Horatio Alger.

Joe's Luck Always Wide Awake online

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"Come here, you Joe, and be quick about it!"

The boy addressed, a stout boy of fifteen, with an honest,
sun-browned face, looked calmly at the speaker.

"What's wanted?" he asked.

"Brush me off, and don't be all day about it!" said Oscar Norton

Joe's blue eyes flashed indignantly at the tone of the other.

"You can brush yourself off," he answered independently.

"What do you mean by your impudence?" demanded Oscar angrily. "Have
you turned lazy all at once?"

"No," said Joe firmly, "but I don't choose to be ordered round by

"What's up, I wonder? Ain't you our servant?"

"I am not your servant, though your father is my employer."

"Then you are bound to obey me - his son."

"I don't see it."

"Then you'd better, if you know what's best for yourself. Are you
going to brush me off?"


"Look out! I can get my father to turn you off."

"You may try if you want to."

Oscar, much incensed, went to his father to report Joe's
insubordination. While he is absent, a few words of explanation will
enlighten the reader as to Joe's history and present position.

Joe Mason was alone in the world. A year previous he had lost his
father, his only remaining parent, and when the father's affairs were
settled and funeral expenses paid there was found to be just five
dollars left, which was expended for clothing for Joe.

In this emergency Major Norton, a farmer and capitalist, offered to
provide Joe with board and clothes and three months' schooling in the
year in return for his services. As nothing else offered, Joe
accepted, but would not bind himself for any length of time. He was
free to go whenever he pleased.

Now there were two disagreeable things in Joe's new place. The first
was the parsimony of Major Norton, who was noted for his stingy
disposition, and the second was the overbearing manners of Oscar, who
lost no opportunity to humiliate Joe and tyrannize over him so far as
Joe's independent spirit would allow. It happened, therefore, that
Joe was compelled to work hard, while the promised clothing was of
the cheapest and shabbiest description. He was compelled to go to
school in patched shoes and a ragged suit, which hurt his pride as he
compared himself with Oscar, who was carefully and even handsomely
dressed. Parsimonious as his father was, he was anxious that his
only boy should appear to advantage.

On the very day on which our story begins Oscar had insulted Joe in a
way which excited our hero's bitter indignation.

This is the way it happened:

Joe, who was a general favorite on account of his good looks and
gentlemanly manners, and in spite of his shabby attire, was walking
home with Annie Raymond, the daughter of the village physician, when
Oscar came up.

He was himself secretly an admirer of the young lady, but had never
received the least encouragement from her. It made him angry to see
his father's drudge walking on equal terms with his own favorite, and
his coarse nature prompted him to insult his enemy.

"Miss Raymond," he said, lifting his hat mockingly, "I congratulate
you on the beau you have picked up."

Annie Raymond fully appreciated his meanness, and answered calmly:

"I accept your congratulations, Mr. Norton."

This answer made Oscar angry and led him to go further than he
otherwise would.

"You must be hard up for an escort, when you accept such a ragamuffin
as Joe Mason."

Joe flushed with anger.

"Oscar Norton, do you mean to insult Miss Raymond or me," he demanded.

"So you are on your high horse!" said Oscar sneeringly.

"Will you answer my question?"

"Yes, I will. I certainly don't mean to insult Miss Raymond, but I
wonder at her taste in choosing my father's hired boy to walk with."

"I am not responsible to you for my choice, Oscar Norton," said Annie
Raymond, with dignity. "If my escort is poorly dressed, it is not
his fault, nor do I think the less of him for it."

"If your father would dress me better, I should be very glad of it,"
said Joe. "If I am a ragamuffin, it is his fault."

"I'll report that to him," said Oscar maliciously.

"I wish you would. It would save me the trouble of asking him for
better clothes."

"Suppose we go on," said Annie Raymond.

"Certainly," said Joe politely.

And they walked on, leaving Oscar discomfited and mortified.

"What a fool Annie Raymond makes of herself" he muttered. "I should
think she'd be ashamed to go round with Joe Mason."

Oscar would have liked to despise Annie Raymond, but it was out of
his power. She was undoubtedly the belle of the school, and he would
have been proud to receive as much notice from her as she freely
accorded to Joe. But the young lady had a mind and a will of her
own, and she had seen too much to dislike in Oscar to regard him with
favor, even if he were the son of a rich man, while she had the good
sense and discrimination to see that Joe, despite his ragged garb,
possessed sterling good qualities.

When Oscar got home he sought his father.

"Father," said he, "I heard Joe complaining to Annie Raymond that you
didn't dress him decently."

Major Norton looked annoyed.

"What does the boy mean?" he said. "What does he expect?"

"He should be dressed as well as I am," said Oscar maliciously.

"Quite out of the question," said the major hastily. "Your clothes
cost a mint of money."

"Of course, you want me to look well, father. I am your son, and he
is only your hired boy."

"I don't want folks to talk," said the major, who was sensitive to
public opinion. "Don't you think his clothes are good enough?"

"Of course they are; but I'll tell you what, father," said Oscar,
with a sudden idea, "you know that suit of mine that I got stained
with acid?"

"Yes, Oscar," said the major gravely. "I ought to remember it. It
cost me thirty-four dollars, and you spoiled it by your carelessness."

"Suppose you give that to Joe?" suggested Oscar.

"He's a good deal larger than you. It wouldn't fit him; and,
besides, it's stained."

"What right has a hired boy to object to a stain? No matter if it is
too small, he has no right to be particular."

"You are right, Oscar," said the major, who was glad to be saved the
expense of a new suit for Joe. Even he had been unpleasantly
conscious that Joe's appearance had become discreditable to him.
"You may bring it down, Oscar," he said.

"I dare say Joe won't like the idea of wearing it, but a boy in his
position has no right to be proud."

"Of course not," returned the major, his ruling passion gratified by
the prospect of saving the price of a suit. "When Joseph comes
home - at any rate, after he is through with his chores - you may tell
him to come in to me."

"All right, sir."

Before Oscar remembered this message, the scene narrated at the
commencement of the chapter occurred. On his way to complain to his
father, he recollected the message, and, retracing his steps, said to

"My father wants to see you right off."

This was a summons which Joe felt it his duty to obey. He
accordingly bent his steps to the room where Major Norton usually sat.



"Oscar tells me that you wish to see me, sir," said Joe, as he
entered the presence of his pompous employer.

Major Norton wheeled round in his armchair and looked at Joe over his
spectacles. He looked at Joe's clothes, too, and it did strike him
forcibly that they were very shabby. However, there was Oscar's
stained suit; which was entirely whole and of excellent cloth. As to
the stains, what right had a boy like Joe to be particular?

"Ahem!" said the major, clearing his throat. "Oscar tells me that
you are not satisfied with the clothes I have I given you."

"He has told you the truth, Major Norton," replied Joe bluntly. "If
you will look for yourself, I think you will see why I am

"Joseph," said the major, in a tone of disapproval, "you are too free
spoken. I understand you have been complaining to Doctor Raymond's
daughter of the way I dress you."

"Did Oscar tell you the way that happened?" inquired Joe.

"I apprehend he did not."

"When I was walking home with Miss Annie Raymond, Oscar came up and
insulted me, calling me a ragamuffin. I told him that, if I was a
ragamuffin, it was not my fault."

Major Norton looked disturbed.

"Oscar was inconsiderate," he said. "It seems to me that your
clothes are suitable to your station in life. It is not well for a
boy in your circumstances to be 'clothed in purple and fine linen,'
as the Scriptures express it. However, perhaps it is time for you to
have another suit."

Joe listened in astonishment. Was it possible that Major Norton was
going to open his heart and give him what he had long secretly

Our hero's delusion was soon dissipated.

Major Norton rose from his seat, and took from a chair near-by a
stained suit, which had not yet attracted Joe's attention.

"Here is a suit of Oscar's," he said, "which is quite whole and
almost new. Oscar only wore it a month. It cost me thirty-four
dollars!" said the major impressively.

He held it up, and Joe recognized it at once.

"Isn't it the suit Oscar got stained?" he asked abruptly.

"Ahem! Yes; it is a little stained, but that doesn't injure the
texture of the cloth."

As he held it up the entire suit seemed to have been sprinkled with
acid, which had changed the color in large, patches in different
parts. The wearer would be pretty sure to excite an unpleasant
degree of attention.

Joe did not appear to be overwhelmed with the magnificence of the

"If it is so good, why don't Oscar wear it?" he asked.

Major Norton regarded Joe with displeasure.

"It cannot matter to you how Oscar chooses to dress," he said. "I
apprehend that you and he are not on a level."

"He is your son, and I am your hired boy," said Joe. "I admit that.
But I don't see how you can ask me to wear a suit like that."

"I apprehend that you are unsuitably proud, Joseph."

"I hope not, sir; but I don't want to attract everybody's notice as I
walk the streets. If I had stained the suit myself, I should have
felt bound to wear it, but it was Oscar's carelessness that destroyed
its appearance, and I don't think I ought to suffer for that.
Besides, it is much too small for me. Let me show you."

Joe pulled off his coat and put on the stained one. The sleeves were
from two to three inches too short, and it was so far from meeting in
front, on account of his being much broader than Oscar, that his
shoulders seemed drawn back to meet each other behind.

"It doesn't exactly fit," said the major; "but it can be let out
easily. I will send it to Miss Pearce - the village tailoress - to fix
it over for you."

"Thank you, Major Norton," said Joe, in a decided tone, "but I hope
you won't go to that expense, for I shall not be willing to wear it
under any circumstances."

"I cannot believe my ears," said Major Norton, with dignified
displeasure. "How old are you, Joseph?"

"Fifteen, sir."

"It is not fitting that you, a boy of fifteen, should dictate to your

"I don't wish to, Major Norton, but I am not willing to wear that

"You are too proud. Your pride needs taking down."

"Major Norton," said Joe firmly, "I should like to tell you how I
feel. You are my employer, and I am your hired boy. I try to do my
duty by you."

"You are a good boy to work, Joseph. I don't complain of that."

"You agreed to give me board and clothing for my services."

"So I have."

"Yes, sir; but you have dressed me in such a way that I attract
attention in the street for my shabbiness. I don't think I am very
proud, but I have been mortified! more than once when I saw people
looking at my patched clothes and shoes out at the toes. I think if
I work faithfully I ought to be dressed decently."

"Joseph," said Major Norton uneasily, "you look at the thing too
one-sided. You don't expect me to dress you like Oscar?"

"No, sir; I don't. If you would spend half as much for my clothes as
you do for Oscar's I would be contented."

"It seems to me you are very inconsistent. Here is a suit of clothes
that cost me thirty-four dollars, which I offer you, and you decline."

"You know why well enough, sir," said Joe, "You did not tell me you
intended to dress me in Oscar's castoff clothes, too small, and
stained at that. I would rather wear the patched suit I have on till
it drops to pieces than wear this suit."

"You can go, Joseph," said Major Norton, in a tone of annoyance. "I
did not expect to find you so unreasonable. If you do not choose to
take what I offer you, you will have to go without."

"Very well, sir."

Joe left the room, his face flushed and his heart full of indignation
at the slight which had been attempted on him.

"It is Oscar's doings, I have no doubt," he said to himself. "It is
like his meanness. He meant to mortify me."

If there had been any doubt in Joe's mind, it would soon have been
cleared up. Oscar had been lying in wait for his appearance, and
managed to meet him as he went out into the yard.

"Where are your new clothes?" he asked mockingly.

"I have none," answered Joe.

"Didn't my father give you a suit of mine?"

"He offered me the suit which you stained so badly with acid."

"Well, it's pretty good," said Oscar patronizingly. "I only wore it
about a month."

"Why don't you wear it longer?"

"Because it isn't fit for me to wear," returned Oscar.

"Nor for me," said Joe.

"You don't mean to say you've declined?" exclaimed Oscar, in surprise.

"That is exactly what I have done."


"You ought to know why."

"It is better than the one you have on."

"It is too small for me. Besides, it would attract general

"Seems to me somebody is getting proud," sneered Oscar. "Perhaps you
think Annie Raymond wouldn't walk with you in that suit?"

"I think it would make ho difference to her," said Joe. "She was
willing to walk with me in this ragged suit."

"I don't admire her taste."

"She didn't walk with my clothes; she walked with me."

"A hired boy!"

"Yes, I am a hired boy; but I don't get very good pay."

"You feel above your business, that's what's the matter with you."

"I hope some time to get higher than my business," said Joe. "I mean
to rise in the world, if I can."

Oscar shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps you would like to be a wealthy merchant, or a member of
Congress," he said.

"I certainly should."

Oscar burst into a sneering laugh, and left Joe alone.

Joe's work was done, and, being left free to do as he liked, he
strolled over to the village store.



The village store, in the evening, was a sort of village club-house,
where not only the loungers, but a better class, who desired to pass
the evening socially, were wont to congregate. About the center of
the open space was a large box-stove, which in winter was kept full
of wood, ofttimes getting red-hot, and around this sat the villagers.
Some on wooden chairs, some on a wooden settee, with a broken back,
which was ranged on one side.

Joe frequently came here in the evening to pass a social hour and
kill time. At the house of Major Norton he had no company. Oscar
felt above him, and did not deign to hold any intercourse with his
father's drudge, while the housekeeper - Major Norton being a
widower - was busy about her own special work, and would have wondered
at Joe if he had sought her company. I make this explanation because
I do not wish it to be understood that Joe was a common village
lounger, or loafer.

When Joe entered the store he found the usual company present, but
with one addition.

This was Seth Larkin, who had just returned from California, whither
he had gone eighteen months before, and was, of course, an object of
great attention, and plied with numerous questions by his old
acquaintances in regard to the land of promise in the far West, of
which all had heard so much.

It was in the fall of the year 1851, and so in the early days of

Seth was speaking as Joe entered.

"Is there gold in California?" repeated Seth, apparently in answer to
a question. "I should say there was. Why, it's chock full of it.
People haven't begun to find out the richness of the country. It's
the place for a poor man to go if he wants to become rich. What's
the prospects here? I ask any one of you. A man may go working and
plodding from one year's end to another and not have ten dollars at
the end of it. There's some here that know that I speak the truth."

"How much better can a man do in California?" asked Daniel Tompkins.

"Well, Dan," said Seth, "it depends on the kind of man he is. If
he's a man like you, that spends his money for rum as fast as he gets
it, I should say it's just as well to stay here. But if he's willing
to work hard, and to put by half he makes, he's sure to do well, and
he may get rich. Why, I knew a man that landed in California the
same day that I did, went up to the mines, struck a vein, and - well,
how much do you think that man is worth to-day?"

"A thousand dollars?" suggested Dan Tompkins.

"Why, I'm worth more than that myself, and I wasn't lucky, and had
the rheumatism for four months. You'll have to go higher."

"Two thousand?" guessed Sam Stone.

"We don't make much account of two thousand dollars in the mines,
Sam," said Seth.

"It's of some account here," said Sam. "I've been workin' ten years,
and I ain't saved up a third of it."

"I don't doubt it," said Seth; "and it ain't your fault, either.
Money's scarce round here, and farmin' don't pay. You know what I
was workin' at before I went out - in a shoe shop. I just about made
a poor livin', and that was all. I didn't have money enough to pay
my passage out, but I managed to borrow it. Well, it's paid now, and
I've got something left."

"You haven't told us yet how much the man made that you was talkin'
about," said Tom Sutter. "It couldn't be five thousand dollars, now,
could it?"

"I should say it could," said Seth.

"Was it any more?" inquired Dan Tompkins.

"Well, boys, I s'pose I may as well tell you, and you may b'lieve it
or not, just as you like. That man is worth twenty thousand dollars

There was a chorus of admiring ejaculations.

"Twenty thousand dollars! Did you ever hear the like?"

"Mind, boys, I don't say it's common to make so much money in so
short a time. There isn't one in ten does it, but some make even
more. What I do say is, that a feller that's industrious, and
willin' to work, an' rough it, and save what he makes, is sure to do
well, if he keeps well. That's all a man has a right to expect, or
to hope for."

"To be sure it is."

"What made you come home, Seth, if you were gettin' on so well?"
inquired one.

"That's a fair question," said Seth, "and I'm willin' to answer it.
It was because of the rheumatics. I had 'em powerful bad at the
mines, and I've come home to kinder recuperate, if that's the right
word. But I'm goin' back ag'in, you may bet high on that. No more
work in the shoe shop for me at the old rates. I don't mean that I'd
mind bein' a manufacturer on a big scale. That's a little more
stiddy and easy than bein' at the mines, but that takes more capital
than I've got."

"How much does it cost to go out there?" asked Dan Tompkins.

"More money than you can scare together, Dan. First-class, nigh on
to three hundred dollars, I believe."

This statement rather dampened the ardor of more than one of the
listeners. Three hundred dollars, or even two, were beyond the
convenient reach of most of those present. They would have to
mortgage their places to get it.

"You can go second-class for a good deal less, and you can go round
the Horn pretty cheap," continued Seth.

"How far away is Californy?" inquired Sam Stone.

"By way of the isthmus, it must be as much as six thousand miles, and
it's twice as fur, I reckon, round the Horn. I don't exactly know
the distance."

"Then it's farther away than Europe," said Joe, who had been
listening with eager interest.

"Of course it is," said Seth. "Why, that's Joe Mason, isn't it? How
you've grown since I saw you."

"Do you think I have?" said Joe, pleased with the assurance.

"To be sure you have. Why, you're a big boy of your age. How old
are you?"

"Fifteen - -nearly sixteen."

"That's about what I thought. Where are you livin' now, Joe?"

"I'm working for Major Norton."

Seth burst into a laugh.

"I warrant you haven't made your fortune yet, Joe," he said.

"I haven't made the first start yet toward it."

"And you won't while you work for the major. How much does he pay

"Board and clothes."

"And them are the clothes?" said Seth, surveying Joe's appearance


"I guess the major's tailor's bill won't ruin him, then. Are they
the best you've got?"

"No; I've got a better suit for Sunday."

"Well, that's something. You deserve to do better, Joe."

"I wish I could," said Joe wistfully. "Is there any chance for a boy
in California, Mr. Larkin?"

"Call me Seth. It's what I'm used to. I don't often use the handle
to my name. Well, there's a chance for a boy, if he's smart; but
he's got to work."

"I should be willing to do that."

"Then, if you ever get the chance, it won't do you any harm to try
your luck."

"How much did you say it costs to get there?"

"Well, maybe you could get there for a hundred dollars, if you wasn't
particular how you went."

A hundred dollars! It might as well have been ten thousand, as far
as Joe was concerned. He received no money wages, nor was he likely
to as long as he remained in the major's employ. There was a shoe
shop in the village, where money wages were paid, but there was no
vacancy; and, even if there were, Joe was quite unacquainted with the
business, and it would be a good while before he could do any more
than pay his expenses.

Joe sighed as he thought how far away was the prospect of his being
able to go to California. He could not help wishing that he were the
possessor of the magic carpet mentioned in the Arabian tale, upon
which the person seated had only to wish himself to be transported
anywhere, and he was carried there in the twinkling of an eye.

Joe walked home slowly, dreaming of the gold-fields on the other side
of the continent, and wishing he were there.



The next day was Saturday. There was no school, but this did not
lighten Joe's labors, as he was kept at work on the farm all day.

He was in the barn when Deacon Goodwin, a neighbor, drove up.

Oscar was standing in front of the house, whittling out a cane from a
stick he had cut in the woods.

"Is Joe Mason at home?" the deacon inquired.

Oscar looked up in surprise. Why should the deacon want Joe Mason?

"I suppose he is," drawled Oscar.

"Don't you know?"

"Probably he is in the barn," said Oscar indifferently.

"Will you call him? I want to see him on business."

Oscar was still more surprised. He was curious about the business,
but his pride revolted at the idea of being sent to summon Joe.

"You'll find him in the barn," said he.

"I don't want to leave my horse," said the deacon. "I will take it
as a favor if you will call him."

Oscar hesitated. Finally he decided to go and then return to hear
what business Joe and the deacon had together. He rather hoped that
Joe had been trespassing on the deacon's grounds, and was to be

He opened the barn door and called out:

"Deacon Goodwin wants you out at the gate."

Joe was as much surprised as Oscar.

He followed Oscar to the front of the house and bade the deacon good

"Oscar tells me you want to see me," he said.

"Yes, Joe. Do you remember your Aunt Susan?"

"My mother's aunt?"

"Yes; she's dead and buried."

"She was pretty old," said Joe.

"The old lady had a small pension," continued the deacon, "that just
about kept her, but she managed to save a little out of it. When the
funeral expenses were paid it was found that there were fifty-six

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