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- Try and Trust - 10/42 -
"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."
At this moment Abner Holden's voice was heard at the bottom of the stairs, and Mrs. Bickford hurried down, followed by our hero.
"I thought you were going to stay up there all day," said Mr. Holden. "What were you about up there?"
"That is my business," said Mrs. Bickford, shortly.
The housekeeper was independent in her feelings, and, knowing that she could readily obtain another situation, did not choose to be browbeaten by Mr. Holden. He was quite aware of her value, and the difficulty he would experience in supplying her place, and he put some constraint over himself in the effort not to be rude to her. With Herbert, however, it was different. HE was BOUND to him, and therefore in his power. Abner Holden exulted in this knowledge, and with the instinct of a petty tyrant determined to let Herbert realize his dependence.
"You may go out and saw some wood," he said. "You'll find the saw in the woodshed."
"What wood shall I saw?"
"The wood in the woodpile, stupid."
"Very well, sir," said our hero, quietly.
Herbert thought Mr. Holden was losing no time in setting him to work. However, he had resolved to do his duty, unpleasant as it might be, as long as Abner Holden only exacted what was reasonable, and Herbert was aware that he had a right to require him to go to work at once. Mrs. Bickford, however, said a word in his favor.
"I've got wood enough to last till to-morrow, Mr. Holden," she said.
"Well, what of it?"
"It's likely the boy is tired."
"What's he done to make him tired, I should like to know? Ridden thirty miles, and eaten a good dinner!"
"Which I paid for myself," said Herbert.
"What if you did?" said Abner Holden, turning to him. "I suppose you'll eat supper at my expense, and you'd better do something, first, to earn it."
"That I am willing to do."
"Then go out to the woodpile without any more palavering."
"Mr. Holden," said the housekeeper, seriously, after Herbert had gone out, "if you want to keep that boy, I think you had better be careful how you treat him."
"Why do you say that?" demanded Abner, eying her sharply. "Has he been saying anything to you about me?"
"Then why did you say that?"
"Because I can see what kind of a boy he is."
"Well, what kind of a boy is he?" asked Abner, with a sneer.
"He is high-spirited, and will work faithfully if he's treated well, but he won't allow himself to be imposed upon."
"How do you know that?"
"I can read it in his face. I have had some experience with boys, and you may depend upon it that I am not mistaken."
"He had better do his duty," blustered Abner, "if he knows what's best for himself."
"He will do his duty," said the housekeeper, firmly, "but there is a duty which you owe to him, as well as he to you."
"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
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