Chapter VIII. The "Watch Below."
 

"Gracious, what a busy place!"

This was the thought that ran through Richard's mind as he stepped from the ferryhouse to West Street, in New York City.

Doc Linyard had managed to get the boy off the boat as soon as the landing was made, but now, as they waited for a chance to cross the slippery thoroughfare that runs parallel to the water's edge, the crowd surged around them until to Richard there seemed to be a perfect jam.

"Hack, sir? Astor House? Coupe, madam? This way for a cab!"

In a moment they were safe upon the other side of the street.

"Made up your mind which way to steer?" asked Doc Linyard.

"Not exactly," replied Richard. "This is the way to Broadway, I suppose," he went on, pointing up Cortlandt Street.

"Yes; but what do you intend to do up there?"

"I thought I'd take a look around. I imagine I can't do much in the way of finding work at this time in the evening."

"No; you'd best wait till morning. Then get a World and a Herald, and look over the want advertisements. I reckon that's the best way of striking a position."

"Thank you, I'll try that plan. Good-by." And Richard held out his hand.

"Won't you come down to my place afore we part?" interposed Doc Linyard. "It's only a few steps from here."

Richard demurred. From the description he had been given of the place he knew money was to be spent there, and he had no cash to spare.

"I--I--guess not," he faltered.

"Why not?"

"I--well, to tell the truth, I haven't much to spend."

The old tar slapped the boy heartily on the shoulder.

"Don't worry about that!" he cried. "I'm no land-shark. This trip shan't cost you a cent. Come on."

And Richard followed. To a new-comer West Street is certainly a curious sight. Saloons predominate, but between them are located tiny eating houses, cheap clothing shops, meat stalls, bargain "counters," and lodging-places, only about one in ten of the latter being fit for occupancy.

"Here we are!" exclaimed the sailor presently.

They stepped up to a small restaurant, considerably neater than its neighbors. Its exterior was painted light blue, and over the door in big, black letters, hung the sign:

  THE WATCH BELOW, DOC LINYARD, Boatswain.

And to the right of the door, near a figurehead representing a gorgeous mermaid, were added the words:

  Messmates Always Welcome.

The doors were wide open, and the two entered.

Several men sat at various tables, eating and drinking, and behind a counter that did the double duty of a pie-stand and a cashier's desk sat a tall, old man with grizzled white hair.

"Well, pop!" exclaimed Doc Linyard, as he stepped up.

"Hello, my boy! Back again," returned the older man. "Did you find 'em?" he added, in an anxious tone.

"No."

The old man shook his head ominously.

"Too bad, too bad," he murmured.

But he was evidently too old to take a very strong interest in the matter.

"Never mind, it will all come outright in the end," was the son's reassuring reply. "Where is Betty?"

"In the kitchen."

"This is my father," went on Doc Linyard to Richard. "Pop, here is a chum as I picked up on the road. His name is Mr. Dare, and he saved my life."

"Saved your life?" queried the old man doubtfully.

As he spoke a door in the rear opened, and a buxom woman of thirty tripped out. She came straight up to the sailor and gave him a hearty kiss.

"No luck, Betty," said Linyard soberly.

"No?"

"Not a bit. Couldn't locate 'em nohow."

"It's too bad, Doc."

"And he says his life was saved by this chap," put in the old man, who had been gazing at Richard ever since the assertion had been made.

"Yes; we've both had strange adventures in the last twelve hours."

This bold praise made Richard blush.

"Oh, I didn't do as much as all that," he exclaimed. "I only helped him out of the car, just as I would have helped any one."

"No sech thing, he did lots."

And sitting down near the counter, Doc Linyard gave a graphic account of all that had transpired.

"I thank you very much," said Mrs. Linyard, when her husband had finished. "I know Doc won't forget what you did, and neither will I." She gave the boy's hand a tight squeeze. "Won't you have some supper with us?"

Richard hesitated. He always was backward in accepting favors.

"Come don't say no," urged Doc Linyard. "By the anchor, it's little enough."

Mrs. Linyard led the way to a cozy nook near the end of the restaurant, and gave them two seats at a small table covered with a snowy white cloth,--a table that was generally reserved for officers, or "upper class" patrons.

"So you've had no luck?" she said to her husband, as she began to bustle around with the tableware. "It's queer. What can have become of Tom?"

"Blessed if I know."

"We may lose that money, all through him," sighed Mrs. Linyard.

"It would be a shame," put in Richard. "Your husband has told me of the matter. I wish I could help you."

The sailor laughed good-naturedly. His disposition was too easy to worry much over the situation.

"Reckon as how you'll have your hands full on your own account, finding work and all that," he returned.

"I suppose I will. Still I would like to help you."

Mrs. Linyard provided a warm and bountiful supper, and both enjoyed every dish that was set before them.

"I mustn't lose too much time," went on the boy, as he was finishing. "I must at least find a boarding-house. I don't want to spend the night in the streets."

"No fear of that," said the old tar hastily. "Betty, another cup of that good coffee, please. Tell you what I'll do if you're willing. This place isn't as grand as a hotel, but Betty's beds are as clean as any of 'em, and if you will you're welcome to stay all night."

"Thank you, I'll do so gladly," replied Richard quickly, for the proposition took a load from his mind. "I'll pay you whatever--"

"Avast there! What do you think I am, to take money from you for that? No, thanky, I'm no land shark."

"I know you're not," replied Richard quickly, for he saw that the sailor's feelings had been hurt, "but I would like to do something in return."

"No need of that. Tell you what you can do though," continued Doc Linyard, after a moment's reflection.

"Well?"

"Write me out an advertisement for the newspapers. My eddication ain't none of the best, and my hand's more used to a marline spike than it is to a pen."

"Willingly. What do you want to advertise?"

"I want to put a notice in for my brother-in-law. I'll give you all the particulars."

"Very well. Have you pen, ink and paper?"

"Yes; Betty, will you bring 'em?"

Mrs. Linyard nodded.

A few minutes later the dishes were cleared away, and Richard prepared to write out the advertisement.