Chapter 13




OUT OF BUSINESS

The next day Mrs. Hoffman commenced work upon Mr. Preston's shirts. She worked with much more cheerfulness now that she was sure of obtaining a liberal price for her labor. As the shirts were of extra size, she found herself unable to finish one in a day, as she had formerly done, but had no difficulty in making four in a week. This, however, gave her five dollars weekly, instead of a dollar and a half as formerly. Now, five dollars may not seem a very large sum to some of my young readers, but to Mrs. Hoffman it seemed excellent compensation for a week's work.

"If I could only earn as much every week," she said to Paul on Saturday evening, "I should feel quite rich."

"Your work will last three weeks, mother, and perhaps at the end of that time some of Mr. Preston's friends may wish to employ you."

"I hope they will."

"How much do you think I have made?" continued Paul.

"Six dollars."

"Seven dollars and a half."

"So between us we have earned over twelve dollars."

"I wish I could earn something," said little Jimmy, looking up from his drawing.

"There's time enough for that, Jimmy. You are going to be a great artist one of these days."

"Do you really think I shall?" asked the little boy, wistfully.

"I think there is a good chance of it. Let me see what you are drawing."

The picture upon which Jimmy was at work represented a farmer standing upright in a cart, drawn by a sturdy, large-framed horse. The copy bore a close resemblance to the original, even in the most difficult portions—the face and expression, both in the man and the horse, being carefully reproduced.

"This is wonderful, Jimmy," exclaimed Paul, in real surprise. "Didn't you find it hard to get the man's face just right?"

"Rather hard," said Jimmy; "I had to be careful, but I like best the parts where I have to take the most pains."

"I wish I could afford to hire a teacher for you," said Paul. "Perhaps, if mother and I keep on earning so much money, we shall be able to some time."

By the middle of the next week six of the shirts were finished, and Paul, as had been agreed upon, carried them up to Mr. Preston. He was fortunate enough to find him at home.

"I hope they will suit you," said Paul.

"I can see that the sewing is excellent," said Mr. Preston, examining them. "As to the fit, I can tell better after I have tried one on."

"Mother made them just like the one you sent; but if there is anything wrong, she will, of course, be ready to alter them."

"If they are just like the pattern, they will be sure to suit me."

"And now, my young friend," he added, "let me know how you are getting on in your own business."

"I am making a dollar a day, sometimes a little more."

"That is very good."

"Yes, sir; but it won't last long."

"I believe you told me that the stand belonged to some one else."

"Yes, sir; I am only tending it in his sickness; but he is getting better, and when he gets about again, I shall be thrown out of business."

"But you don't look like one who would remain idle long."

"No, sir; I shall be certain to find something to do, if it is only blacking boots."

"Have you ever been in that business?"

"I've tried about everything," said Paul, laughing.

"I suppose you wouldn't enjoy boot-blacking much?"

"No, sir; but I would rather do that than be earning nothing."

"You are quite right there, and I am glad you have no false shame in the matter. There are plenty who have. For instance, a stout, broad-shouldered young fellow applied to me thus morning for a clerkship. He said he had come to the city in search of employment, and had nearly expended all his money without finding anything to do. I told him I couldn't give him a clerkship, but was in want of a porter. I offered him the place at two dollars per day. He drew back, and said he should not be willing to accept a porter's place."

"He was very foolish," said Paul.

"So I thought. I told him that if such were his feelings, I could not help him. Perhaps he may regret his refusal, when he is reduced to his last penny. By the way, whenever you have to give up your stand, you may come to me, and I will see what I can do for you."

"Thank you, sir."

"And now, about these shirts; I believe I agreed to pay a dollar and a quarter each."

"Yes, sir."

"As they are of extra size, I think I ought to pay twelve shillings, instead of ten."

"My mother thinks herself well paid at ten shillings."

"There must be a great deal of work about one. Twelve shillings are none too much," and Mr. Preston placed nine dollars in Paul's hand.

"Thank you," said Paul, gratefully. "My mother will consider herself very lucky."

When Mrs. Hoffman received from Paul a dollar and a half more than she anticipated, she felt in unusually good spirits. She had regretted the loss of her former poorly paid work, but it appeared that her seeming misfortune had only prepared the way for greater prosperity. The trouble was that it would not last. Still, it would tide over the dull time, and when this job was over, she might be able to resume her old employment. At any rate, while the future seemed uncertain, she did not feel like increasing her expenditures on account of her increased earnings, but laid carefully away three-quarters of her receipts to use hereafter in case of need.

Meanwhile, Paul continued to take care of George Barry's business. He had been obliged to renew the stock, his large sales having materially reduced it. Twice a week he went up to see his principal to report sales. George Barry could not conceal the surprise he felt at Paul's success.

"I never thought you would do so well," he said. "You beat me."

"I suppose it's because I like it," said Paul. "Then, as I get only half the profits, I have to work the harder to make fair wages."

"It is fortunate for my son that he found you to take his place," said Mrs. Barry. "He could not afford to lose all the income from his business."

"It is a good thing for both of us," said Paul. "I was looking for a job just when he fell sick."

"What had you been doing before?"

"I was in the prize-package business, but that got played out, and I was a gentleman at large, seeking for a light, genteel business that wouldn't require much capital."

"I shall be able to take my place pretty soon now," said the young man. "I might go to-morrow, but mother thinks it imprudent."

"Better get back your strength first, George," said his mother, "or you may fall sick again."

But her son was impatient of confinement and anxious to get to work again. So, two days afterward, about the middle of the forenoon, Paul was surprised by seeing George Barry get out of a Broadway omnibus, just in front of the stand.

"Can I sell you a necktie, Mr. Barry?" he asked, in a joke.

"I almost feel like a stranger," said Barry, "it's so long since I have been here."

"Do you feel strong enough to take charge now?" asked Paul.

"I am not so strong as I was, and the walk from our rooms would tire me; but I think if I rode both ways for the present I shall be able to get along."

"Then you won't need me any longer?"

"I would like to have you stay with me to-day. I don't know how I shall hold out."

"All right! I'll stop."

George Barry remained in attendance the rest of the day. He found that his strength had so far returned that he should be able to manage alone hereafter, and he told Paul so.

"I am glad you are well again, George," said Paul. "It must have been dull work staying at home sick."

"Yes, it was dull; but I felt more comfortable from knowing that you were taking my place. If I get sick again I will send for you."

"I hope you won't get sick; but if you do, I will do what I can to help you."

So the two parted on the best of terms. Each had been of service to the other, and neither had cause to complain.

"Well," said Paul to himself, "I am out of work again. What shall I go at next?"

It was six o'clock, and there was nothing to be done till the morrow. He went slowly homeward, revolving this subject in his mind. He knew that he need not remain idle. He could black boots, or sell newspapers, if nothing better offered, and he thought it quite possible that he might adopt the latter business, for a few days at least. He had not forgotten Mr. Preston's injunction to let him know when he got out of business; but, as the second half dozen shirts would be ready in three or four days, he preferred to wait till then, and not make a special call on Mr Preston. He had considerable independence of feeling, and didn't like to put himself in the position of one asking a favor, though he had no objection to accept one voluntarily offered.

"Well, mother," he said, entering his humble home, "I am out of business."

"Has George recovered, then?"

"Yes, he was at the stand to-day, but wanted me to stay with him till this evening."

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" said Jimmy.

"Sorry that George has got well? For shame, Jimmy!"

"No, I don't mean that, Paul. I am sorry you are out of work."

"I shall find plenty to do, Jimmy. Perhaps Mr. Stewart will take me in as senior partner, if I ask him."

"I don't think he will," said Jimmy, laughing.

"Then perhaps I can get a few scholars in drawing. Can't you recommend me?"

"I am afraid not, Paul, unless you have improved a good deal."



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