Part 3 out of 7
"Mr. Bummerton, did Joe say when he would be back?"
"No, he didn't," responded the man, in a surly tone; "I don't know
nothing about him."
Ralph went back, and stood by the stove to consider the matter. He
thought it was very strange. He could hardly believe that Rhyming Toe
had intended to desert him in this way. He preferred to think that the
fellow had become helpless, and that Bummerton had dragged him into
some other room. He knew that Joe used to get that way, years before,
in Philadelphia. He had seen much of him during the wretched period of
his life with Simon Craft. Joe and the old man were together a great
deal during that time. They were engaged jointly in an occupation
which was not strictly within the limit of the law, and which,
therefore, required mutual confidence. The young fellow had,
apparently, taken a great liking to Ralph, had made much of him in
a jovial way, and, indeed, in several instances, had successfully
defended him against the results of Old Simon's wrath. The child had
come to regard him as a friend, and had not been displeased to meet
him, after all these years, in this unexpected manner. He had had a
general idea that the young man's character was not good, and that his
life was not moral, but he had not expected to be badly treated by
him. Now, however, he felt compelled to believe that Joe had abused
the privileges of friendship. The more he thought of it, the more sure
he became that he had been deceived and deserted. He was alone in a
strange city, without money or friends. What was to be done?
Perhaps the bar-tender, understanding the difficulty, would help him
out of it. He resolved to apply to him.
"Mr. Bummerton," he said, approaching the bar again, "now't Joe's
gone, an' I ain't got no money, I don't see how I'm goin' to git home.
Could--could you lend me enough to pay my fare up? I'll send it back
to you right away. I will,--honest!"
The man pushed both his hands into the pockets of his pantaloons, and
stood for a minute staring at the boy, in feigned astonishment.
"Why, my little innocent!" he exclaimed, "what do ye take me for;
a reg'lar home for the friendless? No, I ain't in the charitable
business jist now. By the way, did ye know that the law don't allow
hotel-keepers to let boys stay in the bar-room? Fust thing I know
they'll be a constable a-swoopin' down on me here with a warrant.
Don't ye think ye'd better excuse yourself? That's the door over
yonder, young feller."
Ralph turned, without a word, went to the door, opened it, and stepped
into the street. It was very dark outside, and a cold wind was blowing
up. He stood, for a few minutes, on the corner, shivering, and
wondering which way to go. He felt very wretched indeed; not so much
because he was penniless and lost, as because he had been deceived,
abused, and mocked. He saw through the whole scheme now, and wondered
how he had fallen so easily into it.
On a distant corner there was a street-lamp, burning dimly, and,
without much thought of where he was going, the boy started toward it.
There were other drinking-saloons along the street, and he could hear
loud talking and quarrelling in them as he passed by. A man came
out from one of them and hailed him gruffly. It frightened him, and
he started to run. The man followed him for a little way, shouting
savagely, and then turned back; but Ralph ran on. He stumbled,
finally, on the uneven pavement, and fell headlong, bruising his side
and hurting his wrist. His cap had rolled off, and it took him a
long time to find it. Then he crossed the street to avoid a party of
drunken revellers, and limped along until he came to the lamp that he
had seen from the distance. Down another street there were a number of
lights, and it looked more inviting; so he turned in that way. After
he had gone two or three blocks in this direction, avoiding carefully
the few persons whom he met, he turned again. The streets were
growing lighter and wider now, and there were more people on them,
and that was something to be thankful for. Finally he reached a busy,
well-lighted thoroughfare, and turned into it, with a sigh of relief.
He had not walked very far along it before he saw, over to the right,
surrounded by lights, a long, low building, in the middle of an open
square. It occurred to him, suddenly, that this was the railroad
station, and he hurried toward it. When he reached the door he
remembered that he was without money, but he thought he would go in at
any rate. He was very tired, and he knew of no better place in which
to stop and rest. So he went into the waiting-room, and sat down on a
bench, and looked around him.
There were not many people there, but they began to come very soon,
and kept coming until the room was nearly full. Finally, there was a
puffing of a locomotive out on the track, and a ringing of an engine
bell, and the door-keeper called out:--
"All aboard for Pittston, Scranton, and Carbondale!"
The people crowded toward the door, and just then a carriage drove up
to the other side of the station, and a gentleman and a lady and a
little girl came into the waiting-room from the street entrance. The
lady was in deep mourning; but, as she threw aside her veil for a
moment, Ralph recognized her as Mrs. Burnham, and the little girl as
her child. His heart gave a great throb, and he started to his feet.
The gentleman was saying: "I trust you will reach home safely and
And Mrs. Burnham replied: "Oh, there is no doubt of it, Mr. Goodlaw! I
have telegraphed to James to meet us at the station; we shall be there
before nine o'clock."
"I will see that you are comfortably settled," he said, as they
crossed the room toward the waiting train.
For a moment Ralph stood, wondering and uncertain. Then there came
into his mind a sudden resolution to speak to them, to tell them who
he was, and why and how he was here, and ask them to help him. He
started forward, but they were already passing out at the door. He
pushed hurriedly by several people in his effort to overtake them, but
the man who stood there punching tickets stopped him.
"Where's your ticket, sonny?" he asked.
"I ain't got any," replied Ralph.
"Then you can't get out here."
"But I want to find Mrs. Burnham."
"Who's Mrs. Burnham?"
"The lady't just went out."
"Has she got a ticket for you?"
"No, but she'd give me money to get one--I think."
"Well, I can't help that; you can't go out Come, stand aside! you're
blocking up the way."
The people, crowding by, pushed Ralph back, and he went and sat down
on the bench again.
The bell rang, the conductor shouted "All aboard!" and the train
Ralph's eyes were full of tears, and his heart was very heavy. It
was not so much because he was friendless and without money that he
grieved, but because his mother,--his own mother,--had passed him by
in his distress and had not helped him. She had been so close to him
that he could almost have put out his hand and touched her dress, and
yet she had swept by, in her haste, oblivious of his presence. He
knew, of course, that, if he had spoken to her, or if she had seen and
known him, she would gladly have befriended him. But it was not her
assistance that he wanted so much as it was her love. It was the
absence of that sympathy, that devotion, that watchful care over every
step he might take, that motherly instinct that ought to have felt his
presence though her eyes had been blinded; it was the absence of all
this that filled his heart with heaviness.
But he did not linger long in despair; he dashed the tears from his
eyes, and began to consider what he should do. He thought it probable
that there would be a later train; and it was barely possible that
some one whom he knew might be going up on it. It occurred to him that
Sharpman had said he would be busy in Wilkesbarre all day. Perhaps he
had not gone home yet; if not, he might go on the next train, if there
was one. It was worth while to inquire, at any rate.
"Yes," said the door-keeper, in answer to Ralph's question, "there'll
be another train going up at eleven thirty-five."
"Do you know Mr. Sharpman?" asked the boy, timidly.
"Mr. Sharpman, the lawyer from Scranton."
"No, I don't know him,--why?"
"Oh, I didn't know but you might know w'ether he'd gone home or not;
but, of course, if you don't know 'im you couldn't tell."
"No, I don't know anything about him," said the man, stretching
himself on the bench for a nap.
Ralph thought he would wait. Indeed, there was nothing better for him
to do. It was warm here, and he had a seat, and he knew of no other
place in the city where he could be so comfortable. The clock on the
wall informed him that it was eight in the evening. He began to feel
hungry. He could see, through a half-opened door, the tempting array
of food on the lunch-counter in another room; but he knew that he
could get none, and he tried not to think of eating. It was very
quiet now in the waiting-room, and it was not very long before Ralph
fell to dozing and dreaming. He dreamed that he was somewhere in deep
distress, and that his mother came, looking for him, but unable to see
him; that she passed so close to him he put out his hand and touched
her; that he tried to speak to her and could not, and so, unaware of
his presence, she went on, leaving him alone in his misery.
The noise of persons coming into the room awoke him, finally, and he
sat up and rubbed his eyes and looked around him. He saw, by the clock
on the wall, that it was nearly train time. The escaping steam from
the waiting engine could already be heard outside. People were buying
tickets and making their way hurriedly to the platform; but, among all
those who came in and went out, Ralph could not discover the familiar
face and figure of Sharpman, nor, indeed, could he see any one whom
After the passengers had all gone out, the door-keeper called Ralph to
"Find your man?" he asked.
"Do you mean Mr. Sharpman?"
"No, he didn't come in. I guess he went home before."
The door-keeper paused and looked thoughtful. Finally he said:--
"You want to go to Scranton?"
"Yes, that's where I live."
"Well, I'll tell you what you do. You git onto that train, and when
Jim Coleman--he's the conductor--when he comes around to punch your
ticket, you tell him I said you were to be passed. Now you'll have to
The kind-hearted door-keeper saw Ralph leap on to the train as it
moved slowly out, and then he turned back into the waiting-room.
"Might as well give the lad a lift," he said to a man who stood by,
smiling; "he looked awful solemn when the last train before went and
left him. Jim won't put him off till he gits to Pittston, anyway."
Ralph found a vacant seat in the car and dropped into it, breathless
and excited. His good luck had come to him all in a moment so, that it
had quite upset him.
He did not just understand why the door-keeper's word should be good
for his passage, but the conductor would know, and doubtless it was
The train went rumbling on through the darkness; the lamps, hanging
from the ceiling, swayed back and forth; the people in the car were
very quiet,--some of them, indeed, were already asleep.
By and by, the conductor came in, a slender, young-looking man, with
a good-natured face. He greeted several of the passengers pleasantly,
and came down the aisle, punching tickets to the right and left, till
he reached the seat where Ralph was.
"Ticket?" he asked.
"I ain't got any," said the boy.
"What's the reason?"
"W'y, I lost all my money, an' I couldn't buy one, an' I couldn't see
nobody't I knew, an' the man't tended door, he said tell you to pass
The conductor smiled, as he recognized a familiar scheme of the
kind-hearted door-keeper, but he said, trying to speak sternly:--
"The man had no right to tell you that. Our rules are very strict. No
one can ride without a ticket or a pass. Where do you want to go?"
"To Scranton; I live there," said Ralph, his voice faltering with
"Well, I suppose I ought to stop the train and put you off."
Ralph looked out through the car window, at the blackness outside, and
his face took on a look of fear.
"I'm very sorry," he said, "I'm awful sorry. I wouldn't 'a' got on
if I'd 'a' known it. Do you think you've _got_ to put me off--right
The conductor looked out through the window, too.
"Well," he said, "it's pretty dark, and I hate to stop the train
between stations. I guess I'll have to let you ride to Pittston,
anyway. You'll get out there, won't you? it's the first stop."
"Oh, yes! I'll get out there," said Ralph, much relieved, settling
back into his seat as the conductor left.
The train dashed on through the night, rumbling, rocking, waking the
echoes now and then with its screaming whistle, and finally it pulled
into the station at Pittston.
True to his bargain, Ralph stepped from the train. Two or three other
people left it at the same time and hurried away up the street; then
the puffing engine pulled the cars out again into the darkness.
The boy stood, for a moment or two, wondering what he should do
now. The chill night air made him shiver, and he turned toward
the waiting-room. But the lights were already out there, and the
station-master had locked himself into his office. Off to the left he
saw the street lamps of West Pittston, dotting the blackness here and
there like dim, round stars; and between them and him the dark water
of the river reflected the few lights that shone on it. Finally, Ralph
walked down the length of the platform and turned up the street at the
end of it.
In a minute or two he had reached Main Street, and stood looking up
and down it, trying to decide which way to go. On the other side, and
a little to the right, he saw a man standing on the corner, under a
street lamp, and looking at him.
He was an honest-looking man, Ralph thought; may be he would tell him
what to do. He crossed over and went down to where the man stood.
"Please, mister," he said, "I'd like to find a place to stay all
The man looked down on him wonderingly, but not unkindly.
"Is it a hotel ye're after?" he asked.
"Well, not hardly. I ain't got any money. I only want a place to stay
where I won't be in the dark an' cold alone all night."
"Do ye belong in Pittston, I don' no'?"
"No, I live in Scranton."
"Sure, the train jist wint for there. Why didn't ye go with it?"
"Well, you see, I didn't have any ticket, an' the conductor, he told
me to--to--he asked me if I wouldn't jest as lieve git off here."
The man gave a low whistle.
"Come along with me," he said, "it's little I can do for yez, but it's
better nor the strate." He led the way up the pavement of the side
street a few steps, unlocked a door and entered a building, and Ralph
They seemed to be in a sort of retiring room for the use of the
adjoining offices. A gas light was burning dimly. There was a table
in the room, and there were some chairs. Some engineering tools stood
in one corner, some mining tools in another; caps were hanging on the
wall, and odds and ends of many kinds were scattered about.
The man took down a heavy overcoat, and spread it on the table.
"There," he said, "ye can slape on that."
"That'll be very nice," said Ralph; "it'll be a sight better'n stayin'
out in the street all night."
"Right ye are, me lad! Compose yoursilf now. Good-night, an' swate
drames to yez! I'm the watchman; I'll be out an' in; it's nothing here
that'll hurt ye, sure; good-night!" and the man went out, and locked
the door after him.
It was warm in the room, and very comfortable, and it was not long
after the boy laid down on the improvised bed before he was sound
asleep. He did not wake until the day began to dawn, and the watchman
came in and shook him; and it was some moments after he was roused
before he could make out just where he was. But he remembered the
situation, finally, and jumped down on to the floor.
"I've had a good sleep," he said. "I'm a great deal obliged to you."
"Don't shpake of it, lad," said the man; "don't shpake of it. Will ye
wash up a bit?"
"Yes, I would like to," replied Ralph, "very much."
He was shown the way to the basin and water, and after a few moments
he came back fresh and clean.
"Ye wouldn't like a bit to ate now, would ye?" asked the watchman, who
had been busying himself about the room.
"Oh, I can get along very well without it," replied the boy; "you've
done enough for me."
"Whin did ye ate last?"
"Well, it must 'a' been some after noon yestaday."
The man went to a closet and took down a dinner-pail.
"I've a bit left o' me last-night's dinner," said he; "an' av ye're
the laste bit hungry ye'll not be makin' me carry it home with me." He
had spread a newspaper on the table, and had laid out the pieces of
food upon it.
"Oh, I am hungry!" responded Ralph, looking eagerly over the tempting
array. "I'm very hungry; but you've been too good to me already, an'
you don't know me, either."
The man turned his face toward the door, and stood for a minute
without speaking. Then he said, huskily:--
"Ate it lad, ate it. Bless your sowl, there's a plinty more where that
The boy needed no further urging. He ate the food with great relish,
while the watchman stood by and looked on approvingly. When the meal
was finished, Ralph said:--
"Now, I'll be a-goin'. I can't never thank you enough. Maybe I can do
sumpthin' for you, some time, but--"
"Howld your tongue, now! Didn't I tell ye not to shpake of it?"
The boy opened the door and looked out upon the dawning day.
"Ain't it nice!" he said. "I can git along splendid in the daylight.
I ain't afraid, but it's awful lonesome in the dark, 'specially when
you're away from home this way."
"An' where do ye be goin' now?" inquired the watchman.
"Home; to Scranton. I can walk there, so long as it's daylight. Oh! I
can git along beautiful now. Which is the bes' way to go?"
The man looked down at him wonderingly for a moment. "Well, ye do bate
the--the--the prisidint!" he said, going with him to the corner of the
street. "Now, thin, go up the strate straight,--I mean straight up the
strate,--turn nayther to the right nor the lift, an whin the strate
inds, follow the road up the river, an' be it soon or late ye'll come
"Thank you! Good-by. I'll al'ays remember you."
"Good-by, me lad! an' the saints attind ye!"
They shook hands cordially, and Ralph started up the street on his
long journey toward home, while the watchman turned back to his
duties, with his heart full of kindness and his eyes full of tears.
But he never, never forgot the homeless lad whom he fed and sheltered
that autumn night.
A FRIEND INDEED.
It had been understood, when Ralph went to Wilkesbarre that morning,
that he should return in the afternoon. Bachelor Billy was very much
surprised, therefore, when he returned from his work, not to find
the boy waiting for him. Indeed, he had more than half expected that
Ralph would come up to the breaker to walk home with him, or would, at
least, meet him on the way. The Widow Maloney had not seen him, she
said; and when supper was ready she sent her little girl down the road
to look for him, and to tell him to hurry home.
Before they had finished eating, the child came back, saying that she
could not find him. They were not worried about him, though; they
thought he had been delayed at court, and would come in on one of the
later trains. So, after supper, Billy lighted his pipe and walked down
toward the city, hoping to meet the lad. He went on until he reached
the railroad station. They told him there that the next train would be
in from Wilkesbarre in about an hour. He concluded to wait for it, so
he sat on one of the benches, and watched the people coming and going,
and smoked his clay-pipe in comparative comfort. The train came at
last, and the passengers from it crowded through the hall-way, and out
into the street. But among them all Bachelor Billy could not discover
Ralph. He saw Mrs. Burnham coming from the cars, though, and it
occurred to him that possibly she might know something about the boy.
She had doubtless come from Wilkesbarre; indeed it was not unlikely
that she had been in court. He did not hesitate to inquire of her; she
knew him very well, and always had a kind word for him when she came
to see Ralph.
He took off his cap and approached her. "Beggin' your pardon, Mistress
Burnham," he said, "but ha' ye seen aught o' Ralph?"
The lady stopped in surprise, but in a moment she recognized the man,
and, throwing aside her veil, she replied: "Oh, Billy, is that you?
Ralph, did you say? I have not seen him. Why?"
"He went to Wilkesbarre the day, ma'am, an' he s'ould 'a' comit hame
sooner, an' I thocht mayhap ye might 'a' rin across the lad, d'ye see.
Pardon me for a-stoppin' o' ye."
The lady still stood, holding her child by the hand.
"Did he go alone?" she asked.
"No, he went doon wi' Muster Sharpman."
"And has Mr. Sharpman returned?"
"I did na thenk to ask; that was fulish in me,--I s'ould 'a' gone
"I think Mr. Sharpman will look after him. I do not think you need to
worry; perhaps it was necessary for them to remain overnight. But, if
Ralph does not come in the morning, you must let me know, and I shall
assist you in searching for him."
"Thank ye, Mistress Burnham, thank ye, kindly! I canna feel greatly
concernit ower the lad, sin' he's verra gude at carin' for himsel'.
But, gin he does na come i' the mornin', I s'all mak' search for 'im.
Here's James a-waitin' for ye"; going ahead, as he spoke, to stand by
the fretting horses while James held open the carriage door.
"Good-night, Billy!" came from inside the coach as it rolled away; and
"Good-night, Billy!" echoed the sweet voice of the child.
"Good-nicht to both o' ye!" he shouted, standing to watch them until
the carriage disappeared into the darkness.
"She's verra kin'," he said to himself, as he walked up the street
toward home, "verra kin', but it's no' sic a care as the lad's ane
mither s'ould ha' ower 'im, an' he awa' fra hame i' the darkness o'
the nicht so. But she dinna ken, she dinna ken as he be her son. Coom
a day when that's plain to her, an' she'd spare naught to save 'im fra
the ghost o' danger."
When Bachelor Billy reached home, Mrs. Maloney was at the door to
ask about Ralph. The man told her what Mrs. Burnham had said, and
expressed an earnest hope that the boy would come safely back in the
morning. Then' he went to his room, started a fire in the grate, and
sat down, by it to smoke.
It was already past his customary bed-time, but he could not quite
make up his mind to go to bed without Ralph. It seemed a very lonely
and awkward thing for him to do. They had gone to bed together every
night for nearly three years, and it is not easy to break in upon such
a habit as that.
So Billy sat by the fire and smoked his pipe and thought about the
boy. He was thoroughly convinced that the child was Robert Burnham's
son, and all of his hopes and plans and ambitions, during these days,
were centred in the effort to have Ralph restored his family, and
to his rights as a member of that family. It would be such a fine
thing for the boy, he thought. In the first place, he could have an
education. Bachelor Billy reverenced an education. To him, it was
almost a personality. He held that, with an education, a man could
do anything short of performing miracles; that all possibilities of
goodness or greatness that the world holds were open to him. The very
first thing he would choose for Ralph would be an education. Then the
child would have wealth; that, too, would be a great thing for him
and, through him, for society. The poor would be fed, and the homeless
would be sheltered. He was so sure of the boy's honest heart and
moral firmness that he knew wealth would be a blessing to him and not
And a beautiful home! Once he had been in Robert Burnham's house; and,
for days thereafter, its richness and beauty and its homelike air had
haunted him wherever he went. Yes, the boy would have a beautiful
home. He looked around on the bare walls and scanty furniture of his
own poor dwelling-place as if comparing them with the comforts and
luxuries of the Burnham mansion. The contrast was a sharp one, the
change would be great. But Ralph was so delicate in taste and fancy,
so high-minded, so pure-souled, that nothing would be too beautiful
for him, no luxury would seem strange, no life would be so exalted
that he could not hold himself at its level. The home that had haunted
Bachelor Billy's fancy was the home for Ralph, and there he should
dwell. But then--and the thought came suddenly and for the first time
into the man's mind--when the boy went there to live, he, Billy, would
be alone, _alone_. He would have no one to chatter brightly to him
at the dawn of day, no one to walk with him to their daily tasks at
Burnham Breaker, to eat from the same pail with him the dinner that
had been prepared for both, to come home with him at night, and fill
the bare room in which they lived with light and cheer enough to flood
a palace. Instead of that, every day would be like this day had been,
every night would be as dull and lonely as the night now passing.
How could he ever endure them?
He was staring intently into the fire, clutching his pipe in his hand,
and spilling from it the tobacco he had forgotten to smoke.
The lad would have a mother, too,--a kind, good, beautiful mother to
love him, to caress him, to do a million more things for him than his
Uncle Billy had ever done or ever could do. And the boy would love his
mother, he would love her very tenderly; he ought to; it was right
that he should; but in the beauty and sweetness of such a life as that
would Ralph remember him? How could he hope it? Yet, how could he bear
to be forgotten by the child? How could he ever bear it?
In his intensity of thought the man had risen to his feet, grasping
his clay pipe so closely that it broke and fell in fragments to the
He looked around again on the bare walls of his home, down on his own
bent form, on his patched, soiled clothing and his clumsy shoes, then
he sank back into his chair, covered his face with his hands, and gave
way to tears. He had lived in this world too long not to know that
prosperity breeds forgetfulness, and he felt already in his heart a
foretaste of the bitterness that should overwhelm him when this boy,
whom he loved as his own child, should leave him alone, forgotten.
But after a time he looked up again. Pleasanter thoughts were in
his mind. They were thoughts of the days and nights that he and
the boy had spent together, from the time when he had found him,
sick, helpless, and alone, on the dusty highway, in the heat of the
midsummer sun, to these days that were now passing, with their strange
revelations, their bright hopes, their shadowy fears.
But in all his thought there was no touch of disappointment, no trace
of regret. It was worth it all, he told himself,--worth all the care
he had given to the boy, all the money he had spent to restore him
to health, worth all he had ever done or ever could do for him, just
to have had the lad with him for a year, a month, a week: why it was
worth it all and more, yes, vastly more, just to have felt the small
hand laid once on his arm, to have seen the loving eyes look up once
into his, and to have heard the clear voice say, "Dear Uncle Billy" in
the confiding way he knew so well.
It was nearly midnight when Bachelor Billy went to bed, and long after
that hour before he fell asleep.
He awoke several times during the night with a sense of loneliness
and desolation pressing down upon him, and he arose early to prepare
for his day's work. It was arranged at the breakfast-table that Mrs.
Maloney's oldest girl should go down to Lawyer Sharpman's office to
inquire about Ralph, and Billy was to come home at noon, contrary to
his custom, to hear her report.
Daylight is a great promoter of natural cheer, and the man went away
to his work with a strong hope in his heart of Ralph's speedy return;
and when the long morning had passed and he hurried back to his home,
he half expected that the boy would meet him on the way. But he was
disappointed; even Mrs. Maloney's girl had no news for him. She had
been to Sharpman's office twice, she said, and had not found him in,
though the clerk had told her that Mr. Sharpman had returned from
Wilkesbarre the day before.
Billy decided then that it was time to make active search for the boy,
and when he had finished a hurried dinner, he put on his best clothes
and started for the city. He thought it would be wise for him to
go first to Sharpman's office and learn what he could there. The
lawyer had not yet returned from lunch, but the clerk said he would
positively be in at half-past one, so Billy took the proffered chair,
and waited. Sharpman came promptly at the time, greeted his visitor
cordially, and took him into his private office.
"Well, my friend; what can I do for you?" he asked.
"I cam' to see aboot Ralph, sir; Ralph as lives wi' me."
"Oh! are you Buckley? William Buckley?"
"I am, sir. I want to know when saw ye the lad last?"
"Why, about eleven o'clock yesterday. He came up on the noon train,
"I ha' no' seen 'im."
"Haven't seen him!" exclaimed Sharpman, in a voice expressive of much
alarm. "Haven't seen him since when, man?"
"Not sin' yester-mornin', when I said 'good-by' till the lad, an' went
t' the breaker. I got scared aboot 'im, an' cam' to look 'im oop."
Bachelor Billy had become infected with Sharpman's alarm.
"Well, we _must_ look him up," said the lawyer, putting on his hat,
which he had just laid aside, and taking up a light overcoat. "Come,
we'll go down to the station and see if we can learn anything of him
Sharpman was really very anxious about the boy; it would interfere
sadly with his scheme to have Ralph disappear again, now. The two men
went out from the door together and down the street at a rapid pace.
But they had not taken two steps around the corner into Lackawanna
Avenue, when they came face to face with the missing boy. He was a
sorry sight, limping slowly along, covered with dust, exhausted from
his journey. He was no less surprised to meet Bachelor Billy and the
lawyer, than they were to meet him, and all three stood speechless,
for a moment, with astonishment.
"Why, Ralph!" exclaimed Billy, "Ralph, lad, whaur ye been?"
But Ralph did not know what to say. An overwhelming sense of shame
at his unfortunate adventure and at his wretched condition had come
suddenly to him, and the lawyer's sharp eyes, fixed steadily upon him,
increased his embarrassment not a little.
"Why don' ye speak, lad? Tell Uncle Billy what's happenit to ye; coom
noo!" and the man took the child's hands affectionately into his.
Then Ralph spoke. From a full heart, poor lad, he made his confession.
"Well, Uncle Billy, I got lost in Wilkesbarre; I wasn't used to it,
an' I went into a saloon there, an' they got all my money, an' I got
onto the train 'ithout a ticket, an' the conductor put me off, an' I
had to walk the rest o' the way home; an' I'm pirty tired, an' dirty,
Sharpman laughed aloud.
"Ah! that's Wilkesbarre charity," he said; "you were a stranger, and
they took you in. But come, let's go back to my office and talk it
Secluded in the lawyer's private room Ralph told the whole story of
his adventures from the time he left Sharpman at the court-house door.
When he had finished, Bachelor Billy said, "Puir lad!" then, turning
to Sharpman, "it was no' his fau't, thenk ye?"
"Oh, no!" said the lawyer, smiling, "any one might have met with the
same fate: dreadful town, Wilkesbarre is, dreadful! Have you had any
"No, sir," said Ralph, "I haven't."
"Well, come into my wash-room and brighten yourself up a little.
You're somewhat travel-stained, as it were."
In ten minutes Ralph reappeared, looking clean and comparatively
"Now," said Sharpman, "you don't resemble quite so strongly the man
who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Here, take this," reaching
out some money, "and go down to the restaurant on the corner and
surprise yourself with the best dinner you can buy. Oh, you can pay
it back," as the boy hesitated about accepting the money; "we'll call
it a loan if you like. Come, you agreed to obey my instructions, you
know. Buckley will wait here for you till you get back. Now, don't
hurry!" he said, as Ralph passed out at the door, "there's plenty of
For some minutes after the boy's departure, Sharpman and Bachelor
Billy sat talking over Ralph's recent adventure. Then the conversation
turned to the prospect for the future, and they agreed that it was
very bright. Finally, the lawyer said:--
"He was pretty sick when you first found him, wasn't he?"
"He was that, verra bad indeed."
"Called a doctor for him, didn't you?"
"Oh, yes! Dr. Gunther. He comed every day for a for'night, an' often
he comed twice i' the same day. He was awfu' sick, the chil' was."
"Footed the doctor's bill, I suppose, didn't you?"
"Oh, yes, yes; but I did na min' that so long's the lad got well."
"Had to pay the woman to nurse him and look after him, I take it?"
"Oh! well, yes; but she needit the money, mon, an' the lad he needit
the noorsin', an' it was doin' a bit double good wi' ma siller, do ye
"Well, you've housed and clothed and fed the boy for a matter of three
years or thereabouts, haven't you?"
"Why, the lad's lived wi' me; he had a right to't. He's the same as my
own son'd be, min' ye."
"You collect his wages, I presume?"
"Oh, now! what'd I be doin' wi' the wee bit money that a baby like
him'd earn? He's a-savin' o' it. It ain't much, but mayhap it'll buy
a bit o' schoolin' for the lad some day. Ye s'ould see the braw way
he'll read an' write now, sir."
Sharpman sat for some time as if in deep thought. Finally, he said:--
"Look here, Buckley! You're a poor man; you can't afford to throw away
what little money you earn, nor to let an opportunity slip for turning
an honest penny. You have done a good deal for the boy; I don't see
why you shouldn't be rewarded."
"I've had ma reward, sir, i' the blessin' o' the lad's company."
"Yes, that's all very true, but a man must not rob himself; it's
not right. You are getting along in years; you should have a little
something to lay by for old age. We are sure to establish Ralph's
identity, and to recover his interest in his father's estate. I know
that the boy would be delighted to have you paid out of the funds that
would come into our hands, and I am very certain that Mrs. Burnham
would be proud to have your services acknowledged in that way. The
basis of compensation would not be so much the time, labor, and money
actually expended by you, as it would be the value of the property
rescued and cared for. That would figure into a very nice sum. I think
you had better let me manage it, and secure for you something to lay
by for a rainy day, or for old age that is sure to fall on you. What
do you say?"
But Bachelor Billy had risen to his feet, excited, and in earnest.
"I'm a poor mon, Muster Sharpman," he said, "an' money's worth a deal
to me, but I could na tak' it for a-doin' what I ha' for Ralph."
"Why, I am sure your services have been of infinite value, both to the
boy and to his mother."
"Mayhap! mayhap! that's no' for me to say. But I canna do it. I could
na look ony mon i' the eye wi' a cent o' the lad's money i' ma purse.
It'd seem as though I'd been a-doin' for 'im a' these years wi' a
purpose to get it back in siller some day, an' I never did; I never
thocht o' it, sir. The chil's been as free an' welcome as the sunshine
wi' me. The bit money I ha' spent, the bit care I ha' had wi' 'im, why
that was paid back wi' dooble interest the first week he could sit oop
i' the bed an' talk. It's a blessin' to hear the lad talk to ye. Na,
na! do what ye can for Ralph. Spare naught to get his rightfu' dues;
but me, there's not a penny comin' to me. I've had ma pay, an' that
lang sin', lang sin', do ye mind."
The lawyer waved his hand, as much as to say: "Very well, you're a
fool, but it's not my fault. I have placed the opportunity within your
reach; if you do not choose to grasp it, you're the loser, not I." But
Sharpman felt that he was the loser, nevertheless.
He knew that his shrewd scheme to use this honest man as a tool for
the furtherance of his own ends had fallen through, and that the
modest sum which he had expected to gain for himself in this way would
never be his.
He was not quite so cordial when Ralph returned from his dinner; and,
after a few words of admonition to the boy, he dismissed the pair, and
set himself diligently to the task of preparing a new scheme to take
the place of the one that had just vanished.
AT THE BAR OF THE COURT.
When Ralph went to his work at the breaker on the morning after his
return from Wilkesbarre, he was met with curious glances from the men,
and wondering looks and abrupt questions from the boys. It had become
generally known that he claimed to be Robert Burnham's son, and that
he was about to institute proceedings, through his guardian, to
recover possession of his share of the estate. There was but little
opportunity to interrogate him through the morning hours: the flow of
coal through the chutes was too rapid and constant, and the grinding
and crunching of the rollers, and the rumbling and hammering of the
machinery, were too loud and incessant.
Ralph worked very diligently too; he was in the mood for work. He
was glad to be at home again and able to work. It was much better
than wandering through the streets of strange towns, without money
or friends. Nor were his hands and eyes less vigilant because of the
bright future that lay before him. He was so certain of the promised
luxuries, the beautiful home, the love of mother and sister, the means
for education,--so sure of them all that he felt he could well afford
to wait, and to work while waiting. This toil and poverty would last
but a few weeks, or a few months at the longest; after that there
would be a lifetime of pleasure and of peace and of satisfied
So hope nerved his muscles, and anticipation brought color to his
cheeks and fire to his eyes, and the thought of his mother's kiss
lent inspiration to his labor, and no boy that ever worked in Burnham
Breaker performed his task with more skill and diligence than he.
When the noon hour came the boys took their dinner-pails and ran down
out of the building and over on the hill-side, where they could lie on
the clean grass in the warm September sunshine, and eat and talk until
the bell should call them again to work.
Here, before the recess was over, Ralph joined them, feeling very
conscious, indeed, of his embarrassing position, but determined to
brave it out.
Joe Foster set the, ball rolling by asking Ralph how much he had to
pay his lawyer. Some one else followed it up with a question relating
to his expectations for the future, and in a very few minutes the boy
was the object of a perfect broadside of interrogations.
"Will you have a hoss of your own?" asked Patsey Welch.
"I don't know," was the reply; "that depen's on what my mother'll
"Oh! she'll give you one if you want 'im, Mrs. Burnham will," said
another boy; "she'll give you everything you want; she's ter'ble good
that way, they say."
"Will you own the breaker, an' boss us boys?" came a query from
Before Ralph could reply to this startling and embarrassing question,
some one else asked:--
"How'd you find out who you was, anyway?"
"Why, my lawyer told me," was the reply.
"How'd he find out?"
"Well, a man told him."
"Now, look here, fellows!" said Ralph, "I ain't goin' to tell you
everything. It'd predujuice my case too much. I can't do it, I got no
Then a doubting Thomas arose.
"I ain't got nothin' agin him," he began, referring to Ralph, "he's a
good enough feller--for a slate-picker, for w'at I know; but that's
all he is; he ain't a Burnham, no more'n I be, if he was he wouldn't
be a-workin' here in the dirt; it ain't reason'ble."
Before Ralph could reply, some one took up the cudgel for him.
"Yes, he is too,--a Burnham. My father says he is, an' Lawyer Sharpman
says he is, an' you don't know nothin' 'bout it."
Whereupon a great confusion of voices arose, some of the boys denying
Ralph's claim of a right to participate in the privileges allotted to
the Burnham family, while most of them vigorously upheld it.
Finally, Ralph made his voice heard above the uproar:--
"Boys," he said, "they ain't no use o' quarrellin'; we'll all find out
the truth about it 'fore very long. I'm a-goin' to stay here an' work
in the breaker till the thing's settled, an' I want you boys to use me
jest as well as ever you did, an' I'll treat you jest the same as I
al'ays have; now, ain't that fair?"
"Yes, that's fair!" shouted a dozen boys at a time. "Hooray for Ralph
Burnham!" added another; "hooray!"
The cheers were given with a will, then the breaker bell rang, and the
boys flocked back to their work.
Ralph was as good as his word. Every morning he came and took his
place on the bench, and picked slate ten hours a day, just as the
other boys did; and though the subject of his coming prosperity was
often discussed among them, there was never again any malice or
bitterness in the discussion.
But the days and weeks and months went by. The snows of winter came,
and the north winds howled furiously about the towering heights of
Burnham Breaker. Morning after morning, before it was fairly light,
Ralph and Bachelor Billy trudged through the deep snow on their way to
their work, or faced the driving storms as they plodded home at night.
And still, so far as these two could see, and they talked the matter
over very often, no progress was being made toward the restoration of
Ralph to his family and family rights.
Sharpman had explained why the delay was expedient, not to say
necessary; and, though the boy tried to be patient, and was very
patient indeed, yet the unquiet feeling remained in his heart, and
But at last there was progress. A petition had been presented to
the Orphans' Court, asking for a citation to Margaret Burnham, as
administrator of her husband's estate, to appear and show cause why
she should not pay over to Ralph's guardian a sufficient sum of money
to educate and maintain the boy in a manner befitting his proper
station in life. An answer had been put in by Mrs. Burnham's attorney,
denying that Ralph was the son of Robert Burnham, and an issue had
been asked for to try that disputed fact. The issue had been awarded,
and the case certified to the Common Pleas for trial, and placed on
the trial list for the May term of court.
As the time for the hearing approached, the preparations for it grew
more active and incessant about Sharpman's office.
Old Simon had taken up his abode in Scranton for the time being, and
was on hand frequently to inform and advise. Witnesses from distant
points had been subpoenaed, and Ralph, himself, had been called on
several occasions to the lawyer's office to be interrogated about
matters lying within his knowledge or memory.
The question of the boy's identity had become one of the general
topics of conversation in the city, and, as the time for the trial
approached, public interest in the matter ran high.
In those days the courts were held at Wilkesbarre for the entire
district. Lackawanna County had not yet been erected out of the
northern part of Luzerne, with Scranton as its county seat.
There were several suits on the list for the May term that were to be
tried before the Burnham case would come on, so that Ralph did not
find it necessary to go to Wilkesbarre until Thursday of the first
week of court.
Bachelor Billy accompanied him. He had been subpoenaed as a witness,
and he was glad to be able to go and to have an opportunity to care
for the boy during the time of the trial.
Spring comes early in the valley of the Susquehanna; and, as the train
dashed along, Ralph, looking from the open window of the car, saw the
whole country white with the blossoms of fruit-bearing trees. The
rains had been frequent and warm, and the springing vegetation, rich
and abundant, reflected its bright green in the waters of the river
along all the miles of their journey. The spring air was warm and
sweet, white clouds were floating in the sky, birds were darting here
and there among the branches of the trees, wild flowers were unfolding
their modest beauty in the very shadow of the iron rails. Ralph saw
and felt it all, his spirit rose into accord with nature, and hope
filled his heart more abundantly than it ever had before.
When he and Bachelor Billy went into the court-room that afternoon,
Sharpman met them and told them that their case would probably not
be reached that day, the one immediately preceding it having already
taken much more time in the trial than had been expected. But he
advised them not to leave the city. So they went out and walked about
the streets a little, then they wandered down along the river bank,
and sat there looking out upon the water and discussing the method and
probable outcome of the trial.
When supper-time came, they went to their boarding-house, a cottage in
the suburbs, kept by a man who had formerly known Bachelor Billy in
The next morning when they went into court the lawyers were making
their addresses to the jury in the case that had been heard on the
previous day, and Ralph and Billy listened to the speeches with
much interest. The judge's charge was a long one, and before it
was concluded the noon-hour had come. But it was known, when court
adjourned, that the Burnham case would be taken up at two o'clock.
Long before that time, however, the benches in the court-room were
filled with people, and even the precincts of the bar were invaded.
The suit had aroused so much interest and excitement that hundreds
of people came simply to see the parties and hear the evidence in
At two o'clock Mr. Goodlaw entered, accompanied by Mrs. Burnham and
her little daughter, and all three took seats by a table inside
Sharpman came in a few minutes later, and Simon Craft arose from his
place near the railing and went with him to another table. Ralph, who
was with Bachelor Billy down on a front bench, scarcely recognized the
old man at first, there was so marked a change in his appearance. He
had on a clean new suit of black broadcloth, his linen was white and
well arranged, and he had been freshly shaven. Probably he had not
presented so attractive an appearance before in many years. It was all
due to Sharpman's money and wit. He knew how much it is worth to have
a client look well in the eyes of a jury, and he had acted according
to his knowledge.
So Old Simon had a very grandfatherly air as he took his seat by the
side of his counsel and laid his cane on the floor beside him.
After arranging his papers on the table, Sharpman arose and looked
back over the crowded court-room. Finally, catching sight of Ralph,
he motioned to him to come inside the bar. The boy obeyed, but not
without embarrassment. He saw that the eyes of all the people in the
room were fixed on him as he crossed the open space and dropped into a
chair by the side of Craft. But he had passed Mrs. Burnham on his way,
and she had reached out her gloved hand and grasped his little one and
held him by her for a moment to look searchingly and longingly into
his face; and she had said to him some kind words to put him at his
ease, so that the situation was not so very trying, after all.
The clerk began to call a jury into the box. One by one they answered
to their names, and were scrutinized closely by the lawyers as they
took their places. Then Sharpman examined, carefully, the list of
jurors that was handed to him, and drew his pen through one of the
names. It was that of a man who had once suffered by reason of the
lawyer's shrewdness, and he thought it best to challenge him.
"Call another juror," he said, passing the list to Goodlaw, who also
struck a name from it, added a new one, and passed it back.
The jury was finally settled, the challenged men were excused, and the
remaining twelve were duly sworn.
Then Sharpman arose to open his case. With rapid detail he went over
the history of Ralph's life from the time of the railroad accident
to the day of the trial. He dwelt upon Simon Craft's kindness to the
child, upon his energetic search for the unknown parents, and, later,
for the boy himself; of his final success, of his constant effort in
Ralph's behalf, and his great desire, now, to help him into the family
and fortune to which his birth entitled him. "We shall show to you all
of these facts, gentlemen of the jury," said Sharpman, in conclusion.
"We shall prove to you, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this boy is
Margaret Burnham's son and an heir to Robert Burnham's estates; and,
having done so, we shall expect a verdict at your hands."
The lawyer resumed his seat, spent a few moments looking over his
papers, and then said, in a tone of mingled respect and firmness:--
"We desire, if your Honor please, to call Mrs. Burnham for the purpose
"That is your privilege under the law," said the judge.
"Mrs. Burnham," continued Sharpman, "will you kindly take the stand?"
"Certainly," replied the lady.
She arose, advanced to the witness-stand, received the oath, and took
her chair with a matronly dignity and kindly grace that aroused the
sympathy and admiration of all who saw her. She gave her name, the
date of her marriage to Robert Burnham, the fact of his death, and the
names and ages of her children. In the course of the examination, she
was asked to describe the railway journey which ended in the disaster
at Cherry Brook, and to give the details of that disaster as she
"Can you not spare me that recital, sir?" she said.
"No one would be more willing or glad to do so, madam," responded
Sharpman, "than I, but the whole future of this fatherless boy is
hanging upon this examination, and I dare not do it. I will try to
make it easier for you, however, by interrogation."
She had hidden her face in her hands a moment before; now she raised
it, pallid, but fixed with strong determination.
"Go on," she said, "I will answer you."
Sharpman stood for a moment as if collecting his thoughts, then he
asked: "Did you and your husband, accompanied by your child Ralph and
his nurse, leave your home in Scranton on the thirteenth day of May,
1859, to go by rail to the city of Philadelphia?"
"Was the car in which you were riding well filled?"
"It was not; no, sir."
"How many children were in that car besides your son?"
"About how old?"
"About Ralph's age, I should think."
"With whom was he travelling?"
"With an elderly gentleman whom he called, 'Grandpa.'"
"Before you reached Philadelphia, did the bridge over Cherry Creek
give way and precipitate the car in which you were riding into the bed
of the stream?"
"It did; yes, sir."
"Immediately before that occurred where was your child?"
"He was sitting with his nurse in the second seat ahead of us."
"And the other child, where was he?"
"Just across the aisle."
"Did you see that other child after the accident?"
"I did not; I only know that he survived it."
"How do you know it?"
"We learned, on inquiry, that the same old gentleman and little
child went on to the city in the train which carried the rescued
"You and your husband were both injured in the disaster, were you
"And the nurse lost her life?"
"How long was it after the accident before you began the search for
"It was nearly three days afterward before we were sufficiently
recovered to be able to do anything."
"Did you find any trace of him?"
"Any clothing or jewelry?"
"Only a few trinkets in the ashes of the wreck."
"Is it your belief that Ralph perished in that disaster?"
"It is; yes, sir."
"Would it take strong evidence to convince you to the contrary?"
"I think it would."
"Ralph," said Sharpman, turning to the boy, "stand up!"
The lad arose.
"Have you seen this boy before?" continued the lawyer, addressing the
"I have," she replied, "on several occasions."
"Are you familiar with his face, his expression, his manner?"
"To a great extent--yes, sir."
"Do you recognize him as your son Ralph?"
She looked down, long and searchingly, into the boy's face, and then
replied, deliberately, "No, sir, I do not."
"That is all, Mrs. Burnham."
Ralph was surprised and disappointed. He had not quite expected this.
He had thought she would say, perhaps, that she would receive him as
her son when his claim was duly proven. He would not have wondered
at that, but that she should positively, under oath, deny their
relationship to each other, had not been to him, before, within the
range of possibility. His brightness and enthusiasm were quenched
in a moment, and a chill crept up to his heart, as he saw the lady
come down from the witness-stand, throw her widow's veil across her
face, and resume her seat at the table. The case had taken on a new,
strange, harsh aspect in his sight. It seemed to him that a barrier
had been suddenly erected between him and the lady whom he had learned
to love as his mother; a barrier which no verdict of the jury or
judgment of the court, even though he should receive them, would help
him to surmount.
Of what use were these things, if motherly recognition was to be
denied him? He began to feel that it would be almost better to go back
at once to the not unpleasant home with Bachelor Billy, than to try to
grasp something which, it now seemed, was lying beyond his reach.
He was just considering the advisability of crossing over to Sharpman
and suggesting to him that he was willing to drop the proceedings,
when that person called another witness to the stand. This was a
heavily built man, with close-cropped beard, bronzed face, and one
sleeve empty of its arm. He gave his name as William B. Merrick, and
said that he was conductor of the train that broke through the Cherry
Brook bridge, on the night of May 13, 1859.
"Did you see, on your train that night," asked Sharpman, "the witness
who has just left the stand?"
"I cannot be positive," the man replied, "but, to the best of my
recollection, the lady was a passenger in the rear car."
"With whom was she travelling?"
"With a gentleman whom I afterward learned was her husband, a little
boy some two or three years of age, and the child's nurse."
"Were there any other children on the train?"
"Yes, one, a boy of about the same age, riding in the same car in
company with an elderly gentleman."
"Did you see either of these children after the disaster?"
"I saw one of them."
"I supposed, at the time, that it was the one who accompanied the old
"Why did you suppose so?"
"Because I saw a child who bore marks of having been in the wreck
riding in the car which carried the rescued passengers to the city,
and he was in company with an elderly man."
"Was he the same elderly man whom you saw with the child before the
"I cannot say; my attention was not particularly called to him before
the accident; but I supposed he was the one, from the fact of his
having the child with him."
"Could you, at this time, recognize the man whom you saw with the
child after the accident?"
"I think so. I took especial notice of him then."
"Look at this old gentleman, sitting by me," said Sharpman, waving his
hand toward Craft, "and tell me whether he is the one."
The man turned his eyes on Old Simon, and looked at him closely for a
"Yes," he replied, "I believe he is the one. He has grown older and
thinner, but I do not think I am mistaken."
Craft nodded his head mildly in assent, and Sharpman continued:--
"Did you take particular notice of the child's clothing as you saw it
after the accident; could you recognize, at this time, the principal
articles of outside wear that he had on?"
"I think I could."
Sharpman paused as if in thought.
After he had whispered for a moment with Craft, he said to the
"That is all, for the present, Mr. Merrick." Then he turned to the
opposing counsel and said:--
"Mr. Goodlaw, you may take the witness."
Goodlaw fixed his glasses more firmly on his nose, consulted briefly
with his client, and then began his cross-examination.
After drawing out much of the personal history of the witness, he went
with him into the details of the Cherry Brook disaster.
Finally he asked:--
"Did you know Robert Burnham in his lifetime?"
"A gentleman by that name called on me a week after the accident to
make inquiries about his son."
"Did you say to him, at that time, that the child must have perished
in the wreck?"
"I think I did; yes, sir."
"On what did you base your opinion?"
"On several circumstances. The nurse with whom he was sitting was
killed outright; it would seem to have been impossible for any one
occupying that seat to have escaped instant death, since the other
car struck and rested at just that point. Again, there were but two
children on the train. It took it for granted that the old man and
child whom I saw together after the accident were the same ones whom I
had seen together before it occurred."
"Did you tell Mr. Burnham of seeing this old man and child after the
"I did; yes, sir."
"Did you not say to him positively, at that time, that they were the
same persons who were sitting together across the aisle from him
before the crash came?"
"It may be that I did."
"And did you not assure him that the child who went to the city, on
the train that night after the accident was not his son?"
"I may have done so. I felt quite positive of it at that time."
"Has your opinion in that matter changed since then?"
"Not as to the facts; no, sir; but I feel that I may have taken too
much for granted at that time, and have given Mr. Burnham a wrong
"At which time, sir, would you be better able to form an opinion,--one
week after this accident occurred, or ten years afterward?"
"My opinion is formed on the facts; and I assure you that they were
not weighted with such light consequences for me that I have easily
forgotten them. If there were any tendency to do so, I have here a
constant reminder," holding up his empty sleeve as he spoke. "My
judgment is better, to-day, than it was ten years ago. I have learned
more; and, looking carefully over the facts in this case in the light
I now have, I believe it possible that this son of Robert Burnham's
may have been saved."
"That will do," said Goodlaw. The witness left the stand, and the
judge, looking up at the clock on the wall, and then consulting his
"Gentlemen, it is nearly time to adjourn court. Mr. Sharpman, can you
close your case before adjourning time?"
"That will be impossible, your Honor."
"Then, crier, you may adjourn the court until to-morrow morning at
The crier made due proclamation, the spectators began to crowd out of
the room, the judge left the bench, and the lawyers gathered up their
papers. Ralph, on his way out, again passed by Mrs. Burnham, and she
had for him a smile and a kind word. Bachelor Billy stood waiting at
the door, and the boy went down with him to their humble lodgings in
the suburbs, his mind filled with conflicting thoughts, and his heart
with conflicting emotions.
THE EVIDENCE IN THE CASE.
When court opened on Saturday morning, all the persons interested in
the Burnham suit were present, and the court-room was crowded to even
a greater extent than it had been on the previous day. Sharpman began
the proceedings by offering in evidence the files of the Register's
court, showing the date of Robert Burnham's death, the issuing
of letters of administration to his widow, and the inventory and
appraisement of his personal estate.
Then he called Simon Craft to the witness-stand. There was a stir of
excitement in the room; every one was curious to see this witness and
to hear his evidence.
The old man did not present an unfavorable appearance, as he sat,
leaning on his cane, dressed in his new black suit, waiting for the
examination to begin. He looked across the bar into the faces of the
people with the utmost calmness. He was perfectly at his ease. He knew
that what he was about to tell was absolutely true in all material
respects, and this fact inspired him with confidence in his ability to
tell it effectually. It relieved him, also, of the necessity for that
constant evasion and watchfulness which had characterized his efforts
as a witness in other cases.
The formal questions relating to his residence, age, occupation, etc.,
were answered with alacrity.
Then Sharpman, pointing to Ralph, asked the witness:--
"Do you know this boy?"
"I do," answered Craft, unhesitatingly.
"What is his name?"
"When did you first see him?"
"On the night of May 13, 1859."
"Under what circumstances?"
This question, as by previous arrangement between attorney and
witness, opened up the way for a narration of facts, and old Simon,
clearing his throat, leaned across the railing of the witness-box and
He related in detail, and with much dramatic effect, the scenes at the
accident, his rescue of the boy, his effort at the time to find some
one to whom he belonged, and the ride into the city afterward. He
corroborated conductor Merrick's story of the meeting on the train
which carried the rescued passengers, and related the conversation
which passed between them, as nearly as he could remember it.
He told of his attempts to find the child's friends during the few
days that followed, then of the long and desperate illness from which
he suffered as a result of his exertion and exposure on the night
of the accident. From that point, he went on with an account of his
continued care for the child, of his incessant search for clews to
the lad's identity, of his final success, of Ralph's unaccountable
disappearance, and of his own regret and disappointment thereat.
He said that the lad had grown into his affections to so great an
extent, and his sympathy for the child's parents was such, that he
could not let him go in that way, and so he started out to find him.
He told how he traced him from one point to another, until he was
taken up by the circus wagon, how the scent was then lost, and how the
boy's whereabouts remained a mystery to him, until the happy discovery
at the tent in Scranton.
"Well," said Sharpman, "when you had found the boy, what did you do?"
"I went, the very next day," was the reply, "to Robert Burnham to tell
him that his son was living."
"What conversation did you have with him?"
"I object," interposed Goodlaw, "to evidence of any alleged
conversation between this witness and Robert Burnham. Counsel should
know better than to ask for it."
"The question is not a proper one," said the judge.
"Well," continued Sharpman, "as a result of that meeting what were you
"I was to bring his son to him the following day."
"Did you bring him?"
"I did not."
"Mr. Burnham died that night."
"What did you do then?"
"I went to you for advice."
"In pursuance of that advice, did you have an interview with the boy
"At your office."
"Did you explain to him the facts concerning his parentage and
"They were explained to him."
"What did he say he wished you to do for him?"
Goodlaw interrupted again, to object to the testimony offered as
incompetent and thereupon ensued an argument between counsel, which
was cut short by the judge ordering the testimony to be excluded, and
directing a bill of exceptions to be sealed for the plaintiff.
The hour for the noon recess had now come, and court was adjourned to
meet again at two o'clock.
When the afternoon session was called, Sharpman announced that he was
through with the direct examination of Craft.
Then Goodlaw took the witness in hand. He asked many questions about
Craft's personal history, about the wreck, and about the rescue of the
child. He demanded a full account of the way in which Robert Burnham
had been discovered, by the witness and found to be Ralph's father. He
called for the explicit reason for every opinion given, but Old Simon
was on safe ground, and his testimony remained unshaken.
Finally, Goodlaw asked:--
"What is your occupation, Mr. Craft?" and Craft answered: "I have no
occupation at present, except to see that this boy gets his rights."
"What was your occupation during the time that this boy lived with
"I was a travelling salesman."
"What did you sell?"
"For whom did you sell the jewelry?"
"For myself, and others who employed me."
"Where did you obtain the goods you sold?"
"Some of it I bought, some of it I sold on commission."
"Of whom did you buy it?"
"Sometimes I bought it at auction, or at sheriff's sales; sometimes of
private parties; sometimes of manufacturers and wholesalers."
Goodlaw rose to his feet. "Now, as a matter of fact, sir," he said,
sternly, "did not you retail goods through the country that had been
furnished to you by your confederates in crime? and was not your house
in the city a place for the reception of stolen wares?"
Craft's cane came to the floor with a sharp rap. "No, sir!" he
replied, with much indignation; "I have never harbored thieves, nor
sold stolen goods to my knowledge. You insult me, sir!"
Goodlaw resumed his seat, looked at some notes in pencil on a slip of
paper, and then resumed the examination.
"Did you send this boy out on the streets to beg?" he asked.
"Well, you see, we had pretty hard work sometimes to get along and get
enough to eat, and--"
"I say, did you send this boy out on the streets to beg?"
"Well, I'm telling you that sometimes we had either to beg or to
starve. Then the boy went out and asked aid from wealthy people."
"Did you send him?"
"Yes, I did; but not against his will."
"Did you sometimes whip him for not bringing back money to you from
his begging excursions?"
"I punished him once or twice for telling falsehoods to me."
"Did you beat him for not bringing money to you when you sent him out
"He came home once or twice when I had reason to believe that he had
made no effort to procure assistance for us, and--"
Goodlaw rose to his feet again.
"Answer my question!" he exclaimed. "Did you beat this boy for not
bringing back money to you when you had sent him out to beg?"
"Yes, I did," replied Craft, now thoroughly aroused, "and I'd do it
again, too, under the same circumstances."
Then he was seized with a fit of coughing that racked his feeble body
from head to foot. A tipstaff brought him a glass of water, and he
Goodlaw continued, sarcastically,--
"When you found it necessary to correct this boy by the gentle
persuasion of force, what kind of a weapon did you use?"
The witness answered, mildly enough, "I had a little strip of leather
that I used when it was unavoidably necessary."
"A rawhide, was it?"
"I said a little strip of leather. You can call it what you choose."
"Was it the kind of a strip of leather commonly known as a rawhide?"
"What other mode of punishment did you practise on this child besides
"I can't recall any."
"Did you pull his ears?"
"Pinch his flesh?"
"Pull his hair?"
"Oh, I shouldn't wonder."
"Knock him down with your fist?"
"No, sir! never, never!"
"Did you never strike him with the palm of your hand?"
"Well, I have slapped him when my patience with him has been
"Did any of these slaps ever happen to push him over?"
"Why, he used to tumble onto the floor sometimes, to cry and pretend
he was hurt."
"Well, what other means of grandfatherly persuasion did you use in
correcting the child?"
"I don't know of any."
"Did you ever lock him up in a dark closet?"
"I think I did, once or twice; yes."
"For how long at a time?"
"Oh, not more than an hour or two."
"Now, didn't you lock him up that way once, and keep him locked up all
day and all night?"
"I think not so long as that. He was unusually stubborn. I told him he
could come out as soon as he would promise obedience. He remained in
there of his own accord."
"Appeared to like it, did he?"
"I can't say as to that."
"For how long a time did you say he stayed there?"
"Oh, I think from one afternoon till the next."
"Did he have anything to eat during that time?"
"I promised him abundance if he would do as I told him."
"Did he have anything to eat?" emphatically.
"No!" just as emphatically.
"What was it he refused to do?"
"Simply to go on a little errand for me."
"To the house of a friend."
"For what purpose?"
"To get some jewelry."
"Was the jewelry yours?"
"I expected to purchase it."
"Had it been stolen?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"Did the boy think it had been stolen?"
"He pretended to."
"Was that the reason he would not go?"
"It was the reason he gave."
"Have the city police found stolen goods on your premises?"
"They have confiscated goods that were innocently purchased by me;
they have robbed me."
"Did you compel this boy to lie to the officers when they came?"
"I made him hold his tongue."
"Did you make him lie?"
"I ordered him not to tell where certain goods were stored in the
house, on pain of being thrashed within an inch of his life. The goods
were mine, bought with my money, and it was none of their business
where they were."
"Did you not command the boy to say that there were no such goods in
"I don't know--perhaps; I was exasperated at the outrage they were
perpetrating in the name of law."
"Then you did make him lie?"
"Yes, if you call it lying to protect your own property from robbers,
I did make him lie!"
"More than once?"
"I don't know."
"Did you make him steal?"
"I made him take what belonged to us."
"Did you make him _steal_, I say!"
"Call it what you like!" shouted the angered and excited old man.
He had become so annoyed and harassed by this persistent, searching
cross-examination that he was growing reckless and telling the truth
in spite of himself. Besides, it seemed to him that Goodlaw must know
all about Ralph's life with him, and he dared not go far astray in his
But the lawyer knew only what Craft himself was disclosing. He based
each question on the answers that had preceded it, long practice
having enabled him to estimate closely what was lying in the mind of
"And so," continued Goodlaw, "when you returned from one of your trips
into the country you found that the boy had disappeared?"
"Were you surprised at that?"
"Yes, I was."
"Had you any idea why he went away?"
"None whatever. He was well fed and clothed and cared for."
"Did it ever occur to you that the Almighty made some boys with hearts
so honest that they had rather starve and die by the roadside than be
made to lie and steal at home?"
The old man did not answer, he was too greatly surprised and angered
"Well," said Sharpman, calmly, "I don't know, if your Honor please,
that the witness is bound to be sufficiently versed in the subject of
Christian ethics to answer questions of that kind."
"He need not answer it," said the judge.
Then Sharpman continued, more vehemently: "The cross-examination,
as conducted by the eminent counsel, has, thus far, been simply an
outrage on professional courtesy. I ask now that the gentleman be
confined to questions which are germane to the issue and decently
"I have but a few more questions to ask," said Goodlaw.
Turning to the witness again, he continued: "If you succeed in
establishing this boy's identity, you will have a bill to present for
care and moneys expended and services performed on his account, will
"I expect so; yes, sir."
"As the service continued through a period of years, the bill will
amount now to quite a large sum, I presume?"
"Yes, I nave done a good deal for the boy."
"You expect to retain the usual commission for your services as
guardian, do you not?"
"And to control the moneys and properties that may come into your
"About how much money, all together, do you expect to make out of this
"I do not look on it in that light, sir; I am taking these proceedings
simply to compel you and your client to give that boy his rights."
This impudent assertion angered Goodlaw, who well knew the object of
the plot, and he rose from his chair, saying deliberately:--
"Do you mean to swear that this is not a deep-laid scheme on the part
of you and your attorney to wrest from this estate enough to make a
fortune for you both? Do you mean to say mat you care as much for this
boy's rights as you do for the dust in your path?"
Craft's face paled, and Sharpman started to his feet, red with
"This is the last straw!" he exclaimed, hoarsely; "now I intend"--
But the judge, fearing an uncontrollable outbreak of temper,
interrupted him, saying:--
"Your witness need not answer the question in that form, Mr. Sharpman.
Mr. Goodlaw, do you desire to cross-examine the witness further?"
Goodlaw had resumed his seat and was turning over his papers.
"I do not care to take up the time of the court any longer," he said,
"with this witness."
"Then, Mr. Sharpman, you may proceed with further evidence."
But Sharpman was still smarting from the blow inflicted by his
opponent. "I desire, first," he said, "that the court shall take
measures to protect me and my client from the unfounded and insulting
charges of counsel for the defence."
"We will see," said the judge, "that no harm comes to you or to your
cause from irrelevant matter interjected by counsel. But let us get on
with the case. We are taking too much time."
Sharpman turned again to his papers and called the name of "Anthony
An old man arose in the audience, and made his way feebly to the
witness-stand, which had just been vacated by Craft.
After he had been sworn, he said, in reply to questions by Sharpman,
that he was a resident of St. Louis; that in May, 1859, he was on his
way east with his little grandson, and went down with the train that
broke through the bridge at Cherry Brook.
He said that before the crash came he had noticed a lady and gentleman
sitting across the aisle from him, and a nurse and child a few seats
further ahead; that his attention had been called to the child
particularly, because he was a boy and about the age of his own little
He said he was on the train that carried the rescued passengers to
Philadelphia after the accident, and that, passing through the car,
he had seen the same child who had been with the nurse now sitting
with an old man; he was sure the child was the same, as he stopped
and looked at him closely. The features of the old man he could not
remember. For two days he searched for his grandson, but being met, on
every hand, by indisputable proof that the child had perished in the
wreck, he then started on his return journey to St. Louis, and had not
since been east until the week before the trial.
"How did the plaintiff in this case find you out?" asked Goodlaw, on
"I found him out," replied the witness. "I learned, from the
newspapers, that the trial was to take place; and, seeing that it
related to the Cherry Brook disaster, I came here to learn what little
else I might in connection with my grandchild's death. I went, first,
to see the counsel for the plaintiff and his client."
"Have you learned anything new about your grandson?"
"No, sir; nothing."
"Have you heard from him since the accident?"
"I have not."
"Are you sure he is dead?"
"I have no doubt of it."
"Can you recognize this boy," pointing to Ralph, "as the one whom you
saw with the nurse and afterward with the old man on the night of the
"Oh, no! he was a mere baby at that time."
"Are you positive that the boy in court is not your grandson?"
"Perfectly positive, there is not the slightest resemblance."
"That will do."
The cross-examination had done little more than to strengthen the
direct testimony. Mrs. Burnham had thrown aside her veil and gazed
intently at the witness from the moment he went on the stand. She
recognized him as the man who sat across the aisle from her, with his
grandchild, on the night of the disaster, and she knew that he was
telling the truth. There seemed to be no escape from the conclusion
that it was her child who went down to the city that night with Simon
Craft. Was it her child who escaped from him, and wandered, sick and
destitute, almost to her own door? Her thought was interrupted by
the voice of Sharpman, who had faced the crowded court-room and was
calling the name of another witness: "Richard Lyon!"
A young man in short jacket and plaid trousers took the witness-stand.
"What is your occupation?" asked Sharpman, after the man had given his
name and residence.
"I'm a driver for Farnum an' Furkison."
"Who are Farnum and Furkison?"
"They run the Great European Circus an' Menagerie."
"Have you ever seen this boy before?" pointing to Ralph.
"Three years ago this summer."
"Down in Pennsylvania. It was after we left Bloomsburg, I think, I
picked 'im up along the road an' give 'im a ride on the tiger wagon."
"How long did he stay with you?"
"Oh, I don't remember; four or five days, maybe."
"What did he do?"
"Well, not much; chored around a little."
"Did he tell you where he came from?"
"No, nor he wouldn't tell his name. Seemed to be afraid somebody'd
ketch 'im; I couldn't make out who. He talked about some one he called
Gran'pa Craft two or three times w'en he was off his guard, an' I
reckoned from what he said that he come from Philadelphy."
"Where did he leave you?"
"Didn't leave us at all. We left him; played the desertion act on
"Well, he wasn't much use to us, an' he got sick an' couldn't do
anything, an' the boss wouldn't let us take 'im no further, so we left
"Are you sure this is the boy?"
"Oh, yes! positive. He's bigger, an' looks better now, but he's the
same boy, I know he is."
This last remark was addressed to the defendant's attorney.
"I have no questions to ask," said Goodlaw, "I have no doubt the