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Under the Lilacs

New Friends Trot In
Next day Ben ran off to his work with Quackenbos's "Elementary History of the United
States" in his pocket, and the Squire's cows had ample time to breakfast on way-side
grass before they were put into their pasture. Even then the pleasant lesson was not
ended, for Ben had an errand to town; and all the way he read busily, tumbling over the
hard words, and leaving bits which he did not understand to be explained at night by Bab.
At "The First Settlements" he had to stop, for the schoolhouse was reached, and the book
must be returned. The maple-tree closet was easily found, and a little surprise hidden
under the flat stone; for Ben paid two sticks of red and white candy for the privilege of
taking books from the new library.
When recess came, great was the rejoicing of the children over their unexpected treat, for
Mrs. Moss had few pennies to spare for sweets, and, somehow, this candy tasted
particularly nice, bought out of grateful Ben's solitary dime. The little girls shared their
goodies with their favorite mates, but said nothing about the new arrangement, fearing it
would be spoilt if generally known. They told their mother, however, and she gave them
leave to lend their books and encourage Ben to love learning all they could. She also
proposed that they should drop patch-work, and help her make some blue shirts for Ben.
Mrs. Barton had given her the materials, and she thought it would be an excellent lesson
in needle-work as well as a useful gift to Ben, -- who, boy-like, never troubled himself as
to what he should wear when his one suit of clothes gave out.
Wednesday afternoon was the sewing time; so the two little B's worked busily at a pair of
shirt-sleeves, sitting on their bench in the doorway, while the rusty needles creaked in and
out, and the childish voices sang school-songs, with frequent stoppages for lively chatter.
For a week, Ben worked away bravely, and never shirked nor complained, although Pat
put many a hard or disagreeable job upon him, and chores grew more and more
distasteful. His only comfort was the knowledge that Mrs. Moss and the Squire were
satisfied with him; his only pleasure the lessons he learned while driving the cows, and
recited in the evening when the three children met under the lilacs to "play school."
He had no thought of studying when he began, and hardly knew that he was doing it as he
pored over the different books he took from the library. But the little girls tried him with
all they Possessed, and he was mortified to find how ignorant he was. He never owned it
in words, but gladly accepted all the bits of knowledge they offered from their small
store; getting Betty to hear him spell "just for fun;" agreeing to draw Bab all the bears
and tigers she wanted if she would show him how to do sums on the flags, and often
beguiled his lonely labors by trying to chant the multiplication table as they did. When
Tuesday night came round, the Squire paid him a dollar, said he was "a likely boy," and
might stay another week if he chose. Ben thanked him and thought he would; but the next
morning, after he had put up the bars, he remained sitting on the top rail to consider his
prospects, for he felt uncommonly reluctant to go back to the society of rough Pat. Like