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"I don't think I can walk any further, Abner. I feel sick," faltered Herbert.
Abner, who had been walking briskly, turned round to look at his young companion. Herbert was looking very pale, and had to drag one foot after the other. Day after day he had tried to keep up with Abner, but his strength was far inferior to that of the other boy, and he had finally broken down.
"You do look sick, bub," said Abner, struck by Herbert's pallid look. "Was I walking too fast for you?"
"I feel very weak," said Herbert. "Would you mind stopping a little while? I should like to lie under a tree and rest."
"All right, bub. There's a nice tree." "Don't you feel tired, Abner?"
"No; I feel as strong as hearty as a horse."
"You are bigger than I am. I guess that is the reason."
Abner was a rough boy, but he showed unusual gentleness and consideration for the little boy, whose weakness appealed to his better nature. He picked out a nice, shady place for Herbert to recline upon, and, taking off his coat, laid it down for a pillow on which his young companion might rest his head.
"There, bub; I reckon you'll feel better soon," he said.
"I hope so, Abner. I wish I was as strong as you are."
"So do I. I reckon I was born tough. I was brought up different from you."
"I wish I were at home," sighed Herbert. "Is it a long way from here?"
"I reckon it is, but I don't know," answered Abner, whose geographical notions were decidedly hazy.
An hour passed, and still Herbert lay almost motionless, as if rest were a luxury, with his eyes fixed thoughtfully upon the clouds that could be seen through the branches floating lazily above.
"Don't you feel any better, bub?" asked Abner.
"I feel better while I am lying here, Abner."
"Don't you feel strong enough to walk a little further?"
"Must I?" asked Herbert, sighing. "It is so nice to lie here."
"I am afraid we shall never get to New York if we don't keep goin'."
"I'll try," said Herbert, and he rose to his feet, but he only staggered and became very white.
"I am afraid I need to rest a little more," he said.
"All right, bub. Take your time."
More critically Abner surveyed his young companion. He was not used to sickness or weakness, but there was something in the little boy's face that startled him.
"I don't think you're fit to walk any further today," he said. "I wish we had some good place to stay."
At this moment a carriage was seen approaching. It was driven by a lady of middle age, with a benevolent face. Her attention was drawn to the two boys, and especially to Herbert. Her experienced eyes at once saw that he was sick.
She halted her horse.
"What is the matter with your brother?" she said to Abner.
"I reckon he's tuckered out," said Abner, tacitly admitting the relationship. "We've been travelin' for several days. He ain't so tough as I am."
"He looks as if he were going to be sick. Have you any friends near here?"
"No, ma'am. The nighest is over a hundred miles off."
The lady reflected a moment. Then she said: "I think you had better come to my house. My brother is a doctor. He will look at your little brother and see what can be done for him."
"I should like it very much," said Abner, "but we haven't got any money to pay for doctors and sich."
"I shan't present any bill, nor will my brother," said the lady, smiling. "Do you think you can help him into the carriage?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am."
Abner helped Herbert into the carriage, and then, by invitation, got in himself.
"May I drive?" he asked, eagerly.
"Yes, if you like."
The kind lady supported with her arm Herbert's drooping head, and so they drove on for a mile, when she indicated that they were to stop in front of a large, substantial, square house, built after the New England style.
Herbert was taken out, and, after Abner helped him upstairs, into a large, square chamber, with four windows.
"What is his name?" asked the lady.
"He had better lie down on the bed, and, as soon as my brother comes, I will send him up."
Herbert breathed a sigh of satisfaction, as he reclined on the comfortable bed, which was more like the one he slept in at home than the rude, straw bed which he had used when boarding with Mr. and Mrs. Barton.
Half an hour passed, and the doctor came into the room, and felt Herbert's pulse.
"The boy is tired out," he said. "That is all. His strength has been exhausted by too severe physical effort."
"What shall we do to bring him round?" asked his sister.
"Rest and nourishing food are all that is required."
"Shall we keep him here? Have you any objection?"
"I should object to letting him go in his present condition. He will be a care to you, Emily."
"I shall not mind that. We shall have to keep the other boy, too."
"Certainly. There's room enough for both."
When Abner was told that for a week to come they were to stay in Dr. Stone's comfortable house, his face indicated his satisfaction.
"Ef you've got any chores to do, ma'am," he said, "I'll do 'em. I'm strong, and not afraid to work."
"Then I will make you very useful," said Miss Stone, smiling.
The next day, as she was sitting in Herbert's chamber, she said: "Herbert, you don't look at all like your brother."
"Do you mean Abner, Miss Stone?" Herbert asked.
"Yes; have you any other brother?"
"Abner is not my brother at all."
"How, then, do you happen to be traveling together?"
"Because we've both run away."
"I am sorry to hear that. I don't approve of boys running away. Where do you live?"
"In New York."
"In New York!" repeated Miss Stone, much surprised. "Surely, you have not walked from there?"
"No, Miss Stone; I was stolen from my home in New York about a month ago, and left at Abner's house. It was a poor cabin, and very different from anything I was accustomed to. I did not like Mr. and Mrs. Barton; but Abner was always kind to me."
"Is your father living?" asked Miss Stone, who had become interested.
"Yes; he is a broker."
"And no doubt you have a nice home?"
"Yes, very nice. It is a brownstone house uptown. I wonder whether I shall ever see it again?"
"Surely you will. I am surprised that you have not written to tell your father where you are. He must be feeling very anxious about you."
"I did write, asking him to send me money to come home. Abner was going with me. But no answer came to my letter."
"That is strange. Your father can't have received the letter."
"So I think, Miss Stone; but I directed it all right."
"Do you think any one would intercept it?"
"Mrs. Estabrook might," said Herbert, after a pause for consideration.
"Who is she?"
"What makes you think so? Didn't she like you?"
"No; besides, it was her nephew who carried me off."
Miss Stone asked further questions, and Herbert told her all the particulars with which the reader is already acquainted. When he had finished, she said: "My advice is, that you write to your boy friend, Grant Thornton, or tell me what to write, and I will write to him. His letters will not be likely to be tampered with."
"I think that will be a good idea," said Herbert; "Grant will tell papa, and then he'll send for me."
Miss Stone brought her desk to the bedside, and wrote a letter to Grant at Herbert's dictation. This letter she sent to the village postoffice immediately by Abner.
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