“It’s the microscopes that’ll be sellin’,” said Sandy, hopefully, as he pulled his coat collar about his ears and shivered. “The man as sold ’em to me said they was a great bargain entirely. He thought there was money in ’em.”
“For him,” said Ricks, contemptuously. “It’s like the man what gulled us on the penknives. I lay to git even with him, all right.”
“But he give us the night’s lodgin’ and some breakfast,” said Sandy.
Ricks took a long drink from a short bottle, then holding it before him, he said impressively: “A feller could do me ninety-nine good turns, and if he done me one bad one it would wipe ’em all out. I got to git even with anybody what does me dirty, if it takes me all my life.”
“But don’t you forget to remember?”
“Not me. I ain’t that kind.”
Sandy leaned wearily against the haystack and tried to shelter himself from the wind. A continued diet of bread and water had made him sensitive to the changes in the weather.
“This here grub is kinder hard on yer head-rails,” said Ricks, trying to bite through a piece of stale bread. A baker had let them have three loaves for a dime because they were old and hard.
Sandy cast a longing look at Ricks’s short bottle. It seemed to remedy so many ills, heat or cold, thirst or hunger. But the strict principles applied during his tender years made him hesitate.
“I wish we hadn’t lost the kitten,” he said, feeling the need of a more cheerful companion.
“I’m a-goin’ to git another dawg,” announced Ricks. “I’m sick of this here doin’s.”
“Ain’t we goin’ to be turfmen?” asked Sandy, who had listened by the hour to thrilling accounts of life on the track, and had accepted Ricks’s ambition as his own.
“Not on twenty cents per week,” growled Ricks.
Sandy’s heart sank; he knew what a new dog meant. He burrowed in the hay and tried to sleep, but there was a queer pain that seemed to catch hold of his breath whenever he breathed down deep.
It rained the next day, and they tramped disconsolately through village after village.
They had oil-cloth covers for their baskets, but their own backs were soaked to the skin.
Toward evening they came to the top of a hill, from which they could look directly down upon a large town lying comfortably in the crook of a river’s elbow. The rain had stopped, and the belated sun, struggling through the clouds, made up for lost time by reflecting itself in every curve of the winding stream, in every puddle along the road, and in every pane of glass that faced the west.
“That’s a nobby hoss,” said Ricks, pointing down the hill. “What’s the matter with the feller?”
A slight, delicate-looking young man was lying in the road, between the horse and the fence. As the boys came up he stirred and tried to rise.
“He’s off his nut,” said Ricks, starting to pass on; but Sandy stopped.