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