A District Messenger Boy and a Necktie Party
by James Otis
A DISTRICT MESSENGER BOY.
CHAPTER II. HOME
A NECKTIE PARTY
CHAPTER I. SI'S
CHAPTER III. TOM
A DISTRICT MESSENGER BOY.
CHAPTER I. UNWILLING PASSENGERS.
"What is your name, boy?"
"Joe Curtis, sir."
"And your number?"
"Two hundred and ninety-seven."
"Very well, now listen to what I say, and see that you do exactly
as I tell you. I am going to Providence by the Sound steamer that
sails in an hour and a half; take these tickets, go to the office of
the boat, get the key of the stateroom I have engaged and paid for,
and put these satchels in it."
"Then wait near the gangway of the steamer until I come, for I
shall probably be late, as I have to take a sick friend with me. Be
sure to have the room ready, so that I can have him carried directly
from the carriage to his berth."
"I will wait for you, sir."
"What are the rates?"
"For an hour and a half, ninety cents, sir, and car fare extra if
you want me to get there in a hurry."
"Very well, here is a dollar, and see that you do exactly as I have
Joe touched his cap, took the two valises that the gentleman
pointed out to him in one corner of the office, and, staggering under
the heavy weight, started for the nearest elevated railroad station.
Joe was scarcely large enough to carry the valises; but, when he
succeeded in getting a situation in the messenger service, he knew
that he would have plenty of hard work to do, and was fully prepared
for it. .Besides, this acting the part of porter was by no means so
difficult a job as some that had been assigned to him in the past six
weeks, and he went about it as philosophically as if he had been a
man, instead of a boy only twelve years old.
Arrived at the dock, he had no trouble in getting the stateroom
key, since he had the proper tickets, and, after caring for the
baggage, it was only necessary to wait near the gang-plank until his
employer should appear.
It was by no means hard work for Joe to wait for the gentleman; in
the bustle and confusion everywhere around him he found plenty to
occupy his mind, and, forgetting how hard he had. struggled to get the
baggage down there, he thought he had been particularly fortunate in
being assigned to the work.
The moments went by so fast that, when the last bell sounded, and
Joe heard the cry of "All ashore that's going," he could hardly
believe it possible that he had been on the boat more than an hour,
waiting for the gentleman and his sick friend.
"He's got to come pretty soon, or else his stateroom won't do him
much good," Joe said to himself as he stood close by the gang-plank
with the key in his hand, ready to deliver it without delay.
But although carriage after carriage was driven up just in time for
its occupants to get on the boat, Joe's employer did not come, and the
boy began to understand that, unless he made some decided move at
once, he would be carried away.
"He told me to look out for the baggage until he came; but I don't
s'pose he meant for me to go to Providence if he didn't come."
The sailors were pulling the gang-plank ashore, and Joe saw that
his time was indeed limited. Since he had been ordered to care for
the baggage until the gentleman came, he had no idea of leaving it on
the steamer, neither did he propose to make a trip to Providence.
"I'll get the things out of the room, an' then wait on the pier,"
he said to himself as he ran up to the saloon where the stateroom was
There were a large number of passengers on the boat, and, despite
all Joe's efforts, he could not get through the crowd quickly. He
struggled and pushed, even at the risk of incurring the displeasure of
those gentlemen who were in his way, until he reached the stateroom.
To get the valises out after he was once there was but the work of a
few moments, and then he had another difficult task to reach the main
When he did get there, breathless and excited, he saw that his
efforts had been in vain, for the steamer had already left the dock,
and was so far out in the stream that; unless he had been Mr.
Giant-Stride of fairy-tale fame, he could not have leaped ashore.
"Well, this is nice!" exclaimed Joe, as he stood with a valise in
each hand, looking at the dock, on which he fancied he could see the
man who had been the cause of his involuntary voyage. "Now, what'll I
He stood looking about him in doubt and perplexity, uncertain
whether to go to the captain of the boat, and demand that he be landed
at once, or to explain the situation to some of the passengers, in the
vain hope that they might be able to aid him, when he heard the sound
of sobs close 'beside him.
"Hello! did you get carried away, too?" he asked, as he saw a boy,
not more than eight or nine years old, crying bitterly. "Come here,
sonny, an' tell me. what the matter is, for it looks as' if you an' I
were in the same scrape:"
"They're takin' me away from mamma an' papa, an' I'll just jump
overboard," was sonny's answer.
"Oh, don't get like that," said Joe, soothingly,as he placed the
valises carefully in one corner, and took the child by the hand to
reassure him. "They ar'n't to blame, 'cause they told everybody to go
on shore' that wanted to, an' we didn't go."
"I couldn't," sobbed the boy, "he held me, an' when I cried he
struck me in the face."
"The man that made me come here with him. Mamma let me go out in
the street to play if I wouldn't go away from the block; but that man
came up an' asked me if I did not want a real live pony, an' I did,
an' I went with him to get it"
"An' you forgot what you promised your mother," said Joe, sagely.
"Yes, 'cause he said it was only a little ways off; but when we'd
walked two blocks, I wanted to go home, 'and he told me he'd cut my
throat wide open if I said anything; and then we come here."
"Why, he's up an' stole you, that's what he's done," said Joe, as,
with his hands deep in his pockets, he stood contemplating the boy,
whose trouble was so much greater than his.
"Oh, dear!" wailed the child, as he hid his head in the corner, and
gave way to his grief. "I'm goin' right straight home, an' I won't
Joe was touched by the boy's distress; he forgot his own troubles,
which .were light as compared to the little fellow's, and did his best
to comfort him.
"Now, see' here,-what's your name, though?"
"Well, Ned, you couldn't get home now, so you'd better stop crying,
an' we'll see if we can't fix it in some way. Where's the man?"
"He went down-stairs when the boat started, an' he told me he'd
beat me black an' blue if I spoke to anybody while he was gone."
"An' prob'ly he would," said Joe. "If he dared to reg'larly steal
you he'd dare to do anything else; but I'll get away before he comes
up, an' I'll go an' tell the captain of the boat. Then t rather think
the man will wish he'd never'd said anything about a pony, for he'll
"No, no, don't! " cried Ned, "he'd be sure to kill me if you should
do that, an' then what good would it do me? "
"But you hain't goin' to let him carry you off, be you?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Ned, and he began to cry piteously again,
while Joe tried to soothe him by wiping away the big tears with the
cuff of his jacket.
"I think you'd better let me tell the captain," he said.
"I can't, 'cause he knows another man on the boat, an' one of them
would be sure to kill me. Why won't you let me just go with you?"
"I would if I knew where I was goin'; but you see, I'm most as bad
off as you are;" and then Joe told him of his misfortune in having
become an involuntary passenger, concluding his story by saying, "An'
I've got a mother that'll feel just as bad as yours will; it will be
worse for "her, too, 'cause she says now that father's dead I'm all
that she's got, an' every cent I make I carry home to her, 'cause she
has to work hard to get money to pay the rent."
Joe could understand very readily, by Ned's clothing, that their
homes were widely different.Had it not been for his uniform, the
messenger boy would have worn a very shabby suit of clothes, while Ned
was not only dressed expensively, but he wore what was, to Joe, the
very height of extravagance—a gold ring.
"Even if you don't know where you're goin', take me with you," said
Ned. "If you'd help me, I'd try to get away from that man,—there he
comes now; don't 'let him whip me.".
"I'll go off, so's he won't know we've been talkin', an' just as
soon as he leaves again I'll come back," said he.
He had just time enough to dart behind a pile of baggage, before
the man came up, and he needed but one glance to convince him that
Ned had good cause for fear. The man's face was so brutal looking,
that even he began to think perhaps it might not be advisable to
appeal to the captain of the steamer, lest the story should not be
believed, and he be called to an account for interfering.
The valises were still where he had left them, and, marching boldly
out, but feeling quite the reverse of what he tried to assume, he took
the baggage, not heeding the pleading look Ned gave him, and went to
the stateroom, where he remained some time, trying to make up his mind
what he could do to aid the boy who had appealed to him. He did not
for a moment entertain the idea of leaving him with that man.
Suddenly, what seemed to be a very brilliant idea came to him, and he
walked down-stairs on to the main deck again, leaving the door of the
The man was seated by Ned's side, smoking, and Joe went from one
place to another, keeping the couple in sight all the while, until he
saw him walk away with a companion who spoke to him, and looked quite
as detestable as he.
Joe made sure that the two had gone into the lower cabin, and,
running quickly to where Ned sat, he said, "Come up-stairs with me as
fast as you can, an' I'll show you what to do." Then, taking the
little fellow by the hand, he hurried to the upper deck, not looking
around, and hardly daring to breathe until they were in the stateroom,
with the door securely fastened and the blind of the window closed.
"There!" he exclaimed, triumphantly, in a whisper, "I guess this
fixes Mr. Man, an' when he tries to find you he'll think that
stealin' boys hain't so easy as he thought it was."
"But he'll come up here to get me," said Ned, hoping that there was
an opportunity for him to escape, yet frightened at the step he had
"He may come up-stairs; but how can he find you? See here, Ned,
I've got two tickets for the passage in my pocket, an' the room's been
paid for by the man I told you about. Now we can keep in here till the
boat stops, and then I guess we can give him the slip; but I hain't
thought yet how we either of us can get home."
"But s'posen he comes right up here to the door?"
"He w6n't do that. Can't you see, Ned, that he don '.t know
anything more about this room than he does of any other? We're all
right for awhile anyhow; but I guess we'll be pretty hungry, 'cause
we can't get anything to eat."
"I don't care 'bout that, if he don't get hold of me again," said
Ned, growing bright and happy as he realized his temporary safety.
The boys examined the tickets Joe had, looked curiously at the snug
little cabin, wondered what the man would say or do when he could not
find Ned, and, finally, the first novelty of the situation having
passed away, they talked of their homes.
It was the most unwise thing they could have done, so far as peace
of mind was concerned, for at the thoughts of their mothers waiting
and watching for them, both broke down. Ned lay down in the berth
without a thought of hiding his grief; but Joe, who considered it his
duty, in his position of protector to the younger boy, to appear
unconcerned, was obliged to stand by the window in order to cry
without being seen or heard, and he wiped his eyes with the curtain
until his cheeks were stained blue and green from the dye of the
fabric, in a sorrowfully ridiculous fashion.
However it happened, neither of the boys quite understood, but,
despite their deep sorrow, they both fell asleep, shortly after Joe
lay down by the side of Ned to comfort him, and did not awaken until
morning. The sun was streaming in through the slats of the blinds, the
throbbing of the engine was stilled, and everything betokened the end
of the voyage.
Neither of the boys had undressed, for they had anticipated a long,
dreary evening during which they would be very hungry, and Joe had
fully intended to walk around the boat for the purpose r of learning
what Ned's enemy was doing. They had not laid any plans, arid in this
Joe felt that they had been culpable, since, now that they were at
liberty to go on shore, neither had an idea of what course to pursue.
"While you are washing your face I will go out and see if that man
is around anywhere," said Joe, finally, "an' I'll lock the door and
take the key with me so's there won't be any chance of his gettin' in
while I'm gone."
Ned did not much like being left alone, but he made no objections,
since he could readily see that it was of the highest importance that
they should learn if the man and his companion were watching for them.
Joe went into every portion of the boat in which passengers are
allowed; but without seeing either Ned's captor or his companion. Had
he been on deck when the steamer arrived at Newport, he would have
seen the two men land there, after searching vainly for the boy they
had stolen, much as if they feared they might be called to an account
for what they had done. Of this, of course, Joe knew nothing; and when
he failed to see either of the men, he naturally feared they were
waiting on shore in the hope of catching Ned as he landed.
It was but seven o'clock, and as a number of the passengers were
yet on board, the stewards had paid no attention to the stateroom the
boys occupied; otherwise an explanation might have been made which
would have prevented both the young passengers' much trouble.
"It's morning, Ned, an' I s'pose we're in Providence," said Joe, as
he came back to the stateroom where the child was waiting, in fear and
trembling, the result of his trip on deck. "I can't see anything of
the men, an' perhaps if we go on shore now they won't catch us. We've
got to 'take these valises, for the man told me to watch 'em, an' that
means that I've got to keep right side of 'em."
Ned manfully took hold of one side of the heaviest piece of
baggage, and with anxious hearts the two left the room. At the
gangway the children were stopped by the man whose duty it was to
collect the tickets. He looked at the small boys with the large
valises, curiously; but as Joe gave him the two pieces of pasteboard
that entitled them to first cabin passages, the officer could do no
less than allow them to land.
Even though they were supposed to be in Providence, they were some
distance from the city, as they learned when they were off the pier,
and Joe said:
"Now, Ned, I'm sorry to make you do it, but we've got to walk fast
if we don't want those men to catch us," and that was sufficient to
induce the boy to do his best.
But no matter how frightened a boy may be, he cannot walk very far
on a hot morning, without breakfast, more especially if he has had no
supper the night previous; and some time before they were near the
city, both Ned and Joe were obliged to rest.
As' a matter of course, they had seen nothing of the men, and with
the feeling of freedom came the question which should have been
settled the night before,—that of where they should go.
"I declare, I don't know what we will do," said Joe, in answer to
Ned, and then he chewed a piece of straw, vigorously, as if by that
means he hoped to be aided in arriving at some satisfactory
conclusion. " You see, the trouble is that we've got all this baggage
to lug 'round, when it's about as much as we can do to get along
"Why don't you leave the things somewhere? You never can find the
man that owns 'em, even if you carry them all the way back to New
York," said little Ned, sensibly.
"That's so, bub," said Joe, "but all the same, you see he told me
to take care of them, an' I've got to do it, or else they'll blame me
at the office."
Just then an express wagon passed, which suggested to Joe a very
simple way of disposing of his burden.
"I'll tell you what we can do," he said, as he started to his feet
quickly, while his face lighted up with pleasure at the idea. " We'll
walk along until we come to an express office, an' then we'll just
send the valises on to where I work. I know we can do that, for last
week somebody sent two trunks there, an' the manager had to pay the
bill for bringing them."
Unfortunately, it never occurred to Joe that it also would be
possible to get money sufficient to pay for the passage .home by
telegraphing to the manager of the office.
"We've got a dollar," he said, as they trudged along, the valises
seemingly growing heavier each moment, "and jest as soon as we get rid
of these we'll get something to eat."
At the express office the clerk took the baggage and gave Joe a
receipt for it without un- necessary conversation. If he had not been
so busy he might have asked some questions, and thus the boys would
have been advised as to the proper course to pursue; but as it was,
they walked out, little thinking how much they might have learned, and
rejoicing that they were freed from a heavy burden.
After they had made a very satisfactory breakfast on a pie; which
Joe bought for the small sum of ten cents, in consideration of the
fact that it was not as fresh as a first-class pie should be, they
walked in the direction of the wharves as a first step towards
learning how they should get home.
It surely seemed as if they had been singularly fortunate in taking
this step, for they had gone hardly more than a block when they met a
boy about ten years old, who appeared to know all about it. It was not
a difficult matter to make his acquaintance, for he met their advances
considerably more than half-way, and in a. few moments the three were
comfortably seated on some barrels near the pier, discussing the
CHAPTER II. HOME AGAIN.
"You see you have to go up that way to get to New York,!" said the
boy, pointing with an air of wisdom, "an' if you fellers want to get
home real bad, I'll carry you there tomorrow myself in a boat."
"How long would it take you? " asked Joe, just a trifle doubtful as
to whether this boy could do as much as he said he could.
"Only two or three hours if we have a fair wind."
"But we was all night comin' down in the steamer," remarked Joe,
"That's nothin'," said the boy, contemptuously, "for this boat I'm
goin' to take you in can sail more'n four times as fast as any steamer
you ever saw. Why, she sailed right around Tom Stevens's boat the
other day, an' there wasn't any wind at all. I tell you what it is,
just you come up here with me an' see her, then you'll know what she
There was no reason why the boys should not accept the offer, since
they had plenty of time at their disposal, and they started at once.
"What's your name?" asked Joe, thinking that perhaps it might be as
well to call the boy by his right name, as to be obliged to attract
his attention by "I say," or "look here."
"Bartholomew West," was the prompt reply, as the boy looked around
much as if he expected they had heard of him, and would recognize the
name. at once. Not seeing the flush of joy he had expected would
lighten up the faces of his acquaintances when they knew who he was,
he walked on ahead, much as if he were angry, until they arrived at
the end of the street at the water's edge.
Bartholomew pointed to a beautiful little yacht that was riding at
anchor a short distance from the shore, and said, in a tone of
"That's the boat!"
Joe and Ned stood looking at her with such undisguised admiration
that Bartholomew seemed willing to forgive their ignorance in not
knowing him, and at once entered into a detailed account of what the
yacht had done in the way of sailing.
"Do you s'pose you could manage her?" asked Joe. "You see I don't
know anything about boats, an' of course this little shaver here
"Manage her? Why, I could sail a whole ship all alone if I wanted
to," was the confident reply. "Now you fellers be ready just as soon
as it's light to-morrow mornin', an' we'll start."
"Then you'll have to come back alone," and Joe began to fear that
they were accepting too much from this new acquaintance, who must
belong to some important family in the city since he was the owner of
such a beautiful craft.
"Well, I hain't sure but I shall stay in New York after I get
there, an' if I do I'll give you fellows lots of sails in the boat.
You see I'm-"
Bartholomew had assumed a confidential tone, much as if he were
about to impart some important secret; but evidently concluded not to,
since he stopped suddenly, and looked as if he had already betrayed
"Why can't we go now? " asked Ned, who was growing more and more
homesick each moment.
"We can't start until to-morrow morning," said Bartholomew,
decidedly, "'cause we couldn't get the boat till then. You see some of
the men will be aboard of her pretty soon now."
"Couldn't get the boat? " repeated Joe, in surprise. "Why can't you
have her whenever you want her, if she's yours?"
"W ell- well—you see some other fellers are going to have her to-
day," said the. boy, in confusion.
"If she was my boat I wouldn't lend her to anybody," .said Ned,
gazing at the beautiful yacht.
"I have to sometimes.," said Bartholomew; "but we can get her
to-morrow mornin' if we're down here early enough."
It never occurred to Joe that his new acquaintance intended to
steal the yacht; he had no idea but that the boy owned her, although
it did seem a little queer that he did not offer to take them on
board then. "But what'll we do all dayan' to-night?" he asked,
finally. "We hain't got but ninety cents, an' -"
"Ninety cents!" exclaimed the yacht-owner. "Have you fellers got
ninety cents?" Joe explained how it happened that they had that
amount, and Master West was so delighted that he acted very much as if
he wanted to embrace them. "You stay right with me," he said, as he
took each by the arm in an affectionate manner, walking with them
directly away from the water. I'll show you where you can sleep, an'
nobody won't ever find you. Now come. up with me, so's we can get what
"What we want?"
"Why, yes, if we're goin' to sail from here to New York we've got
to have some things to eat; so we'll go up an' get some candy, an'
some peanuts, an' crackers, an' a lot of things."
Joe was not just certain whether or no it was wise for him to spend
his money, although it did seem as if it was his duty to do so since
Bartholomew was going to take them home.
He did as the owner of the yacht proposed, spending half of his
money in the purchase of such dainties as Master West fancied, and
then, in order to see if they had been cheated, as Bartholomew
proposed, they sat down on a doorstep to test the goods.
I t seemed to Joe as if Master West ate a much larger proportion of
the articles he had purchased than was strictly necessary in order to
learn whether they were as they had been represented, since more than
half the stock had been consumed before the question was decided. Of
course Ned and Joe ate some of the dainties; but they only tasted of
them, while Bartholomew had a regular feast, and only stopped when, by
eating as much as possible, he had lost his appetite for such things..
After this repast was ended, and the remainder of the eatables
packed away in Joe's and Ned's pockets, Bartholomew appeared to have
lost his desire to show his new acquaintances around the city; he
still said that he would carry them to New York on the following
morning, but he seemed to think that they should be able to care for
themselves until then.
"I've got to lay 'round so's to find out whether anybody's goin' to
be on the boat this evenin'," he said, "an' you fellers had better
wait on the wharf awhile. Perhaps we can all sleep on board the boat
to-night, an' if we can, I'll come back for you and take you aboard."
"Where are you going now?" asked Joe.
"Over near where the boat is."
"Why can't we go with you?"
"It wouldn't do, 'cause somebody might see you, an' then they would
know what we was up to."
"What if they should?" asked Joe, quickly, beginning to think that
the yacht-owner did not appear to have many rights on board of his
own vessel. " Can't you take your boat when you want to?"
"Oh, I'll tell you all about it to-morrow, after we're on the way
to New York," said Master West. "You stay right around the wharf till
I come back."
Before either Joe or Ned could prevent him, he had darted away in
the direction of the yacht, leaving his two friends at whose expense
he had just been feasting to look out for themselves.
"' Do you know, Ned, I don't believe that feller owns the whole of
the boat, 'cause he acts so queer about her, an' I'm almost sorry we
spent that money for what we did. You see, it belongs to the office,
and when I get back an' tell the manager that I had to spend it to get
something to eat, he'll take it out of my wages."
"' I wish we was home, an' my papa would give you the money to pay
back," said Ned, warmly. '" Oh, dear, have we got to stay here a
whole night? "
"I'm 'fraid we have, Ned, an' it makes me feel awful bad to think
about mother. She must be about crazy 'cause I don't come home, an' as
likely as not the manager thinks I run away with the money."
"My papa had gone away, so he don't know that I didn't come home,"
said Ned, with quivering lip; "but my mamma is feeling as bad as yours
"Yes, Ned, but we won't talk about it now, 'cause it don't make me
feel very good. We'll wait awhile, an' if that West boy don't come,
we'll start off somewhere, 'cause I'd rather walk than stay 'round
"Don't you s'pose the captain of the steamboat would let us go
back, if we should tell him what made us come here? I'm sure my
mother would pay him when we got home," said Ned.
"Do you s'pose she'd have money enough? You know it would cost much
as two or three dollars apiece."
"Course she's got enough. Why, sir, if she wanted as much as twenty
dollars she could get it, my mother could."
"Then let's go right down to the steamboat an' see if they'll take
us, —you are a sensible little chap," and Joe started to his feet;
but he stopped, suddenly, as a second thought came to him. "It
wouldn't do to go, 'cause the man that stole you is waitin' round
there, prob'ly, an' he'd catch you sure."
"Oh, dear, I'd forgot all about him," said the child.
Joe made no reply; seated on a pile of boards, with his chin in his
hands, he gave himself up to the most gloomy reflections, so hopeless
did the case, seem. He had remained in this sorrowful attitude some
moments, with Ned silent by his side, when both were startled by a
"Hello, there I why hain't you up to the office?"
Joe sprang to his feet. He saw just behind him a boy about his own
age, in the uniform of a district messenger. "Why, you hain't one of
our boys, .are you? Where did you corne from?" continued the
Joe looked first at the uniform and then at the boy that wore it,
as if uncertain whether he could trust the evidence of his own
senses. " Well," said the messenger, "what's the. matter with .you
now? Does it overcome you very much to see me?"
"Where did you come from?" asked Joe.
"Corne from? Why, I belong here. What are you doip'? Where do you
"In New York."
"New York!" exclaimed the boy, and he uttered a prolonged whistle.
"You don't mean to say that you was sent way down here with a
message, do you?"
"See here," Joe made up his mind in an instant, "I'm in an awful
bad scrape, an' so is this little feller; sit down here an' I'll tell
you all about it."
"All right; but I guess we'd better get behind those barrels,
'cause if anybody should see me they'd think I ought to go back to
the. office, even if I have got half an hour off."
A convenient place for conversation was found behind some barrels,
where the two were almost completely screened from view, and then Joe
told the story; but not without many interruptions in the way of
exclamations of surprise, almost incredulity, from his brother
messenger. He concluded by telling the story of their meeting with
Master West, and his offer to take them to New York in his yacht.
"Was it Bart West that you met?" asked the boy.
"His name was Bartholomew."
"An' where is the boat? "
Joe explained, as well as he was able, the locality in which they
had seen the yacht, and the messenger said, quickly:
"Well, you don't want to have anything to do with that feller,
'cause he's a reg'lar duffer. He's too lazy to work, an' he hangs
'round the city like a loafer. That boat hain't his at all. I know who
owns her. Bart West hain't got money enough to buy one end of a punt.
He was goin'. to steal the yacht, that's what he was goin' to do, if
he was goin' to do anything, an' if you had gone off with him, you'd
got into a pile of trouble."
Quite naturally, both Joe and Ned were alarmed at the narrow escape
they had had, for they would have gone with Bart West without a
"Well, how are you goin' to get home?" asked the Providence boy.
"That's just what we don't know. We don't dare to go to the
steamer, 'cause that man might catch Ned again. I'm afraid we'll have
to walk, if that West boy don"t own the boat."
"Walk !" echoed the messenger, "why, it would take you a year to do
it, an' then I hain't sure that you could get there."
"Well, what can we do? Can't you help us somehow, if you know all
the folks here?" .
"I s'pose I could," said the new acquaintance, as he rubbed his
chin, reflectively. If I should tell our manager about it, I guess he
could telegraph to New York to find out if it was all right; an' then
he could fix it so's you could go back on the boat; but he couldn't
send the other feller, 'cause, you see, he hain't one of the crowd."
"Oh, don't go away an' leave me here, will you, Joe?" asked Ned,
imploringly, a sense of utter loneliness coming over him as he
thought of what might happen to him if he were left alone.
"Indeed, I won't, Ned. If we can't get home together, I'll stay and
go with you, if we have to walk every step of the way."
Ned stole his hand shyly into Joe's, to thank him for the promise,
and the messenger said, in a tone of superior wisdom:
"You see, if he was a messenger, like we are, it would be all
right; but I'm most sure our manager wouldn't have anything to do with
him. But you stay here, an' I'll tell him what you've said, an' .then
I'll come back to let you know . what he's going to do about it."
The boy leaped out of the hiding-place, running swiftly towards the
office, as if he would scorn to walk while he had his uniform on, and
Ned and Joe were left alone, two very forsaken-feeling little'
fellows, even though there was a faint prospect. that they might
escape from their present difficulty.
Joe was obliged to repeat, again and again, to his weary little
charge, that he would remain with him, and they were talking of what
they would do in case they were obliged to walk home, when suddenly
they heard Master West calling to them.
"Well, what is it?" asked Joe, coolly, feeling that he had good
cause for complaint against this boy, who would have allowed them to
get into trouble by going away in a stolen boat.
"Come up-town, an' let's get some more things, for we hain't got
half enough to last us to New York."
"I guess not," said Joe. "I hain't goin' to spend any more money
for such things, and, too, we won't go with you in the boat if we
never get home."
"Why not?" and Bartholomew stood before them, a perfect picture of
"Well, you see we hain't sure that you own the boat, an' we
concluded not to run any risks."
"S'posen I don't own the boat, so long as I can get her. I'll fix
all that, an' you've only got to come along."
"I guess we can walk, thank'ee. We'd rather do that than steal a
"Oh, you're too much of a girl to suit me, if you don't dare to do
a little thing like that," said Master West, loftily, and then he
walked slowly away, much as if he expected the' boys would call him
back, when they found that he was really intending to leave them to
"We want to get home pretty bad," said Joe; "but not so much that
we're willing to steal a boat to go in."
"All right, you can stay here, an' starve to death, for all I care.
You'll be sorry, though."
"You'll be sorry, Bart West," cried a voice from up the street;
"but you can't get any messenger boy to go in with you when you're
goin' to steal Mr. Longley's yacht."
"Then it was you, George Browning, who told these fellers that the
boat wasn't mine?" said Bart, angrily.
"Yes, it was," replied the messenger, who appeared excited, "an'
these fellers can get home without you, for our manager says he'll pay
their fare. He. telegraphed to New York, an' if the little feller's
name is Edward Hawley, he's goin' to give 'em all they want to eat,
an' buy a stateroom, an' they are to go like reg'lar swells."
"'Tis Edward Hawley," piped Ned, jumping up on his tired little
It was not many seconds before Joe and Ned were out from behind the
barrels, questioning George, in breathless excitement.
"The manager of your office had telegraphed down here,to know if
you come on the boat," said George, as soon as the boys gave him an
opportunity to speak, " an' to pay your fare back if you was here. So
when I told our manager, he knew all about it. Then when I told him
about the other feller, he said folks in New York had been
telegraphing all around the country for a boy by the name of Edward
Hawley. Now you'd better come up to the office, an' everything'll be
As may be imagined, it was not many moments before Joe and Ned were
telling their stories to the manager of the office in which George
was employed, and then their troubles were over. The fact that they
were in Providence, and safe, was telegraphed to New York at once, and
George was. detailed to show the boys around the city until time for
the boat to leave, for Mr. Hawley had sent word that Ned should be
supplied with what he needed to make him comfortable and happy.
Nothing more was seen of Master West, and the two boys returned to
New York on the same steamer on which they had been involuntary
passengers the night previous.
"Hello, there's the man come to look for his valises," said Joe,
next morning, as he and Ned stood by the rail while the steamer was
being warped into the dock. "I s'pose he'll be mad, now, 'cause I sent
them on by express."
"' Why, that's my father!" exclaimed Ned, when Joe had pointed his
employer out from among the crowd on the pier.
It was indeed the case; and the .reason why Mr. Hawley had not come
to relieve Joe, was that word of Ned's non-appearance at home had
been sent to him nearly an hour before the steamer sailed.
Joe went back, to the office, after he had been home to see his
mother, but he did not remain there very long, for Mr. Hawley gave him
a position in his store, in return for his kindness to Ned, and to-day
the district messenger boy is in a fair way to become a successful
DAN HARDY'S CRIPPY.
Among the flock of geese that toddled in and out of Farmer Hardy's
barn-yard last winter, hissing in protest at the ice which covered
the pond so that there was no chance of a swimming match, was one
remarkable neither for its beauty, nor its grace. This particular
goose was gray, and was looked upon with no special favor by Mrs.
Hardy, who had great pride in all the flock but the gray one.
When .it was a little fluffy, drab-colored gosling, one of the
sheep had stepped on it, crushing out its life so nearly that Mrs.
Hardy had no idea it would ever recover, but Dan begged for its life.
He felt sure he could set the broken leg, and he pleaded so hard that
his mother finally allowed him to make the attempt.
And he did succeed. The gosling was naturally a strong little
thing, and, thanks to Dan's nursing, was soon able to limp around the
shed that had been converted into a hospital. One of its legs was
nearly a quarter of an inch shorter than the other; but the little
fellow increased in strength as rapidly as he did in size, and seemed
to consider Dan as his owner and especial protector.
Like Mary's lamb, it followed Dan about whenever the opportunity
offered, until "Crippy"—which was the name Dan had given it—was
known in the village quite as well as the boy was.
Many were the long walks, confidential chats, when the boy talked
and the goose cackled, that Dan and Crippy had, and, when the
preparations for the Thanksgiving festival were begun, the gray goose
was decidedly the fattest in the flock. Dan had always given Crippy a
share of his luncheon, or had supplied for him a separate and private
allowance of corn, and by this very care of his pet did he get into
"Dan's goose is the largest and the fattest, and I think we had
better kill him for the .Thanksgiving dinner," Dan heard his father
say, three days before Thanksgiving; and Mrs. Hardy had replied:
"I had thought of that; gray feathers never bring as much money as
white ones, and the goose is terribly in the way; he is always in the
house, and always directly under foot."
Dan could hardly believe his own ears. The thought of killing and
eating Crippy seemed wicked. Why, he would as soon have thought his
parents would serve him up for dinner, as Crippy, and as for eating
any of his pet, it would, to his mind, be little short of cannibalism.
"You wouldn't be so wicked as to kill Crippy, would you, Mother?"
he asked, while the big tears came into his eyes, almost spilling over
"Why not?" Mrs. Hardy was so busily engaged in her work of making
mince pies that she did not notice the sorrow on Dan's face. "Why
not? He's only a goose, and gray. We've got to have one, and Crip is
"But, mother, I couldn't have poor Crippy killed. He an' I do love
each other so much."
"Now don't be foolish about a goose, Danny. Come help me stem these
Dan said nothing more, for he knew by the way she had spoken that
his mother had fully made up her mind, and that it would be useless
to try to induce her to change her cruel plans. He stemmed the raisins
as she had requested; but he worked as quickly as possible, and when
the task was done he ran out to the barn.
When the gray goose toddled towards him immediately he opened the
barn door, cackling and hissing with delight at seeing his young
master, the tears, which Dan had managed to keep back, came at last,
and, with the goose in his arms, he seated himself on the barn floor
with a feeling in his heart that he and Crippy were the two most
unhappy and abused fellows in the world.
"0 Crippy! they say they're goin'to kill you, an' I'd a heap sooner
they'd kill me! What shall we do, Crippy? "
The goose made no reply; he was perfectly content to nestle down in
Dan's arms, and, so far as he could see, he and his master were in
remarkably comfortable quarters.
Much as the goose had been petted by Dan, the affection bestowed
upon him just then seemed to surprise him, and, while the boy was
still crying over. him, he struggled until he got away, when he limped
over to the corn-bin as a gentle reminder that grain would please him
far better than tears.
During that day and the next Dan spent his time alternately begging
for Crippy's life and petting him; but all to no purpose, so far as
inducing his mother to change her mind was concerned.
On the following morning the gray goose was to be killed, and Dan
could see no way to save him.
That afternoon he spent the greater portion of his time with the
doomed Crippy, crying and talking until all the fowls must have
wondered what the matter was, for, there being no almanac in the barn,
of course they could have no idea Thanksgiving was so near. Suddenly
Dan thought of a plan by which Crippy might be saved. It was a
desperate one, and almost frightened him as he thought it over; but
with his pet's life in the balance he could not hesitate at anything.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Crippy," he said, as he succeeded in
making the goose remain quietly in his arms by feeding him with corn.
I' Uncle Robert lives in New York, an' he's awful good. I know if we
could find him he could save you. Now I'll get up in the night, an'
come out here for you. It's only seven miles, an' I'm most sure we
could walk there in a day. Then if he won't come out here to see
mother, Thanksgiving will be gone, an' they can't have you. for
Crippy swallowed the corn greedily, and Dan looked upon this as a
sign that he not only understood what had been said, but was eating
an unusually hearty meal by way of preparation for the journey.
Under any less desperate circumstances Dan could not have been
persuaded to go away from home for an hour without asking his mother's
permission, and even as he was situated then, he felt that he was
about to do something which was almost wicked. But since he could save
Crippy's life in no other way, what could he do? He almost felt as if
by taking the goose away he was preventing his parents from committing
a crime, for it could hardly be less than one to kill so intelligent
and loving a creature.
But though he tried to persuade himself that what he was doing was,
under the circumstances, a favor to his parents, there was a big lump
in his throat. as he did his work that night, and realized that in a
few hours neither his father nor his mother would know where he was.
He was more than usually careful about the kindling-wood and the
water, and when his mother spoke to him so kindly, he had the greatest
difficulty in keeping his secret.
It was only the thought that he was by no means "running away" that
prevented him from telling his mother what he intended to do. He
argued with himself that he was only going to uncle Robert's on
business, and that he should return the day after he arrived there;
that would be entirely different from running away.
During the evening Dan worked hard at a message which he was to
leave for his parents, feeling obliged to take every precaution lest
they should see what he was about; and after the most painful efforts
he succeeded in printing this note:
CRIP ME HAVE GORNE TO UNKLE ROBERTS TO GET HIM TO COME UP HERE TO
KOAX YOU NOT TO KILL CRIP. WE WILL COME RIGHT BACK. DANIEL K. HARDY.
Dan had six cents, which he had earned carrying milk, and his
preparations for the journey consisted simply in putting these in his
pocket, together with some corn for Crippy, and in placing the little
clock and some matches by the side of his bed, so that he might be
able to tell when the proper time had come for him to start.
Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Hardy were surprised by Dan's unusually
affectionate manner when he' bade them good-night; but, if they were,
nothing was said about it, and the inmates of the Hardy farmhouse
retired on the night before the proposed execution of poor Crippy at
the usual early hour of nine o'clock.
Dan's idea was to lie awake until three in the morning, then steal
cautiously out of the house, get Crippy, and start. But it was much
harder work to remain awake than he had fancied, and before he had
been in bed an hour he was sleeping soundly.
But even though his eyes persisted in closing despite his will, Dan
did not sleep very long at a time. He was awake at least every half
hour and his small stock of matches was exhausted as early as two
o'clock. With no means of procuring a light, it would be impossible
for him to know when the time had come, and, since he did not dare to
go to sleep again, he concluded it would be better to set out at once
than run the risk of delaying until his father should awaken.
During the time he was making very awkward attempts to dress
himself in the darkness, his fingers trembling violently, both from
fear and the cold, he fancied each moment that he could hear his
parents moving around, as if they had suspected his purpose, and were
on the alert to prevent him from carrying it into execution. It
seemed, too, as if each particular board in the floor creaked in
protest at what he was doing, and to give the alarm.
The note which was to inform his parents of where he had gone was
placed conspicuously on the chair by the bed, where his mother could
not fail to see it when she came to awaken him; and when that was done
his journey seemed more like some demand of business, and less like
disobedience to what he knew his parents' command would be.
He did finally succeed in dressing himself, although his jacket was
buttoned in a very curious fashion; and then, with his shoes and
mittens in his hands, he started down-stairs. If the boards of the
floor had tried to arouse his parents, the stairs appeared bent on
awakening the entire household,—although he did his best to put as
little weight as possible upon them, they creaked and screamed in a
most alarming fashion.
It seemed strange to him that his parents could sleep while so much
noise was being made; but when he finally succeeded in closing the
outside door behind him, there had been no sign made to show that his
departure was known.
Dan was so nervous and excited that he hardly felt the frost when
he stepped, with stockinged feet, upon the snow; but instinct prompted
him to put on his boots and mittens, and it only remained to get
Crippy and start.
He almost expected that the goose would be waiting for him at the
stable door when he opened it; but, since he knew he should find his
pet in 'the warm box he had made for him, he was not greatly
disappointed at not seeing him ready for the journey. Besides, he had
come an hour before he told Crippy he would be there, which was
sufficient reason why the goose was not ready and anxious to start.
After groping his way around the barn to the corner in which was
Crippy's sleeping apartment, Dan. was considerably surprised because
the goose was so very careless, both in regard to his safety, and the
possibility of arousing the household. He cackled and hissed when Dan
took him from the box, as if he preferred to be killed and served up
for the Thanksgiving dinner, rather than go out-of-doors so early on a
Dan whispered that he knew it was hard to be obliged to start so
early, but that they must do so, and the more he explained matters the
harder the goose struggled, until it seemed much as if the attempt to
save Crippy's life would be a dismal failure.
"I'm doin' this so's you won't have to be killed, Crippy,"
whispered Dan, as he held the goose tightly clasped in his arms "an'
it does seem's if you might help a feller, instead of tryin' to wake
up father an' mother."
Perhaps Crippy was weary with struggling,- Dan thought he began to
realize his position, —for he ceased all protests after his master's
last appeal, and, with his head tucked under Dan's coat, submitted
quietly to the rescue.
If he had not repeated to himself so many times that he was not
running away from home, but simply going to uncle Robert's, to save
poor ~ Crippy's life, Dan would have felt that he was doing something
wrong because of the warning cries uttered by everything around. The
stable door, when he tried to close it softly, shut with a spiteful
clatter, and even the snow gave forth a sharp, crunching sound, such
as he had never heard before. But he must keep on, for to remain would
be to see the plump, brown body of poor Crippy on the Thanksgiving
dinner-table, while to go on would be, at the worst, but a few hours'
discomfort, with Crip's life as the reward.
Once they were out-of-doors Crippy behaved much as if he had
suddenly realized how important it was for him to get away from the
Hardy farm, and Dan had no trouble with him while he was passing the
There seemed to be an unnatural stillness everywhere, amid which
the crunching of the dry snow sounded with a distinctness that almost
frightened the boy, who was simply going to his uncle Robert's to
spend a day or two. But finally Dan was on the main road, where the
snow was frozen so hard that his footsteps could not be heard as
distinctly, and where the two tracks worn smooth by the runners of the
sleighs lay spread out before him, looking like two satin ribbons on
Dan trudged slowly on, his heart growing lighter as the moments
went by and he knew he had actually gotten away without arousing
anyone; but after he had walked some distance he began to realize how
heavy Crippy was. He had thought he could carry his pet almost any
length of time; but at the very commencement of his journey his arms
began to ache.
"It's no use, Crippy, you'll have to walk some of the way," he
said, as he put the goose on the snow, and then started off to show
him he must follow. Now a moonlight promenade on the snow, in the
morning, with the thermometer several degrees below zero, was not at
all to Crip's liking, and he scolded most furiously in his goose
dialect, but he took good care to run after his master at the same
As Mrs. Hardy had said, Crippy was very fat, and when he toddled on
at full speed he could only get along about half as fast as his
master, so that Dan's journey was made up with alternately trudging
over the frozen road, and waiting for his pet to overtake him.
And soon it was necessary to make a change even in this slow way of
travelling, for before Crippy had been half an hour on the road he
began to evince the most decided aversion to walking, and it became
necessary for Dan to take him in his arms again. On he walked,
carrying Crippy the greater portion of the time, and coaxing him along
when it became absolutely necessary for him to give his aching arms a
little relief, until the sun came up over the hills, and he could see
the great city but a short distance ahead of him.
During all this time he had not stopped once to rest; but now,
since he was so near his destination, at such an early hour in the
morning, he sat down in the snow, and began to arrange with the
discontented Crippy as to how they might best find uncle Robert, for
Dan had not the slightest idea of where his relative lived.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Crip," he said, as he gave the goose
a handful of corn, contenting himself with half a biscuit he had taken
from the supper-table the night previous. " We'll walk right along
till we see uncle Robert, or some of the folks. It's the day before
Thanksgiving, you know, an' some of 'em will be sure to be out buyin'
Crippy had finished eating the corn as his master ceased speaking,
and he looked up side- ways into Dan's face much as if he doubted the
success of their plan if carried out in that manner.
"Well, if we don't find him that way, we'll ask some of the boys"
an' they'll be sure to know," said Dan, replying as earnestly to
Crippy's look as if his pet had spoken. .
Then the weary journey was resumed, much to Crippy's displeasure,
even though he was carried comfortably in Dan's arms, and it was not
until the outskirts of the city were reached that the goose was
requested to walk. There the pavements were free from snow, and Crippy
could move along much faster than on the icy road; but yet his
progress was far from satisfactory.
The great number of people, all of whom regarded the boy and the
goose curiously, bewildered both the travellers. More than once, when
Dan was sure Crippy was close at his heels, on looking around he would
see the goose, standing on one foot near the curbstone, looking
sideways at the street, much as if trying to decide whether he would
continue to follow his master, or toddle back home as fast as his legs
of unequal length would carry him.
"Oh, come on, Crippy," Dan said, in a tone that showed plainly how
tired and discouraged he was. "We sha'n't ever find uncle Robert this
way, an' if a strange dog comes along, where will you be ? "
It seemed very much as if Crippy had not realized that he might
chance to meet a dog, until Dan spoke of it, for then he ran
hurriedly on, as if he fully understood the danger that might come to
him by loitering on the way.
But there were other enemies besides dogs, which Crippy was to meet
with, as he and Dan learned when they reached the more densely
populated portions of the city, and those enemies were boys.
Dan was walking slowly on, looking first at the houses, in the hope
of seeing some of his uncle's family, and then at Crippy, to make
sure he was following, when half a dozen boys, who had been watching
the singular pair from the opposite side of the street, made a sudden
dash at the goose.
The first intimation Dan had that his pet was in danger was when he
heard the shouts of the boys, followed by Crippy's angry hiss, and the
flapping of his wings. Quickly turning, Dan saw the goose closely
pressed by the boys, all of whom were trying to catch him; and some of
whom already had one or more feathers as trophies.
It did not take Dan many moments to catch his pet up in his arms,
and then he stood ready to do battle for the goose, while the city
boys advanced towards him, threateningly.
There could have been but one result to such a battle, where six
boys attacked one who was hampered in his movements by the goose, and
some serious injury might have been done to both Dan and Crippy, had
not a policeman come from around the corner just at that instant.
Dan's assailants fled at the sight of the officer, and the country
boy, with his heavy, noisy burden, continued on his journey.
There was no further interruption for nearly an hour; for when Dan
carried the goose in his arms he was by no means the object of
curiosity he was with Crippy following him. At the expiration of that
time it dawned upon him that in a place as large as New York it was
useless for him to walk around in the hope of meeting his uncle, or
any of his family.
"I declare, I don't know what to do, Crippy," he said, as he seated
himself on a doorstep with the goose by his side, and looked
mournfully up and down the street. ,. I shouldn't wonder if we hadn't
been more'n half-way 'round the city in all this time, an' yet we
hain't seen any of uncle Robert's folks. What. shall we do?"
Crippy made no reply to the question; but a boy about Dan's size,
who was looking wonderingly at the goose, as he stood on his shortest
leg in a mournful way, spoke:
"Wot is it yer don't know wot ter do? "
"I don't know how to find my uncle Robert. Crippy an' me come down
to see him, an' now we can't find his house."
"Do you call him Crippy?" asked the boy, as he nodded towards the
"Ves, he's Crippy Hardy. Mother was goin' to kill him for dinner
to- morrer, so we come down here to get uncle Robert to go up an' see
"How far have you come? "
"Did you walk? "
"Well," said the boy, as he looked at Crippy in a critical way, "it
seems to me that's a mighty mean kind of a goose ter walk so far fur.
He hain't handsome no ways, an' I think he'd look a good deal better
on ther table roasted, than he does out here on ther street."
Up to that moment Dan had been disposed to trust this boy who was
so friendly; but when he spoke so slightingly of Crippy, he was
disappointed in him.
"Vou don't know Crippy, or you wouldn't say that," replied Dan,
gravely. "I would walk seventeen times as far if it would keep him
from gettin' killed."
"Well, I tell yer wot it is," and the boy spoke like one thoroughly
conversant with geese and their ways, "he's got ter be a good deal
better'n he looks, ter 'mount to anything."
"An' he is," replied Dan; and then he gave the stranger a full
account of Crippy's sagacity and wisdom, with such success that, when
he had finished, the goose evidently stood high in the city boy's
"He's prob'ly a mighty nice kind of a goose," said the boy; "but it
seems to me if I had a pet I'd want one that could sleep with me, an'
you know you couldn't take this goose to bed."
"I could if mother would let me, an' I don't see why she won't, for
I know Crippy would just snuggle right down as good as anybody
For some time the two discussed the question of pets in general,
and Crippy in particular, and then the city boy remembered that his
mother had sent him on an errand which should have been done an hour
Dan felt more lonely than ever after this new-made friend had gone,
and, with Crippy in his arms, he started wearily out in search of
uncle Robert, hardly knowing where he was going. In his bewilderment
he had walked entirely around the same block four times, and an
observant policeman asked him where he was going.
Under the circumstances, Dan did not require much urging to induce
him to tell the man his story.
"Do you know your uncle's name?" asked the officer.
"Uncle Robert Hardy."
"What is his business—I mean, what kind of work does he do ? "
"He keeps store."
The officer led Dan to the nearest drug store, and there, after
consulting the directory, told him there were several Robert Hardys
mentioned, at the same time giving him a list of the names.
Dan took the paper with the written directions upon it, feeling
more completely at a loss to know how to proceed than he had before,
and it was in a dazed way that he listened to the instructions as to
how he should find the nearest Hardy.
But he started bravely off, still carrying Crippy, who seemed to
have' doubled in weight, and when he had walked half an hour in the
direction pointed out by the policeman, he appeared to be no nearer
his destination than when he started.
"What can we do, Crippy?" he cried, as again he took refuge on a
doorstep, weary, hungry, and footsore. He had seen no opportunity to
buy a breakfast with his six cents; it was then long past his usual
time for dinner, and his hunger did not tend to make him more
The goose was as unable to answer this question as he had been the
ones Dan had previously asked, and the only reply he made was a loud
cackling, which, in his language, signified that he thought it quite
time that he had some dinner.
By this time, and Dan had not been on the doorstep more than five
minutes, a crowd of boys gathered around, all disposed to make sport
of the goose, and to annoy the boy. . "Say, country, why don't you
sell your . goose? "
"Where did the bird find you? "
"Does yer mother know you're so far away from home? "
These and other equally annoying questions Dan listened to, until
he could no longer control himself, and he cried to his tormentors:
"See here, boys, if you had somethin' you thought a good deal of,
an' it was goin' to be killed an' roasted for dinner, what would you
The boys were too much surprised by the question to reply, and Dan
continued, earnestly: "This goose is Crippy, an' I've had him ever
since he was a baby, an' got his leg broke. We come in here to find
uncle Robert so's he could tell mother not to kill poor Crip, an' now
we can't find him, an'-an'- well, we're jest two as lonesome fellers
as you ever saw, an if you knew jest how we did feel you wouldn't
stand there, pokin' fun at us.
For a moment none of Dan's tormentors spoke, and then the tallest
one said, sympathetically, as he seated himself by the country boy's
side to show that he took both the boy and the goose under his
"They sha'n't plague you any more, an' ef I'd 'a' known how you was
feelin' I wouldn't 'a' said a word. Now tell us all about it."
Dan was in that frame of mind where he needed sympathy, and he told
the whole story, while the entire party stood around, interrupting
him now and then by exclamations of surprise that his parents should
have been so cruel as to even think .of killing that faithful Crippy.
This consolation, even though it did Dan no material good, was very
sweet to him, and he would have continued to sing the praise of his
pet, had not one of the boys proposed that an effort be made to find
uncle Robert's house. Then each one had a different plan to propose,
none of them thinking that .at that hour-four o'clock in the afternoon
~ it might be an act of charity first to give Dan and Crippy something
It surely seemed as if this discussion as to how the search should
be begun would continue until it would be too late to do anything, and
while each one was stoutly maintaining that his plan was the best, an
old-fashioned sleigh, drawn by a clumsy-looking horse, stopped
directly opposite where the boys were holding their conference.
"Why, father!" cried Dan, as he saw the occupant of the sleigh, and
at the same time he hugged Crippy close to him as if he believed his
father had come for the goose.
"Well, Dan, you did find your uncle Robert, after all, didn't you?"
asked Mr. Hardy as he alighted, covered old Dobbin carefully with the
robe, and then went to where Dan was sitting, already deserted by his
new-made friends, who feared Mr. Hardy was about to inflict some
"No, sir, I didn't find him," faltered Dan, wondering what his
father would do to him and Crippy.
"Why, haven't you been in yet?"
"In where?" asked Dan, in surprise.
"In here, of course; this is where .your uncle Robert lives," and
Mr. Hardy pointed to the house on the steps of which Dan had been
To his great surprise, Dan learned that he had followed the
policeman's directions exactly; but, not knowing it, had neglected to
look on he house doors for his uncle's name.
In a few moments more he and his father were in the house, while
Crippy was in the kitchen actually gorging himself with food.
When Mr. Hardy found the note Dan had left, he was not at all
worried about his son's safety; but when, later in the day, he had
leisure, he started to the city for the travellers, and, driving
directly to his brother's house, found them as has been seen.
It is easy to understand that, after all this labor on Dan's part
to save his pet, Mr. Hardy readily promised that Crippy should be
allowed to die of old age, instead of being killed and roasted, and
Dan, with Crippy hugged very close to him, started for home with his
father, sure that no boy in all the. wide world would spend a merrier
Thanksgiving than he.
Crippy was also happy on that day, if food could make him so, and
it is safe to say that, if he survives the wonderfully. big dinner
Dan proposes to give him this year, he will live to a green old age.
A NECKTIE PARTY
CHAPTER I. SI'S SCHEME.
WHEN Deacon Littlefield dismissed the pupils of the one school in
the little town of Orland, on a certain day in December some years
ago, he was at a decided loss to understand what caused such an
excitement among them before they had walked the short length of the
playground. The deacon had a very large bump of inquisitiveness on his
bald head, which, perhaps, accounted for his great desire to know why
nearly all the boys and girls had stopped beside the tiny brook that
scolded and fretted all the long summer days away, but which was now
closely encased in ice, and why they were apparently holding a very
animated discussion, despite the intensely cold weather. But the
deacon's bump of inquisitiveness was counterbalanced by one
representing dignity, and he thought that it would be hardly the
proper thing for a deacon and a school-teacher to be seen running
through the snow with a skull-cap and dressing-gown on; therefore he
watched his pupils from the window, but without being able to satisfy
his curiosity in the slightest degree.
The girls and boys were indeed in a high state of excitement.
On the noon of that same day, Agnes Morrell had, under injunctions
of strictest secrecy, told Maria Gilman and Annie Rich of a certain
plan which she had developed in her own mind. In some unaccountable
way it had been whispered around until, before recess was over, nearly
everyone, excepting Deacon Littlefield, knew that Aggie proposed
giving what she called" a necktie party." There were but two others
who knew what kind of a party this could be, and they were Maria and
Annie; therefore it is not to be wondered at that she was almost
overwhelmed by questions from the other girls, even before she was
fairly out of the schoolhouse.
As a matter of fact, the boys were equally interested; but Si Kelly
had said to his particular friends, "Now, don't let on that we care a
cent about the party, whatever it is;" and, acting under what was both
advice and a command, none of the boys had condescended to ask any
questions, although they took good care to be near Aggie when she
finally explained the purpose of the party.
"Now, this is what it is," she said, as she tied her muffler closer
about her neck, and sought shelter from the cold wind behind the high
board fence. "All of us girls must meet as often as we can, during the
coming week, to make aprons and neckties out of print. Only one apron
and one necktie is to be alike, and Walt Haley and Mr. Dilloway are
going to give us as much calico as we need."
"I thought you said you was goin' to have a party!" And Master
Kelly, forgetting his own caution to the boys not to appear interested
in the scheme, looked decidedly disappointed.
"So I am; but we are going to get money enough out of it to give
aunt Betsey Bolton a nice present."
"Oh, it's some begging thing, is it?" And although Si knew very
well that he had not a single penny about his person, he plunged his
hands deeply in his pockets, as if to prevent any inroad upon his
"It isn't anything of the kind," replied Aggie, indignantly, her
face flushing with something very nearly resembling anger until her
numerous freckles stood out quite prominently. Aggie had a large
supply of freckles, as even a very near-sighted person could see. "We
are going to have just as many boys as girls, and no one is obliged to
come. But if any boy is willing to pay ten cents' towards helping Aunt
Betsey, he buys a necktie, and the girls each buy an apron. Either one
will be worth the ten cents, so it hasn't anything to do with
"But what do you have these things to sell for? Why not let each
one give ten cents for . going to the party?" asked Winny Curtis, in
a tone that was very nearly a squeak, so shrill and peculiar was his
"That's the fun of it," replied Aggie, triumphantly. "After we
girls have made the neckties and aprons, mother will wrap each one in
paper, so that no one can tell which is which. Then when a boy buys
one of the packages, he sees what color of necktie he has got, and he
hunts for the girl that has an apron like it. He must go in to supper
with that girl, and walk home with her after the party is over."
"Are you goin' to have a supper? " squeaked Winny.
"Yes, mother says she will get a nice one for us, and that will be
the only party I am to have this winter."
"Goin' to have cake?" continued Winny, growing deeply interested,
despite Si's caution.
"Of course we are. It will be just like any party, except that each
boy will have to pay attention to the girl whose apron matches his
necktie. Now, we want all of the boys to come, because it won't be any
fun if there isn't an even pattern of aprons and neckties. We girls
are going to Maria Gilman's house tonight to begin the work, and
tomorrow morning the boys that will come must tell us, so we'll know
just how many neckties to make."
Winny Curtis, thinking more of cake than of the charitable purpose
of the party, and remembering how difficult it was for him to persuade
any of the girls to allow him to walk home with them, because of his
diminutive size and disagreeable voice, at once announced his
determination to be present. The other boys looked at Si, and as he
did not choose to commit himself, they also remained silent.
Aggie saw at once that there were more difficulties in the way of
this manner of giving a party than she had supposed. She knew that
Winny, as the only boy present, would not make matters very lively,
even though he should be willing to buy a dozen neckties, and escort
as many of the girls home.
"We'll have lots of fun," she said, "if you boys will come, for I'm
sure the girls will all be there, and while we're enjoying ourselves
we shall know that we're doing something to help aunt Betsey, who's a
good deal poorer this year than she was last."
Then Aggie understood from Si's face that he was growing more and
more opposed to the plan, and as her freckles came prominently into
view again, she said, with a show of dignity that even Deacon
Littlefield might have been proud of, as she started down the street:
" Come, girls, let's go home, so that we can get over to Maria's house
early. We'll have the party, and we'll each buy an apron."
Then Aggie walked away, followed by the girls, each one trying to
appear as if perfectly indifferent whether any of the boys came to
the party; but all thinking that it would be a very tame affair if no
one but Winny was present.
On this particular year there had been but little to amuse the
school children of Orland; therefore the girls, if not the boys, had
hailed Aggie's scheme with delight. None of the girls had openly
expressed any opinion as to the advisability of having the party for
the double purpose of enjoying themselves and helping aunt Betsey; but
it was easy to tell from their faces that the plan had their
Winny looked around him' as the girls walked away. He had but just
begun to understand that he was the only boy who had agreed to attend
the party, and it was by no means pleasant to be in opposition to Si
Kelly, who had a most disagreeable way of making sport of anyone who
did not agree with him. Nothing but the thought that he could have a
perfect feast of cake would have caused him to forget, even for an
instant, that the self-appointed leader of the boys had not approved
of the plan. Now, since he had accepted the invitation without first
consulting Si, he believed it necessary for him to make some effort to
correct what had undoubtedly been a very grave error on his part:
"Of course I sha'n't go if" the other fellers don't," he said; "I
thought you was- all in for it when I spoke."
"Well, you'd better run home now, an' see how many ten-cent pieces
you can find," said Si, in what he intended should be a scornful
tone. " You'll be the only feller to the party, and you'll have to
buy a good many neckties "
"Where are you fellers goin'?" asked Winny, feeling that he was in
"That needn't bother you any. We're goin' to have a reg'lar good
time, none of your tencent parties,—an'. you can go home now."
"But if you are to have a time, I want to be in it."
"Well, you can't, 'cause you've agreed to go to Aggie Morrell's an'
wear a ten-cent necktie; so run home, sonny, for we want to talk about
what it wouldn't do for you to hear."
Poor Winny! his desire for cake had caused him to place himself in
a most unenviable position. He knew that Si and all the boys would
call him a "girl baby" during the remainder of the winter, and he was
quite sure the fellows would get up some kind of a good time which
would be more jolly than the girls' party. He knew, however, that it
would be useless for him to say anything more after having offended
\Si, and he went sorrowfully home, while the other boys remained to
discuss a scheme their leader had decided upon on the impulse of the
"We won't have nothin' to do with the ten-cent party," the Oracle
said, as soon as Winny was so far away that he could not hear. "If
the girls had come to us an' asked what we thought of it, then
p'rhaps we'd gone in with 'em; but instead of that they fixed the
thing up to suit themselves, an' then told us what they was going to
do. Now they can have their party, and Win Curtis will be the only
It is safe to say that fully half the boys wished to go to Aggie
Morrell's, and that nearly every one would have been pleased to have
done something towards helping poor old aunt Betsey; but Si had said
that it must not be.
"But what'll we do to get even? " asked Lute Hubbard, anxiously.
"We shall have to get up something that'll be better than the party."
"I guess that won't be very hard to do," replied Si, loftily. "If I
couldn't get up a better kind of a time than following girls 'round
by their apron—strings! We'll each of us put in twenty-five cents
to hire Grout's two-horse sleigh, an' go on a ride to Bucksport for
There was no question but that Si was right. A ride to Bucksport
in Mr. Grout's handsome sleigh was the one thing the boys could enjoy,
and for the moment all desire to go to the party was forgotten. Each
boy pledged himself to raise twenty-five cents, and with some little
difficulty in "counting noses," after which Si laboriously figured up
the total amount, it was learned that they would not only have money
enough to hire the sleigh and horses, but there would be a surplus
sufficient to buy such a goodly supply of candy and nuts as would make
a really respectable feast.
"' Now that's all right, an' we'll have the sleighride," Si said;
"but we've got to fix it with the girls. Let's go back to the
schoolhouse, an' I'll write a letter to Ag Morrell that'll show her
she can't make us do just what she thinks best."
"What's the use of writin' her a letter?" asked Tom Hardy, who
wanted to get home in time to do his chores before dark. " We can
tell her in the mornin' that we hain't goin' to the party, an' that
will settle it."
"We'll write the letter," said Si, with the air of one who does not
allow himself to be contradicted. "We've got to let the girls know
that they can't do jest what they want to with us, an' I now's the
time to do it."
Then Si led the way back to the schoolhouse, knowing that every boy
would follow him; and while Deacon Littlefield was making his
preparations to leave for the night, Master Kelly wrote a letter to
Aggie. The composition and writing required no little amount of time
and labor, for if Si was the leader of the school, he was not a
remarkably brilliant scholar, and he was forced to pucker his brows
and bite his tongue a good many times before it was completed.
"There," he said, as he handed it to Tom Hardy, after he had tried
unsuccessfully to wipe off a large blot of ink with his coat sleeve,
"read that out loud, an' if it won't show them girls that they can't
do jest what they want to, then I don't know what will."
Tom read, after considerable difficulty, the following remarkable
production, which, in justice , to Si, is given here exactly as he
"MIS MOREL US BOYS DONT WANTER COME TO YOUR PARTY CAUSE WE'RE GOIN
SOMEWHERE ELSE YOU THINK YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANTER JEST CAUSE
YOUR GIRLS BUT YOU MAKE A MISTAK THE NEXT TIME YOU WANTER START
ANYTHING YOUD BETTER ASK US. ABOUT IT THEN PURHAPS YOU CAN DO
SOMETHING WE HOP YOULL HAVE A GOOD TIME AT YOUR TEN CENT PARTY BUT
DONT GET TOO MUCH MONEY SO THAT ANT BETSEY WILL THINK SHE IS RICH GET
RECKLIS. THE BOYS."
No one ventured to express an opinion on this ungentlemanly
epistle, although there were several in the party who did not think it
fair to send such a reply to the kindly meant invitation, and Si said,
with a satisfied air:
"I guess that'll show 'em what kind of fellers we are I When they
want to get up any more times, they'll find out first what we think
about it. I'll put it in her readin' book, where she'll be sure to see
it the first thing in the mornin', an' then I'll talk to Grout about
hirin' his sleigh."
Even those who were opposed to sending so harsh a reply in answer
to the invitation, did not remonstrate against the plans of their
leader, and that which was believed would be the death-blow to the
girls' necktie party was left where Aggie would be sure to see it when
she came to school next morning.
CHAPTER II. AGGIE'S SCHEME
While it is a fact that nearly every boy who had allowed himself to
be influenced by Si Kelly in the matter of refusing to attend Aggie
Morrell's necktie party was almost ashamed of himself for permitting
such a letter to be written without making protest, each one was at
the schoolhouse early next day in order to learn "what the girls were
going to do about it."
Aggie had always been a favorite with her schoolmates; but on this
particular morning, when she came into the schoolhouse a quarter of
an hour before Deacon Littlefield called the pupils to order, the
boys., with the single exception of Winny Curtis, were very careful to
keep on their own side of the room. Every fellow was anxious to hear
what she would say when she read Si's note; but no one was willing to
put himself forward more prominently than another, for even the
redoubtable Si was rather afraid of Aggie's temper.
Although Winny had no idea of what the boys were intending to do,
he was. at the schoolhouse quite as early as anyone, in order to see
all that might take place, as well as to make his peace with the boys,
if possible. Si refused positively to have anything to do with the
"ten- center," as he called Winny, and the others gave him the " cold
shoulder," acting very much as if they blamed him because they had
refused to go to the necktie party.
When the girls entered the schoolroom in a body, the boys were
gathered in the back seats, strictly following Si's commands to "act
as if nothin' was up."
It was not many moments before Aggie and her friends understood
that the boys had decided against the party; therefore, when, just
before school was opened, the letter was found, it caused but little
surprise. Indignation was the feeling that predominated, and had
Deacon Littlefield not rapped loudly on his desk, as a signal that it
was time for school to open, it is probable that Master Si would have
heard from more than one of the "ten-centers" the exact opinion they
all had regarding him.
The good old deacon knew that some great and barely suppressed
excitement among the pupils was the cause of the inattentiveness,
even on the part of those who were usually the most studious, and he
acted as if his life was particularly a burden to him during the hour
and a half that elapsed before recess. He had reproved nearly every
pupil before half-past ten, and then he said, in his most severe
"I hardly know whether you or I feel the most relieved because the
forenoon session is half finished. If it was any other time than
immediately before the holidays, I should think it my duty to inflict
extra tasks upon you all; but, under the circumstances, I propose to
do just the reverse, by increasing the length of recess, giving you
half an hour instead of fifteen minutes. After that time, I expect you
will be in a more fitting condition to give proper attention to your
studies; if such should not be the case, it will become my duty to
remind you forcibly that you must not try to unite your amusements
with your studies."
The boys, headed by Si, rushed out with their customary shout of
joy, and the girls went at once into one of the classrooms, where an
indignation meeting was held, but not called to 'order.
"It's all Si Kelly's doings!" exclaimed Aggie. " The other boys
would have been in favor of the party if he hadn't said they
shouldn't. I should think they would be ashamed of themselves to come
and go at his beck and call!"
Si's ears must have tingled during that recess, . if there is any
truth in the old saying that those useful members grow warm when their
owner is being spoken ill of, for every girl present seemed to think
it her duty to say something against him before she could discuss the
matter with calmness.
"It's no use standing here talking about that Kelly boy," Maria
Gilman said, at last. "The bell will ring, and we sha'n't have
anything settled. The question is, what are we going to do? Of course
it is foolish for us to say that we can have very much of 'a party if
all the boys stay away."
"We must have it," said Annie Rich, decidedly. "It would never do
to let them think that we had given up a good time just because they
wouldn't join us."
"Yes, we must have the party," said Aggie, thoughtfully, " and we
must make the boys come, if possible. It's no use for me to try to
study now, and I'm going to ask the deacon to let me go home. Some of
you girls catch Winny Curtis, and find out from him what the boys are
going to do. I'll think up some kind of a plan, and after school
to-night we'll see what can be done."
Then, refusing to answer a single question, but cautioning the
girls not to look as if they cared in the slightest because of the
letter, Aggie went into the schoolroom, where she had no difficulty in
getting permission to go home. As a matter of fact, Deacon Littlefield
would have been more pleased than his pupils could have been, if he
could have given them all a holiday; for trying to teach a number of
boys and girls who were in the highest state of excitement over
Aggie's proposed necktie party, was a task.
Maria and Annie "caught" Winny Curtis, as Aggie had proposed; but
the information they succeeded in getting from him was limited, for
the reason that he knew nothing of the boys' plans. All he could tell
them was that "Si Kelly was fixin' it for a reg'lar high old time,"
but, unfortunately, he had not been permitted to join them, even had
he been disposed to give up the party, where it seemed probable that
he would be the only boy among twenty-five or thirty girls.
The boys did not have as much sport out of the letter as they had
expected. The girls spoke to them pleasantly, without any reference to
what had been said or done, and they began to fear that some plan was
under way which might promise even better sport than their
"They'll get up something to beat us," Tom Hardy said, mournfully.
"It's got to be a pretty smart boy who can get the best of a lot of
girls, an' I tell you what it is, fellers, they'll serve us out before
we get through puttin' on airs."
"Now, don't be an idiot, Tom," cried Si, angrily. "Do you want them
to say that we can't have a good time unless they're along too? Our
sleigh-ride will go ahead of anything they can get up, an' they'll be
mighty sorry they can't go with us."
"P'rhaps so," replied Tom, doubtfully; "but Aggie Morrell has gone
home to cook up some plan, an' we sha 'n 't know whether we're goin'
to have the best time or not till we find out what she's about."
"If you want to go in with the' ten-centers' an' wear a calico
necktie, why don't you say so?" cried Si, now thoroughly angry. " If
I wanted to, I would," retorted Tom. "I stood by an' saw you write
that letter, an' I'll stick to it; but all the same I'm sorry we've
done what we have, 'cause whenever we've started anything the girls
have always gone in with us, an' it looks mean."
More than one of the boys believed as Tom did, and the result was
that the opponents of the necktie party held a stormy meeting,
although no one had the slightest idea of "backing down" from the
position he had taken under Si's leadership.
Aggie did not show herself to friend or foe until just as the
afternoon recess was ended, and then she entered the schoolroom with
such a demure, innocent look on her face that every girl knew she had
decided upon some plan that promised success. Even Si Kelly looked
anxious when she came in, and he immediately resolved to collect, on
the very next morning, the money each of the boys was to pay towards
the sleigh-ride, in order that no one might be tempted to join the
S0 attentive was Aggie to her studies during the remainder of the
afternoon, that Deacon Littlefield must have thought it would be a
good idea to send each one of his pupils home for a few hours.
The girls tried in every way, except that of breaking the rule
against whispering, to induce Aggie to give some hint of what she had
decided upon, and the boys watched her jealously; but neither to the
one party nor the other did she make a sign betokening that she had
even thought of the necktie party since she went home.
When school was dismissed, the boys, instead of rushing out at full
speed, as was their custom, appeared to have a remarkable amount of
trouble to arrange the books in their desks, and Deacon Littlefield
was yet more surprised by seeing every one of his boy pupils loitering
around as if pained at being obliged to go home.
The girls understood at once that they might have some trouble to
hold a meeting in the schoolroom and at the same time prevent the
boys from knowing what was said or done, and they adjourned to the
classroom, locking the door behind them.
"Now tell us all about it, Aggie," said Annie Rich, as she stuffed
the keyhole with paper. "What is it to be?"
"Did anyone find out from Winny Curtis what the boys think of
doing?" asked Aggie. "He doesn't know anything about it. Si Kelly
won't let him join them because he said he would come to our party."
"Jen Hardy, you must try to find out from Tom to-night what they
are going to do, and at the same time you mustn't whisper to him a
word of what we say here," and Aggie spoke in a tone of authority
warranted by the fact that the girls looked up to her as their leader.
"Now I believe we can shame those boys so that, whether they come to
our party or not, they won't serve us such a trick again. Here is a
letter I have written to Si Kelly, and each one of you must write the
same thing to some other boy, so that they will all get one. 'Now
listen; .I'll read it, and then eyery one can copy it."
With a look of the most intense satisfaction on her freckled face,
Dear Si:—All of us girls are sorry that you can't come to the
party. We made a great mistake when we proposed that each one should
pay ten cents, even though the money was to be used to help aunt
Betsey. We know that only the lack of money prevents you from coming,
and, in order that you need not be obliged to stay away when we all
want to see you, I have paid the ten cents for your necktie, which I
send with this letter. Will you please come as early as eight o'clock?
Your friend, Agnes Morrell
For several moments after Aggie ceased reading, the applause was so
great that it was impossible for anyone to make herself heard.. The
girls were so pleased with the scheme that they were almost as noisy
as the boys would have been under similar circumstances.
"Now we must each give twenty-five cents," Aggie said, as soon as
the tumult had partially subsided, "and we will buy the things for
aunt Betsey, so that the boys will know we have really paid the money.
Each one decide which boy she will write to, so that everyone will get
a letter, and mother says you may all come to my house to-night to
make the neckties. I've been to Mr. Dilloway's and Lute Haley's and
got the prints, so that we can have everything fixed this evening."
"When will we send the letters?"
"The first thing in the morning. Mother will wrap up the neckties
to- night, so that we -sha'n't know which ones we are sending away.
We will leave the letters, with the packages, on the boys'. desks
before school begins, and if they are not ashamed of themselves by the
time they read them, I'm mistaken."
"But suppose the boys don't come after we do all this?" said Maria,
"Then we'll have the party just the same, and I guess we can manage
to have a good time even if Mr. Si Kelly does not permit the boys to
"But how can we leave the letters?" Maria appeared to be full of
doubts, even though Aggie's plan seemed so promising. "The boys will
be sure to come here the first thing, and we shall look rather silly
carrying the letters around to the desks when they are all here."
"I know that," replied Aggie, promptly, "and I'm going to tell
Deacon Littlefield the whole story just as soon as we get through
here. We will ask him to let us come in first, and to keep the boys
out until we get everything fixed."
There was no question but that Aggie had thought of all possible
contingencies, and the girls were convinced that under her leadership
they would be able to rout Master Kelly, even though they might not
have the satisfaction of seeing him at the party.
"Now we'll go home and write the letters before supper, so that we
shall have nothing to do this evening but work on the neckties," said
Aggie, as she made her preparations for leaving the room. II You girls
go, and I'll arrange it with the Deacon, so that we can get in here in
the morning ahead of the boys."
Of course girls don't cheer, when anything pleases them, as boys
do, but this particular party of girls were strongly tempted to do so
as they left the room, so thoroughly convinced were they that they
would soon triumph over those who had tried to humiliate them.
CHAPTER III. TOM 'S SCHEME
DESPITE all efforts, not a boy had been able to learn what course
the girls had decided upon during the meeting in. the classroom.
Several of those who were in favor of the sleigh-ride had sisters
among the "ten-centers," and they used every effort to learn what had
been the result of the meeting; but, in each individual case, before
the boy had asked very many questions, he found that his sister was
more successful in getting information from him than he from her.
During that evening the girls kept their secret closely guarded,
while more than one of the boys had inadvertently divulged enough of
Si's great scheme to enable the girls to judge quite clearly what they
proposed to do. Si had notified his friends and adherents that he
would meet them at half- past eight in the schoolroom, when he
expected that each one would be prepared to pay his share of the cost
of the sleigh-ride, and all hands were in the playground at an early
hour next morning, anxious, but unable to get into the building.
Why it was that the schoolhouse door should be locked so late on
this particular morning, when it was usually opened as early as seven
o'clock, no fellow could imagine. That the girls were the cause of
their being deprived of their regular place for holding business
meetings never occurred to them, and the only reason they could assign
for this remarkable delay on the part of the janitor was that Deacon
Littlefield was ill. They did not really hope that their teacher was
sick; but they would have been willing he should be slightly
indisposed, if, in such case, they would have an unexpected holiday.
Si did not think it advisable to neglect business simply because
they were obliged to stand out-of-doors instead of being in a warm
room, and he promptly collected twenty-five cents for the proposed
sleigh-ride from each boy who was so fortunate as to have that amount
of money with him.
At ten minutes before nine, the boys, who had begun to grow
surprised because none of the girls had' appeared, were disappointed
at seeing Deacon Littlefield, whom they had believed to be sick, come
into the yard, and in five minutes more they trooped into the
schoolroom behind him, the door having been opened by the janitor from
the inside the moment the teacher stood before it.
All this looked mysterious, and the mystification was complete when
the sleigh-riders saw every individual member of the "ten-centers,"
with the single exception of Winny, seated at their desks much as if
they had remained there all night. On going to his seat, each boy
found a letter and a package staring him in the face; and from that
time until the Deacon called the school to order, no sound was heard,
save the rustling of paper as the boys read the missives, .while the
girls appeared to have no thought save for their books, which they
were studying with most remarkable intentness.
No one of the boys had time to compare notes with his neighbor when
Deacon Littlefield said, after he had rapped vigorously on his desk
to command attention: "It has been suggested to me by such of your
parents as I have had time to call upon, that, in view of the near
approach of the holidays, and of the many plans you may possibly have
in mind, school be dismissed until after the beginning of the New
Year. To have followed out my original intention, we should have
continued in session to-day and to- morrow; but, believing that I
should have only your divided attention during that time, I have
concluded to give you two extra holidays, trusting that, when we
assemble here again, you will endeavor to make up for the time thus
lost. You are, therefore, dismissed from attendance until the day
after New Year's."
Under ordinary circumstances, this unexpected announcement would
have been received with cheers by the boys; but so confused were the
sleigh- riders by the letters they had just received, that they
remained quietly in their seats, while the girls walked demurely out
of the building.
Even before Deacon Littlefield had taken his departure the
confusion began, Tom Hardy being the first one to express an opinion.
"I tell you what it is, fellers, the girls have got the best of us,
and no mistake."
"The best of us!" growled Si Kelly. "I call it about as mean a
thing as I know of."
"Is it any meaner than what we did to them?"
"Of course it is. They write as if we couldn't afford to pay ten
cents to go to their old party, an' here the most of us have already
given twenty-five cents for our ride. Ag Morrell can have her calico
necktie back, an' I'm goin' to carry it up to her house before I'm an
hour older ."
"I' wouldn't do that," squeaked Winny, who was secretly delighted
at the turn in affairs. "If she gets to talkin' about the letter you
sent you'll have the worst of it."
Then everybody spoke at the same time until no one could understand
what the other was saying, and Deacon Littlefield rushed out of the
building to save himself from premature deafness.
It was some time before anything like order was restored, and then
Tom Hardy said, impatiently:
"Look .here,. fellers, it's no use for us to stand here cawing like
a lot "of crows, when nobody knows what the one next to him is saying.
I go in for havin' this thing done right, if we're goin' to do it at
all. The girls have got the best of us now, an' if any of you think we
can turn things around, let's go to work shipshape."
"I nominate Tom Hardy president of this meetin', to see how we can
get ahead of the girls," squeaked Winny; and, to say the least, he
was very officious in so doing, since he was a member of the
"ten-centers," and really had nothing to do with the discomfiture of
In the general excitement, however, no one seemed to remember that
Winny was not one of them, and all called for Tom Hardy to conduct
the meeting. Si Kelly recognized the fact that he should have been the
one to occupy this proud position; but the leadership seemed to be
slipping away from him, and, shout as he might, no one paid any
attention to him. He had led the boys on to defeat, instead of
victory, and since he could suggest no wiser plan than to return the
neckties and letters, all looked to Tom Hardy for advice.
"Fellers," he said, gravely, as he seated himself in the Deacon's
chair, understanding the importance of his position, "we've got to do
something to get ahead of the girls, an' I go in for havin' each one
say what he thinks is best. After that we can pick out a plan. Now,
what do you think we ought to do, Si?"
Master Kelly was very sulky; but he managed to state, as his
conviction, that they could do no less than return the neckties and
letters to the senders, treating the whole matter with silent scorn,
and carry out the idea of the sleigh-ride, as if such insignificant
persons had never had an existence.
Joe Barr thought it best to accept the invitations given, and treat
the whole matter as a good joke whereby each boy had saved ten cents.
Joe, however, had not yet paid the assessment twenty-five cents for
the sleigh-ride, and many ought he had proposed this plan as a way of
rading any outlay of money.
Eben Coulliard was willing to do whatever the others thought best;
but at the same time he reminded them that a party at Aggie Morrell's
house was not a thing to be "sneezed at," and if the invitation could
be accepted graciously, he thought it would be a pleasant way of
spending an evening.
Dan Crockett announced that he was not afraid to say he had rather
go to the party. He had already paid his quarter towards the
sleigh-ride; but he was willing to look upon hat as so much money
thrown away if the others would agree to go to Aggie's house. He
thought that the money that the girls had spent could be returned to
them in some way, and that the friendly feelings between the boys and
girls of the school could be restored.
Jack Haley and his four intimate friends "did not care a cent what
was done;" they would agree to anything the other fellows thought
Bart Carleton agreed with Si Kelly, but since it was known that he
owed Si four agates and seventeen marbles, to say nothing of three
tops, all believed that his debt had influenced his decision.
All, save Tom Hardy, gave their opinion, and it was found that the
boys were about evenly divided; one party adopting Si's suggestion,
and the other favoring the acceptance of the invitations, if it could
be done so that they would not appear to be "backing down."
It "Now, see here, fellers'," said Tom, when every one looked at
him as if expecting to hear what he thought, "I want you all to
understand in the first place that I am willing to do what the
majority think best; but I've got a little scheme that I think a good
one. Let's go on the sleigh ride, an' go to the party, too."
"Then the girls would think we were smart," growled Si.
"Wait a minute, till you hear the whole of it. About half want to
do one thing, and half another. Now, I say, let's each one write to
the girl who has sent him a necktie, thanking her for the invitation
to the party, and ask her to go on a sleigh-ride with us. We can hire
both of Grout's big sleighs, an' have about as big a time as was ever
seen in this town. I guess the girls won't be much ahead of us then."
"But how about their payin' for our neckties? " asked Dan Crockett.
"We'll let that go as if we was much obliged. to them; but we'll
raise ten cents more apiece, an' buy aunt Betsey wood enough to last
her till summer. If we pay the money now, we can each get a saw, an'
have it all cut up before night. The girls won't have any the best of
us then; aunt Betsey will be just that much better off; we can have
our sleigh-ride, and we can go to the party as well. But if we should
do simply one thing or the other, then the girls would be sure to
think we had been beaten. Now, if all the fellers will agree to that,
I'll get my share of the money right away, an' we'll ask Deacon
Littlefield to buy the wood this morning."
Tom saw, even before he had ceased speaking, that the majority of
the boys were in favor of. his scheme, since by carrying it out they
would miss neither one pleasure nor the other, and would only be
obliged to pay ten cents extra, and to spend a little time sawing
"But we can't get both sleighs for the same price we could one,"
said Si; but even this objection showed that he was favorably
inclined towards Tom's scheme, if it could be accomplished without too
great a sacrifice.
"Yes, we can, if we don't take them till the middle of the
afternoon. We will start about three o'clock, an' come back to
Aggie's house in time for the party."
"But how'll you fix it about the letters?" asked Si.
"I'll send this one to Maria Gilman, for she sent me the necktie,
an' you can all copy it." Then Tom read the following letter, which
he had written while the others had been talking:
DEAR RIE:—I am much obliged for the invitation and the necktie.
I will be there by eight o'clock if you will do a little favor for me.
Us boys have been getting up a sleigh- ride for Saturday afternoon; we
shall start about three o'clock from the schoolhouse, and get back to
Aggie's in time for the party. Will you go?
I am sure aunt Betsey will feel grateful to you girls when she
knows you each gave twenty cents towards making her comfortable, and
if it had not been for the "lack of money," we boys would have paid
Your friend, TOM.
"Hurrah! " shouted Dan Crockett. "I reckon that will fix things,
an' when they find that we bought the wood for aunt Betsey, they can't
think that they've got the right to feel very superior."
"They'll never know but that we meant all the time to do this very
thing," said Tom, "an' we shall have as good a time as can be had."
There was no question but that this scheme would be carried out,
for even Si Kelly came to understand that it was a very graceful way
of extricating themselves from what, at one time, promised to be a
decidedly disagreeable position, and he announced his decision by
"Now, every feller must hurry home an' get the ten cents, so's we
can buy the wood quick, an' then there won't be any chance for the
girls to believe that we thought of this after we got their letters."
"Take the money you had collected for the ride, an' we will all
make it up before night," suggested Tom.
In another moment Si was running at full speed towards Deacon
Littlefield's house to ask him to buy the wood, and Tom suggested
that each sleigh-rider sharpen his saw in order to be ready for work
as soon as the fuel should be in aunt Betsey's yard.
Before night the wood had been purchased, , sawed, and split; the
letters had been written and sent to the girls, and both of Mr.
Grout's sleighs engaged for Saturday afternoon.
The story of the ride, and of the necktie party that followed it,
would, without doubt, be interesting; but the telling of these
pleasant festivities would' occupy too much space. Suffice it to say
that the girls readily accepted the invitations that were the result
of Tom's scheme, and although they learned from some of the more
garrulous sleigh-riders under just what press of circumstances they
had been given, the "ten— centers" were too generous to hint of what
Aggie's party was a dazzling success. Every one appeared to have a
good time, and the pairing off of the aprons and neckties caused
considerable amusement, especially when Debby Thompson, the tallest
girl present, found that she must accept the smallest boy—who was
Winny, of course—as an escort.
It is hardly necessary to say that Winny was allowed to become one
of the sleigh-riders; and since he had voluntarily agreed to go to the
party, he was obliged to pay for his necktie, as well as his
proportion of the cost of the sleighride and the wood. Thus it was
that his love for cake proved to be quite expensive to him, owing to
the varied schemes of his friends.