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

Chapter 10. Kit's First Night At The Blacksmith's

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At nine o'clock the blacksmith, giving a deep yawn, said: "You'd better be getting to bed, young feller. You'll have to be up bright and airly in the morning."

Kit was already feeling sleepy, and made no objection. Though it was yet early, he had found it hard work to get through the evening, as he could find nothing to read except a weekly paper, three months old, and a copy of "Pilgrim's Progress." In truth, neither Mr. Bickford nor his wife were of a literary turn, and did not even manage to keep up with the news of the day.

"I am ready," said Kit.

"Mother, show him to his room," added the blacksmith. "To-morrow I'll give him a lesson at the forge."

"Perhaps you will," said Kit to himself, "but I think it doubtful."

Kit's room was a small back one on the second floor. The front apartment was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Bickford, and there was one of the same size which was used as a spare chamber.

Kit's room was supplied with a cot bed, and was furnished in the plainest manner. One thing he missed. He saw no washstand.

"Where am I to wash in the morning?" he asked.

"You can wash in the tin basin in the kitchen," answered Mrs. Bickford. "There's a bar of soap down there and a roller towel, so I guess you won't have to go dirty."

Kit shuddered at the suggestion. He had seen bars of yellow soap in the grocery at home, and didn't think he should enjoy its use. Nor did he fancy using the same towel with the blacksmith and his wife. He had seen the roller towel hanging beside the sink, and judged from its appearance that it had already been used nearly a week.

"I have been accustomed to wash in my own room," he ventured to say.

"You've been used to a great many things that you won't find here," replied Mrs. Bickford, grimly.

Kit thought it extremely likely.

"If you can't do as the rest of us do, you can get along without washing," continued the lady.

"I will try and manage," answered Kit, bearing in mind that he expected to leave the Bickford mansion forever the next morning.

"That new boy of yours is kind of uppish," remarked Mrs. Bickford, when she returned to the sitting room.

"What's the matter now?"

"He wants to wash in his own room. He's too fine a gentleman to wash in the kitchen."

"What did you tell him?"

Mrs. Bickford repeated her remark.

"Good for you, mother! We'll take down his pride a little."

"Is he goin' to work in them fine clo'es he brought with him?"

"He didn't bring any others."

"He'll spile 'em, and not have anything to wear to meetin'."

"Haven't we got a pair of overalls in the house--one that the last boy used?"

"Yes; I'll get 'em right away."

"They'll be good for him to wear."

Before Kit got into bed, the door of his chamber was unceremoniously opened, and Mrs. Bickford walked in, carrying a faded pair of overalls.

"You can put these on in the mornin'," she said. "They'll keep your clo'es clean. They may be a mite long for you, but you can turn up the legs at the bottom."

She left the room without waiting for an answer.

Kit surveyed the overalls with amusement.

"I wonder how I should look in them," he said to himself.

He drew them over his trousers, and regarded his figure as well as he could in the little seven by nine glass that hung on the wall.

"There is Kit, the young blacksmith!" he said with a smile. "On the whole, I don't think it improves my appearance. I'll take them off, and leave them for the next boy."

"What did the boy say, mother?" asked Mr. Bickford, upon his wife's return.

"He just took 'em; he didn't say anything."

"I s'pose he's never worn overalls before," said the blacksmith. "What do you think he told me on the way over?"

"I don't know."

"He said he wasn't goin' to work for me at all. He didn't like the blacksmith's trade."

"Well, of all things!"

"I just told him he hadn't no choice in the matter, that me and his uncle had arranged matters, and that I should hold him to the contract."

"I'm afraid he'll be dainty about his vittles. He didn't eat much dinner."

"Wait till he gets to work, mother. I guess he'll have appetite enough. I mean he shall earn his board, at any rate."

"I hope we won't have no trouble with him, Aaron."

"You needn't be afraid, mother."

"Somehow, Aaron, you never did manage to keep boys very long," said Mrs. Bickford, dubiously.

"Because their folks were weak, and allowed 'em to have their own way. It'll be different with this boy."

"What makes you think so?"

"Because his uncle is anxious to get rid of him. He told me the boy, till lately, had imagined he was goin' to have property. He's supported him out of charity, dressin' him like a gentleman, sendin' him to school, and spendin' a pile of money on him. Now he thinks it about time to quit, and have the boy learn a trade. Of course the boy'll complain, and try to beg off, but it won't be no use. Stephen Watson won't make no account of what he says. He keeps a horse himself, and has promised to have him shod at my shop."

"Well, it may be for the best; I hope so."

Aaron Bickford felt a good deal of confidence in himself. He understood very well that Kit was averse to working in his shop, but he meant to make him do it.

"I'd like to see the boy I can't master," he said to himself, complacently. "Years hence, when the boy has a forge of his own, he'll thank me for perseverin' with him. There's money to be made in the business. Why, when I began I wasn't worth a hundred dollars, and I owed for my anvil. Now I own this house and shop, and I've got a tidy sum in the bank."

This was true. But it must be added that the result was largely due to the pinching economy which both he and his wife had practiced.

When Mr. Bickford woke up the next morning it was half-past five o'clock.

"Strange how I came to oversleep," he said. "I guess I must have been more tuckered out than I supposed. Well, the boy's had a longer nap than I meant he should. However, it's only for one mornin'."

Mr. Bickford did not linger over his toilet. Five minutes was rather an overstatement of the time.

He went to Kit's chamber, and, opening the door, went in as unceremoniously as his wife had done the night before.

A surprise awaited him.

There was no one in the bed.

"What! has the boy got up a'ready?" he asked himself, in a bewildered way. "He's better at gettin' up than I expected."

Looking about him, he discovered on a chair by the bedside the overalls, and upon them a note and a silver dollar.

"What's all that mean?" he asked himself.

Looking closer he saw that the note was directed to him. Beginning to suspect that something was wrong, he opened it.

This was what the note contained:

MR. BICKFORD--I leave you a dollar to pay for my food and lodging. I do not care to become a blacksmith. Good by.


"I'll have him back!" exclaimed Aaron Bickford, an angry look appearing on his face. "He ain't goin' to get the best of me."

Mr. Bickford harnessed up his horse, and started after the fugitive. But in what direction should he drive? He was not long at fault. He met a milkman who had seen two boys starting out on the Grafton road, and so informed him.

"I guess they're bound for the circus," he said.

"Like as not," returned the blacksmith.

But he had a long chase of it. It was not until he was within half a mile of the circus tents that he descried the two boys, trudging along, Kit with his valise in his hand. Hearing the sound of wheels, the boys looked back, and in some dismay recognized their pursuer.

The blacksmith stood up in his wagon, and pointing his long whip at Kit, cried out, "Stop where you are, Kit Watson, or I'll give you the worst thrashing you ever had!" _

Read next: Chapter 11. Kit Falls Into The Hands Of The Enemy

Read previous: Chapter 9. Kit Makes A New Acquaintance

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