“They don’t seem happy!” said Frank slyly.
“I wish I knew where it was going to end,” returned Philip gravely.
“It seems to me,” said Frank, “the squire is making a great fuss about a fiddle, for a man of his dignity.”
“He doesn’t care about the violin. He wants to have his own way,” said Philip, thus hitting the nail on the head.
MR. JOE TUCKER
Before going further, I will introduce to the reader, a citizen of Norton, who filled a position for which he was utterly unfitted. This man was Joe Tucker, in charge of the almshouse.
He had not been selected by the town authorities on the ground of fitness, but simply because he was willing to work cheap. He received a certain low weekly sum for each one of his inmates, and the free use of apartments for himself and family, with the right to cultivate the ten acres of land connected with the establishment, and known as the Town Farm.
His family consisted of three persons—himself, his wife, and a son, Ezekiel, familiarly known as Zeke, now sixteen years old. The leading family trait was meanness.
Mr. Tucker supplied a mean table even for a poorhouse, and some of the hapless inmates complained bitterly. One had even had the boldness to present a complaint to the selectmen, and that body, rather reluctantly, undertook to investigate the justness of the complaint. They deputed Squire Pope to visit the poorhouse and inquire into the matter.
Now, though Squire Pope thought himself unusually sharp, it was the easiest thing in the world for a cunning person like Joe Tucker to satisfy him that all was right.
“Mr. Tucker,” said Squire Pope pompously, “I am deputed by the selectmen, and I may add by the overseers of the poor, to investigate a complaint made by one of the paupers in relation to the fare you offer them.”
“Who is it!” inquired Mr. Tucker.
“It is Ann Carter. She says you don’t allow her sugar in her tea, and only allow one slice of bread at supper, and that the meat is so bad she can’t eat it.”
“Just like the old woman!” exclaimed Mr. Tucker indignantly. “Oh, she’s a high-strung pauper, she is! Expects all the delicacies of the season for seventy-five cents a week. She’d ought to go to the Fifth Avenoo Hotel in New York, and then I’ll bet a cent she wouldn’t be satisfied.”
It is observable that even in his imaginary bets Mr. Tucker maintained his economical habits, and seldom bet more than a cent. Once, when very much excited, he had bet five cents, but this must be attributed to his excited state of mind.
“So you regard her complaints as unreasonable, do you, Mr. Tucker?” observed the investigating committee.
“Unreasonable? I should think they was. I allow, Squire Pope, we don’t live like a first-class hotel”—Mr. Tucker’s language was rather mixed—“but we live as well as we can afford to. As to sugar, we don’t allow the paupers to put it in for themselves, or they’d ruin us by their extravagance. Mrs. Tucker puts sugar in the teapot before she pours it out. I s’pose Ann Carter would put as much in one cup of tea as Mrs. T. uses for the whole teapotful, if she had her way.”