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 When with shining eyes Ted told his father about Mr. Fernald's visit to the shack, Mr. Turner simply shrugged his shoulders and smiled indulgently.  
"Likely Mr. Clarence's curiosity got the better of him," said he, "and he wanted to look your place over and see that it warn't too good; or mebbe he just happened to be going by. He never would have taken the trouble to go that far out of his way if he hadn't had something up his sleeve. When men like him are too pleasant, I'm afraid of 'em. And as for Mr. Laurie dropping in—why, his father and grandfather would no more let him associate with folks like us than they'd let him jump headfirst into the river. We ain't good enough for the Fernalds. Probably almost nobody on earth is. And when it comes to Mr. Laurie, why, in their opinion the boy doesn't live who is fit to sit in the same room with him."
Ted's bright face clouded with disappointment.
"I never thought of Mr. Laurie feeling like that," answered he.
"Oh, I ain't saying Mr. Laurie himself is so high and mighty. He ain't. The poor chap has nothing to be high and mighty about and he knows it. Anybody who is as dependent on others as he is can't afford to tilt his nose up in the air and put on lugs. For all I know to the contrary he may be simple as a baby. It's his folks that think he's the king-pin and keep him in cotton wool." Mr. Turner paused, his lip curling with scorn. "You'll never see Mr. Laurie at your shack, mark my words. His people would not let him come even if he wanted to."
The light of eagerness in his son's countenance died entirely.
"I suppose you're right," admitted he slowly and with evident reluctance.
Although he would not have confessed it, he had been anticipating, far more than he would have been willing to own, the coming of Mr. Laurie. Over and over again he had lived in imagination his meeting with this fairy prince whose grave, wistful face and pleasant smile had so strongly attracted him. He had speculated to himself as to what the other boy was like and had coveted the chance to speak to him, never realizing that they were not on an equal plane. Mr. Fernald's suggestion of Laurie visiting the shack seemed the most natural thing in the world, and immediately after it had been made Ted's fancy had run riot, and he had leaped beyond the first formal preliminaries to a time when he and Laurie Fernald would really know one another, even come to be genuine friends, perhaps. What sport two lads, interested in the same things, could have together!
Ted had few companions who followed the bent of thought that he did. The fellows he knew either at school or in the town were ready enough to play football and baseball but almost none of them, for example, wanted to sacrifice a pleasant Saturday to constructing a wireless outfit. One or two of them, it is true, had begun the job but they soon tired of it and either sat down to watch him work or had deserted him altogether. The only congenial companion he had been able to count on had been the young assistant in the laboratory at school who, although he was not at all aged, was nevertheless years older than Ted.
But with the mention of Mr. Laurie myriad dreams had flashed into his mind. Here was no prim old scholar but a lad like himself, who probably did not know much more about electrical matters than he. You wouldn't feel ashamed to admit your ignorance before such a person, or own that you either did not know, or did not understand. You could blunder along with such a companion to your heart's content. Such had been his belief until now, with a dozen words, Ted saw his father shatter the illusion. No, of course Mr. Laurie would never come to the shack. It had been absurd to think it for a moment. And even if he did, it would only be as a lofty and unapproachable spectator. Mr. Fernald's words were a subtly designed flattery intended to put him in good humor because he wanted something of him.
What could it be?
Perhaps he meant to oust him out of the boathouse and rebuild it, or possibly tear it down; or maybe he had taken a fancy to use it as it was and desired to be rid of Ted in some sort of pleasant fashion. Unquestionably the building belonged to Mr. Fernald and if he chose to reclaim it he had a perfect right to do so.
Poor Ted! With a crash his air castles tumbled about his ears and the ecstasy of his mood gave way to apprehension and unhappiness. Each day he waited, expecting to hear through Mr. Wharton that Mr. Clarence Fernald had decided to use the shack for other purposes. Time slipped along, however, and no such tidings came. In the meanwhile Mr. Wharton made no further mention of the Fernalds and gradually Ted's fears calmed down sufficiently for him to gain confidence enough to unpack his boxes of wire, his tools, and instruments. Nevertheless, in spite of this, his first enthusiasm had seeped away and he did not attempt to go farther than to take the things out and look at them.
Before his father had withered his ambitions by his pessimism, a score of ideas had danced through his brain. He had thought of running a buzzer over to the Stevens's bungalow in order that Mrs. Stevens might ring for him when she wanted him; and he had thought of connecting Mr. Wharton's office with the shack by telephone. He felt sure he could do both these things and would have liked nothing better than try them. But now what was the use? If a little later on Mr. Fernald intended to take the shack away from him, it would be foolish to waste toil and material for nothing. For the present, at least, he much better hold off and see what happened.
Yet notwithstanding this resolve, he did continue to improve the appearance of the boathouse. Just why, he could not have told. Perhaps it was a vent for his disquietude. At any rate, having some scraps of board left and hearing the gardener say there were more geraniums in the greenhouse than he knew what to do with, Ted made some windowboxes for the Stevens's and himself, painted them green, and filled them with flowering plants. They really were very pretty and added a surprising touch of beauty to the dull, weather-stained little dwelling in the woods. Mr. Wharton was delighted and said so frankly.
"Your camp looks as attractive as a teahouse," said he. "You have no idea how gay the red flowers look among these dark pine trees. How came you to think of window-boxes?"
"Oh, I don't know," was Ted's reply. "The bits of board suggested it, I guess. Then Collins said the greenhouses were overstocked, and he seemed only too glad to get rid of his plants."
"I'll bet he was," responded Mr. Wharton. "If there is anything he hates, it is to raise plants and not have them used. He always has to start more slips than he needs in case some of them do not root; when they do, he is swamped. Evidently you have helped him solve his problem for no sooner did the owners of the other bungalows see Stevens's boxes than everybody wanted them. They all are pestering the carpenter for boards. It made old Mr. Fernald chuckle, for he likes flowers and is delighted to have the cottages on the place made attractive. He asked who started the notion; and when I told him it was you he said he had heard about you and wanted to see you some time."
This time Ted was less thrilled by the remark than he would have been a few days before. A faint degree of his father's scepticism had crept into him and the only reply he vouchsafed was a polite smile. It was absurd to fancy for an instant that the senior member of the Fernald company, the head of the firm, the owner of Aldercliffe, the great and rich Mr. Lawrence Fernald, would ever trouble himself to hunt up a boy who worked on the place. Ridiculous!
Yet it was on the very day that he made these positive and scornful assertions to himself that he found this same mighty Mr. Lawrence Fernald on his doorstep.
It was early Saturday afternoon, a time Ted always had for a holiday. He had not been to see his family for some time and he had made up his mind to start out directly after luncheon and go to Freeman's Falls, where he would, perhaps, remain overnight. Therefore he came swinging through the trees, latchkey in hand, and hurriedly rounding the corner of the shack, he almost jostled into the river Mr. Lawrence Fernald who was loitering on the platform before the door.
"I beg your pardon, sir!" he gasped. "I did not know any one was here."
"Nor did I, young man," replied the ruffled millionaire. "You came like a thief in the night."
"It is the pine needles, sir," explained the boy simply. "Unless you happen to step on a twig that cracks you don't hear a sound."
The directness of the lad evidently pleased the elder man for he answered more kindly:
"It is quiet here, isn't it? I did not know there was a spot within a radius of five miles that was so still. I was almost imagining myself in the heart of the Maine woods before you came."
"I never was in the Maine woods," ventured Ted timidly, "but if it is finer than this I'd like to see it."
"You like your quarters then?"
"Indeed I do, sir."
"And you're not afraid to stay way off here by yourself?"
"Oh, no!"
Mr. Fernald peered over the top of his glasses at the boy before him.
"Would you—would you care to come inside the shack?" Ted inquired after an interval of silence, during which Mr. Fernald had not taken his eyes from his face. "It is very cosy indoors—at least I think so."
"Since I am here I suppose I might just glance into the house," was the capitalist's rather magnificent retort. "I don't often get around to this part of the estate. To-day I followed the river and came farther away from Aldercliffe than I intended. When I got to this point the sun was so pleasant here on the float that I lingered."
Nodding, Ted fitted the key into the padlock, turned it, and rolled the doors apart, allowing Mr. Fernald to pass within. The mill owner was a large man and as he stalked about, peering at the fireplace with its andirons of wrought metal, examining the chintz hangings, and casting his eye over the books on the shelf, he seemed to fill the entire room. Then suddenly, having completed his circuit of the interior, he failed to bow himself out as Ted expected and instead dropped into the big leather armchair and proceeded to draw out a cigar.
"I suppose you don't mind if I smoke," said he, at the same instant lighting a match.
"Oh, no. Dad always smokes," replied the boy.
"Your father is in our shipping room, they tell me."
"Yes, sir."
"Where did you live before you came here?"
"Vermont, eh?" commented the older man with interest. "I was born in Vermont."
"Were you?" Ted ejaculated. "I didn't know that."
"Yes, I was born in Vermont," mused Mr. Fernald slowly. "Born on a farm, as you no doubt were, and helped with the haying, milking, and other chores."
"There were plenty of them," put in the boy, forgetting for the moment whom he was addressing.
"That's right!" was the instant and hearty response. "There was precious little time left afterward for playing marbles or flying kites."
The lad standing opposite chuckled understandingly and the capitalist continued to puff at his cigar.
"Spring was the best time," observed he after a moment, "to steal off after the plowing and planting were done and wade up some brook——"
"Where the water foamed over the rocks," interrupted the boy, with sparkling eyes. "We had a brook behind our house. There were great flat rocks in it and further up in the woods some fine, deep trout holes. All you had to do was to toss a line in there and the next you knew——"
"Something would jump for it," cried the millionaire, breaking in turn into the conversation and rubbing his hands. "I remember hauling a two-pounder out of just such a spot. Jove, but he was a fighter! I can see him now, thrashing about in the water. I wasn't equipped with a rod of split bamboo, a reel, and scores of flies in those days. A hook, a worm, and a stick you'd cut yourself was your outfit. Nevertheless I managed to land my fish for all that."
Lured by the subject Ted came nearer.
"Any pickerel holes where you lived?" inquired Mr. Fernald boyishly.
"You bet there were!" replied the lad. "We had a black, scraggy pond two miles away, dotted with stumps and rotting tree trunks. About sundown we fellows would steal a leaky old punt anchored there and pole along the water's edge until we reached a place where the water was deep, and then we'd toss a line in among the roots. It wasn't long before there would be something doing," concluded he, with a merry laugh.
"How gamey those fish are!" observed Mr. Fernald reminiscently. "And bass are sporty, too."
"I'd rather fish for bass than anything else!" asserted Ted.
"Ever tried landlocked salmon?"
"N—o. We didn't get those."
"That's what you get in Maine and New Brunswick," explained Mr. Fernald. "I don't know, though, that they are any more fun to land than a good, spirited bass. I often think that all these fashionable camps with their guides, and canoes, and fishing tackles of the latest variety can't touch a Vermont brook just after the ice has thawed. I'd give all I own to live one of those days of my boyhood over again!"
"So would I!" echoed Ted.
"Pooh, nonsense!" objected Mr. Fernald. "You are young and will probably scramble over the rocks for years to come. But I'm an old chap, too stiff in the joints now to wade a brook. Still it is a pleasure to go back to it in your mind."
His face became grave, then lighted with a quick smile.
"I'll wager the material for those curtains of yours never was bought round here. Didn't that come from Vermont? And the andirons, too?"
"Yes, sir."
"Ah, I knew it! We had some of that old shiny chintz at home for curtains round my mother's four-poster bed."
He rose and began to pace the room thoughtfully.
"Some day my son is going to bring his boy over here," he remarked. "He is interested in electricity and knows quite a bit about it. I was always attracted to science when I was a youngster. I——"
He got no further for there was a stir outside, a sound of voices, and a snapping of dry twigs; and as Ted glanced through the broad frame of the doorway he saw to his amazement Mr. Clarence Fernald wheel up the incline just outside a rubber-tired chair in which sat Laurie.
"I declare if here isn't my grandson now!" exclaimed Mr. Fernald, bustling toward the entrance of the shack.
Ah, it needed no great perception on Ted's part to interpret the pride, affection, and eagerness of the words; in the tones of the elder man's voice rang echoes of adoration, hope, fear, and disappointment. The millowner, however, speedily put them all to rout by crying heartily:
"Well, well! This seems to be a Fernald reunion!"
"Grandfather! Are you here?" cried the boy in the chair, extending his thin hand with the vivid smile Ted so well remembered.
"Indeed I am! Young Turner and I were just speaking of you. I told him you were coming to see him some day."
Laurie glanced toward Ted.
"It is nice of you to let me come and visit you," he said, with easy friendliness. "What a pretty place you have and how gay the flowers are! And the river is beautiful! Our view of it from Pine Lea is not half so lovely as this."
"Perhaps you might like to sit here on the platform for a while," suggested Ted, coming forward rather shyly and smiling down into the lad's eyes. Laurie returned the smile with delightful candor.
"You're Ted Turner, aren't you?" inquired he. "They've told me about you and how many things you can do. I could not rest until I had seen the shack. Besides, Dad says you have some books on electricity; I want to see them. And I've brought you some of mine. They're in a package somewhere under my feet."
"That was mighty kind of you," answered Ted, as he stooped to secure the volumes.
"Not a bit. My tutor, Mr. Hazen, got them for me and some of them are corking—not at all dry and stupid as books often are. If you haven't seen them already, I know you'll like them."
How easily and naturally it all came about! Before they knew it, Mr. Fernald was talking, Mr. Clarence Fernald was talking, Laurie was talking, and Ted himself was talking. Sitting there so idly in the sunshine they joked, told stories, and watched the river as it crept lazily along, reflecting on its smooth surface the gold and azure of the June day. During the pauses they listened to the whispering music of the pines and drank in their sleepy fragrance. More than once Ted pinched himself to make certain that he was really awake. It all seemed so unbelievable; and yet, withal, there was something so simple and suitable about it.
By and by Mr. Clarence rose, stretched his arms, and began boyishly to skip stones across the stream; then Ted tried his skill; and presently, not to be outdone by the others, Grandfather Fernald cast aside his dignity and peeling off his coat joined in the sport.
How Laurie laughed, and how he clapped his hands when one of his grandfather's pebbles skimmed the surface of the water six times before it disappeared amid a series of widening ripples. After this they all were simply boys together, calling, shouting, and jesting with one another in good-humored rivalry. What use was it then ever again to attempt to be austere and unapproachable Fernalds? No use in the world!
Although Mr. Fernald, senior, mopped his brow and slipped back into his coat with a shadow of surprise when he came to and realized what he had been doing, he did not seem to mind greatly having lapsed from seventy years to seven. The fact that he had furnished Laurie with amusement was worth a certain loss of dignity.
Ah, it would have taken an outsider days, weeks, months, perhaps years to have broken through the conventionalities and beheld the Fernalds as Ted saw them that day. It was the magic of the sunshine, the sparkle of the creeping river, the mysterious spell of the pines that had wrought the enchantment. Perhaps, too, the memory of his Vermont boyhood had risen freshly to Grandfather Fernald's mind.
When the shadows lengthened and the glint of gold faded from the river, they went indoors and Mr. Laurie was wheeled about that he might inspect every corner of the little house of which he had heard so much. This he did with the keenest delight and it was only after both his father and his grandfather had promised to bring him again that he could be persuaded to be carried back to Pine Lea. As he disappeared among the windings of the trees, he waved his hand to Ted and called:
"I'll see you some day next week, Ted. Mr. Hazen, my tutor, shall bring me round here some afternoon when you have finished work. I suppose you don't get through much before five, do you?"
"No, I don't."
"Oh, any time you want to see Ted I guess he can be let off early," cried both Mr. Fernald and Mr. Clarence in one breath.
Then as Mr. Clarence pushed the wheel-chair farther into the dusk of the pines, Mr. Fernald turned toward Ted and added in an undertone:
"It's done the lad good to come. I haven't seen him in such high spirits for days. We'll fix things up with Wharton so that whenever he fancies to come here you can be on hand. The poor boy hasn't many pleasures and he sees few persons of his own age."

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