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- Do and Dare - 3/40 -
Mr. Graham looked disturbed, for he had reasons for desiring to secure Herbert, who was familiar with the routine of post-office work.
"Well," he said, "I might be able to offer you a leetle more, as you know how to tend the post office. That's worth somethin'! I'll give you--lemme see--twenty-five cents more; that is, a dollar and seventy-five cents a week."
Herbert and his mother exchanged glances. They hardly knew whether to feel more amused or disgusted at their visitor's meanness.
"Mr. Graham," said Herbert, "if you wish to secure my services, you will have to pay me three dollars a week."
The storekeeper held up both hands in dismay.
"Three dollars a week for a boy!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, sir; I will come for a short time for that sum, till you get used to the management of the post office, but I shall feel justified in leaving you when I can do better."
"You must think I am made of money," said Ebenezer hastily.
"I think you can afford to pay me that salary."
For twenty minutes the new postmaster tried to beat down his prospective clerk, but Herbert was obstinate, and Ebenezer rather ruefully promised to give him his price, chiefly because it was absolutely necessary that he should engage some one who was more familiar with the post-office work than he was. Herbert agreed to go to work the next morning.
A PRODIGAL SON.
Herbert did not look forward with very joyful anticipations to the new engagement he had formed. He knew very well that he should not like Ebenezer Graham as an employer, but it was necessary that he should earn something, for the income was now but two dollars a week. He was sorry, too, to displace Tom Tripp, but upon this point his uneasiness was soon removed, for Tom dropped in just after Mr. Graham had left the house, and informed Herbert that he was to go to work the next day for a farmer in the neighborhood, at a dollar and a half per week, and board besides.
"I am glad to hear it, Tom," said Herbert, heartily. "I didn't want to feel that I was depriving you of employment."
"You are welcome to my place in the store," said Tom. "I'm glad to give it up. Mr. Graham seemed to think I was made of iron, and I could work like a machine, without getting tired. I hope he pays you more than a dollar and a half a week."
"He has agreed to pay me three dollars," said Herbert.
Tom whistled in genuine amazement.
"What! has the old man lost his senses?" he exclaimed. "He must be crazy to offer such wages as that."
"He didn't offer them. I told him I wouldn't come for less."
"I don't see how he came to pay such a price."
"Because he wanted me to take care of the post office. I know all about it, and he doesn't."
"As soon as he learns, he will reduce your wages."
"Then I shall leave him."
"Well, I hope you'll like store work better than I do."
The next two or three days were spent in removing the post office to one corner of Eben-ezer Graham's store. The removal was superintended by Herbert, who was not interfered with to any extent by his employer, nor required to do much work in the store. Our hero was agreeably surprised, and began to think he should get along better than he anticipated.
At the end of the first week the storekeeper, while they were closing the shutters, said: "I expect, Herbert, you'd just as lieves take your pay in groceries and goods from the store?"
"No, sir," answered Herbert, "I prefer to be paid in money, and to pay for such goods as we buy."
"I don't see what odds it makes to you," said Ebenezer. "It comes to the same thing, doesn't it?"
"Then if it comes to the same thing," retorted Herbert, "why do you want to pay me in goods?"
"Ahem! It saves trouble. I'll just charge everything you buy, and give you the balance Saturday night."
"I should prefer the money, Mr. Graham," said Herbert, firmly.
So the storekeeper, considerably against his will, drew three dollars in bills from the drawer and handed them to his young clerk.
"It's a good deal of money, Herbert," he said, "for a boy. There ain't many men would pay you such a good salary."
"I earn every cent of it, Mr. Graham," said Herbert, whose views on the salary question differed essentially from those of his employer.
The next morning Mr. Graham received a letter which evidently disturbed him. Before referring to its contents, it is necessary to explain that he had one son, nineteen years of age, who had gone to Boston two years previous, to take a place in a dry-goods store on Washington Street. Ebenezer Graham, Jr., or Eben, as he was generally called, was, in some respects, like his father. He had the same features, and was quite as mean, so far as others were concerned, but willing to spend money for his own selfish pleasures. He was fond of playing pool, and cards, and had contracted a dangerous fondness for whisky, which consumed all the money he could spare from necessary expenses, and even more, so that, as will presently appear, he failed to meet his board bills regularly. Eben had served an apprenticeship in his father's store, having been, in fact, Tom Tripp's predecessor; he tired of his father's strict discipline, and the small pay out of which he was required to purchase his clothes, and went to Boston to seek a wider sphere.
To do Eben justice, it must be admitted that he had good business capacity, and if he had been able, like his father, to exercise self-denial, and make money-getting his chief enjoyment, he would no doubt have become a rich man in time. As it was, whenever he could make his companions pay for his pleasures, he did so.
I now come to the letter which had brought disquietude to the storekeeper.
It ran thus:
"DEAR SIR: I understand that you are the father of Mr. Eben Graham, who has been a boarder at my house for the last six months. I regret to trouble you, but he is now owing me six weeks board, and I cannot get a cent out of him, though he knows I am a poor widow, dependent on my board money for my rent and house expenses. As he is a minor, the law makes you responsible for his bills, and, though I dislike to trouble you, I am obliged, in justice to myself, to ask you to settle his board bill, which I inclose.
"You will do me a great favor if you will send me the amount--thirty dollars--within a week, as my rent is coming due.
"Yours respectfully, SUSAN JONES."
The feelings of a man like Ebenezer Graham can be imagined when he read this unpleasant missive.
"Thirty dollars!" he groaned. "What can the graceless boy be thinking of, to fool away his money, and leave his bills to be settled by me. If this keeps on, I shall be ruined! It's too bad, when I am slaving here, for Eben to waste my substance on riotous living. I've a great mind to disown him. Let him go his own way, and fetch up in the poorhouse, if he chooses."
But it is not easy for a man to cast off an only son, even though he is as poorly supplied with natural affections as Ebenezer Graham. Besides, Eben's mother interceded for him, and the father, in bitterness of spirit, was about to mail a registered letter to Mrs. Jones, when the cause of his anguish suddenly made his appearance in the store.
"How are you, father?" he said, nonchalantly, taking a cigar from his mouth. "Didn't expect to see me, did you?"
"What brings you here, Eben?" asked Mr. Graham, uneasily.
"Well, the cars brought me to Stockton, and I've walked the rest of the way."
"I've heard of you," said his father, frowning. "I got a letter last night from Mrs. Jones."
"She said she was going to write," said Eben, shrugging his shoulders.
"How came it," said his father, his voice trembling with anger, "that you haven't paid your board bill for six weeks?"
"I didn't have the money," said Eben, with a composure which was positively aggravating to his father.
"And why didn't you have the money? Your wages are ample to pay all your expenses."
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