Chapter XV. New Quarters.
 

At six o'clock Frank Massanet announced the day's work ended, and, bidding his friend goodnight, Richard hurried off to West Street. His heart was light over his own good fortune, but heavy when he thought of the losses he had sustained earlier in the day.

The Watch Below was crowded, and Doc Linyard presided at the pie-stand and the desk. He noticed Richard's grave face, and surmised that all was not right.

"You're late!" he exclaimed. "Come sit down to supper. I'll bet you haven't eaten a mouthful."

"I've had bad luck," replied Richard. "Bad luck for you and good luck for myself."

And, sitting down beside the desk, he made a clean breast of what had transpired earlier in the day.

"I know I have been careless," he added, "and I don't deserve to be trusted any more."

"Never mind," returned the old sailor cheerily. "It's too bad, but, as Betty often says, it's no use crying over spilt milk, so we'll make the best of it."

"I'll have the advertisement put in to-morrow," said the boy, "and I'll add that former letters have been lost."

"That's a good idea. And don't tell Betty; it would only worry her. Who knows but what those letters didn't amount to much after all?"

"At all events, I'm going to get them back if I can."

"And your two dollars, too. The little rascal! But you said you had good news?"

"So I have. Mr. Joyce got me a place."

And Richard told of the meeting in the post-office, and his subsequent engagement by Williams & Mann.

"Well, I'm downright glad to hear that!" cried Doc Linyard heartily. "Reckon you are on the right tack at last."

The walking and working had made Richard hungry, and he was not backward about sitting down and eating a hearty supper. But he insisted upon paying for all he had, and, seeing that the boy really meant it, Doc Linyard took the money, though not without reluctance.

As soon as he had finished eating, Richard went to Park Row and handed in the advertisement. The clerk informed him that no other letters had been received, nor had any applications for them been made.

Returning to the Watch Below, Richard sat down and wrote a second letter home, which he shortly after posted, along with the precious packet of chewing gum for Madge. The old sailor offered him a ticket to the theater, which had been left in the restaurant for the privilege of hanging a lithograph in the window, but this the boy declined with thanks, and retired early, so as to be on hand promptly in the morning.

Seven o'clock was the hour for opening at Williams & Mann's, and five minutes before that time Richard presented himself, and was let in by the sleepy porter. The elevator was not running at this time in the day, so Richard took the narrow iron stairs, and was soon in the stock-room, where he went to work at what he had been doing the previous day until Frank Massanet arrived.

"My mother would like you to take dinner with us," said Frank, when he had given directions concerning how the work should go on. "She would like to know you before she takes you as a regular boarder."

"Can she take me at four dollars?" asked Richard.

"She thinks she can. You can talk it over together when you see her--that is, if you will come."

"Certainly I will."

"It's the best way. Perhaps our board might not suit you."

"I'll risk it," laughed Richard.

They were allowed an hour at noon, and at exactly twelve o'clock the two hurried off. Frank led the way up to the Third Avenue Elevated Station, and a five minutes' ride brought them to their destination.

"I generally bring my lunch with me," explained the stock-clerk on the way, "and I have dinner when I get home in the evening. By that means I save my car fare, and have plenty of time to eat the best meal of the day."

"It's the better way," said Richard. "Do you ride morning and night?"

"Only when the weather is bad. When it is clear I save the ten cents."

"So would I. Besides, it's healthy exercise," returned the boy.

The Massanets occupied the second floor of a modest little flat of six rooms. It was a cheerful home, and Mrs. Massanet, a pleasant, middle-aged Frenchwoman, greeted Richard cordially.

"You are indeed welcome, Mistair Dare," she said, with a beaming face. "Francois have tole me everything of you, and I feel as eef I know you long."

Mrs. Massanet had the peculiar French accent of the province of Lorraine, and Richard frequently experienced difficulty in understanding her, but her motherly way soon put him at ease, and in a few minutes he felt perfectly at home.

"This is my sister," said Frank, as a tall, dark-eyed girl of sixteen entered. "Mattie, this is Richard Dare."

"Frank has been telling us of you," said Mattie Massanet, as she took Richard's hand. "We talked you all over last night," she added, with a merry twinkle of her eye.

"I'm sure it couldn't have been a very bad talk if you had a hand in it," said Richard gallantly.

They were soon at the table, and having by a lucky chance (or was it the girl's natural tact?) struck the right vein, the conversation became quite animated, and soon all were on very good terms.

"I like you verra mouch," said Mrs. Massanet, when Richard had finished, "and I shall be pleased to have you as a boarder--eef you like ze diner."

"Thank you, Mrs. Massanet. I shall be thankful to have you take me. I know it will feel quite like a home."

"Ve make zat so. Ve keep no hotel garni even--only for one."

"Thank you," returned Richard. He did not understand the French, which means a lodging-house. "Can I come to-night?"

"Oh, yees."

So it was arranged that he should become a boarder at the Massanets', and having this settled took quite a load from his mind. Now if he could only do his work well for Williams & Mann, he would be all right, and have every chance of eventually attaining the object of his metropolitan venture.

Of one thing he was sure--Frank Massanet's friendship and help, and in his present place he knew these would count for a good deal.

Little did he dream that the position kind-hearted Timothy Joyce had procured for him would lead him to the hardest trials of his youthful life, and place him in the bitterest situation he had ever yet experienced.