This happened apparently in 1767 or 1768; and for a year or two afterwards, Thompson 's course of life seems to have been wavering and undecided. In the winter of 1769 he taught a school at Wilmington; and some time in the same year he seems to have thoughts of pursuing the medical profession, for which purpose he placed himself under Dr. Hay, a physician in Woburn, and entered zealously upon the study of anatomy and physiology. While with Dr. Hay, he is said to have exhibited greater fondness for the mechanical than for other parts of the profession, and to have amused himself by making surgical instruments. How long Thompson pursued his medical studies is uncertain; in 1770, however, we find him resuming his mercantile avocations, in the capacity of a clerk in a dry-goods store at Boston, kept by a Mr. Capen. He was in Boston during the famous riots which took place on the attempt to land a cargo of tea from a British vessel contrary to the resolution of the colonists against admitting British goods. Mr. Capen's business seems to have declined in the critical circumstances of the colony, as Mr. Appleby's had formerly done; and Thompson was again obliged to return to Woburn. During the summer of 1770, he attended, in company with his friend Baldwin, a course of lectures on experimental philosophy delivered in Harvard College and at no time of his life does he seem to have been so busily intent upon the acquisition of knowledge. Besides attending the lectures of the professor, he instituted experiments of his own of various kinds, some of which were the germs of valuable conclusions which he published in after-life. In particular, we may mention a course of experiments which he began for ascertaining and measuring the projectile force of gunpowder.
Thompson, though still only in his seventeenth year, had acquired that degree and kind of reputation which it is usual for youths of his stamp to obtain among intelligent acquaintances; and late in 1770, he was invited by Colonel Timothy Walker, one of the most important residents in the thriving village of Rumford, now Concord, in New Hampshire, to take charge of an academy in that place. Accepting the invitation, Thompson, says his American biographer, Dr. Renwick, found himself caressed and welcomed by a society not wanting in refinement or pretensions to fashion. His grace and personal advantages, which afterwards gained him access to the proudest circles of Europe, were already developed. His stature of nearly six feet, his erect figure, his finely-formed limbs, his bright blue eyes, his features chiseled in the Roman mould, and his dark auburn hair, rendered him a model of manly beauty. He acquired an address in the highest degree prepossessing; and at the counter of the Boston retailer, had learnt, from its fashionable customers, the polish of manner and dialect which obliterates all peculiarities that are provincial, and many of those that are national. He possessed solid acquirements far beyond the standard of the day, and had attained already the last and highest requisite for society - that of conversing with ease, and in a pure language, upon all the subjects with a knowledge of which his mind was stored. In addition, he possessed the most fascinating of all accomplishments, for he had a fine voice; and although far from a proficient in music as a science, sang with taste, and performed on several instruments.' With such advantages the young schoolmaster appears to have made an impression on not a few female hearts in the country village where he shone; on none, however, so decidedly as on that of Mrs. Rolfe, a colonel's widow, possessed of what was then considered a large fortune, and although considerably older than himself, still young and handsome enough, according to his biographer, to render it probable that a feeling more creditable than one arising from interested motives led him to seek her hand.' However this may be, the affair was soon brought to a happy conclusion. On giving out his vacation, for the year 1772, the young schoolmaster stepped into the widow's carriage and then drove together to Boston, where he fitted himself with a dress in the extreme of fashion of the day, scarlet being then a favorite color. Clad anew from top to toe, he reentered the equipage, which whirled away towards Woburn. The astonishment of the villagers at seeing their young townsman in such a guise, and in such company, was past description. 6 Why, Ben, my child,' said his mother, gazing at his splendid outfit as he dismounted at the door, how could you spend your whole winter's earnings in this way?' In the presence of his fair companion the youth could hardly explain, and he was obliged to employ a friend to break the subject of his intended marriage to his mother. No objections were offered on her part, although she took twenty-four hours to deliberate on the matter; and the happy Pair drove back to Rumford, where the wedding was forthwith celebrated, the bridegroom being then in his twentieth year.