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Bound to Rise; or, Henry Walton's Motto: Plot Summary

Bound to Rise cover image is borrowed from the Dime Novels Collection of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of RochesterBound to Rise; or, Henry Walton's Motto, Philadelphia: A. K. Loring, 1873

          The hero, Henry Walton, is the oldest of six children, and is described as a "broad-shouldered, sturdy boy, with a frank, open face, resolute, though good-natured" (12). Regarding his education, the narrator allows that "though a tolerably good scholar, [Henry Walton] was deficient in many respects, on account of the limited nature of his opportunities" (17). Although he lives with both his parents at the start of this tale, they are a very poor family, and their only cow is near death. Hiram Walton, Henry's father, is revealed to be responsible in part for the family's lack of success and security; he is "one of those men who, for some unaccountable reason, never get on in the not have the knack of conquering fortune" (12).
          When the family's cow dies, Hiram goes to borrow money from miser Squire Green to buy a new one. Green takes advantage of his borrower's need and charges an extravagant rate of interest. Meanwhile, at the local school, Henry performs admirably at his exams. He wins a book, a biography of Benjamin Franklin. Inspired by the tale, he decides to leave town to earn money to pay for the cow. From northern New Hampshire, he sets out to the south. Eventually he comes to a slightly larger town and gets a job replacing a young man named Bob Leavitt, who is leaving his father's shoe-making business to work in his uncle's dry goods store in Boston.
          In the shoe shop, he works with spendthrift Luke Harrison, who calls Henry Walton a miser for refusing to play billiards. Henry Walton goes to the library instead. As winter nears, Henry regrets that he cannot afford an overcoat. He explains his situation, when pressed, to a gentleman named Maurice Tudor. Impressed by his honorable motivations, Maurice gives him an old overcoat he owns, as well as two suits of very fine quality. Henry's one major investment is to pay tuition to study with other children in evening school under Leonard Morgan, a twenty-two-year-old Dartmouth student. Henry performs admirably, taking to Latin astonishingly well.
          The first major conflict of the novel occurs when Henry, refusing an offer to go on a sleigh ride with Luke and some other young people, drops his pocket book. Luke picks it up. The loss of all his money throws Henry into despair, until he begins to suspect Luke of stealing it. Aided by Mr. Leavitt and the tailor, Henry traps Luke in his own lies; he recovers some of his money. Although Luke agrees to pay the rest, he claims he lost it, and begins to save his wages to run away. He does, and Henry is thus farther away from his goal than he had been before away from his goal. To worsen matters, the shoe-market is glutted, and Henry cannot work. He begins to fear for his family.
          Luckily, Henry is taken in by a patron, a traveling magician, named Professor Henderson. He is employed to work as a ticket boy for very high wages. The opportunity to travel also affords Henry to broaden his ambition. In one town, Centreville, the Professor sends Henry to get bills printed for the next evening's show. While at the newspaper, Henry is offered a job (and an opportunity to emulate his hero Benjamin Franklin. It is a step down in pay, but he looks ahead to consider what the eventual gains may be.
          Next, the Professor comes down sick and Henry must make a trip to the next town to countermand the notices of the performance. In his haste, he takes all of the money with him, and the naively reveals this to a man with dark hair and black whiskers, a clear villain. His return trip is at night. During the trip, Henry is robbed of his pocket book. Luckily, he kept the Professor's hidden, so he is able to retain it. The black-whiskered individual then exchanges overcoats with him, finding Henry's to be of superior fashion. Henry is left lost in the woods, fearing that he is without any money at all. His cires for help draw a young man named Jeff Selden, who helps him to a farmhouse where he spends the night. Things look brighter in the morning, when Henry tries to take stock of his losses. He discovers that the robber neglected to take his own wallet out of the overcoat, which actually has twice as much money as he lost.
          Henry now has enough money to pay his family's debt. He takes temporary leave of the Professor and returns home. He pays Squire Green, and gives money to his family for new clothing. Although he is happy to be home, Henry prepares to leave directly to return to the Professor, as his ambition is now heightened. He has dreams of becoming a newspaper editor and more, and the rest of Henry's story is told in Risen from the Ranks.