The Young Explorer by Horatio Alger
Chapter I. Ben's Inheritance.
"I've settled up your father's estate, Benjamin," said Job Stanton. "You'll find it all figgered out on this piece of paper. There was that two-acre piece up at Rockville brought seventy-five dollars, the medder fetched a hundred and fifty, the two cows--"
"How much does it all come to, Uncle Job?" interrupted Ben, who was impatient of details.
"Hadn't you better let me read off the items, nephew?" asked Job, looking over his spectacles.
"No, Uncle Job. I know you've done your best for me, and there's no need of your going through it all. How much is there left after all expenses are paid?"
"That's what I was a-comin' to, Ben. I make it out that there's three hundred and sixty-five dollars and nineteen cents. That's a dollar for every day in the year. It's a good deal of money, Ben."
"So it is, Uncle Job," answered Ben, and he was quite sincere. There are not many boys of sixteen to whom this would not seem a large sum.
"You're rich; that is, for a boy," added Uncle Job.
"It's more than I expected, uncle. I want you to take fifteen dollars and nineteen cents. That'll leave me just three hundred and fifty."
"Why should I take any of your money, nephew?"
"You've had considerable trouble in settling up the estate, and it's taken a good deal of your time, too."
"My time ain't of much vally, and as to the trouble, it's a pity ef I can't take some trouble for my brother's son. No, Ben, I won't take a cent. You'll need it all."
"But you said yourself it was a good deal of money for a boy, Uncle Job."
"So it is, but it's all you've got. Most boys have fathers to take care of 'em, while you're alone in the world."
"Yes I am alone in the world," said Ben sadly, his cheerful face clouding over.
"But you've got an uncle, lad," continued Job Stanton, laying his hand gently on the boy's shoulder. "He's a poor man, but as much as in him lies, he'll be your friend and helper."
"I know it, Uncle Job. You've always been kind to me."
"And allus will be, Ben. Now, Ben, I've got a plan for you. I don't know what you'll think of it, but it's the best I've been able to think of."
"What is it, Uncle Job?"
"Ef you'll stay with me and help me in the shop, I'll give you a home, such as it is, and fifty dollars a year toward your clothes. Your Aunt Hannah and your Cousin Jane want you to make your home with us."
"I'm very much obliged to you, Uncle Job," said Ben slowly.
"You needn't be, boy. It's a sort of mutooal arrangement. It'll be as good for me as for you. You can put your money in the bank, and let it stay till you're twenty-one. Why, it'll be nigh on to five hunderd dollars by that time."
"I'm much obliged to you, Uncle Job, as I said before, but there's one thing in the way."
"What's that, Ben?"
"I don't like shoemaking."
"Perhaps it isn't genteel enough for you, Ben," said his uncle.
"I don't care for that, Uncle Job, but I don't like being shut up in a shop. Besides, it doesn't give steady work. Last year you were without work at least a third of the time."
"So I was, Ben," said Job. "I'm willin' to own that's a great drawback."
"And it isn't likely to be any better hereafter. Last year was as good as the average."
"It was better," Job admitted. "The year before I was out of work five months."
"Well, Uncle Job, I want to work at something that'll give me employment all the year round."
"So do I, Ben, but I don't see what you can find, unless you go to work on a farm. You're used to that, and I guess you could find a chance before long. There's Deacon Pitkin wants a boy, and would be glad of the chance of gettin' you."
"I suppose he would," said Ben, laughing. "Would you advise me to go there?"
"Well, there might be some objections, but-"
"You know I wouldn't get enough to eat, Uncle Job," interrupted Ben. "Why, Deacon Pitkin's the meanest man in the village."
"You mustn't be hasty in your judgments, nephew."
"I'm not. I know what I'm talking about. I worked for the deacon two days once. He gave me ten cents a day and board-and such board! Why, I got up from the table hungry every meal, and yet the deacon reported afterward that I was a great eater. Mrs. Pitkin cuts a small pie into eight pieces, each about two mouthfuls, and when I asked for a second piece, she asked if I was allowed to have two pieces at home."
"What did you say?" asked Uncle Job, evidently amused.
"I said yes, and that each piece was twice as big as she gave."
"I'm afraid that was rather forward, Ben. Did she say anything to that?"
"She said I must be very greedy, and that boys always ate more'n was good for 'em. No, Uncle Job, I don't care to work for Deacon Pitkin."
"Have you formed any plans, Ben? You don't want to go on a farm, and you don't want to go into a shoeshop, and that's about all you can find to do in Hampton."
"I don't mean to stay in Hampton," said Ben quietly.
"Don't mean to stay in Hampton!" exclaimed Uncle Joe, amazed.
"No, uncle. There's a good many places besides Hampton in the world."
"So there is, Ben," answered Uncle Job, with a disregard of grammar more excusable than his nephew's, for he had never had any special educational advantages,-"so there is, but you don't know anybody in them other places."
"It won't take me long to get acquainted," returned Ben, not at all disturbed by this consideration.
"Where do you want to go?"
"I want to go to California."
"Gracious sakes! Want to go to California!" gasped Job. "What put that idee into your head?"
"A good many people are going there, and there's a chance to get rich quick out among the gold-mines."
"But you're only a boy."
"I'm a pretty large boy, Uncle Job," said Ben complacently, "and I'm pretty strong."
"So you be, Ben, but it takes more than strength."
"What more, Uncle Job?"
"It takes judgment."
"Can't a boy have judgment?"
"Waal, he may have some, but you don't often find an old head on young shoulders."
"I know all that, uncle, but I can work if I am a boy."
"I know you're willin' to work, Ben, but it'll cost a sight of money to get out to Californy to start with."
"I know that. It will take two hundred dollars."
"And that's more'n half of all you've got. It seems to me temptin' Providence to spend such a sight of money for the chance of earning some on t'other side of the world, when you can get a livin' here and put all your money in the bank."
"In five years it would only amount to five hundred dollars, and if I go to California, I expect to be worth a good deal more than that before two years are past."
"I'm afraid you've got large idees, Ben."
"You won't interfere with my going, Uncle Job?" asked Ben anxiously.
"I won't actooly interfere, but I'll do all I can to have you give it up."
"But if my mind is set upon it, you'll let me go, won't you, uncle?"
"I suppose I must," said Job Stanton. "A wilful lad must have his way. But you mustn't blame me if things turn out unlucky."
"No, I shall only blame myself."
"There's one promise you must make me," said his uncle.
"What is that?"
"Take a week to consider whether you hadn't better take my advice and stay at home."
"Yes, uncle, I'll promise that."
"And you'll think it over in all its bearin's?"
"It ain't best to take any important step without reflection, Ben." "You're right, uncle."
This conversation took place in Job Stanton's little shoe-shop, only a rod distant from the small, plain house which he had occupied ever since he had been married. It was interrupted by the appearance of a pretty girl of fourteen, who, presenting herself at the door of the shop, called out:
"Supper's ready, father."
"So are we, Jennie," said Ben, promptly.
"You are always ready to eat, Ben," said his cousin, smiling.
"That's what Mrs. Pitkin used to think, Jennie. She used to watch every mouthful I took."