Chapter XII. Ben's Luck
 

"We will get out here," said Mrs. Hamilton.

They had reached the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway.

Ben pulled the strap, and with his new friend left the stage. He offered his hand politely to assist the lady in descending.

"He is a little gentleman," thought Mrs. Hamilton, who was much pleased with our hero.

They turned from Broadway eastward, and presently crossed the Bowery also. Not far to the east of the last avenue they came to a carpenter's shop.

Mr. Plank, a middle-aged, honest-looking mechanic, looked up in surprise when Mrs. Hamilton entered the shop.

"You didn't expect a call from me?" said the lady pleasantly.

"No, ma'am. Fashionable ladies don't often find their way over here."

"Then don't look upon me as a fashionable lady. I like to attend to my business myself, and have brought you the money for your bill."

"Thank you, ma'am. You never made me wait. But I am sorry you had the trouble to come to my shop. I would have called at your house if you had sent me a postal."

"My time was not so valuable as yours, Mr. Plank. I must tell you, however, that you came near not getting your money this morning. Another person undertook to collect your bill."

"Who was it?" demanded the carpenter indignantly. "If there's anybody playing such tricks on me I will have him up before the courts."

"It was no acquaintance of yours. The person in question had no spite against you and you would only have suffered a little delay."

Then Mrs. Hamilton explained how a pickpocket had undertaken to relieve her of her wallet, and would have succeeded but for her young companion.

"Oh they're mighty sharp, ma'am, I can tell you," said the carpenter. "I never lost anything, because I don't look as if I had anything worth stealing; but if one of those rascals made up his mind to rob me, ten to one he'd do it."

Mr. Plank receipted his bill and Mrs. Hamilton paid him a hundred and eighty-seven dollars and fifty cents. Ben could not help envying him as he saw the roll of bills transferred to him.

"I hope the work was done satisfactory," said Mr. Plank. (Perfect grammar could not be expected of a man who, from the age of twelve, had been forced to earn his own living.)

"Quite so, Mr. Plank," said the lady graciously. "I shall send for you when I have any more work to be done."

There was no more business to attend to, and Mrs. Hamilton led the way out, accompanied by Ben.

"I will trouble you to see me as far as Broadway," said the lady. "I am not used to this neighborhood and prefer to have an escort."

"I didn't think this morning," said Ben to himself, "that a rich lady would select me as her escort."

On the whole, he liked it. It gave him a feeling of importance, and a sense of responsibility which a manly boy always likes.

"I shall be glad to stay with you as long as you like," said Ben.

"Thank you, Benjamin, or shall I say Ben?"

"I wish you would. I hardly know myself when I am called Benjamin."

"As we are walking alone, suppose you tell me something of yourself. I only know your name, and that you live in Pentonville. What relations have you?"

"A mother only--my father is dead."

"And you help take care of your mother, I suppose?"

"Yes; father left us nothing except the house we live in, or, at least, we could get track of no other property. He died in Chicago suddenly."

"I hope you are getting along comfortably--you and your mother," said Mrs. Hamilton kindly.

"We have our troubles," answered Ben. "We are in danger of having our house taken from us."

"How is that?"

"A rich man in our village, Squire Davenport, has a mortgage of seven hundred dollars upon it. He wants the house for a relative of his wife, and threatens to foreclose at the end of three months."

"The house must be worth a good deal more than the mortgage."

"It is worth twice as much; but if it is put up at auction I doubt if it will fetch over a thousand dollars."

"This would leave your mother but three hundred?"

"Yes," answered Ben despondingly.

"Have you thought of any way of raising the money?"

"Yes; I came up to the city to-day to see a cousin of mother's, a Mr. Absalom Peters, who lives on Lexington Avenue, and I had just come from there when I got into the stage with you."

"Won't he help you?"

"Perhaps he might if he was in the city; though mother has seen nothing of him for twenty years; but, unfortunately, he just sailed for Europe."

"That is indeed a pity. I suppose you haven't much hope now?"

"Unless Mr. Peters comes back. He is the only one we can think of to call upon."

"What sort of a man is this Squire Davenport?"

"He is a very selfish man, who thinks only of his own interests. We felt safe, because we did not suppose he would have any use for a small house like ours; but night before last he called on mother with the man he wants it for."

"He cannot foreclose just yet, can he?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"No; we have three months to look around."

"Three months is a long time," said the lady cheerfully. "A good deal can happen in three months. Do the best you can, and keep up hope."

"I shall try to do so."

"You have reason to do so. You may not save your house, but you have, probably, a good many years before you, and plenty of good fortune may be in store for you."

The cheerful tone in which the lady spoke some how made Ben hopeful and sanguine, at any rate, for the time being.

"In this country, the fact that you are a poor boy will not stand in the way of your success. The most eminent men of the day, in all branches of business, and in all professions, were once poor boys. I dare say, looking at me, you don't suppose I ever knew anything of poverty."

"No," said Ben.

"Yet I was the daughter of a bankrupt farmer, and my husband was clerk in a country store. I am not going to tell you how he came to the city and prospered, leaving me, at his death, rich beyond my needs. Yet that is his history and mine. Does it encourage you?

"Yes, it does," answered Ben earnestly.

"It is for that reason, perhaps, that I take an interest in country boys who are placed as my husband once was," continued Mrs. Hamilton. "But here we are at Broadway. It only remains to express my acknowledgment of your timely assistance."

"You are quite welcome," said Ben.

"I am sure of that, but I am none the less indebted. Do me the favor to accept this."

She opened her portemonnaie, and taking from it a banknote, handed it to Ben.

In surprise he looked at it, and saw that it was a twenty-dollar bill.

"Did you know this was a twenty-dollar bill?" he asked in amazement.

"Certainly," answered the lady, with a smile. "It is less than ten per cent. of the amount I would have lost but for you. I hope it will be of service to you."

"I feel rich with it," answered Ben. "How can I thank you, Mrs. Hamilton?"

"Call on me at No. ---- Madison Avenue, and do it in person, when you next come to the city," said the lady, smiling. "Now, if you will kindly call that stage, I will bid you good-by--for the present."

Ben complied with her request, and joyfully resumed his walk down Broadway.