Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter VIII
"Surely," said the Englishman, "you were not brought up in the street?"
"Oh, no," answered Rodney, "I was more fortunate."
"Then how does it happen that I find you here--among the needy boys of the city?"
"Because I am needy, too."
"But you were not always poor?"
"No; I inherited a moderate fortune from my father. It was only within a short time that I learned from my guardian that it was lost. I left the boarding school where I was being educated, and came to the city to try to make a living."
"But surely your guardian would try to provide for you?"
"He is no longer in the city."
"Who was he?" asked Otis Goodnow.
"Mr. Benjamin Fielding."
"Is it possible? Why, I lost three thousand dollars by him. He has treated you shamefully."
"It was not intentional, I am sure," said Rodney. "He was probably drawn into using my money by the hope of retrieving himself. He wrote me that he hoped at some time to make restitution."
"You speak of him generously, my lad," said Mr. Mulgrave. "Yet he has brought you to absolute poverty."
"Yes, sir, and I won't pretend that it is not a hard trial to me, but if I can get a chance to earn my own living, I will not complain."
"Goodnow, a word with you," said the Englishman, and he drew his friend aside. "Can't you make room for this boy in your establishment?"
Otis Goodnow hesitated. "At present there is no vacancy," he said.
"Make room for him, and draw upon me for his wages for the first six months."
"I will do so, but before the end of that time I am sure he will justify my paying him out of my own pocket."
There was a little further conference, and then the two gentlemen came up to where Rodney was standing with Mr. O'Connor.
"My boy," said Mr. Mulgrave, "my friend here will give you a place at five dollars a week. Will that satisfy you?"
Rodney's face flushed with pleasure.
"It will make me very happy," he said.
"Come round to my warehouse--here is my business card--tomorrow morning," said the merchant. "Ask to see me."
"At what time shall I call, sir?"
"At half past nine o'clock. That is for the first morning. When you get to work you will have to be there at eight."
"There will be no trouble about that, sir."
"Now it is my turn," said the Englishman. "Here are five dollars to keep you till your first week's wages come due. I dare say you will find them useful."
"Thank you very much, sir. I was almost out of money."
After the two gentlemen left the Lodging House Rodney looked at the card and found that his new place of employment was situated on Reade Street not far from Broadway.
"It's you that's in luck, Rodney," said his friend Mike. "Who'd think that a gentleman would come to the Lodging House to give you a place?"
"Yes, I am in luck, Mike, and now I'm going to make you a proposal."
"What is it?"
"Why can't we take a room together? It will be better than living here."
"Sure you wouldn't room with a poor boy like me?"
"Why shouldn't I? You are a good friend, and I should like your company. Besides I mean to help you get an education. I suppose you're not a first class scholar, Mike?"
"About fourth class, I guess, Rodney."
"Then you shall study with me. Then when you know a little more you may get a chance to get out of your present business, and get into a store."
"That will be bully!" said Mike with pleasure.
"Now we'd better go to bed; I must be up bright and early in the morning. We'll engage a room before I go to work."
There was no difficulty about rising early. It is one of the rules of the Lodging House for the boys to rise at six o'clock, and after a frugal breakfast of coffee and rolls they are expected to go out to their business whatever it may be. Mike and Rodney dispensed with the regulation breakfast and went out to a restaurant on Park Row where they fared better.
"Now where shall we go for a room?" asked Rodney.
"There's a feller I know has a good room on Bleecker Street," said Mike.
"How far is that?"
"A little more'n a mile."
"All right! Let us go and see."
Bleecker Street once stood in better repute than at present. It is said that A. T. Stewart once made his home there. Now it is given over to shops and cheap lodging houses.
Finally the boys found a room decently fumished, about ten feet square, of which the rental was two dollars and a half per week. Mike succeeded in beating down the lodging house keeper to two dollars, and at that figure they engaged it.
"When will you come?" asked Mrs. McCarty.
"Right off," said Mike.
"I'll need a little time to put it in order."
"Me and my partner will be at our business till six o'clock," returned Mike.
"You can send in your trunks during the day if you like."
"My trunk is at the Windsor Hotel," said Mike. "I've lent it to a friend for a few days."
Mrs. McCarty looked at Mike with a puzzled expression. She was one of those women who are slow to comprehend a joke, and she could not quite make it seem natural that her new lodger, who was in rather neglige costume, should be a guest at a fashionable hotel.
"I will leave my valise," said Rodney, "and will send for my trunk. It is in the country."
Mike looked at him, not feeling quite certain whether he was in earnest, but Rodney was perfectly serious.
"You're better off than me," said Mike, when they reached the street. "If I had a trunk I wouldn't have anything to put into it."
"I'll see if I can't rig you out, Mike. I've got a good many clothes, bought when I was rich. You and I are about the same size. I'll give you a suit of clothes to wear on Sundays."
"Will you?" exclaimed Mike, his face showing pleasure. "I'd like to see how I look in good clo'es. I never wore any yet. It wouldn't do no good in my business."
"You won't want to wear them when at work. But wouldn't you like to change your business?"
"Have you ever tried?"
"What'd be the use of tryin'? They'd know I was a bootblack in these clo'es."
"When you wear a better suit you can go round and try your luck."
"I'd like to," said Mike wistfully. "I don't want you to tell at the store that you room with a bootblack."
"It isn't that I think of, Mike. I want you to do better. I'm going to make a man of you."
"I hope you are. Sometimes I've thought I'd have to be a bootblack always. When do you think you'll get the clo'es?"
"I shall write to the principal of the boarding school at once, asking him to forward my trunk by express. I want to economize a little this week, and shall have to pay the express charges."
"I'll pay up my part of the rent, Rodney, a quarter a day."
Rodney had advanced the whole sum, as Mike was not in funds.
"If you can't pay a dollar a week I will pay a little more than half."
"There ain't no need. I'll pay my half and be glad to have a nice room."
"I've got three or four pictures at the school, and some books. I'll send for them later on, and we'll fix up the room."
"Will you? We'll have a reg'lar bang up place. I tell you that'll be better than livin' at the Lodge."
"Still that seems a very neat place. It is lucky for poor boys that they can get lodging so cheap."
"But it isn't like havin' a room of your own, Rodney. I say, when we're all fixed I'll ask some of me friends to come in some evenin' and take a look at us. They'll be s'prised."
"Certainly, Mike. I shall be glad to see any of your friends."
It may seem strange that Rodney, carefully as he had been brought up, should have made a companion of Mike, but he recognized in the warm hearted Irish boy, illiterate as he was, sterling qualities, and he felt desirous of helping to educate him. He knew that he could always depend on his devoted friendship, and looked forward with pleasure to their more intimate companionship.
After selecting their room and making arrangements to take possession of it, the boys went down town. Rodney stepped into the reading room at the Astor House and wrote the following letter to Dr. Sampson:
DR. PLINY SAMPSON:
DEAR SIR--Will you be kind enough to send my trunk by express to No. 312 Bleecker Street? I have taken a room there, and that will be my home for the present. I have obtained a position in a wholesale house on Reade Street, and hope I may give satisfaction. Will you remember me with best wishes to all the boys? I don't expect to have so easy or pleasant a time as I had at school, but I hope to get on, and some time--perhaps in the summer--to make you a short visit.