Bulldog Threatens Dick
Dick was the first to recover his composure. He had to admit that he had no idea of what a news-stand in New York might be worth. His previous notions, as well as those of Jimmy, had evidently been wrong.
"I'm afraid that figure is too high for us," spoke Dick slowly.
"High? That's dirt cheap," declared the young man. "Why you can make the stand pay for itself in six months. I'd never give it up if it wasn't that my health has failed."
"But we haven't got that much money," said Dick frankly.
"Can't you get it somewhere?"
"I'm afraid not. You see we are in partnership. We haven't been at it very long, but we've managed to save up twenty-five dollars."
"Oh, I couldn't think of taking that and waiting for the rest," declared the stand-owner.
"No, I wouldn't expect you to."
"Maybe you could borrow the rest somewhere. I'd be willing to take two hundred in cash and a mortgage for the balance."
"That would mean we'd have to borrow one hundred and seventy-five dollars somewhere," said Dick. "No, we can't think of it. We'll have to look for a cheaper stand or wait until we have more money saved up."
"You'll never get a cheaper stand. I know something about them, for I tried to buy one when I first went in the business."
"I haven't any doubt but what this stand is worth all you ask for it," went on Dick, "but it's beyond our means. I'm sorry."
"So am I," frankly admitted the young man. "I'd like to sell out to a couple of young fellows, but, of course, if you haven't the money you can't do business. And I need cash to go away with."
"Well, we'll have to look somewhere else," remarked Jimmy, much disappointed. They bade the young man good-bye and started back to resume the selling of papers, which they had interrupted in order to make their inquiries.
"Did you think he'd want so much as that?" asked Jimmy, as they walked up Barclay Street.
"No, I hadn't any idea stands were worth so much."
"Me either. I guess we'll never get one now."
"Yes, we will," declared Dick firmly. "I'm going to have one. If we can't find a cheaper one, we'll save up more money. A stand is the only way to make a good living in this business."
"Oh, we've done pretty well," observed Jimmy. "I've made more money since I've been with you than I ever made before."
"Yes, but it's not enough for a firm like ours," and Dick laughed. "We want to do three times as much."
During the days that followed the two partners devoted themselves harder than ever to the business of selling papers. They did well, too, for Jimmy had much improved in his methods and had attracted a number of new customers, who regularly bought their papers from him. Dick, also, had increased his trade and was becoming well known in the financial district as "the polite newsboy."
While at first there had been, on the part of other lads selling papers, a disposition to annoy Dick, they now let him alone. One reason for this was a quiet word spoken to the policeman in that district by one or two brokers, who had taken a liking to Dick, and who understood the opposition to him. After that the officer kept his eyes open and, having threatened to arrest several lads who annoyed the newcomer, there was no more trouble.
Meanwhile Dick was no nearer than ever a solution of the mystery that surrounded him. He hoped nothing now from the police, and, as for seeing some notice in the papers describing a missing boy like himself, he had long ago given that up. The two partners continued to live in their room at the lodging-house, and they were slowly accumulating a nice little balance in the bank.
But it grew slowly, too slowly to give them hope that they would reach the figure demanded by the news-stand owner in time to buy him out.
They heard, incidentally, that several of the bigger newsboys were thinking of consolidating and purchasing the place, and Jimmy suggested that he and Dick take Frank into partnership, but when the matter was explained to him, Frank, while grateful for the offer, said he could not afford to go into the scheme. He had some money saved up, but he said he had to help support a widowed aunt, a sister of his dead mother, and, as she would soon have to undergo an operation in the institution where she was, he was saving his money to help pay for it, as the old lady was destitute.
So that practically shattered the hopes of the two partners of owning the stand. Nor could they find one any cheaper that would suit their purpose.
"Never mind," said Dick. "We'll be ready to buy one next year."
But if Dick had ceased, save at odd times, to make some effort at discovering his identity, this was not true of two other persons. These were Bulldog Smouder and Mike Conroy. The two plotters had not forgotten their plan.
"Say, Bulldog," said Mike, one night not long after Dick's and Jimmy's attempt to buy the stand, "ain't dere nuttin' doin' in gittin' de reward fer dat kid?"
"Sure dere is."
"Well, I've got me plans all made."
"'Bout time youse said somethin'. Did de detective know anyt'ing?"
"Not a t'ing. Dere ain't been no reward offered."
"Den what's de good of bodderin' wid it?"
"Dis good. I'm satisfied dat kid run away from home somewhere a good ways off. Dat's why nuttin' ain't been heard of it here in N'York. But I'll bet his folks, whoever dey are, wants him back. He's one of dem nice kids. He ain't fit fer dis business."
"He seems t' sell a lot of papers," remarked Mike.
"Yep. Too many. I'd like t' git him outer de way an' I could make more money down Wall Street way. So if we kin find out where he belongs we'll git de reward an' business'll be better fer us."
"Dat's so. How youse goin' t' do it?"
"Listen, an' I'll tell ye."
Then the two cronies whispered together for come time.
"Dat's a good plan," said Mike at length. "I'll do me share. When youse goin' t' try it?"
"T'-night. Once youse gits Jimmy outer de way de rest'll be plain sailin' fer me."
"Oh, I'll do it."
Soon after this the two plotters separated. Meanwhile Dick and Jimmy, all unconscious of what was being planned against them, were doing business as usual.
When Dick got back to the room, late that afternoon, having been out selling extras after their regular work in the financial district, he was surprised not to find Jimmy. He had seen the latter, not an hour before, and his partner had said he was, even then, on his way to the lodging-house to get ready for supper. Jimmy had promised to wait for Dick.
"I hope he hasn't gone off with some of those boys, pitching pennies," thought Dick. For he never could be quite sure of Jimmy, who was easily tempted, though, of late, he had been very good indeed.
But Dick's wonderment over his chum's absence was cut short by the entrance of Bulldog into the room, when, in answer to a knock on the door, Dick had called an invitation to enter.
"Evenin'," said Bulldog shortly. "Jimmy sent me fer youse, Dick. He want's youse t' come."
"Jimmy wants me? Where is he? What has happened?"
Dick felt a sudden fear.
"He's hurted a little bit--not much," went on Bulldog, "and he was took inter a house. He wants youse t' come. Will yer?"
"Of course. Do you know where he is?"
"Sure. I seen him a while ago. He ain't hurt bad. If youse'll come wit' me I'll show youse."
"Wait until I get my coat on and I'll come with you."
Dick followed his former enemy out of the lodging-house. He had no reason to suspect anything, for, of late, Bulldog had been rather friendly than otherwise.
Dick followed his guide into one of the worst parts of New York, but had little fear, as he had, more or less, become used to traveling about the slums with Jimmy. Bulldog led the way down through a dirty alley and into a ramschackle tenement.
"He's right upstairs," he said. "Come on."
Dick followed in the semi-darkness, illuminated by only a flaring kerosene lamp. Bulldog went into a room, and Dick, expecting to see his partner lying hurt on a bed or lounge, was surprised to see no one in the place.
"Why--why--where's Jimmy?" he asked.
"Jimmy is over in Brooklyn," said Bulldog, with a laugh.
"In Brooklyn? I thought you said he was hurt."
"Well, I guess he is, fer he's bound t' fight wid Mike when he finds out he's been fooled, an' Mike's liable t' hurt him."
"But what for? Why should he be in Brooklyn? And why have you brought me here?"
"Jimmy's in Brooklyn t' git him outer de way," explained Bulldog, with an ugly leer, "an' youse is here t' answer me some questions. Now, den, kid, I wants t' know where youse run away from home, who youse be, an' where youse lives. I'm goin' t' take youse back an' git de reward. Now youse can't fool me, an' if youse tries, it'll be bad fer yer. Come now, own up. Didn't youse run away from home? Answer me or I'll punch ye till yer does!" and Bulldog threateningly shook his fist in Dick's face.
"Didn't youse run away from home?"