So engrossed in the life about him was Roy that for the moment he
forgot all about his troubles. On the street he encountered again
the multitudinous traffic that had so depressed him upon his arrival
in the city. But here it seemed to go at a slower pace. There were
more heavily laden drays and fewer rushing motor-cars. Somehow the
atmosphere of the “farm,” with its hard toiling drivers and signs of
honest industry seemed different from the cold and callous air of
Seventh Avenue and of Broadway. At any rate, Roy felt different.
Probably that was because he had made the plunge. Even if his captain
was not what Roy had hoped and expected, the ordeal of meeting him
was over. Furthermore, Roy was now on his mettle. Unconsciously he
was reacting from the captain’s contemptuous attitude. Like any lad
of spirit, his pride was hurt and his sense of justice outraged. His
captain had condemned him without trial. Roy was determined to prove
that he merited his commander’s fullest confidence rather than his
So now he walked along, holding himself proudly erect in his new
uniform, his head up, his heart singing. In fact it could not have been
otherwise; for, trouble or no trouble, he had at last reached the place
every boy of spirits longs for: he had a job. He had made a start in
The pier of the Confederated Steamship Lines was not far from the foot
of Manhattan Island. Instinctively Roy turned his footsteps southward
toward the Battery, that little strip of green that fronts the upper
bay and that tips the end of the island like the cap on a shoe. Often
during the search for the secret wireless, Roy had passed through this
tiny park on his way to the Staten Island ferry, just to one side. But
he had never really had time to look about. He decided that now he
would explore a bit. Like any other wide-awake lad, Roy wanted to see
and know all that he possibly could.
“I’ll look about the lower end of the island,” said Roy to himself.
“Maybe I’ll find something of interest.”
Roy was right, but he had small notion of how much he would find that
was interesting. The park was not unlike a half moon in shape. Paved
walks, lined with benches, led hither and thither between the stretches
of greensward, and trees and bushes beautified and shaded the grounds.
A lively breeze was coming off the water, and this was grateful, for
the day was a hot one in late June.
Roy made his way directly through the little park to the water-front.
A low sea-wall, built of great blocks of granite, formed the very end
of the island. Along this sea-wall ran a wide promenade of asphalt,
with benches on the landward side. The sweeping wind was churning the
bay into whitecaps, and these came slap! slap! against the sea-wall,
throwing showers of water high into the air and drenching the
promenade. Even the benches on the landward side of the broad walk were
soaked by the driving spray.
But the thing that took Roy’s eye was the harbor. Six miles away, as
the crow flies, rose the hills of Staten Island, where he and his
fellows had watched so long for the German spies. Far to the right
were the low shores of New Jersey, almost hidden in the smoke pall of
the cities there bordering the bay. In that direction, too, loomed the
Goddess of Liberty, symbol of all that the word America means to the
world–the gigantic goddess whose high-held torch, flaming through the
midnight darkness, shows the anxious mariner his way through the murky
waters of the harbor. To the left were the shores of Brooklyn and the
cliffs of Bay Ridge. While near at hand and almost in front of the
little park lay Governor’s Island, with its antiquated stone fort, its
barracks, and all the other buildings necessary in a military post. For
Governor’s Island is the army headquarters for the Department of the
The miles of water, now tossing turbulently and capped with white, were
alive with shipping. One of the great municipal ferry-boats, starting
for St. George, was tossing the spray to right and left as she breasted
the waves. Tugs, seemingly without number, were puffing and bustling
about, mostly with great barges or lighters on either side of them,
like men carrying huge boxes under each arm. Some of these barges were
car floats, with strings of freight-cars on their decks. Some were
huge, enclosed lighters, built like dry-goods boxes, and towering so
high in air as fairly to hide the tugs that were propelling them. A
string of twenty barges, like a twenty-horse team, with ten couples,
two abreast and drawn by twin tugs far ahead of them, was coming down
the Hudson. Heavily laden freighters of one sort or another were riding
deep in the swelling waves. One or two sailing vessels, beating their
way across the harbor, were heeling far over under the sharp wind. A
motor-boat was scooting across the end of the island, and Roy even saw
a venturesome Battery boatman riding the waves in a rowboat, at times
standing out boldly on the crest of a wave and again almost lost to
sight in the trough. But the sight that caught Roy’s eye and thrilled
his heart was an incoming ocean liner, her high decks crowded with a
multitude of expectant folks. Many of those folks were men who had come
to New York, like himself, to seek their fortunes. But they had come
from far across the seas. They were strangers in a strange land. Roy
wondered how they felt.
“If _those_ fellows come here and succeed,” smiled Roy to himself, as
he watched the ship ride majestically by, “I’d be a poor pill if I
couldn’t make good, wouldn’t I? Why, a lot of them can’t speak English,
and they’ve never even been to school. I’ll make that captain of mine
take back what he said.”
Poor Roy! If he could have seen all the difficulties ahead of him, he
would not have smiled so confidently. But he could not, and presently
he turned away from the harbor, still light-hearted, to see what
further things of interest he could discover.
At that instant a bell clanged. Close at hand, and directly on the
water-front, Roy had noticed a low structure with a little tower. But
he had been so engrossed with the stirring spectacle of the harbor
craft that he had paid scant attention to the building or the narrow,
low craft moored to the pier in front of the building. He judged that
this bell, which was still striking sharply, must be in this building.
Curious to know what the bell signified, Roy turned sharply about. He
was just in time to see a number of men in dark blue uniforms rush from
the building, race across the narrow wharf, and leap into the little
boat. The hawsers were cast off and in a second’s time the little craft
was shooting swiftly from her pier.
“I never saw anything like that before,” said Roy to himself. “I wonder
what that can be.”
He ran over to the little house, and on its front were the words “Fire
Department–City of New York.”
“By George!” muttered Roy. “Those fellows are firemen and that is one
of those fire-boats I’ve read about.”
He ran around to the seaward side of the building and took a good look
at the little steamer that was plunging through the waves at a rapid
rate. She was long, low, narrow, and decked over in the centre somewhat
like a low lighter. She resembled a tug more than anything else, yet
she was unlike any tug Roy had ever seen. Fore and aft and amidships,
Roy saw long, glistening brass nozzles permanently mounted on the
superstructure and he knew that the boat’s engines would suck up the
harbor water and shoot it through these nozzles with terrific force.
How he wished he could be aboard of her. How he would like to help
fight the fire. He wondered where it could be. The little boat was
heading straight for the Brooklyn shore. There Roy saw smoke rolling
upward in great clouds from a pier shed. The distance was so great that
Roy could not see distinctly, but he was sure that tugs were trying to
pull a great steamship from her berth beside the burning pier. Even as
he watched, flames burst from the shed. They swept outward in great
sheets as they were fanned by the draughts within the shed. To Roy it
seemed as though the flames were fairly licking the helpless liner.
“Will they get her away in time?” Roy asked himself, and his heart
almost stood still as he watched the struggle. It seemed to him that
the great ship was moving, but he could not be sure. Intently he
watched. After a few minutes he was certain that the distance between
the pier and the ship was growing greater. But it was still so small
that the flames blew about the boat like clouds of fire, and Roy knew
that blazing embers must be fairly raining on the ship’s decks.
So fascinated was he by the struggle that he completely forgot the
little fire-boat until suddenly it shot into his field of vision. It
steamed directly between the endangered ship, from which Roy could now
see puffs of smoke arising, and the blazing pier. In another instant
Roy saw great columns of water shoot from the fire-boat’s nozzles and
fall in drenching torrents on the helpless liner. Gradually the tugs
pushed the huge craft farther and farther from the shore. The fire-boat
stood alongside and hurled thousands of gallons of water over her,
until the last vestige of smoke disappeared from the big ship. Then the
fire-boat steamed close to the pier, which was now a roaring bonfire,
and played its streams steadily into the flames.
Roy heaved a sigh of relief. “They saved her,” he said to himself.
“They saved her. But suppose there had been no fire-boat. The land
engines couldn’t have helped her a bit. She’d have burned to the
water’s edge. That would have been terrible.”
It came to Roy that a fire at sea was a million times worse than a
conflagration like the one he was watching. “Those people over there,”
he muttered, as he looked at the rescued ship, “could have gotten away
even if the ship had burned. The tugs would have taken them off. But if
a ship ever got afire on the ocean the people aboard wouldn’t have one
chance in a thousand.”
Suddenly a great light leaped into his eyes. “Yes, they would,” he
corrected himself. “And that chance would be the wireless. It could
bring help to a ship at sea just as surely as that fire gong brought
On his face came a look of deepest determination. “If ever anything
like that happens on the _Lycoming_,” he muttered.
But the sentence went unfinished. Again the gong in the fire-house
clanged its warning. It was another alarm. Hardly had it sounded before
a whistle shrieked long and sharply at the western end of the Battery.
Everywhere whistles were tooting, as vessels exchanged signals with one
another in the crowded harbor; but this whistle was so insistent, so
unlike the tooting signals all about him, that Roy turned to discover
what could have made it. He was just in time to see a little steamer
poke her nose out from behind the pier at the western end of the
promenade. Sharply the craft turned eastward and in another moment was
speeding past Roy almost in the path the fire-boat had taken. The
boat was a small, shapely craft that looked more like a private yacht
than anything else. What instantly caught Roy’s eye were the wireless
antennæ strung above the boat.
Roy’s eyes sparkled. “That’s the police boat _Patrol_,” he thought.
“She’s going to the fire.” And his mind went back to the night when
he and his companions had raced up the East River on that same little
craft in their search for the secret wireless.
For a long time Roy stood looking at the little police boat as she
fought her way through the swirling current, but actually he saw
nothing. He was lost in thought. Then a passer-by caught his attention.
Scores of persons had gone by while Roy was watching the fire, yet he
had paid no heed to any of them. But the instant his eye rested on this
man Roy felt attracted to him.
The stranger was somewhat stout and his face was tanned a deep
brown, as though he had been exposed to wind and weather. He wore a
well-fitting suit of yachting flannels and a yachting cap of blue
was set rather rakishly on his head. Roy instantly decided that the
stranger must be a seafaring man. But what attracted Roy to the man was
the latter’s jolly, friendly expression. He fairly exuded good nature.
Roy felt that he would like to know the man. The stranger, however,
hardly noticed Roy, but walked rapidly along the promenade, with a step
that was wonderfully light and quick for a man of his build. Roy knew
that it was impolite to stare at people, but he was so drawn to this
passer-by that he couldn’t resist the temptation to turn around and
watch him. In another second he was glad he had done so.
A great wave crashed against the sea-wall and showered both Roy and
the stranger with spray. Roy was annoyed at getting his new uniform
wet. The stranger only laughed, though he was far wetter than Roy. From
a side pocket of his coat he drew a white handkerchief and wiped the
spray from his face. With the handkerchief he pulled out a letter. He
did not notice it, and in a second the wind whirled it away through the
“Wait a minute,” shouted Roy. “You lost a letter.” And he dashed across
the green after the flying envelope. His voice was drowned in the babel
of sounds and the stranger went on his way unheeding.
Roy pursued the elusive paper almost to Broadway before he managed to
clutch it. Then he turned and dashed back across the park. The stranger
had disappeared, but Roy knew that he could single the man out because
of his white clothes. So he ran on down the promenade in the direction
the stranger had taken. But he could find him nowhere. Roy reached the
western end of the promenade and looked up West Street. The man was
nowhere in sight.
“He couldn’t have gone much farther than this,” reasoned Roy. “Probably
he has gone into some building. He might have gone into the harbor
police station. I’ll look there for him.” And Roy turned toward the
building on the pier from beside which the _Patrol_ had emerged.
He pushed open the door and entered the Harbor A Station. A lieutenant
of police sat behind a big desk and on the floor before him was the man
Roy was searching for. But the man’s expression had changed greatly. He
looked troubled and worried.
“I beg your pardon,” said Roy, stepping toward the stranger, “but this
letter belongs to you. It came out of your pocket when you pulled your
handkerchief out and the wind blew it away. I shouted at you to wait,
but I suppose you didn’t hear me. I had to chase it nearly to Broadway
and when I got back you had gone. I’m glad I found you.”
“By George, youngster!” said the man, grasping the letter eagerly.
“You aren’t half as glad as I am. That’s a mighty important letter. I
discovered when I replaced my handkerchief that it was missing, and I
stepped in here to report the loss. I thought I had been robbed.”
He looked the letter over critically to make sure it was all right.
“You’ve done me a mighty good turn, youngster,” he said. “What do I owe
Roy drew back, frowning. “Nothing, sir,” he said. “I didn’t chase your
letter for money.”
The man looked sharply at Roy. “Then what did you do it for?” he
Roy was rather nonplused. “Why, why–there wasn’t anything else to do,”
he stammered. “You lost your letter; nobody else saw you lose it; and
so there wasn’t anything else to do.”
The stranger laughed uproariously. Roy felt almost hurt. His face must
have betrayed the fact, for suddenly the stranger checked his laugh.
“You’re a fine lad,” he said. “A fine lad. And it’s plain as the
Woolworth Building that you don’t belong in this town.”
Roy was astonished. “I don’t,” he assented, “but how did you know it?”
Again the man burst into laughter. “Listen to that, Lieutenant,” he
chuckled. “Listen to that.”
Then, turning to Roy, he said, “Where do you come from, lad? I see by
your uniform that you’re a wireless man.”
Roy glowed with pride. “My home is in Pennsylvania,” he replied. “I’m
the wireless man on the Confederated liner _Lycoming_.”
“The deuce you are!” said the man. “The deuce you are!” And his eyes
fairly danced. Then he added, with a chuckle, “Have you met Captain
Roy’s sober expression was answer enough for the stranger. He burst
into another hearty laugh. Then he said; “See here, lad. Don’t you pay
any attention to Captain Lansford. His bark is worse than his bite. You
do your duty and you’ll make good with him.”
“Do you know him?” asked Roy incredulously.
“I should say I do,” rejoined the stranger. “But I must be on my way.
I’ve got a lot to do.”
He thanked Roy again for his kindness and turned away. But immediately
he faced about. “Know anybody in this town?” he asked, then added with
a chuckle, “that is, anybody but Captain Lansford?”
“Hardly anybody,” said Roy.
“I thought so,” said the stranger. “What are you doing with yourself?”
“I thought I might find something interesting down here,” said Roy. “I
want to see everything I can while I have the opportunity.”
“Good boy,” said the stranger. “That’s the way to get ahead. You’ve
come to the right place to see things, too. Why, lad, this is one
of the most interesting places in all America. Yes, and in all the
world–this neighborhood right here. I could talk to you about it for
hours, but I haven’t time now. Go get yourself a guide-book and go over
the place thoroughly. You’ll never be sorry. If you can’t find one,
I’ll lend you mine. Good-bye.”
“But I may never see you again,” said Roy.
The man chuckled. “Oh! yes you will,” he smiled. “I’m going to look you
up on the _Lycoming_. Good-bye.” He held out his hand, grasped Roy’s so
firmly that he made Roy wince, and was off.
Roy watched him disappear in the crowd. He felt as though a great
weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He was no longer alone in a
big city. He had a friend. At least, he believed the man was going to
be his friend, and he was glad of it. But suddenly his face grew long
“I forgot to get his name,” muttered Roy, “and I could have had it
without asking. All I needed to do was to read the address on the
envelope. Now I may never see him again.”
For a minute Roy felt gloomy enough. Then he recalled the man’s promise
to look him up on the _Lycoming_. “If he does,” smiled Roy, “I’ll bet a
dollar I won’t forget again to find out his name. Now I’m going to take
his advice and get a guide-book. Wonder where I can find one.”
A policeman was passing. Roy stopped him and asked where he could
purchase the desired volume. The policeman directed him to a near-by
book shop and in a few minutes Roy was back in Battery Park with a
little guide-book in his hand.
“Now,” thought Roy, as he sought out a shady bench and sat down, “if
this book will tell me, I’m going to find out why this park is called
Battery Park. I’ve often wondered.”
He opened his book and, turning to the index, readily found where to
look for the information. Looking on the proper page, he read: “Battery
Park and Battery Place take their name from the fortification begun in
1693 by Governor Fletcher to defend the city. The original battery was
a line of cannons extending from the foot of Greenwich Street to the
intersection of Whitehall and Water Streets.”
“That was a pretty nice row of cannons,” thought Roy, glancing up from
his book to see about where these guns had stood. With the geography of
the city he was quite familiar, as it had been necessary, during the
search for the secret wireless, for Roy and his companions to acquaint
themselves with the city in order that they could travel surely and
speedily. After he had measured the distance with his eye, he turned
back to the guide-book and read: “The land beyond this line was under
water until after 1800.”
At first Roy did not grasp the significance of the statement. But when
he read that the original shore-line of the lower end of Manhattan
Island is marked approximately by Greenwich, State, and Pearl Streets,
he was almost stunned.
“Why, gee whiz!” he muttered. “That means that all this park, which
the book says contains twenty-one acres, and all the ground on either
side of the lower end of the island for two or three blocks inland is
made land. Just think of that.” In amazement he stared about the little
park, then looked at the two broad blocks between Greenwich Street and
“the farm.” “Made land,” he thought, “every inch of it. Why, they must
have made hundreds of acres. I wonder where they got all the stuff to
fill in with. What a lot of work it must have been! And what a pile of
money it must have cost. But I suppose it’s worth millions and millions
of dollars now.”
He picked up his guide-book again. “The land under water,” he read,
“was ceded to Congress by the city for the erection of a fort to defend
the city. The fort, about three hundred feet from shore, later called
Castle Clinton, was built on a mole and connected with the city by a
bridge. In 1822 it was ceded to the state; in 1823 it was leased to the
city, and in 1824 it was leased as an amusement hall, known as Castle
Garden. It was roofed over and was the scene of Lafayette’s reception
in 1824. In 1835 Samuel F. B. Morse here first demonstrated the
possibility of controlling an electric current. Here Jenny Lind sang
in 1850, and in 1851 Kossuth was received here. In 1855 it became the
Immigration Bureau. In 1891 Battery Park was filled in, and in 1896 the
building was opened as an aquarium.”
“Gee whiz!” smiled Roy happily. “I’ve often heard of the aquarium. It
contains one of the most famous collections of fishes in the world. But
I never dreamed that it was such a famous old place as that. I’m going
to see that, sure. It must be that queer, circular brownstone building
near the harbor police station.”
Roy’s guess proved to be correct, as the sign above the entrance told
him. But before entering he walked completely around the structure.
“Makes you think of a stone bandbox,” said Roy, with a chuckle. “It’s
so much like that funny building on Governor’s Island that they look
like twins. I’ll bet that was another fort.”
Roy was right again. His guide-book said that the old fort on
Governor’s Island was known as Castle William.
In walking around the aquarium Roy discovered at intervals what looked
like window spaces that had been walled in. But he knew that they must
have been the embrasures for the thirty heavy guns with which the fort
When he had completed the circuit of the building, Roy went inside.
In the centre of the floor was a tiled tank, like the hub of a wheel,
while strung around the wall, like the tire of the wheel, were tanks
and tanks of fishes, so arranged that the light shone through the
tanks, perfectly illuminating everything in them.
Roy went directly to the circular tank in the centre. It contained a
great sea-cow or manatee. Often Roy had read of these curious creatures
and he knew at once what the thing was. It was as big as a fat pig and
had a broad oval tail, with fore limbs in the form of flippers. The
animal reminded Roy of the performing seals he had seen at a circus. He
had read that at night the manatee is said to come out of the water.
He wondered if it were true. He was particularly interested in this
fish for he knew that it lived in the southern waters he would soon be
sailing. He hoped that he would see some of them in the sea.
In the tank with the manatee were some flounders. Roy was amazed to
note that they were almost white, like the sand in the bottom of the
tank. He had often seen flounders, but never any of that color. It
puzzled him until he remembered that the flounder, like many another
creature, possesses the power of protective coloring. Roy wondered
how it was possible for any creature to change its color to match its
environment. But, like many a wiser person, he pondered over the matter
When he had grown tired of watching the sea-cow and the white
flounders, he walked over to the ring of tanks, and, beginning at one
side of the entrance, walked slowly around the building. Never had Roy
dreamed that there could be such fishes as he now beheld. Not only
did he find the familiar fishes of our own waters that he had caught
or seen for sale in the markets, but also he saw strange and curious
creatures from every part of the world. What astonished him most was
the vivid coloring of some of the fishes from the tropics. Roy had
often seen parrots and other tropic birds, and he knew that the birds
in these hot regions were more brilliant in hue than our own birds. But
he had never dreamed that the fishes would likewise be gaily colored.
Yet here he beheld fishes of red and green and blue and yellow, as
brilliant in color as any parrot or parrakeet he had ever seen.
When he had become tired of looking at fishes, Roy left the aquarium
and again sought a shady seat. As he opened his book his glance rested
on the words “Fort Amsterdam.”
“I wonder how many forts those old fellows had, anyway,” thought Roy.
“I’ll just see what it says about Fort Amsterdam,” and he began to
read: “Before the first great fire visited Manhattan in 1626, the
lines of a fort were laid out, occupying the site of the present
Custom House, the work being completed between 1633 and 1635. Fort
Amsterdam, as the work was called, was built of earth and stone and
had four bastions. It rose proudly above the group of small houses and
became the distinctive feature of New Amsterdam. The main gate of the
fort opened on the present Bowling Green, which from the earliest days
was maintained as an open space. It was, in fact, the heart of the
Dutch town. It provided a playground for the children, a site for the
May-pole around which the youths and maidens danced, a parade-ground
for the soldiers, and a place for the market and annual cattle show.
Here also were held those great meetings with the Indians, at which
treaties were arranged and the pipe of peace was smoked. In 1732
it was leased to three citizens who lived close at hand, for one
peppercorn a year, as a private bowling ground, from which fact it
takes its name.”
“Think of that,” mused Roy. “They used to smoke the peace-pipe there.
Now the place is surrounded by sky-scrapers, trolley-cars run past
it, subway trains rumble underneath it, and elevated trains thunder
by within a few feet. I wonder what those Indians would think if they
could ever come back to earth and see Manhattan Island now.” Roy
chuckled at the idea, but when he thought of the Dutch cattle shows he
laughed outright. “Wouldn’t a herd of cattle tethered in Bowling Green
create a sensation now?” he said to himself. “I must take a look at
He jumped up and crossed the park, heading for the Custom-house at the
eastern end. This was a huge building, some seven stories in height,
that covered an entire block. Roy walked around it, pausing finally to
admire the groups of beautiful statuary that adorned the front of the
building. For a long time Roy gazed at the Custom-house, and the longer
he looked the more beautiful he thought the building was.
He had often seen it on his previous visit, but he had been so
preoccupied then that he had given little thought to it or any other
building. Though he had learned well the geography of the city, in
order that he might get about with facility, he had learned nothing of
the history or meaning of New York. Now that he was looking at things
from a new point of view, it seemed as though he had never seen them
before. It was so with Bowling Green. Often he had passed the little
fenced-in oval of grass, with its few benches and a tree or two, but it
had been to him only a tiny bit of green. It had held no meaning. Now
in fancy he saw the old fort with its little parade-ground, its gates
open, and the Dutch soldiers marching out to drill. He pictured the
boys and girls frolicking about the May-pole. And when he thought of
the cattle shows, he laughed again.
Roy went into the tiny oval and sat down on a bench to think this all
over. “It was almost three hundred years ago,” he mused, “when they
built that old fort. That’s a long time. It’s so long that I suppose
there isn’t a thing left that was standing in those days. That’s funny,
too, for I’ve read that in England there are buildings hundreds and
hundreds of years old. I wonder what’s the oldest thing here.”
Roy looked about but could find nothing that he thought seemed very
old. “That’s the queer thing about New York,” was his comment. “There
never has been much in it that is old. They keep tearing things down
and building new things in their places all the time. No wonder they
say that New York will never be finished. There isn’t anything old
But Roy was mistaken, and when he fell to reading in his guide-book
again he discovered it. For the fence that surrounded the little oval
was almost a century and a half old. “This fence,” Roy read, “was
imported from England in 1771 to enclose a lead equestrian statue of
George III. On the posts were the royal insignia. In 1776, during the
Revolution, the lead statue was dragged down and moulded into bullets
by the colonists, and the royal insignia were knocked from the tops of
the posts. The fractures can still be seen.”
Roy jumped up and ran over to the fence. Sure enough, each post showed
plainly that its top had been broken off. Roy was amazed.
“To think that this fence was standing at the time of the Revolution,”
he thought. “Why, Washington must have been here often and he probably
looked at these broken posts just as I have.”
Doubtless Washington did see the posts. Certainly he must have been in
the Bowling Green many a time. Only a short distance from the Bowling
Green, in Fraunces Tavern, at Broad and Pearl Streets, Washington said
farewell to forty-four of his officers at the close of the Revolution,
a fact that Roy soon discovered from his guide-book. Immediately he
hurried away to take a look at this beautiful old building of colonial
design, made of yellow Dutch bricks. Roy admired it very much. A
bronze tablet on the corner of the building stated that it was now the
property of the Sons of the Revolution.
“Good!” thought Roy. “Now I know of two things in New York that haven’t
been torn down. And I don’t believe they ever will be.”
When Roy looked further in his book he found there were many, many old
things remaining, so many that he could not hope to see them in one
day, and particularly not on this day, for it was already supper time.
But there was one place that Roy was eager to see. The guide-book said
that a tablet on the building at 41 Broadway marked the site of the
first houses or huts erected on Manhattan Island by white men. They
were built about 1613.
“I’ll just walk up Broadway,” thought Roy, “and see that tablet.
Then I’ll go on up Broadway, get something to eat, and go back to
the _Lycoming_ after supper. I suppose I could get a meal aboard the
_Lycoming_, but likely I’d have to eat with Captain Lansford.”
Roy walked slowly up the longest street in the world; for Broadway,
extending far beyond the limits of New York City, and passing through
one community after another, is still Broadway half a hundred miles
from Bowling Green. He could hardly have gone otherwise than slowly
if he had tried, for it was the evening rush hour. From every doorway
people were pouring out into the street. The sidewalks were jammed.
The roadway was so crowded with busses and trucks and drays and
trolley-cars and automobiles that it was next to impossible to cross
it. Bells were clanging, automobile horns honking, whistles blowing.
Iron-shod hoofs rang on the pavements. Leather shoes scraped and
shuffled on the stone sidewalks. And all these noises combined in
one ceaseless roar that beat on the ear incessantly. But what most
impressed Roy was the unceasing rush of people. Apparently there was no
end to them. Doorways of high buildings fairly vomited human beings.
But no matter how many persons issued forth, more remained to come
out. Time and time again Roy had seen this evening rush for home, and
always he was impressed by it. It seemed impossible that there could
be so many workers in the city. But when he remembered that some of the
tall buildings about him held as many as ten thousand persons,–almost
as many people as there were in the whole town of Central City–the
rush did not seem so incomprehensible. Every time Roy looked at the
crowd he thought of the ceaseless flow of a rushing stream.
Roy paused when he reached 41 Broadway and read the tablet on the wall.
But he passed on quickly, for the crowded sidewalk was a poor place to
loiter, and the tumult of traffic drove from his head all thoughts of
those sleepy old days when New York was New Amsterdam.
Roy was now in the very heart of that deep canyon formed by the huge
buildings in lower Broadway. He knew that nowhere else in the world
could one find structures like them. There they towered, ten, twenty,
thirty, forty stories high, until it made one almost dizzy to look up
at them. Like the traffic in the street, Roy had seen them often; but
now, as always when he saw them near at hand, he marveled at these huge
structures man had reared two and even three times as high as Niagara,
while the gigantic Woolworth Building, more than four and a half times
the height of Niagara, towered a full seven hundred and fifty feet
above the sidewalk. As Roy looked up Broadway at it now he could not
help feeling awed.
“Just think,” he muttered, “it’s two hundred feet longer than the
Just then Roy came to a quick lunch room. His eye brightened as he
caught sight of it, for he had had nothing to eat for several hours,
and the salt breeze in the park had whetted an appetite already keen.
Roy entered and ate generously. He took his time about it. Now that he
was relaxed, he found that he was really tired. When he came out of
the restaurant he was amazed at the altered appearance of the street.
The crowd had disappeared. Gone was the multitude of trucks, drays and
motor-cars. A few belated pedestrians were hurrying along the street,
and an occasional wagon rattled by. But now every hoof beat and every
creak of wheel or wagon-body echoed through the deserted thoroughfare,
flung back by the empty hives of buildings that had so recently swarmed
with life. More than ever Roy thought of that rushing throng of
humanity as a surging tide; but now it seemed as though a sluice-gate
had somewhere been closed and only a few tiny trickles were seeping
But somehow the deserted thoroughfare seemed almost more attractive to
Roy than it did when it was seething with traffic. There was so much
he wanted to think about, so many things on every hand that demanded
consideration; and connected thought was almost impossible when so many
persons were rushing by and such a confusing babel of sound smote on
the ear. So now he sauntered slowly up Broadway, thinking about his own
situation, and pondering over the interesting things he had seen.
One by one lights shone forth in the great structures about him–lights
so high that they seemed like yellow stars in the sky. Slowly the
outlines of the individual buildings grew dim and uncertain as darkness
came on. In place of the hulking massive structures of stone he had
been looking at by daylight, Roy now found himself gazing at what
seemed like fairy towers of twinkling, elfin lights. It was wonderful
beyond description. But when Roy looked at the Singer and Woolworth
Buildings, with their beautiful towers of ornate stone rising hundreds
of feet above him and brilliantly illuminated by hidden lights, he was
sure that he had never in his life seen anything so beautiful and so
wonderful. He could find no words to express his delight. But he was
conscious that the feeling of awe which had gripped him as he stared at
these same colored shafts by day was gone. Now he felt only a sense of
charm and delight.
He continued up Broadway until he came to the seething centre of life
about City Hall. When he looked across the little park at the entrance
of the Brooklyn bridge, and saw the bustling activity of Park Row,
he could scarce believe that one short block could make so great a
difference. Roy did not realize that Park Row was the heart of the
night life of lower New York. Centred about it were the homes of many
of New York’s great newspapers, where scores of workers had just gone
on duty and where the “day’s work” was only fairly getting under way.
Roy made his way to the entrance of the Brooklyn bridge and watched in
wonder the endless strings of trolley-cars swing round the terminal
loops, the streams of pedestrians still pouring homeward toward
Brooklyn, the line of carts still rattling up the cobbled roadway to
the bridge. When he expressed his wonder to the bridge policeman at
the information booth, that individual only smiled. For years he had
watched the better part of a million people daily swarm to and fro
across the bridge; and the tail-end of the evening rush, that seemed so
impressive to Roy, was commonplace enough to him.
After a time the scene paled on Roy, and he started for home–his new
home on the _Lycoming_. Knowing well the city’s geography, he did not
retrace his steps but struck off directly for the western water-front,
passing through a maze of deserted, dimly lighted, little streets that
were flanked by dingy buildings of five or six stories. The contrast
with the blazing centre of life he had just left was as striking as
some sudden shift in scenes on the stage of a theatre. In the quiet
and gloom Roy had abundant opportunity for thought. His mind returned
to the problem immediately before him: how he should make good with
So engrossed in this problem did Roy become that he did not hear a
stealthy footstep behind him, and was startled when a form appeared
beside him, and a tough-looking fellow demanded a match.
“Sorry,” said Roy, “but I have no matches with me.”
“Then give me ten cents for beer,” growled the fellow in a still
“I have no money to give you,” said Roy firmly.
“You haven’t, eh?” sneered the fellow. “Then I’ll just take it.”
He grasped Roy’s shoulder, but Roy wrenched loose from him and drew
back. Quick as a flash the ruffian shot his fist at Roy’s face. Taken
unawares, Roy could not dodge the blow, and it landed full on his left
eye. For an instant he was almost stunned and he could see nothing.
Instinctively he drew back and raised his fists to protect himself.
Roy knew that he was no match for this hulking fellow, who was almost
as large as Captain Lansford, but he meant to fight to the limit to
save the few dollars he possessed. Roy believed that the best defense
was an offensive, and though he could hardly see the man before him,
he rushed at him and struck out with all his might. The fellow was as
much surprised as Roy had been an instant before and the blow struck
him squarely on the chin. He had been coming toward Roy and the impact
was terrific. It bent his head straight back and the fellow dropped to
his knees. Roy should have finished him with another blow, but he could
not hit a man who was down, even though the man had attempted to rob
him. He stepped past the man and walked rapidly toward the water-front,
frequently glancing over his shoulder lest he be pursued. But the
surprised robber had had enough. When he was able to get to his feet he
slunk quickly out of sight.
“I got out of that pretty lucky,” thought Roy. “I’d rather have a
black eye any time than lose my money.”
But Roy almost changed his mind when he reached the ship, for the first
person he met was Captain Lansford. By this time Roy’s eye was both
swollen and discolored, and his face was flushed with excitement. As
luck would have it, he met the captain in the full glare of a bright
“So you’ve been drinking, eh?” roared the captain. “Don’t you know that
drinking is forbidden on this ship?”
“I haven’t been drinking, sir,” said Roy. “Some one—-”
Captain Lansford cut him short. “Don’t make it worse by lying about
it,” he said harshly.
Roy’s flushed face grew redder still with indignation. “You have no
right to say that,” he declared hotly.
“Do you dare question my authority on my own ship?” thundered the irate
“I don’t care whether you are captain of this ship or President of the
United States,” said Roy boldly. “You shall not accuse me of either
drinking or lying. I never touched a drop of liquor in my life and I am
not a liar.”
“If you haven’t been drinking,” demanded Captain Lansford, “how did
you get that black eye?”
“A man set on me and tried to rob me,” replied Roy.
“And you were sober and you let him hit you in the eye? Bah!”
“He hit me when I wasn’t expecting it,” explained Roy.
“And what did you do? Run? Or hand him your money?”
“I knocked him down,” said Roy grimly.
“It’s likely,” rejoined the captain. “Now go to your quarters and don’t
ever let me hear of your drinking again.”
Anger flamed up in Roy’s heart. “Don’t you ever dare to accuse me of
drinking again,” he cried hotly, taking a step toward his superior and
looking him straight in the eye.
“Go to your quarters,” thundered the captain.
Roy turned and slowly mounted to the wireless house. At every step his
heart grew heavier and heavier.
“A nice mess I’ve made of it,” he sighed, when at last he reached the
wireless house and threw himself down on his couch. “I’ll never make
good with the captain now, never.”
It was characteristic of Roy that he did not spend much time bewailing
his misfortune. “If the captain objects to my looks now,” thought he,
“how will he feel to-morrow, when that black eye becomes the real
thing! Gee! I’ve got to do something quick. Let me see. It ought to
be bathed in warm water and rubbed with butter or some other kind of
grease. I can get warm water here in my room, but I don’t know where to
get butter. Maybe the cook would give me some.”
Roy jumped to his feet and started down the ladder. “Gee whiz!” he
muttered. “I wonder where the cook is?” For the _Lycoming_ was still a
mystery to Roy.
He went down to a lower deck, then stood irresolute. Not a soul was in
sight, the ship was dimly lighted, and Roy did not know which way to
turn. Suddenly the door of the purser’s office was flung open and a
flood of yellow light streamed out. Roy stepped quickly to the door
and knocked against the jamb.
“Come in,” said a hearty voice, which Roy was certain he had heard
Roy entered and found himself face to face with the man whose letter he
had rescued. He was so surprised that for an instant he couldn’t say a
“Hello, youngster,” said the man, as he took a quick glance at Roy.
“Glad to see you. Come in. Just let me finish this manifest and I’ll
talk to you all night.” But when he took a second look at Roy, he
dropped the sheaf of papers he was examining and stepped forward.
“Now how the deuce did you get that?” he exclaimed, as he examined
As Roy started to tell him he interrupted, “Never mind how you got it.
Let’s get it fixed first and talk about it afterward. Come with me,
He darted out of his office and into his stateroom, with Roy close
at his heels. Seemingly with one motion he set the hot water flowing
in his wash-bowl and drew from a closet a bottle of vaseline. Almost
before Roy knew what was happening, the man had him in a chair with a
stinging hot compress over his eye, and another ready for application
when the first one cooled. The man’s dexterity amazed Roy, who was
anything but clumsy himself. When the compresses had done their work,
the man began to rub the injured flesh about the bruised eye with
vaseline. Round and round his fingers went, softly but firmly pressing
the flesh, until Roy wondered if the man would ever stop. Finally the
massage ended and a poultice was quickly made and deftly applied.
“There,” said the man, stepping back and viewing his job critically.
“You’re fixed up as good as any ambulance surgeon could have fixed you.
Now let’s hear how you got that decoration.”
“First, let me thank you for your help,” said Roy gratefully. “I’ll
look bad enough as it is, but I’d have looked a thousand times worse
if you hadn’t helped me. I wouldn’t care so much if the captain hadn’t
“Did he, though? And what did he say?”
“He accused me of being drunk, and when I tried to explain how I came
by a black eye, he told me not to make it worse by lying.”
Roy’s companion chuckled. “What did you tell him?” he demanded.
“I told him he had no right to accuse me of either. He nearly took
my head off, and demanded to know if I questioned his authority on
his own ship. I told him I didn’t care whether he was captain of the
_Lycoming_ or President of the United States, I was neither drunk nor a
liar and that he had no right to accuse me of being either.”
Roy’s companion slapped his leg in huge delight. “Boy,” he said,
“you’re made with Captain Lansford. You couldn’t have done anything
that would please him more. He loves courage and there are mighty few
people who have enough of it to stand up to him.”
Roy looked rueful. “He’ll never forgive me,” he said. “You should have
heard him order me to my quarters.”
But Roy’s companion only chuckled. “Now tell me all about your eye,” he
Roy told him how he came by it. Then he added, “I suppose you are
the purser, and I’m mighty glad. I don’t know how I can ever show my
gratitude for your kindness, but I thank you with all my heart. My name
is Roy Mercer.”
“Thank you, lad. Thank you,” said the purser. “It’s always a pleasure
to help a good boy like yourself. My name is Robbins, Frank Robbins,
and I _am_ the purser. I foresee that we shall be very good friends.”
“I hope so,” said Roy. “It won’t be my fault if we aren’t. Won’t you
come up and see my wireless room? And, by the way, I’ve got some
crullers my mother gave me. You must try them.”
“God bless the lad!” ejaculated the purser. “Crullers–the kind that
mother used to make–the real thing–and he wants to share them. To be
sure, I’ll come. But let me finish that manifest first. Work before
play is the motto on this ship.”
“I’d bet on that,” thought Roy, “if Captain Lansford had anything to do
The purser went to his office and Roy to the wireless house. But what
a different lad he was from the Roy who had left it so short a time
before. He had found a friend in need; and a friend in need is a friend
indeed. Now his eyes were aglow and his heart beat merrily. He looked
at his shining instruments as a mother views her child. Sitting down at
the operating table, he adjusted his receivers to his head and threw
over the switch.
A babel of sound smote his ears. It was after nine o’clock, and at
that hour of the night the air in Manhattan was as noisy as Broadway
during the rush hour. Everybody was talking at once, including no end
of irresponsible amateurs, many of whom could send but not read. When
they jammed, no one could tell them what trouble they were making
for everybody else. Roy could hear big stations and little talking
to one another through hundreds of miles of space. Stations far to
the northward were talking directly over Roy’s head, as it were, with
stations as far to the southward. Inland operators were conversing
with shore stations, and ocean liners were exchanging messages with
operators on land. It was as noisy as a five o’clock tea.
Though it was all familiar to Roy, it was as interesting to him as if
he were hearing it for the first time. High above the multitude of
buzzing sounds rose the shrill whine of the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s rotary
spark-gap. Always Roy delighted to listen to the clean, clear work of
the Navy Yard operators. Now he tuned sharply and listened.
“NAK–NAK–NAK–NAH,” called the navy operator. (Annapolis-Brooklyn
Navy Yard calling.)
“NAH–III–GA,” came the reply almost at once. (Navy Yard. I’m here. Go
Roy made a wry face as he took down the message that followed. It was
in cipher and he could not read it.
But there was plenty that he could read. The radio station on the
Metropolitan tower was shrilly shouting its news to the world. The
navy station at Fire Island was talking with a destroyer at sea. Cape
May was trying to get some ship far out in the Atlantic. The _New York
Herald_ was talking with a ship coming into Boston. Far out at sea
the White Star liner _Majestic_ was inquiring whether the Giants or
Cincinnati had won the day’s ball game. The Hotel Waldorf was sending a
message for a guest to Philadelphia.
Suddenly Roy started violently. His own call was sounding through the
It was the _Tioga_ calling her sister ship _Lycoming_.
“WNG–III–GA,” flashed back Roy the instant the call ended.
“Hello,” came the answer. “This is Patterson. Who are you?”
“This is Mercer,” answered Roy.
“Glad to know you,” flashed back the operator on the _Tioga_. “Where
“This is my first job,” said Roy.
“Well, you’re right on the job and you send well.”
“Thanks,” answered Roy. “Come see me. When do you expect to get in?”
“Tuesday evening. Take a message for Lansford.”
Roy took down the message and said good-night to Patterson. He made a
grimace at the thought of again facing “the old dragon,” as he mentally
styled his superior. But before he could lay aside his receivers he
heard Arlington preparing to send out the ten o’clock time signal and
the day’s weather news.
“I’ll just take the weather-report,” he thought, as he set his watch,
“and give it to Captain Lansford along with this message.”
Then the weather signals sounded. Rapidly Roy jotted them down: “USWB-T
02813–DB 04221–H 03622–C 03042–K 00223–P 03347.” (Wind off
Atlantic Coast–north of Sandy Hook moderate northerly winds with fair
weather–Hatteras to Florida Straits moderate northerly and easterly
winds. Moderate showers Tuesday east Gulf Coast. Fresh to moderately
strong winds over north portion with rain–moderate northeast and east
winds over south portion.)
Rapidly Roy deciphered the code and wrote down the despatch, as
follows: Nantucket–barometer 30.28, wind north, gentle breeze.
Delaware Breakwater–barometer 30.42, wind northeast, light air.
Cape Hatteras–barometer 30.36, wind northeast, light breeze.
Key West–barometer 30.02, wind northeast, gentle breeze.
Pensacola–barometer 30.33, wind southeast, moderate gale.
Carefully Roy wrote out the message from the _Tioga_, and signed it
with the _Tioga_ captain’s name, making sure that every word was
written plainly and spelled correctly. “I won’t give him a chance to
criticize me,” he muttered.
Then, after a moment’s consideration, he wrote: “The United States
Weather Bureau reports the following weather conditions.” And he copied
down the deciphered message and signed his name: “Mercer.”
It was the first time Roy had ever signed his name as a professional
operator and he thrilled with pride as he looked at the neatly penned
message with his own signature at the bottom.
But immediately the smile of satisfaction was succeeded by a sour look.
At that instant his door opened and the purser walked in.
“Why so glum?” he demanded. “Worrying about your shiner?”
“No,” said Roy. “I was thinking how much fun it will be to take this
message to Captain Lansford.”
“Now see here, lad,” exploded the purser. “You’re not going to take it.
Don’t forget you’re not a cabin-boy, but remember that you rank with
the officers. And, anyway, it will be just as well to keep away from
the captain for a time. He’s used to having everybody kotow to him.
Just show him you are independent. He won’t think any the worse of you
“Come to think of it,” said Roy, “his orders were to go to the wireless
house and not to bother him.”
“Just push this button when you want a steward,” said the purser,
putting his finger on a push-button in the wall that Roy had not
In a few moments a gray-haired negro appeared at the door.
“Sam,” said the purser, “this is Mr. Mercer, our new wireless man. He’s
a particular friend of mine and I want you to look after him as a favor
to me. Besides, you want to gain his friendship yourself. You can never
tell when you may need his help. He talks to other ships and to folks
ashore, with these instruments here. If we get into trouble at sea he
can summon help, even if we are five hundred miles out in the ocean.”
The darky’s eyes opened wide in astonishment. “I done heerd o’ dis yere
wireless telefagry, Massa Robbins,” he said, “but I ain’t never seen
none before. Can he really call help like dat?”
“Indeed he can, Sam, and if we need a policeman, he can get one quick.”
The steward looked at Roy with awe. Roy rose and shook hands with him.
“I hope you are going to be my friend, Sam,” he said cordially.
“’Deed I is, Mr. Mercer. ’Deed I is, suh,” and he bowed himself out
with Roy’s message for the captain.
Roy grinned at the purser. “Sounds funny to have him call me Mr.
Mercer,” he said. “I suppose he’ll get over it when he knows me better.”
“You’ll never be anything but Mr. Mercer on shipboard,” explained the
purser. “As wireless man, you are entitled to be called Mr. Mercer, and
we are particular about such things. But I’m going to call you Roy when
we’re alone, if you don’t mind.”
With a smile Roy laid aside his wireless instruments and produced his
package of crullers.
“We must have something to drink with these,” said the purser, and he
pressed the button again.
Roy looked at him inquiringly.
“I never touch anything stronger than coffee,” said the purser, “and if
you take my advice, you won’t, either.”
“I never touched a drop of liquor in my life,” said Roy, “and I’m not
going to now.”
“I thought not,” said the purser. “That’s one reason I mean to be your
friend. Boys who drink aren’t worth bothering with.”
Presently Sam answered the bell and brought them a pot of steaming
hot coffee. For a long time Roy and the purser sat talking; they ate
crullers and drank coffee. When Mr. Robbins said good-night, Roy was
very happy indeed. He felt that he had gained a real friend, who would
help him in difficulty. And, though he did not know it, there were many
difficulties ahead of him.