“Beefsteak is high now,” said Mrs. Tarbox. “Still, if we buy round steak—that is cheaper than sirloin or tenderloin.”
“And quite as good,” said her economical partner. “We can tell Frank, however, that no sirloin was to be had so late in the day at the markets.”
Mrs. Tarbox nodded her head, approving the suggestion.
This little matter being adjusted, the husband and wife entered the parlor where our hero was waiting patiently.
“This is our young cousin, Martha,” said Mr. Tarbox, smiling pleasantly.
“Welcome to Newark,” said Mrs. Tarbox, extending her hand. “And how did you leave your stepfather?”
“He is well,” said Prank, coolly.
The two exchanged glances. It was clear that Frank did not like his stepfather, and this was satisfactory to them. There was the more chance of his leaving him and boarding with them.
“The children will be so glad to see you,” said Mr. Tarbox; “won’t they, Martha?”
“Delighted!” assured the lady.
“Pliny must be about your age. How old are you, by the way?”
“Just Pliny’s age. Do you remember him?”
Frank remembered a tall, thin stripling who had accompanied his parents to the Cedars, and who appeared to have an inexhaustible appetite.
“Yes, I remember him. Does he go to school?”
“No; Pliny is in a store,” answered Mr. Tarbox.
“Oh, no! I thought it would be better for him to enter the employ of a stranger. He is in a bookstore.”
There was one great advantage in Pliny’s entering the employ of a stranger. He was paid four dollars a week, whereas Mr. Tarbox paid his boy but two. Here, then, was a clear gain of two dollars a week.
“But you must be tired,” said Mrs. Tarbox. “You will see the children at supper. Martha, I think Frank would like to go to his room.”
The best bedroom was over the parlor. It was rather more cheerful, because lighter.
“Here,” said Mr. Tarbox, “you must make yourself at home. Martha, isn’t one of the drawers in that bureau empty? I thought so. Take your clothes out of the valise and put them away. Now, is there anything you would like?”
“Only a little water to wash in,” said Frank. “You are both very kind.”
“We hope to make you comfortable. You are our relative, you know.”
The water was brought up by Mrs. Tarbox herself, and Frank was left alone, on the whole well pleased with his reception.
AN UNPLEASANT DISCOVERY
It never occurred to Frank that his cordial reception was wholly due to his supposed wealth. Had he known the Tarbox family better, he would have had no uncertainty on this point. As it was, the discovery was soon made.
“All my olive branches are for you, my dear young cousin,” said Mr. Tarbox, waving his hand. “A peaceful, happy family. Children, this is our esteemed relative, Frank Courtney. You remember visiting his delightful home, the Cedars.”