When Paul was left in charge of the stand, and realized that it was his own, he felt a degree of satisfaction which can be imagined. He had been a newsboy, a baggage-smasher, and in fact had pretty much gone the round of the street trades, but now he felt that he had advanced one step higher. Some of my readers may not appreciate the difference, but to Paul it was a great one. He was not a merchant prince, to be sure, but he had a fixed place of business, and with his experience he felt confident he could make it pay.
"I am sure I can make from ten to fifteen dollars a week," he said to himself. "I averaged over a dollar a day when I worked for George Barry, and then I only got half-profits. Now I shall have the whole."
This consideration was a very agreeable one. He would be able to maintain his mother and little Jimmy in greater comfort than before, and this he cared more for than for any extra indulgences for himself. In fact, he could relieve his mother entirely from the necessity of working, and yet live better than at present. When Paul thought of this, it gave him a thrill of satisfaction, and made him feel almost like a man.
He set to work soliciting custom, and soon had sold three neckties at twenty-five cents each.
"All that money is mine," he thought, proudly. "I haven't got to hand any of it over to George Barry. That's a comfort."
As this thought occurred to him he recognized an old acquaintance strolling along the sidewalk in his direction. It was no other than Jim Parker, the friend and crony of Mike Donovan, who will be remembered as figuring in not a very creditable way in the earlier chapters of this story. It so happened that he and Paul had not met for some time, and Jim was quite ignorant of Paul's rise in life.
As for Jim himself, no great change had taken place in his appearance or prospects. His suit was rather more ragged and dirty than when we first made his acquaintance, having been worn night and day in the streets, by night stretched out in some dirty alley or out-of-the-way corner, where Jim found cheap lodgings. He strolled along with his hands in his pockets, not much concerned at the deficiencies in his costume.
"Hallo!" said he, stopping opposite Paul's stand. "What are you up to?"
"You can see for yourself," answered Paul. "I am selling neckties."
"How long you've been at it?"
"Who's your boss?"
"I haven't any."
"You ain't runnin' the stand yourself, be you?" asked Jim, in surprise.
"Where'd you borrow the stamps?"
"Of my mother," said Paul. "Can't I sell you a necktie this morning?"
"Not much," said Jim, laughing at the joke. "I've got my trunks stuffed full of 'em at home, but I don't wear 'em only Sundays. Do you make much money?"
"I expect to do pretty well."
"What made you give up sellin' prize packages?" asked Jim slyly.
"Customers like you," answered Paul.
"You didn't catch me that time you lost your basket," he said.
"That was a mean trick," said Paul, indignantly.
"You don't want to hire me to sell for you, do you?"
"That's where you're right. I don't."
"I'd like to go into the business."
"You'd better open a second-hand clothing store," suggested Paul, glancing at his companion's ragged attire.
"Maybe I will," said Jim with a grin, "if you'll buy of me."
"I don't like the style," said Paul. "Who's your tailor?"
"He lives round in Chatham street. Say, can't you lend a fellow a couple of shillin' to buy some breakfast?"
"Have you done any work to-day?"
"Then you can't expect to eat if you don't work."
"I didn't have no money to start with."
"Suppose you had a quarter, what would you do?"
"I'd buy a ten-cent plate of meat, and buy some evenin' papers with the rest."
"If you'll do that, I'll give you what you ask for."
"You'll give me two shillin'?" repeated Jim, incredulously, for he remembered how he had wronged Paul.
"Yes," said Paul. "Here's the money;" and he drew a twenty-five-cent piece from his vest pocket, and handed it to Jim.
"You give me that after the mean trick I played you?" said Jim.
"Yes; I am sorry for you and want to help you along."
"You're a brick!" exclaimed Jim, emphatically. "If any feller tries to play a trick on you, you just tell me, and I'll lam him."
"All right, Jim!" said Paul, kindly; "I'll remember it."
"There ain't anybody you want licked, is there?" asked Jim, earnestly.
"Not at present, thank you," said Paul, smiling.
"When you do, I'm on hand," said Jim. "Now I'll go and get some grub."
He shuffled along toward Ann street, where there was a cheap eating-house, in which ten cents would pay for a plate of meat. He was decidedly hungry, and did justice to the restaurant, whose style of cookery, though not very choice, suited him so well that he could readily have eaten three plates of meat instead of one, but for the prudent thought that compelled him to reserve enough to embark in business afterwards. Jim was certainly a hard ticket; but Paul's unexpected kindness had won him, and produced a more profound impression than a dozen floggings could have done. I may add that Jim proved luck in his business investment, and by the close of the afternoon had enough money to provide himself with supper and lodging, besides a small fund to start with the next day.
Paul sold three more neckties, and then, though it yet lacked an hour of the time when he generally proposed to close, he prepared to go home. He wanted to communicate the good news to his mother and little Jimmy.
Mrs. Hoffman raised her eyes from her sewing as he entered.
"Well, Paul," she said, "have you heard anything of the ring?"
"Yes, mother, it's sold."
"Is it? Well, we must do without it, then," said his mother in a tone of disappointment.
"There won't be any trouble about that, mother, as long as we have got the money for it. I would rather have that than the ring."
"Did you recover it, then?" asked his mother, eagerly.
"Yes, mother—listen and I will tell you all about it."
He sat down and told the story to two very attentive listeners.
"What did you do with the money, Paul?" asked Jimmy.
"Mr. Preston is keeping a hundred and fifty dollars for me. He will allow seven per cent. interest. But I must not forget that the money belongs to you, mother, and not to me. Perhaps you would prefer to deposit it in a savings bank."
"I am quite satisfied with your disposal of it, Paul," said Mrs. Hoffman. "I little thought, when I found the ring, that it would be of such service to us."
"It has set me up in business," said Paul, "and I am sure to make money. But I am getting out of stock. I must go round and buy some more neckties to-morrow."
"How much do you pay for your ties, Paul?" asked his mother.
"One shilling; I sell them for two. That gives me a good profit."
"I wonder whether I couldn't make them?" said Mrs. Hoffman. "I find there is no sewing at present to be got, and, besides," she added, "I think I would rather work for you than for a stranger."
"There is no need of your working, mother. I can earn enough to support the family."
"While I have health I would prefer to work, Paul."
"Then I will bring round some of the ties to-morrow. I have two or three kinds. There is nothing very hard about any of them. I think they would be easy to make."
"That will suit me much better than making shirts."
"Suppose I admit you to the firm, mother? I can get a large signboard, and have painted on it:
How would that sound?"
"I think I would leave the business part in your hands, Paul."
"I begin to feel like a wholesale merchant already," said Paul. "Who knows but I may be one some day?"
"Many successful men have begun as low down," said his mother; "with energy and industry much may be accomplished."
"Do you think I'll ever be a wholesale painter?" asked Jimmy, whose small ears had drank in the conversation.
"Better try for it, Jimmy," said Paul. "I don't know exactly what a wholesale painter is, unless it's one who paints houses."
"I shouldn't like that," said the little boy.
"Then, Jimmy, you'd better be a retail painter."
"I guess I will," said Jimmy, seriously.
Note: Thus far we have accompanied Paul Hoffman in his career. He is considerably better off than when we met him peddling prize packages in front of the post office. But we have reason to believe that greater success awaits him. He will figure in the next two volumes of this series, more particularly in the second, to be called "Slow and Sure; or, From the Sidewalk to the Shop." Before this appears, however, I propose to describe the adventures of a friend and protegee of Paul's—under the title of PHIL THE FIDDLER; OR, THE YOUNG STREET MUSICIAN.