Chapter IV. On the Train.
 

Of course there was a good deal of talking about Richard's proposed venture. The girls seemed never to tire of it, and the amount of advice that they gave their brother was enough, as the boy declared, "to help him along until eternity, and two days afterwards."

"You'll want your best clothes, city folks are so particular," declared Grace. "And your shirts and collars will have to be as stiff as old Deacon Moore's, I expect."

"I only want things clean and neat," replied Richard. "I'm not going there to be a dude. I'm going there to work--if I can get anything to do."

Nevertheless, Grace was bound that he should look his best, and spent an extra hour over the washtub and ironing-board.

It was decided that he should not be hampered with a trunk, but should take a valise instead.

This Mrs. Dare packed herself, and placed in the hallway late on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile Richard was not idle. He did not wish to leave any work around the place unfinished, and early and late he spent many hours in the house and in the garden, doing the things that were most needed.

Sunday morning the whole family, including little Madge, attended the pretty white church that was the one pride of Mossvale. Richard suspected that Mr. Cook had expected him to be there, for the sermon was on the text, "Be thou strong in the faith," and advised all, especially the young, to stick to their Christian principles, despite the alluring, but harmful, enticements of the great world around them.

It was a sober little crowd that gathered in the kitchen in the dusk after supper. Richard was a trifle louder in his manner than usual, but this was only an effort to cover up the evidence of his real seriousness.

"You must not forget to write as soon as you arrive and find a stopping place," cautioned Mrs. Dare for at least the fifth time.

"Yes, and don't forget to tell us all about what happened on the train," put in Grace. "I'm sure that in such a long ride as that you ought to have some kind of an adventure."

"I trust that he does not," returned the mother. "An adventure would probably mean an accident, and we have had enough already;" and she gave a long sigh.

"Don't fear but what I'll write," replied Richard. "And if anything unusual happens I'll put it down."

But all evenings must come to an end, and finally, as the clock struck ten, the good-night word went its round, and they separated.

No need to call Richard on the following morning. He was up and dressed at five, and impatient for the start. Every one turned in towards serving him a hot breakfast, and in addition Mrs. Dare put him up a tidy lunch in a box.

There was one thing, though, that the boy was obstinate about. He would not accept all of the money that Mrs. Dare thought it her duty to make him take. The price of his ticket and five dollars was Richard's limit, and to this he stuck.

"If I get real hard up I'll write for more," was his declaration. "You will need what you have saved, and I am sure I can get along without it."

Mrs. Dare shook her head. But it was all to no purpose. Richard was firm, and doubly so when Grace gave him a pert look of approval.

The news of the departure had spread, and at the depot the boy met several who had come to see him off--Mr. Cook and two or three boy friends, including Charley Wood, the son of a neighbor, who was not slow in giving the lion's share of his attention to Grace.

"Here comes the train!" exclaimed Nancy, after a rather long wait, and a moment later, with ringing bell, the locomotive rounded the curve below, and the cars rolled into the depot.

"All aboard for Rockvale, Beverly, and New York! Way train for Hurley, Allendale, Hobb's Dam, and all stations south of Bakersville Junction!" shouted the conductor. "Lively, please."

There was a hurried hand-shaking, and several warm kisses.

"Good-by, Richard," said Mrs. Dare. "God be with you!" And then she added in a whisper: "Don't be afraid to come home as soon as you don't like it any more."

"I'll remember, mother," he replied. "Don't worry about me. It's all right. Good-by, each and everybody!"

Valise in hand, he climbed up the steps and entered one of the cars. He had hardly time to reach a window seat, and wave a parting adieu, when the train moved off.

He looked back as long as he could. Mother and sister were waving their handkerchiefs, Grace having brought her largest for this special occasion.

But the train went swiftly on its way, and soon Mossvale and its people were left behind.

"Off at last!" was Richard's mental comment. "It's sink or swim now. Good-by to Mossvale and the old life!"

Yet it must in truth be confessed that there was just the suspicion of a tear in his eye and a lump in his throat as he settled back in his seat, but he hastily brushed away the one and swallowed the other, and put on as bold a front as he could.

The car was only partially filled, and he had a double seat all to himself. He placed his valise beside him, and then gazed at the ever-varying panorama that rushed past.

But his mind was not given to the scenes that were thus presenting themselves. His thoughts were far ahead, speculating upon what it would be best to do when his destination was reached.

He knew New York was a big place, and felt tolerably certain that few, if indeed any, would care to give him the information that he knew he needed.

Presently the train began to stop at various stations, and the car commenced to fill up.

"This seat taken?" said a gentleman, as he stopped beside Richard.

"No, sir," replied the boy, and made room for the other.

"Thank you," returned the gentleman. "Rather crowded," he continued, as he sat down, and deposited a huge valise beside Richard's, which had been placed upon the floor.

"I might have checked my satchel," remarked Richard, noting that the two valises rather crowded things.

"So might I," was the new-comer's reply, "but I thought it would be too much trouble in New York getting it."

"I'm not used to travelling," explained Richard, "and so I thought it best to have my baggage where I could lay my hands on it."

The gentleman looked at him curiously.

"Going to the city?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"First trip?"

"Yes, sir."

"You'll see a good many strange sights. Going to stay several days, I presume."

"Longer than that, sir. I'm going there to try my luck."

The gentleman looked surprised.

"I hope you'll succeed," he said. "You will find it rather uphill work, I'm afraid. Where are you from, if I may ask?"

"I come from Mossvale. My name is Richard Dare. My father died from an accident a short while ago, and, as there didn't seem to be anything in our village for me to work at, I made up my mind to try New York."

The boy's open manner evidently pleased his listener.

"I am glad to know you," he returned. "My name is Joyce--Timothy Joyce. I am a leather dealer--down in the Swamp. Here is my card."

"The Swamp?" queried Richard, puzzled by the appellation.

"Yes--at least that's what us oldtime folks call it. There used to be a swamp there years ago. I'm on Jacob Street. Maybe I can help you around a bit."

"Thank you, Mr. Joyce; I'm glad to know you," replied Richard gratefully. "I'm a perfect stranger, as I said, and it will be right handy to have some one to give me a few points."

Mr. Joyce smiled. He was quite taken by the boy's frank manner.

"I'll give you all the points I can," he said. "You must keep your eyes and ears open, though, for there are many pitfalls for the unwary."

Mr. Joyce felt in his coat pocket. "Here is a map of the city. I am going out in the smoker presently, to enjoy a cigar. I would advise you to study it while I am gone, and when I come back I'll explain anything that you can't understand."

"Thank you, I will."

"Just look to my bag while I am gone, will you?" continued Mr. Joyce, as he arose. When alone, Richard became absorbed in the map at once.

On and on sped the train, now running faster than ever. But Richard took no notice. He was deep in the little volume, trying his best to memorize the names of the streets and their locations.

"It's not a very regular city," he sighed. "Streets run in all directions, and some of them are as crooked as a ram's horn. If I ever--"

A sudden jar at this instant caused Richard to pitch forward from his seat. Then, before he realized what had happened, the car tilted, and then turned completely over on its side.