"Le' me go, you debble," he said, using a word which had grown familiar to him on the plantation.
There was a cruel light in John's eyes which augured little good to poor Pomp. Suddenly, as if a new idea had struck him, he loosened the cord, and taking the boy carried him, in spite of his kicking and screaming, to a small tree, around which he clasped his hands, which he again confined with cords.
He then sought out a stout stick, and divested it of twigs.
Pomp watched his preparations with terror. Too well he knew what they meant. More than once he had seen those of his own color whipped on the plantation. Unconsciously, he glided into the language which he would have used there.
"Don't whip me, Massa John," he whimpered in terror. "For the lub of Heaven, lef me be. I ain't done noffin' to you."
"You'd better have thought of that before," said John, his eyes blazing anew with vengeful light. "If I whip you, you little black rascal, it's only because you richly deserve it."
"I'll nebber do so again," pleaded Pomp, rolling his eyes in terror. Though what it was he promised not to do the poor little fellow would have found it hard to tell.
It would have been as easy to soften the heart of a nether millstone as that of John Haynes.
By the time he had completed his preparations, and whirled his stick in the air preparatory to bringing it down with full force on Pomp's back, rapid steps were heard, and a voice asked, "What are you doing there, John Haynes?"
John looked round, and saw standing near him Frank Frost, whose attention had been excited by what he had heard of Pomp's cries.
"Save me, save me, Mass' Frank," pleaded poor little Pomp.
"What has he tied you up there for, Pomp?"
"It's none of your business, Frank Frost," said John passionately.
"I think it's some of my business," said Frank coolly, "when I find you playing the part of a Southern overseer. You are not in Richmond, John Haynes, and you'll get into trouble if you undertake to act as if you were."
"If you say much more, I'll flog you too!" screamed John, beside himself with excitement and rage.
Frank had not a particle of cowardice in his composition. He was not fond of fighting, but he felt that circumstances made it necessary for him to do so now. He did not easily lose his temper, and this at present gave him the advantage over John.
"You are too excited to know what you are talking about," he said coolly. "Pomp, why has he tied you up?"
Pomp explained that John had tried to get his pail from him. He closed by imploring "Mass' Frank" to prevent John from whipping him.
"He shall not whip you, Pomp," said Frank quietly. As he spoke he stepped to the tree and faced John intrepidly.
John, in a moment of less passion, would not have ventured to attack a boy so near his own size. Like all bullies, he was essentially a coward, but now his rage got the better of his prudence.
"I'll flog you both!" he exclaimed hoarsely, and sprang forward with upraised stick.
Frank was about half a head shorter than John, and was more than a year younger, but he was stout and compactly built; besides, he was cool and collected, and this is always an advantage.
Before John realized what had happened, his stick had flown from his hand, and he was forcibly pushed back, so that he narrowly escaped falling to the ground.
"Gib it to him, Mass' Frank!" shouted little Pomp. "Gib it to him!"
This increased John's exasperation. By this time he was almost foaming at the mouth.
"I'll kill you, Frank Frost," he exclaimed, this time rushing at him without a stick.
Frank had been in the habit of wrestling for sport with the boys of his own size. In this way he had acquired a certain amount of dexterity in "tripping up." John, on the contrary, was unpractised. His quick temper was so easily roused that other boys had declined engaging in friendly contests with him, knowing that in most cases they would degenerate into a fight.
John rushed forward, and attempted to throw Frank by the strength of his arms alone. Frank eluded his grasp, and, getting one of his legs around John's, with a quick movement tripped him up. He fell heavily upon his back.
"This is all foolish, John," said Frank, bending over his fallen foe. "What are you fighting for? The privilege of savagely whipping a poor little fellow less than half your age?"
"I care more about whipping you, a cursed sight!" said John, taking advantage of Frank's withdrawing his pressure to spring to his feet. "You first, and him afterward!"
Again he threw himself upon Frank; but again coolness and practice prevailed against blind fury and untaught strength, and again he lay prostrate.
By this time Pomp had freed himself from the string that fettered his wrists, and danced in glee round John Haynes, in whose discomfiture he felt great delight.
"You'd better pick up your pail and run home," said Frank. He was generously desirous of saving John from further humiliation. "Will you go away quietly if I will let you up, John?" he asked.
"No, d—— you!" returned John, writhing, his face almost livid with passion.
"I am sorry," said Frank, "for in that case I must continue to hold you down."
"What is the trouble, boys?" came from an unexpected quarter.
It was Mr. Maynard, who, chancing to pass along the road, had been attracted by the noise of the struggle.
Frank explained in a few words.
"Let him up, Frank," said the old man. "I'll see that he does no further harm."
John rose to his feet, and looked scowlingly from one to the other, as if undecided whether he had not better attack both.
"You've disgraced yourself, John Haynes," said the old farmer scornfully. "So you would turn negro-whipper, would you? Your talents are misapplied here at the North. Brutality isn't respectable here, my lad. You'd better find your way within the rebel lines, and then perhaps you can gratify your propensity for whipping the helpless."
"Some day I'll be revenged on you for this," said John, turning wrathfully upon Frank. "Perhaps you think I don't mean it, but the day will come when you'll remember what I say."
"I wish you no harm, John," said Frank composedly, "but I sha'n't stand by and see you beat a boy like Pomp."
"No," said the farmer sternly; "and if ever I hear of your doing it, I'll horsewhip you till you beg for mercy. Now go home, and carry your disgrace with you."
Mr. Maynard spoke contemptuously, but with decision, and pointed up the road.
With smothered wrath John obeyed his order, because he saw that it would not be safe to refuse.
"I'll come up with him yet," he muttered to himself, as he walked quietly toward home. "If he doesn't rue this day, my name isn't John Haynes."
John did not see fit to make known the circumstances of his quarrel with Frank, feeling, justly, that neither his design nor the result would reflect any credit upon himself. But his wrath was none the less deep because he brooded over it in secret. He would have renewed his attempt upon Pomp, but there was something in Mr. Maynard's eye which assured him that his threat would be carried out. Frank, solicitous for the little fellow's safety, kept vigilant watch over him for some days, but no violence was attempted. He hoped John had forgotten his threats.
CHAPTER XII. A LETTER FROM THE CAMP
The little family at the Frost farm looked forward with anxious eagerness to the first letter from the absent father.
Ten days had elapsed when Frank was seen hurrying up the road with something in his hand.
Alice saw him first, and ran in, exclaiming, "Mother, I do believe Frank has got a letter from father. He is running up the road."
Mrs. Frost at once dropped her work, no less interested than her daughter, and was at the door just as Frank, flushed with running, reached the gate.
"What'll you give me for a letter?" he asked triumphantly.
"Give it to me quick," said Mrs. Frost. "I am anxious to learn whether your father is well."
"I guess he is, or he wouldn't have written such a long letter."
"How do you know it's long?" asked Alice. "You haven't read it."
"I judge from the weight. There are two stamps on the envelope. I was tempted to open it, but, being directed to mother, I didn't venture."
Mrs. Frost sat down, and the children gathered round her, while she read the following letter:
"CAMP ————, Virginia.
"DEAR MARY: When I look about me, and consider the novelty and strangeness of my surroundings, I can hardly realize that it is only a week since I sat in our quiet sitting-room at the farm, with you and our own dear ones around me. I will try to help your imagination to a picture of my present home.
"But first let me speak of my journey hither.
"It was tedious enough, traveling all day by rail. Of course, little liberty was allowed us. Military discipline is rigid, and must be maintained. Of its necessity we had a convincing proof at a small station between Hartford and New Haven. One of our number, who, I accidentally learned, is a Canadian, and had only been tempted to enlist by the bounty, selected a seat by the door of the car. I had noticed for some time that he looked nervous and restless, as if he had something on his mind.
"At one of our stopping-places—a small, obscure station—he crept out of the door, and, as he thought, unobserved, dodged behind a shed, thinking, no doubt, that the train would go off without him. But an officer had his eye upon him, and a minute afterward he was ignominiously brought back and put under guard. I am glad to say that his case inspired no sympathy. To enlist, obtain a bounty, and then attempt to evade the service for which the bounty was given, is despicable in the extreme. I am glad to know that no others of our company had the least desire to follow this man's example.
"We passed through New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, but I can give you little idea of either of these cities. The time we passed in each was mostly during the hours of darkness, when there was little opportunity of seeing anything.
"In Washington I was fortunate enough to see our worthy President. We were marching down Pennsylvania Avenue at the time. On the opposite side of the street we descried a very tall man, of slender figure, walking thoughtfully along, not appearing to notice what was passing around him.
"The officer in command turned and said: 'Boys, look sharp. That is Abraham Lincoln, across the way.'
"Of course, we all looked eagerly toward the man of whom we had heard so much.
"I could not help thinking how great a responsibility rests upon this man—to how great an extent the welfare and destinies of our beloved country depend upon his patriotic course.
"As I noticed his features, which, plain as they are, bear the unmistakable marks of a shrewd benevolence, and evince also, as I think, acute and original powers of mind, I felt reassured. I could not help saying to myself: 'This man is at least honest, and if he does not carry us in safety through this tremendous crisis, it will not be for the lack of an honest determination to do his duty.'
"And now let me attempt to give you a picture of our present situation, with some account of the way we live.
"Our camp may appropriately be called 'Hut Village.' Imagine several avenues lined with square log huts, surmounted by tent-coverings. The logs are placed transversely, and are clipped at the ends, so as to fit each other more compactly. In this way the interstices are made much narrower than they would otherwise be. These, moreover, are filled in with mud, which, as you have probably heard, is a staple production of Virginia. This is a good protection against the cold, though it does not give our dwellings a very elegant appearance.
"Around most of our huts shallow trenches are dug, to carry off the water, thus diminishing the dampness. Most of the huts are not floored, but mine, fortunately, is an exception to the general rule. My comrades succeeded in obtaining some boards somewhere, and we are a little in advance of our neighbors in this respect.
"Six of us are lodged in a tent. It is pretty close packing, but we don't stand upon ceremony here. My messmates seem to be pleasant fellows. I have been most attracted to Frank Grover; a bright young fellow of eighteen. He tells me that he is an only son, and his mother is a widow.
"'Wasn't your mother unwilling to have you come out here?' I asked him one day.
"'No,' he answered, 'not unwilling. She was only sorry for the necessity. When I told her that I felt it to be my duty, she told me at once to go. She said she would never stand between me and my country.'
"'You must think of her often,' I said.
"'All the time,' he answered seriously, a thoughtful expression stealing over his young face. 'I write to her twice a week regular, and sometimes oftener. For her sake I hope my life may be spared to return.'
"'I hope so, too,' I answered warmly. Then after a minute's silence, I added from some impulse: 'Will you let me call you Frank? I have a boy at home, not many years younger than you. His name is Frank also—it will seem to remind me of him.'
"'I wish you would,' he answered, his face lighting up with evident pleasure. 'Everybody calls me Frank at home, and I am tired of being called Grover.'
"So our compact was made. I shall feel a warm interest in this brave boy, and I fervently hope that the chances of war will leave him unscathed.
"I must give you a description of Hiram Marden, another of our small company, a very different kind of person from Frank Grover. But it takes all sorts of characters to make an army, as well as a world, and Marden is one of the oddities. Imagine a tall young fellow, with a thin face, lantern jaws, and long hair 'slicked' down on either side. Though he may be patriotic, he was led into the army from a different cause. He cherished an attachment for a village beauty, who did not return his love. He makes no concealment of his rebuff, but appears to enjoy discoursing in a sentimental way upon his disappointment. He wears such an air of meek resignation when he speaks of his cruel fair one that the effect is quite irresistible, and I find it difficult to accord him that sympathy which his unhappy fate demands. Fortunately for him, his troubles, deep-seated as they are, appear to have very little effect upon his appetite. He sits down to his rations with a look of subdued sorrow upon his face, and sighs frequently between the mouthfuls. In spite of this, however, he seldom leaves anything upon his tin plate, which speaks well for his appetite, since Uncle Sam is a generous provider, and few of us do full justice to our allowance.
"You may wonder how I enjoy soldier's fare. I certainly do long sometimes for the good pumpkin and apple pies which I used to have at home, and confess that a little apple sauce would make my hardtack a little more savory. I begin to appreciate your good qualities as a housekeeper, Mary, more than ever. Pies can be got of the sutler, but they are such poor things that I would rather do without than eat them, and I am quite sure they would try my digestion sorely.
"There is one very homely esculent which we crave in the camp—I mean the onion. It is an excellent preventive of scurvy, a disease to which our mode of living particularly exposes us. We eat as many as we can get, and should be glad of more. Tell Frank he may plant a whole acre of them. They will require considerable care, but even in a pecuniary way they will pay. The price has considerably advanced since the war began, on account of the large army demand, and will doubtless increase more.
"As to our military exercises, drill, etc., we have enough to occupy our time well. I see the advantage of enlisting in a veteran regiment. I find myself improving very rapidly. Besides my public company drill, I am getting my young comrade, Frank Grover, who has been in the service six months, to give me some private lessons. With the help of these, I hope to pass muster creditably before my first month is out.
"And now, my dear Mary, I must draw my letter to a close. In the army we are obliged to write under difficulties. I am writing this on my knapsack for a desk, and that is not quite so easy as a table. The constrained position in which I am forced to sit has tired me, and I think I will go out and 'limber' myself a little. Frank, who has just finished a letter to his mother, will no doubt join me. Two of my comrades are sitting close by, playing euchre. When I joined them I found they were in the habit of playing for small stakes, but I have succeeded in inducing them to give up a practice which might not unlikely lead to bad results.
"In closing, I need not tell you how much and how often I think of you all. I have never before been separated from you, and there are times when my longing to be with you again is very strong. You must make up for your absence by frequent and long letters. Tell me all that is going on. Even trifles will serve to amuse us here.
"Tell Frank to send me Harper's Weekly regularly. Two or three times a week I should like to have a daily paper forwarded. Every newspaper that finds its way into camp goes the rounds, and its contents are eagerly devoured.
"I will write you again very soon. The letters I write and receive from home will be one of my principal sources of pleasure. God bless you all, is the prayer of your affectionate husband and father,
It is hardly necessary to say that this letter was read with eager interest. That evening all the children, including little Charlie, were busy writing letters to the absent father. I have not room to print them all, but as this was Charlie's first epistolary effort, it may interest some of my youthful readers to see it. The mistakes in spelling will be excused on the score of Charlie's literary inexperience. This is the way it commenced:
"DEER FARTHER: I am sorry you hav to live in a log hous stuck up with mud. I shud think the mud wood cum off on your close. I am wel and so is Maggie. Frank is agoin to make me a sled—a real good one. I shal cal it the egle. I hope we shal soon hav sum sno. It will be my berth day next week. I shal be seven years old. I hope you cum back soon. Good nite.
Charlie was so proud of his letter that he insisted on having it enclosed in a separate envelope and mailed by itself—a request which was complied with by his mother.
CHAPTER XIII. MISCHIEF ON FOOT
As may be supposed, John Haynes was deeply incensed with Frank Frost for the manner in which he had foiled him in his attack upon Pomp. He felt that in this whole matter he had appeared by no means to advantage. After all his boasting, he had been defeated by a boy younger and smaller than himself. The old grudge which he had against Frank for the success gained over him at school increased and added poignancy to his mortification. He felt that he should never be satisfied until he had "come up" with Frank in some way. The prospect of seeing him ejected from the farm was pleasant, but it was too far off. John did not feel like waiting so long for the gratification of his revengeful feelings. He resolved in the meantime to devise some method of injuring or annoying Frank.
He could not at once think of anything feasible. Several schemes flitted across his mind, but all were open to some objection. John did not care to attempt anything which would expose him, if discovered, to a legal punishment. I am afraid this weighed more with him than the wrong or injustice of his schemes.
At last it occurred to him that Mr. Frost kept a couple of pigs. To let them out secretly at night would be annoying to Frank, as they would probably stray quite a distance, and thus a tedious pursuit would be made necessary. Perhaps they might never be found, in which case John felt that he should not grieve much.
Upon this scheme John finally settled as the one promising the most amusement to himself and annoyance to his enemy, as he chose to regard Frank. He felt quite averse, however, to doing the work himself. In the first place, it must be done by night, and he could not absent himself from the house at a late hour without his father's knowledge. Again, he knew there was a risk of being caught, and it would not sound very well if noised abroad that the son of Squire Haynes had gone out by night and let loose a neighbor's pigs.
He cast about in his mind for a confederate, and after awhile settled upon a boy named Dick Bumstead.
This Dick had the reputation of being a scape-grace and a ne'er-do-well. He was about the age of John Haynes, but had not attended school for a couple of years, and, less from want of natural capacity than from indolence, knew scarcely more than a boy of ten. His father was a shoemaker, and had felt obliged to keep his son at home to assist him in the shop. He did not prove a very efficient assistant, however, being inclined to shirk duty whenever he could.
It was upon this boy that John Haynes fixed as most likely to help him in his plot. On his way home from school the next afternoon, he noticed Dick loitering along a little in advance.
"Hold on, Dick," he called out, in a friendly voice, at the same time quickening his pace.
Dick turned in some surprise, for John Haynes had a foolish pride, which had hitherto kept him very distant toward those whom he regarded as standing lower than himself in the social scale.
"How are you, John?" he responded, putting up the knife with which he had been whittling.
"All right. What are you up to nowadays?"
"Working in the shop," said Dick, shrugging his shoulders. "I wish people didn't wear shoes, for my part. I've helped make my share. Pegging isn't a very interesting operation."
"No," said John, with remarkable affability. "I shouldn't think there'd be much fun in it."
"Fun! I guess not. For my part, I'd be willing to go barefoot, if other people would, for the sake of getting rid of pegging."
"I suppose you have some time to yourself, though, don't you?"
"Precious little. I ought to be in the shop now. Father sent me down to the store for some awls, and he'll be fretting because I don't get back. I broke my awl on purpose," said Dick, laughing, "so as to get a chance to run out a little while."
"I suppose your father gives you some of the money that you earn, doesn't he?' inquired John.
"A few cents now and then; that's all. He says everything is so high nowadays that it takes all we can both of us earn to buy food and clothes. So if a fellow wants a few cents now and then to buy a cigar, he can't have 'em."
John was glad to hear this. He felt that he could the more readily induce Dick to assist him in his plans.
"Dick!" he said abruptly, looking round to see that no one was within hearing-distance, "wouldn't you like to earn a two-dollar bill?"
"For myself?" inquired Dick.
"Is there much work in it?" asked indolent Dick cautiously.
"No, and what little there is will be fun."
"Then I'm in for it. That is, I think I am. What is it?"
"You'll promise not to tell?" said John.
"It's only a little practical joke that I want to play upon one of the boys."
"On who?" asked Dick, unmindful of his grammar.
"On Frank Frost."
"Frank's a pretty good fellow. It isn't going to hurt him any, is it?"
"Oh, no, of course not."
"Because I wouldn't want to do that. He's always treated me well."
"Of course he has. It's only a little joke, you know."
"Oh, well, if it's a joke, just count me in. Fire away, and let me know what you want done."
"You know that Frank, or his father, keeps pigs?"
"I want you to go some night—the sooner the better—and let them out, so that when morning comes the pigs will be minus, and Master Frank will have a fine chase after them."
"Seems to me," said Dick, "that won't be much of a joke."
"Then I guess you never saw a pig-chase. Pigs are so contrary that if you want them to go in one direction they are sure to go in another. The way they gallop over the ground, with their little tails wriggling behind them, is a caution."
"But it would be a great trouble to Frank to get them back."
"Oh, well, you could help him, and so get still more fun out of it, he not knowing, of course, that you had anything to do with letting them out."
"And that would take me out of the shop for a couple of hours," said Dick, brightening at the thought.
"Of course," said John; "so you would get a double advantage. Come, what do you say?"
"Well, I don't know," said Dick, wavering. "You'd pay me the money down on the nail, wouldn't you?"
"Yes," said John. "I'll show you the bill now."
He took from his pocketbook a two-dollar greenback, and displayed it to Dick.
"You could buy cigars enough with this to last you some time," he said insinuatingly.
"So I could. I declare, I've a good mind to take up your offer."
"You'd better. It's a good one."
"But why don't you do it yourself?" asked Dick, with sudden wonder.
"Because father's very strict," said John glibly, "and if I should leave the house at night, he'd be sure to find it out."
"That's where I have the advantage. I sleep downstairs, and can easily slip out of the window, without anybody's being the wiser."
"Just the thing. Then you agree?"
"Yes, I might as well. Are you particular about the night?"
"No, take your choice about that. Only the sooner the better."
The two boys separated, John feeling quite elated with his success.
CHAPTER XIV. A RAID UPON THE PIG-PEN
The more Dick thought of the enterprise which he had undertaken, the more he disliked it. He relished fun as much as any one, but he could not conceal from himself that he would be subjecting Frank to a great deal of trouble and annoyance. As he had told John, Frank had always treated him well, and this thought made the scheme disagreeable to him.
Still, John had promised him two dollars for his co-operation, and this, in his circumstances, was an important consideration. Unfortunately, Dick had contracted a fondness for smoking—a habit which his scanty supply of pocket-money rarely enabled him to indulge. This windfall would keep him in cigars for some time. It was this reflection which finally turned the wavering scale of Dick's irresolution, and determined him to embrace John's offer.
The moon was now at the full, and the nights were bright and beautiful. Dick decided that it would be best to defer the accomplishment of his purpose till later in the month, when darker nights would serve as a screen, and render detection more difficult.
By and by a night came which he thought suitable. A few stars were out, but they gave only a faint glimmer of light, not more than was necessary.
Dick went to bed at nine o'clock, as usual. By an effort he succeeded in keeping awake, feeling that if he once yielded to drowsiness, he should probably sleep on till morning. At half-past nine all in the house were abed. It was not till eleven, however, that Dick felt it safe to leave the house. He dressed himself expeditiously and in silence, occasionally listening to see if he could detect any sound in the room above, where his parents slept. Finally he raised the window softly, and jumped out. He crept out to the road, and swiftly bent his steps toward Mr. Frost's house.
As this was not more than a third of a mile distant, a very few minutes sufficed to bring him to his destination. Dick's feelings were not the most comfortable. Though he repeatedly assured himself that it was only fun he was engaged in, he felt very much like a burglar about to enter a house.
Arrived before the farmhouse, he looked cautiously up to the windows, but could see no light burning.
"The coast is clear," he thought. "I wish it were all over, and I were on my way home."
Dick had not reconnoitered thoroughly. There was a light burning in a window at the other end of the house.
The pig-pen was a small, rough, unpainted building, with a yard opening from it. Around the yard was a stone wall, which prevented the pigs from making their escape. They were now, as Dick could with difficulty see, stretched out upon the floor of the pen, asleep.
Dick proceeded to remove a portion of the stones forming the wall. It was not very easy or agreeable work, the stones being large and heavy. At length he effected a gap which he thought would be large enough for the pigs to pass through. He next considered whether it would be better to disturb the slumbers of the pigs by poking them with a hoe, or wait and let them find out the avenue of escape in the morning. He finally decided to stir them up. He accordingly went round to the door and, seizing a hoe, commenced punching one of the pigs vigorously.
The pig whose slumbers were thus rudely disturbed awoke with a loud grunt, and probably would have looked astonished and indignant if nature had given him the power of expressing such emotions.
"Get out, there, you lazy beast," exclaimed Dick.
The pig, as was perhaps only natural under the circumstances, seemed reluctant to get up, and was by no means backward in grunting his discontent. Dick was earnestly engaged in overcoming his repugnance to locomotion, when he was startled by hearing the door of the building, which he had carefully closed, open slowly. Looking up hastily, the hoe still in his hand, his dismayed glance fell upon Frank Frost, entering with a lantern.
A half-exclamation of surprise and dismay escaped him. This called the attention of Frank, who till that moment was unsuspicious of Dick's presence.
"Dick Bumstead!" he exclaimed, as soon as he recognized the intruder. "What brings you here at this time of night?"
"A mean errand, Frank," returned Dick, with a wholesome feeling of shame. He had made up his mind to a confession.
"You didn't come here to—to——" Here Frank stopped short.
"No, not to steal. I ain't quite so mean as that comes to. I come to let out your pigs, so that in the morning you would have a long chase after them."
"But what could put such a thing into your head, Dick?" asked Frank, in great surprise.
"I thought it would be a good joke."
"It wouldn't have been much of a joke to me," said Frank.
"No; and to tell the truth it wouldn't have been to me. The fact is, and I don't mind telling it, that I should never have thought of such a thing if somebody else hadn't put it into my head."
"Yes; I'd a little rather not tell who that somebody is, for I don't believe he would like to have you know."
"Why didn't he come himself?" asked Frank. "It seems to me he's been making a catspaw of you."
"Yes, haven't you read the story? A monkey wanted to draw some chestnuts out of the hot ashes, but, feeling a decided objection to burning his own paws in the operation, drew a cat to the fire and thrust her paw in."
"I don't know but it's been so in my case," said Dick. "I didn't want to do it, and that's a fact. I felt as mean as could be when I first came into your yard to-night. But he offered me two dollars to do it, and it's so seldom I see money that it tempted me."
Frank looked puzzled. "I don't see," he said thoughtfully, "how anybody should think it worth while to pay two dollars for such a piece of mischief."
"Perhaps he don't like you, and wanted to plague you," suggested Dick.
The thought at once flashed upon Frank that John Haynes must be implicated. He was the only boy who was likely to have two dollars to invest in this way, and the suggestion offered by Dick of personal enmity was sufficient to supply a motive for his action.
"I believe I know who it is, now, Dick," he said quietly. "However, I won't ask you to tell me. There is one boy in the village who thinks he has cause of complaint against me, though I have never intentionally injured him."
"What shall you do about it, Frank?" asked Dick, a little awkwardly, for he did not want his own agency made public.
"Nothing," answered Frank. "I would rather take no notice of it."
"At any rate, I hope you won't think hard of me," said Dick. "You have always treated me well, and I didn't want to trouble you. But the money tempted me. I meant to buy cigars with it."
"You don't smoke, Dick?"
"Yes, when I get a chance."
"I wouldn't if I were you. It isn't good for boys like you and me. It is an expensive habit, and injurious, too."
"I don't know but you are right, Frank," said Dick candidly.
"I know I am. You can leave off now, Dick, better than when you are older."
At this moment a voice was heard from the house, calling "Frank!"
"I came out for some herbs," said Frank hurriedly. "Jacob isn't very well, and mother is going to make him some herb tea. I won't mention that I have seen you."
"All right. Thank you, Frank."
A minute later Frank went into the house, leaving Dick by himself.
"Now," thought Dick, "I must try to remedy the mischief I have done. I'm afraid I've got a job before me."
He went round to the gap in the wall, and began to lay it again as well as he could. In lifting the heavy stones he began to realize how much easier it is to make mischief than to repair damages afterward. He pulled and tugged, but it took him a good half-hour, and by that time he felt very tired.
"My clothes must be precious dirty," he said to himself. "At any rate, my hands are. I wonder where the pump is. But then it won't do to pump; it'll make too much noise. Oh, here's some water in the trough."
Dick succeeded in getting some of the dirt off his hands, which he dried on his handkerchief. Then with a feeling of relief, he took the road toward home.
Although he may be said to have failed most signally in his design, he felt considerably better than if he had succeeded.
"Frank's a good fellow," he said to himself. "Some boys would have been mad, and made a great fuss. But he didn't seem angry at all, not even with John Haynes, and did all he could to screen me. Well I'm glad I didn't succeed."
Dick reached home without any further mischance, and succeeded in crawling in at the window without making any sound loud enough to wake up his parents.
The next day John, who had been informed of his intention to make the attempt the evening previous, contrived to meet him.
"Well, Dick," he said eagerly, "what success last night?"
"None at all," answered Dick.
"Didn't you try?"
"What prevented your succeeding, then?"
"Frank came out to get some herbs to make tea for the hired man, and so caught me."
"You didn't tell him who put you up to it?" said John apprehensively.
"No," said Dick coolly; "I don't do such things."
"That's good," said John, relieved. "Was he mad?"
"No, he didn't make any fuss. He asked what made me do it, and I told him somebody else put it into my head."
"You did! I thought you said you didn't."
"I didn't tell who that somebody was, but Frank said he could guess."
"He can't prove it," said John hastily.
"I don't think he'll try," said Dick. "The fact is, John, Frank's a good fellow, and if you want to get anybody to do him any mischief hereafter, you'd better not apply to me."
"I don't know as he's any better than other boys," said John, sneering. He did not enjoy hearing Frank's praises.
"He's better than either of us, I'm sure of that," said Dick decidedly.
"Speak for yourself, Dick Bumstead," said John haughtily. "I wouldn't lower myself by a comparison with him. He's only a laborer, and will grow up a clodhopper."
"He's my friend, John Haynes," said Dick stoutly, "and if you've got anything else to say against him, you'll oblige me by going farther off."
John left in high dudgeon.
That day, to his father's surprise, Dick worked with steady industry, and did not make a single attempt to shirk.
CHAPTER XV. POMP BEHAVES BADLY
The village of Rossville was distant about five miles from the long line of railway which binds together with iron bands the cities of New York and Boston. Only when the wind was strongly that way could the monotonous noise of the railway-train be heard, as the iron monster, with its heavy burden, sped swiftly on its way.
Lately a covered wagon had commenced running twice a day between Rossville and the railway-station at Wellington. It was started at seven in the morning, in time to meet the early trains, and again at four, in order to receive any passengers who might have left the city in the afternoon.
Occupying a central position in the village stood the tavern—a two-story building, with a long piazza running along the front. Here an extended seat was provided, on which, when the weather was not too inclement, the floating population of the village, who had plenty of leisure, and others when their work was over for the day, liked to congregate, and in neighborly chat discuss the affairs of the village, or the nation, speculating perchance upon the varying phases of the great civil contest, which, though raging hundreds of miles away, came home to the hearts and hearths of quiet Rossville and every other village and hamlet in the land.
The driver of the carriage which made its daily journeys to and fro from the station had received from his parents the rather uncommon name of Ajax, not probably from any supposed resemblance to the ancient Grecian hero, of whom it is doubtful whether his worthy progenitor had ever heard. He had been at one time a driver on a horse-car in New York, but had managed to find his way from the busy hum of the city to quiet Rossville, where he was just in time for an employment similar to the one he had given up.
One day, early in November, a young man of slight figure, apparently not far from twenty-five years of age, descended from the cars at the Wellington station and, crossing the track, passed through the small station-house to the rear platform.
"Can you tell me," he inquired of a bystander, "whether there is any conveyance between this place and Rossville?"
"Yes, sir," was the reply. "That's the regular carriage, and here's the driver. Ajax, here's a passenger for you."
"I have a trunk on the other side," said the young man, addressing the driver. "If you wild go round with me, we will bring it here."
"All right, sir," said Ajax, in a businesslike way.
The trunk was brought round and placed on the rack behind the wagon. It was a large black trunk, securely bound with brass bands, and showed marks of service, as if it had been considerably used. Two small strips of paper pasted on the side bore the custom-house marks of Havre and Liverpool. On one end was a large card, on which, written in large, bold letters, was the name of the proprietor, Henry Morton.
In five minutes the "express" got under way. The road wound partly through the woods. In some places the boughs, bending over from opposite sides, nearly met. At present the branches were nearly destitute of leaves, and the landscape looked bleak. But in the summer nothing could be more charming.
From his seat, beside Ajax, Henry Morton regarded attentively the prominent features of the landscape. His survey was interrupted by a question from the driver.
"Are you calc'latin' to make a long stay in our village?" inquired Ajax, with Yankee freedom.
"I am not quite certain. It is possible that I may."
"There isn't much goin' on in winter."
"No, I suppose not."
After a few minutes' pause, he inquired, "Can you tell me if there is a gentleman living in the village named Haynes?"
"I expect you mean Squire Haynes," said Ajax.
"Very probably he goes by that name. He was formerly a lawyer."
"Yes, that's the man. Do you know him?"
"I have heard of him," said the young man, non-committally.
"Then you ain't going to stop there?"
An expression of repugnance swept over the young man's face, as he hastily answered in the negative.
By this time they had come to a turn in the road. This brought them in view of Chloe's cottage. Little Pomp was on all fours, hunting for nuts among the fallen leaves under the shagbark-tree.
Under the influence of some freakish impulse, Pomp suddenly jumped to his feet and, whirling his arms aloft, uttered a wild whoop. Startled by the unexpected apparition, the horses gave a sudden start, and nearly succeeded in overturning the wagon.
"Massy on us!" exclaimed an old lady on the back seat, suddenly flinging her arms round young Morton's neck, in the height of her consternation.
"All right, marm," said Ajax reassuringly, after a brief but successful conflict with the horses. "We sha'n't go over this time. I should like to give that little black imp a good shaking."
"Oh, I've lost my ban'box, with my best bunnit," hastily exclaimed the old lady. "Le' me get out and find it. It was a present from my darter, Cynthy Ann, and I wouldn't lose it for a kingdom."
In truth, when prompted by her apprehension to cling to the young man in front for protection, Mrs. Payson had inadvertently dropped the bandbox out of the window, where it met with an unhappy disaster. The horse, quite unconscious of the damage he was doing, had backed the wagon in such a manner that one of the wheels passed directly over it.
When Ajax picked up the mutilated casket, which, with the jewel it contained, had suffered such irreparable injury, and restored it to its owner, great was the lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children could hardly have exhibited more poignant sorrow.
"Oh, it's sp'ilt!" groaned the old lady. "I can never wear it arter this. And it cost four dollars and sixty-two cents and a half without the ribbon. Oh, deary me!"
Then, suddenly waxing indignant with the author of the mischief, she put her head out of the window, and, espying Pomp on the other side of the stone wall, looking half-repentant and half-struck with the fun of the thing, she shook her fist at him, exclaiming, "Oh, you little sarpint, ef I only had you here, I'd w'ip you till you couldn't stan'."
Pomp was so far from being terrified by this menace that he burst into a loud guffaw. This, of course, added fuel to the flame of the old lady's wrath, and filled her with thoughts of immediate vengeance. Her sympathy with the oppressed black race was at that moment very small.
"Jest lend me your w'ip, driver," said she, "an' I'll l'arn that sassy imp to make fun of his elders."
Ajax, whose sense of humor was tickled by the old lady's peculiarities, quietly took her at her word, and coming round to the side opened the door of the carriage.
"There, ma'am," said he, extending the whip. "Don't spare him. He deserves a flogging."
Mrs. Payson, her eyes flashing from beneath her glasses with a vengeful light, seized the proffered whip with alacrity, and jumped out of the wagon with a lightness which could hardly have been anticipated of one of her age.
"Now, look out," she said, brandishing the whip in a menacing way. "I'll git pay for that bunnit in one way, ef I don't in another."
Pomp maintained his position on the other side of the wall. He waited till the old lady was fairly over, and then commenced running. The old lady pursued with vindictive animosity, cracking the whip in a suggestive manner. Pomp doubled and turned in a most provoking way. Finally he had recourse to a piece of strategy. He had flung himself, doubled up in a ball, at the old lady's feet, and she, unable to check her speed, fell over him, clutching at the ground with her outstretched hands, from which the whip had fallen.
"Hi, hi!" shrieked Pomp, with a yell of inconceivable delight, as he watched the signal downfall of his adversary. Springing quickly to his feet, he ran swiftly away.
"Good for you, you old debble!" he cried from a safe distance.
Henry Morton, though he found it difficult to restrain his laughter, turned to Ajax and said, "I think it's time we interfered. If you'll overtake the little black boy and give him a shaking up, just to keep him out of mischief hereafter, I'll go and help the old lady."
Ajax started on his errand. Pomp, now really alarmed, strove to escape from this more formidable adversary, but in vain. He was destined to receive a summary castigation.
Meanwhile, the young man approached Mrs. Payson.
"I hope you're not much hurt, madam," said he respectfully.
"I expect about every bone in my body's broke," she groaned.
Raising her to her feet, it became manifest that the damage was limited to a pair of hands begrimed by contact with the earth. Nevertheless, the old lady persisted that "something or 'nother was broke. She didn't feel quite right inside."
"I shouldn't keer so much," she added, "ef I'd caught that aggravatin' boy. I'd go fifty miles to see him hung. He'll die on the gallows, jest as sure's I stan' here."
At this moment a shrill cry was heard, which could proceed from no one but Pomp.
"Golly, Mass' Jack, don't hit so hard. Couldn't help it, sure."
"You'll have to help it the next time, you little rascal!" responded Ajax.
"Le' me go. I hope to be killed if I ever do it ag'in," pleaded Pomp, dancing about in pain.
"I hope you gin it to him," said the old lady, as the driver reappeared.
Ajax smiled grimly. "I touched him up a little," he said.
"Oh, my poor bunnit!" groaned Mrs. Payson, once more, as her eyes fell upon the crushed article. "What will Cynthy Ann say?"
"Perhaps a milliner can restore it for you," suggested Henry Morton, with an attempt at consolation.
The old lady shook her head disconsolately. "It's all jammed out of shape," she said dismally, "an' the flowers is all mashed up. Looks as ef an elephant had trodden on to it."
"As you are the only one of us that has suffered," said the young man politely, "I think it only fair that your loss should be lightened. Will you accept this toward making it good?"
He drew from his portemonnaie a five-dollar greenback, as he spoke, and offered it to Mrs. Payson.
"Are you in airnest?" inquired the old lady dubiously.
"You ain't robbin' yourself, be you?" asked Mrs. Payson, with a look of subdued eagerness lighting up her wrinkled face.
"Oh, no; I can spare it perfectly well."
"Then I'll take it," she responded, in evident gratification, "an' I'm sure I'm much obleeged to you. I'm free to confess that you're a gentleman sech as I don't often meet with. I wouldn't take it on no account, only the loss is considerable for me, and Cynthy Ann, she would have been disapp'inted if so be as I hadn't worn the bunnit. I'd like to know who it is that I'm so much obligated to."
Henry Morton drew a card from his card-case and handed it with a bow to Mrs. Payson.
"What's that?" asked the old lady.
"Le's see, where's my specs?" said Mrs. Payson, fumbling in her pocket. "Oh, I've got 'em on. So your name's Herod. What made 'em call you that?"
"Henry, madam—Henry Morton."
"Well, so 'tis, I declare. You ain't related to Nahum Morton, of Gilead, be you; he that was put into the State's prison for breakin' open the Gilead Bank?"
An amused smile overspread the young man's face.
"I never had any relatives sent to the State's prison," he answered; "though I think it quite possible that some of them may have deserved it."
"Jest so," assented the old lady. "There's a good deal of iniquity that never comes to light. I once know'd a woman that killed her husband with the tongs, and nobody ever surmised it; though everybody thought it strange that he should disappear so suddint. Well, this woman on her death-bed owned up to the tongs in a crazy fit that she had. But the most cur'us part of it," the old lady added rather illogically, "was, that the man was livin' all the while, and it was all his wife's fancy that she'd struck him with the tongs."
By this time the "express" had rumbled into the main street of Rossville, and the old lady had hardly completed her striking illustration of the truth, that murder will out, before they had drawn up in front of the tavern.
"Ain't you a-goin' to carry me to my darter's house?" she inquired with solicitude. "I can't walk noway."
"Yes, ma'am," answered Ajax, "directly, just as soon as this gentleman's got out, and they've taken the mail."
He tossed the mail-bag to a small boy who stood on the piazza in waiting to receive it, and then, whipping up his horses, speedily conveyed Mrs. Payson to her destination.
"He's a very nice, obleeging young man," said the old lady, referring to Henry Morton. "I wonder ef his mother was a Bent. There's old Micajah Bent's third daughter, Roxana Jane, married a Morton, or it might have been a Moulton. Ever see him afore?"
"No, ma'am. Here you are."
"So I be! and there's Reuben at the gate. How are ye all? Jest take this carpetbag, will ye, and I'll give you a cent some time or 'nother."
Reuben did not appear much elated by this promise. It had been made too many times without fulfilment.
The old lady having reached her destination, we take leave of her for the present, promising to resume her acquaintance in subsequent chapters.
CHAPTER XVI. FRANK MAKES A FRIEND
Henry Morton rose with the sun. This was not so early as may be supposed, for already November had touched its middle point, and the tardy sun did not make its appearance till nearly seven o'clock. As he passed through the hall he noticed that breakfast was not quite ready.
"A little walk will sharpen my appetite," he thought. He put on his hat, and, passing through the stable-yard at the rear, climbed over a fence and ascended a hill which he had observed from his chamber window. The sloping sides, which had not yet wholly lost their appearance of verdure, were dotted with trees, mostly apple-trees.
"It must be delightful in summer," said the young man, as he looked thoughtfully about him.
The hill was by no means high, and five minutes' walk brought him to the summit. From this spot he had a fine view of the village which lay at his feet embowered in trees. A narrow river wound like a silver thread through the landscape. Groups of trees on either bank bent over as if to see themselves reflected in the rapid stream. At one point a dam had been built across from bank to bank, above which the river widened and deepened, affording an excellent skating-ground for the boys in the cold days of December and January. A whirring noise was heard. The grist-mill had just commenced its work for the day. Down below the dam the shallow water eddied and whirled, breaking in fleecy foam over protuberant rocks which lay in the river-bed.
The old village church with its modest proportions occupied a knoll between the hill and the river. It was girdled about with firs intermingled with elms. Near-by was a small triangular common, thickly planted with trees, each facing a separate street. Houses clustered here and there. Comfortable buildings they were, but built evidently rather for use than show. The architect had not yet come to the assistance of the village carpenter.
Seen in the cheering light of the rising sun, Henry Morton could not help feeling that a beautiful picture was spread out before him.
"After all," he said thoughtfully, "we needn't go abroad for beauty, when we can find so much of it at our own doors. Yet, perhaps the more we see of the beautiful, the better we are fitted to appreciate it in the wonderful variety of its numberless forms."
He slowly descended the hill, but in a different direction. This brought him to the road that connected the village with North Rossville, two miles distant.
Coming from a different direction, a boy reached the stile about the same time with himself, and both clambered over together.
"It is a beautiful morning," said the young man courteously.
"Yes, sir," was the respectful answer. "Have you been up looking at the view?"
"Yes—and to get an appetite for breakfast. And you?"
Frank Frost—for it was he—laughed. "Oh, I am here on quite a different errand," he said. "I used to come here earlier in the season to drive the cows to pasture. I come this morning to carry some milk to a neighbor who takes it of us. She usually sends for it, but her son is just now sick with the measles."
"Yet I think you cannot fail to enjoy the pleasant morning, even if you are here for other purposes."
"I do enjoy it very much," said Frank. "When I read of beautiful scenery in other countries, I always wish that I could visit them, and see for myself."
"Perhaps you will some day."
Frank smiled, and shook his head incredulously. "I am afraid there is not much chance of it," he said.
"So I thought when I was of your age," returned Henry Morton.
"Then you have traveled?" said Frank, looking interested.
"Yes. I have visited most of the countries of Europe."
"Have you been in Rome?" inquired Frank.
"Yes. Are you interested in Rome?"
"Who could help it, sir? I should like to see the Capitol, and the Via Sacra, and the Tarpeian Rock, and the Forum—and, in fact, Rome must be full of objects of interest. Who knows but I might tread where Cicero, and Virgil, and Caesar had trodden before me?"
Henry Morton looked at the boy who stood beside him with increased interest. "I see you are quite a scholar," he said. "Where did you learn about all these men and places?"
"I have partly prepared for college," answered Frank; "but my father went to the war some weeks since, and I am staying at home to take charge of the farm, and supply his place as well as I can."
"It must have been quite a sacrifice to you to give up your studies?" said his companion.
"Yes, sir, it was a great sacrifice; but we must all of us sacrifice something in these times. Even the boys can do something for their country."
"What is your name?" asked Henry Morton, more and more pleased with his chance acquaintance. "I should like to become better acquainted with you."
Frank blushed, and his expressive face showed that he was gratified by the compliment.
"My name is Frank Frost," he answered, "and I live about half a mile from here."
"And I am Henry Morton. I am stopping temporarily at the hotel. Shall you be at leisure this evening, Frank?"
"Then I should be glad to receive a call from you. I have no acquaintances, and perhaps we may help each other to make the evening pass pleasantly. I have some pictures collected abroad, which I think you might like to look at."
"I shall be delighted to come," said Frank, his eyes sparkling with pleasure.
By this time they had reached the church, which was distant but a few rods from the hotel. They had just turned the corner of the road, when the clang of a bell was heard.
"I suppose that is my breakfast-bell," said the young man. "It finds me with a good appetite. Good morning, Frank. I will expect you, then, this evening."
Frank returned home, feeling quite pleased with his invitation.
"I wish," thought he, "that I might see considerable of Mr. Morton. I could learn a great deal from him, he has seen so much."
His road led him past the house of Squire Haynes. John was sauntering about the yard with his hands in his pockets.
"Good morning, John," said Frank, in a pleasant voice.
John did not seem inclined to respond to this politeness. On seeing Frank he scowled, and without deigning to make a reply turned his back and went into the house. He had not forgotten the last occasion on which they had met in the woods, when Frank defeated his cruel designs upon poor Pomp. There was not much likelihood that he would forget it very soon.
"I can't understand John," thought Frank. "The other boys will get mad and get over it before the next day; John broods over it for weeks. I really believe he hates me. But, of course, I couldn't act any differently. I wasn't going to stand by and see Pomp beaten. I should do just the same again."
The day wore away, and in the evening Frank presented himself at the hotel, and inquired for Mr. Morton. He was ushered upstairs, and told to knock at the door of a room in the second story.
His knock was answered by the young man in person, who shook his hand with a pleasant smile, and invited him in.
"I am glad to see you, Frank," he said, very cordially.
"And I am much obliged to you for inviting me, Mr. Morton."
They sat down together beside the table, and conversed on a variety of topics. Frank had numberless questions to ask about foreign scenes and countries, all of which were answered with the utmost readiness. Henry Morton brought out a large portfolio containing various pictures, some on note-paper, representing scenes in different parts of Europe.
The evening wore away only too rapidly for Frank. He had seldom passed two hours so pleasantly. At half-past nine, he rose, and said half-regretfully, "I wish you were going to live in the village this winter, Mr. Morton."
The young man smiled. "Such is my intention, Frank," he said quietly.
"Shall you stay?" said Frank joyfully. "I suppose you will board here?"
"I should prefer a quieter boarding-place. Can you recommend one?"
"Where," continued Mr. Morton, "I could enjoy the companionship of an intelligent young gentleman of your age?"
"If we lived nearer the village," Frank began, and stopped abruptly.
"Half a mile would be no objection to me. As I don't think you will find it unpleasant, Frank, I will authorize you to offer your mother five dollars a week for a room and a seat at her table."
"I am quite sure she would be willing, Mr. Morton, but I am afraid we should not live well enough to suit you. And I don't think you ought to pay so much as five dollars a week."
"Leave that to me, Frank. My main object is to obtain a pleasant home; and that I am sure I should find at your house."
"Thank you, sir," said Frank; "I will mention it to my mother, and let you know in the course of to-morrow."
CHAPTER XVII. A SHADE OF MYSTERY
Frank found little difficulty in persuading his mother to accept young Morton's proposition. From her son's description she felt little doubt that he would be a pleasant addition to the family circle, while his fund of information would make him instructive as well as agreeable.
There was another consideration besides which determined her to take him. Five dollars a week would go a great way in housekeeping, or, rather, as their income from other sources would probably be sufficient for this, she could lay aside the entire amount toward paying the mortgage held by Squire Haynes. This plan occurred simultaneously to Frank and his mother.
"I should certainly feel myself to blame if I neglected so good an opportunity of helping your father," said Mrs. Frost.
"Suppose we don't tell him, mother," suggested Frank; "but when he gets home surprise him with the amount of our savings."
"No," said Mrs. Frost, after a moment's thought, "your father will be all the better for all the good news we can send him. It will make his life more tolerable."
Frank harnessed his horse to a light wagon and drove down to the tavern.
Henry Morton was sitting on the piazza, as the day was unusually-warm, with a book in his hand.
"Well," he said, looking up with a smile, "I hope you have come for me."
"That is my errand, Mr. Morton," answered Frank. "If your trunk is already packed, we will take it along with us."
"It is quite ready. If you will come up and help me downstairs with it, I will settle with the landlord and leave at once."
This was speedily arranged, and the young man soon occupied a seat beside Frank.
Arrived at the farmhouse, Frank introduced the new boarder to his mother.
"I hope we shall be able to make you comfortable," said Mrs. Frost, in a hospitable tone.
"I entertain no doubt of it," he said politely. "I am easy to suit, and I foresee that Frank and I will become intimate friends."
"He was very urgent to have you come. I am not quite sure whether it would have been safe for me to refuse."
"I hope he will be as urgent to have me stay. That will be a still higher compliment."
"Here is the room you are to occupy, Mr. Morton," said Mrs. Frost, opening a door at the head of the front stairs.
It was a large square room, occupying the front eastern corner of the house. The furniture was neat and comfortable, though not pretentious.
"I like this," said the young man, surveying his new quarters with an air of satisfaction. "The sun will find me out in the morning."
"Yes, it will remain with you through the forenoon. I think you will find the room warm and comfortable. But whenever you get tired of it you will be welcome downstairs."
"That is an invitation of which I shall be only too glad to avail myself. Now, Frank, if you will be kind enough to help me upstairs with my trunk."
The trunk was carried up between them, and placed in a closet.
"I will send for a variety of articles from the city to make my room look social and cheerful," said Mr. Morton. "I have some books and engravings in Boston, which I think will contribute to make it so."
A day or two later, two large boxes arrived, one containing pictures, the other books. Of the latter there were perhaps a hundred and fifty, choice and well selected.
Frank looked at them with avidity.
"You shall be welcome to use them as freely as you like," said the owner—an offer which Frank gratefully accepted.
The engravings were tastefully framed in black walnut. One represented one of Raphael's Madonnas. Another was a fine photograph, representing a palace in Venice. Several others portrayed foreign scenes. Among them was a street scene in Rome. An entire family were sitting in different postures on the portico of a fine building, the man with his swarthy features half-concealed under a slouch hat, the woman holding a child in her lap, while another, a boy with large black eyes, leaned his head upon her knees.
"That represents a Roman family at home," explained Henry Morton.
"Yes, it is the only home they have. They sleep wherever night finds them, sheltering themselves from the weather as well as they can."
"But how do they get through the winter? should think they would freeze."
"Nature has bestowed upon Italy a mild climate, so that, although they may find the exposure at this season disagreeable, they are in no danger of freezing."
There was another engraving which Frank looked at curiously. It represented a wagon laden with casks of wine, and drawn by an ox and a donkey yoked together. Underneath was a descriptive phrase, "Caro di vino."
"You don't see such teams in this country," said Mr. Morton, smiling. "In Italy they are common enough. In the background you notice a priest with a shovel-hat, sitting sideways on a donkey. Such a sight is much more common there than that of a man on horseback. Indeed, this stubborn animal is found very useful in ascending and descending mountains, being much surer-footed than the horse. I have ridden down steep descents along the verge of a precipice where it would have been madness to venture on horseback, but I felt the strongest confidence in the donkey I bestrode."
Frank noticed a few Latin books in the collection. "Do you read Latin, Mr. Morton?" he inquired.
"Yes, with tolerable ease. If I can be of any assistance to you in carrying on your Latin studies, it will afford me pleasure to do so."
"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Morton. I tried to go on with it by myself, but every now and then I came to a difficult sentence which I could not make out."
"I think we can overcome the difficulties between us. At any rate, we will try. Have no hesitation in applying to me."
Before closing this chapter, I think it necessary to narrate a little incident which served to heighten the interest with which Frank regarded his new friend, though it involved the latter in a shadow of mystery.
Mrs. Frost did not keep what in New England is denominated "help." Being in good health, she performed the greater part of her household tasks unassisted. When washing and house-cleaning days came, however, she obtained outside assistance. For this purpose she engaged Chloe to come twice a week, on Monday and Saturday, not only because in this way she could help the woman to earn a living, but also because she found her a valuable and efficient assistant.
Henry Morton became a member of the little household at the farm on Thursday, and two days later Chloe came as usual to "clean house."
The young man was standing in the front yard as Chloe, with a white turban on her head, for she had not yet laid aside her Southern mode of dress, came from the street by a little path which led to the back door. Her attention was naturally drawn to the young man. No sooner did she obtain a full view of him, than she stopped short and exclaimed with every appearance of surprise, "Why, Mass' Richard, who'd'a' thought to see you here. You look just like you used to do, dat's a fac'. It does my old eyes good to see you."
Henry Morton turned suddenly.
"What, Chloe!" he exclaimed in equal surprise. "What brings you up here? I thought you were miles away, in Virginia."
"So I was, Mass' Richard. But Lor' bless you, when de Linkum sogers come, I couldn't stay no longer. I took and runned away."
"And here you are, then."
"Yes, Mass' Richard, here I is, for sure."
"How do you like the North, Chloe?"
"Don't like it as well as de Souf. It's too cold," and Chloe shivered.
"But you would rather be here than there?"
"Yes, Mass' Richard. Here I own myself. Don't have no oberseer to crack his whip at me now. I'se a free woman now, and so's my little Pomp."
The young man smiled at the innocent mistake.
"Pomp is your little boy, I suppose, Chloe."
"Yes, Mass' Richard."
"Is he a good boy?"
"He's as sassy as de debble," said Chloe emphatically. "I don't know what's goin' to 'come of dat boy. He's most worried my life out."
"Oh, he'll grow better as he grows older. Don't trouble yourself about him. But, Chloe, there's one favor I am going to ask of you."
"Yes, Mass' Richard."
"Don't call me by my real name. For some reasons, which I can't at present explain, I prefer to be known as Henry Morton, for some months to come. Do you think you can remember to call me by that name?"
"Yes, Mass'—Henry," said Chloe, looking perplexed.
Henry Morton turned round to meet the surprised looks of Frank and his mother.
"My friends," he said, "I hope you will not feel distrustful of me, when I freely acknowledge to you that imperative reasons compel me for a time to appear under a name not my own. Chloe and I are old acquaintances, but I must request her to keep secret for a time her past knowledge concerning me. I think," he added with a smile, "that she would have nothing to say that would damage me. Some time you shall know all. Are you satisfied?"
"Quite so," said Mrs. Frost. "I have no doubt you have good and sufficient reason."
"I will endeavor to justify your confidence," said Henry Morton, an expression of pleasure lighting up his face.
CHAPTER XVIII. THANKSGIVING AT THE FARM
The chill November days drew to a close. The shrill winds whistled through the branches of the trees, and stirred the leaves which lay in brown heaps upon the ground. But at the end of the month came Thanksgiving—the farmer's Harvest Home. The fruits of the field were in abundance but in many a home there were vacant chairs, never more, alas! to be filled. But he who dies in a noble cause leaves sweet and fragrant memories behind, which shall ever after make it pleasant to think of him.
Thanksgiving morning dawned foggy and cold. Yet there is something in the name that warms the heart and makes the dullest day seem bright. The sunshine of the heart more than compensates for the absence of sunshine without.
Frank had not been idle.
The night before he helped Jacob kill a turkey and a pair of chickens, and seated on a box in the barn they had picked them clean in preparation for the morrow.
Within the house, too, might be heard the notes of busy preparation. Alice, sitting in a low chair, was busily engaged in chopping meat for mince pies. Maggie sat near her paring pumpkins, for a genuine New England Thanksgiving cannot be properly celebrated without pumpkin pies. Even little Charlie found work to do in slicing apples.
By evening a long row of pies might be seen upon the kitchen dresser. Brown and flaky they looked, fit for the table of a prince. So the children thought as they surveyed the attractive array, and felt that Thanksgiving, come as often as it might, could never be unwelcome.
Through the forenoon of Thanksgiving day the preparations continued. Frank and Mr. Morton went to the village church, where an appropriate service was held by Reverend Mr. Apthorp. There were but few of the village matrons present. They were mostly detained at home by housewifely cares, which on that day could not well be delegated to other hands.
"Mr. Morton," said Frank, as they walked leisurely home, "did you notice how Squire Haynes stared at you this morning?"
Mr. Morton looked interested. "Did he?" he asked. "I did not notice."
"Yes, he turned halfround, and looked at you with a puzzled expression, as if he thought he had seen you somewhere before, but could not recall who you were."
"Perhaps I reminded him of some one he has known in past years," said the young man quietly. "We sometimes find strange resemblances in utter strangers."
"I think he must have felt quite interested," pursued Frank, "for he stopped me after church, and inquired who you were."
"Indeed!" said Henry Morton quietly. "And what did you tell him?"
"I told him your name, and mentioned that you were boarding with us."
"What then? Did he make any further inquiries?"
"He asked where you came from."
"He seemed quite curious about me. I ought to feel flattered. And what did you reply?"
"I told him I did not know—that I only knew that part of your life had been passed in Europe. I heard him say under his breath, 'It is singular.'"
"Frank," said Mr. Morton, after a moment's thought, "I wish to have Squire Haynes learn as little of me as possible. If, therefore, he should ask you how I am employed, you say that I have come here for the benefit of my health. This is one of my motives, though not the principal one."
"I will remember," said Frank. "I don't think he will say much to me, however. He has a grudge against father, and his son does not like me. I am sorry that father is compelled to have some business relations with the squire."
"Yes, he holds a mortgage on our farm for eight hundred dollars. It was originally more, but it has been reduced to this. He will have the right to foreclose on the first of July."
"Shall you have the money ready for him at that time?"
"No; we may have half enough, perhaps. I am sometimes troubled when I think of it. Father feels confident, however, that the squire will not be hard upon us, but will renew the mortgage."
Henry Morton looked very thoughtful, but said nothing.
They had now reached the farmhouse.
Dinner was already on the table. In the center, on a large dish, was the turkey, done to a turn. It was flanked by the chickens on a smaller dish. These were supported by various vegetables, such as the season supplied. A dish of cranberry sauce stood at one end of the table, and at the opposite end a dish of apple sauce.
"Do you think you can carve the turkey, Mr. Morton?" asked Mrs. Frost.
"I will at least make the attempt."
"I want the wish-bone, Mr. Morton," said Maggie.
"No, I want it," said Charlie.
"You shall both have one," said the mother. "Luckily each of the chickens is provided with one."
"I know what I am going to wish," said Charlie, nodding his head with decision.
"Well, Charlie, what is it?" asked Frank.
"I shall wish that papa may come home safe."
"And so will I," said Maggie.
"I wish he might sit down with us to-day," said Mrs. Frost, with a little sigh. "He has never before been absent from us on Thanksgiving day."
"Was he well when you last heard from him?"
"Yes, but hourly expecting orders to march to join the army in Maryland. I am afraid he won't get as good a Thanksgiving dinner as this."
"Two years ago," said Mr. Morton, "I ate my Thanksgiving dinner in Amsterdam."
"Do they have Thanksgiving there, Mr. Morton?" inquired Alice.
"No, they know nothing of our good New England festival. I was obliged to order a special dinner for myself. I don't think you would have recognized plum pudding under the name which they gave it."
"What was it?" asked Frank curiously.
"Blom buden was the name given on the bill."
"I can spell better than that," said Charlie.
"We shall have to send you out among the Dutchmen as a schoolmaster plenipotentiary," said Frank, laughing. "I hope the 'blom buden' was good in spite of the way it was spelt."
"Yes, it was very good."
"I don't believe it beat mother's," said Charlie.
"At your present rate of progress, Charlie, you won't leave room for any," said Frank.
"I wish I had two stomachs," said Charlie, looking regretfully at the inviting delicacies which tempted him with what the French call the embarrassment of riches.
"Well done, Charlie!" laughed his mother.
Dinner was at length over. Havoc and desolation reigned upon the once well-filled table.
In the evening, as they all sat together round the table, Maggie climbed on Mr. Morton's knee and petitioned for a story.
"What shall it be about?" he asked.
"Let me think a moment," said the young man.
He bent his eyes thoughtfully upon the wood-fire that crackled in the wide-open fireplace, and soon signified that he was ready to begin.
All the children gathered around him, and even Mrs. Frost, sitting quietly at her knitting, edged her chair a little nearer, that she, too, might listen to Mr. Morton's story. As this was of some length, we shall devote to it a separate chapter.
CHAPTER XIX. THE WONDERFUL TRANSFORMATION
"My story," commenced Mr. Morton, "is rather a remarkable one in some respects; and I cannot vouch for its being true. I shall call it 'The Wonderful Transformation.'
"Thomas Tubbs was a prosperous little tailor, and for forty years had been a resident of the town of Webbington, where he had been born and brought up. I have called him little, and you will agree with me when I say that, even in high-heeled boots, which he always wore, he measured only four feet and a half in height.
"In spite, however, of his undersize, Thomas had succeeded in winning the hand of a woman fifteen inches taller than himself. If this extra height had been divided equally between them, possibly they might have attracted less observation. As it was, when they walked to church, the top of the little tailor's beaver just about reached the shoulders of Mrs. Tubbs. Nevertheless, they managed to live very happily together, for the most part, though now and then, when Thomas was a little refractory, his better half would snatch him up bodily, and, carrying him to the cellar, lock him up there. Such little incidents only served to spice their domestic life, and were usually followed by a warm reconciliation.
"The happy pair had six children, all of whom took after their mother, and promised to be tall; the oldest boy, twelve years of age, being already taller than his father, or, rather, he would have been but for the tall hat and high-heeled boots.
"Mr. Tubbs was a tailor, as I have said. One day there came into his shop a man attired with extreme shabbiness. Thomas eyed him askance.
"'Mr. Tubbs,' said the stranger, 'as you perceive, I am out at the elbows. I would like to get you to make me up a suit of clothes.'
"'Ahem!' coughed Thomas, and glanced upward at a notice affixed to the door, 'Terms, Cash.'
"The stranger's eye followed the direction of Mr. Tubbs'. He smiled.
"'I frankly confess,' he said, 'that I shall not be able to pay immediately, but, if I live, I will pay you within six months.'
"'How am I to feel sure of that?' asked the tailor, hesitating.
"'I pledge my word,' was the reply. 'You see, Mr. Tubbs, I have been sick for some time past, and that, of course, has used up my money. Now, thank Providence, I am well again, and ready to go to work. But I need clothes, as you see, before I have the ability to pay for them.'
"'What's your name?' asked Thomas.
"'Oswald Rudenheimer,' was the reply.
"'As you may suppose. Now, Mr. Tubbs, what do you say? Do you think you can trust me?'
"Thomas examined the face of his visitor. He looked honest, and the little tailor had a good deal of confidence in the excellence of human nature.
"'I may be foolish,' he said at last, 'but I'll do it.'
"'A thousand thanks!' said the stranger. 'You sha'n't repent of it.'
"The cloth was selected, and Thomas set to work. In three days the suit was finished, and Thomas sat in his shop waiting for his customer. At last he came, but what a change! He was splendidly dressed. The little tailor hardly recognized him.
"'Mr. Tubbs,' said he, 'you're an honest man and a good fellow. You trusted me when I appeared penniless, but I deceived you. I am really one of the genii, of whom, perhaps, you have read, and lineally descended from those who guarded Solomon's seal. Instead of making you wait for your pay, I will recompense you on the spot, either in money or——'
"'Or what? asked the astonished tailor.
"'Or I will grant the first wish that may be formed in your mind. Now choose.'
"Thomas did not take long to choose. His charge would amount to but a few dollars, while he might wish for a million. He signified his decision.
"'Perhaps you have chosen wisely,' said his visitor. 'But mind that you are careful about your wish. You may wish for something you don't want.'
"'No fear of that,' said the tailor cheerfully.
"'At any rate, I will come this way six months hence, and should you then wish to be released from the consequences of your wish, and to receive instead the money stipulated as the price of the suit, I will give you the chance.'
"Of course, Thomas did not object, though he considered it rather a foolish proposition.
"His visitor disappeared, and the tailor was left alone. He laid aside his work. How could a man be expected to work who had only to wish, and he could come into possession of more than he could earn in a hundred or even a thousand years?
"'I might as well enjoy myself a little,' thought Mr. Tubbs. 'Let me see. I think there is a show in the village to-day. I'll go to it.'
"He accordingly slipped on his hat and went out, somewhat to the surprise of his wife, who concluded that her husband must be going out on business.
"Thomas Tubbs wended his way to the marketplace. He pressed in among the people, a crowd of whom had already assembled to witness the show. I cannot tell you what the show was. I am only concerned in telling you what Thomas Tubbs saw and did; and, to tell the plain truth, he didn't see anything at all. He was wedged in among people a foot or two taller than himself. Now, it is not pleasant to hear all about you laughing heartily and not even catch a glimpse of what amuses them so much. Thomas Tubbs was human, and as curious as most people. Just as a six-footer squeezed in front of him he could not help framing, in his vexation, this wish:
"'Oh, dear! I wish I were ten feet high!'
"Luckless Thomas Tubbs! Never had he framed a more unfortunate wish. On the instant he shot up from an altitude of four feet six to ten feet. Fortunately his clothes expanded proportionally. So, instead of being below the medium height, he was raised more than four feet above it.
"Of course, his immediate neighbors became aware of the gigantic presence, though they did not at all recognize its identity with the little tailor, Thomas Tubbs.
"At once there was a shout of terror. The crowd scattered in all directions, forgetting the spectacle at which, the moment before, they had been laughing heartily, and the little tailor, no longer little, was left alone in the market-place.
"'Good heavens!' he exclaimed in bewilderment, stretching out his brawny arm, nearly five feet in length, and staring at it in ludicrous astonishment, 'who'd have thought that I should ever be so tall?'
"To tell the truth, the little man—I mean Mr. Tubbs—at first rather enjoyed his new magnitude. He had experienced mortification so long on account of his diminutive stature, that he felt a little exhilarated at the idea of being able to look down on those to whom he had hitherto felt compelled to look up. It was rather awkward to have people afraid of him. As he turned to leave the square, for the exhibitor of the show had run off in the general panic, he could see people looking at him from third-story windows, and pointing at him with outstretched fingers and mouths agape.
"'Really,' thought Thomas Tubbs, 'I never expected to be such an object of interest. I think I'll go home.'
"His house was a mile off, but so large were his strides that five minutes carried him to it.
"Now Mrs. Tubbs was busy putting the dinner on the table, and wondering why her husband did not make his appearance. She was fully determined to give him a scolding in case his delay was so great as to cause the dinner to cool. All at once she heard a bustle at the door. Looking into the entry, she saw a huge man endeavoring to make his entrance into the house. As the portal was only seven feet in height, it was not accomplished without a great deal of twisting and squirming.
"Mrs. Tubbs turned pale.
"'What are you trying to do, you monster?' she faltered.
"'I have come home to dinner, Mary,' was the meek reply.
"'Come home to dinner!' exclaimed Mrs. Tubbs, aghast. 'Who in the name of wonder are you, you overgrown brute?'
"'Who am I? asked the giant, smiling feebly, for he began to feel a little queer at this reception from the wife with whom he had lived for fifteen years. 'Ha! ha! don't you know your own husband—your Tommy?'
"'My husband!' exclaimed Mrs. Tubbs, astonished at the fellow's impudence. 'You, don't mean to say that you are my husband?'
"'Of course I am,' said Thomas.
"'Then,' said Mrs. Tubbs, 'I would have you know that my husband is a respectable little man, not half your size.'
"'Oh, dear!' thought Thomas. 'Well, here's a kettle of fish; my own wife won't own me!'
"'So I was,' he said aloud. 'I was only four feet six; but I've—I've grown.'
"'Grown!' Mrs. Tubbs laughed hysterically. 'That's a likely story, when it's only an hour since my husband went into the street as short as ever. I only wish he'd come in, I do, to expose your imposition.'
"'But I have grown, Mary,' said Tubbs piteously. 'I was out in the crowd, and I couldn't see what was going on, and so I wished I was ten feet high; and, before I knew it, I was as tall as I am now.'
"'No doubt,' said Mrs. Tubbs incredulously, 'As to that, all I've got to say is, that you'd better wish yourself back again, as I sha'n't own you as my husband till you do!'
"'Really,' thought Mr. Tubbs, 'this is dreadful! What can I do!'
"Just then one of his children ran into the room.
"'Johnny, come to me,' said his father imploringly. 'Come to your father.'
"'My father!' said Johnny, shying out of the room. 'You ain't my father. My father isn't as tall as a tree.'
"'You see how absurd your claim is,' said Mrs. Tubbs. 'You'll oblige me by leaving the house directly.'
"'Leave the house—my house!' said Tubbs.
"'If you don't, I'll call in the neighbors,' said the courageous woman.
"'I don't believe they'd dare to come,' said Tubbs, smiling queerly at the recollection of what a sensation his appearance had made.
"'Won't you go?'
"'At least you'll let me have some dinner. I am 'most famished.'
"'Dinner!" said Mrs. Tubbs, hesitating. 'I don't think there's enough in the house. However, you can sit down to the table.'
"Tubbs attempted to sit down on a chair, but his weight was so great that it was crushed beneath him. Finally, he was compelled to sit on the floor, and even then his stature was such that his head rose to the height of six feet.
"What an enormous appetite he had, too! The viands on the table seemed nothing. He at first supplied his plate with the usual quantity; but as the extent of his appetite became revealed to him, he was forced to make away with everything on the table. Even then he was hungry.
"'Well, I declare,' thought Mrs. Tubbs, in amazement, 'it does take an immense quantity to keep him alive!'
"Tubbs rose from the table, and, in doing so, hit his head a smart whack against the ceiling. Before leaving the house he turned to make a last appeal to his wife, who, he could not help seeing, was anxious to have him go.
"'Won't you own me, Mary?' he asked. 'It isn't my fault that I am so big.'
"'Own you!' exclaimed his wife. 'I wouldn't own you for a mint of money. You'd eat me out of house and home in less than a week.'
"'I don't know but I should,' said Mr. Tubbs mournfully. 'I don't see what gives me such an appetite. I'm hungry now.'
"'Hungry, after you've eaten enough for six!' exclaimed his wife, aghast. 'Well, I never!'
"'Then you won't let me stay, Mary?'
"With slow and sad strides Thomas Tubbs left the house. The world seemed dark enough to the poor fellow. Not only was he disowned by his wife and children, but he could not tell how he should ever earn enough to keep him alive, with the frightful appetite which he now possessed. 'I don't know,' he thought, 'but the best way is to drown myself at once.' So he walked to the river, but found it was not deep enough to drown him.
"As he emerged from the river uncomfortably wet, he saw a man timidly approaching him. It proved to be the manager of the show.
"'Hello!' said he hesitatingly.
"'Hello!' returned Tubbs disconsolately.
"'Would you like to enter into a business engagement with me?'
"'Of what sort?' asked Tubbs, brightening up.
"'To be exhibited,' was the reply. 'You're the largest man living in the world. We could make a pretty penny together.'
"Tubbs was glad enough to accept this proposition, which came to him like a plank to a drowning man. Accordingly an agreement was made that, after deducting expenses, he should share profits with the manager.
"It proved to be a great success. From all quarters people flocked to see the great prodigy, the wonder of the world, as he was described in huge posters. Scientific men wrote learned papers in which they strove to explain his extraordinary height, and, as might be expected, no two assigned the same cause.
"At the end of six months Tubbs had five thousand dollars as his share of the profits. But after all he was far from happy. He missed the society of his wife and children, and shed many tears over his separation from them.
"At the end of six months his singular customer again made his appearance.
"'It seems to me you've altered some since I last saw you,' he said, with a smile.
"'Yes,' said Tubbs dolefully.
"'You don't like the change, I judge?'
"'No,' said Tubbs. 'It separates me from my wife and children, and that makes me unhappy.'
"'Would you like to be changed back again!'
"'Gladly,' was the reply.
"Presto! the wonderful giant was changed back into the little tailor. No sooner was this effected than he returned post-haste to Webbington. His wife received him with open arms.
"'Oh, Thomas,' she exclaimed, 'how could you leave us so? On the day of your disappearance a huge brute of a man came here and pretended to be you, but I soon sent him away.'
"Thomas wisely said nothing, but displayed his five thousand dollars. There was great joy in the little dwelling. Thomas Tubbs at once took a larger shop, and grew every year in wealth and public esteem. The only way in which he did not grow was in stature; but his six months' experience as a giant had cured him of any wish of that sort. The last I heard of him was his election to the legislature."
"That's a bully story," said Charlie, using a word which he had heard from older boys. "I wish I was a great tall giant."
"What would you do if you were, Charlie?"
"I'd go and fight the rebels," said Charlie manfully.
CHAPTER XX. POMP'S EDUCATION COMMENCES
In the season of leisure from farm work which followed, Frank found considerable time for study. The kind sympathy and ready assistance given by Mr. Morton made his task a very agreeable one, and his progress for a time was as rapid as if he had remained at school.
He also assumed the office of teacher, having undertaken to give a little elementary instruction to Pomp. Here his task was beset with difficulties. Pomp was naturally bright, but incorrigibly idle. His activity was all misdirected and led him into a wide variety of mischief. He had been sent to school, but his mischievous propensities had so infected the boys sitting near him that the teacher had been compelled to request his removal.
Three times in the week, during the afternoon, Pomp came over to the farm for instruction. On the first of these occasions we will look in upon him and his teacher.
Pomp is sitting on a cricket by the kitchen fire. He has a primer open before him at the alphabet. His round eyes are fixed upon the page as long as Frank is looking at him, but he requires constant watching. His teacher sits near-by, with a Latin dictionary resting upon a light stand before him, and a copy of Virgil's Aeneid in his hand.
"Well, Pomp, do you think you know your lesson?" he asks.
"Dunno, Mass' Frank; I reckon so."
"You may bring your book to me, and I will try you."
Pomp rose from his stool and sidled up to Frank with no great alacrity.
"What's that letter, Pomp?" asked the young teacher, pointing out the initial letter of the alphabet.
Pomp answered correctly.
"And what is the next?"
Pomp shifted from one foot to the other, and stared vacantly out of the window, but said nothing.
"Don't you know?"
"'Pears like I don't 'member him, Mass' Frank."
Here Frank had recourse to a system of mnemonics frequently resorted to by teachers in their extremity.
"What's the name of the little insect that stings people sometimes, Pomp?"
"Wasp, Mass' Frank," was the confident reply.
"No, I don't mean that. I mean the bee."
"Yes, Mass' Frank."
"Well, this is B."
Pomp looked at it attentively, and, after a pause, inquired, "Where's him wings, Mass' Frank?"
Frank bit his lips to keep from laughing. "I don't mean that this is a bee that makes honey," he explained, "only it has the same name. Now do you think you can remember how it is called?" "Bumblebee!" repeated Pomp triumphantly.
Pomp's error was corrected, and the lesson proceeded.
"What is the next letter?" asked Frank, indicating it with the point of his knife-blade.
"X," answered the pupil readily.
"No, Pomp," was the dismayed reply. "It is very different from X."
"Dat's him name at school," said Pomp positively.
"No, Pomp, you are mistaken. That is X, away down there."
"Perhaps him change his name," suggested Pomp.
"No. The letters never change their names. I don't think you know your lesson, Pomp. just listen to me while I tell you the names of some of the letters, and try to remember them."
When this was done, Pomp was directed to sit down on the cricket, and study his lesson for twenty Minutes, at the end of which he might again recite.
Pomp sat down, and for five minutes seemed absorbed in his book. Then, unfortunately, the cat walked into the room, and soon attracted the attention of the young student. He sidled from his seat so silently that Frank did not hear him. He was soon made sensible that Pomp was engaged in some mischief by hearing a prolonged wail of anguish from the cat.
Looking up, he found that his promising pupil had tied her by the leg to a chair, and under these circumstances was amusing himself by pinching her tail.
"What are you doing there, Pomp?" he asked quickly.
Pomp scuttled back to his seat, and appeared to be deeply intent upon his primer.
"Ain't doin' noffin', Mass' Frank," he answered innocently.
"Then how came the cat tied to that chair?"
"'Spec' she must have tied herself."
"Come, Pomp, you know better than that. You know cats can't tie themselves. Get up immediately and unfasten her."
Pomp rose with alacrity, and undertook to release puss from the thraldom of which she had become very impatient. Perhaps she would have been quite as well off if she had been left to herself. The process of liberation did not appear to be very agreeable, judging from the angry mews which proceeded from her. Finally, in her indignation against Pomp for some aggressive act, she scratched him sharply.