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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSlow And Sure: The Story Of Paul Hoffman The Young Street-merchant - Chapter 11. Free Lunch
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Slow And Sure: The Story Of Paul Hoffman The Young Street-merchant - Chapter 11. Free Lunch Post by :Donbaba Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :680

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Slow And Sure: The Story Of Paul Hoffman The Young Street-merchant - Chapter 11. Free Lunch


About seven o'clock the next morning Julius awoke. Jack Morgan was still asleep and breathing heavily. His coarse features looked even more brutal in his state of unconsciousness. The boy raised himself on his elbow and looked thoughtfully at him as he slept.

"How did I come to be with him?" This was the question which passed through the boy's mind. "He ain't my father, for he's told me so. Is he my uncle, I wonder?"

Sometimes, but not often, this question had suggested itself to Julius; but in general he had not troubled himself much about ancestry. A good dinner was of far more importance to him than to know who his father or grandfather had been. He did not pretend to have a warm affection for the man between whom and himself existed the only tie that bound him to any fellow-creature. They had got used to each other, as Jack expressed it, and that served to keep them together when the law did not interfere to keep them apart. In general Julius had obeyed such orders as Jack gave him, but now, for the first time, a question of doubt arose in his mind. He was called upon to do something which would injure Paul, whose kindness had produced a strong impression upon him. Should he do it? This led him to consider how far he was bound to obey Jack Morgan. He could not see that he had anything to be grateful for. If Jack was flush he received some slight advantage. On the other hand, he was expected to give most of his earnings to his guardian when they were living together. While he was thinking the man opened his eyes.

"Awake, eh?" he asked.

"Yes," said Julius.

"What time is it?"

"The clock has gone seven."

"I can tell that by my stomach. I've got a healthy appetite this morning. Have you got any money?"

"Not a penny, Jack."

"That's bad. Just feel in the pocket of my breeches; there they are on the floor. See if you can find anything."

Julius rose from the pallet and did as he was ordered.

"There's twelve cents," he said.

"Good. We'll divide. We can get a breakfast at Brady's Free Lunch Saloon. Take six cents of it. I ain't going to get up yet."

"All right," said the boy.

"You must look sharp and pick up some money before night, or we shall go to bed hungry. Do you hear?"

"Yes, Jack."

"When Marlowe and I get hold of that gold and plate in Madison avenue we'll have a grand blow-out. You remember what Marlowe told you last night?"

"About the boy that keeps the necktie stand near Dey street?"


"I am to find out all I can about him."

"Yes. See if you can find out if he has any friends out of the city."

Julius nodded.

"We want to have the coast clear, so that we can break in next Monday night. The sooner the better. I'm dead broke and so is Marlowe, but I guess we can stand it till then."

"All right."

Jack Morgan turned over and composed himself to sleep again. He had said all he thought necessary, and had no pressing business to call him up. Julius opened the door and went out, down the rickety stairs and out through a narrow covered alleyway to the street, for the room which Jack Morgan and he occupied was in a rear tenement house. Several dirty and unsavory-looking children--they could not well be otherwise in such a locality--barefooted and bareheaded, were playing in the court. Julius passed them by, and sauntered along toward the City Hall Park. He met several acquaintances, newsboys and bootblacks, the former crying the news, the latter either already employed or looking for a job.

"Where are you goin', Julius?" asked a bootblack of his acquaintance.

"Goin' to get breakfast."

"Got any stamps?"


"You can't get a square meal for that."

"I'm goin' to 'free-lunch places.'"

"That's good if you're hard up. What are you doin' now?"

"Nothin' much."

"Why don't you black boots?"

"Haven't got any box or brush."

"You can borrow mine, if you'll give me half you make."

"What are you goin' to do?"

"I'll try sellin' papers for a change."

"I'll do it," said Julius, promptly, for he saw that the arrangement would, under the circumstances, be a good one for him. "Where will I see you to-night?"

"I'll be here at six o'clock."

"All right. Hand over your box." So the business arrangement was concluded--an arrangement not uncommon among street professionals. It is an illustration, on a small scale, of the advantage of capital. The lucky possessor of two or three extra blacking-boxes has it in his power to derive quite a revenue--enormous, when the amount of his investment is considered. As a general thing, such contracts, however burdensome to one party, are faithfully kept. It might be supposed that boys of ordinary shrewdness would as soon as possible save up enough to buy a box and brush of their own; but as they only receive half profits, that is not easy, after defraying expenses of lodging and meals.

Julius obtained one job before going to breakfast. He waited for another, but as none seemed forthcoming, he shouldered his box and walked down Nassau street till he reached a basement over which was the sign, FREE LUNCH. He went downstairs and entered a dark basement room. On one side was a bar, with a variety of bottles exposed. At the lower end of the apartment was a table, containing a couple of plates of bread and butter and slices of cold meat. This was the free lunch, for which no charge was made, but it was understood to be free to those only who had previously ordered and paid for a drink. Many came in only for the drinks, so that on the whole the business was a paying one.

Julius walked up to the bar and called for a glass of lager.

"Here, Johnny," said the barkeeper.

While he was drinking, a miserable-looking man, whose outward appearance seemed to indicate that Fortune had not smiled upon him lately, sidled in, and without coming to the bar, walked up to the table where the free lunch was spread out.

"What'll you have to drink, my friend?" asked the barkeeper, pointedly.

The man looked rather abashed, and fumbled in his pockets.

"I'm out of money," he stammered.

"Then keep away from the lunch, if you please," said the proprietor of the establishment. "No lunch without a drink. That's my rule."

"I'm very hungry," faltered the man, in a weak voice. "I haven't tasted food for twenty-four hours."

"Why don't you work?"

"I can't get work."

"That's your lookout. My lunch is for those who drink first."

Julius had listened to this conversation with attention. He knew what it was to be hungry. More than once he had gone about with an empty stomach and no money to buy food. He saw that the man was weak and unnerved by hunger, and he spoke on the impulse of the moment, placing five cents in his hand.

"Take that and buy a drink."

"God bless you!" uttered the man, seizing the coin.

"What'll you have?" asked the barkeeper.

"Anything the money will buy."

A glass of lager was placed in his hands and eagerly quaffed. Then he went up to the table and ate almost ravenously, Julius bearing him company.

"God bless you, boy!" he said. "May you never know what it is to be hungry and without a penny in your pocket!"

"I've knowed it more'n once," said Julius.

"Have you--already? Poor boy! What do you do for a living?"

"Sometimes one thing--sometimes another," said Julius. "I'm blackin' boots now."

"So I am relieved by the charity of a bootblack," murmured the other, thoughtfully. "The boy has a heart."

"Can't you get nothin' to do?" asked Julius, out of curiosity.

"Yes, yes, enough to do, but no money," said the other.

"Look here," said the barkeeper, "don't you eat all there is on the table. That won't pay on a five-cent drink--that won't."

He had some cause for speaking, for the man, who was almost famished, had already eaten heartily. He desisted as he heard these words, and turned to go out.

"I feel better," he said. "I was very weak when I came in. Thank you, my boy," and he offered his hand to Julius, which the latter took readily.

"It ain't nothin'," he said, modestly.

"To me it is a great deal. I hope we shall meet again."

Street boy as he was, Julius had found some one more destitute than himself, and out of his own poverty he had relieved the pressing need of another. It made him feel lighter-hearted than usual. It was the consciousness of having done a good action, which generally brings its own reward, however trifling it may have been.

Though himself uneducated, he noticed that the man whom he had relieved used better language than was common among those with whom he was accustomed to associate, and he wondered how such a man should have become so poor.

"I don't want to see that man again," said the barkeeper. "He spends five cents and eats twenty cents' worth. If all my customers were like that, I should soon have to stop business. Do you know him?"

"Never seed him afore," said Julius.

He shouldered his box and ascended the steps to the sidewalk above. He resolved to look out for business for the next two hours, and then go around to the necktie stand of Paul Hoffman.

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