Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter VII
Within a week Rodney had spent all his money, with the exception of about fifty cents. He had made every effort to obtain a place, but without success.
Boys born and bred in New York have within my observation tried for months to secure a position in vain, so it is not surprising that Rodney who was a stranger proved equally unsuccessful.
Though naturally hopeful Rodney became despondent.
"There seems to be no place for me," he said to himself. "When I was at boarding school I had no idea how difficult it is for a boy to earn a living."
He had one resource. He could withdraw the box of jewels from Tiffany's, and sell some article that it contained. But this he had a great objection to doing. One thing was evident however, he must do something.
His friend, the lot agent, was out of town, and he hardly knew whom to advise with. At last Mike Flynn, the friendly bootblack, whose acquaintance he had made in front of the Astor House, occurred to him.
Mike, humble as he was, was better off than himself. Moreover he was a New York boy, and knew more about "hustling" than Rodney did. So he sought out Mike in his "office."
"Good morning, Mike," said Rodney, as the bootblack was brushing off a customer.
"Oh, its you, Rodney," said Mike smiling with evident pleasure. "How you're gettin' on?"
"Not at all."
"That's bad. Can I help you? Just say the word, and I'll draw a check for you on the Park Bank."
"Is that where you keep your money?"
"It's one of my banks. You don't think I'd put all my spondulics in one bank, do you?"
"I won't trouble you to draw a check this morning. I only want to ask some advice."
"I've got plenty of that."
"I haven't been able to get anything to do, and I have only fifty cents left. I can't go on like that."
"I've got to give up my room on Fourteenth Street. I can't pay for it any longer. Do you think I could get in at the Lodge?"
"Yes. I'll introduce you to Mr. O'Connor."
"When shall I meet you?"
"At five o'clock. We'll be in time for supper."
At five o'clock Mike accompanied Rodney to the large Newsboys' Lodging House on New Chambers Street. Mr. O'Connor, the popular and efficient superintendent, now dead, looked in surprise at Mike's companion. He was a stout man with a kindly face, and Rodney felt that he would prove to be a friend.
"Mr. O'Connor, let me introduce me friend, Mr. Rodney Ropes," said Mike.
"Could you give me a lodging?" asked Rodney in an embarrassed tone.
"Yes; but I am surprised to see a boy of your appearance here."
"I am surprised to be here myself," admitted Rodney.
The superintendent fixed upon him a shrewd, but kindly glance.
"Have you run away from home?" he asked.
"No, sir. It is my home that has run away from me."
"Have you parents?"
"Do you come from the country?"
"Where have you been living?"
"At a boarding school a few hours from New York."
"Why did you leave it?"
"Because my guardian sent me word that he had lost my fortune, and could no longer pay my bills."
"You have been unfortunate truly. What do you propose to do now?"
"Earn my living if I can. I have been in the city for about two weeks, and have applied at a good many places but in vain."
"Then you were right in coming here. Supper is ready, and although it is not what you are used to, it will satisfy hunger. Mike, you can take Rodney with you."
Within five minutes Rodney was standing at a long table with a bowl of coffee and a segment of bread before him. It wouldn't have been attractive to one brought up to good living, as was the case with him, but he was hungry.
He had eaten nothing since morning except an apple which he had bought at a street stand for a penny, and his stomach urgently craved a fresh supply of food.
Mike stood next to him. The young bootblack, who was used to nothing better, ate his portion with zest, and glanced askance at Rodney to see how he relished his supper. He was surprised to see that his more aristocratic companion seemed to enjoy it quite as much as himself.
"I didn't think you'd like it" he said.
"Anything tastes good when you're hungry, Mike."
"And I haven't eaten anything except an apple, since morning."
"Is dat so? Why didn't you tell me? I'd have stood treat at de Boss Tweed eatin' house."
"I had money, but I didn't dare to spend it. I was afraid of having nothing left."
When Rodney had eaten his supper he felt that he could have eaten more, but the craving was satisfied and he felt relieved.
He looked around him with some curiosity, for he had never been in such a motley gathering before. There were perhaps one hundred and fifty boys recruited from the street, to about all of whom except himself the term street Arab might be applied.
The majority of them had the shrewd and good humored Celtic face. Many of them were fun loving and even mischievous, but scarcely any were really bad.
Naturally Rodney, with his good clothes, attracted attention. The boys felt that he was not one of them, and they had a suspicion that he felt above them.
"Get on to de dude!" remarked one boy, who was loosely attired in a ragged shirt and tattered trousers.
"He means me, Mike," said Rodney with a smile.
"I say, Patsy Glenn, what do you mean by callin' me friend Rodney a dude?" demanded Mike angrily.
"Coz he's got a dandy suit on."
"What if he has? Wouldn't you wear one like it if you could!"
"Then just let him alone! He's just got back from de inauguration."
"Where'd you pick him up, Mike?"
"Never mind! He's one of us. How much money have you got in your pocket Rodney?"
"Thirty two cents."
"He can't put on no frills wid dat money."
"That's so. I take it all back," and Patsy offered a begrimed hand to Rodney, which the latter shook heartily with a pleasant smile.
That turned the tide in favor of Rodney, the boys gathered around him and he told his story in a few words.
"I used to be rich, boys," he said, "but my guardian spent all my money, and now I am as poor as any of you."
"You'd ought to have had me for your guardian, Rodney," observed Mike.
"I wish you had. You wouldn't have lost my money for me."
"True for you! I say so, boys, if we can find Rodney's guardian, what'll we do to him?"
"Give him de grand bounce," suggested Patsy.
"Drop him out of a high winder," said another.
"What's his name?"
"I don't care to tell you, boys. He's written me a letter, saying he will try to pay me back some day. I think he will. He isn't a bad man, but he has been unlucky."
Mike, at the request of Mr. O'Connor, showed Rodney a locker in which he could store such articles of clothing as he had with him. After that he felt more at home, and as if he were staying at a hotel though an humble one.
At eight o'clock some of the boys had already gone to bed, but Mike and Rodney were among those who remained up. Rodney noticed with what kindness yet fairness the superintendent managed his unruly flock. Unruly they might have been with a different man, but he had no trouble in keeping them within bounds.
It was at this time that two strangers were announced, one a New York merchant named Goodnow, the other a tall, slender man with sandy whiskers of the mutton chop pattern.
"Good evening, Mr. Goodnow," said the superintendent, who recognized the merchant as a friend of the society.
"Good evening, Mr. O'Connor. I have brought my friend and correspondent Mr. Mulgrave, of London, to see some of your young Arabs."
"I shall be glad to give him all the opportunity he desires."
The Englishman looked curiously at the faces of the boys who in turn were examining him with equal interest.
"They are not unlike our boys of a similar grade, but seem sharper and more intelligent" he said. "But surely," pointing to Rodney, "that boy is not one of the--Arabs. Why, he looks like a young gentleman."
"He is a new comer. He only appeared tonight."
"He must have a history. May I speak with him?"
"By all means. Rodney, this gentleman would like to talk with you."
Rodney came forward with the ease of a boy who was accustomed to good society, and said: "I shall be very happy to speak with him."