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- Try and Trust - 3/42 -
Herbert received the letter from the doctor's hands and read it through with feelings of mortification and anger.
Here it is:
"DEAR SIR: I have to acknowledge yours of the 10th inst. I regret to hear of my sister's decease. I regret, also, to hear that her son, Herbert, is left without a provision for his support. My brother-in-law I cannot but consider culpable in neglecting to lay up something during his life upon which his widow and son might depend. I suspect that he must have lived with inconsiderate extravagance.
"As for myself, I have a family of my own to provide for, and the expense of living in a city like this is very great. In justice to them, I do not feel that it would be right for me to incur extra expense. You tell me that he is now fourteen and a stout boy. He is able, I should think, to earn his own living. I should recommend that he be bound out to a farmer or mechanic. To defray any little expenses that may arise, I enclose ten dollars, which I hope he may find serviceable. Yours etc.,
This cold and selfish letter Herbert read with rising color, and a feeling of bitterness found a place in his young heart, which was quite foreign to him.
"Well, Herbert, what do you think of it?" asked the doctor.
"I think," said Herbert, hotly, "that I don't want to have anything to do with an uncle who could write such a letter as that."
"He doesn't seem to write with much feeling." acknowledged the doctor.
"Feeling!" repeated Herbert; "he writes as if I were a beggar, and asked charity. Where is the money he inclosed, Dr. Kent?"
"I have it here in my vest pocket. I was afraid it would slip out of the letter, and so took care of it."
"Will you let me send it back to my uncle?" asked Herbert.
"Send it back?"
"Yes, Dr. Kent; I don't want any of his charity, and I'll tell him so."
"I am afraid, Herbert, that you are giving way to your pride."
"But isn't it a proper pride, doctor?"
"I hardly know what to say, Herbert. You must remember, however, that, as you are left quite unprovided for, even this small sum may be of use to you."
"It isn't the smallness of the sum that I mind," said Herbert. "If Uncle Benjamin had written a kind letter, or showed the least feeling in it for me, or for--for mother [his voice faltered a moment], I would have accepted it thankfully. But I couldn't accept money thrown at me in that way. He didn't want to give it to me, I am sure, and wouldn't if he hadn't felt obliged to."
Dr. Kent paced the room thoughtfully. He respected Herbert's feelings, but he saw that it was not wise for him to indulge them. He was in a dependent situation, and it was to be feared that he would have much to suffer in time to come from the coldness and selfishness of the world.
"I will tell you what to do, Herbert," he said, after a while. "You can accept this money as a loan, and repay it when you are able."
"Yes, with interest, if you prefer it."
"I shall be willing to accept it on those terms," said Herbert; "but I want my uncle to understand it."
"You may write to your uncle to that effect, if you like."
"Very well, Dr. Kent. Then I will write to him at once."
"You will find some paper in my desk, Herbert. I suppose you will not object to my seeing your letter."
"No, doctor, I intended to show it to you. You won't expect me to show much gratitude, I hope?"
"I won't insist upon it, Herbert," said the doctor, smiling.
Herbert in about half an hour submitted the following note to the doctor's inspection. It had cost him considerable thought to determine how to express himself, but he succeeded at last to his tolerable satisfaction.
"UNCLE BENJAMIN [so the letter commenced]: Dr. Kent has just shown me your reply to his letter about me. You seem to think I wish you to support me, which is not the case. All I should have asked was your influence to help me in obtaining a situation in the city, where I might support myself. I am willing to work, and shall probably find some opportunity here. The ten dollars, which you inclose, I will accept AS A LOAN, and will repay you as soon as I am able, WITH INTEREST. HERBERT MASON."
"Will that do?" asked Herbert.
Dr. Kent smiled.
"You were careful not to express any gratitude, Herbert," he said.
"Because I don't feel any," returned Herbert, promptly. "I feel grateful to you, Dr. Kent, for your great kindness. I wish I could pay you for that. I shall never forget how you attended my mother in her sickness, when there was small prospect of your being paid."
"My dear boy," said the doctor, resting his hand affectionately on Herbert's shoulder, "I have been able to do but very little. I wish I could do more. If you wish to repay me, you can do it a hundred times over by growing up a good and honorable man; one upon whom your mother in heaven can look down with grateful joy, if it is permitted her to watch your progress here."
"I will do my best, doctor," said Herbert.
"The world is all before you," proceeded Dr. Kent. "You may not achieve a brilliant destiny. It is permitted to few to do that. But whether your sphere is wide or narrow, you may exert an influence for good, AND LEAVE THE WORLD BETTER FOR YOUR HAVING LIVED IN IT."
"I hope it may be so," said Herbert, thoughtfully. "When I am tempted to do wrong, I will think of my mother."
"It is the very best thing you can do, Herbert. And now for your plans. I wish I were in a situation to have you remain with me. But as that cannot be, I will do my best to get you a place."
"I ought to be at work," said Herbert, "as I have my living to get. I want you to take that ten dollars, doctor, as part payment of the debt I owe you."
The doctor shook his head.
"I can't do that, Herbert, not even to oblige you. You were too proud to accept a favor from your uncle. You will not be too proud, I hope, to accept one from me?"
"No, doctor; I am not too proud for that. You are my friend, and my uncle cares nothing for me."
When Herbert's letter reached New York, his uncle felt a momentary shame, for he saw that his nephew had rightfully interpreted his own selfishness and lack of feeling, and he could not help involuntarily admiring the independent spirit which would not allow him to accept the proffered money, except as a loan. But mingled with his shame was a feeling of relief, as he foresaw that Herbert's pride would not suffer him to become a burden upon him in the future. He hardly expected ever to see the ten dollars returned with interest; but even if he lost it, he felt that he should be getting off cheap.
It was a week later when an incident befell Herbert which is worthy of mention, since it brought him into collision with a man who was destined to have some influence over his future life.
A neighboring farmer, for whom, during his mother's life, he had occasionally gone on errands, drove up in front of the doctor's house, and asked Herbert if he could take his horse and wagon and drive over to the mill village to get some corn ground. Herbert was rather glad to accept this proposal, not only because he was to receive twenty-five cents for so doing, but also because he was fond of driving a horse.
He was only about a mile from the mill village, when he saw approaching him a man in a light open buggy. Herbert knew every horse in Waverley, and every man, woman, and child, for that matter, and he perceived at once that the driver was a stranger. To tell the truth, he was not very favorably impressed by his appearance. The man was very dark, with black hair and an unshaven beard of three days' growth, which did not set off his irregular and repulsive features. His mouth, partly open, revealed several yellow tusks, stained with tobacco juice. On his head he wore a broad-brimmed straw hat, rather the worse for wear.
It so happened that just at this point the middle of the road was much better than the sides, which sloped considerably, terminating in gullies which were partly full from the recent rains. The road was narrow, being wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other, if each veered to the side, but not otherwise.
Herbert observed that the buggy, which was now rapidly approaching, was kept in the center of the road, and that the driver appeared to have no intention of turning out.
"What does he mean?" thought our hero. "He cannot expect me to do the whole of the turning out. I will turn out my half, and if he wants to get by, he must do the same."
Accordingly, he turned partially to one side, as much as could be
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