The Store Boy
Horatio Alger, Jr.
Part 2 out of 4
"I saw you do it."
With a half exclamation of anger, the young man darted to the door.
But he was brought to a standstill by the business man, who placed
himself in his way.
"Not so fast, young man," he said resolutely.
"Out of the way!" exclaimed the thief, in a rage. "It's all a base
lie. I never was so insulted in my life."
"Do you miss your pocketbook, madam?" asked the gentleman, turning to
the lady who had been robbed.
"Yes," she answered. "It was in the pocket next to this man."
The thief seeing there was no hope of retaining his booty, drew it
from his pocket and flung it into the lady's lap.
"Now, may I go?" he said.
There was no policeman in sight, and at a nod from the lady, the
pickpocket was allowed to leave the stage.
"You ought to have had him arrested. He is a dangerous character,"
said the gentleman who had barred his progress.
"It would have been inconvenient for me to appear against him," said
the lady. "I am willing to let him go."
"Well, there is one comfort--if he keeps on he will be hauled up
sooner or later," remarked the gentleman. "Would your loss have been
a heavy one?" he inquired.
"I had quite a large sum in my pocketbook, over two hundred dollars.
But for my young friend opposite," she said, nodding kindly at Ben, "I
should have lost it with very small chance of recovery."
"I am glad to have done you a service, madam," said Ben politely.
"I know it is rather imprudent to carry so large sum about with me,"
continued the lady, but I have a payment to make to a carpenter who
has done work in my house, and I thought he might not find it
convenient use a check."
"A lady is in more danger than a gentleman," observed the business
man, "as she cannot so well hide away her pocketbook. You will need
to be careful as you walk along the street."
"I think it will be best to have a neighbor whom I can trust," said
the lady. "Would you mind taking this seat at my side?" she
continued, addressing Ben.
"I will change with pleasure," said our hero, taking the seat recently
vacated by the pickpocket.
"You have sharp eyes, my young friend," said his new acquaintance.
"My eyes are pretty good," said Ben, with a smile.
"They have done me good service to-day. May I know to whom I am
indebted for such timely help?"
"My name is Benjamin Barclay."
"Do you live in the city?"
"No, madam. I live in Pentonville, about thirty miles from New York."
"I have heard of the place. Are you proposing to live here?"
"No madam. I came in to-day on a little business of my own, and also
to select some goods for a country store in which I am employed."
"You are rather young for such a commission."
"I know the sort of goods Mr. Crawford sells, so it was not very
difficult to make the selection."
"At what time do you go back?"
"By the four o'clock train."
"Have you anything to do meanwhile?"
"No, madam," answered Ben, a little surprised.
"Then I should like to have you accompany me to the place where I am
to settle my bill. I feel rather timid after my adventure with our
"I shall be very happy to oblige you, madam," said Ben politely.
He had just heard a public clock strike one and he knew, therefore,
that he would have plenty of time.
"We will get out here," said Mrs. Hamilton.
They had reached the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway.
Ben pulled the strap, and with his new friend left the stage. He
offered his hand politely to assist the lady in descending.
"He is a little gentleman," thought Mrs. Hamilton, who was much
pleased with our hero.
They turned from Broadway eastward, and presently crossed the Bowery
also. Not far to the east of the last avenue they came to a
Mr. Plank, a middle-aged, honest-looking mechanic, looked up in
surprise when Mrs. Hamilton entered the shop.
"You didn't expect a call from me?" said the lady pleasantly.
"No, ma'am. Fashionable ladies don't often find their way over here."
"Then don't look upon me as a fashionable lady. I like to attend to
my business myself, and have brought you the money for your bill."
"Thank you, ma'am. You never made me wait. But I am sorry you had
the trouble to come to my shop. I would have called at your house if
you had sent me a postal."
"My time was not so valuable as yours, Mr. Plank. I must tell you,
however, that you came near not getting your money this morning.
Another person undertook to collect your bill."
"Who was it?" demanded the carpenter indignantly. "If there's anybody
playing such tricks on me I will have him up before the courts."
"It was no acquaintance of yours. The person in question had no spite
against you and you would only have suffered a little delay."
Then Mrs. Hamilton explained how a pickpocket had undertaken to
relieve her of her wallet, and would have succeeded but for her young
"Oh they're mighty sharp, ma'am, I can tell you," said the carpenter.
"I never lost anything, because I don't look as if I had anything
worth stealing; but if one of those rascals made up his mind to rob
me, ten to one he'd do it."
Mr. Plank receipted his bill and Mrs. Hamilton paid him a hundred and
eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents. Ben could not help envying him
as he saw the roll of bills transferred to him.
"I hope the work was done satisfactory," said Mr. Plank. (Perfect
grammar could not be expected of a man who, from the age of twelve,
had been forced to earn his own living.)
"Quite so, Mr. Plank," said the lady graciously. "I shall send for
you when I have any more work to be done."
There was no more business to attend to, and Mrs. Hamilton led the way
out, accompanied by Ben.
"I will trouble you to see me as far as Broadway," said the lady. "I
am not used to this neighborhood and prefer to have an escort."
"I didn't think this morning," said Ben to himself, "that a rich lady
would select me as her escort."
On the whole, he liked it. It gave him a feeling of importance, and a
sense of responsibility which a manly boy always likes.
"I shall be glad to stay with you as long as you like," said Ben.
"Thank you, Benjamin, or shall I say Ben?"
"I wish you would. I hardly know myself when I am called Benjamin."
"As we are walking alone, suppose you tell me something of yourself.
I only know your name, and that you live in Pentonville. What
relations have you?"
"A mother only--my father is dead."
"And you help take care of your mother, I suppose?"
"Yes; father left us nothing except the house we live in, or, at
least, we could get track of no other property. He died in Chicago
"I hope you are getting along comfortably--you and your mother," said
Mrs. Hamilton kindly.
"We have our troubles," answered Ben. "We are in danger of having our
house taken from us."
"How is that?"
"A rich man in our village, Squire Davenport, has a mortgage of seven
hundred dollars upon it. He wants the house for a relative of his
wife, and threatens to foreclose at the end of three months."
"The house must be worth a good deal more than the mortgage."
"It is worth twice as much; but if it is put up at auction I doubt if
it will fetch over a thousand dollars."
"This would leave your mother but three hundred?"
"Yes," answered Ben despondingly.
"Have you thought of any way of raising the money?"
"Yes; I came up to the city to-day to see a cousin of mother's, a Mr.
Absalom Peters, who lives on Lexington Avenue, and I had just come
from there when I got into the stage with you."
"Won't he help you?"
"Perhaps he might if he was in the city; though mother has seen
nothing of him for twenty years; but, unfortunately, he just sailed
"That is indeed a pity. I suppose you haven't much hope now?"
"Unless Mr. Peters comes back. He is the only one we can think of to
"What sort of a man is this Squire Davenport?"
"He is a very selfish man, who thinks only of his own interests. We
felt safe, because we did not suppose he would have any use for a
small house like ours; but night before last he called on mother with
the man he wants it for."
"He cannot foreclose just yet, can he?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.
"No; we have three months to look around."
"Three months is a long time," said the lady cheerfully. "A good deal
can happen in three months. Do the best you can, and keep up hope."
"I shall try to do so."
"You have reason to do so. You may not save your house, but you have,
probably, a good many years before you, and plenty of good fortune may
be in store for you."
The cheerful tone in which the lady spoke some how made Ben hopeful
and sanguine, at any rate, for the time being.
"In this country, the fact that you are a poor boy will not stand in
the way of your success. The most eminent men of the day, in all
branches of business, and in all professions, were once poor boys. I
dare say, looking at me, you don't suppose I ever knew anything of
"No," said Ben.
"Yet I was the daughter of a bankrupt farmer, and my husband was clerk
in a country store. I am not going to tell you how he came to the
city and prospered, leaving me, at his death, rich beyond my needs.
Yet that is his history and mine. Does it encourage you?
"Yes, it does," answered Ben earnestly.
"It is for that reason, perhaps, that I take an interest in country
boys who are placed as my husband once was," continued Mrs. Hamilton.
"But here we are at Broadway. It only remains to express my
acknowledgment of your timely assistance."
"You are quite welcome," said Ben.
"I am sure of that, but I am none the less indebted. Do me the favor
to accept this."
She opened her portemonnaie, and taking from it a banknote, handed it
In surprise he looked at it, and saw that it was a twenty-dollar bill.
"Did you know this was a twenty-dollar bill?" he asked in amazement.
"Certainly," answered the lady, with a smile. "It is less than ten
per cent. of the amount I would have lost but for you. I hope it will
be of service to you."
"I feel rich with it," answered Ben. "How can I thank you, Mrs.
"Call on me at No. ---- Madison Avenue, and do it in person, when you
next come to the city," said the lady, smiling. "Now, if you will
kindly call that stage, I will bid you good-by--for the present."
Ben complied with her request, and joyfully resumed his walk down
A STARTLING EVENT
Though Ben had failed in the main object of his expedition, he
returned to Pentonville in excellent spirits. He felt that he had
been a favorite of fortune, and with good reason. In one day he had
acquired a sum equal to five weeks' wages. Added to the dollar Mr.
Crawford had contributed toward his expenses, he had been paid
twenty-one dollars, while he had spent a little less than two. It is
not every country boy who goes up to the great city who returns with
an equal harvest. If Squire Davenport had not threatened to foreclose
the mortgage, he would have felt justified in buying a present for his
mother. As it was, he feared they would have need of all the money
that came in to meet contingencies.
The train reached Pentonville at five o'clock, and about the usual
time Ben opened the gate and walked up to the front door of his modest
home. He looked so bright and cheerful when he entered her presence
that Mrs. Barclay thought be must have found and been kindly received
by the cousin whom he had gone up to seek.
"Did you see Mr. Peters?" she asked anxiously.
"No, mother; he is in Europe."
A shadow came over the mother's face. It was like taking from her her
"I was afraid you would not be repaid for going up to the city," she
"I made a pretty good day's work of it, nevertheless, mother. What do
you say to this?" and he opened his wallet and showed her a roll of
"Is that Mr. Crawford's money?" she asked.
"No, mother, it is mine, or rather it is yours, for I give it to you."
"Did you find a pocketbook, Ben? If so, the owner may turn up."
"Mother, the money is mine, fairly mine, for it was given me in return
for a service I rendered a lady in New York."
"What service could you have possibly rendered, Ben, that merited such
liberal payment?" asked his mother in surprise.
Upon this Ben explained, and Mrs. Barclay listened to his story with
"So you see, mother, I did well to go to the city," said Ben, in
"It has turned out so, and I am thankful for your good fortune. But I
should have been better pleased if you had seen Mr. Peters and found
him willing to help us about the mortgage."
"So would I, mother, but this money is worth having. When supper is
over I will go to the store to help out Mr. Crawford and report my
purchase of goods. You know the most of our trade is in the evening."
After Ben had gone Mrs. Barclay felt her spirits return as she thought
of the large addition to their little stock of money.
"One piece of good fortune may be followed by another," she thought.
"Mr. Peters may return from Europe in time to help us. At any rate,
we have nearly three months to look about us, and God may send us
When the tea dishes were washed and put away Mrs. Barclay sat down to
mend a pair of Ben's socks, for in that household it was necessary to
make clothing last as long as possible, when she was aroused from her
work by a ringing at the bell.
She opened the door to admit Squire Davenport.
"Good-evening," she said rather coldly, for she could not feel
friendly to a man who was conspiring to deprive her of her modest home
and turn her out upon the sidewalk.
"Good-evening, widow," said the squire.
"Will you walk in?" asked Mrs. Barclay, not over cordially.
"Thank you, I will step in for five minutes. I called to see if you
had thought better of my proposal the other evening."
"Your proposal was to take my house from me," said Mrs. Barclay. "How
can you suppose I would think better of that?"
"You forget that the house is more mine than yours already, Mrs.
Barclay. The sum I have advanced on mortgage is two-thirds of the
value of the property."
"I dispute that, sir."
"Let it pass," said the squire, with a wave of the hand. "Call it
three-fifths, if you will. Even then the property is more mine than
yours. Women don't understand business, or you would see matters in a
"I am a woman, it is true, but I understand very well that you wish to
take advantage of me," said the widow, not without excusable
"My good lady, you forget that I am ready to cancel the mortgage and
pay you three hundred and fifty dollars for the house. Now, three
hundred and fifty dollars is a handsome sum--a very handsome sum. You
could put it in the savings bank and it would yield you quite a
"Twenty dollars, more or less," said Mrs. Barclay. "Is that what you
call a comfortable income? How long do you think it would keep us
"Added, of course, to your son's wages. Ben is now able to earn good
"He earns four dollars a week, and that is our main dependence."
"I congratulate you. I didn't suppose Mr. Crawford paid such high
"Ben earns every cent of it."
"Very possibly. By the way, what is this that Tom was telling me
about Ben being sent to New York to buy goods for the store?"
"It is true, if that is what you mean."
"Bless my soul! It is very strange of Crawford, and I may add, not
"I suppose Mr. Crawford is the best judge of that, sir."
"Even if the boy were competent, which is not for a moment to be
thought of, it is calculated to foster his self-conceit."
"Ben is not self-conceited," said Mrs. Barclay, ready to resent any
slur upon her boy. "He has excellent business capacity, and if he
were older I should not need to ask favors of anyone."
"You are a mother, and naturally set an exaggerated estimate upon your
son's ability, which, I presume, is respectable, but probably not
more. However, let that pass. I did not call to discuss Ben but to
inquire whether you had not thought better of the matter we discussed
the other evening."
"I never shall, Squire Davenport. When the time comes you can
foreclose, if you like, but it will never be done with my consent."
"Ahem! Your consent will not be required."
"And let me tell you, Squire Davenport, if you do this wicked thing,
it won't benefit you in the end."
Squire Davenport shrugged his shoulders.
"I am not at all surprised to find you so unreasonable, Mrs. Barclay,"
he said. "It's the way with women. I should be glad if you would
come to look upon the matter in a different light; but I cannot
sacrifice my own interests in any event. The law is on my side."
"The law may be on your side, but the law upholds a great deal that is
oppressive and cruel."
"A curious set of laws we should have if women made them," said the
"They would not bear so heavily upon the poor as they do now."
"Well, I won't stop to discuss the matter. If you come to entertain
different views about the house, send word by Ben, and we will arrange
the details without delay. Mr. Kirk is anxious to move his family as
soon as possible, and would like to secure the house at once."
"He will have to wait three months at least," said Mrs. Barclay
coldly. "For that time, I believe the law protects me."
"You are right there; but at the end of that tine you cannot expect as
liberal terms as we are now prepared to offer you."
"Liberal!" repeated the widow, in a meaning tone.
"So I regard it," said the squire stiffly. "Good-evening."
An hour later Mrs. Barclay's reflections were broken in upon by the
ominous clang of the engine bell. This is a sound which always
excites alarm in a country village.
"Where's the fire?" she asked anxiously, of a boy who was running by
"It's Crawford's store!" was the startling reply. "It's blazin' up
like anything. Guess it'll have to go."
"I hope Ben'll keep out of danger," thought Mrs. Barclay, as she
hurriedly took her shawl and bonnet and started for the scene of
BEN SHOWS HIMSELF A HERO
A fire in a country village, particularly where the building is a
prominent one, is sure to attract a large part of the resident
population. Men, women, and children, as well as the hook and ladder
company, hurried to the scene of conflagration. Everybody felt a
personal interest in Crawford's. It was the great emporium which
provided all the families in the village with articles of prime and
secondary necessity. If Paris can be called France, then Crawford's
might be called Pentonville.
"Crawford's on fire!" exclaimed old Captain Manson. "Bless my soul!
It cannot be true. Where's my cane?"
"You don't mean to say you're goin' to the fire, father?" asked his
widowed daughter in surprise, for the captain had bowed beneath the
weight of eighty-six winters, and rarely left the domestic hearth.
"Do you think I'd stay at home when Crawford's was a-burning?"
returned the captain.
"But remember, father, you ain't so young as you used to be. You
might catch your death of cold."
"What! at a fire?" exclaimed the old man, laughing at his own joke.
"You know what I mean. It's dreadfully imprudent. Why, I wouldn't go
"Shouldn't think you would, at your time of life!" retorted her
So the old man emerged into the street, and hurried as fast as his
unsteady limbs would allow, to the fire.
"How did it catch?" the reader will naturally ask.
The young man who was the only other salesman besides Ben and the
proprietor, had gone down cellar smoking a cigar. In one corner was a
heap of shavings and loose papers. A spark from his cigar must have
fallen there. Had he noticed it, with prompt measures the incipient
fire might have been extinguished. But he went up stairs with the
kerosene, which he had drawn for old Mrs. Watts, leaving behind him
the seeds of destruction. Soon the flames, arising, caught the wooden
flooring of the upper store. The smell of the smoke notified Crawford
and his clerks of the impending disaster. When the door communicating
with the basement was opened, a stifling smoke issued forth and the
crackling of the fire was heard.
"Run, Ben; give the alarm!" called Mr. Crawford, pale with dismay and
apprehension. It was no time then to inquire how the fire caught.
There was only time to save as much of the stock as possible, since it
was clear that the fire had gained too great a headway to be put out.
Ben lost no time, and in less than ten minutes the engine, which,
fortunately, was housed only ten rods away, was on the ground. Though
it was impossible to save the store, the fire might be prevented from
spreading. A band of earnest workers aided Crawford in saving his
stock. A large part, of course, must be sacrificed; but, perhaps, a
quarter was saved.
All at once a terrified whisper spread from one to another:
"Mrs. Morton's children! Where are they? They must be in the third
A poor woman, Mrs. Morton, had been allowed, with her two children, to
enjoy, temporarily, two rooms in the third story. She had gone to a
farmer's two miles away to do some work, and her children, seven and
nine years of age, had remained at home. They seemed doomed to
But, even as the inquiry went from lip to lip, the children appeared.
They had clambered out of a third story window upon the sloping roof
of the rear ell, and, pale and dismayed, stood in sight of the shocked
and terrified crowd, shrieking for help!
"A ladder! A ladder!" exclaimed half a dozen.
But there was no ladder at hand--none nearer than Mr. Parmenter's,
five minutes' walk away. While a messenger was getting it the fate of
the children would be decided.
"Tell 'em to jump!" exclaimed Silas Carver.
"They'd break their necks, you fool!" returned his wife.
"Better do that than be burned up!" said the old man.
No one knew what to do--no one but Ben Barclay.
He seized a coil of rope, and with a speed which surprised even
himself, climbed up a tall oak tree, whose branches overshadowed the
roof of the ell part. In less than a minute he found himself on a
limb just over the children. To the end of the rope was fastened a
strong iron hook.
Undismayed by his own danger, Ben threw his rope, though he nearly
lost his footing while he was doing it, and with an aim so precise
that the hook caught in the smaller girl's dress.
"Hold on to the rope, Jennie, if you can!" he shouted.
The girl obeyed him instinctively.
Drawing the cord hand over hand, the little girl swung clear, and was
lowered into the arms of Ebenezer Strong, who detached the hook.
"Save the other, Ben!" shouted a dozen.
Ben needed no spur to further effort.
Again he threw the hook, and this time the older girl, comprehending
what was required, caught the rope and swung off the roof, scarcely in
time, for her clothing had caught fire. But when she reached the
ground ready hands extinguished it and the crowd of anxious spectators
breathed more freely, as Ben, throwing down the rope, rapidly
descended the tree and stood once more in safety, having saved two
Just then it was that the poor mother, almost frantic with fear,
arrived on the ground.
"Where are my darlings? Who will save them?" she exclaimed, full of
anguish, yet not comprehending that they were out of peril.
"They are safe, and here is the brave boy who saved their lives," said
"God bless you, Ben Barclay!" exclaimed the poor mother. "You have
saved my life as well as theirs, for I should have died if they had
Ben scarcely heard her, for one and another came up to shake his hand
and congratulate him upon his brave deed. Our young hero was
generally self-possessed, but he hardly knew how to act when he found
himself an object of popular ovation.
"Somebody else would have done it if I hadn't," he said modestly.
"You are the only one who had his wits about him," said Seth Jones.
"No one thought of the rope till you climbed the tree. We were all
looking for a ladder and there was none to be had nearer than Mr.
"I wouldn't have thought of it myself if I hadn't read in a daily
paper of something like it," said Ben.
"Ben," said Mr. Crawford, "I'd give a thousand dollars to have done
what you did. You have shown yourself a hero."
"Oh, Ben, how frightened I was when I saw you on the branch just over
the burning building," said a well-known voice.
Turning, Ben saw it was his mother who spoke.
"Well, it's all right now, mother," he said, smiling. "You are not
sorry I did it?"
"Sorry! I am proud of you."
"I am not proud of my hands," said Ben. "Look at them."
They were chafed and bleeding, having been lacerated by his rapid
descent from the tree.
"Come home, Ben, and let me put some salve on them. How they must
"Wait till the fire is all over, mother."
The gallant firemen did all they could, but the store was doomed.
They could only prevent it from extending. In half an hour the engine
was taken back, and Ben went home with his mother.
"It's been rather an exciting evening, mother," said Ben. "I rather
think I shall have to find a new place."
BEN LOSES HIS PLACE
Ben did not find himself immediately out of employment. The next
morning Mr. Crawford commenced the work of ascertaining what articles
he had saved, and storing them. Luckily there was a vacant store
which had once been used for a tailor's shop, but had been unoccupied
for a year or more. This he hired, and at once removed his goods to
it. But he did not display his usual energy. He was a man of over
sixty, and no longer possessed the enterprise and ambition which had
once characterized him. Besides, he was very comfortably off, or
would be when he obtained the insurance money.
"I don't know what I shall do," he said, when questioned. "I was
brought up on a farm, and I always meant to end my days on one.
Perhaps now is as well any time, since my business is broken up."
This came to the ears of Squire Davenport, who was always keen-scented
for a bargain. His wife's cousin, Mr. Kirk, who has already been
introduced to the reader, had, in his earlier days, served as a clerk
in a country store. He had no capital, to be sure, but the squire had
plenty. It occurred to him as a good plan to buy out the business
himself, hire Kirk on a salary to conduct it, and so add considerably
to his already handsome income. He sent for Kirk, ascertained that he
was not only willing, but anxious, to manage the business, and then he
called on Mr. Crawford.
It is unnecessary to detail the negotiations that ensued. It was
Squire Davenport's wish to obtain the business as cheaply as possible.
The storekeeper, however, had his own estimate of its worth, and the
squire was obliged to add considerable to his first offer. In the
end, however, he secured it on advantageous terms, and Mr. Crawford
now felt able to carry out the plan he had long had in view.
It was in the evening, a week after the fire, that the bargain was
struck, and Ben was one of the first to hear of it.
When he came to work early the next morning he found his employer in
the store before him, which was not usual.
"You are early, Mr. Crawford," he said, in evident surprise.
"Yes, Ben," was the reply. "I can afford to come early for a morning
or two, as I shall soon be out of business."
"You haven't sold out, have you?" inquired Ben quickly.
"Yes; the bargain was struck last evening."
"How soon do you leave the store?"
"In three days. It will take that time to make up my accounts."
"I am sorry," said Ben, "for I suppose I shall have to retire, too."
"I don't know about that, Ben. Very likely my successor may want
"That depends on who he is. Do you mind telling me, or is it a
"Oh, no; it will have to come out, of course. Squire Davenport has
bought the business."
"The squire isn't going to keep the store, is he?" asked Ben, in
"No; though he will, no doubt, supervise it. He will employ a
"Do you know who is to be the manager, Mr. Crawford?"
"Some connection of his named Kirk."
"Do you know him?" the storekeeper was led to inquire.
"I have not seen him, but he called with the squire on my mother,"
said Ben significantly.
"I shall be glad to recommend you to him."
"It will be of no use, Mr. Crawford," answered Ben, in a decided tone.
"I know he wouldn't employ me, nor would I work for him if he would.
Neither he nor the squire is a friend of mine."
"I did not dream of this, Ben. I am sorry if the step I have taken is
going to deprive you of employment," said Mr. Crawford, who was a
kind-hearted man, and felt a sincere interest in his young clerk.
"Never mind, Mr. Crawford, I am not cast down. There will be other
openings for me. I am young, strong, and willing to work, and I am
sure I shall find something to do."
"That's right, Ben. Cheer up, and if I hear of any good chance, rest
assured that I will let you know of it."
Tom Davenport was not long in hearing of his father's bargain. He
heard it with unfeigned pleasure, for it occurred to him at once that
Ben, for whom he had a feeling of hatred, by no means creditable to
him, would be thrown out of employment.
"Promise me, pa, that you won't employ Ben Barclay," he said.
"I have no intention of employing that boy," said his father. "Mr.
Kirk has a son of his own, about Ben's age, and will, no doubt, put
him into the store, unless you should choose to go in and learn the
"What! I become a store boy!" exclaimed Tom, in disgust. "No, thank
you. I might be willing to become salesman in a large establishment
in the city, but I don't care to go into a country grocery."
"It wouldn't do you any harm," said the squire, who was not quite so
high-minded as his son. "However, I merely mentioned it as something
you could do if you chose."
"Bah! I don't choose it," said Tom decidedly.
"Well, well; you won't have to do it."
"It would put me on a level with Ben Barclay, if I stepped into his
shoes. Won't he be down in the month when he hears he has lost his
place?" and Tom chuckled at the thought.
"That is no concern of mine," said the squire. "I suppose he can hire
out to a farmer."
"Just the business for him", said Tom, "unless he should prefer to go
to New York and set up as a bootblack. I believe I'll suggest that to
"Probably he won't thank you for the suggestion."
"I guess not. He's as proud as he is poor. It's amusing to see what
airs he puts on."
Squire Davenport, however, was not so much interested in that phase of
the subject as Tom, and did not reply.
"I think I'll go down street," thought Tom. "Perhaps I may come
across Ben. I shall enjoy seeing how he takes it."
Tom had scarcely walked a hundred yards when he met, not the one of
whom he had thought, but another to whom he felt glad to speak on the
same subject. This was Rose Gardiner, the prettiest girl in the
village, who had already deeply offended Tom by accepting Ben as her
escort from the magical entertainment in place of him. He had made
advances since, being desirous of ousting Ben from his position of
favorite, but the young lady had treated him coldly, much to his anger
"Good-morning, Miss Rose," said Tom.
"Good-morning," answered Rose civilly.
"Have you heard the news?"
"To what news do you refer?"
"Crawford has sold out his business."
"Indeed!" said Rose, in surprise; "who has bought it?"
"My father. Of course, he won't keep store himself. He will put in a
connection of ours, Mr. Kirk."
"This is news, indeed! Where is Mr. Crawford going?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. I thought you'd be more apt to inquire about
"I am not good at guessing enigmas," said Rose.
"Your friend, Ben Barclay," returned Tom, with a sneer. "Father won't
have him in the store!"
"Oh, I see; you are going to take his place," said Rose mischievously.
"I? What do you take me for?" said Tom, haughtily. "I suppose Ben
Barclay will have to go to work on a farm."
"That is a very honorable employment," said Rose calmly.
"Yes; he can be a hired man when he grows up. Perhaps, though, he
will prefer to go to the city and become a bootblack."
"Ben ought to be very much obliged to you for the interest you feel in
his welfare," said Rose, looking steadily and scornfully at Tom.
"She feels sore about it," thought Tom complacently. "She won't be
quite so ready to accept Ben's attentions when he is a farm laborer."
Tom, however, did not understand Rose Gardiner. She was a girl of
good sense, and her estimate of others was founded on something else
than social position.
BEN FINDS TEMPORARY EMPLOYMENT
"Oh, Ben, what shall we do?" exclaimed Mrs. Barclay, when she heard
Mr. Crawford had sold out his business.
"We'll get along somehow, mother. Something will be sure to turn up."
Ben spoke more cheerfully than he felt. He knew very well that
Pentonville presented scarcely any field for a boy, unless he was
willing to work on a farm. Now, Ben had no objections to farm labor,
provided he had a farm of his own, but at the rate such labor was paid
in Pentonville, there was very little chance of ever rising above the
position of a "hired man," if he once adopted the business. Our young
hero felt that this would not satisfy him. He was enterprising and
ambitious, and wanted to be a rich man some day.
Money is said, by certain moralists, to be the root of all evil. The
love of money, if carried too far, may indeed lead to evil, but it is
a natural ambition in any boy or man to wish to raise himself above
poverty. The wealth of Amos Lawrence and Peter Cooper was a source of
blessing to mankind, yet each started as a poor boy, and neither would
have become rich if he had not striven hard to become so.
When Ben made this cheerful answer his mother shook her head sadly.
She was not so hopeful as Ben, and visions of poverty presented
themselves before her mind.
"I don't see what you can find to do in Pentonville, Ben," she said.
"I can live a while without work while I am looking around, mother,"
Ben answered. "We have got all that money I brought from New York
"It won't last long," said his mother despondently.
"It will last till I can earn some more," answered Ben hopefully.
Ben was about to leave the house when a man in a farmer's frock,
driving a yoke of oxen, stopped his team in the road, and turned in at
the widow's gate.
It was Silas Greyson, the owner of a farm just out of the village.
"Did you want to see mother?" asked Ben.
"No, I wanted to see you, Benjamin," answered Greyson. "I hear you've
left the store."
"The store has changed hands, and the new storekeeper don't want me."
"Do you want a job?"
"What is it, Mr. Greyson?" Ben replied, answering one question with
"I'm goin' to get in wood for the winter from my wood lot for about a
week," said the farmer, "and I want help. Are you willin' to hire out
for a week?"
"What'll you pay me?" asked Ben.
"I'll keep you, and give you a cord of wood. Your mother'll find it
handy. I'm short of money, and calc'late wood'll be just as good
Ben thought over the proposal, and answered: "I'd rather take my meals
at home, Mr. Greyson, and if you'll make it two cords with that
understanding, I'll agree to hire out to you."
"Ain't that rather high?" asked the farmer, hesitating.
"I don't think so."
Finally Silas Greyson agreed, and Ben promised to be on hand bright
and early the next day. It may be stated here that wood was very
cheap at Pentonville, so that Ben would not be overpaid.
There were some few things about the house which Ben wished to do for
his mother before he went to work anywhere, and he thought this a good
opportunity to do them. While in the store his time had been so taken
up that he was unable to attend to them. He passed a busy day,
therefore, and hardly went into the street.
Just at nightfall, as he was in the front yard, he was rather
surprised to see Tom Davenport open the gate and enter.
"What does he want, I wonder?" he thought, but he said, in a civil
tone: "Good-evening, Tom."
"You're out of business, ain't you?" asked Tom abruptly.
"I'm not out of work at any rate!" answered Ben.
"Why, what work are you doing?" interrogated Tom, in evident
"I've been doing some jobs about the house, for mother."
"That won't give you a living," said Tom disdainfully.
"Did you expect to stay in the store?" asked Tom.
"Not after I heard that your father had bought it," answered Ben
"My father's willing to give you work," said Tom.
"Is he?" asked Ben, very much surprised.
It occurred to him that perhaps he would have a chance to remain in
the store after all, and for the present that would have suited him.
Though he didn't like the squire, or Mr. Kirk, he felt that he had no
right, in his present circumstances, to refuse any way to earn an
"Yes," answered Tom. "I told him he'd better hire you."
"You did!" exclaimed Ben, more and more amazed. "I didn't expect
that. However, go on, if you please."
"He's got three cords of wood that he wants sawed and split," said
Tom, "and as I knew how poor you were I thought it would be a good
chance for you."
You might have thought from Tom's manner that he was a young lord, and
Ben a peasant. Ben was not angry, but amused.
"It is true," he said. "I am not rich; still, I am not as poor as you
He happened to have in his pocketbook the money he had brought from
New York, and this he took from his pocket and displayed to the
"Where did you get that money?" asked Tom, surprised and chagrined.
"I got it honestly. You see we can hold out a few days. However, I
may be willing to accept the job you offer me. How much is your
father willing to pay me?"
"He is willing to give you forty cents a day."
"How long does he expect me to work for that?"
"That is four cents an hour, and hard work at that. I am much obliged
to you and him, Tom, for your liberal offer, but I can't accept it."
"You'll see the time when you'll be glad to take such a job," said
Tom, who was personally disappointed that he would not be able to
exhibit Ben as his father's hired dependent.
"You seem to know all about it, Tom," answered Ben. "I shall be at
work all next week, at much higher pay, for Silas Greyson."
"How much does he pay you?"
"That is my private business, and wouldn't interest you."
"You're mighty independent for a boy in your position."
"Very likely. Won't you come in?"
"No," answered Tom ungraciously; "I've wasted too much time here
"I understand Tom's object in wanting to hire me," thought Ben. "He
wants to order me around. Still, if the squire had been willing to
pay a decent price, I would have accepted the job. I won't let pride
stand in the way of my supporting mother and myself."
This was a sensible and praiseworthy resolution, as I hope my young
readers will admit. I don't think much of the pride that is willing
to let others suffer in order that it may be gratified.
Ben worked a full week for Farmer Greyson, and helped unload the two
cords of wood, which were his wages, in his mother's yard. Then there
were two days of idleness, which made him anxious. On the second day,
just after supper, he met Rose Gardiner coming from the post office.
"Have you any correspondents in New York, Ben?" she asked.
"What makes you ask, Rose?"
Because the postmaster told me there was a letter for you by this
evening's mail. It was mailed in New York, and was directed in a
lady's hand. I hope you haven't been flirting with any New York
ladies, Mr. Barclay."
"The only lady I know in New York is at least fifty years old,"
answered Ben, smiling.
"That is satisfactory," answered Rose solemnly. "Then I won't be
"What can the letter be?" thought Ben. "I hope it contains good
He hurried to the post office in a fever of excitement.
WHAT THE LETTER CONTAINED
"I hear there is a letter for me, Mr. Brown," said Ben to the
postmaster, who was folding the evening papers, of which he received a
parcel from the city by the afternoon train.
"Yes, Ben," answered the postmaster, smiling. "It appears to be from
a lady in New York. You must have improved your time during your
recent visit to the city."
"I made the acquaintance of one lady older than my mother," answered
Ben. "I didn't flirt with her any."
"At any rate, I should judge that she became interested in you or she
"I hope she did, for she is very wealthy," returned Ben.
The letter was placed in his hands, and he quickly tore it open.
Something dropped from it.
"What is that?" asked the postmaster.
Ben stooped and picked it up, and, to his surprise, discovered that it
was a ten-dollar bill.
"That's a correspondent worth having," said Mr. Brown jocosely.
"Can't you give me a letter of introduction?"
Ben didn't answer, for he was by this time deep the letter. We will
look over his shoulder and read it with him. It ran thus:
"No. ---- Madison Avenue,
New York, October 5.
"My Dear Young Friend:
"Will you come to New York and call upon me? I have a very pleasant
remembrance of you and the service you did me recently, and think I
can employ you in other ways, to our mutual advantage. I am willing
to pay you a higher salary than you are receiving in your country
home, besides providing you with a home in my own house. I inclose
ten dollars for expenses. Yours, with best wishes,
Ben's heart beat with joyful excitement as he read this letter. It
could not have come at a better time, for, as we know, he was out of
employment, and, of course, earning nothing.
"Well, Ben," said the postmaster, whose curiosity was excited, is it
"I should say it was," said Ben emphatically. "I am offered a good
situation in New York."
"You don't say so! How much are offered?"
"I am to get more than Mr. Crawford paid me and board in a fine house
besides--a brownstone house on Madison Avenue."
"Well, I declare! You are in luck," ejaculated Mr. Brown. "What are
you to do?"
"That's more than I know. Here is the letter, if you like to read
"It reads well. She must be a generous lady. But what will your
"That's what I want to know," said Ben, looking suddenly sober. "I
hate to leave her, but it is for my good."
"Mothers are self-sacrificing when the interests of their children are
"I know that," said Ben promptly; "and I've got one of the best
"So you have. Every one likes and respects Mrs. Barclay."
Any boy, who is worth anything, likes to hear his mother praised, and
Ben liked Mr. Brown better for this tribute to the one whom he loved
best on earth. He was not slow in making his way home. He went at
once to the kitchen, where his mother was engaged in mixing bread.
"What's the matter, Ben? You look excited," said Mrs. Barkley.
"So I am, mother. I am offered a position."
"Not in the store?"
"No; it is in New York."
"In New York!" repeated his mother, in a troubled voice. "It would
cost you all you could make to pay your board in some cheap boarding
house. If it were really going to be for your own good, I might
consent to part with you, but--"
"Read that letter, mother," said Ben. "You will see that I shall have
an elegant home and a salary besides. It is a chance in a thousand."
Mrs. Barclay read the letter carefully.
"Can I go, mother?" Ben asked anxiously.
"It will be a sacrifice for me to part with you," returned his mother
slowly; "but I agree with you that it is a rare chance, and I should
be doing wrong to stand in the way of your good fortune. Mrs.
Hamilton must have formed a very good opinion of you."
"She may be disappointed in me," said Ben modestly.
"I don't think she will," said Mrs. Barclay, with a proud and
affectionate glance at her boy. "You have always been a good son, and
that is the best of recommendations."
"I am afraid you are too partial, mother. I shall hate to leave you
"I can bear loneliness if I know you are prospering, Ben."
"And it will only be for a time, mother. When I am a young man and
earning a good income, I shall want you to come and live with me."
"All in good time, Ben. How soon do you want to go?"
"I think it better to lose no time, mother. You know I have no work
to keep me in Pentonville."
"But it will take two or three days to get your clothes ready."
"You can send them to me by express. I shall send you the address."
Mrs. Barclay was a fond mother, but she was also a sensible woman.
She felt that Ben was right, and, though it seemed very sudden, she
gave him her permission to start the next morning. Had she objected
strenuously, Ben would have given up his plan, much as he desired it,
for he felt that his mother had the strongest claims upon him, and he
would not have been willing to run counter to her wishes.
"Where are you going, Ben?" asked his mother, as Ben put on his hat
and moved toward the door.
"I thought I would like to call on Rose Gardiner to say good-by,"
"Quite right, my son. Rose is a good friend of yours, and an
"I say ditto to that, mother," Ben answered warmly.
I am not going to represent Ben as being in love--he was too young for
that--but, like many boys of his age, he felt a special attraction in
the society of one young girl. His good taste was certainly not at
fault in his choice of Rose Gardiner, who, far from being frivolous
and fashionable, was a girl of sterling traits, who was not above
making herself useful in the household of which she formed a part.
On his way to the home of Rose Gardiner, Ben met Tom Davenport.
"How are you getting along?" asked Tom, not out of interest, but
"Very well, thank you."
"Have you got through helping the farmer?"
"It was a very long job. Have you thought better of coming to saw
wood for father?"
"No; I have thought worse of it," answered Ben, smiling.
"You are too proud. Poor and proud don't agree."
"Not at all. I would have had no objection to the work. It was the
pay I didn't like."
"You can't earn more than forty cents a day at anything else."
"You are mistaken. I am going to New York to-morrow to take a place,
where I get board and considerable more money besides."
"Is that true?" asked Tom, looking as if he had lost his best friend.
"Quite so. The party inclosed ten dollars to pay my expenses up to
"He must be a fool."
"Thank you. It happens to be a lady."
"What are you to do?"
"I don't know yet. I am sure I shall be well paid. I must ask you to
excuse me now, as I am going to call on Rose Gardiner to bid her
"I dare say she would excuse you," said Tom, with a sneer.
"Perhaps so; but I wouldn't like to go without saying good-by."
"At any rate, he will be out of my way," thought Tom, "and I can
monopolize Rose. I'm glad he's going."
He bade Ben an unusually civil good-night at this thought occurred to
FAREWELL TO PENTONVILLE
"I have come to say good-by, Rose," said Ben, as the young lady made
"Good-by!" repeated Rose, in surprise. "Why, where are you going?"
"To New York."
"But you are coming back again?"
"I hope so, but only for a visit now and then. I am offered a
position in the city."
"Isn't that rather sudden?" said Rose, after a pause.
Ben explained how he came to be offered employment.
"I am to receive higher pay than I did here, and a home besides," he
added, in a tone of satisfaction. "Don't you think I am lucky?"
"Yes, Ben, and I rejoice in your good fortune; but I shall miss you so
much," said Rose frankly.
"I am glad of that," returned Ben. "I hoped you would miss me a
little. You'll go and see mother now and then, won't you? She will
feel very lonely."
"You may be sure I will. It is a pity you have to go away. A great
many will be sorry."
"I know someone who won't."
"Who is that?"
Rose smiled. She had a little idea why Tom would not regret Ben's
"Tom could be spared, as well as not," she said.
"He is a strong admirer of yours, I believe," said Ben mischievously.
"I don't admire him," retorted Rose, with a little toss of her head.
Ben heard this with satisfaction, for though he was too young to be a
lover, he did have a strong feeling of attraction toward Rose, and
would have been sorry to have Tom step into his place.
As Ben was preparing to go, Rose said, "Wait a minute, Ben."
She left the room and went upstairs, but returned almost immediately,
with a small knit purse.
"Won't you accept this, Ben?" she said. "I just finished it
yesterday. It will remind you of me when you are away."
"Thank you, Rose. I shall need nothing to keep you in my remembrance,
but I will value it for your sake."
"I hope you will be fortunate and fill it very soon, Ben."
So the two parted on the most friendly terms, and the next day Ben
started for New York in the highest of spirits.
After purchasing his ticket, he gave place to Squire Davenport, who
also called for a ticket to New York. Now, it so happened that the
squire had not seen Tom since the interview of the latter with our
hero, and was in ignorance of his good luck.
"Are you going to New York, Benjamin?" he asked, in surprise.
"Isn't it rather extravagant for one in your circumstances?"
"Yes, sir; if I had no object in view."
"Have you any business in the city?"
"Yes, sir; I am going to take a place."
Squire Davenport was still more surprised, and asked particulars.
These Ben readily gave, for he was quite elated by his good fortune.
"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the squire contemptuously. "I thought
you might have secured a position in some business house. This lady
probably wants you to answer the doorbell and clean the knives, or
something of that sort."
"I am sure she does not," said Ben, indignant and mortified.
"You'll find I am right," said the squire confidently. "Young man, I
can't congratulate you on your prospects. You would have done as well
to stay in Pentonville and work on my woodpile."
"Whatever work I may do in New York, I shall be a good deal better
paid for than here," retorted Ben.
Squire Davenport shrugged his shoulders, and began to read the morning
paper. To do him justice, he only said what he thought when he
predicted to Ben that he would be called upon to do menial work.
"The boy won't be in so good spirits a week hence," he thought.
"However, that is not my affair. There is no doubt that I shall get
possession of his mother's house when the three months are up, and I
don't at all care where he and his mother go. If they leave
Pentonville I shall be very well satisfied. I have no satisfaction in
meeting either of them," and the squire frowned, as if some unpleasant
thought had crossed his mind.
Nothing of note passed during the remainder of the journey. Ben
arrived in New York, and at once took a conveyance uptown, and due
time found himself, carpet-bag in hand, on the front steps of Mrs.
He rang the bell, and the door was opened by a servant.
"She's out shopping," answered the girl, looking inquisitively at
Ben's carpet-bag. "Will you leave a message for her?"
"I believe I am expected," said Ben, feeling a little awkward. "My
name is Benjamin Barclay."
"Mrs. Hamilton didn't say anything about expecting any boy," returned
the servant. "You can come in, if you like, and I'll call Mrs. Hill."
"I suppose that is the housekeeper," thought Ben.
"Very well," he answered. "I believe I will come in, as Mrs. Hamilton
wrote me to come."
Ben left his bag in the front hall, and with his hat in his hand
followed the servant into the handsomely-furnished drawing room.
"I wish Mrs. Hamilton had been here," he said to himself. "The girl
seems to look at me suspiciously. I hope the housekeeper knows about
Ben sat down in an easy-chair beside a marble-topped center table, and
waited for fifteen minutes before anyone appeared. He beguiled the
time by looking over a handsomely illustrated book of views, but
presently the door was pushed open and he looked up.
The newcomer was a spare, pale-faced woman, with a querulous
expression, who stared coldly at our hero. It was clear that she was
not glad to see him. "What can I do for you, young man?" she asked in
a repellent tone.
"What a disagreeable-looking woman!" thought Ben. "I am sure we shall
never be friends."
"Is Mrs. Hamilton expected in soon?" he asked.
"I really cannot say. She does not report to me how long she expects
to be gone."
"Didn't she speak to you about expecting me?" asked Ben, feeling
"Not a word!" was the reply.
"She wrote to me to come here, but perhaps she did not expect me so
"If you have come here to collect a bill, or with any business errand,
I can attend to you. I am Mrs. Hamilton's cousin."
"Thank you; it will be necessary for me to see Mrs. Hamilton."
"Then you may as well call in the afternoon, or some other day."
"That's pretty cool!" thought Ben. "That woman wants to get me out of
the house, but I propose to 'hold the fort' till Mrs. Hamilton
"I thought you might know that I am going to stay here," said Ben.
"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Hill, in genuine surprise.
"Mrs. Hamilton has offered me a position, though I do not know what
the duties are to be, and am going to make my home here."
"Really this is too much!" said the pale-faced lady sternly. "Here,
Conrad!" she called, going to the door.
A third party made his appearance on the scene, a boy who looked so
much like Mrs. Hill that it was clear she was his mother. He was two
inches taller than Ben, but looked pale and flabby.
"What's wanted, ma?" he said, staring at Ben.
"This young man has made a strange mistake. He says Mrs. Hamilton has
sent for him and that he is going to live here.
"He's got cheek," exclaimed Conrad, continuing to stare at Ben.
"Tell him he'd better go!"
"You'd better go!" said the boy, like a parrot.
"Thank you," returned Ben, provoked, "but I mean to stay."
"Go and call a policeman, Conrad," said Mrs. Hill. "We'll see what
he'll have to say then."
A COOL RECEPTION
"This isn't quite the reception I expected," thought Ben. He was
provoked with the disagreeable woman who persisted in regarding and
treating him as an intruder, but he was not nervous or alarmed. He
knew that things would come right, and that Mrs. Hill and her
promising son would see their mistake. He had half a mind to let
Conrad call a policeman, and then turn the tables upon his foes. But,
he knew that this would be disagreeable to Mrs. Hamilton, whose
feelings he was bound to consider.
"Before you call a policeman," he said quietly, "it may be well for
you to read this letter."
As he spoke handed Mrs. Hill the letter he had received from Mrs.
Mrs. Hill took the letter suspiciously, and glared over it. As she
read, a spot of red glowed in each pallid check, and she bit her lips
"I don't understand it," she said slowly.
Ben did not feel called upon to explain what was perfectly
intelligible. He saw that Mrs. Hill didn't want to understand it.
"What is it, ma?" asked Conrad, his curiosity aroused.
"You can read it for yourself, Conrad," returned his mother.
"Is he coming to live here?" ejaculated Conrad, astonished, indicating
Ben with a jerk of his finger.
"If this letter is genuine," said Mrs. Hill, with at significant
emphasis on the last word.
"If it is not, Mrs. Hamilton will be sure to tell you so," said Ben,
"Come out, Conrad; I want to speak to you," said his mother.
Without ceremony, they left Ben in the parlor alone, and withdrew to
another part of the house, where they held a conference.
"What does it all mean, ma?" asked Conrad.
"It means that your prospects are threatened, my poor boy. Cousin
Hamilton, who is very eccentric, has taken a fancy to this boy, and
she is going to confer favors upon him at your expense. It is too
"I'd like to break his head!" said Conrad, scowling.
"It won't do, Conrad, to fight him openly. We must do what we can in
an underhand way to undermine him with Cousin Hamilton. She ought to
make you her heir, as she has no children of her own."
"I don't think she likes me," said the boy. "She only gives me two
dollars a week allowance, and she scolded me the other day because she
met me in the hall smoking a cigarette."
"Be sure not to offend her, Conrad. A great deal depends on it. Two
dollars ought to answer for the present. When you are a young man, you
may be in very different circumstances."
"I don't know about that," grumbled Conrad. "I may get two dollars a
week then, but what's that?"
"You may be a wealthy man!" said his mother impressively. "Cousin
Hamilton is not so healthy as she looks. I have a suspicion that her
heart is affected. She might die suddenly."
"Do you really think so?" said Conrad eagerly.
"I think so. What you must try to do is to stand well with her, and
get her to make her will in your favor. I will attend to that, if you
will do as I tell you."
"She may make this boy her heir," said Conrad discontentedly. "Then
where would I be?"
"She won't do it, if I can help it," said Mrs. Hill with an emphatic
nod. "I will manage to make trouble between them. You will always be
my first interest, my dear boy."
She made a motion to kiss her dear boy, but Conrad, who was by no
means of an affectionate disposition, moved his head suddenly, with an
impatient exclamation, "Oh, bother!"
A pained look came over the mother's face, for she loved her son,
unattractive and disagreeable as he was, with a love the greater
because she loved no one else in the world. Mother and son were
selfish alike, but the son the more so, for he had not a spark of love
for any human being.
"There's the bell!" said Mrs. Hill suddenly. "I do believe Cousin
Hamilton has come. Now we shall find out whether this boy's story is
"Let's go downstairs, ma! I hope it's all a mistake and she'll send
me for a policeman."
"I am afraid the boy's story is correct. But his day will be short."
When they reached the hall, Mrs. Hamilton had already been admitted to
"There's a boy in the drawing room, Mrs. Hamilton," said Mrs. Hill,
"who says he is to stay here--that you sent for him."
"Has he come already?" returned Mrs. Hamilton. "I am glad of it."
"Then you did send for him?"
"Of course. Didn't I mention it to you? I hardly expected he would
come so soon."
She opened the door of the drawing room, and approached Ben, with
extended hand and a pleasant smile.
"Welcome to New York, Ben," she said. "I hope I haven't kept you
"Not very long," answered Ben, shaking her hand.
"This is my cousin Mrs. Hill, who relieves me of part of my
housekeeping care," continued Mrs. Hamilton, "and this is her son,
Conrad. Conrad, this is a companion for you, Benjamin Barclay, who
will be a new member of our small family."
"I hope you are well, Conrad," said Ben, with a smile, to the boy who
but a short time before was going for a policeman to put him under
"I'm all right," said Conrad ungraciously.
"Really, Cousin Hamilton, this is a surprise" said Mrs. Hill. "You
are quite kind to provide Conrad with a companion, but I don't think
he felt the need of any, except his mother--and you."
Mrs. Hamilton laughed. She saw that neither Mrs. Hill nor Conrad was
glad to see Ben, and this was only what she expected, and, indeed,
this was the chief reason why she had omitted to mention Ben's
"You give me too much credit," she said, "if you think I invited this
young gentleman here solely as a companion to Conrad. I shall have
some writing and accounts for him to attend to."
"I am sure Conrad would have been glad to serve you in that way,
Cousin Hamilton," said Mrs. Hill. "I am sorry you did not give him
the first chance."
"Conrad wouldn't have suited me," said Mrs. Hamilton bluntly.
"Perhaps I may not be competent," suggested Ben modestly.
"We can tell better after trying you," said his patroness. "As for
Conrad, I have obtained a position for him. He is to enter the
offices of Jones & Woodhull, on Pearl Street, to-morrow. You will
take an early breakfast, Conrad, for it will be necessary for you to
be at the office at eight o'clock."
"How much am I to get?" asked Conrad.
"Four dollars a week. I shall let you have all this in lieu of the
weekly allowance I pay you, but will provide you with clothing, as
heretofore, so that this will keep you liberally supplied with pocket
"Conrad's brow cleared. He was lazy, and did not enjoy going to work,
but the increase of his allowance would be satisfactory.
"And now, Ben, Mrs. Hill will kindly show you your room. It is the
large hall bedroom on the third floor. When you have unpacked your
valise, and got to feel at home, come downstairs, and we will have a
little conversation upon business. You will find me in the sitting
room, on the next floor."
"Thank you," said Ben politely, and he followed the pallid cousin
upstairs. He was shown into a handsomely furnished room, bright and
"This is a very pleasant room," he said.
"You won't occupy it long!" said Mrs. Hill to herself. "No one will
step into my Conrad's place, if I can help it."
ENTERING UPON HIS DUTIES
When Ben had taken out his clothing from his valise and put it away in
the drawers of the handsome bureau which formed a part of the
furniture of his room, he went downstairs, and found his patroness in
a cozy sitting room, on the second floor. It was furnished, Ben could
not help thinking, more as if it were designed for a gentleman than a
lady. In one corner was a library table, with writing materials,
books, and papers upon it, and an array of drawers on either side of
the central part.
"Come right in, Ben," said Mrs. Hamilton, who was seated at the table.
"We will talk of business."
This Ben was quite willing to do. He was anxious to know what were to
be his duties, that he might judge whether he was competent to
"Let me tell you, to begin with," said his patroness, "that I am
possessed of considerable wealth, as, indeed, you may have judged by
way of living. I have no children, unfortunately, and being
unwilling, selfishly, to devote my entire means to my own use
exclusively, I try to help others in a way that I think most suitable.
Mrs. Hill, who acts as my housekeeper, is a cousin, who made a poor
marriage, and was left penniless. I have given a home to her and her
"I don't think Mrs. Hill likes my being here," said Ben.
"You are, no doubt, right. She is foolish enough to be jealous
because I do not bestow all my favors upon her."
"I think she will look upon me as a rival of her son."
"I expected she would. Perhaps she will learn, after a while, that I
can be a friend to you and him both, though, I am free to admit, I
have never been able to take any fancy to Conrad, nor, indeed, was his
mother a favorite with me. But for her needy circumstances, she is,
perhaps, the last of my relatives that I would invite to become a
member of my household. However, to come to business: My money is
invested in various ways. Besides the ordinary forms of investment,
stocks, bonds, and mortgages, I have set up two or three young men,
whom I thought worthy, in business, and require them to send in
monthly statements of their business to me. You see, therefore, that
I have more or less to do with accounts. I never had much taste for
figures, and it struck me that I might relieve myself of considerable
drudgery if I could obtain your assistance, under my supervision, of
course. I hope you have a taste for figures?"
"Arithmetic and algebra are my favorite studies," said Ben promptly.
"I am glad of it. Of course, I did not know that, but had you not
been well versed in accounts, I meant to send you to a commercial
school to qualify you for the duties I wished to impose upon you."
"I don't think it will be necessary," answered Ben. "I have taken
lessons in bookkeeping at home, and, though it seems like boasting, I
was better in mathematics than any of my schoolfellows."
"I am so glad to hear that. Can you write well?"
"Shall I write something for you?"
Mrs. Hamilton vacated her place, and Ben, sitting at the desk, wrote
two or three copies from remembrance.
"Very well, indeed!" said his patroness approvingly. "I see that in
engaging you I have made no mistake."
Ben's cheek flushed with pleasure, and he was eager to enter upon his
new duties. But he could not help wondering why he had been selected
when Conrad was already in the house, and unemployed. He ventured to
"Would you mind telling me why you did not employ Conrad, instead of
sending for me?"
"There are two good and sufficient reasons: Conrad is not competent
for such an office; and secondly, I should not like to have the boy
about me as much as he would need to be. I have obtained for him a
position out of the house. One question remains to be considered: How
much wages do you expect?"
"I would prefer to leave that to you, Mrs. Hamilton. I cannot expect
"Will ten dollars a week be adequate?"
"I can't earn as much money as that," said Ben, in surprise.
"Perhaps not, and yet I am not sure. If you suit me, it will be worth
my while to pay you as much."
"But Conrad will only receive four dollars a week. Won't he be
"Conrad is not called upon to support his mother, as I understand you
"You are very kind to think of that, Mrs. Hamilton."
"I want to be kind to you, Ben," said his patroness with a pleasant
"When shall I commence my duties?"
"Now. You will copy this statement into the ledger you see here.
Before doing so, will you look over and verify the figures?"
Ben was soon hard at work. He was interested in his work, and the
time slipped fast. After an hour and a half had passed, Mrs. Hamilton
"It is about time for lunch, and I think there will be no more to do
to-day. Are you familiar with New York?"
"No, I have spent very little time in the city."
"You will, no doubt, like to look about. We have dinner at six sharp.
You will be on tine?"
"I will be sure to be here."
"That reminds me--have you a watch?"
Ben shook his head.
"I thought it might be so. I have a good silver watch, which I have
no occasion for."
Mrs. Hamilton left the room, and quickly returned with a neat silver
hunting-case watch, with a guilt chain.
"This is yours, Ben," she said, "if you like it."
"Do you give it to me?" asked Ben joyously. He had only expected that
it would be loaned to him.
"Yes, I give it to you, and I hope you will find it useful."
"How can I thank you, Mrs. Hamilton, for your kindness?"
"You are more grateful than Conrad. I gave him one just like it, and
he was evidently dissatisfied became it was not gold. When you are
older the gold watch may come."
"I am very well pleased with the silver watch, for I have long wanted
one, but did not see any way of obtaining it."
"You are wise in having moderate desires, Ben. But there goes the
lunch bell. You may want to wash your hands. When you have done so
come down to the dining room, in the rear of the sitting room."
Mrs. Hill and Conrad were already seated at the table when Ben
"Take a seat opposite Conrad, Ben," said Mrs. Hamilton, who was
sitting at one end of the table.
The lunch was plain but substantial, and Ben, who had taken an early
breakfast, enjoyed it.
"I suppose we shall not have Conrad at lunch to-morrow?" said Mrs.
Hamilton. "He will be at the store."
Conrad made a grimace. He world have enjoyed his freedom better.
"I won't have much of my four dollars left if I have to pay for
lunch," he said in a surly tone.
"You shall have a reasonable allowance for that purpose."
"I suppose Mr. Barclay will lunch at home," said Mrs. Hill.
"Certainly, since his work will be here. He is to be my home clerk,
and will keep my accounts."
"You needn't have gone out of the house for a clerk, Cousin Hamilton.
I am sure Conrad would have been glad of the work."
"It will be better for Conrad to learn business in a larger
establishment," said Mrs. Hamilton quietly.
This was a new way of looking at it, and helped to reconcile Mrs. Hill
to an arrangement which at first had disappointed her.
"Have you any engagements this afternoon, Conrad?" asked Mrs.
Hamilton. "Ben will have nothing to do, and you could show him the
"I've got an engagement with a fellow," said Conrad hastily.
"I can find my way about alone, thank you," said Ben. "I won't
"Very well. This evening, however, Ben, I think you may enjoy going
to the theater. Conrad can accompany you, unless he has another
"I'll go with him," said Conrad, more graciously, for he was fond of
"Then we will all meet at dinner, and you two young gentlemen can
leave in good time for the theater."
AT THE THEATER
After dinner, Ben and Conrad started to walk to the theater. The
distance was about a mile, but in the city there is so much always to
be seen that one does not think of distance.
Conrad, who was very curious to ascertain Ben's status in the
household, lost no time in making inquiries.
"What does my aunt find for you to do?" he asked.
It may be remarked, by the way, that no such relationship ever existed
between them, but Mrs. Hill and her son thought politic to make the
relationship seem as close as possible, as it would, perhaps, increase
their apparent claim upon their rich relative.
Ben answered the question.
"You'll have a stupid time," said Conrad. "All the same, she ought to
have given the place to me. How much does she pay you?"
Ben hesitated, for he knew that his answer would make his companion
"I am not sure whether I am at liberty to tell," he answered, with
"There isn't any secret about it, is there?" said Conrad sharply.
No, I suppose not. I am to receive ten dollars a week."
"Ten dollars a week!" ejaculated Conrad, stopping short in the street.
"And I get but four! That's a shame!"
"I shall really have no more than you, Conrad. I have a mother to
provide for, and I shall send home six dollars a week regularly."
"That doesn't make any difference!" exclaimed Conrad, in excitement.
"It's awfully mean of aunt to treat you so much better than she does
"You mustn't say that to me," said Ben. "She has been kind to us
both, and I don't like to hear anything said against her."
"You're not going to tell her?" said Conrad suspiciously.
"Certainly not," said Ben indignantly. "What do you take me for?"
"Some fellows would, to set Aunt Hamilton against me."
"I am not so mean as that."
"I am glad I can depend on you. You see, the old lady is awfully
rich--doesn't know what to do with her money--and as she has no son,
or anybody nearer than me and mother, it's natural we should inherit
"I hope she will enjoy it herself for a good many years."
"Oh, she's getting old," said Conrad carelessly. "She can't expect to
live forever. It wouldn't be fair for young people if their parents
lived to a hundred. Now, would it?"
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