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Only A Hired Man

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"Come, Rob, we want you, callea out the gay voice of a rosy-cheeked girl of six or geven years, as a party of young poople, with skates and sleds, took tlieir vray, one bright afternoon in early winter, for a skating frolic upon the ice-covered bosom of the Kennebec. "No, no, Lily, not to-day," answered the young man, a roughly-dressed youth who was leaning against a load which he was about to unload, watching t.he merry group with a somewhat moody expression on his usually frank face. í ii),,i T , , ■ .. TTmi T?i-- onfl an nrtAfi JJ U L JL t .1111 Vit) ll'":i MIÍ-1.V. UVi T-m.w-1 Laura," persisted the child, holding her eider sister back by the hand, while she shook her flaxen curls, a pout upon her pretty baby lips, at what she considered RoVs obstinacy in not accompanying thom. But Rob Atherton shook his head, though his eyès brightened and he smikd at the willful little maiden. "Coax him, Laura; he'll come if yon ask him: I know heivill." And the child turned to her sister, a tall, darkeyed girl of eighteen, the aeknowedged belle and beauty of that particular locality. A deep flush dyed tlie sun-burut cheek of Squire Abbott's hired man as the stylish girl, in her fur-trimined jacket and coquettish cap, turned from her escort, a fashionably-dressod young man, upon whose palé, thin face, a frown rested at the delay. "Why, yes, Rob, come along. Don't work all the time." And lier eyes sparkled in a manner that made Horace Stanniford's frown grow still blacker. "Lot the clod-hopper stay, if he wishes to," said the latter, impatiently, in a low tone, yet loud enough for Rob Atherton to catch the import of his words. The serving-man's face grew pale with passion as he turned abruptly and began throwing the cord-'wood into the shed, handling each stick wit'i a savage vigor that sliowed plainly how Horace Stanniford would fare if he carried his insulting language beyond the bounds of human endurance. "Yes," he muttered, pausing in his work and lookiug at the young merrymakers, chattering and laughing as they wended their way down to the shore of the broad river, only a few rods distant, at the margin of which nclu llwl iHjI." KJ uoumivm J fivt-ij .r 11 u.i Ice-boat, 'Tm nothing but a 'elod-hopper," :ind llorace Stanniford is a fine gentleman. I wonder iL he would dress as well, and have such white hands if lic were compelled to earn his own living! His father's money makes the path smooch, even to Laura's heart. My heaven!" and he clenched his teeth fierccly, and ffia eyes burned with passiou as he t.iirned to his work again, "hosv I hate poverty!" It ties a man down, and degrades him." The last wor'ds carne with a bitterness that seemed to convulso the entirebeing of the strong young man, and again the heavy sticks of wood wentflyinginto the shed. "What are ye mutterin' about, Bob?" asked a cheery voicc, as a thiek-se man of forty-five approached the spot where joung Atherton was laborinj, with snoh spiteful energy. "Oh, nothing," answered the j'oung man trying to forcé a pleasantlook into his discomposed countenanoe, while Squire Abbott regarited him keenly f rom beneath his shaggy brows. ■ vvny non i yon go a-SKauii wiuu me rest?" asked the eider man, af ter a somewhat unsalisfactory scrutiny o: Bob Atherton's back, as tlie young man once more resumed his task. "Tain" no uso workin' all the time," he resum cd, receiving no response, "and I wan you to go and look after Lily. Hoc Stanniford I s'pose'll take care o Laura, though I {hink slie'd be more .ikely to save him from drowndin' than he wou hl her." And the look on the rngged face o Squire Abbott betokened anything bu idmiration for the efteminato escort o his win3ome daughter. "Come. I want ye to go," he con tinued, and Rob Atiierton from the partially-unloaded sled, mcrely say ing. "All right,'' and disappeared ii the house, emerging a moment late with a pair of clunisy, old-fashionec skates dangling in his hand, and having replaced his coarse frock with a refittin; jacket. "It's strange what's come over Bo thij winter," soliloquised the squire, a he was universally called; "he used t be as chipper and full of fun as a youn; colt. But he'.s ter'blo glum lately, and hc walked slowly toward the house upon the piazza of which a woman wa standing, looking down upon the glit lering surface of the Kennebec. She was a handsome woman, spit of her forty years, and must have been very beautiful in her youth. She stooc in strong contrast to her burly husbanc as the latter approached. "I hope nothing will happen to th children," she said; "young people ar npu Lu uc ay uu-ieitiö, auu luo iivcl ia open bolow Nahomkeag Island." "Bob Atherton's gone down, and I guesa he'll look after Ihcm," rejoined hor husband. A look of annoyance disfigured the pro tul face of the statoly woman. "I should thinkhe would have enough good-breeding to know that he was not ueeded. Mr. Stanniford can care for them without any of his assistance." 'H'm! I wouldn'tgive Rob Atherton for forty sich whipper -snappers as Hod Stanniford!" ejaculated the sturdy squiro, as the iratc lady turned and swept into the house, with a scornful grace that showed plainly to whom Laura was indebted for lier attraetive face andform. Rob Atherton walked slowly down to the ice and buckled on his skates. The gay party were somo distance down the river, disporting upon its surface, which a recent rain had rendered as "glib" as oould be desired. Horaeo Stanniford's ice-boat had been skimming back andforth propolled by light westerly wind that carne in fitful puffs, but thisj. died away as Rob, with a strong, though not very graceful, stroke camc leisurely down to where they were gathered around a fire npon the ice. Little Lily greeted him enthusiastically. Horaeo Stanniford scowled, and Laura smiled, as she said: " So you thought better of it and cune." His honest face brightened, but feil a moment later as Horace Stanniford began adjusting the richly-wrought kates to the dainty feet of the smiling beauty. Then he watched them glide over the glassy ice together, tor both the lighthearted maiden and her escort were accomplished skaters. He watchcd them circle and whirl, backwardandforvvard, withclasped hands and perfect harraony of motion, a rhythm of unwritten, ung musió seeming to flash from tho teel with which their feet were shod. Rob skated off by himself; his mmd lled with gloomy thoughts and faneics liat until quito recently had been strangrs to him. And these fancies wcre not 1-founded. He looked back over the jast half-dozen or more years of his life, iince ho had been an inniate of the Ab)ott household. He was in his sixteenth year when he ame to work for his board and go to the istrict school throngh the winter. Oftentirnes he had drawn Laura, tlien a mischievous, black-eyed girl of eleven r tweive, upon nis sieu 10 mm irum chool through the snow, hersmilcs and ncouraging words being sufficicnt to erve the strong, earnest boy to underake and accomplish any task, or endure ny hardship. And in those old days of joyhood and girlhood, Horace Stanniord, with his peevish, superciliousways, was corupletely eclipsed by the ruddyaeed youth, who was also the champion f every child imposed upon by larger or tronger mates. But these happy days could not alvays last. There carne a time when Laura Abjott- whose father, in spite of his rough xterior and homespun ways, was posessed of considerable wealth, in the hape of extensive tracts of timber land, ar up the river toward Moosehead vake, besides the fine farm uwon which . il t t , t a_ .1 i.ii ï_ lie nveu, ana inousanas oí uoiitus mvested in various ways - was no longer a romping girl. Her lady mother, much to her father's sorrow. had insisted that the days of riding bare-backed ïorses, rowing skifts upon the dimpled iver, and numerous other harmless and ïealthful diversions, must come to an end. And Rob, who had remained in he employ of Squire ATbbott, and had rrown to be a strong and not unhandiome young man, realized with sorrow hat much of the sweetness had g one out of his life, though he still attended jaura to singing senool, or went to ride with her as of old, nevcr seeming to realize that she was heiress to much roperty, and lie only a hired man. A bitter awakening carne tohim, however, only afewmonths before the opcnng of this narrative. Mrs. Abbott had old him, firmlv and decisively yet as kirdly as possible under the ciroumstances, that ho must cease all attenions to her daughter, as the latter was now an accomphshed young lady, and ;hat their stations in lífe were too widey dissimilar to allow of a closer relaionship, though she told him Ihis, as she claimed, for lus own good, as she ïad not the slightest fear of any emoion, other than friendship for him, enering the heart of her daughter. It seemed as though the heavens anci he earth were about to pass away from ,he young man of twenty-two, as he stood, with burning face and throbbing irow, before the stately woman, who so mercilessly opened such a giüf betweon limself and the ooject qf bis adoration. He at once determined to quit the service of his employer, and gave notice to that effect, but Squire Abbott would not listen for a moment, asking n vain for an explanation whioh Rob Atherton could not give. He offered to raise his pay, for who could attend to ais affairs as well as the caref nl young man who had served him so faithfully? - for, in addition to hard, manual laboi Rob had kept the accounts pertaining to his employer1 s lumbering and othei business. And so he agreed to stay another year. Horace Stanniford came home from college, and at once began paying attentions to the pretty Laura, the niothei of whom was exceedingly well pleasec at this turn of affairs. Not so the squire however. But, as his opinión matteret little in the eyea of his lady-wife, it die not disturb her in the least. As Rob let his mind wander over tht, unfortunate conditions of his lot in life he unconsciously skated some distance down the river, which runs, in certain nlanfis. Tifiiirlv north and south. All at once, he feit the wind breeze up suddenly from the south, and soon a scream from up the river brought back his wandering thoughts, and he turned to see the rest of the party, who, with the exception of two children, Lily, and a boy of ten or twelve, had skated in the same direction as himself, hastening up river at their best speed, while the iceboat, ita white sail glimmerina: in the sun, and its searlet pennant fluttering in the freshening breeze, was gliding swiftly up toward Nahomkeag Mand and the open water that lay between; the boy, who had turned the boat when the wind carne from the south, gazing helplessly after it, and "shouting that Lily was on the steel-shod craft. With a great gasp, Rob Atherton smothe the ice with his clumsy skates a he sprang in pursuit. His want of grace his lack of polish, were forgotten now It mattered not to him whether his mo tions were awkward or not, so long a they carried him rapidly over the iee. Only a little way ahead the othe members of the party were s tri ving wit the same object in view. He passed Horace Stanniford, who had fallen hopelessly in the rear of the rest; he saw Laura's tall, supple form leading them all asshedashedforward, andhis breath came thick and heavy as he bent down to his work. For a straight rush ahead, no ono for ruiles could equal Rob Atherton, and ono by one he passes them all. Laura turnea her flashing eyes upon him as he carne beside her. "Oh, Rob, Rob!" she grasped, "save Lily!" and she could pay no more. She saw that Rob's face was pale as death, save a scarlet spot that flamed in either check. His hat was off, and the veins of his neck andforheadseemcd swollen to bursting; but his speed was like the wild rush of a tornado. On ahead she saw the dark form of Nahomkeag Island rising grimly from the f rozen river; saw tho spar kling, dancing waters of the long, open place below the island, and the icc-boat with its precious occupant sailing swiftly on to destruction, while nearer yet a desperate man strained every nerve to over-take the flying boat. At the lower extremity of the open space causea by the swift current below Nahomkeag Island, the tide had piled up large blocks of floating ice, but directly in the path the ice-boat was taking, nothing intervened to prevent the fatal plunge into the black waters of the cruel river. Would Rob reach the boat in season to check its mad course to certain death for Lily? Por the tide, which was on the ebb, would at once sweep the child beneath the ice. Pursued and pursuer seemed to bo upon the very brink, and her brain reeled and her strength forsook her. She staggered about upon the ice wildly, and then a crash, niingled with the cry of a child, broke sharply upon her ears. She dared not look ahead, but waited in blind bewilderment till other rnembers of the party came up. "He jumped on to the boat," said one of them, hurriedly panting from over-exertion; "and it swerved to the left and struck the jagged ico. I don't know whethor Rob and Lily feil into the water or not." Laura nerved herself up to another effort, and they soon reached the spot where the ice-boat lay, a oomplete wreek, and Rob, with Lily clasped to his breast, lying only a few feet from the water's edge. The child was nearly unhurt, Rob's body having protecteu her: but the latter lay as one dead. Squire Abbott had witnessed the flight f the runaway boat, and carne as rapdly as possible to the scène of the disstcr. Rob was taken home unconscious, vitli a broken arm; and a seyere blow n the head rendéred him delirions for reeks. But, tlianks to the best of care and a strong constitution, he pulled through, eomingout of it amere shadow of himself, with astrangely sad andwoebegone expression upon his pinched face. One day, after he was convalesent, Laura took one of his thin hands in hers, and. with a vivid blush mantline; her heeks, said, faltcringly: "Rob, there bas been a sad misundertanding this winter between you andl, and you revealed :ts cause while you veré sick, for yon raved of every imagnable thing." "What did I sayP" he questioned, agerly, his grasp tightening nervously ïpon lier hand. "Yon said," and the burning face vas half-averted, "tliat mother forbado you paying attentions tome, and" - her voice sank to a whisper - "that you oved me botter than your lifo." "All of which is true," he said, with remulons excitement; "but I am not crazy now, and I repeat it. What is 'our answer?" It is hardly necessary to give her reponse. but Squire Abbott was "tickled almost to death," to quote his own words, and Mrs. Abbott said, resignedly: "It is no use to quarrel with f ate."


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat