“But to prevent their apprentices from doing so (running away),” continued Ebenezer, “the masters generally bind them by an indenture to stay a certain time. An indenture is a contract in writing. The reason it is called an indenture is, because it is, or at least it used to be, made in two parts, one for the master and one for the apprentice, and these two parts are written on the same sheet of paper and then cut apart in a waving line, so that the edges of both papers are indented in exactly the same way, and thus they will fit each other precisely.”
“What good did that do?” asked John.
“I don’t know exactly,” said Ebenezer. “They thought they could put them together again, and if the two parts fitted, that would show that it was all right. But now I am going to indenture you, or else I might expect, that, after you have sawed here three or four times, and I had had all the trouble of teaching you how to do it, you’ll get tired and so not come any more. I’m not willing to begin unless you agree to come seven days – and saw for me one hour each day.”
“And how about planing?” asked John.
“That will be a separate apprenticeship,” said Ebenezer.
“Well,” said John, “I will agree to it.”
“This indenture witnesseth that John Gay binds himself to Ebenezer Greenwood as an apprentice for seven days, an hour each day, not less than three days each week, and that Ebenezer Greenwood promises to teach him the art and mystery of sawing.”
— from “John Gay; Or, Work for Boys: Work for Spring” by Jacob Abbott, 1864