« AnteriorContinuar »
think so little of their obligations that the books are forgotten and lost. Book-borrowers are very apt to be negligent, so that when we see a lad so particular as Abraham was, it is worth while to take note of the fact.
"It will take me some time to read so large a work,” said he, as he took it from Mr. Crawford. “ Perhaps you will want it before I get through with it.”
"Oh, no; you are such a great reader that you will finish it in short metre. Keep it as long as you want it, and I shall be suited.”
“I thank you," Abraham replied, as he arose to leave. “Good night.”
“Good night,” several voices responded.
It was a very joyful evening to Abraham as he bore that Life of Washington home, and sat down about the middle of the evening to read the first chapter therein.
"Keep it nice,” said his mother. “Remember that it is a borrowed book.”
“I will try," he replied. “Mr. Crawford was perfectly willing to lend it, and I shall be none the less careful on that account.”
Those were pleasant hours of leisure that he devoted to reading Weens's Life of Washington. Every evening, after his day's labour was completed, he read the work with absorbing interest, and at other times, when he could find a spare moment, it was in his hand. He had nearly completed it when the following mishap caused him many unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
A driving storm was raging, so that he could perform little labour except what could be done under cover. Of course his book was in his hand much of the time, and the whole of the dreary evening, to a late hour, was his companion. On going to bed, he laid it down directly under a large crack between the logs, and, the wind changing in the night, the rain was driven into the house, and the book was wet through. The first sight that met Abraham's eyes in the morning was the drenched book, and his feelings can be better imagined than described.
"Oh, dear!” he exclaimed. “That book is spoiled!” And he could scarcely restrain the tears that welled up to his eyes.
“How did you happen to lay it there ?” asked his mother.
"I never thought about its raining in there. But only look at it! it is completely soaked !” and he lifted it up carefully to show his mother.
“Oh, I am so sorry! it is ruined !” she said.
“I can dry it,” answered Abraham, “but that will not leave it decent. See! the cover will drop off, and there is no help for it. What will Mr. Crawford say ? I told him that I would keep it very carefully, and return it to him uninjured.”
“Well, it is done, and can't be helped now," added his mother; "and I have no doubt that you can fix it with Mr. Crawford.”
“I have no money to pay him for it, and I don't see how I can make it good to him. He ought to be paid for it.”
"Of course he had, and he may want you to do some work for him, which will be the same as money to him. You'd better take the book to him to-day and see what you can do."
"I am almost ashamed to go. He will think that I am a careless fellow."
“Never be ashamed to do right, my son." “I am not ashamed to do right. I was only saying how I felt. I told him that I would keep it nicely."
“And so you meant to; but accidents will happen sometimes, even if we are careful.”
“He shall be paid for it somehow," continued Abraham. “I will see him to-day.”
The volume was exposed to the heat of the fire that day, and when Abraham was ready to go to Mr. Crawford's in the evening, it was dry enough for transportation. The storm had passed away, and the stars were · looking down from the skies, as he took the book, carefully wrapped in a cotton handkerchief, and proceeded to Mr. Crawford's. His heart was heavy and sad, and he dreaded to open the subject to him.
“Good evening, Abe! Got through with the book so quick?” said Mr. Crawford.
“Good evening," responded Abraham, in his usual manly way. “I have brought the book back, although I have not finished it.”
"Keep it, then, keep it,” replied Mr. Crawford, before the lad could tell his story. “I told you to keep it as long as you wanted it.”
“ Perhaps you won't want I should keep it when you hear what has happened to it.” And he proceeded to untie the handkerchief in which it was wrapped.
“ There," continued Abraham, exhibiting the book; “it is ruined. I laid it down last night where the rain beat in and wet it through, and it is spoiled. I'm very sorry indeed, and want to pay you for it in some way."
Josiah Crawford was a hard man by nature, and an excess of whiskey made him harder. He was not a relative of Andrew Crawford, the teacher, although he was like him in one particular—he had an ungovernable temper. At sight of the ruined volume his countenance changed, and he snapped out in his wrath :
“ Carelessness ! Pretty mess for a borrowed book.”
Had he not been a good friend of Abraham, there is no telling what abuse he might have heaped upon the boy. As it was, with all his regard for Abraham as an uncommon youth, he poured out large vials of wrath upon him, the boy all the while declaring that he was willing to pay for it.
“I've ruined the book, and I'll do any work you say to pay for it. Have you any work I can do ?"
Crawford's wrath abated somewhat when he heard the word work. The idea of getting work out of the lad was tempting to him; for he was an unscrupulous, avaricious, stingy man, and now was his time to take advantage of Abraham's generosity.
“Yis, work enough,” he growled, angry as a panther that prowled about the forest at night.
“How much was the book worth ?” asked Abraham. “Mor'n I'll ever git,” Crawford growled again.
“I'll work to pay its full value, and keep it for my own, if you say so," continued Abraham.
After further parleying, Crawford, seeing his opportunity to make something out of Abraham, cooled down to ordinary heat, and proceeded to say,
"I tell you what it is, Abe, I'm in great trouble about my corn. You see the whole of my corn has been stripped of the blades as high as the ear, and is now ready to have the tops cut off for winter fodder; but my hands are full of other work, and how it is to be done is more than I can tell. Now, if you can help me out of this scrape, we can square the account about the book.”
“I'll do it," replied Abraham, with emphasis. “How much of it shall I cut ?”
“All of it, of course," answered Crawford, unpleasantly; "you can't expect to get such a book for nothin?"
Abraham was taken somewhat by surprise by this exorbitant demand; nevertheless, he was equal to the occasion, and promptly responded, —
“Well, then, I'll cut the whole of it; when shall I begin ?"
"To-morror mornin' ;” and the exacting manner in which he thus proceeded awakened Abraham's contempt for him. Still he answered :
“To-morrow morning it is, then ; I'll be on hand as early as you want to see me.”
Abraham hastened home and reported. His parents united with him in the opinion that it was one of Crawford's acts of extortion. Still, they were glad that their son could settle the affair in some way.
Abraham undertook to redeem his pledge on the next day, and, bright and early, he was in Crawford's corn-field. There were several acres of the corn, and several days of very hard work would be required to finish the job. Abraham bent himself to the task with more than usual determination, and completed it in about three days, although, ordinarily, a man would have needed nearly five days in which to perform the work.
Abraham never forgot the extortion which Crawford practised upon him, and he always despised his overreaching propensity. Still, he was glad to own another volume, especially one of so much value as Weems's Life of Washington. That Crawford forgot his own meanness is quite evident from the fact that, subsequently, he sought Abraham's services, and those of his sister, to assist his wife. Both Abraham and Sarah were glad of the opportunity to earn an honest dollar, and accepted his proposition. They lived with Crawford several months during that year, and pleased the crabbed old fellow mightily. Abraham finished his log