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- Do and Dare - 2/40 -
office, and no complaint has been made that she does not make a good postmaster."
"Possibly," said the squire, non-committally; "but I am opposed upon principle to conferring offices upon women. Men are more efficient, and better qualified to discharge responsible duties."
"Then, sir," said Herbert, his heart sinking, "I am to understand that you do not favor the appointment of my mother?"
"I should be glad to hear that your mother was doing well," said the squire, "but I cannot conscientiously favor the appointment of a woman to be postmaster of Wayneboro."
"That means that he prefers the appointment should go to his nephew," thought Herbert.
"If my mother were not competent to discharge the duties," he said, his face showing his disappointment in spite of himself, "I would not ask your influence, notwithstanding you were a schoolmate of father's, and he lost his arm while acting as your substitute."
"I have already said that I wish your mother well," said the squire, coloring, "and in any other way I am ready to help her and you. Indeed, I may be able to secure you a situation."
"Mr. Graham needs a boy in his store, and I think he will take you on my recommendation."
"Is Tom Tripp going away?" asked Herbert.
"The Tripp boy is unsatisfactory, so Mr. Graham tells me."
Herbert knew something of what it would be to be employed by Mr. Graham. Tom Tripp worked early and late for a dollar and a half per week, without board, for a hard and suspicious taskmaster, who was continually finding fault with him. But for sheer necessity, he would have left Mr. Graham's store long ago. He had confided the unpleasantness of his position to Herbert more than once, and enlisted his sympathy and indignation. Herbert felt that he would not like to work for Mr. Graham at any price, more especially as it seemed likely that the storekeeper was likely to deprive his mother of her office and income.
"I should not like to work for Mr. Graham, sir," he said.
"It appears to me that you are very particular, young man," said Squire Walsingham.
"I would be willing to work for you, sir, but not for him."
"Ahem!" said the squire, somewhat mollified, "I will think of your case."
Herbert left the house, feeling that his mother's removal was only a matter of time.
Herbert left the house of Squire Walsingham in a sober frame of mind. He saw clearly that his mother would not long remain in office, and without her official income they would find it hard to get along. To be sure, she received a pension of eight dollars a month, in consideration of her husband's services in the war, but eight dollars would not go far towards supporting their family, small as it was. There were other means of earning a living, to be sure, but Wayneboro was an agricultural town mainly, and unless he hired out on a farm there seemed no way open to him, while the little sewing his mother might be able to procure would probably pay her less than a dollar a week.
The blow fell sooner than he expected. In the course of the next week Mrs. Carr was notified that Ebenezer Graham had been appointed her successor, and she was directed to turn over the papers and property of the office to him.
She received the official notification by the afternoon mail, and in the evening she was favored by a call from her successor.
Ebenezer Graham was a small man, with insignificant, mean-looking features, including a pair of weazel-like eyes and a turn-up nose. It did not require a skillful physiognomist to read his character in his face. Meanness was stamped upon it in unmistakable characters.
"Good-evening, Mr. Graham," said the widow, gravely.
"Good-evening, ma'am," said the storekeeper. "I've called to see you, Mrs. Carr, about the post office, I presume you have heard--"
"I have heard that you are to be my successor."
"Just so. As long as your husband was alive, I didn't want to step into his shoes."
"But you are willing to step into mine," said Mrs. Carr, smiling faintly.
"Just so--that is, the gov'ment appear to think a man ought to be in charge of so responsible a position."
"I shall be glad if you manage the office better than I have done."
"You see, ma'am, it stands to reason that a man is better fitted for business than a woman," said Ebenezer Graham, in a smooth tone for he wanted to get over this rather awkward business as easily as possible. "Women, you know, was made to adorn the domestic circles, et cetery."
"Adorning the domestic circle won't give me a living," said Mrs. Carr, with some bitterness, for she knew that but for the grasping spirit of the man before her she would have been allowed to retain her office.
"I was comin' to that," said the new postmaster. "Of course, I appreciate your position as a widder, without much means, and I'm going to make you an offer; that is, your boy, Herbert."
Herbert looked up from a book he was reading, and listened with interest to hear the benevolent intentions of the new postmaster."
"I am ready to give him a place in my store," proceeded Ebenezer. "I always keep a boy, and thinks I to myself, the wages I give will help along the widder Carr. You see, I like to combine business with consideration for my feller creeters."
Mrs. Carr smiled faintly, for in spite of her serious strait she could not help being amused at the notion of Ebenezer Graham's philanthropy.
"What's going to become of Tom Tripp?" asked Herbert, abruptly.
"Thomas Tripp isn't exactly the kind of boy I want in my store," said Mr. Graham. "He's a harum-scarum sort of boy, and likes to shirk his work. Then I suspect he stops to play on the way when I send him on errands. Yesterday he was five minutes longer than he need to have been in goin' to Sam Dunning's to carry some groceries. Thomas doesn't seem to appreciate his privileges in bein' connected with a business like mine."
Tom Tripp was hardly to blame for not recognizing his good luck in occupying a position where he received a dollar and a half a week for fourteen hours daily work, with half a dozen scoldings thrown in.
"How do you know I will suit you any better than Tom?" asked Herbert, who did not think it necessary to thank Mr. Graham for the proffered engagement until he learned just what was expected of him, and what his pay was to be.
"You're a different sort of a boy," said Ebenezer, with an attempt at a pleasant smile. "You've been brought up different. I've heard you're a smart, capable boy, that isn't afraid of work."
"No, sir, I am not, if I am fairly paid for my work."
The new postmaster's jaw fell, and he looked uneasy, for he always grudged the money he paid out, even the paltry dollar and a half which went to poor Tom.
"I always calkerlate to pay fair wages," he said; "but I ain't rich, and I can't afford to fling away money."
"How much do you pay Tom Tripp?" asked Herbert.
He knew, but he wanted to draw Mr. Graham out.
"I pay Thomas a dollar and fifty cents a week," answered the storekeeper, in a tone which indicated that he regarded this, on the whole, as rather a munificent sum.
"And he works from seven in the morning till nine o'clock at night," proceeded Herbert.
"Them are the hours," said Ebenezer, who knew better how to make money than to speak grammatically.
"It makes a pretty long day," observed Mrs. Carr.
"So it does, ma'am, but it's no longer than I work myself."
"You get paid rather better, I presume."
"Of course, ma'am, as I am the proprietor."
"I couldn't think of working for any such sum," said Herbert, decidedly.
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