said she, softly to herself, “I will give him this. It will never do me any good, and it may be of some service to him.”
So saying she looked carefully at the coin in the moonlight.
But what made her start, and utter a half exclamation?
Instead of the gold eagle, the accumulation of many years, which she had been saving for some extraordinary occasion like the presents she held in her hand–a copper cent.
“I have been robbed,” she exclaimed
indignantly in the suddenness of her surprise.
“What’s the matter now?” inquired Mrs Mudge, appearing at the door, “Why are you not in bed, Aunt Lucy Lee? How dare you
disobey my orders?”
“I have been robbed,” exclaimed the old lady in unwonted excitement.
“Of what, pray?” asked Mrs. Mudge, with a sneer.
“I had a gold eagle wrapped up in that paper,” returned Aunt Lucy, pointing to the fragments on the floor, “and now, to-night, when I come to open it, I find but this cent.”
“A likely story,” retorted Mrs. Mudge, “very likely, indeed, that a common pauper should have a gold eagle. If you found a cent in the paper, most likely that’s what you put there. You’re growing old and forgetful, so don’t get foolish and flighty. You’d better go to bed.”
“But I did have the gold, and it’s been stolen,” persisted Aunt Lucy, whose disappointment was the greater because she intended the money for Paul.
“Again!” exclaimed Mrs. Mudge. “Will you never have done with this folly? Even if you did have the gold, which I don’t for an instant believe, you couldn’t keep it. A pauper has no right to hold property.”
“Then why did the one who stole the little I had leave me this?” said the old lady, scornfully, holding up the cent which had been substituted for the gold.
“How should I know?” exclaimed Mrs.
Mudge, wrathfully. “You talk as if you thought I had taken your trumpery money.”
“So you did!” chimed in an unexpected voice, which made Mrs. Mudge start nervously.
It was the young woman already mentioned, who was bereft of reason, but who at times, as often happens in such cases, seemed gifted with preternatural acuteness.
“So you did. I saw you, I did; I saw you creep up when you thought nobody was looking, and search her pocket. You opened that
paper and took out the bright yellow piece, and put in another. You didn’t think I was looking at you, ha! ha! How I laughed as I stood behind the door and saw you tremble for fear some one would catch you thieving. You didn’t think of me, dear, did you?”
And the wild creature burst into an unmeaning laugh.
Mrs. Mudge stood for a moment mute, overwhelmed by this sudden revelation. But for the darkness, Aunt Lucy could have seen the sudden flush which overspread her face with the crimson hue of detected guilt. But this was only for a moment. It was quickly succeeded by a feeling of intense anger towards the unhappy creature who had been the means of exposing her.
“I’ll teach you to slander your betters, you crazy fool,” she exclaimed, in a voice almost inarticulate with passion, as she seized her rudely by the arm, and dragged her violently from the room.
She returned immediately.
“I suppose,” said she, abruptly, confronting Aunt Lucy, “that you are fool enough to believe her ravings?”
“I bring no accusation,” said the old lady, calmly, “If your conscience acquits you, it is not for me to accuse you.”
“But what do you think?” persisted Mrs. Mudge, whose consciousness of guilt did not leave her quite at ease.
“I cannot read the heart,” said Aunt Lucy, composedly. “I can only say, that, pauper as I am, I would not exchange places with the one who has done this deed.”
“Do you mean me?” demanded Mrs. Mudge.
“You can tell best.”
“I tell you what, Aunt Lucy Lee,” said Mrs. Mudge, her eyes blazing with anger, “If you dare insinuate to any living soul that I stole your paltry money, which I don’t believe you ever had, I will be bitterly revenged upon you.”
She flaunted out of the room, and Aunt Lucy, the first bitterness of her disappointment over, retired to bed, and slept more tranquilly than the unscrupulous woman who had robbed her.
At a quarter before four Paul started from his humble couch, and hastily dressed himself, took up a little bundle containing all his scanty stock of clothing, and noiselessly descended the two flights of stairs which separated him from the lower story. Here he paused a moment for Aunt Lucy to appear.
Her sharp ears had distinguished his stealthy steps as he passed her door, and she came down to bid him good-by. She had in her
hands a pair of stockings which she slipped into his bundle.
“I wish I had something else to give you, Paul,” she said, “but you know that I am not very rich.”
“Dear Aunt Lucy,” said Paul, kissing her, “you are my only friend on earth. You have been very kind to me, and I never will forget you, NEVER! By-and-by, when I am rich, I will build a fine house, and you will come and live with me, won’t you?”
Paul’s bright anticipations, improbable as they were, had the effect of turning his companion’s thoughts into a more cheerful channel.
She bent down and kissed him, whispering softly, “Yes, I will, Paul.”
“Then it’s a bargain,” said he, joyously, “Mind you don’t forget it. I shall come
for you one of these days when you least expect it.”
“Have you any money?” inquired Aunt Lucy.
Paul shook his head.
“Then,” said she, drawing from her finger a gold ring which had held its place for many long years, “here is something which will bring you a little money if you are ever in distress.”
Paul hung back.
“I would rather not take it, indeed I would,” he said, earnestly, “I would rather go hungry for two or three days than sell your ring. Besides, I shall not need it; God will
provide for me.”
“But you need not sell it,” urged Aunt Lucy, “unless it is absolutely necessary. You can take it and keep it in remembrance of me. Keep it till you see me again, Paul. It will be a pledge to me that you will come back again some day.”
“On that condition I will take it,” said Paul, “and some day I will bring it back.”
A slight noise above, as of some one stirring in sleep, excited the apprehensions of the two, and warned them that it was imprudent for them to remain longer in conversation.
After a hurried good-by, Aunt Lucy quietly went upstairs again, and Paul, shouldering his bundle, walked rapidly away.
The birds, awakening from their night’s repose, were beginning to carol forth their rich songs of thanksgiving for the blessing of a new day. From the flowers beneath his feet and the blossom-laden branches above his head, a delicious perfume floated out upon the morning air, and filled the heart of the young wanderer with a sense of the joyousness of existence, and inspired him with a hopeful confidence in the future.
For the first time he felt that he belonged to himself. At the age of thirteen he had taken his fortune in his own hand, and was about to mold it as best he might.
There were care, and toil, and privations before him, no doubt, but in that bright morning hour he could harbor only cheerful and trusting thoughts. Hopefully he looked forward
to the time when he could fulfil his father’s dying injunction, and lift from his name the burden of a debt unpaid. Then his mind reverting to another thought, he could not help
smiling at the surprise and anger of Mr. Mudge, when he should find that his assistant had taken French leave. He thought he should like to be concealed somewhere where he could witness the commotion excited by his own departure. But as he could not be in two places at the same time, he must lose that satisfaction. He had cut loose from the Mudge household, as he trusted, forever. He felt that a
new and brighter life was opening before him.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
Our hero did not stop till he had put a good five miles between himself and the poorhouse. He knew that it would not be long before Mr. Mudge would discover his absence, and the thought of being carried back was doubly distasteful to him now that he had, even for a short time, felt the joy of being his own master. His hurried walk, taken in the fresh morning air, gave him quite a sharp appetite. Luckily he had the means of gratifying it. The night before he had secreted half his supper, knowing that he should need it more the next morning. He thought he might now venture to sit
down and eat it.
At a little distance from the road was a spring, doubtless used for cattle, since it was situated at the lower end of a pasture. Close beside and bending over it was a broad, branching oak, which promised a cool and comfortable shelter.
“That’s just the place for me,” thought Paul, who felt thirsty as well as hungry, “I think I will take breakfast here and rest awhile before I go any farther.”
So saying he leaped lightly over the rail fence, and making his way to the place indicated, sat down in the shadow of the tree.
Scooping up some water in the hollow of his hand, he drank a deep and refreshing draught. He next proceeded to pull out of his pocket a small package, which proved to contain two small pieces of bread. His long morning walk had given him such an appetite that he was not long in despatching all he had. It is said by some learned physicians, who no doubt understand the matter, that we should always rise
from the table with an appetite. Probably Paul had never heard of this rule. Nevertheless, he seemed in a fair way of putting it into practice, for the best of reasons, because he could not help it.
His breakfast, though not the most inviting, being simply unbuttered bread and rather dry at that, seemed more delicious than ever before, but unfortunately there was not enough
of it. However, as there seemed likely to be no more forthcoming, he concluded in default of breakfast to lie down under the tree for a few minutes before resuming his walk.
Though he could not help wondering vaguely where his dinner was to come from, as that time was several hours distant, he wisely decided not to anticipate trouble till it came.
Lying down under the tree, Paul began to consider what Mr. Mudge would say when he discovered that he had run away.
“He’ll have to milk the cows himself,” thought Paul. “He won’t fancy that much. Won’t Mrs. Mudge scold, thought? I’m glad I shan’t be within hearing.”
It was a boy’s voice that Paul heard.
Looking up he saw a sedate company of cows entering the pasture single file through an aperture made by letting down the bars. Behind them walked a boy of about his own size, flourishing a stout hickory stick. The cows went directly to the spring from which Paul had already drunk. The young driver looked at our hero with some curiosity, wondering, doubtless, what brought him there so early in the morning. After a little hesitation he said, remarking Paul’s bundle, “Where are you
“I don’t know exactly,” said Paul, who was not quite sure whether it would be politic to avow his destination.
“Don’t know?” returned the other,
“Not exactly; I may go to New York.”
“New York! That’s a great ways off. Do you know the way there?”
“No, but I can find it.”
“Are you going all alone?” asked his new acquaintance, who evidently thought Paul had undertaken a very formidable journey.
“Are you going to walk all the way?”
“Yes, unless somebody offers me a ride now and then.”
“But why don’t you ride in the stage, or in the cars? You would get there a good deal quicker.”
“One reason,” said Paul, hesitating a little, “is because I have no money to pay for riding.”
“Then how do you expect to live? Have you had any breakfast, this morning?”
“I brought some with me, and just got through eating it when you came along.”
“And where do you expect to get any dinner?” pursued his questioner, who was evidently not a little puzzled by the answers he received.
“I don’t know,” returned Paul.
His companion looked not a little confounded at this view of the matter, but presently a bright thought struck him.
“I shouldn’t wonder,” he said, shrewdly, “if you were running away.”
Paul hesitated a moment. He knew that his case must look a little suspicious, thus unexplained, and after a brief pause for reflection
determined to take the questioner into his confidence. He did this the more readily because his new acquaintance looked very pleasant.
“You’ve guessed right,” he said; “if you’ll promise not to tell anybody, I’ll tell you all about it.”
This was readily promised, and the boy who gave his name as John Burgess, sat down beside Paul, while he, with the frankness of boyhood, gave a circumstantial account of his
father’s death, and the ill-treatment he had met with subsequently.
“Do you come from Wrenville?” asked
John, interested. “Why, I’ve got relations there. Perhaps you know my cousin, Ben Newcome.”
“Is Ben Newcome your cousin? O yes, I know him very well; he’s a first-rate fellow.”
“He isn’t much like his father.”
“Not at all. If he was”–
“You wouldn’t like him so well. Uncle talks a little too much out of the dictionary, and walks so straight that he bends backward. But I say, Paul, old Mudge deserves to be choked, and Mrs. Mudge should be obliged to swallow a gallon of her own soup. I don’t know but that would be worse than choking. I wouldn’t have stayed so long if I had been in your place.”
“I shouldn’t,” said Paul, “if it hadn’t been for Aunt Lucy.”
“Was she an aunt of yours?”
“No, but we used to call her so, She’s the best friend I’ve got, and I don’t know but the only one,” said Paul, a little sadly.
“No, she isn’t,” said John, quickly; “I’ll be your friend, Paul. Sometime, perhaps, I shall go to New York, myself, and then I will come and see you. Where do you expect to be?”
“I don’t know anything about the city,” said Paul, “but if you come, I shall be sure to see you somewhere. I wish you were going
Neither Paul nor his companion had much idea of the extent of the great metropolis, or they would not have taken it so much as a matter of course that, being in the same place, they should meet each other.
Their conversation was interrupted by the ringing of a bell from a farmhouse within sight.
“That’s our breakfast-bell,” said John rising from the grass. “It is meant for me. I suppose they wonder what keeps me so long. Won’t you come and take breakfast with me, Paul?”
“I guess not,” said Paul, who would have been glad to do so had he followed the promptings of his appetite. “I’m afraid your folks
would ask me questions, and then it would be found out that I am running away.”
“I didn’t think of that,” returned John, after a pause. “You haven’t got any dinner with you?” he said a moment after.
“Well, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Come with me as far as the fence, and lie down there till I’ve finished breakfast. Then I’ll bring something out for you, and maybe I’ll walk along a little way with you.”
“You are very kind,” said Paul, gratefully.
“Oh, nonsense,” said John, “that’s nothing. Besides, you know we are going to be friends.”
“John! breakfast’s ready.”
“There’s Nelson calling me,” said John, hurriedly. “I must leave you; there’s the fence; lie down there, and I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
“John, I say, why don’t you come?”
“I’m coming. You mustn’t think everybody’s got such a thundering great appetite as you, Nelson.”
“I guess you’ve got enough to keep you from pining away,” said Nelson, good-naturedly, “you’re twice as fat as I am.”
“That’s because I work harder,” said John, rather illogically.
The brothers went in to breakfast.
But a few minutes elapsed before John reappeared, bearing under his arm a parcel wrapped up in an old newspaper. He came up panting with the haste he had made.
“It didn’t take you long to eat breakfast,” said Paul.
“No, I hurried through it; I thought you would get tired of waiting. And now I’ll walk along with you a little ways. But wait here’s something for you.”
So saying he unrolled the newspaper and displayed a loaf of bread, fresh and warm, which looked particularly inviting to Paul, whose scanty breakfast had by no means satisfied his appetite. Besides this, there was a loaf of molasses ginger-bread, with which all who were born in the country, or know anything of New England housekeeping, are familiar.
“There,” said John, “I guess that’ll be enough for your dinner.”
“But how did you get it without having any questions asked?” inquired our hero.
“Oh,” said John, “I asked mother for them, and when she asked what I wanted of them, I told her that I’d answer that question to-morrow. You see I wanted to give you a chance
to get off out of the way, though mother wouldn’t tell, even if she knew.”
“All right,” said Paul, with satisfaction.
He could not help looking wistfully at the bread, which looked very inviting to one accustomed to poorhouse fare.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” he said hesitating, “I would like to eat a little of the bread now.”
“Mind, of course not,” said John, breaking off a liberal slice. “Why didn’t I think of that before? Walking must have given you a famous appetite.”
John looked on with evident approbation, while Paul ate with great apparent appetite.
“There,” said he with a sigh of gratification, as he swallowed the last morsel, “I haven’t tasted anything so good for a long time.”
“Is it as good as Mrs. Mudge’s soup?” asked John, mischievously.
“Almost,” returned Paul, smiling.
We must now leave the boys to pursue their way, and return to the dwelling from which our hero had so unceremoniously taken his departure, and from which danger now threatened him.
A CLOUD IN THE MUDGE HORIZON.
Mr. Mudge was accustomed to call Paul at five o’clock, to milk the cows and perform other chores. He himself did not rise till an hour later. During Paul’s sickness, he was obliged to take his place,–a thing he did not relish overmuch. Now that our hero had
recovered, he gladly prepared to indulge himself in an extra nap.
“Paul!” called Mr. Mudge from the bottom of the staircase leading up into the attic, “it’s five o’clock; time you were downstairs.”
Mr. Mudge waited for an answer, but none came.
“Paul!” repeated Mr. Mudge in a louder tone, “it’s time to get up; tumble out there.”
Again there was no answer.
At first, Mr. Mudge thought it might be in consequence of Paul’s sleeping so soundly, but on listening attentively, he could not distinguish the deep and regular breathing which
usually accompanies such slumber.
“He must be sullen,” he concluded, with a feeling of irritation. “If he is, I’ll teach him—-“
Without taking time to finish the sentence, he bounded up the rickety staircase, and turned towards the bed with the intention of giving our hero a smart shaking.
He looked with astonishment at the empty bed. “Is it possible,” he thought, “that Paul has already got up? He isn’t apt to do so before he is called.”
At this juncture, Mrs. Mudge, surprised at her husband’s prolonged absence, called from below, “Mr. Mudge!”
“What in the name of wonder keeps you up there so long?”
“Just come up and see.”
Mrs. Mudge did come up. Her husband
pointed to the empty bed.
“What do you think of that?” he asked.
“What about it?” she inquired, not quite comprehending.
“About that boy, Paul. When I called him I got no answer, so I came up, and behold he is among the missing.”
“You don’t think he’s run away, do you?” asked Mrs. Mudge startled.
“That is more than I know.”
“I’ll see if his clothes are here,” said his wife, now fully aroused.
Her search was unavailing. Paul’s clothes had disappeared as mysteriously as their owner.
“It’s a clear case,” said Mr. Mudge, shaking his head; “he’s gone. I wouldn’t have lost him for considerable. He was only a boy, but I managed to get as much work out of him as a man. The question is now, what shall we do about it?”
“He must be pursued,” said Mrs. Mudge, with vehemence, “I’ll have him back if it costs me twenty dollars. I’ll tell you what, husband,” she exclaimed, with a sudden light
breaking in upon her, “if there’s anybody in this house knows where he’s gone, it is Aunt Lucy Lee. Only last week I caught her knitting him a pair of stockings. I might have
known what it meant if I hadn’t been a fool.”
“Ha, ha! So you might, if you hadn’t been a fool!” echoed a mocking voice.
Turning with sudden anger, Mrs. Mudge beheld the face of the crazy girl peering up at her from below.
This turned her thoughts into a different channel.
“I’ll teach you what I am,” she exclaimed, wrathfully descending the stairs more rapidly than she had mounted them, “and if you know anything about the little scamp, I’ll have it out of you.”
The girl narrowly succeeded in eluding the grasp of her pursuer. But, alas! for Mrs. Mudge. In her impetuosity she lost her footing, and fell backward into a pail of water
which had been brought up the night before and set in the entry for purposes of ablution. More wrathful than ever, Mrs. Mudge bounced into her room and sat down in her dripping garments in a very uncomfortable frame of mind. As for Paul, she felt a personal dislike for him, and was not sorry on some accounts to have him out of the house. The knowledge, however, that he had in a manner defied her authority by running away, filled her with an earnest desire to get him back, if only to prove that it was not to be defied with impunity.
Hoping to elicit some information from Aunt Lucy, who, she felt sure, was in Paul’s confidence, she paid her a visit.
“Well, here’s a pretty goings on,” she commenced, abruptly. Finding that Aunt Lucy manifested no curiosity on the subject, she continued, in a significant tone, “Of course, YOU don’t know anything about it.”
“I can tell better when I know what you refer to,” said the old lady calmly.
“Oh, you are very ignorant all at once. I suppose you didn’t know Paul Prescott had run away?”
“I am not surprised,” said the old lady, in the same quiet manner.
Mrs. Mudge had expected a show of
astonishment, and this calmness disconcerted her.
“You are not surprised!” she retorted. “I presume not, since you knew all about it beforehand. That’s why you were knitting him some stockings. Deny it, if you dare.”
“I have no disposition to deny it.”
“You haven’t!” exclaimed the questioner, almost struck dumb with this audacity.
“No,” said Aunt Lucy. “Why should I? There was no particular inducement for him to stay here. Wherever he goes, I hope he will meet with good friends and good treatment.”
“As much as to say he didn’t find them here. Is that what you mean?”
“I have no charges to bring.”
“But I have,” said Mrs. Mudge, her eyes lighting with malicious satisfaction. “Last night you missed a ten-dollar gold piece, which you saw was stolen from you. This
morning it appears that Paul Prescott has run away. I charge him with the theft.”
“You do not, can not believe this,” said the old lady, uneasily.
“Of course I do,” returned Mrs. Mudge, triumphantly, perceiving her advantage. “I have no doubt of it, and when we get the boy back, he shall be made to confess it.”
Aunt Lucy looked troubled, much to the gratification of Mrs. Mudge. It was but for a short time, however. Rising from her seat, she stood confronting Mrs. Mudge, and said quietly, but firmly, “I have no doubt, Mrs. Mudge, you are capable of doing what you say. I would advise you, however, to pause. You know, as well as I do, that Paul is incapable of this theft. Even if he were wicked enough to form the idea, he would have no need, since it was my intention to GIVE him this money. Who did actually steal the gold, you PERHAPS know better than I. Should it be necessary, I shall not hesitate to say so. I advise you not to render it necessary.”
The threat which lay in these words was understood. It came with the force of a
sudden blow to Mrs. Mudge, who had supposed it would be no difficult task to frighten and silence Aunt Lucy. The latter had always been so yielding in all matters relating to herself, that this intrepid championship of Paul’s interests was unlooked for. The tables were completely turned. Pale with rage, and a mortified sense of having been foiled with her own weapons, Mrs. Mudge left the room.
Meanwhile her husband milked the cows, and was now occupied in performing certain other duties that could not be postponed, being resolved, immediately after breakfast was over, to harness up and pursue the runaway.
“Well, did you get anything out of the old lady?” he inquired, as he came from the barn with the full milk-pails.
“She said she knew beforehand that he was going.”
“Eh!” said Mr. Mudge, pricking up his ears, “did she say where?”
“No, and she won’t. She knit him a pair of stockings to help him off, and doesn’t pretend to deny it. She’s taken a wonderful fancy to the young scamp, and has been as obstinate as could be ever since he has been here.”
“If I get him back,” said Mr. Mudge, “he shall have a good flogging, if I am able to give him one, and she shall be present to see it.”
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Mudge, approvingly, “when are you going to set out after him?”
“Right after breakfast. So be spry, and get it ready as soon as you can.”
Under the stimulus of this inspiring motive, Mrs. Mudge bustled about with new energy, and before many minutes the meal was in
readiness. It did not take long to dispatch it. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Mudge harnessed up, as he had determined, and started off in pursuit of our hero.
In the meantime the two boys had walked leisurely along, conversing on various subjects.
“When you get to the city, Paul,” said John, “I shall want to hear from you. Will you write to me?”
Paul promised readily.
“You can direct to John Burges, Burrville. The postmaster knows me, and I shall be sure to get it.”
“I wish you were going with me,” said Paul.
“Sometimes when I think that I am all alone it discourages me. It would be so much pleasanter to have some one with me.”
“I shall come sometime,” said John, “when I am a little older. I heard father say
something the other day about my going into a store in the city. So we may meet again.”
“I hope we shall.”
They were just turning a bend of the road, when Paul chanced to look backward. About a quarter of a mile back he descried a horse and wagon wearing a familiar look. Fixing his eyes anxiously upon them, he was soon made aware that his suspicions were only too well founded. It was Mr. Mudge, doubtless in quest of him.
“What shall I do?” he asked, hurriedly of his companion.
“What’s the matter?”
This was quickly explained.
John was quickwitted, and he instantly decided upon the course proper to be pursued. On either side of the road was a growth of underbrush so thick as to be almost impenetrable.
“Creep in behind there, and be quick about it,” directed John, “there is no time to lose.”
“There,” said he, after Paul had followed his advice, “if he can see you now he must have sharp eyes.”
“Won’t you come in too?”
“Not I,” said John, “I am anxious to see this Mr. Mudge, since you have told me so much about him. I hope he will ask me some questions.”
“What will you tell him?”
“Trust me for that. Don’t say any more. He’s close by.”
MR. MUDGE MEETS HIS MATCH.
John lounged along, appearing to be very busily engaged in making a whistle from a slip of willow which he had a short time before cut from the tree. He purposely kept in the
middle of the road, apparently quite unaware of the approach of the vehicle, until he was aroused by the sound of a voice behind him.
“Be a little more careful, if you don’t want to get run over.”
John assumed a look of surprise, and with comic terror ran to the side of the road.
Mr. Mudge checked his horse, and came to a sudden halt.
“I say, youngster, haven’t you seen a boy of about your own size walking along, with a bundle in his hand?”
“Tied up in a red cotton handkerchief?” inquired John.
“Yes, I believe so,” said Mr. Mudge, eagerly, “where did you—-“
“With a blue cloth cap?”
“Gray jacket and pants?”
“Yes, yes. Where?”
“With a patch on one knee?”
“Yes, the very one. When did you see
him?” said Mr. Mudge, getting ready to start his horse.
“Perhaps it isn’t the one you mean,”
continued John, who took a mischievous delight in playing with the evident impatience of Mr. Mudge; “the boy that I saw looked thin, as if he hadn’t had enough to eat.”
Mr. Mudge winced slightly, and looked at John with some suspicion. But John put on so innocent and artless a look that Mr. Mudge at once dismissed the idea that there was any covert meaning in what he said. Meanwhile Paul, from his hiding-place in the bushes, had listened with anxiety to the foregoing colloquy. When John described his appearance so minutely, he was seized with a sudden apprehension that the boy meant to betray him. But
he dismissed it instantly. In his own singleness of heart he could not believe such duplicity possible. Still, it was not without anxiety that he waited to hear what would be said next.
“Well,” said Mr. Mudge, slowly, “I don’t know but he is a little PEAKED. He’s been sick lately, and that’s took off his flesh.”
“Was he your son?” asked John, in a
sympathizing tone; “you must feel quite troubled about him.”
He looked askance at Mr. Mudge, enjoying that gentleman’s growing irritation.
“My son? No. Where—-“
“Nephews perhaps?” suggested the
imperturbable John, leisurely continuing the manufacture of a whistle.
“No, I tell you, nothing of the kind. But I can’t sit waiting here.”
“Oh, I hope you’ll excuse me,” said John, apologetically. “I hope you won’t stop on my account. I didn’t know you were in a hurry.”
“Well, you know it now,” said Mr. Mudge, crossly. “When and where did you see the boy you have described? I am in pursuit of him.”
“Has he run away?” inquired John in
“Are you going to answer my question or not?” demanded Mr. Mudge, angrily.
“Oh, I beg your pardon. I shouldn’t have asked so many questions, only I thought he was a nice-looking boy, and I felt interested in him.”
“He’s a young scamp,” said Mr. Mudge, impetuously, “and it’s my belief that you’re another. Now answer my question. When and where did you see this boy?”
This time Mr. Mudge’s menacing look
warned John that he had gone far enough. Accordingly he answered promptly, “He
passed by our farm this morning.”
“How far back is that?”
“About three miles.”
“Did he stop there?”
“Yes, he stopped a while to rest.”
“Have you seen him since?”
“Yes, I saw him about half a mile back.”
“On this road?”
“Yes, but he turned up the road that
branches off there.”
“Just what I wanted to find out,” said Mr. Mudge, in a tone of satisfaction, “I’m sure to catch him.”
So saying, he turned about and put his horse to its utmost speed, determined to make up for lost time. When he was fairly out of sight, Paul came forth from his hiding-place.
“How could you do so!” he asked in a
“Could I do what?” asked John, turning a laughing face towards Paul. “Didn’t I tell old Mudge the exact truth? You know you
did turn up that road. To be sure you didn’t go two rods before turning back. But he
didn’t stop to ask about that. If he hadn’t been in such a hurry, perhaps I should have told him. Success to him!”
“You can’t think how I trembled when you described me so particularly.”
“You didn’t think I would betray you?” said John, quickly.
“No, but I was afraid you would venture too far, and get us both into trouble.”
“Trust me for that, Paul; I’ve got my eyes wide open, and ain’t easily caught. But
wasn’t it fun to see old Mudge fuming while I kept him waiting. What would he have said if he had known the bird was so near at hand? He looked foolish enough when I asked him if you were his son.”
John sat down and gave vent to his pent-up laughter which he had felt obliged to restrain in the presence of Mr. Mudge. He laughed so heartily that Paul, notwithstanding his recent fright and anxiety, could not resist the infection. Together they laughed, till the very air seemed vocal with merriment.
John was the first to recover his gravity.
“I am sorry, Paul,” he said, “but I must bid you good-by. They will miss me from the house. I am glad I have got acquainted with you, and I hope I shall see you again some time before very long. Good-by, Paul.”
The two boys shook hands and parted. One went in one direction, the other in the opposite. Each looked back repeatedly till the other was out of sight. Then came over Paul once more a feeling of sadness and desolation, which the high spirits of his companion had for the time kept off. Occasionally he cast a glance
backwards, to make sure that Mr. Mudge was not following him. But Paul had no cause to fear on that score. The object of his dread was already some miles distant in a different direction.
For an hour longer, Paul trudged on. He met few persons, the road not being very much frequented. He was now at least twelve miles from his starting-place, and began to feel very sensibly the effects of heat and fatigue combined. He threw himself down upon the grass under the overhanging branches of an apple- tree to rest. After his long walk repose seemed delicious, and with a feeling of
exquisite enjoyment he stretched himself out at full length upon the soft turf, and closed his eyes.
Insensibly he fell asleep. How long he slept he could not tell. He was finally roused from his slumber by something cold touching his cheek. Starting up he rubbed his eyes in bewilderment, and gradually became aware that this something was the nose of a Newfoundland dog, whose keen scent had enabled him
to discover the whereabouts of the small stock of provisions with which Paul had been
supplied by his late companion. Fortunately he awoke in time to save its becoming the prey of its canine visitor.
“I reckon you came nigh losing your dinner,” fell upon his ears in a rough but hearty tone.
At the same time he heard the noise of wheels, and looking up, beheld a specimen of a class well known throughout New England –a tin pedler. He was seated on a cart liberally stocked with articles of tin ware. From
the rear depended two immense bags, one of which served as a receptacle for white rags, the other for bits of calico and whatever else may fall under the designation of “colored.” His shop, for such it was, was drawn at a brisk pace by a stout horse, who in this respect presented a contrast to his master, who was long and lank. The pedler himself was a man of perhaps forty, with a face in which shrewdness and good humor seemed alike indicated. Take him for all in all, you might travel some distance without falling in with a more complete
specimen of the Yankee.
“So you came nigh losing your dinner,” he repeated, in a pleasant tone.
“Yes,” said Paul, “I got tired and fell asleep, and I don’t know when I should have waked up but for your dog.”
“Yes, Boney’s got a keen scent for
provisions,” laughed the pedler. “He’s a little graspin’, like his namesake. You see his real name is Bonaparte; we only call him Boney, for short.”
Meanwhile he had stopped his horse. He was about to start afresh, when a thought struck him.
“Maybe you’re goin’ my way,” said he, turning to Paul; “if you are, you’re welcome to a ride.”
Paul was very glad to accept the invitation. He clambered into the cart, and took a seat behind the pedler, while Boney, who took his recent disappointment very good-naturedly, jogged on contentedly behind.
“How far are you goin’?” asked Paul’s new acquaintance, as he whipped up his horse.
Paul felt a little embarrassed. If he had been acquainted with the names of any of the villages on the route he might easily have answered. As it was, only one name occurred to him.
“I think,” said he, with some hesitation, “that I shall go to New York.”
“New York!” repeated the pedler, with a whistle expressive of his astonishment.
“Well, you’ve a journey before you.
Got any relations there?”
“No uncles, aunts, cousins, nor nothing?”
Paul shook his head.
“Then what makes you go? Haven’t run
away from your father and mother, hey?” asked the pedler, with a knowing look.
“I have no father nor mother,” said Paul, sadly enough.
“Well, you had somebody to take care of you, I calculate. Where did you live?”
“If I tell you, you won’t carry me back?” said Paul, anxiously.
“Not a bit of it. I’ve got too much business on hand for that.”
Relieved by this assurance, Paul told his story, encouraged thereto by frequent questions from his companion, who seemed to take a lively interest in the adventures of his young companion.
“That’s a capital trick you played on old Mudge,” he said with a hearty laugh which almost made the tins rattle. “I don’t blame you a bit for running away. I’ve got a story to tell you about Mrs. Mudge. She’s a regular skinflint.”
This was the pedler’s promised story about Mrs. Mudge.
“The last time I was round that way, I stopped, thinking maybe they might have some rags to dispose of for tin-ware. The old lady seemed glad to see me, and pretty soon she brought down a lot of white rags. I thought they seemed quite heavy for their bulk,– howsomever, I wasn’t looking for any tricks, and I let it go. By-and-by, when I happened to be ransacking one of the bags, I came across half a dozen pounds or more of old iron tied up in a white cloth. That let the cat out of the bag. I knew why they were so heavy, then, I reckon I shan’t call on Mrs. Mudge next time I go by.”
“So you’ve run off,” he continued, after a pause, “I like your spunk,–just what I should have done myself. But tell me how you managed to get off without the old chap’s finding it out.”
Paul related such of his adventures as he had not before told, his companion listening with marked approval.
“I wish I’d been there,” he said. “I’d have given fifty cents, right out, to see how old Mudge looked, I calc’late he’s pretty well tired with his wild-goose chase by this time.”
It was now twelve o’clock, and both the travelers began to feel the pangs of hunger.
“It’s about time to bait, I calc’late,” remarked the pedler.
The unsophisticated reader is informed that the word “bait,” in New England phraseology, is applied to taking lunch or dining.
At this point a green lane opened out of the public road, skirted on either side by a row of trees. Carpeted with green, it made a very pleasant dining-room. A red-and-white heifer browsing at a little distance looked up from her meal and surveyed the intruders with mild attention, but apparently satisfied that they contemplated no invasion of her rights, resumed her agreeable employment. Over an
irregular stone wall our travelers looked into a thrifty apple-orchard laden with fruit. They halted beneath a spreading chestnut-tree which towered above its neighbors, and offered them a grateful shelter from the noonday sun.
From the box underneath the seat, the pedler took out a loaf of bread, a slice of butter, and a tin pail full of doughnuts. Paul, on his side, brought out his bread and gingerbread.
“I most generally carry round my own
provisions,” remarked the pedler, between two mouthfuls. “It’s a good deal cheaper and more convenient, too. Help yourself to the doughnuts. I always calc’late to have some with me. I’d give more for ’em any day than for rich cake that ain’t fit for anybody. My mother used to beat everybody in the neighborhood on making doughnuts. She made ’em so
good that we never knew when to stop eating. You wouldn’t hardly believe it, but, when I was a little shaver, I remember eating twenty- three doughnuts at one time. Pretty nigh killed me.”
“I should think it might,” said Paul, laughing.
“Mother got so scared that she vowed she wouldn’t fry another for three months, but I guess she kinder lost the run of the almanac, for in less than a week she turned out about a bushel more.”
All this time the pedler was engaged in practically refuting the saying, that a man cannot do two things at once. With a little assistance from Paul, the stock of doughnuts on which he had been lavishing encomiums, diminished rapidly. It was evident that his attachment to this homely article of diet was quite as strong as ever.
“Don’t be afraid of them,” said he, seeing that Paul desisted from his efforts, “I’ve got plenty more in the box.”
Paul signified that his appetite was already appeased.
“Then we might as well be jogging on. Hey, Goliah,” said he, addressing the horse, who with an air of great content, had been browsing while his master was engaged in a similar manner. “Queer name for a horse, isn’t it? I wanted something out of the common way, so I asked mother for a name, and she gave me that. She’s great on scripture names, mother is. She gave one to every one of her children. It didn’t make much difference to her what they were as long as they were in the Bible. I believe she used to open the Bible at random, and take the first name she happened to come across. There are eight of us, and nary a decent name in the lot. My oldest brother’s name is Abimelech. Then there’s Pharaoh, and Ishmael, and Jonadab, for the boys, and Leah and Naomi, for the girls; but my name beats all. You couldn’t guess it?”
Paul shook his head.
“I don’t believe you could,” said the pedler, shaking his head in comic indignation. “It’s Jehoshaphat. Ain’t that a respectable name for the son of Christian parents?”
“It wouldn’t be so bad,” continued the pedler, “if my other name was longer; but Jehoshaphat seems rather a long handle to put before Stubbs. I can’t say I feel particularly
proud of the name, though for use it’ll do as well as any other. At any rate, it ain’t quite so bad as the name mother pitched on for my youngest sister, who was lucky enough to die before she needed a name.”
“What was it?” inquired Paul, really
curious to know what name could be considered less desirable than Jehoshaphat.
“It was Jezebel,” responded the pedler.
“Everybody told mother ‘twould never do; but she was kind of superstitious about it, because that was the first name she came to in the Bible, and so she thought it was the Lord’s will that that name should be given to the child.”
As Mr. Stubbs finished his disquisition upon names, there came in sight a small house, dark and discolored with age and neglect. He
pointed this out to Paul with his whip-handle.
“That,” said he, “is where old Keziah Onthank lives. Ever heard of him?”
Paul had not.
“He’s the oldest man in these parts,” pursued his loquacious companion. “There’s some folks that seem a dyin’ all the time, and for all that manage to outlive half the young folks in the neighborhood. Old Keziah Onthank is a complete case in p’int. As long ago as when I was cutting my teeth he was so old that nobody know’d how old he was. He was so bowed over that he couldn’t see himself in the looking-glass unless you put it on the floor, and I guess even then what he saw wouldn’t pay him for his trouble. He was always ailin’ some way or other. Now it was rheumatism, now the palsy, and then again the asthma. He had THAT awful.
“He lived in the same tumble-down old shanty we have just passed,–so poor that nobody’d take the gift of it. People said that he’d orter go to the poorhouse, so that when he was sick–which was pretty much all the time –he’d have somebody to take care of him. But he’d got kinder attached to the old place, seein’ he was born there, and never lived anywhere else, and go he wouldn’t.
“Everybody expected he was near his end, and nobody’d have been surprised to hear of his death at any minute. But it’s strange how some folks are determined to live on, as I said before. So Keziah, though he looked so old when I was a boy that it didn’t seem as if he could look any older, kept on livin,’ and livin’, and arter I got married to Betsy Sprague, he was livin’ still.
“One day, I remember I was passin’ by the old man’s shanty, when I heard a dreadful groanin’, and thinks I to myself, `I shouldn’t wonder if the old man was on his last legs.’ So in I bolted. There he was, to be sure, a lyin’, on the bed, all curled up into a heap, breathin’ dreadful hard, and lookin’ as white and pale as any ghost. I didn’t know exactly what to do, so I went and got some water, but he motioned it away, and wouldn’t drink it, but kept on groanin’.
“`He mustn’t be left here to die without any assistance,’ thinks I, so I ran off as fast I could to find the doctor.
“I found him eatin’ dinner—-
“Come quick,” says I, “to old Keziah Onthank’s. He’s dyin’, as sure as my name is Jehoshaphat.”
“Well,” said the doctor, “die or no die, I can’t come till I’ve eaten my dinner.”
“But he’s dyin’, doctor.”
“Oh, nonsense. Talk of old Keziah Onthank’s dyin’. He’ll live longer than I shall.”
“I recollect I thought the doctor very unfeelin’ to talk so of a fellow creetur, just stepping into eternity, as a body may say. However, it’s no use drivin’ a horse that’s made up his mind he won’t go, so although I did think the doctor dreadful deliberate about eatin’ his dinner (he always would take half an hour for it), I didn’t dare to say a word for fear he wouldn’t come at all. You see the doctor was dreadful independent, and was bent on havin’ his own way, pretty much, though for that matter I think it’s the case with most folks. However, to come back to my story, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable while I was waitin’ his motions.
“After a long while the doctor got ready. I was in such a hurry that I actilly pulled him along, he walked so slow; but he only laughed, and I couldn’t help thinkin’ that doctorin’ had a hardinin’ effect on the heart. I was determined if ever I fell sick I wouldn’t send for him.
“At last we got there. I went in all of a tremble, and crept to the bed, thinkin’ I should see his dead body. But he wasn’t there at all. I felt a little bothered you’d better believe.”
“Well,” said the doctor, turning to me with a smile, “what do you think now?”
“I don’t know what to think,” said I.
“Then I’ll help you,” said he.
“So sayin’, he took me to the winder, and what do you think I see? As sure as I’m alive, there was the old man in the back yard, a squattin’ down and pickin’ up chips.”
“And is he still living?”
“Yes, or he was when I come along last. The doctor’s been dead these ten years. He told me old Keziah would outlive him, but I didn’t believe him. I shouldn’t be surprised if he lived forever.”
Paul listened with amused interest to this and other stories with which his companion beguiled the way. They served to divert his mind from the realities of his condition, and the uncertainty which hung over his worldly prospects.
ON THE BRINK OF DISCOVERY.
“If you’re in no great hurry to go to New York,” said the pedler, “I should like to have you stay with me for a day or two. I live about twenty-five miles from here, straight ahead, so it will be on your way. I always manage to get home by Saturday night if it is any way possible. It doesn’t seem comfortable to be away Sunday. As to-day is Friday,
I shall get there to-morrow. So you can lie over a day and rest yourself.”
Paul felt grateful for this unexpected invitation. It lifted quite a load from his mind, since, as the day declined, certain anxious thoughts as to where he should find shelter, had obtruded themselves. Even now, the
same trouble would be experienced on Monday night, but it is the characteristic of youth to pay little regard to anticipated difficulties as long as the present is provided for.
It must not be supposed that the pedler neglected his business on account of his companion. On the road he had been traveling the
houses were few and far between. He had, therefore, but few calls to make. Paul
remarked, however, that when he did call he seldom failed to sell something.
“Yes,” said Mr. Stubbs, on being interrogated, “I make it a p’int to sell something, if it’s no more than a tin dipper. I find some hard cases sometimes, and sometimes I have to give it up altogether. I can’t quite come up to a friend of mine, Daniel Watson, who used to be in the same line of business. I never knew him to stop at a place without selling something. He had a good deal of judgment, Daniel had, and knew just when to use `soft sodder,’ and when not to. On the road that he traveled there lived a widow woman, who had the reputation of being as ugly, cross- grained a critter as ever lived. People used to say that it was enough to turn milk sour for her even to look at it. Well, it so happened that Daniel had never called there. One night he was boasting that he never called at a house without driving a bargain, when one of the company asked him, with a laugh, if he had ever sold the widow anything.
“Why, no,” said Daniel, “I never called there; but I’ve no doubt I could.”
“What’ll you bet of it?”
“I’m not a betting man,” said Daniel, “but I feel so sure of it that I don’t mind risking five dollars.”
“The next morning Daniel drove leisurely up to the widow’s door and knocked. She had a great aversion to pedlers, and declared they were cheats, every one of them. She was busy sweeping when Daniel knocked. She came to the door in a dreadful hurry, hoping it might be an old widower in the neighborhood that she was trying to catch. When she saw how much she was mistaken she looked as black as a thundercloud.
“Want any tin ware to-day, ma’am?”
inquired Daniel, noways discomposed.
“No, sir,” snapped she.
“Got all kinds,–warranted the best in the market. Couldn’t I sell you something?”
“Not a single thing,” said she, preparing to shut the door; but Daniel, knowing all would then be lost, stepped in before she could shut it quite to, and began to name over some of the articles he had in his wagon.
“You may talk till doomsday,” said the widow, as mad as could be, “and it won’t do a particle of good. Now, you’ve got your answer, and you’d better leave the house before you are driven out.”
“Brooms, brushes, lamps—-“
“Here the widow, who had been trying to keep in her anger, couldn’t hold out any longer. She seized the broom she had been sweeping with, and brought it down with a tremendous whack upon Daniel’s back. You can imagine how hard it was, when I tell you that the force of the blow snapped the broom in the middle. You might have thought
Daniel would resent it, but he didn’t appear to notice it, though it must have hurt him awful. He picked up the pieces, and handing them, with a polite bow, to the widow, said, “Now, ma’am, I’m sure you need a new broom. I’ve got some capital ones out in the cart.”
“The widow seemed kind of overpowered by his coolness. She hardly knew what to say or what to think. However, she had broken her old broom, that was certain, and must have a new one; so when Daniel ran out and brought in a bundle of them, she picked out one and paid for it without saying a word; only, when Daniel asked if he might have the pleasure of calling again, she looked a little queer, and told him that if he considered it a pleasure, she had no objection.”
“And did he call again?”
“Yes, whenever he went that way. The
widow was always very polite to him after that, and, though she had a mortal dislike to pedlers in general, she was always ready to trade with him. Daniel used to say that he gained his bet and the widow’s custom at ONE BLOW.”
They were now descending a little hill at the foot of which stood a country tavern. Here Mr. Stubbs declared his intention of spending the night. He drove into the barn, the
large door of which stood invitingly open, and unharnessed his horse, taking especial care to rub him down and set before him an ample supply of provender.
“I always take care of Goliah myself,” said he. “He’s a good friend to me, and it’s no more than right that I should take good care of him. Now, we’ll go into the house, and see what we can get for supper.”
He was surprised to see that Paul hung back, and seemed disinclined to follow.
“What’s the matter?” asked Mr. Stubbs, in surprise. “Why don’t you come?”
“Because,” said Paul, looking embarrassed, “I’ve got no money.”
“Well, I have,” said Mr. Stubbs, “and that will answer just as well, so come along, and don’t be bashful. I’m about as hungry as a bear, and I guess you are too.”
Before many minutes, Paul sat down to a more bountiful repast than he had partaken of for many a day. There were warm biscuits and fresh butter, such as might please the palate of an epicure, while at the other end of the table was a plate of cake, flanked on one side by an apple-pie, on the other by one of pumpkin, with its rich golden hue, such as is to be found in its perfection, only in New England. It will scarcely be doubted that our hungry travellers did full justice to the fare set before them.
When they had finished, they went into the public room, where were engaged some of the village worthies, intent on discussing the news and the political questions of the day. It was a time of considerable political excitement, and this naturally supplied the topic of conversation. In this the pedler joined, for his frequent travel on this route had made him familiarly acquainted with many of those present.
Paul sat in a corner, trying to feel
interested in the conversation; but the day had been a long one, and he had undergone an unusual amount of fatigue. Gradually, his
drowsiness increased. The many voices fell upon his ears like a lullaby, and in a few minutes he was fast asleep.
Early next morning they were up and on their way. It was the second morning since Paul’s departure. Already a sense of
freedom gave his spirits unwonted elasticity, and encouraged him to hope for the best. Had his knowledge of the future been greater, his confidence might have been less. But would he have been any happier?
So many miles separated him from his late home, that he supposed himself quite safe from detection. A slight circumstance warned him that he must still be watchful and cautious.
As they were jogging easily along, they heard the noise of wheels at a little distance. Paul looked up. To his great alarms he recognized in the driver of the approaching vehicle, one of the selectmen of Wrenville.
“What’s the matter?” asked his companion, noticing his sudden look of apprehension.
Paul quickly communicated the ground of his alarm.
“And you are afraid he will want to carry you back, are you?”
“Not a bit of it. We’ll circumvent the old fellow, unless he’s sharper than I think he is. You’ve only got to do as I tell you.”
To this Paul quickly agreed.
The selectman was already within a
hundred rods. He had not yet apparently noticed the pedler’s cart, so that this was in our hero’s favor. Mr. Stubbs had already arranged his plan of operations.
“This is what you are to do, Paul,” said he, quickly. “Cock your hat on the side of your head, considerably forward, so that he can’t see much of your face. Then here’s a cigar to stick in your mouth. You can make believe that you are smoking. If you are the sort of boy I reckon you are, he’ll never think it’s you.”
Paul instantly adopted this suggestion.
Slipping his hat to one side in the jaunty manner characteristic of young America, he began to puff very gravely at a cigar the pedler handed him, frequently taking it from his mouth, as he had seen older persons do, to knock away the ashes. Nothwithstanding his alarm, his love of fun made him enjoy this little stratagem, in which he bore his part successfully.
The selectman eyed him intently. Paul began to tremble from fear of discovery, but his apprehensions were speedily dissipated by a remark of the new-comer, “My boy, you are forming a very bad habit.”
Paul did not dare to answer lest his voice should betray him. To his relief, the pedler spoke—-
“Just what I tell him, sir, but I suppose he thinks he must do as his father does.”
By this time the vehicles had passed each other, and the immediate peril was over.
“Now, Paul,” said his companion, laughing, “I’ll trouble you for that cigar, if you have done with it. The old gentleman’s advice was good. If I’d never learned to smoke, I
wouldn’t begin now.”
Our hero was glad to take the cigar from his mouth. The brief time he had held it was sufficient to make him slightly dizzy.
PAUL REACHES THE CITY.
Towards evening they drew up before a small house with a neat yard in front.
“I guess we’ll get out here,” said Mr. Stubbs. “There’s a gentleman lives here that I feel pretty well acquainted with. Shouldn’t wonder if he’d let us stop over Sunday. Whoa, Goliah, glad to get home, hey?” as the horse pricked up his ears and showed manifest signs of satisfaction.
“Now, youngster, follow me, and I guess I can promise you some supper, if Mrs. Stubbs hasn’t forgotten her old tricks.”
They passed through the entry into the kitchen, where Mrs. Stubbs was discovered before the fire toasting slices of bread.
“Lor, Jehoshaphat,” said she, “I didn’t expect you so soon,” and she looked inquiringly at his companion.
“A young friend who is going to stay with us till Monday,” explained the pedler. “His name is Paul Prescott.”
“I’m glad to see you, Paul,” said Mrs. Stubbs with a friendly smile. “You must be tired if you’ve been traveling far. Take a seat. Here’s a rocking-chair for you.”
This friendly greeting made Paul feel quite at home. Having no children, the pedler and his wife exerted themselves to make the time pass pleasantly to their young acquaintance. Paul could not help contrasting them with Mr. and Mrs. Mudge, not very much to the advantage of the latter. On Sunday he went to church with them, and the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed, made him listen
to the sermon with unusual attention. It was an exposition of the text, “My help
cometh from the Lord,” and Paul could not help feeling that it was particularly applicable to his own case. It encouraged him to
hope, that, however uncertain his prospects appeared, God would help him if he put his trust in Him.
On Monday morning Paul resumed his journey, with an ample stock of provisions supplied by Mrs. Stubbs, in the list of which
doughnuts occupied a prominent place; this being at the particular suggestion of Mr. Stubbs.
Forty or fifty miles remained to be
traversed before his destination would be reached. The road was not a difficult one to find, and he made it out without much questioning. The first night, he sought permission to sleep in a barn.
He met with a decided refusal.
He was about to turn away in disappointment, when he was called back.
“You are a little too fast, youngster. I said I wouldn’t let you sleep in my barn, and I won’t; but I’ve got a spare bed in the house, and if you choose you shall occupy it.”
Under the guise of roughness, this man had a kind heart. He inquired into the particulars of Paul’s story, and at the conclusion terrified him by saying that he had been very
foolish and ought to be sent back. Nevertheless, when Paul took leave of him the next
morning, he did not go away empty-handed.
“If you must be so foolish as to set up for yourself, take this,” said the farmer, placing half a dollar in his hand. “You may reach the city after the banks are closed for the day, you know,” he added, jocularly.
But it was in the morning that Paul came in sight of the city. He climbed up into a high tree, which, having the benefit of an elevated situation, afforded him an extensive prospect. Before him lay the great city of which
he had so often heard, teeming with life and activity.
Half in eager anticipation, half in awe and wonder at its vastness, our young pilgrim stood upon the threshold of this great Babel.
Everything looked new and strange. It had never entered Paul’s mind, that there could be so many houses in the whole State as now rose up before him. He got into Broadway, and walked on and on thinking that the street must end somewhere. But the farther he
walked the thicker the houses seemed crowded together. Every few rods, too, he came to a cross street, which seemed quite as densely peopled as the one on which he was walking. One part of the city was the same as another to Paul, since he was equally a stranger to all. He wandered listlessly along, whither fancy led. His mind was constantly excited by the new and strange objects which met him at every step.
As he was looking in at a shop window, a boy of about his own age, stopped and inquired confidentially, “when did you come
from the country?”
“This morning,” said Paul, wondering how a stranger should know that he was a country boy.
“Could you tell me what is the price of potatoes up your way?” asked the other boy, with perfect gravity.
“I don’t know,” said Paul, innocently.
“I’m sorry for that,” said the other, “as I have got to buy some for my wife and family.”
Paul stared in surprise for a moment, and then realizing that he was being made game of, began to grow angry.
“You’d better go home to your wife and family,” he said with spirit, “or you may get hurt.”
“Bully for you, country!” answered the other with a laugh. “You’re not as green as you look.”
“Thank you,” said Paul, “I wish I could say as much for you.”
Tired with walking, Paul at length sat down in a doorway, and watched with interest the hurrying crowds that passed before him. Everybody seemed to be in a hurry, pressing forward as if life and death depended on his haste. There were lawyers with their sharp, keen glances; merchants with calculating faces; speculators pondering on the chances of a rise or fall in stocks; errand boys with bundles under their arms; business men hurrying to the slip to take the boat for Brooklyn or Jersey City,–all seemed intent on business of some kind, even to the ragged newsboys who had just obtained their supply of evening papers, and were now crying them at the top of their voices,–and very discordant ones at that, so Paul thought. Of the hundreds
passing and repassing before him, every one had something to do. Every one had a home to go to. Perhaps it was not altogether strange that a feeling of desolation should come over Paul as he recollected that he stood alone, homeless, friendless, and, it might be, shelterless for the coming night.
“Yet,” thought he with something of
hopefulness, “there must be something for me to do as well as the rest.”
Just then a boy some two years older than Paul paced slowly by, and in passing, chanced to fix his eyes upon our hero. He probably saw something in Paul which attracted him, for he stepped up and extending his hand, said, “why, Tom, how came you here?”
“My name isn’t Tom,” said Paul, feeling a little puzzled by this address.
“Why, so it isn’t. But you look just like my friend, Tom Crocker.”
To this succeeded a few inquiries, which Paul unsuspiciously answered.
“Do you like oysters?” inquired the new comer, after a while.
“Because I know of a tip top place to get some, just round the corner. Wouldn’t you like some?”
Paul thanked his new acquaintance, and said he would.
Without more ado, his companion ushered him into a basement room near by. He led the way into a curtained recess, and both boys took seats one on each side of a small table.
“Just pull the bell, will you, and tell the waiter we’ll have two stews.”
Paul did so.
“I suppose,” continued the other, “the governor wouldn’t like it much if he knew where I was.”
“The governor!” repeated Paul. “Why, it isn’t against the laws, is it?”
“No,” laughed the other. “I mean my
father. How jolly queer you are!” He