“No, I am going East in a day or two. I am going to New York. I will write to you from there.”
“I am sorry to have you go, Herbert. I wish things could have been pleasanter, so that you might have stayed. But I think I hear Mr. Holden stirring. Good-by, and may God be with you!”
She closed the window hastily, and Herbert, not wishing to get into a collision with Abner Holden, who he suspected might have heard something, withdrew swiftly. Ralph, who was standing near by, joined him, and both together went back to the woods.
A MOMENT OF PERIL
Abner Holden did not suspect that Herbert actually intended to leave him permanently; but when evening came, and he did not return, he became apprehensive that such was the case. Now, for more than one reason, he objected to our hero’s leaving. First, because he was a strong, capable boy, and his services were worth considerable, and, secondly, because he disliked Herbert, and it was a satisfaction to tyrannize over him, as his position enabled him to do. There are some men in whom the instinct of petty tyranny exists to such an extent that they cannot feel happy without someone to exercise their authority over. Such a man was Abner Holden. He was a bully and a tyrant by nature, and decidedly objected to losing one so completely in his power as Herbert was.
When night came and Herbert did not return, he decided to search for him, and bring him back, if found, the very next day. He did not impart his purpose to Mrs. Bickford, for he was at no loss to discover that the sympathies of the kind-hearted housekeeper were not with him, but with the boy whom he wished to abuse. When breakfast was over, therefore, he merely said: “Mrs. Bickford, I am going out for a short time. If Herbert should return while I am absent, you may tell him to finish hoeing those potatoes in the garden.”
“Do you think he will come back, Mr. Holden?” asked the housekeeper.
“Yes; he will soon be tired of wandering about. He will learn to prize a good home after he has slept out of doors one night.”
Mrs. Bickford did not reply; but she did not feel quite so much confidence as her employer appeared to do in the excellence of the home which Herbert had enjoyed under Abner Holden’s roof.
“It’s just as well he doesn’t suspect Herbert’s plan,” she thought, and without further words, began to clear away the breakfast dishes.
Abner was not long in deciding that Herbert was hidden in the woods. That, indeed, seemed the most natural place of refuge for one placed in his circumstances. He determined, therefore, to seek there first.
We must now return to Herbert.
“If you will wait till nightfall,” said Ralph, “you will be more safe from pursuit, and I will accompany you for a few miles.”
This seemed plausible, and our hero consented.