Hi! Mark,” shouted Frank from his ferry-boat one warm morning in March, “come here a minute. I’ve got something to tell you. Great scheme.”
“Can’t,” called Mark—“got to go to mill.”
“Well, come when you get back.”
Mark and Frank had by this time become the best of friends, for each had learned to appreciate the good points of the other, and to value his opinions. Their general information was as different as possible, and each thought that the other knew just the very things a boy ought to know. While Mark’s knowledge was of books, games, people, and places that seemed to Frank almost like foreign countries, he knew the names of every wild animal, bird, fish, tree, and flower to be found in the surrounding country, and was skilled in all tricks of woodcraft.
Since this boy had first entered the Elmer household, wounded, dirty, and unkempt as a young savage, he had changed so wonderfully for the better that his best friends of a few months back would not have recognized him. He was now clean, and neatly dressed in an old suit of Mark’s which just fitted him, and his hair, which had been long and tangled, was cut short and neatly brushed. Being naturally of a sunny and affectionate disposition, the cheerful home influences, the motherly care of Mrs. Elmer, whose heart was very tender towards the motherless boy, and, above all, the great alteration in his father’s manner, had changed the shy, sullen lad, such as he had been, into an honest, happy fellow, anxious to do right, and in every way to please the kind friends to whom his debt of gratitude was so great. His regular employment at the ferry, the feeling that he was useful, and, more than anything else, the knowledge that he was one of the proprietors of the Elmer Mill, gave him a sense of dignity and importance that went far towards making him contented with his new mode of life. Mark, Ruth, and he studied for two hours together every evening under Mrs. Elmer’s direction, and though Frank was far behind the others, he bade fair to become a first-class scholar.
Mr. Elmer was not a man who thought boys were only made to get as much work out of as possible. He believed in a liberal allowance to play, and said that when the work came it would be done all the better for it. So, every other day, Mark and Frank were sent down to St. Mark’s in the canoe for the mail, allowed to take their guns and fishing-tackle with them, and given permission to stay out as long as they chose, provided they came home before dark. Sometimes Ruth was allowed to go with them, greatly to her delight, for she was very fond of fishing, and always succeeded in catching her full share. While the boys were thus absent, Mr. Elmer took charge of whatever work Mark might have been doing, and Jan always managed to be within sound of the ferry-horn.
On one of their first trips down the river Mark had called Frank’s attention to the head of a small animal that was rapidly swimming in the water close under an overhanging bank, and asked him what it was.