Horatio Alger.

Wait and Hope: or, A Plucky Boy's Luck



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Chapter XXVI

Ben Finds a Boarding-Place

Henry Porter had a fine suite of rooms in the Back Bay District of

Boston. Ben spent the night with him.

"You've got a nice home," said our hero.

"Yes," said the bookkeeper. "My rooms alone cost me fifteen dollars a week."

"Without board?" ejaculated Ben.

"Yes," said the young man, smiling.

"Why, that is almost eight hundred dollars a year."

"Quite correct. I see you think me extravagant."

"I was wondering how you could afford it."

"Your surprise is natural. If I only depended on my salary, I certainly should not hire such expensive apartments. But a good aunt left me twenty thousand dollars, two years since, and this being well invested yields me about fourteen hundred dollars a year."

"I wonder you don't go into business."

"I have thought of it, but doubt whether I should manage a business of my own judiciously. If not, I should run the risk of losing all my money. I like keeping books for my uncle, and he pays me a good salary. With this and the income from my property I can live as well as I wish without incurring any risk at all."

"I don't know but that is best," said Ben.

"Now let me speak of your own plans, Ben. Your income is six dollars a week."

"Yes, sir."

"You must regulate your expenses accordingly."

"I want to do so, Mr. Porter. How much board shall I have to pay?" asked Ben anxiously.

"I cannot tell without inquiring. There is a boarding-house on Warren Avenue, kept by a worthy lady of my acquaintance. How much do you fell able to pay?"

"I should like to have enough over to buy my clothes."

"We will see if we can manage it Get your hat and we will go to the boarding-house now."

It was a three-story brick house, such as is common in Boston. It was unusually neat for a boarding-house of medium grade, Mrs. Draper being an excellent housekeeper, with a horror of dirt.

"How do you do, Mr. Porter?" was the landlady's greeting. Mr.

Porter had once boarded with her.

"Very well, thank you, Mrs. Draper. How is business? Pretty full, eh?"

"Yes, sir; I've only got one small room vacant."

"May we see it?"

"It won't suit you, Mr. Porter."

"It may suit my young friend here."

"A relative of yours?" inquired Mrs. Draper.

"No, but he is a young friend in whom I feel an interest."

"I shall be very glad if the room suits him, then."

Mrs. Draper led the way up-stairs to the vacant room. It was small, but neatly carpeted, and provided all that was needful in a chamber.

"How much do you like it, Ben?" asked the bookkeeper.

"Very much," said Ben, in a tone of satisfaction.

Mr. Porter walked to the other end of the room and discussed terms with Mrs. Draper in a low tone.

"What is your price for this room with board?"

"I have generally got six dollars a week."

"I want you to let my young friend have it for four."

"I really couldn't do it, Mr.

Porter. You have no idea how much I have to pay at the market for meat and vegetables. Then my landlord won't reduce my rent."

"You don't understand me, Mrs. Draper," said the bookkeeper. "You are to charge him only four dollars; but I propose to make up the difference."

"That is, of course, satisfactory."

"One thing more. My young friend is not to know about this arrangement. He is to suppose that four dollars a week is payment in full."

"There is only one objection to that, Mr. Porter. If my other boarders suppose that is all he pays, they will make a fuss, and want their rate of board reduced."

"Then he shall be cautioned to keep the price he pays secret. Ben!"

Ben walked over to where they were standing.

"Mrs. Draper agrees to take you at the very low price of four dollars a week for room and board."

Ben looked delighted.

"Then I shall have money enough from my wages to pay all my expenses without calling on Aunt Jane."

"Yes, if you are economical. As this price is extremely low, you are not to mention to any of the other boarders how much you pay."

"I will be sure to remember it," said Ben.

As they were leaving the house Mr. Porter said: "Don't suppose, Ben, that I am anxious to get rid of you. I had half a mind to keep you with me a week or two. But one thing deterred me. You are a poor boy, and have your own way to make in the world. You can't for years afford to live as I am doing. If I accustomed you to living expensively it would be harder for you to accommodate yourself to your means."

"I understand you, Mr. Porter, and thank you. I consider you a true friend," said Ben earnestly.

"I see you are a sensible boy, Ben. You are right in looking upon me as a friend. I hope you will come and call upon me often."

"Thank you, sir. I shall consider it a privilege to do so. And I hope you will give me any advice that you think will benefit me."

"I will, Ben, and I will begin now. We have a large public library in Boston, of which we are very proud. I advise you to draw books from it."

"I shall be glad to," said Ben eagerly.

"Come round, and I will show it to you."

Together they entered the handsome building on Copley Square. Ben, who had never seen a large library, or, indeed, any library containing over a thousand books, was amazed at what he saw.

"I didn't suppose there was any library in the world so large," he said.

"Here is the newspaper and magazine room. You can come in here any evening. It will be much better than to spend your time where many boys and young men do – in billiard and drinking saloons."

"I shall enjoy living in Boston very much."

"I think you will. While a large city has more temptations than a small town, it also has more opportunities for improvement. I hope, Ben, you will start right, and prepare the way for a useful manhood."

"Thank you, Mr. Porter. I mean to try."

The next day Ben took formal possession of his room in the boarding-house on Warren Avenue. He found a pleasant class of boarders there and a good table. Though not luxurious, it was better than he had been used to at home, and he felt himself fortunately placed.

Chapter XXVII

Sam Attempts Strategy

The more Sam Archer thought of the effect of his letter upon Ben's fortunes the more he felt provoked.

"I wish I hadn't sent him to Jones & Porter," thought he. "I hope he won't suit them."

When a fortnight had passed Sam managed to meet James Watson.

"Have you heard from Ben Bradford lately?"

"Yes," said James.

"What does he write?"

"That he likes his place very much. The bookkeeper is very kind to him, and assists him with advice. Then he likes being in a bookstore."

Sam was not overjoyed at the news.

"How kind you are to take such an interest in Ben!"

"I don't take an interest in him," returned Sam.

"Then what makes you ask after him so particularly?"

"I expected he'd be discharged by this time."

"What made you think so?"

"He didn't give satisfaction at the mill. He was discharged."

"So was I."

"But not for the same reasons," said Sam. "It was because times were dull."

"I rather think Ben's work was satisfactory enough, but you influenced your father against him."

"How much pay does he get?" inquired Sam.

"More than he received at the mill."

"I wonder whether all this is true," considered Sam. "James Watson is Ben's friend and he may represent things better than they are."

An excellent plan suggested itself to Sam. He would ask his father's permission to go to Boston and pass a day or two with his friend, Frank Ferguson. This would allow him to drop into Jones & Porter's store and judge for himself how Ben was situated.

Sam had no trouble about obtaining permission.

On reaching the city he decided to call at the store before going to his friend's residence.

Ben was dusting books, when a glance toward the door revealed the entrance of Sam. The latter had cherished a faint hope that James had deceived him, and that Ben was really not employed.

"How shall I receive him?" Ben asked himself.

He decided to treat him coolly, but not to quarrel.

"Good morning, Bradford," said Sam.

"Good morning, Archer," was the return greeting.

Sam didn't quite like this familiarity.

"How do you like working here?"

"Very much," answered Ben. "Much better than in the mill," he added significantly.

"I shouldn't think they'd have taken a green country boy," suggested

Sam pleasantly.

"Perhaps they wouldn't if a friend hadn't written for me," said Ben with a meaning glance at Sam.

"How much pay do you get?"

"I would rather not say."

"Because it is so small," said Sam, with a sneer.

"On the contrary, I look upon it as liberal. I am doing better than if I had remained at Milltown."

This was bad news for Sam.

"I am really obliged to the person who wrote the letter which secured me the position," Ben added.

"It isn't much of a business to dust books."

"I sell books sometimes," said Ben, smiling. "Can I show you something this morning."

"No, I don't want anything. Where do you live?"

"I board on Warren Avenue."

"In a cheap boarding-house?"

"There are some very nice people who board there."

Sam came to a sudden decision. Would it be possible to induce Ben to give up his place, and enter the mill again? He could be discharged after awhile, and cast adrift. It was rather foolish to suppose that Ben would snap at such a bait, but he decided to try it.

"I think you would be better off in the mill," he said.

"You could board at home, and help your aunt. You would soon be promoted, too."

"I thought you didn't want me to enter the mill," exclaimed Ben, amazed. "Your father told me that my record was not good;" and Ben looked indignant.

"Father was feeling out of sorts," said Sam smoothly.

"He will take you on if you'll come back."

"What does the fellow mean?" thought Ben.

It didn't take him long to guess. If he should return to the mill he would be once more in Sam's power.

"You really think your father would employ me?"

"Yes, he would if I asked him to."

"I would thank you, Sam Archer, if I thought your offer was a friendly one."

"What makes you think that it isn't."

"The feeling which I have reason to think you entertain for me, and your conduct in the past."

"You are too suspicious, Ben."

"If I find I am, I will apologize to you. It would be foolish for me to give up so good a position in order to accept a poor one, which is not all permanent."

"Well, Bradford, I must bid you good morning. Just write to me if you decide to accept."

"If I decide to accept I will."

"He's getting very impudent," said Sam to himself, "If I could only get him into the mill I could fix him. We'd let him stay two or three weeks, and then ship him. But he won't do it. Stay, I think of a way."

What the way was may be conjectured from a letter which Ben received three days later from his Aunt Jane:

"My Dear Nephew: I am feeling almost heart-broken. It is reported by one who saw you lately that you are looking very dissipated. I was afraid the temptations of the city were too much for you. You are too young to go away from home. I won't blame you too much, for I feel that you are weak rather than wicked. But I shall not feel comfortable till you are at home again. Don't hesitate to give up your place. I am assured that they will take you on again at the mill, and it will be much better for you to be at home with us, till you are older, and better able to resist temptation.

"Your anxious aunt,
"Jane Bradford"

Ben read this letter in amazed indignation.

"Sam is at the bottom of this," he concluded. "It is he that has reported that I look dissipated. He wants to deprive me of my place, and get me into the mill, where I shall be in his power. I can't forgive him for frightening my poor aunt. If I were at home, I should certainly punish him as he deserves."

Ben took the letter to his friend, the bookkeeper.

"What do you think of that?" he asked.

"This letter was written at an enemy's instigation."

"You are right, Mr. Porter."

Then Ben told his friend of Sam's call.

"Will you do me a favor, Mr. Porter?" he asked.

"Certainly I will, Ben."

"Then, will you write to my aunt, and assure her that my habits are good, and that her informant has willfully lied? It will relieve her anxiety."

"With pleasure."

The next day Mrs. Bradford received a letter, very enthusiastic in its tone, which completely exonerated our hero from the charges brought against him.

"Your nephew," it concluded, "bids fair to become one of our best clerks. He is polite, faithful, and continually trying to improve. You need have no apprehension about him. It would be very foolish for him to resign his situation."

Chapter XXVIII

Sam Praises Ben

The same mail that carried the bookkeeper's letter to Mrs. Bradford also carried a letter from Ben to Sam Archer. It ran thus:

"Sam Archer: You might be in better business than telling lies about me to my aunt. If you think I look dissipated your eyes deceive you, and I advise you to wear glasses the next time you come to Boston. If you choose to come to the store, it is none of my business; but you need not take the trouble in order to see me.

I quite understand your anxiety to get me back into the mill. There

was a time when I should have been glad of a place there; but now

I have a place that suits me better, and don't care to change.

"Benjamin Bradford"

When Sam received this letter, he looked and felt provoked. Somehow or other Ben was always getting the better of him. He wanted to injure him, but there seemed no way. Suddenly it occurred to Sam that he might prejudice Jones & Porter against our hero.

He sat down at once and wrote them an anonymous letter, of which this is a copy:

"Messrs. Jones & Porter: I hear that you have taken into your employment a boy named Benjamin Bradford from this town. You probably are not aware that he has a very bad reputation here. He was employed in the mill for a time, but was discharged because he was idle and lazy. He keeps bad company, and none of the respectable boys here cared to associate with him. I don't like to see an honorable firm imposed upon, and that is why I warn you of the character of your new clerk, though I have no personal interest in the matter.

"A Friend"

The next day Ben was summoned to the countingroom.

"Ben," said Mr. Porter, "have you any enemy in Milltown?"

"Yes, sir."

"We have just received a letter warning us against you, as unworthy of our confidence."

Mr. Porter smiled, or Ben might have felt uncomfortable.

"May I see the letter?" he asked.

The letter was placed in his hands.

"It is Sam Archer's handwriting," he said, looking up. "I hope, sir, you won't let it prejudice you against me."

"I would not allow myself to be influenced by an anonymous letter.

It is a stab in the dark."

"I want to show you how inconsistent Sam is," said Ben. "He was here a few days ago, and urged me to give up my place here, and take one in the mill."

"That is rather strange, if he is your enemy."

"No, sir; he don't like it because I have a good place here. If I should go into the mill I should probably be discharged in a week or two, and cast adrift."

"Are any boys as malicious as that?"

"Not many, sir, I hope; but Sam is an exception."

"I sympathize with you in your persecution, Ben; but I can assure you that no anonymous letters will change my opinion of you. If this enemy sends another letter, I shall feel tempted to increase your wages."

"Then I hope he'll write again," said Ben, laughing.

"If we continue satisfied with you, we shall probably advance you on the first of January."

"Thank you, sir," said Ben warmly. "May I answer this letter, sir?"

"You may say that we have shown it to you, and that we despise such malicious attempts to injure."

The next day Sam received a letter from Ben, which concluded:

"If you write another similar letter to my employers, you will be doing me quite a service. It will probably cause them to raise my salary. As I owe my place to you, you now have it in your power to increase the obligation. How bad you must feel, Sam, at your inability to do me harm! I can't say I exactly sympathize with you, but I certainly pity you for harboring such malice in your heart. I don't know how to express my gratitude for all of your kindness. If ever you want a situation in Boston let me know. There is a peanut woman on the Common who wants a smart, active salesman.

"Ben Bradford"

Sam was stung by the cool indifference and contempt which appeared in this letter. Ben did not take the trouble to be angry. He evidently despised his enmity, and defied him. Sam felt that he hated Ben worse.

"What's that letter you are scowling over, Sam?" asked James

Watson.

"It's a letter from a miserable puppy," hissed Sam.

"Is it? Do you correspond with miserable puppies?"

"I can't help their writing to me. If you want to know who it is, it's your friend, Ben Bradford."

"How long have you corresponded?" asked James.

"I wouldn't lower myself by writing to him," said Sam wrathfully.

"I'll show you what I think of his letter."

As he spoke, he tore the letter to pieces.

"You're a strange boy, Sam," said James.

"Why am I?"

"Haven't you been working hard to get Ben back to Milltown?"

"I wish he'd come back."

"And yet you can't bear the sight of him."

"I hate him worse than any fellow I know."

"Come, now, Sam, just listen to a little advice. If you had always treated Ben right you would like him as well as I do. Why should you cherish malice against him? He has good qualities, and so have you, if you'd only give 'em a chance to show themselves."

"That's all gammon," said Sam impatiently.

"What, about your having good qualities?"

"About my ever liking Ben Bradford. Before I'd make a friend of him, I would go without friends."

"You may think differently some time."

On the first of January Ben wrote to his aunt:

"My Dear Aunt: Congratulate me on my good luck. Mr. Porter, this morning, called me into the countingroom, and informed me that henceforth my wages would be eight dollars a week – two dollars more that I have been receiving. I owe this partly to my good luck. I am a favorite of the bookkeeper, who is Mr. Porter's nephew; otherwise, if I had been advanced at all, it would have been only one dollar a week. Don't you think it would have been rather foolish if I had come back and gone into the mill, as you wished me to?"

"After all, I think Ben did right to stay," said Aunt Jane, when she read the letter.

"I wish he'd come home," said Tony. "Then he could play with me."

Chapter XXIX

The Cunard Steamer

Early one morning a gentleman came into Jones & Porter's bookstore, and selected some books, which he paid for. There were eighteen in all.

"Where shall we send them, sir?"

"Can you send them to the Cunard steamer at East Boston? I sail for Europe today."

"Certainly, sir. When does the steamer start?"

"At twelve o'clock. Don't fail to have them there on time, as I shall be greatly disappointed to miss them."

When the gentleman had left the store, Ben was summoned.

"Ben, do you know the Cunard Wharf in East Boston?" asked the bookkeeper.

"I can easily find it."

"Here is a package of books to be carried there."

"All right, sir," said Ben.

"They are for Mr. James Parker. If you don't find him leave them with the steward."

So Ben took the package, and made his way toward the East Boston

Ferry.

On board the boat he look around him, thinking it possible that he might recognize some one of his fellow passengers. Considerably to his surprise he noticed Mr. Archer, superintendent of the factory at Milltown, whom he had not seen since the latter declined to take him on again at the mill.

"I wonder what brings Mr. Archer here?"

His surprise, however, was only momentary. There was nothing strange in the superintendent's having business at East Boston. Ben noticed, however, that Mr. Archer wore a traveling-suit, and carried a knapsack.

Ben would have liked to inquire if Squire Archer had seen his aunt lately, if they had been on friendly terms; but he was very doubtful how his advance would be received, and remained where he was.

The boat touched the pier and the passengers disembarked. Ben was two or three rods behind the squire. Our hero inquired the way to the steamer, and had no difficulty about obtaining the necessary information. To his additional surprise Squire Archer crossed the gangway only a little in advance of Ben.

"What can be the squire's business here?" thought Ben, in surprise.

Ben halted on deck, and looked around for some officer to whom he could entrust the package. At this moment Squire Archer turned and saw Ben for the first time. He started and changed color, as Ben could see. For an instant he looked irresolute. Then he approached Ben, and said roughly: "What brings you here?"

"I am here on business," answered Ben.

"On business! What business?"

"I have a package of books for one of the passengers."

"Oh, I see," said the mill superintendent, seeming to be relieved.

"You are working in a bookstore."

"Yes, sir."

"What firm is it?"

"Jones & Porter."

"Oh, yes, I know. I have often been in their store. How do you like your place?"

Squire Archer's tone was quite genial and friendly, though there was an uneasy expression on his face.

"Very well, sir."

"If you ever get out of a place, come to me."



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