The Store Boy
By Horatio Alger, Jr.
Public Domain Books
Chapter XVIII - Farewell to Pentonville
“I have come to say good-by, Rose,” said Ben, as the young lady made her appearance.
“Good-by!” repeated Rose, in surprise. “Why, where are you going?”
“To New York.”
“But you are coming back again?”
“I hope so, but only for a visit now and then. I am offered a position in the city.”
“Isn’t that rather sudden?” said Rose, after a pause.
Ben explained how he came to be offered employment.
“I am to receive higher pay than I did here, and a home besides,” he added, in a tone of satisfaction. “Don’t you think I am lucky?”
“Yes, Ben, and I rejoice in your good fortune; but I shall miss you so much,” said Rose frankly.
“I am glad of that,” returned Ben. “I hoped you would miss me a little. You’ll go and see mother now and then, won’t you? She will feel very lonely.”
“You may be sure I will. It is a pity you have to go away. A great many will be sorry.”
“I know someone who won’t.”
“Who is that?”
Rose smiled. She had a little idea why Tom would not regret Ben’s absence.
“Tom could be spared, as well as not,” she said.
“He is a strong admirer of yours, I believe,” said Ben mischievously.
“I don’t admire him,” retorted Rose, with a little toss of her head.
Ben heard this with satisfaction, for though he was too young to be a lover, he did have a strong feeling of attraction toward Rose, and would have been sorry to have Tom step into his place.
As Ben was preparing to go, Rose said, “Wait a minute, Ben.”
She left the room and went upstairs, but returned almost immediately, with a small knit purse.
“Won’t you accept this, Ben?” she said. “I just finished it yesterday. It will remind you of me when you are away.”
“Thank you, Rose. I shall need nothing to keep you in my remembrance, but I will value it for your sake.”
“I hope you will be fortunate and fill it very soon, Ben.”
So the two parted on the most friendly terms, and the next day Ben started for New York in the highest of spirits.
After purchasing his ticket, he gave place to Squire Davenport, who also called for a ticket to New York. Now, it so happened that the squire had not seen Tom since the interview of the latter with our hero, and was in ignorance of his good luck.
“Are you going to New York, Benjamin?” he asked, in surprise.
“Isn’t it rather extravagant for one in your circumstances?”
“Yes, sir; if I had no object in view.”
“Have you any business in the city?”
“Yes, sir; I am going to take a place.”
Squire Davenport was still more surprised, and asked particulars. These Ben readily gave, for he was quite elated by his good fortune.
“Oh, that’s it, is it?” said the squire contemptuously. “I thought you might have secured a position in some business house. This lady probably wants you to answer the doorbell and clean the knives, or something of that sort.”
“I am sure she does not,” said Ben, indignant and mortified.
“You’ll find I am right,” said the squire confidently. “Young man, I can’t congratulate you on your prospects. You would have done as well to stay in Pentonville and work on my woodpile.”
“Whatever work I may do in New York, I shall be a good deal better paid for than here,” retorted Ben.
Squire Davenport shrugged his shoulders, and began to read the morning paper. To do him justice, he only said what he thought when he predicted to Ben that he would be called upon to do menial work.
“The boy won’t be in so good spirits a week hence,” he thought. “However, that is not my affair. There is no doubt that I shall get possession of his mother’s house when the three months are up, and I don’t at all care where he and his mother go. If they leave Pentonville I shall be very well satisfied. I have no satisfaction in meeting either of them,” and the squire frowned, as if some unpleasant thought had crossed his mind.
Nothing of note passed during the remainder of the journey. Ben arrived in New York, and at once took a conveyance uptown, and due time found himself, carpet-bag in hand, on the front steps of Mrs. Hamilton’s house.
He rang the bell, and the door was opened by a servant.
“She’s out shopping,” answered the girl, looking inquisitively at Ben’s carpet-bag. “Will you leave a message for her?”
“I believe I am expected,” said Ben, feeling a little awkward. “My name is Benjamin Barclay.”
“Mrs. Hamilton didn’t say anything about expecting any boy,” returned the servant. “You can come in, if you like, and I’ll call Mrs. Hill.”
“I suppose that is the housekeeper,” thought Ben.
“Very well,” he answered. “I believe I will come in, as Mrs. Hamilton wrote me to come.”
Ben left his bag in the front hall, and with his hat in his hand followed the servant into the handsomely-furnished drawing room.
“I wish Mrs. Hamilton had been here,” he said to himself. “The girl seems to look at me suspiciously. I hope the housekeeper knows about my coming.”
Ben sat down in an easy-chair beside a marble-topped center table, and waited for fifteen minutes before anyone appeared. He beguiled the time by looking over a handsomely illustrated book of views, but presently the door was pushed open and he looked up.
The newcomer was a spare, pale-faced woman, with a querulous expression, who stared coldly at our hero. It was clear that she was not glad to see him. “What can I do for you, young man?” she asked in a repellent tone.
“What a disagreeable-looking woman!” thought Ben. “I am sure we shall never be friends.”
“Is Mrs. Hamilton expected in soon?” he asked.
“I really cannot say. She does not report to me how long she expects to be gone.”
“Didn’t she speak to you about expecting me?” asked Ben, feeling decidedly uncomfortable.
“Not a word!” was the reply.
“She wrote to me to come here, but perhaps she did not expect me so soon.”
“If you have come here to collect a bill, or with any business errand, I can attend to you. I am Mrs. Hamilton’s cousin.”
“Thank you; it will be necessary for me to see Mrs. Hamilton.”
“Then you may as well call in the afternoon, or some other day.”
“That’s pretty cool!” thought Ben. “That woman wants to get me out of the house, but I propose to ’hold the fort’ till Mrs. Hamilton arrives.”
“I thought you might know that I am going to stay here,” said Ben.
“What!” exclaimed Mrs. Hill, in genuine surprise.
“Mrs. Hamilton has offered me a position, though I do not know what the duties are to be, and am going to make my home here.”
“Really this is too much!” said the pale-faced lady sternly. “Here, Conrad!” she called, going to the door.
A third party made his appearance on the scene, a boy who looked so much like Mrs. Hill that it was clear she was his mother. He was two inches taller than Ben, but looked pale and flabby.
“What’s wanted, ma?” he said, staring at Ben.
“This young man has made a strange mistake. He says Mrs. Hamilton has sent for him and that he is going to live here.
“He’s got cheek,” exclaimed Conrad, continuing to stare at Ben.
“Tell him he’d better go!”
“You’d better go!” said the boy, like a parrot.
“Thank you,” returned Ben, provoked, “but I mean to stay.”
“Go and call a policeman, Conrad,” said Mrs. Hill. “We’ll see what he’ll have to say then.”