NO patron of Delmonico’s probably ever contemplated his sumptuous meal
with more satisfaction than shone in the little match boy’s eyes, as he
gazed with watering mouth at the overdone, tough-looking steak, the
mashed potato, the three slices of stale bread and dab of butter, which
furnished the solid material of his meal. A cup of muddy coffee
completed the bill of fare. After all, appetite is the best sauce, and
Johnny had appetite enough to make his meal seem palatable.
Johnny did not stand upon ceremony, but “pitched in.” It is not an
elegant expression, but it describes accurately the energy with which
the boy disposed of his dinner. Ten minutes sufficed for its entire
disappearance. There was not even a crumb left.
“That was bully!” said Johnny to himself, with a sigh of supreme
satisfaction “I wish I could have such a lay out every day.”
But he evidently thought this was unattainable happiness. He did not
even think of reserving from his little fund, enough to provide a
similar feast on the following day—partly because he was an honest
little fellow, and partly because he stood in fear of the burly woman
whom he called Aunt Peggy.
“I wouldn’t have Aunt Peggy know I’ve been here for something,” he
There seemed little chance of it, but, as ill luck would have it, as he
was emerging from the restaurant, a boy he knew passed with a
blacking-box on his shoulder.
“What have you been doin’ in there?” asked Tim Roach. “Been havin’ yer
“I just got a little to eat,” answered Johnny, ill at ease.
“Got any more money?”
“Then just treat a feller, won’t yer? I’ll do as much for you
“I can’t, Tim, the money isn’t mine.”
“You won’t, you mean.”
“I would if the money belonged to me.”
“Does Peggy know yer went in there?” asked Tim, slyly.
“Don’t tell her, Tim! I was _so_ hungry.”
“I can’t, Tim!”
“All right!” replied Tim, nodding. “I’ll let Peggy know how you spend
Poor Johnny! These last words alarmed him terribly.
Lyman Taylor’s stock of money was getting low. He was not a good
financial manager. But even if he had been, he would not have been able
long to live without work. When his stock of ready money was reduced to
five dollars, he began to consider anxiously where he could obtain a
further supply. It is not strange that his thoughts should have reverted
to his uncle.
“I wonder if Uncle Anthony is well fixed or not. He got considerable
money in California, but may have lost it. The old man is close-mouthed,
and I can’t worm the secret out of him. If I had any hold on him——”
continued Lyman, thoughtfully.
He sauntered along till he came to a pool-room, connected with a cheap
hotel, of the kind he was in the habit of frequenting. No one chanced to
be playing, and by way of filling up the time he took up a St. Louis
paper, and ran his eye listlessly over it.
But at one place in the advertising columns, his listlessness suddenly
vanished, and his face assumed a look of eager interest. This was the
advertisement that attracted his attention:
“INFORMATION WANTED.—Any one who can give information concerning a
child named Jack Ransom, who was brought to St. Louis a little more
than five years since, is desired to communicate with Mark Manning,
at the Planters’ Hotel. The boy, if living, is now seven or eight
years of age.”
“Well, I’ll be——hanged!” ejaculated Lyman Taylor. “How, in the name of
all that’s mysterious, has my uncle got hold of a clue to little Jack’s
“So he’s sent that country cub—Mark Manning—out to investigate. He must
be crazy to trust a green boy, who has always lived in the country.
“But what beats me, is how he learned so much. I did take the boy to St.
Louis, and placed him with an old woman, who very likely has starved or
beaten him to death by this time. But suppose she hasn’t,” continued
Lyman, after a pause.
“Suppose the child is still living. If I could only find out, then I
would have the hold on my uncle that I require. I would kidnap the boy,
and not part with him under a good round sum.”
Lyman’s face brightened, but only for an instant. It was a capital
scheme, but how was he to get hold of the boy? How did he know if he
He would have been amazed if he had known that he had seen the boy that
very day, selling matches in the streets.
There was one thing, however, that seemed clear to Lyman. His uncle must
still have a comfortable property, or he would not be able to send a
messenger to St. Louis in search of his lost grandson.
“The old man may have twenty thousand dollars, for aught I know,”
reflected Lyman; “and doesn’t spend the income of half that as he lives
now. No doubt that country boy has an inkling of it, and is planning to
get hold of it. That boy is foxy, and knows what he is about, I’ll be
This estimate did not exactly agree with the one Lyman had recently
expressed of Mark, but he did not think it necessary to be consistent.
“Twenty thousand dollars!” he repeated, and his nephew almost starving
here in Chicago. Oh, it was a cunning scheme to buy me off for a paltry
sum, and give a free field to that boy. That’s a pretty way for a man to
treat his only living relation.
“But who could have put it into his head that his grandson was alive? I
presume the little beggar has kicked the bucket before this. If I only
could get hold of him, I would make the old man pay handsomely for his
The chances, however, did not seem very flattering, and Lyman had no
money to expend in searching for the boy, apart from the doubt whether
he was still living. Gradually a new idea came to him. He might pick up
some boy who would answer the purpose, whom he could palm off on his
uncle as his grandson. True, it would be raising up a rival heir; but he
was thoroughly persuaded that in no case did he himself stand any chance
of succeeding to his uncle’s property.
“It will be worth something,” he muttered, “to cut out that country boy.
All I have to do, is to find a boy who is without relatives, and I can
concoct some story that will impose upon Uncle Anthony. That little
match boy, for instance! Why wouldn’t he do?”
Lyman became so excited by his castle building, that he determined to
lose no time in carrying out his design. He left the tavern, and
retraced his steps to the place where he had encountered the match boy.
Johnny, after eating his dinner, had resumed his business, and was
within a block of the same place offering his wares to the passers by.
He was a little worried by Tim’s threat to expose his extravagant dinner
to the old woman with whom he lived, but persistently refused to buy off
“I say, little boy, what’s your name?”
Johnny turned round at these words, and recognized in the man addressing
him, the one with whom he had already had trouble. His face showed the
fear which he not unnaturally felt.
“Don’t be frightened, my boy!” said Lyman, with an ingratiating smile.
“I am afraid I was rough to you this morning. Don’t mind it! I was
worried about my business affairs, and didn’t mean what I said. Shake
hands, and let us be friends.”
“No—o,” answered Johnny, doubtfully.
“The fact is, I feel an interest in you, my boy. You look like a little
cousin of mine that I haven’t seen since he was a baby.”
Johnny was more and more puzzled. The neglected little match boy was not
used to such attention.
“Did you ever live in St. Louis?” asked Lyman, at a venture.
“Yes,” answered the match boy.
Lyman opened his eyes in surprise. He had not expected such an answer.
Even then he did not suspect that Chance had led him to the very boy
whom he desired to meet.
“Have you any father or mother?” he asked.
Johnny could not understand why his questioner should be pleased to hear
that he was an orphan. Lyman Taylor seemed to him a very
incomprehensible man. He felt rather uncomfortable in his presence, and
hoped the man would go away, and leave him to attend to his business.
“Who do you live with, then, sonny?” was Lyman’s next question.
“With my aunt.”
“What is your aunt’s name?”
“I always call her Aunt Peggy.”
“WHAT?” exclaimed Lyman, in a tone that made the little match boy jump.
“You live with an old woman named Peggy?”
“Is she your aunt?”
“I suppose so. I always call her Aunt Peggy.”
“It’s the very boy!” was Lyman’s exulting thought. “I’m in luck at last.
Lyman, old man, your plans are going to be realized.”
“Were you ever called Jack?” he asked, anxiously.
“Yes; that’s what Aunt Peggy calls me. Other people call me Johnny.”
“My boy,” said Lyman, fervently, “I can’t tell you how glad I am to see
you. I am sure now you are my little cousin. Where does Peggy live?”
The match boy named the place—a poor street in a poor neighborhood.
“Take me there at once. I want to see your Aunt Peggy.”
“But Peggy will be mad if I don’t stay and sell matches, sir.”
“Come along; I will make it right with her.”
Lyman took the little boy’s hand, and the two turned off Clark Street,
and went in pursuit of Peggy.