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A Rough Shaking by George MacDonald

Part 2 out of 7

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self-accusation and despair.

It was long before he was able to give her an intelligible account of
what had taken place. She asked him if he had found it dead. In answer
he could only shake his head, but that head-shake had a whole tragedy
in it. Then she examined "the little one," but could find no mark of
any wound upon it. When at length she learned how the case was, she
tried to comfort him, insisting he was not to blame, for he did not
mean to kill the little one. He would not hearken to her loving
sophistry.

"No, mother!" he said through his sobs; "I wouldn't have blamed
myself, though I should have been very sorry, if I had killed him by
accident--if I had stepped upon him, or anything of that kind; but I
meant to frighten him! I looked bad at him! I made him think I was an
enemy, and going to kill him! I shammed bad--and so was real bad."

He stopped with a most wailful howl.

"Perhaps he knew me," he resumed, "and couldn't understand it. It was
much worse than if I had shot him. He wouldn't have known then till he
was dead. But to die of terror was horrible. Oh, why didn't I think
what I was doing?"

"Nobody could have thought of such a thing happening."

"No; but I ought to have thought, mother, of what I was doing. I was
trying to frighten him! I must have been in a cruel mood. Why didn't I
think love to the little one when I saw him, instead of thinking death
to him? I shall never look a rabbit in the face again! My heart must
have grown black, mother!"

"I don't believe there is another rabbit in England would die from
such a cause," persisted his mother thoughtfully.

"Then what a superior rabbit he must have been!" said Clare. "To think
that I pulled down the roof of his church upon him!"

He burst into a torrent of tears, and ran to his own room. There his
mother thought it better to leave him undisturbed. She wisely judged
that a mind of such sensibility was alone capable of finding the
comfort to fit its need.

Such comfort he doubtless did find, for by the time his mother called
him to tea, calmness had taken the place of the agony on his
countenance. His mother asked him no questions, for she as well as her
husband feared any possible encouragement to self-consciousness. I
imagine the boy had reflected that things could not go so wrong that
nobody could set them right. I imagine he thought that, if he had done
the rabbit a wrong, as he never for a moment to the end of his life
doubted he had, he who is at the head of all heads and the heart of
all hearts, would contrive to let him tell the rabbit he was sorry,
and would give him something to do for the rabbit that would make up
for his cruelty to him. He did once say to his mother, and neither of
them again alluded to the matter, that he was sure the rabbit had
forgiven him.

"Little ones are _so_ forgiving, you know, mother!" he added.

Is it any wonder that my friend Clare Skymer should have been no
sportsman?

Chapter VIII.

Clare and his human brothers

Another anecdote of him, that has no furtherance of the story in it, I
must yet tell.

One cold day in a stormy March, the wind was wildly blowing broken
clouds across the heavens, and now rain, now sleet, over the shivering
blades of the young corn, whose tender green was just tinging the dark
brown earth. The fields were now dark and wintry, heartless and cold;
now shining all over as with repentant tears; one moment refusing to
be comforted, and the next reviving with hope and a sense of new
life. Clare was hovering about the plough. Suddenly he spied, from a
mound in the field, a little procession passing along the
highway. Those in front carried something on their shoulders which
must be heavy, for it took six of them to carry it. He knew it was a
coffin, for his home was by the churchyard, and a funeral was no
unfamiliar sight. Behind it one man walked alone. For a moment Clare
watched him, and saw his bowed head and heavy pace. His heart filled
from its own perennial fount of pity, which was God himself in him. He
ran down the hill and across the next field, making for a spot some
distance ahead of the procession. As it passed him, he joined the
chief mourner, who went plodding on with his arms hanging by his
sides. Creeping close up to him, he slid his little soft hand into the
great horny hand of the peasant. Instinctively the big hand closed
upon the small one, and the weather-beaten face of a man of fifty
looked down on the boy. Not a word was said between them. They walked
on, hand in hand.

Neither had ever seen the other. The man was following his wife and
his one child to the grave. "Nothing almost sees miracles but misery,"
says Kent in _King Lear_. Because this man was miserable, he saw a
miracle where was no miracle, only something very good. The thing was
true and precious, yea, a message from heaven. Those deep, upturned,
silent eyes; the profound, divine sympathy that shone in them; the
grasp of the tiny hand upon his large fingers, made the heart of the
man, who happened to be a catholic, imagine, and for a few moments
believe, that he held the hand of the infant Saviour. The cloud lifted
from his heart and brain, and did not return when he came to
understand that this was not _the_ lamb of God, only another lamb from
the same fold.

When they had walked about two miles, the boy began to fear he might
be intruding, and would have taken his hand from the other, but the
man held it tight, and stooping whispered it was not far now. The
child, who, without knowing it, had taken the man under the
protection of his love, yielded at once, went with him to the grave,
joined in the service, and saw the grave filled. They went again as
they had come. Not a word was spoken. The man wept a little now and
then, drew the back of his brown hand across his eyes, and pressed a
little closer the hand he held. At the gate of the parsonage the boy
took his leave. He said they would be wondering what had become of
him, or he would have gone farther. The man released him without a
word.

His mother had been uneasy about him, but when he told her how it was,
she said he had done right.

"Yes," returned the boy; "I belong there myself."

The mother knew he was not thinking of the grave.

One more anecdote I will give, serving to introduce the narrative of
the following chapter, and helping to show the character of the
boy. He was so unlike most boys, that one must know all he may about
him, if he would understand him.

Never yet, strange as the assertion must seem, had the boy shown any
anger. His father was a little troubled at the fact, fearing such
absence of resentment might indicate moral indifference, or, if not,
might yet render him incapable of coping with the world. He had
himself been brought up at a public school, and had not, with all his
experience of life, come to see, any more than most of the readers of
this story now see, or for a long time will see, that there lies no
nobility, no dignity in evil retort of any kind; that evil is evil
when returned as much as when given; that the only shining thing is
good--and the most shining, good for evil.

One day a coarse boy in the village gave him a sharp blow on the
face. It forced water from his eyes and blood from his nose. He was
wiping away both at once with his handkerchief, when a kindly girl
stopped and said to him--

"Never mind; don't cry."

"Oh, no!" answered Clare; "it's only water, it's not crying. It would
be cowardly to cry."

"That's a brave boy! You'll give it him back one of these days."

"No," he returned, "I shall not I couldn't."

"Why?"

"Because it hurts so. My nose feels as if it were broken. I know it's
not broken, but it feels like it."

The girl, as well as the boys who stood around him, burst into
laughter. They saw no logic in his reasoning. Clare's was the divine
reasoning that comes of loving your neighbour; theirs was the earthly
reasoning that came of loving themselves. They did not see that to
Clare another boy was another of himself; that he was carrying out the
design of the Father of men, that his creatures should come together
into one, not push each other away.

The next time he met the boy who struck him, so far was he both from
resentment and from the fear of being misunderstood, that he offered
him a rosy-cheeked apple his mother had given him as he left for
school. The boy was tyrant and sneak together--a combination to be
seen sometimes in a working man set over his fellows, and in a rich
man grown poor, and bent upon making money again. The boy took the
apple, never doubted Clare gave it him to curry favour, ate it up
grinning, and threw the core in his face. Clare turned away with a
sigh, and betook himself to his handkerchief again, The boy burst into
a guffaw of hideous laughter.

Chapter IX.

Clare the defender.

This enemy was a trouble, more or less, to every decent person in the
neighbourhood. It was well his mother was a widow, for where she was
only powerless to restrain, the father would have encouraged. He was a
big, idle, sneering, insolent lad--such that had there been two more
of the sort, they would have made the village uninhabitable. It was
all the peaceable vicar could do to keep his hands off him.

One day, little Mary being then about five years old, Clare had her
out for a walk. They were alone in a narrow lane, not far from the
farm where Clare was so much at home. To his consternation, for he had
his sister in charge, down the lane, meeting them, came the village
tyrant. He strolled up with his hands in his pockets, and barred their
way. But while, his eye chiefly on Clare, he "straddled" like
Apollyon, but not "quite over the whole breadth of the way," Mary
slipped past him. The young brute darted after the child. Clare put
down his head, as he had seen the rams do, and as Simpson, who ill
deserved the name of the generous Jewish Hercules, was on the point of
laying hold of her, caught him in the flank, butted him into the
ditch, and fell on the top of him.

"Run, Maly!" he cried; "I'll be after you in a moment."

"Will you, you little devil!" cried the bully; and taking him by the
throat, so that he could not utter even a gurgle, got up and began to
beat him unmercifully. But the sounds of their conflict had reached
the ears of the bull Nimrod, who was feeding within the hedge. He
recognized Clare's voice, perhaps knew from it that he was in trouble;
but I am inclined to think pure bull-love of a row would alone have
sent him tearing to the quarter whence the tyrant's brutal bellowing
still came. There, looking over the hedge, he saw his friend in the
clutches of an enemy of his own, for Simpson never lost a chance of
teasing Nimrod when he could do so with safety. Over he came with a
short roar and a crash. Looking up, the bully saw a bigger bully than
himself, with his head down and horns level, retreating a step or two
in preparation for running at him. Simpson shoved the helpless Clare
toward the enemy and fled. Clare fell. Nimrod jumped over his
prostrate friend and tore after Simpson. Clare got up and would at
once have followed to protect his enemy, but that he must first see
his sister safe. He ran with her to a cottage hard by, handed her to
the woman at the door of it, and turning pursued Simpson and the bull.

Nimrod overtook his enemy in the act of scrambling over a five-barred
gate. Simpson saw the head of the bull coming down upon him like the
bows of a Dutchman upon a fishing-boat, and, paralyzed with terror,
could not move an inch further. Crash against the gate came the horns
of Nimrod, with all the weight and speed of his body behind them. Away
went the gate into the field, and away went Simpson and the bull with
it, the latter nearly breaking his neck, for his horns were entangled
in the bars, one of them by the diagonal bar. Simpson's right leg was
jammed betwixt the gate and the head and horns of the bull. He roared,
and his roars maddened Nimrod, furious already that he could not get
his horns clear. Shake and pull as he might, the gate stuck to them;
and Simpson fared little the better that the bull's quarrel was for
the moment with the gate, and not with the leg between him and it.

Clare had not seen the catastrophe, and did not know what had become
of pursuer or pursued, until he reached the gap where the gate had
been. He saw then the odd struggle going on, and ran to the aid of his
foe, in terror of what might already have befallen him. The moment he
laid hold of one of the animal's horns, infuriated as Nimrod was with
his helpless entanglement, he knew at once who it was, and was quiet;
for Clare always took him by the horn when first he went up to
him. Without a moment's demur he yielded to the small hands as they
pushed and pulled his head this way and that until they got it clear
of the gate. But then they did not let him go. Clare proceeded to take
him home, and Nimrod made no objection. Simpson lay groaning.

When Clare returned, his enemy was there still. He had got clear of
the gate, but seemed in much pain, for he lay tearing up the grass and
sod in handfuls. When Clare stooped to ask what he should do for him,
he struck him a backhanded blow on the face that knocked him
over. Clare got up and ran.

"Coward!" cried Simpson; "to leave a man with a broken leg to get home
by himself!"

"I'm going to find some one strong enough to help you," said Clare.

But Simpson, after his own evil nature, imagined he was going to let
the bull into the field again, and fell to praying him not to leave
him. Clare knew, however, that, if his leg was broken, he could not
get him home, neither could he get home by himself; so he made haste
to tell the people at the farm, and Simpson lay in terror of the bull
till help came.

From that hour he hated Clare, attributing to him all the ill he had
brought on himself. But he was out of mischief for a while. The
trouble fell on his mother--who deserved it, for she would believe no
ill of him, because he was _hers_. One good thing of the affair was,
that the bully was crippled for life, and could do the less harm.

It was a great joy to Mr. Person to learn how Clare had defended his
sister. Clergyman as he was, and knowing that Jesus Christ would never
have returned a blow, and that this spirit of the Lord was what saved
the world, he had been uneasy that his adopted child behaved just like
Jesus. That a man should be so made as not to care to return a blow,
never occurred to Mr. Porson as possible. It was therefore an
immeasurable relief to his feelings as an Englishman, to find that the
boy was so far from being destitute of pluck, that in defence of his
sister he had attacked a fellow twice his size.

"Weren't you afraid of such a big rascal?" he said.

"No, papa," answered the boy. "Ought I to have been?"

He put his hand to his forehead, as if trying to understand. His
father found he had himself something to think about.

There was a certain quiescence about Clare, ill to describe,
impossible to explain, but not the less manifest. Like an infant, he
never showed surprise at anything. Whatever came to him he received,
questioning nothing, marvelling at nothing, disputing nothing. What he
was told to do he went to do, never with even a momentary show of
disinclination, leaving book or game with readiness but no
eagerness. He would do deftly what was required of him, and return to
his place, with a countenance calm and sweet as the moon in highest
heaven. He seldom offered a caress except to little Mary; yet would
choose, before anything else, a place by his mother's knee. The moment
she, or his father in her absence, entered the room and sat down, he
would rise, take his stool, and set it as near as he thought he
might. When caressed he never turned away, or looked as if he would
rather be let alone; at the same time he received the caress so
quietly, and with so little response, that often, when his heavenly
look had drawn the heart of some mother, or spinster with motherly
heart, he left an ache in the spirit he would have gone to the world's
end to comfort. He never sought love--otherwise than by getting near
the loved. When anything was given him, he would look up and smile,
but he seldom showed much pleasure, or went beyond the regulation
thanks. But if at such a moment little Mary were by, he had a curious
way of catching her up and presenting her to the giver. Whether this
was a shape his thanks took, whether Mary was to him an incorporate
gratitude, or whether he meant to imply that she was the fitter on
whom to shower favour, it were hard to say. His mother observed, and
in her mind put the two things together, that he did not seem to prize
much any mere possession. He looked pleased with a new suit of
clothes, but if any one remarked on his care of them, he would answer,
"I mustn't spoil what's papa and mamma's!" He made no hoard of any
kind. He did once hoard marbles till he had about a hundred; then it
was discovered that they were for a certain boy in the village who was
counted half-witted--as indeed was Clare himself by many. When he
learned that the boy had first been accused of stealing them--for no
one would believe that another boy had given them to him--and after
that robbed of them by the other boys, on the ground that he did not
know how to play with them, Clare saw that it was as foolish to hoard
for another as for himself.

He was a favourite with few beyond those that knew him well. Many who
saw him only at church, or about the village, did not take to him. His
still regard repelled them. In Naples they would have said he had the
evil eye. I think people had a vague sense of rebuke in his
presence. Even his mother, passionately loving her foundling, was
aware of a film between them through which she could not quite see
him, beyond which there was something she could not get at, Clare knew
nothing of such a separation. He seemed to himself altogether close to
his mother, was aware of nothing between to part them. The cause of
the thing was, that Clare was not yet in flower. His soul was a white
half-blown bud, not knowing that it was but half-blown. It basked in
the glory of the warm sun, but only with the underside of its
flower-leaves; it had not opened its heart, the sun-side of its
petals, to the love in which it was immerged. He received the love as
a matter of course, and loved it as a matter of course. But for the
cruel Simpson he would not have known there could be any other way of
things. He did not yet know that one must not only love but mean to
love, must not only bask in the warmth of love, but know it as love,
and where it comes from--love again the fountain whence it flows.

Chapter X.

The black aunt.

Clare was yet in his tenth year when an unhealthy summer came. The sun
was bright and warm as in other summers, and the flowers in field and
garden appeared as usual when the hour arrived for them to wake and
look abroad; but the children of men did not fare so well as the
children of the earth. A peculiar form of fever showed itself in the
village. It was not very fatal, yet many were so affected as to be
long unable to work. There was consequently much distress beyond the
suffering of the fever itself. The parson and his wife went about from
morning to night among the cottagers, helping everybody that needed
help. They had no private fortune, but the small blanket of the
benefice they spread freely over as many as it could be stretched to
cover, depriving themselves of a good part of the food to which they
had been accustomed, and of several degrees of necessary warmth. When
at last the strength of the parson gave way, and the fever laid hold
of him, he had to do without many comforts his wife would gladly have
got for him. They were both of rather humble origin, having but one
relative well-to-do, a sister of Mrs. Porson, who had married a rich
but very common man. From her they could not ask help. She had never
sent them any little present, and had been fiercely indignant with
them for adopting Clare.

Neither of them once complained, though Mrs. Person, whose strength
was much spent, could not help weeping sometimes when she was alone
and free to weep. They knew their Lord did not live in luxury, and a
secret gladness nestled in their hearts that they were allowed to
suffer a little with him for the sake of the flock he had given into
their charge.

The children of course had to share in the general gloom, but it did
not trouble them much. For Clare, he was not easily troubled with
anything. Always ready to help, he did not much realize what suffering
was; and he had Mary to look after, which was labour and pleasure,
work and play and pay all in one. His mother was at ease concerning
her child when she knew her in Clare's charge, and was free to attend
to her husband. She often said that if ever any were paid for being
good to themselves, she and her husband were vastly overpaid for
taking such a child from the shuddering arms of the earthquake.

But John Porson's hour was come. He must leave wife and children and
parish, and go to him who had sent him. If any one think it hard he
should so fare in doing his duty, let him be silent till he learn what
the parson himself thought of the matter when he got home. People talk
about death as the gosling might about life before it chips its
egg. Take up their way of lamentation, and we shall find it an
endless injustice to have to get up every morning and go to bed every
night. Mrs. Porson wept, but never thought him or herself
ill-used. And had she been low enough to indulge in self-pity, it
would have been thrown away, for before she had time to wonder how she
was to live and rear her children, she too was sent for. In this world
she was not one of those mothers of little faith who trust God for
themselves but not for their children, and when again with her
husband, she would not trust God less.

Clare was in the garden when Sarah told him she was dead. He stood
still for a moment, then looked up, up into the blue. Why he looked
up, he could not have told; but ever since that terrible morning of
which the vague burning memory had never passed, when the great dome
into which he was gazing, burst and fell, he had a way every now and
then of standing still and looking up. His face was white. Two slow
tears gathered, rolled over, and dried upon his face. He turned to
Mary, lifted her in his arms, and, carrying her about the garden, once
more told her his strange version of what had happened in his
childhood. Then he told her that her papa and mamma had gone to look
for his papa and mamma--"somewhere up in the dome," he said.

When they wanted to take Mary to see what was left of her mother, the
boy contrived to prevent them. From morning till night he never lost
sight of the child.

One cold noon in October, when the clouds were miles deep in front of
the sun, when the rain was falling thick on the yellow leaves, and all
the paths were miry, the two children sat by the kitchen fire. Sarah
was cooking their mid-day meal, which had come from her own
pocket. She was the only servant either of them had known in the
house, and she would not leave it until some one should take charge of
them. The neighbours, dreading infection, did not come near
them. Clare sat on a little stool with Mary on his knees, nestling in
his bosom; but he felt dreary, for he saw no love-firmament over him;
the cloud of death hid it.

With a sudden jingle and rattle, up drove a rickety post-chaise to the
door of the parsonage. Out of it, and into the kitchen, came stalking
a tall middle-aged woman, in a long black cloak, black bonnet, and
black gloves, with a face at once stern and peevish.

"I am the late Mrs. Porson's sister," she said, and stood.

Sarah courtesied and waited. Clare rose, with Mary in his arms.

"This is little Maly, ma'am," he said, offering her the child.

"Set her down, and let me see her," she answered.

Clare obeyed. Mary put her finger in her mouth, and began to cry. She
did not like the look of the black aunt, and was not used to a harsh
voice.

"Tut! tut!" said the black aunt. "Crying already! That will never do!
Show me her things."

Sarah felt stunned. This was worse than death! "If only the mistress
had taken them with her!" she said to herself.

Mary's things--they were not many--were soon packed. Within an hour
she was borne off, shrieking, struggling, and calling Clay. The black
aunt, however,--as the black aunt Clare always thought of her--cared
nothing for her resistance; and Clare, who at her first cry was
rushing to the rescue, ready once more to do battle for her, was
seized and held back by Farmer Goodenough. Sarah had sent for him, and
he had come--just in time to frustrate Clare's valour.

The carriage was not yet out of sight, when Farmer Goodenough began to
repent that he had come: his presence was an acknowledgment of
responsibility! Something must be done with the foundling! There was
nobody to claim him, and nobody wanted him! He had always liked the
boy, but he did not want him! His wife was not fond of the boy, nor of
any boy, and did not want him! He had said to her that Clare could not
be left to starve, and she had answered, "Why not?"! What was to be
done with him? Nobody knew--any more than Clare himself. But which of
us knows what is going to be done with him?

Clare was nobody's business. English farmers no more than French are
proverbial for generosity; and Farmer Goodenough, no bad type of his
class, had a wife in whose thoughts not the pence but the farthings
dominated. She was one who at once recoiled and repelled--one of those
whose skin shrinks from the skin of their kind, and who are specially
apt to take unaccountable dislikes--a pitiable human animal of the
leprous sort. She "never took to the foundling," she said. To have
neither father nor mother, she counted disreputable. But I believe the
main source of her dislike to Clare was a feeling of undefined reproof
in the very atmosphere of the boy's presence, his nature was so
different from hers. What urged him toward his fellow-creatures, made
her draw back from him. In truth she hated the boy. The very look of
him made her sick, she said. It was only a certain respect for the
parson, and a certain fear of her husband, who, seldom angry, was yet
capable of fury, that had prevented her from driving the child, "with
his dish-clout face," off the premises, whenever she saw him from door
or window. It was no wonder the farmer should he at his wits' end to
know what, as churchwarden, guardian of the poor, and friend of the
late vicar--as friendly also to the boy himself, he was bound to do.

"Where are _you_ going?" he asked Sarah.

"Where the Lord wills," answered the old woman. Her ark had gone to
pieces, and she hardly cared what became of her.

"We've got to look to ourselves!" said the farmer.

"Parson used to say there was One as took that off our hands!" replied
Sarah.

"Yes, yes," assented Mr. Goodenough, fidgeting a little; "but the
Almighty helps them as helps themselves, and that's sound
doctrine. You really must do something, Sarah! We can't have you on
the parish, you know!"

"I beg your pardon, sir, but until the child here is provided for, or
until they turn us out of the parsonage, I will not leave the place."

"The furniture is advertised for sale. You'll have nothing but the
bare walls!"

"We'll manage to keep each other warm!--Shan't we, Clare?"

"I will try to keep you warm, Sarah," responded the boy sadly.

"But the new parson will soon be here. Our souls must be cared for!"

"Is the Lord's child that came from heaven in an earthquake to be
turned out into the cold for fear the souls of big men should perish?"

"Something must be done about it!" said the farmer.

"What it's to be I can't tell! It's no business o' mine any way!"

"That's what the priest, and the Levite, and the farmer says!"
returned Sarah.

"Won't you ask Mr. Goodenough to stay to dinner?" said Clare.

He went up to the farmer, who in his perplexity had seated himself,
and laid his arm on his shoulder.

"No, I can't," answered Sarah. "He would eat all we have, and not have
enough!"

"Now Maly is gone," returned Clare, "I would rather not have any
dinner."

The farmer's old feeling for the boy, which the dread of having him
left on his hands had for the time dulled, came back.

"Get him his dinner, Sarah," he said. "I've something to see to in the
village. By the time I come back, he'll be ready to go with me,
perhaps."

"God bless you, sir!" cried Sarah. "You meant it all the time, an' I
been behavin' like a brute!"

The farmer did not like being taken up so sharply. He had promised
nothing! But he had nearly made up his mind that, as the friend of the
late parson, he could scarcely do less than give shelter to the child
until he found another refuge. True, he was not the parson's child,
but he had loved him as his own! He would make the boy useful, and so
shut his wife's mouth! There were many things Clare could do about the
place!

Chapter XI.

Clare on the farm.

When Mr. Goodenough appeared at the house-door with the boy, his
wife's face expressed what her tongue dared not utter without some
heating of the furnace behind it. But Clare never saw that he was
unwelcome. He had not begun to note outward and visible signs in
regard to his own species; his observation was confined to the
animals, to whose every motion and look he gave heed. But he was
hardly aware of watching even them: his love made it so natural to
watch, and so easy to understand them! He was not drawn to study
Mrs. Goodenough, or to read her indications; he was content to hear
what she said.

True to her nature, Mrs. Goodenough, seeing she could not at once get
rid of the boy, did her endeavour to make him pay for his
keep. Nominally he continued to attend the village school, where the
old master was doing his best for him; but, oftener than not, she
interposed to prevent his going, and turned him to use about the
house, the dairy, and the poultry-yard.

His new mode of life occasioned him no sense of hardship. I do not
mean because of his patient acceptance of everything that came; but
because he had been so long accustomed to the ways of a farm, to all
the phases of life and work in yard and field, that nothing there came
strange to him--except having to stick to what he was put to, and
having next to no time to read. Many boys who have found much
amusement in doing this or that, find it irksome the moment it is
required of them: Clare was not of that mean sort; he was a
gentleman. Happily he was put to no work beyond his strength.

At first, and for some time, he had to do only with the creatures more
immediately under the care of "the mistress," whence his acquaintance
with the poultry and the pigs, the pigeons and the calves--and
specially with such as were delicate or had been hurt--with their ways
of thinking and their carriage and conduct, rapidly increased.

By and by, however, having already almost ceased to attend school, the
farmer, requiring some passing help a boy could give, took him from
his wife--not without complaint on her part, neither without sense of
relief, and would not part with him again. He was so quick in doing
what was required, so intelligent to catch the meaning not always
thoroughly expressed, so cheerful, and so willing, that he was a
pleasure to Mr. Goodenough--and no less a pleasure to the farmer that
dwelt in Mr. Goodenough, and seemed to most men all there was of him;
for, instead of an expense, he found him a saving.

It was much more pleasant for Clare to be with his master than with
his mistress, but he fared the worse for it in the house. The woman's
dislike of the boy must find outlet; and as, instead of flowing all
day long, it was now pent up the greater part of it, the stronger it
issued when he came home to his meals. I will not defile my page with
a record of the modes in which she vented her spite. It sought at
times such minuteness of indulgence, that it was next to impossible
for any one to perceive its embodiments except the boy himself.

He now came more into contact with the larger animals about the place;
and the comfort he derived from them was greater than most people
would readily or perhaps willingly believe. He had kept up his
relations with Nimrod, the bull, and there was never a breach of the
friendship between them. The people about the farm not unfrequently
sought his influence with the animal, for at times they dared hardly
approach him. Clare even made him useful--got a little work out of him
now and then. But his main interest lay in the horses. He had up to
this time known rather less of them than of the other creatures on the
place; now he had to give his chief attention to them, laying in love
the foundation of that knowledge which afterward stood him in such
stead when he came to dwell for a time among certain eastern tribes
whose horses are their chief gladness and care. He used, when alone
with them, to talk to this one or that about the friends he had
lost--his father and mother and Maly and Sarah--and did not mind if
they all listened. He would even tell them sometimes about his own
father and mother--how the whole sky full of angels fell down upon
them and took them away. But he said most about his sister. For her he
mourned more than for any of the rest. Her screams as the black aunt
carried her away, would sometimes come back to him with such
verisimilitude of nearness, that, forgetting everything about him, he
would start to run to her. He felt somehow that it was well with the
others, but Maly had always needed _him_, and more than ever in the
last days of their companionship. He wept for nobody but Maly. In the
night he would wake up suddenly, thinking he heard her crying out for
him. Then he would get out of bed, creep to the stable, go to
Jonathan, and to him pour out his low-voiced complaint. Jonathan was
the biggest and oldest horse on the farm.

How much he thought they understood of what he told them, I cannot
say. He was never silly; and where we cannot be sure, we may yet have
reason to hope. He believed they knew when he was in trouble, and
sympathized with him, and would gladly have relieved him of his
pain. I suspect most animals know something of the significance of
tears. More animals shed tears themselves than people think.

For dogs, bless them, they are everywhere, and the boy had known them
from time immemorial.

In the village, some of Clare's old admirers began to remark that he
no longer "looked the little gentleman." This was caused chiefly by
the state of his clothes. They were not fit for the work to which he
was put, and within a few weeks were very shabby. Besides, he was
growing rapidly, so that he and his garments were in too evident
process of parting company. Accustomed to a mother's attentions, he
had never thought of his clothes except to take care of them for her
sake; now he tried to mend them, but soon found his labour of little
use. He had no wages to buy anything with. His clothes or his health
or his education were nothing to Mrs. Goodenough. It was no concern of
hers whether he looked decent or not. What right had such as he to
look decent? It was more than enough that she fed him! The shabbiness
of the beggarly creature was a consolation to her.

But Clare's toil in the open air, and his constant and willing
association with the animals, had begun to give him a bucolic
appearance. He grew a trifle browner, and showed here and there a
freckle. His health was splendid. Nothing seemed to hurt him. Hardship
was wholesome to him. To the eyes that hated him, and grudged the hire
of the mere food by which he grew, he seemed every day to enlarge
visibly. Already he gave promise of becoming a man of more than
ordinary strength and vigour. Possibly the animals gave him something.

What may have been his outlook and hope all this time, who shall tell!
He never grumbled, never showed sign of pain or unwillingness, gave
his mistress no reason for fault-finding. She found it hard even to
discover a pretext. She seemed always ready to strike him, but was
probably afraid to do so without provocation her husband would count
sufficient. Clare never showed discomfort, never even sighed except he
were alone. Chequered as his life had been, if ever he looked forward
to a fresh change, it was but as a far possibility in the slow current
of events. But he was constantly possessed with a large dim sense of
something that lay beyond, waiting for him; something toward which the
tide of things was with certainty drifting him, but with which he had
nothing more to do than wait. He did not see that to do the things
given him to do was the only preparation for whatever, in the dim
under-world of the future, might be preparing for him; but he did feel
that he must do his work. He did not then think much about duty. He
was actively inclined, had a strong feeling for doing a thing as it
ought to be done; and was thoroughly loyal to any one that seemed to
have a right over him. In this blind, enduring, vaguely hopeful way,
he went on--sustained, and none the less certainly that he did not
know it, from the fountain of his life. When the winter came, his
sufferings, cared for as he had been, and accustomed to warmth and
softness, must at times have been considerable. In the day his work
was a protection, but at night the house was cold. He had, however,
plenty to eat, had no ailment, and was not to be greatly pitied.

Chapter XII.

Clare becomes a guardian of the poor.

Simpson, the bully of Clare's childhood, went limping about on a
crutch, permanently lame, and full of hatred toward the innocent
occasion of the injury he had brought upon himself. Ever since his
recovery, he had, loitering about in idleness, watched the boy, to
waylay and catch him at unawares. Not until Clare went to the farm,
however, did he once succeed; for it was not difficult to escape him,
so long as he had not laid actual hold on his prey. But he grew more
and more cunning, and contrived at last, by creeping along hedges and
lying in ambush like a snake, to get his hands upon him. Then the poor
boy fared ill.

He went home bleeding and torn. The righteous churchwarden rebuked him
with severity for fighting. His mistress told him she was glad he had
met with some one to give him what he deserved, for she could hardly
keep her hands off him. He stared at her with wondering eyes, but said
nothing. She turned from them: the devil in her could not look in the
eyes of the angel in him. The next time he fell into the snare of his
enemy, he managed to conceal what had befallen him. After that he was
too wide awake to be caught.

There was in the village a child whom nobody heeded. He was far more
destitute than Clare, but had too much liberty. He lived with a
wretched old woman who called him her grandson: whether he was or not
nobody cared. She made her livelihood by letting beds, in a cottage or
rather hovel which seemed to be her own, to wayfarers, mostly tramps,
with or without trades. The child was thus thrown into the worst of
company, and learned many sorts of wickedness. He was already a thief,
and of no small proficiency in his art. Though village-bred, he could
pick a pocket more sensitive than a clown's. Small and deft, he had
never stood before a magistrate. He was a miserable creature,
bare-footed and bare-legged; about eight years of age, but so stunted
that to the first glance he looked less than six--with keen ferret
eyes in red rims, red hair, pasty, freckled complexion, and a
generally unhealthy look; from which marks all, Clare conceived a
pitiful sympathy for him. Their acquaintance began thus:--

One day, during his father's last illness, he happened to pass the
door of the grandmother's hovel while the crone was administering to
Tommy a severe punishment with a piece of thick rope: she had been
sharp enough to catch him stealing from herself. Clare heard his
cries. The door being partly open, he ran in, and gave him such
assistance that they managed to bolt together from the hut. A
friendship, for long almost a silent one, was thus initiated between
them. Tommy--Clare never knew his other name, nor did the boy
himself--would off and on watch for a sight of him all day long, but
had the instinct, or experience, never to approach him if any one was
with him. He was careful not to compromise him. The instant the most
momentary _tete-a-tete_ was possible, he would rush up, offer him
something he had found or stolen, and hurry away again. That he was a
thief Clare had not the remotest suspicion. He had never offered him
anything to suggest theft.

By and by it came to the knowledge of Clare's enemy that there was a
friendship between them, and the discovery wrought direness for
both. One day Simpson saw Clare coming, and Tommy watching him. He
laid hold of Tommy, and began cuffing him and pulling his hair, to
make him scream, thinking thus to get hold of Clare. But
notwithstanding the lesson he had received, the rascal had not yet any
adequate notion of the boy's capacity for action where another was
concerned. He flew to the rescue, caught up the crutch Simpson had
dropped, and laid it across his back with vigour. The fellow let Tommy
go and turned on Clare, who went backward, brandishing the crutch.

"Run, Tommy," he cried.

Tommy retreated a few steps.

"Run yourself," he counselled, having reached a safe distance. "Take
his third leg with you."

Clare saw the advice was good, and ran. But the next moment reflection
showed him the helplessness of his enemy. He turned, and saw him
hobbling after him in such evident pain and discomfiture, that he went
to meet him, and politely gave him his crutch. He might have thrown it
to him and gone on, but he had a horror of rudeness, and handed it to
him with a bow. Just as he regained his perpendicular, the crutch
descended on his head, and laid him flat on the ground. There the
tyrant belaboured him. Tommy stood and regarded the proceeding.

"The cove's older an' bigger an' pluckier than me," he said to
himself; "but he's an ass. He'll come to grief unless he's looked
after. He'll be hanged else. He don't know how to dodge. I'll have to
take him in charge!"

When he saw Clare free, an event to which he had contributed nothing,
he turned and ran home.

Simpson redoubled now his persecution of Clare, and persecuted Tommy
because of Clare. He lurked for Tommy now, and when he caught him,
tormented him with choice tortures. In a word, he made his life
miserable. After every such mischance Tommy would hurry to the farm,
and lie about in the hope of a sight of Clare, or possibly a chance of
speaking to him. His repute was so bad that he dared not show himself.

Hot tears would come into Clare's eyes as he listened to the not
always unembellished tale of Tommy's sufferings at the hands of
Simpson; but he never thought of revenge, only of protection or escape
for the boy. It comforted him to believe that he was growing, and
would soon be a match for the oppressor.

Whether at this time he felt any great interest in life, or recognized
any personal advantage in growing, I doubt. But he had the friendship
of the animals; and it is not surprising that creatures their maker
thinks worth making and keeping alive, should yield consolation to one
that understands them, or even fill with a mild joy the pauses of
labour in an irksome life.

Then each new day was an old friend to the boy. Each time the sun
rose, new hope rose with him in his heart. He came every morning fresh
from home, with a fresh promise. The boy read the promise in his great
shining, and believed it; gazed and rejoiced, and turned to his work.

But the hour arrived when his mistress could bear his presence no
longer. Some petty loss, I imagine, had befallen her. Nothing touched
her like the loss of money--the love of which is as dread a passion as
the love of drink, and more ruinous to the finer elements of the
nature. It was like the tearing out of her heart to Mrs. Goodenough to
lose a shilling. Her self-command forsook her, perhaps, in some such
moment of vexation; anyhow, she opened the sluices of her hate, and
overwhelmed him with it in the presence of her husband.

The farmer knew she was unfair, knew the orphan a good boy and a
diligent, knew there was nothing against him but the antipathy of his
wife. But, annoyed with her injustice, he was powerless to change her
heart. Since the boy came to live with them, he had had no pleasure in
his wife's society. She had always been moody and dissatisfied, but
since then had been unbearable. Constantly irritated with and by her
because of Clare, he had begun to regard him as the destroyer of his
peace, and to feel a grudge against him. He sat smouldering with
bodiless rage, and said nothing.

Clare too was silent,--for what could he say? Where is the wisdom that
can answer hatred? He carried to his friend Jonathan a heart heavy and
perplexed.

"Why does she hate me so, Jonathan?" he murmured.

The big horse kissed his head all over, but made him no other answer.

Chapter XIII.

Clare the vagabond.

The next morning Clare happened to do something not altogether to the
farmer's mind. It was a matter of no consequence--only cleaning that
side of one of the cow-houses first which was usually cleaned last. He
gave him a box on the ear that made him stagger, and then stand
bewildered.

"What do you mean by staring that way?" cried the farmer, annoyed with
himself and seeking justification in his own eyes. "Am I not to box
your ears when I choose?" And with that he gave him another blow.

Then first it dawned on Clare that he was not wanted, that he was no
good to anybody. He threw down his scraper, and ran from the
cow-house; ran straight from the farm to the lane, and from the lane
to the high road. Buffets from the hand of his only friend, and the
sudden sense of loneliness they caused, for the moment bereft Clare of
purpose. It was as if his legs had run away with him, and he had
unconsciously submitted to their abduction.

At the mouth of the lane, where it opened on the high road, he ran
against Tommy turning the corner, eager to find him. The eyes of the
small human monkey were swollen with weeping; his nose was bleeding,
and in size and shape scarce recognizable as a nose. At the sight, the
consciousness of his protectorate awoke in Clare, and he stopped,
unable to speak, but not unable to listen. Tommy blubbered out a
confused, half-inarticulate something about "granny and the other
devil," who between them had all but killed him.

"What can I do?" said Clare, his heart sinking with the sense of
having no help in him.

Tommy was ready to answer the question. He had been hatching vengeance
all the way. Eagerly came his proposition--that they should, in their
turn, lie in ambush for Simpson, and knock his crutch from under
him. That done, Clare should belabour him with it, while he ran like
the wind and set his grandmother's house on fire.

"She'll be drunk in bed, an' she'll be burned to death!" cried
Tommy. "Then we'll mizzle!"

"But it would hurt them both very badly, Tommy!" said Clare, as if
unfolding the reality of the thing to a foolish child.

"Well! all right! the worse the better! 'Ain't they hurt us?" rejoined
Tommy.

"That's how we know it's not nice!" answered Clare. "If they set it a
going, we ain't to keep it a going!"

"Then they'll be at it for ever," cried Tommy, "an' I'm sick of it!
I'll _kill_ granny! I swear I will, if I'm hanged for it! She's said a
hundred times she'd pull my legs when I was hanged; but _she_ won't be
at the hanging!"

"Why shouldn't you run for it first?" said Clare. "Then they wouldn't
want to hang you!"

"Then I shouldn't have nobody!" replied Tommy, whimpering.

"I should have thought Nobody was as good as granny!" said Clare.

"A big bilin' better!" answered Tommy bitterly. "I wasn't meanin'
granny--nor yet stumpin' Simpson."

"I don't know what you're driving at," said Clare. Tommy burst into
tears.

"Ain't you the only one I got, up or down?" he cried.

Tommy had a little bit of heart--not much, but enough to have a chance
of growing. If ever creature had less than that, he was not human. I
do not think he could even be an ape.

Some of the people about the parson used to think Clare had no heart,
and Mrs. Goodenough was sure of it. He had not a spark of gratitude,
she said. But the cause of this opinion was that Clare's affection
took the shape of deeds far more than of words. Never were judges of
their neighbours more mistaken. The chief difference between Clare's
history and that of most others was, that his began at the unusual
end. Clare began with loving everybody; and most people take a long
time to grow to that. Hence, those whom, from being brought nearest to
them, he loved specially, he loved without that outbreak of show which
is often found in persons who love but a few, and whose love is
defiled with partisanship. He loved quietly and constantly, in a
fashion as active as undemonstrative. He was always glad to be near
those he specially loved; beyond that, the signs of his love were
practical--it came out in ministration, in doing things for
them. There are those who, without loving, desire to be loved, because
they love themselves; for those that are worth least are most precious
to themselves. But Clare never thought of the love of others to
him--from no heartlessness, but that he did not think about
himself--had never done so, at least, until the moment when he fled
from the farm with the new agony in his heart that nobody wanted him,
that everybody would be happier without him. Happy is he that does not
think of himself before the hour when he becomes conscious of the
bliss of being loved. For it must be and ought to be a happy moment
when one learns that another human creature loves him; and not to be
grateful for love is to be deeply selfish. Clare had always loved, but
had not thought of any one as loving him, or of himself as being loved
by any one.

"Well," rejoined Clare, struggling with his misery, "ain't I going
myself?"

"You going!--That's chaff!"

"'Tain't chaff. I'm on my way."

"What! Going to hook it? Oh golly! what a lark! Won't Farmer
Goodenough look blue!"

"He'll think himself well rid of me," returned Clare with a sigh. "But
there's no time to talk. If you're going, Tommy, come along."

He turned to go.

"Where to?" asked Tommy, following.

"I don't know. Anywhere away," answered Clare, quickening his pace.

In spite of his swollen visage, Tommy's eyes grew wider.

"You 'ain't cribbed nothing?" he said.

"I don't know what you mean."

"You 'ain't stole something?" interpreted Tommy.

Clare stopped, and for the first time on his own part, lifted his hand
to strike. It dropped immediately by his side.

"No, you poor Tommy," he said. "I don't steal."

"Thought you didn't! What are you running away for then?"

"Because they don't want me."

"Lord! what will you do?"

"Work."

Tommy held his tongue: he knew a better way than that! If work was the
only road to eating, things would go badly with _him_! But he thought
he knew a thing or two, and would take his chance! There were degrees
of hunger that were not so bad as the thrashings he got, for in his
granny's hands the rope might fall where it would; while all cripple
Simpson cared for was to make him squeal satisfactorily. But work was
worse than all! He would go with Clare, but not to work! Not he!

Clare kept on in silence, never turning his head--out into the
untried, unknown, mysterious world, which lay around the one spot he
knew as the darkness lies about the flame of the candle. They walked
more than a mile before either spoke.

Chapter XIV.

Their first helper

It was a lovely spring morning. The sun was about thirty degrees above
the horizon, shining with a liquid radiance, as if he had already
drawn up and was shining through the dew of the morning, though it lay
yet on all the grasses by the roadside, turning them into gem-plants.
Every sort of gem sparkled on their feathery or beady tops, and their
long slender blades. At the first cottages they passed, the women were
beginning their day's work, sweeping clean their floors and
door-steps. Clare noted that where were most flowers in the garden,
the windows were brightest, and the children cleanest.

"The flowers come where they make things nice for them!" he said to
himself. "Where the flowers see dirt, they turn away, and won't come
out."

From childhood he had had the notion that the flowers crept up inside
the stalks until they found a window to look out at. Where the
prospect was not to their mind they crept down, and away by some door
in the root to try again. For all the stalks stood like watch-towers,
ready for them to go up and peep out.

They came to a pond by a farm-house. Clare had been observing with
pity how wretched Tommy's clothes were; but when he looked into the
pond he saw that his own shabbiness was worse than Tommy's downright
miserableness. Nobody would leave either of them within reach of
anything worth stealing! What he wore had been his Sunday suit, and it
was not even worth brushing!

"I'm 'orrid 'ungry," said Tommy. "I 'ain't swallered a plug this
mornin', 'xcep' a lump o' bread out o' granny's cupboard. That's what
I got my weltin' for. It were a whole half-loaf, though--an' none so
dry!"

Clare had eaten nothing, and had been up since five o'clock--at work
all the time till the farmer struck him: he was quite as hungry as
Tommy. What was to be done? Besides a pocket-handkerchief he had but
one thing alienable.

The very day she was taken ill, he had been in the store-room with his
mother, and she, knowing the pleasure he took in the scent of brown
Windsor-soap, had made him a present of a small cake. This he had kept
in his pocket ever since, wrapt in a piece of rose-coloured paper, his
one cherished possession: hunger deadening sorrow, the time was come
to bid it farewell. His heart ached to part with it, but Tommy and he
were so hungry!

They went to the door of the house, and knocked--first Clare very
gently, then Tommy with determination. It was opened by a matron who
looked at them over the horizon of her chin.

"Please, ma'am," said Clare, "will you give us a piece of bread?--as
large a piece, please, as you can spare; and I will give you this
piece of brown Windsor-soap."

As he ended his speech, he took a farewell whiff of his favourite
detergent.

"Soap!" retorted the dame. "Who wants your soap! Where did you get it?
Stole it, I don't doubt! Show it here."

She took it in her hand, and held it to her nose.

"Who gave it you?"

"My mother," answered Clare.

"Where's your mother?"

Clare pointed upward.

"Eh? Oh--hanged! I thought, so!"

She threw the soap into the yard, and closed the door. Clare darted
after his property, pounced upon it, and restored it lovingly to his
pocket.

As they were leaving the yard disconsolate, they saw a cart full of
turnips. Tommy turned and made for it.

"Don't, Tommy," cried Clare.

"Why not? I'm hungry," answered Tommy, "an' you see it's no use
astin'!"

He flew at the cart, but Clare caught and held him.

"They ain't ours, Tommy," he said.

"Then why don't you take one?" retorted Tommy.

"That's why you shouldn't."

"It's why you should, for then it 'ud be yours."

"To take it wouldn't make it ours, Tommy."

"Wouldn't it, though? I believe when I'd eaten it, it would be
mine--rather!"

"No, it wouldn't. Think of having in your stomach what wasn't yours!
No, you must pay for it. Perhaps they would take my soap for a
turnip. I believe it's worth two turnips."

He spied a man under a shed, ran to him, and made offer of the soap
for a turnip apiece.

"I don't want your soap," answered the man, "an' I don't recommend
cold turmits of a mornin'. But take one if you like, and clear
out. The master's cart-whip 'ill be about your ears the moment he sees
you!"

"Ain't you the master, sir?"

"No, I ain't."

"Then the turnips ain't yours?" said Clare, looking at him with
hungry, regretful eyes, for he could have eaten a raw potato.

"You're a deal too impudent to be hungry!" said the man, making a blow
at him with his open hand, which Clare dodged. "Be off with you, or
I'll set the dog on you."

"I'm very sorry," said Clare. "I did not mean to offend you."

"Clear out, I say. Double trot!"

Hungry as the boys were, they must trudge! No bread, no turnip for
them! Nothing but trudge, trudge till they dropped!

When they had gone about five miles further, they sat down, as if by
common consent, on the roadside; and Tommy, used to crying, began to
cry. Clare did not seek to stop him, for some instinct told him it
must be a relief.

By and by a working-man came along the road. Clare hesitated, but
Tommy's crying urged him. He rose and stood ready to accost him. As
soon as he came up, however, the man stopped of himself. He questioned
Clare and listened to his story, then counselled the boys to go back.

"I'm not wanted, sir," said Clare.

"They'd kill _me_," said Tommy.

"God help you, boys!" returned the man. "You may be telling me lies,
and you may be telling me the truth!--A liar may be hungry, but
somehow I grudge my dinner to a liar!"

As he spoke he untied the knots of a blue handkerchief with white
spots, gave them its contents of bread and cheese, wiped his face with
it, and put it in his pocket; lifted his bag of tools, and went his
way. He had lost his dinner and saved his life!

The dinner, being a man's, went a good way toward satisfying them,
though empty corners would not have been far to seek, had there been
anything to put in them. As it was, they started again refreshed and
hopeful. What had come to them once might reasonably come again!

Chapter XV.

Their first host.

As the evening drew on, and began to settle down into night, a new
care arose in the mind of the elder boy. Where were they to pass the
darkness?--how find shelter for sleep? It was a question that gave
Tommy no anxiety. He had been on the tramp often, now with one party,
now with another of his granny's lodgers, and had frequently slept in
the open air, or under the rudest covert. Tommy had not much
imagination to trouble him, and in his present moral condition was
possibly better without it; but to inexperienced Clare there was
something fearful in having the night come so close to him. Sleep out
of doors he had never thought of. To lie down with the stars looking
at him, nothing but the blue wind between him and them, was like being
naked to the very soul. Doubtless there would be creatures about, to
share the night with him, and protect him from its awful bareness; but
they would be few for the size of the room, and he might see none of
them! It was the sense of emptiness, the lack of present life that
dismayed him. He had never seen any creatures to shrink from. He
disliked no one of the things that creep or walk or fly. Before long
he did come to know and dislike at least one sort; and the sea held
creatures that in after years made him shudder; but as yet, not even
rats, so terrible to many, were a terror to Clare. It was Nothing that
he feared.

My reader may say, "But had no one taught him about God?" Yes, he had
heard about God, and about Jesus Christ; had heard a great deal about
them. But they always seemed persons a long way off. He knew, or
thought he knew, that God was everywhere, but he had never felt his
presence a reality. He seemed in no place where Clare's eyes ever
fell. He never thought, "God is here." Perhaps the sparrows knew more
about God than he did then. When he looked out into the night it
always seemed vacant, therefore horrid, and he took it for as empty as
it looked. And if there had been no God there, it would have been
reasonable indeed to be afraid; for the most frightful of notions is
_Nothing-at-all_.

It grew dark, and they were falling asleep on their walking legs, when
they came to a barn-yard. Very glad were they to creep into it, and
search for the warmest place. It was a quiet part of the country, and
for years nothing had been stolen from anybody, so that the people
were not so watchful as in many places.

They went prowling about, but even Tommy with innocent intent, eager
only after a little warmth, and as much sleep as they could find, and
came at length to an open window, through which they crawled into
what, by the smell and the noises, they knew to be a stable. It was
very dark, but Clare was at home, and felt his way about; while Tommy,
who was afraid of the horses, held close to him. Clare's hand fell
upon the hind-quarters of a large well-fed horse. The huge animal was
asleep standing, but at the touch of the small hand he gave a low
whinny. Tommy shuddered at the sound.

"He's pleased," said Clare, and crept up on his near side into the
stall. There he had soon made such friends with him, that he did not
hesitate to get in among the hay the horse had for his supper.

"Here, Tommy!" he cried in a whisper; "there's room for us both in the
manger."

But Tommy stood shaking. He fancied the darkness full of horses'
heads, and would not stir. Clare had to get out again, and search for
a place to suit his fancy, which he found in an untenanted loose-box,
with remains of litter. There Tommy coiled himself up, and was soon
fast asleep.

Clare returned to the hospitality of the big horse. The great nostrils
snuffed him over and over as he lay, and the boy knew the horse made
him welcome. He dropped asleep stroking the muzzle of his
chamber-fellow, and slept all the night, kept warm by the horse's
breath, and the near furnace of his great body.

In the morning the boys found they had slept too long, for they were
discovered. But though they were promptly ejected as vagabonds, and
not without a few kicks and cuffs, these were not administered without
the restraint of some mercy, for their appearance tended to move pity
rather than indignation.

Chapter XVI.

On the tramp.

With the new day came the fresh necessity for breakfast, and the fresh
interest in the discovery of it. But breakfast is a thing not always
easiest to find where breakfasts most abound; nor was theirs when
found that morning altogether of a sort to be envied, ill as they
could afford to despise it. Passing, on their goal-less way, a
flour-mill, the door of which was half-open, they caught sight of a
heap, whether floury dust or dusty flour, it would have been hard to
say, that seemed waiting only for them to help themselves from
it. Fain to still the craving of birds too early for any worm, they
swallowed a considerable portion of it, choking as it was, nor met
with rebuke. There was good food in it, and they might have fared
worse.

Another day's tramp was thus inaugurated. How it was to end no one in
the world knew less than the trampers.

Before it was over, a considerable change had passed upon Clare; for a
new era was begun in his history, and he started to grow more
rapidly. Hitherto, while with his father or mother, or with his little
sister, making life happy to her; even while at the farm, doing hard
work, he had lived with much the same feeling with which he read a
story: he was in the story, half dreaming, half acting it. The
difference between a thing that passed through his brain from the
pages of a book, or arose in it as he lay in bed either awake or
asleep, and the thing in which he shared the life and motion of the
day, was not much marked in his consciousness. He was a dreamer with
open eyes and ready hands, not clearly distinguishing thought and
action, fancy and fact. Even the cold and hunger he had felt at the
farm had not sufficed to wake him up; he had only had to wait and they
were removed. But now that he did not know whence his hunger was to be
satisfied, or where shelter was to be had; now also that there was a
hunger outside him, and a cold that was not his, which yet he had to
supply and to frustrate in the person of Tommy, life began to grow
real to him; and, which was far more, he began to grow real to
himself, as a power whose part it was to encounter the necessities
thus presented. He began to understand that things were required of
him. He had met some of these requirements before, and had satisfied
them, but without knowing them as requirements. He did it half awake,
not as a thinking and willing source of the motion demanded. He did it
all by impulse, hardly by response. Now we are put into bodies, and
sent into the world, to wake us up. We might go on dreaming for ages
if we were left without bodies that the wind could blow upon, that the
rain could wet, and the sun scorch, bodies to feel thirst and cold and
hunger and wounds and weariness. The eternal plan was beginning to
tell upon Clare. He was in process of being changed from a dreamer to
a man. It is a good thing to be a dreamer, but it is a bad thing
indeed to be _only_ a dreamer. He began to see that everybody in the
world had to do something in order to get food; that he had worked for
the farmer and his wife, and they had fed him. He had worked willingly
and eaten gladly, but had not before put the two together. He saw now
that men who would be men must work.

His eyes fell upon a congregation of rooks in a field by the
roadside. "Are _they_ working?" he thought; "or are they stealing? If
it be stealing they are at, it looks like hard work as well. It can't
be stealing though; they were made to live, and _how_ are they to live
if they don't grub? that's their work! Still the corn ain't theirs!
Perhaps it's only worms they take! Are the worms theirs? A man should
die rather than steal, papa said. But, if they are stealing, the crows
don't know it; and if they don't know it, they ain't thieves! Is that
it?"

The same instant came the report of a gun. A crowd of rooks rose
cawing. One of them dropped and lay.

"He must have been stealing," thought Clare, "for see what comes of
it! Would they shoot me if I stole? Better be shot than die of hunger!
Yes, but better die of hunger than be a thief!"

He had read stories about thieves and honest boys, and had never seen
any difficulty in the matter. Nor had he yet a notion of how difficult
it is not to be a thief--that is, to be downright honest. If anybody
thinks it easy, either he has not known much of life, or he has never
tried to be honest; he has done just like other people. Clare did not
know that many a boy whose heart sided with the honest boy in the
story, has grown up a dishonourable man--a man ready to benefit
himself to the disadvantage of others; that many a man who passes for
respectable in this disreputable world, is counted far meaner than a
thief in the next, and is going there to be put in prison. But he
began to see that it is not enough to mean well; that he must be
sharp, and mind what he was about; else, with hunger worrying inside
him, he might be a thief before he knew. He was on the way to discover
that to think rightly--to be on the side of what is honourable when
reading a story, is a very different thing from doing right, and being
honourable, when the temptation is upon us. Many a boy when he reads
this will say, "Of course it is!" and when the time comes, will be a
sneak.

Those crows set Clare thinking; and it was well; for if he had not
done as those thinkings taught him, he would have given a very
different turn to his history. Meditation and resolve, on the top of
honourable habit, brought him to this, that, when he saw what was
right, he just did it--did it without hesitation, question, or
struggle. Every man must, who would be a free man, who would not be
the slave of the universe and of himself.

Chapter XVII.

The baker's cart.

The sweepings of the mill-floor did not last them long, and by the
time they saw rising before them the spires and chimneys of the small
county town to which the road had been leading them, they were very
hungry indeed--as hungry as they well could be without having begun to
grow faint. The moment he saw them, Clare began revolving in his mind
once more, as many times on the way, what he was to do to get work:
Tommy of course was too small to do anything, and Clare must earn
enough for both. He could think of nothing but going into the shops,
or knocking at the house-doors, and asking for something to do. So
filled was he with his need of work, and with the undefined sense of a
claim for work, that he never thought how much against him must be the
outward appearance which had so dismayed himself when he saw it in the
pond; never thought how unwilling any one would be to employ him, or
what a disadvantage was the company of Tommy, who had every mark of a
born thief.

I do not know if, on his tramps, Tommy had been in a town before, but
to Clare all he saw bore the aspect of perfect novelty,
notwithstanding the few city-shapes that floated in faintest shadow,
like memories of old dreams, in his brain. He was delighted with the
grand look of the place, with its many people and many shops. His hope
of work at once became brilliant and convincing.

Noiselessly and suddenly Tommy started from his side, but so much
occupied was he with what he beheld and what he thought, that he
neither saw him go nor missed him when gone. He became again aware of
him by finding himself pulled toward the entrance of a narrow lane.
Tommy pulled so hard that Clare yielded, and went with him into the
lane, but stopped immediately. For he saw that Tommy had under his arm
a big loaf, and the steam of newly-baked bread was fragrant in his
nostrils. Never smoke so gracious greeted those of incense-loving
priest. Tommy tugged and tugged, but Clare stood stock-still.

"Where did you get that beautiful loaf, Tommy?" he asked.

"Off on a baker's cart," said Tommy. "Don't be skeered; he never saw
me! That was my business, an' I seed to 't."

"Then you stole it, Tommy?"

"Yes," grumbled Tommy, "--if that's the name you put upon it when your
trousers is so slack you've got to hold on to them or they'd trip you
up!"

"Where's the cart?"

"In the street there."

"Come along."

Clare took the loaf from Tommy, and turned to find the baker's
cart. Tommy's face fell, and he was conscious only of bitterness. Why
had he yielded to sentiment--not that he knew the word--when he longed
like fire to bury his sharp teeth in that heavenly loaf? Love--not to
mention a little fear--had urged him to carry it straight to Clare,
and this was his reward! He was going to give him up to the baker!
There was gratitude for you! He ought to have known better than trust
_anybody_, even Clare! Nobody was to be trusted but yourself! It did
seem hard to Tommy.

They had scarcely turned the corner when they came upon the cart. The
baker was looking the other way, talking to some one, and Clare
thought to lay down the loaf and say nothing about it: there was no
occasion for the ceremony of apology where offence was unknown. But in
the very act the baker turned and saw him. He sprang upon him, and
collared him. The baker was not nice to look at.

"I have you!" he cried, and shook him as if he would have shaken his
head off.

"It's quite a mistake, sir!" was all Clare could get out, so fierce
was the earthquake that rattled the house of his life.

"Mistaken am I? I like that!--Police!"

And with that the baker shook him again.

A policeman was not far off; he heard the man call, and came running.

"Here's a gen'leman as wants the honour o' your acquaintance, Bob!"
said the baker.

But Tommy saw that, from his size, he was more likely to get off than
Clare if he told the truth.

"Please, policeman," he said, "it wasn't him; it was me as took the
loaf."

"You little liar!" shouted the baker. "Didn't I see him with his hand
on the loaf?"

"He was a puttin' of it back," said Tommy. "I wish he'd been
somewheres else! See what he been an' got by it! If he'd only ha' let
me run, there wouldn't ha' been nobody the wiser. I _am_ sorry I
didn't run. Oh, I _ham_ so 'ungry!"

Tommy doubled himself up, with his hands inside the double.

"'Ungry, are you?" roared the baker. "That's what thieves off a
baker's cart ought to be! They ought to be always 'ungry--'ungry to
all eternity, they ought! An' that's what's goin' to be done to 'em!"

"Look here!" cried a pale-faced man in the front of the crowd, who
seemed a mechanic. "There's a way of tellin' whether the boy's
speakin' the truth _now_!"

He caught up the restored loaf, halved it cleverly, and handed each of
the boys a part.

"Now, baker, what's to pay?" he said, and drew himself up, for the man
was too angry at once to reply.

The boys were tearing at the delicious bread, blind and deaf to all
about them.

"P'r'aps you would like to give _me_ in charge?" pursued their
saviour.

"Sixpence," said the man sullenly.

The mechanic laid sixpence on the cover of the cart.

"I ought to ha' made you weigh and make up," he said. "Where's your
scales?"

"Mind your own business."

"I mean to. Here! I want another sixpenny loaf--but I want it weighed
this time!"

"I ain't bound to sell bread in the streets. You can go to the
shop. Them loaves is for reg'lar customers."

He moved off with his cart, and the crowd began to disperse. The boys
stood absorbed, each in what remained of his half-loaf.

When he looked up, Clare saw that they were alone. But he caught sight
of their benefactor some way off, and ran after him.

"Oh, sir!" he said, "I was so hungry, I don't know whether I thanked
you for the loaf. We'd had nothing to-day but the sweepings of a
mill."

"God bless my soul!" said the man. "People say there's a God!" he
added.

"I think there must be, sir, for you came by just then!" returned
Clare.

"How do you come to be so hard-up, my boy? Somebody's to blame
somewheres!"

"There ain't no harm in being hungry, so long as the loaf comes!"
rejoined Clare. "When I get work we shall be all right!"

"That's your sort!" said the man. "But if there had been a God, as
people say, he would ha' made me fit to gi'e you a job, i'stead o'
stan'in' here as you see me, with ne'er a turn o' work to do for
myself!"

"I'll work my hardest to pay you back your sixpence," said Clare.

"Nay, nay, lad! Don't you trouble about that. I ha' got two or three
more i' my pocket, thank God!"

"You have two Gods, have you, sir?" said Clare;"--one who does things
for you, and one who don't?"

"Come, you young shaver! you're too much for me!" said the man
laughing.

Tommy, having finished his bread, here thought fit to join them. He
came slyly up, looking impudent now he was filled, with his hands
where his pockets should have been.

"It was you stole the loaf, you little rascal!" said the workman,
seeing thief in every line of the boy.

"Yes," answered Tommy boldly, "an' I don't see no harm. The baker had
lots, and he wasn't 'ungry! It was Clare made a mull of it! He's such
a duffer you don't know! He acshally took it back to the brute! He
deserved what he got! The loaf was mine. It wasn't his! _I_ stole it!"

"Oh, ho! it wasn't his! it was yours, was it?--Why do you go about
with a chap like this, young gentleman?" said the man, turning to
Clare. "I know by your speech you 'ain't been brought up alongside o'
sech as him!"

"I had to go away, and he came with me," answered Clare.

"You'd better get rid of him. He'll get you into trouble."

"I can't get rid of him," replied Clare. "But I shall teach him not to
take what isn't his. He don't know better now. He's been ill-used all
his life."

"You don't seem over well used yourself," said the man.

He saw that Clare's clothes had been made for a boy in good
circumstances, though they had been long worn, and were much
begrimed. His face, his tone, his speech convinced him that they had
been made for _him_, and that he had had a gentle breeding.

"Look you here, young master," he continued; "you have no right to be
in company with that boy. He'll bring you to grief as sure as I tell
you."

"I shall be able to bear it," answered Clare with a sigh.

"He'll be the loss of your character to you."

"I 'ain't got a character to lose," replied Clare. "I thought I had;
but when nobody will believe me, where's my character then?"

"Now you're wrong there," returned the man. "I'm not much, I know; but
I believe every word you say, and should be very sorry to find myself
mistaken."

"Thank you, sir," said Clare. "May I carry your bag for you?"

If Clare had seen what then passed in Tommy's mind, at the back of
those glistening ferret-eyes of his, he would have been almost
reconciled to taking the man's advice, and getting rid of him. Tommy
was saying to himself that his pal wasn't such a duffer after all--he
was on the lay for the man's tools!

Tommy never reasoned except in the direction of cunning self-help--of
fitting means and intermediate ends to the one main object of
eating. It is wonderful what a sharpener of the poor wits hunger is!

"I guess I'm the abler-bodied pauper!" answered the man; and picking
up the bag he had dropped at his feet while they conversed, he walked
away.

There are many more generous persons among the poor than among the
rich--a fact that might help some to understand how a rich man should
find it hard to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is hard for
everybody, but harder for the rich. Men who strive to make money are
unconsciously pulling instead of pushing at the heavy gate of the
kingdom.

"Tommy!" said Clare, in a tone new to himself, for a new sense of
moral protection had risen in him, "if ever you steal anything again,
either I give you a hiding, or you and I part company."

Tommy bored his knuckles into his red eyes, and began to
whimper. Again it was hard for Tommy! He had followed Clare, thinking
to supply what was lacking to him; to do for him what he was not
clever enough to do for himself; in short, to make an advantageous
partnership with him, to which he should furnish the faculty of
picking up unconsidered trifles. Tommy judged Clare defective in
intellect, and quite unpractical. He was of the mind of the
multitude. The common-minded man always calls the man who thinks of
righteousness before gain, who seeks to do the will of God and does
not seek to make a fortune, unpractical. He _will_ not see that the
very essence of the practical lies in doing the right thing.

Tommy, in a semi-conscious way, had looked to Clare to supply the
strength and the innocent look, while he supplied the head and the
lively fingers; and here was Clare knocking the lovely plan to pieces!
He did well to be angry! But Clare was the stronger; and Tommy knew
that, when Clare was roused, though it was not easy to rouse him, he
could and would and did fight--not, indeed, as the little coward said
to himself _he_ could fight, like a wild cat, but like a blundering
hornless old cow defending her calf from a cur.

In the heart of all his selfishness, however, Tommy did a little love
Clare; and his love came, not from Tommy, but from the same source as
his desire for food, namely, from the God that was in Tommy, the God
in whom Tommy lived and had his being with Clare. Whether Tommy's love
for Clare would one day lift him up beside Clare, that is, make him an
honest boy like Clare, remained to be seen.

Finding his demonstration make no impression, Tommy took his knuckles
out of his eye-holes and thrust them into his pocket-holes, turned his
back on his friend, and began to whistle--with a lump of self-pity in
his throat.

Chapter XVIII.

Beating the town.

They turned their faces again toward the centre of the town, and
resumed their walk, taking in more of what they saw than while they
had not yet had the second instalment of their daily bread. What a
thing is food! It is the divineness of the invention--the need for the
food, and the food for the need--that makes those who count their
dinner the most important thing in the day, such low creatures:
nothing but what is good in itself can be turned into vileness. It is
a delight to see a boy with a good honest appetite; a boy that _loves_
his dinner is a loathsome creature. Eat heartily, my boy, but be ready
to share, even when you are hungry, and have only what you could eat
up yourself, else you are no man. Remember that you created neither
your hunger nor your food; that both came from one who cares for you
and your neighbours as well.

In the strength of the half-loaf he had eaten, the place looked to
Clare far more wonderful, and his hopes of earning his bread grew yet
more radiant. But he passed one shop after another, and always
something prevented him from going in. One after another did not look
just the right sort, did not seem to invite him: the next might be
better! I dare say but for that half-loaf, he would have made a trial
sooner, but I doubt if he would have succeeded sooner. He did not
think of going to parson, doctor, or policeman for advice; he went
walking and staring, followed by Tommy with his hands in his
pocketless pocket-holes. Clare was not yet practical in device, though
perfect in willingness, and thorough in design. Up one street and down
another they wandered, seeing plenty of food through windows, and in
carts and baskets, but never any coming their way, except in the form
of tempting odours that issued from almost every house, and grew in
keenness and strength toward one o'clock. Oh those odours!--agonizing
angels of invisible yet most material good! Of what joys has not the
Father made us capable, when the poorest necessity is linked with such
pain! What a tormenting thing--and what a good must be meant to come
out of it!--to be hungry, downright, cravingly hungry with the whole
microcosm, and not a halfpenny to buy a mouthful of assuagement!--to
be assailed with wafts of deliriously undefined promise, not one of
which seems likely to be fulfilled!--promise true to men hurrying home
to dinner or luncheon, but only rousing greater desire in such as
Clare and Tommy. Not one opportunity of appropriation presented
itself, else it would have gone ill with Tommy, now that the eyes and
ears of his guardian were on the alert. For Clare thought of him now
as a little thievish pup, for whose conduct, manners, and education he
was responsible.

The agony began at length to abate--ready to revive with augmented
strength when the next hour for supplying the human furnace should
begin to approach. Few even of those who know what hunger is,
understand to what it may grow--how desire becomes longing, longing
becomes craving, and craving a wild passion of demand. It must be
terrible to be hungry, and not know God!

As the evening came down upon them, worn out, faint with want,
shivering with cold, and as miserable in prospect as at the moment,
yet another need presented itself with equally imperative
requisition--that of shelter that they might rest. It was even more
imperative: they could not eat; they _must_ lie down!

Whether it be a rudiment retained from their remote ancestry, I cannot
tell, but any kind of suffering will wake in some a masterful impulse
to burrow; and as the boys walked about in their misery, white with
cold and hunger, Clare's eyes kept turning to every shallowest
archway, every breach in wall or hedge that seemed to offer the least
chance of covert, while, every now and then, Tommy would bolt from his
side to peer into some opening whose depth was not immediately patent
to his ferret-gaze. Once, in a lane on the outskirts of the town, he
darted into a narrow doorway in the face of a wall, but instantly
rushed back in horror: within was a well, where water lay still and
dark. Then first Clare had a hint of the peculiar dread Tommy had of
water, especially of water dark and unexpected. Possibly he had once
been thrown into such water to be got rid of. But Clare at the moment
was too weary to take much notice of his dismay.

It was an old town in which they were wandering, and change in the
channels of traffic had so turned its natural nourishment aside, that
it was in parts withering and crumbling away. Not a few of the houses
were, some from poverty, some from utter disuse, yielding fast to
decay. But there were other causes for the condition of one, which,
almost directly they came out of the lane I have just mentioned, into
the end of a wide silent street, drew the roving, questing eyes of
Clare and Tommy. The moon was near the full and shining clear, so that
they could perfectly see the state it was in. Most of its windows were
broken; its roof was like the back of a very old horse; its
chimney-pots were jagged and stumped with fracture; from one of them,
by its entangled string, the skeleton of a kite hung half-way down the
front. But, notwithstanding such signs of neglect, the red-brick wall
and the wrought-iron gate, both seven feet high, that shut the place
off from the street, stood in perfect aged strength. The moment they
saw it, the house seemed to say to them, "There's nobody here: come
in!" but the gate and the wall said, "Begone!"

Chapter XIX.

The blacksmith and his forge.

At the end of the wall was a rough boarded fence, in contact with it,
and reaching, some fifty yards or so, to a hovel in which a
blacksmith, of unknown antecedents, had taken possession of a forsaken
forge, and did what odd jobs came in his way. The boys went along the
fence till they came to the forge, where, looking in, they saw the
blacksmith working his bellows. To one with the instincts of Clare's
birth and breeding, he did not look a desirable acquaintance. Tommy
was less fastidious, but he felt that the scowl on the man's brows
boded little friendliness. Clare, however, who hardly knew what fear
was, did not hesitate to go in, for he was drawn as with a cart-rope
by the glow of the fire, and the sparks which, as they gazed, began,
like embodied joys, to fly merrily from the iron. Tommy followed,
keeping Clare well between him and the black-browed man, who rained
his blows on the rosy iron in his pincers, as if he hated it.

"What do you want, gutter-toads?" he cried, glancing up and seeing
them approach. "This ain't a hotel."

"But it's a splendid fire," rejoined Clare, looking into his face with
a wan smile, "and we're so cold!"

"What's that to me!" returned the man, who, savage about something,
was ready to quarrel with anything. "I didn't make my fire to warm
little devils that better had never been born!"

"No, sir," answered Clare; "but I don't think we'd better not have
been born. We're both cold, and nobody but Tommy knows how hungry I
am; but your fire is so beautiful that, if you would let us stand
beside it a minute or two, we wouldn't at all mind."

"Mind, indeed! Mind what, you preaching little humbug?"

"Mind being born, sir."

"Why do you say _sir_ to me? Don't you see I'm a working man?"

"Yes, and that's why. I think we ought to say _sir_ and _ma'am_ to
every one that can do something we can't. Tommy and I can't make iron
do what we please, and you can, sir! It would be a grand thing for us
if we could!"

"Oh, yes, a grand thing, no doubt!--Why?"

"Because then we could get something to eat, and somewhere to lie
down."

"Could you? Look at me, now! I can do the work of two men, and can't
get work for half a man!"

"That's a sad pity!" said Clare. "I wish I had work! Then I would
bring you something to eat."

The man did not tell them why he had not work enough--that his
drunkenness, and the bad ways to which it had brought him, with the
fact that he so often dawdled over the work that was given him, caused
people to avoid him.

"Who said I hadn't enough to eat? I ain't come to that yet, young 'un!
What made you say that?"

"Because when I had work, I had plenty to eat; and now that I have
nothing to do, I have nothing to eat. It's well I haven't work now,
though," added Clare with a sigh, "for I'm too tired to do any. Please
may I sit on this heap of ashes?"

"Sit where you like, so long 's you keep out o' my way. I 'ain't got
nothing to give you but a bar of iron. I'll toast one for you if you
would like a bite."

"No, thank you, sir," answered Clare, with a smile. "I'm afraid it
wouldn't be digestible. They say toasted cheese ain't. I wish I had a
try though!"

"You're a comical shaver, you are!" said the blacksmith. "You'll come
to the gallows yet, if you're a good boy! Them Sunday-schools is doin'
a heap for the gallows!--That ain't your brother?"

By this time Tommy had begun to feel at home with the blacksmith, from
whose face the cloud had lifted a little, so that he looked less
dangerous. He had edged nearer to the fire, and now stood in the light
of it.

"No," answered Clare, with an odd doubtfulness in his tone. "I ought
to say _yes_, perhaps, for all men are my brothers; but I mean I
haven't any particular one of my very own."

"That ain't no pity; he'd ha' been no better than you. I've a brother
I would choke any minute I got a chance."

While they talked, the blacksmith had put his iron in the fire, and
again stood blowing the bellows, when his attention was caught by the
gestures of the little red-eyed imp, Tommy, who was making rapid signs
to him, touching his forehead with one finger, nodding mysteriously,
and pointing at Clare with the thumb of his other hand, held close to
his side. He sought to indicate thus that his companion was an
innocent, whom nobody must mind. In the blacksmith Tommy saw one of
his own sort, and the blacksmith saw neither in Tommy nor in Clare any
reason to doubt the hint given him. Not the less was he inclined to
draw out the idiot.

"Why do you let him follow you about, if he ain't your brother?" he
said. "He ain't nice to look at!"

"I want to make him nice," answered Clare, "and then he'll be nice to
look at. You mustn't mind him, please, sir. He's a very little boy,
and 'ain't been well brought up. His granny ain't a good woman--at
least not very, you know, Tommy!" he added apologetically.

"She's a damned old sinner!" said Tommy stoutly.

The man laughed.

"Ha, ha, my chicken! you know a thing or two!" he said, as he took his
iron from the fire, and laid it again on the anvil.

But besides the brother he would so gladly strangle, there was an
idiot one whom he had loved a little and teazed so much, that, when he
died, his conscience was moved. He felt therefore a little tender
toward the idiot before him. He bethought himself also that his job
would soon be at a stage where the fewer the witnesses the better, for
he was executing a commission for certain burglars of his
acquaintance. He would do no more that night! He had money in his
pocket, and he wanted a drink!

"Look here, cubs!" he said; "if you 'ain't got nowhere to go to, I
don't mind if you sleep here. There ain't no bed but the bed of the
forge, nor no blankets but this leather apron: you may have them, for
you can't do them no sort of harm. I don't mind neither if you put a
shovelful of slack and a little water now and then on the fire; and if
you give it a blow or two with the bellows now and then, you won't be
stone-dead afore the mornin'!--Don't be too free with the coals, now,
and don't set the shed on fire, and take the bread out of my poor
innocent mouth. Mind what I tell you, and be good boys."

"Thank you, sir," said Clare. "I thought you would be kind to us! I've
one friend, a bull, that's very good to me. So is Jonathan. He's a
horse. The bull's name is Nimrod. He wants to gore always, but he's
never cross with me."

The blacksmith burst into a roar of laughter at the idiotic
speech. Then he covered the fire with coal, threw his apron over
Clare's head, and departed, locking the door of the smithy behind him.

The boys looked at each other. Neither spoke. Tommy turned to the
bellows, and began to blow.

"Ain't you warm yet?" said Clare, who had seen his mother careful over
the coals.

"No, I ain't. I want a blaze."

"Leave the fire alone. The coal is the smith's, and he told us not to
waste it."

"He ain't no count!" said Tommy, as heartless as any grown man or
woman set on pleasure.

"He has given us a place to be warm and sleep in! It would be a shame
to do anything he didn't like. Have you no conscience, Tommy?"

"No," said Tommy, who did not know conscience from copper. The germ of
it no doubt lay in the God-part of him, but it lay deep. Tommy--no
worse than many a boy born of better parents--was like a hill full of
precious stones, that grows nothing but a few little dry shrubs, and
shoots out cold sharp rocks every here and there.

"If you have no conscience," answered Clare, "one must serve for
both--as far as it will reach! Leave go of that bellows, or I'll make
you."

Tommy let the lever go, turned his back, and wandered, in such dudgeon
as he was capable of, to the other side of the shed.

"Hello!" he cried, "here's a door!--and it ain't locked, it's only
bolted! Let's go and see!"

"You may if you like," answered Clare, "but if you touch anything of
the blacksmith's, I'll be down on you."

"All right!" said Tommy, and went out to see if there was anything to
be picked up.

Clare got on the stone hearth of the forge, and lay down in the hot
ashes, too far gone with hunger to care for the clothes that were
almost beyond caring for. He was soon fast asleep; and warmth and
sleep would do nearly as much for him as food.

Chapter XX.

Tommy reconnoitres.

Tommy, out in the moonlight, found himself in a waste yard, scattered
over with bits of iron, mostly old and rusty. It was not an
interesting place, for it was not likely to afford him anything to
eat. Yet, with the instinct of the human animal, he went shifting and
prying and nosing about everywhere. Presently he heard a curious
sound, which he recognized as made by a hen. More stealthily yet he
went creeping hither and thither, feeling here and feeling there, in
the hope of laying his hand on the fowl asleep. Urged by his natural
impulse to forage, he had forgotten Clare's warning. His hand did find
her, and had it been his grandmother instead of Clare in the smithy,
he would at once have broken the bird's neck before she could cry out;
but with the touch of her feathers came the thought of Clare, and by
this time he understood that what Clare said, Clare would do.

He had some knowledge of fowls; he had heard too much talk about them
at his grandmother's not to know something of their habits; and
finding she sat so still, he concluded that under her might be
eggs. To his delight it was so. The hen belonged to a house at some
distance, and had wandered from it, in obedience to the secretive
instinct of animal maternity, strong in some hens, to seek a hidden
shelter for her offspring. This she had found in the smith's yard,
beneath the mould-board of a plough that had lain there for
years. Slipping his hand under her, Tommy found five eggs. In greedy
haste he took them, every one.

I must do him the justice to say that his first impulse was to dart
with them to Clare. But before he had taken a step toward him, again
he remembered his threat. With the eggs inside him, he could run the
risk; he would not mind a few blows--not much; but if he took them to
Clare, the unbearable thing was, that he would assuredly give every
one of them back to the hen. He was an idiot, and Tommy was there to
look after him; but, in looking after Clare, was Tommy to neglect
himself? If Clare would not eat the eggs Tommy carried him, as most
certainly he would not, the best thing was for Tommy to eat them
himself! What a good thing that it was no use to steal for Clare! The
steal would be all for himself! Not a step from the spot did Tommy
move till he had sucked every one of the five eggs. But he made one
mistake: he threw away the shells.

When he had sucked them, he found himself much lighter-hearted, but,
alas, nearly as hungry as before! The spirit of research began again
to move him: where were eggs, what might there not be beside?

The moon was nearly at the full; the smith's yard was radiantly
illuminated. But even the moon could lend little enchantment to a
scene where nothing was visible but rusty, broken, deserted,
despairful pieces of old iron. Tommy lifted his eyes and looked
further.

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