Paul quietly submitted himself to the guidance of Mr. Mudge. He was so occupied with the thought of his sad loss that he did not realize the change that was about to take place in his circumstances.
About half a mile from the village in the bleakest and most desolate part of the town, stood the Poor House. It was a crazy old building of extreme antiquity, which, being no longer considered fit for an ordinary dwelling-house, had been selected as a suitable residence for the town’s poor. It was bleak and comfortless to be sure, but on that very account had been purchased at a trifling expense, and that was, of course, a primary consideration. Connected with the house were some dozen acres of rough-looking land, plentifully overspread with stones, which might have filled with despair the most enterprising agriculturist. However, it had this recommendation at least, that it was quite in character with the buildings upon it, which in addition to the house already described, consisted of a barn of equal antiquity and a pig pen.
This magnificent domain was under the superintendence of Mr. Nicholas Mudge, who in consideration of taking charge of the town paupers had the use of the farm and buildings, rent free, together with a stipulated weekly sum for each of the inmates.
“Well, Paul,” said Mr. Mudge, as they approached the house, in a tone which was meant to be encouraging, “this is goin’ to be your home. How do you like it?”
Thus addressed, Paul ventured a glance around him.
“I don’t know,” said he, doubtfully; “it don’t look very pleasant.”
“Don’t look very pleasant!” repeated Mr. Mudge in a tone of mingled amazement and indignation. “Well, there’s gratitude for you. After the town has been at the expense of providin’ a nice, comfortable home for you, because you haven’t got any of your own, you must turn up your nose at it.”
“I didn’t mean to complain,” said Paul, feeling very little interest in the matter.
“Perhaps you expected to live in a marble palace,” pursued Mr. Mudge, in an injured tone. “We don’t have any marble palaces in this neighborhood, we don’t.”
Paul disclaimed any such anticipation.
Mr. Mudge deigned to accept Paul’s apology, and as they had now reached the door, unceremoniously threw it open, and led the way into a room with floor unpainted, which, to judge from its appearance, was used as a kitchen.
Life in A new phase.
Everything was “at sixes and sevens,” as the saying is, in the room Mr. Mudge and Paul had just entered. In the midst of the scene was a large stout woman, in a faded calico dress, and sleeves rolled up, working as if her life or the world’s destiny depended upon it.
It was evident from the first words of Mr. Mudge that this lady was his helpmeet.
“Well, wife,” he said, “I’ve brought you another boarder. You must try to make him as happy and contented as the rest of ’em are.”