Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rufus and Rose

Yesterday I reread an Alger. I have a long history with Horatio Alger, which I'd hoped I'd documented on this blog so I could just link to it, but the very short summary is that my father collected the novels of Horatio Alger, Junior, so they were some of my first reading material and I spent many formative years going with my dad to used book stores and book sales looking for Alger titles. I've read all of Alger's novels multiple times, and when my father killed himself fifteen years ago (fifteen years in July!), I took over the collection.

So yesterday I reread Rufus and Rose, the further adventures of Rough and Ready after Rufus, the newsboy (previously known as Rough and Ready), prevents a Wall Street banker from being robbed after overhearing the plot in an oyster saloon, and is rewarded with a position in the banker's office.

It is about as thrilling as it sounds.

Rose is Rufus's little sister. "His mother had been dead for some time. His step-father, James Martin, was a drunkard, and he had been compelled to take away his little sister Rose from the miserable home in which he had kept her, and had undertaken to support her, as well as himself. He had been fortunate enough to obtain a home for her with Miss Manning, a poor seamstress, whom he paid for her services in taking care of Rose. His step-father, in order to thwart and torment him, had stolen the little girl away, and kept her in Brooklyn for a while, until Rufus got a clue to her whereabouts, and succeeded in getting her back."

Miss Manning gets a position as governess to two little girls who are the daughters of an invalid, and Rose spends much of Rufus and Rose playing happily with these girls in Washington Park--they live on Waverly Place: "Before the up-town movement commenced, it was a fashionable quarter, and even now, as may be inferred from the character of the houses, is a very nice and respectable street, particularly that part which fronts the square." Rufus and Rose was published in 1870, and rereading it, I think the most startling thing about this book is that when otherwise engaged (in finding out why Rufus didn't come home the previous night--it was because he'd been kidnapped by Mr. Martin, of course, but Miss Manning doesn't know that), Miss Manning sends the three little girls, all under ten years old, to play in the park BY THEMSELVES. Washington Square Park.

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