At the end of six weeks from the date of Robert's departure, Harry had been paid eighteen dollars. Of this sum he had spent but one dollar, and kept the balance in his pocketbook. He did not care to send it home until he had enough to meet Squire Green's demand, knowing that his father would be able to meet his ordinary expenses. Chiefly through the reports of Luke Harrison he was acquiring the reputation of meanness, though, as we know, he was far from deserving it.
"See how the fellow dresses," said Luke, contemptuously, to two of his companions one evening." His clothes are shabby enough, and he hasn't got an overcoat at all. He hoards his money, and is too stingy to buy one. See, there he comes, buttoned to the chin to keep warm, and I suppose he has more money in his pocketbook than the whole of us together. I wouldn't be as mean as he is for a hundred dollars."
"You'd rather get trusted for your clothes than do without them," said Frank Heath, slyly; for he happened to know that Luke had run up a bill with the tailor, about which the latter was getting anxious.
"What if I do," said Luke, sharply, "as long as I am going to pay for them?"
"Oh, nothing," said Frank. "I didn't say anything against it, did I? I suppose you are as able to owe the tailor as anyone."
By this time, Harry had come up.
"Where are you going, Walton?" asked Luke. "You look cold."
"Yes, it's a cold day."
"Left your overcoat at home, didn't you?"
Harry colored. The fact was, he felt the need of an overcoat, but didn't know how to manage getting one. At the lowest calculation, it would cost all the money he had saved up for one, and the purchase would defeat all his plans. The one he had worn at home during the previous winter was too small for him, and had been given to his brother.
"If I only could get through the winter without one," he thought, "I should be all right." But a New England winter is not to be braved with impunity, useless protected by adequate clothing. Luke's sneer was therefore not without effect. But he answered, quietly: "I did not leave it at home, for I have none to leave."
"I suppose you are bound to the tailor's to order one."
"What makes you think so?" asked Harry.
"You are not such a fool as to go without one when you have money in your pocket, are you?"
"You seem very curious about my private affairs," said Harry, rather provoked.
"He's only drumming up customers for the tailor," said Frank Heath. "He gets a commission on all he brings."
"That's the way he pays his bill," said Sam Anderson.
"Quit fooling, boys," said Luke, irritated. "I ain't a drummer. I pay my bills, like a gentleman."
"By keeping the tailor waiting," said Frank.
So attention was diverted from Harry by this opportune attack upon Luke, much to our hero's relief. Nevertheless, he saw, that in order to preserve his health, he must have some outer garment, and in order the better to decide what to do, he concluded to step into the tailor's, and inquire his prices.
The tailor, Merrill by name, had a shop over the dry goods store, and thither Harry directed his steps. There was one other person in the shop, a young fellow but little larger than Harry, though two years older, who was on a visit to an aunt in the neighborhood, but lived in Boston. He belonged to a rich family, and had command of considerable money. His name was Maurice Tudor. He had gone into the shop to leave a coat to be repaired.
"How are you, Walton?" he said, for he knew our hero slightly.
"Pretty well. Thank you."
"It's pretty cold for October."
"Yes, unusually so."
"Mr. Merrill," said Harry, "I should like to inquire the price of an overcoat. I may want to order one by and by."
"What sort of one do you want--pretty nice?"
"No, I can't afford anything nice--something as cheap as possible."
"This is the cheapest goods I have," said the tailor, pointing to some coarse cloth near by.
"I can make you up a coat form that for eighteen dollars."
"Eighteen dollars!" exclaimed Harry, in dismay. "Is that the cheapest you have?"
"The very cheapest."
After a minute's pause he added, "I might take off a dollar for cash. I've got enough of running up bills. There's Luke Harrison owes me over thirty dollars, and I don't believe he means to pay it al all."
"If I buy, I shall pay cash," said Harry, quietly.
"You can't get anything cheaper than this." said the tailor.
"Very likely not," said Harry, soberly. "I'll think about it, and let you know if I decide to take it."
Maurice Tudor was a silent listener to this dialogue. He saw Harry's sober expression, and he noticed the tone in which he repeated "eighteen dollars," and he guessed the truth. He lingered after Harry went out, and said:
"That's a good fellow."
"Harry Walton?" repeated the tailor. "Yes, he's worth a dozen Luke Harrisons."
"Has he been in the village long?"
"No, not more than two or three months. He works for Mr. Leavitt."
"He is rather poor, I suppose."
"Yes. The boys call him mean; but Leavitt tells me he is saving up every cent to send to his father, who is a poor farmer."
"That's a good thing in him."
"Yes, I wish I could afford to give him and overcoat. He needs one, but I suppose seventeen dollars will come rather hard on him to pay. If it was Luke Harrison, it wouldn't trouble him much."
"You mean he would get it on tick."
"Yes, if he found anybody fool enough to trust him. I've done it as long as I'm going to. He won't get a dollar more credit out of me till he pays his bill."
"You're perfectly right, there."
"So I think. He earns a good deal more than Walton, but spends what he earns on billiards, drinks and cigars."
"There he comes up the stairs, now."
In fact, Luke with his two companions directly afterwards entered the shop.
"Merrill," said he, "have you got in any new goods? I must have a new pair of pants."
"Yes, I've got some new goods. There's a piece open before you."
"It's a pretty thing, Merrill," said Luke, struck by it; "what's your price for a pair off of it?"
"Isn't that rather steep?"
"No; the cloth is superior quality."
"Well, darn the expense. I like it, and must have it. Just measure me, will you?"
"Are you ready to pay the account I have against you?"
"How much is it?"
The tailor referred to his books.
"Thirty-two dollars and fifty cents," he answered.
"All right, Merrill. Wait till the pants are done, and I'll pay the whole at once."
"Ain't my credit good?" blustered Luke.
"You can make it good," said the tailor, significantly.
"I didn't think you'd make such a fuss about a small bill."
"I didn't think you'd find is so difficult to pay a small bill," returned the tailor.
Luke looked discomfited. He was silent a moment, and then changed his tactics.
"Come, Merrill," he said, persuasively; "don't be alarmed. I'm good for it, I guess. I haven't got the money convenient to-day. I lent fifty dollars. I shall have it back next week and then I will pay you."
"I am glad to hear it," said Merrill.
"So just measure me and hurry up the pants."
"I'm sorry but I can't till you settle the bill."
"Look here, has Walton been talking against me?"
"No; what makes you think so?"
"He don't like me, because I twitted him with his meanness."
"I don't consider him mean."
"Has he ever bought anything of you?"
"I knew it. He prefers to go ragged and save his money."
"He's too honorable to run up a bill without paying it."
"Do you mean me?" demanded Luke, angrily.
"I hope not. I presume you intend to pay your bills."
Luke Harrison left the shop. He saw that he exhausted his credit with Merrill. As to paying the bill, there was not much chance of that at present, as he had but one dollar and a half in his pocket.