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"So this is New York," said Frank to himself, as he emerged from the railway station and looked about him with interest and curiosity.
"Black yer boots? Shine?" asked a bootblack, seeing our hero standing still.
Frank looked at his shoes. They were dirty, without doubt, but he would not have felt disposed to be so extravagant, considering his limited resources, had he not felt it necessary to obtain some information about the city.
"Yes," he said, "you may black them."
The boy was on his knees instantly and at work.
"How much do you make in a day?" asked Frank.
"When it's a good day I make a dollar."
"That's pretty good," said Frank.
"Can you show me the way to Broadway?"
"Go straight ahead."
Our hero paid for his shine and started in the direction indicated.
Frank's plans, so far as he had any, were to get into a store. He knew that Broadway was the principal business street in the city, and this was about all he did know about it.
He reached the great thoroughfare in a few minutes, and was fortunate enough to find on the window of the corner store the sign:
"A Boy Wanted."
He entered at once, and going up to the counter, addressed a young man, who was putting up goods.
"Do you want a boy?"
"I believe the boss wants one; I don't. Go out to that desk."
Frank found the desk, and propounded the same question to a sandy-whiskered man, who looked up from his writing.
"You're prompt," he said. "That notice was only put out two minutes ago."
"I only saw it one minute ago."
"So you want the place, do you?"
"I should like it."
"Do you know your way about the city?"
"No, sir, but I could soon find out."
"That won't do. I shall have plenty of applications from boys who live in the city and are familiar with the streets."
Frank left the store rather discomfited.
He soon came to another store where there was a similar notice of "A Boy Wanted." It was a dry goods store.
"Do you live with your parents?" was asked.
"My parents are dead," said Frank, sadly.
"Very sorry, but we can't take you."
"Why not, sir?"
"In case you took anything we should make your parents responsible."
"I shouldn't take anything," said Frank, indignantly.
"You might; I can't take you."
Our hero left this store a little disheartened by his second rebuff.
He made several more fruitless applications, but did not lose courage wholly. He was gaining an appetite, however. It is not surprising therefore, that his attention was drawn to the bills of a restaurant on the opposite side of the street. He crossed over, and standing outside, began to examine them to see what was the scale of prices. While in this position he was suddenly aroused by a slap on the back.
Turning he met the gaze of a young man of about thirty, who was smiling quite cordially.
"Why, Frank, my boy, how are you?" he said, offering his hand.
"Pretty well, thank you," said our hero bewildered, for he had no recollection of the man who had called him by name.
The other smiled a little more broadly, and thought:
"It was a lucky guess; his name is Frank."
"I am delighted to hear it," he continued. "When did you reach the city?"
"This morning," said the unsuspecting Frank.
"Well, it's queer I happened to meet you so soon, isn't it? Going to stay long?"
"I shall, if I can get a place."
"Perhaps I can help you."
"I suppose I ought to remember you," ventured our hero, "but I can't think of your name."
"Jasper Wheelock. You don't mean to say you don't remember me? Perhaps it isn't strange, as we only met once or twice in your country home. But that doesn't matter. I'm just as ready to help you. By the way, have you dined?"
"No more have I. Come in and dine with me."
"What'll you take?" asked Jasper Wheelock, passing the bill of fare to Frank.
"I think I should like to have some roast beef," said Frank.
"That will suit me. Here, waiter, two plates of roast beef, and two cups of coffee."
"How are they all at home?" asked Jasper.
"My mother has just died."
"You don't say so," said Jasper, sympathetically.
"My sister is well."
"I forgot your sister's name."
"Of course--Grace. I find it hard to remember names. The fact is, I have been trying to recall your last name, but it's gone from me."
"To be sure Frank Fowler. How could I be so forgetful."
The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the coffee and roast beet, which both he and his new friend attacked with vigor.
"What kind of pudding will you have?" asked the stranger.
"Apple dumpling," said Frank.
"That suits me. Apple dumpling for two."
In due time the apple dumpling was disposed of, and two checks were brought, amounting to seventy cents.
"I'll pay for both," said Jasper. "No thanks. We are old acquaintances, you know."
He put his hand into his pocket, and quickly withdrew it with an exclamation of surprise:
"Well, if that isn't a good joke," he said. "I've left my money at home. I remember now, I left it in the pocket of my other coat. I shall have to borrow the money of you. You may as well hand me a dollar!"
Frank was not disposed to be suspicious, but the request for money made him uneasy. Still there seemed no way of refusing, and he reluctantly drew out the money.
His companion settled the bill and then led the way into the street.
Jasper Wheelock was not very scrupulous; he was quite capable of borrowing money, without intending to return it; but he had his good side.
"Frank," said he, as they found themselves in the street, "you have done me a favor, and I am going to help you in return. Have you got very much money?"
"No. I had twenty dollars when I left home, but I had to pay my fare in the cars and the dinner, I have seventeen dollars and a half left."
"Then it is necessary for you to get a place as soon as possible."
"Yes; I have a sister to support; Grace, you know."
"No, I don't know. The fact is, Frank, I have been imposing upon you. I never saw you before in the whole course of my life."
"What made you say you knew me?"
"I wanted to get a dinner out of you. Don't be troubled, though; I'll pay back the money. I've been out of a place for three or four weeks, but I enter upon one the first of next week. For the rest of the week I've got nothing to do, and I will try to get you a place.
"The first thing is to get a room somewhere. I'll tell you what, you may have part of my room."
"Is it expensive?"
"No; I pay a dollar and a half a week. I think the old lady won't charge more than fifty cents extra for you."
"Then my share would be a dollar."
"You may pay only fifty cents. I'll keep on paying what I do now. My room is on Sixth Avenue." They had some distance to walk. Finally Jasper halted before a baker's shop.
"It's over this," he said.
He drew out a latch-key and entered.
"This is my den," he said. It isn't large you can't get any better for the money."
"I shall have to be satisfied," said Frank. "I want to get along as cheap as I can."
"I've got to economize myself for a short time. After this week I shall earn fifteen dollars a week."
"What business are you in, Mr. Wheelock?"
"I am a journeyman printer. It is a very good business, and I generally have steady work. I expect to have after I get started again. Now, shall I give you some advice?"
"I wish you would."
"You don't know your way around New York. I believe I have a map somewhere. I'll just show you on it the position of the principal streets, and that will give you a clearer idea of where we go."
The map was found and Jasper explained to Frank the leading topographical features of the Island City.
One thing only was wanting now to make him contented, and this was employment. But it was too late to make any further inquiries.
"I've been thinking, Frank," said Jasper, the next morning, "that you might get the position as a cash-boy."
"What does a cash-boy do?"
"In large retail establishments every salesman keeps a book in which his sales are entered. He does not himself make change, for it would not do to have so many having access to the money-drawer. The money is carried to the cashier's desk by boys employed for the purpose, who return with the change."
"Do you think I can get a situation as cash-boy?"
"I will try at Gilbert & Mack's. I know one of the principal salesmen. If there is a vacancy he will get it for you to oblige me."
They entered a large retail store on Broadway. It was broad and spacious. Twenty salesmen stood behind the counter, and boys were running this way and that with small books in their hands.
"How are you, Duncan?" said Jasper.
The person addressed was about Jasper Wheelock's age. He had a keen, energetic look and manner, and would be readily singled out as one of the leading clerks.
"All right, Wheelock. How are you?" he responded. "Do you want anything in our line?"
"No goods; I want a place for this youngster. He's a friend of mine. I'll answer for his good character."
"That will be satisfactory. But what sort of a place does he want?"
"He is ready to begin as cash-boy."
"Then we can oblige you, as one of our boys has fallen sick, and we have not supplied his place. I'll speak to Mr. Gilbert."
He went up to Mr. Gilbert, a portly man in the back part of the store. Mr. Gilbert seemed to be asking two or three questions. Frank waited the result in suspense, dreading another disappointment, but this time he was fortunate.
"The boy can stay," reported Duncan. "His wages are three dollars a week."
It was not much, but Frank was well pleased to feel that at last he had a place in the city.
He wrote a letter to Grace in the evening, announcing his success, and expressing the hope that he would soon be able to send for her.
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