“Rough and Ready” is presented to the public as the fourth volume of the “Ragged Dick Series,” and, like two of its predecessors, was contributed as a serial to the “Schoolmate,” a popular juvenile magazine. Its second title, “Life among the New York Newsboys,” describes its character and purpose. While the young hero may be regarded as a favorable example of his class, the circumstances of his lot, aggravated by the persecutions of an intemperate parent, are unfortunately too common, as any one at all familiar with the history of the neglected street children in our cities will readily acknowledge.
If “Rough and Ready” has more virtues and fewer faults than most of his class, his history will at least teach the valuable lesson that honesty and good principles are not incompatible even with the greatest social disadvantages, and will, it is hoped, serve as an incentive and stimulus to the young people who may read it.
New York, Dec. 26, 1869.
On the sidewalk in front of the “Times” office, facing Printing-House Square, stood a boy of fifteen, with a pile of morning papers under his arm.
“‘Herald,’ ‘Times,’ ‘Tribune,’ ‘World’!” he vociferated, with a quick glance at each passer-by.
There were plenty of newsboys near by, but this boy was distinguished by his quick, alert movements, and his evident capacity for business. He could tell by a man’s looks whether he wanted a paper, and oftentimes a shrewd observation enabled him to judge which of the great morning dailies would be likely to suit the taste of the individual he addressed.
“Here’s the ‘Tribune’, sir,” he said to a tall, thin man, with a carpet-bag and spectacles, who had the appearance of a country clergyman. “Here’s the ‘Tribune,’ — best paper in the city.”
“I’m glad you think so, my lad. You may give me one. It’s a good sign when a young lad like you shows that he has already formed sound political opinions.”
“That’s so,” said the newsboy.
“I suppose you’ve seen Horace Greeley?”
“In course, sir, I see him most every day. He’s a brick!”
“A what?” inquired the clergyman, somewhat shocked.
“My lad, you should not use such a term in speaking of one of the greatest thinkers of the times.”
“That’s what I mean, sir; only brick’s the word we newsboys use.”
“It’s a low word, my lad; I hope you’ll change it. Can you direct me to French’s Hotel?”
“Yes, sir; there it is, just at the corner of Frankfort Street.”
“Thank you. I live in the country, and am not very well acquainted with New York.”
“I thought so.”
“Indeed! What made you think so?” asked the clergyman, with a glance of inquiry, unaware that his country air caused him to differ from the denizens of the city.
“By your carpet-bag,” said the boy, not caring to mention any other reason.
“What’s your name, my lad?”
“Rough and Ready, sir.”
“What name did you say?” asked the clergyman, thinking he had not heard aright.
“Rough and Ready, sir.”
“That’s a singular name.”
“My right name is Rufus; but that’s what the boys call me.”
“Ah, yes, indeed. Well, my lad, I hope you will continue to cherish sound political sentiments until the constitution gives you the right to vote.”
“Yes, sir, thank you. — Have a paper, sir?”
The clergyman moved off, and Rough and Ready addressed his next remark to a sallow-complexioned man, with a flashing black eye, and an immense flapping wide-awake hat.
“Paper, sir? Here’s the ‘World’!”
“Give me a copy. What’s that, — the ‘Tribune’! None of your Black Republican papers for me Greeley’s got nigger on the brain. Do you sell many ‘Tribunes’?”
“Only a few, sir. The ‘World”s the paper! I only carry the ‘Tribune’ to accommodate a few customers.”
“I wouldn’t have anything to do with it.” And the admirer of the “World” passed on.
“Got the ‘Herald’?” inquired the next man.
“Yes, sir, here it is. Smartest paper in the city! Got twice as much news as all the rest of the papers.”
“That’s where you’re right. Give me the ‘Herald’ for my money. It’s the most enterprising paper in America.”
“Yes, sir. James Gordon Bennett’s a perfect steam-engine!”
“Ever see him?”
“Yes, sir, often. He’s a brick!”
“I believe you.”
“Paper, sir? ‘Tribune,’ sir?”
Rough and Ready addressed this question somewhat doubtfully to a carefully dressed and somewhat portly gentleman, who got out of a Fourth Avenue car, and crossed to the sidewalk where he was standing.
“Don’t want the ‘Tribune.’ It’s a little too extreme for me. Got the ‘Times’?”
“Yes, sir. Here it is. Best paper in the city!”
“I am glad you think so. It’s a sound, dignified journal, in my opinion.”
“Yes, sir. That’s what I think. Henry J. Raymond’s a brick!”
“Ahem, my lad. You mean the right thing, no doubt; but it would be better to say that he is a man of statesman-like views.”
“That’s what I mean, sir. Brick’s the word we newsboys use.”
Just then a boy somewhat larger than Rough and Ready came up. He was stout, and would have been quite good-looking, if he had been neatly dressed, and his face and hands had been free from dirt. But Johnny Nolan, with whom such of my readers as have read “Ragged Dick” and “Fame and Fortune” are already acquainted, was not very much troubled by his deficiencies in either respect, though on the whole he preferred whole garments, but not enough to work for them.
Johnny was walking listlessly, quite like a gentleman of leisure.
“How are you, Johnny?” asked Rough and Ready. “Where’s your blacking-box?”