told him your name, and mentioned that you were boarding with
"What then? Did he make any further inquiries?"
"He asked where you came from."
"He seemed quite curious about me. I ought to feel flattered. And
what did you reply?"
"I told him I did not know--that I only knew that part of your
life had been passed in Europe. I heard him say under his breath,
'It is singular.' "
"Frank," said Mr. Morton, after a moment's thought, "I wish to
have Squire Haynes learn as little of me as possible. If,
therefore, he should ask you how I am employed, you say that I
have come here for the benefit of my health. This is one of my
motives, though not the principal one."
"I will remember," said Frank. "I don't think he will say much to
me, however. He has a grudge against father, and his son does not
like me. I am sorry that father is compelled to have some
business relations with the squire."
"Yes, he holds a mortgage on our farm for eight hundred dollars.
It was originally more, but it has been reduced to this. He will
have the right to foreclose on the first of July."
"Shall you have the money ready for him at that time?"
"No; we may have half enough, perhaps. I am sometimes troubled
when I think of it. Father feels confident, however, that the
squire will not be hard upon us, but will renew the mortgage."
Henry Morton looked very thoughtful, but said nothing.
They had now reached the farmhouse.
Dinner was already on the table. In the center, on a large dish,
was the turkey, done to a turn. It was flanked by the chickens on
a smaller dish. These were supported by various vegetables, such
as the season supplied. A dish of cranberry sauce stood at one
end of the table, and at the opposite end a dish of apple sauce.
"Do you think you can carve the turkey, Mr. Morton?" asked Mrs.
"I will at least make the attempt."
"I want the wish-bone, Mr. Morton," said Maggie.
"No, I want it," said Charlie.
"You shall both have one," said the mother. "Luckily each of the
chickens is provided with one."
"I know what I am going to wish," said Charlie. nodding his head
"Well, Charlie, what is it?" asked Frank.
"I shall wish that papa may come home safe."
"And so will I," said Maggie.
"I wish he might sit down with us to-day," said Mrs. Frost, with
a little sigh. "He has never before been absent from us on
"Was he well when you last heard from him?"
"Yes, but hourly expecting orders to march to join the army in
Maryland. I am afraid he won't get as good a Thanksgiving dinner
"Two years ago," said Mr. Morton, "I ate my Thanksgiving dinner
"Do they have Thanksgiving there, Mr. Morton?" inquired Alice.
"No, they know nothing of our good New England festival. I was
obliged to order a special dinner for myself. I don't think you
would have recognized plum pudding under the name which they gave
"What was it?" asked Frank curiously.
"Blom buden was the name given on the bill."
"I can spell better than that," said Charlie.
"We shall have to send you out among the Dutchmen as a
schoolmaster plenipotentiary," said Frank, laughing. "I hope the
'blom buden' was good in spite of the way it was spelt."
"Yes, it was very good."
"I don't believe it beat mother's," said Charlie.
"At your present rate of progress, Charlie, you won't leave room
for any," said Frank.
"I wish I had two stomachs," said Charlie, looking regretfully at
the inviting delicacies which tempted him with what the French
call the embarrassment of riches.
"Well done, Charlie!" laughed his mother.
Dinner was at length over. Havoc and desolation reigned upon the
once well-filled table.
In the evening, as they all sat together round the table, Maggie
climbed on Mr. Morton's knee and petitioned for a story.
"What shall it be about?" he asked.
"Let me think a moment," said the young man.
He bent his eyes thoughtfully upon the wood-fire that crackled in
the wide-open fireplace, and soon signified that he was ready to
All the children gathered around him, and even Mrs. Frost,
sitting quietly at her knitting, edged her chair a little nearer,
that she, too, might listen to Mr. Morton's story. As this was of
some length, we shall devote to it a separate chapter.
CHAPTER XIX. THE WONDERFUL TRANSFORMATION
"My story," commenced Mr. Morton, "is rather a remarkable one in
some respects; and I cannot vouch for its being true. I shall
call it 'The Wonderful Transformation.'
"Thomas Tubbs was a prosperous little tailor, and for forty years
had been a resident of the town of Webbington, where he had been
born and brought up. I have called him little, and you will agree
with me when I say that, even in high-heeled boots, which he
always wore, he measured only four feet and a half in height.
"In spite, however, of his undersize, Thomas had succeeded in
winning the hand of a woman fifteen inches taller than himself.
If this extra height had been divided equally between them,
possibly they might have attracted less observation. As it was,
when they walked to church, the top of the little tailor's beaver
just about reached the shoulders of Mrs. Tubbs. Nevertheless,
they managed to live very happily together, for the most part,
though now and then, when Thomas was a little refractory, his
better half would snatch him up bodily, and, carrying him to the
cellar, lock him up there. Such little incidents only served to
spice their domestic life, and were usually followed by a warm
"The happy pair had six children, all of whom took after their
mother, and promised to be tall; the oldest boy, twelve years of
age, being already taller than his father, or, rather, he would
have been but for the tall hat and high-heeled boots.
"Mr. Tubbs was a tailor, as I have said. One day there came into
his shop a man attired with extreme shabbiness. Thomas eyed him
" 'Mr. Tubbs,' said the stranger, 'as you perceive, I am out at
the elbows. I would like to get you to make me up a suit of
" 'Ahem!' coughed Thomas, and glanced upward at a notice affixed
to the door, 'Terms, Cash.'
"The stranger's eye followed the direction of Mr. Tubbs'. He
" 'I frankly confess,' he said, 'that I shall not be able to pay
immediately, but, if I live, I will pay you within six months.'
" 'How am I to feel sure of that?' asked the tailor, hesitating.
" 'I pledge my word,' was the reply. 'You see, Mr. Tubbs, I have
been sick for some time past, and that, of course, has used up my
money. Now, thank Providence, I am well again, and ready to go to
work. But I need clothes, as you see, before I have the ability
to pay for them.'
" 'What's your name?' asked Thomas.
" 'Oswald Rudenheimer,' was the reply.
" 'A foreigner?'
" 'As you may suppose. Now, Mr. Tubbs, what do you say? Do you
think you can trust me?'
"Thomas examined the face of his visitor. He looked honest, and
the little tailor had a good deal of confidence in the excellence
of human nature.
" 'I may be foolish,' he said at last, 'but I'll do it.'
" 'A thousand thanks!' said the stranger. 'You sha'n't repent of
"The cloth was selected, and Thomas set to work. In three days
the suit was finished, and Thomas sat in his shop waiting for his
customer. At last he came, but what a change! He was splendidly
dressed. The little tailor hardly recognized him.
" 'Mr. Tubbs,' said he, 'you're an honest man and a good fellow.
You trusted me when I appeared penniless, but I deceived you. I
am really one of the genii, of whom, perhaps, you have read, and
lineally descended from those who guarded Solomon's seal. Instead
of making you wait for your pay, I will recompense you on the
spot, either in money or----'
" 'Or what? asked the astonished tailor.
" 'Or I will grant the first wish that may be formed in your
mind. Now choose.'
"Thomas did not take long to choose. His charge would amount to
but a few dollars, while he might wish for a million. He
signified his decision.
" 'Perhaps you have chosen wisely,' said his visitor. 'But mind
that you are careful about your wish. You may wish for something
you don't want.'
" 'No fear of that,' said the tailor cheerfully.
" 'At any rate, I will come this way six months hence, and should
you then wish to be released from the consequences of your wish,
and to receive instead the money stipulated as the price of the
suit, I will give you the chance.'
"Of course, Thomas did not object, though he considered it rather
a foolish proposition.
"His visitor disappeared, and the tailor was left alone. He laid
aside his work. How could a man be expected to work who had only
to wish, and he could come into possession of more than he could
earn in a hundred or even a thousand years?
" 'I might as well enjoy myself a little,' thought Mr. Tubbs.
'Let me see. I think there is a show in the village to-day. I'll
go to it.'
"He accordingly slipped on his hat and went out, somewhat to the
surprise of his wife, who concluded that her husband must be
going out on business.
"Thomas Tubbs wended his way to the marketplace. He pressed in
among the people, a crowd of whom had already assembled to
witness the show. I cannot tell you what the show was. I am only
concerned in telling you what Thomas Tubbs saw and did; and, to
tell the plain truth, he didn't see anything at all. He was
wedged in among people a foot or two taller than himself. Now, it
is not pleasant to hear all about you laughing heartily and not
even catch a glimpse of what amuses them so much. Thomas Tubbs
was human, and as curious as most people. just as a six-footer
squeezed in front of him he could not help framing, in his
vexation, this wish:
" 'Oh, dear! I wish I were ten feet high!'
"Luckless Thomas Tubbs! Never had he framed a more unfortunate
wish. On the instant he shot up from an altitude of four feet six
to ten feet. Fortunately his clothes expanded proportionally. So,
instead of being below the medium height, he was raised more than
four feet above it.
"Of course, his immediate neighbors became aware of the gigantic
presence, though they did not at all recognize its identity with
the little tailor, Thomas Tubbs.
"At once there was a shout of terror. The crowd scattered in all
directions, forgetting the spectacle at which, the moment before,
they had been laughing heartily, and the little tailor, no longer
little, was left alone in the market-place.
" 'Good heavens!' he exclaimed in bewilderment, stretching out
his brawny arm, nearly five feet in length, and staring at it in
ludicrous astonishment, 'who'd have thought that I should ever be
"To tell the truth, the little man--I mean Mr. Tubbs--at first
rather enjoyed his new magnitude. He had experienced
mortification so long on account of his diminutive stature, that
he felt a little exhilarated at the idea of being able to look
down on those to whom he had hitherto felt compelled to look up.
It was rather awkward to have people afraid of him. As he turned
to leave the square, for the exhibitor of the show had run off in
the general panic, he could see people looking at him from
third-story windows, and pointing at him with outstretched
fingers and mouths agape.
" 'Really,' thought Thomas Tubbs, 'I never expected to be such an
object of interest. I think I'll go home.'
"His house was a mile off, but so large were his strides that
five minutes carried him to it.
"Now Mrs. Tubbs was busy putting the dinner on the table, and
wondering why her husband did not make his appearance. She was
fully determined to give him a scolding in case his delay was so
great as to cause the dinner to cool. All at once she heard a
bustle at the door. Looking into the entry, she saw a huge man
endeavoring to make his entrance into the house. As the portal
was only seven feet in height, it was not accomplished without a
great deal of twisting and squirming. "Mrs. Tubbs turned pale.
" 'What are you trying to do, you monster?' she faltered.
" 'I have come home to dinner, Mary,' was the meek reply.
" 'Come home to dinner!' exclaimed Mrs. Tubbs, aghast. 'Who in
the name of wonder are you, you overgrown brute?'
" 'Who am I? asked the giant, smiling feebly, for he began to
feel a little queer at this reception from the wife with whom he
had lived for fifteen years. 'Ha! ha! don't you know your own
" 'My husband!' exclaimed Mrs. Tubbs, astonished at the fellow's
impudence. 'You, don't mean to say that you are my husband?'
" 'Of course I am,' said Thomas.
" 'Then,' said Mrs. Tubbs, 'I would have you know that my husband
is a respectable little man, not half your size.'
" 'Oh, dear!' thought Thomas. 'Well, here's a kettle of fish; my
own wife won't own me!'
" 'So I was,' he said aloud. 'I was only four feet six; but
" 'Grown!' Mrs. Tubbs laughed hysterically. 'That's a likely
story, when it's only an hour since my husband went into the
street as short as ever. I only wish he'd come in, I do, to
expose your imposition.'
" 'But I have grown, Mary,' said Tubbs piteously. 'I was out in
the crowd, and I couldn't see what was going on, and so I wished
I was ten feet high; and, before I knew it, I was as tall as I am
" 'No doubt,' said Mrs. Tubbs incredulously, 'As to that, all
I've got to say is, that you'd better wish yourself back again,
as I sha'n't own you as my husband till you do!'
" 'Really,' thought Mr. Tubbs, 'this is dreadful! What can I do!'
"Just then one of his children ran into the room.
" 'Johnny, come to me,' said his father imploringly. 'Come to
" 'My father!' said Johnny, shying out of the room. 'You ain't my
father. My father isn't as tall as a tree.'
" 'You see how absurd your claim is,' said Mrs. Tubbs. 'You'll
oblige me by leaving the house directly.'
" 'Leave the house--my house!' said Tubbs.
" 'If you don't, I'll call in the neighbors,' said the courageous
" 'I don't believe they'd dare to come,' said Tubbs, smiling
queerly at the recollection of what a sensation his appearance
" 'Won't you go?'
" 'At least you'll let me have some dinner. I am 'most famished.'
" 'Dinner!" said Mrs. Tubbs, hesitating. 'I don't think there's
enough in the house. However, you can sit down to the table.'
"Tubbs attempted to sit down on a chair, but his weight was so
great that it was crushed beneath him. Finally, he was compelled
to sit on the floor, and even then his stature was such that his
head rose to the height of six feet.
"What an enormous appetite he had, too! The viands on the table
seemed nothing. He at first supplied his plate with the usual
quantity; but as the extent of his appetite became revealed to
him, he was forced to make away with everything on the table.
Even then he was hungry.
" 'Well, I declare,' thought Mrs. Tubbs, in amazement, 'it does
take an immense quantity to keep him alive!'
"Tubbs rose from the table, and, in doing so, hit his head a
smart whack against the ceiling. Before leaving the house he
turned to make a last appeal to his wife, who, he could not help
seeing, was anxious to have him go.
" 'Won't you own me, Mary?' he asked. 'It isn't my fault that I
am so big.'
" 'Own you!' exclaimed his wife. 'I wouldn't own you for a mint
of money. You'd eat me out of house and home in less than a
" 'I don't know but I should,' said Mr. Tubbs mournfully. 'I
don't see what gives me such an appetite. I'm hungry now.'
" 'Hungry, after you've eaten enough for six!' exclaimed his
wife, aghast. 'Well, I never!'
" 'Then you won't let me stay, Mary?'
" 'No, no.'
"With slow and sad strides Thomas Tubbs left the house. The world
seemed dark enough to the poor fellow. Not only was he disowned
by his wife and children, but he could not tell how he should
ever earn enough to keep him alive, with the frightful appetite
which he now possessed. 'I don't know,' he thought, 'but the best
way is to drown myself at once.' So he walked to the river, but
found it was not deep enough to drown him.
"As he emerged from the river uncomfortably wet, he saw a man
timidly approaching him. It proved to be the manager of the show.
" 'Hello!' said he hesitatingly.
" 'Hello!' returned Tubbs disconsolately.
" 'Would you like to enter into a business engagement with me?'
" 'Of what sort?' asked Tubbs, brightening up.
" 'To be exhibited,' was the reply. 'You're the largest man
living in the world. We could make a pretty penny together.'
"Tubbs was glad enough to accept this proposition, which came to
him like a plank to a drowning man. Accordingly an agreement was
made that, after deducting expenses, he should share profits with
"It proved to be a great success. From all quarters people
flocked to see the great prodigy, the wonder of the world, as he
was described in huge posters. Scientific men wrote learned
papers in which they strove to explain his extraordinary height,
and, as might be expected, no two assigned the same cause.
"At the end of six months Tubbs had five thousand dollars as his
share of the profits. But after all he was far from happy. He
missed the society of his wife and children, and shed many tears
over his separation from them.
"At the end of six months his singular customer again made his
" 'It seems to me you've altered some since I last saw you,' he
said, with a smile.
" 'Yes,' said Tubbs dolefully.
" 'You don't like the change, I judge?'
" 'No,' said Tubbs. 'It separates me from my wife and children,
and that makes me unhappy.'
" 'Would you like to be changed back again!'
" 'Gladly,' was the reply.
"Presto! the wonderful giant was changed back into the little
tailor. No sooner was this effected than he returned post-haste
to Webbington. His wife received him with open arms.
" 'Oh, Thomas,' she exclaimed, 'how could you leave us so? On the
day of your disappearance a huge brute of a man came here and
pretended to be you, but I soon sent him away.'
"Thomas wisely said nothing, but displayed his five thousand
dollars. There was great joy in the little dwelling. Thomas Tubbs
at once took a larger shop, and grew every year in wealth and
public esteem. The only way in which he did not grow was in
stature; but his six months' experience as a giant had cured him
of any wish of that sort. The last I heard of him was his
election to the legislature."
"That's a bully story," said Charlie, using a word which he had
heard from older boys. "I wish I was a great tall giant."
"What would you do if you were, Charlie?"
"I'd go and fight the rebels," said Charlie manfully.
CHAPTER XX. POMP'S EDUCATION COMMENCES
In the season of leisure from farm work which followed, Frank
found considerable time for study. The kind sympathy and ready
assistance given by Mr. Morton made his task a very agreeable
one, and his progress for a time was as rapid as if he had
remained at school.
He also assumed the office of teacher, having undertaken to give
a little elementary instruction to Pomp. Here his task was beset
with difficulties. Pomp was naturally bright, but incorrigibly
idle. His activity was all misdirected and led him into a wide
variety of mischief. He had been sent to school, but his
mischievous propensities had so infected the boys sitting near
him that the teacher had been compelled to request his removal.
Three times in the week, during the afternoon, Pomp came over to
the farm for instruction. On the first of these occasions we will
look in upon him and his teacher.
Pomp is sitting on a cricket by the kitchen fire. He has a primer
open before him at the alphabet. His round eyes are fixed upon
the page as long as Frank is looking at him, but he requires
constant watching. His teacher sits near-by, with a Latin
dictionary resting upon a light stand before him, and a copy of
Virgil's Aeneid in his hand.
"Well, Pomp, do you think you know your lesson?" he asks.
"Dunno, Mass' Frank; I reckon so."
"You may bring your book to me, and I will try you."
Pomp rose from his stool and sidled up to Frank with no great
"What's that letter, Pomp?" asked the young teacher, pointing out
the initial letter of the alphabet.
Pomp answered correctly.
"And what is the next?"
Pomp shifted from one foot to the other, and stared vacantly out
of the window, but said nothing.
"Don't you know?"
" 'Pears like I don't 'member him, Mass' Frank."
Here Frank had recourse to a system of mnemonics frequently
resorted to by teachers in their extremity.
"What's the name of the little insect that stings people
"Wasp, Mass' Frank," was the confident reply.
"No, I don't mean that. I mean the bee."
"Yes, Mass' Frank."
"Well, this is B."
Pomp looked at it attentively, and, after a pause, inquired,
"Where's him wings, Mass' Frank?"
Frank bit his lips to keep from laughing. "I don't mean that this
is a bee that makes honey," he explained, "only it has the same
name. Now do you think you can remember how it is called?"
"Bumblebee!" repeated Pomp triumphantly.
Pomp's error was corrected, and the lesson proceeded.
"What is the next letter?" asked Frank, indicating it with the
point of his knife-blade.
"X," answered the pupil readily.
"No, Pomp," was the dismayed reply. "It is very different from
"Dat's him name at school," said Pomp positively.
"No, Pomp, you are mistaken. That is X, away down there."
"Perhaps him change his name," suggested Pomp.
"No. The letters never change their names. I don't think you know
your lesson, Pomp. just listen to me while I tell you the names
of some of the letters, and try to remember them."
When this was done, Pomp was directed to sit down on the cricket,
and study his lesson for twenty Minutes, at the end of which he
might again recite.
Pomp sat down, and for five minutes seemed absorbed in his book.
Then, unfortunately, the cat walked into the room, and soon
attracted the attention of the young student. He sidled from his
seat so silently that Frank did not hear him. He was soon made
sensible that Pomp was engaged in some mischief by hearing a
prolonged wail of anguish from the cat.
Looking up, he found that his promising pupil had tied her by the
leg to a chair, and under these circumstances was amusing himself
by pinching her tail.
"What are you doing there, Pomp?" he asked quickly.
Pomp scuttled back to his seat, and appeared to be deeply intent
upon his primer.
"Ain't doin' noffin', Mass' Frank," he answered innocently.
"Then how came the cat tied to that chair?"
" 'Spec' she must have tied herself."
"Come, Pomp, you know better than that. You know cats can't tie
themselves. Get up immediately and unfasten her."
Pomp rose with alacrity, and undertook to release puss from the
thraldom of which she had become very impatient. Perhaps she
would have been quite as well off if she had been left to
herself. The process of liberation did not appear to be very
agreeable, judging from the angry mews which proceeded from her.
Finally, in her indignation against Pomp for some aggressive act,
she scratched him sharply.
"You wicked old debble!" exclaimed Pomp wrathfully.
He kicked at the cat; but she was lucky enough to escape, and ran
out of the room as fast as her four legs could carry her.
"Big ugly debble!" muttered Pomp, watching the blood ooze from
"What's the matter, Pomp?"
"Old cat scratch me."
"And what did you do to her, Pomp? I am afraid you deserved your
"Didn't do noffin', Mass' Frank," said Pomp virtuously.
"I don't think you always tell the truth, Pomp."
"Can't help it, Mass' Frank. 'Spec' I've got a little debble
inside of me."
"What do you mean, Pomp! What put that idea in your head?"
"Dat's what mammy says. Dat's what she al'ays tells me."
"Then," said Frank, "I think it will be best to whip it out of
you. Where's my stick?"
"Oh, no, Mass' Frank," said Pomp, in alarm; "I'll be good, for
"Then sit down and get your lesson."
Again Pomp assumed his cricket. Before he had time to devise any
new mischief, Mrs. Frost came to the head of the stairs and
Frank laid aside his books, and presented himself at the foot of
"I should like your help a few minutes. Can you leave your
Before going up, he cautioned Pomp to study quietly, and not get
into any mischief while he was gone. Pomp promised very readily.
Frank had hardly got upstairs before his pupil rose from the
cricket, and began to look attentively about him. His first
proceeding was to, hide his primer carefully in Mrs. Frost's
work-basket, which lay on the table. Then, looking curiously
about him, his attention was drawn to the old-fashioned clock
that stood in the corner.
Now, Pomp's curiosity had been strongly excited by this clock. It
was not quite clear to him how the striking part was effected.
Here seemed to be a favorable opportunity for instituting an
investigation. Pomp drew his cricket to, the clock, and, opening
it, tried to reach up to the face. But he was not yet high
enough. He tried a chair, and still required a greater elevation.
Espying Frank's Latin dictionary, he pressed that into service.
By and by Frank and his mother heard the clock striking an
unusual number of times.
"What is the matter with the clock?" inquired Mrs. Frost.
"I don't know," said Frank unsuspiciously.
"It has struck ten times, and it is only four o' clock."
"I wonder if Pomp can have got at it," said Frank, with a sudden
He ran downstairs hastily.
Pomp heard him coming, and in his anxiety to escape detection,
contrived to lose his balance and fall to the floor. As he fell,
he struck the table, on which a pan of sour milk had been placed,
and it was overturned, deluging poor Pomp with the unsavory
Pomp shrieked and kicked most energetically. His appearance, as
he picked himself up, was ludicrous in the extreme. His sable
face was plentifully besprinkled with clotted milk, giving him
the appearance of a negro who is coming out white in spots. The
floor was swimming in milk. Luckily the dictionary had fallen
clear of it, and so escaped.
"Is this the way you study?" demanded Frank, as sternly as his
sense of the ludicrous plight in which he found Pomp would
For once Pomp's ready wit deserted him. He had nothing to say.
"Go out and wash yourself."
Pomp came back rather shamefaced, his face restored to its
"Now, where is your book?"
Pomp looked about him, but, as he took good care not to look
where he knew his book to be, of course he did not find it.
"I 'clare, Mass' Frank, it done lost," he at length asserted.
"How can it be lost when you had it only a few minutes ago?"
"I dunno," answered Pomp stolidly.
"Have you been out of the room?"
Pomp answered in the negative.
"Then it must be somewhere here."
Frank went quietly to the corner of the room and took therefrom a
"Now, Pomp," he said, "I will give you just two minutes to find
the book in. If you don't find it, I shall have to give you a
Pomp looked at his teacher to see if he was in earnest. Seeing
that he was, he judged it best to find the book.
Looking into the work-box, he said innocently: "I 'clare to
gracious, Mass' Frank, if it hasn't slipped down yere. Dat's
mi'ty cur's, dat is."
"Pomp, sit down," said Frank. "I am going to talk to you
seriously. What makes you tell so many lies?"
"Dunno any better," replied Pomp, grinning.
"Yes, you do, Pomp. Doesn't your mother tell you not to lie?"
"Lor', Mass' Frank, she's poor ignorant nigger. She don't know
"You mustn't speak so of your mother. She brings you up as well
as she knows how. She has to work hard for you, and you ought to
"So I do, 'cept when she licks me."
"If you behave properly she won't whip you. You'll grow up a
'poor, ignorant nigger' yourself. if you don't study."
"Shall I get white, Mass' Frank, if I study?" asked Pomp, showing
a double row of white teeth.
"You were white enough just now," said Frank, smiling.
"Yah, yah!" returned Pomp, who appreciated the joke.
"Now, Pomp," Frank continued seriously, "if you will learn your
lesson in fifteen minutes I will give you a piece of
"I'll do it, Mass' Frank," said Pomp promptly.
Pomp was very fond of gingerbread, as Frank very well knew. In
the time specified the lesson was got, and recited
As Pomp's education will not again be referred to, it may be said
that when Frank had discovered how to manage him, he learned
quite rapidly. Chloe, who was herself unable to read, began to
look upon Pomp with a new feeling of respect when she found that
he could read stories in words of one syllable, and the
"lickings" of which he complained became less frequent. But his
love of fun still remained, and occasionally got him into
trouble, as we shall hereafter have occasion to see.
CHAPTER XXI. THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG
About the middle of December came the sad tragedy of
Fredericksburg, in which thousands of our gallant soldiers
yielded up their lives in a hard, unequal struggle, which brought
forth nothing but mortification and disaster.
The first telegrams which appeared in the daily papers brought
anxiety and bodings of ill to many households. The dwellers at
the farm were not exempt. They had been apprised by a recent
letter that Mr. Frost's regiment now formed a part of the grand
army which lay encamped on the eastern side of the Rappahannock.
The probability was that he was engaged in the battle. Frank
realized for the first time to what peril his father was exposed,
and mingled with the natural feeling which such a thought was
likely to produce was the reflection that, but for him, his
father would have been in safety at home.
"Did I do right?" Frank asked himself anxiously, the old doubt
recurring once more.
Then, above the selfish thought of peril to him and his, rose the
consideration of the country's need, and Frank said to himself,
"I have done right--whatever happens. I feel sure of that."
Yet his anxiety was by no means diminished, especially when, a
day or two afterward, tidings of the disaster came to hand, only
redeemed by the masterly retreat across the river, in which a
great army, without the loss of a single gun, ambulance, or
wagon, withdrew from the scene of a hopeless struggle, under the
very eyes of the enemy, yet escaping discovery.
One afternoon Frank went to the post-office a little after the
usual time. As he made his way through a group at the door, he
notice compassionate glances directed toward him.
His heart gave a sudden bound.
"Has anything happened to my father?" he inquired, with pale
face. "Have any of you heard anything?"
"He is wounded, Frank," said the nearest bystander.
"Show it to me," said Frank.
In the evening paper, which was placed in his hands, he read a
single line, but of fearful import: "Henry Frost, wounded."
Whether the wound was slight or serious, no intimation was given.
Frank heaved a sigh of comparative relief. His father was not
dead, as he at first feared. Yet he felt that the suspense would
be a serious trial. He did not know how to tell his mother. She
met him at the gate. His serious face and lagging steps revealed
the truth, exciting at first apprehensions of something even more
For two days they remained without news. Then came a letter from
the absent father, which wonderfully lightened all their hearts.
The fact that he was able to write a long letter with his own
hand showed plainly that his wound must be a trifling one. The
letter ran thus:
"DEAR MARY: I fear that the report of my wound will reach you
before this letter comes to assure you that it is a mere scratch,
and scarcely worth a thought. I cannot for an instant think of
it, when I consider how many of our poor fellows have been mown
down by instant death, or are now lying with ghastly wounds on
pallets in the hospital. We have been through a fearful trial,
and the worst thought is that our losses are not compensated by a
"Before giving you an account of it from the point of view of a
private soldier, let me set your mind at rest by saying that my
injury is only a slight flesh-wound in the arm, which will
necessitate my carrying it in a sling for a few days; that is
"Early on the morning of Thursday, the 10th inst., the first act
in the great drama commenced with laying the pontoon bridges over
which our men were to make their way into the rebel city. My own
division was to cross directly opposite the city. All honor to
the brave men who volunteered to lay the bridges. It was a trying
and perilous duty. On the other side, in rifle-pits and houses at
the brink of the river, were posted the enemy's sharpshooters,
and these at a given signal opened fire upon our poor fellows who
were necessarily unprotected. The firing was so severe and
deadly, and impossible to escape from, that for the time we were
obliged to desist. Before anything could be effected it became
clear that the sharpshooters must be dislodged.
"Then opened the second scene.
"A deluge of shot and shell from our side of the river rained
upon the city, setting some buildings on fire, and severely
damaging others. It was a most exciting spectacle to us who
watched from the bluffs, knowing that ere long we must make the
perilous passage and confront the foe, the mysterious silence of
whose batteries inspired alarm, as indicating a consciousness of
"The time of our trial came at length.
"Toward the close of the afternoon General Howard's division, to
which I belong, crossed the pontoon bridge whose building had
cost us more than one gallant soldier. The distance was short,
for the Rappahannock at this point is not more than a quarter of
a mile wide. In a few minutes we were marching through the
streets of Fredericksburg. We gained possession of the lower
streets, but not without some street fighting, in which our
brigade lost about one hundred in killed and wounded.
"For the first time I witnessed violent death. The man marching
by my side suddenly reeled, and, pressing his hand to his breast,
fell forward. Only a moment before he had spoken to me, saying,
'I think we are going to have hot work.' Now he was dead, shot
through the heart. I turned sick with horror, but there was no
time to pause. We must march on, not knowing that our turn might
not come next. Each of us felt that he bore his life in his hand.
"But this was soon over, and orders came that we should bivouac
for the night. You will not wonder that I lay awake nearly the
whole night. A night attack was possible, and the confusion and
darkness would have made it fearful. As I lay awake I could not
help thinking how anxious you would feel if you had known where I
"So closed the first day.
"The next dawned warm and pleasant. In the quiet of the morning
it seemed hard to believe that we were on the eve of a bloody
struggle. Discipline was not very strictly maintained. Some of
our number left the ranks and ransacked the houses, more from
curiosity than the desire to pillage.
"I went down to the bank of the river, and took a look at the
bridge which it had cost us so much trouble to throw across. It
bore frequent marks of the firing of the day previous.
"At one place I came across an old negro, whose white head and
wrinkled face indicated an advanced age. Clinging to him were two
children, of perhaps four and six years of age, who had been
" 'Don't cry, honey,' I heard him say soothingly, wiping the
tears from the cheeks of the youngest with a coarse cotton
" 'I want mama,' said the child piteously.
"A sad expression came over the old black's face.
" 'What is the matter?' I asked, advancing toward him.
" 'She is crying for her mother,' he said.
" 'Is she dead?'
" 'Yes, sir; she'd been ailing for a long time, and the guns of
yesterday hastened her death.'
" 'Where did you live?'
" 'In that house yonder, sir.'
" 'Didn't you feel afraid when we fired on the town?'
" 'We were all in the cellar, sir. One shot struck the house, but
did not injure it much.'
" 'You use very good language,' I could not help saying.
" 'Yes, sir; I have had more advantages than most of--of my
class.' These last words he spoke rather bitterly. 'When I was a
young man my master amused himself with teaching me; but he found
I learned so fast that he stopped short. But I carried it on by
" 'Didn't you find that difficult?'
" 'Yes, sir; but my will was strong. I managed to get books, now
one way, now another. I have read considerable, sir.'
"This he said with some pride.
" 'Have you ever read Shakespeare?'
" 'In part, sir; but I never could get hold of "Hamlet." I have
always wanted to read that play.'
"I drew him out, and was astonished at the extent of his
information, and the intelligent judgment which he expressed.
" 'I wonder that, with your acquirements, you should have been
content to remain in a state of slavery.'
" 'Content!' he repeated bitterly. 'Do you think I have been
content? No, sir. Twice I attempted to escape. Each time I was
caught, dragged back, and cruelly whipped. Then I was sold to the
father of these little ones. He treated me so well, and I was
getting so old, that I gave up the idea of running away.'
" 'And where is he now?'
" 'He became a colonel in the Confederate service, and was killed
at Antietam. Yesterday my mistress died, as I have told you.'
" 'And are you left in sole charge of these little children?'
" 'Yes, sir.'
" 'Have they no relatives living?'
" 'Their uncle lives in Kentucky. I shall try to carry them
" 'But you will find it hard work. You have only to cross the
river, and in our lines you will be no longer a slave.'
" 'I know it, sir. Three of my children have got their freedom,
thank God, in that way. But I can't leave these children.'
"I looked down at them. They were beautiful children. The
youngest was a girl, with small features, dark hair, and black
eyes. The boy, of six, was pale and composed, and uttered no
murmur. Both clung confidently to the old negro.
"I could not help admiring the old man, who could resist the
prospect of freedom, though he had coveted it all his life, in
order to remain loyal to his trust. I felt desirous of drawing
him out on the subject of the war.
" 'What do you think of this war?' I asked.
"He lifted up his hand, and in a tone of solemnity, said, 'I
think it is the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night,
that's going to draw us out of our bondage into the Promised
"I was struck by his answer.
" 'Do many of you--I mean of those who have not enjoyed your
advantages of education--think so?'
" 'Yes, sir; we think it is the Lord's doings, and it is
marvelous in our eyes. It's a time of trial and of tribulation;
but it isn't a-going to last. The children of Israel were forty
years in the wilderness, and so it may be with us. The day of
deliverance will come.'
"At this moment the little girl began again to cry, and he
addressed himself to soothe her.
"This was not the only group I encountered. Some women had come,
down to the river with children half-bereft of their senses--some
apparently supposing that we should rob or murder them. The rebel
leaders and newspapers have so persistently reiterated these
assertions, that they have come to believe them.
"The third day was unusually lovely, but our hearts were too
anxious to admit of our enjoying it. The rebels were entrenched
on heights behind the town. It was necessary that these should be
taken, and about noon the movement commenced. Our forces marched
steadily across the intervening plain. The rebels reserved their
fire till we were half-way across, and then from all sides burst
forth the deadly fire. We were completely at their mercy. Twenty
men in my own company fell dead or wounded, among them the
captain and first lieutenant. Of what followed I can give you
little idea. I gave myself up for lost. A desperate impulse
enabled me to march on to what seemed certain destruction. All at
once I felt a sensation of numbness in my left arm, and looking
down, I saw that the blood was trickling from it.
"But I had little time to think of myself. Hearing a smothered
groan, I looked round, and saw Frank Grover, pale and reeling.
" 'I'm shot in the leg,' he said. 'Don't leave me here. Help me
along, and I will try to keep up with you.'
"The poor lad leaned upon me, and we staggered forward. But not
for long. A stone wall stared us in the face. Here rebel
sharpshooters had been stationed, and they opened a galling fire
upon us. We returned it, but what could we do? We were compelled
to retire, and did so in good order, but unfortunately not until
the sharpshooters had picked off some of our best men.
"Among the victims was the poor lad whom I assisted. A second
bullet struck him in the heart. He uttered just one word,
'mother,' and fell. Poor boy, and poor mother! He seemed to have
a premonition of his approaching death, and requested me the day
previous to take charge of his effects, and send them with his
love and a lock of his hair to his mother if anything should
befall him. This request I shall at once comply with. I have
succeeded in getting the poor fellow's body brought to camp,
where it will be decently buried, and have cut from his head two
brown locks, one for his mother, and one for myself.
"At last we got back with ranks fearfully diminished. Many old
familiar faces were gone--the faces of those now lying stiff and
stark in death. More were groaning with anguish in the crowded
hospital. My own wound was too trifling to require much
attention. I shall have to wear a sling for a few days perhaps.
"There is little more to tell. Until Tuesday evening we
maintained our position in daily expectation of an attack. But
none was made. This was more fortunate for us. I cannot
understand what withheld the enemy from an assault.
"On Tuesday suddenly came the order to re-cross the river. It was
a stormy and dreary night, and so, of course, favorable to our
purpose. The maneuver was executed in silence, and with
commendable expedition. The rebels appeared to have no suspicion
of General Burnside's intentions. The measured beat of our double
quick was drowned by the fury of the storm, and with minds
relieved, though bodies drenched, we once more found ourselves
with the river between us and our foes. Nothing was left behind.
"Here we are again, but not all of us. Many a brave soldier has
breathed his last, and lies under the sod. 'God's ways are dark,
but soon or late they touch the shining hills of day.' So sings
our own Whittier, and so I believe, in spite of the sorrowful
disaster which we have met with. It is all for the best if we
could but see it.
"Our heavy losses of officers have rendered some new appointments
necessary. Our second lieutenant has been made captain. The
orderly sergeant and second sergeant are now our lieutenants, and
the line of promotion has even reached me. I am a corporal.
"I have been drawn into writing a very long letter, and I must
now close, with the promise of writing again very soon. After I
have concluded, I must write to poor Frank Grover's mother. May
God comfort her, for she has lost a boy of whom any mother might
"With love to the children, I remain, as ever, your affectionate
husband. HENRY FROST."
"How terrible it must have been," said Mrs. Frost, with a
shudder, as she folded up the letter and laid it down. "We ought
indeed to feel thankful that your father's life was spared."
"If I were three years older, I might have been in the battle,"
CHAPTER XXII. FRANK BROACHES A NEW PLAN
For some time Frank had been revolving in his mind the
feasibility of a scheme which he hoped to be able to carry into
execution. It was no less than this--to form a military company
among the boys, which should be organized and drilled in all
respects like those composed of older persons. He did not feel
like taking any steps in the matter till he had consulted with
some one in whose judgment he had confidence.
One evening he mentioned his plan to Mr. Morton.
"It is a capital idea, Frank," said the young man, with warm
approval. "If I can be of service to you in this matter, it will
afford me much pleasure."
"There is one difficulty," suggested Frank. "None of us boys know
anything about military tactics, and we shall need instruction to
begin with; but where we are to find a teacher I am sure I can't
"I don't think you will have to look far," said Mr. Morton, with
"Are you acquainted with the manual?" asked Frank eagerly.
"I believe so. You see you have not yet got to the end of my
accomplishments. I shall be happy to act as your drill-master
until some one among your number is competent to take my place. I
can previously give you some private lessons, if you desire it."
"There's nothing I should like better, Mr. Morton," said Frank
"Have you got a musket in the house, then? We shall get along
better with one."
"There's one in the attic."
"Very well; if you will get it, we can make a beginning now."
Frank went in search of the musket; but in his haste tumbled down
the attic stairs, losing his grasp of the musket, which fell down
with a clatter.
Mrs. Frost, opening the door of her bedroom in alarm, saw Frank
on his back with the musket lying across his chest.
"What's the matter?" she asked, not a little startled.
Frank got up rubbing himself and looking rather foolish.
"Nothing, mother; only I was in a little too much of a hurry."
"What are you going to do with that musket, Frank?"
"Mr. Morton is going to teach me the manual, that is all,
"I suppose the first position is horizontal," said his mother,
with a smile.
"I don't like that position very well," returned Frank, with a
laugh. "I prefer the perpendicular."
Under his friend's instructions, Frank progressed rapidly. At the
end of the third lesson, Mr. Morton said, "You are nearly as
competent to give instructions now as I am. There are some
things, however, that cannot be learned alone. You had better
take measures to form your company."
Frank called upon Mr. Rathburn, the principal of the academy, and
after communicating his plan, which met with the teacher's full
approval, arranged to have notice given of a meeting of the boys
immediately after the afternoon session.
On Thursday afternoon when the last class had recited, previous
to ringing the bell, which was a signal that school was over, Mr.
Rathburn gave this brief notice:
"I am requested to ask the boys present to remain in their seats,
and in which I think they will all feel interested."
Looks of curiosity were interchanged among the boys, and every
one thought, "What's coming now?"
At this moment a modest knock was heard, and Mr. Rathburn, going
to the door, admitted Frank. He quietly slipped into the nearest
"Your late schoolfellow, Frank Frost," proceeded Mr. Rathburn,
"has the merit of originating the plan to which I have referred,
and he is no doubt prepared to unfold it to you."
Mr. Rathburn put on his hat and coat, and left the schoolroom.
After his departure Frank rose and spoke modestly, thus:
"Boys, I have been thinking for some time past that we were not
doing all that we ought in this crisis, which puts in such danger
the welfare of our country. If anything, we boys ought to feel
more deeply interested than our elders, for while they will soon
pass off the stage we have not yet reached even the threshold of
manhood. You will ask me what we can do. Let me remind you that
when the war broke out the great want was, not of volunteers, but
of men trained to military exercises. Our regiments were at first
composed wholly of raw recruits. In Europe, military instruction
is given as a matter of course; and in Germany, and perhaps other
countries, young men are obliged to serve for a time in the army.
"I think we ought to profit by the lessons of experience. However
the present war may turn out, we cannot be certain that other
wars will not at some time break out. By that time we shall have
grown to manhood, and the duty of defending our country in arms
will devolve upon us. Should that time come, let it not find us
unprepared. I propose that we organize a military company among
the boys, and meet for drill at such times as we may hereafter
agree upon. I hope that any who feel interested in the matter
will express their opinions freely."
Frank sat down, and a number of the boys testified their
approbation by stamping with their feet.
John Haynes rose, with a sneer upon his face.
"I would humbly inquire, Mr. Chairman, for you appear to have
assumed that position, whether you intend to favor us with your
valuable services as drillmaster."
Frank rose, with a flushed face.
"I am glad to be reminded of one thing, which I had forgotten,"
he said. "As this is a meeting for the transaction of business,
it is proper that it should be regularly organized. Will some one
nominate a chairman?"
"Frank Frost!" exclaimed half a dozen voices.
"I thank you for the nomination," said Frank, "but as I have
something further to communicate to the meeting, it will be
better to select some one else."
"I nominate Charles Reynolds," said one voice.
"Second the motion," said another.
"Those who are in favor of Charles Reynolds, as chairman of this
meeting, will please signify it in the usual manner," said Frank.
Charles Reynolds, being declared duly elected, advanced to the
"Mr. Chairman," said Frank, "I will now answer the question just
put to me. I do not propose to offer my services as drill-master,
but I am authorized to say that a gentleman whom you have all
seen, Mr. Henry Morton, is willing to give instruction till you
are sufficiently advanced to get along without it."
John Haynes, who felt disappointed at not having been called upon
to preside over the meeting, determined to make as much trouble
"How are we to know that this Morton is qualified to give
instruction?" he asked, looking round at the boys.
"The gentleman is out of order. He will please address his
remarks to the Chair, and not to the audience," said the
"I beg pardon, Mr. Chairman," said John mockingly. "I forgot how
tenacious some people are of their brief authority."
"Order! order!" called half a dozen voices.
"The gentleman will come to order," said the chairman firmly,
"and make way for others unless he can treat the Chair with
"Mr. Chairman," said Frank, rising, "I will mention, for the
general information, that Mr. Morton has acted as an officer of
militia, and that I consider his offer a kind one, since it will
take up considerable of his time and put him to some trouble."
"I move that Mr. Morton's offer be accepted, with thanks," said
The motion was seconded by Tom Wheeler, and carried unanimously,
with the exception of one vote. John Haynes sat sullenly in his
seat and took no part in it.
"Who shall belong to the company?" asked the chairman. "Shall a
fixed age be required?"
"I move that the age be fixed at eleven," said Robert Ingalls.
This was objected to as too young, and twelve was finally fixed
John Haynes moved not to admit any one who did not attend the
academy. Of course, this would exclude Frank, and his motion was
It was finally decided to admit any above the age of twelve who
desired it, but the boys reserved to themselves the right of
rejecting any who should conduct himself in a manner to bring
disgrace upon them.
"Mr. Chairman," said Frank, "in order to get under way as soon as
possible, I have written down an agreement to which those who
wish to join our proposed company can sign their names. If
anybody can think of anything better, I shall be glad to have it
adopted instead of this."
He handed a sheet of paper to the chairman, who read from it the
following form of agreement: "We, the subscribers, agree to form
a boys' volunteer company, and to conform to the regulations
which may hereafter be made for its government."
"If there is no objection, we will adopt this form, and subscribe
our names," said the chairman.
The motion for adoption being carried, the boys came up one by
one and signed their names.
John Haynes would have held back, but for the thought that he
might be elected an officer of the new company.
"Is there any further business to come before the meeting?"
inquired the presiding officer.
"The boys at Webbington had a company three or four years ago,"
said Joe Barry, "and they used wooden guns."
"Wooden guns!" exclaimed Wilbur Summerfield disdainfully. "You
won't catch me training round town with a wooden gun."
"I would remind the last three gentlemen that their remarks
should be addressed to the Chair," said the presiding officer.
"Of course, I don't care anything about it, but I think you would
all prefer to have the meeting conducted properly."
"That's so!" exclaimed several boys.
"Then," said the chairman, "I shall call to order any boy who
addresses the meeting except through me."
"Mr. Chairman," said Frank, rising, "as to the wooden guns, I
quite agree with the last speaker. It would seem too much like
boy's play, and we are too much in earnest for that. I have
thought of an arrangement which can be made if the Selectmen will
give their consent. Ten or fifteen years ago, longer than most of
us can remember, as my father has told me, there was a militia
company in Rossville, whose arms were supplied and owned by the
town. When the company was disbanded the muskets went back to the
town, and I believe they are now kept in the basement of the Town
Hall. I presume that we can have the use of them on application.
I move that a committee be appointed to lay the matter before the
Selectmen and ask their permission."
His motion was agreed to.
"I will appoint John Haynes to serve on that committee," said the
chairman, after a pause.
This was a politic appointment, as Squire Haynes was one of the
Selectmen, and would be gratified at the compliment paid to his
"I accept the duty," said John, rising, and speaking in a tone of
"Is there any other business to come before the meeting?"
"I should like to inquire, Mr. Chairman, when our first meeting
will take place, and where is it to be?" asked Herbert Metcalf.
"I will appoint as a committee to make the necessary
arrangements, Frank Frost, Tom Wheeler, and Robert Ingalls. Due
notice will be given in school of the time and place selected,
and a written notice will also be posted up in the postoffice."
"Would it not be well, Mr. Chairman," suggested Frank, "to
circulate an invitation to other boys not present to-day to join
the company? The larger our number, the more interest will be
felt. I can think of quite a number who would be valuable
members. There are Dick Bumstead, and William Chamberlain, and
At the sound of Dick Bumstead's name John Haynes looked askance
at Frank, but for the moment the thought of Dick's agency in the
affair of the pig-pen had escaped his recollection, and he looked
quite unconscious of any indirect reference to it.
"Will you make a motion to that effect?"
"Yes, if necessary."
"Is the motion seconded?"
"Second it," said Moses Rogers.
"I will appoint Wilbur Summerfield and Moses Rogers on that
committee," said the chairman.
"I move that the meeting adjourn ipse dixit," said Sam Davis,
bringing out the latter phrase with considerable emphasis.
A roar of laughter followed which shook the schoolhouse to the
very rafters, and then a deafening clamor of applause. The
proposer sat down in confusion.
"What are you laughing at?" he burst forth indignantly.
"Mr. Chairman," said Henry Tufts, struggling with his laughter,
"I second the gentleman's motion, all except the Latin."
The motion was carried in spite of the manner in which it was
worded, and the boys formed little groups, and began eagerly to
discuss the plan which had been proposed. Frank had reason to
feel satisfied with the success of his suggestion. Several of the
boys came up to him and expressed their pleasure that he had
brought the matter before them.
"I say, Frank," said Robert Ingalls, "We'll have a bully
"Yes," said Wilbur Summerfield, "if John Haynes belongs to it.
He's a bully, and no mistake."
"What's that you are saying about me?" blustered John Haynes, who
caught a little of what was said.
"Listeners never hear anything good of themselves," answered
"Say that again, Wilbur Summerfield," said John menacingly.
"Certainly, if it will do you any good. I said that you were a
bully, John Haynes; and there's not a boy here that doesn't know
it to be true."
"Take care!" said John, turning white with passion.
"While I'm about it, there's something more I want to say,"
continued Wilbur undauntedly. "Yesterday you knocked my little
brother off his sled and sent him home crying. If you do it
again, you will have somebody else to deal with."
John trembled with anger. It would have done him good to "pitch
into" Wilbur, but the latter looked him in the face so calmly and
resolutely that discretion seemed to him the better part of
valor, and with an oath he turned away.
"I don't know what's got into John Haynes," said Wilbur. "I never
liked him, but now he seems to be getting worse and worse every
CHAPTER XXIII. POMP TAKES MRS. PAYSON PRISONER
Old Mrs. Payson, who arrived in Rossville at the same time with
Henry Morton, had been invited by her daughter, "Cynthy Ann," to
pass the winter, and had acquiesced without making any very
strenuous objections. Her "bunnit," which she had looked upon as
"sp'ilt," had been so far restored by a skilful milliner that she
was able to wear it for best. As this restoration cost but one
dollar and a half out of the five which had been given her by
young Morton, she felt very well satisfied with the way matters
had turned out. This did not, however, by any means diminish her
rancor against Pomp, who had been the mischievous cause of the
"Ef I could only get hold on him," Mrs. Payson had remarked on
several occasions to Cynthy Ann, "I'd shake the mischief out of
him, ef I died for't the very next minute."
Mrs. Payson was destined to meet with a second calamity, which
increased, if possible, her antipathy to the "young imp."
Being of a social disposition, she was quite in the habit of
dropping in to tea at different homes in the village. Having
formerly lived in Rossville, she was acquainted with nearly all
the townspeople, and went the rounds about once in two weeks.
One afternoon she put her knitting into a black work-bag, which
she was accustomed to carry on her arm, and, arraying herself in
a green cloak and hood, which had served her for fifteen years,
she set out to call on Mrs. Thompson.
Now, the nearest route to the place of her destination lay across
a five-acre lot. The snow lay deep upon the ground, but the outer
surface had become so hard as, without difficulty, to bear a
person of ordinary weight.
When Mrs. Payson came up to the bars, she said to herself, "
'Tain't so fur to go across lots. I guess I'll ventur'."
She let down a bar and, passing through, went on her way
complacently. But, alas, for the old lady's peace of mind! She
was destined to come to very deep grief.
That very afternoon Pomp had come over to play with Sam Thompson,
and the two, after devising various projects of amusement, had
determined to make a cave in the snow. They selected a part of
the field where it had drifted to the depth of some four or five
feet. Beginning at a little distance, they burrowed their way
into the heart of the snow, and excavated a place about four feet
square by four deep, leaving the upper crust intact, of course,
without its ordinary strength.
The two boys had completed their task, and were siting down in
their subterranean abode, when the roof suddenly gave way, and a
visitor entered in the most unceremonious manner.
The old lady had kept on her way unsuspiciously, using as a cane
a faded blue umbrella, which she carried invariably, whatever the
When Mrs. Payson felt herself sinking, she uttered a loud shriek
and waved her arms aloft, brandishing her umbrella in a frantic
way. She was plunged up to her armpits in the snow, and was, of
course, placed in a very unfavorable position for extricating
The two boys were at first nearly smothered by the descent of
snow, but when the first surprise was over they recognized their
prisoner. I am ashamed to say that their feeling was that of
unbounded delight, and they burst into a roar of laughter. The
sound, indistinctly heard, terrified the old lady beyond measure,
and she struggled frantically to escape, nearly poking out Pomp's
eye with the point of her umbrella. "
Pomp, always prompt to repel aggression, in return, pinched her
"Massy sakes! Where am I?" ejaculated the affrighted old lady.
"There's some wild crittur down there. Oh, Cynthy Ann, ef you
could see your marm at this moment!"
She made another vigorous flounder, and managed to kick Sam in
the face. Partly as a measure of self-defense, he seized her
"He's got hold of me!" shrieked the old lady "Help! help! I shall
Her struggles became so energetic that the boys soon found it
expedient to evacuate the premises. They crawled out by the
passage they had made, and appeared on the surface of the snow.
The old lady presented a ludicrous appearance. Her hood had
slipped off, her spectacles were resting on the end of her nose,
and she had lost her work-bag. But she clung with the most
desperate energy to the umbrella, on which apparently depended
her sole hope of deliverance.
"Hi yah!" laughed Pomp, as he threw himself back on the snow and
began to roll about in an ecstasy of delight.
Instantly Mrs. Payson's apprehensions changed to furious anger.
"So it's you, you little varmint, that's done this. Jest le' me
get out, and I'll whip you so you can't stan'. See ef I don't."
"You can't get out, missus; yah, yah!" laughed Pomp. "You's tied,
you is, missus."
"Come an' help me out, this minute!" exclaimed the old lady,
stamping her foot.
"Lor', missus, you'll whip me. You said you would."
"So I will, I vum," retorted the irate old lady, rather
undiplomatically. "As true as I live, I'll whip you till you
As she spoke, she brandished her umbrella in a menacing manner.
"Den, missus, I guess you'd better stay where you is."
"Oh, you imp. See ef I don't have you put in jail. Here, you, Sam
Thompson, come and help me out. Ef you don't, I'll tell your
mother, an' she'll give you the wust lickin' you ever had. I'm
surprised at you."
"You won't tell on me, will you?" said Sam, irresolutely.
"I'll see about it," said the old lady, in a politic tone.
She felt her powerlessness, and that concession must precede
"Then, give me the umbrella," said Sam, who evidently distrusted
"You'll run off with it," said Mrs. Payson suspiciously.
"No, I won't."
"Well, there 'tis."
"Come here, Pomp, and help me," said Sam.
Pomp held aloof.
"She'll whip me," he said, shaking his head. "She's an old
"Oh, you--you sarpint!" ejaculated the old lady, almost
speechless with indignation.
"You can run away as soon as she gets out," suggested Sam.
Pomp advanced slowly and warily, rolling his eyes in indecision.
"Jest catch hold of my hands, both on ye," said Mrs. Payson, "an'
I'll give a jump."
These directions were followed, and the old lady rose to the
surface, when, in an evil hour, intent upon avenging herself upon
Pomp, she made a clutch for his collar. In doing so she lost her
footing and fell back into the pilt from which she had just
emerged. Her spectacles dropped off and, falling beneath her,
She rose, half-provoked and half-ashamed of her futile attempt.
It was natural that neither of these circumstances should effect
an improvement in her temper.
"You did it a purpose," she said, shaking her fist at Pomp, who
stood about a rod off, grinning at her discomfiture. "There, I've
gone an' broke my specs, that I bought two years ago, come fall,
of a pedler. I'll make you pay for 'em."
"Lor', missus, I ain't got no money," said Pomp. "Nebber had
Unfortunately for the old lady, it was altogether probable that
Pomp spoke the truth this time.
"Three and sixpence gone!" groaned Mrs. Payson. "Fust my bunnit,
an' then my specs. I'm the most unfort'nit' crittur. Why don't
you help me, Sam Thompson, instead of standin' and gawkin' at
me?" she suddenly exclaimed, glaring at Sam.
"I didn't know as you was ready," said Sam. "You might have been
out before this, ef you hadn't let go. Here, Pomp, lend a hand."
Pomp shook his head decisively.
"Don't catch dis chile again," he said. "I'm goin' home. Ole
woman wants to lick me."
Sam endeavored to persuade Pomp, but he was deaf to persuasion.
He squatted down on the snow, and watched the efforts his
companion made to extricate the old lady. When she was nearly out
he started on a run, and was at a safe distance before Mrs.
Payson was in a situation to pursue him.
The old lady shook herself to make sure that no bones were
broken. Next, she sent Sam down into the hole to pick up her bag,
and then, finding, on a careful examination, that she had
recovered everything, even to the blue umbrella, fetched the
astonished Sam a rousing box on the ear.
"What did you do that for?" he demanded in an aggrieved tone.
" 'Taint half as much as you deserve," said the old lady. "I'm
goin' to your house right off, to tell your mother what you've
been a-doin'. Ef you was my child, I'd beat you black and blue."
"I wish I'd left you down there," muttered Sam.
"What's that?" demanded Mrs. Payson sharply. "Don't you go to
bein' sassy. It'll be the wuss for ye. You'll come to the gallows
some time, ef you don't mind your p's and q's. I might 'ave
stayed there till I died, an' then you'd have been hung."
"What are, you jawing about?" retorted Sam. "How could I know you
"You know'd it well enough," returned the old lady. "You'll bring
your mother's gray hairs with sorrer to the grave."
"She ain't got any gray hairs," said Sam doggedly.
"Well, she will have some, ef she lives long enough. I once
know'd a boy just like you, an' he was put in jail for stealin'."
"I ain't a-goin to stay and be jawed that way," said Sam. "You
won't catch me pulling you out of a hole again. I wouldn't have
you for a grandmother for all the world. Tom Baldwin told me,
only yesterday, that you was always a-hectorin' him."
Tom Baldwin was the son of Cynthy Ann, and consequently old Mrs.
"Did Tom Baldwin tell you that?" demanded the old lady abruptly,
looking deeply incensed.
"Yes, he did."
"Well, he's the ungratefullest cub that I ever sot eyes on,"
exclaimed his indignant grandmother. "Arter all I've done for
him. I'm knittin' a pair of socks for him this blessed minute.
But he sha'n't have 'em. I'll give 'em to the soldiers, I vum.
Did he say anything else?"
"Yes, he said he should be glad when you were gone."
"I'll go right home and tell Cynthy Ann," exclaimed Mrs. Payson,
"an' if she don't w'ip him I will. I never see such a bad set of
boys as is growin' up. There ain't one on 'em that isn't as full
of mischief as a nut is of meat. I'll come up with them, as true
as I live."
Full of her indignation, Mrs. Payson gave up her proposed call on
Mrs. Thompson, and, turning about, hurried home to lay her
complaint before Cynthy Ann.
"I'm glad she's gone," said Sam, looking after her, as with
resolute steps she trudged along, punching the snow vigorously
with the point of her blue cotton umbrella. "I pity Tom Baldwin;
if I had such a grandmother as that, I'd run away to sea. That's
CHAPTER XXIV. A CHAPTER FROM HARDEE
A few rods east of the post-office, on the opposite side of the
street, was a two-story building used as an engine-house, The
second story consisted of a hall used for company meetings. This
the fire company obligingly granted to the boys as a drill-room
during the inclement season, until the weather became
sufficiently warm to drill out of doors.
On the Monday afternoon succeeding the preliminary meeting at the
academy, about thirty boys assembled in this hall, pursuant to a
notice which had been given at school and posted up at the tavern
At half-past two Frank entered, accompanied by Mr. Morton.
Some of the boys were already acquainted with him, and came up to
speak. He had a frank, cordial way with boys, which secured their
favor at first sight.
"Well, boys," said he pleasantly, "I believe I am expected to
make soldiers of you."
"Yes, sir," said Charles Reynolds respectfully: "I hope we shall
learn readily and do credit to your instructions."
"I have no fear on that score," was the reply. "Perhaps you may
have some business to transact before we commence our lessons. If
so, I will sit down a few minutes and wait till you are ready."
A short business meeting was held, organized as before.
John Haynes reported that he had spoken to his father, and the
question of allowing the boys the use of the muskets belonging to
the town would be acted upon at the next meeting of the
Selectmen. Squire Haynes thought that the request would be
"What are we going to do. this afternoon?" asked Robert Ingalls.
"I can answer that question, Mr. Chairman," said Henry Morton.
"We are not yet ready for muskets. I shall have to drill you
first in the proper position of a soldier, and the military step.
Probably it will be a week before I shall wish to place muskets
into your hands. May I inquire how soon there will be a meeting
of the Selectmen?"
John Haynes announced that the next meeting would be held in less
than a week.
"Then there will be no difficulty as to the muskets," said Mr.
Wilbur Summerfield reported that he had extended an invitation to
boys not connected with the academy to join the company. Several
were now present. Dick Bumstead, though not able to attend that
day, would come to the next meeting. He thought they would be
able to raise a company of fifty boys.
This report was considered very satisfactory.
Tom Wheeler arose and inquired by what name the new company would
"I move," said Robert Ingalls, "that we take the name of the
Rossville Home Guards."
"If the enemy should invade Rossville, you'd be the first to
run," sneered John Haynes.
"Not unless I heard it before you," was the quick reply.
There was a general laugh, and cries of "Bully for you, Bob!"
"Order!" cried the chairman, pounding the table energetically.
"Such disputes cannot be allowed. I think we had better defer
obtaining a name for our company till we find how well we are
likely to succeed."
This proposal seemed to be acquiesced in by the boys generally.
The business meeting terminated, and Mr. Morton was invited to
commence his instructions.
"The boys will please form themselves in a line," said the
teacher, in a clear, commanding voice.
This was done.
The positions assumed were, most of them, far from military. Some
stood with their legs too far apart, others with one behind the
other, some with the shoulders of unequal height. Frank alone
stood correctly, thanks to the private instructions he had
"Now, boys," said Mr. Morton, "when I say 'attention!' you must
all look at me and follow my directions implicitly. Attention and
subordination are of the first importance to a soldier. Let me
say, to begin with, that, with one exception, you are all
Here there was a general shifting of positions. Robert Ingalls,
who had been standing with his feet fifteen inches apart,
suddenly brought them close together in a parallel position. Tom
Wheeler, who had been resting his weight mainly on the left foot,
shifted to the right. Moses Rogers, whose head was bent over so
as to watch his feet, now threw it so far back that he seemed to
be inspecting the ceiling. Frank alone remained stationary.
Mr. Morton smiled at the changes elicited by his remarks, and
proceeded to give his first command.
"Heels on the same line!" he ordered.
All the boys turned their heads, and there was a noisy shuffling
"Quit crowding, Tom Baldwin!" exclaimed Sam Rivers in an audible
"Quit crowding, yourself," was the reply. "You've got more room
than I, now."
"Silence in the ranks!" said the instructor authoritatively.
"Frank Frost, I desire you to see that the boys stand at regular
distances." This was accomplished.
"Turn out your feet equally, so as to form a right angle with
each other. So."
Mr. Morton illustrated his meaning practically. This was very
necessary, as some of the boys had very confused ideas as to what
was meant by a right angle.
After some time this order was satisfactorily carried out.
"The knees must be straight. I see that some are bent, as if the
weight of the body were too much for them. Not too stiff! Rivers,
yours are too rigid. You couldn't walk a mile in that way without
becoming very tired. There, that is much better. Notice my
The boys, after adjusting their positions, looked at the rest to
see how they had succeeded.
"Don't look at each other," said Mr. Morton. "If you do you will
be certain to make blunders. I notice that some of you are
standing with one shoulder higher than the other. The shoulders
should be square, and the body should be erect upon the hips.