[Frontispiece: The Sorrel Mare was tugging hard at the Rein.]
CROWDED OUT O' CROFIELD
THE BOY WHO MADE HIS WAY
WILLIAM O. STODDARD
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.
Only a few of the kindly reviewers of the earlier editions of Crowded Out o' Crofield have suggested that it has at all exaggerated the possible career of its boy and girl actors. If any others have silently agreed with them, it may be worth while to say that the pictures of places and the doings of older and younger people are pretty accurately historical. The story and the writing of it were suggested in a conversation with an energetic American boy who was crowded out of his own village into a career which led to something much more surprising than a profitable junior partnership.
W. O. S.
NEW YORK, 1893.
I.—THE BLACKSMITH'S BOY II.—THE FISH WERE THERE III.—I AM ONLY A GIRL IV.—CAPTAIN MARY V.—JACK OGDEN'S RIDE VI.—OUT INTO THE WORLD VII.—MARY AND THE EAGLE VIII.—CAUGHT FOR A BURGLAR IX.—NEARER THE CITY X.—THE STATE-HOUSE AND THE STEAMBOAT XI.—DOWN THE HUDSON XII.—IN A NEW WORLD XIII.—A WONDERFUL SUNDAY XIV.—FRIENDS AND ENEMIES XV.—NO BOY WANTED XVI.—JACK'S FAMINE XVII.—JACK-AT-ALL-TRADES XVIII.—THE DRUMMER BOY XIX.—COMPLETE SUCCESS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
The Sorrel Mare was tugging hard at the Rein . . . Frontispiece
Along the Water's Edge
Fighting the Fire
"Run for Home"
He listened in silence
"There won't be any Eagle this week"
"I'm the Editor, sir"
"There," said Mr. Murdoch, "jump right in"
"Your map's all wrong," said Jack
The hotel clerk looked at Jack
His traveler friend was sound asleep
On Broadway, at last!
"How would he get in?"
Coffee and clams
Jack is homesick
"I've lost my pocket-book"
"Ten cents left"
Jack dines with Mr. Keifelheimer
Buying a new hat
Jack speaks to the General
The return home
CROWDED OUT O' CROFIELD.
THE BLACKSMITH'S BOY.
"I'm going to the city!"
He stood in the wide door of the blacksmith-shop, with his hands in his pockets, looking down the street, toward the rickety old bridge over the Cocahutchie. He was a sandy-haired, freckled-faced boy, and if he was really only about fifteen, he was tall for his age. Across the top of the door, over his head, stretched a cracked and faded sign, with a horseshoe painted on one end and a hammer on the other, and the name "John Ogden," almost faded out, between them.
The blacksmith-shop was a great, rusty, grimy clutter of work-benches, vises, tools, iron in bars and rods, and all sorts of old iron scraps and things that looked as if they needed making over.
The forge was in the middle, on one side, and near it was hitched a horse, pawing the ground with a hoof that bore a new shoe. On the anvil was a brilliant, yellow-red loop of iron, that was not quite yet a new shoe, and it was sending out bright sparks as a hammer fell upon it—"thud, thud, thud," and a clatter. Over the anvil leaned a tall, muscular, dark-haired, grimy man. His face wore a disturbed and anxious look, and it was covered with charcoal dust. There was altogether too much charcoal along the high bridge of his Roman nose and over his jutting eyebrows.
The boy in the door also had some charcoal on his cheeks and forehead, but none upon his nose. His nose was not precisely like the blacksmith's. It was high and Roman half-way down, but just there was a little dent, and the rest of the nose was straight. His complexion, excepting the freckles and charcoal, was chiefly sunburn, down to the neckband of his blue checked shirt. He was a tough, wiry-looking boy, and there was a kind of smiling, self-confident expression in his blue-gray eyes and around his firm mouth.
"I'm going to the city!" he said, again, in a low but positive voice. "I'll get there, somehow."
Just then a short, thick-set man came hurrying past him into the shop. He was probably the whitest man going into that or any other shop, and he spoke out at once, very fast, but with a voice that sounded as if it came through a bag of meal.
"Ogden," said he, "got him shod? If you have, I'll take him. What do you say about that trade?"
"I don't want any more room than there is here," said the blacksmith, "and I don't care to move my shop."
"There's nigh onto two acres, mebbe more, all along the creek from below the mill to Deacon Hawkins's line, below the bridge," wheezed the mealy, floury, dusty man, rapidly. "I'll get two hundred for it some day, ground or no ground. Best place for a shop."
"This lot suits me," said the smith, hammering away. "'Twouldn't pay me to move—not in these times."
The miller had more to say, while he unhitched his horse, but he led him out without getting any more favorable reply about the trade.
"Come and blow, Jack," said the smith, and the boy in the door turned promptly to take the handle of the bellows.
The little heap of charcoal and coke in the forge brightened and sent up fiery tongues, as the great leathern lungs wheezed and sighed, and Jack himself began to puff.
"I've got to have a bigger man than you are, for a blower and striker," said the smith. "He's coming Monday morning. It's time you were doing something, Jack."
"Why, father," said Jack, as he ceased pulling on the bellows, and the shoe came out of the fire, "I've been doing something ever since I was twelve. Been working here since May, and lots o' times before that. Learned the trade, too."
"You can make a nail, but you can't make a shoe," said his father, as he sizzed the bit of bent iron in the water-tub and then threw it on the ground. "Seven. That's all the shoes I'll make this morning, and there are seven of you at home. Your mother can't spare Molly, but you'll have to do something. It is Saturday, and you can go fishing, after dinner, if you'd like to. There's nothin' to ketch 'round here, either. Worst times there ever were in Crofield."
There was gloom as well as charcoal on the face of the blacksmith, but Jack's expression was only respectfully serious as he walked away, without speaking, and again stood in the door for a moment.
"I could catch something in the city. I know I could," he said, to himself. "How on earth shall I get there?"
The bridge, at the lower end of the sloping side-street on which the shop stood, was long and high. It was made to fit the road and was a number of sizes too large for the stream of water rippling under it. The side-street climbed about twenty rods the other way into what was evidently the Main Street of Crofield. There was a tavern on one corner, and across the street from that there was a drug store and in it was the post-office. On the two opposite corners were shops, and all along Main Street were all sorts of business establishments, sandwiched in among the dwellings.
It was not yet noon, but Crofield had a sleepy look, as if all its work for the whole week were done. Even the horses of the farmers' teams, hitched in front of the stores, looked sleepy. Jack Ogden took his longest look, this time, at a neat, white-painted frame-house across the way.
"Seems to me there isn't nearly so much room in it as there used to be," he said to himself. "It's just packed and crowded. I'm going!"
He turned and walked on up toward Main Street, as if that were the best thing he could do till dinner time. Not many minutes later, a girl plainly but neatly dressed came slowly along in front of the village green, away up Main Street. She was tall and slender, and her hair and eyes were as dark as those of John Ogden, the blacksmith. Her nose was like his, too, except that it was finer and not so high, and she wore very much the same anxious, discontented look upon her face. She was walking slowly, because she saw, coming toward her, a portly lady, with hair so flaxy that no gray would show in it. She was elegantly dressed. She stopped and smiled and looked very condescending.
"Good-morning, Mary Ogden," she said.
"Good-morning, Miss Glidden," said Mary, the anxious look in her eyes changing to a gleam that made them seem very wide awake.
"It's a fine morning, Mary Ogden, but so very warm. Is your mother well?"
"Very well, thank you," said Mary.
"And is your aunt well—and your father, and all the children? I'm so glad they are well. Elder Holloway's to be here to-morrow. Hope you'll all come. I shall be there myself. You've had my class a number of times. Much obliged to you. I'll be there to-morrow. You must hear the Elder. He's to inspect the Sunday-school."
"Your class, Miss Glidden?" began Mary; and her face suggested that somebody was blowing upon a kind of fire inside her cheeks, and that they would be very red in a minute.
"Yes; don't fail to be there to-morrow, Mary. The choir'll be full, of course. I shall be there myself."
"I hope you will, Miss Glidden—"
The portly lady saw something up the street at that moment.
"Oh my! What is it? Dear me! It's coming! Run! We'll all be killed! Oh my!"
She had turned quite around, while she was speaking, and was once more looking up the street; but the dark-haired girl had neither flinched nor wavered. She had only sent a curious, inquiring glance in the direction of the shouts and the rattle and the cloud of dust that were coming swiftly toward them.
"A runaway team," she said, quietly. "Nobody's in the wagon."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Miss Glidden; but Mary began to move away, looking not at her but at the runaway, and she did not hear the rest. "Mary Ogden's too uppish.—Somebody'll be killed, I know they will!—She's got to be taken down.—There they come!—Dressed too well for a blacksmith's daughter. Doesn't know her place.—Oh dear! I'm so frightened!"
Perhaps she had been wise in getting behind the nearest tree. It was a young maple, two inches through, lately set out, but it might have stopped a pair of very small horses. Those in the road were large—almost too large to run well. They were well-matched grays, and they came thundering along in a way that was really fine to behold; heads down, necks arched, nostrils wide, reins flying, the wagon behind them banging and swerving—no wonder everybody stood still and, except Mary Ogden, shouted, "Stop 'em!" One young fellow, across the street, stood still only until the runaways were all but close by him. Then he darted out into the street, not ahead of them but behind them. No man on earth could have stopped those horses by standing in front of them. They could have charged through a regiment. Their heavy, furious gallop was fast, too, and the boy who was now following them, must have been as light of foot as a young deer.
"Hurrah! Hurrah! Go it, Jack! Catch 'em! Bully for you!" arose from a score of people along the sidewalk, as he bounded forward.
"It's Jack! Oh dear me! But it's just like him! There! He's in!" exclaimed Mary Ogden, her dark eyes dancing proudly.
"Why, it's that good-for-nothing brother of Mary Ogden. He's the blacksmith's boy. I'm afraid he will be hurt," remarked Miss Glidden, kindly and benevolently; but all the rest shouted "Hurrah!" again.
Fierce was the strain upon the young runner, for a moment, and then his hands were on the back-board of the bouncing wagon. A tug, a spring, a swerve of the wagon, and Jack Ogden was in it, and in a second more the loosely flying reins were in his hands.
The strong arms of his father, were they twice as strong, could not at once have pulled in those horses, and one man on the sidewalk seemed to be entirely correct when he said, "He's a plucky little fellow, but he can't do a thing, now he's there."
His sister was trembling all over, but she was repeating: "He did it splendidly! He can do anything!"
Jack, in the wagon, was thinking only: "I know 'em. They're old Hammond's team. They'll try to go home to the mill. They'll smash everything, if I don't look out!"
It is something, even to a greatly frightened horse, to feel a hand on the rein. The team intended to turn out of Main Street, at the corner, and they made the turn, but they did not crash the wagon to pieces against the corner post, because of the desperate guiding that was done by Jack. The wagon swung around without upsetting. It tilted fearfully, and the nigh wheel was in the air for a moment, until Jack's weight helped bring it down again. There was a short, sharp scream across the street, when the wagon swung and the wheel went up.
Down the slope toward the bridge thundered the galloping team, and the blacksmith ran out of his shop to see it pass.
"Turn them into the creek, Jack!" he shouted, but there was no time for any answer.
"They'd smash through the bridge," thought Jack. "I know what I'm about."
There were wheel-marks down from the street, at the left of the bridge, where many a team had descended to drink the water of the Cocahutchie, but it required all Jack's strength on one rein to make his runaways take that direction. They had thought of going toward the mill, but they knew the watering-place.
Not many rods below the bridge stood a clump of half a dozen gigantic trees, remnants of the old forest which had been replaced by the streets of Crofield and the farms around it. Jack's pull on the left rein was obeyed only too well, and it looked, for some seconds, as if the plunging beasts were about to wind up their maddened dash by a wreck among those gnarled trunks and projecting roots. Jack drew his breath hard, and there was almost a chill at his young heart, but he held hard and said nothing.
Forward—one plunge more—hard on the right rein—
"That was close!" he said. "If we didn't go right between the big maple and the cherry! Now I've got 'em!"
Splash, crash, rattle! Spattering and plunging, but cooling fast, the gray team galloped along the shallow bed of the Cocahutchie.
"I wish the old swimming-hole was deeper," said Jack, "but the water's very low. Whoa, boys! Whoa, there! Almost up to the hub—over the hub! Whoa, now!"
And the gray team ceased its plunging and stood still in water three feet deep.
"I mustn't let 'em drink too much," said Jack; "but a little won't hurt 'em."
The horses were trembling all over, but one after the other they put their noses into the water, and then raised their heads to prick their ears back and forth and look round.
"Don't bring 'em ashore till they're quiet, Jack," called out the deep, ringing voice of his father from the bank.
There he stood, and other men were coming on the run. The tall blacksmith's black eyes were flashing with pride over the daring feat his son had performed.
"I daren't tell him, though," he said to himself. "He's set up enough a'ready. He thinks he can do 'most anything."
"Jack," wheezed a mealy voice at his side, "that's my team—"
"I know it," said Jack. "They 're all right now. Pretty close shave through the trees, that was!"
"I owe ye fifty dollars for a-savin' them and the wagin," said the miller. "It's wuth it, and I'll pay it; but I've got to owe it to ye, jest now. Times are awful hard in Crofield. If I'd ha' lost them hosses and that wagin—"
He stopped short, as if he could not exactly say how disastrous it would have been for him.
There was a running fire of praise and of questions poured at Jack, by the gathering knot of people on the shore, and it was several minutes before his father spoke again.
"They're cool now," he said. "Turn 'em, Jack, and walk 'em out by the bridge, and up to the mill. Then come home to dinner."
Jack pretended not to see quite a different kind of group gathered under the clump of tall trees. Not a voice had come to him from that group of lookers-on, and yet the fact that they were there made him tingle all over.
Two large, freckle-faced, sandy-haired women were hugging each other, and wiping their eyes; and a very small girl was tugging at their dresses and crying, while a pair of girls of from twelve to fourteen, close by them, seemed very much inclined to dance. Two small boys, who at first belonged to the party, had quickly rolled up their trousers and waded out as far as they could into the Cocahutchie. Just in front of the group, under the trees, stood Mary Ogden, straight as an arrow, her dark eyes flashing and her cheeks glowing while she looked silently at the boy on the wagon in the stream, until she saw him wheel the grays. Even then she did not say anything, but turned and walked away. It was as if she had so much to say that she felt she could not say it.
"Aunt Melinda! Mother!" said one of the girls, "Jack isn't hurt a mite. They'd all ha' been drowned, though, if there was water enough."
"Hush, Bessie," said one of the large women, and the other at once echoed, "Hush, Bessie."
They were very nearly alike, these women, and they both had long straight noses, such as Jack's would have been, if half-way down it had not been Roman, like his father's.
"Mary Ann," said the first woman, "we mustn't say too much to him about it. He can only just be held in, now."
"Hush, Melinda," said Jack's mother. "I thought I'd seen the last of him when the gray critters came a-powderin' down the road past the house"—and then she wiped her eyes again, and so did Aunt Melinda, and they both stooped down at the same moment, saying, "Jack's safe, Sally," and picked up the small girl, who was crying, and kissed her.
The gray team was surrendered to its owner as soon as it reached the road at the foot of the bridge, and again Jack was loudly praised by the miller. The rest of the Ogden family seemed to be disposed to keep away, but the tall blacksmith himself was there.
"Jack," said he, as they turned away homeward, "you can go fishing this afternoon, just as I said. I was thinking of your doing something else afterward, but you've done about enough for one day."
He had more to say, concerning what would have happened to the miller's horses, and the number of pieces the wagon would have been knocked into, but for the manner in which the whole team had been saved.
When they reached the house the front door was open, but nobody was to be seen. Bob and Jim, the two small boys, had not yet returned from seeing the gray span taken to the mill, and the women and girls had gone through to the kitchen.
"Jack," said his father, as they went in, "old Hammond'll owe you that fifty dollars long enough. He never really pays anything."
"Course he doesn't—not if he can help it," said Jack. "I worked for him three months, and you know we had to take it out in feed. I learned the mill trade, though, and that was something."
Just then he was suddenly embarrassed. Mrs. Ogden had gone through the house and out at the back door, and Aunt Melinda had followed her, and so had the girls. Molly had suddenly gone up-stairs to her own room. Aunt Melinda had taken everything off the kitchen stove and put everything back again, and here now was Mrs. Ogden back again, hugging her son.
"Jack," she said, "don't you ever, ever, do such a thing again. You might ha' been knocked into slivers!"
Molly had gone up the back stairs only to come down the front way, and she was now a little behind them.
"Mother!" she exclaimed, as if her pent-up admiration for her brother was exploding, "you ought to have seen him jump in, and you ought to have seen that wagon go around the corner!"
"Jack," broke in the half-choked voice of Aunt Melinda from the kitchen doorway, "come and eat something. I felt as if I knew you were killed, sure. If you haven't earned your dinner, nobody has."
"Why, I know how to drive," said Jack. "I wasn't afraid of 'em after I got hold of the reins."
He seemed even in a hurry to get through his dinner, and some minutes later he was out in the garden, digging for bait. The rest of the family remained at the table longer than usual, especially Bob and Jim; but, for some reason known to herself, Mary did not say a word about her meeting with Miss Glidden. Perhaps the miller's gray team had run away with all her interest in that, but she did not even tell how carefully Miss Glidden had inquired after the family.
"There goes Jack," she said at last, and they all turned to look.
He did not say anything as he passed the kitchen door, but he had his long cane fishing-pole over his shoulder. It had a line wound around it, ready for use. He went out of the gate and down the road toward the bridge, and gave only a glance across at the shop.
"I didn't get many worms," he said to himself, at the bridge, "but I can dig some more if the fish bite. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't."
Over the bridge he went, and up a wagon track on the opposite bank, but he paused for one moment, in the very middle of the bridge, to look up stream.
"There's just enough water to run the mill," he said. "There isn't any coming over the dam. The pond's even full, though, and it may be a good day for fish. I wish I was in the city!"
THE FISH WERE THERE.
Saturday afternoon was before Jack Ogden, when he came out at the water's edge, near the dam, across from the mill. That was there, big and red and rusty-looking; and the dam was there; and above them was the mill-pond, spreading out over a number of acres, and ornamented with stumps, old logs, pond-lilies, and weeds. It was a fairly good pond, the best that Cocahutchie Creek could do for Crofield, but Jack's face fell a little as he looked at it.
"There are more fellows than fish here," he said to himself, with an air of disgust.
There was a boy at the end of the dam near him, and a boy in the middle of it, and two boys at the flume, near the mill. There were three punts out on the water, and one of them had in it a man and two boys, while the second boat held but one man, and the third contained four. A big stump near the north shore supported a boy, and the old snag jutting out from the south shore held a boy and a man.
There they all were, sitting perfectly still, until, one after another, each rod and line came up to have its hook and bait examined, to see whether or not there had really been a bite.
"I'm fairly crowded out," remarked Jack. "Those fellows have all the good places. I'll have to go somewhere else; where'll I go?"
He studied that problem for a full minute, while every fisherman there turned to look at him, and then turned back to watch his line.
"I guess I'll try down stream," said Jack. "Nobody ever caught anything down there, and nobody ever goes there, but I s'pose I might as well try it, just for once."
He turned away along the track over which he had come. He did not pause at the road and bridge, but went on down the further bank of the Cocahutchie. It was a pretty stream of water, and it spread out wide and shallow, and rippled merrily among stones and bowlders and clumps of willow and alder for nearly half a mile. Gradually, then, it grew narrower, quieter, deeper, and wore a sleepy look which made it seem more in keeping with quiet old Crofield.
"The hay's about ready to cut," said Jack, as he plodded along the path, near the water's edge, through a thriving meadow of clover and timothy. "There's always plenty of work in haying time. Hullo! What grasshoppers! Jingo!"
As he made the last exclamation, he clapped his hand upon his trousers pocket.
"If I didn't forget to go in and get my sinker! Never did such a thing before in all my life. What's the use of trying to fish without a sinker?"
The luck seemed to be going directly against him. Even the Cocahutchie, at his left, had dwindled to a mere crack between bushes and high grass, as if to show that it had no room to let for fish to live in—that is, for fish accustomed to having plenty of room, such as they could find when living in a mill-pond, lined around the edges with boys and fish-poles.
"That's a whopper!" suddenly exclaimed Jack, with a quick snatch at something that alighted upon his left arm. "I've caught him! Grasshoppers are the best kind of bait, too. I'll try him on, sinker or no sinker. Hope there are some fish, down here."
The line he unwound from his rod was somewhat coarse, but it was strong, and so was his hook, as if the fishing around Crofield called for stout tackle as well as for a large number of sportsmen. The big, long-limbed, green-coated jumper was placed in position on the hook, and then, with several more grumbling regrets over the absence of any sinker, Jack searched along the bank for a place whence he could throw his bait into the water.
"This'll do," he said, at last, and the breeze helped him to swing out his line until the grasshopper at the end of it dropped lightly and naturally into a dark little eddy, almost across that narrow ribbon of the Cocahutchie.
"Jingo! What's that? I declare—if he isn't pulling! He'll break the line—no, he won't. See that pole bend! Steady—here he comes. Hurrah!"
Out he came, indeed, for the rude, strong tackle held, even against the game struggling of that vigorous trout. There he lay now, on the grass, with Jack Ogden bending over him in a fever of exultation and amazement.
"I never could have caught him with a worm and a sinker," he said, aloud. "This is the way to catch 'em. Isn't he a big fellow! I'll try some more grasshoppers."
There was not likely to be another two-pound brook-trout very near the hole out of which that one had been pulled. There would not have been any at all, perhaps, but for the prevailing superstition that there were no fish there. Everybody knew that there were bullheads, suckers, perch, and "pumpkin-seeds" in the mill-pond, and eels, with now and then a pickerel, but the trout were a profound secret. It was easy to catch another big grasshopper, but the young sportsman knew very well that he knew nothing at all of that kind of fishing. He had made his first cast perfectly, because it was about the only way in which it could have been made, and now he was so very nervous and excited and cautious that he did very well again, aided as before by the breeze. Not in the same place, but at a little distance down, and close to where Jack captured his second bait, there was a crook in the Cocahutchie, with a steep, overhanging, bushy bank. Into the glassy shadow under that bank the sinkerless line carried and dropped its little green prisoner, and there was a hungry fellow in there, waiting for foolish grasshoppers in the meadow to spring too far and come down upon the water instead of upon the grass. As the grasshopper alighted on the water, there was a rush, a plunge, a strong hard pull, and then Jack Ogden said to himself:
"I've heard how they do it. They wait and tire 'em out. I won't be in too much of a hurry. He'll get away if I am."
That is probably what the fish would have done, for he was a fish with what army men call "tactics." He was able to pull very hard, and he was also wise enough to rush in under the bank and to sulkily stay there.
"Feels as if I'd hooked a snag," said Jack. "May be I've lost the fish and he's hitched me into a 'cod-lamper' eel of some kind. Steady—no, I mustn't pull harder than the fish."
He was breathless, but not with any exertion that he was making. His hat fell off upon the grass, as he leaned forward through the alder bushes, and his sandy hair was tangled for a moment in some stubby twigs. He loosened his head, still holding firmly his bent and straining rod. One step farther, a slip of his left foot, an unsuccessful grasp at a bush, and then Jack went over and down into a pool deeper than he had thought the Cocahutchie afforded so near Crofield.
There was a very fine splash, as the grasshopper fly-fisherman went under, and there was a coughing and spluttering a moment afterward, when his eager, excited, anxious face came up again. He could swim extremely well, and he was not thinking of his ducking—only of his game.
"I hope I haven't lost him!" he exclaimed, as he tried to pull upon the line.
It did not tug at all, just then, for the fish on the hook had been rudely startled out from under the bank and was on his way up the Cocahutchie, with the hook in his mouth.
"There' he is! I've got him yet! Glad I can swim—" cried Jack; and it did seem as if he and this fish were very well matched, except that Jack had to give one of his hands to the rod while his captive could use every fin.
Down stream floated Jack, passing the rod back through his hands until he could grasp the line, and all the while the fish was darting madly about to get away.
"There, I've touched bottom. Now for him! Here he comes. I'll draw him ashore easy—that's it! Hurrah! biggest fish ever was caught in the Cocahutchie!"
That might or might not be so, but Jack Ogden had a three-pound trout, flopping angrily upon the grass at his feet.
"I know how to do it now," he almost shouted. "I can catch 'em! I won't let anybody else know how it's done, either."
He had learned something, no doubt, but he had not learned how to make a large fish out of a small one. All the rest of that afternoon he caught grasshoppers and cast them daintily into what seemed to be good places, but he did not have another occasion to tumble in. When at last he was tired out and decided to go home, he had a dozen more of trout, not one of them weighing over six ounces, with a pair of very good yellow perch, one very large perch, a sucker, and three bullheads, that bit when his bait happened to sink to the bottom without any lead to help it. Take it all in all, it was a great string of fish to be caught on a Saturday afternoon, when all that the Crofield sportsmen around the mill-pond could show was six bullheads, a dozen small perch, a lot of "pumpkin-seeds" not much larger than dollars, five small eels, and a very vicious snapping-turtle.
Jack stood for a moment looking down at the results of his experiment in fly-fishing. He felt, really, as if he could not more than half believe it.
"Fishing doesn't pay," he said. "It doesn't pay cash, any way. There isn't anything around Crofield that does pay. Well, it must be time for me to go home."
I AM ONLY A GIRL.
Jack was dry enough, but anybody could see that he had had a ducking, when he marched down the main street. He was carrying his prizes in two strings, one in each hand, and he was looking and feeling taller than he ever felt before. It was just the right hour to meet people, and he had to answer curious questions from some women, and from twice as many men, and from three times as many boys, all the way from above the green, where he came out into the street, down to the front of the Washington Hotel.
"Yes; I caught 'em all in the Cocahutchie."
He had had to say that any number of times, and he had also explained, apparently without trying to conceal anything:
"I had to swim for 'em. Caught 'em all under water. Those big speckled fellows are trout. They pulled me clean under. All that kind of fish live under water." And he told half a dozen inquiring boys: "I've found the best fish-hole you ever saw. Deep water all 'round it. I'm going there again." And then every one asked: "Take me with you, Jack?"
He had to come to a halt at the tavern, for every man in the arm-chairs on the piazza brought his feet down from the railing.
"Hold on! I want to look at those fish!" shouted old Livermore, the landlord. "Where'd you catch 'em?"
"Down the Cocahutchie," said Jack once more. "I caught 'em under water."
"Those are just what I'm looking for," replied Livermore, rubbing his sides, while nearly a dozen men crowded around to admire, and to guess at the weights.
"Traout's a-sellin' at a dollar a paound, over to Mertonville," squealed old Deacon Hawkins; "and traout o' that size is wuth more'n small traout. Don't ye let old Livermore cheat ye, Jack."
"I won't cheat him, Deacon," said the big landlord. "I don't want any thing but the trout. There's a Sunday crowd coming over from Mertonville, to-morrer, to hear Elder Holloway. I'll give ye two dollars, Jack."
"That's enough for one fish," said Jack. "Don't you want the big one? I had to dive for him. He'll weigh more'n three pounds."
"No, he won't!" said the landlord, becoming more and more eager. "Say three dollars for the lot."
"I daon't know but what I want some o' them traout myself," began Deacon Hawkins, peering more closely at the largest prize. "It's hard times,—and a dollar a paound. I've got some folks comin' and Elder Holloway's to be at my haouse. I don't know but I oughter—"
"I'll take 'em, Jack," interrupted the landlord, testily. "I spoke first. Three pounds, and two is five pounds, and—"
"I'll give another dollar for the small traout," exclaimed Deacon Hawkins. "He can't have 'em all."
The landlord might have hesitated even then, but the excitement was catching, and Squire Jones was actually, but slowly, taking out his pocket-book.
"Five! There's your five, Jack. The big fish are mine. Take your money. Fetch 'em in," broke out old Livermore.
"There's my dollar,—and there's my traout,—" squealed the deacon.
"I was just a-goin' to saay—" at that moment growled the deep, heavy bass voice of Squire Jones.
"Too late," said the landlord. "He's taken my money. Come in, Jack. Come in and get yours, Deacon," and Jack walked on into the Washington House with six dollars in his hand, just as a boy he knew stuck his head under Squire Jones's arm and shouted:
"Jack!—Jack! Why didn't yer put 'em up at auction?"
It took but a minute to get rid of the very fine fish he had sold, and then the uncommonly successful angler made his way out of the Washington Hotel through the side door.
"I don't intend to answer any more questions," he said to himself; "and all that crowd is out there yet."
There was another reason that he did not give, for his perch, good as they were, and the wide-mouthed sucker, and the great, clumsy bullheads, looked mean and common, now that their elegant companions were gone. He felt almost ashamed of them until just as he reached the back yard of his own home.
A tall, grimy man, with his head under the pump, was vigorously scrubbing charcoal and iron dust from his face and hands and hair. "Jack," he shouted, "where'd you get that string o' fish? Best I've seen round here for ever so long."
Another voice came from the kitchen door, and in half a second it seemed to belong to a chorus of voices.
"Why, Jack Ogden! What a string of fish!"
"I caught 'em 'way down the Cocahutchie, Mother," said Jack. "I caught 'em all under water. Had to go right in after some of 'em."
"I should say you did," growled his father, almost jocosely, and then he and Mrs. Ogden and Aunt Melinda and the children crowded around to examine the fish, on the pump platform.
"Jack must do something better'n that," said his father, rubbing his face hard with the kitchen towel; "but he's had the best kind o' luck this time."
"He caught a team of runaway horses this morning, too," said Mary, looking proudly at the fish. "I wish I could do something worth talking about, but I'm only a girl."
Jack's clothes had not suffered much from their ducking, mainly because the checked shirt and linen trousers, of which his suit consisted, had been frequently soaked before. His straw hat was dry, for it had been lying on the grass when he went into the water, and so were his shoes and stockings, which had been under the bed in his bedroom, waiting for Sunday.
It was not until the family was gathered at the table that Jack came out with the whole tremendous story of his afternoon's sport, and of its cash results.
"Now I've learned all about fly-fishing," he said, with confidence, "I can catch fish anywhere. I sha'n't have to go to fish out of that old mill-pond again."
"Six dollars!" exclaimed his mother, from behind the tea-pot. "What awful extravagance there is in this wicked world! But what'll you do with six dollars?"
"It's high time he began to earn something," said the tall blacksmith, gloomily. "It's hard times in Crofield. There's almost nothing for him to do here."
"That's why I'm going somewhere else," said Jack, with a sudden burst of energy, and showing a very red face. "Now I've got some money to pay my way, I'm going to New York."
"No, you're not," said his father, and then there was a silence for a moment.
"What on earth could you do in New York?" said his mother, staring at him as if he had said something dreadful. She was not a small woman, but she had an air of trying to be larger, and her face quickly began to recover its ordinary smile of self-confident hope, so much like that of Jack. She added, before anybody else could speak: "There are thousands and thousands of folks there already. Well—I suppose you could get along there, if they can."
"It's too full," said her husband. "It's fuller'n Crofield. He couldn't do anything in a city. Besides, it isn't any use; he couldn't get there, or anywhere near there, on six dollars."
"If he only could go somewhere, and do something, and be somebody," said Mary, staring hard at her plate.
She had echoed Jack's thought, perfectly. "That's you, Molly," he said, "and I'm going to do it, too."
"You're going to work a-haying, all next week, I guess," said his father, "if there's anybody wants ye. All the money you earn you can give to your mother. You ain't going a-fishing again, right away. Nobody ever caught the same fish twice."
Slowly, glumly, but promptly, Jack handed over his two greenbacks to his mother, but he only remarked:
"If I work for anybody 'round here, they'll want me to take my pay in hay. They won't pay cash."
"Hay's just as good," said his father; and then he changed the subject and told his wife how the miller had again urged him to trade for the strip of land along the creek, above and below the bridge. "It comes right up to the line of my lot," he said, "and to Hawkins's fence. The whole of it isn't worth as much as mine is, but I don't see what he wants to trade for."
She agreed with him, and so did Aunt Melinda; but Jack and Mary finished their suppers and went out to the front door. She stood still for a moment, with her hands clasped behind her, looking across the street, as if she were reading the sign on the shop. The discontented, despondent expression on her face made her more and more like a very young and pretty copy of her father.
"I don't care, Molly," said Jack. "If they take away every cent I get, I'm going to the city, some time."
"I'd go, too, if I were a boy," she said. "I've got to stay at home and wash dishes and sweep. You can go right out and make your fortune. I've read of lots of boys that went away from home and worked their way up. Some of 'em got to be Presidents."
"Some girls amount to something, too," said Jack. "You've been through the Academy. I had to stop, when I was twelve, and go to work in a store. Been in every store in Crofield. They didn't pay me a cent in cash, but I learned the grocery business, and the dry-goods business, and all about crockery. That was something. I could keep a store. Some of the stores in New York 'd hold all the stores in Crofield."
"Some of 'em are owned and run by women, too," said Mary; "but there's no use of my thinking of any such thing."
Before he could tell her what he thought about it, her mother called her in, and then he, too, stood still and seemed to study the sign over the door of the blacksmith-shop.
"I'll do it!" he exclaimed at last, shaking his fist at the sign. "It isn't the end of July yet, and I'm going to get to the city before Christmas; you see 'f I don't."
After Mary Ogden left him and went in, Jack walked down to the bridge. It seemed as if the Cocahutchie had a special attraction for him, now that he knew what might be in it.
There were three boys leaning over the rail on the lower side of the bridge, and four on the upper side, and all were fishing. Jack did not know, and they did not tell him, that all their hooks were baited with "flies" of one kind or another instead of worms. Two had grasshoppers, and one had a big bumblebee, and they were after such trout as Jack Ogden had caught and been paid so much money for. One told another that Jack had five dollars apiece for those fish, and that even the bullheads were so heavy it tired him to carry them home.
Jack did not go upon the bridge. He strolled down along the water's edge.
"It's all sand and gravel," he said; "but I'd hate to leave it."
It was curious, but not until that very moment had he been at all aware of any real affection for Crofield. He was only dimly aware of it then, and he forgot it all to answer a hail from two men under the clump of giant trees which had so nearly wrecked the miller's wagon.
The men had been looking up at the trees, and Jack heard part of what they said about them, as he came near. They had called him to talk about his trout-fishing, but they had aroused his curiosity upon another subject.
"Mr. Bannerman," he said, as soon as he had an opportunity between "fish" questions, "did you say you'd give a hundred dollars for those trees, just as they stand? What are they good for?"
"Jack," exclaimed the sharp-looking man he spoke to, "don't you tell anybody I said that. You won't, will you? Come, now, didn't I treat you well while you were in my shop?"
"Yes, you did," said Jack, "but you kept me there only four months. What are those trees good for? You don't use anything but pine."
"Why, Jack," said Bannerman, "it isn't for carpenter work. Three of 'em are curly maples, and that one there's the straightest-grained, biggest, cleanest old cherry! They're for j'iner-work, Jack. But you said you wouldn't tell?"
"I won't tell," said Jack. "Old Hammond owns 'em. I stayed in your shop just long enough to learn the carpenter's trade. I didn't learn j'iner-work. Don't you want me again?"
"Not just now, Jack; but Sam and I've got a bargain coming with Hammond, and he owes us some, now, and you mustn't put in and spile the trade for us. I'll do ye a good turn, some day. Don't you tell."
Jack promised again and the carpenters walked away, leaving him looking up at the trees and thinking how it would seem to see them topple over and come crashing down into the Cocahutchie, to be made up into chairs and tables. Just as long as he could remember anything he had seen the old trees standing guard there, summer and winter, leafy or bare, and they were like old friends to him.
"I'll go home," he said, at last. "There hasn't been a house built in Crofield for years and years. It isn't any kind of place for carpentering, or for anything else that I know how to do."
Then he took a long, silent, thoughtful look up stream, and another down stream, and instead of the gravel and bushes and grass, in one direction, and the rickety bridge and the slippery dam and the dingy old red mill, in the other direction, he seemed to see a vision of great buildings and streets and crowds of busy men, while the swishing ripple of the Cocahutchie changed into the rush and roar of the great city he was setting his heart upon. He gave it up for that evening, and went home and went to bed, but even then it seemed to him as if he were about to let go of something and take hold of something else.
"I've done that often enough," he said to himself. "I'll have to leave the blacksmith's trade now, but I'm kind o' glad I learned it. I'm glad I didn't have my shoes on when I went into the water, though. Soaking isn't good for that kind of shoes. Don't I know? I've worked in every shoe-shop in Crofield, some. Didn't get any pay, except in shoes; but then I learned the trade, and that's something. I never had an opportunity to stay long in any one place, but I could stay in the city."
Then another kind of dreaming set in, and the next thing he knew it was Sunday morning, with a promise of a sunny, sultry, sleepy kind of day.
It was not easy for the Ogden family to shut out all talk about fishing, while they were eating Jack's fish for breakfast, but they avoided the subject until Jack went to dress. Jack was quite another boy by the time he was ready for church. He was skillful with the shoe-brush, and from his shoes upward he was a surprise.
"You do look well," said Mary, as he and she were on their way to church. "But how you did look when you came home last night!"
There was little opportunity for conversation, for the walk before the Ogden family from their gate to the church-door was not long.
The little processions toward the village green did not divide fairly after reaching there that morning. The larger part of each aimed itself at the middle of the green, although the building there was no larger than either of the two that stood at its right and left.
"Everybody's coming to hear Elder Holloway," said Jack. "They say it takes a fellow a good while to learn how to preach."
Mrs. Ogden and Aunt Melinda led their part of the procession, and Jack and his father followed them in. There were ten Ogdens, and the family pew held six. Just as they were going in, some one asked Mary to go into the choir. Little Sally nestled in her mother's lap; Bob and Jim were small and thin and only counted for one; Bessie and Sue went in, and so did their father, and then Jack remarked:
"I'm crowded out, father. I'll find a place, somewhere."
"There isn't any," said the blacksmith. "Every place is full."
He shook his head until the points of his Sunday collar scratched him, but off went Jack, and that was the last that was seen of him until they were all at home again.
Mary Ogden had her reasons for not expecting to sing in the choir that day, but she went when sent for. The gallery was what Jack called a "coop," and would hold just eighteen persons, squeezed in. Usually it was only half full, but on a great day, what was called the "old choir" was sure to turn out. There were no girls nor boys in the "old choir." There had been three seats yet to fill when Mary was sent for, but Miss Glidden and Miss Roberts and her elder sister from Mertonville came in just then. So, when Mary reached the gallery, Miss Glidden leaned over, smiled, and said very benevolently:
"You will not be needed to-day, Mary Ogden. The choir is filled."
The organ began to play at that moment, somewhat as if it had lost its temper. Mr. Simmons, the choir-leader (whenever he could get there), flushed and seemed about to say something. He was the one who had sent for Mary, and it was said that he had been heard to say that it would be good to have "some music, outside of the organ." Before he could speak, however, Mary was downstairs again. Seats were offered her in several of the back pews, and she took one under the gallery. She might as well have had a sounding-board behind her, arranged so as to send her voice right at the pulpit. Perhaps her temper was a little aroused, and she did not know how very full her voice was when she began the first hymn. All were singing, and they could hear the organ and the choir, but through, over, and above them all sounded the clear, ringing notes of Mary Ogden's soprano. Elder Holloway, sitting in the pulpit, put up a hand to one ear, as half-deaf men do, and sat up straight, looking as if he was hearing some good news. He said afterward that it helped him preach; but then Mary did not know it. When all the services were over, she slipped out into the vestibule to wait for the rest. She stood there when Miss Glidden came downstairs. The portly lady was trying her best to smile and look sweet.
"Splendid sermon, Mary Ogden," said she. "I hope you'll profit by it. I sha'n't ask you to take my class this afternoon. Elder Holloway's going to inspect the school. I'll be glad to have you present, though, as one of my best scholars."
Mary went home as quickly as she could, and the first remark she made was to Aunt Melinda.
"Her class!" she said. "Why she hasn't been there in six weeks. She had only four in it when she left, and there's a dozen now."
The Ogden procession homeward had been longer than when it went to church. Jack understood the matter the moment he came into the dining-room, for both extra leaves had been put into the extension-table.
"There's company," he said aloud. "You couldn't stretch that table any farther, unless you stretched the room."
"Jack," said his mother, "you must come afterward. You can help Mary wait on the table."
Jack was as hungry as a young pickerel, but there was no help for it, and he tried to reply cheerfully:
"I'm getting used to being crowded out. I can stand it."
"Where'd you sit in church?" asked his mother.
"Out on the stoop," said Jack, "but I didn't go till after I'd sat in five pews inside."
"Sorry you missed the sermon," said his mother. "It was about Jerusalem."
"I heard him," said Jack; "you could hear him halfway across the green. It kept me thinking about the city, all the while. I'm going, somehow."
Just then the talk was interrupted by the others, who came in from the parlor.
"I declare, Ogden," said the editor, "we shall quite fill your table. I'm glad I came, though. I'll print a full report of it all in the Mertonville Eagle."
"That's Murdoch, the editor," said Jack to himself. "That's his paper. Ours was a Standard,—but it's bu'sted."
"There's no room for a newspaper in Crofield," said the blacksmith. "They tried one, and it lasted six months, and my son worked on it all the time it ran."
Mr. Murdoch turned and looked inquisitively at Jack through a huge pair of tortoise-shell-rimmed glasses.
"That's so," said Jack; "I learned to set type and helped edit the paper. Molly and I did all the clipping and most of the writing, one week."
"Did you?" said the editor emphatically. "Then you did well. I remember there was one strong number."
"Molly," said Jack, as soon as they were out in the kitchen, "there's five besides our family. They won't leave a thing for us."
"There's hardly enough for them, even," said Mary. "What'll we do?"
"We can cook!" said Jack, with energy. "We'll cook while they're eating. You know how, and so do I."
"You can wait on table as well as I can," said Mary.
There was something cronyish and also self-helpful, in the way Jack and Molly boiled eggs and toasted bread and fried bacon and made coffee, and took swift turns at eating and at waiting on the table.
The editor of the Eagle heard the whole of the trout item, and about the runaway, and told Jack to send him the next big trout he caught.
There was another item of news that was soon to be ready for Mr. Murdoch. Jack was conscious of a restless, excited state of mind, and Mary said things that made him worse.
"You want to get somewhere else as badly as I do," he remarked, just as they came back from taking in the pies to the dinner-table.
"I feel, sometimes, as if I could fly!" exclaimed Mary. Jack walked out through the hall to the front door, and stood there thinking, with a hard-boiled egg in one hand and a piece of toast in the other.
The street he looked into was silent and deserted, from the bridge to the hotel corner. He looked down to the creek, for a moment, and then he looked the other way.
"I believe Molly could do 'most anything I could do," he said to himself; "unless it was catching a runaway team. She couldn't ha' caught that wagon. Hullo, what's that? Jingo! The hotel cook must have made a regular bonfire to fry my trout!"
He wheeled as he spoke, and dashed back through the house, shouting:
"Father, the Washington Hotel's on fire!—over the kitchen!"
"Ladder, Jack. Rope. Bucket," cried the tall blacksmith, coolly rising from the table, and following. As for the rest, beginning with the editor of the Eagle, it was almost as if they had been told that they were themselves on fire. Even Aunt Melinda exclaimed: "He ought to have told us more about it! Where is it? How'd it ever catch? Oh, dear me! It's the oldest part of the hotel. It's as dry as a bone, and it'll burn like tinder!"
Everybody else was saying something as all jumped and ran, but Jack and his father were silent. Ladder, rope, water-pails, were caught up, as if they were going to work in the shop, but the moment they were in the street again it seemed as if John Ogden's lungs must be as deep as the bellows of his forge.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" His full, resonant voice sent out the sudden warning.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" shouted Jack, and every child of the Ogden family, except Mary, echoed with such voice as belonged to each.
Through the wide gate of the hotel barn-yard dashed the blacksmith and his son, with their ladder, at the moment when Mrs. Livermore came out at the kitchen door, wiping a plate. All the other inmates of the hotel were gathered around the long table in the dining-hall, and they were too busy with pie and different kinds of pudding, to notice anything outdoors.
"Where is the fire, Mr. Ogden?" she said, in a fatigued tone.
"The fire's on your roof, close to the chimney," said the blacksmith. "May be we can put it out, if we're quick about it. Call everybody to hand up water."
Up went a pair of hands, and out came a great scream. Another shrill scream and another, followed in quick succession, and the plate she had held, fell and was shivered into fragments on the stone door-step.
"Foi-re! Foi-re! Foi-re-re-re!" yelled the hotel cook. "The house is a-bur-rnin'! Wa-ter! Waw-aw-ter!"
The doors to passage-ways of the hotel were open, and in a second more her cry was taken up by voices that sent the substance of it ringing through the dining-hall.
Plates fell from the hands of waiters, coffee-cups were upset, chairs were overturned, all manner of voices caught up the alarm.
It would have been a very serious matter but for the promptness of Jack Ogden and his very cool father. The ladder was planted and climbed, there was a quick dash along the low but high-ridged roof of the kitchen addition of the hotel,—the rope was put around Jack's waist, and then he was able safely to use both hands in pouring water from the pails around the foot of the chimney. Other feet came fast to the foot of the ladder. More went tramping into the rooms under the roof. The pumps in the kitchen and in the barn-yard were worked with frantic energy; pail after pail was carried upstairs and up the ladder; water was thrown in all directions; nothing was left undone that could be done, and a great many things were done that seemed hardly possible.
"Hot work, Jack," said his father. "It's a-gaining on us. Glad they'd all about got through dinner,—though Livermore tells me he's insured."
"I can stand it," said Jack. "They have steam fire-engines in the city, though. Oh, but wouldn't I like to see one at work, once. I'd like to be a fireman!"
"That's about what you are, just now," said his father, and then he turned toward the ladder and shouted:
"Hurry up that water! Quick, now! Bring an axe! I want to smash the roof in. Bear it, Jack. We've got to beat this fire."
The main building of the Washington Hotel was long, rather than high, with an open veranda along Main Street. The third story was mainly steep roof and dormer-windows, and the kitchen addition had only a story and a half. It was an easy building to get into or out of. Very quickly, after the cry of "Fire!" was heard, the only people in it, upstairs, were such of the guests as had the pluck to go and pack their trunks. The lower floor was very well crowded, and it was almost a relief to the men actually at work as firemen that so many other men kept well back because they were in their "Sunday-go-to-meeting" clothes.
Everybody was inclined to praise Jack Ogden and his father, who were making so brave a fight on the roof within only a few feet of the smoke and blaze. It was heroic to look a burning house straight in the face and conquer it. During fully half an hour there seemed to be doubt about the victory, but the pails of water came up rapidly, a line of men and boys along the roof conveyed them to the hands of Jack, and the fire had a damp time of it, with no wind to help. The blacksmith had chopped a hole in the roof, and Tom and Sam Bannerman, the carpenters, were already calculating what they would charge old Livermore to put the addition in order again.
"There, Jack," said his father, at last, "we can quit, now. The fire's under. Somebody else can take a turn. It's the hottest kind of work. Come along. We've done our share, and a little more, too."
Jack had just swallowed a puff of smoke, but as soon as he could stop coughing, he said:
"I've had enough. I'm coming."
Other people seemed to agree with them; but there would have been less said about it if little Joe Hawkins had not called out:
"Three cheers for the Ogdens!"
The cheers were given as the two volunteer firemen came down the ladder, but there were no speeches made in reply. Jack hurried back home at once, but his father had to stop and talk with the Bannermans and old Hammond, the miller.
"Jack," said his mother, looking at him, proudly, from head to foot, "you're always doing something or other. We were looking at you, all the while."
"He hasn't hurt his Sunday clothes a bit," said Aunt Melinda, but there was quite a crowd around the gate, and she did not hug him.
He was a little damp, his face was smoky, his shirt-collar was wilted, and his shoes would require a little work, but otherwise he was none the worse.
Jack went into the house, saying that he must brush his clothes; but, really it was because he wished to get away. He did not care to talk to anybody.
"I never felt so, in all my life, as I did when sitting on that roof, fighting that fire," he said aloud, as he went upstairs; and he did not know, even then, how excited he had been, silent and cool as he had seemed. In that short time, he had dreamed of more cities than he was ever likely to see, and of doing more great things than he could ever possibly do, and when he came down the ladder he felt older than when he went up. He had no idea that much the same thoughts had come to Mary, nor did he know how fully she believed that he could do anything, and that she was as capable as he.
"Father's splendid, too," she said, "but then he never had any chance, here, and Mother didn't either. Jack ought to have a chance."
Mr. Murdoch had stood on the main street corner; taking notes for the Eagle, but now he came back to say the fire was out and it was nearly time for Sunday-school.
It seemed strange to have Sunday-school just after a fire, but the Ogden family and its visitors at once made ready.
It was a quarterly meeting, with general exercises and singing, and a review of the quarter's lessons. The church was full by the hour for opening, and the school had a very prosperous look. Elder Holloway and Mr. Murdoch and two other important men sat in the pulpit, and Joab Spokes, the superintendent, stood in front of them to conduct the exercises. The elder seemed to be glancing benevolently around the room, through his spectacles, but there were some things there which could be seen without glasses, and he must have seen those also.
Miss Glidden looked particularly well and very stately, as she sat in the pew in front of her class (if it were hers), with Mary Ogden. Her first words, on coming in to take command, had been:
"Mary, dear, don't go. I really wish you to stay. You may be of assistance."
Mary flushed a little, but she said nothing in reply. She remained, and she certainly did assist, for the girls looked at her almost all the while, and Miss Glidden had no trouble whatever, and nothing to do but to look pleased and beaming and dignified. The elder, it was noticed, seemed to feel special interest in the part taken in the exercises by the class with two teachers, one for show and one for work. He even seemed to see something comical in the situation, and there was positive admiration in a remark he made to Mr. Murdoch:
"She's a true teacher. There's really only one teacher to that class. She must have been born with a knack for it!"
Elder Holloway, with all his years and experience, had not understood the case of Miss Glidden's class more perfectly than had one young observer at the other end of the church. Jack Ogden could not see so well as those great men in the pulpit, but then he could hear much and surmise the rest.
"All those girls will stand by Molly!" he said to himself. "I hope it won't be long before school's dismissed," he added.
He had reasons for this hope. He was a little late through lingering to take a curious look at what was left of the fire. The street had a littered look. The barns and stables were wide open, and deserted, for the horses had been led to places of safety. There seemed to be an impression that the hotel was half destroyed; but the damage had not been very great.
A faint, thin film of blue was eddying along the ridgepole of the kitchen addition. Jack noticed it, but did not know what it meant. A more practiced observer would have known that, hidden from sight, buried in the punk of the dry-rotted timber, was a vicious spark of fire, stealthily eating its way through the punk of the resinous pine.
Jack paid little attention to the tiny smoke-wreath, but he was compelled to pay some attention to the weather. It had been hot from sunrise until noon, and the air had grown heavier since.
"I know what that haze means," said Jack to himself, as he looked toward the Cocahutchie. "There's a thunderstorm coming by and by, and nobody knows just when. I'll be on the lookout for it."
For this reason he was glad that he was compelled to find a seat not far from the door of the church. Twice he went out to look at the sky, and the second time he saw banks of lead-colored clouds forming on the northwestern horizon. Returning he said to several of the boys near the vestibule:
"You've just time to get home, if you don't want a ducking."
Each boy passed along the warning; and when the school stood up to sing the last hymn, even the girls and the older people knew of the coming storm. There was a brief silence before the first note of the organ, and through that silence nearly everybody could catch the shrill squeak in which little Joe Hawkins tried to speak very low and secretly.
"Deakin Cobb, we want to git aout! We've just time to git home if we don't want a duckin'."
The hymn started raggedly and in a wrong pitch; and just then the great room grew suddenly darker, and there was a low rumble of thunder.
"Mary Ogden!" exclaimed Miss Glidden, "what are you doing? They can't go yet!"
Mary was singing as loudly and correctly as usual, but she was out in the aisle, and the girls of that class were promptly obeying the motion of hand and head with which she summoned them to walk out of the church.
Elder Holloway may have been only keeping time when he nodded his head, but he was looking at Miss Glidden's class.
So was Miss Glidden, in a bewildered way, as if she, like little Bo-peep, were losing her sheep. Mary was following a strong and sudden impulse. Nevertheless, by the time that class was out of its pews the next caught the idea, and believed it a prudent thing to do. They followed in good order, singing as they went.
"The girls out first,—then the boys," said Elder Holloway, between two stanzas. "One class at a time. No hurry."
Darker grew the air. Jack, out in front of the church, was watching the blackest cloud he had ever seen, as it came sweeping across the sky.
The people walked out calmly enough, but all stopped singing at the door and ran their best.
"Run, Molly! Run for home!" shouted Jack, seeing Mary coming. "It's going to be an awful storm."
Inside the church there was much hesitation, for a moment; but Miss Glidden followed her class without delay, and all the rest followed as fast as they could, and were out in half the usual time. Joe Hawkins heard Jack's words to Molly.
"Run, boys," he echoed. "Cut for home! There's a fearful storm coming!"
He was right. Great drops were already falling now and then, and there was promise of a torrent to follow.
"I don't want to spoil these clothes," said Jack, uneasily. "I need these to wear in the city. The storm isn't here yet, though. I'll wait a minute." He was holding his hat on and looking up at the steeple when he said that. It was a very old, wooden steeple, tall, slender, and somewhat rheumatic, and he knew there must be more wind up so high than there was nearer the ground. "It's swinging!" he said suddenly. "I can see it bend! Glad they're all getting out. There come Elder Holloway and Mr. Murdoch. See the elder run! I hope he won't try to get to Hawkins's. He'd better run for our house."
That was precisely the counsel given the good man by the editor, and the elder said:
"I'd like to go there. I'd like to see that clever girl again. Come, Murdoch; no time to lose!"
The blast was now coming lower, and the gloom was deepening.
Flash—rattle—boom—crash! came a glitter of lightning and a great peal of thunder.
"Here it is!" cried Jack. "If it isn't a dry blast!"
It was something like the first hot breath of a hurricane. To and fro swung the tottering old steeple for a moment, and then there was another crash—a loud, grinding, splintering, roaring crash—as the spire reeled heavily down, lengthwise, through the shattered roof of the meeting-house! Except for Mary Ogden's cleverness, the ruins might have fallen upon the crowded Sunday-school. Jack turned and ran for home. He was a good runner, but he only just escaped the deluge following that thunderbolt.
Jack turned upon reaching the house, and as he looked back he uttered a loud exclamation, and out from the house rushed all the people who were gathered there.
"Jingo!" Jack shouted. "The old hotel's gone, sure, this time!"
The burrowing spark had smoldered slowly along, until it felt the first fanning of the rising gale. In another minute it flared as if under a blowpipe, and soon a fierce sheet of flame came bursting through the roof.
Down poured the rain; but the hottest of that blaze was roofed over, and the fire had its own way with the empty addition.
"We couldn't help if we should try," exclaimed Mr. Ogden.
"I'll put on my old clothes, any way," said Jack. "Nobody knows what's coming."
"I will, too," said his father.
Jack paused a moment, and said, from the foot of the stairs:
"The steeple's down,—right through the meeting-house. It has smashed the whole church!"
The sight of the fire had made him withhold that news for a minute; but now, for another minute, the fire was almost forgotten.
Elder Holloway began to say something in praise of Mary Ogden about her leading out the class, but she darted away.
"Let me get by, Jack," she said. "Let me pass, please. They all would have been killed if they had waited! But I was thinking only of my class and the rain."
She ran up-stairs and Jack followed. Then the elder made a number of improving remarks about discipline and presence of mind, and the natural fitness of some people for doing the right thing in an emergency. He might have said more, but all were drawn to the windows to watch the strife between the fire and the rain.
The fierce wind drove the smoke through the building, compelling the landlord and his wife to escape as best they could, and, for the time being, the victory seemed to be with the fire.
"Seems to me," said the blacksmith, somberly, "as if Crofield was going to pieces. This is the worst storm we ever had. The meeting-house is gone, and the hotel's going!"
Mary, at her window, was looking out in silence, but her face was bright rather than gloomy. Even if she was "only a girl," she had found an opportunity for once, and she had not proved unequal to it.
JACK OGDEN'S RIDE.
Jack needed only a few minutes to put on the suit he had worn when fishing.
"There, now," he said; "if there's going to be a big flood in the creek I'm going down to see it, rain or no rain. There's no telling how high it'll rise if this pour keeps on long enough. It rattles on the roof like buckshot!"
"That's the end of the old tavern," said Jack to Mary, as he stood in the front room looking out.
He was barefooted, and had come so silently that she was startled.
"Jack!" she exclaimed, turning around, "they might have all been killed when the steeple came down. I heard what Joe Hawkins said, and I led out the class."
"Good for Joe!" said Jack. "We need a new meeting-house, any way. I heard the elder say so. Less steeple, next time, and more church!"
"I'd like to see a real big church," said Mary,—"a city church."
"You'd like to go to the city as much as I would," said Jack.
"Yes, I would," she replied emphatically. "Just you get there and I'll come afterward, if I can. I've been studying twice as hard since I left the academy, but I don't know why."
"I know it," said Jack; "but I've had no time for books."
"Jack! Molly!" the voice of Aunt Melinda came up the stairway. "Are you ever coming down-stairs?"
"What will the elder say to my coming down barefoot?" said Jack; "but I don't want shoes if I'm going out into the mud."
"He won't care at such a time as this," said Mary. "Let's go."
It was not yet supper-time, but it was almost dark enough to light the lamps. Jack felt better satisfied about his appearance when he found how dark and shadowy the parlor was; and he felt still better when he saw his father dressed as if he were going over to work at the forge, all but the leather apron.
The elder did not seem disturbed. He and Mr. Murdoch were talking about all sorts of great disasters, and Mary did not know just when she was drawn into the talk, or how she came to acknowledge having read about so many different things all over the world.
"Jack," whispered his mother, at last, "you'll have to go to the barn and gather eggs, or we sha'n't have enough for supper."
"I'll bring the eggs if I don't get drowned before I get back," said Jack; and he found a basket and an umbrella and set out.
He took advantage of a little lull in the rain, and ran to the barn-yard gate.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed. "Now I'll have to wade. Why it's nearly a foot deep! There'll be the biggest kind of a freshet in the Cocahutchie. Isn't this jolly?"
The rain pattered on the roof as if it had been the head of a drum. If the house was gloomy, the old barn was darker and gloomier. Jack turned over a half-bushel measure and sat down on it.
"I want to think," he said. "I want to get out of this. Seems to me I never felt it so before. I'd as lief live in this barn as stay in Crofield."
He suddenly sprang up and shook off his blues, exclaiming: "I'll go and see the freshet, anyhow!"
He carried the eggs into the house.
All the time he had been gone, Elder Holloway had been asking Mary very particularly about the Crofield Academy.
"I don't wonder she says what she does about the trustees," remarked Aunt Melinda. "She took the primary room twice, for 'most a month each time, when the teacher was sick, and all the thanks she had was that they didn't like it when they found it out."
The gutter in front of the house had now become a small torrent.
"All the other gutters are just like that," said Jack. "So are the brooks all over the country, and it all runs into the Cocahutchie!"
"Father," said Jack, after supper, "I'm going down to the creek."
"I wish you would," said his father. "Come back and tell us how it's looking."
"Could a freshet here do any damage?" asked Mr. Murdoch.
"There's a big dam up at Four Corners," said the blacksmith. "If anything should happen there, we'd have trouble here, and you'd have it in Mertonville, too."
Jack heard that as he was going out of the door. He carried an umbrella; but the first thing he noticed was that the force of the rain seemed to have slackened as soon as he was out of doors. It was now more like mist or a warm sleet, as if Crofield were drifting through a cloud.
"The Washington House needs all the rain it can get," said Jack, as he went along; "but half the roof is caved in. I'm glad Livermore's insured."
When Jack reached the creek he felt his heart fairly jump with excitement. The Cocahutchie was no longer a thin ribbon rippling along in a wide stretch of sand and gravel. It was a turbid, swollen, roaring flood, already filling all the space under its bridge; and the clump of old trees was in the water instead of on dry land.
"Hurrah!" shouted Jack. "As high as that already, and the worst is to come!"
He could not see the dam at first, but the gusts of wind were making openings in the mist, and he soon caught glimpses of a great sheet of foaming brown water.
"I'll go and take a look at the dam," he said; and he ran to the mill.
"It's just level with the dam," he said, after one swift glance. "I never thought of that. I must go and tell old Hammond what's coming."
The miller's house was not far away, and he and his family were at supper when there came a bang at the door. Then it opened and Mrs. Hammond exclaimed:
"Why, John Ogden!"
"I'm out o' breath," said Jack excitedly. "You tell him that the water's 'most up to the lower floor of the mill. If he's got anything there that'd be hurt by getting wet—"
"Goodness, yes!" shouted the miller, getting up from the table, "enough to ruin me. There are sacks of flour, meal, grain,—all sorts of stuff. It must all go up to the second floor. I'll call all the hands."
"But," said his wife, "it's Sunday!"
"Can't help it!" he exclaimed; "the Cocahutchie's coming right up into the mill. Jack, tell every man you see that I want him!"
Off went Jack homeward, but he spoke to half a dozen men on the way. He did not run, but he went quickly enough; and when he reached the house there was something waiting for him.
It was a horse with a blanket strapped on instead of a saddle; and by it stood his father, and near him stood his mother and Aunt Melinda and Mary, bareheaded, for it was not raining, now.
"Mount, Jack," said the blacksmith quietly. "I've seen the creek. It's only four and a half miles to the Four Corners. Ride fast. See how that dam looks and come back and tell me. Mr. Murdoch will have his buggy ready to start when you get back. See how many logs there are in the saw-mill boom."
"Oh, Jack!" exclaimed Mary, in a low suppressed voice. "I wish that I were you! It's a great day for you!"
He had sprung to the saddle while his father was speaking, and he felt it was out of his power to utter a word in reply. He did not need to speak to the horse, for the moment Mr. Ogden released the bit there was a quick bound forward.
"This horse is ready to go," said Jack to himself, as he felt that motion. "I've seen her before. I wonder what's made her so excited?"
There was no need for wonder. The trim, light-limbed sorrel mare he was riding had been kept in the hotel stables until that day. She had been taken out to a neighboring stable, at the morning alarm of fire, and when the blacksmith went to borrow her he found her laboring under a strong impression that things in Crofield were going wrong. She was therefore inclined to go fast, and all that Jack had to do was to hold her in. The blacksmith's son was at home in the saddle. It was not yet dark, and he knew the road to the Four Corners. It was a muddy road, and there was a little stream of water along each side of it. Spattered and splashed from head to foot were rider and horse, but the miles vanished rapidly and the Four Corners was reached.
A smaller village than Crofield, further up among the hills, it had a higher dam, a three times larger pond, a bigger grist-mill, and a large saw-mill. That was because there were forests of timbers among the yet higher hills beyond, and Mr. Ogden had been thinking seriously about the logs from those forests.
"I know what father means," said Jack aloud, as he galloped into the village.
There were hardly any people stirring about its one long street; but there was a reason for that and Jack found out what it was when he pulled up near the mill.
"Everybody has come to watch the dam," he exclaimed. "No use asking about the logs, though; there they are."
The crowd was evidently excited, and the air was filled with shouts and answers.
"The boom got unhitched and swung round 'cross the dam," said one eager speaker; "and there's all the logs, now,—hundreds on 'em,—just a-pilin' up and a-heapin' up on the dam; and when that breaks, the dam'll go, mill and all, bridge and all, and the valley below'll be flooded!"
The moon was up, and the clouds which had hidden it were breaking away as Jack looked at the threatening spectacle before him.
The sorrel mare was tugging hard at the rein and pawing the mud under her feet, while Jack listened to the talk.
"Stand it? No!" he heard a man say. "That dam wasn't built to stand any such crowdin' as that. Hark!"
A groaning, straining, cracking sound came from the barrier behind which the foaming flood was widening and deepening the pond.
"There it goes! It's breaking!"
Jack wheeled the sorrel, as a dull, thunderous report was answered by a great cry from the crowd; and then he dashed away down the homeward road.
"I must get to Crofield before the water does," he said. "Glad the creek's so crooked; it has twice as far to travel as I have."
Not quite, considering how a flood will sweep over a bend instead of following it. Still, Jack and the sorrel had the start, and nearly all the way it was a downhill road.
The Crofield people gathered fast, after the sky cleared, for a rumor went around that there was something wrong with the dam, and that a man had gone to the Four Comers to warn the people there.
All the men that could crowd into the mill had helped Mr. Hammond get his grain up into the second story, but the water was a hand-breadth deep on the lower floor by the time it was done.
There came a moment when all was silent except the roar of the water, and through that silence the thud of hoofs was heard coming down from Main Street. Then a shrill, excited voice shouted:
"All of you get off that bridge! The Four Corners dam's gone. The boom's broken, and the logs are coming!"
There was a tumult of questioning, as men gathered around the sorrel, and there was a swift clearing of people from the bridge.
"Why, it's shaking now!" said the blacksmith to Mr. Murdoch. "It'll go down with the first log that strikes it. You drive your best home to Mertonville and warn them. You may be just in time."
Away went the editor, carrying with him an extraordinary treasure of news for the next number of his journal. Jack dismounted, and her owner took the sorrel to her stable; she was very muddy but none the worse for the service she had rendered.
The crowd stood waiting for what was sure to come. Miller Hammond was anxiously watching his threatened and already damaged property. Jack came and stood beside him.
"Mr. Hammond," he said, "all the gravel that you were going to sell to father is lying under water."
"More than two acres of it," said the miller. "The water'll run off, though. I'll tell you what I'll do, Jack. I'll sell it for two hundred dollars, considering the flood."
"If father'll take it, will you count in the fifty you said you owed me?" inquired Jack.
The miller made a wry face for a moment, but then responded, smiling:
"Well! After what you've done to-night, too: saved all there was on the first floor,—yes, I will. Tell him I'll do it."
They all turned suddenly toward the dam. A high ridge of water was sweeping down across the pond. It carried a crest of foam, logs, planks, and rubbish, shining white in the moonlight, and it rolled on toward the mill and the dam as if it had an errand.
Crash—roar—crash—and a plunging sound,—and it seemed as if the Crofield dam had vanished. But it had not. Only a section of its top work, in the middle, had been knocked away by the rushing stroke of those logs.
A frightened shout went up from the spectators, and it had hardly died away before there followed another splintering crash.
"The bridge!" shouted Jack.
The frail supports of the bridge, brittle with age and weather, already straining hard against the furious water, needed only the battering of the first heavy logs from the boom, and down they went.
"Gone!" exclaimed Mr. Ogden. "The hotel's gone, and the meeting-house, and the dam, and the bridge. There won't be anything left of Crofield, at this rate."
"I'm going to get out of it," said Jack.
"I'll never refuse you again," replied his father, with energy. "You may get out any way you can, and take your chances anywhere you please. I won't stand in your way."
The roar of the surging Cocahutchie was the only sound heard for a full minute, and then the miller spoke.
"The mill's safe," he said, with a very long breath of relief; "the breaking of that hole in the dam let the water and logs through, and the pond isn't rising. Hurrah!"
There was a very faint and scattering cheer, and Jack Ogden did not join in it. He had turned suddenly and walked away homeward, along the narrow strip of land that remained between the wide, swollen Cocahutchie and the fence.
At the end of the fence, where he came into his own street, away above where the head of the bridge had been, there was a large gathering. That around the mill had been nearly all of men and boys. Here were women and girls, and the smaller boys, whose mothers and aunts held them and kept them from going nearer the water. Jack found it of no use to say, "Oh, mother, I'm too muddy!" She didn't care how muddy he was, and Aunt Melinda cared even less, apparently. Bessie and Sue had evidently been crying; but Mary had not; and it was her hand on Jack's arm that led him away, up the street, toward their gate.
"Oh, Jack!" she exclaimed, "I'm so proud! Did you ride fast? I'm glad I can ride! I could have done it, too. It was splendid!"
"Molly," said Jack, "I don't mind telling you. The sorrel mare galloped all the way, going and coming, up hill and down; and Molly, I kept wishing and thinking every jump she gave,—wishing I was galloping to New York, instead of to the Four Corners!
"Molly," he added quickly, "father gives it up and says I may go!"
OUT INTO THE WORLD.
Monday morning came, bright and sunshiny; and it hardly reached Crofield before the people began to get up and look about them.
Jack went down to the river and did not get back very soon. His mind was full of something besides the flood, and he did not linger long at the mill.
But he looked long and hard at all the pieces of land below the mill, down to Deacon Hawkins's line. He knew where that was, although the fence was gone.
"The freshet didn't wash away a foot of it," he said. "I'll tell father what Mr. Hammond said about selling it."
A pair of well-dressed men drove down from Main Street in a buggy and halted near him.
"Brady," said one of these men, "the engineer is right. We can't change the railroad line. We can say to the Crofield people that if they'll give us the right of way through the village we'll build them a new bridge. They'll do it. Right here's the spot for the station."
"Exactly," said the other man, "and the less we say about it the better. Keep mum."
"That's just what I'll do, too," said Jack to himself, as they drove away. "I don't know what they mean, but it'll come out some day."
Jack went home at once, and found the family at breakfast. After breakfast his father went to the shop, and Jack followed him to speak about the land purchase.
When Jack explained the miller's offer, Mr. Ogden went with him to see Mr. Hammond. After a short interview, Mr. Ogden and Jack secured the land in settlement of the amount already promised Jack, and of an old debt owed by the miller to the blacksmith, and also in consideration of their consenting to a previous sale of the trees for cash to the Bannermans, who had made their offer that morning. Mr. Hammond seemed very glad to make the sale upon these terms, as he was in need of ready money.
When Jack returned to his father's shop, he remembered the men he had seen at the river, and he told his father what they had said.
"Station?—right of way?" exclaimed Mr. Ogden. "That's the new railroad through Mertonville. They'll use up that land, and we won't get a cent. Well, it didn't cost anything. I'd about given up collecting that bill."
Later that day, Jack came in to dinner with a smile on his face. It was the old smile, too; a smile of good-humored self-confidence, which flickered over his lips from side to side, and twisted them, and shut his mouth tight. Just as he was about to speak, his father took a long, neatly folded paper out of his coat pocket and laid it on the table.
"Look at that, Jack," he said; "and show it to your mother."
"Warranty deed!" exclaimed Jack, reading the print on the outside. "Father! you didn't turn it over to me, did you? Mother, it's to John Ogden, Jr.!"
"Oh, John—" she began and stopped.
"Why, my dear," laughed the blacksmith, cheerfully, "it's his gravel, not mine. I'll hold it for him, for a while, but it is Jack's whenever I chose to record that deed."
"I'm afraid I couldn't farm it there," said Jack; and then the smile on his face flickered fast. "But I knew Father wanted that land."
"It isn't worth much, but it's a beginning," said Mary. "I'd like to own something or other, or to go somewhere."
"Well, Molly," answered Jack, smiling, "you can go to Mertonville. Livermore says there's a team here, horses and open carriage. It came over on Friday. The driver has cleared out, and somebody must take them home, and he wants me to drive over. Can't I take Molly, Mother?"
"You'd have to walk back," said his father, "but that's nothing much. It's less than nine miles—"
"Father," said Jack, "you said, last night, I needn't come back to Crofield, right away. And Mertonville's nine miles nearer the city—"
"And a good many times nine miles yet to go," exclaimed the blacksmith; but then he added, smiling: "Go ahead, Jack. I do believe that if any boy can get there, you can."
"I'll do it somehow," said Jack, with a determined nod.
"Of course you will," said Mary.
Jack felt as if circumstances were changing pretty fast, so far as he was concerned; and so did Mary, for she had about given up all hope of seeing her friends in Mertonville.
"We'll get you ready, right away," said Aunt Melinda. "You can give Jack your traveling bag,—he won't mind the key's being lost,—and I'll let you take my trunk, and we'll fit you out so you can enjoy it."
"Jack," said his father, "tell Livermore you can go, and then I want to see you at the shop."
Jack was so glad he could hardly speak; for he felt it was the first step. But a part of his feeling was that he had never before loved Crofield and all the people in it, especially his own family, so much as at that minute.
He went over to the ruined hotel, where he found the landlord at work saving all sorts of things and seeming to feel reasonably cheerful over his misfortunes.
"Jack," he said, as soon as he was told that Jack was ready to go, "you and Molly will have company. Miss Glidden sent to know how she could best get over to Mertonville, and I said she could go with you. There's a visitor, too, who must go back with her.
"I'll take 'em," said Jack.
Upon going to the shop he found his father shoeing a horse. The blacksmith beckoned his son to the further end of the shop. He heard about Miss Glidden, and listened in silence to several hopeful things Jack had to say about what he meant to do sooner or later.
"Well," he said, at last, "I was right not to let you go before, and I've doubts about it now, but something must be done. I'm making less and less, and not much of it's cash, and it costs more to live, and they're all growing up. I don't want you to make me any promises. They are broken too easily. You needn't form good resolutions. They won't hold water. There's one thing I want you to do, though. Your mother and I have brought you up as straight as a string, and you know what's right and what's wrong."
"That's true," said Jack.
"Well, then, don't you promise nor form any resolutions, but if you're tempted to do wrong, or to be a fool in any kind of way, just don't do it that's all."
"I won't, Father," said Jack earnestly.
"There," said his father, "I feel better satisfied than I should feel if you'd promised a hundred things. It's a great deal better not to do anything that you know to be wrong or foolish."
"I think so," said Jack, "and I won't."
"Go home now and get ready," said his father; "and I'll see you off."
"This is very sudden, Jack,", said his mother, with much feeling, when he made his appearance.
"Why, Mother," said Jack, "Molly'll be back soon, and the city isn't so far away after all."
Jack felt as if he had only about enough head left to change his clothes and drive the team.
"It's just as Mother says," he thought; "I've been wishing and hoping for it, but it's come very suddenly."
His black traveling-bag was quickly ready. He had closed it and was walking to the door when his mother came in.
"Jack," she said, "you'll send me a postal card every day or two?"
"Of course I will," said he bravely.
"And I know you'll be back in a few weeks, at most," she went on; "but I feel as sad as if you were really going away from home. Why, you're almost a child! You can't really be going away!"
That was where the talk stopped for a while, except some last words that Jack could never forget. Then she dried her eyes, and he dried his, and they went down-stairs together. It was hard to say good-by to all the family, and he was glad his father was not there. He got away from them as soon as he could, and went over to the stables after his team. It was a bay team, with a fine harness, and the open carriage was almost new.
"Stylish!" said Jack. "I'll take Molly on the front seat with me,—no, the trunk,—and Miss Glidden's trunk,—well, I'll get 'em all in somehow!"
When he drove up in front of the house his father was there to put the baggage in and to help Mary into the carriage and to shake hands with Jack.
The blacksmith's grimy face looked less gloomy for a moment.
"Jack," he said, "good-by. May be you'll really get to the city after all."
"I think I shall," said Jack, with an effort to speak calmly.
"Well," said the blacksmith, slowly, "I hope you will, somehow; but don't you forget that there's another city."
Jack knew what he meant. They shook hands, and in another moment the bays were trotting briskly on their way to Miss Glidden's. Her house was one of the finest in Crofield, with lawn and shrubbery. Mary Ogden had never been inside of it, but she had heard that it was beautifully furnished. There was Miss Glidden and her friend on the piazza, and out at the sidewalk, by the gate, was a pile of baggage, at the sight of which Jack exclaimed: