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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Musician - Chapter 12. A Pauper's Meal
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The Young Musician - Chapter 12. A Pauper's Meal Post by :louis1899 Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :626

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The Young Musician - Chapter 12. A Pauper's Meal

CHAPTER XII. A PAUPER'S MEAL

Half an hour later Philip heard a pounding on the door of his room.

He was unable to open it, but he called out, loud enough for the outsider to hear:

"Who is it?"

"It's me--Zeke," was the answer that came back.

"Did you tell the Dunbars where I was?" asked Philip eagerly.

"Yes."

"I shouldn't think you had time to go there and back," said Philip, fearing that Zeke had pocketed his money and then played him false. But, as we know, he was mistaken in this.

"I didn't go there," shouted Zeke. "I met Frank on the bridge."

"What did he say?"

"He was mad," answered Zeke, laughing. "I thought he would be."

"Did he send any message to me?" asked Philip.

"No; he stopped fishin' and went home." Here the conversation was interrupted. The loud tones in which Zeke had been speaking, in order to be heard through the door, had attracted attention below.

His father came to the foot of the attic stairs and demanded suspiciously:

"What you doin' there, Zeke?"

"Tryin' to cheer up Phil Gray," answered Zeke jocosely.

"He don't need any cheerin' up. He's all right. I reckon you're up to some mischief."

"No, I ain't."

"Come along down."

"All right, dad, if you say so. Lucky he didn't hear what I was sayin' about seein' Frank Dunbar," thought Zeke. "He'd be mad."

Presently there was another caller at Philip's room, or, rather, prison. This time it was Mr. Tucker himself. He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. Philip looked up inquiringly.

"Supper's ready," announced Joe. "You can come down if you want to."

Philip was provided with an appetite, but he did not relish the idea of going downstairs and joining the rest of Mr. Tucker's boarders. It would seem like a tacit admission that he was one of their number. Of course, he couldn't do without eating, but he had a large apple in his pocket when captured, and he thought that this would prevent his suffering from hunger for that night, at least, and he did not mean to spend another at the Norton poorhouse. The problem of to-morrow's supply of food might be deferred till then.

"I don't care for any supper," answered Philip.

"Perhaps you expect your meals will be brought up to you?" said Mr. Tucker, with a sneer.

"I haven't thought about it particularly," said Philip coolly.

"You may think you're spitin' me by not eatin' anything," observed Mr. Tucker, who was rather alarmed lest Philip might have made up his mind to starve himself.

This would be embarrassing, for it would make an investigation necessary.

"Oh, no," answered Philip, smiling; "that never came into my mind."

"I don't mind bringin' you up your supper for once," said Tucker. "Of course, I can't do it reg'lar, but this is the first night."

"I suppose I shall be better able to make my escape if I eat," thought Philip. "Probably the most sensible thing is to accept this offer."

"How much are you to get for my board, Mr. Tucker?" he asked.

"Only sixty cents," grumbled Tucker. "It ain't enough, but the town won't pay any more. You've no idea what appetites them paupers has."

"You made a mistake when you agreed to take me," said Philip gravely. "I'm very hearty, you'll be sure to lose money on me."

Mr. Tucker looked uneasy.

"Well, you see I expect to have you earn part of your board by doin' chores," he said, after a pause.

"That will give me a good chance to run away," remarked Philip calmly. "You'll have to let me out of this room to work, you know."

"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."

While Mrs. Tucker was badgering and domineering over her regular boarders, her husband put two slices of dry bread on a plate, poured out a cup of tea, not strong enough to keep the most delicate child awake, and surreptitiously provided an extra luxury in the shape of a thin slice of cold meat. He felt that, as he was to receive double price, he ought to deal generously by our hero.

He carried this luxurious supper to the third story, and set it down before Philip.

Philip promptly produced a dime, which Mr. Tucker pocketed with satisfaction. He waited till his young guest had finished his repast, in order himself to carry down the dishes.

There was no butter for the bread, and the tea had been sweetened scantily. However, Philip had the appetite of a healthy boy, and he ate and drank everything that had been provided.

"I'll be up in the morning," said Mr. Tucker. "We go to bed early here. The paupers go to roost at seven, and me and my wife and Zeke at eight. You'd better go to bed early, too."

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