Harry found himself in a room about twenty-five feet by twenty. The floor was covered with scraps of leather. Here stood a deep wooden box containing a case of shoes ready to send off. There was a stove in the center, in which, however, as it was a warm day, no fire was burning. There were three persons present. One, a man of middle age, was Mr. James Leavitt, the proprietor of the shop. His son Robert, about seventeen, worked at an adjoining bench. Tom Gavitt, a journeyman, a short, thick-set man of thirty, employed by Mr. Leavitt, was the third.
The three looked up as Harry entered the shop.
"I have a letter for Mr. Leavitt," said our hero.
"That is my name," said the eldest of the party.
Harry advanced, and placed it in his hands.
"Where did you get this letter?"
"At the post office."
"I can't call you by name. Do you live about here?"
"No, I came from Granton."
No further questions were asked just then, as Mr. Leavitt, suspending work, opened the letter.
"It's from your Uncle Benjamin," he said, addressing Robert. "Let us see what he has to say."
He read the letter in silence.
"What does he say, father?" asked Robert.
"He says he shall be ready to take you the first of September. That's in six weeks--a little sooner than we calculated. I wish it were a little later, as work is brisk, and I may find it difficult to fill your place without paying more than I want to."
"I guess you can pick up somebody," said Robert, who was anxious to go to Boston as soon as possible.
"Won't you hire me?" asked Harry, who felt that the time had come for him to announce his business.
Mr. Leavitt looked at him more attentively.
"Have you ever worked in a shop?"
"It will take you some time to learn pegging."
"I'll work for my board till I've learned."
"But you won't be able to do all I want at first."
"Suppose I begin now," said Harry, "and work for my board till your son goes away. By that time I can do considerable."
"I don't know but that's a good idea," said Mr. Leavitt. "What do you think, Bob?"
"Better take him, father," said Robert, who felt that it would facilitate his own plans.
"How much would you want after you have learned?" asked the father.
"I don't know; what would be a fair price," said Harry.
"I'll give you three dollars a week and board," said Mr. Leavitt, after a little consideration--"that is, if I am satisfied with you."
"I'll come," said Harry, promptly. He rapidly calculated that there would be about twenty weeks for which he would receive pay before the six months expired, at the end of which the cow must be paid for. This would give him sixty dollars, of which he thought he should be able to save forty to send or carry to his father.
"How did you happen to come to me?" asked Mr. Leavitt, with some curiosity.
"I heard at the post office that your son was going to the city to work, and I thought I could get in here."
"Is your father living?"
"Yes, my father and mother both."
"What business is he in?"
"He is a farmer; but his farm is small, and not very profitable."
"So you thought you would leave home and try something else?"
"Well, we will try you at shoemaking. Robert, you can teach him what you know about pegging."
"Come here," said Robert. "What is your name?"
"How old are you?"
"Did you ever work much?"
"Yes, on a farm."
"Do you think you'll like shoemaking better?"
"I don't know yet, but I think I shall. I like almost anything better than farming."
"And I like almost anything better than pegging. I began when I was only twelve years old, and I'm sick of it."
"What kind of store is it you are going into?"
"Dry goods. My uncle, Benjamin Streeter, mother's brother, keeps a dry goods store on Washington street. It'll be jolly living in the city."
"I don't know," said Harry thoughtfully. "I think I like a village just as well."
"What sort of a place is Granton, where you come from?"
"It's a farming town. There isn't any village at all."
"There isn't much going on here."
"There'll be more than in Granton. There's nothing to do there but to work on a farm."
"I shouldn't like that myself; but the city's the best of all"
"Can you make more money in a store than working in a shoe shop?"
"Not so much at first, but after you've got learned there's better chances. There's a clerk, that went from here ten years ago, that gets fifty dollars a week."
"Does he?" asked Harry, to whose rustic inexperience this seemed like an immense salary. "I didn't think any clerk ever got so much."
"They get it often if they are smart," said Robert.
Here he was wrong, however. Such cases are exceptional, and a city fry goods clerk, considering his higher rate of expense, is no better off than many country mechanics. But country boys are apt to form wrong ideas on this subject, and are in too great haste to forsake good country homes for long hours of toil behind a city counter, and a poor home in a dingy, third-class city boarding house. It is only in the wholesale houses, for the most part, that high salaries are paid, and then, of course, only to those who have shown superior energy and capacity. Of course some do achieve success and become rich; but of the tens of thousand who come from the country to seek clerkships, but a very small proportion rise above a small income.
"I shall have a start," Robert proceeded, "for I go into my uncle's store. I am to board at his house, and get three dollars a week."
"That's what your father offers me," said Harry.
"Yes; you'll earn more after a while, and I can now; but I'd rather live in the city. There's lots to see in the city--theaters, circuses, and all kinds of amusements."
"You won't have much money to spend on theaters," said Harry, prudently.
"Not at first, but I'll get raised soon."
"I think I should try to save as much as I could."
"Out of three dollars a week?"
"What can you save out of that?"
"I expect to save half of it, perhaps more."
"I couldn't do that. I want a little fun."
"You see my father's poor. I want to help him all I can."
"That's good advice for you, Bob," said Mr. Leavitt.
"Save up money, and help me."
"You'll have to wait till I get bigger pay, he said.
"Your father's better off than mine," said Harry.
"Of course, if he don't need it, that makes a difference."
Here the sound of a bell was heard, proceeding from the house.
"Robert," said his father "go in and tell your mother to put an extra seat at the table. She doesn't know that we've got a new boarder."
He took off his apron, and washed his hands. Tom Gavitt followed his example, but didn't go into the house of his employer. He lived in a house of his own about five minutes' walk distant, but left the shop at the same time. In a country village the general dinner hour is twelve o'clock--a very unfashionably early hour--but I presume any of my readers who had been at work from seven o'clock would have no difficulty in getting up a good appetite at noon.
Robert went in and informed his mother of the new boarder. It made no difference, for the table was always well supplied.
"This is Harry Walton, mother," said Mr. Leavitt, "our new apprentice. He will take Bob's place when he goes."
"I am glad to see you," said Mrs. Leavitt, hospitably.
"You may sit here, next to Robert."
"What have you got for us to-day, mother?" asked her husband.
"A picked-up dinner. There's some cold beef left over from yesterday, and I've made an apple pudding."
"That's good. We don't want anything better."
So Harry thought. Accustomed to the painful frugality of the table at home, he regarded this as a splendid dinner, and did full justice to it.
In the afternoon he resumed work in the shop under Robert's guidance. He was in excellent spirits. He felt that he was very fortunate to have gained a place so soon, and determined to write home that same evening.