A STORY OF A GROWING BOY
WILLIAM O. STODDARD
CHAPTER I. THE KINZER FARM, THE NEW SUIT, AND THE WEDDING.
CHAPTER II. DAB'S OLD CLOTHES GET A NEW BOY TO FIT.
CHAPTER III. A MEMBER OF ONE OF THE OLDEST FAMILIES MEETS A YOUNG GENTLEMAN FROM THE CITY.
CHAPTER IV. TWO BOYS, ONE PIG, AND AN UNFORTUNATE RAILWAY-TRAIN.
CHAPTER V. NEW NEIGHBORS, AND GETTING SETTLED.
CHAPTER VI. CRABS, BOYS, AND A BOAT-WRECK.
CHAPTER VII. A VERY ACCIDENTAL CALL.
CHAPTER VIII. A RESCUE, AND A GRAND GOOD TIME.
CHAPTER IX. THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF BOYS.
CHAPTER X. A CRUISE IN "THE SWALLOW".
CHAPTER XI. SPLENDID FISHING, AND A BIG FOG.
CHAPTER XII. HOW THE GAME OF "FOLLOW MY LEADER" CAN BE PLAYED AT SEA.
CHAPTER XIII. "HOME AGAIN! HERE WE ARE!".
CHAPTER XIV. A GREAT MANY THINGS GETTING READY TO COME.
CHAPTER XV. DABNEY KINZER TO THE RESCUE.
CHAPTER XVI. DAB KINZER AND HAM MORRIS TURN INTO A FIRE-DEPARTMENT.
CHAPTER XVII. DAB HAS A WAKING DREAM, AND HAM GETS A SNIFF OF SEA-AIR.
CHAPTER XVIII. HOW DAB WORKED OUT ANOTHER OF HIS GREAT PLANS.
CHAPTER XIX. A GRAND SAILING-PARTY, AND AN EXPERIMENT BY RICHARD LEE.
CHAPTER XX. A WRECK AND SOME WRECKERS.
CHAPTER XXI. DAB AND HIS FRIENDS TURN THEMSELVES INTO COOKS AND WAITERS.
CHAPTER XXII. THE REAL MISSION OF THE JUG.
CHAPTER XXIII. ANOTHER GRAND PLAN, AND A VERY GRAND RUNAWAY.
CHAPTER XXIV. DABNEY'S GREAT PARTY.
CHAPTER XXV. THE BOYS ON THEIR TRAVELS. A GREAT CITY, AND A GREAT DINNER.
CHAPTER XXVI. THE FIRST MORNING IN GRANTLEY, AND ANOTHER EXCELLENT JOKE.
CHAPTER XXVII. A NEW KIND OF EXAMINATION.
CHAPTER XXVIII. AN UNUSUAL AMOUNT OF INTRODUCTION.
CHAPTER XXIX. LETTERS HOME FROM THE BOYS.—DICK LEE'S FIRST GRIEF.
CHAPTER XXX. DABNEY KINZER TRIES FRESH-WATER FISHING FOR THE FIRST TIME.
CHAPTER XXXI. A FIGHT, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
CHAPTER XXXII. OLD FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS OF HIS COME TO VISIT DABNEY.
THE KINZER FARM, THE NEW SUIT, AND THE WEDDING.
Between the village and the inlet, and half a mile from the great "bay," lay the Kinzer farm. Beyond the bay was a sandbar, and beyond that the Atlantic Ocean; for all this was on the southerly shore of Long Island.
The Kinzer farm had lain right there—acre for acre, no more, no less—on the day when Hendrik Hudson long ago sailed the good ship "Half Moon" into New-York Bay. But it was not then known to any one as the Kinzer farm. Neither was there then, as now, any bright and growing village crowding up on one side of it, with a railway-station and a post-office. Nor was there, at that time, any great and busy city of New York, only a few hours' ride away, over on the island of Manhattan. The Kinzers themselves were not there then. But the bay and the inlet, with the fish and the crabs, and the ebbing and flowing tides, were there, very much the same, before Hendrik Hudson and his brave Dutchmen knew any thing whatever about that corner of the world.
The Kinzer farm had always been a reasonably "fat" one, both as to size and quality; and the good people who lived on it had generally been of a somewhat similar description. It was, therefore, every way correct and becoming for Dabney Kinzer's widowed mother and his sisters to be the plump and hearty beings they were, and all the more discouraging to poor Dabney that no amount of regular and faithful eating seemed to make him resemble them at all in that respect.
Mrs. Kinzer excused his thinness, to her neighbors, to be sure, on the ground that he was "such a growing boy;" but, for all that, he caught himself wondering, now and then, if he would never be done with that part of his trials. For rapid growth has its trials.
"The fact is," he said to himself one day, as he leaned over the north fence, "I'm more like Ham Morris's farm than I am like ours. His farm is bigger than ours, all round; but it's too big for its fences, just as I'm too big for my clothes. Ham's house is three times as large as ours, but it looks as if it had grown too fast. It hasn't any paint to speak of, nor any blinds. It looks as if somebody'd just built it there, and then forgot it, and gone oft and left it out of doors."
Dabney's four sisters had all come into the world before him; but he was as tall as any of them, and was frequently taken by strangers for a good two years older than he was. It was sometimes very hard for him, a boy of fifteen, to live up to what was expected of those extra two years.
Mrs. Kinzer still kept him in roundabouts; but they did not seem to hinder his growth at all, if that was her object in so doing.
There was no such thing, however, as keeping the four girls in roundabouts of any kind; and, what between them and their mother, the pleasant and tidy little Kinzer homestead, with its snug parlor and its cosey bits of rooms and chambers, seemed to nestle away, under the shadowy elms and sycamores, smaller and smaller with every year that came.
It was a terribly tight fit for such a family, anyway; and, now that Dabney was growing at such a rate, there was no telling what they would all come to. But Mrs. Kinzer came at last to the rescue; and she summoned her eldest daughter, Miranda, to her aid.
A very notable woman was the widow. When the new railway cut off part of the old farm, she had split up the slice of land between the iron track and the village into "town lots," and had sold them all off by the time the railway company paid her for the "damage" it had done the property.
The whole Kinzer family gained visibly in plumpness that year, except, perhaps, Dabney.
Of course the condition and requirements of Ham Morris and his big farm, just over the north fence, had not escaped such a pair of eyes as those of the widow; and the very size of his great barn of a house finally settled his fate for him.
A large, quiet, unambitious, but well-brought-up and industrious young man was Hamilton Morris, and he had not the least idea of the good in store for him for several months after Mrs. Kinzer decided to marry him to her daughter Miranda; but all was soon settled. Dab, of course, had nothing to do with the wedding arrangements, and Ham's share was somewhat contracted. Not but what he was at the Kinzer house a good deal; nor did any of the other girls tell Miranda how very much he was in the way. He could talk, however; and one morning, about a fortnight before the day appointed, he said to Miranda and her mother,—
"We can't have so very much of a wedding: your house is so small, and you've chocked it so full of furniture. Right down nice furniture it is too; but there's so much of it, I'm afraid the minister'll have to stand out in the front yard."
"The house'll do for this time," replied Mrs. Kinzer. "There'll be room enough for everybody. What puzzles me is Dab."
"What about Dab?" asked Ham.
"Can't find a thing to fit him," said Dab's mother. "Seems as if he were all odd sizes, from head to foot."
"Fit him?" exclaimed Ham. "Oh, you mean ready-made goods! Of course you can't. He'll have to be measured by a tailor, and have his new suit built for him."
"Such extravagance!" emphatically remarked Mrs. Kinzer.
"Not for rich people like you, and for a wedding," replied Ham; "and Dab's a growing boy. Where is he now? I'm going to the village, and I'll take him right along with me."
There seemed to be no help for it; but that was the first point relating to the wedding, concerning which Ham Morris was permitted to have exactly his own way. His success made Dab Kinzer a fast friend of his for life, and that was something. There was also something new and wonderful to Dabney himself, in walking into a tailor's shop, picking out cloth to please himself, and being so carefully measured all over. He stretched and stretched himself in all directions, to make sure nothing should turn out too small. At the end of it all, Ham said to him,—
"Now, Dab, my boy, this suit is to be a present from me to you, on Miranda's account."
Dab colored and hesitated for a moment: but it seemed all right, he thought; and so he came frankly out with,—
"Thank you, Ham. You always was a prime good fellow. I'll do as much for you some day. Tell you what I'll do, then: I'll have another suit made right away, of this other cloth, and have the bill for that one sent to our folks."
"Do it!" exclaimed Ham. "Do it! You've your mother's orders for that. She's nothing to do with my gift."
"Splendid!" almost shouted Dab. "Oh, but don't I hope they'll fit!"
"Vit," said the tailor: "vill zay vit? I dell you zay vit you like a knife. You vait und zee."
Dab failed to get a very clear idea of what the fit would be, but it made him almost hold his breath to think of it.
After the triumphant visit to the tailor, there was still a necessity for a call upon the shoemaker, and that was a matter of no small importance. Dab's feet had always been a mystery and a trial to him. If his memory contained one record darker than another, it was the endless history of his misadventures with boots and shoes. He and leather had been at war from the day he left his creeping-clothes until now. But now he was promised a pair of shoes that would be sure to fit.
So the question of Dab's personal appearance at the wedding was all arranged between him and Ham; and Miranda smiled more sweetly than ever before upon the latter, after she had heard her usually silent brother break out so enthusiastically about him as he did that evening.
It was a good thing for that wedding, that it took place in fine summer weather; for neither kith, kin, nor acquaintances had been slighted in the invitations, and the Kinzers were one of the "oldest families."
To have gathered them all under the roof of that house, without either stretching it out wider or boiling the guests down, would have been out of the question; and so the majority, with Dabney in his new clothes to keep them countenance, stood out in the cool shade of the grand old trees during the ceremony, which was performed near the open door; and were afterwards served with the refreshments in a style which spoke volumes for Mrs. Kinzer's good management, as well as for her hospitality.
The only drawback to Dab's happiness that day was that his acquaintances hardly seemed to know him. He had had almost the same trouble with himself, when he looked in the glass that morning.
Ordinarily, his wrists were several inches through his coat-sleeves, and his ankles made a perpetual show of his stockings. His neck, too, seemed to be holding his head as far as possible from his coat-collar, and his buttons had no favors to ask of his button-holes.
Now, even as the tailor had promised, he had received his "first fit." He seemed to himself, to tell the truth, to be covered up in a prodigal waste of new cloth. Would he ever, ever, grow too big for such a suit of clothes as that? It was a very painful thought, and he did his best to put it away from him.
Still, it was a little hard to have a young lady, whom he had known since before she began to walk, remark to him,—
"Excuse me, sir, but can you tell me if Mr. Dabney Kinzer is here?"
"No, Jenny Walters," sharply responded Dab, "he isn't here."
"Why, Dabney!" exclaimed the pretty Jenny. "Is that you? I declare, you have scared me out of a year's growth!"
"I wish you'd scare me, then," said Dab. "Then my clothes would stay fitted."
Every thing had been so well arranged beforehand, thanks to Mrs. Kinzer, that the wedding had no chance at all except to go off well. Ham Morris was rejoiced to find how entirely he was relieved of every responsibility.
"Don't worry about your house," the widow said to him, the night before the wedding. "We'll go over there, as soon as you and Miranda get away, and it'll be all ready for you by the time you get back."
"All right," said Ham. "I'll be glad to have you take the old place in hand. I've only tried to live in a corner of it. You don't know how much room there is. I don't, I must say."
Dabney had longed to ask her if she meant to have it moved over to the Kinzer side of the north fence, but he had doubts as to the propriety of it; and just then the boy came in from the tailor's with his bundle of new clothes.
DAB'S OLD CLOTHES GET A NEW BOY TO FIT.
Hamilton Morris was a very promising young man, of some thirty summers. He had been an "orphan" for a dozen years; and the wonder was that he should so long have lived alone in the big, square-built house his father left him. At all events, Miranda Kinzer was just the wife for him.
Miranda's mother had seen that at a glance, the moment her mind was settled about the house. As to that and his great, spreading, half-cultivated farm, all either of them needed was ready money and management.
These were blessings Ham was now made reasonably sure of, on his return from his wedding-trip, and he was likely to appreciate them.
As for Dabney Kinzer, he was in no respect overcome by the novelty and excitement of the wedding-day. All the rest of it, after the departure of Ham Morris and the bride, he devoted himself to such duties as were assigned him, with a new and grand idea steadily taking shape in his mind. He felt as if his brains too, like his body, were growing. Some of his mother's older and more intimate friends remained with her all day, probably to comfort her for the loss of Miranda; and two or three of them, Dab knew, would stay to tea, so that his services would be in demand to see them safely home.
All day long, moreover, Samantha and Keziah and Pamela seemed to find themselves wonderfully busy, one way and another, so that they paid even less attention than usual to any of the ins and outs of their brother.
Dabney was therefore able, with little difficulty, to take for himself whatever of odd time he might require for putting his new idea into execution.
Mrs. Kinzer herself noticed the rare good sense with which her son hurried through with his dinner, and slipped away, leaving her in undisturbed possession of the table and her lady guests, and neither she nor either of the girls had a thought of following him.
If they had done so, they might have seen him draw a good-sized bundle out from under the lilac-thicket in the back yard, and hurry down through the garden.
A few moments more, and Dabney had appeared on the fence of the old cross-road leading down to the shore. There he sat, eying one passer-by after another, till he suddenly sprang from his perch, exclaiming,—
"That's just the chap! Why, they'll fit him, and that's more'n they ever did for me."
Dab would probably have had to search along the coast for miles before he could have found a human being better suited to his present charitable purposes than the boy who now came so lazily down the road.
There was no doubt about his color, or that he was all over of about the same shade of black. His old tow trowsers and calico shirt revealed the shining fact in too many places to leave room for a question, and shoes he had none.
"Dick," said Dabney, "was you ever married?"
"Married!" exclaimed Dick, with a peal of very musical laughter, "is I married? No. Is you?"
"No," replied Dabney; "but I was very near it, this morning."
"Dat so?" asked Dick, with another show of his white teeth. "Done ye good, den; nebber seen ye I look so nice afore."
"You'd look nicer'n I do if you were only dressed up," said Dab. "Just you put on these."
"Golly!" exclaimed the black boy. But he seized the bundle Dab threw him, and he had it open in a twinkling.
"Any t'ing in de pockets?" he asked.
"Guess not," said Dab; "but there's lots of room."
"Say dar was," exclaimed Dick. "But won't dese t'ings be warm?"
It was quite likely; for the day was not a cool one, and Dick never seemed to think of getting off what he had on, before getting into his unexpected present. Coat, vest, and trousers, they were all pulled on with more quickness than Dab had ever seen the young African display before.
"I's much obleeged to ye, Mr. Kinzer," said Dick very proudly, as he strutted across the road. "On'y I dasn't go back fru de village."
"What'll you do, then?" asked Dab.
"S'pose I'd better go a-fishin'," said Dick. "Will de fish bite?"
"Oh! the clothes won't make any odds to them," said Dabney. "I must go back to the house."
And so he did: while Dick, on whom the cast-off garments of his white friend were really a pretty good fit, marched on down the road, feeling grander than he ever had before in all his life.
"That'll be a good thing to tell Ham Morris, when he and Miranda get home again," muttered Dab, as he re-entered the house.
Late that evening, when Dabney returned from his final duties as escort to his mother's guests, she rewarded him with more than he could remember ever receiving of motherly commendation.
"I've been really quite proud of you, Dabney," she said, as she laid her plump hand on the collar of his new coat, and kissed him. "You've behaved like a perfect little gentleman."
"Only, mother," exclaimed Keziah, "he spent too much of his time with that sharp-tongued little Jenny Walters."
"Never mind, Kezi," said Dab: "she didn't know who I was till I told her. I'm going to wear a label with my name on it when I go over to the village to-morrow."
"And then you'll put on your other suit in the morning," said Mrs. Kinzer. "You must keep this for Sundays and great occasions."
"Any more weddings coming, right away?" said Dab, with a sharp glance around upon what remained of the family; but the girls were all very busy just then, with their books and their sewing, and he did not get any direct reply. Even his mother walked away after something she had left in the dining-room.
When the next morning came, Dabney Kinzer was a more than usually early riser, for he felt that he had waked up to a very important day.
"Dabney," exclaimed his mother, when he came in to breakfast, "did I not tell you to put on your other suit?"
"So I have, mother," replied Dab: this is my other suit."
"That?" exclaimed Mrs. Kinzer.
"So it is!" cried Keziah.
"So it isn't," added Samantha. "Mother, that is not what he had on yesterday."
"He's been trading again," mildly suggested Pamela.
"Dabney," said Mrs. Kinzer, "what does this mean?"
"Mean!" replied Dabney. "Why, these are the clothes you told me to buy. The lot I wore yesterday were a present from Ham Morris. He's a splendid fellow. I'm glad he got the best of the girls."
That was a bad thing for Dabney to say just then, for it was vigorously resented by the remaining three. As soon as quiet was restored, however, Mrs. Kinzer remarked,—
"I think Hamilton should have consulted me about it, but it's too late now. Anyhow, you may go and put on your other clothes."
"My wedding suit?" asked Dab.
"No, indeed! I mean your old ones,—those you took off night before last."
"Dunno where they are," slowly responded Dab.
"Don't know where they are?" responded a chorus of four voices.
"No," said Dab. "Bill Lee's black boy had em on all yesterday afternoon, and I reckon he's gone a-fishing again to-day. They fit him a good sight better 'n they ever did me."
If Dabney had expected a storm to come from his mother's end of the table, he was pleasantly mistaken; and his sisters had it all to themselves for a moment. Then, with an admiring glance at her son, the thoughtful matron remarked,—
"Just like his father, for all the world! It's no use, girls: Dabney's a growing boy in more ways than one. Dabney, I shall want you to go over to the Morris house with me after breakfast. Then you may hitch up the ponies, and we'll do some errands around the village."
Dab Kinzer's sisters looked at one another in blank astonishment, and Samantha would have left the table if she had only finished her breakfast.
Pamela, as being nearest to Dab in age and sympathy, gave a very admiring look at her brother's second "good fit," and said nothing.
Even Keziah finally admitted, in her own mind, that such a change in Dabney's appearance might have its advantages. But Samantha inwardly declared war.
The young hero himself was hardly used to that second suit, as yet, and felt any thing but easy in it.
"I wonder," he said to himself, "what Jenny Walters would say to me now. Wonder if she'd know me."
Not a doubt of it. But after he had finished his breakfast, and gone out, his mother remarked,—
"It's really all right, girls. I almost fear I have been neglecting Dabney. He isn't a little boy any more."
"He isn't a man yet," exclaimed Samantha. "And he talks slang dreadfully."
"But then, he does grow so!" remarked Keziah.
"Mother," said Pamela, "couldn't you get Dab to give Dick Lee the slang, along with the old clothes?"
"We'll see about it," replied Mrs. Kinzer.
It was very clear that Dabney's mother had begun to take in a new idea about her son.
It was not the least bit in the world unpleasant to find out that he was "growing in more ways than one," and it was quite likely that she had indeed kept him too long in roundabouts.
At all events, his great idea had been worked out into a triumphant success; and, before the evening was over, Pamela replied to a remark of Samantha's,—
"I don't care. He's taller than I am, and I'd ever so much rather have a frock-coat walk beside me to meeting."
A MEMBER OF ONE OF THE OLDEST FAMILIES MEETS A YOUNG GENTLEMAN FROM THE CITY.
Dick Lee had been more than half right about the village being a dangerous place for him, with such an unusual amount of clothing over his ordinary uniform.
The very dogs, every one of whom was an old acquaintance, barked at him on his way home that night; and, proud as were his ebony father and mother of the improvement in their son's appearance, they yielded to his earnest entreaties, first, that he might wear his present all the next day, and, second, that he might betake himself to the "bay" early in the morning, and so keep out of sight "till he got used to it."
"On'y, you jist mind wot yer about!" said his mother, "and see't you keep dem clo'es from gettin' wet. I jist can't 'foard to hab dem spiled right away."
The fault with Dab Kinzer's old suit, after all, had lain mainly in its size rather than its materials; for Mrs. Kinzer was too good a manager to be really stingy.
Dick succeeded in reaching the boat-landing without falling in with any one who seemed disposed to laugh at him; but there, right on the wharf, was a white boy of about his own age, and he felt a good deal like backing out.
"Nebber seen him afore, either," said Dick to himself. "Den I guess I ain't afeard ob him."
The stranger was a somewhat short and thick-set, but bright and active-looking boy, with a pair of very keen, greenish-gray eyes. But, after all, the first word he spoke to poor Dick was,—
"Hullo, clothes! Where are you going with all that boy?"
"I knowed it, I knowed it!" groaned Dick. But he answered as sharply as he knew how,—
"I's goin' a-fishin'. Any ob youah business?"—
"Where'd you learn how to fish?" the stranger asked, "Down South? Didn't know they had any there."
"Nebbah was down Souf," was the somewhat surly reply.
"Father run away, did he?"
"He nebber was down dar, nudder."
"Nor his father?"
"'Tain't no business ob yourn," said Dick, "but we's allers lived right heah, on dis bay."
"Guess not," said the white boy knowingly. Dick was right, nevertheless; for his people had been slaves among the very earliest Dutch settlers, and had never "lived South" at all. He was now busily getting one of the boats ready to shove off; but his white tormentor went at him again, with,—
"Well, then, if you've lived round here as long as that, you must know everybody."
"Reckon I do."
"Are there any nice fellows around here? Any like me?"
"De nicest young gen'lman round dis bay," replied Dick, "is Mr. Dab Kinzer. But he ain't like you. Not nuff to hurt him."
"Dab Kinzer," exclaimed the stranger. "Where'd he get his name?"
"In de bay, I 'spect," said Dick, as he shoved his boat off; "caught 'im wid a hook."
"Anyhow," said the strange boy to himself, "that's probably the kind of fellow my father would wish me to associate with. Only it's likely he's very ignorant."
And he walked away towards the village, with the air of a man who had forgotten more than the rest of his race were ever likely to find out.
At all events, Dick Lee had managed to say a good word for his benefactor, little as he could guess what might be the consequences.
Meantime Dab Kinzer, when he went out from breakfast, had strolled away to the north fence, for a good look at the house which was thenceforth to be the home of his favorite sister. He had seen it before, every day since he could remember; but it seemed to have a fresh and almost mournful interest for him just now.
"Hullo!" he exclaimed, as he leaned against the fence. "Putting up ladders? Oh, yes, I see! That's old Tommy McGrew, the house-painter. Well, Ham's house needs a new coat as badly as I did. Sure it'll fit too. Only it ain't used to it, any more'n I am."
It was his mother's voice, and Dab felt like "minding" very promptly that morning.
"Dabney, my boy, come here to the gate."
"Ham Morris is having his house painted," he remarked, as he walked towards his mother.
"Is he?" she said. "We'll go and see about it."
The gate between the two "side-yards" had been there from time immemorial, and-they walked right through. As they drew nearer the Morris house, however, Dabney discovered that carpenters as well as painters were plying their trade in and about the old homestead. There were window-sashes piled here, and blinds there; a new door or so, ready for use, a great stack of bundles of shingles, some barrels of lime, and a heap of sand. Whichever way Dab looked, there were visible signs of an approaching renovation.
"Going to fix it all over," he remarked.
"Yes," replied his mother: "it'll be as good as new. It was well built, and will bear mending. I couldn't say that of some of the shackling things they've been putting up around the village."
When they entered the house it became more and more evident that the "shabby" days of the Morris mansion were numbered. There were men at work in almost every room.
Ham's wedding-trip would surely give plenty of time, at that rate, for an immense amount of "mending;" and his house would be, as the widow had promised, "all ready for him on his return."
There was nothing wonderful to Dabney in the idea of his mother going about and inspecting work, and finding fault, and giving directions. He had never seen her do any thing else, and he had the greatest confidence in her knowledge and ability. He noticed too, before they left the place, that the customary farm-work was going ahead with even more regularity and energy than if the owner himself had been present.
"Ham's farm'll look something like ours, one of these days," he said, "if things go on at this rate."
"I mean it shall," replied his mother, a little sharply. "Now go and get out the ponies, and we'll do the rest of our errands."
Dab started for the barn at a half trot; for, if there was one thing he liked better than another, it was to have the reins in his hands and that pair of ponies before him. Time had been when Mrs. Kinzer did her own driving, and only permitted Dab to "hold the horses" while she made her calls, business or otherwise; but that day had been safely put away among Dab's unpleasant memories for a good while.
It was but a few minutes before the neat buggy held the widow and her son, and the ponies were taking them briskly down the road towards the village.
It they had only known it, at that very moment Ham Morris and his blooming bride were setting out for a drive, at the fashionable watering-place where they had made their first stop in their wedding-tour.
"Ham," said Miranda, "it seems to me as if we were a thousand miles from home."
"We shall be a good deal farther before we get any nearer," said Ham.
"But I wonder what they are doing there, this morning,—mother, and the girls, and dear little Dabney."
"Little Dabney!" exclaimed Ham, with a queer sort of laugh on his face. "Why, Miranda, do you think Dab is a baby yet?"
"No, not a baby, but"—
"Well, he's a boy, that's a fact; but he'll be as tall as I am in three years."
"Will he? Do you think so? But will he ever get fat?"
"Not till after he gets his full length," said Ham. "We must have him at our house a good deal, after we get home, and feed him up. I've taken a liking to Dab."
"Feed him up!" said Miranda. "Do you think we starve him?"
"No, I suppose not; but how many meals a day does he get?"
"Three, of course, like the rest of us; and he never misses one of them."
"Exactly," said Ham: "I shouldn't suppose he would. I never miss a meal, myself, if I can help it. But don't you think three meals a day is rather short allowance for a boy like Dab?"
Miranda thought a moment, but then she answered positively,—
"No, I don't. Not if he does as well at each one of them as Dabney is sure to."
"Well," said Ham, "that was in his old clothes, that were too tight for him. Now he's got a good loose fit, with plenty of room, you don't know how much more he may need. No, Miranda, I'm going to have an eye on Dab."
"You're a dear good fellow, anyway," said Miranda, with one of her very best smiles, "and I hope mother'll have the house all ready for us when we get back."
"She will," replied Ham, after a moment spent in somewhat thoughtful silence. "Do you know, Miranda, I shall hardly be easy about that till I see what she's done with it? It was in a dreadfully baggy condition."
TWO BOYS, ONE PIG, AND AN UNFORTUNATE RAILWAY-TRAIN.
Dab was standing by his ponies, in front of a store in the village. His mother was making some purchases in the store, and Dab was thinking how the Morris house would look when it was finished; and it was at him the old farmer was pointing in answer to a question which had just been asked him.
The questioner was the sharp-eyed boy who had bothered poor Dick Lee that morning, and he was now evidently making a sort of "study" of Dab Kinzer.
At that moment, however, a young lady—quite young—came tripping along the sidewalk, and was stopped by Dabney, with,—
"There, Jenny Walters! If I didn't forget my label!"
"Why, Dabney! Is that you? How you startled me! Forgot your label?"
"Yes," said Dab; "I'm in another new suit today; and I meant to have a label on the collar, with my name on it. You'd have known me then."
"But I know you now," exclaimed Jenny. "Why, I saw you yesterday."
"Yes, and I told you it was me. Can you read, Jenny?"
"Why, what a question!"
"Because, if you can't, it won't do me any good to wear a label."
"Dabney Kinzer!" exclaimed Jenny, "there's an other thing you ought to get."
"Some good manners," said the little lady snappishly. "Think of your stopping me in the street to tell me I can't read!"
"Then you mustn't forget me so quick," said Dab. "If you meet my old clothes anywhere you must call them Dick Lee. They've had a change of name."
"So he's in them, is he? I don't doubt they look better than they ever did before."
Jenny walked away at once, at the end of that remark, holding her head pretty high, and leaving her old playmate feeling as if he had had a little the worst of it. That was often the way with people who stopped to talk with Jenny Walters, and she was not as much of a favorite as she otherwise might have been.
Dabney looked after her with his mouth puckered into shape for a whistle; but she had hardly disappeared before he found himself confronted by the strange young gentleman.
"Is your name Dabney Kinzer?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"Well, I'm Mr. Ford Foster, from New York."
"Come over here to buy goods?" suggested Dabney. "Or to get something to eat?"
Ford Foster was apparently of about Dab's age, but a full head less in height, so that there was more point in the question than there seemed to be; but he treated it as not worthy of notice, and asked,—
"Do you know of a house to let anywhere about here?"
"House to let?" suddenly exclaimed the voice of Mrs. Kinzer, behind him, much to Dab's surprise. "Are you asking about a house? Whom for?"
Ford Foster had been quite ready to "chaff" Dick Lee, and he would not have hesitated about trying a like experiment upon Mr. Dabney Kinzer; but he knew enough to speak respectfully to the portly and business-like lady before him now.
"Yes, madam," he said, with a ceremonious bow: "I wish to report to my father that I have found an acceptable house in this vicinity."
Mrs. Kinzer was reading the young gentleman through and through, as she spoke; but she followed her exclamation with a dozen questions, all of which he answered with a good deal of clearness and intelligence. She wound up at last, with,—
"Go right home, then, and tell your father the only good house to let in this neighborhood will be ready for him next week. I'll show it to him when he comes, but he'd better see me at once. Dabney, jump into the buggy. I'm in a hurry."
The ponies were in motion, up the street, before Ford Foster quite recovered from the shock of being told to "go right home."
"A very remarkable woman," he muttered, as he turned away, "and she did not tell me a word about the house, after all. I must make some more inquiries. The boy is actually well dressed, for a place like this."
"Mother," said Dabney, as they drove along, "you wouldn't let 'em have Ham's house, would you?"
"No, indeed. But I don't mean to have our own stand empty."
With that reply a great deal of light broke in upon Dab's mind.
"That's it, is it?" he said to himself, as he touched up the ponies. "Well, there'll be room enough for all of us there, and no mistake. But what'll Ham say?"
That was a question which he could safely leave to the very responsible lady beside him; and she found "errands" enough for him, during the remainder of that forenoon, to keep him from worrying his mind about any thing else.
As for Ford Foster, it was not until late on the following day that he completed all his "inquiries" to his satisfaction. He took the afternoon train for the city, almost convinced that, much as he undoubtedly knew before he came, he had actually acquired a good deal more knowledge which might be of some value.
Ford was almost the only passenger in the car he had selected. Trains going towards the city were apt to be thinly peopled at that time of day; but the empty cars had to be taken along all the same, for the benefit of the crowds who would be coming out later in the afternoon and in the evening. The railway-company would have made more money with full loads both ways, but it was well they did not have a full load on that precise train.
Ford had turned over the seat in front of him, and stretched himself out with his feet on it. It was almost like lying down, for a boy of his length; and it was the very best position he could possibly have taken if he had known what was coming.
Known what was coming?
Yes: there was a pig coming.
That was all; but it was quite enough, considering what that pig was about to do. He was going where he chose, just then; and not only had he chosen to walk upon the railroad-track, but he had also made up his mind not to turn out for that locomotive and its train of cars.
He saw it, of course, for he was looking straight at it; and the engineer saw him, but it would have been well for the pig if he had been discovered a few seconds earlier.
"What a whistle!" exclaimed Ford Foster at that moment. "It sounds more like the squeal of an iron pig than any thing else. I"—
But at that instant there came to him a great jolt and a shock; and Ford found himself tumbled all in a heap, on the seat where his feet had been. Then came bounce after bounce, and the sound of breaking glass, and then a crash.
"Off the track," shouted Ford, as he sprang to his feet. "I wouldn't have missed it for any thing. I do hope, though, there hasn't anybody been killed."
In the tremendous excitement of the moment he could hardly have told how he got out of that car; but it did not seem ten seconds before he was standing beside the engineer and conductor of the train, looking at the battered engine, as it lay upon its side in a deep ditch. The baggage-car, just behind it, was broken all to pieces, but the passenger-cars did not seem to have suffered very much; and nobody was badly hurt, as the engineer and fireman had jumped off in time.
There had been very little left of the pig; but the conductor and the rest seemed much disposed to say unkind things about him, and about his owner, and about all the other pigs they could think of.
"This train'll never get in on time," said Ford to the conductor, a little later. "How'll I get to the city?"
The railway man was not in the best of humors; and he answered, a little groutily, "Well, young man, I don't suppose the city could get along without you over night. The junction with the main road is only two miles ahead, and if you're a good walker you may catch a train there."
Some of the other passengers, none of whom were much more than "badly shaken up," or down, had made the same discovery; and in a few minutes more there was a long, straggling procession of uncomfortable people, marching by the side of the railway-track, in the hot sun. They were nearly all of them making unkind remarks about pigs, and the faculty they had of not getting out of the way.
The conductor was right, however; and nearly all of them managed to walk the two miles to the junction in time to go in on the other train.
Ford Foster was among the first to arrive, and he was likely to reach home in season, in spite of the pig and his outrageous conduct.
As for his danger, he had hardly thought of that; and he again and again declared to himself that he would not have missed so important an adventure for any thing he could think of. It almost sounded once or twice as if he took to himself no small amount of personal credit, not to say glory, for having been in so remarkable an accident, and come out of it so well.
Ford's return, when he should make it, was to take him to a great, pompous, stylish, crowded "up-town boarding-house," in one of the fashionable streets of the great city. There was no wonder at all that wise people should wish to get out of such a place in such hot weather. Still it was the sort of home Ford Foster had been acquainted with all his life; and it was partly owing to that, that he had become so prematurely "knowing."
He knew too much, in fact, and was only too well aware of it. He had filled his head with an unlimited stock of boarding-house information, as well as with a firm persuasion that there was little more to be had,—unless, indeed, it might be scraps of such outside knowledge as he had now been picking up over on Long Island.
In one of the large "parlor-chambers" of the boarding-house, at about eight o'clock that evening, a middle-aged gentleman and lady, with a fair, sweet-faced girl of about nineteen, were sitting near an open window, very much as if they were waiting for somebody. Such a kind, motherly lady! She was one of those whom no one can help liking, after seeing her smile once, or hearing her speak.
Ford Foster himself could not have put in words what he thought about his mother. And yet he had no difficulty whatever in expressing his respect for his father, or his unbounded admiration for his pretty sister Annie.
"O husband!" exclaimed Mrs. Foster, "are you sure none of them were injured?"
"So the telegraphic report said; not a bone broken of anybody, but the pig that got in the way."
"How I wish he would come!" groaned Annie. "Have you any idea, father, how Ford could get to the city?"
"Not clearly, my dear," said her father; "but you can trust Ford not to miss any opportunity. He's just the boy to look out for himself in an emergency."
Ford Foster's father took very strongly after the son in whose presence of mind and ability he expressed so much confidence. He had just such a square, active, bustling sort of body, several sizes larger; with just such keen, penetrating, greenish-gray eyes. Anybody would have picked him out at a glance for a lawyer, and a good one.
That was exactly what he was; and, if anybody had become acquainted with either son or father, there would have been no difficulty afterward in identifying the other.
It required a good deal more than the telegraphic report of the accident, or even her husband's assurances, to relieve the motherly anxiety of good Mrs. Foster, or even to drive away the shadows from the face of Annie.
No doubt, if Ford himself had known the state of affairs in his family circle, they would have been relieved earlier; for, even while they were talking about him, he had reached the end of his adventures, and was already in the house. It had not so much as occurred to him that his mother would hear of the disaster to the pig and the railway-train until he himself should tell her; and so he had made sure of his supper down stairs before reporting his arrival. He might not have done it perhaps; but he had entered the house by the lower way, through the area door, and that of the dining-room had stood temptingly open, with some very eatable things spread out upon the table.
That had been too much for Ford, after his car-ride, and his smash-up, and his long walk.
Now, at last, up he came, three stairs at a time, brimful of new and wonderful experiences, to be more than a little astonished by the manner and enthusiasm of his welcome.
"Why, mother," he exclaimed, when he got a chance for a word, "you and Annie couldn't have said much more if I'd been the pig himself!"
"The pig!" said Annie.
"Yes, the pig that stopped us. He and the engine won't go home to their families to-night."
"Don't make fun of it, Ford," said his mother gently. "It's too serious a matter."
Just then his father broke in, almost impatiently, with,—
"Well, Ford, my boy, have you done your errand? or shall I have to see about it myself? You've been gone two days."
"Thirty-seven hours and a half, father," replied Ford, taking out his watch. "I've kept an exact account of my expenses. We've saved the cost of advertising."
"And spent it on railroading," said his father, with a laugh.
"But, Ford," asked Annie, "did you find a house?—a good one?"
"Yes," added Mrs. Foster: "now I'm sure you're safe, I do want to hear about the house."
"It's all right, mother," said Ford confidently. "The very house you told me to hunt for. Neither too large nor too small. I've only seen the outside of it, but every thing about it is in apple-pie order."
There were plenty of questions to answer now, but
Ford was every way equal to the occasion. Some of his answers might have made Mrs. Kinzer herself open her eyes, for the material for them had been obtained from her own neighbors.
Ford's report, in fact, compelled his father to look at him with an expression of face which very plainly meant,—
"That's my boy. He resembles me. I was just like him, at his age. He'll be just like me, at mine."
There was excellent reason, beyond question, to approve of the manner in which the young gentleman had performed his errand in the country; and Mr. Foster promptly decided to go over in a day or two, and see what sort of an arrangement could be made with Mrs. Kinzer.
NEW NEIGHBORS, AND GETTING SETTLED.
The week which followed the wedding-day was an important one.
The improvements on the Morris house were pushed along in a way that astonished everybody. Every day that passed, and with every dollar's worth of work that was done, the good points of the long-neglected old mansion came out stronger and stronger.
The plans of Mrs. Kinzer had been a good while in getting ready, and she knew exactly what was best to be done at every hole and corner.
Within a few days after Ford's trip of investigation, he and his father came over from the city; and Mr. Foster speedily came to a perfect understanding with Dabney's mother.
"A very business-like, common-sense sort of a woman," the lawyer remarked to his son. "But what a great, dangling, overgrown piece of a boy that is! Still, he seems intelligent, and you may find him good company."
"No doubt of it," said Ford. "I may be useful to him too. He looks as if he could learn if he only had a fair chance."
"I should say so," responded Mr. Foster. "We must not expect too much of fellows brought up away out here, as he has been."
Ford gravely assented, and they went back to report their success to Mrs. Foster and Annie.
There was a great surprise in store, consequently, for the people of the village. Early in the following week it was rumored from house to house,—
"The Kinzers are all a-movin' over to Ham Morris's."
And then, before the public mind had become sufficiently settled to inquire into the matter, the rumor changed itself into a piece of positive news:—
"The widder Kinzer's moved over into Ham's house, bag and baggage."
So it was; although the carpenters and painters and glaziers were still at work, and the piles of Kinzer furniture had to be stored around as best could be. Some part of them had even to be locked up over night in one of the barns.
The Kinzers, for generations, had been a trifle weak about furniture; and that was one of the reasons why there had been so little room for human beings in their house. The little parlor, indeed, had been filled until it put one in mind of a small furniture-store, with not room enough to show the stock on hand; and some of the other parts of the house required knowledge and care to walk about in them. It was bad for a small house, truly, but not so much so when the same articles were given a fair chance to spread themselves.
It was a treat to Dab to watch while the new carpets were put down, and see how much more at home and comfortable all that furniture looked, after it was moved into its new quarters. He remarked to Keziah,—
"It won't be of any use for anybody to try to sit on that sofa and play the piano. They'll have to get up and come over."
Mrs. Kinzer took good care that the house she left should speak well of her to the eyes of Mrs. Foster, when that lady came to superintend the arrival of her own household goods.
The character of these, by the way, at once convinced the village gossips that "lawyer Foster must be a good deal forehanded in money matters." And so he was, even more so than his furniture indicated.
Ford had a wonderful deal to do with the settlement of his family in their new home; and it was not until nearly the close of the week that he found time for more than an occasional glance over the north fence, although he and Dab had several times exchanged a word or two when they met each other on the road.
"Take the two farms together," his father had said to him, "and they make a really fine estate. I learn, too, that the Kinzers have other property. Your young acquaintance is likely to have a very good start in the world."
Ford had found out very nearly as much as that on his own account; but he had long since learned the uselessness of trying to teach his father any thing, however well he might succeed with ordinary people, and so he said nothing.
"Dabney," said Mrs. Kinzer, that Friday evening, "you've been a great help all the week. Suppose you take the ponies to-morrow morning, and ask young Foster out for a drive."
"Mother," exclaimed Samantha, "I shall want the ponies myself. I've some calls to make, and some shopping. Dabney will have to drive."
"No, Sam," said Dabney: "if you go out with the ponies to-morrow, you'll have my old clothes to drive you. I'll go and speak to them about it."
"What do you mean?" asked Samantha.
"I mean, with Dick Lee in them."
"That would be just as well," said Mrs. Kinzer. "The ponies are gentle enough, and Dick drives well. He'll be glad enough to go."
"Dick Lee, indeed!" began Samantha.
"A fine boy," interrupted Dab. "And he's beginning to dress well. His new clothes fit him beautifully. All he really needs is a shirt, and I'll give him one. Mine are getting too small."
Samantha's fingers fidgeted a little with the tidy they were holding; but Mrs. Kinzer said composedly,—
"Well, Dabney, I've been thinking about it. You ought not to be tied down all the while. Suppose you take next week pretty much to yourself: Samantha won't want the ponies every day. The other horses have all got to work, or I'd let you have one of them."
Dabney got up, for want of a better answer, and walked over to where his mother was sitting, and gave the thoughtful matron a good sounding kiss.
At the same time he could not help thinking,—
"This comes of Ham Morris and my new rig."
"There, Dabney, that'll do," said his mother; "but how'll you spend Saturday?"
"Guess I'll take Ford Foster out in the bay, a-crabbing, if he'll go," replied Dabney. "I'll run over and ask him."
It was not too late, and he was out of the house before there was any chance for further remarks from the girls.
"Now," he muttered, as he walked along, "I'll have to see old lawyer Foster, and Mrs. Foster, and I don't know who all besides. I don't like that."
Just as he came to the north fence, however, he was hailed by a clear, wide-awake voice,—
"Dab Kinzer, is that you?"
"Guess so," said Dab: "is that you, Ford?"
"I was just going over to your house," said Ford.
"Well, so was I just coming over to see you. I've been too busy all the week, but they've let up on me at last."
"I've got our family nearly settled," replied Ford; "and I thought I'd ask if you wouldn't like to go out on the bay with me to-morrow. Teach you to catch crabs."
Dabney drew a long, astonished sort of whistle; but he finished it with,—
"That's about what I was thinking of. There's plenty of crabs, and I've got a tip-top boat. We won't want a heavy one for just us two."
"All right, then. We'll begin on crabs, but some other day we'll go for bigger fish. What are you going to do next week?"
"Got it all to myself," said Dab. "We can have all sorts of a good time. We can have the ponies, too, when we want them."
"That's about as good as it knows how to be," responded the young gentleman from the city. "I'd like to explore the country. You're going to have a nice place of it, over there, before you get through. Only, if I'd had the planning of that house, I'd have set it back farther. Too much room all round it. Not enough trees either."
Dab came stoutly to the defence of not only that house, but of Long-Island architecture generally, and was fairly overwhelmed, for the first time in his life, by a flood of big words from a boy of his own age.
He could have eaten up Ford Foster, if properly cooked. He felt sure of that. But he was no match for him on the building question. On his way back to his new home, however, after the discussion had lasted long enough, he found himself inquiring,—
"That's all very nice, but what can he teach me about crabs? We'll see about that to-morrow."
Beyond a doubt, the crab question was of special importance; but one of far greater consequence to Dab Kinzer's future was undergoing discussion, at that very hour, hundreds of miles away.
Quite a little knot of people there was, in a hotel parlor; and while the blooming Miranda, now Mrs. Morris, was taking her share of talk very well with the ladies, Ham was every bit as busy with a couple of elderly gentlemen.
"It's just as I say, Mr. Morris," said one of the latter, with a superfluous show of energy: "there's no better institution of its kind in the country than Grantley Academy. I send my own boys there; and I've just written about it to my brother-in-law, Foster, the New-York lawyer. He'll have his boy there this fall. No better place in the country, sir."
"But how about the expenses, Mr. Hart?" asked Ham.
"Fees are just what I told you, sir, a mere nothing. As for board, all I pay for my boys is three dollars a week. All they want to eat, sir, and good accommodations. Happy as larks, sir, all the time. Cheap, sir, cheap."
If Ham Morris had the slightest idea of going to school at a New-England academy, Miranda's place in the improved house was likely to wait for her; for he had a look on his face of being very nearly convinced.
She did not seem at all disturbed, however; and probably she knew that her husband was not taking up the school question on his own account.
Nevertheless, that was the reason why it might have been interesting for Dab Kinzer, and even for his knowing neighbor, to have added themselves to the company Ham and Miranda had fallen in with on their wedding-tour.
Both of the boys had a different kind of thinking on hand; and that night Dab dreamed that a gigantic crab was trying to pull Ford Foster out of the boat, while the latter calmly remarked to him,—
"There, my young friend, did you ever see anything just like that before?"
CRABS, BOYS, AND A BOAT-WRECK.
That Saturday morning was a sad one for poor Dick Lee.
His mother, the previous night, carefully locked up his elegant apparel, the gift of Mr. Dabney Kinzer. It was done after Dick was in bed; and, when daylight came again, he found only his old clothes by the bedside.
It was a hard thing to bear, no doubt; but Dick had been a bad boy on Friday. He had sold his fish instead of bringing them home, and then had gone and squandered the money on a brilliant new red necktie.
"Dat's good 'nuff for me to wear to meetin'," said Mrs. Lee, when her eyes fell upon the gorgeous bit of cheap silk. "Reckon it won't be wasted on any good-for-nuffin boy. I'll show ye wot to do wid yer fish. You' a-gettin' too mighty fine, anyhow."
Dick was disconsolate for a while; but his humility took the form of a determination to go for crabs that day, mainly because his mother had long since set her face against that tribe of animals.
"Dey's a wasteful, 'stravagant sort ob fish," remarked Mrs. Lee, in frequent explanation of her dislike. "Dey's all clo'es and no body, like some w'ite folks I know on. I don't mean de Kinzers. Dey's all got body nuff."
And yet that inlet had a name and reputation of its own for crabs. There was a wide reach of shallow water, inside the southerly point at the mouth, where, over several hundred acres of muddy flats, the depth varied from three and a half to eight feet, with the ebb and flow of the tides. That was a sort of perpetual crab-pasture; and there it was that Dick Lee determined to expend his energies that Saturday.
Very likely there would be other crabbers on the flats; but Dick was not the boy to object to that, provided none of them should notice the change in his raiment. At an early hour, therefore, Dab and Ford were preceded by their young colored friend, they themselves waiting for later breakfasts than Mrs. Lee was in the habit of preparing.
Dick's ill fortune did not leave him when he got out of sight of his mother. It followed him down to the shore of the inlet, and compelled him to give up, for that day, all idea of borrowing a respectable boat.
There were several, belonging to the neighbors, from among which Dick was accustomed to take his pick, in return for errands run and other services rendered to their owners; but on this particular morning not one of them all was available. Some were fastened with ugly chains and padlocks. Two were hauled away above even high-water mark, and so Dick could not have got either of them into the water even if he had dared to try; and as for the rest, as Dick said,—
"Guess dar owners must hab come and borrered 'em."
The consequence was, that the dark-skinned young fisherman was for once compelled to put up with his own boat, or rather his father's.
The three wise men of Gotham were not much worse off when they went to sea in a bowl than was Dick Lee in that rickety little old flat-bottomed punt.
Did it leak?
Well, not so very much, with no heavier weight than Dick's; but there was reason in his remark that,—
"Dis yer's a mean boat to frow down a fish in, when you cotch 'im. He's done suah to git drownded."
Yes, and the crabs would get their feet wet, and so would Dick; but he resigned himself to his circumstances, and pushed away. To tell the truth, he had not been able to free himself from a lingering fear lest his mother might come after him, before he could get afloat, with orders for some duty or other on shore; and that would have been worse than going to sea in the little old scow, a good deal.
"Reckon it's all right," said Dick as he shoved off. "It'd be an awful risk to trus' dem nice clo'es in de ole boat, suah."
Nice clothes, nice boats, a good many other nice things, were as yet beyond the reach of Dick Lee; but he was quite likely to catch as many crabs as his more aristocratic neighbors.
As for Dabney Kinzer and his friend from the city, they were on their way to the water-side, after all, at an hour which indicated either smaller appetites than usual or greater speed at the breakfast-table.
"Plenty of boats, I should say," remarked Ford, as he surveyed the little "landing" and its vicinity with the air of a man who had a few fleets of his own. "All sorts. Any of 'em fast?"
"Not many," said Dab. "The row-boats, big and little, have to be built so they will stand pretty rough water."
"How are the sail-boats?"
"Same thing. There's Ham Morris's yacht."
"That? Why, she's as big as any in the lot."
"Bigger; but she don't show it."
"Can't we take a cruise in her?" asked Ford.
"Any time. Ham lets me use her whenever I like. She's fast enough, but she's built so she'll stand 'most any thing. Safe as a house if she's handled right."
Ford Foster's expression of face would have done honor to the Secretary of the Navy, or the Chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee in Congress, or any other perfect seaman, Noah included. It seemed to say,—
"As if any boat could be otherwise than well sailed, with me on board!"
Dabney, however, even while he was talking, had been hauling in from its "float and grapnel," about ten yards out at low water, the very stanch-looking little yawl-boat that called him owner. She was just such a boat as Mrs. Kinzer would naturally have provided for her boy,—stout, well-made, and sensible,—without any bad habits of upsetting or the like. Not too large for Dabney to manage all alone, "The Jenny," as he called her, and as her name was painted on the stern, was all the better for having two on board, and had room in her then for more.
"The inlet's pretty narrow for a long reach through the marsh," said Dabney, "and as crooked as a ram's horn. I'll steer, and you pull, till we're out o' that, and then I'll take the oars."
"I might as well row out to the crab-grounds," said Ford, as he pitched his coat forward, and took his seat at the oars. "All ready?"
"Ready," said Dab; and "The Jenny" glided gracefully away from the landing with the starting-push he gave her.
Ford Foster had had oars in his hands before, but his experience had been limited to a class of vessels different in some respects from the one he was in now.
He was short of something, at all events. It may have been skill, or it may have been legs or discretion; but, whatever was lacking, at the third or fourth stroke the oar-blades went a little too deeply below the smooth surface of the water. There was a vain tug, a little out of "time;" and then there was a boy on the bottom of the boat, and a pair of well-polished shoes lifted high in the air.
"You've got it," shouted Dabney.
"Got what?" exclaimed an all-but angry voice from down there between the seats.
"Caught the first 'crab,'" replied Dabney: "that's what we call it. Can you steer? Guess I'd better row."
"No, you won't," was the very resolute reply, as Ford regained his seat and his oars. "I sha'n't catch any more crabs of that sort. I'm a little out of practice, that's all."
"I should say you were, a little. Well, it won't hurt you. 'Tisn't much of a pull."
Ford would have pulled it now if he had blistered all the skin off his hands in doing so; and he did very creditable work for some minutes, among the turns and windings of the narrow inlet.
"Here we are," shouted Dabney at last. "We are in the inlet yet, but it widens out into the bay."
"That's the bay, out yonder?"
"Yes; and the island between that and the ocean's no better'n a mere bar of sand."
"How d'you get past it?"
"Right across there, almost in a straight line. We'll run it next week in Ham's yacht. Splendid weak-fishing right in the mouth of that inlet, on the ocean side."
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Ford, "I'm in for that. Is the bay deep?"
"Not very," replied Dabney; "but it gets pretty rough sometimes."
Ford was getting pretty red in the face just then, with his unaccustomed exercise; and his friend added,—
"You needn't pull so hard: we're almost there. Hullo! if there isn't Dick Lee, in his dry-goods box. That boat'll drown him some day, and his dad too. But just see him pull in crabs!"
Ford came near "catching" one more as he tried to turn around for the look proposed, exclaiming,—
"Dab, let's get to work as quick as we can. They might go away."
"No; but don't they go and come?"
"Well, you go and drop the grapnel over the bows, and we'll see 'em come in pretty quick."
The grapnel, or little anchor, was thrown over quickly enough; and the two boys were in such an eager haste that they had hardly a word to say to Dick, though he was now but a few rods away.
Now, it happened that when Ford and Dab came down to the water that morning, each of them had brought a load. The former had only a neat little japanned tin box, about as big as his head; and the latter, besides his oars, carried a seemingly pretty heavy basket.
"Lots of lunch, I should say," had been Ford's mental comment; but he had not thought it wise to ask questions.
"Plenty of lunch in that box," thought Dab at the same moment, but only as a matter of course.
And they were both wrong. Lunch was the one thing they had both forgotten.
But the box and the basket.
Ford Foster came out, of his own accord, with the secret of the box; for he now took a little key out of his pocket, and unlocked it with an air of—
"Look at this, will you?"
Dab Kinzer looked, and was very sure he had never before seen quite such an assortment of brand-new fish-hooks, of many sorts and sizes, and of fish-lines which looked as if they had thus far spent their lives on dry land.
"Tip-top," he remarked. "I see a lot of things we can use one of these days, but there isn't time to go over 'em now. Let's go for the crabs. What made you bring your box along?"
"Oh!" replied Ford, "I left my rods at home, both of 'em. You don't s'pose I'd go for crabs with a rod, do you? But you can take your pick of hooks and lines."
"Crabs? Hooks and lines?"
"Why, yes. You don't mean to scoop 'em up in that landing-net, do you?"
Dab looked at his friend for a moment in blank amazement, and then the truth broke upon him for the first time.
"Oh, I see! You never caught any crabs. Well, just you lock up your jewellery-box, and I'll show you."
It was not easy for Dab to keep from laughing in Ford Foster's face; but his mother had not given him so many lessons in good-breeding for nothing, and Ford was permitted to close his ambitious "casket" without any worse annoyance than his own wounded pride gave him.
But now came out the secret of the basket.
The cover was jerked off; and nothing was revealed but a varied assortment of clams, large and small, but mostly of good size,—tough old customers, that no amount of roasting or boiling would ever have prepared for human eating.
"What are they for,—bait?"
"Yes, bait, weight, and all."
Dabney's reply was to draw from his pocket a couple of long, strong cords, bits of old fishing-lines. He cracked a couple of clams one against the other; tied the fleshy part of one to each of the cords; tied bits of shell on, a foot or so from the ends, for sinkers; handed one cord to Ford, took the other himself, and laid the long-handled scoop-net he had brought with him down between them, saying,—
"Now we're ready. Drop your clam down to the bottom, and it won't be half a minute before you feel something pull on it. Then you draw it up gently,—steady as you know how. You mustn't jerk the crab loose. You'll get the knack of it in five minutes. It's all knack. There isn't any thing else so stupid as a crab."
Ford watched carefully, and obeyed in silence the directions he had received.
In a minute or so more the operation of the scoop-net was called for, and the fun began.
"You got him!" exclaimed Ford in a loud whisper, as he saw Dab quickly plunge the net into the water, and then shake out of it into the bottom of the boat a great sprawling "blue-legged" crab. "He's a whopper!"
"He'll do for one."
"There's one on mine! I declare, he's let go!"
"You jerked the clam away from him. Sink it again. He's mad about it. He'll take right hold again."
"He's pulling now, or it's another one."
"Let him pull. Lift him easy. Long as he thinks he's stealing something, he'll hold on. There he comes,—see him?"
Ford saw the white flesh of the clam coming slowly up through the water, and he held his breath; for just behind and below it was a sprawling shadowy something that was tugging with all its might at that tough shell-fish.
"It's an awful big one!"
"Shall I scoop him?"
"No, indeed: I want to scoop him myself. I saw how you did it."
Splash went the net, as the prize came nearer the surface; and Ford began, somewhat excitedly, to shake it all over the bottom of the boat.
"Why, where's that crab? You don't mean to say he was quick enough to dodge away?"
"Quick? well, no, that isn't just the trouble. I forgot to tell you to scoop way under him. You hit him, square, and knocked him ever so far. The water deceives your eyes. Drive the net under him quick, and then lift. I've got one—now just you see how I scoop."
Ford felt dreadfully disappointed over the loss of his first crab, but the rapidity with which he caught the "knack of it" after that was a great credit to him. He did not miss the next one he pulled up.
It was great fun; but it had its slack moments, and in one of these Dab suddenly exclaimed,—
"The young black rascal! If he hasn't gone and got a sheep's-head!"
They were both staring at the old punt, where Dick Lee was apparently enjoying the most extraordinary good fortune.
"Yes, that's it. That's why he beats us so badly. They're a sight better'n clams, only you can't always get one. I wonder where he picked up that one."
"But how he does pull 'em in!"
"We're doing well enough," began Dabney, when suddenly there came a shrill cry of pain from the black boy's punt.
"He's barefooted," shouted Dab, with, it must be confessed, something like a grin; "and one of the little pirates has pinned him with his nippers."
That was the difficulty exactly, and there need not have been any very serious result of such an expression of a crab's bad temper. But Dick Lee was more than ordinarily averse to any thing like physical pain, and the crab which now had him by the toe was a very muscular and vicious specimen of his quarrelsome race.
The first consequence of that vigorous nip was a momentary dance up and down in the punt, accompanied by exclamatory howls from Dick, but not by a word of any sort from the crab.
The next consequence was, that the crab let go; but so at the same instant, did the rotten board in the boat-bottom, upon which Dick Lee had so rashly danced.
It let go of the rest of the boat so suddenly that poor Dick had only time for one tremendous yell, as it let him right down through to his armpits.
The water was perfectly smooth; but the boat was full in an instant, and nearly a bushel of freshly-caught and ill-tempered crabs were manoeuvring in all directions around the woolly head, which was all their late captor could now keep in sight.
"Up with the grapnel, Ford," shouted Dab. "Take an oar: we'll both row. He can swim like a duck, but he might split his throat."
"Or get scared to death."
"Or those crabs might go for him, and eat him up."
"How he does yell!"
A VERY ACCIDENTAL CALL.
At the very moment when the angry crab closed his nippers on the bare big toe of Dick Lee, and his shrill note of discomfort rang across the inlet, the shriller whistle of the engine announced the arrival of the morning train from the city, at the little station in the village.
A moment or so later, a very pretty young lady was standing beside a trunk on the platform, trying to get some information from the flagman.
"Can you tell me where Mr. Foster lives?"
"That's the gimlet-eyed lawyer from New Yark?"
"Yes, he's from New York," said the young lady, smiling in his face. "Where does he live?"
"He's got the sassiest boy, thin. Is it him as took the Kinzer house?"
"I think likely it is. Can you tell me how to get there?"
"Thim Kinzers is foine people. The widdy married one of the gurrels to Misther Morris."
"But how can I get to the house?"
"Is it there ye're afther goin'?—Hey, Michael, me boy, bring up yer owld rattlethrap, and take the leddy's thrunk. She'll be goin' to the Kinzer place. Sharp, now."
"I should say it was," muttered the young lady, as the remains of what had been a carryall were pulled up beside the platform by the skinny skeleton of what might once have been a horse. "It's a rattletrap."
There was no choice, however; for that was the only public conveyance at the station, and the trunk was already whisked in behind the dashboard, and the driver was waiting for her.
He could afford to wait, as it would be some hours before another train would be in.
There was no door to open in that "carriage." It was all door except the top and bottom, and the pretty passenger was neither helped nor hindered in finding her place on the back seat.
If the flagman was more disposed to ask questions than to answer them, Michael said few words of any kind except to his horse. To him, indeed, he kept up a constant stream of encouraging remarks, the greatest part of which would have been difficult for an ordinary hearer to understand.
Very likely the horse knew what they meant; for he came very near breaking from a limp into a trot several times, under the stimulus of all that clucking and "G'lang, now!"
The distance was by no means great, and Michael seemed to know the way perfectly. At least he answered, "Yes'm, indade," to several inquiries from his passenger, and she was compelled to be satisfied with that.
"What a big house it is! And painters at work on it too," she exclaimed, just as Michael added a vigorous jerk of the reins to the "Whoa!" with which he stopped his nag in front of an open gate.
"Are you sure this is the place?"
"Yes'm; fifty cints, mum."
By the time the trunk was out of the carriage and swung inside of the gate, the young lady had followed; but for some reason Michael at once sprang back to his place, and whipped up his limping steed. It may have been from the fear of being asked to take that trunk into the house, for it was not a small one. The young lady stood for a moment irresolute, and then left it where it was, and walked on up to the house.
No bell; no knocker. The workmen had not reached that part of their improvements yet. But the door was open; and a very neatly furnished parlor at the left of the hall seemed to say, "Come right in, please;" and in she went.
Such an arrival could not possibly have escaped the notice of the inmates of the house; and, as the young lady from the railway came in at the front, another and a very different-looking lady marched through to the parlor from the rear.
Each one would have been a puzzle to the other, if the elder of the two had not been Mrs. Kinzer, and the widow had never been very much puzzled in all her life. At all events, she put out her hand, with a cordial smile, saying,—
"Miss Foster, is it not? I am Mrs. Kinzer. How could he have made such a mistake?"
"Yes, Miss Annie Foster. But do please explain Where am I? and how do you know me?"
The widow laughed cheerily.
"How do I know you, my dear? Why, you resemble your mother almost as much as your brother Ford resembles his father. You are only one door from home here, and I'll have your trunk taken right over to the house. Please sit down a moment. Ah! my daughter Samantha, Miss Foster. Excuse me a moment, while I call one of the men."
By the time their mother was fairly out of the room, however, Keziah and Pamela were also in it; and Annie thought she had rarely seen three girls whose appearance testified so strongly to the healthiness of the place they lived in.
The flagman's questions and Annie's answers were related quickly enough, and the cause of Michael's blunder was plain at once.
The parlor rang again with peals of laughter; for Dab Kinzer's sisters were ready at any time to look at the funny side of things, and their accidental guest saw no reason for not joining them.
"Your brother Ford is on the bay, crabbing with our Dabney," remarked Samantha, as the widow returned. But Annie's eyes had been furtively watching her baggage through the window, and saw it swinging upon a broad, red-shirted pair of shoulders, just then; and, before she could bring her mind to bear upon the crab question, Keziah Kinzer exclaimed,—
"If there isn't Mrs. Foster, coming through the garden gate!"
"My mother!" and Annie was up and out of the parlor in a twinkling, followed by all the ladies of the Kinzer family. It was really quite a procession.
Now, if Mrs. Foster was in any degree surprised by her daughter's sudden appearance, or by her getting to the Kinzer house first instead of to her own, it was a curious fact that she did not say so by a word or a look.
Not a breath of it. But, for all the thorough-bred self-control of the city lady, Mrs. Kinzer knew perfectly well there was something odd and unexpected about it all. If Samantha had noticed this fact, there might have been some questions asked possibly; but one of the widow's most rigid rules in life was to "mind her own business."
The girls, indeed, were quite jubilant over an occurrence which made them at once so well acquainted with their very attractive new neighbor; and they might have followed her even beyond the gate in the north fence, if it had not been for their mother. All they were allowed to do was to go back to their own parlor, and hold "a council of war," in the course of which Annie Foster was discussed, from her bonnet to her shoes.
Mrs. Foster had been abundantly affectionate in greeting her daughter; but, when once they were alone in the wee sitting-room of the old Kinzer homestead, she put her arms around her, saying,—
"Now, my darling, tell me what it all means."
"Why, mother, it was partly my mistake, and partly the flagman's and the driver's; and I'm sure Mrs. Kinzer was kind. She knew me before I said a word, by my resemblance to you."
"Oh, I don't mean that! How is it you are here so soon? I thought you meant to make a long visit at your uncle Hart's."
"So I would, mother, if it had not been for those boys."
"Your cousins, Annie?"
"Cousins, mother! You never saw such young bears in all your life. They tormented me from morning till night."
"But, Annie, I hope you have not offended"—
"Offended, mother? Aunt Maria thinks they're perfect, and so does uncle Joe. They'd let them pull the house down over their heads, you'd think."
"But, Annie, what did they do? and what did you say?"
"Do, mother? I couldn't tell you in all day; but when they poured ink over my cuffs and collars, I said I would come home. I had just one pair left white to wear home, and I travelled all night."
Poor Mrs. Foster! A cold shudder went over her at the idea of that ink among the spotless contents of her own collar-box.
"What boys they must be! but, Annie, what did your aunt say?"
"Uncle Joe laughed till he cried; and Aunt Maria said, 'Boys will be boys;' and I half believe they were sorry; but that was only a sort of a winding-up, I wouldn't stay there another day."
Annie had other things to tell; and, long before she had finished her story, there was no further fault to be found with her for losing her temper. Still her mother said mildly,—
"I must write to Maria at once, for it won't do to let those boys make trouble between us."
Annie looked at her with an expression of face which very plainly said,—
"Nobody in the wide world could have the heart to quarrel with you."
A RESCUE, AND A GRAND GOOD TIME.
Dab Kinzer and his friend were prompt enough coming to the rescue of their unfortunate fellow-lubber; but to get him out of the queer wreck he had made of that punt looked like a tough task to both of them, and they said as much.
"I isn't drownin'," exclaimed Dick heroically, as the other boat was pulled alongside of him. "Jest you take your scoop-net, and save dem crabs."
"They won't drown," said Ford.
"But they'll get away," said Dab, as he snatched up the scoop. "Dick's head is perfectly level on that point."
The side-boards of the old punt were under water half the time, but the crabs were pretty well penned in. Even a couple of them, that had mistaken Dick's wool for another sheep's-head, were secured without difficulty, in spite of the firmness with which they clung to their prize.
"What luck he'd been having!" said Ford.
"He always does," said Dab. "I say, Dick, how'll I scoop you in?"
"Has you done got all de crabs?"
"Every pinner of 'em."
"Den you jest wait a minute."
Waiting was all that was left them to do, for the shining black face and woolly head disappeared almost instantly.
"He's sunk," exclaimed Ford.
"There he comes," replied Dab: "he'd swum ashore from here, and not half try. Why, I could swim twice as far as that myself, and he can beat me."
"Could you? I couldn't."
That was the first time Dab had heard his city acquaintance make a confession of inability, and he could see a more than usually thoughtful expression on his face. The coolness and skill of Dick Lee, in his hour of disaster, had not been thrown away upon him.
"If I had my clothes off," said Ford, "I believe I'd try that on."
"Dab Kinzer, you's de bes' feller dar is. But wot'll we do wid de old boat?" burst out Dick, on coming to the surface.
"Let the tide carry her in while we're crabbing. She isn't worth mending, but we'll tow her home."
"All right," said Dick, as he grasped the gunwale of Dab's boat, and began to climb over.
"Hold on, Dick."
"I is a-holdin' on."
"I mean, wait a bit. Ain't you wet?"
"Of course I's wet."
"Well, then, you stay in there till you get dry It's well you didn't have your new clothes on."
"Ain't I glad 'bout dem!" enthusiastically ex-claimed the young African. "Nebber mind dese clo'es. De water on 'em's all good, dry water, like de res' ob de bay."
And, so saying, Dick tumbled over in, with a spatter which made Ford Foster tread on two of three crabs in getting away from it. It was not the first time, by many, that Dick Lee had found himself bathing in that bay without any time given him to undress.
And now it was discovered that the shipwrecked crabber had never for one instant lost his hold of the line, to the other end of which was fastened his precious sheep's-head.
They made a regular crabbing crew now,—two to pull up, and one to scoop in; and never had the sprawling game been more plentiful on that pasture, or more apparently in a greedy hurry to be captured.
"What on earth shall we do with them all?" asked Ford.
"Soon's we've got enough for a mess for both our folks," said Dab, "we'll quit this, and go for some fish. The clams are good bait, and we can try some of your tackle."
Ford's face brightened a good deal at that suggestion, for he had more than once cast a crest fallen look at his pretentious box. But he replied,—
"A mess! How many crabs can one man eat?"
"I don't know," said Dab. "It depends a good deal on who he is. Then, if he eats the shells, he can't take in so many."
"Eat de shells? Yah, yah, yah! Dat beats my mudder! She's allers a-sayin' wot a waste de shells make," laughed Dick. "I jest wish we might ketch some fish. I dasn't kerry home no crabs."
"It does look as if we'd got as many as we'll know what to do with," remarked Dab, as he looked down on the sprawling multitude in the bottom of the boat. "We'll turn the clams out of the basket, and fill that; but we mustn't put any crabs in the fish-car. We'll stow 'em all forward."
The basket held more than half a bushel, but there was still a "heap" of what Ford Foster called "the crusties" to pen up in the bow of the boat.
That duty attended to, the grapnel was pulled up, and Dick was set at the oars, while Dab selected from Ford's box just the hooks and lines their owner had made least account of.
"What'll we catch, Dab?"
"'Most anything. Nobody knows till he's done it. Perch, porgies, cunners, black-fish, weak-fish, maybe a bass or a sheep's-head, but more cunners than any thing else, unless we strike some flounders at the turn of the tide."
"That's a big enough assortment to set up a fish-market on."
"If we catch 'em. We've got a good enough day, anyhow, and the tide'll be about right by the time we get to work."
"Why not try here?"
"'Cause there's no fish to speak of, and because the crabs'll clean your hook for you as fast as you can put the bait on. We must go out to deeper water and better bottom. Dick knows just where to go. You might hang your line out all day and not get a bite, if you didn't strike the right spot."
Ford made no answer, but looked on very seriously while Dab skilfully slit up a tough old Dutch clam into bait. It was beginning to dawn upon him that he could teach the "'long-shore boys," whether black or white, very little about fishing. He even allowed Dab to pick out a line for him, and to put on the hook and sinker; and Dick Lee showed him how to fix his bait, "so de fust cunner dat rubs agin it won't knock it off. Dem's awful mean fish. Good for nuffin but 'teal bait."
A merry party they were; and the salt water was rapidly drying from the garments of the colored oars-man, as he pulled strongly and skilfully out into the bay, and around toward a deep cove at the north of the inlet mouth.
Then, indeed, for the first time in his life, Ford Foster learned what it was to catch fish.
Not but what he had spent many an hour, and even day, on and about other waters, with a rod or a line in his hand; but he had never before had two such born fishermen at his elbow to take him to the right place precisely, and at the right time, and then to show him what to do when he got there.
It was fun enough; for the fish bit remarkably well, and some of those which came into the boat were of a very encouraging size and weight.
There was one curious thing about those heavier fish.
Ford would have given half the hooks and lines in his box, if he could have caught from Dick or Dab the mysterious "knack" they seemed to have of coaxing the biggest of the finny folk to their bait, and then over the side of the boat.
"There's some kind of favoritism about it," he remarked.
"Never mind, Ford," replied Dab. "Dick and I are better acquainted with them. They're always a little shy with strangers, at first. They don't really mean to be impolite."
Favoritism it was, nevertheless; and there was now no danger but what Dick would be able to appease the mind of his mother without making any mention of the crabs.
At last, almost suddenly, and as if by common consent, the fish stopped biting, and the two "'long shore boys" began to put away their lines.
"Going to quit?" asked Ford.
"Time's up, and the tide's turned," replied Dab.
"Not another bite, most likely, till late this evening. We might as well pull up, and start for home."
"That's a curious kind of a habit for fish to have."
"They've all got it though, 'round this bay."
"Mus' look out for wot's lef' ob de ole scow, on de way home," remarked Dick a little solemnly. "I's boun' to ketch it for dat good-for-noting ole board."
"We'll find it, and tow it in," said Dab; "and perhaps we can get it mended. Anyhow, you can go with us next week. We're going to make a cruise in Ham Morris's yacht. Will you go?"
"Will I go? Yoop!" almost yelled the excited boy. "Dat's jest de one t'ing I'd like to jine. Won't we hab fun! She's jest de bes' boat on dis hull bay. You ain't foolin' me, is yer?"
He was strongly assured that his young white associates were in sober earnest about both their purpose and their promise; and, after that, he insisted on rowing all the distance home.
On the way the old punt was taken in tow; but the tide had already swept it so far inside the mouth of the inlet, that there was less trouble in pulling it the rest of the way. It was hardly worth the labor, but Dab knew what a tempest the loss of it might bring around the ears of poor Dick.
When they reached the landing, and began to over-haul their very brilliant "catch," Dabney said,—
"Now, Dick, take your string home, leave that basket of crabs at Mr. Foster's, and then come back with the basket, and carry the rest of 'em to our house. Ford and I'll see to the rest of the fish."
"I haven't caught half as many as you have, either of you," said Ford, when he saw with what even-handed justice the fish were divided in three piles, as they were scooped out of the fish-car.
"What of that?" replied Dab. "We follow fishermen's rules, down this way. Share and share alike, you know. All the luck is outside the boat, they say. Once the fish are landed, your luck's as good as mine."
"Do they always follow that rule?"
"The man that broke it wouldn't find company very easily, hereabouts, next time he wanted to go a-fishing. No, nor for any thing else. Nobody'd boat with him."
"Well, if it's the regular thing," said Ford hesitatingly. "But I'll tell who really caught 'em."
"Oh, some of yours are right good ones! Your string'd look big enough, some days, just as you caught 'em."
"Yes, it would. Don't you imagine we can pull 'em in every time like we did this morning,—crabs nor fish."
"No, I s'pose not. Anyhow, I've learned some things."
"I guess likely. We'll go for some more next week. Now for a tug."
"Ain't they heavy, though!"
The boat had already been made fast; and the two boys picked up their strings of fish, two for each, after Dick Lee had started for home; and heavy things they were to carry under that hot sun.
"Come and show the whole lot to my mother," said Ford, "before you take yours into the house. I'd like to have her see them all."
"All right," replied Dab, but he little dreamed what was coming; for, when he and Ford marched proudly into the sitting-room with their finny prizes, Dabney found himself face to face with, not good, sweet-voiced Mrs. Foster, but, as he thought, the most beautiful young lady he had ever seen.
Ford Foster shouted, "Annie! You here? Well, I never!"
But Dab Kinzer wished all those fish safely back again swimming in the bay.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT KINDS OF BOYS.
Ham Morris was a thoughtful and kind-hearted fellow, beyond a doubt; and he was likely to be a valuable friend for a growing boy like Dab Kinzer. It is not everybody's brother-in-law who would find time during his wedding-trip to hunt up even so pretty a New-England village as Grantley, and inquire into questions of board and lodging and schooling.
That was precisely what Ham did, however; and Miranda went with him of course.
Mrs. Myers, to the hospitalities of whose cool and roomy-looking house he had been commended by Mr. Hart, was so "crowded full with summer boarders," liberally advertised for in the great city, that she had hardly a corner left in which to stow away Ham and his bride, for even one night. She was glad enough, however, that she had made the effort, and found one, after she discovered the nature of the stranger's errand in Grantley, and that it included "winter board" for a whole boy.
There was a look of undisguised astonishment on the faces of the regular guests when they gathered for the next meal. It happened to be supper, but they all looked at the table and then at one another. It was a pity Ham and Miranda did not understand the meaning of those glances, or else that they did not make a longer stay with Mrs. Myers. They might have learned more about her and her boarding-house, if not about the academy. As it was, they only gathered a very high opinion of her cookery and hospitality, as well as an increase of respect for the "institution of learning," and for that excellent gentleman Mr. Hart; with a dim hope that Dabney Kinzer might be permitted to enjoy the inestimable advantages offered by Grantley and Mrs. Myers, and the society of Mr. Hart's two wonderful boys.
Miranda was inclined to stand up for her brother somewhat, but finally agreed with Ham, that,—
"What Dabney needs is schooling and polish, my dear. It'll be good for him to board in the same house with two such complete young gentlemen as the Hart boys."
"Of course, Ham. And then, too, we'll feel sure of his having plenty to eat. There was almost too much on the table."
"Not if the boarders had all been boys of Dab's age, and with his appetite. Mrs. Myers is evidently accustomed to provide for them, I should say."
So she was; and Ham and Miranda left Grantley next morning, after a very early breakfast; and, when the regular boarders came to theirs, they might have guessed at once that the "transient guests" had gone. They even guessed it out loud at dinner and at supper.
Mrs. Myers had given Ham and his bride a world of interesting information about Grantley, and the things and people in it; but there was one thing she had forgotten or neglected to mention. She had failed to tell them that the house she lived in, and the outlying farm belonging to it, and nearly all the house-hold effects it contained, were the property of Mr. Joseph Hart, having cost that gentleman very little more than a sharp lawsuit. Neither did she say a word about how long a time he had given her to pay him his price for it. All that was her own private affair, and none of Ham's business, or Miranda's. Still, it might have had its importance in their minds, if they had been informed of it.