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Hiram the Young Farmer By Burbank L. Todd Characters: 7384

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

By chance that evening Hiram got home to his boarding house in good season. The early boarders-"early birds" Crackit always termed them-had not yet sat down to the long table in the dingy dining-room.

Indeed, the supper gong had not been pounded by Sister, and some of the young men were grouped impatiently in the half-lighted parlor.

Through the swinging door into the steaming kitchen Hiram saw a huge black woman waddling about the range, and heard her husky voice berating Sister for not moving faster. Chloe only appeared when a catastrophe happened at the boarding-house-and a catastrophe meant the removal of Mrs. Atterson from her usual orbit.

"She's gone to the funeral. That Uncle Jeptha of hern is dead," whispered Sister in Hiram's ear when she put his soup in front of him.

"Ah-ha!" observed Mr. Crackit, eyeing Hiram with his head on one side, "secrets, eh? Inside information of what's in the pudding sauce?"

Nothing went right at the boarding-house during the next two days. And for Hiram Strong nothing seemed to go right anywhere!

He demanded-and got the permission, with another ten-cent tax-another hour off to visit the market. But he found nobody who would hire a boy at once. Some of the farmers doubted if he knew as much about farm-work as he claimed to know. He was, after all, a boy, and some of them would not believe that he had even worked in the country.

Affairs at the Emporium were getting strained, too. Daniel Dwight was as shrewd a man as the next one. He saw plainly that his junior clerk was getting ready-like the many who had gone before him-for a flitting.

He knew the signs of discontent, although Hiram prided himself on doing his work just as well as ever.

Then, there was a squabble with Dan, Junior. The imp was always underfoot on Saturdays. He was supposed to help-to run errands, and take out in a basket certain orders to nearby customers who might be in a hurry.

But usually when you wanted the boy he was in the alley pitching buttons with loafing urchins of his own kind-"alley rats" his father angrily called them-or leading a predatory gang of the same unsavory companions in raids on other stores in the neighborhood.

And Dan, Junior "had it in" for Hiram. He had not forgiven the bigger boy for pitching him into the puddle.

"An' them was my best clo'es, and now maw says I've got to wear 'em just the same on Sunday, and they're shrunk and stained," snarled the younger Dan, hovering about Hiram as the latter re-dressed the fruit stand during a moment's let-up in the Saturday morning rush. "Gimme an orange."

"What! At five cents apiece?" exclaimed Hiram. "Guess not. Go look in the basket under the bench; maybe there's a specked one there."

"Nope. Dad took 'em all home last night and maw cut out the specks and sliced 'em for supper. Gimme a good orange."

"Ask your father," said Hiram.

"Naw, I won't!" declared young Dwight, knowing very well what his father's answer would be.

He suddenly made a grab for the golden globe on the apex of Hiram's handsomest pyramid.

"Let that alone, Dan!" cried Hiram, and seized the youngster by the wrist.

Dan, Junior, was a wiry little scamp, and he twisted and turned, and kicked and squalled, and Hiram was just wrenching the orange from his hand when Mr. Dwight came to the door.

"What's this? What's this?" he demanded. "Fighting, are ye? Why don't you tackle a fellow of your own size, Hi Strong?"

At that Dan, Junior, saw his chance and broke into woeful sobs. He was a good actor.

"I've a mind to turn you over to a policeman, Hiram," cried "Mr. Dwight, That's what I've a mind to do."

"I suppose you'll discharge m

e first, won't you?" suggested Hiram, scornfully.

"You can come in and git your money right now, young man," said the proprietor of the Emporium. "Dan! let them oranges alone. And don't you go away from here. I'll want you all day to-day. I shall be short-handed with this young scalawag leaving me in the lurch like this."

It had come so suddenly that Hiram almost lost his breath. He had part of his wish, that was sure. He was not likely to work for Daniel Dwight any longer.

The old man led the way back to his office. He had a little pile of money already counted out upon the desk. It was plain that he had intended quarreling with Hiram and getting rid of him at this time, for he had the young fellow's wages figured up to t hat very hour-and twenty cents deducted for the two hours Hiram had had "off."

"But that isn't fair. I'm willing to work to the end of the day. I ought to get my wages in full for the week, save for the twenty cents," said Hiram mildly.

To tell the truth, now that he had lost his job-unpleasant as it had been-Hiram was more than a little troubled. He was indeed about to be cast adrift.

"You'll git jest that sum, and not a cent more," declared Mr. Dwight, sharply. "And if you start any trouble here I'll call in the officer on the beat-yes, I will! I don't know but I ought to deduct the cost of Dan, Junior's, spoiled suit, too. He says you an' he was skylarkin' on Sunday and that's how he fell into the water."

Hiram had no answer to make to this. What was the use? He took the money, slipped it into his pocket, and went out.

He did not linger around the Emporium. Nor was he scarcely out of sight when a man driving a span of handsome bay horses halted his team before the store, jumped out, and went in.

"Are you the proprietor of Dwight's Emporium?" asked the man in the gray coat and hat, in his hearty tones. "You are? Glad to meet you! I'm looking for a young man who works for you."

"Who's that? What do you want of him?" asked Dan, Senior, doubtfully, and rubbing his hand, for the stranger's grip had been as hearty as his voice.

The other laughed in his jovial way. "Why, to tell the truth, I don't know his name. I didn't ask him. He's not much more than a boy-a sturdy youngster with a quick way with him. He did me a service the other evening and I wanted to see him."

"There ain't any boy working here," snapped Mr. Dwight. "Them's all the clerks I got behind the counter-and there ain't one of 'em under thirty, I'll be bound."

"That's so," admitted the stranger. "And although it was so dark I could not see that fellow's face, and I didn't ask his name, I am sure he was young."

"I jest discharged the only boy I had-and scamp enough he was," snarled Mr. Dwight. "If you were looking for him, you'd have been sorry to find him. I didn't know but I'd have to send for a policeman to git him off the premises."


"That's what I tell you. He was a bad egg. Mebbe he's the boy you want-but you won't get no good of him when you find him. And I've no idea where he's to be found now," and the old man turned his back on the man in the gray coat and went into his office.

The stranger climbed back into his buggy and took up the lines again with a preoccupied headshake.

"Now, I promised Lettie," he muttered, "that I'd find out all about that boy-and maybe bring him home with me. Funny that man gave his such a bad character. Wish I could have seen the lad's face the other night-that would have told the story.

"Well," and he dismissed the matter with a sigh, for he was busy man, "if he's got my card, and he is out of a job, perhaps he'll look me up. Then we'll see."

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