THE TELEGRAPH BOY.
BY HORATIO ALGER, JR.,
AUTHOR OF "RAGGED DICK SERIES," "LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES," "BRAVE AND BOLD SERIES," ETC., ETC.
HORATIO ALGER'S BOOKS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS.
THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO. PHILADELPHIA CHICAGO TORONTO
To THREE YOUNG FRIENDS, LORIN AND BEATRICE BERNHEIMER, AND FLORINE ARNOLD, This Story IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
The "Telegraph Boy" completes the series of sketches of street-life in New York inaugurated eleven years since by the publication of "Ragged Dick." The author has reason to feel gratified by the warm reception accorded by the public to these pictures of humble life in the great metropolis. He is even more gratified by the assurance that his labors have awakened a philanthropic interest in the children whose struggles and privations he has endeavored faithfully to describe. He feels it his duty to state that there is no way in which these waifs can more effectually be assisted than by contributing to the funds of "The Children's Aid Society," whose wise and comprehensive plans for the benefit of their young wards have already been crowned with abundant success.
The class of boys described in the present volume was called into existence only a few years since, but they are already so numerous that one can scarcely ride down town by any conveyance without having one for a fellow-passenger. Most of them reside with their parents and have comfortable homes, but a few, like the hero of this story, are wholly dependent on their own exertions for a livelihood. The variety of errands on which they are employed, and their curious experiences, are by no means exaggerated in the present story. In its preparation the author has been assisted by an excellent sketch published perhaps a year since in the "New York Tribune."
HORATIO ALGER, JR. NEW YORK, Sept. 1, 1879.
THE TELEGRAPH BOY.
A YOUNG CARPET-BAGGER.
"Twenty-five cents to begin the world with!" reflected Frank Kavanagh, drawing from his vest-pocket two ten-cent pieces of currency and a nickel. "That isn't much, but it will have to do."
The speaker, a boy of fifteen, was sitting on a bench in City-Hall Park. He was apparently about fifteen years old, with a face not handsome, but frank and good-humored, and an expression indicating an energetic and hopeful temperament. A small bundle, rolled up in a handkerchief, contained his surplus wardrobe. He had that day arrived in New York by a boat from Hartford, and meant to stay in the city if he could make a living.
Next to him sat a man of thirty-five, shabbily dressed, who clearly was not a member of any temperance society, if an inflamed countenance and red nose may be trusted. Frank Kavanagh's display of money attracted his attention, for, small as was the boy's capital, it was greater than his own.
"Been long in the city, Johnny?" he inquired.
"I only arrived to-day," answered Frank. "My name isn't Johnny, though."
"It's immaterial. Johnny is a generic term," said the stranger. "I suppose you have come here to make your fortune."
"I shall be satisfied with a living to begin with," said Frank.
"Where did you come from?"
"A few miles from Hartford."
"Got any relations there?"
"Yes,—an uncle and aunt."
"I suppose you were sorry to leave them."
"Not much. Uncle is a pretty good man, but he's fond of money, and aunt is about as mean as they make 'em. They got tired of supporting me, and gave me money enough to get to New York."
"I suppose you have some left," said the stranger, persuasively.
"Twenty-five cents," answered Frank, laughing. "That isn't a very big capital to start on, is it?"
"Is that all you've got?" asked the shabbily dressed stranger, in a tone of disappointment.
"I wish I had ten dollars to give you," said the stranger, thoughtfully.
"Thank you, sir; I wish you had," said Frank, his eyes resting on the dilapidated attire of his benevolent companion. Judging from that, he was not surprised that ten dollars exceeded the charitable fund of the philanthropist.
"My operations in Wall street have not been fortunate of late," resumed the stranger; "and I am in consequence hard up."
"Do you do business in Wall street?" asked Frank, rather surprised.
"Sometimes," was the reply. "I have lost heavily of late in Erie and Pacific Mail, but it is only temporary. I shall soon be on my feet again."
"I hope so, sir," said Frank, politely.
"My career has been a chequered one," continued the stranger. "I, too, as a mere boy, came up from the country to make my fortune. I embarked in trade, and was for a time successful. I resigned to get time to write a play,—a comedy in five acts."
Frank regarded his companion with heightened respect. He was a boy of good education, and the author of a play in his eyes was a man of genius.
"Was it played?" he inquired.
"No; Wallack said it had too many difficult characters for his company, and the rest of the managers kept putting me off, while they were producing inferior plays. The American public will never know what they have lost. But, enough of this. Sometime I will read you the 'Mother-in-law,' if you like. Have you had dinner?"
"No," answered Frank. "Do you know where I can dine cheap?" he inquired.
"Yes," answered the stranger. "Once I boarded at the Astor House, but now I am forced, by dire necessity, to frequent cheap restaurants. Follow me."
"What is your name, sir?" asked Frank, as he rose from the bench.
"Montagu Percy," was the reply. "Sorry I haven't my card-case with me, or I would hand you my address. I think you said your name was not Johnny."
"My name is Frank Kavanagh."
"A very good name. 'What's in a name?' as Shakespeare says."
As the oddly assorted pair crossed the street, and walked down Nassau street, they attracted the attention of some of the Arabs who were lounging about Printing-House square.
"I say, country, is that your long-lost uncle?" asked a boot-black.
"No, it isn't," answered Frank, shortly.
Though he was willing to avail himself of Mr. Percy's guidance, he was not ambitious of being regarded as his nephew.
"Heed not their ribald scoffs," said Montagu Percy, loftily. "Their words pass by me 'like the idle wind,' which I regard not."
"Who painted your nose, mister?" asked another boy, of course addressing Frank's companion.
"I will hand you over to the next policeman," exclaimed Percy, angrily.
"Look out he don't haul you in, instead," retorted the boy.
Montagu Percy made a motion to pursue his tormentors, but desisted.
"They are beneath contempt," he said. "It is ever the lot of genius to be railed at by the ignorant and ignoble. They referred to my nose being red, but mistook the cause. It is a cutaneous eruption,—the result of erysipelas."
"Is it?" asked Frank, rather mystified.
"I am not a drinking man—that is, I indulge myself but rarely. But here we are."
So saying he plunged down some steps into a basement, Frank following him. Our hero found himself in a dirty apartment, provided with a bar, over which was a placard, inscribed:—
"How much money have you got, Frank?" inquired Montagu Percy.
"Lunch at this establishment is free," said Montagu; "but you are expected to order some drink. What will you have?"
"I don't care for any drink except a glass of water."
"All right; I will order for you, as the rules of the establishment require it; but I will drink your glass myself. Eat whatever you like."
Frank took a sandwich from a plate on the counter and ate it with relish, for he was hungry. Meanwhile his companion emptied the two glasses, and ordered another.
"Can you pay for these drinks?" asked the bar-tender, suspiciously.
"Sir, I never order what I cannot pay for."
"I don't know about that. You've been in here and taken lunch more than once without drinking anything."
"It may be so. I will make up for it now. Another glass, please."
"First pay for what you have already drunk."
"Frank, hand me your money," said Montagu.
Frank incautiously handed him his small stock of money, which he saw instantly transferred to the bar-tender.
"That is right, I believe," said Montagu Percy.
The bar-keeper nodded, and Percy, transferring his attention to the free lunch, stowed away a large amount.
Frank observed with some uneasiness the transfer of his entire cash capital to the bar-tender; but concluded that Mr. Percy would refund a part after they went out. As they reached the street he broached the subject.
"I didn't agree to pay for both dinners," he said, uneasily.
"Of course not. It will be my treat next time. That will be fair, won't it?"
"But I would rather you would give me back a part of my money. I may not see you again."
"I will be in the Park to-morrow at one o'clock."
"Give me back ten cents, then," said Frank, uneasily. "That was all the money I had."
"I am really sorry, but I haven't a penny about me. I'll make it right to-morrow. Good-day, my young friend. Be virtuous and you will be happy."
Frank looked after the shabby figure ruefully. He felt that he had been taken in and done for. His small capital had vanished, and he was adrift in the streets of a strange city without a penny.
"I've been a fool," said Frank to himself, in genuine mortification, as he realized how easily he had permitted himself to be duped. "I ought to have stayed in the country."
Even a small sum of money imparts to its possessor a feeling of independence, but one who is quite penniless feels helpless and apprehensive. Frank was unable even to purchase an apple from the snuffy old apple-woman who presided over the stand near by.
"What am I going to do?" he asked himself, soberly.
"What has become of your uncle?" asked a boot-black.
Looking up, Frank recognized one of those who had saluted Percy and himself on their way to the restaurant.
"He isn't my uncle," he replied, rather resentfully.
"You never saw him before, did you?" continued the boy.
"No, I didn't."
"That's what I thought."
There was something significant in the young Arab's tone, which led Frank to inquire, "Do you know him?"
"Yes, he's a dead-beat."
"A dead-beat. Don't you understand English?"
"He told me that he did business on Wall street."
The boot-black shrieked with laughter.
"He do business on Wall street!" he repeated. "You're jolly green, you are!"
Frank was inclined to be angry, but he had the good sense to see that his new friend was right. So he said good-humoredly, "I suppose I am. You see I am not used to the city."
"It's just such fellows as you he gets hold of," continued the boot-black. "Didn't he make you treat?"
"I may as well confess it," thought Frank. "This boy may help me with advice."
"Yes," he said aloud. "I hadn't but twenty-five cents, and he made me spend it all. I haven't a cent left."
"Whew!" ejaculated the other boy. "You're beginnin' business on a small capital."
"That's so," said Frank. "Do you know any way I can earn money?"
Dick Rafferty was a good-natured boy, although rough, and now that Frank had appealed to him for advice he felt willing to help him, if he could.
"What can you do?" he asked, in a business-like tone. "Have you ever worked?"
"Yes," answered Frank.
"What can you do?"
"I can milk cows, hoe corn and potatoes, ride horse to plough, and—"
"Hold up!" said Dick. "All them things aint goin' to do you no good in New York. People don't keep cows as a reg'lar thing here."
"Of course I know that."
"And there aint much room for plantin' corn and potatoes. Maybe you could get a job over in Jersey."
"I'd rather stay in New York. I can do something here."
"Can you black boots, or sell papers?"
"I can learn."
"You need money to set up in either of them lines," said Dick Rafferty.
"Would twenty-five cents have been enough?" asked Frank.
"You could have bought some evening papers with that."
"I wish somebody would lend me some money," said Frank; "I'd pay it back as soon as I'd sold my papers. I was a fool to let that fellow swindle me."
"That's so," assented Dick; "but it's no good thinkin' of that now. I'd lend you the money myself, if I had it; but I've run out my account at the Park Bank, and can't spare the money just at present."
"How long have you been in business?" asked Frank.
"Ever since I was eight years old; and I'm goin' on fifteen now."
"You went to work early."
"Yes, I had to. Father and mother both died, and I was left to take care of myself."
"You took care of yourself when you were only eight years old?" asked Frank, in surprise.
"Then I ought to make a living, for I am fifteen,—a year older than you are now."
"Oh, you'll get along when you get started," said Dick, encouragingly. "There's lots of things to do."
"Is there anything to do that doesn't require any capital?" inquired Frank, anxiously.
"Yes, you can smash baggage."
"Will people pay for that?" asked Frank, with a smile.
"Of course they will. You jest hang round the ferries and steamboat landin's, and when a chap comes by with a valise or carpet-bag, you jest offer to carry it, that's all."
"Is that what you call smashing baggage?"
"Of course. What did you think it was?"
Frank evaded answering, not caring to display his country ignorance.
"Do you think I can get a chance to do that?" he asked.
"You can try it and see."
"I came in by the Hartford boat myself, to-day," said Frank. "If I'd thought of it, I would have begun at once."
"Only you wouldn't have knowed the way anywhere, and if a gentleman asked you to carry his valise to any hotel you'd have had to ask where it was."
"So I should," Frank admitted.
"I'll show you round a little, if you want me to," said Dick. "I shan't have anything to do for an hour or two."
"I wish you would."
So the two boys walked about in the lower part of the city, Dick pointing out hotels, public buildings, and prominent streets. Frank had a retentive memory, and stored away the information carefully. Penniless as he was, he was excited and exhilarated by the scene of activity in which he was moving, and was glad he was going to live in it, or to attempt doing so.
"When I am used to it I shall like it much better than the country," he said to Dick. "Don't you?"
"I don't know about that," was the reply. "Sometimes I think I'll go West;—a lot of boys that I know have gone there."
"Won't it take a good deal of money to go?" asked Frank.
"Oh, there's a society that pays boys' expenses, and finds 'em nice homes with the farmers. Tom Harrison, one of my friends, went out six weeks ago, and he writes me that it's bully. He's gone to some town in Kansas."
"That's a good way off."
"I wouldn't mind that. I'd like ridin' in the cars."
"It would be something new to you; but I've lived in the country all my life, I'd rather stay here awhile."
"It's just the way a feller feels," said Dick philosophically. "I've bummed around so much I'd like a good, stiddy home, with three square meals a day and a good bed to sleep on."
"Can't you get that here?" asked Frank.
"Not stiddy. Sometimes I don't get but one square meal a day."
Frank became thoughtful. Life in the city seemed more precarious and less desirable than he anticipated.
"Well, I must go to work again," said Dick, after a while.
"Where are you going to sleep to-night?" asked Frank.
"I don't know whether I'd better sleep at the Astor House or Fifth avenue," said Dick.
Frank looked perplexed.
"You don't mean that, do you?" he asked.
"Of course I don't. You're too fresh. Don't get mad," he continued good-naturedly, seeing the flush on Frank's cheek. "You'll know as much about the city as I do before long. I shall go to the Newsboys' Lodgin' House, where I can sleep for six cents."
"I wish I had six cents," said Frank. "If I could only get work I'd soon earn it. You can't think of anything for me to do, can you?"
Dick's face lighted up.
"Yes," he said, "I can get you a job, though it aint a very good one. I wonder I didn't think of it before."
"What is it?" asked Frank, anxiously.
"It's to go round with a blind man, solicitin' contributions."
"You mean begging?"
"Yes; you lead him into stores and countin' rooms, and he asks for money."
"I don't like it much," said Frank, slowly, "but I must do something. After all, it'll be he that's begging, not I."
"I'll take you right round where he lives," said Dick. "Maybe he'll go out this evenin'. His other boy give him the slip, and he hasn' got a new one yet."
FRANK FINDS AN EMPLOYER.
A stone's throw from Centre street stands a tall tenement-house, sheltering anywhere from forty to fifty families in squalid wretchedness. The rent which each family pays would procure a neat house in a country town, with perhaps a little land beside; but the city has a mysterious fascination for the poorer classes, and year after year many who might make the change herd together in contracted and noisome quarters, when they might have their share of light and space in country neighborhoods.
It was in front of this tenement-house that Dick halted, and plunged into a dark entrance, admonishing Frank to follow. Up creaking and dilapidated staircases to the fourth floor the boys went.
"Here we are," said Dick, panting a little from the rapidity of his ascent, and began a vigorous tattoo on a door to the left.
"Is this where the blind gentleman lives?" asked Frank, looking around him dubiously.
"He isn't much of a gentleman to look at," said Dick, laughing. "Do you hear him?"
Frank heard a hoarse growl from the inside, which might have been "Come in." At any rate, Dick chose so to interpret it, and opened the door.
The boys found themselves in a scantily furnished room, with a close, disagreeable smell pervading the atmosphere. In the corner was a low bedstead, on which lay a tall man, with a long, gray beard, and a disagreeable, almost repulsive, countenance. He turned his eyes, which, contrary to Frank's expectations, were wide open, full upon his visitors.
"What do you want?" he asked querulously. "I was asleep, and you have waked me up."
"Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Mills," said Dick; "but I come on business."
"What business can you have with me?" demanded the blind man. "Who are you?"
"I am Dick Rafferty. I black boots in the Park," replied Dick.
"Well, I haven't got any money to pay for blacking boots."
"I didn't expect you had. I hear your boy has left you."
"Yes, the young rascal! He's given me the slip. I expect he's robbed me too; but I can't tell, for I'm blind."
"Do you want a new boy?"
"Yes; but I can't pay much. I'm very poor. I don't think the place will suit you."
"Nor I either," said Dick, frankly. "I'd rather make a living outside. But I've got a boy with me who has just come to the city, and is out of business. I guess he'll engage with you."
"What's his name? Let him speak for himself."
"My name is Frank Kavanagh," said our hero, in a clear, distinct voice.
"How old are you?"
"Do you know what your duties will be?"
"Yes; Dick has told me."
"I told him you'd want him to go round on a collecting tour with you every day," said Dick.
"That isn't all. You'll have to buy my groceries and all I need."
"I can do that," said Frank, cheerfully, reflecting that this would be much more agreeable than accompanying the old man round the streets.
"Are you honest?" queried the blind man, sharply.
Frank answered, with an indignant flush, "I never stole a cent in my life."
"I supposed you'd say that," retorted the blind man, with a sneer. "They all do; but a good many will steal for all that."
"If you're afraid I will, you needn't hire me," said Frank, independently.
"Of course I needn't," said Mills, sharply; "but I am not afraid. If you take any of my money I shall be sure to find it out, if I am blind."
"Don't mind him, Frank," said Dick, in a low voice.
"What's that?" asked the blind man, suspiciously. "What are you two whispering about?"
"I told Frank not to mind the way you spoke," said Dick.
"Your friend will lend you some, then."
"Not much," answered Dick, laughing. "I'm dead-broke. Haven't you got any money, Mr. Mills?"
"I have a little," grumbled the blind man; "but this boy may take it, and never come back."
"If you think so," said Frank, proudly, "you'd better engage some other boy."
"No use; you're all alike. Wait a minute, and I'll give you some money."
He drew from his pocket a roll of scrip, and handed one to Frank.
"I don't think that will be enough," said Frank. "It's only five cents."
"Are you sure it isn't a quarter?" grumbled Mills.
"What do you say,—you, Dick?"
"It's only five cents, sir."
"Is that twenty-five?"
"Then take it, and mind you don't loiter."
"And be sure to bring back the change."
"Of course I will," said Frank indignantly, resenting his employer's suspicion.
"What do you think of him, Frank?" asked Dick, as they descended the stairs.
"I don't like him at all, Dick," said Frank, decidedly. "I wish I could get something else to do."
"You can, after a while. As you have no capital you must take what you can get now."
"So I suppose; but I didn't come to the city for this."
"If you don't like it you can leave in a few days."
This Frank fully resolved to do at the first favorable opportunity.
Dick showed him where he could buy the articles he was commissioned to purchase; and Frank, after obtaining them, went back to the tenement-house.
Mills scrupulously demanded the change, and put it back into his pocket. Then he made Frank pour out the ale into a glass. This he drank with apparent zest, but offered none to Frank.
"Ale isn't good for boys," he said. "You can cut the bread, and eat two slices. Don't cut them too thick."
The blind man ate some of the bread himself, and then requested Frank to help him on with his coat and vest.
"I haven't taken any money to-day," he said "I must try to collect some, or I shall starve. It's a sad thing to be blind," he continued, his voice changing to a whine.
"You don't look blind," said Frank, thoughtfully. "Your eyes are open."
"What if they are?" said Mills, testily. "I cannot see. When I go out I close them, because the light hurts them."
Led by Frank, the blind man descended the stairs, and emerged into the street.
"PITY THE BLIND."
"Where shall I lead you?" asked Frank.
"To Broadway first. Do you know Broadway?"
"Be careful when we cross the street, or you will have me run over."
"All right, sir."
"If any one asks you about me, say I am your uncle."
"But you are not."
"What difference does that make, you little fool?" said the blind man, roughly. "Are you ashamed to own me as your uncle?"
Frank felt obliged, out of politeness, to say "No;" but in his own mind he was not quite sure whether he would be willing to acknowledge any relationship to the disagreeable old man whom he was leading.
They reached Broadway, and entered a store devoted to gentlemen's furnishing goods.
"Charity for a poor blind man!" whined Mills, in the tone of a professional beggar.
"Look here, old fellow, you come in here too often," said a young salesman. "I gave you five cents yesterday."
"I didn't know it," said Mills. "I am a poor blind man. All places are alike to me."
"Then your boy should know better. Nothing for you to-day."
Frank and his companion left the store.
In the next they were more fortunate. A nickel was bestowed upon the blind mendicant.
"How much is it?" asked Mills, when they were on the sidewalk.
"Five cents, sir."
"That's better than nothing, but we ought to do better. It takes a good many five-cent pieces to make a dollar. When you see a well-dressed lady coming along, tell me."
Frank felt almost as much ashamed as if he were himself begging, but he must do what was expected of him. Accordingly he very soon notified the blind man that a lady was close at hand.
"Lead me up to her, and say, Can you spare something for my poor, blind uncle?"
Frank complied in part, but instead of "poor, blind uncle" he said "poor, blind man." Mills scowled, as he found himself disobeyed.
"How long has he been blind?" asked the lady, sympathetically.
"For many years," whined Mills.
"Is this your boy?"
"Yes, ma'am; he is my young nephew, from the country."
"You are fortunate in having him to go about with you."
"Yes, ma'am; I don't know what I should do without him."
"Here is something for you, my good man," said the lady, and passed on.
"Thank you, ma'am. May Heaven bless you!"
"How much is it?" he asked quickly, when the lady was out of hearing.
"Two cents," answered Frank, suppressing with difficulty an inclination to laugh.
"The mean jade! I should like to wring her neck!" muttered Mills. "I thought it was a quarter, at least."
In the next store they did not meet a cordial reception.
"Clear out, you old humbug!" shouted the proprietor, who was in ill-humor. "You ought to be put in the penitentiary for begging about the streets."
"I pray to God that you may become blind yourself," said Mills, passionately.
"Out of my store, or I'll have you arrested, both of you!" said the angry tradesman. "Here, you boy, don't you bring that old fraud in this store again, if you know what's best for yourself."
There was nothing to do but to comply with this peremptory order.
"He's a beast!" snarled Mills; "I'd like to put his eyes out myself."
"You haven't got a very amiable temper," thought Frank. "I wouldn't like to be blind; but even if I were, I would try to be pleasanter."
Two young girls, passing by, noticed the blind man. They were soft-hearted, and stopped to inquire how long he had been blind.
"Before you were born, my pretty maid," said Mills, sighing.
"I have an aunt who is blind," said one of the girls; "but she is not poor, like you."
"I am very poor," whined Mills; "I have not money enough to pay my rent, and I may be turned out into the street."
"How sad!" said the young girl, in a tone of deep sympathy. "I have not much money, but I will give you all I have."
"May God bless you, and spare your eyes!" said Mills, as he closed his hand upon the money.
"How much is it?" he asked as before, when they had passed on.
"Twenty-five cents," said Frank.
"That is better," said Mills, in a tone of satisfaction.
For some time afterwards all applications were refused; in some cases, roughly.
"Why don't you work?" asked one man, bluntly.
"What can I do?" asked Mills.
"That's your lookout. Some blind men work. I suppose you would rather get your living by begging."
"I would work my fingers to the bone if I could only see," whined Mills.
"So you say; but I don't believe it. At any rate, that boy of yours can see. Why don't you set him to work?"
"He has to take care of me."
"I would work if I could get anything to do," said Frank.
As he spoke, he felt his hand pressed forcibly by his companion, who did not relish his answer.
"I cannot spare him," he whined. "He has to do everything for me."
When they were again in the street, Mills demanded, roughly, "What did you mean by saying that?"
"That you wanted to go to work."
"Because it is true."
"You are at work; you are working for me," said Mills.
"I would rather work in a store, or an office, or sell papers."
"That wouldn't do me any good. Don't speak in that way again."
The two were out about a couple of hours, and very tiresome Frank found it. Then Mills indicated a desire to go home, and they went back to the room in the old tenement-house. Mills threw himself down on the bed in the corner, and heaved a sigh of relief.
"Now, boy, count the money we have collected," he said.
"There's ninety-three cents," Frank announced.
"If I had known it was so near a dollar we would have stayed a little longer. Now, get me my pipe."
"Where is it, sir?"
"In the cupboard. Fill it with tobacco, and light it."
"Are you not afraid of setting the bedding on fire, sir?"
"Mind your own business. If I choose to set it on fire, I will," snarled Mills.
"Very well, sir; I thought I'd mention it."
"You have mentioned it, and you needn't do it again."
"What a sweet temper you've got!" thought Frank.
He sat down on a broken chair, and, having nothing else to do, watched his employer. "He looks very much as if he could see," thought Frank; for Mills now had his eyes wide open.
"What are you staring at me for, boy?" demanded his employer, rather unexpectedly.
"What makes you think I am staring at you, sir?" was Frank's natural question. "I thought you couldn't see."
"No more I can, but I can tell when one is staring at me. It makes me creep all over."
"Then I'll look somewhere else."
"Would you like to do some work, as you said?"
"Then take twenty-five cents, and buy some evening papers and sell them; but mind you bring the money to me."
"Yes, sir," said Frank, with alacrity.
Anything he thought would be better than sitting in that dull room with so disagreeable a companion.
"Mind you don't run off with the money," said the blind man, sharply. "If you do I'll have you put in the Tombs."
"I don't mean to run away with the money," retorted Frank, indignantly.
"And when you've sold the papers, come home."
With a feeling of relief, Frank descended the stairs and directed his steps to the Park, meaning to ask Dick Rafferty's advice about the proper way to start in business as a newsboy.
FRANK THROWS UP HIS SITUATION.
Frank found his friend on Park Row, and made known his errand.
"So old Mills wants you to sell papers for his benefit, does he?"
"Yes, but I'd rather do it than to stay with him."
"How much has he agreed to pay you?"
"That isn't settled yet."
"You'd better bring him to the point, or he won't pay you anything except board and lodging, and mighty mean both of them will be."
"I won't say anything about it the first day," said Frank. "What papers shall I buy?"
"It's rather late. You'd better try for Telegrams."
Frank did so, and succeeded in selling half a dozen, yielding a profit of six cents. It was not a brilliant beginning, but he was late in the field, and most had purchased their evening papers. His papers sold, Frank went home and announced the result.
"Umph!" muttered the blind man. "Give me the money."
"Here it is, sir."
"Have you given me all?" sharply demanded Mills.
"Of course I have," said Frank, indignantly.
"Don't you be impudent, or I will give you a flogging," said the blind man, roughly.
"I am not used to be talked to in that way," said Frank, independently.
"You've always had your own way, I suppose," snarled Mills.
"No, I haven't; but I have been treated kindly."
"You are only a boy, and I won't allow you to talk back to me. Do you hear?"
"Then take care to remember."
"You've got a sweet disposition," thought Frank. "I won't stay with you any longer than I am obliged to."
Several days passed without bringing any incidents worth recording. Frank took a daily walk with the blind man, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. These walks were very distasteful to him. The companion of a beggar, he felt as if he himself were begging. He liked better the time he spent in selling papers, though he reaped no benefit himself. In fact, his wages were poor enough. Thus far his fare had consisted of dry bread with an occasional bun. He was a healthy, vigorous boy, and he felt the need of meat, or some other hearty food, and ventured to intimate as much to his employer.
"So you want meat, do you?" snarled Mills.
"Yes, sir; I haven't tasted any for a week."
"Perhaps you'd like to take your meals at Delmonico's?" sneered the blind man.
Frank was so new to the city that this well-known name did not convey any special idea to him, and he answered "Yes."
"That's what I thought!" exclaimed Mills, angrily. "You want to eat me out of house and home."
"No, I don't; I only want enough food to keep up my strength."
"Well, you are getting it. I give you all I can afford."
Frank was inclined to doubt this. He estimated that what he ate did not cost his employer over six or eight cents a day, and he generally earned for him twenty to thirty cents on the sale of papers, besides helping him to collect about a dollar daily from those who pitied his blindness.
He mentioned his grievance to his friend, Dick Rafferty.
"I'll tell you what to do," said Dick.
"I wish you would."
"Keep some of the money you make by selling papers, and buy a square meal at an eatin' house."
"I don't like to do that; it wouldn't be honest."
"Why wouldn't it?"
"I am carrying on the business for Mr. Mills. He supplies the capital."
"Then you'd better carry it on for yourself."
"I wish I could."
"Why don't you?"
"I haven't any money."
"Has he paid you any wages?"
"Then make him."
Frank thought this a good suggestion. He had been with Mills a week, and it seemed fair enough that he should receive some pay besides a wretched bed and a little dry bread. Accordingly, returning to the room, he broached the subject.
"What do you want wages for?" demanded Mills, displeased.
"I think I earn them," said Frank, boldly.
"You get board and lodging. You are better off than a good many boys."
"I shall want some clothes, some time," said Frank.
"Perhaps you'd like to have me pay you a dollar a day," said Mills.
"I know you can't afford to pay me that. I will be satisfied if you will pay me ten cents a day," replied Frank.
Frank reflected that, though this was a very small sum, in ten days it would give him a dollar, and then he would feel justified in setting up a business on his own account, as a newsboy. He anxiously awaited an answer.
"I will think of it," said the blind man evasively, and Frank did not venture to say more.
The next day, when Mills, led by Frank, was on his round, the two entered a cigar-store. Frank was much surprised when the cigar-vender handed him a fifty-cent currency note. He thought there was some mistake.
"Thank you, sir," he said; "but did you mean to give me fifty cents?"
"Yes," said the cigar-vender, laughing; "but I wouldn't have done it, if it had been good."
"Isn't it good?"
"No, it's a counterfeit, and a pretty bad one. I might pass it, but it would cost me too much time and trouble."
Frank was confounded. He mechanically handed the money to Mills, but did not again thank the giver. When they returned to the tenement-house, Mills requested Frank to go to the baker's for a loaf of bread.
"Here is the money."
"But that is the counterfeit note," said Frank, scrutinizing the bill given him.
"What if it is?" demanded Mills, sharply.
"It won't pass."
"Yes, it will, if you are sharp."
"Do you want me to pass counterfeit money, Mr. Mills?"
"Yes, I do; I took it, and I mean to get rid of it."
"But you didn't give anything for it."
"That's neither here nor there. Take it, and offer it to the baker. If he won't take it, go to another baker with it."
"I would rather not do it," said Frank, firmly.
"Rather not!" exclaimed Mills, angrily. "Do you pretend to dictate to me?"
"No, I don't, but I don't mean to pass any counterfeit money for you or any other man," said Frank, with spirit.
Mills half rose, with a threatening gesture, but thought better of it.
"You're a fool," said he. "I suppose you are afraid of being arrested; but you have only to say that I gave it to you, and that I am blind, and couldn't tell it from good money."
"But you know that it is bad money, Mr. Mills."
"What if I do? No one can prove it. Take the money, and come back as quick as you can."
"You must excuse me," said Frank, quietly, but firmly.
"Do you refuse to do as I bid you?" demanded Mills, furiously.
"I refuse to pass counterfeit money."
"Then, by Heaven, I'll flog you!"
Mills rose and advanced directly towards Frank, with his eyes wide open. Fortunately our hero was near the door, and, quickly opening it, darted from the room, pursued by Mills, his face flaming with wrath. It flashed upon Frank that no blind man could have done this. He decided that the man was a humbug, and could see a little, at all events. His blindness was no doubt assumed to enable him to appeal more effectively to the sympathizing public. This revelation disgusted Frank. He could not respect a man who lived by fraud. Counterfeit or no counterfeit, he decided to withdraw at once and forever from the service of Mr. Mills.
His employer gave up the pursuit before he reached the street. Frank found himself on the sidewalk, free and emancipated, no richer than when he entered the service of the blind man, except in experience.
"I haven't got a cent," he said to himself, "but I'll get along somehow."
FRANK GETS A JOB.
Though Frank was penniless he was not cast down. He was tolerably familiar with the lower part of the city, and had greater reliance on himself than he had a week ago. If he had only had capital to the extent of fifty cents he would have felt quite at ease, for this would have set him up as a newsboy.
"I wonder if I could borrow fifty cents of Dick Rafferty," considered Frank. "I'll try, at any rate."
He ran across Dick in City-Hall Park. That young gentleman was engaged in pitching pennies with a brother professional.
"I say, Dick, I want to speak to you a minute," said Frank.
"All right! Go ahead!"
"I've lost my place."
"Got sacked, have you?" he asked.
"Yes; but I might have stayed."
"Why didn't you?"
"Mills wanted me to pass a counterfeit note, and I wouldn't."
"Was it a bad-looking one?"
"Then you're right. You might have got nabbed."
"That wasn't the reason I refused. If I had been sure there'd have been no trouble I wouldn't have done it."
"Why not?" asked Dick, who did not understand our hero's scruples.
"Because it's wrong."
Dick shrugged his shoulders.
"I guess you belong to the church," he said.
"No, I don't; what makes you think so?"
"Oh, 'cause you're so mighty particular. I wouldn't mind passing it if I was sure I wouldn't be cotched."
"I think it's almost as bad as stealing to buy bread, or anything else, and give what isn't worth anything for it. You might as well give a piece of newspaper."
Though Frank was unquestionably right he did not succeed in making a convert of Dick Rafferty. Dick was a pretty good boy, considering the sort of training he had had; but passing bad money did not seem to him objectionable, unless "a fellow was cotched," as he expressed it.
"Well, what are you going to do now?" asked Dick, after a pause.
"I guess I can get a living by selling papers."
"You can get as good a livin' as old Mills gave you. You'll get a better bed at the lodgin'-house than that heap of rags you laid on up there."
"But there's one trouble," continued Frank, "I haven't any money to start on. Can you lend me fifty cents?"
"Fifty cents!" repeated Dick. "What do you take me for? If I was connected with Vanderbuilt or Astor I might set you up in business, but now I can't."
"Twenty-five cents will do," said Frank.
"Look here, Frank," said Dick, plunging his hands into his pocket, and drawing therefrom three pennies and a nickel, "do you see them?"
"Well, it's all the money I've got."
"I am afraid you have been extravagant, Dick," said Frank, in disappointment.
"Last night I went to Tony Pastor's, and when I got through I went into a saloon and got an ice-cream and a cigar. You couldn't expect a feller to be very rich after that. I say, I'll lend you five cents if you want it."
"No, thank you, Dick. I'll wait till you are richer."
"I tell you what, Frank, I'll save up my money, and by day after to-morrow I guess I can set you up."
"Thank you, Dick. If I don't have the money by that time myself I'll accept your offer."
There was no other boy with whom Frank felt sufficiently well acquainted to request a loan, and he walked away, feeling rather disappointed. It was certainly provoking to think that nothing but the lack of a small sum stood between him and remunerative employment. Once started he determined not to spend quite all his earnings, but to improve upon his friend Dick's practice, and, if possible, get a little ahead.
When guiding the blind man he often walked up Broadway, and mechanically he took the same direction, walking slowly along, occasionally stopping to look in at a shop-window.
As he was sauntering along he found himself behind two gentlemen,—one an old man, who wore gold spectacles; the other, a stout, pleasant-looking man, of middle age. Frank would not have noticed them particularly but for a sudden start and exclamation from the elder of the two gentlemen.
"I declare, Thompson," he said, "I've left my umbrella down-town."
"Where do you think you left it?"
"In Peckham's office; that is, I think I left it there."
"Oh, well, he'll save it for you."
"I don't know about that. Some visitor may carry it away."
"Never mind, Mr. Bowen. You are rich enough to afford a new one."
"It isn't the value of the article, Thompson," said his friend, in some emotion. "That umbrella was brought me from Paris by my son John, who died. It is as a souvenir of him that I regard and value it. I would not lose it for a hundred dollars, nay, five hundred."
"If you value it so much, sir, suppose we turn round and go back for it."
Frank had listened to this conversation, and an idea struck him. Pressing forward, he said respectfully, "Let me go for it, sir. I will get it, and bring it to your house."
The two gentlemen fixed their eyes upon the bright, eager face of the petitioner.
"Who are you, my boy?" asked Mr. Thompson.
"I am a poor boy, in want of work," answered our hero promptly.
"What is your name?"
"Where do you live?"
"I am trying to live in the city, sir."
"What have you been doing?"
"Leading a blind man, sir."
"Not a very pleasant employment, I should judge," said Thompson, shrugging his shoulders. "Well, have you lost that job?"
"So the blind man turned you off, did he?"
"Your services were unsatisfactory, I suppose?"
"He wanted me to pass counterfeit money for him, and I refused."
"If that is true, it is to your credit."
"It is true, sir," said Frank, quietly.
"Come, Mr. Bowen, what do you say,—shall we accept this boy's services? It will save you time and trouble."
"If I were sure he could be trusted," said Bowen, hesitating. "He might pawn the umbrella. It is a valuable one."
"I hope, sir, you won't think so badly of me as that," said Frank, with feeling. "If I were willing to steal anything, it would not be a gift from your dead son."
"I'll trust you, my boy," said the old gentleman quickly. "Your tone convinces me that you may be relied upon."
"Thank you, sir."
The old gentleman drew a card from his pocket, containing his name and address, and on the reverse side wrote the name of the friend at whose office he felt sure the umbrella had been left, with a brief note directing that it be handed to the bearer.
"All right, sir."
"Stop a moment, my boy. Have you got money to ride?"
"Here, take this, and go down at once in the next stage. The sooner you get there the better."
Frank followed directions. He stopped the next stage, and got on board. As he passed the City-Hall Park, Dick Rafferty espied him. Frank nodded to him.
"How did he get money enough to ride in a 'bus?" Dick asked himself in much wonderment. "A few minutes ago he wanted to borrow some money of me, and now he's spending ten cents for a ride. Maybe he's found a pocket-book."
Frank kept on his way, and got out at Wall street. He found Mr. Peckham's office, and on presenting the card, much to his delight, the umbrella was handed him.
"Mr. Bowen was afraid to trust me with it over night," said Mr. Peckham, with a smile.
"He thought some visitor might carry it off," said Frank.
"Not unlikely. Umbrellas are considered common property."
Frank hailed another stage, and started on his way up-town. There was no elevated railway then, and this was the readiest conveyance, as Mr. Bowen lived on Madison avenue.
AN INVITATION TO DINNER.
"Mr. Bowen must be a rich man," thought Frank, as he paused on the steps of a fine brown-stone mansion, corresponding to the number on his card.
He rang the bell, and asked, "Is Mr. Bowen at home?"
"Yes, but he is in his chamber. I don't think he will see you."
"I think he will," said Frank, who thought the servant was taking too much upon herself, "as I come by his appointment."
"I suppose you can come into the hall," said the servant, reluctantly. "Is your business important?"
"You may tell him that the boy he sent for his umbrella has brought it. He was afraid he had lost it."
"He sets great store by that umbrella," said the girl, in a different tone. "I'll go and tell him."
Mr. Bowen came downstairs almost immediately. There was a look of extreme gratification upon his face.
"Bless my soul, how quick you were!" he exclaimed. "Why, I've only been home a few minutes. Did you find the umbrella at Mr. Peckham's office?"
"Yes, sir; it had been found, and taken care of."
"Did Peckham say anything?"
"He said you were probably afraid to trust it with him over night, but he smiled when he said it."
"Peckham will have his joke, but he is an excellent man. My boy, I am much indebted to you."
"I was very glad to do the errand, sir," said Frank.
"I think you said you were poor," said the old man, thoughtfully.
"Yes, sir. When I met you I hadn't a cent in the world."
"Haven't you any way to make a living?"
"Yes, sir. I could sell papers if I had enough money to set me up in business."
"Does it require a large capital?"
"Oh, no, sir," said Frank, smiling, "unless you consider fifty cents a large sum."
"Fifty cents!" repeated the old gentleman, in surprise. "You don't mean to say that this small sum would set you up in business?"
"Yes, sir; I could buy a small stock of papers, and buy more with what I received for them."
"To be sure. I didn't think of that."
Mr. Bowen was not a man of business. He had an ample income, and his tastes were literary and artistic. He knew more of books than of men, and more of his study than of the world.
"Well, my boy," he said after a pause, "how much do I owe you for doing this errand?"
"I leave that to you, sir. Whatever you think right will satisfy me."
"Let me see, you want fifty cents to buy papers, and you will require something to pay for your bed."
"Fifty cents in all will be enough, sir."
"I think I had better give you a dollar," said the old gentleman, opening his pocket-book.
Frank's eyes sparkled. A dollar would do him a great deal of good; with a dollar he would feel quite independent.
"Thank you, sir," he said. "It is more than I earned, but it will be very acceptable."
He put on his hat, and was about to leave the house, when Mr. Bowen suddenly said, "Oh, I think you'd better stay to dinner. It will be on the table directly. My niece is away, and if you don't stay I shall be alone."
Frank did not know what to say. He was rather abashed by the invitation, but, as the old gentleman was to be alone, it did not seem so formidable.
"I am afraid I don't look fit," he said.
"You can go upstairs and wash your face and hands. You'll find a clothes-brush there also. I'll ring for Susan to show you the way."
He rang the bell, and the girl who had admitted Frank made her appearance.
"Susan," said her master, "you may show this young gentlemen into the back chamber on the third floor, and see that he is supplied with towels and all he needs. And you may lay an extra plate; he will dine with me."
Susan stared first at Mr. Bowen, and then at Frank, but did not venture to make any remark.
"This way, young man," she said, and ascended the front stairs, Frank following her closely.
She led the way into a handsomely furnished chamber, ejaculating, "Well, I never!"
"I hope you'll find things to your satisfaction, sir," she said, dryly. "If we'd known you were coming, we'd have made particular preparations for you."
"Oh, I think this will do," said Frank, smiling for he thought it a good joke.
"I am glad you think it'll do," continued Susan. "Things mayn't be as nice as you're accustomed to at home."
"Not quite," said Frank, good-humoredly; "but I shan't complain."
"That's very kind and considerate of you, I'm sure," said Susan, tossing her head. "Well, I never did!"
"Nor I either, Susan," said Frank, laughing. "I am a poor boy, and I am not used to this way of living; so if you'll be kind enough to give me any hints, so I may behave properly at the table, I'll be very much obliged to you."
This frank acknowledgment quite appeased Susan, and she readily complied with our hero's request.
"But I must be going downstairs, or dinner will be late," she said, hurriedly. "You can come down when you hear the bell ring."
Frank had been well brought up, though not in the city, and he was aware that perfect neatness was one of the first characteristics of a gentleman. He therefore scrubbed his face and hands till they fairly shone, and brushed his clothes with great care. Even then they certainly did look rather shabby, and there was a small hole in the elbow of his coat; but, on the whole, he looked quite passable when he entered the dining-room.
"Take that seat, my boy," said his host.
Frank sat down and tried to look as if he was used to it.
"Take this soup to Mr. Kavanagh," said Mr. Bowen, in a dignified tone.
Frank started and smiled slightly, feeling more and more that it was an excellent joke.
"I wonder what Dick Rafferty would say if he could see me now," passed through his mind.
He acquitted himself very creditably, however, and certainly displayed an excellent appetite, much to the satisfaction of his hospitable host.
After dinner was over, Mr. Bowen detained him and began to talk of his dead son, telling anecdotes of his boyhood, to which Frank listened with respectful attention, for the father's devotion was touching.
"I think my boy looked a little like you," said the old gentleman. "What do you think, Susan?"
"Not a mite, sir," answered Susan, promptly.
"When he was a boy, I mean."
"I didn't know him when he was a boy, Mr. Bowen."
"No, to be sure not."
"But Mr. John was dark-complected, and this boy is light, and Mr. John's hair was black, and his is brown."
"I suppose I am mistaken," sighed the old man; "but there was something in the boy's face that reminded me of John."
"A little more, and he'll want to adopt him," thought Susan. "That wouldn't do nohow, though he does really seem like a decent sort of a boy."
At eight o'clock Frank rose, and wished Mr. Bowen good-night.
"Come and see me again, my boy," said the old gentleman, kindly. "You have been a good deal of company for me to-night."
"I am glad of it, sir."
"I think you might find something better to do than selling papers."
"I wish I could, sir."
"Come and dine with me again this day week, and I may have something to tell you."
"Thank you, sir."
Feeling in his pocket to see that his dollar was safe, Frank set out to walk down-town, repairing to the lodging-house, where he met Dick, and astonished that young man by the recital of his adventures.
"It takes you to get round, Frank," he said. "I wonder I don't get invited to dine on Madison avenue."
"I give it up," said Frank.
A NEWSBOY'S EXPERIENCES.
Frank slept that night at the lodging-house, and found a much better bed than he had been provided with by his late employer. He was up bright and early the next morning, and purchased a stock of morning papers. These he succeeded in selling during the forenoon, netting a profit of thirty cents. It was not much, but he was satisfied. At any rate he was a good deal better off than when in the employ of Mr. Mills. Of course he had to economize strictly, but the excellent arrangements of the lodging-house helped him to do this. Twelve cents provided him with lodging and breakfast. At noon, in company with his friend Dick, he went to a cheap restaurant, then to be found in Ann street, near Park row, and for fifteen cents enjoyed a dinner of two courses. The first consisted of a plate of beef, with a potato and a wedge of bread, costing ten cents, and the second, a piece of apple-pie.
"That's a good square meal," said Dick, in a tone of satisfaction. "I oughter get one every day, but sometimes I don't have the money."
"I should think you could raise fifteen cents a day for that purpose, Dick."
"Well, so I could; but then you see I save my money sometimes to go to the Old Bowery, or Tony Pastor's, in the evenin'."
"I would like to go, too, but I wouldn't give up my dinner. A boy that's growing needs enough to eat."
"I guess you're right," said Dick. "We'll go to dinner together every day, if you say so."
"All right, Dick; I should like your company."
About two o'clock in the afternoon, as Frank was resting on a bench in the City-Hall Park, a girl of ten approached him. Frank recognized her as an inmate of the tenement-house where Mills, his late employer, lived.
"Do you want to see me?" asked Frank, observing that she was looking towards him.
"You're the boy that went round with the blind man, aint you?" she asked.
"He wants you to come back."
Frank was rather surprised, but concluded that Mills had difficulty in obtaining a boy to succeed him. This was not very remarkable, considering the niggardly pay attached to the office.
"Did he send you to find me?" asked our hero.
"Yes; he says you needn't pass that money if you'll come back."
"Tell him that I don't want to come back," said Frank, promptly. "I can do better working for myself."
"He wants to know what you are doing," continued the girl.
"Does he? You can tell him that I am a newsboy."
"He says if you don't come back he'll have you arrested for stealing money from him. You mustn't be mad with me. That's what he told me to say."
"I don't blame you," said Frank, hotly; "but you can tell him that he is a liar."
"Oh, I wouldn't dare to tell him that; he would beat me."
"How can he do that, when he can't see where you are?"
"I don't know how it is, but he can go right up to where you are just as well as if he could see."
"So he can. He's a humbug and a fraud. His eyes may not be very good, but he can see for all that. He pretends to be blind so as to make money."
"That's what mother and I think," said the girl. "So you won't come back?"
"Not much. He can hire some other boy, and starve him. He won't get me."
"Aint you afraid he'll have you arrested for stealing?" asked the girl.
"If he tries that I'll expose him for wanting me to pass a counterfeit note. I never took a cent from him."
"He'll be awful mad," said the little girl.
"Let him. If he had treated me decently I would have stayed with him. Now I'm glad I left him."
Mills was indeed furious when, by degrees, he had drawn from his young messenger what Frank had said. He was sorry to lose him, for he was the most truthful and satisfactory guide he had ever employed, and he now regretted that he had driven him away by his unreasonable exactions. He considered whether it would be worth while to have Frank arrested on a false charge of theft, but was restrained by the fear that he would himself be implicated in passing counterfeit money, that is, in intention. He succeeded in engaging another boy, who really stole from him, and finally secured a girl, for whose services, however, he was obliged to pay her mother twenty cents every time she went out with him. Mean and miserly as he was, he agreed to this with reluctance, and only as a measure of necessity.
As he became more accustomed to his new occupation Frank succeeded better. He was a boy of considerable energy, and was on the alert for customers. It was not long before his earnings exceeded those of Dick Rafferty, who was inclined to take things easily.
One evening Dick was lamenting that he could not go to the Old Bowery.
"There's a bully play, Frank," he said. "There's a lot of fightin' in it."
"What is it called, Dick?"
"'The Scalpers of the Plains.' There's five men murdered in the first act. Oh, it's elegant!"
"Why don't you go, then, Dick?"
"Cause I'm dead-broke—busted. That's why. I aint had much luck this week, and it took all my money to pay for my lodgin's and grub."
"Do you want very much to go to the theatre, Dick?"
"Of course I do; but it aint no use. My credit aint good, and I haint no money in the bank."
"How much does it cost?"
"Fifteen cents, in the top gallery."
"Can you see there?"
"Yes, it's rather high up; but a feller with good eyes can see all he wants to there."
"I'll tell you what I'll do, Dick. You have been a good friend to me, and I'll take you at my expense."
"You will? To-night?"
"You're a reg'lar trump. We'll have a stavin' time. Sometime, when I'm flush, I'll return the compliment."
So the two boys went. They were at the doors early, and secured a front seat in the gallery. The performance was well adapted to please the taste of a boy, and they enjoyed it exceedingly. Dick was uproarious in his applause whenever a man was killed.
"Seems to me you like to see men killed, Dick," said his friend.
"Yes, it's kinder excitin'."
"I don't like that part so well as some others," said Frank.
"It's' a stavin' play, aint it?" asked Dick, greatly delighted.
"I'll tell you what, Frank," said Dick; "I'd like to be a hunter and roam round the plains, killin' bears and Injuns."
"Suppose they should kill you? That wouldn't suit you so well, would it?"
"No, I guess not. But I'd like to be a hunter, wouldn't you?"
"No, I would rather live in New York. I would like to make a journey to the West if I had money enough; but I would leave the hunting to other men."
Dick, however, did not agree with his more sensible companion. Many boys like him are charmed with the idea of a wild life in the forest, and some have been foolish enough to leave good homes, and, providing themselves with what they considered necessary, have set out on a journey in quest of the romantic adventures which in stories had fired their imaginations. If their wishes could be realized it would not be long before the romance would fade out, and they would long for the good homes, which they had never before fully appreciated.
When the week was over, Frank found that he had lived within his means, as he had resolved to do; but he had not done much more. He began with a dollar which he had received from Mr. Bowen, and now he had a dollar and a quarter. There was a gain of twenty-five cents. There would have been a little more if he had not gone to the theatre with Dick; but this he did not regret. He felt that he needed some amusement, and he wished to show his gratitude to his friend for various kind services. The time had come to accept Mr. Bowen's second dinner invitation. As Frank looked at his shabby clothes he wished there were a good pretext for declining, but he reflected that this would not be polite, and that the old gentleman would make allowances for his wardrobe. He brushed up his clothes as well as he could, and obtained a "boss shine" from Dick. Then he started for the house on Madison avenue.
"I'll lend you my clo'es if you want 'em," said Dick.
"There are too many spots of blacking on them, Dick. As I'm a newsboy, it wouldn't look appropriate. I shall have to make mine answer."
"I'll shine up the blackin' spots if you want me to."
"Never mind, Dick. I'll wait till next time for your suit."
As Frank was walking on Madison avenue, a little before reaching the house of Mr. Bowen he met a boy of his own age, whom he recognized. Victor Dupont had spent the previous summer at the hotel in the country village where Frank had lived until he came to the city. Victor was proud of his social position, but time hung so heavily upon his hands in the country that he was glad to keep company with the village boys. Frank and he had frequently gone fishing together, and had been associated in other amusements, so that they were for the time quite intimate. The memories of home and past pleasures thronged upon our hero as he met Victor, and his face flushed with pleasure.
"Why, Victor," he said, eagerly, extending his hand, "how glad I am to see you!"
Frank forgot that intimacy in the country does not necessarily lead to intimacy in the city, and he was considerably surprised when Victor, not appearing to notice his offered hand, said coldly, "I don't think I remember you."
"Don't remember me!" exclaimed Frank, amazed. "Why, I am Frank Kavanagh! Don't you remember how much we were together last summer, and what good times we had fishing and swimming together?"
"Yes, I believe I do remember you now," drawled Victor, still not offering his hand, or expressing any pleasure at the meeting. "When did you come to the city?"
"I have been here two or three weeks," replied Frank.
"Oh, indeed! Are you going to remain?"
"Yes, if I can earn a living."
Victor scanned Frank's clothes with a critical, and evidently rather contemptuous, glance.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "Are you in a store?"
"No; I am selling papers."
"A newsboy!" said Victor, with a curve of the lip.
"Yes," answered Frank, his pleasure quite chilled by Victor's manner.
"Are you doing well?" asked Victor, more from curiosity than interest.
"I am making my expenses."
"How do you happen to be in this neighborhood? I suppose you sell papers down-town."
"Yes, but I am invited to dinner."
"Not here—on the avenue!" ejaculated Victor.
"Yes," answered Frank, enjoying the other's surprise.
Frank mentioned the number.
"Why, that is next to my house. Mr. Bowen lives there."
"Perhaps you know some of the servants," suggested Victor.
"I know one," said Frank, smiling, for he read Victor's thoughts; "but my invitation comes from Mr. Bowen."
"Did you ever dine there before?" asked Victor, puzzled.
"Yes, last week."
"You must excuse my mentioning it, but I should hardly think you would like to sit down at a gentleman's table in that shabby suit."
"I don't," answered Frank; "but I have no better."
"Then you ought to decline the invitation."
"I would, but for appearing impolite."
"It seems very strange that Mr. Bowen should invite a newsboy to dinner."
"Perhaps if you'd mention what you think of it," said Frank, somewhat nettled, "he would recall the invitation."
"Oh, it's nothing to me," said Victor; "but I thought I'd mention it, as I know more of etiquette than you do."
"You are very considerate," said Frank, with a slight tinge of sarcasm in his tone.
By this time he had reached the house of Mr. Bowen, and the two boys parted.
Frank could not help thinking a little about what Victor had said. His suit, as he looked down at it, seemed shabbier than ever. Again it occurred to him that perhaps Mr. Bowen had forgotten the invitation, and this would make it very awkward for him. As he waited for the door to open he decided that, if it should appear that he was not expected, he would give some excuse, and go away.
Susan opened the door.
"Mr. Bowen invited me to come here to dinner to-night," began Frank, rather nervously.
"Yes, you are expected," said Susan, very much to his relief. "Wipe your feet, and come right in."
"You are to go upstairs and get ready for dinner," said Susan, and she led the way to the same chamber into which our hero had been ushered the week before.
"There won't be much getting ready," thought Frank. "However, I can stay there till I hear the bell ring."
As he entered the room he saw a suit of clothes and some underclothing lying on the bed.
"They are for you," said Susan, laconically.
"For me!" exclaimed Frank, in surprise.
"Yes, put them on, and when you come down to dinner Mr. Bowen will see how they fit."
"Is it a present from him?" asked Frank, overwhelmed with surprise and gratitude, for he could see that the clothes were very handsome.
"Well, they aint from me," said Susan, "so it's likely they come from him. Don't be too long, for Mr. Bowen doesn't like to have any one late to dinner."
Susan had been in the service of her present mistress fifteen years, and was a privileged character. She liked to have her own way; but had sterling qualities, being neat, faithful, and industrious.
"I wonder whether I am awake or dreaming," thought Frank, when he was left alone. "I shouldn't like to wake up and find it was all a dream."
He began at once to change his shabby clothes for the new ones. He found that the articles provided were a complete outfit, including shirt, collar, cuffs, stockings; in fact, everything that was needful. The coat, pants, and vest were a neat gray, and proved to be an excellent fit. In the bosom of the shirt were neat studs, and the cuffs were supplied with sleeve-buttons to correspond. When Frank stood before the glass, completely attired, he hardly knew himself. He was as well dressed as his aristocratic acquaintance, Victor Dupont, and looked more like a city boy than a boy bred in the country.
"I never looked so well in my life," thought our young hero, complacently. "How kind Mr. Bowen is!"
Frank did not know it; but he was indebted for this gift to Susan's suggestion. When her master told her in the morning that Frank was coming to dinner, she said, "It's a pity the boy hadn't some better clothes."
"I didn't notice his clothes," said Mr. Bowen. "Are they shabby?"
"Yes; and they are almost worn out. They don't look fit for one who is going to sit at your table."
"Bless my soul! I never thought of that. You think he needs some new clothes."
"He needs them badly."
"I will call at Baldwin's, and order some ready-made; but I don't know his size."
"He's about two inches shorter than you, Mr. Bowen. Tell 'em that, and they will know. He ought to have shirts and stockings, too."
"So he shall," said the old man, quite interested. "He shall have a full rig-out from top to toe. Where shall I go for the shirts and things?"
Susan had a nephew about Frank's age, and she was prepared to give the necessary information. The old gentleman, who had no business to attend to, was delighted to have something to fill up his time. He went out directly after breakfast, or as soon as he had read the morning paper, and made choice of the articles already described, giving strict injunctions that they should be sent home immediately.
This was the way Frank got his new outfit.
When our hero came downstairs Mr. Bowen was waiting eagerly to see the transformation. The result delighted him.
"Why, I shouldn't have known you!" he exclaimed, lifting both hands. "I had no idea new clothes would change you so much."
"I don't know how to thank you, sir," said Frank, gratefully.
"I never should have thought of it if it hadn't been for Susan."
"Then I thank you, Susan," said Frank, offering his hand to the girl, as she entered the room.
Susan was pleased. She liked to be appreciated; and she noted with satisfaction the great improvement in Frank's appearance.
"You are quite welcome," she said; "but it was master's money that paid for the clothes."
"It was your kindness that made him think of it," said Frank.
From that moment Susan became Frank's fast friend. We generally like those whom we have benefited, if our services are suitably acknowledged.
A NEW PROSPECT.
"Well, Frank, and how is your business?" asked the old gentleman, when they were sitting at the dinner-table.
"Pretty good, sir."
"Are you making your expenses?"
"Yes, sir; just about."
"That is well. Mind you never run into debt. That is a bad plan."
"I shan't have to now, sir. If I had had to buy clothes for myself, I might have had to."
"Do you find the shirts and stockings fit you?"
"Yes, sir; they are just right."
"I bought half a dozen of each. Susan will give you the bundle when you are ready to go. If they had not been right, they could have been exchanged."
"Thank you, sir. I shall feel rich with so many clothes."
"Where do you sleep, Frank?"
"At the Newsboy's Lodging-House."
"Is there any place there where you can keep your clothes?"
"Yes, sir. Each boy has a locker to himself."
"That is a good plan. It would be better if you had a room to yourself."
"I can't afford it yet, sir. The lodging-house costs me only forty-two cents a week for a bed, and I could not get a room for that."
"Bless my soul! That is very cheap. Really, I think I could save money by giving up my house, and going there to sleep."
"I don't think you would like it, sir," said Frank, smiling.
"Probably not. Now, Frank, I am going to mention a plan I have for you. You don't want to be a newsboy all your life."
"No, sir; I think I should get tired of it by the time I was fifty."
"My friend Thompson, the gentleman who was walking with me when we first saw you, is an officer of the American District Telegraph Company. They employ a large number of boys at their various offices to run errands; and, in fact, to do anything that is required of them. Probably you have seen some of the boys going about the city."
"Yes, sir; they have a blue uniform."
"Precisely. How would you like to get a situation of that kind?"
"Very much, sir," said Frank, promptly.
"Would you like it better than being a newsboy?"
"My friend Thompson, to whom I spoke on the subject, says he will take you on in a few weeks, provided you will qualify yourself for the post."
"I will do that, sir, if you will tell me how."
"You must be well acquainted with the city in all its parts, know the locations of different hotels, prominent buildings, have a fair education, and be willing to make yourself generally useful. You will have to satisfy the superintendent that you are fitted for the position."
"I think my education will be sufficient," said Frank, "for I always went to school till just before I came to the city. I know something about the lower part of the city, but I will go about every day during the hours when I am not selling papers till I am familiar with all parts of it."
"Do so, and when there is a vacancy I will let you know."
"How much pay shall I get, sir, if they accept me?"
"About three dollars a week at first, and more when you get familiar with your duties. No doubt money will also be given you by some who employ you, though you will not be allowed to ask for any fees. Very likely you will get nearly as much in this way as from your salary."
Frank's face expressed satisfaction.
"That will be bully," he said.
"I beg pardon," said the old gentleman, politely. "What did you remark?"
"That will be excellent," said Frank, blushing.
"I thought you spoke of a bully."
"It was a word I learned from Dick Rafferty," said Frank, feeling rather embarrassed.
"And who is Dick Rafferty?"
"One of my friends at the Lodging-House."
"Unless his education is better than yours I would not advise you to learn any of his words."
"I beg your pardon, sir."
"You must excuse my offering you advice. It is the privilege of the old to advise the young."
"I shall always be glad to follow your advice, Mr. Bowen," said Frank.
"Good boy, good boy," said the old gentleman, approvingly. "I wish all boys were like you. Some think they know more than their grandfathers. There's one of that kind who lives next door."
"His name is Victor Dupont, isn't it, sir?"
Mr. Bowen looked surprised. "How is it that you know his name?" he asked.
"We were together a good deal last summer. His family boarded at the hotel in the country village where I used to live. He and I went bathing and fishing together."
"Indeed! Have you seen him since you came to the city?"
"I met him as I was on my way here this afternoon."
"Did he speak to you?"
"Yes, sir; though at first he pretended he didn't remember me."
"Just like him. He is a very proud and conceited boy. Did you tell him you were coming to dine with me?"
"Yes, sir. He seemed very much surprised, as I had just told him I was a newsboy. He said he was surprised that you should invite a newsboy to dine with you."
"I would much rather have you dine with me than him. What more did he say?"
"He said he shouldn't think I would like to go out to dinner with such a shabby suit."
"We have removed that objection," said Mr. Bowen, smiling.
"Yes, sir," said Frank; "I think Victor will treat me more respectfully now when he meets me."
"The respect of such a boy is of very little importance. He judges only by the outside."
At an early hour Frank took his leave, promising to call again before long.
"Where can I send to you if you are wanted for a telegraph boy?" asked Mr. Bowen.
"A letter to me addressed to the care of Mr. O'Connor at the lodging-house will reach me," said Frank.
"Write it down for me," said the old gentleman. "You will find writing materials on yonder desk."
When Frank made his appearance at the lodging-house in his new suit, with two bundles, one containing his old clothes, and the other his extra supply of underclothing, his arrival made quite a sensation.
"Have you come into a fortun'?" asked one boy.
"Did you draw a prize in the Havana lottery?" asked another.
"Have you been playing policy?" asked a third.
"You're all wrong," said Dick Rafferty. "Frank's been adopted by a rich man upon Madison avenue. Aint that so, Frank?"
"Something like it," said Frank. "There's a gentleman up there who has been very kind to me."
"If he wants to adopt another chap, spake a good word for me," said Patsy Reagan.
"Whisht, Patsy, he don't want no Irish bog-trotter," said Phil Donovan.
"You're Irish yourself, Phil, now, and you can't deny it."
"What if I am? I aint no bog-trotter—I'm the son of an Irish count. You can see by my looks that I belong to the gintry."
"Then the gintry must have red hair and freckles, Phil. There aint no chance for you."
"Tell us all about it, Frank," said Dick. "Shure I'm your best friend, and you might mention my name to the ould gintleman if he's got any more good clothes to give away."
"I will with pleasure, Dick, if I think it will do any good."
"You won't put on no airs because you're better dressed than the likes of us?"
"I shall wear my old clothes to-morrow, Dick. I can't afford to wear my best clothes every day."
"I can," said Dick, dryly, which was quite true, as his best clothes were the only ones he had.
Bright and early the next morning Frank was about his work, without betraying in any way the proud consciousness of being the owner of two suits. He followed Mr. Bowen's advice, and spent his leisure hours in exploring the city in its various parts, so that in the course of a month he knew more about it than boys who had lived in it all their lives. He told Dick his object in taking these long walks, and urged him to join him in the hope of winning a similar position; but Dick decided that it was too hard work. He preferred to spend his leisure time in playing marbles or pitching pennies.
THE TELEGRAPH BOY.
Six weeks later Frank Kavanagh, through the influence of his patron, found himself in the uniform of a District Telegraph Messenger. The blue suit, and badge upon the cap, are familiar to every city resident. The uniform is provided by the company, but must be paid for by weekly instalments, which are deducted from the wages of the wearers. This would have seriously embarrassed Frank but for an opportune gift of ten dollars from Mr. Bowen, which nearly paid the expense of his suit.
Frank was employed in one of the up-town offices of the company. For the information of such of my young readers as live in the country it may be explained that large numbers of houses and offices in the city are connected with the offices of the District Telegraph by machines, through which, at any time in the day or night, a messenger may be summoned for any purpose. It is only necessary to raise a knob in the box provided, and a bell is rung in the office of the company. Of course there is more or less transient business besides that of the regular subscribers.
Boys, on arriving at the office, seat themselves, and are called upon in order. A boy just returned from an errand hangs up his hat, and takes his place at the foot of the line. He will not be called upon again till all who are ahead of him have been despatched in one direction or another.
Frank was curious to know what would be his first duty, and waited eagerly for his turn to come.
At length it came.
"Go to No. — Madison avenue," said the superintendent.
A few minutes later Frank was ascending the steps of a handsome brown-stone residence.
"Oh, you're the telegraph boy," said a colored servant. "You're to go upstairs into missus's sitting-room."
Upon entering, Frank found himself in the presence of a rather stout lady, who was reclining on a sofa.
He bowed politely, and waited for his instructions.
"I hope you are a trustworthy boy," said the stout lady.
"I hope so, ma'am."
"Come here, Fido," said the lady.
A little mass of hair, with two red eyes peeping out, rose from the carpet and waddled towards the lady, for Fido was about as stout as his mistress.
"Do you like dogs?" asked Mrs. Leroy, for this was the lady's name.
"Yes, ma'am," answered Frank, wondering what that had to do with his errand.
"I sent for you to take my sweet darling out for an airing. His health requires that he should go out every day. I generally take him myself, but this morning I have a severe headache, and do not feel equal to the task. My dear little pet, will you go out with this nice boy?"
Fido looked gravely at Frank and sneezed.
"I hope the darling hasn't got cold," said Mrs. Leroy, with solicitude. "My lad, what is your name?"
"Frank Kavanagh, ma'am."
"Will you take great care of my little pet, Frank?"
"I will try to, madam. Where do you want him to go?"
"To Madison Park. He always likes the park, because it is so gay. When you get there you may sit down on one of the benches and give him time to rest."
"Yes, ma'am. How long would you like me to stay out with him?"
"About an hour and a half. Have you a watch?"
"No; but I can tell the time by the clock in front of the Fifth-avenue Hotel."
"To be sure. I was going to lend you my watch."
"Shall I start now?"
"Yes. Here is the string. Don't make Fido go too fast. He is stout, and cannot walk fast. You will be sure to take great care of him?"
"And you keep watch that no bad man carries off my Fido. I used to send him out by one of the girls, till I found that she ill-treated the poor thing. Of course I couldn't stand that, so I sent her packing, I can tell you."
"I will try to follow your directions," said Frank, who wanted to laugh at the lady's ridiculous devotion to her ugly little favorite.
"That is right. You look like a good boy. I will give you something for yourself when you come back."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Frank, who was better pleased with this remark than any the lady had previously made.
Mrs. Leroy kissed Fido tenderly, and consigned him to the care of our hero.
"I suppose," said Frank to himself, "that I am the dog's nurse. It is rather a queer office; but as long as I am well paid for it I don't mind."
When Fido found himself on the sidewalk he seemed disinclined to move; but after a while, by dint of coaxing, he condescended to waddle along at Frank's heels.
After a while they reached Madison Park, and Frank, according to his instructions, took a seat, allowing Fido to curl up at his side.
"This isn't very hard work," thought Frank. "I wish I had a book or paper to read, to while away the time."
While he was sitting there Victor Dupont came sauntering along.
"Halloa!" he exclaimed, in surprise, as he recognized Frank, "is that you?"
"I believe it is," answered Frank, with a smile.
"Are you a telegraph boy?"
"I thought you were a newsboy?"
"So I was; but I have changed my business."
"What are you doing here?"
"Taking care of a dog," said Frank, laughing.
"Is that the dog?"
"It's a beastly little brute. What's its name?"
"Who does it belong to?"
"I know," said Victor; "it's a fat lady living on the avenue. I have seen her out often with little pug. How do you feel, Fido?" and Victor began to pull the hair of the lady's favorite.
"Don't do that, Victor," remonstrated Frank.
"Mrs. Leroy wouldn't like it."
"Mrs. Leroy isn't here."
"I am," said Frank, emphatically, "and that is the same thing."
Victor, by way of reply, pinched Fido's ear, and the little animal squeaked his disapproval.
"Look here, Victor," said Frank, decidedly, "you must stop that."
"Must I?" sneered Victor, contemptuously. "'Suppose I don't?"
"Then I shall punch you," said Frank, quietly.
"You are impertinent," said Victor, haughtily. "You needn't put on such airs because you are nurse to a puppy."
"That is better than being a puppy myself," retorted Frank.
"Do you mean to insult me?" demanded Victor, quickly.
"No, unless you choose to think the remark fits you."
"I have a great mind to give you a thrashing," said Victor, furiously.
"Of course I should sit still and let you do it," said Frank, calmly. "Fido is under my care, and I can't have him teased. That is right, isn't it?"
"I did wrong to notice you," said Victor. "You are only a dog's nurse."
"You are right," he said. "It is new business for me, and though it is easy enough I can't say I like it. However, I am in the service of the Telegraph Company, and must do whatever is required."
Victor walked away, rather annoyed because he could not tease Frank.
"The boy has no pride," he said to himself, "or he wouldn't live out to take care of dogs. But, then, it is suitable enough for him."
"Is that dawg yours?" asked a rough-looking man, taking his seat on the bench near Frank.
"How old is it?"
"I don't know."
"Looks like a dawg I used to own. Let me take him."
"I would rather not," said Frank, coldly. "It belongs to a lady who is very particular."
"Oh, you won't, won't you?" said the man, roughly. "Danged if I don't think it is my dawg, after all;" and the man seized Fido, and was about to carry him away.
But Frank seized him by the arm, and called for help.
"What's the matter?" asked a park policeman who, unobserved by either, had come up behind.
"This man is trying to steal my dog," said Frank.
"The dog is mine," said the thief, boldly.
"Drop him!" said the officer, authoritatively. "I have seen that dog before. He belongs to neither of you."
"That is true," said Frank. "It belongs to Mrs. Leroy, of Madison avenue, and I am employed to take it out for an airing."
"It's a lie!" said the man, sullenly.
"If you are seen again in this neighborhood," said the policeman, "I shall arrest you. Now clear out!"
The would-be thief slunk away, and Frank thanked the officer.
"That man is a dog-stealer," said the policeman. "His business is to steal dogs, and wait till a reward is offered. Look out for him!"
A WAYWARD SON.
When Frank carried Fido back to his mistress, he thought it his duty to tell Mrs. Leroy of the attempt to abduct the favorite.
Mrs. Leroy turned pale.
"Did the man actually take my little pet?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am. He said it was his dog."
"The horrid brute! How could I have lived without my darling?" and the lady caressed her favorite tenderly. "How did you prevent him?"
"I seized him by the arm, and held him till a policeman came up."
"You are a brave boy," said Mrs. Leroy, admiringly. "But for you, Fido would have been stolen."
"The policeman said the man was a professional dog-stealer. He steals dogs for the reward which is offered."
"I was sure I could trust you with my pet," said Mrs. Leroy. "You deserve a reward yourself."
"I was only doing my duty, ma'am," said Frank, modestly.
"It isn't everybody that does that."
Mrs. Leroy rose, and, going to her bureau, drew an ivory portemonnaie from a small upper drawer; from this she extracted a two-dollar bill, and gave it to Frank.
"This is too much," said Frank, surprised at the size of the gift.
"Too much for rescuing my little pet? No, no, I am the best judge of that. I wouldn't have lost him for fifty times two dollars."
"You are very liberal, and I am very much obliged to you," said Frank.
"If I send again for a boy to take out Fido, I want you to come."
"I will if I can, ma'am."
For several days, though Frank was employed on errands daily, there was nothing of an unusual character. About eleven o'clock one evening (for Frank had to take his turn at night work) he was sent to a house on West Thirty-eighth street. On arriving, he was ushered into the presence of a lady of middle age, whose anxious face betrayed the anxiety that she felt.
"I have a son rather larger and older than you," she said, "who, to my great sorrow, has been led away by evil companions, who have induced him to drink and play cards for money. I will not admit them into my house, but I cannot keep him from seeking them out. He is no doubt with them to-night."
Frank listened with respectful sympathy, and waited to hear what he was desired to do in the matter.
"The boy's father is dead," continued Mrs. Vivian, with emotion, "and I cannot fill his place. Fred is unwilling to obey his mother. His companions have persuaded him that it is unmanly."
"I would gladly obey my mother if I could have her back," said Frank.
"Is your mother dead, then?" inquired Mrs. Vivian, with quick sympathy.
"I have neither father nor mother," Frank answered gravely.
"Poor boy! And yet you do not fall into temptation."
"I have no time for that, ma'am; I have to earn my living."
"If I could get Fred to take a position it might be a benefit to him," said Mrs. Vivian, thoughtfully. "But the question now is, how I may be able to find him."
"When did you see him last?" asked Frank.
"About three o'clock this afternoon I gave him seventy-five dollars, and sent him to pay a bill. I was perhaps imprudent to trust him with such a sum of money; but for a few days past he has been more steady than usual, and I thought it would show my confidence in him if I employed him in such a matter."
"I should think it would, ma'am."
"But I am afraid Fred fell in with some of his evil companions, and let them know that he was well provided with money. That would be enough to excite their cupidity."
"Who are the companions you speak of?" asked Frank.
"Boys, or rather young men, for they are all older than Fred, of lower social rank than himself. I don't attach any special importance to that, nor do I object to them on that ground; but they are, I have reason to think, ill-bred and disreputable. They know Fred to be richer than themselves, and induce him to drink and play, in the hope of getting some of his money. I have sent for you to go in search of my son. If you find him you must do your best to bring him home."
"I will," said Frank. "Can you give me any idea where he may be found?"
Mrs. Vivian wrote on a card two places,—one a billiard saloon, which she had reason to suspect that her son frequented.
"Now," said Frank, "will you be kind enough to describe your son to me, so that I may know him when I see him?"
"I will show you his photograph," said Mrs. Vivian.
She opened an album, and showed the picture of a boy of seventeen, with a pleasant face, fair complexion, and hair somewhat curly. His forehead was high, and he looked gentlemanly and refined.
"Is he not good-looking?" said the mother.
"He looks like a gentleman," said Frank.
"He would be one if he could throw off his evil associates. Do you think you will know him from the picture?"
"Yes, I think so. Is he tall?"
"Two or three inches taller than you are. You had better take the picture with you. I have an extra one, which you can put in your pocket to help you identify him. By the way, it will be as well that you should be supplied with money in case it is necessary to bring him home in a cab."
Frank understood what the mother found it difficult to explain. She feared that her boy might be the worse for drink.
She handed our hero a five-dollar bill.
"I will use it prudently, madam," said he, "and account to you for all I do not use."
"I trust you wholly," said the lady. "Now go as quickly as possible."
Frank looked at the two addresses he had on the card. The billiard-saloon was on the east side of the city, in an unfashionable locality.
"I'll go there first," he decided.
Crossing to Third avenue he hailed a car, and rode down-town. His knowledge of the city, gained from the walks he took when a newsboy, made it easy for him to find the place of which he was in search. Though it was nearly midnight, the saloon was lighted up, and two tables were in use. On the left-hand side, as he entered, was a bar, behind which stood a man in his shirt-sleeves, who answered the frequent calls for drinks. He looked rather suspiciously at Frank's uniform when he entered.
"What do you want?" he asked. "Have you any message for me?"
"No," said Frank, carelessly. "Let me have a glass of lemonade."
The bar-keeper's face cleared instantly, and he set about preparing the beverage required.
"Won't you have something in it?" he asked.
"No, sir," said Frank.
"You boys are kept out pretty late," said the bar-keeper, socially.
"Not every night," said Frank. "We take turns."
Frank paid ten cents for his lemonade, and, passing into the billiard-saloon, sat down and watched a game. He looked around him, but could not see anything of Fred. In fact, all the players were men.
Sitting next to him was a young fellow, who was watching the game.
"Suppose we try a game," he said to Frank.
"Not to-night. I came in here to look for a friend, but I guess he isn't here."
"I've been here two hours. What does your friend look like?"
"That's his picture," said Frank, displaying the photograph.
"Oh, yes," said his new acquaintance, "he is here now. His name is Fred, isn't it?"
"Yes," answered Frank, eagerly; "I don't see him. Where is he?"
"He's playing cards upstairs, but I don't believe he can tell one card from the other."
"Been drinking, I suppose," said Frank, betraying no surprise.
"I should say so. Do you know the fellows he's with?"
"I am not sure about that. How long has Fred been upstairs?"
"About an hour. He was playing billiards till he couldn't stand straight, and then they went upstairs."
"Would you mind telling him that there is a friend downstairs who wishes to see him, that is, if you know the way?"
"Oh, yes, I live here. Won't you come up with me?"
"Perhaps I had better," said Frank, and followed his companion through a door in the rear, and up a dark and narrow staircase to the street floor.
"It'll be a hard job to get him away," thought Frank; "but, for his mother's sake, I will do my best."
A TIMELY RESCUE.
As Frank entered the room he hastily took in the scene before him. Round a table sat three young men, of not far from twenty, the fourth side being occupied by Fred Vivian. They were playing cards, and sipping drinks as they played. Fred Vivian's handsome face was flushed, and he was nervously excited. His hands trembled as he lifted the glass, and his wandering, uncertain glances showed that he was not himself.
"It's your play, Fred," said his partner.
Fred picked up a card without looking at it, and threw it down on the table.
"That settles it," said another. "Fred, old boy, you've lost the game. You're another five dollars out."
Fred fumbled in his pocket for a bill, and it was quickly taken from his hand before he could well see of what value it was. Frank, however, quickly as it was put away, saw that it was a ten. It was clear that Fred was being cheated in the most barefaced manner.
Frank's entrance was evidently unwelcome to most of the company.
"What are you bringing in that boy for, John?" demanded a low-browed fellow, with a face like a bull-dog.
"He is a friend of Fred," answered John.
"He's a telegraph boy. He comes here a spy. Fred don't know him. Clear out, boy!"
Frank took no notice of this hostile remark, but walked up to Fred Vivian.
"Fred," said he, thinking it best to speak as if he knew him, "it is getting late, and your mother is anxious about you. Won't you come home with me?"
"Who are you?" asked Fred, with drunken gravity. "You aint my mother."
"I come from your mother. Don't you know me? I am Frank Kavanagh."
"How do, Frank? Glad to see you, ol' feller. Take a drink. Here, you boy, bring a drink for my frien', Frank Kavanagh."
The three others looked on disconcerted. They were not ready to part with Fred yet, having secured only a part of his money.
"You don't know him, Fred," said the one who had appropriated the ten-dollar bill. "He's only a telegraph boy."
"I tell you he's my frien', Frank Kav'nagh," persisted Fred, with an obstinacy not unusual in one in his condition.
"Well, if he is, let him sit down, and have a glass of something hot."
"No, I thank you," said Frank, coldly. "Fred and I are going home."
"No, you're not," exclaimed the other, bringing his fist heavily down upon the table. "We won't allow our friend Fred to be kidnapped by a boy of your size,—not much we won't, will we, boys?"
"No! no!" chimed in the other two.
Fred Vivian looked at them undecided.
"I guess I'd better go," he stammered "There's something the matter with my head."
"You need another drink to brace you up. Here, John, bring up another punch for Fred."
Frank saw that unless he got Fred away before drinking any more, he would not be in a condition to go at all. It was a critical position, but he saw that he must be bold and resolute.
"You needn't bring Fred anything more," he said. "He has had enough already."
"I have had enough already," muttered Fred, mechanically.
"Boys, are we going to stand this?" said the low-browed young man. "Are we going to let this telegraph boy interfere with a social party of young gentlemen? I move that we throw him downstairs."
He half rose as he spoke, but Frank stood his ground.
"You'd better not try it," he said quietly, "unless you want to pass the night in the station-house."
"What do you mean, you young jackanapes?" said the other angrily. "What charge can you trump up against us?"
"You have been cheating Fred out of his money," said Frank, firmly.
"It's a lie! We've been having a friendly game, and he lost. If we'd lost, we would have paid."
"How much did he lose?"
"And you took ten from him."
"It's a lie!" repeated the other; but he looked disconcerted.
"It is true, for I noticed the bill as you took it from him. But it's not much worse than playing for money with him when he is in no condition to understand the game. You'd better give him back that ten-dollar bill."
"I've a great mind to fling you downstairs, you young scamp!"
"You are strong enough to do it," said Frank, exhibiting no trace of fear, "but I think you would be sorry for it afterwards. Come, Fred."
Though Frank was so much younger and smaller, there was something in his calm, self-possessed manner that gave him an ascendency over the weak, vacillating Fred. The latter rose, and, taking our hero's arm, turned to leave the room.
"Let him go," said the leader, who had been made uneasy by Frank's threat, and saw that it was politic to postpone his further designs upon his intended victim. "If he chooses to obey a small telegraph boy, he can."
"Don't mind him, Fred," said Frank. "You know I'm your friend."
"My friend, Frank Kavanagh!" repeated Fred, drowsily. "I'm awful sleepy, Frank. I want to go to bed."
"You shall go to bed as soon as you get home, Fred."
"I say, boy," said the leader, uneasily, "that was all a lie about the ten-dollar bill. You didn't see straight. Did he, Bates?"
"Of course he didn't."
"One lies and the other swears to it," thought Frank.
"Nothing will be done about it," he said, "if you will let Fred alone hereafter. The money you have won from him belongs to his mother, and, unless you keep away from him, she will order your arrest."
"You're altogether too smart for a boy of your size," sneered the other. "Take your friend away. We don't care to associate with a milksop, who allows himself to be ordered around by women and children."
Fortunately Fred was too drowsy to pay heed to what was being said; in fact he was very sleepy, and was anxious to go to bed. Frank got him into a cab, and in twenty minutes they safely reached his mother's house in Thirty-eighth street.
Mrs. Vivian was anxiously awaiting the return of the prodigal.
"O Fred," she said, "how could you stay away so, when you know how worried I get? You have been drinking, too."
"This is my friend, Frank Kavanagh," hiccoughed Fred.
"Shall I go up and help put him to bed?" asked Frank.
"Does he require help?" asked Mrs. Vivian, sorrowfully.
"He has been drinking a good deal."
"Yes, you may go up. I will lead the way to his chamber. Afterwards I want to speak to you."
"Where did you find him?" asked Mrs. Vivian, when Frank with some difficulty had prepared his charge for bed.
"In the billiard-saloon to which you directed me. He was upstairs playing cards for money. They were cheating him in the most outrageous manner."
"I suppose they got all his money."
"Not all; but they would soon have done so. Here is his pocket-book, which I just took from his pocket."
"There are twenty dollars left," said 'Mrs. Vivian, after an examination. "They must have secured the rest. O my poor boy! Would that I could shield you from these dangerous companions!"
"I don't think they will trouble him again, Mrs. Vivian."
"Why not? You do not know them."
"I told them that, if they came near him, hereafter, you would have them arrested for swindling your son out of money belonging to you."
"Will that have any effect upon them?"
"Yes, because they know that I am ready to appear as a witness against them."
"Did Fred show any unwillingness to come with you?"
"No; I made him think I was an old acquaintance of his. Besides, he was feeling sleepy."
"You have acted with great judgment for so young a lad," said Mrs. Vivian. "I wish Fred had a companion like you to influence him for good. Where do you live?"