By Horatio Alger
Public Domain Books
Chapter VII. The Pocket-Book
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’.”