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Chapter 27

AN INCIDENT IN A STREET CAR


When Frank returned to the city, he walked slowly up through the Battery to the foot of Broadway. He passed the famous house, No. 1, which, a hundred years ago, was successively the headquarters of Washington and the British generals, who occupied New York with their forces, and soon reached the Astor House, then the most notable structure in the lower part of the city.

With his small means, Frank felt that it was extravagant to ride uptown, when he might have walked, but he felt some confidence in the success of his visit to Mr. Percival, and entered a Fourth Avenue horse car. It so chanced that he seated himself beside a pleasant-looking young married lady, who had with her a young boy about seven years old.

Soon after the car started the conductor came around to collect the fares.

Frank paid his, and the conductor held out his hand to the lady.

She put her hand into her pocket to draw out her purse, but her countenance changed as her hand failed to find it.

Probably no situation is more trying than to discover that you have lost or mislaid your purse, when you have an urgent use for it. The lady was evidently in that predicament. Once more she searched for her purse, but her search was unavailing.

"I am afraid I have lost my purse," she said, apologetically, to the conductor.

This official was an ill-mannered person, and answered, rudely:

"In that case, ma'am, you will have to get off."

"I will give you my card," said the lady, "and will send double the fare to the office."

"That won't do," said the man, rudely. "I am responsible for your fare, if you stay on the car, and I can't afford to lose the money."

"You shall not lose it, sir; but I cannot walk home."

"I think you will have to, madam."

Here Frank interposed. He had been trained to be polite and considerate to ladies, and he could not endure to see a lady treated with rudeness.

"Take the lady's fare out of this," he said.

"And the boy's, too?"

"Of course."

The lady smiled gratefully.

"I accept your kindness, my young friend," she said. "You have saved me much annoyance."

"I am very glad to have had the opportunity," said Frank, politely.

"Of course, I shall insist upon reimbursing you. Will you oblige me with your address, that I may send you the amount when I return home?"

A boy of less tact than Frank would have expostulated against repayment, but he knew that this would only embarrass the lady, and that he had no right, being a stranger, to force such a favor upon her. He answered, therefore:

"Certainly, I will do so, but it will be perfectly convenient for me to call upon you."

"If it will give you no trouble, I shall be glad to have you call any evening. I live at No. —— Madison Avenue."

Now it was Frank's turn to be surprised. The number mentioned by the lady was that of the house in which Mr. Henry Percival lived.

"I thought Mr. Percival lived at that number?" said Frank.

"So he does. He is my father. Do you know him?"

"No; but I was about to call on him. This morning Mr. Robinson, a broker in Wall Street, told me that he wished to see me."

"You are not the boy who caused the capture of the bondholder?" asked the lady, quickly.

"Yes, I am the boy, but I am afraid I had less to do with it than has been represented."

"What is your name?"

"Frank Courtney."

"My father is very desirous of meeting you, and thanking you for what you have done. Why have you not called before?"

"I did not know till to-day that your father had returned. Besides, I did not like to go without an invitation."

"I will invite you," said the lady, with a pleasant smile, "and I, as well as my father, will be glad to see you. And now let me introduce you to my little son. Freddie, would you like to see the boy that caught the robber?"

"Yes, mamma."

"Here he is. His name is Frank."

The little boy immediately began to ask questions of Frank, and by the time they reached the Cooper Institute Frank and he were well acquainted.

"Don't get out, Frank," said Freddie.

"I am going home, Freddie."

"You must come and see me soon," said the little boy.

"Now you have three invitations," said the lady.

"I will accept them all," said Frank.

And, with a bow, he left the car.

Horatio Alger