Chapter VI. On the Way

By the time they had ridden twenty miles both Herbert and Mr. Holden felt hungry. The fresh air had produced a similar effect upon both. They approached a broad, low building with a swinging sign and a long piazza in front, which it was easy to see was a country tavern.

"Do you feel hungry, boy?" inquired Abner Holden.

"Yes, sir," returned our hero.

"So do I. I think I shall get some dinner here. You can get some, too, if you like."

"Thank you, sir."

"Oh, there's no occasion to thank me," said Mr. Holden, dryly. "I shall pay for my dinner, and if you want any, you can pay for yours."

Herbert looked surprised. As he had entered Mr. Holden's employ, he supposed of course that the latter would feel bound to provide for him, and it certainly seemed mean that he should be compelled to pay for his own dinner. However, he was beginning to suspect that his new employer was essentially a mean man.

"How much will it cost?" asked Herbert, at length.

"Thirty-seven cents," was the reply.

It must be remembered that this was in the day of low prices, when gold was at par, and board could be obtained at first-class city hotels for two dollars and a half a day, and in country villages at that amount by the week.

"Thirty-seven cents!" Herbert hardly liked to break in upon his scanty hoard, but the morning air had sharpened his appetite, and he felt that he must have something to eat. Besides, he remembered one thing which fortunately Mr. Holden did not know, that in addition to the five dollars which Dr. Kent had given him he had the ten dollars sent him by his uncle, and not only that, but a little loose change which he had earned.

"Well, are you going to get out?" asked Abner Holden. "It's nothing to me whether you take dinner or not."

"Yes, I guess I will."

"Very well," said Holden, who had a reason for being pleased with his decision.

Both went into the tavern. There were two or three loungers on a settle, who gazed at them curiously. One of them at once appeared to recognize Abner Holden.

"How dy do, Holden?" he said. "Who've you got with you?"

"A boy I've taken," said Holden, shortly.

"A pretty smart-looking boy. Where'd you pick him up?"

"Over in Waverley. He's got some pretty high notions, but I guess I'll take 'em out of him in time."

"Yes," chuckled the other; "I warrant you will."

While this conversation was going on Herbert had entered the tavern, but he could not avoid hearing what was said, including Mr. Holden's reply. He was not frightened, but inwardly determined that he would do his duty, and then if Mr. Holden saw fit to impose upon him, he would make what resistance he was able.

"I wonder what high notions he means," thought our hero. "If he expects to make a slave of me, he will be mistaken, that's all."

"Sit down there, and I'll go and order dinner," said Mr. Holden, entering.

Just then, however, the landlord came in and greeted Abner Holden, whom he appeared to know.

"I want dinner for two, Mr. Robinson," he said.

"For two! You haven't brought your wife along with you, Holden?" he said, jocosely.

"No, I haven't come across any such lady yet. I've got a boy here who is bound to me. And hark you, landlord," he added, in a lower voice, that Herbert might not hear, "he will pay you for his dinner out of a five- dollar bill which he has with him. YOU NEEDN'T GIVE BACK THE CHANGE TO HIM, BUT TO ME."

"Yes, I understand," said the landlord, winking.

"I prefer to keep the money for him. He has refused to give it up and this will give me a chance to get hold of it without any fuss."

"All right."

"If he kept it himself he'd spend it in some improper way."

"Just so. I'll attend to it."

Now our hero was gifted with pretty sharp ears, and he caught enough of this conversation to understand Mr. Holden's plot, which he straightway determined should not succeed.

"You shan't take me in this time, Mr. Holden," he thought.

He opened his pocketbook to see if he had enough small change to pay for his dinner without intrenching upon his bill. There proved to be a quarter and two half-dimes, amounting, of course, to thirty-five cents. This would not be quite sufficient.

"I must change the bill somewhere," he said to himself.

Looking out of the tavern window, he saw the village store nearly opposite. He took his cap and ran over. There was a clerk leaning with his elbows upon the counter, appearing unoccupied.

It occurred to Herbert that he might want some paper and envelopes. He inquired the price.

"We sell the paper at a penny a sheet, and the envelopes will cost you eight cents a package."

"Then you may give me twelve sheets of paper and a package of envelopes," said Herbert.

The package was done up for him and in payment he tendered the bill.

The clerk gave him back four dollars and eighty cents in change. He put the money in his pocketbook, and the paper and envelopes in his jacket- pocket, and returned to the tavern well pleased with his success. Mr. Holden was in the barroom, taking a glass of "bitters," and had not noticed the absence of our hero.

Dinner was soon ready.

There was some beefsteak and coffee and a whole apple pie. Herbert surveyed the viands with satisfaction, having a decidedly good appetite. He soon found, however, that hungry as he was, he stood a poor chance with Abner Holden; that gentleman, being a very rapid eater, managed to appropriate two-thirds of the beefsteak and three-quarters of the pie. However, the supply being abundant, Herbert succeeded in making a satisfactory repast, and did not grudge the amount which he knew he should have to pay for it before leaving.

"Now," said Abner Holden, his eyes twinkling at the thought of our hero's coming discomfiture, "we'll go and settle our bill."

"Very well," said Herbert, quietly.

They entered the public room and advanced to the bar.

"This boy wants to pay for his dinner, Mr. Robinson," said Abner, significantly.

"How much will it be?" asked Herbert.

"Thirty-seven cents."

Herbert took out of his vest pocket a quarter, a dime and two cents, and handed them over.

To say that Abner Holden looked amazed is not sufficient. He looked disgusted and wronged, and glared at Herbert as if to inquire how he could have the face to outrage his feelings in that way.

"Ho! ho!" laughed the landlord, who, having no interest in the matter, was amused at the course affairs had taken.

Herbert suppressed his desire to laugh, and looked as if he had no knowledge of Mr. Holden's plans.

"Where did you get that money?" growled Abner, with a scowl.

"Out of my vest pocket," said Herbert, innocently.

"I know that, of course, but I thought you had only a bill."

"Oh, I got that changed at the store."

"How dared you go over there without my permission?" roared Abner.

"I didn't think it necessary to ask your permission to go across the street."

"Well, you know it now. Don't you go there again without my knowledge."

"Very well, sir."

"Did you buy anything at the store?" continued Mr. Holden.

"Yes, sir."

"What was it?"

"Some paper and envelopes."

"Humph!" muttered Abner, discontentedly.

He proceeded to pay his own bill and in a few minutes got into the wagon and drove off rather sulkily. Herbert saw that Mr. Holden was disturbed by the failure of his little plan, and felt amused rather than otherwise. But when he reflected that he was going to live with this man, and be, to a considerable extent under his control, he felt inclined to be sad. One thing he resolved that he would not submit to tyranny. The world was wide, and he felt able to earn his own living. He would give Mr. Holden a trial, and if he treated him with reasonable fairness he would remain with him. But he was not going to be any man's slave.

Meanwhile they were getting over the road, and a few more hours brought them to their journey's end.

Abner Holden's house stood in considerable need of paint. It had no great pretensions to architectural beauty, being about as handsome for a house as Abner Holden was for a man. There was a dilapidated barn, a little to one side, and the yard was littered up with a broken wagon, a woodpile and various odds and ends, giving the whole a very untidy look.

"Is this where you live, Mr. Holden?" asked Herbert, looking about him.

"Yes, and I'm glad to get home. Do you know how to unharness a horse?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then jump out and unharness this horse. A man will come for it to- morrow."

Herbert did as directed. Then he took his little trunk from the wagon, and went with it to the back door and knocked.