Chapter XI. Robbed.
 

Richard was highly delighted to see his fellow passenger once again, and running up he grasped the gentleman by the shoulder.

"Mr. Joyce!"

"Why, hello! Where did you come from?" exclaimed the leather merchant, thrusting the letters into his pocket and taking hold of the boy's extended hand, "I hope you weren't hurt."

"No, sir," replied Richard, "only shaken up. I trust you were as fortunate."

"Not quite. My foot was caught under the seat and was wrenched pretty badly, so much so that I had a man take me half a mile in a wheelbarrow to a doctor's."

"I looked all over for you," continued the boy. "I saved your valise and wanted to return it."

And Richard related the particulars of his adventures.

"Humph! those railroad chaps are too particular in some cases and not half enough so in others," declared Mr. Joyce. "What is in the bag doesn't amount to much, but I'm much obliged to you for taking the trouble to save it. I'll send for it this afternoon."

"And here is your guide-book," went on Richard, handing out the volume. "I'm thankful for the use of it. It's been a real help to me."

"Better keep it then," replied the merchant. "I'll make you a present of it." He laughed, presumably at the smallness of the gift.

"Thank you."

"Have you had any luck yet in your search for work?"

"No, sir. I could have had a job at several places, but the pay was so small I couldn't afford to accept any of them."

"Yes, that's the trouble. Good openings are scarce, and very often one must be known to get a place."

"And some want security," added the boy, relating his interview with the tea-merchant.

"Don't have anything to do with that class of men," exclaimed Mr. Joyce emphatically. "They won't give you a cent more than they are forced to, and advancement in their service is out of the question."

"It didn't strike me very favorably."

"I am sorry that you are not better acquainted with city ways. You may have to pay dearly for your experience, though I hope not."

"I'm going to keep my eyes open as widely as I can, sir."

"You'll have to." Mr. Joyce paused for a moment. "Can you come over to my office this afternoon, about three o'clock?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Maybe I'll be able to place you. I won't promise, but I'll do what I can."

Richard's heart gave a bound. He had taken a strong liking to the leather merchant, and the hearty manner of the latter, somewhat like that of Doc Linyard, was certainly taking.

"Thank you, I'll be on hand," he replied quickly.

"Do; but remember I make no promises," returned Mr. Joyce. "I'm off now. I must answer this mail and a pile of other letters that have accumulated during my absence."

In a moment the merchant was lost to sight in the crowd.

"I'm glad that I met him," thought the boy. "It may be the luckiest thing yet. I'm sure if he finds an opening for me it will be the right thing to take hold of."

Under the turn of affairs Richard decided to get the sailor's letters, if there were any, and return to the Watch Below at once. It was after one o'clock, leaving him about an hour and a half before going to the merchant's place of business.

"I must be prompt," he said to himself. "It will count, I'm sure."

Watching his chance among the score of street cars which pass the post- office corner every minute, the boy dived through the crowd and reached the opposite side of Park Bow.

The newspaper office was but a few steps away, and in a second he was inside.

Quite a number of people were in the counting-room. They were mostly of the poorer class, and were either looking over the want columns of the papers on file or else waiting for answers to advertisements which they had inserted.

Richard joined the line of the latter, and in due turn found himself at the window, slip in hand.

The clerk glanced at the slip and then looked over some letters in a certain box.

"Here you are," he said, and handed back the slip, accompanied by two letters.

"Two answers!" exclaimed Richard as he moved away. "Doc Linyard is certainly in luck. I must hurry back. He will be anxious, I know."

Richard put the slip in his vest-pocket. In doing so he pulled out two one dollar bills which he had taken from his valise in the morning, and folded the paper and money together.

As he shoved the roll into his pocket he did not notice that a hungry pair of eyes, just outside of the swinging glass doors, were watching his every action.

The hungry pair of eyes belonged to a boy of twelve, though he looked older--a street urchin--dirty, ragged, with a pinched face and a starved, ill-clad form. A look of sheer desperation came into these eyes when their owner saw the money, and he trembled with excitement as a certain bold and wicked thought came into his mind--a thought born, not of a bad heart, but of--an empty stomach.

As Richard came out of the door the street boy shoved against him. The doors were heavy, and for an instant Richard found his way blocked. He pushed back the opposite door, and attempted to pass.

"Say, mister, dere's a big bug on your collar!" exclaimed the urchin, pointing to Richard's neck.

Now, as I'm sure every one knows, to merely have such a thing mentioned is to feel the insect in question. Such was the case with Richard, and still holding the door with one hand he put the other up to his neck.

This was the would-be thief's chance. With a dexterity worthy of a better cause the urchin transferred the slip, money and letters to his own pocket. It was done in less than three seconds, and then he darted back into the crowd upon the street.

Of course Richard found no bug, and he was considerably perplexed by the urchin's actions, never dreaming of what had really occurred.

"I suppose that boy was fooling me," he thought. "Maybe it's one of those silly jokes that become all the rage every now and then."

Richard walked to the corner of Ann Street. St. Paul's clock now pointed to ten minutes to two, and he had no time to waste.

"Watch protectors, gents, only ten cents each! May some day save you the loss of a valuable timepiece! Step right up now; only a dime! Regular price fifty cents!"

It was a street vender who made this announcement. He stood upon the curbstone, a small tray of his wares suspended from his shoulders.

"Here's just what you want, sir," he said, addressing Richard.

"Thank you; but I don't carry a watch," was the boy's polite reply.

"You will one of these days. Better have one."

"If I need one I'll call around," replied Richard briefly.

The idea of a safeguard caused him to feel in his pockets to see that his belongings were still in his possession, first in one--another--every one.

Then he realized what had happened. He had been robbed.