“Why didn’t they like him?”
“Sh!” said the housekeeper, warningly.
Herbert looked round and saw his employer entering the room.
“Well, boy, have you put up the horse?” he asked, abruptly.
“Did you give him some hay?”
“And some grain?”
“No, I didn’t know where it was kept. If you’ll tell me, I’ll do it now.”
“No, you needn’t. He isn’t to have any. He’s only a hired horse.”
Considering that the hired horse had traveled over thirty miles, Herbert thought he was entitled to some oats; but Mr. Holden was a mean man, and decided otherwise.
“Where is Herbert to sleep, Mr. Holden?” asked the housekeeper.
“There’s a small corner bedroom in the second story,” suggested Mrs. Bickford, who knew that the garret was not very desirable.
“I guess he won’t be too proud to sleep in the garret,” said Mr. Holden. “Shall you?” he continued, turning to Herbert.
“Put me where you please,” said Herbert, coldly.
“Then it shall be the garret. You can take your trunk up now. Mrs. Bickford will show you the way.”
“It’s too heavy for you, Herbert,” said the housekeeper; “I will help you.”
“Oh, he can carry it alone,” said Abner Holden. “He isn’t a baby.”
“I’d rather help him,” said the housekeeper, taking one handle of the trunk. “You go first, Herbert, You’re young and spry, and can go faster than I.”
On the second landing Herbert saw the little bedroom in which the housekeeper wanted to put him. It was plainly furnished, but it was light and cheerful, and he was sorry he was not to have it.
“You could have had that bedroom just as well as not,” said Mrs. Bickford. “It’s never used. But Mr. Holden’s rather contrary, and as hard to turn as a—”
“A mule?” suggested Herbert, laughing.
“It’s pretty much so,” said the housekeeper, joining in the laugh.
They went up a narrow staircase and emerged into a dark garret, running the whole length of the house without a partition. The beams and rafters were visible, for the sloping sides were not plastered. Herbert felt that he might as well have been in the barn, except that there was a small cot bedstead in the center of the floor.
“It isn’t very pleasant,” said the housekeeper.
“No,” said Herbert, “I don’t think it is.”
“I declare, it’s too bad you should have to sleep here. Mr. Holden isn’t very considerate.”
“I guess I can stand it,” said our hero, “though I should rather be downstairs.”
“I’ll bring up the trap and set it before you go to bed,” said Mrs. Bickford.
“The trap!” repeated Herbert, in surprise.
“Yes, there’s rats about, and I suppose you’d rather have a trap than a cat.”
“Yes; the cat would be about as bad as the rats.”