“Don’t I always do my duty by boys, Mrs. Bickford?”
“No, Mr. Holden, I don’t think you do. You know very well you can never get a boy to stay with you.”
“This boy is bound to me, Mrs. Bickford—legally bound.”
“That may be; but if you don’t treat him as he ought to be treated, he will run away, take my word for it.”
“If he does, he’ll be brought back, take my word for that, Mrs. Bickford. I shall treat him as I think he deserves, but as to petting and pampering the young rascal I shall do nothing of the kind.”
“I don’t think you will,” said the housekeeper. “However, I’ve warned you.”
“You seem to take a good deal of interest in the boy,” said Abner, sneeringly.
“Yes, I do.”
“After half an hour’s acquaintance.”
“I’ve known him long enough to see that he’s better than the common run of boys, and I hope that he’ll stay.”
“There’s no doubt about that,” said Abner Holden, significantly. “He’ll have to stay, whether he wants to or not.”
THE GHOST IN THE ATTIC
After working two hours at the woodpile, Herbert was called in to tea. There was no great variety, Abner Holden not being a bountiful provider. But the bread was sweet and good, and the gingerbread fresh. Herbert’s two hours of labor had given him a hearty appetite, and he made a good meal. Mrs. Bickford looked on approvingly. She was glad to see that our hero enjoyed his supper.
There was tea on the table, and, after pouring out a cup for Mr. Holden, the housekeeper was about to pour out one for Herbert.
“He don’t want any tea,” said Abner, noticing the action. “Keep the cup for yourself, Mrs. Bickford.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Holden?” asked the housekeeper, in surprise.
“Tea isn’t good for a growing boy. A glass of cold water will be best for him.”
“I don’t agree with you, Mr. Holden,” said the housekeeper, decidedly. “Herbert has been hard at work, and needs his tea as much as you or I do.”
Therefore, without waiting for his permission, she handed the cup to Herbert, who proceeded to taste it.
Abner Holden frowned, but neither Herbert nor the housekeeper took much notice of it. The latter was somewhat surprised at this new freak on the part of Abner, as he had never tried to deprive any of Herbert’s predecessors of tea or coffee. But the fact was, Mr. Holden disliked Herbert, and was disposed to act the petty tyrant over him. He had neither forgotten nor forgiven the boy’s spirited defiance when they first met, nor his refusal to surrender into his hands the five dollars which the doctor had given him.
Feeling tired by eight o’clock, Herbert went up to his garret room and undressed himself. An instinct of caution led him to take out the money in his porte-monnaie, and put it in his trunk, which he then locked, and put the key under the sheet, so that no one could get hold of it without awakening him. This precaution proved to be well taken.