HUGH HAS SUSPICIONS
“Well, old man,” remarked Thad, “I’m afraid you’re in for a disappointment about as soon as you strike Scranton; because if Mrs. Hosmer is your long-lost sister, she isn’t in any position to help you pass the time away till you kick the bucket. Why, even as it is, she has a hard time getting along, and my mother as well as some of the other ladies give her sewing to do to help tide over. She can hardly make enough to keep herself and her husband going.”
The tramp shook his head sadly.
“Say, I’m right grieved to hear that, son,” he went on to observe, seriously. “Course it’s goin’ to be a hard blow to poor old Lu, after working his way up here all these months, and nearly coughing his head off at times, to find out that his only relation in the wide world ain’t well off in this world’s goods. But then Matilda she always was soft-hearted, and mebbe now she might find a hole in her humble home where her poor old brother could stay the short time he’s got in this world of trouble and sorrow. I could do with less to eat if I had to, gents; and blood was always thicker’n water with Matilda.”
Thad felt indignant. The idea of this sleek-looking old rascal settling down on his poor sister, and making her support him, was too much for his temper.
“Well, I’d be ashamed if I were you, Wandering Lu, to even think of letting any woman earn my living for me, no matter if she did happen to be a sister. As it is, she’s hard pushed at times to get enough food together for herself and her husband.”
“Why, what’s the matter with Andrew; why can’t he do his share?” demanded the other, boldly, and Thad thought he looked disgusted at the poor prospect before him.
“Mr. Hosmer is really sick,” explained the boy; “and there’s no humbug about his ailment, either. I heard the doctor tell my mother that it was partly due to a lack of substantial food for years. You see, the woman herself was ill for a long time, and her husband worked himself to skin and bone trying to provide for her. Then she got over her trouble, and now it’s his turn to go under. He has tried to work a number of times, but fainted at his bench in the shop from sheer weakness.”
“Gee! I’m sorry to hear that,” muttered the other, shrugging his broad shoulders as he spoke, and shaking his head from side to side, as though he feared some hope he had been cherishing was on the point of vanishing. “But then mebbe Andrew he may get better again, and be able to work at his trade, because if I really got consumption there ain’t any chance for me to be doin’ in this world.”
Thad showed signs of growing angry, but pinched his arm, and muttered in his ear:
“Just hold your horses, Thad. We can’t stop him, if he’s set on seeing his sister, you know. And besides, perhaps they’ll turn him away from the door. He’s a queer sort of a chap, and I just can’t quite make out whether he’s a scamp or a big joke. Let’s keep quiet, and see which way the cat jumps.”