“I’m glad you think so, Dick,” and the rough voice sounded gentler than at first. “Have you got any money to buy your breakfast?”
“No, but I’ll soon get some.”
While this conversation had been going on, Dick had got up. His bedchamber had been a wooden box half full of straw, on which the young boot-black had reposed his weary limbs, and slept as soundly as if it had been a bed of down. He dumped down into the straw without taking the trouble of undressing.
Getting up too was an equally short process. He jumped out of the box, shook himself, picked out one or two straws that had found their way into rents in his clothes, and, drawing a well-worn cap over his uncombed locks, he was all ready for the business of the day.
Dick’s appearance as he stood beside the box was rather peculiar. His pants were torn in several places, and had apparently belonged in the first instance to a boy two sizes larger than himself. He wore a vest, all the buttons of which were gone except two, out of which peeped a shirt which looked as if it had been worn a month. To complete his costume he wore a coat too long for him, dating back, if one might judge from its general appearance, to a remote antiquity.
Washing the face and hands is usually considered proper in commencing the day, but Dick was above such refinement. He had no particular dislike to dirt, and did not think it necessary to remove several dark streaks on his face and hands. But in spite of his dirt and rags there was something about Dick that was attractive. It was easy to see that if he had been clean and well dressed he would have been decidedly good-looking. Some of his companions were sly, and their faces inspired distrust; but Dick had a frank, straight-forward manner that made him a favorite.
Dick’s business hours had commenced. He had no office to open. His little blacking-box was ready for use, and he looked sharply in the faces of all who passed, addressing each with, “Shine yer boots, sir?”
“How much?” asked a gentleman on his way to his office.
“Ten cents,” said Dick, dropping his box, and sinking upon his knees on the sidewalk, flourishing his brush with the air of one skilled in his profession.
“Ten cents! Isn’t that a little steep?”
“Well, you know ’taint all clear profit,” said Dick, who had already set to work. “There’s the blacking costs something, and I have to get a new brush pretty often.”
“And you have a large rent too,” said the gentleman quizzically, with a glance at a large hole in Dick’s coat.
“Yes, sir,” said Dick, always ready to joke; “I have to pay such a big rent for my manshun up on Fifth Avenoo, that I can’t afford to take less than ten cents a shine. I’ll give you a bully shine, sir.”
“Be quick about it, for I am in a hurry. So your house is on Fifth Avenue, is it?”
“It isn’t anywhere else,” said Dick, and Dick spoke the truth there.