During Harry's absence, the little household at Granton had got along about as usual. They lived from hand to mouth. It required sharp financiering to provide food and clothes for the little family.
There was one neighbor who watched their progress sharply and this was Squire Green. It will be remembered that he had bound Mr. Walton to forfeit ten dollars, if, at the end of six months, he was not prepared to pay the forty dollars and interest which he had agreed to pay for the cow. It is a proof of the man's intense meanness that, though rich while his neighbor was poor, he was strongly in hopes that the latter would incur the forfeit and be compelled to pay it.
One morning Squire Green accosted Mr. Walton, the squire being at work in his own front yard.
"Good morning, neighbor Walton," he said.
"Good morning, squire."
"How is that cow a-doin'?"
"She's a good cow."
"Not so good as the one I lost."
"You're jokin' now, neighbor. It was my best cow. I wouldn't have sold her except to obleege."
"She doesn't give as much milk as my old one."
"Sho! I guess you don't feed her as well as I did."
"She fares just as well as the other one did. Of course, I don't know how you fed her."
"She allers had her fill when she was with me. Le' me see, how long is it since I sold her to ye?"
Though the squire apparently asked for information, he knew the time to a day and was not likely to forget.
"It's between four and five months, I believe."
"Jus'so. You was to be ready to pay up at the end of six months."
"That was the agreement."
"You'd better be a-savin' up for it."
"There isn't much chance of my saving. It's all I can do to make both ends meet."
"You don't say so," said the squire, secretly pleased.
"My farm is small and poor, and doesn't yield much."
"But you work out, don't you?"
"When I get a chance. You don't want any help, do you, squire? I might work off part of the debt that way."
"Mebbe next spring I'd like some help."
"That will be too late to meet my note, unless you'll renew."
"I'll see about it," said the squire, evasively. "What do you hear from that boy of yours? Is he doin' well?"
"He's at work in a shoe shop."
"Does it pay well?"
"He doesn't get much just at first."
"Then he won't be able to pay for the cow," thought the squire. "That's what I wanted to know."
"He'd better have gone to work for me," he said
"No, I think he will do better away from home. He will get a good trade that he can fall back upon hereafter, even if he follows some other business."
"Wal, I never learned no trade but I've got along middlin' well," said the squire, in a complacent tone. "Farmin's good enough for me."
"I would say the same if I had your farm, squire. You wouldn't exchange, would you?"
"That's a good joke, neighbor Walton. When I make up my mind to do it. I'll let you know."
"What a mean old curmudgeon he is!" thought Hiram Walton, as he kept on his way to the village store. "He evidently intends to keep me to my agreement and will exact the ten dollars in case I can't pay for the cow at the appointed time. It will be nothing but a robbery."
This was not the day for a letter from Harry but it occurred to Mr. Walton to call at the post office. Contrary to his anticipations, a letter was handed him.
"I won't open it till I get home," he said to himself.
"I've got a letter from Harry," he said, as he entered the house.
"A letter from Harry? It isn't his day for writing," said Mrs. Walton. "What does he say?"
"I haven't opened the letter yet. Here, Tom, open and read it aloud."
Tom opened the letter and read as follows:
"Dear Father:--I must tell you, to begin with, that I have been compelled to stop work in the shoe shop. The market is overstocked and trade has become very dull.
"Of course, I felt quite bad when Mr. Leavitt told me this, for I feared it would prevent my helping you pay for the cow, as I want so much to do. I went round to several other shops, hoping to get in, but I found it impossible. Still, I have succeeded in getting something to do that will pay me better than work in the shop. If you were to guess all day, I don't believe you would guess what business it is. So, to relieve your suspense, I will tell you that I have engaged as assistant to Professor Henderson, the famous magician and ventriloquist and am to start to-morrow on a tour with him."
"Assistant to a magician!" exclaimed Mrs. Walton
"What does the boy know about magic?"
"It's a bully business," said Tom, enthusiastically. "I only wish I was in Harry's shoes. I'd like to travel round with a magician first-rate."
"You're too thick-headed, Tom," said Marry.
"Shut up!" said Tom. "I guess I'm as smart as you, any day."
"Be quiet, both of you!" said Mr. Walton. "Now, Tom, go on with your brother's letter."
Tom proceeded: "I am to take money at the door. We are going about in the southern part of the State and shall visit some towns in Massachusetts, the professor says. You know I've never been round any and I shall like traveling and seeing new places. Professor Henderson is very kind and I think I shall like him. He pays my traveling expenses and five dollars a week, which is nearly twice as much money as I got from Mr. Leavitt. I can't help thinking I am lucky in getting so good a chance only a day after I lost my place in the shoe shop. I hope, yet, to be able to pay for the cow when the money comes due.
"Love to all at home.
"Harry's lucky," said Mary. "He can get along."
"He is fortunate to find employment at once," said his father; "though something which he can follow steadily is better. But the pay is good and I am glad he has it."
"How long it seems since Harry was at home," said his mother. "I wish I could see him."
"Yes, it would be pleasant," said Mr. Walton; "but the boy has his own way to make, so we will be thankful that he is succeeding so well."