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The squire was in very good spirits. All the way back from the post office he had been congratulating himself on the elegant bargain he was about to make. The widow and her son had been obliged to yield. Squire Leech thought more of Herbert than of his mother, for he was convinced that but for him he could have talked over Mrs. Carter six months before.
"Serves the boy right," he said to himself. "It was preposterous in him to oppose my wishes. He might have known I would advise what was best."
The squire meant what was best for him. He had not given much thought what would be best for Mrs. Carter.
"Some men would take advantage of their situation and reduce their offer" thought the squire, virtuously, "but I won't be hard on them. They shall have the three hundred and fifty dollars."
"Well," said he cheerfully, as Herbert opened the door, "I believe I have given you the time I agreed upon."
"Yes, sir," said Herbert. "Please walk in."
The squire expected to find him sober and depressed, but in spite of himself Herbert could not help looking in good spirits. This puzzled the squire a little, but he said to himself: "Probably they have decided that my offer wasn't so bad a one, after all."
"Well," said the village magnate, "well, Mrs. Carter, now that you have had time to think over my proposal, you have probably seen its advantages."
"I should not be willing to give up the house, sir. My husband built it, andó"
The squire's brow darkened. What a perverse, obstinate woman she was!
"That ain't the question," he exclaimed, pounding his cane on the floor. "There are many things we don't want to do that we've got to do. You stand in your own light, ma'am. I have my rights."
"We don't deny that, sir," said Herbert, who enjoyed the squire's excitement, knowing how it must end.
"I am glad to hear it," said the squire; "but it appears to me you think you and your mother are the only persons to be considered in this matter."
"I think my mother is entitled to some consideration."
"Haven't I considered her? Haven't I offered her a most liberal price for the place?"
"We don't call it liberal."
"Then you are unreasonable. Many men in my position would offer less. Indeed, I don't think I ought to offer more than three hundred dollars."
"We would thank you, Squire Leech, if we could see any favor in offering three or four hundred dollars less than the house is worth."
"We have had enough of this nonsense," said the squire, angrily. "It is not too late to withdraw my offer."
"You had better withdraw it," said Herbert, composedly, "for mother and I have decided to refuse it."
"Refuse it!" gasped the squire. "What do you mean by such outrageous impudence?"
"I don't see how it can be considered impudence. We are not obliged to accept every offer made us."
"You are obliged to accept this," cried Squire Leech, stamping his cane upon the floor again. "You know there is no help for it."
"How do you make that out, sir?" inquired our hero.
"You can't pay the interest."
"I beg your pardon, sir; we are ready to pay."
"I mean the whole of the interest."
"So do I."
"It must be paid at once."
"It shall be paid at once, Squire Leech. Please make out a receipt."
Squire Leech was never more astonished in his life. He was not convinced till Herbert produced what he could distinguish as two ten- dollar bills and one five.
"There will be two dollars and a half change," said Herbert in a business-like manner.
"What did you mean by telling me you could not pay the interest when I was here at twelve o'clock?"
"We could not, then, or thought we could not."
"Then how can you pay me now?"
"We received some money in a letter this morning. The letter had not been opened when you were here, so we didn't know we could meet your claims."
Squire Leech was very angry. He felt that he had been defeated, and that triumph had slipped over to the other side. But he resolved to make one more attempt.
"I have the right to refuse this money," he said. "It comes too late.
It should have been paid at twelve."
"I beg your pardon. Squire Leech; you yourself gave us time to consult what to do." "Because," said the squire, unguardedly, "I thought you could not pay the interest."
Herbert could not help smiling.
"We have nothing to do with what you thought."
The squire frowned and bit his lips with vexation. He tried to think of some way of getting over the difficulty but none presented itself. As he dashed off the signature and took the money, he said, angrily: "The time will come when I will have this place. Your convenient letters won't always come just in the nick of time." "I hope to be prepared for you next time, without having to depend on that."
Still, the squire lingered. The fact was, that, though very angry, he was anxious to know from whom Mrs. Carter had received this opportune help.
"Who sent you this letter?" he asked.
"I don't think we need to tell you that," said Herbert.
"I have no objection to tell," said Mrs. Carter. "It was my aunt,
Nancy Carter, of Randolph, who so kindly remembered us."
"I wish she'd kept back her letter a day or two," thought the squire.
"Is she rich?" he asked, abruptly.
"No; she has a very modest income left by her brother; but her wants are few, and she thought we might need help. She has a good heart."
"Well, ma'am, as my business is over, I will leave you," said the squire, sulkily. "As for that boy of yours," pointing his finger at Herbert, "I advise you to teach him better manners. He won't gain anything by his impertinence. If he had acted differently I would have given him employment, or got my superintendent to do so."
"I should have been unable to accept it. Squire Leech," said Herbert.
"I have made an engagement already."
The squire had forgotten this, and it was mortifying to expect that his patronage was of no importance to the boy whom he detested.
"Good morning!" he said abruptly and left the room
"I am afraid, Herbert, you treated the squire disrespectfully," said
"I don't think so, mother, unless to oppose his wishes is to be disrespectful."
"He spoke as if he thought you did."
"I know that, but he wouldn't if he hadn't been unreasonable. But I've got to go to the hotel in fifteen minutes. Just give me a bite, for I'm awful hungry."
So the day which Herbert had so much dreaded in advance was marked by two pieces of good luck.
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