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From Boyhood to Manhood
Going up Higher
by Thayer, William M.

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.

"Your old friend,

Governor Keith sent for Benjamin to dine with him.

"I wanted to talk with you a little more about your visit to Boston," he remarked at the dinner-table. "How long will you be gone?"

"That will depend upon the voyage. There and back will occupy from three to four weeks on the vessel. I do not care about spending over a week in Boston. I shall want to get back as soon as I can to start in business."

"Does Mr. Keimer suspect that any thing in particular is on the tapis? I did not know but my visit might awaken his curiosity to learn what it was for."

"It did, and he plied me with questions in order to find out for some time. Once in a while now, he is very inquisitive, evidently thinking that I am withholding something from him. He is quite an intelligent man, without any surplus of honesty."

"So I understand. Bradford is very ignorant, but honest; while Keimer is bright and well-informed, but unscrupulous."

"That is about as near the truth as one can get," continued Benjamin. "I have a pleasant time with Mr. Keimer, however, and have nothing to complain of on that line."

"Can you give me any idea of the time it will take, after you return, to get a printing house in running order?"

"Not exactly. If my plans succeed, and I bring back a printing-press and materials with me, I think a month will be ample time to put the whole thing in running order."

The enterprise was canvassed at the table, the governor conversing with his young guest in the most familiar manner, dropping many complimentary words. Whenever he wanted to see him thereafter, he invited him to dine, which was quite often; all of which Benjamin enjoyed very much. In his old age, referring to these interviews with Governor Keith, Franklin said: "The governor sent for me now and then to dine with him, which I considered a great honor; more particularly as he conversed with me in the most affable, familiar, and friendly manner."

A novelist would portray the advantages of running away from home when representing Benjamin, the runaway, at the governor's table. If he had remained in Boston, attacking the officials of the English Government with his pen, the governor might have put him in prison, as he did his brother. But Benjamin never justified the use he made of his legs at that time--that is, he never excused it in his years of maturity. He always spoke of it regretfully. Very few runaways possess as much talent and character as he did, and few ever had so much cause for running away; and here is found the only reason that the act was overruled to his advantage.

At length a small vessel was announced to sail for Boston.

"I am ready to go in her," he said to Governor Keith. "She sails in about a week."

"I am very glad," answered the governor; "you have waited long enough for it. I will have my letter to your father ready in time; and I hope your mission will be successful. Is there any thing more I can do for you?"

"Nothing; I have been getting myself in readiness all along, so that I have little to do now. As the time draws near I am very anxious to go. My father and mother will be very happy in looking into my face again."

"And I think you will be as happy in looking into their faces again," responded the governor. "Captain Homes spoke in the highest terms of your parents, and of your standing in Boston."

Benjamin wondered more than ever whether his brother, Homes, disclosed the fact of his leaving home clandestinely to the governor. No words were dropped to indicate that he did. But Governor Keith was a wise man, and thought it was not best to divulge his acquaintance with that part of the affair.

Benjamin improved the first opportunity to announce his departure to Mr. Keimer.

"Going to see my parents," he said; "a vessel sails for Boston in about a week."

"You have not been away from home long yet. I should think that you might wait a year, at least."

"No, I can't wait longer, though I do not intend to stay long. I am attached to Philadelphia, and I shall want to return as soon as I can after letting my father and mother look me over a few days."

"Has the governor of the Massachusetts Province sent for you?" Keimer asked jocosely. The fact was he could not get over Governor Keith's interest in Benjamin, because he could not yet understand it. As the weeks rolled on, his employee grew to be more and more an object of curiosity.

"No; nor any body else," answered Benjamin. "I shall take the governor by surprise, so that he will have no time to get up a reception. I prefer the governor of Pennsylvania to the governor of Massachusetts."

If Keimer had known all the circumstances, he might have replied, "You have reason to feel so; for the governor of Massachusetts would rather see you in prison than running a printing house."

Benjamin purchased a nice suit of clothes, also a watch, before starting on his trip; and then had quite a sum of pocket money to take with him. He bade Mr. Keimer good-bye, took leave of the governor with many thanks for his kindness, receiving from him a long, complimentary letter to his father; nor did he forget to call upon the Bradford family, to make known his purpose and thank them again for their hospitality; and, of course, Mr. Read and family received a good share of his thankfulness, especially the daughter, in whom Benjamin had become quite interested.

Once on board the vessel, under way, Benjamin began to reflect upon his novel experiences. It appeared to him somewhat like a dream. He could hardly realize that he was on his way back to his home, by the governor's patronage. He took out the governor's letter to his father and read it. He found that it was very complimentary to himself, fully as much so as he had expected; and the prospects of a new printing house, under his care, were set forth strongly. He had scarcely finished reading the letter, when the vessel struck on a shoal; for they were not out of the bay yet. She sprung a leak, and there was considerable excitement on board before the crew could remedy the accident.

"A hard storm is near by," said the captain. "You will have a rough passage this time, young man," addressing Benjamin.

"Well, I am used to it; I have encountered as many storms as any body of my age," replied Benjamin figuratively, which the captain did not quite understand.

"Then you have followed the sea, have you?"

"No; I have followed the land mostly; but there are hard storms on the land, are there not?"

"Of course"; and the captain thought only of rain storms and snow storms when he answered.

"All I meant was," added Benjamin by way of explanation, "that I have had rather of a rough life so far; have seen a good deal of trouble for one of my years; and have rather got accustomed to rough usage. A storm at sea will only vary the experience a little. I think I can withstand it."

"You will have to stand it any way. Not much chance to choose when a storm overtakes us out to sea. If I am any judge of weather, a terrible storm is brewing, and it will be on us in a hurry."

"Well, I like the water; I meant to have become a sailor once, but my father put his veto on it. If I had been allowed my own way, I should have been serving before the mast now." Benjamin never spoke truer words than these.

"Hard life," responded the captain; "if I could live my life over again I should chose any thing on land rather than the best on the sea. I would not command a vessel another day, if there was any thing else I could do; but this is all I know."

They had scarcely emerged from the bay when the storm burst upon them. It was the beginning of a long, violent, tempestuous spell of weather, such as mariners encounter on the sea; a new and exciting experience to Benjamin.

"I have heard a great deal about storms at sea, and----"

"And you will see one now," interrupted the captain. "What you have heard about it gives you a poor idea of the reality, compared with seeing it."

"I confess to a kind of desire to see a real hard one," answered Benjamin coolly. "If I should be frightened half out of my wits, I shall be as well off as the rest of you."

"The vessel is leaking badly," cried out one of the crew.

"Man the pumps," replied the captain. "Enough for all hands to do now."

"Including me," responded Benjamin. "I can do as much as any of you at the pump," and he went to work with the crew.

Suffice it to say, that the storm continued for days, tossing their small craft about like a shell, keeping all hands busy, night and day, sometimes the sea threatening to swallow the vessel and all it contained in its hungry maw. The vessel was two weeks on its way to Boston, encountering stormy weather nearly the whole time. Most of the voyage the leaky craft was kept from sinking by pumping, in which Benjamin took his turn, proving himself as efficient as any one of the crew; and he was as cool and self-possessed as any one of the number.

At the end of two weeks they sailed into Boston harbor; and Benjamin was at home.


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