"Harry," said the professor, after breakfast the next morning, "I find we must get some more bills printed. You may go round to the office of the Centreville Gazette, and ask them how soon they can print me a hundred large bills and a thousand small ones."
"All right, sir. Suppose they can't have them done by the ready to start?"
"They can send them to me by express."
Harry had never been in a printing office; but he had a great curiosity to see one ever since he had read the "Life of Benjamin Franklin." If there was anyone in whose steps he thought he should like to follow, it was Franklin, and Franklin was a printer.
He had no difficulty in finding the office. It was in the second story of a building, just at the junction of two roads near the center of the town, the post office being just underneath. He ascended a staircase, and saw on the door, at the head of the stairs:
He opened the door and entered. He saw a large room, containing a press at the end, while two young men, with paper caps on their heads, were standing in their shirt sleeves at upright cases setting type. On one side there was a very small office partitioned off. Within, a man was seen seated at a desk, with a pile of exchange papers on the floor, writing busily. This was Mr. Jotham Anderson publisher and editor of the Gazette.
"I want to get some printing done," said Harry, looking toward the journeymen.
"Go to Mr. Anderson," said one, pointing to the office.
Harry went in. The editor looked up as he entered.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"I want to get some printing done."
"No; for Professor Henderson."
"I've done jobs for him before. What does he want?"
Our hero explained.
"Very well, we will do it."
"Can you have it done before two o'clock?"
"Impossible. I am just bringing out my paper."
"When can you have the job finished?"
"I suppose that will do. We perform to-morrow at Berlin and they can be sent over to the hotel there."
"You say 'we,'" answered Harry, amused. "I take tickets, and assist him generally."
"How do you like the business?"
"Very well; but I should like your business better."
"What makes you think so?"
"I have been reading the 'Life of Benjamin Franklin.' He was a printer."
"That's true; but I'm sorry to say Franklins are scarce in our printing offices. I never met one yet."
"I shouldn't expect to turn out a Franklins; but I think one couldn't help being improved by the business."
"True again, though, of course, it depends on the wish to improve. How long have you been working for Professor Henderson?"
"Not long. Only two or three weeks."
"What did you do before?"
"I was pegger in a shoe shop."
"Didn't you like it?"
"Well enough, for I needed to earn money and it paid me; but I don't think I should like to be a shoemaker all my life. It doesn't give any chance to learn."
"Then you like learning?"
"Yes. 'Live and learn'--that is my motto."
"It is a good one. Do you mean to be a printer?"
"If I get a chance."
"You may come into my office on the first of April, if you like. One of my men will leave me by the first of May. If you are a smart boy, and really wish to learn the business, you can break in so as to be useful in four weeks."
"I should like it," said Harry; but," he added, with hesitation, "I am poor, and could not afford to work for nothing while I was learning."
"I'll tell you what I'll do, then," said the editor. "I'll give you your board for the first month, on condition that you'll work for six months afterwards for two dollars a week and board. That's a fair offer. I wouldn't make it if I didn't feel assured that you were smart, and would in time be valuable to me."
"I'll come if my father does not object."
"Quite tight. I should not like to have you act contrary to his wishes. I suppose, for the present, you will remain with Professor Henderson."
"Very well. Let me hear from you when you have communicated with your father."
Harry left the office plunged in thought. It came upon him with surprise, that he had engaged himself to learn a new business, and that the one which he had longed to follow ever since he had become acquainted with Franklin's early life. He realized that he was probably making immediate sacrifice. He could, undoubtedly, make more money in the shoe shop than in the printing office, for the present at least. By the first of April the shoe business obtain employment. But then he was sure he should like printing better, and if he was ever going to change, why, the sooner he made the change the better.
When he returned to the hotel, he told the professor what he had done.
"I am glad you are not going at once," said his employer, "for I should be sorry to lose you. I generally give up traveling for the season about the first of April, so that I shall be ready to release you. I commend your choice of a trade. Many of our best editors have been practical printers in their youth."
"I should like to be an editor, but I don't know enough."
"Not at present; but you can qualify yourself to become one--that is, if you devote you spare time to reading and studying."
"I mean to do that."
"Then you will fair chance of becoming what you desire. To a certain extent, a boy, or young man, holds the future in his own hands."
Harry wrote to father, at once, in regard to the plan which he had in view. The answer did not reach him for nearly a week; but we will so far anticipate matters as to insert that part which related to it.
"If you desire to be a printer, Harry, I shall not object. It is a good trade, and you can make yourself, through it, useful to the community. I do not suppose it will ever make you rich. Still, I should think it might, in time, give you a comfortable living--better, I hope, than I have been able to earn as a farmer. If you determine to win success, you probably will. If you should leave your present place before the first of April, we shall be very glad to have you come home, if only for a day or two. We all miss you very much--your mother, particularly. Tom doesn't say much about it; but I know he will be as glad to see you as the rest of us."
Harry read this letter with great pleasure, partly because it brought him permission to do as he desired, and partly because it was gratifying to him to feel that he was missed at home. He determined, if it was a possible thing, to leave the professor a week before his new engagement, and spend that time in Granton.