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Paul Prescott's Charge by Horatio Alger

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"To tell the truth, Ned, I am saving up my
money for a particular purpose; and until that
is accomplished, I avoid all unnecessary expense."

"Going to invest in a house in Fifth Avenue?
When you do, I'll call. However, never mind the expense.
I'll pay you in."

"I'm much obliged to you, Ned, but I can't. accept."

"Why not?"

"Because at present I can't afford to return the favor."

"Never mind that."

"But I do mind it. By-and-by I shall feel more free.
Good-night, if you are going in."

"Good-night, Paul."

"He's a strange fellow," mused Hastings.

"It's impossible to think him mean, and yet,
it looks a great deal like it. He spends nothing
for dress or amusements. I do believe that
I've had three coats since he's been wearing
that old brown one. Yet, he always looks neat.
I wonder what he's saving up his money for."

Meanwhile Paul went home.

The sexton and his wife looked the same
as ever. Paul sometimes fancied that Uncle
Hugh stooped a little more than he used to do;
but his life moved on so placidly and evenly,
that he grew old but slowly. Aunt Hester was
the same good, kind, benevolent friend that she
had always been. No mother could have been
more devoted to Paul. He felt that he had
much to be grateful for, in his chance meeting
with this worthy couple.

It was the first of January,--a clear, cold day.
A pleasant fire burned in the little stove.
Mr. Cameron sat at one side, reading the evening
paper; Mrs. Cameron at the other, knitting
a stocking for Paul. A large, comfortable-
looking cat was dozing tranquilly on the
hearth-rug. Paul, who had been seated at the
table, rose and lighted a candle.

"Where are you going, Paul?" asked Aunt Hester.

"Up-stairs for a moment."

Paul speedily returned, bearing in his hand
a small blue bank-book, with his name on the cover.

He took out his pencil and figured a few minutes.

"Uncle Hugh," said he, looking up, "when
I get a hundred dollars more, I shall have
enough to pay father's debt."

"Principal and interest?"

"Yes, principal and interest; reckoning the
interest for a year to come."

"I did not suppose you had so much money, Paul.
You must have been very economical."

"Yes, Uncle Hugh more so than I have wanted to be,
oftentimes; but whenever I have been tempted to spend
a cent unnecessarily, I have always called to mind
my promise made to father on his deathbed,
and I have denied myself."

"You have done well, Paul. There are few who would
have had the resolution to do as you have."

"Oh yes, Uncle Hugh," said Paul, modestly,
"I think there are a great many. I begin to
feel repaid already. In a few months I shall
be able to pay up the whole debt."

At this moment a knock was heard at the door.
Mr. Cameron answered the summons.

"Does Mr. Paul Prescott live here?" inquired a boy.

"Yes. Do you want to see him?"

"Here is a letter for him. There is no answer."

The messenger departed, leaving the letter
in Mr. Cameron's hand.

Somewhat surprised, he returned to the
sitting-room and handed it to Paul.

Paul opened it hastily, and discovered
inclosed, a bank-note for one hundred dollars.
It was accompanied with a note from his employer,
stating that it was intended as a New Year's gift,
but in the hurry of business, he had forgotten
to give it to him during the day.

Paul's face lighted up with joy.

"Oh, Uncle Hugh!" he exclaimed, almost
breathless with delight. "Don't you see that
this will enable me to pay my debt at once?"

"So it will, Paul. I wish you joy."

"And my father's memory will be vindicated,"
said Paul, in a tone of deep satisfaction.
"If he could only have lived to see this day!"

A fortnight later, Paul obtained permission
from his employer to be absent from the office
for a week. It was his purpose to visit Cedarville
and repay 'Squire Conant the debt due him:
and then, to go across the country to Wrenville,
thirty miles distant, to see Aunt Lucy Lee.
First, however, he ordered a new suit of a tailor,
feeling a desire to appear to the best advantage
on his return to the scene of his former humiliation.
I must not omit to say that Paul was now a fine-looking
young fellow of nineteen, with a frank, manly face,
that won favor wherever he went.

In due course of time, he arrived at Cedarville,
and found his way without difficulty to
the house of 'Squire Conant.

It was a large house, rather imposing in its exterior,
being quite the finest residence in the village.

Paul went up the walk, and rang the bell.

"Can I see 'Squire Conant?" he asked of
the servant who answered the bell.

"You'll find him in that room," said the girl,
pointing to a door on the left hand of the hall.

"As he doesn't know me, perhaps you had
better go before."

The door was opened, and Paul found himself
in the presence of his father's creditor.
'Squire Conant was looking pale and thin. He
was just recovering from a severe sickness.

"I presume you don't recognize me, sir," said Paul.

"Did I ever see you before?"

"Yes, sir; my name is Paul Prescott."

"Not the son of John Prescott?"

"The same, sir. I believe my father died in your debt."

"Yes. I lent him five hundred dollars, which he never repaid."

"He tried to do so, sir. He had saved up a hundred and fifty
dollars towards it, but sickness came upon him, and he was
obliged to use it."

'Squire Conant's temper had been subdued
by the long and dangerous illness through
which he had passed. It had made him set a
smaller value on his earthly possessions,
from which he might be separated at any moment.
When he answered Paul, it was in a manner
which our hero did not expect.

"Never mind. I can afford to lose it. I
have no doubt he did what he could."

"But I have come to pay it, sir," said Paul.

"You!" exclaimed 'Squire Conant,
in the greatest astonishment.

"Yes, sir."

"Where did you get the money?"

"I earned it, sir."

"But you are very young. How could you
have earned so much?"

Paul frankly told the story of his struggles;
how for years he had practised a pinching economy,
in order to redeem his father's memory from reproach.

'Squire Conant listened attentively.

"You are a good boy," he said, at length.

"Shall you have anything left after paying this money?"

"No, sir; but I shall soon earn more."

"Still, you ought to have something to begin
the world with. You shall pay me half the
money, and I will cancel the note."

"But, sir,----"

"Not a word. I am satisfied, and that is enough.
If I hadn't lent your father the money,
I might have invested it with the rest, and lost all."

'Squire Conant produced the note from a
little trunk of papers, and handed it to Paul,
who paid him the amount which he had stipulated,
expressing at the same time his gratitude
for his unexpected generosity.

"Never mind about thanks, my boy," said
'Squire Conant: "I am afraid I have loved
money too well heretofore. I hope I am not
too old to turn over a new leaf."



While 'Squire Conant was speaking, Paul formed
a sudden resolution. He remembered that Aunt
Lucy Lee was a sister of 'Squire Conant. Perhaps,
in his present frame of mind, it might be possible
to induce him to do something for her.

"I believe I am acquainted with a sister of yours,
'Squire Conant," he commenced.

"Ha!" exclaimed the 'Squire.

"Mrs. Lucy Lee."

"Yes," was the slow reply; "she is my sister.
Where did you meet her?"

"At the Wrenville Poorhouse."

"How long ago?"

"About six years since."

"Is she there, still?"

"Yes, sir. Since I have been in New York,
I have heard from her frequently. I am going
from here to visit her. Have you any message,
sir? I am sure she would be glad to hear from you."

"She shall hear from me," said the 'Squire
in a low voice. "Sit down, and I will write
her a letter which, I hope, will not prove unwelcome."

Five minutes afterwards he handed Paul an open letter.

"You may read it," he said, abruptly.

"You have been a better friend to my sister than I.
You shall witness my late reparation."

The letter was as follows:----

I hope you will forgive me for my long neglect.
It is not fitting that while I am possessed of abundant means
you should longer remain the tenant of an almshouse.
I send you by the bearer of this note, Paul Prescott,
who, I understand, is a friend of yours, the sum
of three hundred dollars. The same sum will be sent
you annually. I hope it will be sufficient to maintain you
comfortably. I shall endeavor to call upon you soon,
and meanwhile remain, Your affectionate brother


Paul read this letter with grateful joy. It
seemed almost to good to be true. Aunt Lucy
would be released from the petty tyranny of
Mrs. Mudge's household, and perhaps--he felt
almost sure Aunt Hester would be willing to
receive her as a boarder, thus insuring her a
peaceful and happy home in her declining years.

"Oh, sir," said he, seizing 'Squire Conant's hand,
"you cannot tell how happy you have made me."

"It is what I ought to have done before.
Here is the money referred to in the letter,--
three hundred dollars,--mind you don't lose it."

"I will take every care, sir."

"You may tell my sister that I shall be
happy to have her write me."

"I will, sir."

Paul left 'Squire Conant's house, feeling
that he had great cause for joy. The 'Squire's
refusal to receive more than half the debt,
left him master of over three hundred dollars.
But I am not sure whether he did not rejoice
even more over the good fortune which had
come to Aunt Lucy Lee, whose kindness to him,
in his unfriended boyhood, he would ever hold
in grateful remembrance. He enjoyed in
anticipation the joy which he knew Aunt Lucy
would feel when the change in her fortunes was
communicated to her. He knew also how great
would be the chagrin of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge,
when they found that the meek old lady whom
they hated was about to be rescued from their
clutches. On the whole, Paul felt that this was
the happiest day of his life. It was a satisfaction
to feel that the good fortune of his early
friend was all due to his own intercession.

He was able to take the cars to a point four
miles distant from Wrenville. On getting out
on the platform he inquired whether there was
a livery stable near by. He was directed to
one but a few rods distant. Entering he asked,
"Can you let me have a horse and chaise to go
to Wrenville?"

"Yes, sir," said the groom.

"Let me have the best horse in the stable,"
said Paul, "and charge me accordingly."

"Yes, sir," said the groom, respectfully,
judging from Paul's dress and tone that he was
a young gentleman of fortune.

A spirited animal was brought out, and Paul
was soon seated in the chaise driving along the
Wrenville road. Paul's city friends would
hardly have recognized their economical
acquaintance in the well-dressed young man who
now sat behind a fast horse, putting him
through his best paces. It might have been a
weakness in Paul, but he remembered the manner
in which he left Wrenville, an unfriended boy,
compelled to fly from persecution under
the cover of darkness, and he felt a certain
pride in showing the Mudges that his circumstances
were now entirely changed. It was over this very road
that he had walked with his little bundle,
in the early morning, six years before.
It seemed to him almost like a dream.

At length he reached Wrenville. Though he
had not been there for six years, he recognized
the places that had once been familiar to him.
But everything seemed to have dwindled.
Accustomed to large city warehouses,
the houses in the village seemed very diminutive.
Even 'Squire Benjamin Newcome's house, which he
had once regarded as a stately mansion,
now looked like a very ordinary dwelling.

As he rode up the main street of the village,
many eyes were fixed upon him and his carriage,
but no one thought of recognizing, in the
well-dressed youth, the boy who had run away
from the Wrenville Poorhouse.



At the very moment that Paul was driving
through the village street, Mr. Nicholas Mudge
entered the Poorhouse in high spirits. Certainly
ill-fortune must have befallen some one
to make the good man so exhilarant.

To explain, Mr. Mudge had just been to the
village store to purchase some groceries.
One of his parcels was tied up in a stray leaf
of a recent New York Daily, in which he discovered
an item which he felt sure would make Aunt
Lucy unhappy. He communicated it to Mrs.
Mudge, who highly approved his design. She
called the old lady from the common room.

"Here, Aunt Lucy," she said, "is something
that will interest you."

Aunt Lucy came in, wondering a little at
such an unusual mark of attention.

Mrs. Mudge immediately commenced reading
with malicious emphasis a paragraph concerning
a certain Paul Prescott, who had been
arrested for thieving, and sentenced to the
House of Reformation for a term of months.

"There," said Mrs. Mudge, triumphantly,
"what do you say to your favorite now?
Turned out well, hasn't he? Didn't I always
say so? I always knew that boy was bad at heart,
and that he'd come to a bad end."

"I don't believe it's the same boy," declared
Aunt Lucy, who was nevertheless unpleasantly
affected by the paragraph. She thought it
possible that Paul might have yielded to a
powerful temptation.

"Perhaps you think I've been making it up.
If you don't believe it look at the paper for
yourself," thrusting it into Aunt Lucy's hands.

"Yes," said the old lady. "I see that the name
is the same; but, for all that, there is a
mistake somewhere. I do not believe it is
the same boy."

"You don't? Just as if there would be
more than one boy of that name. There may
be other Prescotts, but there isn't but one
Paul Prescott, take my word for it."

"If it is he," said Aunt Lucy, indignantly,
"is it Christianlike to rejoice over the poor
boy's misfortune?"

"Misfortune!" retorted Mrs. Mudge with a
sneer; "you call it a misfortune to steal, then!
I call it a crime."

"It's often misfortune that drives people to
it, though," continued the old lady, looking
keenly at Mrs. Mudge. "I have known cases
where they didn't have that excuse."

Mrs. Mudge colored.

"Go back to your room," said she, sharply;
"and don't stay here accusing me and Mr.
Mudge of unchristian conduct. You're the
most troublesome pauper we have on our
hands; and I do wish the town would provide
for you somewhere else."

"So do I," sighed the old lady to herself,
though she did not think fit to give audible
voice to her thoughts.

It was at this moment that Paul halted his
chaise at the gate, and lightly jumping out,
fastened his horse to a tree, and walked up
to the front door.

"Who can it be?" thought Mrs. Mudge, hastily
adjusting her cap, and taking off her apron.

"I don't know, I'm sure," said Mr. Mudge,

"I declare! I look like a fright."

"No worse than usual," said her husband, gallantly.

By this time Paul had knocked.

Good-morning, sir," said Mrs. Mudge, deferentially,
her respect excited by Paul's dress and handsome chaise.

"Is Mrs. Lee in?" inquired Paul, not caring
to declare himself, yet, to his old enemy.

"Yes," said Mrs. Mudge, obsequiously, though not
overpleased to find that this was Aunt Lucy's
visitor; "would you like to see her?"

"If you please."

"What can he want of the old lady?" thought Mrs. Mudge,
as she went to summon her.

"A visitor for me?" asked Aunt Lucy, looking
at Mrs. Mudge somewhat suspiciously.

"Yes; and as he's come in a carriage, you'd better
slick up a little; put on a clean cap or something."

Aunt Lucy was soon ready.

She looked wonderingly at Paul, not recognizing him.

"You are not very good at remembering your old friends,"
said Paul, with a smile.

"What!" exclaimed Aunt Lucy, her face
lighting up with joy; "are you little Paul?"

"Not very little, now," said our hero, laughing;
"but I'm the same Paul you used to know."

Mrs. Mudge, who through the half open door
had heard this revelation, was overwhelmed with
astonishment and confusion. She hurried to her husband.

"Wonders will never cease!" she exclaimed,
holding up both hands. "If that doesn't turn out
to be Paul Prescott. Of course he's up in the world,
or he wouldn't dress so well, and ride in such
a handsome carriage."

"You don't say so!" returned Mr. Mudge, who
looked as if he had heard of a heavy misfortune.

"Yes, I do; I heard him say so with his own lips.
It's a pity you showed that paragraph to Aunt Lucy,
this morning."

"That you showed, you mean," retorted her husband.

"No, I don't. You know it was you that did it."

"Hush; they'll hear."

Meanwhile the two friends were conversing together happily.

"I'm so glad you're doing so well, Paul," said Aunt Lucy.
"It was a lucky day when you left the Poorhouse behind you."

"Yes, Aunt Lucy, and to-day is a lucky day for you.
There's room for two in that chaise, and I'm going
to take you away with me."

"I should enjoy a ride, Paul. It's a long time
since I have taken one."

"You don't understand me. You're going away
not to return."

The old lady smiled sadly.

"No, no, Paul. I can't consent to become a burden
upon your generosity. You can't afford it,
and it will not be right."

"O," said Paul, smiling, "you give me credit for
too much. I mean that you shall pay your board."

"But you know I have no money."

"No, I don't. I don't consider that a lady is penniless,
who has an income of three hundred dollars a year."

"I don't understand you, Paul."

"Then, perhaps you will understand this," said
our hero, enjoying the old lady's astonishment.

He drew from his pocket a roll of bills, and passed
them to Aunt Lucy.

The old lady looked so bewildered, that he lost
no time in explaining the matter to her. Then,
indeed, Aunt Lucy was happy; not only because she
had become suddenly independent, but, because
after years of coldness and estrangement, her
brother had at last become reconciled to her.

"Now, Aunt Lucy," resumed Paul, "I'll tell you
what my plans are. You shall get into the chaise
with me, and go at once to New York. I think
Aunt Hester will be willing to receive you as a boarder;
if not, I will find you a pleasant place near by.
Will that suit you?"

"It will make me very happy; but I cannot realize it.
It seems like a dream."

At this moment Mrs. Mudge entered the room, and,
after a moment's scrutiny, pretended to recognize Paul.
Her husband followed close behind her.

"Can I believe my eyes?" she exclaimed.
"Is this indeed Paul Prescott?
I am very glad to see you back."

"Only a visit, Mrs. Mudge," said Paul, smiling.

"You'll stop to dinner, I hope?"

Paul thought of the soup and dry bread which he
used to find so uninviting, and said that he should
not have time to do so.

"We've thought of you often," said Mr. Mudge,
writhing his harsh features into a smile. "There's
scarcely a day that we haven't spoken of you."

"I ought to feel grateful for your remembrance,"
said Paul, his eyes twinkling with mirth. "But I
don't think, Mr. Mudge, you always thought so much of me."

Mr. Mudge coughed in some embarrassment, and not
thinking of anything in particular to say, said nothing.

"I am going to take from you another of your boarders,"
said Paul. "Can you spare Aunt Lucy?"

"For how long?" asked Mrs. Mudge.

"For all the time. She has just come into
possession of a little property,--several hundred
dollars a year,--and I have persuaded her to go to
New York to board."

"Is this true?" exclaimed Mrs. Mudge in astonishment.

"Yes," said the old lady, "God has been bountiful to me
when I least expected it."

"Can I be of any service in assisting you to pack up, Mrs.
Lee?" asked Mrs. Mudge, with new-born politeness. She felt
that as a lady of property, Aunt Lucy was entitled to much
greater respect and deference than before.

"Thank you, Mrs. Mudge," said Paul, answering for her.

"She won't have occasion for anything in this house.
She will get a supply of new things when she gets to New York.

The old lady looked very happy, and Mrs. Mudge, in spite of
her outward deference, felt thoroughly provoked at her good fortune.

I will not dwell upon the journey to New York. Aunt Lucy,
though somewhat fatigued, bore it much better than she had
anticipated. Mr. and Mrs. Cameron entered very heartily into
Paul's plans, and readily agreed to receive Aunt Lucy as an
inmate of their happy and united household. The old lady felt
it to be a happy and blessed change from the Poorhouse, where
scanty food and poor accommodations had been made harder
to bear by the ill temper of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge, to a home
whose atmosphere was peace and kindness.


And now, dear reader, it behooves us to draw together the
different threads of our story, and bring all to a satisfactory

Mr. and Mrs. Mudge are no longer in charge of the Wrenville
Poorhouse. After Aunt Lucy's departure, Mrs. Mudge became
so morose and despotic, that her rule became intolerable.
Loud complaints came to the ears of 'Squire Newcome, Chairman
of the Overseers of the Poor. One fine morning he was compelled
to ride over and give the interesting couple warning to leave
immediately. Mr. Mudge undertook the charge of a farm, but
his habits of intoxication increased upon him to such an extent,
that he was found dead one winter night, in a snow-drift,
between his own house and the tavern. Mrs. Mudge was not
extravagant in her expressions of grief, not having a very strong
affection for her husband. At last accounts, she was keeping
a boarding-house in a manufacturing town. Some time since,
her boarders held an indignation meeting, and threatened to
leave in a body unless she improved her fare,--a course to
which she was obliged to submit.

George Dawkins, unable to obtain a recommendation from
Mr. Danforth, did not succeed in securing another place in
New York. He finally prevailed upon his father to advance him
a sum of money, with which he went to California. Let us hope
that he may "turn over a new leaf" there, and establish a
better reputation than he did in New York.

Mr. Stubbs is still in the tin business. He is as happy as the
day is long, and so are his wife and children. Once a year he
comes to New York and pays Paul a visit. This supplies him
with something to talk about for the rest of the year. He is
frugal in his expenses, and is able to lay up a couple of hundred
dollars every year, which he confides to Paul, in whose financial
skill he has the utmost confidence.

I am sure my boy readers would not forgive me for omitting
to tell them something more about Ben Newcome. Although
his mirthful spirit sometimes led him into mischief, he was
good-hearted, and I have known him do many an act of kindness,
even at considerable trouble to himself. It will be
remembered that in consequence of his night adventure, during
which he personated a ghost, much to the terror of Mr. Mudge
his father determined to send him to a military school. This
proved to be a wise arrangement. The discipline was such as
Ben needed, and he soon distinguished himself by his excellence
in the military drill. Soon after he graduated, the Rebellion
broke out, and Ben was at once, in spite of his youth, elected
Captain of the Wrenville company. At the battle of Antiatam
he acquitted himself with so much credit that he was promoted
to a major. He was again promoted, and when Richmond was
evacuated, he was one of the first officers to enter the streets
of the Rebel capital, a colonel in command of his regiment. I
have heard on high authority, that he is considered one of the
best officers in the service.

Mr. and Mrs. Cameron are still living. They are happy in
the success and increasing prosperity of Paul, whom they regard
as a son. Between them and Aunt Lucy he would stand
a very fair chance of being spoiled, if his own good sense and
good judgment were not sufficient to save him from such a
misfortune. Paul is now admitted to a small interest in the
firm, which entitles him to a share in the profits. As Danforth
and Co. have done a very extensive business of late years, this
interest brings him in a very handsome income. There is only
one cause of difference between him and the sexton. He insists
that Uncle Hugh, who is getting infirm, should resign his office,
as he is abundantly able to support the whole family. But the
good sexton loves his duties, and will continue to discharge
them as long as he is able.

And now we must bid farewell to Paul. He has battled
bravely with the difficulties and discouragements that beset
him in early life, he has been faithful to the charge which he
voluntarily assumed, and his father's memory is free from
reproach. He often wishes that his father could have lived to
witness his prosperity? but God has decreed it otherwise.
Happy in the love of friends, and in the enjoyment of all that
can make life desirable, so far as external circumstances have
that power, let us all wish him God speed!

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