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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesFrom Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 1. The First Pair Of Shoes
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From Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 1. The First Pair Of Shoes Post by :Sangel Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2042

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From Canal Boy To President; Or, The Boyhood And Manhood Of James A. Garfield - Chapter 1. The First Pair Of Shoes

CHAPTER I. THE FIRST PAIR OF SHOES

From a small and rudely-built log-cabin a sturdy boy of four years issued, and looked earnestly across the clearing to the pathway that led through the surrounding forest. His bare feet pressed the soft grass, which spread like a carpet before the door.

"What are you looking for, Jimmy?" asked his mother from within the humble dwelling.

"I'm looking for Thomas," said Jimmy.

"It's hardly time for him yet. He won't be through work till after sunset."

"Then I wish the sun would set quick," said Jimmy.

"That is something we can not hasten, my son. God makes the sun to rise and to set in its due season."

This idea was probably too advanced for Jimmy's comprehension, for he was but four years of age, and the youngest of a family of four children. His father had died two years before, leaving a young widow, and four children, the eldest but nine, in sore straits. A long and severe winter lay before the little family, and they had but little corn garnered to carry them through till the next harvest. But the young widow was a brave woman and a devoted mother.

"God will provide for us," she said, but sometimes it seemed a mystery how that provision was to come. More than once, when the corn was low in the bin, she went to bed without her own supper, that her four children, who were blessed with hearty appetites, might be satisfied. But when twelve months had gone by, and the new harvest came in, the fields which she and her oldest boy had planted yielded enough to place them beyond the fear of want. God did help them, but it was because they helped themselves.

But beyond the barest necessaries the little family neither expected nor obtained much. Clothing cost money, and there was very little money in the log-cabin, or indeed in the whole settlement, if settlement it can be called. There was no house within a mile, and the village a mile and a half away contained only a school-house, a grist-mill, and a little log store and dwelling.

Two weeks before my story opens, a farmer living not far away called at the log-cabin. Thomas, the oldest boy, was at work in a field near the house.

"Do you want to see mother?" he asked.

"No, I want to see you."

"All right, sir! Here I am," said Thomas, smiling pleasantly.

"How old are you?" asked the farmer.

"Eleven years old, sir."

The farmer surveyed approvingly the sturdy frame, broad shoulders, and muscular arms of the boy, and said, after a pause, "You look pretty strong of your age."

"Oh, yes, sir," answered Thomas, complacently "I am strong."

"And you are used to farm work?"

"Yes, sir. I do about all the outdoor work at home, being the only boy. Of course, there is Jimmy, but he is only four, and that's too young to work on the farm."

"What does he want?" thought Thomas.

He soon learned.

"I need help on my farm, and I guess you will suit me," said Mr. Conrad, though that was not his name. In fact, I don't know his name, but that will do as well as any other.

"I don't know whether mother can spare me, but I can ask her," said Thomas. "What are you willing to pay?"

"I'll give you twelve dollars a month, but you'll have to make long days."

Twelve dollars a month! Tom's eyes sparkled with joy, for to him it seemed an immense sum--and it would go very far in the little family.

"I am quite sure mother will let me go," he said. "I'll go in and ask her."

"Do so, sonny, and I'll wait for you here."

Thomas swung open the plank door, and entered the cabin.

It was about twenty feet one way by thirty the other. It had three small windows, a deal floor, and the spaces between the logs of which it was built were filled in with clay. It was certainly an humble dwelling, and the chances are that not one of my young readers is so poor as not to afford a better. Yet, it was not uncomfortable. It afforded fair protection from the heat of summer, and the cold of winter, and was after all far more desirable as a home than the crowded tenements of our larger cities, for those who occupied it had but to open the door and windows to breathe the pure air of heaven, uncontaminated by foul odors or the taint of miasma.

"Mother," said Thomas, "Mr. Conrad wants to hire me to work on his farm, and he is willing to pay me twelve dollars a month. May I go?"

"Ask Mr. Conrad to come in, Thomas."

The farmer entered, and repeated his request.

Mrs. Garfield, for this was the widow's name, was but little over thirty. She had a strong, thoughtful face, and a firm mouth, that spoke a decided character. She was just the woman to grapple with adversity, and turning her unwearied hands to any work, to rear up her children in the fear of the Lord, and provide for their necessities as well as circumstances would admit.

She didn't like to spare Thomas, for much of his work would be thrown upon her, but there was great lack of ready money and the twelve dollars were a powerful temptation.

"I need Thomas at home," she said slowly, "but I need the money more. He may go, if he likes."

"I will go," said Thomas promptly.

"How often can you let him come home?" was the next question.

"Every fortnight, on Saturday night. He shall bring his wages then."

This was satisfactory, and Thomas, not stopping to change his clothes, for he had but one suit, went off with his employer.

His absence naturally increased his mother's work, and was felt as a sore loss by Jimmy, who was in the habit of following him about, and watching him when he was at work. Sometimes his brother gave the little fellow a trifle to do, and Jimmy was always pleased to help, for he was fond of work, and when he grew older and stronger he was himself a sturdy and indefatigable worker in ways not dreamed of then.

The first fortnight was up, and Thomas was expected home. No one was more anxious to see him than his little brother, and that was why Jimmy had come out from his humble home, and was looking so earnestly across the clearing.

At last he saw him, and ran as fast as short legs could carry him to meet his brother.

"Oh, Tommy, how I've missed you!" he said.

"Have you, Jimmy?" asked Thomas, passing his arm around his little brother's neck. "I have missed you too, and all the family. Are all well?"

"Oh, yes."

"That is good."

As they neared the cabin Mrs. Garfield came out, and welcomed her oldest boy home.

"We are all glad to see you, Thomas," she said. "How have you got along?"

"Very well, mother."

"Was the work hard?"

"The hours were pretty long. I had to work fourteen hours a day."

"That is too long for a boy of your age to work," said his mother anxiously.

"Oh, it hasn't hurt me, mother," said Thomas, laughing. "Besides, you must remember I have been well paid. What do you say to that?"

He drew from his pocket twelve silver half-dollars, and laid them on the table, a glittering heap.

"Is it all yours, Tommy?" asked his little brother wonderingly.

"No, it belongs to mother. I give it to her."

"Thank you, Thomas," said Mrs. Garfield, "but at least you ought to be consulted about how it shall be spent. Is there anything you need for yourself?"

"Oh, never mind me! I want Jimmy to have a pair of shoes."

Jimmy looked with interest at his little bare feet, and thought he would like some shoes. In fact they would be his first, for thus far in life he had been a barefooted boy.

"Jimmy shall have his shoes," said Mrs. Garfield; "when you see the shoemaker ask him to come here as soon as he can make it convenient."

So, a few days later the shoemaker, who may possibly have had no shop of his own, called at the log-cabin, measured Jimmy for a pair of shoes, and made them on the spot, boarding out a part of his pay.

The first pair of shoes made an important epoch in Jimmy Garfield's life, for it was decided that he could now go to school.

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