Going out into the fresh air Dick felt the pangs of hunger. He accordingly went to a restaurant and got a substantial supper. Perhaps it was the new clothes he wore, which made him feel a little more aristocratic. At all events, instead of patronizing the cheap restaurant where he usually procured his meals, he went into the refectory attached to Lovejoy's Hotel, where the prices were higher and the company more select. In his ordinary dress, Dick would have been excluded, but now he had the appearance of a very respectable, gentlemanly boy, whose presence would not discredit any establishment. His orders were therefore received with attention by the waiter and in due time a good supper was placed before him.
"I wish I could come here every day," thought Dick. "It seems kind o' nice and 'spectable, side of the other place. There's a gent at that other table that I've shined boots for more'n once. He don't know me in my new clothes. Guess he don't know his boot-black patronizes the same establishment."
His supper over, Dick went up to the desk, and, presenting his check, tendered in payment his five-dollar bill, as if it were one of a large number which he possessed. Receiving back his change he went out into the street.
Two questions now arose: How should he spend the evening, and where should he pass the night? Yesterday, with such a sum of money in his possession, he would have answered both questions readily. For the evening, he would have passed it at the Old Bowery, and gone to sleep in any out-of-the-way place that offered. But he had turned over a new leaf, or resolved to do so. He meant to save his money for some useful purpose,—to aid his advancement in the world. So he could not afford the theatre. Besides, with his new clothes, he was unwilling to pass the night out of doors.
"I should spile 'em," he thought, "and that wouldn't pay."
So he determined to hunt up a room which he could occupy regularly, and consider as his own, where he could sleep nights, instead of depending on boxes and old wagons for a chance shelter. This would be the first step towards respectability, and Dick determined to take it.
He accordingly passed through the City Hall Park, and walked leisurely up Centre Street.
He decided that it would hardly be advisable for him to seek lodgings in Fifth Avenue, although his present cash capital consisted of nearly five dollars in money, besides the valuable papers contained in his wallet. Besides, he had reason to doubt whether any in his line of business lived on that aristocratic street. He took his way to Mott Street, which is considerably less pretentious, and halted in front of a shabby brick lodging-house kept by a Mrs. Mooney, with whose son Tom, Dick was acquainted.
Dick rang the bell, which sent back a shrill metallic response.
The door was opened by a slatternly servant, who looked at him inquiringly, and not without curiosity. It must be remembered that Dick was well dressed, and that nothing in his appearance bespoke his occupation. Being naturally a good-looking boy, he might readily be mistaken for a gentleman's son.
"Well, Queen Victoria," said Dick, "is your missus at home?"
"My name's Bridget," said the girl.
"Oh, indeed!" said Dick. "You looked so much like the queen's picter what she gave me last Christmas in exchange for mine, that I couldn't help calling you by her name."
"Oh, go along wid ye!" said Bridget. "It's makin' fun ye are."
"If you don't believe me," said Dick, gravely, "all you've got to do is to ask my partic'lar friend, the Duke of Newcastle."
"Bridget!" called a shrill voice from the basement.
"The missus is calling me," said Bridget, hurriedly. "I'll tell her ye want her."
"All right!" said Dick.
The servant descended into the lower regions, and in a short time a stout, red-faced woman appeared on the scene.
"Well, sir, what's your wish?" she asked.
"Have you got a room to let?" asked Dick.
"Is it for yourself you ask?" questioned the woman, in some surprise.
Dick answered in the affirmative.
"I haven't got any very good rooms vacant. There's a small room in the third story."
"I'd like to see it," said Dick.
"I don't know as it would be good enough for you," said the woman, with a glance at Dick's clothes.
"I aint very partic'lar about accommodations," said our hero. "I guess I'll look at it."
Dick followed the landlady up two narrow stair-cases, uncarpeted and dirty, to the third landing, where he was ushered into a room about ten feet square. It could not be considered a very desirable apartment. It had once been covered with an oilcloth carpet, but this was now very ragged, and looked worse than none. There was a single bed in the corner, covered with an indiscriminate heap of bed-clothing, rumpled and not over-clean. There was a bureau, with the veneering scratched and in some parts stripped off, and a small glass, eight inches by ten, cracked across the middle; also two chairs in rather a disjointed condition. Judging from Dick's appearance, Mrs. Mooney thought he would turn from it in disdain.
But it must be remembered that Dick's past experience had not been of a character to make him fastidious. In comparison with a box, or an empty wagon, even this little room seemed comfortable. He decided to hire it if the rent proved reasonable.
"Well, what's the tax?" asked Dick.
"I ought to have a dollar a week," said Mrs. Mooney, hesitatingly.
"Say seventy-five cents, and I'll take it," said Dick.
"Every week in advance?"
"Well, as times is hard, and I can't afford to keep it empty, you may have it. When will you come?"
"To-night," said Dick.
"It aint lookin' very neat. I don't know as I can fix it up to-night."
"Well, I'll sleep here to-night, and you can fix it up to-morrow."
"I hope you'll excuse the looks. I'm a lone woman, and my help is so shiftless, I have to look after everything myself; so I can't keep things as straight as I want to."
"All right!" said Dick.
"Can you pay me the first week in advance?" asked the landlady, cautiously.
Dick responded by drawing seventy-five cents from his pocket, and placing it in her hand.
"What's your business, sir, if I may inquire?" said Mrs. Mooney.
"Oh, I'm professional!" said Dick.
"Indeed!" said the landlady, who did not feel much enlightened by this answer.
"How's Tom?" asked Dick.
"Do you know my Tom?" said Mrs. Mooney in surprise. "He's gone to sea,—to Californy. He went last week."
"Did he?" said Dick. "Yes, I knew him."
Mrs. Mooney looked upon her new lodger with increased favor, on finding that he was acquainted with her son, who, by the way, was one of the worst young scamps in Mott Street, which is saying considerable.
"I'll bring over my baggage from the Astor House this evening," said Dick in a tone of importance. "From the Astor House!" repeated Mrs. Mooney, in fresh amazement.
"Yes, I've been stoppin' there a short time with some friends," said Dick. Mrs. Mooney might be excused for a little amazement at finding that a guest from the Astor House was about to become one of her lodgers—such transfers not being common.
"Did you say you was purfessional?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am," said Dick, politely.
"You aint a—a—" Mrs. Mooney paused, uncertain what conjecture to hazard.
"Oh, no, nothing of the sort," said Dick, promptly. "How could you think so, Mrs. Mooney?"
"No offence, sir," said the landlady, more perplexed than ever.
"Certainly not," said our hero. "But you must excuse me now, Mrs. Mooney, as I have business of great importance to attend to." "You'll come round this evening?"
Dick answered in the affirmative, and turned away.
"I wonder what he is!" thought the landlady, following him with her eyes as he crossed the street. "He's got good clothes on, but he don't seem very particular about his room. Well; I've got all my rooms full now. That's one comfort."
Dick felt more comfortable now that he had taken the decisive step of hiring a lodging, and paying a week's rent in advance. For seven nights he was sure of a shelter and a bed to sleep in. The thought was a pleasant one to our young vagrant, who hitherto had seldom known when he rose in the morning where he should find a resting-place at night.
"I must bring my traps round," said Dick to himself. "I guess I'll go to bed early to-night. It'll feel kinder good to sleep in a reg'lar bed. Boxes is rather hard to the back, and aint comfortable in case of rain. I wonder what Johnny Nolan would say if he knew I'd got a room of my own."