Chapter XXIII. A Business Call
 

It was certainly a startling discovery for Herbert to make, that out of sixty dollars he had only four left, now that he had paid for another day at the hotel, and this small sum must be further diminished by the expense of a breakfast. Unfortunately, too, he was quite hungry, for his misfortune had not taken away his appetite.

"I will make a good breakfast, at any rate," said Herbert, philosophically. "Afterwards, I will consider what to do."

He ordered a substantial breakfast, which, even at the low prices of a dozen years ago, amounted to fifty cents, and did full justice to what was set before him.

After paying at the desk, he went outside.

It was a bright, sunshiny morning, and this, with the comfortable feeling produced by having eaten a good breakfast, gave him courage for the new career upon which he was about to enter.

While considering what he should do first, the thought of the letter given him by Mr. Carroll flashed upon him. He felt for it hastily, and was rejoiced to find that that was safe, at least. Greenleaf had not taken that away, fortunately.

He looked at the direction. It was addressed to

"Messrs. Godfrey & Lynn,
No. ---- Pearl St."

It was not sealed, and was probably meant to be read by Herbert. At any rate, our hero so concluded, and opened the letter, not without curiosity as to what Mr. Carroll had written about him. He knew it must be favorable, of course, but found it even more so than he anticipated.

Here it is:

"MY DEAR MR. GODFREY: This letter will be handed you by a young friend of mine, by name Herbert Mason. My acquaintance with him has been brief, but he has been able, by his coolness and bravery, to do me a most important service, having saved me from being robbed of a large sum of money while acting as my escort from Ohio to Philadelphia. I have talked with him freely about his plans, and find that he will reach New York without friends, and with a very small sum of money, hoping before it is gone to secure a place in some counting-room, where he can make an honest living. I feel a strong interest in his success, and am persuaded that wherever he is placed, he will show rare capacity and fidelity. I wish it might be in your power to receive him into your own counting- room. But, of course, that must be according to your convenience. At any rate, may I rely on you to act a friendly part by my young friend, and to exert your influence toward procuring him a position elsewhere, if you cannot employ him yourself? Anything that you may have it in your power to do for Herbert, I shall consider as a favor done to myself.

I have just left my daughter, who, with her family, is well. Sincerely, your friend,

JAMES CARROLL."

"That is a very kind letter," thought Herbert, gratefully. "I hope it will do me good."

He decided to call and deliver it the same forenoon. If he had not been robbed of nearly the whole of his small capital, he would, first, have gone about the city, which was entirely new to him. But, with less than four dollars between himself and utter destitution, he felt that he had no time for sight-seeing. It was necessary that he should get to work as soon as possible.

He waited till ten o'clock, thinking it possible that the heads of the firm might not reach the counting-room till about that time. It was now eight o'clock only. He had two hours, therefore, to look about him.

"Shine yer boots?" said a ragged urchin, approaching, with a suggestive look at his soiled shoes.

It occurred to Herbert that it would be best to look as well as possible when visiting Godfrey.

"Ten cents."

"It's too much," said Herbert, thinking how few dimes constituted his entire worldly wealth.

"Well, five, then," said the bootblack, coming down to his regular price.

"Do you get much to do?" asked our hero.

"Some days I get considerable."

"How much do you make?"

"Pleasant days I makes a dollar, but when it rains, there ain't much to do."

"How much do you have to pay for sleeping?"

"Six cents."

"Six cents!" repeated Herbert, in surprise. "Where can you get lodged for that?"

"At the lodgin' house, corner of Fulton and Nassau Streets."

"Well," thought Herbert, "I needn't starve. If I can't get anything better to do, I can buy a box of blacking and a brush, and set up in business for myself."

To be sure, this would not be an agreeable occupation, but Herbert was bound to make a living by honest labor. If one avenue was closed to him, he must enter such as were open to him. He could not afford to be particular.

After his shoes were brushed, he crossed the park, and walked up Broadway. It was a wonderful sight to the country-bred boy, this gay thoroughfare, with its busy and bustling crowds, and its throngs of vehicles, never ceasing wholly, save at the dead hours of night. He thought to himself what a quantity of business there must be to do. Certainly, there must be room for one more worker. So, on the whole, the busy scene gave him courage, and he sauntered along as cheerfully as if he were not next-door to a beggar.

But at last the time came when he might safely seek out the gentleman to whom he had an introduction. Being a stranger in the city, he had to inquire for Pearl Street from a policeman, who answered his inquiry very civilly. He followed the direction, and found it at length. But the number of which he was in search was not so easily found, for he found the street meandered in a very perplexing way, so that at times he was not quite sure whether he was still in it, or had wandered from his way.

At last he found the place. It was a large, solid-looking building, of four stories in height. There were a number of boxes outside on the sidewalk. Inside, there was a large apartment occupying the entire first floor, with the exception of a room in the rear, which had been partitioned off for a counting-room. The partition was of glass, and, as he looked from the entrance, he could see a couple of high desks and a table.

"Is this Godfrey & Lynn's?" he asked of a porter at the entrance.

"Yes," said the porter.

"I want to see Mr. Godfrey."

"I don't think he's in. You can go to the office and inquire."

Accordingly, Herbert passed down the length of the warehouse, and, pausing a moment before the door, he opened it, and entered.

There were two persons in the office. One was a thin-faced man, who sat on a high stool at one of the desks, making entries apparently in the ledger. This was the bookkeeper, Mr. Pratt, a man with a melancholy face, who looked as if he had lived to see the vanity of all things earthly. He had a high forehead naturally--made still higher by the loss of his front hair. Apparently, he was not a man to enjoy conviviality, or to shine on any festive occasion.

Besides Mr. Pratt, there was a boy, if we may take the liberty of calling him such, of about Herbert's age. He was fashionably dressed, and his hair was arranged with exceeding care. In fact, as Herbert entered, he was examining the set of his necktie in a little hand-glass, which he had taken from his coat pocket. Not quite suiting him, he set himself to rearranging it.

"Have you copied that bill, Thomas?" asked Mr. Pratt, looking up.

"Not yet, sir."

"You have been long enough about it. Put back that glass. You are quite too much troubled about your appearance."

"Yes, sir.

"If I didn't look any better than some people," said Thomas, sotto voce, "I shouldn't look in a glass very often."

Herbert naturally concluded that Mr. Pratt was the man to whom his inquiries should be addressed.

"I would like to see Mr. Godfrey, sir." he said.

"He is out of the city."

"Out of the city!" repeated Herbert, disappointed. "When will he be back?"

"Nor till day after to-morrow."

Herbert's countenance fell. In his reduced circumstances, he could hardly afford to wait two days. At his present rate of expenditure, he would be penniless by that time.

"Is Mr. Lynn likely to be in soon?" he asked, thinking that perhaps he would do in Mr. Godfrey's absence.

"No; he is sick at home. He may not be here for a week. Perhaps, I can attend to your business," he added. "What is it?"

"I think," said Herbert, "that I will wait till day after to-morrow, if you think Mr. Godfrey will be back then. I have a letter for him."

"If it's a business letter, you had better leave it."

"It is a letter of introduction," said Herbert. "I would rather present it in person."

"Very well," and Mr. Pratt went back to his ledger.

Thomas looked critically at the boy who had a letter of introduction to Mr. Godfrey, and said to himself, "He got his clothes from a country tailor, I'll bet a hat."