SOMEBODY opened the door of a great counting-room a small boy with patched pants. He spoke to the cashier. "Can I see Mr. Allen?" Mr. Allen, the proprietor: was often too busy to be seen. But the cashier, won by his pleasant face and funny little air of business, pointed the little stranger to an inner office.

"Thank you, sir," said the boy, hastening to enter the door. Mr. Allen sat before his desk, reading a letter. He was so interested that he did not see the boy, who stood a moment at his elbow, and then said, almost in his ear,—

"Good morning, Mr. Allen." Mr. Allen started, turned his head, and eyeing his caller from his smooth hair to the well-blacked but worn shoes, asked,—

"Do you wish to see me, youngster?"

"Yes, sir. I'm striking out for myself," looking as tall as possible. "Mother's sewed for both of us long enough. I'm going to earn my living now."

"Ah," said Mr. Allen, leaning back in his chair, and fixing his keen blue eyes on the brave young face, "can't your father support you?"

"No, sir. He died when I was a baby. And before that mother had to sew for both. He never struck out, sir, except to drink."

"You don't propose y'all strike out in that way?"

"No, sir!" He spoke with manly decision.

"Have you anything for me to do?"

"I fear we have nothing for a small person like you. My clerks, you see, are all men." The boy looked through the open door into the wide, elegant counting-room. Yes, they were all men, some gray-haired and dignified. "Don't you have any errands, sir?" he persisted. "I'll do them very quickly."

"Those two porters at the lower end of the room do all such work."

"I should think one was too fat to get along very fast, there are such crowds in the streets."

"Would you have him turned away on that account?"

"Oh, no, sir! I wouldn't have nobody put out into the cold to get me in," shivering as if he had often felt the cold. "I only thought I might slip about where he couldn't. Maybe I ought not to bother you; but I liked your store, and mother heard say you was once a poor boy yourself!"

"So I was! So I was!" The fine blue eyes kindled. "That's why I talked with you, my little man. I like your spirit. I believe you will be successful. Keep trying,—you'll find a place,—apply at the large dry-goods stores that employ boys. Let me know how you succeed."

Two weeks later, somebody entered the office again, dressed in a rubber coat so long and large that he looked like a small tent; but the bright face was instantly recognized by the cashier.

As before, he asked to see Mr. Allen, entered the private office, and again startled the absorbed gentleman with a cheerful,—

"Good morning, Mr. Allen."

"Well, how do you get on?"

"First-rate. I've just engaged at Mr. White's, sir, for two dollars and a half a week. I thought I'd drop in, and let you know." How his eyes shone!

"That is good news. Where do you live?"

"At Cambridge."

"Won't the car fare make quite a hole in your salary?"

"No, sir. I walk."

"You'll succeed!" Again the merchant's eyes kindled. "Well, call often, I'd like to hear from you." The boy lingered.

"I don't go to work till tomorrow morning, sir, —loafing this afternoon. Haven't you something I can do? I'd like to give mother a lift today." The gentleman's hand moved toward his pocket, but was withdrawn as the boy suddenly receded, with a hot flush on his wan and hungry cheek.

"I wanted to earn money, sir. Have those men done up all your errands? Or maybe you'd like some windows washed? My rubber coat would come in handy."

The idea of the little fellow cleaning the massive plate glass! But Mr. Allen did not laugh at him.

"We have a regular window-cleaner," he said. The boy sighed.

"I wouldn't want to spoil his job, especially if he had a family." The merchant laid aside his pen, rose and went into the counting-room.

"Can't we hunt up something for the little chap to do?" he asked the cashier, as anxiously as if he were pleading for himself. "He ought to be encouraged."

"Those three flights of stairs to the store-room need sweeping."

"Very well, set him at them." So the cashier got the watering-pot and brushes, and led the way to the upper story, the atom in the tent rustling after, beaming and brisk.

"You may sweep the store-rooms too. It requires judgment not to throw dust on all those bundles of paper."

"I'll be careful, sir; you can depend upon me.'

"Well, take your time," said the cashier, on leaving. "If any one interferes, send him to me." The boy fell to work with a will. By and by, the janitor heard a queer scratching noise along the neglected stairs. "What are you doing? Who put you here?" he asked sharply.

"Mr. Allen," was the reply, without a pause in The brushing. "See here, Mister, when I get through, can't you give me something to do too? You see, I'm loafing this afternoon. I've got a steady job tomorrow."

"I don't hire nobody," said the crusty janitor, and went away.

When the sweeper had finished, received his pay and gone, Mr. Allen came out of his office.

"Where's the little man?" he asked, and seemed disappointed when told he was gone. "I wanted him to carry these to my son." The good man held two small parcels that had lain in his desk a long time. He hunted them up for the sake of employing the boy. The cashier says Mr. Allen will keep his eye on that lad. If he continues faithful, self-reliant, and eager to aid his mother, possibly there will yet be a place in the stately counting-room for the boy who decided to "strike out" for himself.



The Well-Spring.