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TOM TURNS OVER A NEW LEAF.
The communication which he had just read gave Tom much to think of. Up to this time he knew nothing of his past history. Now a clear light was thrown upon it, and it remained for him to decide what he would do. He knew as much as this, that the man who had wronged him was still living. Where he lived was unknown. That was the first thing to discover. The next was, to make him disgorge the property of which he was in unlawful possession. It seemed wonderful to Tom to reflect that, if he had his rights, he would be heir to a large fortune.
"There's a lot of money lyin' around loose somewheres that belongs to me," said Tom to himself. "Blest if it don't seem like a dream. I'd like to set eyes on that old feller with a scar again."
Tom leaned his head on his hand, and devoted five minutes to reflection. During that brief interval, he made up his mind what to do. He would leave New York, giving up his business into other hands, and set his face westward, in search of his fraudulent guardian and his fortune. He might have been embarrassed about this, but for the opportune legacy of old Jacob. It wasn't very large, but it would, at all events, start him on his journey. Then he must trust to luck and his own exertions for the rest.
He was not in the least afraid but that he could get along. He had supported himself for years, and he knew he could again.
I may as well warn my young readers here that there is no occasion for them to forsake comfortable homes to follow Tom's example. Circumstances alter cases, and, what was right for Tom, would not be right for them. I have in mind the case of two boys who left comfortable homes in quest of adventure, without any good reason, and were very glad to get back again in a few days, without a penny in their pockets, utterly unsuccessful. If fortune drives you out, do your best, but never leave a good home when you are well off, or you will repent it.
"I'll take some of this money," said Tom to himself, "and buy some clo'es. I ain't goin' to travel in these rags. Considerin' I'm heir to a fortune, I'll dress respectable."
Tom withdrew fifty dollars from the miser's hoard, then went to the hospital and left fifteen dollars to defray the expenses of Jacob's burial.
"It's the last I can do for him," thought Tom. "I hope, if I live to be as old as he was, somebody'll do as much for me."
The thought of his old companion made him sad for the moment, but his mind was full of his future plans, and he quickly became cheerful again.
Before going to buy new clothes, it struck Tom that it would be a good plan to take a bath. I should not like to say how long it was since he had washed himself all over, but it is well known that excessive neatness is not a characteristic of street-boys. It had never troubled Tom much to have a spot of blacking on his face, or to see his hands bearing the traces of the business by which he made his living. Now, however, he determined to turn over a new leaf.
"I'm going to set up for a gentleman," he said, "and I must look respectable."
There was a hotel near by, where warm and cold baths were provided to the general public, at twenty-five cents apiece. He made his way thither, and entered the barber shop adjoining. Just before him was a gentleman who inquired for a bath, and was led into the adjoining apartment. When the attendant came back, Tom went up to him.
"Well, boy; what's wanted?" he asked.
"I want a warm bath," answered Tom, boldly.
"You!" exclaimed the attendant, surveying the boy in alarm.
"Yes," said Tom. "Don't you think I need it?"
"I should say you did," returned the other. "How long since you took one?"
"I can't exactly remember," said Tom.
"Did you ever take a bath in your life?"
"That's a leadin' question," said Tom. "I never took any except at the Fifth Avenoo Hotel. They've got bully baths there."
"Have they? Then I think you'd better go there now."
"It's too far off, and I'm in a hurry. I'm invited to dine with the mayor, and I wouldn't like to go dirty."
"If you bathe here, we shall charge you double price."
"How much is that?"
"Well, I am rich. I can afford it."
"Money payable in advance."
"All right," said Tom. "Here's fifty cents. I'm a young man of fortun', though I don't look like it. I've been boot-blackin' for a joke. When I come in to my money, I'll get shaved here regular."
"You're a case," said the attendant, laughing.
"That's so," said Tom. "Now, just show me the bath-tub, and give me a bar of soap, and I'll get my money's worth."
The attendant led the way to the bath-room, first collecting the fifty cents which he had decided to charge. The water was turned on, and Tom went to work energetically to wash off the stains and dirt which, in the course of his street-life, he had contrived to accumulate. Tom never did anything by halves, and he set himself to work with a will, sparing neither strength nor soap. The result was that he effected a very great change for the better.
"I wish I'd got some better clo'es to put on," he thought, as with reluctance he drew on the ragged attire which had served him for some months, getting more ragged and dirty every day. "I'll buy some as soon as I get out."
He surveyed himself in the mirror and his long, unkempt locks attracted his attention.
"I must have my hair cut," he decided.
On his way out he saw a vacant chair, and seated himself in it.
"Do you want to be shaved?" asked one of the barbers.
"Not to-day," said Tom. "You may cut off some of my wool. Mind you give me a fashionable cut."
"Oh, I'll take care of that," said the journeyman.
"If you do what's right," said Tom, "I'll recommend all my friends on Fifth avenoo to come here."
"Is that the Fifth avenue style of coat?" asked the barber, pointing to several large holes in Tom's most prominent article of dress.
"It's a dress I wore to a masquerade ball last evenin'," said Tom. "I went in the character of a bootblack."
"You made a pretty good imitation," said the knight of the scissors, who had already commenced operations on Tom's head.
"That's what all the ladies told me," said Tom. "They said they wouldn't have knowed me from the genooine article."
In about twenty minutes the task was completed.
"How's that?" said the barber.
Tom looked in the mirror, and hardly recognized his image, so much was it altered by the careful arrangement of his hair.
"If it wasn't for the clo'es," he said, "I would think it was another boy."
He paid his bill and left the hotel.
"The next thing must be some new clo'es," he said to himself; "then I'll begin to feel respectable."
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