Transcriber's Notes: 1) Table of Contents added. 2) A 'TN' is noted within the text where Mortimer was incorrectly referred to as Randolph.
* * * * *
THE BOY BROKER
Among the Kings of Wall Street
By FRANK A MUNSEY
THE BOY BROKER;
AMONG THE KINGS OF WALL STREET.
FRANK A. MUNSEY.
NEW YORK: FRANK A. MUNSEY & CO., PUBLISHERS, 81 WARREN STREET. 1888.
COPYRIGHT, 1888, BY FRANK A. MUNSEY.
[All rights reserved.]
PRESS OF FERRIS BROTHERS. 420 Pearl Street, N. Y.
TO MY DEAR FATHER, WHOSE RIGID NEW ENGLAND DISCIPLINE SEEMED TO ME AS A BOY SEVERE AND UNNECESSARY, THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED WITH THE GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT THAT HE WAS RIGHT AND THAT I WAS WRONG. FOR THIS TRAINING AND FOR ALL ELSE I OWE HIM I CAN PAY THE DEBT BEST BY LIVING THE LIFE THAT WILL PLEASE HIM MOST.
The best story for boys is the one that will help them most and give them the greatest pleasure—the story that will make them more manly, more self reliant, more generous, more noble and sweeter in disposition. Such a story I have aimed to make THE BOY BROKER. The moral or lesson it contains could be put into a very short lecture, but as a lecture I am confident that it would prove valueless. Boys are benefited little by advice. They seldom listen to it and less frequently make any practical application of it. Imitative by nature, they are easily influenced by those with whom they associate, and no associate, in my opinion, has so strong a grasp upon them as the hero of some much prized book. He becomes a real being to their young, healthy imagination—their ideal of manliness, bravery, generosity, and nobility. He enters into their lives, their sports, their adventures, their kind acts, a companion, a model so much idealized and admired that unconsciously they grow to be like him in so far as their surroundings will permit. In a good story plot and action are but the setting to the gem—the means of conveying a lesson in disguise in such a way that the reader will not suspect he is being taught. Let it once occur to him that he is reading a lecture and the book will at once be quietly but most effectually packed away. Many authors, it seems to me, fail in their purpose by devoting too much time to the gem and too little to the setting. Others go too far the other way and write stories that give young readers a wrong idea of life—stories whose heroes do improbable and unnatural acts. While my purpose has been to make THE BOY BROKER interesting I have aimed to give a true idea of life in a great city. So much nonsense of a misleading character has been written about benevolent old gentlemen who help poor boys from the country that I have sought to turn the light of fact on the subject and picture a little real life—about such life as a boy may expect to find if he comes to New York friendless and alone. He might find it much worse; he could not wisely hope to find it better.
FRANK A. MUNSEY. NEW YORK, September, 1888.
PAGE I An Introduction to the Great City 11 II An Effort to Obtain Employment 20 III An Evening with Bob Hunter 26 IV At Mr. Goldwin's Office 34 V The Contest Between Herbert and Felix 41 VI A Ray of Sunshine 50 VII Bob Hunter Thoroughly Aroused 57 VIII Felix Mortimer at the Bank 65 IX Bob Assumes a Disguise 75 X Something About Herbert Randolph 83 XI Imprisoned at the Fence 87 XII Bob's Brilliant Move 94 XIII A Terrible Fear 102 XIV Bob Outwits the Old Fence 108 XV Bob and Herbert Meet 113 XVI The Old Fence in a Trap 120 XVII Bob Goes for an Officer 126 XVIII Tom Flannery is Hungry 133 XIX The Rivals at the Bank 138 XX Felix Mortimer Discomfited 142 XXI Two Young Capitalists 154 XXII The Great Banquet 161 XXIII Bob Hunter's Ambition 178 XXIV A Visit to the Banker's House 182 XXV Tom Flannery's Sickness 191 XXVI A Crash in Wall Street 196 XXVII Dark Days 201 XXVIII In Business for Himself 210 XXIX Tom Flannery's Funeral 218 XXX In a New Home 224 XXXI The Boy Broker 228 XXXII The Conspirators' Fate 233 XXXIII A Glimpse at the Future 236
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Herbert Randolph emerges from the cellar in which he has been kept a prisoner, Frontispiece.
The Great City, Page 10
"You evidently know all about propriety, so here is my hand," said Herbert, " 13
Herbert Randolph in the Post Office, " 17
Memories of country life—The greeting by the way, " 23
The benevolent old gentleman presses money on the country boy, " 27
The country boy finds a well filled pocket book, " 29
The country boy to the rescue, " 31
At the Boss Tweed Restaurant, " 33
A Glimpse of Wall Street, " 35
Herbert Randolph finds himself among a mob of rival applicants, " 37
Gunwagner and Felix agree upon a plan, " 48
Young Randolph handed Ray into the carriage with just enough embarrassment in his manner to interest her, " 51
Bob Hunter, alone in his room, wonders what has become of his new friend, " 59
Tom Flannery, " 64
Bob Hunter speaks up for Herbert, " 71
Bob Hunter plays the detective, " 77
A surprise for Felix Mortimer, " 85
Young Randolph at last falls asleep exhausted, " 92
Suddenly realizing his horrible situation, Herbert sprang upon the bench with a pitiful cry of terror, " 105
Gunwagner pursuing the boys, " 111
Gunwagner bursts into the room in a furious mood, " 121
Gunwagner in the hands of the police, " 130
Young Randolph and Bob Hunter confront Felix Mortimer and charge him with his villainy, " 147
"Tom," said Bob, "here's a five for you." " 155
The great banquet, " 163
Bob and Tom coming out of the bank, " 179
Herbert's first visit to the banker's house, " 185
"You embarrass me," said Herbert, blushing, " 187
Tom Flannery in delirium, " 194
Young Randolph again in the ranks of the unemployed, " 200
Herbert Randolph shoveling snow, " 203
Herbert Randolph working on the hoist, " 206
Tom Flannery's deathbed, " 216
Tom Flannery's funeral, " 221
Ray reading to Mrs. Flannery, " 222
Mrs. Flannery and the two boys in their new home, " 225
Gunwagner in prison, " 234
Bob Hunter, the student and young business man, " 239
* * * * *
THE BOY BROKER.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GREAT CITY.
"Give me the best morning paper you have, please."
"The Tribune costs the most, if that is the one you want."
"The price will be no objection providing the paper contains what I wish to find."
"You want work, I s'pose."
"Yes, I am looking for employment."
"I knew it—just in from the country too," said the newsboy, comically. "Well, what you want is the Herald or World. They are just loaded with wants."
"Thank you, you may give me both."
"Both! Whew, you must be well fixed!" replied the young metropolitan, handing over the papers, as he regarded his new customer curiously.
"What does that mean?" asked the latter, seriously.
"You don't know what well fixed means? You must have come from way back! Why it means—it means that you're solid, that you've got the stuff, don't you see?"
"I'm solid enough for a boy of my age, if that is the idea," replied the lad from the country, rather sharply, as a tinge of color rose to his cheeks.
"Shucks! That ain't the idea at all," said the street boy, in a tone that seemed apologetic. "What I mean is that you're a kind of boodle alderman—you're rich. Do you see now?"
"Oh! That's it. Well, you see, I didn't know what you meant. I never heard those terms up in Vermont. No; I'm not rich, but on the contrary have so little money that I must commence work at once."
"And that is why you bought two papers, so you can take in the whole business. You've got a big head, Vermont, any way, and would do stunnin' on mornin' papers."
"Thank you. Do you mean at selling them?"
"Yes, of course. You wouldn't give 'em away, would you?"
"Well, no, I should not be inclined to do so."
"That sounds more like it. Perhaps I'll give you a job, if you can't find anything else."
"Thank you, I may be very glad to get a chance to sell papers even."
"'Tain't a bad business anyhow. Me and lots of fellers makes plenty of money at it. But I s'pose you're hungry, hain't you? If you be I'll take you round to a boss place and it won't cost nothin' hardly."
"I am very much obliged to you, but I had my breakfast soon after leaving the boat."
"And I bet they done you up on the price. I tell you what it is, it takes a fellow a good while to learn to live in this city. You don't know nothin' about what it costs. Why I know a plenty of boys that spend more—yes, I'd say so, twice as much as what I do, and they don't throw no style into their livin' either. You see they don't know how and hain't got no taste, any way. But I like your looks, Vermont, and ef you want any points—and you're liable to want 'em in this city, I'll bet you—why you just call on me and I'll fix you out in big shape."
"Thank you, sincerely," said the Green Mountain lad, a broad smile playing over his fine face, as he regarded the drollery of his new acquaintance. "I shall need many suggestions, no doubt, for I feel almost lost in this great city. I had no idea it was so large. I was never here before, and do not know where to go for a room or meals."
"So I thought, and that's why I offered to put you into the right track. My name is Bob Hunter—I hain't got no business cards yet, but all the boys knows me, and my place of business is right round here in City Hall Park. You'll find me here 'most any time durin' business hours."
"Bob Hunter! Well, you may be sure I shall remember your name and place of business, for I want to see you again. But what are your business hours?"
"Oh, yes; I forgot that. Everybody must have business hours, of course. Well, say from five to ten in the mornin', and three to eight in the afternoon, you can find me in."
"In! You mean out, don't you—out here?"
"Shucks! don't be so schoolmastery. Everybody in business says in. I guess I know what's proper!"
"All right, Bob Hunter, I'll give it up. You know all about propriety in New York, and I know nothing of it, so here is my hand. I'll say good by till tonight, when I will call upon you again. I must look over these papers now, and hunt for a situation."
"I hope you'll have luck, and get a bang up place. I'll be in when you call tonight; and if you hain't no objections, I'd like to know your name. It would be more handy to do business, you see. How could my clerks announce you so I'd know you, if I don't know your name? You see, I might think it was some one that wanted to collect a bill," continued Bob, dryly, "and I'd be out. Don't you see how it's done? I'd just tell my clerks to say 'Mr. Hunter is not in;' so, you see, you would get left. Why, business men do it every day!"
"My name is Herbert Randolph," replied the other, laughing heartily at his comical friend—I say friend, for he already felt convinced that he had found one in Bob Hunter.
"Herbert Randolph! that's a tony name—some old fellow I read about in school was called Randolph; most likely he was some of your relations."
The day was too cold for him to remain out in the park and read; so Herbert, acting on the advice of Bob Hunter, hurried to the great granite post office, and there, in the rotunda, ran his eye over the "wants" in his two papers.
Many columns of closely printed matter in each paper offering every conceivable position were spread out before him—a bewildering display of flattering prospects.
Young Randolph soon learned that if he stopped to read every advertisement in both journals it would be very late in the day before he could apply for any position. But should he only read a few of the wants he might fail to notice the best openings. This was a misfortune, for he was ambitious to get the right position—the position that would enable him to advance the fastest; and like all inexperienced boys, he hoped and even expected he might get it the very first time trying.
He had already marked a dozen or two advertised situations which, it seemed to him, would do very well, in fact were quite desirable, but of course they were the high priced positions which would naturally be most sought after by thousands of other applicants—rivals whom the young Vermonter did not take into consideration. He saw before him a demand for four or five thousand people to help move the wheels of commerce. He knew of course that he could only accept one position, so he was desirous that that one should be the best.
Any smart boy would feel as he did in this respect.
Some boys would even be so thoughtful of the interest of others as to feel sad that the four thousand nine hundred and ninety nine employers should be deprived of their services.
But young Randolph was more selfish. He had come here from the country with buoyant hopes and splendid courage. He proposed to make his way in New York—to become what is known as a successful man, to make a name for himself—a name that would extend to his native State and make his parents proud of their brilliant son.
Feeling thus, how natural it was that he should linger over the attractive columns much longer than was wise. Yet he did not think of this, or at least he did not give it any serious consideration, for were there not a vast number of positions to be filled? The question then was not whether he could get anything to do, but rather which one he should accept. When talking with young Bob Hunter, the newsboy, he had intimated that he might be glad even to get a chance to sell papers; but it must be remembered that he had not at that time seen a New York paper, and knew nothing of the tremendous demand for help.
Such a proposition from Bob now, however, would doubtless have been scorned, notwithstanding Herbert's usual good sense. And such scorn would have been very natural under the circumstances. Selling papers is an employment vastly inferior to clerking, to book keeping, to banking, to writing insurance policies, all of which positions were now open to him, as he supposed, else why should they be advertised? And why could not he fill them—any one of them? He was honest, ambitious, willing to work hard, wrote a splendid hand, had had some experience in clerking in a country store, and, best of all, he knew he would be faithful to his employer—all excellent qualifications in a general way—qualifications that probably seemed to him irresistible. Then, too, might he not lend a degree of intelligence, of thought to the business that would be helpful? This was a point that did not occur to him at first—not till his mind became inspired with the subject; but now the idea seemed to him a good one, and he wondered that he had not thought of it before. At any rate, he decided not to lose sight of it again, for he knew—his common sense told him, and he had read also, that the men who move things in this world are men of brains—men who think, who lend ideas to business, to inventions, to anything and everything with which they have to deal.
Thus another complication was added, for now he must consider in determining if the position he accepted would give him the widest scope for thought, and the broadest play for genius, ideas, originality and enterprise. His imagination ran fast. He was dead to the busy scenes about him. Great questions pressed home upon him for decision, and he did not decide quickly and without thought, as a light headed boy would have done. No, he pondered long and hard over the subject which meant so much to him, and perhaps to the entire commerce of the city and even the finances of the nation. What might not grow out of his start in life—the start of a thoughtful, industrious, original man? How important, then, that it should be a right start! What might not come of a false venture? How the possibilities of the future might be dwarfed by such a move!
These were momentous questions for this young ambitious boy to solve. He grappled with them bravely, and with flushed cheeks and dilated eyes knitted his brows and thought. He thought hard, thought as one with the responsibilities of a nation resting upon him—this young untried, untrained boy from old Vermont.
"No, I will not take it," he broke out suddenly and with striking determination in his face. "Simply because I write a good hand they would keep me writing policies all the time, and then I believe the insurance business is run like a big machine. No, I do not want it and will not take it, for I am not going to make a mistake this time. I want to show the folks down home who said I would make a failure here that they didn't know me—they counted on the wrong man. No, insurance is good enough for any one without ambition or ideas, who always wants to be a clerk, but I'm not that kind of a man."
He was actually calling himself a man now.
"But I think mercantile business or manufacturing or banking would do for me and would be suited to me. I wonder which is the best! Mercantile business gives one a good chance to show what he is made of. A man with ideas ought to succeed in it; that is, if he is pushing and has plenty of originality. A. T. Stewart, what a fortune he made! He was original, he did things in a new way, advertised differently, got up new ideas, and pushed his business with close attention. He started without any money. I have no money. He was a hard worker, a thinker, an originator, a pusher. Why shouldn't I be a hard worker, a thinker, an originator and a pusher? I think I will. But these qualifications will win just as well in the manufacturing and banking business as in mercantile pursuits, and if I have them I shall succeed anywhere. I wonder why those people in Vermont thought I would not succeed here. I wish they could see the chances I have.
"Well, I do not think I'll take to manufacturing, though here are a dozen or so first class situations in that line. I might like it well enough, but I believe banking would suit me better—that is, banking or the mercantile business, and I don't care much which. Of course banking will be easier at first than clerking, so I should have more time for thought and study—time to get right down to the science of the business. Yes, I believe I'll try banking. Here are four banks that want a young man. I'll take a look at each, for I want the best one."
Thus young Randolph reasoned, feeling no uneasiness about procuring a situation, though he had wasted in building foolish air castles so much valuable time that he had really almost no chance of obtaining a situation of any kind that day. This he learned to his sorrow a little later, when he commenced in earnest the very difficult undertaking of getting employment in a great city.
AN EFFORT TO OBTAIN EMPLOYMENT.
What a common occurrence it is for people to do foolish things. How often we see a man of education and broad influence—a hard headed man of sense, who has made his own way against stubborn opposition, and accumulated great wealth—how often, I say, we see such a man exhibit a degree of simplicity in money making or some other matter that would seem weak in an untutored boy. When he already has more money than he knows what to do with, he will perhaps hazard all on some wild cat speculation, and in a very little while find himself penniless and unable to furnish support for his family. Again he becomes the victim of a confidence game, and only learns how he has been played with when he has lost perhaps fifty thousand dollars by the unscrupulous sharpers with whom he has been dealing.
Such exhibitions of weakness in men to whom the community looks for an example are always surprising, always painful; but they teach us the important fact that human nature is easily influenced, easily molded, easily led this way or that when the proper influences are brought to bear upon it.
It is not so strange, then, that young Herbert Randolph, fresh from the country and as ignorant of the city as a native African, should have become dazzled by the flattering prospects spread out before him. What a busy city New York seemed to him when he landed from the boat in the early morning! Everything was bustle and activity. People were hurrying along the streets as he had never seen them move in his quiet country town. No idlers were about. Men and boys alike were full of business—they showed it in their faces, their every movement. These facts impressed the young country lad far more than the tall buildings and fine streets. His own active nature bounded with admiration at the life and dash on every hand. He had been reared among sleepy people—people in a rut, whose blood flowed as slowly as the sluggish current upon which they floated towards their final destiny.
But young Randolph was not of their class. He had inherited an active mind, and an ambition that made him chafe at his inharmonious surroundings at home. The very atmosphere, therefore, of this great city, laden with the hum of activity, was stimulating and even intoxicating to his boundless ambition. He had been a great reader. Biography had been his favorite pastime. He knew the struggles and triumphs of many of our most conspicuous merchant princes. Not a few familiar names, displayed on great buildings which towered over the tops of their smaller neighbors, greeted his eyes as he approached the city by boat, and passed through the streets after landing. These sights were food for his imagination. He compared himself, his qualifications, his poverty, and his opportunities for advancement in this world of activity with the advent into New York of the men he had taken as models for his own career. There was in a general way a striking likeness between the two pictures as he viewed them. Their struggles had been so long and fierce that it seemed to him they must have been made of iron to finally win the fight.
Yet these very difficulties lent attractiveness to the picture. They made heroes of his models, whose example he burned with enthusiasm to follow. Thus it will be seen that in the early morning he expected to meet bitter discouragements, to encounter poverty in its most depressing form, and to meet rebuffs on the right hand and on the left. He expected all this. He rather craved it from the sentimental, heroic standpoint, because the men he had chosen to follow had been compelled to force their way through a similar opposition.
From this view of the boy it is plain that he was sincere in thanking young Bob Hunter, a little later, for the newsboy's generous offer to take him into the paper trade. But a little later still, when he enters the post office and becomes intoxicated with the sudden, the unexpected, the overwhelming opportunities displayed before him—the urgent demands, even, for his services in helping to push forward the commerce of this vast city, he presents himself in an entirely new light. His head has been turned. He has lost sight of the early struggles of his heroes, and now revels in the brilliant pictures drawn by his imagination. How flattering to himself are these airy, short lived fabrics, and how sweet to his young ambition!
Had young Randolph been an ordinary boy of slow intellect, he would never have indulged in these beautiful dreams, which to the stupid mind would seem silly and absurd, but to him were living realities—creations to beckon him on, to encourage him in the hours of danger and to sustain him in the stern battle before him.
Did he then waste his time in what would seem wild imagination, when a more practically minded boy would have been applying for work? Yes, in the smaller sense, he idled his time away; but in the broader, he builded better than he knew. To be sure, he had lost the opportunity of securing a situation on that day—and he needed work urgently—but he had fixed upon an ideal—a standard of his own, to be the goal of all his efforts and struggles. And such an ideal was priceless to him. It would prove priceless to any boy, for without lofty aims no young man can ever hope to occupy a high position in life.
Of course he appears foolish in forgetting what he had anticipated, namely the difficulties he would in all probability experience in finding a situation, but the fact that five thousand positions were offered to him who knew nothing of the tremendous demand for such situations entirely deluded him. Once forgetting this important point, his mind ran on and on, growing bolder and bolder as thought sped forward unrestrained in wild, hilarious delight.
What pleasure in that half hour's thought—sweet, pure, intoxicating pleasure, finer and more delicate than any real scene in life can ever afford.
But everything has a price, and that price must many times be paid in advance. Those delightful moments passed in thinking out for himself a grand career cost young Randolph far more than he felt he could afford to pay. They cost him the opportunity of securing a position on that day, and made him sick at his own ignorance and folly. He felt ashamed of himself and disgusted at his stupidity, as he walked block after block with tired feet and heavy heart, after being coldly turned away from dozens of business houses with no encouragement whatever. He went from banking to mercantile pursuits, then to insurance, to manufacturing, and so on down, grade after grade, till he would have been glad to get any sort of position at honest labor. But none was offered to him and he found no opening of any sort.
Night was coming on. He was tired and hungry. His spirits ran low. In the post office in the early part of the day they soared to unusual height, and now they were correspondingly depressed. What should he do next? Where should he spend the night? These questions pressed him for an answer. He thought of Bob Hunter, and his cheeks flushed with shame. He would not have the newsboy know how foolish he had been to waste his time in silly speculation. He knew the young New Yorker would question him, and he would have to hide the real cause of his failure, should he join his friend. He was fast nearing Bob's place of business, and he decided to stop for a few moments' reflection, and to rest his weary limbs as well. Accordingly he stepped to the inner side of the flagging and rested against the massive stone base of the Astor House.
Looking to his right Broadway extended down to the Battery, and to his left it stretched far away northward. Up this famous thoroughfare a mighty stream of humanity flowed homeward. Young Randolph watched the scene with much interest, forgetting for a time his own heavy heart. Soon, however, the question what to do with himself pressed him again for an answer. How entirely alone he felt! Of all the thousands of people passing by him, not one with a familiar face. Every one seemed absorbed in himself, and took no more notice of our country lad than if he had been a portion of the cold inanimate granite against which he stood. Herbert felt this keenly, for in the country it was so different. There every one had a kind look or a pleasant word for a fellow man to cheer him on his way.
AN EVENING WITH BOB HUNTER.
Chilly from approaching night and strengthening wind, and depressed by a disheartening sense of loneliness and a keen realization of failure on the first day of his new career, Herbert felt homesick and almost discouraged.
At length he joined the passers by, and walked quickly until opposite City Hall Park. He crossed Broadway and soon found himself at young Bob Hunter's "place of business." The latter was "in," and very glad he seemed to see his new friend again. His kindly grasp of the hand and hearty welcome acted like magic upon Herbert Randolph; but his wretchedly disheartened look did not change in time to escape the keen young newsboy's notice.
"Didn't strike it rich today, did you?" said he, with a smile.
"No," replied Herbert sadly.
"Didn't find no benevolent old gentleman—them as is always looking for poor boys to help along and give 'em money and a bang up time?"
"I did not see any such philanthropist looking for me," answered Herbert, slightly puzzled, for the newsboy's face was seriousness itself.
"Well, that is all fired strange. I don't see how he missed you, for they takes right to country boys."
"I did not start out very early," remarked Herbert doubtfully, and with heightened color.
"Then that's how it happened, I guess," said Bob, with a very thoughtful air. "But you must have found somebody's pocket book——"
"What do you mean?" interrupted Herbert suspiciously.
"Mean—why what could I mean? Wasn't it plain what I said? Wasn't I speaking good English, I'd like to know?" said Bob, apparently injured.
"Your language was plain, to be sure, and your English was good enough," apologized Herbert; "but I can't see why I should find anybody's pocket book."
"Jest what I thought, but you see you don't know the ways of New York. You will learn, though, and you will be surprised to see how easy it is to pick up a pocket book full of greenbacks and bonds—perhaps a hundred thousand dollars in any one of 'em—and then you will take it to the man what lost it, and he will give you a lots of money, maby a thousand dollars or so—'twouldn't be much of a man as would do less than a thousand. What do you think?"
"I don't know what to think. I cannot understand you, Bob Hunter."
"That's 'cause you don't know me, and ain't posted on what I'm saying. Maby I am springin' it on you kinder fresh for the first day, though I guess you will stand it. But tell me, Vermont, about the runaway horse that you stopped."
"The runaway horse that I stopped!" exclaimed Herbert. "You must be mad to talk in this way."
"Mad! Well, that's good; that's the best thing I've heard of yet! Do I look like a fellow that's mad?" and he laughed convulsively, much to the country lad's annoyance.
"No, you do not look as if you were mad, but you certainly act as if you were," replied the latter sharply.
"Now look a here, Vermont, this won't do," said Bob, very serious again. "You are jest tryin' to fool me, but you can't do it, Vermont, I'll tell you that straight. Of course I don't blame you for wantin' to be kinder modest about it, for I s'pose it seems to you like puttin' on airs to admit you saved their lives. But then 'tain't puttin' on no airs at all. Ef I was you I'd be proud to own it; other boys always owns it, and they don't show no modesty about it the same as what you do, either. And I don't know why they should, for it's something to be proud of; and you know, Vermont, the funniest thing about it is that them runaways is always stopped by boys from the country jest like you. Don't ask me why it happens so, for I don't know myself; but all the books will tell you that it is so. And jest think, Vermont, how many lives they save! You know the coachman gets paralyzed, and the horses runs away and he tumbles off his box, and a rich lady and her daughter—they are always rich, and the daughter is always in the carriage, too—funny, ain't it, but it's as true as I'm alive; and the boy rushes at the horses when they are going like a cyclone, and stops 'em jest as the carriage is going to be dashed to pieces. And then the lady cries and throws her arms round the boy, and kisses him, and puts a hundred dollars in his hands, and he refuses it. Then the lady and her daughter ask him to come up to their house, and the next day her husband gets a bang up position for him, where he can make any amount of money.
"Now I call that somethin' to be proud of, as I said before, and I don't see no sense in your tryin' to seem ignorant about it. Why, I wouldn't be surprised a bit ef you would try to make out that you wasn't anear any fire today. But that wouldn't do, Vermont—I'll give you a pointer on that now, so you won't attempt no such tomfoolery with me, for no boy like you ever comes into a town like New York is and don't save somebody from burning up—rescue 'em from a tall building when nobody else can get to 'em. And of course for doing this they get pushed right ahead into something fine, while us city fellows have to shin around lively for a livin'.
"I don't know ef you saved anybody from drowning or not; I won't say that you did, but ef you didn't you ain't in luck, that's all I've got to say about it. So you see 'tain't much use for you to try to deceive me, Vermont, for I know jest what's a fair day's work for a boy from the country—jest what's expected of him on his first day here. Why, ef you don't believe me (and I know you don't by the way you look), jest get all the books that tells about country boys coming to New York, and read what they say, that's all I ask of you, Vermont. Now come, own up and tell it straight."
"Bob, you are altogether too funny," laughed Herbert, now that the drift of his friend's seemingly crazy remarks was plain to him. "How can you manage to joke so seriously, and why do you make fun of me? Because I am from the country, I suppose."
"I hope I didn't hurt your feelings, Vermont," replied Bob, enjoying greatly his own good natured satire.
"No, not at all, Bob Hunter, but until I saw your joke I thought surely you were insane."
"Well, you see, I thought you needed something to kinder knock the blues that you brought back with you tonight—'tain't much fun to have 'em, is it? Sometimes I get 'em myself, so I know what they're like. But now to be honest, and not fool no more, didn't you get no show today?"
"No, not the least bit of encouragement," replied Herbert.
"And you kept up the hunt all day?"
"I ought ter told you that that warn't no use."
"How is that?"
"Why, don't you see, it's the first fellers what gets the jobs—them as gets round early."
"And are there so many applicants for every position?"
"Are there? Well, you jest bet there are. I've seen more'n two hundred boys after a place, and 'twan't nothin' extra of a place, either."
"But then there are thousands of places to be filled. Why, the papers were full of them."
"Yes, and there is a good many more thousands what wants them same jobs. You never thought of that, I guess."
Herbert admitted with flushed cheeks that he had not given that fact proper consideration.
"Well, you done well, any way, to hang on so long," said Bob, in his off hand, comical manner. "I expected you'd get sick before this time, and steer straight for Vermont."
"Why did you think that?"
"Well, most of the country boys think they can pick up money on the streets in New York; but when they get here, and begin to hunt for it, they tumble rather spry—I mean they find they've been took in, and that a fellow has got to work harder, yes, I'd say so, ten times harder, here'n he does on a farm. There he can just sleep and laze round in the sun, and go in swimmin', and all the time the stuff is just growin' and whoopin' her right along, like as if I was boss of a dozen boys, and they was all sellin' papers and I was makin' a profit on 'em all, and wasn't doin' nothin' myself. So when these fellers find out they've got to knuckle down and shine shoes, why they just light out kinder lively, and make up their minds that New York ain't much of a town no how."
"And so you thought I would 'light out' too," laughed Herbert.
"Well, I didn't know. I told you I liked your looks, but I hain't much faith in nobody till I know what kind of stuff a feller is made of. But if he's got any sand in him, then I'll bet on his winning right here in New York, and he won't have to go back home for his bread. Well, speakin' of bread reminds me that it's about time to eat something and I'm all fired hungry, and you look es ef 'twould do you good to get a little somethin' warm in your stomach. Funny, ain't it, we can't do nothin' without eatin'? But we can't, so let's eat. Business is about over, and I don't mind leavin' a little early, any way."
Herbert assented gladly to this proposition, and presently Bob took him up Chatham Street to an eating house known as the "Boss Tweed Restaurant"—a restaurant the cheapness of which recommended it, five cents being the established price for a meal.
"I s'pose you hain't made no plans for a place to sleep yet?" said the newsboy, while eating their frugal fare.
"No," replied Herbert. "I thought I would wait and see you before making any move in that direction. You are the only one I know in the city."
"And 'tain't much you know about me."
"Very true; but from your appearance I'm satisfied to trust myself with you."
"You're takin' big chances ef you do," replied Bob, happily; "but ef you want to take the resk, why we will jest look up a room and occupy it together. I kinder think I'd like the scheme. I've been sleepin' at the Newsboys' Lodging House, but I'm tired of it. What do you say?"
"I say yes," replied Herbert. He was only too glad of the chance, and liked the idea of having Bob Hunter for a room mate. He thought there would be something fascinating about living with a newsboy, and learning this phase of life in a great city, especially when the newsboy was so droll as Bob Hunter had already shown himself to be.
"All right, then, it's a go," replied Bob, greatly pleased.
When the meal had been finished they continued up Chatham Street into the Bowery, and then turned into a side street where inexpensive rooms were offered for rent. After a little hunting they found one at a cost of one dollar a week which proved satisfactory. They immediately took possession, and went to bed very early, as Herbert was practically worn out.
AT MR. GOLDWIN'S OFFICE.
On the following morning both boys rose early and breakfasted together. Then Bob hurried away to his paper trade, and Herbert applied himself diligently to reading the "wants." The following advertisement especially attracted his attention:
WANTED, a bright, smart American boy of about sixteen years of age; must have good education, good character, and be willing to work. Salary small, but faithful services will be rewarded with advancement. RICHARD GOLDWIN, Banker and Broker, Wall Street.
"I think I can fill those requirements," said young Randolph to himself, thoughtfully. "For all I can see, I am as likely to be accepted by a banker as a baker or any one else in want of help. There will doubtless be a lot of applicants for the position, and so there would if the demand was for street cleaning, therefore I think I may as well take my chances with the bank as at anything else."
Having come to this conclusion, he talked the matter over with Bob Hunter, upon whose practical sense Herbert was beginning to place a high value. The shrewd young newsboy approved of the plan, so our country lad started early for Wall Street, where the great money kings are popularly supposed to hold high carnival, and do all sorts of extraordinary things. When he arrived, however, at Richard Goldwin's banking house, his hopes sank very low, for before him was a long line of perhaps forty or fifty boys, each of whom had come there hoping to secure the advertised position.
This crowd of young Americans comprised various grades of boys. Some were stupid, others intelligent; a few were quiet and orderly, but the majority were boisterous and rough. Squabbling was active, and taunts and jeers were so numerous, that a strange boy from a quiet country home would have hardly dared to join this motley crowd, unless he was possessed of rare courage and determination.
Herbert Randolph paused for a moment when he had passed through the outer door, and beheld the spectacle before him. He wondered if he had made a mistake and entered the wrong place; but before he had time to settle this question in his own mind, one of the boys before him, who was taller and more uncivil than those about him, and seemed to be a leader among them, shouted, derisively:
"Here's a new candidate—right from the barnyard too!"
All turned their attention at once to the object of the speaker's ridicule, and joined him in such remarks as "potato bug," "country," "corn fed," "greeny," "boots," and all the time they howled and jeered at the boy from the farm most unmercifully.
"You think you'll carry off this position, maybe," said the leader, sarcastically. "You'd better go home and raise cabbage or punkins!"
Again the crowd exploded with laughter, and as many mean things as could be thought of were said. Herbert made no reply, but instead of turning back and running away from such a crowd, as most boys would have done, he stepped forward boldly, and took his place in the line with others to await the arrival of the banker.
His face was flushed, and he showed plainly his indignation at the insolent remarks made to him. Nevertheless, this very abuse stimulated his determination to such a degree, that he was now the last boy in the world to be driven away by the insults and bullying of those about him.
His defiance was so bold, and his manner was so firm and independent, that he at once commanded the respect of the majority of the long line of applicants, though all wished he were out of the way; for they saw in him a dangerous rival for the position they sought.
A notable exception, however, to those who shared this better feeling, was the boy whom I have spoken of as the "leader," for such he seemed to be. He was no ordinary boy, this bright, keen, New York lad, with a form of rare build, tall and straight as a young Indian. He showed in every movement, and in the manner of his speech, that his character was a positive one, and that nature had endowed him with the qualities of a leader.
These gifts he now exercised with remarkable effect upon the raw material about him, if by such a term I may characterize the peculiarly mixed crowd of boys in line.
When, however, Herbert Randolph advanced to his position with such unmistakable determination in his manner, and with firmness so distinctly showing in every muscle of his face, our young leader trembled visibly for an instant, and then the hot blood mantling his cheeks betrayed his anger.
He had endeavored to drive away the young Vermonter by jeers and bullying, but he failed in this attempt. In him he found his match—a boy quite equal to himself in determination, in the elegance of his figure and the superiority of his intellect.
The country boy lacked, however, the polish and grace of the city, and that ease and assurance that comes from association with people in large towns. But the purity of his character, a character as solid as the granite hills of his native State, was of infinitely more value to him than was all the freedom of city manner to the New York lad.
These two boys were no ordinary youths. Each of them possessed a positive and determined character. The one was bold as the other, and in intellect and the commanding qualities of their minds they were giants among boys.
The others felt this now in the case of both, as they had but a few moments before felt it regarding the one. They realized their own inferiority. The jeering and bullying ceased, and all was quiet, save the slam of the door, as new applicants now and then dropped in and joined the line. The silence became painful as the two prominent figures eyed each other. Herbert knew better than to make the first move. He waited the action of his rival, ready to defend his position.
The strange and sudden quiet of all the boys, who had but a few moments before been so noisy and insulting, gave him renewed courage. He saw, to his great relief, that he had but one mind to contend with—but one enemy to overcome. In this one's face, however, was pictured a degree of cunning and anger that he had never seen before in all his simple life.
The evil designs in the face of the city boy momentarily became more noticeable. Why had he so suddenly stopped his derisive remarks? And why should he show his evident hatred toward our hero? Is it possible that he dare not attack him, and that he is afraid to continue the bullying further? That he feels that Herbert is his equal, and perhaps more than a match for him, seems evident; and yet he will not acknowledge himself inferior to any one, much less to this country lad.
"No, he shall not get this situation away from me," he said determinedly to himself; and then his mind seemed bent upon some deep plot or wicked scheme.
THE CONTEST BETWEEN HERBERT AND FELIX.
Presently the inner doors of the banking house were thrown open, and a gentleman of perhaps a little more than middle age stepped lightly into the corridor, where the boys awaited his arrival. He had a kindly face, and a sharp but pleasant blue eye.
All seemed to know intuitively that he was Richard Goldwin, the banker, and consequently each one made a dashing, but somewhat comical effort to appear to good advantage.
"Good morning, boys," said the banker, pleasantly, "I am glad to see so many of you here, and I wish I was able to give each one of you a position. I see, however, that many of you are too young for my purpose; therefore it would be useless to waste your time and mine by further examination."
In a little time the contest had narrowed down to but two, and they were Herbert Randolph, and the boy who had so ineffectually attempted to drive him away.
"What is your name?" asked the banker of the city lad.
"My name is Felix Mortimer."
"Mortimer, Mortimer," repeated Mr. Goldwin. "The name sounds familiar, but I can't place it. Do you live in New York?"
"In what part of the city?"
"In Eleventh Street, sir—on the East Side."
"Well, you appear like a bright boy. Are you ambitious to work your way up in a solid, reliable business?"
"Yes, sir, I am; and banking is just what I would like."
"And you are willing to work hard?"
"Yes, sir, I think I could satisfy you that I am."
"What is your age?"
"I am seventeen years old."
"Have you ever worked in any business house?"
"Yes, I have had two years' experience in business."
"You commenced rather young—so young that I am afraid your education was neglected."
"Well, I was a good scholar in school; here is a recommendation from my teacher."
Richard Goldwin read the letter, which purported to be signed by the principal of a well known school.
"This speaks well of you," said the banker.
Felix looked pleased, and cast a triumphant glance at Herbert, who sat at a little distance off, anxiously awaiting his turn to be examined. He was afraid the banker might settle upon young Mortimer without even investigating his own fitness for the position.
"For what firm did you work?" asked Richard Goldwin.
"For Wormley & Jollup," replied Felix, firmly.
"The large trunk manufacturers up Broadway?"
"Why didn't you remain with them?"
This question would have confused some boys, had they been in the place of Felix; but it did not affect him in the slightest degree, though the keen and practiced eye of the banker watched him closely.
"Why, don't you remember that Wormley & Jollup had a big strike in their factory?"
"Yes, the papers printed a great deal about it."
"Well, you see, they couldn't get any trunks made; so business got dull in the store."
"They wouldn't give in to the strikers, I believe?"
"No; and the result was they had to let a lot of us go."
"It was an unfortunate affair. But I suppose you got a recommendation from Wormley & Jollup?"
"Yes, sir," said Felix, with all the assurance of one who was telling the truth; "there it is—signed by Mr. Jollup himself."
The letter was highly complimentary to Felix Mortimer.
"No one could ask for a better recommendation than this," said the banker, looking as if he thought he had found a prize in the boy before him.
Had he suspected that this very recommendation was forged, he would have been angry. Now, however, he felt quite the reverse; and decided to give Herbert a hearing more as a matter of courtesy than otherwise, for he had practically settled upon young Mortimer for the position in his banking house.
Felix saw this and could hardly restrain his happiness, as he saw pictured on the young Vermonter's face unmistakable discomfiture.
"Well, you may be seated," said Mr. Goldwin; "I wish to see what this young man has to say for himself before engaging any one."
"So you came from Vermont, right from the farm?" said the banker to Herbert, after a few minutes' conversation.
"Yes, sir," returned young Randolph.
"And I suppose you expect to make your fortune in this city?"
"I have not got so far along as that yet, sir. I hope, however, that I shall do well here."
"You look like a plucky lad, and those red cheeks of yours are worth a fortune. I remember well when mine were as full of rich young blood as yours are now. I was a country lad myself."
"Then your career shows that a boy from the country may make a success."
"Yes, that is very true. Many of our most successful men came from the farm; but I assure you, my boy, that success is not an easy thing to pick up in a big city. The chances are a hundred to one against any boy who comes here from the country. If, however, he does not succumb to temptation, and has sufficient pluck and perseverance, he can do well in this city."
"I am quite ready to take that hundredth chance," said Herbert, in a way that pleased the banker.
"Well, I admire your courage, young man, but now to return to business. Suppose I were to give you a situation, how could you live on three dollars a week? You say you have no means, and must earn your own living. I cannot pay a larger salary at first."
"I am sure I can manage that all right, sir; one can do what he must do."
"That is true; your ideas are sound there, surely. What is your age?"
"I am nearly seventeen, sir."
"You are so strongly built, perhaps you could get a place where more money could be paid for your services; some place where heavy work is to be done."
"I am not afraid of hard work, for I have always been accustomed to it; but I would much rather have a chance where there are good prospects ahead."
"Again you are right," said the banker, now becoming interested in the young Vermonter. "What is your education?"
"I passed through our district school, and went for several terms to the Green Mountain Academy. I have taught three terms of school."
"Three terms! You certainly must have commenced young."
"Yes; I was not very old. I got my first school when I was fifteen."
"Do you write a good hand? Please come to this desk, and show me what you can do."
Herbert complied readily with the request, and was most happy to do so, for he had spent many hours in practicing penmanship, and now wrote a beautiful hand.
Richard Goldwin was surprised when he took up the sheet of paper and ran his eye over the well formed letters.
"Mr. Mortimer, will you please show me what you can do with the pen?" said the banker.
Felix rose to his feet, and the color rose to his face. He wasn't very powerful with the pen, and he knew it; but another matter disconcerted him. He feared, and well he might, that his writing would resemble, only too closely, that in the recommendation which he had shown to Mr. Goldwin. But he was equal to the emergency, and, to make the disguise perfect, he gave to his writing the left hand or backhand stroke. This was done at the expense of his penmanship, which, however, would not have been considered absolutely bad, had it not been compared with the gracefully and perfectly cut letters of Herbert Randolph.
The banker looked at both critically for a moment, and then, after a pause, said:
"Mr. Mortimer, I would like to speak with you alone."
The latter followed him to the outer office.
"Your manner pleases me, young man," said Mr. Goldwin, pleasantly, "and with one exception I see but little choice between you two boys, but that little is in your competitor's favor."
The color left Felix Mortimer's face.
"I refer," continued the banker, "to his penmanship, which you must acknowledge is far superior to your own; and a good handwriting adds much to one's value in an office of this sort. I see you are disappointed, and I knew you would be. Do not, however, feel discouraged, as it is possible I may do something for you yet. If Mr. Randolph should prove unsatisfactory in any respect, he will not be retained permanently. You may, therefore, if you choose, run in here again in a day or two."
Young Mortimer was greatly disappointed and even deeply chagrined, for he had supposed himself more than capable of holding his own against this unsophisticated country lad. Had he not attempted to bully him while waiting for the banker and failed, thus arousing a spirit of rivalry and hostility between young Randolph and himself, he would of course have felt differently, but now an intense hatred was kindled within him, and with burning passion he determined upon revenge.
Felix Mortimer went direct from Richard Goldwin's banking house to the Bowery, and from there he soon found his way to a side street, which contained many old buildings of unattractive appearance. The neighborhood was a disreputable one. Squalor was on every hand, and many individuals of unsavory reputations made this locality their headquarters. One of these was Christopher Gunwagner, a repulsive specimen of humanity, who had been in business here for several years as a "fence," or receiver of stolen goods.
To this fence Felix directed his steps.
"Good morning, Mr. Gunwagner," said young Mortimer, briskly.
The former eyed him sharply for a moment.
"What do you want now?" growled the fence by way of reply. "Why don't you bring me something, as you ought to?"
Felix cut him short, and at once proceeded to business.
"I came," said he, "to get you to help me and thereby help yourself. I've got a chance to get into a bank——"
"Into a bank?" interrupted Gunwagner, now interested.
"On Wall Street, in Richard Goldwin's banking house."
"If you don't take it, you're a fool. Goldwin's, hey?" he went on; "we can make it pay us; yes, yes, we are in luck." And he rubbed his thin hands together greedily.
"I expect to take it as soon as I can get it," said Felix; and then he described the competitive examination between himself and the young Vermonter.
"So you want to get him out of the way, eh?"
"You have struck it right this time. That's just what I want, and propose to do."
"And you expect me to help you?"
"Certainly I do. To whom else should I go?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"I haven't quite got the plan yet, and want your advice. You see if I can get him out of the way for a few days, so he won't show up, why old Goldwin will take me in his place. If I can once get in there, and remain till I get the run of things, we can have it our own way."
Gunwagner's face grew more and more avaricious. The plan looked well to him, and he felt it would be a great thing to have Mortimer in a rich banking house. The possibilities of bold pilferings from the heaps of gold were most tempting to him, and he was now quite ready to commit himself to any feasible scheme to carry out Mortimer's evil design. The old fence was an unscrupulous man, and he was ready to go to almost any length in crime to avail himself of an opportunity so tempting to his greed of gain.
The two confederates discussed the matter for some time, and at length they agreed upon a plan of action, which boded ill for our hero.
A RAY OF SUNSHINE.
Young Randolph entered upon his duties at once, but of course did little more during the day than familiarize himself with the work that had been assigned to him. Toward evening a ray of sunshine burst joyously into the bank, and threw a bright cheerful glow over the office.
Ray Goldwin, the light hearted, merry daughter of the senior partner, with her sunny face and winning manners, was like a clear June morning.
Little acts go far, many times, to make one happy or quite miserable. It so happened that our hero had been doing some writing for Mr. Goldwin's own personal use. It lay upon his desk and was admirably done. It was, in fact, like copper plate. The whole arrangement of the work was artistic and in the best of taste.
"Oh, papa, who did this beautiful writing for you?" said Ray, enthusiastically.
"Our new clerk, Mr. Randolph," responded her father, nodding his head in the direction of Herbert. The latter felt his cheeks grow rosy at this compliment.
"Mr. Randolph," continued the banker, "will you kindly help me take these parcels out to my carriage?"
"Certainly, sir, with pleasure," replied Herbert, politely.
Ray Goldwin looked at him with surprise; and his handsome face and fine form attracted even more than a passing glance from her.
"I want to run up to the corner of Broadway," said Mr. Goldwin, when they had reached the door. "John, you may call for me," he continued, addressing the coachman; "I will be ready by the time you get there."
Young Randolph handed Ray into the carriage, with just enough embarrassment in his manner to interest her. Then he placed the parcels on the seat beside her, receiving meanwhile a smile and a look that fully rewarded him. Raising his hat, he turned away, and as the coachman drove off he made a hasty retreat for the bank, from which the sunshine now seemed to have departed.
When he started for home at the close of business hours, two figures stood on the opposite side of the street, a little nearer Broadway.
As Herbert opened the outer door, preparatory to passing out, he took a position that brought his eyes directly upon them. One of them, uneasily, but perhaps quite naturally, placed a hand on the shoulder of his companion, while with the other he pointed directly at Herbert. Then, as if realizing that possibly he had been detected in this act, he nervously pointed to something on the top of the building, and all the while talked rapidly. This was sufficient to arrest our hero's attention. He watched the two sharply for a few minutes while standing upon the steps of the banking house.
Under his direct gaze they appeared somewhat nervous, and finally moved off in the direction of Broadway. Herbert followed them, or rather followed out his purpose to go up to City Hall Park, and find, if possible, Bob Hunter. Before reaching Broadway, however, the two young fellows who had pointed at him stopped and peered into a show window, thus bringing their backs full upon Herbert as he passed them.
He knew so little of city life that he was slow to form an opinion, thinking that what seemed odd and suspicious to him would perhaps be all right in New York. He therefore dismissed the matter from his mind, and watched with amazement the crowds of men who at that hour of the day were pouring up Broadway, on their way home from business.
"What a great city this is!" he thought; "and it is American, too. I wonder if any of the cities of the Old World can turn out such a lot of business men as these!"
The boy was right in asking himself this question. The wonder he felt was natural, for a finer body of men can rarely be found than the business men of New York. And now he joined the stream that flowed northward. The massive buildings, tall and stately, on either side of Broadway, captured his admiration, and he gazed upon them with open mouthed amazement.
Stone buildings with gigantic pillars and massive walls; buildings ten or a dozen stories high, and mighty spires raising their tops afar up in mid air—all these added to the country lad's wonder and astonishment. He passed by the Western Union building, the Evening Post building, and now paused in front of the Herald office to read the "headings" on the bulletin board.
After being thus engaged for a few moments, he turned suddenly around, and, to his surprise, saw the two young fellows who had attracted his attention on Wall Street. One of them had a look about him that seemed familiar, and yet he could not tell where he had seen him. His figure, his eyes, and the shape of his face were not unlike Felix Mortimer; and yet he looked older than the latter by two or three years, for he wore a small mustache and tiny side whiskers. Seeing these same fellows the second time, and noticing that they were apparently watching him, made Herbert feel a trifle uneasy. But he was not easily worried or frightened.
Bob Hunter was in, as on the previous night, and very glad he seemed at his friend's good success in getting so desirable a position. He listened to Herbert's story of the contest with much interest, and then added thoughtfully:
"It might be a good idea to look out for that feller that seemed to get down on you so. He probably knows you are a stranger in the city, and——"
"Do you think there is any danger?" interrupted Herbert.
"No, I can't say as there is; but he might think, if he could get you out of the way, he would get the place with the banker. You said he was disappointed."
"Yes, he showed his disappointment very much."
"Well, nothing may come of it. You keep your eye on me, and I'll steer you through all right, I reckon."
Herbert was upon the point of telling Bob his suspicions about the two fellows that seemed to be shadowing him, and then it occurred to him that he might magnify the matter, and work himself into a state of uneasiness when it would be better to give it no thought whatever. Therefore he said nothing to the newsboy about them.
When they had finished dinner a little later, Bob asked him if he could manage to pass away an hour or so alone.
"Certainly, if you have an engagement," replied Herbert.
"I go to an evening school; but if you'll be lonesome alone, why, I'll stay with you till you learn a thing or two about the city."
"Oh, I shall be all right," said our hero, confidently. "Don't think of remaining away from school on my account. I can enjoy looking at the sights here in the Bowery for a while; then I will go to the room, and read till you come."
"All right. I'll do as you say; but now you look out, Vermont, and don't get lost."
Bob seemed to have a fondness for calling his friend by this name, and the latter indulged him in the peculiarity without objection.
After a while, young Randolph drifted up to one of the Bowery dime museums, and stood there for some time reading the announcements, looking at the pictures, and watching the crowd that ebbed and flowed up and down that thoroughfare.
Presently a young fellow of about his own age, who had for some time been standing near him, made a casual remark about a comical looking person who had just passed by. Our hero looked up, and seeing that the remark had been addressed to him, he replied promptly. A conversation between him and the stranger followed. Herein Herbert showed the trustfulness characteristic of a country boy. He knew he was honest himself, and did not once suspect that the agreeable young man was playing the confidence game upon him.
BOB HUNTER THOROUGHLY AROUSED.
When Bob Hunter returned from the evening school to his room, he expected to find young Randolph there.
"He promised to be here," said Bob to himself; "I hope nothing has happened to him."
The newsboy's manner showed some alarm. He felt anxious about his friend.
"Something has gone wrong, I believe, or he would surely come," continued Bob, after waiting for a full half hour; "but I can't imagine what has steered him on to the wrong track."
Another half hour went by, and Herbert did not put in an appearance.
"I might's well stay here, I s'pose, as to go 'n' prowl round this town huntin' for Vermont," said Bob, thoughtfully. "But I guess I'll see if I can strike his trail. Any way I'll feel better, 'cause I'll know I've done something. It's no use to let a feller like him be run into these dens, if the game can be stopped."
An hour's fruitless hunt, in and about the Bowery, failed to reveal Herbert's whereabouts to the anxious searcher. He was unable to find any one who remembered to have seen him.
After giving up all hope of learning what he wished to find out, Bob hurried back to his room, with a feeling of anxiety quite new to him. He had taken a great liking to our hero, and now felt thoroughly alarmed, fearing that foul play had been brought to bear upon him.
The next morning he was up bright and early, looking sharply after his paper business, but he was not the Bob Hunter of the past. From the drollest and funniest boy in the trade he had suddenly become the most serious and thoughtful.
"What's hit you this mornin', Bob?" said Tom Flannery, a companion newsboy.
"Why do you ask that?" returned Bob.
"Why, you look like you'd had a fit o' sickness."
"You're 'bout right, for I don't feel much like myself, no how. I didn't get no sleep hardly at all, and I've worried myself thin—just see here," and he pulled the waistband of his trousers out till there was nearly enough unoccupied space in the body of them to put in another boy of his size.
He couldn't resist the opportunity for a joke, this comical lad, not even now. The trousers had been given to him by one of his customers, a man of good size. Bob had simply shortened up the legs, so naturally there was quite a quantity of superfluous cloth about his slim body.
"Gewhittaker!" exclaimed Tom, "I should think you have fell off! But say, Bob, what's gone bad? What's done it?" continued Tom, disposed to be serious.
"Well, you know the boy I told you about, what's chummin' with me?"
"Yes, the one I saw you with last night, I s'pose?"
"Yes, the same one. Well, he is lost."
"Lost!" repeated Tom, incredulously.
"Yes;" and Bob acquainted him with the facts of Herbert's disappearance. "Now, what do you think of it?" he asked.
"Looks bad," said young Flannery, gravely.
"So it does to me."
"Foul play," suggested Tom.
"That's what I think."
"Perhaps he has got tired of New York and has lit out."
"No, not much. Vermont ain't no such boy."
"Well, you know him best. Did he have any grip or anything?"
"Yes, he had a good suit and lots of other truck."
"And they're in the room now?"
"You're in luck, Bob. I'd like a chum as would slope and leave me a good suit."
"Well, I wouldn't. No more would you, Tom Flannery," said Bob, slightly indignant.
"I didn't mean nothin'," said Tom, apologizing for the offense which he saw he had given. "Of course, I wouldn't want nobody to slope and leave his truck with me."
"That's all right then, Tom," said Bob, forgivingly. "But now, what do you s'pose has become of him?"
"Well, it looks like he didn't go of his own free will, when he left everything behind him."
"Of course it does, and I know he didn't."
Bob related the story of Herbert's experience at the bank, on the morning when he secured the position.
"I don't like that duffer—what d'ye call him?"
"Felix Mortimer," repeated Bob. "I'm sure that's the name Herbert give me."
"Well, I'll bet that he's put up the job."
"I think so myself. You see he knew Randolph wasn't no city chap."
"That's so, and he knew he'd have the drop on him. But I don't just see, after all, how he could get away with him."
"Well, he might have run him into some den or other."
"And drugged him?"
"Well, perhaps so. There are piles of ways them fellers have of doin' such jobs."
"I know they're kinder slick about it sometimes. But, say, Bob," continued Tom, earnestly, "what do you propose to do about it? He may be a prisoner."
"So he may, and probably is, if he is alive."
"Why, Bob, they wouldn't kill him, would they?"
"No, I don't suppose so, not if they didn't have to."
"Why would they have to do that?" asked Tom, with his eyes bulging out with excitement.
"Well, sometimes folks has to do so—them hard tickets will do 'most anything. You see, if they start in to make way with a feller, and they are 'fraid he'll blow on 'em, and they can't make no other arrangement, why then they just fix him so he won't never blow on nobody."
"Bob, it's awful, ain't it?" said Tom, with a shudder.
"Yes, it is. There are a pile of tough gangs in this city that don't care what they do to a feller."
"What do you s'pose they've done with your chum?" asked young Flannery, returning to the subject.
"Well, that's just what I want to know," said Bob, seriously. "I am going to try to find out, too. There are tough dens in them cross streets running out of the Bowery."
"They won't do worse nor keep him a prisoner, will they, Bob?"
"Probably they won't, not 'less they think he will blow on 'em. You see they've got to look out for themselves."
"That's so, Bob, but why couldn't they send him off somewhere so he couldn't blow on 'em?"
"They might do that, too."
"But they would get him so far away he couldn't get back to New York never, I suppose?"
"Yes, that's the idea. They might run him off to sea, and put him on an island, or somethin' like that. I can't say just what they might do if they have their own way. But the idea is this, Tom Flannery, we must stop 'em," said Bob, emphatically, "you and me. We've got to find out where he is, and rescue him."
"That's the boss idea, Bob," replied Tom, with emphasis. "But I don't see just how we're goin' to do it, do you?"
"Well, no, I can't see the whole game, not now. But we must commence, and when we get a few points, we can slide ahead faster."
"I wouldn't know how to commence."
"Well, I do; I thought that all out last night, and I'm only waiting till ten o'clock. Then I'll steer for the bank where Herbert worked."
"Bob, you beat all the boys I know of," said Tom, eying him with admiration. "None of 'em would ever think of doin' the things you do, and they couldn't do 'em if they did, that's all. And now you're goin' to do the detective act!"
Tom stopped short here with a jerk, as if he had got to the end of his rope, and took a long breath. To "do the detective act" seemed to him the greatest possible triumph for a boy like himself. He looked upon his companion, therefore, with wonder and admiration.
Bob's plans for penetrating the mystery had, indeed, been carefully formed. He fearlessly undertook an enterprise from which most boys would have shrunk. This keen, bright street lad, however, was not of the shrinking kind. He did not turn away from encountering dangers, even the dangers of some dreadful den in which he feared our hero was now a prisoner.
During the forenoon he visited the banking house of Richard Goldwin and there found Felix Mortimer already installed in Herbert's place. This discovery confirmed his worst fears and intensified his alarm for the safety of his friend.
FELIX MORTIMER AT THE BANK.
"Can I see the proprietor?" said a boy addressing a clerk at the counter of Richard Goldwin's bank. It was the morning after Herbert's mysterious disappearance.
"What is your name?" asked the clerk.
"Felix Mortimer," answered the boy.
"Mr. Goldwin is very busy," replied the man at the counter.
"Very well, I will wait," said Felix; and he seated himself in a chair in the outer office.
In a little while Mr. Goldwin came out of his private room, and, seeing young Mortimer there, recognized him.
"Good morning, young man," said he, kindly.
"Good morning," returned Felix, deferentially.
"Have you come to tell us what has become of young Randolph?" asked the banker.
"I don't understand you," said Felix, innocently. "I came because you asked me to do so."
"Yes, yes, I remember; but I referred to the disappearance of the boy I engaged at the time you applied for the position."
"Why, isn't he here?" asked Mortimer, feigning surprise.
"No, he hasn't been here today."
"What do you imagine is the trouble?"
"I do not know, unless, like so many other boys, he has got tired of the work, and has left it for some other position."
"That may be, and now you speak of it, I remember he said, the morning we were all waiting to see you, that if he failed to get this place he had another position in view that he could get, and that it would pay him five dollars a week."
Young Mortimer told this falsehood with the ease of a veteran. His manner could not have been more impressive had he been telling the truth.
"Five dollars a week!" exclaimed Mr. Goldwin. "And he came here for three. I don't see what his motive was."
"Perhaps he had a motive," suggested Mortimer.
"I don't understand you," replied the banker.
Felix shrugged his shoulders.
"What do you mean? Do you know anything about him?" pursued Mr. Goldwin, his suspicions aroused.
"No, sir—er—not much."
"Speak up, young man. Tell me what you know about this young Vermonter."
"Vermonter?" repeated Felix, with a rising inflection; and he smiled suggestively.
"Yes, Vermonter. Do you know anything to the contrary?"
"You know I was an applicant for this position, Mr. Goldwin, so I do not like to answer your question. I hope you will excuse me."
"I appreciate your sense of honor, young man," said Mr. Goldwin; "but it is to my interest to know the facts. If there is anything against him, I should be informed of it. Tell me what you know, and you will lose nothing by doing so."
With apparent reluctance, Felix yielded to the persuasion, and said:
"I was on Broadway with a friend of mine, at the close of business hours, the day that you hired this young fellow. We were walking along by the Herald building when he came up Broadway and stopped to read the news on the Telegram bulletin board. I said to my friend, with surprise, 'There is the fellow I told you about—the one that beat me this morning in getting the position at Goldwin's.' He looked at me incredulously and said: 'Why, you told me he was a country boy—from Vermont.'
"'So he is,' I replied. 'Stuff,' said he. 'I know him well. That was a clever dodge to play the country act.' I protested, but he convinced me that he was right. He is in a lawyer's office, so he has to be in court more or less, and he said he saw him up before Judge Duffy only a few days ago, charged with stealing a pocket book. The suspicion was strong against him, but there wasn't proof enough to fix the theft upon him. The Court came near sending him to the Island, though, for he had been arrested twice before, so my friend said."
"The young villain!" said the banker, when Felix had finished this black falsehood, which he told so glibly, and with such seeming reluctance, that Mr. Goldwin accepted it as all truth. "I am sorry I ever took him into my office," he continued. "I must have the bank carefully looked over, to see if he misappropriated anything, as he very likely did."
Felix said nothing, but seemed to look sorry for Herbert.
"Well," said Mr. Goldwin, after a pause, "is it too late to get you?"
"I don't know," answered Mortimer, hesitatingly. "I would like to work for you, but would not feel right to take the position away from this Vermonter."
Felix laid a special stress upon the word "Vermonter."
"Take it away from him!" replied the banker, scornfully. "He cannot enter this bank again."
"But you see I would feel that I am the means of keeping him out of the position. You wouldn't have known about his deception if I hadn't told you."
Felix now used the word "deception" flippantly, and with no further apparent apology for applying it to our hero.
"That is all right," replied Mr. Goldwin; "I am glad to see you sensitive about injuring another. It is much to your credit that you feel as you do about it."
"Thank you," was the modest reply. "Then if you think it would look right, and you really want me, I will take the position."
"Of course we can get hundreds and thousands of boys, but I have taken a liking to you. When can you commence?"
"I can commence this morning, if you wish me to," said Felix.
"Very well, I wish you would—er, that is if you feel able. I notice your face is swollen, and perhaps you are not feeling well."
"Oh, that will not bother me," replied Mortimer, coolly. "I had a tooth filled yesterday, and have got cold in my jaw."
"You must suffer with it. It is swollen badly and looks red and angry," said the banker sympathetically.
"It does hurt a good deal, but will not trouble me about my work."
"It looks as if the skin had been injured—more like a bruise, as if you had received a heavy blow on your jaw," said Mr. Goldwin, examining the swelling more closely.
Felix colored perceptibly, but immediately rallied, and said the poulticing had given it that appearance.
Could Mr. Goldwin have known the truth about this injured jaw, he would have been paralyzed at the bold falsehood of the young villain before him.
He had succeeded admirably in blackening our young hero's reputation. Mr. Goldwin now looked upon Herbert with ill favor, and even disgust. And this change was all caused by the cunning and falsehoods of young Mortimer. He had poisoned Mr. Goldwin's mind, and thus succeeded in establishing himself in the banker's good opinion and securing the coveted position.
"Another boy wants to see you, Mr. Goldwin," said the clerk, shortly after the man of finance had engaged young Mortimer.
"You may show him in," said the banker.
The door opened, and Bob Hunter stepped into Mr. Goldwin's presence. If he had only had a bundle of newspapers under his arm, he would have felt quite at home; but, as he had nothing of the kind, he was a trifle embarrassed.
"What do you want here?" asked Mr. Goldwin, more sharply than was his wont.
"I come down, sir, to see if you can tell me anything about Herbert Randolph."
"What do you want to know about him?"
"I want to know where he is. He hain't shown up not sence last night."
"Was he a friend of yours?"
"Yes, sir, me and him roomed together."
"You and he roomed together?" repeated the banker, as if he doubted Bob's word.
"That's what I said, sir," answered the newsboy, showing his dislike of the insinuation against his truthfulness.
"I am afraid you are inclined to be stuffy, young man," replied Mr. Goldwin. "I am unable, however, to give you the information you seek."
"You don't know where he is, then?"
"No, I have not seen him since he left here last night."
"Do you know why he is stayin' away?"
"Certainly I do not."
"Done nothin' wrong. I s'pose?" queried Bob.
"I have not fixed any wrong upon him yet."
"Then, if he hain't done no wrong, somethin's keepin' him."
"He may have a motive in staying away," said the banker, becoming interested in Bob's keen manner.
"What do you s'pose his motive is?"
"That I cannot tell."
"Foul play, that's what I think."
"I don't think there's no nonsense about it. I know he wouldn't light out jest for fun, not much. Herbert Randolph wasn't no such a feller. He didn't have no money, n' he had to work. Me an' him had a room together, as I said, an' his things are in the room now."
"When did you see him last?" said Mr. Goldwin.
Bob explained all about Herbert's disappearance, but was careful to say nothing about his suspicions pointing to Felix Mortimer. He saw the latter in the outer office as he entered, and he thought policy bade him keep his suspicions to himself for the present.
"You tell a straightforward story, my boy," said Mr. Goldwin, "but I cannot think there has been any foul play. In fact, I have heard something against this young Randolph that makes me distrust him. Were it not for this, I should feel more interest in your story, and would do all in my power to try and find him."
"I don't believe there's nothing against him. He's an honest boy, if I know one when I see him. He liked you and his work, and them that speaks against him is dishonest themselves. That's what I think about it."
"But that is only your opinion. Certainly he does not appear in a favorable light at the present time."
Presently Bob departed from the bank. He had learned all he expected, and even more. He knew now that Felix Mortimer was in Herbert's place, that Mr. Goldwin had been influenced against his friend by what he believed to be falsehoods, and that Herbert's whereabouts was as much a mystery at the bank as to himself.
These facts pointed suspiciously to Felix Mortimer. Who else could want to get Herbert out of the way? Bob argued. Having thus settled the matter in his own mind, he was ready to commence testing his theories.
"Tom Flannery," said Bob, when he had returned from Wall Street, "I've struck the trail."
"No, you hain't, Bob, not so quick as this?" said Tom, with surprise.
Bob explained what he had learned at the bank.
"Now," said he, "I want you, Tom, to look out for my business tonight. Get some kid to help you, and mind you see he does his work right."
"What you goin' to do, Bob?"
"I'm going to lay round Wall Street till that Mortimer feller comes outer the bank."
"What do you mean? You hain't goin' to knock him out, are you, Bob?"
"Shucks, Tom, you wouldn't make no kind of a detective. Of course I wouldn't do that. Why, that would spoil the whole game."
"Well, then, what are you goin' to do?"
"Why, I'll do just as any detective would—follow him, of course."
"Is that the way they do it, Bob?"
"Some of 'em do, when they have a case like this one."
"This is a gosh fired hard one, ain't it, Bob?"
"Well, 'tain't no boy's play—not a case like this one."
"So you're goin' to foller him? I wish I could go with you, Bob."
"But, you see, you must sell papers. I'll want you to help me later, when I get the case well worked up."
"It'll be too big for one detective then, I s'pose?"
"That's the idea, Tom. Then I'll call you in," said Bob, with the swell of a professional.
"I wish 'twas all worked up, Bob, so you'd want to call me in now, as you call it. It'll be exciting, won't it?"
"Well, I should think it would, before we get through with it."
"Say, Bob, will there be any fightin'?" asked Tom, eagerly. He was already excited over the prospects.
"Can't say that now—hain't got the case worked up enough to tell. 'Tain't professional to say too much about a case. None of the detectives does it, and why should I? That's what I want to know, Tom Flannery."