Bound to Rise

by Horatio Alger

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Chapter XXV. A Strange Companion

At ten o'clock the next day, Harry presented himself at the hotel. He carried in his hand a carpetbag lent him by Mr. Leavitt, which contained his small stock of under-clothing. His outside suits he left at Mr. Leavitt's, not wishing to be encumbered with them while traveling.

"I see you are on time," said the professor.

"Yes, sir; I always mean to be."

"That's well; now if you'll jump into my buggy with me, we will ride round to the Town Hall and take in my apparatus. I have to keep a carriage," said the magician, as they rode along. "It saves me a great deal of trouble by making me independent of cars and stages."

The apparatus was transferred to a trunk in the back part of the buggy and securely locked.

"Now we are all ready," said Professor Henderson,

"Would you like to drive?"

"Yes, sir," answered Harry, with alacrity.

"I am going to give an entertainment in Holston this evening," said his new employer. "Were you ever there?"

"No, sir."

"It is a smart little place and although the population is not large, I always draw a full house."

"How far is it, sir?"

"About six miles."

Harry was sorry it was not farther, as he enjoyed driving. His companion leaned back at his ease and talked on various subjects. He paused a moment and Harry was startled by hearing a stifled child's voice just behind him: "Oh, let me out! Don't keep me locked up here!"

The reins nearly fell from his hands. He turned and heard the voice apparently proceeding from the trunk.

"What's the matter?" asked Professor Henderson.

"I thought I heard a child's voice."

"So you did," said the voice again.

The truth flashed upon Harry. His companion was exerting some of his powers as a ventriloquist.

"Oh, it is you, sir," he said, smiling.

His companion smiled.

"You are right," he said.

"I don't see how you can do it," said Harry.

"Practice, my boy."

"But practice wouldn't make everybody a ventriloquist, would it?"

"Most persons might become ventriloquists, though in an unequal degree. I often amuse myself by making use of it for playing practical jokes upon people.

"Do you see that old lady ahead?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'll offer her a ride. If she accepts, you'll see sport. I shall make you talk but you must be careful to say nothing yourself."

A few rods farther on, they overtook an old woman.

"Good morning, ma'am" said the professor. "Won't you get in and ride? It's easier riding than walking."

The old women scanned his countenance and answered: "Thank you, sir, I'm obleeged to ye. I don't mind if I do."

She was assisted into the carriage and sat at one end of the seat, Harry being in the middle.

"I was going to see my darter, Nancy," said the old women. "Mrs. Nehemiah Babcock her name is. Mebbe you know her husband."

"I don't think I do," said the professor.

"He's got a brother in Boston in the dry goods business. Mebbe you've been at his store."

"Mebbe I have."

"I ginerally call to see my darter--her name is Nancy--once a week; but it's rather hard for me to walk, now I'm getting' on in years."

"You're most eighty, ain't you?" appeared to proceed from Harry's mouth. Our hero's face twitched and he had hard work to keep from laughing.

"Indeed, I'm not!" said the old lady, indignantly.

"I'm only sixty-seven and folks say I don't look more'n sixty," and the old lady looked angrily at Harry.

"You must excuse him, ma'am," said the professor, soothingly. "He is no judge of a lady's age."

"I should think not, indeed."

"Indeed, madam, you are very young looking."

The old lady was pacified by this compliment but looked askance at Harry.

"Is he your son?"

"No, ma'am."

The old lady sniffed, as if to say, "So much the better for you."

"Are you travelin' far?" asked the old lady.

"What do you want to know for?" Harry appeared to ask.

"You're a sassy boy!" exclaimed the old woman.

"Harry," said Professor Henderson, gravely, "how often have I told you not to be so unmannerly?"

"He orter be whipped," said the old lady. "Ef I had a boy that was so sassy, I'd larn him manners!"

"I'm glad I ain't your boy," Harry appeared to reply.

"I declare I won't ride another step if you let him insult me so," said the old woman, glaring at our hero.

Professor Henderson caught her eye and significantly touched his forehead, giving her to understand that Harry was only "half-witted."

"You don't say so" she ejaculated, taking the hint at once. "How long's he been so?"

"Ever since he was born."

"Ain't you afraid to have him drive?"

"Oh, not at all. He understands horses as well as I do."

"What's his name?"

Before the professor's answer could be heard, Harry appeared to rattle off the extraordinary name: "George Washington Harry Jefferson Ebenezer Popkins."

"My gracious! Has he got all them names?"

"Why not? What have you got to say about it, old women?" said the same voice.

"Oh, I ain't got no objection," said the old woman.

"You may have fifty-'leven names ef you want to."

"I don't interfere with his names," said the professor.

"If he chooses to call himself--"

"George Washington Harry Jefferson Ebenezer Popkins," repeated the voice, with great volubility.

"If he chooses to call himself by all those names, I'm sure I don't care. How far do you go, ma'am?"

"About quarter of a mile farther."

The professor saw that he must proceed to his final joke.

"Let me out! Don't keep me locked up here!" said the child's voice, from behind, in a pleading tone.

"What's that?" asked the startled old lady.

"What's what?" asked the professor, innocently.

"That child that wants to get out."

"You must have dreamed it, my good lady."

"No, there 'tis agin'," said the old lady, excited.

"It's in the trunk behind you," said the assumed voice, appearing to proceed from our hero.

"So 'tis," said the old lady, turning halfway round.

"Oh, I shall die! Let me out! Let me out!"

"He's locked up his little girl in the trunk," Harry seemed to say.

"You wicked man, let her out this minute," said the old lady, very much excited. "Don't you know no better than to lock up a child where she can't get no air?"

"There is no child in the trunk, I assure you," said Professor Henderson, politely.

"Don't you believe him," said Harry's voice.

"Do let me out, father!" implored the child's voice

"If you don't open the trunk, I'll have you took up for murder," said the old lady.

"I will open it to show you are mistaken."

The professor got over the seat, and, opening the trunk, displayed its contents to the astonished old lady.

"I told you that there was no child there," he said; "but you would not believe me."

"Le' me out," gasped the old woman. "I'd rather walk. I never heerd of such strange goin's on afore."

"If you insist upon it, madam, but I'm sorry to lose your company. Take this with you and read it."

He handed her one of his bills, which she put in her pocket, saying she couldn't see to read it.

When they were far enough off to make it safe, Harry gave vent to his mirth, which he had restrained till this at difficulty and laughed long and loud.

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