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Robert Coverdale's Struggle Part 45

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"You seem to forget one thing more: For three years, on account of the boy's being young, and so unable to work much, I allowed you fifty dollars a year, though I could readily have found another man to take him without this allowance. Under the circumstances I consider it very extraordinary that you should apply to me at this late day for an extra allowance. I am not made of money, and whatever I do for this boy is out of pure benevolence, for he has no claim upon me; but I assure you that I will not be imposed upon, therefore I say 'no' most emphatically.

"One other thing. You say the boy doesn't work as much as he ought to. I can only say this is no business of mine. You have full authority over him, and you can make him work. I don't believe in pampering boys and indulging them in laziness. I recommend you to be strict with William--to let him understand that you are not to be trifled with. Such would be my course. Yours, etc.,

"CHARLES WALDO."

Nathan Badger was deeply disappointed. He had made up his mind that Mr.

Waldo would allow him at least a dollar a week and had complacently calculated how much this would enable him to lay aside. Now this dream was over.



Of course he could have given up the boy, for he was not formally bound to him. But this he did not care to do. The fact was that Bill earned his board twice over, and Mr. Badger knew it, though he would not have admitted it. It was for his interest to keep him.

He went home deeply disappointed and angry and disposed to vent his spite on the poor victim of his tyranny, even had there been no plausible excuse for doing so.

When he reached home he was met by Mrs. Badger with a frowning brow.

"Well, Mr. Badger, there's been a pretty scene since you went away."

"What do you mean, Cornelia?"

"Bill has nearly killed Andrew Jackson."

"Are you crazy, wife?"

"No, I am in earnest. The young rascal attacked poor Andrew with a hoe and nearly killed him."

"Then he must be crazy!" ejaculated Mr. Badger. "Where is Andrew? I want his account of it. If it is as you say, the boy shall suffer."

CHAPTER XXVIII

THE VICTIM OF TYRANNY

Andrew Jackson made his appearance with a piece of brown paper over an imaginary bruise on his head and eye and the carefully assumed expression of a suffering victim.

"What is this I hear?" asked his father. "Have you had a difficulty with Bill?"

"Yes," answered Andrew in the tone of a martyr. "He knocked me down with a hoe, and if mother had not come out just as she did I think he would have killed me."

"What made him attack you?" asked Mr. Badger, exceedingly surprised.

"I asked him if he would dig some fish-worms for me."

"Couldn't you dig some yourself?"

"I s'pose I could, but he knew better than I where to find them."

"What next?"

"He said he wouldn't. I told him that I would tell you about his impertinence. Then he hit me with the hoe as hard as he could."

"Was that all that passed?"

"Yes."

"I don't quite understand it. You are surely stronger than Bill. How did it happen that you allowed him to strike you?"

"He had a hoe and I hadn't anything," answered Andrew meekly. "He was so furious that he wouldn't have made anything of killing me."

"I always thought he was rather mild and milk-and-watery," said Nathan Badger thoughtfully.

"You wouldn't have thought so if you'd seen him, Mr. Badger," said his wife, drawing upon her imagination. "He looked like a young fiend. Dear Andrew is right. The boy is positively dangerous! I don't know but we shall be murdered in our beds some night if we let him go on this way."

Mr. Badger shrugged his shoulders, for he was not quite a fool, and answered dryly:

"That thought won't keep me awake. He isn't that kind of a boy."

"Oh, well, Mr. Badger, if you are going to take his part against your own flesh and blood, I've got no more to say."

"Who's taking his part?" retorted Mr. Badger sharply. "I'm not going to uphold him in attacking Andrew, but I'm rather surprised at his mustering spunk enough to do it. As for his doing us any harm, that's all nonsense."

"You may change your mind when it's too late, Mr. Badger."

"Are you afraid of him?" asked her husband contemptuously as he regarded the tall, muscular figure of his wife, who probably would have been a match for himself in physical strength.

"I can defend myself if I am awake," said Mrs. Badger. "But what's to hinder his attacking me when I'm asleep?"

"You can fasten your door if you are afraid. But that isn't my trouble with him. There's something more serious, Mrs. B."

"What is it? What's he been doin'?"

"It isn't he. It's Charles Waldo. I'm free to say that Mr. Waldo is the meanest man I ever had dealings with. You know I wrote to him to see if he wouldn't allow me something extra toward the boy's keep."

"Yes."

"Well, read that letter. Or, stay, I'll read it to you."

Mr. Badger took the letter from his pocket and read it aloud to his wife and son. Mrs. Badger was as much disappointed as her husband, for she was quite as fond of money as he.

"What are you goin' to do?" she asked.

"I can't do anything," answered Mr. Badger in deep disgust.

"Will you keep the boy?"

"Of course I will. Between ourselves, he more than earns his victuals; but, all the same, Mr. Waldo is perfectly able to allow us a little profit."

"You must make him work harder," suggested Mrs. Badger.

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