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David Bushnell And His American Turtle
by [?]


“David!” cried a voice stern and commanding, from a house-door one morning, as the young man who owned the name was taking a short cut “across lots” in the direction of Pautapoug.

“Sir!” cried the youth in response to the call, and pausing as nearly as he could, and at the same time keep his feet from sinking into the marshy soil.

“Where are you going?” was the response.

“To Pautapoug, to see Uriah Hayden, sir.”

“You’d better hire out at ship-building with him. Your college learning’s of no earthly use in these days,” said the father of David Bushnell, returning from the door, and sinking slowly down into his high-backed chair.

Then spoke up a sweet-voiced woman from the kitchen fire-side, where she had that moment been hanging an iron pot on the crane:

“Have a little patience, father (Mrs. Bushnell always called her husband, father), David is only looking about to see what to do. It’s hardly four weeks since he was graduated.”

“True enough; but where can you find an idle man in all Saybrook town? and you know as well as I do that it makes men despise college-learning to see folks idle. I’d rather, for my part, David did go to work on the ship Uriah Hayden is building. I wish I knew what he’s gone over there for to-day.”

A funny smile crept into the curves of Mrs. Bushnell’s lips, but her husband did not notice it.

Mr. Bushnell moved uneasily in his chair, as he sat leaning forward, both hands clasped about a hickory stick, and his chin resting on the knob at its top. Presently he said:

“Anna, I fear David is getting into bad habits. He used to talk a good deal. Now he sits with his eyes on the floor, and his forehead in wrinkles, and I’m sure I’ve heard him moving about more than one night lately, after all honest folks were in bed.”

“Father, you must remember that you’ve been very sick, and fever gives one queer notions sometimes. I shouldn’t wonder one bit if you dreamed you heard something, when ’twas only the rats behind the wainscot.”

“Rats don’t step like a grown man in his stocking-feet, nor make the rafters creak, either.”

Madam Bushnell appeared to be investigating the contents of the pot hanging on the crane, and perhaps the heat of the blazing wood was sufficient to account for the burning of her cheeks. She cooled them a moment later by going down cellar after cider, a mug of which she offered to her husband, proposing the while that he should have his chair out of doors, and sit under the sycamore tree by the river-bank. When he assented, and she had seen him safely in the chair, she made haste to David’s bed-room.

Since Mr. Bushnell’s illness began, no one had ascended to the chamber except herself and her son.

On two shelves hanging against the wall were the books that he had brought home with him from Yale College, just four weeks ago.

A table was drawn near to the one window in the room. On it were bits of wood, with iron scraps, fragments of glass and copper. In fact, the same thing to-day would suggest boat-building to the mother of any lad finding them among her boy’s playthings. To this mother they suggested nothing beyond the fact that David was engaged in something which he wished to keep a profound secret.

He had not told her so. It had not been necessary. She had divined it and kept silence, having all a mother’s confidence in, and hope of, her son’s success in life.

As she surveyed the place, she thought:

“There is nothing here, even if he (meaning her husband) should take it into his head to come up and look about.”

Meanwhile young David had crossed the Pochaug River, and was half the way to Pautapoug.