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The Store Boy

The Store Boy

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


"Give me a ride?" Ben Barclay checked the horse he was driving and looked attentively at the speaker. He was a stout-built, dark-complexioned man, with a beard of a week's growth, wearing an old and dirty suit...
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  "Give me a ride?"

  Ben Barclay checked the horse he was driving and looked attentively atthe speaker. He was a stout-built, dark-complexioned man, with abeard of a week's growth, wearing an old and dirty suit, which wouldhave reduced any tailor to despair if taken to him for cleaning andrepairs. A loose hat, with a torn crown, surmounted a singularlyill-favored visage.

  "A tramp, and a hard looking one!" said Ben to himself.

  He hesitated about answering, being naturally reluctant to have such atraveling companion.

  "Well, what do you say?" demanded the tramp rather impatiently."There's plenty of room on that seat, and I'm dead tired."

  "Where are you going?" asked Ben.

  "Same way you are--to Pentonville."

  "You can ride," said Ben, in a tone by means cordial, and he haltedhis horse till his unsavory companion climbed into the wagon.

  They were two miles from Pentonville, and Ben had a prospect of alonger ride than he desired under the circumstances. His companionpulled out a dirty clay pipe from his pocket, and filled it withtobacco, and then explored another pocket for a match. A mutteredoath showed that he failed to find one.

  "Got a match, boy?" he asked.

  "No," answered Ben, glad to have escaped the offensive fumes of thepipe.

  "Just my luck!" growled the tramp, putting back the pipe with a lookof disappointment. "If you had a match now, I wouldn't mind lettingyou have a whiff or two.

  "I don't smoke," answered Ben, hardly able to repress a look ofdisgust.

  "So you're a good boy, eh? One of the Sunday school kids that want tobe an angel, hey? Pah!" and the tramp exhibited the disgust which theidea gave him.

  "Yes, I go to Sunday school," said Ben coldly, feeling more and morerepelled by his companion.

  "I never went to Sunday school," said his companion. "And I wouldn't.It's only good for milksops and hypocrites."

  "Do you think you're any better for not going?" Ben couldn't helpasking.

  "I haven't been so prosperous, if that's what you mean. I'm astraightforward man, I am. You always know where to find me. Thereain't no piety about me. What are you laughin' at?"

  "No offense," said Ben. "I believe every word you say."

  "You'd better. I don't allow no man to doubt my word, nor no boy,either. Have you got a quarter about you?"


  "Nor a dime? A dime'll do."

  "I have no money to spare."

  "I'd pay yer to-morrer."

  "You'll have to borrow elsewhere; I am working in a store for a verysmell salary, and that I pay over to my mother."

  "Whose store?"

  "Simon Crawford's; but you won't know any better for my telling youthat, unless you are acquainted in Pentonville"

  "I've been through there. Crawford keeps the grocery store."


  "What's your name?"

  "Ben Barclay," answered our hero, feeling rather annoyed at what heconsidered intrusive curiosity.

  "Barclay?" replied the tramp quickly. "Not John Barclay's son?"

  It was Ben's turn to be surprised. He was the son of John Barclay,deceased, but how could his ill-favored traveling companion know that?

  "Did you know my father?" asked the boy, astonished.

  "I've heerd his name," answered the tramp, in an evasive tone.

  "What is your name?" asked Ben, feeling that be had a right to be ascurious as his companion.

  "I haven't got any visitin' cards with me," answered the tramp dryly.

  "Nor I; but I told you my name."

  "All right; I'll tell you mine. You can call me Jack Frost."

  "I gave you my real name," said Ben significantly.

  "I've almost forgotten what my real name is," said the tramp. "If youdon't like Jack Frost, you can call me George Washington."

  Ben laughed.

  "I don't think that name would suit, he said. George Washington nevertold a lie."

  "What d'ye mean by that?" demanded the tramp, his brow darkening.

  "I was joking," answered Ben, who did not care to get into difficultywith such a man.

  "I'm going to joke a little myself," growled the tramp, as, lookingquickly about him, he observed that they were riding over a lonelysection of the road lined with woods. "Have you got any money aboutyou?"

  Ben, taken by surprise, would have been glad to answer "No," but hewas a boy of truth, and could not say so truly, though he might havefelt justified in doing so under the circumstances.

  "Come, I see you have. Give it to me right off or it'll be worse foryou."

  Now it happened that Ben had not less than twenty-five dollars abouthim. He had carried some groceries to a remote part of the town, andcollected two bills on the way. All this money he had in a wallet inthe pocket on the other side from the tramp. But the money was nothis; it belonged to his employer, and he was not disposed to give itup without a struggle; though he knew that in point of strength he wasnot an equal match for the man beside him.

  "You will get no money from me," he answered in a firm tone, though befelt far from comfortable.

  "I won't, hey!" growled the tramp. "D'ye think I'm goin' to let a boylike you get the best of me?"

  He clutched Ben by the arm, and seemed in a fair way to overcomeopposition by superior strength, when a fortunate idea struck Ben. Inhis vest pocket was a silver dollar, which had been taken at thestore, but proving to be counterfeit, had been given to Ben by Mr.Crawford as a curiosity.

  This Ben extracted from his pocket, and flung out by the roadside.

  "If you want it, you'll have to get out and get it," he said.

  The tramp saw the coin glistening upon the ground, and had nosuspicion of its not being genuine. It was not much--only adollar--but he was "dead broke," and it was worth picking up. He hadnot expected that Ben had much, and so was not disappointed.

  "Curse you!" he said, relinquishing his hold upon Ben. "Why couldn'tyou give it to me instead of throwing it out there?"

  "Because," answered Ben boldly, "I didn't want you to have it."

  "Get out and get it for me!"

  "I won't!" answered Ben firmly.

  "Then stop the horse and give me a chance to get out."

  "I'll do that."

  Ben brought the horse to a halt, and his unwelcome passengerdescended, much to his relief. He had to walk around the wagon to getat the coin. Our hero brought down the whip with emphasis on thehorse's back and the animal dashed off at a good rate of speed.

  "Stop!" exclaimed the tramp, but Ben had no mind to heed his call.

  "No, my friend, you don't get another chance to ride with me," he saidto himself.

  The tramp picked up the coin, and his practiced eye detected that itwas bogus.

  "The young villain!" he muttered angrily. "I'd like to wring hisneck. It's a bad one after all." He looked after the receding teamand was half disposed to follow, but he changed his mind, reflecting,"I can pass it anyhow."

  Instead of pursuing his journey, he made his way into the woods, and,stretching himself out among the underbrush, went to sleep.

  Half a mile before reaching the store, Ben overtook Rose Gardiner, whohad the reputation of being the prettiest girl in Pendleton--at anyrate, such was Ben's opinion. She looked up and smiled pleasantly atBen as he took off his hat.

  "Shall you attend Prof. Harrington's entertainment at the Town Hallthis evening, Ben?" she asked, after they had interchanged greetings.

  "I should like to go," answered Ben, "but I am afraid I can't bespared from the store. Shall you go?"

  "I wouldn't miss it for anything. I hope I shall see you there."

  "I shall want to go all the more then." answered Ben gallantly.

  "You say that to flatter me," said the young lady, with an arch smile.

  "No, I don't," said Ben earnestly. "Won't you get in and ride as faras the store?"

  "Would it be proper?" asked Miss Rose demurely.

  "Of course it would."

  "Then I'll venture."

  Ben jumped from the wagon, assisted the young lady in, and the twodrove into the village together. He liked his second passengerconsiderably better than the first.