Chapter XVII. What the Letter Contained
 

"I hear there is a letter for me, Mr. Brown," said Ben to the postmaster, who was folding the evening papers, of which he received a parcel from the city by the afternoon train.

"Yes, Ben," answered the postmaster, smiling. "It appears to be from a lady in New York. You must have improved your time during your recent visit to the city."

"I made the acquaintance of one lady older than my mother," answered Ben. "I didn't flirt with her any."

"At any rate, I should judge that she became interested in you or she wouldn't write."

"I hope she did, for she is very wealthy," returned Ben.

The letter was placed in his hands, and he quickly tore it open.

Something dropped from it.

"What is that?" asked the postmaster.

Ben stooped and picked it up, and, to his surprise, discovered that it was a ten-dollar bill.

"That's a correspondent worth having," said Mr. Brown jocosely. "Can't you give me a letter of introduction?"

Ben didn't answer, for he was by this time deep the letter. We will look over his shoulder and read it with him. It ran thus:

"No. ---- Madison Avenue,
New York, October 5.

"My Dear Young Friend:

"Will you come to New York and call upon me? I have a very pleasant remembrance of you and the service you did me recently, and think I can employ you in other ways, to our mutual advantage. I am willing to pay you a higher salary than you are receiving in your country home, besides providing you with a home in my own house. I inclose ten dollars for expenses. Yours, with best wishes,

"Helen Hamilton"

Ben's heart beat with joyful excitement as he read this letter. It could not have come at a better time, for, as we know, he was out of employment, and, of course, earning nothing.

"Well, Ben," said the postmaster, whose curiosity was excited, is it good news?"

"I should say it was," said Ben emphatically. "I am offered a good situation in New York."

"You don't say so! How much are offered?"

"I am to get more than Mr. Crawford paid me and board in a fine house besides--a brownstone house on Madison Avenue."

"Well, I declare! You are in luck," ejaculated Mr. Brown. "What are you to do?"

"That's more than I know. Here is the letter, if you like to read it."

"It reads well. She must be a generous lady. But what will your mother say?"

"That's what I want to know," said Ben, looking suddenly sober. "I hate to leave her, but it is for my good."

"Mothers are self-sacrificing when the interests of their children are concerned."

"I know that," said Ben promptly; "and I've got one of the best mothers going."

"So you have. Every one likes and respects Mrs. Barclay."

Any boy, who is worth anything, likes to hear his mother praised, and Ben liked Mr. Brown better for this tribute to the one whom he loved best on earth. He was not slow in making his way home. He went at once to the kitchen, where his mother was engaged in mixing bread.

"What's the matter, Ben? You look excited," said Mrs. Barkley.

"So I am, mother. I am offered a position."

"Not in the store?"

"No; it is in New York."

"In New York!" repeated his mother, in a troubled voice. "It would cost you all you could make to pay your board in some cheap boarding house. If it were really going to be for your own good, I might consent to part with you, but--"

"Read that letter, mother," said Ben. "You will see that I shall have an elegant home and a salary besides. It is a chance in a thousand."

Mrs. Barclay read the letter carefully.

"Can I go, mother?" Ben asked anxiously.

"It will be a sacrifice for me to part with you," returned his mother slowly; "but I agree with you that it is a rare chance, and I should be doing wrong to stand in the way of your good fortune. Mrs. Hamilton must have formed a very good opinion of you."

"She may be disappointed in me," said Ben modestly.

"I don't think she will," said Mrs. Barclay, with a proud and affectionate glance at her boy. "You have always been a good son, and that is the best of recommendations."

"I am afraid you are too partial, mother. I shall hate to leave you alone."

"I can bear loneliness if I know you are prospering, Ben."

"And it will only be for a time, mother. When I am a young man and earning a good income, I shall want you to come and live with me."

"All in good time, Ben. How soon do you want to go?"

"I think it better to lose no time, mother. You know I have no work to keep me in Pentonville."

"But it will take two or three days to get your clothes ready."

"You can send them to me by express. I shall send you the address."

Mrs. Barclay was a fond mother, but she was also a sensible woman. She felt that Ben was right, and, though it seemed very sudden, she gave him her permission to start the next morning. Had she objected strenuously, Ben would have given up his plan, much as he desired it, for he felt that his mother had the strongest claims upon him, and he would not have been willing to run counter to her wishes.

"Where are you going, Ben?" asked his mother, as Ben put on his hat and moved toward the door.

"I thought I would like to call on Rose Gardiner to say good-by," answered Ben.

"Quite right, my son. Rose is a good friend of yours, and an excellent girl"

"I say ditto to that, mother," Ben answered warmly.

I am not going to represent Ben as being in love--he was too young for that--but, like many boys of his age, he felt a special attraction in the society of one young girl. His good taste was certainly not at fault in his choice of Rose Gardiner, who, far from being frivolous and fashionable, was a girl of sterling traits, who was not above making herself useful in the household of which she formed a part.

On his way to the home of Rose Gardiner, Ben met Tom Davenport.

"How are you getting along?" asked Tom, not out of interest, but curiosity.

"Very well, thank you."

"Have you got through helping the farmer?"

"Yes."

"It was a very long job. Have you thought better of coming to saw wood for father?"

"No; I have thought worse of it," answered Ben, smiling.

"You are too proud. Poor and proud don't agree."

"Not at all. I would have had no objection to the work. It was the pay I didn't like."

"You can't earn more than forty cents a day at anything else."

"You are mistaken. I am going to New York to-morrow to take a place, where I get board and considerable more money besides."

"Is that true?" asked Tom, looking as if he had lost his best friend.

"Quite so. The party inclosed ten dollars to pay my expenses up to the city."

"He must be a fool."

"Thank you. It happens to be a lady."

"What are you to do?"

"I don't know yet. I am sure I shall be well paid. I must ask you to excuse me now, as I am going to call on Rose Gardiner to bid her good-by."

"I dare say she would excuse you," said Tom, with a sneer.

"Perhaps so; but I wouldn't like to go without saying good-by."

"At any rate, he will be out of my way," thought Tom, "and I can monopolize Rose. I'm glad he's going."

He bade Ben an unusually civil good-night at this thought occurred to him.