Mr. Hamlin stopped his horse a quarter of a mile from the village in front of a plain farmhouse.
An intelligent-looking boy, of perhaps fifteen, coarsely but neatly dressed, approached and greeted his father, not without a glance of surprise and curiosity at Frank.
“You may unharness the horses, Dick,” said Mr. Hamlin. “When you come back, I will introduce you to a boy friend who will stay with us a while.”
Dick obeyed, and Frank followed his host into the house.
Here he was introduced to Mrs. Hamlin, a motherly-looking woman, and Annie and Grace, younger sisters of Dick.
“I am glad to see you,” said Mrs. Hamlin, to our hero, after a brief explanation from her husband. “We will try to make you comfortable.”
“Thank you!” said Frank. “I am sure I shall feel at home.”
The house was better furnished than might have been anticipated. When Mr. Hamlin left Chicago, he had some money saved up, and he furnished his house in a comfortable manner.
It was not, however, the furniture that attracted Frank’s attention so much as the books, papers and pictures that gave the rooms a homelike appearance.
“I shall be much better off here than I would have been at the tavern,” he thought. “This seems like home.”
“I see,” said Mr. Hamlin, “that you are surprised to see so many books and pictures. I admit that my house does not look like the house of a poor man, who has to struggle for the mere necessaries of life. But books and periodicals we have always classed among the necessities, and I am sure we would all rather limit ourselves to dry bread for two out of the three meals than to give up this food for the mind.”
“I think you are a very sensible man, Mr. Hamlin,” said Frank. “I couldn’t get along without something to read.”
“Not in this out-of-the-way place, at any rate,” said Mr. Hamlin. “Nothing can be more dismal than the homes of some of my neighbors, who spend as much, or more, than I do every year. Yet, they consider me extravagant because I buy books and subscribe for periodicals.”
By this time, Dick came in from the barn.
“Dick,” said his father, “this is Frank Courtney, who comes from Chicago on a business errand. He is a traveling merchant—”
“In other words, a peddler,” said Frank, with a smile, “ready to give the good people in Jackson a chance to buy stationery at reasonable prices.”
“He will board with us while he is canvassing the neighborhood, and I expect you and he will become great friends.”
“I think we shall,” said Frank.
Dick was a little shy, but a few minutes set him quite at ease with his new acquaintance.
After supper, Frank said:
“Dick, if you are at leisure, I wish you would take a walk about the village with me. I want to see how it looks.”