This was very probably true, as the frugal Mrs. Tucker only allowed one teaspoonful for the entire supply.
“That looks reasonable, Mr. Tucker,” said the squire approvingly. “Now about the bread and the meat?”
“The paupers has plenty of bread,” said Mr. Tucker. “Our bread bill is actually enormous.”
“And as to the meat?”
“We don’t give ’em roast turkey every day, and we don’t buy tenderloin steaks to pamper their appetites,” said Mr. Tucker, “though we’re perfectly willing to do it if the town’ll pay us so we can afford it. Do you think the town’ll agree to pay me twenty-five cents more a week for each one, squire?”
“Certainly not. It can’t be thought of,” said the squire hastily, knowing that if the selectmen advocated such a measure they would probably lose their reelection.
“If it would, we might live a little better, so that Ann Carter wouldn’t have to complain, though, bless your soul! that woman is always complainin’.”
“Ahem! Mr. Tucker, you present the matter to me in a new light. I really feel that Ann Carter is very unreasonable in her complaints.”
“I knowed you’d do me justice, squire,” said Mr. Tucker effusively. “You’re a sharp man. You ain’t a-goin’ to be taken in by any of them paupers’ rigmarole. I always said, Squire Pope, that you was the right man in the right place, and that the town was lucky to have so intelligent and public-spirited a citizen fillin’ her most important offices.”
“Mr. Tucker,” said the squire, “you gratify me. It has ever been my aim to discharge with conscientious fidelity the important trusts which the town has committed to my charge—”
“I’ll bear witness to that, squire.”
“And your sincere tribute gives me great satisfaction.”
“I hope you’ll report things right to the board, Squire Pope?” said Mr. Joe Tucker insinuatingly.
“Be assured I will, Mr. Tucker. I consider you a zealous and trustworthy official, striving hard to do your duty in the place the town has assigned you.”
“I do, indeed, squire,” said Mr. Tucker, pulling on a red handkerchief and mopping some imaginary tears. “Excuse my emotions, sir, but your generous confidence quite unmans me. I—I—trust now that I shall be able to bear meekly the sneers and complaints of Ann Carter and her fellow paupers.”
“I will stand by you, Mr. Tucker,” said Squire Pope cordially, for the man’s flattery, coarse as it was, had been like incense to his vanity. “I will stand by you, and uphold you by my testimony.”
“Thank you, squire. With such an impartial advocate I will continue to do my duty and fear nothing.”
As Squire Pope left the almshouse, Mr. Tucker winked at himself in the glass, and said quizzically:
“I guess I’m all right now. The vain old fool thinks he’s a second Solomon, and thinks I regard him as such. Oh, it takes me to get round him!”