"At length, a fresh difference arising between my brother and me, I took upon me to assert my freedom, presuming that he would not venture to produce the new indentures. It was not fair in me to take this advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the first errata of my life; but the unfairness of it weighed little with me when under the impressions of resentment for the blows his passion too often urged him to bestow upon me, though he was otherwise not an ill-natured man. Perhaps I was too saucy and provoking."
There is no doubt that Benjamin erred in the matter. He was by nature headstrong and independent; and, perhaps, he was more self-willed on account of his success in the business. But, after all allowances are made, James must be regarded as the chief offender in the troubles, and on him the responsibility for it rests in a large measure.
Benjamin lost no time in reporting his decision to John.
"I am going to New York as soon as I can get away," he said. "What do you suppose that fellow has done? He has been around to the other printers and threatened to enforce his claim to my services if they hire me; and he lied about me, also. It is settled that I shall go to New York. I am not going to be banged about any more."
"Well, it seems rather necessary for you to go somewhere if you can't get work here," answered John. "But how am I going to get along without you, Ben? Couldn't you turn your hand to something else?"
"I could, but I won't. I am fully resolved to quit Boston soon, and I am satisfied that I must leave clandestinely, or I shall not get away."
"How is that? Expect that your brother will lay violent hands upon you to prevent?"
"I expect that he and father together will prevent my leaving, if possible."
"Have you spoken with your father about it?"
"No, I have not; nor do I intend to. He sides with James now, and that is enough for me. I shall say nothing to him about the matter."
"Perhaps he thinks you will leave Boston if you leave James," suggested John. "He may think that you will clear out and go to sea. He has not forgotten your old hankering for a life on the wave."
"Possibly; but I have no desire now to go to sea. I have a trade that I like, and I shall stick to it until I am forced out of it."
"How do you propose to get to New York? Got any plans ahead?"
"Yes, a plan is all that I have got. It remains to be seen how I can carry it out. I do not think I can accomplish my purpose without your help."
"I am at your service now, Ben, as ever before; only I would like to understand just what I can do."
"That is what I want to talk with you about. I am not yet clear as to my best way of escape. If I go by land, on foot, they may send officers after me, and overtake me before I get half way there."
"Of course it would be poor policy for you to go by land, if you can possibly go by water. There is a New York sloop in the harbor, and no doubt it will return soon."
"But how can I get aboard? The captain will want to know who I am, and if he knows that I am a runaway apprentice, he will refuse me a passage."
"I can manage that," said John. "I know the captain, and I think I can arrange with him to take you."
"Yes, but he will want large pay for it. Of course he will not take me to New York without some money arrangement, and I have precious little money to give him."
"You can sell some of your books," suggested John. "You will not take them to New York with you, and you can sell them readily."
"That is a good idea, John; I will reduce it to practice at once. I shall not want much money anyway. But suppose the captain is very inquisitive about me, how will you get along with the case? He must be somewhat suspicious when a Boston boy wants to be taken to New York on the sly."
"You leave that to me; I have no doubt that I can smuggle you through. He shall not know even that your name is Franklin."
"Well, then, I will commit myself to your care. See that you manage adroitly, even if you have to make a package of me for transportation. I am going to New York if I am obliged to walk there."
"I will go to see the captain at once, Ben; and I will be back with my report in two hours. Be on hand, and see if I do not make a good bargain for your passage. You always have succeeded, and I think you will succeed now."
"Be off, then, in a jiffy, and I will run out to see where I can dispose of my books. I will be back in two hours, and meet you here."
They parted, and John hurried away to see the captain. He found him on board his sloop.
"Can you take a friend of mine to New York?" he asked.
"That depends on circumstances," replied the captain. "Who is your friend? Can't take a pauper or a criminal, you know."
"He is neither one nor the other. He is a young man about my age, a printer by trade, and he is going to New York to find work."
"Why doesn't he find work in Boston? There are more printers in Boston than there are in New York."
"That may be; but he prefers to work in New York. He's tired of Boston."
"Perhaps Boston is tired of him—is that so? I want to accommodate, but I don't want to get anybody into trouble, nor get there myself."
John saw that there was no evading the captain's questions, and so he resolved to tell the false story he had thought of on his way to the sloop.
"Well," said John, "if I must tell you the whole story, the case is this: He is a young fellow who has been flirting with a girl, who wants to marry him, and now her parents are determined that he shall marry her, and he is as determined that he will not; and he proposes to remove secretly to New York. He would have come to see you himself, but his coming might awaken suspicion on the part of some one acquainted with the affair, who might see him and know him. So I came to do the business for him."
"He is in a fix, sure," answered the captain; "if there is any man in the world I would help, it is the man who is trying to escape from the girl he don't want to marry. How much will he pay for his passage?"
"He will pay your price if it is reasonable. He is not a pauper, though he has not much of a money surplus. He will satisfy you as to that."
"Send him along, then; this sloop will sail on Saturday at two o'clock, P.M. He better not come aboard until just before we sail, or somebody may upset his plans, and the girl get him, after all."
"All right; he will be here on the mark, and I shall be with him to see him off," answered John, as he turned upon his heels to report his success to Benjamin.
A youth who can fabricate a falsehood so unblushingly as John did the foregoing is already on the road to ruin. The reader will not be surprised to learn, before the whole story is told, that he became a miserable, reckless sort of a man. This lie proved that he was destitute of moral principle and would do almost any thing to carry his point.
That the captain should have been taken in by such a ruse is inexplicable. But, no doubt, the thought of receiving good pay for his passage led him to receive the passenger. It was so much gain to receive a few dollars from an unexpected source.
"The bargain is made, and your passage to New York is assured," exclaimed John to Benjamin, when they met, at the end of two hours.
"Have any trouble to accomplish it? You did not awaken his suspicion, did you?" replied Benjamin, evidently relieved of considerable anxiety by the announcement.
"No trouble, of course; I did not mean to have any, if lying would prevent it."
"Then you had to resort to falsehood to carry your point, did you? How was that, John?"
"Well, you see, he questioned me pretty closely, and seemed to be suspicious that you might be a pauper or criminal. He wouldn't want to carry you if you were a pauper, for he would get no pay for it; and he would not carry a criminal, for fear of getting into trouble with the authorities. So I had to originate a little love story, in which you are represented as fleeing from a girl and her parents, who are determined that you shall marry her."
"You are more original than I thought you were, John. You might write a novel out of the affair."
"Yes; and it would be no worse than half the novels that are written," rejoined John. "I had a plot to get you to New York, and the novel writer often has a plot that is not half so important, nor half so much truth in it."
"How soon will the sloop sail?"
"Next Saturday, at two o'clock in the afternoon, so you will not have to wait long. You must not go aboard until just before the sloop sails; for the girl might get wind of it, and be after you. The captain will be on the lookout for her; he evidently don't want you to fall into her hands."
Benjamin laughed at this way of putting the matter; and, in the circumstances, was not disposed to criticise John's method. But he inquired:
"How about the price to be paid for the passage?"
"That is left for you and him to adjust," replied John. "I told him that you was not over-burdened with money, but had enough to pay him for your passage. How about your books—can you sell them?"
"Yes, and quite as favorably as I had supposed. I see nothing why I shall not be all ready for the sloop on Saturday. I will send my chest of clothes down just before I go myself."
"I will be on hand to go to the sloop with you," said John, as they parted, each with a clear understanding as to the future.
The plan was carried out to the letter, and Benjamin and John were on their way to the sloop in due time.
"Tell no tales out of school," remarked Benjamin. "I prefer that no one should know my whereabouts at present."
"They will find out nothing from me; I shall be profoundly ignorant of your movements," answered John. "Perhaps I shall be the most astonished person in Boston over your sudden departure; there's no telling. But I shall want to hear from you, Ben,—can't you write?"
"Sha'n't make any pledges. I shall want to hear from you as much as you will from me, and a little more, I guess. For I shall want to hear what is said and done about my unauthorized departure. I suppose that a runaway can not expect many favorable remarks."
"Perhaps the Gazette will say that the editor of the Courant has run away," suggested John, in a vein of pleasantry. "There will be considerable more truth in that than I told the captain. It is rather of a singular occurrence, however, Ben, that so popular an editor as you have been should be running away from the editorial chair."
By this time the sloop was boarded, and the captain was almost ready to sail.
"My friend," said John to the captain, presenting Benjamin. "You will find him good company; he is no fool or knave."
"He might be a goner if that girl should be after him before we get under way," suggested the captain. "However, we'll soon be off."
"Good luck to you, old friend," said John, as he shook hands with Benjamin. "We shall be nigh each other, though three hundred miles apart."
"Good-bye, John; a thousand thanks for what you have done for me," replied Benjamin, with a heavy heart, just beginning to feel that he was going away from home. "Good-bye."
Thus they parted, and the sloop sailed for New York. Benjamin avoided conversation with the captain as much as was possible, lest he might ask questions it would be embarrassing to answer. The captain, too, refrained from too much freedom with his youthful passenger, lest he might make it painful for him, now that he was running away from a girl.
The sloop was becalmed off Block Island for several hours, when the sailors resorted to catching cod for a pastime, and slapping them down one after another on the deck.
"Cruel! Inhumanity!" cried Benjamin, who entertained the singular idea that it was murder to take the life of any harmless creature; and for this reason he would not touch animal food.
"What is cruel?" inquired one of the crew.
"Taking the life of codfish that never did you any harm."
"Pshaw!" exclaimed the captain; "how you goin' to eat 'em before you catch 'em?"
"Don't eat them, and then there will be no need of catching them," responded Benjamin. "They are in their native element now; let them stay there, and you keep in yours. They are in as great misery on this deck as you would be down there in the water."
"What put such a queer notion as that into your head?" said the captain, who was surprised that a sane man should hold such an opinion. "Don't you eat fish?"
"No, nor any other kind of meat; I have not touched a particle for more than two years."
"Because you think it is wicked to kill harmless animals of any kind?" remarked another sailor, who had been listening in utter astonishment.
"Yes, that is the principal reason, though I do not think that man needs flesh for a diet."
"You think that God made beasts, birds, and fish to look at, and not to eat," suggested the captain. "In my opinion, the world would be overrun with dumb animals in time if none were killed for food."
"And I think the human family would perish for want of food, if flesh were denied them," added one of the crew.
While this conversation was going on, the cook was frying fresh cod, and the sailors were enjoying the odor therefrom.
"Don't they smell good?" said one, addressing Benjamin; "I shouldn't want to risk you with one of those fellows if there was no more than I wanted."
"I once ate fish, and had a special liking for them, and they smell well enough now in the frying-pan," replied Benjamin. "But I have my own opinions about killing such animals."
"I should think you had," responded one of the sailors, laughing; "no one else would ever think of such a thing."
Soon the whole crew were eating cod, and in the jolliest manner making remarks at Benjamin's expense.
"Look here, my friend," said the cook; "when these fish were opened, I found smaller ones in their stomachs; now, if they can eat one another, I don't see why we can't eat them; do you?"
"You must be joking, young man," continued the captain; "better send all such notions adrift and sit down with us to dine on fish; they are splendid."
One and another remarked, keeping up a continual fire at Benjamin, with jokes and arguments and ridicule, until he sat down and went to devouring a cod with the rest of them. That was the end of his queer notion about killing fish; it was buried there in the sea; and Benjamin never again resurrected it, but ate what other people did. But the episode furnished sport for the sailors all the way from Block Island to New York, where they arrived in about three days from the time the sloop left Boston.
Benjamin did not know a person in the city of New York, nor had he a single letter of recommendation to any one, and the money in his pocket but a trifle. It was in October, 1723, that he arrived in New York, a youth of seventeen years, a runaway in a city, without a solitary acquaintance, and scarcely money enough to pay a week's board! Perhaps, with all the rest, he carried an upbraiding conscience under his jacket, more discomforting than to be a stranger in a strange land.
At this crisis of Benjamin's life, he appeared to be on the highway to ruin. There is scarcely one similar case in ten, where the runaway escapes the vortex of degradation. Benjamin would have been no exception, but for his early religious training and his love of books.
The case of William Hutton, who was the son of very poor parents, is very similar to that of Benjamin Franklin. He was bound to his uncle for a series of years, but he was treated so harshly that he ran away, at seventeen years of age. The record is, that "on the 12th day of July, 1741, the ill-treatment he received from his uncle in the shape of a brutal flogging, with a birch-broom handle of white hazel, which almost killed him, caused him to run away." A dark prospect was before him, since "he had only twopence in his pocket, a spacious world before him, and no plan of operation." Yet he became an author of much celebrity, and a most exemplary and influential man. He lived to the age of ninety, his last days being gladdened by the reflection of having lived a useful life, and the consciousness of sharing the confidence of his fellow-men.
This description of Hutton would apply almost equally well to Franklin.
TRIALS OF A RUNAWAY.
On arriving at New York, Benjamin's first thought was of work. His pocket was too near empty to remain idle long; so he called upon Mr. William Bradford, an old printer, who removed from Philadelphia to New York some months before.
"Can I find employment in your printing office?" he inquired.
"I am not in need of extra help, I am sorry to say," answered Mr. Bradford. "My business is light, and will continue to be so for the present, I think. Are you a printer?"
"Yes, sir. I have worked at the business over three years."
"You ought to understand it well by this time. I wish I had work for you, or for any other young man who is enterprising enough to go from Boston to New York for work."
"Do you think I should be likely to find work at some other printing office in town?"
"I am sorry to say that I hardly think you can. Very dull times, indeed, my son. But I think you can get work in Philadelphia. My son runs a printing house in that city, and one of his men on whom he relied much recently died. I think he would be glad to employ you."
"How far is it to Philadelphia?"
"About a hundred miles."
"A long distance," was Benjamin's reply, evidently disappointed to find that he was still a hundred miles from work.
"It is only one-third as far as you have already traveled for work. If you can find employment by traveling a hundred miles further, in these dull times, you will be fortunate."
"Well, I suppose that is so," replied Benjamin, musing on his situation. "What is the conveyance there?"
"You can take a boat to Amboy, and there you will find another boat to Philadelphia. A pleasant trip, on the whole." And Mr. Bradford added, for Benjamin's encouragement, "Philadelphia is a better place for a printer than New York, in some respects."
Benjamin thanked him for his kindness, expressing much pleasure in making his acquaintance, and bade him good-bye. He took the first boat to Amboy, sending his chest by sea around to Philadelphia. The more he reflected upon his situation, in connection with Mr. Bradford's encouraging words, the more cheerful and hopeful he grew. If he could get work "by going a hundred miles further" he ought to be well satisfied, he said to himself. So he cheered up his almost desponding heart, in Franklin fashion, as he proceeded upon the next hundred miles.
But more trials awaited him, however, somewhat different from those already experienced. The boat had been under way but a short time before it was struck by a sudden squall, tearing the rotten sails to pieces, and driving the craft pell-mell upon Long Island. It was the first squall of that sort Benjamin had ever experienced. Other squalls had struck him, and he was fleeing from one at that time, but this squall of wind and rain was altogether a new experience, and he wilted under it. The condition was made more tragic by a drunken Dutchman falling overboard.
"Seize him! seize him!" cried the captain; and that was what Benjamin was waiting to do when the miserable fellow should rise to the surface. As soon as he came up from the depths into which he had sunk, Benjamin seized him by the hair of his head and pulled him on board.
"There, you fool," exclaimed Benjamin. "I hope that ducking will sober you. You came within sight of eternity that time."
"He may thank you for saving his life," remarked one of the boatmen.
"He is too drunk for that," replied Benjamin. "He will never know how near he came to his own place. Strange that any man will be so foolish as to drink stuff that will steal away his brains."
"Don't you ever drink it?" asked the captain in reply.
"Not one drop," his young passenger replied with emphasis, as he rolled over the Dutchman to get the water out of him. "There, are you all right now?"
The Dutchman mumbled over something, no one could tell what. It was probably about a book in his jacket; for he took one therefrom, and signified to Benjamin that he wanted it dried; and then he dropped into a sound sleep.
"I declare, if it is not my old friend, The Pilgrim's Progress," exclaimed Benjamin; "in Dutch, too! A queer companion for a drunken man to have, though a good one."
"Knows more about the bottle than he does about that, I bet," said the captain. "I don't suppose that it makes much difference to him whether he is under the water or on top."
"Not just now," replied Benjamin; "but what chance is there for landing on such a rocky shore?"
"Not much; we'll drop anchor, and swing out the cable towards the shore," said the captain.
"I see men on the shore, and there are boats there; perhaps they can come to our rescue, though the wind is blowing a little too hard for them."
The captain hallooed to them, and they returned an answer, but the wind howled so that they could not be understood.
"A boat! A boat!" shouted the captain. Others of the crew joined in the call for aid, and made various signs indicating their need of assistance. But neither party could understand the other.
"What now?" inquired Benjamin, when he saw the men on shore turning their steps homeward. "A pretty dark night before us."
"Yes, dark and perilous, though I have seen a worse one," answered the captain. "When we find ourselves in such a predicament, there is only one thing to be done."
"What is that?" asked Benjamin, who was quite nervous and anxious.
"Do nothing but wait patiently for the wind to abate." The captain was cool and self-reliant when he spoke.
"Then let us turn in with the Dutchman," said one of the boatmen. "I don't want he should have all the sleep there is. He is not in condition to appreciate it as I am."
"As you please," said the captain; "might as well improve the time by getting a little rest. We shall be all right in the morning."
So all crowded into the hatches, including Benjamin. But the spray broke over the head of the boat so much that the water leaked through upon them.
"A wet berth for you, friend," said one of the boatmen to Benjamin. "You are not accustomed to sleeping in such wet blankets. You may get as wet as the Dutchman before morning."
"There is only one thing to do in these circumstances," said Benjamin in reply, "take things as they come, and make the best of it."
"If you can," added the boatman in a suggestive way. "If you can, I oughter. I've been in this business longer than you have lived."
The crew slept soundly; but Benjamin found no rest in such an unusual plight. Sleep was out of the question, and he had all the more time to think, and his active mind improved the opportunity, so that Boston, home, the printing office, and his parents were dwelt upon until he began to think he was paying too dear for the whistle again. It is not strange that runaways feel thus, sooner or later, since few of them ever realize their anticipations.
The cold, dreary night wore away slowly, and the wind continued to howl, and the breakers to dash and rear, until after the dawn of morning. Benjamin was never more rejoiced to see daylight than he was after that dismal and perilous night. It was the more pleasant to him, because the wind began to abate, and there was a fairer prospect of reaching their destination. As soon as the tumult of the winds and waves had subsided, they weighed anchor, and steered for Amboy, where they arrived just before night, "having been thirty hours on the water without victuals, or any drink but a bottle of filthy rum."
In the evening Benjamin found himself feverish, having taken a severe cold by the exposure of the previous night. With a hot head and a heavy heart he retired to rest, first, however, drinking largely of cold water, because he had somewhere read that cold water was good for fever. This was one of the advantages he derived from his early habit of reading. But for his taste for reading, which led him to spend his leisure moments in poring over books, he might never have known this important fact, that, perhaps, saved him a fit of sickness. Availing himself of this knowledge, he drank freely of water before he retired, and the result was a thorough sweating; and he arose in the morning fully restored, so as to continue his journey.
A few years ago, a young man was traveling in the state of Maine, soliciting subscribers for a newspaper. On passing a certain farm, he observed some bricks of a peculiar color, and he traced them to their clay-bed, and satisfied himself that the material could be applied to a more valuable purpose than that of making bricks. He at once purchased the farm for fifteen hundred dollars, and, on his return to Boston, sold one-half of it for four thousand dollars. The secret of his success lay in a bit of knowledge he acquired at school. He had given some attention to geology and chemistry, and the little knowledge he had gained therefrom enabled him to discover the nature of the clay on the said farm. Thus even a little knowledge that may be gleaned from a book in a simple leisure half-hour, will sometimes prove the way to a valuable treasure; much more valuable than the farm which the young man purchased. This pecuniary benefit is, after all, the least important advantage derived from reading. The discipline of the mind and heart, and the refined and elevated pleasure which it secures, are far more desirable than any pecuniary advantage gained. A little reading, also, as we have seen, sometimes gives an impulse to the mind in the direction of learning and renown. It was the reading of Echard's Roman History, which Gibbon met with while on a visit to Miltshire, that opened before him the historic path to distinction.
Sir Walter Scott warned the young against under valuing the knowledge to be acquired at odd moments by reading and study. He wrote:
"If it should ever fall to the lot of youth to peruse these pages, let such readers remember that it is with the deepest regret that I recollect, in my manhood, the opportunities of learning which I neglected in my youth; that through every part of my literary career I have felt pinched and hampered by my own ignorance; and I would this moment give half the reputation I have had the good fortune to acquire, if by so doing I could rest the remaining part upon a sound foundation of learning and science."
But we have lost sight of Benjamin. We left him at the "tavern" in Amboy, after having spent the night in a cold-water sweat, about ready to start on his journey. Burlington was fifty miles from Amboy, and there was no public conveyance, so that he was obliged to go on foot, expecting to find a boat there bound for Philadelphia.
"Rather a tough day for walking," remarked the landlord, as Benjamin was leaving his house. "Better stay unless your business is driving."
"Rain or shine, I must push on," responded Benjamin cheerfully. "I want to be in Philadelphia as soon as possible. Can't melt, as I am neither sugar nor salt."
"Well, that is a very encouraging view to take of the situation, and it is a sensible one, too," said the landlord. "There's nothing like taking things as they come."
"I have lived long enough to find that out, young as I am," replied Benjamin; "and I expect to find constant use of that spirit in future. Good-bye, sir."
"Good luck to you, wherever you go," added the landlord in a friendly tone.
Benjamin was wet through before he had traveled a mile, and he began to wish that he had never left Boston; still he hastened on until he reached a "poor inn" about noon. His own description of that day is as follows:
"It rained very hard all the day; I was thoroughly soaked, and by noon a good deal tired; so I stopped at a poor inn, where I staid all night, beginning now to wish I had never left home. I made so miserable a figure, too, that I found, by the questions asked me, I was suspected to be some runaway indentured servant, and in danger of being taken up on that suspicion."
"Where are you from, young man?"
"From Boston, sir."
"Ah! you are a long way from home for such a youngster. What is your name?"
"My name is Benjamin Franklin, and I am going to Philadelphia after work."
"No work in Boston, I s'pose, hey? How long since you left?"
"About a week. I did not expect to come further this way than New York, but I could find no work there."
"No work in New York, hey? What sort of work do you do, that you find it so scarce?"
"I am a printer by trade, and I hope to get into a printing office in Philadelphia."
"Wall, you are a pretty young one to take such a trip; I should hardly be willing my son should go so far from home, printer or no printer."
"I can afford to make such a trip, and even a longer one, if I can find steady work," suggested Benjamin.
"Your father and mother living?"
"How did they feel about your going so far from home?"
"A father who loves to work as well as my father does always wants his sons to have enough to do," Benjamin replied, shrewdly evading the close question. "Nothing my father hates so much as idleness."
"We all ought to hate it; but many men do not. In these times, can't keep above water without work." The landlord's last words indicated that his suspicions were somewhat allayed.
Benjamin managed to answer all the questions of the innkeeper without increasing his suspicions. He ate and slept there, and on the following morning proceeded on his journey, and by night was within eight or ten miles of Burlington. Here he stopped at an inn kept by one Doctor Brown, "an ambulating quack-doctor" and a very social man.
"How much further you going?" he inquired of Benjamin.
"I am going to Philadelphia."
"Where are you from?"
"Ah! I would like to see Boston; I never did. I have been in South America, England, and some other countries, but I was never in Boston."
"It is a good town, and has many educated, intelligent citizens; it is a thriving place," said Benjamin. "I should like to see as much of the world as you have."
"I enjoyed it, though my knocking about subjected me to many hardships," replied the doctor. "You would like to see London, and Paris, and Rome; I have seen them all. They are marvellous cities."
"I suppose so. My father came from England to Boston less than forty years ago," continued Benjamin. "He enjoys this country more than he did his own."
Benjamin had a good time at Doctor Brown's. The latter soon discovered that his youthful guest was very intelligent, so he entered into an account of his travels abroad somewhat in detail to interest him. Benjamin enjoyed the interview very much, and forgot, for the time being, that he was a runaway encountering many hardships. He was sorry to leave him on the next day.
"I have enjoyed every minute of my stay here," he said, "and I shall not forget it soon. Perhaps we shall meet again sometime."
"I hope we shall. I am glad to make your acquaintance, and I wish you great success. I hope you will become the most successful printer in America. Good-bye."
They parted the best of friends, and Benjamin pushed on to Burlington, where he expected to find a boat. In the suburbs of the town he bought some gingerbread of an old woman who kept a shop, and walked on, eating it as he went. To his great disappointment, on reaching the wharf, he found the boat had gone, and there would not be another until Tuesday. It was Saturday, and his money would not hold out if he should get boarded at a hotel till then. What should he do? He was in great trouble about it for a short time, but finally concluded that he would return to the old lady of whom he bought the gingerbread, as he liked her appearance very well, and ask her advice. So back he went.
"Ah! back again?" she said, as he entered her shop. "Want more gingerbread?"
"No. I was going to take the boat to Philadelphia, but it has gone, and there is not another to go until Tuesday."
"Lor', me!" exclaimed the kind-hearted woman; "if that ain't too bad! What kin ye du?"
"That is what I want to ask you. Is there any other conveyance to Philadelphia?"
"Lor', no; and all ye has to du is to make the best on 't."
"And what is that? That is just what I want to know. How can I make the best on 't?"
"What ye goin' to Philadelphy for?" she replied, instead of answering his question.
"I am going after work. I am a printer, and want to find work in a printing office."
"A printer, lor'! Dear me, yer fortin is made to set up business in this 'ere town. There's nothin' of the like here."
"I have nothing to set up the business with," said Benjamin. "I would as lief work here as in Philadelphia, if the way was open."
The woman did not know what was necessary in establishing a printing house. That types and a press were indispensable articles in such business she did not dream. She thought, doubtless, that he carried all necessary fixtures with him in his pockets.
"Lor', then, I'll lodge ye till Tuesday for ——," naming the sum.
"I will stay with you, then, and make the best of it," he replied.
He found himself in very good quarters, and his hostess proved herself to be very kind and hospitable. He took dinner with her, and remained about the shop until towards night, when he walked forth to view the place. In his walk he came around to the river, and, as he approached it, he discovered a boat with several people in it, and he hailed them:
"Can you take me in? I was too late for the boat to-day."
"Just as well as not," and the boat was turned at once to receive the additional passenger.
There was no wind, so that they had to depend upon their oars for progress. Benjamin now had an opportunity to show his skill in rowing which he acquired in his boyhood, in Boston. He was so elated with proceeding on his journey to Philadelphia that he thought neither of the fatigue of rowing nor of the wonder of the old lady in the shop at the unexpected disappearance of her boarder. He did not mean to treat her disrespectfully, for he considered her a very clever woman; but the boat could not wait for him to return and pay the old lady his compliments. Whether she ever learned what became of him, or that he grew up to be Doctor Franklin, the philosopher and statesman, we have no means of knowing. Doubtless she concluded that she had not "entertained an angel unawares," but rather had aided an undeserving fellow in pursuing a vicious course, which was not true.
The boat moved on. Benjamin rowed with strong resolution, taking his turn with others, and impressing them by his tact and skill, until midnight, when one of the company said:
"We must have passed the city. It can't be that we have been so long getting to it."
"That is impossible," answered one of the men; "we must have seen it if we had passed it."
"Well, I shall row no more," said the first speaker. "I know that Philadelphia is not so far off as this."
"Then, let us put for the shore," said a third, "and find out where we are, if possible."
All agreed to the last proposition, and at once rowed towards the shore, entering a small creek, where they landed near an old fence, the rails of which furnished them fuel for a fire. They were very chilly, it being a frosty night of October, and they found the fire very grateful. They remained there till daylight, when one of the company knew that the place was "Cooper's Creek," a few miles above Philadelphia. Immediately they made preparations to continue their journey, which had not been altogether unpleasant, and they were soon in full view of the city, where they arrived between eight and nine o'clock on Sunday morning. They landed at Market-street Wharf. Taking out his money, which consisted of one unbroken dollar and a shilling in copper coin, he offered the latter to the boatman for his passage.
"Not a cent, my good fellow! You worked your passage, and did it well, too. You row as if you were an old hand at it. Put your money back in your pocket."
"But you must take it," insisted Benjamin. "You are quite welcome to all the rowing I have done. I am glad enough to get here by rowing and paying my passage, too. But for your coming along to take me in, I should have been obliged to stay in Burlington until next Tuesday," and he fairly forced the money upon the boatman.
Bidding them good morning, he walked up Market Street.
THE WALKING COMEDY.
Benjamin was very hungry, and he was considering how he could appease his hunger, when he met a boy who was eating a piece of bread.
"That is what I want," he said to the boy; "where did you get that?"
"Over there, at the bake-shop," the boy replied, pointing to it.
"Thank you," and Benjamin hurried on.
He had eaten nothing since he dined with the shop-woman in Burlington, on the day before. Besides, bread was a staple article with him. He had made many a meal of plain bread in his brother's printing office in Boston. Although he knew well which side his bread was buttered, his appetite for unbuttered bread never failed him. Entering the bake-shop, he inquired:
"Have you biscuit?" He was thinking of what he had in Boston.
"We make nothing of the kind."
"Give me a three-penny loaf, then."
"We have none."
Benjamin began to think he should have to go hungry still, for, evidently, he did not know the names used to designate the different sorts of bread in Philadelphia. But, soon recovering himself, he said:
"Then give me three-penny worth of any kind." To his surprise, the baker passed three great puffy rolls to him, enough for three men to eat at one meal. At first, he was puzzled to know what to do with them, whether to take all three or not.
"What! All that?" he said, scarcely knowing what he did say.
"Yes, there's three-penny worth; that is what you said, was it not?"
"It was," and Benjamin paid the money and took the loaves, trying to conceal his surprise, without exposing his ignorance of methods in the Quaker City. He was a boy of remarkable tact, as we have seen, so that he was never put to his wits long without finding a way out. It was so in this case. He put a roll under each arm, and taking the third one in his hand, he proceeded up the street, eating as he went.
Recollect that it was Sunday morning, and people were already swarming in the streets, arrayed in their best clothes. Benjamin was clad in his poorest clothes, and they were very shabby. His best suit was in his chest, and that was sent from New York by water. He was a sight to behold as he trudged up Market Street with his three loaves of bread, and his large pockets stuffed with shirts and stockings. He preferred pockets to the usual "bandanna bundle"; they were more convenient for storing away his wardrobe, but contributed largely to his comical appearance. He was a walking comedy. People gazed at him inquiringly and smiled. No doubt, many of them wondered where he came from and where he was going. He was seedy enough, but no one saw the seed of a philosopher or statesman about him. There was no promise in that direction. He was an embryo "Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France"; but his appearance was that of a shack, or modern tramp, to whom Sunday is like all other days, and whose self-respect is at a large discount.
On he went, however, regardless of opinions concerning the figure he cut, stowing away in his stomach the baker's loaf in his hand. He passed by the residence of one Mr. Read, whose daughter, in her teens, Miss Deborah Read, was standing at the door. She gazed in wonder at the singular specimen of humanity passing before her; thought he was the most awkward and comical creature in the form of a man she had ever seen; and turned away with a laugh to tell her people in the house of the queer spectacle. She little thought that she was taking a bird's eye view of her future husband, as the young man with the rolls under his arms turned out to be. But just then he cared more for bread than he did for her; some years thereafter, the case was reversed, and he cared more for her than he did for bread.
He turned down Chestnut Street, and walked on until he came round to the wharf where he landed. Being thirsty, he went to the boat for water, where he found the woman and child, who came down the river with them on the previous night, waiting to go further.
"Are you hungry?" he said to the little one, who looked wistfully at the bread.
"We are both very hungry," replied the mother quickly for herself and child.
"Well, I have satisfied my hunger with one loaf, and you may have the other two if you want them"; and Benjamin passed the two rolls under his arms to her. "It appears that, in Philadelphia, three-penny worth of bread is three times as much as a man can eat. If other things can be had in the same proportion, the last dollar I have left will go a great way."
"I thank you a thousand times; you are very kind indeed," responded the woman, with a heart overflowing with gratitude, which was as good pay for the bread as Benjamin wanted. "May you never want for bread."
"No one would want for bread if they who have it will divide with those who have none, as they should."
In the last reply was incorporated a leading virtue of Benjamin's character—a trait that manifested itself, as we shall see, all through his life. His generosity was equal to his wisdom. An American statesman said of him, in a eulogy delivered in Boston:
"No form of personal suffering or social evil escaped his attention, or appealed in vain for such relief or remedy as his prudence could suggest, or his purse supply. From that day of his early youth, when, a wanderer from his home and friends in a strange place, he was seen sharing the rolls with a poor woman and child, to the last act of his public life, when he signed that well-known memorial to Congress, a spirit of earnest and practical benevolence runs like a golden thread along his whole career."
"I must be after finding a boarding place," said Benjamin to the owner of the boat, as he was about leaving. "I do not know where to go any more than the man in the moon. Are you acquainted here?"
"Scarcely at all; could not be of any service to you any way on that line," the owner answered. "Goin' to stop some time in Philadelphy?"
"I am going to live here if I can find work, as I expect to, and become a citizen of this town."
"Wall, you'll make a good one, I know. May you never have reason to repent of your choice. Goodbye."
"Good-bye"; and Benjamin walked up the street again. The people were on their way to meeting, so that he was reminded of divine worship, which he had partially forsaken in Boston. Being very tired, in consequence of a hard time on the boat and a wakeful night, he concluded to follow the people to church. They entered a large old-fashioned meeting-house, and he followed them and took a seat near the door. His appearance attracted much attention, as his dress was not exactly that of a Quaker, and otherwise he was not quite of the Quaker type; and it was a Quaker church in which he was. But he wasted no thoughts upon his apparel, and did not stop to think or care whether he was arrayed in shoddy or fine linen.
Whether he did not know that he was in a Quaker congregation, or knowing that fact, was ignorant of the Quaker worship, does not appear; but he waited for something to be said. While waiting for this, he dropped into a sound sleep, and slept through the entire service, and would have slept on, and been fastened into the meeting-house, had not the sexton discovered him.
"Hulloo, stranger! Meeting's over; going to shut up the house," shouted the sexton, shaking the sleeper thoroughly.
"I was very tired," responded Benjamin, trying to get his eyes open. "I was on the boat last night and got no sleep."
"Where did you come from?"
"Boston; I came here for work."
"Well, Philadelphy is a great place for work; what sort of work do you want?"
"I am a printer by trade, and hope to find work in a printing office."
"And I hope you will. Sorry to disturb your nap, but I have to lock up the house."
Benjamin thanked the sexton for waking him instead of locking him in, and went out into the street. He had not proceeded far before he met a Quaker whose face indicated a man of amiable and generous heart, and Benjamin ventured to speak to him.
"I am a stranger in this town; arrived here this morning; can you tell me where I can get a night's lodging?"
"Certainly I can; I suppose thee wants a respectable place." The gentleman spoke so kindly as to draw Benjamin to him at once.
"Yes, sir; but not an expensive one; my purse will not permit of any extra expense."
"Thee going to remain here some time?"
"Permanently, if I can get work; I am a printer by trade."
"I wish thee success," added the Quaker. "But here we are close by the 'Three Mariners'; but it is not exactly a reputable house, and thee wants a better one."
"Yes; I want one that has a good reputation if there is such a one," said Benjamin.
"Well, if thee will follow me, I will show thee a better one; it is not far away."
Benjamin followed him into Water Street, where he pointed out a public house.
"There's the 'Crooked Billet,'" said the Quaker, "a tavern that is reputable, where thee can find board and lodgings for a day or a year."
"Thank you, sir, for your kindness," said Benjamin; "I shall not forget you. May every body be as friendly to you as you have been to me."
At the same time, Benjamin thought it was a very queer name for a public house. He did not like either part of it, and he said to himself, "'Crooked Billet'!—crookedness and a cudgel to strike down the turbulent with, are suggested." The name did not suggest any thing pleasant to him. But he went in, and engaged lodging and board until Monday.
"Where are you from?" asked the landlord, scanning him from head to foot.
"I am from Boston."
"Boston, hey? How long have you been on the way?"
"Got friends in Philadelphia?"
"Not one; all strangers to me."
"What did you come here for?"
"I came to secure work in a printing office. I am a printer by trade."
"How old are you?"
"And came all the way from Boston alone?"
Benjamin saw by this time that the landlord suspected him of being a runaway apprentice. This class of characters was large at that day, for apprentices were often subjected to cruelty that made them runaways. So he closed the conversation as soon as possible and went to his room, where he slept until six o'clock, when he was called to supper. Not long after supper he went to bed and slept soundly until morning.
He arose early, took special pains to make himself as presentable as possible, paid his bill without waiting for breakfast, perhaps because he was reducing his cash so nearly to the last cent, and sallied forth in search of Mr. Bradford. He experienced no trouble in finding the printing office; but was very much surprised to find Mr. Bradford of New York there, father of the young printer Bradford of Philadelphia, to whom the father sent him.
"Glad to see you, my young friend. I got here first, after all, as you see," remarked Mr. Bradford, the father, as he welcomed Benjamin with a hearty shake of the hand. "Had any ill-luck on your way?"
"Not exactly bad luck, for I considered myself quite lucky to get here at all; but a slow, tedious trip, with delays and storms and disappointments most of the time," was Benjamin's answer, and he entered somewhat into details.
"Well, you are here, and I am glad to meet you; and, now, you want work." Then, turning to his son, Mr. Bradford continued: "My son, let me introduce this young man to you. He is a printer by trade, from Boston, in search of work: Benjamin Franklin. He called upon me in New York, and I advised him to come to you, knowing that your leading printer had died."
The young printer and the runaway were soon acquainted,—young Bradford being as genial and friendly as the senior.
"I regret that I have no work for you now. I have filled the place made vacant by the death of Bolder."
"There is another printer here, is there not?" asked the senior Bradford.
"Yes, Keimer; it is possible he may want a man. But it is breakfast time now; let us all go to breakfast, and then we'll see what can be done."
Benjamin was invited to breakfast with them, and there learned that Mr. Bradford of New York came all the way on horseback, starting very unexpectedly the next day after Benjamin left New York. He was somewhat surprised, also, to learn that Philadelphia had only seven thousand inhabitants at that time—five thousand less than Boston.
"I will go with you to see Mr. Keimer," said the senior Bradford, after breakfast. "Perhaps I may be of service to you."
"I shall feel myself under great obligations to you if you will," answered Benjamin. "It is quite necessary that I should get work, as my money is nearly gone."
"We can fix that, I think," said young Bradford. "I may be able to give you a little something to do, if Keimer don't want you, so that you won't starve. You can lodge at my house."
"Thanks," replied Benjamin. "I appreciate your kindness, and hope to be able to make some return for it in the future. I am sorry not to appear before you in more respectable apparel, but my chest of clothes comes by water from New York, and I have not received it yet."
"Clothes don't make the man," responded the elder Bradford, who had discovered a remarkably bright and intelligent youth in Benjamin. "Brains take the precedence of clothes in New York and Philadelphia."
Benjamin found himself among good friends, so he cheerfully accepted their counsel. The senior Bradford accompanied him to Keimer's.
"Neighbor," said Bradford, "I have brought to you a young man from Boston, a printer by trade; he is after work. Perhaps you can employ him."
"That depends on his qualifications," answered Mr. Keimer. "I want some one who is acquainted with the business."
"You will find him all right, I think; he appears to know what he is about."
"How long have you worked at the business?" inquired Keimer, turning to Benjamin.
"Over three years."
"Do you understand all parts of it so that you can go on with it?"
"Yes, I think I do; you can ascertain by trying me."
"Take this composing-stick and try your hand; let me see what you can do."
Benjamin proceeded to give an exhibition of his skill at type-setting, which he did so rapidly and easily that Keimer was delighted.
"Very well done, indeed. I think you told the truth; you must have had considerable experience. I will employ you as soon as I have sufficient work. At present, I have nothing for you to do."
"It is not often, Mr. Keimer, that you have the opportunity to employ a skilled hand like this young man," suggested Bradford. "If you could give him enough to do to pay his board, until you are full of work, it may be for your interest and his, too."
"That is true. I am at work now upon this Elegy on Aquila Rose, who was clerk of the Pennsylvania Legislature; and I may want him to print it. I shall have it ready in three or four days. I am expecting other work soon, also."
"You can return to my son's house to eat and sleep," said Mr. Bradford to Benjamin. "I think Mr. Keimer will want you before long. He expects to have business."
"What do you think of my prospects here, sir?" inquired Keimer of Mr. Bradford, supposing him to be a citizen of Philadelphia. "I have hardly got under way yet; it is only a few weeks since I began."
"That will depend upon your own exertions and business talents. Philadelphia is a growing town, where industry and perseverance will do wonders."
"I shall do all in my power to draw the business of the town; and I think I can do it by industry and giving first-class work."
"How can you expect to get all the business when there is another printer here, who has been established some time?"
Keimer answered the last inquiry by disclosing his plans, as Bradford artfully drew him out on every point, until he learned how he was calculating to command all the business, and run his son out of it. Nor did Keimer dream that he was conversing with the father of the other printer, whom he designed to deprive of his livelihood. All the while Benjamin stood and listened to their conversation, perceiving that Bradford was shrewdly learning Keimer's plans for the benefit of his son.
"You did not know that man, did you?" inquired Benjamin, after Bradford left.
"No; but I concluded he was some business man of the town, who would be interested to see a printing office successful, and so took pains to introduce you to me."
"Then you will be surprised to learn who he is, when I tell you. That was the father of Andrew Bradford, your neighbor, the printer. He carries on printing in New York."
"Can that be?" exclaimed Keimer, astonished over the bit of news, and startled at the thought of having made known his plans to a competitor.
"Yes, it is even so. That was Mr. Bradford, the New York printer, father of Andrew Bradford, the printer of your town; and not his apparition."
"How in the world did he happen to come here with you?"
"I can tell you in a few words," replied Benjamin. "I called on him for work in New York, and he directed me to his son here, who had just lost a good hand by death. Very unexpectedly, on the next day, he started for Philadelphia on horseback, and, when I called upon his son, this morning, I found him there. His son had just hired a man; and so he directed me to you, and his father offered to come and introduce me."
"Well, all that is natural enough, but it is pretty hard on me," answered Keimer. "If I had known that was Bradford's father, I should have kept my mouth shut, of course."
"You opened it pretty wide to him, and he took advantage of it, as most men will do. But I guess no harm is done. He and his son both appear to be friendly to you; they would not have proposed that I should come here for work, if they had not been."
"That looks so, I must confess," said Keimer; "but I have learned one good lesson from it: never to divulge secrets to a stranger. When I do that again I shall not be in my right mind. But I wanted to ask you about your Boston experience in a printing office; what office was you in?"
"My brother's, James Franklin. He published a paper, the New England Courant. He did a large business."
"Yes, our paper here gave some account of it. The editor had some trouble with the Government, did he not?"
"Yes, and a serious trouble it was. He believed in the freedom of the press, and the officials did not; so there was a collision. He determined to fight the censorship of the press, and he was imprisoned for it. Then I edited and published the paper in my own name."
"You run it!" exclaimed Keimer in a tone of wonder and unbelief.
"Yes, I run it,—without letting up one jot in attacking the intolerant Government. It was a hot contest, but the common people, true Americans, rallied to our support, and left the aristocratic officials to toady to the English Government."
"A new order of things when a boy edits and publishes a paper in a straight fight with Great Britain," was all that Keimer said, in reply, evidently not believing a word of Benjamin's story about the Courant. However, the more he talked with the new comer, the more he was impressed with his intelligence and manly character. He found that his clothes were the poorest part of him, that underneath his shabby garments there dwelt a soul of large possessions and aspirations.
Benjamin learned at Keimer's office what a blessing it was to him to have practised doing things well. Thoroughness in learning the printer's art, as well as in studying the use of language and composition, characterized him in Boston, as we have seen. Now he was reaping the benefits of it. He handled the composing-stick so dexterously, and answered every question so intelligently and promptly, that Keimer saw at once he was really an expert. Many boys are satisfied if they can only "pass muster." Their ambition rises no higher than that. But not so with Benjamin. He sought to understand the business to which he attended, and to do as well as possible the work he undertook. The consequence was that he was a thorough workman, and, in five minutes, he was able to satisfy Keimer of the fact. This was greatly in his favor; and such a young man is never long out of business. Doctor Johnson said, "What is worth doing at all, is worth doing well."
Samuel Budgett said, "In whatever calling a man is found, he ought to strive to be the best in that calling; if only a shoe-black, he should try to be the best shoe-black in the neighborhood." Budgett conducted his immense business, in which he employed six hundred men, on this principle. When a boy was introduced into his warehouse he was set to straightening old nails. If he straightened nails well, he was promoted to bag-mending; if he did not do it well, he was dismissed. The thorough nail-straightener and bag-mender moved upwards into larger and higher fields of work; and so the great English merchant could boast of having the most efficient and faithful class of employes in the British realm. Training them to do their best did it.
James Parton said to David Maydole, inventor of the modern hammer and manufacturer of the best hammers in the world, "By this time you ought to be able to make a pretty good hammer." Maydole replied, "No, I can't. I can't make a pretty good hammer, I make the best that's made." Once a party applied for several hammers, to whom Maydole was indebted for some favor, and the party said to him, "You ought to make my hammer a little better than the others." Maydole responded, "I can't make any better ones. When I make a thing, I make it as well as I can, no matter whom it is for." Doing his best every time led him on to fortune. He never pushed his business. He never advertised. Making the best hammer in the market created all the business he wanted.
"Your press is rather dilapidated, I see," remarked Benjamin to Mr. Keimer, after he had looked it over. "Second-hand, I conclude?"
"Yes, I had to buy what I could get cheap, as I had little money to begin with. I guess it can be fixed up to answer my purpose."
"That is so; it can be improved very much with little expense," replied Benjamin.
"Do you understand a printing press well enough to repair it?"
"I can repair that one well enough; I see what is wanted. You can't do good work with it as it is," Benjamin answered.
"Then I can employ you at once, and you may go right about putting it in order if you please."
"I will do it," Benjamin replied in his emphatic way. "It is not a long job, by any means."
"Perhaps you will have it done by the time I get the Elegy set up, and then you may print it." Keimer's interest was deepening since he found that the Boston printer-boy could repair a printing press. He was getting more than he bargained for.
Benjamin went to work upon the old press, saying "I may as well go about it at once, and work till dinner time. Mr. Bradford will expect me back then; but I will keep at it until it is done."
"Well, I hope you will not expose any secrets as I did," remarked Mr. Keimer, humorously. "Old Bradford will be on the lookout for capital, no doubt. See that he don't make as much out of you as he did out of me."
Benjamin met the Bradfords, senior and junior, at the dinner table, where they gave him a cordial welcome.
"How does Philadelphia compare with Boston?" inquired the senior Bradford of him.
"It is smaller, and I can't tell yet whether it is duller or not. When I have been here a week I can tell more about it."
"And what are your prospects at Keimer's?" inquired the junior Bradford.
"Well, I have begun to repair his old press. It is a dilapidated affair, and I told him that I could improve it very much."
"Do you understand that part of the business?"
"I understand it sufficiently to make what repairs that machine requires just now."
"Then you can probably do some repairs for me," said the junior Bradford "My press needs some tutoring."
"I shall be happy to be its tutor," replied Benjamin, with a smile. "I shall finish Keimer's to-morrow, and then I will take yours in hand. I shall be glad to do something to repay you for your kindness."
"You must have had good school advantages in Boston," remarked the elder Bradford to him. "Your conversation indicates that you are well-read and well-informed."
"But I am not indebted to the schools for it; I never went to school but two years in my life. But I have studied and read as much as any body of my age, in leisure hours and nights; and I have written more for the press, probably, than any one of my age in Boston."
This last remark caused the Bradfords to look at each other with wonder for a moment. But the senior broke the silence by saying:
"You write for the press? How is that?" His astonishment charged his questions with peculiar emphasis.
"Yes, sir; I wrote much for nearly a year for the New England Courant, one of the newspapers in Boston."
"And only seventeen years old now?"
"I was only sixteen when I wrote the most."
That was as far as Benjamin dared to disclose his history, lest he might make trouble for himself. He had disclosed enough, however, to set his host to thinking. Neither of the Bradfords really believed his story about his writing for the press; and yet there was something about him, composed of intelligence, refinement, and manliness, that impressed them. The more they conversed with him, the more were they satisfied that he was an uncommon youth. While that conviction awakened their curiosity to know more of his history, it served, also, to cause them to respect his boy-manhood, and so not to ply him with too many or close questions. Thus Benjamin escaped the necessity of exposing the objectionable part of his career, and left his good friends wondering over the mysterious young printer they were befriending.
Benjamin repaired Keimer's press, and then attended to Bradford's, before the Elegy was ready to be printed. By that time, Keimer had engaged to print a pamphlet and do some other small jobs, so that he needed Benjamin's services all the time.
"I shall want you right along, now, I think; but you must change your boarding-place. I don't want you should board with a man who knows so much about my business." And Keimer laughed as he made this last remark.
"Of course, I shall change. I only intended to stay there until I got work. Mr. Bradford kindly invited me to stay there till I found a place, and I shall not take any advantage of his generosity. I shall always be grateful to him for it."
"He was a good friend to you, a stranger," continued Keimer, "and I would have you appreciate his friendship; but, in the circumstances, I think another boarding-place is best."
"And now I can make a more respectable appearance," responded Benjamin; "for my chest of clothes has come."
"The man who owns this building lives a short distance away, and I am thinking I can get you boarded there; it will be a good place," added Mr. Keimer.
"As you please; I can make myself at home any where. I am not used to much style and luxury."
"His name is Read, and he has an interesting daughter of eighteen, which may be some attraction to you." The last remark was intended more for pleasantry than any thing.
"Work will have to be the chief attraction for me, whose fortune is reduced to the last shilling," responded Benjamin. "It takes money to pay respectful attention to young ladies; and, besides, my forte does not lie in that direction."
The result was, that he went to board at Mr. Read's, the father of the young lady who stood in the door when he passed on Sunday morning with a roll of bread under each arm. His appearance was much improved by this time, so that even Miss Read saw that he was an intelligent, promising young man.
Benjamin received good wages, attended closely to his work, improved his leisure moments by reading and study, as he did in Boston, and spent his evenings in systematic mental culture.
"You appear to be fond of books," said Mr. Read to him. "I think you must have enjoyed good advantages at home. Where is your home?"
"Boston. I was born there seventeen years ago."
"Only seventeen! I supposed you were older. Your parents living?"
"Yes, both of them, as good people as there are in Boston."
"Got brothers and sisters?"
"Plenty of them. I am the fifteenth child, and have two sisters younger than I am; only one of the whole number is dead."
"You surprise me; yours must have been the largest family in Boston," continued Mr. Read. "I am sure we have no family as large as that in Philadelphia. Your father ought to be worth some money to provide for such a family."
"He is not, he is a poor man; so poor that he kept me in school less than two years. I went into the shop to work with him when I was ten years old, and have not been to school since. All my brothers were apprenticed at ten or twelve years of age. I was a printer's apprentice at twelve years of age."
"And what was your father's business, if I may be permitted to ask? Your story is a very interesting one, and I want to know more about it."
"My father is a tallow-chandler. He emigrated to Boston in 1685, from Banbury, England, where he worked at the trade of a dyer. There was no room for that business in Boston, so he took up the business of candle-making."
"But you did not work at the candle business long, if you became a printer at twelve?"
"No; I disliked the business so thoroughly that I was ready to engage in almost any thing if I could get out of that. The printer's trade has afforded me excellent opportunities for reading and study, and I like it."
"Well, printers are generally an intelligent class, and their pursuit is highly respected. One of our printers in Philadelphia is an ignorant man, and not very familiar with the business."
"I found that out some time ago," answered Benjamin; "and ignorance is a great drawback to a person in any business whatever. There is no need of a man being ignorant, so long as he can command fragments of time to read and study. What I call my leisure hours are my most profitable and enjoyable hours."
Mr. Read had already concluded that Benjamin was never so happy as when he had a book in his hand, or was with some intelligent companion conversing upon a useful topic. He had formed a high estimate of his talents and character in the few weeks he had been a boarder at his house. He saw in him a rising young man, and predicted for him a remarkable career. His daughter, too, was as favorably impressed by acquaintance with him. She learned that he was the youth, who cut such a comical figure on the street, eating his roll of bread, on a Sunday morning a short time before, and she could scarcely believe her eyes. The transformation in him was almost too great for belief. That such a shack in appearance should turn out to be the brightest and best-informed young man who ever boarded at her father's, was an impressive fact. She was gratified at his appearance, and enjoyed conversation with him.
Benjamin was well pleased with his boarding-place, and enjoyed himself with the family; especially with the daughter, who was rather a graceful, good-looking, bright girl. Several young men, also, boarded there, whom he made companions. These, with others, whose acquaintance he made within three or four months, became the source of so much pleasure to him that he fast became weaned from Boston.
As soon as Benjamin was fairly settled in business, he wrote to his old friend, John Collins, of Boston, giving him a full account of his trip to Philadelphia, his trials and successes, and closing by charging him with secrecy as to his whereabouts.
He had given such unjustifiable scope to his resentment of his brother's harsh treatment, and his father's final endorsement of that brother, that he did not stop to think of the sorrow he was bringing upon his parents by his wayward course. For the time being, his filial affection appeared to be sacrificed to his revengeful spirit.
At that time, the printer's trade ranked higher, in public estimation, than any other mechanical business. All editors in the country were printers, and most of the printers were better educated than any other artisans; hence their social standing was higher. On this account, a talented and brilliant boy like Benjamin took a high rank at once, and readily found access to the respect and confidence of all who made his acquaintance.
In due time, Benjamin received a letter from Collins, detailing the excitement that followed his sudden disappearance from Boston, what was said, the sorrow among his friends over his disgraceful exit, how his brother was getting on, and many other matters about which he was glad to hear. The letter closed by assuring him that no person in Boston was apparently so ignorant of the runaway's whereabouts as himself, from which he inferred that Collins was keeping the secret well.
While Benjamin was flattering himself that his friends were entirely ignorant of his place of residence, except John Collins, his brother-in-law, Robert Homes, "master of a sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware," was at Newcastle, forty miles from Philadelphia. There he met a citizen of the latter place, of whom he made inquiries as to the business of the town. Among other things, he said:
"A young printer from Boston has settled there recently, who ranks high as a workman and as a talented young man."
"Do you know his name?" inquired Captain Homes, startled by the revelation.
With an effort to conceal his surprise and interest, he asked:
"For whom does he work?"
"For Mr. Keimer, our new printer."
"Are you acquainted with him?"
"Not particularly; I have met him."
"Is he a young man of standing and good habits?"
"He is. It is said that he is very talented, and that he wrote for the press in Boston before he came to Philadelphia."
"Is that so?" responded the captain, to conceal that he was any acquaintance of his.
"Yes; and, as a matter of course, such a young man is much thought of. He is not set up at all, but appears to be modest and unassuming. He is very much liked by all."
"Do you think he means to make Philadelphia his home in the future?"
"That is what he intends, as I understand it." In this way, Captain Homes gained whatever information he wanted, without disclosing that Benjamin Franklin was his brother-in-law. Then he embraced the first opportunity to write and forward to him the following letter from Newcastle:
"DEAR BROTHER,—I have just learned from a citizen of Philadelphia that you reside in that town. It is the first knowledge that any of us have had of your whereabouts since you ran away from Boston. You can have no idea of the sorrow you caused the family by your unwise and thoughtless act. It well-nigh broke your mother's heart, and added several years to your father's appearance. But I write to advise and entreat you to return to Boston. I am confident that your parents, and all other friends, will receive you with open arms, forgetting the past in their joy over your presence. They do not know even that you are alive; and your return will be to them as one risen from the dead. I trust that this letter will find you well, and disposed to heed my advice, and go back to Boston. It will be the best thing for you and the whole family. Let me hear from you; direct your letter to this place; if sent at once it will reach me here.
The reader may very properly infer that Benjamin was taken by surprise by this letter. Now his friends would know where he was. How did Captain Homes discover his place of residence? This question kept uppermost in his mind. His letter did not tell. Benjamin pondered the matter through the day, and finally resolved to answer it squarely and promptly in the evening. That night he wrote the following:
"CAPTAIN ROBERT HOMES:
"Dear Brother,—I received your letter to-day, and it was a genuine surprise to me. How in the world you discovered my whereabouts is a mystery to me; but it is all well and will turn out for the best, no doubt. To answer your letter affords me an opportunity to state exactly the cause of my sudden departure from Boston, which I do not think you understand. The sole cause of my leaving was the unjust and harsh treatment of James. Instead of seeing in me a brother, he saw only an apprentice, indentured to him until I was twenty-one, over whom he held the iron rod of a master, and from whom he expected the most servile obedience. At times I may have been saucy and provoking, but it was when I was receiving more than flesh and blood could bear. For, in letting loose his violent temper, he not only lashed me unmercifully with his tongue, but he resorted to blows; and you ought to know enough of the Franklins by this time to understand that no one of them would submit to such oppression. Then, to cap the climax, father, who had always sided with me whenever our difficulties were laid before him, now gave his decision, for some reason, in favor of James. That was the last straw on the camel's back. Nothing but harsh treatment by a master, who asserted his rights under the law, awaited me. To remain was to be trod upon, and suffer, and become a slave instead of a man. To leave was impossible, unless I left clandestinely. For many days a mighty contest was waged in my soul between love of home and escape from a bondage as bad as Negro slavery.
"After all I had done for James, in his great trouble with the Government, that he should treat me, his own brother, as a menial to be abused, seemed hard indeed. Under such a burden of trial, scarcely knowing whither to look for a friend, I resolved to escape, and I do not now regret the step. I knew that I should be misjudged—that I should be called a runaway, and thought to be on the road to ruin. But I am not. I mean to make the most of myself possible. I am now among good friends, who kindly second all my efforts at self-improvement, and my business prospects were never so good. If industry, economy, temperance, honesty, and perseverance will win, then I shall win; you may be sure of that.
Captain Homes was a strong, good man, used to roughing it in a seafaring life; but when he read Benjamin's letter, tears stood in his eyes, and his lips quivered with emotion, as his great heart went out in sympathy for his wife's young brother.
"Read that letter," he said to Governor Keith, who was present, "and then I will tell you about the author of it."
Governor Keith read it, with moistened eyes, although he was a stranger to the writer and his romantic history.
"A touching letter," he remarked, returning it to the captain.
"The author of it is my wife's youngest brother, only a boy now."
"How old?" inquired the governor.
"Indeed, he must be a remarkable boy."
"He is. The most gifted boy ever raised in Boston."
"Then he ran away from Boston?"
"Yes; his father's family is a prominent one in the city, and the eldest son is a printer, to whom this youngest son was apprenticed."
"I see now," responded the governor. "That explains the letter. And he is settled now in Philadelphia?"
"He is. I accidentally learned where he was, a few days ago, and wrote to him; and this letter is his answer. Let me tell you more about him." And the captain rehearsed his connection with the Courant, as correspondent and editor, dwelling upon his ability and power as an independent thinker, capable of canvassing and writing upon almost any public question.
"Remarkable, for one so young!" exclaimed the governor, after listening to the detailed account. "Such a young man should be encouraged in his business."
"So I think," responded the captain. "His letter has opened my eyes, and I see now that he had good reason to run away. I believe that he will make his mark, live where he may."
"Of course he will," replied the governor. "His success is certain, only give him a chance. I will assist him to establish a printing house of his own in Philadelphia, and he shall have the government printing to do."
"He is abundantly qualified to do it, and I think any aid of that sort you can give him will be for your interest as well as his. He is reliable and will do his best." The captain said this in the honesty of his heart, having a strong desire to see Benjamin rise.
"We have two printing houses in Philadelphia now; but they are poor affairs," continued the governor. "Neither proprietor understands his business, and one of them is very ignorant. I think that this young man would take the lead at once."
"I think that I can secure the government printing of Delaware for him," interrupted Colonel French, of Newcastle, who had listened to the conversation with the deepest interest.
"Captain Homes, I will see your brother-in-law as soon as I return to Philadelphia," added Governor Keith. "We must not let such a young man be buried up in a one-horse printing house."
"I am going to Philadelphia with the governor," interjected Colonel French, "and I will accompany him to see the young man."
"I thank you both very much, and I think that neither of you will ever regret your decision." Captain Homes spoke so warmly and approvingly that both governor and colonel felt reassured as they separated.
The foregoing discloses two good traits of Benjamin's character, which the reader may consider with profit. First, he must have been very observing. He understood the construction of a printing-press so well, that he could put an old one into running order, young as he was, when its proprietor was unable to do it. This is more remarkable, because he was not obliged to study the mechanism of a printing-press in order to work it. Many persons operate machines without understanding their construction at all. But a class of minds are never satisfied until they understand whatever commands their attention. They are inquisitive, and wish to know the philosophy of things. It was so with Benjamin; and this quality proved a valuable element of his success. It was the secret of his discoveries and inventions in his manhood, as we shall see, just as it was with Stephenson. As soon as he was appointed plugman of an engine, at seventeen years of age, he began to study its construction. In his leisure hours, he took it to pieces, and put it together again several times, in order to understand it.
In the second place, Benjamin was not proud. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." He never came under this condemnation. A sight of him passing up Market Street, with a loaf of bread under each arm, while devouring the third one in his hand, in apparel that was less comely than that of many modern tramps, is proof that pride had no dominion over him. Many boys of seventeen, in such poverty and apparel, would have avoided a public street, and even a Quaker meetinghouse. But these were small matters to Benjamin. He was thinking of greater things—employment and a livelihood. He had a destiny to work out, and in working that he must do as he could, and not as he would. He cared not for the laughs and jeers of those who could dress better and live more sumptuously than himself, since it was absolutely necessary for him to dress as he did in order "to make his ends meet." He might have followed the example of some young men, and incurred a debt, in order "to cut a dash," but he believed then, as he wrote afterwards, that "lying rides on debt's back," and that it is "better to go to bed supperless than to rise in debt"; or, as he expressed himself in other maxims, "Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at Easter," and "It is easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel."
GOING UP HIGHER.
Not many days after Benjamin replied to the letter of Captain Homes, an unusual scene transpired at Keimer's office.
"There's Governor Keith on the other side of the street," said Keimer to Benjamin, as they stood looking out of the window. "That tall man with a gentleman walking with him."
"I see," replied Benjamin. "I should think they were coming here."
"Sure enough, they are crossing the street; they must be coming here; I wonder what for." And Keimer ran down stairs to meet them before the last words, as above, were off his lips. He supposed, of course, that they were coming to see him. He met them politely at the door, for it was not every day that he had the privilege of welcoming a governor to his printing office, but was somewhat taken aback when the governor inquired:
"Does Benjamin Franklin work here?"
"He does; do you wish to see him?" Keimer was almost bewildered when he answered. "What can the governor want of that boy?" he thought.
"Can I see him?"
"Certainly, walk in."
They walked in and took seats. Benjamin was called.
"This is the young man you wanted to see," said Keimer, introducing him. "Governor Keith, Benjamin."
"I am very happy to make your acquaintance," responded the governor." I met your brother-in-law, Captain Homes, at Newcastle, the other day, and I promised to call and see you. And this is Colonel French, of Newcastle, who, also, promised Captain Homes to call with me," introducing the colonel.
Benjamin was too much astonished to feel at ease. He would not have been so amazed if an officer from Boston had called to arrest him as a runaway. What the governor of Pennsylvania could want of him was beyond his wildest dreams.
"If Mr. Keimer can spare you a short time, we would like you to go with us for an interview, as we promised Captain Homes," added the governor.
"I am at your service," Benjamin replied, collecting his scattered and wondering thoughts. "Mr. Keimer can spare me, no doubt."
Within a few minutes, he was with the governor and Colonel French at a tavern on the corner of Third Street, in a room by themselves.
"I am very glad to meet a young man of your abilities," remarked the governor, "and I want to talk with you about setting up the printing business for yourself in this town. Captain Homes told me of your experience and ability, on this and other lines, and I am sure that you can start a printing house of your own, and make a success of it."
"But I have nothing to start such a business with. It requires capital."
"True, very true; but I think we can arrange that. Perhaps your father could give you a start, judging from what Captain Homes says."
"I suppose that he might if he was so disposed; but I doubt whether he would do it." Benjamin was querying, as he spoke, whether Captain Homes had disclosed the fact of his being a runaway.
"I can write a letter to him, setting before him the excellent opportunity for a printer here who understands the business as you do, and advise him to render you aid." The governor did not hint that he knew about his leaving home clandestinely.
"That is very kind on your part; but is it not true, that two printing houses are as many as this town can support well?"
"It would be if they were first-class; but they are not. The proprietors do not understand their business; they have poor equipments, too; and their outfit does not enable them to do first-class work."
"The governor will see that you have the government printing of Pennsylvania to do," suggested Colonel French; "and I have no question that I can secure the government printing of Delaware for you, also. This will give you patronage as well as business."
"I thank you both very much for your kindness and confidence; and I should like nothing better than to have a printing house of my own."
"How would this plan do?" continued the governor. "You return to Boston by the first vessel that goes, taking a letter from me to your father, in which I will lay the whole matter before him, so that he can understand it, recommending that he set you up in business here."
"Well," replied Benjamin, after some hesitation, "the plan is good enough; but I fear it will not work."
"It will do no hurt to try it," retorted the governor; "and you will have an opportunity to see your friends, and they will have an opportunity to see you."
"Yes, and I shall enjoy that; but I could not honorably leave Mr. Keimer at present."
"It will not be necessary to leave him at present. It may be three months before a vessel is billed for Boston. You can work for him at present, notifying him that you shall return to Boston on a visit by the first vessel that goes."
"Yes, I can do that," said Benjamin.
"You will not, of course, divulge your plan of establishing a printing house of your own," suggested the governor. "Keep that a secret. Your plan may not work, so that it will be wise to keep it a secret for the present."
"Well, I will defer to your judgment, and return to Boston by the first vessel that sails. If the plan works, and Benjamin Franklin should run a successful business house in this town, the credit of it will belong to you."
They separated, with the understanding that Benjamin would return to Boston by the first vessel sailing for that port. The governor and his friend retired, and Benjamin returned to his work at the printing office.
The reader will make special note of this unusual scene. Here was the governor of Pennsylvania and a leading public man of Delaware in conference with a boy of seventeen years, about establishing a printing house of his own in Philadelphia, with the promise of the government patronage! What sort of a boy must he be? Not one of common mould or capacity; but one, as the sequel will show, who shall rule in the councils of the nation!
Keimer's curiosity was on tiptoe; he wanted to know what business Governor Keith could have with his young employe.
"Why," replied Benjamin, "he met my brother-in-law, who is captain of a sloop, at Newcastle, and learned of him that I was working in this town, and so he called."
"All that may be; but governors are not in the habit of calling upon boys as a matter of courtesy." And Keimer looked very unbelieving when he said it.
"He told my brother-in-law that he should call, and my brother-in-law urged him to do so. Colonel French was a personal friend, who came with him; and he, too, promised Captain Homes that he would call."
"That is all right; but you are the first boy that ever lived in Philadelphia, who has attracted the governor's patronage to himself." Keimer was somewhat jocose, while, at the same time, he was evidently suspicious that Benjamin was withholding the real object of the governor's visit.
"My brother-in-law had written to me to take the first opportunity I could to make a trip to Boston to see my friends," continued Benjamin, "and he talked with the governor about it. The governor thinks as he does."
"Not at present. If I go, I must go by sea, and not by land. Can't afford to go by land; and I am told that vessels do not often sail from here to Boston. I shall have to wait to get more money than I have now before I go."
"Perhaps the governor will charter a vessel to take you there if you ask him," suggested Keimer, who was evidently chagrined that the governor called to see his employe instead of himself.
"Perhaps I shall ask him when I become more familiar with him," Benjamin replied, with a twinkle in his eye. "When I get to be a member of his staff I may be cheeky enough to suggest it."
Keimer found that he could not make out much by quizzing his young printer, so he dropped it and dismissed the subject for the time being.
Benjamin's thoughts were all the while concentrated on this unexpected turn of affairs. It would not be strange if such interest in his welfare by the highest officer in the state appealed to his vanity somewhat, although Keimer could discover nothing of the kind. The latter gentleman, however, concluded that he had a mysterious character in his employ, and he was greatly puzzled to know just what he was. He might be the son of some great man, for whose sake the governor interested himself in his welfare. Possibly he might have left Boston in some trouble, and his influential friends, together with Captain Homes, induced the governor to look after him. Many theories, by way of explanation, occupied his thoughts. At any rate, he was an enigma to his employer, who was becoming more and more interested in him. The governor's visit served to magnify his abilities and worth in Keimer's view. He thought more of him than he did before. He discovered more talent and efficiency in him. But he could get little satisfaction out of him. Once in a while he would indulge in a spasm of quizzing, and then he would subside into silent musing over the curious boy who was setting type for him.
Benjamin continued to work early and late, interesting himself in Keimer's business as if it were his own, thereby becoming an indispensable assistant to him. But he embraced the first opportunity to write to his boon companion in Boston, John Collins, and disclose the unexpected change in his affairs, as follows:
"DEAR JOHN: You will be surprised to learn that I expect to make a visit to Boston by the first vessel that sails for that port. It may be three or four months before one sails, but look for me on board. I will tell you how this new order of things was brought about. My brother-in-law, Capt. Robert Homes, was at Newcastle, Delaware, and found out, in some way, that I was living in Philadelphia; and he wrote to me. I replied to his letter, and he showed it to Governor Keith of Pennsylvania, who lives in this town, and told him about me, and interested him in my welfare. So the governor came to see me, and urged me to establish a printing house of my own here, promising me the state printing, and offering to write a letter to my father that I shall take with me when I go to Boston, in which he will set forth the prospects of my success, and urge him to furnish me with money to start. This is the substance of the story, the details of which I will rehearse when I see you. In the mean time continue to keep the secret. I suppose that Captain Homes will disclose the place of my residence, so that it will be a mystery to them no longer; but do not let any thing get abroad from you. When we meet I shall have much to tell you. Until then, good-bye.