HotFreeBooks.com
Making His Way - Frank Courtney's Struggle Upward
by Horatio Alger, Jr.
Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Wait here, and I will call my wife," said Mr. Tarbox.

Frank sat down on a hard sofa and awaited the entrance of Mrs. Tarbox.

She came in, a tall, thin woman, about as handsome for a woman as her husband was for a man. Indeed, they were very well matched. She was quite as mean as he, and between them they managed to make annually a sensible addition to their world possessions.

Mr. Tarbox privately hinted his hopes respecting Frank to his wife, and she instantly agreed that it would be a most eligible arrangement.

"We must make him contented, my dear," said her husband. "Give him the best bedroom, and I think it might be well to have something a little extra for supper."

"I did intend to put on the rest of that cold mutton," said Mrs. Tarbox, doubtfully.

"It won't do, Martha. There is only a little of it, you know, and the boy has been traveling, and, of course, is hungry. What do you say, now, to some nice beefsteak?"

"Beefsteak is high now," said Mrs. Tarbox. "Still, if we buy round steak—that is cheaper than sirloin or tenderloin."

"And quite as good," said her economical partner. "We can tell Frank, however, that no sirloin was to be had so late in the day at the markets."

Mrs. Tarbox nodded her head, approving the suggestion.

This little matter being adjusted, the husband and wife entered the parlor where our hero was waiting patiently.

"This is our young cousin, Martha," said Mr. Tarbox, smiling pleasantly.

"Welcome to Newark," said Mrs. Tarbox, extending her hand. "And how did you leave your stepfather?"

"He is well," said Prank, coolly.

The two exchanged glances. It was clear that Frank did not like his stepfather, and this was satisfactory to them. There was the more chance of his leaving him and boarding with them.

"The children will be so glad to see you," said Mr. Tarbox; "won't they, Martha?"

"Delighted!" assured the lady.

"Pliny must be about your age. How old are you, by the way?"

"Sixteen."

"Just Pliny's age. Do you remember him?"

Frank remembered a tall, thin stripling who had accompanied his parents to the Cedars, and who appeared to have an inexhaustible appetite.

"Yes, I remember him. Does he go to school?"

"No; Pliny is in a store," answered Mr. Tarbox.

"Your store?"

"Oh, no! I thought it would be better for him to enter the employ of a stranger. He is in a bookstore."

There was one great advantage in Pliny's entering the employ of a stranger. He was paid four dollars a week, whereas Mr. Tarbox paid his boy but two. Here, then, was a clear gain of two dollars a week.

"But you must be tired," said Mrs. Tarbox. "You will see the children at supper. Martha, I think Frank would like to go to his room."

The best bedroom was over the parlor. It was rather more cheerful, because lighter.

"Here," said Mr. Tarbox, "you must make yourself at home. Martha, isn't one of the drawers in that bureau empty? I thought so. Take your clothes out of the valise and put them away. Now, is there anything you would like?"

"Only a little water to wash in," said Frank. "You are both very kind."

"We hope to make you comfortable. You are our relative, you know."

The water was brought up by Mrs. Tarbox herself, and Frank was left alone, on the whole well pleased with his reception.



CHAPTER XVI

AN UNPLEASANT DISCOVERY

It never occurred to Frank that his cordial reception was wholly due to his supposed wealth. Had he known the Tarbox family better, he would have had no uncertainty on this point. As it was, the discovery was soon made.

"All my olive branches are for you, my dear young cousin," said Mr. Tarbox, waving his hand. "A peaceful, happy family. Children, this is our esteemed relative, Frank Courtney. You remember visiting his delightful home, the Cedars."

"Yes, pa," said Julia.

Pliny said nothing, but stared at Frank, inwardly considering whether it would be possible to borrow some money of him.

"I am glad to meet you all. I hope we shall become better acquainted," said Frank politely.

"No doubt you will," said Mr. Tarbox. "They are rather bashful, but they long to know you."

"How are you?" said Pliny, in a sudden burst of sociability.

"Pretty well, thank you!" answered Frank, finding it rather difficult to preserve his gravity.

"I am in a store," said Pliny.

"In your father's store?"

"No. He wouldn't pay me as much as I get where I am."

Mr. Tarbox looked embarrassed.

"A smaller boy answered my purpose," he said, in an explanatory manner. "Pliny is suited for higher duties. But our supper is ready. It is frugal compared with yours at the Cedars, my dear Frank, but you are heartily welcome to it."

"It looks very nice, Mr. Tarbox," said our hero, "and I have not been accustomed to luxurious living."

This answer pleased Mr. and Mrs. Tarbox. Even if Frank should become a boarder on liberal terms, they didn't wish to spend too much on their table.

"We couldn't get sirloin steak," said Mr. Tarbox; "but I hope you will find this good."

"No doubt I shall," said Frank, politely.

"Won't you have another piece of steak?" asked Mrs. Tarbox.

Frank saw that there was but a small piece left, and, though his appetite was not wholly satisfied, he answered:

"No, thank you."

"I will!" said Pliny, quickly.

Mrs. Tarbox frowned at her son, but did not venture to refuse in the presence of her guest. She cut off a small portion of the steak, and, with a severe look, put it on the extended plate of Pliny.

"You've got a good appetite, Pliny," said Julia.

"So would you have, if you had to work like me!" grumbled Pliny.

After the steak came an apple pie, which was cut into seven pieces. Mrs. Tarbox managed to make Frank's piece a little larger than the rest.

Her husband observed it with approval. He was very desirous that Frank should be satisfied with his fare.

When Pliny rose from the table, saying that he must be getting back to the store, Frank rose also.

"I will go with you," he said, "if you have no objection. I would like to take a walk."

"Come along," said Pliny. "I should like to have company."

"You will be a great deal of company for Pliny," observed Mr. Tarbox, rubbing his hands with satisfaction. "Just of an age and of congenial tastes."

Frank hardly expected to find Pliny very congenial, but he wished to obtain some information, which he thought the latter could give him, and he also wanted to see something of Newark.

"I say, your name is Frank, isn't it?" commenced Pliny:

"Yes."

"The old man's awful glad to see you."

"I am glad of it. He has received me very kindly."

"Got up an extra supper for you. We don't often get steak for supper."

This was rather an embarrassing revelation, and surprised Frank somewhat. The supper had not seemed to him at all extra. It would do, but was far from luxurious.

"I hope you'll stay with us a good while," continued Pliny.

"Thank you."

"You see we shall live better while you are with us, and the rest of us will be gainers."

"I don't want to put your father to any unusual expense."

"Oh, he can afford it! But he's stingy, father is. He doesn't spend any more than he can help."

"It is best to be economical, I suppose."

"When you don't carry it too far. I say, Frank," continued Pliny, lowering his voice, "you can't lend me five dollars, can you?"

Frank regarded Pliny with astonishment. The proposal was very abrupt, especially when the shortness of their acquaintance was considered.

"Are you particularly in need of money?" asked Frank.

"Well, you see," said Pliny, "I want it for a particular purpose."

"Why not ask your father for it?"

"Oh, he'd never let me have it!"

Now, in Frank's present circumstances, five dollars represented a good deal of money. He was the more impressed with the necessity of economy since he had found out how small were the wages paid in stores to boys of his age.

He did not feel at all inclined to grant Pliny's request, especially as he had a strong suspicion that it would be a long time before the sum would be returned.

"Why do you apply to me, Pliny?" he asked, seriously.

"Didn't your mother die and leave you a big property? Father says you must be worth more than a hundred thousand dollars."

"Your father probably has not heard of the will," said Frank, quietly.

"What was there in the will?" asked Pliny.

"The whole property was left to Mr. Manning."

"Who is he?"

"My stepfather."

"And nothing to you?"

"Nothing to me."

"But he's got to take care of you, hasn't he?"

"It was expected, but I am going to earn my own living, if I can."

Pliny stopped short in blank amazement and whistled.

"Then you haven't got a lot of money?"

"No."

"Won't your stepfather give you a part of the property?"

"I haven't asked him, but I don't think he will."

"And why did you come to Newark?"

"I thought your father might give me some help about getting a place."

"If this isn't the richest joke!" said Pliny, laughing uproariously.

"Where is the joke? I don't see it," returned Frank, inclined to be angry.

"The way you have taken in the old man. He thinks you are rich, and has treated you accordingly—got up an extra supper and all that. Oh, it's too good!"

"I certainly didn't intend to take him in, as you call it," said Frank. "The sooner you tell him the better."

"I'll tell him," said Pliny. "I shall enjoy seeing how provoked he'll be."

"I think I will leave you," said Frank, shortly. "I will take a walk by myself.

"Well, don't lose your way. Oh, I wish the store was shut! I want to tell the old man."

And Pliny laughed again, while our hero walked off in disgust.



CHAPTER XVII

THE WAY OF THE WORLD

Frank felt like an impostor when he discovered that his cordial reception was wholly owing to the belief that he was his mother's heir.

The situation was unpleasant, and he was impatient to have Mr. Tarbox undeceived. He was sure that Pliny would lose no time in revealing his true position, and decided not to return to the house of Mr. Tarbox till nine o'clock, when the story would have been told.

He wandered about aimlessly till he heard the city clocks strike nine, and then rang the bell at his relation's house.

The family, with the exception of the two younger children, were assembled in the common sitting room.

As Frank entered, instead of the cordial welcome he had previously received, he noticed a look of coldness and constraint on the faces of Mr. and Mrs. Tarbox, while Pliny looked as if some stupendous joke was being perpetrated.

"Good-evening!" said Frank, politely. "I have been taking a walk."

"My son Pliny tells me," said Mr. Tarbox, "that you have not inherited your mother's property."

Frank bowed.

"And that it has gone to your stepfather."

"It seems so."

"I am amazed."

"So was I, sir."

"Your mother has practically disinherited you?"

"It was not my mother, sir," said Frank, hastily. "I can't explain it, but I'm sure she would not will away everything from me."

"Do you suspect your stepfather of anything irregular?" asked Mr. Tarbox, briskly.

"I would rather not answer your question, sir. I don't care to make any charges which I cannot prove."

"And so Mr. Manning has sent you out into the world to earn your own living, has he?"

"No, sir. He has consented that I may do so. It was my own plan."

Much as Frank was prejudiced against his stepfather, his natural sense of justice would not allow him to accuse him unjustly.

"Did he suggest that you should come to me?" asked Mr. Tarbox, in a tone which Frank did not like.

"No, sir."

"So that was your idea, too," continued Mr. Tarbox, with a palpable sneer.

"Yes, sir," answered Frank. "You are not a very near relative, but the nearest I know of, and I supposed you would be willing to give me some advice about the best means of earning my living. I remembered," he could not help adding, "that my mother received you all as guests for a considerable time, and I thought I might take the liberty."

"Oh, certainly!" returned Mr. Tarbox, rather abashed. "I am, of course, ready to give you advice, and my first advice is to seek a lawyer and let him institute a suit against your stepfather, on speculation. That is, he gets nothing if he fails, but obtains a commission if he succeeds. I could myself recommend a reliable man."

"Thank you, sir; but I have no present thought of contesting the will."

"I think you make a mistake. Do I understand that you expect to earn your own living?"

"I shall try to do so."

"You will find it very difficult. You may expect me to take you into my own store, but there is no vacancy, and—"

Frank hastily assured Mr. Tarbox that he had no such expectations. He had no wish to deprive the errand boy of the two dollars a week, which he probably richly earned.

"Situations in Newark are not easily obtained," proceeded Mr. Tarbox. "I am willing that you should stay with us a day or two, but I don't think you will find it worth your while to stay here."

Mr. Tarbox feared that his young relative might expect to find a home free of charge in his house, and such an arrangement did not suit his economical ideas. There was no profit in it, but, on the contrary, a positive loss. Frank read clearly the thoughts of his host, with the help of what Pliny had told him, and, expressing his thanks very briefly, announced his intention to go to New York the next morning.

"It may be the best thing you can do!" said Mr. Tarbox, relieved. "New York opens a much wider field to a boy of enterprise than Newark, and probably you will pick up something to do."

"It won't be my fault, if I don't," said Frank.

"You have my best wishes," said Mr. Tarbox. "The demands of my family forbid me offering you any pecuniary assistance, but—"

"I don't stand in need of it, sir. I have money enough to keep me till I get started in something."

"Really, I am very glad to hear it!"

And there is no doubt that Mr. Tarbox was sincere.

"I wonder how much money he has got?" thought Pliny. "Perhaps he'd lend me two dollars. I'll ask him, if I have a chance."

Pliny proposed to borrow, not because he needed the money, but because he liked to levy contributions upon any available party, with a very faint idea of repaying the same. The money would go to swell his deposit at the savings bank. It was very commendable, of course, to save his money, but not at the expense of others, as Pliny too frequently did.

"I have moved you out of the spare room," said Mrs. Tarbox, when our hero asked permission to retire, "and put you in the same room with Pliny. I suppose you won't mind?"

"Just as you please, Mrs. Tarbox," said Frank, though he would have preferred to have passed the night alone.

"Could you make it convenient to lend me two dollars?" asked Pliny, as they went up to bed together.

"Not just now," answered Frank. "When I get something to do I shall not need to be so careful of my money."

"One dollar would answer," persisted Pliny.

Without a word, Frank drew a dollar bill from his pocketbook and handed it to Pliny.

"Now," he thought, "I shall not feel under any obligations to the family."

"You're a good fellow, even if you are poor," said Pliny, in high good humor.

Frank was tired, and it was not long before all his anxieties for future were lost sight of in a sound and refreshing slumber.



CHAPTER XVIII

FRANK ARRIVES IN NEW YORK

The breakfast the next morning was very meager. It was no longer an object to gratify Frank's palate, now that he turned out to be a poor relation, and the family returned to their usual plain diet.

"So you are resolved to go to New York this morning," said Mr. Tarbox. "Of course it would gratify us to have you remain longer, but I appreciate your anxiety to go to work."

Frank was by no means deceived by this statement. He knew very well that Mr. Tarbox would be relieved by his departure, but of this knowledge he made no sign. He merely said that he thought it best to go.

He took leave of his hosts, and, purchasing a ticket at the railway station, found himself within an hour in New York. He had been there before, but it was not for a long time, and he had but a vague general idea of the city.

Frank made inquiries of a kindly man who owned a clean little store on one of the streets. The latter knew of places where Frank could board and lodge for five dollars a week or about that and directed Frank to them. They were all near University Place. He found the place without difficulty.

A slipshod servant answered the bell.

"Have you got any small rooms?" asked Frank.

"Yes," answered the girl. "Missus is out, but I'll show you a hall bedroom, if you like."

"I should like to see it."

Frank followed the girl upstairs.

He was not favorably impressed by the appearance of the interior. He did not so much mind its being shabby, but he was repelled by the evident lack of neatness.

The girl threw open the door of a small hall bedroom at the head of the stairs, but it looked so comfortless that he felt sure he should not like it. He thought it best, however, to inquire the price.

"Five dollars a week with board," answered the girl.

"I don't think it will suit me," said our hero.

"There's a larger room for seven dollars," said the servant.

"No. I think I will look elsewhere."

The next house was not much better, but the third was much neater and more attractive, and Frank agreed to take a room at five dollars per week.

It was a small hall bedroom, but it looked clean, and the lady who showed him about the house was very neat in her dress.

"When will you come?" asked the lady.

"Now," replied Frank, promptly.

"Would you mind paying the first week in advance?"

"Not at all. Here is the money."

And Frank drew a five-dollar bill from his portemonnaie.

"Thank you!" said the boarding-house keeper. "I have lost so much by boarders going away owing me money that I am obliged to ask gentlemen to pay in advance till I am well acquainted with them."

"That is quite right," said Frank. "What is your dinner hour?"

"Six o'clock. We have lunch at half-past twelve for the ladies, but if any gentleman happens to be at home at that time, he can go in."

Frank looked at his watch. It was only eleven o'clock and as so much of the day remained, he decided, as soon as he had unpacked his valise, to go downtown and look for a place without delay.

"I shall not be here at lunch to-day," he said. "You may expect me at dinner."

There was a small bureau in the room—a piece of furniture not often found in hall bedrooms.

Frank deposited the contents of the valise in the bureau drawers, and then went downstairs and out into the street.



CHAPTER XIX

FRANK SEEKS EMPLOYMENT IN VAIN

It was a bright, pleasant day, and Broadway looked very lively. In spite of his being alone in a strange city, with uncertain prospects, Frank felt in good spirits.

Boys of his age usually like excitement and bustle, and Frank was quick to notice the shifting scenes of the great panorama.

"Here are thousands of people," he reflected, "all of whom make a living in some way. I don't see why I can't succeed as well as they."

Some of the objects he saw amused him.

In front of him walked an elderly man with a large placard strapped to his back, on which was the advertisement of a "Great Clothing Emporium."

"I don't think I should fancy that kind of employment," thought our hero.

As he was looking in at a shop window, a boy about his own age hailed him.

"I say, Johnny, what's the price of turnips?"

"Do you want to buy any?" asked Frank quietly.

"Well, I might. Have you got any with you?"

"I am sorry I can't supply you," said Frank, coolly. "Up our way we keep our cattle on turnips."

"You ain't so green, after all," said the boy, laughing good-naturedly.

"Thank you for the compliment!"

"I suppose I look countrylike," thought Frank, "but it won't last long. I shall get used to city ways."

Close by he saw in a window the sign:

"CASH BOY WANTED."

Frank as not altogether certain about the duties of cash boys nor their rate of compensation, but he made up his mind not to lose sight of any chances, and accordingly stepped into the store.

It proved to be a large dry-goods store.

Near the entrance he met a tall man, with black whiskers.

"Do you want any cash boys?" inquired Frank.

"Are you inquiring for yourself?"

"Yes, sir."

"You are too large. Besides, you would not be satisfied with the wages?"

"How much do you pay, sir?"

"Two dollars a week."

"No; I don't think I should like to work for that," said Frank. "Are those cash boys?" he asked, pointing out some boys of apparently ten to twelve years, old, who were flitting about from desk to counter.

"Yes."

"I see they are much younger than I. Excuse the trouble I have given you!"

"None whatever," said the man, politely.

Frank left the store, and continued his walk down Broadway.

He began to feel a little serious. It was evident that the boys did not receive as large compensation for their services as he had supposed.

The problem promised to be a perplexing one, but Frank was by no means discouraged. In fact, if he had been, he would hardly have deserved to be the hero of my story.

Though Clinton Place is not very far uptown, it is a considerable walk from this point to the Astor House.

There was so much to see, however, that Frank did not become tired, nor was he sensible of the distance. He walked a little beyond the Astor House, and, crossing Broadway, turned down Fulton Street.

On the left side of the street his attention was drawn to a restaurant, and he was led by the prompting of appetite to enter.

The prices he found to be reasonable, and the tables were already pretty well filled with clerks and business men, who were partaking of their midday lunch.

Frank found that a plate of meat, with potato and a small supply of bread and butter, could be obtained for fifteen cents.

He afterward found restaurants where the same could be gotten for ten cents, but generally there was a deficiency in quality or quantity, and there was less neatness in serving the articles.

Seated at the same table with Frank were two young men, neither probably much over twenty. One appeared to be filling a regular clerkship.

"What are you doing now, Jack?" he asked of the other.

"I am in the tea business."

"How is that?"

"You know the Great Pekin Tea Company, of course?"

"Yes."

"Well, until I can get a place, I am selling for them."

"How do you make out?"

"I can't tell you, for I have only just commenced," said his friend.

"How do they pay—salary or commission?"

"They are to pay me a commission—twenty per cent on what I sell."

"That is a good commission."

"Yes; it is good enough, if I can make a fair amount of sales. There is a good deal of uncertainty about it of course. I would much rather have a place like yours."

Frank listened with interest. He wondered whether the Great Pekin Tea Company would employ him. If so, he would have a field for his energy, and every inducement to work hard, since his pay would depend on the amount of his sales. Besides, as an agent, he would occupy a comparatively independent position, and Frank was ambitious enough to enjoy this.



CHAPTER XX

AN ADVENTURE IN WALL STREET

When the two men at his table left the restaurant, Frank followed them. At the door the two parted, the clerk going toward Broadway, while the agent walked in the direction of Nassau Street.

"I beg your pardon," said Frank, overtaking him; "but may I ask you a question?"

"Half a dozen, if you like," said the other, good-naturedly.

"I overheard what you said about the Great Pekin Tea Company. Do you think I could get a chance to sell for them?"

"Oh, yes; there'll be no trouble about that!"

"I am looking for something to do," continued Frank, "and I think I should like to try that."

"You'll find it uphill work," said the agent; "hard work and poor pay. I shall leave it as soon as I can get a regular position. Can't you get a place?"

"Perhaps I can. I haven't tried very hard yet," answered Frank; "but I find boys are paid so little that I can't make enough to live on. If I were a man it would be different."

"I don't believe you can make more than a boy's wages at selling tea," said Frank's new acquaintance, "but you might try it."

"Would you mind giving me a note to the company?" asked Frank.

"I will write a line on one of my business cards," said the agent. "That will be all you will need."

He drew out a card and wrote a line commending Frank to the attention of the company.

Frank thanked him, and sought the direction given.

Entering a large shop, not far from the Astor House, he looked about his inquiringly. Around him were chests of tea, inscribed with Chinese characters. A portly man addressed him.

"Well, my boy, what can I do for you?" he asked.

"Mr. Mason, one of your agents, has given me this card," said Frank. "He thinks you might be willing to employ me."

"We are ready to employ any competent person," said the gentleman; "but you seem very young."

"I am sixteen, sir."

"That is young. Have you had any experience as an agent?"

"No, sir?"

The man questioned him further and finally accepted him.

Frank was told that it would be well to take samples of different kinds of teas with their respective prices attached, and seek orders for them at private houses and groceries, noting down in a little book orders obtained. Small quantities he could himself deliver, and large quantities, should he be fortunate enough to obtain any, could be sent out from the store by their general delivery.

"What commission am I to get, sir?" inquired Frank.

"Twenty per cent on parcels sold to private houses and ten per cent when you sell to retail dealers. To the first you can charge a full price, but it is necessary to sell at lower rates to dealers."

"I understand, sir," said Frank.

"When do you want to begin?"

"To-morrow morning, sir. Where do you advise me to go?"

"New York has been pretty well canvassed, except perhaps the upper part, Harlem. It might be well to make a start in Brooklyn."

"Very well, sir. I will call to-morrow and get samples."

As Frank left the store, he reflected, with satisfaction:

"I have only been a few hours in New York, and I have gotten employment already."

This reflection raised his spirits, and disposed him to regard the future with a degree of confidence. He resolved to spend the rest of the afternoon in walking about in the lower part of the city, and acquiring a little familiarity with the streets, as this was a kind of knowledge he was likely to need.

He strolled down Broadway, admiring the massive and stately structures that lined the streets on either side. Very soon he came to Trinity Church, and, standing in front it, looked down Wall Street. He had heard so much of this street that he felt inclined to turn from Broadway and walk down its entire length.

As he sauntered along a man whom he met scrutinized him sharply, as if considering some plan. Apparently making up his mind, he stepped up to Frank, and, touching him on the shoulder, said:

"Boy, would you like a job?"

Now Frank, though he had engaged to work for the Great Pekin Tea Company was ready to accept any other proposal, and answered promptly:

"Yes, sir."

"That is right," said the man. "It is a mere trifle, but I am willing to pay you a dollar."

"What is it, sir?"

"Do you see that window?"

He pointed to a basement window, in which were exposed rolls of gold, currency and greenbacks of different denominations, and English sovereigns and French gold coins.

"I want you to do me a little errand in there," he said.

Frank was rather surprised that the man did not do his own errand, when the broker's office was so near, but he had no objection to earning a dollar and signified his willingness.

"What I want you to do," said his new acquaintance, "is to sell some government bonds for me."

"Very well, sir."

The man produced a large yellow envelope, already open.

"In this envelope," he said, "are two five-twenty governments for a hundred dollars each. Take them in and sell them, and bring the proceeds to me."

"All right, sir."

Frank took the envelope, and entered the office of Jones & Robinson, that being the style of the firm.

He advanced to the counter, and singling out a clerk, said:

"I want to sell these bonds."

The clerk took them and drew them out of the envelope. Then he figured a little on a slip of paper, and said:

"They are worth two hundred and twenty-five dollars and twenty-five cents."

"All right, sir."

"Will you take a check or currency?"

Frank hesitated.

"Perhaps I'd better ask the man I am getting them for."

"Very well. You can bring them here to-morrow."

"Oh, I will let you know in a minute! The man is just outside."

This answer immediately excited suspicion. Frank was too little versed in business ways to understand how singular it was for his principal not to transact his own business under the circumstances, but the brokers were necessarily keen, shrewd men.

"Wait a minute," said the clerk; "I will speak to Mr. Jones."

Mr. Jones came forward and addressed Frank.

"Are you acquainted with the man who gave you these bonds to sell?" he asked.

"No, sir. I met him in the street."

"Did he offer you any pay for selling them?"

"Yes, sir. He is going to give me a dollar."

"Will you go out and ask him to come in here a moment?"

Frank obeyed.

When his employer saw him coming, he asked, eagerly:

"Have you got the money?"

"No," answered Frank. "They asked me if I wanted a check or currency."

"Either currency or gold," answered the man, hastily. "Go back at once, and don't keep me waiting."

"They want to see you, sir."

"What for?" inquired the man, looking disturbed.

"I don't know."

"There is no need of my going in," said the man, angrily. "I paid you to sell the bonds. Now go back."

"He won't come," reported Frank. "He says I can attend to the business. He will take either gold or currency."

"No doubt," said Mr. Jones, significantly. "Thomas, go out with this boy, and tell the man that employed him that we do not purchase bonds unless we have a reasonable assurance that they belong to the person offering them. We will take the liberty of retaining them, giving him a receipt for them, and if we are satisfied, he can have his money to-morrow."

Robinson, who had been examining some newspaper slips, here came forward, and said:

"That is unnecessary. I find that these bonds are among those stolen from the house of Henry Percival, Madison Avenue, a week since. We must manage to delay the man while we notify the police."

Frank was very much surprised to learn that he was acting as agent for a bond robber, and was fearful that he might himself be regarded with suspicion; but he need not have troubled himself on this score. Wall Street men are good judges of human nature, and it was at once concluded in the office that Frank was the dupe of a designing knave.

A boy was dispatched to the nearest police office, and Frank was directed to tell his principal that he would not long be delayed.

Naturally, however, the man outside had become suspicious.

"I can't wait," he said. "Meet me on the steps of the Astor House at five o'clock with the money. I am obliged to hurry away now to a business appointment."

Frank could think of no other pretext for delaying him, and was forced to see him hurry away.

He hastened back to the office and gave the alarm.

"He has taken fright," said Robinson. "I fear we have lost him. Where did he go?"

Frank, however, was too ignorant of city streets to give any accurate information.

The consequence was that when the policeman appeared on the scene, there was no occasion for his services.

"At any rate," said the broker, "we have secured a little of the plunder. What is your name and address my boy? We may wish to communicate with you."

Frank gave his name, and added the directions of his boarding house.

"Shall I meet the man at the Astor House?" he inquired, as he was leaving the office.

"To be sure!" said Mr. Jones. "I came near forgetting that. Officer, will you be on hand at the time?"

"Better employ a detective, sir, as my uniform would keep the thief at a distance. I don't think he'll appear, at any rate."

"I do," said the broker. "He won't give up the money while he thinks there is a chance of securing it."



CHAPTER XXI

THE CAPTURE

At the hour named, Frank repaired to the Astor House, and took a position on the steps.

He looked about him for his street acquaintance, but could see no one who bore any resemblance to him.

Finally, a man dressed in a gray suit with a pair of green glasses, walked carelessly up to our hero and said, in a low voice:

"Have you got the money?"

Frank looked at him in surprise.

This man had thick, black whiskers, while the man who had employed him had none at all, so far as he could remember. Besides, the green glasses altered him considerably.

To make sure that he was not deceived he inquired:

"What money?"

"You know very well," said the man, impatiently. "You are the boy whom I employed to sell some bonds this morning."

"You don't look like the same man," said Frank.

"Because of my glasses. I have to wear them at times on account of the weakness of my eyes."

While he was speaking, a quiet-looking man approached and listened to the conversation.

"Then," said Frank, "you can tell me how many bonds you handed me."

"They were two five-twenty government bonds of a hundred dollars each."

"Correct, sir."

"Then hand me the money and be quick about it, for I have no time to waste! You shall have the dollar I promised you."

But here the quiet-looking man took a part in the conversation. Passing his arm through that of the man with the green glasses, he said:

"I will trouble you to come with me."

"How dare you touch me? Do you mean to insult me?" demanded the other, struggling with captor.

"I will make all clear in due time. You must come with me and explain how you came in possession of the bonds you gave this boy."

"They were put in my hands by an acquaintance. If there is anything wrong, I am not to blame."

"In that case no harm will come to you; but now you must come along."

After his experience, Frank walked to his boarding place. He was quite ready for six o'clock.

When he entered the dining room, his hostess introduced him to all.

A young man sat next to him and entered into conversation.

"What do you do, Mr. Courtney?"

"I have taken an agency to sell tea for the Great Pekin Tea Company. I am to begin to-morrow."

"I am afraid you won't like it. A friend of mine tried it once and came near starving."

This was not encouraging, but Frank was not going to despair before he had fairly begun his work.

"I find that boys receive such small wages," Frank continued, "that I preferred to try an agency."

"Quite true," said Mr. Preston, condescendingly. "When I started I was paid a paltry sum; now I am not paid what I am worth. Still, twenty-five dollars a week is fair."

"Quite fair," responded Frank, who could not, of course, know that Mr. Preston did not receive one-half of this sum, though he chose to give that impression.

After dinner, Preston was obliged to go back to the store where he was employed. By invitation, Frank walked with him.

Turning into Sixth Avenue they passed a saloon.

"Won't you have something to drink, Courtney?" said Preston.

"No, thank you, I never drink," answered Frank.

"It will brace you up, and make you feel jolly. Better come in!"

"I don't need bracing up," answered Frank, quietly.

"Well, perhaps you are right," said Mr. Peter Preston. "I don't indulge very often, but sometimes I feel like it."

Some boys might have yielded to the temptation, but Frank had determined that he would abstain from liquor, and kept his resolution. A boy who comes to the city is exposed at every step to this peril, and needs a firm will to withstand it. It is the fruitful source of crime and misery, and does more to fill our prisons than any other cause.

"This is my store," said Preston, as he pointed to a modest-looking shop on the west side of the avenue. "I wish I could keep you company longer, but business before pleasure, you know."

Before returning to his boarding house, Frank sat down for a short time in Washington Park, and reviewed his plans and prospects. He could not tell how he would succeed in his tea agency; but if that failed, he was resolved to try something else.

He didn't feel homesick, for since his mother's death he had no longer any home ties. Young as he was, he felt that one part of his life was at an end, and that a new life and a new career were before him.



CHAPTER XXII

THE YOUNG TEA MERCHANT

The next morning, at breakfast, one of the gentlemen, who had been running his eyes over the morning paper, said, suddenly:

"Ah! I see they have caught one of the gang who robbed the house of Mr. Percival, on Madison Avenue, a week ago."

"Read the paragraph, Mr. Smith," said one of the boarders.

Mr. Smith read as follows:

"About noon yesterday a boy entered the banking house of Jones & Robinson, in Wall Street, and offered for sale two one-hundred-dollar government bonds. On inquiry, he said that the bonds belonged to a man in the street, whom he had never before met, and who had offered him a dollar to sell them. This naturally excited suspicion, and a policeman was sent for. Before he could arrive the man had hastily departed, requesting the boy to meet him at a specified hour in front of the Astor House and hand him the money. He came to the rendezvous, but in disguise, and, while talking to the boy, was arrested. It is understood that he has agreed to turn State's evidence, and probably the entire sum stolen, amounting to several thousand dollars, will be recovered."

Frank listened to this paragraph with interest. He was glad that his name was not mentioned in the account, as he didn't care for such publicity. He ventured to ask a question.

"Is Mr. Percival a rich man?" he asked.

"Very rich," answered Mr. Smith. "He is not now in the city, but is expected home from Europe in three or four weeks. His house was left in charge of an old servant—a coachman—and his wife; but the burglars proved too much for them."

"I am glad they are caught," said Mrs. Fletcher. "It makes my blood run cold to think of having the houses entered at night by burglars."

"Preston," said Mr. Smith, jokingly, "I hope you have your bonds locked securely up."

"I don't believe the sharpest burglar can find them," said Preston. "I only wish I could get hold of them myself."

"The boy who helped to capture the burglar ought to be well rewarded," said one of the boarders.

"Don't you wish it had been you, Courtney?" said Mr. Preston.

"It was," answered Frank, quietly.

There was a great sensation upon this announcement. All eyes were turned upon our hero—most, it must be admitted, with an expression of incredulity.

"Come, now, you are joking!" said Preston. "You don't really mean it?"

"I do mean it," assured Frank.

"Tell us all about it," said Mrs. Fletcher, who had her share of curiosity. "I didn't suppose we had such a hero in our house."

"It didn't require much heroism," said Frank, smiling.

"Tell us all about it, at any rate."

Frank told the story as simply as he could, much to the satisfaction of the company.

"You'll come in for a handsome reward, when Mr. Percival gets home," suggested Mr. Smith.

"I don't expect anything," said Frank. "I shall be satisfied if I get the dollar which was promised me. I haven't received that yet."

"I wish I were in your shoes—that's all I've got to say," said Preston, nodding vigorously. "Will you sell out for five dollars?"

"Cash down?" asked Frank, smiling.

"Well, I'll give you my note at thirty days," said the Sixth Avenue salesman, who seldom kept five dollars in advance of his liabilities.

"I won't sell what I haven't got," said Frank. "Probably I shall hear nothing from Mr. Percival."

After breakfast Frank went downtown and sought the store of the Great Pekin Company.

After half an hour's delay—for there were others in advance of him—he was fitted out with samples and started for Brooklyn.

It was his first visit to that city, but he had received some directions which made his expedition less embarrassing.

At the ferry he took a Flatbush Avenue car, and rode up Fulton Street, and past the City Hall, up Fulton Avenue, for nearly a mile.

Here were interesting streets, lined with comfortable houses—for Frank had made up his mind first to try private houses. He had with him a few pound parcels of tea, which he thought he could perhaps succeed in disposing of at such places.

He selected a house at random, and rang the bell.

A servant answered the ring.

Frank felt rather embarrassed, but there was no time to hesitate.

"I have some samples of tea with me," he began, "of excellent quality and at reasonable prices."

"It's no use," said the girl, abruptly. "We never buy of peddlers," and she closed the door in his face.

"Not a very good beginning," thought Frank, rather mortified. "So I am a peddler," he said to himself, and he called to mind the agents and peddlers who in past years had called at the Cedars.

With some compunction, he remembered that he had regarded them with some contempt as traveling nuisances. Now he had entered the ranks of this despised class, and he began to see that they might be perfectly respectable, and were estimable persons, animated by a praiseworthy desire to make an honest living.

Thus thinking, he called at another door.

It was opened, not by a servant, but by an elderly maiden lady, who had rather a weakness for bargains.

"I've got some nice tea," said Frank, "which I should like to sell you. It is put up by the Great Pekin Company."

"Are you sure it's nice?" asked the elderly lady. "We've been getting ours at the grocery store on the avenue, and the last wasn't very good."

"You'd better try a pound of ours," said Frank.

"I don't know but I will," said the lady. "How much do you charge?"

"I have some at fifty cents, some at sixty and some at seventy."

"I guess I'll take the sixty."

Frank had a pound parcel ready, which he delivered to her, and received his money.

"Seems to me you are pretty young for a peddler," said the lady, regarding Frank with curiosity.

"Yes, ma'am."

"How old be you?"

"Sixteen."

"Been long in the business?"

"No, ma'am; I've only just commenced."

"You don't say so! Do you make much money at it?"

"I haven't made much yet. I should be glad to supply you with some more tea when this is gone."

"Well, you can call if you are round this way. If I like it, I will try you again."

Frank's spirits rose.

His profits on the pound of tea were twelve cents. This was not much, certainly, but it was a beginning.

At the next three houses he sold nothing, being rather rudely rebuffed at one. At the fourth house, the servant called her mistress, a kind, motherly-looking woman, who seemed to regard Frank with more interest than his merchandise.

"I hope you are succeeding well," she said, kindly.

"This is my first day," said Frank, "and I have made one sale."

"I have a son who is an agent like you, but he didn't begin so young. He is now traveling in the West."

"What is he selling?" asked Frank, with interest.

"Dry goods. He travels for a wholesale house in New York."

"I suppose he is a young man."

"Yes; he is twenty-five, but he began at nineteen in a small way. He sometimes got quite discouraged at first. That is why I feel interested in any who are passing through the same experience."

These pleasant words cheered Frank. Only at the nearest house he had been called a tramp, but here he found that he was regarded with consideration.

"It is rather uphill work," said Frank.

"And you seem very young."

"I am sixteen."

"Are you entirely dependent on what you earn?" asked the lady, sympathizingly.

"Not entirely," answered the young merchant, "but I hope to make a living in this or some other way. Can I sell you any?" he asked, hopefully.

"I believe we have some on hand. Still tea will always keep, and I would like to help you along."

The kind-hearted lady took three pounds—two at sixty cents and one at seventy. This gave Frank a profit thirty-eight cents and put him in good spirits.

He worked his way back to the avenue on the other side of the street, and coming to a grocery store, entered.

It occurred to him that he would try to sell some at wholesale.

Frank was so young that the dealer did not suppose him to be an agent, and asked what he would like to buy.

"I came to sell, not to buy," said Frank.

"What are you dealing in?" asked the grocer.

"I have several samples of tea," said our hero. "If you will give me an order, I will have it sent to you to-morrow."

The grocer found, upon examination, that his stock was getting low, and gave Frank an order, but he was obliged to sell below the regular price, and only cleared three cents a pound. Still, on a sale of twenty-five pounds, this gave him seventy-five cents, which was very encouraging.

Adding up his profits, thus far, Frank found that his commission amounted to a dollar and a quarter, which exceeded his anticipations.

He continued his calls, but sold only one pound besides, at fifty cents, netting him ten cents more.



CHAPTER XXIII

FRANK MEETS MR. MANNING AND MARK

The next morning Frank resumed his tea agency. As on the day previous, he went to Brooklyn; but, though I should be glad to say that he was more successful than on the first day, truth compels me to state that the day was a comparative failure.

It might be that he was unfortunate in the persons whom he visited, but at all events, at the close of his labors he found that his commissions amounted to less than fifty cents. He contented himself, therefore, with a ten-cent lunch, and crossed Fulton Ferry between three and four o'clock.

"This will never do," thought Frank, seriously. "I shall have to be economical to make my earnings cover my incidental expenses, while my board and lodging must be defrayed out of the money I have with me."

Frank was disappointed. It is easy to think of earning one's living, but not quite so easy to accomplish it. A boy, besides being ignorant of the world, is inexperienced, and so disqualified for many avenues of employment which are open to men. It is generally foolish for a boy to leave a good home and start out for himself, unless the chances are unusually favorable for him. If he does it, however, he should not allow himself to be easily discouraged.

If Frank had given up the business in which he was engaged simply because he had met with one unsuccessful day, I should not have been willing to make him the hero of my story.

"This will never do," thought Frank. "I must make a greater effort to-morrow."

The next day his commission amounted to a dollar, and the fourth day to a dollar and twelve cents.

"You are doing well," said his employer. "You are doing better than the majority of our agents."

In one way this compliment was satisfactory. In another way it was not encouraging, for it limited his prospects. Frank began to think that he would never be able to make his entire expenses as a tea agent.

I don't propose to speak in detail of Frank's daily experiences, but only to make mention of any incidents that play an important part in his history.

He was returning from Jersey City on the tenth day of his agency, when in the gentleman's cabin he saw, directly opposite, two persons whom he had reason to remember.

They were Mark Manning and his father.

Little reason as he had to like either, they reminded him of home, and he felt pleased to meet them.

He instantly crossed the cabin, and offered his hand to his stepfather, who had not yet seen him.

"When did you arrive, Mr. Manning?" he asked.

"Why, it is Frank!" exclaimed Mr. Manning, with an appearance of cordiality. "Mark, do you see Frank?"

"Yes, I see him," replied Mark, coldly.

"Haven't you anything to say to him?" asked his father, who was much more of a gentleman than his son.

"How are you?" said Mark, indifferently.

"Thank you for your kind inquiry," said Frank, more amused than vexed, for he cared very little for his stepbrother's friendship. "I am in very good health."

"And how are you getting along?" asked his stepfather, with an appearance of interest. "Are you in any business?"

"Yes," answered Frank.

"What are you doing?' asked Mark, inspired a little by curiosity.

"I am agent for a wholesale tea house in New York," Frank answered, briefly.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Mark, rather impressed. "What is the name of the firm?"

"The Great Pekin Tea Company."

"Does it pay well?" asked his stepbrother.

"I have met with very fair success," replied Frank.

"I congratulate you, Frank," said Mr. Manning. "Your energy and enterprise are creditable—extremely creditable. I always predicted that you would succeed—didn't I, Mark?'

"I don't remember hearing you say so," said Mark.

Mr. Manning shrugged his shoulders.

"Nevertheless," he said, "I have often made the remark."

"Where do you live?" asked Mark.

"I board in Clinton Place."

"A very respectable street," said Mr. Manning.

Frank now thought it was his turn to become questioner.

"How long do you remain in the city, Mr. Manning?" he asked.

"Not long—only a day or two," said his stepfather.

"We sail for Europe on Saturday," interposed Mark, "on the Cunard steamer."

"Indeed! I wish you a pleasant voyage."

"I am sorry you won't go with us, Frank," said his stepfather, cautiously. "You remember I gave you the chance to do so, and you desired to devote yourself immediately to business."

"Yes, sir. I would rather remain in New York."

"It might possibly be arranged now, if you desire to go," said Mr. Manning, hesitatingly.

"No, thank you, sir."

"Well, perhaps you are right," said his stepfather, considerably relieved.

"What parts of Europe do you expect to visit?" asked Frank.

"We shall visit England, France, the Rhine, Switzerland, and perhaps Italy."

"I hope you will enjoy it."

"Thank you; I think we shall."

Frank checked a sigh. It was certainly tantalizing. If he could travel with congenial friends, he felt that he would very much enjoy such a trip; but with Mark in the party there would be little pleasure for him.

"We are staying at the St. Nicholas Hotel," said Mr. Manning. "I would invite you to come and dine with us, but I have an engagement first, and don't know when we shall dine."

"Thank you, all the same," said Frank.

They had reached the New York side, and were walking toward Broadway. It was necessary for Frank to go to the tea store, and he took leave of his stepfather and Mark, again wishing them a pleasant voyage.

"I hate that boy!" said Mark, as they walked away.

"You should not indulge in any such disagreeable feelings, Mark," said his father.

"Don't you hate him?"

"Certainly not."

"One would think by your soft manner that you loved him," said Mark, who was not noted for the respect with which he treated his father.

"Really, Mark, I am shocked by your strange words."

"What made you invite him to go to Europe with us?"

"I knew he would not go."

"He might have accepted, and then we should have been in a pretty pickle."

"Mark," said his father, rather irritated, "will you be kind enough to leave me to manage my own affairs? I believe I have succeeded pretty well so far."

"Yes, you have," Mark admitted. "All the same, we'd better keep clear of Frank till we get safely off on the steamer."



CHAPTER XXIV

A DISCOURAGING DAY

The next day was indeed a trying one and one of many experiences for Frank.

The first lady did not buy any tea, to be sure, but seemed sorry that she was already supplied, and questioned Frank as to what success he was meeting with.

When twelve o'clock came, Frank had not sold a single pound. Even if he earned nothing however, he had an appetite and must buy lunch.

He entered a small oyster saloon, and went up to the proprietor.

"Can I sell you some tea?" he asked.

"No, I guess not. I get my tea in Harlem."

"Take a couple of pounds," said Frank, "and I will take part of the pay in lunch."

"That is business," said the other. "Let me look at your tea."

Frank showed him his samples.

"Who employs you?'

"The Great Pekin Tea Company."

"They have a good name. Yes, I will try a couple of pounds at fifty cents."

This, of course, came to a dollar, and Frank's profit on the sale amounted to twenty cents. This was precisely the cost of the lunch which he ordered, so that he felt well satisfied with the arrangement.

He left the saloon in better spirits, and resumed his travels from house to house.

I am sorry to say, however, that though he certainly exerted himself to the utmost in the interests of the Great Pekin Tea Company and his own, he did not sell another pound of tea that day.

About three o'clock he got on board a Third Avenue horse car, bound downtown and sat quietly down in a corner.

"Harlem doesn't seem to be a very promising field for an agent," he said to himself. "Perhaps it isn't fair to judge it by the first day. Still, I don't think I shall have courage to come here to-morrow. I would rather go to Jersey City or Brooklyn."

Frank got off the cars at the Bible House and walked to his boarding house, where a disagreeable surprise was in store for him.

The night brought perplexity to Frank, but not discouragement. He was naturally hopeful, and, in a large city like New York, he felt that there are always chances of obtaining employment, provided he could maintain his position, as he would have been able to do if he had not lost the thirty-five dollars which his fellow boarder had stolen. Now, however, circumstances were materially changed.

One thing was tolerably clear to Frank, and this was, that he must give up his agency. He had tried it, and been unsuccessful. That is, he had failed to earn money enough to support himself, and this was necessary.

As to what he should take up next, Frank was quite in the dark. As a boy in a counting room he would be paid not more than four dollars a week, if he could gain such a situation, which was by no means certain.

The more he thought about the matter the more perplexed he felt, and it was in an uncomfortable frame of mind that he came down to breakfast the next morning.



CHAPTER XXV

PERPLEXITY

He went out as usual after breakfast, and then walked leisurely downtown. He proposed to go to the shop of the Great Pekin Tea Company and resign his agency. He was on the watch during his walk for any opportunities to repair his unlucky loss:

At one place he saw a notice:

"BOY WANTED."

Though he felt sure the compensation would not be sufficient to allow of his accepting it, he thought it would do no harm to make inquiry, and accordingly entered.

It was an extensive retail store, where a large number of clerks were employed.

"Is a boy wanted here?" asked Frank of the nearest salesman.

"Yes. You may inquire at the desk."

He pointed to a desk some distance back, and Frank went up to it.

"You advertise for a boy," he said to a tall, stout man, who chanced to be the proprietor. "Is the place filled."

"No," was the answer; "but I don't think it would suit you."

"Do you think I would not be competent, sir?"

"No, that is not the difficulty. It would not be worth your acceptance."

"May I inquire what are the duties, sir?"

"We want a boy to open the door to customers, and this would not be worth your accepting."

"No, sir. Thank you for explaining it to me."

The gentleman was favorably impressed by Frank's polite and gentlemanly manners.

"I wish I had a place for you," he said. "Have you ever had any experience in our line of business?"

"No, sir; I have very little experience of any kind. I have acted for a short time as agent for a tea company."

"You may leave your name if you like, and I will communicate with you if I have a vacancy which you can fill."

Frank thanked the polite proprietor and walked out of the store.

Though this is a story written for boys, it may be read by some business men, who will allow me to suggest that a refusal kindly and considerately expressed loses half its bitterness, and often inspires hope, instead of discouragement.

Frank proceeded to the office of the tea company and formally resigned his agency. He was told that he could resume it whenever he pleased.

Leaving the store, he walked down Broadway in the direction of Wall Street.

He passed an elderly man, with stooping shoulders and a gait which showed that he was accustomed to live in the country.

He was looking about him in rather an undecided way. His glance happened to rest on Frank, and, after a little hesitation, he addressed him.

"Boy," he said, "do you live around here?"

"I live in the city; sir."

"Then I guess you can tell me what I want to know."

"I will if I can, sir," said Frank, politely.

"Whereabouts is Wall Street?"

"Close by, sir. I am going that way, and will be happy to show you."

Frank had no idea his compliance with the stranger's request was likely to have an important effect up his fortunes.



CHAPTER XXVI

FRANK HEARS SOMETHING TO HIS ADVANTAGE

"My name," said the stranger, "is Peters—Jonathan Peters, of Craneville, Onondaga County. I am a farmer, and don't know much about New York. I've got a few hundred dollars that I want to put into government bonds."

"All right," said Frank, "there won't be any difficulty about it."

"I've heerd there are a good many swindlers in New York," continued Mr. Peters. "The squire—Squire Jackson, of our village—perhaps you may have heard of him?"

"I don't think I have, Mr. Peters."

"Well, the squire told me I'd better take good keer of my money, as there were plenty of rascals here who would try to cheat me out of it."

"That is true, Mr. Peters. Only yesterday I was robbed of thirty-five dollars by a man who boarded in the same house."

"You don't say so?"

"He opened my trunk and took out my pocketbook while I was absent on business."

"I wouldn't dare to live in York!" said the farmer, whose apprehensions were increased by Frank's story.

By this time they had reached the office of Jones & Robinson, with whom, it will be remembered, Frank had once before had dealings.

"If you will come in here, Mr. Peters," said our hero, "you will be sure of honorable treatment. I will introduce you if you like."

"I should be obleeged if you would," said the farmer. "Out in Craneville I am to home, but I ain't used to York business men, and don't know how to talk to them."

It pleased Frank to find that, in spite of his inexperience, he was able to be of service to one more unaccustomed than himself to city scenes and city ways.

He walked up to the counter, followed by the farmer, and said:

"This gentleman wishes to buy some government bonds. I told him that he could transact his business here."

"Thank you! Mr. Benton, you may attend to this gentleman."

Frank was about to leave the office, when Mr. Robinson called him back.

"You have been in the office before, have you not?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Are you not the boy who assisted in the capture of the man who robbed Mr. Henry Percival, of Madison Avenue?"

"Yes, sir."

"I thought so. I have been trying to find you for the last week."

Naturally Frank looked surprised.

"Mr. Henry Percival was at that time in Europe," said Mr. Robinson. "On his return, a week since, he called on us, and expressed a desire to have you call upon him. We had mislaid or lost your address, and were unable to give him the information he desired."

Frank's heart beat high with hope as the broker spoke.

"Perhaps," he thought, "Mr. Percival may offer me a situation of some kind, and I certainly am greatly in need of one."

"Did Mr. Percival recover all his bonds?" he asked.

"Nearly all," answered Mr. Robinson. "He considered himself exceedingly fortunate, and he certainly was so."

"Do you know how much he was robbed of?" asked Frank.

"Rather over five thousand dollars. Of this sum all has been recovered except three bonds of a hundred dollars each. Mr. Percival is a rich man, and he won't miss that small amount."

"I wish I were rich enough not to miss three hundred dollars," thought our hero. "If I had my rights, I could say the same."

Just now, in his extremity, Frank thought regretfully of the fortune he had lost. Had he been so situated as to be earning enough to defray all his expenses, he would scarcely have given a thought of it.

"You had better go up to see Mr. Percival this evening," said the banker, "if you have no other engagement."

"Even if I had an engagement, I would put it off," said Frank. "Will you give me Mr. Percival's number?"

"No. 265," said Mr. Robinson.

Frank noted it down and left the office. By this time Mr. Peters had completed his business, and was ready to go out, also.

"I'm much obliged to you," he said to Frank. "I was afraid I'd get into a place where they'd cheat me. I guess Mr. Jones and Robinson are pretty good folks."

"I think you can depend upon them," said Frank.

"If ever you come to Craneville, I should like to have you stay a few days with me on my farm," said Mr. Peters, hospitably. "We are plain folks, but will treat you about right."

"Thank you, Mr. Peters. If I ever come to Craneville, I shall certainly call upon you."

Frank had something to look forward to in his approaching interview with Mr. Percival. He had been able to do this gentleman a service, and it was not unlikely that the capitalist would wish to make him some acknowledgment. Frank did not exaggerate his own merits in the matter. He felt that it was largely owing to a lucky chance that he had been the means of capturing the bond robber. However, it is to precisely such lucky chances that men are often indebted for the advancement of their fortunes.

While he was in a state of suspense, and uncertain what Mr. Percival might be disposed to do for him, he decided not to exert himself to obtain any employment. If he should be disappointed in his hopes, it would be time enough to look about him the following day.

What should he do in the meantime?

He determined to treat himself to an excursion. From the end of the Battery he had often looked across to Staten Island, lying six miles away, and thought it would prove a pleasant excursion. Now, having plenty of time on his hands, he decided to go on board one of the boats that start hourly from the piers adjoining the Battery. The expense was but trifling and, low as Frank's purse was, he ventured to spend the amount for pleasure. He felt that he needed a little recreation after the weeks of patient labor he had spent in the service of the Great Pekin Tea Company.



CHAPTER XXVII

AN INCIDENT IN A STREET CAR

When Frank returned to the city, he walked slowly up through the Battery to the foot of Broadway. He passed the famous house, No. 1, which, a hundred years ago, was successively the headquarters of Washington and the British generals, who occupied New York with their forces, and soon reached the Astor House, then the most notable structure in the lower part of the city.

With his small means, Frank felt that it was extravagant to ride uptown, when he might have walked, but he felt some confidence in the success of his visit to Mr. Percival, and entered a Fourth Avenue horse car. It so chanced that he seated himself beside a pleasant-looking young married lady, who had with her a young boy about seven years old.

Soon after the car started the conductor came around to collect the fares.

Frank paid his, and the conductor held out his hand to the lady.

She put her hand into her pocket to draw out her purse, but her countenance changed as her hand failed to find it.

Probably no situation is more trying than to discover that you have lost or mislaid your purse, when you have an urgent use for it. The lady was evidently in that predicament. Once more she searched for her purse, but her search was unavailing.

"I am afraid I have lost my purse," she said, apologetically, to the conductor.

This official was an ill-mannered person, and answered, rudely:

"In that case, ma'am, you will have to get off."

"I will give you my card," said the lady, "and will send double the fare to the office."

"That won't do," said the man, rudely. "I am responsible for your fare, if you stay on the car, and I can't afford to lose the money."

"You shall not lose it, sir; but I cannot walk home."

"I think you will have to, madam."

Here Frank interposed. He had been trained to be polite and considerate to ladies, and he could not endure to see a lady treated with rudeness.

"Take the lady's fare out of this," he said.

"And the boy's, too?"

"Of course."

The lady smiled gratefully.

"I accept your kindness, my young friend," she said. "You have saved me much annoyance."

"I am very glad to have had the opportunity," said Frank, politely.

"Of course, I shall insist upon reimbursing you. Will you oblige me with your address, that I may send you the amount when I return home?"

A boy of less tact than Frank would have expostulated against repayment, but he knew that this would only embarrass the lady, and that he had no right, being a stranger, to force such a favor upon her. He answered, therefore:

"Certainly, I will do so, but it will be perfectly convenient for me to call upon you."

"If it will give you no trouble, I shall be glad to have you call any evening. I live at No. —— Madison Avenue."

Now it was Frank's turn to be surprised. The number mentioned by the lady was that of the house in which Mr. Henry Percival lived.

"I thought Mr. Percival lived at that number?" said Frank.

"So he does. He is my father. Do you know him?"

"No; but I was about to call on him. This morning Mr. Robinson, a broker in Wall Street, told me that he wished to see me."

"You are not the boy who caused the capture of the bondholder?" asked the lady, quickly.

"Yes, I am the boy, but I am afraid I had less to do with it than has been represented."

"What is your name?"

"Frank Courtney."

"My father is very desirous of meeting you, and thanking you for what you have done. Why have you not called before?"

"I did not know till to-day that your father had returned. Besides, I did not like to go without an invitation."

"I will invite you," said the lady, with a pleasant smile, "and I, as well as my father, will be glad to see you. And now let me introduce you to my little son. Freddie, would you like to see the boy that caught the robber?"

"Yes, mamma."

"Here he is. His name is Frank."

The little boy immediately began to ask questions of Frank, and by the time they reached the Cooper Institute Frank and he were well acquainted.

"Don't get out, Frank," said Freddie.

"I am going home, Freddie."

"You must come and see me soon," said the little boy.

"Now you have three invitations," said the lady.

"I will accept them all," said Frank.

And, with a bow, he left the car.



CHAPTER XXVIII

FRANK MAKES AN EVENING CALL

After supper Frank walked slowly up to Mr. Percival's residence. Now that he knew two members of the family, he looked forward with pleasure to the call he was about to make. His prospects seemed much brighter than when he woke up in the morning.

On reaching the house of Mr. Percival, he saw at a glance that it was the residence of a wealthy man, and the hall, into which he was first admitted, was luxurious in its appearance. But Frank had been brought up to the enjoyment of wealth, and he felt more at home here than in the rather shabby boarding house in Clinton Place.

A colored servant opened the door.

"Is Mr. Percival at home?" he asked.

"Yas, sah."

"I should like to see him."

"What name, sah?"

"Frank Courtney."

"Step in, sah, and I will 'form Mr. Percival," said the colored servant, in a consequential tone that amused Frank.

Frank stepped into the hall, but he was not left long without attention. Little Freddie ran downstairs, eagerly calling out:

"Did you come to see me, Frank?"

"Yes," answered Frank, smiling; "but I came to see your grandfather, too."

"Come, and I will show you where he is," said the little boy, taking Frank's hand.

The two went up the staircase and into a handsomely furnished room, made attractive by pictures and books.

In a large armchair sat a pleasant-looking elderly man, of about sixty.

"Grandpa," said the little boy, "this is Frank. He wants to see you."

Mr. Percival smiled.

"I am glad to see you, Frank," he said. "It seems, my boy, that you are already acquainted with my daughter and grandson."

"Yes, sir. I was fortunate enough to meet them to-day."

"You relieved my daughter from some embarrassment."

"I am glad to have had the opportunity, sir."

Frank's manner was easy and self-possessed, and it was evident that Mr. Percival was favorably impressed by him.

"Take a seat," he said, "while I ask you a few questions."

Frank bowed and obeyed.

"Let me sit in your lap, Frank," said Freddie.

Our hero took the little boy in his lap.

With Freddie, it was certainly a case of friendship at first sight.

"Won't he trouble you?" asked his grandfather.

"No, sir. I like young children."

Mr. Percival now proceeded to interrogate Frank.

"Your name is Frank Courtney. Have you been long in the city?"

"No, sir; only a few weeks."

"What led you to come here?"

"I wished to earn my living."

"What that necessary? You do not look like a poor boy."

"I was brought up to consider myself rich," said Frank.

"Indeed! Did you lose your property?"

"Perhaps I had better tell you how it happened, sir."

"If you don't object, I should be glad to hear."

Frank gave a brief statement of his position, and the circumstances that led him to leave his home and go out into the world.

Mr. Percival listened thoughtfully.

"It is a singular story," he said, after a pause. "Your stepfather's in Europe, then?"

"Yes, sir; at least he sailed for Europe."

"Have you heard from him?"

"No, sir."

"Do you expect to hear?"

"I think not."

"He can't feel much interest in you."

"I don't think he does," answered Frank. "Still, I can't say that he has treated me unkindly."

"Do you suspect that your stepfather has wronged you in the matter of the property?"

"I would rather not answer that question, sir. I might wrong Mr. Manning, and I have no proof to offer."

"I understand you, and I applaud your discretion. It does you credit. Some time or other the mystery may be cleared up, and the wrong, if there is one, may be righted. I can't understand, however, how this Mr. Manning should be willing to leave you dependent upon your own exertions with such a scanty provision as twenty-five dollars a quarter."

"I didn't ask for any more; and, besides, Mr. Manning offered to take me to Europe with his son Mark."

"Do you think that he was sincere in the offer?"

"I don't think he expected me to accept it, and I am sure that it would have been very disagreeable to Mark to have me in the party."

"Have you any objections to telling me how you have succeeded in your efforts to make a living?" asked the old gentleman, with a keen but kindly glance.

"I have been disappointed, sir," was the candid reply.

"I am not surprised to hear it. A boy brought up as you have been cannot rough it like a farmer's son or a street boy."

"I think I could, sir; but I should not like to."

"Precisely. Now, I am not sure that you acted wisely in undertaking a task so difficult, since it was not necessary, and your stepfather could hardly have refused to support you at home. However, as you have taken the decisive step, we must consider what is best to do under the circumstances. What work have you been doing?"

"I have been selling tea for the Great Pekin Tea Company."

"How have you succeeded?"

"I have not been able to pay expenses," Frank admitted.

"How have you made up the difference?"

"I brought about fifty dollars with me from home."

"Is it all used up?"

"I had thirty-five dollars left, sir, but a day or two since one of my fellow boarders opened my trunk and borrowed it without leave."

"Of course you won't recover it?"

"I don't think there is much chance of it, sir."

"Then probably your money is nearly exhausted?"

Frank did not like to admit his poverty, but owned up that he had less than two dollars.

"And yet you paid the car fares of this little boy and his mother?"

"I hope, sir, I would not refuse to assist a lady when in trouble."

Mr. Percival nodded two or three times, smiling as he did so. He was becoming more and more favorably impressed without young hero.

"Do you mean to continue this tea agency?" he asked.

"No, sir; I have already notified my employers that I do not care to continue it."

"Have you anything else in view?"

Frank felt that now was the time to speak.

"I came here this evening," he said, "intending to ask you if you knew of any situation I could fill, or could recommend me to employment of any kind by which I might make a living."

"I must consider that. Have you thought of any particular employment which you would like?"

"No, sir; I cannot afford to be particular. I will do anything that is honest, and at all suitable for me."

"What would you consider unsuitable?"

"I should not wish to black boots, for instance, sir. It is honest work, but I ought to be suited to something better."

"Of course; What education have you had? Good, I suppose?"

"I am nearly ready for college."

"Then you are already fairly well educated. I will put you to a test. Sit up to the table, and take paper and pen. I will dictate to you a paragraph from the evening paper, which I should like to have you write down."

Frank obeyed, though, in doing so, he was obliged to set Freddie down, rather to the little fellow's dissatisfaction.

Mr. Percival selected a short letter, written by some public man, which chanced to have found a place in the evening journal.

Frank wrote rapidly, and when his copy was finished submitted it to Mr. Percival.

The old gentleman took it, and, running his eye over it, noticed that it was plainly written, correctly spelled and properly punctuated. This discovery evidently gave him satisfaction.

"Very creditably written," he said. "I have known boys nearly ready for college who could not copy such a letter without blundering. I am glad that your English education has not been neglected while you have been studying the classics."

Frank was gratified by Mr. Percival's commendation, though he could not see in what manner his education was likely to bring him employment. It was desirable, however, to produce a favorable impression on Mr. Percival, and he could not help hoping something would result to his advantage.

At this moment Freddie's mother entered the room, and greeted Frank with a cordial smile.

"Freddie," she said, "it is time for you to go to bed."

"I don't want to leave Frank," said Freddie.

"Frank will come and see you again."

"Will you, Frank?"

Frank made the promise, and Mrs. Gordon—for that was her name—left the room, promising to return before Frank went away.

He was now left alone with the old gentleman.



CHAPTER XXIX

FRANK IS OFFERED A POSITION

Mr. Percival engaged Frank in conversation on general topics while Mrs. Gordon was out of the room. His young visitor had been an extensive reader, and displayed a good deal of general information. Moreover, he expressed himself intelligently and modestly, and deepened the favorable impression which he had already succeeded in making.

I should like to call the attention of my young readers to the fact that Frank was now reaping the advantage of the time he had devoted to study and the cultivation of his mind.

A boy who starts in life with a fair education always stands a better chance than one who is poorly provided in that respect.

It is true that many of our prominent public men have started with a very scanty supply of book-learning, but in most cases it has only transferred the labor of study to their maturer years.

President Andrew Johnson did not learn to read and write until after he had attained his majority, but he made up his early deficiencies later.

Abraham Lincoln, when nearly thirty, devoted his leisure hours to mastering the problems in Euclid, and thus trained and strengthened his mental faculties so that he was enabled to grapple with the difficult problems of statesmanship in after years.

Henry Wilson commenced attending an academy after he had reached the age of twenty-one.

The fact is, no boy or man can be too well equipped for his life-work.

I hope my boy readers will not skip the paragraphs above, for they can learn from them a useful lesson.

When Mrs. Gordon returned, she placed in Frank's hands a small sum of money, saying:

"Allow me to repay my debt, with many thanks."

"You are quite welcome," answered our hero.

He had too much tact to refuse the money, but quietly put it into his pocket.

"Helen," said Mr. Percival, "I would like a word with you. We will leave our young friend here alone for five minutes."

"Certainly, father."

The two went into an adjoining room, and Mr. Percival commenced by asking:

"How do you like this boy, Helen?"

"Very much. He seems to have been brought up as a gentleman."

"He has. Till a short time since he supposed himself the heir to a fortune."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Gordon, with curiosity.

Briefly, Mr. Percival rehearsed the story which Frank had told him.

"What a shame!" exclaimed Mrs. Gordon, indignantly. "His stepfather ought to be punished:"

"That may come in time. Wickedness does not always prosper. But as regards our young friend, I have a plan in view."

"What is it, father?"

"I find he has an excellent education, having been nearly ready for college when the crisis in his fortunes came. I have been thinking whether we could not find a place for him in this house. My eyes, you know, are so weak that they are often strained by attention to my correspondence and reading. I have an idea of engaging Frank Courtney as a sort of private secretary, upon whom I can at any time call. Of course, he would have his home in the house."

"There will be no difficulty about that. Our family is small, and we have plenty of vacant rooms. But, father, will he be qualified to undertake the duties you have designed for him? He is very young."

"That is true, my dear; but he is remarkably well educated. I have tested his capacity by dictating a letter for him to copy."

"Did he do the work satisfactorily?" asked Mrs. Gordon.

"Without a single mistake."

"Then, father, I would not hesitate to engage him. Freddie likes him, and will be delighted to have him in the house."

"Another idea, Helen. It is time Freddie began to study. Suppose we make him Freddie's private tutor—say for an hour daily?"

"That is really an excellent idea, father," said Mrs. Gordon, in a tone of satisfaction. "It will please and benefit Freddie, and be a relief to me. Do you think Frank will have patience enough?"

"I watched him with the little fellow, and I could see that he liked children. I am sure he will succeed in this as well as in the duties which he will undertake for me."

"I suppose he will have no objection to the plan?"

"I think he will accept gladly. He has had a hard struggle thus far in maintaining himself, and I can relieve him from all anxiety on that score. I am indebted to him for helping me to recover my bonds, and this will be an excuse for offering him a larger salary than the services of so young a secretary could be expected to command."

"Very well, father. Your plan pleases me very much, and I shall be glad to have Frank commence to-morrow, if he chooses. Now let us return to the library."

While father and daughter were absent Frank had taken from the table a volume of "Macaulay's History," and had become interested in it.

He laid it down upon their return.

Mr. Percival resumed his easy-chair, and said, with a smile.

"My daughter and I have been consulting about you."

Frank bowed, and his hopes rose.

"I suppose you are open to an offer of employment?"

"I am not only open to it, Mr. Percival, but I shall be grateful for it."

He could not help wondering what sort of employment Mr. Percival was about to offer him. He concluded that it might be a place in some business house.

"The fact is," said the old gentleman, "I have a great mind to offer you the situation of my private secretary."

Frank was astonished. This was something he had not thought of.

"Do you think I am qualified to fill such a position, Mr. Percival?" he asked, hesitatingly.

"The duties would not be difficult," returned the old gentleman. "Though not in active business, the care of my property, and looking after my scattered investments, involves me in considerable correspondence. My eyes are not as strong as they once were, and I find them at times taxed by letter-writing, not to mention reading. You can relieve me very materially."

"I shall be very glad to do so, sir. The duties will be very agreeable to me."

"But that is not all. My daughter proposes to employ you as private tutor for Freddie."

Frank smiled.

"I think my scholarship will be sufficient for that," he said.

Frank was to receive $50 a month and board. This was wonderful news to him. Mr. Percival with great forethought paid him a month's salary in advance. Frank went home happy.



CHAPTER XXX

FRANK AS PRIVATE SECRETARY

The next day Frank transferred his residence to Madison Avenue. He was assigned to a pleasant room, decidedly superior, it need hardly be said, to his room at Clinton Place. It seemed agreeable to him once more to enjoy the comforts of a liberal home.

Frank had had some doubts as to how he would satisfy Mr. Percival in his capacity of private secretary.

He was determined to do his best, but thought it possible that the old gentleman might require more than he could do well. He looked forward, therefore, with some apprehension to his first morning's work.

Previous Part     1  2  3     Next Part
Home - Random Browse