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|Ragged Dick||Horatio Alger|
The First Lesson
|Page 1 of 4||
Fortunately for Dick, his young tutor was well qualified to instruct him. Henry Fosdick, though only twelve years old, knew as much as many boys of fourteen. He had always been studious and ambitious to excel. His father, being a printer, employed in an office where books were printed, often brought home new books in sheets, which Henry was always glad to read. Mr. Fosdick had been, besides, a subscriber to the Mechanics' Apprentices' Library, which contains many thousands of well-selected and instructive books. Thus Henry had acquired an amount of general information, unusual in a boy of his age. Perhaps he had devoted too much time to study, for he was not naturally robust. All this, however, fitted him admirably for the office to which Dick had appointed him,--that of his private instructor.
The two boys drew up their chairs to the rickety table, and spread out the paper before them.
"The exercises generally Commence with ringin' the bell," said Dick; "but as I aint got none, we'll have to do without."
"And the teacher is generally provided with a rod," said Fosdick. "Isn't there a poker handy, that I can use in case my scholar doesn't behave well?"
"'Taint lawful to use fire-arms," said Dick.
"Now, Dick," said Fosdick, "before we begin, I must find out how much you already know. Can you read any?"
"Not enough to hurt me," said Dick. "All I know about readin' you could put in a nutshell, and there'd be room left for a small family."
"I suppose you know your letters?"
"Yes," said Dick, "I know 'em all, but not intimately. I guess I can call 'em all by name."
"Where did you learn them? Did you ever go to school?"
"Yes; I went two days."
"Why did you stop?"
"It didn't agree with my constitution."
"You don't look very delicate," said Fosdick.
"No," said Dick, "I aint troubled much that way; but I found lickins didn't agree with me."
"Did you get punished?"
"Awful," said Dick.
"For indulgin' in a little harmless amoosement," said Dick. "You see the boy that was sittin' next to me fell asleep, which I considered improper in school-time; so I thought I'd help the teacher a little by wakin' him up. So I took a pin and stuck into him; but I guess it went a little too far, for he screeched awful. The teacher found out what it was that made him holler, and whipped me with a ruler till I was black and blue. I thought 'twas about time to take a vacation; so that's the last time I went to school."
"You didn't learn to read in that time, of course?"
"No," said Dick; "but I was a newsboy a little while; so I learned a little, just so's to find out what the news was. Sometimes I didn't read straight and called the wrong news. One mornin' I asked another boy what the paper said, and he told me the King of Africa was dead. I thought it was all right till folks began to laugh."
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