Chapter X. The First Night in New York.
 

For an instant a feeling of intense loneliness swept over Richard's heart as he stood on the dark and silent pavement. He had firmly counted upon spending the night at the Watch Below, and now to find that place closed up caused his heart to sink within him. He reproached himself bitterly for having allowed his curiosity and love of books to make him forgetful of his situation.

"How am I ever to get along in this world unless I watch out?" he said to himself dismally. "I suppose it will do no good to knock on the door. By the way the place is located, the sleeping-room must be upstairs in the rear, and I might pound till doomsday without any one hearing me."

Nevertheless, he rapped loudly upon the door, not once, but several times, and so hard that he drew the attention of the policeman on that beat.

"Phat are you trying to do?" asked the officer as he came up.

"I want to get in;" and Richard related the particulars of his plight.

"You'll have a job, me b'y," was the reply. "Mrs. Betty slapes like a log."

They waited for several minutes in silence. But nobody appeared and no sound came from within.

"Phat are you going to do?" asked the policeman finally.

"I don't know, I'm sure. My valise is inside with my money. I've only got twenty cents in change in my pocket."

"There's a lodging-house in Washington Street where you can get a bed for that," went on the officer. "But it's not over clean."

"I don't want to go where it's dirty," replied the boy, shuddering.

And for a brief instant a vision of his own neat and tidy cot at home floated through his mind.

"Well, oi dunno; you can't stay out here."

While trying to plan what to do a man turned the corner and came toward them. By the walk Richard recognized Doc Linyard, and with a cry of joy he ran up to the old tar.

"Ahoy! so here you are?" exclaimed the sailor, his face beaming with satisfaction. "A nice chase you've led me! Where did you go to?"

"Nowhere. I stopped to look at some books and then I couldn't find you again," replied Richard. "I'm so glad you've come. They've gone to bed."

"All below decks, eh? Well, it's time. I've spent an hour looking for you over on the Bowery. How are you, Mulligan?" the last to the policeman, who nodded pleasantly.

Producing a key, Doc Linyard opened the restaurant door. Then he handed the policeman a cigar as a reward for the trouble the officer had taken, and he and Richard entered.

The old sailor locked the door carefully behind them and lit a hand lamp that his thoughtful wife had placed upon the front counter.

"I thought such places as this kept lights all night," observed Richard, as they walked back.

"Most of 'em do,--them as has gas. But the insurance companies think oil dangerous, so we do without."

Doc Linyard preceded the boy up a narrow stairway to a small room on the third floor.

"Here you are," he exclaimed, as he set the lamp down on a table. "Betty got it all fixed for you. There's your valise and the bed's waiting for you. Take my advice and don't get up too early, not afore seven o'clock any way,--and pleasant dreams to you."

"Thank you; the same to you," replied Richard sincerely.

It was a cozy apartment, and the boy had not been in it over five minutes before he felt perfectly at home. Before retiring he sat down to write the promised letter home.

He had no ink; but paper and envelopes had been brought along, and in half an hour his lead pencil had filled several sheets with a very creditable account of what had transpired.

This done he undressed and retired, not, however, before thanking God for his kind care, and asking for His help and guidance during whatever was to follow.

Despite the varied fortunes of his trip, the boy's sleep was a sound one, and it lacked but a few minutes to seven when he awoke in the morning.

A basin of clean water stood on a stand at the foot of the bed, and after a plunge into this, he dressed, combed his hair, and went below.

Of course the restaurant was already comfortably filled, and as a matter of fact, had been for over an hour.

"Hello, my hearty! on deck I see," called out Doc Linyard. "I hope you slept well in your strange bunk." "First rate," was Richard's reply. "And longer than I expected, too. Guess I'll start right out to look for work.

"Not afore you've had some breakfast. Sit down, and I'll fetch you some coffee and biscuits. Here's the morning papers; you can look 'em over--the Male Help Wanted column. Reckon you'll find something worth trying for."

Finding remonstrances of no avail, Richard sat down and allowed himself to be helped to a morning repast.

While eating he looked over the paper, and found quite a number of places worth hunting up. By the aid of the map Mr. Joyce had loaned him he sorted out the addresses in regular order, and put them down in his note-book.

"Here is that newspaper office order," said the sailor, as Richard was about to leave. "If you're around in that neighborhood in the afternoon just see if there are any answers. One might have come already."

"I will," replied Richard. "Can I leave my valise here?"

"Certainly; I want you to make yourself at home here until you find a better place."

"Thank you. But I must pay you--"

"Not a cent. You helped me, and I'm going to do my duty by you. I'm no land shark."

And the old sailor shook his head in a way that showed he meant every word he said.

BOY WANTED, bright and active; to help feed. Norris Printing Co., Water St., near Wall.

Such was the wording of the first advertisement on Richard's list.

He knew Wall Street ran from Broadway opposite Trinity Church, towards the East River, and he was not long in reaching that famous money mart, where millions of dollars change hands each day between the hours of 10 A.M. and 3 P.M. The grand approaches to many of the buildings made him feel timid, and he could not help but wonder if the place to which he was going was also so magnificent.

But Water Street, crooked, ill paved and dirty, was a decided contrast to its neighbor. Storage and warehouses abounded; and the numerous trucks backed up to receive or deliver goods necessitated walking more in the street than on the sidewalk.

The building occupied by the Norris Printing Co. was at length reached. The office was on the second floor, and climbing up a flight of worn and grimy steps, Richard knocked at the door.

"Come in," said a voice from inside, and he entered.

"I understand you want a boy to help feed," he began, addressing a man who sat at a desk piled with books and printed sheets.

"Apply to Mr. Nelson, in the basement," was the brief reply.

"Yes, sir."

The stairs to the lowest floor were even narrower than the others had been. It led to a pressroom that seemed to be one mass of motion and noise.

Mr. Nelson proved to be a pleasant man of perhaps fifty.

"Had any experience?" he asked, after Richard had announced his errand.

"No, sir; but I think I can learn as quickly as anybody."

"Perhaps; but we couldn't pay you so much while you were learning."

"How much would you start me at--if I worked real hard?"

Mr. Nelson hesitated.

"We'll give you two dollars a week to begin," he said. "When you can do as much as the rest we'll raise you to three or four."

Richard's hopes fell. Even four dollars a week would barely keep him, much less allow of money being sent home.

"I'm afraid I can't accept it," he said. "I must support myself and I can't do it on two dollars a week."

"It's all we can allow," replied Mr. Nelson, and he turned away to his work.

In a moment Richard was on the street again. The setback chilled his ardor, but only for an instant, and then he hurried on to the next place.

It was a confectionery store, and entering, he purchased five cents' worth of chewing gum, such as he knew his little sister would like.

"I understand you want a boy," he said to the proprietor, who happened to be the one to wait on him.

"I hired one about an hour ago," was the reply. "Are you looking for a place?"

"Yes, sir."

The man gave Richard a sharp glance.

"You look like a bright sort of a chap," he said. "Suppose you leave me your address? The other boy may not suit."

So Richard put down his name and the address of the Watch Below.

"I'm only stopping there temporarily," he explained, "and may leave, but I'll drop around again in a day or two if I don't strike anything else."

"Do; I don't like the other boy much. I only took him because a friend asked me to."

"What do you pay?"

"Four dollars a week, and I might make it five if you would be willing to help on the wagon as well as in the store."

"I certainly would," replied Richard promptly. "I'm willing to work real hard at anything, providing it's honest."

"That's the way I like to hear a lad talk," said the confectioner approvingly.

"Five dollars a week is certainly better than two," was Richard's mental comment, as he hurried along. "Perhaps the next place will offer something better still."

But the next place was already filled; and so were the three that followed.

The seventh was on Vesey Street, the neighborhood that supplies half the metropolis with tea and coffee. A boy was wanted to help fill orders and deliver--a man's work--though Richard did not know it.

"We'll pay you seven dollars," was the merchant's reply, after the boy had inquired after the place. "You will have to deliver principally, and collect, of course."

"And when can I go to work?" asked Richard, overjoyed at an opening that promised so well.

"Anytime. Right away if you like. But you'll have to furnish twenty-five dollars security." This news put a damper on the boy's hopes.

"Twenty-five dollars security?" he repeated.

"Yes. You'll have more than that to collect"--which was not true--"and of course you will be responsible, and must turn in the money for every order taken out."

"I'd be sure to do that, or else return the goods."

"We don't take the goods back," was the firm reply. "Everything that goes out has been ordered and is charged to the account of the one taking the goods out."

"Who takes the orders?"

"Our canvassers."

"But the orders may not be good," suggested the boy. "People sometimes change their minds, especially when they've been talked into buying."

"The orders are always good. Besides, if a person refuses to honor his order all you've got to do is to turn round and sell the packages to some one else. Come, what do you say? You'd better try it. It's a good offer."

"I haven't got the money," was Richard's reply.

And for some reason he was glad of the fact.

"Better get it then and go to work," urged the merchant. "You can't make seven dollars a week easier."

"I'll think it over," replied the boy.

There was something in the offer that did not strike him favorably, and indeed it was a good thing that he was not in a position to accept it.

The whole proposition was hardly above a common swindle, enough bogus orders being put among the honest ones either to make the one undertaking the job do a lot of peddling on his own account, or else cause him to pay away half his salary on the goods left over.

Walking up Vesey Street, Richard found himself directly opposite the post-office. By the clock on St. Paul's he saw that it was long after noon.

Rather disheartened at his non-success after spending a whole morning in the search for work, he rounded the Astor House corner and crossed Broadway.

"Newspaper Row," as Doc Linyard had appropriately called it, was just across the opposite street, and the boy made up his mind to visit the office where the advertisement had been left, and see if there were any letters as yet for the old sailor.

The doors of the post-office were open on both sides, and, curious to see how the building looked inside, Richard started to go through instead of going around.

The many departments upon the ground floor were a study to him, and the signs--Domestic Mails, Foreign Mails, Letters for New York City, Letters for Outgoing Mails--all this was in strong contrast to the little three by four box that held all the mail of the village at home.

And the many private boxes! He guessed there must be ten thousand of them. Every second a new-comer walked up to open one.

Presently a familiar figure stepped up to one directly in front of Richard, and taking out a handful of letters, closed the box and turned to go away.

It was Mr. Timothy Joyce.