When he reached the Pettengill house he saw Hiram standing at the barn door. Bidding the driver stop, he got out and paid his score; he then took Hiram by the arm and led him into the barn. When he had primed the latter with a good cigar, he said, “Now, Hiram, I’ve been away several days and I want to know what has been going on. You know our agreement was that you should tell me the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I don’t want you to spare my feelings nor anybody else’s. Do you understand?” said he to Hiram. Hiram nodded. “Then go ahead,” said Quincy.
“Well, first,” said Hiram, puffing his cigar with evident satisfaction, “they got hold of the point that Miss Huldy drove back alone from Eastborough Centre. Abner Stiles took Lindy Putnam down to the station and she went to Boston on the same train that you did. Abner tried to catch up with Huldy, so he could quiz her, but she whipped up her horse and got away from him.”
“Smart girl!” interjected Quincy.
“You can just bet,” said Hiram, “there ain’t a smarter one in this town, though, of course, I think Mandy is pretty smart, too.”
“Mandy’s all right,” said Quincy; “go ahead.”
“Well, secondly, as the ministers say,” continued Hiram, “Lindy Putnam told Abner when he drove her home from the station that night that the copper company that Mr. Sawyer told her to put her money in had busted, and she’d lost lots of money. That’s gone all over Mason’s Corner, and if Abner told Asa Waters, it’s all over Eastborough Centre by this time.”
“The whole thing is a lie,” said Quincy hotly; “the stock did go down, but my father told me yesterday it had rallied and would soon advance from five to ten points. What’s the next confounded yarn?”
“Well, thirdly,” continued Hiram, “of course everybody knows Jim Sawyer was your uncle, and somebody said—you can guess who—that it would look better if you would pay up his back board instead of spending so much money on a fancy funeral and cheating the town undertaker out of a job.”
“I paid him for all that he did,” said Quincy.
“Yes,” said Hiram, “but this is how it is. You see the undertaker makes a contract with the town to bury all the paupers who die during the year for so much money. They averaged it up and found that about three died a year, so the town pays the undertaker on that calculation; but this year, you see, only two have died, and there ain’t another one likely to die before town meeting day, which comes the first Monday in March, so, you see the undertaker gets paid for buryin’ your uncle, though he didn’t do it, and some one says—you can guess who—that he is going to bring the matter up in town meeting.”
Quincy smothered an exclamation and bit savagely into his cigar.
“Anything else?” inquired he. “Have they abused the ladies as well as me?”
“No,” said Hiram; “you see somebody—you know who—is giving Huldy music lessons and he will keep quiet about her anyway; but he says he can’t understand how ’Zeke Pettengill can let you board in his house and go out riding with Huldy, unless things is up between ’Zeke and Huldy.”