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We will; don't worry. We'll be trouble enough.--Nice
people," said Hartley, as he shut the door of their room and sat down.
"But the girl _ain't_ what I call pretty."

By the time the dinner bell rang they were feeling at home in their new
quarters. At the table they met the other boarders: the Brann brothers,
newsdealers; old man Troutt, who kept the livery stable (and smelled of
it); and a small, dark, and wizened woman who kept the millinery store.
The others, who came in late, were clerks.

Maud served the dinner, while Stella and her mother waited upon the
table. Albert was accustomed to this, and made little account of the
service. He did notice the hands of the girl, however, so white and
graceful; no amount of work could quite remove their essential
shapeliness.

Hartley struck up a conversation with the newsdealers and left Bert free
to observe Maud. She was not more than twenty, he decided, but she
looked older, so careworn and sad was her face.

"They's one thing ag'in' yeh," Troutt, the liveryman, was bawling to
Hartley: "they's jest been worked one o' the goldingedest schemes you
_ever_ see! 'Bout six munce ago s'm' fellers come all through here
claimin' t' be after information about the county and the leadin'
citizens; wanted t' write a history, an' wanted all the pitchers of the
leading men, old settlers, an' so on. You paid ten dollars, an' you had
a book an' your pitcher in it."

"I know the scheme," grinned Hartley.

"Wal, sir, I s'pose them fellers roped in every man in this town. I
don't s'pose they got out with a cent less'n one thousand dollars. An'
when the book come--wal!" Here he stopped to roar. "I don't s'pose you
ever see a madder lot o' men in your life. In the first place, they got
the names and the pitchers mixed so that I was Judge Ricker, an' Judge
Ricker was ol' man Daggett. Didn't the judge swear--oh, it was awful!"

"I should say so."

"An' the pitchers that wa'n't mixed was so goldinged _black_ you
couldn't tell 'em from niggers. You know how kind o' lily-livered Lawyer
Ransom is? Wal, he looked like ol' black Joe; he was the maddest man of
the hull b'ilin'. He throwed the book in the fire, and tromped around
like a blind bull."

"It wasn't a success, I take it, then. Why, I should 'a' thought they'd
'a' nabbed the fellows."

"Not much! They was too keen for that. They didn't deliver the books
theirselves; they hired Dick Bascom to do it f'r them. Course Dick
wa'n't t' blame."

"No; I never tried it before," Albert was saying to Maud, at their end
of the table. "Hartley offered me a good thing to come, and as I needed
money, I came. I don't know what he's going to do with me, now I'm
here."

Albert did not go out after dinner with Hartley; it was too cold.
Hartley let nothing stand in the way of business, however. He had been
at school with Albert during his first year, but had gone back to work
in preference to study.

Albert had brought his books with him, planning to keep up with his
class, if possible, and was deep in a study of Csar when he heard a
timid knock on the door.

"Come!" he called, student fashion.

Maud entered, her face aglow.

"How natural that sounds!" she said.

Albert sprang up to help her put down the wood in her arms. "I wish
you'd let me bring the wood," he said pleadingly, as she refused his
aid.

"I wasn't sure you were in. Were you reading?"

"Csar," he replied, holding up the book. "I am conditioned on Latin.
I'm going over the 'Commentaries' again."

"I thought I knew the book," she laughed.

"You read Latin?"

"Yes, a little--Vergil."

"Maybe you can help me out on these _oratia obliqua_. They bother me
yet. I hate these 'Csar saids.' I like Vergil better."

She stood at his shoulder while he pointed out the knotty passage. She
read it easily, and he thanked her. It was amazing how well acquainted
they felt after this; they were as fellow-students.

The wind roared outside in the bare maples, and the fire boomed in its
pent place within. The young people forgot the time and place. The girl
sank into a chair almost unconsciously as they talked of Madison--a
great city to them--of the Capitol building, of the splendid campus, of
the lakes and the gay sailing there in summer and ice-boating in winter,
of the struggles of "rooming."

"Oh, it makes me homesick!" cried the girl, with a deep sigh. "It was
the happiest, sunniest time of all my life. Oh, those walks and talks!
Those recitations in the dear, chalky old rooms! Oh, _how_ I would like
to go back over that hollow doorstone again!"

She broke off, with tears in her eyes. He was obliged to cough two or
three times before he could break the silence.

"I know just how you feel. I know, the first spring when I went back on
the farm, it seemed as if I couldn't stand it. I thought I'd go crazy.
The days seemed forty-eight hours long. It was so lonesome, and so
dreary on rainy days! But of course I expected to go back; that's what
kept me up. I don't think I could have stood it if I hadn't had hope."

"I've given it up now," she said plaintively; "it's no use hoping."

"Why don't you teach?" asked Albert, deeply affected by her voice and
manner.

"I did teach here for a year, but I couldn't endure the noise; I'm not
very strong, and the boys were so rude. If I could teach in a
seminary--teach Latin and English--I should be happy, I think. But I
can't leave mother now."

She began to appear a different girl in the boy's eyes; the cheap dress,
the check apron, could not hide her pure intellectual spirit. Her large
blue eyes were deep with thought, and the pale face, lighted by the glow
of the fire, was as lovely as a rose. Almost before he knew it, he was
telling her of his life.

"I don't see how I endured it as long as I did," he went on. "It was
nothing but work, work, and mud the whole year round; it's just so on
all farms."

"Yes, I guess it is," said she. "Father was a carpenter, and I've always
lived here; but we have people who are farmers, and I know how it is
with them."

"Why, when I think of it now it makes me crawl! To think of getting up
in the morning before daylight, and going out to the barn to do chores,
to get ready to go into the field to work! Working, wasting y'r life on
dirt. Goin' round and round in a circle, and never getting out."

"It's just the same for us women," she corroborated. "Think of us going
around the house day after day, and doing just the same things over an'
over, year after year! That's the whole of most women's lives.
Dish-washing almost drives me crazy."

"I know it," said Albert; "but a fellow has t' do it. If his folks are
workin' hard, why, of course he can't lay around and study. They're not
to blame. I don't know that anybody's to blame."

"No, I don't; but it makes me sad to see mother going around as she
does, day after day. She won't let me do as much as I would." The girl
looked at her slender hands. "You see, I'm not very strong. It makes my
heart ache to see her going around in that quiet, patient way; she's so
good."

"I know, I know! I've felt just like that about my mother and father,
too."

There was a long pause, full of deep feeling, and then the girl
continued in a low, hesitating voice:

"Mother's had an awful hard time since father died. We had to go to
keeping boarders, which was hard--very hard for mother." The boy felt a
sympathetic lump in his throat as the girl went on again: "But she
doesn't complain, and she didn't want me to come home from school; but
of course I couldn't do anything else."

It didn't occur to either of them that any other course was open, nor
that there was any heroism or self-sacrifice in the act; it was simply
_right_.

"Well, I'm not going to drudge all my life," said the boy at last. "I
know it's kind o' selfish, but I can't live on a farm; it 'u'd kill me
in a year. I've made up my mind to study law and enter the bar. Lawyers
manage to get hold of enough to live on decently, and that's more than
you can say of the farmers. And they live in town, where something is
going on once in a while, anyway."

In the pause which followed, footsteps were heard on the walk outside,
and the girl sprang up with a beautiful blush.

"My stars! I didn't think--I forgot--I must go."

Hartley burst into the room shortly after she left it, in his usual
breeze.

"Hul-_lo_! Still at the Latin, hey?"

"Yes," said Bert, with ease. "How goes it?"

"Oh, I'm whooping 'er up! I'm getting started in great shape. Been up to
the courthouse and roped in three of the county officials. In these
small towns the big man is the politician or the clergyman. I've nailed
the politicians through the ear; now you must go for the ministers to
head the list--that's your lay-out."

"How'm I t' do it?" said Bert, in an anxious tone. "I can't sell books
if they don't want 'em."

"Yes, yeh can. That's the trade. Offer a big discount. Say full calf,
two fifty; morocco, two ninety. Regular discount to the clergy, ye
know. Oh, they're on to that little racket--no trouble. If you can get a
few of these leaders of the flock, the rest will follow like lambs to
the slaughter. Tra-la-la--who-o-o-_ish_, whish!"

Albert laughed at Hartley as he plunged his face into the ice-cold
water, puffing and wheezing.

"Jeemimy Crickets! but ain't that water cold! I worked Rock River this
way last month, and made a boomin' success. If you take hold here in
the----"

"Oh, I'm all ready to do anything that is needed, short of being kicked
out."

"No danger of that if you're a real book agent. It's the snide that gets
kicked. You've got t' have some savvy in this, just like any other
business." He stopped in his dressing to say, "We've struck a great
boarding place, hey?"

"Looks like it."

"I begin t' cotton to the old lady a'ready. Good 'eal like mother used
t' be 'fore she broke down. Didn't the old lady have a time of it
raisin' me? Phewee! Patient! Job wasn't a patchin'. But the test is
goin' t' come on the biscuit; if her biscuit comes up t' mother's I'm
hern till death."

He broke off to comb his hair, a very nice bit of work in his case.


II.

There was no discernible reason why the little town should have been
called Tyre, and yet its name was as characteristically American as its
architecture.



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