“How are you, aunt?”
“Pretty well, Thomas,” she answered. “You haven’t been here for some time.”
“No. I’ve had a lot of work to do. Nothing but work, work, all the time,” he grumbled. “I wish I was rich.”
“You get through at six o’clock, don’t you?”
“I hope you spend your evenings profitably, Thomas?”
“I ain’t likely to go on any sprees, aunt, if that’s what you mean. I only get twelve dollars a week.”
“I should think you might live on it.”
“Starve, you mean. What’s twelve dollars to a young fellow like me when he’s got his board to pay, and has to dress like a gentleman?”
“You are not in debt, I hope, Thomas?” said Mrs. Bradley, uneasily.
“I owe for the suit I have on, and I don’t know where I’m going to get the money to pay for it.”
He was dressed in a flashy style, not unlike what is popularly denominated a swell. His coarse features were disfigured with unhealthy blotches, and his outward appearance was hardly such as to recommend him. But to him alone the cold heart of the housekeeper was warm. He was her sister’s son and her nearest relative. Her savings were destined for him, and in her attachment she was not conscious of his disagreeable characteristics. She had occasionally given him a five-dollar bill to eke out what he termed his miserable pay, and now whenever he called he didn’t spare hints that he was out of pocket, and that a further gift would be acceptable. Indeed, the only tie that bound him to his aunt was a mercenary one.
But the housekeeper, sharp-sighted as she ordinarily was, did not detect the secret motive of such attention she received from her nephew. She flattered herself that he really loved her, not suspecting that he was too selfish to love anybody but himself.
“Thomas,” she said, with a sudden thought, “I may be able to help you to an increase of your income. Mr. Wharton needs somebody to read to him evenings. On my recommendation he might take you.”
“Thank you, aunt, but I don’t see it. I don’t want to be worked to death.”
“But, think, Thomas,” said his aunt, earnestly. “He is very rich. He might take a fancy to you and remember you in his will.”
“I wish somebody would remember me in his will. Do you really think there’s any chance of the old boy’s doing something handsome for me?”
“That depends on yourself. You must try to please him.”
“Well, I must do something. What’ll he give?”
“I don’t know yet. In fact, there’s another reading to him just now.”
“Then there’s no chance for me.”
“Listen to me. It’s a boy he’s picked up in the streets, quite unsuited for the place. He’s a cash-boy at Gilbert & Mack’s. Why, that’s where you are,” she added, with sudden recollection.
“A cash-boy from my own place? What’s his name?”