Captions have been added to the illustration markers for the convenience of some readers. These have been indicated by an asterisk.
A list of some of the author's other books has been moved from the front papers to the end of the book.
BEN, THE LUGGAGE BOY;
AMONG THE WHARVES.
HORATIO ALGER, JR.,
AUTHOR OF "RAGGED DICK," "FAME AND FORTUNE," "MARK, THE MATCH BOY," "ROUGH AND READY," "CAMPAIGN SERIES," "LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES," ETC.
THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.,
PHILADELPHIA, CHICAGO, TORONTO.
THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED
In Tender Remembrance,
In presenting "Ben, the Luggage Boy," to the public, as the fifth of the Ragged Dick Series, the author desires to say that it is in all essential points a true history; the particulars of the story having been communicated to him, by Ben himself, nearly two years since. In particular, the circumstances attending the boy's running away from home, and adopting the life of a street boy, are in strict accordance with Ben's own statement. While some of the street incidents are borrowed from the writer's own observation, those who are really familiar with the different phases which street life assumes in New York, will readily recognize their fidelity. The chapter entitled "The Room under the Wharf" will recall to many readers of the daily journals a paragraph which made its appearance within two years. The writer cannot close without expressing anew his thanks for the large share of favor which has been accorded to the volumes of the present series, and takes this opportunity of saying that, in their preparation, invention has played but a subordinate part. For his delineations of character and choice of incidents, he has been mainly indebted to his own observation, aided by valuable communications and suggestions from those who have been brought into familiar acquaintance with the class whose mode of life he has sought to describe.
NEW YORK, April 5, 1876.
BEN, THE LUGGAGE BOY;
AMONG THE WHARVES.
INTRODUCES BEN, THE LUGGAGE BOY.
"How much yer made this mornin', Ben?"
"Nary red," answered Ben, composedly.
"Had yer breakfast?"
"Only an apple. That's all I've eaten since yesterday. It's most time for the train to be in from Philadelphy. I'm layin' round for a job."
The first speaker was a short, freckled-faced boy, whose box strapped to his back identified him at once as a street boot-black. His hair was red, his fingers defaced by stains of blacking, and his clothing constructed on the most approved system of ventilation. He appeared to be about twelve years old.
The boy whom he addressed as Ben was taller, and looked older. He was probably not far from sixteen. His face and hands, though browned by exposure to wind and weather, were several shades cleaner than those of his companion. His face, too, was of a less common type. It was easy to see that, if he had been well dressed, he might readily have been taken for a gentleman's son. But in his present attire there was little chance of this mistake being made. His pants, marked by a green stripe, small around the waist and very broad at the hips, had evidently once belonged to a Bowery swell; for the Bowery has its swells as well as Broadway, its more aristocratic neighbor. The vest had been discarded as a needless luxury, its place being partially supplied by a shirt of thick red flannel. This was covered by a frock-coat, which might once have belonged to a member of the Fat Men's Association, being aldermanic in its proportions. Now it was fallen from its high estate, its nap and original gloss had long departed, and it was frayed and torn in many places. But among the street-boys dress is not much regarded, and Ben never thought of apologizing for the defects of his wardrobe. We shall learn in time what were his faults and what his virtues, for I can assure my readers that street boys do have virtues sometimes, and when they are thoroughly convinced that a questioner feels an interest in them will drop the "chaff" in which they commonly indulge, and talk seriously and feelingly of their faults and hardships. Some do this for a purpose, no doubt, and the verdant stranger is liable to be taken in by assumed virtue, and waste sympathy on those who do not deserve it. But there are also many boys who have good tendencies and aspirations, and only need to be encouraged and placed under right influences to develop into worthy and respectable men.
The conversation recorded above took place at the foot of Cortlandt Street, opposite the ferry wharf. It was nearly time for the train, and there was the usual scene of confusion. Express wagons, hacks, boys, laborers, were gathering, presenting a confusing medley to the eye of one unaccustomed to the spectacle.
Ben was a luggage boy, his occupation being to wait at the piers for the arrival of steamboats, or at the railway stations, on the chance of getting a carpet-bag or valise to carry. His business was a precarious one. Sometimes he was lucky, sometimes unlucky. When he was flush, he treated himself to a "square meal," and finished up the day at Tony Pastor's, or the Old Bowery, where from his seat in the pit he indulged in independent criticism of the acting, as he leaned back in his seat and munched peanuts, throwing the shells about carelessly.
It is not surprising that the street-boys like the Old Bowery, and are willing to stint their stomachs, or run the risk of a night in the streets, for the sake of the warm room and the glittering illusions of the stage, introducing them for the time being to the society of nobles and ladies of high birth, and enabling them to forget for a time the hardships of their own lot, while they follow with rapt interest the fortunes of Lord Frederic Montressor or the Lady Imogene Delacour. Strange as it may seem, the street Arab has a decided fancy for these pictures of aristocracy, and never suspects their want of fidelity. When the play ends, and Lord Frederic comes to his own, having foiled all the schemes of his crafty and unprincipled enemies, no one rejoices more than the ragged boy who has sat through the evening an interested spectator of the play, and in his pleasure at the successful denouement, he almost forgets that he will probably find the Newsboys' Lodging House closed for the night, and be compelled to take up with such sleeping accommodations as the street may provide.
Ben crossed the street, taking a straight course, without paying especial attention to the mud, which caused other pedestrians to pick their way. To the condition of his shoes he was supremely indifferent. Stockings he did not wear. They are luxuries in which few street boys indulge.
He had not long to wait. The boat bumped against the wharf, and directly a crowd of passengers poured through the open gates in a continuous stream.
Ben looked sharply around him to judge who would be likely to employ him. His attention was drawn to an elderly lady, with a large carpet-bag swelled almost to bursting. She was looking about her in a bewildered manner.
"Carry your bag, ma'am?" he said, at the same time motioning towards it.
"Who be you?" asked the old lady, suspiciously.
"I'm a baggage-smasher," said Ben.
"Then I don't want you," answered the old lady, clinging to her bag as if she feared it would be wrested from her. "I'm surprised that the law allows sich things. You might be in a better business, young man, than smashing baggage."
"That's where you're right, old lady," said Ben.
"Bankin' would pay better, if I only had the money to start on."
"Are you much acquainted in New York?" asked the old lady.
"Yes," said Ben; "I know the mayor 'n' aldermen, 'n' all the principal men. A. T. Stooart's my intimate friend, and I dine with Vanderbilt every Sunday when I aint engaged at Astor's."
"Do you wear them clo'es when you visit your fine friends?" asked the old lady, shrewdly.
"No," said Ben. "Them are my every-day clo'es. I've got some velvet clo'es to home, embroidered with gold."
"I believe you are telling fibs," said the old lady. "What I want to know is, if you know my darter, Mrs. John Jones; her first name is Seraphiny. She lives on Bleecker Street, and her husband, who is a nice man, though his head is bald on top, keeps a grocery store."
"Of course I do," said Ben. "It was only yesterday that she told me her mother was comin' to see her. I might have knowed you was she."
"How would you have knowed?"
"Cause she told me just how you looked."
"Did she? How did she say I looked?"
"She said you was most ninety, and—"
"It isn't true," said the old lady, indignantly. "I'm only seventy-three, and everybody says I'm wonderful young-lookin' for my years. I don't believe Seraphiny told you so."
"She might have said you looked as if you was most ninety."
"You're a sassy boy!" said the owner of the carpet-bag, indignantly. "I don't see how I'm going to get up to Seraphiny's," she continued, complainingly. "They'd ought to have come down to meet me. How much will you charge to carry my carpet-bag, and show me the way to my darter's?"
"Fifty cents," said Ben.
"Fifty cents!" repeated the old lady, aghast. "I didn't think you'd charge more'n ten."
"I have to," said Ben. "Board's high in New York."
"How much would they charge me in a carriage? Here you, sir," addressing a hackman, "what'll you charge to carry me to my darter's house, Mrs. John Jones, in Bleecker Street?"
"What's the number?"
"I think it's a hundred and sixty-three."
"A dollar and a half."
"A dollar 'n' a half? Couldn't you do it for less?"
"Carry your bag, sir?" asked Ben, of a gentleman passing.
The gentleman shook his head.
He made one or two other proposals, which being in like manner unsuccessful, he returned to the old lady, who, having by this time got through her negotiations with the hackman, whom she had vainly striven to beat down to seventy-five cents, was in a more favorable mood to accept Ben's services.
"Can't you take less than fifty cents?" she asked.
"No," said Ben, decidedly.
"I'll give you forty."
"Couldn't do it," said Ben, who felt sure of gaining his point now.
"Well, I suppose I shall be obleeged to hire you," said the old lady with a sigh. "Seraphiny ought to have sent down to meet me. I didn't tell her I was comin' to-day; but she might have thought I'd come, bein' so pleasant. Here, you boy, you may take the bag, and mind you don't run away with it. There aint nothin' in it but some of my clo'es."
"I don't want none of your clo'es," said Ben. "My wife's bigger'n you, and they wouldn't fit her."
"Massy sakes! you aint married, be you?"
"Why shouldn't I be?"
"I don't believe it. You're not old enough. But I'm glad you don't want the clo'es. They wouldn't be of no use to you. Just you take the bag, and I'll foller on behind."
"I want my pay first."
"I aint got the change. My darter Seraphiny will pay you when we get to her house."
"That don't go down," said Ben, decidedly. "Payment in advance; that's the way I do business."
"You'll get your pay; don't you be afraid."
"I know I shall; but I want it now."
"You won't run away after I've paid you, will you?"
"In course not. That aint my style."
The old lady took out her purse, and drew therefrom forty-seven cents. She protested that she had not a cent more. Ben pardoned the deficiency, feeling that he would, notwithstanding, be well paid for his time.
"All right," said he, magnanimously. "I don't mind the three cents. It aint any object to a man of my income. Take my hand, old lady, and we'll go across the street."
"I'm afraid of bein' run over," said she, hesitatingly.
"What's the odds if you be?" said Ben. "The city'll have to pay you damages."
"But if I got killed, that wouldn't do me any good," remarked the old lady, sensibly.
"Then the money'd go to your friends," said Ben, consolingly.
"Do you think I will be run over?" asked the old lady, anxiously.
"In course you won't. I'll take care of you. They wouldn't dare to run over me," said Ben, confidently.
Somewhat reassured by this remark, the old lady submitted to Ben's guidance, and was piloted across the street in safety.
"I wouldn't live in New York for a heap of money. It would be as much as my life is worth," she remarked. "How far is Bleecker Street?"
"About two miles."
"I almost wish I'd rid. But a dollar and a half is a sight to pay."
"You'd have to pay more than that."
"That's all the man asked."
"I know," said Ben; "but when he'd got you there, he'd have charged you five dollars."
"I wouldn't have paid it."
"Yes, you would," said Ben.
"He couldn't make me."
"If you didn't pay, he'd have locked you in, and driven you off to the river, and dumped you in."
"Do they ever do such things?" asked the old lady, startled.
"In course they do. Only last week a beautiful young lady was served that way, 'cause she wouldn't pay what the hackman wanted."
"And what was done to him?"
"Nothin'," said Ben. "The police is in league with 'em, and get their share of the money."
"Why, you don't say so! What a wicked place New York is, to be sure!"
"Of course it is. It's so wicked I'm goin' to the country myself as soon as I get money enough to buy a farm."
"Have you got much money saved up?" asked the old lady, interested.
"Four thousand six hundred and seventy-seven dollars and fifty-five cents. I don't count this money you give me, 'cause I'm goin' to spend it."
"You didn't make it all carryin' carpet-bags," said the old lady, incredulously.
"No, I made most of it spekilatin' in real estate," said Ben.
"You don't say!"
"Yes, I do."
"You've got most enough to buy a farm a'ready."
"I aint goin' to buy till I can buy a good one."
"What's the name of this street?"
They were really upon West Broadway by this time, that being as direct a line as any to Bleecker Street.
"You see that store," said Ben.
"Yes; what's the matter of it?"
"I don't own it now," said Ben. "I sold it, cos the tenants didn't pay their rent reg'lar."
"I should think you'd dress better if you've got so much money," said the old lady, not unnaturally.
"What's the use of wearin' nice clo'es round among the wharves?" said Ben.
"There's suthin in that. I tell my darter Jane—she lives in the country—that it's no use dressin' up the children to go to school,—they're sure to get their clo'es tore and dirty afore they get home."
So Ben beguiled the way with wonderful stories, with which he played upon the old lady's credulity. Of course it was wrong; but a street education is not very likely to inspire its pupils with a reverence for truth; and Ben had been knocking about the streets of New York, most of the time among the wharves, for six years. His street education had commenced at the age of ten. He had adopted it of his own free will. Even now there was a comfortable home waiting for him; there were parents who supposed him dead, and who would have found a difficulty in recognizing him under his present circumstances. In the next chapter a light will be thrown upon his past history, and the reader will learn how his street life began.
HOW BEN COMMENCED HIS STREET LIFE.
One pleasant morning, six years before the date at which this story commences, a small coasting-vessel drew up at a North River pier in the lower part of the city. It was loaded with freight, but there was at least one passenger on board. A boy of ten, dressed in a neat jacket and pants of gray-mixed cloth, stood on deck, watching with interest the busy city which they had just reached.
"Well, bub, here we are," said the captain as he passed. "I suppose you know your way home."
"Are you going on shore now?"
"Well, good luck to you, my lad. If you are ever down this way, when I'm in port, I shall be glad to see you."
"Thank you, sir; good-by."
Ben clambered over the side, and stepped upon the wharf. In the great city he knew no one, and he was an utter stranger to the streets, never before having visited it. He was about to begin life for himself at the age of ten. He had voluntarily undertaken to support himself, leaving behind him a comfortable home, where he had been well cared for. I must explain how this came about.
Ben had a pleasant face, and would be considered good-looking. But there was a flash in his eye, when aroused, which showed that he had a quick temper, and there was an expression of firmness, unusual to one so young, which might have been read by an experienced physiognomist. He was quick-tempered, proud, and probably obstinate. Yet with these qualities he was pleasant in his manners, and had a sense of humor, which made him a favorite among his companions.
His father was a coal-dealer in a town a few miles distant from Philadelphia, of a hasty temper like Ben himself. A week before he had punished Ben severely for a fault which he had not committed. The boy's pride revolted at the injustice, and, young as he was, he resolved to run away. I suppose there are few boys who do not form this resolution at some time or other in their lives; but as a general thing it amounts to nothing. With Ben it was different. His was a strong nature, whether for good or for evil, and when he decided to do anything he was not easily moved from his resolve. He forgot, in the present case, that, though he had been unjustly punished, the injustice was not intentional on the part of his father, who had been under a wrong impression respecting him. But right or wrong, Ben made up his mind to run away; and he did so. It was two or three days before a good opportunity presented itself. Then, with a couple of shirts and collars rolled up in a small bundle, he made his escape to Philadelphia, and after roaming about the streets for several hours he made his way to the wharves, where he found a vessel bound for New York. Representing to the captain that he lived in New York, and had no money to pay his passage home, that officer, who was a good-natured man, agreed to carry him for nothing.
The voyage was now over, and Ben landed, as we have said, an utter stranger, with very indefinite ideas as to how he was to make his living. He had told the captain that he knew his way home, for having falsely represented that he lived in New York, he was in a manner compelled to this additional falsehood. Still, in spite of his friendless condition, his spirits were very good. The sun shone brightly; all looked animated and cheerful. Ben saw numbers of men at work about him, and he thought, "It will be a pity if I cannot make a living."
He did not care to linger about the wharf, for the captain might be led to doubt his story. Accordingly he crossed the street, and at a venture turned up a street facing the wharf.
Ben did not know much about New York, even by report. But he had heard of Broadway,—as who has not?—and this was about all he did know. When, therefore, he had gone a short distance, he ventured to ask a boot-black, whom he encountered at the corner of the next block, "Can you tell me the shortest way to Broadway?"
"Follow your nose, Johnny," was the reply.
"My name isn't Johnny," replied Ben, rather indignant at the familiarity. He had not learned that, in New York, Johnny is the generic name for boy, where the specific name is unknown.
"Aint it though?" returned the boot-black "What's the price of turnips out where you live?"
"I'll make your nose turn up if you aint careful," retorted Ben, wrathfully.
"You'll do," said the boot-black, favorably impressed by Ben's pluck. "Just go straight ahead, and you'll come to Broadway. I'm going that way, and you can come along with me if you want to."
"Thank you," said Ben, appeased by the boy's changed manner.
"Are you going to stay here?" inquired his new acquaintance.
"Yes," said Ben; "I'm going to live here."
"Where do your friends live?"
"I haven't got any friends in New York," said Ben, with a little hesitation.
"Over in Brooklyn, or Jersey, maybe?"
"No, I don't know anybody this way."
"Whew!" whistled the other. "How you goin' to live?"
"I expect to earn my living," said Ben, in a tone of importance.
"Father and mother dead?"
"No, they're alive."
"I s'pose they're poor?"
"No, they're not; they're well off."
The boot-black looked puzzled.
"Why didn't you stay at home then? Wouldn't they let you?"
"Of course they would. The fact is, I've run away."
"Maybe they'd adopt me instead of you."
"I don't think they would," said Ben, laughing.
"I wish somebody with lots of cash would adopt me, and make a gentleman of me. It would be a good sight better'n blackin' boots."
"Do you make much money that way?" inquired Ben.
"Pleasant days like this, sometimes I make a dollar, but when it rains there aint much doin'."
"How much have you made this morning?" asked Ben, with interest.
"Sixty cents, and it isn't more than ten o'clock. That's doing pretty well."
"'Taint so good in the afternoon. Most every body gets their boots blacked in the mornin'. What are you goin' to do?"
"I don't know," said Ben.
"Goin' to black boots? I'll show you how," said the other, generously overlooking all considerations of possible rivalry.
"I don't think I should like that very well," said Ben, slowly.
Having been brought up in a comfortable home, he had a prejudice in favor of clean hands and unsoiled clothes,—a prejudice of which his street life speedily cured him.
"I think I should rather sell papers, or go into a store," said Ben.
"You can't make so much money sellin' papers," said his new acquaintance. "Then you might get 'stuck'".
"What's that?" inquired Ben, innocently.
"Don't you know?" asked the boot-black, wonderingly. "Why, it's when you've got more papers than you can sell. That's what takes off the profits. I was a newsboy once; but it's too hard work for the money. There aint no chance of gettin' stuck on my business."
"It's rather a dirty business," said Ben, venturing to state his main objection, at the risk of offending. But Jerry Collins, for that was his name, was not very sensitive on this score.
"What's the odds?" he said, indifferently. "A feller gets used to it."
Ben looked at Jerry's begrimed hands, and clothes liberally marked with spots of blacking, and he felt that he was not quite ready to get used to appearing in public in this way. He was yet young in his street life. The time came when he ceased to be so particular.
"Where do you board?" asked Ben, after a little pause.
Jerry Collins stared at the questioner as if he suspected that a joke was intended. But Ben's serious face assured him that he was in earnest.
"You're jolly green," he remarked, sententiously.
"Look here," said Ben, with spirit, "I'll give you a licking if you say that again."
It may be considered rather singular that Jerry, Instead of resenting this threat, was led by it to regard Ben with favor.
"I didn't mean anything," he said, by way of apology. "You're a trump, and you'll get over it when you've been in the city a week."
"What made you call me green?" asked Ben.
"Did you think I boarded up to the Fifth Avenue?" asked Jerry.
"What's that,—a hotel?"
"Yes, it's one of the big hotels, where they eat off gold plates."
"No, I don't suppose you board there," said Ben, laughing; "but I suppose there are cheaper boarding-places. Where do you sleep?"
"Sometimes in wagons, or in door-ways, on the docks, or anywhere where I get a chance."
"Don't you get cold sleeping out-doors?" asked Ben.
"Oh, I'm used to it," said Jerry. "When it's cold I go to the Lodging House."
Jerry explained that there was a Newsboys' Lodging House, where a bed could be obtained for six cents a night.
"That's cheap," said Ben.
"'Taint so cheap as sleepin' out-doors," returned the boot-black.
This was true; but Ben thought he would rather pay the six cents than sleep out, if it were only for the damage likely to come to his clothes, which were yet clean and neat. Looking at Jerry's suit, however, he saw that this consideration would be likely to have less weight with him. He began to understand that he had entered upon a very different life from the one he had hitherto led. He was not easily daunted, however.
"If he can stand it, I can," he said to himself.
"Here's Broadway," said Jerry, suddenly.
They emerged from the side street on which they had been walking, and, turning the corner, found themselves in the great thoroughfare, a block or two above Trinity Church.
Ben surveyed the busy scenes that opened before him, with the eager interest of a country boy who saw them for the first time.
"What church is that?" he asked, pointing to the tall spire of the imposing church that faces Wall Street.
"That's Trinity Church."
"Do you go to church there?"
"I don't go anywhere else," said Jerry, equivocally. "What's the use of going to church?"
"I thought everybody went to church," said Ben, speaking from his experience in a country village "that is, most everybody," he corrected himself, as several persons occurred to his mind who were more punctual in their attendance at the liquor saloon than the church.
"If I'd got good clothes like you have I'd go once just to see what it's like; but I'd a good sight rather go to the old Bowery Theatre."
"But you ought not to say that," said Ben, a little startled.
"Because it's better to go to church than to the theatre."
"Is it?" said Jerry. "Well, you can go if you want to. I'd give more for a stunnin' old play at the Bowery than fifty churches."
Ben began to suspect that Jerry was rather loose in his ideas on the subject of religion, but did not think it best to say so, for fear of giving offence, though in all probability Jerry's sensitiveness would not have been at all disturbed by such a charge.
During the last portion of the conversation they had been standing still at the street corner.
"I'm goin' to Nassau Street," said Jerry. "If you want to go up Broadway, that's the way."
Without waiting for an answer he darted across the street, threading his way among the numerous vehicles with a coolness and a success which amazed Ben, who momentarily expected to see him run over. He drew a long breath when he saw him safe on the other side, and bethought himself that he would not like to take a similar risk. He felt sorry to have Jerry leave him so abruptly. The boot-black had already imparted to him considerable information about New York, which he saw was likely to be of benefit to him. Besides, he felt that any society was better than solitude, and a sudden feeling of loneliness overpowered him, as he felt that among the crowd of persons that jostled him as he stood at the corner, there was not one who felt an interest in him, or even knew his name. It was very different in his native village, where he knew everybody, and everybody had a friendly word for him. The thought did occur to him for a moment whether he had been wise in running away from home; but the thought of the unjust punishment came with it, and his expression became firmer and more resolute.
"I won't go home if I starve," he said proudly to himself; and armed with this new resolution he proceeded up Broadway.
His attention was soon drawn to the street merchants doing business on the sidewalk. Here was a vender of neckties, displaying a varied assortment of different colors, for "only twenty-five cents each." Next came a candy merchant with his stock in trade, divided up into irregular lumps, and labelled a penny apiece. They looked rather tempting, and Ben would have purchased, but he knew very well that his cash capital amounted to only twenty-five cents, which, considering that he was as yet without an income, was likely to be wanted for other purposes.
Next came a man with an assortment of knives, all of them open, and sticking into a large board, which was the only shop required by their proprietor. Ben stopped a moment to look at them. He had always had a fancy for knives, but was now without one. In fact he had sold a handsome knife, which he had received as a birthday present, for seventy-five cents, to raise money for his present expedition. Of this sum but twenty-five cents remained.
"Will you buy a knife to-day, young gentleman?" asked the vender, who was on the alert for customers.
"No, I guess not," said Ben.
"Here's a very nice one for only one dollar," said the street merchant, taking up a showy-looking knife with three blades. "Its the best of steel, warranted. You won't get another such knife for the price in the city."
It did look cheap certainly. Ben could not but allow that. He would like to have owned it, but circumstances forbade.
"No, I won't buy to-day," he said.
"Here, you shall have it for ninety-four cents," and the vender began to roll it up in a piece of paper. "You can't say it isn't cheap."
"Yes, it's cheap enough," said Ben, moving away, "but I haven't got the money with me."
This settled the matter, and the dealer reluctantly unrolled it, and replaced it among his stock.
"If you'll call round to-morrow, I'll save it for you till then," he said.
"All right," said Ben.
"I wonder," he thought, "whether he would be so anxious to sell, if he knew that I had run away from home, and had but twenty-five cents in the world?"
Ben's neat dress deceived the man, who naturally supposed him to belong to a city family well to do.
Our young hero walked on till he came to the Astor House. He stood on the steps a few minutes taking a view of what may be considered the liveliest and most animated part of New York. Nearly opposite was Barnum's American Museum, the site being now occupied by the costly and elegant Herald Building and Park Bank. He looked across to the lower end of the City Hall Park, not yet diverted from its original purpose for the new Post Office building. He saw a procession of horse-cars in constant motion up and down Park Row. Everything seemed lively and animated; and again the thought came to Ben, "If there is employment for all these people, there must be something for me to do."
He crossed to the foot of the Park, and walked up on the Park Row side. Here again he saw a line of street merchants. Most conspicuous were the dealers in penny ballads, whose wares lined the railings, and were various enough to suit every taste. Here was an old woman, who might have gained a first prize for ugliness, presiding over an apple-stand.
"Take one, honey; it's only two cints," she said, observing that Ben's attention was drawn to a rosy-cheeked apple.
Ben was rather hungry, and reflecting that probably apples were as cheap as any other article of diet, he responded to the appeal by purchasing. It proved to be palatable, and he ate it with a good relish.
"Ice-cream, only a penny a glass," was the next announcement. The glasses, to be sure, were of very small size. Still ice-cream in any quantity for a penny seemed so ridiculously cheap that Ben, poor as he was, could not resist the temptation.
"I'll take a glass," he said.
A dab of ice-cream was deposited in a glass, and with a pewter spoon handed to Ben. He raised the spoon to his mouth, but alas! the mixture was not quite so tempting to the taste as to the eye and the pocket. It might be ice-cream, but there was an indescribable flavor about it, only to be explained on the supposition that the ice had been frozen dish-water. Ben's taste had not been educated up to that point which would enable him to relish it. He laid it down with an involuntary contortion of the face.
"Give it to me, Johnny," he heard at his elbow.
Turning, he saw a small, dirty-faced boy of six, with bare feet and tattered attire, who was gazing with a look of greedy desire at the delicious mixture.
Ben handed him the glass and spoon, and stood by, looking at him with some curiosity as he disposed of the contents with a look of evident enjoyment.
"Do you like it?" he asked.
"It's bully," said the young epicure.
If Ben had not been restricted by his narrow means, he would have purchased another glass for the urchin. It would have been a very cheap "treat." But our young adventurer reflected that he had but twenty-two cents left, and prudence forbade.
"I don't see how he can like the nasty stuff," he thought.
But the time was to come when Ben himself, grown less fastidious, would be able to relish food quite as uninviting.
Ben made his way across the Park to Broadway again. He felt that it was high time for him to be seeking employment. His ideas on this subject were not very well defined, but when he left home he made up his mind that he would try to get a place in a store on Broadway. He supposed that, among the great number of stores, there would be a chance for him to get into some one. He expected to make enough to live in a comfortable boarding-house, and buy his clothes, though he supposed that would be about all. He expected to have to economize on spending money the first year, but the second year his wages would be raised, and then it would come easier. All this shows how very verdant and unpractical our young adventurer was, and what disappointment he was preparing for himself.
However, Ben's knowledge was to come by experience, and that before long.
Reaching Broadway, he walked up slowly on the west side, looking in at the shop-windows. In the lower part of this busy street are many wholesale houses, while the upper part is devoted principally to retail shops. Coming to a large warehouse for the sale of ready-made clothing, Ben thought he might as well begin there. In such a large place there must be a good deal to do.
He passed in and looked about him rather doubtfully. The counters, which were numerous, were filled high with ready-made garments. Ben saw no one as small as himself, and that led him to doubt whether his size might not be an objection.
"Well, sonny, what do you want?" asked a clerk.
"Don't you want to hire a boy?" asked our young adventurer, plunging into his business.
"I suppose you have had considerable experience in the business?" said the clerk inclined to banter him a little.
"No, I haven't," said Ben, frankly.
"Indeed, I judged from your looks that you were a man of experience."
"If you don't want to hire me, I'll go," said Ben, independently.
"Well, young man, I'm afraid you'll have to go. The fact is, we should have to higher you before we could hire you;" and the clerk laughed at his witticism.
Ben naturally saw nothing to laugh at, but felt rather indignant. He stepped into the street, a little depressed at the result of his first application. But then, as he reflected, there were a great many other stores besides this, and he might have better luck next time. He walked on some distance, however, before trying again. Indeed, he had got above Bleecker Street, when his attention was arrested by a paper pasted inside of a shop-window, bearing the inscription:—
Ben did not clearly understand what were the duties of a cash-boy, though he supposed they must have something to do with receiving money. Looking in through the glass door he saw boys as small as himself flitting about, and this gave him courage to enter and make an application for a place.
He entered, therefore, and walked up boldly to the first clerk he saw.
"Do you want a cash-boy?" he asked.
"Go up to that desk, Johnny," said the clerk, pointing to a desk about midway of the store. A stout gentleman stood behind it, writing something in a large book.
Ben went up, and repeated his inquiry. "Do you want a cash-boy?"
"How old are you?" asked the gentleman looking down at him.
"Ten years old."
"Have you ever been in a store?"
"Do you live in the city?"
"With your parents?"
"No, sir," said Ben, with hesitation.
"Who do you live with, then?"
"With nobody. I take care of myself."
"Humph!" The gentleman looked a little surprised, not at the idea of a boy of ten looking out for himself, for such cases are common enough in New York, but at the idea of such a well-dressed lad as Ben being in that situation.
"How long have you been your own man?" he inquired.
"I've only just begun," Ben admitted.
"Are your parents dead?"
"No, sir; they're alive."
"Then I advise you to go back to them. We don't receive any boys into our employment, who do not live with their parents."
The gentleman returned to his writing, and Ben saw that his case was hopeless. His disappointment was greater than before, for he liked the looks of the proprietor, if, as he judged, this was he. Besides, boys were wanted, and his size would be no objection, judging from the appearance of the other boys in the store. So he had been sanguine of success. Now he saw that there was an objection which he could not remove, and which would be very likely to stand in his way in other places.
A RESTAURANT ON FULTON STREET.
Ben kept on his way, looking in at the shop windows as before. He had not yet given up the idea of getting a place in a store, though he began to see that his chances of success were rather small.
The next pause he came to was before a bookstore. Here, too, there was posted on the window:—
Ben entered. There were two or three persons behind the counter. The oldest, a man of forty, Ben decided to be the proprietor. He walked up to him, and said, "Do you want a boy?"
"Yes," said the gentleman. "We want a boy to run of errands, and deliver papers to customers. How old are you?"
"Ten years old."
"That is rather young."
"I'm pretty strong of my age," said Ben, speaking the truth here, for he was rather larger and stouter than most boys of ten.
"That is not important, as you will not have very heavy parcels to carry. Are you well acquainted with the streets in this part of the city?"
This question was a poser, Ben thought. He was at first tempted to say yes, but decided to answer truthfully.
"No, sir," he answered.
"Do you live in the lower part of the city?"
"Yes, sir; that is, I'm going to live there."
"How long have you lived in the city?"
"I only arrived this morning," Ben confessed, reluctantly.
"Then I'm afraid you will not answer my purpose. We need a boy who is well acquainted with the city streets."
He was another disqualification. Ben left the store a little discouraged. He began to think that it would be harder work making a living than he had supposed. He would apply in two or three more stores, and, if unsuccessful, he must sell papers or black boots. Of the two he preferred selling papers. Blacking boots would soil his hands and his clothes, and, as it was possible that he might some day encounter some one from his native village, he did not like to have the report carried home that he had become a New York boot-black. He felt that his education and bringing up fitted him for something better than that. However, it was not necessary to decide this question until he had got through applying for a situation in a store.
He tried his luck again, and once was on the point of being engaged at three dollars per week, when a question as to his parents revealed the fact that he was without a guardian, and this decided the question against him.
"It's of no use," said Ben, despondently. "I might as well go back."
So he turned, and retraced his steps down Broadway. By the time he got to the City Hall Park he was quite tired. Seeing some vacant seats inside, he went in and sat down, resting his bundle on the seat beside him. He saw quite a number of street boys within the inclosure, most of them boot-blacks. As a rule, they bore the marks of their occupation not only on their clothes, but on their faces and hands as well. Some, who were a little more careful than the rest, were provided with a small square strip of carpeting, on which they kneeled when engaged in "shining up" a customer's boots. This formed a very good protection for the knees of their pantaloons. Two were even more luxurious, having chairs in which they seated their customers. Where this extra accommodation was supplied, however, a fee of ten cents was demanded, while the boot-blacks in general asked but five.
"Black your boots?" asked one boy of Ben, observing that our young adventurer's shoes were soiled.
"Yes," said Ben, "if you'll do it for nothing."
"I'll black your eye for nothing," said the other.
"Thank you," said Ben, "I won't trouble you."
Ben was rather interested in a scene which he witnessed shortly afterwards. A young man, whose appearance indicated that he was from the country, was waylaid by the boys, and finally submitted his boots to an operator.
"How much do you want?"
"Twenty-five cents," was the reply.
"Twenty-five cents!" exclaimed the customer, aghast. "You're jokin', aint you?"
"Reg'lar price, mister," was the reply.
"Why, I saw a boy blackin' boots down by the museum for ten cents."
"Maybe you did; but this is the City Hall Park. We're employed by the city, and we have to charge the reg'lar price."
"I wish I'd got my boots blacked down to the museum," said the victim, in a tone of disappointment, producing twenty-five cents, which was eagerly appropriated by the young extortioner.
"I say, Tommy, give us a treat, or we'll peach," said one of the boys.
Tom led the way to the ice-cream vender's establishment, where with reckless extravagance he ordered a penny ice-cream all round for the half-dozen boys in his company, even then making a handsome thing out of the extra pay he had obtained from his rustic patron.
By this time it was half-past two o'clock. So Ben learned from the City Hall clock. He was getting decidedly hungry. There were apple and cake stands just outside the railings, on which he could have regaled himself cheaply, but his appetite craved something more solid. There was a faint feeling, which nothing but meat could satisfy.
Ben had no idea how much a plate of meat would cost at a restaurant. He had but twenty-two cents, and whatever he got must come within that limit. Still he hoped that something could be obtained for this sum.
Where to go,—that was the question.
"Can you tell me a good place to get some dinner?" he asked of a boy, standing near him.
"Down on Nassau Street or Fulton Street," was the reply.
"Where is Fulton Street?" asked Ben, catching the last name.
"I'm goin' that way. You can go with me if you want to."
Ben readily accepted the companionship proffered, and was led past the museum, the site of which, as I have said, is now occupied by the Herald Building.
Turning down Fulton Street, Ben soon saw a restaurant, with bills of fare displayed outside.
"That's a good place," said his guide.
"Thank you," said Ben.
He scanned the bill in advance, ascertaining to his satisfaction that he could obtain a plate of roast beef for fifteen cents, and a cup of coffee for five. This would make but twenty cents, leaving him a balance of two cents.
He opened the door and entered.
There was a long table running through the centre of the apartment, from the door to the rear. On each side, against the sides of the room, were small tables intended for four persons each. There were but few eating, as the busy time at down-town restaurants usually extends from twelve to half-past one, or two o'clock, and it was now nearly three.
Ben entered and took a seat at one of the side tables, laying his bundle on a chair beside him.
A colored waiter came up, and stood awaiting his orders.
"Give me a plate of roast beef," said Ben.
"Yes, sir. Coffee or tea?"
The waiter went to the lower end of the dining-room, and called out, "Roast beef."
After a brief delay, he returned with the article ordered, and a cup of coffee.
There were two potatoes with the meat, and a small piece of bread on the side of the plate. The coffee looked muddy, and not particularly inviting.
Ben was not accustomed to the ways of restaurants, and supposed that, as in shops, immediate payment was expected.
"Here's the money—twenty cents," he said, producing the sum named.
"Pay at the desk as you go out," said the waiter.
Ben looked up, and then for the first time noticed a man behind a counter in the front part of the room.
At the same time the waiter produced a green ticket, bearing "20 cents" printed upon it.
Ben now addressed himself with a hearty appetite to the dinner. The plate was dingy, and the meat neither very abundant nor very tender. Still it can hardly be expected that for fifteen cents a large plate of sirloin can be furnished. Ben was not in a mood to be critical. At home he would have turned up his nose at such a repast, but hunger is very well adapted to cure one of fastidiousness. He ate rapidly, and felt that he had seldom eaten anything so good. He was sorry there was no more bread, the supply being exceedingly limited. As for the coffee he was able to drink it, though he did not enjoy it so well. It tasted as if there was not more than a teaspoonful of milk in the infusion, while the flavor of the beverage differed strangely from the coffee he had been accustomed to get at home.
"It isn't very good," thought Ben; and he could not help wishing he had a cup of the good coffee his mother used to make at home.
"Have anything more?" asked the waiter, coming up to the table.
Ben looked over the bill of fare, not that he expected to get anything for the two cents that still remained to him, but because he wanted to notice the prices of different articles. His eye rested rather longingly on "Apple Dumplings." He was very fond of this dish, and his appetite was so far from being satisfied that he felt that he could have easily disposed of a plate. But the price was ten cents, and of course it was entirely beyond his means.
"Nothing more," said he, and rose from his seat.
He went up to the counter and settled his bill, and went out again into the street. He felt more comfortable than he had done, as one is very apt to feel after a good dinner, and Ben's dinner had been a good one, his appetite making up for any deficiency in the quality.
Where should he go now?
He was still tired, and did not care to wander about the streets. Besides, he had no particular place to go to. He therefore decided to walk back to the City Hall Park, and sit down on one of the benches. There would be something to see, and he was interested in watching the street boys, whose ranks he felt that he should very soon be compelled to join. His prospects did not look particularly bright, as he was not provided with means sufficient to pay for another meal. But the time had not yet come to trouble himself about that. When he got hungry again, he would probably realize his position a little more keenly.
A BEER-GARDEN IN THE BOWERY.
Ben sat down again in his old seat, and occupied himself once more in looking about him. After a while he became sleepy. Besides having taken a considerable walk, he had not slept much the night before. As no one occupied the bench but himself, he thought he might as well make himself comfortable. Accordingly he laid his bundle crosswise at one end, and laid back, using it for a pillow. The visor of his cap he brought down over his eyes, so as to shield them from the afternoon sun. The seat was hard, to be sure, but his recumbent position rested him. He did not mean to go to sleep, but gradually the sounds around him became an indistinct hum; even the noise and bustle of busy Broadway, but a few feet distant, failed to ward off sleep, and in a short time he was sleeping soundly.
Of course he could not sleep in so public a place without attracting attention. Two ragged boys espied him, and held a low conference together.
"What's he got in that bundle, Jim, do you think?" asked one.
"We'd better look and see."
They went up to the bench, and touched him, to make sure that he was fast asleep. The touch did not rouse him to consciousness.
"Just lift up his head, Mike, and I'll take the bundle," said the larger of the two boys.
This was done.
"Now, let him down softly."
So the bundle was removed, and poor Ben, wandering somewhere in the land of dreams, was none the wiser. His head, deprived of its former support, now rested on the hard bench. It was not so comfortable, but he was too tired to awake. So he slept on.
Meanwhile Jim and Mike opened the bundle.
"It's a couple of shirts," said Jim.
"Is that all?" asked Mike, disappointed.
"Well, that's better than nothin'."
"Give me one of 'em."
"It's just about your size. 'Taint big enough for me."
"Then give me the two of 'em."
"What'll you give?"
"I aint got no stamps. I'll pay you a quarter when I get it."
"That don't go down," said Jim, whose confidence in his confederate's honesty was not very great. Considering the transaction in which they were now engaged, it is not surprising that there should have been a mutual distrust. Being unable to make any bargain, Jim decided to take his share of the booty round to a second-hand clothes-dealer in Chatham Street. Here, after considerable higgling, he succeeded in selling the shirt for sixteen cents, which was less than his companion had offered. However, it was cash down, and so was immediately available,—an important consideration in the present state of Jim's finances. "A bird in the hand," as he considered, "was worth two in the bush."
Jim immediately purchased a cigar with a portion of his dishonest gains, and, procuring a light, walked about in a state of high enjoyment, puffing away as coolly as a man of twice his years.
Meanwhile Ben continued to sleep, happily unconscious of the loss of his entire personal possessions. In his dreams he was at home once more, playing with his school companions. Let him sleep! He will waken soon enough to the hard realities of a street life, voluntarily undertaken, it is true, but none the less likely to bear heavily upon him.
He slept a long time. When he awoke it was six o'clock.
He sat upon his seat, and rubbed his eyes in momentary bewilderment. In his dreams he had been back again to his native village, and he could not at once recall his change of circumstances. But it all came back to him soon enough. He realized with a slight pang that he had a home no longer; that he was a penniless vagrant, for whom the hospitality of the streets alone was open. He did wish that he could sit down at the plentiful home table, and eat the well-cooked supper which was always provided; that is, if he could blot out one remembrance: when he thought of the unjust punishment that had driven him forth, his pride rose, and his determination became as stubborn as ever. I do not defend Ben in this. He was clearly wrong. The best of parents may be unintentionally unjust at times, and this is far from affording an adequate excuse for a boy to leave home. But Ben had a great deal of pride, and I am only telling you how he felt.
Our young adventurer did not at first realize the loss which he had sustained. It was at least five minutes before he thought of his bundle at all. At length, chancing to look at the seat beside him, he missed it.
"Where can it be, I wonder?" he thought, perplexed.
He looked under the bench, thinking that perhaps it had rolled off. But it need not be said that it was not to be seen.
Ben was rather disturbed. It was all he had brought from home, and constituted his entire earthly possessions.
"It must have rolled off, and been picked up by somebody," he thought; but the explanation was not calculated to bring any satisfaction. "I did not think I should fall asleep."
It occurred to him that some of the boys near by might have seen it. So he went up to a group of boot-blacks near by, one of whom was Jim, who had actually been concerned in the robbery. The other boys knew nothing of the affair.
"I say, boys," said Ben, "have you seen anything of my bundle?"
"What bundle, Johnny?" said Jim, who was now smoking his second cigar.
"I had a small bundle tied up in a newspaper," said Ben. "I put it under my head, and then fell asleep. Now I can't find it."
"Do you think we stole it?" said Jim, defiantly.
"Of course I don't," said Ben; "but I thought it might have slipped out, and you might have seen somebody pick it up."
"Haven't seen it, Johnny," said one of the other boys; "most likely it's stole."
"Do you think so?" asked Ben, anxiously.
"In course, you might expect it would be."
"I didn't mean to go to sleep."
"What was there in it?"
"There was two shirts."
"You've got a shirt on, aint you?"
"Yes," said Ben.
"That's all right, then. What does a feller want of a thousand shirts?"
"There's some difference between two shirts and a thousand," said Ben.
"What's the odds? I haven't got but one shirt. That's all I want. When it is wore out I'll buy a new one."
"What do you do when it gets dirty?" asked Ben, in some curiosity.
"Oh, I wash it once in two or three weeks," was the reply.
This was not exactly in accordance with Ben's ideas of neatness; but he saw that no satisfaction was likely to be obtained in this quarter, so he walked away rather depressed. It certainly hadn't been a lucky day,—this first day in the city. He had been rejected in half-a-dozen stores in his applications for employment, had spent nearly all his money, and been robbed of all his clothing except what he wore.
Again Ben began to feel an appetite. He had eaten his dinner late, but it had consisted of a plate of meat only. His funds being now reduced to two cents, he was obliged to content himself with an apple, which did something towards appeasing his appetite.
Next Ben began to consider anxiously how he was to pass the night. Having no money to spend for lodging, there seemed nothing to do but to sleep out of doors. It was warm weather, and plenty of street boys did it. But to Ben it would be a new experience, and he regarded it with some dread. He wished he could meet with Jerry Collins, his acquaintance of the morning. From him he might obtain some information that would be of service in his present strait.
Three or four hours must elapse before it would be time to go to bed. Ben hardly knew how or where to pass them. He had become tired of the park; besides, he had got over a part of his fatigue, and felt able to walk about and explore the city. He turned at a venture up Chatham Street, and was soon interested in the sights of this peculiar thoroughfare,—the shops open to the street, with half their stock in trade exposed on the sidewalk, the importunities of the traders, and the appearance of the people whom he met. It seemed very lively and picturesque to Ben, and drew away his attention from his own awkward position.
He was asked to buy by some of the traders, being promised wonderful bargains; but his penniless condition put him out of the reach of temptation.
So he wandered on until he came to the Bowery, a broad avenue, wider than Broadway, and lined by shops of a great variety, but of a grade inferior to those of its more aristocratic neighbor.
Here, also, the goods are liberally displayed on the sidewalk, and are generally labelled with low prices, which tempts many purchasers. The purchaser, however, must look carefully to the quality of the goods which he buys, or he will in many cases find the low price merely a snare and a delusion, and regret that he had not paid more liberally and bought a better article.
Later in the evening, on his return walk, Ben came to an establishment brilliant with light, from which proceeded strains of music. Looking in, he saw that it was filled with small tables, around which were seated men, women, and children. They had glasses before them from which they drank. This was a Lager Beer Hall or Garden,—an institution transplanted from Germany, and chiefly patronized by those of German birth or extraction. It seemed bright and cheerful, and our young adventurer thought it would be pleasant to go in, and spend an hour or two, listening to the music; but he was prevented by the consciousness that he had no money to spend, and might be considered an intruder.
While he was looking in wistfully, he was struck on the back; and turning, saw, to his surprise, the face of his only acquaintance in New York, Jerry Collins, the boot-black.
"I am glad to see you," he said, eagerly offering his hand, without considering that Jerry's hand, unwashed during the day, was stained with blacking. He felt so glad to meet an acquaintance, however, that he would not have minded this, even if it had occurred to him.
"The same to you," said Jerry. "Are you going in?"
"I haven't got any money," said Ben, a little ashamed of the confession.
"Well, I have, and that'll do just as well."
He took Ben by the arm, and they passed through a vestibule, and entered the main apartment, which was of large size. On one side, about half way down, was a large instrument some like an organ, from which the music proceeded. The tables were very well filled, Germans largely predominating among the guests.
"Sit down here," said Jerry.
They took seats at one of the tables. Opposite was a stout German and his wife, the latter holding a baby. Both had glasses of lager before them, and the baby was also offered a share by its mother; but, from the contortions of its face, did not appear to relish it.
"Zwei Glass Lager," said Jerry, to a passing attendant.
"Can you speak German?" asked Ben, surprised.
"Yaw," said Jerry; "my father was an Irishman, and my mother was a Dutchman."
Jerry's German, however, seemed to be limited, as he made no further attempts to converse in that language.
The glasses were brought. Jerry drank his down at a draught, but Ben, who had never before tasted lager, could not at once become reconciled to its bitter taste.
"Don't you like it?" asked Jerry.
"Not very much," said Ben.
"Then I'll finish it for you;" and he suited the action to the word.
Besides the lager a few plain cakes were sold, but nothing more substantial. Evidently the beer was the great attraction. Ben could not help observing, with some surprise, that, though everybody was drinking, there was not the slightest disturbance, or want of decorum, or drunkenness. The music, which was furnished at intervals, was of very good quality, and was listened to with attention.
"I was goin' to Tony Pastor's to-night," said Jerry, "if I hadn't met you."
"What sort of a place is that?" asked Ben.
"Oh, it's a bully place—lots of fun. You must go there some time."
"I think I will," answered Ben, mentally adding, "if I ever have money enough."
Here the music struck up, and they stopped to listen to it. When this was over, Jerry proposed to go out. Ben would have been willing to stay longer; but he saw that his companion did not care so much for the music as himself, and he did not wish to lose sight of him. To be alone in a great city, particularly under Ben's circumstances, is not very pleasant, and our young adventurer determined to stick to his new acquaintance, who, though rough in his manners, had yet seemed inclined to be friendly, and Ben felt sadly in need of a friend.
THE BURNING BALES.
"Where are you going to sleep to-night?" asked Ben, introducing a subject which had given him some anxiety.
"I don't know," said Jerry, carelessly. "I'll find a place somewhere."
"I'll go with you, if you'll let me," said Ben.
"In course I will."
"I haven't got any money."
"What's the odds? They don't charge nothin' at the hotel where I stop."
"What time do you go to bed?"
"Most any time. Do you feel sleepy?"
"Rather. I didn't sleep much last night."
"Well, we'll go and find a place now. How'd you like sleepin' on cotton-bales?"
"I think that would be comfortable."
"There's a pile of bales down on the pier, where the New Orleans steamers come in. Maybe we could get a chance there."
"All right. Where is it?"
"Pier 8, North River. It'll take us twenty minutes, or maybe half an hour, to go there."
"Let us go," said Ben.
He felt relieved at the idea of so comfortable a bed as a cotton-bale, and was anxious to get stowed away for the night.
The two boys struck across to Broadway, and followed that street down past Trinity Church, turning down the first street beyond. Rector Street, notwithstanding its clerical name, is far from an attractive street. Just in the rear of the great church, and extending down to the wharves, is a collection of miserable dwellings, occupied by tenants upon whom the near presence of the sanctuary appears to produce little impression of a salutary character. Ben looked about him in ill-concealed disgust. He neither fancied the neighborhood, nor the people whom he met. But the Island is very narrow just here, and he had not far to walk to West Street, which runs along the edge of Manhattan Island, and is lined with wharves. Jerry, of course, did not mind the surroundings. He was too well used to them to care.
They brought out opposite the pier.
"There it is," said Jerry.
Ben saw a pile of cotton-bales heaped up on the wharf in front. Just behind them was a gate, and over it the sign of the New Orleans Company.
"I should think somebody would steal the bales," said Ben. "Are they left out here all night?"
"There's a watchman round here somewhere," said Jerry. "He stays here all night to guard the bales."
"Will he let us sleep here?"
"I don't know," said Jerry. "We'll creep in, when he isn't looking."
The watchman was sitting down, leaning his back against one of the bales. A short pipe was in his mouth, and he seemed to be enjoying his smoke. This was contrary to orders, for the cotton being combustible might easily catch fire; but this man, supposing that he would not be detected, indulged himself in the forbidden luxury.
"Now creep along softly," said Jerry.
The latter, being barefooted, had an advantage over Ben, but our young adventurer crept after him as softly as he could. Jerry found a bale screened from observation by the higher piles on each side, where he thought they could sleep unobserved. Following his lead, Ben stretched himself out upon it.
The watchman was too busily occupied with his pipe to detect any noise.
"Aint it comfortable?" whispered Jerry.
"Yes," said Ben, in the same low tone.
"I wouldn't ask for nothin' better," said Jerry.
Ben was not so sure about that; but then he had not slept out hundreds of nights, like Jerry, in old wagons, or on door-steps, or wherever else he could; so he had a different standard of comparison.
He could not immediately go to sleep. He was tired, it was true, but his mind was busy. It was only twelve hours since he had landed in the city, but it had been an eventful twelve hours. He understood his position a little better now, and how much he had undertaken, in boldly leaving home at ten years of age, and taking upon himself the task of earning his living.
If he had known what was before him, would he have left home at all?
Ben was not sure about this. He did own to himself, however, that he was disappointed. The city had not proved the paradise he had expected. Instead of finding shopkeepers eager to secure his services, he had found himself uniformly rejected. He began to suspect that it was rather early to begin the world at ten years of age. Then again, though he was angry with his father, he had no cause of complaint against his mother. She had been uniformly kind and gentle, and he found it hard to keep back the tears when he thought how she would be distressed at his running away. He had not thought of that in the heat of his first anger, but he thought of it now. How would she feel if she knew where he was at this moment, resting on a cotton-bale, on a city wharf, penniless and without a friend in the great city, except the ragged boy who was already asleep at his side? She would feel badly, Ben knew that, and he half regretted having been so precipitate in his action. He could remedy it all, and relieve his mother's heart by going back. But here Ben's pride came in. To go back would be to acknowledge himself wrong; it would be a virtual confession of failure, and, moreover, knowing his father's sternness, he knew that he would be severely punished. Unfortunately for Ben, his father had a stern, unforgiving disposition, that never made allowances for the impulses of boyhood. He had never condescended to study his own son, and the method of training he had adopted with him was in some respects very pernicious. His system hardened, instead of softening, and prejudiced Ben against what was right, maddening him with a sense of injustice, and so preventing his being influenced towards good. Of course, all this did not justify Ben in running away from home. The thought of his mother ought to have been sufficient to have kept him from any such step. But it was necessary to be stated, in order that my readers might better understand what sort of a boy Ben was.
So, in spite of his half relenting, Ben determined that he would not go home at all events. Whatever hardships lay before him in the new life which he had adopted, he resolved to stand them as well as he could. Indeed, however much he might desire to retrace his steps, he had no money to carry him back, nor could he obtain any unless he should write home for it, and this again would be humiliating. Ben's last thought, then, as he sank to sleep, was, that he would stick to New York, and get his living somehow, even if he had to black boots for a living.
At the end of an hour, both boys were fast asleep. The watchman, after smoking his pipe, got up, and paced up and down the wharf drowsily. He did not happen to observe the young sleepers. If he had done so, he would undoubtedly have shaken them roughly, and ordered them off. It was rather fortunate that neither Ben nor his companion were in the habit of snoring, as this would at once have betrayed their presence, even to the negligent watchman.
After a while the watchman bethought himself again of his pipe, and, filling the bowl with tobacco, lighted it. Then, with the most culpable carelessness, he half reclined on one of the bales and "took comfort." Not having prepared himself for the vigils of the night by repose during the day, he began to feel uncommonly drowsy. The whiffs came less and less frequently, until at last the pipe fell from his lips, and he fell back fast asleep. The burning contents of the pipe fell on the bale, and gradually worked their way down into the interior. Here the mischief soon spread. What followed may easily be imagined.
Ben was aroused from his sleep by a confused outcry. He rubbed his eyes to see what was the matter. There was something stifling and suffocating in the atmosphere, which caused him to choke as he breathed. As he became more awake, he realized that the cotton-bales, among which he had taken refuge, were on fire. He became alarmed, and shook Jerry energetically.
"What's up?" said Jerry, drowsily. "I aint done nothin'. You can't take me up."
"Jerry, wake up; the bales are on fire," said Ben.
"I thought 'twas a copp," said Jerry, rousing, and at a glance understanding the position of affairs. "Let's get out of this."
That was not quite so easy. There was fire on all sides, and they must rush through it at some risk. However, it was every moment getting worse, and there was no chance for delay.
"Foller me," said Jerry, and he dashed through, closely pursued by Ben.
By this time quite a crowd of men and boys had gathered around the burning bales.
When the two boys rushed out, there was a general exclamation of surprise. Then one burly man caught Jerry by the arm, and said, "Here's the young villain that set the bales on fire."
"Let me alone, will you?" said Jerry. "Yer grandmother set it on fire, more likely."
No sooner was Jerry seized, than another man caught hold of Ben, and forcibly detained him.
"I've got the other," he said.
"Now, you young rascal, tell me how you did it," said the first. "Was you smokin'?"
"No, I wasn't," said Jerry, shortly. "I was sleepin' along of this other boy."
"What made you come here to sleep?"
"'Cause we hadn't no other bed."
"Are you sure you wasn't smoking?"
"Look here," said Jerry, contemptuously, "you must think I'm a fool, to go and set my own bed on fire."
"That's true," said a bystander. "It wouldn't be very likely."
"Who did it, then?" asked the stout man, suspiciously.
"It's the watchman. I seed him smokin' when I turned in."
"Where is he now?"
Search was made for the watchman, but he had disappeared. Awaking to a consciousness of what mischief he had caused through his carelessness, he had slipped away in the confusion, and was not likely to return.
"The boy tells the truth," said one of the crowd. "I saw the watchman smoking myself. No doubt the fire caught from his pipe. The boys are innocent. Better let them go."
The two custodians of Jerry and Ben released their hold, and they gladly availed themselves of the opportunity to remove themselves to a safer distance from their late bedchamber.
Two fire-engines came thundering up, and streams of water were directed effectively at the burning bales. The flames were extinguished, but not till considerable damage had been done.
As the two boys watched the contest between the flames and the engines, from a safe distance, they heard the sonorous clang of the bell in the church-tower, ringing out twelve o'clock.
"Jest my luck!" complained Jerry. "Why couldn't the fire have waited till mornin'?"
"We might have burned up," said Ben, who was considerably impressed by his narrow escape.
"Only we didn't," said Jerry. "We'll have to try another hotel for the rest of the night."
"Where shall we go?"
"We may find a hay-barge down to the pier at the foot of Franklin Street."
"Is it far?"
"Let us go then."
So the boys walked along the street until they came to the pier referred to. There was a barge loaded with hay, lying alongside the wharf. Jerry speedily provided himself with a resting-place upon it, and Ben followed his example. It proved to be quite as comfortable, if not more so, than their former bed, and both boys were soon asleep. How long he slept Ben did not know, but he was roused to consciousness by a rude shake.
"Wake up there!" said a voice.
Ben opened his eyes, and saw a laboring man bending over him.
"Is it time to get up?" he inquired, hardly conscious where he was.
"I should think it was, particularly as you haven't paid for your lodging."
"Where's Jerry?" asked Ben, missing the boot-black.
The fact was, that Jerry, whose business required him to be astir early, had been gone over an hour. He had not felt it necessary to wake up Ben, knowing that the latter had nothing in particular to call him up.
"I don't know anything about Jerry. You'd better be going home, young 'un. Take my advice, and don't stay out another night."
He evidently thought that Ben was a truant from home, as his dress would hardly class him among the homeless boys who slept out from necessity.
Ben scrambled upon the pier, and took a cross street up towards Broadway. He had slept off his fatigue, and the natural appetite of a healthy boy began to assert itself. It was rather uncomfortable to reflect that he was penniless, and had no means of buying a breakfast. He had meant to ask Jerry's advice, as to some occupation by which he could earn a little money, and felt disappointed that his companion had gone away before he waked up. His appetite was the greater because he had been limited to a single apple for supper.
Where to go he did not know. One place was as good as another. It was a strange sensation to Ben to feel the cravings of appetite, with nothing to satisfy it. All his life he had been accustomed to a good home, where his wants were plentifully provided for. He had never had any anxiety about the supply of his daily wants. In the city there were hundreds of boys younger than he, who, rising in the morning, knew not where their meals were to come from, or whether they were to have any; but this had never been his case.
"I am young and strong," thought Ben. "Why can't I find something to do?"
His greatest anxiety was to work, and earn his living somehow; but how did not seem clear. Even if he were willing to turn boot-black, he had no box nor brush, and had some doubts whether he should at first possess the requisite skill. Selling papers struck him more favorably; but here again the want of capital would be an objection.
So, in a very perplexed frame of mind, our young adventurer went on his way, and after a while caught sight of the upper end of the City Hall Park. Here he felt himself at home, and, entering, looked among the dozens of boys who were plying their work to see if he could not find his acquaintance Jerry. But here he was unsuccessful. Jerry's business stand was near the Cortlandt Street pier.
Hour after hour passed, and Ben became more and more hungry and dispirited. He felt thoroughly helpless. There seemed to be nothing that he could do. He began to be faint, and his head ached. One o'clock found him on Nassau Street, near the corner of Fulton. There was a stand for the sale of cakes and pies located here, presided over by an old woman, of somewhat ample dimensions. This stall had a fascination for poor Ben. He had such a craving for food that he could not take his eyes off the tempting pile of cakes which were heaped up before him. It seemed to him that he should be perfectly happy if he could be permitted to eat all he wanted of them.
Ben knew that it was wrong to steal. He had never in his life taken what did not belong to him, which is more than many boys can say, who have been brought up even more comfortably than he. But the temptation now was very strong. He knew it was not right; but he was not without excuse. Watching his opportunity, he put his hand out quickly, and, seizing a couple of pies, stowed them away hastily in his pocket, and was about moving off to eat them in some place where he would not be observed. But though the owner of the stolen articles had not observed the theft, there was a boy hanging about the stall, possibly with the same object in view, who did see it.
"He's got some of your pies, old lady," said the young detective.
The old woman looked round, and though the pies were in Ben's pocket there was a telltale in his face which betrayed him.
"Put back them pies, you young thafe!" said the angry pie-merchant. "Aint you ashamed of yerself to rob a poor widdy, that has hard work to support herself and her childers,—you that's dressed like a gentleman, and ought to know better?"
"Give it to him, old lady," said the hard-hearted young vagabond, who had exposed Ben's iniquity.
As for Ben, he had not a word to say. In spite of his hunger, he was overwhelmed with confusion at having actually attempted to steal, and been caught in the act. He was by no means a model boy; but apart from anything which he had been taught in the Sunday school, he considered stealing mean and discreditable, and yet he had been led into it. What would his friends at home think of it, if they should ever hear of it? So, as I said, he stood without a word to say in his defence, mechanically replacing the pies on the stall.
"I say, old lady, you'd orter give me a pie for tellin' you," said the informer.
"You'd have done the same, you young imp, if you'd had the chance," answered the pie-vender, with more truth than gratitude. "Clear out, the whole on ye. I've had trouble enough with ye."
Ben moved off, thankful to get off so well. He had feared that he might be handed over to the police, and this would have been the crowning disgrace.
But the old woman seemed satisfied with the restoration of her property, and the expression of her indignation. The attempt upon her stock she regarded with very little surprise, having suffered more than once before in a similar way.
But there was another spectator of the scene, whose attention had been drawn to the neat attire and respectable appearance of Ben. He saw that he differed considerably from the ordinary run of street boys. He noticed also the flush on the boy's cheek when he was detected, and judged that this was his first offence. Something out of the common way must have driven him to the act. He felt impelled to follow Ben, and learn what that something was. I may as well state here that he was a young man of twenty-five or thereabouts, a reporter on one or more of the great morning papers. He, like Ben, had come to the city in search of employment, and before he secured it had suffered more hardships and privations than he liked to remember. He was now earning a modest income, sufficient to provide for his wants, and leave a surplus over. He had seen much of suffering and much of crime in his daily walks about the city, but his heart had not become hardened, nor his sympathies blunted. He gave more in proportion to his means than many rich men who have a reputation for benevolence.
Ben had walked but a few steps, when he felt a hand upon his shoulder.
Looking round hastily, he met the gaze of the young man. He had thought at first it might be a policeman, and he felt relieved when he saw his mistake.
"You are the boy who just now took a couple of pies from a stall?" said the reporter.
"Yes," said Ben, hesitatingly, his face crimsoning as he spoke.
"Do you mind telling me why you did so?"
There was something in his tone which reassured Ben, and he determined to tell the truth frankly.
"I have eaten nothing to-day," he said.
"You never took anything before?"
"No," said Ben, quickly.
"I suppose you had no money to buy with?"
"No, I had not."
"How does it happen that a boy as well dressed as you are, are in such a position?"
"I would rather not tell," said Ben.
"Have you run away from home?"
"Yes; I had a good reason," he added, quickly.
"What do you propose to do? You must earn your living in some way, or starve."
"I thought I might get a place in a store; but I have tried half a dozen, and they won't take me."
"No, your chance will be small, unless you can bring good references. But you must be hungry."
"I am," Ben admitted.
"That can be remedied, at all events. I am just going to get some dinner; will you go with me?"
"I have no money."
"I have, and that will answer the purpose for this time. We will go back to Fulton Street."
Ben turned back thankfully, and with his companion entered the very restaurant in which he had dined the day before.
"If you are faint, soup will be the best thing for you to begin on," said the young man; and he gave an order to the waiter.
Nothing had ever seemed more delicious to Ben than that soup. When he had done justice to it, a plate of beefsteak awaited him, which also received his attention. Then he was asked to select some dessert.
"I am afraid you are spending too much for me," he said.
"Don't be afraid of that; I am glad that you have a good appetite."
At length the dinner was over. Ben felt decidedly better. His despondency had vanished, and the world again seemed bright to him. It is hard to be cheerful, or take bright views of life on an empty stomach, as many have learned beside our young adventurer.
"Now," said his new-found friend, "I have a few minutes to spare. Suppose we talk over your plans and prospects, and see if we can find anything for you to do."
"Thank you," said Ben; "I wish you would give me your advice."
"My advice is that you return to your home, if you have one," said the reporter.
Ben shook his head.
"I don't want to do that," he answered.
"I don't, of course, know what is your objection to this, which seems to me the best course. Putting it aside, however, we will consider what you can do here to earn your living."
"That is what I want to do."
"How would you like selling papers?"
"I think I should like it," said Ben; "but I have no money to buy any."
"It doesn't require a very large capital. I will lend you, or give you, the small amount which will be necessary. However, you mustn't expect to make a very large income."
"If I can make enough to live on, I won't care," said Ben.
He had at first aimed higher; but his short residence in the city taught him that he would be fortunate to meet his expenses. There are a good many besides Ben who have found their early expectations of success considerably modified by experience.
"Let me see. It is half-past one o'clock," said the reporter, drawing out his watch. "You had better lay in a supply of 'Expresses' and 'Evening Posts,' and take a good stand somewhere, and do your best with them. As you are inexperienced in the business it will be well to take a small supply at first, or you might get 'stuck.'"
"You must not lay in more than you can sell."
"Where can I get the papers?"
"I will go with you to the newspaper offices, and buy you half a dozen of each. If you succeed in selling them, you can buy more. To-morrow you can lay in some of the morning papers, the 'Herald,' 'World,' 'Tribune,' or 'Times.' It will be well also to have a few 'Suns' for those who do not care to pay for the higher-priced papers."
"Thank you," said Ben, who was eager to begin his business career.
They rose from the table, and set out for the offices of the two evening papers whose names have been mentioned.
BEN COMMENCES HIS BUSINESS CAREER.
Ben soon took his stand in the street, with a roll of papers under his arm, supplied by the generosity of his new acquaintance. It was rather a trying ordeal for a country boy, new to the city and its ways. But Ben was not bashful. He was not a timid boy, but was fully able to push his way. So, glancing at the telegraphic headings, he began to call out the news in a business-like way. He had already taken notice of how the other newsboys acted, and therefore was at no loss how to proceed.
He met with very fair success, selling out the twelve papers which had been bought for him, in a comparatively short time. It might have been that the fact that he was neater and better dressed operated in his favor. At any rate, though a new hand, he succeeded better than those who were older in the business.
But his neat dress operated to his disadvantage in another quarter. His business rivals, who were, with scarcely an exception, dressed with no great pretensions to style or neatness, looked upon the interloper with a jealous eye. They regarded him as "stuck up," in virtue of his superior dress, and were indignant to find their sales affected by his competition.
"Who's he? Ever seen him afore?" asked Tim Banks of a newsboy at his side.
"No; he's a new chap."
"What business has he got to come here and steal away our trade, I'd like to know?" continued Tim, eying Ben with no friendly glance.
At that moment a gentleman, passing Tim, bought an "Evening Post" of Ben. It was the third paper that Ben had sold since Tim had effected a sale. This naturally increased his indignation.
"He's puttin' on airs just because he's got good clo'es," said the other newsboy, who shared Tim's feelings on the subject.
"Let's shove him out," suggested Tim.
Tim, who was a boy of twelve, with a shock head, which looked as if it had never been combed, and a suit of clothes which bore the marks of severe usage, advanced to Ben, closely followed by his confederate, who had agreed to back him.
Ben had just sold his last paper when the two approached him. He did not understand their object until Tim, swaggering up to him, said offensively, "You'd better clear out; you aint wanted here."
Ben turned and faced his ragged opponent with intrepidity.
"Why aint I wanted here?" he inquired, without manifesting the least symptom of alarm.
Tim rather anticipated that Ben would show the white feather, and was a little surprised at his calmness.
"Cause yer aint, that's why," he answered.
"If you don't like my company, you can go somewhere else," said Ben.
"This is my place," said Tim. "You aint got no right to push in."
"If it's your place, how much did you pay for it?" asked Ben. "I thought that the sidewalk was free to all."
"You aint got no right to interfere with my business."
"I didn't know that I had interfered with it."
"Well, you have. I aint sold more'n half as many papers since you've been here."
"You've got the same chance as I have," said Ben. "I didn't tell them not to buy of you."
"Well, you aint wanted here, and you'd better make tracks," said Tim, who considered this the best argument of all.
"Suppose I don't," said Ben.
"Then I'll give you a lickin'."
Ben surveyed the boy who uttered this threat, in the same manner that a general would examine an opposing force, with a view to ascertain his strength and ability to cope with him. It was clear that Tim was taller than himself, and doubtless older. As to being stronger, Ben did not feel so positive. He was himself well and compactly made, and strong of his age. He did not relish the idea of being imposed upon, and prepared to resist any encroachment upon his rights. He did not believe that Tim had any right to order him off. He felt that the sidewalk was just as free to him as to any other boy, and he made up his mind to assert and maintain his right.
"If you want to give me a licking, just try it," he said. "I've got just as much right to stand here and sell papers as you have, and I'm going to do it."
"You needn't be so stuck up jest because you've got good clo'es on."
"If they are good, I can't help it," said Ben. "They're all I have, and they won't be good long."
"Maybe I could get good clo'es if I'd steal em," said Tim.
"Do you mean to say I stole these?" retorted Ben, angrily. He had no sooner said it, however, than he thought of the pies which he should have stolen if he had not been detected, and his face flushed. Luckily Tim did not know why his words produced an effect upon Ben, or he would have followed up his attack.
"Yes, I do," said Tim.
"Then you judge me by yourself," said Ben, "that's all I've got to say."
"Say that ag'in," said Tim, menacingly.
"So I will, if you want to hear it. You judge me by yourself."
"I'll give you a lickin'."
"You've said that before."
Tim was not particularly brave. Still Ben was a smaller boy, and besides he had a friend at hand to back him, so he concluded that it would be safe to venture. Doubling up a dirty fist, he struck out, intending to hit Ben in the face; but our young adventurer was on his guard, and fended off the blow with his arms.
"Will yer go now?" demanded Tim, pausing after his attack.
"Why should I?"
"If you don't I'll give you another lick."
"I can stand it, if it isn't any worse than that."
Tim was spurred by this to renew the assault. He tried to throw his arms around Ben, and lift him from the ground, which would enable him to throw him with greater ease. But Ben was wary, and experienced in this mode of warfare, having often had scuffles in fun with his school-fellows. He evaded Tim's grasp, therefore, and dealt him a blow in the breast, which made Tim stagger back. He began to realize that Ben, though a smaller boy, was a formidable opponent, and regretted that he had undertaken a contest with him. He was constrained to appeal to his companion for assistance.
"Just lend a hand, Jack, and we'll give it to him."
"So you have to ask help," said Ben, scornfully, "though you're bigger than I am."
"I could lick yer well enough alone," said Tim, "but you've been interferin' with Jack's business, as well as mine."
Jack responded to his friend's appeal, and the two advanced to the assault of Ben. Of course all this took place much more quickly than it has taken to describe it. The contest commenced, and our young adventurer would have got the worst of it, if help had not arrived. Though a match for either of the boys singly, he could not be expected to cope with both at a time, especially as he was smaller than either.
Tim found himself seized forcibly by the arm, just as he was about to level a blow at Ben. Looking up, he met the glance of another newsboy, a boy of fourteen, who was known among his comrades as "Rough and Ready." This boy was stout and strong, and was generally liked by those of his class for his generous qualities, as well as respected for his physical strength, which he was always ready to exert in defence of a weaker boy.
"What's all this, Tim?" he demanded. "Aint you ashamed, the two of you, to pitch into a smaller boy?"
"He aint got no business here," said Tim, doggedly.
"He's takin' away all our trade."
"Hasn't he just as much right to sell papers as you?"
"He can go somewhere else."
"So can you."
"He's a new boy. This is the first day he's sold papers."
"Then you ought to be able to keep up with him. What's your name, young un?"
This question was, of course, addressed to Ben.
"Ben," answered our young hero. He did not think it necessary to mention his other name, especially as, having run away from home, he had a vague idea that it might lead to his discovery.
"Well, Ben, go ahead and sell your papers. I'll see that you have fair play."
"Thank you," said Ben. "I'm not afraid of either of them."
"Both of them might be too much for you."
"I don't want to interfere with their business. They've got just as good a chance to sell as I have."
"Of course they have. Is this your first day?"
"How many papers have you sold?"
"Six 'Posts' and six 'Expresses.'"
"That's pretty good for a beginning. Are you going to get some more?"
"Yes, I was just going into the office when that boy," pointing to Tim, "tried to drive me off."
"He won't do it again. Come in with me. I'm going to buy some papers too."
"What's your name?" asked Ben. "I like you; you're not mean, like those fellows."
"My name is Rufus, but the boys call me Rough and Ready."
"Where do you live,—at the Newsboys' Lodging House?"
"No, I live in Leonard Street. I've got a mother and a little sister. I live with them."
"Have you got a father?"
"No, that is, not a real father. I've got a step-father; but he's worse than none, for he is loafing round most of the time, and spends all the money he can get on drink. If it wasn't for me, he'd treat mother worse than he does. How long have you been in New York?"
"Only a day or two," said Ben.
"Where are you living?"
"Anywhere I can. I haven't got any place."
"Where did you sleep last night?"
"In a hay-barge, at one of the piers, along with a boot-black named Jerry. That was the first night I ever slept out."
"How did you like it?"
"I think I'd prefer a bed," said Ben.
"You can get one at the Lodge for six cents."
"I didn't have six cents last night."
"They'll trust you there, and you can pay next time."
"Where is the Lodging House?"
"It's on the corner of this street and Fulton," said Rough and Ready. "I'll show it to you, if you want me to."
"I'd like to have you. I'd rather pay six cents than sleep out again."
By this time they reached the office of the "Express," and, entering, purchased a supply of papers. He was about to invest his whole capital, but, by the advice of his companion, bought only eight copies, as by the time these were disposed of a later edition would be out, which of course would be more salable.
SCENES AT THE NEWSBOYS' LODGING HOUSE.
It will be unnecessary to give in detail the record of Ben's sales. He succeeded, because he was in earnest, and he was in earnest, because his own experience in the early part of the day had revealed to him how uncomfortable it was to be without money or friends in a large city. At seven o'clock, on counting over his money, he found that he had a dollar and twelve cents. Of this sum he had received half a dollar from the friendly reporter, to start him in business. This left sixty-two cents as his net profits for the afternoon's work. Ben felt proud of it, for it was the first money he had ever earned. His confidence came back to him, and he thought he saw his way clear to earning his own living.
Although the reporter had not exacted repayment, Ben determined to lay aside fifty cents for that purpose. Of the remaining sixty-two, a part must be saved as a fund for the purchase of papers the next morning. Probably thirty cents would be sufficient for this, as, after selling out those first purchased, he would have money for a new supply. This would leave him thirty-two cents to pay for his supper, lodging, and breakfast. Ben would not have seen his way to accomplish all this for so small a sum, if he had not been told that at the Newsboys' Lodge the regular charge was six cents for each meal, and the same for lodging. This would make but eighteen cents, leaving him a surplus of fourteen. On inquiry, however, he ascertained that it was already past the hour for supper at the Lodge, and therefore went into the restaurant, on Fulton Street, where he ordered a cup of coffee, and a plate of tea-biscuit. These cost ten cents. Finding his appetite still unsatisfied, he ordered another plate of biscuit, which carried up the expense of his supper to fifteen cents. This left seventeen cents for lodging and breakfast.
After supper, he went out into the street once more, and walked about for some time, until he began to feel tired, when he turned his steps towards the Newsboys' Lodge. This institution occupied at that time the two upper stories of the building at the corner of Nassau and Fulton Streets. On the first floor was the office of the "Daily Sun." The entrance to the Lodge was on Fulton Street. Ben went up a steep and narrow staircase, and kept mounting up until he reached the sixth floor. Here to the left he saw a door partially opened, through which he could see a considerable number of boys, whose appearance indicated that they belonged to the class known as street boys. He pushed the door open and entered. He found himself in a spacious, but low-studded apartment, abundantly lighted by rows of windows on two sides. At the end nearest the door was a raised platform, on which stood a small melodeon, which was used at the Sunday-evening meetings. There were rows of benches in the centre of the apartment for the boys.
A stout, pleasant-looking man, who proved to be Mr. O'Connor, the superintendent, advanced to meet Ben, whom he at once recognized as a new-comer.
"Is this the Newsboys' Lodge?" asked Ben.
"Yes," said the superintendent; "do you wish to stop with us?"
"I should like to sleep here to-night," said Ben.
"You are quite welcome."
"How much do you charge?"
"Our charge is six cents."
"Here is the money," said Ben, drawing it from his vest-pocket.
"What is your name?"
"And your other name?"
"Brandon," answered Ben, with some hesitation.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I am selling papers."
"Well, we will assign you a bed."
"Where are the beds?" asked Ben, looking about him.
"They are on the floor below. Any of the boys will go down and show you when you get ready to retire."
"Can I get breakfast here in the morning?" inquired Ben.
"Certainly. We charge the same as for lodging."
Ben handed over six cents additional, and congratulated himself that he was not as badly off as the night before, being sure of a comfortable bed, and a breakfast in the morning.
"What are those for?" he asked, pointing to a row of drawers or lockers on the sides of the apartment near the floor.
"Boys who have any extra clothing, or any articles which they value, are allowed to use them. Here they are safe, as they can be locked. We will assign you one if you wish."
"I have nothing to put away," said Ben. "I had a little bundle of clothes; but they were stolen from me while I was lying asleep on a bench in the City Hall Park."
"I suppose you don't know who took them?"
"No," said Ben; "but I think it was some of the boys that were blacking boots near me.—That boy's got one of them on," he said, suddenly, in an excited tone, pointing out Mike, the younger of the two boys who had appropriated his bundle. Mike had locked up his own shirt, which was considerably the worse for wear, and put on Ben's, which gave him a decidedly neater appearance than before. He had thought himself perfectly safe in doing so, not dreaming that he would be brought face to face with the true owner in the Lodge.
"What makes you think it is yours?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"It is cut like mine," said Ben. "Besides I remember getting a large spot of ink on one of the sleeves, which would not wash out. There it is, on the left arm."
As Ben had said, there was a faint bluish spot on the sleeve of the shirt. This made Ben's story a plausible one, though not conclusive. The superintendent decided to inquire of Mike about the matter, and see what explanation he could give.
"Mike Rafferty," he said, in a tone of authority, "come here; I want you."
Mike came forward, but when he saw Ben, whom he recognized, he felt a little taken aback. But he had not been brought up in the streets for nothing. His embarrassment was only momentary. He determined to brazen it out, and swear, if anything was said about the shirt, that it was his own lawful property.