Harvest came, and for the time Herbert was busy. He could not afford to hire assistance, and was obliged to do all the work himself. When all was finished, and his share of the vegetables sold, he sat down to count up his profits.
"Well, mother," he asked, "how much money do you think I have made by farming?"
"You expected to make twenty dollars."
"I have cleared twenty-one dollars and a half besides the vegetables I have brought home and stored in the cellar."
"That is doing very well," said Mrs. Carter.
"I have had to work very hard for it," said Herbert, thoughtfully, "and for a good many days. After all, it isn't quite enough to pay our interest."
"The interest doesn't come due for six weeks yet."
"That is true, mother; but six weeks hence we shall be poorer than we are now. We shall have to use some of this money for current expenses, and I know of no way to replace it."
"You may earn some more."
"I don't see any chance—that is, here. There is nothing doing in Wrayburn. If there were any factories or workshops, I might stand a chance of getting something to do."
Mrs. Carter did not reply. She knew that Herbert was right, and she had nothing to suggest.
"I have thought of something" said Herbert; "but you may not like it at first."
"What is it?" asked his mother, with interest.
"Would you have any objection to my going to New York and trying my fortune there?"
Mrs. Carter uttered a little cry of dismay.
"You go to New York—a boy of your age!" she exclaimed.
"I am old enough to take care of myself," said Herbert, sturdily.
"A great city is a dangerous place."
"It won't be dangerous for me. I shall be too busy—that is, if I get work—to fall into temptation, if that is what you mean."
"I should miss you so much, Herbert, even if I knew you were doing well," said his mother, pathetically.
"I know you would, mother; and I should miss you, too; but I can't live here always. If I do well in the city you can come and join me there."
This was the first time Herbert broached the subject of going to New York. He resumed the attack the next day, and the next, and finally won his mother's consent to go for a week, and see whether he could find anything to do.
His mother's consent obtained, Herbert took but a day to make his preparations. The next day, after an early breakfast, he started for the great city, excited with the idea of going, but hardly able to repress the tears as he saw the lonely look upon his mother's face.
He was her only son, and she was a widow.
"I must send her good news as soon as possible," he thought. "That will cheer her up."
About noon Herbert reached the city. He had formed no particular plan, except to find Cornelius Dixon, who would doubtless be able to advise him about getting a place, perhaps would have influence enough to procure him one. He did not know where to look for Cornelius, but concluded that his name would be in the city directory. He entered a small liquor store, which he happened to pass, and walked up to the counter.
"Good-morning," said he politely, addressing a young man behind the bar.
This young man had coarse red hair, and a mottled complexion, and looked as if he patronized freely the liquors he sold. He turned his glance upon Herbert, who stood before him with his fresh, inquiring face, holding under his arm a small bundle of clothing tied up in a paper.
"Hello, yourself!" he answered. "Want some bitters?"
"Thank you," said Herbert, innocently, "I don't require any medicine."
"Medicine?" repeated the other, with a frown. "Do you mean to compare my drinks to medicine?"
"You said bitters," returned Herbert.
"You're from the country, ain't you?" asked the bartender.
"So I thought. You haven't cut your eyeteeth yet. When a gentleman takes a drink he takes his bitters. Now, what'll you have?"
"Nothing, thank you."
"Oh, you needn't thank me. I didn't offer to give you a drink. What do you want, anyhow?"
"Have you got a directory?"
"No; we don't keep one. We don't care where our customers live. All we want is their money."
Herbert did not fancy the bartender's tone or manner; but felt that it would be foolish to get angry. So he explained: "I have a cousin living in the city; I thought I could find out where he lived in the directory."
"What's your cousin's name?"
"Never heard of him. He don't buy his bitters at this shop."
It was clear that no satisfaction was to be found here, and Herbert looked further. Finally, at a druggist's he found a directory, and hopefully looked for the name. But another disappointment awaited him. There were several Dixons, but Cornelius was not among them.
"I must give him up, and see what I can do by myself," thought
Herbert. "I wish I could come across him."
It seemed strange to him that one who was so prominent as Cornelius claimed to be, and who had been living for years in the city, should have been overlooked by the compilers of the directory. He was not discouraged, however; he expected to encounter difficulties, and this was the first one.
He kept on his way, attracting some attention as he walked. The city
Arab knows a stranger by instinct.
"Carry your bundle, mister?" asked a ragged urchin.
"No; thank you. I can carry it myself."
"I won't charge you much. Take you to any hotel in the city."
"I don't think I shall go to any hotel. I can't afford it. Can you show me a cheap boarding house?"
"Yes," said the boy. "What'll you give?"
"That ain't enough. It wouldn't keep me in cigars an hour."
"Do you smoke?" asked Herbert, surprised.
"In course I do. I've smoked for four or five years."
"How old are you?"
"The old woman says I'm ten. She ought to know."
"It isn't good for boys to smoke," said Herbert, gravely.
"Oh, bosh! Dry up! All us boys smoke."
Herbert felt that his advice was not called for, and he came to business.
"I'll give you fifteen cents," he said, "if you'll show me a good, cheap boarding house."
"Well," said the Arab, "business is poor, and I'll do it for once.
Herbert concluded from the boy's appearance that he would be more likely to know of cheap than of fashionable boarding houses; but it did not occur to him that there was such a thing as being too cheap. He realized it when the boy brought him to the door of a squalid dwelling in a filthy street, and, pointing to it, complacently remarked: "That's the place you want—that's Rafferty's."
Herbert stared at it in dismay. Accustomed to the utmost neatness, he was appalled at the idea of lodging in such a place.
"Gimme them fifteen cents, mister," said the boy, impatiently.
"But I don't like the place. I wouldn't stay here."
"It's cheap," said the young Arab. "Rafferty'll give you a lodging for ten cents, meals fifteen. You can't complain of that, now."
"I don't complain of the price. It's dirty. I wouldn't stay in such a dirty place."
"Oh, you're a fine gentleman, you are!" said the boy, sarcastically.
"You'd better go to the Fifth Avenoo Hotel, you had."
"I won't stop here. I want some decent place."
Meanwhile, Mrs. Rafferty herself had come to the door, and caught the meaning of the conference. She took instant umbrage at Herbert's last words.
"Dacent, do ye say?" she repeated, with flaming eyes and arms akimbo.
"Who dares to say that Bridget Rafferty doesn't keep a dacent house?"
"He does," said the Arab, indicating Herbert, with a grin.
"And who are you, I'd like to know?" demanded Mrs. Rafferty, turning upon Herbert angrily. "Who are you, that talks agin' a poor widder that's tryin' to earn an honest living?"
"I beg your pardon, madam," said Herbert, anxious to get out of the scrape. "I meant no offense."
"Lucky for you, thin!" said Mrs. Rafferty, in a belligerent tone. "Be off wid you both, thin, or I'll call a cop."
Herbert turned to go, nothing loath, but his guide followed him.
"Gimme them fifteen cents," he demanded.
"You haven't shown me a good boarding place."
"Yes, I did."
"You don't seem to know what I want. I'll give you five cents, and look out for myself."
The young Arab tried for ten; but Herbert was firm. He felt that he had no money to waste, and that he had selected a poor guide. It was wiser to rely upon himself.
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