“No, father,” said Paul sturdily, “it is too late now. I have made the promise and I mean to stick to it. Besides, it will give me something to live for. I am young—I may have a great many years before me. For thirteen years you have supported me. It is only right that I should make what return I can. I’ll keep my promise, father.”
“May God help and prosper you, my boy,” said Mr. Prescott, solemnly. “You’ve been a good son; I pray that you may grow up to be a good man. But, my dear, I feel tired. I think I will try to go to sleep.”
Paul smoothed the comforter, adjusting it carefully about his father’s neck, and going to the door went out in search of some wood to place upon the fire. Their scanty stock of firewood was exhausted, and Paul was obliged to go into the woods near by, to obtain such loose fagots as he might find upon the ground.
He was coming back with his load when his attention was drawn by a whistle. Looking up he discovered Ben Newcome approaching him.
“How are you, Paul?”
“Pretty well, Ben.”
“How precious lonesome you must be, mewed up in the house all the time.”
“Yes, it is lonesome, but I wouldn’t mind that if I thought father would ever get any better.”
“How is he this morning?”
“Pretty low; I expect he is asleep. He said he was tired just before I went out.”
“I brought over something for you,” said Ben, tugging away at his pocket.
Opening a paper he displayed a couple of apple turnovers fried brown.
“I found ’em in the closet,” he said.
“Won’t Hannah make a precious row when she finds ’em gone?”
“Then I don’t know as I ought to take them,” said Paul, though, to tell the truth, they looked tempting to him.
“O, nonsense,” said Ben; “they don’t belong to Hannah. She only likes to scold a little; it does her good.”
The two boys sat on the doorstep and talked while Paul ate the turnovers. Ben watched the process with much satisfaction.
“Ain’t they prime?” he said.
“First rate,” said Paul; “won’t you have one?”
“No,” said Ben; “you see I thought while I was about it I might as well take four, so I ate two coming along.”
In about fifteen minutes Paul went into the house to look at his father. He was lying very quietly upon the bed. Paul drew near and looked at him more closely. There was something in the expression of his father’s face which terrified him.
Ben heard his sudden cry of dismay, and hurriedly entered.
Paul pointed to the bed, and said briefly, “Father’s dead!”
Ben, who in spite of his mischievous propensities was gifted with a warm heart, sat down beside Paul, and passing his arm round his neck, gave him that silent sympathy which is always so grateful to the grief-stricken heart.