Part 1 out of 4
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THE BOY GUARDIAN
HORATIO ALGER, JR.
[Illustration: Jack seized the old man, thrust him through the secret
door and locked it.]
BIOGRAPHY AND BIBLIOGRAPHY
Horatio Alger, Jr., an author who lived among and for boys and himself
remained a boy in heart and association till death, was born at Revere,
Mass., January 13, 1834. He was the son of a clergyman; was graduated
at Harvard College in 1852, and at its Divinity School in 1860; and was
pastor of the Unitarian Church at Brewster, Mass., in 1862-66.
In the latter year he settled in New York and began drawing public
attention to the condition and needs of street boys. He mingled with
them, gained their confidence, showed a personal concern in their
affairs, and stimulated them to honest and useful living. With his first
story he won the hearts of all red-blooded boys everywhere, and of the
seventy or more that followed over a million copies were sold during the
In his later life he was in appearance a short, stout, bald-headed man,
with cordial manners and whimsical views of things that amused all who
met him. He died at Natick, Mass., July 18, 1899.
Mr. Alger's stories are as popular now as when first published, because
they treat of real live boys who were always up and about--just like the
boys found everywhere to-day. They are pure in tone and inspiring in
influence, and many reforms in the juvenile life of New York may be
traced to them. Among the best known are:
_Strong and Steady; Strive and Succeed; Try and Trust; Bound to Rise;
Risen from the Ranks; Herbert Carter's Legacy; Brave and Bold; Jack's
Ward; Shifting for Himself; Wait and Hope; Paul the Peddler; Phil the
Fiddler; Slow and Sure; Julius the Street Boy; Tom the Bootblack;
Struggling Upward; Facing the World; The Cash Boy; Making His Way; Tony
the Tramp; Joe's Luck; Do and Dare; Only an Irish Boy; Sink or Swim; A
Cousin's Conspiracy; Andy Gordon; Bob Burton; Harry Vane; Hector's
Inheritance; Mark Mason's Triumph; Sam's Chance; The Telegraph Boy; The
Young Adventurer; The Young Outlaw; The Young Salesman_, and _Luke
JACK HARDING GETS A JOB
"Look here, boy, can you hold my horse a few minutes?" asked a
gentleman, as he jumped from his carriage in one of the lower streets
in New York.
The boy addressed was apparently about twelve, with a bright face and
laughing eyes, but dressed in clothes of coarse material. This was Jack
Harding, who is to be our hero.
"Yes, sir," said Jack, with alacrity, hastening to the horse's head;
"I'll hold him as long as you like."
"All right! I'm going in at No. 39; I won't be long."
"That's what I call good luck," said Jack to himself. "No boy wants a
job more than I do. Father's out of work, rent's most due, and Aunt
Rachel's worrying our lives out with predicting that we'll all be in
the poorhouse inside of three months. It's enough to make a fellow feel
blue, listenin' to her complainin' and groanin' all the time. Wonder
whether she was always so. Mother says she was disappointed in love
when she was young. I guess that's the reason."
"Have you set up a carriage, Jack?" asked a boy acquaintance, coming up
and recognizing Jack.
"Yes," said Jack, "but it ain't for long. I shall set down again pretty
"I thought your grandmother had left you a fortune, and you had set up a
"No such good news. It belongs to a gentleman that's inside."
"Inside the carriage?"
"No, in No. 39."
"How long's he going to stay?"
"I don't know."
"If it was half an hour, we might take a ride, and be back in time."
Jack shook his head.
"That ain't my style," he said. "I'll stay here till he comes out."
"Well, I must be going along. Are you coming to school to-morrow?"
"Yes, if I can't get anything to do."
"Are you trying for that?"
"I'd like to get a place. Father's out of work, and anything I can earn
comes in handy."
"My father's got plenty of money," said Frank Nelson, complacently.
"There isn't any need of my working."
"Then your father's lucky."
"And so am I."
"I don't know about that. I'd just as lieve work as not."
"Well, I wouldn't. I'd rather be my own master, and have my time to
myself. But I must be going home."
"You're lazy, Frank."
"Very likely. I've a right to be."
Frank Nelson went off, and Jack was left alone. Half an hour passed, and
still the gentleman, who had entered No. 39, didn't appear. The horse
showed signs of impatience, shook his head, and eyed Jack in an
"He thinks it time to be going," thought Jack. "So do I. I wonder what
the man's up to. Perhaps he's spending the day."
Fifteen minutes more passed, but then relief came. The owner of the
carriage came out.
"Did you get tired of waiting for me?" he asked.
"No," said Jack, shrewdly. "I knew the longer the job, the bigger the
"I suppose that is a hint," said the gentleman, not offended.
"Perhaps so," said Jack, and he smiled too.
"Tell me, now, what are you going to do with the money I give you--buy
"No," answered Jack, "I shall carry it home to my mother."
"That's well. Does your mother need the money?"
"Yes, sir. Father's out of work, and we've got to live all the same."
"What's your father's business?"
"He's a cooper."
"So he's out of work?"
"Yes, sir, and has been for six weeks. It's on account of the panic, I
"Very likely. He has plenty of company just now."
It may be remarked that our story opens in the year 1867, memorable for
its panic, and the business depression which followed. Nearly every
branch of industry suffered, and thousands of men were thrown out of
work, and utterly unable to find employment of any kind. Among them was
Timothy Harding, the father of our hero. He was a sober, steady man, and
industrious; but his wages had never been large, and he had been unable
to save up a reserve fund, on which to draw in time of need. He had an
excellent wife, and but one child--our present hero; but there was
another, and by no means unimportant member of the family. This was
Rachel Harding, a spinster of melancholy temperament, who belonged to
that unhappy class who are always prophesying evil, and expecting the
worst. She had been "disappointed" in early life, and this had something
to do with her gloomy views, but probably she was somewhat inclined by
nature to despondency.
The family lived in a humble tenement, which, however, was neatly kept,
and would have been a cheerful home but for the gloomy presence of Aunt
Rachel, who, since her brother had been thrown out of employment, was
gloomier than ever.
But all this while we have left Jack and the stranger standing in the
"You seem to be a good boy," said the latter, "and, under the
circumstances, I will pay you more than I intended."
He drew from his vest pocket a dollar bill, and handed it to Jack.
"What! is all this for me?" asked Jack, joyfully.
"Yes, on the condition that you carry it home, and give it to your
"That I will, sir; she'll be glad enough to get it."
"Well, good-by, my boy. I hope your father'll find work soon."
"He's a trump!" ejaculated Jack. "Wasn't it lucky I was here just as he
wanted a boy to hold his horse. I wonder what Aunt Rachel will have to
say to that? Very likely she'll say the bill is bad."
Jack made the best of his way home. It was already late in the
afternoon, and he knew he would be expected. It was with a lighter heart
than usual that he bent his steps homeward, for he knew that the dollar
would be heartily welcome.
We will precede him, and give a brief description of his home.
There were only five rooms, and these were furnished in the plainest
manner. In the sitting room were his mother and aunt. Mrs. Harding was a
motherly-looking woman, with a pleasant face, the prevailing expression
of which was a serene cheerfulness, though of late it had been harder
than usual to preserve this, in the straits to which the family had been
reduced. She was setting the table for tea.
Aunt Rachel sat in a rocking-chair at the window. She was engaged in
knitting. Her face was long and thin, and, as Jack expressed it, she
looked as if she hadn't a friend in the world. Her voice harmonized with
her mournful expression, and was equally doleful.
"I wonder why Jack don't come home?" said Mrs. Harding, looking at the
clock. "He's generally here at this time."
"Perhaps somethin's happened," suggested her sister-in-law.
"What do you mean, Rachel?"
"I was reading in the _Sun_ this morning about a boy being run over
out West somewhere."
"You don't think Jack has been run over!"
"Who knows?" said Rachel, gloomily. "You know how careless boys are, and
Jack's very careless."
"I don't see how you can look for such things, Rachel."
"Accidents are always happening; you know that yourself, Martha. I don't
say Jack's run over. Perhaps he's been down to the wharves, and tumbled
over into the water and got drowned."
"I wish you wouldn't say such things, Rachel. They make me feel
"We may as well be prepared for the worst," said Rachel, severely.
"Not this time, Rachel," said Mrs. Harding, brightly, "for that's Jack's
step outside. He isn't drowned or run over, thank God!"
"I hear him," said Rachel, dismally. "Anybody might know by the noise
who it is. He always comes stamping along as if he was paid for makin' a
noise. Anybody ought to have a cast-iron head that lives anywhere within
Here Jack entered, rather boisterously, it must be admitted, in his
eagerness slamming the door behind him.
THE EVENTS OF AN EVENING
"I am glad you've come, Jack," said his mother. "Rachel was just
predicting that you were run over or drowned."
"I hope you're not very much disappointed to see me safe and well, Aunt
Rachel," said Jack, merrily. "I don't think I've been drowned."
"There's things worse than drowning," replied Rachel, severely.
"Such as what?"
"A man that's born to be hanged is safe from drowning."
"Thank you for the compliment, Aunt Rachel, if you mean me. But, mother,
I didn't tell you of my good luck. See this," and he displayed the
"How did you get it?" asked his mother.
"Holding horses. Here, take it, mother; I warrant you'll find a use for
"It comes in good time," said Mrs. Harding. "We're out of flour, and I
had no money to buy any. Before you take off your boots, Jack, I wish
you'd run over to the grocery store, and buy half a dozen pounds. You
may get a pound of sugar, and quarter of a pound of tea also."
"You see the Lord hasn't forgotten us," she remarked, as Jack started on
"What's a dollar?" said Rachel, gloomily. "Will it carry us through the
"It will carry us through to-night, and perhaps Timothy will have work
to-morrow. Hark, that's his step."
At this moment the outer door opened, and Timothy Harding entered, not
with the quick, elastic step of one who brings good tidings, but slowly
and deliberately, with a quiet gravity of demeanor in which his wife
could read only too well that he had failed in his efforts to procure
Reading all this in his manner, she had the delicacy to forbear
intruding upon him questions to which she saw it would only give him
pain to reply.
Not so Aunt Rachel.
"I needn't ask," she began, "whether you've got work, Timothy. I knew
beforehand you wouldn't. There ain't no use in tryin'! The times is
awful dull, and mark my words, they'll be wuss before they're better. We
mayn't live to see 'em. I don't expect we shall. Folks can't live
without money; and if we can't get that, we shall have to starve."
"Not so bad as that, Rachel," said the cooper, trying to look cheerful;
"I don't talk about starving till the time comes. Anyhow," glancing at
the table, on which was spread a good plain meal, "we needn't talk about
starving till to-morrow with that before us. Where's Jack?"
"Gone after some flour," replied his wife.
"On credit?" asked the cooper.
"No, he's got money enough to pay for a few pounds," said Mrs. Harding,
smiling with an air of mystery.
"Where did it come from?" asked Timothy, who was puzzled, as his wife
anticipated. "I didn't know you had any money in the house."
"No more we had; but he earned it himself, holding horses, this
"Come, that's good," said the cooper, cheerfully. "We ain't so bad off
as we might be, you see, Rachel."
"Very likely the bill's bad," she said, with the air of one who rather
hoped it was.
"Now, Rachel, what's the use of anticipating evil?" said Mrs. Harding.
"You see you're wrong, for here's Jack with the flour."
The family sat down to supper.
"You haven't told us," said Mrs. Harding, seeing her husband's
cheerfulness in a measure restored, "what Mr. Blodgett said about the
chances for employment."
"Not much that was encouraging," answered Timothy. "He isn't at all sure
when it will be safe to commence work; perhaps not before spring."
"Didn't I tell you so?" commented Rachel, with sepulchral sadness.
Even Mrs. Harding couldn't help looking sober.
"I suppose, Timothy, you haven't formed any plans," she said.
"No, I haven't had time. I must try to get something else to do."
"What, for instance?"
"Anything by which I can earn a little; I don't care if it's only sawing
wood. We shall have to get along as economically as we can--cut our coat
according to our cloth."
"Oh, you'll be able to earn something, and we can live very plain," said
Mrs. Harding, affecting a cheerfulness she didn't feel.
"Pity you hadn't done it sooner," was the comforting suggestion of
"Mustn't cry over spilt milk," said the cooper, good-humoredly. "Perhaps
we might have lived a leetle more economically, but I don't think we've
"Besides, I can earn something, father," said Jack, hopefully. "You know
I did this afternoon."
"So you can," said his mother, brightly.
"There ain't horses to hold every day," said Rachel, apparently fearing
that the family might become too cheerful, when, like herself, it was
their duty to be profoundly gloomy.
"You're always tryin' to discourage people, Aunt Rachel," said Jack,
Rachel took instant umbrage at these words.
"I'm sure," said she, mournfully, "I don't want to make you unhappy. If
you can find anything to be cheerful about when you're on the verge of
starvation, I hope you'll enjoy yourselves, and not mind me. I'm a poor,
dependent creetur, and I feel I'm a burden."
"Now, Rachel, that's all foolishness," said Timothy. "You don't feel
anything of the kind."
"Perhaps others can tell how I feel better than I can myself," answered
his sister, with the air of a martyr. "If it hadn't been for me, I know
you'd have been able to lay up money, and have something to carry you
through the winter. It's hard to be a burden on your relations, and
bring a brother's family to this poverty."
"Don't talk of being a burden, Rachel," said Mrs. Harding. "You've been
a great help to me in many ways. That pair of stockings, now, you're
knitting for Jack--that's a help, for I couldn't have got time for them
"I don't expect," said Aunt Rachel, in the same sunny manner, "that I
shall be able to do it long. From the pains I have in my hands
sometimes, I expect I'm goin' to lose the use of 'em soon, and be as
useless as old Mrs. Sprague, who for the last ten years of her life had
to sit with her hands folded on her lap. But I wouldn't stay to be a
burden--I'd go to the poorhouse first. But perhaps," with the look of a
martyr, "they wouldn't want me there, because I'd be discouragin' 'em
Poor Jack, who had so unwittingly raised this storm, winced under the
last words, which he knew were directed at him.
"Then why," asked he, half in extenuation, "why don't you try to look
pleasant and cheerful? Why won't you be jolly, as Tom Piper's aunt is?"
"I dare say I ain't pleasant," said Rachel, "as my own nephew twits me
with it. There is some folks that can be cheerful when their house is
a-burnin' down before their eyes, and I've heard of one young man that
laughed at his aunt's funeral," directing a severe glance at Jack; "but
I'm not one of that kind. I think, with the Scriptures, that there's a
time to weep."
"Doesn't it say there's a time to laugh, too?" asked Mrs. Harding.
"When I see anything to laugh about, I'm ready to laugh," said Aunt
Rachel; "but human nater ain't to be forced. I can't see anything to
laugh at now, and perhaps you won't by and by."
It was evidently quite useless to persuade Rachel to
cheerfulness, and the subject dropped.
The tea things were cleared away by Mrs. Harding, who then sat down to
her sewing. Aunt Rachel continued to knit in grim silence, while Jack
seated himself on a three-legged stool near his aunt, and began to
whittle out a boat, after a model lent him by Tom Piper, a young
gentleman whose aunt has already been referred to.
The cooper took out his spectacles, wiped them carefully with his
handkerchief, and as carefully adjusted them to his nose. He then took
down from the mantelpiece one of the few books belonging to his
library--"Dr. Kane's Arctic Explorations"--and began to read, for the
tenth time, it might be, the record of these daring explorers.
The plain little room presented a picture of graceful tranquillity, but
it proved to be only the calm which preceded the storm.
The storm in question, I regret to say, was brought about by the
luckless Jack. As has been said, he was engaged in constructing a boat,
the particular operation he was now intent upon being the excavation, or
hollowing out. Now three-legged stools are not the most secure seats in
the world. This, I think, no one will deny who has any practical
acquaintance with them. Jack was working quite vigorously, the block
from which the boat was to be fashioned being held firmly between his
knees. His knife having got wedged in the wood, he made an unusual
effort to draw it out, in which he lost his balance, and disturbed the
equilibrium of his stool, which, with its load, tumbled over backward.
Now, it very unfortunately happened that Aunt Rachel sat close behind,
and the treacherous stool came down with considerable force upon her
A piercing shriek was heard, and Aunt Rachel, lifting her foot, clung to
it convulsively, while an expression of pain disturbed her features.
At the sound, the cooper hastily removed his spectacles, and, letting
"Dr. Kane" fall to the floor, started up in great dismay. Mrs. Harding
likewise dropped her sewing, and jumped to her feet in alarm.
It did not take long to see how matters stood.
"Hurt ye much, Rachel?" inquired Timothy.
"It's about killed me," groaned the afflicted maiden. "Oh, I shall have
to have my foot cut off, or be a cripple anyway." Then, turning upon
Jack fiercely: "You careless, wicked, ungrateful boy, that I've been
wearin' myself out knittin' for. I'm almost sure you did it a purpose.
You won't be satisfied till you've got me out of the world, and
then--then, perhaps"--here Rachel began to whimper--"perhaps you'll get
Tom Piper's aunt to knit your stockings."
"I didn't mean to, Aunt Rachel," said Jack, penitently, eying his aunt,
who was rocking to and fro in her chair. "You know I didn't. Besides, I
hurt myself like thunder," rubbing himself vigorously.
"Served you right," said his aunt, still clasping her foot.
"Shan't I get something for you to put on it, Rachel?" asked Mrs.
But this Rachel steadily refused, and, after a few more postures
indicating a great amount of anguish, limped out of the room, and
ascended the stairs to her own apartment.
JACK'S NEW PLAN
Aunt Rachel was right in one thing, as Jack realized. He could not find
horses to hold every day, and even if he had succeeded in that, few
would have paid him so munificently as the stranger of the day before.
In fact, matters came to a crisis, and something must be sold to raise
funds for immediate necessities. Now, the only article of luxury--if it
could be called so--in the possession of the family was a sofa, in very
good preservation, indeed nearly new, for it had been bought only two
years before when business was good. A neighbor was willing to pay
fifteen dollars for this, and Mrs. Harding, with her husband's consent,
agreed to part with it.
"If ever we are able we will buy another," said Timothy.
"And, at any rate, we can do without it," said his wife.
"Rachel will miss it."
"She said the other day that it was not comfortable, and ought never to
have been bought; that it was a shameful waste of money."
"In that case she won't be disturbed by our selling it."
"No, I should think not; but it's hard to tell how Rachel will take
This remark was amply verified.
The sofa was removed while the spinster was out, and without any hint to
her of what was going to happen. When she returned, she looked around
for it with surprise.
"Where's the sofy?" she asked.
"We've sold it to Mrs. Stoddard," said Mrs. Harding, cheerfully.
"Sold it!" echoed Rachel, dolefully.
"Yes; we felt that we didn't need it, and we did need money. She offered
me fifteen dollars for it, and I accepted."
Rachel sat down in a rocking-chair, and began straightway to show signs
of great depression of spirits.
"Life's full of disappointments!" she groaned. "Our paths is continually
beset by 'em. There's that sofa. It's so pleasant to have one in the
house when a body's sick. But, there, it's gone, and if I happen to get
down, as most likely I shall, for I've got a bad feeling in my stummick
this very minute, I shall have to go upstairs, and most likely catch my
death of cold, and that will be the end of me."
"Not so bad as that, I hope," said Mrs. Harding, cheerfully. "You know
when you was sick last, you didn't want to use the sofa; you said it
didn't lay comfortable. Besides, I hope before you are sick we may be
able to buy it back again."
Aunt Rachel shook her head despondingly.
"There ain't any use in hoping that," she said. "Timothy's got so much
behindhand that he won't be able to get up again; I know he won't!"
"But, if he only manages to find steady work soon, he will."
"No, he won't," said Rachel, positively. "I'm sure he won't. There won't
be any work before spring, and most likely not then."
"You are too desponding, Aunt Rachel."
"Enough to make me so. If you had only taken my advice, we shouldn't
have come to this."
"I don't know what advice you refer to, Rachel," said Mrs. Harding,
"No, I don't expect you do. My words don't make no impression. You
didn't pay no attention to what I said, that's the reason."
"But if you'll repeat the advice, Rachel, perhaps we can still profit by
it," answered Mrs. Harding, with imperturbable good humor.
"I told you you ought to be layin' up something agin' a rainy day. But
that's always the way. Folks think when times is good it's always
a-goin' to be so, but I know better."
"I don't see how we could have been much more economical," said Mrs.
"There's a hundred ways. Poor folks like us ought not to expect to have
meat so often. It's frightful to think what the butcher's bill must have
been for the last two months."
Inconsistent Rachel! Only the day before she had made herself very
uncomfortable because there was no meat for dinner, and said she
couldn't live without it. Mrs. Harding might have reminded her of this,
but the good woman was too kind and forbearing to make the retort. She
really pitied Rachel for her unhappy habit of despondency. So she
contented herself by saying that they must try to do better in future.
"That's always the way," muttered Rachel; "shut the stable door after
the horse is stolen. Folks never learn from experience till it's too
late to be of any use. I don't see what the world was made for, for my
part. Everything goes topsy-turvy, and all sorts of ways except the
right way. I sometimes think 'tain't much use livin'!"
"Oh, you'll feel better by and by, Rachel."
"No, I shan't; I feel my health's declinin' every day. I don't know how
I can stand it when I have to go to the poorhouse."
"We haven't gone there yet, Rachel."
"No, but it's comin' soon. We can't live on nothin'."
"Hark, there's Jack coming," said his mother, hearing a quick step
"Yes, he's whistlin' just as if nothin' was the matter. He don't care
anything for the awful condition of the family."
"You're wrong there, Rachel; Jack is trying every day to get something
to do. He wants to do his part."
Rachel would have made a reply disparaging to Jack, but she had no
chance, for our hero broke in at this instant.
"Well, Jack?" said his mother, inquiringly.
"I've got a plan, mother," he said.
"What's a boy's plan worth?" sniffed Aunt Rachel.
"Oh, don't be always hectorin' me, Aunt Rachel," said Jack, impatiently.
"Hectorin'! Is that the way my own nephew talks to me?"
"Well, it's so. You don't give a feller a chance. I'll tell you what I'm
thinking of, mother. I've been talkin' with Tom Blake; he sells papers,
and he tells me he makes sometimes a dollar a day. Isn't that good?"
"Yes, that is very good wages for a boy."
"I want to try it, too; but I've got to buy the papers first, you know,
and I haven't got any money. So, if you'll lend me fifty cents, I'll try
it this afternoon."
"You think you can sell them, Jack?"
"I know I can. I'm as smart as Tom Blake, any day."
"Pride goes before a fall!" remarked Rachel, by way of a damper.
"Disappointment is the common lot."
"That's just the way all the time," said Jack, provoked.
"I've lived longer than you," began Aunt Rachel.
"Yes, a mighty lot longer," interrupted Jack. "I don't deny that."
"Now you're sneerin' at me on account of my age, Jack. Martha, how can
you allow such things?"
"Be respectful, Jack."
"Then tell Aunt Rachel not to aggravate me so. Will you let me have the
fifty cents, mother?"
"Yes, Jack. I think your plan is worth trying."
She took out half a dollar from her pocketbook and handed it to Jack.
"All right, mother. I'll see what I can do with it."
Jack went out, and Rachel looked more gloomy than ever.
"You'll never see that money again, you may depend on't, Martha," she
"Why not, Rachel?"
"Because Jack'll spend it for candy, or in some other foolish way."
"You are unjust, Rachel. Jack is not that kind of boy."
"I'd ought to know him. I've had chances enough."
"You never knew him to do anything dishonest."
"I suppose he's a model boy?"
"No, he isn't. He's got faults enough, I admit; but he wouldn't spend
for his own pleasure money given him for buying papers."
"If he buys the papers, I don't believe he can sell them, so the money's
wasted anyway," said Rachel, trying another tack.
"We will wait and see," said Mrs. Harding.
She saw that Rachel was in one of her unreasonable moods, and that it
was of no use to continue the discussion.
MRS. HARDING TAKES A BOARDER
Jack started for the newspaper offices and bought a supply of papers.
"I don't see why I can't sell papers as well as other boys," he said to
himself. "I'm going to try, at any rate."
He thought it prudent, however, not to buy too large stock at first. He
might sell them all, but then again he might get "stuck" on a part, and
this might take away all his profits.
Jack, however, was destined to find that in the newspaper business, as
well as in others, there was no lack of competition. He took his place
just below the Astor House, and began to cry his papers. This aroused
the ire of a rival newsboy a few feet away.
"Get away from here!" he exclaimed, scowling at Jack.
"What for?" said Jack.
"This is my stand."
"Keep it, then. This is mine," retorted Jack, composedly.
"I don't allow no other newsboys in this block," said the other.
"Don't you? You ain't the city government, are you?"
"I don't want any of your impudence. Clear out!"
"Clear out yourself!"
"I'll give you a lickin'!"
"Perhaps you will when you're able."
Jack spoke manfully; but the fact was that the other boy probably was
able, being three years older, and as many inches taller.
Jack kept on crying his papers, and his opponent, incensed at the
contemptuous disregard of his threats, advanced toward him, and, taking
Jack unawares, pushed him off the sidewalk with such violence that he
nearly fell flat. Jack felt that the time for action had arrived. He
dropped his papers temporarily on the sidewalk, and, lowering his head,
butted against his young enemy with such force as to double him up, and
seat him, gasping for breath, on the sidewalk. Tom Rafferty, for this
was his name, looked up in astonishment at the unexpected form of the
"Well done, my lad!" said a hearty voice.
Jack turned toward the speaker, and saw a stout man dressed in a blue
coat with brass buttons. He was dark and bronzed with exposure to the
weather, and there was something about him which plainly indicated the
"Well done, my lad!" he repeated. "You know how to pay off your debts."
"I try to," said Jack, modestly. "But where's my papers?"
The papers, which he had dropped, had disappeared. One of the boys who
had seen the fracas had seized the opportunity to make off with them,
and poor Jack was in the position of a merchant who had lost his stock
"Who took them papers?" he asked, looking about him.
"I saw a boy run off with them," said a bystander.
"I'm glad of it," said Tom Rafferty, sullenly.
Jack looked as if he was ready to pitch into him again, but the sailor
"Don't mind the papers, my lad. What were they worth?"
"I gave twenty cents for 'em."
"Then here's thirty."
"I don't think I ought to take it," said Jack. "It's my loss."
"Take it, my boy. It won't ruin me. I've got plenty more behind."
"Thank you, sir; I'll go and buy some more papers."
"Not to-night. I want you to take a cruise with me."
"All right, sir."
"I suppose you'd like to know who I am?" said the sailor, as they moved
"I suppose you're a sailor."
"You can tell that by the cut of my jib. Yes, my lad, I'm captain of the
_Argo_, now in port. It's a good while since I've been in York. For
ten years I've been plying between Liverpool and Calcutta. Now I've got
absence to come over here."
"Are you an American, sir?"
"Yes; I was raised in Connecticut, but then I began going to sea when I
was only thirteen. I only arrived to-day, and I find the city changed
since ten years ago, when I used to know it."
"Where are you staying--at what hotel?"
"I haven't gone to any yet; I used to stay with a cousin of mine, but
he's moved. Do you know any good boarding place, where they'd make me
feel at home, and let me smoke a pipe after dinner?"
An idea struck Jack. They had an extra room at home, or could make one
by his sleeping in the sitting room. Why shouldn't they take the
stranger to board? The money would certainly be acceptable. He
determined to propose it.
"If we lived in a nicer house," he said, "I'd ask you to board at my
"Would she take me, my lad?"
"I think she would; but we are poor, and live in a small house."
"That makes no odds. I ain't a bit particular, as long as I can feel at
home. So heave ahead, my lad, and we'll go and see this mother of yours,
and hear what she has to say about it."
Jack took the way home well pleased, and, opening the front door,
entered the sitting room, followed by the sailor.
Aunt Rachel looked up nervously, and exclaimed: "A man!"
"Yes, ma'am," said the stranger. "I'm a man, and no mistake. Are you
this lad's mother?"
"No, sir!" answered Rachel, emphatically. "I am nobody's mother."
"Oh, an old maid!" said the sailor, whose mode of life had made him
"I am a spinster," said Rachel, with dignity.
"That's the same thing," said the visitor, sitting down opposite Aunt
Rachel, who eyed him suspiciously.
"My aunt, Rachel Harding, Capt. Bowling," introduced Jack. "Aunt Rachel,
Capt. Bowling is the commander of a vessel now in port."
Aunt Rachel made a stiff courtesy, and Capt. Bowling eyed her curiously.
"Are you fond of knitting, ma'am?" he asked.
"I am not fond of anything," said Rachel, mournfully. "We should not set
our affections upon earthly things."
"You wouldn't say that if you had a beau, ma'am," said Capt. Bowling,
"A beau!" repeated Rachel, horror-stricken.
"Yes, ma'am. I suppose you've had a beau some time or other."
"I don't think it proper to talk on such a subject to a stranger," said
Aunt Rachel, primly.
"Law, ma'am, you needn't be so particular."
Just at this moment, Mrs. Harding entered the room, and was introduced
to Capt. Bowling by Jack. The captain proceeded to business at once.
"Your son, here, ma'am, told me you might maybe swing a hammock for me
somewhere in your house. I liked his looks, and here I am."
"Do you think you would be satisfied with our plain fare, and humble
dwelling, Capt. Bowling?"
"I ain't hard to suit, ma'am; so, if you can take me, I'll stay."
His manner was frank, although rough; and Mrs. Harding cheerfully
consented to do so. It was agreed that Bowling should pay five dollars a
week for the three or four weeks he expected to stay.
"I'll be back in an hour," said the new boarder. "I've got a little
business to attend to before supper."
When he had gone out, Aunt Rachel began to cough ominously. Evidently
some remonstrance was coming.
"Martha," she said, solemnly, "I'm afraid you've done wrong in taking
that sailor man."
"He's a strange man."
"I don't see anything strange about him," said Jack.
"He spoke to me about having a beau," said Aunt Rachel, in a shocked
Jack burst into a fit of hearty laughter. "Perhaps he's going to make
you an offer, Aunt Rachel," he said. "He wants to see if there's anybody
in the way."
Rachel did not appear so very indignant.
"It was improper for a stranger to speak to me on that subject," she
"You must make allowances for the bluntness of a sailor," said Mrs.
For some reason Rachel did not seem as low-spirited as usual that
evening. Capt. Bowling entertained them with narratives of his personal
adventures, and it was later than usual when the lamps were put out, and
they were all in bed.
THE CAPTAIN'S DEPARTURE
"Jack," said the captain, at breakfast, the next morning, "how would you
like to go round with me to see my vessel?"
"I'll go," said Jack, promptly.
"Very likely he'll fall over into the water and be drowned," suggested
Aunt Rachel, cheerfully.
"I'll take care of that, ma'am," said Capt. Bowling. "Won't you come
"I go to see a vessel!" repeated Rachel.
"Yes; why not?"
"I am afraid it wouldn't be proper to go with a stranger," said Rachel,
with a high sense of propriety.
"I'll promise not to run away with you," said the captain, bluntly. "If
I should attempt it, Jack, here, would interfere."
"No, I wouldn't," said Jack. "It wouldn't be proper for me to interfere
with Aunt Rachel's plans."
"You seem to speak as if your aunt proposed to run away," said Mr.
"You shouldn't speak of such things, nephew; I am shocked," said Rachel.
"Then you won't go, ma'am?" asked the captain.
"If I thought it was consistent with propriety," said Rachel,
hesitating. "What do you think, Martha?"
"I think there is no objection," said Mrs. Harding, secretly amazed at
Rachel's entertaining the idea.
The result was that Miss Rachel put on her things, and accompanied the
captain. She was prevailed on to take the captain's arm at length,
greatly to Jack's amusement. He was still more amused when a boy picked
up her handkerchief which she had accidentally dropped, and, restoring
it to the captain, said, "Here's your wife's handkerchief, gov'nor."
"Ho! ho!" laughed the captain. "He takes you for my wife, ma'am."
"Ho! ho!" echoed Jack, equally amused.
Aunt Rachel turned red with confusion. "I am afraid I ought not to have
come," she murmured. "I feel ready to drop."
"You'd better not drop just yet," said the captain--they were just
crossing the street--"wait till it isn't so muddy."
On the whole, Aunt Rachel decided not to drop.
The _Argo_ was a medium-sized vessel, and Jack in particular was
pleased with his visit. Though not outwardly so demonstrative, Aunt
Rachel also seemed to enjoy the expedition. The captain, though blunt,
was attentive, and it was something new to her to have such an escort.
It was observed that Miss Harding was much less gloomy than usual during
the remainder of the day. It might be that the captain's cheerfulness
was contagious. For a stranger, Aunt Rachel certainly conversed with him
with a freedom remarkable for her.
"I never saw Rachel so cheerful," remarked Mrs. Harding to her husband
that evening after they had retired. "She hasn't once spoken of life
being a vale of tears to-day."
"It's the captain," said her husband. "He has such spirits that it seems
to enliven all of us."
"I wish we could have him for a permanent boarder."
"Yes; the five dollars a week which he pays are a great help, especially
now that I am out of work."
"What is the prospect of getting work soon?"
"I am hoping for it from day to day, but it may be weeks yet."
"Jack earned fifty cents to-day by selling papers."
"His daily earnings are an important help. With what the captain pays
us, it is enough to pay all our living expenses. But there's one thing
that troubles me."
"Yes, it is due in three weeks, and as yet I haven't a dollar laid by to
meet it. It makes me feel anxious."
"Don't lose your trust in Providence, Timothy. He may yet carry us over
"So I hope, but I can't help feeling in what straits we shall be, if
some help does not come."
Two weeks later, Capt. Bowling sailed for Liverpool.
"I hope we shall see you again sometime, captain," said Mrs. Harding.
"Whenever I come back to New York, I shall come here if you'll keep me,"
said the bluff sailor.
"Aunt Rachel will miss you, captain," said Jack, slyly.
Capt. Bowling turned to the confused spinster.
"I hope she will," said he, heartily. "Perhaps when I see her again,
she'll have a husband."
"Oh, Capt. Bowling, how can you say such things?" gasped Rachel, who, as
the time for the captain's departure approached, had been subsiding into
her old melancholy. "There's other things to think of in this vale of
"Are there? Well, if they're gloomy, I don't want to think of 'em. Jack,
my lad, I wish you were going to sail with me."
"So do I," said Jack.
"He's my only boy, captain," said Mrs. Harding. "I couldn't part with
"I don't blame you, ma'am, not a particle; though there's the making of
a sailor in Jack."
"If he went away, he'd never come back," said Rachel, lugubriously.
"I don't know about that, ma'am. I've been a sailor, man and boy, forty
years, and here I am, well and hearty to-day."
"The captain is about your age, isn't he, Aunt Rachel?" said Jack,
"I'm only thirty-nine," said Rachel, sharply.
"Then I must have been under a mistake all my life," said the cooper to
himself. "Rachel's forty-seven, if she's a day."
This remark he prudently kept to himself, or a fit of hysterics would
probably have been the result.
"I wouldn't have taken you for a day over thirty-five, ma'am," said the
Rachel actually smiled, but mildly disclaimed the compliment.
"If it hadn't been for my trials and troubles," she said, "I might have
looked younger; but they are only to be expected. It's the common lot."
"Is it?" said the captain. "I can't say I've been troubled much that
way. With a stout heart and a good conscience we ought to be jolly."
"Who of us has a good conscience?" asked Rachel, in a melancholy tone.
"I have, Aunt Rachel," answered Jack.
"You?" she exclaimed, indignantly. "You, that tied a tin kettle to a
dog's tail yesterday, and chased the poor cat till she almost died of
fright. I lie awake nights thinking of the bad end you're likely to come
to unless you change your ways."
Jack shrugged his shoulders, but the captain came to his help.
"Boys will be boys, ma'am," he said. "I was up to no end of tricks
myself when I was a boy."
"You weren't so bad as Jack, I know," said Rachel.
"Thank you for standing up for me, ma'am; but I'm afraid I was. I don't
think Jack's so very bad, for my part."
"I didn't play the tricks Aunt Rachel mentioned," said Jack. "It was
another boy in our block."
"You're all alike," said Rachel. "I don't know what you boys are all
Presently the captain announced that he must go. Jack accompanied him as
far as the pier, but the rest of the family remained behind. Aunt Rachel
became gloomier than ever.
"I don't know what you'll do, now you've lost your boarder," she said.
"He will be a loss to us, it is true," said Mrs. Harding; but we are
fortunate in having had him with us so long."
"It's only puttin' off our misery a little longer," said Rachel. "We've
got to go to the poorhouse, after all."
Rachel was in one of her moods, and there was no use in arguing with
her, as it would only have intensified her gloom.
Meanwhile Jack was bidding good-by to the captain.
"I'm sorry you can't go with me, Jack," said the bluff sailor.
"So am I; but I can't leave mother."
"Right, my lad; I wouldn't take you away from her. But there--take that,
and don't forget me."
"You are very kind," said Jack, as the captain pressed into his hand a
five-dollar gold piece. "May I give it to my mother?"
"Certainly, my lad; you can't do better."
Jack stood on the wharf till the vessel was drawn out into the stream by
a steam tug. Then he went home.
THE LANDLORD'S VISIT
It was the night before the New Year. In many a household in the great
city it was a night of happy anticipation. In the humble home of the
Hardings it was an evening of anxious thought, for to-morrow the
quarter's rent was due.
"I haven't got a dollar to meet the rent, Martha," said the cooper, in a
"Won't Mr. Colman wait?"
"I'm afraid not. You know what sort of a man he is, Martha. There isn't
much feeling about him. He cares more for money than anything else."
"Perhaps you are doing him an injustice."
"I am afraid not. Did you never hear how he treated the Underhills?"
"Underhill was laid up with rheumatic fever for three months. The
consequence was that when quarter day came round he was in about the
same situation with ourselves--a little worse, even, for his wife was
sick also. But, though Colman was aware of the circumstances, he had no
pity; he turned them out without ceremony."
"Is it possible?" asked Mrs. Harding, uneasily.
"And there's no reason for his being more lenient with us. I can't but
feel anxious about to-morrow, Martha."
At this moment, verifying an old adage, which will perhaps occur to the
reader, who should knock but Mr. Colman himself. Both the cooper and his
wife had an instinctive foreboding as to his visit.
He came in, rubbing his hands in a social way, as was his custom. No
one, to look at him, would have suspected the hardness of heart that lay
veiled under his velvety softness of manner.
"Good-evening, Mr. Harding," he said, affably. "I trust you and your
excellent wife are in good health."
"That blessing, at least, is continued to us," said the cooper, gravely.
"And how comfortable you're looking, too, eh! It makes an old bachelor
like me feel lonesome when he contrasts his own solitary room with such
a scene of comfort as this. You've got a comfortable home, and dog
cheap, too. All my other tenants are grumbling to think you don't have
to pay any more for such superior accommodations. I've about made up my
mind that I must ask you twenty-five dollars a quarter hereafter."
All this was said very pleasantly, but the pill was none the less
"It seems to me, Mr. Colman," answered the cooper, soberly, "you have
chosen rather a singular time for raising the rent."
"Why singular, my good sir?" inquired the landlord, urbanely.
"You know, of course, that this is a time of general business
depression; my own trade in particular has suffered greatly. For a month
past I have not been able to find any work."
Colman's face lost something of its graciousness.
"And I fear I shall not be able to pay my quarter's rent to-morrow."
"Indeed!" said the landlord, coldly. "Perhaps you can make it up within
two or three dollars."
"I can't pay a dollar toward it," said the cooper. "It's the first time,
in the five years I've lived here, that this thing has happened to me.
I've always been prompt before."
"You should have economized as you found times growing harder," said
Colman, harshly. "It is hardly honest to live in a house when you know
you can't pay the rent."
"You shan't lose it, Mr. Colman," said the cooper, earnestly. "No one
ever yet lost anything by me, and I don't mean anyone shall, if I can
help it. Only give me a little time, and I will pay all."
The landlord shook his head.
"You ought to have cut your coat according to your cloth," he responded.
"Much as it will go against my feelings I am compelled, by a prudent
regard to my own interests, to warn you that, in case your rent is not
ready to-morrow, I shall be obliged to trouble you to find another
tenement; and furthermore, the rent of this will be raised five dollars
"I can't pay it, Mr. Colman," said Timothy Harding, gravely. "I may as
well say that now; and it's no use agreeing to pay more rent. I pay all
I can afford now."
"Very well, you know the alternative. Of course, if you can do better
elsewhere, you will. That's understood. But it's a disagreeable subject.
We won't talk of it any more now. I shall be round to-morrow forenoon.
How's your excellent sister--as cheerful as ever?"
"Quite as much so as usual," answered the cooper, dryly.
"There's one favor I should like to ask," he said, after a pause. "Will
you allow us to remain here a few days till I can look about a little?"
"I would with the greatest pleasure in the world," was the reply; "but
there's another family very anxious to take the house, and they wish to
come in immediately. Therefore I shall be obliged to ask you to move out
to-morrow. In fact, that is the very thing I came here this evening to
speak about, as I thought you might not wish to pay the increased rent."
"We are much obliged to you," said the cooper, with a tinge of
bitterness unusual to him. "If we are to be turned into the street, it
is pleasant to have a few hours' notice of it."
"Turned out of doors, my good sir! What disagreeable expressions you
employ! If you reflect for a moment, you will see that it is merely a
matter of business. I have an article to dispose of. There are two
bidders, yourself and another person. The latter is willing to pay a
larger sum. Of course I give him the preference, as you would do under
similar circumstances. Don't you see how it is?"
"I believe I do," replied the cooper. "Of course it's a regular
proceeding; but you must excuse me if I think of it in another light,
when I reflect that to-morrow at this time my family may be without a
"My dear sir, positively you are looking on the dark side of things. It
is actually sinful for you to distrust Providence as you seem to do.
You're a little disappointed, that's all. Just take to-night to sleep on
it, and I've no doubt you'll see things in quite a different light. But
positively"--here he rose, and began to draw on his gloves--"positively
I have stayed longer than I intended. Good-night, my friends. I'll look
in upon you in the morning. And, by the way, as it's so near, permit me
to wish you a happy New Year."
The door closed upon the landlord, leaving behind two anxious hearts.
"It looks well in him to wish that," said the cooper, gloomily. "A great
deal he is doing to make it so. I don't know how it seems to others; for
my part, I never say them words to anyone, unless I really wish 'em
well, and am willing to do something to make 'em so. I should feel as if
I was a hypocrite if I acted anyways different."
Martha was not one who was readily inclined to think evil of anyone, but
in her own gentle heart she could not help feeling a repugnance for the
man who had just left them. Jack was not so reticent.
"I hate that man," he said, decidedly.
"You should not hate anyone, my son," said Mrs. Harding.
"I can't help it, mother. Ain't he goin' to turn us out of the house
"If we cannot pay our rent, he is justified in doing so."
"Then why need he pretend to be so friendly? He don't care anything for
"It is right to be polite, Jack."
"I s'pose if you're goin' to kick a man, it should be done politely,"
said Jack, indignantly.
"If possible," said the cooper, laughing.
"Is there any tenement vacant in this neighborhood?" asked Mrs. Harding.
"Yes, there is one in the next block belonging to Mr. Harrison."
"It is a better one than this."
"Yes; but Harrison only asks the same rent that we have been paying. He
is not so exorbitant as Colman."
"Couldn't we get that?"
"I am afraid if he knows that we have failed to pay our rent here, that
he will object."
"But he knows you are honest, and that nothing but the hard times would
have brought you to this pass."
"It may be, Martha. At any rate, you have lightened my heart a little. I
feel as if there was some hope left, after all."
"We ought always to feel so, Timothy. There was one thing that Mr.
Colman said that didn't sound so well, coming from his lips; but it's
true for all that."
"What do you refer to?"
"I mean that about not distrusting Providence. Many a time have I been
comforted by reading the verse: 'Never have I seen the righteous
forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.' As long as we try to do what is
right, Timothy, God will not suffer us to want."
"You are right, Martha. He is our ever-present help in time of trouble.
When I think of that, I feel easier."
They retired to rest thoughtfully but not sadly.
The fire upon the hearth flickered and died out at length. The last
sands of the old year were running out, and the new morning ushered in
THE NEW YEAR'S GIFT
"Happy New Year!" was Jack's salutation to Aunt Rachel, as with an
unhappy expression of countenance she entered the sitting room.
"Happy, indeed!" she repeated, dismally. "There's great chance of its
being so, I should think. We don't any of us know what the year may
bring forth. We may all be dead and buried before the next new year."
"If that's the case," said Jack, "let us be jolly as long as life
"I don't know what you mean by such a vulgar word," said Aunt Rachel,
disdainfully. "I've heard of drunkards and such kind of people being
jolly; but, thank Providence, I haven't got to that yet."
"If that was the only way to be jolly," said Jack, stoutly, "then I'd be
a drunkard; I wouldn't carry round such a long face as you do, Aunt
Rachel, for any money."
"It's enough to make all of us have long faces," said his aunt, sourly,
"when you are brazen enough to own that you mean to be a miserable
"I didn't say any such thing," said Jack, indignantly.
"Perhaps I have ears," remarked Aunt Rachel, sententiously, "and perhaps
I have not. It's a new thing for a nephew to tell his aunt that she
lies. They didn't use to allow such things when I was young. But the
world's going to rack and ruin, and I shouldn't wonder if the people was
right that say it's coming to an end."
Here Mrs. Harding happily interposed, by asking Jack to go round to the
grocery in the next street, and buy a pint of milk for breakfast.
Jack took his hat and started with alacrity, glad to leave the dismal
presence of Aunt Rachel.
He had scarcely opened the door when he started back in surprise,
exclaiming: "By hokey, if there isn't a basket on the steps!"
"A basket!" repeated his mother, in surprise. "Can it be a New Year's
present? Bring it in, Jack."
It was brought in immediately, and the cover being lifted, there
appeared a female child, apparently a year old.
All uttered exclamations of surprise, each in itself characteristic.
"What a dear, innocent little thing!" said Mrs. Harding, with true
"Ain't it a pretty un?" exclaimed Jack, admiringly.
"It looks as if it was goin' to have the measles," said Aunt Rachel,
"or scarlet fever. You'd better not take it in, Martha, or we may all
"You wouldn't leave it out in the cold, would you, Rachel? The poor
thing might die of exposure."
"Probably it will die," said Rachel, mournfully. "It's very hard to
raise children. There's something unhealthy in its looks."
"It don't seem to me so. It looks plump and healthy."
"You can't never judge by appearances. You ought to know that, Martha."
"I will take the risk, Rachel."
"I don't see what you are going to do with a baby, when we are all on
the verge of starvation, and going to be turned into the street this
very day," remarked Rachel, despondently.
"We won't think of that just now. Common humanity requires us to see
what we can do for the poor child."
So saying, Mrs. Harding took the infant in her arms. The child opened
its eyes, and smiled.
"My! here's a letter," said Jack, diving into the bottom of the basket.
"It's directed to you, father."
The cooper opened the letter, and read as follows:
"For reasons which it is unnecessary to state, the guardians of this
child find it expedient to intrust it to others to bring up. The good
account which they have heard of you has led them to select you for that
charge. No further explanation is necessary, except that it is by no
means their intention to make this a service of charity. They,
therefore, inclose a certificate of deposit on the Broadway Bank of five
hundred dollars, the same having been paid in to your credit. Each year,
while the child remains in your charge, the same will in like manner be
placed to your credit at the same bank. It may be as well to state,
further, that all attempt to fathom whatever of mystery may attach to
this affair will prove useless."
The letter was read in amazement. The certificate of deposit, which had
fallen to the floor, was picked up by Jack, and handed to his father.
Amazement was followed by a feeling of gratitude and relief.
"What could be more fortunate?" exclaimed Mrs. Harding. "Surely,
Timothy, our faith has been rewarded."
"God has listened to our cry!" said the cooper, devoutly, "and in the
hour of our sorest need He has remembered us."
"Isn't it prime?" said Jack, gleefully; "five hundred dollars! Ain't we
rich, Aunt Rachel?"
"Like as not," observed Rachel, "the certificate isn't genuine. It
doesn't look natural it should be. I've heard of counterfeits afore now.
I shouldn't be surprised at all if Timothy got took up for presenting
"I'll take the risk," said her brother, who did not seem much alarmed at
"Now you'll be able to pay the rent, Timothy," said Mrs. Harding,
"Yes, and it's the last quarter's rent I mean to pay Mr. Colman, if I
can help it."
"Why, where are you going?" asked Jack.
"To the house belonging to Mr. Harrison that I spoke of last night, that
is, if it isn't already engaged. I think I will see about it at once. If
Mr. Colman should come in while I am gone, tell him I will be back
directly; I don't want you to tell him of the change in our
The cooper found Mr. Harrison at home.
"I called to inquire," asked Mr. Harding, "whether you have let your
"Not as yet," was the reply.
"What rent do you ask?"
"Twenty dollars a quarter. I don't think that unreasonable."
"It is satisfactory to me," was the cooper's reply, "and if you have no
objections to me as a tenant, I will engage it at once."
"Far from having any objections, Mr. Harding," was the courteous reply,
"I shall be glad to secure so good a tenant. Will you go over and look
at the house?"
"Not now, sir; I am somewhat in haste. Can we move in to-day?"
His errand satisfactorily accomplished, the cooper returned home.
Meanwhile the landlord had called.
He was a little surprised to find that Mrs. Harding, instead of looking
depressed, looked cheerful rather than otherwise.
"I was not aware you had a child so young," he remarked, looking at the
"It is not mine," said Mrs. Harding, briefly.
"The child of a neighbor, I suppose," thought the landlord.
Meanwhile he scrutinized closely, without appearing to do so, the
furniture in the room.
At this point Mr. Harding entered the house.
"Good-morning," said Colman, affably. "A fine morning, Mr. Harding."
"Quite so," responded his tenant, shortly.
"I have called, Mr. Harding, to ask if you are ready with your quarter's
"I think I told you last evening how I was situated. Of course I am
"So am I," interrupted the landlord, "for I may be obliged to have
recourse to unpleasant measures."
"You mean that we must leave the house."
"Of course you cannot expect to remain in it, if you are unable to pay
the rent. I suppose," he added, making an inventory of the furniture
with his eyes, "you will leave behind a sufficient amount of furniture
to cover your debt."
"Surely you would not deprive us of our furniture!"
"Is there any injustice in requiring payment of honest debts?"
"There are cases of that description. However, I will not put you to the
trouble of levying on my furniture. I am ready to pay your dues."
"Have you the money?" asked Colman, in surprise.
"I have, and something over. Can you cash my check for five hundred
It would be difficult to picture the amazement of the landlord.
"Surely you told me a different story last evening," he said.
"Last evening and this morning are different times. Then I could not pay
you. Now, luckily, I am able. If you will accompany me to the bank, I
will draw some money and pay your bill."
"My dear sir, I am not at all in haste for the money," said the
landlord, with a return of his affability. "Any time within a week will
do. I hope, by the way, you will continue to occupy this house."
"I don't feel like paying twenty-five dollars a quarter."
"You shall have it for the same rent you have been paying."
"But you said there was another family who had offered you an advanced
rent. I shouldn't like to interfere with them. Besides, I have already
hired a house of Mr. Harrison in the next block."
Mr. Colman was silenced. He regretted too late the hasty course which
had lost him a good tenant. The family referred to had no existence;
and, it may be remarked, the house remained vacant for several months,
when he was glad to rent it at the old price.
A LUCKY RESCUE
The opportune arrival of the child inaugurated a season of comparative
prosperity in the home of Timothy Harding. To persons accustomed to live
in their frugal way, five hundred dollars seemed a fortune. Nor, as
might have happened in some cases, did this unexpected windfall tempt
the cooper or his wife to enter upon a more extravagant mode of living.
"Let us save something against a rainy day," said Mrs. Harding.
"We can if I get work soon," answered her husband. "This little one will
add but little to our expenses, and there is no reason why we shouldn't
save up at least half of it."
"So I think, Timothy. The child's food will not amount to a dollar a
"There's no tellin' when you will get work, Timothy," said Rachel, in
her usual cheerful way. "It isn't well to crow before you are out of the
"Very true, Rachel. It isn't your failing to look too much at the sunny
side of the picture."
"I'm ready to look at it when I can see it anywhere," answered his
sister, in the same enlivening way.
"Don't you see it in the unexpected good fortune which came with this
child?" asked Timothy.
"I've no doubt you think it very fortunate now," said Rachel, gloomily;
"but a young child's a great deal of trouble."
"Do you speak from experience, Aunt Rachel?" asked Jack.
"Yes," said his aunt, slowly. "If all babies were as cross and
ill-behaved as you were when you were an infant, five hundred dollars
wouldn't begin to pay for the trouble of having them around."
Mr. Harding and his wife laughed at the manner in which the tables had
been turned upon Jack, but the latter had his wits about him
sufficiently to answer: "I've always heard, Aunt Rachel, that the
crosser a child is, the pleasanter he will grow up. What a very pleasant
baby you must have been!"
"Jack!" said his mother, reprovingly; but his father, who looked upon it
as a good joke, remarked, good-humoredly: "He's got you there, Rachel."
But Rachel took it as a serious matter, and observed that, when she was
young, children were not allowed to speak so to their elders.
"But I don't know as I can blame 'em much," she continued, wiping her
eyes with the corner of her apron, "when their own parents encourage 'em
Timothy was warned, by experience of Rachel's temper, that silence was
his most prudent course. Anything that he might say would only be likely
to make matters worse than before.
Aunt Rachel sank into a fit of deep despondency, and did not say another
word till dinner time. She sat down to the table with a profound sigh,
as if there was little in life worth living for. Notwithstanding this,
it was observed that she had a good appetite. Indeed, Miss Harding
appeared to thrive on her gloomy views of life and human nature. She
was, it must be acknowledged, perfectly consistent in all her conduct,
so far as this peculiarity was concerned. Whenever she took up a
newspaper, she always looked first to the space appropriated to deaths,
and next in order to the column of accidents, casualties, etc., and her
spirits were visibly exhilarated when she encountered a familiar name in
The cooper continued to look out for work; but it was with a more
cheerful spirit. He did not now feel as if the comfort of his family
depended absolutely on his immediate success. Used economically, the
money he had by him would last eight months; and during that time it was
hardly possible that he should not find something to do. It was this
sense of security, of having something to fall back upon, that enabled
him to keep up good heart. It is too generally the case that people are
content to live as if they were sure of constantly retaining their
health, and never losing their employment. When a reverse does come,
they are at once plunged into discouragement, and feel the necessity of
doing something immediately. There is only one way of fending off such
an embarrassment; and that is, to resolve, whatever may be the amount of
one's income, to lay aside some part to serve as a reliance in time of
trouble. A little economy--though it involves self-denial--will be well
repaid by the feeling of security it engenders.
Mr. Harding was not compelled to remain inactive as long as he feared.
Not that his line of business revived--that still remained depressed for
a considerable time--but another path was opened to him.
Returning home late one evening, the cooper saw a man steal out from a
doorway, and attack a gentleman, whose dress and general appearance
indicated probable wealth.
Seizing him by the throat, the villain effectually prevented his calling
for help, and at once commenced rifling his pockets, when the cooper
arrived on the scene. A sudden blow admonished the robber that he had
more than one to deal with.
"What are you doing? Let that gentleman be!"
The villain hesitated but a moment, then springing to his feet, he
hastily made off, under cover of the darkness.
"I hope you have received no injury, sir," said Mr. Harding,
respectfully, addressing the stranger he had rescued.
"No, my worthy friend; thanks to your timely assistance. The rascal
nearly succeeded, however."
"I hope you have lost nothing, sir."
"Nothing, fortunately. You can form an idea of the value of your
interference, when I say that I have fifteen hundred dollars with me,
all of which would doubtless have been taken."
"I am glad," said Timothy, "that I was able to do you such a service. It
was by the merest chance that I came this way."
"Will you add to my indebtedness by accompanying me with that trusty
club of yours? I have some distance yet to go, and the money I have with
me I don't want to lose."
"Willingly," said the cooper.
"But I am forgetting," continued the gentleman, "that you will yourself
be obliged to return alone."
"I do not carry enough money to make me fear an attack," said Mr.
Harding, laughing. "Money brings care, I have always heard, and the want
of it sometimes freedom from anxiety."
"Yet most people are willing to take their share of that."
"You are right, sir, nor I can't call myself an exception. Still I would
be satisfied with the certainty of constant employment."
"I hope you have that, at least."
"I have had until three or four months since."
"Then, at present, you are unemployed?"
"What is your business?"
"I am a cooper."
"I will see what I can do for you. Will you call at my office to-morrow,
say at twelve o'clock?"
"I shall be glad to do so, sir."
"I believe I have a card with me. Yes, here is one. And this is my
house. Thank you for your company. Let me see you to-morrow."
They stood before a handsome dwelling house, from whose windows, draped
by heavy crimson curtains, a soft light proceeded. The cooper could hear
the ringing of childish voices welcoming home their father, whose life,
unknown to them, had been in such peril, and he felt grateful to
Providence for making him the instrument of frustrating the designs of
the villain who would have robbed the merchant, and perhaps done him
further injury. Timothy determined to say nothing to his wife about the
night's adventure, until after his appointed meeting for the next day.
Then, if any advantage accrued to him from it, he would tell the whole
When he reached home, Mrs. Harding was sewing beside the fire. Aunt
Rachel sat with her hands folded in her lap, with an air of martyr-like
resignation to the woes of life.
"I've brought you home a paper, Rachel," said her brother, cheerfully.
"You may find something interesting in it."
"I shan't be able to read it this evening," said Rachel, mournfully. "My
eyes have troubled me lately. I feel that it is more than probable I am
getting blind; but I trust I shall not live to be a burden to you,
Timothy. Your prospects are dark enough without that."
"Don't trouble yourself with any fears of that sort, Rachel," said the
cooper, cheerily. "I think I know what will enable you to use your eyes
as well as ever."
"What?" asked Rachel, with melancholy curiosity.
"A pair of spectacles."
"Spectacles!" retorted Rachel, indignantly. "It will be a good many
years before I am old enough to wear spectacles. I didn't expect to be
insulted by my own brother. But I ought not to be surprised. It's one of
"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Rachel," said the cooper,
"Good-night!" said Rachel, rising and taking a lamp from the table.
"Come, Rachel, don't go up to bed yet; it's only nine o'clock."
"After what you have said to me, Timothy, my self-respect will not allow
me to stay."
Rachel swept out of the room with something more than her customary
"I wish Rachel wasn't quite so contrary," said the cooper to his wife.
"She turns upon a body so sudden it's hard to know how to take her.
How's the little girl, Martha?"
"She's been asleep ever since six o'clock."
"I hope you don't find her very much trouble? That all comes on you,
while we have the benefit of the money."
"I don't think of that, Timothy. She is a sweet child, and I love her
almost as much as if she were my own. As for Jack, he perfectly idolizes
"And how does Rachel look upon her?"
"I am afraid she will never be a favorite with Rachel."
"Rachel never took to children much. It isn't her way. Now, Martha,
while you are sewing, I will read you the news."
WHAT THE ENVELOPE CONTAINED
The card which had been handed to the cooper contained the name of
Thomas Merriam, No. ---- Pearl Street.
Punctually at twelve, he presented himself at the countingroom, and
received a cordial welcome from the merchant.
"I am glad to see you," he said, affably. "You rendered me an important
service last evening, even if the loss of money alone was to be
apprehended. I will come to business at once, as I am particularly
engaged this morning, and ask you if there is any way in which I can
"If you could procure me a situation, sir, you would do me a great
"I think you told me you were a cooper?"
"Does this yield you a good support?"
"In good times it pays me two dollars a day, and on that I can support
my family comfortably. Lately it has been depressed, and paid me but a
dollar and a half."
"When do you anticipate its revival?"
"That is uncertain. I may have to wait some months."
"And, in the meantime, you are willing to undertake some other
"I am not only willing, but shall feel very fortunate to obtain work of
any kind. I have no objection to any honest employment."
Mr. Merriam reflected a moment.
"Just at present," he said, "I have nothing better to offer you than the
position of porter. If that will suit you, you can enter upon its duties
"I shall be very glad to undertake it, sir. Anything is better than
"As to the compensation, that shall be the same that you have been
accustomed to earn by your trade--two dollars a day."
"I only received that in the best times," said Timothy, conscientiously.
"Your services as porter will be worth that amount, and I will
cheerfully pay it. I will expect you to-morrow morning at eight, if you
can be here at that time."
"I will be here promptly."
"You are married, I suppose?" said the merchant, inquiringly.
"Yes, sir; I am blessed with a good wife."
"I am glad of that. Stay a moment."
Mr. Merriam went to his desk, and presently came back with a sealed
"Give that to your wife," he said.
"Thank you, sir."
Here the interview terminated, and the cooper went home quite elated by
his success. His present engagement would enable him to bridge over the
dull time, until his trade revived, and save him from incurring debts,
of which he had a just horror.
"You are just in time, Timothy," said Mrs. Harding, cheerfully, as he
entered. "We've got an apple pudding to-day."
"I see you haven't forgotten what I like, Martha."
"There's no knowing how long you'll be able to afford puddings," said
Rachel, dolefully. "To my mind it's extravagant to have meat and pudding
both, when a month hence you may be in the poorhouse."
"Then," said Jack, "I wouldn't eat any if I were you, Aunt Rachel."
"Oh, if you grudge me the little I eat," said his aunt, in serene
sorrow, "I will go without."
"Tut, Rachel! nobody grudges you anything here," said her brother; "and
as to the poorhouse, I've got some good news to tell you that will put
that thought out of your head."
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Harding, looking up brightly.
"I have found employment."
"Not at your trade?"
"No; but at something else which will pay equally well till trade
Here he told the chance by which he was enabled to serve Mr. Merriam
the evening previous, and then he gave an account of his visit to
the merchant's countingroom, and the engagement which he had made.
"You are indeed fortunate, Timothy," said his wife, her face beaming
with pleasure. "Two dollars a day, and we've got nearly the whole of the
money left that came with this dear child. Why, we shall be getting rich
"Well, Rachel, have you no congratulations to offer?" asked the cooper
of his sister, who, in subdued sorrow, was eating as if it gave her no
pleasure, but was rather a self-imposed penance.
"I don't see anything so very fortunate in being engaged as a porter,"
said Rachel, lugubriously. "I heard of a porter once who had a great box
fall upon him and kill him instantly; and I was reading in the
_Sun_ yesterday of another out West somewhere who committed
The cooper laughed.
"So, Rachel, you conclude that one or the other of these calamities is
the inevitable lot of all who are engaged in this business?"
"You may laugh now, but it is always well to be prepared for the worst,"