Wait and Hope: or, A Plucky Boy's Luck
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Presently a young man, rather showily dressed, sat down beside Ben.
He glanced sharply at our hero, but did not immediately address him.
Finally he said: "Fine day, my young friend."
"Yes, sir, very fine," returned Ben politely.
"I suppose you live in the city?"
"No, sir, I am here only on a visit," said Ben, rather flattered by the supposition.
"I don't look so green, after all," he thought.
"So am I," said the other, "I live in Philadelphia."
"I am from the country," said Ben.
"Indeed! You have lived in the city some time, have you not?"
"I am surprised to hear it. You have the appearance of a city boy."
Ben was not inaccessible to flattery. It was not surprising that he regarded the young man from Philadelphia with favor.
"Have you dined?" inquired the stranger.
"Not yet," said Ben. "I don't know where to find a restaurant."
"Say no more about it, my young friend. I shall be glad to have you dine with me. I know a good place, quite near by."
"You are very kind," said Ben, "considering that I am a stranger."
"I have a young cousin who resembles you very closely. I suppose that is why I cannot regard you as a stranger. By the way, what is your name?"
"Singular coincidence! My cousin is named Benjamin. My name is John Smithson. Well, Ben, if you will allow me the familiarity, suppose we go to dinner."
"Thank you, Mr. Smithson."
Ben followed his new acquaintance to a moderately-priced restaurant in Fulton Street. It was the first time he had ever been to an eating-house, and looked with interest at the numerous tables.
Smithson and he took seats at a small table opposite each other, and the former began to inspect the bill of fare.
"I hope you have a good appetite, my young friend," he said, "so that you may do justice to my hospitality."
"City people seem to be very kind," thought Ben. "No one in
Milltown would pay me such attention."
Finally he made his selection, and so did Smithson.
At the end of half-an-hour the dinner was concluded.
Smithson looked at the checks.
"Sixty cents and seventy-five cents," he said; "that makes a dollar and thirty-five cents."
"I have go to step out a minute," said Smithson. "Oblige me by paying at the desk out of this bill."
As he spoke he handed Ben a five-dollar bill.
"But," said Ben, "there will be nearly four dollars left."
"Meet me an hour hence at the place where we were seated, and hand me the balance of the money."
"But," said Ben, "I might miss you. Haven't you better pay yourself, as you go out?"
"I am in a great hurry, to meet an engagement," said Smithson.
"Suppose I shouldn't meet you. Suppose I should keep the money."
"No fear. You look honest.Well, meet me in an hour;" and he hurried out of the restaurant, saying, with a nod to the cashier: "The boy will pay."
Here was another compliment, Ben thought. A perfect stranger had trusted him with three dollars and sixty-five cents, which he might readily make off with.
"I am glad I look honest," thought Ben. "I seem to be treated very well."
Two minutes later he went up to the cashier's desk, and, laying down the two checks, extended the five-dollar bill. The cashier was about to make change when his attention seemed to be drawn to the bill. He held it up, and scrutinized it very closely, considerably to Ben's surprise.
"Young man," said he suspiciously, "where did you get this bill?"
"From the man that came in with me," answered Ben.
"Are you aware that this is a bad bill?" asked the cashier sharply.
"A bad bill?" exclaimed Ben, in genuine surprise. "No, I had no idea of it."
"Who is this man who gave it to you? Do you know him?"
"He said his name was Smithson, from Philadelphia. I never saw him before this morning."
"What were you to do with the change I gave you back? Did he tell you to keep it?"
"No, sir. I was to meet him in the park in an hour and give it to him."
"He has been making a catspaw of you."
"I don't understand," said Ben.
"Knowing the bill to be bad, he did not venture to offer it himself, as it would make him liable to arrest."
"Arrest!" exclaimed Ben, in dismay.
"Yes. One who knowingly offers a counterfeit bill is liable to arrest and imprisonment."
"I hope you don't think I knew anything about it," said Ben alarmed.
"No; you look too honest to be a confederate of a scoundrel."
"He ought to be ashamed of himself to impose upon me," said Ben indignantly. "What shall I do?"
"Have you any other money?"
Ben produced a two-dollar bill.
"I will take pay out of this for your share of the dinner, and with your help I propose to arrest your companion."
The cashier briefly explained his plan. A policeman was summoned, and Ben was instructed to meet Smithson at the time appointed, and tender him the change.
He did so.
Smithson looked up eagerly as Ben approached.
"Have you got the change?" he asked.
"Yes," said Ben.
"Give it to me."
Ben drew fro his vest-pocket three dollars and sixty-five cents, with which he had been provided, and tendered them to the young man, who eagerly took them.
"Much obliged," said Smithson, looking elated at the supposed success of his plan.
Just then, a quiet-looking man, a detective in citizen's clothes, stepped up and laid his hand on the swindler's arm.
"Mr. Smithson, I want you."
"What for?" inquired Smithson, turning pale.
"For passing a counterfeit bill."
"I have passed no counterfeit," faltered Smithson.
"You employed this boy to do it for you."
"There's some mistake," said Smithson stammering. "You can't prove anything."
"With this boy's help we can. Don't trouble yourself to invent excuses. You have been suspected for some time."
"The boy lies," said Smithson fiercely.
"If he does it will be found out. Come along with me."
Much against his will, Smithson walked arm-in-arm with the detective. Ben was notified to be in attendance at court the next morning, at ten o'clock, to testify against his new friend.
"I am more of a greenhorn than I thought," Ben said to himself. "Who would have thought such a polite young man was a counterfeiter!"
About four o'clock Ben went up-town to Mr. Manning's boarding-house, and remained there till the merchant arrived.
A Curious Old Lady
The next morning Mr. Manning introduced Ben to his temporary ward, a bright, attractive little girl, who seemed to take an instant fancy to our hero.
"Is he my brother?" she inquired of Mr. Manning.
"He is going to be your brother, if you like," was the smiling reply.
"I am glad of it," said the little girl, putting her hand confidingly in
Ben was not much used to girls, never having had a sister, but it occurred to him that he should find it very pleasant to have Emma in the house.
"Are you willing to leave the city and go home with your new brother?" asked Mr. Manning.
"Yes," said Emma promptly. "When are we going?"
"This afternoon. You will sail on a big boat, and then ride on the cars. Shall you like that?"
"Ever so much," said Emma, clapping her hands. "You will take care of me, won't you?" appealing to Ben.
"Oh, yes, I'll take care of you," said Ben manfully.
"I think you had better go to Boston on the Fall River line," said Mr. Manning. "That will give you nearly all night on the boat, and you can have a comfortable night's rest. Indeed, I think you may as well remain on board till the half-past-six train starts. That will get you into Boston about nine o'clock, in time for a late breakfast. What time can you go to Milltown?"
"There is a train at half-past ten."
"That will answer very well. Now, if you will come down-town with me, I will engage passage for you."
Ben accompanied Mr. Manning to the office of the steamers, and passage tickets were obtained and paid for.
At four o'clock, Ben and his young charge were seated in the showy cabin of the immense Sound steamer which plies between New York and Fall River.
As the two were chatting, an old lady, evidently from the country, looked attentively at them. She was old and wrinkled, and, from time to time, took a pinch of snuff from a large snuff-box which she took from the pocket of her dress.
"What is your name, little gal?" she inquired at last.
"Emma," answered the child,
"Come and kiss me," said the old lady.
Emma surveyed the old lady critically, and answered bluntly, "I don't want to."
"Come and kiss me, and I'll give you the first cent I find on the currant bushes," said the old lady coaxingly.
"I don't want to," answered Emma again.
"Why don't you want to?" asked the old lady, with a wintery smile.
"'Cause you're old and ugly, and put snuff up your nose." answered Emma, who had not yet learned that the truth is not to be spoken at all times.
The old lady gasped with wrath and amazement.
"Well, I never did!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, you did," said Emma, understanding her to say that she never took snuff. "I saw you do it a minute ago."
"You are a bad, wicked little gal!" said the old lady, in high displeasure. "You're spoiled child."
"No, I ain't," said Emma, angry in turn. "Don't you let her call me names," she added, speaking to Ben.
Ben found it difficult not to laugh at the old lady's discomfiture; but he felt called upon to apologize for his young charge.
"I hope you'll excuse her, ma'am," he said. "She's only a little girl."
"How old is she?" asked the old lady abruptly.
"Five years old."
"Then she'd orter know better than to sass her elders," said the old lady snappishly. "She's badly brung up. Is she your sister?"
"Is she any kin to you?"
"No; I'm her guardian."
The old lady adjusted her spectacles, and surveyed Ben from head to foot in a scrutinizing manner.
"Sho!" said she. "Why, you're a child yourself!"
"I'm fifteen," returned Ben, with dignity.
"You don't mean to say you have the care of the little gal?"
"At present I have."
"Ain't nobody else travelin' with you?"
"Where are you goin?"
"Is she goin' to board with your folks?"
"I'd like to have charge of her for a month. I'd make a different gal of her."
"I wouldn't go with you," said Emma.
"If you was bad, I'd whip you so you couldn't stand," said the old lady, her eyes snapping. "I've got a granddarter about as big as you; but she wouldn't dare to sass me the way you have."
"I'm glad you ain't my grandmother," said Emma. "I don't want a dirty grandmother like you."
"You mustn't talk so, Emma," said Ben, thinking it time to interfere.
"Talkin' won't do no good. She ought to be whipped," said the old lady, shaking her head and scowling at Emma.
"Don't you want to go on deck and see the steamer start?" asked Ben, as the only means of putting a stop to the irrepressible conflict between the old lady and his charge.
"Oh, yes; let us go up."
So they went on deck, where Emma was not a little interested at the varied sights that met her eye.
"Did you ever see such an ugly old woman, Ben?" asked Emma, when they had reached the top of the stairs.
"Hush, Emma! You must be more particular about what you say. You shouldn't have said anything about her taking snuff."
"But she does take it," insisted the little girl. "I saw her put it up her nose."
"That is nothing to us. She has a right to take it if she wants to."
"But she wanted me to kiss her. You wouldn't want to kiss her, Ben, would you?"
"No, I don't think I should," answered Ben, with an involuntary grimace. "You were right in refusing that."
Soon after the boat started they went down to the supper-room and got some supper. Mr. Manning having supplied Ben with sufficient funds to travel in a liberal manner. Just opposite them at the table sat the old lady, who shook her head frowningly at the free-spoken young lady. Ben was amused in watching her.
"I say, you, sir," she said, addressing the waiter, "bring me some tea and toast, and be quick about it, for I ain't had anything to eat since breakfast, and feel kinder gone, at the stomach.
"Please write your order, ma'am, on this paper," said the waiter.
"What's the use of writin it? Can't you remember?"
"Yes, but the bill has to be footed up at the desk."
"Well, I can't write it, for I ain't got my specs about me."
"Madam, I shall be happy to write for you," said Ben politely.
"I'm obleeged to you. I wish you would," she said.
"What shall I put down?"
"How much is a cup of tea?"
"It's awful high. It don't cost 'em more'n three cents."
"Shall I put it down?"
"Yes, I must have it. How much do they charge for toast?"
"Dry toast – ten cents."
"That's awful high, too. Why, you can git ten slices off a five-cent loaf, and they only bring you two or three. It costs a sight to travel."
"Cream toast – twenty cents," said Ben mischievously.
"What is the world comin' to?" exclaimed the old lady. "Twenty cents for cream toast! Like as not, it's skim-milk. Well, I guess you may put down dry toast."
"Shall I put down anything else?" asked Ben.
"How much do they charge for beefsteak?" inquired the old lady.
"It's wicked shame!" she exclaimed indignantly. "They're a set of robbers, and I've a good mind to tell 'em so. You, sir" – to the waiter who came up at that moment – "what do you mean by askin' such shameful prices for your vittles?"
"I haven't anything to do with the prices, ma'am."
"I need some meat," said the old lady sternly, "but I won't buy any. I won't encourage you in your shameful swindlin'. I'll bear up as well as I can till I get home, though like as not I shall be faint."
The waiter took the written order, and brought the old lady's tea and toast. Ben ordered some steak, and, finding that more was brought than he needed, offered a piece to the old lady.
"Shan't I rob you?" asked the old lady, looking at the meat covetously.
"Not at all, ma'am. I've taken all I want."
"Then I don't keer if I do take a piece. I feel kinder faint, and meat goes to the right spot; but I wasn't going to pay any of their shameful prices."
The old lady ate the meat with evident relish, and an expression satisfaction, which arose partly from the reflection that she was gratifying her appetite without expense. She even regarded Emma with a softened expression, saying: "I forgive you, little gal, for what you said to me. You don't know no better. You must try to behave like the boy that's with you. He's a real polite boy."
"So he is," said Emma. "I like him ever so much."
Luckily she added nothing to kindle the old lady's resentment, and they rose from the table on good terms.
Prof. Crane, The Phrenologist
After supper Ben and his young charge took their seats in the main salon. The passengers were grouped about the tables, many of them reading the New York evening papers. Among them Ben observed a tall man, wearing a full beard, and attired in a suit of rather rusty black, who presently sat down beside him. From his appearance Ben fancied that he might be a clergyman or a missionary.
"My young friend," said the stranger at length, "are you traveling to
"Ahem! Do you live in Boston?"
"No, sir; I live in Milltown, a manufacturing town."
"Did you ever have your head examined?"
Ben stared at the questioner in surprise.
"What should I have my head examined for?" he asked.
"I see you don't understand me," said the gentlemen of clerical appearance. "I am a phrenologist."
"Oh, yes, I understand," said Ben.
"I lecture on phrenology and examine heads, describing the character and prominent traits of my subjects on phrenological principles. For instance, I can readily tell by the help of my science your leading tendencies, and in what career you would be most likely to meet with success."
"I would like to know that myself," said Ben, becoming interested.
"My terms for an ordinary examination are twenty-five cents. For a written description I charge a dollar."
"If I had plenty of money," said Ben, "I wouldn't mind getting a written description."
"A dollar spent that way may save you hundreds of dollars, nay, perhaps thousands," said the phrenologist insinuatingly.
Ben shook his head.
"I haven't any money to spare," he said. "I have some money, but it was given to me to pay traveling expenses."
"Surely you can spare twenty-five cents," said the phrenologist. "You can remember what I say and write it down yourself afterward."
"So, I can," said Ben. "I guess I can afford a quarter; but where can we go?"
"Stay here," said Prof. Crane, for this was his self-chosen designation. "It will probably bring me other customers."
"I don't know," said Ben, looking about him doubtfully. "I don't think I should like to have all these people hear about me."
"You need not be afraid. You have a very good heard. Besides, it is no more public than at my lectures."
"All right then!"
"Move your chair forward a little. There, that is right."
Prof. Crane arose, and assumed the attitude of a speaker.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he commenced, after clearing his throat.
The gentlemen in the saloon looked up from their newspapers in some surprise at this unexpected interruption.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am Prof. Crane, the phrenologist. I trust you will pardon the interruption if I publically examine the head of this young man, and describe his character as indicated by his phrenological development."
"Go on," said a stout gentlemen opposite. "It will help to pass the time."
"Thank you, sir. I trust that what I may say will not only help to pass the time, but lead you to reflect seriously upon the great importance of this science, and its claims upon your attention."
All eyes were turned upon Ben, who bore the ordeal very well.
"This lad has an excellent head. All the organs are well balanced, none being in great excess. His temperament is nervous-sanguine. Hope predominates with him. He will not be easily discouraged, but when he has an object in view he will pursue it perseveringly to the end. He is not quarrelsome, but will not allow himself to be trodden upon. He has plenty of courage. He is not bashful, but respectful to his elders and superiors. He is conscientious, and more likely to do right than wrong. Of course he might yield to temptation, but it would have to be a powerful one. He has a fondness for pets, and will be kind to younger children. He will find no pleasure in ill-treating or tyrannizing over them He has not much invention, and would make a poor machinist, but is likely to succeed in general business. He will probably be steady and reliable, and faithful to the interests of his employer."
This was the substance of Prof. Crane's description of our hero. Ben listened with satisfaction, feeling that it was a very good character indeed. He was sorry that some business man could not hear it, as it might lead him to offer him employment.
When the examination was over, Ben tendered the professor twenty-five cents in payment.
"Now," said the professor, looking around him, "is there any other lady or gentleman whose head I can examine, for the small sum of twenty-five cents? My usual terms are fifty cents, but as I am traveling, and this is out of office hours, I don't mind reducing the price for this occasion."
Among those present was a rustic couple, who appeared to be on a wedding trip. The bridegroom was dressed in a full suit of blue cloth, the coat being decorated with brass buttons, while the bride was resplendent in a dress brilliant in color and with large figures.
"Sally," said the young husband, "I want you to have your head examined. It only costs a quarter."
"Oh, Jonathan, how can I before all them folks?" said Sally bashfully. "Suppose he should say something bad about me."
"If he does, I'll bu'st his head," said Jonathan. "He can't say nothin' but what's good about you, Sally.
"All right, Jonathan, just as you say."
"My wife will have her head examined," said Jonathan, with a proud glance at his radiant bride.
"Please sit here, madam," said the professor. "Now I will trouble you to remove your bonnet."
"Don't tumble up my hair," said Sally solicitously.
"That will not be necessary," said Prof. Crane. "This lady has a very harmonious head."
"What's that?" inquired Sally, in a low voice, of Jonathan, who stood at her side.
"Something good, I reckon," whispered her husband.
"She has those sweet domestic virtues which fit the possessor to adorn the family circle and lend a luster to the home."
"How nice he talks!" murmured Sally, in a tone of gratification.
"Yes, Sally, he's smart," said Jonathan, "and can read you like a book."
"This lady has a great taste for music. She would be like to excel as a musician. Am I right, sir?"
"I guess you are," said Jonathan. "You'd ought to hear her sing in the choir to hum. She's got a powerful voice, Sally has. She can almost raise the rafters of the old meetin'-house."
"You see, ladies and gentlemen, that the husband of the lady confirms what I say of her. Phrenology never errs. A phrenologist is never mistaken in character. Nature has stamped her impress upon each one of us, and declares unmistakably what we are."
"Go ahead, professor," said Jonathan impatiently.
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