“I guess you’re mistaken,” said Nick coolly. “Squire Pope was over to our shop this mornin’, and he told dad that the seleckmen were goin’ to send you there after the auction.”
Philip’s eyes flashed angrily. He felt insulted and outraged. Never for a moment had he conceived the idea that any one would regard him as a candidate for the poorhouse.
He had an honorable pride in maintaining himself, and would rather get along on one meal a day, earned by himself in honest independence, than be indebted to public charity even for a luxurious support.
“Squire Pope doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” retorted Philip, who had to exercise some self-restraint not to express himself more forcibly “and you can tell him so when you see him. I am no more likely to go to the poorhouse than you are!”
“Come, that’s a good one,” chuckled Nick. “Talk of me goin’ to the poorhouse, when my father pays one of the biggest taxes in town! Of course, it’s different with you.”
“You’ll have to excuse me now,” said Philip, determined to get rid of his disagreeable companion. “I have something to do.”
“Then you won’t sell me the fiddle, Phil?”
“No, I won’t,” answered our hero, with scant ceremony.
“Then I’ll have to bid it off at the auction. Maybe I’ll get it cheaper.”
And Mr. Nicholas Holden at length relieved Philip of his company.
It so happened that Nick Holden met Squire Pope on the village street, and, being rather disappointed at the result of his negotiations with Philip, thought it might be a good idea to broach the subject to the squire, who, as he knew, had taken it upon himself to superintend the sale of Mr. Gray’s goods.
“I say, squire, I’ve just been over to see Phil Gray.”
“Ahem! Well, how does he seem to feel?”
“Kinder stuck up, I reckon. He said he wouldn’t go to the poorhouse, and I might tell you so.”
“I apprehend,” said the squire, in his stately way, “he will be under the necessity of going, whether he likes it or not.”
“Just so; that’s what I told him!” interjected Nick.
“And he should be grateful for so comfortable a home,” continued the public man.
“Well, I dunno,” said Nick. “They do say that old Tucker most starves the paupers. Why his bills with dad are awful small.”
“The town cannot afford to pamper the appetites of its beneficiaries,” said the squire. “Where is Philip now?”
“I guess he’s at home. I offered to buy his fiddle, but he said he was going to keep it. I offered him a dollar and sixty-four cents—the same as dad’s bill against his father, but he wouldn’t take it.”
“Really, Nicholas, your offer was very irregular—extremely irregular. It should have been made to me, as the administrator of the late Mr. Gray, and not to a boy like Philip.”