“How could I help it?” asked Paul, earnestly. “If she had only abused me, I should not have cared so much, but when she spoke about you, who have been so kind to me, I could not be silent.”
“I thank you, Paul, for your kind feeling,” said the old lady, gently, “but we must learn to bear and forbear. The best of us have our faults and failings.”
“What are yours, Aunt Lucy?”
“O, a great many.”
“Such as what?”
“I am afraid I am sometimes discontented with the station which God has assigned me.”
“I don’t think you can be very much to blame for that. I should never learn to be contented here if I lived to the age of Methuselah.”
Paul lay quite still for an hour or more. During that time he formed a determination which will be announced in the next chapter.
At the close of the last chapter it was stated that Paul had come to a determination.
This was,—to run away.
That he had good reason for this we have already seen.
He was now improving rapidly, and only waited till he was well enough to put his design into execution.
“Aunt Lucy,” said he one day, “I’ve got something to tell you.”
The old lady looked up inquiringly.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking of a long time,—at least most of the time since I’ve been sick. It isn’t pleasant for me to stay here, and I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I sha’n’t.”
“Where will you go?” asked the old lady, dropping her work in surprise.
“I don’t know of any particular place, but I should be better off most anywhere than here.”
“But you are so young, Paul.”
“God will take care of me, Aunt Lucy,—mother used to tell me that. Besides, here I have no hope of learning anything or improving my condition. Then again, if I stay here, I can never do what father wished me to do.”
“What is that, Paul?”
Paul told the story of his father’s indebtedness to Squire Conant, and the cruel letter which the Squire had written.
“I mean to pay that debt,” he concluded firmly. “I won’t let anybody say that my father kept them out of their money. There is no chance here; somewhere else I may find work and money.”
“It is a great undertaking for a boy like you, Paul,” said Aunt Lucy, thoughtfully. “To whom is the money due?”
“Squire Conant of Cedarville.”
Aunt Lucy seemed surprised and agitated by the mention of this name.
“Paul,” said she, “Squire Conant is my brother.”
“Your brother!” repeated he in great surprise. “Then why does he allow you to live here? He is rich enough to take care of you.”
“It is a long story,” said the old lady, sadly. “All that you will be interested to know is that I married against the wishes of my family. My husband died and I was left destitute. My brother has never noticed me since.”