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Robert Coverdale's Struggle Part 6

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"I must have the money!" muttered Trafton, not heeding this advice, which was good, though selfish. "I guess I'll go home and make the boy give it to me!"

And he staggered out of the store, and, as well as he could, steered for home.

CHAPTER V

"GIVE ME THAT MONEY"

From the village store Robert went to the baker's and bought a loaf of bread for six cents, making his entire expenditures sixty-four cents.



He was now ready to go home. He walked rapidly and soon reached the humble cabin, where he found his aunt waiting for him.

She looked with surprise at the three bundles he brought in and asked:

"What have you got there, Robert?"

"First of all, here is a pound of tea," said the boy, laying it down on the kitchen table. "Here is a pound of sugar and here is a loaf of bread."

"But I didn't order all those, Robert," said his aunt.

"I know you didn't," answered her nephew, "but I thought you'd be able to make use of them."

"No doubt I shall, but surely you did not buy them all for twenty-five cents?"

"I should say not. Why, the tea alone cost fifty cents! Then the sugar came to eight cents and the loaf cost six cents."

"Mrs. Jones didn't pay you enough to buy all those, did she?"

"Mrs. Jones is about as mean a woman as you can find anywhere," Robert said warmly. "She didn't pay me a cent."

"Why? Didn't she like the work?"

"She said uncle owed her husband money for drink and the work would part pay up the debt."

But for the presence of the groceries, this would have had a discouraging effect upon Mrs. Trafton, but her mind was diverted by her curiosity, and she said apprehensively:

"I hope you didn't buy on credit, Robert? I never can pay so much money!"

"Mr. Sands isn't the man to sell on credit. Aunt Jane. No, I paid cash.

And the best of it is," continued our hero, "I have some money left."

Here he produced and spread on the table before his aunt's astonished eyes the balance of the money.

Mrs. Trafton was startled. The possession of so much money seemed to her incomprehensible.

"I hope you came by the money honestly, Robert?"

"What have I ever done, Aunt Jane, that you should think me a thief?"

asked Robert, half amused, half annoyed.

"Nothing, my dear boy; but I can't understand how you came to have so much money."

"I see I must explain, aunt. A strong wind blew it to me."

"Then somebody must have lost it. You shouldn't have spent it till you had tried to find the owner."

"I'll explain to you."

And he told her the story of the lost hat and the liberal reward he obtained for chasing and recovering it.

"Think of a straw hat costing fifty dollars, aunt!" he said wonderingly.

"It does seem strange, but I am glad it was worth so much or you wouldn't have been so well paid."

"This Mr. Tudor is a gentleman, aunt. Why, plenty of people would have given me only ten cents. I would have thought myself well paid if he had even given me that, but I couldn't have brought you home so much tea.

Aunt Jane, do me a favor."

"What is it, Robert?"

"Make yourself a good strong cup of tea tonight. You'll feel ever so much better, and there's plenty of it. A pound will last a long time, won't it?"

"Oh, yes, a good while. I shall get a good deal of comfort out of that tea. But I don't know about making any to-night. If you would like some----"

"If you'll make some, I'll drink a little, Aunt Jane."

Robert said this because he feared otherwise his aunt would not make any till the next morning.

"Very well, Robert."

"Don't let uncle know I've brought so much money home," said Robert with a sudden thought.

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want him to know I have any money. If he knew, he would want me to give it to him."

"I don't think he would claim it. It was given to you."

"I'll tell you why I am sure he would."

And Robert told how his uncle demanded the scanty pittance which he supposed Mrs. Jones had paid for the sewing.

Mrs. Trafton blushed with shame for her husband's meanness.

"Drink changes a man's nature completely," she said. "The time was when John would have scorned such a thing."

"That time has gone by, aunt. For fear he will find out that I have the money, I believe I will go and hide it somewhere."

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