"Do you think we shall have to give up the house, Job?" asked Mrs. Stanton, anxiously.
"I see no other way," said Job, mournfully. "I can't raise five hundred dollars anywhere."
"Have you been to Deacon Pitkin?"
"Yes, but the deacon says he's just put out what money he had, and can't accommodate me."
"It's hard!" said Mrs. Stanton, with sad brevity.
"Yes, it is hard!" assented Job. "I did hope the Lord would show us a way of deliverance, but it seems likely that the sorrow must come upon us."
"How meanly Major Sturgis and that man Richmond have behaved! I can't help feeling that they will be come up with sooner or later," said Mrs. Stanton, who, mild as she generally was, could not help feeling exasperated.
"I do think they've been inconsiderate," Job admitted.
"'Inconsiderate'! Their conduct has been contemptible. The major don't need the money. He could just as well let us stay here."
While this conversation was going on Ben and his friend Bradley were approaching the little cottage.
Full of joyful memories, Ben lifted the latch and walked into the presence of his uncle and aunt. Nothing but his return could have chased the mournful expression from their faces.
"Why, it's Ben come back!" exclaimed his aunt, joyfully.
"Well, I declare, so it is!" answered Job Stanton, hurrying forward and grasping the hand of his boy after his aunt had embraced him.
"How you've grown, Ben!" said his aunt, admiringly.
"Yes, Aunt Clarissa, I've grown four inches," said Ben, proudly. "But I've brought a friend with me.--Jake, come in."
And then Bradley was introduced to Job and his wife, and was cordially welcomed by both.
"You're lucky to come while we've got a home to welcome you to," said Job, his face again saddening.
"Why, Uncle Job, you're not thinking of selling the house, are you?"
Then the whole story came out.
Ben listened attentively, and when his uncle had finished he said, "That Richmond is a first-class rascal."
"And I'd like to give him a first-class kick," said Bradley, indignantly.
"That wouldn't mend matters," said Job, shaking his head. "It wouldn't pay off the mortgage."
"You say the mortgage amounts to five hundred dollars, Uncle Job?"
"Yes. Then there's six months' interest, at six per cent., makes fifteen dollars more."
"When do you expect Major Sturgis to call?"
"This morning. It's almost time for him."
"I met Sam on my way here," said Ben. "He told me I'd come just in the nick of time. I didn't know what he meant, but I know now."
"The major offers to buy the house, paying me two hundred and fifty dollars over and above the note."
"Why, that's robbery!" said Ben, indignantly.
"So it is, Ben; but what can I do?"
"I think," said Ben, smiling, "you'd better borrow five hundred and fifteen dollars of your rich nephew."
"What do you mean, Ben?" asked Job, in surprise.
"I mean this, Uncle Job--that I'll lend you the money to pay up this shark."
"You don't mean to say you've got money enough?" ejaculated Uncle Job.
"Yes, I do, uncle, and a little over. I'll prove it to you."
He produced a wallet, from which he drew out five one-hundred-dollar bills and three fives.
"Take them, uncle, and ask me questions afterward, for I see through the window that the major is coming."
Indeed, a knock was heard directly, and Job, answering it himself, ushered in the stately figure of Major Sturgis.
The major looked around him in surprise, finding more persons than he expected to see.
"Don't you remember Ben, Major Sturgis?" asked Job.
"When did you come home, Benjamin," asked the major, taken by surprise.
"I have just arrived, sir."
"Tired of California, eh?"
"For the present, yes, sir."
"I think my son Sam wishes to see you. He thinks of offering you a place."
Ben bowed and smiled. He understood what sort of a place Sam was likely to offer.
"Well, Mr. Stanton," asked the major, pompously, "have you decided to accept my offer for the house?"
"No, major. Your offer is too small."
"You are quite at liberty to look around for a higher bid, or rather you were. Now it is too late."
"Just so, major. On the whole I don't think I want to sell."
"'Don't want to sell'?" repeated the major, frowning; "you will have to sell."
"Why will Uncle Job have to sell?" demanded Ben, irritated by the major's tone.
"Young man," said the major, grandly, "this is not a matter with which you have anything to do. Your uncle and I can arrange it between ourselves."
"Still, I shall advise Uncle Job to pay the mortgage, though he was swindled into agreeing to it."
"I apprehend," sneered the major, "he will have some difficulty in paying me five hundred and fifteen dollars."
"I guess I can manage to do it, major," said Job, mildly.
"I don't believe you," said the major, hastily.
"Have you got the mortgage with you?" asked Job.
"Yes; here it is."
"And here is your money," said the shoemaker, producing the bills.
Major Sturgis received them in amazement bordering upon stupefaction, and counted them over three times.
"I guess they're all right," said Job.
"Where did you get them?" inquired the major, unable to control his curiosity.
"I guess that doesn't matter so long as they're good," answered Job. "Still, I've no objection to tellin' you that it's Ben's money that he's kindly lent to me."
"Did you bring this from California?" asked the major, turning to our hero.
"Yes, sir," answered Ben.
"Have you any more?"
"I've got enough more, so that I don't expect to need the situation Sam thought of offering me."
When Major Sturgis left the cottage his grand air had passed off, and he looked disappointed and mortified. Sam's spirits, too, were perceptibly dashed when he learned that the boy he disliked had been successful in California.
"That settles the major," said Ben. "This afternoon I will see what I can do in the case of Richmond."
"You can't do anything, Ben," said his aunt. "Leave him to the reproaches of his own conscience."
"He hasn't got any conscience, Aunt Clarissa," said Ben.--"Jake, will you ride over with me to the next town this afternoon?"
"I shall be glad to, Ben."
Ben went at once to the office of an able lawyer, engaged his services, and put the matter into his hands. The result was, that John Richmond received a note by messenger summoning him to the lawyer's office. He at first tried to bluster, then to temporize, but the lawyer was stern and threatened to exhaust the resources of the law in behalf of his clients. Like most bullies, Richmond was a coward, and ended by giving a note for the full amount, with interest, at thirty days.
"You had better leave this note with me," said the lawyer to Ben; "I will collect it when due."
And he did. With a crestfallen air John Richmond had to confess himself defeated in his mean attempt at swindling, for he had obtained Uncle Job's indorsement with the deliberate intention of leaving him to pay the note, supposing that the old man would be too timid to do anything about it.
Ben remained in Hampton a week. During that time he bought the three-acre lot adjoining--the major having given up the purchase when his plan of getting possession of Job Stanton's little property fell through--and gave it to his uncle. This made Job feel like a rich man, and he only accepted it on Ben's assurance that he had plenty more money.
At the end of a week Ben received a letter from Richard Dewey, informing him that he proposed to go into business for himself in the city of New York, and was anxious to engage Ben as a clerk. This offer was too good to refuse. So Ben, a month later, found himself in a responsible business position. As his employer within a few months came into possession of his wife's large fortune, which her guardian was reluctantly obliged to surrender, he was not hampered by lack of capital, but within a year had his business securely established.
Ten years have passed. Ben is now junior partner, and enjoys a high reputation for business ability. A year since he married his cousin Jennie, and in so doing has made a wise choice. He lives in the city, but Uncle Job and his wife still live in Hampton, though Job is no longer compelled to work for a livelihood. He has given up his shop, and confines himself to the cultivation of his small tract of land. Though now seventy, his eye is not dim nor his natural force abated.
Major Sturgis is dead, and Sam, it is understood, has wasted a considerable portion of the handsome property that was left him. It is quite possible that he may end in poverty and destitution, and be forced at last to work for a living. This he would regard as a misfortune, but it will probably be a blessing in disguise, for the necessity of honest labor is generally a salutary restraint.
Bradley has gone back to California. His son in now with him, and both are prosperous. Richard Dewey and his wife are rich and happy (the two do not always go together), and have four children, the second of whom, a boy, is named Benjamin Stanton Dewey, in honor of our hero.
I have endeavored to ascertain what became of our Mongolian friend, Ki Sing, but without entire success. My impression is, that he started a laundry in San Francisco, made enough money for a Chinaman to retire upon, and went back to his native land to live in competence, the happy husband of a high-born Chinese maiden with incredibly small feet. Doubtless, he has more than once retailed to wondering ears the account of his adventures and perils when he, as well as Ben, visited California "in search of fortune."
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