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   Chapter 2 No.2

What Might Have Been Expected By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 5085

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

The Adoption.

When the children reached Aunt Matilda's cabin, they found the old woman seated by a very small fire, which was burning in one corner of the hearth.

"Are you cold, Aunt Matilda?" asked Kate.

"Lor' bless you, no, honey! But you see there wasn't hardly any coals left, and I was tryin' to keep the fire alive till somebody would come along and gather me up some wood."

"Then you were going to cook your breakfast, I suppose," said Harry.

"Yes, child, if somebody 'ud come along and fetch me something to eat."

"Haven't you anything at all in the house?" asked Kate.

"Not a pinch o' meal, nor nothin' else," said the old woman; "but I 'spected somebody 'ud be along."

"Did you know, Aunt Matilda," said Harry, "that they are going to send you to the alms-house?"

"Yes; I heerd 'em talk about it," said Aunt Matilda, shaking her head; "but the alms-house ain't no place for me."

"That's so!" said Kate, quickly. "And you're not going there, either!"

"No," said Harry: "Kate and I intend to take care of you for the rest of your life."

"Lor', children, you can't do it!" said the old woman, looking in astonishment from one to the other of these youngsters who proposed to adopt her.

"Yes; but we can," said Harry. "Just you wait and see."

"It'll take a good deal o' money," said the old woman, who did not seem to be altogether satisfied with the prospects held out before her. "More'n you all will ever be able to git."

"How much money would be enough for you to live on, Aunt Matilda?" asked Harry.

"Dunno. Takes a heap o' money to keep a person."

"Well, now," said Kate, "let's see exactly how much it will take. Have you a pencil, Harry? I have a piece of paper in my pocket, I think. Yes; here it is. Now, let's set down everything, and see what it comes to."

So saying, she sat down on a low stool with her paper on her knees, and her pencil in her hand.

"What shall we begin with?" said she.

"We'll begin with corn-meal," said Harry. "How much corn-meal do you eat in a week, Aunt Matilda?"

"Dunno," said she, "'spect about a couple o' pecks."

"Oh, Aunt Matilda!" cried Kate, "our whole family wouldn't eat two pecks in a week."

"Well, then, a half-peck," said she; "'pends a good deal on how many is living in a house."

"Yes; but we only mean this for you, Aunt Matilda. We don't mean it for anybody else."

"Well, then, I reckon a quarter of a peck would do, for jest me."

"We will allow you a peck," said Harry, "and that will be twenty-five cen

ts a week. Set that down, Kate."

"All right," said Kate. And she set down at the top of the paper, "Meal, 25 cents."

The children proceeded in this way to calculate how much bacon, molasses, coffee, and sugar would suffice for Aunt Matilda's support; and they found that the cost, per week, at the rates of the country stores, with which they were both familiar, would be seventy-seven and three-quarter cents.

"Is there anything else, Aunt Matilda?" asked Kate.

"Nuffin I can think on," said Aunt Matilda, "'cept milk."

"Oh, I can get that for nothing," said Kate. "I will bring it to you from home; and I will bring you some butter too, when I can get it."

"And I'll pick up wood for you," said Harry. "I can gather enough in the woods in a couple of hours to last you for a week."

"Lor' bless you, chil'en," said Aunt Matilda, "I hope you'll be able to do all dat."

Harry stood quiet a few minutes, reflecting.

"How much would seventy-seven and three quarter cents a week amount to in a year, Kate?" said he.

Kate rapidly worked out the problem, and answered: "Forty dollars and forty-three cents."

"Lor'! but that's a heap o' money!" said Aunt Matilda. "That's more'n I 'spect to have all the rest of my life."

"How old are you, Aunt Matilda?" said Harry.

"I 'spect about fifty," said the old woman.

"Oh, Aunt Matilda!" cried Harry, "you're certainly more than fifty. When I was a very little fellow, I remember that you were very old-at least, sixty or seventy."

"Well, then, I 'spects I'se about ninety," said Aunt Matilda.

"But you can't be ninety!" said Kate. "The Bible says that seventy years is the common length of a person's life."

"Them was Jews," said Aunt Matilda. "It didn't mean no cull'd people. Cull'd people live longer than that. But p'raps a cull'd Jew wouldn't live very long."

"Well," said Harry, "it makes no difference how old you are. We're going to take care of you for the rest of your life."

Kate was again busy with her paper.

"In five years, Harry," she said, "It will be two hundred and two dollars and fifteen cents."

"Lor'!" cried Aunt Matilda, "you chil'en will nebber git dat."

"But we don't have to get it all at once, Aunt Matilda," said Harry, laughing; "and you needn't be afraid that we can't do it. Come, Kate, it's time for us to be off."

And then the conference broke up. The question of Aunt Matilda's future support was settled. They had forgotten clothes, to be sure; but it is very difficult to remember everything.

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