“I don’t like to think of Philip as a pauper,” said Mrs. Pope, in a deprecating tone.
“What else is he?” urged her husband. “His father hasn’t left a cent. He never was a good manager.”
“Won’t the furniture sell for something, Benjamin?”
“It will sell for about enough to pay the funeral expenses and outstanding debts-that is all.”
“But it seems so hard for a boy well brought up to go to the poorhouse.”
“You mean well, Almira, but you let your feelings run away with you. You may depend upon it, it is the best thing for the boy. But I must write a letter in time for the mail.”
Squire Pope rose from the breakfast-table and walked out of the room with his usual air of importance. Not even in the privacy of the domestic circle did he forget his social and official importance.
Who was Squire Pope?
We already know that he held two important offices in the town of Norton. He was a portly man, and especially cultivated dignity of deportment. Being in easy circumstances, and even rich for the resident of a village, he was naturally looked up to and credited with a worldly sagacity far beyond what he actually possessed.
At any rate, he may be considered the magnate of Norton. Occasionally he visited New York, and had been very much annoyed to find that his rural importance did not avail him there, and that he was treated with no sort of deference by those whom he had occasion to meet. Somehow, the citizens of the commercial metropolis never suspected for a single moment that he was a great man.
When Squire Pope had finished his letter, he took his hat, and with measured dignity, walked to the village post-office.
He met several of his neighbors there, and greeted them with affable condescension. He was polite to those of all rank, as that was essential to his retaining the town offices, which he would have been unwilling to resign.
From the post-office the squire, as he remembered the conversation which had taken place at the breakfast-table, went to make an official call on the boy whose fate he had so summarily decided.
Before the call, it may be well to say a word about Philip Gray, our hero, and the circumstances which had led to his present destitution.
His father had once been engaged in mercantile business, but his health failed, his business suffered, and he found it best-indeed, necessary—to settle up his affairs altogether and live in quiet retirement in Norton.
The expenses of living there were small, but his resources were small, also, and he lived just long enough to exhaust them.
It was this thought that gave him solicitude on his death-bed, for he left a boy of fifteen wholly unprovided for.
Let us go back a week and record what passed at the last interview between Philip and his father before the latter passed into the state of unconsciousness which preceded death.