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The first meal to which Sam sat down at the deacon's house was supper. It was only a plain supper,—tea, bread and butter, and apple-pie; but to Sam, who was not used to regular meals of any kind, it seemed luxurious. He despatched slice after slice of bread, eating twice as much as any one else at the table, and after eating his share of the pie gazed hungrily at the single slice which remained on the plate, and asked for that also.
Deacon Hopkins thought it was time to interfere.
"You've had one piece a'ready," he said.
"I know it," said Sam; "but I'm hungry."
"I don't see how you can be. You've eat more than any of us."
"It takes a good deal to fill me up," said Sam, frankly.
"The boy'll eat us out of house and home," said Mrs. Hopkins, in alarm. "You can't have any more. You've had enough."
Sam withdrew his plate. He did not look abashed, for he was never much inclined that way, nor did his feelings appear to be hurt, for he was not sensitive; but he took the matter coolly, and pushing back his chair from the table was about to leave the room.
"Where are you a-goin?" asked his new guardian.
"Stop. I've got something for you to do."
The deacon went to the mantel-piece and took therefrom the catechism.
"You aint had no bringin' up, Samuel," he said. "You don't know nothin' about your moral and religious obligations. It's my dooty to make you learn how to walk uprightly."
"I can walk straight now," said Sam.
"I don't mean that—I mean in a moral sense. Come here."
Sam unwillingly drew near the deacon.
"Here, I want you to study the first page of the catechism, and recite it to me before you go to bed."
Sam took the book, and looked at the first page doubtfully.
"What's the good of it?" he demanded, in a discontented voice.
"What's the good of the catechism?" exclaimed the deacon, shocked.
"It'll l'arn you your duties. It'll benefit your immortal soul."
"I don't care if it will," said Sam, perversely. "What do I care about my soul? It never did me no good."
"Did you ever see such a heathen, Martha?" said the deacon, in despair, turning to his wife.
"You'll be sorry you ever took him," said Mrs. Hopkins, shaking her head.
"Set down in the corner, and l'arn your lesson, Samuel," said the old man.
Sam looked undecided whether to obey or not, but under the circumstances he thought it best to obey. He began to read the catechism, but it did not interest him. His eyes were not long fixed on the printed page. They moved about the room, following the movements of Mrs. Hopkins as she cleared off the table. He saw her take the pie and place it in the closet. His eyes glistened as he caught sight of an entire pie on the lower shelf, designed, doubtless, for to-morrow's supper.
"I wish I had it," he thought to himself. "Wouldn't it be jolly?"
Pretty soon the deacon took his hat and cane and went out. Then Mrs. Hopkins went into the next room, and Sam was left alone. There was a fine chance to escape, and Sam was not slow in availing himself of it. He dropped the catechism on the floor, seized his hat, and darted out of the room, finding his way out of the house through the front door. He heaved a sigh of relief as he found himself out in the open air. Catching sight of the deacon in a field to the right, he jumped over a stone wall to the left, and made for a piece of woods a short distance away.
It was not Sam's intention to run away. He felt that it would be foolish to leave a house where he got such good suppers, but he wanted a couple of hours of freedom. He did not mean to return till it was too late to study the catechism any longer.
"What's the use of wearin' out a feller's eyes over such stuff?" he thought.
It is not necessary to follow Sam's movements through the evening. At nine o'clock he opened the front door, and went in, not exactly abashed, but uncertain how the deacon would receive him.
Deacon Hopkins had his steel-bowed spectacles on, and was engaged in reading a good book. He looked up sternly as Sam entered.
"Samuel, where have you been?" he asked.
"Out in the woods," said Sam, coolly.
"Didn't I tell you to get your catechism?" demanded the old man, sternly.
"So I did," said Sam, without blushing.
"I am afraid you are telling a lie. Mrs. Hopkins said she went out of the room a minute, and when she came back you were gone. Is that so?"
"Yes, I guess so," said Sam.
"Then how did you have time to l'arn your lesson?"
"It wasn't long," muttered Sam.
"Come here, and I will see if you know anything about it."
The deacon took the book, laid it flat on his lap, and read out the first question, looking inquiringly at Sam for the answer.
Sam hesitated, and scratched his head. "I give it up," said he.
"Do you think I am askin' conundrums?" said the deacon, sternly.
"No," said Sam, honestly.
"Why don't you know?"
"Because I can't tell."
"Because you didn't study it. Aint you ashamed of your ignorance?"
"What's the use of knowin'?"
"It is very important," said the deacon, impressively. "Now I will ask you the next question."
Sam broke down, and confessed that he didn't know.
"Then you told me a lie. You said you studied the lesson."
"I didn't understand it."
"Then you should have studied longer. Don't you know it is wicked to lie?"
"A feller can't tell the truth all the time," said Sam, as if he were stating a well-known fact.
"Certainly he can," said the deacon. "I always do."
"Do you?" inquired Sam, regarding the old man with curiosity.
"Of course. It is every one's duty to tell the truth. You ought to die rather than tell a lie. I have read of a man who was threatened with death. He might have got off if he had told a lie. But he wouldn't."
"Did he get killed?" asked Sam, with interest.
"Then he must have been a great fool," said Sam, contemptuously. "You wouldn't catch me makin' such a fool of myself."
"He was a noble man," said the deacon, indignantly. "He laid down his life for the truth."
"What good did it do?" said Sam.
"I am afraid, Samuel, you are in a very benighted condition. You appear to have no conceptions of duty."
"I guess I haven't," said Sam. "I dunno what they are."
"It is all the more necessary that you should study your catechism. I shall expect you to get the same lesson to-morrow evenin'. It's too late to study now."
"So it is," said Sam, with alacrity.
"I will show you where you are to sleep. You must get up airly to go to work. I will come and wake you up."
Sam was not overjoyed at this announcement. It did not strike him that he should enjoy going to work early in the morning. However, he felt instinctively that it would do no good to argue the matter at present, and he followed the deacon, upstairs in silence. He was ushered into a small room partitioned off from the attic.
"You'll sleep there," said the deacon, pointing to a cot-bed in the corner. "I'll call you at five o'clock to-morrow mornin'."
Sam undressed himself, and got into bed.
"This is jolly," thought he; "a good deal better than at home. If it warn't for that plaguey catechism, I'd like livin' here fust-rate. I wish I had another piece of that pie."
In ten minutes Sam was fast asleep; but the deacon was not so fortunate. He lay awake a long time, wondering in perplexity what he should do to reform the young outlaw of whom he had taken charge.
"He's a cur'us boy," thought the good man. "Seems to have no more notion of religion than a Choctaw or a Hottentot. An yet he's been livin' in a Christian community all his life. I'm afeared he takes after his father."
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