Robert Coverdale's Struggle Part 30

Robert Coverdale's Struggle -

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"Yes, sir."

"Then you will have no rent to pay."

"No, I don't know how we could do that."

The hermit looked thoughtful.

"I will see you again," he said as he rose to go.

On the whole, Mrs. Trafton and Robert were likely to get along as well as before John Trafton's death. Robert could use his uncle's boat for fishing, selling what they did not require, while regularly every week two dollars came in from the hermit.

It was a great source of relief that no rent must be paid. The fisherman's cabin and lot originally cost about five hundred dollars and the household furniture was of little value. The taxes were small and could easily be met. So there seemed nothing to prevent their living on in the same way as before.

Some time Robert hoped and expected to leave Cook's Harbor. He was a smart, enterprising, ambitious boy, and he felt that he would like a more stirring life in a larger place.

He was not ashamed of the fisherman's business, but he felt qualified for something better. It did not escape his notice that most of his neighbors were illiterate men, who had scarcely a thought beyond the success of their fishing trips, and he had already entered so far into the domain of study and books as to feel the charm of another world--the great world of knowledge--which lay spread out before him and beckoned him onward. But he was not impatient.

"My duty at present," he reflected, "Is to stay in Cook's Harbor and take care of my aunt. I am young and strong, and I don't mean that she shall want for any comforts which I can get for her."

He soon learned, however, that there was one great mistake in his calculations.

Robert was sitting by the door reading, after his return from a fishing trip, about a week after his uncle's funeral, when he heard the steps of some one approaching.

Looking up, he saw advancing toward their humble residence the stout, ponderous figure of Nahum Jones, the landlord of the village inn.

It was not often that Mr. Jones found his way to the beach. Usually he kept close to the tavern, unless he rode to some neighboring town.

Therefore Robert was surprised to see him.

Nahum Jones nodded slightly, and, taking off his straw hat, wiped the perspiration from his forehead.

"Here, you, Bob," he said, "Is your aunt at home?"

"Yes, sir!" answered Robert, but not cordially, for he felt that Mr.

Jones had been no friend of his uncle.

"Well, tell her I've come to have a talk with her, do you hear?"

"Yes, I hear," answered the boy coolly.

He rose from his chair and entered the house.

"Aunt Jane," he said, "here is Mr. Jones come to see you."

"What? The tavern keeper?" asked his aunt in great surprise.

"Yes, aunt."

"What can that man want of me?"

The question was answered, not by Robert but by Nahum Jones himself.

"I want to have a little talk with you, ma'am," said the burly landlord, entering without an invitation and seating himself unceremoniously.

"I will listen to what you have to say, Mr. Jones," said the widow, "but I will not pretend that I am glad to see you. You were an enemy to my poor husband."

"I don't know what you mean, Mrs. Trafton. Did he ever tell you that I was his enemy?"

"No, but it was you who sold him liquor and took the money which he should have spent on his own family."

"All nonsense, ma'am. You women are the most unreasonable creatures. I didn't ask him to drink."

"You tempted him to do it."

"I deny it!" said the landlord warmly. "I couldn't refuse to sell him what he asked for, could I? You must be a fool to talk so!" said the landlord roughly.

"I'll trouble you to speak respectfully to my aunt, Mr. Jones," said Robert with flashing eyes.

"Mind your own business, you young rascal!" said Nahum Jones, whose temper was not of the best.

"I mean to," retorted Robert. "My business is to protect my aunt from being insulted."

"Wait till you're a little bigger, boy," said Jones with a sneer.

Robert involuntarily doubled up his fist and answered:

"I mean to protect her now."

"Mrs. Trafton," said Nahum Jones, highly irritated, "you'd better silence that young cub or I may kick him out of doors!"

"You appear to forget that you are not in your own house, Nahum Jones,"

said the widow with dignity. "My nephew has acted perfectly right and only spoke as he should."

"So you sustain him in his impudence, do you?" snarled Jones, showing his teeth.

"If that is all you have come to say to me, Mr. Jones, you may as well go."

"By George, ma'am, you are mighty independent!"

"I am not dependent on the man who ruined my poor husband."

"No, but you're dependent on me!" exclaimed the landlord, pounding the floor forcibly with his cane.

"Will you explain yourself, sir?"

"I will," said Mr. Jones emphatically. "You talk about my not being in my own house, but it's just possible you are mistaken."

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Trafton, startled.

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