“What is that?”
“Take a week to consider whether you hadn’t better take my advice and stay at home.”
“Yes, uncle, I’ll promise that.”
“And you’ll think it over in all its bearin’s?”
“It ain’t best to take any important step without reflection, Ben.” “You’re right, uncle.”
This conversation took place in Job Stanton’s little shoe-shop, only a rod distant from the small, plain house which he had occupied ever since he had been married. It was interrupted by the appearance of a pretty girl of fourteen, who, presenting herself at the door of the shop, called out:
“Supper’s ready, father.”
“So are we, Jennie,” said Ben, promptly.
“You are always ready to eat, Ben,” said his cousin, smiling.
“That’s what Mrs. Pitkin used to think, Jennie. She used to watch every mouthful I took.”
Deacon Pitkin’s offer.
Ben’s father had died three months before. He had lost his mother when ten years old, and having neither brother nor sister was left quite alone in the world. At one time his father had possessed a few thousand dollars, but by unlucky investments he had lost nearly all, so that Ben’s inheritance amounted to less than four hundred dollars.
This thought troubled Mr. Stanton, and on his death-bed he spoke about it to his son.
“I shall leave you almost destitute, Ben,” he said. “If I had acted more wisely it would have been different.”
“Don’t trouble yourself about that, father,” said Ben promptly. “I am young and strong, and I shall be sure to get along.”
“You will have to work hard, and the world is a hard taskmaster.”
“I don’t feel afraid, father. I am sure I shall succeed.”
The dying father was cheered by Ben’s confident words. Our hero was strong and sturdy, his limbs active, and his face ruddy with health. He looked like a boy who could get along. He was not a sensitive plant, and not to be discouraged by rebuffs. The father’s brow cleared.
“I am glad you are not afraid to meet what is in store for you,” he said. “I believe you will do your part, and God helps those who help themselves.”
After his father’s death, Ben became an inmate of his uncle’s family while the estate was being settled. He paid for his board partly by work in the shop, and partly by doing chores. This brings us to the day when the conversation detailed in the first chapter took place.
On the following morning Ben was sent on an errand to the village store. On his way he overtook Deacon Pitkin.
“Good mornin’, Ben!” said the deacon. “Where are you goin’?”
“To the store, sir.”
“So am I. Ef you ain’t in a hurry, le’ss walk along together.”
“All right, sir,” answered Ben. “I think I know what’s comin,” he said to himself.