“We will find it, mother; we are sure to find it,” said Susy; and the way she said these words aggravated poor Mrs. Hopkins, as she said afterwards, more than a little.
TOM HOPKINS AND HIS WAY WITH AUNT CHURCH.
It was quite true that Mrs. Hopkins could ill afford to lose so large a sum as nineteen-and-sixpence out of her small earnings. During her husband’s lifetime the stationer’s shop had gone well and provided a comfortable living for his wife, son, and daughter. But unfortunately, in an evil moment he had been induced to put his hand to a bill for a friend. The friend had, as usually is the case, become bankrupt. Poor Hopkins had to pay the money, and from that moment the affairs in the stationer’s shop were the reverse of flourishing. In fact, the blow killed the poor man. He lingered for a time, broken-hearted and unable to rouse himself, and finally died about three years before the date of this story. For a time Mrs. Hopkins was quite prostrate, but being a woman with a good deal of vigor and determination, she induced one of her relatives to lend her one hundred pounds, and determined to keep on with the shop. She could not, of course, stock it as fully as she would have liked; she could never extend her connection beyond mere stationery, sealing-wax, pens, and a very few books, and Christmas cards in the winter. Still, she managed to support herself and Tom and Susy; but it was a scraping along all the time. She had to count every penny, and, above all things, to avoid going in debt. She was only in debt for the one hundred pounds, which had been lent to her by an aunt of her husband’s, an old woman of the name of Church, who lived in a neighboring village about four miles away.
Mrs. Church was quite rich, according to the Hopkinses’ ideas of wealth. She lived alone and hoarded her money. She had not been at all willing to lend Mrs. Hopkins the hundred pounds; but as she had really been fond of Mr. Hopkins, and had at one time meant to make him her heir, she had listened to Mrs. Hopkins’s lamentations, and desired her to send Tom to her to inspect him, and had finally handed over the money, which was to be paid back by monthly installments within the space of three years.
Mrs. Hopkins was so relieved to get the money that she never thought at all of the terrible tax it would be to return it. Still, by working hard morning, noon, and night—she added to her gains by doing fine needlework for several ladies, who said that no one could embroider like Mrs. Hopkins—she managed to make two ends just meet together, and she always continued to send Mrs. Church her two pounds fifteen shillings and sevenpence on the first of every month. Tom was the one who generally ran across to the old lady’s with the money; and so fond was she of him that she often gave him a piece of cake, and even on one or two rare occasions kept him to dinner. Tom enjoyed his visits to Mrs. Church, and Mrs. Hopkins was sure to encourage him to go to her, as she hoped against hope that when the old lady died Tom would be left some of her money.