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Paul Prescott's Charge by Horatio Alger

Part 3 out of 6

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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.



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?



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 semmed 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?"


"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

"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

"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

"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.



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?"


"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

"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,

"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

"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,
inbibed 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,

"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

"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.



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,

"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

"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

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.



"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

"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

"Yes, sir, this is Wrenville," said Ben, politely.

"Plague take it! he don't hear me yet. IS

"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

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--.

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,

"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

"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.



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

"How do you do, Master Newcome?" she inquired.

"As well as could be expected," said Ben,

"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."


"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

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,

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