Part 2 out of 4
alone, yet, by a general consent, it was accepted as the form of the
little girl that had fallen overboard.
A second figure was seen working his way toward the nerveless and silent
The two were no more than fairly out of the path of the steamer, which was
gliding so closely by them that any movement of the wheels would have
Among those who forced their way to the side of the boat was the lad who
gave utterance to the words before recorded. It was natural that he should
be deeply interested when his dearest friend was risking his life to save
another. As soon as the lad on the boat caught fair sight of the other, he
"Hello, Tom! do you want any help?"
"Three chaars for the wee one!" called out an Irishman, boiling over with
enthusiasm, "and if there's a spalpeen on boord that don't jine in, I'll
crack the head of the same, or me name isn't Patsey McConough!"
But the deck-hands had not been idle spectators during the few minutes
since the accident.
Prompt as they had been, the children were, however, so far off at the
moment of tossing over the life-preservers and hurling out the ropes, that
none reached the lad, who was too intent on saving the child to pay any
attention to these little helps, which he did not need.
When the craft stood at a dead halt, the engineer caused a slight and only
partial reverse movement of the wheels, so as to approach the couple.
"Yes, there he comes," shouted a tall fellow, leaning so far over the rail
that he was in danger of falling, "and I'm blessed if he ain't got the
Such was the fact, as all perceived the next moment. The boy was
supporting the little form with one hand, while he propelled himself with
As soon as Tom came within reach, another lasso-like fling was made, the
coil dropping so near the boy that he succeeded in grasping it with his
Whoever the little fellow was that was acting the _role_, he certainly was
a genius in his way. His presence of mind was almost marvelous.
When the waves from the threshing-paddle so unexpectedly overwhelmed him,
he had just time to draw a deep inspiration before he was environed by
death. The most skillful swimmer in the world cannot sustain himself in
sea-foam, or in the white caps of the breakers. The only safe course when
thus caught is to hold your breath and wait for "solid water," where you
can paddle your own canoe.
Almost any one thus entrapped would have let go the rope and been drowned,
but the boy held on with the grip of death, and as soon as he could catch
a mouthful of fresh air, shouted,--
"Pull up; I'm all right."
A dozen hands were outstretched to help, and the next minute the brave
lad, still holding the senseless girl with one arm, was drawn up on deck,
and received into the crowd, who almost pulled him apart in their frenzied
It was found that the little girl was alive, and carrying her into the
cabin where her mother had just recovered from her swoon, a medical
gentleman announced that there was nothing to fear.
The wheels of the ferry-boat were again in motion, and the slip was
reached, while a hundred men were demanding the name of the young hero,
praising him, offering to make up a purse, hurrahing, and going wild over
what was unquestionably a most praiseworthy deed.
In the midst of the excitement and rattling of chains, the crowd swarmed
off the boat, and the lads were lost sight of.
Tom Gordon was not only brave, but he was modest; and he hurried away from
the swarming crowd as soon as he was free of the ferry-boat, for he found
it anything but pleasant to be looked upon and treated as a lion. Turning
off into one of the intersecting streets, the two lads walked along in
silence, when Tom said,--
"Do you know, Jim, I'm half-frozen?"
The rattling teeth emphasized the question.
"I should think you would be. Here's a place of some kind; let's go in and
have something to eat, and you can warm yourself."
Jim led the way; and as he pushed open the green-baize doors, which worked
on springs, he saw they had entered one of those nondescript shops, so
numerous in certain parts of New York, where a person can obtain any kind
of alcoholic drink, a cigar, a lunch, a "square meal," or a night's
lodging, or all.
Jim recognized the resort, and he would have withdrawn but through
sympathy for his shivering companion. The latter could scarcely stand from
cold, his clothing was soaked, and, in the keen air, had congealed so
that it rattled like tarpauling as he walked.
Just back from the door was a large stove, whose bulging, white-washed
cylinder, gleamed red with heat.
Tom immediately stepped up to this and began to thaw himself out.
"Ah, that feels nice!" he laughed to his companion.
"Well, young man, what do you want in here?" asked the bartender, in a
sharp, business-like style, bustling from behind the counter with the
evident intention of "bouncing" the lads.
"I want to get dry and warm," was the reply of Tom, from whose clothing
the steam was beginning to ascend.
"This ain't a shop to dry out boys. Why don't you go home?"
"We haven't any home."
"That's played; go where you stayed last night."
"That's near a hundred miles from here."
Two or three loungers laughed at the rather pert style in which Tom made
his replies, though in truth the lad meant no disrespect. The bartender
turned red in the face, and was angered at being taken up as he was.
"Hello, my wharf-rat, how did you get so wet?"
"In the water."
"He jumped off the ferry-boat to save a little girl," said Jim, seeing
the storm brewing, and desirous of putting in a good word for his friend.
This declaration was received with a guffaw, not one of the hearers
believing a word of it.
"Jumped off to get away from the Bobbies," sneered the bartender. "If you
don't get out of here quicker'n lightning I'll hand you over to them."
"We can go out if you say so," said Tom, in the same good-natured manner;
"but we came in to get our supper and stay all night."
"Have you got the stamps to pay for it?"
"If we hadn't we'd know better than to come in here."
"All right; my terms are a half a dollar apiece for supper and lodging."
"What is it with breakfast?"
"We might as well pay you now."
And in his off-hand fashion Tom drew from his water-soaked pocket his
portemonnaie, remarking to Jim that they would arrange it between
themselves, and handed the exact change to the somewhat surprised
bartender and clerk.
That made a difference; and the servant became as obsequious as if he had
just recognized in his visitor a millionaire that had dropped in to spend
a part of his fortune with him.
The boys were hungry, as may be supposed, and they fell to eating like a
couple of famished wanderers. Only a mouthful or two was swallowed when
"Hello, Tom; where did you get that gold chain?"
"What are you talking about?" demanded Tom, looking up at his friend.
"I'll show you;" and, as Jim spoke, he reached over and unhooked a tiny
gold chain from the upper button of his friend's coat, around which it was
twined in a singular manner.
More than that, there was a locket attached to it.
"That's the strangest thing I ever heard tell of," said Tom, as he
examined the chain and locket. "I never knew it was there till you spoke."
"You must have got it from that girl in the water, when you helped her
"That's so! Wait here till I come back!" and with this exclamation the lad
sprang up and darted outdoors.
He was gone but a short time, when he returned.
"I've been down to the ferry-house to see whether I could find the woman
and give her back her jewelry; but nobody there knows anything about her,
and I'll have to keep it till I learn who she is."
On looking at the locket the boys agreed that it was the likeness of the
girl that had so narrowly escaped drowning. They admired it a long time,
after which Tom carefully put it away, and they finished their supper.
The supper finished, the boys sat in the hot room until Tom's clothing was
fully dried, during which process the two were urged to drink fully a
score of times, Tom being assured by several that the only way to escape a
dangerous cold was to swallow a good supply of gin.
Like sensible lads they steadfastly refused, as they had never tasted
spirituous liquors, and never intended to.
Finally, at a late hour, they retired to their humble room, where they
were speedily asleep.
On the morrow it was agreed that they would make this place their
headquarters, while they looked up something to do. They could separate
and spend the day in the search, and return to their lodging-house after
dark, both having fixed the location in their minds, and there being
little excuse for losing their way, even in such a vast city.
Breakfast was eaten early, and the friends separated, not expecting to see
each other till dusk again. Both were in high spirits, for in the clear
sunshine of the winter's morning the world looked bright and radiant to
them. The hurry and rush of Broadway, the crowds constantly surging
forward, each one seemingly intent on his own business, the constant roll
and rumble of trade,--all so different from the more sedate city they had
All these were so new and novel to the lads, threading their way through
the great metropolis, that they forgot their real business for a time, and
feasted their eyes and ears for hours.
Finally, they roused themselves and went to work. The experience of the
two, for a time at least, was very similar. Tom first stopped in a
dry-goods house, and asked whether they could give him anything to do. A
short "No" was the reply, and the proprietor instantly turned his back
upon him. Then he tried a drug-store, where he was treated in the same
manner. In a hat and cap store, the rotund clerk tried to chaff him, but
he didn't make much of a success of it. In answer to his question, the
clerk replied that he didn't need a boy just then, but when he did he
would send his carriage around to the Metropolitan for him.
When Tom timidly introduced his errand to an old gentleman in spectacles,
as he sat at his desk in a large shipping-office, the old fellow exclaimed
in an awed voice,--
"Great Heavens, no! I don't want to hire any boy."
And so it went, hour after hour, until the future, which had looked so
beautiful in the morning, gradually became overcast with clouds, and the
poor lad was forced to stop and rest from sheer weariness.
He kept it up bravely till night, when he started on his return to his
lodgings. He found on inquiry that he was several miles distant, his
wanderings having covered more ground than he supposed. He had made over
thirty applications, and in no instance had he received one grain of
encouragement. In more than one case he had been insulted and ordered from
the store, followed by the intimation that he was some runaway or thief.
No wonder that Tom felt discouraged and depressed in spirits as he rode
homeward in the street-car. He was so wearied that he dropped down in one
corner, where he soon fell asleep, not waking until he had gone fully two
miles beyond the point where he should have left the vehicle. This sleep
so mixed him up that it was nearly ten o'clock when he reached his hotel,
as we may call it.
He was hopeful that Jim would have a better story to tell; but to his
amazement, he found that his friend, despite the lateness of the hour,
had not yet come back. A shiver of alarm passed over Tom, for he was
certain that some dreadful evil had befallen him.
Most likely he had been waylaid and killed in some of the hundred
different ways which the police reports show are adopted by the assassins
of New York in disposing of their victims.
Tom's anxiety for his comrade drove all thought of sleep from his eyes for
the time; and he sat long in the hot, smoky air of the room down-stairs,
in the hope that Jim would come.
It seemed to the watcher that there was an unusually large number of
visitors in the house that evening. There was a great deal of drinking and
carousing going on, and many of the men gathered there, he was sure,
belonged to the lowest grades of society.
A half-dozen foreign nations were represented, and one had but to listen
to the talk for a short while to learn that among them were many whom one
might well fear to meet on a lonely road at night.
Tom might have felt some dread but for the fact that, rather strangely,
these men showed little disposition to engage in any brawl, and no one
seemed to notice him.
Late in the evening a couple of policemen came in and waited a while
around the stove. They only spoke to the bartender, who treated them with
the greatest consideration; but they scrutinized the lad with a curious
look, which caused him to wonder whether they held any suspicion of
wrong-doing on his part. They said nothing to him, however, and shortly
after went out.
Tom's great alarm for Jim drove nearly every other thought from his mind.
Late as it was, he would have started out to search for him, could he have
formed the least idea of the course to take; but, besides being a stranger
in the city, he knew that a single man or a hundred might spend weeks in
hunting for one in the metropolis, without the least probability of
It was near midnight when he concluded to make his way to the room, hoping
that Jim would show up before morning.
The sounds of revelry below, mingled with shouts and the stamping of feet,
together with the feverish condition of the lad, kept him awake another
hour; but at last he fell into a light, uneasy sleep, haunted by all sorts
of grotesque, awful visions.
Suddenly he awoke; in the dim light of his little room Tom saw the figure
of a man standing by the bed.
"Who are you? What do you want?" whispered the terrified lad, struggling
to rise to a sitting position.
"Mebbe ye doesn't know me, but I'm Patsey McConough, and it was mesilf
that saw ye shtrike out so boldly last night and save the gal that had
fallen overboard, and St. Patrick himself couldn't have done it any better
than did yersilf."
"What do you mean by coming into my room this way?" asked Tom, whose fear
greatly subsided under the words of the Irishman.
"I come up-stairs to wake ye, for I'm afeard ye are going to have trouble
onless ye look mighty sharp."
"What do you mean?"
Patsey carefully closed and bolted the door behind him, and sat down on
the edge of the bed, speaking in a low, guarded voice.
"There's a big crowd down-stairs, and Tim's grog is getting to their
heads, and they're riddy for any sort of a job. There are a couple of
Italian cut-throats, and though I can't understand much of their lingo,
yet I cotched enough of the same to make me sartin they mean to rob ye."
"But would they dare try it in the house here?"
"Whisht now, there isn't anything they wouldn't thry, if they thought
there was a chance of making a ha'pence at it. They've murdered men afore
to-night, and they would just as lief slip up here and cut your wizen as
they would ate a piece of macaroni. Whisht now, and I'll give ye the
partic'lars and inshtruct ye what to do. It wouldn't be safe for ye to git
up and go out, for they'll folly ye and garrote ye afore ye could raich a
safe place. I would stay here and watch with ye, but that I've overstayed
me time alriddy, and I'll catch thunder whin I git back home, 'cause I
can't make the boss belave the raison why I staid. Here's a pistol,"
added the Irishman, shoving a five-shooter into the hand of the
astonished lad, "and ivery barrel is loaded, and it niver misses fire, as
the victims can tell ye as have been hit by the same. Do ye take this,
bolt yer door, and if anybody comes poking in the room after I'm gone,
just bore a hole through him, and then ax him if he ain't ashamed of
himself to steal into a private apartment in that shtyle. Take me word for
it, he won't come agin."
"I should think not," said Tom, who was dressing himself. "But I don't
like the idea of shooting a man."
"Nor do I, but it's loikely to be a chice between shooting him or him
shooting ye, and ye are at liberty to decide."
And with a few parting words of caution the Irishman took his departure,
first pausing long enough to advise Tom to change his quarters if he was
spared until the morrow, and suggesting that the wisest thing he could do
was to get out of New York as speedily as he knew how.
As may well be imagined, Tom Gordon was not likely to fall asleep again
that night, so, having fully dressed himself, he sat down on the edge of
the bed to wait and watch.
A small transom over his door admitted enough light to discern objects
with sufficient distinctness in the room, and he carefully shoved the bolt
in place, feeling he was prepared for any emergency.
Even with such an exciting subject to occupy his thoughts, he could not
fail to wonder and fear for his missing friend. He prayed Heaven to watch
over the boy's footsteps and to prevent his wandering into any danger,
while the feeling that the poor fellow was already beyond all human help
weighed down the heart of Tom like a mountain of lead.
This suspense did not continue long when the watchful lad heard some one
ascending the stairs--an action which might mean nothing or a great deal.
The room occupied by the boy was along a narrow hall, perhaps fifty feet
in length, the apartment being half that distance from the head of the
It seemed to Tom that there was an attempt to smother the sound made by
the feet, which plainly belonged to two people, though the effort was far
from being a success.
"They may be going to their own room, after all"--
The heart of the lad gave a great bound, for at that instant the footsteps
paused directly in front of his own door, and he could hear the men
muttering to each other in low tones.
"They're looking for me," was the conclusion of the boy, who grasped his
pistol more rigidly, and rose to the standing posture.
"If they want me, all they've got to do is to take me."
What was the amazement of the youth to see at this moment, while his eyes
were fixed upon the door, the iron bolt slowly move back, without, so far
as he could see, the least human agency.
This was a house, indeed, in which such characters were given every
facility they could wish to ply their unholy vocation.
Immediately after the fastening went back, the latch was lifted, and the
door swung noiselessly inward.
As it did so, a head, covered only with a mass of shock hair, which hung
down like pieces of tarred rope, and with the lower part of the face
veiled by a black, stringy beard, was thrust far enough within to show the
shoulders. Directly behind appeared another face, placed on a shorter
body, but none the less repellant in expression, and the two were forcing
their way into the room, when they paused.
They seemed to conclude that it would be best to consider the matter
further before rushing in there.
Instead of seeing a boy sound asleep in bed, waiting for them to rob him
of all his earthly possessions, they found themselves confronted by a
wide-awake lad, with his revolver pointed straight at their villainous
"Why don't you come in?" asked Tom, never lowering his weapon.
"Put him down!" said the foremost of the villains, in broken English,
hoping to frighten the lad.
"I don't feel like doing it just now," was the reply, while the arm
remained as fixed as a bar of iron.
Tom did not intend to shoot unless they advanced upon him; but, not being
accustomed to the weapon, he was unaware that a very slight pressure was
enough to discharge it. Unconsciously he exerted that slight pressure,
and, while the miscreants were glaring in the door, the pistol was fired.
What was more, the bullet struck one of the Italians, who, with a howl of
pain, wheeled about and hurried down-stairs, followed by his
Tom was half-frightened out of his wits, and made up his mind that the
best thing he could do was to get out of the place without any further
The only way to escape was to go down the stairs, the same as his
assailants had done.
It was not a pleasant duty; but, remembering what the Irishman had told
him, and filled with an uncontrollable aversion against staying any
longer, he hurried out, pausing only long enough to catch up his small
bundle of clothing.
In the smoky, hot room down-stairs, the scene was nearly the same as when
he left it a couple of hours before to go to bed. The two Italians were
invisible, and the little affray up-stairs seemed to have attracted no
attention at all. The bartender was too much occupied to notice the lad,
who made his way outside into the clear, frosty air, where he inhaled a
few deep draughts to give him new life and courage.
He knew not which way to turn, but he was confident he could find some
safe lodging-place without going far, and he moved along the street, where
there were plenty of pedestrians abroad, even though the hour was so late.
He was quite near the river, and determined not to be caught in such a
trap again. He walked slowly, scrutinizing as well as he could the
exterior of each building in sight, where the wayfarer and traveler was
invited to step within and secure food and lodging.
In this manner he passed several houses, and was on the point of turning
into one which seemed to have an inviting look, when his attention was
arrested by a lad who was running toward him from the rear.
He was panting and laboring along as though about exhausted.
As he reached the wondering Tom, who stopped and turned aside to let him
pass, the stranger paused and said,--
"Say, sonny, just hold that watch, will you, till I come back?"
And before the boy fairly understood the question, the other shoved a gold
watch and chain into his hands, then darted into an alleyway and
He had scarcely done so when two swift footed policemen came dashing
along, as if in pursuit.
"Here he is!" exclaimed one, catching hold of Tom's arm, and dealing him a
stunning blow on the head with his locust.
"That's the little imp," added the other, the two guardians of the law
pouncing upon the lad as if he were a Hercules, who meant to turn upon and
"I haven't done anything," remonstrated Tom, feeling that some fearful
mistake had been made.
"Shut up, you little thief!" yelled the policeman, whacking him on the
head again with his club. "Ah, here is the watch on him! We've been
looking for you, my boy, for a month, and we've got you at last."
When Tom Gordon comprehended that the two policemen had arrested him on
the charge of stealing a gold watch, he understood the trick played upon
him by the lad who had handed him the timepiece and then, darted into the
Instead of throwing the property away, as a thief generally does under
such circumstances, the young scamp preferred to get a stranger into
"I didn't take the watch; that boy handed it"--
"Shet up!" broke in the burly officer.
"But let me finish what I want"--
"Shet up! Heavens and earth! have I got to kill you before you stop that
clack of yours?"
The lad saw that the only way to save his crown was to keep quiet, and he
did so, trusting that in some way or other the truth would become known,
the guilty punished, and the innocent allowed to go free.
One policeman grasped his right and the other his left arm, and they held
on like grim death as they marched off toward the station-house.
Turning the next corner, they entered a still lower part of the city,
where the darkest crimes of humanity are perpetrated.
Within ten feet of where Tom was walking, he saw under the gas-lamp a
poor wretch on the pavement, with two others pounding him.
"Murder! murder!" groaned the victim, with fast-failing strength, vainly
struggling to free himself from his assassins.
Tom paused, expecting the policemen, or at least one of them, would rush
in and save the man.
On the contrary, they strode along as if they were unconscious of the
crime going on right before their eyes.
"They'll kill him," said the horrified boy, "why don't you stop"--
"Shet up!" and down came the club again.
Just then the second policeman added in a severe tone,--
"Young man, we know you; we understand the trick you are trying to play on
us; you want us to let go of you and rush in there, and then you'll skip;
we're too old birds to be caught with such chaff; we are convinced that a
bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and so, understand, sir, we'll
hold on to you!"
But at this juncture, fortunately for the under man, a champion appeared
in the person of an Irishman, who with one blow knocked the largest of the
assailants so violently backward that he turned a complete reverse
somersault, and then lay still several minutes to try and understand
The other assailant was using his boot-heel on the prostrate man at that
moment, when the Hibernian gave him a couple of blows in lightning-like
succession. They landed upon the face of the coward with a sensation about
the same as if a well-shod mule had planted his two hind feet there.
He, too, collapsed on the instant, and for a considerable time lost all
interest in worldly affairs.
It is hard work to kill a drunken man; and, despite the terrible beating
the victim had suffered, he was scarcely relieved of his foes when he
staggered to his feet.
"I'm obleeged to ye, young man, for assisting me, as ye did"--
"Dry up!" broke in the impatient Hibernian.
"Talk of being obleeged to me, 'cause I interfared. What did ye let them
git ye down fur? That's what I want to know. Git out wid yees!"
And the disgusted champion turned the other fellow about and expressed his
opinion of him by delivering a kick, which landed him several feet away.
"That was kind in yees," said the recipient, looking back with the droll
humor of the Irish people. "They did their hammering in front, while I
resave yees in the rear, and I fale as though they was about equal."
"What's this? what's this?" demanded one of the policemen in a brisk,
business-like tone, swinging his locust, and looking sharply about him,
as if in quest of some desperado upon whom to vent his wrath.
"It looks as if there was some trouble here."
"It's all done with now," replied the man that had finished it, and then,
recognizing the officer, he extended his hand.
"How are ye, Billy?"
"Hello, Pat, is that you?"
"So it is, me, Patsey McConough, that happened down this way on the
lookout for a wee boy, when I saw two men beating one, and I jist restored
the aquilibrium, as ye may say. But what have ye there?" asked Patsey,
peering through the gloom at the figure of a boy in the grip of the other
"A chap that we jerked for picking pockets; we've been shadowing him for a
The Irishman seemed to suspect the identity of the boy, and, going
forward, he took him by the hand, and asked him how it all came about.
Tom told the story as it is known to the reader, when Patsey turned to the
"There's some mistake here, Billy; that boy never took that watch--I'll
bet my life on that. I know him, and the story he tells is the true one,
and no mistake."
It didn't take the policeman long to agree with Patsey, and a satisfactory
arrangement was made, by which the faithful guardian kept the gold
timepiece, and the boy was allowed to go free.
"I didn't feel aisy," said Patsey, as he walked off in company with his
young friend, "when I left ye in that place, and I hadn't been gone long
whin I made up me mind to go back and fix it, whither the boss was mad or
no. Whin I arrived the throuble was over, and ye had started out. I had to
guess which way ye wint, but I seemed to hit it, and I was able to do ye a
"That you did, indeed," replied the grateful boy. "I would have gone to
jail but for you."
"Ye same to be a wide-awake boy, and ye kape yer sinses about ye at all
times. Ye are looking for a place to stay?"
"There isn't much of the night left, but I'll find ye what ye want."
A couple of blocks farther, Patsey conducted him into just the house the
boy would have picked out for himself, had he been given a week in which
Patsey accompanied Tom to his room, where he gave him some earnest advice.
"This is a moighty avil village, is New York, and ye had better get out of
the same while ye have the money to do it. It isn't a good thing for a lad
to carry a pistol, but I wish ye to kaap the one I lint ye as long as ye
are in danger, which is loikely to be all yer life."
"My money is nearly all gone," replied Tom, "and unless I get at
something pretty soon, I shall have to beg. I would go out of the city
to-morrow if I only had Jim."
"Perhaps it is as well that ye wait where ye are for a few days for him,
spinding yer laisure in looking for a job. I'm a coochman in the employ of
an old rapscallion of a lawyer, who's stingy enough to pick the sugar out
of the teeth of the flies he cotches in his sugar-bowl. I darsn't bring ye
there, but if the worst comes and ye haven't anything to ate, I'll fix it
The plan was that Tom should stay in this house, visiting the other
morning and evening in quest of information of Jim, while the sunlight
would be spent in hunting for work.
It would be useless to dwell on the particulars of the several days which
followed. Morning and night Tom went over to the other saloon and inquired
after his missing friend. Each time the bartender replied he had not seen
him, and it was his belief that the boy had "skipped the town," as he
expressed it. The little bundle containing all of Jim's possessions was
given to Tom, who took it away with him, leaving word where his friend
could find him.
Dull, leaden despair filled his heart; and, as he paid his board-bill each
evening, he saw with feelings which can scarcely be pictured, the steady
decrease of his pile, until it was close to the vanishing point.
Five days had passed since he entered the new hotel, during which not a
word was heard of Jim, nor had he seen anything of his friend Patsey
It seemed to the boy that he had tramped New York from one end to the
other in his search for work, and in not a single instance had he received
the slightest encouragement. Two vocations, it may be said, were open to
him from the beginning; they were to sell newspapers or to black shoes. To
one of Tom's education and former life, it was the most bitter humiliation
to contemplate adopting either of these employments. But the night came
when he felt he must do it or beg.
He naturally preferred the newspaper line to that of polishing shoes, and
he resolve to make his venture early the following morning.
Tom was unusually strong and active for one of his years, and he expected
to have trouble from the envy of the other boys.
When he purchased his fifty _Heralds_, long before daylight, there seemed
to be an army of newsboys ahead of him, and he was looked upon and
muttered about in the most threatening manner.
He had scarcely reached the sidewalk when he was set upon by a couple of
vigorous gamins, with the evident intent of discouraging him in the new
The others gathered around to see the fun.
They saw it.
The fiery urchins, though both were as large as, and no doubt older than,
Tom, were literally "nowhere" in the fight.
He conquered them in less than a minute without receiving a scratch, and
then, turning to the crowd, remarked that if there was any one or two or a
dozen there that wanted to tackle him, all they had to do was to come
forward. No one came, and Tom sauntered off to sell his newspapers.
It was exceedingly distasteful; but he was spurred on by necessity, and he
went at it with the impetuosity of a veteran.
His success was below his expectations.
There seems to be a right way of doing everything, no matter how
insignificant, which can only be learned by practice. Despite his natural
quickness, Tom failed in more than one respect.
He hadn't the right change in several instances, and the men wouldn't wait
while he darted into a store for it, but bought of some other boy who
thrust himself forward. No matter where he turned, it seemed to the young
hero that some more wide-awake newsboy was ahead of him, leaving only the
aftermath for him to gather.
He boarded several of the crowded street-cars, and was kicked off one of
them because he accidentally trod on a gouty old gentleman's toes, he
being the president of the road.
However, all this, and much more indeed, is the sad accompaniment of the
poor little gamins who fight each other in their strife as to who shall
have the preference in leaving the morning sheet smoking hot at our doors
while we are wrapped in slumber.
After carefully balancing accounts that evening, Tom found he was exactly
seven cents ahead.
On the next day he fell nine cents behind, but on the third there was
exciting war news, and he not only rushed off his usual supply, and the
same number repeated, but he obtained in many instances fancy prices, and
cleared several dollars.
This was encouraging, but the day was marked by the greatest mortification
of his life.
He had rushed in his impetuous manner into a streetcar, when some one
called his name, and he turned about and saw Sam Harper and his sister,
both of whom had been his classmates at the Briggsville school, and Tom
was accustomed to look upon Nellie as a little above ordinary mortals.
Sam shook hands with Tom, and made some jocose remark about his new
business; but Nellie sneered, and looked out the car window.
A high-spirited lad who has experienced anything like this needs not to be
told that it cuts like a two-edged sword.
For two weeks Tom Gordon prosecuted his vocation as a newsboy in the city
of New York, by which time he had gained enough experience to earn his
daily bread, but nothing beyond that. Such being the case, he felt that he
was not making a success of his calling, as there was no reserve fund upon
which to draw for clothing or other necessities.
The greater portion of a month wore by, during which he never gained the
slightest knowledge of the fate of Jim Travers.
Tom went to the morgue, and applied to the police, and, in fact, used
every means at his command to learn something. He occasionally encountered
his friend Patsey, who rendered all the assistance he could, but it
When the fortnight was up, Tom received an unexpected offer, that the
Irishman, through some acquaintance, secured for him. It was the
opportunity to sell newspapers and periodicals on the Hudson River
Railroad. He was to leave New York in the morning, "working the train" on
the way up to Albany, and come down again in the afternoon.
This was such a big advance on what he had been doing, that he joyfully
accepted the offer, even though he held not the slightest intention of
following it as a continuous occupation. It would do very well until he
could obtain something more suitable.
The lad found at the end of the first week that he was much better off
than he anticipated. The privilege was conceded to him of charging double
the price for the papers which was asked on the streets or at the
news-stands, and his percentage of profits was very large.
Tom held his position for a couple of months to the satisfaction of his
employer, and he had accumulated quite a sum, which was deposited in a
savings-bank that wasn't likely to "suspend" for the benefit of the
Spring had opened, the Hudson was clear of ice, and his business became
It happened that he encountered, on several occasions, some of his former
friends of Briggsville, who could not conceal their surprise at seeing him
engaged in selling newspapers.
Tom could not always keep back the flush that stole over his handsome face
at such times. But he began to believe there was a nobility in honest
labor like his, of which he had no right to feel ashamed.
There were any number of young fellows who envied him his position, and
who were ready to use all sorts of artifices to have him "bounced."
Slanderous reports were carried to his employers, who took measures to
investigate them, reaching the conclusion that Tom was without a superior
in the way of integrity, politeness, and faithfulness.
The tiny gold chain and locket obtained from the drowning girl in so
singular a manner, he preserved with a religious devotion. It was
deposited in the savings-bank, beyond all danger of loss, and he would
have starved to death before consenting to part with it.
The sweet face within the locket was as vividly fixed in his memory as if
the original were a sister of his, and he never passed through the train
without looking around, in the hope of seeing the little girl herself.
The only sister which Tom had ever had died in infancy, and there was
something which linked the memory of the two in the tenderest and most
There were true modesty and manhood in the noble fellow, when he overheard
a visitor in his employer's office relate the incident of the rescue,
without suspecting that the hero stood before him, and never dropped the
slightest intimation that he knew anything about it.
One bright spring morning Tom was passing through the smoking-car, when a
young man, very flashily dressed, whistled to him, and asked for a copy
of a sporting paper.
Tom had but a single copy left. This he tossed over into the lap of the
applicant in that careless, off-hand style which characterizes the veteran
The purchaser passed over a quarter in coin, and as Tom pulled out a
handful of silver from his pocket, from which to select the change, the
flashy young man said,--
"Never mind, sonny; I'll make you a present of that."
"But you have given me five times the price of the paper," said Tom,
thinking there was an error.
"That's all right. When I see a fellow of your style I like to encourage
Tom thanked him and passed on.
The incident would not be worth recording but for the fact that it was
repeated the next day, when the same young man bought a _Herald_, and
compelled the lad to accept a bright silver quarter in payment, without
allowing him to give any change.
Six times on successive days was this done, and then the liberal purchaser
disappeared from the train.
Aside from the repetition of his favors, it was rather curious that on
each occasion he should have placed a silver quarter in the palm of Tom.
Each coin was of the same date as that year, and was so bright and shiny
that Tom believed they must have come directly from the mint. They looked
so handsome, indeed, that he determined to keep them as pocket-pieces,
instead of giving them out in change.
There is nothing like actual experience to sharpen a fellow's wits; and,
on the first day the munificent stranger vanished, a dim suspicion entered
the head of Tom that some mischief was brewing.
That night in New York he examined the coins more minutely than
heretofore. Half an hour later he walked down to the wharf and threw them
into the river.
The whole six were counterfeit. It wasn't safe for any one to carry such
property about him.
Tom was strongly convinced, further, that a job was being "put up" on him,
and he was mightily relieved when thoroughly rid of them.
That same evening one of his employers sent for him, and told him that he
had received reliable information that he, Thomas Gordon, was working off
counterfeit money on the road.
The boy denied it, of course, but he did not choose to tell all he knew,
for he saw that his own situation was a dangerous one; but he demanded
that the proof should be produced.
There was an officer present, who thereupon searched the lad for the
"queer," but he acknowledged there wasn't a penny on him which was not
Tom was kept at the office while another officer went to his
lodging-house and ransacked his room. The result was _nil_. This rather
stumped the detective, who was acting on the charge of some one else, and
he started off, remarking that the business wasn't done yet, and the best
thing the boy could do was to confess.
"I must first have something to confess," replied Tom, who was excusable
for some honest indignation.
"Where is the man who said I was in _that_ business?"
"You'll meet him in the court-room," was the significant reply of the
"That's just where I'd like to meet him, and you too, but you're afraid to
"Come, come, young man, you'd better keep a civil tongue in your head, or
I'll jug you as it is. I've enough against you."
"Why don't you do it, then?" was Tom's defiant question; "I've learned
enough during the last few minutes to understand my rights, and if you
think I don't, now's the time to test it."
The officer went out muttering all sorts of things; and Tom, turning to
his employer, his breast heaving with indignation, said,--
"They have been plotting against me ever since I've been on the road. They
went with all kinds of stories to you, and now they've been trying to make
it appear that I am in the counterfeit business."
"But there must have been something tangible, or that detective would not
have come here with the charge."
"There was something;" and thereupon Tom told the story of the six shining
His employer was angered, for he saw through it all; and from the
description of the donor, he recognized a worthless scamp who had been
discharged for stealing some time before Tom went on the route. The
detective was sent for, and the case laid before him. That night Mr. Dick
Horton, who made the charge, was arrested, and in his rooms were found
such proofs against him as a counterfeiter that, a few months later, he
went to Sing Sing for ten years.
For a time succeeding this incident Tom was left undisturbed in the
pursuit of his business, the occurrence becoming pretty generally known
and causing much sympathy for him.
It was about a month subsequent that Tom missed his afternoon train down
the river, and took another, which left later, not reaching New York till
late at night.
[Illustration: It was a fierce drive.]
As there was nothing for him to do, the train being in the hands of
another newsboy, he sat down in the smoking-car, which was only moderately
filled. Directly in front was a man who, he judged from his dress, was a
Texan drover, or some returning Californian He was leaning back in the
corner of his seat, with his mouth open and his eyes shut, in a way to
suggest that he was asleep.
Seated next him was an individual who looked very much like the Italian
who had shoved his head into the door of Tom's room some months before.
This foreigner was watching the Californian--if such he was--as a cat
watches a mouse.
"I believe he means to rob him," was Tom's conclusion, who, without being
suspected by the scoundrel, was taking mental notes of the whole
The supposition was confirmed within five minutes, when the Italian,
leaning over toward the other, in an apparently careless manner, began
cautiously inserting his hand into his watch-pocket.
The instant Tom saw this, he bent forward and shook the Californian's
shoulder so vigorously that he started up, and demanded in a gruff voice
what was the matter. The Italian, of course, had withdrawn his hand like a
flash, and was leaning the other way, with his eyes half-closed, like one
sinking into a doze.
"I saw that man there," said Tom, pointing to the Italian, "with his hand
in your pocket, about to steal your watch, and I thought I'd best let you
"Is that so?" demanded the stranger, a giant in stature, as he laid his
immense hand on the shoulder of the other, who started up as if just
aroused from sleep, and protested in broken English that he was not aware
of being seated with the gentleman at all.
His vehement declarations seemed to raise a doubt in the mind of the
Californian, who began an examination of his pockets. He found everything
right, and so declared.
"He was just beginning operations," said Tom in explanation, "when I woke
"Bein' as he ain't took nothin', I won't knock the head off him," said the
Californian, as he announced himself to be; "but he ain't any business to
look so much like a sneaking dog, so I'll punch him on general
Whereupon he gave the fellow such a resounding cuff that he flopped out of
the seat, and, scrambling to his feet, hurried out of the car.
The Californian thanked Tom, and then resumed his nap.
In half an hour Tom found the tobacco-smoke so oppressive that he rose to
go into the next car. On the platform stood the discomfited Italian, who
seemed to be waiting for revenge.
"You lie of me," he muttered, before Tom suspected his danger. "I show
With a quick push he gave the lad a violent shove, thrusting him entirely
off the platform and out upon the ground, fortunately clear of the rushing
The speed with which the train was running at the time Tom Gordon was
pushed off was such that he was thrown forward with great violence upon
the hard earth, where he lay senseless, with his leg broken and a number
of severe bruises about his body.
The only one who saw his fall was the miscreant that caused it; and it is
not necessary to say he made no alarm, and the train went whirling on to
Tom's employers knew nothing of the accident; and putting on a temporary
substitute, they were constrained to believe, after several days' silence,
that he had left their service, some two or three boys coming forward to
declare that they had heard Tom say that such was his intention, as he had
received a good offer on the Erie road. The substitute was given to
understand that his situation was permanent, and the ill-used Tom was thus
thrown out of his situation.
After lying an hour or so on the ground he came to, and finding he was in
a sad plight, he set up a series of yells, which soon brought assistance
in the shape of a passing farmer, who lifted him into his wagon, carted
him home, and played the good Samaritan.
A physician was summoned, the broken limb set, and the patient was told
that all he had to do was to do nothing but lie still and get strong. The
farmer agreed that he should stay there, especially as the patient gave
him to understand that he would pay him for the service.
Here we leave Thomas Gordon for the time in good hands, while we turn our
attention to his friend, James Travers, who has been waiting too long for
The reader will recall that the morning succeeding the rescue of the
little girl from the river the two boys started out to hunt up something
to do in New York. The experience of both was quite similar through the
greater portion of the day, and we have dwelt fully upon what befell Tom.
Jim, with no better success, and fully as discouraged, set out on his
return, as the cold, wintry night was closing in, and he reached the long,
open street along the river without any incident worth notice; but while
walking wearily along, and when not far from his lodging-place, he was
accosted by a well-dressed man, who placed his hand on his shoulder and
said, in a pleasant voice,--
"I think you are looking for something to do, my son?"
"Yes, sir," was Jim's reply, his heart bounding with renewed hope at the
prospect of employment.
"Are you willing to do anything?"
"Anything that's honest and right."
"I wouldn't ask you to do what was not right," added the stranger, as if
he was hurt at the idea.
"What is it you want me to do?"
"How would you like to work on a vessel?"
"I was never on a ship in my life," said Jim, frightened at the thought of
the perils of the sea.
"That don't make any difference: you wouldn't have to serve as a sailor,
but as a sort of a cabin-boy; and not exactly that, either. I am the owner
of the boat, and want a clerk--a boy who can write letters, keep my
accounts, and make himself generally useful. I like your looks, and you
impress me as a boy of education."
"I think I could do all you ask; but where does your vessel sail?"
"Oh, she ain't a foreign ship, only a small schooner, engaged in the
coasting-trade down along the Jersey shore, sometimes going as far as the
capes, and occasionally making a trip up the Hudson. As navigation has
closed on the river, we sha'n't go up there before Spring."
"I think I would like the job," said Jim, who felt as if the vision shown
by Aladdin's lamp was opening before him. "What pay will you give if I
"I am willing to pay well for the boy. It will be twenty dollars a week
"What!" exclaimed the astounded Jim, "did you say twenty dollars a
"That's just what I said. I'm one of those who are willing to pay well for
what they want."
"I'll take the situation; when do you want me to go?"
"As soon as possible--what do you say for to-morrow?"
"That will suit, as I have nothing in the world to do; I only want to run
down to the hotel and tell Tom."
"He's the boy that came with me from home; he'll be mightily pleased when
he hears the news."
"Suppose you walk down with me, and take a look at the boat; it isn't far
As Jim could see no reason for refusing, and as he hadn't the slightest
thought of wrong, he replied that he would be glad to accept the
invitation; and the two started off toward the wharves.
The well-dressed gentleman, who gave his name as Mr. Hornblower, kept up a
running chat of the most interesting nature to Jim, who was sure he was
one of the finest persons he ever met. The walk was considerably longer
than Jim expected, and the man acted as if he had lost his way. He finally
recovered himself, and, pausing where a number of all kinds of boats were
gathered, he said that his schooner, the Simoon, lay on the outside, and
was to be reached by passing over the decks of several other boats.
These lay so close, that there was no difficulty or danger in traveling
over them, and they soon reached the deck of a trim-looking schooner,
which was as silent and apparently as deserted as the tomb. Reaching the
cabin, a light was seen shining through the crevices, and Mr. Hornblower
drew the small door aside, and invited his young companion to descend.
Jim did so, and found himself in an ordinary-looking cabin, quite well
furnished, and supplied with a couple of hammocks.
A small stove was burning, and the temperature was exceedingly pleasant
after the bleak air outside, where the raw wind blew strongly up the bay.
"I wouldn't want a better place than this to stay," said the delighted
lad, taking a seat on a camp-stool.
"Then I'll let you stay a while."
These strange words were uttered by the man who stood outside the door,
looking in at the lad with an odd smile on his countenance.
"What do you mean?" asked Jim, filled with a terrible fear.
"I mean just this: I want you to stay on the boat for the present. If you
keep quiet and do what is told you, you won't be hurt; but if you go to
howling and kicking up a rumpus, you'll be knocked in the head and pitched
"But tell me why you have brought me here?" asked Jim, swallowing the
lump in his throat, and looking pleadingly up to the cruel stranger. "What
do you want of me?"
"We want a big thing of you, as you'll learn before long; but you mustn't
ask too many questions, nor try to get away, nor refuse to do what is told
you. If you do, your clock will be wound up in short order; but remember
what I've told you, and you'll be released after a while, without any harm
to you. I will now bid you good-night."
With this the man shut and fastened the door of the cabin, using a padlock
to do so.
The lad heard his footsteps as he walked rapidly over the deck, leaping
upon those adjoining, and quickly passing up the wharf.
"Well, this beats everything," remarked Jim with a great sigh, sitting
down again on the camp-stool.
As he sat thus in deep thought, it seemed to him, more than once, as if it
was all a hideous dream, and he pinched himself to make sure it was not.
What it all meant was more than he could figure out, or even guess. The
only possible solution he could hit upon was that this Hornblower, as he
called himself, was in need of a cabin-boy, or perhaps a sailor, and he
took this rather summary way of securing one, without the preliminary of
obtaining the consent of the party most concerned.
Whoever Mr. Hornblower might be, it looked as if he had made elaborate
preparations for the game played with such success.
"Poor Tom will be worried to death when he finds nothing of me," was the
natural fear of Jim, while turning over in his mind the extraordinary
situation in which he was placed. Despite the warning uttered by his
captor before leaving, the boy stole up the steps and stealthily tried the
door. It was fastened too securely for him to force it.
As he sat down again in the chair, he heard feet on the deck, and he
concluded that his master had come back to see whether all was right.
But the fellow did not touch the cabin-door; and a minute later the lad
noticed that two men were moving about, then the sounds showed that the
sail was being hoisted. He could distinguish their words as they exchanged
directions, and it was not long before the rippling water told that the
schooner was under way.
"Like enough they have started for China or the Cape of Good Hope, and I
won't see Tom again for years."
He sat still in the cabin, which was lit by a lamp suspended overhead, and
which soon became so warm from the stove and confined air, that he did
what he could to cool off the interior.
He had just finished this when he felt a draught of cold air, and looking
up, saw an ugly face peering down on him from the cabin door.
"Hello, you're down there, are you?" called out the man; "how do you like
"It's getting rather warm," answered Jim, hoping to make the best of a bad
"If you find it too hot, come on deck and air yourself."
The lad accepted the invitation, and hastily ascended the few steps, his
chief object being to learn where he was.
Looking about in the gloom, he observed a ship under full sail on the
right, and a little farther off one on the left. In the former direction
he thought he discerned a faint dark line close to the water, which he
supposed showed where the shore lay.
"Then we are putting out to sea," was his conclusion, while he shivered in
the keen wind which swept over the deck.
The schooner had her mainsail and foresail up, both bellying far outward
under the impulse of the wind, while the hull keeled far over to the right
in response, and the foaming water at the bow told that she was making her
way at high speed toward her destination, wherever that might be.
As well as Jim could make out in the gloom, neither of the two men who
were managing the vessel was Hornblower.
"Where are we bound?" asked the prisoner, turning upon the one who
invited him to come out of the cabin.
"To the moon," was the unsatisfactory response.
Jim said no more, for he was afraid he might offend the fellow by pressing
"I guess you'd better go below and sleep, for the likes of you ain't of
any use here."
The boy did as advised.
He saw no preparations for eating, but he was so wearied and anxious that
he felt little appetite; and, throwing himself in one of the hammocks, he
committed himself to the care of Heaven, and was soon asleep.
He never opened his eyes till roused by the smell of burning meat, and
looking up, saw one of the men cooking in the cabin, instead of on deck,
as it seemed to the lad ought to have been the case.
He now took a good survey of the countenances of the men. They did not
look particularly wicked, though both were hard and forbidding.
They paid scarcely any attention to the boy, but gave him to understand
that he was at liberty to eat if he wished.
Jim did so, and as soon as the meal was finished strolled on deck.
From the direction of the morning sun he saw they were sailing southward,
and the long stretch of land on the right he concluded must be the Jersey
Such a bleak and piercing wind swept across the deck of the Simoon that
Jim Travers was glad to spend most of his time in the cabin, where a warm
fire was always going.
The first day out the boy succeeded in picking up a few scraps of
knowledge, which served rather to deepen than to clear up the mystery of
The schooner was a good sailer, and was well furnished with coal, wood,
water, and provisions, as if she were intended for a long voyage. There
was no real cargo, as he could see; and the two men who managed the craft
did not drop a word which could give any clew as to their destination.
It can scarcely be said that they treated the boy well or ill. Their
conduct was more of the character of indifference, since they paid not the
least attention to him, further than to notify him to keep out of their
This indifference might be considered kindness, inasmuch as it relieved
the boy from attempting work which would have proven of a perilous nature.
This also relieved him in a great measure of the fear which made existence
a burden during the first twenty-four hours.
On the third morning out from New York, Jim made the discovery that the
rising sun was on his right, from which it was certain he was sailing
toward the north. Other evidence led him to conclude, from his knowledge
of geography, that they had entered Delaware Bay, and were approaching
"It's a queer way of getting back home again," was the reflection of the
boy when convinced of the fact.
However, the Simoon did not propose to visit the Quaker City just then,
and she came to anchor in a broad part of the bay, fully a half-mile from
It was late in the afternoon that this stop was made; and just as night
was closing in, a small boat containing two persons was discerned rowing
out from land. When they were nigh enough to board the schooner, Jim saw
that one was Mr. Hornblower, and the other was a herculean negro, who was
swaying the oars with the ease of a professional.
As both came on deck, the white man signified to the lad that he was to
follow him into the cabin, where the door was shut, and they sat down
facing each other.
"I might as well own that I deceived you when I pretended I wanted to hire
a clerk," began Hornblower, "but I had good reason for doing so; that
reason I can't give for the present. Now," and here Mr. Hornblower took a
pencil and note-book from his pocket, "I want to know your full name and
These were truthfully given and carefully written down.
"Now I want to know all about your parents, their age, your father's
business, and various other matters which I shall ask you."
Jim had no reason to decline any information he was able to give, and he
furnished all his captor desired to know.
When the examination was finished, the note-book was closed, and Mr.
Hornblower asked, in the most friendly of tones,--
"Have they used you well?"
"They have," was the truthful reply.
"Do you know why?"
"I suppose because you instructed them to do so."
"It's not that, but because you behaved yourself; you haven't made any
"I don't intend to do that, for there's nothing to gain by it. I haven't
any work to do, and may as well stay here as anywhere else."
"Remember what I told you; so long as you keep quiet you are safe, but
only on those conditions."
As the man rose to go, Jim plucked up enough courage to ask,--
"Will you be kind enough to let me know where we are going, and why it is
you make a prisoner of me?"
"Since you have behaved so well I suppose I might as well do so."
Hornblower opened his mouth to impart the information, when he changed his
mind and shook his head.
"It is scarcely best at present; good-evening."
As there seemed to be no objection to following him on deck, Jim did so,
much disappointed that he did not secure the information which was almost
Hornblower stepped down into a boat and rowed off toward shore, leaving
the huge negro behind. It had become so dark that the boat, with its
single occupant, speedily faded from view in the night, though the sound
of the regularly swaying oars came back distinctly across the water until
shore was reached.
Jim was glad that the African, whom he heard addressed as Sam, was left
behind. He saw he was a good-natured fellow, and he believed he would be
able to gain something from him.
After supper was eaten, the schooner hoisted anchor and moved several
miles up the river, when it again lay to for the night.
Jim Travers went to bed again as much mystified as ever over the
explanation of his imprisonment on board the boat. Aside from this
inscrutable ignorance there was nothing very unpleasant, and he would have
been willing to make quite a lengthy stay, whether he received any wages
During the bitter cold weather, any one situated as he was might be
thankful if he could secure lodging for the winter.
"They needn't be so afraid of my running away," he often said to himself,
"for I would not be so foolish as to do that when I don't know where to
go. All that I wish is that they would give me the chance to send a letter
to Tom and let him know where I am. The poor fellow must be greatly
worried over me."
He ventured to ask whether he would be permitted to send a letter ashore,
but the refusal was given in such an angry manner that he regretted making
Several days now followed, during which the schooner beat up and down
Delaware Bay without making a landing.
One night the vessel was caught in such a terrific blow that she came
within a hair of being driven on the Jersey shore. The two men, however,
were fine sailors, and assisted by the negro Sam, who was also an expert,
they safely rode through the gale.
In the course of a week they approached the wharves at Philadelphia, where
they were boarded by the proper officers. The latter seemed to find
everything all right on board the schooner, and departed, apparently
without noticing the boy standing near, who watched their motions with
The Simoon lay at the wharf all night, which was unusually mild for that
season of the year.
The cabin door was open and the negro was on duty, while one of the men
was asleep in the hammock over Jim's head.
The second sailor had gone up-town somewhere, and there was no telling
when he would return.
The lad was nearly asleep, when he heard footsteps on deck; and in the dim
light from the lamp he observed the missing sailor coming down the steps,
followed closely by Hornblower. When they were fairly within they shut the
door, and the seaman turned up the wick of the lamp overhead.
A fancy struck Jim at this moment that he would pretend he was
unconscious, though he had little hope of gaining anything by it.
As soon as the light filled the apartment, Hornblower looked over at the
two forms stretched out in the hammocks, and asked in a whisper,--
"Are they asleep?"
The sailor leaned over each in turn, and carefully surveyed the features
and listened to the breathing.
"Yes; they don't know any more than a couple of logs."
"I wouldn't have the boy overhear us for the world."
"There ain't any danger of that."
Thus believing, the two men talked business straight along.
"It won't do to stay here any longer," said Hornblower.
"Because it's dangerous; you was such a fool yesterday as to allow the boy
on deck when the officer was there, and he couldn't help noticing him."
"But they didn't speak to each other, and if the officer had suspected
anything he would have showed it."
"Maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't; you must know that the boy's
photograph has been scattered over the country, and he is likely to be
recognized by any countryman."
"How are you making out with the negotiations?"
"It all looks well enough, if you don't spoil it by your tomfoolery. I
should not have been surprised to find you had allowed him to go ashore to
look around a little. You must leave here to-morrow morning. You ought to
"I can do so if you wish it," said the sailor, rather sulkily.
"It might draw suspicion to you. No, you can wait till daylight, and then
"It shall be done."
"We have managed to throw everybody off the scent pretty well. They seem
to have all sorts of theories except the right one. It has got into the
newspapers, of course. Some think the boy has been taken to England,
others that he is in the South, and others have sworn that he has been
seen in company with a man and woman in Canada; but no one imagines as yet
that he is on board the schooner Simoon, in the Delaware."
"How have you made out in your correspondence with the guardians?"
"They have agreed to give me ten thousand dollars if I restore the boy to
them, and I have concluded to take it; but you understand, Bob, that it's
a mighty delicate matter to handle."
"I rather think it is," growled Bob in reply; "for if they manage to
handle us, we'll fetch up in State prison as sure as we live."
"We'd be glad to get there away from the mob," said Hornblower; "for, the
way people feel over this business, they would act like a lot of famished
lions toward us."
"If they agree to give what you ask, why don't you turn over the chap to
them and have done with the whole business? I'm getting tired of dodging
about in this fashion, never knowing when they're going to drop down on
us, and feeling as if the prison-door was open just ahead. It's got to be
wound up pretty soon, or I'll step out and let you finish it yourself."
"Have patience," said Hornblower in a conciliatory voice; "it will all
come right, for we've the game in our own hands."
"Why the delay, then?"
"There's fear of the police; they mixed in, and they're bound to scoop us
if they can, and cheat us out of the money."
"There's been a big reward offered by the guardians themselves?"
"Yes. The officers have that as well as the glory of victory to urge them
on, and they won't let a chance slip."
"Have you put it to the guardians strong?"
"You'd better believe I have. I told them that at the first attempt they
made to play us false, the boy would be sent home to them in a coffin.
They understand that."
"Then, why don't they play square?"
"They would if it wasn't for the detectives. But with the help of the
parents I think we can pull through all straight."
"In how long a time?"
"Two or three weeks. In the meantime go on south, and I'll keep track of
you and let you know what to do."
With these parting directions the conversation ended. Mr. Hornblower
produced a flask of whisky, the two drank each other's health, and the
Shortly after Bob, the sailor, turned in for the night.
Jim Travers, as he lay in his hammock, overheard every word which the two
men had said, and considerable more to the same effect.
Unusually bright and mentally strong as he was, he comprehended it all,
and read the scheme as if in a printed book.
Hornblower, seeing him making his way along the wharf in New York, had
formed the plan of abducting him, and then securing a large reward from
the parents or guardian for his return. Accordingly he stole and placed
him in charge of his gang on the schooner, and then began negotiations
with the guardians for his return.
Here a strange combination of circumstances came about.
One of the most pathetic facts that came to light regarding the abduction
of Charley Ross, was the great number of other children that have been
found who had been lost for months and years.
There can be no doubt that a regularly organized system of child-stealing
prevails in this country, and there are at this hour hundreds of mothers
and fathers separated from their beloved offspring through the deviltry
of these kidnappers.
Hornblower must have supposed, from the appearance of Jim Travers, that he
was the son of well-to-do parents, who would "come down" handsomely for
his return. The extraordinary part of the business was, that, on the
morning succeeding Jim's abduction, there appeared in the papers an
account of the disappearance of a boy from Philadelphia, with the promise
of a liberal reward for any information that would lead to his return.
This account did not correspond entirely with the circumstances under
which Jim was taken, but the main facts were such that Hornblower was
satisfied he had the right lad in his keeping.
When Hornblower questioned Jim so closely in the cabin and took down his
replies, he had not a particle of doubt that the boy was telling him a
tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end. Toward the close of the
examination, however, it began to dawn on the abductor that possibly he
had made an error. Be that as it might, he was none the less convinced
that he had a bonanza in his hands, and one which could be made to serve
him as well as the original himself.
His captive corresponded so closely to the one advertised that he could be
made to pass muster as such, and the reward secured. This, it would seem,
was almost an impossible task, but Hornblower was confident of success.
This explanation will serve to show why he took the precautions which had
excited the impatience of his confederate, Bob.
Jim Travers did not know all this, but he easily understood from the
conversation of the two conspirators that he had been stolen for the sake
of making money out of his return.
"What a great mistake they have made," he thought; "there isn't any one in
the wide world that would give three cents to have me returned."
He concluded to stay quietly on board the schooner and let matters take
their course, as it did not occur to him that any personal danger might
arise from future complications. Could he have dreamed of what was coming,
he would have jumped overboard and risked drowning in his attempt to reach
Jim had learned enough from the conversation in the cabin to keep him
awake until midnight. It was near morning when he dropped off into
slumber, which was not broken until the forenoon of the succeeding day was
When he went on deck, he saw that the schooner was far below the city, and
standing straight toward the ocean. The weather was again cold, so he kept
within the cabin most of the time.
That night the negro Sam complained of feeling unwell, and threw his
massive form into his hammock, in the hope of becoming better after a
short rest. His sickness was not of a serious nature; but when such a big
man falls ill there is a great deal of it, and the African instantly
formed the belief that he was going to die, certain sure.
He groaned, and cried, until Jim himself became frightened, and went on
deck to ask the others to look after him. They replied that there was
nothing the matter with Sam, and that he would soon come around all right.
Jim did his best to relieve the negro, giving him the few simple remedies
at hand, in the hope that he would drop off to sleep. Sure enough, in the
course of half an hour Sam did fall asleep, and when he awoke, an hour
later, was well; and, fully appreciating Jim's kind attentions, said to
him, leaning on his enormous elbow in the hammock,--
"Tell you what, sonny, yous been mighty kind to me, and _I'll remember
you_, dat's what I'll do."
"You would have done the same for me, Sam."
"S'pose I would; but dar ain't many dat would hab done it for me, and I
_won't forget you_. But wasn't I 'bout de sickest coon dat you eber seen?"
"You seemed to feel very bad," replied Jim.
"Feel bad? you'd better beleib I did! Do you know what de matter wid me?"
"I had de Norf American cholera; dat's worse dan de African. I also had
the pneumonia, and de bronchitis, and de measles, and de small-pox, and
the cholly-wampus--all at the same time. Do you wonder dat I groaned?"
"I shouldn't think you could groan at all, if you had so many diseases as
"Dar's war my toughness and wrastling powers show themselves. I just
wrastled and wrastled, and I frowed 'em all."
Sam swung his huge legs out of the hammock, took a seat near Jim, and,
reaching out, he gently closed his immense fist around the little white
hand of the boy. Then leaning forward until his black face, as broad as
the moon, was almost against Jim's, he whispered,--
"Yous been mighty kind to me, sonny, and, as I obsarved befor', I ain't de
one to forget it. Now, don't you disremember what I toles you. You tink
it's all nice and pleasant here on de boat, and so it am jis' now, but
dar's _breakers ahead!_ Dat boss ob mine am one ob de biggest debbils dat
am runnin' loose. Ef I should tell yous all dat I know 'bout him, your
hair would rose up and stick frough de roof wid horror. Can you swim,
"I am a good swimmer."
"Berry well; I'm mighty glad to hear dat; it's likely dat you'll hab to
swim for your life one ob dese days. Don't roll your eyes so--I don't
mean dat we's going to be wracked. But what I want to say am dat you must
keep mum, and don't let on dat you don't know nuffin. Don't act as though
you and me was much friends when de rest am 'bout, but you know dat I'm
jis' de best one dat you'll eber find."
"I understand all that," said Jim, who saw that the plan was only a simple
precaution against drawing suspicion to them; "but I had no thought that
any one would want to hurt me."
"Yous young, and don't understand dem tings like us better eddycated
gem'man. Old Hornblower am trying to sell you; and if he can't do it, and
tinks dat de ossifers am coming down on him, why he'll jis' chuck you
oberboard and dar'll be de end ob it. You see, yous a purty big boy to
steal, and if he lets you go, he'll be likely to hear from you again."
Jim thanked his new friend from the bottom of his heart, and asked him
what was the best thing to do.
"_Run away!_" was the emphatic reply.
"But I don't get any chance when they're close to shore. I am watched all
the while, and they are so far off at other times that I hardly dare try
"I'll tell yous what to do; jis' wait till I lets you know dat de time am
Jim agreed to this, and the African shortly after went on deck, while the
boy turned in for the night.
From this time forth the captive lost his reckoning altogether, and could
form no definite idea of the part of the world in which they were
cruising. He supposed they were somewhere along the Virginia or North
Carolina coast. At intervals of a day or two they ran in within sight of
some town, and the sailor known as Bob went ashore in the boat.
On these occasions there could be no doubt that he met Hornblower, and
that the schooner was playing her part in a drama which was likely to end
in a tragedy.
Fortified by the presence of such a friend as the negro Sam, Jim
determined to write a note to Tom, telling him what had happened, and
promising to return to him as soon as possible.
He had no trouble securing paper and the occasion; and when finished, he
intrusted the missive to Sam, with the strictest injunctions to drop it
into the office at the first town where he landed.
The negro did his best, and a week later, when he went ashore, he inquired
for the post-office, which he found after much trouble and delay. But he
had lost the letter, and truth compelled him to report the sad fact to his
After that Jim did not run the risk of a second attempt.
"Providence will bring me out all right some day," was his conclusion;
"and then Tom and I will talk it all over."
The schooner coasted up and down for weeks and months, until spring.
During this period she had spent days in ports where Jim could not gain
the chance to find out the name of the town even.
Sam's ignorance was so dense that even if he heard the place called out,
he could not remember it ten minutes.
Several times Hornblower had appeared on board the vessel; but he held no
communication with Jim, nor could the latter gain any additional knowledge
of how he was progressing with his negotiations.
In the presence of others there was always a coolness between Sam and the
boy, and it was impossible that either of the sailors should have
suspected the strong friendship that bound the two together.
The fact that the vessel was working her way northward again made Jim
uneasy; for it convinced him that a crisis was at hand, and his fate was
likely to be determined one way or the other very soon.
Sam was of the same belief, as he took occasion to say when the chance
offered. Adding that he would keep his eyes and ears open.
On a beautiful day in spring the Simoon entered New York Bay, and Jim
resolved to seize the first opportunity to escape. The sight of the great
city filled him with such longings to see his old friend Tom, that he
could scarcely conceal his impatience from the others.
A grievous disappointment awaited him.
So strict a surveillance was kept over him, that no artifice was
sufficient to secure the coveted chance.
That night Hornblower was on board, and a long and angry conference took
place forward between him and Bob.
Jim would have given the world could he have learned what it was; but
neither he nor Sam was allowed to catch a single expression.
The next morning the Simoon left the wharf and started up the Hudson. Mr.
Hornblower had decided to effect a "change of venue."
But for the dark fear which impended over him, James Travers would have
looked upon his sail up the Hudson on that spring morning as one of the
most delightful experiences of his life.
The sky was clear as Italy's; the air was balmy, and the steamers and
shipping on the broad stream, as well as the roar of the train thundering
along shore, formed an element in the romantic scenery which has well
given the name of the Rhine of America to that noble river.
But the boy had little heart for all these. He was speculating upon the
probabilities of the near future.
It was during the afternoon, while gliding up the river, that they passed
so close to a downward-bound steamer that the features of the passengers
on deck were plainly seen.
Jim was leaning idly on the gunwale, looking at them, when he observed a
lady, with a child seated beside her, the mother pointing out to the child
the varied beauties of the scene as they moved swiftly by. He straightened
up on the instant, as if he had received an electric shock; for the
conviction came like a flash that he had seen the face of that child
But where? He might as well have asked himself what there was in such a
sweet, angelic countenance to affect him so strangely.
Ah! he had it. That was the girl that Tom had rescued from the icy water
the winter before.
Going in opposite directions, and with such speed, the steamer and
schooner were soon far apart, and the straining gaze of the lad was unable
to tell where the mother and child were seated.
The two had not even looked at him, and he could only sigh that the
glimpse was such a passing one.
"I wonder whether Tom has ever seen them since. He would be a great deal
more delighted than I."
The Simoon sailed steadily upward till the day wore by, by which time she
was a good many miles above the metropolis.
It was no more than fairly dark when Sam managed to whisper in the ear of
"_You mus' leab de boat to-night!_"
These were alarming words, though the lad could not understand how harm to
him was to benefit any one, unless it was that Hornblower and his
confederates were afraid of the consequences of discovery, and prefered to
act on the principle that dead boys can tell no tales.
The night was pleasant, with a faint moon, and the Simoon dropped anchor
within a few hundred yards of shore.
The distance was one that Jim could swim with ease. All he asked was the
The two sailors seemed to suspect some scheme of escape was in the boy's
head, or else they must have noticed the chance was a very tempting one.
"Why should they think I want to run away," Jim asked himself, "when I've
had a hundred chances before to-day?"
Why it was they were more than usually careful it was hard to understand;
but that such was the fact could not be overlooked.
It might be they were watching for the arrival of some one else, or,
knowing that something important was on hand for that night, they were on
Poor Sam was in a state of great agitation, and made an awkward attempt to
assist his young friend.
He offered to act as watch through the night, but the offer was declined.
They intended to keep the decks themselves.
"Dar's mischief a-brewin'," he whispered, "and yous had better git out ob
dis unarthly place jist as quick as de good Lord will let you."
Which was precisely what Jim meant to do, as soon as Providence would open
As the only chance was by a bold stroke, and as there was no telling the
precise moment when the danger would burst upon him, Jim Travers did not
Creeping softly up the short stairs, Jim raised his head barely enough to
see where the crew were.
The two sailors were standing aft, talking together in low tones. Probably
they were discussing at that very moment the best plan of disposing of the
boy, who had become a dangerous encumbrance to them and their employer.
It was more than likely that Hornblower had failed in his attempt to
secure a ransom for the child, who was not the one for whom the other
parties were negotiating.
The age of the captive was such that his liberty would prove fatal to his
Sam, the burly negro, was leaning against the mainmast, probably torturing
his thick skull as to the best means of helping his young friend, whom he
loved so well.
Jim saw enough, and, creeping out of the cabin, he crawled down over the
rudder, upon which he rested a few seconds, while he made ready for his
venture. He could see the dark bank, and he wished that the moon would
hide itself behind a thick cloud, the better to give him a chance. But the
sky was clear, and it might be fatal to wait any longer.
With a muttered prayer to Heaven not to desert him in his peril, he let
himself down in the river, and struck out for the shore. He proceeded with
all the care and stillness of which he was capable; but he had taken no
more than half a dozen strokes, when he was seen by both the sailors.
"Hello! what's that?" asked Bob, running to the stern of the vessel, and
peering over in the gloom.
"I guess it am a whale," suggested Sam, anxious to befriend the lad.
"A whale!" repeated the man with an oath, "it's that kid. Hello, there!
Stop, or I'll shoot you!"
And he pointed his revolver at the head of Jim, who, instead of heeding
the command, sank beneath the surface, swimming as far as he could before
coming up. When he reappeared he was a dozen yards from the schooner.
The very moment he came up the villain discharged two shots from his
pistol directly at his head.
"Look out, or dey'll hit yous!" called Sam, unable to repress his
solicitude for the boy.
Could the miscreant finish the lad when swimming, it would be as good a
way as any to dispose of him.
It looked as if he had succeeded, for Jim uttered a groan, and sank out of
But it was only a trick intended to deceive the sailor.
The latter observed the head as it reappeared, still nearer shore, and he
fired again, two shots, as before. The other sailor, fearful of a miss,
was hastily lowering a boat.
He worked so expeditiously that the craft dropped into the water the next
minute. Both sprang into the boat, and began rowing with might and main in
pursuit of the fugitive.
Poor Sam could only stay on deck, in a torment of fear, while he prayed
the good Lord to protect the boy.
When the little boat left the side of the larger one, Jim Travers had
improved the precious moments to the utmost.
He had already passed over the greater part of the intervening distance,
and never in all his life did he swim as now. And there was need of it,
for the pursuers were determined he should not escape them.
Providentially, none of the bullets had struck him, though one or two had
passed very near.
Jim cast a terrified glance over his shoulder, and saw the boat coming
with great speed toward him.
There was no escape by diving, for there was too much light from the moon.
He must reach land far enough in advance to give him an opportunity to
flee or hide himself.
A second after, Jim dropped his feet, and they touched bottom.
Straightening up, he found the water reached only to his waist; and, with
all the strength of which he was master, he fought his way to dry land,
and hurried up the bank.
The pursuers were close behind him, and both fired, the boat being so
near that the impetus already given by the oars carried it hard against