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Having paid for his room for one week in advance, Nat sat down to talk to Mrs. Talcott. He found her a very pleasant woman, whose experiences in life had been much varied.
"Dick is the only person left to me," said she. "He had both a brother and a sister, but they died when they were young."
"Does he sell papers every day?"
"Oh, yes, and he has a morning route besides, which he carries for a stationer on the Avenue."
"I suppose he makes quite some money, doesn't he? Excuse me for asking, but you know, I've got to make my living too."
"The route pays him a dollar and a quarter a week, and he makes three or four dollars besides."
"Well, five dollars a week is better than nothing."
"The stationer says he will give Dick a place this fall. That will pay six or seven dollars a week."
"I wish I had a job at six or seven dollars a week."
"Have you anything in view?"
"Not a thing. I am going out in the morning to look for work."
"You may find it very hard to get an opening."
"Oh, I guess I can find something," answered Nat, confidently.
"I trust you are not disappointed. So many come in from the country and find it impossible to get an opening."
"I wish I had a map of New York City. I could study it, and locate the streets."
"I have such a map," was the answer, and the lady brought it forth. "I will put it on the table just as it should be. This is east and this is west, and here is where this house is located, and here is the Grand Central Depot. Now, you can do your best to fix the rest of it in your head."
Nat pored over the map for a good hour, and during that time located Broadway, and a number of other important thoroughfares.
"It's certainly a tremendously big city," said he. "One could get lost without half trying."
"You can carry that map around this week, if you wish," said Mrs. Talcott. "It may help you a great deal."
Nat went to bed with his head in something of a whirl from the long train ride and from studying the map. It was a long while ere he could close his eyes in sleep.
"I'm up against it now," he mused. "It's sink or swim, and nothing else."
He resolved to arise early, and as soon as he heard Dick Talcott get up, he dressed and went into the dining room to meet the newsboy.
"Hullo, how did you sleep?" asked Dick.
"Fairly good, considering. Are you going out on your route now?"
"I want to buy some papers that have advertisements of Help Wanted in them. Which are the best papers?"
Dick named them. "You needn't buy them unless you wish. I'll let you look over my bunch, if you want to come with me."
"Thank you, Dick."
The two procured a hasty breakfast, and set out, and soon the newsboy had his package of morning newspapers. He showed Nat where to look for the advertisements, and our hero sat down on a stoop, while Dick ran his route.
"Well, did you find anything worth looking up?" asked the newsboy, on returning.
"A dozen or more," cried Nat, gleefully. "It will be an easy matter to get work, I'm thinking."
At this the New York boy grinned broadly.
"Don't you fool yourself, Nat."
"But here are the advertisements."
"Yes, and a hundred young fellows after every one."
At this Nat's face fell.
"You are sure of this?"
"Go on, and find out for yourself. A good job isn't open more than an hour in this city."
"Then, I'd better hurry along."
Nat had written down about a dozen addresses on a slip of paper, and the newsboy showed him how he could get around from one place to the next with the least walking. Nat started off at a swift gait. Dick watched him out of sight with a thoughtful expression on his face.
"That boy means well," he murmured. "But he has got a whole lot to learn!"
The distance to the first place on Nat's list was almost half a mile. It was a shirt factory, where an assistant packer was desired, at eight dollars per week. Arriving there, Nat found about twenty young men and boys assembled, waiting to get into the office.
"Dick was right, a place here doesn't go begging long," thought the boy from the country.
It was some time before Nat could get into the office. He faced a tall, sharp-eyed man, who was in his shirt sleeves.
"Want the job, eh?" said the man. "Had any experience as a packer?"
"No, sir, but——"
"Can't use you. Next!"
Nat stared at the man in bewilderment.
"Won't you please try——"
"No." The man shook his head vigorously. "Next!" And our hero was elbowed toward the door by some others who wanted the position. In a moment more he found himself on the street again.
"Well, of all the mean men!" he began, and stopped short. "All right, he can keep his job. I'll try the next place."
The next was in a hat store, and the place was filled. Then came a clothing establishment, a hardware store, and a wholesale rubber factory. At none of these places was he wanted. By this time it was nearly noon, and he was getting just a little discouraged.
"It's going to be up-hill work, that's certain!" he told himself with a sigh.
The next place he visited was a seed store. Here a very elderly man came forward to greet him.
"So you want a place?" said he slowly. "Have you had any experience as an errand boy?"
"No, sir, but I am willing to learn."
"So they all say, but many boys don't seem to learn very fast. You look like a country lad." And the elderly man peered at Nat closely through his spectacles.
"I am a country boy. But if you'll give me a chance, I'll do my best."
"We can't pay you very much at the start."
"Two dollars and a half a week."
"I can't live on that. I've got to pay my board."
The elderly man shrugged his shoulders.
"Guess you had better look elsewhere then."
"Couldn't you pay me a little more? I am willing to work hard."
"Well, we might give you three dollars a week after the first month, but that is our limit for an errand boy."
"I can't take it," answered Nat. "I've got to earn more," and after a little additional talking he left the seed store.
He had a lunch in a bit of newspaper, and as it was nearly one o'clock, he sat down on a box on the sidewalk and ate it, washing it down with a drink of water from a cooler in a railroad ticket office. Then he went on his way once more, but at sundown had to give it up. He was so tired, and his feet were so sore from the pavements, that he could scarcely walk to his boarding house.
"I trust you found something," said Mrs. Talcott, as he entered.
"No," he answered, soberly. "I could have had one position, but it only paid two dollars and a half a week, so I didn't take it."
"I am sorry."
"I shall go out to-morrow again. I am bound to strike something sooner or later."
Being tremendously hungry Nat ate the supper provided with a relish. There were two other boarders—girls who worked in a large department store—and they were quite interested in him.
"You might get work at our place," said one of the girls. "They advertised to-day for wrappers."
"Yes, but they want experienced wrappers," said the other girl.
"I'll try them, anyway," said Nat. "And I am much obliged to you for telling me about it," he added.
On the following morning he was up as before and got the list from the papers again. Fortune was now with him, and at noon he found a position in a wholesale paper house. One of the clerks was going to visit some relatives down south, and Nat was hired to fill his place, at seven dollars per week.
"You've struck luck!" cried Dick Talcott, on hearing the news. "I hope the job lasts."
"So do I," answered Nat. "But even if it doesn't, it is better than nothing."
Nat went to work the next day. He found his duties rather simple and wondered how the firm could afford to pay him seven dollars for the little he was called on to do. Everybody treated him nicely, and he considered himself lucky to have made the connection with the firm.
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