ON THE main street, in the town of Plympton, stood a two-story house,
with a narrow lawn in front. It had a stiff, staid look of decorum, as
if no children were ever allowed to create disorder within its
precincts, or interfere with its settled regularity. It appeared to be a
place of business as well as a residence, for there was a thin plate on
one side of the front door, bearing the name of
Some people might object to turning even a part of their dwellings into
a business office, but then it saved rent, and Mr. Middleton was one of
the saving kind. He had always been saving from the first time he
received a penny at the mature age of five, and triumphing over the
delusive pleasures of an investment in candy, put it in a tin
savings-bank to the present moment. He didn’t marry until the age of
forty, not having dared to undertake the expense of maintaining two
persons. At that time, however, he fortunately encountered a maiden lady
of about his own age, whose habits were equally economical, who
possessed the sum of four thousand dollars. After a calculation of some
length he concluded that it would be for his pecuniary benefit to marry.
He proposed, was accepted, and in due time Miss Corinthia Carver became
Mrs. Nathan Middleton.
Their married life had lasted eight years, when they very unexpectedly
became the custodian of my hero.
One day Mr. Middleton sat in his office, drawing up an application for
insurance, when a stranger entered.
“Wants to insure his life, I hope,” thought Nathan, in the hope of a
“Take a chair, sir. What can I do for you?” he asked urbanely. “Have you
been thinking of insuring your life? I represent some of the best
companies in the country.”
“That isn’t my business,” said the visitor decisively.
Nathan looked disappointed, and waited for the business to be announced.
“You had a school-mate named Stephen Temple, did you not, Mr.
“Yes; we used to go to school together. What has become of him?”
“He is dead.”
“I am sorry to hear it. Any family?”
“One son, a boy of sixteen. That is why I am here.”
“Really, I don’t understand you.”
“He has left his son to you,” said the stranger.
“What!” exclaimed Nathan, in dismay.
“Having no other friends, for he has been away from home nearly all his
life, he thought you would be willing to give the boy a home.”
Instantly there rose in the economical mind of Mr. Middleton an
appalling array of expenses, including board, washing, clothes, books
and so on, which would be likely to be incurred on behalf of a
well-grown boy, and he actually shuddered.
“Stephen Temple had no right to expect such a thing of me,” he said.
“The fact that we went to school together doesn’t give him any claim
upon me. If the boy hasn’t got any relations willing to support him he
should be sent to the poor-house.”
The visitor laughed heartily, much to Nathan Middleton’s bewilderment.
“I don’t see what I have said that is so very amusing,” he said stiffly.
“You talk of a boy worth forty thousand dollars going to the
“What!” exclaimed Nathan, in open-eyed wonder.
“As his father directs that his guardian shall receive a thousand
dollars a year for his care, most persons would not refuse so hastily.”
“My dear sir!” said Nathan persuasively, feeling as if he had suddenly
discovered a gold mine, “is this really true?”
“I can show you a copy of the will, if you are in doubt.”
“I believe you implicitly, my dear sir; and so poor Stephen is dead!”
and the insurance agent took out his handkerchief and placed it before
his eyes to wipe away the imaginary tears. “We were _very_ intimate when
we were boys—like brothers, in fact. Excuse my tears, I shall soon
recover the momentary shock of your sad announcement.”
“I hope so,” said the visitor dryly. “As you are not willing to take the
boy, I will look elsewhere.”
“My dear sir,” hastily exclaimed Nathan, alarmed at the prospect of
losing a thousand dollars a year, “you are quite mistaken. I have not
“You suggested his being cared for by some relative.”
“It was a misapprehension, I assure you. I will gladly receive my poor
friend’s son into my happy home circle. I will be his second father. I
have no sons of my own. I will lavish upon him the tenderness of a
The visitor laughed shortly.
“I am afraid you have very little idea of what Tom Temple is.”
“He is the son of my early friend.”
“That may be, but that don’t make him a model, or a very desirable
“Is he a bad boy?”
“He is known among us as ‘The Bully of the Village.’ He is fond of
teasing and domineering over other boys, and is full of mischief. He is
sure to give you trouble.”
“I’d rather he was a good boy,” thought Nathan, “but a thousand dollars
will make up for a good deal of trouble.”
“Does my description frighten you?” said the visitor.
“No,” said Nathan. “Out of regard for the lamented friend of my early
days, I will receive this misguided boy, and try to correct his faults
and make him steady and well-behaved.”
“You’ll find it a hard job, my friend.”
“I shall have the co-operation of Mrs. Middleton, an admirable lady,
whose precepts and example will have a most salutary effect upon my
“Well, I hope so, for your sake. When shall I send Tom to you?”
“As soon as you like,” said Nathan, who desired that the allowance of
twenty dollars a week should commence at once. “To whom am I to send my
“To me. I am a lawyer, and the executor of Mr. Temple’s will.”
“I wonder this lawyer didn’t try to secure the thousand dollars a year
for himself,” thought Nathan, and he inwardly rejoiced that he had not
“Am I expected to provide the boy’s clothes?” he asked anxiously, the
thought suddenly occurring to him. “Is that to come out of the thousand
“No; not at all. You will furnish the clothes, however, and send the
bills to me. Here is my card.”
“I believe my business is at an end,” he said rising; “at least for the
present. The boy will be forwarded at once. He will probably present
himself to you day after to-morrow.”
The card which he placed in the hand of Nathan contained the name of
“Very well, Mr. Sharp. We will be ready to receive him. Good-morning,
“Good-morning, Mr. Middleton. I hope you will not repent your decision.”
“That isn’t likely,” said Nathan to himself gleefully, when he was left
alone. “A thousand dollars a year, and the boy’s board won’t probably
cost me more’n a hundred. We don’t pamper ourselves with luxurious
living. It is wrong. Besides, it is wasteful. I must go and acquaint
Mrs. Middleton with the news.”
“Corinthia, my dear, we are about to have a boarder,” he said, on
reaching the presence of his fair partner.
Corinthia’s eyes flashed, not altogether amiably.
“Do you mean to say, Mr. Middleton, you have agreed to take a boarder
without consulting me?”
“I knew you would consent, my dear.”
“How did you know?”
“You would be crazy to refuse a boarder that is to pay a thousand
dollars a year.”
“What!” ejaculated the lady incredulously.
“Listen, and I’ll tell you all about it.”
He told the story, winding up with:
“Now wasn’t it right to say ‘yes?’”
“How much of this money am I going to receive?” asked his wife abruptly.
Mr. Middleton was taken aback.
“What do you mean, my dear?”
“What I say. Do you expect me to have the care of a boy—I always hated
boys—and all for your benefit?”
“We two are one, my dear.”
“Not in money matters. I repeat it. I won’t take him unless you give me
three hundred dollars of the money every year for my own use.”
Mr. Middleton didn’t like it, but he was finally compelled to give in.
After all, it would leave him seven hundred, and at least five hundred
would be clear profit.
THE STAGE stopped in front of the Plympton Hotel two days afterward.
There were several inside passengers, but with these we have nothing to
do. Beside the driver sat a stout boy, with a keen, expressive face, who
looked full of life and activity.
“Here you are,” said the driver, with a final flourish of the whip.
“I see that, old chap,” said the boy; “but I don’t stop here.”
“Where are you goin’ to put up?”
“The man’s name is Middleton. He is to have the honor of feeding and
lodging me for the present.”
“I suppose you mean Nathan Middleton. I don’t envy you. He keeps the
meanest table in town.”
“Does he? Then I shall take the liberty to reform his table.”
“I don’t believe you can do it. There’s only one person in town meaner
than old Middleton, and that’s his wife. What makes you board with
“Can’t help it. He went to school with my father, and he left orders in
his will that I should be taken care of by Middleton. You’ll take me up
“Yes; you’ll have to wait till I land the mail and discharge cargo.”
A few minutes later Tom Temple was deposited at the gate of his future
guardian. Nathan Middleton hastened to welcome him with the
consideration due to so wealthy a boarder.
“My dear young friend,” he begun expansively, “I am indeed glad to
welcome the son of my old friend to my humble home.”
If Mr. Middleton expected Tom to reply in a similar manner, he soon
realized his mistake. Our hero was not one of the gushing kind.
“All right,” he answered coolly. “Will you help me in with my trunk?”
Mr. Middleton mechanically obeyed, not seeing his way clear to any more
Mrs. Middleton appeared in the front entry as the trunk was set down.
“Corinthia, my dear, this is the son of my deceased friend, Stephen
Mrs. Middleton’s thin figure was clad in a thin, slazy silk of very
scant pattern, and her pinched features wore an artificial smile.
“How do you do, Mr. Temple?” she said.
“I’m well, but hungry,” responded Tom readily.
“Is tea nearly ready, Corinthia?” asked her husband.
“It will be ready in fifteen minutes. If you will show Mr. Temple to his
room, he won’t have long to wait.”
The two together carried up Tom’s trunk, and deposited it in a scantily
furnished chamber, which it was announced he was to occupy.
“I hope, my young friend, you will like your apartment,” said Nathan.
Tom looked about him critically.
“I don’t see any rocking-chair,” he said.
“I was not aware that rocking-chairs were considered necessary in a
sleeping apartment,” said Nathan, who did not fancy buying any extra
“I study in my room,” said Tom, “and I need a rocking-chair to support
“I hope your spine is not affected,” said Mr. Middleton, rather
“It’s very weak,” said Tom gravely.
“You don’t look it,” said Nathan, surveying the strong form of his young
“Appearances are deceitful,” said Tom sententiously.
“I will procure you a rocking-chair,” said Mr. Middleton, sighing at the
thought of the extra expense. “I will now leave you to any little
preparations you may desire to make. I will call you when supper is
So Tom was left alone.
Our hero sat down on the bed and reflected.
“I don’t fancy the old man’s looks,” he thought. “He looks mean, and so
does his wife. I have an idea they’ll try to starve me, but if they do
I’ll make it lively for them, or my name isn’t Tom Temple. I know, from
what Sharp told me, that they are going to get a steep price for my
board, and I don’t want them to make too much out of me. This bed is as
hard as a brick. No wonder—it’s filled with straw. I suppose mattresses
come too high. I see I shall have to give some lessons to my worthy
friends on the subject of keeping house. I’ve got plenty of money, and I
don’t see why I shouldn’t go in for comfort. I could stand hard fare if
there was any need of it, but there isn’t.”
Soon the feet of Mr. Middleton were heard on the stairs.
“My young friend,” he said, as Tom opened the door at his gentle tap,
“supper is ready.”
“My old friend,” said Tom promptly, “I am ready, too.”
“What a very extraordinary boy!” thought Mr. Middleton. “Why should he
call me old? I am older than he, to be sure, but I am not aged.”
He led the way into the dining-room. Mrs. Middleton was already seated
at the table. It did not look particularly inviting. There was a plate
of bread, cut in thin slices, a very small plate of butter, a plate of
consumptive looking gingerbread and half a dozen slices of meat about
the thickness of a wafer.
“Not much chance of overeating myself here,” thought Tom. “This won’t do
“Will you be seated, Mr. Temple,” said the lady. “Shall I give you some
Corinthia poured out a cup of colored liquid, into which she poured
about half a teaspoonful of milk and an extremely small portion of
“Excuse me, ma’am,” said Tom, “but I am not afraid of milk or sugar.”
“Really!” said the lady, not quite comprehending.
“I’ll put in the sugar and milk myself,” said Tom, and he deliberately
poured out a part of his tea into the saucer, filling up with milk, and
deposited two full spoonfuls of sugar in the same.
This was wasteful extravagance in the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Middleton.
“I never knew any one use so much sugar and milk, Mr. Temple,” she said
“You haven’t any objection, have you?” he asked coolly.
“Oh, of course not,” she answered bridling; “but it seems so singular.”
“Does it? That’s just what I thought of your way.”
“Shall I help you to a slice of meat, Mr. Temple?” asked Nathan.
“You’d better give me two or three; they seem to be very small,” said
Mrs. Middleton looked far from amiable as she heard this remark. Her
husband contented himself with putting two of the wafers on his young
“We don’t always have meat at supper,” said his wife, fearing that Tom
would expect it as a general thing, “but we supposed your journey might
make you hungry.”
“So it has. Mr. Middleton will you help me to more meat?” said Tom, who
had already disposed of the two wafers.
Mr. and Mrs. Middleton exchanged glances of dismay.
“I think you’ll have to send for more,” said Tom coolly. “I’m delicate,
and the doctor says I must eat plenty of meat.”
“_My_ doctor tells me meat is injurious at supper,” said Mrs. Middleton,
“Tell him he doesn’t know much. Another piece of butter, Mr. Middleton,
if you please? It would kill me to go without meat.”
“You don’t look delicate.”
“I am, though. I tried doing without meat at supper for a week, and what
do you think happened?”
Mr. Middleton looked curious.
“I got up in the night—fast asleep, you know—and set the bed-clothes on
fire. Came near burning up the house. All on account of not eating
“Bless my soul!” exclaimed Mrs. Middleton alarmed. “Do you walk in your
sleep, Mr. Temple?”
“Not when I’ve had a hearty supper, ma’am.”
“I think, Corinthia, you’d better get some meat,” said her husband, who
“Warm meat—beefsteak, for instance—is better than cold to make me
sleep,” said Tom. “By the way, Mrs. Middleton, the butter is out, and so
is the bread.”
“I never saw so voracious a boy,” said the lady to herself. “He really
has an ungovernable appetite.”
But she got the bread and the butter. Tom generally managed to have his
In justice to him I must say that he had no more appetite than is usual
to a hearty, growing boy, but Mr. and Mrs. Middleton stinted themselves
out of regard to economy, and to them he seemed to eat enough for six.
AFTER supper Tom took a walk. He wanted to know something about his
future home. Thus far his impressions had not been altogether agreeable.
“If the Middleton’s are a fair specimen of the people of Plympton, it’s
a good place to emigrate from,” he thought. “However, I’ll stay a while
and see what turns up.”
Plympton was a village of moderate size. It probably contained about
fifteen hundred inhabitants, beside the occupants of outlying farms, for
the town was largely agricultural. Those who met our hero surveyed him
with attention, for in a small country town all are acquainted, and a
stranger is at once recognized as such. One old lady, Mrs. Prudence
Peabody, was not content with staring at our hero. She stopped short and
“Do you live in Plympton, young man?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Tom. “Do you?”
“I’ve lived here ever since I was a gal.”
“Have you?” asked Tom innocently. “That must be a long time.”
“I ain’t so old as I might be,” said the old lady sharply. “Where do you
live? I never see you afore.”
“It’s a remarkable coincidence that _I_ never set eyes on you before.”
“Who be you a living with?”
“Mr. Middleton. Shall be happy to receive a call.”
The old lady looked sharply at our hero, but his manner was so cool and
matter-of-fact that it was impossible to tell whether he intended to be
polite or was merely chaffing her.
“What’s your name?” asked the old lady.
“Thomas Washington,” said our hero. “Sorry I haven’t a card.”
“You ain’t related to Gineral Washington, be you?”
“I’m his first cousin’s grandson,” answered Tom, who, at any rate, did
not possess the traditional love of truth which we usually associate
with the name which he had so unjustifiably assumed.
“I declare! Who’d have thought it?” exclaimed Mrs. Peabody. “Be you
related to the Middletons?”
“I don’t think I am,” said Tom hastily, for he could not tolerate such
an idea even in joke.
“Be you goin’ to stay long?” asked the persevering questioner.
“That depends upon my spine,” said Tom gravely.
“You don’t mean to say you’ve got the spine complaint?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Did you ever try poultices?”
“Lots of ’em, but I had to give ’em up.”
“They made me crazy.”
“You don’t say!” ejaculated the old lady, sheering off in some alarm.
“You needn’t be afraid,” said Tom gravely. “I haven’t had an attack for
This only alarmed Mrs. Peabody the more, and with a hasty good-night she
hurried on her way, considerably bewildered by her interview.
“She’s a prying old lady, and deserves to be mystified,” said Tom to
himself. “I’ll bet a hat she’ll come round to old Middleton’s to-morrow
to find out all about me. Halloo! there are two chaps playing ball. I
guess I’ll join in.”
The boys were James Davenport and his cousin, Edwin Barker, and they
were playing in a field belonging to Lawyer Davenport, the father of the
former. The boys were about Tom’s age, and belonged to the upper crust
of Plympton society. They regarded themselves as socially superior to
the other village boys, and had a habit of playing together, and so
avoiding the possible contamination of association with the village
plebeians. Of course Tom didn’t know this, and if he had it would have
made very little difference to him. He jumped over the wall which
separated the road from the field, and called out in an easy way.
“Halloo, boys, just pitch the ball this way, will you?”
“Who are you?” demanded James Davenport haughtily.
“I haven’t got my visiting-cards with me, but I can handle a ball, name
or no name.”
“This field is private property,” said James loftily.
“Yes, private property,” chimed in his cousin.
“So I supposed,” answered Tom coolly, “most fields are.”
“And you are trespassing.”
“Am I? There isn’t anything to hurt. If I do any damage, bring in your
“We are playing by ourselves. We don’t wish any company.”
“Well, I do. I feel just like having a game at ball. Just pitch it
“I won’t do it,” said James. “Edwin, catch it.”
So saying, he pitched the ball to his cousin, but Tom intercepted it
before it reached the hands for which it was designed.
“Let go that ball!” exclaimed James angrily.
“Red dead-ball, isn’t it?” said Tom, at the same time tossing it up and
down. “Where’d you get it?”
“I’ll let you know,” said James menacingly. “What business have you got
with my ball?”
“I’ll toss it to you if you’ll toss it back again,” said Tom. “We’ll
have a social game of three.”
“No, we won’t. Clear out of this field, you vagabond!”
“You’re very polite, but you haven’t got my name right, you loafer,”
said Tom coolly.
“Loafer!” ejaculated James, with insulted dignity.
“Yes, you’re just as much of a loafer as I am a vagabond. Good ball
this!” and he kept tossing it up and down.
“Help me, Edwin, and I’ll take it from him,” said James Davenport, in a
rage. “Well teach the rascal a lesson.”
“Will you?” said Tom. “Catch me first.”
He run across the field, tossing the ball from time to time, the two
boys pursuing him. He eluded their pursuit for a time, till finding
himself cornered he gathered his strength and sent the ball whirling
into a neighboring corn-field, where it would be very difficult to find
“What did you do that for?” shouted James furiously.
“For fun,” said Tom. “You wouldn’t play with me, so you must take the
“I’ll give you a beating.”
“Will you? Come on, then.”
In an instant Tom had flung off his coat and stood in his shirt-sleeves,
facing his two foes.
“Stand by me, Edwin—we’ll rush on him together,” said James.
But Tom, stepping to one side, received James singly, and flinging him
on his back, made a dash at Edwin and served him in the same way.
“That’s the first round,” said he, squaring off. “Now get up, you
loafer, and we’ll try it again.”
But James had been laid flat with so much force that it jarred his
frame, and he didn’t like it. The stranger was altogether too strong to
make it pleasant.
“Why didn’t you help me?” he asked, turning to Edwin.
“He had you down before I got a chance,” said his cousin.
“You’re a brute and a bully!” he said angrily.
“Anything more?” asked Tom coolly. “Go ahead if it does you good. You
ought to know what a bully is.”
“Because you’d be one if you had a little more courage.”
James couldn’t stand this. He made another dash at our hero, hoping to
take him off his guard, but Tom had a quick eye and saw what was coming.
He received James and again laid him flat.
“Now I’m ready for you,” he said, turning to Edwin.
But the latter did not seem inclined to accept the invitation.
“James, let us go. Don’t let us have anything to do with him,” said he.
James by this time was picking himself up silently, and seemed inclined
to follow the advice.
“I’ll make you suffer for this!” he said, shaking his fist. “My father’s
“Is he? I pity him.”
“For having such a son.”
“I ain’t a thief!”
“What do you mean by that?” demanded Tom, his face darkening.
“You’ve stolen my ball and thrown it away.”
“I didn’t steal it. I took it because you were too boorish to let me
play with you.”
“You’ve lost it for me.”
“If you can’t find it, I’ll pay you for it. My name is Tom Temple. I
board with Nathan Middleton. You can send your bill there if you like.
Now I’ll wish you good-night and better manners.”
Tom was near the wall at the time. He vaulted over and walked on,
leaving the two boys half angry, half curious to know who he was.
TOM RE-ENTERED his new boarding-place as the clock struck eight. Mr. and
Mrs. Middleton were discussing him, but stopped short as he came in.
They foresaw that he would be troublesome, but there is great power in
money, and they had just a thousand reasons for keeping on good terms
“Have you been taking a walk, Mr. Temple?” said Nathan blandly.
“I hope you like our village,” chimed in the lady.
“I don’t know,” said Tom. “I don’t like the people much.”
“Indeed! May I ask why?”
“They stared as me as if they had never seen a gentleman before, and one
old woman stopped and wanted to know all about me.”
“It must have been Prudence Peabody,” said Mr. Middleton. “How did she
“She was born at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to be good-looking,”
answered Tom. “She is short, wrinkled, and walks a little lame.”
“I told her I was the grandson of General Washington’s first cousin,”
said Tom, “and the old fright believed it.”
“I fear, my young friend, that you are not sufficiently regardful of the
truth,” expostulated Mr. Middleton, with mild censure.
“Oh, I was only chaffing. If she believes it, it won’t do her any harm.”
“I had a fight besides,” continued Tom.
“A fight! Not with Miss Peabody?” asked Mrs. Middleton, horror-stricken.
“Not much. I don’t fight with women,” said Tom. “It was with two boys.
One said his father was a lawyer.”
“It must be James Davenport,” said Nathan, disturbed. “How came you to
fight with him?”
“He and another fellow were pitching ball, and wouldn’t let me into the
game, so I grabbed the ball, and they went for me.”
“Were you much hurt?”
“I wasn’t the one that was hurt,” said Tom significantly. “I laid them
both flat and threw the ball into a corn-field.”
“Really,” said Mrs. Middleton, who stood in considerable awe of the
lawyer’s family, “that was very unprincipled.”
“I regret exceedingly, my young friend,” said Nathan gravely, “that you
should have committed an unprovoked assault upon the son and nephew of
one of our first citizens.”
“It was their fault,” said Tom coolly. “Why were they so boorish as to
decline playing with me?”
“They didn’t know you.”
“They know me now,” said Tom significantly.
“Was the ball lost?” asked Mr. Middleton, disturbed.
“Very likely. It wouldn’t be easy to find it in a corn-field.”
“Then you are responsible for the loss.”
“Oh, I am willing to pay for it. I told them so. If the old man——”
“The old man!”
“Yes, the lawyer—if he sends you a note about it, just pay it to him and
charge to me.”
“How can I be sure that I shall be repaid?” inquired Nathan cautiously.
“Oh, I’ll see you paid. I’ve got twenty-five dollars in my pocket-book.”
Nathan was relieved. He had no fancy for running any pecuniary risk.
“Still,” he said, “I regret this occurrence.”
“You must be very quarrelsome,” said Mrs. Middleton, who didn’t like
Tom, and would have showed it much more plainly if he had been a poor
“I suppose I am,” said Tom frankly. “They used to call me the bully of
the village, but I never tyrannized over weak boys. It’s only the
upstarts and pretenders that I interfere with. Those boys I saw to-night
need a few lessons in good manners.”
“My young friend, I fear you quite mistake their character. They stand
high socially—_very_ high—indeed I may say they belong to one of the
first families, if not our very first. I had hoped you would find them
“I am afraid you’ll be disappointed,” said Tom. “They seem to me like
Mr. and Mrs. Middleton exchanged looks of discomposure. They feared that
Tom would get them on bad terms with the lawyer’s family, whom, like
true sycophants, they were disposed to fawn upon.
“We will talk of this another time,” said Nathan. “Whenever you are
tired you are at liberty to retire. Is there anything you would like
“Yes,” said Tom unexpectedly. “I should like something to eat.”
“We have had supper,” said Mrs. Middleton, in a pointed manner.
“I know it, but I have been walking, and am hungry.”
“It is very injurious to the health to eat just before going to sleep,”
said Nathan, reinforcing his wife.
“I’ll take the risk,” said Tom coolly. “If I get sick no one will suffer
“Corinthia, is there anything in the pantry?” asked Nathan
deprecatingly, for he saw a frown on the face of his spouse.
“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Middleton shortly. “Perhaps _you_ are hungry,
too,” she added sarcastically.
“Oh, dear, no!” said Nathan hastily, “not after our hearty supper.”
“Does he call the supper hearty?” thought Tom. “I’ll bet the old woman
won’t let him have what he wants to eat.”
Here Tom was mistaken, for Mr. and Mrs. Middleton were quite agreed in
their notions of economy.
Very much against her will Mrs. Middleton produced some bread and
butter, and on Tom’s specially calling for it, some meat. Her thin lips
were compressed with displeasure, and she very evidently thought our
hero a glutton. If she expected her displeasure would produce the least
effect on Tom, she was mistaken. He ate heartily—in fact, he ate all
that was set before him.
“Have you had enough?” asked Mrs. Middleton sharply.
“It will do,” said Tom coolly.
“I am glad of it,” she retorted.
“Pleasant female that!” thought Tom. “She isn’t used to me yet. She’ll
find it harder to starve me than she thinks.”
“Now, I think I’ll go to bed,” said Tom. “Oh, there’s one thing I forgot
to mention; I noticed there was a straw-bed in my room.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Middleton. “Doesn’t it suit you?”
“No, I am used to a mattress.”
“Mr. Middleton and I sleep on a straw-bed.”
“It’s all right if you like it, but I don’t like it.”
“Really,” said Mrs. Middleton, who could not control herself at the
bidding of policy as well as her husband, “if you are an inmate of our
family, I think you will have to conform to our regulations.”
“Then,” said Tom, “I think I had better not trouble you any longer. I
can easily find another boarding-place.”
But this did not suit Mr. Middleton. He could not bear the idea of
giving up twenty dollars a week, and although it would cost money to buy
a mattress, according to Tom’s unreasonable desire, and make more
liberal arrangements for the table, all that could be done, and still a
considerable margin be left for profit.
“My young friend,” he said, “Mrs. Middleton and I will talk over the
matter and see what we can do. Of course our first desire is to make you
as comfortable as possible.”
“I am glad to hear it,” said Tom, with the air of one who heard
“I hope you will have no cause to doubt it,” Nathan continued.
“Good-night, and pleasant dreams.”
“Good-night,” said Tom. “Please thump on my door in the morning, when
breakfast is ready.”
“He’s a perfect pig,” exclaimed Mrs. Middleton, when our hero had left
the room. “I never in all my born days saw a boy eat so much.”
“He certainly has a good appetite,” said Nathan.
“He’ll eat us out of house and home,” said the lady indignantly.
“But you must remember, my dear, how well we are paid. You get six
dollars a week clear profit, while out of my fourteen I have to pay the
large expense of his board.”
“True,” said Mrs. Middleton, more calmly, “viewed in that light, it is
well to keep him. But I ask you, Mr. Middleton, is it well to yield to
all his unreasonable demands?”
“Why, my dear, we must try to keep him contented or he will go away.”
“I hate him!” exclaimed Mrs. Middleton, with energy.
“I can’t say I like him,” said Nathan, “but I like the money I am to
receive from him.”
The two talked together for an hour, Tom being the staple of their
conversation. They were about to retire for the night, when a series of
noises of a startling character resounded through the house, evidently
proceeding from Tom’s chamber.
“Goodness gracious!” exclaimed Mrs. Middleton. “What’s the matter?”
“It’s that boy,” gasped Nathan.
“Go up and see what is the matter, Mr. Middleton.”
“Come with me, Corinthia,” said Nathan, in tremulous accents. “He may be
In a state of nervous apprehension the two made their way to the door of