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 Thus it came about that Ted Turner began the long, golden days of his summer vacation at the great estates of the Fernalds, and soon he had made himself such an indispensable part of the farming staff that both Mr. Wharton and Mr. Stevens came to rely on him for many services outside of those usually turned over to the men.  
"Just step over to the south lot at Pine Lea, Ted, and see if those fellows are thinning the beets properly," Mr. Wharton would say. "I gave them their orders but they may not have taken them in. You know how the thing should be done. Sing out to them if they are not doing the job right."
"Mr. Stevens and I shall be busy this morning checking up the pay roll. Suppose you have an eye on the hilling up of the potatoes, Ted. Show the men how you want it done and start them at it. I'll be over later to see how it's going."
Frequently, instead of working, the boy was called in to give an opinion on some agricultural matter with which he had had experience.
"We are finding white grubs in the corner of the Pine Lea garden. They are gnawing off the roots of the plants and making no end of trouble. What did you do to get rid of them when you were up in Vermont?"
"Salt and wood ashes worked better than anything else," Ted would reply modestly. "It might not be any good here but we had luck with it at home."
"We can try it, at least. You tell Mr. Stevens what the proportions are and how you applied it."
And because the advice was followed by a successful extermination of the plague, the lad's prestige increased and he was summoned to future conclaves when troublesome conditions arose.
Now and then there was a morning when Mr. Stevens would remark to Mr. Wharton:
"I've got to go to the Falls to-day to see about some freight. Ted Turner will be round here, though, and I guess things will be all right. The men can ask him if they want anything."
And so it went.
First Ted filled one corner, then another. He did errands for Mr. Wharton, very special errands, that required thought and care, and which the manager would not have entrusted to every one. Sometimes he ventured valuable suggestions which Mr. Stevens, who really had had far less farming experience than he, was only too grateful to follow.
If the boy felt at all puffed up by the dependence placed upon him, he certainly failed to show it. On the contrary he did his part enthusiastically, faithfully, generously, and without a thought of praise or reward. Although he was young to direct others, when he did give orders to the men he was tactful and retiring enough to issue his commands in the form of wishes and immediately they were heeded without protest. He never shirked the hard work he asked others to perform but was always ready to roll up the sleeves of his blue jeans and pitch with vigor into any task, no matter how menial it was. Had he been arrogant and made an overbearing use of his authority, the men would quickly have rated him as a conceited little popinjay, the pet of the boss, and made his life miserable; but as he remained quite unspoiled by the preference shown him and exhibited toward every one he encountered a kindly sympathy and consideration, the workmen soon accepted him as a matter of course and even began to turn to him whenever a dilemma confronted them.
Perhaps Ted was too genuinely interested in what he was doing to think much about himself or realize that the place he held was an unusual one. At home he and his father had threshed out many a problem together and each given to it the best his brain had to offer, without thought of the difference in their ages. Sometimes Ted's way proved the better, sometimes Mr. Turner's. Whichever plan promised to bring the more successful results was followed without regard for the years of him who had sponsored it. They were working together and for the same goal and what did it matter which of them had proposed the scheme they finally followed? To get the work completed and lay low the obstacles in their path were the only issues of importance.
So it was now. Things at Aldercliffe and Pine Lea must be done and done well, and only what furthered that end counted. Nevertheless, Ted would not have been a human boy had he not been pleased when some idea of his was adopted and found to be of use; this triumph, however, was less because the programme followed was his own than because it put forward the enterprise in hand. There was a satisfaction in finding the key to a balking problem and see it cease to be a problem. It was fun, for example, to think about the potatoes and then say to Mr. Wharton:
"Do you know, Mr. Wharton, I believe if we tried a different spray on that crop that isn't doing well it might help matters."
And when the new concoction was tried and it did help matters, what a glow of happiness came with the success!
What wonder that as the days passed, the niche awarded the lad grew bigger and bigger!
"There is no way you could come up here and live, is there, Ted?" Mr. Wharton inquired one day. "I'd give a good deal to have you here on the spot. Sometimes I want to talk with you outside working hours and I can't for the life of me lay hands on you. It's the deuce of a way to Freeman's Falls and you have no telephone. If you were here——" He paused meditatively, then continued, "There's a little shack down by the river which isn't in use. You may remember seeing it. It was started years ago as a boathouse for Mr. Laurie's canoes and then—well, it was never finished. It came to me the other day that we might clean it up, get some furnishings, and let you have it. How would the notion strike you?"
Ted's eyes sparkled.
"I'd like it of all things, sir!" returned he instantly.
"You wouldn't be timid about sleeping off there by yourself?"
"No, indeed!"
"Well, well! I had no idea you would listen to such a plan, much less like it. Suppose you go down there to-day and overhaul the place. Find out what would be required to make you comfortable and we will see what we can do about it. I should want you fixed up so you would be all right, you know. While we could not afford to go into luxuries, there would be no need for you to put up with makeshifts."
"But I am quite used to roughing it," protested Ted. "I've often camped out."
"Camping is all very well for a while but after a time it ceases to be a joke. No, if you move up here to accommodate us, you must have decent quarters. Both Mr. Fernald and Mr. Clarence would insist on that, I am certain. So make sure that the cabin is tight and write down what you think it would be necessary for you to have. Then we'll see about getting the things for you."
"You are mighty good, sir."
"Nonsense! It is for our own convenience," Mr. Wharton replied gruffly.
"Shall I—do you mean that I am to go over there after work to-night?"
"No. Go now. Cut along right away."
"But I was to help Mr. Stevens with the——"
"Stevens will have to get on without you. Tell him so from me. You can say I've set you at another job."
With springing step Ted hurried away. He was not sorry to exchange the tedious task of hoeing corn for the delightful one of furnishing a domicile for himself. What sport it would be to have at last a place which he could call his own! He could bring his books from home, his box of electrical things—all his treasures—and settle down in his kingdom like a young lord. He did not care at all if he had only a hammock to sleep in. The great satisfaction would be to be his own master and monarch of his own realm, no matter how tiny it was. Like lightning his imagination sped from one dream to another. If only Mr. Wharton would let him run some wires from the barn to the shack, what electrical contrivances he could rig up! He could then light the room and heat it, too; he could even cook by electricity.
Probably, however, Mr. Wharton would consider such a notion out of the question and much too ambitious. Even though the Fernalds had an electrical plant of their own, such a luxury was not to be thought of. A candle would do for lighting, of course.
Soon he came within sight of the shack which stood at the water's edge.
Soon he came within sight of the shack which stood at the water's edge.
Page 27.
Busy with these thoughts and others like them he sped across the meadow and through the woods toward the river. He was not content to walk the distance but like a child leaped and ran with an impatience not to be curbed. Soon he came within sight of the shack which stood at the water's edge, mid-way between Aldercliffe and Pine Lea, and was sheltered from view by a grove of thick pines. Its bare, boarded walls had silvered from exposure to the weather until it was scarcely noticeable against the gray tree trunks. Nevertheless, its crude, rough sides, its staring windows, and its tarred roof looked cheerless and deserted enough. But for Ted Turner it possessed none of these forbidding qualities. Instead of being a hermitage it seemed a paradise, a fairy kingdom, the castle of a knight's tale!
Thrusting the key which Mr. Wharton had given him into the padlock, he rolled open the sliding door and intermingled odors of cedar, tar, and paint greeted him. The room was of good size and was neatly sheathed as an evident preparation for receiving a finish of stain which, however, had never been put on. There were four large windows closed in by lights of glass, a rough board floor, and a fireplace of field stone. Everywhere was dirt, cobwebs, sawdust, and shavings; and scattered about so closely there was scarcely space to step was a litter of nails, fragments of boards, and a conglomeration of tin cans of various sizes.
Almost any one who beheld the chaos would have turned away discouraged. But not so Ted! The disorder was of no consequence in his eyes. Through all its dinginess and confusion he saw that the roof was tight, the windows whole, and the interior quite capable of being swept out, scrubbed and put in order. That was all he wanted to know. Why, the place could be made into a little heaven! Already he could see it transformed into a dwelling of the utmost comfort. He had remodelled many a worse spot,—the barn loft in Vermont, for example, and made it habitable. One had only to secure a table, a chair or two, build a bunk and get a mattress, and the trick was turned.
How proud he should be to have such a dwelling for his own!
He could hardly restrain himself from rolling up his sleeves and going to work then and there. Fearing, however, that Mr. Wharton might be awaiting his report, he reluctantly closed the door again, turned the key in it, and hurried back to the manager's office.
"Well," inquired the elder man, spinning around in his desk chair as the boy entered and noting the glow in the youthful face, "how did you find things at the shack? Any hope in the place?"
"Hope!" repeated Ted. "Why, sir, the house is corking! Of course, it is dirty now but I could clean it up and put it in bully shape. All I'd need would be to build a bunk, get a few pieces of furniture, and the place would be cosy as anything. If you'll say the word, I'll start right in to-night after work and——"
"Why wait until to-night?" came drily from the manager.
"Why—er—I thought perhaps—you see there is the corn——"
"Never mind the corn," Mr. Wharton interrupted.
"You mean I could go right ahead now?" asked Ted eagerly.
"Certainly. You are doing this for our accommodation, not for your own, and there is no earthly reason why you should perform the work outside your regular hours."
"But it is for my accommodation, too," put in the lad with characteristic candor.
"I am very glad if it happens to be," nodded Mr. Wharton. "So much the better. But at any rate, you are not going to take your recreation time for the job. Now before you go, tell me your ideas as to furnishings. You will need some things, of course."
"Not much," Ted answered quickly. "As I said, I can knock together a bunk and rough table myself. If I could just have a couple of chairs——"
Mr. Wharton smiled at the modesty of the request.
"Suppose we leave the furnishing until later," said he, turning back to his desk with a gesture of dismissal. "I may drop round there some time to-day while you're working. We can then decide more fully upon what is necessary. You'll find brooms, mops, rags, and water in the barn, you know. Now be off. I'm busy."
Away went Ted, only too eager to obey. In no time he was laden with all the paraphernalia he desired. He stopped at Stevens' cottage only long enough to add to his equipment a pail of steaming water and then, staggering under the weight of his burden of implements, made his way to the shack. Once there he threw off his coat, removed his collar and tie, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work. First he cleared the bulk of rubbish from the room and set it outside; then he swept up the floor and mopped it with hot suds; afterwards he washed the windows and rubbed them until they shone. Often he had watched his mother and sisters, who were well trained New England housekeepers, perform similar offices and therefore he knew exactly how such things should be done. It took him a solid morning to render the interior spotless and just as he was pausing to view his handiwork with weary satisfaction Mr. Wharton came striding in at the door.
"Mercy on us!" gasped the newcomer with amazement. "You have been busy! Why, I had no idea there were such possibilities in this place. The room is actually a pretty one, isn't it? We shall be able to fix you up snug as a bug in a rug here." He ran his eye quickly about. "If you put your bunk between the windows, you will get plenty of air. You'll need window shades, some comfortable chairs, a bureau, a table——"
"I think I can make a table myself," Ted put in timidly. "That is, if I can have some boards."
"No, no, no! There are boards enough. But you don't want a makeshift thing like that. If you are going to have books and perhaps read or study, you must have something that will stand solidly on four legs. I may be able to root a table out of some corner. Then there will be bedding——"
"I can bring that from home."
"All right. We'll count on you to supply that if you are sure you have it to spare. I'll be responsible for the rest." He stopped an instant to glance into the boy's face then added kindly, "So you think you are going to like your new quarters, eh?"
"You bet I am!"
"That's good! And by the by, I have arranged for you to have your meals with Stevens and his wife. They like you and were glad to take you in. Only you must be prompt and not make them wait for you. Should you prove yourself a bother they might turn you out."
"I'll be on hand, sir."
"See that you are. They have breakfast at seven, dinner at twelve, and supper at six. Whenever you decide to spend Sunday with your family, or take any meals elsewhere, you must, of course, be thoughtful enough to announce beforehand that you are to be away."
"Yes, sir."
Ted waited a few moments and then, as Mr. Wharton appeared to be on the point of leaving, he asked with hesitancy:
"How—how—much will my meals cost?"
An intonation of anxiety rang in the question.
"Your meals are our hunt," Mr. Wharton replied instantly. "We shall see to those."
"You'll be worth your board to the Fernald estates, never fear, my lad; so put it all out of your mind and don't think of it any more. All is, should we ask of you some little extra service now and then, I am sure you will willingly perform it, won't you?"
"Sure!" came with emphatic heartiness.
"Then I don't see but everything is settled," the manager declared, as he started back through the grove of pines. "I gave orders up at the toolhouse that you were to have whatever boards, nails, and tools you wanted, so don't hesitate to sail in and hunt up anything you need."
"You are mighty kind, sir."
"Pooh, pooh. Nonsense! Aren't you improving the Fernald property, I'd like to know?" Mr. Wharton laughed. "This boathouse has been an eyesore for years. We shall be glad enough to have it fixed up and used for something."

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