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Nat now asked for his uncle and was told that his relative was at the barn. Placing his dress-suit case in the house, he walked down to the barn. In the meantime Sam Price had driven off.
"Uncle Abner, where are you?"
"Who's thet a-callin' me?" came from the farmer, as he looked forth from one of the horse stalls.
"I've come to ask you for a job," went on Nat, lightly.
"Nat! How be you?" Abner came and shook hands. "Want a job? Is it all up in New York?"
"No, uncle, I was only fooling. I came home for a vacation of a couple of days, that's all."
"Well, you're welcome, Nat. But it must cost money to travel so far for jest two days' vacation."
"I came for another purpose, too. Do you remember those old papers in the trunk in the garret?"
"Those thet belonged to your father an' grandfather?"
"Yes. Well, I am going to look them over and see if they are of any value."
"Ain't nuthin' of any use, Nat. I looked over 'em myself, one rainy day when I didn't have nuthin' else to do."
"Mr. Garwell thinks some of them might be valuable."
"Does he know about 'em?"
"He only knows what I told him."
"The old debts is all outlawed."
"But there are other papers—something about some land grandfather had an interest in."
"I don't know nuthin' about that. It's so long ago, I don't believe they are worth a cent."
"Well, it won't do any harm to look them over, and show them to Mr. Garwell," returned our hero.
It was approaching the noon hour, and in honor of Nat's arrival, Mrs. Balberry prepared an extra good dinner, of which the boy partook freely. It was plainly to be seen that the former widow was the ruler of the house, and that she compelled Abner Balberry to be far more liberal than had been his habit in years gone by.
"Have another piece of pie, Nat," said the lady of the house, graciously.
"Thank you, but I've had enough," answered Nat.
"Better save what's left for to-morrow," suggested Abner Balberry.
"If Nat wants another piece, he shall have it," was the lady's quick answer.
"Oh, certainly! certainly!"
"Ma, I want another piece," came promptly from Fred.
"You've had two pieces already, Fred."
"I want another."
"Just a little piece!"
"Not another mouthful!" And Mrs. Balberry placed the remainder of the pie in the cupboard.
"I can't never have nothing!" cried Fred, kicking the leg of the table.
"You'll have a box on the ears, Fred Guff, if you don't behave yourself," answered his mother, and then there was silence.
After dinner, Nat talked with his uncle for a while, and then putting on an old coat, went up into the dusty garret, and hauled out the old trunk. It was strapped, but not locked, so he had no trouble in opening it.
"What are you going to do?" asked Fred, who had followed him.
"Look over some papers," answered our hero, briefly.
"Want me to help you?"
"What are you going to do with the papers?"
"Take some of them to the city with me."
"Are they yours?"
"Say, don't you think it would be a good plan for me to go to the city and git a job at ten dollars a week?" went on Fred, sitting down on the top garret step.
"Yes, if you could get the ten-dollar job."
"Why can't I git it? You got it."
"I was lucky, that's all, Fred. Before I got it I might have starved to death."
"Huh! Couldn't you git me a job with your boss?"
"I don't think so."
"I'm just as smart as you are, Nat Nason."
To this our hero made no reply. He had brought out some of the papers, and was looking them over with much interest.
"If you don't want to help me git a job, I'll git one on my own hook," continued Fred, who was as dull as he considered himself bright.
"Well, you have a right to do as you please," said Nat. "But please leave me alone now, Fred; I want to read these very carefully."
"Huh! I'm going to stay in the garret as long as I please."
Nat said no more, and Fred began to kick the step upon which he was sitting. Then, he began to thump on the rafters of the garret, bringing down some dirt on Nat's head.
"Stop that, Fred!" cried our hero, sharply. "Stop it, I say!"
"I ain't goin' to stop."
"If you don't stop, I'll put you downstairs, first thing you know."
"You can't do it."
"Yes, I can."
"Do you want to fight?" demanded Fred, rising and squaring off.
"No, but I want you to leave me alone."
"I ain't touched you."
"No, but you were knocking the dirt down on me. Why can't you leave me alone?"
"I've got as much right in this garret as you have, that's why."
"You are mean."
"Don't you call me mean!" blustered Fred, and coming closer, he hit Nat on the shoulder. At once our hero hit back, and Fred received a thump in the mouth that caused him to topple backwards.
"Don't!" he screamed. "Don't—don't hit me again."
"Now, are you going to leave me alone?" demanded Nat.
"I'll tell my ma on you."
"If you do, I shall tell her how you annoyed me," answered Nat.
"Come down in the barnyard and I'll fight with you," said Fred, but, as he spoke, he retreated down the stairs.
"Don't be a fool, Fred. Behave yourself, and we'll get along all right," said Nat, and then Fred passed to the lower floor, banging the stairway door after him. There was a hook on the door, and this he fastened after him.
"Now, Nat can stay in the garret till I let him out," he muttered to himself.
When left to himself, Nat dragged the old trunk to one of the windows of the garret, and then began a systematic investigation of all the papers the box contained. He soon learned that the majority of the documents were of no importance, but there were half a dozen which looked of possible value, and these he placed in his pocket. Two of the sheets referred directly to the land in New York City.
"I hope these are what Mr. Garwell is looking for," he said to himself.
Having put the trunk back where it belonged, Nat started to go below, only to find the door hooked fast from the other side.
"Fred!" he called out loudly. "Fred, open the door!"
"Ha! ha! Nat Nason, how do you like being a prisoner?" came from Fred, who had been resting on a bed in a nearby room.
"I want you to open the door."
"What will you give me if I do?"
"I'll tell you what I'll give you if you don't!" cried Nat, angrily.
"A good thrashing."
"You can't do it."
"Are you going to open the door?"
Fred had scarcely spoken when Nat pressed on the door, and the hook flew from its fastening. As the door burst open, Nat leaped from the stairway and caught the other boy by the collar.
"Now, then, that for locking me in," he cried, and boxed Fred's ears soundly.
"Stop!" roared Fred. "Stop, Nat Nason."
"Will you behave yourself after this, and leave me alone?"
"Then, see that you do," went on Nat, and flung the other boy from him. Fred picked himself up in a hurry, and ran below. He vowed he would get square, but during Nat's stay at the farm he could not muster up courage to do so.
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