“You wouldn’t dare to run away!” said Tucker, trying to frighten Philip by a blustering manner.
“That shows you don’t know me, Mr. Tucker!” returned our hero. “I give you fair warning that I shall run away the first chance I get.”
Philip’s tone was so calm and free from excitement that Mr. Tucker could not help seeing that he was in earnest, and he looked perplexed.
“You don’t look at it in the right light,” he said, condescending to conciliate his new boarder. “If you don’t make no trouble, you’ll have a good time, and I’ll let you off, now an’ then, to play with Zeke. He needs a boy to play with.”
Philip smiled, for the offer did not attract him very much.
“You are very kind,” he said, “but I don’t think that even that will reconcile me to staying here with you. But, if you’ll agree to let me pay you for the supper, you may bring me up some.”
“The town will pay me,” said Tucker.
“That’s just what I don’t want the town to do,” said Philip quickly. “I will make you an offer. At sixty cents a week the meals for one day will not cost over ten cents. I’ll pay you ten cents for supper and breakfast.”
“You’re a cur’us boy,” said Tucker. “You want to pay for your vittles in a free boardin’-house.”
“It isn’t free to me. At any rate, I don’t want it to be. What do you say?”
“Oh, I ain’t no objections to take your money,” said Tucker, laughing. “I didn’t know you was so rich.”
“I am not rich, but I think I can pay my board as long as I stay here.”
This Philip said because he had decided that his stay should be a very brief one.
“Just as you say!” chuckled Mr. Tucker.
As he went downstairs he reflected:
“I can take the boy’s money and charge his board to the town, too. There’s nothin’ to hen-der, and it’ll be so much more in my pocket. I wish the rest of the paupers would foller his example.”
He went downstairs and explained to Mrs. Tucker that he wanted Philip’s supper.
“Tell him to come down to the table like the rest of the folks!” retorted Mrs. Tucker. “He ain’t too lazy, is he?”
“No; but it’s safer to keep him in his room for the first twenty-four hours. He’s a desperate boy, but I reckon he’ll get tamed after a while.”
“I’ll desperate him!” said Mrs. Tucker scornfully. “I don’t believe in humorin’ him.”
“Nor I, Abigail. He’d like to come down, but I won’t let him. We can manage him between us.”
“I should smile if we couldn’t,” said Mrs. Tucker. “If you want any supper for him, you can get it yourself. I’ve got too much to do. No, Widder Jones, you can’t have another cup of tea, and you needn’t beg for it. One clip’s plenty for you, and it’s all we can afford.”
“Only this once,” pleaded the poor old woman. “I’ve got a headache.”
“Then another cup of tea would only make it worse. If you’ve got through your supper, go back to your seat and give more room for the rest.”