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Here again Franklin felt his destitution in no. small degree. On the road his appearance had excited suspicion of his being a runaway lad; and it was not now improved by his second voyage, his hunger and fatigue, and the working dress he wore being crammed with dirty linen. His whole amount of money consisted of a shilling's-worth of copper, which he paid for his fare, and a single dollar.
" I walked,” he observes, “ towards the top of the street, looking eagerly on both sides, till I came to Market-street, where I met a child with a loaf of bread. Often had I made my dinner on dry bread. I inquired where he had bought it, and went straight to the baker's shop which he pointed out to me. I asked for some biscuits, expecting to find such as we had at Boston; but they made, it seems, none of that sort at Philadelphia. I then asked for a threepenny loaf. They made no loaves of that price. Finding myself ignorant of the prices, as well as of the different kinds of bread, I desired him to let me have threepennyworth of bread, of some kind or other. He gave me three large rolls. I was surprised at receiving so much; I took them however, and ḥaving no room in my pockets, I walked on with a roll under each arm, eating the third. In this manner, I went through Market-street to Fourth-street, and passed the house of Mr Read, the father of my future wife. She was standing at the door, observed me, and thought, with reason, that I made a very singular and grotesque appearance.
“I then turned the corner, and went through Chesnut-street, eating my roll all the way; and having made this round, I found myself again on Marketstreet-wharf, near the boat in which I arrived. I stepped into it to take a draught of the river-water; and finding myself satisfied with my first roll, I gave the other two to a woman and her child, who had come down the river with us in the boat, and was waiting to continue her journey. Thus refreshed, I regained the street, which was now full of well-dressed people,
all going the same way. I joined them, and was thus led to a large Quaker's meeting-house near the market-place. I sat down with the rest, and, after looking round me for some time, hearing nothing said, and being drowsy from my last night's labour and want of rest, I fell into a sound sleep. In this state I continued till the assembly dispersed, when one of the congregation had the goodness to wake me. This was consequently the first house I entered, or in which I slept, at Philadelphia.”
Franklin was directed from that abode of quiet and quiet meditation, the Quaker's meeting-house, near the market, Philadelphia, by one of the congregation, to the Crooked Billet inn in Water-street, where he dined, and slept soundly till supper-time (six o'clock) when he had to endure many inquiries of the inmates as to his origin and plans. In the morning he sought the shop of Andrew Bradford, a printer, and was cheered by the sight of the only friend he had seen since he left home the father, who had come up from New York on horseback. Young Bradford treated him hospitably, and offered to lodge him until he was better provided, but could give him no work: on which, the old man offered to proceed with him to one Keimer, another printer of the city; who, mistaking the elder Bradford for a fellow-citizen, received the youth with civility, and promised him employment in a few days. Franklin saw at a glance the character of his new master, who was the ready dupe of old Bradford's questions as to all his connexions and prospects, and in no small degree surprised and more tified when informed of his name.
In Keimer he found the professions of printer and author united, as in his own case; only this worthy son of the muses had not so ungratefully abandoned them. He was composing verses in solid printing-metal, not finding them to require the crucible of writing or further thought, and with but one pair of cases; this metallic stream proceeding solely out of “one small head.”—Franklin says, with the greatest sim
plicity, -"no one could help him!” — However, Franklin was the only pressman of the two, and found himself quickly the only man in Philadelphia who was well acquainted with the whole printing business. After getting Keimer's press into order, and working it for him, Bradford engaged him as a compositor, as well as to correct his own and his customers' blundering compositions. But jealousy was excited by this attempt to serve two masters; Keimer provided for him a lodging at Mr Read's (his own landlord) in a neighbouring street; and thus commenced Franklin's acquaintance with his future wife's family,
It was during this first voyage to Philadelphia, while the vessel was becalmed off Block Island, that Franklin was cured of his youthful fancy to relinquish animal food. From reading a treatise of one Tryon on the subject, he had in fact entirely abstained for some time from eating any thing that had life; even the taking of fish he considered as a species of murder, they having done nothing to deserye a violent death. But the crew at this time busily engaged themselves in catching cod, once a favourite dish of Franklin's. When it came from the fire, the smell was very tempting; he says, “I hesitated some time between prin. ciple and inclination, till at last recollecting, that when the cod had been opened, some small fish were found in its belly, I said to myself, If you eat one another, I see no reason why we may not eat you. I accordingly dined on the cod with no small degree of pleasure, and have since continued to eat like the rest of mankind, returning only occasionally to my vegetable plan, How convenient does it prove, to be a rational animal that knows how to find or invent a plausible pretext for whatever it has an inclination to do!”
Benjamin Franklin was thus, at one remove, in the very sphere he was formed to shine in. He was main taining himself independently; and while at the head of his associates, and even of his employers, in every thing intellectual, he was working slowly forward in his
own mind and character, upon the same general plans and principles which he exhibited throughout life. Boston troubles, and even friends, except friend Collins, seem to have been forgotten. He saved money; enlarged his literary acquaintance; and spent his earnings and leisure time at once frugally and happily.
The first person of consideration who appears to have discovered Franklin's superior parts, was sir William Keith, the governor of Pennsylvania. Though the debt of gratitude between the parties was never large, and the governor finally acted an inconsistent part, it evinces some instinctive knowledge of character in sir William, that seeing accidentally the first letter of our young printer to his family, he was impressed so favourably with its contents, as to declare that he would soon be, and ought to be, at the head of his profession in Philadelphia. This circumstance occurred by accident at Newcastle in the county of Delaware. Franklin had a brother-in-law, master of a trading sloop which frequented that town; from which he wrote to our youth an expostulatory letter on the grief which his absence had caused his friends. Franklin replied in a fair statement of its causes ; declining to return, as his relative advised; but wishing to stand well in his opinion, and that his friends should be informed he was better appreciated where he was. Governor Keith, happening to be in company with Holmes at the time, perused this letter, pronounced the author a young man of good parts, said that he must and should be encouraged ; that if he would set up in Philadelphia, he would take care to transfer to him the public business from the present wretched printers of that capital, and to recommend him wherever he had influence.
The Governor was so decided, at the time, in this feeling in Franklin's favour, that, on returning to Phiļadelphia, he called upon him at Keimer's, to the great surprise of both himself and his employer; took him to drink wine with him at a neighbouring tavern; and proposed at once, that he should solicit his father
to place him in business. His promises of the patronage, which as governor he could insure to him, were seconded by those of a colonel French, his friend, who was connected with the government of the province of Delaware. Franklin of course readily concurred in such unexpected and flattering plans. Sir William further offered to write a letter to his father, with which Benjamin Franklin was himself to proceed by the first vessel to Boston.
After this, he was invited to the table at the government-house, and received as a known public favourite of Keith: but the scheme of his commencing business for himself it was thought proper not as yet to avow.
In the spring of 1724, he proposed to Keimer to return to Boston to visit his family. The Governor furnished him with the ample recommendation he had promised; which, with his entirely altered appearance, surprised his friends in no small degree. His father's heart was open to him again ; but his brother James could not be softened by the intervention of either parent.
After inquiring carefully as to sir William Keith's general character, the elder Franklin determined respectfully to decline his offers for the present. He considered him a man of " small discretion,” as he told Benjamin, “ to think of setting up a young man in business, who wanted three years of man's estate ;” perhaps he became acquainted too with the small reliance that was to be placed upon sir William's constancy. He was naturally pleased however with the circumstance of Benjamin obtaining so distinguished a patron, and commended him for it; acknowledging that he must have been both industrious and frugal to return so well provided in a few months (about seven) and givng his hearty consent to our youth's remaining at Philadelphia. His inclination for dispute and satire he advised him to control, and to endeavour, by the time he came of age, to save money for his own use in the way proposed; promising that, if he then came near the mark, he would not fail to help him through.