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Dodger soon became accustomed to his duties at Tucker’s express office, in his new San Francisco home. He found Mr. Tucker an exacting, but not an unreasonable, man. He watched his new assistant closely for the first few days, and was quietly taking his measure.
At the end of the first week he paid the salary agreed upon—fifteen dollars.
“You have been with me a week, Arthur,” he said.
“And I have been making up my mind about you.”
“Yes, sir,” said Dodger, looking up inquiringly. “I hope you are satisfied with me?”
“Yes, I think I may say that I am. You don’t seem to be afraid of work.”
“I have always been accustomed to work.“
“That is well. I was once induced to take the son of a rich man in the place you now occupy. He had never done a stroke of work, having always been at school. He didn’t take kindly to work, and seemed afraid that he would be called upon to do more than he had bargained for. One evening I was particularly busy, and asked him to remain an hour overtime.
“ ‘It will be very inconvenient, Mr. Tucker,’ said the young man, ‘as I have an engagement with a friend.’
“He left me to do all the extra work, and—I suppose you know what happened the next Saturday evening?”
“I can guess,” returned Dodger, with a smile.
“I told him that I thought the duties were too heavy for his constitution, and he had better seek an easier place. Let me see—I kept you an hour and a half overtime last Wednesday.”
“You made no objection, but worked on just as if you liked it.”
“Yes, sir; I am always willing to stay when you need me.”
“Good! I shan’t forget it.”
Dodger felt proud of his success, and put away the fifteen dollars with a feeling of satisfaction. He had never saved half that sum in the same time before.
“Curtis Waring did me a favor when he sent me out here,” he reflected; “but as he didn’t mean it, I have no occasion to feel grateful.”
Dodger found that he could live for eight dollars a week, and he began to lay by seven dollars a week with the view of securing funds sufficient to take him back to New York.
He was in no hurry to leave San Francisco, but he felt that Florence might need a friend. But he found that he was making progress slowly.
At that time the price of a first-class ticket to New York was one hundred and twenty-eight dollars, besides the expense of sleeping berths, amounting then, as now, to twenty-two dollars extra. So it looked as if Dodger would be compelled to wait at least six months before he should be in a position to set out on the return journey.
About this time Dodger received a letter from Florence, in which she spoke of her discharge by Mrs. Leighton.
“I shall try to obtain another position as teacher,” she said, concealing her anxiety. “I am sure, in a large city, I can find something to do.”
But Dodger knew better than she the difficulties that beset the path of an applicant for work, and he could not help feeling anxious for Florence.
“If I were only in New York,” he said to himself, “I would see that Florence didn’t suffer. I will write her to let me know if she is in need, and I will send her some money.”
About this time he met with an adventure which deserves to be noted.
It was about seven o’clock one evening that he found himself in Mission Street.
At a street corner his attention was drawn to a woman poorly dressed, who held by the hand a child of three.
Her clothing was shabby, and her attitude was one of despondency. It was clear that she was ill and in trouble.
Dodger possessed quick sympathies, and his own experience made him quick to understand and feel for the troubles of others.
Though the woman made no appeal, he felt instinctively that she needed help.
“I beg your pardon,” he said, with as much deference as if he were addressing one favored by fortune, “but you seem to be in need of help?”
“God knows, I am!” said the woman, sadly.
“Perhaps I can be of service to you. Will you tell me how?”
“Neither I nor my child has tasted food since yesterday.”
“Well, that can be easily remedied,” said Dodger, cheerfully. “There is a restaurant close by. I was about to eat supper. Will you come in with me?”
“I am ashamed to impose upon the kindness of a stranger,” murmured the woman.
“Don’t mention it. I shall be very glad of company,” said Dodger, heartily.
“But you are a poor boy. You may be ill able to afford the expense.”
“I am not a millionaire,” said Dodger, “and I don’t see any immediate prospect of my building a palace on Nob Hill”—where live some of San Francisco’s wealthiest citizens—“but I am very well supplied with money.”
“Then I will accept your kind invitation.”
It was a small restaurant, but neat in its appointments, and, as in most San Francisco restaurants, the prices were remarkably moderate.
At an expense of twenty-five cents each, the three obtained a satisfactory meal.
The woman and child both seemed to enjoy it, and Dodger was glad to see that the former became more cheerful as time went on.
There was something in the child’s face that looked familiar to Dodger. It was a resemblance to some one that he had seen, but he could not for the life of him decide who it was.
“How can I ever thank you for your kindness?” said the lady, as she arose from the table. “You don’t know what it is to be famished——”
“Don’t I?” asked Dodger. “I have been hungry more than once, without money enough to buy a meal.”
“You don’t look it,” she said.
“No, for now I have a good place and am earning a good salary.”
“Are you a native of San Francisco?”
“No, madam. I can’t tell you where I was born, for I know little or nothing of my family. I have only been here a short time. I came from New York.”
“So did I,” said the woman, with a sigh. “I wish I were back there again.”
“How came you to be here? Don’t answer if you prefer not to,” Dodger added, hastily.
“I have no objection. My husband deserted me, and left me to shift for myself and support my child.”
“How have you done it?”
“By taking in sewing. But that is a hard way of earning money. There are too many poor women who are ready to work for starvation wages, and so we all suffer.”
“I know that,” answered Dodger. “Do you live near here?”
The woman mentioned a street near by.
“I have one poor back room on the third floor,” she explained; “but I should be glad if I were sure to stay there.”
“Is there any danger of your being ejected?”
“I am owing for two weeks’ rent, and this is the middle of the third week. Unless I can pay up at the end of this week I shall be forced to go out into the streets with my poor child.”
“How much rent do you pay?”
“A dollar a week.”
“Then three dollars will relieve you for the present?”
“Yes; but it might as well be three hundred,” said the woman, bitterly.
“Not quite; I can supply you with three dollars, but three hundred would be rather beyond my means.”
“You are too kind, too generous! I ought not to accept such a liberal gift.”
“Mamma, I am tired. Take me up in your arms,” said the child.
“Poor child! He has been on his feet all day,” sighed the mother.
She tried to lift the child, but her own strength had been undermined by privation, and she was clearly unable to do so.
“Let me take him!” said Dodger. “Here, little one, jump up!”
He raised the child easily, and despite the mother’s protest, carried him in his arms.
“I will see you home, madam,” he said.
“I fear the child will be too heavy for you.”
“I hope not. Why, I could carry a child twice as heavy.”
They reached the room at last—a poor one, but a welcome repose from the streets.
“Don’t you ever expect to see your husband again?” asked Dodger. “Can’t you compel him to support you?”
“I don’t know where he is,” answered the woman, despondently.
“If you will tell me his name, I may come across him some day.”
“His name,” said the woman, “is Curtis Waring.”
Dodger stared at her, overwhelmed with surprise.
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