Ben took the early train to New York on Tuesday morning, and in due time arrived in the city. He carried with him seventy-five dollars out of his small patrimony. Fifty were to be deposited with Messrs. Fitch & Ferguson, as required, and the balance was to defray his expenses till he began to receive a salary. Ben didn’t expect to need much of it, for at the end of a week he would be paid ten dollars for his services, and until then he meant to be very economical.
Ben had only been in New York twice before, but he happened to know his way to Nassau Street, and went there at once, with his carpetbag in his hand.
As he entered Nassau Street from Printing-House
Square, a bootblack accosted him.
“How are you, country?”
“Are you very anxious to know?” asked Ben, stopping short.
“I’m well enough and strong enough to give you a licking.”
“Good for you, country! Have you come to stay long?”
Ben laughed. He concluded not to take offense, but to answer seriously.
“That depends on whether I get the place I am after.”
“What is that?” asked the bootblack, in a friendly tone.
Now, on the way to the city, Ben had overheard a conversation between two gentlemen, relative to certain swindlers in New York, which, for the first time, had aroused in him a suspicion that possibly there might be something wrong about the firm whose advertisement he had answered. He felt the need of an adviser, and though his choice may be considered rather a strange one, he decided to consult his new acquaintance, the bootblack. He briefly told him of the advertisement, and what it offered.
The bootblack surveyed him with pitying curiosity.
“You don’t mean to say you swallow all that?” he said.
“Don’t you think it’s all right?” asked Ben anxiously.
“Look here,” said the street boy, “do you think anybody’s going to pay a boy ten dollars a week, when there’s hundreds ready to work for three or four? Why, a man in Pearl Street advertised last week for a boy at three dollars, and there was a whole shoal of boys went for it. I was one of ’em.”
“Don’t you earn more than that by your business?”
“Sometimes I do, but it ain’t stiddy, and I’d rather have a place.”
“Why do they advertise to give ten dollars, then?” asked our hero.
“They want to get hold of your fifty dollars,” said the bootblack. “Them fellers is beats, that’s what they are.”
“What had I better do?” asked Ben, in perplexity.
“Go and see ’em, and have a talk. If they’re not after your fifty dollars, you’ll know what it means.”
“It may be all right, after all,” said Ben, who did not like to give up hope.
“I may be General Grant,” retorted the bootblack, “but if I know myself I ain’t.”
“Well, I’ll go round and talk with them. Where can I meet you afterwards?”