Among the down-town boot-blacks was one hailing from the Five Points,—a stout, red-haired, freckled-faced boy of fourteen, bearing the name of Micky Maguire. This boy, by his boldness and recklessness, as well as by his personal strength, which was considerable, had acquired an ascendancy among his fellow professionals, and had a gang of subservient followers, whom he led on to acts of ruffianism, not unfrequently terminating in a month or two at Blackwell’s Island. Micky himself had served two terms there; but the confinement appeared to have had very little effect in amending his conduct, except, perhaps, in making him a little more cautious about an encounter with the “copps,” as the members of the city police are, for some unknown reason, styled among the Five-Point boys.
Now Micky was proud of his strength, and of the position of leader which it had secured him. Moreover he was democratic in his tastes, and had a jealous hatred of those who wore good clothes and kept their faces clean. He called it putting on airs, and resented the implied superiority. If he had been fifteen years older, and had a trifle more education, he would have interested himself in politics, and been prominent at ward meetings, and a terror to respectable voters on election day. As it was, he contented himself with being the leader of a gang of young ruffians, over whom he wielded a despotic power.
Now it is only justice to Dick to say that, so far as wearing good clothes was concerned, he had never hitherto offended the eyes of Micky Maguire. Indeed, they generally looked as if they patronized the same clothing establishment. On this particular morning it chanced that Micky had not been very fortunate in a business way, and, as a natural consequence, his temper, never very amiable, was somewhat ruffled by the fact. He had had a very frugal breakfast,—not because he felt abstemious, but owing to the low state of his finances. He was walking along with one of his particular friends, a boy nicknamed Limpy Jim, so called from a slight peculiarity in his walk, when all at once he espied our friend Dick in his new suit.
“My eyes!” he exclaimed, in astonishment; “Jim, just look at Ragged Dick. He’s come into a fortun’, and turned gentleman. See his new clothes.”
“So he has,” said Jim. “Where’d he get ’em, I wonder?”
“Hooked ’em, p’raps. Let’s go and stir him up a little. We don’t want no gentlemen on our beat. So he’s puttin’ on airs,—is he? I’ll give him a lesson.”
So saying the two boys walked up to our hero, who had not observed them, his back being turned, and Micky Maguire gave him a smart slap on the shoulder.
Dick turned round quickly.
A BATTLE AND A VICTORY
“What’s that for?” demanded Dick, turning round to see who had struck him.
“You’re gettin’ mighty fine!” said Micky Maguire, surveying Dick’s new clothes with a scornful air.