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Chapter 20 Before the party

  • "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."
  • "I couldn't."
  • "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?"
  • Fosdick smiled.
  • "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.