Chapter VII. Walter's Experiment Begins
 

After a conference between Walter and his guardian it was decided that he should wait till the first of September before seeking for any business position. Walter, who was somewhat impulsive, was disposed to start at once, but Doctor Mack said: "No, you are entitled to a vacation. When your class resumes study at Euclid, it will be time for you to begin to earn your living."

"I am not sure that I deserve a vacation," said Walter frankly. "I have not studied as hard at I ought."

"Very probably. You have not been in earnest. You are a year older now, and you have a better understanding of your position."

"You are very charitable, my dear guardian," said Walter.

Doctor Mack smiled.

"I am quite aware," he said, "that old heads are not often to be found on young shoulders."

"Then you think it will be right for me to enjoy myself this summer?"

"I want you to do so."

"One of my college friends, Frank Clifford, has invited me to pass a month with him in the Adirondacks. The Cliffords have a lodge not far from Blue Mountain Lake. Frank's mother and sisters will be abroad, and he wants me to keep him company."

"I can think of no objection. How shall you spend your time?"

"In hunting and fishing. There are splendid chances for both up there, so Clifford says."

"Go and have your good time. When you come back we will talk of your future plans."

Walter's stay was prolonged to eight weeks, and when he returned it was already nearing the end of August. He was browned by exposure, and looked the picture of health.

"Now I am ready to go to work, Doctor Mack," he said. "Have you any plans for me?"

"How would you like to go into a drug-store? I have a college classmate who is a very successful druggist in Syracuse."

Walter shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't believe I have a taste for making pills," he said.

"I thought not. What do you think of entering a dry-goods store? I am acquainted with the head of a prominent establishment in New York."

"It is a very respectable position, but I should feel cabined, cribbed, confined in it."

"I am at the end of my tether. Have you formed any plans of your own?"

"Well, not exactly."

"But you have thought somewhat on the subject?"

"Yes," answered Walter.

"If at all possible, I shall let you have your own way."

"You may think me foolish," said Walter hesitatingly.

"I don't know. Let me hear what you have to propose."

"I thought," said Walter eagerly, "I would like to go out West."

"What would you do when you got there?"

"There must be lots of things to do."

"Very likely. You might buy an ax and clear the virgin forests."

"I am afraid I wouldn't be a success at that."

"You have no definite idea as to what you would do?"

"No. I could tell better when I got out there."

"Now, about the expense. How much money would you need? You would require to live till you begin to earn something."

"How much will it cost me to get to Chicago?"

"Say about twenty-five dollars."

"I think, guardian, if you will advance me a hundred dollars, that will be sufficient."

"For how long a time?"

"For a year. You see, I expect to earn my own living by the time I have spent fifty dollars in all. I should go to a cheap boarding- place, of course. I should be able to pay my way."

"You will be content, then, with a hundred dollars, Walter?"

"Yes; perhaps I could make it do on less."

"No; you shall have a hundred. If absolutely necessary, you can send for more."

"No," said Walter confidently; "I won't do that. I shall get along somehow. I want to make a man of myself."

"That is a commendable ambition. Still, sometimes a young man finds it hard to obtain employment. If you had a trade, now, it might be different. Suppose, for instance, you were a journeyman tailor, you could readily find a place in Chicago or any good-sized city."

"I shouldn't care to be a tailor."

"I shouldn't care to employ you if you were," said his guardian, smiling. "One thing I would like to guard you against. Don't be too particular about what you take up. With so small an outfit as you have stipulated for, you will have to go to work at something soon. Then, again, you won't be able to live as well as you have been accustomed to do here and in college."

"I understand that, and am prepared for it. I want to rough it."

"Possibly you will have your wish granted. I don't want to discourage you, Walter. I only want to prepare you for what may, and probably will, come."

"Do you know any one in Chicago, Doctor Mack? I might find it pleasant to have an acquaintance."

"Yes, I know a retired merchant named Archer. He lives on Indiana Avenue. I don't remember the number, but you can easily find his name in the directory. His name is Allen Archer."

Walter noted the name in a new memorandum book which he had purchased.

"Where would you advise me to put up on my arrival in Chicago?" he asked.

"There are several good houses--the Sherman, Tremont, Palmer House; but they will be beyond your means. Indeed, any hotel will be. Still you might go to some good house for a day. That will give you time to hunt up a modest boarding-house."

"An excellent plan!" said Walter, in a tone of satisfaction. "Do you know, my dear guardian, I shall go out in the best of spirits. I feel --in Shakespeare's words--that the world is mine oyster."

"I hope you will be able to open it, Walter. You have my best wishes. Don't forget that you will have to depend on yourself."

"I won't forget it. I wish it was time for me to start."

"It will come soon enough. You had better get out your clothes, and get them mended, if necessary, and put in order. Nancy will do all she can for you, and the tailor will do the rest. Better not take much with you. When you get settled I will forward your trunk by express."

When Nancy Sprague heard of Walter's plans she was much disturbed.

"Oh, Master Walter," she said, in a tragic tone, "is it true that you've lost all your money and have got to go out into the cold world to make a living?"

"I believe I have lost some money, Nancy, but I rather like the idea of working for my living."

"Oh, you poor child, you little know what it is. I can't bear to think of it. I can't see how Doctor Mack can let you go."

"I should be very sorry if he refused. It isn't so bad, to work for a living. Haven't you always done it?"

"Yes, but that's different. I was always poor, and I am used to it."

"I'm going to get used to it."

"Walter--don't tell your guardian what I am saying--but I've got two hundred dollars in the savings bank, and I shall be very glad to give you some of it. You will take it, now, won't you? I can get it out to- morrow."

"Nancy, you are a true friend," said Walter, really moved by the unselfish devotion of the house-keeper; "but I sha'n't need it. I shall take a hundred dollars with me, and long before it is gone I shall be earning my living."

"You'll send for it if you need it?"

"Yes; if I find I am very hard up, and there is no other way, I will send for it."

Nancy brightened up, much pleased and relieved by this assurance.

"I couldn't bear to think of your suffering for a meal of victuals when we have so much in the house. I don't see why you can't stay at home and get a place in the village."

Walter laughed.

"It wouldn't suit me at all, Nancy. I am going West to grow up with the country."

"I wish I could be somewhere near, to look after you."

"It would be of no use, Nancy. Women are in great demand out there--at any rate in Dakota--and you'd be married in less than no time, if you went."

"You are only joking now, Master Walter."

"Not at all! I read the other day that of ten schoolma'ams who went out to Dakota last fall, eight were married within three months."

"Nobody could marry me against my will," said Nancy resolutely.

"Perhaps he would find a way of overcoming your objections," said Walter, laughing. "But I am afraid Doctor Mack couldn't do without you. He couldn't spare you and me both."

"That's true," assented Nancy, who had not been so much alarmed at the matrimonial dangers hinted at by Walter as might have been anticipated. Had a good opportunity offered, I am inclined to think Nancy would have been willing to change her name. After all, she was only forty-nine, and I have known more than one to surrender single blessedness with all its charms at and beyond that age.

At last the day of departure came. Valise in hand, Walter jumped aboard the stage that was to convey him to the railroad-station. He shook hands with his guardian and Nancy, the driver whipped up his horses, and a new period in Walter's life had commenced.

"I wonder how he'll come out?" mused Doctor Mack thoughtfully. "Have I acted for the best in letting him go? Well, time alone can tell."