“Well, I might agree to that on one condition.”
“What is that?”
“That you would black mine.”
“What do you mean?” demanded Sam, his face flushing angrily.
“Just what I say.”
“Do you mean to insult me?”
“Not a bit; any more than you mean to insult me,”
“Do you dare to propose that I, a gentleman, should black your low-lived shoes?” exclaimed Sam furiously.
“I think you’re rather hard on my shoes,” said Ben, laughing. “I’ll come for four dollars a month, if you’ll do that.”
“I never heard such impudence,” said Sam, in concentrated wrath. “I never was so repaid for kindness before.”
“Look here, Sam,” said Ben, “I understand just how kind you are. You want the satisfaction of ordering me round, and you can’t have it. I decline your offer. I’d rather beg for bread than accept it.”
“You may starve, for all me,” said Sam. “It’s ridiculous for a poor boy to put on such airs. You’ll die in the poorhouse yet.”
“I won’t live there, if I can help it. What! are you going to leave me?”
“I won’t condescend to be seen with you.”
“Good-by, Sam. I hope you won’t have to black your own boots.”
Sam did not deign a reply.
“He looks mad,” thought Ben. “I’d live on one meal a day rather than let him order me round.”
A brilliant chance.
The week was over, and Ben persisted in his determination to leave Hampton.
“I’m sorry you are going, Ben,” said his Cousin Jennie. “I shall miss you awfully.”
As Jennie was the prettiest girl in the village, though she did not inherit any good looks from her plain-looking father, Ben was gratified.
“You’d forget me soon,” he said.
“No, I won’t.”
“Especially when Sam Sturgis comes round to see you.”
“I don’t want to see him. He’s a stuck-up boy, and thinks himself too good to associate with common people.”
“He wanted to have me black his boots,” said Ben.
“He isn’t fit to black yours,” said Jennie energetically.
“Oh, yes, he is,” said Ben, laughing. “That’s where you and I disagree.”
“I guess we both mean about the same thing,” said Jennie, who saw the point.
Ben’s resolve to go to California was modified by an advertisement in a New York daily paper which he saw at the village tavern.
It ran thus:
“Wanted, six boys, from fifteen to eighteen years of age, to fill positions of trust. Ten dollars per week will be paid; but a deposit of fifty dollars is required as a guarantee of honesty. This sum will be repaid at the close of term of service. Address Fitch & Perguson, No.—Nassau Street.”
This advertisement looked quite attractive to Ben. He copied it, and showed it to Uncle Job.