Chapter XXIV. A Good Beginning.
 

Jim started to his feet at the sight of the equally unwelcome and unexpected visitor. His mother, ignorant that she saw before her the owner of the bag, supposed it might be a customer wanting some washing done.

"Good-morning, sir," said she, "And have yez business with me?"

"No," said Robert, "I have business with your son, if that's he."

"Shure he's my son, and a smart bye he is too."

"He's a little too smart sometimes," returned our hero. "I gave him my carpetbag to carry this morning, and he ran away with it."

Mrs. Malone's face fell at this unexpected intelligence.

"Shur an' it was a mistake of his," she said. "He's too honest entirely to stale the value of a pin, let alone a carpetbag."

Meanwhile Jim was rapidly reviewing the situation. He was not naturally bad, but he had fallen a victim to sudden temptation. He was ashamed, and determined to make amends by a frank confession.

"My mother is wrong," he said; "I meant to kape it, and I'm sorry. Here's the bag, wid nothing taken out of it."

"That's right, to own up," said Robert, favorably impressed with his frank confession. "Give me the bag and it'll be all right. I suppose you were poor, and that tempted you. I am poor, too, and couldn't afford to lose it. But I'd rather starve than steal, and I hope you will not be dishonest again."

"I won't!" said Jim, stoutly. "I'll go with you now to a chape hotel, and won't charge you nothin'."

"I've got a boy downstairs who will take it. Don't forget what you said just now."

"No, I won't," said Jim. "Shure if I'd known what a bully young gentleman you was, I wouldn't have took it on no account."

So Robert descended the stairs, having by his forbearance probably effected a moral reformation in Jim, and confirmed in him the good principles, which, in spite of his mother's bad example, had already taken root in his heart. If the community, while keeping vigilant watch over the young outcasts that throng our streets, plying their petty avocations, would not always condemn, but encourage them sometimes to a better life, the results would soon appear in the diminution of the offenses for which they are most frequently arrested.

His new guide shouldered Robert's carpetbag, and conducted him to a hotel of good standing, managed on the European system. Dismissing the boy with the promised reward, Robert went up to his room on the fifth floor, and after attending to his toilet, sallied out into the street and made his way to the warehouse of the merchant who had been instrumental in raising the fund for him.

"Mr. Morgan is engaged," said a clerk to whom he spoke.

"I will wait for him, if you please," said Robert.

"Is it any business that I can attend to?" asked the clerk.

"No, I wish to see Mr. Morgan himself."

Mr. Morgan was engaged with two gentlemen, and our hero was obliged to wait nearly half an hour. At the end of that time, the merchant consented to see him. He did not at first recognize him, but said, inquiringly, "Well, my young friend, from whom do you come?"

"I come from no one, sir."

"Have you business with me?"

"You do not remember me, Mr. Morgan. Do you remember when the cars came so near running off the track a short time since at Millville?"

"Certainly I do," said Mr. Morgan, heartily; "and I now remember you as the brave boy who saved all our lives."

"You gave me your card and told me I might call on you."

"To be sure, I did, and I am very glad to see you. You must go home and dine with me to-day."

"Thank you, sir, for your kind invitation."

"This is my address," said the merchant, writing it in pencil, and handing it to Robert. "We dine at half-past six. You had better be at the door at six. We will then talk over your plans, for I suppose you have some, and I will do what I can to promote them. At present I am busy, and am afraid I must ask you to excuse me."

"Thank you, sir," said Robert, gratefully.

He left the office, not a little elated at his favorable reception. Mr. Morgan, judging from his place of business, must be a man of great wealth, and could no doubt be of essential service to him. What was quite as important, he seemed disposed to help him.

"That's a good beginning," thought Robert. "I wish mother knew how well I have succeeded so far. I'll just write and let her know that I have arrived safe. To-morrow perhaps I shall have better news to tell."

He went back to his hotel, and feeling hungry, made a substantial meal. He found the restaurants moderate in price, and within his means.

Six o'clock found him ringing the bell of a handsome brownstone house on Fifth avenue. Though not disposed to be shy, he felt a little embarrassed as the door opened and a servant in livery stood before him.

"Is Mr. Morgan at home?" inquired Robert.

"Yes, sir," said the servant, glancing speculatively at the neat but coarse garments of our hero.

"He invited me to dine with him," said Robert.

"Won't you walk in, sir?" said the servant, with another glance of wild surprise at the dress of the dinner guest. "If you'll walk in here," opening the door of a sumptuously furnished parlor, "I will announce you. What name shall I say?"

"Robert Rushton."

Robert entered the parlor, and sat down on a sofa. He looked around him with a little, pardonable curiosity, for he had never before been in an elegant city mansion.

"I wonder whether I shall ever be rich enough to live like this!" he thought.

The room, though elegant, was dark, and to our hero, who was used to bright, sunny rooms, it seemed a little gloomy. He mentally decided that he would prefer a plain country house; not so plain, indeed, as the little cottage where his mother lived, but as nice, perhaps, as the superintendent's house, which was the finest in the village, and the most magnificent he had until this time known. Its glories were wholly eclipsed by the house he was in, but Robert thought he would prefer it. While he was looking about him, Mr. Morgan entered, and his warm and cordial manner made his boy guest feel quite at his ease.

"I must make you acquainted with my wife and children," he said. "They have heard of you, and are anxious to see you."

Mrs. Morgan gave Robert a reception as warm as her husband had done.

"So this is the young hero of whom I have heard!" she said.

"I am afraid you give me too much credit," said Robert, modestly.

This modest disclaimer produced a still more favorable impression upon both Mr. and Mrs. Morgan.

I do not propose to speak in detail of the dinner that followed. The merchant and his wife succeeded in making Robert feel entirely at home, and he displayed an ease and self-possession wholly free from boldness that won their good opinion.

When the dinner was over, Mr. Morgan commenced:

"Now, Robert, dinner being over, let us come to business. Tell me your plans, and I will consider how I can promote them."

In reply, Robert communicated the particulars, already known to the reader, of his father's letter, his own conviction of his still living, and his desire to go in search of him.

"I am afraid you will be disappointed," said the merchant, "in the object of your expedition. It may, however, be pleasant for you to see something of the world, and luckily it is in my power to help you. I have a vessel which sails for Calcutta early next week. You shall go as a passenger."

"Couldn't I go as cabin-boy?" asked Robert. "I am afraid the price of a ticket will be beyond my means."

"I think not," said the merchant, smiling, "since you will go free. As you do not propose to follow the sea, it will not be worth while to go as cabin-boy. Besides, It interfere with your liberty to leave the vessel whenever you deemed it desirable in order to carry on your search for your father."

"You are very kind, Mr. Morgan," said Robert, gratefully.

"So I ought to be and mean to be," said the merchant. "You know I am in your debt."

We pass over the few and simple preparations which Robert made for his long voyage. In these he was aided by Mrs. Morgan, who sent on board, without his knowledge, a trunk containing a complete outfit, considerably better than the contents of the humble carpetbag he had brought from home.

He didn't go on board till the morning on which the ship was to sail. He went down into the cabin, and did not come up until the ship had actually started. Coming on deck, he saw a figure which seemed familiar to him. From his dress, and the commands he appeared to be issuing, Robert judged that it was the mate. He tried to think where he could have met him, when the mate turned full around, and, alike to his surprise and dismay, he recognized Ben Haley, whom he had wounded in his successful attempt to rob his uncle.