Wait and Hope: or, A Plucky Boy's Luck
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"I want to go back to Ben. What will Ben say?"
"Certainly, you must go back to your brother. Come, my child, we will try to find him."
Emma went down-stairs with her new friend. Clara did not attempt to hinder her, but seated herself with an air of dependency in an armchair, and buried her face in her hands.
"I am afraid Ben has gone away," said Emma.
"It is very perplexing," said the young lady to herself. "We will go out and try to find your brother. If we cannot, you can tell me where your home is and I will take you there."
"I don't know exactly where it is," said Emma; "I have never been there. I came from New York. I am going to board with Ben's aunt."
"And you don't know where she lives? You don't know the name of the town."
Emma shook her head.
"My poor sister has done great mischief," said the young lady gravely.
"I must do my best to remedy it."
They went out into the street together.
Meanwhile, Ben, in great trouble of mind, remained in the neighborhood of the monument for ten minutes or more.
"Perhaps the lady has taken Emma on a little walk," he thought.
"Perhaps she thought I wouldn't be down so soon."
Ben felt that it was very inconsiderate, but he would not at first believe that there was anything really wrong. But when ten minutes has passed he became alarmed, and began to blame himself.
"Aunt was right," he thought. "I wasn't fit to be trusted with the care of a little girl. What shall I say to Mr. Manning? What shall I do?"
He looked about him in despairing bewilderment. Streets radiated from the monument in several different directions. Which should he take? If he took any, there was not more than one chance in four that it would prove the right one.
He was still standing there when the gentleman who had gone up with him descended.
"Where is the little girl?" he asked.
Ben explained his trouble.
"Don't be alarmed, my boy," said the gentleman, in a tone of sympathy; "I will help you. Sooner or later we shall hear of the child."
"What shall I do?" asked Ben.
"It is possible the child may be brought back. I will remain here to receive her if she comes, and you may go and search for her. Come back in about half-an-hour."
Ben started on his quest, and with feverish haste he explored street after street, but in vain. With sad heart he retraced his steps to the monument. What was his joy to find Emma returned, and in charge of the gentleman he had left behind and another lady.
An explanation was given, to which Ben paid little attention, such was his joy at the recovery of his young charge.
"What time is it, sir?" he inquired of his companion.
"Five minutes to five."
"Then we are too late for the train," exclaimed Ben, in dismay.
"What train?" asked the gentleman.
"The five-o'clock train to Milltown."
"Is that the last train?"
"You will have to wait till to-morrow.Will it make much difference?"
"I shall have to stay at a hotel," he said uncomfortably, "and I don't think I have money enough. I did not expect to have that expense."
"I can relieve you on that score," said the gentleman. "I live in Charleston, not far away. You shall stay at my house to-night, and go home by the morning train. There is a morning train, isn't there?"
"Yes, sir, at half-past ten."
"You will accept my invitation?"
"Yes, sir, and thank you," said Ben gratefully. "I don't know what I should have done if you had not invited me."
"I am glad to have the opportunity of doing you a kindness. I want to send you away with a good impression of Charleston."
It was a handsome house to which Ben was led by his new friend. His wife received the two children with unaffected kindness, and soon made them feel at home. During the evening Mr. Somerby, for this was his name, drew out of Ben the particulars of his history and present position. Ben seemed so frank and manly that he was quite pleased with him.
Mr. Somerby was not in business, unless he may be called a capitalist. He was the possessor of a large fortune, and the care of his property required a considerable share of his time. When Ben was ready to go the next morning, Mr. Somerby put an envelope into his hand.
"Don't open this till you get home," he said.
"Now, good-by, and good luck to you."
"Thank you, sir."
Meanwhile Mrs. Bradford at home was feeling anxious. Old Mrs. Perkins had dropped in to make a call, and her conversation wasn't reassuring.
"Hasn't Ben got back?" she asked.
"There's a great risk in sendin' a boy so fur," said the old lady.
"Do you think so?" asked Mrs. Bradford uneasily.
"To be sure I do. He's too young."
"That's what I thought; but Ben was very sure he could get along."
"Boys is allus confident," said Mrs. Perkins, whose knowledge of grammar was not very profound; "but I never knew one that you could rely on."
"Benjamin is a good boy."
"Yes, he's a good boy as boys go; but don't you trust him too fur.
When did you expect him back?"
"I expected him last night."
"And he didn't come? Just as I thought."
Mrs. Perkins nodded her head vigorously, and looked unutterably wise.
"Maybe the cars is gone off the track," said the old lady.
"Oh, don't say such things, Mrs. Perkins," said Mrs. Bradford uneasily.
"I didn't say they had, but we're havin' a dreffle number of accidents nowadays."
"Ben is all right," said Tony, thinking he ought to defend his cousin.
"He said when he went away, he'd come home right side up with care."
"Little boys should be seen and not heard," said Mrs. Perkins.
"'Always be prepared for the worst.' That's my motto."
"And my motto is 'Wait and Hope!'" said a familiar voice outside the door.
"It's Ben!" exclaimed Tony joyfully.
The door was thrown open and there stood Ben, with little Emma's hand in his.
"Aunt Jane," he said, "here's little Emma, come to live with you."
"My dear, I am very glad to see you," said Mrs. Bradford.
Emma looked in her gentle face, and liked her at once.
"Will you be my aunt, too?" she asked.
"Yes, my dear."
"Tony, come here and be introduced," said Ben.
Tony was bashful at first, but it was not very long before he and
Emma were merrily playing together.
"So you're railly back, Benjamin?" said old Mrs. Perkins, rather disappointed.
"Yes, ma'am. How's James?"
"Loafin' round, as usual," said his affectionate relative. "Boys are so shiftless."
"They may be," admitted Ben good-naturedly, "but they get hungry sometimes. Aunt Jane, is there anything to eat in the house?"
"I will set the table at once," said his aunt. "The little girl must be hungry, too."
"You're undertakin' a great responsibility, Mrs. Bradford," said
Mrs. Perkins. "The little girl will be a great care to you."
"I don't look upon it in that light," said Mrs. Bradford. "I am glad to have her here."
"Humph! You will talk different a month from now. But I must be goin'."
After dinner Ben bethought himself of the envelope which Mr.
Somerby had given him.
He opened it, when a bank-note dropped to the floor. Picking it up, he saw, to his amazement, that it was a fifty-dollar bill. With sparkling eyes he read the letter, or rather these few lines which were penciled on a half-sheet of note paper:
"I have been interested in your story, and beg your acceptance of the enclosed as a slight help and encouragement. Should you ever need advice or assistance, I shall be glad to have you call upon me." "Frederic Somerby"
"What do you think of that, Aunt Jane?" said Ben in a tone of exultation. "Hasn't my motto worked pretty well, after all? Isn't it better to 'Wait and Hope' than to give up and get discouraged?"
"Yes, Ben, I begin to think you are right."
"We are better off than when I was at work in the factory."
"Yes, Ben; we can get along very comfortably."
"I have been thinking, aunt, that while business continues dull I will go to school. This money I will put in a savings-bank, and we shall have it to fall back upon if we need it."
This plan met with Mrs. Bradford's approval, and was carried out by Ben. When he returned from the savings-bank, with his book in his hand, he felt like a capitalist. In fact, he was so cheerful that his aunt caught the infection, and looked brighter than she had for years.
"It is pleasant to have money in the bank," she said to old Mrs. Perkins.
"Like as not the bank will break," said the old lady.
"I see an account last week of a savin's-bank that failed. I wouldn't trust any of 'em."
"Mrs. Perkins," said Ben, with mock gravity, "I heard last week of a man who died in his bed. I'd never go to bed if I were you."
"It aint' well to joke," said the old lady. "Always be prepared for the worst."
"That isn't my motto," said Ben. "As long as I live I mean to 'Wait and Hope'!"
The Prize for Scholarship
The annual examination of the grammar schools in Milltown came about the middle of June, just before summer vacation. It the First Ward School two prizes had been offered by the principal to the scholars who stood highest on the rank-lists.
Speculation was rife as to the probable result; but the choice was finally narrowed down to two boys.
One of these was Ben Bradford, now sixteen years of age. The other was Samuel Archer, son of the superintendent of the Milton Mills. There is an old saying, "Like father, like son." Mr. Archer was purse-proud and consequential, and felt that he was entitled to deference on the score of his wealth and prominence.
"Sam," said he, two days before the examination, "what are your chances of obtaining the prize?"
"I think I ought to have it, father," answered Sam.
"That is, you think you will be entitled to it?"
"Then you will get it, as a matter of course."
"I don't know that."
"Don't you think the prize will be adjudged fairly?"
"The principal thinks a great deal of Ben Bradford."
"Is he your chief competitor?"
"He is the only boy I am afraid of."
"Who is he?"
"He is a poor boy – used to work in the mills."
"He is the nephew of the Widow Bradford?"
"Yes; he lives in a small house about the size of a bandbox. I expect they are as poor as poverty. Ben wears coarse clothes. I don't believe he has a new suit a year."
"And you have too many. I believe your bill for clothes exceeds mine."
"Oh, father, you want your son to dress well. People know you are a rich man and they expect it."
"Humph! it may be carried too far," said Mr. Archer, who had just paid a large tailor's bill for Sam.
"And you say the principal favors him?"
"Yes, everybody can see it."
"It is rather strange he should favor a penniless boy," said Mr. Archer, himself a worshiper of wealth. "The man don't know on which side his bread is buttered."
"So I think. He ought to consider that you are a man of consequence here."
"I rather think I have some influence in Milltown," said Mr. Archer, with vulgar complacency; "I fancy I could oust Mr. Taylor from his position if I caught him indulging in favoritism. But you may be mistaken, Sam."
Mr. Archer looked thoughtful.
Finally he said: "I think it will be well to pay some attention to Mr.
Taylor. It may turn the scale. When you go to school to-morrow
I will send by you an invitation to Mr. Taylor to dine with us.
We'll give him a good dinner and get him good-natured."
So when Sam went to school in the morning he bore a note from his father, containing a dinner invitation.
"Say to your father that I will accept his invitation with pleasure," said the principal.
It was the first time he had received such a mark of attention from Mr. Archer, and, being a shrewd man, he understood at once what it signified.
"He's coming, father," announced Sam, on his return home.
"Did he seem gratified by the invitation?"
"I couldn't tell exactly. He said he would accept with pleasure."
"No doubt, he feels the attention," said Mr. Archer pompously. "He knows I am a man of prominence and influence, and the invitation will give him social status."
Mr. Archer would have been offended if he had been told that the principal was more highly respected in town than himself, in spite of his wealth and fine house.
When the principal sat down to Mr. Archer's dinner table, he partook of a dinner richer and more varied than his modest salary enabled him to indulge in at home. Nevertheless, he had more than once been as well entertained by others, and rather annoyed Mr. Archer by not appearing to appreciate the superiority of the dinner.
"Confound the man! He takes it as coolly as if he were accustomed to dine as sumptuously every day," thought Archer.
"I hope you are enjoying dinner, Mr. Taylor," he said.
"Very much, thank you."
"I rather plume myself on my cook. I venture to say that I pay five dollars a month more than any other person in Milltown. But I must have a good dinner. I am very particular on that score."
"Have you a good cook, Mr. Taylor?" asked Mrs. Archer condescendingly.
"Why, the fact is, that we keep but one servant."
"I suppose your salary will not permit you to keep more than one servant."
"You are right, madam."
"Really, Mr. Taylor, I think your salary ought to be increased," said Mr. Archer graciously. "The laborer is worthy of his hire, eh? I must see if I can't induce the town to vote you an increased compensation."
"Thank you," said the principal quietly. "A larger salary would, of course, be acceptable, but I doubt whether the town will feel like voting it."
"Rest easy," said Mr. Archer pompously. "I think I can bring it about."
"Oh, by the by," continued the rich man, "Samuel tells me that you have offered two scholarship prizes."
"Yes, sir – to the two scholars who pass the best examination."
"How does my boy stand in the matter?"
"He is one of the most prominent competitors."
"I am very glad to hear it – very glad. Sam, you must do your best to-morrow. It would gratify me very much if you should succeed. I am ambitious for my son, Mr. Taylor, and I don't mind admitting it."
"Your ambition is a very natural one," said the principal. "Sam's scholarship is excellent and his record is very satisfactory."
"Thank you, Mr. Taylor. Your assurance is deeply gratifying to
Mrs. Archer and myself. It will be the happiest day of our lives if
Sam succeeds in the approaching competition."
"He has a very fair chance of success, sir."
"I think I've fixed things," said Mr. Archer complacently, after the principal had taken his leave. "The prize is as good as yours, Sam."
Before the Battle
Ben's term at school had already extended to eight months. Our hero was thorough in whatever he did, and, having an excellent natural capacity, easily took high rank as a scholar.
"Do you expect to win the prize, Ben?" asked his friend, James
"I hope to win it," said Ben.
"So does Sam Archer."
"I suppose it lies between us two, unless you step in and carry it off," added Ben, smiling, for he knew that James, who was low in rank, was not at all sensitive on the subject.
"Make yourself easy, Ben; I won't interfere with you. You are my friend, you know, and for your sake I will answer a few questions wrong."
"You always were considerate, James. You have relieved my mind of a load of anxiety."
"Don't mention it, Ben. I shan't feel the sacrifice."
"You are a good fellow, at any rate, James, and that is more than I can say for Sam Archer."
"He thinks an awful lot of himself."
"He can't forget that his father is superintendent of the mill."
"By the way, Ben, what are you intending to do in vacation."
"I shall try to get employment in the mill again. I have been idle nearly a year now."
"Your aunt has been getting along very well."
"Yes; thanks to the seven dollars a week received for Emma's board. But I don't like to feel that she is supporting the family. I think it is high time for me to be at work."
"Ben, I've been thinking of something."
"Out with it, James."
"Sam Archer will be very much disappointed if you take the prize over him."
"He doesn't love me overmuch now."
"I am afraid he will prejudice his father against you, so as to induce him to refuse you employment in the mill."
"Do you think he would be as mean as that?"
"Do I think so? I know it. Sam Archer is mean enough for anything."
"He has just as good a chance as I have."
"He told one of the boys you were Mr. Taylor's pet. He will say the prize was give to you on account of favoritism."
"Will anybody believe it?"
"No one except Sam's special friends. I think Mr. Taylor does like you. That reminds me, where do you think Mr. Taylor is to-night?"
"I don't know, I am sure."
"He is dining at Mr. Archer's."
"That's something new, isn't it?"
"Mr. Archer is trying to curry favor with the principal for Sam."
"Then he doesn't know him very well. Mr. Taylor will decide justly, at any rate."
"Do you want very much to go back to the mill, Ben?"
"Then the best thing you can do is to let Sam beat you. That will make him good-natured and you will probably get a place."
"I shan't resign the prize. I shall do my best to obtain it. If that loses me employment in the mill, I will go in search of employment elsewhere."
"I like your pluck, Ben."
"I am willing to wait and I expect to win in the end."
"Well, good luck to you, Ben. My supper is ready, and I must go home."
The more Ben thought it over, the more he felt that James was probably correct in his prediction as to the effect of his success.
"I am determined to beat Sam," he said to himself. The next morning he entered the schoolroom cool and confident, while Sam, though rather nervous, seemed almost equally confident.
"Mr. Taylor won't go back on me," he reflected, "after dining at our house; especially after father has promised to get him a higher salary."
The examination lasted all the session. It was partly oral and partly written.
"Boys," said the principal, "I shall devote the evening to the examination of your papers. To-morrow morning my decision will be made known."
"I wish it were over," thought Sam. "I think he'll give me the prize, but I should like to be sure of it."
Ben Wins at School
Every boy was in his seat the next morning at the opening of school. Though the choice lay between two only, there was a general interest felt in the result of the competition. Ben was the favorite, though Sam had a few followers – generally sycophantic boys who had a respect for wealth, or had favors to ask of him.
"Boys," said the principal, "I sat up till twelve o'clock last evening, examining your papers. I have not only ascertained who are entitled to the two prizes, but I have made a list of the ten highest scholars, with their percentages. I am glad to say that many of you have done well, and I regret that I have not more prizes to bestow. I will now announce the names of the prize boys."
"First prize – Benjamin Bradford."
"Second prize – Sam Archer."
The boys applauded noisily.
"Bradford's percentage," continued the principal, "is ninety-nine and eight-tenths; Archer's, ninety-seven and nine-tenths. Both are very high and I heartily congratulate both young gentlemen upon their brilliant success. Bradford, you may come up to the desk."
Mr. Taylor placed in his hands a neat edition of Longfellow's poems.
"Thank you, sir," said Ben.
The boys again applauded.
"Archer, you may come up," said the principal.
Sam rose slowly, and with a discontented look shuffled up to the desk. An edition of Tennyson's poems was handed to him. He received them without a word of thanks and hurried back to his seat.
There was no applause in his case.
This was the last day of school, and the session lasted but an hour and a half. At half-past ten the boys poured out of the schoolhouse with noisy demonstrations of joy.
"I congratulate you, old fellow," said James Watson to Ben. "You've done splendidly."
"Thank you, James."
"So do I, and I," exclaimed one and another.
Ben received all these congratulations modestly.
"Go and congratulate Sam, boys," he said.
"A good scholar, but a mean boy," said James. "However, here goes."
"I congratulate you on your prize, Sam," he said offering his hand.
Sam did not appear to see the hand.
"A second prize isn't worth having," he said discontentedly. "Of course it was all I had a chance for. Bradford is the teacher's favorite."
"Do you mean to say Ben don't deserve the first prize?"
"He was sure to get it, anyhow."
"That's mean in you to speak so, Sam."
"It's what I think, at any rate."
"Well, Sam," said his father, as he entered his presence, "how is it?"
"Just as I expected, father. Old Taylor gave the first prize to his favorite, Ben Bradford."
"After all the attention I have paid that man, it is positively outrageous to defraud you of your rights."
"You won't have his salary increased now, will you, father?"
"I'll do what I can to have the man discharged."
"There's a favor I want to ask of you, father."
"What is it, my son?"
"I hear that Ben Bradford is going to seek employment in the mill, now that school is over; I hope you'll refuse to take him on."
"I will. His prize will cost him dear."
"Would you have given him employment if I had beaten him for the prize?"
"Yes; business has revived, and we have decided to take on some extra hands, giving preference to those who have formerly been in our employ."
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