Chapter 20




PROSPECT POND

It was a beautiful afternoon and Herbert was satisfied to lay books aside and walk over to Prospect Pond.

This pond was about a mile from the village and probably about a mile and a half in circuit. At the farther end was a small hill crowned with forest trees.

"That would be a fine situation for a house."

"Yes," said Herbert, "but it would be hard to get at."

"Oh, of course a road would have to be built connecting with the highway. Perhaps you will build a house there when you are a rich man."

"Then I shall have to wait a few years," said Herbert.

"You wouldn't be the first poor boy that has grown rich. My own father is rich now, but when he was of your age he was only a poor 'bobbin boy' working at scanty pay in the factory of which he is now owner."

"I should like to be rich for my mother's sake," said Herbert.

"With money one can do a great deal of good, though not all rich men choose to apply their riches worthily. How smooth the water is to-day! Isn't there a boat somewhere that we can use?"

"There's one a few rods from here, but it belongs to James Leech."

"Would it do to take it, do you think?"

"It might do for you but not for me."

"Why not for you?"

"James and I are not very good friends."

"Why not?"

"He looks down upon me because I am poor."

"So he is inclined to put on airs on account of his father's money?"

"I should say he is."

"Let us go and see the boat at any rate."

Herbert led the way through a meadow to a clump of trees, where a small rowboat floated upon the water.

"Does Leech often go out in it?"

"Two or three times a week."

"It is just about large enough for two, though it would easily accommodate one more."

"Yes."

"If I thought your friend would not be round I should be tempted to try it for half an hour."

"I think you might venture."

"Jump in, then, and we'll push out."

Herbert shook his head.

"If the boat belonged to anyone but James Leech I would go; but I don't like him well enough to take any liberty with anything of his."

"Perhaps you are right. Would you mind sitting down and waiting for me twenty minutes or half an hour?"

"Oh, no; it will be pleasant."

"Then here goes."

Cameron jumped into the boat, pushed off and began to row in a style that showed he was accustomed to the exercise. The pond was so small that it was not easy for him to get out of sight.

Herbert sat down, not without a secret longing to be in the boat also; but he did not care to place himself under any obligations to James.

Suddenly he heard a hasty step behind him. Looking up, he saw the owner of the boat close at hand.

James Leech looked for his boat and saw that it was gone. Then his gaze fell upon our hero.

"What have you done with my boat, Carter?" he demanded, peremptorily.

"What makes you ask such a question, Leech?" answered Herbert.

"Why do you call me Leech?" said James, angrily.

"For the same reason you call me Carter, I suppose."

"There's a great difference between us," said James.

"That's true," assented Herbert.

"And you ought to treat me with proper respect."

"I treat you with all the respect you deserve."

"You haven't answered my question," said James.

"What question?"

"Where is my boat?"

"Out on the pond. Look and you will see it."

James looked where Herbert pointed.

"Who is that in that boat?" he demanded, angrily.

"Mr. Cameron."

"Who's he?"

"A boarder at the hotel."

"Is it the young man from Yale College? My father was speaking of him this morning," said James, moderating his tone very considerably.

"Yes."

"Then I don't mind. My father says he is very rich. I suppose I shall be introduced to him soon," said James, complacently.

"If you will wait a few minutes till he comes ashore I will introduce you," said Herbert.

"You! What do you know of him?" sneered James.

"I passed the afternoon with him," said Herbert.

"He must be hard up for company," said James.

"Look here, James Leech," said Herbert his eyes flashing; "I've had enough of that kind of talk. I don't intend to submit to your impudence. When you speak to me keep a civil tongue in your head."

"I never heard such impudence. What do you mean by addressing me in that style?"

"What do I mean? I mean to warn you to be civil."

"Look here, Carter! I'll tell my father and he'll turn you out of house and home," exclaimed James, furiously.

"He hasn't the power, fortunately."

"Hasn't he got a mortgage on your place?"

"Yes; but the interest was paid to-day and no more will be due for six months."

"Where did you get the money to pay the interest?"

"That is no business of yours. It is enough for you to know that it is paid and that your father has no more control over us than we have over him."

James was disappointed. He had expected that the interest would not be paid and that Mrs. Carter and Herbert would be at his father's mercy. It was certainly surprising that they had raised the money.

"Are you waiting here for Mr. Cameron?" asked James.

"Yes."

"I don't think you need to."

"As you don't even know him, I don't think your opinions as to his wishes of much importance."

"I wouldn't thrust myself on him, if I were you."

"Thank you, I don't intend to."

"I suppose you fell in with him by accident. He probably don't know who you are."

"Oh, yes, he does. He knows all about me. I am going to spend to- morrow afternoon with him also," said Herbert, delighting to mystify his companion.

"He won't care to have you call much longer. My aunt has written to my father about him and he will invite Mr. Cameron to call."

"I have no objection but I don't think it will make any difference as I am Mr. Cameron's private secretary." "Private secretary! What do you do?"

"I read to him, as his eyes are poor, and I suppose I shall write for him when he needs it."

"What does he pay you?"

"I don't know as that concerns you particularly. Still, I don't mind telling you. He pays me five dollars a week."

"That's a good deal more than you're worth."

"I think so myself, especially as I only spend the afternoon with him."

James was quite annoyed to find that the boy he disliked was prospering so well. He was about to make another unpleasant remark when Herbert suddenly exclaimed:

"He's turned the boat. Doesn't he row beautifully?"

The same thought sprang up in the minds of both boys: "I wish I could row like that."



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