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"That offer is satisfactory, though it is not as much as I make at my trade now.”
"It will be better if you succeed. When you become well acquainted with the business, I will send you with a cargo of bread and flour to the West Indies, and I will procure you commissions from others that will be profitable. In this way you can establish a good business for yourself." "That is a very generous offer on your part, and I hope that I shall merit your kindness."
"It will be necessary for you to close up your business at the printing house at once, as I want you to assist me in purchasing, packing, and shipping goods. My purpose is to carry a large stock to Philadelphia."
"I shall accept your proposition, and resign my position at Watts' immediately, and be at your service early and late."
Benjamin, no doubt, was more interested to return to America on account of his relation to Miss Deborah Read. He had written to her but once, and that was directly after he began work at Palmer's printing house. He told her of Keith's fraud practised upon him, leaving him in London a stranger and nearly penniless, so that he could not return until he had earned money enough to pay his passage. He did not write to her again, and his conscience had condemned him, so that, at times, he dwelt sadly upon his unfaithfulness. He neglected to write for so long a time, that he became ashamed to write at all; and so the correspondence dropped. Yet, he did not forget Miss Read nor cast her off; and he blamed himself every time his thoughts dwelt upon his sin of omission.
Benjamin's employer was very sorry to part with him.
"I am glad to have had you as long as I have,” he said, "but I wish you would stay. I feel safe to commit work or business to your care. If ever I can do you a favour, let me know, and I will only be too glad to do it."
"I thank you for your confidence. I have done the best
for you I could, as I always mean to do for every employer. I regret to leave you, and my companions with whom I have spent so many hours. But I have a strong desire to return home." Benjamin spoke with considerable feeling.
"That is an honourable desire," answered Mr. Watts, "and I have no doubt that you will be prospered in gratifying it. At any rate, I hope you will."
So Benjamin separated from his old friends on the best of terms, and commenced work for Mr. Denham. Nor was it light work. He accompanied his employer from warehouse to warehouse, packing goods that he bought, and forwarding them to the ship Berkshire, which would sail on July 21st. It was new business for him, but he liked it all the more for its novelty; and he performed the labours with his accustomed tact and industry.
Benjamin had been nineteen months in London when he sailed on the 21st of July, 1726. A few months before he made the acquaintance of Peter Collinson, a young man of noble English birth, whose talents gave him nearly as much standing as his ancestry. Collinson heard of Benjamin and sought him out, forming a life-long friendship. Collinson accompanied Benjamin to the ship. Just before the vessel weighed anchor, Collinson handed his walking-stick to Benjamin, saying, "Let us exchange.”
Benjamin exchanged, replying, "And let it be a pledge of friendship for ever."
"And a pledge, also, of faithful correspondence with each other," added Collinson, as they shook hands and parted.
The Berkshire, Henry Clark, master, was eighty-two days on its voyage to Philadelphia. Benjamin landed there on the 11th day of October, 1726, and he was at home again.
UPS AND DOWNS OF LIFE.
NE of the first places that Benjamin visited was the printing house of Keimer, where he worked before leaving the country. Keimer had made up his mind that Benjamin would never return to America, so that when he entered the printing office he was startled.
"Why, Ben! can it be you?" he exclaimed in wonder. "I began to think that you would never be seen in Philadelphia again."
"Because you planned to be back here a long time ago; I concluded that you had forsaken us."
"Not yet; I have seen no place abroad quite equal to Philadelphia. I did not return as soon as I expected." And Benjamin rehearsed to Keimer substantially his experience with Governor Keith, that he might understand why his return was delayed.
"That is what you got for concealing your purpose," said Keimer. "I could have told you that Keith was wholly unreliable, and so could a good many other people. He has been turned out of office because of his rascality."
"I am glad to hear that. I am a little curious to see how he will act, and hear what he will say, when I meet him."
"He won't meet you if he can help it. I see him occasionally on the street, and he looks crestfallen."
"He will look more so, I imagine, when he meets me. I propose to talk matters over very plainly with him.”
"That can do no good. The less breath you waste in that way, the better for you," replied Keimer. "But I suppose you want to go to work at your old trade? Plenty of work here, and you are just the man to do it."
Keimer's business had increased largely, and he had added many facilities for doing work, so that the establishment presented a more attractive appearance.
"No; I am a printer no longer," answered Benjamin. "I am booked for the mercantile business in Philadelphia." "How is that? Were you not a printer in London ?" "Yes, I followed my trade there, and learned more about it than I ever knew before. London is a great place for printing. Two printing houses there with more than fifty hands in each."
"Think you can do better in trading than printing? asked Keimer, who was really anxious for Benjamin's services. "Not exactly so. But I should be in London now, had not Mr. Denham's offer to become his clerk brought me home." And Benjamin told the story of his acquaintance with Mr. Denham and the outcome, which was his offer to make him his business manager.
"A good opportunity, I should think, if you like that business," answered Keimer; "but I should like to put you in as manager of my printing office. experience, and understand the business any man I have."
You have had the much better than
"That is out of the question now, of course, as I am under obligations to Mr. Denham.”
"Of course; I only meant to tell you what I would do if you were at liberty."
Benjamin was anxious to learn about Miss Read; whom he was quite ashamed to meet because of his neglect. Keimer was acquainted with the family, and first introduced him to them, as was stated in a former chapter. So that he had no doubt he would know all about Deborah. He ventured to inquire.
"What can you tell me about Mrs. Read and her daughter ?"
"Mrs. Read lives where she did, and continues to take a few boarders. Her daughter was married to a miserable fellow, nearly a year ago, but lived with him only a few weeks, when she left him.”
"Indeed! That was unfortunate for her," Benjamin answered. "She deserves a better experience than that." "She would not have married, had she been left to her own choice, but her mother and other friends persuaded her. Rogers was her husband's name, and he was a potter by trade, a first-class workman; and they thought he was capable of getting a good living, I suppose."
"A good character would have been of more service to him," suggested Benjamin; "a very unfortunate affair."
"I was going to say," continued Keimer, "that she had been married but a few weeks before she found that Rogers had another wife. Of course her marriage was not legal, and she left him at once."
"Probably her mother made no inquiry about Rogers' character beforehand," remarked Benjamin. "Mothers ought to be wiser than that."
"We all have to live and learn, and experience is our best schoolmaster," added Keimer.
Keimer knew nothing of Benjamin's relation to Deborah Read, so that he spoke freely. The revelation was startling to Benjamin, and it set him to thinking. He concluded that Mrs. Read inferred from his first and only letter to Deborah that he would never return, or never be in a situation to support a wife and family; and, as time went on, and no other letters were received, she became fixed in her conclusion that he would not return. Benjamin took all the blame upon himself; and the honest sympathy of his heart asserted itself for the girl. He resolved to call upon her as soon as possible and confess his wrong-doing, ask her forgiveness, and renew his attentions.