"You'll be able to attend Ida Greyson's party after all, Dick," said Fosdick, on Tuesday evening.
"Yes," said Dick, "I was afraid that I should be wanted to grace th_ashionable circles at Blackwell's Island; but as my particular friend Mick_aguire has kindly offered to go in my place, I shall be able to keep my othe_ngagement."
"Micky's a bad fellow."
"I'm afraid he is," said Dick; "but he's never had a fair chance. His fathe_as a drunkard, and used to beat him and his mother, till Micky ran away fro_ome, and set up for himself. He's never had any good example set him."
"You speak kindly of Micky, considering he has always been your enemy."
"I haven't any ill will against Micky," said Dick, generously. "If I ever ca_o him a good turn I will. I've been luckier than he and most of my ol_ompanions, I'm going to do all I can to help them along. There's good in the_f you can only bring it out."
Dick spoke earnestly, in a very different tone from his usual one. He had _ertain philosophy of his own, and had always taken the world easily, howeve_t treated him; but he had a warm and sympathizing heart for the sufferings o_thers, and he felt that he was in a position to befriend his old associates, and encourage them to higher aims and a better mode of life.
"You're a good fellow, Dick," said Fosdick. "It isn't everybody that is s_haritable to the faults of others."
"I know one," said Dick, smiling.
"You mean me; but I'm afraid you are mistaken. I can't say I feel very wel_isposed towards Micky Maguire."
"Maybe Micky'll reform and turn out well after all."
"It would be a wonderful change."
"Haven't both of us changed wonderfully in the last eighteen months?"
"You were always a good fellow, even when you were Ragged Dick."
"You say that because you are my friend, Fosdick."
"I say it because it's true, Dick. You were always ready to take the side o_he weak against the strong, and share your money with those who were out o_uck. I had a hard time till I fell in with you."
"Thank you," said Dick; "if I ever want a first-rate recommendation I'll com_o you. What a lot of friends I've got! Mr. Gilbert offered to get me anothe_lace if I'd only resign my situation at Rockwell & Cooper's."
"He's a very disinterested friend," said Fosdick, laughing. "Do you think o_ccepting his offer?"
"I'm afraid I might not be suited with the place he'd get me," said Dick. "H_hinks I'm best fitted to adorn the office of a boot-black. Maybe he'd appoin_e his private boot-black; but I'm afraid I shouldn't be able to retire on _ortune till I was two or three hundred, if I accepted the situation."
"What shall we wear to the party, Dick?"
"We've got good suits of clothes. We can carry them to a tailor's and hav_hem pressed, and they will look well enough. I saw a splendid necktie to-da_t a store on Broadway. I'm going to buy it."
"You have a weakness for neckties, Dick."
"You see, Fosdick, if you have a striking necktie, people will look at that, and they won't criticise your face."
"There may be something in that, Dick. I feel a little nervous though. It i_he first fashionable party I ever attended."
"Well," said Dick, "I haven't attended many. When I was a boot-black I foun_t interfered with my business, and so I always declined all the fashionabl_nvitations I got."
"You'd have made a sensation," said Fosdick, "if you had appeared in th_ostume you then wore."
"That's what I was afraid of. I don't want to make a sensation. I'm to_odest."
In fact both the boys, though they were flattered by Ida's invitation, looke_orward rather nervously to the evening of the party. For the first time the_ere to meet and mingle on terms of equality with a large number of youn_eople who had been brought up very differently from themselves. Dick coul_ot help remembering how short a time had elapsed since, with his littl_ooden box strapped to his back, he used to call out, "Black your boots?" i_he city park. Perhaps some of his old customers might be present. Still h_new that he had improved greatly, and that his appearance had changed for th_etter. It was hardly likely that any one seeing him in Mr. Greyson's drawing- room, would identify him as the Ragged Dick of other days. Then there wa_nother ground for confidence. Ida liked him, and he had a sincere liking fo_he little girl for whom he had a feeling such as a brother has for _herished younger sister. So Dick dressed himself for the party, feeling tha_e should "get through it somehow."
I need not say, of course, that his boots shone with a lustre not to b_urpassed even by the professional expert of the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It wa_ery evident that Dick had not forgotten the business by which he once gaine_is livelihood.
When Dick had arranged his necktie to suit him, which I am bound to confes_ook at least quarter of an hour, had carefully brushed his hair, and duste_is clothes, he certainly looked remarkably well. Dick was not vain, but h_as anxious to appear to advantage on his first appearance in society. It nee_ot be added that Fosdick also was neatly dressed, but he was smaller and mor_elicate-looking than Dick, and not likely to attract so much attention.
As the boys were descending the stairs they met Miss Peyton.
"Really, Mr. Hunter," said that young lady, "you look quite dazzling thi_vening. How many hearts do you expect to break this evening?"
"I'm not in that line of business," said Dick. "I leave all that to you."
"You're too bad, really, Mr. Hunter," said Miss Peyton, highly pleased, nevertheless. "I never think of such a thing."
"I suppose I must believe you," said Dick, "but why is it that Mr. Clifton ha_ooked so sad lately?"
"Mr. Clifton would not think of poor me," said Miss Peyton.
"If you only knew what he said about you the other day."
"Do tell me."
"If you will, I'll give you—"
"Thank you," interrupted Dick, gravely; "but I never accept kisses from ladie_ver six years old."
"How can you say so, Mr. Hunter?"
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Miss Peyton, but I really couldn't."
"As if I ever thought of such a thing!" said Miss Peyton, in affected horror.
"I appeal to my friend Fosdick."
"Did I say so, Mr. Fosdick?"
"You mustn't appeal to me, Miss Peyton. You and Mr. Hunter are so brillian_hat I don't pretend to understand you."
"Then you won't tell me what Mr. Clifton said. It is too bad. I shan't slee_o-night for thinking of it."
"Suppose you ask Mr. Clifton."
"I don't know but I will."
Miss Peyton went into the parlor, her heart fluttering with the thought tha_he had made a conquest of the gentleman referred to. As Mr. Clifton was _lerk on a small salary, continually in debt, and with no expectations, h_ould not be considered a very brilliant match; but Miss Peyton was not ver_articular, and she would have readily changed her name to Clifton if th_hance should present itself. As we may not have occasion to refer to he_gain, it may be as well to state that Mr. Clifton's pecuniary affairs came t_ crisis some months afterwards. He had always been in the habit of laughin_t Miss Peyton; but in his strait he recollected that she was mistress of _ew thousand dollars over which she had absolute control. Under thes_ircumstances he decided to sacrifice himself. He accordingly offered hi_eart and hand, and was promptly accepted. Miss Peyton informed him that h_as "the object of her heart's tenderest affection, her first and only love."
Mr. Clifton expressed no doubt of this, though he was aware that Miss Peyto_ad been laying her snares for a husband for nearly ten years.
The marriage took place at the boarding-house, Dick and Fosdick being amon_he invited guests.
Mr. Clifton with his wife's money bought a partnership in a retail store o_ighth Avenue, where it is to be hoped he is doing a good business. Any on_esirous of calling upon him at his place of business is referred to the Ne_ork City Directory for his number. Whether Mr. and Mrs. Clifton live happil_ cannot pretend to say, not being included in the list of their friends; bu_ am informed by my friend Dick, who calls occasionally, that Mrs. Clifton i_s fascinating now as before her marriage, and very naturally scorns the whol_isterhood of old maids, having narrowly escaped becoming one herself.