RAGGED DICK SERIES
FAME AND FORTUNE; OR, THE PROGRESS OF RICHARD HUNTER.
BY HORATIO ALGER, Jr.
AUTHOR OF "RAGGED DICK," "FRANK'S CAMPAIGN," "PAUL PRESCOTT'S CHARGE," "CHARLIE CODMAN'S CRUISE," ETC.
LORING, Publisher. Cor. Bromfield and Washington Streets. BOSTON.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by A. K. LORING, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
To MY FATHER, FROM WHOM I HAVE NEVER FAILED TO RECEIVE LITERARY SYMPATHY AND ENCOURAGEMENT, This Volume IS DEDICATED.
"FAME AND FORTUNE," like its predecessor, "Ragged Dick," was contributed as a serial story to the "Schoolmate," a popular juvenile magazine published in Boston. The generous commendations of the first volume by the Press, and by private correspondents whose position makes their approval of value, have confirmed the author in his purpose to write a series of stories intended to illustrate the life and experiences of the friendless and vagrant children to be found in all our cities, numbering in New York alone over twelve thousand.
In the preparation of the different volumes, the requisite information will be gathered from personal observation mainly, supplemented, however, by facts communicated by those who have been brought into practical relations with the class of children whose lives are portrayed.
The volumes might readily be made more matter-of-fact, but the author has sought to depict the inner life and represent the feelings and emotions of these little waifs of city life, and hopes thus to excite a deeper and more widespread sympathy in the public mind, as well as to exert a salutary influence upon the class of whom he is writing, by setting before them inspiring examples of what energy, ambition, and an honest purpose may achieve, even in their case.
In order to reach as large a number of these boys as possible, the publisher is authorized, on application, to send a gratuitous copy of the two volumes of the "Ragged Dick Series" already issued, to any regularly organized Newsboys' Lodge within the United States.
NEW YORK, December, 1868.
FAME AND FORTUNE; OR, THE PROGRESS OF RICHARD HUNTER.
A BOARDING-HOUSE IN BLEECKER STREET.
"Well, Fosdick, this is a little better than our old room in Mott Street," said Richard Hunter, looking complacently about him.
"You're right, Dick," said his friend. "This carpet's rather nicer than the ragged one Mrs. Mooney supplied us with. The beds are neat and comfortable, and I feel better satisfied, even if we do have to pay twice as much for it."
The room which yielded so much satisfaction to the two boys was on the fourth floor of a boarding-house in Bleecker Street. No doubt many of my young readers, who are accustomed to elegant homes, would think it very plain; but neither Richard nor his friend had been used to anything as good. They had been thrown upon their own exertions at an early age, and had a hard battle to fight with poverty and ignorance. Those of my readers who are familiar with Richard Hunter's experiences when he was "Ragged Dick," will easily understand what a great rise in the world it was for him to have a really respectable home. For years he had led a vagabond life about the streets, as a boot-black, sleeping in old wagons, or boxes, or wherever he could find a lodging gratis. It was only twelve months since a chance meeting with an intelligent boy caused him to form the resolution to grow up respectable. By diligent evening study with Henry Fosdick, whose advantages had been much greater than his own, assisted by a natural quickness and an unusual aptitude for learning, he had, in a year, learned to read and write well, and had, besides, made considerable progress in arithmetic. Still he would have found it difficult to obtain a situation if he had not been the means of saving from drowning the young child of Mr. James Rockwell, a wealthy merchant in business on Pearl Street, who at once, out of gratitude for the service rendered, engaged our hero in his employ at the unusual compensation, for a beginner, of ten dollars a week. His friend, Henry Fosdick, was in a hat store on Broadway, but thus far only received six dollars a week.
Feeling that it was time to change their quarters to a more respectable portion of the city, they one morning rang the bell of Mrs. Browning's boarding-house, on Bleecker Street.
They were shown into the parlor, and soon a tall lady, with flaxen ringlets and a thin face, came in.
"Well, young gentleman, what can I do for you?" she said, regarding them attentively.
"My friend and I are looking for a boarding-place," said Henry Fosdick. "Have you any rooms vacant?"
"What sort of a room would you like?" asked Mrs. Browning.
"We cannot afford to pay a high price. We should be satisfied with a small room."
"You will room together, I suppose?"
"I have a room vacant on the third floor, quite a good-sized one, for which I should charge you seven dollars apiece. There is a room on the fourth floor, not so large, which you can have for five dollars each."
"I think we'll look at that," said Richard Hunter.
"Very well, then follow me."
Mrs. Browning preceded the boys to the fourth floor, where she opened the door of a neat room, provided with two single beds, a good-sized mirror, a bureau, a warm woollen carpet, a washstand, and an empty bookcase for books. There was a closet also, the door of which she opened, showing a row of pegs for clothing.
"How do you like it?" asked Fosdick, in a low voice, turning to his companion.
"It's bully," said Dick, in admiring accents.
I may as well say here, what the reader will find out as we proceed, that our hero, in spite of his advance in learning, had not got entirely rid of some street phrases, which he had caught from the companions with whom he had for years associated.
"Five dollars is rather a steep price," said Fosdick, in a low voice. "You know I don't get but six in all."
"I'll tell you what, Fosdick," said Dick; "it'll be ten dollars for the two of us. I'll pay six, and you shall pay four. That'll be fair,—won't it?"
"No, Dick, I ought to pay my half."
"You can make it up by helpin' me when I run against a snag, in my studies."
"You know as much as I do now, Dick."
"No, I don't. I haven't any more ideas of grammar than a broomstick. You know I called 'cat' a conjunction the other day. Now, you shall help me in grammar, for I'm blessed if I know whether I'm a noun or an adjective, and I'll pay a dollar towards your board."
"But, Dick, I'm willing to help you for nothing. It isn't fair to charge you a dollar a week for my help."
"Why isn't it? Aint I to get ten dollars a week, and shan't I have four dollars over, while you will only have two? I think I ought to give you one more, and then we'd be even."
"No, Dick; I wouldn't agree to that. If you insist upon it, we'll do as you propose; but, if ever I am able, I will make it up to you."
"Well, young gentleman, what have you decided?" asked Mrs. Browning.
"We'll take the room," said Dick, promptly.
"When do you wish to commence?"
"To-day. We'll come this evening."
"Very well. I suppose you can furnish me with references. You're in business, I suppose?"
"I am in Henderson's hat and cap store, No. —— Broadway," said Henry Fosdick.
"And I am going into Rockwell & Cooper's, on Pearl Street, next Monday," said Dick, with a sense of importance. He felt that this was very different from saying, "I black boots in Chatham Square."
"You look like good boys," said Mrs. Browning, "and I've no doubt you're honest; but I'm a widow, dependent on my boarders, and I have to be particular. Only last week a young man went off, owing me four weeks' board, and I don't suppose he'll ever show his face again. He got a good salary, too; but he spent most of it on cigars and billiards. Now, how can I be sure you will pay me your board regular?"
"We'll pay it every week in advance," said Dick, promptly. "Them's our best references," and he produced his bank-book, showing a deposit of over one hundred dollars to his credit in the savings bank, motioning at the same time to Fosdick to show his.
"You don't mean to say you've saved all that from your earnings?" said Mrs. Browning, surprised.
"Yes," said Dick, "and I might have saved more if I'd begun sooner."
"How long has it taken you to save it up?"
"About nine months. My friend hasn't saved so much, because his salary has been smaller."
"I won't require you to pay in advance," said Mrs. Browning, graciously. "I am sure I can trust you. Boys who have formed so good a habit of saving can be depended upon. I will get the room ready for you, and you may bring your trunks when you please. My hours are, breakfast at seven, lunch at half-past twelve, and dinner at six."
"We shan't be able to come to lunch," said Fosdick. "Our stores are too far off."
"Then I will make half a dollar difference with each of you, making nine dollars a week instead of ten."
The boys went downstairs, well pleased with the arrangement they had made. Dick insisted upon paying five dollars and a half of the joint weekly expense, leaving three and a half to Fosdick. This would leave the latter two dollars and a half out of his salary, while Dick would have left four and a half. With economy, both thought they could continue to lay up something.
There was one little embarrassment which suggested itself to the boys. Neither of them had a trunk, having been able to stow away all their wardrobe without difficulty in the drawers of the bureau with which their room in Mott Street was provided.
"Why are you like an elephant, Fosdick?" asked Dick, jocosely, as they emerged into the street.
"I don't know, I'm sure."
"Because you haven't got any trunk except what you carry round with you."
"We'll have to get trunks, or perhaps carpet-bags would do."
"No," said Dick, decisively, "it aint 'spectable to be without a trunk, and we're going to be 'spectable now."
"All right,—respectable, then. Let's go and buy each a trunk."
This advice seemed reasonable, and Fosdick made no objection. The boys succeeded in getting two decent trunks at three dollars apiece, and ordered them sent to their room in Mott Street. It must be remembered by my readers, who may regard the prices given as too low, that the events here recorded took place several years before the war, when one dollar was equal to two at the present day.
At the close of the afternoon Fosdick got away from the store an hour earlier, and the boys, preceded by an expressman bearing their trunks, went to their new home. They had just time to wash and comb their hair, when the bell rang for dinner, and they went down to the dining-room.
Nearly all the boarders were assembled, and were sitting around a long table spread with a variety of dishes. Mrs. Browning was a good manager, and was wise enough to set a table to which her boarders could not object.
"This way, if you please, young gentlemen," she said, pointing to two adjoining seats on the opposite side of the table.
Our hero, it must be confessed, felt a little awkward, not being used to the formality of a boarding-house, and feeling that the eyes of twenty boarders were upon him. His confusion was increased, when, after taking his seat, he saw sitting opposite him, a young man whose boots he remembered to have blacked only a week before. Observing Dick's look, Mrs. Browning proceeded to introduce him to the other.
"Mr. Clifton," she said, "let me introduce Mr. Hunter and his friend, Mr. Fosdick,—two new members of our family."
Dick bowed rather awkwardly, and the young man said, "Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Hunter. Your face looks quite familiar. I think I must have seen you before."
"I think I've seen you before," said Dick.
"It's strange I can't think where," said the young man, who had not the least idea that the well-dressed boy before him was the boot-black who had brushed his boots near the Park railings the Monday previous. Dick did not think proper to enlighten him. He was not ashamed of his past occupation; but it was past, and he wanted to be valued for what he might become, not for what he had been.
"Are you in business, Mr. Hunter?" inquired Mr. Clifton.
It sounded strange to our hero to be called Mr. Hunter; but he rather liked it. He felt that it sounded respectable.
"I am at Rockwell & Cooper's, on Pearl Street," said Dick.
"I know the place. It is a large firm."
Dick was glad to hear it, but did not say that he knew nothing about it.
The dinner was a good one, much better than the two boys were accustomed to get at the eating-houses which in times past they had frequented. Dick noticed carefully how the others did, and acquitted himself quite creditably, so that no one probably suspected that he had not always been used to as good a table.
When the boys rose from the table, Mrs. Browning said, "Won't you walk into the parlor, young gentlemen? We generally have a little music after dinner. Some of the young ladies are musical. Do either of you play?"
Dick said he sometimes played marbles; at which a young lady laughed, and Dick, catching the infection, laughed too.
"Miss Peyton, Mr. Hunter," introduced Mrs. Browning.
Miss Peyton made a sweeping courtesy, to which Dick responded by a bow, turning red with embarrassment.
"Don't you sing, Mr. Hunter?" asked the young lady.
"I aint much on warblin'," said Dick, forgetting for the moment where he was.
This droll answer, which Miss Peyton supposed to be intentionally funny, convulsed the young lady with merriment.
"Perhaps your friend sings?" she said.
Thereupon Fosdick was also introduced. To Dick's astonishment, he answered that he did a little. It was accordingly proposed that they should enter the next room, where there was a piano. The young lady played some well-known melodies, and Fosdick accompanied her with his voice, which proved to be quite sweet and melodious.
"You are quite an acquisition to our circle," said Miss Peyton, graciously. "Have you boarded in this neighborhood before?"
"No," said Fosdick; "at another part of the city."
He was afraid she would ask him in what street, but fortunately she forbore.
In about half an hour the boys went up to their own room, where they lighted the gas, and, opening their trunks, placed the contents in the bureau-drawers.
"Blessed if it don't seem strange," said Dick, "for a feller brought up as I have been to live in this style. I wonder what Miss Peyton would have said if she had known what I had been."
"You haven't any cause to be ashamed of it, Dick. It wasn't a very desirable business, but it was honest. Now you can do something better. You must adapt yourself to your new circumstances."
"So I mean to," said Dick. "I'm going in for respectability. When I get to be sixty years old, I'm goin' to wear gold spectacles and walk round this way, like the old gentlemen I see most every day on Wall Street."
Dick threw his head back, and began to walk round the room with a pompous step and an air of great importance.
"I hope we'll both rise, Dick; we've got well started now, and there've been other boys, worse off than we are, who have worked hard, and risen to FAME AND FORTUNE."
"We can try," said Dick. "Now let us go out and have a walk."
"All right," said Fosdick.
They went downstairs, and out into the street. Accustomed to the lower part of the city, there was a novelty in the evening aspect of Broadway, with its shops and theatres glittering with light. They sauntered carelessly along, looking in at the shop-windows, feeling more and more pleased with their change of location. All at once Dick's attention was drawn to a gentleman accompanied by a boy of about his own size, who was walking a little in advance.
"Stop a minute," he said to Fosdick, and hurrying forward placed his hand on the boy's arm.
"How are you, Frank?" he said.
Frank Whitney, for it was he, turned in some surprise and looked at Dick, but did not at first recognize in the neat, well-dressed boy of fifteen the ragged boot-black he had encountered a year before.
"I don't think I remember you," he said, surveying Dick with a puzzled expression.
"Perhaps you'd remember me better if I had on my Washington coat and Napoleon pants," said our hero, with a smile. He felt rather pleased to find he was not recognized, since it was a compliment to his improved appearance.
"What!" exclaimed Frank, his face lighting up with pleasure, "is it possible that you are—"
"Richard Hunter, at your service," said our hero; "but when you knew me I was Ragged Dick."
INTRODUCTION TO MERCANTILE LIFE.
Frank Whitney was indeed surprised to find the ragged boot-black of a year before so wonderfully changed. He grasped Dick's hand, and shook it heartily.
"Uncle," he said, "this is Dick. Isn't he changed?"
"It is a change I am glad to see," said Mr. Whitney, also extending his hand; "for it appears to be a change for the better. And who is this other young man?"
"This is my private tutor," said Dick, presenting Fosdick,—"Professor Fosdick. He's been teachin' me every evenin' for most a year. His terms is very reasonable. If it hadn't been for him, I never should have reached my present high position in literature and science."
"I am glad to make your acquaintance, Professor Fosdick," said Frank, laughing. "May I inquire whether my friend Dick owes his elegant system of pronunciation to your instructions?"
"Dick can speak more correctly when he pleases," said Fosdick; "but sometimes he falls back into his old way. He understands the common English branches very well."
"Then he must have worked hard; for when I first met him a year ago, he was—"
"As ignorant as a horse," interrupted Dick. "It was you that first made me ambitious, Frank. I wanted to be like you, and grow up 'spectable."
"Respectable, Dick," suggested Fosdick.
"Yes, that's what I mean. I didn't always want to be a boot-black, so I worked hard, and with the help of Professor Fosdick, I've got up a little way. But I'm goin' to climb higher."
"I am very glad to hear it, my young friend," said Mr. Whitney. "It is always pleasant to see a young man fighting his way upward. In this free country there is every inducement for effort, however unpromising may be the early circumstances in which one is placed. But, young gentlemen, as my nephew would be glad to speak further with you, I propose that we adjourn from the sidewalk to the St. Nicholas Hotel, where I am at present stopping."
"Yes, Dick," said Frank, "you and Professor Fosdick must spend the evening with me. I was intending to visit some place of amusement, but would much prefer a visit from you."
Dick and Fosdick readily accepted this invitation, and turned in the direction of the St. Nicholas, which is situated on Broadway, below Bleecker Street.
"By the way, Dick, where are your Washington coat and Napoleon pants now?"
"They were stolen from my room," said Dick, "by somebody that wanted to appear on Broadway dressed in tip-top style, and hadn't got money enough to pay for a suit."
"Perhaps it was some agent of Barnum who desired to secure the valuable relics," suggested Frank.
"By gracious!" said Dick, suddenly, "there they are now. It's the first time I've seen 'em since they was stolen."
He pointed to a boy, of about his own size, who was coming up Broadway. He was attired in the well-remembered coat and pants; but, alas! time had not spared them. The solitary remaining coat-tail was torn in many places; of one sleeve but a fragment remained; grease and dirt nearly obliterated the original color; and it was a melancholy vestige of what it had been once. As for the pantaloons, they were a complete wreck. When Dick had possessed them they were well ventilated; but they were now ventilated so much more thoroughly that, as Dick said afterwards, "a feller would be warmer without any."
"That's Micky Maguire," said Dick; "a partic'lar friend of mine, that had such a great 'fection for me that he stole my clothes to remember me by."
"Perhaps," said Fosdick, "it was on account of his great respect for General Washington and the Emperor Napoleon."
"What would the great Washington say if he could see his coat now?" said Frank.
"When I wore it," said Dick, "I was sorry he was so great, 'cause it prevented his clothes fitting me."
It may be necessary to explain to those who are unacquainted with Dick's earlier adventures, that the clothes in which he was originally introduced were jocosely referred to by him as gifts from the illustrious personages whose names have been mentioned.
Micky Maguire did not at first recognize Dick. When he did so, he suddenly shambled down Prince Street, fearful, perhaps, that the stolen clothes would be reclaimed.
They had now reached the St. Nicholas, and entered. Mr. Whitney led the way up to his apartment, and then, having a business engagement with a gentleman below, he descended to the reading-room, leaving the boys alone. Left to themselves, they talked freely. Dick related fully the different steps in his education, with which some of our readers are already familiar, and received hearty congratulations from Frank, and earnest encouragement to persevere.
"I wish you were going to be in the city, Frank," said Dick.
"So I shall be soon," said Frank.
Dick's face lighted up with pleasure.
"That's bully," said he, enthusiastically. "How soon are you comin'?"
"I am hoping to enter Columbia College next commencement. I suppose my time will be a good deal taken up with study, but I shall always find time for you and Fosdick. I hope you both will call upon me."
Both boys readily accepted the invitation in advance, and Dick promised to write to Frank at his boarding-school in Connecticut. At about half past ten, the two boys left the St. Nicholas, and went back to their boarding-house.
After a comfortable night's sleep, they got up punctually to the seven o'clock breakfast. It consisted of beefsteak, hot biscuit, potatoes, and very good coffee. Dick and Fosdick did justice to the separate viands, and congratulated themselves upon the superiority of their present fare to that which they had been accustomed to obtain at the restaurants.
Breakfast over, Fosdick set out for the hat and cap store in which he was employed, and Dick for Rockwell & Cooper's on Pearl Street. It must be confessed that he felt a little bashful as he stood in front of the large warehouse, and surveyed the sign. He began to feel some apprehensions that he would not be found competent for his post. It seemed such a rise from the streets to be employed in such an imposing building. But Dick did not long permit timidity to stand in his way. He entered the large apartment on the first floor, which he found chiefly used for storing large boxes and cases of goods. There was a counting-room and office, occupying one corner, partitioned off from the rest of the department. Dick could see a young man through the glass partition sitting at a desk; and, opening the door, he entered. He wished it had been Mr. Rockwell, for it would have saved him from introducing himself; but of course it was too early for that gentleman to appear.
"What is your business?" inquired the book-keeper, for it was he.
"I've come to work," said Dick, shortly, for somehow he did not take much of a fancy to the book-keeper, whose tone was rather supercilious.
"Oh, you've come to work, have you?"
"Yes, I have," said Dick, independently.
"I don't think we shall need your valuable services," said the book-keeper, with something of a sneer. The truth was, that Mr. Rockwell had neglected to mention that he had engaged Dick.
Dick, though a little inclined to be bashful when he entered, had quite got over that feeling now. He didn't intend to be intimidated or driven away by the man before him. There was only one doubt in his mind. This might be Mr. Cooper, the second member of the firm, although he did not think it at all probable. So he ventured this question, "Is Mr. Rockwell or Mr. Cooper in?"
"They're never here at this hour."
"So I supposed," said Dick, coolly.
He sat down in an arm-chair, and took up the morning paper.
The book-keeper was decidedly provoked by his coolness. He felt that he had not impressed Dick with his dignity or authority, and this made him angry.
"Bring that paper to me, young man," he said; "I want to consult it."
"Very good," said Dick; "you can come and get it."
"I can't compliment you on your good manners," said the other.
"Good manners don't seem to be fashionable here," said Dick, composedly.
Apparently the book-keeper did not want the paper very particularly, as he did not take the trouble to get up for it. Dick therefore resumed his reading, and the other dug his pen spitefully into the paper, wishing, but not quite daring, to order Dick out of the counting-room, as it might be possible that he had come by appointment.
"Did you come to see Mr. Rockwell?" he asked, at length, looking up from his writing.
"Yes," said Dick.
"Did he tell you to come?"
"What was that you said about coming to work?"
"I said I had come here to work."
"Who engaged you?"
"Oh, indeed! And how much are you to receive for your valuable services?"
"You are very polite to call my services valuable," said Dick. "I hope they will be."
"You haven't answered my question."
"I have no objection, I'm sure. I'm to get ten dollars a week."
"Ten dollars a week!" echoed the book-keeper, with a scornful laugh. "Do you expect you will earn that?"
"No, I don't," said Dick, frankly.
"You don't!" returned the other, doubtfully. "Well, you're more modest than I thought for. Then why are you to get so much?"
"Perhaps Mr. Rockwell will tell you," said Dick, "if you tell him you're very particular to know, and will lose a night's rest if you don't find out."
"I wouldn't give you a dollar a week."
"Then I'm glad I aint goin' to work for you."
"I don't believe your story at all. I don't think Mr. Rockwell would be such a fool as to overpay you so much."
"P'r'aps I shouldn't be the only one in the establishment that is overpaid," observed Dick.
"Do you mean me, you young rascal?" demanded the book-keeper, now very angry.
"Don't call names. It isn't polite."
"I demand an answer. Do you mean to say that I am overpaid?"
"Well," said Dick, deliberately, "if you're paid anything for bein' polite, I should think you was overpaid considerable."
There is no knowing how long this skirmishing would have continued, if Mr. Rockwell himself had not just then entered the counting-room. Dick rose respectfully at his entrance, and the merchant, recognizing him at once, advanced smiling and gave him a cordial welcome.
"I am glad to see you, my boy," he said. "So you didn't forget the appointment. How long have you been here?"
"Half an hour, sir."
"I am here unusually early this morning. I came purposely to see you, and introduce you to those with whom you will labor. Mr. Gilbert, this is a young man who is going to enter our establishment. His name is Richard Hunter. Mr. Gilbert, Richard, is our book-keeper."
Mr. Gilbert nodded slightly, not a little surprised at his employer's cordiality to the new boy.
"So the fellow was right, after all," he thought. "But it can't be possible he is to receive ten dollars a week."
"Come out into the ware-room, and I will show you about," continued Mr. Rockwell. "How do you think you shall like business, Richard?"
Dick was on the point of saying "Bully," but checked himself just in time, and said instead, "Very much indeed, sir."
"I hope you will. If you do well you may depend upon promotion. I shall not forget under what a heavy obligation I am to you, my brave boy."
What would the book-keeper have said, if he had heard this?
"How is the little boy, sir?" asked Dick.
"Very well, indeed. He does not appear even to have taken cold, as might have been expected from his exposure, and remaining in wet clothes for some time."
"I am glad to hear that he is well, sir."
"You must come up and see him for yourself, Richard," said Mr. Rockwell, in a friendly manner. "I have no doubt you will become good friends very soon. Besides, my wife is anxious to see and thank the preserver of her boy."
"I shall be very glad indeed to come, sir."
"I live at No. —— Madison Avenue. Come to-morrow evening, if you have no engagement."
"Thank you, sir."
Mr. Rockwell now introduced Dick to his head clerk with a few words, stating that he was a lad in whose welfare he took a deep interest, and he would be glad to have him induct him into his duties, and regard with indulgence any mistakes which he might at first make through ignorance.
The head clerk was a pleasant-looking man, of middle age, named Murdock; very different in his manners and bearing from Mr. Gilbert, the book-keeper.
"Yes, sir," he said, "I will take the young man under my charge; he looks bright and sharp enough, and I hope we may make a business man of him in course of time."
That was what Dick liked. His heart always opened to kindness, but harshness always made him defiant.
"I'll try to make you as little trouble as possible, sir," he said. "I may make mistakes at first, but I'm willin' to work, and I want to work my way up."
"That's right, my boy," said Mr. Murdock. "Let that be your determination, and I am sure you will succeed."
"Before Mr. Murdock begins to instruct you in your duties," said Mr. Rockwell, "you may go to the post-office, and see if there are any letters for us. Our box is No. 5,670."
"All right, sir," said Dick; and he took his hat at once and started.
He reached Chatham Square, turned into Printing House Square, and just at the corner of Spruce and Nassau Streets, close by the Tribune Office, he saw the familiar face and figure of Johnny Nolan, one of his old associates when he was a boot-black.
"How are you, Johnny?" he said.
"Is that you, Dick?" asked Johnny, turning round. "Where's your box and brush?"
"You haven't give up business,—have you?"
"I've just gone into business, Johnny."
"I mean you aint give up blackin' boots,—have you?"
"All except my own, Johnny. Aint that a good shine?" and Dick displayed his boot with something of his old professional pride.
"What you up to now, Dick? You're dressed like a swell."
"Oh," said Dick, "I've retired from shines on a fortun', and embarked my capital in mercantile pursuits. I'm in a store on Pearl Street."
"Rockwell & Cooper's."
"How'd you get there?"
"They wanted a partner with a large capital, and so they took me," said Dick. "We're goin' to do a smashin' business. We mean to send off a ship to Europe every day, besides what we send to other places, and expect to make no end of stamps."
"What's the use of gassin', Dick? Tell a feller now."
"Honor bright, then, Johnny, I've got a place at ten dollars a week, and I'm goin' to be 'spectable. Why don't you turn over a new leaf, and try to get up in the world?"
"I aint lucky, Dick. I don't half the time make enough to live on. If it wasn't for the Newsboys' Lodgin' House, I don't know what I'd do. I need a new brush and box of blacking, but I aint got money enough to buy one."
"Then, Johnny, I'll help you this once. Here's fifty cents; I'll give it to you. Now, if you're smart you can make a dollar a day easy, and save up part of it. You ought to be more enterprisin', Johnny. There's a gentleman wants a shine now."
Johnny hitched up his trousers, put the fifty cents in his mouth, having no pocket unprovided with holes, and proffered his services to the gentleman indicated, with success. Dick left him at work, and kept on his way down Nassau Street.
"A year ago," he thought, "I was just like Johnny, dressed in rags, and livin' as I could. If it hadn't been for my meetin' with Frank, I'd been just the same to day, most likely. Now I've got a good place, and some money in the bank, besides 'ristocratic friends who invite me to come and see them. Blessed if I aint afraid I'm dreamin' it all, like the man that dreamed he was in a palace, and woke up to find himself in a pigpen."
AT THE POST-OFFICE.
The New York Post-Office is built of brick, and was formerly a church. It is a shabby building, and quite unworthy of so large and important a city. Of course Dick was quite familiar with its general appearance; but as his correspondence had been very limited, he had never had occasion to ask for letters.
There were several letters in Box 5,670. Dick secured these, and, turning round to go out, his attention was drawn to a young gentleman of about his own age, who, from his consequential air, appeared to feel his own importance in no slight degree. He recognized him at once as Roswell Crawford, a boy who had applied unsuccessfully for the place which Fosdick obtained in Henderson's hat and cap store.
Roswell recognized Dick at the same time, and perceiving that our hero was well-dressed, concluded to speak to him, though he regarded Dick as infinitely beneath himself in the social scale, on account of his former employment. He might not have been so condescending, but he was curious to learn what Dick was about.
"I haven't seen you for some time," he said, in a patronizing tone.
"No," said Dick, "and I haven't seen you for some time either, which is a very curious coincidence."
"How's boot-blacking, now?" inquired Roswell, with something of a sneer.
"Tip-top," said Dick, not at all disturbed by Roswell's manner. "I do it wholesale now, and have been obliged to hire a large building on Pearl Street to transact my business in. You see them letters? They're all from wholesale customers."
"I congratulate you on your success," said Roswell, in the same disagreeable manner. "Of course that's all humbug. I suppose you've got a place."
"Yes," said Dick.
"Who are you with?"
"Rockwell & Cooper, on Pearl Street."
"How did you get it?" asked Roswell, appearing surprised. "Did they know you had been a boot-black?"
"Of course they did."
"I shouldn't think that they would have taken you."
"There are not many firms that would hire a boot-black, when they could get plenty of boys from nice families."
"Perhaps they might have secured your services if they had applied," said Dick, good-humoredly.
"I've got a place," said Roswell, in rather an important manner. "I'm very glad I didn't go into Henderson's hat and cap store. I've got a better situation."
"Have you?" said Dick. "I'm glad to hear it. I'm always happy to hear that my friends are risin' in the world."
"You needn't class me among your friends," said Roswell, superciliously.
"No, I won't," said Dick. "I'm goin' to be particular about my associates, now that I'm gettin' up in the world."
"Do you mean to insult me?" demanded Roswell, haughtily.
"No," said Dick. "I wouldn't on any account. I should be afraid you'd want me to fight a duel, and that wouldn't be convenient, for I haven't made my will, and I'm afraid my heirs would quarrel over my extensive property."
"How much do you get a week?" asked Roswell, thinking it best to change the subject.
"Ten dollars," said Dick.
"Ten dollars!" ejaculated Roswell. "That's a pretty large story."
"You needn't believe it if you don't want to," said Dick. "That won't make any difference to me as long as they pay me reg'lar."
"Ten dollars! Why, I never heard of such a thing," exclaimed Roswell, who only received four dollars a week himself, and thought he was doing well.
"Do you think I'd give up a loocrative business for less?" asked Dick. "How much do you get?"
"That's my business," said Roswell, who, for reasons that may be guessed, didn't care to mention the price for which he was working. Judging Dick by himself, he thought it would give him a chance to exult over him.
"I suppose it is," said Dick; "but as you was so partic'lar to find out how much I got, I thought I'd inquire."
"You're trying to deceive me; I don't believe you get more than three dollars a week."
"Don't you? Is that what you get?"
"I get a great deal more."
"I'm happy to hear it."
"I can find out how much you get, if I want to."
"You've found out already."
"I know what you say, but I've got a cousin in Rockwell & Cooper's."
"Have you?" asked Dick, a little surprised. "Who is it?"
"It is the book-keeper."
"Yes; he has been there five years. I'll ask him about it."
"You'd better, as you're so anxious to find out. Mr. Gilbert is a friend of mine. He spoke only this morning of my valooable services."
Roswell looked incredulous. In fact he did not understand Dick at all; nor could he comprehend his imperturbable good-humor. There were several things that he had said which would have offended most boys; but Dick met them with a careless good-humor, and an evident indifference to Roswell's good opinion, which piqued and provoked that young man.
It must not be supposed that while this conversation was going on the boys were standing in the post-office. Dick understood his duty to his employers too well to delay unnecessarily while on an errand, especially when he was sent to get letters, some of which might be of an important and urgent nature.
The two boys had been walking up Nassau Street together, and they had now reached Printing House Square.
"There are some of your old friends," said Roswell, pointing to a group of ragged boot-blacks, who were on the alert for customers, crying to each passer, "Shine yer boots?"
"Yes," said Dick, "I know them all."
"No doubt," sneered Roswell. "They're friends to be proud of."
"I'm glad you think so," said Dick. "They're a rough set," he continued, more earnestly; "but there's one of them, at least, that's ten times better than you or I."
"Speak for yourself, if you please," said Roswell, haughtily.
"I'm speakin' for both of us," said Dick. "There's one boy there, only twelve years old, that's supported his sick mother and sister for more'n a year, and that's more good than ever you or I did.—How are you, Tom?" he said, nodding to the boy of whom he had spoken.
"Tip-top, Dick," said a bright-looking boy, who kept as clean as his avocation would permit. "Have you given up business?"
"Yes, Tom. I'll tell you about it some other time. I must get back to Pearl Street with these letters. How's your mother?"
"She aint much better, Dick."
"Buy her some oranges. They'll do her good," and Dick slipped half a dollar into Tom's hand.
"Thank you, Dick. She'll like them, I know, but you oughtn't to give so much."
"What's half a dollar to a man of my fortune?" said Dick. "Take care of yourself, Tom. I must hurry back to the store."
Roswell was already gone. His pride would not permit him to stand by while Dick was conversing with a boot-black. He felt that his position would be compromised. As for Dick, he was so well dressed that nobody would know that he had ever been in that business. The fact is, Roswell, like a great many other people, was troubled with a large share of pride, though it might have puzzled himself to explain what he had to be proud of. Had Dick been at all like him he would have shunned all his former acquaintances, and taken every precaution against having it discovered that he had ever occupied a similar position. But Dick was above such meanness. He could see that Tom, for instance, was far superior in all that constituted manliness to Roswell Crawford, and, boot-black though he was, he prepared to recognize him as a friend.
When Dick reached the store, he did not immediately see Mr. Rockwell.
He accordingly entered the counting-room where Gilbert, the book-keeper, was seated at a desk.
"Here are the letters, Mr. Gilbert," said Dick.
"Lay them down," said the book-keeper, sourly. "You've been gone long enough. How many did you drop on the way?"
"I didn't know I was expected to drop any," said Dick. "If I had been told to do so, I would have obeyed orders cheerfully."
Mr. Gilbert was about to remark that Dick was an impudent young rascal, when the sudden entrance of Mr. Rockwell compelled him to suppress the observation, and he was obliged to be content with muttering it to himself.
"Back already, Richard?" said his employer, pleasantly. "Where are the letters?"
"Here, sir," said Dick.
"Very well, you may go to Mr. Murdock, and see what he can find for you to do."
Mr. Rockwell sat down to read his letters, and Dick went as directed to the head clerk.
"Mr. Rockwell sent me to you, Mr. Murdock," he said. "He says you will find something for me to do."
"Oh, yes, we'll keep you busy," said the head clerk, with a manner very different from that of the book-keeper. "At present, however, your duties will be of rather a miscellaneous character. We shall want you partly for an entry clerk, and partly to run to the post-office, bank, and so forth."
"All right, sir," said Dick. "I'm ready to do anything that is required of me. I want to make myself useful."
"That's the right way to feel, my young friend. Some boys are so big-feeling and put on so many airs, that you'd think they were partners in the business, instead of beginning at the lowest round of the ladder. A while ago Mr. Gilbert brought round a cousin of his, about your age, that he wanted to get in here; but the young gentleman was altogether too lofty to suit me, so we didn't take him."
"Was the boy's name Roswell Crawford?"
"Yes; do you know him?"
"Not much. He thinks I'm too far beneath him for him to associate with, but he was kind enough to walk up Nassau Street with me this morning, just to encourage me a little."
"That was kind in him, certainly," said the head clerk, smiling. "Unless I am very much mistaken, you will be able to get along without his patronage."
"I hope so," said Dick.
The rest of the day Dick was kept busy in various ways. He took hold with a will, and showed himself so efficient that he made a favorable impression upon every one in the establishment, except the book-keeper. For some reason or other Mr. Gilbert did not like Dick, and was determined to oust him from his situation if an opportunity should offer.
LIFE AT THE BOARDING-HOUSE.
Dick found his new quarters in Bleecker Street very comfortable. His room was kept in neat order, which was more than could be said of his former home in Mott Street. There once a fortnight was thought sufficient to change the sheets, while both boys were expected to use the same towel, and make that last a week. Indeed, Mrs. Mooney would have considered the boys "mighty particular" if they had objected to such an arrangement. Mrs. Browning, fortunately, was very different, and Dick found nothing to complain of either in his chamber or in the board which was furnished.
Dick had felt rather awkward on his first appearance at the table, but he was beginning to feel more at his ease. It was rather remarkable, considering his past life, how readily he adapted himself to an experience so different. He left the store at five o'clock, and got to his boarding-house in time to get ready for dinner. Dick had now got to be quite particular about his appearance. He washed his face and hands thoroughly, and brushed his hair carefully, before appearing at the table.
Miss Peyton, the lively young lady who has already been mentioned in the first chapter, sat near the boys, and evidently was quite prepossessed in their favor. Both had bright and attractive faces, though Dick would undoubtedly be considered the handsomest. He had a fresh color which spoke of good health, and was well-formed and strong. Henry Fosdick was more delicate in appearance; his face was thinner, and rather pale. It was clear that he was not as well able to fight his way through life as Dick. But there was something pleasant and attractive in his quiet sedateness, as well as in the frank honesty and humor that could be read in the glance of our friend Dick.
"Won't you and your friend stop a little while and sing?" asked Miss Peyton, addressing Henry Fosdick on the evening of the second day of Dick's business career.
"My friend has an engagement this evening," he said.
"I suppose I may not ask where," said she.
"I am invited to spend the evening with some friends on Madison Avenue," said Dick.
"Indeed?" said Miss Peyton, surprised. "I wasn't aware you had such fashionable friends, or I couldn't have expected to retain you."
"All my friends are not as fashionable," said Dick, wondering what the young lady would say if she could see his late fellow-lodgers at Mrs. Mooney's, on Mott Street.
"If I can't hope to keep you this evening, you must promise to stay awhile to-morrow evening. I hope to have the pleasure of hearing you sing, Mr. Hunter."
"When I give a concert," said Dick, "I'll be sure to let you in gratooitous."
"Thank you," said Miss Peyton. "I shall remind you of it. I hope that time will come very soon."
"Just as soon as I can engage the Academy of Music on reasonable terms."
"You'd better try first in the parlor here. We'll take up a contribution, to pay you for your exertions."
"Thank you," said Dick. "You're very kind, as the man said to the judge when he asked him when it would be perfectly agreeable for him to be hung."
Miss Peyton laughed at this remark, and Dick went upstairs to get ready for his visit to Madison Avenue.
Our hero felt a little bashful about this visit. He was afraid that he would do or say something that was improper, or that something would slip out which would betray his vagabond life of the streets.
"I wish you was going with me, Fosdick," he said.
"You'll get along well enough alone, Dick. Don't be afraid."
"You see I aint used to society, Fosdick."
"Nor I either."
"But it seems to come natural to you. I'm always makin' some blunder."
"You'll get over that in time, Dick. It's because you have so much fun in you. I am more sober. Miss Peyton seems very much amused by your odd remarks."
"I have to talk so; I can't think of anything else to say."
"There's one thing, Dick, we mustn't give up at any rate."
"Studying. We don't either of us know as much as we ought to."
"You can see how much good studying has done for you so far. If it hadn't been for that, you wouldn't have been able to go into Mr. Rockwell's employment."
"That's true enough, Fosdick. I'm afraid I don't know enough now."
"You know enough to get along very well for the present, but you want to rise."
"You're right. When I get to be old and infirm I don't want to be an errand-boy."
"Nor I either. So, Dick, I think we had better make up our minds to study an hour or an hour and a half every evening. Of course, you can't begin this evening, but there are very few when you can't find the time."
"I'll send a circ'lar to my numerous friends on Fifth Avenue and Madison, tellin' 'em how much I'm obliged for their kind invitations, but the claims of literatoor and science can't be neglected."
"Do you know, Dick, I think it might be well for us to begin French?"
"I wonder what Johnny Nolan would say if I should inquire after his health in the polly-voo language?"
"It wouldn't be the first time you have astonished him."
"Well, Fosdick, I'm in for it if you think it's best. Now tell me what necktie I shall wear?"
Dick displayed two. One was bright red with large figures, which he had bought soon after he began to board in Mott Street. The other was a plain black.
"You'd better wear the black one, Dick," said Fosdick, whose taste was simpler and better than his friend's.
"It seems to me it don't look handsome enough," said Dick, whose taste had not yet been formed, and was influenced by the Bowery style of dress.
"It's more modest, and that is all the better."
"All right. I suppose you know best. Before I get ready I must give a new shine to my boots. I'm going to make them shine so you can see your face in them."
"Better let me do that for you, Dick. I can do it while you're dressing, and that will save time."
"No, Fosdick, I was longer in the business than you, and none of the boys could beat me on shines."
"I don't know but you're right, Dick. I freely yield the palm to you in that."
Dick stripped off his coat and vest and went to work with a will. He had never worked so hard for one of his old customers.
"I'm goin' to give it a twenty-five cent shine," he said.
Just then a knock was heard at the chamber-door.
"Come in!" said Dick, pausing a moment in his labors.
Mr. Clifton, a fellow-boarder, entered with a cigar in his mouth.
"Holloa," said he, "what's up? Going to the theatre, Hunter?"
"No," said Dick. "I'm goin' out to spend the evening with some friends up in Madison Avenue."
"So I heard you say at the table, but I thought you were joking."
"No," said Dick; "it's a fact."
"Seems to me you handle the brush pretty skilfully," remarked Mr. Clifton. "I should almost think you had served a regular apprenticeship at it."
"So I have," answered Dick. "Didn't you ever see me when I blacked boots on Chatham Square?"
"Good joke!" said the young man, who was far from supposing that Dick was in earnest. "Oh, yes, of course I've seen you often! Did you make money at it?"
"I retired on a fortun'," said Dick, "and now I've invested my capital in mercantile pursuits. There," and he took up one boot, and showed it to his visitor, "did you ever see a better shine than that?"
"No, I didn't, that's a fact," said Clifton, admiringly. "You beat the young rascal I employ all hollow. I say, Hunter, if you ever go into the 'shine' business again, I'll be a regular customer of yours."
"He little thinks I've blacked his boots before now," thought Dick.
"All right," said he, aloud. "When a commercial crisis comes, and I fail in business, I think I'll remember your encouragin' offer, and remind you of it."
"Have a cigar either of you?" asked Clifton, drawing out a case. "Excuse my not offering it before."
"No, thank you," said Fosdick.
"Don't smoke, eh? Won't you have one, Hunter?"
"No, thank you. Fosdick is my guardian, and he don't allow it."
"So you're a good boy. Well, I wish you a pleasant evening," and Clifton sauntered out to find some other companion.
"He wouldn't believe I'd been a boot-black," said Dick, "even after I told him. I knew he wouldn't, or I wouldn't have said so. Is my hair parted straight?"
"Yes, it's all right."
"How's my cravat?"
"It'll do. You're getting to be quite a dandy, Dick."
"I want to look respectable; got it right that time. When I visit Turkey I want to look as the turkeys do. Won't you go with me,—as far as the door, I mean?"
"Yes, if you're going to walk."
"I'd rather. I feel kind of nervous, and perhaps I'll walk it off."
The two boys got their caps, and walked up Broadway on the west side. The lights were already lit, and the shop windows made a brilliant display. At intervals places of amusement opened wide their hospitable portals, and large placards presented tempting invitations to enter.
They reached Union Square, and, traversing it, again walked up Broadway to Madison Park. At the upper end of this park commences the beautiful avenue which bears the same name. Only about half a dozen blocks now required to be passed, when the boys found themselves opposite a residence with a very imposing front.
"This is the place," said Dick. "I wish you were going in with me."
"I hope you will have a pleasant time, Dick. Good-by till I see you again."
Dick felt a little nervous, but he summoned up all his courage, and, ascending the broad marble steps, rang the bell.
DICK RECEIVES TWO VALUABLE PRESENTS.
At the end of the last chapter we left Dick standing on the steps of Mr. Rockwell's residence in Madison Avenue. He had rung the bell and was waiting to have his summons answered. To say that Dick expected to enjoy his visit would not be strictly true. He knew very well that his street education had not qualified him to appear to advantage in fashionable society, and he wished that Fosdick were with him to lend him countenance.
While under the influence of these feelings the door was thrown open, and a servant looked at him inquiringly.
"Is Mr. Rockwell at home?" asked Dick.
"Yes. Would you like to see him?"
"He asked me to call this evening."
"What! Are you the boy that saved Master Johnny from drowning?" asked the servant, her face brightening up, for Johnny was a great favorite in the house.
"I jumped into the water after him," said Dick, modestly.
"I heard Mr. Rockwell say he was expecting you to-night. Come right in. Mistress is very anxious to see you."
Placed a little at his ease by this cordial reception, Dick followed the servant upstairs to a pleasant sitting-room on the second floor. Mr. and Mrs. Rockwell were seated at a centre-table reading the evening papers, while Johnny and his sister Grace were constructing a Tower of Babel with some blocks upon the carpet before the fire.
Dick entered, and stood just within the door, with his cap in his hand, feeling a little embarrassed.
"I am glad to see you, Richard," said Mr. Rockwell, rising from his seat, and advancing to our hero with a pleasant smile. "Mrs. Rockwell has been anxious to see you. My dear, this is the brave boy who saved our little Johnny."
Mrs. Rockwell, a tall, graceful lady, with a smile that quite captivated Dick, offered her hand, and said, earnestly, "My brave boy, I have been wishing to see you. I shudder to think that, but for your prompt courage, I should now be mourning the loss of my dear little Johnny. Accept a mother's thanks for a favor so great that she can never hope to repay it."
Now this acknowledgment was very pleasant to Dick, but it was also very embarrassing. It is difficult to receive praise gracefully. So our hero, not knowing what else to say, stammered out that she was very welcome.
"I understand that you have entered my husband's employment," said Mrs. Rockwell.
"Yes," said Dick. "He was kind enough to take me."
"I hope to make a man of business of our young friend," said Mr. Rockwell. "He will soon feel at home in his new position, and I hope we may find the connection mutually satisfactory."
"Have you a pleasant boarding-place?" asked Mrs. Rockwell.
"Tip-top," said Dick. "I mean pretty good," he added, in a little confusion.
"Where is it?"
"In Bleecker Street," said Dick, very glad that he was not obliged to say Mott Street.
"That is quite a good location," said Mr. Rockwell. "How do you spend your evenings, Richard?"
"In studying with a friend of mine," said Dick. "I want to know something by the time I grow up."
"That is an excellent resolution," said his employer, with warm approval. "I wish more boys of your age were equally sensible. You may depend upon it that a good education is the best preparation for an honorable and useful manhood. What is your friend's name?"
"Henry Fosdick. He rooms with me."
"I am glad you have a friend who shares your tastes. But perhaps you would like to renew your acquaintance with the young gentleman to whom you have rendered so great a service. Johnny has been allowed to stay up beyond his usual bedtime because you were coming. Johnny, come here!"
Johnny rose from his blocks, and came to his mother's side. He was a pleasant-looking little fellow, with a pair of bright eyes, and round, plump cheeks. He looked shyly at Dick.
"Did you ever see this young man?" asked his mother.
"Yes," said Johnny.
"When was it?"
"When I was in the river," said Johnny. "He pulled me out."
"Are you glad to see him?"
"Yes," said Johnny. "What is his name?"
"Dick," said our hero, who somehow could not help feeling, when called Richard, that some other boy was meant.
"Won't you come and help me build a house?" asked little Johnny.
Dick accepted the invitation with pleasure, feeling more at home with children than with older persons.
"This is sister Grace," said Johnny, with an offhand introduction.
"I saw you on the boat," said Dick.
"Yes," said Grace, "I was there. Oh, how frightened I was when Johnny fell into the water! I don't see how you dared to jump in after him."
"Oh, I've been in swimming many a time. I don't mind it," said Dick.
"I s'pose you're used to it, like the fishes," said Johnny. "I'm glad I'm not a fish. I shouldn't like to live in the water."
"I don't think I should, either," said Dick. "Now, what do you think the fishes do when it rains?"
"I do not know."
"They go down to the bottom of the sea to get out of the wet."
"Isn't it wet down at the bottom of the sea?" asked Johnny, in good faith.
"Of course it is, you little goose," said Grace, with an air of superior wisdom.
"Will you make me a house?" said Johnny.
"What kind of a house do you want?" said Dick, seating himself on the carpet, and taking up the blocks.
"Any kind," said Johnny.
Dick, beginning to feel quite at home with the children, erected an imposing-looking house, leaving little spaces for the doors and windows.
"That's better than the house Grace made," said Johnny, looking at it with complacency.
"But it won't last very long," said Dick. "You'd better sell it before it tumbles over."
"Do you own any houses?" asked Johnny.
"Not many," said Dick, smiling.
"My father owns this house," said Johnny, positively. "He paid fifty dollars for it."
"I didn't think houses were so cheap," said Dick. "I'd like to buy one at that price."
"You're a little goose, Johnny," said Grace. "He gave as much as five hundred dollars."
"Grace doesn't know much more about the price of real estate than Johnny," said Mr. Rockwell.
"Didn't the house cost as much as five hundred dollars?" asked Grace.
"As much as that certainly, my dear."
Just then, by an unguarded movement of Johnny's foot, the edifice of blocks reared by Dick became a confused ruin.
"I've got tired of building houses," he announced, "Won't you tell me a story, Dick?"
"I don't think I know any," said our hero.
"Here is a book of pictures," said his mother, bringing one from the table. "Perhaps your new friend will show them to you."
Dick took the book, and felt very glad that he had learned to read. Otherwise he might have been considerably embarrassed.
The children asked a great many questions of Dick about the pictures, some of which he could not answer. Johnny, on being shown the picture of a Turkish mosque, asked if that was the place where the turkeys went to church.
"If there was any place for a goose to go to church, you'd go there," said his sister.
"I aint a goose any more than you are," said Johnny, indignantly; "am I, Dick?"
Just then the servant came in to carry the children to bed, and, considerably against their wishes, they were obliged to withdraw.
"Come again, Dick," said Johnny.
"Thank you," said Dick. "Good-night."
"Good-night," said the two children, and the door closed upon them.
"I think I'll be going," said Dick, who did not feel quite so much at ease, now that his young friends had left him.
"Wait a few minutes," said Mrs. Rockwell.
She rang the bell, and a servant brought up some cake and apples, of which Dick was invited to partake.
I need not detail the conversation; but Mrs. Rockwell, with the tact of a genuine lady, managed to draw out Dick, and put him quite at his ease.
"How old are you, Richard?" she asked.
"Fifteen," said Dick; "goin' on sixteen."
"You are getting to be quite a young man,—old enough to wear a watch. Have you one?"
"No," said Dick, not suspecting the motive that led to her question.
"Will you allow me the pleasure of supplying the deficiency?" said Mrs. Rockwell.
As she spoke, she drew from a box at her side a very neat gold watch and chain, and placed it in Dick's hands.
Our hero was so astonished at first that he could scarcely believe that this valuable present was intended for him.
"Is it for me?" he asked, hesitatingly.
"Yes," said Mrs. Rockwell, smiling pleasantly. "I hope you will find it of service."
"It is too much," said Dick. "I do not deserve it."
"You must let me be the judge of that," said the lady, kindly. "Here is the key; I nearly forgot to give it to you. I suppose you know how to wind it up?"
"Yes," said Dick. "I understand that. I am very much obliged to you."
"You are very welcome. Whenever you look at it, let it remind you that under all circumstances you can rely upon the friendship of Johnny's parents."
Dick slipped the watch into a watch-pocket in his vest, for which he had never before had any use, and attached the chain to his button-hole.
"How beautiful it is!" he said, in tones of admiration.
"It was bought at Ball & Black's," said Mrs. Rockwell. "If it should not keep good time, or anything should happen to it, I advise you to take it there, and they will repair it for you."
Dick perceived by his new watch that it was nearly ten o'clock, and rose to go. He was kindly invited to renew his visit, and promised to do so. Just as he was leaving the room, Mr. Rockwell handed a sealed envelope to Dick, saying, "Put this in your pocket, Richard. It will be time enough to open it when you get home."
Dick sped home much more quickly than he had come. He thought with delight of Fosdick's surprise when he should see the new watch and chain, and also with pardonable exultation of the sensation he would produce at the table when he carelessly drew out his watch to see what time it was.
When he reached his boarding-house, and went upstairs, he found Fosdick sitting up for him.
"Well, Dick, what sort of a time did you have?" he asked.
"Tip-top," said Dick.
"Who did you see?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Rockwell, and two children,—Johnny, the one I fished out of the water, and his sister, Grace. Johnny's a jolly little chap, and his sister is a nice girl."
"Halloa, what's that?" asked Fosdick, suddenly espying the watch-chain.
"What do you think of my new watch?" asked Dick, drawing it out.
"Do you mean to say it is yours?"
"Yes. Mrs. Rockwell gave it to me."
"It's a regular beauty. Mr. Henderson has got one that he paid a hundred dollars for; but it isn't as nice as yours."
"Seems to me I have no end of luck," said Dick. "I'll be a young man of fortun' before I know it."
"People will think you are now, when they see you wear such a watch as that."
"Johnny Nolan'd think I stole it, if he should see it," said Dick. "Poor chap! I wish some luck would come to him. I saw him to-day lookin' just as I used to before I met Frank."
"There's some difference between then and now, Dick."
"Yes. I was a rough chap in them days."
"In those days, Dick."
"In those days, and I don't know but I am now, but I'm trying to improve. With you to help me, I think I'll grow up respectable."
"I hope we both will, Dick. But who's that letter from that you've just taken out of your pocket?"
"Oh, I forgot. Mr. Rockwell handed it to me just before I came away, and told me not to open it till I got home. P'r'aps it says that he hasn't no more occasion for my valuable services."
"That isn't very likely, considering the present you have brought home. But open it; I am curious to see what is in it."
The envelope was cut open, and a piece of paper dropped out.
Fosdick picked it up, and to his inexpressible amazement ascertained that it was a check on the Park Bank for the sum of one thousand dollars made payable to Richard Hunter, or order.
"A thousand dollars!" repeated Dick, overwhelmed with astonishment; "you're only foolin' me. P'r'aps it's ten dollars."
"No, it's a thousand dollars. Read it yourself if you don't believe it."
"I wish you'd pinch me, Fosdick," said Dick, seriously.
"Certainly, if you wish it."
"That's enough," said Dick, hastily. "I only wanted to make sure I wasn't dreamin'. I can't believe I'm worth a thousand dollars."
"You're a lucky fellow, Dick," said Fosdick, "and you deserve your luck. I'm heartily glad of it."
"About the best luck I ever had was in meeting you," said Dick, affectionately. "I'm goin' to give you half the money."
"No, you're not, Dick. Thank you all the same," said Fosdick, decidedly. "It was meant for you, and you must keep it. I'll get along well enough. If I don't, I know you'll help me."
"But I wish you'd take half the money."
"No, Dick, it wouldn't be right. But your new watch says it's getting late, and we had better go to bed."
It was some time before Dick fell asleep. His good luck had so excited him that he found it difficult to calm down sufficiently to sink into a quiet slumber.
MR. GILBERT IS ASTONISHED.
When Dick woke up in the morning the first thing he thought of was his watch, the next the check which he had received from Mr. Rockwell.
"I'll go to the bank this morning, and get my money," said he.
"How are you going to invest it, Dick?" asked Fosdick.
"I don't know," said Dick. "I'll put it in the savings bank till I decide. That'll make more'n eleven hundred dollars. I didn't use to think I ever'd be worth that, when I slept in boxes and old wagons."
"Eleven hundred dollars at six per cent. interest will yield you sixty-six dollars a year."
"So it will," said Dick, "and all without working. I tell you what, Fosdick, at this rate I'll soon be a man of fortune."
"Yes, if you can make a thousand dollars a day."
"I wonder what old Gilbert'll say when he sees it," said Dick.
"He's the book-keeper. He aint very fond of me."
"What has he against you?"
"He thinks I don't treat him with proper respect," said Dick. "Besides he tried to get his cousin Roswell Crawford in, but he couldn't."
"Then it seems both of us have interfered with Roswell."
"He's got a place now. I guess he's the senior partner by the way he talks."
The breakfast-bell rang, and the boys went down to breakfast. Clifton was down already, and was standing in front of stove. Being an observing young man he at once noticed Dick's watch-chain.
"Halloa, Hunter!" said he; "I didn't know you had a watch."
"I didn't know it myself till last night," said Dick.
"Where did you get it?"
"It came from Ball & Black's," said our hero, willing to mystify him.
"That's a nice chain,—solid gold, eh?"
"Do you think I'd wear anything else?" asked Dick, loftily.
"Will you allow me to look at the watch?"
"Certainly," said Dick, drawing it from his pocket, and submitting it to Clifton's inspection.
"It's a regular beauty," said the young man, enthusiastically. "Do you mind telling how much you paid for it?"
"How much do you think?"
"A hundred dollars?"
"It cost all of that," said Dick, confidently. "If you see one for sale at that price, just let me know, and I'll buy it for a speculation."
"You must be getting a pretty good salary to buy such a watch as that."
"Pretty good," said Dick, carelessly.
Mr. Clifton was rather a shallow young man, who was fond of show, and had a great respect for those who were able to make it. When Dick first came to the boarding-house he looked down upon him as a boy; but now that he proved to be the possessor of an elegant gold watch and chain, and might, therefore, be regarded as in prosperous circumstances, he conceived a high respect for him. The truth was that Clifton himself only got two dollars a week more than Dick, yet he paid eight dollars a week for board, and spent the rest in dress. His reputation among tailors was not the best, being always more ready to order new clothes than to pay for them.
While they were talking the rest of the boarders entered, and breakfast commenced. Miss Peyton was there, of course.
"How did you find your friends in Madison Avenue last evening, Mr. Hunter?" she inquired.
"They were all up and dressed," said Dick. "They sent their partic'lar regards to you."
"Oh, you wicked story-teller!" simpered Miss Peyton; "just as if I'd believe such nonsense. Have they got a nice house?"
"Beautiful," said Dick. "I haven't seen any like it since I called on Queen Victoria last year."
"How is the house furnished?"
"Well," said Dick, "as near as I can remember, there's diamonds worked in the carpet, and all the tables and chairs is of gold. They'd be rather hard to set on if it twan't for the velvet cushions."
"Aint you afraid to tell such stories, Mr. Hunter? Mr. Fosdick, you will have to talk to your friend."
"I am afraid it wouldn't do much good, Miss Peyton, if you fail to cure him."
"Mr. Hunter has just been investing in a handsome watch," remarked Clifton, passing his cup for a second cup of coffee.
"Oh, do let me look at it! I dote on watches," said Miss Peyton.
"Certainly," said Dick; and he detached the chain from his button-hole, and passed the watch across the table.
"It's a perfect little love," said Miss Peyton, enthusiastically. "Isn't it, Mrs. Browning?"
"It is very beautiful, certainly," said the landlady. She could not help feeling surprised that Dick, who, it will be remembered, had represented himself at his first visit to be in limited circumstances, and now occupied one of her cheapest rooms, could afford to purchase an article which was evidently so costly.
"Where did you buy it, Mr. Hunter?" asked another boarder.
"I did not buy it at all," said Dick, deciding to let it be known how it came into his possession. "It was given to me."
"Perhaps you'll mention my name to the person that gave it to you," said Mr. Clifton. "If he's got any more to dispose of in that way, I should like to come in for one."
"How do you know but it may have come from a lady friend, Mr. Clifton?" said Miss Peyton, slyly.
"How is that, Hunter?"
"I haven't had any presents from any of my lady friends yet," said Dick. "Perhaps I may some time."
"You don't mean anybody in particular, of course, Mr. Hunter?" said Miss Peyton.
"Oh, no, of course not."
This conversation may seem scarcely worth recording, but it will serve to illustrate the character of Dick's fellow-boarders. Miss Peyton was rather silly and affected, but she was good-natured, and Dick felt more at home with her than he would have done had she been a lady like Mrs. Rockwell, for instance. It got to be the custom with Dick and Fosdick to remain in the parlor a short time after supper, or rather dinner, for this was the third meal, and Fosdick joined the young lady in singing. Dick unfortunately had not been gifted by nature with a voice attuned to melody, and he participated only as a listener, in which capacity he enjoyed the entertainment.
After breakfast Dick set out for the store as usual. He felt unusually happy and independent as he walked along. The check in his pocket made him feel rich. He wondered how it would be best to invest his money so as to yield him the largest return. He wisely decided to take Mr. Murdock, the head clerk, into his confidence, and ask his advice upon this point.
When Dick arrived at the store neither Mr. Gilbert nor Mr. Murdock had yet arrived. Half an hour later the latter came, and five minutes after him the book-keeper.
The latter noticed that the morning paper appeared to have been disturbed, and, glad of any opportunity to find fault with Dick, said, angrily, "So you've been reading the paper instead of minding your work, have you? I'll report you to Mr. Rockwell."
"Thank you," said Dick, "you're very kind. Are you sure I read the paper? Is there any news missin' out of it?"
"You're an impudent boy," said the book-keeper, provoked. He wanted to overawe Dick; but somehow Dick wouldn't be overawed. Evidently he did not entertain as much respect for the book-keeper as that gentleman felt to be his due. That a mere errand-boy should bandy words with a gentleman in his position seemed to Mr. Gilbert highly reprehensible.
"You're an impudent boy!" repeated Gilbert, sharply, finding Dick did not reply to his first charge.
"I heard you make that remark before," said Dick, quietly.
Now there was nothing out of the way in Dick's tone, which was perfectly respectful, and he only stated a fact; but the book-keeper became still more angry.
"Who rumpled that paper?" he asked.
"Suppose you ask Mr. Murdock?" said Dick.
"Did he come in here?" asked Gilbert, cooling down, for it was against Dick that his charge was made, and not against the head clerk. As to the paper, he really cared nothing.
"Yes," said Dick.
"Then it's all right. I supposed you had been idling your time over the paper. Go and ask Mr. Murdock what time it is. I left my watch at home."
"It's half past eight," said Dick, drawing out his watch.
Up to this time the book-keeper had not noticed Dick's watch-chain. Now that his attention was drawn not only to that, but to the beautiful gold watch which Dick carried, he was not a little surprised.
"Whose watch is that?" he asked, abruptly.
"Mine," said Dick, briefly, rather enjoying the book-keeper's surprise.
"How did you come by it?"
"Honestly," said Dick.
"Is it gold, or only plated?"
"Humph! Did you buy it, or was it given you?"
"Well," said Dick, "I didn't buy it."
"Did you say it was yours?"
Gilbert looked at Dick in surprise. Our hero was becoming more and more an enigma to him. That a boy in Dick's position should have a gold watch given him, especially now that he had learned from his cousin Roswell the nature of Dick's former employment, seemed indeed wonderful.
"Let me look at your watch a minute," he said.
Dick handed it to him.
"It seems to be a very good one," he said.
"Yes," said Dick; "I aint proud. It's as good as I want to wear."
"It looks entirely out of place on such a boy as you," said the book-keeper, sharply.
"Perhaps it would look better on you," suggested our hero, innocently.
"Yes, it would be more appropriate for me to wear than you. You're not old enough to be trusted with a watch; least of all with such a good one as that."
"Perhaps you'd be kind enough to mention it to the one that gave it to me."
"Whoever gave it to you didn't show much judgment," said Gilbert, in the same pleasant way. "Who was it?"
"It was Mrs. Rockwell."
If a bombshell had exploded in the office, it could hardly have taken Gilbert more by surprise.
"Who did you say?" he repeated, thinking his ears might have deceived him.
"Mrs. Rockwell," said Dick, once more.
The book-keeper could hardly suppress a low whistle.
"When did she give it to you?"
"Were you up there?"
"Did Mr. Rockwell invite you?"
Just then Dick was called away by Mr. Murdock, who had some work for him to do.
"There's something mighty queer in all this," thought the book-keeper. "What Mr. Rockwell can see in that boy, I don't understand. He's an impudent young rascal, and I'll get him turned off if it's a possible thing."
A FINANCIAL DISCUSSION.
In the course of the morning Dick called at the Park Bank, and presented the check which was made payable to himself. His employer had accompanied him to the bank on a previous day, and introduced him to the cashier as one who was authorized to receive and pay over money for the firm. Dick therefore found no difficulty in obtaining his money, though the fact that the check was made payable to him created some surprise.
"Your salary seems to be a large one," said the teller, as he handed our hero ten bills of a hundred dollars each.
"Yes," said Dick, "my services are very valooable."
On leaving the bank, Dick went to the savings bank, and presented his book.
"How much do you wish to deposit?"
"A thousand dollars," said Dick, briefly.
The bank officer looked at him in surprise.
"How much did you say?" he repeated.
"A thousand dollars."
"No nonsense, young man! My time is too valuable," said the other, impatiently.
He was justified in his incredulity, since Dick's deposits hitherto had been in sums of from one to five dollars.
"If you don't want to take the money, I can go somewhere else," said our hero, who was now on his dignity. "I have a thousand dollars to deposit. Here it is."
The bank officer took the money, and counted it over in considerable surprise.
"Business is improving,—isn't it?" he said.
"Yes," said Dick. "I made all that money in one day."
"If you should want a partner, call round and see me."
"All right. I won't forget."
Dick took the bank-book, and, putting it in his inside coat-pocket, buttoned up his coat, and hurried back to the store. His reflections were of a very agreeable nature, as he thought of his large deposit in the savings bank, and he could not help feeling that he had been born under a lucky star.
Nothing of consequence transpired in the store that day. Dick was attentive to his duties. He was determined to learn the business as rapidly as possible, not only because he felt grateful to Mr. Rockwell for his kindness, but also because he knew that this was the best thing for his future prospects. Mr. Murdock, who has already been mentioned, was of service to him in this respect. He was himself an excellent business man, and very conscientious in the discharge of his duties. He required the same fidelity of others. He had observed Dick closely, and was attracted towards him by his evident desire to give satisfaction, as well as by his frank, open face. He resolved to help him along, more especially when he saw the manner in which he was treated by the book-keeper. To tell the truth, Mr. Gilbert was not a favorite with Mr. Murdock. He understood his business, to be sure, and, so far as Mr. Murdock knew, kept the books correctly. But personally he was not agreeable, and the head salesman doubted whether his integrity was what it should have been. So, altogether, he made up his mind to help Dick on as well as he could, and take pains to instruct him in the business.
Dick, on his side, was pleased with Mr. Murdock, and determined to make him a confidant in the matter of his sudden accession of fortune.
He took an opportunity, therefore, during the day, to say to him, "Mr. Murdock, I want to ask your advice about something."
"Well, my lad, what is it?" said his friend, kindly. "If it's about choosing a wife, I don't know whether my advice will be good for much."
"It isn't that," said Dick. "Next year'll be soon enough for that."
"So I should think. Well, if it's nothing of that sort, what is it?"
"It's about investing some money. I thought you might be able to advise me."
"How much is it?" asked Mr. Murdock, supposing the sum could not be more than fifty or sixty dollars.
"Eleven hundred dollars," said Dick.
"How much?" demanded the salesman, in surprise.
"Eleven hundred dollars."
"Is it your own?"
"Of course you couldn't have earned so much. Was it left to you?"
"I'll tell you all about it," said Dick. "I wouldn't tell Mr. Gilbert, and I don't mean he shall know it, but I'd just as lieves tell you. Do you know why Mr. Rockwell gave me this place?"
"No; I've wondered a little, not at that, but at his giving you so much higher pay than boys usually receive."
"Then I'll tell you."
Dick proceeded to give an account of the manner in which he had rescued little Johnny from drowning, as related in the adventures of "Ragged Dick."
"It was a brave act," said Mr. Murdock.
"It was nothing at all," said Dick, modestly. "I could swim like a duck, and I didn't mind the wetting."
"But you ran the risk of drowning."
"I didn't think of that."
"If you had been a coward or a selfish boy, it would have been the first thing you would have thought of. So Mr. Rockwell gave you this place in acknowledgment of your service. I am glad he did. You deserve it."
"He has done more," said Dick. Then he related the events of the evening previous, and told Mr. Murdock of the two gifts he had received. "So, with the money I had before, I have now eleven hundred dollars," Dick concluded. "Shall I leave it in the savings bank, or can I do better with it?"
"I'll tell you what I think will be a good investment," said Mr. Murdock. "I know a party who owns four adjoining lots on Forty-Fifth Street. He is pressed for money, and wishes to dispose of them. He offered them to me at twenty-two hundred dollars, half cash. I offered him a thousand dollars cash for two of them, but he wishes to sell the whole together. I think it will be an excellent speculation, for the laying out of Central Park is carrying up the price of lots in the neighborhood rapidly."
"Why didn't you buy them, then?"
"Because I didn't want to buy anything that I couldn't pay for at once. I've got a wife and three children to look out for, and so I can save money but slowly. If I only had myself to take care of, I wouldn't hesitate."
"Can't we club together, and buy it?" suggested Dick, eagerly.
"That is just what I was going to propose. I think the owner will take two thousand dollars down for the lots. That will be a thousand dollars apiece. I've got that money, and so have you. What do you think of it?"
"Tip-top," said Dick, enthusiastically. "It's just what I'd like to do."
"Of course it wouldn't bring us in anything, but would, instead, be an expense for the present, as we should have to pay taxes on it. On the other hand, you could invest the money in bank-stock, so as to receive seventy or eighty dollars annually at interest. You must decide which investment you prefer. The land we may have to keep on hand four or five years, paying taxes yearly."
"But the price'll go up."
"There is no doubt of that. The city is extending northwards rapidly. I shouldn't be surprised if the lots would bring a thousand dollars apiece in less than five years. This would be equal to a very handsome interest."
"I'm in for buying 'em," said Dick. "So, if you'll see the owner, I'll have the money all ready whenever you want it."
"Very well, but perhaps you would like to see them first. We'll manage to get off an hour earlier than usual this afternoon, and go up and take a look at them."
"It seems to me Mr. Murdock and that boy are pretty thick together," said the book-keeper, glancing through the glass partition. He could see that they were conversing earnestly, but of course couldn't hear a word that was said. "What he or Mr. Rockwell can see in the young rascal passes my comprehension."
He called sharply to Dick, and ordered him to go to the post-office for letters.
"All right," said Dick.
"And mind you don't loiter by the way," said the book-keeper, sharply. "You were gone long enough at the bank this morning. Did you come right back?"
"No," said Dick.
"Why didn't you?"
"There was somewhere else I wanted to go."
"On your own business, or Mr. Rockwell's?"
"On my own business."
"So I thought. I shall report you to Mr. Rockwell," said Gilbert, triumphantly.
"I wouldn't, if I were you," said Dick, coolly.
"And why not, you young rascal?"
"Because he knows it already."
"Knows it already," repeated the book-keeper, discomfited. "Well, I hope he gave you a good scolding."
"I am sorry to disappoint you," said Dick; "but he knows it, because he gave me leave to go."
"I don't believe it," said Gilbert, mortified to find that Dick was in the right after all.
"Then perhaps you'd better ask Mr. Rockwell."
"I will," said Gilbert, who really had no intention of doing so. "You must have had some very urgent private business," he added, with a sneer.
"You're right, there," said Dick.
"Playing marbles with some of your ragamuffin friends, I suppose."
"Playin' marbles is a very refined and intellectual amusement," said Dick; "but I don't play marbles in business hours."
"Where did you go?" said the book-keeper, impatiently. "I don't want any of your impertinence."
"I went to the savings bank," said Dick.
"I suppose you have a very large account there," sneered Gilbert.
"Yes," said Dick, quietly; "pretty large."
"It's to be hoped you won't withdraw your patronage, or the bank might fail."
"Then I won't," said Dick. "Shall I go to the post-office now?"
"Yes, and be quick about it."
The book-keeper had some curiosity as to the amount of Dick's account at the savings bank, but there was no good chance for him to inquire, and he accordingly returned to his writing, more prejudiced against Dick than ever.
On the whole, I have some doubts whether Dick's manner was quite as respectful as it ought to have been to one who was older and higher in office than himself. I should not recommend my young readers to imitate him in this respect. But it is my business to describe Dick just as he was, and I have already said that he was not a model boy. Still in most respects he tried to do what was right, and it must be admitted that the book-keeper's treatment of him was not likely to inspire much attachment or respect. Dick had no difficulty in perceiving the dislike entertained by Gilbert for him, and he was beginning to cherish a similar feeling towards the book-keeper. He determined, however, to give him no cause of complaint, so far as he was entitled to command his services; but it must be confessed he found much more satisfaction in obeying Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Murdock.
At the close of the afternoon, as had been proposed, Mr. Murdock, accompanied by Dick, rode up as far as Forty-Fifth Street, to look at the lots which he had suggested buying. They were located in a very eligible situation, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Some of my young readers may not be aware that the dimensions of a city lot are twenty-five feet front by one hundred feet in depth. The four lots together made a plot of one hundred feet by one hundred, or a little less than quarter of an acre. In the country the whole would scarcely have been considered sufficient for a house with a good yard in front; but if people choose to live in the city they must make up their minds to be crowded.
"It looks small,—don't it?" said Dick. "I shouldn't think there was four lots there."
"Yes," said Mr. Murdock, "they are of the regular size. Some lots are only twenty feet wide. These are twenty-five. They don't look so large before they are built on."
"Well," said Dick, "I'm in for buying them."
"I think it will be a good investment for both of us," said Mr. Murdock.
"The money shall be ready whenever you want it," said Dick.
"Very well. I will see the owner to-morrow, or rather this evening, as it is best to be prompt, lest we might lose so favorable a bargain. I will make the best terms I can with him, and let you know the result to-morrow."
"All right!" said Dick. "Good-night, Mr. Murdock."
"Good-night. By-the-by, why won't you come round and take supper with us? My wife and children will be glad to make your acquaintance."
"Thank you," said Dick. "I will come some other evening with pleasure; but if I stay away without saying anything about it, Fosdick won't know what's become of me."
Dick got back to Bleecker Street a little late for dinner. When he entered the dining-room, the remainder of the boarders were seated at the table.
"Come, Mr. Hunter, you must render an account of yourself," said Miss Peyton, playfully. "Why are you late this evening?"
"Suppose I don't tell," said Dick.
"Then you must pay a fine,—mustn't he, Mrs. Browning?"
"That depends upon who is to benefit by the fines," said the landlady. "If they are to be paid to me, I shall be decidedly in favor of it. That reminds me that you were late to breakfast this morning, Miss Peyton."
"Oh, ladies mustn't be expected to pay fines," said Miss Peyton, shaking her ringlets. "They never have any money, you know."
"Then I think we must let Mr. Hunter off," said Mrs. Browning.
"If he will tell us what has detained him. You must excuse my curiosity, Mr. Hunter, but ladies, you know, are privileged to be curious."
"I don't mind telling," said Dick, helping himself to a piece of toast. "I'm talking of buying some lots up-town, and went up with a friend to look at them."
Fosdick looked at Dick, inquiringly, not knowing if he were in earnest or not.
"Indeed!" said Mr. Clifton. "May I inquire where the lots are situated?"
"I'll tell you if I buy them," said Dick; "but I don't want to run the risk of losing them."
"You needn't be afraid of my cutting you out," said Clifton. "I paid my washerwoman this morning, and haven't got but a dollar and a half over. I suppose that won't buy the property."
"I wish it would," said Dick. "In that case I'd buy half a dozen lots."
"I suppose, from your investing in lots, Mr. Hunter, that you are thinking of getting married, and living in a house of your own," said Miss Peyton, simpering.
"No," said Dick, "I shan't get married for a year. Nobody ought to be married before they're seventeen."
"That's just my age," said Miss Peyton.
Mr. Clifton afterwards informed Dick that Miss Peyton was twenty-five, but did not mention how he had ascertained. He likewise added that when he first came to the boarding-house, she had tried her fascinations upon him.
"She'd have married me in a minute," he said complacently; "but I'm too old a bird to be caught that way. When you see Mrs. Clifton, gentlemen, you'll see style and beauty, and—money" he added, after a moment's reflection.
Mr. Clifton had a tolerably good opinion of himself, as may be inferred from this remark. In fact, he valued himself rather more highly than the ladies appeared to do; but such cases are not remarkable.
"Mrs. Clifton will be a lucky woman," said Dick, with a sober face.
"You're very kind to say so," said Mr. Clifton, modestly. "I believe I'm tolerably good-looking, and nobody'll deny that I've got style. But money,—that's my weak point. You couldn't lend me five dollars, could you, till next week?"
"I'm afraid not," said Dick. "My up-town lots cost so much, and then there'll be the taxes afterwards."
"Oh, it's of no consequence. I thought a little of going to the opera to-night, and I need a new pair of gloves. It costs a sight to keep a fellow in gloves."
"So it does," said Dick. "I bought a pair for fifty cents six months ago, and now I've got to buy another pair."
"Ha, ha! good joke! By the way, I wonder you fellows don't take a better room."
"Why should we? Isn't this good enough?" asked Fosdick.
"Oh, it's comfortable and all that," said Clifton; "but you know what I mean. You wouldn't want any of your fashionable friends to call upon you here."
"That's a fact," said Dick. "Suppose," he said, turning to Fosdick, with a twinkle in his eye, "Johnny Nolan should call upon us here. What would he think of our living in such a room?"
"He would probably be surprised," said Fosdick, entering into the joke.
"Is he one of your Madison-Avenue friends?" asked Clifton, a little mystified.
"I don't know where he lives," said Dick, with truth; "but he's a friend of mine, in business down town."
"Wholesale or retail?"
"Retail I should say,—shouldn't you, Fosdick?"
"Yes," said Fosdick, amused at Clifton's evident mystification.
"Well, good-evening, gents," said Clifton, sauntering out of the room. "Call and see me when you haven't anything better to do."
"Thank you. Good-night."
"Were you in earnest, Dick, about the up-town lots," asked Fosdick, after Clifton had left the room.
"Yes," said Dick. "It's an investment that Mr. Murdock advised. I'll tell you about it, and then you can tell me what you think of it."
Dick thereupon gave an account of the conversation that had taken place between him and the head clerk, and what they proposed to do. "What do you think of it?" he concluded.
"I have no doubt it is an excellent plan," said Fosdick; "but of course my opinion isn't worth much. I don't see but you stand a chance to be a rich man some time, Dick."
"By the time I get to be a hundred," said Dick.
"A good while before that, I presume. But there's something else we must not forget."
"What is that?"
"Money is a good thing to have, but a good education is better. I was thinking to-day that since we have come here we haven't done any studying to amount to anything."
"That is true."
"And the sooner we begin the better."
"All right. I agree to that."
"But we shall need assistance. I've taught you about all I know myself, and now we want to go higher."
"What shall we do?"
"I'll tell you, Dick. Have you noticed the young man that has a room just opposite ours?"
"His name is Layton,—isn't it?"
"What about him?"
"I heard yesterday that he was a teacher in a private school. We might engage him to teach us in the evening, or, at any rate, see if he is willing."
"All right. Is he in now, I wonder?"
"Yes. I heard him go into his room a few minutes since."
"Very well; suppose we go in and speak to him."
The boys at once acted upon this suggestion, and, crossing the entry, knocked at the door.