Chapter XIV. Work Obtained.
 

The establishment to which the leather merchant had brought Richard was an imposing one, situated in a massive stone building, and having large and heavy plate glass doors and windows. A formidable array of blank-books and sets of well-known authors' works were piled up in the window which bore the firm's name:

  WILLIAMS & MANN.

Directly to the left of the entrance inside, stood a great safe, and further on appeared an almost interminable row of shelves and drawers, all apparently crammed with articles pertaining to the stationery and book trade.

Stepping up to a salesman Mr. Joyce inquired:

"Is Mr. Williams in?"

"Mr. Williams has gone to Chicago," was the polite reply.

"Chicago, eh? When will he be back?"

"We expect him back day after to-morrow; possibly to-morrow afternoon."

"Humph!" Mr. Joyce rubbed his chin. "Is Mr. Mann about?"

"Yes, sir; just gone up to the stock-room."

"Tell him I'd like to see him for a few minutes."

"Yes, sir. Mr. Joyce, I believe."

"That's the name."

"I'll send word at once. Won't you sit down?"

"Thanks."

Mr. Joyce sank into an office chair.

Going to a speaking tube behind one of the broad counters, the salesman sent his message up to one of the floors above.

"Mr. Mann will be down directly," he said, after a moment.

In five minutes a stout, bald-headed gentleman of fifty came down by the elevator at one side, and stepped forward.

"How are you, Tim?" he exclaimed, thrusting out a chubby hand.

"First rate, Mel," returned Mr. Joyce. "This is a young friend of mine, Richard Dare," he continued.

Mr. Mann shook hands cordially.

"He has come to the city to try his luck," went on the leather merchant. "He has a taste for your line, so I brought him around to see if you hadn't an opening for him."

Now an application made in this way, and coming from an ordinary source, would have met with a courteous negative. But the firm of Williams & Mann were under obligations to Mr. Joyce, who had on several occasions indorsed their notes for many thousands of dollars. Besides, all three men were old friends; so Mr. Mann gave the request every attention.

"We are rather full of hands," he said slowly; "but still I might find room for him. Have you had any business training?" he continued, turning to Richard.

"Very little, sir," replied the boy promptly, though it came hard to make such a confession.

"He hasn't had a bit," interposed Mr. Joyce. "He's as jolly green as we were when we came here," he added in a whisper. "But he's bright, honest and level-headed, and I've taken a fancy to him and want you to give him a chance."

"Do you like to handle books?" asked Mr. Mann.

"Yes, sir; very much."

"Yes, it's just what he does like," put in the leather merchant. "Place him among the books if you can."

"Perhaps I can do that; but I won't be able to pay you much until you are experienced."

"I must earn my living, sir," said Richard respectfully, but in a firm manner.

"Of course he must," added Mr. Joyce. "He has just lost his father," he continued in a low tone, "and I suppose it's hard times at home."

"Have you known him long?" asked Mr. Mann, as the two walked to one side.

"Only two days."

"Two days!"

"Yes."

"Is he--that is, suppose I put him in a place of trust? It will be a risk that--"

"I'll go security for him."

"And you have only known him two days, Tim! Seems to me you're not as cautious as you used to be."

"Never mind. I know some honest faces when I see them, and his is one. Let me tell you how we became acquainted."

The two men continued their conversation for several minutes.

"I'll take you on at once," said Mr. Mann, presently to Richard. "I suppose you would like that best."

"Yes, sir."

"You can have the hour remaining to-day to get broken in. I will give you six dollars a week at the start, and if you learn as rapidly as Mr. Joyce thinks you will I'll raise you in a few weeks to seven or eight."

"Thank you, sir; I'll try to make myself worth it."

"It's hard work, and you will have to pitch right in," Mr. Mann went on. "We have no use for laggards."

"Well, I'm going," broke in Mr. Joyce. "Now I've placed you I hope you will make something of yourself," he added.

"I'll try to," replied the boy. "Many thanks to you for your kindness."

"If you come down in my neighborhood drop in and see me."

"Thank you, I will with pleasure," was Richard's reply.

"We will go right upstairs to the stock-room," said Mr. Mann, after Mr. Joyce had departed. "We have a large pile of pamphlets and books which the clerk we discharged left all mixed up. I was just assisting the stock-clerk in making out a new division of the department."

Entering the elevator, they were soon taken to a floor three stories above. The stock-room was in the rear, the large windows overlooking an alley.

The place was piled high with books of all descriptions, some in sets and others separate, from cheap reprints to costly volumes filled with etchings and engravings.

"Here, Mr. Massanet, I've brought a young man to help you," said Mr. Mann, addressing the clerk in charge, a pleasant-looking fellow apparently not many years older than Richard.

He came forward and gave the boy a kindly look of welcome.

"We need help here," he said. "There is plenty to do."

"His name is Dare--Richard Dare," continued Mr. Mann. "I do not know him, but a friend recommended him."

"We'll soon see what he can do," replied Frank Massanet, with a smile. "Are you going to work now?" he asked of Richard.

"Yes; break him in at once," said Mr. Mann. "I'll leave him in your charge. Mr. Massanet will tell you anything you want to know," he went on to the boy. "He is the head here."

Left alone with Frank Massanet it did not take long for Richard to become well acquainted with the stock-clerk, who gave him a few brief directions and then set him to work filling up broken sets of books, dusting them, and placing them in a case for shipment.

"We must get this whole batch away by next Tuesday," said Massanet. "Because on Wednesday another large consignment will arrive, and we must have room to handle it."

The work delighted Richard, and he pitched in with a will. It was new and novel, as well as agreeable, and, besides, doing it for pay made it no task at all.

Talking did not interfere with the progress of either of the workers, and attracted by Frank Massanet's cordial manner, Richard gradually revealed to the stock-clerk why he had come to the city, and what his ambitions were.

In return Frank related much concerning himself. His father, who had been a Frenchman, was dead, and his mother, sister Martha and himself kept house up-town on the east side. It was apparent that the young man was the main support of the family, for he said that just previous to his death his father had been unfortunate in business and had lost nearly every dollar he possessed. His mother did the work at home, while his sister earned six dollars a week at typewriting.

"It is pleasant to have a home to go to," said Richard, after a bit. "You don't know how queer I felt to be away from the others."

"Homesick?" asked Frank kindly; and then impelled by a sudden warm feeling he placed his hand on Richard's shoulder. The action, small as it was, brought a little lump to the boy's throat.

"No--not exactly," he replied, "only--"

"I know what you mean. Before I got this place I went to Boston for two months to try my luck, and I was among strangers."

"Some day, when I can afford it, I intend to bring my folks to the city," Richard went on.

"Where are you stopping now?" asked Frank.

"With a sailor friend of mine down on West Street."

"West Street! It is not a very nice locality."

"No; but he is very kind, and so is his wife. They keep a restaurant. He was in a railroad accident with me, and that's the reason he takes to me."

"Yes, accidents often make strange people friends."

"But I must hunt up a regular boarding-house," went on Richard. "I suppose a good one that is cheap is hard to find."

"You are right. How much do you expect to pay, if I may ask?"

"Not over four dollars. I'm to get six here, and I can't afford any more. When my salary is raised I'll be willing to go a little more, but not much, because I want to send home all the money I can."

Frank Massanet was silent for a moment. Richard's way pleased him, and he felt drawn towards the new-comer.

"My mother has been thinking of taking a boarder," he said slowly. "We have a spare hall bedroom. It is not very large, but it has good ventilation, and is neatly furnished. I used it when--when my father was alive."

"Would your mother take me?" asked Richard. "That is, could she afford to at four dollars a week?"

"I can't say."

"When I get an increase in wages I'll pay four and a half," went on the boy. "I would like to live with you," he continued open-heartedly.

Frank smiled.

"I'll speak to my mother to-night," said he, "and I'll let you know to-morrow morning."