"Tending bar does not require an acquaintance with Latin and Greek. Would you like to know more?"
"I wish I did. Florence was teaching me nights when I was in New York. Now I've got to give up all that."
"Not necessarily. Listen to me, Arthur. Before I came to New York to go into journalism, I taught school for two years; and I believe I may say that I was tolerably successful. Suppose I take you as a scholar?"
"I should like it very much, Mr. Leslie, but I'm afraid I haven't got money enough to pay you."
"That is true. You will need all the money you have when you land in California. Twenty-five dollars won't go far—still you have all the money that is necessary, for I do not intend to charge you anything."
"You are very kind to me, Mr. Leslie, considerin' you don't know me," said Dodger, gratefully.
"On the contrary, I think I know you very well. But about the kindness —my motives are somewhat mixed. I should like to do you a service, but I should also like to find employment for myself that will make the days less monotonous. I have a collection of books in my trunk, enough for our needs, and if you will agree we will commence our studies to-morrow."
"I should like it very much. I'd like to show Florence, when I see her, that I have improved. Till I saw her I didn't care much, but when I talk with her I feel awfully ignorant."
"In four months a great deal can be accomplished. I don't know how quick you are to learn. After we have had one or two lessons I can judge better."
Two days later Mr. Leslie pronounced his opinion, and a favorable one.
"You have not exaggerated your ignorance," he said to Dodger. "You have a great deal to learn, but on the other hand you are quick, have a retentive memory, and are very anxious to learn. I shall make something of you."
"I learn faster with you than with Florence," said Dodger.
"Probably she would succeed better with girls, but I hold that a male teacher is better for boys. How long are you willing to study every day?"
"As long as you think best."
"Then we will say from two to three hours. I think you have talent for arithmetic. I don't expect to make you fit for a bookkeeper, but I hope to make you equal to most office boys by the time we reach San Francisco. What do you intend to do in California?"
"I don't know. I should like to go back to New York, but I shall not have money enough."
"No; twenty-five dollars would go but a little way toward the passage. Evidently Mr. Waring did not intend to have you return, or he would have provided you with more."
"That is just why I should like to go back. I am afraid he will do some harm to Florence."
"And you would like to be on hand to protect her?"
Randolph Leslie smiled.
"You seem to take a great deal of interest in Florence, if I may make as free with her name as you do."
"Yes; I do, Mr. Leslie."
"If you were only a little older I might suspect the nature of that interest."
"I am older than she is."
"In years, yes. But a young lady of seventeen, brought up as she has been, is older by years than a boy of eighteen. I don't think you need apprehend any harm to Miss Linden, except that Mr. Waring may cheat her out of her rightful share of the inheritance. Is her uncle in good health?"
"No, sir; he is a very feeble man."
"Is he an old man?"
"Not so very old. I don't believe he is over sixty."
Really Mr. Linden was but fifty-four, but, being a confirmed invalid, he looked older.
"Should you say that he was likely to live very long?"
"No," answered Dodger. "He looks as if you could knock him over with a feather. Besides, I've heard Florence say that she was afraid her uncle could not live long."
"Probably Curtis Waring is counting upon this. If he can keep Florence and her uncle apart for a few months, Mr. Linden will die, and he will inherit the whole estate. What is this will he speaks of in the letter you showed me?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Whatever the provisions are, it is evident that he thinks it important to get it into his possession. If favorable to him, he will keep it carefully. If unfavorable, I think a man like him would not hesitate to suppress it."
"No doubt you are right, sir. I don't know much about wills," said Dodger.
"No; I suppose not. You never made any, I suppose," remarked the reporter, with a smile.
"I never had nothing to leave," said Dodger.
"Anything would be a better expression. As your tutor I feel it incumbent upon me to correct your grammar."
"I wish you would, Mr. Leslie. What do you mean to do when you get to San Francisco?"
"I shall seek employment on one of the San Farncisco daily papers. Six months or a year so spent will restore my health, and enable me to live without drawing upon my moderate savings."
"I expect I shall have to work, too, to get money to take me back to New York."
And now we must ask the reader to imagine four months and one week passed.
There had been favorable weather on the whole, and the voyage was unusually short.
Dodger and the reporter stood on deck, and with eager interest watched the passage through the Golden Gate. A little later and the queen city of the Pacific came in sight, crowning the hill on which a part of the city is built, with the vast Palace Hotel a conspicuous object in the foreground.
Chapter XXIV. Florence In Suspense.
We must now return to New York to Dodger's old home.
When he did not return at the usual hour, neither Florence nor Mrs. O'Keefe was particularly disturbed.
It was thought that he had gone on some errand of unusual length, and would return an hour or two late.
Eight o'clock came, the hour at which the boy was accustomed to repair to Florence's room to study, and still he didn't make his appearance.
"Dodger's late this evening, Mrs. O'Keefe," said Florence, going up to the room of her landlady.
"Shure he is. It's likely he's gone to Brooklyn or up to Harlem, wid a bundle. He'll be comin' in soon."
"I hope he will be well paid for the errand, since it keeps him so long."
"I hope so, too, Florence, for he's a good boy, is Dodger. Did I tell you how he served the rapscallion that tried to stale my apples the other day?"
"No; I would like to hear it."
"A big, black-bearded man came along, and asked me for an apple.
"'You can have one for two pennies,' says I.
"'But I haven't got them,' says he.
"'Then you must go widout it,' says I.
"'We'll see about that,' says he.
"And what do you think?—the fellow picked out one of my biggest apples, and was walkin' away! That made me mad.
"'Come back, you thafe of the worruld!' says I.
"'Silence, you old hag!' says he.
"Actilly he called me an old hag! I wanted to go after him, but there was two hoodlums hangin' round, and I knew they'd carry off some of my apples, when, just as I was at my wits' end, Dodger came round the corner.
"'Dodger,' I screamed, 'go after that man! He's taken one of my apples, widout lave or license!'
"Upon that, Dodger, brave as a lion, walked up to the man, and, says he:
"'Give back that apple, or pay for it!'
"'What's that to you, you impudent young rascal?' says the man, raisin' the apple to his mouth. But he didn't get a chance to bite it, for Dodger, with a flip of his hand, knocked it on the sidewalk, and picked it up.
"Wasn't the man mad just?"
"'I'll smash you, boy,' he growled.
"'I'm a baggage-smasher myself,' says Dodger, 'and I can smash as well as you.'
"Wid that the man up with his fist and struck at Dodger, but he dodged the blow, and gave him one for himself wid his right. Just then up came a cop.
"'What's all this?' says he.
"'That man tried to run off wid one of my apples,' says I.
"'Come along,' says the cop. 'You're wanted at the station-house.'
"'It's a lie,' says the man. 'I paid the woman for the apple, and that young rascal knocked it out of my hand.'
"'I know the boy,' says the cop, 'and he ain't one of that kind. I'll let you go if you buy five apples from the lady, and pay for 'em.'
"The man made up an ugly face, but he didn't want to be locked up, and so he paid me a dime for five apples."
"Dodger is very brave," said Florence. "Sometimes I think he is too daring. He is liable to get into trouble."
"If he does he'll get himself out of it, never you fear. Dodger can take care of himself."
Nine o'clock came, and Florence became alarmed. She had not been aware how much she had depended upon the company of her faithful friend, humble as his station was.
Again she went into Mrs. O'Keefe's room. The apple-woman had been out to buy some groceries and had just returned.
"I am getting anxious about Dodger," said Florence. "It is nine o'clock."
"And what's nine o'clock for a boy like him? Shure he's used to bein' out at all hours of the night."
"I shall feel relieved when he comes home. What should I do without him?"
"Shure I'd miss him myself; but it isn't the first time he has been out late."
"Perhaps that terrible Tim Bolton has got hold of him," suggested Florence.
"Tim isn't so bad, Florence. He isn't fit company for the likes of you, but there's worse men nor Tim."
"Didn't he send out Dodger to commit a burglary?"
"And if he hadn't you'd never made Dodger's acquaintance."
"That's true; but it doesn't make burglary any more excusable. Don't you really think Tim Bolton has got hold of him?"
"If he has, he won't keep him long, I'll make oath of that. He might keep him over night, but Dodger would come back in the morning."
Florence was somewhat cheered by Mrs. O'Keefe's refusal to believe that Dodger was in any serious trouble, but she could not wholly free herself from uneasiness. When eleven o'clock came she went to bed very unwillingly, and got very little rest during the night. Morning came, and still Dodger did not show up. As we know, he was fairly started on his long voyage, though he had not yet recovered consciousness.
Florence took a very light breakfast, and at the usual time went to Mrs. Leighton's to meet her pupil. When the study hour was over, she did not remain to lunch, but hurried back, stopping at Mrs. O'Keefe's apple-stand just as that lady was preparing to go home to prepare dinner.
"Have you seen anything of Dodger, Mrs. O'Keefe?" asked Florence, breathlessly.
"No, I haven't, Florence. I've had my eye out watchin' for him, and he hasn't showed up."
"Is there anything we can do?" asked Florence, anxiously.
"Well, we might go around and see Tim—and find out whether he's got hold of him."
"Let us go at once."
"Shure I didn't know you cared so much for the boy," said Mrs. O'Keefe, with a shrewd look at Florence's anxious face.
"Why shouldn't I care for him? He is my only friend."
"Is he now? And what's the matter wid Bridget O'Keefe?" asked the apple-woman.
"Excuse me, Mrs. O'Keefe. I know very well you are my friend, and a kind friend, too. I should not have forgotten you."
"It's all right, Florence. You're flustrated like, and that's why you forget me."
"I have so few friends that I can't spare one," continued Florence.
"That's so. Come along wid me, and we'll see what Tim has to tell us."
A short walk brought the two strangely assorted companions to the entrance of Tim Bolton's saloon. "I'm afraid to go in, Mrs. O'Keefe," said Florence.
"Come along wid me, my dear, I won't let anything harm you. You ain't used to such a place, but I've been here more than once to fill the growler. Be careful as you go down the steps, Florence."
Tim Bolton was standing behind the bar, and as he heard steps he looked carelessly toward the entrance, but when he saw Florence, his indifference vanished. He came from behind the bar, and advanced to meet her.
"Miss Linden," he said.
Florence shrank back and clung to her companion's arm.
"Is there anything I can do for you? I am a rough man, but I'm not so bad as you may think."
"That's what I told her, Tim," said Mrs. O'Keefe. "I told Florence there was worse men than you."
"Thank you, Mrs. O'Keefe. Can I offer you a glass of whiskey?"
The apple-woman was about to accept, but she felt an alarmed tug at her arm, and saw that Florence would be placed in an embarrassing position if she accepted. So, by an exercise of self-denial—for Mrs. O'Keefe was by no means insensible to the attractions of whiskey, though she never drank to excess—she said:
"Thank you kindly, Mr. Bolton. I won't take any just now; but I'll remind you of your offer another day."
"Have it your own way, Mrs. O'Keefe. And now, what can I do for you and Miss Linden?"
"Oh, Mr. Bolton," broke in Florence, unable to bear the suspense longer, "where is Dodger?"
Chapter XXV. Finding The Clew.
Tim Bolton looked at Florence in undisguised astonishment.
"Dodger!" he repeated. "How should I know? I supposed that you had lured him away from me."
"He didn't like the business you were in. He preferred to make a living in some other way."
"Then why do you ask me where he is?"
"Because he did not come home last night. Shure he rooms at my house," put in Mrs. O'Keefe, "and he hasn't showed up since——"
"And you thought I might have got hold of him?" said Bolton, inquiringly.
"Then you are mistaken. I haven't seen the boy for weeks."
Tim Bolton spoke so straightforwardly that there was no chance to doubt his word.
"When he was living with you, Mr. Bolton," continued Florence, "did he ever stay away like this?"
"No," answered Bolton. "Dodger was always very regular about comin' home."
"Then something must have happened to him," said Florence, anxiously.
"He might have got run in," suggested the apple-woman. "Some of them cops is mighty officious."
"Dodger would never do anything to deserve arrest," Florence said, quickly.
"Thrue for you, Florence, but some innersent parties are nabbed. I know of one young man who was standin' on a strate corner waitin' for the cars, when a cop came up and arristed him for disorderly conduct."
"But that is shameful!" said Florence, indignantly.
"Thrue for you, my dear. We might go round to the police headquarters and inquire if the boy's been run in."
"What do you think, Mr. Bolton?" asked Florence.
Tim Bolton seemed busy thinking. Finally he brought down his hand forcibly on the bar, and said: "I begin to see through it."
Florence did not speak, but she fixed an eager look of inquiry on the face of the saloon-keeper.
"I believe Curtis Waring is at the bottom of this," he said.
"My cousin!" exclaimed Florence, in astonishment.
"Yes, your cousin, Miss Linden."
"But what can he have against poor Dodger! Is it because the boy has taken my part and is a friend to me?"
"He wouldn't like him any better on account of hat; but he has another and a more powerful reason."
"Would you mind telling me what it is? I cannot conceive what it can be."
"At present," answered Bolton, cautiously, "I prefer to say nothing on the subject. I will only say the boy's disappearance interferes with my plans, and I will see if I can't find out what has become of him."
"If you only will, Mr. Bolton, I shall be so grateful. I am afraid I have misjudged you. I thought you were an enemy of Dodger's."
"Then you were mistaken. I have had the boy with me since he was a kid, and though I've been rough with him at times, maybe, I like him, and I may some time have a chance to show him that old Tim Bolton is one of his best friends."
"I will believe it now, Mr. Bolton," said Florence, impulsively, holding out her hand to the burly saloon-keeper.
He was surprised, but it was evident that he was pleased, also, and he took the little hand respectfully in his own ample palm, and pressed it in a friendly manner.
"There's one thing more I want you to believe, Miss Linden," he said, "and that is, that I am your friend, also."
"Thank you, Mr. Bolton. And now let us all work together to find Dodger."
"You can count on me, Miss Linden. If you'll tell me where you live I'll send or bring you any news I may hear."
"I live with Mrs. O'Keefe, my good friend, here."
"I haven't my kyard with me, Tim," said the apple-woman, "but I'll give you my strate and number. You know my place of business?"
"If you come to me there I'll let Florence know whatever you tell me. She is not always at home."
The two went away relieved in mind, for, helpless and bewildered as they were, they felt that Tim Bolton would make a valuable ally.
When they had gone Tim turned to Hooker and Briggs, who were lounging at a table, waiting for some generous customer to invite them to the bar.
"Boys," said Tim, "has either of you seen anything of Dodger lately?"
"No," answered the two in unison.
"Have you heard anything of him?"
"I heard that he was baggage-smashin' down by the steamboat landings," said Hooker.
"Go down there, both of you, and see if you can see or hear anything of him."
"All right, Tim."
And the two left the saloon and took a westerly route toward the North River piers.
Three hours later they returned.
"Have you heard anything?" asked Bolton. "Did you see Dodger?"
"No; we didn't see him."
"But you heard something?"
"Yes; we found a boy, a friend of his, that said the last he saw of Dodger was last evenin'."
"Where did he see him?"
"Near the pier of the Albany boats."
"What was he doin'?"
"Carryin' a valise for a man."
"What kind of a man? How did he look?"
"He had gray hair and gray whiskers."
Tim was puzzled by the description.
If, as he suspected, Curtis were concerned in the abduction, this man could not have been he.
"The man was a passenger by the Albany boat, I suppose?"
"No; that was what looked queer. Before the Albany boat came in the man was lyin' round with his valise, and the boy thought he was goin' off somewhere. But when the boat came in he just mixed in with the passengers, and came up to the entrance of the pier. Two boys asked to carry his valise, but he shook his head till Dodger came round, and he engaged him right off."
Tim Bolton nodded knowingly.
"It was a plan," he said. "The man wanted to get hold of Dodger. What puzzles me is, that you said he was an old man."
"His hair and beard were gray."
"And Curtis has no beard, and his hair is black."
"But the boy said he didn't look like an old man, except the hair. He walked off like a young man."
Tim Bolton's face lighted up with sudden intelligence.
"I'll bet a hat it was Curtis in disguise," he soliloquized.
"That's all we could find out, Mr. Bolton," said Briggs, with another longing look at the bar.
"It is enough! You have earned your whiskey. Walk up, gentlemen!"
Hooker and Briggs needed no second invitation.
"Will either of you take a note for me to Mrs. O'Keefe? For another drink, of course."
"I will, Tim," said Hooker, eagerly.
"No; take me, Mr. Bolton," entreated Briggs.
"You can both go," said Tim, generously. "Wait a minute, and I'll have it ready for you."
He found a half sheet of note paper, and scribbled on it this message:
"Mrs. O'Keefe:—Tell Miss Linden that I have a clew. I am almost surtin her cozen has got away with Dodger. He won't hurt him, but he will get him out of the city. Wen I hear more I will right.
Chapter XXVI. Bolton Makes A Discovery.
"I see it all," Bolton said to himself, thoughtfully. "Curtis Waring is afraid of the boy—and of me. He's circumvented me neatly, and the game is his—so far my little plan is dished. I must find out for certain whether he's had anything to do with gettin' Dodger out of the way, and then, Tim Bolton, you must set your wits to work to spoil his little game."
Bolton succeeded in securing the services of a young man who had experience at tending bar, and about eight o'clock, after donning his best attire, he hailed a Fourth Avenue surface car and got aboard.
Getting out at the proper street, he made his way to Madison Avenue, and ascended the steps of John Linden's residence.
The door was opened by Jane, who eyed the visitor with no friendly glance.
"What do you want?" she asked, in a hostile tone.
"Is Mr. Waring at home?"
"I don't know."
"Is Miss Florence at home?"
"Do you know her?" she asked.
"Yes; I am a friend of hers."
Jane evidently thought that Florence must have made some queer friends.
"Have you seen her lately?" she asked eagerly.
"I saw her to-day."
"Is she well?"
"Yes; she is well, but she is in trouble."
"Is she—— Does she need any money?"
"No; it isn't that. The boy Dodger has disappeared, and she is afraid something has happened to him."
"Oh, I am so sorry! He was a good friend of Miss Florence."
"I see you know him. I am trying to help him and her."
"But you asked for Mr. Waring?" said Jane, suspiciously.
"So I did. Shall I tell you why?"
"I wish you would."
"I think he has something to do with gettin' Dodger out of the way, and I'm goin' to try to find out."
"He won't tell you."
"You don't understand. I shall make him think I am on his side. Was he at home last night?"
"He went away at dinner time, and he didn't come home till after twelve. I ought to know, for he forgot his latchkey, and I had to get up and let him in. I won't do it again. I'll let him stay out first."
"I see; he was with Dodger, no doubt. Did you say he was in?"
"No, sir; but he will be in directly. Won't you step into the library?"
"Shall I meet the old gentleman there?" asked Bolton, in a tone of hesitation.
"No. He goes up to his chamber directly after dinner."
"How is he?"
"I think he's failing."
"I hope there is no immediate danger," said Bolton, anxiously.
"No; but he's worrying about Miss Florence. It's my belief that if she were at home, he'd live a good while."
"Doesn't he ask for her?"
"Mr. Curtis tells him she'll come round soon if he'll only be firm. I don't see, for my part, why Mr. Linden wants her to marry such a disagreeable man. There's plenty better husbands she could get. Come in, sir, and I'll tell him as soon as he comes in. Shall you see Miss Florence soon?"
"I think so."
"Then tell her not to give up. Things will come right some time."
"I'll tell her."
Bolton was ushered into the library, where, amid the fashionable furniture he looked quite out of place. He did not feel so, however, for he drew a cigar out of his pocket and, lighting it nonchalantly, leaned back in a luxurious armchair and began to smoke.
"Curtis Waring is well fixed—that's a fact!" he soliloquized. "I suppose he is the master here, for the old man isn't likely to interfere. Still he will like it better when his uncle is out of the way."
He had to wait but fifteen minutes in solitude, for at the end of that time Curtis Waring appeared.
He paused on the threshold, and frowned when he saw who it was that awaited him.
"Jane told me that a gentleman was waiting to see me," he said.
"Well, she was right."
"And you, I suppose, are the gentleman?" said Curtis, in a sneering tone.
"Yes; I am the gentleman," remarked Bolton, coolly.
"I am not in the habit of receiving visits from gentlemen of your class. However, I suppose you have an object in calling."
"It shall go hard with me if I don't pay you for your sneers some day," thought Bolton; but he remained outwardly unruffled.
"Well," he answered, "I can't say that I have any particular business to see you about. I saw your cousin recently."
"Florence?" asked Curtis, eagerly.
"What did she say? Did you speak with her?"
"Yes. She doesn't seem any more willin' to marry you."
Curtis Waring frowned.
"She is a foolish girl," he said. "She doesn't know her own mind."
"She looks to me like a gal that knows her own mind particularly well."
"Pshaw! what can you know about it?"
"Then you really expect to marry her some time, Mr. Waring?"
"Certainly I do."
"And to inherit your uncle's fortune?"
"Of course. Why not?"
"I was thinkin' of the boy."
"The boy is dead——"
"What!" exclaimed Bolton, jumping to his feet in irresistible excitement.
"Don't be a fool. Wait till I finish my sentence. He is dead so far as his prospects are concerned. Who is there that can identify him with the lost child of John Linden?"
"Yes; if any one would believe you. However, it is for your interest to keep silent."
"That is just what I want to know. I suppose you can make it for my interest."
"Yes, and will—after I get the property. I don't believe in counting my chickens before they are hatched."
"Of course you know that the boy has left me?" said Bolton.
"Yes," answered Curtis, indifferently. "He is with my cousin, I believe."
"Yes; and through her I can learn where he is, and get hold of him if I desire."
A cynical smile played over the face of Curtis Waring.
"Do you propose to get him back?" he asked, shrugging his shoulders.
"I am right," thought Bolton, shrewdly. "From his manner it is easy to see that Curtis is quite at ease as regards Dodger. He knows where he is!"
"You asked me what business I came about, Mr. Waring," he said, after a pause.
"Of course I am devoted to your interests, but is it quite fair to make me wait till you come into your fortune before allowing me anything?"
"I think so."
"You don't seem to consider that I can bring the boy here and make him known to your uncle as the son he lost so long ago?"
"You are quite sure you can bring the boy here?" asked Curtis.
"Why not? I have only to go to Florence and ask her to send the boy to me."
"You are quite at liberty to do so if you like, Tim Bolton," said Curtis, with a mocking smile. "I am glad, at any rate, that you have shown me what is in your mind. You are very sharp, but you are not quite so sharp as I am."
"I don't understand you."
"Then I will be more explicit. It's out of your power to make use of the boy against me, because——"
"Because he is not in the city."
"Where is he, then?"
"Where you are not likely to find him."
"If you have killed him——" Bolton began, but Curtis interrupted him.
"The boy is safe—I will tell you that much," he said; "but for reasons which you can guess, I think it better that he should be out of New York. When the proper time comes, and all is safe, he may come back, but not in time to help you in your cunning plans, Mr. Tim Bolton."
"Then, I suppose," said Bolton, assuming an air of mortification and discomfiture, "it is no use for me to remain here any longer."
"You are quite right. I wish you a pleasant journey home. Give my love to Florence when you see her."
"That man is a fiend!" soliloquized Bolton, as he walked back, leisurely, to his place of business. "Let me get hold of Dodger and I will foil him yet!"
Chapter XXVII. Dodger Strikes Luck.
When Dodger landed in San Francisco, in spite of the fact that he had made the journey against his will, he felt a natural exhilaration and pleasure in the new and striking circumstances and scenes in which he found himself placed.
It was in the year 1877, and the city was by no means what it is now. Yet it probably contained not far from two hundred thousand people, lively, earnest, enterprising. All seemed busy and hopeful, and Dodger caught the contagion.
As he walked with the reporter to a modest hotel, where the rates were a dollar and a half a day, not far from Montgomery Street, Randolph Leslie asked:
"How do you like San Francisco thus far, Arthur?"
It will be remembered that Dodger, feeling that the name by which he had hitherto been known was hardly likely to recommend him, adopted the one given him by Curtis Waring.
"I think I shall like it ever so much," answered Dodger. "Everybody seems to be wideawake."
"Do you think you will like it better than New York?"
"I think a poor boy will have more of a chance of making a living here. In New York I was too well known. If I got a place anywhere some one would recognize me as Tim Bolton's boy—accustomed to tend bar—or some gentleman would remember that he had bought papers of me. Here nobody knows me, and I can start fair."
"There is a great deal in what you say," returned Leslie. "What do you think of trying to do?"
"First of all I will write a letter to Florence, and tell her I am all right. How long does it take a letter to go from here to New York?"
"About seven days."
"And it took us over four months! That seems wonderful."
"Yes; there is a great difference between coming by sea around Cape Horn and speeding across the country on an express train."
"If I could only know how Florence is getting along," Dodger said, anxiously. "I suppose she thinks I am dead."
"You forget the letter you gave to the vessel we spoke off the coast of Brazil."
"Yes; but do you think it went straight?"
"The chances are in favor of it. However, your idea is a good one. Write, by all means, and then we will discuss future plans."
"What are your plans, Mr. Leslie?"
"I shall try to secure a reporter's berth on one of the daily papers— the Call or Chronicle. I will wait a few days, however, as I have a few hundred dollars by me, and can afford to take a little time to look around."
"I wish I were as well provided; but I have less than twenty-five dollars."
"Don't worry about that, Arthur," said Randolph, laying his hand affectionately on the boy's shoulder. "I shall not allow you to want."
"Thank you, Mr. Leslie," said Dodger, gratefully. "It's something new to me to have a friend like you. But I don't want to be any expense to you. I am large enough and strong enough to earn my own living."
"True; and I feel sure you will have a chance in this enterprising city."
They bought copies of the day's papers, and Dodger looked eagerly over the advertising columns.
At length he saw an advertisement that read as follows:
WANTED—A young man of 18 or 20 to assist in the office of a local express. Inquire at No. — —— St."
"Do you think I would answer for such a place?" he asked.
"I don't see why not. At any rate, 'nothing venture, nothing gain.' You may as well go around and inquire. And, by the way, as your suit is rather shabby, let me lend you one of mine. We are of nearly the same size."
"Thank you, Mr. Leslie."
"Fine feathers make fine birds, you know, and a neat dress always increases the chances of an applicant for employment, though, when it is carried too far, it is apt to excite suspicion. I remember a friend of mine advertised for a bookkeeper. Among the applicants was a young man wearing a sixty-dollar suit, a ruffled shirt, a handsome gold watch and a diamond pin. He was a man of taste, and he was strongly impressed with the young man's elegant appearance. So, largely upon the strength of these, he engaged him, and in less than six months discovered that he had been swindled to the extent of eight hundred dollars by his aesthetic bookkeeper."
"Then I will leave my diamond pin at home," said Dodger, smiling. "Suppose they ask me for recommendations?"
"I will go with you and indorse you. I happen to know one or two prominent gentlemen in San Francisco—among them the president of a bank—and I presume my indorsement will be sufficient."
Dodger went back to the hotel, put on a suit of Mr. Leslie's, got his boots blacked, and then, in company with the young reporter, went to the express office.
"I am afraid some one will have been engaged already," said the reporter; "but if not, your chances will be good."
They entered a good-sized office on a prominent street, and Dodger inquired for Mr. Tucker.
A small man of about forty, keen-eyed and alert, eyed him attentively.
"I am Mr. Tucker," he said.
"I saw your advertisement for an assistant, Mr. Tucker," said Dodger, modestly; "have you filled the place?"
"Let me see," said Tucker, reflectively, "you are the ninth young man who has applied—but the place is still open."
"Then I am afraid you won't want me, as you have rejected so many."
"I don't know. How long have you been in the city?"
"I only just arrived."
"From New York."
"Have you any idea of going to the mines when you get money enough?"
"I think I would prefer to remain in the city."
"Good! How is your education?"
"I have never been to college," answered Dodger, with a smile.
"Good! I don't care for your college men. I am a practical man myself."
"I am a poor scholar, but Mr. Leslie tells me I write a fair hand."
"Let me see a specimen of your writing."
Now Dodger had taken special pains on the voyage to improve his penmanship, with excellent results.
So it happened that the specimen which he furnished had the good fortune to please Mr. Tucker.
"Good!" he said. "You will, a part of the time, be taking orders. Your handwriting is plain and will do. Never mind about Latin and Greek. You won't need it. Chinese would be more serviceable to you here. When can you go to work?"
"To-morrow morning. To-day, if necessary," answered Dodger, promptly.
Mr. Tucker seemed pleased with his answer.
"To-morrow morning let it be, then! Hours are from eight in the morning till six at night."
"Very well, sir."
"Your wages will be fifteen dollars a week. How will that suit you?"
Dodger wanted to indulge in a loud whoop of exultation, for fifteen dollars was beyond his wildest hopes; but he was too politic to express his delight. So he contented himself with saying:
"I shall be quite satisfied with that."
"Oh, by the way, I suppose I ought to have some reference," said Mr. Tucker, "though as a general thing I judge a good deal by outward appearance."
"I can refer you to my friend, Mr. Leslie, here."
"And who will indorse him?" asked the expressman, shrewdly.
"I see, Mr. Tucker, you are a thorough man of business. I can refer you to Mr. ——, president of the —— Bank in this city."
"That is sufficient, sir. I am sure you would not refer me to him unless you felt satisfied that he would speak favorably of you. I won't, therefore, take the trouble to inquire. Where are you staying?"
"At the Pacific Hotel; but we shall take a private apartment within a day or two."
As they passed out of the office, Randolph Leslie said:
"You've done splendidly, Arthur."
"Haven't I? I feel like a millionaire."
"As you are to go to work to-morrow, we may as well take up a room at once. It will be cheaper."
In a short time they had engaged a neat suite of rooms, two in number, not far from the Palace Hotel, at twenty dollars per month.
The next day Leslie procured a position on the San Francisco Chronicle, at twenty-five dollars per week.
Chapter XXVIII. Florence Receives A Letter.
The discovery, through Tim Bolton, that Curtis Waring had a hand in the disappearance of Dodger, partially relieved the anxiety of Florence—but only partially.
He might be detained in captivity, but even that was far better than an accident to life or limb.
She knew that he would try to get word to her at the earliest opportunity, in order to relieve her fears.
But week after week passed, and no tidings came.
At length, at the end of ten weeks, a note came to her, written on a rough sheet of paper, the envelope marked by a foreign stamp.
It ran thus:
"Dear Florence:—I am sure you have worried over my disappearance. Perhaps you thought I was dead, but I was never better in my life. I am on the ship Columbia, bound for San Francisco, around Cape Horn; and just now, as one of the officers tells me, we are off the coast of Brazil.
"There is a ship coming north, and we are going to hail her and give her letters to carry home, so I hope these few lines will reach you all right. I suppose I am in for it, and must keep on to San Francisco. But I haven't told you yet how I came here.
"It was through a trick of your cousin, Curtis Waring. I haven't time to tell you about it; but I was drugged and brought aboard in my sleep; when I woke up I was forty miles at sea.
"Don't worry about me, for I have a good friend on board, Mr. Randolph Leslie, who has been a reporter on one of the New York daily papers. He advises me to get something to do in San Francisco, and work till I have earned money enough to get home. He says I can do better there, where I am not known, and can get higher pay. He is giving me lessons every day, and he says I am learning fast.
"The ship is almost here, and I must stop. Take good care of yourself, and remember me to Mrs. O'Keefe, and I will write you again as soon as I get to San Francisco.
"P. S.—Don't let on to Curtis that you have heard from me, or he might try to play me some trick in San Francisco."
Florence's face was radiant when she had read the letter.
Dodger was alive, well, and in good spirits. The letter arrived during the afternoon, and she put on her street dress at once and went over to the apple-stand and read the letter to Mrs. O'Keefe.
"Well, well!" ejaculated the apple-woman. "So it's that ould thafe of the worruld, Curtis Waring, that has got hold of poor Dodger, just as Tim told us. It seems mighty quare to me that he should want to stale poor Dodger. If it was you, now, I could understand it."
"It seems strange to me, Mrs. O'Keefe," said Florence, thoughtfully. "I thought it might be because Dodger was my friend, but that doesn't seem to be sufficient explanation. Don't you think we ought to show this letter to Mr. Bolton?"
"I was going to suggest that same. If you'll give it to me, Florence, I'll get Mattie to tend my stand, and slip round wid it to Tim's right off."
"I will go with you, Mrs. O'Keefe."
Mattie, who was playing around the corner, was summoned.
"Now, Mattie, just mind the stand, and don't be runnin' away, or them boys will get away wid my whole mornin's profits. Do you hear?"
"And don't you be eatin' all the while you are here. Here's one apple you can have," and the apple-woman carefully picked out one that she considered unsalable.
"That's specked, Mrs. O'Keefe," objected Mattie.
"And what if it is? Can't you bite out the specks? The rest of the apple is good. You're gettin' mighty particular."
Mattie bit a piece out of the sound part of the apple, and, when Mrs. O'Keefe was at a safe distance, gave the rest to a lame bootblack, and picked out one of the best apples for her own eating.
"Bridget O'Keefe is awful mane wid her apples!" soliloquized Mattie, "but I'm too smart for her. Tryin' to pass off one of her old specked apples on me! If I don't take three good one I'm a sinner."
Arrived at the front of the saloon, Mrs. O'Keefe penetrated the interior, and met Tim near the door.
"Have you come in for some whiskey, old lady?" asked Tim, in a jesting tone.
"I'll take that by and by. Florence is outside, and we've got some news for you."
"Won't she come in?"
"No; she don't like to be seen in a place like this. She's got a letter from Dodger."
"You don't mean it!" ejaculated Tim, with sudden interest. "Where is he?"
"Come out and see."
"Good afternoon, Miss Linden," said Tim, gallantly. "So you've news from Dodger?"
"Yes; here is the letter."
Bolton read it through attentively.
"Curtis is smart," he said, as he handed it back. "He couldn't have thought of a better plan for getting rid of the boy. It will take several months for him to reach 'Frisco, and after that he can't get back, for he won't have any money."
"Dodger says he will try to save money enough to pay his way back."
"It will take him a good while."
"It doesn't take long to come back by cars, does it?"
"No; but it costs a great deal of money. Why, it may take Dodger a year to earn enough to pay his way back on the railroad."
"A year!" exclaimed Florence, in genuine dismay—"a year, in addition to the time it takes to go out there! Where will we all be at the end of that time?"
"Not in jail, I hope," answered Bolton, jocularly. "I am afraid your uncle will no longer be in the land of the living."
A shadow came over Florence's face.
"Poor Uncle John!" she said, sadly. "It is terrible to think he may die thinking hardly of me."
"Leavin' his whole fortune to Curtis," continued Tim.
"That is the least thing that troubles me," said Florence.
"A woman's a queer thing," said Tim, shrugging his shoulders. "Here's a fortune of maybe half a million, and half of it rightfully yours, and you don't give it a thought."
"Not compared with the loss of my uncle's affections."
"Money is a great deal more practical than affection."
"Perhaps so, from your standpoint, Mr. Bolton," said Florence, with dignity.
"No offense, miss. When you've lived as long as I, you'll look at things different. Well, I'm glad to hear from the lad. If Curtis had done him any harm, I'd have got even with him if it sent me to jail."
A quiet, determined look replaced Tim Bolton's usual expression of easy good humor. He could not have said anything that would have ingratiated him more with Florence.
"Thank you, Mr. Bolton," she said, earnestly. "I shall always count upon your help. I believe you are a true friend of Dodger——"
"And of yours, too, miss——"
"I believe it," she said, with a smile that quite captivated Tim.
"If it would be any satisfaction to you, Miss Florence," he continued, "I'll give Curtis Waring a lickin'. He deserves it for persecutin' you and gettin' you turned out of your uncle's house."
"Thank you, Mr. Bolton; it wouldn't be any satisfaction to me to see Curtis injured in any way."
"You're too good a Christian, you are, Miss Florence."
"I wish I deserved your praise, but I can hardly lay claim to it. Now, Mr. Bolton, tell me what can I do to help Dodger?"
"I don't see that you can do anything now, as it will be most three months before he reaches 'Frisco. You might write to him toward the time he gets there."
"Direct to the post office. I think he'll have sense enough to ask for letters."
"I wish I could send him some money. I am afraid he will land penniless."
"If he lands in good health you can trust him for makin' a livin'. A New York boy, brought up as he was, isn't goin' to starve where there are papers to sell and errands to run. Why, he'll light on his feet in 'Frisco, take my word for it."
Florence felt a good deal encouraged by Tim's words of assurance, and she went home with her heart perceptibly lightened.
But she was soon to have trials of her own, which for the time being would make her forgetful of Dodger.
Chapter XXIX. Mrs. Leighton's Party.
"Miss Linden," said Mrs. Leighton, one day in the fourth month of Dodger's absence, "Carrie has perhaps told you that I give a party next Thursday evening."
"She told me," answered the governess.
"I expected Prof. Bouvier to furnish dancing music—in fact, I had engaged him—but I have just received a note stating that he is unwell, and I am left unprovided. It is very inconsiderate on his part," added the lady, in a tone of annoyance.
Florence did not reply. She took rather a different view of the professor's letter, and did not care to offend Mrs. Leighton.
"Under the circumstances," continued the lady, "it has occurred to me that, as you are really quite a nice performer, you might fill his place. I shall be willing to allow you a dollar for the evening. What do you say?"
Florence felt embarrassed. She shrank from appearing in society in her present separation from her family, yet could think of no good excuse. Noticing her hesitation, Mrs. Leighton added, patronizingly:
"On second thought, I will pay you a dollar and a half"—Prof. Bouvier was to have charged ten dollars—"and you will be kind enough to come in your best attire. You seem to be well provided with dresses."
"Yes, madam, there will be no difficulty on that score."
"Nor on any other, I hope. As governess in my family, I think I have a right to command your services."
"I will come," said Florence, meekly. She felt that it would not do to refuse after this.
As she entered the handsomely decorated rooms on the night of the party, she looked around her nervously, fearing to see some one whom she had known in earlier days. She noticed one only—Percy de Brabazon, whose face lighted up when he saw her, for he had been expecting to see her.
She managed to convey a caution by a quiet movement, as it would not be wise for Mrs. Leighton to know of their previous acquaintance. But Percy was determined to get an opportunity to speak to her.
"Who is that young lady, Aunt Mary?" he asked. "The one standing near the piano."
"That is Carrie's governess," answered Mrs. Leighton, carelessly.
"She seems quite a ladylike person."
"Yes. I understand she has seen better days. She is to play for us in the absence of Prof. Bouvier."
"Will you introduce me, aunt?"
"Why?" asked Mrs. Leighton, with a searching look.
"I should like to inquire about Carrie's progress in her studies," said the cunning Percy.
"Oh, certainly," answered the aunt, quite deceived by his words.
"Miss Linden," she said, "let me introduce my nephew, Mr. de Brabazon. He wishes to inquire about Carrie's progress in her studies."
And the lady sailed off to another part of the room.
"I can assure you, Mr. de Brabazon," said Florence, "that my young charge is making excellent progress."
"I can easily believe it, under your instruction," said Percy.
"I am very glad you take such an interest in your cousin," added Florence, with a smile. "It does you great credit."
"It's only an excuse, you know, to get a chance to talk with you, Miss Linden. May I say Miss Florence?"
"No," answered Florence, decidedly. "It won't do. You must be very formal."
"Then tell me how you like teaching."
"Very well, indeed."
"It must be an awful bore, I think."
"I don't think so. Carrie is a warm-hearted, affectionate girl. Besides, she is very bright and gives me very little trouble."
"Don't you think you could take another pupil, Miss Linden?"
"A young girl?"
"No, a young man. In fact, myself."
"What could I teach you, Mr. de Brabazon?"
"Lots of things. I am not very sound in—in spelling and grammar."
"What a pity!" answered Florence, with mock seriousness. "I am afraid your aunt would hardly consent to have a boy of your size in the schoolroom."
"Then perhaps you could give me some private lessons in the afternoon?"
"That would not be possible."
Just then Mrs. Leighton came up.
"Well," she said, "what does Miss Linden say of Carrie?"
"She has quite satisfied my mind about her," answered Percy, with excusable duplicity. "I think her methods are excellent. I was telling her that I might be able to procure her another pupil."
"I have no objection, as long as it does not interfere with Carrie's hours. Miss Linden, there is a call for music. Will you go to the piano and play a Stauss waltz?"
Florence inclined her head obediently.
"Let me escort you to the piano, Miss Linden," said Percy.
"Thank you," answered Florence, in a formal tone.
For an hour Florence was engaged in playing waltzes, gallops and lanciers music. Then a lady who was proud of her daughter's proficiency volunteered her services to relieve Florence.
"Now you can dance yourself," said Percy, in a low tone. "Will you give me a waltz?"
"Not at once. Wait till the second dance."
Percy de Brabazon was prompt in presenting himself as soon as permitted, and he led Florence out for a dance.
Both were excellent dancers, and attracted general attention.
Florence really enjoyed dancing, and forgot for a time that she was only a guest on sufferance, as she moved with rhythmic grace about the handsome rooms.
Percy was disposed to prolong the dance, but Florence was cautious.
"I think I will rest now, Mr. de Brabazon," she said.
"You will favor me again later in the evening?" he pleaded.
"I hardly think it will be wise."
But when, half an hour later, he asked her again, Florence could not find it in her heart to say no. It would have been wise if she had done so. A pair of jealous eyes was fixed upon her. Miss Emily Carter had for a considerable time tried to fascinate Mr. de Brabazon, whose wealth made him a very desirable match, and she viewed his decided penchant for Florence with alarm and indignation.
"To be thrown in the shade by a governess is really too humiliating!" she murmured to herself in vexation. "If it were a girl in my own station I should not care so much," and she eyed Florence with marked hostility.
"Mamma," she said, "do you see how Mr. de Barbazon is carrying on with Mrs. Leighton's governess? Really, I think it very discreditable."
Mrs. Carter looked through her gold eye-glasses at the couple.
"Is the girl really a governess?" she added. "She is very well dressed."
"I don't know where she got her dress, but she is really a governess."
"She seems very bold."
"So she does."
Poor Florence! She was far from deserving their unkindly remarks.
"I suppose she is trying to ensnare young de Brabazon," said Emily, spitefully. "People of her class are very artful. Don't you think it would be well to call Mrs. Leighton's attention? Percy de Brabazon is her nephew, you know."
"True. The suggestion is a good one, Emily."
Mrs. Carter was quite as desirous as her daughter of bringing about an alliance with Percy, and she readily agreed to second her plans.
She looked about for Mrs. Leighton, and took a seat at her side.
"Your nephew seems quite attentive to your governess," she commenced.
"Indeed! In what way?"
"He has danced with her three or four times, I believe. It looks rather marked."
"So it does," said Mrs. Leighton. "He is quite inconsiderate."
"Oh, well, it is of no great consequence. She is quite stylish for a governess, and doubtless your nephew is taken with her."
"That will not suit my views at all," said Mrs. Leighton, coldly. "I shall speak to her to-morrow."
"Pray don't. It really is a matter of small consequence—quite natural, in fact."
"Leave the matter with me. You have done quite right in mentioning it."
At twelve o'clock the next day, when Florence had just completed her lessons with Carrie, Mrs. Leighton entered the room.
"Please remain a moment, Miss Linden," she said. "I have a few words to say to you."
Mrs. Leighton's tone was cold and unfriendly, and Florence felt that something unpleasant was coming.
Chapter XXX. Florence Is Followed Home.
"I am listening, madam," said Florence, inclining her head.
"I wish to speak to you about last evening, Miss Linden."
"I hope my playing was satisfactory, Mrs. Leighton. I did my best."
"I have no fault to find with your music. It came up to my expectations."
"I am glad of that, madam."
"I referred, rather, to your behavior, Miss Linden."
"I don't understand you, Mrs. Leighton," Florence responded, in unaffected surprise. "Please explain."
"You danced several times with my nephew, Mr. Percy de Brabazon."
"I understood it was oftener. However, that is immaterial. You hardly seemed conscious of your position."
"What was my position, Mrs. Leighton?" asked Florence, quietly, looking her employer in the face. "Well—ahem!" answered Mrs. Leighton, a little ill at ease, "you were a hired musician."
"And you acted as if you were an invited guest."
"I am sorry you did not give me instructions as to my conduct," said the governess, coldly. "I should not have danced if I had been aware that it was prohibited."
"I am sorry, Miss Linden, that you persist in misunderstanding me. Mr. de Brabazon, being in a different social position from yourself, it looked hardly proper that he should have devoted himself to you more than to any other lady."
"Did he? I was not aware of it. Don't you think, under the circumstances, that he is the one whom you should take to task? I didn't invite his attentions."
"You seemed glad to receive them."
"I was. He is undoubtedly a gentleman."
"Certainly he is. He is my nephew."
"It was not my part to instruct him as to what was proper, surely."
"You are very plausible. Miss Linden, I think it right to tell you that your conduct was commented upon by one of my lady guests as unbecoming. However, I will remember, in extenuation, that you are unaccustomed to society, and doubtless erred ignorantly."
Florence bowed, but forbore to make any remark.
"Do you wish to speak further to me, Mrs. Leighton?"
"No, I think not."
"Then I will bid you good-morning."
When the governess had left the house, Mrs. Leighton asked herself whether in her encounter with her governess the victory rested with her, and she was forced to acknowledge that it was at least a matter of doubt.
"Miss Linden is a faithful teacher, but she does not appear to appreciate the difference that exists between her and my guests. I think, however, that upon reflection, she will see that I am right in my stricture upon her conduct."
Florence left the house indignant and mortified. It was something new to her to be regarded as a social inferior, and she felt sure that there were many in Mrs. Leighton's position who would have seen no harm in her behavior on the previous evening.
Four days afterward, when Florence entered the Madison Avenue car to ride downtown, she had scarcely reached her seat when an eager voice addressed her:
"Miss Linden, how fortunate I am in meeting you!"
Florence looked up and saw Mr. de Brabazon sitting nearly opposite her.
Though she felt an esteem for him, she was sorry to see him, for, with Mrs. Leighton's rebuke fresh in her mind, it could only be a source of embarrassment, and, if discovered, subject her in all probability to a fresh reprimand.
"You are kind to say so, Mr. de Brabazon."
"Not at all. I hoped I might meet you again soon. What a pleasant time we had at the party."
"I thought so at the time, but the next day I changed my mind."
"Why, may I ask?"
"Because your aunt, Mrs. Leighton, took me to task for dancing with you twice."
"Was she so absurd?" ejaculated Percy.
"It is not necessarily absurd. She said our social positions were so different that it was unbecoming for me to receive attention from you."
"Rubbish!" exclaimed Percy, warmly.
"I am afraid I ought not to listen to such strictures upon the words of my employer."
"I wish you didn't have to teach."
"I can't join you in that wish. I enjoy my work."
"But you ought to be relieved from the necessity."
"We must accept things as we find them," said Florence, gravely.
"There is a way out of it," said Percy, quickly. "You understand me, do you not?"
"I think I do, Mr. de Brabazon, and I am grateful to you, but I am afraid it can never be."
Percy remained silent.
"How far are you going?" asked Florence, uneasily, for she did not care to have her companion learn where she lived.
"I intend to get out at Fourteenth Street."
"Then I must bid you good-afternoon, for we are already at Fifteenth Street."
"If I can be of any service to you, I will ride farther."
"Thank you," said Florence, hastily, "but it is quite unnecessary."
"Then, good morning!"
And Percy descended from the car.
In another part of the car sat a young lady, who listened with sensations far from pleasant to the conversation that had taken place between Florence and Mr. de Brabazon.
It was Emily Carter, whose jealousy had been excited on the evening of the party. She dropped her veil, fearing to be recognized by Mr. de Brabazon, with whom she was well acquainted. She, too, had intended getting off at Fourteenth Street, but decided to remain longer in the car.
"I will find out where that girl lives," she resolved. "Her conduct with Percy de Brabazon is positively disgraceful. She is evidently doing her best to captivate him. I feel that it is due to Mrs. Leighton, who would be shocked at the thought of her nephew's making a low alliance, to find out all I can, and put her on her guard."
She kept her seat, still keeping her veil down, for it was possible that Florence might recognize her; and the car moved steadily onward till it turned into the Bowery.
"Where on earth is she leading me?" Miss Carter asked herself. "I have never been in this neighborhood before. However, it won't do to give up, when I am, perhaps, on the verge of some important discoveries."
Still the car sped on. Not far from Grand Street, Florence left the car, followed, though she was unconscious of it, by her aristocratic fellow-passenger.
Florence stopped a moment to speak to Mrs. O'Keefe at her apple-stand.
"So you're through wid your work, Florence. Are you goin' home?"
"Yes, Mrs. O'Keefe."
"Then I'll go wid you, for I've got a nasty headache, and I'll lie down for an hour."
They crossed the street, not noticing the veiled young lady, who followed within ear shot, and listened to their conversation. At length they reached the tenement house—Florence's humble home—and went in.
"I've learned more than I bargained for," said Emily Carter, in malicious exultation. "I am well repaid for coming to this horrid part of the city. I wonder if Mr. de Brabazon knows where his charmer lives? I will see that Mrs. Leighton knows, at any rate."
Chapter XXXI. Florence Is Discharged.
Mrs. Leighton sat in her boudoir with a stern face and tightly compressed lips. Miss Carter had called the previous afternoon and informed her of the astounding discoveries she had made respecting the governess.
She rang the bell.
"Janet," she said, "when the governess comes you may bring her up here to me."
"She's going to catch it—I wonder what for?" thought Janet, as she noted the grim visage of her employer.
So when Florence entered the house she was told that Mrs. Leighton wished to see her at once.
"I wonder what's the matter now?" she asked herself. "Has she heard of my meeting her nephew in the car?"
When she entered the room she saw at once that something was wrong.
"You wished to see me, Mrs. Leighton?" she said.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Leighton, grimly. "Will you be seated?"
Florence sat down a few feet from her employer and waited for an explanation.
She certainly was not prepared for Mrs. Leighton's first words:
"Miss Linden, where do you live?"
Florence started, and her face flushed.
"I live in the lower part of the city," she answered, with hesitation.
"That is not sufficiently definite."
"I live at No. 27 — Street."
"I think that is east of the Bowery."
"You are right, madam."
"You lodge with an apple-woman, do you not?"
"I do," answered Florence, calmly.
"In a tenement house?"
"And you actually come from such a squalid home to instruct my daughter!" exclaimed Mrs. Leighton, indignantly. "It is a wonder you have not brought some terrible disease into the house."
"There has been no case of disease in the humble dwelling in which I make my home. I should be as sorry to expose your daughter to any danger of that kind as you would be to have me."
"It is a merciful dispensation of Providence, for which I ought to be truly thankful. But the idea of receiving in my house an inmate of a tenement house! I am truly shocked. Is this apple-woman your mother?"
"I assure you that she is not," answered Florence, with a smile which she could not repress.
"Or your aunt?"
"She is in no way related to me. She is an humble friend.
"Miss Linden, your tastes must be low to select such a home and such a friend."
"The state of my purse had something to do with the selection, and the kindness shown me by Mrs. O'Keefe, when I needed a friend, will explain my location further."
"That is not all. You met in the Madison Avenue car yesterday my nephew, Mr. Percy de Brabazon."
"It is coming," thought Florence. "Who could have seen us?" Then aloud:
"Was it by appointment?"
"Do you mean to insult me, Mrs. Leighton?" demanded Florence, rising and looking at the lady with flashing eyes.
"I never insult anybody," replied Mrs. Leighton. "Pray, resume your seat."
Florence did so.
"Then I may assume that it was accidental. You talked together with the freedom of old friends?"
"You are correctly informed."
"You seem to make acquaintances very readily, Miss Linden. It seems singular, to say the least, that after meeting my nephew for a single evening, you should become such intimate friends."
"You will be surprised, Mrs. Leighton, when I say that Mr. de Brabazon and I are old friends. We have met frequently."
"Where, in Heaven's name?" ejaculated Mrs. Leighton.
"At my residence."
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed the scandalized lady. "Does my nephew Percy visit at the house of this apple-woman?"
"No, madam. He does not know where I live."
"Then you will explain your previous statement?" said Mrs. Leighton, haughtily.
"I am at present suffering reversed circumstances. It is but a short time since I was very differently situated."
"I won't inquire into your change of circumstances. I feel compelled to perform an unpleasant duty."
Florence did not feel called upon to make any reply, but waited for Mrs. Leighton to finish speaking.
"I shall be obliged to dispense with your services as my daughter's governess. It is quite out of the question for me to employ a person who lives in a tenement-house."
Florence bowed acquiescence, but she felt very sad. She had become attached to her young charge, and it cost her a pang to part from her.
Besides, how was she to supply the income of which this would deprive her?
"I bow to your decision, madam," she said, with proud humility.
"You will find here the sum that I owe you, with payment for an extra week in lieu of notice."
"Thank you. May I bid Carrie good-by, Mrs. Leighton?"
"It is better not to do so, I think. The more quietly we dissolve our unfortunate connection the better!"
Florence's heart swelled, and the tears came to her eyes, but she could not press her request.
She was destined, however, to obtain the privilege which Mrs. Leighton denied her. Carrie, who had become impatient, came downstairs and burst into the room.
"What keeps you so long, Miss Linden?" she said. "Is mamma keeping you?"
Florence was silent, leaving the explanations to Mrs. Leighton.
"Miss Linden has resigned her position as your governess, Carrie."
"Miss Linden going away! I won't have her go! What makes you go, Miss Linden?"
"Your mamma thinks it best," answered Florence, with moistened eyes.
"Well, I don't!" exclaimed Carrie, stamping her foot, angrily. "I won't have any other governess but you."
"Carrie, you are behaving very unbecomingly," said her mother.
"Will you tell me, mamma, why you are sending Miss Linden away?"
"I will tell you some other time."
"But I want to know now."
"I am very much displeased with you, Carrie."
"And I am very much displeased with you, mamma."
I do not pretend to defend Carrie, whose conduct was hardly respectful enough to her mother; but with all her faults she had a warm heart, while her mother had always been cold and selfish.
"I am getting tired of this," said Mrs. Leighton. "Miss Linden, as you are here to-day, you may give Carrie the usual lessons. As I shall be out when you get through, I bid you good-by now."
"Good-by, Mrs. Leighton."
Carrie and Florence went to the schoolroom for the last time.
Florence gave her young pupil a partial explanation of the cause which had led to her discharge.
"What do I care if you live in a poor house, Miss Linden?" said Carrie, impetuously. "I will make mamma take you back!"
Florence smiled; but she knew that there would be no return for her.
When she reached her humble home she had a severe headache and lay down. Mrs. O'Keefe came in later to see her.
"And what's the matter with you, Florence?" she asked.
"I have a bad headache, Mrs. O'Keefe."
"You work too hard, Florence, wid your teacher. That is what gives you the headache."
"Then I shan't have it again, for I have got through with my teaching."
"What's that you say?"
"I am discharged."
"And what's it all about?"
Florence explained matters. Mrs. O'Keefe became indignant.
"She's a mean trollop, that Mrs. Leighton!" she exclaimed, "and I'd like to tell her so to her face. Where does she live?"
"It will do no good to interfere, my good friend. She is not willing to receive a governess from a tenement house."
"Shure you used to live in as grand a house as herself."
"But I don't now."
"Don't mind it too much, mavoureen. You'll soon be gettin' another scholar. Go to sleep now, and you'll sleep the headache away."
Florence finally succeeded in following the advice of her humble friend.
She resolved to leave till the morrow the cares of the morrow.
She had twelve dollars, and before that was spent she hoped to be in a position to earn some more.
Chapter XXXII. An Exciting Adventure.
Dodger soon became accustomed to his duties at Tucker's express office, in his new San Francisco home. He found Mr. Tucker an exacting, but not an unreasonable, man. He watched his new assistant closely for the first few days, and was quietly taking his measure.
At the end of the first week he paid the salary agreed upon—fifteen dollars.
"You have been with me a week, Arthur," he said.
"And I have been making up my mind about you."
"Yes, sir," said Dodger, looking up inquiringly. "I hope you are satisfied with me?"
"Yes, I think I may say that I am. You don't seem to be afraid of work."
"I have always been accustomed to work."
"That is well. I was once induced to take the son of a rich man in the place you now occupy. He had never done a stroke of work, having always been at school. He didn't take kindly to work, and seemed afraid that he would be called upon to do more than he had bargained for. One evening I was particularly busy, and asked him to remain an hour overtime.
"'It will be very inconvenient, Mr. Tucker,' said the young man, 'as I have an engagement with a friend.'
"He left me to do all the extra work, and—I suppose you know what happened the next Saturday evening?"
"I can guess," returned Dodger, with a smile.
"I told him that I thought the duties were too heavy for his constitution, and he had better seek an easier place. Let me see—I kept you an hour and a half overtime last Wednesday."
"You made no objection, but worked on just as if you liked it."
"Yes, sir; I am always willing to stay when you need me."
"Good! I shan't forget it."
Dodger felt proud of his success, and put away the fifteen dollars with a feeling of satisfaction. He had never saved half that sum in the same time before.
"Curtis Waring did me a favor when he sent me out here," he reflected; "but as he didn't mean it, I have no occasion to feel grateful."
Dodger found that he could live for eight dollars a week, and he began to lay by seven dollars a week with the view of securing funds sufficient to take him back to New York.
He was in no hurry to leave San Francisco, but he felt that Florence might need a friend. But he found that he was making progress slowly.
At that time the price of a first-class ticket to New York was one hundred and twenty-eight dollars, besides the expense of sleeping berths, amounting then, as now, to twenty-two dollars extra. So it looked as if Dodger would be compelled to wait at least six months before he should be in a position to set out on the return journey.
About this time Dodger received a letter from Florence, in which she spoke of her discharge by Mrs. Leighton.
"I shall try to obtain another position as teacher," she said, concealing her anxiety. "I am sure, in a large city, I can find something to do."
But Dodger knew better than she the difficulties that beset the path of an applicant for work, and he could not help feeling anxious for Florence.
"If I were only in New York," he said to himself, "I would see that Florence didn't suffer. I will write her to let me know if she is in need, and I will send her some money."
About this time he met with an adventure which deserves to be noted.
It was about seven o'clock one evening that he found himself in Mission Street.
At a street corner his attention was drawn to a woman poorly dressed, who held by the hand a child of three.
Her clothing was shabby, and her attitude was one of despondency. It was clear that she was ill and in trouble.
Dodger possessed quick sympathies, and his own experience made him quick to understand and feel for the troubles of others.
Though the woman made no appeal, he felt instinctively that she needed help.
"I beg your pardon," he said, with as much deference as if he were addressing one favored by fortune, "but you seem to be in need of help?"
"God knows, I am!" said the woman, sadly.
"Perhaps I can be of service to you. Will you tell me how?"
"Neither I nor my child has tasted food since yesterday."
"Well, that can be easily remedied," said Dodger, cheerfully. "There is a restaurant close by. I was about to eat supper. Will you come in with me?"
"I am ashamed to impose upon the kindness of a stranger," murmured the woman.
"Don't mention it. I shall be very glad of company," said Dodger, heartily.
"But you are a poor boy. You may be ill able to afford the expense."
"I am not a millionaire," said Dodger, "and I don't see any immediate prospect of my building a palace on Nob Hill"—where live some of San Francisco's wealthiest citizens—"but I am very well supplied with money."
"Then I will accept your kind invitation."
It was a small restaurant, but neat in its appointments, and, as in most San Francisco restaurants, the prices were remarkably moderate.
At an expense of twenty-five cents each, the three obtained a satisfactory meal.
The woman and child both seemed to enjoy it, and Dodger was glad to see that the former became more cheerful as time went on.
There was something in the child's face that looked familiar to Dodger. It was a resemblance to some one that he had seen, but he could not for the life of him decide who it was.
"How can I ever thank you for your kindness?" said the lady, as she arose from the table. "You don't know what it is to be famished——"
"Don't I?" asked Dodger. "I have been hungry more than once, without money enough to buy a meal."
"You don't look it," she said.
"No, for now I have a good place and am earning a good salary."
"Are you a native of San Francisco?"
"No, madam. I can't tell you where I was born, for I know little or nothing of my family. I have only been here a short time. I came from New York."
"So did I," said the woman, with a sigh. "I wish I were back there again."
"How came you to be here? Don't answer if you prefer not to," Dodger added, hastily.
"I have no objection. My husband deserted me, and left me to shift for myself and support my child."
"How have you done it?"
"By taking in sewing. But that is a hard way of earning money. There are too many poor women who are ready to work for starvation wages, and so we all suffer."
"I know that," answered Dodger. "Do you live near here?"
The woman mentioned a street near by.
"I have one poor back room on the third floor," she explained; "but I should be glad if I were sure to stay there."
"Is there any danger of your being ejected?"
"I am owing for two weeks' rent, and this is the middle of the third week. Unless I can pay up at the end of this week I shall be forced to go out into the streets with my poor child."
"How much rent do you pay?"
"A dollar a week."
"Then three dollars will relieve you for the present?"
"Yes; but it might as well be three hundred," said the woman, bitterly.
"Not quite; I can supply you with three dollars, but three hundred would be rather beyond my means."
"You are too kind, too generous! I ought not to accept such a liberal gift."
"Mamma, I am tired. Take me up in your arms," said the child.
"Poor child! He has been on his feet all day," sighed the mother.
She tried to lift the child, but her own strength had been undermined by privation, and she was clearly unable to do so.
"Let me take him!" said Dodger. "Here, little one, jump up!"
He raised the child easily, and despite the mother's protest, carried him in his arms.
"I will see you home, madam," he said.
"I fear the child will be too heavy for you."
"I hope not. Why, I could carry a child twice as heavy."
They reached the room at last—a poor one, but a welcome repose from the streets.
"Don't you ever expect to see your husband again?" asked Dodger. "Can't you compel him to support you?"
"I don't know where he is," answered the woman, despondently.
"If you will tell me his name, I may come across him some day."
"His name," said the woman, "is Curtis Waring."
Dodger stared at her, overwhelmed with surprise.
Chapter XXXIII. An Important Discovery.
"Curtis Waring!" ejaculated Dodger, his face showing intense surprise. "Is that the name of your husband?"
"Yes. Is it possible that you know him?" asked the woman, struck by Dodger's tone.
"I know a man by that name. I will describe him, and you can tell me whether it is he. He is rather tall, dark hair, sallow complexion, black eyes, and a long, thin nose."
"It is like him in every particular. Oh, tell me where he is to be found?"
"He lives in New York. He is the nephew of a rich man, and is expecting to inherit his wealth. Through his influence a cousin of his, a young lady, has been driven from home."
"Was he afraid she would deprive him of the estate?"
"That was partly the reason. But it was partly to revenge himself on her because she would not agree to marry him."
"But how could he marry her," exclaimed the unfortunate woman, "when he is already married to me?"
"Neither she nor any one of his family or friends knew that he was already married. I don't think it would trouble him much."
"But it must be stopped!" she exclaimed, wildly. "He is my husband. I shall not give him up to any one else."
"So far as Florence is concerned—she is the cousin—she has no wish to deprive you of him. But is it possible that you are attached to a man who has treated you so meanly?" asked Dodger, in surprise.
"There was a time when he treated me well, when he appeared to love me," was the murmured reply. "I cannot forget that he is the father of my child."
Dodger did not understand the nature of women or the mysteries of the female heart, and he evidently thought this poor woman very foolish to cling with such pertinacity to a man like Curtis Waring.
"Do you mind telling me how you came to marry him?" he asked.
"It was over four years ago that I met him in this city," was the reply. "I am a San Francisco girl. I had never been out of California. I was considered pretty then," she added, with a remnant of pride, "faded as I am to-day."
Looking closely in her face, Dodger was ready to believe this.
Grief and privation had changed her appearance, but it had not altogether effaced the bloom and beauty of youth.
"At any rate, he seemed to think so. He was living at the Palace Hotel, and I made his acquaintance at a small social gathering at the house of my uncle. I am an orphan, and was perhaps the more ready to marry on that account."
"Did Mr. Waring represent himself as wealthy?"
"He said he had expectations from a wealthy relative, but did not mention where he lived."
"He told the truth, then."
"We married, securing apartments on Kearney Street. We lived together till my child was born, and for three months afterward. Then Mr. Waring claimed to be called away from San Francisco on business. He said he might be absent six weeks. He left me a hundred dollars, and urged me to be careful of it, as he was short of money, and needed considerable for the expenses of the journey. He left me, and I have never seen or heard from him since."
"Did he tell you where he was going, Mrs. Waring?"
"No; he said he would be obliged to visit several places—among others, Colorado, where he claimed to have some mining property. He told me that he hoped to bring back considerable money."
"Do you think he meant to stay away altogether?"
"I don't know what to think. Well, I lived on patiently, for I had perfect confidence in my husband. I made the money last me ten weeks instead of six, but then I found myself penniless."
"Did you receive any letters in that time?"
"No, and it was that that worried me. When at last the money gave out, I began to pawn my things—more than once I was tempted to pawn my wedding-ring, but I could not bring my mind to do that. I do not like to think ill of my husband, and was forced, as the only alternative, to conclude that he had met with some accident, perhaps had died. I have not felt certain that this was not so till you told me this evening that you know him."
"I can hardly say that I know him well, yet I know him a good deal better than I wish I did. But for him I would not now be in San Francisco."
"How is that? Please explain."
Dodger told her briefly the story of his abduction.
"But what motive could he have in getting you out of New York? I cannot understand."
"I don't understand myself, except that I am the friend of Florence."
"But why should she be compelled to leave her uncle's home?"
"Because Curtis Waring made him set his heart upon the match. She had her choice to marry Curtis or to leave the house, and forfeit all chance of the estate. She chose to leave the house."
"She ought to know that he has no right to marry," said the poor woman, who, not understanding the dislike of Florence for the man whom she herself loved, feared that she might yet be induced to marry him.
"She ought to know, and her uncle ought to know," said Dodger. "Mrs. Waring, I can't see my way clear yet. If I were in New York I would know just what to do. Will you agree to stand by me, and help me?"
"Yes, I will," answered the woman, earnestly.
"I will see you again to-morrow evening. Here is some money to help you along for the present. Good-night."
Dodger, as he walked away, pondered over the remarkable discovery he had made.
It was likely to prove of the utmost importance to Florence.
Her uncle's displeasure was wholly based upon her refusal to marry Curtis Waring, but if it should be proved to him that Curtis was already a married man, there would seem no bar to reconciliation.
Moreover—and thas was particularly satisfactory—it would bring Curtis himself into disfavor.
Florence would be reinstated in her rightful place in her uncle's family, and once more be recognized as heiress to at least a portion of his large fortune.
This last consideration might not weigh so much with Florence, but Dodger was more practical, and he wished to restore her to the social position which she had lost through the knavery of her cousin.
But in San Francisco—at a distance of over three thousand miles— Dodger felt at a loss how to act.
Even if Mr. Linden was informed that his nephew had a wife living in San Francisco, the statement would no doubt be denied by Curtis, who would brand the woman as an impudent adventuress.
"The absent are always in the wrong," says a French proverb.
At all events, they are very much at a disadvantage, and therefore it seemed imperatively necessary, not only that Dodger, but that Curtis Waring's wife should go to New York to confront the unprincipled man whose schemes had brought sorrow to so many.
It was easy to decide what plan was best, but how to carry it out presented a difficulty which seemed insurmountable.
The expenses of a journey to New York for Dodger, Mrs. Waring and her child would not be very far from five hundred dollars, and where to obtain this money was a problem.
Randolph Leslie probably had that sum, but Dodger could not in conscience ask him to lend it, being unable to furnish adequate security, or to insure repayment.
"If I could only find a nugget," thought Dodger, knitting his brows, "everything would be easy." But nuggets are rare enough in the gold fields, and still rarer in city streets.
He who trusts wholly to luck trusts to a will-o'-the-wisp, and is about as sure of success as one who owns a castle in Spain.
The time might come when Dodger, by his own efforts, could accumulate the needed sum, but it would require a year at least, and in that time Mr. Linden would probably be dead.
Absorbed and disturbed by these reflections, Dodger walked slowly through the darkened streets till he heard a stifled cry, and looking up, beheld a sight that startled him.
On the sidewalk lay the prostrate figure of a man. Over him, bludgeon in hand, bent a ruffian, whose purpose was only too clearly evident.
Chapter XXXIV. Just In Time.
Dodger, who was a strong, stout boy, gathered himself up and dashed against the ruffian with such impetuosity that he fell over his intended victim, and his bludgeon fell from his hand.
It was the work of an instant to lift it, and raise it in a menacing position.
The discomfited villain broke into a volley of oaths, and proceeded to pick himself up.
He was a brutal-looking fellow, but was no larger than Dodger, who was as tall as the majority of men.
"Give me that stick," he exclaimed, furiously.
"Come and take it," returned Dodger, undaunted.
The fellow took him at his word, and made a rush at our hero, but a vigorous blow from the bludgeon made him cautious about repeating the attack.
"Curse you!" he cried, between his teeth. "I'd like to chaw you up."
"I have no doubt you would," answered Dodger; "but I don't think you will. Were you going to rob this man?"
"None of your business!"
"I shall make it my business. You'd better go, or you may be locked up."
"Give me that stick, then."
"You'll have to do without it."
He made another rush, and Dodger struck him such a blow on his arm that he winced with pain.
"Now I shall summon the police, and you can do as you please about going."
Dodger struck the stick sharply on the sidewalk three times, and the ruffian, apprehensive of arrest, ran around the corner just in time to rush into the arms of a policeman.
"What has this man been doing?" asked the city guardian, turning to Dodger.
"He was about to rob this man."
"Is the man hurt?"
"Where am I?" asked the prostrate man, in a bewildered tone.
"I will take care of him, if you will take charge of that fellow."
"Can you get up, sir?" asked Dodger, bending over the fallen man.
The latter answered by struggling to his feet and looking about him in a confused way.
"Where am I?" he asked. "What has happened?"
"You were attacked by a ruffian. I found you on the sidewalk, with him bending over you with this club in his hand."
"He must have followed me. I was imprudent enough to show a well-filled pocketbook in a saloon where I stopped to take a drink. No doubt he planned to relieve me of it."
"You have had a narrow escape, sir."
"I have no doubt of it. I presume the fellow was ready to take my life, if he found it necessary."
"I will leave you now, sir, if you think you can manage."
"No, stay with me. I feel rather upset."
"Where are you staying, sir?"
"At the Palace Hotel. Of course you know where that is?"
"Certainly. Will you take my arm?"
Little was said till they found themselves in the sumptuous hotel, which hardly has an equal in America.
"Come to my room, young man; I want to speak to you."
It was still early in the evening, and Dodger's time was his own.
He had no hesitation, therefore, in accepting the stranger's invitation.
On the third floor the stranger produced a key and opened the door of a large, handsomely-furnished room.
"If you have a match, please light the gas."
Dodger proceeded to do so, and now, for the first time, obtained a good view of the man he had rescued. He was a man of about the average height, probably not far from fifty, dressed in a neat business suit, and looked like a substantial merchant.
"Please be seated."
Dodger sat down in an easy-chair conveniently near him.
"Young man," said the stranger, impressively, "you have done me a great favor."
Dodger felt that this was true, and did not disclaim it.
"I am very glad I came up just as I did," he said.
"How large a sum of money do you think I had about me?" asked his companion.
"Five hundred dollars?"
"Five hundred dollars! Why, that would be a mere trifle."
"It wouldn't be a trifle to me, sir," said Dodger.