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Chapter 9


Mrs. Hoffman went out in the afternoon, and visited several large establishments in the hope of obtaining work. But everywhere she was met with the stereotyped reply, "Business is so dull that we are obliged to turn off some who are accustomed to work for us. We have no room for new hands."

Finally she decided that it would be of no use to make any further applications, and went home, feeling considerably disheartened.

"I must find something to do," she said to herself. "I cannot throw upon Paul the entire burden of supporting the family."

But it was not easy to decide what to do. There are so few paths open to a woman like Mrs. Hoffman. She was not strong enough to take in washing, nor, if she had been, would Paul, who was proud for his mother, though not for himself, have consented to her doing it. She determined to think it over during the evening, and make another attempt to get work of some kind the next day.

"I won't tell Paul till to-morrow night," she decided. "Perhaps by that time I shall have found something to do."

All that day, the first full day in his new business, Paul sold eighteen ties. He was not as successful proportionately as the previous afternoon. Still his share of the profits amounted to a dollar and twelve cents, and he felt quite satisfied. His sales had been fifty per cent. more than George Barry's average sales, and that was doing remarkably well, considering that the business was a new one to him.

The next morning about ten o'clock, as he stood behind his stand, he saw a stout gentleman approaching from the direction of the Astor House. He remembered him as the one with whom he had accidentally come in collision when he was in pursuit of Mike Donovan. Having been invited to speak to him, he determined to do so.

"Good-morning, sir," said Paul, politely.

"Eh? Did you speak to me?" inquired the stout gentleman.

"Yes, sir; I bade you good-morning."

"Good-morning. I don't remember you, though. What's your name?"

"Paul Hoffman. Don't you remember my running against you a day or two since?"

"Oho! you're the boy, then. You nearly knocked the breath out of me."

"I am very sorry, sir."

"Of course you didn't mean to. Is this your stand?"

"No, sir; I am tending for the owner, who is sick."

"Does he pay you well?"

"He gives me half the profits."

"And does that pay you for your labor?"

"I can earn about a dollar a day."

"That is good. It is more than I earned when I was of your age."

"Indeed, sir!"

"Yes; I was a poor boy, but I kept steadily at work, and now I am rich."

"I hope I shall be rich some time," said Paul.

"You have the same chance that I had."

"I don't care so much for myself as for my mother and my little brother. I should like to become rich for their sake."

"So you have a mother and a brother. Where do they live?"

Paul told him.

"And you help support them?"

"Yes, sir."

"That's a good boy," said the gentleman, approvingly. "Is your mother able to earn anything?"

"Not much, sir. She makes shirts for a Broadway store, but they only pay her twenty-five cents apiece."

"That's very small. She can sew well, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes, sir; no fault is ever found with her work."

"Do you think she would make me a dozen shirts?"

"She would be glad to do so," said Paul, quickly, for he knew that his new acquaintance would pay far more liberally than the Broadway firm.

"I will give the price I usually pay—ten shillings apiece."

Ten shillings in New York currency amount to a dollar and a quarter, which would be five times the price Mrs Hoffman had been accustomed to receive. A dozen shirts would come to fifteen dollars, which to a family in their circumstances would be a great help.

"Thank you, sir," said Paul. "My mother will accept the work thankfully, and will try to suit you. When shall I come for the cloth?"

"You may come to my house this evening, and I will give you a pattern, and an order for the materials on a dry goods dealer in Broadway."

"Where do you live, sir?"

"No. —— Madison avenue, between Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fifth streets. My name is Preston. Can you remember it?"

"Yes, sir; but I will put it down to make sure."

"Well, good-morning."

"Good-morning, sir. I suppose you don't want a tie this morning?"

"I don't think you keep the kind I am accustomed to wear," said Mr. Preston, smiling. "I stick to the old fashions, and wear a stock."

The old gentleman had scarcely gone, when two boys of twelve or thirteen paused before the stand.

"That's a bully tie, Jeff!" said George, the elder of the two. "I have a good mind to buy it."

"It won't cost much," said Jeff. "Only twenty-five cents. But I like that one better."

"If you buy one, I will."

"All right," said Jeff, whose full name was Jefferson. "We can wear them to dancing-school this afternoon."

So the two boys bought a necktie, and this, in addition to previous sales, made six sold during the morning.

"I hope I shall do as well as I did yesterday," thought Paul. "If I can make nine shillings every day I won't complain. It is better than selling prize-packages."

Paul seemed likely to obtain his wish, since at twelve o'clock, when he returned home to dinner, he had sold ten ties, making rather more than half of the previous day's sales.

Mrs. Hoffman had been out once more, but met with no better success than before. There seemed to be no room anywhere for a new hand. At several places she had seen others, out of employment like herself, who were also in quest of work. The only encouragement she received was that probably in a month or six weeks business might so far improve that she could obtain work. But to Mrs. Hoffman it was a serious matter to remain idle even four weeks. She reflected that Paul's present employment was only temporary, and that he would be forced to give up his post as soon as George Barry should recover his health, which probably would be within a week or two. She tried in vain to think of some temporary employment, and determined, in case she should be unsuccessful in the afternoon, which she hardly anticipated, to consult Paul what she had better do.

Paul noticed when he came in that his mother looked more sober and thoughtful than usual.

"Have you a headache, mother?" he inquired.

"No, Paul," she said, smiling faintly.

"Something troubles you, I am sure," continued Paul.

"You are right, Paul," said Mrs. Hoffman, "though I didn't mean to tell you till evening."

"What is it?" asked Paul, anxiously.

"When I carried back the last shirts I made for Duncan & Co., they told me I couldn't have any more for a month or six weeks."

"That will give you some time to rest, mother," said Paul, who wanted to keep back his good news for a while.

"But I can't afford to rest, Paul."

"You forget that I am earning money, mother. I am sure I can earn a dollar a day."

"I know you are a good, industrious boy, Paul, and I don't know how we should get along without you. But it is necessary for me to do my part, though it is small."

"Don't be anxious, mother; I am sure we can get along."

"But I am not willing that the whole burden of supporting the family should come upon you. Besides, you are not sure how long you can retain your present employment."

"I know that, mother; but something else will be sure to turn up. If I can't do anything else, I can turn bootblack, though I would prefer something else. There is no chance of my being out of work long."

"There are fewer things for me to do," said his mother, "but perhaps you can think of something. I shall go out this afternoon, and try my luck once more. If I do not succeed, I will consult with you this evening."

"Suppose I tell you that I have work for you, enough to last for two or three weeks, that will pay five times as well as the work you have been doing; what would you say to that?" asked Paul, smiling.

"Are you in earnest, Paul?" asked his mother, very much surprised.

"Quite in earnest, mother. There's a gentleman up-town that wants a dozen shirts made, and is willing to pay ten shillings apiece."

"Ten shillings! Why, that's a dollar and a quarter."

"Of course it is. I told him I thought you would accommodate him."

"You are sure I can get the work to do?"

"Certainly. I am to go up to his house this evening and get the pattern and an order for the materials."

"It seems too good to be true," said his mother. "Why, I can earn at least a dollar a day."

"Then you will be doing as well as I am."

"Tell me how you heard of it, Paul," said Mrs. Hoffman.

Paul told the story of the manner in which he formed Mr. Preston's acquaintance.

"It's lucky you ran into him, Paul," said Jimmy.

"He didn't think so at the time," said Paul, laughing. "He said I nearly knocked the breath out of him."

"You won't go out this afternoon, mother, will you?" asked Jimmy.

"No, it will not be necessary now; I didn't think this morning that such a piece of good luck was in store for, me."

Horatio Alger

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