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Adrift in New York: Tom and Florence Braving the World, a novel by Horatio Alger

Chapter 8. A Friendly Compact

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_ Chapter VIII. A Friendly Compact

Florence, as she stepped on the sidewalk, turned, and fixed a last sad look on the house that had been her home for so many years. She had never anticipated such a sundering of home ties, and even now she found it difficult to realize that the moment had come when her life was to be rent in twain, and the sunlight of prosperity was to be darkened and obscured by a gloomy and uncertain future.

She had hastily packed a few indispensable articles in a valise which she carried in her hand.

"Let me take your bag, Miss Florence," said Dodger, reaching out his hand.

"I don't want to trouble you, Dodger."

"It ain't no trouble, Miss Florence. I'm stronger than you, and it looks better for me to carry it."

"You are very kind, Dodger. What would I do without you?"

"There's plenty that would be glad of the chance of helping you," said Dodger, with a glance of admiration at the fair face of his companion.

"I don't know where to find them," said Florence, sadly. "Even my uncle has turned against me."

"He's an old chump!" ejaculated Dodger, in a tone of disgust.

"Hush! I cannot hear a word against him. He has always been kind and considerate till now. It is the evil influence of my Cousin Curtis that has turned him against me. When he comes to himself I am sure he will regret his cruelty."

"He would take you back if you would marry your cousin."

"Yes; but that I will never do!" exclaimed Florence, with energy.

"Bully for you!" said Dodger. "Excuse me," he said, apologetically. "I ain't used to talkin' to young ladies, and perhaps that ain't proper for me to say."

"I don't mind, Dodger; your heart is in the right place."

"Thank you, Miss Florence. I'm glad you've got confidence in me. I'll try to deserve it."

"Where are we going?" asked the young lady, whose only thought up to this moment had been to get away from the presence of Curtis and his persecutions.

They had now reached Fourth Avenue, and a surface car was close at hand.

"We're going to get aboard that car," said Dodger, signaling with his free hand. "I'll tell you more when we're inside."

Florence entered the car, and Dodger, following, took a seat at her side.

They presented a noticeable contrast, for Florence was dressed as beseemed her station, while Dodger, in spite of his manly, attractive face, was roughly attired, and looked like a working boy.

When the conductor came along, he drew out a dime, and tendered it in payment of the double fare. The money was in the conductor's hand before Florence was fully aware.

"You must not pay for me, Dodger," she said.

"Why not?" asked the boy. "Ain't we friends?"

"Yes, but you have no money to spare. Here, let me return the money."

And she offered him a dime from her own purse.

"You can pay next time, Miss Florence. It's all right. Now, I'll tell you where we are goin'. A friend of mine, Mrs. O'Keefe, has a lodgin' house, just off the Bowery. I saw her last night, and she says she's got a good room that she can give you for two dollars a week--I don't know how much you'd be willing to pay, but----"

"I can pay that for a time at least. I have a little money, and I must find some work to do soon. Is this Mrs. O'Keefe a nice lady?"

"She ain't a lady at all," answered Dodger, bluntly. "She keeps an apple-stand near the corner of Bowery and Grand Street; but she's a good, respectable woman, and she's good-hearted. She'll be kind to you, and try to make things pleasant; but if you ain't satisfied----"

"It will do for the present. Kindness is what I need, driven as I am from the home of my childhood. But you, Dodger, where do you live?"

"I'm goin' to take a small room in the same house, Miss Florence."

"I shall be glad to have you near me."

"I am proud to hear you say that. I'm a poor boy, and you're a rich lady, but----"

"Not rich, Dodger. I am as poor as yourself."

"You're a reg'lar lady, anyway. You ain't one of my kind, but I'm going to improve and raise myself. I was readin' the other day of a rich man that was once a poor boy, and sold papers like me. But there's one thing in the way--I ain't got no eddication."

"You can read and write, can't you, Dodger?"

"Yes; I can read pretty well, but I can't write much."

"I will teach you in the evenings, when we are both at leisure."

"Will you?" asked the boy, with a glad smile. "You're very kind--I'd like a teacher like you."

"Then it's a bargain, Dodger," and Florence's face for the first time lost its sad look, as she saw an opportunity of helping one who had befriended her. "But you must promise to study faithfully."

"That I will. If I don't, I'll give you leave to lick me."

"I shan't forget that," said Florence, amused. "I will buy a ruler of good hard wood, and then you must look out. But, tell me, where have you lived hitherto?"

"I don't like to tell you, Miss Florence. I've lived ever since I was a kid with a man named Tim Bolton. He keeps a saloon on the Bowery, near Houston Street. It's a tough place, I tell you. I've got a bed in one corner--it's tucked away in a closet in the day."

"I suppose it is a drinking saloon?"

"Yes, that's what it is."

"And kept open very late?"

"Pretty much all night."

"Is this Tim Bolton any relation of yours?"

"He says he's my father; but I don't believe it."

"Have you always lived with him?"

"Ever since I was a small kid."

"Have you always lived in New York?"

"No; I was out in Australia. Tim was out in the country part of the time, and part of the time he kept a saloon in Melbourne. There was thieves and burglars used to come into his place. I knew what they were, though they didn't think I did."

"How terrible for a boy to be subjected to such influences."

"But I've made up my mind I won't live with Tim no longer. I can earn my own livin' sellin' papers, or smashin' baggage, and keep away from Tim. I'd have done it before if I'd had a friend like you to care for me."

"We will stand by each other, Dodger. Heaven knows I need a friend, and if I can be a friend to you, and help you, I will."

"We'll get out here, Miss Florence. I told Mrs. O'Keefe I'd call at her stand, and she'll go over and show you your room."

They left the car at the corner of Grand Street, and Dodger led the way to an apple-stand, presided over by a lady of ample proportions, whose broad, Celtic face seemed to indicate alike shrewd good sense and a kindly spirit.

"Mrs. O'Keefe," said Dodger, "this is the young lady I spoke to you about--Miss Florence Linden."

"It's welcome you are, my dear, and I'm very glad to make your acquaintance. You look like a rale leddy, and I don't know how you'll like the room I've got for you."

"I cannot afford to be particular, Mrs. O'Keefe. I have had a--a reverse of circumstances, and I must be content with an humble home."

"Then I'll go over and show it to you. Here, Kitty, come and mind the stand," she called to a girl about thirteen across the street, "and don't let anybody steal the apples. Look out for Jimmy Mahone, he stole a couple of apples right under my nose this mornin', the young spalpeen!"

As they were crossing the street, a boy of fourteen ran up to Dodger.

"Dodger," said he, "you'd better go right over to Tim Bolton's. He's in an awful stew--says he'll skin you alive if you don't come to the s'loon right away." _

Read next: Chapter 9. The New Home

Read previous: Chapter 7. Florence Leaves Home

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