It was well that Archie didn’t know his pockets had been searched while he was asleep, or his faith in human nature would have been more shaken than ever before. He had not suspected that the men in this lodging-house might be dishonest.
“They are poor,” he said to himself when he saw them first, “but they may be good men for all that.”
After a slender meal, Archie found a library where he looked over the advertising columns of the morning papers, trying to find some position open which he thought he might fill. There were several advertisements calling for office boys, and all these he made note of, and then as he looked down the page he noticed that a boy was wanted in a restaurant to wash dishes. He decided that if he didn’t succeed in getting a place as office boy, he might get the restaurant place. He knew that in a restaurant he would be likely at least to get enough to eat.
For two hours he called at addresses of men who wanted office boys, but at every place he was turned away. “We have already hired one,” some of them said, and others told him that they never took any boys in the office who were living away from home. Some asked him for recommendations, and when he had none, they looked at him and told him “good morning.” It was all terribly discouraging, and with every minute Archie was wishing more and more that he were back home again. Somehow the city seemed different now from what it had been when Uncle Henry was with him. Everything was less bright, and the things he had been delighted with before were less interesting now.
Finally, he entered a large, handsome suite of rooms, in one of the great sky-scrapers, and was shown into a very elegant private office. There he found an old gentleman seated in a great easy chair, looking over papers, and keeping one eye upon a buzzing instrument at his side which seemed to be spitting out long strips of paper, like a magician in a side-show. The man looked up as he entered, and cleared his throat. “Ahem,” he said, “you look as if you were from the country. I wonder, now, if you have came to the city to seek your fortune.”
Archie was embarrassed. “Yes, sir, I suppose you might put it that way,” he replied.
“Well,” continued the old gentleman, “my advice to you is to go back where you came from as quickly as you can. Not one boy in a thousand will gain either fame or fortune in New York, and you stand a wonderful chance of sinking lower every year. And even if you do succeed, you will miss many beautiful things in your life which may come to you in the country. You can have a pleasant home there, and live an easy, natural life, while here it will be years before you can expect to accomplish much, and you will spend your life in a nervous strain. Think well, young man, before choosing the great city as your sphere of usefulness.”
“I’ve made up my mind, sir,” said Archie. “I have quite decided to remain in the city.”