Wait and Hope: or, A Plucky Boy's Luck
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"Then I must go to the store, at once, and give notice of my absence."
Ben lost no time in going to the store. He explained matters fully, and obtained a week's leave of absence. Then he bought tickets for his uncle and himself, and they set out on their long journey.
The Dead Alive
Mr. Brief was considerably surprised when Ben entered his office.
"I thought you had gone back to Boston," he said.
"I have been back to Boston, Mr. Brief, and returned to Montreal on business."
"Didn't you finish up your business here?"
"I thought so, sir; but I was mistaken."
"I am afraid you are not a very good manager. It looks to me like waste of time. What can I do for you?"
"A gentleman came with me, who thinks he would like to have you attend to a little business for him."
"Certainly," responded the lawyer bruskly. "I shall be happy to wait on him. Where is he staying?"
"At the Windsor."
"And you recommended me? I am much obliged to you. What is the gentleman's name?"
"Can't say I ever heard of him Is he from Boston?"
"He comes from Boston," answered Ben evasively.
In the hope of securing a profitable client, Mr. Brief lost no time in seeking the hotel.
"Remain here a moment," said Ben, as they entered the office, "and
I will let Mr. Benton know you are here."
"Certainly," said the lawyer complacently.
In five minutes Ben reappeared.
"Follow me, if you please, Mr. Brief," he said. "By the way, Mr.
Benton says he knows you."
"Mr. Benton knows me! It is strange I can't recall him," said Mr.
Brief, trying to recollect.
"I think you will remember when you see him."
"Possibly; but I have no recollection on any gentleman of that name."
Ben and his uncle – to give him a name not strictly warranted by facts – occupied two rooms adjoining.
Ben ushered the lawyer into his own room, saying, "Mr. Brief, you must prepare for a surprise."
When, however, the so-called Marcus Benton entered the room,
Mr. Brief sprang to his feet in great amazement.
"Can I believe my eyes?" he ejaculated.
"I think you can, Mr. Brief," said the old gentleman quietly,
"You are Matthew Baldwin."
"And you are not dead?"
"Do I look as if I were?" asked Mr. Baldwin, smiling.
"What does it all mean?" asked Mr. Brief, bewildered.
"It means that I wished to try John Tremlett. I wished to ascertain whether he were worthy to inherit my fortune. What is your opinion?"
"My opinion," said the lawyer, "is that he would run through the property in five years. I am disgusted with him."
"How does he spend his money?" inquired Mr. Baldwin.
"In every kind of extravagance and every form of dissipation. At the rate he is going on, it is a question, in my mind, whether he or the property would last longer."
"I got that idea from my young friend here, who, by the way, knew of me only as Marcus Benton when he came first to see you."
"Of course you will resume possession of the property, Mr.
"Such is my intention."
"I can give it back into your hands entire, with the exception of nine hundred dollars drawn by Tremlett, and your funeral expenses."
"My funeral expense!" exclaimed Mr.Baldwin, in surprise.
"Yes; a body was found in the St. Lawrence, which was supposed to be yours. It was buried with proper ceremony."
The old man smiled, but there was a certain sadness in the smile.
"It is, perhaps, only anticipating things a little," he said. "The expenses shall be allowed."
"Of course you wish Mr. Tremlett to be informed without delay."
"He is to come to my office in an hour."
"Can you let me witness the interview?"
"Yes, sir. You can conceal yourself in the inner room, and I will see him in the outer office, with the door ajar."
An hour later John Tremlett swaggered into Mr. Brief's office.
"Brief," said he, "I must have some money."
"Have you used up the hundred dollars I gave you four days since?"
"I am afraid you squandered it."
"That is my business, Brief."
"You remember the warning I gave you at that time?"
"Come, Brief, you can't expect to keep me in leading-strings. I am seeing life, and of course I must pay for it."
"A pretty round sum, too."
"Oh, well, I am making up for lost time. Old Baldwin kept me so close that I had to live like a hermit for years. He starved me on eight hundred dollars a year – the stingy old file!"
"Apparently you want to live at the rate of ten thousand dollars a year now, Mr. Tremlett."
"Well, I can afford it for a year or two."
"You seem to forget that your income for the first year is not quite five thousand."
"Then my creditors must wait, I am going to have my fling."
"It would make Mr. Baldwin turn in his coffin if he were to know how you are wasting his substance."
"Very likely it would," said Tremlett, laughing heartily; "but there's one comfort, he can't come back to trouble us."
"Don't be too sure of that, John Tremlett," said a voice which struck terror to Tremlett's heart, and Mathew Baldwin walked out of the inner office.
The young man's face turned as pale as ashes, and his knees knocked together in his fright.
"Is it – you – Mr. Baldwin?" he ejaculated.
"Yes, it is I – your benefactor, the stingy old file, as you so gratefully call me," answered the old man sternly.
"Then – you – are – not dead!"
"Not at present. How long I may live I cannot say, but long enough,
I hope, to do an act of justice."
"I am very sorry," stammered Tremlett. "Forgive me, sir."
"I may forgive you, because nothing has happened that cannot be remedied; but I shall never again trust you."
"Won't you take me back into your service, sir?" entreated John
"Never!" said Mr. Baldwin emphatically.
"What will become of me?" ejaculated the miserable young man, shedding maudlin tears. "I am penniless."
"I will not wholly cast you off. I will authorize Mr. Brief to pay you eight hundred dollars during the next year, in monthly installments. I hope you will turn over a new leaf."
"I will, sir; I will indeed," said Tremlett; but Mr. Baldwin, knowing his past hypocrisy, did not put much faith in his penitence.
"I hope so, for your own sake," he said briefly. "You can go now, sir. At the end of a month you can come back, and Mr. Brief will pay you your monthly allowance."
"How can I live till then?" asked Tremlett. "Can't he pay it sooner?
I have but a dollar left."
"Sell some of your jewelry, that diamond ring, for instance. It will maintain you till the money is payable."
John Tremlett left the office crestfallen, and cursing his foolish prodigality, which had lost him a fine fortune.
"What are your plans, Mr. Baldwin?" asked the lawyer. "Shall you remain in Montreal?"
"No, Mr. Brief; there is nothing to keep me here now. I shall make my home in the States. This boy I have tested and found to be true gold. He will not deceive me as John Tremlett has. With him and his aunt I propose to make my home for the little time I have left."
"A very fine boy!" said Mr. Brief, regarding Ben in quite a different light now that he was indirectly acknowledged to be a rich man's heir.
"I shall leave you to manage my property here, Mr. Brief, for the present at least. You will transmit the income to me as it accrues."
"You shall not repent your confidence, sir," said the lawyer. "How soon do you leave the city?"
"To-morrow. Will that suit you, Ben?"
"Oh, yes, Uncle Matthew."
"He is a lucky boy," thought Mr. Brief, as the two went out. "His future is provided for."
"Ben," said Mr. Baldwin, "let us talk over your plans. Do you wish to remain at the store, or would you like to get a better education?"
"I would get a better education if I could afford it, sir."
"You can afford it on an income of a thousand dollars a year."
"A thousand dollars a year!" exclaimed Ben.
"That is the income I shall allow you. Out of this you will be expected to pay all of your expenses."
"How can I thank you, sir? Would you object to my giving Aunt
Jane a part of the money?"
"Yes, I shall object."
Ben's countenance fell.
"But, Uncle Matthew," he said, "I don't like to live in luxury, while
Aunt Jane is straitened."
"Your feelings do you credit, my boy; but I mean to take care of your Aunt Jane myself. She is my niece, and you – I am not sure whether you are related to me at all, but I want you to call me Uncle Matthew all the same."
"I shall like to, sir. No uncle could be kinder."
"That is well," said the old gentleman. "You know, Ben, I have no one else to care for. Now, do you think your Aunt Jane will be willing to move to Boston?"
"I am sure she will like it."
"Then I shall hire or buy a comfortable house, install her as mistress, require you to live with me while you are attending school, and tyrannize over you all."
There was a bright smile on the old man's face. He was looking forward to the new life with anticipations of a happiness and comfort which had long been strangers to him.
"How happy we shall all be, Uncle Matthew! Even Aunt Jane will forget to look on the dark side."
"I hope so, Ben. I think we can be happy together."
"There is one thing I forgot to tell you," he said later. "I shall expect you to pay your board out of your income, you know. If you fail to make regular payments, we shall have to bundle you out."
"I will remember," said Ben, smiling.
By arrangement Ben went up to Milltown alone to tell his aunt the news. He entered the little house with a sober face.
"I see you bring bad news, Benjamin," said Mrs. Bradford mournfully.
"You will have to leave the house, Aunt Jane."
"And go to the poorhouse! I knew it would turn out that way," and
Mrs. Bradford put her handkerchief to her eyes.
"What's the matter?" asked Tony.
"My poor child," said his mother, "we are going to the poorhouse."
"Is that so, Ben?" asked Tony soberly.
Ben shouted with laughter. He could not hold back the truth.
"Aunt Jane," he said, "you always will anticipate the worst. Why don't you wait and hope?"
"What is the use, Benjamin?"
"Because it makes us happier, and often brings good fortune. Aunt
Jane, you see before you a rich man."
"You're only a boy," said Tony. "You ain't a man at all."
"My income is a thousand dollars a year!"
"Is it possible, Benjamin?" ejaculated Mrs. Bradford, in amazement.
"It is more than that; it's true. You are coming to Boston to live, and
I am going to board with you."
"The boy's crazy!" exclaimed Mrs. Bradford.
"Then there is a method in my madness, Aunt Jane. But I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Uncle Matthew isn't dead at all. He's taken a fancy to me, and is going to allow me an income of a thousand dollars a year. He will take care of you and Tony, too. He is going to hire or buy a house in Boston, and we are all going to live together. What do you say to that? Will you go, or do you prefer to go to the poorhouse?"
Mrs. Bradford made up her mind at once to go to Boston. No one had ever seen her so cheerful as she was for the remainder of the day.
Not to dwell upon details, in less than a month the little family was installed in a comfortable house in Boston. Tony had commenced attending school near-by, and Ben had been admitted to the Latin School, where he began to prepare for college in earnest. Porter & Jones were sorry to lose him, but agreed that he had chosen wisely in abandoning business for a school.
Ben is now an undergraduate at Harvard College, with a high rank for scholarship. He has not decided upon his future course; but it is possible that his uncle may purchase an interest for him, at graduation, in the firm where he served as a boy.
I cannot close without recording, with satisfaction, the great improvement that has taken place in Sam Archer. Always a bright and smart boy, in adversity he has gotten rid of his disagreeable traits and developed a business capacity which promises well for his future success. Ben has done him many favors, and the two are excellent friends. Of Mr. Archer nothing has been heard. It is rumored that he is living in an obscure town in France, on the proceeds of his defalcation. Sam promises to redeem the name which his father has sullied.
Uncle Matthew is several years older than when we first met him, but happiness has had the effect of making him look younger. He probably has several years of life yet before him. He is attached to his niece and Tony, who is now a bright schoolboy of twelve; but his chief attachment is to Ben, whose college career he follows with pride and satisfaction.
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