About nine o'clock Dick sought his new lodgings. In his hands he carried his professional wardrobe, namely, the clothes which he had worn at the commencement of the day, and the implements of his business. These he stowed away in the bureau drawers, and by the light of a flickering candle took off his clothes and went to bed. Dick had a good digestion and a reasonably good conscience; consequently he was a good sleeper. Perhaps, too, the soft feather bed conduced to slumber. At any rate his eyes were soon closed, and he did not awake until half-past six the next morning.
He lifted himself on his elbow, and stared around him in transient bewilderment.
"Blest if I hadn't forgot where I was," he said to himself. "So this is my room, is it? Well, it seems kind of 'spectable to have a room and a bed to sleep in. I'd orter be able to afford seventy-five cents a week. I've throwed away more money than that in one evenin'. There ain't no reason why I shouldn't live 'spectable. I wish I knowed as much as Frank. He's a tip-top feller. Nobody ever cared enough for me before to give me good advice. It was kicks, and cuffs, and swearin' at me all the time. I'd like to show him I can do something."
While Dick was indulging in these reflections, he had risen from bed, and, finding an accession to the furniture of his room, in the shape of an ancient wash-stand bearing a cracked bowl and broken pitcher, indulged himself in the rather unusual ceremony of a good wash. On the whole, Dick preferred to be clean, but it was not always easy to gratify his desire. Lodging in the street as he had been accustomed to do, he had had no opportunity to perform his toilet in the customary manner. Even now he found himself unable to arrange his dishevelled locks, having neither comb nor brush. He determined to purchase a comb, at least, as soon as possible, and a brush too, if he could get one cheap. Meanwhile he combed his hair with his fingers as well as he could, though the result was not quite so satisfactory as it might have been.
A question now came up for consideration. For the first time in his life Dick possessed two suits of clothes. Should he put on the clothes Frank had given him, or resume his old rags?
Now, twenty-four hours before, at the time Dick was introduced to the reader's notice, no one could have been less fastidious as to his clothing than he. Indeed, he had rather a contempt for good clothes, or at least he thought so. But now, as he surveyed the ragged and dirty coat and the patched pants, Dick felt ashamed of them. He was unwilling to appear in the streets with them. Yet, if he went to work in his new suit, he was in danger of spoiling it, and he might not have it in his power to purchase a new one. Economy dictated a return to the old garments. Dick tried them on, and surveyed himself in the cracked glass; but the reflection did not please him.
"They don't look 'spectable," he decided; and, forthwith taking them off again, he put on the new suit of the day before.
"I must try to earn a little more," he thought, "to pay for my room, and to buy some new clo'es when these is wore out."
He opened the door of his chamber, and went downstairs and into the street, carrying his blacking-box with him.
It was Dick's custom to commence his business before breakfast; generally it must be owned, because he began the day penniless, and must earn his meal before he ate it. To-day it was different. He had four dollars left in his pocket-book; but this he had previously determined not to touch. In fact he had formed the ambitious design of starting an account at a savings' bank, in order to have something to fall back upon in case of sickness or any other emergency, or at any rate as a reserve fund to expend in clothing or other necessary articles when he required them. Hitherto he had been content to live on from day to day without a penny ahead; but the new vision of respectability which now floated before Dick's mind, owing to his recent acquaintance with Frank, was beginning to exercise a powerful effect upon him.
In Dick's profession as in others there are lucky days, when everything seems to flow prosperously. As if to encourage him in his new-born resolution, our hero obtained no less than six jobs in the course of an hour and a half. This gave him sixty cents, quite abundant to purchase his breakfast, and a comb besides. His exertions made him hungry, and, entering a small eating-house he ordered a cup of coffee and a beefsteak. To this he added a couple of rolls. This was quite a luxurious breakfast for Dick, and more expensive than he was accustomed to indulge himself with. To gratify the curiosity of my young readers, I will put down the items with their cost,--
Coffee, . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5cts. Beefsteak,. . . . . . . . . . . . 15 A couple of rolls,. . . . . . . . 5 --25 cts.
It will thus be seen that our hero had expended nearly one- half of his morning's earnings. Some days he had been compelled to breakfast on five cents, and then he was forced to content himself with a couple of apples, or cakes. But a good breakfast is a good preparation for a busy day, and Dick sallied forth from the restaurant lively and alert, ready to do a good stroke of business.
Dick's change of costume was liable to lead to one result of which he had not thought. His brother boot-blacks might think he had grown aristocratic, and was putting on airs,--that, in fact, he was getting above his business, and desirous to outshine his associates. Dick had not dreamed of this, because in fact, in spite of his new-born ambition, he entertained no such feeling. There was nothing of what boys call "big-feeling" about him. He was a borough democrat, using the word not politically, but in its proper sense, and was disposed to fraternize with all whom he styled "good fellows," without regard to their position. It may seem a little unnecessary to some of my readers to make this explanation; but they must remember that pride and "big-feeling" are confined to no age or class, but may be found in boys as well as men, and in boot-blacks as well as those of a higher rank.
The morning being a busy time with the boot-blacks, Dick's changed appearance had not as yet attracted much attention. But when business slackened a little, our hero was destined to be reminded of it.
Among the down-town boot-blacks was one hailing from the Five Points,--a stout, red-haired, freckled-faced boy of fourteen, bearing the name of Micky Maguire. This boy, by his boldness and recklessness, as well as by his personal strength, which was considerable, had acquired an ascendency among his fellow professionals, and had a gang of subservient followers, whom he led on to acts of ruffianism, not unfrequently terminating in a month or two at Blackwell's Island. Micky himself had served two terms there; but the confinement appeared to have had very little effect in amending his conduct, except, perhaps, in making him a little more cautious about an encounter with the "copps," as the members of the city police are, for some unknown reason, styled among the Five-Point boys.
Now Micky was proud of his strength, and of the position of leader which it had secured him. Moreover he was democratic in his tastes, and had a jealous hatred of those who wore good clothes and kept their faces clean. He called it putting on airs, and resented the implied superiority. If he had been fifteen years older, and had a trifle more education, he would have interested himself in politics, and been prominent at ward meetings, and a terror to respectable voters on election day. As it was, he contented himself with being the leader of a gang of young ruffians, over whom he wielded a despotic power.
Now it is only justice to Dick to say that, so far as wearing good clothes was concerned, he had never hitherto offended the eyes of Micky Maguire. Indeed, they generally looked as if they patronized the same clothing establishment. On this particular morning it chanced that Micky had not been very fortunate in a business way, and, as a natural consequence, his temper, never very amiable, was somewhat ruffled by the fact. He had had a very frugal breakfast,--not because he felt abstemious, but owing to the low state of his finances. He was walking along with one of his particular friends, a boy nicknamed Limpy Jim, so called from a slight peculiarity in his walk, when all at once he espied our friend Dick in his new suit.
"My eyes!" he exclaimed, in astonishment; "Jim, just look at Ragged Dick. He' s come into a fortun', and turned gentleman. See his new clothes."
"So he has," said Jim. "Where'd he get 'em, I wonder?"
"Hooked 'em, p'raps. Let's go and stir him up a little. We don't want no gentlemen on our beat. So he's puttin' on airs,--is he? I'll give him a lesson."
So saying the two boys walked up to our hero, who had not observed them, his back being turned, and Micky Maguire gave him a smart slap on the shoulder.
Dick turned round quickly.
A BATTLE AND A VICTORY
"What's that for?" demanded Dick, turning round to see who had struck him.
"You're gettin' mighty fine!" said Micky Maguire, surveying Dick's new clothes with a scornful air.
There was something in his words and tone, which Dick, who was disposed to stand up for his dignity, did not at all relish.
"Well, what's the odds if I am?" he retorted. "Does it hurt you any?"
"See him put on airs, Jim," said Micky, turning to his companion. "Where'd you get them clo'es?"
"Never mind where I got 'em. Maybe the Prince of Wales gave 'em to me."
"Hear him, now, Jim," said Micky. "Most likely he stole 'em."
"Stealin' ain't in my line."
It might have been unconscious the emphasis which Dick placed on the word "my." At any rate Micky chose to take offence.
"Do you mean to say I steal?" he demanded, doubling up his fist, and advancing towards Dick in a threatening manner.
"I don't say anything about it," answered Dick, by no means alarmed at this hostile demonstration. "I know you've been to the Island twice. P'r'aps 'twas to make a visit along of the Mayor and Aldermen. Maybe you was a innocent victim of oppression. I ain't a goin' to say."
Micky's freckled face grew red with wrath, for Dick had only stated the truth.
"Do you mean to insult me?" he demanded shaking the fist already doubled up in Dick's face. "Maybe you want a lickin'?"
"I ain't partic'larly anxious to get one," said Dick, coolly. "They don't agree with my constitution which is nat'rally delicate. I'd rather have a good dinner than a lickin' any time."
"You're afraid," sneered Micky. "Isn't he, Jim?"
"In course he is."
"P'r'aps I am," said Dick, composedly, "but it don't trouble me much."
"Do you want to fight?" demanded Micky, encouraged by Dick's quietness, fancying he was afraid to encounter him.
"No, I don't," said Dick. "I ain't fond of fightin'. It's a very poor amusement, and very bad for the complexion, 'specially for the eyes and nose, which is apt to turn red, white, and blue."
Micky misunderstood Dick, and judged from the tenor of his speech that he would be an easy victim. As he knew, Dick very seldom was concerned in any street fight,--not from cowardice, as he imagined, but because he had too much good sense to do so. Being quarrelsome, like all bullies, and supposing that he was more than a match for our hero, being about two inches taller, he could no longer resist an inclination to assault him, and tried to plant a blow in Dick's face which would have hurt him considerably if he had not drawn back just in time.
Now, though Dick was far from quarrelsome, he was ready to defend himself on all occasions, and it was too much to expect that he would stand quiet and allow himself to be beaten.
He dropped his blacking-box on the instant, and returned Micky's blow with such good effect that the young bully staggered back, and would have fallen, if he had not been propped up by his confederate, Limpy Jim.
"Go in, Micky!" shouted the latter, who was rather a coward on his own account, but liked to see others fight. "Polish him off, that's a good feller."
Micky was now boiling over with rage and fury, and required no urging. He was fully determined to make a terrible example of poor Dick. He threw himself upon him, and strove to bear him to the ground; but Dick, avoiding a close hug, in which he might possibly have got the worst of it, by an adroit movement, tripped up his antagonist, and stretched him on the side walk.
"Hit him, Jim!" exclaimed Micky, furiously.
Limpy Jim did not seem inclined to obey orders. There was a quiet strength and coolness about Dick, which alarmed him. He preferred that Micky should incur all the risks of battle, and accordingly set himself to raising his fallen comrade.
"Come, Micky," said Dick, quietly, "you'd better give it up. I wouldn't have touched you if you hadn't hit me first. I don't want to fight. It's low business."
"You're afraid of hurtin' your clo'es," said Micky, with a sneer.
"Maybe I am," said Dick. "I hope I haven't hurt yours."
Micky's answer to this was another attack, as violent and impetuous as the first. But his fury was in the way. He struck wildly, not measuring his blows, and Dick had no difficulty in turning aside, so that his antagonist's blow fell upon the empty air, and his momentum was such that he nearly fell forward headlong. Dick might readily have taken advantage of his unsteadiness, and knocked him down; but he was not vindictive, and chose to act on the defensive, except when he could not avoid it.
Recovering himself, Micky saw that Dick was a more formidable antagonist than he had supposed, and was meditating another assault, better planned, which by its impetuosity might bear our hero to the ground. But there was an unlooked-for interference.
"Look out for the `copp,'" said Jim, in a low voice.
Micky turned round and saw a tall policeman heading towards him, and thought it might be prudent to suspend hostilities. He accordingly picked up his black-box, and, hitching up his pants, walked off, attended by Limpy Jim.
"What's that chap been doing?" asked the policeman of Dick.
"He was amoosin' himself by pitchin' into me," replied Dick.
"He didn't like it 'cause I patronized a different tailor from him."
"Well, it seems to me you are dressed pretty smart for a boot-black," said the policeman.
"I wish I wasn't a boot-black," said Dick.
"Never mind, my lad. It's an honest business," said the policeman, who was a sensible man and a worthy citizen. "It's an honest business. Stick to it till you get something better."
"I mean to," said Dick. "It ain't easy to get out of it, as the prisoner remarked, when he was asked how he liked his residence."
"I hope you don't speak from experience."
"No," said Dick; "I don't mean to get into prison if I can help it."
"Do you see that gentleman over there?" asked the officer, pointing to a well-dressed man who was walking on the other side of the street.
"Well, he was once a newsboy."
"And what is he now?"
"He keeps a bookstore, and is quite prosperous."
Dick looked at the gentleman with interest, wondering if he should look as respectable when he was a grown man.
It will be seen that Dick was getting ambitious. Hitherto he had thought very little of the future, but was content to get along as he could, dining as well as his means would allow, and spending the evenings in the pit of the Old Bowery, eating peanuts between the acts if he was prosperous, and if unlucky supping on dry bread or an apple, and sleeping in an old box or a wagon. Now, for the first time, he began to reflect that he could not black boots all his life. In seven years he would be a man, and, since his meeting with Frank, he felt that he would like to be a respectable man. He could see and appreciate the difference between Frank and such a boy as Micky Maguire, and it was not strange that he preferred the society of the former.
In the course of the next morning, in pursuance of his new resolutions for the future, he called at a savings bank, and held out four dollars in bills besides another dollar in change. There was a high railing, and a number of clerks busily writing at desks behind it. Dick, never having been in a bank before, did not know where to go. He went, by mistake, to the desk where money was paid out.
"Where's your book?" asked the clerk
"I haven't got any."
"Have you any money deposited here?"
"No, sir, I want to leave some here."
"Then go to the next desk."
Dick followed directions, and presented himself before an elderly man with gray hair, who looked at him over the rims of his spectacles.
"I want you to keep that for me," said Dick, awkwardly emptying his money out on the desk.
"How much is there?"
"Have you got an account here?"
"Of course you can write?"
The "of course" was said on account of Dick's neat dress.
"Have I got to do any writing?" asked our hero, a little embarrassed.
"We want you to sign your name in this book," and the old gentleman shoved round a large folio volume containing the names of depositors.
Dick surveyed the book with some awe.
"I ain't much on writin'," he said.
"Very well; write as well as you can."
The pen was put into Dick's hand, and, after dipping it in the inkstand, he succeeded after a hard effort, accompanied by many contortions of the face, in inscribing upon the book of the bank the name
"Dick!--that means Richard, I suppose," said the bank officer, who had some difficulty in making out the signature.
"No; Ragged Dick is what folks call me."
"You don't look very ragged."
"No, I've left my rags to home. They might get wore out if I used 'em too common."
"Well, my lad, I'll make out a book in the name of Dick Hunter, since you seem to prefer Dick to Richard. I hope you will save up your money and deposit more with us."
Our hero took his bank-book, and gazed on the entry "Five Dollars" with a new sense of importance. He had been accustomed to joke about Erie shares, but now, for the first time, he felt himself a capitalist; on a small scale, to be sure, but still it was no small thing for Dick to have five dollars which he could call his own. He firmly determined that he would lay by every cent he could spare from his earnings towards the fund he hoped to accumulate.
But Dick was too sensible not to know that there was something more than money needed to win a respectable position in the world. He felt that he was very ignorant. Of reading and writing he only knew the rudiments, and that, with a slight acquaintance with arithmetic, was all he did know of books. Dick knew he must study hard, and he dreaded it. He looked upon learning as attended with greater difficulties than it really possesses. But Dick had good pluck. He meant to learn, nevertheless, and resolved to buy a book with his first spare earnings.
When Dick went home at night he locked up his bank-book in one of the drawers of the bureau. It was wonderful how much more independent he felt whenever he reflected upon the contents of that drawer, and with what an important air of joint ownership he regarded the bank building in which his small savings were deposited.
DICK SECURES A TUTOR
The next morning Dick was unusually successful, having plenty to do, and receiving for one job twentv-five cents,--the gentleman refusing to take change. Then flashed upon Dick's mind the thought that he had not yet returned the change due to the gentleman whose boots he had blacked on the morning of his introduction to the reader.
"What'll he think of me?" said Dick to himself. "I hope he won't think I'm mean enough to keep the money."
Now Dick was scrupulously honest, and though the temptation to be otherwise had often been strong, he had always resisted it. He was not willing on any account to keep money which did not belong to him, and he immediately started for 125 Fulton Street (the address which had been given him) where he found Mr. Greyson's name on the door of an office on the first floor.
The door being open, Dick walked in.
"Is Mr. Greyson in?" he asked of a clerk who sat on a high stool before a desk.
"Not just now. He'll be in soon. Will you wait?"
"Yes," said Dick.
"Very well; take a seat then."
Dick sat down and took up the morning "Tribune," but presently came to a word of four syllables, which he pronounced to himself a "sticker," and laid it down. But he had not long to wait, for five minutes later Mr. Greyson entered.
"Did you wish to speak to me, my lad?" said he to Dick, whom in his new clothes he did not recognize.
"Yes, sir," said Dick. "I owe you some money."
"Indeed!" said Mr. Greyson, pleasantly; "that's an agreeable surprise. I didn't know but you had come for some. So you are a debtor of mine, and not a creditor?"
"I b'lieve that's right," said Dick, drawing fifteen cents from his pocket, and placing in Mr. Greyson's hand.
"Fifteen cents!" repeated he, in some surprise. "How do you happen to be indebted to me in that amount?"
"You gave me a quarter for a-shinin' your boots, yesterday mornin', and couldn't wait for the change. I meant to have brought it before, but I forgot all about it till this mornin'."
"It had quite slipped my mind also. But you don't look like the boy I employed. If I remember rightly he wasn't as well dressed as you."
"No," said Dick. "I was dressed for a party, then, but the clo'es was too well ventilated to be comfortable in cold weather."
"You're an honest boy," said Mr. Greyson. "Who taught you to be honest?"
"Nobody," said Dick. "But it's mean to cheat and steal. I've always knowed that."
"Then you've got ahead of some of our business men. Do you read the Bible?"
"No," said Dick. "I've heard it's a good book, but I don't know much about it."
"You ought to go to some Sunday School. Would you be willing?"
"Yes," said Dick, promptly. "I want to grow up 'spectable. But I don't know where to go."
"Then I'll tell you. The church I attend is at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Twenty-first Street."
"I've seen it," said Dick.
"I have a class in the Sunday School there. If you'll come next Sunday, I'll take you into my class, and do what I can to help you."
"Thank you," said Dick, "but p'r'aps you'll get tired of teaching me. I'm awful ignorant."
"No, my lad," said Mr.Greyson, kindly. "You evidently have some good principles to start with, as you have shown by your scorn of dishonesty. I shall hope good things of you in the future."
"Well, Dick," said our hero, apostrophizing himself, as he left the office; "you're gettin' up in the world. You've got money invested, and are goin' to attend church, by partic'lar invitation, on Fifth Avenue. I shouldn't wonder much if you should find cards, when you get home, from the Mayor, requestin' the honor of your company to dinner, along with other distinguished guests."
Dick felt in very good spirits. He seemed to be emerging from the world in which he had hitherto lived, into a new atmosphere of respectability, and the change seemed very pleasant to him.
At six o'clock Dick went into a restaurant on Chatham Street, and got a comfortable supper. He had been so successful during the day that, after paying for this, he still had ninety cents left. While he was despatching his supper, another boy came in, smaller and slighter than Dick, and sat down beside him. Dick recognized him as a boy who three months before had entered the ranks of the boot-blacks, but who, from a natural timidity, had not been able to earn much. He was ill-fitted for the coarse companionship of the street boys, and shrank from the rude jokes of his present associates. Dick had never troubled him; for our hero had a certain chivalrous feeling which would not allow him to bully or disturb a younger and weaker boy than himself.
"How are you, Fosdick?" said Dick, as the other seated himself.
"Pretty well," said Fosdick. "I suppose you're all right."
"Oh, yes, I'm right side up with care. I've been havin' a bully supper. What are you goin' to have?"
"Some bread and butter."
"Why don't you get a cup o' coffee?"
"Why," said Fosdick, reluctantly, "I haven't got money enough to-night."
"Never mind," said Dick; "I'm in luck to-day, I'll stand treat."
"That's kind in you," said Fosdick, gratefully.
"Oh, never mind that," said Dick.
Accordingly he ordered a cup of coffee, and a plate of beefsteak, and was gratified to see that his young companion partook of both with evident relish. When the repast was over, the boys went out into the street together, Dick pausing at the desk to settle for both suppers.
"Where are you going to sleep to-night, Fosdick?" asked Dick, as they stood on the sidewalk.
"I don't know," said Fosdick, a little sadly. "In some doorway, I expect. But I'm afraid the police will find me out, and make me move on."
"I'll tell you what," said Dick, "you must go home with me. I guess my bed will hold two."
"Have you got a room?" asked the other, in surprise.
"Yes," said Dick, rather proudly, and with a little excusable exultation. "I've got a room over in Mott Street; there I can receive my friends. That'll be better than sleepin' in a door-way,-- won't it?"
"Yes, indeed it will," said Fosdick. "How lucky I was to come across you! It comes hard to me living as I do. When my father was alive I had every comfort."
"That's more'n I ever had," said Dick. "But I'm goin' to try to live comfortable now. Is your father dead?"
"Yes," said Fosdick, sadly. "He was a printer; but he was drowned one dark night from a Fulton ferry-boat, and, as I had no relations in the city, and no money, I was obliged to go to work as quick as I could. But I don't get on very well."
"Didn't you have no brothers nor sisters?" asked Dick.
"No," said Fosdick; "father and I used to live alone. He was always so much company to me that I feel very lonesome without him. There's a man out West somewhere that owes him two thousand dollars. He used to live in the city, and father lent him all his money to help him go into business; but he failed, or pretended to, and went off. If father hadn't lost that money he would have left me well off; but no money would have made up his loss to me."
"What's the man's name that went off with your father's money?"
"His name is Hiram Bates."
"P'r'aps you'll get the money again, sometime."
"There isn't much chance of it," said Fosdick. "I'd sell out my chances of that for five dollars."
"Maybe I'll buy you out sometime," said Dick. "Now, come round and see what sort of a room I've got. I used to go to the theatre evenings, when I had money; but now I'd rather go to bed early, and have a good sleep."
"I don't care much about theatres," said Fosdick. "Father didn't use to let me go very often. He said it wasn't good for boys."
"I like to go to the Old Bowery sometimes. They have tip- top plays there. Can you read and write well?" he asked, as a sudden thought came to him.
"Yes," said Fosdick. "Father always kept me at school when he was alive, and I stood pretty well in my classes. I was expecting to enter at the Free Academy* next year."
* Now the college of the city of New York.
"Then I'll tell you what," said Dick; "I'll make a bargain with you. I can't read much more'n a pig; and my writin' looks like hens' tracks. I don't want to grow up knowin' no more'n a four-year-old boy. If you'll teach me readin' and writin' evenin's, you shall sleep in my room every night. That'll be better'n door-steps or old boxes, where I've slept many a time."
"Are you in earnest?" said Fosdick, his face lighting up hopefully.
"In course I am," said Dick. "It' s fashionable for young gentlemen to have private tootors to introduct 'em into the flower-beds of literatoor and science, and why shouldn't I foller the fashion? You shall be my perfessor; only you must promise not to be very hard if my writin' looks like a rail-fence on a bender."
"I'll try not to be too severe," said Fosdick, laughing. "I shall be thankful for such a chance to get a place to sleep. Have you got anything to read out of?"
"No," said Dick. "My extensive and well-selected library was lost overboard in a storm, when I was sailin' from the Sandwich Islands to the desert of Sahara. But I'll buy a paper. That'll do me a long time."
Accordingly Dick stopped at a paper-stand, and bought a copy of a weekly paper, filled with the usual variety of reading matter,-- stories, sketches, poems, etc.
They soon arrived at Dick's lodging-house. Our hero, procuring a lamp from the landlady, led the way into his apartment, which he entered with the proud air of a proprietor.
"Well, how do you like it, Fosdick?" he asked, complacently.
The time was when Fosdick would have thought it untidy and not particularly attractive. But he had served a severe apprenticeship in the streets, and it was pleasant to feel himself under shelter, and he was not disposed to be critical.
"It looks very comfortable, Dick," he said.
"The bed ain't very large," said Dick; "but I guess we can get along."
"Oh, yes," said Fosdick, cheerfully. "I don't take up much room."
"Then that's all right. There's two chairs, you see, one for you and one for me. In case the mayor comes in to spend the evenin' socially, he can sit on the bed."
The boys seated themselves, and five minutes later, under the guidance of his young tutor, Dick had commenced his studies.
THE FlRST LESSON
Fortunately for Dick, his young tutor was well qualified to instruct him. Henry Fosdick, though only twelve years old, knew as much as many boys of fourteen. He had always been studious and ambitious to excel. His father, being a printer, employed in an office where books were printed, often brought home new books in sheets, which Henry was always glad to read. Mr. Fosdick had been, besides, a subscriber to the Mechanics' Apprentices' Library, which contains many thousands of well-selected and instructive books. Thus Henry had acquired an amount of general information, unusual in a boy of his age. Perhaps he had devoted too much time to study, for he was not naturally robust. All this, however, fitted him admirably for the office to which Dick had appointed him,--that of his private instructor.
The two boys drew up their chairs to the rickety table, and spread out the paper before them.
"The exercises generally Commence with ringin' the bell," said Dick; "but as I ain't got none, we'll have to do without."
"And the teacher is generally provided with a rod," said Fosdick. "Isn't there a poker handy, that I can use in case my scholar doesn't behave well?"
"'Tain't lawful to use fire-arms," said Dick.
"Now, Dick," said Fosdick, "before we begin, I must find out how much you already know. Can you read any?"
"Not enough to hurt me," said Dick. "All I know about readin' you could put in a nutshell, and there'd be room left for a small family."
"I suppose you know your letters?"
"Yes," said Dick, "I know 'em all, but not intimately. I guess I can call 'em all by name."
"Where did you learn them? Did you ever go to school?"
"Yes; I went two days."
"Why did you stop?"
"It didn't agree with my constitution."
"You don't look very delicate," said Fosdick.
"No," said Dick, "I ain't troubled much that way; but I found lickin's didn't agree with me."
"Did you get punished?"
"Awful," said Dick.
"For indulgin' in a little harmless amoosement," said Dick. "You see the boy that was sittin' next to me fell asleep, which I considered improper in school-time; so I thought I'd help the teacher a little by wakin' him up. So I took a pin and stuck into him; but I guess it went a little too far, for he screeched awful. The teacher found out what it was that made him holler, and whipped me with a ruler till I was black and blue. I thought 'twas about time to take a vacation; so that's the last time I went to school."
"You didn't learn to read in that time, of course?"
"No," said Dick; "but I was a newsboy a little while; so I learned a little, just so's to find out what the news was. Sometimes I didn't read straight and called the wrong news. One mornin' I asked another boy what the paper said, and he told me the King of Africa was dead. I thought it was all right till folks began to laugh."
"Well, Dick, if you'll only study well, you won't be liable to make such mistakes."
"I hope so," said Dick. "My friend Horace Greeley told me the other day that he'd get me to take his place now and then when he was off makin' speeches if my edication hadn't been neglected."
"I must find a good piece for you to begin on," said Fosdick, looking over the paper.
"Find an easy one," said Dick, "with words of one story."
Fosdick at length found a piece which he thought would answer. He discovered on trial that Dick had not exaggerated his deficiencies. Words of two syllables he seldom pronounced right, and was much surprised when he was told how "through" was sounded.
"Seems to me it's throwin' away letters to use all them," he said.
"How would you spell it?" asked his young teacher.
"T-h-r-u," Said Dick.
"Well," said Fosdick, "there's a good many other words that are spelt with more letters than they need to have. But it's the fashion, and we must follow it."
But if Dick was ignorant, he was quick, and had an excellent capacity. Moreover he had perseverance, and was not easily discouraged. He had made up his mind he must know more, and was not disposed to complain of the difficulty of his task. Fosdick had occasion to laugh more than once at his ludicrous mistakes; but Dick laughed too, and on the whole both were quite interested in the lesson.
At the end of an hour and a half the boys stopped for the evening.
"You're learning fast, Dick," said Fosdick. "At this rate you will soon learn to read well."
"Will I?" asked Dick with an expression of satisfaction. "I'm glad of that. I don't want to be ignorant. I didn't use to care, but I do now. I want to grow up 'spectable."
"So do I, Dick. We will both help each other, and I am sure we can accomplish something. But I am beginning to feel sleepy."
"So am I," said Dick. "Them hard words make my head ache. I wonder who made 'em all?"
"That's more than I can tell. I suppose you've seen a dictionary."
"That's another of 'em. No, I can't say I have, though I may have seen him in the street without knowin' him."
"A dictionary is a book containing all the words in the language."
"How many are there?"
"I don't rightly know; but I think there are about fifty thousand."
"It's a pretty large family," said Dick. "Have I got to learn 'em all?"
"That will not be necessary. There are a large number which you would never find occasion to use."
"I'm glad of that," said Dick; "for I don't expect to live to be more'n a hundred, and by that time I wouldn't be more'n half through."
By this time the flickering lamp gave a decided hint to the boys that unless they made haste they would have to undress in the dark. They accordingly drew off their clothes, and Dick jumped into bed. But Fosdick, before doing so, knelt down by the side of the bed, and said a short prayer.
"What's that for?" asked Dick, curiously.
"I was saying my prayers," said Fosdick, as he rose from his knees. "Don't you ever do it?"
"No," said Dick. "Nobody ever taught me."
"Then I'll teach you. Shall I?"
"I don't know," said Dick, dubiously. "What's the good?"
Fosdick explained as well as he could, and perhaps his simple explanation was better adapted to Dick's comprehension than one from an older person would have been. Dick felt more free to ask questions, and the example of his new friend, for whom he was beginning to feel a warm attachment, had considerable effect upon him. When, therefore, Fosdick asked again if he should teach him a prayer, Dick consented, and his young bedfellow did so. Dick was not naturally irreligious. If he had lived without a knowledge of God and of religious things, it was scarcely to be wondered at in a lad who, from an early age, had been thrown upon his own exertions for the means of living, with no one to care for him or give him good advice. But he was so far good that he could appreciate goodness in others, and this it was that had drawn him to Frank in the first place, and now to Henry Fosdick. He did not, therefore, attempt to ridicule his companion, as some boys better brought up might have done, but was willing to follow his example in what something told him was right. Our young hero had taken an important step toward securing that genuine respectability which he was ambitious to attain.
Weary with the day's work, and Dick perhaps still more fatigued by the unusual mental effort he had made, the boys soon sank into a deep and peaceful slumber, from which they did not awaken till six o'clock the next morning. Before going out Dick sought Mrs. Mooney, and spoke to her on the subject of taking Fosdick as a room-mate. He found that she had no objection, provided he would allow her twenty-five cents a week extra, in consideration of the extra trouble which his companion might be expected to make. To this Dick assented, and the arrangement was definitely concluded.
This over, the two boys went out and took stations near each other. Dick had more of a business turn than Henry, and less shrinking from publicity, so that his earnings were greater. But he had undertaken to pay the entire expenses of the room, and needed to earn more. Sometimes, when two customers presented themselves at the same time, he was able to direct one to his friend. So at the end of the week both boys found themselves with surplus earnings. Dick had the satisfaction of adding two dollars and a half to his deposits in the Savings Bank, and Fosdick commenced an account by depositing seventy-five cents.
On Sunday morning Dick bethought himself of his promise to Mr. Greyson to come to the church on Fifth Avenue. To tell the truth, Dick recalled it with some regret. He had never been inside a church since he could remember, and he was not much attracted by the invitation he had received. But Henry, finding him wavering, urged him to go, and offered to go with him. Dick gladly accepted the offer, feeling that he required someone to lend him countenance under such unusual circumstances.
Dick dressed himself with scrupulous care, giving his shoes a "shine" so brilliant that it did him great credit in a professional point of view, and endeavored to clean his hands thoroughly; but, in spite of all he could do, they were not so white as if his business had been of a different character.
Having fully completed his preparations, he descended into the street, and, with Henry by his side, crossed over to Broadway.
The boys pursued their way up Broadway, which on Sunday presents a striking contrast in its quietness to the noise and confusion of ordinary week-days, as far as Union Square, then turned down Fourteenth Street, which brought them to Fifth Avenue.
"Suppose we dine at Delmonico's," said Fosdick, looking towards that famous restaurant.
"I'd have to sell some of my Erie shares," said Dick.
A short walk now brought them to the church of which mention has already been made. They stood outside, a little abashed, watching the fashionably attired people who were entering, and were feeling a little undecided as to whether they had better enter also, when Dick felt a light touch upon his shoulder.
Turning round, he met the smiling glance of Mr. Greyson.
"So, my young friend, you have kept your promise," he said. "And whom have you brought with you?"
"A friend of mine," said Dick. "His name is Henry Fosdick."
"I am glad you have brought him. Now follow me, and I will give you seats."
DICK'S FIRST APPEARANCE IN SOCIETY
It was the hour for morning service. The boys followed Mr. Greyson into the handsome church, and were assigned seats in his own pew.
There were two persons already seated in it,--a good-looking lady of middle age, and a pretty little girl of nine. They were Mrs. Greyson and her only daughter Ida. They looked pleasantly at the boys as they entered, smiling a welcome to them.
The morning service commenced. It must be acknowledged that Dick felt rather awkward. It was an unusual place for him, and it need not be wondered at that he felt like a cat in a strange garret. He would not have known when to rise if he had not taken notice of what the rest of the audience did, and followed their example. He was sitting next to Ida, and as it was the first time he had ever been near so well-dressed a young lady, he naturally felt bashful. When the hymns were announced, Ida found the place, and offered a hymn-book to our hero. Dick took it awkwardly, but his studies had not yet been pursued far enough for him to read the words readily. However, he resolved to keep up appearances, and kept his eyes fixed steadily on the hymn-book.
At length the service was over. The people began to file slowly out of church, and among them, of course, Mr. Greyson's family and the two boys. It seemed very strange to Dick to find himself in such different companionship from what he had been accustomed, and he could not help thinking, "Wonder what Johnny Nolan 'ould say if he could see me now!"
But Johnny's business engagements did not often summon him to Fifth Avenue, and Dick was not likely to be seen by any of his friends in the lower part of the city.
"We have our Sunday school in the afternoon," said Mr. Greyson. "I suppose you live at some distance from here?"
"In Mott Street, sir," answered Dick.
"That is too far to go and return. Suppose you and your friend come and dine with us, and then we can come here together in the afternoon."
Dick was as much astonished at this invitation as if he had really been invited by the Mayor to dine with him and the Board of Aldermen. Mr. Greyson was evidently a rich man, and yet he had actually invited two boot-blacks to dine with him.
"I guess we'd better go home, sir," said Dick, hesitating.
"I don't think you can have any very pressing engagements to interfere with your accepting my invitation," said Mr. Greyson, good-humoredly, for he understood the reason of Dick's hesitation. "So I take it for granted that you both accept."
Before Dick fairly knew what he intended to do, he was walking down Fifth Avenue with his new friends.
Now, our young hero was not naturally bashful; but he certainly felt so now, especially as Miss Ida Greyson chose to walk by his side, leaving Henry Fosdick to walk with her father and mother.
"What is your name?" asked Ida, pleasantly.
Our hero was about to answer "Ragged Dick," when it occurred to him that in the present company he had better forget his old nickname.
"Dick Hunter," he answered.
"Dick!" repeated Ida. "That means Richard, doesn't it?"
"Everybody calls me Dick."
"I have a cousin Dick," said the young lady, sociably. "His name is Dick Wilson. I suppose you don't know him?"
"No," said Dick.
"I like the name of Dick," said the young lady, with charming frankness.
Without being able to tell why, Dick felt rather glad she did. He plucked up courage to ask her name.
"My name is Ida," answered the young lady. "Do you like it?"
"Yes," said Dick. "It's a bully name."
Dick turned red as soon as he had said it, for he felt that he had not used the right expression.
The little girl broke into a silvery laugh.
"What a funny boy you are!" she said.
"I didn't mean it," said Dick, stammering. "I meant it's a tip-top name."
Here Ida laughed again, and Dick wished himself back in Mott Street.
"How old are you?" inquired Ida, continuing her examination.
"I'm fourteen,--goin' on fifteen," said Dick.
"You're a big boy of your age," said Ida. "My cousin Dick is a year older than you, but he isn't as large."
Dick looked pleased. Boys generally like to be told that they are large of their age.
"How old be you?" asked Dick, beginning to feel more at his ease.
"I'm nine years old," said Ida. "I go to Miss Jarvis's school. I've just begun to learn French. Do you know French?"
"Not enough to hurt me," said Dick.
Ida laughed again, and told him that he was a droll boy.
"Do you like it?" asked Dick.
"I like it pretty well, except the verbs. I can't remember them well. Do you go to school?"
"I'm studying with a private tutor," said Dick.
"Are you? So is my cousin Dick. He's going to college this year. Are you going to college?"
"Not this year."
"Because, if you did, you know you'd be in the same class with my cousin. It would be funny to have two Dicks in one class."
They turned down Twenty-fourth Street, passing the Fifth Avenue Hotel on the left, and stopped before an elegant house with a brown stone front. The bell was rung, and the door being opened, the boys, somewhat abashed, followed Mr. Greyson into a handsome hall. They were told where to hang their hats, and a moment afterwards were ushered into a comfortable dining-room, where a table was spread for dinner.
Dick took his seat on the edge of a sofa, and was tempted to rub his eyes to make sure that he was really awake. He could hardly believe that he was a guest in so fine a mansion.
Ida helped to put the boys at their ease.
"Do you like pictures?" she asked.
"Very much," answered Henry.
The little girl brought a book of handsome engravings, and, seating herself beside Dick, to whom she seemed to have taken a decided fancy, commenced showing them to him.
"There are the Pyramids of Egypt," she said, pointing to one engraving.
"What are they for?" asked Dick, puzzled. "I don't see any winders."
"No," said Ida, "I don't believe anybody lives there. Do they, papa?"
"No, my dear. They were used for the burial of the dead. The largest of them is said to be the loftiest building in the world with one exception. The spire of the Cathedral of Strasburg is twenty-four feet higher, if I remember rightly."
"Is Egypt near here?" asked Dick.
"Oh, no, it's ever so many miles off; about four or five hundred. Didn't you know?"
"No," said Dick. "I never heard."
"You don't appear to be very accurate in your information, Ida," said her mother. "Four or five thousand miles would be considerably nearer the truth."
After a little more conversation they sat down to dinner. Dick seated himself in an embarrassed way. He was very much afraid of doing or saying something which would be considered an impropriety, and had the uncomfortable feeling that everybody was looking at him, and watching his behavior.
"Where do you live, Dick?" asked Ida, familiarly.
"In Mott Street."
"Where is that?"
"More than a mile off."
"Is it a nice street?"
"Not very," said Dick. "Only poor folks live there."
"Are you poor?"
"Little girls should be seen and not heard," said her mother, gently.
"If you are," said Ida, "I'll give you the five-dollar gold-piece aunt gave me for a birthday present."
"Dick cannot be called poor, my child," said Mrs. Greyson, "since he earns his living by his own exertions."
"Do you earn your living?" asked Ida, who was a very inquisitive young lady, and not easily silenced. "What do you do?"
Dick blushed violently. At such a table, and in presence of the servant who was standing at that moment behind his chair, he did not like to say that he was a shoe-black, although he well knew that there was nothing dishonorable in the occupation.
Mr. Greyson perceived his feelings, and to spare them, said, "You are too inquisitive, Ida. Sometime Dick may tell you, but you know we don't talk of business on Sundays."
Dick in his embarrassment had swallowed a large spoonful of hot soup, which made him turn red in the face. For the second time, in spite of the prospect of the best dinner he had ever eaten, he wished himself back in Mott Street. Henry Fosdick was more easy and unembarrassed than Dick, not having led such a vagabond and neglected life. But it was to Dick that Ida chiefly directed her conversation, having apparently taken a fancy to his frank and handsome face. I believe I have already said that Dick was a very good-looking boy, especially now since he kept his face clean. He had a frank, honest expression, which generally won its way to the favor of those with whom he came in contact.
Dick got along pretty well at the table by dint of noticing how the rest acted, but there was one thing he could not manage, eating with his fork, which, by the way, he thought a very singular arrangement.
At length they arose from the table, somewhat to Dick's relief. Again Ida devoted herself to the boys, and exhibited a profusely illustrated Bible for their entertainment. Dick was interested in looking at the pictures, though he knew very little of their subjects. Henry Fosdick was much better informed, as might have been expected.
When the boys were about to leave the house with Mr. Greyson for the Sunday school, Ida placed her hand in Dick's, and said persuasively. "You'll come again, Dick, won't you?"
"Thank you," said Dick, "I'd like to," and he could not help thinking Ida the nicest girl he had ever seen.
"Yes," said Mrs. Greyson, hospitably, "we shall be glad to see you both here again."
"Thank you very much," said Henry Fosdick, gratefully. "We shall like very much to come."
I will not dwell upon the hour spent in Sunday school, nor upon the remarks of Mr. Greyson to his class. He found Dick's ignorance of religious subjects so great that he was obliged to begin at the beginning with him. Dick was interested in hearing the children sing, and readily promised to come again the next Sunday.
When the service was over Dick and Henry walked homewards. Dick could not help letting his thoughts rest on the sweet little girl who had given him so cordial a welcome, and hoping that he might meet her again.
"Mr. Greyson is a nice man,--isn't he, Dick?" asked Henry, as they were turning into Mott Street, and were already in sight of their lodging-house.
"Ain't he, though?" said Dick. "He treated us just as if we were young gentlemen."
"Ida seemed to take a great fancy to you."
"She's a tip-top girl," said Dick, "but she asked so many questions that I didn't know what to say."
He had scarcely finished speaking, when a stone whizzed by his head, and, turning quickly, he saw Micky Maguire running round the corner of the street which they had just passed.
MICKY MAGUIRE'S SECOND DEFEAT
Dick was no coward. Nor was he in the habit of submitting passively to an insult. When, therefore, he recognized Micky as his assailant, he instantly turned and gave chase. Micky anticipated pursuit, and ran at his utmost speed. It is doubtful if Dick would have overtaken him, but Micky had the ill luck to trip just as he had entered a narrow alley, and, falling with some violence, received a sharp blow from the hard stones, which made him scream with pain.
"Ow!" he whined. "Don't you hit a feller when he's down."
"What made you fire that stone at me?" demanded our hero, looking down at the fallen bully.
"Just for fun," said Micky.
"It would have been a very agreeable s'prise if it had hit me," said Dick. "S'posin' I fire a rock at you jest for fun."
"Don't!" exclaimed Micky, in alarm.
"It seems you don't like agreeable s'prises," said Dick, "any more'n the man did what got hooked by a cow one mornin', before breakfast. It didn't improve his appetite much."
"I've most broke my arm," said Micky, ruefully, rubbing the affected limb.
"If it's broke you can't fire no more stones, which is a very cheerin' reflection," said Dick. "Ef you haven't money enough to buy a wooden one I'll lend you a quarter. There's one good thing about wooden ones, they ain't liable to get cold in winter, which is another cheerin' reflection."
"I don't want none of yer cheerin' reflections," said Micky, sullenly. "Yer company ain't wanted here."
"Thank you for your polite invitation to leave," said Dick, bowing ceremoniously. "I'm willin' to go, but ef you throw any more stones at me, Micky Maguire, I'll hurt you worse than the stones did."
The only answer made to this warning was a scowl from his fallen opponent. It was quite evident that Dick had the best of it, and he thought it prudent to say nothing.
"As I've got a friend waitin' outside, I shall have to tear myself away," said Dick. "You'd better not throw any more stones, Micky Maguire, for it don't seem to agree with your constitution."
Micky muttered something which Dick did not stay to hear. He backed out of the alley, keeping a watchful eye on his fallen foe, and rejoined Henry Fosdick, who was awaiting his return.
"Who was it, Dick?" he asked.
"A partic'lar friend of mine, Micky Maguire," said Dick. "He playfully fired a rock at my head as a mark of his 'fection. He loves me like a brother, Micky does."
"Rather a dangerous kind of a friend, I should think," said Fosdick. "He might have killed you."
"I've warned him not to be so 'fectionate another time," said Dick.
"I know him," said Henry Fosdick. "He's at the head of a gang of boys living at the Five-Points. He threatened to whip me once because a gentleman employed me to black his boots instead of him."
"He's been at the Island two or three times for stealing," said Dick. "I guess he won't touch me again. He'd rather get hold of small boys. If he ever does anything to you, Fosdick, just let me know, and I'll give him a thrashing."
Dick was right. Micky Maguire was a bully, and like most bullies did not fancy tackling boys whose strength was equal or superior to his own. Although he hated Dick more than ever, because he thought our hero was putting on airs, he had too lively a remembrance of his strength and courage to venture upon another open attack. He contented himself, therefore, whenever he met Dick, with scowling at him. Dick took this very philosophically, remarking that, "if it was soothin' to Micky's feelings, he might go ahead, as it didn't hurt him much."
It will not be necessary to chronicle the events of the next few weeks. A new life had commenced for Dick. He no longer haunted the gallery of the Old Bowery; and even Tony Pastor's hospitable doors had lost their old attractions. He spent two hours every evening in study. His progress was astonishingly rapid. He was gifted with a natural quickness; and he was stimulated by the desire to acquire a fair education as a means of "growin' up 'spectable," as he termed it. Much was due also to the patience and perseverance of Henry Fosdick, who made a capital teacher.
"You're improving wonderfully, Dick," said his friend, one evening, when Dick had read an entire paragraph without a mistake.
"Am I?" said Dick, with satisfaction.
"Yes. If you'll buy a writing-book to-morrow, we can begin writing to-morrow evening."
"What else do you know, Henry?" asked Dick
"Arithmetic, and geography, and grammar."
"What a lot you know!" said Dick, admiringly.
"I don't know any of them," said Fosdick. "I've only studied them. I wish I knew a great deal more."
"I'll be satisfied when I know as much as you," said Dick.
"It seems a great deal to you now, Dick, but in a few months you'll think differently. The more you know, the more you'll want to know."
"Then there ain't any end to learnin'?" said Dick.
"Well," said Dick, "I guess I'll be as much as sixty before I know everything."
"Yes; as old as that, probably," said Fosdick, laughing.
"Anyway, you know too much to be blackin' boots. Leave that to ignorant chaps like me."
"You won't be ignorant long, Dick."
"You'd ought to get into some office or countin'-room."
"I wish I could," said Fosdick, earnestly. "I don't succeed very well at blacking boots. You make a great deal more than I do."
"That's cause I ain't troubled with bashfulness," said Dick. "Bashfulness ain't as natural to me as it is to you. I'm always on hand, as the cat said to the milk. You'd better give up shines, Fosdick, and give your 'tention to mercantile pursuits."
"I've thought of trying to get a place," said Fosdick; "but no one would take me with these clothes;" and he directed his glance to his well-worn suit, which he kept as neat as he could, but which, in spite of all his care, began to show decided marks of use. There was also here and there a stain of blacking upon it, which, though an advertisement of his profession, scarcely added to its good appearance.
"I almost wanted to stay at home from Sunday school last Sunday," he continued, "because I thought everybody would notice how dirty and worn my clothes had got to be."
"If my clothes wasn't two sizes too big for you," said Dick, generously, "I'd change. You'd look as if you'd got into your great-uncle's suit by mistake."
"You're very kind, Dick, to think of changing," said Fosdick, "for your suit is much better than mine; but I don't think that mine would suit you very well. The pants would show a little more of your ankles than is the fashion, and you couldn't eat a very hearty dinner without bursting the buttons off the vest."
"That wouldn't be very convenient," said Dick. "I ain't fond of lacin' to show my elegant figger. But I say," he added with a sudden thought, "how much money have we got in the savings' bank?"
Fosdick took a key from his pocket, and went to the drawer in which the bank-books were kept, and, opening it, brought them out for inspection.
It was found that Dick had the sum of eighteen dollars and ninety cents placed to his credit, while Fosdick had six dollars and forty-five cents. To explain the large difference, it must be remembered that Dick had deposited five dollars before Henry deposited anything, being the amount he had received as a gift from Mr. Whitney.
"How much does that make, the lot of it?" asked Dick. "I ain't much on figgers yet, you know."
"It makes twenty-five dollars and thirty-five cents, Dick," said his companion, who did not understand the thought which suggested the question.
"Take it, and buy some clothes, Henry," said Dick, shortly.
"What, your money too?"
"No, Dick, you are too generous. I couldn't think of it. Almost three-quarters of the money is yours. You must spend it on yourself."
"I don't need it," said Dick.
"You may not need it now, but you will some time."
"I shall have some more then."
"That may be; but it wouldn't be fair for me to use your money, Dick. I thank you all the same for your kindness."
"Well, I'll lend it to you, then," persisted Dick, "and you can pay me when you get to be a rich merchant."
"But it isn't likely I ever shall be one."
"How d'you know? I went to a fortun' teller once, and she told me I was born under a lucky star with a hard name, and I should have a rich man for my particular friend, who would make my fortun'. I guess you are going to be the rich man."
Fosdick laughed, and steadily refused for some time to avail himself of Dick's generous proposal; but at length, perceiving that our hero seemed much disappointed, and would be really glad if his offer were accepted, he agreed to use as much as might be needful.
This at once brought back Dick's good-humor, and he entered with great enthusiasm into his friend's plans.
The next day they withdrew the money from the bank, and, when business got a little slack, in the afternoon set out in search of a clothing store. Dick knew enough of the city to be able to find a place where a good bargain could be obtained. He was determined that Fosdick should have a good serviceable suit, even if it took all the money they had. The result of their search was that for twenty-three dollars Fosdick obtained a very neat outfit, including a couple of shirts, a hat, and a pair of shoes, besides a dark mixed suit, which appeared stout and of good quality.
"Shall I sent the bundle home?" asked the salesman, impressed by the off-hand manner in which Dick drew out the money in payment for the clothes.
"Thank you," said Dick, "you're very kind, but I'll take it home myself, and you can allow me something for my trouble."
"All right," said the clerk, laughing; "I'll allow it on your next purchase."
Proceeding to their apartment in Mott Street, Fosdick at once tried on his new suit, and it was found to be an excellent fit. Dick surveyed his new friend with much satisfaction.
"You look like a young gentleman of fortun'" he said, "and do credit to your governor."
"I suppose that means you, Dick," said Fosdick, laughing.
"In course it does."
"You should say of course," said Fosdick, who, in virtue of his position as Dick's tutor, ventured to correct his language from time to time.
"How dare you correct your gov'nor?" said Dick, with comic indignation. "`I'll cut you off with a shillin', you young dog,' as the Markis says to his nephew in the play at the Old Bowery."
FOSDICK CHANGES HIS BUSINESS
Fosdick did not venture to wear his new clothes while engaged in his business. This he felt would have been wasteful extravagance. About ten o' clock in the morning, when business slackened, he went home, and dressing himself went to a hotel where he could see copies of the "Morning Herald" and "Sun," and, noting down the places where a boy was wanted, went on a round of applications. But he found it no easy thing to obtain a place. Swarms of boys seemed to be out of employment, and it was not unusual to find from fifty to a hundred applicants for a single place.
There was another difficulty. It was generally desired that the boy wanted should reside with his parents. When Fosdick, on being questioned, revealed the fact of his having no parents, and being a boy of the street, this was generally sufficient of itself to insure a refusal. Merchants were afraid to trust one who had led such a vagabond life. Dick, who was always ready for an emergency, suggested borrowing a white wig, and passing himself off for Fosdick's father or grandfather. But Henry thought this might be rather a difficult character for our hero to sustain. After fifty applications and as many failures, Fosdick began to get discouraged. There seemed to be no way out of his present business, for which he felt unfitted.
"I don't know but I shall have to black boots all my life," he said, one day, despondently, to Dick.
"Keep a stiff upper lip," said Dick. "By the time you get to be a gray-headed veteran, you may get a chance to run errands for some big firm on the Bowery, which is a very cheerin' reflection."
So Dick by his drollery and perpetual good spirits kept up Fosdick's courage.
"As for me," said Dick, "I expect by that time to lay up a colossal fortun' out of shines, and live in princely style on the Avenoo."
But one morning, Fosdick, straying into French's Hotel, discovered the following advertisement in the columns of "The Herald,"--
"WANTED--A smart, capable boy to run errands, and make himself generally useful in a hat and cap store. Salary three dollars a week at first. Inquire at No. -- Broadway, after ten o'clock, A.M."
He determined to make application, and, as the City Hall clock just then struck the hour indicated, lost no time in proceeding to the store, which was only a few blocks distant from the Astor House. It was easy to find the store, as from a dozen to twenty boys were already assembled in front of it. They surveyed each other askance, feeling that they were rivals, and mentally calculating each other's chances.
"There isn't much chance for me," said Fosdick to Dick, who had accompanied him. "Look at all these boys. Most of them have good homes, I suppose, and good recommendations, while I have nobody to refer to."
"Go ahead," said Dick. "Your chance is as good as anybody's."
While this was passing between Dick and his companion, one of the boys, a rather supercilious-looking young gentleman, genteelly dressed, and evidently having a very high opinion of his dress and himself turned suddenly to Dick, and remarked,--
"I've seen you before."
"Oh, have you?" said Dick, whirling round; "then p'r'aps you'd like to see me behind."
At this unexpected answer all the boys burst into a laugh with the exception of the questioner, who, evidently, considered that Dick had been disrespectful.
"I've seen you somewhere," he said, in a surly tone, correcting himself.
"Most likely you have," said Dick. "That's where I generally keep myself."
There was another laugh at the expense of Roswell Crawford, for that was the name of the young aristocrat. But he had his revenge ready. No boy relishes being an object of ridicule, and it was with a feeling of satisfaction that he retorted,--
"I know you for all your impudence. You're nothing but a boot-black."
This information took the boys who were standing around by surprise, for Dick was well-dressed, and had none of the implements of his profession with him.
"S'pose I be," said Dick. "Have you got any objection?"
"Not at all," said Roswell, curling his lip; "only you'd better stick to blacking boots, and not try to get into a store."
"Thank you for your kind advice," said Dick. "Is it gratooitous, or do you expect to be paid for it?"
"You're an impudent fellow."
"That's a very cheerin' reflection," said Dick, good-naturedly.
"Do you expect to get this place when there's gentlemen's sons applying for it? A boot-black in a store! That would be a good joke."
Boys as well as men are selfish, and, looking upon Dick as a possible rival, the boys who listened seemed disposed to take the same view of the situation.
"That's what I say," said one of them, taking sides with Roswell.
"Don't trouble yourselves," said Dick. "I ain't agoin' to cut you out. I can't afford to give up a independent and loocrative purfession for a salary of three dollars a week."
"Hear him talk!" said Roswell Crawford, with an unpleasant sneer. "If you are not trying to get the place, what are you here for?"
"I came with a friend of mine," said Dick, indicating Fosdick, "who's goin' in for the situation."
"Is he a boot-black, too?" demanded Roswell, superciliously.
"He!" retorted Dick, loftily. "Didn't you know his father was a member of Congress, and intimately acquainted with all the biggest men in the State?"
The boys surveyed Fosdick as if they did not quite know whether to credit this statement, which, for the credit of Dick's veracity, it will be observed he did not assert, but only propounded in the form of a question. There was no time for comment, however, as just then the proprietor of the store came to the door, and, casting his eyes over the waiting group, singled out Roswell Crawford, and asked him to enter.
"Well, my lad, how old are you?"
"Fourteen years old," said Roswell, consequentially.
"Are your parents living?"
"Only my mother. My father is dead. He was a gentleman," he added, complacently.
"Oh, was he?" said the shop-keeper. "Do you live in the city?"
"Yes, sir. In Clinton Place."
"Have you ever been in a situation before?"
"Yes, sir," said Roswell, a little reluctantly.
"Where was it?"
"In an office on Dey Street."
"How long were you there?"
"It seems to me that was a short time. Why did you not stay longer?"
"Because," said Roswell, loftily, "the man wanted me to get to the office at eight o'clock, and make the fire. I'm a gentleman's son, and am not used to such dirty work."
"Indeed!" said the shop-keeper. "Well, young gentleman, you may step aside a few minutes. I will speak with some of the other boys before making my selection."
Several other boys were called in and questioned. Roswell stood by and listened with an air of complacency. He could not help thinking his chances the best. "The man can see I'm a gentleman, and will do credit to his store," he thought.
At length it came to Fosdick's turn. He entered with no very sanguine anticipations of success. Unlike Roswell, he set a very low estimate upon his qualifications when compared with those of other applicants. But his modest bearing, and quiet, gentlemanly manner, entirely free from pretension, prepossessed the shop-keeper, who was a sensible man, in his favor.
"Do you reside in the city?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said Henry.
"What is your age?"
"Have you ever been in any situation?"
"I should like to see a specimen of your handwriting. Here, take the pen and write your name."
Henry Fosdick had a very handsome handwriting for a boy of his age, while Roswell, who had submitted to the same test, could do little more than scrawl.
"Do you reside with your parents?"
"No, sir, they are dead."
"Where do you live, then?"
"In Mott Street."
Roswell curled his lip when this name was pronounced, for Mott Street, as my New York readers know, is in the immediate neighborhood of the Five-Points, and very far from a fashionable locality.
"Have you any testimonials to present?" asked Mr. Henderson, for that was his name.
Fosdick hesitated. This was the question which he had foreseen would give him trouble.
But at this moment it happened most opportunely that Mr. Greyson entered the shop with the intention of buying a hat.
"Yes," said Fosdick, promptly; "I will refer to this gentleman."
"How do you do, Fosdick?" asked Mr. Greyson, noticing him for the first time. "How do you happen to be here?"
"I am applying for a place, sir," said Fosdick. "May I refer the gentleman to you?"
"Certainly, I shall be glad to speak a good word for you. Mr. Henderson, this is a member of my Sunday-school class, of whose good qualities and good abilities I can speak confidently."
"That will be sufficient," said the shop-keeper, who knew Mr. Greyson's high character and position. "He could have no better recommendation. You may come to the store to-morrow morning at half past seven o'clock. The pay will be three dollars a week for the first six months. If I am satisfied with you, I shall then raise it to five dollars."
The other boys looked disappointed, but none more so than Roswell Crawford. He would have cared less if any one else had obtained the situation; but for a boy who lived in Mott Street to be preferred to him, a gentleman's son, he considered indeed humiliating. In a spirit of petty spite, he was tempted to say,
"He's a boot-black. Ask him if he isn't."
"He's an honest and intelligent lad," said Mr. Greyson. "As for you, young man, I only hope you have one-half his good qualities."
Roswell Crawford left the store in disgust, and the other unsuccessful applicants with him.
"What luck, Fosdick?" asked Dick, eagerly, as his friend came out of the store.
"I've got the place," said Fosdick, in accents of satisfaction; "but it was only because Mr. Greyson spoke up for me."
"He's a trump," said Dick, enthusiastically.
The gentleman, so denominated, came out before the boys went away, and spoke with them kindly.
Both Dick and Henry were highly pleased at the success of the application. The pay would indeed be small, but, expended economically, Fosdick thought he could get along on it, receiving his room rent, as before, in return for his services as Dick's private tutor. Dick determined, as soon as his education would permit, to follow his companion's example.
"I don't know as you'll be willin' to room with a boot-black," he said, to Henry, "now you're goin' into business."
"I couldn't room with a better friend, Dick," said Fosdick, affectionately, throwing his arm round our hero. "When we part, it'll be because you wish it."
So Fosdick entered upon a new career.
NINE MONTHS LATER
The next morning Fosdick rose early, put on his new suit, and, after getting breakfast, set out for the Broadway store in which he had obtained a position. He left his little blacking-box in the room.
"It'll do to brush my own shoes," he said. "Who knows but I may have to come back to it again?"
"No danger," said Dick; "I'll take care of the feet, and you'll have to look after the heads, now you're in a hat-store."
"I wish you had a place too," said Fosdick.
"I don't know enough yet," said Dick. "Wait till I've gradooated."
"And can put A. B. after your name."
"It stands for Bachelor of Arts. It's a degree that students get when they graduate from college."
"Oh," said Dick, "I didn't know but it meant A Boot-black. I can put that after my name now. Wouldn't Dick Hunter, A.B., sound tip-top?"
"I must be going," said Fosdick. "It won't do for me to be late the very first morning."
"That's the difference between you and me," said Dick. "I'm my own boss, and there ain't no one to find fault with me if I'm late. But I might as well be goin' too. There's a gent as comes down to his store pretty early that generally wants a shine."
The two boys parted at the Park. Fosdick crossed it, and proceeded to the hat-store, while Dick, hitching up his pants, began to look about him for a customer. It was seldom that Dick had to wait long. He was always on the alert, and if there was any business to do he was always sure to get his share of it. He had now a stronger inducement than ever to attend strictly to business; his little stock of money in the savings bank having been nearly exhausted by his liberality to his room-mate. He determined to be as economical as possible, and moreover to study as hard as he could, that he might be able to follow Fosdick's example, and obtain a place in a store or counting-room. As there were no striking incidents occurring in our hero's history within the next nine months, I propose to pass over that period, and recount the progress he made in that time.
Fosdick was still at the hat-store, having succeeded in giving perfect satisfaction to Mr. Henderson. His wages had just been raised to five dollars a week. He and Dick still kept house together at Mrs. Mooney's lodging-house, and lived very frugally, so that both were able to save up money. Dick had been unusually successful in business. He had several regular patrons, who had been drawn to him by his ready wit, and quick humor, and from two of them he had received presents of clothing, which had saved him any expense on that score. His income had averaged quite seven dollars a week in addition to this. Of this amount he was now obliged to pay one dollar weekly for the room which he and Fosdick occupied, but he was still able to save one half the remainder. At the end of nine months therefore, or thirty-nine weeks, it will be seen that he had accumulated no less a sum than one hundred and seventeen dollars. Dick may be excused for feeling like a capitalist when he looked at the long row of deposits in his little bank-book. There were other boys in the same business who had earned as much money, but they had had little care for the future, and spent as they went along, so that few could boast a bank-account, however small.
"You'll be a rich man some time, Dick," said Henry Fosdick, one evening."
"And live on Fifth Avenoo," said Dick.
"Perhaps so. Stranger things have happened."
"Well," said Dick, "if such a misfortin' should come upon me I should bear it like a man. When you see a Fifth Avenoo manshun for sale for a hundred and seventeen dollars, just let me know and I'll buy it as an investment."
"Two hundred and fifty years ago you might have bought one for that price, probably. Real estate wasn't very high among the Indians."
"Just my luck," said Dick; "I was born too late. I'd orter have been an Indian, and lived in splendor on my present capital."
"I'm afraid you'd have found your present business rather unprofitable at that time."
But Dick had gained something more valuable than money. He had studied regularly every evening, and his improvement had been marvellous. He could now read well, write a fair hand, and had studied arithmetic as far as Interest. Besides this he had obtained some knowledge of grammar and geography. If some of my boy readers, who have been studying for years, and got no farther than this, should think it incredible that Dick, in less than a year, and studying evenings only, should have accomplished it, they must remember that our hero was very much in earnest in his desire to improve. He knew that, in order to grow up respectable, he must be well advanced, and he was willing to work. But then the reader must not forget that Dick was naturally a smart boy. His street education had sharpened his faculties, and taught him to rely upon himself. He knew that it would take him a long time to reach the goal which he had set before him, and he had patience to keep on trying. He knew that he had only himself to depend upon, and he determined to make the most of himself,--a resolution which is the secret of success in nine cases out of ten.
"Dick," said Fosdick, one evening, after they had completed their studies, "I think you'll have to get another teacher soon."
"Why?" asked Dick, in some surprise. "Have you been offered a more loocrative position?"
"No," said Fosdick, "but I find I have taught you all I know myself. You are now as good a scholar as I am."
"Is that true?" said Dick, eagerly, a flush of gratification coloring his brown cheek.
"Yes," said Fosdick. "You've made wonderful progress. I propose, now that evening schools have begun, that we join one, and study together through the winter."
"All right," said Dick. "I'd be willin' to go now; but when I first began to study I was ashamed to have anybody know that I was so ignorant. Do you really mean, Fosdick, that I know as much as you?"
"Yes, Dick, it's true."
"Then I've got you to thank for it," said Dick, earnestly. "You've made me what I am."
"And haven't you paid me, Dick?"
"By payin' the room-rent," said Dick, impulsively. "What's that? It isn't half enough. I wish you'd take half my money; you deserve it."
"Thank you, Dick, but you're too generous. You've more than paid me. Who was it took my part when all the other boys imposed upon me? And who gave me money to buy clothes, and so got me my situation?"
"Oh, that's nothing!" said Dick.
"It's a great deal, Dick. I shall never forget it. But now it seems to me you might try to get a situation yourself."
"Do I know enough?"
"You know as much as I do."
"Then I'll try," said Dick, decidedly.
"I wish there was a place in our store," said Fosdick. "It would be pleasant for us to be together."
"Never mind," said Dick; "there'll be plenty of other chances. P'r'aps A. T. Stewart might like a partner. I wouldn't ask more'n a quarter of the profits."
"Which would be a very liberal proposal on your part," said Fosdick, smiling. "But perhaps Mr. Stewart might object to a partner living on Mott Street."
"I'd just as lieves move to Fifth Avenoo," said Dick. "I ain't got no prejudices in favor of Mott Street."
"Nor I," said Fosdick, "and in fact I have been thinking it might be a good plan for us to move as soon as we could afford. Mrs. Mooney doesn't keep the room quite so neat as she might."
"No," said Dick. "She ain't got no prejudices against dirt. Look at that towel."
Dick held up the article indicated, which had now seen service nearly a week, and hard service at that,--Dick's avocation causing him to be rather hard on towels.
"Yes," said Fosdick, "I've got about tired of it. I guess we can find some better place without having to pay much more. When we move, you must let me pay my share of the rent."
"We'll see about that," said Dick. "Do you propose to move to Fifth Avenoo?"
"Not just at present, but to some more agreeable neighborhood than this. We'll wait till you get a situation, and then we can decide."
A few days later, as Dick was looking about for customers in the neighborhood of the Park, his attention was drawn to a fellow boot-black, a boy about a year younger than himself, who appeared to have been crying.
"What's the matter, Tom?" asked Dick. "Haven't you had luck to-day?"
"Pretty good," said the boy; "but we're havin' hard times at home. Mother fell last week and broke her arm, and to-morrow we've got to pay the rent, and if we don't the landlord says he'll turn us out."
"Haven't you got anything except what you earn?" asked Dick.
"No," said Tom, "not now. Mother used to earn three or four dollars a week; but she can't do nothin' now, and my little sister and brother are too young."
Dick had quick sympathies. He had been so poor himself, and obliged to submit to so many privations that he knew from personal experience how hard it was. Tom Wilkins he knew as an excellent boy who never squandered his money, but faithfully carried it home to his mother. In the days of his own extravagance and shiftlessness he had once or twice asked Tom to accompany him to the Old Bowery or Tony Pastor's, but Tom had always steadily refused.
"I'm sorry for you, Tom," he said. "How much do you owe for rent?"
"Two weeks now," said Tom.
"How much is it a week?"
"Two dollars a week--that makes four."
"Have you got anything towards it?"
"No; I've had to spend all my money for food for mother and the rest of us. I've had pretty hard work to do that. I don't know what we'll do. I haven't any place to go to, and I'm afraid mother'll get cold in her arm."
"Can't you borrow the money somewhere?" asked Dick.
Tom shook his head despondingly.
"All the people I know are as poor as I am," said he. "They'd help me if they could, but it's hard work for them to get along themselves."
"I'll tell you what, Tom," said Dick, impulsively, "I'll stand your friend."
"Have you got any money?" asked Tom, doubtfully.
"Got any money!" repeated Dick. "Don't you know that I run a bank on my own account? How much is it you need?"
"Four dollars," said Tom. "If we don't pay that before to- morrow night, out we go. You haven't got as much as that, have you?"
"Here are three dollars," said Dick, drawing out his pocket- book. "I'll let you have the rest to-morrow, and maybe a little more."
"You're a right down good fellow, Dick," said Tom; "but won't you want it yourself?"
"Oh, I've got some more," said Dick.
"Maybe I'll never be able to pay you."
"S'pose you don't," said Dick; "I guess I won't fail."
"I won't forget it, Dick. I hope I'll be able to do somethin' for you sometime."
"All right," said Dick. "I'd ought to help you. I haven't got no mother to look out for. I wish I had."
There was a tinge of sadness in his tone, as he pronounced the last four words; but Dick's temperament was sanguine, and he never gave way to unavailing sadness. Accordingly he began to whistle as he turned away, only adding, "I'll see you to-morrow, Tom."
The three dollars which Dick had handed to Tom Wilkins were his savings for the present week. It was now Thursday afternoon. His rent, which amounted to a dollar, he expected to save out of the earnings of Friday and Saturday. In order to give Tom the additional assistance he had promised, Dick would be obliged to have recourse to his bank-savings. He would not have ventured to trench upon it for any other reason but this. But he felt that it would be selfish to allow Tom and his mother to suffer when he had it in his power to relieve them. But Dick was destined to be surprised, and that in a disagreeable manner, when he reached home.
DICK LOSES HIS BANK-BOOK
It was hinted at the close of the last chapter that Dick was destined to be disagreeably surprised on reaching home.
Having agreed to give further assistance to Tom Wilkins, he was naturally led to go to the drawer where he and Fosdick kept their bank-books. To his surprise and uneasiness the drawer proved to be empty!
"Come here a minute, Fosdick," he said.
"What's the matter, Dick?"
"I can't find my bank-book, nor yours either. What's `come of them?"
"I took mine with me this morning, thinking I might want to put in a little more money. I've got it in my pocket, now."
"But where's mine?" asked Dick, perplexed.
"I don't know. I saw it in the drawer when I took mine this morning."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, positive, for I looked into it to see how much you had got."
"Did you lock it again?" asked Dick.
"Yes; didn't you have to unlock it just now?"
"So I did," said Dick. "But it's gone now. Somebody opened it with a key that fitted the lock, and then locked it ag'in."
"That must have been the way."
"It's rather hard on a feller," said Dick, who, for the first time since we became acquainted with him, began to feel downhearted.
"Don't give it up, Dick. You haven't lost the money, only the bank-book."
"Ain't that the same thing?"
"No. You can go to the bank to-morrow morning, as soon as it opens, and tell them you have lost the book, and ask them not to pay the money to any one except yourself."
"So I can," said Dick, brightening up. "That is, if the thief hasn't been to the bank to-day."
"If he has, they might detect him by his handwriting."
"I'd like to get hold of the one that stole it," said Dick, indignantly. "I'd give him a good lickin'."
"It must have been somebody in the house. Suppose we go and see Mrs. Mooney. She may know whether anybody came into our room to-day."
The two boys went downstairs, and knocked at the door of a little back sitting-room where Mrs. Mooney generally spent her evenings. It was a shabby little room, with a threadbare carpet on the floor, the walls covered with a certain large-figured paper, patches of which had been stripped off here and there, exposing the plaster, the remainder being defaced by dirt and grease. But Mrs. Mooney had one of those comfortable temperaments which are tolerant of dirt, and didn't mind it in the least. She was seated beside a small pine work-table, industriously engaged in mending stockings.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Mooney," said Fosdick, politely.
"Good-evening," said the landlady. "Sit down, if you can find chairs. I'm hard at work as you see, but a poor lone widder can't afford to be idle."
"We can't stop long, Mrs. Mooney, but my friend here has had something taken from his room to-day, and we thought we'd come and see you about it."
"What is it?" asked the landlady. "You don't think I'd take anything? If I am poor, it's an honest name I've always had, as all my lodgers can testify."
"Certainly not, Mrs. Mooney; but there are others in the house that may not be honest. My friend has lost his bank-book. It was safe in the drawer this morning, but tonight it is not to be found."
"How much money was there in it?" asked Mrs. Mooney.
"Over a hundred dollars," said Fosdick.
"It was my whole fortun'," said Dick. "I was goin' to buy a house next year."
Mrs. Mooney was evidently surprised to learn the extent of Dick's wealth, and was disposed to regard him with increased respect.
"Was the drawer locked?" she asked.
"Then it couldn't have been Bridget. I don't think she has any keys."
"She wouldn't know what a bank-book was," said Fosdick. "You didn't see any of the lodgers go into our room today, did you?"
"I shouldn't wonder if it was Jim Travis," said Mrs. Mooney, suddenly.
This James Travis was a bar-tender in a low groggery in Mulberry Street, and had been for a few weeks an inmate of Mrs. Mooney's lodging-house. He was a coarse-looking fellow who, from his appearance, evidently patronized liberally the liquor he dealt out to others. He occupied a room opposite Dick's, and was often heard by the two boys reeling upstairs in a state of intoxication, uttering shocking oaths.
This Travis had made several friendly overtures to Dick and his room-mate, and had invited them to call round at the bar-room where he tended, and take something. But this invitation had never been accepted, partly because the boys were better engaged in the evening, and partly because neither of them had taken a fancy to Mr. Travis; which certainly was not strange, for nature had not gifted him with many charms, either of personal appearance or manners. The rejection of his friendly proffers had caused him to take a dislike to Dick and Henry, whom he considered stiff and unsocial.
"What makes you think it was Travis?" asked Fosdick. "He isn't at home in the daytime."
"But he was to-day. He said he had got a bad cold, and had to come home for a clean handkerchief."
"Did you see him?" asked Dick.
"Yes," said Mrs. Mooney. "Bridget was hanging out clothes, and I went to the door to let him in."
"I wonder if he had a key that would fit our drawer," said Fosdick.
"Yes," said Mrs. Mooney. "The bureaus in the two rooms are just alike. I got 'em at auction, and most likely the locks is the same."
"It must have been he," said Dick, looking towards Fosdick.
"Yes," said Fosdick, "it looks like it."
"What's to be done? That's what I'd like to know," said Dick. "Of course he'll say he hasn't got it; and he won't be such a fool as to leave it in his room."
"If he hasn't been to the bank, it's all right," said Fosdick. "You can go there the first thing tomorrow morning, and stop their paying any money on it."
"But I can't get any money on it myself," said Dick. "I told Tom Wilkins I'd let him have some more money tomorrow, or his sick mother'll have to turn out of their lodgin's."
"How much money were you going to give him?"
"I gave him three dollars to-day, and was goin' to give him two dollars tomorrow."
"I've got the money, Dick. I didn't go to the bank this morning."
"All right. I'll take it, and pay you back next week."
"No, Dick; if you've given three dollars, you must let me give two."
"No, Fosdick, I'd rather give the whole. You know I've got more money than you. No, I haven't, either," said Dick, the memory of his loss flashing upon him. "I thought I was rich this morning, but now I'm in destitoot circumstances."
"Cheer up, Dick; you'll get your money back."
"I hope so," said our hero, rather ruefully.
The fact was, that our friend Dick was beginning to feel what is so often experienced by men who do business of a more important character and on a larger scale than he, the bitterness of a reverse of circumstances. With one hundred dollars and over carefully laid away in the savings bank, he had felt quite independent. Wealth is comparative, and Dick probably felt as rich as many men who are worth a hundred thousand dollars. He was beginning to feel the advantages of his steady self-denial, and to experience the pleasures of property. Not that Dick was likely to be unduly attached to money. Let it be said to his credit that it had never given him so much satisfaction as when it enabled him to help Tom Wilkins in his trouble.
Besides this, there was another thought that troubled him. When he obtained a place he could not expect to receive as much as he was now making from blacking boots,--probably not more than three dollars a week,--while his expenses without clothing would amount to four dollars. To make up the deficiency he had confidently relied upon his savings, which would be sufficient to carry him along for a year, if necessary. If he should not recover his money, he would be compelled to continue a boot-black for at least six months longer; and this was rather a discouraging reflection. On the whole it is not to be wondered at that Dick felt unusually sober this evening, and that neither of the boys felt much like studying.
The two boys consulted as to whether it would be best to speak to Travis about it. It was not altogether easy to decide. Fosdick was opposed to it.
"It will only put him on his guard," said he, "and I don't see as it will do any good. Of course he will deny it. We'd better keep quiet, and watch him, and, by giving notice at the bank, we can make sure that he doesn't get any money on it. If he does present himself at the bank, they will know at once that he is a thief, and he can be arrested."
This view seemed reasonable, and Dick resolved to adopt it. On the whole, he began to think prospects were brighter than he had at first supposed, and his spirits rose a little.
"How'd he know I had any bank-book? That's what I can't make out," he said.
"Don't you remember?" said Fosdick, after a moment's thought, "we were speaking of our savings, two or three evenings since?"
"Yes," said Dick.
"Our door was a little open at the time, and I heard somebody come upstairs, and stop a minute in front of it. It must have been Jim Travis. In that way he probably found out about your money, and took the opportunity to-day to get hold of it."
This might or might not be the correct explanation. At all events it seemed probable.
The boys were just on the point of going to bed, later in the evening, when a knock was heard at the door, and, to their no little surprise, their neighbor, Jim Travis, proved to be the caller. He was a sallow-complexioned young man, with dark hair and bloodshot eyes.
He darted a quick glance from one to the other as he entered, which did not escape the boys' notice.
"How are ye, to-night?" he said, sinking into one of the two chairs with which the room was scantily furnished.
"Jolly," said Dick. "How are you?"
"Tired as a dog," was the reply. "Hard work and poor pay; that's the way with me. I wanted to go to the theater, to-night, but I was hard up, and couldn't raise the cash."
Here he darted another quick glance at the boys; but neither betrayed anything.
"You don't go out much, do you?" he said
"Not much," said Fosdick. "We spend our evenings in study."
"That's precious slow," said Travis, rather contemptuously. "What's the use of studying so much? You don't expect to be a lawyer, do you, or anything of that sort?"
"Maybe," said Dick. "I haven't made up my mind yet. If my feller-citizens should want me to go to Congress some time, I shouldn't want to disapp'int 'em; and then readin' and writin' might come handy."
"Well," said Travis, rather abruptly, "I'm tired and I guess I'll turn in."
"Good-night," said Fosdick.
The boys looked at each other as their visitor left the room.
"He came in to see if we'd missed the bank-book," said Dick.
"And to turn off suspicion from himself, by letting us know he had no money," added Fosdick.
"That's so," said Dick. "I'd like to have searched them pockets of his."
TRACKING THE THlEF
Fosdick was right in supposing that Jim Travis had stolen the bank-book. He was also right in supposing that that worthy young man had come to the knowledge of Dick's savings by what he had accidentally overheard. Now, Travis, like a very large number of young men of his class, was able to dispose of a larger amount of money than he was able to earn. Moreover, he had no great fancy for work at all, and would have been glad to find some other way of obtaining money enough to pay his expenses. He had recently received a letter from an old companion, who had strayed out to California, and going at once to the mines had been lucky enough to get possession of a very remunerative claim. He wrote to Travis that he had already realized two thousand dollars from it, and expected to make his fortune within six months.
Two thousand dollars! This seemed to Travis a very large sum, and quite dazzled his imagination. He was at once inflamed with the desire to go out to California and try his luck. In his present situation he only received thirty dollars a month, which was probably all that his services were worth, but went a very little way towards gratifying his expensive tastes. Accordingly he determined to take the next steamer to the land of gold, if he could possibly manage to get money enough to pay the passage.
The price of a steerage passage at that time was seventy-five dollars,--not a large sum, certainly,--but it might as well have been seventy-five hundred for any chance James Travis had of raising the amount at present. His available funds consisted of precisely two dollars and a quarter; of which sum, one dollar and a half was due to his washerwoman. This, however, would not have troubled Travis much, and he would conveniently have forgotten all about it; but, even leaving this debt unpaid, the sum at his command would not help him materially towards paying his passage money.
Travis applied for help to two or three of his companions; but they were all of that kind who never keep an account with savings banks, but carry all their spare cash about with them. One of these friends offered to lend him thirty-seven cents, and another a dollar; but neither of these offers seemed to encourage him much. He was about giving up his project in despair, when he learned, accidentally, as we have already said, the extent of Dick's savings.
One hundred and seventeen dollars! Why, that would not only pay his passage, but carry him up to the mines, after he had arrived in San Francisco. He could not help thinking it over, and the result of this thinking was that he determined to borrow it of Dick without leave. Knowing that neither of the boys were in their room in the daytime, he came back in the course of the morning, and, being admitted by Mrs. Mooney herself, said, by way of accounting for his presence, that he had a cold, and had come back for a handkerchief. The landlady suspected nothing, and, returning at once to her work in the kitchen, left the coast clear.
Travis at once entered Dick's room, and, as there seemed to be no other place for depositing money, tried the bureau- drawers. They were all readily opened, except one, which proved to be locked. This he naturally concluded must contain the money, and going back to his own chamber for the key of the bureau, tried it on his return, and found to his satisfaction that it would fit. When he discovered the bank-book, his joy was mingled with disappointment. He had expected to find bank-bills instead. This would have saved all further trouble, and would have been immediately available. Obtaining money at the savings bank would involve fresh risk. Travis hesitated whether to take it or not; but finally decided that it would be worth the trouble and hazard.
He accordingly slipped the book into his pocket, locked the drawer again, and, forgetting all about the handkerchief for which he had come home went downstairs, and into the street.
There would have been time to go to the savings bank that day, but Travis had already been absent from his place of business some time, and did not venture to take the additional time required. Besides, not being very much used to savings banks, never having had occasion to use them, he thought it would be more prudent to look over the rules and regulations, and see if he could not get some information as to the way he ought to proceed. So the day passed, and Dick's money was left in safety at the bank.
In the evening, it occurred to Travis that it might be well to find out whether Dick had discovered his loss. This reflection it was that induced the visit which is recorded at the close of the last chapter. The result was that he was misled by the boys' silence on the subject, and concluded that nothing had yet been discovered.
"Good!" thought Travis, with satisfaction. "If they don't find out for twenty-four hours, it'll be too late, then, and I shall be all right."
There being a possibility of the loss being discovered before the boys went out in the morning, Travis determined to see them at that time, and judge whether such was the case. He waited, therefore, until he heard the boys come out, and then opened his own door.
"Morning, gents," said he, sociably. "Going to business?"
"Yes," said Dick. "I'm afraid my clerks'll be lazy if I ain't on hand."
"Good joke!" said Travis. "If you pay good wages, I'd like to speak for a place."
"I pay all I get myself," said Dick. "How's business with you?"
"So so. Why don't you call round, some time?"
"All my evenin's is devoted to literatoor and science," said Dick. "Thank you all the same."
"Where do you hang out?" inquired Travis, in choice language, addressing Fosdick.
"At Henderson's hat and cap store, on Broadway."
"I'll look in upon you some time when I want a tile," said Travis. "I suppose you sell cheaper to your friends."
"I'll be as reasonable as I can," said Fosdick, not very cordially; for he did not much fancy having it supposed by his employer that such a disreputable-looking person as Travis was a friend of his.
However, Travis had no idea of showing himself at the Broadway store, and only said this by way of making conversation, and encouraging the boys to be social.
"You haven't any of you gents seen a pearl-handled knife, have you?" he asked.
"No," said Fosdick; "have you lost one?"
"Yes," said Travis, with unblushing falsehood. "I left it on my bureau a day or two since. I've missed one or two other little matters. Bridget don't look to me any too honest. Likely she's got 'em."
"What are you goin' to do about it?" said Dick.
"I'll keep mum unless I lose something more, and then I'll kick up a row, and haul her over the coals. Have you missed anything?"
"No," said Fosdick, answering for himself, as he could do without violating the truth.
There was a gleam of satisfaction in the eyes of Travis, as he heard this.
"They haven't found it out yet," he thought. "I'll bag the money to-day, and then they may whistle for it."
Having no further object to serve in accompanying the boys, he bade them good-morning, and turned down another street.
"He's mighty friendly all of a sudden," said Dick.
"Yes," said Fosdick; "it's very evident what it all means. He wants to find out whether you have discovered your loss or not."
"But he didn't find out."
"No; we've put him on the wrong track. He means to get his money to-day, no doubt."
"My money," suggested Dick.
"I accept the correction," said Fosdick.
"Of course, Dick, you'll be on hand as soon as the bank opens."
"In course I shall. Jim Travis'll find he's walked into the wrong shop."
"The bank opens at ten o'clock, you know."
"I'll be there on time."
The two boys separated.
"Good luck, Dick," said Fosdick, as he parted from him. "It'll all come out right, I think."
"I hope 'twill," said Dick.
He had recovered from his temporary depression, and made up his mind that the money would be recovered. He had no idea of allowing himself to be outwitted by Jim Travis, and enjoyed already, in anticipation, the pleasure of defeating his rascality.
It wanted two hours and a half yet to ten o'clock, and this time to Dick was too precious to be wasted. It was the time of his greatest harvest. He accordingly repaired to his usual place of business, succeeded in obtaining six customers, which yielded him sixty cents. He then went to a restaurant, and got some breakfast. It was now half-past nine, and Dick, feeling that it wouldn't do to be late, left his box in charge of Johnny Nolan, and made his way to the bank.
The officers had not yet arrived, and Dick lingered on the outside, waiting till they should come. He was not without a little uneasiness, fearing that Travis might be as prompt as himself, and finding him there, might suspect something, and so escape the snare. But, though looking cautiously up and down the street, he could discover no traces of the supposed thief. In due time ten o'clock struck, and immediately afterwards the doors of the bank were thrown open, and our hero entered.
As Dick had been in the habit of making a weekly visit for the last nine months, the cashier had come to know him by sight.
"You're early, this morning, my lad," he said, pleasantly. "Have you got some more money to deposit? You'll be getting rich, soon."
"I don't know about that," said Dick. "My bank-book's been stole."
"Stolen!" echoed the cashier. "That's unfortunate. Not so bad as it might be, though. The thief can't collect the money."
"That's what I came to see about," said Dick. "I was afraid he might have got it already."
"He hasn't been here yet. Even if he had, I remember you, and should have detected him. When was it taken?"
"Yesterday," said Dick. "I missed it in the evenin' when I got home."
"Have you any suspicion as to the person who took it?" asked the cashier.
Dick thereupon told all he knew as to the general character and suspicious conduct of Jim Travis, and the cashier agreed with him that he was probably the thief. Dick also gave his reason for thinking that he would visit the bank that morning, to withdraw the funds.
"Very good," said the cashier. "We'll be ready for him. What is the number of your book?"
"No. 5,678," said Dick.
"Now give me a litttle description of this Travis whom you suspect."
Dick accordingly furnished a brief outline sketch of Travis, not particularly complimentary to the latter.
"That will answer. I think I shall know him," said the cashier. "You may depend upon it that he shall receive no money on your account."
"Thank you," said Dick.
Considerably relieved in mind, our hero turned towards the door, thinking that there would be nothing gained by his remaining longer, while he would of course lose time.
He had just reached the doors, which were of glass, when through them he perceived James Travis himself just crossing the street, and apparently coming towards the bank. It would not do, of course, for him to be seen.
"Here he is," he exclaimed, hurrying back. "Can't you hide me somewhere? I don't want to be seen."
The cashier understood at once how the land lay. He quickly opened a little door, and admitted Dick behind the counter.
"Stoop down," he said, "so as not to be seen."
Dick had hardly done so when Jim Travis opened the outer door, and, looking about him in a little uncertainty, walked up to the cashier' s desk.
TRAVIS lS ARRESTED
Jim Travis advanced into the bank with a doubtful step, knowing well that he was on a dishonest errand, and heartily wishing that he were well out of it. After a little hesitation, he approached the paying-teller, and, exhibiting the bank-book, said, "I want to get my money out."
The bank-officer took the book, and, after looking at it a moment, said, "How much do you want?"
"The whole of it," said Travis.
"You can draw out any part of it, but to draw out the whole requires a week's notice."
"Then I'll take a hundred dollars."
"Are you the person to whom the book belongs?"
"Yes, sir," said Travis, without hesitation.
"Your name is--"
The bank-clerk went to a large folio volume, containing the names of depositors, and began to turn over the leaves. While he was doing this, he managed to send out a young man connected with the bank for a policeman. Travis did not perceive this, or did not suspect that it had anything to do with himself. Not being used to savings banks, he supposed the delay only what was usual. After a search, which was only intended to gain time that a policeman might be summoned, the cashier came back, and, sliding out a piece of paper to Travis, said, "It will be necessary for you to write an order for the money."
Travis took a pen, which he found on the ledge outside, and wrote the order, signing his name "Dick Hunter," having observed that name on the outside of the book.
"Your name is Dick Hunter, then?" said the cashier, taking the paper, and looking at the thief over his spectacles.
"Yes," said Travis, promptly.
"But," continued the cashier, "I find Hunter's age is put down on the bank-book as fourteen. Surely you must be more than that."
Travis would gladly have declared that he was only fourteen; but, being in reality twenty-three, and possessing a luxuriant pair of whiskers, this was not to be thought of. He began to feel uneasy.
"Dick Hunter's my younger brother," he said. "I'm getting out the money for him."
"I thought you said your own name was Dick Hunter," said the cashier.
"I said my name was Hunter," said Travis, ingeniously. "I didn't understand you."
"But you've signed the name of Dick Hunter to this order. How is that?" questioned the troublesome cashier.
Travis saw that he was getting himself into a tight place; but his self-possession did not desert him.
"I thought I must give my brother's name," he answered.
"What is your own name?"
"Can you bring any one to testify that the statement you are making is correct?"
"Yes, a dozen if you like," said Travis, boldly. "Give me the book, and I'll come back this afternoon. I didn't think there'd be such a fuss about getting out a little money."
"Wait a moment. Why don't your brother come himself?"
"Because he's sick. He's down with the measles," said Travis.
Here the cashier signed to Dick to rise and show himself. Our hero accordingly did so.
"You will be glad to find that he has recovered," said the cashier, pointing to Dick.
With an exclamation of anger and dismay, Travis, who saw the game was up, started for the door, feeling that safety made such a course prudent. But he was too late. He found himself confronted by a burly policeman, who seized him by the arm, saying, "Not so fast, my man. I want you."
"Let me go," exclaimed Travis, struggling to free himself.
"I'm sorry I can't oblige you," said the officer. "You'd better not make a fuss, or I may have to hurt you a little."
Travis sullenly resigned himself to his fate, darting a look of rage at Dick, whom he considered the author of his present misfortune.
"This is your book," said the cashier, handing back his rightful property to our hero. "Do you wish to draw out any money?"
"Two dollars," said Dick.
"Very well. Write an order for the amount."
Before doing so, Dick, who now that he saw Travis in the power of the law began to pity him, went up to the officer, and said,--
"Won't you let him go? I've got my bank-book back, and I don't want anything done to him."
"Sorry I can't oblige you," said the officer; "but I'm not allowed to do it. He'll have to stand his trial."
"I'm sorry for you, Travis," said Dick. "I didn't want you arrested. I only wanted my bank-book back."
"Curse you!" said Travis, scowling vindictively. "Wait till I get free. See if I don't fix you."
"You needn't pity him too much," said the officer. "I know him now. He's been to the Island before."
"It's a lie," said Travis, violently.
"Don't be too noisy, my friend," said the officer. "If you've got no more business here, we'll be going."
He withdrew with the prisoner in charge, and Dick, having drawn his two dollars, left the bank. Notwithstanding the violent words the prisoner had used towards himself, and his attempted robbery, he could not help feeling sorry that he had been instrumental in causing his arrest.
"I'll keep my book a little safer hereafter," thought Dick. "Now I must go and see Tom Wilkins."
Before dismissing the subject of Travis and his theft, it may be remarked that he was duly tried, and, his guilt being clear, was sent to Blackwell's Island for nine months. At the end of that time, on his release, he got a chance to work his passage on a ship to San Francisco, where he probably arrived in due time. At any rate, nothing more has been heard of him, and probably his threat of vengence against Dick will never be carried into effect.
Returning to the City Hall Park, Dick soon fell in with Tom Wilkins.
"How are you, Tom?" he said. "How's your mother?"
"She's better, Dick, thank you. She felt worried about bein' turned out into the street; but I gave her that money from you, and now she feels a good deal easier."
"I've got some more for you, Tom," said Dick, producing a two-dollar bill from his pocket.
"I ought not to take it from you, Dick."
"Oh, it's all right, Tom. Don't be afraid."
"But you may need it yourself."
"There's plenty more where that came from."
"Any way, one dollar will be enough. With that we can pay the rent."
"You'll want the other to buy something to eat."
"You're very kind, Dick."
"I'd ought to be. I've only got myself to take care of."
"Well, I'll take it for my mother's sake. When you want anything done just call on Tom Wilkins."
"All right. Next week, if your mother doesn't get better, I'll give you some more."
Tom thanked our hero very gratefully, and Dick walked away, feeling the self-approval which always accompanies a generous and disinterested action. He was generous by nature, and, before the period at which he is introduced to the reader's notice, he frequently treated his friends to cigars and oyster-stews. Sometimes he invited them to accompany him to the theatre at his expense. But he never derived from these acts of liberality the same degree of satisfaction as from this timely gift to Tom Wilkins. He felt that his money was well bestowed, and would save an entire family from privation and discomfort. Five dollars would, to be sure, make something of a difference in the mount of his savings. It was more than he was able to save up in a week. But Dick felt fully repaid for what he had done, and he felt prepared to give as much more, if Tom's mother should continue to be sick, and should appear to him to need it.
Besides all this, Dick felt a justifiable pride in his financial ability to afford so handsome a gift. A year before, however much he might have desired to give, it would have been quite out of his power to give five dollars. His cash balance never reached that amount. It was seldom, indeed, that it equalled one dollar. In more ways than one Dick was beginning to reap the advantage of his self-denial and judicious economy.
It will be remembered that when Mr. Whitney at parting with Dick presented him with five dollars, he told him that he might repay it to some other boy who was struggling upward. Dick thought of this, and it occurred to him that after all he was only paying up an old debt.
When Fosdick came home in the evening, Dick announced his success in recovering his lost money, and described the manner it had been brought about.
"You're in luck," said Fosdick. "I guess we'd better not trust the bureau-drawer again."
"I mean to carry my book round with me," said Dick.
"So shall I, as long as we stay at Mrs. Mooney's. I wish we were in a better place."
"I must go down and tell her she needn't expect Travis back. Poor chap, I pity him!"
Travis was never more seen in Mrs. Mooney's establishment. He was owing that lady for a fortnight's rent of his room, which prevented her feeling much compassion for him. The room was soon after let to a more creditable tenant who proved a less troublesome neighbor than his predecessor.
DICK RECEIVES A LETTER
It was about a week after Dick's recovery of his bank-book, that Fosdick brought home with him in the evening a copy of the "Daily Sun."
"Would you like to see your name in print, Dick?" he asked.
"Yes," said Dick, who was busy at the wash-stand, endeavoring to efface the marks which his day's work had left upon his hands. "They haven't put me up for mayor, have they? 'Cause if they have, I shan't accept. It would interfere too much with my private business."
"No," said Fosdick, "they haven't put you up for office yet, though that may happen sometime. But if you want to see your name in print, here it is."
Dick was rather incredulous, but, having dried his hands on the towel, took the paper, and following the directions of Fosdick's finger, observed in the list of advertised letters the name of "RAGGED DICK."
"By gracious, so it is," said he. "Do you s'poseit means me?"
"I don't know of any other Ragged Dick,--do you?"
"No," said Dick, reflectively; "it must be me. But I don't know of anybody that would be likely to write to me."
"Perhaps it is Frank Whitney," suggested Fosdick, after a little reflection. "Didn't he promise to write to you?"
"Yes," said Dick, "and he wanted me to write to him."
"Where is he now?"
"He was going to a boarding-school in Connecticut, he said. The name of the town was Barnton."
"Very likely the letter is from him."
"I hope it is. Frank was a tip-top boy, and he was the first that made me ashamed of bein' so ignorant and dirty."
"You had better go to the post-office to-morrow morning, and ask for the letter."
"P'r'aps they won't give it to me."
"Suppose you wear the old clothes you used to a year ago, when Frank first saw you? They won't have any doubt of your being Ragged Dick then."
"I guess I will. I'll be sort of ashamed to be seen in 'em though," said Dick, who had considerable more pride in a neat personal appearance than when we were first introduced to him.
"It will be only for one day, or one morning," said Fosdick.
"I'd do more'n that for the sake of gettin' a letter from Frank. I'd like to see him."
The next morning, in accordance with the suggestion of Fosdick, Dick arrayed himself in the long disused Washington coat and Napoleon pants, which he had carefully preserved, for what reason he could hardly explain.
When fairly equipped, Dick surveyed himself in the mirror,-- if the little seven-by-nine-inch looking-glass, with which the room was furnished, deserved the name. The result of the survey was not on the whole a pleasing one. To tell the truth, Dick was quite ashamed of his appearance, and, on opening the chamber-door, looked around to see that the coast was clear, not being willing to have any of his fellow-boarders see him in his present attire
He managed to slip out into the street unobserved, and, after attending to two or three regular customers who came down-town early in the morning, he made his way down Nassau Street to the post-office. He passed along until he came to a compartment on which he read ADVERTISED LETTERS, and, stepping up to the little window, said,--
"There's a letter for me. I saw it advertised in the `Sun' yesterday."
"What name?" demanded the clerk.
"Ragged Dick," answered our hero.
"That's a queer name," said the clerk, surveying him a little curiously. "Are you Ragged Dick?"
"If you don't believe me, look at my clo'es," said Dick.
"That's pretty good proof, certainly," said the clerk, laughing. "If that isn't your name, it deserves to be."
"I believe in dressin' up to your name," said Dick.
"Do you know any one in Barnton, Connecticut?" asked the clerk, who had by this time found the letter.
"Yes," said Dick. "I know a chap that's at boardin'-school there."
"It appears to be in a boy's hand. I think it must be yours."
The letter was handed to Dick through the window. He received it eagerly, and drawing back so as not to be in the way of the throng who were constantly applying for letters, or slipping them into the boxes provided for them, hastily opened it, and began to read. As the reader may be interested in the contents of the letter as well as Dick, we transcribe it below.
It was dated Barnton, Conn., and commenced thus,--
"DEAR DICK,--You must excuse my addressing this letter to `Ragged Dick'; but the fact is, I don't know what your last name is, nor where you live. I am afraid there is not much chance of your getting this letter; but I hope you will. I have thought of you very often, and wondered how you were getting along, and I should have written to you before if I had known where to direct.
"Let me tell you a little about myself. Barnton is a very pretty country town, only about six miles from Hartford. The boarding-school which I attend is under the charge of Ezekiel Munroe, A.M. He is a man of about fifty, a graduate of Yale College, and has always been a teacher. It is a large two-story house, with an addition containing a good many small bed-chambers for the boys. There are about twenty of us, and there is one assistant teacher who teaches the English branches. Mr. Munroe, or Old Zeke, as we call him behind his back, teaches Latin and Greek. I am studying both these languages, because father wants me to go to college.
"But you won't be interested in hearing about our studies. I will tell you how we amuse ourselves. There are about fifty acres of land belonging to Mr. Munroe; so that we have plenty of room for play. About a quarter of a mile from the house there is a good-sized pond. There is a large, round-bottomed boat, which is stout and strong. Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, when the weather is good, we go out rowing on the pond. Mr.Barton, the assistant teacher, goes with us, to look after us. In the summer we are allowed to go in bathing. In the winter there is splendid skating on the pond.
"Besides this, we play ball a good deal, and we have various other plays. So we have a pretty good time, although we study pretty hard too. I am getting on very well in my studies. Father has not decided yet where he will send me to college.
"I wish you were here, Dick. I should enjoy your company, and besides I should like to feel that you were getting an education. I think you are naturally a pretty smart boy; but I suppose, as you have to earn your own living, you don't get much chance to learn. I only wish I had a few hundred dollars of my own. I would have you come up here, and attend school with us. If I ever have a chance to help you in any way, you may be sure that I will.
"I shall have to wind up my letter now, as I have to hand in a composition to-morrow, on the life and character of Washington. I might say that I have a friend who wears a coat that once belonged to the general. But I suppose that coat must be worn out by this time. I don't much like writing compositions. I would a good deal rather write letters.
"I have written a longer letter than I meant to. I hope you will get it, though I am afraid not. If you do, you must be sure to answer it, as soon as possible. You needn't mind if your writing does look like `hens-tracks,' as you told me once.
"Good-by, Dick. You must always think of me, as your very true friend, "FRANK WHITNEY."
Dick read this letter with much satisfaction. It is always pleasant to be remembered, and Dick had so few friends that it was more to him than to boys who are better provided. Again, he felt a new sense of importance in having a letter addressed to him. It was the first letter he had ever received. If it had been sent to him a year before, he would not have been able to read it. But now, thanks to Fosdick's instructions, he could not only read writing, but he could write a very good hand himself.
There was one passage in the letter which pleased Dick. It was where Frank said that if he had the money he would pav for his education himself.
"He's a tip-top feller," said Dick. "I wish I could see him ag'in."
There were two reasons why Dick would like to have seen Frank. One was, the natural pleasure he would have in meeting a friend; but he felt also that he would like to have Frank witness the improvement he had made in his studies and mode of life.
"He'd find me a little more 'spectable than when he first saw me," thought Dick.
Dick had by this time got up to Printing House Square. Standing on Spruce Street, near the "Tribune" office, was his old enemy, Micky Maguire.
It has already been said that Micky felt a natural enmity towards those in his own condition in life who wore better clothes than himself. For the last nine months, Dick's neat appearance had excited the ire of the young Philistine. To appear in neat attire and with a clean face Micky felt was a piece of presumption, and an assumption of superiority on the part of our hero, and he termed it "tryin' to be a swell."
Now his astonished eyes rested on Dick in his ancient attire, which was very similar to his own. It was a moment of triumph to him. He felt that "pride had had a fall," and he could not forbear reminding Dick of it.
"Them's nice clo'es you've got on," said he, sarcastically, as Dick came up.
"Yes," said Dick, promptly. "I've been employin' your tailor. If my face was only dirty we'd be taken for twin brothers."
"So you've give up tryin' to be a swell?"
"Only for this partic'lar occasion," said Dick. "I wanted to make a fashionable call, so I put on my regimentals."
"I don't b'lieve you've got any better clo'es," said Micky.
"All right," said Dick, "I won't charge you nothin' for what you believe."
Here a customer presented himself for Micky, and Dick went back to his room to change his clothes, before resuming business.
DICK WRITES HIS FIRST LETTER
When Fosdick reached home in the evening, Dick displayed his letter with some pride.
"It's a nice letter," said Fosdick, after reading it "I should like to know Frank."
"I'll bet you would," said Dick. "He's a trump."
"When are you going to answer it?"
"I don't know," said Dick, dubiously. "I never writ a letter."
"That's no reason why you shouldn't. There's always a first time, you know."
"I don't know what to say," said Dick.
"Get some paper and sit down to it, and you'll find enough to say. You can do that this evening instead of studying."
"If you'll look it over afterwards, and shine it up a little."
"Yes, if it needs it; but I rather think Frank would like it best just as you wrote it."
Dick decided to adopt Fosdick's suggestion. He had very serious doubts as to his ability to write a letter. Like a good many other boys, he looked upon it as a very serious job, not reflecting that, after all, letter-writing is nothing but talking upon paper. Still, in spite of his misgivings, he felt that the letter ought to be answered, and he wished Frank to hear from him. After various preparations, he at last got setttled down to his task, and, before the evening was over, a letter was written. As the first letter which Dick had ever produced, and because it was characteristic of him, my readers may like to read it.
Here it is,--
"DEAR FRANK,--I got your letter this mornin', and was very glad to hear you hadn't forgotten Ragged Dick. I ain't so ragged as I was. Openwork coats and trowsers has gone out of fashion. I put on the Washington coat and Napoleon pants to go to the post-office, for fear they wouldn't think I was the boy that was meant. On my way back I received the congratulations of my intimate friend, Micky Maguire, on my improved appearance.
"I've give up sleepin' in boxes, and old wagons, findin' it didn't agree with my constitution. I've hired a room in Mott Street, and have got a private tooter, who rooms with me and looks after my studies in the evenin'. Mott Street ain't very fashionable; but my manshun on Fifth Avenoo isn't finished yet, and I'm afraid it won't be till I'm a gray-haired veteran. I've got a hundred dollars towards it, which I've saved up from my earnin's. I haven't forgot what you and your uncle said to me, and I'm tryin' to grow up 'spectable. I haven't been to Tony Pastor's, or the Old Bowery, for ever so long. I'd rather save up my money to support me in my old age. When my hair gets gray, I'm goin' to knock off blackin' boots, and go into some light, genteel employment, such as keepin' an apple-stand, or disseminatin' pea-nuts among the people.
"I've got so as to read pretty well, so my tooter says. I've been studyin' geography and grammar also. I've made such astonishin' progress that I can tell a noun from a conjunction as far away as I can see 'em. Tell Mr. Munroe that if he wants an accomplished teacher in his school, he can send for me, and I'll come on by the very next train. Or, if he wants to sell out for a hundred dollars, I'll buy the whole concern, and agree to teach the scholars all I know myself in less than six months. Is teachin' as good business, generally speakin', as blackin' boots? My private tooter combines both, and is makin' a fortun' with great rapidity. He'll be as rich as Astor some time, if he only lives long enough.
"I should think you'd have a bully time at your school. I should like to go out in the boat, or play ball with you. When are you comin' to the city? I wish you'd write and let me know when you do, and I'll call and see you. I'll leave my business in the hands of my numerous clerks, and go round with you. There's lots of things you didn't see when you was here before. They're getting on fast at the Central Park. It looks better than it did a year ago.
"I ain't much used to writin' letters. As this is the first one I ever wrote, I hope you'll excuse the mistakes. I hope you'll write to me again soon. I can't write so good a letter as you; but, I'll do my best, as the man said when he was asked if he could swim over to Brooklyn backwards. Good-by, Frank. Thank you for all your kindness. Direct your next letter to No. -- Mott Street. "Your true friend, "DICK HUNTER,"
When Dick had written the last word, he leaned back in his chair, and surveyed the letter with much satisfaction.
"I didn't think I could have wrote such a long letter, Fosdick," said he.
"Written would be more grammatical, Dick," suggested his friend.
"I guess there's plenty of mistakes in it," said Dick. "Just look at it, and see."
Fosdick took the letter, and read it over carefully.
"Yes, there are some mistakes," he said; "but it sounds so much like you that I think it would be better to let it go just as it is. It will be more likely to remind Frank of what you were when he first saw you."
"Is it good enough to send?" asked Dick, anxiously.
"Yes; it seems to me to be quite a good letter. It is written just as you talk. Nobody but you could have written such a letter, Dick. I think Frank will be amused at your proposal to come up there as teacher."
"P'r'aps it would be a good idea for us to open a seleck school here in Mott Street," said Dick, humorously. "We could call it `Professor Fosdick and Hunter's Mott Street Seminary.' Boot-blackin' taught by Professor Hunter."
The evening was so far advanced that Dick decided to postpone copying his letter till the next evening. By this time he had come to have a very fair handwriting, so that when the letter was complete it really looked quite creditable, and no one would have suspected that it was Dick's first attempt in this line. Our hero surveyed it with no little complacency. In fact, he felt rather proud of it, since it reminded him of the great progress he had made. He carried it down to the post-office, and deposited it with his own hands in the proper box. Just on the steps of the building, as he was coming out, he met Johnny Nolan, who had been sent on an errand to Wall Street by some gentleman, and was just returning.
"What are you doin' down nere, Dick?" asked Johnny.
"I've been mailin' a letter."
"Who sent you?"
"I mean, who writ the letter?"
"I wrote it myself."
"Can you write letters?" asked Johnny, in amazement.
"Why shouldn't I?"
"I didn't know you could write. I can't."
"Then you ought to learn."
"I went to school once; but it was too hard work, so I give it up."
"You're lazy, Johnny,--that's what's the matter. How'd you ever expect to know anything, if you don't try?"
"I can't learn."
"You can, if you want to."
Johnny Nolan was evidently of a different opinion. He was a good-natured boy, large of his age, with nothing particularly bad about him, but utterly lacking in that energy, ambition, and natural sharpness, for which Dick was distinguished. He was not adapted to succeed in the life which circumstances had forced upon him; for in the street-life of the metropolis a boy needs to be on the alert, and have all his wits about him, or he will find himself wholly distanced by his more enterprising competitors for popular favor. To succeed in his profession, humble as it is, a boot-black must depend upon the same qualities which gain success in higher walks in life. It was easy to see that Johnny, unless very much favored by circumstances, would never rise much above his present level. For Dick, we cannot help hoping much better things.
AN EXCITING ADVENTURE
Dick now began to look about for a position in a store or counting-room. Until he should obtain one he determined to devote half the day to blacking boots, not being willing to break in upon his small capital. He found that he could earn enough in half a day to pay all his necessary expenses, including the entire rent of the room. Fosdick desired to pay his half; but Dick steadily refused, insisting upon paying so much as compensation for his friend's services as instructor.
It should be added that Dick's peculiar way of speaking and use of slang terms had been somewhat modified by his education and his intimacy with Henry Fosdick. Still he continued to indulge in them to some extent, especially when he felt like joking, and it was natural to Dick to joke, as my readers have probably found out by this time. Still his manners were considerably improved, so that he was more likely to obtain a situation than when first introduced to our notice.
Just now, however, business was very dull, and merchants, instead of hiring new assistants, were disposed to part with those already in their employ. After making several ineffectual applications, Dick began to think he should be obliged to stick to his profession until the next season. But about this time something occurred which considerably improved his chances of preferment.
This is the way it happened.
As Dick, with a balance of more than a hundred dollars in the savings bank, might fairly consider himself a young man of property, he thought himself justified in occasionally taking a half holiday from business, and going on an excursion. On Wednesday afternoon Henry Fosdick was sent by his employer on an errand to that part of Brooklyn near Greenwood Cemetery. Dick hastily dressed himself in his best, and determined to accompany him.
The two boys walked down to the South Ferry, and, paying their two cents each, entered the ferry boat. They remained at the stern, and stood by the railing, watching the great city, with its crowded wharves, receding from view. Beside them was a gentleman with two children,--a girl of eight and a little boy of six. The children were talking gayly to their father. While he was pointing out some object of interest to the little girl, the boy managed to creep, unobserved, beneath the chain that extends across the boat, for the protection of passengers, and, stepping incautiously to the edge of the boat, fell over into the foaming water.
At the child's scream, the father looked up, and, with a cry of horror, sprang to the edge of the boat. He would have plunged in, but, being unable to swim, would only have endangered his own life, without being able to save his child.
"My child!" he exclaimed in anguish,-- "who will save my child? A thousand--ten thousand dollars to any one who will save him!"
There chanced to be but few passengers on board at the time, and nearly all these were either in the cabins or standing forward. Among the few who saw the child fall was our hero.
Now Dick was an expert swimmer. It was an accomplishment which he had possessed for years, and he no sooner saw the boy fall than he resolved to rescue him. His determination was formed before he heard the liberal offer made by the boy's father. Indeed, I must do Dick the justice to say that, in the excitement of the moment, he did not hear it at all, nor would it have stimulated the alacrity with which he sprang to the rescue of the little boy.
Little Johnny had already risen once, and gone under for the second time, when our hero plunged in. He was obliged to strike out for the boy, and this took time. He reached him none too soon. Just as he was sinking for the third and last time, he caught him by the jacket. Dick was stout and strong, but Johnny clung to him so tightly, that it was with great difficulty he was able to sustain himself.
"Put your arms round my neck," said Dick.
The little boy mechanically obeyed, and clung with a grasp strengthened by his terror. In this position Dick could bear his weight better. But the ferry-boat was receding fast. It was quite impossible to reach it. The father, his face pale with terror and anguish, and his hands clasped in suspense, saw the brave boy's struggles, and prayed with agonizing fervor that he might be successful. But it is probable, for they were now midway of the river, that both Dick and the little boy whom he had bravely undertaken to rescue would have been drowned, had not a row-boat been fortunately near. The two men who were in it witnessed the accident, and hastened to the rescue of our hero.
"Keep up a little longer," they shouted, bending to their oars, "and we will save you."
Dick heard the shout, and it put fresh strength into him. He battled manfully with the treacherous sea, his eyes fixed longingly upon the approaching boat.
"Hold on tight, little boy," he said. "There's a boat coming."
The little boy did not see the boat. His eyes were closed to shut out the fearful water, but he clung the closer to his young preserver. Six long, steady strokes, and the boat dashed along side. Strong hands seized Dick and his youthful burden, and drew them into the boat, both dripping with water.
"God be thanked!" exclaimed the father, as from the steamer he saw the child's rescue. "That brave boy shall be rewarded, if I sacrifice my whole fortune to compass it."
"You've had a pretty narrow escape, young chap," said one of the boatmen to Dick. "It was a pretty tough job you undertook."
"Yes," said Dick. "That's what I thought when I was in the water. If it hadn't been for you, I don't know what would have 'come of us."
"Anyhow you're a plucky boy, or you wouldn't have dared to jump into the water after this little chap. It was a risky thing to do."
"I'm used to the water," said Dick, modestly. "I didn't stop to think of the danger, but I wasn't going to see that little fellow drown without tryin' to save him."
The boat at once headed for the ferry wharf on the Brooklyn side. The captain of the ferry-boat, seeing the rescue, did not think it necessary to stop his boat, but kept on his way. The whole occurrence took place in less time than I have occupied in telling it.
The father was waiting on the wharf to receive his little boy, with what feelings of gratitude and joy can be easily understood. With a burst of happy tears he clasped him to his arms. Dick was about to withdraw modestly, but the gentleman perceived the movement, and, putting down the child, came forward, and, clasping his hand, said with emotion, "My brave boy, I owe you a debt I can never repay. But for your timely service I should now be plunged into an anguish which I cannot think of without a shudder."
Our hero was ready enough to speak on most occasions, but always felt awkward when he was praised.
"It wasn't any trouble," he said, modestly. "I can swim like a top."
"But not many boys would have risked their lives for a stranger," said the gentleman. "But," he added with a sudden thought,as his glance rested on Dick's dripping garments, "both you and my little boy will take cold in wet clothes. Fortunately I have a friend living close at hand, at whose house you will have an opportunity of taking off your clothes, and having them dried."
Dick protested that he never took cold; but Fosdick, who had now joined them, and who, it is needless to say, had been greatly alarmed at Dick's danger, joined in urging compliance with the gentleman's proposal, and in the end our hero had to yield. His new friend secured a hack, the driver of which agreed for extra recompense to receive the dripping boys into his carriage, and they were whirled rapidly to a pleasant house in a side street, where matters were quickly explained, and both boys were put to bed.
"I ain't used to goin' to bed quite so early," thought Dick. "This is the queerest excursion I ever took."
Like most active boys Dick did not enjoy the prospect of spending half a day in bed; but his confinement did not last as long as he anticipated.
In about an hour the door of his chamber was opened, and a servant appeared, bringing a new and handsome suit of clothes throughout.
"You are to put on these," said the servant to Dick; "but you needn't get up till you feel like it."
"Whose clothes are they?" asked Dick.
"They are yours."
"Mine! Where did they come from?"
"Mr.Rockwell sent out and bought them for you. They are the same size as your wet ones."
"Is he here now?"
"No. He bought another suit for the little boy, and has gone back to New York. Here's a note he asked me to give you."
Dick opened the paper, and read as follows,--
"Please accept this outfit of clothes as the first instalment of a debt which I can never repay. I have asked to have your wet suit dried, when you can reclaim it. Will you oblige me by calling to-morrow at my counting room, No. --, Pearl Street. "Your friend, "JAMES ROCKWELL."
When Dick was dressed in his new suit, he surveyed his figure with pardonable complacency. It was the best he had ever worn, and fitted him as well as if it had been made expressly for him.
"He's done the handsome thing," said Dick to himself; "but there wasn't no 'casion for his givin' me these clothes. My lucky stars are shinin' pretty bright now. Jumpin' into the water pays better than shinin' boots; but I don't think I'd like to try it more'n once a week."
About eleven o'clock the next morning Dick repaired to Mr. Rockwell's counting-room on Pearl Street. He found himself in front of a large and handsome warehouse. The counting-room was on the lower floor. Our hero entered, and found Mr. Rockwell sitting at a desk. No sooner did that gentleman see him than he arose, and, advancing, shook Dick by the hand in the most friendly manner.
"My young friend," he said, "you have done me so great service that I wish to be of some service to you in return. Tell me about yourself, and what plans or wishes you have formed for the future."
Dick frankly related his past history, and told Mr. Rockwell of his desire to get into a store or counting-room, and of the failure of all his applications thus far. The merchant listened attentively to Dick's statement, and, when he had finished, placed a sheet of paper before him, and, handing him a pen, said, "Will you write your name on this piece of paper?"
Dick wrote in a free, bold hand, the name Richard Hunter. He had very much improved in his penmanship, as has already been mentioned, and now had no cause to be ashamed of it.
Mr. Rockwell surveyed it approvingly.
"How would you like to enter my counting-room as clerk, Richard?" he asked.
Dick was about to say "Bully," when he recollected himself, and answered, "Very much."
"I suppose you know something of arithmetic, do you not?"
"Then you may consider yourself engaged at a salary of ten dollars a week. You may come next Monday morning."
"Ten dollars!" repeated Dick, thinking he must have misunderstood.
"Yes; will that be sufficient?"
"It's more than I can earn," said Dick, honestly.
"Perhaps it is at first," said Mr. Rockwell, smiling; "but I am willing to pay you that. I will besides advance you as fast as your progress will justify it."
Dick was so elated that he hardly restrained himself from some demonstration which would have astonished the merchant; but he exercised self-control, and only said, "I'll try to serve you so faithfully, sir, that you won't repent having taken me into your service."
"And I think you will succeed," said Mr. Rockwell, encouragingly. "I will not detain you any longer, for I have some important business to attend to. I shall expect to see you on Monday morning."
Dick left the counting-room, hardly knowing whether he stood on his head or his heels, so overjoyed was he at the sudden change in his fortunes. Ten dollars a week was to him a fortune, and three times as much as he had expected to obtain at first. Indeed he would have been glad, only the day before, to get a place at three dollars a week. He reflected that with the stock of clothes which he had now on hand, he could save up at least half of it, and even then live better than he had been accustomed to do; so that his little fund in the savings bank, instead of being diminished, would be steadily increasing. Then he was to be advanced if he deserved it. It was indeed a bright prospect for a boy who, only a year before, could neither read nor write, and depended for a night's lodging upon the chance hospitality of an alley-way or old wagon. Dick's great ambition to "grow up 'spectable" seemed likely to be accomplished after all.
"I wish Fosdick was as well off as I am," he thought generously. But he determined to help his less fortunate friend, and assist him up the ladder as he advanced himself.
When Dick entered his room on Mott Street, he discovered that some one else had been there before him, and two articles of wearing apparel had disappeared.
"By gracious!" he exclaimed; "somebody's stole my Washington coat and Napoleon pants. Maybe it's an agent of Barnum's, who expects to make a fortun' by exhibitin' the valooable wardrobe of a gentleman of fashion."
Dick did not shed many tears over his loss, as, in his present circumstances, he never expected to have any further use for the well-worn garments. It may be stated that he afterwards saw them adorning the figure of Micky Maguire; but whether that estimable young man stole them himself, he never ascertained. As to the loss. Dick was rather pleased that it had occurred. It seemed to cut him off from the old vagabond life which he hoped never to resume. Henceforward he meant to press onward, and rise as high as possible.
Although it was yet only noon, Dick did not go out again with his brush. He felt that it was time to retire from business. He would leave his share of the public patronage to other boys less fortunate than himself. That evening Dick and Fosdick had a long conversation. Fosdick rejoiced heartily in his friend's success, and on his side had the pleasant news to communicate that his pay had been advanced to six dollars a week.
"I think we can afford to leave Mott Street now," he continued. "This house isn't as neat as it might be, and I shall like to live in a nicer quarter of the city."
"All right," said Dick. "We'll hunt up a new room to-morrow. I shall have plenty of time, having retired from business. I'll try to get my reg'lar customers to take Johnny Nolan in my place. That boy hasn't any enterprise. He needs some body to look out for him."
"You might give him your box and brush, too, Dick."
"No," said Dick; "I'll give him some new ones, but mine I want to keep, to remind me of the hard times I've had, when I was an ignorant boot-black, and never expected to be anything better."
"When, in short, you were `Ragged Dick.' You must drop that name, and think of yourself now as"--
"Richard Hunter, Esq.," said our hero, smiling.
"A young gentleman on the way to fame and fortune," added Fosdick.
Here ends the story of Ragged Dick. As Fosdick said, he is Ragged Dick no longer. He has taken a step upward, and is determined to mount still higher. There are fresh adventures in store for him, and for others who have been introduced in these pages. Those who have felt interested in his early life will find his history continued in a new volume, forming the second of the series, to be called,
FAME AND FORTUNE; OR, THE PROGRESS OF RICHARD HUNTER.