"Father," said Harry, the next morning, as Mr. Walton was about to leave the house, "there's something I want to say to you."
"What is it?" asked his father, imagining it was some trifle.
"I'll go out with you, and tell you outside."
"Very well, my son."
Harry put on his cap, and followed his father into the open air.
"Now, my son, what is it?"
"I want to go away from home."
"Away from home! Where?" asked Mr. Walton, in surprise.
"I don't know where; but somewhere where I can earn my own living."
"But you can do that here. You can give me your help on the farm, as you always have done."
"I don't like farming, father."
"You never told me that before. Is it because of the hard work?"
"No," said Harry, earnestly. "I am not afraid of hard work; but you know how it is, father. This isn't a very good farm, and it's all you can do to make a living for the rest of us out of it. If I could go somewhere, where I could work at something else, I could send you home my wages."
"I am afraid a boy like you couldn't earn very large wages."
"I don't see why not, father. I'm strong and stout, and willing to work."
"People don't give much for boys' work."
"I don't expect much; but I know I can get something, and by and by it will lead to more. I want to help you to pay for that cow you've just bought of Squire Green."
"I don't see how I'm going to pay for it," said Mr. Walton, with a sigh. "Hard money's pretty scarce, and we farmers don't get much of it."
"That's just what I'm saying, father. There isn't much money to be got in farming. That's why I want to try something else."
"How long have you been thinking of this plan, Harry?"
"Only since last night."
"What put it into your head?"
"That book I got as a prize."
"It is the life of Franklin, isn't it?"
"Did he go away from home when he was a boy?"
"Yes, and he succeeded, too."
"I know he did. He became a famous man. But it isn't every boy that is like Franklin."
"I know that. I never expect to become a great man like him; but I can make something."
Harry spoke those words in a firm, resolute tone, which seemed to indicate a consciousness of power. Looking in his son's face, the elder Walton, though by no means a sanguine man, was inclined to think favorably of the scheme, But he was cautious, and he did not want Harry to be too confident of success.
"It's a new idea to me," he said. "Suppose you fail?"
"I don't mean to."
"But suppose you do--suppose you get sick?"
"Then I'll come home. But I want to try. There must be something for me to do in the world."
"There's another thing, Harry. It takes money to travel round, and I haven't got any means to give you,"
"I don't want any, father. I mean to work my way. I've got twenty-five cents to start with. Now, father, what do you say?"
"I'll speak to your mother about it."
"Yes, as soon as I go in."
With this Harry was content. He had a good deal of confidence that he could carry his point with both parents. He went into the house, and said to his mother:
"Mother, father's going to speak to you about my going away from home. Now don't you oppose it."
"Do you really think it would be a good plan, Harry?"
"And if you're sick will you promise to come right home?"
"Yes, I'll promise that."
"Then I won't oppose your notion, though I ain't clear about its being wise."
"We'll talk about that in a few months, mother."
"Has Harry spoken to you about his plan of going away from home?" asked the farmer, when he reentered the house.
"Yes," said Mrs. Walton.
"What do you think?"
"Perhaps we'd better let the lad have his way. He's promised to come home if he's taken sick."
"So let it be, then, Harry. When do you want to go?"
"As soon as I can."
"You'll have to wait till Monday. It'll take a day or two to fix up your clothes," said his mother.
"All right, mother."
"I don't know but you ought to have some new shirts. You haven't got but two except the one you have on."
"I can get along, mother. Father hasn't got any money to spend for me. By the time I want some new shirts, I'll buy them myself."
"Where do you think of going, Harry? Have you any idea?"
"No, mother. I'm going to trust to luck. I shan't go very far. When I've got fixed anywhere I'll write, and let you know."
In the evening Harry resumed the "Life of Franklin," and before he was ready to go to bed he had got two thirds through with it. It possessed for him a singular fascination. To Harry it was no alone the "Life of Benjamin Franklin." It was the chart by which he meant to steer in the unknown career which stretched before him. He knew so little of the world that he trusted implicitly to that as a guide, and he silently stored away the wise precepts in conformity with which the great practical philosopher had shaped and molded his life.
During that evening, however, another chance was offered to Harry, as I shall now describe.
As the family were sitting around the kitchen table, on which was placed the humble tallow candle by which the room was lighted, there was heard a scraping at the door, and presently a knock. Mr. Walton answered it in person, and admitted the thin figure and sharp, calculating face of Squire Green.
"How are you, neighbor?" he said, looking about him with his parrotlike glance. "I thought I'd just run in a minute to see you as I was goin' by."
"Sit down, Squire Green. Take the rocking-chair."
"Thank you, neighbor. How's the cow a-doin'?"
"Middling well. She don't give as much milk as the one I lost."
"She'll do better bymeby. She's a good bargain to you, neighbor."
"I don't know," said Hiram Walton, dubiously. "She ought to be a good cow for the price you asked."
"And she is a good cow," said the squire, emphatically; "and you're lucky to get her so cheap, buyin' on time. What are you doin' there, Harry? School through, ain't it?"
"I hear you're a good scholar. Got the prize, didn't you?"
"Yes," said Mr. Walton; "Harry was always good at his books."
"I guess he knows enough now. You'd ought to set him to work."
"He is ready enough to work," said Mr. Walton. "He never was lazy."
"That's good. There's a sight of lazy, shiftless boys about in these days. Seems as if they expected to earn their bread 'n butter a-doin' nothin'. I've been a thinkin', neighbor Walton, that you'll find it hard to pay for that cow in six months."
"I am afraid I shall," said the farmer, thinking in surprise, "Can he be going to reduce the price?"
"So I thought mebbe we might make an arrangement to make it easier."
"I should be glad to have it made easier, squire. It was hard on me, losing that cow by disease."
"Of course. Well, what I was thinkin' was, you might hire out your boy to work for me. I'd allow him two dollars a month and board, and the wages would help pay for the cow."
Harry looked up in dismay at this proposition. He knew very well the meanness of the board which the squire provided, how inferior it was even to the scanty, but well-cooked meals which he got at home; he knew, also that the squire had the knack of getting more work out of his men than any other farmer in the town; and the prospect of being six months in his employ was enough to terrify him. He looked from Squire Green's mean, crafty face to his father's in anxiety and apprehension. Were all his bright dreams of future success to terminate in this?