THE NEXT morning, after a hearty breakfast, during which he listened
once more to Zeke’s plans and instructions, Guy mounted his horse, and
led by the old clay-bank, set out for Mr. Wilson’s rancho.
The journey did not seem nearly so long and tiresome now as it did the
day before, for he had something beside his bodily aches and pains to
think of. He had seen a live hunter, had made a friend of him, and by
that time to-morrow, if nothing happened to prevent, he would be on the
way to his hunting-grounds. Dreaming of the glorious life he was so soon
to commence made the way seem short to him.
About four o’clock in the afternoon he drew up with his little train in
front of Mr. Wilson’s house, and found that gentleman waiting for him.
“Wal, you done it, didn’t you?” exclaimed the ranchman, as Guy swung
himself from the saddle, “an’ didn’t get lost, nor throwed, nuther.
Whose rifle have you got thar?”
“Zeke’s—or rather yours,” said Guy. “Zeke doesn’t want it, for he can’t
stay long enough to earn it. He’s going back to his hunting-grounds, and
wants you to send a man down to relieve him.”
“Oh, he does, does he?” exclaimed Mr. Wilson. “Whar’s your huntin’ kit?”
“I left it with Zeke. He wants to try the rifle.”
“Wal, if you hain’t the most confidin’ boy I ever see in all my born
days, I don’t want a cent,” said the ranchman. “I told you that you’d
find him a mighty palaverin’ sort of a feller, an’ I thought that would
put you on your guard. You’ll never see them things of your’n agin.
Zeke’s gettin’ ready to run away. I can see that plain enough; but if he
takes any of my property with him, ef it’s even so much as a bar of
lead, I’ll have all the constables in the valley arter him in the shake
of a buck’s tail. He’s ’arned a hoss since he’s been here, and that’s
all he can take with him. I’ll ride down myself, to-morrow, an’ see what
he means by such actin’.”
Mr. Wilson’s words made Guy rather uneasy. He did not want to doubt the
hunter—Zeke had been so very cordial and so profuse in his promises of
friendship and assistance that the boy had implicit faith in him—but
still he begun to think that he had been rather hasty in trusting him.
If Zeke run away with his hunting-kit, he would be just thirty-five
dollars out of pocket. But he need not have been under any
apprehensions. The hunter certainly intended to possess himself of all
Guy’s property, but he wanted at the same time to get his hands on the
twenty-five dollars the boy carried in his monk-bag.
Mr. Wilson begun fishing up from the capacious depths of the pack-saddle
the things Zeke had stowed away there, and Guy thought he looked a
little disappointed when he found that his property had all been
returned to him. The hunter, knowing the disposition of the man with
whom he had to deal, had sent back everything.
The hours between four o’clock and dark passed away very slowly. Knowing
that he had many a mile of hard riding yet to do before he could go to
sleep, Guy refreshed himself with a hearty supper, and then lay down on
a bench under the porch. He grew very restless and impatient as the
appointed time drew near, and although he longed for its arrival, he
almost dreaded to have it come, for if Zeke broke his word, there was
another bright hope dashed to the ground.
It begun to grow dark at last, and Guy stepped down from the porch, and
walked slowly toward the “spouting well,” as Zeke had called it, looking
back every few steps to make sure that he was not followed.
He was not obliged to wait even a moment at the water-tank, for his new
friend, faithful to his promise, was there with two horses. Guy was
“Halloo, pard!” said he. “I’m glad you have come, for I begun to feel a
little shaky. Mr. Wilson told me that I’d never see my things again.”
“You got that money with you?” asked Zeke.
“Of course I have.”
“Whar is it?”
“In my monk-bag around my neck. Have you got my rifle and other things?”
“Sartin. We couldn’t well travel cl’ar to Kansas without ’em, I reckon.
So Wilson tried to make you believe I was a-goin’ back on you, did he?
What else did he say?”
“He says he is going to ride down to see you to-morrow, and find out
what you mean by such actions.”
“All right. That will give us a hull day the start of him if he tries to
foller us. Here’s your hoss.”
Guy was aching in every bone and muscle after his long ride (eighty
miles in two days was quite an achievement for a boy who had never
ridden on horseback before), and it was only after considerable trouble
and some assistance from the hunter that he succeeded in climbing into
his saddle. It was hard work, too, to keep up with Zeke, who at once put
his horse into a gallop and went ahead, as if he were in a great hurry.
He never drew rein, even long enough to speak to Guy, until midnight,
and then the only reason he stopped was because the moon went down and
it was too dark to travel.
He and Guy stretched themselves out under a tree beside the road without
lighting a fire, and slept soundly until morning. At the first peep of
day they ate a little of the dried beef with which Zeke had filled Guy’s
game-bag, and then resumed their rapid ride, halting only for a few
minutes at noon to rest their horses and eat a hasty luncheon.
Guy was fast giving out, in spite of the excitement which had thus far
kept him up, and when, just as the sun was sinking, they entered a
little glade surrounded by a wilderness of trees and rocks, he doggedly
threw himself from his horse and declared that he could not ride a step
“How far are we from Mr. Wilson’s?” he asked.
“A matter of sixty or seventy miles, mebbe,” replied Zeke.
“Well, that added to eighty makes a hundred and forty or fifty miles
that I have ridden on horseback during the last three days,” groaned
Guy. “An iron boy couldn’t stand more. I don’t see the need of so much
“Thar was need of it,” said Zeke, “but I reckon we’re out of danger
Guy not being aware that they had been in any danger, could not imagine
what Zeke meant; but he was too tired to ask any questions.
“I reckon we’d best stop here two or three days an’ take a good rest and
hunt,” continued Zeke. “I’ll give you some lessons in shootin’ and
throwin’ the lasso. It won’t take me long to learn you to be jest as
good a hunter as I am; an’ if thar’s any a-goin’ that can beat me, I
never seed ’em. Now lay down an’ I’ll go out an’ shoot something fur
“I don’t want any supper,” said Guy. “All I want is rest and sleep. If
the second mate of the Santa Maria had been pounding me with a rope’s
end for an hour, I couldn’t be any nearer used up than I am now.”
Zeke became very officious all at once. He raked together a pile of
leaves under the shelter of a huge rock, placed Guy’s saddle at one end
of it for a pillow, and when the boy had stretched his weary limbs upon
the couch thus hastily made up for him, the hunter threw his poncho and
blanket over his shoulders, and tucked them snugly about him. Before the
operation was completed Guy was sound asleep.
He slept in blissful ignorance of what was passing near him. Once he
thought that the blankets were pulled cautiously off his shoulders and a
hand thrust into his pocket; but so firmly were his senses locked in
slumber that he was not fairly aroused by these movements. He knew
nothing for twelve long hours, and then he was awakened by the neighing
of a horse.
He started up feeling very much refreshed, but almost dropped back upon
his bed again when he saw that his monk-bag had been turned inside out
and was resting on his breast.
His pockets, too, had been pulled out, and some of the articles they had
contained were missing, while others were scattered about over the
ground. His rifle, game-bag and blankets had disappeared, and even Zeke
and his horse were nowhere to be seen.
There were no signs that the hunter had kindled a fire during the night.
He must have robbed Guy and made off as soon as the latter was fairly
asleep. All he had left him was the clothes he had on his back, the
horse he had ridden, and the saddle and bridle.
Guy realized his situation the instant his eyes were fairly opened.
Utterly discouraged at last, he threw himself back upon the ground,
wishing from the bottom of his heart that he was dead.
“I’ve been robbed! I’ve been robbed!” he kept saying to himself. “And
here I am in these mountains without a bite to eat or a friend to help
me! What shall I do! what shall I do!”
Guy lay for fully an hour in a sort of stupor, from which he was aroused
at last by the pangs of hunger. There was no need that he should stay
there and starve, he told himself, while Zeke had been considerate
enough to leave him a horse. Perhaps the animal could carry him to some
human habitation. The experiment was at least worth a trial.
The horse proved to be very uneasy, and Guy, being unaccustomed to such
business, was nearly half an hour in putting the saddle and bridle on
him. But at last he got everything fixed to his satisfaction, and
climbing upon the animal’s back, he started—he knew not whither.
After trying in vain to find a road or trail leading from the glade, he
plunged blindly into the woods, and during the next two days lived in a
state of agony, both of body and mind, that I cannot describe. He rode
while daylight lasted without a mouthful to eat, and slept at night on
the hard ground.
Sometimes he would allow his horse to have his own way, believing that
the animal’s instinct would lead him out of the wilderness, and then
again he would resume control of him, and try to find his own way out.
How often during those two days did Guy tell himself that if he lived to
get out of that scrape he would lose not an hour in starting for the
States; and if he once reached them he would never again be tempted to
He had seen enough of the woods, and of the ocean, too. Other boys might
think as they pleased, and story-tellers might write as they pleased
about the joys, the ease and romance of a hunter’s and a sailor’s life,
but as for him, give him a quiet home on shore and among civilized
At last, when Guy was so weak with fasting that he could scarcely keep
his seat in the saddle, and so disheartened that he was more than once
on the point of throwing himself under the nearest tree and resigning
himself to his fate, his deliverance came, and so suddenly that it
almost took his breath away. His horse, which during the last few hours
had been allowed to go where he pleased, plunged through an almost
impassable thicket of bushes, carrying his rider into a broad,
well-beaten road that led down the mountains.
The animal seemed as delighted at this evidence of civilization as Guy
did. No sooner was he fairly in the road than he broke into a gallop,
and in less than five minutes brought his rider to a little tumble-down
shanty, where half a dozen miners were lounging on the porch. They all
started up and looked at Guy in amazement, seemingly unable to make up
their minds whether he was a live boy or a ghost.
“Halloo!” exclaimed one of the men, “who on earth are you, and where did
you come from?”
“I have been lost in the mountains for the last two days, and am almost
starved to death,” answered Guy, in a faint voice.
“Well, I should say you were, if one can judge by your looks. Come in.
Such as we’ve got you’re welcome to.”
The man approached to assist Guy to dismount, and it was well he did so,
for he was just in time to receive him in his arms. The boy was utterly
overcome with weakness, and when he tried to swing himself from his
saddle his head reeled, and he would have fallen to the ground if the
man had not supported him.
“He’s pretty near gone up,” said one of the miners, “but I guess a bit
of something will bring him around all right.”
The speaker secured Guy’s horse, another assisted him into the house and
seated him on a bench, a third brought from a cupboard an abundant
supply of bread and meat, which he placed before him, and the others
stood around, waiting with no little curiosity and impatience to hear
The miners had seen any number of hungry men since they had been in the
mountains, but that was the first time they had ever seen food disappear
so rapidly before a boy of Guy’s size. The latter was perfectly
ravenous. He stopped at last, not because he had eaten enough, but
because his host interfered and took away the eatables.
“Thar, now,” said the man, “you’ve stowed away about enough of that grub
for this time, and you had better let up or you’ll bust.”
“I am busted already,” said Guy, wiping his lips; “busted and
“Broke?” asked the man.
“Flat as a pancake,” said Guy. “I am very grateful for your kindness,
sir, and am sorry I cannot in some way repay it. I am able to go on now,
and would be glad if you would show me the nearest road to the States.”
“Going to leave Californy?”
“Just as fast as horse-flesh can carry me.”
“But how did you come to get lost?”
Guy’s story was a short one, and was soon told. Some of the miners
seemed to believe it, while others looked a little incredulous. But Guy
did not care for that. He had the best of evidence that every word he
uttered was the truth.
While he was telling his story a horseman drew up before the shanty, and
dismounting, proceeded to give Guy’s steed a good looking over, closely
examining a brand on the animal’s flank, and referring occasionally to a
note-book which he drew from his pocket. The miners watched every move
he made, now and then exchanging winks with one another, and looking
toward Guy in a way the latter could not understand.
“WHICH of you owns this horse,” asked the man at length, thrusting his
head in at the door.
The question was addressed to the party in general but the man fastened
his eyes upon Guy as if expecting an answer from him.
“He is in my possession,” said the boy, “but he belongs to Zeke.”
“Zeke! Zeke who?”
“I don’t know his other name. He is a buffalo hunter, and has just
started for Kansas.”
“Where did he get him, do you know?”
“He bought him of somebody down in San Joaquin.”
“Yes; well, that story won’t go down, young man,” said the new-comer,
who was an officer of the law. “That horse was _stolen_ down in San
Joaquin a few days ago.”
“Oho!” exclaimed Guy’s host, “that accounts for the milk in the
“I thought all the time that there was something streaked about this
business,” observed another.
“Ain’t he a desperate one, though,” remarked a third. “He steals a horse
and is so determined to keep him that he stays in the mountains until he
is almost starved to death.”
“Oh, now, you don’t know what you are talking about,” cried Guy, who was
frightened almost out of his senses. “I didn’t steal that horse. I got
him just as I told you I did.”
The constable listened while Guy repeated the story of his two days’
acquaintance with the buffalo hunter, and when it was concluded gave it
as his opinion that the boy’s statements would hardly wash. He might be
all right—he was free to confess that Guy didn’t look like a
horse-thief—but he had been instructed to detain that animal if he found
him, and to put whoever had him in his possession into the calaboose and
keep him there until the owner of the horse could be sent for; so Guy
had better come along and be locked up and say no more about it.
Guy remonstrated loudly, but it was all in vain. The officer was firm,
and the boy was obliged to accompany him down the mountain and through
the little village that lay at its foot, to the calaboose—a small,
strongly built log cabin, provided with a heavy oaken door and grated
windows. There was but one room in the building, as Guy found when the
door was opened, and just then it had no occupants.
“Now, then,” said the officer giving his prisoner a push, “go in there,
and stay till the rope comes up from San Joaquin. We hang horse-thieves
in this country.”
This was the second time Guy had been made the victim of the man he had
trusted so implicitly. He understood his situation as well as if Zeke
had been there to explain it to him. The hunter, not daring to rob him
in the settlements for fear that Mr. Wilson would interest himself in
the matter, had enticed him into the mountains, where he could
accomplish his purpose without danger to himself. He had stolen the
horse for Guy to ride, and then, in order to draw suspicion from
himself, had left him in the boy’s possession, well-knowing that if he
showed himself in the settlements during the day-time, he would be
arrested and charged with the theft. And horse-thieves were hanged in
that country, so the constable had told him! If the man said this to
frighten him, he certainly succeeded in his object. Almost overcome with
terror at the bare thought, Guy threw himself upon a dirty mattress in
one corner of the jail and cried bitterly, until exhausted nature gave
way and he forgot his troubles in sleep.
He slept until it was almost dark, and was then awakened by the sound of
voices. He started up to find the door of his prison open, and the
entrance crowded with excited, struggling men. Conspicuous among them
was a gigantic fellow, clad like a miner, whose wrists and ankles were
loaded with irons. The others were trying to push him into the jail, and
he was trying as hard to prevent them. Encumbered as he was he fought
desperately for his liberty, and once seemed almost on the point of
escaping from his captors, but he was at last thrown headlong upon the
floor of the calaboose, and the door was slammed behind him.
Guy’s companion in misery acted more like a wild beast than a human
being. No sooner had he gained his feet than he threw himself with all
his strength against the door; but seeing that he made no impression
upon it, he turned his attention to one of the windows, seizing the bars
with his hands and exerting all his strength to tear them from their
Failing in this, he drew himself up by the bars of the window and butted
his head against the logs which formed the ceiling, but nothing gave way
under his fierce attacks, and finding at last that escape was impossible
he fell to pacing the narrow jail, rattling his chains and swearing and
threatening at the top of his voice.
Guy was afraid of him. Slowly and cautiously he drew himself off the
mattress, and retreated into the farthest corner of the room, where he
sat cowering and trembling and watching the movements of this wild beast
in human form, who continued to pace backward and forward, clanking his
chains and uttering imprecations. Guy was glad indeed when the night
settled down and concealed him from the man’s sight.
At last a murmur of voices outside the building attracted the attention
of the prisoner, who paused in his walk and gazed eagerly toward the
door, bending forward in a listening attitude. The noise grew louder and
louder. Then a short struggle was heard outside the cabin, the door flew
open, admitting a flood of light which streamed from a dozen lanterns,
and a crowd of armed men rushed in. They seized the prisoner, wound a
rope about his neck, and in spite of his resistance pulled him out of
Guy, hardly realizing what was going on, was borne with the crowd, which
filled every corner of the jail, out through the door, past the
constable, who was lying bound and helpless beside the building, and up
the road leading to the mountains. Then somebody pushed him roughly
aside, and he found himself standing alone. He was free, the road was
open, and he could go where he pleased.
Frightened as he was, Guy was prompt to seize upon the opportunity for
escape thus unexpectedly offered to him. Very slowly and deliberately he
drew himself further away from the crowd, and when the last man had
passed him and hurried up the mountain, and there was no one in sight to
observe his movements, he broke into a run and made the best of his way
through the now deserted village and along the road that led to the
He knew something about lynch-law now. He had received an illustration
of the manner in which frontiersmen sometimes dealt with offenders, and
shivered as if he had the ague when he reflected that the same fate
might have been his in a few hours more had not a way been opened for
“I’ll not stay in this country an hour longer,” thought Guy, speeding
along the road as if he had been furnished with wings. “I had no idea
that there were such men as these in the world. I wonder if that
constable saw me when I came out? I thought he looked me squarely in the
face, and if he did, he must have recognized me. If they will only keep
him tied hard and fast until morning, I don’t think he will ever catch
me again. Halloo! Great Scott!”
This exclamation was called forth by an unexpected sight which just then
met his eyes. It was a camp-fire, and he did not see it until he was
close upon it. Two covered wagons were drawn up in front of the fire,
and beside one of them stood a stalwart fellow in his shirt-sleeves, who
was looking ruefully at a broken axle-tree and scratching his head in
deep perplexity. Discovering Guy as he came up, he greeted him with:
“Halloo! stranger. May be you’re a wagon-maker.”
“No, I am not,” replied the boy.
“Then I don’t suppose you could hold up one end of this rail for me
while I fix this axle, could you?” asked the emigrant.
“Yes,” said Guy, “I can do that.”
After casting a long and anxious glance down the road he had just
traveled to make sure that there was no one following him, Guy walked up
to the wagon and held one end of the rail, as the man requested, making
several suggestions as the work progressed, which the emigrant was
prompt to adopt, and which led him to say when the repairs were all
“Now, stranger, may be you would be willing to set up and take a bite
with us. Supper’s ready.”
Guy was not only willing, but eager. The sense of security he had felt
since his arrival in the emigrant’s camp, aided by the savory odor of
the viands that were cooking over the coals, had put a sharp edge on his
appetite, and he did full justice to the meal that was served up. While
he was eating he had leisure to look about him and to examine into
something that had attracted his notice when he first entered the camp.
There were some words painted in large letters on one of the wagon
covers, and after a little study, Guy made them out to be, “Sonora or
He read the words over slowly while he was munching his corn bread and
bacon, and then turned his attention to the emigrant’s family, on whom
he had thus far bestowed only a passing glance.
There were eight of them—two women and six children; and as both the
women were addressed as mother, Guy thought there ought to be another
man about the camp; but as he did not put in an appearance, he finally
asked after him.
“Where is your partner?” said he to the emigrant. “You ask that
question, I suppose, because you see two families here,” replied the
man. “One of them is mine, and the other was my brother’s. He is dead,
and so I have his wife and little ones to care for till I get them back
among their friends.”
Guy helped himself to another piece of bacon and looked up at the words
that were painted on the wagon cover.
“Did you get through, or bust?” said he.
“Both,” replied the emigrant. “I came through all right, and busted
afterward. My brother, he died, the placer diggings give out, so that
Californy ain’t worth staying in, and now I want to get back to
Missouri, where I came from, before I am clean broke. These women folks
can’t drive horses—this is the third time they have run into stumps and
rocks, and broke that wagon down, between here and Sonora—and I’ll give
any man ten dollars a month that’s a mind to set up there and drive for
“Are you going straight to the States?” asked Guy.
“Just as straight as the nearest trail runs.”
“Then I’m your man. I’ll drive one wagon for you.”
“Talk enough,” said the emigrant. “I can rest easy now. That miserable
wagon has been more bother to me than it is worth.”
And so the matter was settled, and Guy became a teamster and a member of
the emigrant’s family.
For the next three months he led a dreary, monotonous life, during which
not a single incident happened that was worth recording. He arose from
his blankets at daybreak, ate a breakfast of corn bread and bacon, and
then climbed to his seat in the wagon, where he remained, with the
exception of an hour’s halt at noon, until long after dark. Even this
work was hard, and the longer it continued the more disgusted with
frontier life Guy became, and the firmer grew his resolution, that if he
ever lived to get among civilized people again, he would stay among
them. The journey, like the voyage around the Horn, seemed endless, but
at last, to his immense relief, Omaha appeared in sight.
By this time Guy had made up his mind what he was going to do. From the
emigrants he met on the road he learned that the States were at war,
that one portion of the Union was in arms against the other, and that
men were wanted on both sides.
This seemed almost a godsend to Guy, for it settled a question which he
had long been revolving in his mind, namely: What should he do for a
living? he could go into the Union army. He would save every cent of the
money he earned during his term of service, and if he lived to come out,
he would have enough to enable him to take a course at some commercial
college, and thus fit himself for business. He was a boy of peace—he had
no taste for fights and broils—but he must do something to earn a
livelihood, and this seemed to be just what he wanted.
When they reached Omaha Guy was paid off by his employer, receiving
thirty-five dollars in money, and after taking leave of him and his
family, he started at once for the levee. Finding there a steamer bound
for St. Louis, he shipped on it as deck hand. He could not afford to go
as passenger, for his clothes were almost in tatters, and he needed the
little money he had to purchase a respectable outfit when he reached St.
The steamer arrived at the city early one morning, and Guy having
received his wages, bent his steps toward the nearest clothing store,
and when he came out again, half an hour afterward, he looked more like
Guy Harris than he had looked for many a long day. He had purchased a
neat, durable suit of clothing, and still had a few dollars left in his
pocket. He was not ashamed now to show himself on the principal streets.
The first thing was to get a good breakfast, and the next to hunt up an
officer to enlist him. There was a restaurant close by, and while he was
eating a dish of ham and eggs, and drinking a cup of coffee, he talked
with the proprietor, who directed him to the nearest recruiting office.
It was on Fourth Street, the man said, and Guy having paid his bill
started out to find it.
Guy felt now as if he were among friends from whom he had long been
separated. He was delighted to find himself among the sights and sounds
of the city again, and not a single incident that happened as he passed
along the street did he regard as too trifling to be noticed.
He had now been adrift in the world nearly fifteen months, and during
this time he had seldom thought of his home and those he had left there.
It is true that when he was in trouble he had wished himself safe under
his father’s roof once more, just as a storm-tossed mariner wishes
himself back to the comfortable haven he left a few days ago; but if he
had ever thought of his father and his father’s wife, it was with a
feeling of bitterness which seemed to grow stronger and deeper as he
grew older. He thought of them now, but without a single pang of regret
or a single longing in his heart to see them. The world had treated him
harshly since he had been out in it; but which was the worst, he asked
himself—to receive hard words and hard usage from those of whom he had a
right to expect nothing better, or to submit to daily exhibitions of
indifference and partiality, and acts of petty tyranny and injustice
from those of whom he had a right to expect nothing but encouragement,
sympathy and love? Guy asked himself this question, and a hard
expression settled about the corners of his mouth, which did not soften
when he suddenly discovered among the numerous pedestrians one whom he
thought he had seen before. It was a tall, dignified gentleman, who was
just at that moment crossing the street, evidently with the intention of
intercepting him. Guy stared at him in amazement. _It was his father!_
GUY COULD scarcely believe his eyes. His father was the last man on
earth he had expected to see in St. Louis—the last one he wanted to
meet, if the truth must be told—and he hoped that he was mistaken.
But the approaching gentleman was really Mr. Harris—there could be no
doubt about that; for, as far as his personal appearance was concerned,
he had not changed in a single particular since Guy last saw him. His
face wore the same fierce frown, before which the boy had so often
trembled, and which seemed habitual to him, and he carried himself as
stiffly as ever. But he came up with some eagerness in his manner, and
for once appeared to be glad to see his son.
“Guy!” said he, seizing the boy’s outstretched hand and speaking with
more cordiality than he had ever before thrown into his tones when
“Father!” replied Guy.
“How do you do?” said Mr. Harris. “When did you arrive here, and where
have you been?”
Guy noticed, with some of the old bitterness in his heart, that his
father did not say he was glad to meet him, but he was not much
surprised at it. He could not recollect that his father had ever
exhibited any affection for him. He saved all that for Ned, and Guy was
obliged to be contented with the few crumbs that fell to his share in
the shape of Christmas presents and a religious book once or twice a
“I have just now come from the plains,” replied Guy. “I have been to sea
since I saw you last.”
“To sea!” repeated Mr. Harris—“as a common sailor?”
“Yes, sir. I have made two voyages as a foremast hand, one of them
around the Horn. I came from San Francisco overland.”
A few minutes’ silence followed. The two stood holding fast to each
other’s hands, and each was busy with his own thoughts. Mr. Harris was
running his eyes over Guy’s face and figure, and was plainly surprised,
and perhaps a little disappointed, to see him so neatly dressed and
looking so well.
The conventional runaway always turns up ragged and in a starving
condition; but this one looked as though he had been living on the fat
of the land. Guy was waiting with some anxiety to hear what his father
would have to say next, and wondering if his long separation from him
had softened his heart in any degree. At last Mr. Harris spoke.
“I am stopping at the Planter’s House,” said he. “Come over there with
me. I want to talk to you.”
As he said this he drew his son’s arm through his own and led him away.
This movement on his part was a great surprise to Guy. Never before had
his father treated him with so much familiarity.
Perhaps he was beginning to see that he had made a woful mistake in
keeping the boy at such a distance from him. Had his eyes been opened to
this fact eighteen months sooner Guy would never have been a runaway.
Arriving at the Planter’s House Mr. Harris led the way to his room, and
as he locked the door behind him and handed Guy a chair, the latter felt
very much as he had felt in former days when his father had ordered him
into the library for some offense he had committed, and followed him
there with an apple-tree switch in his hand.
“Are you on your way home, Guy?” asked Mr. Harris as he sealed himself
in a chair opposite his son.
“No, sir,” was the reply. “I came to St. Louis intending to enlist in
“You must not do that, Guy,” said his father earnestly. “There are
enough beside you to risk their lives in this war. I want you to go back
with me. Home is the place for you.”
“No, father, I can’t do it,” said Guy.
“I have two good reasons. In the first place, I suppose that all my
acquaintances know by this time that I ran away from home.”
“I suppose they do,” said his father, “and that is all the punishment
you will have to stand.”
“For the opinions of the majority I care nothing. Those who know all the
circumstances will not judge me too harshly,” said Guy, astonished at
the readiness with which he expressed himself. But then his heart was
full of this matter. He had thought of it often and words came easy to
Mr. Harris elevated his eyebrows and looked surprised.
“Yes, sir,” continued Guy, who easily read the thoughts that were
passing in his father’s mind. “I mean to say that every man and woman in
Norwall who is intimate with our family will tell you to-day, if they
tell you anything, that I had good reason for wishing to leave home. I
never saw a moment’s peace there in my life.”
“Then why did you not come to me like a man and say so, instead of
sneaking away like a thief in the night?” asked Mr. Harris with all the
old sternness in his voice.
“I knew better. I did not care to put myself in the way of a whipping,
and that is all the satisfaction I should have got.”
Whatever may have been Mr. Harris’ other faults, he was not dishonest.
He did not deny this—he could not, so he hastened to change the subject.
“What was the reason you were not happy at home?” he asked. “Ned seems
to enjoy himself very well.”
“I suppose he does,” returned Guy bitterly. “He has a father and mother
who try to make home pleasant for him. Any boy can enjoy himself under
“Didn’t you have all you wanted to eat, and drink, and wear?”
“Yes, sir; but is that all a boy wants to make him happy? No, indeed. He
wants a kind word now and then. He likes to be told once in a while that
there is some good in him, and that he is not altogether wicked and
depraved. He wants privileges occasionally, not those granted with
hesitation and grumbling and cautions innumerable, for he cannot enjoy
them, but those which are extended willingly and smilingly, as if the
parent found as much pleasure in giving as the boy does in receiving
them. He wants somebody who will love him, and who is not ashamed to
show it. Where is Henry Stewart?” asked Guy suddenly.
“He is still at home,” replied Mr. Harris, “studying hard to fit himself
for college. Mr. Stewart seems to be particularly blessed in his
children. Henry is a model boy. He never does anything behind his
father’s back that he would be ashamed to do before his face.”
“And what is the reason?” asked Guy.
“I don’t know, I am sure. I suppose it is nature.”
“Yes, the nature of the boy has a good deal to do with his behavior, of
course, but believe me, father, when I say that the parents have a great
deal to do with it, too,” said Guy earnestly. “If you will go into Mr.
Stewart’s yard some night and watch his family through the window, as I
did on one occasion, the mystery will be solved in two minutes’ time.
Henry can’t help being a good boy, because he has a good home. It isn’t
what he has to eat and drink and wear that makes him so, either.”
“Well, have you been so much happier since you have been out in the
world than you were at home?”
“I have been so much better satisfied that I don’t want to go back,”
“Have you never regretted your rash act? Have you never wanted to see
“Yes, sir, to both your questions. I wished myself at home a good many
times during the first three months I was away, not because I was sorry
I had left it, but because I was disheartened by the misfortunes I met
with and the abuse I received from some of those with whom I came in
contact. The world isn’t what I expected to find it by any means. I have
been cured of a good many foolish notions since I left home.”
“You must have had some plan in your head when you ran away,” said
Harris. “What did you expect to do?”
“I intended to become a hunter,” said Guy, with some hesitation.
“There!” exclaimed his father, suddenly brightening. “I have at last
reached the root of the matter. Don’t you see now that my judgment was
better than yours? If you had respected my wishes and let those
miserable works of fiction alone, you would have saved yourself a great
deal of trouble. Be honest now. Confess that the only reason why you
left home was because you got some wild idea into your head from those
“I have already told you why I left home, and why I don’t want to go
back,” said Guy. “If works of fiction are such awful things, how does it
come that Henry Stewart is so good a boy? He has a whole library of such
books, and he doesn’t have to hide away in the carriage-house or attic
to read them either, as I did. I don’t deny that the stories I read had
something to do with my choice of an occupation, but I do deny that they
had anything to do with my leaving home. The home itself was the cause
of that. It was such a gloomy, dismal place, that I couldn’t stay there.
But I’ve had enough of life on the frontier and on the ocean wave. It is
all well enough to sit down by a comfortable fire in an easy chair, and
read about the imaginary adventures that fall to the lot of hunters and
sailors who never existed, but when one comes to follow the business, he
finds that it is a different matter altogether.”
“Well, what are you going to do here in St. Louis?” asked Mr. Harris.
“I don’t know. I must find work of some kind, and that very soon, for I
have but a few dollars left. I know nothing of business, consequently if
I went into a store I should have to accept the lowest position, which
would not bring me enough to board and clothe myself. The only way I can
see is to enlist. I shall save every cent of my money—I think I know the
value of it—and when my term of service expires, I shall have enough to
enable me to take a course at the Commercial College. Perhaps after that
I can find some paying situation.”
“You must not go into the service, Guy,” said Mr. Harris. “I should
never expect to see you again. I can give you something to do.”
Guy opened his lips to decline this proposition without waiting to hear
more about it. The thought of working under his father’s supervision was
most distasteful to him—indeed, it could not be entertained for a
moment. He could not bear to meet, every hour in the day, that stern,
gloomy man, who never smiled. But Mr. Harris went on without giving him
time to speak.
“I have prospered since the war begun,” said he. “I have had two
profitable government contracts, and have established a business house
in this city. Mr. Walker, who is now my partner, has charge of it. I
will step around and see him about it, and perhaps we can make some
satisfactory arrangements, if you will promise to keep out of the
“But, father,” said Guy, “do you live here in this city?”
“No; I have charge of our business in Norwall. I go back there by this
evening’s train. What do you say?”
“I shall be grateful for any work that will bring me my board and
clothes, and will promise to keep out of the service,” said Guy.
“Suppose you come around here and take dinner with me at three o’clock.
I shall then be able to tell you what arrangements Mr. Walker and myself
“Very well, sir,” said Guy.
Mr. Harris arose to his feet, and Guy taking this as a hint that he
wished the interview brought to a close, picked up his hat and left the
“Thank goodness, it is over at last,” said he, drawing a long breath of
relief. “I didn’t say half I meant to have said, and I am glad I didn’t,
for I could see that he felt badly. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,
but at the same time I wanted to let him see how impossible it is for me
to go back to Norwall with him. I shall always remember that interview,
for it is an event in my life. _It is the first time I ever spent half
an hour in private with my father without getting a scolding or a
whipping._ He was distant enough, mercy knows, but still he was kinder
and more cordial than I ever knew him to be before. Why didn’t he
exhibit a little of that spirit years ago? I would have done anything
for him that I could do.”
“I never in my life heard of such impudence,” soliloquized Mr. Harris,
as he paced up and down his room after Guy’s departure. “It was all I
could do to keep my hands off that boy. He had the audacity to tell me
to my face that I and his mother are the cause of his wrong-doing—that
we made his home so unpleasant for him that he couldn’t stay there. If
that is the case what is the reason Ned doesn’t run away? Guy must be
demented. That bosh he used to read so much has turned his head.”
How very unwilling we are to confess ourselves in fault for any
unhappiness that befall us—it is so much easier to lay the blame upon
somebody else. Said a father in my hearing, not long ago, while speaking
of a reckless, dissolute son who had caused him a world of trouble:
“Tom always was a peculiar boy. I never could understand him. He seemed
to prefer any place on earth to his home, and he never would stay there
if he could go anywhere else. Why it was so I am sure I don’t know. I
tried my best to do my duty by him, and it is a great comfort to me now
in my old age to know that nobody can tell me I spoiled him by sparing
the rod. I was as strict with him as a father could be. When he was not
at school I shut him up inside the yard to keep him out of the company
of bad boys. I never allowed him to go to a theater or circus, but made
him read his Bible every day and learn a portion of the New Testament
every night before he went to bed. In the evening, as soon as the gas
was lighted, I compelled him to bring out his school books and study
them until nine o’clock. I exercised the strictest supervision over his
reading, and burned every story paper, novel, book of travel, and trash
of that sort that he brought into the house. I saw that he was regular
in his attendance at church and Sunday-school, and on Sunday afternoons
never permitted him to touch any books or papers except those of a
religious character. In short, I tried to keep his mind so fully
occupied with good and useful things that wicked and trifling ones could
find no place in it. And how has my kindness been returned?” added the
father sorrowfully. “Tom run away from home when the war broke out, and
has never been near me since. He is now among those rough characters on
the border, and if everything I hear is true, he is one of the worst of
them. How a bad man can come from such a home as Tom had in his boyhood,
is a mystery to me.”
But it was no mystery to _me_, for I had heard the other side of the
story. A few weeks previous to this, while on my way to visit some
friends in the East, it was my fortune to meet this same Tom in a
distant State. I could scarcely recognize in him the innocent,
meek-appearing boy I had known in years gone by. He was dressed in a red
shirt, thrown open at the throat, coarse trousers thrust into a pair of
high-top boots, and a tattered slouch hat which he wore cocked over his
left ear. In a belt which encircled his waist he carried a navy
six-shooter and a monstrous bowie-knife, both of which had been used
with terrible effect in more than one personal encounter. He was a
swaggering, swearing, boastful, dissipated fellow, and always seemed on
the lookout for a chance to pick a quarrel with some one.
“You’re going home, Harry,” said he, as he grasped my hand at parting,
“and I wish you joy of your visit. Would to Heaven I had a home to go
“You have, Tom,” said I, “and your father would be glad to see you.”
“Don’t talk to me in that way,” he said, almost fiercely. “I know there
is a house in an Eastern town where I used to stay when I was a boy,
because I could go nowhere else, where I found shelter, food and
clothing, and was daily strapped and scolded, but does that constitute a
_home_? If it does, you writers and poets are all liars. You tell us
home is a place around which one’s warmest affections cluster—a place
consecrated by a mother’s presence, by her prayers and holy tears, whose
sacred influence goes with us through life, and whose pleasant memories
come thronging upon us when the tempter is near to keep us from being
led astray. Such is the home of my dreams, but it is one I never knew
and never shall know. I never knew a mother’s love, but was early made
acquainted with the weight of a father’s hand. He was such a tyrant that
I never could breathe easy in his presence. He denied me every boyish
privilege and indulgence, and brought me up so strictly that I learned
to despise everything good simply because he liked it. I hated the
Sabbath, I hated the Bible, being held to so unreasonably strict an
observance to the one, and so often compelled against my wishes to
commit to memory whole pages of the other. I resolved, as far back as I
can remember, that if I could once free myself from home, I’d see life
and make up for lost time, and you know as well as I can tell you how I
have kept that resolution. I am sorry for it now, but it is too late. I
can’t live my life over again. I have come to such a pass that nobody
cares for me.”
Tom’s under lip begun to quiver and his eyes to fill with tears. Ashamed
of the weakness, he dashed his hand across his face, uttered an oath
under his breath and swaggered off to the nearest saloon. What will his
end be? The rope of a vigilance committee, or the bullet of some fellow
Parents, it is a serious matter to send a boy into the world with no
pleasant recollections of yourselves or of home to restrain him in the
hour of temptation.