Henry Morton rose with the sun. This was not so early as may be supposed, for already November had touched its middle point, and the tardy sun did not make its appearance till nearly seven o'clock. As he passed through the hall he noticed that breakfast was not quite ready.
"A little walk will sharpen my appetite," he thought. He put on his hat, and, passing through the stable-yard at the rear, climbed over a fence and ascended a hill which he had observed from his chamber window. The sloping sides, which had not yet wholly lost their appearance of verdure, were dotted with trees, mostly apple-trees.
"It must be delightful in summer," said the young man, as he looked thoughtfully about him.
The hill was by no means high, and five minutes' walk brought him to the summit. From this spot he had a fine view of the village which lay at his feet embowered in trees. A narrow river wound like a silver thread through the landscape. Groups of trees on either bank bent over as if to see themselves reflected in the rapid stream. At one point a dam had been built across from bank to bank, above which the river widened and deepened, affording an excellent skating-ground for the boys in the cold days of December and January. A whirring noise was heard. The grist-mill had just commenced its work for the day. Down below the dam the shallow water eddied and whirled, breaking in fleecy foam over protuberant rocks which lay in the river-bed.
The old village church with its modest proportions occupied a knoll between the hill and the river. It was girdled about with firs intermingled with elms. Near-by was a small triangular common, thickly planted with trees, each facing a separate street. Houses clustered here and there. Comfortable buildings they were, but built evidently rather for use than show. The architect had not yet come to the assistance of the village carpenter.
Seen in the cheering light of the rising sun, Henry Morton could not help feeling that a beautiful picture was spread out before him.
"After all," he said thoughtfully, "we needn't go abroad for beauty, when we can find so much of it at our own doors. Yet, perhaps the more we see of the beautiful, the better we are fitted to appreciate it in the wonderful variety of its numberless forms."
He slowly descended the hill, but in a different direction. This brought him to the road that connected the village with North Rossville, two miles distant.
Coming from a different direction, a boy reached the stile about the same time with himself, and both clambered over together.
"It is a beautiful morning," said the young man courteously.
"Yes, sir," was the respectful answer. "Have you been up looking at the view?"
"Yes--and to get an appetite for breakfast. And you?"
Frank Frost--for it was he--laughed. "Oh, I am here on quite a different errand," he said. "I used to come here earlier in the season to drive the cows to pasture. I come this morning to carry some milk to a neighbor who takes it of us. She usually sends for it, but her son is just now sick with the measles."
"Yet I think you cannot fail to enjoy the pleasant morning, even if you are here for other purposes."
"I do enjoy it very much," said Frank. "When I read of beautiful scenery in other countries, I always wish that I could visit them, and see for myself."
"Perhaps you will some day."
Frank smiled, and shook his head incredulously. "I am afraid there is not much chance of it," he said.
"So I thought when I was of your age," returned Henry Morton.
"Then you have traveled?" said Frank, looking interested.
"Yes. I have visited most of the countries of Europe."
"Have you been in Rome?" inquired Frank.
"Yes. Are you interested in Rome?"
"Who could help it, sir? I should like to see the Capitol, and the Via Sacra, and the Tarpeian Rock, and the Forum--and, in fact, Rome must be full of objects of interest. Who knows but I might tread where Cicero, and Virgil, and Caesar had trodden before me?"
Henry Morton looked at the boy who stood beside him with increased interest. "I see you are quite a scholar," he said. "Where did you learn about all these men and places?"
"I have partly prepared for college," answered Frank; "but my father went to the war some weeks since, and I am staying at home to take charge of the farm, and supply his place as well as I can."
"It must have been quite a sacrifice to you to give up your studies?" said his companion.
"Yes, sir, it was a great sacrifice; but we must all of us sacrifice something in these times. Even the boys can do something for their country."
"What is your name?" asked Henry Morton, more and more pleased with his chance acquaintance. "I should like to become better acquainted with you."
Frank blushed, and his expressive face showed that he was gratified by the compliment.
"My name is Frank Frost," he answered, "and I live about half a mile from here."
"And I am Henry Morton. I am stopping temporarily at the hotel. Shall you be at leisure this evening, Frank?"
"Then I should be glad to receive a call from you. I have no acquaintances, and perhaps we may help each other to make the evening pass pleasantly. I have some pictures collected abroad, which I think you might like to look at."
"I shall be delighted to come," said Frank, his eyes sparkling with pleasure.
By this time they had reached the church, which was distant but a few rods from the hotel. They had just turned the corner of the road, when the clang of a bell was heard.
"I suppose that is my breakfast-bell," said the young man. "It finds me with a good appetite. Good morning, Frank. I will expect you, then, this evening."
Frank returned home, feeling quite pleased with his invitation.
"I wish," thought he, "that I might see considerable of Mr. Morton. I could learn a great deal from him, he has seen so much."
His road led him past the house of Squire Haynes. John was sauntering about the yard with his hands in his pockets.
"Good morning, John," said Frank, in a pleasant voice.
John did not seem inclined to respond to this politeness. On seeing Frank he scowled, and without deigning to make a reply turned his back and went into the house. He had not forgotten the last occasion on which they had met in the woods, when Frank defeated his cruel designs upon poor Pomp. There was not much likelihood that he would forget it very soon.
"I can't understand John," thought Frank. "The other boys will get mad and get over it before the next day; John broods over it for weeks. I really believe he hates me. But, of course, I couldn't act any differently. I wasn't going to stand by and see Pomp beaten. I should do just the same again."
The day wore away, and in the evening Frank presented himself at the hotel, and inquired for Mr. Morton. He was ushered upstairs, and told to knock at the door of a room in the second story.
His knock was answered by the young man in person, who shook his hand with a pleasant smile, and invited him in.
"I am glad to see you, Frank," he said, very cordially.
"And I am much obliged to you for inviting me, Mr. Morton."
They sat down together beside the table, and conversed on a variety of topics. Frank had numberless questions to ask about foreign scenes and countries, all of which were answered with the utmost readiness. Henry Morton brought out a large portfolio containing various pictures, some on note-paper, representing scenes in different parts of Europe.
The evening wore away only too rapidly for Frank. He had seldom passed two hours so pleasantly. At half-past nine, he rose, and said half-regretfully, "I wish you were going to live in the village this winter, Mr. Morton."
The young man smiled. "Such is my intention, Frank," he said quietly.
"Shall you stay?" said Frank joyfully. "I suppose you will board here?"
"I should prefer a quieter boarding-place. Can you recommend one?"
"Where," continued Mr. Morton, "I could enjoy the companionship of an intelligent young gentleman of your age?"
"If we lived nearer the village," Frank began, and stopped abruptly.
"Half a mile would be no objection to me. As I don't think you will find it unpleasant, Frank, I will authorize you to offer your mother five dollars a week for a room and a seat at her table."
"I am quite sure she would be willing, Mr. Morton, but I am afraid we should not live well enough to suit you. And I don't think you ought to pay so much as five dollars a week."
"Leave that to me, Frank. My main object is to obtain a pleasant home; and that I am sure I should find at your house."
"Thank you, sir," said Frank; "I will mention it to my mother, and let you know in the course of to-morrow."