JUST TOO LATE
Leaving Abner Holden bound in his cabin, Ralph led Herbert, by a short path, out of the woods.
“Your best course,” he said, “will be to take the cars for Columbus at Vernon. At Columbus you will go to Wheeling, and from there, over the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to Baltimore, and thence to New York. But all this will cost money.”
“I have money,” said Herbert.
“About fifteen dollars.”
“Is that all?”
“Is it not enough to carry me to New York?”
“Hardly. Besides, when you get there, how will you get along? Have you any relations in the city?”
“Yes, an uncle.”
“Then you will go to him?”
“No,” said Herbert, hastily.
“He does not care to see me. Shall I tell you what sort of a letter he wrote to Dr. Kent about me?”
“Yes, tell me.”
Herbert, in indignant language, which correctly represented his feelings, gave the substance of the letter, which is already known to us.
“I shall not feel easy,” he said, “until I am able to return the ten dollars which my uncle sent me. I am not willing to remain under obligations to one who cares so little for me.”
“I think you are proud,” said Ralph, bending his eyes upon the lad’s glowing countenance.
“Perhaps I am,” said Herbert; “but is it not a proper pride?”
“I cannot say no,” answered Ralph; “but would you feel the same about incurring obligations to a friend?”
“No,” said Herbert; “that would be different.”
“I am glad to hear you say so, for I am going to ask you to accept help from me.”
To Herbert’s surprise, Ralph drew out a small bag, originally intended for shot, and drew therefrom five golden coins, of five dollars each.
“Take them,” he said, simply.
Herbert hesitated, while his face indicated extreme surprise.
“I thought—” he commenced, and then paused.
“You thought me poor,” said Ralph, finishing the sentence for him. “Is it not so?”
“Yes,” said Herbert.
“Most people think so,” said Ralph. “But it was not poverty that drove me from the busy world to this solitude. Rich or poor, I had money enough for my wants. Here I have little use for money. To me it is a useless and valueless thing. You need have no hesitation in taking this. But on second thoughts, I had better give you more.” And he was about to draw forth more.
“No, no,” said Herbert, hastily. “It is quite sufficient. You are very, very kind. Some time I hope to repay you.”
“No,” said Ralph. “Do not talk of repayment. Let me have the pleasure of giving you this small sum.”
“How kind you are,” said Herbert, impulsively, “and to a stranger.”
“Yet my obligation to you is greater than yours to me,” said Ralph.