MoboReader > Literature > From Farm to Fortune; or, Nat Nason's Strange Experience

   Chapter 3 NAT LEAVES THE FARM

From Farm to Fortune; or, Nat Nason's Strange Experience By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 8359

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Farmer Balberry was mistaken; Nat was not asleep, nor was there any thought of sleep in the boy's mind.

The youth had not even gone to bed. He had been sitting on a chair by the open window when he had heard his uncle coming upstairs, and to deceive his relative had jumped into bed and pulled the blanket up over him.

When Nat was thrust up the stairs his mind was in a tumult. He felt that his uncle was not treating him fairly-and he wanted his supper very much.

It is bad enough to have a real grievance of any kind-it is worse when one must bear it on an empty stomach. As he made his way to his room the boy was in a savage humor and fit to do almost any deed.

"Uncle Abner is getting worse every day!" he muttered to himself. "He treats me worse than I would treat a dog!"

Sitting by the open window Nat thought of many things-of the death of his parents, and of the taking off of his aunt-and of how his miserly uncle had treated him ever since.

"It's not fair!" he told himself, over and over again. "Uncle Abner doesn't believe in giving a boy a fair show. I wish I lived with somebody else."

The more he thought over the situation the more he felt that he ought not to stand such treatment. He felt that he was entitled to his supper, and also to some spending money if not to regular wages. At the present time he had not a cent in the world.

"If I had a few dollars I might strike out for myself," he reasoned. "But I haven't even a few cents. Wonder how I could raise a few dollars?"

As said before Nat's worldly possessions were few. In his room he had some trinkets from home and also an old silver watch which had belonged to his father.

"I might sell the watch," he thought, but then decided that it would be best to keep the heirloom.

Then he thought of Jennie, the white and brown cow. As a calf she had been given to Nat by his mother, and she was now a part of the herd on the Balberry farm.

"Jennie ought to be worth twenty or twenty-five dollars," he said to himself. "That's a pile of money, for a start. Wonder how I could manage to sell her?"

Thus speculating, Nat gradually drifted around to the point where he decided that he would leave the farm at once. He had told his uncle that he wanted his supper or he would not work for the man any more, and he meant to keep his word.

By the time all was quiet around the house and he was certain both the housekeeper and his uncle had retired, Nat had settled just what he was going to do.

Making no noise, he slipped off his working clothes and put on his best suit-something just a trifle better than the others. He also donned a clean shirt and collar and necktie and got out his best hat and shoes. Then, with his other possessions wrapped in a small bundle, and with his shoes under his arm, he tiptoed his way out of the bedchamber, along the hall, and down to the lower floor of the farmhouse.

Nat knew exactly where Mrs. Felton kept the things to eat, so it was not necessary for him to light a lamp. The use of a match revealed as much as he wanted to know, and in a short time he was devouring what was left of the fish and also some bread and butter and a generous quarter of a cherry pie, which the housekeeper had insisted upon baking the day before, somewhat against Abner Balberry's will, for the farmer would rather have sold the cherries at the store.

His meal finished, Nat hesitated for a moment, and then got out an old newspaper. Into this he wrapped half a dozen slices of bread and butter, along with a bit of cheese and two rather stale doughnuts.

"They'll come in handy for breakfast, along with an apple or two," was the way he reasoned. "Especially if I don't happen to sell the cow."

The boy's next move was to leave the house, which he did after tying his clothes and the lunch into one bundle, which he slung on a stick over his shoulder. Once outside, he put on his shoes and then made his way from the house to the barnyard, and then along the lane leading to the pasture.

The late moon was showing over the hills and the heavens were bright with stars, so it was by no means dark. As he entered the lane Nat looked

back, to see if his departure from the house had been discovered.

A sight met his gaze which caused his heart to jump. A man was crossing the dooryard and coming toward the barn!

"It must be Uncle Abner!" he thought. "Perhaps he heard me leave after all!"

He looked back again, but could not see the man now, and then broke into a run. Soon a row of trees in the orchard hid both the barn and the house from view. He continued to run, however, and did not slacken his pace until he reached the pasture where the cows were at rest.

Jennie did not relish having her rest disturbed and had to be prodded several times before she would arise and move in the direction he desired. Some of the other cows wished to follow, but he drove them back.

"I only want my own," he murmured half aloud. "I don't want a thing that belongs to Uncle Abner."

Nat had expected to take to the highway which ran directly beside the house. But he was afraid that his uncle was watching for him from the barn, and so he drove Jennie along a back road, leading to another highway which was but little traveled and which had along it only a handful of farmhouses.

"He shan't catch me if I can help it," the boy told himself. "Now I've left I'm going to stay away."

Nat was still very much agitated in his mind, so no thought of sleep came to him as he trudged along, mile after mile, driving the tired cow before him. He met not a soul; and thus he progressed until three o'clock in the morning.

Boy and cow had now been on the road six hours and Jennie refused to go further. Seeing this, he turned into a small patch of woods and there tied the creature to a tree. Then, finding a sheltered nook, he threw himself down to rest and was soon fast asleep.

"Hullo, there, what are you doing here?"

Such was the demand which aroused Nat several hours later, and he sprang up to find himself confronted by a farmer boy of about his own age.

"Hullo, Sam," he answered. "I-I was driving the cow to market and I got so tired I thought I'd take a nap."

"Going to sell the cow?" asked Sam Price.

"Yes, if I can."

"Where?"

"Over to Brookville, if anybody will buy her."

"Jackson the butcher was after cows only day before yesterday."

"Then maybe I'll go and see him."

"You must have got an early start," went on Sam Price.

"I did. But I must hurry along," continued Nat, not caring to answer too many questions. "I slept too long."

"You'd better hurry. Your uncle ain't the one to let you play, is he?"

"You're right, Sam."

"What does he want you to get for the cow?"

"It isn't his cow. She belongs to me. I had her from the time she was a little calf, and I've a right to sell her."

"Oh, yes, I remember now. Well, I hope you get a good price for her."

"I'll get as much as I can."

"Want me to go along?"

"You can go along if you wish."

"All right, I haven't anything else to do for a while."

"But I want to tell you one thing, Sam. Can you keep a secret?"

"Can I? Try me and see."

"You won't tell a soul?"

"I'll give you my word. But what's up?"

"I'm not coming back."

"What!"

"It's a fact."

"Do you mean that you are going to run away?"

"That's the plain English of it, Sam. I'm tired of living with my uncle. He doesn't treat me fairly."

"I believe that. My father thinks he is the meanest man in the State of Ohio."

"Well, I don't know about that, but he is pretty mean, I can tell you that. I'm not going to stand it any longer."

"Where are you going?"

"I don't know yet. Most likely to one of the big cities. Somehow, I think I could do better in a city than on a farm."

"Do you? Now I think a country boy has no show in a big city. He don't know the ways, and he is sure to get cheated out of his eyes-so my father says."

"They won't cheat me," said Nat, decidedly.

"Father says every big city is full of sharpers, on the watch for greenies."

"Well, they shan't catch me for a greeny," answered Nat.

Alas for poor Nat! Little did he dream of what was in store for him, and of the little trap into which he was to fall as soon as he arrived in New York City.

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