Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter IX

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A little before half past nine Rodney paused in front of a large five story building on Reade Street occupied by Otis Goodnow.

He entered and found the first floor occupied by quite a large number of clerks and salesmen, and well filled with goods.

"Well, young fellow, what can I do for you?" asked a dapper looking clerk.

"I would like to see Mr. Goodnow."

"He's reading his letters. He won't see you."

Rodney was provoked.

"Do you decide who is to see him?" he asked.

"You're impudent, young feller."

"Am I? Perhaps you will allow Mr. Goodnow to see me, as long as he told me to call here this morning."

"That's a different thing," returned the other in a different tone. "If you're sure about that you can go to the office in the back part of the room."

Rodney followed directions and found himself at the entrance of a room which had been partitioned off for the use of the head of the firm.

Mr. Goodnow was seated at a desk with his back to him, and was employed in opening letters. Without turning round he said, "Sit down and I will attend to you in a few minutes."

Rodney seated himself on a chair near the door. In about ten minutes Mr. Goodnow turned around.

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Perhaps you remember telling me to call at half past nine. You saw me at the Newsboys' Lodging House."

"Ah, yes, I remember. I promised my friend Mulgrave that I would give you a place. What can you do? Are you a good writer?"

"Shall I give you a specimen of my handwriting?"

"Yes; sit down at that desk."

It was a desk adjoining his own.

Rodney seated himself and wrote in a firm, clear, neat hand:

"I will endeavor to give satisfaction, if you are kind enough to give me a place in your establishment."

Then he passed over the paper to the merchant.

"Ah, very good!" said Mr. Goodnow approvingly. "You won't be expected to do any writing yet but I like to take into my store those who are qualified for promotion."

He rang a little bell on his desk.

A boy about two years older than Rodney answered the summons.

"Send Mr. James here," said the merchant.

Mr. James, a sandy complexioned man, partially bald, made his appearance.

"Mr. James," said the merchant, "I have taken this boy into my employ. I don't know if one is needed, but it is at the request of a friend. You can send him on errands, or employ him in any other way."

"Very well, sir. I can find something for him to do today at any rate, as young Johnson hasn't shown up."

"Very well. Whats your name, my lad?"

"Rodney Ropes."

"Make a note of his name, Mr. James, and enter it in the books. You may go with Mr. James, and put yourself at his disposal."

Rodney followed the subordinate, who was the head of one of the departments, to the second floor. Here Mr. James had a desk.

"Wait a minute," he said, "and I will give you a memorandum of places to call at."

In five minutes a memorandum containing a list of three places was given to Rodney, with brief instructions as to what he was to do at each. They were places not far away, and fortunately Rodney had a general idea as to where they were.

In his search for positions he had made a study of the lower part of the city which now stood him in good stead.

As he walked towards the door he attracted the attention of the young clerk with whom he had just spoken.

"Well, did you see Mr. Goodnow?" asked the young man, stroking a sickly looking mustache.

"Yes."

"Has he taken you into the firm?"

"Not yet, but he has given me a place."

The clerk whistled.

"So you are one of us?" he said.

"Yes," answered Rodney with a smile.

"Then you ought to know the rules of the house."

"You can tell me later on, but now I am going out on an errand."

In about an hour Rodney returned. He had been detained at two of the places where he called.

"Do you remember what I said?" asked the young clerk as he passed.

"Yes."

"The first rule of the establishment is for a new hand to treat ME on his first day."

"That's pretty good for you," said Rodney, laughing; "I shall have to wait till my pay is raised."

About the middle of the afternoon, as Rodney was helping to unpack a crate of goods, the older boy whom he had already seen in the office below, walked up to him and said, "Is your name Ropes?"

"Yes."

"You are wanted in Mr. Goodnow's office."

Rodney went down stairs, feeling a little nervous. Had he done wrong, and was he to be reprimanded?

He could think of nothing deserving censure. So far as he knew he had attended faithfully to all the duties required of him.

As he entered the office, he saw that Mr. Goodnow had a visitor, whose face looked familiar to him. He recalled it immediately as the face of the English gentleman who had visited the Lodging House the day previous with his employer.

"So I find you at work?" he said, offering his hand with a smile.

"Yes, sir," answered Rodney gratefully, "thanks to you."

"How do you think you will like it?"

"Very much, sir. It is so much better than going around the street with nothing to do."

"I hope you will try to give satisfaction to my friend, Mr. Goodnow."

"I shall try to do so, sir."

"You mustn't expect to rise to be head salesman in a year. Festina lente, as the Latin poet has it."

"I shall be satisfied with hastening slowly, sir."

"What! you understand Latin?"

"Pretty well, sir."

"Upon my word, I didn't expect to find a boy in the News boys' Lodging House with classical attainments. Perhaps you know something of Greek also!" he said doubtfully.

In reply Rodney repeated the first line of the Iliad.

"Astonishing!" exclaimed Mr. Mulgrave, putting up his eyeglass, and surveying Rodney as if he were a curious specimen. "You don't happen to know anything of Sanscrit, do you?"

"No, sir; I confess my ignorance."

"I apprehend you won't require it in my friend Goodnow's establishment."

"If I do, I will learn it," said Rodney, rather enjoying the joke.

"If I write a book about America, I shall certainly put in a paragraph about a learned office boy. I think you are entitled to something for your knowledge of Greek and Latin--say five dollars apiece," and Mr. Mulgrave drew from his pocket two gold pieces and handed them to Rodney.

"Thank you very much, sir," said Rodney. "I shall find this money very useful, as I have taken a room, and am setting up housekeeping."

"Then you have left the Lodging House?"

"Yes, sir; I only spent one night there."

"You are right. It is no doubt a great blessing to the needy street boys, but you belong to a different class."

"It is very fortunate I went there last evening, or I should not have met you and Mr. Goodnow."

"I am glad to have been the means of doing you a service," said the Englishman kindly, shaking hands with Rodney, who bowed and went back to his work.

"I am not sure but you are taking too much notice of that boy, Mulgrave," said the merchant.

"No fear! He is not a common boy. You won't regret employing him."

"I hope not."

Then they talked of other matters, for Mr. Mulgrave was to start on his return to England the following day.

At five o'clock Rodney's day was over, and he went back to Bleecker Street. He found Mike already there, working hard to get his hands clean, soiled as they were by the stains of blacking.

"Did you have a good day, Mike?" asked Rodney.

"Yes; I made a dollar and ten cents. Here's a quarter towards the rent."

"All right! I see you are prompt in money matters."

"I try to be. Do you know, Rodney, I worked better for feelin' that I had a room of my own to go to after I got through. I hope I'll soon be able to get into a different business."

"I hope so, too."

Two days later Rodney's trunk arrived. In the evening he opened it. He took out a dark mixed suit about half worn, and said, "Try that on, Mike."

Mike did so. It fitted as if it were made for him.

"You can have it, Mike," said Rodney.

"You don't mean it?" exclaimed Mike, delighted.

"Yes, I do. I have plenty of others."

Rodney supplemented his gift by a present of underclothing, and on the following Sunday the two boys went to Central Park in the afternoon, Mike so transformed that some of his street friends passed him without recognition, much to Mike's delight.