Squire Pope looked a little puzzled. This was putting the matter in a new light, and he could not help admitting to himself that Philip was correct, and that perhaps his fellow citizens might take the same view.
On the other hand, the squire was fond of having his own way, and he had now gone so far that he could not recede without loss of dignity.
“I think,” he answered stiffly, “that I understand my duty as well as a boy of fifteen. I don’t mean to keep you here long, but it is the best arrangement for the present.”
“Of course it is,” said Zeke, well pleased with the humiliation of his enemy.
“Shut up, Zeke!” said his father, observing from the squire’s expression that he did not fancy Zeke’s interference.
“All right, dad,” said Zeke good-naturedly, seeing that things had turned out as he desired.
“Jump in!” said Mr. Tucker to Philip.
Our hero, without a word, obeyed. He was firmly resolved that Squire Pope should not have his way, but he did not choose to make himself ridiculous by an ineffectual resistance which would only have ended in his discomfiture.
Seated between Mr. Tucker and the squire, he was driven rapidly toward the poorhouse.
There was no room for Zeke to ride—that is, there was no seat for him—but he managed to clamber into the back part of the wagon, where he sat, or squatted, rather uncomfortably, but evidently in the best of spirits—if any inference could be drawn from his expression.
The poorhouse was not far away. It was a three-story frame house, which badly needed painting, with a dilapidated barn, and shed near by.
A three-story farmhouse is not common in the country, but this dwelling had been erected by a Mr. Parmenter, in the expectation of making a fortune by taking summer boarders.
There was room enough for them, but they did not come. The situation was the reverse of pleasant, the soil about was barren, and there were no shade or fruit trees. It was a crazy idea, selecting such a spot for a summer boarding-house, and failure naturally resulted.
There had, indeed, been two boarders—a man and his wife—who paid one week’s board, and managed to owe six before the unlucky landlord decided that they were a pair of swindlers. He had spent more money than he could afford on his house, and went steadily behind-hand year after year, till the town—which was in want of a poorhouse—stepped in and purchased the house and farm at a bargain. So it came to be a boarding-house, after all, but in a sense not contemplated by the proprietor, and, at present, accommodated eleven persons—mostly old and infirm—whom hard fortune compelled to subsist on charity.
Mr. Tucker had this advantage, that his boarders, had no recourse except to stay with him, however poor his fare or harsh his treatment, unless they were in a position to take care of themselves.