Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York
by Horatio Alger Jr.
Digitized by Cardinalis Etext Press C.E.K.
This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN.
From the book Ragged Dick and Struggling Upward, published by Penguin Books, 1985. Ragged Dick was first published in the United States by A.K. Loring, 1868. The text itself is not copyright, and this etext is public domain.
RAGGED DICK IS INTRODUCED TO THE READER
"WAKE up there, youngster," said a rough voice.
Ragged Dick opened his eyes slowly, and stared stupidly in the face of the speaker, but did not offer to get up.
"Wake up, you young vagabond!" said the man a little impatiently; "I suppose you'd lay there all day, if I hadn't called you."
"What time is it?" asked Dick.
"Seven o'clock! I oughter've been up an hour ago. I know what 'twas made me so precious sleepy. I went to the Old Bowery last night, and didn't turn in till past twelve."
"You went to the Old Bowery? Where'd you get your money?" asked the man, who was a porter in the employ of a firm doing business on Spruce Street. "Made it by shines, in course. My guardian don't allow me no money for theatres, so I have to earn it."
"Some boys get it easier than that," said the porter significantly.
"You don't catch me stealin', if that's what you mean," said Dick.
"Don't you ever steal, then?"
"No, and I wouldn't. Lots of boys does it, but I wouldn't."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you say that. I believe there's some good in you, Dick, after all."
"Oh, I'm a rough customer!" said Dick. "But I wouldn't steal. It's mean."
"I'm glad you think so, Dick," and the rough voice sounded gentler than at first. "Have you got any money to buy your breakfast?"
"No, but I'll soon get some."
While this conversation had been going on, Dick had got up. His bedchamber had been a wooden box half full of straw, on which the young bootblack had reposed his weary limbs, and slept as soundly as if it had been a bed of down. He dumped down into the straw without taking the trouble of undressing.
Getting up too was an equally short process. He jumped out of the box, shook himself, picked out one or two straws that had found their way into rents in his clothes, and, drawing a well-worn cap over his uncombed locks, he was all ready for the business of the day.
Dick's appearance as he stood beside the box was rather peculiar. His pants were torn in several places, and had apparently belonged in the first instance to a boy two sizes larger than himself. He wore a vest, all the buttons of which were gone except two, out of which peeped a shirt which looked as if it had been worn a month. To complete his costume he wore a coat too long for him, dating back, if one might judge from its general appearance, to a remote antiquity.
Washing the face and hands is usually considered proper in commencing the day, but Dick was above such refinement. He had no particular dislike to dirt, and did not think it necessary to remove several dark streaks on his face and hands. But in spite of his dirt and rags there was something about Dick that was attractive. It was easy to see that if he had been clean and well dressed he would have been decidedly good-looking. Some of his companions were sly, and their faces inspired distrust; but Dick had a frank, straight-forward manner that made him a favorite.
Dick's business hours had commenced. He had no office to open. His little blacking-box was ready for use, and he looked sharply in the faces of all who passed, addressing each with, "Shine yer boots, sir?"
"How much?" asked a gentleman on his way to his office.
"Ten cents," said Dick, dropping his box, and sinking upon his knees on the sidewalk, flourishing his brush with the air of one skilled in his profession.
"Ten cents! Isn't that a little steep?"
"Well, you know 'taint all clear profit," said Dick, who had already set to work. "There's the blacking costs something, and I have to get a new brush pretty often."
"And you have a large rent too," said the gentleman quizzically, with a glance at a large hole in Dick's coat.
"Yes, sir," said Dick, always ready to joke; "I have to pay such a big rent for my manshun up on Fifth Avenoo, that I can't afford to take less than ten cents a shine. I'll give you a bully shine, sir."
"Be quick about it, for I am in a hurry. So your house is on Fifth Avenue, is it?"
"It isn't anywhere else, said Dick, and Dick spoke the truth there.
"What tailor do you patronize?" asked the gentleman, surveying Dick's attire.
"Would you like to go to the same one?" asked Dick, shrewdly.
"Well, no; it strikes me that he didn't give you a very good fit."
"This coat once belonged to General Washington," said Dick, comically. "He wore it all through the Revolution, and it got torn some, 'cause he fit so hard. When he died he told his widder to give it to some smart young feller that hadn't got none of his own; so she gave it to me. But if you'd like it, sir, to remember General Washington by, I'll let you have it reasonable."
"Thank you, but I wouldn't want to deprive you of it. And did your pants come from General Washington too?"
"No, they was a gift from Lewis Napoleon. Lewis had outgrown 'em and sent 'em to me,--he's bigger than me, and that's why they don't fit."
"It seems you have distinguished friends. Now, my lad, I suppose you would like your money."
"I shouldn't have any objection," said Dick.
"I believe," said the gentleman, examining his pocket-book, "I haven't got anything short of twenty-five cents. Have you got any change?"
"Not a cent," said Dick. "All my money's invested in the Erie Railroad."
"Shall I get the money changed, sir?"
"I can't wait; I've got to meet an appointment immediately. I'll hand you twenty-five cents, and you can leave the change at my office any time during the day."
"All right, sir. Where is it?"
"No. 125 Fulton Street. Shall you remember?"
"Yes, sir. What name?"
"Greyson,--office on second floor."
"All right, sir; I'll bring it."
"I wonder whether the little scamp will prove honest," said Mr. Greyson to himself, as he walked away. "If he does, I'll give him my custom regularly. If he don't as is most likely, I shan't mind the loss of fifteen cents."
Mr. Greyson didn't understand Dick. Our ragged hero wasn't a model boy in all respects. I am afraid he swore sometimes, and now and then he played tricks upon unsophisticated boys from the country, or gave a wrong direction to honest old gentlemen unused to the city. A clergyman in search of the Cooper Institute he once directed to the Tombs Prison, and, following him unobserved, was highly delighted when the unsuspicious stranger walked up the front steps of the great stone building on Centre Street, and tried to obtain admission.
"I guess he wouldn't want to stay long if he did get in," thought Ragged Dick, hitching up his pants. "Leastways I shouldn't. They're so precious glad to see you that they won't let you go, but board you gratooitous, and never send in no bills."
Another of Dick's faults was his extravagance. Being always wide-awake and ready for business, he earned enough to have supported him comfortably and respectably. There were not a few young clerks who employed Dick from time to time in his professional capacity, who scarcely earned as much as he, greatly as their style and dress exceeded his. But Dick was careless of his earnings. Where they went he could hardly have told himself. However much he managed to earn during the day, all was generally spent before morning. He was fond of going to the Old Bowery Theatre, and to Tony Pastor's, and if he had any money left afterwards, he would invite some of his friends in somewhere to have an oyster stew; so it seldom happened that he commenced the day with a penny.
Then I am sorry to add that Dick had formed the habit of smoking. This cost him considerable, for Dick was rather fastidious about his cigars, and wouldn't smoke the cheapest. Besides, having a liberal nature, he was generally ready to treat his companions. But of course the expense was the smallest objection. No boy of fourteen can smoke without being affected injuriously. Men are frequently injured by smoking, and boys always. But large numbers of the newsboys and boot-blacks form the habit. Exposed to the cold and wet they find that it warms them up, and the self-indulgence grows upon them. It is not uncommon to see a little boy, too young to be out of his mother's sight, smoking with all the apparent satisfaction of a veteran smoker.
There was another way in which Dick sometimes lost money. There was a noted gambling-house on Baxter Street, which in the evening was sometimes crowded with these juvenile gamesters, who staked their hard earnings, generally losing of course, and refreshing themselves from time to time with a vile mixture of liquor at two cents a glass. Sometimes Dick strayed in here, and played with the rest.
I have mentioned Dick's faults and defects, because I want it understood, to begin with, that I don't consider him a model boy. But there were some good points about him nevertheless. He was above doing anything mean or dishonorable. He would not steal, or cheat, or impose upon younger boys, but was frank and straight-forward, manly and self-reliant. His nature was a noble one, and had saved him from all mean faults. I hope my young readers will like him as I do, without being blind to his faults. Perhaps, although he was only a boot-black, they may find something in him to imitate.
And now, having fairly introduced Ragged Dick to my young readers, I must refer them to the next chapter for his further adventures.
After Dick had finished polishing Mr. Greyson's boots he was fortunate enough to secure three other customers, two of them reporters in the Tribune establishment, which occupies the corner of Spruce Street and Printing House Square.
When Dick had got through with his last customer the City Hall clock indicated eight o'clock. He had been up an hour, and hard at work, and naturally began to think of breakfast. He went up to the head of Spruce Street, and turned into Nassau. Two blocks further, and he reached Ann Street. On this street was a small, cheap restaurant, where for five cents Dick could get a cup of coffee, and for ten cents more, a plate of beefsteak with a plate of bread thrown in. These Dick ordered, and sat down at a table.
It was a small apartment with a few plain tables unprovided with cloths, for the class of customers who patronized it were not very particular. Our hero's breakfast was soon before him. Neither the coffee nor the steak were as good as can be bought at Delmonico's; but then it is very doubtful whether, in the present state of his wardrobe, Dick would have been received at that aristocratic restaurant, even if his means had admitted of paying the high prices there charged.
Dick had scarcely been served when he espied a boy about his own size standing at the door, looking wistfully into the restaurant. This was Johnny Nolan, a boy of fourteen, who was engaged in the same profession as Ragged Dick. His wardrobe was in very much the same condition as Dick's.
"Had your breakfast, Johnny?" inquired Dick, cutting off a piece of steak.
"Come in, then. Here's room for you."
"I ain't got no money," said Johnny, looking a little enviously at his more fortunate friend.
"Haven't you had any shines?"
"Yes, I had one, but I shan't get any pay till to-morrow."
"Are you hungry?"
"Try me, and see."
"Come in. I'll stand treat this morning."
Johnny Nolan was nowise slow to accept this invitation, and was soon seated beside Dick.
"What'll you have, Johnny?"
"Same as you."
"Cup o' coffee and beefsteak," ordered Dick.
These were promptly brought, and Johnny attacked them vigorously.
Now, in the boot-blacking business, as well as in higher avocations, the same rule prevails, that energy and industry are rewarded, and indolence suffers. Dick was energetic and on the alert for business, but Johnny the reverse. The consequence was that Dick earned probably three times as much as the other.
"How do you like it?" asked Dick, surveying Johnny's attacks upon the steak with evident complacency.
I don't believe "hunky" is to be found in either Webster's or Worcester's big dictionary; but boys will readily understand what it means.
"Do you come here often?" asked Johnny.
"Most every day. You'd better come too."
"I can't afford it."
"Well, you'd ought to, then," said Dick. "What do you do I'd like to know?"
I don't get near as much as you, Dick."
Well you might if you tried. I keep my eyes open,--that's the way I get jobs. You're lazy, that's what's the matter."
Johnny did not see fit to reply to this charge. Probably he felt the justice of it, and preferred to proceed with the breakfast, which he enjoyed the more as it cost him nothing.
Breakfast over, Dick walked up to the desk, and settled the bill. Then, followed by Johnny, he went out into the street.
"Where are you going, Johnny?"
"Up to Mr. Taylor's, on Spruce Street, to see if he don't want a shine."
"Do you work for him reg'lar?"
"Yes. Him and his partner wants a shine most every day. Where are you goin'?"
"Down front of the Astor House. I guess I'll find some customers there."
At this moment Johnny started, and, dodging into an entry way, hid behind the door, considerably to Dick's surprise.
"What's the matter now?" asked our hero.
"Has he gone?" asked Johnny, his voice betraying anxiety.
"Who gone, I'd like to know?"
"That man in the brown coat."
"What of him. You ain't scared of him, are you?"
"Yes, he got me a place once."
"Ever so far off."
"What if he did?"
"I ran away."
"Didn't you like it?"
"No, I had to get up too early. It was on a farm, and I had to get up at five to take care of the cows. I like New York best."
"Didn't they give you enough to eat?"
"Oh, yes, plenty."
"And you had a good bed?"
"Then you'd better have stayed. You don't get either of them here. Where'd you sleep last night?"
"Up an alley in an old wagon."
"You had a better bed than that in the country, didn't you?"
"Yes, it was as soft as--as cotton."
Johnny had once slept on a bale of cotton, the recollection supplying him with a comparison.
"Why didn't you stay?"
"I felt lonely," said Johnny.
Johnny could not exactly explain his feelings, but it is often the case that the young vagabond of the streets, though his food is uncertain, and his bed may be any old wagon or barrel that he is lucky enough to find unoccupied when night sets in, gets so attached to his precarious but independent mode of life, that he feels discontented in any other. He is accustomed to the noise and bustle and ever-varied life of the streets, and in the quiet scenes of the country misses the excitement in the midst of which he has always dwelt.
Johnny had but one tie to bind him to the city. He had a father living, but he might as well have been without one. Mr. Nolan was a confirmed drunkard, and spent the greater part of his wages for liquor. His potations made him ugly, and inflamed a temper never very sweet, working him up sometimes to such a pitch of rage that Johnny's life was in danger. Some months before, he had thrown a flat-iron at his son's head with such terrific force that unless Johnny had dodged he would not have lived long enough to obtain a place in our story. He fled the house, and from that time had not dared to re-enter it. Somebody had given him a brush and box of blacking, and he had set up in business on his own account. But he had not energy enough to succeed, as has already been stated, and I am afraid the poor boy had met with many hardships, and suffered more than once from cold and hunger. Dick had befriended him more than once, and often given him a breakfast or dinner, as the case might be.
"How'd you get away?" asked Dick, with some curiosity. "Did you walk?"
"No, I rode on the cars."
"Where'd you get your money? I hope you didn't steal it."
"I didn't have none."
"What did you do, then?"
"I got up about three o'clock, and walked to Albany."
"Where's that?" asked Dick, whose ideas on the subject of geography were rather vague.
"Up the river."
"About a thousand miles," said Johnny, whose conceptions of distance were equally vague.
Go ahead. What did you do then?"
I hid on top of a freight car, and came all the way without their seeing me.* That man in the brown coat was the man that got me the place, and I'm afraid he'd want to send me back."
* A fact.
"Well," said Dick, reflectively, "I dunno as I'd like to live in the country. I couldn't go to Tony Pastor's or the Old Bowery. There wouldn't be no place to spend my evenings. But I say, it's tough in winter, Johnny, 'specially when your overcoat's at the tailor's, an' likely to stay there."
"That's so, Dick. But I must be goin', or Mr. Taylor'll get somebody else to shine his boots."
Johnny walked back to Nassau Street, while Dick kept on his way to Broadway.
"That boy," soliloquized Dick, as Johnny took his departure, "ain't got no ambition. I'll bet he won't get five shines to-day. I'm glad I ain't like him. I couldn't go to the theatre, nor buy no cigars, nor get half as much as I wanted to eat.--Shine yer boots, sir?"
Dick always had an eye to business, and this remark was addressed to a young man, dressed in a stylish manner, who was swinging a jaunty cane.
"I've had my boots blacked once already this morning, but this confounded mud has spoiled the shine."
"I'll make 'em all right, sir, in a minute."
"Go ahead, then."
The boots were soon polished in Dick's best style, which proved very satisfactory, our hero being a proficient in the art.
"I haven't got any change," said the young man, fumbling in his pocket, "but here's a bill you may run somewhere and get changed. I'll pay you five cents extra for your trouble."
He handed Dick a two-dollar bill, which our hero took into a store close by.
"Will you please change that, sir?" said Dick, walking up to the counter.
The salesman to whom he proffered it took the bill, and, slightly glancing at it, exclaimed angrily, "Be off, you young vagabond, or I'll have you arrested."
"What's the row?"
"You've offered me a counterfeit bill."
"I didn't know it," said Dick.
"Don't tell me. Be off, or I'll have you arrested."
DICK MAKES A PROPOSITION
Though Dick was somewhat startled at discovering that the bill he had offered was counterfeit, he stood his ground bravely.
"Clear out of this shop, you young vagabond," repeated the clerk.
"Then give me back my bill."
"That you may pass it again? No, sir, I shall do no such thing."
"It doesn't belong to me," said Dick. "A gentleman that owes me for a shine gave it to me to change."
"A likely story," said the clerk; but he seemed a little uneasy.
"I'll go and call him," said Dick.
He went out, and found his late customer standing on the Astor House steps.
"Well, youngster, have you brought back my change? You were a precious long time about it. I began to think you had cleared out with the money."
"That ain't my style," said Dick, proudly.
"Then where's the change?"
"I haven't got it."
"Where's the bill then?"
"I haven't got that either."
"You young rascal!"
"Hold on a minute, mister," said Dick, "and I'll tell you all about it. The man what took the bill said it wasn't good, and kept it."
"The bill was perfectly good. So he kept it, did he? I'll go with you to the store, and see whether he won't give it back to me."
Dick led the way, and the gentleman followed him into the store. At the reappearance of Dick in such company, the clerk flushed a little, and looked nervous. He fancied that he could browbeat a ragged boot-black, but with a gentleman he saw that it would be a different matter. He did not seem to notice the newcomers, but began to replace some goods on the shelves.
Now, said the young man, "point out the clerk that has my money."
"That's him," said Dick, pointing out the clerk.
The gentleman walked up to the counter.
"I will trouble you," he said a little haughtily, "for a bill which that boy offered you, and which you still hold in your possession."
"It was a bad bill," said the clerk, his cheek flushing, and his manner nervous.
"It was no such thing. I require you to produce it, and let the matter be decided."
The clerk fumbled in his vest-pocket, and drew out a bad- looking bill.
"This is a bad bill, but it is not the one I gave the boy."
"It is the one he gave me."
The young man looked doubtful.
"Boy," he said to Dick, "is this the bill you gave to be changed?"
"No, it isn't."
"You lie, you young rascal!" exclaimed the clerk, who began to find himself in a tight place, and could not see the way out.
This scene naturally attracted the attention of all in the store, and the proprietor walked up from the lower end, where he had been busy.
"What's all this, Mr. Hatch?" he demanded.
"That boy," said the clerk, "came in and asked change for a bad bill. I kept the bill, and told him to clear out. Now he wants it again to pass on somebody else."
"Show the bill."
The merchant looked at it. "Yes, that's a bad bill," he said. "There is no doubt about that."
"But it is not the one the boy offered," said Dick's patron. "It is one of the same denomination, but on a different bank."
"Do you remember what bank it was on?"
"It was on the Merchants' Bank of Boston."
"Are you sure of it?"
"Perhaps the boy kept it and offered the other."
"You may search me if you want to," said Dick, indignantly.
"He doesn't look as if he was likely to have any extra bills. I suspect that your clerk pocketed the good bill, and has substituted the counterfeit note. It is a nice little scheme of his for making money "
"I haven't seen any bill on the Merchants' Bank," said the clerk, doggedly.
"You had better feel in your pockets."
"This matter must be investigated," said the merchant, firmly. "If you have the bill, produce it."
"I haven't got it," said the clerk; but he looked guilty notwithstanding.
"I demand that he be searched," said Dick's patron.
"I tell you I haven't got it."
"Shall I send for a police officer, Mr. Hatch, or will you allow yourself to be searched quietly?" said the merchant.
Alarmed at the threat implied in these words, the clerk put his hand into his vest-pocket, and drew out a two-dollar bill on the Merchants' Bank.
"Is this your note?" asked the shopkeeper, showing it to the young man.
"I must have made a mistake," faltered the clerk.
"I shall not give you a chance to make such another mistake in my employ," said the merchant sternly. "You may go up to the desk and ask for what wages are due you. I shall have no further occasion for your services."
"Now, youngster," said Dick's patron, as they went out of the store, after he had finally got the bill changed. "I must pay you something extra for your trouble. Here's fifty cents."
"Thank you, sir," said Dick. "You're very kind. Don't you want some more bills changed?"
"Not to-day," said he with a smile. "It's too expensive."
"I'm in luck," thought our hero complacently. "I guess I'll go to Barnum's to-night, and see the bearded lady, the eight- foot giant, the two-foot dwarf, and the other curiosities, too numerous to mention."
Dick shouldered his box and walked up as far as the Astor House. He took his station on the sidewalk, and began to look about him.
Just behind him were two persons,--one, a gentleman of fifty; the other, a boy of thirteen or fourteen. They were speaking together, and Dick had no difficulty in hearing what was said.
"I am sorry, Frank, that I can't go about, and show you some of the sights of New York, but I shall be full of business to-day. It is your first visit to the city, too."
There's a good deal worth seeing here. But I'm afraid you'll have to wait to next time. You can go out and walk by yourself, but don't venture too far, or you will get lost."
Frank looked disappointed.
"I wish Tom Miles knew I was here," he said. "He would go around with me."
"Where does he live?"
"Somewhere up town, I believe."
"Then, unfortunately, he is not available. If you would rather go with me than stay here, you can, but as I shall be most of the time in merchants'-counting-rooms, I am afraid it would not be very interesting."
"I think," said Frank, after a little hesitation, "that I will go off by myself. I won't go very far, and if I lose my way, I will inquire for the Astor House."
"Yes, anybody will direct you here. Very well, Frank, I am sorry I can't do better for you."
"Oh, never mind, uncle, I shall be amused in walking around, and looking at the shop-windows. There will be a great deal to see."
Now Dick had listened to all this conversation. Being an enterprising young man, he thought he saw a chance for a speculation, and determined to avail himself of it.
Accordingly he stepped up to the two just as Frank's uncle was about leaving, and said, "I know all about the city, sir; I'll show him around, if you want me to."
The gentleman looked a little curiously at the ragged figure before him.
"So you are a city boy, are you?"
"Yes, sir," said Dick, "I've lived here ever since I was a baby."
"And you know all about the public buildings, I suppose?"
"And the Central Park?"
"Yes, sir. I know my way all round."
The gentleman looked thoughtful.
"I don't know what to say, Frank," he remarked after a while. "It is rather a novel proposal. He isn't exactly the sort of guide I would have picked out for you. Still he looks honest. He has an open face, and I think can be depended upon."
"I wish he wasn't so ragged and dirty," said Frank, who felt a little shy about being seen with such a companion.
"I'm afraid you haven't washed your face this morning," said Mr. Whitney, for that was the gentleman's name.
"They didn't have no wash-bowls at the hotel where I stopped," said Dick.
"What hotel did you stop at?"
"The Box Hotel."
"The Box Hotel?"
"Yes, sir, I slept in a box on Spruce Street."
Frank surveyed Dick curiously.
"How did you like it?" he asked.
"I slept bully."
"Suppose it had rained."
"Then I'd have wet my best clothes," said Dick.
"Are these all the clothes you have?"
Mr. Whitney spoke a few words to Frank, who seemed pleased with the suggestion.
"Follow me, my lad," he said.
Dick in some surprise obeyed orders, following Mr. Whitney and Frank into the hotel, past the office, to the foot of the staircase. Here a servant of the hotel stopped Dick, but Mr. Whitney explained that he had something for him to do, and he was allowed to proceed.
They entered a long entry, and finally paused before a door. This being opened a pleasant chamber was disclosed.
"Come in, my lad," said Mr. Whitney.
Dick and Frank entered.
DICK'S NEW SUIT
"Now," said Mr. Whitney to Dick, "my nephew here is on his way to a boarding-school. He has a suit of clothes in his trunk about half worn. He is willing to give them to you. I think they will look better than those you have on."
Dick was so astonished that he hardly knew what to say. Presents were something that he knew very little about, never having received any to his knowledge. That so large a gift should be made to him by a stranger seemed very wonderful.
The clothes were brought out, and turned out to be a neat gray suit.
"Before you put them on, my lad, you must wash yourself. Clean clothes and a dirty skin don't go very well together. Frank, you may attend to him. I am obliged to go at once. Have you got as much money as you require?"
"One more word, my lad," said Mr. Whitney, addressing Dick; "I may be rash in trusting a boy of whom I know nothing, but I like your looks, and I think you will prove a proper guide for my nephew."
"Yes, I will, sir," said Dick, earnestly. "Honor bright!"
"Very well. A pleasant time to you."
The process of cleansing commenced. To tell the truth Dick needed it, and the sensation of cleanliness he found both new and pleasant. Frank added to his gift a shirt, stockings, and an old pair of shoes. "I am sorry I haven't any cap," said he.
"I've got one," said Dick.
"It isn't so new as it might be," said Frank, surveying an old felt hat, which had once been black, but was now dingy, with a large hole in the top and a portion of the rim torn off.
"No," said Dick; "my grandfather used to wear it when he was a boy, and I've kep' it ever since out of respect for his memory. But I'll get a new one now. I can buy one cheap on Chatham Street."
"Is that near here?"
"Only five minutes' walk."
"Then we can get one on the way."
When Dick was dressed in his new attire, with his face and hands clean, and his hair brushed, it was difficult to imagine that he was the same boy.
He now looked quite handsome, and might readily have been taken for a young gentleman, except that his hands were red and grimy.
"Look at yourself," said Frank, leading him before the mirror.
"By gracious!" said Dick, starting back in astonishment, "that isn't me, is it?"
"Don't you know yourself?" asked Frank, smiling.
"It reminds me of Cinderella," said Dick, "when she was changed into a fairy princess. I see it one night at Barnum's. What'll Johnny Nolan say when he sees me? He won't dare to speak to such a young swell as I be now. Ain't it rich?" and Dick burst into a loud laugh. His fancy was tickled by the anticipation of his friend's surprise. Then the thought of the valuable gifts he had revived occurred to him, and he looked gratefully at Frank.
"You're a brick," he said.
"A brick! You're a jolly good fellow to give me such a present."
"You're quite welcome, Dick," said Frank, kindly. "I'm better off than you are, and I can spare the clothes just as well as not. You must have a new hat though. But that we can get when we go out. The old clothes you can make into a bundle."
"Wait a minute till I get my handkercher," and Dick pulled from the pocket of the pants a dirty rag, which might have been white once, though it did not look like it, and had apparently once formed a part of a sheet or shirt.
"You mustn't carry that," said Frank.
"But I've got a cold," said Dick.
"Oh, I don't mean you to go without a handkerchief. I'll give you one."
Frank opened his trunk and pulled out two, which he gave to Dick.
"I wonder if I ain't dreamin'" said Dick, once more surveying himself doubtfully in the glass. "I'm afraid I'm dreamin', and shall wake up in a barrel, as I did night afore last."
"Shall I pinch you so you can wake here?" asked Frank, playfully.
"Yes," said Dick, seriously, "I wish you would."
He pulled up the sleeve of his jacket, and Frank pinched him pretty hard, so that Dick winced.
"Yes, I guess I'm awake," said Dick; "you've got a pair of nippers, you have. But what shall I do with my brush and blacking?" he asked.
"You can leave them here till we come back," said Frank. "They will be safe."
"Hold on a minute," said Dick, surveying Frank's boots with a professional eye, "you ain't got a good shine on them boots. I'll make 'em shine so you can see your face in 'em."
And he was as good as his word.
"Thank you," said Frank; "now you had better brush your own shoes."
This had not occurred to Dick, for in general the professional boot-black considers his blacking too valuable to expend on his own shoes or boots, if he is fortunate enough to possess a pair.
The two boys now went downstairs together. They met the same servant who had spoken to Dick a few minutes before, but there was no recognition.
"He don't know me," said Dick. "He thinks I'm a young swell like you."
"What's a swell?"
"Oh, a feller that wears nobby clothes like you."
"And you, too, Dick."
"Yes," said Dick, "who'd ever have thought as I should have turned into a swell?"
They had now got out on Broadway, and were slowly walking along the west side by the Park, when who should Dick see in front of him, but Johnny Nolan?
Instantly Dick was seized with a fancy for witnessing Johnny's amazement at his change in appearance. He stole up behind him, and struck him on the back.
"Hallo, Johnny, how many shines have you had?"
Johnny turned round expecting to see Dick, whose voice he recognized, but his astonished eyes rested on a nicely dressed boy (the hat alone excepted) who looked indeed like Dick, but so transformed in dress that it was difficult to be sure of his identity.
"What luck, Johnny?" repeated Dick.
Johnny surveyed him from head to foot in great bewilderment.
"Who be you?" he said.
"Well, that's a good one," laughed Dick; "so you don't know Dick?"
"Where'd you get all them clothes?" asked Johnny. "Have you been stealin'?"
"Say that again, and I'll lick you. No, I've lent my clothes to a young feller as was goin' to a party, and didn't have none fit to wear, and so I put on my second-best for a change."
Without deigning any further explanation, Dick went off, followed by the astonished gaze of Johnny Nolan, who could not quite make up his mind whether the neat-looking boy he had been talking with was really Ragged Dick or not.
In order to reach Chatham Street it was necessary to cross Broadway. This was easier proposed than done. There is always such a throng of omnibuses, drays, carriages, and vehicles of all kinds in the neighborhood of the Astor House, that the crossing is formidable to one who is not used to it. Dick made nothing of it, dodging in and out among the horses and wagons with perfect self-possession. Reaching the opposite sidewalk, he looked back, and found that Frank had retreated in dismay, and that the width of the street was between them.
"Come across!" called out Dick.
"I don't see any chance," said Frank, looking anxiously at the prospect before him. "I'm afraid of being run over."
"If you are, you can sue 'em for damages," said Dick.
Finally Frank got safely over after several narrow escapes, as he considered them.
"Is it always so crowded?" he asked.
"A good deal worse sometimes," said Dick. "I knowed a young man once who waited six hours for a chance to cross, and at last got run over by an omnibus, leaving a widder and a large family of orphan children. His widder, a beautiful young woman, was obliged to start a peanut and apple stand. There she is now."
Dick pointed to a hideous old woman, of large proportions, wearing a bonnet of immense size, who presided over an apple- stand close by.
"If that is the case," he said, "I think I will patronize her."
"Leave it to me," said Dick, winking.
He advanced gravely to the apple-stand, and said, "Old lady, have you paid your taxes?"
The astonished woman opened her eyes.
"I'm a gov'ment officer," said Dick, "sent by the mayor to collect your taxes. I'll take it in apples just to oblige. That big red one will about pay what you're owin' to the gov'ment."
"I don't know nothing about no taxes," said the old woman, in bewilderment.
"Then," said Dick, "I'll let you off this time. Give us two of your best apples, and my friend here, the President of the Common Council, will pay you."
Frank smiling, paid three cents apiece for the apples, and they sauntered on, Dick remarking, "If these apples ain't good, old lady, we'll return 'em, and get our money back." This would have been rather difficult in his case, as the apple was already half consumed.
Chatham Street, where they wished to go, being on the East side, the two boys crossed the Park. This is an enclosure of about ten acres, which years ago was covered with a green sward, but is now a great thoroughfare for pedestrians and contains several important public buildings. Dick pointed out the City Hall, the Hall of Records, and the Rotunda. The former is a white building of large size, and surmounted by a cupola.
"That's where the mayor's office is," said Dick. "Him and me are very good friends. I once blacked his boots by partic'lar appointment. That's the way I pay my city taxes."
CHATHAM STREET AND BROADWAY
They were soon in Chatham Street, walking between rows of ready-made clothing shops, many of which had half their stock in trade exposed on the sidewalk. The proprietors of these establishments stood at the doors, watching attentively the passersby, extending urgent invitations to any who even glanced at the goods to enter.
"Walk in, young gentlemen," said a stout man, at the entrance of one shop.
"No, I thank you," replied Dick, "as the fly said to the spider."
"We're selling off at less than cost."
"Of course you be. That's where you makes your money," said Dick. "There ain't nobody of any enterprise that pretends to make any profit on his goods."
The Chatham Street trader looked after our hero as if he didn't quite comprehend him; but Dick, without waiting for a reply, passed on with his companion.
In some of the shops auctions seemed to be going on.
"I am only offered two dollars, gentlemen, for this elegant pair of doeskin pants, made of the very best of cloth. It's a frightful sacrifice. Who'll give an eighth? Thank you, sir. Only seventeen shillings! Why the cloth cost more by the yard!"
This speaker was standing on a little platform haranguing to three men, holding in his hand meanwhile a pair of pants very loose in the legs, and presenting a cheap Bowery look.
Frank and Dick paused before the shop door, and finally saw them knocked down to rather a verdant-looking individual at three dollars.
"Clothes seem to be pretty cheap here," said Frank.
"Yes, but Baxter Street is the cheapest place."
"Yes. Johnny Nolan got a whole rig-out there last week, for a dollar,--coat, cap, vest, pants, and shoes. They was very good measure, too, like my best clothes that I took off to oblige you."
"I shall know where to come for clothes next time," said Frank, laughing. "I had no idea the city was so much cheaper than the country. I suppose the Baxter Street tailors are fashionable?"
"In course they are. Me and Horace Greeley always go there for clothes. When Horace gets a new suit, I always have one made just like it; but I can't go the white hat. It ain't becomin' to my style of beauty."
A little farther on a man was standing out on the sidewalk, distributing small printed handbills. One was handed to Frank, which he read as follows,--
"GRAND CLOSING-OUT SALE!--A variety of Beautiful and Costly Articles for Sale, at a Dollar apiece. Unparalleled Inducements! Walk in, Gentlemen!"
"Whereabouts is this sale?" asked Frank.
"In here, young gentlemen," said a black-whiskered individual, who appeared suddenly on the scene. "Walk in."
"Shall we go in, Dick?"
"It's a swindlin' shop," said Dick, in a low voice. "I've been there. That man's a regular cheat. He's seen me before, but he don't know me coz of my clothes."
"Step in and see the articles," said the man, persuasively. "You needn't buy, you know."
"Are all the articles worth more'n a dollar?" asked Dick.
"Yes," said the other, "and some worth a great deal more."
"Such as what?"
"Well, there's a silver pitcher worth twenty dollars."
"And you sell it for a dollar. That's very kind of you," said Dick, innocently.
"Walk in, and you'll understand it."
"No, I guess not," said Dick. "My servants is so dishonest that I wouldn't like to trust 'em with a silver pitcher. Come along, Frank. I hope you'll succeed in your charitable enterprise of supplyin' the public with silver pitchers at nineteen dollars less than they are worth."
"How does he manage, Dick?" asked Frank, as they went on.
"All his articles are numbered, and he makes you pay a dollar, and then shakes some dice, and whatever the figgers come to, is the number of the article you draw. Most of 'em ain't worth sixpence."
A hat and cap store being close at hand, Dick and Frank went in. For seventy-five cents, which Frank insisted on paying, Dick succeeded in getting quite a neat-looking cap, which corresponded much better with his appearance than the one he had on. The last, not being considered worth keeping, Dick dropped on the sidewalk, from which, on looking back, he saw it picked up by a brother boot-black who appeared to consider it better than his own.
They retraced their steps and went up Chambers Street to Broadway. At the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street is a large white marble warehouse, which attracted Frank's attention.
"What building is that?" he asked, with interest.
"That belongs to my friend A. T. Stewart," said Dick. "It's the biggest store on Broadway.* If I ever retire from boot- blackin', and go into mercantile pursuits, I may buy him out, or build another store that'll take the shine off this one."
* Mr. Stewart's Tenth Street store was not open at the time Dick spoke.
"Were you ever in the store?" asked Frank.
"No," said Dick; "but I'm intimate with one of Stewart's partners. He is a cash boy, and does nothing but take money all day."
"A very agreeable employment," said Frank, laughing.
"Yes," said Dick, "I'd like to be in it."
The boys crossed to the West side of Broadway, and walked slowly up the street. To Frank it was a very interesting spectacle. Accustomed to the quiet of the country, there was something fascinating in the crowds of people thronging the sidewalks, and the great variety of vehicles constantly passing and repassing in the street. Then again the shop-windows with their multifarious contents interested and amused him, and he was constantly checking Dick to look in at some well-stocked window.
"I don't see how so many shopkeepers can find people enough to buy of them," he said. "We haven't got but two stores in our village, and Broadway seems to be full of them."
"Yes," said Dick; "and its pretty much the same in the avenoos, 'specially the Third, Sixth, and Eighth avenoos. The Bowery, too, is a great place for shoppin'. There everybody sells cheaper'n anybody else, and nobody pretends to make no profit on their goods."
"Where's Barnum's Museum?" asked Frank.
"Oh, that's down nearly opposite the Astor House," said Dick. "Didn't you see a great building with lots of flags?"
"Well, that's Barnum's.* That's where the Happy Family live, and the lions, and bears, and curiosities generally. It's a tip-top place. Haven't you ever been there? It's most as good as the Old Bowery, only the plays isn't quite so excitin'."
* Since destroyed by fire, and rebuilt farther up Broadway, and again burned down in February.
"I'll go if I get time," said Frank. "There is a boy at home who came to New York a month ago, and went to Barnum's, and has been talking about it ever since, so I suppose it must be worth seeing."
"They've got a great play at the Old Bowery now," pursued Dick. "'Tis called the `Demon of the Danube.' The Demon falls in love with a young woman, and drags her by the hair up to the top of a steep rock where his castle stands."
"That's a queer way of showing his love," said Frank, laughing.
"She didn't want to go with him, you know, but was in love with another chap. When he heard about his girl bein' carried off, he felt awful, and swore an oath not to rest till he had got her free. Well, at last he got into the castle by some underground passage, and he and the Demon had a fight. Oh, it was bully seein' 'em roll round on the stage, cuttin' and slashin' at each other."
"And which got the best of it?"
"At first the Demon seemed to be ahead, but at last the young Baron got him down, and struck a dagger into his heart, sayin', `Die, false and perjured villain! The dogs shall feast upon thy carcass!' and then the Demon give an awful howl and died. Then the Baron seized his body, and threw it over the precipice."
"It seems to me the actor who plays the Demon ought to get extra pay, if he has to be treated that way."
"That's so," said Dick; "but I guess he's used to it. It seems to agree with his constitution."
"What building is that?" asked Frank, pointing to a structure several rods back from the street, with a large yard in front. It was an unusual sight for Broadway, all the other buildings in that neighborhood being even with the street.
"That is the New York Hospital," said Dick. "They're a rich institution, and take care of sick people on very reasonable terms."
"Did you ever go in there?"
"Yes," said Dick; "there was a friend of mine, Johnny Mullen, he was a newsboy, got run over by a omnibus as he was crossin' Broadway down near Park Place. He was carried to the Hospital, and me and some of his friends paid his board while he was there. It was only three dollars a week, which was very cheap, considerin' all the care they took of him. I got leave to come and see him while he was here. Everything looked so nice and comfortable, that I thought a little of coaxin' a omnibus driver to run over me, so I might go there too."
"Did your friend have to have his leg cut off?" asked Frank, interested.
"No," said Dick; "though there was a young student there that was very anxious to have it cut off; but it wasn't done, and Johnny is around the streets as well as ever."
While this conversation was going on they reached No. 365, at the corner of Franklin Street.*
* Now the office of the Merchants' Union Express Company.
"That's Taylor's Saloon," said Dick. "When I come into a fortun' I shall take my meals there reg'lar."
"I have heard of it very often," said Frank. "It is said to be very elegant. Suppose we go in and take an ice-cream. It will give us a chance to see it to better advantage."
"Thank you," said Dick; "I think that's the most agreeable way of seein' the place myself."
The boys entered, and found themselves in a spacious and elegant saloon, resplendent with gilding, and adorned on all sides by costly mirrors. They sat down to a small table with a marble top, and Frank gave the order.
"It reminds me of Aladdin's palace," said Frank, looking about him.
"Does it?" said Dick; "he must have had plenty of money."
"He had an old lamp, which he had only to rub, when the Slave of the Lamp would appear, and do whatever he wanted."
"That must have been a valooable lamp. I'd be willin' to give all my Erie shares for it."
There was a tall, gaunt individual at the next table, who apparently heard this last remark of Dick's. Turning towards our hero, he said, "May I inquire, young man, whether you are largely interested in this Erie Railroad?"
"I haven't got no property except what's invested in Erie," said Dick, with a comical side-glance at Frank.
"Indeed! I suppose the investment was made by your guardian."
"No," said Dick; "I manage my property myself."
"And I presume your dividends have not been large?"
"Why, no," said Dick; "you're about right there. They haven't."
"As I supposed. It's poor stock. Now, my young friend, I can recommend a much better investment, which will yield you a large annual income. I am agent of the Excelsior Copper Mining Company, which possesses one of the most productive mines in the world. It's sure to yield fifty per cent. on the investment. Now, all you have to do is to sell out your Erie shares, and invest in our stock, and I'll insure you a fortune in three years. How many shares did you say you had?"
"I didn't say, that I remember," said Dick. "Your offer is very kind and obligin', and as soon as I get time I'll see about it."
"I hope you will," said the stranger. "Permit me to give you my card. `Samuel Snap, No.-- Wall Street.' I shall be most happy to receive a call from you, and exhibit the maps of our mine. I should be glad to have you mention the matter also to your friends. I am confident you could do no greater service than to induce them to embark in our enterprise."
"Very good," said Dick.
Here the stranger left the table, and walked up to the desk to settle his bill.
"You see what it is to be a man of fortun', Frank," said Dick, "and wear good clothes. I wonder what that chap'll say when he sees me blackin' boots to-morrow in the street?"
"Perhaps you earn your money more honorably than he does, after all," said Frank. "Some of these mining companies are nothing but swindles, got up to cheat people out of their money "
"He's welcome to all he gets out of me," said Dick.
UP BROADWAY TO MADISON SQUARE
As the boys pursued their way up Broadway, Dick pointed out the prominent hotels and places of amusement. Frank was particularly struck with the imposing fronts of the St. Nicholas and Metropolitan Hotels, the former of white marble, the latter of a subdued brown hue, but not less elegant in its internal appointments. He was not surprised to be informed that each of these splendid structures cost with the furnishing not far from a million dollars.
At Eighth Street Dick turned to the right, and pointed out the Clinton Hall Building now occupied by the Mercantile Library, comprising at that time over fifty thousand volumes.*
* Now not far from one hundred thousand.
A little farther on they came to a large building standing by itself just at the opening of Third and Fourth Avenues, and with one side on each.
"What is that building?" asked Frank.
"That's the Cooper Institute," said Dick; "built by Mr. Cooper, a particular friend of mine. Me and Peter Cooper used to go to school together."
"What is there inside?" asked Frank.
"There's a hall for public meetin's and lectures in the basement, and a readin' room and a picture gallery up above," said Dick.
Directly opposite Cooper Institute, Frank saw a very large building of brick, covering about an acre of ground.
"Is that a hotel?" he asked.
"No," said Dick; "that's the Bible House. It's the place where they make Bibles. I was in there once,--saw a big pile of 'em."
"Did you ever read the Bible?" asked Frank, who had some idea of the neglected state of Dick's education.
"No," said Dick; "I've heard it's a good book, but I never read one. I ain't much on readin'. It makes my head ache."
"I suppose you can't read very fast."
"I can read the little words pretty well, but the big ones is what stick me."
"If I lived in the city, you might come every evening to me, and I would teach you."
"Would you take so much trouble about me?" asked Dick, earnestly.
"Certainly; I should like to see you getting on. There isn't much chance of that if you don't know how to read and write."
"You're a good feller," said Dick, gratefully. "I wish you did live in New York. I'd like to knows omethin'. Whereabouts do you live?"
"About fifty miles off, in a town on the left bank of the Hudson. I wish you'd come up and see me sometime. I would like to have you come and stop two or three days."
"I don't understand."
"Do you mean it?" asked Dick, incredulously.
"Of course I do. Why shouldn't I?"
"What would your folks say if they knowed you asked a boot-black to visit you?"
"You are none the worse for being a boot-black, Dick."
"I ain't used to genteel society," said Dick. "I shouldn't know how to behave."
"Then I could show you. You won't be a boot-black all your life, you know."
"No," said Dick; "I'm goin' to knock off when I get to be ninety."
"Before that, I hope, said Frank, smiling.
"I really wish I could get somethin' else to do," said Dick, soberly. "I'd like to be a office boy, and learn business, and grow up 'spectable."
"Why don't you try, and see if you can't get a place, Dick?"
"Who'd take Ragged Dick?"
"But you ain't ragged now, Dick."
"No," said Dick; "I look a little better than I did in my Washington coat and Louis Napoleon pants. But if I got in a office, they wouldn't give me more'n three dollars a week, and I couldn't live 'spectable on that."
"No, I suppose not," said Frank, thoughtfully. "But you would get more at the end of the first year."
"Yes," said Dick; "but by that time I'd be nothin' but skin and bones."
Frank laughed. "That reminds me," he said, "of the story of an Irishman, who, out of economy, thought he would teach his horse to feed on shavings. So he provided the horse with a pair of green spectacles which made the shavings look eatable. But unfortunately, just as the horse got learned, he up and died."
"The hoss must have been a fine specimen of architectur' by the time he got through," remarked Dick.
"Whereabouts are we now?" asked Frank, as they emerged from Fourth Avenue into Union Square.
"That is Union Park," said Dick, pointing to a beautiful enclosure, in the centre of which was a pond, with a fountain playing.
"Is that the statue of General Washington?" asked Frank, pointing to a bronze equestrian statue, on a granite pedestal.
"Yes," said Dick; "he's growed some since he was President. If he'd been as tall as that when he fit in the Revolution, he'd have walloped the Britishers some, I reckon."
They had reached the junction of Broadway and of Fifth Avenue. Before them was a beautiful park of ten acres. On the left-hand side was a large marble building, presenting a fine appearance with its extensive white front. This was the building at which Dick pointed.
"Is that the Fifth Avenue Hotel?" asked Frank. "I've heard of it often. My Uncle William always stops there when he comes to New York."
"I once slept on the outside of it," said Dick. "They was very reasonable in their charges, and told me I might come again."
"Perhaps sometime you'll be able to sleep inside," said Frank.
"I guess that'll be when Queen Victoria goes to the Five Points to live."
"It looks like a palace," said Frank. "The queen needn't be ashamed to live in such a beautiful building as that."
Though Frank did not know it, one of the queen's palaces is far from being as fine a looking building as the Fifth Avenue Hotel. St. James' Palace is a very ugly-looking brick structure, and appears much more like a factory than like the home of royalty. There are few hotels in the world as fine-looking as this democratic institution.
At that moment a gentleman passed them on the sidewalk, who looked back at Dick, as if his face seemed familiar.
"I know that man," said Dick, after he had passed. "He's one of my customers."
"What is his name?"
"I don't know."
"He looked back as if he thought he knew you."
"He would have knowed me at once if it hadn't been for my new clothes," said Dick. "I don't look much like Ragged Dick now."
"I suppose your face looked familiar."
"All but the dirt," said Dick, laughing. "I don't always have the chance of washing my face and hands in the Astor House."
"You told me," said Frank, "that there was a place where you could get lodging for five cents. Where's that?"
"It's the News-boys' Lodgin' House, on Fulton Street," said Dick, "up over the `Sun' office. It's a good place. I don't know what us boys would do without it. They give you supper for six cents, and a bed for five cents more."
"I suppose some boys don't even have the five cents to pay,-- do they?"
"They'll trust the boys," said Dick. "But I don't like to get trusted. I'd be ashamed to get trusted for five cents, or ten either. One night I was comin' down Chatham Street, with fifty cents in my pocket. I was goin' to get a good oyster-stew, and then go to the lodgin' house; but somehow it slipped through a hole in my trowses-pocket, and I hadn't a cent left. If it had been summer I shouldn't have cared, but it's rather tough stayin' out winter nights."
Frank, who had always possessed a good home of his own, found it hard to realize that the boy who was walking at his side had actually walked the streets in the cold without a home, or money to procure the common comfort of a bed.
"What did you do?" he asked, his voice full of sympathy.
"I went to the `Times' office. I knowed one of the pressmen, and he let me set down in a corner , where I was warm, and I soon got fast asleep."
"Why don't you get a room somewhere, and so always have a home to go to?"
"I dunno," said Dick. "I never thought of it. P'rhaps I may hire a furnished house on Madison Square."
"That's where Flora McFlimsey lived."
"I don't know her," said Dick, who had never read the popular poem of which she is the heroine.
While this conversation was going on, they had turned into Twenty-fifth Street, and had by this time reached Third Avenue.
Just before entering it, their attention was drawn to the rather singular conduct of an individual in front of them. Stopping suddenly, he appeared to pick up something from the sidewalk, and then looked about him in rather a confused way.
"I know his game," whispered Dick. "Come along and you'll see what it is."
He hurried Frank forward until they overtook the man, who had come to a stand-still.
"Have you found anything?" asked Dick.
"Yes," said the man, "I've found this."
He exhibited a wallet which seemed stuffed with bills, to judge from its plethoric appearance.
"Whew!" exclaimed Dick; "you're in luck."
"I suppose somebody has lost it," said the man, "and will offer a handsome reward."
"Which you'll get."
"Unfortunately I am obliged to take the next train to Boston. That's where I live. I haven't time to hunt up the owner."
"Then I suppose you'll take the pocket-book with you," said Dick, with assumed simplicity.
"I should like to leave it with some honest fellow who would see it returned to the owner," said the man, glancing at the boys.
"I'm honest," said Dick.
"I've no doubt of it," said the other. "Well, young man, "I'll make you an offer. You take the pocket-book--"
"All right. Hand it over, then."
"Wait a minute. There must be a large sum inside. I shouldn't wonder if there might be a thousand dollars. The owner will probably give you a hundred dollars reward."
"Why don't you stay and get it?" asked Frank.
"I would, only there is sickness in my family, and I must get home as soon as possible. Just give me twenty dollars, and I'll hand you the pocket-book, and let you make whatever you can out of it. Come, that's a good offer. What do you say?"
Dick was well dressed, so that the other did not regard it as at all improbable that he might possess that sum. He was prepared, however, to let him have it for less, if necessary.
"Twenty dollars is a good deal of money," said Dick, appearing to hesitate.
"You'll get it back, and a good deal more," said the stranger, persuasively.
"I don't know but I shall. What would you do, Frank?"
"I don't know but I would," said Frank, "if you've got the money." He was not a little surprised to think that Dick had so much by him.
"I don't know but I will," said Dick, after some irresolution. "I guess I won't lose much."
"You can't lose anything," said the stranger briskly. "Only be quick, for I must be on my way to the cars. I am afraid I shall miss them now."
Dick pulled out a bill from his pocket, and handed it to the stranger, receiving the pocket-book in return. At that moment a policeman turned the corner, and the stranger, hurriedly thrusting the bill into his pocket, without looking at it, made off with rapid steps.
"What is there in the pocket-book, Dick?" asked Frank in some excitement. "I hope there's enough to pay you for the money you gave him."
"I'll risk that," said he.
"But you gave him twenty dollars. That's a good deal of money."
"If I had given him as much as that, I should deserve to be cheated out of it."
"But you did,--didn't you?"
"He thought so."
"What was it, then?"
"It was nothing but a dry-goods circular got up to imitate a bank-bill."
Frank looked sober.
"You ought not to have cheated him, Dick," he said, reproachfully.
"Didn't he want to cheat me?"
"I don't know."
"What do you s'pose there is in that pocket-book?" asked Dick, holding it up.
Frank surveyed its ample proportions, and answered sincerely enough, "Money, and a good deal of it."
"There ain't stamps enough in it to buy a oyster-stew" said Dick. "If you don't believe it, just look while I open it."
So saying he opened the pocket-book, and showed Frank that it was stuffed out with pieces of blank paper, carefully folded up in the shape of bills. Frank, who was unused to city life, and had never heard anything of the "drop-game" looked amazed at this unexpected development.
"I knowed how it was all the time," said Dick. "I guess I got the best of him there. This wallet's worth somethin'. I shall use it to keep my stiffkit's of Erie stock in, and all my other papers what ain't of no use to anybody but the owner."
"That's the kind of papers it's got in it now," said Frank, smiling.
"That's so!" said Dick.
"By hokey!" he exclaimed suddenly, "if there ain't the old chap comin' back ag'in. He looks as if he'd heard bad news from his sick family."
By this time the pocket-book dropper had come up.
Approaching the boys, he said in an undertone to Dick, "Give me back that pocket-book, you young rascal!"
"Beg your pardon, mister," said Dick, "but was you addressin' me?"
"Yes, I was."
"'Cause you called me by the wrong name. I've knowed some rascals, but I ain't the honor to belong to the family."
He looked significantly at the other as he spoke, which didn't improve the man's temper. Accustomed to swindle others, he did not fancy being practised upon in return.
"Give me back that pocket-book," he repeated in a threatening voice.
"Couldn't do it," said Dick, coolly. "I'm go'n' to restore it to the owner. The contents is so valooable that most likely the loss has made him sick, and he'll be likely to come down liberal to the honest finder."
"You gave me a bogus bill," said the man.
"It's what I use myself," said Dick.
"You've swindled me."
"I thought it was the other way."
"None of your nonsense," said the man angrily. "If you don't give up that pocket-book, I'll call a policeman."
"I wish you would," said Dick. "They'll know most likely whether it's Stewart or Astor that's lost the pocket-book, and I can get 'em to return it."
The "dropper," whose object it was to recover the pocket- book, in order to try the same game on a more satisfactory customer, was irritated by Dick's refusal, and above all by the coolness he displayed. He resolved to make one more attempt.
"Do you want to pass the night in the Tombs?" he asked.
"Thank you for your very obligin' proposal," said Dick; "but it ain't convenient to-day. Any other time, when you'd like to have me come and stop with you, I'm agreeable; but my two youngest children is down with the measles, and I expect I'll have to set up all night to take care of 'em. Is the Tombs, in gineral, a pleasant place of residence?"
Dick asked this question with an air of so much earnestness that Frank could scarcely forbear laughing, though it is hardly necessary to say that the dropper was by no means so inclined.
"You'll know sometime," he said, scowling.
"I'll make you a fair offer" said Dick. "If I get more'n fifty dollars as a reward for my honesty, I'll divide with you. But I say, ain't it most time to go back to your sick family in Boston?"
Finding that nothing was to be made out of Dick, the man strode away with a muttered curse.
"You were too smart for him, Dick," said Frank.
"Yes," said Dick, "I ain't knocked round the city streets all my life for nothin'."
DICK'S EARLY HISTORY
"Have you always lived in New York, Dick?" asked Frank, after a pause.
"Ever since I can remember."
"I wish you'd tell me a little about yourself. Have you got any father or mother?"
"I ain't got no mother. She died when I wasn't but three years old. My father went to sea; but he went off before mother died, and nothin' was ever heard of him. I expect he got wrecked, or died at sea."
"And what became of you when your mother died?"
"The folks she boarded with took care of me, but they was poor, and they couldn't do much. When I was seven the woman died, and her husband went out West, and then I had to scratch for myself."
"At seven years old!" exclaimed Frank, in amazement.
"Yes," said Dick, "I was a little feller to take care of myself, but," he continued with pardonable pride, "I did it."
"What could you do?"
"Sometimes one thing, and sometimes another," said Dick. "I changed my business accordin' as I had to. Sometimes I was a newsboy, and diffused intelligence among the masses, as I heard somebody say once in a big speech he made in the Park. Them was the times when Horace Greeley and James Gordon Bennett made money."
"Through your enterprise?" suggested Frank.
"Yes," said Dick; "but I give it up after a while."
"Well, they didn't always put news enough in their papers, and people wouldn't buy 'em as fast as I wanted 'em to. So one mornin' I was stuck on a lot of Heralds, and I thought I'd make a sensation. So I called out `GREAt NEWS! QUEEN VICTORIA ASSASSINATED!' All my Heralds went off like hot cakes, and I went off, too, but one of the gentlemen what got sold remembered me, and said he'd have me took up, and that's what made me change my business."
"That wasn't right, Dick," said Frank.
"I know it," said Dick; "but lots of boys does it."
"That don't make it any better."
"No," said Dick, "I was sort of ashamed at the time, 'specially about one poor old gentleman,--a Englishman he was. He couldn't help cryin' to think the queen was dead, and his hands shook when he handed me the money for the paper."
"What did you do next?"
"I went into the match business," said Dick; "but it was small sales and small profits. Most of the people I called on had just laid in a stock, and didn't want to buy. So one cold night, when I hadn't money enough to pay for a lodgin', I burned the last of my matches to keep me from freezin'. But it cost too much to get warm that way, and I couldn't keep it up."
"You've seen hard times, Dick," said Frank, compassionately.
"Yes," said Dick, "I've knowed what it was to be hungry and cold, with nothin' to eat or to warm me; but there's one thing I never could do," he added, proudly.
"I never stole," said Dick. "It's mean and I wouldn't do it."
"Were you ever tempted to?"
"Lots of times. Once I had been goin' round all day, and hadn't sold any matches, except three cents' worth early in the mornin'. With that I bought an apple, thinkin' I should get some more bimeby. When evenin' come I was awful hungry. I went into a baker's just to look at the bread. It made me feel kind o' good just to look at the bread and cakes, and I thought maybe they would give me some. I asked 'em wouldn't they give me a loaf, and take their pay in matches. But they said they'd got enough matches to last three months; so there wasn't any chance for a trade. While I was standin' at the stove warmin' me, the baker went into a back room, and I felt so hungry I thought I would take just one loaf, and go off with it. There was such a big pile I don't think he'd have known it."
"But you didn't do it?"
"No, I didn't and I was glad of it, for when the man came in ag'in, he said he wanted some one to carry some cake to a lady in St. Mark's Place. His boy was sick, and he hadn't no one to send; so he told me he'd give me ten cents if I would go. My business wasn't very pressin' just then, so I went, and when I come back, I took my pay in bread and cakes. Didn't they taste good, though?"
"So you didn't stay long in the match business, Dick?"
"No, I couldn't sell enough to make it pay. Then there was some folks that wanted me to sell cheaper to them; so I couldn't make any profit. There was one old lady--she was rich, too, for she lived in a big brick house--beat me down so, that I didn't make no profit at all; but she wouldn't buy without, and I hadn't sold none that day; so I let her have them. I don't see why rich folks should be so hard upon a poor boy that wants to make a livin'."
"There's a good deal of meanness in the world, I'm afraid, Dick."
"If everybody was like you and your uncle," said Dick, "there would be some chance for poor people. If I was rich I'd try to help 'em along."
"Perhaps you will be rich sometime, Dick."
Dick shook his head.
"I'm afraid all my wallets will be like this," said Dick, indicating the one he had received from the dropper, "and will be full of papers what ain't of no use to anybody except the owner."
"That depends very much on yourself, Dick," said Frank. "Stewart wasn't always rich, you know."
"When he first came to New York as a young man he was a teacher, and teachers are not generally very rich. At last he went into business, starting in a small way, and worked his way up by degrees. But there was one thing he determined in the beginning: that he would be strictly honorable in all his dealings, and never overreach any one for the sake of making money. If there was a chance for him, Dick, there is a chance for you."
"He knowed enough to be a teacher, and I'm awful ignorant," said Dick.
"But you needn't stay so."
"How can I help it?"
"Can't you learn at school?"
"I can't go to school 'cause I've got my livin' to earn. It wouldn't do me much good if I learned to read and write, and just as I'd got learned I starved to death."
"But are there no night-schools?"
"Why don't you go? I suppose you don't work in the evenings."
"I never cared much about it," said Dick, "and that's the truth. But since I've got to talkin' with you, I think more about it. I guess I'll begin to go."
"I wish you would, Dick. You'll make a smart man if you only get a little education."
"Do you think so?" asked Dick, doubtfully.
"I know so. A boy who has earned his own living since he was seven years old must have something in him. I feel very much interested in you, Dick. You've had a hard time of it so far in life, but I think better times are in store. I want you to do well, and I feel sure you can if you only try."
"You're a good fellow," said Dick, gratefully. "I'm afraid I'm a pretty rough customer, but I ain't as bad as some. I mean to turn over a new leaf, and try to grow up 'spectable."
"There've been a great many boys begin as low down as you, Dick, that have grown up respectable and honored. But they had to work pretty hard for it."
"I'm willin' to work hard," said Dick.
"And you must not only work hard, but work in the right way."
"What's the right way?"
"You began in the right way when you determined never to steal, or do anything mean or dishonorable, however strongly tempted to do so. That will make people have confidence in you when they come to know you. But, in order to succeed well, you must manage to get as good an education as you can. Until you do, you cannot get a position in an office or counting-room, even to run errands."
"That's so," said Dick, soberly. "I never thought how awful ignorant I was till now."
"That can be remedied with perseverance," said Frank. "A year will do a great deal for you."
"I'll go to work and see what I can do," said Dick, energetically.
A SCENE IN A THlRD AVENUE CAR
The boys had turned into Third Avenue, a long street, which, commencing just below tbe Cooper Institute, runs out to Harlem. A man came out of a side street, uttering at intervals a monotonous cry which sounded like "glass puddin'."
"Glass pudding!" repeated Frank, looking in surprised wonder at Dick. "What does he mean?"
"Perhaps you'd like some," said Dick.
"I never heard of it before."
"Suppose you ask him what he charges for his puddin'."
Frank looked more narrowly at the man, and soon concluded that he was a glazier.
"Oh, I understand," he said. "He means `glass put in.'"
Frank's mistake was not a singular one. The monotonous cry of these men certainly sounds more like "glass puddin'," than the words they intend to utter.
"Now," said Dick, "where shall we go?"
"I should like to see Central Park," said Frank. "Is it far off?"
"It is about a mile and a half from here," said Dick. "This is Twenty-ninth Street, and the Park begins at Fifty-ninth Street."
It may be explained, for the benefit of readers who have never visited New York, that about a mile from the City Hall the cross-streets begin to be numbered in regular order. There is a continuous line of houses as far as One Hundred and Thirtieth Street, where may be found the terminus of the Harlem line of horse-cars. When the entire island is laid out and settled, probably the numbers will reach two hundred or more. Central Park, which lies between Fifty-ninth Street on the south, and One Hundred and Tenth Street on the north, is true to its name, occupying about the centre of the island. The distance between two parallel streets is called a block, and twenty blocks make a mile. It will therefore be seen that Dick was exactly right, when he said they were a mile and a half from Central Park.
"That is too far to walk," said Frank.
"'Twon't cost but six cents to ride," said Dick.
"You mean in the horse-cars?"
"All right then. We'll jump aboard the next car."
The Third Avenue and Harlem line of horse-cars is better patronized than any other in New York, though not much can be said for the cars, which are usually dirty and overcrowded. Still, when it is considered that only seven cents are charged for the entire distance to Harlem, about seven miles from the City Hall, the fare can hardly be complained of. But of course most of the profit is made from the way-passengers who only ride a short distance.
A car was at that moment approaching, but it seemed pretty crowded.
"Shall we take that, or wait for another?" asked Frank.
"The next'll most likely be as bad," said Dick.
The boys accordingly signalled to the conductor to stop, and got on the front platform. They were obliged to stand up till the car reached Fortieth Street, when so many of the passengers had got off that they obtained seats.
Frank sat down beside a middle-aged woman, or lady, as she probably called herself, whose sharp visage and thin lips did not seem to promise a very pleasant disposition. When the two gentlemen who sat beside her arose, she spread her skirts in the endeavor to fill two seats. Disregarding this, the boys sat down.
"There ain 't room for two," she said, looking sourly at Frank.
"There were two here before."
"Well, there ought not to have been. Some people like to crowd in where they're not wanted."
"And some like to take up a double allowance of room," thought Frank; but he did not say so. He saw that the woman had a bad temper, and thought it wisest to say nothing.
Frank had never ridden up the city as far as this, and it was with much interest that he looked out of the car windows at the stores on either side. Third Avenue is a broad street, but in the character of its houses and stores it is quite inferior to Broadway, though better than some of the avenues further east. Fifth Avenue, as most of my readers already know, is the finest street in the city, being lined with splendid private residences, occupied by the wealthier classes. Many of the cross streets also boast houses which may be considered palaces, so elegant are they externally and internally. Frank caught glimpses of some of these as he was carried towards the Park.
After the first conversation, already mentioned, with the lady at his side, he supposed he should have nothing further to do with her. But in this he was mistaken. While he was busy looking out of the car window, she plunged her hand into her pocket in search of her purse, which she was unable to find. Instantly she jumped to the conclusion that it had been stolen, and her suspicions fastened upon Frank, with whom she was already provoked for "crowding her," as she termed it.
"Conductor!" she exclaimed in a sharp voice.
"What's wanted, ma'am?" returned that functionary.
"I want you to come here right off."
"What's the matter?"
"My purse has been stolen. There was four dollars and eighty cents in it. I know, because I counted it when I paid my fare."
"Who stole it?"
"That boy," she said pointing to Frank, who listened to the charge in the most intense astonishment. "He crowded in here on purpose to rob me, and I want you to search him right off."
"That's a lie!" exclaimed Dick, indignantly.
"Oh, you're in league with him, I dare say," said the woman spitefully. "You're as bad as he is, I'll be bound."
"You're a nice female, you be!" said Dick, ironically.
"Don't you dare to call me a female, sir," said the lady, furiously.
"Why, you ain't a man in disguise, be you?" said Dick.
"You are very much mistaken, madam," said Frank, quietly. "The conductor may search me, if you desire it."
A charge of theft, made in a crowded car, of course made quite a sensation. Cautious passengers instinctively put their hands on their pockets, to make sure that they, too, had not been robbed. As for Frank, his face flushed, and he felt very indignant that he should even be suspected of so mean a crime. He had been carefully brought up, and been taught to regard stealing as low and wicked.
Dick, on the contrary, thought it a capital joke that such a charge should have been made against his companion. Though he had brought himself up, and known plenty of boys and men, too, who would steal, he had never done so himself. He thought it mean. But he could not be expected to regard it as Frank did. He had been too familiar with it in others to look upon it with horror.
Meanwhile the passengers rather sided with the boys. Appearances go a great ways, and Frank did not look like a thief.
"I think you must be mistaken, madam," said a gentleman sitting opposite. "The lad does not look as if he would steal."
"You can't tell by looks," said the lady, sourly. "They're deceitful; villains are generally well dressed."
"Be they?" said Dick. "You'd ought to see me with my Washington coat on. You'd think I was the biggest villain ever you saw."
"I've no doubt you are," said the lady, scowling in the direction of our hero.
"Thank you, ma'am," said Dick. "'Tisn't often I get such fine compliments."
"None of your impudence," said the lady, wrathfully. "I believe you're the worst of the two."
Meanwhile the car had been stopped.
"How long are we going to stop here?" demanded a passenger, impatiently. "I'm in a hurry, if none of the rest of you are."
"I want my pocket-book," said the lady, defiantly.
"Well, ma'am, I haven't got it, and I don't see as it's doing you any good detaining us all here."
"Conductor, will you call a policeman to search that young scamp?" continued the aggrieved lady. "You don't expect I'm going to lose my money, and do nothing about it."
"I'll turn my pockets inside out if you want me to," said Frank, proudly. "There's no need of a policeman. The conductor, or any one else, may search me."
"Well, youngster," said the conductor, "if the lady agrees, I'll search you."
The lady signified her assent.
Frank accordingly turned his pockets inside out, but nothing was revealed except his own porte-monnaie and a penknife.
"Well, ma'am, are you satisfied?" asked the conductor.
"No, I ain't," said she, decidedly.
"You don't think he's got it still?"
"No, but he's passed it over to his confederate, that boy there that's so full of impudence."
"That's me," said Dick, comically.
"He confesses it," said the lady; "I want him searched."
"All right," said Dick, "I'm ready for the operation, only, as I've got valooable property about me, be careful not to drop any of my Erie Bonds."
The conductor's hand forthwith dove into Dick's pocket, and drew out a rusty jack-knife, a battered cent, about fifty cents in change, and the capacious pocket-book which he had received from the swindler who was anxious to get back to his sick family in Boston.
"Is that yours, ma'am?" asked the conductor, holding up the wallet which excited some amazement, by its size, among the other passengers.
"It seems to me you carry a large pocket-book for a young man of your age," said the conductor.
"That's what I carry my cash and valooable papers in," said Dick.
"I suppose that isn't yours, ma'am," said the conductor, turning to the lady.
"No," said she, scornfully. "I wouldn't carry round such a great wallet as that. Most likely he's stolen it from somebody else."
"What a prime detective you'd be!" said Dick. "P'rhaps you know who I took it from."
"I don't know but my money's in it," said the lady , sharply. "Conductor, will you open that wallet, and see what there is in it?"
"Don't disturb the valooable papers," said Dick, in a tone of pretended anxiety.
The contents of the wallet excited some amusement among the passengers.
"There don't seem to be much money here," said the conductor, taking out a roll of tissue paper cut out in the shape of bills, and rolled up.
"No," said Dick. "Didn't I tell you them were papers of no valoo to anybody but the owner? If the lady'd like to borrow, I won't charge no interest."
"Where is my money, then?" said the lady, in some discomfiture. "I shouldn't wonder if one of the young scamps had thrown it out of the window."
"You'd better search your pocket once more," said the gentleman opposite. "I don't believe either of the boys is in fault. They don't look to me as if they would steal."
"Thank you, sir" said Frank.
The lady followed out the suggestion, and, plunging her hand once more into her pocket, drew out a small porte-monnaie. She hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry at this discovery. It placed her in rather an awkward position after the fuss she had made, and the detention to which she had subjected the passengers, now, as it proved, for nothing.
"Is that the pocket-book you thought stolen?" asked the conductor.
"Yes," said she, rather confusedly.
"Then you've been keeping me waiting all this time for nothing," he said, sharply. "I wish you'd take care to be sure next time before you make such a disturbance for nothing. I've lost five minutes, and shall not be on time."
"I can't help it," was the cross reply; "I didn't know it was in my pocket."
"It seems to me you owe an apology to the boys you accused of a theft which they have not committed," said the gentleman opposite.
"I shan't apologize to anybody," said the lady, whose temper was not of the best; "least of all to such whipper-snappers as they are."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Dick, comically; "your handsome apology is accepted. It ain't of no consequence, only I didn't like to expose the contents of my valooable pocket-book, for fear it might excite the envy of some of my poor neighbors."
"You're a character," said the gentleman who had already spoken, with a smile.
"A bad character!" muttered the lady.
But it was quite evident that the sympathies of those present were against the lady, and on the side of the boys who had been falsely accused, while Dick's drollery had created considerable amusement.
The cars had now reached Fifty-ninth Street, the southern boundary of the Park, and here our hero and his companion got off.
"You'd better look out for pickpockets, my lad," said the conductor, pleasantly. "That big wallet of yours might prove a great temptation."
"That's so," said Dick. "That's the misfortin' of being rich. Astor and me don't sleep much for fear of burglars breakin' in and robbin' us of our valooable treasures. Sometimes I think I'll give all my money to an Orphan Asylum, and take it out in board. I guess I'd make money by the operation."
While Dick was speaking, the car rolled away, and the boys turned up Fifty-ninth Street, for two long blocks yet separated them from the Park.
INTRODUCES A VICTIM OF MISPLACED CONFIDENCE
"What a queer chap you are, Dick!" said Frank, laughing. "You always seem to be in good spirits."
"No, I ain't always. Sometimes I have the blues."
"Well, once last winter it was awful cold, and there was big holes in my shoes, and my gloves and all my warm clothes was at the tailor's. I felt as if life was sort of tough, and I'd like it if some rich man would adopt me, and give me plenty to eat and drink and wear, without my havin' to look so sharp after it. Then agin' when I've seen boys with good homes, and fathers, and mothers, I've thought I'd like to have somebody to care for me."
Dick's tone changed as he said this, from his usual levity, and there was a touch of sadness in it. Frank, blessed with a good home and indulgent parents, could not help pitying the friendless boy who had found life such up-hill work.
"Don't say you have no one to care for you, Dick," he said, lightly laying his hand on Dick's shoulder. "I will care for you."
"If you will let me."
"I wish you would," said Dick, earnestly. "I'd like to feel that I have one friend who cares for me."
Central Park was now before them, but it was far from presenting the appearance which it now exhibits. It had not been long since work had been commenced upon it, and it was still very rough and unfinished. A rough tract of land, two miles and a half from north to south, and a half a mile broad, very rocky in parts, was the material from which the Park Commissioners have made the present beautiful enclosure. There were no houses of good appearance near it, buildings being limited mainly to rude temporary huts used by the workmen who were employed in improving it. The time will undoubtedly come when the Park will be surrounded by elegant residences, and compare favorably in this respect with the most attractive parts of any city in the world. But at the time when Frank and Dick visited it, not much could be said in favor either of the Park or its neighborhood.
"If this is Central Park," said Frank, who naturally felt disappointed, "I don't think much of it. My father's got a large pasture that is much nicer."
"It'll look better some time," said Dick. "There ain't much to see now but rocks. We will take a walk over it if you want to."
"No," said Frank, "I've seen as much of it as I want to. Besides, I feel tired."
"Then we'll go back. We can take the Sixth Avenue cars. They will bring us out at Vesey Street just beside the Astor House."
"All right," said Frank. "That will be the best course. I hope," he added, laughing, "our agreeable lady friend won't be there. I don't care about being accused of stealing again."
"She was a tough one," said Dick. "Wouldn't she make a nice wife for a man that likes to live in hot water, and didn't mind bein' scalded two or three times a day?"
"Yes, I think she'd just suit him. Is that the right car, Dick?"
"Yes, jump in, and I'll follow."
The Sixth Avenue is lined with stores, many of them of very good appearance, and would make a very respectable principal street for a good-sized city. But it is only one of several long business streets which run up the island, and illustrate the extent and importance of the city to which they belong.
No incidents worth mentioning took place during their ride down town. In about three-quarters of an hour the boys got out of the car beside the Astor House.
"Are you goin' in now, Frank?" asked Dick.
"That depends upon whether you have anything else to show me."
"Wouldn't you like to go to Wall Street?"
"That's the street where there are so many bankers and brokers,--isn't it?"
"Yes, I s'pose you ain't afraid of bulls and bears,--are you?"
"Bulls and bears?" repeated Frank, puzzled.
"What are they?"
"The bulls is what tries to make the stocks go up, and the bears is what try to growl 'em down."
"Oh, I see. Yes, I'd like to go."
Accordingly they walked down on the west side of Broadway as far as Trinity Church, and then, crossing, entered a street not very wide or very long, but of very great importance. The reader would be astonished if he could know the amount of money involved in the transactions which take place in a single day in this street. It would be found that although Broadway is much seater in length, and lined with stores, it stands second to Wall Street in this respect.
"What is that large marble building?" asked Frank, pointing to a massive structure on the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets. It was in the form of a parallelogram, two hundred feet long by ninety wide, and about eighty feet in height, the ascent to the entrance being by eighteen granite steps.
"That's the Custom House," said Dick.
"It looks like pictures I've seen of the Parthenon at Athens," said Frank, meditatively.
"Where's Athens?" asked Dick. "It ain't in York State,--is it?"
"Not the Athens I mean, at any rate. It is in Greece, and was a famous city two thousand years ago."
"That's longer than I can remember," said Dick. "I can't remember distinctly more'n about a thousand years."
"What a chap you are, Dick! Do you know if we can go in?"
The boys ascertained, after a little inquiry, that they would be allowed to do so. They accordingly entered the Custom House and made their way up to the roof, from which they had a fine view of the harbor, the wharves crowded with shipping, and the neighboring shores of Long Island and New Jersey. Towards the north they looked down for many miles upon continuous lines of streets, and thousands of roofs, with here and there a church-spire rising above its neighbors. Dick had never before been up there, and he, as well as Frank, was interested in the grand view spread before them.
At length they descended, and were going down the granite steps on the outside of the building, when they were addressed by a young man, whose appearance is worth describing.
He was tall, and rather loosely put together, with small eyes and rather a prominent nose. His clothing had evidently not been furnished by a city tailor. He wore a blue coat with brass buttons, and pantaloons of rather scanty dimensions, which were several inches too short to cover his lower limbs. He held in his hand a piece of paper, and his countenance wore a look of mingled bewilderment and anxiety.
"Be they a-payin' out money inside there?" he asked, indicating the interior by a motion of his hand.
"I guess so," said Dick. "Are you a-goin' in for some?"
"Wal, yes. I've got an order here for sixty dollars,--made a kind of speculation this morning."
"How was it?" asked Frank.
"Wal, you see I brought down some money to put in the bank, fifty dollars it was, and I hadn't justly made up my mind what bank to put it into, when a chap came up in a terrible hurry, and said it was very unfortunate, but the bank wasn't open, and he must have some money right off. He was obliged to go out of the city by the next train. I asked him how much he wanted. He said fifty dollars. I told him I'd got that, and he offered me a check on the bank for sixty, and I let him have it. I thought that was a pretty easy way to earn ten dollars, so I counted out the money and he went off. He told me I'd hear a bell ring when they began to pay out money. But I've waited most two hours, and I hain't heard it yet. I'd ought to be goin', for I told dad I'd be home to-night. Do you think I can get the money now?"
"Will you show me the check?" asked Frank, who had listened attentively to the countryman's story, and suspected that he had been made the victim of a swindler. It was made out upon the "Washington Bank," in the sum of sixty dollars, and was signed "Ephraim Smith."
"Washington Bank!" repeated Frank. "Dick, is there such a bank in the city?"
"Not as I knows on," said Dick. "Leastways I don't own any shares in it."
"Ain't this the Washington Bank?" asked the countryman, pointing to the building on the steps of which the three were now standing.
"No, it's the Custom House."
"And won't they give me any money for this?" asked the young man, the perspiration standing on his brow.
"I am afraid the man who gave it to you was a swindler," said Frank, gently.
"And won't I ever see my fifty dollars again?" asked the youth in agony.
"I am afraid not."
"What'll dad say?" ejaculated the miserable youth. "It makes me feel sick to think of it. I wish I had the feller here. I'd shake him out of his boots."
"What did he look like? I'll call a policeman and you shall describe him. Perhaps in that way you can get track of your money."
Dick called a policeman, who listened to the description, and recognized the operator as an experienced swindler. He assured the countryman that there was very little chance of his ever seeing his money again. The boys left the miserable youth loudly bewailing his bad luck, and proceeded on their way down the street.
"He's a baby," said Dick, contemptuously. "He'd ought to know how to take care of himself and his money. A feller has to look sharp in this city, or he'll lose his eye-teeth before he knows it."
"I suppose you never got swindled out of fifty dollars, Dick?"
"No, I don't carry no such small bills. I wish I did," he added
"So do I, Dick. What's that building there at the end of the street?"
"That's the Wall-Street Ferry to Brooklyn."
"How long does it take to go across?"
"Not more'n five minutes."
"Suppose we just ride over and back."
"All right!" said Dick. "It's rather expensive; but if you don't mind, I don't."
"Why, how much does it cost?"
"Two cents apiece."
"I guess I can stand that. Let us go."
They passed the gate, paying the fare to a man who stood at the entrance, and were soon on the ferry-boat, bound for Brooklyn.
They had scarcely entered the boat, when Dick, grasping Frank by the arm, pointed to a man just outside of the gentlemen's cabin.
"Do you see that man, Frank?" he inquired.
"Yes, what of him?"
"He's the man that cheated the country chap out of his fifty dollars."
DICK AS A DETECTlVE
DICK'S ready identification of the rogue who had cheated the countryman, surprised Frank.
"What makes you think it is he?" he asked.
"Because I've seen him before, and I know he's up to them kind of tricks. When I heard how he looked, I was sure I knowed him."
"Our recognizing him won't be of much use," said Frank. "It won't give back the countryman his money."
"I don't know," said Dick, thoughtfully. "May be I can get it."
"How?" asked Frank, incredulously.
"Wait a minute, and you'll see."
Dick left his companion, and went up to the man whom he suspected.
"Ephraim Smith," said Dick, in a low voice.
The man turned suddenly, and looked at Dick uneasily.
"What did you say?" he asked.
"I believe your name is Ephraim Smith," continued Dick.
"You're mistaken," said the man, and was about to move off.
"Stop a minute," said Dick. "Don't you keep your money in the Washington Bank?"
"I don't know any such bank. I'm in a hurry, young man, and I can't stop to answer any foolish questions."
The boat had by this time reached the Brooklyn pier, and Mr. Ephraim Smith seemed in a hurry to land.
"Look here," said Dick, significantly; "you'd better not go on shore unless you want to jump into the arms of a policeman."
"What do you mean?" asked the man, startled.
"That little affair of yours is known to the police," said Dick; "about how you got fifty dollars out of a greenhorn on a false check, and it mayn't be safe for you to go ashore."
"I don't know what you're talking about," said the swindler with affected boldness, though Dick could see that he was ill at ease.
"Yes you do," said Dick. "There isn't but one thing to do. Just give me back that money, and I'll see that you're not touched. If you don't, I'll give you up to the first p'liceman we meet."
Dick looked so determined, and spoke so confidently, that the other, overcome by his fears, no longer hesitated, but passed a roll of bills to Dick and hastily left the boat.
All this Frank witnessed with great amazement, not understanding what influence Dick could have obtained over the swindler sufficient to compel restitution.
"How did you do it?" he asked eagerly .
"I told him I'd exert my influence with the president to have him tried by habease corpus," said Dick.
"And of course that frightened him. But tell me, without joking, how you managed."
Dick gave a truthful account of what occurred, and then said, "Now we'll go back and carry the money."
"Suppose we don't find the poor countryman?"
"Then the p'lice will take care of it."
They remained on board the boat, and in five minutes were again in New York. Going up Wall Street, they met the countryman a little distance from the Custom House. His face was marked with the traces of deep anguish; but in his case even grief could not subdue the cravings of appetite. He had purchased some cakes of one of the old women who spread out for the benefit of passers-by an array of apples and seed- cakes, and was munching them with melancholy satisfaction.
"Hilloa!" said Dick. "Have you found your money?"
"No," ejaculated the young man, with a convulsive gasp. "I sha'n't ever see it again. The mean skunk's cheated me out of it. Consarn his picter! It took me most six months to save it up. I was workin' for Deacon Pinkham in our place. Oh, I wish I'd never come to New York! The deacon, he told me he'd keep it for me; but I wanted to put it in the bank, and now it's all gone, boo hoo!"
And the miserable youth, having despatched his cakes, was so overcome by the thought of his loss that he burst into tears.
"I say," said Dick, "dry up, and see what I've got here."
The youth no sooner saw the roll of bills, and comprehended that it was indeed his lost treasure, than from the depths of anguish he was exalted to the most ecstatic joy. He seized Dick's hand, and shook it with so much energy that our hero began to feel rather alarmed for its safety.
"'Pears to me you take my arm for a pump-handle," said he. "Couldn't you show your gratitood some other way? It's just possible I may want to use my arm ag'in some time."
The young man desisted, but invited Dick most cordially to come up and stop a week with him at his country home, assuring him that he wouldn't charge him anything for board.
"All right!" said Dick. "If you don't mind I'll bring my wife along, too. She's delicate, and the country air might do her good."
Jonathan stared at him in amazement, uncertain whether to credit the fact of his marriage. Dick walked on with Frank, leaving him in an apparent state of stupefaction, and it is possible that he has not yet settled the affair to his satisfaction.
"Now," said Frank, "I think I'll go back to the Astor House. Uncle has probably got through his business and returned."
"All right," said Dick.
The two boys walked up to Broadway, just where the tall steeple of Trinity faces the street of bankers and brokers, and walked leisurely to the hotel. When they arrived at the Astor House, Dick said, "Good-by, Frank."
"Not yet," said Frank; "I want you to come in with me."
Dick followed his young patron up the steps. Frank went to the reading-room, where, as he had thought probable, he found his uncle already arrived, and reading a copy of "The Evening Post," which he had just purchased outside.
"Well, boys," he said, looking up, "have you had a pleasant jaunt?"
"Yes, sir," said Frank. "Dick's a capital guide."
"So this is Dick," said Mr. Whitney, surveying him with a smile. "Upon my word, I should hardly have known him. I must congratulate him on his improved appearance."
"Frank's been very kind to me," said Dick, who, rough street- boy as he was, had a heart easily touched by kindness, of which he had never experienced much. "He's a tip-top fellow."
"I believe he is a good boy," said Mr. Whitney. "I hope, my lad, you will prosper and rise in the world. You know in this free country poverty in early life is no bar to a man's advancement. I haven't risen very high myself," he added, with a smile, "but have met with moderate success in life; yet there was a time when I was as poor as you."
"Were you, sir," asked Dick, eagerly.
"Yes, my boy, I have known the time I have been obliged to go without my dinner because I didn't have enough money to pay for it."
"How did you get up in the world," asked Dick, anxiously.
"I entered a printing-office as an apprentice, and worked for some years. Then my eyes gave out and I was obliged to give that up. Not knowing what else to do, I went into the country, and worked on a farm. After a while I was lucky enough to invent a machine, which has brought me in a great deal of money. But there was one thing I got while I was in the printing-office which I value more than money."
"What was that, sir?"
"A taste for reading and study. During my leisure hours I improved myself by study, and acquired a large part of the knowledge which I now possess. Indeed, it was one of my books that first put me on the track of the invention, which I afterwards made. So you see, my lad, that my studious habits paid me in money, as well as in another way."
"I'm awful ignorant," said Dick, soberly.
"But you are young, and, I judge, a smart boy. If you try to learn, you can, and if you ever expect to do anything in the world, you must know something of books."
"I will," said Dick, resolutely. "I ain't always goin' to black boots for a livin'."
"All labor is respectable, my lad, and you have no cause to be ashamed of any honest business; yet when you can get something to do that promises better for your future prospects, I advise you to do so. Till then earn your living in the way you are accustomed to, avoid extravagance, and save up a little money if you can."
"Thank you for your advice," said our hero. "There aint many that takes an interest in Ragged Dick."
"So that's your name," said Mr. Whitney. "If I judge you rightly, it won't be long before you change it. Save your money, my lad, buy books, and determine to be somebody, and you may yet fill an honorable position."
"I'll try," said Dick. "Good-night, sir."
"Wait a minute, Dick," said Frank. "Your blacking-box and old clothes are upstairs. You may want them."
"In course," said Dick. "I couldn't get along without my best clothes, and my stock in trade."
"You may go up to the room with him, Frank," said Mr. Whitney. "The clerk will give you the key. I want to see you, Dick, before you go."
"Yes, sir," said Dick.
"Where are you going to sleep to-night, Dick?" asked Frank, as they went upstairs together.
"P'r'aps at the Fifth Avenue Hotel--on the outside," said Dick.
"Haven't you any place to sleep, then?"
"I slept in a box, last night."
"In a box?"
"Yes, on Spruce Street."
"Poor fellow!" said Frank, compassionately.
"Oh, 'twas a bully bed--full of straw! I slept like a top."
"Don't you earn enough to pay for a room, Dick?"
"Yes," said Dick; "only I spend my money foolish, goin' to the Old Bowery, and Tony Pastor's, and sometimes gamblin' in Baxter Street."
"You won't gamble any more,--will you, Dick?" said Frank, laying his hand persuasively on his companion's shoulder.
"No, I won't," said Dick.
"Yes, and I'll keep it. You're a good feller. I wish you was goin' to be in New York."
"I am going to a boarding-school in Connecticut. The name of the town is Barnton. Will you write to me, Dick?"
"My writing would look like hens' tracks," said our hero.
"Never mind. I want you to write. When you write you can tell me how to direct, and I will send you a letter."
"I wish you would," said Dick. "I wish I was more like you."
"I hope you will make a much better boy, Dick. Now we'll go in to my uncle. He wishes to see you before you go."
They went into the reading-room. Dick had wrapped up his blacking-brush in a newspaper with which Frank had supplied him, feeling that a guest of the Astor House should hardly be seen coming out of the hotel displaying such a professional sign.
"Uncle, Dick's ready to go," said Frank.
"Good-by, my lad," said Mr. Whitney. "I hope to hear good accounts of you sometime. Don't forget what I have told you. Remember that your future position depends mainly upon yourself, and that it will be high or low as you choose to make it."
He held out his hand, in which was a five-dollar bill. Dick shrunk back.
"I don't like to take it," he said. "I haven't earned it."
"Perhaps not," said Mr. Whitney; "but I give it to you because I remember my own friendless youth. I hope it may be of service to you. Sometime when you are a prosperous man, you can repay it in the form of aid to some poor boy, who is struggling upward as you are now."
"I will, sir," said Dick, manfully.
He no longer refused the money, but took it gratefully, and, bidding Frank and his uncle good-by, went out into the street. A feeling of loneliness came over him as he left the presence of Frank, for whom he had formed a strong attachment in the few hours he had known him.
DICK HIRES A ROOM ON MOTT STREET
Going out into the fresh air Dick felt the pangs of hunger. He accordingly went to a restaurant and got a substantial supper. Perhaps it was the new clothes he wore, which made him feel a little more aristocratic. At all events, instead of patronizing the cheap restaurant where he usually procured his meals, he went into the refectory attached to Lovejoy's Hotel, where the prices were higher and the company more select. In his ordinary dress, Dick would have been excluded, but now he had the appearance of a very respectable, gentlemanly boy, whose presence would not discredit any establishment. His orders were therefore received with attention by the waiter and in due time a good supper was placed before him.
"I wish I could come here every day," thought Dick. "It seems kind o' nice and 'spectable, side of the other place. There's a gent at that other table that I've shined boots for more'n once. He don't know me in my new clothes. Guess he don't know his boot-black patronizes the same establishment."
His supper over, Dick went up to the desk, and, presenting his check, tendered in payment his five-dollar bill, as if it were one of a large number which he possessed. Receiving back his change he went out into the street.
Two questions now arose: How should he spend the evening, and where should he pass the night? Yesterday, with such a sum of money in his possession, he would have answered both questions readily. For the evening, he would have passed it at the Old Bowery, and gone to sleep in any out-of-the-way place that offered. But he had turned over a new leaf, or resolved to do so. He meant to save his money for some useful purpose,--to aid his advancement in the world. So he could not afford the theatre. Besides, with his new clothes, he was unwilling to pass the night out of doors.
"I should spile 'em," he thought, "and that wouldn't pay."
So he determined to hunt up a room which he could occupy regularly, and consider as his own, where he could sleep nights, instead of depending on boxes and old wagons for a chance shelter. This would be the first step towards respectability, and Dick determined to take it.
He accordingly passed through the City Hall Park, and walked leisurely up Centre Street.
He decided that it would hardly be advisable for him to seek lodgings in Fifth Avenue, although his present cash capital consisted of nearly five dollars in money, besides the valuable papers contained in his wallet. Besides, he had reason to doubt whether any in his line of business lived on that aristocratic street. He took his way to Mott Street, which is considerably less pretentious, and halted in front of a shabby brick lodging-house kept by a Mrs. Mooney, with whose son Tom, Dick was acquainted.
Dick rang the bell, which sent back a shrill metallic response.
The door was opened by a slatternly servant, who looked at him inquiringly, and not without curiosity. It must be remembered that Dick was well dressed, and that nothing in his appearance bespoke his occupation. Being naturally a good-looking boy, he might readily be mistaken for a gentleman's son.
"Well, Queen Victoria," said Dick, "is your missus at home?"
"My name's Bridget," said the girl.
"Oh, indeed!" said Dick. "You looked so much like the queen's picter what she gave me last Christmas in exchange for mine, that I couldn't help calling you by her name."
"Oh, go along wid ye!" said Bridget. "It's makin' fun ye are."
"If you don't believe me," said Dick, gravely, "all you've got to do is to ask my partic'lar friend, the Duke of Newcastle."
"Bridget!" called a shrill voice from the basement.
"The missus is calling me," said Bridget, hurriedly. "I'll tell her ye want her."
"All right!" said Dick.
The servant descended into the lower regions, and in a short time a stout, red-faced woman appeared on the scene.
"Well, sir, what's your wish?" she asked.
"Have you got a room to let?" asked Dick.
"Is it for yourself you ask?" questioned the woman, in some surprise.
Dick answered in the affirmative.
"I haven't got any very good rooms vacant. There's a small room in the third story."
"I'd like to see it," said Dick.
"I don't know as it would be good enough for you," said the woman, with a glance at Dick's clothes.
"I ain't very partic'lar about accommodations," said our hero. "I guess I'll look at it."
Dick followed the landlady up two narrow stair-cases, uncarpeted and dirty, to the third landing, where he was ushered into a room about ten feet square. It could not be considered a very desirable apartment. It had once been covered with an oilcloth carpet, but this was now very ragged, and looked worse than none. There was a single bed in the corner, covered with an indiscriminate heap of bed-clothing, rumpled and not over-clean. There was a bureau, with the veneering scratched and in some parts stripped off, and a small glass, eight inches by ten, cracked across the middle; also two chairs in rather a disjointed condition. Judging from Dick's appearance, Mrs. Mooney thought he would turn from it in disdain.
But it must be remembered that Dick's past experience had not been of a character to make him fastidious. In comparison with a box, or an empty wagon, even this little room seemed comfortable. He decided to hire it if the rent proved reasonable.
"Well, what's the tax?" asked Dick.
"I ought to have a dollar a week," said Mrs. Mooney, hesitatingly.
"Say seventy-five cents, and I'll take it," said Dick.
"Every week in advance?"
"Well, as times is hard, and I can't afford to keep it empty, you may have it. When will you come?"
"To-night," said Dick.
"It ain't lookin' very neat. I don't know as I can fix it up to-night."
"Well, I'll sleep here to-night, and you can fix it up tomorrow."
"I hope you'll excuse the looks. I'm a lone woman, and my help is so shiftless, I have to look after everythilng myself; so I can't keep things as straight as I want to."
"All right!" said Dick.
"Can you pay me the first week in advance?" asked the landlady, cautiously.
Dick responded by drawing seventy-five cents from his pocket, and placing it in her hand.
"What's your business, sir, if I may inquire?" said Mrs. Mooney.
"Oh, I'm professional!" said Dick.
"Indeed!" said the landlady, who did not feel much enlightened by this answer.
"How's Tom?" asked Dick.
"Do you know my Tom?" said Mrs. Mooney in surprise. "He's gone to sea,--to Californy. He went last week."
"Did he?" said Dick. "Yes, I knew him."
Mrs. Mooney looked upon her new lodger with increased favor, on finding that he was acquainted with her son, who, by the way, was one of the worst young scamps in Mott Street, which is saying considerable.
"I'll bring over my baggage from the Astor House this evening," said Dick in a tone of importance.
"From the Astor House!" repeated Mrs. Mooney, in fresh amazement.
"Yes, I've been stoppin' there a short time with some friends," said Dick.
Mrs. Mooney might be excused for a little amazement at finding that a guest from the Astor House was about to become one of her lodgers--such transfers not being common.
"Did you say you was purfessional?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am," said Dick, politely.
"You ain't a--a--" Mrs. Mooney paused, uncertain what conjecture to hazard.
"Oh, no, nothing of the sort," said Dick, promptly. "How could you think so, Mrs. Mooney?"
"No offence, sir," said the landlady, more perplexed than ever.
"Certainly not," said our hero. "But you must excuse me now, Mrs. Mooney, as I have business of great importance to attend to."
"You'll come round this evening?"
Dick answered in the affirmative, and turned away.
"I wonder what he is!" thought the landlady, following him with her eyes as he crossed the street. "He's got good clothes on, but he don't seem very particular about his room. Well; I've got all my rooms full now. That's one comfort."
Dick felt more comfortable now that he had taken the decisive step of hiring a lodging, and paying a week's rent in advance. For seven nights he was sure of a shelter and a bed to sleep in. The thought was a pleasant one to our young vagrant, who hitherto had seldom known when he rose in the morning where he should find a resting-place at night.
"I must bring my traps round," said Dick to himself. "I guess I'll go to bed early to-night. It'll feel kinder good to sleep in a reg'lar bed. Boxes is rather hard to the back, and ain't comfortable in case of rain. I wonder what Johnny Nolan would say if he knew I'd got a room of my own."