I sometimes think of Mr. and Mrs. Mudge, and wonder whether they miss me much. I am sure Mr. Mudge misses me, for now he is obliged to get up early and milk, unless he has found another boy to do it. If he has, I pity the boy. Write me what they said about my going away.
I inclose a letter for Aunt Lucy Lee, which I should like to have you give her with your own hands. Don’t trust it to Mrs. Mudge, for she doesn’t like Aunt Lucy, and I don’t think she would give it to her.
Write soon, Ben, and I will answer without delay, Your affectionate friend, Paul Prescott.
“That’s a very good letter,” said Mr. Crosby; “I am glad Paul is doing so well. I should like to see him.”
“So should I,” said Ben; “he was a prime fellow,—twice as good as I am. That’s true, what he said about my not liking study. I guess I’ll try to do better.”
“You’ll make a smart boy if you only try,” said the postmaster, with whom Ben was rather a favorite, in spite of his mischievous propensities.
“Thank you,” said Ben, laughing, “that’s what my friend, the mayor of New York, often writes me. But honestly, I know I can do a good deal better than I am doing now. I don’t know but I shall turn over a new leaf. I suppose I like fun a little too well. Such jolly sport as I had coming to the office this morning.”
Ben related the story of the traveller who inquired the way to Sparta, much to the amusement of the postmaster, who, in his enjoyment of the joke, forgot to tell Ben that his conduct was hardly justifiable.
“Now,” said Ben, “as soon as I have been home, I must go and see my particular friend, Mrs. Mudge. I’m a great favorite of hers,” he added, with a sly wink.
Mrs. Mudge’s discomfiture.
Ben knocked at the door of the Poorhouse. In due time Mrs. Mudge appeared. She was a little alarmed on seeing Ben, not knowing how Squire Newcome might be affected by the reception she had given him on his last visit. Accordingly she received him with unusual politeness.
“How do you do, Master Newcome?” she inquired.
“As well as could be expected,” said Ben, hesitatingly.
“Why, is there anything the matter with you?” inquired Mrs. Mudge, her curiosity excited by his manner of speaking.
“No one can tell what I suffer from rheumatism,” said Ben, sadly.
This was very true, since not even Ben himself could have told.
“You are very young to be troubled in that way,” said Mrs. Mudge, “and how is your respected father, to-day?” she inquired, with some anxiety.
“I was just going to ask you, Mrs. Mudge,” said Ben, “whether anything happened to disturb him when he called here day before yesterday?”
“Why,” said Mrs. Mudge, turning a little pale, “Nothing of any consequence,—that is, not much. What makes you ask?”