“Shouldn’t wonder,” was Ben’s mental comment, “Pretty cute for you, dad.”
Fortunately, Ben did not express his thoughts aloud. They would have implied such an utter lack of respect that the Squire would have been quite overwhelmed by the reflection that his impressive manners had produced no greater effect on one who had so excellent a chance of being impressed by them.
“Benjamin,” concluded his father, “I have an errand for you to execute. You may go to Mr. Prescott’s and see if he is yet living. I hear that he is a lying on the brink of the grave.”
An expression of sadness stole over the usually merry face of Ben, as he started on his errand.
“Poor Paul!” he thought, “what will he do when his father dies? He’s such a capital fellow, too. I just wish I had a wagon load of money, I do, and I’d give him half. That’s so!”
Paul Prescott’s home.
We will precede Ben on his visit to the house of Mr. Prescott.
It was an old weather-beaten house, of one story, about half a mile distant from ’Squire Newcome’s residence. The Prescott family had lived here for five years, or ever since they had removed to Wrenville. Until within a year they had lived comfortably, when two blows came in quick succession. The first was the death of Mrs. Prescott, an excellent woman, whose loss was deeply felt by her husband and son. Soon afterwards Mr. Prescott, a carpenter by trade, while at work upon the roof of a high building, fell off, and not only broke his leg badly, but suffered some internal injury of a still more serious nature. He had not been able to do a stroke of work since. After some months it became evident that he would never recover. A year had now passed. During this time his expenses had swallowed up the small amount which he had succeeded in laying up previous to his sickness. It was clear that at his death there would be nothing left. At thirteen years of age Paul would have to begin the world without a penny.
Mr. Prescott lay upon a bed in a small bedroom adjoining the kitchen. Paul, a thoughtful-looking boy sat beside it, ready to answer his call.
There had been silence for some time, when Mr. Prescott called feebly—
“I am here, father,” said Paul.
“I am almost gone, Paul, I don’t think I shall last through the day.”
“O, father,” said Paul, sorrowfully, “Don’t leave me.”
“That is the only grief I have in dying—I must leave you to struggle for yourself, Paul. I shall be able to leave you absolutely nothing.”
“Don’t think of that, father. I am young and strong—I can earn my living in some way.”
“I hoped to live long enough to give you an education. I wanted you to have a fairer start in the world than I had.”
“Never mind, father,” said Paul, soothingly, “Don’t be uneasy about me. God will provide for me.”