Chapter XXV. Getting a Situation

The next morning Herbert reported himself at his new boarding place. He found the fare very far from first-class, while his fellow-boarders appeared at the table mostly in shirt-sleeves, and were evidently workingmen. Our hero would have preferred a greater degree of neatness both in the table and in the guests, but he felt that he would be lucky, if he should find himself able to pay his expenses even here. He was not to be daunted by little annoyances, but looked for compensation in the future.

He waited impatiently for the next day, when Mr. Godfrey would return. Upon the success of the interview with him much depended.

At length it came, and Herbert once more set out for the warehouse on Pearl Street. He entered without question, and made his way to the counting-room. Looking through the glass door, he saw his cousin--whom he surveyed with new interest now that he knew the relationship--and the bookkeeper. But, besides these, there was an elderly gentleman, rather stout, with a pleasant face, the expression of which reassured him.

"Is Mr. Godfrey in?" he asked, on entering, with a look of inquiry at the gentleman just described.

"That is my name. What can I do for you?" said Mr. Godfrey, turning towards him.

"I have a letter for you, sir," said Herbert, producing it from his pocket.

Mr. Godfrey held out his hand for it, and ran his eye rapidly over its contents.

"So your name is Herbert Mason?" he said, raising his eyes after finishing it.

"Yes, sir."

At the mention of this name, Tom Stanton, whose curiosity had led him to listen to the conversation, wheeled rapidly round on his stool and surveyed our hero with intense curiosity. He knew that Herbert Mason was the name of his cousin. Could it be possible that this boy was the cousin whom he had never seen? A little later, and he was convinced of it.

"You have just come from Ohio, I suppose?"

"Yes, sir."

"My friend, Mr. Carroll, writes me that you were instrumental in saving him from being robbed while acting as his escort to Philadelphia."

"It wasn't worth mentioning," said Herbert modestly.

Mr. Godfrey noticed his modest tone, and it pleased him--modesty not being an unvarying characteristic of young America.

"My friend refers to it as an important service. I should like to know the particulars. Mr. Carroll is a connection of mine, and I am naturally interested in all that relates to him."

In reply Herbert gave a brief, but clear and intelligent account of the attempted burglary, passing over his own achievement as lightly as possible. But it was easy to infer, even from the little he said, that he had acted with bravery and self-possession,

"You behaved in a very creditable manner," said Mr. Godfrey, approvingly. "Many boys would have lost their self-possession. You have come to New York in search of employment, Mr. Carroll writes me?"

"Yes, sir."

"I don't, of course, know how you were situated in Ohio," said the merchant, "but as a general rule I think boys make a mistake in leaving the country for the city. Here the competition for work is sharp, and there is a surplus of laborers in every department of labor. Still," he proceeded, scanning Herbert's earnest face, "you look like a boy capable of making his way if an opportunity offers. You have but little money, Mr. Carroll writes."

"I have lost nearly all I had," said Herbert, "so that now I have very little left."

"You have met with a loss? Tell me about it. Indeed, I should be glad if you would confide to me freely your situation and hopes, and then I shall be better able to help you."

"I am almost ashamed to tell you how I was taken in," said our hero. "I suppose I ought to have been more prudent."

He recounted the manner in which Greenleaf had robbed him. Mr. Godfrey listened with interest, and so did Tom Stanton, who burst into a laugh when the narrative was concluded.

"What are you laughing at, Thomas?" asked the merchant, rather sharply.

"I was thinking how neatly he was taken in," said Tom, a little abashed.

"I should apply a different word to it," said Mr. Godfrey. "It appears to me the height, or rather the depth of meanness, to take advantage of a boy's confidence, and defraud him so scandalously. How much money have you left, Herbert?"

"Forty cents, sir."

"Only forty cents to begin life with in a great city!"

"Yes, sir; I have paid my board in advance for a week."

"Where do you board?"

"In Stanton Street."

Tom turned up his nose at the name of this street, which he knew was very far from fashionable, but this demonstration our hero did not observe.

"What board do you pay?"

"Three dollars a week, sir."

"A poor place, probably."

"Yes, sir, but I could afford no better."

"You are sensible to accommodate yourself to circumstances. Well, my young friend, it appears that you can't wait long for employment. Mr. Carroll has asked me to do something for you, and I am disposed to oblige him, not wholly for his sake, but partly for your own, for you seem to me a very modest and sensible boy. Mr. Pratt, do we need another boy?"

"No, sir, I don't think we do."

"Well, business will be brisker by and by. I think you can find a little for this young man to do in the meantime. He can go to the post office, and I believe I have a little extra writing to be done. Pass him a pen, and let him give us a specimen of his handwriting."

Fortunately, Herbert was a handsome writer, and this went a considerable way in his favor.

"Very neat," said the merchant. "By the way, Herbert, I suppose, of course, you know nothing of French?"

"Yes, sir, I can read it pretty well."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Godfrey, surprised. "Then you can be of service to me, that is, if you know it well enough. I received, this morning, a letter from a silk house at Lyons, a part of which I don't quite understand. The fact is, my French is rather poor. Do you think you could help me translate it?"

"If you will show me the letter, I will try, sir."

The merchant took a letter from the table before him and handed it to Herbert.

Our hero ran his eye rapidly over it, and then rendered it into English in a clear and grammatical way.

"Bless me, you're quite a scholar," said Mr. Godfrey. "I understand now. You've made it all plain. Where did you learn so much French?"

"My father taught me, sir. He also taught me Latin."

"Indeed, I congratulate you on possessing so good an education. Latin, however, isn't so much in my way. I haven't many Latin correspondents."

"I suppose not, sir," said Herbert, laughing.

"Still, it does no harm to know something of it."

Tom Stanton had listened with considerable surprise, mingled with mortification, to what had passed. It appeared then, that his country cousin, whom he had looked upon as a country boor, was his superior in education, and, as Tom secretly knew, in courage. And now he was going to be his fellow-clerk. He felt jealous and angry, fearing that Herbert, who appeared to be high in favor already, would eclipse him in the office.

"How much can you live upon economically?" asked the merchant.

"I know little of the city," said Herbert. "You can judge better than I, sir."

"You pay three dollars a week board. You'll need double that amount. Mr. Pratt, you may pay him six dollars a week. He will come to work to- morrow morning, and you may pay him Saturday, as if it was a whole week."

"Thank you, sir," said Herbert, gratefully. "You are very kind."

"Do your duty, my young friend, and I shall be satisfied."

Tom Stanton listened in indignant surprise. He only got four dollars a week, and here was a country boy placed over his head. He was imprudent enough to give expression to his feelings.

"Won't you give me six dollars a week, also?" he said.

"Why should I?"

"Don't I deserve as much as he?"

"Perhaps you do. But I don't give it to Herbert because he earns it, for it is not likely that he will do so at present. But he has no other resources. You have a comfortable home, and are not obliged to pay for your board out of your wages."

"No, I hope not," said Tom.

"Therefore you do not need as much as he does. You are not entitled to this explanation, but I give it, nevertheless, that you may know my motives."

Tom did not reply, feeling that it would be imprudent to do so, but he bent sullenly to his work, by no mans satisfied with the explanation. He began to feel a dislike for his cousin, and determined to injure him, if he could, in the estimation of the firm. It would have been satisfactory if he could have looked down upon him as an inferior, but that was not easy.

"I hope the fellow won't find out the relationship between us," he said to himself. "He'd be calling me Cousin Tom all the time, and I don't care about owning a cousin that lives in Stanton Street."

Tom need not have troubled himself. Herbert had no idea of claiming relationship, though, as we know, he was fully aware of its existence.