NOW OR NEVER
THE ADVENTURES OF BOBBY BRIGHT
A STORY FOR YOUNG FOLKS
NEW YORK THE MERSHON COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by
WILLIAM T. ADAMS,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
Copyright, 1884, By WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
NOW OR NEVER.
To my Nephew
CHARLES HENRY POPE
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
The story contained in this volume is a record of youthful struggles, not only in the world without, but in the world within; and the success of the little hero is not merely a gathering up of wealth and honors, but a triumph over the temptations that beset the pilgrim on the plain of life. The attainment of worldly prosperity is not the truest victory; and the author has endeavored to make the interest of his story depend more on the hero's devotion to principles than on his success in business.
Bobby Bright is a smart boy; perhaps the reader will think he is altogether too smart for one of his years. This is a progressive age, and anything which young America may do need not surprise any person. That little gentleman is older than his father, knows more than his mother, can talk politics, smoke cigars, and drive a 2:40 horse. He orders "one stew" with as much ease as a man of forty, and can even pronounce correctly the villanous names of sundry French and German wines and liqueurs. One would suppose, to hear him talk, that he had been intimate with Socrates and Solon, with Napoleon and Noah Webster; in short, that whatever he did not know was not worth knowing.
In the face of these manifestations of exuberant genius, it would be absurd to accuse the author of making his hero do too much. All he has done is to give this genius a right direction; and for politics, cigars, 2:40 horses, and "one stew," he has substituted the duties of a rational and accountable being, regarding them as better fitted to develop the young gentleman's mind, heart, and soul.
Bobby Bright is something more than a smart boy. He is a good boy, and makes a true man. His daily life is the moral of the story, and the author hopes that his devotion to principle will make a stronger impression upon the mind of the young reader, than even the most exciting incidents of his eventful career.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS.
I. In which Bobby goes a fishing, and catches a Horse 1
II. In which Bobby blushes several Times, and does a Sum in Arithmetic 13
III. In which the Little Black House is bought, but not paid for 26
IV. In which Bobby gets out of one Scrape, and into another 38
V. In which Bobby gives his Note for Sixty Dollars 52
VI. In which Bobby sets out on his Travels 66
VII. In which Bobby stands up for certain "Inalienable Rights" 78
VIII. In which Mr. Timmins is astonished, and Bobby dines in Chestnut Street 91
IX. In which Bobby opens various Accounts, and wins his first Victory 104
X. In which Bobby is a little too smart 117
XI. In which Bobby strikes a Balance, and returns to Riverdale 131
XII. In which Bobby astonishes sundry Persons, and pays Part of his Note 144
XIII. In which Bobby declines a Copartnership, and visits B—— again 160
XIV. In which Bobby's Air Castle is upset, and Tom Spicer takes to the Woods 177
XV. In which Bobby gets into a Scrape, and Tom Spicer turns up again 191
XVI. In which Bobby finds "it is an ill wind that blows no one any good" 205
XVII. In which Tom has a good Time, and Bobby meets with a terrible Misfortune 219
XVIII. In which Bobby takes French Leave, and camps in the Woods 235
XIX. In which Bobby has a narrow Escape, and goes to Sea with Sam Ray 248
XX. In which the Clouds blow over, and Bobby is himself again 264
XXI. In which Bobby steps off the Stage, and the Author must finish "Now or Never" 280
NOW OR NEVER
THE ADVENTURES OF BOBBY BRIGHT
IN WHICH BOBBY GOES A FISHING, AND CATCHES A HORSE
"By jolly! I've got a bite!" exclaimed Tom Spicer, a rough, hard-looking boy, who sat on a rock by the river's side, anxiously watching the cork float on his line.
"Catch him, then," quietly responded Bobby Bright, who occupied another rock near the first speaker, as he pulled up a large pout, and, without any appearance of exultation, proceeded to unhook and place him in his basket.
"You are a lucky dog, Bob," added Tom, as he glanced into the basket of his companion, which now contained six good-sized fishes. "I haven't caught one yet."
"You don't fish deep enough."
"I fish on the bottom."
"That is too deep."
"It don't make any difference how I fish; it is all luck."
"Not all luck, Tom; there is something in doing it right."
"I shall not catch a fish," continued Tom, in despair.
"You'll catch something else, though, when you go home."
"I'm afraid you will."
"Who says I will?"
"Didn't you tell me you were 'hooking jack'?"
"Who is going to know anything about it?"
"The master will know you are absent."
"I shall tell him my mother sent me over to the village on an errand."
"I never knew a fellow to 'hook jack,' yet, without getting found out."
"I shall not get found out unless you blow on me; and you wouldn't be mean enough to do that;" and Tom glanced uneasily at his companion.
"Suppose your mother should ask me if I had seen you."
"You would tell her you have not, of course."
"Why, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you do as much as that for a fellow?"
"It would be a lie."
"A lie! Humph!"
"I wouldn't lie for any fellow," replied Bobby, stoutly, as he pulled in his seventh fish, and placed him in the basket.
"No, I wouldn't."
"Then let me tell you this; if you peach on me, I'll smash your head."
Tom Spicer removed one hand from the fish pole and, doubling his fist, shook it with energy at his companion.
"Smash away," replied Bobby, coolly. "I shall not go out of my way to tell tales; but if your mother or the master asks me the question, I shall not lie."
"No, I won't."
"I'll bet you will;" and Tom dropped his fish pole, and was on the point of jumping over to the rock occupied by Bobby, when the float of the former disappeared beneath the surface of the water.
"You've got a bite," coolly interposed Bobby, pointing to the line.
Tom snatched the pole, and with a violent twitch, pulled up a big pout; but his violence jerked the hook out of the fish's mouth, and he disappeared beneath the surface of the river.
"Just my luck!" muttered Tom.
"Keep cool, then."
"I will fix you yet."
"All right; but you had better not let go your pole again, or you will lose another fish."
"I'm bound to smash your head, though."
"No, you won't."
"Two can play at that game."
"Do you stump me?"
"No; I don't want to fight; I won't fight if I can help it."
"I'll bet you won't!" sneered Tom.
"But I will defend myself."
"I am not a liar, and the fear of a flogging shall not make me tell a lie."
"Go to Sunday school—don't you?"
"I do; and besides that, my mother always taught me never to tell a lie."
"Come! you needn't preach to me. By and by, you will call me a liar."
"No, I won't; but just now you told me you meant to lie to your mother, and to the master."
"What if I did? That is none of your business."
"It is my business when you want me to lie for you, though; and I shall not do it."
"Blow on me, and see what you will get."
"I don't mean to blow on you."
"Yes, you do."
"I will not lie about it; that's all."
"By jolly! see that horse!" exclaimed Tom, suddenly, as he pointed to the road leading to Riverdale Centre.
"By gracious!" added Bobby, dropping his fish pole, as he saw the horse running at a furious rate up the road from the village.
The mad animal was attached to a chaise, in which was seated a lady, whose frantic shrieks pierced the soul of our youthful hero.
The course of the road was by the river's side for nearly half a mile, and crossed the stream at a wooden bridge but a few rods from the place where the boys were fishing.
Bobby Bright's impulses were noble and generous; and without stopping to consider the peril to which the attempt would expose him, he boldly resolved to stop that horse, or let the animal dash him to pieces on the bridge.
"Now or never!" shouted he, as he leaped from the rock, and ran with all his might to the bridge.
The shrieks of the lady rang in his ears, and seemed to command him, with an authority which he could not resist, to stop the horse. There was no time for deliberation; and, indeed, Bobby did not want any deliberation. The lady was in danger; if the horse's flight was not checked, she would be dashed in pieces; and what then could excuse him for neglecting his duty? Not the fear of broken limbs, of mangled flesh, or even of a sudden and violent death.
It is true Bobby did not think of any of these things; though, if he had, it would have made no difference with him. He was a boy who would not fight except in self-defence, but he had the courage to do a deed which might have made the stoutest heart tremble with terror.
Grasping a broken rail as he leaped over the fence, he planted himself in the middle of the bridge, which was not more than half as wide as the road at each end of it, to await the coming of the furious animal. On he came, and the piercing shrieks of the affrighted lady nerved him to the performance of his perilous duty.
The horse approached him at a mad run, and his feet struck the loose planks of the bridge. The brave boy then raised his big club, and brandished it with all his might in the air. Probably the horse did not mean anything very bad; was only frightened, and had no wicked intentions towards the lady; so that when a new danger menaced him in front, he stopped suddenly, and with so much violence as to throw the lady forward from her seat upon the dasher of the chaise. He gave a long snort, which was his way of expressing his fear. He was evidently astonished at the sudden barrier to his further progress, and commenced running back.
"Save me!" screamed the lady.
"I will, ma'am; don't be scared!" replied Bobby, confidently, as he dropped his club, and grasped the bridle of the horse, just as he was on the point of whirling round to escape by the way he had come.
"Stop him! Do stop him!" cried the lady.
"Whoa!" said Bobby, in gentle tones, as he patted the trembling horse on his neck. "Whoa, good horse! Be quiet! Whoa!"
The animal, in his terror, kept running backward and forward; but Bobby persevered in his gentle treatment, and finally soothed him, so that he stood quiet enough for the lady to get out of the chaise.
"What a miracle that I am alive!" exclaimed she, when she realized that she stood once more upon the firm earth.
"Yes, ma'am, it is lucky he didn't break the chaise. Whoa! Good horse! Stand quiet!"
"What a brave little fellow you are!" said the lady, as soon as she could recover her breath so as to express her admiration of Bobby's bold act.
"O, I don't mind it," replied he, blushing like a rose in June. "Did he run away with you?"
"No; my father left me in the chaise for a moment while he went into a store in the village, and a teamster who was passing by snapped his whip, which frightened Kate so that she started off at the top of her speed. I was so terrified that I screamed with all my might, which frightened her the more. The more I screamed, the faster she ran."
"I dare say. Good horse! Whoa, Kate!"
"She is a splendid creature; she never did such a thing before. My father will think I am killed."
By this time, Kate had become quite reasonable, and seemed very much obliged to Bobby for preventing her from doing mischief to her mistress; for she looked at the lady with a glance of satisfaction, which her deliverer interpreted as a promise to behave better in future. He relaxed his grasp upon the bridle, patted her upon the neck, and said sundry pleasant things to encourage her in her assumed purpose of doing better. Kate appeared to understand Bobby's kind words, and declared as plainly as a horse could declare that she would be sober and tractable.
"Now, ma'am, if you will get into the chaise again, I think Kate will let me drive her down to the village."
"O, dear! I should not dare to do so."
"Then, if you please, I will drive down alone, so as to let your father know that you are safe."
"I am sure he must feel very bad, and I may save him a great deal of pain, for a man can suffer a great deal in a very short time."
"You are a little philosopher, as well as a hero, and if you are not afraid of Kate, you may do as you wish."
"She seems very gentle now;" and Bobby turned her round, and got into the chaise.
"Be very careful," said the lady.
Bobby took the reins, and Kate, true to the promise she had virtually made, started off at a round pace towards the village.
He had not gone more than a quarter of a mile of the distance when he met a wagon containing three men, one of whom was the lady's father. The gestures which he made assured Bobby he had found the person whom he sought, and he stopped.
"My daughter! Where is she?" gasped the gentleman, as he leaped from the wagon.
"She is safe, sir," replied Bobby, with all the enthusiasm of his warm nature.
"Thank God!" added the gentleman, devoutly, as he placed himself in the chaise by the side of Bobby.
IN WHICH BOBBY BLUSHES SEVERAL TIMES, AND DOES A SUM IN ARITHMETIC
Mr. Bayard, the owner of the horse, and the father of the lady whom Bobby had saved from impending death, was too much agitated to say much, even to the bold youth who had rendered him such a signal service. He could scarcely believe the intelligence which the boy brought him; it seemed too good to be true. He had assured himself that Ellen—for that was the young lady's name—was killed or dreadfully injured.
Kate was driven at the top of her speed, and in a few moments reached the bridge, where Ellen was awaiting his arrival.
"Here I am, father, alive and unhurt!" cried Ellen, as Mr. Bayard stopped the horse.
"Thank Heaven, my child!" replied the glad father, embracing his daughter. "I was sure you were killed."
"No, father; thanks to this bold youth, I am uninjured."
"I am under very great obligations to you, young man," continued Mr. Bayard, grasping Bobby's hand.
"O, never mind, sir;" and Bobby blushed just as he had blushed when the young lady spoke to him.
"We shall never forget you—shall we, father?" added Ellen.
"No, my child; and I shall endeavor to repay, to some slight extent, our indebtedness to him. But you have not yet told me how you were saved."
"O, I merely stopped the horse; that's all," answered Bobby, modestly.
"Yes, father, but he placed himself right before Kate when she was almost flying over the ground. When I saw him, I was certain that he would lose his life, or be horribly mangled for his boldness," interposed Ellen.
"It was a daring deed, young man, to place yourself before an affrighted horse in that manner," said Mr. Bayard.
"I didn't mind it, sir."
"And then he flourished a big club, almost as big as he is himself, in the air, which made Kate pause in her mad career, when my deliverer here grasped her by the bit and held her."
"It was well and bravely done."
"That it was, father; not many men would have been bold enough to do what he did," added Ellen, with enthusiasm.
"Very true; and I feel that I am indebted to him for your safety. What is your name, young man?"
"Robert Bright, sir."
Mr. Bayard took from his pocket several pieces of gold, which he offered to Bobby.
"No, I thank you, sir," replied Bobby, blushing.
"What! as proud as you are bold?"
"I don't like to be paid for doing my duty."
"Bravo! You are a noble little fellow! But you must take this money, not as a reward for what you have done, but as a testimonial of my gratitude."
"I would rather not, sir."
"Do take it, Robert," added Ellen.
"I don't like to take it. It looks mean to take money for doing one's duty."
"Take it, Robert, to please me;" and the young lady smiled so sweetly that Bobby's resolution began to give way. "Only to please me, Robert."
"I will, to please you; but I don't feel right about it."
"You must not be too proud, Robert," said Mr. Bayard, as he put the gold pieces into his hand.
"I am not proud, sir; only I don't like to be paid for doing my duty."
"Not paid, my young friend. Consider that you have placed me under an obligation to you for life. This money is only an expression of my own and my daughter's feelings. It is but a small sum, but I hope you will permit me to do something more for you, when you need it. You will regard me as your friend as long as you live."
"Thank you, sir."
"When you want any assistance of any kind, come to me. I live in Boston; here is my business card."
Mr. Bayard handed him a card, on which Bobby read, "F. Bayard & Co., Booksellers and Publishers, No. —, Washington Street, Boston."
"You are very kind, sir."
"I want you should come to Boston and see us, too," interposed Ellen. "I should be delighted to show you the city, to take you to the Athenaeum and the Museum."
Mr. Bayard inquired of Bobby about his parents, where he lived, and about the circumstances of his family. He then took out his memorandum book, in which he wrote the boy's name and residence.
"I am sorry to leave you now, Robert, but I have over twenty miles to ride to-day. I should be glad to visit your mother, and next time I come to Riverdale, I shall certainly do so."
"Thank you, sir; my mother is a very poor woman, but she will be glad to see you."
"Now, good by, Robert."
"Good by," repeated Ellen.
Mr. Bayard drove off, leaving Bobby standing on the bridge with the gold pieces in his hand.
"Here's luck!" said Bobby, shaking the coin. "Won't mother's eyes stick out when she sees these shiners? There are no such shiners in the river as these."
Bobby was astonished, and the more he gazed at the gold pieces, the more bewildered he became. He had never held so much money in his hand before. There were three large coins and one smaller one. He turned them over and over, and finally ascertained that the large coins were ten dollar pieces, and the smaller one a five dollar piece. Bobby was not a great scholar, but he knew enough of arithmetic to calculate the value of his treasure. He was so excited, however, that he did not arrive at the conclusion half so quick as most of my young readers would have done.
"Thirty-five dollars!" exclaimed Bobby, when the problem was solved. "Gracious!"
"Hallo, Bob!" shouted Tom Spicer, who had got tired of fishing; besides, the village clock was just striking twelve, and it was time for him to go home.
Bobby made no answer, but hastily tying the gold pieces up in the corner of his handkerchief, he threw the broken rail he had used in stopping the horse where it belonged, and started for the place where he had left his fishing apparatus.
"Stopped him—didn't you?"
"You were a fool; he might have killed you."
"So he might; but I didn't stop to think of that. The lady's life was in danger."
"What of that?"
"Everything, I should say."
"Did he give you anything?"
"Yes;" and Bobby continued his walk down to the river's side.
"I say, what did he give you, Bobby?" persisted Tom, following him.
"O, he gave me a good deal of money."
"I want to get my fish line now; I will tell you all about it some other time," replied Bobby, who rather suspected the intentions of his companion.
"Tell me now; how much was it?"
"Never mind it now."
"Humph! Do you think I mean to rob you?"
"Ain't you going halveses?"
"Why should I?"
"Wasn't I with you?"
"Wasn't I fishing with you?"
"You did not do anything about stopping the horse."
"I would, if I hadn't been afraid to go up to the road."
"Somebody might have seen me, and they would have known that I was hooking jack."
"Then you ought not to share the money."
"Yes, I had. When a fellow is with you, he ought to have half. It is mean not to give him half."
"If you had done anything to help stop the horse, I would have shared with you. But you didn't."
"What of that?"
Bobby was particularly sensitive in regard to the charge of meanness. His soul was a great deal bigger than his body, and he was always generous, even to his own injury, among his companions. It was evident to him that Tom had no claim to any part of the reward; but he could not endure the thought even of being accused of meanness.
"I'll tell you what I will do, if you think I ought to share with you. I will leave it out to Squire Lee; and if he thinks you ought to have half, or any part of the money, I will give it to you."
"No, you don't; you want to get me into a scrape for hooking jack. I see what you are up to."
"I will state the case to him without telling him who the boys are."
"No, you don't! You want to be mean about it. Come, hand over half the money."
"I will not," replied Bobby, who, when it became a matter of compulsion, could stand his ground at any peril.
"How much have you got?"
"By jolly! And you mean to keep it all yourself?"
"I mean to give it to my mother."
"No, you won't! If you are going to be mean about it, I'll smash your head!"
This was a favorite expression with Tom Spicer, who was a noted bully among the boys of Riverdale. The young ruffian now placed himself in front of Bobby, and shook his clenched fist in his face.
"No, I won't. You have no claim to any part of the money; at least, I think you have not. If you have a mind to leave it out to Squire Lee, I will do what is right about it."
"Not I; hand over, or I'll smash your head!"
"Smash away," replied Bobby, placing himself on the defensive.
"Do you think you can lick me?" asked Tom, not a little embarrassed by this exhibition of resolution on the part of his companion.
"I don't think anything about it; but you don't bully me in that kind of style."
But Tom did not immediately put his threat in execution, and Bobby would not be the aggressor; so he stepped one side to pass his assailant. Tom took this as an evidence of the other's desire to escape, and struck him a heavy blow on the side of the head. The next instant the bully was floundering in the soft mud of a ditch; Bobby's reply was more than Tom had bargained for, and while he was dragging himself out of the ditch, our hero ran down to the river, and got his fish pole and basket.
"You'll catch it for that!" growled Tom.
"I'm all ready, whenever it suits your convenience," replied Bobby.
"Just come out here and take it in fair fight," continued Tom, who could not help bullying, even in the midst of his misfortune.
"No, I thank you; I don't want to fight with any fellow. I will not fight if I can help it."
"What did you hit me for, then?"
"Just come out here, and try it fair!"
"No;" and Bobby hurried home, leaving the bully astonished and discomfited by the winding up of the morning's sport.
IN WHICH THE LITTLE BLACK HOUSE IS BOUGHT BUT NOT PAID FOR
Probably my young readers have by this time come to the conclusion that Bobby Bright was a very clever fellow—one whose acquaintance they would be happy to cultivate. Perhaps by this time they have become so far interested in him as to desire to know who his parents were, what they did, and in what kind of a house he lived.
I hope none of my young friends will think any less of him when I inform them that Bobby lived in an old black house which had never been painted, which had no flower garden in front of it, and which, in a word, was quite far from being a palace. A great many very nice city folks would not have considered it fit to live in, would have turned up their noses at it, and wondered that any human beings could be so degraded as to live in such a miserable house. But the widow Bright, Bobby's mother, thought it was a very comfortable house, and considered herself very fortunate in being able to get so good a dwelling. She had never lived in a fine house, knew nothing about velvet carpets, mirrors seven feet high, damask chairs and lounges, or any of the smart things which very rich and very proud city people consider absolutely necessary for their comfort. Her father had been a poor man, her husband had died a poor man, and her own life had been a struggle to keep the demons of poverty and want from invading her humble abode.
Mr. Bright, her deceased husband, had been a day laborer in Riverdale. He never got more than a dollar a day, which was then considered very good wages in the country. He was a very honest, industrious man, and while he lived, his family did very well. Mrs. Bright was a careful, prudent woman, and helped him support the family. They never knew what it was to want for anything.
Poor people, as well as rich, have an ambition to be something which they are not, or to have something which they have not. Every person, who has any energy of character, desires to get ahead in the world. Some merchants, who own big ships and big warehouses by the dozen, desire to be what they consider rich. But their idea of wealth is very grand. They wish to count it in millions of dollars, in whole blocks of warehouses; and they are even more discontented than the day laborer who has to earn his dinner before he can eat it.
Bobby's father and mother had just such an ambition, only it was so modest that the merchant would have laughed at it. They wanted to own the little black house in which they resided, so that they could not only be sure of a home while they lived, but have the satisfaction of living in their own house. This was a very reasonable ideal, compared with that of the rich merchants I have mentioned; but it was even more difficult for them to reach it, for the wages were small, and they had many mouths to feed.
Mr. Bright had saved up fifty dollars; and he thought a great deal more of this sum than many people do of a thousand dollars. He had had to work very hard and be very prudent in order to accumulate this sum, which made him value it all the more highly.
With this sum of fifty dollars at his command, John Bright felt rich; and then, more than ever before, he wanted to own the little black house. He felt as grand as a lord; and as soon as the forty-nine dollars had become fifty, he waited upon Mr. Hardhand, a little crusty old man, who owned the little black house, and proposed to purchase it.
The landlord was a hard man. Everybody in Riverdale said he was mean and stingy. Any generous-hearted man would have been willing to make an easy bargain with an honest, industrious, poor man, like John Bright, who wished to own the house in which he lived; but Mr. Hardhand, although he was rich, only thought how he could make more money. He asked the poor man four hundred dollars for the old house and the little lot of land on which it stood.
It was a matter of great concern to John Bright. Four hundred dollars was a "mint of money," and he could not see how he should ever be able to save so much from his daily earnings. So he talked with Squire Lee about it, who told him that three hundred was all it was worth. John offered this for it, and after a month's hesitation Mr. Hardhand accepted the offer, agreeing to take fifty dollars down, and the rest in semi-annual payments of twenty-five dollars each until the whole was paid.
I am thus particular in telling my readers about the bargain, because this debt which his father contracted was the means of making a man of Bobby, as will be seen in his subsequent history.
John Bright paid the first fifty dollars; but before the next instalment became due, the poor man was laid in his cold and silent grave. A malignant disease carried him off, and the hopes of the Bright family seemed to be blasted.
Four children were left to the widow. The youngest was only three years old, and Bobby, the oldest, was nine, when his father died. Squire Lee, who had always been a good friend of John Bright, told the widow that she had better go to the poorhouse, and not attempt to struggle along with such fearful odds against her. But the widow nobly refused to become a pauper, and to make paupers of her children, whom she loved quite as much as though she and they had been born in a ducal palace. She told the squire that she had two hands, and as long as she had her health, the town need not trouble itself about her support.
Squire Lee was filled with surprise and admiration at the noble resolution of the poor woman; and when he returned to his house, he immediately sent her a cord of wood, ten bushels of potatoes, two bags of meal, and a firkin of salt pork.
The widow was very grateful for these articles, and no false pride prevented her from accepting the gift of her rich and kind-hearted neighbor.
Riverdale Centre was largely engaged in the manufacturing of boots and shoes, and this business gave employment to a large number of men and women.
Mrs. Bright had for several years "closed" shoes—which, my readers who do not live in "shoe towns" may not know, means sewing or stitching them. To this business she applied herself with renewed energy. There was a large hotel in Riverdale Centre, where several families from Boston spent the summer. By the aid of Squire Lee, she obtained the washing of these families, which was more profitable than closing shoes.
By these means she not only supported her family very comfortably, but was able to save a little money towards paying for the house. Mr. Hardhand, by the persuasions of Squire Lee, had consented to let the widow keep the house, and pay for it as she could.
John Bright had been dead four years at the time we introduce Bobby to the reader. Mrs. Bright had paid another hundred dollars towards the house, with the interest; so there was now but one hundred due. Bobby had learned to "close," and helped his mother a great deal; but the confinement and the stooping posture did not agree with his health, and his mother was obliged to dispense with his assistance. But the devoted little fellow found a great many ways of helping her. He was now thirteen, and was as handy about the house as a girl. When he was not better occupied, he would often go to the river and catch a mess of fish, which was so much clear gain.
The winter which had just passed had brought a great deal of sickness to the little black house. The children all had the measles, and two of them the scarlet fever, so that Mrs. Bright could not work much. Her affairs were not in a very prosperous condition when the spring opened; but the future was bright, and the widow, trusting in Providence, believed that all would end well.
One thing troubled her. She had not been able to save anything for Mr. Hardhand. She could only pay her interest; but she hoped by the first of July to give him twenty-five dollars of the principal. But the first of July came, and she had only five dollars of the sum she had partly promised her creditor. She could not so easily recover from the disasters of the hard winter, and she had but just paid off the little debts she had contracted. She was nervous and uneasy as the day approached. Mr. Hardhand always abused her when she told him she could not pay him, and she dreaded his coming.
It was the first of July on which Bobby caught those pouts, caught the horse, and on which Tom Spicer had "caught a Tartar."
Bobby hastened home, as we said at the conclusion of the last chapter. He was as happy as a lord. He had fish enough in his basket for dinner, and for breakfast the next morning, and money enough in his pocket to make his mother as happy as a queen, if queens are always happy.
The widow Bright, though she had worried and fretted night and day about the money which was to be paid to Mr. Hardhand on the first of July, had not told her son anything about it. It would only make him unhappy, she reasoned, and it was needless to make the dear boy miserable for nothing; so Bobby ran home all unconscious of the pleasure which was in store for him.
When he reached the front door, as he stopped to scrape his feet on the sharp stone there, as all considerate boys who love their mothers do, before they go into the house, he heard the angry tones of Mr. Hardhand. He was scolding and abusing his mother because she could not pay him the twenty-five dollars.
Bobby's blood boiled with indignation, and his first impulse was to serve him as he had served Tom Spicer, only a few moments before; but Bobby, as we have before intimated, was a peaceful boy, and not disposed to quarrel with any person; so he contented himself with muttering a few hard words.
"The wretch! What business has he to talk to my mother in that style?" said he to himself. "I have a great mind to kick him out of the house."
But Bobby's better judgment came to his aid; and perhaps he realized that he and his mother would only get kicked out in return. He could battle with Mr. Hardhand, but not with the power which his wealth gave him; so, like a great many older persons in similar circumstances, he took counsel of prudence rather than impulse.
"Bear ye one another's burdens," saith the Scripture; but Bobby was not old enough or astute enough to realize that Mr. Hardhand's burden was his wealth, his love of money; that it made him little better than a Hottentot; and he could not feel as charitably towards him as a Christian should towards his erring, weak brother.
Setting his pole by the door, he entered the room where Hardhand was abusing his mother.
IN WHICH BOBBY GETS OUT OF ONE SCRAPE, AND INTO ANOTHER
Bobby was so indignant at the conduct of Mr. Hardhand, that he entirely forgot the adventure of the morning; and he did not even think of the gold he had in his pocket. He loved his mother; he knew how hard she had worked for him and his brother and sisters; that she had burned the "midnight oil" at her clamps; and it made him feel very bad to hear her abused as Mr. Hardhand was abusing her. It was not her fault that she had not the money to pay him. She had been obliged to spend a large portion of her time over the sick beds of her children, so that she could not earn so much money as usual; while the family expenses were necessarily much greater.
Bobby knew also that Mr. Hardhand was aware of all the circumstances of his mother's position, and the more he considered the case the more brutal and inhuman was his course.
As our hero entered the family room with the basket of fish on his arm, the little crusty old man fixed the glance of his evil eye upon him.
"There is that boy, marm, idling away his time by the river, and eating you out of house and home," said the wretch. "Why don't you set him to work, and make him earn something?"
"Bobby is a very good boy," meekly responded the widow Bright.
"Humph! I should think he was. A great lazy lubber like him, living on his mother!" and Mr. Hardhand looked contemptuously at Bobby.
"I am not a lazy lubber," interposed the insulted boy with spirit.
"Yes, you are. Why don't you go to work?"
"I do work."
"No, you don't; you waste your time paddling in the river."
"You had better teach this boy manners too, marm," said the creditor, who, like all men of small souls, was willing to take advantage of the power which the widow's indebtedness gave him. "He is saucy."
"I should like to know who taught you manners, Mr. Hardhand," replied Bobby, whose indignation was rapidly getting the better of his discretion.
"What!" growled Mr. Hardhand, aghast at this unwonted boldness.
"I heard what you said before I came in; and no decent man would go to the house of a poor woman to insult her."
"Humph! Mighty fine," snarled the little old man, his gray eyes twinkling with malice.
"Don't, Bobby; don't be saucy to the gentleman," interposed his mother.
"Saucy, marm? You ought to horsewhip him for it. If you don't, I will."
"No, you won't!" replied Bobby, shaking his head significantly. "I can take care of myself."
"Did any one ever hear such impudence!" gasped Mr. Hardhand.
"Don't, Bobby, don't," pleaded the anxious mother.
"I should like to know what right you have to come here and abuse my mother," continued Bobby, who could not restrain his anger.
"Your mother owes me money, and she doesn't pay it, you young scoundrel!" answered Mr. Hardhand, foaming with rage.
"That is no reason why you should insult her. You can call me what you please, but you shall not insult my mother while I'm round."
"Your mother is a miserable woman, and——"
"Say that again, and though you are an old man, I'll hit you for it. I'm big enough to protect my mother, and I'll do it."
Bobby doubled up his fists and edged up to Mr. Hardhand, fully determined to execute his threat if he repeated the offensive expression, or any other of a similar import. He was roused to the highest pitch of anger, and felt as though he had just as lief die as live in defence of his mother's good name.
I am not sure that I could excuse Bobby's violence under any other circumstances. He loved his mother—as the novelists would say, he idolized her; and Mr. Hardhand had certainly applied some very offensive epithets to her—epithets which no good son could calmly hear applied to a mother. Besides, Bobby, though his heart was a large one, and was in the right place, had never been educated into those nice distinctions of moral right and wrong which control the judgment of wise and learned men. He had an idea that violence, resistance with blows, was allowable in certain extreme cases; and he could conceive of no greater provocation than an insult to his mother.
"Be calm, Bobby; you are in a passion," said Mrs. Bright.
"I am surprised, marm," began Mr. Hardhand, who prudently refrained from repeating the offensive language—and I have no doubt he was surprised; for he looked both astonished and alarmed. "This boy has a most ungovernable temper."
"Don't you worry about my temper, Mr. Hardhand; I'll take care of myself. All I want of you is not to insult my mother. You may say what you like to me; but don't you call her hard names."
Mr. Hardhand, like all mean, little men, was a coward; and he was effectually intimidated by the bold and manly conduct of the boy. He changed his tone and manner at once.
"You have no money for me, marm?" said he, edging towards the door.
"No, sir; I am sorry to say that I have been able to save only five dollars since I paid you last; but I hope——"
"Never mind, marm, never mind; I shall not trouble myself to come here again, where I am liable to be kicked by this ill-bred cub. No, marm, I shall not come again. Let the law take its course."
"O, mercy! See what you have brought upon us, Bobby," exclaimed Mrs. Bright, bursting into tears.
"Yes, marm, let the law take its course."
"O, Bobby! Stop a moment, Mr. Hardhand; do stop a moment."
"Not a moment, marm. We'll see;" and Mr. Hardhand placed his hand upon the latch string.
Bobby felt very uneasy and very unhappy at that moment. His passion had subsided, and he realized that he had done a great deal of mischief by his impetuous conduct.
Then the remembrance of his morning adventure on the bridge came like a flash of sunshine to his mind, and he eagerly drew from his pocket the handkerchief in which he had deposited the precious gold,—doubly precious now, because it would enable him to retrieve the error into which he had fallen, and do something towards relieving his mother's embarrassment. With a trembling hand he untied the knot which secured the money.
"Here, mother, here is thirty-five dollars;" and he placed it in her hand.
"Why, Bobby!" exclaimed Mrs. Bright.
"Pay him, mother, pay him, and I will tell you all about it by and by."
"Thirty-five dollars! and all in gold! Where did you get it, Bobby?"
"Never mind it now, mother."
Mr. Hardhand's covetous soul had already grasped the glittering gold; and removing his hand from the latch string, he approached the widow.
"I shall be able to pay you forty dollars now," said Mrs. Bright, taking the five dollars she had saved from her pocket.
Mr. Hardhand took the money, and seating himself at the table, indorsed the amount on the back of the note.
"You owe me sixty more," said he, maliciously, as he returned the note to his pocket book. "It must be paid immediately."
"You must not be hard with me now, when I have paid more than you demanded."
"I don't wish to come here again. That boy's impudence has put me all out of conceit with you and your family," replied Mr. Hardhand, assuming the most benevolent look he could command. "There was a time when I was very willing to help you. I have waited a great while for my pay for this house; a great deal longer than I would have waited for anybody else."
"Your interest has always been paid punctually," suggested the widow, modestly.
"That's true; but very few people would have waited as long as I have for the principal. I wanted to help you——"
"By gracious!" exclaimed Bobby, interrupting him.
"Don't be saucy, my son, don't," said Mrs. Bright, fearing a repetition of the former scene.
"He wanted to help us!" ejaculated Bobby.
It was a very absurd and hypocritical expression on the part of Mr. Hardhand; for he never wanted to help any one but himself; and during the whole period of his relations with the poor widow, he had oppressed, insulted, and abused her to the extent of his capacity, or at least as far as his interest would permit.
He was a malicious and revengeful man. He did not consider the great provocation he had given Bobby for his violent conduct, but determined to be revenged, if it could be accomplished without losing any part of the sixty dollars still due him. He was a wicked man at heart, and would not scruple to turn the widow and her family out of house and home.
Mrs. Bright knew this, and Bobby knew it too; and they felt very uneasy about it. The wretch still had the power to injure them, and he would use it without compunction.
"Yes, young man, I wanted to help you, and you see what I get for it—contempt and insults! You will hear from me again in a day or two. Perhaps you will change your tune, you young reprobate!"
"Perhaps I shall," replied Bobby, without much discretion.
"And you too, marm; you uphold him in his treatment of me. You have not done your duty to him. You have been remiss, marm!" continued Mr. Hardhand, growing bolder again, as he felt the power he wielded.
"That will do, sir; you can go!" said Bobby, springing from his chair, and approaching Mr. Hardhand. "Go, and do your worst!"
"Humph! you stump me,—do you?"
"I would rather see my mother kicked out of the house than insulted by such a dried-up old curmudgeon as you are. Go along!"
"Now, don't, Bobby," pleaded his mother.
"I am going; and if the money is not paid by twelve o'clock to-morrow, the law shall take its course;" and Mr. Hardhand rushed out of the house, slamming the door violently after him.
"O, Bobby, what have you done?" exclaimed Mrs. Bright, when the hard-hearted creditor had departed.
"I could not help it, mother; don't cry. I cannot bear to hear you insulted and abused; and I thought when I heard him do it a year ago, that I couldn't stand it again. It is too bad."
"But he will turn us out of the house; and what shall we do then?"
"Don't cry, mother; it will come round all right. I have friends who are rich and powerful, and who will help us."
"You don't know what you say, Bobby. Sixty dollars is a great deal of money, and if we should sell all we have, it would scarcely bring that."
"Leave it all to me, mother; I feel as though I could do something now. I am old enough to make money."
"What can you do?"
"Now or never!" replied Bobby, whose mind had wandered from the scene to the busy world, where fortunes are made and lost every day. "Now or never!" muttered he again.
"But, Bobby, you have not told me where you got all that gold."
"Dinner is ready, I see, and I will tell you while we eat."
Bobby had been a fishing, and to be hungry is a part of the fisherman's luck; so he seated himself at the table, and gave his mother a full account of all that had occurred at the bridge.
The fond mother trembled when she realized the peril her son had incurred for the sake of the young lady; but her maternal heart swelled with admiration in view of the generous deed, and she thanked God that she was the mother of such a son. She felt more confidence in him then than she had ever felt before, and she realized that he would be the stay and the staff of her declining years.
Bobby finished his dinner, and seated himself on the front door step. His mind was absorbed by a new and brilliant idea; and for half an hour he kept up a most tremendous thinking.
"Now or never!" said he, as he rose and walked down the road towards Riverdale Centre.
IN WHICH BOBBY GIVES HIS NOTE FOR SIXTY DOLLARS
A great idea was born in Bobby's brain. His mother's weakness and the insecurity of her position were more apparent to him than they had ever been before. She was in the power of her creditor, who might turn her out of the little black house, sell the place at auction, and thus, perhaps, deprive her of the whole or a large part of his father's and her own hard earnings.
But this was not the peculiar hardship of her situation, as her devoted son understood it. It was not the hard work alone which she was called upon to perform, not the coarseness of the fare upon which they lived, not the danger even of being turned out of doors, that distressed Bobby; it was that a wretch like Mr. Hardhand could insult and trample upon his mother. He had just heard him use language to her that made his blood boil with indignation, and he did not, on cool, sober, second thought, regret that he had taken such a decided stand against it.
He cared not for himself. He could live on a crust of bread and a cup of water from the spring; he could sleep in a barn; he could wear coarse and even ragged clothes; but he could not submit to have his mother insulted, and by such a mean and contemptible person as Mr. Hardhand.
Yet what could he do? He was but a boy, and the great world would look with contempt upon his puny form. But he felt that he was not altogether insignificant. He had performed an act that day, which the fair young lady, to whom he had rendered the service, had declared very few men would have undertaken. There was something in him, something that would come out, if he only put his best foot forward. It was a tower of strength within him. It told him that he could do wonders; that he could go out into the world and accomplish all that would be required to free his mother from debt, and relieve her from the severe drudgery of her life.
A great many people think they can "do wonders." The vanity of some very silly people makes them think they can command armies, govern nations, and teach the world what the world never knew before and never would know but for them. But Bobby's something within him was not vanity. It was something more substantial. He was not thinking of becoming a great man, a great general, a great ruler, or a great statesman; not even of making a great fortune. Self was not the idol and the end of his calculations. He was thinking of his mother, and only of her; and the feeling within him was as pure, and holy, and beautiful as the dream of an angel. He wanted to save his mother from insult in the first place, and from a life of ceaseless drudgery in the second.
A legion of angels seemed to have encamped in his soul to give him strength for the great purpose in his mind. His was a holy and a true purpose, and it was this that made him think he could "do wonders."
What Bobby intended to do the reader shall know in due time. It is enough now that he meant to do something. The difficulty with a great many people is, that they never resolve to do something. They wait for "something to turn up;" and as "things" are often very obstinate, they utterly refuse to "turn up" at all. Their lives are spent in waiting for a golden opportunity which never comes.
Now, Bobby Bright repudiated the Micawber philosophy. He would have nothing to do with it. He did not believe corn would grow without being planted, or that pouts would bite the bare hook.
I am not going to tell my young readers now how Bobby came out in the end; but I can confidently say that, if he had waited for "something to turn up," he would have become a vagabond, a loafer, out of money, out at the elbows, and out of patience with himself and all the world.
It was "now or never" with Bobby. He meant to do something; and after he had made up his mind how and where it was to be done, it was no use to stand thinking about it, like the pendulum of the "old clock which had stood for fifty years in a farmer's kitchen, without giving its owner any cause of complaint."
Bobby walked down the road towards the village with a rapid step. He was thinking very fast, and probably that made him step quick. But as he approached Squire Lee's house, his pace slackened, and he seemed to be very uneasy. When he reached the great gate that led up to the house, he stopped for an instant, and thrust his hands down very deep into his trousers pockets. I cannot tell what the trousers pockets had to do with what he was thinking about; but if he was searching for anything in them, he did not find it; for after an instant's hesitation he drew out his hands, struck one of them against his chest, and in an audible voice exclaimed,—
"Now or never."
All this pantomime, I suppose, meant that Bobby had some misgivings as to the ultimate success of his mission at Squire Lee's, and that when he struck his breast and uttered his favorite expression, they were conquered and driven out.
Marching with a bold and determined step up to the squire's back door,—Bobby's ideas of etiquette would not have answered for the meridian of fashionable society,—he gave three smart raps.
Bobby's heart beat a little wildly as he awaited a response to his summons. It seemed that he still had some doubts as to the practicability of his mission; but they were not permitted to disturb him long, for the door was opened by the squire's pretty daughter Annie, a young miss of twelve.
"O, Bobby, is it you? I am so glad you have come!" exclaimed the little lady.
Bobby blushed—he didn't know why, unless it was that the young lady desired to see him. He stammered out a reply, and for the moment forgot the object of his visit.
"I want you to go down to the village for me, and get some books the expressman was to bring up from Boston for me. Will you go?"
"Certainly, Miss Annie, I shall be very glad to go for you," replied Bobby, with an emphasis that made the little maiden blush in her turn.
"You are real good, Bobby; but I will give you something for going."
"I don't want anything," said Bobby, stoutly.
"You are too generous! Ah, I heard what you did this forenoon; and pa says that a great many men would not have dared to do what you did. I always thought you were as brave as a lion; now I know it."
"The books are at the express office, I suppose," said Bobby, turning as red as a blood beet.
"Yes, Bobby; I am so anxious to get them that I can't wait till pa goes down this evening."
"I will not be gone long."
"O, you needn't run, Bobby; take your time."
"I will go very quick. But, Miss Annie, is your father at home?"
"Not now; he has gone over to the wood lot; but he will be back by the time you return."
"Will you please to tell him that I want to see him about something very particular, when he gets back?"
"I will, Bobby."
"Thank you, Miss Annie;" and Bobby hastened to the village to execute his commission.
"I wonder what he wants to see pa so very particularly for," said the young lady to herself, as she watched his receding form. "In my opinion, something has happened at the little black house, for I could see that he looked very sober."
Either Bobby had a very great regard for the young lady, and wished to relieve her impatience to behold the coveted books, or he was in a hurry to see Squire Lee; for the squire's old roan horse could hardly have gone quicker.
"You should not have run, Bobby," said the little maiden, when he placed the books in her hand; "I would not have asked you to go if I had thought you would run all the way. You must be very tired."
"Not at all; I didn't run, only walked very quick," replied he; but his quick breathing indicated that his words or his walk had been very much exaggerated. "Has your father returned?"
"He has; he is waiting for you in the sitting room. Come in, Bobby."
Bobby followed her into the room, and took the chair which Annie offered him.
"How do you do, Bobby? I am glad to see you," said the squire, taking him by the hand, and bestowing a benignant smile upon him—a smile which cheered his heart more than anything else could at that moment. "I have heard of you before, to-day."
"I have, Bobby; you are a brave little fellow."
"I came over to see you, sir, about something very particular," replied Bobby, whose natural modesty induced him to change the topic.
"Indeed; well, what can I do for you?"
"A great deal, sir; perhaps you will think I am very bold, sir, but I can't help it."
"I know you are a very bold little fellow, or you would not have done what you did this forenoon," laughed the squire.
"I didn't mean that, sir," answered Bobby, blushing up to the eyes.
"I know you didn't; but go on."
"I only meant that you would think me presuming, or impudent, or something of that kind."
"O, no, far from it. You cannot be presuming or impudent. Speak out, Bobby; anything under the heavens that I can do for you, I shall be glad to do."
"Well, sir, I am going to leave Riverdale."
"Yes, sir; I am going to Boston, where I mean to do something to help mother."
"Bravo! you are a good lad. What do you mean to do?"
"I was thinking I should go into the book business."
"Indeed!" and Squire Lee was much amused by the matter-of-fact manner of the young aspirant.
"I was talking with a young fellow who went through the place last spring, selling books. He told me that some days he made three or four dollars, and that he averaged twelve dollars a week."
"He did well; perhaps, though, only a few of them make so much."
"I know I can make twelve dollars a week," replied Bobby, confidently, for that something within him made him feel capable of great things.
"I dare say you can. You have energy and perseverance, and people take a liking to you."
"But I wanted to see you about another matter. To speak out at once, I want to borrow sixty dollars of you;" and Bobby blushed, and seemed very much embarrassed by his own boldness.
"Sixty dollars!" exclaimed the squire.
"I knew you would think me impudent," replied our hero, his heart sinking within him.
"But I don't, Bobby. You want the money to go into business with—to buy your stock of books?"
"O, no, sir; I am going to apply to Mr. Bayard for that."
"Just so; Mr. Bayard is the gentleman whose daughter you saved?"
"Yes, sir. I want this money to pay off Mr. Hardhand. We owe him but sixty dollars now, and he has threatened to turn us out, if it is not paid by to-morrow noon."
"The old hunks!"
Bobby briefly related to the squire the events of the morning, much to the indignation and disgust of the honest, kind-hearted man. The courageous boy detailed more clearly his purpose, and doubted not he should be able to pay the loan in a few months.
"Very well, Bobby, here is the money;" and the squire took it from his wallet, and gave it to him.
"Thank you, sir. May Heaven bless you! I shall certainly pay you."
"Don't worry about it, Bobby. Pay it when you get ready."
"I will give you my note, and——"
The squire laughed heartily at this, and told him that, as he was a minor, his note was not good for anything.
"You shall see whether it is, or not," returned Bobby. "Let me give it to you, at least, so that we can tell how much I owe you from time to time."
"You shall have your own way."
Annie Lee, as much amused as her father at Bobby's big talk, got the writing materials, and the little merchant in embryo wrote and signed the note.
"Good, Bobby! Now promise that you will come and see me every time you come home, and tell me how you are getting along."
"I will, sir, with the greatest pleasure;" and with a light heart Bobby tripped away home.
IN WHICH BOBBY SETS OUT ON HIS TRAVELS
Squire Lee, though only a plain farmer, was the richest man in Riverdale. He had taken a great fancy to Bobby, and often employed him to do errands, ride the horse to plough in the cornfields, and such chores about the place as a boy could do. He liked to talk with Bobby because there was a great deal of good sense in him, for one with a small head.
If there was any one thing upon which the squire particularly prided himself, it was his knowledge of human nature. He declared that he only wanted to look a man in the face to know what he was; and as for Bobby Bright, he had summered him and wintered him, and he was satisfied that he would make something in good time.
He was not much astonished when Bobby opened his ambitious scheme of going into business for himself. But he had full faith in his ability to work out a useful and profitable, if not a brilliant, life. He often said that Bobby was worth his weight in gold, and that he would trust him with anything he had. Perhaps he did not suspect that the time was at hand when he would be called upon to verify his words practically; for it was only that morning, when one of the neighbors told him about Bobby's stopping the horse, that he had repeated the expression for the twentieth time.
It was not an idle remark. Sixty dollars was hardly worth mentioning with a man of his wealth and liberal views, though so careful a man as he was would not have been likely to throw away that amount. But as a matter of investment,—Bobby had made the note read "with interest,"—he would as readily have let him have it, as the next richest man in the place, so much confidence had he in our hero's integrity, and so sure was he that he would soon have the means of paying him.
Bobby was overjoyed at the fortunate issue of his mission, and he walked into the room where his mother was closing shoes, with a dignity worthy a banker or a great merchant. Mrs. Bright was very sad. Perhaps she felt a little grieved that her son, whom she loved so much, had so thoughtlessly plunged her into a new difficulty.
"Come, cheer up, mother; it is all right," said Bobby, in his usual elastic and gay tones; and at the same time he took the sixty dollars from his pocket and handed it to her. "There is the money, and you will be forever quit of Mr. Hardhand to-morrow."
"What, Bobby! Why, where did you get all this money?" asked Mrs. Bright, utterly astonished.
In a few words the ambitious boy told his story, and then informed his mother that he was going to Boston the next Monday morning, to commence business for himself.
"Why, what can you do, Bobby?"
"Do? I can do a great many things;" and he unfolded his scheme of becoming a little book merchant.
"You are a courageous fellow! Who would have thought of such a thing?"
"I should, and did."
"But you are not old enough."
"O, yes, I am."
"You had better wait a while."
"Now or never, mother! You see I have given my note, and my paper will be dishonored, if I am not up and doing."
"Your paper!" said Mrs. Bright, with a smile.
"That is what Mr. Wing, the boot manufacturer, calls it."
"You needn't go away to earn this money; I can pay it myself."
"This note is my affair, and I mean to pay it myself with my own earnings. No objections, mother."
Like a sensible woman as she was, she did not make any objections. She was conscious of Bobby's talents; she knew that he had a strong mind of his own, and could take care of himself. It is true, she feared the influence of the great world, and especially of the great city, upon the tender mind of her son; but if he was never tempted, he would never be a conqueror over the foes that beset him.
She determined to do her whole duty towards him; and she carefully pointed out to him the sins and the moral danger to which he would be exposed, and warned him always to resist temptation. She counselled him to think of her when he felt like going astray.
Bobby declared that he would try to be a good boy. He did not speak contemptuously of the anticipated perils, as many boys would have done, because he knew that his mother would not make bug-bears out of things which she knew had no real existence.
The next day, Mr. Hardhand came; and my young readers can judge how astonished and chagrined he was, when the widow Bright offered him the sixty dollars. The Lord was with the widow and the fatherless, and the wretch was cheated out of his revenge. The note was given up, and the mortgage cancelled.
Mr. Hardhand insisted that she should pay the interest on the sixty dollars for one day, as it was then the second day of July; but when Bobby reckoned it up, and found it was less than one cent, even the wretched miser seemed ashamed of himself, and changed the subject of conversation.
He did not dare to say anything saucy to the widow this time. He had lost his power over her, and there stood Bobby, who had come to look just like a young lion to him, coward and knave as he was.
The business was all settled now, and Bobby spent the rest of the week in getting ready for his great enterprise. He visited all his friends, and went each day to talk with Squire Lee and Annie. The little maiden promised to buy a great many books of him, if he would bring his stock to Riverdale, for she was quite as much interested in him as her father was.
Monday morning came, and Bobby was out of bed with the first streak of dawn. The excitement of the great event which was about to happen had not permitted him to sleep for the two hours preceding; yet when he got up, he could not help feeling sad. He was going to leave the little black house, going to leave his mother, going to leave the children, to depart for the great city.
His mother was up before him. She was even more sad than he was, for she could see plainer than he the perils that environed him, and her maternal heart, in spite of the reasonable confidence she had in his integrity and good principles, trembled for his safety.
As he ate his breakfast, his mother repeated the warnings and the good lessons she had before imparted. She particularly cautioned him to keep out of bad company. If he found that his companions would lie and swear, he might depend upon it they would steal, and he had better forsake them at once. This was excellent advice, and Bobby had occasion at a later period to call it to his sorrowing heart.
"Here is three dollars, Bobby; it is all the money I have. Your fare to Boston will be one dollar, and you will have two left to pay the expenses of your first trip. It is all I have now," said Mrs. Bright.
"I will not take the whole of it. You will want it yourself. One dollar is enough. When I find Mr. Bayard, I shall do very well."
"Yes, Bobby, take the whole of it."
"I will take just one dollar, and no more," replied Bobby, resolutely, as he handed her the other two dollars.
"Do take it, Bobby."
"No, mother; it will only make me lazy and indifferent."
Taking a clean shirt, a pair of socks, and a handkerchief in his bundle, he was ready for a start.
"Good by, mother," said he, kissing her and taking her hand. "I shall try and come home on Saturday, so as to be with you on Sunday."
Then kissing the children, who had not yet got up, and to whom he had bidden adieu the night before, he left the house. He had seen the flood of tears that filled his mother's eyes, as he crossed the threshold; and he could not help crying a little himself. It is a sad thing to leave one's home, one's mother, especially, to go out into the great world; and we need not wonder that Bobby, who had hardly been out of Riverdale before, should weep. But he soon restrained the flowing tears.
"Now or never!" said he, and he put his best foot forward.
It was an epoch in his history, and though he was too young to realize the importance of the event, he seemed to feel that what he did now was to give character to his whole future life.
It was a bright and beautiful morning—somehow it is always a bright and beautiful morning when boys leave their homes to commence the journey of life; it is typical of the season of youth and hope, and it is meet that the sky should be clear, and the sun shine brightly, when the little pilgrim sets out upon his tour. He will see clouds and storms before he has gone far—let him have a fair start.
He had to walk five miles to the nearest railroad station. His road lay by the house of his friend, Squire Lee; and as he was approaching it, he met Annie. She said she had come out to take her morning walk; but Bobby knew very well that she did not usually walk till an hour later; which, with the fact that she had asked him particularly, the day before, what time he was going, made Bobby believe that she had come out to say good by, and bid him God speed on his journey. At any rate, he was very glad to see her. He said a great many pretty things to her, and talked so big about what he was going to do, that the little maiden could hardly help laughing in his face.
Then at the house he shook hands with the squire and shook hands again with Annie, and resumed his journey. His heart felt lighter for having met them, or at least for having met one of them, if not both; for Annie's eyes were so full of sunshine that they seemed to gladden his heart, and make him feel truer and stronger.
After a pleasant walk, for he scarcely heeded the distance, so full was he of his big thoughts, he reached the railroad station. The cars had not yet arrived, and would not for half an hour.
"Why should I give them a dollar for carrying me to Boston, when I can just as well walk? If I get tired, I can sit down and rest me. If I save the dollar, I shall have to earn only fifty-nine more to pay my note. So here goes;" and he started down the track.
IN WHICH BOBBY STANDS UP FOR "CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS"
Whether it was wise policy, or "penny wise and pound foolish" policy for Bobby to undertake such a long walk, is certainly a debatable question; but as my young readers would probably object to an argument, we will follow him to the city, and let every one settle the point to suit himself.
His cheerful heart made the road smooth beneath his feet. He had always been accustomed to an active, busy life, and had probably often walked more than twenty miles in a day. About ten o'clock, though he did not feel much fatigued, he seated himself on a rock by a brook from which he had just taken a drink, to rest himself. He had walked slowly so as to husband his strength; and he felt confident that he should be able to accomplish the journey without injury to himself.
After resting for half an hour, he resumed his walk. At twelve o'clock he reached a point from which he obtained his first view of the city. His heart bounded at the sight, and his first impulse was to increase his speed so that he should the sooner gratify his curiosity; but a second thought reminded him that he had eaten nothing since breakfast; so, finding a shady tree by the road side, he seated himself on a stone to eat the luncheon which his considerate mother had placed in his bundle.
Thus refreshed, he felt like a new man, and continued his journey again till he was on the very outskirts of the city, where a sign, "No passing over this bridge," interrupted his farther progress. Unlike many others, Bobby took this sign literally, and did not venture to cross the bridge. Having some doubts as to the direct road to the city, he hailed a man in a butcher's cart, who not only pointed the way, but gave him an invitation to ride with him, which Bobby was glad to accept.
They crossed the Milldam, and the little pilgrim forgot the long walk he had taken—forgot Riverdale, his mother, Squire Lee, and Annie, for the time, in the absorbing interest of the exciting scene. The Common beat Riverdale Common all hollow; he had never seen anything like it before. But when the wagon reached Washington Street, the measure of his surprise was filled up.
"My gracious! how thick the houses are!" exclaimed he, much to the amusement of the kind-hearted butcher.
"We have high fences here," he replied.
"Where are all these folks going to?"
"You will have to ask them, if you want to know."
But the wonder soon abated, and Bobby began to think of his great mission in the city. He got tired of gazing and wondering, and even began to smile with contempt at the silly fops as they sauntered along, and the gayly dressed ladies, that flaunted like so many idle butterflies, on the sidewalk. It was an exciting scene; but it did not look real to him. It was more like Herr Grunderslung's exhibition of the magic lantern, than anything substantial. The men and women were like so many puppets. They did not seem to be doing anything, or to be walking for any purpose.
He got out of the butcher's cart at the Old South. His first impression, as he joined the busy throng, was, that he was one of the puppets. He did not seem to have any hold upon the scene, and for several minutes this sensation of vacancy chained him to the spot.
"All right!" exclaimed he to himself at last. "I am here. Now's my time to make a strike. Now or never."
He pulled Mr. Bayard's card from his pocket, and fixed the number of his store in his mind. Now, numbers were not a Riverdale institution, and Bobby was a little perplexed about finding the one indicated. A little study into the matter, however, set him right, and he soon had the satisfaction of seeing the bookseller's name over his store.
"F. Bayard," he read; "this is the place."
"Country!" shouted a little ragged boy, who dodged across the street at that moment.
"Just so, my beauty!" said Bobby, a little nettled at this imputation of verdancy.
"What a greeny!" shouted the little vagabond from the other side of the street.
"No matter, rag-tag! We'll settle that matter some other time."
But Bobby felt that there was something in his appearance which subjected him to the remarks of others, and as he entered the shop, he determined to correct it as soon as possible.
A spruce young gentleman was behind the counter, who cast a mischievous glance at him as he entered.
"Mr. Bayard keep here?" asked Bobby.
"Well, I reckon he does. How are all the folks up country?" replied the spruce clerk, with a rude grin.
"How are they?" repeated Bobby, the color flying to his cheek.
"Yes, ha-ow do they dew?"
"They behave themselves better than they do here."
"Eh, sappy?" repeated Bobby, mimicking the soft, silky tones of the young city gentleman.
"What do you mean by sappy?" asked the clerk indignantly.
"What do you mean by greeny?"
"I'll let you know what I mean!"
"When you do, I'll let you know what I mean by sappy."
"Good!" exclaimed one of the salesmen, who had heard part of this spirited conversation. "You will learn better by and by, Timmins, than to impose upon boys from out of town."
"You seem to be a gentleman, sir," said Bobby, approaching the salesman. "I wish to see Mr. Bayard."
"You can't see him!" growled Timmins.
"Not at this minute; he is engaged just now," added the salesman, who seemed to have a profound respect for Bobby's discrimination. "He will be at liberty in a few moments."
"I will wait, then," said Bobby, seating himself on a stool by the counter.
Pretty soon the civil gentleman left the store to go to dinner, and Timmins, a little timid about provoking the young lion, cast an occasional glance of hatred at him. He had evidently found that "Country" was an embryo American citizen, and that he was a firm believer in the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence.
Bobby bore no ill will towards the spruce clerk, ready as he had been to defend his "certain inalienable rights."
"You do a big business here," suggested Bobby, in a conciliatory tone, and with a smile on his face which ought to have convinced the uncourteous clerk that he meant well.
"Who told you so?" replied Timmins, gruffly.
"I merely judged from appearances. You have a big store, and an immense quantity of books."
"Appearances are deceitful," replied Timmins; and perhaps he had been impressed by the fact from his experience with the lad from the country.
"That is true," added Bobby, with a good-natured smile, which, when interpreted, might have meant, "I took you for a civil fellow, but I have been very much mistaken."
"You will find it out before you are many days older."
"The book business is good just now, isn't it?" continued Bobby, without clearly comprehending the meaning of the other's last remark.
"Humph! What's that to you?"
"O, I intend to go into it myself."
"Ha, ha, ha! Good! You do?"
"I do," replied Bobby, seemingly unconcerned at the taunts of the clerk.
"I suppose you want to get a place here," sneered Timmins, alarmed at the prospect. "But let me tell you, you can't do it. Bayard has all the help he wants; and if that is what you come for, you can move on as fast as you please."
"I guess I will see him," added Bobby, quietly.
"No harm in seeing him."
As he spoke he took up a book that lay on the counter, and began to turn over the leaves.
"Put that book down!" said the amiable Mr. Timmins.
"I won't hurt it," replied Bobby, who had just fixed his eye upon some very pretty engravings in the volume.
"Put it down!" repeated Mr. Timmins, in a loud, imperative tone.
"Certainly I will, if you say so," said Bobby, who, though not much intimidated by the harsh tones of the clerk, did not know the rules of the store, and deemed it prudent not to meddle.
"I do say so!" added Mr. Timmins, magnificently; "and what's more, you'd better mind me, too."
Bobby had minded, and probably the stately little clerk would not have been so bold if he had not. Some people like to threaten after the danger is over.
Then our visitor from the country espied some little blank books lying on the counter. He had already made up his mind to have one, in which to keep his accounts; and he thought, while he was waiting, that he would purchase one. He meant to do things methodically; so when he picked up one of the blank books, it was with the intention of buying it.
"Put that book down!" said Mr. Timmins, encouraged in his aggressive intentions by the previous docility of our hero.
"I want to buy one."
"No, you don't; put it down."
"What is the price of these?" asked Bobby, resolutely.
"None of your business!"
"Is that the way you treat your customers?" asked Bobby, with a little sternness in his looks and tones. "I say I want to buy one."
"Put it down."
"But I will not; I say I want to buy it."
"No, you don't!"
"What is the price of it?"
"Twenty-five cents," growled Timmins, which was just four times the retail price.
"Twenty-five cents! That's high."
"Put it down, then."
"Is that your lowest price?" asked Bobby, who was as cool as a cucumber.
"Yes, it is; and if you don't put it down, I'll kick you out of the store."
"Will you? Then I won't put it down."
Mr. Timmins took this as a "stump;" his ire was up, and he walked round from behind the counter to execute his threat.
I must say I think Bobby was a little forward, and I would have my young readers a little more pliant with small men like Timmins. There are always men enough in the world who are ready and willing to quarrel on any provocation; and it is always best not to provoke them, even if they are overbearing and insolent, as Mr. Timmins certainly was.
"Hold on a minute before you do it," said Bobby, with the same provoking coolness. "I want to buy this book, and I am willing to pay a fair price for it. But I happen to know that you can buy them up in Riverdale, where I came from, for six cents."
"No matter," exclaimed the indignant clerk, seizing Bobby by the coat collar for the purpose of ejecting him; "you shall find your way into the street."
Now Bobby, as I have before intimated, was an embryo American citizen, and the act of Mr. Timmins seemed like an invasion of his inalienable rights. No time was given him to make a formal declaration of rights in the premises; so the instinct of self-preservation was allowed to have free course.
Mr. Timmins pulled and tugged at his coat collar, and Bobby hung back like a mule; and for an instant there was quite a spirited scene.
"Hallo! Timmins, what does this mean?" said a voice, at which the valiant little clerk instantly let go his hold.
IN WHICH MR. TIMMINS IS ASTONISHED, AND BOBBY DINES IN CHESTNUT STREET
It was Mr. Bayard. He had finished his business with the gentleman by his side, and hearing the noise of the scuffle, had come to learn the occasion of it.
"This impudent young puppy wouldn't let the books alone!" began Mr. Timmins. "I threatened to turn him out if he didn't; and I meant to make good my threat. I think he meant to steal something."
Bobby was astonished and shocked at this bold imputation; but he wished to have his case judged on its own merits; so he turned his face away, that Mr. Bayard might not recognize him.
"I wanted to buy one of these blank books," added Bobby, picking up the one he had dropped on the floor in the struggle.
"All stuff!" ejaculated Timmins. "He is an impudent, obstinate puppy! In my opinion he meant to steal that book."
"I asked him the price, and told him I wanted to buy it," added Bobby, still averting his face.
"Well, I told him; and he said it was too high."
"He asked me twenty-five cents for it."
"Is this true, Timmins?" asked Mr. Bayard, sternly.
"No, sir! I told him fourpence," replied Timmins, boldly.
"By gracious! What a whopper!" exclaimed Bobby, startled out of his propriety by this monstrous lie. "He said twenty-five cents; and I told him I could buy one up in Riverdale, where I came from, for six cents. Can you deny that?"
"It's a lie!" protested Timmins.
"Riverdale," said Mr. Bayard. "Are you from Riverdale, boy?"
"Yes, sir, I am; and if you will look on your memorandum book you will find my name there."
"Bless me! I am sure I have seen that face before," exclaimed Mr. Bayard, as he grasped the hand of Bobby, much to the astonishment and consternation of Mr. Timmins. "You are——"
"Robert Bright, sir."
"My brave little fellow! I am heartily glad to see you;" and the bookseller shook the hand he held with hearty good will. "I was thinking of you only a little while ago."
"This fellow calls me a liar," said Bobby, pointing to the astonished Mr. Timmins, who did not know what to make of the cordial reception which "Country" was receiving from his employer.
"Well, Robert, we know that he is a liar; this is not the first time he has been caught in a lie. Timmins, your time is out."
The spruce clerk hung his head with shame and mortification.
"I hope, sir, you will——" he began, but pride or fear stopped him short.
"Don't be hard with him, sir, if you please," said Bobby. "I suppose I aggravated him."
Mr. Bayard looked at the gentleman who stood by his side, and a smile of approbation lighted up his face.
"Generous as he is noble! Butler, this is the boy that saved Ellen."
"Indeed! He is a little giant!" replied Mr. Butler, grasping Bobby's hand.
Even Timmins glanced with something like admiration in his looks at the youth whom he had so lately despised. Perhaps, too, he thought of that Scripture wisdom about entertaining angels unawares. He was very much abashed, and nothing but his silly pride prevented him from acknowledging his error and begging Bobby's forgiveness.
"I can't have a liar about me," said Mr. Bayard.
"There may be some mistake," suggested Mr. Butler.
"I think not. Robert Bright couldn't lie. So brave and noble a boy is incapable of a falsehood. Besides, I got a letter from my friend Squire Lee by this morning's mail, in which he informed me of my young friend's coming."
Mr. Bayard took from his pocket a bundle of letters, and selected the squire's from among them. Opening it, he read a passage which had a direct bearing upon the case before him.
"'I do not know what Bobby's faults are,'"—the letter said,—"'but this I do know: that Bobby would rather be whipped than tell a lie. He is noted through the place for his love of truth.'—That is pretty strong testimony; and you see, Bobby,—that's what the squire calls you,—your reputation has preceded you."
Bobby blushed, as he always did when he was praised, and Mr. Timmins was more abashed than ever.
"Did you hear that, Timmins? Who is the liar now?" said Mr. Bayard, turning to the culprit.
"Forgive me, sir, this time. If you turn me off now, I cannot get another place, and my mother depends upon my wages."
"You ought to have thought of this before."
"He aggravated me, sir, so that I wanted to pay him off."
"As to that, he commenced upon me the moment I came into the store. But don't turn him off, if you please, sir," said Bobby, who even now wished no harm to his discomfited assailant. "He will do better hereafter: won't you, Timmins?"
Thus appealed to, Timmins, though he did not relish so direct an inquiry, and from such a source, was compelled to reply in the affirmative; and Mr. Bayard graciously remitted the sentence he had passed against the offending clerk.
"Now, Robert, you will come over to my house and dine with me. Ellen will be delighted to see you."
"Thank you, sir," replied Bobby, bashfully, "I have been to dinner"—referring to the luncheon he had eaten at Brighton.
"But you must go to the house with me."
"I should be very glad to do so, sir, but I came on business. I will stay here with Mr. Timmins till you come back."
The truth is, he had heard something about the fine houses of the city, and how stylish the people were, and he had some misgivings about venturing into such a strange and untried scene as the parlor of a Boston merchant.
"Indeed, you must come with me. Ellen would never forgive you or me, if you did not come."
"I would rather rest here till you return," replied Bobby, still willing to escape the fine house and the fine folks. "I walked from Riverdale, sir, and I am rather tired."
"Walked!" exclaimed Mr. Bayard. "Had you no money?"
"Yes, sir, enough to pay my passage; but Dr. Franklin says that 'a penny saved is a penny earned,' and I thought I would try it. I shall get rested by the time you return."
"But you must go with me. Timmins, go and get a carriage."
Timmins obeyed, and before Mr. Bayard had finished asking Bobby how all the people in Riverdale were, the carriage was at the door.
There was no backing out now, and our hero was obliged to get into the vehicle, though it seemed altogether too fine for a poor boy like him. Mr. Bayard and Mr. Butler (whom the former had invited to dine with him) seated themselves beside him, and the driver was directed to set them down at No. —, Chestnut Street, where they soon arrived.
Though my readers would, no doubt, be very much amused to learn how carefully Bobby trod the velvet carpets, how he stared with wonder at the drapery curtains, at the tall mirrors, the elegant chandeliers, and the fantastically shaped chairs and tables that adorned Mr. Bayard's parlor, the length of our story does not permit us to pause over these trivial matters.
When Ellen Bayard was informed that her little deliverer was in the house, she rushed into the parlor like a hoiden school girl, grasped both his hands, kissed both his rosy cheeks, and behaved just as though she had never been to a boarding school in her life.
She had thought a great deal about Bobby since that eventful day, and the more she thought of him, the more she liked him. Her admiration of him was not of that silly, sentimental character which moonstruck young ladies cherish towards those immaculate young men who have saved them from drowning in a horse pond, pulled them back just as they were tumbling over a precipice two thousand five hundred feet high, or rescued them from a house seven stories high, bearing them down a ladder seventy-five odd feet long. The fact was, Bobby was a boy of thirteen and there was no chance for much sentiment; so the young lady's regard was real, earnest, and lifelike.
Ellen said a great many very handsome things; but I am sure she never thought of such a thing as that he would run away with her, in case her papa was unnecessarily obstinate. She was very glad to see him, and I have no doubt she wished Bobby might be her brother, it would be so glorious to have such a noble little fellow always with her.
Bobby managed the dinner much better than he had anticipated; for Mr. Bayard insisted that he should sit down with them, whether he ate anything or not. But the Rubicon passed, our hero found that he had a pretty smart appetite, and did full justice to the viands set before him. It is true the silver forks, the napkins, the finger bowls, and other articles of luxury and show, to which he had been entirely unaccustomed, bothered him not a little; but he kept perfectly cool, and carefully observed how Mr. Butler, who sat next to him, handled the "spoon fork," what he did with the napkin and the finger bowl, so that, I will venture to say, not one in ten would have suspected he had not spent his life in the parlor of a millionaire.
Dinner over, the party returned to the parlor, where Bobby unfolded his plan for the future. To make his story intelligible, he was obliged to tell them all about Mr. Hardhand.
"The old wretch!" exclaimed Mr. Bayard. "But, Robert, you must let me advance the sixty dollars, to pay Squire Lee."
"No, sir; you have done enough in that way. I have given my note for the money."
"Whew!" said Mr. Butler.
"And I shall soon earn enough to pay it."
"No doubt of it. You are a lad of courage and energy, and you will succeed in everything you undertake."
"I shall want you to trust me for a stock of books, on the strength of old acquaintance," continued Bobby, who had now grown quite bold, and felt as much at home in the midst of the costly furniture, as he did in the "living room" of the old black house.
"You shall have all the books you want."
"I will pay for them as soon as I return. The truth is, Mr. Bayard, I mean to be independent. I didn't want to take that thirty-five dollars, though I don't know what Mr. Hardhand would have done to us, if I hadn't."
"Ellen said I ought to have given you a hundred, and I think so myself."
"I am glad you didn't. Too much money makes us fat and lazy."
Mr. Bayard laughed at the easy self-possession of the lad—at his big talk; though, big as it was, it meant something. When he proposed to go to the store, he told Bobby he had better stay at the house and rest himself.
"No, sir; I want to start out to-morrow, and I must get ready to-day."
"You had better put it off till the next day; you will feel more like it then."
"Now or never," replied Bobby. "That is my motto, sir. If we have anything to do, now is always the best time to do it. Dr. Franklin says, 'Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.'"
"Right, Robert! you shall have your own way. I wish my clerks would adopt some of Dr. Franklin's wise saws. I should be a great deal better off in the course of a year if they would."
IN WHICH BOBBY OPENS VARIOUS ACCOUNTS, AND WINS HIS FIRST VICTORY
"Now, Bobby, I understand your plan," said Mr. Bayard, when they reached the store; "but the details must be settled. Where do you intend to go?"
"I hardly know, sir. I suppose I can sell books almost anywhere."
"Very true; but in some places much better than in others."
Mr. Bayard mentioned a large town about eighteen miles from the city, in which he thought a good trade might be carried on, and Bobby at once decided to adopt the suggestion.
"You can make this place your headquarters for the week; if books do not sell well right in the village, why, you can go out a little way, for the country in the vicinity is peopled by intelligent farmers, who are well off, and who can afford to buy books."
"I was thinking of that; but what shall I take with me, sir?"
"There is a new book just published, called 'The Wayfarer,' which is going to have a tremendous run. It has been advertised in advance all over the country, so that you will find a ready sale for it. You will get it there before any one else, and have the market all to yourself."
"'The Wayfarer'? I have heard of it myself."
"You shall take fifty copies with you, and if you find that you shall want more, write, and I will send them."
"But I cannot carry fifty copies."
"You must take the cars to B——, and have a trunk or box to carry your books in. I have a stout trunk down cellar which you shall have."
"I will pay for it, sir."
"Never mind that, Bobby; and you will want a small valise or carpet bag to carry your books from house to house. I will lend you one."
"You are very kind, sir; I did not mean to ask any favors of you except to trust me for the books until my return."
"All right, Bobby."
Mr. Bayard called the porter and ordered him to bring up the trunk, in which he directed Mr. Timmins to pack fifty "Wayfarers."
"Now, how much will these books cost me apiece?" asked Bobby.
"The retail price is one dollar; the wholesale price is one third off; and you shall have them at what they cost me."
"Sixty-seven cents," added Bobby. "That will give me a profit of thirty-three cents on each book."
"Perhaps Mr. Timmins will sell me one of those blank books now; for I like to have things down in black and white."
"I will furnish you with something much better than that;" and Mr. Bayard left the counting room.
In a moment he returned with a handsome pocket memorandum book, which he presented to the little merchant.
"But I don't like to take it unless you will let me pay for it," said Bobby, hesitating.
"Never mind it, my young friend. Now you can sit down at my desk and open your accounts. I like to see boys methodical, and there is nothing like keeping accounts to make one accurate. Keep your books posted up, and you will know where you are at any time."
"I intend to keep an account of all I spend and all I receive, if it is no more than a cent."
"Right, my little man. Have you ever studied book-keeping?"
"No, sir, I suppose I haven't; but there was a page of accounts in the back part of the arithmetic I studied, and I got a pretty good idea of the thing from that. All the money received goes on one side, and all the money paid out goes on the other."
"Exactly so; in this book you had better open a book account first. If you wish, I will show you how."
"Thank you, sir; I should be very glad to have you;" and Bobby opened the memorandum book, and seated himself at the desk.
"Write 'Book Account,' at the top of the pages, one word on each. Very well. Now write 'To fifty copies of "Wayfarer," at sixty-seven cents, $33.50,' on the left-hand page, or debit side of the account."
"I am not much of a writer," said Bobby, apologetically.
"You will improve. Now, each day you will credit the amount of sales on the right hand page, or credit side of the account; so, when you have sold out, the balance due your debit side will be the profit on the lot. Do you understand it?"
Bobby thought a moment before he could see through it; but his brain was active, and he soon managed the idea.
"Now you want a personal account;" and Mr. Bayard explained to him how to make this out.
He then instructed him to enter on the debit side all he spent for travel, board, freight, and other charges. The next was the "profit and loss" account, which was to show him the net profit of the business.
Our hero, who had a decided taste for accounts, was very much pleased with this employment; and when the accounts were all opened, he regarded them with a great deal of satisfaction. He longed to commence his operations, if it were only for the pleasure of making the entries in this book.
"One thing I forgot," said he, as he seized the pen, and under the cash account entered, "To Cash from mother, $1.00." "Now I am all right, I believe."
"I think you are. Now, the cars leave at seven in the morning. Can you be ready for a start as early as that?" asked Mr. Bayard.
"O, yes, sir, I hope so. I get up at half past four at home."
"Very well; my small valise is at the house; but I believe everything else is ready. Now, I have some business to attend to; and if you will amuse yourself for an hour or two, we will go home then."
"I shall want a lodging place when I am in the city; perhaps some of your folks can direct me to one where they won't charge too much."
"As to that, Bobby, you must go to my house whenever you are in the city."
"Law, sir! you live so grand, I couldn't think of going to your house. I am only a poor boy from the country, and I don't know how to behave myself among such nice folks."
"You will do very well, Bobby. Ellen would never forgive me if I let you go anywhere else. So that is settled; you will go to my house. Now, you may sit here, or walk out and see the sights."
"If you please, sir, if Mr. Timmins will let me look at some of the books, I shouldn't wish for anything better. I should like to look at 'The Wayfarer,' so that I shall know how to recommend it."
"Mr. Timmins will let you," replied Mr. Bayard, as he touched the spring of a bell on his desk.
The dapper clerk came running into the counting room to attend the summons of his employer.
"Mr. Timmins," continued Mr. Bayard, with a mischievous smile, "bring Mr. Bright a copy of 'The Wayfarer.'"
Mr. Timmins was astonished to hear "Country" called "Mister," astonished to hear his employer call him "Mister," and Bobby was astonished to hear himself called "Mister." Nevertheless, our hero enjoyed the joke.
The clerk brought the book; and Bobby proceeded to give it a thorough, critical examination. He read the preface, the table of contents, and several chapters of the work, before Mr. Bayard was ready to go home.
"How do you like it, Bobby?" asked the bookseller.
"You may take that copy in your hand; you will want to finish it."
"Thank you, sir; I will be careful of it."
"You may keep it. Let that be the beginning of your own private library."
His own private library! Bobby had not got far enough to dream of such a thing yet; but he thanked Mr. Bayard, and put the book under his arm.
After tea, Ellen proposed to her father that they should all go to the Museum. Mr. Bayard acceded, and our hero was duly amazed at the drolleries perpetrated there. He had a good time; but it was so late when he went to bed, that he was a little fearful lest he should over-sleep himself in the morning.
He did not, however, and was down in the parlor before any of the rest of the family were stirring. An early breakfast was prepared for him, at which Mr. Bayard, who intended to see him off, joined him. Depositing his little bundle and the copy of "The Wayfarer" in the valise provided for him, they walked to the store. The porter wheeled the trunk down to the railroad station, though Bobby insisted upon doing it himself.
The bookseller saw him and his baggage safely aboard of the cars, gave him a ticket, and then bade him an affectionate adieu. In a little while Bobby was flying over the rail, and at about eight o'clock reached B——.