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"Here, you Jed!"Jed paused in his work with his axe suspended above him, for he was splitting wood. He turned his face toward the side door at which stood a woman, thin and sharp-visaged, and asked: "Well, what's wanted?""None of your impudence, you young rascal! Come here, I say!"
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CHAPTER I. JED.
CHAPTER II. MR. AND MRS. FOGSON.
CHAPTER III. THE SCRANTON POORHOUSE.
CHAPTER IV. AN EXCITING CONTEST.
CHAPTER V. JED SECURES AN ALLY.
CHAPTER VI. MR. FOGSON MAKES UP HIS MIND.
CHAPTER VII. FOGSON'S MISTAKE.
CHAPTER VIII. MR. FOGSON IS ASTONISHED.
CHAPTER IX. JED LEAVES THE POORHOUSE.
CHAPTER X. JED REACHES DUNCAN.
CHAPTER XI. JED'S FIRST APPEARANCE ON THE STAGE.
CHAPTER XII. PERCY DIXON IS BEWILDERED.
CHAPTER XIII. FOGSON IN PURSUIT.
CHAPTER XIV. JED'S LUCK.
CHAPTER XV. TWO ODD ACQUAINTANCES.
CHAPTER XVI. MISS HOLBROOK, SPINSTER.
CHAPTER XVII. JED MEETS AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.
CHAPTER XVIII. MR. FOGSON RECEIVES A LETTER.
CHAPTER XIX. DISCHARGED.
CHAPTER XX. JED'S POOR PROSPECTS.
CHAPTER XXI. JED ARRIVES IN NEW YORK.
CHAPTER XXII. JED MAKES TWO CALLS.
CHAPTER XXIII. JED'S BAD LUCK.
CHAPTER XXIV. A STARTLING DISCOVERY.
CHAPTER XXV. WITHOUT A PENNY.
CHAPTER XXVI. IN SEARCH OF EMPLOYMENT.
CHAPTER XXVII. AN INTRACTABLE AGENT.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A STRANGE COMMISSION.
CHAPTER XXIX. A SURPRISE PARTY.
CHAPTER XXX. JED ENTERTAINS AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.
CHAPTER XXXI. JED RETURNS GOOD FOR EVIL.
CHAPTER XXXII. AT BAR HARBOR.
CHAPTER XXXIII. THE POORHOUSE RECEIVES TWO VISITORS.
CHAPTER XXXIV. THE DETECTIVE.
CHAPTER XXXV. MRS. AVERY'S STORY.
CHAPTER XXXVI. "WHO WAS JED?"
CHAPTER XXXVII. JANE GILMAN.
CHAPTER XXXVIII. THE DETECTIVE SECURES AN ALLY.
CHAPTER XXXIX. JED LEARNS WHO HE IS.
CHAPTER XL. GUY FENWICK'S DEFEAT.
CHAPTER XLI. CONCLUSION.
"Here, you Jed!"
Jed paused in his work with his axe suspended above him, for he was splitting wood. He turned his face toward the side door at which stood a woman, thin and sharp-visaged, and asked: "Well, what's wanted?"
"None of your impudence, you young rascal! Come here, I say!"
Jed laid down the axe and walked slowly to the back door. He was a strongly-made and well-knit boy of nearly sixteen, but he was poorly dressed in an old tennis shirt and a pair of overalls. Yet his face was attractive, and an observer skilled in physiognomy wouldhave read in it signs of a strong character, a warm and grateful disposition, and a resolute will.
"I have not been impudent, Mrs. Fogson," he said quietly.
"Don't you dare to contradict me!" snapped the woman, stamping her foot.
"What's wanted?" asked Jed again.
"Go down to the gate and hold it open. Squire Dixon will be here in five minutes, and we must treat him with respect, for he is Overseer of the Poor."
Jed smiled to himself (it was well he did not betray his amusement), for he knew that Mrs. Fogson and her husband, though tyrannical to the inmates of the poorhouse, of which they had been placed in charge by Squire Dixon three months before, were almost servile in the presence of the Overseer of the Poor, with whom it was their object to stand well.
"All right, ma'am!" he said bluntly, and started for the gate. He did not appear to move fast enough for the amiable Mrs. Fogson, for she called out in a sharp voice:"Why do you walk like a snail? Hurry up, Itell you. I see Squire Dixon coming up the road."
"I shall get to the gate before he does," announced Jed, independently, not increasing his pace a particle.
"I hate that boy!" soliloquized Mrs. Fogson, looking after him with a frown. "He is the most independent young rascal I ever came across—he actually disobeys and defies me. I must get Fogson to give him a horse-whipping some of these fine days; and when he does, I'm going to be there and see it done!" she continued, her black eyes twinkling viciously. "Every blow he received would do me good. I'd gloat over it! I'd flog him myself if I was strong enough."
The amiable character of Mrs. Fogson may be inferred from this gentle soliloquy. When Fogson married her he caught a Tartar, as he found to his cost. But he was not so much to be pitied, for his own disposition was not unlike that of his wife, but he lacked her courage and intense malignity, and was a craven at heart.
As Jed walked to the gate his face became grave and almost melancholy.
"I can't stand this kind of life long!" he said to himself. "Mrs. Fogson is about the ugliest-tempered woman I ever knew, and her husband isn't much better. What a contrast to Mr. Avery and his good wife! When they kept the poorhouse we were all happy and contented. They had a kind word for all. But when Squire Dixon became overseer he put in the Fogsons, and since then we haven't heard a kind word or had a happy day."
Just then Squire Dixon's top buggy neared the gate. He was a pompous-looking man with a bald head and red face, the color, as was well known, being imparted by too frequent potations of brandy. With him was his only son and heir, Percy Dixon, a boy who "put on airs," and was, in consequence, heartily detested by his schoolmates and companions. He had small, mean features and a pair of gray eyes, while his nose had an upward tendency, as if he were turning it up at the world in general.
Jed held the gate open in silence and the top buggy passed through.
Then he slowly closed the gate and walked up to the house.
There stood Mrs. Fogson, her thin lips wreathed in smiles, as she ducked her head obsequiously to the town magnate.
"How do you do, Squire Dixon?" she said. "It does me good to see you. But I needn't ask for your health, you look so fine and noble this morning."
Squire Dixon was far from being inaccessible to flattery.
"I am very well, I thank you, my good friend, Mrs. Fogson," he said in a stately tone, with a gracious smile upon his florid countenance. "And how are you yourself?"
"As well as I can be, squire, thanking you for asking, but them paupers is trials, as I daily discover."
"Nothing new in the way of trouble, I hope, Mrs. Fogson?"
"Well, no; but walk in and I'll send for my husband. He would never forgive me if I didn't send for him when you were here.Master Percy, forgive me for not speaking to you before. I hear such good accounts of you from everybody. Your father is indeed fortunate to have such a son."
Percy raised his eyebrows a little. Even he was aware of his unpopularity, and he wondered who had been speaking so well of him.
"I'm all right!" he answered curtly.
Squire Dixon, too, though he overestimated Percy, who was popularly regarded as a chip of the old block, was at a loss to know why he should be proud of him. Still it was pleasing to have one so near to him complimented.
"You are kind to speak of Percy in that way," he said.
"He's so like you, the dear boy!" murmured Mrs. Fogson.
This might be a compliment, but as Percy stood low in his studies and frequently quarreled with his school companions, Squire Dixon hardly knew whether to feel flattered.
Percy looked rather disgusted to be called a "dear boy" by a woman whom he regarded as so much his social inferior as Mrs. Fogson,but it was difficult to resent so complimentary a speech, and he remained silent. He looked scornfully about the plainly-furnished room, and reflected that it would be pleasanter out of doors.
"I guess I'll go out in the yard," he said abruptly.
"Would you be kind enough in that case, Master Percy, to tell the boy Jed to go and call my husband from the three-acre lot? He is at work there."
"Yes, Mrs. Fogson, I'll tell him."
Percy left the room and walked up to where Jed was splitting wood.
"Go and call Mr. Fogson from the three-acre lot!" he said peremptorily.
Jed paused in his work.
"Who says so?" he inquired.
"I say so!"
"Then I shan't go. You are not my boss."
"You are an impudent boy."
"Why am I?"
"You have no business to talk back to me. You'd better go after Mr. Fogson, if you know what's best for yourself."
"Did Mrs. Fogson send the message by you?"
"Then I will go. Why didn't you tell me that before?"
"Because it was enough that I told you. My father's the Overseer of the Poor."
"I am aware of that."
"And he put the Fogsons where they are."
"Then I wish he hadn't. We had a good time when Mr. Avery was here. Now all is changed."
"So you don't like Mr. and Mrs. Fogson?" asked Percy curiously.
"No, I don't. But I must be going to the lot to call Mr. Fogson."
"I'll go with you. I don't want to be left alone."
Jed ought doubtless to have felt complimented at this offer of company from his high-toned visitor, but he did not appear to be overwhelmed by it.
"You can go along if you like," he said.
"Of course I can. I don't need to ask permission of you."
"Certainly not. No offense was meant."
"It is well for you that there isn't. So you liked Mr. and Mrs. Avery better than the Fogsons?"
"Yes," answered Jed guardedly, for he understood now that Percy wanted to "pump" him.
"Because they treated me better."
"My father thinks well of the Fogsons. He says that old Avery pampered the paupers and almost spoiled them."
"I won't argue the question. I only know that we all liked Mr. and Mrs. Avery. Now it's scold, scold, scold all day and every day, and we don't live nearly as well as we did."
"Paupers mustn't expect to live as well as at a first-class hotel!" said Percy sarcastically.
"They certainly don't live like that here."
"And they won't while my father is overseer. He says he's going to put a stop to their being pampered at the town's expense. You live well enough now."
"If you think we live so well, I wish you would come and board here for a week."
"Me—board at a poorhouse!" ejaculated Percy in intense disgust. "You are very kind, but I shouldn't like it."
"I don't think you would."
"All the same, you ought to be grateful for such a good home."
"It may be a good home, but I shan't stay here long."
"You shan't stay here long?" exclaimed Percy in amazement. "Do you mean to tell me you are going to run away?"
"I haven't formed any plans yet."
"I'll tell my father, and he'll put a spoke in your wheel. What do you expect to do if you leave? You haven't got any money?"
"Then don't make a fool of yourself."
Jed did not reply, for they had reached the fence that bounded the three-acre lot, and Mr. Fogson had discovered their approach.
Mr. Fogson was about as unpleasant-looking as his wife, but was not so thin. He had stiff red hair with a tendency to stand up straight, a blotched complexion, and red eyes, corresponding very well with the color of his hair. He was quite as cross as his wife, but she was more venomous and malicious. Like her he was disposed to fawn upon Squire Dixon, the Overseer of the Poor, with whom he knew it was necessary to stand well.
Had Jed come alone he might have met with a disagreeable reception; but Mr. Fogson's quick eye recognized in his companion the son of the poorhouse autocrat, Squire Dixon, and he summoned up an ingratiating smile on his rugged features.
"How are you, Master Percy?" he said smoothly. "Did your pa come with you?"
"Yes, he's over to the house. Mrs. Fogson wants you to go right home, as he may want to see you."
"All right! It will give me pleasure. It always does me good to see your pa."
Percy looked at him critically, and thought that Mr. Fogson was about as homely a man as he had ever seen. It was fortunate that the keeper of the poorhouse could not read his thoughts, for, like most ugly men, Mr. Fogson thought himself on the whole rather prepossessing.
Fogson took his place beside Percy, and curtly desired Jed to walk behind.
Jed smiled to himself, for he understood that Mr. Fogson considered him not entitled to a place in such superior company.
Mr. Fogson addressed several questions to Percy, which the latter answered languidly, as if he considered it rather a bore to be entertained by a man in Fogson's position. Indeed he almost snubbed him, and Jed was pleased to find the man who made so many unpleasant speeches to others treated in the same manner himself. As a general thing, aman who bullies others has to take his turn in being bullied himself.
Meanwhile Mrs. Fogson was chatting with Squire Dixon.
"Nobody can tell what I have to put up with from them paupers," she said. "You'd actilly think they paid their board by the way they talk. The fact is, the Averys pampered and indulged them altogether too much."
"That is so, Mrs. Fogson," said the squire pompously, "and that, I may remark, was the reason I dismissed them from their responsible position. Do they—ahem!—complain of anything in particular?"
"Why, they want butter every day!" exclaimed Mrs. Fogson. "Think of it! Butter every day for paupers!"
"As you justly observe, this is very unreasonable. And how often do you give them butter?"
"Once a week—on Sundays."
"Very judicious. It impresses them with the difference between Sunday and other days. It shows your religious training, Mrs. Fogson."
"I always aim to be religious, Squire Dixon," said Mrs. Fogson meekly.
"Well, and what else?"
"Likewise the old people expect tea every day. They say Mrs. Avery gave it to them."
"I dare say she did. It's an imposition on the town to spend their—ahem!—hard-earned money on such luxuries."
"That's the way I look at it, Squire Dixon."
"How often do you give them meat?"
"Every other day. I get the cheapest cuts from the butcher—what he has left over. But they ain't satisfied. They want it every day."
"Shocking!" exclaimed the squire, arching his brows.
"So I say. Of course I get a good many sour looks, and more complaints, but I tell 'em that if they ain't suited with their boarding-house they can go somewhere else."
"Very good! Very good indeed; ha, ha! I presume none of them have left the poorhouse in consequence?"
"No, but one has threatened to do so."
"Who is that?" asked Squire Dixon quickly.
"The boy Jed."
"Oh, yes, he was the one who opened the gate for me. Now, what sort of a boy is he, Mrs. Fogson?"
"He's an impudent young jackanapes," answered Mrs. Fogson spitefully, "begging your pardon for using such an inelegant expression."
"It is forcible, however, Mrs. Fogson. It is forcible, and I think you are quite justified in using it. So he is impudent?"
"Yes; you'd think, by the airs he puts on, that he owned the poorhouse, instead of being a miserable pauper. Why, I venture to say he considers himself the equal of your son, Master Percy."
"No, no, Mrs. Fogson, that is a little too strong. He couldn't be so absurd as that."
"I am not so sure of that, Squire Dixon. There is no end to that boy's impudence and—and uppishness. Why, he said the other day that the meat wasn't fit for the hogs."
"And was it, Mrs. Fogson?" asked the squire in an absent-minded way.
"To be sure, squire, though I must admit that it was a trifle touched, being warm weather; but paupers can't expect first-class hotel fare—can they, now, squire?"
"To be sure not."
"Then, again, Jed is always praising up Mr. and Mrs. Avery, which, as you can imagine, isn't very pleasant for Mr. Fogson and me. I expect he was Mr. Avery's pet, from all I hear."
"Very likely he was. He was brought to the poorhouse when a mere baby, and they took care of him from his infancy. I've heard Mrs. Avery say she looked upon him as if he were her own child."
"And that is why she pampered him—at the town's expense."
"As you truly observe, at the town's expense. I am sure you and Mr. Fogson will feel it your duty to make the poorhouse as inexpensive as possible to the town, bearing in mind the great responsibility that has devolved upon you."
"Of course, squire, me and Fogson bear that in mind, but we ain't paid any too well for our hard labor."
"That reminds me, Mrs. Fogson, another month has rolled by, and——"
"I understand, squire," said Mrs. Fogson. "I have got it all ready," and she drew a sealed envelope out of her pocket and passed it to the squire, who pocketed it with a deprecatory cough. His face brightened up, for he knew what the envelope contained.
"You can depend on me to use my official influence in your favor, Mrs. Fogson," he said cheerfully. "As long as you show a proper appreciation of my service in giving you the place, I will stand by you."
Squire Dixon was a rich man. He was paid by the town for his services as overseer, yet he was not above accepting five dollars a month from the man he had installed in office. He had never distinctly asked for it, but he had hinted in a manner not to be mistaken that it would be politic for Mr. Fogson to allow him a percentage on their salary and profits. They got the money back, and more,for in auditing their accounts he did not scrutinize too closely the prices they claimed to have paid for supplies. It was an arrangement mutually advantageous, which had never occurred to Mr. and Mrs. Avery, who in their scrupulous honesty were altogether behind the times, according to the squire's thinking.
"And how many paupers have you in the house at present, Mrs. Fogson?" asked the overseer.
"Nineteen, squire. Would you like to look at them?"
"Well, perhaps in my official capacity it would be as well."
"Come in here, then," and Mrs. Fogson led the way into a large room where sat the paupers, a forlorn, unhappy-looking company. Two of the old ladies were knitting; one young woman, who had lost her child, and with it her mind, was fondling a rag baby; two were braiding a rag carpet, and others were sitting with vacant faces, looking as if life had no attraction for them.
"Will you address them, squire?" asked Mrs. Fogson.
"Ahem!" said the squire, straightening up and looking around him with the air of a benignant father. "I will say a few words."
"Attention all!" exclaimed Mrs. Fogson in a sharp voice. "Squire Dixon has consented to make a few remarks. I hope you will appreciate your privilege in hearing him."
"Ahem!" began Squire Dixon, clearing his throat; "the announcement of my friend Mrs. Fogson furnishes me with a text. I hope you all appreciate your privileges in sharing this comfortable home at the expense of the town. Here all your material wants are cared for, and though you are without means, you need have no anxiety. A well-filled board is spread for you three times a day, and you enjoy the maternal care of Mrs. Fogson."
Here there was a shrill laugh from one of the old women.
Squire Dixon frowned, and Mrs. Fogson looked anything but maternal as she scowled at the offending "boarder."
"I am surprised at this unseemly interruption," said Squire Dixon severely. "I amconstrained to believe that there is at least one person present who does not appreciate the privileges of this happy home. You are probably all aware that I am the Overseer of the Poor, and that it was through my agency that the services of Mr. and Mrs. Fogson were obtained."
Here it would have been in order for someone to propose "Three cheers for Mr. and Mrs. Fogson," but instead all looked gloomy and depressed.
"I don't know that I have any more to say," concluded Squire Dixon after a pause. "I will only exhort you to do your duty in the position in which Providence has placed you, and to give as little trouble as possible to your good friends Mr. and Mrs. Fogson."
Here there was another cackling laugh, which caused Mrs. Fogson to look angry.
"I'm on to you, Sally Stokes," she said sharply. "You'll have to go without your supper to-night."
The poor, half-witted creature immediately burst into tears, and rocked to and fro in a dismal manner.
"You have done perfectly right in rebuking such unseemly behavior, Mrs. Fogson," said Squire Dixon.
"I didn't mind the insult to myself, squire," returned Mrs. Fogson meekly. "It made me angry to have you insulted while you were making your interesting remarks. The paupers are very ill-behaved; I give you my word that I slave for them from morning till night, and you see how I am repaid."
"Mrs. Fogson, virtue is its own reward," observed the squire solemnly.
"It has to be in my case," said Mrs. Fogson; "but it comforts me to think that you at least appreciate my efforts."
"I do; I do, indeed! You can always rely upon me to—to—in a word, to back you up."
Here a diversion was made by the appearance of Mr. Fogson and the two boys.
"Oh, Simeon!" exclaimed Mrs. Fogson impulsively. "You don't know what you have lost."
Mr. Fogson mechanically glanced at his vest to see whether his watch-chain and the watch appended were gone.
"What have I lost?" he demanded.
"Squire Dixon's interesting speech to the paupers. It was truly eloquent."
"My dear Mrs. Fogson," said the squire, looking modest, "you quite overrate my simple words."
"They were simple, but they were to the point," said the lady of the poorhouse, "and I hope—I do hope that the paupers will lay them to heart."
There was an amused smile on the face of Jed, who was sharp enough to see through the shallow humbug which was being enacted before him. He understood very well the interested motives of Mrs. Fogson, and why she saw fit to flatter the town official from whom she and her husband had received their appointment.
"I wish you had heard the squire, too, Jed!" said Mrs. Fogson, detecting the smile on the boy's face.
"Perhaps, ma'am, you can tell me what he said," returned Jed demurely.
Mrs. Fogson was a little taken aback, but she accepted the invitation.
"He said you ought to consider yourself very lucky to have such a comfortable home."
"I do," said Jed with a comical look.
"I am glad to hear it," said Mrs. Fogson, suspiciously, "though it hasn't always looked that way, I am bound to say."
"Are you going to stay much longer, father?" asked Percy, who was getting tired.
"Perhaps we had better go," said Squire Dixon. "We have staid quite a while."
"When do you have dinner?" asked Percy, turning to Jed.
"In about an hour. I have no doubt Mrs. Fogson will invite you, if you would like to stay."
"Me—eat with paupers?" retorted Percy with fine scorn.
"I don't think you would like it," said Jed. "I don't."
"Why, you are a pauper yourself."
"I don't think so. I earn my living, such as it is. I work from morning till night."
"What do they give you for dinner?" asked Percy, moved by curiosity.
"Mrs. Fogson puts a bone in the boiler andmakes bone soup," answered Jed gravely. "You can't tell how good it is till you try it."
"Is there anything else?"
"A few soggy potatoes, and some stale bread without butter."
"Don't you have tea?"
"Once on Sundays. It don't do to pamper us, you know."
"Do you have puddings or pies?"
"No; the town can't afford it," returned Jed without a smile. "What do you think of our bill of fare?"
"Pretty mean, I think. Do Mr. and Mrs. Fogson eat with you?"
"No; they eat later, in the small room adjoining."
"Do they have the same dinner as you?"
"Sometimes they have roast chicken, and the other day when I went into the room there was a plum pudding on the table."
"Just what I thought. The old man and old woman aren't going to get left."
"I don't know about that."
"What do you mean?"
"I'll explain another time," said Jed, nodding. "I wish I was Overseer of the Poor."
"What would you do?"
"I'd turn out the Fogsons and put back Mr. and Mrs. Avery."
"Father says they spoiled the paupers."
"At any rate they didn't starve them."
"Old Fogson is saving money to the town—so father says."
"Wait till the end of the year. You'll find the town will have just as much to pay. What they save off the food they will put into their own pockets."
"What are you talking about?" asked Mrs. Fogson suspiciously.
Jed did not have to reply, for Percy took offense at what he rightly judged to be a piece of impertinence.
"Mrs. Fogson," he said, "what we are talking about is no concern of yours."
A bright red spot showed itself in either cheek of Mrs. Fogson, and she would have annihilated the speaker if she could; but she was politic, and remembered that Percy was the son of the overseer.
"I didn't mean any offense, Master Percy," she said. "It was simply a playful remark on my part."
"I'm glad to hear it," responded Percy. "You didn't look very playful."
Squire Dixon was conversing with Mr. Fogson, and didn't hear this little conversation.
"I am just digging my potatoes," said Fogson deferentially. "I have some excellent Jackson whites. I will send you round a bushel to try."
"You are very kind, Mr. Fogson," said the squire, smiling urbanely. "I shall appreciate them, you may be sure. Mr. Avery never would have made me such an offer. It is clear to me that you are the right man in the right place."
"I am proud to hear you say so, Squire Dixon. With such an Overseer of the Poor as you are, I am sure the interests of the town will be safe."
"Thank you! Good-by."
"Come again soon, squire," said Mrs. Fogson with a frosty smile. She did not extend asimilar invitation to Percy, who had wounded her pride by his unceremonious words.
"They are very worthy people, Percy," said the squire as they rode away.
"Do you think so, father? I don't admire your taste."
"My son, I am surprised at you," but in his secret heart the squire agreed with Percy.
Soon after Squire Dixon and Percy left the poorhouse dinner was served. It answered very well the description given by Jed. Though the boy was hungry, he found it almost impossible to eat his portion, scanty though it was.
"Turning up your nose at your dinner as usual!" said Mrs. Fogson sharply. "If you don't like it you can get another boarding-house."
"I think I shall," answered Jed.
"What do you mean by that?" demanded Mrs. Fogson quickly.
"If the board doesn't improve I shall dry up and blow away," returned Jed.
Mrs. Fogson sniffed and let the matter drop.
Towards the close of the afternoon, as Jed was splitting wood in the yard, his attention was drawn to a runaway horse which was speeding down the road at breakneck speed, while a lady's terrified face was visible looking vainly around in search of help.
Jed dropped his axe, ran to the bend of the road, and dashed out, waving a branch which he picked up by the roadside. The horse slowed down, and Jed, seizing the opportunity, ran to his head, seized him by the bridle, and brought him to a permanent stop.
"How brave you are!" said the lady. "Will you jump into the buggy and drive me to my home? I don't dare to trust myself alone with the horse again."
Jed did as desired, and at the end of the ride Mrs. Redmond (she was the wife of Dr. Redmond) gave him a dollar, accompanying it with hearty thanks.
"I suppose Fogson will try to get this dollar away from me," thought Jed, "but he won't succeed."
Jed was not mistaken.
When he returned to the poorhouse supper was ready, and Mr. and Mrs. Fogson were waiting for him with sour and angry faces.
"Where have you been?" demanded Fogson.
"Absent on business," announced Jed coolly.
"Don't you know that your business is to stay here and work?"
"I have been working all day."
"No, you haven't. You have been to the village."
"I had a good reason for going."
"Why didn't you ask permission of me or Mrs. Fogson?"
"Because there wasn't time."
"You are two minutes late for supper. I'vea good mind to let you go without," said Mrs. Fogson.
"It wouldn't be much of a loss," answered Jed, not looking much alarmed.
"You are getting more and more impudent every day. Why do you say there wasn't time to ask permission to leave your work?"
"Because the runaway horse wouldn't stop while I was asking."
"What runaway horse?" demanded Fogson with sudden interest.
"While I was splitting wood I saw Dr. Redmond's wife being run away with. She looked awfully frightened. I ran out to the bend and stopped the horse. Then she wanted me to drive her home, for she was afraid he would run off again."
"Is that so? Well, of course that makes a difference. Did she give you anything?"
"Now it's coming," thought Jed.
"Yes," he answered.
"How much?" asked Mr. Fogson with a greedy look.
"Quite handsome, on my word. Well, hand it over."
"What?" ejaculated Jed.
"Give me the dollar!" said Fogson in a peremptory tone.
"The dollar is mine."
"You are a pauper. You can't hold any property. It's against the law."
"Is it? Who told you so?"
"No matter who told me so. I hope I understand the law."
"I hope I understand my rights."
"Boy, this is trifling. You'd better not make me any trouble, or you will find yourself in a bad box."
"What do you want to do with the dollar?"
"None of your business! I shall keep it."
"I have no doubt you will if you get it, but it is mine," said Jed firmly.
"Mrs. Fogson," said her husband solemnly, "did you ever hear of such perverseness?"
"No. The boy is about the worst I ever see."
"Mr. Fogson," said Jed, "when Mr. Avery was here I had money given me several times,though never as much as this. He never thought of asking me for it, but always allowed me to spend it for myself."
"Mr. Avery and I are two different persons," remarked Mr. Fogson with asperity.
"You are right, there," said Jed, in hearty concurrence with the speaker.
"And he was very unwise to let you keep the money. If it was five cents, now, I wouldn't mind," continued Mr. Fogson with noteworthy liberality. "But a dollar! You couldn't be trusted to spend a sum like that properly at your age."
"I am almost sixteen," said Jed significantly.
"No matter if you are. You are still a mere boy. But I don't propose to waste any more words. Hand over that money!"
Jed felt that the critical moment had come. He must submit to a flagrant piece of injustice or resist.
He determined to resist.
He met Fogson's glance firmly and resolutely, and uttered but two words: "I won't!"
"Did you ever hear such impudence, Mrs.Fogson?" asked her husband, his face becoming red and mottled in his excitement.
"No, Simeon, I didn't!" ejaculated Mrs. Fogson.
"What shall I do?"
"Thrash him. It's the only way to cure him of his cantankerous conduct."
Jed was of good height for his age, and unusually thickset and strong. Though poorhouse fare was hardly calculated to give him strength, he had an intimate friend and school companion on a farm nearby whose mother often gave him a substantial meal, so that he alone of the inmates of the poorhouse could afford to be comparatively indifferent to the mean table kept by the managers.
Jed was five feet six, and Simeon Fogson but two inches taller. Fogson, however, was not a well man. He was a dyspeptic, and frequently indulged in alcoholic drinks, which, as my young readers doubtless know, have a direct tendency to impair physical vigor.
"Get me the whip, Gloriana," said Mr. Fogson fiercely, addressing his wife by her rather uncommon first name. "I will seewhether this young upstart is to rule you and me and the whole establishment."
"I don't care about ruling anybody except myself," said Jed.
"You can't rule yourself. I am put in authority over you."
"Who put you in authority over me?" asked Jed defiantly.
"And did the town give you leave to rob me? Answer me that!"
"Did you ever hear the like?" exclaimed Mrs. Fogson, raising her arms in almost incredulous surprise.
By this time Mr. Fogson had the whip in his hand, and with an air of enjoyment drew the lash through his fingers.
"Take off your coat!" he said.
"I would rather keep it on," replied Jed undauntedly.
"It won't do you any good. I shall strike hard enough for you to feel it even if you had two coats on."
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