The loss of the shirt was very vexatious. It was not so much the value of it that Paul cared for, although this was a consideration by no means to be despised by one in his circumstances; but it had been lent as a pattern, and without it his mother would be unable to make Mr. Preston's shirts. As to recovering it, he felt that there was little chance of this. Besides, it would involve delay, and his mother could not afford to remain idle. Paul felt decidedly uncomfortable. Again Mike Donovan had done him an injury, and this time of a more serious nature than before.
What should he do?
There seemed but one answer to this question. He must go back to Mr. Preston, explain the manner in which he had lost his shirt, and ask him for another, promising, of course, to supply the place of the one lost. He was not sure whether Mr. Preston would accept this explanation. He might think it was only an attempt to defraud him. But, at any rate, it seemed the only thing to do, and it must be done at once. He entered a passing car, for it was too late to walk.
"I wish I had taken the car down," thought Paul. "Then I shouldn't have lost the shirt."
But it was too late for regrets now. He must do the best that remained to him.
It was nearly ten o'clock when Paul once more stood before the door of Mr. Preston's boarding-place. He rang the bell and asked to see him.
"You have been here before this evening?" said the servant.
"Then you know the room. You can walk right up."
Paul went upstairs and knocked at Mr. Preston's room. He was bidden to come in, and did so.
Mr. Preston looked up with surprise.
"I suppose you are surprised to see me," said Paul, rather awkwardly.
"Why, yes. I did not anticipate that pleasure quite so soon," said Mr. Preston, smiling.
"I am afraid it won't be a pleasure, for I bring bad news."
"Bad news?" repeated the gentleman, rather startled.
"Yes; I have lost the shirt you gave me."
"Oh, is that all?" said Mr. Preston, looking relieved. "But how did you lose it?"
"I was walking home down the Bowery, when two fellows met me. One of them, Mike Donovan, forced me into a fight. I gave him a licking," added Paul, with satisfaction; "but when it was all over, I found the other fellow had run off with the shirt."
"I don't believe it will fit him," said Mr. Preston, laughing.
As the speaker probably weighed two hundred and fifty pounds, it was, indeed, rather doubtful. Paul couldn't help laughing himself at the thought.
"You were certainly unlucky," said Mr. Preston. "Did you know the boy you fought with?"
"Yes, sir; he once before stole my stock of candy, when I was in the prize-package business."
"That was the day we got acquainted," remarked Mr. Preston.
"He doesn't seem to be a very particular friend of yours."
"No; he hates me, Mike does, though I don't know why. But I hope you won't be angry with me for losing the shirt?"
"No; it doesn't seem to be your fault, only your misfortune."
"I was afraid you might think I had made up the story, and only wanted to get an extra shirt from you."
"No, my young friend; I have some faith in physiognomy, and you have an honest face. I don't believe you would deceive me."
"No, I wouldn't," said Paul, promptly. "If you will trust me with another shirt, mother will make you an extra one to make up for the one I have lost."
"Certainly you shall have the extra shirt, but you needn't supply the place of the one lost."
"It is only fair that I should."
"That may be, and I am glad you made the offer, but the loss is of little importance to me. It was no fault of yours that you lost it, and you shall not suffer for it."
"You are very kind, sir," said Paul, gratefully.
"Only just, Paul."
Mr. Preston went to the bureau, and drew out another shirt, which he handed to Paul.
"Let me suggest, my young friend," he said, "that you ride home this time. It is late, and you might have another encounter with your friend. I should like to see him with the shirt on," and Mr. Preston laughed heartily at the thought.
Paul decided to follow his patron's advice. He had no idea of running any more risk in the matter. He accordingly walked to Fourth avenue and got on board the car.
It was nearly eleven o'clock when he reached home. As it was never his habit to stay out late, his mother had become alarmed at his long absence.
"What kept you so late, Paul?" she asked.
"I'll tell you, pretty soon, mother. Here's the shirt that is to serve as a pattern. Can you cut out the new shirts by it?"
Mrs. Hoffman examined it attentively.
"Yes," she said; "there will be no difficulty about that. Mr. Preston must be a pretty large man."
"Yes, he is big enough for an alderman; but he is very kind and considerate, and I like him. You shall judge for yourself when I tell you what happened this evening."
It will not be necessary to tell Paul's adventure over again. His mother listened with pardonable indignation against Mike Donovan and his companion.
"I hope you won't have anything to do with that bad boy, Paul," she said.
"I shan't, if I can help it," said Paul. "I didn't want to speak to him to-night, but I couldn't help myself. Oh, I forgot to say, when half the shirts are ready, I am to take them to Mr. Preston."
"I think I can make one a day."
"There is no need of working so steadily, mother. You will be well paid, you know."
"That is true; and for that reason I shall work more cheerfully. I wish I could get paid as well for all my work."
"Perhaps Mr. Preston will recommend you to his friends, and you can get more work that way."
"I wish I could."
"I will mention it to him, when I carry back the last half dozen."
"Is he going to send the cloth?"
"I nearly forgot that, too. I have an order on Barclay & Co. for the necessary amount of cloth. I can go up there to-morrow morning and get it."
"That will take you from your work, Paul."
"Well, I can close up for a couple of hours."
"I don't think that will be necessary. I will go up myself and present the order, and get them to send it home for me."
"Will they do that?"
"It is their custom. Or, if the bundle isn't too large. I can bring it home myself in the car."
"That's all right, then. And now, mother, as it's past eleven o'clock, I think we may as well both go to bed."
The next day Paul went as usual to his business, and Mrs. Hoffman, after clearing away the breakfast, put on her bonnet and shawl, and prepared to go for the materials for the shirts.
The retail store of Barclay & Co. is of great size, and ranks among the most important in New York. It was not so well filled when Mrs. Hoffman entered as it would be later. She was directed to the proper counter, where she presented the order, signed by Mr. Preston. As he was a customer of long standing, there was no difficulty about filling the order. A bundle was made up, which, as it contained the materials for twelve shirts, necessarily was of considerable size.
"Here is your bundle, ma'am," said the clerk.
Mrs. Hoffman's strength was slender, and she did not feel able to carry the heavy bundle offered her. Even if she took the car, she would be obliged to carry it a portion of the way, and she felt that it would overtask her strength.
"Don't you send bundles?" she asked.
"Sometimes," said the clerk, looking superciliously at the modest attire of the poor widow, and mentally deciding that she was not entitled to much consideration. Had she been richly dressed, he would have been very obsequious, and insisted on sending home the smallest parcel. But there are many who have two rules of conduct, one for the rich, and quite a different one for the poor, and among these was the clerk who was attending upon Mrs. Hoffman.
"Then," said Mrs. Hoffman, "I should like to have you send this."
"It's a great deal of trouble to send everything," said the clerk, impertinently.
"This bundle is too heavy for me to carry," said the widow, deprecatingly.
"I suppose we can send it," said the clerk, ill-naturedly, "if you insist upon it."
Meanwhile, though he had not observed it, his employer had approached, and heard the last part of the colloquy. He was considered by some as a hard man, but there was one thing he always required of those in his employ; that was to treat all purchasers with uniform courtesy, whatever their circumstances.
"Are you objecting to sending this lady's bundle?" said Mr. Barclay, sternly.
The clerk looked up in confusion.
"I told her we would send it," he stammered.
"I have heard what passed. You have been deficient in politeness. If this happens again, you leave my employ."
"I will take your address," said the clerk, in a subdued tone.
Mrs. Hoffman gave it, and left the store, thankful for the interference of the great merchant who had given his clerk a lesson which the latter, as he valued his situation, found it advisable to bear in mind.