One evening, when Dick and Fosdick returned from their respective stores, _urprise awaited them.
"The postman left some letters for you," said the servant, as she opened th_oor to admit them.
"Maybe they're from the tax-collectors," said Dick. "That's the misfortun' o_eing men of property. What was your tax last year, Fosdick?"
"I don't remember such trifles," said Fosdick.
"I don't think they was taxes," said the girl, seriously; "they looked as i_hey was from a young lady."
"Very likely they are from Fosdick's wife," said Dick. "She's rusticatin' i_he country for the benefit of her health."
"Maybe they're from yours, Mr. Hunter," said the girl, laughing.
"No," said Dick, gravely, "I'm a disconsolate widower, which accounts for m_ow spirits most of the time, and my poor appetite. Where are the letters?"
"I left them on the bureau in your room," said the servant. "They come thi_fternoon at three o'clock."
Both Fosdick and Dick felt not a little curious as to who could have writte_hem letters, and hastened upstairs. Entering their chamber, they saw two ver_eat little notes, in perfumed French envelopes, and with the initial G i_olors on the back. On opening them they read the following in a neat, feminine, fine handwriting. As both were alike, it will be sufficient to giv_ick's.
"Miss Ida Greyson presents her compliments to Mr. Richard Hunter, and solicit_he pleasure of his company on Thursday evening next, at a little birthda_arty.
" _No._ — _West Twenty-Fourth Street_."
"We're getting fashionable," said Dick. "I didn't use to attend many partie_hen we lived in Mott Street and blacked boots for a livin'. I'm afraid _han't know how to behave."
"I shall feel a little bashful," said Fosdick; "but I suppose we've got t_egin some time."
"Of course," said Dick. "The important position we hold in society makes i_ecessary. How'll I be able to hold levees when I'm mayor, if I don't go int_ociety now?"
"Very true," said Fosdick; "I don't expect to occupy any such position; but w_ught to go in acknowledgment of Mr. Greyson's kindness."
Mr. Greyson was the teacher of the Sunday-school class of which both Dick an_osdick were members. His recommendation had procured Fosdick his presen_lace, and he had manifested his kindness in various ways. Those who have read
"Ragged Dick" will remember that he had a very sprightly and engaging daughte_f ten years of age, who seemed to have taken an especial fancy to Dick. Bein_ealthy, his kindness had been of great service to both boys, inspiring the_ith self-respect, and encouraging them to persevere in their efforts to rais_hemselves to a higher position.
The dinner-bell rang just as the boys had finished their discussion, and the_ent down and took places at the table.
Soon Miss Peyton came sailing in, shaking her ringlets coquettishly. She wa_roud of these ringlets, and was never tired of trying their fascinations upo_entlemen. But somehow they had not succeeded in winning a husband.
"Good-evening, Mr. Hunter," said she. "You look as if you had had good news."
"Do I?" said Dick. "Perhaps you can tell what it is."
"I know how it came," said Miss Peyton, significantly.
"Then I hope you won't keep me in suspense any longer than you can help."
"Perhaps you'd rather I wouldn't mention before company."
"Never mind," said Dick. "Don't have any regard to my feelin's. They're tough, and can stand a good deal."
"How do you like the letter G?" asked Miss Peyton, slyly.
"Very much," said Dick, "as long as it behaves itself. What is your favorit_etter?"
"Don't think I'm going to tell you, Mr. Hunter. That was a pretty little note, and in a young lady's hand too."
"Yes," said Dick. "Perhaps you'd like to see it."
"You wouldn't show it to me on any account, I know."
"You may see it if you like," said Dick.
"May I, really? I should like to very much; but would the young lady like it?"
"I don't think she'd mind. She's written one to my friend Fosdick just lik_t."
Dick passed the invitation across the table.
"It's very pretty indeed," said Miss Peyton. "And is Miss Ida Greyson ver_andsome?"
"I'm no judge of beauty," said Dick.
"So she lives in West Twenty-Fourth Street. Is her father rich?"
"I don't know how rich," said Dick; "but my impression is that his taxes las_ear were more than mine."
"I know now what your favorite letters are," said Miss Peyton. "They are I.
"I. G. are very well as long as you don't put P. before them," said Dick.
"Thank you for another cup of tea, Mrs. Browning."
"I should think you'd need some tea after such a brilliant effort, Hunter,"
said Mr. Clifton, from across the table.
"Yes," said Dick. "I find my brain gets exhausted every now and then by m_ntellectual efforts. Aint you troubled that way?"
"Can't say I am. Don't you want to go out and try a game of billiards thi_vening?"
"No, thank you. I've got to study."
"I expect to see you a college professor some of these days."
"I haven't made up my mind yet," said Dick. "I'm open to an offer, as th_yster remarked when he was placed on the table. If I can serve my fellow-me_est by bein' a college professor, and gettin' a big salary, I'm willin' t_acrifice my private feelin's for the public good."
"Do you agree with your friend, Mr. Fosdick?" said Miss Peyton. "Won't yo_avor us with your views?"
"I have none worth mentioning," said Fosdick. "I leave my friend to do th_alking, while I attend to the eating."
"Mr. Hunter's remarks are very entertaining," said Miss Peyton.
"Thank you," said Dick; "but my friend prefers a different kind o_ntertainment."
The boys rose from the table, and went up to their room to look over th_vening's lessons. They were quite pleased with their new teacher, whom the_ound not only competent for his task, but interested in promoting thei_rogress. He was able to help them readily out of their difficulties, an_ncouraged them to persevere. So they came to look forward to their evenin_essons not as tasks, but as pleasant exercises.
"It's strange," said Dick, one evening after the teacher had left them; "_sed to enjoy goin' to the Old Bowery so much. I went two or three times _eek sometimes. Now I would a good deal rather stay at home and study."
"Then you didn't have a home, and the lighted theatre must have been muc_leasanter than the cold and cheerless streets."
"Yes, that was it. I used to get so tired sometimes of having no home to g_o, and nobody to speak to that I cared about."
"You'd hardly like to go back to the old life, Dick?"
"No, it would come pretty hard to me now. I didn't seem to mind it so muc_hen."
"Because you had never known anything better."
"No. It was a lucky day when I met you, Fosdick. I'd never have had th_atience to learn. Readin', or tryin' to read, always gave me the headache."
"You always leave off the last letter in such words as 'reading,' Dick. Yo_hould be more careful, now that you associate with educated persons."
"I know it, Fosdick, but I'm so used to droppin'—I mean dropping—the g that i_omes natural. I will try to remember it. But about this party,—shall we hav_o get new clothes?"
"No, we have each a nice suit, and we shan't be expected to dress in th_eight of the fashion."
"I wish it was over. I dread it."
"So do I a little; but I think we shall enjoy it. Ida is a nice girl."
"That's so. If I had a sister I'd like her to be like Ida."
"Perhaps she'd like a brother like you. I notice she seems to fancy you_ompany."
"I hope you're not jealous, Fosdick. You can be a brother to Miss Peyton, yo_now."
Fosdick laughed. "There's no chance for me there either," he said. "Sh_vidently prefers you."
"I'll adopt her for my aunt if it'll be gratifying to her feelings," sai_ick; "but I aint partial to ringlets as a general thing."
It is well perhaps that Miss Peyton did not hear these remarks, as sh_herished the idea that both Fosdick and Dick were particularly pleased wit_er.
A day or two afterwards Dick was walking leisurely through Chatham Street, about half past one o'clock. He was allowed an hour, about noon, to go out an_et some lunch, and he was now on his way from the restaurant which he usuall_requented. As it was yet early, he paused before a window to look a_omething which attracted his attention. While standing here he becam_onscious of a commotion in his immediate neighborhood. Then he felt a han_hrust into the side-pocket of his coat, and instantly withdrawn. Looking up, he saw Micky Maguire dodging round the corner. He put his hand into his pocke_echanically, and drew out a pocket-book.
Just then a stout, red-faced man came up puffing, and evidently in no littl_xcitement.
"Seize that boy!" he gasped, pointing to Dick. "He's got my pocket-book."
Contrary to the usual rule in such cases, a policeman did happen to be about, and, following directions, stepped up, and laid his hand on Dick's shoulder.
"You must go with me, my fine fellow," he said "Hand over that pocket-book, i_ou please."
"What's all this about?" said Dick. "Here's the pocket-book, if it is yours.
I'm sure I don't want it."
"You're a cool hand," said the guardian of the public peace. "If you don'_ant it, what made you steal it from this gentleman's pocket?"
"I didn't take it," said Dick, shortly.
"Is this the boy that stole your pocket-book?" demanded the policeman of th_ed-faced man, who had now recovered his breath.
"It's the very young rascal. Does he pretend to deny it?"
"Of course he does. They always do."
"When it was found on him too! I never knew such barefaced impudence."
"Stop a minute," said Dick, "while I explain. I was standing looking in a_hat window, when I felt something thrust into my pocket. I took it out an_ound it to be that pocket-book. Just then that gentleman came up, and charge_e with the theft."
"That's a likely story," said the officer. "If any one put the pocket-boo_nto your pocket, it shows you were a confederate of his. You'll have to com_ith me."
And poor Dick, for the first time in his life, was marched to the station- house, followed by his accuser, and a gang of boys. Among these last, bu_anaging to keep at a respectful distance, was Micky Maguire.