“I am almost as strong as a man,” he said, “and I can earn a great deal more than my board the first year.”
“I might be willin’ to give you twenty dollars the first year,” said the deacon.
“I’ve been thinking,” said Ben soberly, “that I ought to have a hundred and fifty dollars and board the first year.”
Deacon Pitkin fairly gasped for breath. He was fairly overpowered by Ben’s audacity.
“A-hundred-and-fifty-dollars!” he ejaculated, turning his wrinkled face toward our hero.
“That’s about the figure,” said Ben cheerfully. “A hundred and fifty dollars and board, or three hundred dollars, and I’ll board with my uncle.”
“Is the boy crazy?” asked the deacon, in a bewildered tone.
“You’d have to pay a man as much as twenty dollars a month,” pursued Ben. “That’s about a hundred dollars a year more.”
“Benjamin,” said the deacon solemnly, “do you want to ruin me?”
“No, sir, I hope not,” answered our hero innocently.
“Then why do you ask such an unheard-of price?”
“I think I’m worth it,” said Ben.
“Boys haven’t much jedgment,” said the deacon. “You’d better let me talk over this matter with your Uncle Job.”
“It won’t be any use, Deacon Pitkin. Uncle Job won’t interfere with me.”
“You can’t get such wages anywhere. You’ll have to work for less.”
“Perhaps I can’t get my price in Hampton,” said Ben.
“Of course you can’t. There ain’t no one goin’ to pay you men’s wages.”
“Perhaps you are right, Deacon Pitkin. In that case, my mind is made up.”
“What will you do?” asked the deacon, showing some curiosity.
“I’ll leave town.”
“It’s a resky thing, Benjamin. You ain’t old enough to take care of yourself.”
“I think I can do it. Deacon Pitkin. I am not afraid to try. Still, if you’ll give me a hundred and fifty dollars and board—”
“You must think I’m crazy,” said the deacon hastily. “I don’t throw money away that way.”
“Then I’m afraid we can’t make a bargain, deacon. Here is the store, and I’ll bid you good morning.”
“If you think better of my offer, you can let me know, Benjamin. You can talk it over with your uncle.”
“All right, sir. If you think better of mine, just let me know within a week, or I may be gone from Hampton.”
“That’s a cur’us boy,” said the deacon meditatively. “He’s got the most conceited idea of his vally to work of any boy I ever came across. A hundred and fifty dollars and board! What’ll Mrs. Pitkin say when I tell her? She ain’t much sot on the boy’s comin’ anyway. She thinks he’s too hearty; but I don’t mind that, so much. He’s strong and good to work, an’ he’s the only boy in town that would suit me.”
“I wonder what the deacon thinks of me,” soliloquized Ben. “I thought I should scare him a little when I named my price. If I’d thought he would take me at that figure, I’d have said more. It wouldn’t suit me to work for him at all.”