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Title: Ben Bruce
       Scenes in the Life of a Bowery Newsboy

Author: Horatio Alger

Illustrator: J. Watson Davis

Release Date: December 20, 2019 [EBook #60970]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by David Edwards, Sue Clark, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at



“Why, Ben, how came you here?” and looking up Ben recognized his cousin Adelbert.—Page 58.

Ben Bruce.




Author of “Joe’s Luck,” “Tom the Bootblack,” “Dan the
Newsboy,” “The Errand Boy,” etc., etc.



Copyright, 1892, by Frank A. Munsey.

Copyright, 1901, by A. L. Burt.


By Horatio Alger, Jr.



I. Ben and His Stepfather 1
II. Ben Witnesses an Explosion 9
III. Mr. Winter’s Savings Bank 13
IV. An Exciting Encounter 21
V. A Midnight Call 29
VI. A Disappointed Burglar 34
VII. Ben Forms a Sudden Determination 42
VIII. Ben Arrives in Boston 51
IX. Ben Becomes a Hero 60
X. Ben Dines in Mt. Vernon Street 68
XI. Ben Has a Narrow Escape 76
XII. A New Acquaintance 84
XIII. Ben is Introduced to a Poet 93
XIV. Things at Wrayburn 102
XV. Ben Gets Employment 111
XVI. Ben Visits Mr. Simpson 120
XVII. Rivals in Business 129
XVIII. Rehearsing 133
XIX. Ben Makes His Début 146
iv XX. Ben’s Letter Home 155
XXI. Ben Meets with a Loss 164
XXII. George Grayson Comes to Grief 173
XXIII. A Strange Adventure 177
XXIV. Ben Plays a Part 181
XXV. The Mystery Deepens 189
XXVI. Ben’s Strange Prosperity 198
XXVII. Mrs. Harcourt’s Sudden Resolution 206
XXVIII. Ben Makes Some Titled Friends 215
XXIX. The Mordaunt Family 223
XXX. Ben’s Progress 231
XXXI. Unwelcome News 239
XXXII. Jacob Winter 247
XXXIII. A Startling Incident 255
XXXIV. Mrs. Harcourt’s Letter 263
XXXV. Basil Wentworth Reaches Geneva 271
XXXVI. Mr. Snodgrass Suggests an Investment 280
XXXVII. Frank Mordaunt 288
XXXVIII. Ben Overhears an Important Conversation 294
XXXIX. Ben Consults a Lawyer 300
XL. Conclusion 309




Come here, you, sir!”

These words were spoken in a stern voice by Jacob Winter, and emphasized by a heavy frown. The speaker was rather an undersized man, with a rugged, weather-beaten face. He had seen but fifty years, though his wrinkles and bowed shoulders indicated ten more.

The boy addressed had a bright, intelligent face and a fearless look. Ben Bruce detected the danger signals in the tone and face of his stepfather, but without a sign of hesitation he walked up to the farmer, and responded, “Here I am, sir.”

The man seemed aching to lay hold of the fearless boy, but something in his steadfast look appeared to deter him.

2 “Ain’t you ashamed of yourself, sir?” exploded Jacob Winters.

“Please let me know what I am to be ashamed of, Mr. Winter.”

“Ez if you didn’t know,” ejaculated Jacob.

“I don’t know.”

“Then I’ll tell you. Yesterday when I was away drivin’ your mother to the sewin’ circle two tramps came to the door, and you took it upon yourself to give ’em a loaf of bread and a pint of milk. Deny it if you dare!”

“I don’t deny it,” answered Ben boldly.

“You don’t!”

“No, why should I?”

“That’s the way my substance is wasted on the shiftless and undeservin’!”

“Mr. Winter, the two tramps, as you call them, were hungry, thin, and miserable. The man looked as if he had just got up from a fit of sickness. The boy was about ten and looked pale and famished. Wouldn’t you have given them something if you had been in my place?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” snarled Jacob.

“Then it seems to me you are the one that ought to feel ashamed.”

“What? what?” gasped Jacob, aghast. “You dare to stand there, Benjamin Bruce, and3 tell me to my face that I’d ought to be ashamed. You a mere boy, and I your stepfather!”

“I can’t help it if you are my stepfather. I’m sorry enough for it. If my mother had taken my advice she wouldn’t have married you.”

“Wuss and wuss!” ejaculated Jacob. “I didn’t know you was such a bad boy. You’ll come to the gallows some day, see if you don’t!”

“Look here, Mr. Winter; you call yourself a Christian, don’t you?”

“Of course I do. I’ve been a member of the church for nine and thirty years.”

“And you believe in the Bible, don’t you?”

“I won’t answer your impudent question.”

“Yet,” continued Ben, “you blame me for feeding the hungry.”

“You fed ’em with my provisions,” snarled Jacob.

“Well, I’ll make it up to you. I’ll go without my supper.”

“You’ve a mighty independent way of talkin’, Benjamin Bruce, you that I feed and clothe.”

“I do work enough to pay for my keeping, Mr. Winter. Besides, you forget that you have got my mother’s money, which if she hadn’t married you would have been part mine.”

4 Jacob Winter winced. It was true that Mrs. Bruce had brought him two thousand dollars, which he had coolly deposited to his own account in a savings bank.

“That ain’t any of your business,” he said. “Now go out and feed the cows, and mind you don’t throw away any of my substance agin on beggars.”

Ben left the room without a reply, but his lip curled, for he thoroughly despised his stepfather for his meanness.

On the way to the barn he fell in with his mother, who was returning from the village.

“What’s the matter, Ben?” she said, for she saw signs of disturbance in her son’s face.

“I have had a little conversation with Mr. Winter.”

“Did he—scold you?”

“Yes, because I gave some bread and milk to two poor people who called at the door yesterday. Mother, if there’s a mean man in the world, it is Jacob Winter.”

“Hush, Ben! Don’t speak so of your stepfather.”

“Mother, why did you marry him? Why did you make him my stepfather?”

Mrs. Winter looked troubled.

5 “I—I thought it was for the best, Ben,” she faltered. “We had so little, and he was rich.”

“Then you didn’t marry him from affection?”

“No, no; he understood that.”

“I am glad of that, mother. You made a mistake.”

“It may be so, but I must make the best of it.”

“We could have got along on what money you had and what I could earn, and we should have been far happier by ourselves, mother.”

“Don’t say any more. The past cannot be recalled.”

“You mustn’t blame me if I don’t stay here very long, mother. I can’t stand Mr. Winter and his mean, tyrannical ways.”

“Oh, Ben, you wouldn’t go away and leave me?”

“If I do it will only be that I may get on in the world, and offer you a better home than you have now.”

“But you are only a boy, only fifteen years old. You must stay here till you have got an education. You have graduated from the grammar school, and are now ready for the high school.”

“I don’t think Mr. Winter will allow me to go.”

“Why do you say that?”

6 “Because Albert Graham heard Mr. Winter tell his father that he thought I had education enough, and he was going to keep me at home to work on the farm.”

“Are you sure of that?” asked Mrs. Winter in agitation.

“Yes; I know Albert wouldn’t say so if it wasn’t so.”

“But he promised me when we married that you should have a good education.”

“He doesn’t always keep his promises.”

“If he hadn’t agreed to this I wouldn’t have married him.”

“Then I wish he hadn’t agreed to it. You will see that I am right. Next Monday the high school will begin its term.”

“Why don’t you go and fodder the cows, as I told you?” came in a shrill voice from an open window.

Mother and son looked toward it and saw the frowning face of Jacob Winter peering out.

“I was talking to my mother,” answered Ben.

“You’d better wait till you have more time,” growled the farmer.

Ben did not reply, but went on his way to the barn, while Mrs. Winter entered the house.

“Mrs. Winter,” said her husband fretfully,7 “that boy of yours is gettin’ very impudent and sassy.”

“I hadn’t observed it,” she answered coldly.

“You’re his mother, and you think he’s an angel.”

“There are no angels in this house, Mr. Winter,” said his wife significantly.

“Is that meant as a personal reflection on me, Mrs. Winter?”

“No more than on myself.”

“Well, well, I am glad you didn’t mean any offense. But I’m serious about Ben. I’ve left him in your hands too long. I’m goin’ to manage him myself now.”

“Then, Mr. Winter, I have one thing to say. Ben is not a bad boy, but he has spirit, and if you undertake to drive him he will be sure to rebel.”

“You needn’t worry about that, Mrs. W. He ain’t nothing but a boy, and if I can’t manage him I’ll give up.”

“He may be nothing but a boy, but he has his rights. You must bear in mind your promise to me before we married.”

“What promise do you refer to, Mrs. W.?”

“That he should have an education.”

“Well, ain’t he been to school ever since, and now he’s gradooated.”

8 “At the grammar school. He is now ready for the high school.”

“He ain’t a-goin’ to the high school.”

“Do you mean that, Mr. Winter?” said his wife with an angry flush upon her cheek.

“Certainly I do. He’s got to work on the farm. He knows all he need to. He’s as well eddicated as I am.”

“I admit that, but——”

“Say no more, Mrs. W. I’ve put my foot down, and the thing is settled. He shan’t go to the high school.”



After attending to his chores, Ben decided to take a walk—not in the direction of the village, but away from it. A quarter of a mile to the westward there was a river with a rapid current which had yielded Ben plenty of enjoyment in the way of fishing and boating.

Across from shore to shore was a dam, by means of which the water was made available for a factory for the manufacture of leather board. The superintendent of this factory, a Mr. Foster, was one of Ben’s special friends.

Ben overtook the superintendent sauntering along beside the river.

“How are you, Ben?” said the superintendent kindly.

“Very well, thank you, Mr. Foster.”

“You are going to the high school next term, I suppose.”

“I expected to do so, but I am likely to be disappointed.”

“How is that?”

10 “My stepfather, Jacob Winter, is not in favor of my going.”

“What is his reason?”

“I suppose he wants me to work on the farm.”

“And you don’t like farming?”

“No. I hope you won’t think I don’t like work, Mr. Foster, for I enjoy nothing better; but to work on a farm, and especially under Mr. Winter, would be very disagreeable to me.”

“How would you like to work in the factory?”

“Much better than on the farm, but I will say frankly that I have not secured the education which I desire, and I shall be much disappointed if I can’t go to the high school.”

“You were always fond of study, Ben. My boys don’t care much for it. Well, I suppose tastes differ. Have you ever thought of your future?”

“I have thought of it a good deal. A good many things will be open to me if I am well educated, which would otherwise be closed to me.”

“I see, and I understand why you want a better education.”

“I am not likely to get it, however. If the choice lies between working on a farm and working in your factory, I will work for you if I can11 get the chance. The wages I got would hire a boy to work on the farm, and there are boys who would be willing to do it.”

“We employ about thirty at present, but I could make room for a boy of your age and ability. What pay would you want?”

“It is for you to fix that.”

“I might give you five dollars a week to begin with.”

“That would be satisfactory. Would I be preparing myself for higher work?”

“Yes, I would put you in the way of that.”

“I would certainly rather work for you than for Mr. Winter.”

“I am to consider that a compliment, I suppose?”

“Yes, but not much of a one. Any one would be better than Jacob Winter.”

“Man proposes, but God disposes.” Even while they were talking unseen forces were at work which were to defeat all their plans. Suddenly, as they stood on the river bank, a strange rumbling noise was heard, and before their astonished eyes there rose into the air fragments of wood mingled with stones and dirt, like a volcanic eruption.

“Good Heavens!” exclaimed the superintendent12 in great excitement, “the dam has been undermined and blown up!”

“But how?”

“It must be by dynamite or giant powder.”

“But who could have done it?”

“I dismissed two workmen two weeks since. They must have done it from revenge.”

“And what will be the consequence?”

“The factory must shut down till the dam is rebuilt.”

“And then ends my hopes of employment under you?”

“I am sorry to say—yes.”

“I wish that were all the harm likely to come of it. Will it take long to repair the dam?”

“A good while, I fear.”

“At any rate, one thing I am resolved upon. I won’t work for Mr. Winter. I will run away first.”

Ben’s face assumed a look of resolution as he left the superintendent and wended his way back to the farmhouse.



There was very little conversation at the supper table after Ben had told the story of the explosion. Mrs. Winter was indignant at her husband’s breaking his promise to her that Ben should receive a thorough education. She had not yet had an opportunity to tell Ben, but she did so after the meal, when Mr. Winter had gone out to visit a neighbor.

“Ben,” she said, “you are not to go to the high school.”

“Who says so, mother?”

“Mr. Winter.”

“Does he give any reason?”

“He says you have had education enough, that you are as well educated as himself.”

“Did he say educated?” asked Ben with a twinkle in his eye.

“Well, he said ‘eddicated,’” responded his mother with a faint smile.

“So, I suppose. He is right there. I should be very sorry if I hadn’t as much education as he.14 He cares more for money than books, and always did.”

“I am very sorry, Ben.”

“So am I. I need education to help me succeed in life. I suppose he expects me to stay at home and help him on the farm.”

“So he says.”

“Then,” said Ben quietly, “he will be disappointed.”

“But Ben, what can you do?”

“I can leave home and seek my fortune elsewhere.”

Mrs. Winter looked very sober.

“I don’t believe you know what you are undertaking, Ben,” she said. “You will have a hard time.”

“I expect to—at first.”

“Besides Mr. Winter won’t let you go, I am afraid.”

“He can’t stop me. I would rather stay at home if he would let me go to the high school.”

“I don’t think I can persuade him to do that.”

“Then, mother, I must leave you.”

“Don’t go without letting me know.”

“I won’t, mother, I will let him know too. I am not going to run away. I’ll give him fair15 warning of my intention. Now, mother, if you’ll excuse me I’ll go over and tell Albert Graham about my plans.”

Albert lived not more than half a mile away. He was about as old as Ben, but at least two inches shorter. The two were great chums. To him Ben communicated his purpose.

“Where do you talk of going?” asked Albert.

“To New York.”

“Ain’t you afraid to go alone to such a big city?”

“No; why should I be?”

“There are a good many bad people there, I’ve heard.”

“And still more good people. I think I shall have a better chance in a large city than in the country.”

“How far away is New York?”

“It is a little more than two hundred miles from Boston.”

“And we are fifty miles from Boston. Won’t it cost a good deal to go there?”

“No; there is a rivalry between the steamboat lines and the fare has been put down to one dollar.”

This statement, which may surprise some of my readers, was strictly correct. For a short time,16 some years ago, it was possible to travel between these two cities for this small sum.

“It will cost a dollar and a quarter to get to Boston from here.”

“I know it.”

“Are you well provided with money, Ben?”

“Not very.”

“Then I tell you what I’ll do. I’ll lend you five dollars.”

“But how do you happen to have as much, Albert?”

“You know I rode as a jockey at the last agricultural fair. I was to get ten dollars if I succeeded in winning the race, and you know I did win.”

“Yes, I know.”

“So I can lend you the money as well as not.”

“You are a good fellow, Albert, but I don’t think I ought to take the money.”

“Oh, you can pay it back—with interest, if you insist upon it.”

“Thank you, Albert. I won’t refuse so kind an offer. My mother would let me have the money, but she was foolish enough when she married to give all she had to Mr. Winter, and now he doles her out a quarter at a time, and she has to ask for that. You won’t hardly believe me,17 Albert, but she hasn’t had a new dress for a year.”

“I can believe it fast enough. Jacob Winter is the meanest man I ever heard of, and everybody in town says so. I don’t blame you at all for leaving him. Won’t you be sorry to be away from your mother?”

“I can’t tell you how much I shall miss her, Albert,” answered Ben, gravely, “but I hope to provide her a better home some day. I can’t do it by staying here. You must go over and see her some time, Albert.”

“So I will. Of course you will write to me.”

“Yes, if I have any good news.”

“By the way, Ben, how much money did your mother have?”

“Two thousand dollars.”

“And she handed it all over to old Winter? Excuse my speaking so disrespectfully of your stepfather.”

“That won’t worry me any.”

“I suppose Mr. Winter is worth a good deal of money?”

“I suppose so, but I don’t want any of it. I only wish mother had back what she brought him and could go with me to New York.”

18 “By the way, Ben, have you any idea what Mr. Winter does with his money?”

“I suppose he puts it in the banks. I never thought much about the matter.”

“Probably he does put some there, but I heard that he was rather afraid of banks. Some years ago a savings bank failed and he lost fifty dollars, so I heard.”

“That accounts for it.”

“Accounts for what?”

“For what I am going to tell you. Last Wednesday evening I was crossing the four-acre lot—a part of Mr. Winter’s farm—when I saw him coming across the field with a box in his hand. It was rather dark, so he could not see me very well, for you know he is short-sighted.

“I had a curiosity to find out what he was going to do, so I followed him. Oh, I forgot to say that he had a spade in his hand. Well, when he got to the big oak tree about the center of the place he halted. There was a smaller tree near by, and I hid behind it so I could see what he was doing.”

“What did he do?” asked Ben, who was by this time intensely interested.

“He began to dig, and kept on till he had dug a hole about two feet deep. Then he took the19 box and put it down in the hole and covered it up with dirt. After finishing he got a little brushwood and laid it down careless like over the spot so as to hide the dirt, and then went away, without knowing that any one had seen him.”

“What do you think was in the box, Albert?” asked Ben, in excitement.

“Money,” answered Albert, sententiously. “It may have been gold or silver or bills. I didn’t see the contents of the box and so of course I can’t tell.”

“It seems to me he was very foolish to put his money there.”

“So I think, but he was scared by the failure of the savings bank and was afraid to trust them any more.”

“The money would be safer in any savings bank than in a hole where anybody could dig it up.”

“That’s the way I feel about it. I wonder if that is the only hiding place he has for his gold.”

“Albert, when it gets a little darker suppose we go out to see the place. I feel some curiosity on the subject.”

“All right, Ben, I’ll go. Just go round to the store with me. I have a few things to buy for mother. Then we’ll start across the fields.”

20 “All right.”

When they reached Albert’s house from the store it was too early for their expedition. So Albert proposed a game of checkers. They played two, and when the second was completed the church clock pealed out the hour of nine.

“We must go at once or it will be too late,” said Ben.

“It isn’t very far.”

They went out of the house and struck across the fields.

“This is just about the hour I came last Wednesday evening,” said Albert.

They neared the tree, when suddenly Albert uttered an exclamation:

“By gracious, Ben,” he said, clutching his companion by the arm, “if there isn’t old Winter coming again. He hasn’t got a box, but he has a spade in his hand. I wonder what he’s up to now. Come with me, and we’ll get behind the other tree and watch. Don’t cough or make any noise. We don’t want him to see us.”



From their place of concealment the two boys watched attentively. They were rather mystified as to Mr. Winter’s intentions. It occurred to them, however, that he might have in his pocket some gold coins to add to the hoard underneath.

At any rate he began to dig, occasionally pausing to rest, for he was not very robust, and the labor of digging affected his back.

At last he reached the box, and getting down on his knees, pulled it out of the hole.

He raised the cover and began to count the contents. These contents consisted entirely of gold pieces.

In a low voice, which, however, was audible to the boys, he counted “Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine.”

Then in an alarmed tone he added: “There’s one short. There ought to be a hundred, making five hundred dollars—can any one have found the box and taken one out? I’ll count again.”

22 Once more he counted, and this time he made full number, much to his relief.

Then from his vest-pocket he drew out two more gold pieces and added them to the pile.

“That makes a hundred and two,” he said in a tone of satisfaction.

He was preparing to replace the box in its place of concealment when something unexpected happened.

An ill-looking fellow, a tramp in appearance, who had crept up without being observed either by Mr. Winter or the boys, suddenly sprang out from behind a large tree, and throwing himself upon the old farmer tried to pull the box from him.

“Gimme that money, old man!” he cried in a hoarse voice, “or I’ll kill ye!”

Jacob Winter uttered a cry of dismay, but he clung to the box.

“Go away!” he gasped. “It’s my money. I’ll have yer arrested.”

“Go ahead and do it, but I’ll take the money first.”

The fellow’s fierce face was distinctly seen by the boys. He was a man of about thirty, with a coarse sensual look and blotched skin, the result, doubtless, of intemperate habits.

An ill-looking fellow suddenly sprang out from behind a tree and throwing himself upon the old farmer, tried to pull the box from him.—Page 22.

Ben Bruce.

23 “Go away, you robber!” ejaculated the farmer, clinging to his treasure with the energy of despair. He was evidently more afraid of losing that than of receiving bodily injury, though the wicked eyes of his assailant might well have inspired physical apprehension.

The conflict was unequal. Mr. Winter was probably sixty years of age, while his assailant was only half that, and was a larger man in every way.

“Look here, old man,” said the tramp, angered by the farmer’s resistance, “you’d better give up your money or you’ll get hurt!”

“I’ll send you to jail!” shrieked Jacob Winter.

“Maybe you will, if I don’t get away too quick,” laughed the tramp.

“Aren’t you ashamed to rob a poor old man?”

“Oh, I guess you’ve got some more money. You won’t die in the poorhouse.”

By this time the man had got the box into his hands, and now prepared to walk off with it.

“Help! help!” shrieked the farmer.

The tramp laughed.

“There ain’t no help near,” he said. “Go home and go to bed, and thank your lucky stars I didn’t brain ye.”

24 The two boys had listened in a fever of excitement. Neither liked Jacob Winter, but all their sympathies were with him. There was something coarse and repulsive about the tramp, and they could not bear to have him succeed.

“Are we going to stand this, Albert?” whispered Ben.


“Stand by me, and I’ll do what I can.”

Ben had already espied the spade, and had made up his mind what he would do with it.

He sprang out from behind the tree, dashed forward and seized the implement without being heard by the tramp. With a look toward Albert, whose help he expected to need, he made another rush forward and fetched the unsuspecting robber a blow upon the back of his head.

Though it was a boy’s blow it was a heavy one, and with a cry of dismay the tramp dropped the box and raised his hand to the injured spot. Albert ran up, seized the box, and darted back.

“Wha—what’s all this?” exclaimed the tramp, turning back.

Knowing nothing of the presence of the boys he was under the impression that the old man had made the attack. He saw Jacob Winter looking25 as much amazed as he felt himself. Then observing the two boys, he quickly comprehended what had taken place.

“Why you young cubs!” he cried, his face looking fiercer and more threatening, “you must be crazy. I’ll kill ye both.”

He sprang towards Albert Graham, for it was Albert who held the box of treasure, and was about to make an attack upon him. But he failed to take account of Ben, who was still armed with the dangerous spade.

Now Ben’s blood was up, and he was ready to carry on hostilities. He had no intention of deserting his young comrade.

He rushed up and dealt the tramp another blow, heavier than the first, that literally laid him out. He sank to the ground stunned, and temporarily lost consciousness.

“Now, Mr. Winter,” said Ben, who seemed naturally to take command, “take the box and go to the house as quick as you can. I have stunned the robber, but he’ll come to in a short time and then we shall be in danger. Albert, come with us.”

Jacob Winter said nothing, but it was clear that he considered the advice good. He grasped the box and started for home on a half run,26 followed by the two boys. Not a word was said till they reached the farmyard.

Then as he stopped to wipe the perspiration from his face, he ejaculated, “Boys, this is terrible.”

“So it is,” said Ben, “but we’ve saved the money.”

“Do you think you—you killed him?” asked Jacob, with a shudder.

“No, I only stunned him. If I hadn’t we’d have all been in danger.”

“He’s an awful man—looks as if he’d escaped from State’s prison.”

“If he hasn’t he’s likely to go there. It’s lucky we were there or you’d have lost your money.”

“How did you happen to be there?” asked the farmer, beginning to be curious.

“You see Albert and I were taking a walk. He was going to see me part way home.”

“You weren’t spying on me, were you?” asked Jacob in a tone of suspicion. “It kind of looks like that.”

“No matter what it looks like, Mr. Winter, it was lucky for you that we were around. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

“Well, mebbe it was; mebbe it was.”

“But, Mr. Winter, don’t you think it’s risky27 putting your money in such a place? Some one would be sure to find it sooner or later.”

“I won’t put it there again,” muttered Jacob. “Do you—see anythin’ of that man? Your eyes are better than mine.”

“No, I don’t see him. I don’t believe he would dare to follow us as far as the house.”

“I’ll go and report him to the constable first thing to-morrow mornin’. I don’t feel safe with such a man ’round. It’s gettin’ late, Ben. We’d better be gettin’ to bed.”

“Albert, won’t you sleep with me to-night? I don’t like to have you go home alone. You might meet the tramp.”

“Yes, I guess I’ll stay, Ben. Mother won’t be frightened. She’ll know I stayed with you.”

“Yes, Albert, you can stay,” said Jacob with unusual complaisance. “If—if that terrible man comes in the night there’ll be three of us to meet him.”

Usually Mr. Winter did not make any effort to be agreeable to Ben’s friends, and under ordinary circumstances he would have objected to Ben’s having a boy stay with him, but fear had softened his asperities and made him more amiable than usual.

28 “Mr. Winter, will you let me take the gun up to my room?” asked Ben.

“Do you know how to fire it?”

“Yes, sir.”

On several occasions when Mr. Winter was away from home Ben had gone out gunning, and in this way had learned how to manage firearms. The farmer, however, did not ask any uncomfortable or disagreeable questions, but asked, “What do you want with the gun, Ben?”

“I thought the robber might come here in the middle of the night, and I could fire at him out of the window.”

“I don’t know as it’s prudent, Ben.”

“If you would rather fire at him yourself, Mr. Winter, of course I won’t ask for the gun.”

“No, no,” said Jacob hastily, “you can take it if you want to. But be keerful, be keerful!”

So Ben took the gun and carried it up to the attic chamber where he and Albert were to sleep.

“Is it loaded, Ben?” asked Albert.

“Yes, it’s loaded with bird shot. I don’t want to kill the man, but I’ll give him a scare.”



Probably no more astonished man lived than the tramp when his consciousness returned and he found himself lying on his back under the big oak tree. He lifted himself on his elbow and tried to remember what had happened.

“Something struck me,” he said. “What was it and who did it?”

Even in his half-dazed state it never occurred to him to think of Jacob Winter as his assailant.

“Ha! I remember now. It was the boys,” he said after an effort of memory. “They’ve got twice as much pluck as the old man. But I’d like to smash ’em for all that. They’ve stepped in between me and a good bit of money. But I’ll have it yet.”

The tramp rose to his feet and began to take an inventory of his bodily disabilities. His head ached and felt sore, and there was a bruise where he had been hit by the shovel. His limbs were all right, however.

30 “I wonder how long I’ve been lying here,” he thought, “and where that gold is?”

He was not long in deciding that the farmer had carried the pieces home. He knew where this was, for he had been lurking about the town for a couple of days, and had made inquiries.

“I’d like to get it yet,” he said to himself. “I might break into the house and carry it off.”

The more he thought of this the better the plan pleased him. Without knowing positively he thought it probable that Jacob Winter was the only man in the house, and for his prowess he felt absolute contempt.

“I’ll scare him out of his seven senses,” the tramp concluded with an amused smile. “The man is about as brave as a mouse.”

Of course it would not be prudent to make the visit he meditated just yet. Towards twelve o’clock there would be more chance of finding everybody asleep.

Now let us go back to the attic room where Ben and Albert Graham were snugly ensconced in bed.

“I wonder whether he’ll come,” said Albert.

“That is uncertain,” returned Ben, “but if he does we must be ready for him.”

31 “The trouble is, I’m terribly sleepy. He might come and rummage all over the house without my hearing him.”

“Then I’ll tell you what we’d better do. Do you think you can stay awake for an hour?”

“Yes; I can if I set out to.”

“Then we’ll take turns sleeping. I’ll go to sleep now, and when an hour has passed you wake me up, and then I’ll keep watch. There’s a clock in the room, and there are some matches on the washstand in a box, so that you will know when to call me.”

“All right! Can you go to sleep right off?”

“Yes; it won’t take many minutes.”

In less than five minutes Ben’s quiet breathing was sufficient evidence that he was in the land of dreams. Albert made a determined effort and managed to keep awake till he thought an hour must have been passed.

He got up, lit a match, and found that Ben had been asleep an hour and a quarter in place of an hour.

“What’s the matter? Is it morning?” asked Ben drowsily when Albert shook him.

“No; but your time is out, and I want to take a nap. You remember you are to watch for the robber.”

32 “All right!” said Ben, now broad awake. “Did I sleep an hour?”

“An hour and a quarter.”

“Is that so? It doesn’t seem more than five minutes.”

“Do you think you can keep awake now, Ben?”

“Yes; I can keep awake till midnight. If he doesn’t come by that time he won’t come at all. Then we can sleep, both of us, with an easy mind.”

Ben had stipulated to sleep first because he felt that the attack would be more likely to come after half-past ten, when his vigil commenced, and he preferred to deal directly with the robber himself.

After Albert was asleep he got up and examined the gun to see if it was all right. Somehow he did not feel sleepy at all now. He rather hoped his acquaintance of the fields would come, for he was a boy who was fond of excitement and adventure.

It would be a man against a boy, or rather against two boys, for Ben did not count on much help from his stepfather, but he did not feel afraid. As Ben is my hero, I am rather pleased to say that, though not foolhardy, he possessed a good share of courage.

33 He lay in bed listening for any noise, but an hour passed before his attention was roused. Then a little sound as of something touching the house enlisted his attention.

He got out of bed and went to the window. It may be remarked that his room was directly over that occupied by his stepfather. “By gracious!” he exclaimed under his breath, “I am just in time.”

A ladder was leaning against the house, and half way up he saw his antagonist of the fields. The ladder was so placed that the unauthorized intruder could enter Mr. Winter’s chamber through the open window.

“There’s no time to be lost!” thought Ben. “I’ll get the gun.”



Ben hesitated whether to address the burglar or not before firing the gun. Certainly the intruder had no claim to a warning, but Ben decided to be generous and give him the chance to retire in good order.

Accordingly, half leaning out of the window, he called out: “What do you want here?”

The burglar was startled, but looking up and seeing only a boy, he took courage, and his native impudence asserted itself.

“Say, kid,” he responded, “where does the old man sleep?”

“That is none of your business,” answered Ben manfully.

“You’d better look out, or I’ll give you a lesson. I know well enough. He sleeps in that room.”

“What do you want with him?”

“I want that gold. I am sure it is in his chamber.”

“Go right down that ladder, or you’ll be sorry.”

35 “I’ll throw you out of that window when I get into the house.”

“I have given you warning. Will you go?”

“No, I won’t. What do you take me for? You’re the most impudent kid I ever met.”

Ben wasted no more words upon the intruder, but, thrusting the muzzle of the gun out of the window, fired.

The birdshot took effect in the burglar’s face and neck, and with a cry of surprise and dismay he lost his grip and dropped to the ground, upsetting the ladder in his fall.

At the sound of the discharge Albert awoke, as did also Jacob Winter in the room below.

“What’s up, Ben?” cried Albert in excitement, jumping out of bed.

“I am,” answered Ben coolly, “and now you appear to be.”

“I mean what has happened?”

“I’ve shot a burglar.”

Albert rushed to the window and looked down. So did Jacob Winter, who was frightened almost out of his wits.

In a tremor of curiosity and alarm he thrust his head out of the window, and asked, “Who’s there?”

It was an unfortunate movement for him. The36 burglar had risen from the ground, mad through and through, and eager for revenge.

He intended first to wreak his vengeance upon Ben, but seeing Mr. Winter’s protruding head, changed his mind. He picked up a stone and fired with only too accurate aim.

The stone hit Jacob Winter in the ear, and the unhappy farmer, with a terrified cry, fell back from the window and lay down on the floor.

“What’s the matter, Mr. Winter?” asked his wife.

“I’m killed!” answered the farmer in agonizing tones, clapping his hand to his injured organ. “The tramp has shot me.”

He was too bewildered to observe that the burglar had no weapon, and really believed for the moment that he had been shot.

Mrs. Winter hastily lit the kerosene lamp and went to the help of her husband.

“Where were you hit?” she asked.

“Here!” answered her husband in a hollow voice. “The bullet must have gone to my brain.”

“What’s this?” she asked, picking up a pebble. “This isn’t a bullet.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“Its only a pebble,” she answered. “You have been hit with a stone.”

37 “It almost killed me,” said Jacob, but he felt reassured.

“Who did it?”

“It’s that tramp, the man that tried to steal my gold.”

At this moment there was a knock at the door.

“There he is!” cried Jacob in fresh alarm. “He’s got into the house and is forcing his way into the chamber.”

“The door is bolted,” said his wife, “but I don’t think it can be the robber.”

But Jacob Winter could not so readily give up the idea.

“Go away, you, sir!” he called out in quavering tones. “Go away or I’ll have you arrested.”

“It’s only I, Mr. Winter,” said a young voice outside.

“It’s Ben.”

Feeling relieved, Mr. Winter himself opened the door.

“Did you fire the gun, Ben?” he asked.

“Yes, Mr. Winter. The robber had the ladder up against the house, and was going to get into your window.”

“Where is he now? This is terrible!” groaned the farmer.

38 “I peppered him with the gun, and I guess he’s gone off.”

“He fired a rock at me. He ought to have fired it at you. I wasn’t the one that shot him.”

“Is this the rock?” asked Ben, picking up the pebble with a smile.


“It ain’t very large.”

“Neither is a bullet, but it hurts me awfully. Are you sure that man’s gone?”

“I’ll go to the window and see.”

Ben went to the open window and looked out. By the partial light he could see the baffled burglar in full retreat several hundred feet distant.

“He’s gone, Mr. Winter. That is, he’s going.”

“He may come back. Where is the ladder?”

“Outside on the ground where it fell.”

“He may come back and try to climb up again. You’d better go out and take it to the barn.”

“But the man might come back and hurt Ben,” said Mrs. Winter anxiously.

“Don’t be afraid, mother. I’ll take the gun with me, and Albert will come and help me.”

“Yes, yes, go, there’s a good boy!” said Jacob, who was afraid his wife might expect him to go himself. The very thought made him shudder.

39 Ben smiled a little at his stepfather’s evident alarm, but had no thought of refusing the service asked of him. Indeed he wanted to go out.

“Come down, Albert!” he called at the foot of the attic stairs. “I want you to help me take away the ladder.”

“I’ll be down in a jiffy,” said Albert.

The two boys descended the stairs and went out into the yard. They picked up the ladder and carried it to the barn, in which they placed it.

“This is a regular lark!” said Albert. “I wouldn’t have missed it for a dollar. How does Mr. Winter take it?”

“He’s scared out of his wits.”

“It’s lucky there were two able-bodied men on hand,” said Albert with a comical look, “or the house would have been robbed. Has Mr. Winter got the gold in his room?”

“Yes; I saw the box standing in one corner.”

“It’s lucky for us we ain’t rich. We needn’t be afraid of burglars.”

At the breakfast table Mrs. Winter said, “I do hope, Mr. Winter, you’ll take that gold to the bank. We don’t want any more midnight callers.”

“So I will,” answered her husband, with unwonted40 meekness, “but—but suppose the robber should stop me on the way.”

The savings bank was in the next town.

“Take me with you, Mr. Winter,” suggested Ben. “I guess you and I will be more than a match for the robber.”

“I don’t know but I will, Ben,” said Jacob, relieved at the suggestion. “Of course you are only a boy, but——”

“I can hold the horse while you are fighting the robber,” put in Ben, his eyes twinkling with suppressed fun.

“That’s so,” said Jacob, coughing, but he looked a little alarmed at the suggestion.

“Shall I take the gun with me?”

“Well, perhaps you may as well. What will you carry the gold in?”

“There’s an empty butter keg in the shed,” said Mrs. Winter.

“We’ll put the money in that, and people will think it’s a keg of butter,” remarked Ben.

“That’s a good plan. Be sure to load the gun before you set out.”

“I’ve attended to that already, Mr. Winter.”

Soon after breakfast the buggy came around to the door and Ben and his stepfather got in, the41 latter carrying the keg with its important contents.

They reached the next town, only five miles away, and drove at once to the savings bank.

“I don’t know as the bank is safe,” said Jacob Winter, “but it’s better to have my money here than where robbers can get at it.”

“I agree with you, Mr. Winter.”

The money was handed to the receiving teller of the savings bank, and Jacob received a bank book, which he put into his pocket with a sigh of relief. In the bank Ben picked up a copy of a Boston daily paper, and read the following paragraph:

The low price of tickets to New York since the last cut of the steamboat lines has greatly increased the volume of travel. There are few who cannot afford the journey, now that the fare has been reduced to one dollar.

“Only one dollar to New York!” thought Ben. “Now is my time to go, if ever!”



Jacob Winter felt, though he hardly liked to confess it, that but for Ben he would have been the loser of five hundred dollars. He was not a liberal man, but he determined to make some acknowledgment of his stepson’s services.

Accordingly, when he had returned from the savings bank, he drew a twenty-five cent piece from his pocket and handed it to Ben with the remark: “Benjamin, you have behaved very well. Here is a quarter for you. Be keerful not to spend it foolishly.”

Ben was considerably surprised. It was the first gift he ever remembered to have received from his stepfather, and he hardly knew whether to be amused or grateful.

If he accepted it, he knew that Mr. Winter would feel that he had squared up his obligations. But Ben preferred to leave the matter open. So he quickly decided not to accept the money.

“Thank you, Mr. Winter,” he said, “but I would rather not take it.”

43 “You refuse money!” exclaimed Jacob in amazement.

“Yes, sir. I only did my duty.”

“I guess you’d better take it. Quarters don’t grow on every bush.”

“They don’t for me, Mr. Winter,” said Ben smiling. “I’m just as much obliged, but I would rather not take any money for what I’ve done. It was good fun.”

“Good fun!” ejaculated his stepfather. “It isn’t my idea of fun to have a ruffian try to rob me.”

“Well, he didn’t make much out of his attempt. I don’t care for the money, Mr. Winter, but I’ll ask something else instead.”

“What is it?” asked Jacob cautiously.

“I want to leave the farm and go to New York.”

“Go to New York! You—a mere boy! What do you want to go to New York for?”

“I want to get work.”

“There’s plenty of work here, Benjamin.”

“I know there is, but it isn’t the kind I like. I should never be a successful farmer.”

“It wasn’t exactly the farmin’ business I meant to put you to.”

“What then?” asked Ben, whose turn it was to be surprised.

44 “Silas Flack has made an offer to take you and teach you the shoemakin’ business. I did at first think of havin’ you work on the farm, but I guess you might as well learn the shoemakin’?”

“When did he make the offer, Mr. Winter?”

“Day afore yesterday.”

“And why didn’t you speak to me about it before?”

“You’re too young to know what’s good for yourself.”

“But I have no wish to learn shoemaking.”

“Boys like you don’t seem to realize that they must earn their livin’.”

“I am ready to earn my living, but I want to have something to say about the way I am to earn it. I intend to make my living in New York.”

“I can’t let you go. I’ve given my word to Silas Flack.”

Ben was exasperated, but they had reached the farm, and he concluded to take a short time to think over his stepfather’s proposal. One thing he determined upon, and that was to see Mr. Flack and find out what negotiations had passed between the shoemaker and Mr. Winter.

In the middle of the afternoon, being sent on an errand, he went a little out of his way to visit45 Silas Flack’s shop. It was a tiny place, for Silas did business only in a small way. Entering the shop he began:

“Good day, Mr. Flack.”

“Good day, Ben,” answered the shoemaker, resting his eye approvingly on Ben’s sturdy frame and bright, honest face.

“I called to see what proposal you made to Mr. Winter about me,” said Ben abruptly. “You promised to teach me the business, didn’t you?”

“Yes; I agreed to take you till you were twenty-one.”

“And Mr. Winter thought favorable of it, did he?”

“Yes; he said you might come.”

“What benefit is Mr. Winter to get out of it?” asked Ben.

“How old be you now?”


“Well, I agreed to take care of you till you were twenty-one, and pay him fifty dollars a year over and above for your services. Seems to me that’s a fair offer.”

“Oho!” thought Ben, “now I understand. It’s the fifty dollars a year that Jacob Winter is after. Money is his idol, and he expects to make about three hundred dollars out of me.”

46 “Did Mr. Winter tell you I would come?” he asked after a pause.

“Yes; he said it struck him favorable.”

“But I don’t like the business, Mr. Flack.”

“That’s only a boy’s idee. You may as well make your livin’ that way as any other.”

“When did Mr. Winter say I could begin?”

“The first week in September.”

“That’s the time the high school commences. I was expecting to attend there.”

“Jacob Winter thinks you’ve got eddication enough. You’ve got as much as he or I.”

“Didn’t you ever think you would like to know more than you do, Mr. Flack?”

“What’s the good? I know enough for my business, and I’m gen’rally respected in town. I’ve been selec’man once, and I’m overseer of the poor now.”

Ben smiled. He saw that Mr. Flack was well satisfied with his success in life, but he felt within himself yearnings and aspirations which probably were unknown to the shoemaker.

“Well, good day, Mr. Flack!” he said after a brief pause.

“Good day, Ben! I guess you and me will get along well. I’ve heard that you are good to work, and I’ll do the right thing by you. Besides47 what I promised your stepfather, I’ll give you a new suit of clothes when you are twenty-one, and after that you can get good wages, as much as a dollar-fifty per day likely.”

“I’ll think over what you have said, Mr. Flack,” said Ben gravely.

He turned and left the shop. He felt that he had reached an important point in his life. He resented the utter selfishness which actuated his stepfather in thus mapping out his future life, dooming him to an uncongenial occupation for the paltry sum of fifty dollars a year paid to himself.

Had Jacob Winter been a poor man, there would have been some excuse for his course, but he was far from being poor. There were no very rich men in Wrayburn, but he was one of the most prominent in the amount of his worldly possessions.

Moreover, he had managed to get into his possession the two thousand dollars belonging to his mother. And it was for a paltry fifty dollars a year that Ben was to be deprived of the advantages of a high-school education.

“It’s a shame!” he cried hotly.

“What’s a shame, Ben?”

Turning around Ben recognized in the speaker his friend, Albert Graham.

48 “Was I speaking aloud?” Ben asked.

“Yes, and with considerable emphasis. What is it all about?”

“I find my precious stepfather has agreed to bind me apprentice to Silas Flack, the shoemaker, in consideration of fifty dollars a year paid to him annually till I am twenty-one.”

“You don’t mean it, Ben?”

“Yes, it’s true. Mr. Winter told me himself, though he didn’t speak of the fifty dollars. That was told me by Mr. Flack.”

“I don’t wonder you call it a shame,” said Albert warmly.

“That is why Mr. Winter isn’t willing to have me attend the high school; that wouldn’t bring him in any money.”

“I see. Have you told your mother about it yet?”

“No, but I shall as soon as I go home.”

“Then you are to grow up a shoemaker, Ben?”

“Not much,” exclaimed Ben decidedly. “Mr. Winter hasn’t got my consent.”

“What will you do?”

“Go to New York.”

“Won’t he try to stop you?”

“Perhaps so,” said Ben quietly, “but I shall go all the same.”

49 “Well, I can’t blame you, Ben. You weren’t cut out for a shoemaker.”

“Nor for a farmer either. I feel that I must take the responsibility into my own hands.”

“When are you going to start and what are your plans?”

“I shall start as soon as I can. I find that I can go to New York from Boston for a dollar, and I shall never have any better chance.”

“You will take the five dollars I offered you, Ben?”

“Yes, Albert, as a loan, and thank you for your friendly aid. If ever I can do you a favor I will.”

In reply Albert held out his hand, and the two boys interchanged a hearty grasp.

“Well, Ben, you have my best wishes, you know that. You will be sure to write me?”

“Yes, Albert. I will write to you and to my mother.”

Ben had a conference with his mother and obtained her consent to his plan. She was as angry as he at the cold-blooded selfishness of her husband.

“I don’t know whether it’s best or not, Ben,” she said, “but there seems to be no other way. I begin to see my folly now in marrying Jacob Winter.”

50 “In a few years, mother, I hope you can leave him and come to live with me.”

The next morning when Mr. Winter went up to Ben’s attic chamber to call him, he found that the bird had flown.



Jacob Winter came bounding down-stairs angry and bewildered. He sought out his wife in the kitchen.

“What has become of Ben?” he demanded abruptly.

Mrs. Winter turned and surveyed her husband calmly.

“Why do you ask?” she inquired.

“Because I went up to call him just now and found that his bed had not been slept in. Do you think he went over to sleep with Albert Graham?”

“He said nothing to me about going.”

“If he went without leave I will give him a sound thrashing.”

“Threats are cheap, Mr. Winter,” said his wife with something of contempt in her voice.

“What do you think has become of the boy, Mrs. W.?”

“Probably he has gone away.”

“But where?”

52 “He found out yesterday that you had apprenticed him without his permission to Silas Flack.”

“He found out because I told him so.”

“Very well, he has no taste for shoemaking.”

“Or for any other kind of work.”

“That is not true, Mr. Winter, and you know it. Ben is industrious, but he wants to be consulted about his occupation.”

“Why, isn’t shoemaking a good business?”

“It is—for some, but Ben doesn’t like it. What put it into your mind to select that business for Ben?”

“I thought he would make a good living at it.”

“And that was all?”

“Wasn’t that enough?”

“Ben learned that you intended to make money out of him. Mr. Flack was to pay you fifty dollars a year for his services, and this you intended to put into your own pocket. That was your object in making the arrangement.”

“I only did what I had a right to do. But you haven’t told me where the boy is.”

“I don’t know, but he had some idea of going to New York.”

“Did he tell you this?”


53 “Then why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I thought the boy had enough to contend against without his mother turning against him.”

“It seems to me you have very peculiar ideas of the duties of a wife, Mrs. W.”

“And you have strange notions of your duty to your stepson.”

“Will you tell me when Ben left the house and what route he took?”

“I can’t answer either question.”

“I’ll find out in spite of you and bring him back,” said Jacob angrily. “Did you give him any money to go away with?”

“I am not likely to have much money to give to any one. However I gave him two dollars.”

“So you connived at his escape? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mrs. W.”

“My conscience is clear. I will only say that had you treated Ben as he had a right to expect, he would not have left the house.”

“Perhaps, Mrs. W., you will favor me with your idea of how he ought to have been treated,” said Mr. Winter, with what he thought to be withering sarcasm.

“I will. You should have let him go to the high school.”

54 “Anything more?”

“And given him better clothes. He does not dress as well as boys of much smaller means.”

“I don’t mean to pamper him, or dress him in purple and fine linen, Mrs. Winter. He has left a good home and will probably repent it in dust and ashes before many weeks are over. Is breakfast ready?”

“It will be ready in five minutes.”

“I want to start in pursuit of Ben as soon as possible. I feel that I have a responsibility about the boy, if you don’t, Mrs. Winter.”

Mrs. Winter smiled. She understood very well why her husband wanted to recover Ben. The fifty dollars a year promised by Mr. Flack he was not willing to surrender if there was any possible chance of securing it.

Mr. Winter harnessed up and drove to the nearest railroad station, five miles away, but he saw nothing of the fugitive. Ben had taken the five o’clock train, having slept with his friend Albert Graham the night before.

On the way home Mr. Winter met Albert, and knowing the intimacy between the two boys, he stopped his horse and inquired: “When did you see Ben last?”

“Early this morning,” answered Albert.

55 “You did, hey? Where did you see him?”

“He slept at my house last night.”

“Is he there now?”

“No, sir.”

“Where is he then?”

“I guess he must be in Boston now.”

“In Boston?” repeated the farmer. “Why, why, how could he get there so quick?”

“He meant to take the five o’clock train from Grafton.”

“He’s a fool! He can’t get any further than Boston. He only had two dollars with him.”

“Is that all?” asked Albert significantly.

“Yes; his mother gave him two dollars, and that wouldn’t much more than get him to Boston.”

Albert did not contradict his statement, but he happened to know that Ben had five dollars more lent by himself.

“Did Ben tell you he was going to run away?” said Jacob, returning to the charge.

“Yes, sir.”

“Why didn’t you come and tell me?”

“What do you take me for?” asked Albert scornfully. “Do you think I would betray my friend?”

“I see you are in league with him,” returned Jacob angrily. “I ain’t sure but I can have56 you arrested for aidin’ and abettin’ him in his unlawful doin’s.”

“Go ahead and do it if you think best,” said Albert, in no way frightened.

“I’ll see about it. I’ll consult with Lawyer Cole, and you may spend the night in jail.”

Albert took no particular notice of this threat, and did not borrow any trouble on account of it.

Meanwhile the boy who had created such a commotion in the Winter household had reached Boston. He had never before been so far from home, and it must be confessed that, as he stepped from the car and followed the rest of the passengers into the front part of the Boston and Albany station, he felt a sense of loneliness, mingled with apprehension.

Had he done wisely in leaving his country home to seek the crowded city? He could not tell, but just for a moment his heart sank within him, and he almost wished himself back in Wrayburn.

But the feeling soon passed away, and as he stepped out of the depot, and, following the crowd, walked on to Washington Street, he became more cheerful and hopeful.

On the way he passed a small restaurant. There was a bill of fare displayed at the door.57 The prices seemed reasonable, and he decided to enter.

He had got up very early, walked about five miles to the station, and though he had been provided by Albert with a couple of slices of bread and butter, he felt very hungry.

He went into the restaurant and scanning the bill of fare, called for a plate of baked beans and a cup of coffee. They were brought, and he partook of them with great relish.

The cost was only fifteen cents. He would have liked to order more, but he felt that he must husband his money, as he did not know when he would obtain employment.

He reached Washington Street, and walked down it looking in at the shop windows. There were comparatively few people out, as it was still early, but to Ben’s rural eyes there seemed to be a crowd. He passed the Adams House, and when he reached Winter Street, he glanced up it and saw a vista of green grass and sturdy old trees, that reminded him of the country.

“What is that field over there?” he asked of a young man at his side.

“That is the common,” answered the other with a smile.

Ben hurried and pushed on till he reached the58 famous square. Passing between some posts he found himself on the mall, and seated himself on a long bench under the trees.

He looked with interest at the passers-by. It was a bright and animated spectacle. It was a glimpse of the world quite unlike any with which Ben had been acquainted hitherto.

“I wish somebody was with me,” he said to himself.

As if in answer to his wish a boy rather older than himself stopped in front of the bench and greeted him in a surprised voice. “Why, Ben, how came you here?”

Looking up he recognized his cousin Adelbert Bruce, who lived, as he remembered, in a town not far from Boston.

“Adelbert!” exclaimed Ben joyfully, rising and grasping his cousin’s hand. “I never thought of seeing you.”

“I have come to Boston to buy some clothes,” said Adelbert, “but what brings you here?”

“I have left home,” answered Ben.

“But why?”

“Wait till you have a stepfather, and then you will know.”

“Are you trying to find a place in Boston?”

“No; I am going to New York.”

59 “You don’t mean it! Do you know any one there?”


“Then I should think you would be afraid to go.”

“I have to go somewhere. Mr. Winter would have apprenticed me to a shoemaker if I had stayed in Wrayburn.”

“Did your mother know you were going to leave home?”

“Yes; I wouldn’t go without telling her.”

Adelbert sat down by Ben and the two talked earnestly. All at once they became sensible of a commotion, then of men, women and children running by them in excitement, the more timid uttering cries of alarm.

“What’s the matter?” asked Ben.

It’s a mad dog,” answered his cousin, turning pale, “and he’s coming our way!



The two boys rose from the bench, fully appreciating the danger to which they were exposed, and uncertain what it was safest to do. The dog was of medium size, weighing perhaps forty pounds.

It was foaming at the mouth and might well inspire alarm. As is customary in such cases, it followed a straight course, turning neither to the right nor the left.

“We are safe,” said Ben, “if we stay where we are.”

Directly in front of the dog was a gentleman of middle age holding by the hand a small boy of ten. Among the flying crowd this pair seemed most exposed to peril. The man’s face was pale, for he felt the dangerous position in which they stood.

“Hurry, Paul, hurry!” he cried.

“I can’t run any faster, papa!” said the little boy, gasping for breath.

Two legs are no match for four, and the dog was61 within six feet of the boy, whom it had selected as its victim.

To Adelbert’s surprise, Ben sprang forward and made a dash for the dog. He had pulled off his sack-coat, and just as the dog was about to fasten his teeth in Paul’s leg, he threw the coat over the animal’s head and held it tight.

But the dog struggled so powerfully that Ben was in peril. Help came when it was needed.

A mechanic, strong and muscular, rushed to his assistance, and between them they held the dog firmly muzzled till a policeman arrived, and drawing a revolver shot the frantic animal through the head.

With a hoarse cry the dog stretched himself out in the agonies of death.

“Your little boy has been saved from a terrible death,” said a bystander to Paul’s father.

The latter breathed a deep sigh of relief. He turned his eyes in the direction of Ben, who was holding up his coat and gazing at it with a rueful look.

“It is spoiled,” said Adelbert. “You can never wear it again.”

“And it is my only one,” rejoined Ben.

He felt a touch upon his arm, and turning, saw62 that it was the little boy’s father who had thus called his attention.

“My dear boy,” he said, in a tone of deep emotion, “how can I thank you for what you have done? By your bravery you have in all probability saved my son from a terrible death.”

“I am so glad,” was Ben’s reply. “When I saw his danger I couldn’t help trying to save him. Any one would have done it,” he added modestly.

“No one did it but you,” said the father significantly. “What is your name?”

“Ben Bruce.”

“Do you live in Boston?”

“No, sir; I am on my way to New York.”

“Are you—excuse my asking—in limited circumstances?”

“I have to make my own way,” answered Ben. “I am going to New York to seek my fortune.”

“And this boy with you—is he your brother?”

“No,” answered Adelbert, “I am Ben’s cousin, and proud of the relationship,” he added. “I didn’t think Ben had so much pluck.”

“I think I heard you say that this was your only coat.”

“Yes, sir,” answered Ben shyly.

“You can never wear it any more. The least63 I can do is to replace it. Are you acquainted in Boston?”

“No, sir, but Adelbert is.”

“Do you know where to find the clothing house of A. Shuman?” asked the gentleman, addressing Adelbert.

“Yes, sir; I am going there myself to buy a suit of clothes.”

“Then take your cousin with you and help him select a suit.”

“But, sir, I only lost my coat.”

“I certainly can do no less than buy you a complete suit. Then I shall hope to have the pleasure of entertaining you both at dinner at my house in Mt. Vernon Street. We dine at two o’clock. Wait a minute and I will give you an order on Mr. Shuman for a suit.”

He tore a leaf from his memorandum book and wrote upon it these words:

“Allow the bearer to select clothing to the amount of thirty-five dollars, and charge the same to my account.

Franklin Wentworth.

“Please read this,” he said to Ben.

“Isn’t that a great deal to spend for a suit, sir?” asked Ben.

64 “Yes; I advise you to use only part of it for a suit, and buy other articles such as you need to make up the balance. I dare say you can make use of other things.”

“Thank you sir. You are quite right.”

“I will bid you good morning now, and will expect to see you at dinner. Here is my card.”

“Franklin Wentworth,” repeated Adelbert, looking at the latter. “He is a broker in State Street, and is considered a rich man. You are in luck, Ben. The folks will be su’prised when they hear that I have taken dinner at his house.”

“What shall I do with this coat, Adelbert?” asked Ben.

“Give it to me,” said a ragged boy, who overheard the question.

“But it is spoiled. It has the dog’s saliva on it.”

“Mother will clean it for me. It’s better than any I have got.”

“You are welcome to it,” said Ben, “but be careful to clean it thoroughly.”

“Yes, I will,” and the boy walked away with a pleased expression.

“I’d like to get a new suit at once, Del,” said Ben. “I feel queer walking in Boston without a coat.”

65 “We’ll go down Bromfield Street to Washington. That will bring us out very near Shuman’s.”

The two boys walked down to Washington Street, Ben attracting attention from the crowd, some of whom knew that he was the boy who had helped capture the mad dog. They crossed the street and entered the large, handsome store of A. Shuman & Co. In the windows was a fine display of fashionable clothing.

One of the salesmen stepped up and met the two boys, his curiosity a little excited by Ben’s appearance.

Ben showed the memorandum.

“My coat was spoiled by an accident,” he said, “but I guess I can get a better one here.”

“I think we shall be able to fit you out.”

Ben finally selected a stylish suit for twenty-five dollars, and invested the remaining ten dollars in underclothing and an extra pair of trousers.

“Will you have the clothes sent home?” asked the salesman.

“I should like to take off the clothes I have on and put on the whole new suit.”

“Very well.”

“I will take the rest in a bundle,” went on Ben.66 “I am only passing through Boston, and have no place to send it to.”

“It will be rather awkward to carry the bundle around,” said Adelbert.

“We will keep it here for you subject to your order,” interposed the salesman. “When will you call for it?”

“About half-past four,” suggested Adelbert. “My cousin is going to New York by the Fall River boat.”

“Very good.”

In ten minutes Ben left the store looking very much better than when he entered it, so far as clothing was concerned. He had hardly reached the street when a brisk-looking young man stepped up to him.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, “but are you the boy who tackled the mad dog on the Common twenty minutes since?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Ben, rather surprised.

“I thought so. I am a reporter of the Boston Globe. Please step around to the office with me, and help me fix up an account of it for our paper.”

“Really, Ben, you are getting to be a prominent character,” said Adelbert, laughing.

“It seems so,” answered Ben.

67 Both boys walked to the Globe office not far away, and Ben was asked several questions, which he answered promptly.

“Thank you,” said the young man. “Now, if you have no objection, I will take you out and have your picture taken.”

“What for?” asked Ben, puzzled.

“To reproduce in our evening edition.”

“You mean to put my picture in the paper?” asked Ben, almost frightened.

“Yes; the young people will like to see it.”

“Oh, have it taken, Ben,” said Adelbert, “I will take one home to Natick, and won’t the folks be surprised!”

So Ben submitted. He felt that it was quite the most wonderful day in his life.



As there was considerable time to be filled up, Ben went about the city under the guidance of Adelbert, and got a fair idea of it. Never before having been in any city, he was quite impressed with the size of Boston.

“I suppose New York is still larger,” he said to his cousin.

“So I hear, but I have never been there.”

“It will seem strange to me living in so large a place.”

“Large places seem to agree with you. This is your first day in Boston, and you have already made thirty-five dollars.”

“I don’t expect to follow it up with such luck.”

“Probably not. If you could make that sum once a week you would do better than most boys of your age.”

A little before two o’clock the boys rang the bell at Mr. Wentworth’s house on Mt. Vernon Street.

The door was opened by a well-dressed serving-man,69 who greeted them with a smile, and relieved them of any embarrassment by saying, “Please follow me. You are expected.”

He led the way up-stairs to a handsome apartment, which appeared to be fitted up as a sitting-room and library.

“Be seated, please.”

They sat down and had begun to examine some of the books on the table, when an attractive lady entered the room, leading by the hand little Paul.

“Which of you boys saved the life of my little boy?” she asked with emotion.

“My cousin Ben,” answered Adelbert.

She grasped Ben’s hand warmly, saying, “I shall never forget the service you have done me, my brave boy.”

Ben blushed and felt uncomfortable, for he was modest and did not think he deserved such a warm tribute.

“Won’t you come and sit by me, Paul?” he asked, for he was fond of little boys.

Paul went up at once and sat beside him on the sofa.

“Were you very much afraid?” asked Ben.

“Wasn’t I just? I thought the dog was going to bite me. Were you frightened?”

70 “I was at first, but I forgot all about it when I saw your danger.”

“This wasn’t the coat you threw over the dog’s head?”

“No; I gave that to a boy who asked for it.”

“You wouldn’t want to wear it again?”

“No. It would always make me think of the mad dog.”

“Have you got any little brothers?”

“No; I wish I had. I should like a little brother like you.”

“Do you live in the city?” asked Mrs. Wentworth of Adelbert.

“No; I live about eighteen miles from here, in the country.”

“Does your cousin live with you?”

“No; I have not seen him for four years. He is on his way to New York.”

“I hope he will prosper. He deserves to do so.”

Just then Mr. Wentworth entered and dinner was announced.

“I will sit by Ben,” said Paul, who by this time felt quite at home with his preserver.

“You seem to have won Paul’s heart,” remarked Mrs. Wentworth with a smile.

Of course the dinner was excellent and well71 served. It must be confessed that both boys were very hungry and did full justice to it.

When the last course was served Mr. Wentworth rose from the table.

“You must excuse me, young gentlemen,” he said, “but I have a business appointment at a quarter past three and I have barely time to meet it. Don’t hurry, however; Mrs. Wentworth and Paul will entertain you. Before going let me say,” he was addressing Ben now, “if ever you get into trouble or need a friend don’t hesitate to write to me. And now good-by, and good luck.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Ben gratefully. The boys remained twenty minutes longer, and then rose to go.

“Wait a minute,” said Mrs. Wentworth. “Come with me, Paul.”

The two left the room, but immediately returned. Paul held in his hand a silver hunting watch with a neat chain attached to it.

“This is for you, Ben,” he said.

Ben looked surprised and pleased. He had always wanted a watch.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Wentworth, “you are to consider this a gift from Paul. I hope it will do you good service.”

72 “I thank you and him very much,” said Ben gratefully. “Paul, you must let me kiss you.”

The little boy threw his arms around the neck of his new friend and kissed him warmly.

“You must come and see me again,” he said.

“I hope to do so some time.”

The two boys left the house, much pleased with their visit.

“This is a lucky day for you, Ben,” said Adelbert. “I hope your luck will continue.”

“I feel a good deal better than I did yesterday at this time,” responded Ben. “What nice people they are!”

“Yes, but I am sure you will find plenty more such in New York. You must write to me, Ben.”

“Yes, I will be sure to do so.”

“And look out for pickpockets when you are on the boat. Don’t let them steal your watch.”

“It seems odd to have anything worth stealing, Del.”

“It would have been a good while before your stepfather gave you a watch.”

“Yes; he is about as mean a man as I ever met. Mother made a great mistake in marrying him. When I am able I shall ask her to leave him and come to live with me.”

73 “Why can’t you go up to Natick to-night with me, and stay over till to-morrow?”

“I feel in a hurry to reach New York and see what I can do there. I am anxious to know how I am going to make out.”

“Then I will excuse you this time. Perhaps you can come and see me next year.”

“If I am lucky I may be able to do so.”

At half-past four they went to Shuman’s and Ben got his bundle. Adelbert also made choice of a suit, but one not so expensive as Ben’s. “I can’t afford to go high as you did, Ben,” he said.

On their way to the depot they met a newsboy who called out. “Evenin’ papers! Record and Globe! All about the mad dog!”

This attracted Adelbert’s attention.

“Why, it’s about you, Ben,” he said. “Give me the Globe.”

“And me, too,” added Ben.

They hastily opened it, and Ben flushed with pleasure to see his picture staring at him from the fourth page. There was quite a full account of the capture of the dog, and Ben was highly praised for his bravery and presence of mind.

“Does the Globe go to Wrayburn?” asked Adelbert.

“Yes, but Mr. Winter doesn’t take it.”

74 “He will hear of it. I should like to be present when he reads the account and sees your picture.”

“So should I. He won’t know anything of the presents I received.”

Though the Fall River train did not start till six the boys reached the Old Colony station at half-past five, and then Adelbert left his cousin, as he wished to take a train to his country home. When the train was ready Ben, with his bundle in his hand, joined the moving crowd of passengers and entered the cars.

The low rate of fare increased the crowd considerably, and it was evident that the steamer would be well filled. Ben had some difficulty in finding a seat, and there were quite a number standing in each of the cars that composed the train.

In an hour and a half the brakeman put his head in and announced “Fall River!”

All the passengers got out, Ben among them, and made their way to the mammoth steamer waiting to convey them to New York.

Every stateroom was taken, and every berth, so that Ben found he should have to sit up. He was not alone, however, for there was a considerable number in the same predicament. He did not know what to do with his bundle till one of75 the passengers directed him to the baggage-room on the lower deck. He carried his package thither and received a check in return, which he put into his pocket. Then he went up-stairs again.

Presently he felt hungry, and learning that supper could be had below, he went down-stairs. He had to wait a considerable time before there was a vacant seat at the tables and he was allowed to enter. The prices he found higher than at the restaurant where he had taken breakfast, but then it must be stated that the quality of the food provided was much better.

Ben made as economical a supper as he could, ordering a cup of coffee and some boiled eggs. When he had finished he still felt hungry, but he reflected that his finances were limited, and refrained from ordering more, but partook heartily of the bread which was liberally supplied.

He was wandering about the boat after supper, when, happening to go down to the main deck, he saw a commonly dressed man smoking a clay pipe.

There was something familiar in the fellow’s look.

“Where have I seen that face before?” Ben asked himself.



At first Ben was puzzled, but all at once it flashed upon him that the man was the one who had tried to rob his stepfather and afterward to enter the house. He could see in his face some of the fine bird shot which had entered it when he fired the old musket at him.

Now it often happens that a fixed and steady gaze will in some strange manner be felt by the person observed. At any rate, in this instance Tom Tidd at first looked uneasy, then turning returned Ben’s look. He, too, was struck by something familiar in the boy’s face, but his new clothes made recognition more difficult.

“What are you starin’ at, kid?” he growled.

“Did you address me, sir?” asked Ben.

“Yes, I did. Do you think you’ll know me next time?”

“Perhaps so,” answered Ben.

“Where do you hang out, any way?”

“On this boat at present.”

77 “Where are you going?”

“To New York.”

“I’m blamed if you don’t look like a young rascal that peppered me with bird shot two or three nights ago.”

“How did that happen? Did the gun go off by accident?”

“No, he meant it, confound him!”

“I don’t wonder you don’t like my looks if that is the case.”

“Well, I guess you ain’t him. If you was I’d——”

Here the conversation dropped, and Tom Tidd returned to his pipe, while Ben, congratulating himself that his unpleasant neighbor’s suspicions had not been confirmed, walked away to another part of the boat.

At ten o’clock Ben settled himself as comfortably as he could for the night. It might have been the excitement that prevented his sleeping well. At any rate he woke up from a troubled nap about midnight, and finding the atmosphere rather close, decided to go on deck for a breath of fresh air.

Walking along the starboard side of the steamer in a narrow passage lined with staterooms, his attention was attracted to a shambling78 figure looking into one of the rooms with his head protruding through the open window.

Instantly Ben stopped in excited attention. As the man withdrew his head for an instant and showed his side face, Ben saw that it was his country acquaintance Tom Tidd, and he understood at once that his object was robbery.

While he was standing irresolute Tom thrust in his hand, and drew out the vest of the sleeping passenger, from the pocket of which he proceeded to draw out a gold watch with a chain attached.

Without thinking of the imprudence of the step, Ben ran forward, and seizing the thief by the arm, cried in a tone of authority, “Drop that!”

Tom Tidd whirled round instantly, naturally startled, as one might well be detected in such an act.

“Oh, it’s you, you young rascal!” he exclaimed in a furious tone. “I’ll give you a lesson.”

He seized Ben in a vise-like-grip, and lifting him from the deck, prepared to throw him overboard. Ben’s heart failed him, as he saw the seething waters into which he would probably be thrown. He struggled to release himself, and gained a temporary advantage, slipping eel-like from the grasp of the burglar.

79 By a happy inspiration he snatched a whistle from his pocket and blew a loud blast following it up by loud cries of “Help! Murder!”

“You’re too late,” hissed the burglar, making another effort to throw the boy overboard.

He lifted him above the rail and held him there suspended. Ben gave himself up for lost.

It is hard to tell how many thoughts came into his mind in the few seconds in which he felt himself at the mercy of the burly ruffian. It seemed likely that his career would then and there be cut off, in which case this story would never have been written.

But help was at hand. The door of the stateroom was thrown open, and the occupant, a strong, muscular man, weighing at least two hundred pounds, entered upon the scene.

Quickly comprehending the situation, he grasped Tom Tidd in his powerful arms, tore Ben from his clutches, and then demanded sternly, “What does all this mean?”

“This man was going to throw me into the water,” gasped Ben.

“And you deserved it, too,” growled the discomfited burglar.

“What had you done?” asked the passenger, addressing himself to Ben.

80 “He was getting into your stateroom through the window,” exclaimed Ben. “He had hold of your vest when I came up and tackled him.”

“Is this so? Where, then, is the vest?”

“He must have dropped it on the floor inside the stateroom.”

“Go in and see if it’s there.”

“Lemme go!” exclaimed Tom Tidd, trying to wriggle out of the grasp of the muscular passenger.

“Not yet, my friend! I haven’t done with you.”

“I’ll throw you into the Sound.”

“You may do it if you can. I haven’t belonged to the Manhattan Athletic Club for the last five years for nothing.”

“I’ve found the vest,” said Ben from inside the stateroom.

“Is the watch in it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good! that watch cost me five hundred dollars in Geneva.”

Tom Tidd groaned inwardly. What a chance he had lost!

“Now go and call some one. This fellow must be secured.”

“Let me go!” pleaded Tidd, becoming alarmed. “I won’t try to enter your stateroom again.”

81 “I don’t mean that you shall have the chance.”

“Let me go!” continued the burglar fiercely, making a hard struggle to get free.

“Can’t think of it, my fine fellow. For the sake of the community I shall see that you are secured.”

Meanwhile, Ben had run into the saloon and returned with two men—one an employee of the boat. Help came none too soon.

Tom Tidd had managed to thrust his hand into his pocket, drawing out a large jackknife, which he was trying to open. Had he done so it might have fared ill with his captor.

Ben was the first to see the knife.

“Take his knife away!” he exclaimed in excitement.

The two men threw themselves upon the ruffian and managed to deprive him of his ugly weapon, throwing it into the water. Then some strong cord was obtained, and the fellow, in spite of his struggles, was tied securely.

“You are the cause of all this!” he exclaimed, glaring at Ben. “Now tell me who you are. Haven’t I met you before?”

“Yes,” answered Ben.


“When I last saw you I was looking out of a third story window at midnight.”

82 “By gum, I thought so. And it was you that peppered me with bird shot.”

“Yes; but I wouldn’t have done so if I hadn’t felt obliged to.”

“And to think I’ve been foiled twice by a kid!” exclaimed Tom Tidd with an expression of disgust. “I’ll get even with you yet.”

“What does he mean?” asked Grant Griswold, the occupant of the stateroom.

Ben explained.

“Evidently the man is a confirmed rogue. How did you happen to be on deck so late?”

“It was close in the saloon and I came up to get a breath of fresh air.”

“Luckily for me. Have you a stateroom?”

“No, sir.”

“Then, if you like, occupy mine. There is an upper berth at your service.”

“Thank you sir. I will accept your invitation.”

“I won’t talk any more with you now, but in the morning I will ask you to breakfast with me, and you can tell me more about yourself. I suppose as my caller is now secured it won’t hurt to keep my window open.”

The rest of the night was uneventful. Both Ben and his new friend slept soundly, and only83 waked up when the steamer was passing under Brooklyn Bridge.

“Are you awake, my young friend?” asked Mr. Griswold, after he had performed his ablutions.

“Yes,” answered Ben, rubbing his eyes.

“And do you know where you are?” went on his companion, smiling.

“No, sir.”

“We are near the pier in New York and I advise you to get up and prepare for landing.”

“That won’t take long, sir, as I didn’t undress.”

Ben secured his bundle and the two left the steamer. Ben looked about curiously.

“Are you expecting any one to meet you, Ben?” asked Mr. Griswold, who had inquired the name of his young roommate.

“No, sir; I know no one in New York.”

“We will go up to the Astor House to breakfast.”

Ben had heard of the Astor House, but had no particular idea with regard to it. At the suggestion of his new friend his bundle was left in the package room of the hotel and they went up-stairs into the dining-saloon. Two gentlemen at a neighboring table recognized Mr. Griswold, and looked rather curiously at Ben.



I say, Griswold,” said a gentleman seated at a neighboring table, “is that your son?”

Grant Griswold smiled.

“Hardly,” he said. “Ben, how old are you?”

“Nearly sixteen.”

“And I am only thirty-two, so that hypothesis lacks probability. We are only recent acquaintances, or, let me say, friends, but I hope our friendship will continue.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Ben. “I hope so too.”

As the meal progressed Mr. Griswold questioned Ben as to his plans.

“I want to make a living,” said Ben, “but I know so little about the city that I can’t tell yet which will be the best way.”

“I would look out for something for you, but unfortunately I sail for Europe next Saturday, to be gone for three months. Have you any friends in New York?”

“No, sir.”

“You will need a recommendation, and I will85 write you one before I leave town. I haven’t known you long, but what I have seen of you gives me confidence in your good qualities. By the way, I shall need some one to help me pack, and I will keep you with me till I start for Europe. It will only be three days, but that will give you a chance to look about you, and will enable you to say you have been in my employ.”

“You are very kind, Mr. Griswold,” said Ben gratefully. “I didn’t expect to meet such a friend so soon.”

After breakfast Ben, accompanying Mr. Griswold, went up-town to a large building on lower Fifth Avenue, where Mr. Griswold rented a suite of rooms.

“You will occupy the small bedroom adjoining mine,” said Griswold, “and I will set you to work while I go out and make a few calls.”

During the day Ben was sent on several errands, and though a stranger to the city he managed to acquit himself creditably, making inquiries about locations when he was at fault.

Three days later he went to see his patron off on the Etruria.

Mr. Griswold handed him a ten-dollar bill and bade him good-by.

86 “I wish you good luck, Ben,” he said. “Be sure to call on me when I return.”

Ben waited on the dock till the floating hotel was fairly under way, and then turned away, feeling very lonely. He could hardly realize that the friend whom he so much regretted had been utterly unknown to him four days previous. Now he had no one to lean upon. He must rely wholly upon himself.

Two things must be done at once. He must find a room and employment. He had taken down two or three names of lodging-houses from the New York Herald, which Mr. Griswold took in every morning. One of them was on West Twelfth Street. He took a car and went up there. The door was opened by a woman of ample proportions, who regarded Ben with a critical eye.

“Well, young man?” she said in a tone of business-like inquiry.

“I want to hire a room,” said Ben.

“Will you occupy it alone?”

“Yes, madam.”

“Do you wish a large or a small room?”

“I want a low-priced room.”

“That means a small room.”

“I have no objection to a large room if the price is low,” said Ben, smiling.

87 “No doubt. Well, follow me up-stairs.”

Mrs. Robinson was stout and unwieldy, and seemed to find it difficult to go up-stairs. At the head of the second flight she threw open the door of a small hall bedroom very plainly furnished.

“You can have that room for two dollars a week,” she said.

“It is very small,” remarked Ben doubtfully.

“It is as good as you can expect for two dollars. I can give you a fine square room for five dollars.”

“That is more than I can afford to pay. I think I will take this room for a short time and see how I like it.”

“Are you in any business?”

“I am looking for a place.”

Mrs. Robinson’s face changed slightly.

“I require the first week in advance,” she said significantly.

“Very well.”

Ben took out his pocketbook and tendered her a ten-dollar bill, the one he had just received from Mr. Griswold.

Mrs. Robinson, seeing the denomination of the bill, regarded Ben with increased respect.

“I am afraid I can’t change a ten,” she said.

88 “I believe I have a two here,” returned Ben, exploring his wallet.

“Very well. I will write you a receipt. What is your name?”

“Ben—that is, Benjamin Bruce.”

“I think we shall get along very well, Mr. Bruce,” said the landlady graciously. “I hope you will have success in getting a place.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you wish to sleep here to-night?”

Ben answered in the affirmative, and Mrs. Robinson gave him a latch-key.

“That will let you in at any time, but I hope you are a steady young man and don’t keep very late hours.”

“I don’t expect to,” answered Ben, with a smile.

“I had a young man in this room last spring who annoyed me very much by coming home drunk and disturbing the house in his efforts to get up-stairs.”

“I don’t expect to trouble you in that way,” said Ben. “I don’t know many people in the city” (he didn’t like to say “any,” though he might have done so truthfully), “and shall not be tempted to keep late hours.”

It did not take long for Ben to establish himself89 in his new room. He went out and took a walk on Broadway.

He thought he would defer looking for a place till the next morning. He stayed out several hours, and then feeling fatigued, went back to the lodging-house.

He lay down on the bed in his clothes, but had hardly been there ten minutes when there was a knock on his door.

Ben was rather surprised at having a caller so soon, but he turned his face to the door and said, “Come in!”

A young man, apparently about twenty-five, entered. He had long black hair, and a broad, high forehead.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but you are a new lodger.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Let me introduce myself then. My name is Sylvanus Snodgrass, and I occupy the small room across the hall.”

“I am glad to see you, Mr. Snodgrass. Won’t you sit down? You will excuse my sitting on the bed as I have but one chair.”

“It is the same in my room. May I ask your name?”

“Ben Bruce.”

90 “Excuse me, but are you literary?”

“Not at all,” answered Ben, rather surprised.

“You have a good name for an author, both names beginning with the same letter.”

“Are you literary, Mr. Snodgrass?”

“Yes,” answered the young man complacently. “Do you ever read the Weekly Bugle, a literary paper?”

“I don’t think I have.”

“I am having a serial story run through it. It is called ‘The Ragpicker’s Curse.’”

Ben was not much of a judge of literature, but it didn’t seem to him that this title suggested a high order of literary merit.

“Did it take you long to write it?” he asked.

“I wrote it in four weeks. It is in forty chapters. I was greatly enthused when I wrote it.”

“Were you?”

“I was so much interested that one day I wrote eight hours on a stretch, and then fainted away.”

Mr. Snodgrass mentioned this little circumstance in a very complacent tone.

“The literary life is a very absorbing one,” he continued. “When I have finished a story I am simply exhausted.”

“I hope it pays well,” said Ben.

91 “Not as it should, Mr. Bruce, not as it should. But money is not everything. I hope to acquire fame, to live in the hearts of future generations,” and the young man’s pale cheeks flushed.

Ben doubted whether such stories as “The Ragpicker’s Curse” would be likely to win enduring fame for the author, but out of consideration for the feelings of Mr. Snodgrass he kept silent on this point.

“I hear that Howells makes a good deal of money by his novels,” he said.

“Howells!” repeated Mr. Snodgrass scornfully. “He couldn’t write a story for the Weekly Bugle. There isn’t excitement enough in his productions.”

“Still, I think I should like to be in his shoes.”

“Oh, no doubt there is some merit in his stories,” said Sylvanus Snodgrass condescendingly, “but I don’t admire them for my part. They lack snap and fire.”

“Probably he couldn’t write a story like ‘The Ragpicker’s Curse.’”

“I won’t express any opinion on that subject,” said Mr. Snodgrass modestly. “If you ever feel inclined to write a story, Mr. Bruce, I shall be glad to introduce you to our editor.”

“Thank you, Mr. Snodgrass, you are very kind.”

92 “Oh, don’t mention it, Mr. Bruce. I know what it is to struggle and I like to help young writers. By the way, have you had supper?”

“Not yet.”

“Suppose we go out together. I like company when I eat.”

Ben accepted the suggestion. Lonely as he felt he welcomed the companionship even of Sylvanus Snodgrass. He put on his hat, and they walked down-stairs together.



Mr. Snodgrass led the way to a small restaurant two or three streets distant, and the two went in and seated themselves at a table covered with a cloth of far from immaculate whiteness.

Taking up the bill of fare, Ben was pleased to find that the prices were very moderate.

“Do you often come here, Mr. Snodgrass?” he asked.

“Yes, except when I have occasion to be down town. Then I go into a restaurant on Park Row.”

“The only place I ever heard mentioned before I came here is Delmonico’s.”

“Yes,” answered Mr. Snodgrass. “Del keeps a fine place, but I seldom go there. In a small place like this you are more apt to meet men and women of brains. One evening I met here Gloriana Podd, the great poetess. Of course you have heard of her?”

“I am not sure that I have.”

“She writes for several of the popular weeklies,94 and I am told that her poems are sometimes copied in the London papers. I am surprised that you haven’t heard of her.”

“My stepfather didn’t take any weekly papers. He thought too much of his money.”

“Then I presume you had never heard of me.”

Ben acknowledged that he had not.

“You were evidently buried in the country. Now that you are in a great metropolis you will live—and learn.”

“I hope so.”

“Of course I will do all I can for you. I will introduce you to our editor at any time.”

“Thank you, but I will wait a little. I think he would not care to meet a boy.”

“Any friend of mine would be welcome, Mr. Bruce. But here comes the waiter. What will you have?”

“Give your order first, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“A plate of corned beef hash and a cup of coffee,” said Mr. Snodgrass.

“You may bring me some fried eggs and a cup of tea,” added Ben.

The hash was brought and with it a few slices of bread and a square of pale butter. The hash did not look very inviting, but the novelist partook of it with evident relish.

95 “I think I will take a piece of pie,” he said, as the last mouthful of hash disappeared, “Ralph Waldo Emerson ate pie at every meal. Of course you have heard of Emerson.”

“Yes; did he write for the Bugle?” asked Ben with a smile.

“No; our readers prefer romance. It may seem presumptuous in me to say so, but I really believe they enjoy my productions better than the essays of Emerson.”

“I have no doubt of it. I hope, Mr. Snodgrass, you will give me a chance to read some of your stories.”

“I will with pleasure. I have several of them in weekly numbers of the Bugle.”

Ben, too, ventured upon a piece of pie. He did not wholly enjoy the dishes provided at the restaurant. He felt that he should have preferred his mother’s cooking. The charges, however, were moderate. Only twenty cents for each person.

Mr. Snodgrass rose from the table and took up his check.

Then he thrust his hand into his pockets, and after a little his face wore an air of perplexity.

“I really believe I haven’t any money with me,” he said. “I must have left it in the pockets of my other trousers. Awkward, isn’t it?”

96 “I will advance you the money, Mr. Snodgrass,” said Ben.

“Thank you,” rejoined the novelist with an air of relief. “You shall soon have it back. The publisher of the Bugle is owing me a balance of ten dollars on my serial, and that I shall probably collect to-morrow. I shall be glad to reimburse you.”

“No hurry, Mr. Snodgrass!”

“You are very kind, Mr. Bruce. I am really delighted to have made your acquaintance.”

“Thank you. Were you always an author, Mr. Snodgrass?”

“I was a schoolboy once,” said the novelist facetiously.

“Of course, but when were you old enough to go to work?”

“I used to work at Macy’s, but I felt it was drudgery. It was poor business for a man of intellect and imagination. I wrote a few short stories for the weeklies, and one day, having a little difference with my employer, I resigned, and boldly threw myself upon literature as an avocation.”

“How long ago was that?”

“Almost a year since.”

“And have you got along pretty well?”

97 “I have had to live a life of self-denial, but I am working for the future. Some day I mean to make the name of Sylvanus Snodgrass renowned. What will my old friends at Macy’s say then?”

“They will congratulate you, I should think.”

Mr. Snodgrass shook his head.

“No, they will be jealous of my fame,” he said. “Some of them even now turn up their noses at me. They have no soul above the goods they sell. They do not realize that my stories are read all over the United States. An old schoolmate of mine in San Francisco wrote me last week that he read everything I wrote.”

“That must be very gratifying,” remarked Ben.

“It is, Mr. Bruce. I hope you may be induced to try your hand at a story.”

“I will think of it after I have a place.”

“I shall be glad to give you points and read your productions critically. Have you had any place yet?”

“I was for a short time in the employ of Mr. Grant Griswold, living on Fifth Avenue, but he sailed for Europe this morning.”

“So you are out of a place.”

“At present, yes.”

98 “Suppose we walk up to Union Square and take a seat on one of the benches.”

“Very well.”

They found an unoccupied bench and sat down.

Presently a rather short young man with dark hair and a small mustache approached.

Mr. Snodgrass pointed him out.

“That is Cornelius Clyde, the poet,” he said.


“Would you like to be introduced?”

“I have no objection.”

“It is a great privilege to know Clyde,” said Mr. Snodgrass, who thought Ben spoke too indifferently. “How are you, Mr. Clyde?”

“I am well, thanks,” rejoined the poet.

“Won’t you sit down? I should like to introduce you to my friend, Ben Bruce.”

“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Bruce. Are you one of us?”

“I am not a writer.”

“Ah, it’s a pity.”

“I shall try to draw Mr. Bruce into our circle,” said Sylvanus. “I have offered to introduce a story, if he will write one, to the notice of our editor.”

“Story? Ah yes,” said the poet condescendingly. “Do you ever write verse, Mr. Bruce?”

99 “I have never tried. I don’t think I could.”

“Of course it is much more difficult than to write stories.”

“Have you written anything new lately, Clyde?” asked Mr. Snodgrass.

“I have just sent one to the office of the Weekly Tomahawk. I would have sent it to the Atlantic Monthly, but that magazine is run by a clique, and no outsider stands any chance of getting in.”

“That is too bad!” said Sylvanus Snodgrass sympathizingly.

“But I shall yet succeed,” went on the poet, earnestly. “The time will come when they will apply to me, and ask me to name my own terms.”

“I hope so, I am sure. I experience the same difficulty. I offered a serial story to the Century three months ago, but it was respectfully declined. What do you think of that?”

“I should have expected it,” answered Clyde.

Mr. Snodgrass looked at the poet to see whether the words contained any hidden meaning, but he was apparently satisfied that no slight was intended, and began to discuss writers and publishers with Mr. Clyde. The names introduced were unknown to Ben, and he was not, therefore, very much interested.

100 “I hear that Gloriana Podd is to bring out a new volume of poems soon,” said Snodgrass. “I wonder you don’t do the same.”

“Has she found a publisher to take the risk?”

“No; it is printed at her own expense.”

“So I supposed. Now I object to that. I shall wait till some publisher asks the privilege of bringing me out in book form.”

Presently the poet rose.

“I have a poem to finish ere I sleep,” he said. “Good night to you both.”

“Good night.”

“Is writing poetry Mr. Clyde’s only business?” asked Ben.

“Well no, not exactly. He couldn’t live on it, you know. He works in a down-town barber shop, but he has his evenings to himself.”

“I should think that would be disagreeable business for a poet,” said Ben in surprise.

“It is not wholly congenial, but he tells me that when he is shaving or cutting hair the most beautiful poetic fancies come to him at times. Then when Saturday night arrives and he pockets his salary, he feels repaid. It is hard for a poet or a romancer when he cannot pay his board.”

“I should think so,” returned Ben.

Just as they parted for the night Mr. Snodgrass101 observed casually, “I am going to ask a little favor of you, Mr. Bruce.”

“What is it?” asked Ben cautiously.

“I am owing Mrs. Robinson for a week’s room rent. It should have been paid yesterday. If you could kindly lend me two dollars till to-morrow afternoon I will go in and pay her to-night.”

“It is quite out of the question, Mr. Snodgrass,” said Ben decidedly. “I have but a little money, and don’t know when I shall get a place.”

“It is immaterial!” returned Snodgrass. “I thought it possible you could oblige me. Good night!”

“Good night!”

Ben began to think he had better avoid too great intimacy with Sylvanus Snodgrass.



While Ben is considering how he can find employment, we will go back to Wrayburn.

Jacob Winter felt very sorry over Ben’s running away. His stepson was a strong boy and would have been of considerable service on the farm even if Mr. Flack had not agreed to take him. But what troubled Jacob most was the fifty dollars a year which the shoemaker had agreed to pay him.

Then, too, he felt that Ben had defied his authority, and had come out victorious. It was not pleasant to be worsted by a boy.

He felt obliged to go round to Silas Flack’s shop and inform him of what had happened. The shoemaker looked up when the farmer entered the store.

“Good morning, Mr. Winter. How are you this morning?”

“Tollable, but I’ve had something to vex me.”

“What’s that?”

“Ben has gone away.”

103 “Gone away? Where?”

“He’s run away, I expect.”

“What’s he run away for?”

“Well, he didn’t like the idee of goin’ to work in a shoe-shop.”

“He was over here and had a talk with me yesterday. He didn’t seem to like the idee, but I thought it was only a boy’s notion. You don’t mean to say he’s run away on that account?”

“When I went up this mornin’ to call him I couldn’t find any trace of him.”

“Hadn’t the bed been slept in?”


“Then he must have gone away last night.”

“He went over and slept with the Graham boy. He tells me that Ben got up early this mornin’ and walked over to the railroad and took the cars for Boston.”

“Did he have any money with him?”

“He had two dollars given him by his mother.”

“Did she know he was going to run away?”

“Well, she surmised it, and she upholds the boy in it. She wanted him to go to the high school.”

“That was all foolishness. He knows as much as you or I now and maybe more.”

“Yes, I’ve done my duty by Ben in givin’ him104 an eddication. What’s enough for you and me is enough for him.”

“That’s so. Well, how about our engagement?”

“It’ll be carried out,” said Jacob firmly. “I’ll get the boy back, but it may be a leetle later than I calculated.”

“What steps have you taken? Did you say he went to Boston?”


“Shall you go to Boston and bring him back?”

“Well, I might not find him easy, and it costs money to travel. But I expect he’ll be comin’ back himself. Two dollars won’t last him very long, and he’ll be glad enough to come home.”

“Will he have money enough to get back?”

“He may have to foot it, but it will do him good. He ought to suffer a little for his foolishness. Just keep the place open for him, Silas, and I’ll see that he comes as soon as he gets back.”

“All right, Mr. Winter. I always thought Ben was smart even if he is a bit headstrong, and I’d be glad to have him with me.”

Mr. Winter left the shoemaker’s somewhat encouraged. The place was still open to Ben, and he had not yet lost the fifty dollars a year which he was to receive by contract.

105 “We’ll see if a boy’s goin’ to get the best of me,” he soliloquized, nodding his head emphatically. “Ben’s got his mother on his side, but when Jacob Winter puts down his foot that settles it.”

The next morning, as Mrs. Winter was at work in the kitchen, there was a knock at the side door. Opening it she found her caller to be a man well known about the village, Jonathan Smith by name. He was elderly and a bachelor, and acted as janitor of one of the churches.

“How are you, Jonathan?” she said.

“I’m so’s to be round, Mrs. Winter. I hear your boy Ben has gone away.”

“Yes, he has gone to Boston.”

“I suppose you ain’t heerd of him since he went away?”

“No; have you any news of him?” asked Mrs. Winter, detecting some significance in Jonathan’s tone.

“Yes,” answered Jonathan complacently, and he began to open a copy of the Boston Globe, considerably to Mrs. Winter’s surprise. What could Ben have to do with the Globe?

Opening the paper Jonathan pointed out Ben’s picture, saying, “What do you say to that?”

“Why, it’s Ben!” exclaimed Mrs. Winter in106 surprise and agitation. “What’s happened? Has he met with any accident?”

“No; he’s saved a boy from being bit by a mad dog. You just read it, and it’ll tell you all about it.”

Mrs. Winter did read it, and she felt proud of Ben’s bravery.

“It’s kind of smart of Ben gettin’ into the paper,” remarked Jonathan.

“Can you leave me the paper, Jonathan?”

“Yes, I reckon so. I know where I can get another.”

“Let me pay you for it, and come in and eat a piece of mince pie. I’ve got one fresh-baked. You were kind to bring me round the paper.”

“You see Ben always treated me well. Some of the boys plague me, but he never did.”

About an hour later Mr. Winter came into the house. He was rather cross, for he had been doing some chores which would have fallen to Ben had he been home.

“I wish I had Ben here,” he said in a grumbling tone. “Like as not, he’s sufferin’ for his foolishness. I shouldn’t wonder if he was hungry and wished himself home. What can a boy like that do in Boston?”

107 “He seems to have done himself credit there, Mr. Winter.”

“What?” demanded Jacob. “You hain’t heard from him, have you?”

“Only through the paper.”

“What do you mean by that, Mrs. W.? Is there anything about Ben in the paper?”

“Look at that, Mr. Winter.”

Jacob Winter put on his glasses, and stared open-mouthed at Ben’s picture in the Globe.

“Well, that beats all!” he exclaimed.

“I guess a boy like that can make his way,” said the mother proudly.

Mr. Winter read carefully the account of Ben and his exploit, and hardly knew what to say.

“He won’t have to fight a mad dog every day,” he observed at length.

“No, I hope not,” returned the mother fervently, “but it shows he’s brave. I think this man will prove a friend to him.”

Jacob Winter went out to the barn in a thoughtful mood. He began to think it less likely that Ben would “foot it back” to Wrayburn. But none the less he wished him back. Such a boy would eventually be a source of profit to him.

The next day Albert Graham came to the house.

“I’ve had a letter from Ben,” he said.

108 “Is it possible? Where did he write from?” asked Mrs. Winter eagerly.

“From New York. Here it is.”

Mrs. Winter read the letter eagerly. It ran as follows:

Dear Albert:

“You see I have got to New York safe and sound. I had a little adventure in Boston which got into the Boston Globe. I know your folks take that paper, so I need not say any more about it, except that Mr. Wentworth, whose boy I saved from being bitten by a mad dog, treated me very kindly and generously. As my coat was spoiled he gave me an order on a tailor for a new suit, and told me to spare no expense. My suit cost twenty-five dollars, so you can judge that it is a fine one. The coat I had on when I left home was old and shabby, and I was glad to give it up. A poor boy asked me for it, and I gave it to him.

“That was not all. When the thing happened my cousin Adelbert was with me. Mr. Wentworth invited us both to dinner at his house on Mt. Vernon Street. He lives in a fine house, and we had a tip-top dinner. You see I was pretty well paid.

“But that was not all. A new silver watch and109 chain was given to me before I left the house, and I was told that I must consider that a present from Paul, the little boy. You just ought to see me, Albert, in my new clothes and with my silver watch. Mr. Winter would open his eyes if he should see me. I haven’t any reason to be sorry yet that I left home.

“Now about coming to New York. On the boat I came across the burglar that tried to rob Mr. Winter, and I caught him robbing a gentleman’s stateroom. I was in time to give the alarm. The gentleman is a Mr. Griswold, a member of an athletic club in New York. He has taken me into his employ for three or four days till he starts for Europe. I wish he were going to stay in the city, for I think he would give me a permanent place. However, I have fared so well already that I guess I can get along. Please let mother read this letter. I write you, for I am afraid Mr. Winter might intercept any letter I wrote to her. I will write her soon and send it to your care. Mr. Griswold has just come in and I must close.

“Your affectionate friend,


“Isn’t Ben having splendid luck, Mrs. Winter?” said Albert.

110 “Yes, and I have reason to feel thankful.”

When Mr. Winter came in and suggested that Ben was probably “footin’ it home,” his wife only smiled.



Though Ben was well dressed and had a watch, his stock of money was small. Every day diminished this, and matters began to look serious.

He made application at various places for employment, but generally found some one ahead of him. He was, however, offered one place at two dollars and a half a week, and another at three dollars, but neither of these sums would pay his expenses, and if he accepted he would be prevented from securing a more remunerative post.

After paying in advance the third week’s rent for his room, Ben found that he had but a dollar and thirty-seven cents left.

“Haven’t you found a place yet?” asked the landlady.

“Not yet,” answered Ben soberly, “but I hope to obtain one this week.”

“I hope you will, I’m sure, for I am a poor widow, and though I should hate to send you away I must look out for my own interest.”

112 “I can’t blame you for that, Mrs. Robinson.”

“There’s Mr. Snodgrass don’t pay me regular. He’s owing me for two weeks, and it’s inconvenient. Still he has work, and I’ll be paid some time. Couldn’t he get you something to do where he works?”

“I am afraid I couldn’t write stories,” said Ben, smiling.

“Is that what he does? I thought it was copying.”

Sylvanus Snodgrass would have felt deeply hurt had he supposed that any one took him—a famous author—for a copyist.

“I will try to get something to do this week,” went on Ben. “At any rate I don’t want to keep the room longer than I can pay for it.”

Two days later the dollar was gone and but thirty-seven cents remained. Though cheerful and sanguine naturally, poor Ben felt despondent.

“I will take any employment that offers,” he said to himself, as he left the house at an early hour.

He directed his steps eastward, and soon found himself on the Bowery.

He had not yet eaten breakfast. He was in search of a restaurant where the prices would not113 be too great for his limited means. At last he found one, where plates of meat were advertised for ten cents, baked beans five cents, and coffee or tea three cents.

He entered and seating himself at a table ordered a cup of coffee and some beans. With the latter were brought two triangular slices of bread and a small pat of butter that was probably oleomargarine. This made his meal ticket eight cents, which certainly could not be regarded as extravagant.

When he was paying for his breakfast something led him to inquire of the proprietor, who acted as his own cashier, if he knew of any place he could get.

“Do you want work?” asked the restaurant keeper, eying Ben with some surprise.

“Yes, sir.”

“How is that? You’ve got good clothes, and have a watch.”

“That is true, but I have only a very little money.”

“Do you mind what you do?”

“No,” answered Ben desperately, “I am willing to do anything.”

“Then maybe I can offer you a job.”

Ben wondered what it could be. Perhaps he114 was to be offered the position of waiter. He did not think he should like this, and doubted whether he could safely carry a pile of dishes without endangering their safety and soiling his clothes.

“What is it?” he asked.

“You can stand at the door and distribute some of my bills.”

This was distinctly better than waiting in the restaurant.

“What will you pay?”

“Well, I’ll give you three meals a day.”

Considering the character of the meals Ben felt that this would not be quite satisfactory. He could probably live better on three dollars a week.

“I think I ought to have more than that,” he said.

“It’s easy work,” rejoined the proprietor persuasively.

“But I shall need a little money.”

Finally Ben succeeded in making a bargain for his meals and twenty-five cents a day, payable at seven o’clock when his duties would close. This was not much, and he could not tell where he could get enough to pay his weekly rent, but in the low state of his finances he did not feel justified in refusing the offer.

115 “All right,” he said, “I’ll try it for a while.”

“Don’t give to everybody—only to those who are likely to come in and eat. I had a boy working for me last week who gave circulars to five-year old kids, and I had to run up a big printing bill to keep him supplied. I only gave him his meals, but he was a ragged boy, and you are so well dressed that it will give tone to my establishment.”

Ben felt glad that his good clothes were likely to increase his earnings. He took his stand outside the restaurant and began to distribute circulars.

Evidently he created a favorable impression, for several persons of a grade higher than the ordinary frequenters of the restaurant took the bills and entered, considerably to the satisfaction of the watchful landlord. But they were not all satisfied.

“I say, Johnny,” said a florid-looking man, as he left the eating house, “I don’t think much of your hotel. I thought from your looks it was something away up. Do you eat there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then I don’t admire your taste. Are you the landlord’s son?”

“No, sir.”

116 “You needn’t expect me to go in again.”

“No, sir, I won’t. I am sorry you were not pleased.”

“I shall have to go somewhere else and get a decent meal.”

“I wish I could,” thought Ben.

At twelve o’clock Ben felt hungry. His breakfast had been scanty and did not seem to have staying power.

“Can I have my dinner now?” he asked as he entered the restaurant.


Ben sat down at a table and looked over the bill of fare. Among the items was “Roast Chicken—25 cents.”

“You may bring me roast chicken and a cup of coffee,” he told the waiter.

The latter went up to the proprietor and spoke to him in a low voice. Then he returned.

“The boss says you can have any ten cent plate of meat,” he said. “He never gives roast chicken to his help.”

“Don’t you get it?”


Ben felt disappointed. Hungry as he was he felt the need of a good dinner.

“You can bring me the chicken,” he said,117 “and I will pay ten cents extra. Will that do?”

“Yes; that will be satisfactory.”

The chicken was hardly as good as would have been given at a high-priced restaurant. In fact it was rather tough, but then Ben’s teeth were good, and hungry as he was he enjoyed it.

He found that he was entitled to a piece of pudding or pie, and accordingly ordered a plate of apple pudding.

After finishing his meal he felt better. He resumed his place at the door, and half an hour later was greeted by a familiar voice. Looking up he met the astonished gaze of Sylvanus Snodgrass.

“What does this mean, Bruce?” he asked.

Ben felt rather embarrassed, for it was not a business that he was proud of.

“It means that I have found work,” he said.

“Distributing bills for a beanery,” said the romancer.

“That’s about it.”

“Well, let me see one of the bills.”

Ben handed him one.

“Seems cheap,” said Sylvanus, “and suits my purse, for I’m pretty short to-day. Can you recommend it?”

118 “I can recommend the prices,” said Ben.

“Well, I’ll risk it. I would rather eat at Delmonico’s, but I have no credit there, and I must e’en take up with a restaurant of a lower grade.”

Mr. Snodgrass entered the place and emerged therefrom in twenty minutes.

“How did you like it?” asked Ben.

“I have eaten at worse places, but not much worse,” answered the “novelist.” “I say, Bruce, if you have any influence with the boss, ask him to supply a better article of butter, I’m not stuck on oleo.”

“I am afraid I haven’t much influence with the ‘boss,’ as you call him.”

“You might hint to him that I am the great Sylvanus Snodgrass—perhaps he reads the Bugle—and he may treat me better than the rest of his customers.”

“I am afraid he is not literary, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“Very likely. He doesn’t look intellectual. But Bruce, I am surprised that you should take such a place.”

“You wouldn’t be su’prised if you knew how little money there is in my purse.”

“I was about to strike you for half a dollar. I suppose it wouldn’t be any use.”

119 “No, it wouldn’t. I haven’t as much money as that. Perhaps Mr. Clyde would oblige you.”

“I owe him fifty already. I hate to speak ill of Cornelius, but he is close. He doesn’t understand the obligations of friendship. Well, ta, ta! I will see you to-night.”



Ben kept at work for the remainder of the week, but felt far from satisfied with his position and pay. He found that his three meals a day included only the cheapest and least desirable dishes, and having the hearty appetite of a healthy boy he felt obliged to supplement them by ordering extra food at his own expense.

So it happened that at the week’s end he had but forty cents coming to him. Another week’s rent was due, and this was all he had to meet it.

“What shall I do?” he asked Mr. Snodgrass, in perplexity.

“Haven’t you got something to hock?” asked the writer.

“What do you mean by ‘hock?’” asked Ben.

“Pawn, of course. Where were you educated?”

“I never heard the word ‘hock’ before. I know the meaning of pawn.”

“There’s your watch, now. You might hock that.”

121 “I wouldn’t like to part with it. It was a present.”

“Bless your soul, nobody likes to pawn his valuables, but everybody has to do it some time. Did you ever notice that I don’t carry a watch?”

“You have a chain.”

“Yes, but that is all. Sometimes people ask me what time it is, and I answer that my watch isn’t going. So I keep up the illusion. The funniest thing is that a pickpocket tried one day to relieve me of my watch. When he pulled out the chain and found nothing attached to it he looked foolish, I tell you.”

“I should think he would,” said Ben, laughing. “But where is your watch?”

“It’s reposing in Simpson’s safe, my dear boy.”

“But who is Simpson?”

“Never heard of Simpson?” ejaculated Sylvanus, arching his eyebrows. “Why, he’s the poor man’s friend; that is, they are, for there’s more than one of them. The particular Simpson I mean has an office half way down the Bowery.”

“Would he lend me something on my watch?”

“Of course he would. Let me look at it.”

Ben submitted the watch to Mr. Snodgrass for examination.

122 “That’s a good watch,” said the author. “It probably cost eighteen or twenty dollars. You could possibly get five dollars on it.”

“No more?”

“Yes, if you want to sell it; but you are only hocking it.”

“How long can I have to redeem it?”

“A year. The first six months you pay three per cent. a month interest.”

“Three per cent. a month!” ejaculated Ben in dismay.

“Of course. You don’t suppose pawnbrokers carry on business for fun, do you?”

“But that seems a good deal to pay.”

“The second six months you only pay two per cent. monthly.”

“That is a good deal, too.”

“Well, you don’t have to hock it, you know.”

“Yes, I must,” said Ben with a sigh. “I must pay my rent.”

“Then I’ll go down to Simpson’s with you,” said Snodgrass briskly. “I know the ropes.”

“Thank you. I shouldn’t like to go alone.”

“No; you wouldn’t know how to manage. Come along.”

The two friends walked to Simpson’s, neither having any spare money to pay car fare. They123 entered the loan office and waited their turn, for several were ahead of them.

An old Irish woman was haggling for a larger loan on a worn and dirty shawl.

“Sure it’s very little you’re givin’ me,” she protested. “What will I do with a quarter?”

“We don’t want it, any way. You’d better take it somewhere else.”

“Give me the money, then.”

The next person was a slender dude, who had a silk umbrella to offer.

“A dollar,” said the clerk.

“Aw, that’s vewry little, don’t you know,” drawled the young man. “It was bought at Tiffany’s, it was, ’pon me honah.”

“That is all we can give.”

“Then I must wesign myself to the sacrifice. Pass over the spondulicks.”

The next person was a young lady with spectacles and wearing a look of Bostonian culture. She had a broad flat parcel in her hand.

“What will you loan me on this?” she asked.

“What is it?”

“It is a novel in manuscript. I should like a hundred dollars, please.”

The clerk looked at her sharply as if questioning her sanity.

124 “A hundred dollars!” he repeated.

“Yes; I expect to get five hundred for it. Surely a fifth of that sum is not too much to ask.”

“We have no use for such articles.”

“If you would kindly read the first few chapters, sir, I think you would see that it had a marked value. Probably I shall redeem it in a few days.”

“Better take it to a publisher and obtain an advance on it. It is out of our line.”

“I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra interest on the loan,” said the young lady, persuasively.

“Couldn’t think of it. Next!”

“I only wish I could hock some of my old manuscript stories,” whispered Mr. Snodgrass to Ben. “I’d write some expressly for the purpose.”

“What can I do for you, young man?” asked the clerk, turning to Ben.

“What will you give me on this watch?” said Ben.

The clerk scanned it briefly and asked in return, “How much do you want?”

“Eight dollars,” answered Ben, following the advice of his companion.

“I will give you five.”

“All right,” said Ben.

A ticket was quickly made out, and Ben left125 the office with that and a five-dollar bill in his hand.

“You are in luck,” said Sylvanus, when they reached the street. “I wasn’t sure they would give you five on it.”

“I shall miss it,” returned Ben seriously. “I don’t know when I can redeem it.”

“Oh, don’t borrow trouble! Mine is in for two fifty, and has been in for ten months. I should have to pay about three and a half to get it out.”

“It’s an expensive way of getting money.”

“So it is, but money is money when you want it. Now I have a proposition to make.”

“What is it?”

“Let us go the theater. There’s a good play on at the People’s. A dollar will buy two seats.”

“Then you expect me to pay for both tickets?” asked Ben.

“Yes; I’ll treat another evening.”

“I can’t afford it. I have only five dollars and am not earning a living. I must hoard every penny.”

“Oh, trust to luck!” said Mr. Snodgrass easily. “Something will turn up before that money is spent.”

“It may, but there is no certainty.”

126 “At any rate let us go in and get an ice cream.”

“No, Mr. Snodgrass, I must be very economical.”

“You ought to have a little amusement now and then,” urged the author, not concealing his disappointment.

“So I will when I can afford it.”

Mr. Snodgrass endeavored to shake Ben’s determination, but without success, for Ben was prudent and felt that he had no money to spare.

On his return he paid a week’s room rent to Mrs. Robinson. This left him three dollars for a reserve fund.

“I wish I knew how I was coming out,” he reflected anxiously. “I should hate awfully to fail. What would Mr. Winter say? He would gloat over it. Any way I can never go back to him. I would rather black boots.”

Once or twice that employment had suggested itself to Ben, but he had never looked upon it with favor. It was an honest business, though a lowly one, but he felt it was unsuited to one of his education and advantages.

Selling papers seemed a shade higher and more respectable, and he decided to inquire into the pay.

One afternoon, as he bought a paper of a newsboy,127 he asked, “How does selling papers pay?”

Tommy Hooper, the boy addressed, answered, “I make about seventy-five cents a day, but I have to hustle.”

Seventy-five cents a day! That would be four dollars and a half a week, or deducting two dollars for rent he would have two dollars and a half for his work, and he felt that on that sum he could live as well as he did now, since he knew of a place where he could buy a ticket good for three dollars’ worth of meals for two dollars and a half.

“Was you goin’ into the business?” asked Tom.

“I don’t know but I may.”

“I don’t b’lieve you’d like it.”

“Why not?”

“You’ve got too good clothes on.”

“What difference does that make?”

“I don’t know of no newsboy dressed like you.”

“It wouldn’t prevent my selling papers, would it?”


“Then I wish you’d give me a few points. I think I will try it.”

“Ain’t you workin’ now?”

128 “Yes.”

“What are you doin’?”

Ben explained.

“Are you goin’ to give up your place?”

“Yes, if I find that I can sell papers.”

“Then I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll change work with you. You give me a recommend to your boss, and you can take my business. I’ve got a small route. I serve about half a dozen families with papers.”

After some negotiation this plan was carried out, and Tom Hooper was accepted at the restaurant as Ben’s successor.



Just at first Ben failed to make the money that he expected. There is a way to sell papers as there is to do any other kind of business, and it took a little time to learn.

But Ben meant to succeed and in the end he did. The first day he cleared but forty-five cents, the second, sixty-four, the third, seventy, and the fourth, eighty cents.

His good clothes attracted attention, not only on the part of customers, but also from other boys in the same kind of business.

This was especially the case with two boys who sold papers near Ben. These boys, whose names were Patsy Blake and Mike Parley, eyed Ben askance, and both took a violent prejudice against him, not only because he was a new comer, but also on account of his wearing clothes better than they could afford. This dislike was intensified when Ben began to be successful.

“Patsy,” said Mike, “did you take notice of130 that dude that’s sellin’ papers near Houston Street?”

“Yes, Patsy, the one that’s dressed like a Fifth Avenue swell.”

“Yes, he’s the one.”

“Don’t he put on style, though? I never dressed like him.”

“Thrue for you, Mike, nor I either.”

As Patsy was dressed in a ragged suit two or three sizes too large for him, and Mike’s suit was correspondingly small and equally shabby, the speakers were unquestionably right.

“Do you know his name, Mike?”

“I’ve heern him called Ben. I don’t know de udder name.”

“Any way, it’s a mane thing to take the bread out of the mouths of poor boys like you an’ me.”

“So it is, Patsy. Do you know him?”

“I went up to him last evenin’, and asked him for the loan of a cigarette, and what do you think he said?”

“What was it?”

“He said he never smoked cigarettes.”

“Likely he had some in his pocket.”

“Or else he smokes cigars.”

“Any way he wouldn’t give me one. I asked131 him would he go to Tony Pastor’s wid me, and he said he had an engagement.”

“I say, Mike, he looks down on the likes of us. What shall we do about it?”

“Lick him,” said Mike sententiously.

“We’ll give him a warnin’ to go somewhere else and not cut into our trade.”

“I’m with you, Patsy.”

“When will we do it?”


“Come on, then.”

Ben had just sold a paper when he saw the two boys approaching. It did not occur to him that they had any hostile intent till they stopped opposite and accosted him.

“I say, Fifth Averner, how’s business?”

“Do you mean me?” asked Ben.

“Yes, we means you.”

“It is pretty fair.”

“How much yer made to-day?”

“About sixty cents.”

“And I’ve made only forty.”

“And I forty-two.”

“I am sorry you haven’t done better,” said Ben sincerely.

“Oh, yes, much ye’re sorry,” returned Patsy jeeringly.

132 “Why shouldn’t I be? You work hard, and I shall be glad to have you succeed.”

“Hear him talk, Mike.”

“It’s you that keeps us from earnin’ money.”

“How is that?”

“Because you get away with our trade. It’s a shame, so it is, to take the bread out’n our mouths.”

“You’re mistaken, boys. I only want my share of success.”

“You’ve got away two of my customers. I seed ’em buyin’ papers of you yest’erday afternoon.”

“I can’t tell your customers. When a man wants to buy a paper of me of course I sell to him. Isn’t that right?”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I suppose you came here for some purpose.”

“We want you to go away from dis corner. You can go on Broadway, and den you won’t interfere wid me and Patsy.”

“But I may interfere with some other boys.”

“Dat’s nothing to us. Dis is your last day here. To-morrer you must sell somewhere else.”

Ben was a boy of spirit, and he did not fancy being ordered away by rival newsboys. He felt133 that he had just as much right to sell papers on the Bowery as any one else, and he did not propose to submit to dictation.

“Well, what do you say?” asked Mike.

“Wouldn’t it be just as well,” suggested Ben composedly, “for you and your friend to leave the Bowery?”

“Hear till him, Patsy. Get onto his cheek!”

“It seems to me, boys, that you would do better to attend to business. I’ve sold four papers while you have been talking to me.”

“We’re givin’ you a warnin’! Now, what yer goin’ to do about it?”

“I’m going to stay where I am,” said Ben firmly. “I have as much right to be here as you.”

“It’s mane business for a boy like you to rob poor boys of their customers.”

“You talk about poor boys,” retorted Ben, “I’m a poor boy myself.”

“You look like it, wid them clothes!” said Patsy, with withering sarcasm.

“I wear good clothes, I admit, but they were given me by a gentleman in Boston. It was a piece of good luck. I haven’t any more money than either of you. I have to live on what I make.”

134 This statement the two newsboys did not believe, and their looks showed that they did not.

“Me and Patsy are in earnest,” went on Mike. “You’ve got to keep away from this corner.”

“And what if I don’t?”

“Den we’ll lick you.”

By this time Ben’s spirit was roused.

“You can do it now if you want to,” he said defiantly.

The challenge was accepted. Mike dropped his papers and aimed a blow at Ben. It was returned in good earnest, and then Patsy sailed in.

Ben now proceeded to business. There was for about a minute a lively tussle, during which it was hard to tell which was uppermost and which underneath. But at the end of the first round the two invaders were lying on their backs, Patsy with a bloody nose, and Mike with a black eye, while Ben stood erect with a flushed face and somewhat disordered clothing, a victor.

Just then a policeman rounded the corner, and hastened to the scene of conflict.

“What’s all this?” he asked.

“Only a little scrap,” said Ben.

“The two boys jumped on this one,” put in a bystander, “and tried to lick him.”

Ben now proceeded to business, and at the end of the first round Patsy had a bloody nose, and Mike a black eye.—Page 134.

Ben Bruce.

135 The policeman was disposed to take the side of Ben as the best dressed.

“Do you want to complain of them?” he asked, turning to Ben.

“No,” answered Ben, “they are friends of mine. We were having a little fun.”

“If they try it again I’ll have some fun with them,” said the officer. “Now get up and go along with you.”

Patsy and Mike got up, looking rather sheepish. But Ben’s conduct impressed them favorably. But for him they would probably have been arrested and held for disorderly conduct.

“I say,” said Patsy, “you’re a brick, even if you do wear good clothes. You saved us from the cop, you did. Here’s my hand.”

Ben took it unhesitatingly, though it stood in decided need of washing.

“Here’s mine too,” added Mike. “You know how to fight, you do.”

“But you won’t make me fight any more, will you?” said Ben, smiling, as he shook Mike’s hand cordially.

“No, we won’t. You can stay here and sell papers as long as you like, and if anybody lays for you just call on me and Patsy.”

136 “I will,” said Ben. “I will look upon you as my friends.”

“I suppose that is ‘conquering a peace,’” he reflected as the two newsboys left the scene of the conflict.

“I say, you fought well,” said a tall, well dressed man, who had watched the fight with interest. “What was up?”

“They warned me not to sell papers here. They said I was interfering with them.”

“And you wouldn’t have it? Good! I admire your pluck. How many papers have you got left?”


“Here, give them to me.”

“But they are all the same.”

“Never mind! I want to help you along. Here’s a quarter. Never mind the change.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“How long have you been at this business?”

“Four days.”

“Does it pay?”

“Better than the business I left.”

“What is that?”

“Distributing circulars for a restaurant.”

“Well, that’s satisfactory. Would you like to work in the evening also?”

137 “Yes, sir; I should like to increase my income.”

“Then come round to the People’s Theater with me. They are bringing out a piece of mine where a newsboy is introduced. I guess you can play the part.”

“I’ll try,” said Ben.

There was a halo of romance about the theater to Ben’s eyes, and he felt that he should be proud of treading the boards in even so humble a rôle as that of newsboy.

“Come along, then! I will introduce you to the manager. The play is to be produced for the first time to-morrow evening. We thought we had a boy engaged, but he hasn’t shown up and we can’t wait for him.”



Ben’s companion led the way through the stage door into the green-room. He appeared to be known, for he was at once admitted by the door-keeper.

“Is the manager in?” asked the author.

“Yes, Mr. Wilkins.”

“There he is,” he added, as a pleasant-looking gentleman emerged from the wings.

“Halloa, Wilkins,” said the manager. “How shall we manage about the boy?”

“I have brought you one,” replied Wilkins, calling attention to Ben.

“Do you know him? Will he do?”

“I think he will.”

“What’s your name, young man?”

“Ben Bruce.”

“Ha! A good stage name. Have you ever acted?”

“No, sir, except at exhibitions.”

139 “Are you easily frightened? Can you face a crowd?”

“I am not bashful,” answered Ben with a smile.

“Then come here for rehearsal to-morrow at two o’clock. Mr. Wilkins, you can furnish him with his part.”

“All right, sir. I’ll take him in charge.”

The manager, who seemed to be a very busy man, noted down Ben’s name and hurried to another part of the stage.

“Well, Ben, it is all settled,” said the dramatic author. “I want you to do yourself credit, and help on the success of my piece. You have no engagement for the rest of the day and evening, have you?”

“No, sir.”

“Then come home and take supper with me. This evening I will train you in your part.”

“I shall be glad to have you do so.”

“I live on Lexington Avenue near Thirtieth Street. We are a quiet family. My mother and I make the whole of it.”

Ben submitted himself to the guidance of his companion, and taking a Third Avenue horse-car soon arrived at Thirtieth Street, where they struck off for Lexington Avenue. The house was140 a plain one, three stories in height, but looked home-like and comfortable.

“I’ll take you up to my den, where I do my work,” said Mr. Wilkins. “It is my chamber as well and you will find arrangements for washing. Then I will go down and let my mother know that I have invited a young actor to supper.”

Ben laughed. It seemed a good joke to him to be referred to as a young actor.

In fifteen minutes Mr. Wilkins returned. He found that Ben had availed himself of the interval to make his toilet.

“Have you written many plays, Mr. Wilkins?” asked Ben.

“No. This is only the third. I do some literary work for papers and magazines, but plays, if successful, pay much better. You see I have a few books here. You may like to look them over.”

There were book shelves near the writing desk, containing a miscellaneous assortment of books, perhaps three hundred in number.

“You like reading, Ben?”

“Yes, sir, very much.”

“You are welcome to borrow books from my library, such as it is.”

“Thank you; I should like to do so. I ought141 to tell you,” he added smiling, “that I have the privilege of living in the same house with an author.”

“Indeed! Who is it?”

“Sylvanus Snodgrass.”

“I don’t think I know him.”

“He writes novelettes for the Weekly Bugle.”

“I am afraid I am not familiar with the authors who write for that publication. What is your friend’s best known story?”

“I think he prides himself most on ‘The Ragpicker’s Curse.’”

Mr. Wilkins smiled.

“I suppose it is hardly in the style of Howells,” he said.

“No; Mr. Snodgrass is confident that Howells could not write such a story.”

“I have no doubt he is correct. But there is the supper bell. Let us go down.”

A neatly-dressed old lady was already seated behind the tea-urn.

“Mother,” said Mr. Wilkins, “let me introduce my young friend, Benjamin Bruce.”

“I am glad to see thee, Benjamin,” said Mrs. Wilkinson, with a kindly smile.

“Thank you,” said Ben, feeling drawn to the kindly old lady.

142 “My mother was brought up a Quaker,” explained Mr. Wilkinson, “and keeps up the Quaker speech. I have fallen away from it, but I have a great respect for my mother’s church, or rather meeting.”

“Thee is very young for an actor, Benjamin,” said Mrs. Wilkins.

“Yes,” answered Ben, “but I can hardly call myself an actor yet. Your son is going to make me one.”

“I am afraid thee is ill advised, John,” said the old lady. “An actor’s life is full of temptation.”

“True, mother, but Ben is a good boy, and I am sure he will resist temptation.”

“I hope so indeed, John.”

“My mother is hardly reconciled to my writing plays, Ben,” remarked John Wilkins. “I cannot induce her to go to the theater and see my piece.”

“I judge not others,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “but I have never been to the playhouse, and I am too old to change.”

“Still you will wish me success, mother!”

“I always wish thee success in all things good, John.”

“Then I hope the play will prove a good one.”

The supper was plain but palatable. Ben143 relished the hot tea, the buttered toast, the cold meat, and preserves, and ate heartily. It was in refreshing contrast to the cheap restaurant on the Bowery where he had been eating lately.

When supper was over Mr. Wilkins rose from the table.

“Now for business, Ben,” he said. “We must see what preparations we can make for to-morrow evening.”

He handed Ben a small manuscript book when they reached the study.

“This is your part,” he said. “Before each speech you will see a few words. That is the cue. They are the concluding words of the previous speaker.”

The little book contained ten pages, but nearly half of it was taken up by the cues.

“It is a disadvantage to you not to know the other parts and the general drift of the story, but these I can give you some idea of.”

Two hours were devoted to coaching Ben in his rôle. He was a quick student and had always been fond of public speaking. Also he had taken part at home in various little plays at Sunday-school and other entertainments, and Mr. Wilkins was much gratified by the rapidity with which he seemed to master his part.

144 “There, Ben, I think that will do,” he said when the clock struck nine. “You have done a good evening’s work, and I think you will make a good impression at rehearsal. Will you meet me at the stage door at two o’clock, or let us say, a little earlier?”

“I will be there twenty minutes before the time, Mr. Wilkins.”

“By the way, Ben, I forgot to say that you will be paid at least fifteen dollars a week, or possibly more.”

Fifteen dollars a week! It quite took away Ben’s breath. Even a single week at that rate of remuneration would set him on his feet.

“That is more than I earn at selling papers,” he said with a smile.

“So I suppose. I think it will be better for you to give up selling papers on the street while you are an actor.”

“I can hire Tom Hooper to sell for me. He took my place at the restaurant, but he has got tired of it already.”

“That would be a good idea.”

The next morning Ben met Tom Hooper on the Bowery and proposed to him to take his place for a time.

145 “Why?” asked Tom. “Are you goin’ out of de business?”

“Not exactly. I am going to sell papers every evening at the People’s Theater.”

“At de theayter? Where?”

“On the stage.”

“Will you be let?” asked Tom, puzzled.

“I am going to play the part of the newsboy in the new play.”

“You don’t say!” ejaculated Tom, opening his eyes wide. “Be you an actor?”

“I am going to try it.”

“I’ll go and see you.”

“Don’t come the first evening, Tom. I don’t know how I shall get along.”

“Then I’ll come the second evening.”

“I shan’t mind that so much. But I must be going to rehearsal.”

Ben acquitted himself at rehearsal very well, so well that the manager patted him on the shoulder and said, “You’ll do, my son!” and Mr. Wilkins shook his hand cordially.

“You did fine, Ben,” he exclaimed.

“Thanks to your training, Mr. Wilkins.”

“And to your own talent.”



Where are you going this evening, Ben?” asked Sylvanus Snodgrass of his young friend.

Ben did not care to have Sylvanus Snodgrass for an auditor the first evening and he answered evasively, “I have an engagement with a friend.”

“Do I know him? Who is he?”

“A Mr. Wilkins, living on Lexington Avenue.”

“May I come too?” asked Snodgrass, who was by no means bashful.

“I don’t feel at liberty to invite you, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“I don’t seem to see anything of you lately,” grumbled Sylvanus. “You were away last evening.”

“Yes, I was with Mr. Wilkins.”

“He seems to have cut me out,” said Mr. Snodgrass, displaying some jealousy.

“It is because I have a little business with him,” explained Ben.

“Ha! business? What kind of business?”

“I may be able to tell you to-morrow.”

147 “It seems there is a mystery,” said the novelist, not half pleased.

“It won’t be a mystery long.”

Ben managed to slip away unobserved, for he feared that Mr. Snodgrass might be disposed to follow him. He arrived at the theater in good season, and there on the large poster in front of the building it gave him a peculiar sensation to see in the list of characters in the play—

Jed, the newsboy, Ben Bruce.

“I wonder if any one will see my name and know who it is,” he asked himself.

“Hallo, Ben!”

Turning, Ben saw Patsy Blake looking over his shoulder.

“Are you goin’ into de teayter?” asked Patsy.

“Yes,” answered Ben, smiling.

“I’d like to go if I had the price of a ticket.”

An impulse led Ben to say, “I’ll pay your way in, Patsy,” and he handed his newsboy rival twenty-five cents.

“Bully for you! Will we sit together?”

“I can’t very well. I shall be on the stage.”

“What!” exclaimed Patsy.

“Do you see that name?” asked Ben, pointing to the poster.

148 “Are you goin’ to act?” inquired Patsy, awe-stricken.


“How did you get the chance?”

“The manager hired me. The boy who was to act didn’t show up.”

“I didn’t know you was smart enough to act,” said Patsy, eyeing Ben curiously.

“I don’t know whether I am or not, but I am going to try.”

“Won’t Mike be su’prised. I wish he could go.”

At this very moment Mike Farley came up, and Patsy enjoyed his astonishment when the great news was imparted to him that the boy they had been fighting with the day before was going to act on the stage.

Ben gave him a quarter also, and felt sure of two friendly auditors.

“I must go now, boys,” he said. “It is time to get ready.”

“Who’d have thought Ben was an actor!” ejaculated Mike. “I wish I was in his shoes.”

“So do I.”

“P’raps he’ll give you an’ me a chance, Patsy.”

“You couldn’t act, Mike Farley.”

“I kin act as well as you, Patsy Blake.”

149 Hostilities seemed imminent, but fortunately a mutual friend came up and they were averted.

Ben had to dress for his part. His ordinary suit was thought to be too good for a poor newsboy, and one was supplied by the management not much better than those worn by Patsy and Mike.

Ben was destined to have another auditor known to him. Mr. Snodgrass, finding that his evening was likely to be a lonely one, suddenly decided to go to the theater. On looking over the evening announcements, he was led to think that he would enjoy “The Belle of the Bowery,” at the People’s Theater.

Mr. Snodgrass was not always in funds, but he had received two dollars and a half that day from the Weekly Bugle for a column sketch, and he felt that he was justified in attending the play. He accordingly purchased a fifty-cent ticket, which gave him a seat in the balcony.

“I’d have taken Ben if he hadn’t gone off with that Mr. Wilkins,” said Sylvanus to himself. “I suppose he can’t afford to buy a ticket.”

Soon the curtain rose. There was a street scene, in which the characters were an old man from the country and a tough. There was a little150 altercation, and the countryman seemed likely to get the worst of it, when a newsboy ran in from the wings and sprang to his defense.

At the first words of the boy Mr. Snodgrass craned his head forward in amazement. The voice seemed very familiar. Was it—could it be Ben? A few words more, and he was forced to admit that it was.

“Well, I’ll be blowed!” he ejaculated.

I am afraid that these words were hardly in keeping with the character of a distinguished romancer, but they were actually used by Sylvanus Snodgrass.

It is needless to say that Mr. Snodgrass followed the play with the utmost attention, particularly when Ben was on the stage. Before the curtain fell on the last act he saw reason to feel proud of his friend and fellow-lodger, for Ben scored an unqualified success. He was perfectly at his ease, and threw himself earnestly into the part. He was not aware of the presence of Mr. Snodgrass, but he looked up to the gallery and saw Patsy and Mike applauding vociferously.

Toward the end of the third act enthusiasm was created by a bouquet which was thrown from one of the orchestra seats, evidently intended for Ben.

151 “Take it up and bow!” whispered the actor nearest him.

Ben was quick to accept the suggestion. He stooped and lifting the bouquet, bowed gracefully in the direction whence it had been thrown. This brought out a volley of applause.

Mr. Snodgrass felt proud of his connection with the hero of the evening.

“I know that boy,” he whispered to his next neighbor.

“Do you indeed? He is smart.”

“Yes; we are very intimate friends. He occupies a room in the same house with me.”

Patsy and Mike also were pleased with Ben’s success. They led the applause in the gallery, and were by no means backward in their expressions of satisfaction.

“I say, Mike, he’s a corker,” said Patsy.

“That’s so.”

“I wished I could act like him.”

“Do you know him?” asked Dick Flanagan.

“Yes, I know him as well as I know you. He paid my ticket in.”

“And mine too,” added Mike.

“I’d like to know him,” said Dick enviously.

“I’ll give you an introduce some time,” rejoined Patsy.

152 The curtain fell at the end of the last act, and Mr. Wilkins, the anxious author, realized with gratification that the play was a success. He went round to the stage door, and entering gave Ben’s hand a hearty shake.

“You did yourself proud, my boy!” he said.

“I am glad you were pleased,” returned Ben modestly.

Others, too, offered their congratulations, including Mr. Thornton, who played the leading part.

“You are one of us, Ben,” he said, as he shook hands with the boy. “I confess I was afraid when I heard that you had never been on the stage before, but I soon found that there was no reason for apprehension.”

“Thank you, Mr. Thornton,” said Ben, most gratified.

“I congratulate you, Mr. Wilkins, on the success of your play,” said Ben, turning to his friend and patron.

“You helped bring it about. A good deal depended on your part being well played.”

When Ben emerged from the theater he found Mr. Snodgrass waiting for him.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Ben?” asked the novelist reproachfully.

153 “Were you here?” asked Ben, surprised.


“Who told you I was to appear?”

“No one. I didn’t know anything about it till you appeared on the stage. I was so surprised that you might have knocked me down with a feather. You never told me that you were an actor.”

“I didn’t know it myself. This is my first appearance on any stage.”

“You don’t mean to say that you never acted before?”

“Only at school exhibitions and such like.”

“Then you’re a born genius, and I am proud of you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“And who is Mr. Wilkins—the gentleman you spoke of?”

“He is the author of the piece. He engaged me to act the newsboy’s part.”

“And why didn’t you let me know?”

“Because I didn’t know how I was coming out. I shouldn’t like to have had my friend see me fail.”

“There is no such word as fail—for you, Ben.”

“I hope so.”

As Ben reached the Bowery he espied his two154 humble friends, Patsy and Mike, eyeing him wistfully.

“How are you, Patsy? How are you, Mike?” he said, offering his hand, to the great pride of the newsboys. “How did you like the play?”

“It was tip-top, and so was you,” answered Patsy enthusiastically.

“I saw you up in the gallery,” said Ben.

“Did you now?” asked the delighted Mike.

“Didn’t I tell you I knowed him, boys?” he added, turning to two or three friends when Ben had passed on.



Ben slept later than usual the next morning. He was awakened by his neighbor, Mr. Snodgrass, who entered his room, his face glowing with excitement. In his hand he held a morning paper.

“Ben, you’re famous!” he exclaimed.

“Am I?” asked Ben, drowsily.

“Yes; look at this paragraph in the Herald. Or, stay. I’ll read it.”

He read as follows:

“At the People’s Theater last evening a new play was produced, ‘The Belle of the Bowery,’ by the well-known dramatist, Mr. John Wilkins. It is a local play, and was received very favorably. It is well put on the stage, and on the whole was well played. Mr. William Thornton acquitted himself well, as usual, and Jed the Newsboy, was remarkably well played by Ben Bruce. We have seldom seen so young an actor who gave so much promise of future achievements.”

156 “That is very complimentary,” said Ben, whose face flushed with natural pleasure.

“I should say so. You have achieved fame at one bound. The time may come, and that soon, when your name will be as well known as mine.” Ben was tempted to smile at the harmless vanity of his companion, but he appreciated his friendly feelings, and thanked him for his favorable opinion.

Ben dressed himself and went out to breakfast with Mr. Snodgrass. On the way he bought the Sun and World, both of which spoke well of his acting.

At the end of the first week Ben was notified that his salary was ready. It was handed to him in an envelope. He opened it and to his delight found that it contained five bills of five dollars each. The manager appreciated the hit his young recruit had made.

“Twenty-five dollars!” he exclaimed in astonishment. “Is it possible that I have earned as much as this in a single week!

“Now,” he thought, “I can return Albert Graham the five dollars he lent me.”

He went into the reading-room of an uptown hotel, and sitting down at the table wrote the following letter.

157Dear Albert:

“You will find inclosed a five-dollar bill which is sent in return for your very kind loan. Don’t think I am pinching myself, as I have twenty dollars left in my pocketbook. Just at present I am doing remarkably well, but I have seen some anxious days since I left Wrayburn. I wouldn’t advise any boy to leave home unless he has as good reasons as I, or has a good prospect ahead. I must tell you that before I got steady work I was reduced to thirty-seven cents, and knew that in two days I had to meet a rent bill of two dollars. I fully expected to be turned out into the streets, for my landlady, though kind-hearted is poor, and could not afford to keep me unless I paid my rent regularly.

“You will be interested to hear what I am working at. Well, for a time I sold papers on the Bowery, clearing about seventy-five cents a day. But my first situation was distributing circulars, or rather bills of fare for a cheap restaurant on the same street. I was paid chiefly in meals, and such meals! Often and often I wished myself at my mother’s table, or at yours, where I could get good wholesome food. But I had a chance to change my business. You will hardly believe me when I tell you that I am acting at the People’s158 Theater. I am taking the part of a newsboy. How well I succeed you can judge from two or three newspaper clippings I send you. I don’t know how long my present employment will last. I hope a good while, for I am much better paid than I could hope to be in any other line of business.

“Now how are things going on in Wrayburn? Do you often see my mother? Please show her this letter and the newspaper clippings. Give her my love, but you needn’t trouble yourself to give any such message to my stepfather, to whom I owe no debt of gratitude.

“How I wish you could walk into my room and have an old-fashioned chat. Have you ridden at any races lately? If you have I hope you were successful. Write soon to

“Your true friend,

Ben Bruce.”

Albert Graham no sooner received this letter than he went over to see Mrs. Winter. Jacob Winter had gone to a neighboring town on an errand, and Albert was glad to find Ben’s mother at home alone.

“You have heard from Ben,” exclaimed Mrs. Winter, noticing his bright face.

159 “Yes, Mrs. Winter.”

“How is he? Is he getting on comfortably? Last night I dreamed that the poor boy was penniless and suffering for food.”

“Dreams go by contraries, you know. The letter contained five dollars which he sent me in payment for the money I lent him when he went away.”

“Then he must be doing well!” said Mrs. Winter gladly.

“He writes that he has twenty dollars left in his pocketbook.”

“What in the world can he be doing?”

“Read his letter and you will see.”

Mrs. Winter read the letter eagerly. Her face showed the surprise she felt.

“Ben acting in a theater!” she exclaimed. “It hardly seems possible.”

“Read these newspaper clippings and you will see that he is acting well.”

Mrs. Winter read the notices, and her eyes lighted up with gladness and pride.

“I shall feel much happier now,” she said. “I have been worrying about Ben, and fancying that he might be suffering.”

“Ben is smart. He will make his way.”

When Jacob Winter came home he said to160 his wife, “Have you heard from that boy of yours?”

“Not directly. Albert Graham had a letter.”

“Beggin’ for money as like as not. I wonder he got money enough for postage.”

Mrs. Winter made no reply.

“If you write to him you can tell him I’ll take him back if he’ll promise to obey me in all things and work stiddy.”

“Yes, I’ll tell him, but I don’t think he’ll come.”

“Then he’s a fool. He can’t make his expenses in York.”

“Will you pay his expenses back to Wrayburn, Mr. Winter?”

“No,” answered Jacob cautiously. “I couldn’t do that. Why, it would cost six or seven dollars.”

“Then how is he to come back?”

“He can foot it, and beg his victuals on the way,” suggested Mr. Winter.

“Ben would be too proud to do that,” said his mother promptly.

“That’s what’s the matter with him,” exclaimed Jacob. “He’s too proud. He had a good home here, but he got uppish and must try his luck outside. You mark my words Mrs. W., he’ll see his folly, and that before very long.”

If Mrs. Winter had not read Ben’s letter to161 Albert Graham she might have felt troubled by these words, but as it was she remained calm and composed.

The fact was that Jacob Winter was beginning to miss Ben. The latter had done a great many chores, and attended to many little duties about the farm, which now devolved upon his stepfather.

Mr. Winter had thought of hiring a boy, but found that none could be induced to work for him at the wages he was willing to pay. In this emergency he thought of Ben, who he was persuaded was in a state of distress, but much as he desired to get him back he was not willing to advance the money for his traveling expenses.

The next morning he chanced to fall in with Albert Graham.

“I hear you’ve had a letter from Ben,” said the farmer, halting his horse.

“Yes, sir.”

“Where did he write from?”

“From New York.”

“Did he say how he was doin’?”

“He didn’t complain any.”

“What is he doin’?”

“He has been selling papers on the Bowery.”

“That’s a mis’rable business. Like as not he doesn’t make over twenty-five cents a day.”

162 “I think he must make more than that.”

“Did he say he was sorry he left a good home?”

“No, he didn’t say so.”

“He’s too proud, I reckon. When you write him tell him that if he’ll come home and apologize for runnin’ away I’ll take him back.”

“I’ll tell him, Mr. Winter.”

“Here he had enough to eat, and likely he don’t get it where he is. Have you got his letter with you?”

“No, sir.”

“I’d like to read it.”

“Ben wouldn’t want me to show it.”

“Sho! are there any secrets in it?”

“You see Ben writes confidentially to me, Mr. Winter.”

“I s’pose he wouldn’t like to have me know what hard times he has had. Well, you write him what I tole you.”

“All right, sir, but suppose he hasn’t got money enough to bring him home?”

“Tell him to foot it. He’s young and strong. He can stop at houses on the way, and ask for somethin’ to eat.”

“Wouldn’t it be better for you to send him five dollars to bring him back?”

163 “No, Albert Graham, I ain’t such a fool. He would keep the money, and stay where he is.”

“There goes a mean man!” soliloquized Albert, as Jacob whipped up his old gray horse and rode away. “Ben won’t be in any hurry to come back to him.”

But Ben’s smooth waters were not to be of long continuance, as the next chapter will show.



Ben lost no time in calling at Simpson’s and redeeming his watch. He felt very fortunate in recovering it so soon.

Mr. Snodgrass dropped a hint that he should be glad to have Ben redeem his watch too, but the young actor did not feel that his prosperity was sure to be permanent, and ignored the suggestion. In fact his engagement continued but four weeks, as at the end of that time Mr. Wilkins’s play had to give place to another attraction at the People’s Theater.

“I hope, Ben,” said Mr. Wilkins, “that the piece may go on the road soon, but just at present we have not been able to find a capitalist willing to advance the necessary sum. If a new company is organized I shall try to get your old part for you.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wilkins. Of course I should like it. But the four weeks I have played have been of great service to me. Besides paying a165 debt and getting my watch out of pawn, I have been able to save up sixty dollars, which are safely deposited in the Union Dime Savings Bank.”

“That is good. And what do you propose to do, Ben?”

“I shall go back to my old business.”

“Selling papers on the Bowery?”


“It must be slow after being a popular favorite on the stage.”

“It will be, but I don’t want to be idle.”

“Perhaps you are right. I will be on the look-out for you, and if I find something more congenial I will inform you at once.”

Ben did find it slow work following his old business. He missed the nightly applause, and the pleasant consciousness that he was earning three times his necessary expenses.

But it was agreeable to think that he had some money in the savings bank to fall back upon. Mr. Snodgrass urged him to use a part of it, and even hinted that he should be glad to borrow ten dollars, but Ben knew the novelist too well to feel that it would be a safe investment.

It was about this time that a young man of twenty took an unoccupied room at Mrs. Robinson’s166 house. He professed to be earning twelve dollars a week in a counting house on Pearl Street as assistant bookkeeper.

He was dressed in quite a pretentious style, and had a large stock of flashy neckties. He had seen Ben on the stage at the People’s Theater, and this led him to cultivate his acquaintance.

“You must have saved up a lot of money while you were acting,” he said one day.

“A little, Mr. Grayson,” Ben admitted. “I have sixty dollars in the Union Dime Savings Bank.”

“Humph! I don’t think much of savings banks.”

“What do you consider better?”

“I’ve got a friend doing business in Wall Street. Give it to me and I’ll get him to buy a few shares of stock for you on a margin.”

“I think I would prefer to leave the money where it is.”

“All you will get there is a paltry four per cent.”

“The interest doesn’t amount to much, to be sure, but the money is safe.”

George Grayson did not press the matter, but invited Ben out to play pool at a place on Sixth Avenue.

167 “I never played the game,” said Ben.

“No matter; you’ll pick it up directly.”

“But I can’t afford to play it.”

“It only costs five cents.”

Knowing nothing of the game, Ben accepted this as true, and curiosity led him to accompany his new acquaintance.

“I’ll coach you,” said Grayson.

They made choice of tables and commenced playing. Two other young men, friends of Grayson, joined them.

The game occupied only about ten minutes. Ben succeeded in pocketing one ball, and naturally stood last.

“Well, Ben, you’re beaten!” said Grayson. “The rule is to pay at the end of each game.”

Ben took a nickel from his pocket and handed it to the attendant.

“What’s this for?” he asked.

“My friend told me that the game cost five cents.”

“Yes, five cents a cue.”

“Well, I only used one cue.”

“Come, young feller, no fooling! There were four played, and as you were beaten you pay for the whole. Fifteen cents more.”

“That’s straight, Ben,” said Grayson.

168 “But you told me it would be only five cents.”

“Don’t argue the matter or all the boys will be laughing at you.”

Ben saw that he had been deceived, but took the advice of his tricky companion.

“Now for another game!” said Grayson.

“You can count me out,” said Ben.

“What! Does it worry you so much to get beaten?” sneered his companion.

“No, but I can’t afford to play.”

“You say that with sixty dollars in the bank!”

“I shouldn’t have it there long, if I played pool every evening.”

Grayson whispered some words in the ear of the next player and he laughed rather derisively. Ben thought he caught the word “miser.” At any rate he had had enough of pool playing, and soon after left the hall.

He did not feel very cordial towards Grayson, but the latter made friendly advances, and as he said no more about pool Ben gradually admitted him to companionship.

Two or three times he asked Grayson the street and number of the business firm which employed him, but only received an evasive answer.

There came a dull time, so far as news was concerned, and Ben found that the sale of papers169 fell off, so that he was no longer able to earn seventy-five cents a day. This was the very smallest sum on which he could live even with the strictest economy, and, reluctant as he was to do it, he found that he must draw some money from the savings bank.

During Ben’s career as an actor he had increased his stock of underclothing, and, having only a gripsack, had invested in a small sized trunk, which he found much more convenient.

In the tray of this trunk he had placed his savings bank book. He opened the trunk and looked confidently for the book. But to his surprise it was not to be found.

“Perhaps I put it in the lower part of the trunk,” he said to himself, though he felt sure it had been in the tray. He continued his search, but it proved to be vain.

Ben sat down before the open trunk and tried to recall all the incidents connected with the last time of opening it. But the more he thought the more puzzled he became.

Then it flashed upon him that the book might have been stolen. He went at once to the room of his literary friend, Sylvanus Snodgrass, and told him of his discovery.

“It has been stolen!” said Sylvanus instantly.170 “I introduced an incident like this into my last serial story for the Bugle.”

“But who could have stolen it?” asked Ben, perplexed. “The servant wouldn’t do it I am sure.”

“No, she is an honest Swedish girl. She wouldn’t be capable of it.”

“I agree with you, but some one must have taken it from the trunk.”

“Of course! Let me think,” and the novelist leaned his head on his hand and wrinkled up his forehead in the throes of mental speculation.

“I have it!” he exclaimed suddenly.

“What! the bank book!”

“No; I begin to understand the mystery.”

Ben regarded him patiently. He knew that Sylvanus would soon impart to him his suspicions.

“Last evening I took a walk with Grayson,” said the novelist. “I noticed a new and handsome ring upon his finger. I asked him where it came from. He said, ‘It was given me by a friend,’ but he spoke hesitatingly. ‘It must have cost as much as ten dollars,’ I said. ‘Fifteen!’ he answered. ‘That is, I saw a ring like it in a shop window for fifteen dollars.’

“Depend upon it, Ben, that ring was bought171 with your money, and George Grayson opened your trunk and stole your bank book.”

“I don’t like to think so,” said Ben, troubled.

“I feel sure of it.”

“What would you advise me to do?”

“Go to the bank, give notice of your loss, and find out whether any money has been drawn from the bank on your account.”

This seemed to be sensible advice, and Ben acted upon it the next morning. Mr. Snodgrass accompanied him to the banking house at the junction of Broadway and Sixth Avenue at Thirty-second Street.

Ben went up to one of the windows—the one where the paying teller pays over the money—and gave notice of the loss of his book—giving the number.

“When did you see the book last?” asked the official.


“And to-day is Friday.”

“I should like to know if any money has been drawn on it?” asked Ben.

The books were referred to, and the answer came, “Forty dollars were drawn day before yesterday. Didn’t you sign the order?”


172 The receipt was looked up, and the signature examined.

“Isn’t that your signature?”

“No, sir.”

“Then it must have been imitated. The resemblance is very close.”

Ben was forced to admit that it was.

At this moment Sylvanus, who had been looking out of the front window, came up and said hurriedly, “Grayson is coming, and he has a bank book in his hand.”



Ben quickly informed the paying teller of the new arrival, and he and Snodgrass took a position on the left hand side of the main entrance, where there was a chance of their escaping observation.

Grayson entered the bank with a jaunty step and walked up to the window of the paying teller. He did not stop to write a check for the sum he wished to withdraw, the check being already drawn and inclosed in the book.

According to custom he passed in the book and waited for the money.

The teller eyed him attentively, but did not do so in a manner to excite suspicion.

Opening the book he said, “You drew forty dollars yesterday.”

“Yes,” answered Grayson composedly, “I thought that would be all I should need, but I am making a little investment, and have drawn fifteen dollars more.”

174 “Very well.”

The paying teller took the book and went to the ledger, ostensibly to compare the signature with that on the check. At the same time he whispered to a young employee, who immediately left the bank to summon a policeman.

George Grayson kept his place at the window, looking more cool and unconcerned than he would had he known what was going on.

Somehow there seemed to be a good deal of delay in getting the money. The paying teller occupied a considerable time in turning over the pages of the ledger.

Apparently he had selected the wrong book, for he then went to another and began to examine that. Now and then he turned his eyes to the front entrance.

Grayson suspected nothing at first, but after a while it occurred to him to wonder why he had to wait so long, especially as two other persons had come into the bank and were standing behind him waiting for their turn.

Thus far he had not discovered Ben and his friend the novelist, but chancing to turn his head after a time he caught sight of the two.

Then he understood.

“I must bolt,” he said to himself, and leaving175 his place he hurried to the door. But he met the boy coming up the steps with a policeman.

The boy spoke a word to the officer, who sprang forward and grasped Grayson by the arm.

“What do you mean?” demanded Grayson haughtily, assuming a look of virtuous innocence.

“Come back into the bank with me,” said the policeman, “and you will learn.”

“I am in great haste,” replied Grayson, trying to shake off the officer’s hand.

“Not so fast, my friend,” said the officer.

“This is an outrage,” blustered Grayson. “I have committed no wrong.”

“In that case you won’t be detained long. Come in.”

Grayson, much against his will, had to obey.

By this time the bank official had come out in front of the partition.

“This man has forged a draft on the account of another person,” he said.

“Is the owner of the book here?”

The teller indicated Ben.

“This is a conspiracy,” blustered Grayson, but he was slow in meeting Ben’s eye.

“Is your name Ben Bruce?” demanded the teller.

“Ye-es,” answered Grayson in a tone of hesitation.

176 “That’s a lie,” broke in Sylvanus. “He has always represented himself as George Grayson.”

“I will take him to the station house,” said the officer, “and depend on you to appear as prosecutor.”

These words were addressed to Ben.

Grayson’s face changed. He felt that he was in a tight place.

“Look here, Bruce,” he said insinuatingly, “can’t we fix this thing? I’ve got a ring here that I paid twelve dollars for, and I have a few dollars in my pocket. I’ll give you them, and agree to pay the balance as soon as possible if you’ll let me go.”

“Shall I be allowed to do this?” asked Ben, who felt disposed to be lenient.

“It is too late,” said the officer. “I will trouble you to come to the station-house with me to make known the charge.”

Ben did so, and matters took their course. After some delay he received back the savings-bank book with the ring and about ten dollars. George Grayson was sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

Ben pitied him and would gladly have spared him this, but the law was inexorable.

Grayson tried to shake off the officer’s hand. “Not so fast, my friend,” said the officer.—Page 175.

Ben Bruce.



The summer passed slowly. Business was unusually dull even for this time of the year, and Ben’s earnings were proportionately small. Week by week he was obliged to draw from his fund in the savings bank until he had less than five dollars to his credit there.

He had not written to his mother or to Albert Graham for a considerable time, not having any good news to communicate.

How was he coming out? That was the question which he anxiously asked himself without obtaining any satisfactory answer. He began to think that he might feel compelled to pawn his watch once more, with a very remote chance of redeeming it.

It was about this time that he had a surprising adventure. He was selling papers at ten o’clock in the morning when suddenly a lady, handsomely dressed, stopped opposite him and regarded him attentively.

178 “Will you have a morning paper, ma’am?” asked Ben.

“Yes, I will buy all you have,” was the unexpected answer.

“There are twenty-five cents’ worth,” said Ben, counting them over. It occurred to him that the lady was a philanthropist, who took this way of helping him.

“Here is a dollar. Never mind the change.”

“Thank you. You are very kind. Will you take the papers, or shall I carry them for you?”

“Never mind! Leave them in that doorway, or give them to some other newsboy. I want to employ you for a time.”

Tom Hooper happened to be passing, and Ben, considerably to Tom’s surprise, went up to him and handed him his papers.

“You can have these papers, Tom. They are a present from this lady.”

Tom accepted them with pleasure, for he felt sure of disposing of at least a part of them.

“Now,” said Ben. “I am at your service, madam.”

“Please call a cab.”

Ben complied with the lady’s request.

“Help me in,” she went on, “and get in yourself.”

179 As the coachman closed the door she said, “Drive to the Fifth Avenue Hotel.”

The mysterious lady sat on the back seat and signed to Ben to place himself opposite to her.

It began to look queer to Ben. If the lady intended to employ him, it seemed odd that she should treat him on such equal terms. However, Ben was discreet, and feeling that he would know in time forebore to ask questions.

The cab stopped at the side door, or lady’s entrance.

“You may follow me,” said the lady as she paid and dismissed the cab driver.

Ben followed the lady up-stairs to a room on the second floor.

The lady opened the door and entered.

“Now sit down,” she said, “and we will have a little conversation.”

Ben seated himself in a large arm-chair and waited for developments. The lady sat down opposite him.

“Are you a good actor?” she asked.

“I acted a few weeks at the People’s Theater on the Bowery,” answered Ben.

It was the lady’s turn to look surprised.

“Is it possible?” she exclaimed. “You—a newsboy now—have been an actor?”

180 “Yes, madam.”

“I am glad of it. But how do you happen, after such an engagement, to be reduced to selling papers in the street?”

“The play had to give place to another, and I lost my engagement. I had to live and took up selling papers for want of something better.”

“I want you to play a part in a drama of real life.”

“At what theater, madam?”

“At no theater. You are to personate my son. You are to call me mother, and your name will be Edwin Harcourt.”

“But, madam, will any harm come of it?”

“None whatever. You will be aiding the cause of justice.”

“Then I am willing.”

“I have taken the adjoining bedroom for you: go in and put on the suit of clothes you will find on the bed. Brush your hair carefully, and try to do me credit.”

Ben smiled.

“I will try to do so,” he said.

“Of course I shall see that you are well paid.”

“I have no doubt on that point. But——”

“Ask no more questions now. Dress yourself quickly, as we have a call to make.”



The suit which Ben had put on was of fine imported cloth, and evidently expensive.

It fitted marvelously well as Ben could see for himself. It was better than the suit he had purchased in Boston, and which was now half worn.

When he was dressed he stepped into the adjoining room.

Mrs. Harcourt regarded him with evident satisfaction.

“The suit fits you admirably,” she said. “It is very becoming.”

“That is what I don’t understand,” said Ben. “How could you select a suit for me before you knew me?”

The lady smiled.

“Suppose I say that I looked for a boy to match the suit? It shows that I have a correct eye, does it not?”

“Yes, madam.”

Ben had still to submit to a critical inspection.

182 “Your shoes need polishing,” the lady said. “Go down below and get a shine. You will find a bootblack in the lower part of the hotel. Have you change?”

“Yes, madam.”

“Say ‘yes, mother.’ It is as well that you should get used to the name.”

“But I have a mother. Won’t it do as well to call you aunt?”

“No; bear in mind that you are acting. On the stage people are husbands and wives, mothers and sons, for the occasion only.”

“All right. I will look upon you as a stage mother then.”

“Yes, but the illusion must be kept—during our engagement.”

“I will remember.”

“Now go down-stairs and come back with better looking shoes.”

Ben went below and had his shoes blacked. When the operation was ended he went up-stairs.

He found Mrs. Harcourt dressed for the street.

“Ring the bell, Edwin,” she said, “or rather go down yourself and order a cab.”

Ben started a little at the unfamiliar name. Then he smiled as he reflected that he was playing a part.

183 “All right, mother,” he said.

“Good, Edwin. I see you are working into your part.”

In five minutes they were rattling up Fifth Avenue in a cab. The driver, who had his instructions, turned into East Fifty-seventh Street, and paused in front of a handsome brown stone house.

“Is Mr. Anderson in?” asked the lady.

“Yes, ma’am, but he isn’t feeling well. I don’t know if he can see you.”

“Nonsense!” exclaimed the lady sharply. “Tell him his niece, Maria Harcourt, has just arrived from Europe and wishes to see him.”

“Very well, ma’am,” said the girl, overawed, “I’ll tell him.”

She went up-stairs and quickly returned, saying, “He will see you.”

“Of course he will. Edwin, you may stay here until I return, unless you are sent for.”

“All right, mother.”

Ben was about to omit the designation “Mother,” but a quick glance from Mrs. Harcourt showed that she expected him to use it.

We will follow Mrs. Harcourt up-stairs.

In a room fitted up as a library, sat, or rather reclined, in an easy-chair, an old man evidently184 quite feeble. He essayed to rise, but Mrs. Harcourt moving forward rapidly prevented him.

“No, Uncle Henry,” she said, “don’t get up.”

She bent forward and just touched his chin with her lips.

“I am glad to see you, Mamie,” he said. “Have you just returned from Europe?”

“Yes, uncle.”

“Have you brought the boy with you?”

“Yes, uncle; he is down-stairs.”

“Didn’t I hear that he was sick with typhoid fever somewhere in—in——”

“Geneva. Yes, uncle, my poor Edwin was very sick, but fortunately he recovered and is now the picture of health.”

“Basil was under the impression that he was dead.”

“It was for the interest of Basil to report so, Uncle Henry.”

“I don’t think he had any reason to misrepresent, Maria.”

“If Edwin should die, Basil’s income would be increased by five thousand dollars, and the Mordaunts would profit also.”

“True, but——”

“Well, we won’t discuss the matter. I will try to think as well of him as I can. The fact is,185 however, that Edwin is alive and well. If you will give me an order on your bankers for the last six months’ income I shall be glad.”

“Can I not see the boy?”

“Certainly, Uncle Henry, but promise me not to keep him long, as I have to take him to get some clothes.”

“Very well, Maria. I only wish to see him. I don’t feel well enough for a prolonged interview.”

“First, then, Uncle Henry, write me a letter to your bankers, asking them to pay the boy’s income now due, and you may as well tell them to remit regularly without further instructions, as I don’t want to trouble you every time.”

“Very well, Maria.”

When this business was over, Mrs. Harcourt went down-stairs, where she found Ben waiting patiently for her return.

“Are you tired of waiting, Edwin?” she said playfully.

“Oh no.”

“No, what?”

“Mother,” said Ben a little awkwardly. He had not yet accustomed himself to his new part.

“Now, Edwin, listen attentively to what I say. I am going to take you up-stairs to see an old186 gentleman, an uncle of mine, in fact, who is, between ourselves, rather feeble in intellect. Whatever he asks you answer in such a way as to humor him, otherwise he will become violent. For instance he may ask you about traveling in Europe, perhaps about being sick. Fall into his humor, and don’t let him suspect that you think him queer.”

“All right—mother.”

“Remember, I trust to your discretion.”

“I will do as well as I can. What is the name of the gentleman?”

“Mr. Anderson. I call him my uncle Henry. Now follow me.”

Ben followed Mrs. Harcourt up the broad staircase, and into the presence of the frail old gentleman. Mr. Anderson looked up as they entered the room and signed for Ben to approach.

“Come here, my boy,” he said. “I have but little eyesight left. I need to have you near me.”

Ben approached and stood beside the easy-chair.

“Why, you are looking fine,” said the old man in some surprise. “You don’t look as if you had been sick.”

“No, sir.”

“You feel perfectly well, then, in spite of your recent sickness?”

187 “Yes, sir.”

“I am very glad. And you enjoyed traveling?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are very well grown. I did not expect to find you so large.”

“He has grown rapidly, Uncle Henry,” said Mrs. Harcourt.

“Basil would be glad to see you. He thought you were dead!”

“He looks very much alive, doesn’t he, Uncle Henry?”

“Yes, yes. And so you enjoyed Europe, did you, Edwin?”

“Yes, sir.”

Ben felt a little awkward as he said this, but he remembered that the old gentleman was feeble-minded and felt that he was justified in humoring the delusion.

“Won’t you stay to lunch, Maria?” asked Mr. Anderson.

“I am sorry we can’t do so, uncle, but Edwin and I have some calls to make.”

“Where are you staying?”

“At the Fifth Avenue Hotel.”

“I should be glad to have you stay here. The house is large enough.”

188 “I wouldn’t for the world interfere with your quiet ways, uncle. Remember that you are an invalid, and need to have things quiet around you. Edwin is a boy of a lively temperament, and he will feel more comfortable at the hotel.”

“No doubt you are right, Maria. Shall you stay long in the city?”

“My plans are not formed yet, Uncle Henry, but I will apprise you of them when I have made up my mind. And now I must really say good morning.”

“Good morning, Maria. Good morning, Edwin.”

Ben shook the old man’s hand, and followed Mrs. Harcourt out of the room.

“Well?” said the lady interrogatively. “What do you think of him?”

“He didn’t seem to me feeble-minded.”

“Probably not. He was unduly quiet. He has strange delusions, however. Last night he fancied himself to be Christopher Columbus. I don’t know if he has got over it yet.”

“He seems to be a very pleasant old man.”

“Yes, he was in a pleasant mood. Perhaps when you next see him it may be different. Now let us go to the carriage. I am going to Wall Street.”



The cab stopped in front of a handsome office building on Wall Street.

Mrs. Harcourt dismissed it.

“I shall have some other calls to make, Edwin,” she said, “and won’t take a carriage till I am through. Now let us go up-stairs.

“Remember,” she said, as they were ascending the stairway, “we are for the present mother and son.”

“I’ll remember.”

“Should anything be said to you answer as briefly as possible.”

“Very well.”

Ben felt puzzled. He did not at all comprehend what was going on, but concluded that it was all “in the play.”

Mrs. Harcourt opened the door of a large office and entered. Several clerks were working behind a counter or partitioned wall, which separated the inner from the outer office.

190 A young man came forward and said politely, “What can I do for you, madam?”

“Is Mr. Stormleigh in?”

“Yes, madam.”

“Give him my card.”


He returned presently with an invitation to Mrs. Harcourt to follow him.

“Stay here, Edwin, till I return or send for you,” she said, and Ben seated himself in a chair near the window.

In the inner office sat a pleasant-looking man of fifty.

“I am glad to see you, Mrs. Harcourt,” he said rising. “Let me see, how long is it since we met?”

“Five years.”

“Indeed. You look as young as ever.”

“I am afraid you are a flatterer, Mr. Stormleigh.”

“Your son——” began Mr. Stormleigh in a tone of hesitation.

“My son is in the outer office.”

“What? I heard a rumor that he was dead.”

“And that was probably the reason you did not send me the last quarterly income due to me as his guardian?”

191 “Yes. Of course, if he were dead, it would no longer be due.”

“Thank Providence, the dear boy is in the best of health.”

“I am heartily glad of it. And you brought him with you?”


“May I see him?”

“I will call him.”

Ben was summoned, and Mr. Stormleigh regarded him with evident approval.

“Really, Mrs. Harcourt, you have reason to feel proud of such a fine-looking boy.”

“Have I not? Edwin, shake hands with Mr. Stormleigh. He is an old friend of mine, besides being your trustee.”

“Well, my boy, how old are you?”


Mrs. Harcourt looked relieved. The age tallied exactly.

“And now, Edwin,” said the lady, “I won’t detain you. You may go down at once to the Fifth Avenue Hotel and await me there. Or, if you want two hours for yourself, meet me at the end of that time at my room. I am not sure whether you have any money. Here is a ten-dollar bill.”

192 “Thank you—mother.”

Mrs. Harcourt remained fifteen minutes longer, receiving a large check from Mr. Stormleigh, which she deposited to her credit in the Park National Bank.

“What are your plans, my dear Mrs. Harcourt?” asked the banker. “Shall you remain in America?”

“I am not sure. I may go back to Europe, taking Edwin with me.”

“Is he at school?”

“I shall probably place him at school, but my plans are not fully formed.”

“He does not appear to have any resemblance to the late Mr. Harcourt.”

“Boys often change in looks as they get older.”


“And you have not seen Edwin for several years.”

“And then I only had a glimpse of him.”

“Well, I must really go. I have no doubt you have important business, so that you will be glad to get rid of me.”

“I confess that I am quite busy this morning. Call again, however, when you have an opportunity.”

Meanwhile Ben went down-stairs, more and193 more mystified. He thought Mrs. Harcourt a very mysterious character.

She had treated him handsomely, however. He had on an elegant suit and a ten-dollar bill in his pocket. His life seemed to be entirely changed.

In the morning he had been a Bowery newsboy; now he was boarding at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. That reminded him that he must give notice to his landlady that he would not sleep in his room at present.

“But how long will this last?” he asked himself.

If only a week he might as well keep the room, as the price was so small, and he was in funds. Having no urgent business, he decided to walk up Broadway.

He sauntered along, looking in at shop windows, and experienced the pleasure of feeling that for the present, at least, he need feel no pecuniary anxieties.

About the corner of Bleecker Street he came near running into his friend, the eminent novelist, Mr. Sylvanus Snodgrass.

“How are you, Mr. Snodgrass?” he said.

Sylvanus turned, and at the sight of Ben in his elegant new suit he opened wide his astonished eyes.

194 “Is it you, Ben?” he exclaimed.

“No doubt of it, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“When did you obtain that elegant suit? How comes it that you are arrayed in purple and fine linen? I didn’t imagine selling newspapers on the Bowery paid so well.”

“It doesn’t. This suit was a present.”

“Which one of the Vanderbilts gave it to you?”

“It is a gift from a lady.”

“Is she mashed on you?”

“The lady must be over forty. She has adopted me for the time being. I am to call her mother.”

“Doesn’t she want another son?” asked Sylvanus.

“I am afraid you would be too old.”

“Where does she live?”

“Where I do—at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.”

“You are joking, Ben.”

“Not at all. I wish you would tell Mrs. Robinson that I shall not sleep at home to-night, but will keep my room for the present, as I don’t know how long the arrangement will last.”

“Then you are really staying at the Fifth Avenue?”

“I expect to dine there. My new patroness is in Wall Street, but will be back by two o’clock.”

“Do you receive a salary?”

195 “I don’t know what arrangements I shall make. I received this this morning,” and Ben displayed the ten-dollar bill.

“Is it genuine?” asked the novelist.

“It looks all right, doesn’t it?”

“I wish it were mine. I have a story at the Bugle office, but I have not as yet received any payment on it. I won’t tell you how little I have in my pocketbook, but I can hardly afford to provide myself with a lunch, and unluckily I am very hungry.”

“So am I, Mr. Snodgrass, and I can hardly wait till I reach the hotel. I will invite you in with me to lunch at the Sinclair House.”

They had by this time reached the corner of Eighth Street, the location of a hotel well known to fastidious eaters.

Ben ate only moderately, but Mr. Snodgrass, who had not for a long time patronized a restaurant of so high a grade, made an ample meal.

“That does me good,” he said with a sigh of satisfaction as they passed into the street. “I wish I could dine here every day.”

“When your genius is recognized like that of Mr. Howells,” suggested Ben, “you may be able to do so.”

“It is strange, the infatuation about Howells,”196 said Sylvanus. “I am sure my stories are quite as interesting as his.”

“No doubt they suit the readers of the Bugle better.”

“You are right, and yet he gets his thousands of dollars for a novel, while I—but——”

“Better days may be in store for you, Mr. Snodgrass.”

Ben took a walk with his literary friend, and at the end of the two hours reached the hotel just as Mrs. Harcourt drove up in a cab.

“I am quite tired, Edwin,” she said, as Ben helped her out, “but I have done a good morning’s work. Go up-stairs and brush your hair, and we will go in to lunch.”

When lunch was over she said: “Of course you are not provided with suitable underclothing. Go and buy a supply, and stop somewhere and purchase a steamer trunk. Don’t buy any cheap articles, but spare no expense. As my son you must be suitably dressed. Here are seventy-five dollars. Use it as far as it will go, and if necessary you can complete your purchases to-morrow. Have everything sent to Edwin Harcourt, Fifth Avenue Hotel.”

“Thank you. You are very kind,” said Ben, who felt quite overwhelmed.

197 “That is all right, Edwin. By the way, it is only fair that I should make you an allowance. I will begin next Monday morning. You shall have fifteen dollars a week. That is only for spending money. Clothing and all necessary articles will be paid for separately.”

Ben tried to thank her, but she appeared to think it unnecessary.

“All that is understood, my son,” she said. “Now I must dismiss you, as I am fatigued, and shall lie down to rest. There is another entrance to your room. They will give you the key in the office.”

“When do you wish me to return?”

“We will dine at seven. If you are not too tired, you can make your purchases this afternoon.”

“I wonder whether this is all a dream,” thought the mystified Ben. “If it is I shall be sorry to wake up.”

He drew the roll of bills from his pocket, and this gave him an assurance that it was no dream, but a very fortunate reality.



Ben had been long enough in the city to know where to go for his purchases. He laid in a great stock of underclothing of excellent quality, and bought a steamer trunk, as instructed by Mrs. Harcourt.

All the articles were sent to the hotel, and in the evening he packed the trunk. He did not understand why he was bidden to buy a steamer trunk, as those of the ordinary kind were more capacious.

The next morning after breakfast Mrs. Harcourt said suddenly, “Where do your friends live? In the city?”

“No; in the country.”

“Have you parents?”

“Yes, a mother and a stepfather.”

“Where do they live?”

“In Wrayburn.”

“Where is that?”

“In New Hampshire, near the Massachusetts line.”

199 “Do you write to your mother?”


“Have you written since you met me?”


“Then I wish to caution you not to mention our mutual arrangements.”

“Perhaps you had better tell me what to write,” suggested Ben.

“A good thought. You may say that you have fallen in with a lady who is disposed to befriend you, and who will provide for you for the present.”

“I will do so.”

“Don’t mention any names, however.”

“Very well.”

Ben would like to have asked why, but did not feel at liberty to do so.

“Are we going to stay here—in New York?” he asked.

“Not long. I can’t tell how long.”

“How am I to spend my time while I am here?”

“As you please. I only exact that you shall be here at meals. Of course I don’t want you to get into any scrapes.”

“I can promise that,” said Ben earnestly.

“I believe you. You look like a steady boy.”

200 “Do you wish me to go anywhere with you this morning?”

“No; you can do as you please.”

“Thank you.”

“By the way, you bought the underclothing yesterday?”


“I will look at it to see if I approve your choice.”

Mrs. Harcourt looked over the trunk, and expressed her satisfaction.

“It is quite right,” she said. “I was afraid you would not buy articles of good quality. Your present position is very different from that in which I found you, and I wish you to adapt yourself to it.”

Ben went out, and when walking through Union Square he met Mr. Wilkins, the dramatic author.

“Is that you, Ben?” asked Wilkins in astonishment.

“I believe so, Mr. Wilkins,” smiled Ben.

“I can hardly believe my eyes. When I last saw you, you were selling papers on the Bowery. Now you look like a young prince. Is it possible you have found the business so profitable?”

“No, Mr. Wilkins, I have had a stroke of luck.”

201 “That is easy to see, but of what kind?”

“I have been adopted—for a time at least—by a rich lady.”

“How did that happen?”

“She saw me selling papers on the Bowery only yesterday morning, bought them all, took me to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and gave me the suit I am wearing besides a trunk full of underwear. I am boarding there with her.”

“That is wonderful. Would it do for me to call?”

“I think not. She wishes me to pass as her son, and doesn’t wish me to say much about our arrangements.”

“What plans has she for you?”

“I don’t know yet, but I think we shall leave the city soon.”

“I am glad you are able to give up selling papers. I hoped my play would be brought out by this time, but there is a hitch somewhere. I should have offered you your old part.”

“And I should have been glad to accept it, but I don’t think I should feel at liberty to do so under present circumstances.”

It occurred to Ben that he would visit Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Though he had spent some months in New York he had only twice crossed202 the ferry to the large city across the East River. He entered one of the Fulton Ferry boats, and pushed through to the second cabin.

Crouching in the corner was a boy about a year younger than himself, whose sad face and listless air indicated that he was in some trouble. A second glance enabled Ben to identify him as a brother newsboy with whom he had a slight acquaintance.

“Is it you, Frank?” he said, taking a seat beside the boy.

Frank Mordaunt gave him a puzzled look.

“I don’t remember you,” he said slowly.

“And yet we have sold papers together,” said Ben with a smile. “Don’t you remember Ben Bruce?”

“Are you Ben?” said the boy, eyeing Ben’s fine suit in amazement.

“Yes, Frank.”

“Where’d you get that suit?”

“The fact is, Frank, I have fallen in with a rich lady, who has adopted me.”

“When did all this happen?”

“Yesterday morning.”

“Then you don’t sell papers any more?”

“No; I am staying at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.”

“You’re in luck, then?”

203 “And you look out of luck,” said Ben.

“You are right there. My mother is to be turned out of her rooms to-morrow unless I can raise five dollars to pay the rent.”

“Where do you live?”

“In Brooklyn.”

“Have you only a mother?”

“I have a little brother besides. His name is Alvin. He is nine years old.”

“And are you the only one of the family that is earning any money?”

“No; my mother takes in sewing, but she can earn but little. I’ll tell you how we fell behind. I was sick of a cold two weeks since, and for a week I earned nothing.”

“I remember missing you.”

“So that we were not able to save up money for the rent.”

“Won’t your landlord wait?”

“No; he is a hard man. Besides, there is another family wanting our rooms, and ready to move in when we move out. But for that he would perhaps wait for us.”

“It is pretty hard luck.”

“That’s so. You see we can’t go in anywhere else unless we have the rent money in advance. So I don’t know what we shall do.”

204 “I do.”

Frank Mordaunt looked at Ben inquiringly.

“I am going to supply you with the money. It is five dollars, isn’t it?”

“Do you mean it?” said Frank hopefully.

By way of answer Ben drew from his pocket a five-dollar bill and handed it to Frank.

“But, Ben, can you spare this?”

“Yes, easily. The lady who has adopted me gave me ten dollars yesterday, and says I shall have a weekly allowance of fifteen dollars just for spending money. All my bills will be paid separately.”

“It will be a godsend to us, Ben. How kind you are!”

“I ought to be, as I have been so favored myself. I hope you will see better days before long.”

“It may be so. My mother may some day inherit a large sum, in case a cousin of mine dies. I would rather he would live, but a small part of what we would then have would make us happy now.”

“Give me your address, Frank, and I may write to you when I am away from the city.”

“Here it is.”

“I will remember it. Here, take another dollar; I can spare it, and you may need it.”

205 On the Brooklyn side the two boys separated. Ben would have been very much surprised had he known that Frank, the poor newsboy whom he had befriended, was the nephew of Mrs. Harcourt, his wealthy patroness.



Edwin,” said Mrs. Harcourt at breakfast two days later, “you remember the old gentleman at whose house we called the first day you were with me?”

“Mr. Anderson? Yes.”

“We are invited to dine there to-day.”

“At what time do you wish to start?”

“I shall not take you. You would find it very tedious, and embarrassing also if my uncle should have one of his insane attacks.”

“Very well; I am satisfied to do as you wish.”

“I should prefer to stay away myself but I have no good excuse. You had better make an excursion somewhere as my uncle may insist on sending to the hotel for you.”

“Very well, I will go to Staten Island. I have never been there.”

In due time Mrs. Harcourt found herself at her uncle’s residence, and was ushered into his presence.

207 The old man received her cordially, but appeared to be looking for some one else.

“Where is the boy?” he asked. “Where is Edwin?”

“You must excuse him, uncle. He had a headache, and I sent him on an excursion.”

The old man leaned back in apparent disappointment.

“I am sorry,” he said feebly. “The sight of him with youth, and his bright face, cheered me up. I wished to see him again.”

“I am really very sorry, uncle.”

“Don’t you think he will come by and by?”

“He may. If he gets rid of his headache.”

“I don’t know why it was that we thought him dead. Basil thought so.”

“Such unfounded rumors get currency, uncle; I should not have been surprised if I had been reported dead.”

“I hope that will not be for a long time. You look very well.”

“Yes, I am in excellent health, I am glad to say. By the way, where is Basil?”

“He is in Chicago, but I had a letter from him yesterday in which he says he will be here next Monday.”

208 “Does he know I am in the city?” asked Mrs. Harcourt abruptly.

“I wrote him so. He is much pleased to hear that Edwin is alive and well, and is anxious to see him.”

Mrs. Harcourt’s face changed, but her uncle was short-sighted and he did not observe it.

“I shall be glad to see Basil,” she said in a constrained tone. “When did you say he would be here?”

“Next Monday.”

“That will come soon.”

“Yes; I shall feel very glad to have Basil back. He is a great deal of company for me. He is always kind, always considerate.”

“So he is, uncle.”

Those were Mrs. Harcourt’s words, but there was a sneer upon her face which her uncle did not see.

“You had better keep him with you, uncle,” she said.

“I wish I could have you both with me.”

“I am devoted to Edwin, you know. I am anxious to have him well educated.”

“And is that why you have remained in Europe so long?”


209 “I suppose he can speak both French and German?”


“If Basil were here he would like to converse with the boy in French.”

“Does Basil speak French?” asked Mrs. Harcourt, in a tone of something like dismay.

“Yes; he has been taking conversational lessons for two years. He could read before.”

“What was this for?”

“French is always useful, and he had the time.”

“Yes; I suppose he doesn’t do much law business.”

“He has a small income, and will have more, so that he is in a measure independent of his profession.”

“He will have more if my Edwin dies. I hope he is not counting upon that. If he does I shall hate him.”

“How can you do Basil such injustice? I was not alluding to that. I referred to his expectations from me.”

“That is different. In the course of nature he will survive you.”

“Yes, and by many years, I hope. I shall not forget Edwin either. There is something very210 winning about your son, Maria. Even if there were no ties of blood I think I should like him.”

Mrs. Harcourt smiled—a peculiar smile.

“You are very kind, uncle,” she said, “but Edwin is very well provided for. He has an income of ten thousand dollars.”

“True! I hope he will live long to enjoy it.”

“By the way, where are the Mordaunts? They and Basil would inherit my boy’s property if he should unfortunately die.”

“I don’t know. I wish I could get track of them.”

“Where were they when you last heard of them?”

“Living in Springfield, Illinois.”

“How were their circumstances?”

“They were comfortably situated, but had no means, I believe, outside of Mr. Mordaunt’s income as a salesman. Basil wrote to a friend in Springfield to inquire after them, but he could not find them.”

“Probably if they were poor they would let you know,” suggested Mrs. Harcourt with a sneer.

“No; Mrs. Mordaunt was always proud, and I fear would suffer in silence rather than let their wants be known.”

211 About an hour after dinner Mrs. Harcourt signified her intention of returning to the hotel.

“Don’t hurry, Maria,” said Mr. Anderson.

“I have some things that require my attention. I will call again soon.”

“When Basil returns I shall send for you and the boy to dine with me. Mind, you must bring the boy then at any rate.”

“Oh, yes, without fail. And so Basil will be here next Monday?”

“Yes, that is when I expect him.”

Mrs. Harcourt went back to the hotel in a disturbed state of mind.

“Basil must not meet Edwin,” she said in a tone of decision. “He would penetrate the imposture. It is not safe for me to stay in New York. I must leave the city, and that before Basil returns. Where shall I go?”

Mrs. Harcourt was a woman of energy and decision.

She ordered a cab and drove to the offices of the Cunard steamer.

“What steamer sails next Saturday?” she asked.

“The Etruria.”

“Have you any staterooms left?”

212 “They were all taken, but this morning we had two returned.”

“I will take them.”

“What names, please?”

“Mrs. M. Harcourt and Edwin Harcourt.”

“Very good.”

“At what hour will it be necessary to embark?”

“At nine in the morning.”

Mrs. Harcourt bowed.

“We will be on hand.”

She smiled a satisfied smile as she left the office.

“I don’t think Basil Wentworth will follow us to Europe,” she reflected. “It would be dangerous to have him and Edwin meet. By the help of this boy, whose appearance does me credit, I shall still be able to retain his ten thousand dollars a year. I should be a fool to give it up.”

Meanwhile Ben had made his visit to Staten Island. Near the Astor House he had met Frank Mordaunt selling papers.

“Good morning, Frank,” he said. “I hope it all came out right—about the rent, I mean.”

“Yes, Ben, thanks to your kindness—mother felt very happy when I took in the money and she knew there would be no need to move. She213 wants you to come over to supper some evening, if you won’t mind our poor accommodations.”

“Don’t forget, Frank, that I am a poor boy myself, or was till I fell in with the lady that is taking care of me.”

“What is her name, Ben?”


Frank started.

“We have relations of that name,” he said.

“This lady is rich.”

“So is the one I refer to. However, I suppose it is a common name.”

It was now Thursday.

On Friday afternoon, Mrs. Harcourt said, “I want you to pack up this evening, Edwin. We leave this hotel to-morrow morning early.”

“Where do we go—mother?”

“I won’t tell you now, Edwin,” said Mrs. Harcourt playfully. “I want it to be a surprise.”

The next morning the cab called at an early hour, and Ben and his patroness got in. Mrs. Harcourt instructed the driver where to go in a low voice. The door was closed, and they rattled down town through Eighth Avenue.

At length they reached the pier, and with some difficulty threaded their way through the crowd214 of vehicles. The stately steamer was already alive with passengers and their friends.

“What steamer is that!” asked Ben in excitement.

“It is the Etruria, and in an hour we shall be on our way to Europe,” answered Mrs. Harcourt composedly.



Ben’s astonishment on discovering that he was starting for Europe was extreme. His pleasure was as great.

He had at times fancied that he should like to cross the Atlantic, and visit the countries and cities of which he had heard so much, but it had never entered his imagination as likely to happen. He was surprised that Mrs. Harcourt had said nothing of her intention, but he was ready to accept things as they were, and his spirits rose in glad anticipation of the delightful experiences that awaited him.

“You look surprised,” said his patroness, after communicating the startling news.

“Yes, mother, I am indeed surprised.”

“Are you sorry?”

“No; I think it will be delightful,” said Ben enthusiastically.

Mrs. Harcourt looked pleased. It was important that Ben should be satisfied with the arrangements that were made for him.

216 “Are we going to stay long in Europe?” asked Ben.

“You ask me a question which I cannot answer. My plans I make as I go along.”

“Excuse my asking. Of course I am satisfied.”

On a large steamer like the Etruria it is expensive to occupy a whole room. Ben found that he had a roommate in the person of a young Englishman about nineteen years old. He had a pleasant, good-humored face, that invited confidence.

“So we are to be together,” he said. “Well, I am glad of it.”

“Thank you.”

“I feared some disagreeable person would be put with me. I would much rather have a boy. If you don’t mind let me know your name.”

Ben was about to give his real name, but thought in time.

“Edwin Harcourt.”

“And are you alone?”

“No; my mother is on board.

“You have not told me your name,” suggested Ben.

“True; there is my card.”

Ben looked at the card, on which he read the name—

217 Hon. Cyril Augustus Bentley.

“Honorable!” he repeated, puzzled.

Young Bentley smiled.

“You are an American, and you don’t understand,” he said. “I am the younger son of the Earl of Bentley, and I have a title, but while in America I don’t want to have it known. It seemed to set up a barrier between me and young fellows of my age. Besides, you Americans don’t believe in titles.”

“Is your father on board?” asked Ben.

“Yes, my father and mother both. That is why I require a separate stateroom.”

“I suppose you are Lord Cyril,” said Ben, who had read some English novels.

“No, indeed. Call me Cyril and I will call you Edwin.”

As he spoke his face was lighted up by such a pleasant smile that Ben was very much drawn towards him.

“I shall be glad to feel on such friendly terms,” said Ben.

“Then let us be sworn friends. Have you engaged your place at the table?”

“No. This is my first voyage, and I don’t know the customs of the ship.”

218 “Then let me engage seats for us both. I want you next to me. Will your mother mind?”

“I don’t think so, but I will speak to her.”

“Do go, and at once, for there is no time to be lost.”

Ben went to Mrs. Harcourt’s stateroom.

“My roommate wants me to sit beside him at the table,” he said. “Do you mind?”

“Who is your roommate?”

“There is his card. He is a younger son of the Earl of Bentley.”

Mrs. Harcourt was agreeably surprised.

“Is it possible?” she asked. “I heard when I engaged passage that the Earl and Countess of Bentley would be on the list of passengers. How old is this son?”

“Nineteen. He seems to have taken a liking to me.”

“By all means, sit beside him if he desires it,” said Mrs. Harcourt graciously. “I am glad you have so desirable a roommate. You must introduce me some time to-day.”

“I will; I am sure you will like him.”

Mrs. Harcourt was one of that numerous class of Americans who are impressed by a title, and she congratulated herself that her newly-found219 protégé was likely to bring her into acquaintance with the privileged classes.

“My mother is quite willing,” said Ben on his return. “She wishes me to introduce you to her.”

“I shall be delighted, I am sure. She is awfully kind to give you up to me.”

“I am very glad she has, Cyril.”

“We will take care of each other if we are seasick.”

During the day Ben led up his new friend to Mrs. Harcourt.

“Mother,” he said, “let me introduce my roommate, Cyril Bentley.”

“My dear Edwin, you forget his title.”

“At my request, Mrs. Harcourt. I am ever so much obliged to you for letting Edwin sit by me.”

“I am delighted, my lord——”

“No, don’t call me that.”

“Shall I call you Cyril, too?” smiled the delighted Mrs. Harcourt.

“Yes, if you will. Will you excuse me now, as Edwin and I are going to play shuffleboard?”

“Certainly, but I hope to see you again.”

“Oh, we shall meet often.”

Later on Cyril introduced Ben to the Earl and Countess. The earl was rather roughly dressed,220 as he had been on a visit to the Rocky Mountain region. Both he and the countess were pleased with Ben’s appearance, and greeted him with kindly cordiality.

“You don’t often meet handsomer boys than Cyril and his young American friend,” he said to the Countess. “I am very well pleased that Cyril has found such a pleasant companion.”

The next day, much to her gratification, Mrs. Harcourt was introduced by Cyril to his father and mother. In rather a fulsome way she expressed her pleasure at the intimacy of Cyril with Edwin.

“You have reason to be proud of your son, Mrs. Harcourt,” said the Earl politely. “He is a fine-looking boy.”

“Thank you, my lord. You are indeed very kind.”

“Shall you remain in England any length of time?” asked the Countess.

“I may spend a month in London, Lady Bentley.”

“Then,” said the Earl, “let me ask on behalf of Cyril that you will allow your son to spend a week at Bentley Hall.”

Mrs. Harcourt would have enjoyed being herself invited, but the invitation to Ben was the221 next thing to it, as he was supposed to be her son.

“Thank you for the invitation, my lord,” she said. “I am sure Edwin will enjoy visiting you.”

Ben’s evident intimacy with Cyril (for the two were quite inseparable) made him an object of attention among the other passengers, who paid court to him as a stepping-stone to acquaintance with the earl and his son.

One day a passenger, a New York merchant, said carelessly to Ben, “Do you know there is a striking resemblance between you and a boy who played last season in the People’s Theater on the Bowery?”

“Indeed!” said Ben. “What was his name?”

“I don’t remember. Mrs. Vincent, do you remember the name of that young actor?”

“It was Ben Bruce,” answered his wife.

“I shall hope to see him act some time,” said Ben, smiling.

“And I too,” added Cyril Bentley.

“Wouldn’t you like just as well to see me act, Cyril?” asked Ben.

“Yes, if you can act.”

“I can try.”

“You may have a chance to do so. We shall222 have some theatricals at the Hall while you are there.”

“I am afraid I am something of a humbug,” thought Ben. “I wonder if Cyril would think any the less of me if he knew that I had been a newsboy on the Bowery.”



Leaving Ben for a time we will go back to Brooklyn and make the reader better acquainted with the family of Frank Mordaunt, the newsboy whom Ben had so generously assisted.

Mrs. Mordaunt and her two boys occupied an upper tenement in one of the obscure streets of Brooklyn, about a mile from Fulton Ferry. Frank’s earnings were their chief dependence, as needlework is poorly paid, especially when it is done for one of the cheap clothing houses.

At seven o’clock Frank came home from New York, where he had been selling evening papers.

“How much did you make, Frank?” asked Alvin, meeting his older brother on the sidewalk.

“Forty-six cents. I didn’t do as well as usual.”

“I wish mother would let me sell papers, too.”

“You are only nine years old, Alvin.”

“I am old enough to sell papers.”

“It is a poor business, Alvin. I hope you will never have to do it.”

224 By this time Frank had ascended the stairs and had entered the humble room occupied by his mother.

“Frank, will you go to the baker’s and get a loaf of bread?”

“Let me go!” said Alvin.

“Very well! Here are ten cents. Now come back directly.”

“Rent day is near at hand,” said Mrs. Mordaunt anxiously.

“Yes, mother, I think we shall be ready.”

“I went to the clothing store to-day, Frank, and they told me that business was dull and they might not have any more for me to do for about four weeks.”

“Oh, well, we’ll try to get along, mother,” said Frank, with forced cheerfulness.

“It is such a contrast to our former way of living,” said his mother sadly.

“True. If father had not made such unwise investments we should manage very comfortably.”

“Doubtless he acted for the best, as he viewed it.”

“Don’t think I am blaming him, mother. But I’ll tell you what is tantalizing. We are heirs to a property of—how much is it?”

225 “Your cousin Edwin has ten thousand dollars a year. Should he die, this is to be divided between Basil Wentworth and our family.”

“I wouldn’t for the world have Edwin die, but if during his life he would give us one thousand dollars, or even half that sum, how much it would lighten our cares.”

“Yes, Frank,” sighed Mrs. Mordaunt.

“Do you know where Basil is?”

“He may be in New York.”

“And you have an uncle who is rich?”

“Yes; Henry Anderson.”

“They cannot know how poor we are.”

“No, Frank. I shrink from letting them know. I don’t want to be considered a beggar.”

“Nor I, mother. Yet if I were in their places and had poor relations, I am sure I should want to relieve them.”

“Yes, Frank, but all are not alike. I am afraid we shall receive little outside aid.”

Three days later the landlord called for the rent. In spite of all they could do they had been unable to make up the necessary amount. It was a dollar short.

“Mr. Grubb,” said Mrs. Mordaunt, in a tone of apology, “I can pay you within a dollar. If you will kindly——”

226 “That won’t do, Mrs. Mordaunt,” said the landlord gruffly. “It seems to me all my tenants are short this month.”

“I am very sorry, but Frank will call at your office by the middle of next week, and give you the balance.”

“But why don’t you pay it now, that is what I want to know.”

“For the simple reason that I have not got it, Mr. Grubb.”

“Then you ought to have it. You appear to be very independent, Mrs. Mordaunt.”

“I don’t know what you infer that from. I feel very far from independent, I can assure you.”

“That doesn’t pay my rent.”

“I will do as I promised, Mr. Grubb.”

“And I will give you just twenty-four hours to pay the extra dollar in. I don’t relish being imposed upon.”

And the landlord, after receiving what the widow had to pay, left the room in a huff, slamming the door behind him.

Frank had listened to the colloquy in silent indignation.

“I should like to pitch the man down-stairs,” he said.

“You must neither do nor say anything rash,227 my son. Remember we may need to ask his forbearance to-morrow. I am afraid we can’t get together the dollar he requires by that time.”

At this moment the postman’s whistle was heard below.

“Go down, Alvin, and see if there is a letter for us,” said his mother.

Alvin returned in a minute with an envelope in his hand.

“It has a funny stamp on it,” he said.

“Is the letter for me?”

“No; it is for Frank.”

“And mailed in London? It must be from Ben Bruce,” said Frank with interest.

He opened the letter, when two pieces of paper slipped out and fell to the floor.

Alvin picked them up.

“What is this?” he asked. “See what funny pieces of paper.”

“They are Bank of England pound notes,” said Mrs. Mordaunt joyfully.

“Are they money? What funny money?”

“The two are worth ten dollars. Heaven be thanked! It relieves us from our present troubles. What does Ben say?”

This was the letter which Frank read aloud. It was dated at Morley’s Hotel.

228Dear Frank:

“Well, I have been in London now for three days, and I am beginning to enjoy myself. My patroness, or adopted mother, as I am instructed to call her, is very kind and provides me liberally with pocket money. I will slip into this letter two one-pound notes, which I think you will find a use for. Don’t think too much of it. All my wants are supplied, and I can spare it just as well as not. I haven’t forgotten though I am living in luxury now, that I have been a poor newsboy on the Bowery, and at times haven’t known where my next rent money was coming from.

“You will expect me to tell you something about my voyage. Well, it was a very pleasant one, and I wasn’t seasick at all. You will be very much su’prised when I tell you that a young fellow that shared my stateroom with me is the younger son of an English earl—the Earl of Bentley. His name is Cyril Augustus Bentley. I must tell you also that I became very well acquainted with the Earl and Countess, who were also on board, and who appeared to form quite a liking for me. I am even invited to visit them at Bentley Hall, and go in about a week and a half. Cyril was urgent to have me come, and his parents seemed entirely willing to invite me. I229 presume I shall meet a good many people of title there, but I shan’t forget that I am an American boy, and have reason to feel proud of my birth. I feel quite as much at home with the Earl as I would with an American gentleman, and more so than I would with some.

“Of course my adopted mother is quite proud of the attention I am receiving from Cyril’s family, and I fancy she would have liked to receive an invitation herself. But for some reason the invitation was limited to me—I think it is on that account that my allowance has been increased, and that’s why I am able to send you the two pounds.

“I sometimes ask myself whether it is really Ben Bruce, the Bowery newsboy, who is about to be a guest in an earl’s family. I am sure that in my case truth is more wonderful than romance. I sometimes wander back in thought to my country home, and my miserly old stepfather, Jacob Winter, who wanted to bind me apprentice to a shoemaker. I don’t think he would believe it if I should write about the people I am associating with.

“I don’t know how long my prosperity is going to last, but I shall try to save a little money, so that, if I am suddenly cast upon the world, I may have230 a little fund to draw from. I must tell you that I have had presented to me an elegant gold watch, for which my patroness paid fifty pounds in a crack jeweler’s store in Regent Street. The plain silver watch I have laid by, and when I go back to America I shall ask your acceptance of it, as I believe you have no watch.

“Well, it is getting late, and I am tired. I hope this letter will reach you safely, on account of the remittance. After finishing this letter I must write a few lines to Cyril.

“Your sincere friend,

Ben Bruce.

“Ben is a trump, mother,” said Frank, his face aglow.

“He’s a friend worth having. Now we can await Mr. Grubb’s call without anxiety.”



Basil Wentworth returned home at the time set. He had been accustomed to occupy a room at the house of his uncle, and he repaired there at once.

When the first greetings were over, he said, “I am anxious to meet Maria and Edwin.”

“I have just received a note from the Fifth Avenue Hotel which I will show you. It should have reached me on Saturday.”

It ran thus:

Dear Uncle:

“I have just received news from England that obliges me to sail thither at once with Edwin. I am disappointed, as it will prevent my meeting Basil, who you told me is expected on Monday. Please remember me kindly to him, and tell him that I may be able to return to America in a few months, in which case I shall of course see him. I should be very lonely if it were not for Edwin, though I may place him at school. I am glad to say that232 he has fully recovered from his illness, and as you can testify from seeing him, he is now the picture of health.

“I will write you from England.

“Your affectionate niece,

Maria Harcourt.”

Basil read this letter attentively.

“Maria’s departure seems very sudden,” he said.


“Did she mention any affairs that were likely to call her away?”


“How often did you see Edwin?”

“She brought him here once. Then I invited them both to dinner, but Maria only came. She said Edwin had a headache.”

“What were your impressions of the boy?”

“He was a fine, attractive lad.”

“And looked in perfect health?”

“I never saw a healthier-looking boy.”

“I am greatly disappointed at not meeting him. It is strange that we should have heard of his death,” said Basil thoughtfully. “Did Maria speak of his sickness?”

“Yes, she said he was very ill, but after his recovery had been better than ever before.”

233 “I’m truly glad to hear it.”

“You are a good man, Basil. The boy’s death would increase your income by five thousand dollars.”

“I would rather live on one thousand than have that young life cut off.”

“I believe you, Basil.”

“Maria couldn’t have been in New York more than a week.”

“About a week, I should think.”

“By the way, I wonder what has become of the Mordaunts? Considering the fact that they are so nearly related to us, we ought to know more about them.”

“I have no idea where they are. As you ascertained they have left their western home, but where they have gone I cannot imagine.”

“If Edwin Harcourt had really died, it would have been necessary to find them, as they would have been joint heirs with me of my young cousin’s property. I hope at least they are comfortable.”

“I think Mr. Mordaunt left a little property.”

Some weeks later when Basil came home in the afternoon, his uncle said:

“Well, I have had a letter from Maria.”

“Indeed! what did she say?”

234 “You can read the letter. There’s one passage that will surprise you.”

It was this:

“And now, Uncle Henry, I have great news to tell you. Where do you think Edwin is? He is the guest of the Earl of Bentley, and staying at his country house, Bentley Hall. You must know that the Earl and his family were our fellow-passengers on the Etruria, and Lord Cyril Bentley occupied the same stateroom with Edwin. The young nobleman took a great fancy to my boy, and so did the Earl and Countess. They were inseparable companions, that is Edwin and Cyril, and when we reached England Edwin was invited very cordially to visit Bentley Hall. Of course I made him accept, though it will delay my educational plans for him somewhat. But it will be quite a feather in his cap to get into such high society.

“Edwin seems to have done himself credit there. He consented to take part in some private theatricals, and this is what the Morning Post of yesterday says: ‘Among the guests of the Earl and Countess of Bentley is a young American boy, Edwin Harcourt, who has quite distinguished himself by his success in private theatricals. We235 understand that he belongs to a family of high social position in America, but should circumstances ever make it necessary, he could doubtless win success as an actor.’”

“That is quite gratifying, and surprising also,” said Basil. “Edwin, as I remember him, was quite a retiring boy, and the last one that I should have supposed would make a success as an actor.”

“Boys grow and develop wonderfully,” returned Mr. Anderson. “I can imagine that Maria is pleased. She was always ambitious.”

“I don’t know but we are entitled to feel pleased also at the success of our young relative. It makes me regret all the more that I did not meet him.”

In due time Mrs. Harcourt received letters from Basil and also from her uncle, congratulating her on Edwin’s success.

She read them with a smile of exultation.

“All is working well,” she said. “This unknown boy whom I picked up in the Bowery is turning out to be a star of the first magnitude. I am bound to say that he is doing me more credit than my own poor boy would have done. While I can make my relations and trustees believe that236 he is really my own son, I shall be entitled to draw on his behalf the annual sum of ten thousand dollars, which would otherwise go to Basil and the Mordaunts. How will it all come out? I don’t know, but with moderate prudence, and especially if I can keep Basil and the boy apart, it may last for years.”

When Ben returned from Bentley Hall Mrs. Harcourt received him with an unusual warmth of manner.

“I am proud of you, Edwin,” she said. “You have reflected great credit on me as well as yourself. Where did you learn to act?”

“I acted for four weeks at the People’s Theater on the Bowery.”

“Indeed! In what character?”

“As Ted the Newsboy.”

“I see. Do you think any one who saw you on the stage at that time will be likely to recognize you, if he meets you here?”

“No, I don’t think so. You see,” Ben continued, with a smile, “I am very differently dressed.”

“True. Dress makes a great change.”

“Besides, I pass under a different name.”

“Yes. Let me see, what is your real name?”

“Ben Bruce.”

237 “Oh, yes! And you say your mother lives in the country?”

“Yes, in a small New Hampshire town.”

Mrs. Harcourt seemed pleased to hear this.

“Perhaps you would like to hear my plans,” she said after a pause.

“Yes, mother.”

“I expect to winter in Paris. And, by the way, Edwin, I suppose you know nothing of the French language.”


“I shall get you a teacher at once, and wish you to go about the city also—indeed I shall arrange to have you go with him, in order that you may learn to speak French as soon as possible.”

“I should be glad to speak French. I will study hard.”

“That is well. That will gratify me.”

Of course Mrs. Harcourt’s chief idea was to enable Ben, should he ever meet Basil, to hold a conversation with him in French, so that there should be no suspicion that Ben was not what she represented him.

Ben thoroughly enjoyed his winter in Paris. He seemed to have a special taste for languages, for he picked up French with remarkable rapidity, and made some progress in German.

238 “Your son is one marvel, Madam Harcourt,” said Professor Fromont, Ben’s instructor. “I nevaire have had a pupil more quick.”

“He speaks French a great deal better than I do, professor.”

“That is not strange, madam. Young pupils always learn much faster than their elders.”

“And I, being an old woman, can hardly expect to keep up with my boy.”

“Old!” repeated the polite professor, holding up his hands. “Madam hardly looks twenty-five.”

“But as my son is sixteen, I must be rather more than that,” said Mrs. Harcourt, well pleased at the compliment, nevertheless.

It was in April that Ben had a surprise. He was coming out of the Gallery of the Louvre when he met face to face John Wilkins, the dramatic author, in whose play he had first won success as an actor.



Ben Bruce!” exclaimed Wilkins in surprise and delight.

“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Wilkins,” said Ben, shaking his hand cordially.

“I had lost sight of you. I did not know you were abroad.”

“I have been several months in Paris,” said Ben.

“But how in the world were you able to come? You didn’t make a fortune by selling papers, I take it.”

“I must tell you that I have been adopted by a wealthy lady, and my name is changed to Edwin Harcourt. Mrs. Harcourt wants my past life forgotten, so I will ask you not to allude to it, nor to call me Ben Bruce. I am not ashamed of it myself, but as Mrs. Harcourt has been kind to me, I don’t wish to annoy her.”

“I understand, Ben, or rather Edwin. I congratulate you on the brilliant change in your fortunes. Why, you are dressed like a prince.”

240 “Mrs. Harcourt is particular about my appearance. But, Mr. Wilkins, what brings you across the water?”

“I came to London, hoping to have my last play brought out at some English theater, but thus far I have met with no success. If I could cast you for your old part, I should have some hope.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wilkins.”

“I suppose you have not played any in England?”

“Only in private theatricals. Last October I appeared at Bentley Hall.”

“How in the world did you get a chance to appear there?”

“I was a guest at the Hall. The Honorable Cyril Bentley is my intimate friend.”

“Well,” ejaculated Wilkins, “the way you have got on is something wonderful. Where are you living?”

“At the Grand Hotel. I will invite you to come and see me if you will be careful to call me by my new name. And, by the way, I believe the Earl has considerable influence among theater managers. I will give you a letter to him when you go back to England.”

“I should like nothing better. But I can’t get241 over my wonder, Ben—I beg pardon—at the idea of your hobnobbing with an English earl.”

“I know other noblemen also,” said Ben with a smile. “They are very kind and agreeable, but I like an American gentleman just as well.”

The next day Mr. Wilkins called upon Ben at the hotel and was introduced to Mrs. Harcourt. As he was circumspect and made no embarrassing allusions to Ben’s New York experiences, he was courteously received and made a favorable impression.

A French gentleman also called, and Wilkins was considerably impressed by hearing Ben converse with him in his own language with easy fluency.

“I hope you had a pleasant voyage, Mr. Wilkins,” said Mrs. Harcourt.

“Very much so, thank you,” replied the dramatist.

“Was the weather good?”

“Not all the time, but I was not seasick. Besides, we had quite an agreeable passenger list.”

“Of course that would make a great difference.”

“I was especially pleased with a gentleman from New York—Mr. Basil Wentworth.”

242 Mrs. Harcourt’s ready smile froze upon her face.

“Basil Wentworth?” she ejaculated.

“Yes, madam. Is he an acquaintance of yours?”

“Yes, I know him,” answered Mrs. Harcourt slowly. Then she continued after a pause. “When did you arrive?”

“A week since. My business was in London, but as I have never before been abroad I could not resist the temptation of running over to Paris.”

“Naturally,” she answered, but her attention seemed to be wandering. “Do you know where Mr. Wentworth is now?”

“He is still in London, I believe.”

“Did he mention,” she continued with studied carelessness, “what business brought him over?”

“I concluded that he came to see Europe. He mentioned one day that this was his first European trip.”

“Very likely. Did he expect to come to Paris?”

“Yes; but he is seeing London and its environs first. I think he has a friend or relative over here somewhere, and hopes to meet him or her.”

The smiling suavity which Mrs. Harcourt243 showed in the early part of the conversation was gone. It seemed as if some anxiety were disturbing her.

But she felt that she had already said more about this Mr. Wentworth than was prudent, and dropped the subject.

Mr. Wilkins extended his call to half an hour and then rose to go.

“I would ask you to call again, Mr. Wilkins,” said Mrs. Harcourt, “but I am not sure how long we shall remain in Paris.”

“Thank you, but my time is up, and I shall leave for London this evening.”

“Where are you staying, Mr. Wilkins?” asked Ben.

“At the Hotel Wagram.”

“I will send round to you the letter to the Earl of Bentley.”

“What letter do you mean, Edwin?” asked Mrs. Harcourt.

“Mr. Wilkins wishes to produce one of his plays in London, and I thought the Earl might be of some service to him. You don’t object to my writing?”

“Oh, not at all. The Earl thinks a great deal of you,” she added with an inflection of pride in her voice.

244 “By the way, Edwin,” said Mrs. Harcourt after her visitor was gone, “does this Mr. Wilkins know something of your past history?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Then request him not to speak of it to any one. I am perhaps foolishly sensitive, but I don’t wish any one to suspect that you are not my real son.”

“Your wishes shall be respected, mother.”

When Mrs. Harcourt was alone she said to herself: “The danger I have anticipated is at hand. How fortunate that I know of Basil’s arrival in Europe. He must not meet me or Edwin. He is sharp, and the meeting may lead to an exposure of my clever scheme. There is no help for it. Edwin and I must leave here at once.”

The next morning Mrs. Harcourt left Paris suddenly, not letting Ben know where they were bound.

Two days later Basil Wentworth, who had made inquiries in London and obtained directions, reached Paris and presented himself at the Grand Hotel, fully expecting to see his cousin.

“Mrs. Harcourt?” said the concierge. “She has gone away.”

“She has gone away! Gone away?” repeated Basil in surprise. “When did she start?”

“Two days since—on Tuesday.”

245 “Where did she go?”

“Pardon, monsieur. I do not know.”

“Did she leave no address, to forward her letters to?”

“No, monsieur.”

“Did her departure seem to be sudden? I mean had she been planning to go away at that time?”

“No, monsieur. I never heard her speak of it.”

“And the young man—her son—did she take him with her?”

“Oh, yes, monsieur. Monsieur Edwin is always with her.”

“He is a—pleasant boy? Do you like him?”

“Oh, yes, monsieur. Every one likes Monsieur Edwin. He is tres gentil.”

“Does he speak French?”

“Oh, yes, he speaks French extremely well—and German, too, but I do not know German. I cannot tell whether he speaks it well—not so well, I mean, as French. He speaks French better than madam, his mother.”

Basil could not explain why he asked these last questions, but no doubt there was a momentary suspicion in his mind that the boy with Mrs. Harcourt was not his cousin. The fact that the boy,246 according to the testimony of the concierge, was able to speak French and German, was calculated to dissipate any suspicions he might have entertained.

Had Basil known that Mrs. Harcourt was aware of his being in Europe, the suspicions would have been revived, but this he did not know, as he did not meet Wilkins the dramatist again.

Unable to get any clew to Mrs. Harcourt’s whereabouts, Basil was compelled to leave Paris unsatisfied. He left a note with his cousin’s bankers, in which he wrote: “I regret very much that I am obliged to return to America without seeing you and Edwin, but in the state of my uncle’s health I cannot stay longer. I came over on a little business, but that was soon accomplished, and I wished incidentally to see you—some time, perhaps, I may be more fortunate. Now I can only say good-by.”

When some time later Mrs. Harcourt received this letter at Geneva she breathed a sigh of relief.

“The danger is over!” she ejaculated. “Thank heaven!”



Leaving Ben for a time, we go back to his old home to inquire how his mother and stepfather were faring. Mr. Winter seemed to grow meaner as he grew older. His wife often asked herself how she could have been so foolish as to marry him. All she had gained by it was a home for herself, but her clothing she was obliged to purchase at her own expense.

One day Mr. Winter went to her with a smile upon his face. Some one had handed him a copy of a New York paper in which an account was given of the robbery of an employer by a boy named Bruce.

“You see now what your model boy has come to,” he said triumphantly.

Mrs. Winter read the paragraph carefully.

“That boy isn’t Ben,” she said decisively.

“Oh, no,” sneered Jacob Winter, “of course it isn’t Ben.”

“Certainly not. Don’t you see that the age of this Bruce is given at nineteen.”

248 “No doubt that is a mistake. Mistakes are often made about ages. Besides Ben is tall and well grown, and could easily pass for nineteen.”

“Ben isn’t filling any such position as that mentioned.”

“How do you know? When did you hear from him last?”

“Four weeks ago.”

“A good deal may happen in four weeks, Mrs. Winter.”

“That is true, but you won’t make me believe Ben has taken money.”

“None so blind as those that won’t see. I knew no good would ever come to Ben when he ran away from a good home.”

“I shan’t borrow any trouble, Mr. Winter. You always were ready to believe anything bad of Ben.”

“Just wait and see, Mrs. W. You’ll find out that I am right, before long.”

And Mr. Winter with a smile of superiority left the kitchen and went out to the barn.

He had hardly gone out when Albert Graham came into the house.

“How do you do, Mrs. Winter?” he said. “Have just heard from Ben.”

249 “Have you? Oh, I am so glad. Look at this paragraph, Albert, and tell me if it is true.”

Albert read attentively the paragraph about the young defaulter.

He said indignantly: “You don’t think that was Ben, do you, Mrs. Winter.”

“No, I didn’t think so, but Mr. Winter insists that it was Ben.”

“Then Mr. Winter is mistaken. How could Ben steal money in New York when he is in England?”

“What!” ejaculated Mrs. Winter, dropping her rolling-pin on the floor in her surprise.

“Look at that letter, Mrs. Winter! You see it is mailed in London.”

“Ben in London!” exclaimed the astonished mother. “How did it happen?”

“I will read you the letter:

“You will be as much surprised to hear that I am in London, as I was when I found myself on board the Etruria, and was told by Mrs. Harcourt, my patroness, that we were bound for a voyage across the Atlantic. She has traveled a good deal in Europe, but her start seems very sudden. Well, we had a fine, smooth voyage, which I very much enjoyed. I must tell you that250 my most intimate friend on board was the son of an Earl, and furthermore that I am invited to make a visit to Bentley Hall, the seat of the Earl. When you get this letter I expect to be the guest of the Earl. I might feel awkward, like a cat in a strange garret, as the saying is, but for my being so intimate with Cyril. When I used to read the stories of high life in England in some of the New York story-papers, I never imagined that it would be my lot to become acquainted with any of the English aristocracy, but it has come about.

“I wish you could see me, Albert. I am dressed in the style, I assure you, for Mrs. Harcourt, who considers me her adopted son, wishes me to do her credit. Still, Albert, I am the same boy at heart that I have always been, and nothing would please me more than to spend an evening at your house and play checkers. I believe you beat me the last game we played together. It may interest you to know that I played a game on board ship with the Earl of Bentley, and I am glad to say that I won. I don’t think his lordship plays as good a game as you.

“Please show this letter to my mother, and say that I will soon write her under cover to you.

“Your affectionate friend,

Ben Bruce.”

251 “There, Mrs. Winter, what do you say to that?” asked Albert.

“Ben is getting on wonderfully,” said his mother. “I can hardly believe it. It seems like a romance.”

“At any rate it shows that Ben couldn’t have been stealing in New York.”

“I am thankful for that, though I did not for a moment believe it possible.”

At supper time Mrs. Winter seemed so bright and cheerful that her husband was not only surprised but annoyed.

“It seems to me, Mrs. W.,” he said, “that you are unusually chipper, considerin’ that Ben has got into such a scrape.”

“I told you, Mr. Winter, that I had no faith in the story—that is, applied to Ben.”

“You say that, but I have no doubt that you believe it.”

“I have positive proof that Ben did not steal any money in New York.”

“Oho, you have positive proof, have you?” sneered Jacob. “S’posin’ you tell me what your proof is.”

“I will, with pleasure. Ben is not in New York.”

“Isn’t in New York, hey? Likely he isn’t. He is probably in Sing Sing.”

252 “Ben is not in this country.”

“What? Did he escape and go to Canada?”

“No; he is in England.”

Jacob Winter paused as he was raising a cup of tea to his mouth, and stared at his wife with open mouth.

“Say that again,” he ejaculated.

“Ben is in England.”

“How do you know?”

“Albert Graham has been over here and told me.”

“That Graham boy has probably lied.”

“He has received a letter from Ben mailed in London.”

“I won’t believe it till I see the letter.”

“Then I will show you the letter,” and Mrs. Winter drew it from the pocket of her dress.

Jacob Winter put on his spectacles and read the letter slowly, for he was not much of a scholar.

“Do you believe that, Mrs. W.?” he asked when he had finished and laid it down on the tea-table.

“Yes. Why shouldn’t I?”

“I don’t believe it. It ain’t probable.”

“I agree with you, Mr. Winter, that it is very strange. Still it is possible, and as Ben has written it I believe it.”

253 “If you want my opinion of it I’ll give it to you right now. I believe it’s about the biggest lie I ever read or heard of.”

“Ben doesn’t lie, Mr. Winter.”

“Oh, no, of course not. Well, there’s your letter. When you write to him send my respects to the Earl, whatever his name is,” and Mr. Winter laughed heartily at what he thought to be a very witty remark.

But Mrs. Winter’s mind was greatly relieved. She fully believed in the truth of Ben’s statements, and was glad to think that he was so happily situated.

That evening Mr. Winter had a call from a nephew, a man of about thirty-five, who had been a rolling stone ever since he had reached the age of discretion. Mr. Winter received him coldly, as he was apprehensive that Ezra would be asking him for money.

“How have you been a-doin’, Ezra?” he asked cautiously.

“I’ve been doing finely, Uncle Jacob,” replied Ezra in an airy manner.

“You don’t say so,” returned Jacob, considerably surprised. “What kind of a business be you in?”

“Mining business, Uncle Jacob.”

254 “You ain’t diggin’ for gold, be you?”

“No; but I am the agent of some Western mines. I have an office in New York. How much money do you think I made last month?”

“I couldn’t say.”

“Six hundred dollars.”

“Do tell! How’d you make it?”

“By selling mining shares. I get a commission. But what I made wasn’t a circumstance to what some of my customers made. Why, one man bought five hundred shares of stock of me, and in three weeks the stock went up four dollars a share. That’s two thousand dollars.”

“You don’t say? Was the stock high priced?”

“Only four dollars a share. It just doubled.”

This was the beginning of a conversation which finally ended in Jacob Winter’s giving his nephew an order to buy a thousand dollars’ worth of shares in the Muddy Gulch Mining Company of Nevada. The purchase represented five hundred shares at two dollars a share.

“You think it’s safe, Ezra?” asked Jacob anxiously.

“Uncle Jacob, you’ll double your money in three months, perhaps in one. Give me a power of attorney and I’ll sell for you at the top of the market.”



Though Mrs. Harcourt could have gone back to Paris with safety after Basil’s return to New York, she decided to remain in Geneva, and did so through the winter. She engaged teachers for Ben, who devoted several hours daily to study.

He fully appreciated the advantages which he had been unable to secure in Wrayburn, and not knowing how long they might last, made the most of them.

He sometimes asked himself why Mrs. Harcourt lavished so much expense upon him, and, indeed, why she cared to have him with her; for though always kind, she never showed any affection for him. But he was content to accept what she chose to bestow, and though he did not love her, he felt sincerely grateful.

At the hotel he became acquainted with some American visitors, among them General Flint, of Iowa. The general was a typical Western man, of rough and ready manners, but a warm256 heart. He seemed to be especially interested in Ben, and invited him on several excursions, including one to the Mer de Glace. Mrs. Harcourt had been there in a previous year, and did not care to join the party.

“Edwin,” he said one day, “it’s a great pity you are not a poor boy.”

“Why?” asked Ben, smiling.

“Because you would make your way. You have grit.”

“I am glad you judge so favorably of me, General Flint.”

Ben did not venture to tell his companion that he was really a poor boy, as Mrs. Harcourt would have been displeased to have it known that he was not really her son.

“Were you a poor boy?” asked Ben, after a pause.

“Yes. At your age I had to hustle for a living.”

“You seem to have succeeded.”

“Yes,” answered the general complacently. “I don’t like to boast, but I suppose I may be worth not far from half a million dollars.”

“I think I could live on the income of that,” said Ben with a smile. “If you don’t mind telling me, how did you make your money?”

257 “I made the first thousand dollars in the woods; in fact, as a woodchopper. Then I bought a considerable tract of woodland, agreeing to pay on instalments. I hired men to help me clear it, and became quite a lumber king. I have large tracts of land now, which yield me a handsome revenue. I shouldn’t like to go through those early days of hard work again.”

“I can hardly imagine you chopping down trees, General Flint.”

“Perhaps not, Edwin, but I could do it still,” and the general straightened up his tall and slender form. “Why, I’m only fifty-five, and there is Gladstone, who is at least twenty years older, makes nothing of going out before breakfast and cutting down a tree. Do you remember your father, Edwin?”

“Yes,” answered Ben briefly, for he felt that they were getting on dangerous ground.

“Your mother seems to be pretty well fixed.”


“No doubt she’s as well off as I am,” suggested the general, who was not without his share of American curiosity.

“She never speaks to me of her property,” said Ben, “but we always travel in first-class style and put up at the best hotels.”

258 “So that I am afraid you will never have to hustle for yourself.”

Ben smiled.

“I don’t know. Stranger things have happened,” he answered.

“Well, if it comes, you’ll always have a friend in Obed Flint.

“Do you think your mother would favor a second marriage?” asked the general, after a pause.

Ben regarded his companion with surprise, but he had such a matter-of-fact manner that he concluded he must be in earnest, strange as the question was.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “I never heard her express herself on the subject.”

“You see, I am alone in the world. I was married at twenty-two, but my wife died before I was twenty-five, leaving neither chick nor child. So I have remained unmarried. I have sometimes thought I should like to build a fine house in Davenport (that’s where I live) and have a stylish woman at the head of it. Now, your mother is very stylish; she would do me credit. But perhaps you would object to her marrying again?”

“I should have no right to object, General Flint.”

259 “I don’t know about that. As an only son you might think it was some business of yours. But I’ll say one thing, Edwin—I shouldn’t want any of her money. I should be perfectly willing that she should leave it all to you.”

“If my mother were to marry again, I would as soon have her marry you, as any one.”

“Thank you, my boy,” and the old general clasped the hand of his young companion. “I don’t know as I shall do anything about it, but if I see the way clear, I may propose.”

About a week later, to Mrs. Harcourt’s intense astonishment, General Flint made her a matrimonial offer.

“I don’t want any of your money, ma’am,” he said bluntly. “You can save it all for the boy. I’ve got a good fortune myself, and I mean to live in fine style.”

“Thank you, General Flint,” said the widow. “I own that I am surprised, for I had no idea you had thought of me in any such connection. I hope,” she added smiling, “it won’t be a very serious blow to your happiness if I say that I should rather remain a widow.”

“No, ma’am, I can’t say it will. When a man is over fifty his heart gets a little tough. Still I may say that I admire you very much and260 look upon you as a very stylish woman. I should like to introduce you to my friends as Mrs. General Flint.”

“Thank you, general. In refusing your proposal I don’t mind assuring you that I am not likely to marry any one else.”

“That’s something. Then you have no personal objection to me?”

“Not at all. I feel very friendly to you. May I ask how you happened to think of marrying me?”

“Well, I took a notion to your son, Edwin, first, and then it was natural that I should think of his mother.”

“Then I am indebted to Edwin for your offer, general?” said Mrs. Harcourt, smiling.

“Well, yes, in a measure. He’s a very fine boy.”

“But you don’t find that he resembles me?”

“No, I can’t see much resemblance.”

“I don’t think there is much.”

“Probably he resembles his father.”

“Very probably. I am not a judge on that point.”

Mrs. Harcourt’s refusal did not alter the friendly relations between Ben and the general. They continued to spend considerable time together. Mrs. Harcourt was so familiar with261 Switzerland that she did not care to go on many excursions, while he enjoyed them. So he and General Flint were often companions, and the latter extended his stay in Geneva considerably beyond his original intention.

One day in early June on returning rather late in the afternoon from an Alpine jaunt of three days, Ben was received by the servant who admitted him with a grave look.

“Madame, your mother, is very sick, Monsieur Edwin,” he said.

Ben was startled.

“What is the matter?”

“She has had a shock, I think the doctor said.”

“Can I see her?”

“Yes, she wishes to see you.”

Ben hastened to Mrs. Harcourt’s chamber. She was lying on the bed, looking pale, with the drawn face that suggests a paralytic stroke.

“I am very sorry to see you in this state, mother,” said Ben, in a tone of sympathy. “When were you attacked?”

“Yesterday,” said Mrs. Harcourt, speaking with difficulty.

“Are you feeling better now?”

“No, Edwin. I have a presentiment that I shall never be any better.”

262 “Oh, don’t say that!” exclaimed Ben, really grieved, for the thought of all the benefits he had received from this woman, upon whom he had no claim, gave rise to a strong feeling of gratitude.

“I don’t think I am mistaken. I don’t think I shall live long. It is necessary that I should give you some directions in case of the worst. You see my desk upon the table?”


“If I am taken away, open it and you will find a sealed letter addressed to yourself. You will read it at once, for it contains my instructions to you.”

“I will do so, mother.”

For a week Mrs. Harcourt lingered. She seemed to like to have Ben with her, and he showed the devotion of a real son. But on the eighth day she died very suddenly of heart failure, and Ben found himself alone in a strange land with a heavy responsibility laid upon him.



It was certainly a trying position in which Ben was placed. He was only a boy of sixteen, and he found a man’s responsibility thrown upon him. In this juncture General Flint came to his assistance and practically took charge of the funeral arrangements.

According to instructions Ben opened the desk of his patroness, and found the sealed letter which he opened. It had been written since Mrs. Harcourt came to Geneva.

There were parts of it that surprised Ben not a little. The material portions are given below.

“Though I am in perfect health, so far as I know, there is a presentiment on my mind that I shall not live long. Should any sudden end come it is absolutely necessary that you should have an explanation of my selecting you as my companion and adopted son. I hope that what I may have to say will not entirely destroy your regard for me.

264 “My own son, Edwin, for whom you are named, died about a year since and his body lies in Lausanne. I will not dwell upon my grief for the death of my only son. That will be understood. But apart from this his death brought me pecuniary embarrassment. He received by the will of his grandfather an income of ten thousand dollars a year, which was at my disposal. For myself, I am comparatively poor. I have about forty thousand dollars, but the income of this would not be adequate to keep up the style and rate of expenditure to which I have been accustomed. I was tempted therefore to conceal the poor boy’s death. I sailed for New York, and on the Bowery I met you. You were of the right age and bore a sufficient resemblance to Edwin to enable me to carry on the imposture which I planned. You know how I attached you to myself, and dressed you so that you might pass for my son. There was danger of discovery. For this reason, though I carried you with me to the house of my uncle, I only made one call, and relied upon his short-sightedness not to discover the deception. As he might ask you some embarrassing questions, I warned you that his mind was affected, so that they might not give rise to any suspicions in your265 mind, for I feared that you would not consent to play the part I designed for you if you thought it would be aiding and abetting fraud.

“The person whom I feared most was my cousin Basil Wentworth. He was not short-sighted, and he might very possibly remember my son Edwin, though he had not seen him for several years. Of course I was delighted to find that he was in Chicago. But suddenly, while dining at my uncle’s table, I was informed that in a few days he would be back in New York. I decided at once to go back to Europe, and lest you should object I said nothing to you about my plan till we were on the Etruria. After the steamer was under way I felt relieved. The danger was passed.

“On learning to know you better I found that I had made a fortunate selection. You had the looks and bearing of a gentleman and won the favor of all, even those of high position, as in the case of the Earl of Bentley and his family. I was proud of your social successes, since it reflected credit on me, who was supposed to be your mother.

“You remember how suddenly I left Paris. It was because I heard that Basil was in London, and likely any day to run over to Paris. He266 would undoubtedly ask you questions which would reveal the deception which I had practised. I came to Geneva, and finding it an agreeable residence I have remained here.

“Now let me tell you whom I have wronged. The income of my poor boy was, at his death, to to be divided equally between Basil Wentworth and a cousin who married a man named Mordaunt, and was at last accounts residing in Illinois.”

Ben started in surprise. He remembered that Frank Mordaunt had told him of his former residence in Illinois.

“Can it be possible,” he asked himself, “that Frank’s family will inherit five thousand dollars income when this deception is made known? I heartily hope so. It would relieve them from all anxiety.”

Ben was of a generous disposition, and the thought of his own loss did not occur to him.

“Should I be taken away, in which case and only then, this letter will fall into your hands, I desire as far as possible to repair the great wrong which I have done. I therefore ask you to telegraph at once to Basil Wentworth that I am dead, and request him, if possible, to come immediately to Europe, as you are too young to meet the responsibility which would fall upon you. It is my267 desire that the money due to Basil and the Mordaunts should be given to them, and the year’s income which has been paid to me for you should be paid over by my bankers. I have a will in the hands of John Munroe & Co., the Paris bankers, and upon the receipt of an order it will be delivered to Basil, whom I have designated as my executor.

“And now, Edwin, as I have learned to call you, I will close this letter. I have made it as definite as possible. During the time you have been with me I have formed an attachment to you. I earnestly hope that you may live long and prosper, and that you will never regret meeting with the mother of Edwin Harcourt.”

There was a certain pathos about this letter, and the tears rose to Ben’s eyes. He could not realize that the woman with whom he had been constantly associated for nearly a year, was really dead and that he would see her no more.

“I suppose we ought to telegraph to Mrs. Harcourt’s relatives,” said Ben, referring to General Flint.

“That seems to me the best thing to do, Ben. Do you know where they live?”

“Both in New York, and both in the same268 house. Mr. Anderson is the uncle of Mr. Wentworth.”

In the desk Edwin found nearly a thousand dollars, so that he was provided with money to pay Mrs. Harcourt’s funeral expenses.

“If there had been any difficulty, Edwin, I would have seen you through,” said his friend General Flint. “And that reminds me, your adopted mother says nothing of any provision for you.”

“No,” said Ben.

“What will you do if you are left out in the cold?”

“I have about one hundred and fifty dollars saved up from my allowance, which has been liberal.”

“That won’t go far.”

“No; but I won’t borrow trouble.”

“There is no occasion to do so. You have a friend in Obed Flint.”

“Thank you,” said Ben gratefully. “If I need a friend there is no one I would sooner apply to than you.”

This was the form of telegram which Ben sent to Basil Wentworth:

“Mrs. Harcourt is dead. Will you come on? She instructed me to send for you.”

269 This telegram, after some consideration, Ben signed “Edwin” as he could not explain that he had no claim to this name. The explanation would come later on.

He received an answer the same day. It ran thus:

Edwin Harcourt:

“I will sail by the next steamer. Accept my sympathy.

Basil Wentworth.

“You have done all you could, Edwin,” said the general. “There is nothing to do but to wait till Mr. Wentworth arrives.”

“Will you stay also?” asked Ben anxiously.

“Yes, my boy. General Obed Flint is not the man to desert a friend when he needs him as much as you do.”

Ben also wrote a letter to Frank Mordaunt.

“If you are nearly related to Mrs. Harcourt,” he said, “I think you must be the heir to her son, who died more than a year since. Mr. Basil Wentworth, who is joint heir with you, is on his way to Europe, and will communicate with you. He had lost all traces of your family, but I think270 myself fortunate in being able to put him on your track. Hereafter, Frank, you will have no money troubles, and no one will rejoice more over your good fortune than your friend Ben Bruce.”



Ten days later a servant came to Ben’s room with a card.

It bore the name of Basil Wentworth.

“Show the gentleman up,” he said.

As Basil entered the room, his face wore a look of sympathy.

“My dear Edwin,” he said, “I cannot tell you how much I sympathize with you in your sudden bereavement.”

He surveyed Ben with interest and curiosity and was forced to admit that he was a most attractive boy.

“You, at any rate look the picture of health,” he said.

“Yes, Mr. Wentworth, but you are under a mistake. My name is not Edwin Harcourt, but Ben Bruce.”

“Where then is Edwin?” asked Basil in great surprise.

“He died over a year since. Mrs. Harcourt seems to have adopted me in his place.”

272 “But in that case,” and Basil stopped short, for he did not like to speak ill of the dead.

“I know what you would say, Mr. Wentworth, but if any wrong has been done it will be repaired. I have a letter here written by Mrs. Harcourt, which I opened after her death. It will explain all.”

Basil Wentworth read the letter in silence.

“So far as I am concerned,” he said, “I freely forgive my cousin the deception. Of course you had no suspicion of the real state of things.”

“No, Mr. Wentworth. I certainly should not have consented to keep my friend Frank Mordaunt and his family out of the money that justly belongs to him.”

“Do you know where the Mordaunts are living?” asked Basil eagerly.

“Yes; they live in Brooklyn, and are very poor. Frank sells papers for a living, but you know that this is a very poor dependence.”

“But I thought that they had some property.”

“It was lost, by speculation, I think.”

“I will at once send them a hundred dollars, to tide them over till the income which belongs to them comes into their hands.”

“I wish you would, Mr. Wentworth,” said Ben earnestly. “They stand in great need of it.”

273 “But Edwin, or rather Ben, you don’t speak of yourself. My cousin’s death will be a serious loss to you.”

“Yes, but I think I shall get along.”

“You are young and hopeful. Do you think Mrs. Harcourt has provided for you?”

“I know nothing about that. Her will, as she writes, is in the hands of her bankers in Paris. She has appointed you her executor.”

“I will be your friend, Ben. I am sure that you have been strictly honorable in this matter.”

“I am rich in friends,” said Ben smiling. “General Flint, an American, is in the hotel, and he has been of great service to me in arranging for the funeral.”

“Were you provided with money sufficient to defray the expenses?”

“Yes; Mrs. Harcourt supplied me with all that was needful.”

“Will you be ready to accompany me to Paris to-morrow? It is desirable that I should have your testimony as to my poor cousin’s death.”

“Yes, Mr. Wentworth, I am at your disposal.”

When General Flint learned that Ben was about to leave Geneva for Paris, he decided to go too.

274 “I should feel lonely without you, my lad,” he said. “Besides, you may need a friend.”

“I think Mr. Wentworth will be my friend, but I hope to have your friendship also.”

This was the letter that Basil Wentworth wrote to his uncle:

My dear Uncle:

“I have reached Geneva and found that it was indeed true about my poor cousin’s death. I have also had a great surprise. Edwin died more than a year since, and the boy who came to your house with Maria was only an adopted son whom she had put in his place. The boy is a fine, manly fellow, and had no idea that he was being used to defeat the ends of justice. So far as I remember Edwin, this boy is much his superior, and I should be pleased to feel that he was a relative. Perhaps Maria has provided for him by will. She left a letter which he opened after her death, which revealed to him for the first time the object of his adoption. And now comes something truly remarkable. This Ben Bruce, for that is his real name, is well acquainted with the Mordaunts, who are living in Brooklyn, and he speaks very highly of Frank, a boy of his own age, who has been reduced to selling papers for a living. I275 don’t know why his mother has steadfastly kept aloof from her relatives in New York, but I think it is on account of her pride. I have sent them a hundred dollars to tide them over till they come into possession of the income which will now fall to them.

“I shall stay as brief a time in Paris as I can, and will then sail for New York with Ben. I mean to help him if he is not provided for in my cousin’s will.”

On arriving in Paris Basil Wentworth went at once to the banking house of John Munroe & Co. and gave notice of Mrs. Harcourt’s death. The will was handed to him, and he opened it. He read it through attentively and then turned to Ben.

“Ben,” he said, “you are left the sole heir to Mrs. Harcourt’s property.”

Ben looked the surprise which he felt.

“I had no idea of this,” he said. “Will it be right for me to accept it, not being a relative?”

“Mrs. Harcourt’s relatives are well provided for. They inherit Edwin’s income, which was ten thousand dollars a year. I am sure that no one will object to your inheritance. I must tell276 you, however, that my poor cousin was by no means rich. Probably she will not leave more than forty thousand dollars.”

“That seems a great deal to me, but she wished the last year’s income which she received wrongfully for her son to be repaid.”

“That will make ten thousand dollars. My share of that will be half, and I will excuse you from paying it. The half that goes to the Mordaunts may be repaid.”

“I shall be glad, Mr. Wentworth, if you will act as my guardian. You have shown yourself such a generous friend that I am sure I could make no better selection.”

“My dear boy,” said Basil warmly, “I will accept the appointment, and you may be sure, that I will protect your interests. You are a fortunate boy.”

When General Flint was told of Ben’s good luck, he was quite delighted.

“The only regret I have, my lad,” he said, “is that you are now rich, and I shall not have the pleasure of helping you.”

“I will take the will for the deed, General Flint. I don’t think you would have allowed me to suffer.”

“Not much, my boy. I hope you will come277 out to Iowa next year and make a visit. I shall be glad to show you something of the great West.”

“I will come, general. I shall not soon forget your kindness to me when I needed a friend.”

Basil’s letter to Frank Mordaunt arrived at a critical moment. On account of some delay in the mail the two letters, Ben’s and Basil Wentworth’s, reached them the same day.

Things had gone badly with them. Frank had been laid up for ten days by an attack of the grip, and of course his earnings during that time were suspended. They had no money laid aside, and the rent was nearly due.

Frank was of a cheerful disposition, but he could not help feeling depressed.

“I don’t know how we are coming out, Frank,” said his mother sadly. “Life is such a struggle that I don’t derive much pleasure from it.”

“Wait till the clouds roll by, mother,” said Frank with forced gayety.

“They are a long time in rolling by. When did you hear from Ben last?”

“Not for two months.”

At that moment the postman’s whistle was heard, and Alvin ran down-stairs to meet him.

278 “Two letters, mother,” he said. “They are both for Frank.”

“Let me see the address.”

“One is in Ben’s handwriting,” said Frank, and he tore it open.

“Good news, mother!” he exclaimed in excitement. “Our fortune has come.”

“How’s that?”

“Edwin Harcourt died over a year since, and we come into an income of five thousand dollars. All your troubles are over, mother.”

“God be thanked, though I am sorry for the poor boy’s death. From whom is your other letter?”

By this time Frank had opened it.

To his great delight he found an order on a New York banker for a hundred dollars.

“Look at this, mother!” he cried. “One hundred dollars! We shall be able to pay the rent now.”

The next morning Mr. Grubb the landlord came in.

“I suppose you can pay the rent, widder?” he said.

“I shall have it this afternoon, Mr. Grubb.”

“That don’t go down,” said Grubb crossly. “Why couldn’t you have it this morning?”

279 “Because my son has gone to New York to cash an order for one hundred dollars. That will be enough to pay the rent, won’t it?”

“Is that straight, widder?” asked the landlord incredulously.

“I am not in the habit of telling falsehoods, Mr. Grubb,” said Mrs. Mordaunt indignantly.

“Oh, it’s all right. I’ll come around to-morrow. I’m glad you’re so prosperous, widder.”

“I don’t think we shall care to occupy your rooms long, Mr. Grubb.”

“I hope you haven’t taken offense, widder. I shall be glad to have you stay.”

“We have become rich, Mr. Grubb, and shall want to live in more commodious rooms.”

“I have a better tenement near the Park, ma’am.”

“We may look at it, but our plans are not made yet.”

Mr. Grubb left the house with a greatly increased respect for his tenants.



Ben and his guardian had a smooth and pleasant return voyage.

“Do you need any money?” asked Basil when they landed. “As your guardian, as well as the executor of Mrs. Harcourt’s estate, I am ready to meet any reasonable demands.”

“Thank you, Mr. Wentworth. I have two hundred dollars with me, and this will answer for the present.”

“Where do you expect to stay?”

“General Flint insists upon my being his guest at the Fifth Avenue Hotel for a week. When he goes back to Iowa I shall find a home in a private house.”

The first evening of his return Ben called at Mrs. Robinson’s lodging house to see his literary friend Sylvanus Snodgrass.

The novelist was sincerely glad to see him.

“Welcome home, Ben!” he said. “I have missed you a great deal. And how is the lady who took you to Europe with her?”

281 “She is dead, Mr. Snodgrass,” replied Ben gravely.

“And you are thrown upon the world again? Do you propose to go back to your old business?”

“No,” answered Ben with a smile. “I don’t think it will be necessary.”

“Did the lady provide for you?”

“She left me nearly forty thousand dollars.”

“Why, you are rich!” exclaimed Sylvanus. “It is truly a romance in real life. Would you be willing to have me weave your story into a serial for the Weekly Bugle?”

“I would a little rather not,” answered Ben. “Mrs. Harcourt has relatives, and it might not be agreeable for them.”

“Of course I won’t without your permission. Have you thought how you will invest your money?”

“No; I shall leave that to my guardian, Mr. Basil Wentworth.”

“I could suggest an investment that would double, nay treble your fortune in five years.”

“What is it?” asked Ben.

“Start a literary weekly, after the style of the Bugle. That paper pays immensely.”

“But I don’t know anything about the publication of weekly papers.”

282 “I do. Listen, Ben,” said the novelist with enthusiasm. “You could count upon my assistance and co-operation. I would assume the editorship, and agree to have a story from my pen running constantly. Gloriana Podd would, I am sure, be glad to write for us. I know just what the public want, and between ourselves, I think the editor of the Bugle is often at fault. If it was in my hands I would make a good deal more out of it.”

“I am afraid, Mr. Snodgrass, I should hardly favor such an investment, and I am sure my guardian would not. He says he can invest the money so as to earn five per cent.”

“What’s five per cent.?” asked Sylvanus scornfully.

“Five per cent. on my legacy will make nearly two thousand dollars a year.”

“That is good, of course. I wish I had it, but you might make a good deal more by following my advice.”

“I don’t believe in going into any business which I don’t understand, Mr. Snodgrass. I hope you have been prosperous while I have been away.”

“Well, I can’t complain. I retain my popularity with American readers, but the publishers283 don’t appreciate me as they should. I recently asked the publisher of the Bugle if he wouldn’t give me twenty-five dollars more for my serials, but he declined. He intimated,” continued Mr. Snodgrass with tragic scorn, “that he could get along without me, and could easily supply my place. Did you ever hear of such ingratitude?”

“I am afraid he doesn’t appreciate you, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“No, Ben, he doesn’t. I furnish the brains and he furnishes the capital. That’s about the way the matter stands.”

“You get enough to do?”

“Well, yes, but the prices are so low, and it costs a good deal to live in New York, even in the humble style which I keep up. I am owing Mrs. Robinson for two weeks’ rent, and I think she is getting uneasy.”

“How much does it amount to?”

“Six dollars.”

“Here is the money, Mr. Snodgrass. I am glad to be of service to an old friend.”

Sylvanus Snodgrass grasped Ben’s hand and the tears came into his eyes, for his heart was gentle, though he dealt in the most blood-curdling romances. In one of his stories there were no less than fifteen murders.

284 “You are a true friend, Ben,” he said. “I shall always remember your kindness.”

“Then let me give you something more to remember. Your suit looks rather shabby. If you will order a new one I will pay for it.”

“You overwhelm me, Ben. I own that I am sometimes ashamed to go along the street dressed in this unseemly garb. Those who learn who I am must be surprised that the well-known novelist, whose name is familiar in all parts of the United States, should go so poorly clad. Now I shall feel more independent and self-respecting.”

If misfortunes seldom come singly, it sometimes happens, also, with strokes of good fortune. The next day Mr. Snodgrass received an order for six dime novels from a publisher of that class of fiction, and it exhilarated him immensely.

“You see, Ben,” he said, “genius will triumph in the end. This is an offer that I never sought. It comes from a new publisher. The editor of the Bugle has thought he owned me, but his tyranny is over.”

“I hope you won’t break with him, Mr. Snodgrass.”

“No, I do not wish to injure him, but hereafter he will not monopolize me.”

285 The next day, as Ben was entering the Fifth Avenue Hotel, he met Grant Griswold, of the Manhattan Athletic Club, under whose care he had originally come to New York.

“How do you do, Mr. Griswold?” said Ben, going up to his old friend and offering his hand.

Mr. Griswold looked puzzled.

“I am afraid I don’t remember you,” he said.

“Don’t you remember the boy who came to New York on the same steamer with you?”

“Why, yes, it is Ben,” said the clubman, looking pleased. “I have often thought of you. And how have you prospered?”

“Famously,” answered Ben with a smile.

“Have you been in New York all the time?”

“I only recently returned from Europe. I spent nearly a year there.”

Mr. Griswold looked surprised.

“You were hardly in a position to make a European trip when I parted with you,” he said.

“No, but I attracted the attention of a lady who had lost her son—a boy of my age—and she took me in his place.”

“I see, and you are with her.”

“No; she is dead.”

“Ah, I am sorry to hear that. It will make a great difference to you.”

286 “Not financially. She has provided well for me.”

“I am glad to hear it, Ben. I took a liking to you when I first met you. Where are you staying?”

“At this hotel for a week, with my friend, General Flint of Iowa.”

“I am delighted to hear such good news of you, Ben. You certainly did well to leave your country home.”

Ben seized the first opportunity after reaching home to write to his mother. He did not go into details as to the fortune that had been left him, but said that he was very comfortably fixed.

Mrs. Winter wrote in reply almost immediately. Her letter was in part as follows:

“Mr. Winter has become more and more difficult to get along with. Some relation of his, Ezra Winter, induced him about a year since, to go into mining stocks as a speculative investment. He has been here several times from Boston, where he has an office, and every time I think he has induced Mr. Winter to invest more heavily. I have no doubt the investment was unwise, and has resulted in considerable losses. I had no confidence in this Ezra; he looks sly and unreliable,287 but he influenced Mr. Winter by promises of immense profits. For three months Mr. Winter has seemed very much troubled, and a week ago he went to Boston to get some information out of Ezra. He returned crosser and more querulous than ever. He has begun to pinch about household expenses, and insists upon my dispensing with a servant, which compels me to work beyond my strength. I realize more than ever how unwise I was to marry Jacob Winter, but I did so largely on your account. When you see him you will be surprised to find how he has aged. Ezra is at the bottom of it all. Mr. Winter is so fond of money that his losses have weighed upon him heavily.”

After reading this letter Ben decided that he must make an early visit to Wrayburn to see his mother.



Before leaving New York for his return to his old home, Ben took a brief trip over to Brooklyn to see his friend Frank Mordaunt. He found the family in a cheerful and happy mood.

Frank welcomed him heartily.

“It seems good to see you back, Ben,” he said.

“I suppose you have given up selling papers, Frank,” returned Ben, smiling.

“Yes, ever since the wonderful news you sent, and the letter from Mr. Wentworth inclosing one hundred dollars. It came just in the nick of time. We were on the point of being ejected for not being able to pay our rent.”

“You will never have any such trouble again, Frank. Mr. Wentworth has sent me over to bring you to his office.”

“Is it really true that we have come into five thousand dollars a year income?”

“There is no doubt about it, Frank. You ought to have come into it a year ago. I am owing you five thousand dollars back income.”

289 “You!” exclaimed Frank in great surprise.

“Yes. I am the heir of Mrs. Harcourt, and I am pledged to pay back the money which she wrongfully received.”

“I hope you inherited a good sum, Ben.”

“Forty thousand dollars; but out of it I am to pay your back income. It will leave me thirty-five thousand dollars, as Mr. Basil Wentworth has kindly refused to accept his share.”

“And we will do the same,” said Frank warmly. “We ought to make some return for your kindness.”

“But, Frank, it is only fair that I should pay it.”

“We can afford to give it up. Why, with five thousand dollars a year we shall feel like millionaires.”

“And with forty thousand dollars I shall be very rich for a Bowery newsboy.”

“It will only yield an income of two thousand dollars a year, and we shall have five thousand. Say no more, Ben; I will speak to my mother and we will arrange matters with Mr. Basil Wentworth. We can afford to be as generous as he is.”

To anticipate a little, Mrs. Mordaunt cordially agreed to Frank’s proposal and Ben received the290 entire fortune of his benefactress without incumbrance.

On the Fulton ferryboat Frank called attention to a boy sitting near, who was dudishly dressed, and appeared to have a very high opinion of himself.

“Do you see that boy, Ben?” he asked.


“I know him well. He lives only a block from us, but in a much better house. He looks down upon me as a poor newsboy, and when he speaks to me it is in a tone of lofty condescension.”

“What is his name?”

“Herman Brooks.”

“I suppose he belongs to a rich family.”

“His father earns an income of two thousand dollars a year in the New York Custom House, but as he is an only son they are able to give him a good supply of pocket money.”

“Probably he will change his opinion of you when he hears of your good fortune.”

“No doubt. I think I will speak to him, so that you may have a specimen of his manners.”

Frank moved up to the seat next to Herman.

“Good morning, Herman,” he said.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” said Herman Brooks coldly. “How is the paper business nowadays?”

291 “About the same as usual, I presume, but I am out of it.”

“Oh! I suppose you are looking for a position in some office?”

“I may by and by. By the way, Herman, I see you have a new bicycle?”

“Yes,” answered Herman with some interest, for he felt quite proud of his new purchase.

“Do you mind telling me where you bought it?”

“Perhaps you are thinking of buying one,” said Herman, smiling in evident amusement.

“I may do so. I always thought I should like a bicycle.”

“You can get one like mine for a hundred and thirty-five dollars.”

“I wouldn’t mind paying that for a good wheel.”

“You must be crazy!” ejaculated Herman, half amused, half angry. “It is nonsense for you, a poor newsboy, to talk of buying a bicycle like mine.”

“I don’t know why it is, as long as I can pay for it.”

“But you can’t pay for it. You must be crazy, Frank Mordaunt.”

Frank smiled in evident enjoyment of the292 surprise he was going to give his scornful companion.

“Probably you didn’t know of the change in our circumstances,” he said quietly.

“What change?”

“By the death of a relative we have come into an income of five thousand dollars a year.”

“Is this true?” asked Herman in amazement.

“Entirely so.”

Herman’s face underwent an instant change. If there was anything for which he felt respect it was money, and he realized that this hitherto despised newsboy was much better off than himself.

“Accept my congratulations,” he said, with suavity. “You are remarkably fortunate. If you want to buy a bicycle I will go over to New York any time and help you select one. Why won’t you come and spend the evening with me soon.”

“Thank you, but I didn’t suppose you would care to entertain a newsboy.”

“You are not a newsboy now. You are a gentleman.”

“Thank you.”

“Who is the young fellow with you?”

“Ben Bruce. He has just returned from spending a year in Europe.”

293 “I should like to be introduced.”

Smiling inwardly at the sudden change in Herman’s manner, Frank called Ben and introduced him to Herman.

“I am glad to meet you, Mr. Bruce,” said Herman. “How did you enjoy traveling in Europe?”

“Very much.”

“My father has promised to take me there some time.”

“Probably Frank and I will go together in a year or two.”

This was a sudden thought of Ben, but it will not be surprising if it is some time carried into effect.

By this time the boat had reached the New York dock, and the boys separated.

“Herman’s opinion of you has changed materially in a short time,” said Ben, smiling.

“Yes,” answered Frank, “and it would change back again if I should lose my fortune.”



Two days later found Ben a passenger bound for Boston on one of the palatial steamers of the Fall River line.

He looked about him to see if among the eight hundred passengers he could recognize any one. He walked through the brilliant saloon and out upon the open deck in the rear. There were but few passengers outside, as the air was fresh and chill. Ben looked about him carelessly, when his gaze was suddenly arrested by one face.

It was not an attractive face, but quite the reverse. There was a sly and cunning expression, and a mean, treacherous look about the eyes that naturally excited distrust. All this would not have attracted Ben’s notice, who had seen many ill-looking faces in his wanderings, but there was something familiar in the general appearance of the man, some resemblance to a face that he had known. He could not tell immediately whom the man resembled, but it came to him after a while.

295 The man before him, though probably twenty-five years younger, bore a strong resemblance to his stepfather, Jacob Winter.

Then the thought occurred to him: “This must be the Ezra Winter who has lured Mr. Winter into mining speculations. If it is, he looks just like a man who would have no scruple in swindling him.”

Ben next examined the man who was sitting beside the supposed Ezra Winter.

He was a man of the same type, evidently—a man with a low forehead and small ferret-like eyes. The two seemed to be engaged in a deeply interesting and earnest conversation. Ben was curious to learn what they were talking about, and did not scruple to sit down as near them as possible, in the hope of learning.

“Yes,” said the first man, who was really Ezra Winter, “I have made a pretty good thing out of the Muddy Gulch Mining Company. I got in at bottom figures, and have sold a large number of shares at ten times what I gave for them.”

“Is the stock worth anything, Ezra?”

“Precious little. It looks well—on paper. I have an old uncle up in the country—in Wrayburn, New Hampshire, who is in to the extent of three thousand dollars. The old man is tight as a296 file, but I humbugged him into thinking I was going to double his money within a year, and by degrees I drew him in.

“First he invested a thousand dollars after a hundred questions. That was about a year ago. I’ll tell you how I managed to get him in deeper. At the end of three months I invented a ten per cent. dividend, paying it all out of my own pocket. It paid, for he almost immediately put in two thousand dollars more. There haven’t been any dividends since!

“Isn’t he uneasy?”

“I should say so. I get a letter about every week, asking how soon there is going to be another dividend. A short time since the old man came to Boston to make me a visit. It was the first time he had been there since he was thirty years old. I was dismayed when I saw him coming, but I pulled myself together and gave him exclusive news of a rich find of ore that would carry up the price to twice what he paid for it.

“I don’t know whether I quite deceived him or not. He wanted me to sell out half his stock, but I told him it would be at a great sacrifice. In fact he couldn’t get more than fifty cents a share, but I didn’t tell him that. He suggested asking some other broker about it, but that would 297never do. I told him I would keep him apprised of the advance in the stock, and would write him every week. So every week I have written him an encouraging letter, but I am afraid every day of seeing the rusty old man enter the office.”

Ben was curious to know what these two men were talking about, so he sat down as near as possible, in the hope of learning something.—Page 295.

Ben Bruce.

“Is he the only customer who gives you trouble?”

“Not by any manner of means. To tell the truth, Barlow, Boston is getting too hot to hold me. I have made a pretty good trip to New York, and now I am prepared to carry out an old plan of mine.”

“How is that?”

“In the first place I have been out to Nyack to interview a young man of more money than brains, and I have in my pocket a check for twenty-five hundred dollars received in return for stock.”

“Good! You’re a sharp one, Ezra. Is it the same old stock?”

“Yes, but the certificates are very handsome. I have ordered some new ones. They look fine, as I have already told you. Well, now, I have got together about six thousand dollars, and I shall take the next steamer for Liverpool.”

“Leaving your victims in the lurch?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

298 “Ezra, Ezra! I am afraid you are a trifle unprincipled,” said his friend in gay remonstrance.

“A man must look out for himself in this world, Barlow.”

“That’s so. You were born smart. I am afraid I wasn’t. Don’t you want a private secretary?”

“I may some time,” answered Ezra quite seriously. “If I do, I will think of you, Barlow.”

“How long shall you stay abroad?”

“Till this affair blows over. I may be able to do something over there. Six thousand dollars won’t last me forever.”

It may be imagined with what interest Ben listened to this conversation. It revealed to him the manner in which his stepfather had been fleeced. Skinflint as he was, it was his love for money that had made him a ready victim to Ezra and his wiles.

Though he had no love for Jacob Winter, he felt that Ezra was far more contemptible, and it made his blood boil to think of the cold-blooded way in which he had swindled those who had trusted to his plausible recommendations of the fraudulent mine which appeared to have no intrinsic value.

299 The two speakers had paid no especial attention to the boy who sat near them gazing with apparent absorption into the waters of the Sound.

At length Barlow noticed him and he breathed a word of caution to Ezra.

Ezra looked round, but he did not seem alarmed.

“Bah!” he said, “it’s only a kid.”

“‘Little pitchers have large ears,’” suggested Barlow.

“Even if he has heard anything, he hasn’t understood it.”

“I dare say you are right. A boy of his age isn’t likely to know much about business.”

“It’s getting a little chilly. Let us go inside.”

“Very well!” and the two entered the main saloon and sat down to listen to the fine music discoursed by the band.

“What ought I to do?” Ben asked himself, when he was left alone. “I don’t care much for Jacob Winter, but I don’t like to see him swindled in such a barefaced manner. If there is any way in which I can balk the scheme I will.”



How to foil Ezra Winter in his fraudulent schemes Ben could not tell. Though he had more experience than most boys of his age he was not so familiar with villainy as some boys who have been brought up amid different surroundings.

“I must consult some one older and wiser than myself,” he reflected.

Arrived in Boston he grew impatient to start for Wrayburn. It was more than a year—about fifteen months—since he had left the quiet town, and he felt a strong desire to see his mother. He could have gone a considerably longer time without seeing Mr. Winter—indeed he would not have mourned much if he knew he should never see him again.

But no boy who has a heart does not feel it throb quicker at the thought of his mother. Ben’s mother had always been kind, loving and indulgent, and his recent good fortune he valued the more because it would enable him to provide for301 her more liberally than ever before, and save her from all future anxiety and hard work.

It was not over seventy miles from Boston to Wrayburn. It had seemed to him when he first made the journey a long one, but he had been such a traveler in the fifteen months that had elapsed since that it seemed to him a very short one.

He looked about him eagerly to see if he could see any familiar form. But no Wrayburn man seemed to be returning from Boston. When he was fifteen miles from Wrayburn, his heart leaped with pleasure as a passenger with a familiar face entered the car.

It was Mr. John Bentham, an elderly lawyer who lived only about half a mile from Jacob Winter’s farmhouse, and did what law business was required by the people in Wrayburn and the adjoining towns.

Ben rose and went over to the lawyer’s seat.

“How do you do, Mr. Bentham?” he said.

The lawyer lifted his glasses and surveyed Ben at first with a puzzled expression.

“Don’t you know me, Mr. Bentham? I am Ben Bruce.”

“Why, so you are! Bless my soul how you have grown! And where have you been this long time?”

302 “Chiefly in New York and Europe.”

“In Europe? How on earth came you to go there?”

“My expenses were paid by a lady who took an interest in me.”

“You seem to have been born under a lucky star. And now you are coming back to Wrayburn?”

“Yes, but not to stay. Only to see my mother.”

“Then you don’t think you would enjoy working on the farm again?”

“I am sure I wouldn’t.”

“I hope you are sure of making a living elsewhere. It is better to live comfortably on a farm than to live from hand to mouth in a large city.”

“That is true, but I am no longer a green country boy. I am able to make my way in New York.”

“I am glad to hear it.”

“Have you seen my mother lately, Mr. Bentham? Is she well?”

“Your mother is not sick, but I can’t say she is looking altogether well. She seems rather thin and careworn. Have you heard from her lately?”

“Yes, and her letter made me anxious. She says that Mr. Winter is getting very irritable303 and hard to get along with. Of course, that wears upon her.”

“I suspect the old man has met with losses, and that has a bad effect on his temper.”

“I know he has, Mr. Bentham, and I want to consult you professionally on the subject.”

“I am quite at your service, Ben,” said the lawyer, looking rather surprised.

Ben proceeded to tell what he had heard on the Fall River boat.

Mr. Bentham listened with interest.

“It is evident,” he said, “that your stepfather’s unprincipled relative intends to plunder him, and spread the proceeds of the robbery abroad.”

“Is there any way in which he can be stopped?” asked Ben anxiously.

“Yes, he can be arrested on Mr. Winter’s affidavit that he believes he intends to go abroad with property not rightfully his own. Have you any idea how much of your stepfather’s money he has secured?”

“Mr. Winter, besides his farm, had about five thousand dollars in cash. I think he has managed to get nearly all this into his hands.”

“The loss of this money would nearly kill Jacob Winter.”

304 “My mother writes that he has very much aged of late.”

“I have noticed that, but of course I did not know the reason.”

“Then you did not know of his speculations?”

“No; he has been very secret about them.”

“Have you seen this young Ezra Winter?”

“If you describe him I will tell you.”

Ben described the man on the boat as well as he could.

“Yes, I have seen him on two or three occasions on his way to Mr. Winter’s house. I have not been particularly impressed in his favor.”

“Nor has any one else, I believe.”

They were now approaching Wrayburn, and Ben began to look out of the windows eagerly, as the well-remembered localities came in sight.

As Mr. Bentham rose to leave the car he said, “If your stepfather wants my assistance,” he said, “you can notify me.”

Ben got out on the platform of the small depot, with his gripsack in his hand. He had no sooner set foot on the platform, when a glad voice greeted him.

“Why, Ben, is it you come back?”

Turning he saw Albert Graham.

“Yes, Albert, your friend has got back.”

305 “And you are looking fine.”

“I was never better.”

“You have grown taller. I have tried to, but I don’t think nature intended me for a six-footer.”

“How is my mother?”

“She is so as to be about, but I don’t think she is looking as well as when you went away.”

“How have you been getting on, Albert?”

“I haven’t made a fortune, but last week I made ten dollars by riding at the county fair.”

“Good! I don’t think I shall ever make any money that way.”

“You will make more money in other ways.”

“Yes, Albert, I have been very fortunate.”

“I suppose you have brought home a thousand dollars,” said Albert joking.

“A good deal more than that, Albert.”

“Honest Indian?”

“Yes, Albert, it is a sober fact. I’ll tell you all about it later. Now I am anxious to get home as soon as I can.”

When Ben reached the Winter farmhouse his mother and his stepfather had sat down to dinner. It was a plain boiled dinner, without a pudding, for since Jacob’s losses he had begun to pinch on the table.

In a New England farmhouse, whatever the306 parsimony of the farmer the table is not often affected.

“I ain’t got no appetite, Mrs. Winter,” said the farmer with a querulous expression. “The dinner don’t taste as good as usual.”

“I think the fault is in you, Mr. Winter,” replied his wife. “Your appetite has been very poor lately.”

“I’m on my way to the poorhouse,” said Jacob gloomily. “Things have been going very bad.”

“Your crops are as good as usual.”

“I can’t help it. I am poor, Mrs. Winter, dreadfully poor.”

“Well, we will hope that luck will turn.”

At this moment the door of the kitchen where the table was spread was thrown open, and Ben, ruddy and glowing, stepped in.

“Why, it’s Ben!” exclaimed Mrs. Winter, her heart overflowing with joy.

Jacob Winter stared in surprise, but said nothing while Ben was embracing his mother.

“And how well you are looking, Ben!”

“But you have fallen off, mother. Mr. Winter, I hope you are well.”

Jacob Winter yielded his hand reluctantly to the boy’s proffered grasp.

307 “We’re very badly off,” he said querulously, “and now you’ve came back to live on us.”

“I think I shall be able to pay my way,” said Ben, smiling.

“I don’t believe you’ve got five dollars about you.”

Ben drew a five-dollar bill from his pocket. Mr. Winter looked at it longingly. The sight of money always made him feel covetous.

“You owe me as much as that for goin’ away suddenly, and leavin’ me in the lurch,” he said.

“Take it, then. You are welcome to it.”

With a look of satisfaction on his rugged face Jacob drew out an immense wallet and tucked the bill carefully away.

“You shall have your turn soon, mother,” said Ben, smiling.

“Have you been doin’ well, Ben?” asked Jacob, thawing a little.

“Pretty well, thank you. I can pay my way, Mr. Winter.”

“You’d better stay at home and pay board. I’ll take you for four dollars a week.”

“I will think it over, Mr. Winter, but I think business will keep me in New York. Who do you suppose came from New York on the boat with me, Mr. Winter?”

308 “I ain’t good at guessin’.”

“Ezra Winter.”

Jacob half rose from the table, and his face grew dark and stern.

“That scoundrel!” he said. “He’s robbed me of my money.”

“He intends to sail for Europe with all the money he can raise.”

Jacob fell back in his chair pale and dismayed.

“And I shall never see my money again!” he murmured.

“Yes; I have consulted Mr. Bentham the lawyer, and he will go to Boston with you and have him arrested. He will be over in a hour to talk the matter over.”

“I hope I’ll live long enough to see him rottin’ in jail!” said Jacob vindictively. “He’s made me a poor man. You’re a smart boy, Ben, and I thank you.”



Ezra Winter was sitting in his office in the Sears Building in Boston. All his plans had been perfected, and he was prepared to reap the fruit of his rascality.

He had gathered in between six and seven thousand dollars, and on this he calculated that he could enjoy himself abroad for a considerable time. Only two days more and he would sail.

While he was indulging in pleasant reflections, there was a knock at his office door.

“Come in!” he cried.

The door opened, and Jacob Winter entered, followed by Ben.

Ezra Winter frowned, for his uncle was the last man he wished to see. But he reflected that he was a simple old fellow, of whom he would easily rid himself.

“Uncle Jacob!” he said. “What brings you to town?”

“I want my money,” replied the old man piteously, “I want the money you took from me.”

310 “Really, Uncle Jacob, I don’t understand you. Your money is well invested, and perfectly safe.”

“I want it now.”

“Very good! I will sell out the stock for you, but you will have to wait till Monday—the usual day for selling mining stock.”

“That won’t do, Ezry. You are goin’ to Europe on Saturday, and mean to take all my money!”

“Who says this?” asked Ezra in great surprise, for he did not know that his plan had leaked out.

“I say it,” said Ben.

“You—a mere boy! What do you know of me and my plans?”

“I was a passenger on the Fall River boat Tuesday night, Mr. Ezra Winter, and I overheard you detailing your plans to a friend. You proposed to carry off the money of your uncle and other customers and leave them out in the cold.”

“That’s a lie!” said Ezra hoarsely, but he was frightened.

“It was not a lie.”

“I am not going to Europe on Saturday!”

“No, you are not, for we shall prevent you,” said Ben firmly.

“You, a half-grown boy!” rejoined Ezra contemptuously.

311 “No matter what I am. Your uncle wants his money, and must have it.”

Ezra leaned back in his chair and looked at his visitors with an impudent smile.

“Well, he can’t have it.”

Ben went to the door and exchanged a word with some one.

Mr. Bentham, the lawyer, entered followed by a policeman.

“Mr. Winter,” said Bentham, “I hold a warrant for your arrest on account of intended fraud. I may or may not have it served, but my client here, your uncle, must have his money, or you go from here to the station-house.”

At last Ezra was conquered. He was a coward at heart and he dreaded the law.

“Perhaps we can arrange this matter, gentlemen,” he said.

In half an hour Jacob Winter left the office with two thousand, five hundred dollars. Mr. Bentham recommended him to accept it as the best settlement possible.

Ezra breathed a sigh of relief. He would still have four thousand dollars of his dishonest accumulations.

But he reckoned without his host.

As the party were leaving the office one of312 Ezra’s customers saw them and his suspicions were excited. He made some inquiries and it led to his obtaining an order of arrest, so that Ezra, instead of sailing for Europe on Saturday, passed that day in a police station.

He managed to escape trial and conviction by agreeing to surrender his ill-gotten gains, and then disappeared from the scene. He is understood to be in Montreal, but his days of prosperity are gone by.

Jacob Winter went back to Wrayburn, but his system had received a shock, and in about a year he died. His property went to relatives, his wife at Ben’s request declining to accept anything beyond the two thousand dollars which she had when she married him.

Ben went back to New York, and after a year spent in study accepted a position in a large commercial house, in which he may some time own an interest.

Mr. Sylvanus Snodgrass is still electrifying the readers of the Weekly Bugle by his startling romances. Mr. Cornelius Clyde, the poet, still sticks to his business as a barber, as he finds that his poetry brings him fame, but not money. Gloriana Podd’s name still appears in the Poet’s Corner of weekly papers and magazines.

313 Ben, remembering his friends, has obtained a good position for Albert Graham, and his cousin Adelbert frequently visits him.

Last year Ben went to England and visited his friend, Cyril Bentley, at Bentley Hall. But he is a true American, and much as he may like individual Englishmen he will never become an Anglicized American.

He keeps up the most friendly relations with Frank Mordaunt, who is now a student at Columbia College, having a natural taste for study. So the future looks bright for him, and those who have read his story will agree that he really deserves his prosperity.


Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image has been created by the transcriber and placed in the public domain.

Punctuation has been standardised. Spelling and hyphenation have been retained as they appear in the original publication except as follows:

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