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The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus, a fiction by Horatio Alger

Chapter 8. Kit's Ride To Oakford

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Oakford was six miles away. The blacksmith's horse was seventeen years old, and did not make very good speed. Kit was unusually busy thinking. He had taken a decisive step; he had, in fact, made up his mind to enter upon a new life. He had not objected to going away with the blacksmith, because it gave him an excuse for packing up his clothes, and leaving the house quietly.

It may be objected that he had deceived Mr. Bickford. This was true, and the thought of it troubled him, but he hardly knew how to explain matters.

Not much conversation took place till they were within a mile of Oakford. Aaron Bickford had filled his pipe at the beginning of the journey, and he had smoked steadily ever since. At last he removed his pipe from his mouth, and put it in his pocket.

"Were you ever in Oakford?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Kit. "I know the place very well."

"How do you think you'll like livin' there?"

"I don't think I shall like it."

Mr. Bickford looked surprised.

"I'll keep you at work so stiddy you won't mind where you are," he remarked dryly.

"Not if I know it," Kit said to himself.

He knew Mr. Bickford by reputation. He was a close-fisted, miserly man, who was not likely to be a very desirable employer, for he expected every one who worked for him to labor as hard as himself. Moreover, he and his wife lived in a very stingy manner, and few of the luxuries of the season appeared on their table. The fact that complaints upon this score had been made by some of Kit's predecessors in his employ, led Mr. Bickford to make inquiries with a view to ascertaining whether Kit was particular about his food.

"Are you partic'lar about your vittles?" he asked abruptly.

"I have been accustomed to good food," answered Kit.

"You can't expect to live as you have at your uncle's," continued the blacksmith. "Me and my wife have enough to eat, but we think it best to eat plain food. Some of my help have had stuck up notions, and expected first class hotel fare, but they didn't get it at my house."

"I believe you," said Kit.

Mr. Bickford eyed him sharply, not being sure but this might be a sarcastic observation, but Kit's face was straight, and betrayed nothing.

"You'll live as well as I do myself," he proceeded, after a pause. "I don't pamper my appetite by no means."

Kit was quite ready to believe this also, but did not say so.

"What time did you get up at your uncle's?" asked the blacksmith.

"We have breakfast a little before eight. I get up in time for breakfast."

"You do, hey?" ejaculated the blacksmith, scornfully. "Wa'al, I declare! You must be tuckered out gettin' up so airly."

"O no, I stand it very well, Mr. Bickford," said Kit, amused.

"Do you know what time I get up?" asked Mr. Bickford, with a touch of indignation in his tone.

"I would like to know," answered Kit meekly.

"Wa'al, I get up at five o'clock. What do you say to that, hey?"

"I think it is very early."

"I suppose you couldn't get up so early as that?"

"I might, if there was any need of it."

"I reckon there will be need of it if you're goin' to work for me."

Kit cleared his throat. He felt that the time had come for an explanation.

"Mr. Bickford," he said, "I owe you an apology."

"What?" said Bickford, regarding his young companion in surprise.

"I have deceived you."

"I don't know what you're talkin' about."

"I don't think I did right to come with you to day."

"I can't make out what you're talkin' about. Your uncle has engaged to let you work for me."

"But I haven't engaged to work for you, Mr. Bickford."

"Hey?" and the blacksmith eyed our hero in undisguised amazement.

"I may as well say that I don't intend to work for you."

"You don't mean to work for me?" repeated Bickford slowly.

"Just so. I have no intention of becoming a blacksmith."

"Is the boy crazy?" ejaculated Aaron Bickford.

"No, Mr. Bickford; I have full command of my senses. You will have to look out for another apprentice."

"Then why did you agree to come with me?"

"That is what I have to apologize for. I wanted to get away from my uncle's house quietly, and I thought it the best way to pretend to agree to his plan."

Aaron Bickford was not a sweet tempered man. He had a pretty strong will of his own, and was called, not without reason, obstinate. He began to feel angry.

"Well, boy, have you got through with what you had to say?" he asked.

"I believe so--for the present."

"Then I guess it's about time for me to say something."

"Very well, sir."

"You'll find me a tough customer to deal with, young man."

"Then perhaps it is just as well that I do not propose to work for you."

"But you are goin' to work for me!" said the blacksmith, nodding his head.

"Whether I want to or not?" interrogated Kit, placidly.

"Yes, whether you want to or not, willy nilly, as the lawyers say."

"I think, Mr. Bickford, you will find that it takes two to make a bargain."

"So it does, and there's two that's made this bargain, your uncle and me."

Mr. Bickford was not always strictly grammatical in his language, as the reader will observe.

"I don't admit my uncle's right to make arrangements for me without my consent."

"You know more'n he does, I reckon?"

"No, but this matter concerns me more than it does him."

"Maybe you expect to live without workin'!"

"No; if it is true, as my uncle says, that I have no money, I shall have to make my living, but I prefer to choose my own way of doing it."

"You're a queer boy. Bein' a blacksmith is too much work for you, I reckon."

"At any rate it isn't the kind of work I care to undertake."

"What's all this rigmarole comin' to? Here we are 'most at my house. If you ain't goin' to work for me, what are you goin' to do?"

"I should like to pass the night at your house, Mr. Bickford. After breakfast I will pay you for your accommodations, and go----"


"You must excuse my telling you that. I have formed some plans, but I do not care to have my uncle know them."

"Are you going to work for anybody?" asked the blacksmith, whose curiosity was aroused.

"Yes, I have a place secured."

"Is it on a farm?"


"You're mighty mysterious, it seems to me. Now you've had your say, I've got something to tell you."

"Very well, Mr. Bickford."

"You say you're not goin' to work for me?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then I say you _are_ goin' to work for me. I've got your uncle's authority to set you to work, and I'm goin' to do it."

Kit heard this calmly.

"Suppose we postpone the discussion of the matter," he said. "Is that your house?"

Aaron Bickford's answer was to drive into the yard of a cottage. On the side opposite was a blacksmith's forge.

"That's where you're goin' to work!" he said, grimly, pointing to the forge. _

Read next: Chapter 9. Kit Makes A New Acquaintance

Read previous: Chapter 7. Aaron Bickford, The Blacksmith

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