"Twenty-five cents to begin the world with!" reflected Frank Kavanagh,drawing from his vest-pocket two ten-cent pieces of currency and anickel. "That isn't much, but it will have to do."
The speaker, a boy of fifteen, was sitting on a bench in City-Hall Park.He was apparently about fifteen years old, with a face not handsome, butfrank and good-humored, and an expression indicating an energetic andhopeful temperament. A small bundle, rolled up in a handkerchief,contained his surplus wardrobe. He had that day arrived in New York by aboat from Hartford, and meant to stay in the city if he could make aliving.
Next to him sat a man of thirty-five, shabbily dressed, who clearly wasnot a member of any temperance society, if an inflamed countenance andred nose may be trusted. Frank Kavanagh's display of money attracted hisattention, for, small as was the boy's capital, it was greater than hisown.
"Been long in the city, Johnny?" he inquired.
"I only arrived to-day," answered Frank. "My name isn't Johnny, though."
"It's immaterial. Johnny is a generic term," said the stranger. "Isuppose you have come here to make your fortune."
"I shall be satisfied with a living to begin with," said Frank.
"Where did you come from?"
"A few miles from Hartford."
"Got any relations there?"
"Yes,--an uncle and aunt."
"I suppose you were sorry to leave them."
"Not much. Uncle is a pretty good man, but he's fond of money, and auntis about as mean as they make 'em. They got tired of supporting me, andgave me money enough to get to New York."
"I suppose you have some left," said the stranger, persuasively.
"Twenty-five cents," answered Frank, laughing. "That isn't a very bigcapital to start on, is it?"
"Is that all you've got?" asked the shabbily dressed stranger, in a toneof disappointment.
"I wish I had ten dollars to give you," said the stranger, thoughtfully.
"Thank you, sir; I wish you had," said Frank, his eyes resting on thedilapidated attire of his benevolent companion. Judging from that, hewas not surprised that ten dollars exceeded the charitable fund of thephilanthropist.
"My operations in Wall street have not been fortunate of late," resumedthe stranger; "and I am in consequence hard up."
"Do you do business in Wall street?" asked Frank, rather surprised.
"Sometimes," was the reply. "I have lost heavily of late in Erie andPacific Mail, but it is only temporary. I shall soon be on my feetagain."
"I hope so, sir," said Frank, politely.
"My career has been a chequered one," continued the stranger. "I, too,as a mere boy, came up from the country to make my fortune. I embarkedin trade, and was for a time successful. I resigned to get time to writea play,--a comedy in five acts."
Frank regarded his companion with heightened respect. He was a boy ofgood education, and the author of a play in his eyes was a man ofgenius.
"Was it played?" he inquired.
"No; Wallack said it had too many difficult characters for his company,and the rest of the managers kept putting me off, while they wereproducing inferior plays. The American public will never know what theyhave lost. But, enough of this. Sometime I will read you the'Mother-in-law,' if you like. Have you had dinner?"
"No," answered Frank. "Do you know where I can dine cheap?" heinquired.
"Yes," answered the stranger. "Once I boarded at the Astor House, butnow I am forced, by dire necessity, to frequent cheap restaurants.Follow me."
"What is your name, sir?" asked Frank, as he rose from the bench.
"Montagu Percy," was the reply. "Sorry I haven't my card-case with me,or I would hand you my address. I think you said your name was notJohnny."
"My name is Frank Kavanagh."
"A very good name. 'What's in a name?' as Shakespeare says."
As the oddly assorted pair crossed the street, and walked down Nassaustreet, they attracted the attention of some of the Arabs who werelounging about Printing-House square.
"I say, country, is that your long-lost uncle?" asked a boot-black.
"No, it isn't," answered Frank, shortly.
Though he was willing to avail himself of Mr. Percy's guidance, he wasnot ambitious of being regarded as his nephew.
"Heed not their ribald scoffs," said Montagu Percy, loftily. "Theirwords pass by me 'like the idle wind,' which I regard not."
"Who painted your nose, mister?" asked another boy, of course addressingFrank's companion.
"I will hand you over to the next policeman," exclaimed Percy, angrily.
"Look out he don't haul you in, instead," retorted the boy.
Montagu Percy made a motion to pursue his tormentors, but desisted.
"They are beneath contempt," he said. "It is ever the lot of genius tobe railed at by the ignorant and ignoble. They referred to my nose beingred, but mistook the cause. It is a cutaneous eruption,--the result oferysipelas."
"Is it?" asked Frank, rather mystified.
"I am not a drinking man--that is, I indulge myself but rarely. But herewe are."
So saying he plunged down some steps into a basement, Frank followinghim. Our hero found himself in a dirty apartment, provided with a bar,over which was a placard, inscribed:--
"How much money have you got, Frank?" inquired Montagu Percy.
"Lunch at this establishment is free," said Montagu; "but you areexpected to order some drink. What will you have?"
"I don't care for any drink except a glass of water."
"All right; I will order for you, as the rules of the establishmentrequire it; but I will drink your glass myself. Eat whatever you like."
Frank took a sandwich from a plate on the counter and ate it withrelish, for he was hungry. Meanwhile his companion emptied the twoglasses, and ordered another.
"Can you pay for these drinks?" asked the bar-tender, suspiciously.
"Sir, I never order what I cannot pay for."
"I don't know about that. You've been in here and taken lunch more thanonce without drinking anything."
"It may be so. I will make up for it now. Another glass, please."
"First pay for what you have already drunk."
"Frank, hand me your money," said Montagu.
Frank incautiously handed him his small stock of money, which he sawinstantly transferred to the bar-tender.
"That is right, I believe," said Montagu Percy.
The bar-keeper nodded, and Percy, transferring his attention to the freelunch, stowed away a large amount.
Frank observed with some uneasiness the transfer of his entire cashcapital to the bar-tender; but concluded that Mr. Percy would refund apart after they went out. As they reached the street he broached thesubject.
"I didn't agree to pay for both dinners," he said, uneasily.
"Of course not. It will be my treat next time. That will be fair, won'tit?"
"But I would rather you would give me back a part of my money. I may notsee you again."
"I will be in the Park to-morrow at one o'clock."
"Give me back ten cents, then," said Frank, uneasily. "That was all themoney I had."
"I am really sorry, but I haven't a penny about me. I'll make it rightto-morrow. Good-day, my young friend. Be virtuous and you will behappy."
Frank looked after the shabby figure ruefully. He felt that he had beentaken in and done for. His small capital had vanished, and he was adriftin the streets of a strange city without a penny.