“I say, Paul,” said Ben, “I’m sorry to find you in such a place.”
“It isn’t very pleasant,” said Paul, rather soberly.
“And that woman—Mrs. Mudge—she looks as if she might be a regular spitfire, isn’t she?”
“I only wish the old gentleman—meaning of course, the Squire—would take you to live with me. I want a fellow to play with. But I say, Paul, go and get your hat, and we’ll go out for a walk.”
“I don’t know what Mrs. Mudge will say,” said Paul, who had just come from turning the handle of a churn.
“Just call Mrs. Mudge, and I’ll manage it.”
Mrs. Mudge being summoned, made her appearance at the door.
“I presume, ma’am,” said Ben, confidently, “you will have no objection to Paul’s taking a walk with me while I deliver the message I am entrusted with.”
“Certainly,” said Mrs. Mudge, rather unwillingly, but not venturing to refuse.
“It takes me to come it over the old lady,” said Ben, when they were out of hearing.
“Now, we’ll go a fishing.”
Before sunrise the next morning Paul was awakened by a rude shake from Mr. Mudge, with an intimation that he had better get up, as there was plenty of work before him.
By the light of the lantern, for as yet it was too dark to dispense with it, Paul dressed himself. Awakened from a sound sleep, he hardly had time to collect his thoughts, and it was with a look of bewilderment that he surveyed the scene about him. As Mrs. Mudge had said, they were pretty full already, and accordingly a rude pallet had been spread for him in the attic, of which, with the exception of nocturnal marauders, he was the only occupant. Paul had not, to be sure, been used to very superior accommodations, and if the bed had not been quite so hard, he would have got along very well. As it was he was separated from slats only by a thin straw bed which did not improve matters much. It was therefore with a sense of weariness which slumber had not dissipated, that Paul arose at the summons of Mr. Mudge.
When he reached the kitchen, he found that gentleman waiting for him.
“Do you know how to milk?” was his first salutation.
“I never learned,” said Paul.
“Then you’ll have to, in double-quick time,” was the reply, “for I don’t relish getting up so early, and you can take it off my hands.”
The two proceeded to the barn, where Paul received his first lesson in this important branch of education.
Mr. Mudge kept five cows. One might have thought he could have afforded a moderate supply of milk to his boarders, but all, with the exception of a single quart, was sold to the milkman who passed the door every morning.
After breakfast, which was on the same economical plan with the dinner of the day previous, Paul was set to work planting potatoes, at which he was kept steadily employed till the dinner-hour.