Chapter IV. A Disagreeable Surprise

After his collision with the traveler, Herbert hurried on to the mill, intent upon making up for lost time. He was satisfied with having successfully maintained his rights; and, as he had no reason to suppose he should ever again see his unreasonable opponent, dismissed him from his thoughts.

On reaching the mill, he found he should have to remain an hour or two before he could have his grain ground. He was not sorry for this, as it would give him an opportunity to walk around the village.

"I wish," he thought, "I could get a place in one of the stores here. There's more going on than there is in Waverley, and I could go over Sundays to see Dr. Kent's family."

On the spur of the moment, he resolved to inquire if some of the storekeepers did not require help. There was a large dry-goods store-- the largest in the village--kept by Beckford & Keyes. He entered and inquired for the senior partner.

"Mr. Beckford is not in," said the clerk. "Mr. Keyes is standing at that desk."

Herbert went up to the desk, and said inquiringly, "Mr. Keyes?"

"That is my name," said that gentleman, pleasantly. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"I am in search of a place," said our hero, "and I thought you might have a vacancy here."

"We have none just at present," said Mr. Keyes, who was favorably impressed by Herbert's appearance; "but it is possible we may have in a few weeks. Where do you live? Not in the village, I suppose?"

"No, sir," said Herbert, and a shadow passed over his face, "My mother died three weeks since, and I am now stopping at the house of Dr. Kent."

"Dr. Kent--ah, yes, I know the doctor. He is an excellent man."

"He is," said Herbert, warmly. "He has been very kind to me."

"What is your name?"

"Herbert Mason."

"Then, Herbert, I will promise to bear you in mind. I will note down your name and address, and as soon as we have a vacancy I will write to you. Come into the store whenever you come this way."

"Thank you," said Herbert.

He left the store feeling quite encouraged. Even if the chance never amounted to anything, the kind words and manner of the storekeeper gave him courage to hope that he would meet with equal kindness from others. Kind words cost nothing, but they have a marvelous power in lightening the burdens of the sorrowful and cheering the desponding.

Herbert left the store, feeling that he should consider himself truly fortunate if he could obtain a place in such an establishment. But there was a rough experience before him, of which at present he guessed nothing.

After sauntering about the village a little longer, and buying a stick of candy for little Mary Kent, the doctor's only daughter, who was quite attached to Herbert, our hero got back to the mill in time to receive his bags of meal, with which he was soon on his way homeward.

About the place where he met Mr. Holden he was hailed by a man at work in the field--the same who had taken back that gentleman's horse to the stable.

"Well, boy, you had a kind of scrimmage, didn't you, coming over?"

"Did you see it?" asked Herbert.

"Yes," said the other, grinning. "I seed the other feller in the mud puddle. He was considerably riled about it."

"It was his own fault. I gave him half the road."

"I know it; but there's some folks that want more than their share."

"Was his buggy broken? I don't know but I ought to have stopped to help him, but he had been so unreasonable that I didn't feel much like it."

"His wheel got broken. I drawed the buggy into the bushes. There 'tis now. It'll cost him a matter of ten dollars to fix it."

"I'm sorry for that," said Herbert; "but I can't see that I was to blame in the matter. If I had turned out as he wanted me to, I should have tipped over, and, as the wagon didn't belong to me, I didn't think it right to risk it."

"Of course not. You wasn't called on to give in to such unreasonableness."

"Where did the man go?"

"He concluded to walk on to Waverley, and hired me to take the horse back to the stable. He wanted to know who you were."

"Did he?"

"Maybe he's goin' to sue you for damages."

"I don't believe he'll get much if he does," laughed our hero. "My property is where he can't get hold of it."

"Ho! ho!" laughed the other, understanding the joke.

After this conversation Herbert continued on his way, and, after delivering the grain, took his way across the fields to his temporary home. He entered by the back yard. Little Mary came running out to meet him.

"Have oo come back, Herbert?" she said. "Where have oo been?"

"Been to buy Mary some candy," he said, lifting her up and kissing her.

"Whose horse is that at the gate?" asked Herbert, as the doctor's wife entered the room.

"It belongs to Captain Ross," she said. "He has come on business connected with you."

"Connected with me!" repeated Herbert, in surprise.

"Yes, my dear boy, I am afraid we must make up our minds to lose you."

"Has he found a place for me?" asked Herbert, in a tone of disappointment.

"Yes, I believe he has bound you out to a man in Cranston."

"I am sorry," said Herbert.

"I shall be sorry to have you go, Herbert, but I thought you wanted to go."

"So I do; but by waiting a few weeks I could probably get a place in Beckford & Keyes' store, at the mill village."

"What makes you think so?"

Herbert detailed his interview of the morning with the junior partner. Just at this moment the doctor entered the kitchen.

"Have you told him?" he inquired, looking at his wife.

"Yes, and he says that but for this he might probably have got a chance to go into Beckford's store at the mill village."

"I am sorry for this. They are good men, and he would have been near us, while Cranston is forty miles away."

"Who is the man that wants me?" asked Herbert.

"A Mr. Holden. He is in the other room with Captain Ross. It was all arranged before they came. He wants you to go with him to-morrow morning."

"So soon?" said Herbert, in dismay.

"Yes. At first he wished you to set off with him this afternoon; but I told him decidedly you could not be ready."

"Quite impossible," said Mrs. Kent. "Some of Herbert's clothes are in the wash, and I can't have them ready till evening."

"You had better come into the other room, Herbert," said the doctor. "I will introduce you to your new employer."

Herbert followed the doctor into the sitting-room. His first glance rested on Captain Ross, whom he knew. He went up and shook hands with him. Next he turned to Mr. Holden, and to his inexpressible astonishment, recognized his opponent of the morning.

"Mr. Holden, Herbert," introduced the doctor. "Mr. Holden, this is the boy we have been speaking of."

"I have seen Mr. Holden before," said Herbert, coldly.

"Yes," said Mr. Holden, writhing his disagreeable features into an unpleasant smile. "We have met before."

Dr. Kent looked from one to the other in surprise, as if seeking an explanation.

"Our acquaintance doesn't date very far back," said Mr. Holden. "We met this morning between here and the mill village."

"Indeed," said the doctor; "you passed each other, I suppose."

"Well, no; I can't say we did exactly," said Mr. Holden, with the same unpleasant smile, "We tried to, but the road being narrow, there was a collision, and I came off second-best."

"I hope there was no accident."

"Oh, nothing to speak of. I got tipped out, and my clothes, as you may observe, suffered some. As for my young friend here, he rode on uninjured."

"You must excuse my not stopping to inquire if I could help you," said Herbert; "but my horse was frightened by the collision, and I could not easily stop him."

"Oh, it's of no consequence," said Mr. Holden, in an off-hand manner. He was determined not to show himself out in his true colors until he had got Herbert absolutely under his control.

"But where is your horse, Mr. Holden?" asked Captain Ross. "I think you were walking when you came to my house."

"I sent it back to the village by a man I met on the road, my buggy being disabled."

"Your carriage wasn't much injured, I hope."

"Oh, no, not much."

"I don't see exactly how it could happen," said Captain Ross. "I thought the road from here to the mill village was broad enough at any point for carriages to pass each other."

"I didn't dream," said Mr. Holden, not noticing this remark, "that the young man I had engaged was my young acquaintance of the morning."

Herbert looked at him, puzzled by his entire change of manner--a change so sudden that he suspected its genuineness.

The more he thought of it, the more unwilling he felt to live with Mr. Holden. But could it be avoided? He resolved to try. He accordingly told the doctor and Captain Ross of the promise that Mr. Keyes had made him.

"It would be a good place," said the captain; "but it ain't certain. Now, here's Mr. Holden, ready to take you at once."

"If I was in the mill village I could come over and see my friends here now and then. Besides, I think I should like being in a store."

"Oh, I've got a store, too," said Mr. Holden, "and I should expect you to tend there part of the time. I don't think I can let you off, my young friend," he added, with a disagreeable smile. "I think we shall get along very well together."

Herbert did not feel at all sure of this, but he saw that it would do no good to remonstrate farther, and kept silence. Soon after, Mr. Holden and Captain Ross rose to go.

"I'll call round for my young friend about nine to-morrow morning," said Abner Holden, with an ingratiating smile.

"We will endeavor to have him ready," said the doctor.

After they went away Herbert wandered about in not the best of spirits. He was convinced that he should not be happy with Mr. Holden, against whom he had conceived an aversion, founded partly upon the occurrences of the morning, and partly on the disagreeable impression made upon him by Abner Holden's personal appearance.