STREET LIFE IN NEW YORK WITH THE BOOT-BLACKS.
BY HORATIO ALGER JR.
To Joseph W. Allen, at whose suggestion this story was undertaken, it is inscribed with friendly regard.
"Ragged Dick" was contributed as a serial story to the pages of the Schoolmate, a well-known juvenile magazine, during the year 1867. While in course of publication, it was received with so many evidences of favor that it has been rewritten and considerably enlarged, and is now presented to the public as the first volume of a series intended to illustrate the life and experiences of the friendless and vagrant children who are now numbered by thousands in New York and other cities.
Several characters in the story are sketched from life. The necessary information has been gathered mainly from personal observation and conversations with the boys themselves. The author is indebted also to the excellent Superintendent of the Newsboys' Lodging House, in Fulton Street, for some facts of which he has been able to make use. Some anachronisms may be noted. Wherever they occur, they have been admitted, as aiding in the development of the story, and will probably be considered as of little importance in an unpretending volume, which does not aspire to strict historical accuracy.
The author hopes that, while the volumes in this series may prove interesting stories, they may also have the effect of enlisting the sympathies of his readers in behalf of the unfortunate children whose life is described, and of leading them to co-operate with the praiseworthy efforts now making by the Children's Aid Society and other organizations to ameliorate their condition.
New York, April, 1868
RAGGED DICK IS INTRODUCED TO THE READER
"Wake up there, youngster," said a rough voice.
Ragged Dick opened his eyes slowly, and stared stupidly in the face of the speaker, but did not offer to get up.
"Wake up, you young vagabond!" said the man a little impatiently; "I suppose you'd lay there all day, if I hadn't called you."
"What time is it?" asked Dick.
"Seven o'clock! I oughter've been up an hour ago. I know what 'twas made me so precious sleepy. I went to the Old Bowery last night, and didn't turn in till past twelve."
"You went to the Old Bowery? Where'd you get your money?" asked the man, who was a porter in the employ of a firm doing business on Spruce Street. "Made it by shines, in course. My guardian don't allow me no money for theatres, so I have to earn it."
"Some boys get it easier than that," said the porter significantly.
"You don't catch me stealin', if that's what you mean," said Dick.
"Don't you ever steal, then?"
"No, and I wouldn't. Lots of boys does it, but I wouldn't."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you say that. I believe there's some good in you, Dick, after all."
"Oh, I'm a rough customer!" said Dick. "But I wouldn't steal. It's mean."
"I'm glad you think so, Dick," and the rough voice sounded gentler than at first. "Have you got any money to buy your breakfast?"
"No, but I'll soon get some."
While this conversation had been going on, Dick had got up. His bedchamber had been a wooden box half full of straw, on which the young boot-black had reposed his weary limbs, and slept as soundly as if it had been a bed of down. He dumped down into the straw without taking the trouble of undressing.
Getting up too was an equally short process. He jumped out of the box, shook himself, picked out one or two straws that had found their way into rents in his clothes, and, drawing a well-worn cap over his uncombed locks, he was all ready for the business of the day.
Dick's appearance as he stood beside the box was rather peculiar. His pants were torn in several places, and had apparently belonged in the first instance to a boy two sizes larger than himself. He wore a vest, all the buttons of which were gone except two, out of which peeped a shirt which looked as if it had been worn a month. To complete his costume he wore a coat too long for him, dating back, if one might judge from its general appearance, to a remote antiquity.
Washing the face and hands is usually considered proper in commencing the day, but Dick was above such refinement. He had no particular dislike to dirt, and did not think it necessary to remove several dark streaks on his face and hands. But in spite of his dirt and rags there was something about Dick that was attractive. It was easy to see that if he had been clean and well dressed he would have been decidedly good-looking. Some of his companions were sly, and their faces inspired distrust; but Dick had a frank, straight-forward manner that made him a favorite.
Dick's business hours had commenced. He had no office to open. His little blacking-box was ready for use, and he looked sharply in the faces of all who passed, addressing each with, "Shine yer boots, sir?"
"How much?" asked a gentleman on his way to his office.
"Ten cents," said Dick, dropping his box, and sinking upon his knees on the sidewalk, flourishing his brush with the air of one skilled in his profession.
"Ten cents! Isn't that a little steep?"
"Well, you know 'taint all clear profit," said Dick, who had already set to work. "There's the blacking costs something, and I have to get a new brush pretty often."
"And you have a large rent too," said the gentleman quizzically, with a glance at a large hole in Dick's coat.
"Yes, sir," said Dick, always ready to joke; "I have to pay such a big rent for my manshun up on Fifth Avenoo, that I can't afford to take less than ten cents a shine. I'll give you a bully shine, sir."
"Be quick about it, for I am in a hurry. So your house is on Fifth Avenue, is it?"
"It isn't anywhere else," said Dick, and Dick spoke the truth there.
"What tailor do you patronize?" asked the gentleman, surveying Dick's attire.
"Would you like to go to the same one?" asked Dick, shrewdly.
"Well, no; it strikes me that he didn't give you a very good fit."
"This coat once belonged to General Washington," said Dick, comically. "He wore it all through the Revolution, and it got torn some, 'cause he fit so hard. When he died he told his widder to give it to some smart young feller that hadn't got none of his own; so she gave it to me. But if you'd like it, sir, to remember General Washington by, I'll let you have it reasonable."
"Thank you, but I wouldn't want to deprive you of it. And did your pants come from General Washington too?"
"No, they was a gift from Lewis Napoleon. Lewis had outgrown 'em and sent 'em to me,—he's bigger than me, and that's why they don't fit."
"It seems you have distinguished friends. Now, my lad, I suppose you would like your money."
"I shouldn't have any objection," said Dick.
"I believe," said the gentleman, examining his pocket-book, "I haven't got anything short of twenty-five cents. Have you got any change?"
"Not a cent," said Dick. "All my money's invested in the Erie Railroad."
"Shall I get the money changed, sir?"
"I can't wait; I've got to meet an appointment immediately. I'll hand you twenty-five cents, and you can leave the change at my office any time during the day."
"All right, sir. Where is it?"
"No. 125 Fulton Street. Shall you remember?"
"Yes, sir. What name?"
"Greyson,—office on second floor."
"All right, sir; I'll bring it."
"I wonder whether the little scamp will prove honest," said Mr. Greyson to himself, as he walked away. "If he does, I'll give him my custom regularly. If he don't as is most likely, I shan't mind the loss of fifteen cents."
Mr. Greyson didn't understand Dick. Our ragged hero wasn't a model boy in all respects. I am afraid he swore sometimes, and now and then he played tricks upon unsophisticated boys from the country, or gave a wrong direction to honest old gentlemen unused to the city. A clergyman in search of the Cooper Institute he once directed to the Tombs Prison, and, following him unobserved, was highly delighted when the unsuspicious stranger walked up the front steps of the great stone building on Centre Street, and tried to obtain admission.
"I guess he wouldn't want to stay long if he did get in," thought Ragged Dick, hitching up his pants. "Leastways I shouldn't. They're so precious glad to see you that they won't let you go, but board you gratooitous, and never send in no bills."
Another of Dick's faults was his extravagance. Being always wide-awake and ready for business, he earned enough to have supported him comfortably and respectably. There were not a few young clerks who employed Dick from time to time in his professional capacity, who scarcely earned as much as he, greatly as their style and dress exceeded his. But Dick was careless of his earnings. Where they went he could hardly have told himself. However much he managed to earn during the day, all was generally spent before morning. He was fond of going to the Old Bowery Theatre, and to Tony Pastor's, and if he had any money left afterwards, he would invite some of his friends in somewhere to have an oyster-stew; so it seldom happened that he commenced the day with a penny.
Then I am sorry to add that Dick had formed the habit of smoking. This cost him considerable, for Dick was rather fastidious about his cigars, and wouldn't smoke the cheapest. Besides, having a liberal nature, he was generally ready to treat his companions. But of course the expense was the smallest objection. No boy of fourteen can smoke without being affected injuriously. Men are frequently injured by smoking, and boys always. But large numbers of the newsboys and boot-blacks form the habit. Exposed to the cold and wet they find that it warms them up, and the self-indulgence grows upon them. It is not uncommon to see a little boy, too young to be out of his mother's sight, smoking with all the apparent satisfaction of a veteran smoker.
There was another way in which Dick sometimes lost money. There was a noted gambling-house on Baxter Street, which in the evening was sometimes crowded with these juvenile gamesters, who staked their hard earnings, generally losing of course, and refreshing themselves from time to time with a vile mixture of liquor at two cents a glass. Sometimes Dick strayed in here, and played with the rest.
I have mentioned Dick's faults and defects, because I want it understood, to begin with, that I don't consider him a model boy. But there were some good points about him nevertheless. He was above doing anything mean or dishonorable. He would not steal, or cheat, or impose upon younger boys, but was frank and straight-forward, manly and self-reliant. His nature was a noble one, and had saved him from all mean faults. I hope my young readers will like him as I do, without being blind to his faults. Perhaps, although he was only a boot-black, they may find something in him to imitate.
And now, having fairly introduced Ragged Dick to my young readers, I must refer them to the next chapter for his further adventures.
After Dick had finished polishing Mr. Greyson's boots he was fortunate enough to secure three other customers, two of them reporters in the Tribune establishment, which occupies the corner of Spruce Street and Printing House Square.
When Dick had got through with his last customer the City Hall clock indicated eight o'clock. He had been up an hour, and hard at work, and naturally began to think of breakfast. He went up to the head of Spruce Street, and turned into Nassau. Two blocks further, and he reached Ann Street. On this street was a small, cheap restaurant, where for five cents Dick could get a cup of coffee, and for ten cents more, a plate of beefsteak with a plate of bread thrown in. These Dick ordered, and sat down at a table.
It was a small apartment with a few plain tables unprovided with cloths, for the class of customers who patronized it were not very particular. Our hero's breakfast was soon before him. Neither the coffee nor the steak were as good as can be bought at Delmonico's; but then it is very doubtful whether, in the present state of his wardrobe, Dick would have been received at that aristocratic restaurant, even if his means had admitted of paying the high prices there charged.
Dick had scarcely been served when he espied a boy about his own size standing at the door, looking wistfully into the restaurant. This was Johnny Nolan, a boy of fourteen, who was engaged in the same profession as Ragged Dick. His wardrobe was in very much the same condition as Dick's.
"Had your breakfast, Johnny?" inquired Dick, cutting off a piece of steak.
"Come in, then. Here's room for you."
"I aint got no money," said Johnny, looking a little enviously at his more fortunate friend.
"Haven't you had any shines?"
"Yes, I had one, but I shan't get any pay till to-morrow."
"Are you hungry?"
"Try me, and see."
"Come in. I'll stand treat this morning."
Johnny Nolan was nowise slow to accept this invitation, and was soon seated beside Dick.
"What'll you have, Johnny?"
"Same as you."
"Cup o' coffee and beefsteak," ordered Dick.
These were promptly brought, and Johnny attacked them vigorously.
Now, in the boot-blacking business, as well as in higher avocations, the same rule prevails, that energy and industry are rewarded, and indolence suffers. Dick was energetic and on the alert for business, but Johnny the reverse. The consequence was that Dick earned probably three times as much as the other.
"How do you like it?" asked Dick, surveying Johnny's attacks upon the steak with evident complacency.
I don't believe "hunky" is to be found in either Webster's or Worcester's big dictionary; but boys will readily understand what it means.
"Do you come here often?" asked Johnny.
"Most every day. You'd better come too."
"I can't afford it."
"Well, you'd ought to, then," said Dick. "What do you do I'd like to know?"
"I don't get near as much as you, Dick."
"Well you might if you tried. I keep my eyes open,—that's the way I get jobs. You're lazy, that's what's the matter."
Johnny did not see fit to reply to this charge. Probably he felt the justice of it, and preferred to proceed with the breakfast, which he enjoyed the more as it cost him nothing.
Breakfast over, Dick walked up to the desk, and settled the bill. Then, followed by Johnny, he went out into the street.
"Where are you going, Johnny?"
"Up to Mr. Taylor's, on Spruce Street, to see if he don't want a shine."
"Do you work for him reg'lar?"
"Yes. Him and his partner wants a shine most every day. Where are you goin'?"
"Down front of the Astor House. I guess I'll find some customers there."
At this moment Johnny started, and, dodging into an entry way, hid behind the door, considerably to Dick's surprise.
"What's the matter now?" asked our hero.
"Has he gone?" asked Johnny, his voice betraying anxiety.
"Who gone, I'd like to know?"
"That man in the brown coat."
"What of him. You aint scared of him, are you?"
"Yes, he got me a place once."
"Ever so far off."
"What if he did?"
"I ran away."
"Didn't you like it?"
"No, I had to get up too early. It was on a farm, and I had to get up at five to take care of the cows. I like New York best."
"Didn't they give you enough to eat?"
"Oh, yes, plenty."
"And you had a good bed?"
"Then you'd better have stayed. You don't get either of them here. Where'd you sleep last night?"
"Up an alley in an old wagon."
"You had a better bed than that in the country, didn't you?"
"Yes, it was as soft as—as cotton."
Johnny had once slept on a bale of cotton, the recollection supplying him with a comparison.
"Why didn't you stay?"
"I felt lonely," said Johnny.
Johnny could not exactly explain his feelings, but it is often the case that the young vagabond of the streets, though his food is uncertain, and his bed may be any old wagon or barrel that he is lucky enough to find unoccupied when night sets in, gets so attached to his precarious but independent mode of life, that he feels discontented in any other. He is accustomed to the noise and bustle and ever-varied life of the streets, and in the quiet scenes of the country misses the excitement in the midst of which he has always dwelt.
Johnny had but one tie to bind him to the city. He had a father living, but he might as well have been without one. Mr. Nolan was a confirmed drunkard, and spent the greater part of his wages for liquor. His potations made him ugly, and inflamed a temper never very sweet, working him up sometimes to such a pitch of rage that Johnny's life was in danger. Some months before, he had thrown a flat-iron at his son's head with such terrific force that unless Johnny had dodged he would not have lived long enough to obtain a place in our story. He fled the house, and from that time had not dared to re-enter it. Somebody had given him a brush and box of blacking, and he had set up in business on his own account. But he had not energy enough to succeed, as has already been stated, and I am afraid the poor boy had met with many hardships, and suffered more than once from cold and hunger. Dick had befriended him more than once, and often given him a breakfast or dinner, as the case might be.
"How'd you get away?" asked Dick, with some curiosity. "Did you walk?"
"No, I rode on the cars."
"Where'd you get your money? I hope you didn't steal it."
"I didn't have none."
"What did you do, then?"
"I got up about three o'clock, and walked to Albany."
"Where's that?" asked Dick, whose ideas on the subject of geography were rather vague.
"Up the river."
"About a thousand miles," said Johnny, whose conceptions of distance were equally vague.
"Go ahead. What did you do then?"
"I hid on top of a freight car, and came all the way without their seeing me.* That man in the brown coat was the man that got me the place, and I'm afraid he'd want to send me back."
* A fact.
"Well," said Dick, reflectively, "I dunno as I'd like to live in the country. I couldn't go to Tony Pastor's or the Old Bowery. There wouldn't be no place to spend my evenings. But I say, it's tough in winter, Johnny, 'specially when your overcoat's at the tailor's, an' likely to stay there."
"That's so, Dick. But I must be goin', or Mr. Taylor'll get somebody else to shine his boots."
Johnny walked back to Nassau Street, while Dick kept on his way to Broadway.
"That boy," soliloquized Dick, as Johnny took his departure, "aint got no ambition. I'll bet he won't get five shines to-day. I'm glad I aint like him. I couldn't go to the theatre, nor buy no cigars, nor get half as much as I wanted to eat.—Shine yer boots, sir?"
Dick always had an eye to business, and this remark was addressed to a young man, dressed in a stylish manner, who was swinging a jaunty cane.
"I've had my boots blacked once already this morning, but this confounded mud has spoiled the shine."
"I'll make 'em all right, sir, in a minute."
"Go ahead, then."
The boots were soon polished in Dick's best style, which proved very satisfactory, our hero being a proficient in the art.
"I haven't got any change," said the young man, fumbling in his pocket, "but here's a bill you may run somewhere and get changed. I'll pay you five cents extra for your trouble."
He handed Dick a two-dollar bill, which our hero took into a store close by.
"Will you please change that, sir?" said Dick, walking up to the counter.
The salesman to whom he proffered it took the bill, and, slightly glancing at it, exclaimed angrily, "Be off, you young vagabond, or I'll have you arrested."
"What's the row?"
"You've offered me a counterfeit bill."
"I didn't know it," said Dick.
"Don't tell me. Be off, or I'll have you arrested."
DICK MAKES A PROPOSITION
Though Dick was somewhat startled at discovering that the bill he had offered was counterfeit, he stood his ground bravely.
"Clear out of this shop, you young vagabond," repeated the clerk.
"Then give me back my bill."
"That you may pass it again? No, sir, I shall do no such thing."
"It doesn't belong to me," said Dick. "A gentleman that owes me for a shine gave it to me to change."
"A likely story," said the clerk; but he seemed a little uneasy.
"I'll go and call him," said Dick.
He went out, and found his late customer standing on the Astor House steps.
"Well, youngster, have you brought back my change? You were a precious long time about it. I began to think you had cleared out with the money."
"That aint my style," said Dick, proudly.
"Then where's the change?"
"I haven't got it."
"Where's the bill then?"
"I haven't got that either."
"You young rascal!"
"Hold on a minute, mister," said Dick, "and I'll tell you all about it. The man what took the bill said it wasn't good, and kept it."
"The bill was perfectly good. So he kept it, did he? I'll go with you to the store, and see whether he won't give it back to me."
Dick led the way, and the gentleman followed him into the store. At the reappearance of Dick in such company, the clerk flushed a little, and looked nervous. He fancied that he could browbeat a ragged boot-black, but with a gentleman he saw that it would be a different matter. He did not seem to notice the newcomers, but began to replace some goods on the shelves.
"Now," said the young man, "point out the clerk that has my money."
"That's him," said Dick, pointing out the clerk.
The gentleman walked up to the counter.
"I will trouble you," he said a little haughtily, "for a bill which that boy offered you, and which you still hold in your possession."
"It was a bad bill," said the clerk, his cheek flushing, and his manner nervous.
"It was no such thing. I require you to produce it, and let the matter be decided."
The clerk fumbled in his vest-pocket, and drew out a bad-looking bill.
"This is a bad bill, but it is not the one I gave the boy."
"It is the one he gave me."
The young man looked doubtful.
"Boy," he said to Dick, "is this the bill you gave to be changed?"
"No, it isn't."
"You lie, you young rascal!" exclaimed the clerk, who began to find himself in a tight place, and could not see the way out.
This scene naturally attracted the attention of all in the store, and the proprietor walked up from the lower end, where he had been busy.
"What's all this, Mr. Hatch?" he demanded.
"That boy," said the clerk, "came in and asked change for a bad bill. I kept the bill, and told him to clear out. Now he wants it again to pass on somebody else."
"Show the bill."
The merchant looked at it. "Yes, that's a bad bill," he said. "There is no doubt about that."
"But it is not the one the boy offered," said Dick's patron. "It is one of the same denomination, but on a different bank."
"Do you remember what bank it was on?"
"It was on the Merchants' Bank of Boston."
"Are you sure of it?"
"Perhaps the boy kept it and offered the other."
"You may search me if you want to," said Dick, indignantly.
"He doesn't look as if he was likely to have any extra bills. I suspect that your clerk pocketed the good bill, and has substituted the counterfeit note. It is a nice little scheme of his for making money."
"I haven't seen any bill on the Merchants' Bank," said the clerk, doggedly.
"You had better feel in your pockets."
"This matter must be investigated," said the merchant, firmly. "If you have the bill, produce it."
"I haven't got it," said the clerk; but he looked guilty notwithstanding.
"I demand that he be searched," said Dick's patron.
"I tell you I haven't got it."
"Shall I send for a police officer, Mr. Hatch, or will you allow yourself to be searched quietly?" said the merchant.
Alarmed at the threat implied in these words, the clerk put his hand into his vest-pocket, and drew out a two-dollar bill on the Merchants' Bank.
"Is this your note?" asked the shopkeeper, showing it to the young man.
"I must have made a mistake," faltered the clerk.
"I shall not give you a chance to make such another mistake in my employ," said the merchant sternly. "You may go up to the desk and ask for what wages are due you. I shall have no further occasion for your services."
"Now, youngster," said Dick's patron, as they went out of the store, after he had finally got the bill changed. "I must pay you something extra for your trouble. Here's fifty cents."
"Thank you, sir," said Dick. "You're very kind. Don't you want some more bills changed?"
"Not to-day," said he with a smile. "It's too expensive."
"I'm in luck," thought our hero complacently. "I guess I'll go to Barnum's to-night, and see the bearded lady, the eight-foot giant, the two-foot dwarf, and the other curiosities, too numerous to mention."
Dick shouldered his box and walked up as far as the Astor House. He took his station on the sidewalk, and began to look about him.
Just behind him were two persons,—one, a gentleman of fifty; the other, a boy of thirteen or fourteen. They were speaking together, and Dick had no difficulty in hearing what was said.
"I am sorry, Frank, that I can't go about, and show you some of the sights of New York, but I shall be full of business to-day. It is your first visit to the city, too."
"There's a good deal worth seeing here. But I'm afraid you'll have to wait to next time. You can go out and walk by yourself, but don't venture too far, or you will get lost."
Frank looked disappointed.
"I wish Tom Miles knew I was here," he said. "He would go around with me."
"Where does he live?"
"Somewhere up town, I believe."
"Then, unfortunately, he is not available. If you would rather go with me than stay here, you can, but as I shall be most of the time in merchants'-counting-rooms, I am afraid it would not be very interesting."
"I think," said Frank, after a little hesitation, "that I will go off by myself. I won't go very far, and if I lose my way, I will inquire for the Astor House."
"Yes, anybody will direct you here. Very well, Frank, I am sorry I can't do better for you."
"Oh, never mind, uncle, I shall be amused in walking around, and looking at the shop-windows. There will be a great deal to see."
Now Dick had listened to all this conversation. Being an enterprising young man, he thought he saw a chance for a speculation, and determined to avail himself of it.
Accordingly he stepped up to the two just as Frank's uncle was about leaving, and said, "I know all about the city, sir; I'll show him around, if you want me to."
The gentleman looked a little curiously at the ragged figure before him.
"So you are a city boy, are you?"
"Yes, sir," said Dick, "I've lived here ever since I was a baby."
"And you know all about the public buildings, I suppose?"
"And the Central Park?"
"Yes, sir. I know my way all round."
The gentleman looked thoughtful.
"I don't know what to say, Frank," he remarked after a while. "It is rather a novel proposal. He isn't exactly the sort of guide I would have picked out for you. Still he looks honest. He has an open face, and I think can be depended upon."
"I wish he wasn't so ragged and dirty," said Frank, who felt a little shy about being seen with such a companion.
"I'm afraid you haven't washed your face this morning," said Mr. Whitney, for that was the gentleman's name.
"They didn't have no wash-bowls at the hotel where I stopped," said Dick.
"What hotel did you stop at?"
"The Box Hotel."
"The Box Hotel?"
"Yes, sir, I slept in a box on Spruce Street."
Frank surveyed Dick curiously.
"How did you like it?" he asked.
"I slept bully."
"Suppose it had rained."
"Then I'd have wet my best clothes," said Dick.
"Are these all the clothes you have?"
Mr. Whitney spoke a few words to Frank, who seemed pleased with the suggestion.
"Follow me, my lad," he said.
Dick in some surprise obeyed orders, following Mr. Whitney and Frank into the hotel, past the office, to the foot of the staircase. Here a servant of the hotel stopped Dick, but Mr. Whitney explained that he had something for him to do, and he was allowed to proceed.
They entered a long entry, and finally paused before a door. This being opened a pleasant chamber was disclosed.
"Come in, my lad," said Mr. Whitney.
Dick and Frank entered.
DICK'S NEW SUIT
"Now," said Mr. Whitney to Dick, "my nephew here is on his way to a boarding-school. He has a suit of clothes in his trunk about half worn. He is willing to give them to you. I think they will look better than those you have on."
Dick was so astonished that he hardly knew what to say. Presents were something that he knew very little about, never having received any to his knowledge. That so large a gift should be made to him by a stranger seemed very wonderful.
The clothes were brought out, and turned out to be a neat gray suit.
"Before you put them on, my lad, you must wash yourself. Clean clothes and a dirty skin don't go very well together. Frank, you may attend to him. I am obliged to go at once. Have you got as much money as you require?"
"One more word, my lad," said Mr. Whitney, addressing Dick; "I may be rash in trusting a boy of whom I know nothing, but I like your looks, and I think you will prove a proper guide for my nephew."
"Yes, I will, sir," said Dick, earnestly. "Honor bright!"
"Very well. A pleasant time to you."
The process of cleansing commenced. To tell the truth Dick needed it, and the sensation of cleanliness he found both new and pleasant. Frank added to his gift a shirt, stockings, and an old pair of shoes. "I am sorry I haven't any cap," said he.
"I've got one," said Dick.
"It isn't so new as it might be," said Frank, surveying an old felt hat, which had once been black, but was now dingy, with a large hole in the top and a portion of the rim torn off.
"No," said Dick; "my grandfather used to wear it when he was a boy, and I've kep' it ever since out of respect for his memory. But I'll get a new one now. I can buy one cheap on Chatham Street."
"Is that near here?"
"Only five minutes' walk."
"Then we can get one on the way."
When Dick was dressed in his new attire, with his face and hands clean, and his hair brushed, it was difficult to imagine that he was the same boy.
He now looked quite handsome, and might readily have been taken for a young gentleman, except that his hands were red and grimy.
"Look at yourself," said Frank, leading him before the mirror.
"By gracious!" said Dick, starting back in astonishment, "that isn't me, is it?"
"Don't you know yourself?" asked Frank, smiling.
"It reminds me of Cinderella," said Dick, "when she was changed into a fairy princess. I see it one night at Barnum's. What'll Johnny Nolan say when he sees me? He won't dare to speak to such a young swell as I be now. Aint it rich?" and Dick burst into a loud laugh. His fancy was tickled by the anticipation of his friend's surprise. Then the thought of the valuable gifts he had received occurred to him, and he looked gratefully at Frank.
"You're a brick," he said.
"A brick! You're a jolly good fellow to give me such a present."
"You're quite welcome, Dick," said Frank, kindly. "I'm better off than you are, and I can spare the clothes just as well as not. You must have a new hat though. But that we can get when we go out. The old clothes you can make into a bundle."
"Wait a minute till I get my handkercher," and Dick pulled from the pocket of the pants a dirty rag, which might have been white once, though it did not look like it, and had apparently once formed a part of a sheet or shirt.
"You mustn't carry that," said Frank.
"But I've got a cold," said Dick.
"Oh, I don't mean you to go without a handkerchief. I'll give you one."
Frank opened his trunk and pulled out two, which he gave to Dick.
"I wonder if I aint dreamin'," said Dick, once more surveying himself doubtfully in the glass. "I'm afraid I'm dreamin', and shall wake up in a barrel, as I did night afore last."
"Shall I pinch you so you can wake here?" asked Frank, playfully.
"Yes," said Dick, seriously, "I wish you would."
He pulled up the sleeve of his jacket, and Frank pinched him pretty hard, so that Dick winced.
"Yes, I guess I'm awake," said Dick; "you've got a pair of nippers, you have. But what shall I do with my brush and blacking?" he asked.
"You can leave them here till we come back," said Frank. "They will be safe."
"Hold on a minute," said Dick, surveying Frank's boots with a professional eye, "you aint got a good shine on them boots. I'll make 'em shine so you can see your face in 'em."
And he was as good as his word.
"Thank you," said Frank; "now you had better brush your own shoes."
This had not occurred to Dick, for in general the professional boot-black considers his blacking too valuable to expend on his own shoes or boots, if he is fortunate enough to possess a pair.
The two boys now went downstairs together. They met the same servant who had spoken to Dick a few minutes before, but there was no recognition.
"He don't know me," said Dick. "He thinks I'm a young swell like you."
"What's a swell?"
"Oh, a feller that wears nobby clothes like you."
"And you, too, Dick."
"Yes," said Dick, "who'd ever have thought as I should have turned into a swell?"
They had now got out on Broadway, and were slowly walking along the west side by the Park, when who should Dick see in front of him, but Johnny Nolan?
Instantly Dick was seized with a fancy for witnessing Johnny's amazement at his change in appearance. He stole up behind him, and struck him on the back.
"Hallo, Johnny, how many shines have you had?"
Johnny turned round expecting to see Dick, whose voice he recognized, but his astonished eyes rested on a nicely dressed boy (the hat alone excepted) who looked indeed like Dick, but so transformed in dress that it was difficult to be sure of his identity.
"What luck, Johnny?" repeated Dick.
Johnny surveyed him from head to foot in great bewilderment.
"Who be you?" he said.
"Well, that's a good one," laughed Dick; "so you don't know Dick?"
"Where'd you get all them clothes?" asked Johnny. "Have you been stealin'?"
"Say that again, and I'll lick you. No, I've lent my clothes to a young feller as was goin' to a party, and didn't have none fit to wear, and so I put on my second-best for a change."
Without deigning any further explanation, Dick went off, followed by the astonished gaze of Johnny Nolan, who could not quite make up his mind whether the neat-looking boy he had been talking with was really Ragged Dick or not.
In order to reach Chatham Street it was necessary to cross Broadway. This was easier proposed than done. There is always such a throng of omnibuses, drays, carriages, and vehicles of all kinds in the neighborhood of the Astor House, that the crossing is formidable to one who is not used to it. Dick made nothing of it, dodging in and out among the horses and wagons with perfect self-possession. Reaching the opposite sidewalk, he looked back, and found that Frank had retreated in dismay, and that the width of the street was between them.
"Come across!" called out Dick.
"I don't see any chance," said Frank, looking anxiously at the prospect before him. "I'm afraid of being run over."
"If you are, you can sue 'em for damages," said Dick.
Finally Frank got safely over after several narrow escapes, as he considered them.
"Is it always so crowded?" he asked.
"A good deal worse sometimes," said Dick. "I knowed a young man once who waited six hours for a chance to cross, and at last got run over by an omnibus, leaving a widder and a large family of orphan children. His widder, a beautiful young woman, was obliged to start a peanut and apple stand. There she is now."
Dick pointed to a hideous old woman, of large proportions, wearing a bonnet of immense size, who presided over an apple-stand close by.
"If that is the case," he said, "I think I will patronize her."
"Leave it to me," said Dick, winking.
He advanced gravely to the apple-stand, and said, "Old lady, have you paid your taxes?"
The astonished woman opened her eyes.
"I'm a gov'ment officer," said Dick, "sent by the mayor to collect your taxes. I'll take it in apples just to oblige. That big red one will about pay what you're owin' to the gov'ment."
"I don't know nothing about no taxes," said the old woman, in bewilderment.
"Then," said Dick, "I'll let you off this time. Give us two of your best apples, and my friend here, the President of the Common Council, will pay you."
Frank smiling, paid three cents apiece for the apples, and they sauntered on, Dick remarking, "If these apples aint good, old lady, we'll return 'em, and get our money back." This would have been rather difficult in his case, as the apple was already half consumed.
Chatham Street, where they wished to go, being on the East side, the two boys crossed the Park. This is an enclosure of about ten acres, which years ago was covered with a green sward, but is now a great thoroughfare for pedestrians and contains several important public buildings. Dick pointed out the City Hall, the Hall of Records, and the Rotunda. The former is a white building of large size, and surmounted by a cupola.
"That's where the mayor's office is," said Dick. "Him and me are very good friends. I once blacked his boots by partic'lar appointment. That's the way I pay my city taxes."
CHATHAM STREET AND BROADWAY
They were soon in Chatham Street, walking between rows of ready-made clothing shops, many of which had half their stock in trade exposed on the sidewalk. The proprietors of these establishments stood at the doors, watching attentively the passersby, extending urgent invitations to any who even glanced at the goods to enter.
"Walk in, young gentlemen," said a stout man, at the entrance of one shop.
"No, I thank you," replied Dick, "as the fly said to the spider."
"We're selling off at less than cost."
"Of course you be. That's where you makes your money," said Dick. "There aint nobody of any enterprise that pretends to make any profit on his goods."
The Chatham Street trader looked after our hero as if he didn't quite comprehend him; but Dick, without waiting for a reply, passed on with his companion.
In some of the shops auctions seemed to be going on.
"I am only offered two dollars, gentlemen, for this elegant pair of doeskin pants, made of the very best of cloth. It's a frightful sacrifice. Who'll give an eighth? Thank you, sir. Only seventeen shillings! Why the cloth cost more by the yard!"
This speaker was standing on a little platform haranguing to three men, holding in his hand meanwhile a pair of pants very loose in the legs, and presenting a cheap Bowery look.
Frank and Dick paused before the shop door, and finally saw them knocked down to rather a verdant-looking individual at three dollars.
"Clothes seem to be pretty cheap here," said Frank.
"Yes, but Baxter Street is the cheapest place."
"Yes. Johnny Nolan got a whole rig-out there last week, for a dollar,—coat, cap, vest, pants, and shoes. They was very good measure, too, like my best clothes that I took off to oblige you."
"I shall know where to come for clothes next time," said Frank, laughing. "I had no idea the city was so much cheaper than the country. I suppose the Baxter Street tailors are fashionable?"
"In course they are. Me and Horace Greeley always go there for clothes. When Horace gets a new suit, I always have one made just like it; but I can't go the white hat. It aint becomin' to my style of beauty."
A little farther on a man was standing out on the sidewalk, distributing small printed handbills. One was handed to Frank, which he read as follows,—
"GRAND CLOSING-OUT SALE!—A variety of Beautiful and Costly Articles for Sale, at a Dollar apiece. Unparalleled Inducements! Walk in, Gentlemen!"
"Whereabouts is this sale?" asked Frank.
"In here, young gentlemen," said a black-whiskered individual, who appeared suddenly on the scene. "Walk in."
"Shall we go in, Dick?"
"It's a swindlin' shop," said Dick, in a low voice. "I've been there. That man's a regular cheat. He's seen me before, but he don't know me coz of my clothes."
"Step in and see the articles," said the man, persuasively. "You needn't buy, you know."
"Are all the articles worth more'n a dollar?" asked Dick.
"Yes," said the other, "and some worth a great deal more."
"Such as what?"
"Well, there's a silver pitcher worth twenty dollars."
"And you sell it for a dollar. That's very kind of you," said Dick, innocently.
"Walk in, and you'll understand it."
"No, I guess not," said Dick. "My servants is so dishonest that I wouldn't like to trust 'em with a silver pitcher. Come along, Frank. I hope you'll succeed in your charitable enterprise of supplyin' the public with silver pitchers at nineteen dollars less than they are worth."
"How does he manage, Dick?" asked Frank, as they went on.
"All his articles are numbered, and he makes you pay a dollar, and then shakes some dice, and whatever the figgers come to, is the number of the article you draw. Most of 'em aint worth sixpence."
A hat and cap store being close at hand, Dick and Frank went in. For seventy-five cents, which Frank insisted on paying, Dick succeeded in getting quite a neat-looking cap, which corresponded much better with his appearance than the one he had on. The last, not being considered worth keeping, Dick dropped on the sidewalk, from which, on looking back, he saw it picked up by a brother boot-black who appeared to consider it better than his own.
They retraced their steps and went up Chambers Street to Broadway. At the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street is a large white marble warehouse, which attracted Frank's attention.
"What building is that?" he asked, with interest.
"That belongs to my friend A. T. Stewart," said Dick. "It's the biggest store on Broadway.* If I ever retire from boot-blackin', and go into mercantile pursuits, I may buy him out, or build another store that'll take the shine off this one."
* Mr. Stewart's Tenth Street store was not open at the time Dick spoke.
"Were you ever in the store?" asked Frank.
"No," said Dick; "but I'm intimate with one of Stewart's partners. He is a cash boy, and does nothing but take money all day."
"A very agreeable employment," said Frank, laughing.
"Yes," said Dick, "I'd like to be in it."
The boys crossed to the West side of Broadway, and walked slowly up the street. To Frank it was a very interesting spectacle. Accustomed to the quiet of the country, there was something fascinating in the crowds of people thronging the sidewalks, and the great variety of vehicles constantly passing and repassing in the street. Then again the shop-windows with their multifarious contents interested and amused him, and he was constantly checking Dick to look in at some well-stocked window.
"I don't see how so many shopkeepers can find people enough to buy of them," he said. "We haven't got but two stores in our village, and Broadway seems to be full of them."
"Yes," said Dick; "and its pretty much the same in the avenoos, 'specially the Third, Sixth, and Eighth avenoos. The Bowery, too, is a great place for shoppin'. There everybody sells cheaper'n anybody else, and nobody pretends to make no profit on their goods."
"Where's Barnum's Museum?" asked Frank.
"Oh, that's down nearly opposite the Astor House," said Dick. "Didn't you see a great building with lots of flags?"
"Well, that's Barnum's.* That's where the Happy Family live, and the lions, and bears, and curiosities generally. It's a tip-top place. Haven't you ever been there? It's most as good as the Old Bowery, only the plays isn't quite so excitin'."
* Since destroyed by fire, and rebuilt farther up Broadway, and again burned down in February.
"I'll go if I get time," said Frank. "There is a boy at home who came to New York a month ago, and went to Barnum's, and has been talking about it ever since, so I suppose it must be worth seeing."
"They've got a great play at the Old Bowery now," pursued Dick. "'Tis called the 'Demon of the Danube.' The Demon falls in love with a young woman, and drags her by the hair up to the top of a steep rock where his castle stands."
"That's a queer way of showing his love," said Frank, laughing.
"She didn't want to go with him, you know, but was in love with another chap. When he heard about his girl bein' carried off, he felt awful, and swore an oath not to rest till he had got her free. Well, at last he got into the castle by some underground passage, and he and the Demon had a fight. Oh, it was bully seein' 'em roll round on the stage, cuttin' and slashin' at each other."
"And which got the best of it?"
"At first the Demon seemed to be ahead, but at last the young Baron got him down, and struck a dagger into his heart, sayin', 'Die, false and perjured villain! The dogs shall feast upon thy carcass!' and then the Demon give an awful howl and died. Then the Baron seized his body, and threw it over the precipice."
"It seems to me the actor who plays the Demon ought to get extra pay, if he has to be treated that way."
"That's so," said Dick; "but I guess he's used to it. It seems to agree with his constitution."
"What building is that?" asked Frank, pointing to a structure several rods back from the street, with a large yard in front. It was an unusual sight for Broadway, all the other buildings in that neighborhood being even with the street.
"That is the New York Hospital," said Dick. "They're a rich institution, and take care of sick people on very reasonable terms."
"Did you ever go in there?"
"Yes," said Dick; "there was a friend of mine, Johnny Mullen, he was a newsboy, got run over by a omnibus as he was crossin' Broadway down near Park Place. He was carried to the Hospital, and me and some of his friends paid his board while he was there. It was only three dollars a week, which was very cheap, considerin' all the care they took of him. I got leave to come and see him while he was here. Everything looked so nice and comfortable, that I thought a little of coaxin' a omnibus driver to run over me, so I might go there too."
"Did your friend have to have his leg cut off?" asked Frank, interested.
"No," said Dick; "though there was a young student there that was very anxious to have it cut off; but it wasn't done, and Johnny is around the streets as well as ever."
While this conversation was going on they reached No. 365, at the corner of Franklin Street.*
* Now the office of the Merchants' Union Express Company.
"That's Taylor's Saloon," said Dick. "When I come into a fortun' I shall take my meals there reg'lar."
"I have heard of it very often," said Frank. "It is said to be very elegant. Suppose we go in and take an ice-cream. It will give us a chance to see it to better advantage."
"Thank you," said Dick; "I think that's the most agreeable way of seein' the place myself."
The boys entered, and found themselves in a spacious and elegant saloon, resplendent with gilding, and adorned on all sides by costly mirrors. They sat down to a small table with a marble top, and Frank gave the order.
"It reminds me of Aladdin's palace," said Frank, looking about him.
"Does it?" said Dick; "he must have had plenty of money."
"He had an old lamp, which he had only to rub, when the Slave of the Lamp would appear, and do whatever he wanted."
"That must have been a valooable lamp. I'd be willin' to give all my Erie shares for it."
There was a tall, gaunt individual at the next table, who apparently heard this last remark of Dick's. Turning towards our hero, he said, "May I inquire, young man, whether you are largely interested in this Erie Railroad?"
"I haven't got no property except what's invested in Erie," said Dick, with a comical side-glance at Frank.
"Indeed! I suppose the investment was made by your guardian."
"No," said Dick; "I manage my property myself."
"And I presume your dividends have not been large?"
"Why, no," said Dick; "you're about right there. They haven't."
"As I supposed. It's poor stock. Now, my young friend, I can recommend a much better investment, which will yield you a large annual income. I am agent of the Excelsior Copper Mining Company, which possesses one of the most productive mines in the world. It's sure to yield fifty per cent. on the investment. Now, all you have to do is to sell out your Erie shares, and invest in our stock, and I'll insure you a fortune in three years. How many shares did you say you had?"
"I didn't say, that I remember," said Dick. "Your offer is very kind and obligin', and as soon as I get time I'll see about it."
"I hope you will," said the stranger. "Permit me to give you my card. 'Samuel Snap, No. — Wall Street.' I shall be most happy to receive a call from you, and exhibit the maps of our mine. I should be glad to have you mention the matter also to your friends. I am confident you could do no greater service than to induce them to embark in our enterprise."
"Very good," said Dick.
Here the stranger left the table, and walked up to the desk to settle his bill.
"You see what it is to be a man of fortun', Frank," said Dick, "and wear good clothes. I wonder what that chap'll say when he sees me blackin' boots to-morrow in the street?"
"Perhaps you earn your money more honorably than he does, after all," said Frank. "Some of these mining companies are nothing but swindles, got up to cheat people out of their money."
"He's welcome to all he gets out of me," said Dick.
UP BROADWAY TO MADISON SQUARE
As the boys pursued their way up Broadway, Dick pointed out the prominent hotels and places of amusement. Frank was particularly struck with the imposing fronts of the St. Nicholas and Metropolitan Hotels, the former of white marble, the latter of a subdued brown hue, but not less elegant in its internal appointments. He was not surprised to be informed that each of these splendid structures cost with the furnishing not far from a million dollars.
At Eighth Street Dick turned to the right, and pointed out the Clinton Hall Building now occupied by the Mercantile Library, comprising at that time over fifty thousand volumes.*
* Now not far from one hundred thousand.
A little farther on they came to a large building standing by itself just at the opening of Third and Fourth Avenues, and with one side on each.
"What is that building?" asked Frank.
"That's the Cooper Institute," said Dick; "built by Mr. Cooper, a particular friend of mine. Me and Peter Cooper used to go to school together."
"What is there inside?" asked Frank.
"There's a hall for public meetin's and lectures in the basement, and a readin' room and a picture gallery up above," said Dick.
Directly opposite Cooper Institute, Frank saw a very large building of brick, covering about an acre of ground.
"Is that a hotel?" he asked.
"No," said Dick; "that's the Bible House. It's the place where they make Bibles. I was in there once,—saw a big pile of 'em."
"Did you ever read the Bible?" asked Frank, who had some idea of the neglected state of Dick's education.
"No," said Dick; "I've heard it's a good book, but I never read one. I aint much on readin'. It makes my head ache."
"I suppose you can't read very fast."
"I can read the little words pretty well, but the big ones is what stick me."
"If I lived in the city, you might come every evening to me, and I would teach you."
"Would you take so much trouble about me?" asked Dick, earnestly.
"Certainly; I should like to see you getting on. There isn't much chance of that if you don't know how to read and write."
"You're a good feller," said Dick, gratefully. "I wish you did live in New York. I'd like to know somethin'. Whereabouts do you live?"
"About fifty miles off, in a town on the left bank of the Hudson. I wish you'd come up and see me sometime. I would like to have you come and stop two or three days."
"I don't understand."
"Do you mean it?" asked Dick, incredulously.
"Of course I do. Why shouldn't I?"
"What would your folks say if they knowed you asked a boot-black to visit you?"
"You are none the worse for being a boot-black, Dick."
"I aint used to genteel society," said Dick. "I shouldn't know how to behave."
"Then I could show you. You won't be a boot-black all your life, you know."
"No," said Dick; "I'm goin' to knock off when I get to be ninety."
"Before that, I hope," said Frank, smiling.
"I really wish I could get somethin' else to do," said Dick, soberly. "I'd like to be a office boy, and learn business, and grow up 'spectable."
"Why don't you try, and see if you can't get a place, Dick?"
"Who'd take Ragged Dick?"
"But you aint ragged now, Dick."
"No," said Dick; "I look a little better than I did in my Washington coat and Louis Napoleon pants. But if I got in a office, they wouldn't give me more'n three dollars a week, and I couldn't live 'spectable on that."
"No, I suppose not," said Frank, thoughtfully. "But you would get more at the end of the first year."
"Yes," said Dick; "but by that time I'd be nothin' but skin and bones."
Frank laughed. "That reminds me," he said, "of the story of an Irishman, who, out of economy, thought he would teach his horse to feed on shavings. So he provided the horse with a pair of green spectacles which made the shavings look eatable. But unfortunately, just as the horse got learned, he up and died."
"The hoss must have been a fine specimen of architectur' by the time he got through," remarked Dick.
"Whereabouts are we now?" asked Frank, as they emerged from Fourth Avenue into Union Square.
"That is Union Park," said Dick, pointing to a beautiful enclosure, in the centre of which was a pond, with a fountain playing.
"Is that the statue of General Washington?" asked Frank, pointing to a bronze equestrian statue, on a granite pedestal.
"Yes," said Dick; "he's growed some since he was President. If he'd been as tall as that when he fit in the Revolution, he'd have walloped the Britishers some, I reckon."
Frank looked up at the statue, which is fourteen and a half feet high, and acknowledged the justice of Dick's remark.
"How about the coat, Dick?" he asked. "Would it fit you?"
"Well, it might be rather loose," said Dick, "I aint much more'n ten feet high with my boots off."
"No, I should think not," said Frank, smiling. "You're a queer boy, Dick."
"Well, I've been brought up queer. Some boys is born with a silver spoon in their mouth. Victoria's boys is born with a gold spoon, set with di'monds; but gold and silver was scarce when I was born, and mine was pewter."
"Perhaps the gold and silver will come by and by, Dick. Did you ever hear of Dick Whittington?"
"Never did. Was he a Ragged Dick?"
"I shouldn't wonder if he was. At any rate he was very poor when he was a boy, but he didn't stay so. Before he died, he became Lord Mayor of London."
"Did he?" asked Dick, looking interested. "How did he do it?"
"Why, you see, a rich merchant took pity on him, and gave him a home in his own house, where he used to stay with the servants, being employed in little errands. One day the merchant noticed Dick picking up pins and needles that had been dropped, and asked him why he did it. Dick told him he was going to sell them when he got enough. The merchant was pleased with his saving disposition, and when soon after, he was going to send a vessel to foreign parts, he told Dick he might send anything he pleased in it, and it should be sold to his advantage. Now Dick had nothing in the world but a kitten which had been given him a short time before."
"How much taxes did he have to pay on it?" asked Dick.
"Not very high, probably. But having only the kitten, he concluded to send it along. After sailing a good many months, during which the kitten grew up to be a strong cat, the ship touched at an island never before known, which happened to be infested with rats and mice to such an extent that they worried everybody's life out, and even ransacked the king's palace. To make a long story short, the captain, seeing how matters stood, brought Dick's cat ashore, and she soon made the rats and mice scatter. The king was highly delighted when he saw what havoc she made among the rats and mice, and resolved to have her at any price. So he offered a great quantity of gold for her, which, of course, the captain was glad to accept. It was faithfully carried back to Dick, and laid the foundation of his fortune. He prospered as he grew up, and in time became a very rich merchant, respected by all, and before he died was elected Lord Mayor of London."
"That's a pretty good story," said Dick; "but I don't believe all the cats in New York will ever make me mayor."
"No, probably not, but you may rise in some other way. A good many distinguished men have once been poor boys. There's hope for you, Dick, if you'll try."
"Nobody ever talked to me so before," said Dick. "They just called me Ragged Dick, and told me I'd grow up to be a vagabone (boys who are better educated need not be surprised at Dick's blunders) and come to the gallows."
"Telling you so won't make it turn out so, Dick. If you'll try to be somebody, and grow up into a respectable member of society, you will. You may not become rich,—it isn't everybody that becomes rich, you know—but you can obtain a good position, and be respected."
"I'll try," said Dick, earnestly. "I needn't have been Ragged Dick so long if I hadn't spent my money in goin' to the theatre, and treatin' boys to oyster-stews, and bettin' money on cards, and such like."
"Have you lost money that way?"
"Lots of it. One time I saved up five dollars to buy me a new rig-out, cos my best suit was all in rags, when Limpy Jim wanted me to play a game with him."
"Limpy Jim?" said Frank, interrogatively.
"Yes, he's lame; that's what makes us call him Limpy Jim."
"I suppose you lost?"
"Yes, I lost every penny, and had to sleep out, cos I hadn't a cent to pay for lodgin'. 'Twas a awful cold night, and I got most froze."
"Wouldn't Jim let you have any of the money he had won to pay for a lodging?"
"No; I axed him for five cents, but he wouldn't let me have it."
"Can you get lodging for five cents?" asked Frank, in surprise.
"Yes," said Dick, "but not at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. That's it right out there."
They had reached the junction of Broadway and of Fifth Avenue. Before them was a beautiful park of ten acres. On the left-hand side was a large marble building, presenting a fine appearance with its extensive white front. This was the building at which Dick pointed.
"Is that the Fifth Avenue Hotel?" asked Frank. "I've heard of it often. My Uncle William always stops there when he comes to New York."
"I once slept on the outside of it," said Dick. "They was very reasonable in their charges, and told me I might come again."
"Perhaps sometime you'll be able to sleep inside," said Frank.
"I guess that'll be when Queen Victoria goes to the Five Points to live."
"It looks like a palace," said Frank. "The queen needn't be ashamed to live in such a beautiful building as that."
Though Frank did not know it, one of the queen's palaces is far from being as fine a looking building as the Fifth Avenue Hotel. St. James' Palace is a very ugly-looking brick structure, and appears much more like a factory than like the home of royalty. There are few hotels in the world as fine-looking as this democratic institution.
At that moment a gentleman passed them on the sidewalk, who looked back at Dick, as if his face seemed familiar.
"I know that man," said Dick, after he had passed. "He's one of my customers."
"What is his name?"
"I don't know."
"He looked back as if he thought he knew you."
"He would have knowed me at once if it hadn't been for my new clothes," said Dick. "I don't look much like Ragged Dick now."
"I suppose your face looked familiar."
"All but the dirt," said Dick, laughing. "I don't always have the chance of washing my face and hands in the Astor House."
"You told me," said Frank, "that there was a place where you could get lodging for five cents. Where's that?"
"It's the News-boys' Lodgin' House, on Fulton Street," said Dick, "up over the 'Sun' office. It's a good place. I don't know what us boys would do without it. They give you supper for six cents, and a bed for five cents more."
"I suppose some boys don't even have the five cents to pay,—do they?"
"They'll trust the boys," said Dick. "But I don't like to get trusted. I'd be ashamed to get trusted for five cents, or ten either. One night I was comin' down Chatham Street, with fifty cents in my pocket. I was goin' to get a good oyster-stew, and then go to the lodgin' house; but somehow it slipped through a hole in my trowses-pocket, and I hadn't a cent left. If it had been summer I shouldn't have cared, but it's rather tough stayin' out winter nights."
Frank, who had always possessed a good home of his own, found it hard to realize that the boy who was walking at his side had actually walked the streets in the cold without a home, or money to procure the common comfort of a bed.
"What did you do?" he asked, his voice full of sympathy.
"I went to the 'Times' office. I knowed one of the pressmen, and he let me set down in a corner, where I was warm, and I soon got fast asleep."
"Why don't you get a room somewhere, and so always have a home to go to?"
"I dunno," said Dick. "I never thought of it. P'rhaps I may hire a furnished house on Madison Square."
"That's where Flora McFlimsey lived."
"I don't know her," said Dick, who had never read the popular poem of which she is the heroine.
While this conversation was going on, they had turned into Twenty-fifth Street, and had by this time reached Third Avenue.
Just before entering it, their attention was drawn to the rather singular conduct of an individual in front of them. Stopping suddenly, he appeared to pick up something from the sidewalk, and then looked about him in rather a confused way.
"I know his game," whispered Dick. "Come along and you'll see what it is."
He hurried Frank forward until they overtook the man, who had come to a stand-still.
"Have you found anything?" asked Dick.
"Yes," said the man, "I've found this."
He exhibited a wallet which seemed stuffed with bills, to judge from its plethoric appearance.
"Whew!" exclaimed Dick; "you're in luck."
"I suppose somebody has lost it," said the man, "and will offer a handsome reward."
"Which you'll get."
"Unfortunately I am obliged to take the next train to Boston. That's where I live. I haven't time to hunt up the owner."
"Then I suppose you'll take the pocket-book with you," said Dick, with assumed simplicity.
"I should like to leave it with some honest fellow who would see it returned to the owner," said the man, glancing at the boys.
"I'm honest," said Dick.
"I've no doubt of it," said the other. "Well, young man, I'll make you an offer. You take the pocket-book—"
"All right. Hand it over, then."
"Wait a minute. There must be a large sum inside. I shouldn't wonder if there might be a thousand dollars. The owner will probably give you a hundred dollars reward."
"Why don't you stay and get it?" asked Frank.
"I would, only there is sickness in my family, and I must get home as soon as possible. Just give me twenty dollars, and I'll hand you the pocket-book, and let you make whatever you can out of it. Come, that's a good offer. What do you say?"
Dick was well dressed, so that the other did not regard it as at all improbable that he might possess that sum. He was prepared, however, to let him have it for less, if necessary.
"Twenty dollars is a good deal of money," said Dick, appearing to hesitate.
"You'll get it back, and a good deal more," said the stranger, persuasively.
"I don't know but I shall. What would you do, Frank?"
"I don't know but I would," said Frank, "if you've got the money." He was not a little surprised to think that Dick had so much by him.
"I don't know but I will," said Dick, after some irresolution. "I guess I won't lose much."
"You can't lose anything," said the stranger briskly. "Only be quick, for I must be on my way to the cars. I am afraid I shall miss them now."
Dick pulled out a bill from his pocket, and handed it to the stranger, receiving the pocket-book in return. At that moment a policeman turned the corner, and the stranger, hurriedly thrusting the bill into his pocket, without looking at it, made off with rapid steps.
"What is there in the pocket-book, Dick?" asked Frank in some excitement. "I hope there's enough to pay you for the money you gave him."
"I'll risk that," said he.
"But you gave him twenty dollars. That's a good deal of money."
"If I had given him as much as that, I should deserve to be cheated out of it."
"But you did,—didn't you?"
"He thought so."
"What was it, then?"
"It was nothing but a dry-goods circular got up to imitate a bank-bill."
Frank looked sober.
"You ought not to have cheated him, Dick," he said, reproachfully.
"Didn't he want to cheat me?"
"I don't know."
"What do you s'pose there is in that pocket-book?" asked Dick, holding it up.
Frank surveyed its ample proportions, and answered sincerely enough, "Money, and a good deal of it."
"There aint stamps enough in it to buy a oyster-stew," said Dick. "If you don't believe it, just look while I open it."
So saying he opened the pocket-book, and showed Frank that it was stuffed out with pieces of blank paper, carefully folded up in the shape of bills. Frank, who was unused to city life, and had never heard anything of the "drop-game" looked amazed at this unexpected development.
"I knowed how it was all the time," said Dick. "I guess I got the best of him there. This wallet's worth somethin'. I shall use it to keep my stiffkit's of Erie stock in, and all my other papers what aint of no use to anybody but the owner."
"That's the kind of papers it's got in it now," said Frank, smiling.
"That's so!" said Dick.
"By hokey!" he exclaimed suddenly, "if there aint the old chap comin' back ag'in. He looks as if he'd heard bad news from his sick family."
By this time the pocket-book dropper had come up.
Approaching the boys, he said in an undertone to Dick, "Give me back that pocket-book, you young rascal!"
"Beg your pardon, mister," said Dick, "but was you addressin' me?"
"Yes, I was."
"'Cause you called me by the wrong name. I've knowed some rascals, but I aint the honor to belong to the family."
He looked significantly at the other as he spoke, which didn't improve the man's temper. Accustomed to swindle others, he did not fancy being practised upon in return.
"Give me back that pocket-book," he repeated in a threatening voice.
"Couldn't do it," said Dick, coolly. "I'm go'n' to restore it to the owner. The contents is so valooable that most likely the loss has made him sick, and he'll be likely to come down liberal to the honest finder."
"You gave me a bogus bill," said the man.
"It's what I use myself," said Dick.
"You've swindled me."
"I thought it was the other way."
"None of your nonsense," said the man angrily. "If you don't give up that pocket-book, I'll call a policeman."
"I wish you would," said Dick. "They'll know most likely whether it's Stewart or Astor that's lost the pocket-book, and I can get 'em to return it."
The "dropper," whose object it was to recover the pocket-book, in order to try the same game on a more satisfactory customer, was irritated by Dick's refusal, and above all by the coolness he displayed. He resolved to make one more attempt.
"Do you want to pass the night in the Tombs?" he asked.
"Thank you for your very obligin' proposal," said Dick; "but it aint convenient to-day. Any other time, when you'd like to have me come and stop with you, I'm agreeable; but my two youngest children is down with the measles, and I expect I'll have to set up all night to take care of 'em. Is the Tombs, in gineral, a pleasant place of residence?"
Dick asked this question with an air of so much earnestness that Frank could scarcely forbear laughing, though it is hardly necessary to say that the dropper was by no means so inclined.
"You'll know sometime," he said, scowling.
"I'll make you a fair offer," said Dick. "If I get more'n fifty dollars as a reward for my honesty, I'll divide with you. But I say, aint it most time to go back to your sick family in Boston?"
Finding that nothing was to be made out of Dick, the man strode away with a muttered curse.
"You were too smart for him, Dick," said Frank.
"Yes," said Dick, "I aint knocked round the city streets all my life for nothin'."
DICK'S EARLY HISTORY
"Have you always lived in New York, Dick?" asked Frank, after a pause.
"Ever since I can remember."
"I wish you'd tell me a little about yourself. Have you got any father or mother?"
"I aint got no mother. She died when I wasn't but three years old. My father went to sea; but he went off before mother died, and nothin' was ever heard of him. I expect he got wrecked, or died at sea."
"And what became of you when your mother died?"
"The folks she boarded with took care of me, but they was poor, and they couldn't do much. When I was seven the woman died, and her husband went out West, and then I had to scratch for myself."
"At seven years old!" exclaimed Frank, in amazement.
"Yes," said Dick, "I was a little feller to take care of myself, but," he continued with pardonable pride, "I did it."
"What could you do?"
"Sometimes one thing, and sometimes another," said Dick. "I changed my business accordin' as I had to. Sometimes I was a newsboy, and diffused intelligence among the masses, as I heard somebody say once in a big speech he made in the Park. Them was the times when Horace Greeley and James Gordon Bennett made money."
"Through your enterprise?" suggested Frank.
"Yes," said Dick; "but I give it up after a while."
"Well, they didn't always put news enough in their papers, and people wouldn't buy 'em as fast as I wanted 'em to. So one mornin' I was stuck on a lot of Heralds, and I thought I'd make a sensation. So I called out 'GREAT NEWS! QUEEN VICTORIA ASSASSINATED!' All my Heralds went off like hot cakes, and I went off, too, but one of the gentlemen what got sold remembered me, and said he'd have me took up, and that's what made me change my business."
"That wasn't right, Dick," said Frank.
"I know it," said Dick; "but lots of boys does it."
"That don't make it any better."
"No," said Dick, "I was sort of ashamed at the time, 'specially about one poor old gentleman,—a Englishman he was. He couldn't help cryin' to think the queen was dead, and his hands shook when he handed me the money for the paper."
"What did you do next?"
"I went into the match business," said Dick; "but it was small sales and small profits. Most of the people I called on had just laid in a stock, and didn't want to buy. So one cold night, when I hadn't money enough to pay for a lodgin', I burned the last of my matches to keep me from freezin'. But it cost too much to get warm that way, and I couldn't keep it up."
"You've seen hard times, Dick," said Frank, compassionately.
"Yes," said Dick, "I've knowed what it was to be hungry and cold, with nothin' to eat or to warm me; but there's one thing I never could do," he added, proudly.
"I never stole," said Dick. "It's mean and I wouldn't do it."
"Were you ever tempted to?"
"Lots of times. Once I had been goin' round all day, and hadn't sold any matches, except three cents' worth early in the mornin'. With that I bought an apple, thinkin' I should get some more bimeby. When evenin' come I was awful hungry. I went into a baker's just to look at the bread. It made me feel kind o' good just to look at the bread and cakes, and I thought maybe they would give me some. I asked 'em wouldn't they give me a loaf, and take their pay in matches. But they said they'd got enough matches to last three months; so there wasn't any chance for a trade. While I was standin' at the stove warmin' me, the baker went into a back room, and I felt so hungry I thought I would take just one loaf, and go off with it. There was such a big pile I don't think he'd have known it."
"But you didn't do it?"
"No, I didn't and I was glad of it, for when the man came in ag'in, he said he wanted some one to carry some cake to a lady in St. Mark's Place. His boy was sick, and he hadn't no one to send; so he told me he'd give me ten cents if I would go. My business wasn't very pressin' just then, so I went, and when I come back, I took my pay in bread and cakes. Didn't they taste good, though?"
"So you didn't stay long in the match business, Dick?"
"No, I couldn't sell enough to make it pay. Then there was some folks that wanted me to sell cheaper to them; so I couldn't make any profit. There was one old lady—she was rich, too, for she lived in a big brick house—beat me down so, that I didn't make no profit at all; but she wouldn't buy without, and I hadn't sold none that day; so I let her have them. I don't see why rich folks should be so hard upon a poor boy that wants to make a livin'."
"There's a good deal of meanness in the world, I'm afraid, Dick."
"If everybody was like you and your uncle," said Dick, "there would be some chance for poor people. If I was rich I'd try to help 'em along."
"Perhaps you will be rich sometime, Dick."
Dick shook his head.
"I'm afraid all my wallets will be like this," said Dick, indicating the one he had received from the dropper, "and will be full of papers what aint of no use to anybody except the owner."
"That depends very much on yourself, Dick," said Frank. "Stewart wasn't always rich, you know."
"When he first came to New York as a young man he was a teacher, and teachers are not generally very rich. At last he went into business, starting in a small way, and worked his way up by degrees. But there was one thing he determined in the beginning: that he would be strictly honorable in all his dealings, and never overreach any one for the sake of making money. If there was a chance for him, Dick, there is a chance for you."
"He knowed enough to be a teacher, and I'm awful ignorant," said Dick.
"But you needn't stay so."
"How can I help it?"
"Can't you learn at school?"
"I can't go to school 'cause I've got my livin' to earn. It wouldn't do me much good if I learned to read and write, and just as I'd got learned I starved to death."
"But are there no night-schools?"
"Why don't you go? I suppose you don't work in the evenings."
"I never cared much about it," said Dick, "and that's the truth. But since I've got to talkin' with you, I think more about it. I guess I'll begin to go."
"I wish you would, Dick. You'll make a smart man if you only get a little education."
"Do you think so?" asked Dick, doubtfully.
"I know so. A boy who has earned his own living since he was seven years old must have something in him. I feel very much interested in you, Dick. You've had a hard time of it so far in life, but I think better times are in store. I want you to do well, and I feel sure you can if you only try."
"You're a good fellow," said Dick, gratefully. "I'm afraid I'm a pretty rough customer, but I aint as bad as some. I mean to turn over a new leaf, and try to grow up 'spectable."
"There've been a great many boys begin as low down as you, Dick, that have grown up respectable and honored. But they had to work pretty hard for it."
"I'm willin' to work hard," said Dick.
"And you must not only work hard, but work in the right way."
"What's the right way?"
"You began in the right way when you determined never to steal, or do anything mean or dishonorable, however strongly tempted to do so. That will make people have confidence in you when they come to know you. But, in order to succeed well, you must manage to get as good an education as you can. Until you do, you cannot get a position in an office or counting-room, even to run errands."
"That's so," said Dick, soberly. "I never thought how awful ignorant I was till now."
"That can be remedied with perseverance," said Frank. "A year will do a great deal for you."
"I'll go to work and see what I can do," said Dick, energetically.
A SCENE IN A THIRD AVENUE CAR
The boys had turned into Third Avenue, a long street, which, commencing just below the Cooper Institute, runs out to Harlem. A man came out of a side street, uttering at intervals a monotonous cry which sounded like "glass puddin'."
"Glass pudding!" repeated Frank, looking in surprised wonder at Dick. "What does he mean?"
"Perhaps you'd like some," said Dick.
"I never heard of it before."
"Suppose you ask him what he charges for his puddin'."
Frank looked more narrowly at the man, and soon concluded that he was a glazier.
"Oh, I understand," he said. "He means 'glass put in.'"
Frank's mistake was not a singular one. The monotonous cry of these men certainly sounds more like "glass puddin'," than the words they intend to utter.
"Now," said Dick, "where shall we go?"
"I should like to see Central Park," said Frank. "Is it far off?"
"It is about a mile and a half from here," said Dick. "This is Twenty-ninth Street, and the Park begins at Fifty-ninth Street."
It may be explained, for the benefit of readers who have never visited New York, that about a mile from the City Hall the cross-streets begin to be numbered in regular order. There is a continuous line of houses as far as One Hundred and Thirtieth Street, where may be found the terminus of the Harlem line of horse-cars. When the entire island is laid out and settled, probably the numbers will reach two hundred or more. Central Park, which lies between Fifty-ninth Street on the south, and One Hundred and Tenth Street on the north, is true to its name, occupying about the centre of the island. The distance between two parallel streets is called a block, and twenty blocks make a mile. It will therefore be seen that Dick was exactly right, when he said they were a mile and a half from Central Park.
"That is too far to walk," said Frank.
"'Twon't cost but six cents to ride," said Dick.
"You mean in the horse-cars?"
"All right then. We'll jump aboard the next car."
The Third Avenue and Harlem line of horse-cars is better patronized than any other in New York, though not much can be said for the cars, which are usually dirty and overcrowded. Still, when it is considered that only seven cents are charged for the entire distance to Harlem, about seven miles from the City Hall, the fare can hardly be complained of. But of course most of the profit is made from the way-passengers who only ride a short distance.
A car was at that moment approaching, but it seemed pretty crowded.
"Shall we take that, or wait for another?" asked Frank.
"The next'll most likely be as bad," said Dick.
The boys accordingly signalled to the conductor to stop, and got on the front platform. They were obliged to stand up till the car reached Fortieth Street, when so many of the passengers had got off that they obtained seats.
Frank sat down beside a middle-aged woman, or lady, as she probably called herself, whose sharp visage and thin lips did not seem to promise a very pleasant disposition. When the two gentlemen who sat beside her arose, she spread her skirts in the endeavor to fill two seats. Disregarding this, the boys sat down.
"There aint room for two," she said, looking sourly at Frank.
"There were two here before."
"Well, there ought not to have been. Some people like to crowd in where they're not wanted."
"And some like to take up a double allowance of room," thought Frank; but he did not say so. He saw that the woman had a bad temper, and thought it wisest to say nothing.
Frank had never ridden up the city as far as this, and it was with much interest that he looked out of the car windows at the stores on either side. Third Avenue is a broad street, but in the character of its houses and stores it is quite inferior to Broadway, though better than some of the avenues further east. Fifth Avenue, as most of my readers already know, is the finest street in the city, being lined with splendid private residences, occupied by the wealthier classes. Many of the cross streets also boast houses which may be considered palaces, so elegant are they externally and internally. Frank caught glimpses of some of these as he was carried towards the Park.
After the first conversation, already mentioned, with the lady at his side, he supposed he should have nothing further to do with her. But in this he was mistaken. While he was busy looking out of the car window, she plunged her hand into her pocket in search of her purse, which she was unable to find. Instantly she jumped to the conclusion that it had been stolen, and her suspicions fastened upon Frank, with whom she was already provoked for "crowding her," as she termed it.
"Conductor!" she exclaimed in a sharp voice.
"What's wanted, ma'am?" returned that functionary.
"I want you to come here right off."
"What's the matter?"
"My purse has been stolen. There was four dollars and eighty cents in it. I know, because I counted it when I paid my fare."
"Who stole it?"
"That boy," she said pointing to Frank, who listened to the charge in the most intense astonishment. "He crowded in here on purpose to rob me, and I want you to search him right off."
"That's a lie!" exclaimed Dick, indignantly.
"Oh, you're in league with him, I dare say," said the woman spitefully. "You're as bad as he is, I'll be bound."
"You're a nice female, you be!" said Dick, ironically.
"Don't you dare to call me a female, sir," said the lady, furiously.
"Why, you aint a man in disguise, be you?" said Dick.
"You are very much mistaken, madam," said Frank, quietly. "The conductor may search me, if you desire it."
A charge of theft, made in a crowded car, of course made quite a sensation. Cautious passengers instinctively put their hands on their pockets, to make sure that they, too, had not been robbed. As for Frank, his face flushed, and he felt very indignant that he should even be suspected of so mean a crime. He had been carefully brought up, and been taught to regard stealing as low and wicked.
Dick, on the contrary, thought it a capital joke that such a charge should have been made against his companion. Though he had brought himself up, and known plenty of boys and men, too, who would steal, he had never done so himself. He thought it mean. But he could not be expected to regard it as Frank did. He had been too familiar with it in others to look upon it with horror.
Meanwhile the passengers rather sided with the boys. Appearances go a great ways, and Frank did not look like a thief.
"I think you must be mistaken, madam," said a gentleman sitting opposite. "The lad does not look as if he would steal."
"You can't tell by looks," said the lady, sourly. "They're deceitful; villains are generally well dressed."
"Be they?" said Dick. "You'd ought to see me with my Washington coat on. You'd think I was the biggest villain ever you saw."
"I've no doubt you are," said the lady, scowling in the direction of our hero.
"Thank you, ma'am," said Dick. "'Tisn't often I get such fine compliments."
"None of your impudence," said the lady, wrathfully. "I believe you're the worst of the two."
Meanwhile the car had been stopped.
"How long are we going to stop here?" demanded a passenger, impatiently. "I'm in a hurry, if none of the rest of you are."
"I want my pocket-book," said the lady, defiantly.
"Well, ma'am, I haven't got it, and I don't see as it's doing you any good detaining us all here."
"Conductor, will you call a policeman to search that young scamp?" continued the aggrieved lady. "You don't expect I'm going to lose my money, and do nothing about it."
"I'll turn my pockets inside out if you want me to," said Frank, proudly. "There's no need of a policeman. The conductor, or any one else, may search me."
"Well, youngster," said the conductor, "if the lady agrees, I'll search you."
The lady signified her assent.
Frank accordingly turned his pockets inside out, but nothing was revealed except his own porte-monnaie and a penknife.
"Well, ma'am, are you satisfied?" asked the conductor.
"No, I aint," said she, decidedly.
"You don't think he's got it still?"
"No, but he's passed it over to his confederate, that boy there that's so full of impudence."
"That's me," said Dick, comically.
"He confesses it," said the lady; "I want him searched."
"All right," said Dick, "I'm ready for the operation, only, as I've got valooable property about me, be careful not to drop any of my Erie Bonds."
The conductor's hand forthwith dove into Dick's pocket, and drew out a rusty jack-knife, a battered cent, about fifty cents in change, and the capacious pocket-book which he had received from the swindler who was anxious to get back to his sick family in Boston.
"Is that yours, ma'am?" asked the conductor, holding up the wallet which excited some amazement, by its size, among the other passengers.
"It seems to me you carry a large pocket-book for a young man of your age," said the conductor.
"That's what I carry my cash and valooable papers in," said Dick.
"I suppose that isn't yours, ma'am," said the conductor, turning to the lady.
"No," said she, scornfully. "I wouldn't carry round such a great wallet as that. Most likely he's stolen it from somebody else."
"What a prime detective you'd be!" said Dick. "P'rhaps you know who I took it from."
"I don't know but my money's in it," said the lady, sharply. "Conductor, will you open that wallet, and see what there is in it?"
"Don't disturb the valooable papers," said Dick, in a tone of pretended anxiety.
The contents of the wallet excited some amusement among the passengers.
"There don't seem to be much money here," said the conductor, taking out a roll of tissue paper cut out in the shape of bills, and rolled up.
"No," said Dick. "Didn't I tell you them were papers of no valoo to anybody but the owner? If the lady'd like to borrow, I won't charge no interest."
"Where is my money, then?" said the lady, in some discomfiture. "I shouldn't wonder if one of the young scamps had thrown it out of the window."
"You'd better search your pocket once more," said the gentleman opposite. "I don't believe either of the boys is in fault. They don't look to me as if they would steal."
"Thank you, sir," said Frank.
The lady followed out the suggestion, and, plunging her hand once more into her pocket, drew out a small porte-monnaie. She hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry at this discovery. It placed her in rather an awkward position after the fuss she had made, and the detention to which she had subjected the passengers, now, as it proved, for nothing.