Paul the Peddler or the Fortunes of a Young Street Merchant
Horatio Alger, Jr.
Part 2 out of 4
addition to her household work, and in order to accomplish this,
even, she was obliged to work very steadily all day. Jimmy, of
course, earned nothing. Not that he was too young. There were
plenty of little newsboys who were as small as he--perhaps
smaller. I have seen boys, who did not appear to be more than
four years old, standing at the corners, crying the news in their
childish treble. But Paul was not willing to have Jimmy sent out
into the streets to undergo the rough discipline of street life.
He was himself of a strong, robust nature, and did not shrink
from the rough and tumble of life. He felt sure he could make
his way, and give as well as receive blows. But Jimmy was shy
and retiring, of a timid, shrinking nature, who would suffer from
what would only exhilarate Paul, and brace him for the contest.
So it was understood that Jimmy was to get an education, studying
at present at home with his mother, who had received a good
education, and that Mrs. Hoffman and Paul were to be the
breadwinners. "I wish mother didn't have to sit so steadily at
her work," thought Paul, many a time. He resolved some time to
relieve her from the necessity; but at present it was impossible.
To maintain their small family in comfort required all that both
The next morning Paul started out after breakfast for the street
stand, wondering what success he was destined to meet with.
About the middle of the forenoon Mrs. Hoffman prepared to go out.
"Do you think you can stay alone for an hour or two, Jimmy?" she
"Yes, mother," answered Jimmy, who was deep in a picture which he
was copying from one of the drawing-books Paul had bought him.
"Where are you going mother?"
"To carry back some work, Jimmy. I have got half-a-dozen shirts
done, and must return them, and ask for more."
"They ought to pay you more than twenty-five cents apiece,
mother. How long has it taken you to make them?"
"Nearly a week."
"That is only a dollar and a half for a week's work."
"I know it, Jimmy; but they can get plenty to work at that price,
so it won't do for me to complain. I shall be very glad if I can
get steady work, even at that price."
Jimmy said no more, and Mrs. Hoffman, gathering up her bundle,
She had a little more than half a mile to go. This did not
require long. She entered the large door, and advanced to the
counter behind which stood a clerk with a pen behind his ear.
"How many?" he said, as she laid the bundle upon the counter.
"Correct. I will look at them."
He opened the bundle hastily, and surveyed the work critically.
Luckily there was no fault to find, for Mrs. Hoffman was a
"They will do," he said, and, taking from a drawer the stipulated
sum, paid for them.
"Can I have some more?" asked Mrs. Hoffman, anxiously.
"Not to-day. We're overstocked with goods made up. We must
contract our manufacture."
This was unexpected, and carried dismay to the heart of the poor
woman. What she could earn was very little but it was important
"When do you think you can give me some more work?" she asked.
"It may be a month or six weeks," he answered, carelessly.
A month or six weeks! To have her supply of work cut off for so
long a time would, indeed, be a dire misfortune. But there was
nothing to say. Mrs. Hoffman knew very well that no one in the
establishment cared for her necessities. So, with a heavy heart,
she started for home, making up her mind to look elsewhere for
work in the afternoon. She could not help recalling, with
sorrow, the time when her husband was living, and they lived in a
pleasant little home, before the shadow of bereavement and
pecuniary anxiety had come to cloud their happiness. Still, she
was not utterly cast down. Paul had proved himself a manly and a
helpful boy, self-reliant and courageous, and, though they might
be pinched, she knew that as long as he was able to work they
would not actually suffer.
A NEW PATRON
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
"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
"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
"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."
"Yes; I was a poor boy, but I kept steadily at work, and now I am
"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?"
"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
"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
"Thank you, sir," said Paul. "My mother will accept the work
thankfully, and will try to suit you. When shall I come for the
"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
"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."
"Good-morning, sir. I suppose you don't want a tie this
"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
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
"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,
"Are you in earnest, Paul?" asked his mother, very much
"Quite in earnest, mother. There's a gentleman up-town that
wants a dozen shirts made, and is willing to pay ten shillings
"Ten shillings! Why, that's a dollar and a quarter."
"Of course it is. I told him I thought you would accommodate
"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.
"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
"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."
After supper Paul brushed his clothes carefully and prepared to
go to the address given him by Mr. Preston. He decided to walk
one way, not wishing to incur the expenses of two railroad fares.
The distance was considerable, and it was nearly eight o'clock
when he arrived at his destination.
Paul found himself standing before a handsome house of brown
stone. He ascended the steps, and inquired, on the door being
opened, if Mr. Preston was at home.
"I'll see," said the servant.
She returned in a short time, and said: "He says you may come
Paul followed the servant, who pointed out a door at the head of
the first staircase.
Paul knocked, and, hearing "Come in" from within, he opened the
door and entered.
He found himself in a spacious chamber, handsomely furnished.
Mr. Preston, in dressing-gown and slippers, sat before a
cheerful, open fire.
"Come and sit down by the fire," he said, sociably.
"Thank you, sir, I am warm with walking," and Paul took a seat
near the door.
"I am one of the cold kind," said Mr. Preston, "and have a fire
earlier than most people. You come about the shirts, I suppose?"
"Will your mother undertake them?"
"With pleasure, sir. She can no longer get work from the shop."
"Business dull, I suppose?"
"Then I am glad I thought of giving her the commission. How's
business with you to-day, eh?"
"Pretty good, sir."
"How many neckties did you sell?"
"And how much do you get for that?"
"Nine shillings and a half--a dollar and eighteen cents."
"That's pretty good for a boy like you. When I was of your age I
was working on a farm for my board and clothes."
"Were you, sir?" asked Paul, interested.
"Yes, I was bound out till I was twenty-one. At the end of that
time I was to receive a hundred dollars and a freedom suit to
begin the world with. That wasn't a very large capital, eh?"
"But the death of my employer put an end to my apprenticeship at
the age of eighteen. I hadn't a penny of money and was thrown
upon my own resources. However, I had a pair of good strong
arms, and a good stock of courage. I knew considerable about
farming, but I didn't like it. I thought I should like trade
better. So I went to the village merchant, who kept a small
dry-goods store, and arranged with him to supply me with a small
stock of goods, which I undertook to sell on commission for him.
His business was limited, and having confidence in my honesty, he
was quite willing to intrust me with what I wanted. So I set out
with my pack on my back and made a tour of the neighboring
Paul listened with eager interest. He had his own way to make,
and it was very encouraging to find that Mr. Preston, who was
evidently rich and prosperous, was no better off at eighteen than
he was now.
"You will want to know how I succeeded. Well, at first only
moderately; but I think I had some tact in adapting myself to the
different classes of persons with whom I came in contact; at any
rate, I was always polite, and that helped me. So my sales
increased, and I did a good thing for my employer as well as
myself. He would have been glad to employ me for a series of
years, but I happened to meet a traveling salesman of a New York
wholesale house, who offered to obtain me a position similar to
his own. As this would give me a larger field and larger
profits, I accepted gladly, and so changed the nature of my
employment. I became very successful. My salary was raised from
time to time, till it reached five thousand dollars. I lived
frugally and saved money, and at length bought an interest in the
house by which I had been so long employed. I am now senior
partner, and, as you may suppose, very comfortably provided for.
"Do you know why I have told you this?" asked Mr. Preston,
noticing the eagerness with which Paul had listened.
"I don't know, sir; but I have been very much interested."
"It is because I like to give encouragement to boys and young men
who are now situated as I used to be. I think you are a smart
"Thank you, sir."
"And, though you are poor, you can lift yourself to prosperity,
if you are willing to work hard enough and long enough."
"I am not afraid of work," said Paul, promptly.
"No, I do not believe you are. I can tell by a boy's face, and
you have the appearance of one who is willing to work hard. How
long have you been a street peddler?"
"About a year, sir. Before that time my father was living, and I
was kept at school."
"You will find the street a school, though of a different kind,
in which you can learn valuable lessons. If you can get time in
the evening, however, it will be best to keep up your school
"I am doing that now, sir."
"That is well. And now, about the shirts. Did your mother say
how long it would take her to make them?"
"About three weeks, I think, sir. Will that be soon enough?"
"That will do. Perhaps it will be well, however, to bring half
the number whenever they are finished."
"All right, sir."
"I suppose your mother can cut them out if I send a shirt as a
Mr. Preston rose, and, going to a bureau, took therefrom a shirt
which he handed to Paul. He then wrote a few lines on a slip of
paper, which he also handed our hero.
"That is an order on Barclay & Co.," he explained, "for the
requisite materials. If either you or your mother presents it,
they will be given you."
"Very good, sir," said Paul.
He took his cap, and prepared to go.
"Good-evening, Mr. Preston," he said.
"Good-evening. I shall expect you with the shirts when they are
Paul went downstairs and into the street, thinking that Mr.
Preston was very sociable and agreeable. He had fancied that
rich men were generally "stuck up," but about Mr. Preston there
seemed an absence of all pretense. Paul's ambition was aroused
when he thought of the story he had heard, and he wondered
whether it would be possible for him to raise himself to wealth
and live in as handsome a house as Mr. Preston. He thought what
a satisfaction it would be if the time should ever come when he
could free his mother from the necessity of work, and give little
Jimmy a chance to develop his talent for drawing. However, such
success must be a long way off, if it ever came.
He had intended to ride home, but his mind was so preoccupied
that he forgot all about it, and had got some distance on his way
before it occurred to him. Then, not feeling particularly tired,
he concluded to keep on walking, as he had commenced.
"It will save me six cents," he reflected, "and that is
something. If I am ever going to be a prosperous merchant, I
must begin to save now."
So he kept on walking. Passing the Cooper Institute, he came
into the Bowery, a broad and busy street, the humble neighbor of
Broadway, to which it is nearly parallel.
He was still engaged in earnest thought, when he felt a rude slap
on the back. Looking round, he met the malicious glance of Mike
Donovan, who probably would not have ventured on such a liberty
if he had not been accompanied by a boy a head taller than
himself, and, to judge from appearances, of about the same
"What did you do that for, Mike?" demanded Paul.
"None of your business. I didn't hurt you, did I?" returned
"No, but I don't care to be hit that way by you."
"So you're putting on airs, are you?"
"No, I don't do that," returned Paul; "but I don't care about
having anything to do with you."
"That's because you've got a new shirt, is it?" sneered Mike.
"It isn't mine."
"That's what I thought. Who did you steal it from?"
"Do you mean to insult me, Mike Donovan?" demanded Paul,
"Just as you like," said Mike, independently.
"If you want to know why I don't want to have anything to do with
you, I will tell you."
"Because you're a thief."
"If you say that again, I'll lick you," said Mike, reddening with
"It's true. You stole my basket of candy the other day, and that
isn't the only time you've been caught stealing."
"I'll give you the worst licking you ever had. Do you want to
fight?" said Mike, flourishing his fist.
"No, I don't," said Paul. "Some time when I haven't a bundle,
I'll accommodate you."
"You're a coward!" sneered Mike, gaining courage as he saw Paul
was not disposed for an encounter.
"I don't think I am," said Paul, coolly.
"I'll hold your shirt," said Mike's companion, with a grin, "if
you want to fight."
Paul, however, did not care to intrust the shirt to a stranger of
so unprepossessing an appearance.
He, therefore, attempted to pass on. But Mike, encouraged by his
reluctance, stepped up and shook his fist within an inch of
Paul's nose, calling him at the same time a coward. This was too
much for Paul's self-restraint. He dropped the shirt and pitched
into Mike in so scientific a manner that the latter was compelled
to retreat, and finally to flee at the top of his speed, not
without having first received several pretty hard blows.
"I don't think he will meddle with me again," said Paul to
himself, as he pulled down the sleeves of his jacket.
He walked back, and looked for the shirt which he had laid down
before commencing the combat. But he looked in vain. Nothing
was to be seen of the shirt or of Mike's companion. Probably
both had disappeared together.
BARCLAY & CO.
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
"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,"
"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.
"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
"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.
"Then," said Mrs. Hoffman, "I should like to have you send this."
"It's a great deal of trouble to send everything," said the
"This bundle is too heavy for me to carry," said the widow,
"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.
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.
THE BARREL THIEF
While Mike Donovan was engaged in his contest with Paul, his
companion had quietly walked off with the shirt. It mattered
very little to him which party conquered, as long as he carried
off the spoils. His conduct in the premises was quite as
unsatisfactory to Mike as it was to Paul. When Mike found
himself in danger of being overpowered, he appealed to his
companion for assistance, and was incensed to see him coolly
disregarding the appeal, and selfishly appropriating the booty.
"The mane thafe!" he exclaimed after the fight was over, and he
was compelled to retreat. "He let me be bate, and wouldn't lift
his finger to help me. I'd like to put a head on him, I would."
Just at that moment Mike felt quite as angry with his friend,
Jerry McGaverty, as with his late opponent.
"The shirt's mine, fair," he said to himself, "and I'll make
Jerry give it to me."
But Jerry had disappeared, and Mike didn't know where to look for
him. In fact, he had entered a dark alleyway, and, taking the
shirt from the paper in which it was wrapped, proceeded to
examine his prize.
The unusual size struck him.
"By the powers," he muttered, "it's big enough for me
great-grandfather and all his children. I wouldn't like to pay
for the cloth it tuck to make it. But I'll wear it, anyway."
Jerry was not particular as to an exact fit. His nether garments
were several sizes too large for him, and the shirt would
complete his costume appropriately. He certainly did need a new
shirt, for the one he had on was the only article of the kind he
possessed, and was so far gone that its best days, if it ever had
any, appeared to date back to a remote antiquity. It had been
bought cheap in Baxter street, its previous history being
Jerry decided to make the change at once. The alley afforded a
convenient place for making the transfer. He accordingly pulled
off the ragged shirt he wore and put on the article he had
purloined from Paul. The sleeves were too long, but he turned up
the cuffs, and the ample body he tucked inside his pants.
"It fits me too much," soliloquized Jerry, as he surveyed himself
after the exchange. "I could let out the half of it, and have
enough left for meself. Anyhow, it's clane, and it came chape
He came out of the alley, leaving his old shirt behind him. Even
if it had been worth carrying away, Jerry saw no use in
possessing more than one shirt. It was his habit to wear one
until it was ready to drop off from him, and then get another if
he could. There is a practical convenience in this arrangement,
though there are also objections which will readily occur to the
On the whole, though the shirt fitted him too much, as he
expressed it, he regarded himself complacently.
The superabundant material gave the impression of liberal
expenditure and easy circumstances, since a large shirt naturally
costs more than a small one. So Jerry, as he walked along the
Bowery, assumed a jaunty air, precisely such as some of my
readers may when they have a new suit to display. His new shirt
was quite conspicuous, since he was encumbered neither with vest
Mike, feeling sore over his defeat, met Jerry the next morning on
Chatham street. His quick eye detected the improved state of his
friend's apparel, and his indignation rose, as he reflected that
Jerry had pocketed the profits while the hard knocks had been
"Jerry!" he called out.
Jerry did not see fit to heed the call. He was sensible that
Mike had something to complain of, and he was in no hurry to meet
"Jerry McGaverty!" called Mike, coming near.
"Oh, it's you, Mike, is it?" answered Jerry, unable longer to
keep up the pretense of not hearing.
"Yes, it's me," said Mike. "What made you leave me for last
"I didn't want to interfere betwane two gintlemen," said Jerry,
with a grin. "Did you mash him, Mike?"
"No," said Mike, sullenly, "he mashed me. Why didn't you help
"I thought you was bating him, so, as I had some business to
attind to, I went away."
"You went away wid the shirt."
"Yes, I took it by mistake. Ain't it an illigant fit?"
"It's big enough for two of you."
"Maybe I'll grow to it in time," said Jerry.
"And how much are you goin' to give me for my share?" demanded
"Say that ag'in," said Jerry.
Mike repeated it.
"I thought maybe I didn't hear straight. It ain't yours at all.
Didn't I take it?"
"You wouldn't have got it if I hadn't fit with Paul."
"That ain't nothin' to me," said Jerry. "The shirt's mine, and
I'll kape it."
Mike felt strongly tempted to "put a head on" Jerry, whatever
that may mean; but, as Jerry was a head taller already, the
attempt did not seem quite prudent. He indulged in some forcible
remarks, which, however, did not disturb Jerry's equanimity.
"I'll give you my old shirt, Mike," he said, "if you can find it.
I left it in an alley near the Old Bowery."
"I don't want the dirty rag," said Mike, contemptuously.
Finally a compromise was effected, Jerry offering to help Mike on
the next occasion, and leave the spoils in his hands.
I have to chronicle another adventure of Jerry's, in which he was
less fortunate than he had been in the present case. He was a
genuine vagabond, and lived by his wits, being too lazy to devote
himself to any regular street employment, as boot blacking or
selling newspapers. Occasionally he did a little work at each of
these, but regular, persistent industry was out of his line. He
was a drone by inclination, and a decided enemy to work. On the
subject of honesty his principles were far from strict. If he
could appropriate what did not belong to him he was ready to do
so without scruple. This propensity had several times brought
him into trouble, and he had more than once been sent to reside
temporarily on Blackwell's Island, from which he had returned by
no means improved.
Mike was not quite so much of a vagabond as his companion. He
could work at times, though he did not like it, and once pursued
the vocation of a bootblack for several months with fair success.
But Jerry's companionship was doing him no good, and it seemed
likely that eventually he would become quite as shiftless as
Jerry, having no breakfast, strolled down to one of the city
markets. He frequently found an opportunity of stealing here,
and was now in search of such a chance. He was a dexterous and
experienced barrel thief, a term which it may be necessary to
explain. Barrels, then, have a commercial value, and coopers
will generally pay twenty-five cents for one in good condition.
This is enough, in the eyes of many a young vagabond, to pay for
the risk incurred in stealing one.
Jerry prowled round the market for some time, seeking a good
opportunity to walk off with an apple or banana, or something
eatable. But the guardians of the stands seemed unusually
vigilant, and he was compelled to give up the attempt, as
involving too great risk. Jerry was hungry, and hunger is an
uncomfortable feeling. He began to wish he had remained
satisfied with his old shirt, dirty as it was, and carried the
new one to some of the Baxter street dealers, from whom he could
perhaps have got fifty cents for it. Now, fifty cents would have
paid for a breakfast and a couple of cigars, and those just now
would have made Jerry happy.
"What a fool I was not to think of it!" he said. "The old shirt
would do me, and I could buy a bully breakfast wid the money I'd
get for this."
Just at this moment he espied an empty barrel--a barrel
apparently quite new and in an unguarded position. He resolved
to take it, but the affair must be managed slyly.
He lounged up to the barrel, and leaned upon it indolently.
Then, in apparent unconsciousness, he began to turn it, gradually
changing its position. If observed, he could easily deny all
felonious intentions. This he kept up till he got round the
corner, when, glancing around to see if he was observed, he
quickly lifted it on his shoulder and marched off.
All this happened without his being observed by the owner of the
barrel. But a policeman, who chanced to be going his rounds, had
been a witness of Jerry's little game. He remained quiet till
Jerry's intentions became evident, then walked quietly up and put
his hand on his shoulder.
"Put down that barrel!" he said, authoritatively.
Jerry had been indulging in visions of the breakfast he would get
with the twenty-five cents he expected to obtain for the barrel,
and the interruption was not an agreeable one. But he determined
to brazen it out if possible.
"What for will I put it down?" he said.
"Because you have stolen it, that's why."
"No," said Jerry, "I'm carrying it round to my boss. It's his."
"Where do you work?"
"In Fourth street," said Jerry, at random.
"Then your boss will have to get some one in your place, for you
will have to come with me."
"I saw you steal the barrel. You're a barrel thief, and this
isn't the first time you've been caught at it. Carry back the
barrel to the place you took it from and then come with me."
Jerry tried to beg off, but without avail.
At that moment Mike Donovan lounged up. When he saw his friend
in custody, he felt a degree of satisfaction, remembering the
trick Jerry had played on him.
"Where are you goin', Jerry?" he asked, with a grin, as he
passed him. "Did ye buy that barrel to kape your shirt in?"
Jerry scowled but thought it best not to answer, lest his
unlawful possession of the shirt might also be discovered, and
lead to a longer sentence.
"He's goin' down to the island to show his new shirt," thought
Mike, with a grin. "Maybe he'll set the fashion there."
Mike was right. Jerry was sent to the island for two months,
there introducing Mr. Preston's shirt to company little dreamed
of by its original proprietor.
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
"I hope they will."
"How much do you think I have made?" continued Paul.
"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
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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Well, mother," he said, entering his humble home, "I am out of
"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
"I am afraid not, Paul, unless you have improved a good deal."
THE DIAMOND RING
Paul was up betimes the next morning. He had made up his mind
for a few days, at least, to sell newspapers, and it was
necessary in this business to begin the day early. He tool a
dollar with him and invested a part of it in a stock of dailies.
He posted himself in Printing House square, and began to look out
for customers. Being an enterprising boy, he was sure to meet
with fair success in any business which he undertook. So it
happened that at ten o'clock he had sold out his stock of papers,
and realized a profit of fifty cents.
It was getting late for morning papers, and there was nothing
left to do till the issue of the first edition of the afternoon
"I'll go down and see how George Barry is getting along," thought
He crossed Broadway and soon reached the familiar stand.
"How's business, George?" he inquired.
"Fair," said Barry. "I've sold four ties."
"How do you feel?"
"I'm not so strong as I was, yet. I get tired more easily. I
don't think I shall stay in this business long."
"You don't? What will you do then?"
"I've got a chance in Philadelphia, or I shall have by the first
of the month."
"What sort of a chance?"
"Mother got a letter yesterday from a cousin of hers who has a
store on Chestnut street. He offers to take me as a clerk, and
give me ten dollars a week at first, and more after a while."
"That's a good offer. I should like to get one like it."
"I'll tell you what, Paul, you'd better buy out my stand. You
know how to sell ties, and can make money."
"There's only one objection, George."
"I haven't got any capital."
"It don't need much."
"I'll sell out all my stock at cost price."
"How much do you think there is?"
"About twenty-five dollars' worth. Then there is the frame,
which is worth, say ten dollars, making thirty-five in all. That
"It's more than I've got. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll take
it, and pay you five dollars down and the rest in one month."
"I would take your offer, Paul, but I need all the money how. It
will be expensive moving to Philadelphia and I shall want all I
"I wish I could buy you out," said Paul, thoughtfully.
"Can't you borrow the money?"
"How soon do you want to give up?"
"It's the seventeenth now. I should like to get rid of it by the
"I'll see what I can do. Just keep it for me till to-morrow."
Paul walked home revolving in his mind this unexpected
opportunity. He had made, as George Barry's agent, a dollar a
day, though he received only half the profits. If he were
himself the proprietor, and did equally well, he could make
twelve dollars a week. The calculation almost took away his
breath. Twelve dollars a week would make about fifty dollars a
month. It would enable him to contribute more to the support of
the family, and save up money besides. But the great problem
was, how to raise the necessary money. If Paul had been a
railroad corporation, he might have issued first mortgage bonds
at a high rate of interest, payable in gold, and negotiated them
through some leading banker. But he was not much versed in
financial schemes, and therefore was at a loss. The only wealthy
friend he had was Mr. Preston, and he did not like to apply to
him till he had exhausted other ways and means.
"What makes you so sober, Paul?" asked his mother, as he entered
the room. "You are home early."
"Yes, I sold all my papers, and thought I would take an early
dinner, so as to be on hand in time for the first afternoon
"Don't you feel well?"
"Tiptop; but I've had a good offer, and I'm thinking whether I
can accept it."
"What sort of an offer?"
"George Barry wants to sell out his stand."
"How much does he ask?"
"Is it worth that?"
"Yes, it's worth all that, and more, too. If I had it I could
make two dollars a day. But I haven't got thirty-five dollars."
"I can let you have nine, Paul. I had a little saved up, and I
haven't touched the money Mr. Preston paid me for the shirts."
"I've got five myself, but that will only make fourteen."
"Won't he wait for the rest?"
"No, he's going to Philadelphia early next week, and wants the
whole in cash."
"It would be a pity to lose such a good chance," said Mrs.
"That's what I think."
"You could soon save up the money on two dollars a day."
"I could pay for it in a month--I mean, all above the fourteen
dollars we have."
"In a day or two I shall have finished the second half-dozen
shirts, and then I suppose Mr. Preston will pay me nine dollars
more. I could let you have six dollars of that."
"That would make twenty. Perhaps George Barry will take that.
If he won't I don't know but I will venture to apply to Mr.
"He seems to take an interest in you. Perhaps he would trust you
with the money."
"I could offer him a mortgage on the stock," said Paul.
"If he has occasion to foreclose, he will be well provided with
neckties," said Mrs. Hoffman, smiling.
"None of which he could wear. I'll tell you what, mother, I
should like to pick up a pocketbook in the street, containing,
say, twenty or twenty-five dollars."
"That would be very convenient," said his mother; "but I think it
will hardly do to depend on such good luck happening to you. By
the way," she said, suddenly, "perhaps I can help you, after all.
Don't you remember that gold ring I picked up in Central Park two
"The one you advertised?"
"Yes. I advertised, or, rather, your father did; but we never
found an owner for it."
"I remember it now, mother. Have you got the ring still?"
"I will get it."
Mrs. Hoffman went to her trunk, and, opening it, produced the
ring referred to. It was a gold ring with a single stone of
"I don't know how much it is worth," said Mrs. Hoffman; "but if
the ring is a diamond, as I think it is, it must be worth as much
as twenty dollars."
"Did you ever price it?"
"No, Paul; I have kept it, thinking that it would be something to
fall back upon if we should ever be hard pressed. As long as we
were able to get along without suffering, I thought I would keep
it. Besides, I had another feeling. It might belong to some
person who prized it very much, and the time might come when we
could find the owner. However, that is not likely after so long
a time. So, if you cannot raise the money in any other way, you
may sell the ring."
"I might pawn it for thirty days, mother. By that time I should
be able to redeem it with the profits of my business."
"I don't think you could get enough from a pawn-broker."
"I can try, at any rate; but first I will see George Barry, and
find out whether he will take twenty dollars down, and the rest
at the end of a month."
Paul wrapped up the ring in a piece of paper, and deposited it in
his vest pocket. He waited till after dinner, and then went at
once to the necktie stand, where he made the proposal to George
The young man shook his head.
"I'd like to oblige you, Paul," he said, "but I must have the
money. I have an offer of thirty-two dollars, cash, from another
party, and I must take up with it if I can't do any better. I'd
rather sell out to you, but you know I have to consult my own
"Of course, George, I can't complain of that."
"I think you will be able to borrow the money somewhere."
"Most of my friends are as poor as myself," said Paul. "Still, I
think I shall be able to raise the money. Only wait for me two
"Yes, Paul, I'll wait that long. I'd like to sell out to you, if
only because you have helped me when I was sick. But for you all
that would have been lost time."
"Where there's a will there's a way, George," said Paul. "I'm
bound to buy your stand and I will raise the money somehow."
Paul bought a few papers, for he did not like to lose the
afternoon trade, and in an hour had sold them all off, realizing
a profit of twenty cents. This made his profits for the day
"That isn't as well as I used to do," said Paul to himself, "but
perhaps I can make something more by and by. I will go now and
see what I can get for the ring."
As he had determined, he proceeded to a pawnbroker's shop which
he had often passed. It was on Chatham street, and was kept by
an old man, an Englishman by birth, who, though he lived meanly
in a room behind his shop, was popularly supposed to have
accumulated a considerable fortune.
THE PAWNBROKER'S SHOP
Stuffed behind the counter, and on the shelves of the
pawnbroker's shop, were articles in almost endless variety. All
was fish that came to his net. He was willing to advance on
anything that had a marketable value, and which promised to yield
him, I was about to say, a fair profit. But a fair profit was
far from satisfying the old man. He demanded an extortionate
profit from those whom ill-fortune drove to his door for relief.
Eliakim Henderson, for that was his name, was a small man, with a
bald head, scattering yellow whiskers, and foxlike eyes.
Spiderlike he waited for the flies who flew of their own accord
into his clutches, and took care not to let them go until he had
levied a large tribute. When Paul entered the shop, there were
three customers ahead of him. One was a young woman, whose pale
face and sunken cheeks showed that she was waging an unequal
conflict with disease. She was a seamstress by occupation, and
had to work fifteen hours a day to earn the little that was
barely sufficient to keep body and soul together. Confined in
her close little room on the fourth floor, she scarcely dared to
snatch time to look out of the window into the street beneath,
lest she should not be able to complete her allotted task. A two
days' sickness had compelled her to have recourse to Eliakim
Henderson. She had under her arm a small bundle covered with an
old copy of the Sun.
"What have you got there?" asked the old man, roughly. "Show it
quick, for there's others waiting."
Meekly she unfolded a small shawl, somewhat faded from long use.
"What will you give me on that?" she asked, timidly.
"It isn't worth much."
"It cost five dollars."
"Then you got cheated. It never was worth half the money. What
do you want on it?"
The seamstress intended to ask a dollar and a half, but after
this depreciation she did not venture to name so high a figure.
"A dollar and a quarter," she said.
"A dollar and a quarter!" repeated the old man, shrilly. "Take
it home with you. I don't want it."
"What will you give?" asked the poor girl, faintly.
"Fifty cents. Not a penny more."
"Fifty cents!" she repeated, in dismay, and was about to refold
it. But the thought of her rent in arrears changed her
"I'll take it, sir."
The money and ticket were handed her, and she went back to her
miserable attic-room, coughing as she went.
"Now, ma'am," said Eliakim.
His new customer was an Irish woman, by no means consumptive in
appearance, red of face and portly of figure.
"And what'll ye be givin' me for this?" she asked, displaying a
pair of pantaloons.
"Are they yours, ma'am?" asked Eliakim, with a chuckle.
"It's not Bridget McCarty that wears the breeches," said that
lady. "It's me husband's, and a dacent, respectable man he is,
barrin' the drink, which turns his head. What'll ye give for
"Name your price," said Eliakim, whose principle it was to insist
upon his customers making the first offer.
"Twelve shillin's," said Bridget.
"Twelve shillings!" exclaimed Eliakim, holding up both hands.
"That's all they cost when they were new."
"They cost every cint of five dollars," said Bridget. "They was
made at one of the most fashionable shops in the city. Oh, they
was an illigant pair when they was new."
"How many years ago was that?" asked the pawnbroker.
"Only six months, and they ain't been worn more'n a month."
"I'll give you fifty cents."
"Fifty cints!" repeated Mrs. McCarty, turning to the other
customers, as if to call their attention to an offer so out of
proportion to the valuable article she held in her hand. "Only
fifty cints for these illigant breeches! Oh, it's you that's a
hard man, that lives on the poor and the nady."
"You needn't take it. I should lose money on it, if you didn't
"He says he'd lose money on it," said Mrs. McCarty. "And suppose
he did, isn't he a-rollin' in gold?"
"I'm poor," said Eliakim; "almost as poor as you, because I'm too
liberal to my customers."
"Hear till him!" said Mrs. McCarty. "He says he's liberal and
only offers fifty cints for these illigant breeches."
"Will you take them or leave them?" demanded the pawnbroker,
"You may give me the money," said Bridget; "and it's I that
wonder how you can slape in your bed, when you are so hard on
Mrs. McCarty departed with her money, and Eliakim fixed his sharp
eyes on the next customer. It was a tall man, shabbily dressed,
with a thin, melancholy-looking face, and the expression of one
who had struggled with the world, and failed in the struggle.
"How much for this?" he asked, pointing to the violin, and
speaking in a slow, deliberate tone, as if he did not feel at
home in the language.
"What do you want for it?"
"Ten dollar," he answered.
"Ten dollars! You're crazy!" was the contemptuous comment of
"He is a very good violin," said the man. "If you would like to
hear him," and he made a movement as if to play upon it.
"Never mind!" said Eliakim. "I haven't any time to hear it. If
it were new it would be worth something; but it's old, and----"
"But you do not understand," interrupted the customer, eagerly.
"It is worth much more than new. Do you see, it is by a famous
maker? I would not sell him, but I am poor, and my Bettina needs
bread. It hurts me very much to let him go. I will buy him back
as soon as I can."
"I will give you two dollars, but I shall lose on it, unless you
"Two dollar!" repeated the Italian. "Ocielo! it is nothing.
But Bettina is at home without bread, poor little one! Will you
not give three dollar?"
"Not a cent more."
"I will take it."
"There's your money and ticket."
And with these the poor Italian departed, giving one last
lingering glance at his precious violin, as Eliakim took it
roughly and deposited it upon a shelf behind him. But he thought
of his little daughter at home, and the means of relief which he
held in his hand, and a smile of joy lightened his melancholy
features. The future might be dark and unpromising, but for
three days, at any rate, she should not want bread.
Paul's turn came next.
"What have you got?" asked the pawnbroker.
Paul showed the ring.
Eliakim took it, and his small, beadlike eyes sparkled
avariciously as he recognized the diamond, for his experience was
such that he could form a tolerably correct estimate of its
value. But he quickly suppressed all outward manifestations of
interest, and said, indifferently, "What do you want for it?"
"I want twenty dollars," said Paul, boldly.
"Twenty dollars!" returned the pawnbroker. "That's a joke."
"No, it isn't," said Paul. "I want twenty dollars, and you can't
have the ring for less."
"If you said twenty shillings, I might give it to you," said
Eliakim; "but you must think I am a fool to give twenty dollars."
"That's cheap for a diamond ring," said Paul. "It's worth a good
The pawnbroker eyed Paul sharply. Did the boy know that it was a
diamond ring? What chance was there of deceiving him as to its
value? The old man, whose business made him a good judge,
decided that the ring was not worth less than two hundred and
fifty dollars, and if he could get it into his possession for a
trifle, it would be a paying operation.
"You're mistaken, boy," he said. "It's not a diamond."
"What is it?"
"A very good imitation."
"How much is it worth?"
"I'll give you three dollars."
"That won't do. I want to raise twenty dollars, and if I can't
get that, I'll keep the ring."
The pawnbroker saw that he had made a mistake. Paul was not as
much in need of money as the majority of his customers. He would
rather pay twenty dollars than lose the bargain, though it went
against the grain to pay so much money. But after pronouncing
the stone an imitation, how could he rise much above the offer he
had already made? He resolved to approach it gradually.
Surveying it more closely, he said:
"It is an excellent imitation. I will give you five dollars."
Paul was not without natural shrewdness, and this sudden advance
convinced him that it was, after all, a real stone. He
determined to get twenty dollars or carry the ring home.
"Five dollars won't do me any good," he said. "Give me back the
"Five dollars is a good deal of money," said Eliakim.
"I'd rather have the ring."
"What is your lowest price?"
"I'll give you eight."
"Just now you said it was worth only three," said Paul, sharply.
"It is very fine gold. It is better than I thought. Here is the
"You're a little too fast," said Paul, coolly. "I haven't agreed
to part with the ring for eight dollars, and I don't mean to.
Twenty dollars is my lowest price."
"I'll give you ten," said the old man, whose eagerness increased
with Paul's indifference.
"No, you won't. Give me back the ring."
"I might give eleven, but I should lose money."
"I don't want you to lose money, and I've concluded to keep the
ring," said Paul, rightly inferring from the old man's eagerness
that the ring was much more valuable than he had at first
But the old pawnbroker was fascinated by the sparkling bauble.
He could not make up his mind to give it up. By fair means or
foul he must possess it. He advanced his bid to twelve,
fourteen, fifteen dollars, but Paul shook his head resolutely.
He had made up his mind to carry it to Ball & Black's, or some
other first-class jewelers, and ascertain whether it was a real
diamond or not, and if so to obtain an estimate of its value.
"I've changed my mind," he said. "I'll keep the ring. Just give
it back to me."
THE JEWELER'S PRICE
But to give it back was not Eliakim's intention. Should he buy
it at twenty dollars, he would make at least two hundred, and
such bargains were not to be had every day. He decided to give
Paul his price.
"I will give you twenty dollars," he said; "but it is more than
the ring is worth."
"I have concluded not to take twenty dollars," said Paul. "You
may give it back."
"You agreed to take twenty dollars," said Eliakim, angrily.
"That was when I first came in. You said you wouldn't give it."
"I have changed my mind."
"So have I," said Paul. "You had a chance to get it, but now
it's too late."
Eliakim was deeply disappointed. Generally he had his own way
with his customers, who, being in urgent need of money, were
obliged to accept such terms as he chose to offer. But now the
tables were turned, and Paul proved more than a match for him.
He resolved to attempt intimidation.
"Boy, where did you get this ring?" he asked, in a significant
"Honestly," said Paul. "That's all you need to know."
"I don't believe it," said the old man, harshly. "I believe you
"You may believe what you like, but you must give it back to me,"
said Paul, coolly.
"I've a great mind to call a policeman," said Eliakim.
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