“Ragged Dick” was contributed as a serial story to the pages of the Schoolmate, a well-known juvenile magazine, during the year 1867. While in course of publication, it was received with so many evidences of favor that it has been rewritten and considerably enlarged, and is now presented to the public as the first volume of a series intended to illustrate the life and experiences of the friendless and vagrant children who are now numbered by thousands in New York and other cities.
Several characters in the story are sketched from life. The necessary information has been gathered mainly from personal observation and conversations with the boys themselves. The author is indebted also to the excellent Superintendent of the Newsboys’ Lodging House, in Fulton Street, for some facts of which he has been able to make use. Some anachronisms may be noted. Wherever they occur, they have been admitted, as aiding in the development of the story, and will probably be considered as of little importance in an unpretending volume, which does not aspire to strict historical accuracy.
The author hopes that, while the volumes in this series may prove interesting stories, they may also have the effect of enlisting the sympathies of his readers in behalf of the unfortunate children whose life is described, and of leading them to co-operate with the praiseworthy efforts now making by the Children’s Aid Society and other organizations to ameliorate their condition.
New York, April, 1868
RAGGED DICK IS INTRODUCED TO THE READER
“Wake up there, youngster,” said a rough voice.
Ragged Dick opened his eyes slowly, and stared stupidly in the face of the speaker, but did not offer to get up.
“Wake up, you young vagabond!” said the man a little impatiently; “I suppose you’d lay there all day, if I hadn’t called you.”
“What time is it?” asked Dick.
“Seven o’clock! I oughter’ve been up an hour ago. I know what ’twas made me so precious sleepy. I went to the Old Bowery last night, and didn’t turn in till past twelve.”
“You went to the Old Bowery? Where’d you get your money?” asked the man, who was a porter in the employ of a firm doing business on Spruce Street. “Made it by shines, in course. My guardian don’t allow me no money for theatres, so I have to earn it.”
“Some boys get it easier than that,” said the porter significantly.
“You don’t catch me stealin’, if that’s what you mean,” said Dick.
“Don’t you ever steal, then?”
“No, and I wouldn’t. Lots of boys does it, but I wouldn’t.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear you say that. I believe there’s some good in you, Dick, after all.”
“Oh, I’m a rough customer!” said Dick. “But I wouldn’t steal. It’s mean.”