There was a little room just off the kitchen, where the squire had an old-fashioned desk. Here it was that he transacted his business, and in the desk he kept his papers. It was into this room that he introduced Mr. Walton.
"Set down, set down, neighbor Walton," he said. "We'll talk this thing over. So you've got to have a cow?"
"Yes, I must have one."
The squire fixed his eyes cunningly on his intended victim, and said, "Goin' to buy one in town?"
"I don't know of any that's for sale."
"How much do you calc'late to pay?"
"I suppose I'll have to pay thirty dollars."
Squire Green shook his head.
"More'n that, neighbor Walton. You can't get a decent cow for thirty dollars. I hain't got one that isn't wuth more, though I've got ten in my barn."
"Thirty dollars is all I can afford to pay, squire."
"Take my advice, and get a good cow while you're about it. It don't pay to get a poor one."
"I'm a poor man, squire. I must take what I can get."
"I ain't sure but I've got a cow that will suit you, a red with white spots. She's a fust-rate milker."
"How old is she?"
"She's turned of five."
"How much do you ask for her?"
"Are you going to pay cash down?" asked the squire, half shutting his eyes, and looking into the face of his visitor.
"I can't do that. I'm very short of money."
"So am I," chimed in the squire. He had two hundred dollars in his desk at that moment waiting for profitable investment; but then he didn't call it exactly a lie to misrepresent for a purpose. "So am I. Money's tight, neighbor."
"Money's always tight with me, squire," returned Hiram Walton, with a sigh.
"Was you a-meanin' to pay anything down?" inquired the squire.
"I don't see how I can."
"That alters the case, you know. I might as well keep the cow, as to sell her without the money down."
"I am willing to pay interest on the money."
"Of course that's fair. Wall, neighbor, what do you say to goin' out to see the cow?"
"Is she in the barn?"
"No, she's in the pastur'. 'Tain't fur."
"I'll go along with you."
They made their way by a short cut across a cornfield to the pasture--a large ten-acre lot, covered with a scanty vegetation. The squire's cows could not be said to live in clover.
"That's the critter," he said, pointing out one of the cows which was grazing near by. "Ain't she a beauty?"
"She looks pretty well," said Mr. Walton, dubiously, by no means sure that she would equal his lost cow.
"She's one of the best I've got. I wouldn't sell ef it wasn't to oblige. I ain't at all partic'lar, but I suppose you've got to hev a cow."
"What do you ask for her, squire?"
"She's wuth all of forty dollars," answered the squire, who knew perfectly well that a fair price would be about thirty. But then his neighbor must have a cow, and had no money to pay, and so was at his mercy.
"That seems high," said Hiram.
"She's wuth every cent of it; but I ain't nowise partic'lar about sellin' her."
"Couldn't you say thirty-seven?"
"I couldn't take a dollar less. I'd rather keep her. Maybe I'd take thirty-eight, cash down."
Hiram Walton shook his head.
"I have no cash," he said. "I must buy on credit."
"Wall, then, there's a bargain for you. I'll let you have her for forty dollars, giving you six months to pay it, at reg'lar interest, six per cent. Of course I expect a little bonus for the accommodation."
"I hope you'll be easy with me--I'm a poor man, squire."
"Of course, neighbor; I'm always easy."
"That isn't your reputation," thought Hiram; but he knew that this was a thought to which he must not give expression.
"All I want is a fair price for my time and trouble. We'll say three dollars extra for the accommodation--three dollars down."
Hiram Walton felt that it was a hard bargain the squire was driving with him, but there seemed no help for it.
He must submit to the imposition, or do without a cow. There was no one else to whom he could look for help on any terms. As to the three dollars, his whole available cash amounted to but four dollars, and it was for three quarters of this sum that the squire called. But the sacrifice must be made.
"Well, Squire Green, if that is your lowest price, I suppose I must come to it," he answered, at last.
"You can't do no better," said the squire, with alacrity.
"If so be as you've made up your mind, we'll make out the papers."
"Come back to the house. When do you want to take the cow?"
"I'll drive her along now, if you are willing."
"Why, you see," said the squire, hesitating, while a mean thought entered his, mind, "she's been feedin' in my pastur' all the mornin', and I calc'late I'm entitled to the next milkin', you'd better come 'round to-night, just after milkin', and then you can take her."
"I didn't think he was quite so mean," passed through Hiram Walton's mind, and his lip curved slightly in scorn, but he knew that this feeling must be concealed.
"Just as you say," he answered. "I'll come round tonight, or send Harry."
"How old is Harry now?"
"He's got to be quite a sizable lad--ought to earn concid'able. Is he industrious?"
"Yes, Harry is a good worker--always ready to lend a hand."
"That's good. Does he go to school?"
"Yes, he's been going to school all the term."
"Seems to me he's old enough to give up larnin' altogether. Don't he know how to read and write and cipher?"
"Yes, he's about the best scholar in school."
"Then, neighbor Walton, take my advice and don't send him any more. You need him at home, and he knows enough to get along in the world."
"I want him to learn as much as he can. I'd like to send him to school till he is sixteen."
"He's had as much schoolin' now as ever I had," said the squire, "and I've got along pooty well. I've been seleckman, and school committy, and filled about every town office, and I never wanted no more schoolin'. My father took me away from school when I was thirteen."
"It wouldn't hurt you if you knew a little more," thought Hiram, who remembered very well the squire's deficiencies when serving on the town school committee.
"I believe in learning," he said. "My father used to say, 'Live and learn.' That's a good motto, to my thinking."
"It may be carried too far. When a boy's got to be of the age of your boy, he'd ought to be thinking of workin.' His time is too valuable to spend in the schoolroom."
"I can't agree with you, squire. I think no time is better spent than the time that's spent in learning. I wish I could afford to send my boy to college."
"It would cost a mint of money; and wouldn't pay. Better put him to some good business."
That was the way he treated his own son, and for this and other reasons, as soon as he arrived at man's estate, he left home, which had never had any pleasant associations with him. His father wanted to convert him into a money-making machine--a mere drudge, working him hard, and denying him, as long as he could, even the common recreations of boyhood--for the squire had an idea that the time devoted in play was foolishly spent, inasmuch as it brought him in no pecuniary return. He was willfully blind to the faults and defects of his system, and their utter failure in the case of his own son, and would, if could, have all the boys in town brought up after severely practical method. But, fortunately for Harry, Mr. Walton had very different notions. He was compelled to keep his son home the greater part of the summer, but it was against his desire.
"No wonder he's a poor man," thought the squire, after his visitor returned home. "He ain't got no practical idees. Live and learn! that's all nonsense. His boy looks strong and able to work, and it's foolish sendin' him school any longer. That wa'n't my way, and see where I am," he concluded, with complacent remembrance of bonds and mortgages and money out at interest. "That was a pooty good cow trade," he concluded. "I didn't calc' late for to get more'n thirty-five dollars for the critter; but then neighbor Walton had to have a cow, and had to pay my price."
Now for Hiram Walton's reflections.
"I'm a poor man," he said to himself, as he walked slowly homeward, "but I wouldn't be as mean as Tom Green for all the money he's worth. He's made a hard bargain with me, but there was no help for it."