As they neared the Poorhouse Quincy turned to Huldy and said, “The Jim Sawyer who has been at the Eastborough Poorhouse for the last five years is my father’s brother and my uncle. His story is a very sad one. I will tell it to you some day. He is in the last stages of consumption, and I am taking Miss Miller over to care for him while he lives.”
Huldy nodded, and nothing more was said until they reached the Poorhouse. Quincy jumped out and called to Sam, who was close at hand, to hold the horse. Sam looked at him with a peculiar expression that Quincy did not stop to fathom, but running up the short flight of steps entered the room that served as the office for the Poorhouse. Mr. Waters was there writing at his desk. He turned as Quincy entered.
“How is my uncle?” asked Quincy.
“He is better off than us poor mortals,” replied Mr. Waters with a long-drawn countenance.
“What do you mean?” asked Quincy. “Is he dead?”
“Yes,” said Mr. Waters, “he died about four o’clock this mornin’. Sam sat up with him till midnight, and I stayed with him the balance of the time.”
“I am so sorry I was not here,” said Quincy.
“It wouldn’t have done any good,” said Waters. “He didn’t know what was going on after two o’clock, and you couldn’t have been of any use if you’d been here. If ’t had been daytime I should have sent over for you. He only spoke once after I went upstairs and that was to say that you would see to buryin’ him.”
“Yes,” said Quincy, “I will take charge of the remains.”
“Well,” remarked Mr. Waters, “I called in the town undertaker and he has got him all ready.”
“When does the next train leave for Boston?” asked Quincy, taking out his watch.
“In just twenty minutes,” Waters replied, looking up at the clock.
“I will be back from Boston at the earliest possible moment,” said Quincy; and before the astonished Waters could recover himself, the young man had left the room.
Quincy jumped into the team, grasped the reins, and started off at full speed for Eastborough Centre.
“My uncle died this morning,” said he, turning to Huldy, “I must go to Boston at once to make the necessary arrangements for his funeral He is to be buried at Amesbury with his wife and children, so please get word to Mr. Pettengill that I shall not be home for several days. I will get some one at the hotel to drive you home, Miss Mason. Only stern necessity compels me to leave you in this way.”
“You will do nothing of the sort,” said Huldy. “I am perfectly confident that I am able to drive this team home all by myself.”
“I never can consent to it,” said Quincy. “If anything happened to you, your father and—” Huldy glanced at him. “I mean,” said Quincy, “I should never forgive myself, and your father would never forgive me. Your arm is still weak, I know.”
“My arm is just as good as ever,” said Huldy. “The doctor told me it wouldn’t break in that place again. Besides, Mr. Sawyer,” she said, as the hotel came in sight, “I shall drive back just the same way we came, and there are no hills or sharp corners, you know.” She laughed heartily and added, “I shall enjoy it very much, it is part of the comedy.”