WORK AND WIN
NODDY NEWMAN ON A CRUISE
A Story for Young People
AUTHOR OF "BOAT CLUB," "ALL ABOARD," "NOW OR NEVER," ETC., ETC.
NEW YORK HURST & COMPANY PUBLISHERS
MY YOUNG FRIEND,
Edward C. Bellows,
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
In the preparation of this volume, the author has had in his mind the intention to delineate the progress of a boy whose education had been neglected, and whose moral attributes were of the lowest order, from vice and indifference to the development of a high moral and religious principle in the heart, which is the rule and guide of a pure and true life.
The incidents which make up the story are introduced to illustrate the moral status of the youth, at the beginning, and to develop the influences from which proceeded a gentle and Christian character. Mollie, the captain's daughter, whose simple purity of life, whose filial devotion to an erring parent, and whose trusting faith in the hour of adversity, won the love and respect of Noddy, was not the least of these influences. If the writer has not "moralized," it was because the true life, seen with the living eye, is better than any precept, however skilfully it may be dressed by the rhetorical genius of the moralist.
Once more the author takes pleasure in acknowledging the kindness of his young friends, who have so favorably received his former works; and he hopes that "WORK AND WIN," the fourth of the Woodville Stories, will have as pleasant a welcome as its predecessors.
WILLIAM T. ADAMS. HARRISON SQUARE. MASS., November 10, 1865.
I. The Mischief-Makers 9
II. The Circus at Whitestone 21
III. A Moral Question 33
IV. Noddy's Confession 45
V. Squire Wriggs at Woodville 57
VI. Noddy's Engagement 70
VII. The Ring-Master 81
VIII. Good-by to Woodville 93
IX. An Attempt to Work and Win 105
X. Poor Mollie 117
XI. The Schooner Roebuck 129
XII. The Drunken Captain 141
XIII. The Shark 154
XIV. The Yellow Fever 167
XV. The Demon of the Cup 180
XVI. Night and Storm 193
XVII. After the Storm 206
XVIII. The Beautiful Island 217
XIX. The Visitors 228
XX. Homeward Bound 239
XXI. The Clergyman and his Wife 247
WORK AND WIN;
NODDY NEWMAN ON A CRUISE.
"Here, Noddy Newman! you haven't washed out the boat-house yet," said Ben, the boatman, as the young gentleman thus addressed was ambling down towards the river.
"Hang the boat-house!" exclaimed Noddy, impatiently, as he stopped short in his walk, and seemed to be in doubt whether he should return or continue on his way.
"You know what Miss Bertha says—don't you?"
"Yes, I know what she says," added Noddy, rubbing his head, as though he were trying to reconcile his present purpose, whatever it was, with the loyalty he owed to Bertha. "I suppose it don't make much difference to her whether I wash out the boat-house now or by and by."
"I don't know anything about that, my boy," said the old man. "Miss Bertha told me to find some regular work for you to do every day. I found it, and she say you must wash out the boat-house every morning before nine o'clock. If you don't do it, I shall report you to her. That's all I've got to say about it."
"I calculate to wash out the boat-house."
"You've only half an hour to do it in, then. You've not only got to wash it out every morning, but you have got to do it before nine o'clock. Them's the orders. I always obey orders. If Miss Bertha should tell me to tie you up, and give you as big a licking as you deserve, I should do it."
"No, you wouldn't."
"I haven't got any such orders, mind ye, Noddy; so we won't dispute about that. Now, go and wash out the boat-house like a good boy, and don't make any fuss about it."
Noddy deliberated a few moments more. He evidently disliked the job, or did not wish to do it at that particular time; but Miss Bertha's influence was all-powerful; and though he would have fought, tooth and nail, against anything like compulsion on the part of Ben, he could not resist the potent spell which the name of his young mistress cast upon him.
"Hang the old boat-house!" exclaimed he, as he stamped his foot upon the ground, and then slowly retraced his steps towards the boatman.
"Hang it, if you like, Noddy, but wash it out first," said Ben, with a smile, as he observed the effect of the charm he had used to induce the wayward youth to do his duty.
"I wish the boat-house was burned up!" added Noddy, petulantly.
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do. I wish it was a pile of ashes at this moment."
"Don't say so, Noddy. What would Miss Bertha think to hear you talk like that?"
"You can tell her, if you like," replied Noddy, as he rushed desperately into the boat-house to do the disagreeable job.
Noddy Newman was an orphan; and no one in the vicinity of Woodville even knew what his real name was. Two years before, Bertha Grant had taken the most tender care of him, after an accident by which he had been severely injured. Previous to that time he had been a vagabond, roaming about the woods and the villages, sleeping in barns and out-buildings, and stealing his food when he could obtain it by no other means. Efforts had been made to commit him to the poorhouse; but he had cunningly avoided being captured, and retained his freedom until the accident placed him under the influence of Bertha Grant, who had before vainly attempted to induce him to join her mission-school in the Glen.
Noddy had been two years at Woodville. He was neither a servant nor a member of the family, but occupied a half-way position, eating and sleeping with the men employed on the estate, but being the constant companion of Bertha, who was laboring to civilize and educate him. She had been partially successful in her philanthropic labors; for Noddy knew how to behave himself with propriety, and could read and write with tolerable facility. But books and literature were not Noddy's forte, and he still retained an unhealthy relish for his early vagabond habits.
Like a great many other boys,—even like some of those who have been brought up judiciously and carefully,—Noddy was not very fond of work. He was bold and impulsive, and had not yet acquired any fixed ideas in regard to the objects of life. Bertha Grant had obtained a powerful influence over him, to which he was solely indebted for all the progress he had made in learning and the arts of civilized life. Wayward as he always had been, and as he still was, there was a spirit in him upon which to build a hope that something might yet be made of him, though this faith was in a great measure confined to Bertha and the old boatman.
He had a great many good qualities—enough, in the opinion of his gentle instructress, to redeem him from his besetting sins, which were neither few nor small. He was generous, which made him popular among those who were under no moral responsibility for his future welfare. He was bold and daring, and never hesitated to do anything which the nerve or muscle of a boy of fourteen could achieve. His feats of strength and daring, often performed from mere bravado, won the admiration of the thoughtless, and Noddy was regarded as a "character" by people who only wanted to be amused.
Noddy had reached an age when the future became an interesting problem to those who had labored to improve his manners and his morals. Mr. Grant had suggested to Bertha the propriety of having him bound as an apprentice to some steady mechanic; and, at the time of our story, she and her father were in search of such a person. The subject of this kind solicitude did not relish the idea of learning a trade, though he had not positively rebelled at the disposition which it was proposed to make of him.
He had always lived near the river; and during his residence at Woodville he had been employed, so far as he could be employed at all, about the boats. He was a kind of assistant to the boatman, though there was no need of such an official on the premises. For his own good, rather than for the labor he performed, he was required to do certain work about the boat-house, and in the boats when they were in use.
We could recite a great many scrapes, of which Noddy had been the hero, during the two years of his stay at Woodville; but such a recital would hardly be profitable to our readers, especially as the young man's subsequent career was not devoid of stirring incidents.
Noddy drew a bucket of water at the pier, and carried it into the boat-house. Ben, satisfied now that the work was actually in progress, left the pier, and walked up to the house to receive his morning instructions. He was hardly out of sight before Miss Fanny Grant presented herself at the door.
Miss Fanny was now a nice young lady of twelve. She was as different from her sister Bertha as she could be. She was proud, and rather wayward. Like some other young ladies we have somewhere read about, she was very fond of having her own way, even when her own way had been proved to be uncomfortable and dangerous. But when we mention Miss Fanny's faults, we do not wish to be understood that she had no virtues. If she did wrong very often, she did right in the main, and had made a great deal of progress in learning to do wisely and well, and, what was just as good, in doing it after she had learned it.
Fanny Grant walked up to the boat-house with a very decided step, and it soon appeared that she was not there by chance or accident; which leads us sorrowfully to remark, that in her wrongdoing she often found a ready companion and supporter in Noddy Newman. She was rather inclined to be a romp; and though she was not given to "playing with the boys," the absence of any suitable playmate sometimes led her to invite the half-reformed vagabond of Woodville to assist in her sport.
"You are a pretty fellow, Noddy Newman!" said she, her pouting lips giving an added emphasis to her reproachful remark. "Why didn't you come down to the Point, as you said you would?"
"Because I couldn't, Miss Fanny," growled Noddy. "I had to wash out this confounded boat-house, or be reported to Miss Bertha."
"Couldn't you do that after you got back?"
"Ben said I must do it before nine o'clock. I wanted to go down to the Point, as I agreed, but you see I couldn't."
"I waited for you till I got tired out," pouted Fanny; but she neglected to add that five minutes on ordinary occasions were the full limit of her patience.
"Hang the old boat-house! I told Ben I wished it was burned up."
"So do I; but come along, Noddy. We will go now."
"I can't go till I've washed out the boat-house."
"Yes, you can."
"But if Ben comes down and finds the place hasn't been washed out, he will tell Miss Bertha."
"Let him tell her—who cares?"
"She will talk to me for an hour."
"Let her talk—talking won't kill you."
"I don't like to be talked to in that way by Miss Bertha."
"Fiddle-de-dee! You can tell her I wanted you," said Fanny, her eyes snapping with earnestness.
"Shall I tell her what you wanted me for?" asked Noddy, with a cunning look.
"Of course you needn't tell her that. But come along, or I shall go without you."
"No—you wouldn't do that, Miss Fanny. You couldn't."
"Well, won't you come?"
"I can't wait."
"I will go just as soon as I have done washing the boat-house."
"Plague on the boat-house!" snapped Fanny. "I wish it was burned up. What a nice fire it would make!—wouldn't it, Noddy?"
The bright eyes of the wayward miss sparkled with delight as she thought of the blazing building; and while her more wayward companion described the miseries which he daily endured in his regular work, she hardly listened to him. She seemed to be plotting mischief; but if she was, she did not make Noddy her confidant this time.
"Come, Noddy," said she, after a few moments' reflection, "I will promise to make it all right with Bertha."
Noddy dropped the broom with which he had begun to sweep up some chips and shavings Ben had made in repairing a boat-hook.
"If you will get me out of the scrape, I will go now," said he.
"I will; you may depend upon me."
"Then I will go."
"Where is Ben, now?"
"He has gone up to the house."
"Then you run down to the Point, and bring the boat up to the pier. I am tired, and don't want to walk down there again."
Noddy was entirely willing, and bounded off like a deer, for he had fully made up his mind to disobey orders, and his impulsive nature did not permit him to consider the consequences. He was absent but a few moments, and presently appeared rowing a small boat up the river. At the pier he turned the boat, and backed her up to the landing steps.
"All ready, Miss Fanny!" shouted the young boatman, for his companion in mischief was not in sight.
Still she did not appear; and Noddy was about to go in search of her, when she came out of the boat-house, and ran down to the steps. Her face was flushed, and she seemed to be very much agitated. Noddy was afraid, from her looks, that something had happened to spoil the anticipated sport of the morning; but she stepped into the boat, and told him, in hurried tones, to push off.
"What's the matter, Miss Fanny?" he asked, not a little startled by her appearance.
"Nothing, Noddy; pull away just as fast as ever you can."
"Are we caught?" said he, as he followed Fanny's direction.
"No; caught! no. Why don't you row faster, Noddy? You don't pull worth a cent."
"I am pulling as hard as I can," replied he, unable to keep pace with her impatience.
"I wouldn't be seen here now for anything!" exclaimed Fanny, earnestly, as she glanced back at the boat-house, with a look so uneasy that it almost unmanned her resolute companion.
Noddy pulled with all his might, and the light boat darted over the waves with a speed which ought to have satisfied his nervous passenger. As they reached the point of Van Alstine's Island, a dense smoke was seen to rise from the boat-house on the pier; and a few moments later, the whole building was wrapped in flames.
THE CIRCUS AT WHITESTONE.
"Do you see that?" exclaimed Noddy, as he stopped rowing, and gazed at the flames which leaped madly up from the devoted building.
"I see it," replied Fanny, with even more agitation than was manifested by her companion.
"I don't understand it," added Noddy.
"The boat-house is on fire, and will burn up in a few minutes more. I think it is plain enough;" and Fanny struggled to be calm and indifferent.
"We must go back and see to it."
"We shall do nothing of the kind. Pull away as hard as ever you can, or we shall not get to Whitestone in season."
"I don't care about going to Whitestone now; I want to know what all that means."
"Can't you see what it means? The boat-house is on fire."
"Well, how did it catch afire? That's what bothers me."
"You needn't bother yourself about it. My father owns the boat-house, and it isn't worth much."
"All that may be; but I want to know how it got afire."
"We shall find out soon enough when we return."
"But I want to know now."
"You can't know now; so pull away."
"I shall have the credit of setting that fire," added Noddy, not a little disturbed by the anticipation.
"No, you won't."
"Yes, I shall. I told Ben I wished the boat-house would catch afire and burn up. Of course he will lay it to me."
"No matter if he does; Ben isn't everybody."
"Well, he is 'most everybody, so far as Miss Bertha is concerned; and I'd rather tumbled overboard in December than have that fire happen just now."
"You were not there when the fire broke out," said Fanny, with a strong effort to satisfy her boatman.
"That's the very reason why they will lay it to me. They will say I set the boat-house afire, and then ran away on purpose."
"I can say you were with me when the fire broke out, and that I know you didn't do it," replied Fanny.
"That will do; but I would give all my old shoes to know how the fire took, myself."
"No matter how it took."
"Yes, it is matter, Miss Fanny. I want to know. There wasn't any fire in the building when I left it."
"Perhaps somebody stopped there in a boat, and set it on fire."
"Perhaps they did; but I know very well they didn't," answered Noddy, positively. "There hasn't been any boat near the pier since we left it."
"Perhaps Ben left his pipe among those shavings."
"Ben never did that. He would cut his head off sooner than do such a thing. He is as scared of fire as he is of the Flying Dutchman."
"Don't say anything more about it. Now row over to Whitestone as quick as you can," added Fanny, petulantly.
"I'm not going over to Whitestone, after what has happened. I shouldn't have a bit of fun if I went."
"Very well, Noddy; then you may get out of the scrape as you can," said the young lady, angrily.
"Why, they will accuse you of setting the boat-house afire; and you told Ben you wished it was burned down."
"But I didn't set it afire."
"Who did, then?"
"That's just what I want to find out. That's what worries me; for I can't see how it happened, unless it took fire from that bucket of water I left on the floor."
Fanny was too much disturbed by the conduct of her boatman, or by some other circumstance, to laugh at Noddy's joke; and the brilliant sally was permitted to waste itself without an appreciative smile. She sat looking at the angry flames as they devoured the building, while her companion vainly attempted to hit upon a satisfactory explanation of the cause of the fire. Noddy was perplexed; he was absolutely worried, not so much by the probable consequences to himself of the unfortunate event, as by the cravings of his own curiosity. He did not see how it happened; and if a potent juggler had performed a wonderful feat in his presence, he could not have been more exercised in mind to know how it was done.
Noddy was neither a logician nor a philosopher; and therefore he was utterly unable to account for the origin of the fire. In vain he wasted his intellectual powers in speculations; in vain he tried to remember some exciting cause to which the calamity could be traced. Meanwhile, Miss Fanny was deliberating quite as diligently over another question; for she apparently regarded the destruction of the boat-house as a small affair, and did not concern herself to know how it had been caused. But she was very anxious to reach Whitestone before ten o'clock, and her rebellious boatman had intimated his intention not to carry out his part of the agreement.
"What are you thinking about, Noddy?" asked she, when both had maintained silence for the full space of three minutes, which was a longer period than either of them had ever before kept still while awake.
"I was thinking of that fire," replied Noddy, removing his gaze from the burning building, and fixing it upon her.
"Are you going to Whitestone, or not?" continued she, impatiently.
"No; I don't want to go to Whitestone, while all of them down there are talking about me, and saying I set the boat-house afire."
"They will believe you did it, too."
"But I didn't, Miss Fanny. You know I didn't."
"How should I know it?"
"Because I was with you; besides, you came out of the boat-house after I did."
"If you will row me over to Whitestone, I will say so; and I will tell them I know you didn't do it."
Noddy considered the matter for a moment, and, perhaps concluding that it was safer for him to keep on the right side of Miss Fanny, he signified his acceptance of the terms by taking up his oars, and pulling towards Whitestone. But he was not satisfied; he was as uneasy as a fish out of water; and nothing but the tyranny of the wayward young lady in the boat would have induced him to flee from the trouble which was brewing at Woodville. He had quite lost sight of the purpose which had induced him to disobey Bertha's orders.
Our young adventurers had not left Woodville without an object. There was a circus at Whitestone—a travelling company which had advertised to give three grand performances on that day. Miss Fanny wanted to go; but, either because her father was otherwise occupied, or because he did not approve of circuses, he had declined to go with her. Bertha did not want to go, and also had an engagement.
Fanny had set her heart upon going; and she happened to be too wilful, just at that period, to submit to the disappointment to which her father's convenience or his principles doomed her. Bertha had gone to the city at an early hour in the morning to spend the day with a friend, and Fanny decided that she would go to the circus, in spite of all obstacles, and in the face of her father's implied prohibition. When she had proceeded far enough to rebel, in her own heart, against the will of her father, the rest of the deed was easily accomplished.
Noddy had never been to a circus; and when Fanny told him what it was,—how men rode standing up on their horses; how they turned somersets, and played all sorts of antics on the tight rope and the slack rope; and, above all, what funny things the clowns said and did,—he was quite ready to do almost anything to procure so rare a pleasure as witnessing such a performance must afford him. It did not require any persuasion to induce him to assist Fanny in her disobedience. The only obstacle which had presented itself was his morning work in the boat-house, which Bertha's departure for the city had prevented him from doing at an earlier hour.
To prevent Ben from suspecting that they were on the water, in case they should happen to be missed, he had borrowed a boat and placed it at the Point, where they could embark without being seen, if Ben or any of the servants happened to be near the pier. The boatman, who made it his business to see that Noddy did his work on time in the morning, did not neglect his duty on this occasion; and when Noddy started to meet Fanny at the appointed place, he had been called back, as described in the first chapter.
As he pulled towards Whitestone, he watched the flames that rose from the boat-house; and he had, for the time, lost all his enthusiasm about the circus. He could think only of the doubtful position in which his impulsive words to the boatman placed him. Above all things,—and all his doubts and fears culminated in this point,—what would Miss Bertha say? He did not care what others said, except so far as their words went to convince his mistress of his guilt. What would she do to him?
But, after all had been said and done, he was not guilty. He had not set the boat-house on fire, and he did not even know who had done the malicious act. Noddy regarded this as a very happy thought; and while the reflection had a place in his mind, he pulled the oars with redoubled vigor. Yet it was in vain for him to rely upon the voice of an approving conscience for peace in that hour of trouble. If he had not, at that moment, been engaged in an act of disobedience, he might have been easy. He had been strictly forbidden by Mr. Grant, and by Bertha, ever to take Fanny out in a boat without permission; and Miss Fanny had been as strictly forbidden to go with him, or with any of the servants, without the express consent, each time, of her father or of Bertha.
It is very hard, while doing wrong in one thing, to enjoy an approving conscience in another thing; and Noddy found it so in the present instance. We do not mean to say that Noddy's conscience was of any great account to him, or that the inward monitor caused his present uneasiness. He had a conscience, but his vagabond life had demoralized it in the first place, and it had not been sufficiently developed, during his stay at Woodville, to abate very sensibly his anticipated pleasure at the circus. His uneasiness was entirely selfish. He had got into a scrape, whose probable consequences worried him more than his conscience.
By the time the runaways reached Whitestone, the boat-house was all burned up, and nothing but the curling smoke from the ruins visibly reminded the transgressors of the event which had disturbed them. Securing the boat in a proper place, Noddy conducted the young lady to the large tent in which the circus company performed, and which was more than a mile from the river. Fanny gave him the money, and Noddy purchased two tickets, which admitted them to the interior of the tent.
If Noddy had been entirely at ease about the affair on the other side of the river, no doubt he would have enjoyed the performance very much; but in the midst of the "grand entree of all the horses and riders of the troupe," the sorrowing face of Bertha Grant thrust itself between him and the horsemen, to obscure his vision and diminish the cheap glories of the gorgeous scene. When "the most daring rider in the world" danced about, like a top, on the bare back of his "fiery, untamed steed," Noddy was enthusiastic, and would have given a York shilling for the privilege of trying to do it himself.
The "ground and lofty tumbling," with the exception of the spangled tunics of the performers, hardly came up to his expectations; and he was entirely satisfied that he could beat the best man among them at such games. As the performance proceeded, he warmed up enough to forget the fire, and ceased to dread the rebuke of Bertha; but when all was over,—when the clown had made his last wry face, and the great American acrobat had achieved his last gyration, Bertha and the fire came back to him with increased power. Moody and sullen, he walked down to the river with Fanny, who, under ordinary circumstances, would have been too proud to walk through the streets of Whitestone with him. If he had been alone, it is quite probable that he would have taken to the woods, so much did he dread to return to Woodville.
He pushed off the boat, and for some time he pulled in silence, for Miss Fanny now appeared to have her own peculiar trials. Her conscience seemed to have found a voice, and she did not speak till the boat had reached the lower end of Van Alstine's Island.
"The fire is all out now," said she.
"Yes; but I would give a thousand dollars to know how it caught," added Noddy.
"I know," continued Fanny, looking down into the bottom of the boat.
"Who did it?" demanded Noddy, eagerly.
"I did it myself," answered Fanny, looking up into his face to note the effect of the astonishing confession.
A MORAL QUESTION.
Noddy dropped his oars, and, with open mouth and staring eyes, gazed fixedly in silence at his gentle companion, who had so far outstripped him in making mischief as to set fire to a building. It was too much for him, and he found it impossible to comprehend the depravity of Miss Fanny. He would not have dared to do such a thing himself, and it was impossible to believe that she had done so tremendous a deed.
"I don't believe it," said he; and the words burst from him with explosive force, as soon as he could find a tongue to express himself.
"I did," replied Fanny, gazing at him with a kind of blank look, which would have assured a more expert reader of the human face than Noddy Newman that she had come to a realizing sense of the magnitude of the mischief she had done.
"No, you didn't, Miss Fanny!" exclaimed her incredulous friend. "I know you didn't do that; you couldn't do it."
"But I did; I wouldn't say I did if I didn't."
"Well, that beats me all to pieces!" added Noddy, bending forward in his seat, and looking sharply into her face, in search of any indications that she was making fun of him, or was engaged in perpetrating a joke.
Certainly there was no indication of a want of seriousness on the part of the wayward young lady; on the contrary, she looked exceedingly troubled. Noddy could not say a word, and he was busily occupied in trying to get through his head the stupendous fact that Miss Fanny had become an incendiary; that she was wicked enough to set fire to her father's building. It required a good deal of labor and study on the part of so poor a scholar as Noddy to comprehend the idea. He had always looked upon Fanny as Bertha's sister. His devoted benefactress was an angel in his estimation, and it was as impossible for her to do anything wrong as it was for water to run up hill.
If Bertha was absolutely perfect,—as he measured human virtue,—it was impossible that her sister should be very far below her standard. He knew that she was a little wild and wayward, but it was beyond his comprehension that she should do anything that was really "naughty." Fanny's confession, when he realized that it was true, gave him a shock from which he did not soon recover. One of his oars had slipped overboard without his notice, and the other might have gone after it, if his companion had not reminded him where he was, and what he ought to do. Paddling the boat around with one oar, he recovered the other; but he had no clear idea of the purpose for which such implements were intended, and he permitted the boat to drift with the tide, while he gave himself up to the consideration of the difficult and trying question which the conduct of Fanny imposed upon him.
Noddy was not selfish; and if the generous vein of his nature had been well balanced and fortified by the corresponding virtues, his character would have soared to the region of the noble and grand in human nature. But the generous in character is hardly worthy of respect, though it may challenge the admiration of the thoughtless, unless it rests upon the sure foundation of moral principle. Noddy forgot his own trials in sympathizing with the unpleasant situation of his associate in wrongdoing, and his present thought was how he should get her out of the scrape. He was honestly willing to sacrifice himself for her sake. While he was faithfully considering the question, in the dim light of his own moral sense, Miss Fanny suddenly burst into tears, and cried with a violence and an unction which were a severe trial to his nerves.
"Don't cry, Fanny," said he; "I'll get you out of the scrape."
"I don't want to get out of it," sobbed she.
Now, this was the most paradoxical reply which the little maiden could possibly have made, and Noddy was perplexed almost beyond the hope of redemption. What in the world was she crying about, if she did not wish to get out of the scrape? What could make her cry if it was not the fear of consequences—of punishment, and of the mean opinion which her friends would have of her, when they found out that she was wicked enough to set a building on fire? Noddy asked no questions, for he could not frame one which would cover so intricate a matter.
"I am perfectly willing to be punished for what I have done," added Fanny, to whose troubled heart speech was the only vent.
"What are you crying for?" asked the bewildered Noddy.
"Because—because I did it," replied she; and her choked utterance hardly permitted her to speak the words.
"Well, Miss Fanny, you are altogether ahead of my time; and I don't know what you mean. If you cry about it now, what did you do it for?"
"Because I was wicked and naughty. If I had thought only a moment, I shouldn't have done it. I am so sorry I did it! I would give the world if I hadn't."
"What will they do to you?" asked Noddy, whose fear of consequences had not yet given place to a higher view of the matter.
"I don't care what they do; I deserve the worst they can do. How shall I look Bertha and my father in the face when I see them?"
"O, hold your head right up, and look as bold as a lion—as bold as two lions, if the worst comes."
"Don't talk so, Noddy. You make me feel worse than I did."
"What in the world ails you, Miss Fanny?" demanded Noddy, grown desperate by the perplexities of the situation.
"I am so sorry I did such a wicked thing! I shall go to Bertha and my father, and tell them all about it, as soon as they come home," added Fanny, as she wiped away her tears, and appeared to be much comforted by the good resolution which was certainly the best one the circumstances admitted.
"Are you going to do that?" exclaimed Noddy, astonished at the declaration.
"And get me into a scrape too! They won't let me off as easy as they do you. I shall be sent off to learn to be a tinker, or a blacksmith."
"You didn't set the boat-house on fire, Noddy. It wasn't any of your doings," said Fanny, somewhat disturbed by this new complication.
"You wouldn't have done it, if it hadn't been for me. I told you what I said to Ben—that I wished the boat-house was burned up; and that's what put it into your head."
"Well, you didn't do it."
"I know that; but I shall have to bear all the blame of it."
Noddy's moral perceptions were strong enough to enable him to see that he was not without fault in the matter; and he was opposed to Fanny's making the intended confession of her guilt.
"I will keep you out of trouble, Noddy," said she, kindly.
"You can't do it; when you own up, you will sink me to the bottom of the river. Besides, you are a fool to do any such thing, Miss Fanny. What do you want to say a word about it for? Ben will think some fellow landed from the river, and set the boat-house on fire."
"I must do it, Noddy," protested she. "I shall not have a moment's peace till I confess. I shall not dare to look father and Bertha in the face if I don't."
"You won't if you do. How are they going to know anything about it, if you don't tell them?"
"Well, they will lay it to you if I don't."
"No matter if they do; I didn't do it, and I can say so truly, and they will believe me."
"But how shall I feel all the time? I shall know who did it, if nobody else does. I shall feel mean and guilty."
"You won't feel half so bad as you will when they look at you, and know all the time that you are guilty. If you are going to own up, I shall keep out of the way. You won't see me at Woodville again in a hurry."
"What do you mean, Noddy?" asked Fanny, startled by the strong words of her companion.
"That's just what I mean. If you own up, they will say that I made you do it; and I had enough sight rather bear the blame of setting the boat-house afire, than be told that I made you do it. I can dirty my own hands, but I don't like the idea of dirtying yours."
"You don't mean to leave Woodville, Noddy?" asked Fanny, in a reproachful tone.
"If you own up, I shall not go back. I've been thinking of going ever since they talked of making a tinker of me; so it will only be going a few days sooner. I want to go to sea, and I don't want to be a tinker."
Fanny gazed into the water by the side of the boat, thinking of what her companion had said. She really did not think she ought to "own up," on the terms which Noddy mentioned.
"If you are sorry, and want to repent, you can do all that; and I will give you my solemn promise to be as good as you are, Miss Fanny," said Noddy, satisfied that he had made an impression upon the mind of his wavering companion.
His advice seemed to be sensible. She was sorry she had done wrong; she could repent in sorrow and silence, and never do wrong again. Her father and her sister would despise her if they knew she had done such a wicked and unladylike thing as to set the boat-house on fire. She could save all this pain and mortification, and repent just the same. Besides, she could not take upon herself the responsibility of driving Noddy away from Woodville, for that would cause Bertha a great deal of pain and uneasiness.
Fanny had not yet learned to do right though the heavens fall.
"Well, I won't say anything about it, Noddy," said she, yielding to what seemed to her the force of circumstances.
"That's right, Fanny. Now, you leave the whole thing to me, and I will manage it so as to keep you out of trouble; and you can repent and be sorry just as much as you please," replied Noddy, as he began to row again. "There is nothing to be afraid of. Ben will never know that we have been on the river."
"But I know it myself," said the conscience-stricken maiden.
"Of course you do; what of that?"
"If I didn't know it myself, I should feel well enough."
"You are a funny girl."
"Don't you ever feel that you have done wrong, Noddy?"
"I suppose I do; but I don't make any such fuss about it as you do."
"You were not brought up by a kind father and a loving sister, who would give anything rather than have you do wrong," said Fanny, beginning to cry again.
"There! don't cry any more; if you do, you will 'let the cat out of the bag.' I am going to land you here at the Glen. You can take a walk there, and go home about one o'clock. Then you can tell the folks you have been walking in the Glen; and it will be the truth."
"It will be just as much a lie as though I hadn't been there. It will be one half the truth told to hide the other half."
This was rather beyond Noddy's moral philosophy, and he did not worry himself to argue the point. He pulled up to the landing place at the Glen, where he had so often conveyed Bertha, and near the spot where he had met with the accident which had placed him under her kindly care. Fanny, with a heavy heart and a doubting mind, stepped on shore, and walked up into the grove. She was burdened with grief for the wrong she had done, and for half an hour she wandered about the beautiful spot, trying to compose herself enough to appear before the people at the house. When it was too late, she wished she had not consented to Noddy's plan; but the fear of working a great wrong in driving him from the good influences to which he was subjected at Woodville, by doing right, and confessing her error, was rather comforting, though it did not meet the wants of her case.
In season for dinner, she entered the house with her hand full of wild flowers, which grew only in the Glen. In the hall she met Mrs. Green, the housekeeper, who looked at her flushed face, and then at the flowers in her hand.
"We have been wondering where you were, all the forenoon," said Mrs. Green. "I see you have been to the Glen by the flowers you have in your hand. Did you know the boat-house was burned up?"
"I saw the smoke of it," replied Fanny.
"It is the strangest thing that ever happened. No one can tell how it took fire."
Fanny made no reply, and the housekeeper hastened away to attend to her duties. The poor girl was suffering all the tortures of remorse which a wrong act can awaken, and she went up to her room with the feeling that she did not wish to see another soul for a month.
Half an hour later, Noddy Newman presented himself at the great house, laden with swamp pinks, whose fragrance filled the air, and seemed to explain where he had been all the forenoon. With no little flourish, he requested Mrs. Green to put them in the vases for Bertha's room; for his young mistress was very fond of the sweet blossoms. He appeared to be entirely satisfied with himself; and, with a branch of the pink in his hand, he left the house, and walked towards the servants' quarters, where, at his dinner, he met Ben, the boatman.
The old boatman never did any thing as other people did it; and though Noddy had put on the best face he could assume to meet the shock of the accusation which he was confident would be brought against him, Ben said not a word about the boat-house. He did not seem to be aware that it had been burned. He ate his dinner in his usual cheerful frame of mind, and talked of swamp pinks, suggested by the branch which the young reprobate had brought into the servants' hall.
Noddy was more perplexed than he had been before that day. Why didn't the old man "pitch into him," and accuse him of kindling the fire? Why didn't he get angry, as he did sometimes, and call him a young vagabond, and threaten to horsewhip him? Ben talked of the pinks, of the weather, the crops, and the latest news; but he did not say a word about the destruction of the boat-house, or Noddy's absence during the forenoon.
After dinner, Noddy followed the old man down to the pier by the river in a state of anxiety which hardly permitted him to keep up the cheerful expression he had assumed, and which he usually wore. They reached the smouldering ruins of the building, but Ben took no notice of it, and did not allude to the great event which had occurred. Noddy was inclined to doubt whether the boat-house had been burned at all; and he would have rejected the fact, if the charred remains of the house had not been there to attest it.
Ben hobbled down to the pier, and stepped on board the Greyhound, which he had hauled up to the shore to enable him to make some repairs on the mainsail. Noddy followed him; but he grew more desperate at every step he advanced, for the old man still most provokingly refused to say a single word about the fire.
"Gracious!" exclaimed Noddy, suddenly starting back in the utmost astonishment; for he had come to the conclusion, that if Ben would not speak about the fire, he must.
The old boatman was still vicious, and refused even to notice his well-managed exclamation. Noddy thought it was very obstinate of Ben not to say something, and offer him a chance, in the natural way, to prove his innocence.
"Why, Ben, the boat-house is burned up!" shouted Noddy, determined that the old man should have no excuse for not speaking about the fire.
Ben did not even raise his eyes from the work on which he was engaged. He was adjusting the palm on his hand, and in a moment began to sew as though nothing had happened, and no one was present but himself. Noddy was fully satisfied now that the boatman was carrying out the details of some plot of his own.
"Ben!" roared Noddy, at the top of his lungs, and still standing near the ruins.
"What do you want, Noddy?" demanded Ben, as good-naturedly as though everything had worked well during the day.
"The boat-house is burned up!" screamed Noddy, apparently as much excited as though he had just discovered the fact.
Ben made no reply, which was another evidence that he was engaged in working out some deep-laid plot, perhaps to convict him of the crime, by some trick. Noddy was determined not to be convicted if he could possibly help it.
"Ben!" shouted he again.
"Well, Noddy, what is it?"
"Did you know the boat-house was burned up?"
There was no answer; and Noddy ran down to the place where the sail-boat was hauled up. He tried to look excited and indignant, and perhaps he succeeded; though, as the old man preserved his equanimity, he had no means of knowing what impression he had produced.
"Did you know the boat-house was burned up?" repeated Noddy, opening his eyes as though he had made a discovery of the utmost importance.
"I did," replied Ben, as indifferently as though it had been a matter of no consequence whatever.
"Why didn't you tell me about it?" demanded Noddy, with becoming indignation.
"Because I decided that I wouldn't say a word about it to any person," answered Ben.
"How did it happen?"
"I haven't anything to say about it; so you mustn't ask me any questions."
"Don't you know how it caught afire?" persisted Noddy.
"I've nothing to say on that subject."
Noddy was vexed and disheartened; but he felt that it would not be prudent to deny the charge of setting it on fire before he was accused, for that would certainly convict him. The old man was playing a deep game, and that annoyed him still more.
"So you won't say anything about it, Ben?" added he, seating himself on the pier.
"Not a word, Noddy."
"Well, I wouldn't if I were you," continued Noddy, lightly.
Ben took no notice of this sinister remark, thus exhibiting a presence of mind which completely balked his assailant.
"I understand it all, Ben; and I don't blame you for not wanting to say anything about it. I suppose you will own up when Mr. Grant comes home to-night."
"Don't be saucy, Noddy," said the old man, mildly.
"So you smoked your pipe among the shavings, and set the boat-house afire—did you, Ben? Well, I am sorry for you, you are generally so careful; but I don't believe they will discharge you for it."
Ben was as calm and unruffled as a summer sea. Noddy knew that, under ordinary circumstances, the boatman would have come down upon him like a northeast gale, if he had dared to use such insulting language to him. He tried him on every tack, but not a word could he obtain which betrayed the opinion of the veteran, in regard to the origin of the fire. It was useless to resort to any more arts, and he gave up the point in despair. All the afternoon he wandered about the estate, and could think of nothing but the unhappy event of the morning. Fanny did not show herself, and he had no opportunity for further consultation.
About six o'clock Bertha returned with her father; and after tea they walked down to the river. Fanny complained of a headache, and did not go with them. It is more than probable that she was really afflicted, as she said; for she had certainly suffered enough to make her head ache. Of course the first thing that attracted the attention of Mr. Grant and his daughter was the pile of charred timbers that indicated the place where the boat-house had once stood.
"How did that happen?" asked Mr. Grant of Ben, who was on the pier.
"I don't know how it happened," replied the boatman, who had found his tongue now, and proceeded to give his employer all the particulars of the destruction of the building, concluding with Noddy's energetic exclamation that he wished the boat-house was burned up.
"But did Noddy set the building on fire?" asked Bertha, greatly pained to hear this charge against her pupil.
"I don't know, Miss Bertha. I went up to the house to get my morning instructions, as I always do, and left Noddy at work washing up the boat-house. I found you had gone to the city, and I went right out of the house, and was coming down here. I got in sight of the pier, and saw Miss Fanny come out of the boat-house."
"Yes; I am sure it was her. I didn't mind where she went, for I happened to think the mainsail of the Greyhound wanted a little mending, and I went over to my room after some needles. While I was in my chamber, one of the gardeners rushed up to tell me the boat-house was afire. I came down, but 'twasn't no use; the building was most gone when I got here."
"Did you leave anything in the building in the shape of matches, or anything else?" asked Mr. Grant.
"No, sir; I never do that," replied the old man, with a blush.
"I know you are very careful, Ben. Then I suppose it was set on fire."
"I suppose it was, sir."
"Who do you suppose set it afire, Ben?" said Bertha, anxiously.
"Bless you, miss, I don't know."
"Do you think it was Noddy?"
"No, Miss Bertha, I don't think it was."
"Who could it have been?"
"That's more than I know. Here comes Noddy, and he can speak for himself."
Noddy had come forward for this purpose when he saw Mr. Grant and Bertha on the pier, and he had heard the last part of the conversation. He was not a little astonished to hear Ben declare his belief that he was not guilty, for he had been fully satisfied that he should have all the credit of the naughty transaction.
"Do you know how the fire caught, Noddy?" said Mr. Grant.
"I reckon it caught from a bucket of water I left there," replied Noddy, who did not know what to say till he had felt his way a little.
"No trifling, Noddy!" added Mr. Grant, though he could hardly keep from laughing at the ridiculous answer.
"How should I know, sir, when Ben don't know? I tried to make him tell me how it caught, and he wouldn't say a word about it."
"I thought it was best for me to keep still," said Ben.
"This is very strange," continued Mr. Grant. "Who was the last person you saw in the boat-house, Ben?"
"Miss Fanny, sir. I saw her come out of it only a few moments before the fire broke out."
Noddy was appalled at this answer, for it indicated that Fanny was already suspected of the deed.
"Of course Fanny would not do such a thing as set the boat-house on fire," said Bertha.
"Of course she wouldn't," added Noddy.
"What made you say you did not think Noddy set the fire, Ben?" asked Mr. Grant.
"Because I think he had gone off somewhere before the fire, and that Miss Fanny was in the building after he was. Noddy was sculling off before he had done his work, and I called him back. That's when he wished the boat-house was burned down."
"It is pretty evident that the fire was set by Noddy or Fanny," said Mr. Grant; and he appeared to have no doubt as to which was the guilty one, for he looked very sternly at the wayward boy before him.
"I think so, sir," added Ben.
"And you say that it was not Noddy?" continued Mr. Grant, looking exceedingly troubled as he considered the alternative.
The boatman bowed his head in reply, as though his conclusion was so serious and solemn that he could not express it in words. Noddy looked from Ben to Mr. Grant, and from Mr. Grant to Ben again. It was plain enough what they meant, and he had not even been suspected of the crime. The boatman had seen Fanny come out of the building just before the flames appeared, and all hope of charging the deed upon some vagabond from the river was gone.
"Do you mean to say, Ben, that you think Fanny set the boat-house on fire?" demanded Mr. Grant, sternly.
"I don't see who else could have set it," added Ben, stoutly.
"I do," interposed Noddy. "I say she didn't do it."
"Why do you say so?"
"Because I did it myself."
"I thought so!" exclaimed Mr. Grant, greatly relieved by the confession.
Ben was confused and annoyed, and Noddy was rather pleased at the position in which he had placed the old man, who, in his opinion, had not treated him as well as usual.
"Why didn't you own it before?" said Mr. Grant, "and not allow an innocent person to be suspected."
"I didn't like to," answered the culprit, with a smile, as though he was entirely satisfied with his own position.
"You must be taken care of."
"I am going to take care of myself, sir," said Noddy, with easy indifference.
This remark was capable of so many interpretations that no one knew what it meant—whether Noddy intended to run away, or reform his vicious habits. Bertha had never seen him look so self-possessed and impudent when he had done wrong, and she feared that all her labors for his moral improvement had been wasted.
Some further explanations followed, and Noddy was questioned till a satisfactory theory in regard to the fire was agreed upon. The boy declared that he had visited the boat-house after Fanny left it, and that she was walking towards the Glen when he kindled the fire. He made out a consistent story, and completely upset Ben's conclusions, and left the veteran in a very confused and uncomfortable state of mind.
Mr. Grant declared that something must be done with the boy at once; that if he was permitted to continue on the place, he might take a notion to burn the house down. Poor Bertha could not gainsay her father's conclusion, and, sad as it was, she was compelled to leave the culprit to whatever decision Mr. Grant might reach. For the present he was ordered to his room, to which he submissively went, attended by Bertha, though he was fully resolved not to be "taken care of;" for he understood this to mean a place in the workhouse or the penitentiary.
SQUIRE WRIGGS AT WOODVILLE.
Bertha was deeply pained at the reckless wrong which her protege had done, and more deeply by the cool indifference with which he carried himself after his voluntary confession. There was little to hope for while he manifested not a single sign of contrition for the crime committed. He was truly sorry for the grief he had caused her; but for his own sin he did not speak a word of regret.
"I suppose I am to be a tinker now," said Noddy to her, with a smile, which looked absolutely awful to Bertha, for it was a token of depravity she could not bear to look upon.
"I must leave you now, Noddy, for you are not good," replied Bertha, sadly.
"I am sorry you feel so bad about me, Miss Bertha," added Noddy.
"I wish you would be sorry for yourself, instead of me."
"I am—sorry that you want to make a tinker of me;" and Noddy used this word to express his contempt of any mechanical occupation.
He did not like to work. Patient, plodding labor, devoid of excitement, was his aversion; though handling a boat, cleaning out a gutter on some dizzy height of the mansion, or cutting off a limb at the highest point of the tallest shade tree on the estate, was entirely to his taste, and he did not regard anything as work which had a spice of danger or a thrill of excitement about it. He was not lazy, in the broad sense of the word; there was not a more active and restless person on the estate than himself. A shop, therefore, was a horror which he had no words to describe, and which he could never endure.
"I want to see you in some useful occupation, where you can earn your living, and become a respectable man," said Bertha. "Don't you want to be a respectable man, Noddy?"
"Well, I suppose I do; but I had rather be a vagabond than a respectable tinker."
"You must work, Noddy, if you would win a good name, and enough of this world's goods to make you comfortable. Work and win; I give you this motto for your guidance. My father told me to lock you up in your room."
"You may do that, Miss Bertha," laughed Noddy. "I don't care how much you lock me in. When I want to go out, I shall go. I shall work, and win my freedom."
Noddy thought this application of Bertha's motto was funny, and he had the hardihood to laugh at it, till Bertha, hopeless of making any impression on him at the present time, left the room, and locked the door behind her.
"Work and win!" said Noddy. "That's very pretty, and for Miss Bertha's sake I shall remember it; but I shan't work in any tinker's shop. I may as well take myself off, and go to work in my own way."
Noddy was tired, after the exertions of the day; and so deeply and truly repentant was he for the wrong he had done, that he immediately went to sleep, though it was not yet dark. Neither the present nor the future seemed to give him any trouble; and if he could avoid the miseries of the tinker's shop, as he was perfectly confident he could, he did not concern himself about any of the prizes of life which are gained by honest industry or patient well doing.
When it was quite dark, and Noddy had slept about two hours, the springing of the bolt in the lock of his door awoke him. He leaped to his feet, and his first thought was, that something was to be done with him for burning the boat-house. But the door opened, and, by the dim light which came through the window, he recognized the slight form of Fanny Grant.
"Noddy," said she, timidly.
"Well, Miss Fanny, have you come to let me out of jail?"
"No; I came to see you, and nobody knows I am here. You won't expose me—will you?"
"Of course I won't; that isn't much like me."
"I know it isn't, Noddy. What did you say that you set the fire for?"
"Because I thought that was the best way to settle the whole thing. Ben saw you come out of the boat-house, and told your father he believed you set the building on fire. That was the meanest thing the old man ever did. Why didn't he lay it to me, as he ought to have done?"
"I suppose he knew you didn't do it."
"That don't make any difference. He ought to have known better than tell your father it was you."
"I am so sorry for what you have done!"
"What are you sorry for? It won't hurt me, any how; and it would be an awful thing for you. They were going to make a tinker of me before, and I suppose they will do it now—if they can. I wouldn't care a fig for it if Miss Bertha didn't feel so bad about it."
"I will tell her the truth."
"Don't you do it, Miss Fanny. That wouldn't help me a bit, and will spoil you."
"But I must tell the truth. They don't suspect me even of going on the water."
"So much the better. They won't ask you any hard questions. Now, Miss Fanny, don't you say a word; for if you do, it will make it all the worse for me."
"Why so, Noddy?"
"Because, according to my notion, I did set the building afire. If I hadn't said what I did, you never would have thought of doing it. So I was the fellow that did it, after all. That's the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
"But you didn't set it afire, and you didn't mean to do any such thing."
"That may be; but you wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been for me. It was more my fault than it was yours; and I want you to leave the thing just where it is now."
"But it would be mean for me to stand still, and see you bear all the blame."
"It would be enough sight meaner for you to say anything about it."
"I don't think so."
"I do; for don't you see it is a good deal worse for me to put you up to such a thing than it was for me to do it myself? Your father would forgive me for setting the fire sooner than they would for making you do it. I'm bad enough already, and they know it; but if they think I make you as bad as I am myself, they would put me in a worse place than a tinker's shop."
Noddy's argument was too much for the feminine mind of Miss Fanny, and again she abandoned the purpose she had fully resolved upon, and decided not to confess her guilt. We must do her the justice to say, that she came to this conclusion, not from any fear of personal consequences, but in order to save Noddy from the terrible reproach which would be cast upon him if she did confess. Already, in her heart and before God, she had acknowledged her error, and was sorrowfully repenting her misconduct. But she could not expose Noddy to any penalty which he did not deserve. She knew that he did not mean to set the fire; that his words were idle, petulant ones, which had no real meaning; and it would be wrong to let her father and Bertha suppose that Noddy had instigated her to the criminal act.
Fanny had not yet learned that it is best to cleave unto the truth, and let the consequences take care of themselves.
She yielded her own convictions to those of another, which no person should ever do in questions of right and wrong.
She sacrificed her own faith in the simple truth, to another's faith in policy, expediency.
The question was settled for the present, and Fanny crept back to her chamber, no easier in mind, no better satisfied with herself, than before. Noddy went to sleep again; but the only cloud he saw was the displeasure of Bertha. He was simply conscious that he had got into a scrape. He had not burned the boat-house, and he did not feel guilty. He had not intended to induce Fanny to do the deed, and he did not feel guilty of that. He was so generous that he wished to save her from the consequences of her error, and the deception he used did not weigh very heavily on his conscience.
He regarded his situation as merely a "scrape" into which he had accidentally fallen, and his only business was to get out of it. These thoughts filled his mind when he awoke in the morning. He was too restless to remain a quiet prisoner for any great length of time; and when he had dressed himself, he began to look about him for the means of mitigating his imprisonment, or bringing it to a conclusion, as the case might require. The window would be available at night, but it was in full view of the gardeners in the daytime, who would be likely to report any movement on his part. The door looked more hopeful.
One of the men brought his breakfast, and retired, locking the door behind him. While he was eating it,—and his appetite did not seem to be at all impaired by the situation to which he had been reduced,—he saw Mr. Grant on the lawn, talking with a stranger. His interest was at once excited, and a closer examination assured him that the visitor was Squire Wriggs, of Whitestone. The discovery almost spoiled Noddy's appetite, for he knew that the squire was a lawyer, and had often been mixed up with cases of house-breaking, horse-stealing, robbery, and murder; and he at once concluded that the legal gentleman's business related to him.
His ideas of lawyers were rather confused and indistinct. He knew they had a great deal to do in the court-house, when men were sent to the penitentiary and the house of correction for various crimes. He watched the squire and Mr. Grant, and he was fully satisfied in his own mind what they were talking about when the latter pointed to the window of his chamber. He had eaten only half his breakfast, but he found it impossible to take another mouthful, after he realized that he was the subject of the conversation between Mr. Grant and the lawyer.
It seemed just as though all his friends, even Miss Bertha, had suddenly deserted him. That conference on the lawn was simply a plot to take him to the court-house, and then send him to the penitentiary, the house of correction, or some other abominable place, even if it were no worse than a tinker's shop. He was absolutely terrified at the prospect. After all his high hopes, and all his confidence in his supple limbs, the judges, the lawyers, and the constables might fetter his muscles so that he could not get away—so that he could not even run away to sea, which was his ultimate intention, whenever he could make up his mind to leave Miss Bertha.
Noddy watched the two gentlemen on the lawn, and his breast was filled with a storm of emotions. He pictured the horrors of the prison to which they were about to send him, and his fancy made the prospect far worse than the reality could possibly have been. Mr. Grant led the way towards the building occupied by the servants. Noddy was desperate. Squire Wriggs was the visible manifestation of jails, courts, constables, and other abominations, which were the sum of all that was terrible. He decided at once not to wait for a visit from the awful personage, who was evidently coming into the house to see him.
He raised the window a little, intending to throw it wide open, and leap down upon the lawn, when his persecutor entered the door. There was not a man or boy at Woodville who could catch him when he had the use of his legs, and the world would then be open to him. But the gentlemen paused at the door, and Noddy listened as a criminal would wait to hear his sentence from the stern judge.
"Thirty thousand dollars is a great deal of money for a boy like him," said Mr. Grant. "Of course he must have a guardian."
"And you are the best person in the world for that position," added Squire Wriggs.
"But he is a young reprobate, and something must be done with him."
"Certainly; he must be taken care of at once."
"I'm afraid he will burn my house down, as he did the boat-house. My daughter is interested in him; if it wasn't for her, I would send him to the house of correction before I slept again."
"When you are his guardian, you can do what you think best for him."
"That will be no easy matter."
"We will take the boy over to the court now, and then—"
Noddy did not hear any more, for the two gentlemen entered the house, and he heard their step on the stairs. But he did not want to know anything more. Squire Wriggs had distinctly said they would take him over to the court, and that was enough to satisfy him that his worst fears were to be realized. The talk about thirty thousand dollars, and the guardian, was as unintelligible to him as though it had been in ancient Greek, and he did not bestow a second thought upon it. The "boy like him," to whom thirty thousand dollars would be a great deal of money, meant some other person than himself. The court was Noddy's peculiar abomination; and when he heard the words, he clutched the sash of the window with convulsive energy.
Mr. Grant and Squire Wriggs passed into the house, and Noddy Newman passed out. To a gymnast of his wiry experience, the feat was not impossible, or even very difficult. Swinging out of the window, he placed his feet on the window-cap below, and then, stooping down, he got hold with his hands, and slipped down from his perch with about the same ease with which a well-trained monkey would have accomplished the descent.
He was on the solid earth now, and with the feeling that the court-house and a whole regiment of constables were behind him, he took to his heels. A stiff-kneed gardener, who had observed his exit from the house, attempted to follow him; but he might as well have chased a northwest gale. Noddy reached the Glen, and no sound of pursuers could be heard. The phantom court-house had been beaten in the race.
When Noddy reached the Glen, he had time to stop and think; and the consequences of the sudden step he had taken came to his mind with tremendous force. He had fled from Miss Bertha, and all the comforts and luxuries which had surrounded him at Woodville. He was a vagabond again.
It was a great deal better to be a vagabond than it was to be an inmate of a prison, or even of a tinker's shop. He had committed no crime; the worst that could be said of him was, that he was a victim of circumstances. It was unfortunate for him that he had used those petulant words, that he wished the boat-house was burned down, for they had put the idea into Fanny's head. He did not mean to kindle the fire, but he believed that he had been the cause of it, and that it was hardly fair to let the young lady suffer for what he had virtually done.
He was sorry to leave Woodville, and above all, sorry to be banished from the presence of Miss Bertha. But that had already been agreed upon, and he was only anticipating the event by taking himself off as he did. He would rather have gone in a more honorable manner than running away like a hunted dog; but he could not help that, and the very thought of the horrible court-house was enough to drive him from the best home in the world.
He walked up to a retired part of the Glen, where he could continue his retreat without being intercepted, if it became necessary, and sat down on a rock to think of the future. He had no more idea what he should do with himself, than he had when he was a wanderer before in these regions. Undoubtedly his ultimate purpose was to go to sea; but he was not quite ready to depart. He cherished a hope that he might contrive to meet Bertha in some of her walks, and say good-bye to her before he committed himself to his fortunes on the stormy ocean.
While he was deliberating upon his prospects, a happy thought, as he regarded it, came to his mind. He could turn somersets, and cut more capers than any man in the circus company which he had seen on the preceding day. With a little practice, he was satisfied that he could learn to stand up on the back of a horse. A field of glory suddenly opened to his vision, and he could win the applause of admiring thousands by his daring feats. He had performed all sorts of gyrations for the amusement of the idlers about Woodville, and he might now turn his accomplishments to a useful purpose—indeed, make them pay for his food and clothing.
Noddy had no idea that circus performances were not entirely respectable; and it seemed to him that his early training had exactly fitted him to shine in this peculiar sphere. It might not be decent business for Mr. Grant and Bertha, but it was just the thing for him. Whitestone was a very large town, and the circus was still there. He had not a moment to lose; and, under the impulse of his new resolution, he left the Glen, intending to walk up the river to the ferry, a couple of miles distant.
Noddy went over the river, and reached the great tent of the circus company about one o'clock. He was rather disturbed by the fear that he might meet Squire Wriggs, or some of the constables; but all his hopes were now centred on the circus, and he could not avoid the risk of exposing himself. He boldly inquired for the "head man" of the establishment; but this distinguished functionary was not on the premises at that time; he would be there in the course of half an hour.
He walked down to a shop, and having a small sum of money in his pocket, he obtained something to eat. On his return to the tent, the head man was pointed out to him. Noddy, as a general rule, was not troubled with bashfulness; and he walked resolutely up to the manager, and intimated to him that he should like to be engaged as a performer.
"What do you want, my boy?" demanded the head man, who was quite confident that he had mistaken the applicant's meaning, for it was hardly possible that a youth like him could be a circus performer.
"I want a place to perform, sir," repeated Noddy, who was entirely ignorant of the technical terms belonging to the profession.
"To perform!" laughed the manager, measuring him from head to foot with his eye.
"What kind of business can you do, my boy?"
"Almost anything, sir."
"Do you ride?"
"No, sir; I'm not much used to standing up on a horse, but I think I could go it, after doing it a little while."
"Do you, indeed!" sneered the man. "Well, we don't want anybody that can do almost any kind of business."
"I'm used to this thing, sir," pleaded Noddy.
"Used to it! I suppose you want a place as a bill-sticker, or to take care of the horses."
"No, sir; I want to perform. If you will give me a chance to show what I can do, I think you'll have me," persisted Noddy, not at all pleased with the decided refusal he had received.
"Well, come in here," laughed the head man, who had no doubt that the applicant would soon be brought to grief.
It was almost time for the doors to be opened for the afternoon performance, and the man conducted Noddy to the ring, where he saw a number of the riders and gymnasts, all dressed in their silks and spangles to appear before the public.
"Here, Whippleby, is a young man that wants an engagement," said the manager to the man who had acted as ring-master when Noddy was present.
"What can he do?"
"Almost everything; but he isn't much used to riding."
Whippleby laughed, and the manager laughed; and it was quite evident, even to the aspirant for circus honors, that all present intended to amuse themselves at his expense. But Noddy felt able to outdo most of the circus people at their own profession, and he confidently expected to turn the laugh upon them before the game was ended.
"A versatile genius," said Whippleby.
"Just try him, and see what he can do," added the manager, significantly.
"Well, my little man, what do you say to a little ground and lofty tumbling," said Whippleby, winking at the performers, who stood in a circle around them.
"I'm at home in that," replied Noddy, throwing off his jacket.
"Good! You have got pluck enough, at any rate. Here, Nesmond, do something," said the ring-master to a wiry young man of the group.
Nesmond did what Noddy had seen him do the day before; he whirled over and over across the ring, like a hoop, striking his hands and feet alternately on the ground.
"There, youngster, do you see that?" said Whippleby.
"Yes, sir, I see it," replied Noddy, unabashed by the work which was expected of him.
"Now, let us see you do it."
Noddy did it, and if anything, more rapidly and gracefully than the professional man. The men applauded, and Nesmond—"the great American vaulter and tumbler"—looked exceedingly disconcerted when he saw his wonderful act so easily imitated.
"Try it again, Nesmond," said Whippleby.
The distinguished athlete went on for half an hour, performing his antics; and Noddy repeated them, though he had never before attempted some of them. Nesmond gave it up.
"Well, young man, you can do almost everything, but you are as clumsy and ungraceful as a bear about it. You need a little training on your positions, and you will make a first-class tumbler," said the manager.
The men had ceased to laugh, and even looked admiringly on the prodigy who had so suddenly developed himself. Noddy felt that his fortune was already made, and he was almost ready to snap his fingers at the court-house. Here was a chance for him to "work and win," and it was entirely to his taste.
The manager then questioned him in regard to his family connections; but as Noddy had none, his answers were very brief. He had no father nor mother, and he had no home; he was no runaway, for there was no one living who had any claim upon him. These answers were entirely satisfactory to the head man.
"What salary do you expect?" asked the manager, when he had assured himself there was no one to interfere with any arrangement he might make.
"What do you give?" asked Noddy.
"Well, we give different salaries, depending on the men."
"You have seen what I can do—what will you give me? Talk right up, or I shall have nothing to do with it," added Noddy, borrowing an expression from a highly respectable horse jockey, who had a language of his own.
"I'll give you your board and clothes, and your dresses for the first season."
"Nothing of that sort for me," replied Noddy, promptly. "I want to know how much I am to have in hard cash."
"Very well; I'll give you five dollars a week, and you find yourself."
Five dollars a week looked like a large salary to Noddy, though it was not one-fourth of what the distinguished Mr. Nesmond received, and he immediately closed the bargain.
"I'll put you on the bills for the next town we visit. What's your name?"
The embryo performer repeated his name.
"That won't do; you must have a better name than that. Arthur De Forrest—how will that suit you?"
"First rate," replied Noddy, who was very accommodating in minor matters.
"We show in Disbury to-morrow night, and you must be ready to do your business then, Mr. De Forrest," added the manager. "After the performance this afternoon Mr. Whippleby will give you a few lessons."
"But where shall I get a dress?"
"I will furnish you one, and take it out of your salary. You had better put it on when you practice, so as to get used to it."
Noddy was highly pleased with all these arrangements, and could not help congratulating himself on the happy thought which had induced him to join the circus. It was true, and he could not help noticing it, that the men around him were not such people as Mr. Grant, and others whom he had been in the habit of seeing at Woodville. All of them swore terribly; their breath smelt of liquor, and they talked the language of a depravity to which Noddy, with all his waywardness, was a stranger. There were boys no older than himself in the company, but they did not seem a whit less depraved than the older ones.
Though the novice was not a young man of high aims and purposes, he was not much pleased with his companions. He was what they termed "green," and it was quite plain to him that there would be a fight before many days had passed by, for he was too high-spirited to submit tamely to the insults which were heaped upon him.
During the afternoon performance, he stood at the gates of the ring, where the horses enter; and Mr. Whippleby sent him before the public for the first time, to bring out a whip which had been left there.
"Noddy Newman!" shouted a boy among the spectators.
The young athlete heard his name, and too late he remembered that he had exposed himself to the gaze of the constables, who might by this time be in search of him. During the rest of the afternoon he kept himself out of sight; but the mischief had already been done.
When the performance was over, Noddy, with the assistance of one of his companions, dressed himself in "trunk and tights," and appeared in the ring to take his first lesson in graceful movements. He could turn the somersets, and go through with the other evolutions; but there was a certain polish needed—so the ring-master said—to make them pass off well. He was to assume a graceful position at the beginning and end of each act; he must recover himself without clumsiness; he must bow, and make a flourish with his hands, when he had done a brilliant thing.
Noddy had not much taste for this branch of the profession. He did not like the bowing and the flourishing. If the feat itself did not please the people, he could not win them by smirking. He was much pleased with his costume, and this kept him good-natured, under the severe training of the ring-master, for a time. Mr. Whippleby was coarse and rough in his manners. During the show he had been all grace and elegance, and did not use any big words, but now he was as rough as a bear, and swore like a pirate. He was just like a cat's paw,—he kept the sharp claws down while the dear people were present; but now he thrust them out.
Noddy found the "business" was no joke. Mr. Whippleby did not so regard it, now that the training had commenced; and the novice found that he had placed himself under a very tyrannical master. He made his bows and flourished his arms, with all the grace he could command for a time; but he did not come up to his severe teacher's standard.
"Do that again," said Mr. Whippleby, with savage emphasis. "Don't hurry it."
Noddy did it again, as slowly as he could; but he was apparently just as far from perfection as before.
"If you don't do better than that, I'll put the whip around your legs!" shouted the impatient ring-master. "One of the mules could do it better."
"I did it as well as I could," replied Noddy, rather tartly.
"You will do it better than that, or your legs will smart. Now do it again."
Noddy obeyed. He did not think the ring-master really intended to strike him with the long whip he held in his hand, but supposed he was so much in the habit of threatening the clown with the lash, that he did it now from the force of habit. His last attempt did not satisfy Mr. Whippleby, who stormed at him more furiously than before.
"Do you think I have nothing better to do than waste my time over a blockhead like you? I haven't had my bitters yet. Now do it again; and if you fail this time you will catch it."
Noddy turned his somerset; but he had hardly recovered himself before he received a smart cut from the whip in the tenderest part of his leg. There was a young lion in the novice, and a blow from any man was more than he could endure. He expressed his mind in regard to the outrage with such freedom, that Mr. Whippleby lost his temper, if he ever had any to lose, and he began to lash the unfortunate youth in the most brutal manner.
Noddy, finding there was no satisfaction to be obtained by facing the ring-master, fled from the spot, leaping up on the seats where the spectators sat. He was maddened to fury by the harsh treatment he had received; and thirsting for vengeance, he seized whatever missiles he could find, and hurled them at his persecutor. His legs seemed to be on fire from the effects of the blows he had received. He rubbed them for a moment, while he hurled the most bitter denunciations at the ring-master.
"Now, come down, and try again," called Mr. Whippleby, who did not seem to be much disconcerted by what had taken place, when he had in some measure recovered his equanimity.
"No, I won't!" replied Noddy.
"Have you got enough, Mr. Arthur De Forrest?"
"I will give you enough before you get through."
While this colloquy was going on, the manager appeared in the ring. Whippleby laughingly told him what had happened, and he seemed to be much amused by it; but the ring-master had certainly changed his tone at the appearance of the "head man."
"Come, my boy, come down, and let me see how well you do your business," said the manager.
"I've had enough of it," replied Noddy, as he returned to the ring. "I'm not a horse, and I'm not going to be treated like one."
"That's your initiation, my boy," said Whippleby. "We always try new beginners in that way, to find out what they are made of."
"You will find out what I'm made of, if you hit me again with that whip."
"I know now. You won't need any more, if you try to do what you are told."
"I'm not going to be whipped, whether I try or not," added Noddy, doggedly.
"You shall not be whipped, my boy," said the manager. "Now show me your ground act."
The novice was about to comply,—for he had already come to the conclusion that the "head man" would protect him,—when he saw two men enter the tent. They did not belong to the company, and Noddy was quite sure he had often seen them in Whitestone.
"We don't allow visitors in here now," said the manager.
"We come on business. There is a boy here that we want to find," replied one of the men.
"You must leave the tent," said the manager, rather sharply.
"I am a constable, and there is a boy about here that I want."
"What's his name?"
"They call him Noddy Newman."
"What do you want of him?"
"That's my business," answered the constable, rudely. "The boy came into the ring this afternoon during the show, and I suppose he belongs to the company."
"That's the fellow!" exclaimed the other constable, pointing to Noddy, who was trying to take himself off without being noticed.
"That's Arthur De Forrest," interposed the manager.
"No, it isn't; I've known him this five years," said the man who had recognized the culprit.
Both of them walked towards Noddy, with the intention, apparently, of laying violent hands on him; but the young gentleman in "trunk and tights" was not prepared to yield up his personal liberty, and he retreated.
The officers were in a position where they could stop him from leaving the tent by either of the two entrances; and Noddy, finding his exit prevented, seized a rope which was hanging down by the centre-pole, and climbed up out of the reach of his pursuers.
"What do you want of me?" demanded the young athlete, as he perched himself in a comfortable position on the "slack-rope," which was suspended to the pole.
"We shall not do you any harm, my boy," said one of the officers.
"What do you want of me?"
"There is good news for you; and you are wanted over at Squire Wriggs's office."
"I know ye! You want to take me to the court-house. You can't humbug me," said Noddy, fully confirmed in his suspicions by the conduct of the men.
"We won't hurt you."
"You want to take me up."
"No, we don't; we only want to take you up to Squire Wriggs's office. It's all for your good."
"No, you don't," replied Noddy. "You can't cheat me."
"We don't want to cheat you. We are only sent to find you. We will not arrest you."
"I know better. You can't fool me. I heard Squire Wriggs say he wanted to take me up to the court-house; and you don't catch me near no court-house. I know what you mean."
"You are mistaken, my boy. Come down, and I will tell you all about it."
"When I do, you let me know," replied Noddy, who felt so secure from arrest in his present quarters that he expressed his mind with perfect freedom.
"We promise not to arrest you," persisted the constable who did the talking. "We have been looking for you all day."
"You may look another day, if you like," added the defiant refugee. "You want me for setting fire to the boat-house; but I am not to blame, if I did do it."
"We don't know anything about the boat-house; Squire Wriggs has a lot of money for you."
"You can't catch an old bird in any such trap as that," answered Noddy, shaking his head significantly.
The officers used all their powers of persuasion to induce him to come down; but Noddy, satisfied that they had been sent by Squire Wriggs, was fully persuaded that they were trying to deceive him. The story about a "lot of money" for a poor boy like him, who had not a friend in the world, was too absurd, in his estimation, to be entertained for a moment. He had heard the squire speak to Mr. Grant about thirty thousand dollars; but such a sum was beyond his comprehension. He did not believe any man, not even the owner of Woodville, had so much money; and of course it was nothing to him.
The constables got out of patience at last; and though they showed no signs of anger or malice, they exhibited an intention to catch him, which was much worse. One of them commenced the ascent of the pole in the centre of the tent. The circus people, who seemed to be in full sympathy with Noddy, remained neutral, for the intruders were officers of the law, and it was not prudent to oppose them.
Noddy perceived the object of his pursuers, and grasping one of the tent-ropes, he scrambled up to the very apex of the canvas structure, and crawled through the aperture around the pole. From this point he slid down to the short poles, and then dropped upon the ground, before the man in the ring could pass round to the outside of the tent. Dodging under the curtains, he reached the place which served as a dressing-room. Removing his "trunks," he hurried on his clothes, and rushed out into the open air again.
His persecutors were not in sight, and he did not lose a moment in putting a safe distance between himself and them. Precisely as a well-educated duck or other water-fowl would have done, he hastened to the river, as his most natural element. He had made a complete circuit of the town in his flight. He did not dare to show himself to a living being; for it seemed to him just as though the whole country was after him. When he reached the river, he sat down on the bank, exhausted by his efforts and by the excitement of the afternoon.
"I reckon I've got about circus enough," said he to himself,—for there was no one else to whom he could say it. "That Whippleby is worse than a heathen. I don't like any of them."
He rubbed his legs, which were not yet done smarting; and the pain seemed to be an emphatic protest against circuses in general, and the "Great Olympian Circus" in particular. But whether he liked the circus or not, it was no longer safe for him to remain with the company. He had taken "French leave" of the manager, and had cheated him out of the tights which enveloped his body from neck to heels. This thought reminded him that they did not feel at all comfortable, and he wished the manager had his own again.
Having abandoned the circus profession in disgust, he wondered what he should do next. It was useless for him to stay in the vicinity of Woodville; and the only safe plan for him to adopt was, to go away to some other part of the country, or go to sea at once. He could not tolerate the idea of leaving without letting Bertha know where he was. The officers were on his track, and he could not hope always to escape them. The court-house was terrible, and prompt action was necessary.
He must have a sight of Bertha, even if he did not speak to her; and at the risk of being captured, he determined to stay in the neighborhood of Woodville till the next morning. Near the place where he sat there was a skiff moored to the bank. He hauled it in, and took up the oars. He did not mean to steal it, only to borrow it till the next morning. With this comfortable reflection he cast off the painter, and pulled over to the other side of the river.
It was now quite late in the evening. He had not eaten any supper, and, like other boys, he was always hungry at meal times. He wanted something to eat; and it occurred to him that there were generally some crackers and cheese in the locker of the Greyhound, and he rowed down to her moorings. He found what he wanted there, and made a hearty supper. He was satisfied then, and soon went to sleep in the stern-sheets of the sail-boat.