Horatio Alger, Jr., in “Facing the World,” gives us as his hero a boy whose parents have both died and the man appointed as his guardian is unjust and unkind to him. In desperation he runs away and is very fortunate in finding a true friend in a man who aids him and makes him his helper in his work as magician.
They travel over the country and have many interesting experiences, some narrow escapes and thrilling adventures.
“Here’s a letter for you, Harry,” said George Howard. “I was passing the hotel on my way home from school when Abner Potts called out to me from the piazza, and asked me to bring it.”
The speaker was a bright, round-faced boy of ten. The boy whom he addressed was five or six years older. Only a week previous he had lost his father, and as the family consisted only of these two, he was left, so far as near relatives were concerned, alone in the world.
Immediately after the funeral he had been invited home by Mr. Benjamin Howard, a friend of his father, but in no manner connected with him by ties of relationship.
“You can stay here as long as you like, Harry,” said Mr. Howard, kindly. “It will take you some time to form your plans, perhaps, and George will be glad to have your company.”
“Thank you, Mr. Howard,” said Harry, gratefully.
“Shall you look for some employment here?”
“No; my father has a second cousin in Colebrook, named John Fox. Before he died he advised me to write to Mr. Fox, and go to his house if I should receive an invitation.”
“I hope for your sake, he will prove a good man. What is his business?”
“I don’t know, nor did my father. All I know is, that he is considered a prosperous man. This letter is from him.”
It was inclosed in a brown envelope, and ran as follows:
“HARRY VANE: I have received your letter saying that your father wants me to be your guardeen. I don’t know as I have any objections, bein’ a business man it will come easy to me, and I think your father was wise to seleck me. I am reddy to receave you any time. You will come to Bolton on the cars. That is eight miles from here, and there is a stage that meats the trane. It wouldn’t do you any harm to walk, but boys ain’t so active as they were in my young days. The stage fare is fifty cents, which I shall expect you to pay yourself, if you ride.
“There is one thing you don’t say anything about — how much proparty your pa left. I hope it is a good round sum, and I will take good care of it for you. Ennybody round here will tell you that John Fox is a good man of business, and about as sharp as most people. Mrs. Fox will be glad to see you, and my boy, Joel, will be glad to have someone to keep him company. He is about sixteen years old. You don’t say how old you are, but from your letter I surmise that you are as much as that. You will find a happy united famerly, consistin’ of me and my wife, Joel and his sister, Sally. Sally is fourteen, just two years younger than Joel. We live in a comfortable way, but we don’t gorge ourselves on rich, unhelthy food. No more at present. Yours to command,
Harry smiled more than once as he read this letter.
“Your relative isn’t strong on spelling,” remarked Mr. Howard, as he laid the letter on the table.
“No, sir; but he appears to be strong on economy. It is a comfort to know that I shall not be injured by ‘rich, unhelthy food.’”
“When do you mean to start for Colebrook?” asked Mr. Howard.
“To-morrow morning. I have been looking at a railroad guide, and I find it will bring me to Colebrook in time for supper.”
“We should be glad to have you stay with us as long as possible, Harry.”
“Thank you, Mr. Howard, I don’t doubt that, but the struggle of life is before me, and I may as well enter upon it at once.”
At four o’clock in the afternoon the conductor of the train on which Harry was a passenger called out Bolton.
Harry snatched up his carpetbag, and made his way to the door, for this was the place where he was to take the stage for Colebrook.
Two other passengers got out at the same time. One was an elderly man, and the other a young man of twenty-five. They appeared to be father and son, and, as Harry learned afterward they were engaged in farming.
“Any passengers for Colebrook?” inquired the driver of the old-fashioned Concord stage, which was drawn up beside the platform.
“There’s Obed and me,” said the old farmer.
“May I ride on the seat with you?” asked Harry of the driver.
“Sartain. Where are you going?”
“Then this is your team.”
Harry climbed up with a boy’s activity, and sat down on the broad seat, congratulating himself that he would have a chance to see the country, and breathe better air than those confined inside.
Soon the driver sat down on the box beside him, and started the horses.
“You’re a stranger, ain’t you?” he remarked, with an inquisitive glance at his young traveling companion.
“Yes; I’ve never been here before.”
“Are you going to the tavern?”
“No; I’m going to the house of Mr. John Fox. Do you know him?”
“I reckon everybody round here knows John Fox.”
“I don’t know him. He is to be my guardian.”
“Sho! You’ll have a queer guardeen.”
“The fact is, old John’ll cheat you out of your eye teeth ef he gets a chance. He’s about the sharpest man round.”
“He can’t cheat me out of much,” returned Harry, not especially reassured by this remark. “What is the business of Mr. Fox?”
“Well, he’s got some land, but he makes his livin’ chiefly by tradin’ hosses, auctioneerin’, and such like.”
“What sort of a woman is Mrs. Fox?”
“She’s a good match for the old man. She’s about as mean as he is.”
“Mr. Fox wrote me that he had two children.”
“Yes, there’s Joel — he’s about your age. He’s a chip of the old block — red-headed and freckled, just like the old man. I don’t believe Joel ever spent a cent in his life. He hangs on to money as tight as ef his life depended on it.”
“There’s a girl, too, isn’t there?”
“Yes, Sally. She looks like her ma, except she’s red-headed like her pa.”
“I’m glad to know something of the family, but I’m afraid I shan’t enjoy myself very much among the Foxes.”
With such conversation Harry beguiled the way. On the whole, he enjoyed the ride. There were hills and here and there the road ran through the woods. He could hear the singing of birds, and, notwithstanding what he had heard he felt in good spirits.
At length the stage entered the village of Colebrook. It was a village of moderate size — about two hundred houses being scattered over a tract half a mile square. Occupying a central position was the tavern, a square, two-story building, with a piazza in front, on which was congregated a number of villagers. After rapidly scanning them, the driver said: