Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York. Chapter 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
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
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.”
“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.
 Now the college of the city of New York.
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.