Chapter VI. Two Young Rivals
 

Tom Davenport, for it was the son of Squire Davenport who had offered his escort to Rose, glanced superciliously at our hero.

"I congratulate you on having secured a grocer's boy as escort," he said in a tone of annoyance.

Ben's fist contracted, and he longed to give the pretentious aristocrat a lesson, but he had the good sense to wait for the young lady's reply.

"I accept your congratulations, Mr. Davenport," said Rose coldly. "I have no desire to change my escort."

Tom Davenport laughed derisively, and walked away.

"I'd like to box his ears," said Ben, reddening.

"He doesn't deserve your notice, Ben," said Rose, taking his arm.

But Ben was not easily appeased.

"Just because his father is a rich man," he resumed.

"He presumes upon it," interrupted Rose, good-naturedly. "Well, let him. That's his chief claim to consideration, and it is natural for him to make the most of it."

"At any rate, I hope that can't be said of me," returned Ben, his brow clearing. "If I had nothing but money to be proud of, I should be very poorly off."

"You wouldn't object to it, though."

"No, I hope, for mother's sake, some day to be rich."

"Most of our rich men were once poor boys," said Rose quietly. "I have a book of biographies at home, and I find that not only rich men, but men distinguished in other ways, generally commenced in poverty."

"I wish you'd lend me that book," said Ben. "Sometimes I get despondent and that will give me courage."

"You shall have it whenever you call at the house. But you mustn't think too much of getting money."

"I don't mean to; but I should like to make my mother comfortable. I don't see much chance of it while I remain a 'grocer's boy,' as Tom Davenport calls me."

"Better be a grocer's boy than spend your time in idleness, as Tom does."

"Tom thinks it beneath him to work."

"If his father had been of the sane mind when he was a boy, he would never have become a rich man."

"Was Squire Davenport a poor boy?"

"Yes, so uncle told me the other day. When he was a boy he worked on a farm. I don't know how he made his money, but I presume he laid the foundation of his wealth by hard work. So, Tom hasn't any right to look down upon those who are beginning now as his father began."

They had by this time traversed half the distance from the Town Hall to the young lady's home. The subject of conversation was changed and they began to talk about the evening's entertainment. At length they reached the minister's house.

"Won't you come in, Ben?" asked Rose.

"Isn't it too late?"

"No, uncle always sits up late reading, and will be glad to see you."

"Then I will come in for a few minutes."

Ben's few minutes extended to three-quarters of an hour. When he came out, the moon was obscured and it was quite dark. Ben had not gone far when he heard steps behind him, and presently a hand was laid on his shoulder.

"Hello, boy!" said a rough voice.

Ben started, and turning suddenly, recognized in spite of the darkness, the tramp who had attempted to rob him during the day. He paused, uncertain whether he was not going to be attacked, but the tramp laughed reassuringly.

"Don't be afraid, boy," he said. "I owe you some money, and here it is."

He pressed into the hand of the astonished Ben the dollar which our hero had given him.

"I don't think it will do me any good," he said. "I've given it back, and now you can't say I robbed you."

"You are a strange man," said Ben.

"I'm not so bad as I look," said the tramp. "Some day I may do you a service. I'm goin' out of town to-night, and you'll hear from me again some time."

He turned swiftly, and Ben lost sight of him.