Just then the younger clerk, Sam Riggs, commonly called Sammy, entered, and espying at once with jealous eyes the fallen state of his idol in the corner, took the first opportunity to pick her up and straighten her to her former position.
Little Eddy Carroll, running on his slim legs like a hound, raced down the homeward road, and came in sight of his father’s carriage just before it turned the corner. Carroll had stopped once on the way, and so the boy overtook him. When Carroll stopped to make an inquiry, he caught a glimpse of the small, flying figure in the rear; in fact, the man to whom he spoke pointed this out.
“Why, there’s your boy, now, Cap’n Carroll,” he said, “runnin’ as fast after you as you be after him.” The man was an old fellow of a facetious turn of mind who had done some work on Carroll’s garden.
Carroll, after that one rapid, comprehensive glance, said not another word. He nodded curtly and sprang into the carriage; but the old man, pressing close to the wheel, so that it could not move without throwing him, said something in a half-whisper, as if he were ashamed of it.
“Certainly, certainly, very soon,” replied Carroll, with some impatience.
“I need it pooty bad,” the old man said, abashedly.
“Very soon, I tell you,” repeated Carroll. “I cannot stop now.”
The old man fell back, with a pull at his ancient cap. He trembled a little nervously, his face was flushed, but he glanced back with a grin at Eddy racing to catch up.
“Drive on, Martin,” Carroll said to the coachman.
The old gardener waited until Eddy came alongside, then he called out to him. “Hi!” he said, “better hurry up. Guess your pa is goin’ to have a reckonin’ with ye.”
“You shut up!” cried the boy, breathlessly, racing past. When finally he reached the carriage, he promptly caught hold of the rear, doubled up his legs, and hung on until it rolled into the grounds of the Carroll place and drew up in the semicircle opposite the front-door. Then he dropped lightly to the ground and ran around to the front of the carriage as his father got out. Eddy without a word stood before his father, who towered over him grandly, confronting him with a really majestic reproach, not untinctured with love. The man’s handsome face was quite pale; he did not look so angry as severe and unhappy, but the boy knew well enough what the expression boded. He had seen it before. He looked back at his father, and his small, pink-and-white face never quivered, and his black eyes never fell.
“Well?” said Carroll.
“Where have you been?” asked Carroll.
The anxious faces of the boy’s mother and his aunt became visible at a front window, a flutter of white skirts appeared at the entrance of the grounds. The girls were returning from their search.
“Answer me,” commanded Carroll.