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Fame and Fortune; or, The Progress of Richard Hunter

Fame and Fortune; or, The Progress of Richard Hunter

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


"Well, Fosdick, this is a little better than our old room in Mott Street," said Richard Hunter, looking complacently about him. "You're right, Dick," said his friend. "This carpet's rather nicer than the ragged one Mrs. Mooney supplied us with. The beds are neat and comfortable, and...
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  "Well, Fosdick, this is a little better than our old room in MottStreet," said Richard Hunter, looking complacently about him.

  "You're right, Dick," said his friend. "This carpet's rather nicer thanthe ragged one Mrs. Mooney supplied us with. The beds are neat andcomfortable, and I feel better satisfied, even if we do have to paytwice as much for it."

  The room which yielded so much satisfaction to the two boys was on thefourth floor of a boarding-house in Bleecker Street. No doubt many of myyoung readers, who are accustomed to elegant homes, would think it veryplain; but neither Richard nor his friend had been used to anything asgood. They had been thrown upon their own exertions at an early age, andhad a hard battle to fight with poverty and ignorance. Those of myreaders who are familiar with Richard Hunter's experiences when he was"Ragged Dick," will easily understand what a great rise in the world itwas for him to have a really respectable home. For years he had led avagabond life about the streets, as a boot-black, sleeping in oldwagons, or boxes, or wherever he could find a lodging gratis. It wasonly twelve months since a chance meeting with an intelligent boy causedhim to form the resolution to grow up respectable. By diligent eveningstudy with Henry Fosdick, whose advantages had been much greater thanhis own, assisted by a natural quickness and an unusual aptitude forlearning, he had, in a year, learned to read and write well, and had,besides, made considerable progress in arithmetic. Still he would havefound it difficult to obtain a situation if he had not been the means ofsaving from drowning the young child of Mr. James Rockwell, a wealthymerchant in business on Pearl Street, who at once, out of gratitude forthe service rendered, engaged our hero in his employ at the unusualcompensation, for a beginner, of ten dollars a week. His friend, HenryFosdick, was in a hat store on Broadway, but thus far only received sixdollars a week.

  Feeling that it was time to change their quarters to a more respectableportion of the city, they one morning rang the bell of Mrs. Browning'sboarding-house, on Bleecker Street.

  They were shown into the parlor, and soon a tall lady, with flaxenringlets and a thin face, came in.

  "Well, young gentleman, what can I do for you?" she said, regarding themattentively.

  "My friend and I are looking for a boarding-place," said Henry Fosdick."Have you any rooms vacant?"

  "What sort of a room would you like?" asked Mrs. Browning.

  "We cannot afford to pay a high price. We should be satisfied with asmall room."

  "You will room together, I suppose?"

  "Yes, ma'am."

  "I have a room vacant on the third floor, quite a good-sized one, forwhich I should charge you seven dollars apiece. There is a room on thefourth floor, not so large, which you can have for five dollars each."

  "I think we'll look at that," said Richard Hunter.

  "Very well, then follow me."

  Mrs. Browning preceded the boys to the fourth floor, where she openedthe door of a neat room, provided with two single beds, a good-sizedmirror, a bureau, a warm woollen carpet, a washstand, and an emptybookcase for books. There was a closet also, the door of which sheopened, showing a row of pegs for clothing.

  "How do you like it?" asked Fosdick, in a low voice, turning to hiscompanion.

  "It's bully," said Dick, in admiring accents.

  I may as well say here, what the reader will find out as we proceed,that our hero, in spite of his advance in learning, had not got entirelyrid of some street phrases, which he had caught from the companions withwhom he had for years associated.

  "Five dollars is rather a steep price," said Fosdick, in a low voice."You know I don't get but six in all."

  "I'll tell you what, Fosdick," said Dick; "it'll be ten dollars for thetwo of us. I'll pay six, and you shall pay four. That'll be fair,--won'tit?"

  "No, Dick, I ought to pay my half."

  "You can make it up by helpin' me when I run against a snag, in mystudies."

  "You know as much as I do now, Dick."

  "No, I don't. I haven't any more ideas of grammar than a broomstick. Youknow I called 'cat' a conjunction the other day. Now, you shall help mein grammar, for I'm blessed if I know whether I'm a noun or anadjective, and I'll pay a dollar towards your board."

  "But, Dick, I'm willing to help you for nothing. It isn't fair to chargeyou a dollar a week for my help."

  "Why isn't it? Aint I to get ten dollars a week, and shan't I have fourdollars over, while you will only have two? I think I ought to give youone more, and then we'd be even."

  "No, Dick; I wouldn't agree to that. If you insist upon it, we'll do asyou propose; but, if ever I am able, I will make it up to you."

  "Well, young gentleman, what have you decided?" asked Mrs. Browning.

  "We'll take the room," said Dick, promptly.

  "When do you wish to commence?"

  "To-day. We'll come this evening."

  "Very well. I suppose you can furnish me with references. You're inbusiness, I suppose?"

  "I am in Henderson's hat and cap store, No. ---- Broadway," said HenryFosdick.

  "And I am going into Rockwell & Cooper's, on Pearl Street, next Monday,"said Dick, with a sense of importance. He felt that this was verydifferent from saying, "I black boots in Chatham Square."

  "You look like good boys," said Mrs. Browning, "and I've no doubt you'rehonest; but I'm a widow, dependent on my boarders, and I have to beparticular. Only last week a young man went off, owing me four weeks'board, and I don't suppose he'll ever show his face again. He got a goodsalary, too; but he spent most of it on cigars and billiards. Now, howcan I be sure you will pay me your board regular?"

  "We'll pay it every week in advance," said Dick, promptly. "Them's ourbest references," and he produced his bank-book, showing a deposit ofover one hundred dollars to his credit in the savings bank, motioning atthe same time to Fosdick to show his.

  "You don't mean to say you've saved all that from your earnings?" saidMrs. Browning, surprised.

  "Yes," said Dick, "and I might have saved more if I'd begun sooner."

  "How long has it taken you to save it up?"

  "About nine months. My friend hasn't saved so much, because his salaryhas been smaller."

  "I won't require you to pay in advance," said Mrs. Browning, graciously."I am sure I can trust you. Boys who have formed so good a habit ofsaving can be depended upon. I will get the room ready for you, and youmay bring your trunks when you please. My hours are, breakfast at seven,lunch at half-past twelve, and dinner at six."

  "We shan't be able to come to lunch," said Fosdick. "Our stores are toofar off."

  "Then I will make half a dollar difference with each of you, making ninedollars a week instead of ten."

  The boys went downstairs, well pleased with the arrangement they hadmade. Dick insisted upon paying five dollars and a half of the jointweekly expense, leaving three and a half to Fosdick. This would leavethe latter two dollars and a half out of his salary, while Dick wouldhave left four and a half. With economy, both thought they couldcontinue to lay up something.

  There was one little embarrassment which suggested itself to the boys.Neither of them had a trunk, having been able to stow away all theirwardrobe without difficulty in the drawers of the bureau with whichtheir room in Mott Street was provided.

  "Why are you like an elephant, Fosdick?" asked Dick, jocosely, as theyemerged into the street.

  "I don't know, I'm sure."

  "Because you haven't got any trunk except what you carry round withyou."

  "We'll have to get trunks, or perhaps carpet-bags would do."

  "No," said Dick, decisively, "it aint 'spectable to be without a trunk,and we're going to be 'spectable now."

  "_Re_spectable, Dick."

  "All right,--respectable, then. Let's go and buy each a trunk."

  This advice seemed reasonable, and Fosdick made no objection. The boyssucceeded in getting two decent trunks at three dollars apiece, andordered them sent to their room in Mott Street. It must be remembered bymy readers, who may regard the prices given as too low, that the eventshere recorded took place several years before the war, when one dollarwas equal to two at the present day.

  At the close of the afternoon Fosdick got away from the store an hourearlier, and the boys, preceded by an expressman bearing their trunks,went to their new home. They had just time to wash and comb their hair,when the bell rang for dinner, and they went down to the dining-room.

  Nearly all the boarders were assembled, and were sitting around a longtable spread with a variety of dishes. Mrs. Browning was a good manager,and was wise enough to set a table to which her boarders could notobject.

  "This way, if you please, young gentlemen," she said, pointing to twoadjoining seats on the opposite side of the table.

  Our hero, it must be confessed, felt a little awkward, not being used tothe formality of a boarding-house, and feeling that the eyes of twentyboarders were upon him. His confusion was increased, when, after takinghis seat, he saw sitting opposite him, a young man whose boots heremembered to have blacked only a week before. Observing Dick's look,Mrs. Browning proceeded to introduce him to the other.

  "Mr. Clifton," she said, "let me introduce Mr. Hunter and his friend,Mr. Fosdick,--two new members of our family."

  Dick bowed rather awkwardly, and the young man said, "Glad to make youracquaintance, Mr. Hunter. Your face looks quite familiar. I think I musthave seen you before."

  "I think I've seen _you_ before," said Dick.

  "It's strange I can't think where," said the young man, who had not theleast idea that the well-dressed boy before him was the boot-black whohad brushed his boots near the Park railings the Monday previous. Dickdid not think proper to enlighten him. He was not ashamed of his pastoccupation; but it was past, and he wanted to be valued for what hemight become, not for what he had been.

  "Are you in business, Mr. Hunter?" inquired Mr. Clifton.

  It sounded strange to our hero to be called Mr. Hunter; but he ratherliked it. He felt that it sounded respectable.

  "I am at Rockwell & Cooper's, on Pearl Street," said Dick.

  "I know the place. It is a large firm."

  Dick was glad to hear it, but did not say that he knew nothing about it.

  The dinner was a good one, much better than the two boys were accustomedto get at the eating-houses which in times past they had frequented.Dick noticed carefully how the others did, and acquitted himself quitecreditably, so that no one probably suspected that he had not alwaysbeen used to as good a table.

  When the boys rose from the table, Mrs. Browning said, "Won't you walkinto the parlor, young gentlemen? We generally have a little music afterdinner. Some of the young ladies are musical. Do either of you play?"

  Dick said he sometimes played marbles; at which a young lady laughed,and Dick, catching the infection, laughed too.

  "Miss Peyton, Mr. Hunter," introduced Mrs. Browning.

  Miss Peyton made a sweeping courtesy, to which Dick responded by a bow,turning red with embarrassment.

  "Don't you sing, Mr. Hunter?" asked the young lady.

  "I aint much on warblin'," said Dick, forgetting for the moment where hewas.

  This droll answer, which Miss Peyton supposed to be intentionally funny,convulsed the young lady with merriment.

  "Perhaps your friend sings?" she said.

  Thereupon Fosdick was also introduced. To Dick's astonishment, heanswered that he did a little. It was accordingly proposed that theyshould enter the next room, where there was a piano. The young ladyplayed some well-known melodies, and Fosdick accompanied her with hisvoice, which proved to be quite sweet and melodious.

  "You are quite an acquisition to our circle," said Miss Peyton,graciously. "Have you boarded in this neighborhood before?"

  "No," said Fosdick; "at another part of the city."

  He was afraid she would ask him in what street, but fortunately sheforbore.

  In about half an hour the boys went up to their own room, where theylighted the gas, and, opening their trunks, placed the contents in thebureau-drawers.

  "Blessed if it don't seem strange," said Dick, "for a feller brought upas I have been to live in this style. I wonder what Miss Peyton wouldhave said if she had known what I had been."

  "You haven't any cause to be ashamed of it, Dick. It wasn't a verydesirable business, but it was honest. Now you can do something better.You must adapt yourself to your new circumstances."

  "So I mean to," said Dick. "I'm going in for respectability. When I getto be sixty years old, I'm goin' to wear gold spectacles and walk roundthis way, like the old gentlemen I see most every day on Wall Street."

  Dick threw his head back, and began to walk round the room with apompous step and an air of great importance.

  "I hope we'll both rise, Dick; we've got well started now, and there'vebeen other boys, worse off than we are, who have worked hard, and risento FAME AND FORTUNE."

  "We can try," said Dick. "Now let us go out and have a walk."

  "All right," said Fosdick.

  They went downstairs, and out into the street. Accustomed to the lowerpart of the city, there was a novelty in the evening aspect of Broadway,with its shops and theatres glittering with light. They saunteredcarelessly along, looking in at the shop-windows, feeling more and morepleased with their change of location. All at once Dick's attention wasdrawn to a gentleman accompanied by a boy of about his own size, who waswalking a little in advance.

  "Stop a minute," he said to Fosdick, and hurrying forward placed hishand on the boy's arm.

  "How are you, Frank?" he said.

  Frank Whitney, for it was he, turned in some surprise and looked atDick, but did not at first recognize in the neat, well-dressed boy offifteen the ragged boot-black he had encountered a year before.

  "I don't think I remember you," he said, surveying Dick with a puzzledexpression.

  "Perhaps you'd remember me better if I had on my Washington coat andNapoleon pants," said our hero, with a smile. He felt rather pleased tofind he was not recognized, since it was a compliment to his improvedappearance.

  "What!" exclaimed Frank, his face lighting up with pleasure, "is itpossible that you are--"

  "Richard Hunter, at your service," said our hero; "but when you knew meI was Ragged Dick."