”I hope you understand,“ said Mr. Pitkin brusquely, ”that I have engaged you at the request of Mr. Carter and to oblige him.“
”I feel grateful to Mr. Carter,“ said Phil, not quite knowing what was coming next.
”I shouldn’t myself have engaged a boy of whom I knew nothing, and who could give me no city references.“
”I hope you won’t be disappointed in me,“ said Phil.
”I hope not,“ answered Mr. Pitkin, in a tone which seemed to imply that he rather expected to be.
Phil began to feel uncomfortable. It seemed evident that whatever he did would be closely scrutinized, and that in an unfavorable spirit.
Mr. Pitkin paused before a desk at which was standing a stout man with grayish hair.
”Mr. Sanderson,“ he said, ”this is the new errand boy. His name is–what is it, boy?“
”You will give him something to do. Has the mail come in?“
”No; we haven’t sent to the post-office yet.“
”You may send this boy at once.“
Mr. Sanderson took from the desk a key and handed it to Philip.
”That is the key to our box,“ he said. ”Notice the number–534. Open it and bring the mail. Don’t loiter on the way.“
Philip took the key and left the warehouse. When he reached the street he said to himself:
”I wonder where the post-office is?“
He did not like to confess to Mr. Sanderson that he did not know, for it would probably have been considered a disqualification for the post which he was filling.
”I had better walk to Broadway,“ he said to him self. ”I suppose the post-office must be on the principal street.“
In this Phil was mistaken. At that time the post- office was on Nassau Street, in an old church which had been utilized for a purpose very different from the one to which it had originally been devoted.
Reaching Broadway, Phil was saluted by a bootblack, with a grimy but honest-looking face.
”Shine your boots, mister?“ said the boy, with a grin.
”Not this morning.“
”Some other morning, then?“
”Yes,“ answered Phil.
”Sorry you won’t give me a job,“ said the bootblack. ”My taxes comes due to-day, and I ain’t got enough to pay ’em.“
Phil was amused, for his new acquaintance scarcely looked like a heavy taxpayer.
”Do you pay a big tax?“ he asked.
”A thousand dollars or less,“ answered the knight of the brush.
”I guess it’s less,“ said Phil.
”That’s where your head’s level, young chap.“
”Is the post-office far from here?“
”Over half a mile, I reckon.“
”Is it on this street?“
”No, it’s on Nassau Street.“
”If you will show me the way there I’ll give you ten cents.“
”All right! The walk’ll do me good. Come on!“
”What’s your name?“ asked Phil, who had become interested in his new acquaintance.
”The boys call me Ragged Dick.“
It was indeed the lively young bootblack whose history was afterward given in a volume which is probably familiar to many of my readers. At this time he was only a bootblack, and had not yet begun to feel the spur of that ambition which led to his subsequent prosperity.
”That’s a queer name,“ said Phil.
”I try to live up to it,“ said Dick, with a comical glance at his ragged coat, which had originally been worn by a man six feet in height.
He swung his box over his shoulder, and led the way to the old post-office.
MR. LIONEL LAKE AGAIN.
PHIL continued his conversation with Ragged Dick, and was much amused by his quaint way of expressing himself.
When they reached Murray Street, Dick said:
”Follow me. We’ll cut across the City Hall Park. It is the shortest way.“
Soon they reached the shabby old building with which New Yorkers were then obliged to be content with as a post-office.
Phil secured the mail matter for Pitkin & Co., and was just about leaving the office, when he noticed just ahead of him a figure which looked very familiar.
It flashed upon him of a sudden that it was his old train acquaintance, Lionel Lake. He immediately hurried forward and touched his arm.