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Kit returned to breakfast in good spirits. He saw a way out of his difficulties. Though he had no false pride, he felt that a blacksmith's life would be distasteful to him. He was fond of study, and had looked forward to a college course. Now this was out of the question. It seemed that he was as poor as his friend, Dan Clark, with his own way to make in the world. When he left school, at the beginning of the vacation, he supposed that he would inherit a competence. It was certainly a great change in his prospects, but now he did not feel dispirited. He thought, upon the whole, he would enjoy traveling with the circus. His duties would be light, and the pay liberal.
Before he returned to breakfast, Ralph had come down-stairs, and had a few words with his father.
"I think you are going to have trouble with Kit, father," he commenced.
"What makes you think so, and what about?" asked Mr. Watson.
"I told him last evening about your plan of apprenticing him to Mr. Bickford."
"You did wrong. I did not propose to mention the matter to him till Mr. Bickford's arrival. What did he say?"
"He turned up his nose at the idea. He thinks he ought to become a merchant or a professional man like me. He is too proud to be a blacksmith."
"Then he must put his pride in his pocket. It will be all I can do to pay the expenses of your education. I can't provide for two boys."
"When Kit is off your hands won't you increase my allowance, father?" asked Ralph, insinuatingly.
"Suppose we postpone that matter," replied Mr. Watson, in a tone of voice that was not encouraging. "I have lost some money lately, and I can't do anything more for you just at present."
Ralph looked disappointed, but did not venture to press the subject.
"Where have you been, Kit?" he asked, as he saw his cousin entering the gate, and coming up the path to the front door.
"I have been taking a walk," answered Kit, cheerfully.
"It's a good idea to rise early."
"Because you will probably be required to do so in your new place."
"What new place?"
"At the blacksmith's."
Kit smiled. To Ralph's surprise he did not appear to be annoyed.
"I see you are getting reconciled to the idea. Last evening you seemed to dislike it."
"Your father has not said anything about it to me."
"He will very soon."
"Won't you come round and see me occasionally, Ralph?" asked Kit, with a curious smile.
"Yes; I may call on Saturday. I should like to see how you look."
Kit smiled again. He thought it extremely doubtful whether Ralph would see him at the blacksmith's forge.
Half an hour after breakfast, while Ralph and Kit were in the stable, the sound of wheels was heard, and a stout, broad-shouldered man, with a bronzed complexion, drove up in a farm wagon. Throwing his reins over the horse's neck, he descended from the wagon, and turned in at the gate. Mr. Watson, who had been sitting at the front window, opened the door for him.
"Glad to see you, Mr. Bickford," he said.
"Is the boy ready?" asked the blacksmith. "I can take him right over with me this morning."
"Come into the house, I will send for him."
Mr. Bickford noticed the handsome appearance of the hall, and the front room, the door of which was partly open, and said: "If the boy's been used to livin' here, he must be kind of high strung. I can't give him no such home as this."
"Of course not, Mr. Bickford. He can't expect it. He's a poor boy, and will have to make his own way in the world. Beggars can't be choosers, you know."
A servant was sent to the stable to summon Kit. Ralph, who thought he should enjoy the scene, accompanied him.
Kit regarded the blacksmith with some curiosity.
"This is Mr. Aaron Bickford, of Oakford, Kit," began his uncle.
"I hope you are well, Mr. Bickford," said Kit, politely.
The blacksmith gazed at Kit with earnest scrutiny.
"Humph!" said he; "are you strong and muscular?"
"Pretty fair," answered Kit, with a smile.
"Kit," said his uncle, clearing his throat, "in your circumstances I have thought it desirable that you should learn a trade, and have spoken to Mr. Bickford about taking you as an apprentice."
"In what business?" asked Kit.
"I'm a blacksmith," said Mr. Bickford, taking it upon himself to reply, "and it's a good, healthy business as any you'd want to follow."
"I have no doubt of it," said Kit, quietly, "but I don't think I should like it all the same. Uncle Stephen, how does it happen that you have selected such a business for me?"
"I heard that Mr. Bickford needed an apprentice, and I have arranged matters with him to take you, and teach you his trade."
"Yes," put in Mr. Bickford, "I've agreed to give you your board and a dollar a week the first year. That's more than I got when I was 'prentice. My old master only paid me fifty cents a week."
Kit turned to his uncle.
"Do you think my education has fitted me for a blacksmith's trade?" he asked.
"It won't interfere," replied Mr. Watson, a little uneasily.
"Wouldn't it have been well to consult me in the matter? It seems to me I am rather interested."
"Oh, I supposed you would object, as you had been looking forward to being a gentleman, but I can't afford to keep you in idleness any longer, and so have arranged matters with Mr. Bickford."
"Suppose I object to going with him?" said Kit, calmly.
"Then I shall overrule your objections, and compel you to do what I think is for your good."
Kit's eye flashed with transient anger, but as he had no idea of acceding to his uncle's order, he did not allow himself to become unduly excited. Indeed he had a plan, which made temporary submission a matter of policy.
"What's the boy's name?" asked Aaron Bickford.
"I am generally called Kit. My right name is Christopher."
"Then, Kit, you'd better be getting your traps together, for I can't stop long away from the shop."
"I have arranged to have you go back with Mr. Bickford to-day," said Stephen Watson.
"That's rather short notice, isn't it?" Kit rejoined.
"The sooner the matter is arranged, the better!" answered his uncle.
"Very well," said Kit, with unexpected submission. "I'll go and pack up my clothes."
Mr. Watson looked relieved. He had expected to have more trouble with his nephew.
In twenty minutes Kit reappeared with his school valise. He had packed up a supply of shirts, socks, handkerchiefs, and underclothing.
"I am all ready," he said.
"Then we'll be going," said the blacksmith, rising with alacrity.
Kit took his place on the seat beside Mr. Bickford.
"Good-by, uncle!" he said; "it may be some time before we meet again."
"What does the boy mean?" asked Stephen Watson, turning to Ralph with a puzzled look.
"I don't know. He's been acting queer all the morning."
So Kit rode away with Aaron Bickford, but he had not the slightest intention of becoming blacksmith. Instead of blacksmith's forges, visions of a circus ring and acrobatic feats were dancing before his mind.
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