A strange acquaintance.
Tom Cooper was too familiar with the streets of New York to pay any attention to the moving panorama of which he and Ben formed a part. But everything was new and interesting to Ben, who had passed his life in a quiet country town.
“I should think it was the Fourth of July,” he said.
“Why?” asked the bootblack.
“Because there’s such a lot of people and wagons in the streets.”
“There’s always as many as this, except Sundays,” said Tom.
“Where do they all come from?” said Beu wonderingly.
“You’ve got me there,” answered Tom. “I never thought about that. Look out!” he exclaimed suddenly, dragging Ben from in front of a team coming up the street. “Do you want to get run over?”
“I was looking the other way,” said Ben, rather confused.
“You’ve got to look all ways to once here,” said Tom.
“I guess you’re right. Don’t people often get run over?”
“Once in a while. There’s a friend of mine—Patsy Burke—a newsboy, was run over last year and had his leg broke. They took him to Bellevue Hospital, and cut it off.”
“Is he alive now?”
“Oh, yes, he’s alive and to work, the same as ever. He’s got a wooden leg.”
“Poor boy!” said Ben compassionately.
“Oh, he don’t mind it, Patsy don’t. He’s always jolly.”
By this time they reached the office of the California Steamship Company. There was a large sign up, so that there was no difficulty in finding it.
The two boys entered. The room was not a large one. There was a counter, behind which were two young men writing, and there was besides a man of middle age, who was talking to two gentlemen who appeared to be engaging passage. Seated in a chair, apparently awaiting her turn, was a young lady, whose face was half-concealed by a thick, green veil.
When the two gentlemen were disposed of, the agent spoke to the young lady.
“What can I do for you, miss?” he asked.
“I am in no hurry, sir,” she answered, in a low voice. “I will wait for those boys.”
“What’s your business, boys?” demanded the agent, shrugging his shoulders.
“When does the next steamer start, sir?” inquired Ben.
“In three days.”
“What is the price of passage?”
“No, sir, the cheapest.”
“One hundred dollars. Do you wish to secure passage?”
“Not this morning, sir.”
The agent shrugged his shoulders again, as if to say “I thought so,” and turned again to the young lady.
“Now, miss,” he said.
“I beg your pardon, sir,” she said hurriedly. “I will call again.”
As she spoke, she left the office, following the two boys so quickly that they almost went out together.