“You’re stayin’ at your Uncle Job’s, ain’t you?” asked Deacon Pitkin.
“You don’t calc’late to keep on there, do you?”
“No, sir; he would like to have me stay and work in the shop, but I don’t fancy shoemaking.”
“Jest so. I wouldn’t ef I was you. It’s an onsartin business. There’s nothin’ like farmin’ for stiddy work.”
“The old man kept me at work pretty stiddy,” thought Ben. “He’d always find something for me to do.”
“‘Ive been thinkin’ that I need a boy about your age to help me on my farm. I ain’t so young as I was, and I’ve got a crick in my back. I don’t want a man-”
“You’d have to pay him too high wages,” Ben said to himself.
“A strong, capable boy like you could give me all the help I need.”
“I expect I could,” said Ben demurely.
“I was sayin’ to Mrs. Pitkin this mornin’ that I thought it would be a good plan to take you till you was twenty-one.”
“What did she say?” asked Ben, interested.
“Waal, she didn’t say much,” answered the deacon slowly; “but I guess she hasn’t no objections.”
“Didn’t she say that I had an awful appetite?” asked Ben, smiling.
“She said you was pretty hearty,” answered the deacon, rather surprised at Ben’s penetration. “Boys should curb their appetites.”
“I don’t think I could curb mine,” said Ben thoughtfully.
“I guess there wouldn’t be any trouble about that,” returned the deacon, whose meanness ran in a different channel from his wife’s, and who took less note of what was eaten at his table. “Ef you think you’d like to engage, and we could make a bargain, you might begin next week.”
“Jest so,” said Ben.
The deacon looked at him rather sharply, but Ben didn’t appear to intend any disrespect in repeating his favorite phrase.
“Did your father leave you much?” inquired Deacon Pitkin.
“A few hundred dollars,” said Ben carelessly.
“Indeed!” said the deacon, gratified. “What are you goin’ to do with it?”
“Uncle Job thinks it would be best to put it in the bank.”
“Jest so. It would fetch you some interest every year-enough to clothe you, likely. I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Ben. I’ll give you your board the first year, and your interest will buy your clothes. The second year I’ll give you twenty dollars and board, and maybe twenty more the third year.”
Ben shook his head.
“I guess we can’t make a bargain, Deacon Pitkin,” he said.
Deacon Pitkin knew that he had made a very mean offer, and felt that he could afford to increase it somewhat; but he was a close hand at a bargain, and meant to get Ben as cheap as he could.
“What was you expectin’?” he asked cautiously. “You must remember that you’re only a boy, and can’t expect men’s wages.”
Ben had no idea, as we know, of engaging to work for Deacon Pitkin at all; but he decided that the easiest way to avoid it was to put such a value on his services as to frighten the old man.