The Cash Boy/Chapter IV
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Chapter IV: The Town Autocrat
|Chapter V: A Little Misunderstanding→|
"The Widder Fowler is dead," remarked Deacon Pinkerton, at the supper table. "She died this afternoon."
"I suppose she won't leave anything," said Mrs. Pinkerton.
"No. I hold a mortgage on her furniture, and that is all she has."
"What will become of the children?"
"As I observed, day before yesterday, they will be constrained to find a refuge in the poorhouse."
"What do you think Sam Pomeroy told me, father?"
"I am not able to conjecture what Samuel would be likely to observe, my son."
"He observed that Frank Fowler said he wouldn't go to the poorhouse."
"Ahem!" coughed the deacon. "The boy will not be consulted."
"That's what I say, father," said Tom, who desired to obtain his father's co-operation. "You'll make him go to the poorhouse, won't you?"
"I shall undoubtedly exercise my authority, if it should be necessary, my son."
"He told Sam Pomeroy that all the Deacon Pinkertons in the world couldn't make him go to the poorhouse."
"I will constrain him," said the deacon.
"I would if I were you, father," said Tom, elated at the effect of his words. "Just teach him a lesson."
"Really, deacon, you mustn't be too hard upon the poor boy," said his better-hearted wife. "He's got trouble enough on him."
"I will only constrain him for his good, Jane. In the poorhouse he will be well provided for."
Meanwhile another conversation respecting our hero and his fortunes was held at Sam Pomeroy's home. It was not as handsome as the deacon's, for Mr. Pomeroy was a poor man, but it was a happy one, nevertheless, and Mr. Pomeroy, limited as were his means, was far more liberal than the deacon.
"I pity Frank Fowler," said Sam, who was warm- hearted and sympathetic, and a strong friend of Frank. "I don't know what he will do."
"I suppose his mother left nothing."
"I understood," said Mr. Pomeroy, "that Deacon Pinkerton holds a mortgage on her furniture."
"The deacon wants to send Frank and his sister to the poorhouse."
"That would be a pity."
"I should think so; but Frank positively says he won't go."
"I am afraid there isn't anything else for him. To be sure, he may get a chance to work in a shop or on a farm, but Grace can't support herself."
"Father, I want to ask you a favor."
"What is it, Sam?"
"Won't you invite Frank and his sister to come and stay here a week?"
"Just as your mother says."
"I say yes. The poor children will be quite welcome. If we were rich enough they might stay with us all the time."
"When Frank comes here I will talk over his affairs with him," said Mr. Pomeroy. "Perhaps we can think of some plan for him."
"I wish you could, father."
"In the meantime, you can invite him and Grace to come and stay with us a week, or a fortnight. Shall we say a fortnight, wife?"
"With all my heart."
"All right, father. Thank you."
Sam delivered the invitation in a way that showed how strongly his own feelings were enlisted in favor of its acceptance. Frank grasped his hand.
"Thank you, Sam, you are a true friend," he said.
"I hadn't begun to think of what we were to do, Grace and I."
"You'll come, won't you?"
"You are sure that it won't trouble your mother, Sam?"
"She is anxious to have you come."
"Then I'll come. I haven't formed any plans yet, but I must as soon--as soon as mother is buried. I think I can earn my living somehow. One thing I am determined about--I won't go to the poorhouse."
The funeral was over. Frank and Grace walked back to the little house, now their home no longer. They were to pack up a little bundle of clothes and go over to Mr. Pomeroy's in time for supper.
When Frank had made up his bundle, urged by some impulse, he opened a drawer in his mother's bureau. His mind was full of the story she had told him, and he thought it just possible that he might find something to throw additional light upon his past history. While exploring the contents of the drawer he came to a letter directed to him in his mother's well-known handwriting. He opened it hastily, and with a feeling of solemnity, read as follows:
"My Dear Frank: In the lower drawer, wrapped in a piece of brown paper, you will find two gold eagles, worth twenty dollars. You will need them when I am gone. Use them for Grace and yourself. I saved these for my children. Take them, Frank, for I have nothing else to give you. The furniture will pay the debt I owe Deacon Pinkerton. There ought to be something over, but I think he will take all. I wish I had more to leave you, dear Frank, but the God of the Fatherless will watch over you-- to Him I commit you and Grace. Your affectionate mother, RUTH FOWLER."
Frank, following the instructions of the letter, found the gold pieces and put them carefully into his pocketbook. He did not mention the letter to Grace at present, for he knew not but Deacon Pinkerton might lay claim to the money to satisfy his debt if he knew it.
"I am ready, Frank," said Grace, entering the room. "Shall we go?"
"Yes, Grace. There is no use in stopping here any longer."
As he spoke he heard the outer door open, and a minute later Deacon Pinkerton entered the room.
None of the deacon's pompousness was abated as he entered the house and the room.
"Will you take a seat?" said our hero, with the air of master of the house.
"I intended to," said the deacon, not acknowledging his claim. "So your poor mother is gone?"
"Yes, sir," said Frank, briefly.
"We must all die," said the deacon, feeling that it was incumbent on him to say something religious. "Ahem! your mother died poor? She left no property?"
"It was not her fault."
"Of course not. Did she mention that I had advanced her money on the furniture?"
"My mother told me all about it, sir."
"Ahem! You are in a sad condition. But you will be taken care of. You ought to be thankful that there is a home provided for those who have no means."
"What home do you refer to, Deacon Pinkerton?" asked Frank, looking steadily in the face of his visitor.
"I mean the poorhouse, which the town generously provides for those who cannot support themselves."
This was the first intimation Grace had received of the possibility that they would be sent to such a home, and it frightened her.
"Oh, Frank!" she exclaimed, "must we go to the poorhouse?"
"No, Grace; don't be frightened," said Frank, soothingly. "We will not go."
"Frank Fowler," said the deacon, sternly, "cease to mislead your sister."
"I am not misleading her, sir."
"Did you not tell her that she would not be obliged to go to the poorhouse?"
"Then what do you mean by resisting my authority?"
"You have no authority over us. We are not paupers," and Frank lifted his head proudly, and looked steadily in the face of the deacon.
"You are paupers, whether you admit it or not."
"We are not," said the boy, indignantly.
"Where is your money? Where is your property?"
"Here, sir," said our hero, holding out his hands.
"I have two strong hands, and they will help me make a living for my sister and myself."
"May I ask whether you expect to live here and use my furniture?"
"I do not intend to, sir. I shall ask no favors of you, neither for Grace nor myself. I am going to leave the house. I only came back to get a few clothes. Mr. Pomeroy has invited Grace and me to stay at his house for a few days. I haven't decided what I shall do afterward."
"You will have to go to the poorhouse, then. I have no objection to your making this visit first. It will be a saving to the town."
"Then, sir, we will bid you good-day. Grace, let us go."