Wait and Hope: or, A Plucky Boy's Luck
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"Is she making that now?"
"No, sir. Even that kind of business is getting dull. Last week she made a dollar and a quarter."
"That isn't much."
"No, sir. But every little helps."
"You are right there. We must not despise small earnings – such as you made in the deacon's employ."
"I got paid better than you think, sir," said Ben. "Miss Nancy made it up to me."
"Did she? I am glad to hear it. She is a good woman. She understands better than her father the proper price of work."
"Yes, sir. Are you any relative to Deacon Sawyer?"
"No," said Mr. Manning, "but I have had a little business transaction with the deacon. He's pretty close in money matters."
"So people say here, sir."
"But I must do him justice, and add that you can rely implicitly upon his word. Well, Ben, what are your plans?"
"Only to find work of any kind, sir."
"How happened you to come to the hotel here?"
"I thought Mr. Brockton might possibly have something for me to do."
"Sawing wood, perhaps?"
"Yes, sir; or anything else that is honest."
"You are a good industrious boy," said Mr. Manning approvingly.
"You deserve to succeed."
This approval encouraged Ben.
"Thank you, sir," he said.
"Perhaps I may some time have it in my power to help you."
"I hope you may sir. At any rate, I thank you for mentioning it."
Mr. Manning paused a moment. He appeared to be in thought. As he remained silent, Ben concluded that the interview was at an end.
He rose from his seat, and was about to bid Mr. Manning good evening, when the latter said: "Are you particularly engaged for the next hour, Ben?"
"No, sir," Ben answered, rather surprised.
"Then suppose we take a walk? I am alone here, and would like your company."
"Thank you, sir," said our hero, feeling flattered at the value set upon his society by a gentleman from New York; for he had ascertained that Mr. Manning was a member of a business firm in the great city.
They left the hotel, Mr. Manning lighting a fresh cigar.
"I won't offer you a cigar, Ben," he said, "for I don't think it well for boys of your age to smoke."
"I never smoked in my life," said Ben.
"But I presume you know some boys that do."
"Oh, yes, plenty of them."
"It is a bad thing for them, impoverishing the blood, and often checking the growth. I am glad you have not contracted the habit. Suppose we walk by your house?"
"All right, sir. You won't find it very large or elegant."
"But is it comfortable?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
"What kind of woman is your aunt? You may think it an odd question, but I have my reasons for asking."
"She is an excellent woman," said Ben. "She has only one fault."
"What is that?"
"She gets discouraged too easily."
"As now, for instance?"
"Yes, sir; she predicts that we shall all be in the poor-house inside a month."
"What do you think about it?"
"My motto is, 'Wait and Hope.'"
"A very good one, but I can give you a better."
"What is that, sir?"
"Work and Hope."
"Oh, I mean that, too.There isn't much use in waiting if you don't work, too."
"I see we agree pretty well on that point."
"That is our house," said Ben, pointing out the cottage where his aunt lived.
It was small, but everything about it was neat and attractive.
"How many are there in your family?" asked Mr. Manning, again.
"My aunt and my little cousin, Tony."
"How old is he?"
"Seven years old."
"You wonder, perhaps, why I ask so many questions," said Mr. Manning. "I will tell you. By the death of an intimate friend I have become guardian to a little girl, about five years old. She is at present in the city, but I think she will be better off in the country. Now, do you think your aunt would take charge of such a child – for a fair price, of course? It might pay her better than sewing."
"I think she would," said Ben; "but would you be satisfied with our humble way of living?"
"I don't wish the child to live on rich food. Good bread and butter and plenty of milk are better, in my opinion, than rich meats."
"She could have as much of those as she wanted."
"And your little cousin would be company for her."
"Yes, sir; he would like it very much. He feels lonely when I am away."
"Then, as to the terms, I think I should be willing to pay seven dollars a week."
"Seven dollars a week for a little girl's board!" exclaimed Ben, astonished.
"Well, not exactly for the board alone. There will be considerable care. I could get her boarded for half that, but her father left considerable property, and I prefer to pay a generous price. Do you think she will consent to take the child?"
"Yes, sir, and think herself very lucky, too. Won't you come in and speak to her about it?"
"No; you may speak to her about it, and I will call in the morning, and settle the details of the arrangement. And now, good night."
"Good night, sir.'
"What splendid luck!" thought Ben. "Aunt Jane will hardly believe it. Didn't I tell her to 'Wait and Hope'?"
And he entered the house.
Ben looked so cheerful and smiling that Tony asked: "Have you got work, Ben?"
"Not yet, Tony."
Mrs. Bradford shook her head rather despondently.
"We might as well go to the poorhouse first as last," she said.
"I don't think we had better go at all, Aunt Jane," said Ben.
"You can't find anything to do."
"Not yet, but I expect to some time."
"And what are we going to do till then?"
"I mean to fall back upon you, Aunt Jane. I think you will be able to keep us from starving."
"I don't know what you mean, Benjamin. I am sure I am willing to work; but last week I only earned a dollar and a quarter, and I don't feel sure of even doing that."
"I have got a plan for you, Aunt Jane."
"What is it?"
"You might take a boarder."
"Who would come to board with me?"
"Perhaps I can find you a boarder."
"Besides, any one that could pay a fair price would expect better living than we could afford."
"I don't think you will find that trouble with the boarder I have engaged for you."
"What do you mean, Benjamin?" asked Mrs. Bradford, in surprise.
"What would you say to boarding and taking care of a little girl of five?"
"Do you know of any such little girl?"
"What would her friends be willing to pay?"
"Seven dollars a week."
This was about twice as much as Mrs. Bradford expected, and she looked incredulous.
"I don't believe any one would pay such a price," she said.
Upon this Ben gave his aunt full particulars, and her usually sober face brightened up at the prospect of thus maintaining their home.
"I can hardly believe it," she said. "This Mr. Manning must be very liberal.
"The money doesn't come from him. He says the little girl has property, and can afford to pay well. He is coming round to-morrow morning to learn whether you will take her."
"Won't you take her, mother?" pleaded Tony.
"I shall be very glad of the chance," said Mrs. Bradford. "It will make us very comfortable."
"Still, Aunt Jane, if you would really prefer going to the poorhouse," said Ben, his eyes twinkling, "I will go round and see if you can get in."
"Never mind, Benjamin," said his aunt cheerfully. "I prefer to keep out of that place as long as I can."
"Would you like to have a little girl to play with, Tony?" asked Ben.
"It'll be bully," said Tony.
"Where did you learn that word, Tony?" inquired his mother, shocked.
"It isn't swearing, is it, mother?"
"No, but it is not refined."
"I'm too young to be refined, mother."
"But where did you learn it, Tony?"
Ben smiled. "Tony don't want to expose me, Aunt Jane," he said. "I suppose he learned it of me. It isn't a bad word."
"I never used it," said Mrs. Bradford primly.
"No, I should think not," said Ben, laughing. "I can't image you calling anything bully. It isn't a lady's word. You know, aunt, boys can't always use go-to-meetin' words. They want to be free and easy sometimes."
Here the discussion was dropped, and the evening was passed cheerfully.
The next morning Mr. Manning called. Admitted into the little cottage, he glanced quickly about him, and was pleased to find that, though the furniture was plain, there was evidences of neatness. Mrs. Bradford, too, in spite of her tendency to low spirits, impressed him favorable, as likely to be kind and judicious. But perhaps what influenced him as much as anything was the presence of Tony, for he held that a child companion would be very desirable for his young ward. He repeated the offer of seven dollars a week.
"I am afraid it will hardly be worth that, Mr. Manning, though it will be very welcome to us," said Mrs. Bradford.
"I prefer to pay liberally, since the property left to my young charge is ample. Besides, she will be more or less care. I shall have to trouble you to provide the little girl with suitable attire, charging, of course, all outlays to me."
"I shall be very glad to do so, Mr. Manning. When do you wish the child to come?"
"As soon as possible."
"Will you bring her yourself?"
"There will be some difficulty about that," answered Mr. Manning hesitatingly. "I can't leave my business."
"Where is she, may I ask?"
"In New York."
"Can't I go for her?" asked Ben eagerly.
"Why, Benjamin," expostulated his aunt, "you have never traveled.
I wouldn't trust you by yourself, much less with the care of a child."
Mr. Manning smiled, but Ben was annoyed.
"Why, Aunt Jane, you must think me a baby," he said. "I guess I can take care of myself."
"I wouldn't dare to go to New York myself alone," said his aunt.
"Oh, that's different," said Ben. "You're a woman, and of course you couldn't take care of yourself."
"And you are a man, I suppose?" said Mr. Manning, amused.
"I shall be some time, and Aunt Jane never will," returned Ben.
"I think, Mrs. Bradford," said Mr. Manning, "that your nephew is right in that. Seriously, I am inclined to favor the plan."
"Do you really think Benjamin can be trusted, Mr. Manning?"
"I really do."
"He has never been away from home."
"I think he has plenty of self-reliance, and will quickly learn what little is needed about traveling. I am willing to trust him."
"Thank you, sir," said Ben, much gratified, feeling a high respect for Mr. Manning's judgment.
"Can you get him ready to go with me by the twelve-o'clock train?" asked Mr. Manning.
"Twelve o'clock!" ejaculated Mrs. Bradford, startled. "Why, it's nine now."
"Well, aunt, can't I change my clothes in three hours?" asked Ben impatiently.
"But to go on such a journey! It seems so sudden."
"I don't think there will be any trouble in getting ready," said Mr. Manning, to whom the journey to New York seemed like a mere trifle, though it was nearly six hundred miles away. "Of course," he continued, "I shall pay his expenses. And" – and here he hesitated a little, from motives of delicacy – "allow me to pay two weeks' board in advance. You may have occasion to use the money."
"Thank you, sir," said Mrs. Bradford gratefully.
It did, indeed, relieve her from anxious embarrassment, for her purse was very low; and if Ben were gone any length of time, she would have been in a dilemma.
"I think we have settled all that is needful," said Mr. Manning, rising to go. "If anything else occurs to me, I will either tell Ben or write to you. Good morning, Mrs. Bradford."
"Good morning, sir."
Turning to Ben, Mr. Manning said:
"Ben, let me see you at the hotel as early as half-past eleven."
"I'll be on hand, sir," said Ben. "I'll get there earlier, if you say so."
"Just as you like. When you come, call for me."
"It doesn't seem as if you were going away, Ben," said Tony.
"I can't hardly realize it myself, Tony."
"It's a great responsibility, Benjamin," said his aunt, beginning to look serious. "Suppose the cars run off the track."
"I guess they won't, Aunt Jane."
"I was reading of an accident out West only yesterday."
"I am not going out West, Aunt Jane. I guess I'll reach New York right side up with care."
"What an expression, Benjamin!"
"Only boys' talk, aunty. It means all right."
"Don't you go on the steamboat, too, Benjamin?"
"I guess so."
"The boiler may explode."
"If everybody thought that, nobody would travel, Aunt Jane. It doesn't happen once in a thousand times."
At last Ben got ready.
He was very much excited, but his excitement was of a pleasurable kind. One his way to the hotel, he met James Watson.
"Where ware you going, all dressed up, Ben?"
"Going to New York," answered Ben proudly.
"You're only foolin'!"
"No, I'm not. I'm going to New York by the twelve-o'clock train."
"What for?" asked James astonished.
"To escort a lady home," answered Ben. "She wants an able-bodied escort, that's used to traveling."
James was very much surprised, and also a little incredulous, but he was finally convinced that Benn was in earnest.
"I wish I were in your shoes," he said enviously. "There's nothing I'd like better than going to New York. You're a lucky boy!"
Ben quite agreed with him.
In New York
Of the journey to New York I do not purpose to speak. Ben enjoyed it extremely, for it gave him his first view of the great world. As he whirled by town after town and city after city, and reflected how small, after all, was the distance on the map between Milltown and New York, he got a new idea of the size of the world.
"What are you thinking about, Ben?" asked Mr. Manning, observing that our hero looked thoughtful.
"I was thinking how large the world is, sir."
"Didn't you ever think of that before?"
"No, sir; I have always lived in Milltown. I don't think I was ever ten miles from home before."
"Then your ideas were necessarily contracted. One advantage of travel is, that it broadens our views, not only as regards distance, but also of men and things."
Ben assented, though he did not fully understand his companion's statement.
From time to time Ben asked questions of Mr. Manning; but after a while that gentlemen met a friend on the cars, and Ben was left pretty much to himself.
They did not reach New York till midnight.
"I will take you to my boarding-house to-night, Ben," said his companion. "Tomorrow we will talk over our plans."
A hansom conveyed them to a house in an up-town street, where Mr. Manning boarded. Of course Ben could not at that hour see much of the great city which he was visiting for the first time. Besides, he was quite fatigued, and felt more like closing his eyes in sleep than using them.
Mr. Manning's rooms were very comfortable, and even luxurious.
Ben slept soundly till his companion waked him up.
"Come, Ben, it's eight o'clock, and the breakfast bell is ringing.
Haven't you had sleep enough?"
The sun was shining bright in at the window, and the noise of carriages could be heard in the street beneath.
Ben looked about him in momentary bewilderment.
"Don't you know where you are?" asked Mr. Manning smiling.
"Yes, I am in New York," said Ben, his face brightening up.
"I'll be dressed in less than no time," he exclaimed, leaping out of bed, and setting to work energetically.
"If you keep your promise I certainly can't complain," said Mr. Manning.
"Shall we be late to breakfast?" asked Ben, with some anxiety.
"There will be others later. So you feel hungry, do you?"
"Uncommonly hungry," said Ben. "I guess it's travelling that gives me an appetite. What a nice place you live in, Mr. Manning! It's very handy having water come out of pipes. How do they do it?"
"I'll explain to you some time, when we are not in such a hurry."
"All right, sir."
Ben was soon dressed, and went down to breakfast with his new patron. There was quite a difference between the appearance of the table at this fashionable boarding house and their plain breakfast table at home; but Ben was one who easily adapted himself to new circumstances, and did not display any greenness.
"Now, Ben," said Mr. Manning, as they rose from the table, "I suppose you are not in a very great hurry to go home."
"You would like to see a little of the city?"
"Yes, sir, very much."
"I think day after to-morrow will be early enough to go back. You write a line to your aunt, so that she need not feel anxious."
"Thank you, sir. Where is the little girl?"
"She is temporarily staying at the house of a married sister of mine. My sister is rather an invalid, or she might keep her permanently. I shall not have time to go round and introduce you to-day, for my business will occupy me closely."
"Where shall I go, sir?" asked Ben.
"Wherever you like. You can wander round the city, and see whatever pleases you. Only be back a little before six o'clock, for that is our dinner hour."
"Dinner at six!" repeated Ben astonished, for he had always been accustomed to dine at twelve. "When do you take supper?"
"We don't sup at all, that is, not regularly. In the middle of the day we take lunch. You can go into some restaurant, and buy lunch."
"Oh, by the by, have you got any money?" asked Mr. Manning.
"A little," answered Ben.
Ben produced thirty-seven cents in change.
"That is rather short allowance," said Mr. Manning. "Here take this."
He handed him a two-dollar bill.
"I don't need so much, Mr. Manning," said Ben.
But two dollars were not so much in the eyes of his patron, as in his.
"I dare say you can find a use for it," he said smiling.
"Thank you, sir."
"Well, good morning; or perhaps it will be as well for you to accompany me as far as Broadway. There I shall take a car, and you can saunter along as you please."
A brief walk brought them to Broadway, and then they separated.
Ben wandered down Broadway, amused at the sight until he same to Twenty-third Street, where he stopped. Ben look at it with admiration. He had never seen such structures, nor dreamed of their existence.
"New York's a splendid city!" he said to himself.
As he was looking about him, some one addressed him:
"What are you looking at Johnny?"
"My name isn't Johnny," answered Ben, turning toward the boy who had accosted him.
The boy puffed out his cheeks and whistled.
"When did you come from the country?" he asked.
"Why are you so anxious to know?" inquired Ben, who saw that the other was making game of him, and was not overwell pleased.
"Why, you see, Barnum has offered twenty-five cents for a country greenhorn, and I guess you'll do," said the boy, with his tongue in his cheek.
Ben was irritated at first, but he concluded to take it as a joke.
"I am not for sale at that price," he said, adding good humoredly, "I am green, I suppose. This is my first visit to the city. Can you tell me the name of that building?"
"That's the Imperial Hotel. Have you got a cigarette to spare?"
"No," said Ben; "I don't smoke."
"Then you ain't civilized," said the boy. "I've smoked for five years."
"You have!" exclaimed Ben, amazed. "Why, you don't look any older than I am."
"And I'm not quite fifteen."
Ben noticed that the boy had none of the youthful bloom which mantled his own cheeks. He was already paying the penalty of his early use of tobacco.
"You're a big boy of your age," said the city boy.
Ben thought that the other was small for his age, but he did not say so.
"Look here, Johnny," said the New York boy.
"My name is Ben."
"What's the odds? Well, Ben, if you'll give me a quarter. I'll go round and show you some of the sights; what do you say?"
Ben hesitated. It seemed to him a little extravagant. At the same time his curiosity was aroused, and he finally agreed to the proposal. When he returned to his home in the country, he felt that he should like to be able to tell his companions something of the city he had visited.
"Give me five cents in advance," said the newly engaged guide.
"What for?" asked Ben, cautiously.
"I want to get some cigarettes."
Ben complied with his request.
The boy darted into a small cigar store, and soon emerged with a cigarette in his mouth at which he puffed with evident pleasure.
"Won't you try one?" he asked.
"I guess not," said Ben.
"Come along, then. You ask any questions about what you see, and
"What's that field? It's a common, isn't it?" asked Ben pointing to a park after they walked down Broadway for a few blocks.
"Oh, that's Madison Park; but we've got a good deal bigger park than that up-town. Central Park – that's the name of it."
"Is it far off?"
"About two miles. Do you want to go there?"
"No, I'd rather see the streets, and the nice buildings. I can see plenty of fields at home."
"Are you going to stay long in the city?" asked, Tom, for this Ben learned was the name of his companion.
"Only a day or two. I want to see as much as I can while I am here."
They walked down Broadway, Tom pointing out the prominent buildings, and answering the numerous questions asked by Ben. On the whole, he proved to be a very good investment in the way of a guide, being well-informed on the subjects about which Ben inquired.
When they reached the Astor House, Tom said: "I guess you've got a quarter's worth out of me. If you want me any longer you must give me another quarter."
"I can't afford it," said Ben, "I guess I can get round by myself now."
So Tom left him with scant ceremony, and Ben sat down on a bench in City Hall Park to rest.
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