Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter VI
While Rodney was talking with Mike Flynn he was an object of attention to a man who stood near the corner of Barclay Street, and was ostensibly looking in at the window of the drug store. As Rodney turned away he recognized him at once as his enterprising fellow traveler who had taken possession of the casket of jewels.
He did not care to keep up an acquaintance with him, and started to cross the street. But the other came forward smiling, and with a nod said: "I believe you are the young man I met yesterday in the cars and afterwards at Kentville?"
"I just wanted to tell you that I had got back my jewel box, the one for which I mistook yours."
"Indeed!" said Rodney, who did not believe a word the fellow said.
"Quite an amusing mistake, I made."
"It might have proved serious to me."
"Very true, as I shouldn't have known where to find you to restore your property."
"I don't think that would have troubled you much," thought Rodney. "Where did you find your box?" he asked.
"In the car. That is, the conductor picked it up and left it at the depot for me. Where are you staying here in the city? At the Astor House?"
"No, I have found a boarding house on West Fourteenth Street."
"If it is a good place, I should like to go there. What is the number?"
"I can't recall it, though I could find it," answered Rodney with reserve, for he had no wish to have his railroad acquaintance in the house.
"Is the gentleman who was traveling with you there also?"
"He is a very pleasant gentleman, though he misjudged me. Ha, ha! my friends will be very much amused when I tell them that I was taken for a thief. Why, I venture to say that my box is more valuable than yours."
"Very likely," said Rodney coldly. "Good morning."
"Good morning. I hope we may meet again."
Rodney nodded, but he could not in sincerity echo the wish.
He was now confronted by a serious problem. He had less than ten dollars in his pocketbook, and this would soon be swallowed up by the necessary expenses of life in a large city. What would he do when that was gone?
It was clear that he must go to work as soon as possible. If his guardian had remained in the city, probably through his influence a situation might have been secured. Now nothing was to be looked for in that quarter.
He bought a morning paper and looked over the Want Column. He found two places within a short distance of the Astor House, and called at each. One was in a railroad office.
"My boy," said the manager, a pleasant looking man, "the place was taken hours since. You don't seem to get up very early in the morning."
"I could get up at any hour that was necessary," replied Rodney, "but I have only just made up my mind to apply for a position."
"You won't meet with any luck today. It is too late. Get up bright and early tomorrow morning, buy a paper, and make early application for any place that strikes you as desirable."
"Thank you, sir. I am sure your advice is good."
"If you had been the first to call here, I should have taken you. I like your appearance better than that of the boy I have selected."
"Thank you, sir."
"This boy may not prove satisfactory. Call in six days, just before his week expires, and if there is likely to be a vacancy I will let you know."
"Thank you, sir. You are very kind."
"I always sympathize with boys. I have two boys of my own."
This conversation quite encouraged Rodney. It seemed to promise success in the future. If he had probably impressed one man, he might be equally fortunate with another.
It was about half past twelve when he passed through Nassau Street.
All at once his arm was grasped, and a cheery voice said, "Where are you going, Rodney?"
"Mr. Woods!" he exclaimed, with pleased recognition.
"Yes, it's your old friend Woods."
"You are not the only railroad friend I have met this morning."
"Who was the other?"
"The gentleman who obligingly took care of my jewel box for a short time."
"You don't mean to say you have met him? Where did you come across him?"
"In front of the Astor House, almost two hours since."
"Did you speak to him?"
"He spoke to me. You will be glad to hear that he has recovered his own casket of jewels."
Adin Woods smiled.
"He must think you are easily imposed upon," he said, "to believe any such story. Anything more?"
"He said his friends would be very much surprised to hear that he had been suspected of theft."
"So he wanted to clear himself with you?"
"Yes; he asked where I was staying."
"I hope you didn't tell him."
"I only said I was at a boarding house on West Fourteenth Street, but didn't mention the number."
"He thinks you have the casket with you, and that he may get possession of it. It is well that you stored it at Tiffany's."
"I think so. Now I have no anxiety about it. Do you think he will find out where we live?"
"Probably, as you gave him a clew. But, Rodney, it is about lunch time, and I confess I have an appetite. Come and lunch with me."
"But I am afraid, Mr. Woods, I shall not be able to return the compliment."
"There is no occasion for it. I feel in good humor this morning. I have sold one lot, and have hopes of disposing of another. The one lot pays me a commission of twenty dollars."
"I wish I could make twenty dollars in a week."
"Sometimes I only sell one lot in a week. It isn't like a regular business. It is precarious. Still, take the year through and I make a pretty good income. Come in here. We can get a good lunch here," and he led the way into a modest restaurant, not far from the site of the old post office, which will be remembered by those whose residence in New York dates back twenty years or more.
"Now we will have a nice lunch," said the agent. "I hope you can do justice to it."
"I generally can," responded Rodney, smiling. "I am seldom troubled with a poor appetite."
"Ditto for me. Now what have you been doing this morning?"
"Looking for a place."
"With what success?"
"Pretty good if I had only been earlier."
Rodney told the story of his application to the manager of the railroad office.
"You will know better next time. I think you'll succeed. I did. When I came to New York at the age of twenty two I had only fifty dollars. That small sum had to last me twelve weeks. You can judge that I didn't live on the fat of the land during that time. I couldn't often eat at Delmonico's. Even Beefsteak John's would have been too expensive for me. However, those old days are over."
The next day and the two following Rodney went about the city making application for positions, but every place seemed full.
On the third day Mr. Woods said, "I shall have to leave you for a week or more, Rodney."
"Where are you going?"
"To Philadelphia. There's a man there who is a capitalist and likes land investments. I am going to visit him, and hope to sell him several lots. He once lived in this city, so he won't object to New York investments."
"I hope you will succeed, Mr. Woods. I think if you are going away I had better give up the room, and find cheaper accommodations. I am getting near the end of my money."
"You are right. It is best to be prudent."
That evening Rodney found a room which he could rent for two dollars a week. He estimated that by economy he could get along for fifty cents a day for his eating, and that would be a decided saving.
He was just leaving the house the next morning, gripsack in hand, when on the steps he met Louis Wheeler, his acquaintance of the train.
"Where are you going?" asked Wheeler.
"I am leaving this house. I have hired a room elsewhere."
Wheeler's countenance fell, and he looked dismayed.
"Why, I have just taken a room here for a week," he said.
"You will find it a good place."
"But--I wouldn't have come here if I hadn't thought I should have company."
"I ought to feel complimented."
Rodney was convinced that Wheeler had come in the hopes of stealing the casket of jewels a second time, and he felt amused at the fellow's discomfiture.
"You haven't got your jewel box with you?"
"No, I can take that another time."
"Then it's still in the house," thought Wheeler with satisfaction. "It won't be my fault if I don't get it in my hands. Well, good morning," he said. "Come around and call on me."