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- Helping Himself - 30/41 -


bought them for me in Chicago."

"He must like you, to buy you new clothes."

"No, he doesn't. My own clothes were much nicer. He sold them. He was afraid some one would know me in the others."

"I wonder what he and marm are talking about so long?"

This question Herbert was unable to answer. He did not guess how nearly this conversation affected him.

No sooner had the two entered the house than Willis Ford began.

"Mrs. Barton," he said, "I'll tell you now what brought me here."

"Go ahead," said the lady, encouragingly.

"I want you to take the boy I have brought with me to board."

"Land sakes! I don't keep a boardin' house!"

"No; but if I will make it worth your while you will take him, won't you?"

"How much will you give?" asked Mrs. Barton, shrewdly.

"Four dollars a week."

"He'll be a sight of trouble," said the lady; but there was something in her tone that satisfied Ford that she was favorably inclined to the proposal.

"Oh, no, he won't. He's so small that you can twist him round your finger. Besides, Abner will be company for him. He will be with him most of the time."

"Say five dollars and it's a bargain," said Mrs. Barton.

Ford hesitated. He did not care to spend more than he was obliged to, but it was of importance to obtain at least a temporary refuge for the boy, of whose care he was heartily tired. It seemed to him that five dollars would be enough to support the whole family in the style in which they were apparently accustomed to live. However, it was politic to make the sum sufficient to interest these people in retaining charge of the boy.

"Well," he said, after a pause, "it's more than I expected to pay, but I suppose I shall have to accept your terms. I conclude Mr. Barton will not object to your taking a boarder?"

"Oh, Joel is of no account," returned Mrs. Barton, contemptuously. "I run this house!"

Willis Ford suppressed a smile. He could easily believe from Mrs. Barton's appearance that she was the head of the establishment.

"There's one thing more," added Mrs. Barton; "you're to pay the money to me. Jest as sure as it goes into Joel's hands, it'll go for drink. The way that man carries on is a disgrace."

"I should prefer to pay the money to you," said Ford.

"You'll have to pay somethin' in advance, if you want the boy to have anythin' to eat. I've got to send to the village, and I haven't got a cent in the house."

Willis Ford took out a pocketbook. Extracting therefrom four five-dollar bills, he handed them to Mrs. Barton.

"There's money for four weeks," he said. "When that time is up I'll send you more."

Mrs. Barton's eyes sparkled, and she eagerly clutched the money.

"I ain't seen so much money for years," she said. "I'll jest look out Joel don't get hold of it. Don't you tell Joel or Abner how much you've paid me."

"I'll take care of that, Mrs. Barton. By the way, I must caution you not to believe any of the boy's stories. He's the son of a friend of mine, who's put him under my care. The boy's weak-minded, and has strange fancies. He thinks his name isn't Sam Green, and that his father is rich. Why, only the other day he insisted his name was George Washington."

"Land's sake! How cur'us!" "Of course; you won't pay any attention to what he says. He may take it into his head to run away. If he does, you must get him back."

"You can trust me to do that!" said Mrs. Barton, with emphasis. "I ain't goin' to let no five-dollar boarder slip through my fingers!"

"That's well! Now I must be going. You will hear from me from time to time."

He passed through the front door into the yard.

"Good-by!" he said.

Herbert was about to follow him, but he waived him back.

"You are not to come with me, Sam," he said. "I shall leave you for a few weeks with this good lady."

Herbert stared at him in dismay. This was something he had never dreamed of.

CHAPTER XXIX

INTRODUCES MR. BARTON

When Herbert realized that he was to be left behind he ran after Willis Ford, and pleaded for the privilege of accompanying him. "Don't leave me here, Mr. Ford!" he said. "I should die of homesickness!"

"So you would rather go with me?" Ford said, with an amused smile.

"Oh, yes, much rather!"

"I had not supposed you valued my company so highly. I ought to feel complimented. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I shall have to leave you here for a few weeks. This good lady will take good care of you."

Herbert stole a glance at Mrs. Barton, who was watching him with mingled contempt and impatience, but he did not become any more reconciled to the prospect. He reiterated his request.

"I have had enough of this," said Ford, sternly. "You will stop making a fuss if you know what is best for yourself. Good-by! You will hear from me soon."

Herbert realized the uselessness of his resistance, and sank despondently upon the grass.

"Is he goin' to stay here, marm?" asked Abner, curiously.

"Yes; he's goin' to board with us."

"Ho, ho!" laughed Abner; "he'll have a nice boardin' place!"

"Abner, you jest shut up, or I'll take a stick to you! You needn't make him any more homesick than he is. Just try ef you can't amuse him."

"Say, Sam, I guess we'll have a stavin' time together," said Abner, really pleased to have a companion. "What'll we do? Want to play leapfrog?"

"I don't feel like playing," answered Herbert, despondently.

"We might go fishin'," suggested Abner. "There's a pond only a quarter of a mile from here."

"I don't know how to fish," said Herbert.

"Don't know how to fish? What do you know how to do?"

"We don't have any chance in New York."

"Say," exclaimed Abner, with sudden interest, "is New York a nice place?"

"I wish I was back there. I never shall be happy anywhere's else."

"Tell me what you fellows do there. I dunno but I'd like to go myself."

Before Herbert had a chance to answer Mrs. Barton broke in:

"Abner, you take care of Sam while I go to the village."

"What are you goin' there for, marm?"

"I'm going to buy some sausages for dinner. We haven't got anything in the house."

"Me and Sam will go, if you'll give us the money."

"I know you too well, Abner Barton. I won't trust you with the money. Ef I gave you a five-dollar bill, I'd never see any on't back again."

"Say, mam, you haven't got a five-dollar bill, have you?" asked Abner, with distended eyes.

"Never you mind!"

"I'll tell dad ef you don't give me some."


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