Horatio Alger on newsboy's progress
Horatio Alger placed his stamp on the ``pluck-and-luck'' success stories whose echoes lingered long after their 19th-century beginnings. In this passage from his first such novel, ``Ragged Dick'' (1867), his young entrepreneur has already moved on from being a newsboy: ``They didn't always put news enough in the papers, and people wouldn't buy 'em as fast as I wanted 'em to.'' 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.
``What tailor do you patronize?'' asked the gentleman, surveying Dick's attire.
``Would you like to go to the same one?'' asked Dick, shrewdly.
``Well, no; it strikes me that he didn't give you a very good fit.''
``This coat once belonged to General Washington,'' said Dick comically. ``He wore it all through the Revolution, and it got torn some, 'cause he fit so hard. When he died he told his widder to give it to some smart young feller that hadn't got none of his own; so she gave it to me. But if you'd like it, sir, to remember General Washington by, I'll let you have it reasonable.''
``Thank you, but I wouldn't want to deprive you of it. And did your pants come from General Washington too?''
``No, they was a gift from Lewis Napoleon. Lewis had outgrown 'em and sent 'em to me, -- he's bigger than me, and that's why they don't fit.''
``It seems you have distinguished friends. Now, my lad, I suppose you would like your money.''
``I shouldn't have any objection,'' said Dick.
``I believe,'' said the gentleman, examining his pocketbook, ``I haven't got anything short of twenty-five cents. Have you got any change?''
``Not a cent,'' said Dick. ``All my money's invested in the Erie Railroad.''