Wait and Hope: or, A Plucky Boy's Luck
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"Oh, yes, sir; the firm provides for that."
"To be sure. Of course they ought to do it," said Mr. Benton, appearing to feel relieved.
"How long do you expect to be gone, Benjamin?"
"I don't know, sir; I am to stop in Burlington and one or two other places. I may be gone ten days."
"I shall feel lonely without you, Benjamin."
"I am glad you value my society so much."
"I am a lonely man, Benjamin; I have never had many friends, and I have outlived nearly all of those."
"You ought to have married, Mr. Benton; then you would have children and grandchildren to comfort you in your old age."
"I wish I had, Benjamin; but it is too late now."
"It is never too late to mend, Mr. Benton," said Ben. "Men older than you have married."
"Then they were fools," said Mr. Benton bluntly.
"Suppose you should be sick, sir?"
"I would hire a nurse. I am not rich, but I have enough to provide for the few years I have remaining."
"I must ask you to excuse me now, sir," said Ben. "I must buy a few things which I shall need."
Ben wrote briefly to his aunt, to let her know that he was about to start for Montreal. Mrs. Bradford was not a little discomposed.
"It's tempting Providence to send a child like Benjamin to a foreign country," she remarked to Mrs. Perkins, who had dropped in for a neighborly chat.
"Do you know how far it is, Mrs. Perkins?"
"About a thousand miles," answered her visitor, whose ideas about geography were rather misty.
"Suppose Ben should lose his way."
"Like as not he will," observed Mrs. Perkins.
"I shan't sleep a wink till Ben gets back. They ought to have sent somebody with him."
"Ben can get along," said Tony, who had implicit confidence in his big cousin. "He won't get lost."
"What does a child like you know about it?" said Mrs. Perkins rebukingly. "You shouldn't put in your oar when your mother and me are talking."
On his arrival in Montreal, Ben ascertained where Mr. Brief's office was, but deferred going to see him. He felt very properly that he ought to attend to the business of his employers first, and then, when he could do so without detriment to their interests look after his own. He was very anxious to succeed. He knew very well that Jones & Porter had serious doubts about the expediency of sending so young a representative to Montreal.
In calling upon different booksellers he exerted himself to the utmost. Though but sixteen, his address was pleasing, his manner self-possessed and he was courteous and gentlemanly, so that he won favorable regards of those with whom he had business relations. The result was that he received quite a number of orders, which he at once sent forward by mail.
Thus three days were spent. On the morning of the fourth, he called at the office of Solomon Brief.
"What do you want, boy?" asked a clerk.
"I want to see Mr.Brief."
"His time is too valuable to be taken up by boys."
"If I had a clerk like you I would soon get rid of him."
"You would, hey?" blustered the young man, advancing threateningly.
Ben didn't budge and the clerk stopped short.
"Did you say you came on business?" he inquired.
"That I will tell Mr. Brief," said Ben firmly.
"You are from the States, aren't you?"
"That accounts for your impudence."
"I should know you were not from the States."
"Because you are so uncivil."
"Look here, young fellow, you'd better clear out, if you don't want to get kicked out."
"Who is to do the kicking?"
"I wouldn't advise you to try it."
"It wouldn't be prudent."
"Ho! ho!" laughed the clerk sarcastically.
"Once more," said Ben. "I request you to announce me to Mr. Brief.
He is executor of Mr. Baldwin's estate, I believe."
"Why didn't you tell me that was your business?"
"I couldn't see that it mattered to you."
At this moment the inner door opened, and a tall man, with reddish hair and mutton-chop whiskers of the same hue, made his appearance.
"What's this Frederic? Who is this boy?"
"I wish to see you on business connected with Mr. Baldwin's estate sir," said Ben; "but this young man appears to have an objection to the interview."
"Why don't you bring him in?"
"I didn't suppose he had any business with you."
"Who constituted you a judge of that, sir? Hereafter leave me to decide. Boy, come in."
Mr. Brief threw himself into an office chair.
"Well, who are you?" he asked.
"My name is Benjamin Bradford."
"You wrote a letter to my aunt, Mrs. Jane Bradford, of Milltown,
Massachusetts, not long since."
"Exactly. Do you represent her?"
"Very well. Did you bring the three hundred dollars which she owes to the estate of my client?"
"I came to repeat what I have written you, that my aunt was authorized to occupy the house rent-free."
"It was hardly worth while to come so far to say that," said Mr. Brief, with a sneer.
"I am here in Montreal on other business, and have taken the opportunity to see you about my own."
"Indeed! Then you are a business man?"
"I represent the firm of Jones & Porter, publishers."
"Humph! Can't they get any one but a boy to represent them?"
"That, sir, is their business," he answered emphatically. "I have not chosen to inquire whether my uncle could not have found a better lawyer to act as executor."
"You are impudent, young man!" exclaimed Solomon Brief, his face being as red for the moment as his hair.
"We have neither of us been overcivil," said Ben. "Suppose we come back to business."
"Come now, you're a cool one."
"Perhaps I am. I have always understood that coolness is desirable in business. May I inquire of what disease my uncle died?"
"It would serve you right if I declined to answer your questions after your impudence to me. However, I will overlook it this time. Your uncle committed suicide."
"Good gracious!" ejaculated Ben, who was quite unprepared for this announcement. "How did he do it?"
"He drowned himself."
"What could possibly have driven him to it?"
"Of that we are ignorant. He left a letter at his lodgings, directing me to open and carry out the provisions of his will, which he had deposited with me."
"May I ask what were the provisions of his will?"
"You seem to be curious."
"I have a right to be. My aunt and myself are among his nearest relations, if not the nearest. We had a right to suppose that we might be remembered in his will."
"You were not."
"You can understand that we wish, at all events, to know the contents of the will. We should have been apprised of his death sooner."
As a lawyer Mr. Brief understood that Ben was in the right, and he produced a copy of the will.
The will was brief. The entire estate of the deceased was left to John Tremlett with this provision, that for the first year only the income should be paid to him; afterward he was to come into full possession.
"It seems regular," said Ben.
"Of course it is regular. I helped him make the will."
"Who is Mr. Tremlett? I never heard of him."
"A second or third cousin. He was a sort of adopted son of Mr. Baldwin."
Just here the inner door opened by the clerk, who announced, "Mr.
John Tremlett was a dark-complexioned young man, rather above the middle height. He was by no means handsome; but plain faces are often attractive, and this young man's was not. His eyes were bloodshot, and even Ben's inexperienced glance could detect the marks of dissipation. He was expensively dressed and looked like one who made a business of spending money.
"How are you, Brief?" he said carelessly, throwing himself into a chair.
"In better condition than you are, I judge from your looks, Mr.
Tremlett," responded the lawyer.
"I hope so. I feel awfully seedy," said Tremlett.
"Your own fault. You shouldn't keep such late hours."
"Oh, bother that, Brief! I must have a good time."
"You don't look as if you were enjoying your mode of life."
"Oh, I shall be all right when I get over my headache. Is this a client of yours?" glancing at Ben.
"He's a relation of yours, according to his own account," said Mr. Brief.
"Is he?" inquired Tremlett languidly. "Can't say I ever saw him before."
"Mr. Baldwin was my great-uncle," said Ben. "That is, he was an uncle of my aunt, Mrs. Jane Bradford."
"Indeed! Were you expecting a share of the property?" asked
"I thought Mr. Baldwin might remember his niece."
"He hasn't, though."
"So I find by the will."
"Sorry for you; but, of course, Mr. Baldwin had a right to dispose of his property as he saw fit."
"I don't deny his right."
"Then you are not intending to dispute the will," said Tremlett, relieved.
"I never dreamed of doing it. I came about a house which my aunt has been occupying rent-free."
"What is it, Brief? Do I know about it?"
"It's a small house in Milltown, Massachusetts, which belongs to your uncle's estate. I found that Mrs. Bradford has paid no rent for it during the last five years, and accordingly sent her an invitation to pay up arrears."
"Has she done it?"
"No, sir," said Ben. "Mr. Baldwin permitted her to occupy the house rent-free."
"That is your assertion," said the lawyer.
"It is true," returned Ben quickly.
"Show it to me in writing, and that will end all dispute."
"I hope yet to do it, but thus far we have been unable to find Uncle
"That's all fair," said Tremlett. If the letter can't be found, the money must be paid.
"My aunt is utterly unable to pay it. She is poor."
"That is no excuse in law, my young friend," said Mr. Brief. "She must borrow the money then."
"Where?" asked Ben.
"That is not our lookout. As you are in business, perhaps you will advance the necessary sum."
"If I were able, and were satisfied of the justice of the claim, I would do so," answered Ben. "But I don't believe that Uncle Matthew intended that my aunt should be distressed by such a demand. Why should he have let the rent run on for five years if he expected her to pay it?"
"Can't say, I'm sure."
"How much is due?" asked Tremlett.
"Three hundred dollars," said Brief.
"Look here, young fellow," said Tremett, "Perhaps you and I can settle it. If you will pay me two hundred dollars cash down I will give you a receipt for the whole."
"Mr. Tremlett," said Mr. Brief stiffly, "you appear to forget that I am settling this estate. You have no authority to make such an offer."
"Wasn't the property left to me, I should like to know?" demanded
"Then why am I not authorized to make the offer, tell me that?"
"According to Mr. Baldwin's will you can only receive the income for the first twelve months."
"That's deuced hard on a fellow," said Tremlett.
"On the other hand, I think it is a prudent precaution."
"The old man was a tight-fisted old curmudgeon. He only wanted to annoy me."
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders, and Ben broke out indignantly, "I wouldn't speak in that way of a man who had left me all his fortune."
"Mind your own business, boy," retorted John Tremlett sharply. "Do you think I am going to stand your impudence?"
"I think it is just as well you have waited till after Uncle Matthew's death before speaking of him in that way."
"Don't let up on the boy! Make him pay every cent of the debt,
Brief!" exclaimed John Tremlett angrily.
"Of course we shall follow up the matter, Mr. Tremlett."
"Have him arrested if he doesn't pay, Brief."
"You seem to forget, Mr. Tremlett, that I am not your debtor. The claim is against my aunt."
"Is that so, Brief?"
"The boy is right."
"I am sorry for it. I should like to hold him responsible."
"No doubt, Mr. Tremlett," said Ben; "but we can't always have our wishes granted."
"Leave the matter in my hands," said the lawyer. "I will do what is best."
"By the way, Brief," said John Tremlett, "I mustn't forget my errand.
I want some money."
"Some money? I gave you two hundred dollars last week."
"Well, it's gone, and I want some more."
"Mr. Tremlett," said the lawyer gravely, "are you aware how much money you have spent during the last four weeks?"
"No, I have kept no account."
"Well I have. You have drawn eight hundred dollars."
"It costs something to see life."
"Perhaps so! but I cannot permit you to exceed your income – during the first year, at least. Thus far you have spent twice as much as you were entitled to draw."
Ben listened attentively. He had no idea of the extent of his uncle's property. If it yielded four hundred dollars a month, as he inferred, it must amount to nearly, if not quite, a hundred thousand dollars. And this young man was not content with that. Our hero could not help wondering at his unreasonableness.
"I don't see how I can economize," muttered Tremlett.
"What was your income before Mr. Baldwin's death, Mr. Tremlett?" inquired Mr. Brief.
"I starved on eight hundred dollars a year."
"Then it seems to me you aught to live comfortably now on five thousand."
"My circumstances are changed."
"At this rate you'll run through the property in ten years."
"Oh, I'll pull up after awhile," said the heir carelessly. "So just give me a couple of hundreds, old fellow!"
"I will hand you a hundred," said Mr. Brief reluctantly. "Hereafter you must keep within your allowance."
"You're getting to be as miserly as the old man," said Tremlett.
"What's your name, boy?"
"My name is Benjamin Bradford."
"I suppose we are cousins, or something of that sort. Come out and take a drink."
"No, thank you. I never drink."
"You don't? What a prig you must be! Good-bye, Brief."
The heir left the office, and Mr. Brief turned to Ben.
"What do you think of your uncle's heir?" he inquired.
"I think he is going to ruin rapidly," answered Ben.
"You are right. The grub has become a butterfly, and the sober clerk has developed into a gay spendthrift. He was your uncle's clerk and distant relative. It would make the old man turn in his coffin if he knew how quickly his money is likely to melt away."
"Can't you check him?" asked Ben.
"For twelve months I can. After that I am powerless. I wish he were more like you."
"Thank you," said Ben, surprised at the compliment.
"My bark is worse that my bite," said the lawyer. "About this claim against your aunt I will do what I can for you, but try to find the letter you refer to. The sum is a small one."
"It is large to us."
"Just so; but my client would squander it in a week. Let me hear from you after you have returned and instituted a further search."
"Thank you, sir, I will write."
Ben left the office, judging Mr. Brief more favorably than at first.
With John Tremlett, he was disgusted.
A Surprising Discovery
"I suppose I have done all I can," said Ben to himself. "There will be no object in remaining in Montreal any longer."
He immediately purchased a ticket, and took the next train homeward. He arrived in Boston at mid-day.
He went at once to the store, and was cordially welcomed by the bookkeeper.
"I am glad to see you, Ben," said the young man. "My uncle is well pleased with the orders you have sent home."
"Then he is satisfied with me?"
"I leave him to tell you that. You can go at once into the countingroom."
Ben reported himself as directed.
"Welcome back, Ben," said the old gentleman. "Have you just arrived?"
"I reached the station twenty minuets ago, sir."
"And came directly to the store; I like that. How do you like drumming?"
"It requires patience, sir; but I like it. I hope you are satisfied with me."
"You have exceeded my anticipations. To be candid with you,
I doubted the expedience of sending so young a representative."
"I know that, sir, and it made me work harder."
"I should have no hesitation in sending you again. In fact, I shall probably send you next month to New York and Philadelphia."
"I should like that very much, sir," said Ben, his eyes sparkling.
"I shall try to satisfy you."
"I think you will," said his employer kindly. "I never doubted your fidelity. Now I feel assured of your capacity and tact. Have you any orders not yet reported?"
"Two or three small ones, sir."
"Give them to me."
This done, Mr. Porter dismissed Ben for the day. "You need not report for work till to-morrow morning."
Ben was glad to go to his boarding-house. On arriving there he received another cordial greeting, this time from Mr. Benton. The old gentleman seemed really delighted to see him, and eager to learn what he had accomplished. Ben began to speak of the orders he had received; but Mr. Benton interrupted him.
"I don't mean that," he said. "I want to hear about your own affairs. Did you see Mr. Brief the lawyer?"
"How did you like him?"
"Not at all, at first, but better before we parted."
"How was that?" asked Mr. Benton, showing some curiosity.
At first he insisted strongly on the claim the estate has against my aunt; but after awhile he said he should not press the matter at present, and recommended us to look for Uncle Matthew's letter.
"You have searched for it, have you not?" asked Mr. Benton.
"Yes, sir; but so far without success. Still I haven't given up all hope of finding it. My motto is, 'Wait and Hope.'"
"I think it will all come out right," said the old man. "Did you see John Tremlett?"
"Tell me about him," said the old man eagerly. "Ho does he look?"
"He looks like a fast young man," answered Ben. "I did not like him at all."
"Do you think he is spending money fast?"
"I know he is. How much money do you think he has drawn in a month?"
"Two hundred dollars?" suggested Mr. Benton.
"He had drawn eight hundred and spent it all, for he came into the office to ask for more."
"The young scoundrel!" exclaimed Marcus Benton, with an excitement which Ben could not understand. "Why he is making ducks and drakes of my old friend's fortune."
"Did you know Uncle Matthew?" asked Ben quickly.
"Yes," answered the old man. "I told you so, didn't I?"
"No, sir, you never told me that. Do you know John Tremlett?"
"Yes, I have seen him. He was a sober, steady young man apparently, who ingratiated himself with Mr. Baldwin, whom he deceived as to his real character."
"What relation was he to Uncle Matthew?"
"Very distant, but he seemed near, having been in his employ for several years. He collected rents and attended to other necessary matters."
"If he was ever sober and steady, he has changed a good deal."
"Did Mr. Brief give him the money he asked for?"
"Not all he wanted. He gave him one hundred dollars, and reminded him that he was only at liberty to pay over to him the income of the estate – that is, for the first twelve months."
"Quite right!" murmured Mr. Benton.
"He lectured him upon his extravagance and fast life, and warned him that he must check himself."
"He did right."
"What I dislike most about this John Tremlett was the way in which he spoke of Uncle Matthew," said Ben.
"How did he speak of him?" demanded Marcus Benton quickly.
"As a tight-fisted old curmudgeon."
"He did – the young viper!" exclaimed the old man indignantly.
"Spoke so of the man who left him his fortune!"
"Yes, sir. I couldn't help telling him I thought it not very becoming to speak in that way of his benefactor; and he told me to mind my own business."
"I wouldn't have believed John Tremlett would act so," said Mr.
Benton slowly; "I trusted him so, and always treated him kindly."
"You trusted him!" repeated Ben, astonished.
"My boy," said Mr. Benton, "the time has come for me to throw off the mask. I am not Marcus Benton, as you suppose. I am Matthew Baldwin."
"But I thought Mr. Baldwin was dead – committed suicide," exclaimed Ben, in wild amazement.
"The world thinks so; but the world is mistaken. I will tell you the whole story. I found myself getting old. In all probability I had but a few years to live. By industry and economy I had accumulated a fortune, which I must leave behind me. I was anxious that it should not be squandered. I selected John Tremlett as my heir. So far as I knew he was devoted to my interests, and he seemed steady in his habits. But it occurred to me to try him. Accordingly I sent a letter to my lawyer, Solomon Brief, who had my will in his possession, announcing my intention to commit suicide, and directing him to open the will and carry out the provisions. Then I left Montreal secretly, staying a short time in northern Vermont. Later I came on to Boston and managed to throw myself in your way. Not knowing me, you treated me with kindness and consideration. I became interested in you, and regretted that I had made no provision for you and your aunt. Through you I have learned how unwisely I disposed of my fortune. Thank Heaven it is not too late to remedy that.
"This seems like a romance, Mr. Benton – I mean, Uncle Matthew."
"Yes; call me uncle. I like to feel that I have somebody to live for."
"Come out to Milltown with me, Uncle Matthew. Aunt Jane will be delighted to see you," said Ben.
"I have work to do first," said the old man firmly. "I must go to
Montreal, and you must go with me."
"I am not sure that Jones & Porter will allow me."
"Then throw up your situation. You shall lose nothing by it."
"When do you wish to start?"
"To-night," said Mr. Baldwin resolutely.
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