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Totally unconscious of what had taken place at the farm after his departure, Nat, in company with his friend, Sam Price, proceeded on his way to Brookville.
On the journey Nat told his friend of many things that had happened to him and of his uncle's meanness.
"I don't wonder you want a change," said Sam. "I'd want a change myself."
At last they came in sight of Brookville, and Nat drove the cow to the yard of Jackson the butcher.
The butcher was a fat, good-natured man of middle age. But he was a shrewd business man and first-class at driving a bargain.
"What do you want, boy?" he asked of Nat.
"Do you want to buy a cow, Mr. Jackson? Sam says you were out looking for cows day before yesterday."
"I did want cows then, but I've got nearly all I want now."
"Oh, then I'll go elsewhere," answered Nat.
"Hold on, not so fast. What do you want for your cow?"
"Phew! you don't want much."
"She's worth it. You can milk her or use her for meat, just as you choose."
"Whose cow is she?"
"Yours?" And the butcher gazed at Nat curiously.
"Yes. I've owned her ever since she was a little calf."
"And now you are tired of her?"
"Not exactly that, but I want to use the money. Will you buy her?"
"Yes, but not for thirty dollars."
"How much will you give?"
"I don't care to sell for twenty dollars."
"That's the best I can do."
"Then I'll have to go elsewhere. Come, Jennie," and Nat turned to drive the cow from the butcher's yard again.
"Hold on!" cried the meat man. "I'll give you twenty-two dollars."
"Make it twenty-five and I'll accept. I can't take less. I ought to get thirty dollars."
There was some more talk, and in the end, the butcher agreed to pay twenty-five dollars and did so. He wanted a receipt, and Nat wrote it out for him.
"So you are Nat Nason," said the butcher. "I used to know your father. A very nice man."
"He was a nice man."
"Live with your uncle now, don't you?"
"I have been living with him, yes. Good-day, and much obliged," returned the boy, and to avoid being questioned further he left the yard at once, followed by Sam.
"You made a good bargain on the cow," said Sam. "I reckon you got every cent she was worth."
"She was a good cow, Sam. I'm rather sorry to part with her. She was almost like a friend."
"What are you going to do next?"
"Strike out for the city."
"I wish you luck."
"You won't tell my uncle?"
"Not a word. But, say."
"When you get to the city write and tell me how you like it."
"I will, Sam, and you must tell me the news from home, and how my uncle gets along without me."
So it was arranged; and a few minutes later the two lads separated, and Sam Price started for home.
Brookville was on a small branch railroad running to Cleveland, and by consulting a time-table Nat learned that a train for Cleveland would leave in ten minutes. He lost no time in purchasing a ticket, and spent the rest of the time in eating some of the lunch he had brought along. With over twenty-three dollars still in his pocket he felt rich, and bought some peanuts and a cake of sweet chocolate.
When the train came along there were scarcely any passengers aboard, so he had little difficulty in getting the seat he wanted. He sat down by a window, with his bundle beside him, and gave himself up to thinking and to looking at the scenery as it whirled past.
Nat had traveled but little on the cars, so the ride to Cleveland was intensely enjoyable. The different places passed were so interesting that he soon forgot to think about his prospects, or of what he was to do when he arrived at the city on the lake.
"Next stop is Cleveland!" cried the conductor, standing at the open doorway. "All change, for trains east and west!"
A moment later the train rolled into the smoky station, and bundle in hand, Nat left the car and stepped onto the platform. From there he walked to the street, where he gazed in some bewilderment at the crowds of people and the swiftly moving street cars.
"Paper!" cried a newsboy. "Morning paper?"
"No, I don't want any paper," answered Nat.
"All about the big fire in Chicago, boss. Take a paper?"
"Yes, I'll take one," said Nat, and passed over the necessary change. Off darted the newsboy, to be lost in the crowd on the other side of the street. Nat gazed at the paper, to find that a tenement had burned out in Chicago, with the loss of one life.
"That's not such a terrible thing—for a big city like Chicago," he mused, and then noticed that the newspaper was two days old.
"That boy stuck me!" he muttered, and a cloud crossed his face. "I wonder where he is?"
The boy could not be found, and in a moment Nat concluded it would be a waste of time to look for him.
"He caught me for a greeny, true enough," he thought. "I've got to keep my eyes open after this."
From one street Nat passed to another, gazing into the shop windows, and wondering what he had best do next. He had at first calculated to go to New York without delay, but now thought it would do no harm to remain in Cleveland a day or two.
"Perhaps I'll never get here again," he reasoned. "And I might as well see all there is to see."
Noon found him on one of the main streets. He was now hungry again, and coming to a modest-looking restaurant, he entered and sat down at a side table.
"What will you have?" asked the waiter, coming up to him.
"Give me a regular dinner," said Nat, seeing the sign on the wall:
Regular Dinner, 11 to 2. 30 cents.
The waiter walked off, and presently returned with some bread and butter.
"Pea or tomato soup?" he asked.
"What's that?" questioned the boy.
"Pea or tomato soup?"
"I don't want any soup—I want a regular dinner."
At this the waiter smiled, for he saw that Nat was green.
"We serve soup first—if the customer wants it."
"And what do you serve after that?"
"One kind of meat, vegetables, coffee or milk, and pie or pudding."
"Oh! Well bring me the meat and other stuff. I never cared for soup anyway."
"Roast beef or lamb?"
The waiter went off, and presently Nat was supplied with all he cared to eat. The food was good, and he took his time, finishing off with a piece of lemon meringue pie, a dainty of which he was exceedingly fond, but which Mrs. Felton had seldom dared to make.
"Thirty cents, but I guess it was worth it," he thought, as he left the restaurant.
Nat had never seen Lake Erie, and toward the middle of the afternoon he walked down in the direction of the water. The shipping interested him greatly, and it was dark before he realized that the day was gone without anything definite being accomplished.
"Gracious, how time flies when one is in the city!" he thought. "To-morrow, I must make up my mind what to do next. If I don't, I'll have my money spent, and no job, either."
As it grew darker the boy felt the necessity of looking for accommodations for the night. Seeing a sign on a house, Furnished Rooms by the Day, Week, or Month, he ascended the stoop, and rang the bell. A young Irish girl answered his summons.
"Can I get a bed for to-night?" asked Nat.
"I guess yez can—I'll call Mrs. O'Hara," said the girl.
The landlady soon showed herself, and said she could let Nat have a hall room for fifty cents. To the boy's notion this seemed rather high.
"I can't take less," said Mrs. O'Hara, firmly.
"Very well; I'll take the room for to-night," answered Nat. "Can I put my bundle up there now?"
"To be sure."
Fortunately for Nat, the room proved clean and well-kept, and the bed was better than the one he had used at the farm. Tired out, the boy slept soundly until seven o'clock, when he lost no time in dressing and going below.
"Will you want the room again to-night, Mr. Nason?" asked the landlady.
"I don't think so," answered Nat. It made him feel a foot taller to be addressed as Mr. Nason. "If I want it, I'll let you know by supper time."
With his bundle under his arm, Nat left the house, and walked down the street toward one of the main thoroughfares of Cleveland. Then he stopped at a restaurant for breakfast.
"Now, I've got to make up my mind what to do," he told himself. "Maybe I had better go back to the depot and see about a train and the fare to New York."
After making several false turns, the boy found his way to the depot, and there hunted up the ticket office, and procured a time-table. He was just looking into the time-table when he felt a heavy hand placed on his shoulder.
"So I've found you, have I?" came harshly from Abner Balberry. "You young rascal, what do you mean by runnin' away?"
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