"Say, mister," he spoke out, "-won't
you give me a lift here?"
"Well, you're a cool one," ejacu
lated Rufus. "Do you happen to
know who lam?"
"I don't," answered the boy.
"I happen to be the owner of that
"O-oh!" observed the lad looking
embarrassed and troubled. He hung
his head and dug the gaping toe of
his poor shoe into the earth. Then
he looked up bravely.
"Mister," he said, "I'm sorry and
I'm glad, both. I was on my way to
take the rig back to you and I had
to face you anyhow, so why not now.
Maybe you wouldn't feel hard against
me if you knew why I borrowed the
" 'Borrowed' is good, rather," quiz
zically suggested Rufus.
'Tm going to pay you for the use
of the horse and wagon," said the boy
quickly and earnestly. For the dam
age I've done to it, too. Not in
money, for I haven't any, but in work.
Yes, sir, TU make it up to you, sure.V
"What was you doing with it any
way?" inquired Rufus, but the boy
shook his head obstinately.
"I mustn't tell," he insisted. "No
harm, mister, you can count on that.
When I'm all square with you may
be I'll tell you, but all I want you to
think of just now, is how I can work
out my debt to you."
Rufus studied the lad curiously. He
asked him a few questions and learn
ed that his name was- Barton Hale.
He supposed the bandage covering
one ear and the side of his face was
occasioned by a toothache and did
not press him with inquiries.
They got the wagon out of the rut
and started for home.
"You.go into the kitchen," advised
Rufus when they reached the little
farm, "and get a meal. You look as
if you needed it"
"Yes, sir, I do," replied his .guest,
humbly and gratefully. He acted like
a new being after a hearty lunch pre
pared by mother, smiling Mrs. Burt
Rufus put him at chopping wood
and he did it with a will. Then there
waB a field of hay to rake up. The
lad seemed actually to enjoy the task
Rufus was telling him how his wife
had fixed up a cot for him in the at
tic and hinted at hiring him perma-?
nently, when Robert dashed by on his
way to school.
"Why, what's the matter?" inquir
ed Rufus, as he noticed the lad Btar
ing open-eyed after Robert.
"Is that your boy?" asked his com
panion in a strangely quivering tone.
"That's right," was the prompt re
ply. "Half of one of his ears is gone,
'"Yes had it frozen when he was a
To the amazement of Rufus the lad
removed the bandage about his head.
There was the perfect prototype of
Robert's distinguishing mark half
"Why why, what does this
mean?" demanded the bewildered
"I didn't know myself till just this
moment," replied the lad. "You call
ed that boy Robert. It gave me a
clew. Listen, sir."
Then the lad told a strange,
strange story. Two years previously
he had lost his father and mother.
He was stranded in the world with
two little sisters. The careless fling
of a scythe had severed his ear. That
accounted for the disfigurement.
He happened to wander with the
little ones near the home of Eli Sar
key. That individual immediately
took a peculiar interest in him. He
offered to give him a home and the
little ones as well. Starkey took the
lad to see blind deaf old Zed Mills.
The latter felt over his head and lo
cated the broken ear. That seemed
to identify some one to him. Before
the family quarrel the old man had
taken a great fancy to Robert. Un
doubtedly he had asked Starkey to
bring Robert Burt to him. Starkey
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