Part 1 out of 6
GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL
"But, lo, Michael, one of the
chief princes, came to help me."
"Hi, there! Mikky! Look out!"
It was an alert voice that called from a huddled group of urchins in
the forefront of the crowd, but the child flashed past without heeding,
straight up the stone steps where stood a beautiful baby smiling on the
crowd. With his bundle of papers held high, and the late morning sunlight
catching his tangle of golden hair, Mikky flung himself toward the little
one. The sharp crack of a revolver from the opposite curbstone was
simultaneous with their fall. Then all was confusion.
It was a great stone house on Madison Avenue where the crowd had gathered.
An automobile stood before the door, having but just come quietly up, and
the baby girl three years old, in white velvet, and ermines, with her dark
curls framed by an ermine-trimmed hood, and a bunch of silk rosebuds poised
coquettishly over the brow vying with the soft roses of her cheeks came out
the door with her nurse for her afternoon ride. Just an instant the nurse
stepped back to the hall for the wrap she had dropped, leaving the baby
alone, her dark eyes shining like stars under the straight dark brows, as
she looked gleefully out in the world. It was just at that instant, as if
by magic, that the crowd assembled.
Perhaps it would be better to say that it was just at that minute that the
crowd focused itself upon the particular house where the baby daughter
of the president of a great defaulting bank lived. More or less all the
morning, men had been gathering, passing the house, looking up with
troubled or threatening faces toward the richly laced windows, shaking
menacing heads, muttering imprecations, but there had been no disturbance,
and no concerted crowd until the instant the baby appeared.
The police had been more or less vigilant all the morning but had seen
nothing to disturb them. The inevitable small boy had also been in
evidence, with his natural instinct for excitement. Mikky with his papers
often found himself in that quarter of a bright morning, and the starry
eyes and dark curls of the little child were a vision for which he often
searched the great windows as he passed this particular house: but the man
with the evil face on the other side of the street, resting a shaking hand
against the lamp post, and sighting the baby with a vindictive eye, had
never been seen there before. It was Mikky who noticed him first: Mikky,
who circling around him innocently had heard his imprecations against the
rich, who caught the low-breathed oath as the baby appeared, and saw the
ugly look on the man's face. With instant alarm he had gone to the other
side of the street, his eye upon the offender, and had been the first to
see the covert motion, the flash of the hidden weapon and to fear the
But a second behind him his street companions saw his danger and cried out,
too late. Mikky had flung himself in front of the beautiful baby, covering
her with his great bundle of papers, and his own ragged, neglected little
body; and receiving the bullet intended for her, went down with her as she
Instantly all was confusion.
A child's cry--a woman's scream--the whistle of the police--the angry roar
of the crowd who were like a pack of wild animals that had tasted blood.
Stones flew, flung by men whose wrongs had smothered in their breasts and
bred a fury of hate and murder. Women were trampled upon. Two of the great
plate glass windows crashed as the flying missiles entered the magnificent
home, regardless of costly lace and velvet hangings.
The chauffeur attempted to run his car around the corner but was held up at
once, and discreetly took himself out of the way, leaving the car in the
hands of the mob who swarmed into it and over it, ruthlessly disfiguring it
in their wrath. There was the loud report of exploding tires, the ripping
of costly leather cushions, the groaning of fine machinery put to torture
as the fury of the mob took vengeance on the car to show what they would
like to do to its owner.
Gone into bankruptcy! He! With a great electric car like that, and servants
to serve him! With his baby attired in the trappings of a queen and
his house swathed in lace that had taken the eyesight from many a poor
lace-maker! He! Gone into bankruptcy, and slipping away scot free, while
the men he had robbed stood helpless on his sidewalk, hungry and shabby and
hopeless because the pittances they had put away in his bank, the result of
slavery and sacrifice, were gone,--hopelessly gone! and they were too old,
or too tired, or too filled with hate, to earn it again.
The crowd surged and seethed madly, now snarling like beasts, now rumbling
portentously like a storm, now babbling like an infant; a great emotional
frenzy, throbbing with passion, goaded beyond fear, desperate with need;
leaderless, and therefore the more dangerous.
The very sight of that luxurious baby with her dancing eyes and happy
smiles "rolling in luxury," called to mind their own little puny darling,
grimy with neglect, lean with want, and hollow-eyed with knowledge
aforetime. Why should one baby be pampered and another starved? Why did the
bank-president's daughter have any better right to those wonderful furs and
that exultant smile than their own babies? A glimpse into the depths of the
rooms beyond the sheltering plate glass and drapery showed greater contrast
even than they had dreamed between this home and the bare tenements they
had left that morning, where the children were crying for bread and the
wife shivering with cold. Because they loved their own their anger burned
the fiercer; and for love of their pitiful scrawny babies that flower-like
child in the doorway was hated with all the vehemence of their untamed
natures. Their every breath cried out for vengeance, and with the brute
instinct they sought to hurt the man through his child, because they had
been hurt by the wrong done to their children.
The policeman's whistle had done its work, however. The startled inmates of
the house had drawn the beautiful baby and her small preserver within the
heavy carven doors, and borne them back to safety before the unorganized
mob had time to force their way in. Amid the outcry and the disorder no one
had noticed that Mikky had disappeared until his small band of companions
set up an outcry, but even then no one heard.
The mounted police had arrived, and orders were being given. The man who
had fired the shot was arrested, handcuffed and marched away. The people
were ordered right and left, and the officer's horses rode ruthlessly
through the masses. Law and order had arrived and there was nothing for the
downtrodden but to flee.
In a very short time the square was cleared and guarded by a large force.
Only the newspaper men came and went without challenge. The threatening
groups of men who still hovered about withdrew further and further. The
wrecked automobile was patched up and taken away to the garage. The street
became quiet, and by and by some workmen came hurriedly, importantly, and
put in temporary protections where the window glass had been broken.
Yet through it all a little knot of ragged newsboys stood their ground in
front of the house. Until quiet was restored they had evaded each renewed
command of officer or passer-by, and stayed there; whispering now and again
in excited groups and pointing up to the house. Finally a tall policeman
"Clear out of this, kids!" he said not unkindly. "Here's no place for you.
Clear out. Do you hear me? You can't stay here no longer:"
Then one of them wheeled upon him. He was the tallest of them all, with
fierce little freckled face and flashing black eyes in which all the evil
passions of four generations back looked out upon a world that had always
been harsh. He was commonly known as fighting Buck.
"Mikky's in dare. He's hurted. We kids can't leave Mick alone. He might be
Just at that moment a physician's runabout drew up to the door, and the
policeman fell back to let him pass into the house. Hard upon him followed
the bank president in a closed carriage attended by several men in uniform
who escorted him to the door and touched their hats politely as he vanished
within. Around the corners scowling faces haunted the shadows, and murmured
imprecations were scarcely withheld in spite of the mounted officers. A
shot was fired down the street, and several policemen hurried away. But
through it all the boys stood their ground.
"Mikky's in dare. He's hurted. I seen him fall. Maybe he's deaded. We kids
want to take him away. Mikky didn't do nothin', Mikky jes' tried to save
der little kid. Mikky's a good'un. You get the folks to put Mikky out here.
We kids'll take him away"
The policeman finally attended to the fierce pleading of the ragamuffins.
Two or three newspaper men joined the knot around them and the story was
presently written up with all the racy touches that the writers of the hour
know how to use. Before night Buck, with his fierce black brows drawn in
helpless defiance was adorning the evening papers in various attitudes as
the different snapshots portrayed him, and the little group of newsboys and
boot-blacks and good-for-nothings that stood around him figured for once in
the eyes of the whole city.
The small band held their place until forcibly removed. Some of them were
barefoot, and stood shivering on the cold stones, their little sickly,
grimy faces blue with anxiety and chill.
The doctor came out of the house just as the last one, Buck, was being
marched off with loud-voiced protest. He eyed the boy, and quickly
understood the situation.
"Look here!" he called to the officer. "Let me speak to the youngster. He's
a friend, I suppose, of the boy that was shot?"
The officer nodded.
"Well, boy, what's all this fuss about?" He looked kindly, keenly into the
defiant black eyes of Buck.
"Mikky's hurted--mebbe deaded. I wants to take him away from dare," he
burst forth sullenly. "We kids can't go off'n' leave Mikky in dare wid de
rich guys. Mikky didn't do no harm. He's jes tryin' to save de kid."
"Mikky. Is that the boy that took the shot in place of the little girl?"
The boy nodded and looked anxiously into the kindly face of the doctor.
"Yep. Hev you ben in dare? Did youse see Mikky? He's got yaller hair. Is
"No, he isn't dead," said the physician kindly, "but he's pretty badly
hurt. The ball went through his shoulder and arm, and came mighty near some
vital places. I've just been fixing him up comfortably, and he'll be all
right after a bit, but he's got to lie very still right where he is and be
taken care of."
"We kids'll take care o' Mikky!" said Buck proudly. "He tooked care of
Jinney when she was sick, an' we'll take care o' Mikky, all right, all
right. You jes' brang him out an' we'll fetch a wheelbarry an' cart him
off'n yer han's. Mikky wouldn't want to be in dare wid de rich guys."
"My dear fellow," said the doctor, quite touched by the earnestness in
Buck's eyes, "that's very good of you, I'm sure, and Mikky ought to
appreciate his friends, but he's being taken care of perfectly right where
he is and he couldn't be moved. It might kill him to move him, and if he
stays where he is he will get well. I'll tell you what I'll do," he added
as he saw the lowering distress in the dumb eyes before him, "I'll give you
a bulletin every day. You be here to-night at five o'clock when I come out
of the house and I'll tell you just how he is. Then you needn't worry about
him. He's in a beautiful room lying on a great big white bed and he has
everything nice around him, and when I came away he was sleeping. I can
take him a message for you when I go in to-night, if you like."
Half doubtfully the boy looked at him.
"Will you tell Mikky to drop us down word ef he wants annythin'? Will you
ast him ef he don't want us to git him out?"
"Sure!" said the doctor in kindly amusement. "You trust me and I'll make
good. Be here at five o'clock sharp and again to-morrow at quarter to
"He's only a slum kid!" grumbled the officer. "'Tain't worth while to take
so much trouble. 'Sides, the folks won't want um botherin' 'round."
"Oh, he's all right!" said the doctor. "He's a friend worth having. You
might need one yourself some day, you know. What's your name, boy? Who
shall I tell Mikky sent the message?"
"Buck," said the child gravely, "Fightin' Buck, they calls me."
"Very appropriate name, I should think," said the doctor smiling. "Well,
run along Buck and be here at five o'clock."
Reluctantly the boy moved off. The officer again took up his stand in front
of the house and quiet was restored to the street.
Meantime, in the great house consternation reigned for a time.
The nurse maid had reached the door in time to hear the shot and see the
children fall. She barely escaped the bullet herself. She was an old
servant of the family and therefore more frightened for her charge than
for herself. She had the presence of mind to drag both children inside the
house and shut and lock the door immediately, before the seething mob could
The mistress of the house fell in a dead faint as they carried her little
laughing daughter up the stairs and a man and a maid followed with the
boy who was unconscious. The servants rushed hither and thither; the
housekeeper had the coolness to telephone the bank president what had
happened, and to send for the family physician. No one knew yet just who
was hurt or how much. Mikky had been brought inside because he blocked the
doorway, and there was need for instantly shutting the door. If it had been
easier to shove him out the nurse maid would probably have done that. But
once inside common humanity bade them look after the unconscious boy's
needs, and besides, no one knew as yet just exactly what part Mikky had
played in the small tragedy of the morning.
"Where shall we take him?" said the man to the maid as they reached the
second floor with their unconscious burden.
"Not here, Thomas. Here's no place for him. He's as dirty as a pig. I can't
think what come over Morton to pull him inside, anyway. His own could have
tended to him. Besides, such is better dead!"
They hurried on past the luxurious rooms belonging to the lady of the
mansion; up the next flight of stairs, and Norah paused by the bath-room
door where the full light of the hall windows fell upon the grimy little
figure of the child they carried.
Norah the maid uttered an exclamation.
"He's not fit fer any place in this house. Look at his cloes. They'll have
to be cut off'n him, and he needs to go in the bath-tub before he can be
laid anywheres. Let's put him in the bath-room, and do you go an' call
Morton. She got him in here and she'll have to bathe him. And bring me a
pair of scissors. I'll mebbe have to cut the cloes off'n him, they're so
filthy. Ach! The little beast!"
Thomas, glad to be rid of his burden, dropped the boy on the bath-room
floor and made off to call Morton.
Norah, with little knowledge and less care, took no thought for the life
of her patient. She was intent on making him fit to put between her clean
sheets. She found the tattered garments none too tenacious in their hold
to the little, half-naked body. One or two buttons and a string were their
only attachments. Norah pulled them off with gingerly fingers, and holding
them at arm's length took them to the bath-room window whence she pitched
them down into the paved court below, that led to the kitchen regions.
Thomas could burn them, or put them on the ash pile by and by. She was
certain they would never go on again, and wondered how they had been made
to hold together this last time.
Morton had not come yet, but Norah discovering a pool of blood under the
little bare shoulder, lifted him quickly into the great white bath-tub and
turned on the warm water. There was no use wasting time, and getting blood
on white tiles that she would have to scrub. She was not unkind but she
hated dirt, and partly supporting the child with one arm she applied
herself to scrubbing him as vigorously as possible with the other hand.
The shock of the water, not being very warm at first, brought returning
consciousness to the boy for a moment, in one long shuddering sigh. The
eyelashes trembled for an instant on the white cheeks, and his eyes opened;
gazed dazedly, then wildly, on the strange surroundings, the water, and the
vigorous Irish woman who had him in her power. He threw his arms up with
a struggling motion, gasped as if with sudden pain and lost consciousness
again, relaxing once more into the strong red arm that held him. It was
just at this critical moment that Morton entered the bath-room.
Morton was a trim, apple-cheeked Scotch woman of about thirty years, with
neat yellow-brown hair coiled on the top of her head, a cheerful tilt to
her freckled nose, and eyes so blue that in company with her rosy cheeks
one thought at once of a flag. Heather and integrity exhaled from her very
being, flamed from her cheeks, spoke from her loyal, stubborn chin, and
looked from her trustworthy eyes. She had been with the bank president's
baby ever since the little star-eyed creature came into the world.
"Och! look ye at the poor wee'un!" she exclaimed. "Ye're hurtin' him,
Norah! Ye shouldn't have bathed him the noo! Ye should've waited the
docther's comin'. Ye'll mebbe kin kill him."
"Ach! Get out with yer soft talk!" said Norah, scrubbing the more
vigorously. "Did yez suppose I'll be afther havin' all this filth in the
nice clean sheets? Get ye to work an' he'p me. Do ye hold 'im while I
She shifted the boy into the gentler arm's of the nurse, and went to
splashing all the harder. Then suddenly, before the nurse could protest,
she had dashed a lot of foamy suds on the golden head and was scrubbing
that with all her might.
"Och, Norah!" cried the nurse in alarm. "You shouldn't a done that! Ye'll
surely kill the bairn. Look at his poor wee shoulder a bleedin', and his
little face so white an' still. Have ye no mercy at all, Norah? Rinse off
that suds at once, an' dry him softly. What'll the docther be sayin' to ye
fer all this I can't think. There, my poor bairnie," she crooned to the
child, softly drawing him closer as though he were conscious,--
"There, there my bairnie, it'll soon be over. It'll be all right in just a
minute, poor wee b'y! Poor wee b'y! There! There--"
But Norah did her perfect work, and made the little lean body glistening
white as polished marble, while the heavy hair hung limp like pale golden
The two women carried him to a bed in a large room at the back of the
house, not far from the nursery, and laid him on a blanket, with his
shoulder stanched with soft linen rags. Morton was softly drying his hair
and crooning to the child--although he was still unconscious--begging
Norah to put the blanket over him lest he catch cold; and Norah was still
vigorously drying his feet unmindful of Morton's pleading, when the doctor
entered with a trained nurse. The boy lay white and still upon the blanket
as the two women, startled, drew back from their task. The body, clean now,
and beautifully shaped, might have been marble except for the delicate blue
veins in wrists and temples. In spite of signs of privation and lack of
nutrition there was about the boy a showing of strength in well developed
muscles, and it went to the heart to see him lying helpless so, with his
drenched gold hair and his closed eyes. The white limbs did not quiver, the
lifeless fingers drooped limply, the white chest did not stir with any sign
of breath, and yet the tender lips that curved in a cupid's bow, were not
altogether gone white.
"What a beautiful child!" exclaimed the nurse involuntarily as she came
near the bed. "He looks like a young god!"
"He's far more likely to be a young devil," said the doctor grimly, leaning
over him with practised eyes, and laying a listening ear to the quiet
breast. Then, he started back.
"He's cold as ice! What have you been doing to him? It wasn't a case of
drowning, was it? You haven't been giving him a bath at such a time as
this, have you? Did you want to kill the kid outright?"
"Oauch, the poor wee b'y!" sobbed Morton under her breath, her blue eyes
drenched with tears that made them like blue lakes. "He's like to my own
wee b'y that I lost when he was a baby," she explained in apology to the
trained nurse who was not, however, regarding her in the least.
Norah had vanished frightened to consult with Thomas. It was Morton who
brought the things the doctor called for, and showed the nurse where to put
her belongings; and after everything was done and the boy made comfortable
and brought back to consciousness, it was she who stood at the foot of the
bed and smiled upon him first in this new world to which he opened his
His eyes were blue, heavenly blue and dark, but they were great with a
brave fear as he glanced about on the strange faces. He looked like a wild
bird, caught in a kindly hand,--a bird whose instincts held him still
because he saw no way of flight, but whose heart was beating frightfully
against his captor's fingers. He looked from side to side of the room, and
made a motion to rise from the pillow. It was a wild, furtive motion, as of
one who has often been obliged to fly for safety, yet still has unlimited
courage. There was also in his glance the gentle harmlessness and appeal of
the winged thing that has been caught.
"Well, youngster, you had a pretty close shave," said the doctor jovially,
"but you'll pull through all right! You feel comfortable now?"
The nurse was professionally quiet.
"Poor wee b'y!" murmured Morton, her eyes drenched again.
The boy looked from one to another doubtfully. Suddenly remembrance dawned
upon him and comprehension entered his glance. He looked about the room and
toward the door. There was question in his eyes that turned on the doctor
but his lips formed no words. He looked at Morton, and knew her for the
nurse of his baby. Suddenly he smiled, and that smile seemed to light up
the whole room, and filled the heart of Morton with joy unspeakable. It
seemed to her it was the smile of her own lost baby come back to shine upon
her. The tears welled, up and the blue lakes ran over. The boy's face was
most lovely when he smiled.
"Where is--de little kid?" It was Morton whose face he searched anxiously
as he framed the eager question, and the woman's intuition taught her how
"She's safe in her own wee crib takin' her morning nap. She's just new
over," answered the woman reassuringly.
Still the eyes were not satisfied.
"Did she"--he began slowly--"get--hurted?"
"No, my bairnie, she's all safe and sound as ever. It was your own self
that saved her life."
The boy's face lit up and he turned from one to another contentedly. His
smile said: "Then I'm glad." But not a word spoke his shy lips.
"You're a hero, kid!" said the doctor huskily. But the boy knew little
about heroes and did not comprehend.
The nurse by this time had donned her uniform and rattled up starchily to
take her place at the bedside, and Morton and the doctor went away, the
doctor to step once more into the lady's room below to see if she was
feeling quite herself again after her faint.
The nurse leaned over the boy with a glass and spoon. He looked at it
curiously, unknowingly. It was a situation entirely outside his experience.
"Why don't you take your medicine?" asked the nurse.
The boy looked at the spoon again as it approached his lips and opened them
In went the medicine and the boy nearly choked, but he understood and
"A hospital?" he finished.
The nurse laughed.
"No, it's only a house. They brought you in, you know, when you were hurt
out on the steps. You saved the little girl's life. Didn't you know it?"
she said kindly, her heart won by his smile.
A beautiful look rewarded her.
"Is de little kid--in this house?" he asked slowly, wonderingly. It was as
if he had asked if he were in heaven, there was so much awe in his tone.
"Oh, yes, she's here," answered the nurse lightly. "Perhaps they'll bring
her in to see you sometime. Her father's very grateful. He thinks it showed
wonderful courage in you to risk your life for her sake."
But Mikky comprehended nothing about gratitude. He only took in the fact
that the beautiful baby was in the house and might come there to see him.
He settled to sleep quite happily with an occasional glad wistful glance
toward the door, as the long lashes sank on the white cheeks, for the first
sleep the boy had ever taken in a clean, white, soft bed. The prim nurse,
softened for once from her precise attention to duties, stood and looked
upon the lovely face of the sleeping child, wondered what his life had
been, and how the future would be for him. She half pitied him that the
ball had not gone nearer to the vital spot and taken him to heaven ere he
missed the way, so angel-like his face appeared in the soft light of the
sick room, with the shining gold hair fluffed back upon the pillow now,
like a halo.
Little Starr Endicott, sleeping in her costly lace-draped crib on her downy
embroidered pillow, knew nothing of the sin and hate and murder that rolled
in a great wave on the streets outside, and had almost touched her own
little life and blotted it out. She knew not that three notable families
whose names were interwoven in her own, and whose blood flowed in her tiny
veins represented the great hated class of the Rich, and that those upon
whom they had climbed to this height looked upon them as an evil to be
destroyed; nor did she know that she, being the last of the race, and in
her name representing them all, was hated most of all.
Starr Delevan Endicott! It was graven upon her tiny pins and locket, upon
the circlet of gold that jewelled her finger, upon her brushes and combs;
it was broidered upon her dainty garments, and coverlets and cushions, and
crooned to her by the adoring Scotch nurse who came of a line that knew and
loved an aristocracy. The pride of the house of Starr, the wealth of the
house of Delevan, the glory of the house of Endicott, were they not all
hers, this one beautiful baby who lay in her arms to tend and to love. So
mused Morton as she hummed:
"O hush thee my babie, thy sire was a knight,
Thy mother a ladie, both gentle and bright--"
And what cared Morton that the mother in this case was neither gentle nor
bright, but only beautiful and selfish? It did but make the child the
dearer that she had her love to herself.
And so the little Starr lay sleeping in her crib, and the boy, her
preserver, from nobody knew where, and of nobody knew what name or fame,
lay sleeping also. And presently Delevan Endicott himself came to look at
He came from the swirl of the sinful turbulent world outside, and from his
fretting, petted wife's bedside. She had been fretting at him for allowing
a bank in which he happened to be president to do anything which should
cause such a disturbance outside her home, when he knew she was so nervous.
Not one word about the little step that had stood for an instant between
her baby and eternity. Her husband reminded her gently how near their baby
had come to death, and how she should rejoice that she was safe, but her
reply had been a rush of tears, and "Oh, yes, you always think of the baby,
never of me, your wife!"
With a sigh the man had turned from his fruitless effort to calm her
troubled mind and gone to his little daughter. He had hoped that his wife
would go with him, but he saw the hopelessness of that idea.
The little girl lay with one plump white arm thrown over her head, the
curling baby fingers just touching the rosy cheek, flushed with sleep.
She looked like a rosebud herself, so beautiful among the rose and lacey
draperies of her couch. Her dark curls, so fine and soft and wonderful,
with their hidden purple shadows, and the long dark curling lashes, to
match the finely pencilled brows, brought out each delicate feature of the
lovely little face. The father, as he looked down upon her, wondered how it
could have been in the heart of any creature, no matter how wicked, to put
out this vivid little life. His little Starr, his one treasure!
The man that had tried to do it, could he have intended it really, or was
it only a random shot? The testimony of those who saw judged it intention.
The father's quickened heart-beats told him it was, and he felt that the
thrust had gone deep. How they had meant to hurt him! How they must have
hated him to have wished to hurt him so! How they would have hurt his life
irretrievably if the shot had done its work. If that other little atom of
human life had not intervened!
Where was the boy who had saved his child? He must go and see him at once.
The gratitude of a lifetime should be his.
Morton divined his thought, as he stepped from the sacred crib softly after
bending low to sweep his lips over the rosy velvet of little Starr's cheek.
With silent tread she followed her master to the door:
"The poor wee b'y's in the far room yon," she said in a soft whisper, and
her tone implied that his duty lay next in that direction. The banker had
often noticed this gentle suggestion in the nurse's voice, it minded him
of something in his childhood and he invariably obeyed it. He might have
resented it if it had been less humble, less trustfully certain that
of course that was the thing that he meant to do next. He followed her
direction now without a word.
The boy had just fallen asleep when he entered, and lay as sweetly
beautiful as the little vivid beauty he had left in the other room. The man
of the world paused and instinctively exclaimed in wonder. He had been told
that it was a little gamin who had saved his daughter from the assassin's
bullet, but the features of this child were as delicately chiseled, his
form as finely modeled, his hair as soft and fine as any scion of a noble
house might boast. He, like the nurse, had the feeling that a young god lay
before him. It was so that Mikky always had impressed a stranger even when
his face was dirty and his feet were bare.
The man stood with bowed head and looked upon the boy to whom he felt he
owed a debt which he could never repay.
He recognized the child as a representative of that great unwashed throng
of humanity who were his natural enemies, because by their oppression and
by stepping upon their rights when it suited his convenience, he had risen
to where he now stood, and was able to maintain his position. He had no
special feeling for them, any of them, more than if they had been a pack of
wolves whose fangs he must keep clear of, and whose hides he must get as
soon as convenient; but this boy was different! This spirit-child with the
form of Apollo, the beauty of Adonis, and the courage of a hero! Could he
have come from the hotbeds of sin and corruption? It could not be! Sure
there must be some mistake. He must be of good birth. Enquiry must be made.
Had anyone asked the child's name and where he lived?
Then, as if in answer to his thought, the dark blue eyes suddenly opened.
He found them looking at him, and started as he realized it, as if a
picture on which he gazed had suddenly turned out to be alive. And yet,
for the instant, he could not summon words, but stood meeting that steady
searching gaze of the child, penetrating, questioning, as if the eyes would
see and understand the very foundation principles on which the man's life
rested. The man felt it, and had the sensation of hastily looking at his
own motives in the light of this child's look. Would his life bear that
burning appealing glance?
Then, unexpectedly the child's face lit up with his wonderful smile. He had
decided to trust the man.
Never before in all his proud and varied experience had Delevan Endicott
encountered a challenge like that. It beat through him like a mighty army
and took his heart by storm, it flashed into his eyes and dazzled him. It
was the challenge of childhood to the fatherhood of the man. With a strange
new impulse the man accepted it, and struggling to find words, could only
answer with a smile.
A good deal passed between them before any words were spoken at all, a good
deal that the boy never forgot, and that the man liked to turn back to in
his moments of self-reproach, for somehow that boy's eyes called forth the
best that was in him, and made him ashamed of other things.
"Boy, who is your father?" at last asked the man huskily. He almost dreaded
to find another father owning a noble boy like this--and such a father as
he would be if it were true that he was only a street gamin.
The boy still smiled, but a wistfulness came into his eyes. He slowly shook
"Dead, is he?" asked the man more as if thinking aloud. But the boy shook
his head again.
"No, no father," he answered simply.
"Oh," said the man, and a lump gathered in his throat. "Your mother?"
"No mother, never!" came the solemn answer. It seemed that he scarcely felt
that either of these were deep lacks in his assets. Very likely fathers and
mothers were not on the average desirable kindred in the neighborhood from
which he came. The man reflected and tried again.
"Who are your folks? They'll be worried about you. We ought to send them
word you're doing well?"
The boy looked amazed, then a laugh rippled out.
"No folks," he gurgled, "on'y jest de kids."
"Your brothers and sisters?" asked Endicott puzzled.
"None o' dem," said Mikky. "Buck an' me're pards. We fights fer de other
"Don't you know it's wrong to fight?"
Endicott tried to think of something to add to his little moral homily, but
somehow could not.
"It's very wrong to fight," he reiterated lamely.
The boy's cherub mouth settled into firm lines.
"It's wronger not to, when de little kids is gettin' hurt, an' de big
fellers what ought ter work is stole away they bread, an' they's hungry."
It was an entirely new proposition. It was the challenge of the poor
against the rich, of the weak against the strong, and from the lips of a
mere babe. The man wondered and answered not.
"I'd fight fer your little kid!" declared the young logician. He seemed to
know by instinct that this was the father of his baby.
Ah, now he had touched the responsive chord. The father's face lit up. He
understood. Yes, it was right to fight for his baby girl, his little Starr,
his one treasure, and this boy had done it, given his life freely. Was that
like fighting for those other unloved, uncared-for, hungry darlings? Were
they then dear children, too, of somebody, of God, if nobody else? The
boy's eyes were telling him plainly in one long deep look, that all the
world of little children at least was kin, and the grateful heart of the
father felt that in mere decency of gratitude he must acknowledge so much.
Poor little hungry babies. What if his darling were hungry! A sudden
longing seized his soul to give them bread at once to eat. But at least he
would shower his gratitude upon this one stray defender of their rights.
He struggled to find words to let the child know of this feeling but only
the tears gathering quickly in his eyes spoke for him.
"Yes, yes, my boy! You did fight for my little girl. I know, I'll never
forget it of you as long as I live. You saved her life, and that's worth
everything to me. Everything, do you understand?"
At last the words rushed forth, but his voice was husky, and those who knew
him would have declared him more moved than they had ever seen him.
The boy understood. A slender brown hand stole out from the white coverlet
and touched his. Its outline, long and supple and graceful, spoke of
patrician origin. It was hard for the man of wealth and pride to realize
that it was the hand of the child of the common people, the people who were
"Is there anything you would like to have done for you, boy?" he asked at
last because the depth of emotion was more than he could bear.
The boy looked troubled.
"I was thinkin', ef Buck an' them could see me, they'd know 'twas all
right. I'd like 'em fine to know how 'tis in here."
"You want me to bring them up to see you?"
"Where can I find them, do you think?"
"Buck, he won't go fur, till he knows what's comed o' me," said the boy
with shining confidence in his friend. "He'd know I'd do that fur him."
Then it seemed there was such a thing as honor and loyalty among the lower
ranks of men--at least among the boys. The man of the world was learning a
great many things. Meekly he descended the two flights of stairs and went
out to his own front doorsteps.
There were no crowds any more. The police were still on duty, but curious
passersby dared not linger long. The workmen had finished the windows and
gone. The man felt little hope of finding the boys, but somehow he had a
strange desire to do so. He wanted to see that face light up once more.
Also, he had a curious desire to see these youngsters from the street who
could provoke such loving anxiety from the hero upstairs.
Mikky was right, Buck would not go far away until he knew how it was with
his comrade. He had indeed moved off at the officer's word when the doctor
promised to bring him word later, but in his heart he did not intend to let
a soul pass in or out of that house all day that he did not see, and so he
set his young pickets here and there about the block, each with his bunch
of papers, and arranged a judicious change occasionally, to avoid trouble
with the officers.
Buck was standing across the street on the corner by the church steps,
making a lively show of business now and then and keeping one eye on the
house that had swallowed up his partner. He was not slow to perceive that
he was being summoned by a man upon the steps, and ran eagerly up with his
papers, expecting to receive his coin, and maybe a glimpse inside the door.
"All about der shootin' of der bank millionaire's baby!" he yelled in his
most finished voice of trade, and the father, thinking of what might have
been, felt a pang of horror at the careless words from the gruff little
"Do you know a boy named Buck?" he questioned as he deliberately paid for
the paper that was held up to him, and searched the unpromising little face
before him. Then marvelled at the sullen, sly change upon the dirty face.
The black brows drew down forbodingly, the dark eyes reminded Mm of a caged
lion ready to spring if an opportunity offered. The child had become a man
with a criminal's face. There was something frightful about the defiant
look with which the boy drew himself up.
"What if I does?"
"Only that there's a boy in here," motioning toward the door, "would like
very much to see him for a few minutes. If you know where he is, I wish
you'd tell him."
Then there came a change more marvelous than before. It was as if the
divine in the soul had suddenly been revealed through a rift in the sinful
humanity. The whole defiant face became eager, the black eyes danced with
question, the brows settled into straight pleasant lines, and the mouth
sweetened as with pleasant thoughts.
"Is't Mikky?" He asked in earnest voice. "Kin we get in? I'll call de kids.
He'll want 'em. He allus wants der kids." He placed his fingers in his
mouth, stretching it into a curious shape, and there issued forth a shriek
that might have come from the mouth of an exulting fiend, so long and
shrill and sharp it was. The man on the steps, his nerves already wrought
to the snapping point, started angrily. Then suddenly around the corner at
a swift trot emerged three ragged youngsters who came at their leader's
command swiftly and eagerly.
"Mikky wants us!" explained Buck. "Now youse foller me, 'n don't you say
nothin' less I tell you."
They fell in line, behind the bank president, and followed awed within
the portal that unlocked a palace more wonderful than Aladdin's to their
Up the stairs they slunk, single file, the bare feet and the illy-shod
alike going silently and sleuth-like over the polished stairs. They skulked
past open doors with frightened defiant glances, the defiance of the very
poor for the very rich, the defiance that is born and bred in the soul from
a face to face existence with hunger and cold and need of every kind. They
were defiant but they took it all in, and for many a day gave details
highly embellished of the palace where Mikky lay. It seemed to them that
heaven itself could show no grander sights.
In a stricken row against the wall, with sudden consciousness of their own
delinquencies of attire, ragged caps in hands, grimy hands behind them,
they stood and gazed upon their fallen hero-comrade.
Clean, they had never perhaps seen his face before. The white robe that was
upon him seemed a robe of unearthly whiteness. It dazzled their gaze. The
shining of his newly-washed hair was a glory crown upon his head. They saw
him gathered into another world than any they knew. It could have seemed no
worse to them if the far heaven above the narrow city streets had opened
its grim clouds and received their comrade from their sight. They were
appalled. How could he ever be theirs again? How could it all have happened
in the few short hours since Mikky flashed past them and fell a martyr to
his kindly heart and saved the wicked rich man his child? The brows of Buck
drew together in his densest frown. He felt that Mikky, their Mikky was
having some terrible change come upon him.
Then Mikky turned and smiled upon them all, and in his dear familiar voice
shouted, "Say, kids, ain't this grand? Say, I jes' wish you was all in it!
Ef you, Buck, an' the kids was here in this yer grand bed I'd be havin' the
time o' me life!"
That turned the tide. Buck swallowed hard and smiled his darker smile,
and the rest grinned sheepishly Grandeur and riches had not spoiled their
prince. He was theirs still and he had wanted them. He had sent for them.
They gained courage to look around on the spotlessly clean room, on the
nurse in her crackling dignity; on the dish of oranges which she promptly
handed to them and of which each in awe partook a golden sphere; on the
handful of bright flowers that Morton had brought but a few minutes before
and placed on a little stand by the bed; on the pictures that hung upon the
walls, the like of which they had never seen, before, and then back to the
white white bed that held their companion. They could not get used to the
whiteness and the cleanness of his clean, clean face and hands, and bright
gold hair. It burned like a flame against the pillow, and Mikky's blue eyes
seemed darker and deeper than ever before. To Buck they had given their
obedient following, and looked to him for protection, but after all he was
one like themselves, only a little more fearless. To Mikky they all gave a
kind of far-seeing adoration. He was fearless and brave like Buck, but he
was something more. In their superstitious fear and ignorance he seemed to
them almost supernatural.
They skulked, silently down the stairs like frightened rabbits when the
interview was over, each clutching his precious orange, and not until the
great doors had closed upon them, did they utter a word. They had said very
little. Mikky had done all the talking.
When they had filed down the street behind their leader, and rounded the
corner out of sight of the house, Buck gathered them into a little knot and
said solemnly: "Kids. I bet cher Mik don't be comin' out o' this no more.
Didn't you take notice how he looked jes' like the angel top o' the
monnemunt down to the cemtary?"
The little group took on a solemnity that was deep and real.
"Annyhow, he wanted us!" spoke up a curly-headed boy with old eyes and a
thin face. He was one whom Mikky had been won't to defend. He bore a hump
upon his ragged back.
"Aw! he's all right fer us, is Mik," said Buck, "but he's different nor us.
Old Aunt Sal she said one day he were named fer a 'n'angel, an' like as not
he'll go back where he b'longs some day, but he won't never fergit us.
He ain't like rich folks what don't care. He's our pard allus. Come on,
Down the back alley went the solemn little procession, single file, till
they reached the rear of the Endicott house, where they stood silent as
before a shrine, till at a signal from their leader, each grimy right hand
was raised, and gravely each ragged cap was taken off and held high in the
air toward the upper window, where they knew their hero-comrade lay. Then
they turned and marched silently away.
They were all in place before the door whenever the doctor came thereafter,
and always went around by the way of the alley afterward for their
ceremonial good night, sometimes standing solemnly beneath the cold stars
while the shrill wind blew through their thin garments, but always as long
as the doctor brought them word, or as long as the light burned in the
upper window, they felt their comrade had not gone yet.
Heaven opened for Mikky on the day when Morton, with the doctor's
permission, brought Baby Starr to see him.
The baby, in her nurse's arms, gazed down upon her rescuer with the
unprejudiced eyes of childhood. Mikky's smile flashed upon her and
forthwith she answered with a joyous laugh of glee. The beautiful boy
pleased her ladyship. She reached out her roseleaf hands to greet him.
The nurse held her down to the bed:
"Kiss the wee b'y, that's a good baby. Kiss the wee b'y. He took care of
baby and saved her life when the bad man tried to hurt her. Kiss the wee
b'y and say 'I thank you,'" commanded Morton.
The saving of her life meant nothing to little Starr, but she obediently
murmured 'I'ee tank oo!' as the nurse had drilled her to do before she
brought her, and then laid her moist pink lips on cheeks, forehead, eyes
and mouth in turn, and Mikky, in ecstasy, lay trembling with the pleasure
of it. No one had ever kissed him before. Kissing was not in vogue in the
street where he existed.
Thereafter, every day until he was convalescent, Starr came to visit him.
By degrees he grew accustomed to her gay presence enough to talk with her
freely as child with child. Her words were few and her tongue as yet quite
unacquainted with the language of this world; but perhaps that was all the
better, for their conversations were more of the spirit than of the tongue,
Mikky's language, of circumstance, being quite unlike that of Madison
Starr brought her wonderful electric toys and dolls, and Mikky looked at
them with wonder, yet always with a kind of rare indifference, because the
child herself was to him the wonder of all wonders, an angel spirit stooped
to earth. And every day, when the nurse carried her small charge away after
her frolic with the boy, she would always lift her up to the bed and say:
"Now kiss the wee b'y, Baby Starr, and thank him again fer savin' yer
And Starr would lay her soft sweet mouth on hie as tenderly and gravely as
if she understood the full import of her obligation. At such times Mikky
would watch her bright face as it came close to his, and when her lips
touched his he would close his eyes as if to shut out all things else from
this sacred ceremony. After Starr and Morton were gone the nurse was wont
to look furtively toward the bed and note the still, lovely face of the boy
whose eyes were closed as if to hold the vision and memory the longer. At
such times her heart would draw her strangely from her wonted formality and
she would touch the boy with a tenderness that was not natural to her.
There were other times when Mr. Endicott would come and talk briefly with
the boy, just to see his eyes light and his face glow with that wonderful
smile, and to think what it would be if the boy were his own. Always Mikky
enjoyed these little talks, and when his visitor was gone he would think
with satisfaction that this was just the right kind of a father for his
little lovely Starr. He was glad the Baby Starr had a father. He had often
wondered what it would be like to have a father, and now he thought he saw
what the height of desire in a father might be. Not that he felt a great
need for himself in the way of fathers. He had taken care of himself since
he could remember and felt quite grown up and fathers usually drank; but a
baby like that needed a father, and he liked Starr's father.
But the dearest thing now in life for him was little Starr's kisses.
To the father, drawn first by gratitude to the boy who had saved his
child's life, and afterwards by the boy's own irresistible smile, these
frequent visits had become a pleasure. There had been a little boy before
Starr came to their home, but he had only lived a few weeks. The memory of
that golden, fuzzy head, the little appealing fingers, the great blue eyes
of his son still lingered bitterly in the father's heart. When he first
looked upon this waif the fancy seized him that, perhaps his own boy would
have been like this had he lived, and a strange and unexpected tenderness
entered his heart for Mikky. He kept going to the little invalid's room
night after night, pleasing himself with the thought that the boy was his
So strong a hold did this fancy take upon the man's heart that he actually
began to consider the feasibility of adopting the child and bringing him
up as his own--this, after he had by the aid of detectives, thoroughly
searched out all that was known of him and found that no one owned Mikky
nor seemed to care what became of him except Buck and his small following.
And all the time the child, well fed, well cared for, happier than he had
ever dreamed of being in all his little hard life, rapidly convalesced.
Endicott came home one afternoon to find Mikky down in the reception room
dressed in black velvet and rare old lace, with his glorious sheaf of
golden hair which had grown during his illness tortured into ringlets, and
an adoring group of ladies gathered about him, as he stood with troubled,
almost haughty mien, and gravely regarded their maudlin sentimentalities.
Mrs. Endicott had paid no attention to the boy heretofore, and her sudden
interest in him came from a chance view of him as he sat up in a big chair
for the first time, playing a game with little Starr. His big eyes and
beautiful hair attracted her at once, and she lost no time in dressing him
up like a doll and making him a show at one of her receptions.
When her husband remonstrated with her, declaring that such treatment would
ruin the spirit of any real boy, and spoil him for life, she shrugged her
shoulders indifferently, and answered:
"Well, what if it does? He's nothing but a foundling. He ought to be glad
we are willing to dress him up prettily and play with him for a while."
"And what would you do with him after you were done using him for a toy?
Cast him aside?"
"Well, why not?" with another shrug of her handsome shoulders. "Or, perhaps
we might teach him to be a butler or footman if you want to be benevolent.
He would be charming in a dark blue uniform!"
The woman raised her delicate eyebrows, humming a light tune, and her
husband turned from her in despair. Was it nothing at all to her that this
child had saved the life of her baby?
That settled the question of adoption. His wife would never be the one
to bring up the boy into anything like manhood. It was different with a
girl--she must of necessity be frivolous, he supposed.
The next morning an old college friend came into his office, a plain
man with a pleasant face, who had not gone from college days to a bank
presidency. He was only a plain teacher in a little struggling college in
Florida, and he came soliciting aid for the college.
Endicott turned from puzzling over the question of Mikky, to greet his old
friend whom he had not seen for twenty years. He was glad to see him. He
had always liked him. He looked him over critically, however, with his
successful-business-man-of-New-York point of view. He noticed the plain
cheap business suit, worn shiny in places, the shoes well polished but
beginning to break at the side, the plentiful sprinkling of gray hairs, and
then hie eyes travelled to the kind, worn face of his friend. In spite of
himself he could not but feel that the man was happier than himself.
He asked many questions, and found a keen pleasure in hearing all about the
little family of the other, and their happy united efforts to laugh off
poverty and have a good time anyway. Then the visitor told of the college,
its struggles, its great needs and small funds, how its orange crop, which
was a large part of its regular income, had failed that year on account of
the frost, and they were in actual need of funds to carry on the work of
the immediate school year. Endicott found his heart touched, though he was
not as a rule a large giver to anything.
"I'd be glad to help you Harkness," he said at last, "but I've got a
private benevolence on my hands just now that is going to take a good deal
of money, I'm afraid. You see we've narrowly escaped a tragedy at our
house--" and he launched into the story of the shooting, and his own
indebtedness to Mikky.
"I see," said the Professor, "you feel that you owe it to that lad to put
him in the way of a better life, seeing that he freely gave his life for
"Exactly!" said Endicott, "and I'd like to adopt him and bring him up as my
own, but it doesn't seem feasible. I don't think my wife would feel just
as I do about it, and I'm not sure I'd be doing the best after all for the
boy. To be taken from one extreme to another might ruin him."
"Well, Endicott, why don't you combine your debt to the child with
benevolence and send him down to us for a few years to educate."
Endicott sat up interestedly.
"Could I do that; Would they take so young a child? He can't be over
"Yes, we would take him, I think. He'd be well cared for; and his tuition
in the prep department would help the institution along. Every little
helps, you know."
Endicott suddenly saw before him the solution of his difficulties. He
entered eagerly into the matter, talking over rates, plans and so on. An
hour later it was all settled. Mikky was to take a full course with his
expenses all prepaid, and a goodly sum placed in the bank for his clothing
and spending money. He was to have the best room the school afforded, at
the highest price, and was to take music and art and everything else
that was offered, for Endicott meant to do the handsome thing by the
institution. The failure of the bank of which he was president had in no
wise affected his own private fortune.
"If the boy doesn't seem to develop an interest in some of these branches,
put some deserving one in his place, and put him at something else," he
said. "I want him to have his try at everything, develop the best that is
in him. So we'll pay for everything you've got there, and that will
help out some other poor boy perhaps, for, of course one boy can't do
everything. I'll arrange it with my lawyer that the payments shall be made
regularly for the next twelve years, so that if anything happens to me, or
if this boy runs away or doesn't turn out worthy, you will keep on getting
the money just the same, and some one else can come in on it."
Professor Harkness went away from the office with a smile on his face and
in his pocket three letters of introduction to wealthy benevolent business
men of New York. Mikky was to go South with him the middle of the next
Endicott went home that afternoon with relief of mind, but he found in his
heart a most surprising reluctance to part with the beautiful boy.
When the banker told Mikky that he was going to send him to "college," and
explained to him that an education would enable him to become a good man
and perhaps a great one, the boy's face was very grave. Mikky had never
felt the need of an education, and the thought of going away from New York
gave him a sensation as if the earth were tottering under his feet. He
shook his head doubtfully.
"Kin I take Buck an' de kids?" he asked after a thoughtful pause, and with
a lifting of the cloud in his eyes.
"No," said Endicott. "It costs a good deal to go away to school, and there
wouldn't be anyone to send them."
Mikky's eyes grew wide with something like indignation, and he shook his
"Nen I couldn't go," he said decidedly. "I couldn't take nothin' great like
that and not give de kids any. We'll stick together. I'll stay wid de kids.
They needs me."
"But Mikky--" the man looked into the large determined eyes and settled
down for combat--"you don't understand, boy. It would be impossible for
them to go. I couldn't send them all, but I _can_ send you, and I'm going
to, because you risked your life to save little Starr."
"That wasn't nothin' t'all!" declared Mikky with fine scorn.
"It was everything to me," said the man, "and I want to do this for you.
And boy, it's your duty to take this. It's everybody's duty to take the
opportunities for advancement that come to them."
Mikky looked at him thoughtfully. He did not understand the large words,
and duty meant to him a fine sense of loyalty to those who had been loyal
"I got to stay wid de kids," he said. "Dey needs me."
With an exasperated feeling that it was useless to argue against this
calmly stated fact, Endicott began again gently:
"But Mikky, you can help them a lot more by going to college than by
staying at home."
The boy's eyes looked unconvinced but he waited for reasons.
"If you get to be an educated man you will be able to earn money and help
them. You can lift them up to better things; build good houses for them to
live in; give them work to do that will pay good wages, and help them to be
"Are you educated?"
Thinking he was making progress Endicott nodded eagerly.
"Is that wot you does fer folks?" The bright eyes searched his face
eagerly, keenly, doubtfully.
The color flooded the bank-president's cheeks and forehead uncomfortably.
"Well,--I might--" he answered. "Yes, I might do a great deal for people, I
suppose. I don't know as I do much, but I could if I had been interested in
He paused. He realized that the argument was weakened. Mikky studied his
"But dey needs me now, de kids does," he said gravely, "Jimmie, he don't
have no supper most nights less'n I share; and Bobs is so little he can't
fight dem alley kids; n' sometimes I gets a flower off'n the florist's back
door fer little sick Jane. Her's got a crutch, and can't walk much anyhow;
and cold nights me an' Buck we sleeps close. We got a box hid away where we
sleeps close an' keeps warm."
The moisture gathered in the eyes of the banker as he listened to the
innocent story. It touched his heart as nothing ever had before. He
resolved that after this his education and wealth should at least help
these little slum friends of Mikky to an occasional meal, or a flower, or a
"Suppose you get Buck to take your place with the kids while you go to
school and get an education and learn how to help them better."
Mikky's golden head negatived this slowly.
"Buck, he's got all he kin do to git grub fer hisse'f an" his sister Jane.
His father is bad, and kicks Jane, and don't get her nothin' to eat. Buck
he has to see after Janie."
"How would it be for you to pay Buck something so that he could take your
place? I will give you some money that you may do as you like with, and you
can pay Buck as much as you think he needs every week. You can send it to
him in a letter."
"Would it be as much as a quarter?" Mikky held his breath in wonder and
"Two quarters if you like."
"Oh! could I do that?" The boy's face fairly shone, and he came and threw
his arms about Endicott's neck and laid his face against his. The man
clasped him close and would fain have kept him there, for his well ordered
heart was deeply stirred.
Thus it was arranged.
Buck was invited to an interview, but when the silver half dollar was
laid in his grimy palm, and he was made to understand that others were to
follow, and that he was to step up into Mikky's place in the community of
the children while that luminary went to "college" to be educated, his face
wore a heavy frown. He held out the silver sphere as if it burned him.
What! Take money in exchange for Mikky's bright presence? Never!
It took a great deal of explanation to convince Buck that anything could be
better "fer de kids" than Mikky, their own Mikky, now and forever. He was
quick, however, to see where the good lay for Mikky, and after a few plain
statements from Mr. Endicott there was no further demur on the part of the
boy. Buck was willing to give up Mikky for Mikky's good but not for his
own. But it was a terrible sacrifice. The hard little face knotted itself
into a fierce expression when he came to say good-bye. The long scrawny
throat worked convulsively, the hands gripped each other savagely. It
was like handing Mikky over to another world than theirs, and though he
confidently promised to return to them so soon as the college should have
completed the mysterious process of education, and to live with them as of
yore, sleeping in Buck's box alongside, and taking care of the others when
the big alley kids grew troublesome, somehow an instinct taught them that
he would never return again. They had had him, and they would never
forget him, but he would grow into a being far above them. They looked
vindictively at the great rich man who had perpetrated this evil device of
a college life for their comrade. It was the old story of the helpless poor
against the powerful rich. Even heart-beats counted not against such power.
Mikky must go.
They went to the great station on the morning when Mikky was to depart
and stood shivering and forlorn until the train was called. They listened
sullenly while Professor Harkness told them that if they wished to be fit
to associate with their friend when he came out of college they must begin
at once to improve all their opportunities. First of all they must go to
school, and study hard, and then their friend in college would be proud to
call them friends. They did not think it worth while to tell the kindly but
ignorant professor that they had no time for school, and no clothes to wear
if they had the time or the inclination to go. Schools were everywhere,
free, of course, but it did not touch them. They lived in dark places and
casual crannies, like weeds or vermin. No one cared whether they went to
school. No one suggested it. They would have as soon thought of entering
a great mansion and insisting on their right to live there as to present
themselves at school. Why, they had to hustle for a mere existence. They
were the water rats, the bad boys, the embryo criminals for the next
generation. The problem, with any who thought of them was how to get rid of
them. But of course this man from another world did not understand. They
merely looked at him dully and wished he would walk away and leave Mikky to
them while he stayed. His presence made it seem as if their companion were
already gone from them.
It was hard, too, to see Mikky dressed like the fine boys on Fifth Avenue,
handsome trousers and coat, and a great thick overcoat, a hat on his
shining crown of hair that had always been guiltless of cap, thick
stockings and shining shoes on his feet that had always been bare and
soiled with the grime of the streets--gloves on his hands. This was a new
Mikky. "The kids" did not know him. In spite of their best efforts they
could not be natural. Great lumps arose in their throats, lumps that never
dared arise for hunger or cold or curses at home.
They stood helpless before their own consciousness, and Mikky, divining the
trouble with that exquisite keenness of a spirit sent from heaven to make
earth brighter, conceived the bright idea of giving each of his comrades
some article of his apparel as a remembrance. Mr. Endicott came upon
the scene just in time to keep Mikky from taking off his overcoat and
enveloping Buck in its elegant folds. He was eagerly telling them that Bobs
should have his undercoat, Jimmie his hat; they must take his gloves to
Jane, and there was nothing left for Sam but his stockings and shoes, but
he gave them all willingly. He seemed to see no reason why he could not
travel hatless and coatless, bare of foot and hand, for had he not gone
that way through all the years of his existence? It was a small thing to
do, for his friends whom he was leaving for a long time.
The bright face clouded when he was told he could not give these things
away, that it would not be fair to the kind professor to ask him to carry
with him a boy not properly dressed. But he smiled again trustfully when
Endicott promised to take the whole group to a clothing house and fit them
They bade Mikky good-bye, pressing their grimy noses against the bars of
the station gate to watch their friend disappear from their bare little
Endicott himself felt like crying as he came back from seeing the boy
aboard the train. Somehow it went hard for him to feel, he should not meet
the bright smile that night when he went home.
But it was not the way of "the kids" to cry when tragedy fell among them.
They did not cry now--when he came back to them they regarded the banker
with lowering brows as the originator of their bereavement. They had no
faith in the promised clothing.
"Aw, what's he givin' us!" Buck had breathed under his breath. But to do
Buck credit he had not wanted to take Mikky's coat from him. When their
comrade went from them into another walk in life he must go proudly
Endicott led the huddled group away from the station, to a clothing house,
and amused himself by fitting them out. The garments were not of as fine
material, nor elegant a cut as those he had pleased himself by purchasing
for Mikky's outfit, but they were warm and strong and wonderful to their
eyes, and one by one the grimy urchins went into a little dressing room,
presently emerging with awe upon their faces to stand before a tall mirror
Endicott presently bade the little company farewell and with a conscience
at ease with himself and all mankind left them.
They issued from the clothing house with scared expressions and walked
solemnly a few blocks. Then Buck called them to a halt before a large plate
"Take a good look at yersel's, kids," he ordered, "an' we'll go up to the
Park an' shine around, an' see how ther swells feels, then we'll go down to
Sheeny's an' sell 'em."
"Sell 'em! Can't we keep 'em?" pitifully demanded Bobs who had never felt
warm in winter in all his small life before.
"You wouldn't hev 'em long," sneered Buck. "That father o' yourn would hey
'em pawned 'afore night; You better enjoy 'em a while, an' then git the
money. It's safer!"
The children with wisdom born of their unhappy circumstances recognized
this truth. They surveyed themselves gravely in their fleeting grandeur and
then turned to walk up to the aristocratic part of town, a curious little
procession. They finished by rounding the Madison Avenue block, marched up
the alley, and gave the salute with new hats toward the window where their
Prince and Leader used to be. He was no longer there, but his memory was
about them, and the ceremony did their bursting little hearts good. Their
love for Mikky was the noblest thing that had so far entered their lives.
Jimmie suggested that they must let Jane see them before they disposed
forever of their elegant garments, so Bobs, minus coat, hat, stockings
and shoes was sent to bid her to a secluded retreat at the far end of the
alley. Bobs hurried back ahead of her little tapping crutch to don his fine
attire once more before she arrived.
Little Jane, sallow of face, unkempt of hair, tattered of clothing and
shivering in the cold twilight stood and watched the procession of pride as
it passed and repassed before her delighted eyes. The festivity might have
been prolonged but that the maudlin voice of Bobs' father reeling into the
alley struck terror to their hearts, and with small ceremony they scuttled
away to the pawnshop, leaving little Jane to hobble back alone to her
cellar and wonder how it would feel to wear a warm coat like one of those.
"Gee!" said Jimmie as they paused with one consent before the shop door,
and looked reluctantly down at their brief glory, "Gee! I wisht we could
keep jest one coat fer little Jane!"
"Couldn't we hide it some'ere's?" asked Sam, and they all looked at Buck.
Buck, deeply touched for his sister's sake, nodded.
"Keep Jim's," he said huskily, "it'll do her best."
Then the little procession filed proudly in and gave up their garments
to the human parasite who lived on the souls of other men, and came away
bearing the one coat they had saved for Janie, each treasuring a pitiful
bit of money which seemed a fortune in their eyes.
Little Jane received her gift with true spirit when it was presented,
skilfully hid it from her inhuman father, and declared that each boy should
have a turn at wearing the coat every Sunday at some safe hour, whereat
deep satisfaction, reigned among them. Their grandeur was not all departed
Meantime, Mikky, in his luxurious berth in a sleeper, smiled drowsily to
think of the fine new clothes that his friends must be wearing, and then
fell asleep to dream of little Starr's kisses on his closed eyelids.
Into a new world came Mikky, a world of blue skies, song birds, and high,
tall pines with waving moss and dreamy atmosphere; a world of plenty to eat
and wear, and light and joy and ease.
Yet it was a most bewildering world to the boy, and for the first week he
stood off and looked at it questioningly, suspiciously. True, there were
no dark cellars or freezing streets, no drunken fathers or frightened
children, or blows, or hunger or privation; but this education he had come
to seek that he might go back to his own world and better it, was not a
garment one put on and exercised in so many times a day; it was not a
cup from which one drank, nor an atmosphere that one absorbed. It was a
strange, imperceptible thing got at in some mysterious way by a series of
vague struggles followed by sudden and almost alarming perceptions. For a
time it seemed to the boy, keen though his mind, and quick, that knowledge
was a thing only granted to the few, and his was a mind that would never
grasp it. How, for instance, did one know how to make just the right
figures under a line when one added a long perplexity of numbers? Mikky the
newsboy could tell like a flash how much change he needed to return to the
fat gentleman who occasionally gave him a five-dollar bill to change on
Broadway; but Mikky the scholar, though he knew figures, and was able to
study out with labor easy words in his papers, had never heard of adding up
figures in the way they did here, long rows of them on the blackboard. It
became necessary that this boy should have some private instruction before
he would be able to enter classes. Professor Harkness himself undertook the
task, and gradually revealed to the child's neglected understanding some of
the simple rudiments that would make his further progress possible. The sum
that was paid for his tuition made it quite necessary that the boy advance
reasonably, for his benefactor had made it understood that he might some
day visit the institution and see how he was getting on. So great pains
were taken to enlighten Mikky's darkness.
There was another thing that the boy could not understand, and that was the
discipline that ruled everywhere. He had always been a law unto himself,
his only care being to keep out of the way of those who would interfere
with this. Now he must rise with a bell, stay in his room until another
bell, eat at a bell, go to the hard bench in the schoolroom with another
bell, and even play ball when the recreation bell rang. It was hard on an
independent spirit to get used to all this, and while he had no mind to be
disorderly, he often broke forth into direct disobedience of the law from
sheer misunderstanding of the whole régime.
The boys' dormitory was presided over by a woman who, while thorough in
all housekeeping arrangements, had certainly mistaken her calling as a
substitute mother for boys. She kept their clothes in order, saw to it that
their rooms were aired, their stockings darned and their lights out at
exactly half-past nine, but the grimness of her countenance forbade any
familiarity, and she never thought of gaining the confidence of her rough,
but affectionate charges. There was no tenderness in her, and Mikky never
felt like smiling in her presence. He came and went with a sort of high,
unconscious superiority that almost irritated the woman, because she
was not great enough to see the unusual spirit of the child; and as a
consequence she did not win his heart.
But he did not miss the lack of motherliness in her, for he had never known
a mother and was not expecting it.
The professors he grew to like, some more, some less, always admiring most
those who seemed to him to deal in a fair and righteous manner with their
classes--fairness being judged by the code in use among "the kids" in New
York. But that was before he grew to know the president. After that his
His first interview with that dignitary was on an afternoon when he had
been overheard by the matron to use vile language among the boys at the
noon hour. She hauled him up with her most severe manner, and gave him to
understand that he must answer to the president for his conduct.
As Mikky had no conception of his offence he went serenely to his fate
walking affably beside her, only wishing she would not look so sour. As
they crossed the campus to the president's house a blue jay flew overhead,
and a mocking bird trilled in a live oak near-by. The boy's face lighted
with joy and he laughed out gleefully, but the matron only looked the more
severe, for she thought him a hardened little sinner who was defying her
authority and laughing her to scorn. After that it was two years before she
could really believe anything good of Mikky.
The president was a noble-faced, white-haired scholar, with a firm tender
mouth, a brow of wisdom, and eyes of understanding. He was not the kind
who win by great athletic prowess, he was an old-fashioned gentleman, well
along in years, but young in heart. He looked at the child of the slums and
saw the angel in the clay.
He dismissed the matron with a pleasant assurance and took Mikky to an
inner office where he let the boy sit quietly waiting a few minutes till
he had finished writing a letter. If the pen halted and the kind eyes
furtively studied the beautiful face of the child, Mikky never knew it.
The president asked the boy to tell him what he had said, and Mikky, with
sweet assurance repeated innocently the terrible phrases he had used,
phrases which had been familiar to him since babyhood, conveying statements
of facts that were horrible, but nevertheless daily happenings in the
corner of the world where he had brought himself up.
With rare tact the president questioned the boy, until he made sure there
was no inherent rottenness in him: and then gently and kindly, but firmly
laid down the law and explained why it was right and necessary that there
should be a law. He spoke of the purity of God. Mikky knew nothing of God
and listened with quiet interest. The president talked of education and
culture and made matters very plain indeed. Then when the interview was
concluded and the man asked the boy for a pledge of good faith and clean
language from that time forth, Mikky's smile of approval blazed forth and
he laid his hand in that of the president readily enough, and went forth
from the room with a great secret admiration of the man with whom he had
just talked. The whole conversation had appealed to him deeply.
Mikky sought his room and laboriously spelled out with lately acquired
clumsiness a letter to Buck:
"Dear Buck we mussent yuz endecent langwidg enay moor ner swar. God donte
lyk it an' it ain't educated. I want you an' me to be educate. I ain't gone
to, donte yoo ner let de kids.--Mikky."
In due time, according to previous arrangement about the monthly allowance,
this letter reached Buck, and he tracked the doctor for two whole days
before he located him and lay in wait till he came out to his carriage,
when he made bold to hand over the letter to be read.
The doctor, deeply touched, translated as best he could. Buck's education
had been pitifully neglected. He watched the mystic paper in awe as the
"Wot's indecent langwidge?" he asked with his heavy frown.
The doctor took the opportunity to deliver a brief sermon on purity, and
Buck, without so much as an audible thank you, but with a thoughtful air
that pleased the doctor, took back his letter, stuffed it into his ragged
pocket and went on his way. The man watched him wistfully, wondering
whether Mikky's appeal could reach the hardened little sinner; and, sighing
at the wickedness of the world, went on his way grimly trying to make a few
That night "the kids" were gathered in front of little Janie's window,
for she was too weak to go out with them, and Buck delivered a lesson in
ethical culture. Whatever Mikky, their Prince, ordered, that must be done,
and Buck was doing his level best, although for the life of him he couldn't
see the sense in it. But thereafter none of "the kids" were allowed to use
certain words and phrases, and swearing gradually became eliminated from
their conversation. It would have been a curious study for a linguist to
observe just what words and phrases were cut out, and what were allowed to
flourish unrebuked; but nevertheless it was a reform, and Buck was doing
With his schoolmates Mikky had a curiously high position even from the
first. His clothes were good and he had always a little money to spend.
That had been one of Endicott's wishes that the boy should be like other
boys. It meant something among a group of boys, most of whom were the sons
of rich fathers, sent down to Florida on account of weak lungs or throats.
Moreover, he was brave beyond anything they had ever seen before, could
fight like a demon in defense of a smaller boy, and did not shrink from
pitching into a fellow twice his size. He could tell all about the great
base-ball and foot-ball games of New York City, knew the pitchers by name
and yet did not boast uncomfortably. He could swim like a duck and dive
fearlessly. He could outrun them all, by his lightness of foot, and was an
expert in gliding away from any hand that sought to hold him back. They
admired him from the first.
His peculiar street slang did not trouble them in the least, nor his lack
of class standing, though that presently began to be a thing of the past,
for Mikky, so soon as he understood the way, marched steadily, rapidly, up
the hill of knowledge, taking in everything that was handed out to him and
assimilating it. It began to look as if there would not be any left over
courses in the curriculum that might be given to some other deserving
youth. Mikky would need them all. The president and the professors
began presently to be deeply interested in this boy without a past; and
everywhere, with every one, Mikky's smile won his way; except with the
matron, who had not forgiven him that her recommendation of his instant
dismissal from the college had not been accepted.
The boys had not asked many questions about him, nor been told much. They
knew his father and mother were dead. They thought he had a rich guardian,
perhaps a fortune some day coming, they did not care. Mikky never spoke
about any of these things and there was a strange reticence about him that
made them dislike to ask him questions; even, when they came to know him
well. He was entered under the name of Endicott, because, on questioning
him Professor Harkness found he could lay no greater claim to any other
surname, and called him that until he could write to Mr. Endicott for
advice. He neglected to write at once and then, the name having become
fastened upon the boy, he thought it best to let the matter alone as there
was little likelihood of Mr. Endicott's coming down to the college, and
it could do no harm. He never stopped to think out possible future
complications and the boy became known as Michael Endicott.
But his companions, as boys will, thought the matter over, and rechristened
him "Angel"; and Angel, or Angel Endy he became, down to the end of his
One great delight of his new life was the out-of-door freedom he enjoyed. A
beautiful lake spread its silver sheet at the foot of the campus slope and
here the boy revelled in swimming and rowing. The whole country round
was filled with wonder to his city-bred eyes. He attached himself to the
teacher of natural sciences, and took long silent tramps for miles about.
They penetrated dense hammocks, gathering specimens of rare orchids and
exquisite flowers; they stood motionless and breathless for hours watching
and listening to some strange wild bird; they became the familiar of slimy
coiling serpents in dark bogs, and of green lizards and great black velvet
spiders; they brought home ravishing butterflies and moths of pale green
and gold and crimson. Mikky's room became a museum of curious and wonderful
things, and himself an authority on a wide and varied range of topics.
The new life with plenty of wholesome plain food, plenty of fresh air, long
nights of good sleep, and happy exercise were developing the young body
into strength and beauty, even as the study and contact, with life were
developing the mind. Mikky grew up tall and straight and strong. In all
the school, even among the older boys, there was none suppler, none so
perfectly developed. His face and form were beautiful as Adonis, and yet it
was no pink and white feminine beauty. There was strength, simplicity
and character in his face. With the acceptance of his new code of morals
according to the president, had grown gradually a certain look of high
moral purpose. No boy in his presence dared use language not up to the
standard. No boy with his knowledge dared do a mean or wrong thing. And
yet, in spite of this, not a boy in the school but admired him and was more
or less led by him. If he had been one whit less brave, one shade more
conscious of self and self's interests, one tiny bit conceited, this would
not have been. But from being a dangerous experiment in their midst Mikky
became known as a great influence for good. The teachers saw it and
marvelled. The matron saw it and finally, though grudgingly, accepted
it. The president saw it and rejoiced. The students saw it not, but
acknowledged it in their lives.
Mikky's flame of gold hair had grown more golden and flaming with the
years, so that when their ball team went to a near-by town to play, Mikky
was sighted by the crowd and pointed out conspicuously at once.
"Who is that boy with the hair?" some one would ask one of the team.
"That? Oh, that's the Angel! Wait till you see him play," would be the
reply. And he became known among outsiders as the Angel with the golden
hair. At a game a listener would hear:
"Oh, see! see! There'll be something doing now. The Angel's at the bat!"
Yet in spite of all this the boy lived a lonely life. Giving of himself
continually to those about him, receiving in return their love and
devotion, he yet felt in a great sense set apart from them all. Every now
and again some boy's father or mother, or both, would come down for a trip
through the South; or a sister or a little brother. Then that boy would be
excused from classes and go off with his parents for perhaps a whole week;
or they would come to visit him every day, and Michael would look on and
see the love light beaming in their eyes. That would never be for him. No
one had ever loved him in that way.
Sometimes he would close his eyes and try to get back in memory to the
time when he was shot; and the wonder of the soft bed, the sweet room, and
little Starr's kisses. But the years were multiplying now and room and
nurse and all were growing very dim. Only little Starr's kisses remained,
a delicate fragrance of baby love, the only kisses that the boy had ever
known. One day, when a classmate had been telling of the coming of his
father and what it would mean to him, Michael went into his room and
locking his door sat down and wrote a stiff school boy letter to his
benefactor, thanking him for all that he had done for him. It told briefly,
shyly of a faint realization of that from which he had been saved; it
showed a proper respect, and desire to make good, and it touched the heart
of the busy man who had almost forgotten about the boy, but it gave no hint
of the heart hunger which had prompted its writing.
The next winter, when Michael was seventeen, Delevan Endicott and his
daughter Starr took a flying trip through the South, and stopped for a
night and a day at the college.
The president told Michael of his expected coming. Professor Harkness had
gone north on some school business.
The boy received the news quietly enough, with one of his brilliant smiles,
but went to his room with a tumult of wonder, joy, and almost fear in his
heart. Would Mr. Endicott be like what he remembered, kind and interested
and helpful? Would he be pleased with the progress his protégé had made,
or would he be disappointed? Would there be any chance to ask after little
Starr? She was a baby still in the thoughts of the boy, yet of course she
must have grown. And so many things might have happened--she might not be
living now. No one would think or care to tell him.
Baby Starr! His beautiful baby! He exulted in the thought that he had flung
his little useless life, once, between her lovely presence and death! He
would do it again gladly now if that would repay all that her father had
done for him. Michael the youth was beginning to understand all that that
Those other friends of his, Buck, Jimmie, Bobs, and the rest, were still
enshrined in his faithful heart, though their memory had grown dimmer with
the full passing years. Faithfully every month the boy had sent Buck two
dollars from his pocket money, his heart swelling with pleasure that he was
helping those he loved, but only twice had any word come back from that far
city where he had left them. In answer to the letter which the doctor had
translated to them, there had come a brief laborious epistle, terse and
to the point, written with a stub of pencil on the corner of a piece of
wrapping paper, and addressed by a kindly clerk at the post office where
Buck bought the stamped envelope. It was the same clerk who usually paid
to the urchin his monthly money order, so he knew the address. For the
inditing of the letter Buck went to night school two whole weeks before he
could master enough letters and words to finish it to his satisfaction, It
"Deer Mik WE WunT
The significant words filled the boy's heart with pride over his friend
whenever he thought of it, even after some time had passed. He had faith in
Buck. Somehow in his mind it seemed that Buck was growing and keeping pace
with him, and he never dreamed that if Buck should see him now he would not
When Mikky had been in Florida several years another letter had come from
Buck addressed in the same way, and little better written than the other.
Night school had proved too strenuous for Buck; besides, he felt he knew
enough for all practical purposes and it was not likely he would need to
write many letters. This, however, was an occasion that called for one.
"Dear Mikky Jany is DEAD sHe sayd tell yo hur LUV beeryd hur in owr kote we
giv hur ther wuz a angle wit pink wins on top uv the wite hurs an a wite
hors we got a lot uv flowers by yur money so yo needn sen no mor money kuz
we ken got long now til yo cum BUCK."
After that, though Michael had written as usual every month for some time
no reply had come, and the money orders had been returned to him as not
called for. Buck in his simplicity evidently took it for granted that Mikky
would not send the money and so came no more to the office, at least
that was the solution Michael put upon it, and deep down in his heart
he registered a vow to go and hunt up Buck the minute he was through at
college, and free to go back to New York and help his friends. Meantime,
though the years had dimmed those memories of his old life, and the days
went rapidly forward in study, he kept always in view his great intention
of one day going back to better his native community.
But the coming of Mr. Endicott was a great event to the boy. He could
scarcely sleep the night before the expected arrival.
It was just before the evening meal that the through train from New York
reached the station. Michael had been given the privilege of going down to
meet his benefactor.
Tall and straight and handsome he stood upon the platform as the train
rushed into the town, his cheeks glowing from excitement, his eyes bright
with anticipation, his cap in his hand, and the last rays of the setting
sun glowing in his golden hair, giving a touch like a halo round his head.
When Endicott saw him he exclaimed mentally over his strength and manly
beauty, and more than one weary tourist leaned from the open car window and
gazed, for there was ever something strange and strong and compelling about
Michael that reminded one of the beauty of an angel.
Michael met Mr. Endicott unembarrassed. His early life in New York had
given him a self-poise that nothing seemed to disturb; but when the father
turned to introduce his young daughter, the boy caught his breath and gazed
at her with deepening color, and intense delight.
She was here then, his Starr! She had come to see him, and she looked just
as he would have her look. He had not realized before that she would be
grown up, but of course she would, and the change in her was not so great
as to shock his memory. The clear white of her skin with its fresh coloring
was the same. New York life had not made it sallow. The roses were in her
cheeks as much as when she was a little child. Her eyes were the same, dark
and merry and looked at him straightly, unabashed, with the ease of a
girl trained by a society mother. The dark curls were there, only longer,
hanging to the slender waist and crowned with a fine wide Panama hat. She
gave him a little gloved hand and said: "I'm afraid I don't remember you
very well, but daddy has been telling me about you and I'm very glad to see
She was only a little over twelve, but she spoke with ease and simplicity,
and for the first time in his life Michael felt conscious of himself. She
was so perfect, so lovely, so finished in every expression and movement.
She looked at him intelligently, politely curious, and no longer with the
baby eyes that wondered at nothing. He himself could not help wondering
what she must think of him, and for a few minutes he grew shy before her.
Mr. Endicott was surprised and pleased at the appearance of the boy. The
passing of the years had easily erased the tender feelings that Mikky the
little street urchin had stirred in his heart. This visit to the school and
college was not so much on account of the boy, to whom he had come to feel
he had discharged his full duty, but because of the repeated invitations on
the part of Professor Harkness and the president. It went not against him
to see the institution to which he had from time to time contributed, in
addition to his liberal allowance for the education of the boy. It was
perfectly convenient for him to stop, being on the regular route he had
laid out for his southern trip. His wife he had left at Palm Beach with her
fashionable friends; and with Starr as his companion, the father was
going through the orange belt on a tour of investigation with a view to
investments. It suited him perfectly to stop off and receive the thanks of
the college, therefore he stopped. Not that he was a heartless man, but
there were so many things in his world to make him forget, and a little
pleasant adulation is grateful to the most of us.
But when Michael in all his striking beauty stood before him with the
deference of a more than son, his heart suddenly gave a great leap back to
the day when he had first looked down upon the little white face on the
pillow; when the blue eyes had opened and Mikky had smiled. Michael smiled
now, and Endicott became aware at once of the subtle fascination of that
smile. And now the thought presented itself. "What if this were my son! how
proud I should be of him!"
Michael was indeed good to look upon even to the eyes of the city critic.
Endicott had taken care to leave orders with his tailor for a full outfit
to be sent to the boy, Spring and Fall, of suitable plain clothing for a
school boy, little realizing how unnecessary it would have been to have
dressed him so well. The tailor, nothing loth, had taken the measurements
which were sent to him from year to year in answer to the letter of the
firm, and had kept Michael looking as well as any rich man's son need
desire to look. Not that the boy knew nor realized. The clothes came to
him, like his board and tuition, and he took them well pleased and wrote
his best letter of thanks each year as Professor Harkness suggested; but he
had no idea that a part at least of his power of leadership with all the
boys of the school was due to his plain though stylishly cut garments. This
fact would not have counted for anything with boys who had been living in
Florida for years, for any plain decent clothes were thought fit, no matter
how they were cut; but the patronage of the school was at least one-half
made up of rich men's sons who were sent South for a few years to a milder
climate for their health. These as a rule, when they came, had exaggerated
ideas of the importance of clothes and prevailing modes.
And so it was that Michael did not look like a dowdy country boy to his
benefactor, but on the contrary presented a remarkable contrast with many
of the boys with whom Endicott was acquainted at home. There was something
about Michael even when he was a small lad that commanded marked attention
from all who saw him. This attention Endicott and his daughter gave now
as they walked beside him in the glow of the sunset, and listened as he
pointed out the various spots of interest in the little college town.
The institution boasted of no carriage, and the single horse-car that
travelled to the station belonged to the hotel and its guests. However, the
walk was not long, and gave the travellers an opportunity to breathe the
clear air and feel the stillness of the evening which was only emphasized
by each separate sound now and again.
Starr, as she walked on the inside of the board sidewalk, and looked down
at the small pink and white and crimson pea blossoms growing broad-cast,
and then up at the tallness of the great pines, felt a kind of awe stealing
upon her. The one day she had spent at Palm Beach had been so filled with
hotels and people and automobiles that she had had no opportunity to
realize the tropical nature of the land. But here in this quiet spot,
where the tiny station, the post office, the grocery, and a few scattered
dwellings with the lights of the great tourists' hotel gleaming in the
distance, seemed all there was of human habitation; and where the sky was
wide even to bewilderment; she seemed suddenly to realize the difference
from New York.
Michael had recovered his poise as soon as she no longer faced him, though
he was profoundly conscious of her presence there on the other side of her
father. But he talked easily and well. Yes, there was the hotel. It held
five hundred guests and was pretty well filled at this season of the
year. There were some distinguished people stopping there. The railroad
president's private car was on the track for a few hours last week. That
car over on the siding belonged to a great steel magnate. The other one had
brought the wife of a great inventor. Off there at the right toward the
sunset were the school and college buildings. No, they could not be seen,
until one passed the orange grove. Too bad there was no conveyance, but
the one little car turned off toward the hotel at this corner, and the one
beast of burden belonging to the college, the college Mule--Minus, by name,
because there were so many things that he was not--was lame to-day and
therefore could not be called into requisition to bring the guests from the
Mr. Endicott felt that he was drawing nearer to nature in this quiet walk
than he had been since he was a boy and visited his grandfather's farm.
It rested and pleased him immensely, and he was charmed with the boy, his
protégé. His frank, simple conversation was free from all affectation on
the one hand, or from any hint of his low origin on the other hand. He felt
already that he had done a good thing in sending this boy down here to be
educated. It was worth the little money he had put into it.
Starr watched Michael shyly from the shelter of her father's side and
listened to him. He was not like the boys she met in New York. To begin
with he was remarkably fine looking, and added to that there was a mingled
strength and kindliness in his face, and above all about his smile, that
made her feel instinctively that he was nobler than most of them. She could
not think of a boy of her acquaintance who had a firm chin like that. This
boy had something about him that made the girl know instantly that he had
a greater purpose in life than his own pleasure. Not that she thought this
all out analytically. Starr had never learned to think. She only felt it
as she looked at him, and liked him at once. Moreover there was a sort of
glamour over the boy in her eyes, for her father had just been telling her
the story of how he had saved her life when she was barely two years
old. She felt a prideful proprietorship in him that made her shy in his
At the college president's gate, just on the edge of the campus, the
president came out with apologies. He had been detained on a bit of
business at the county seat five miles away, and had driven home with a
friend whose horse was very slow. He was sorry not to have done their
honored guests the courtesy of being at the station on their arrival.
Endicott walked with the president after the greetings, and Michael dropped
behind with Starr eagerly pointing out to her the buildings.
"That's the chapel, and beyond are the study and recitation rooms. The next
is the dining hall and servant's quarters, and over on that side of the
campus is our dormitory. My window looks down on the lake. Every morning I
go before breakfast for a swim."
"Oh, aren't you afraid of alligators?" exclaimed Starr shivering prettily.
Michael looked down at her fragile loveliness with a softened appreciation,
as one looks at the tender precious things of life that need protection.
"No," he answered without laughing, as some of the other boys would have
done at her girlish fears, "they never bother us here, and besides, I'm
sort of acquainted with them. I'm not afraid of them. Nothing will hurt you
if you understand it well enough to look out for its rights."
"Oh!" said Starr eyeing him in wonder. As if an alligator had rights! What
a strange, interesting boy. The idea of understanding an alligator. She was
about to ask how understanding the creature would keep one from being eaten
up when Michael pointed to the crimsoning West:
"See!" he said eagerly as if he were pointing to a loved scene, "the sun is
almost down. Don't you love to watch it? In a minute more it will be gone
and then it will be dark. Hear that evening bird? 'Tit-wiloo! Tit-wiloo!'
He sings sometimes late at night."
Starr followed his eager words, and saw the sun slipping, slipping like a
great ruby disc behind the fringe of palm and pine and oak that bordered
the little lake below the campus; saw the wild bird dart from the thicket
into the clear amber of the sky above, utter its sweet weird call, and
drop again into the fine brown shadows of the living picture; watched,
fascinated as the sun slipped lower, lower, to the half now, and now less
Breathless they both stood and let the two men go on ahead, while they
watched the wonder of the day turn into night. The brilliant liquid crimson
poured itself away to other lands, till only a rim of wonderful glowing
garnet remained; then, like a living thing dying into another life, it too
dropped away, and all was night.
"Why! How dark it is!" exclaimed Starr as she turned to her companion again
and found she could scarcely see his face. "Why! How queer! Where is the
twilight? Is anything the matter? I never saw it get dark all at once like
this!" She peered around into the strange velvet darkness with troubled
Michael was all attention at once.
"No, that's all right," he assured her. "That's the way we do here. Almost
everybody from the north speaks about it at first. They can't understand
it. Its the difference in the position of the sun, nearer the equator, you
know. I'll show you all about it on the chart in the astronomical room if
you care to see. We haven't any twilight here. I should think twilight
would be queer. You wouldn't just know when night began and day ended. I
don't remember about it when I lived in New York. Look up there! That's the
evening star! It's come out for you to-night--to welcome another--Starr!"
Oh, Michael, of unknown origin! Whence came that skill of delicate
compliment, that grace of courtesy, that you, plucked from the slime of the
gutter, set apart from all sweetening influences of loving contact with,
womankind, should be able so gallantly and respectfully to guide the young
girl through the darkness, touching her little elbow distantly, tactfully,
reverently, exactly as the college president helps his wife across the
road on Sabbath to the church? Is it only instinct, come down from some
patrician ancestor of gallant ways and kind, or have you watched and caught
the knack from the noble scholar who is your ideal of all that is manly?
They walked silently through the warm darkness until they came within the
circle of light from the open door, and matron and teachers came out to
welcome the young stranger and bring her into the house.
Michael lingered for a moment by the door, watching her as she went with
the matron, her sweet face wreathed in smiles, the matron's thin arm around
her and a new and gentle look upon her severe countenance; watched until
they mounted the stairs out of sight; then he went out of doors.
Taking off his cap he stood reverently looking up at the star, communing
with it perhaps about the human Starr that had come back to him out of the
shadows of the past.
And she was a star. No one who saw her but acknowledged it. He marvelled as
he recalled the change wrought in the face of the matron and because of her
gentleness to the little girl forgave her all that she had not been to his
Starr came down to dinner in a few minutes radiant in a little rosy frock
of soft Eastern silk, girdled with a fringed scarf of the same and a knot
of coral velvet in her hair. From the string of pearls about her white neck
to the dainty point of her slipper she was exquisite and Michael watched
her with open admiration; whereat the long lashes drooped shyly over the
girl's rosy cheeks and she was mightily pleased.
She sat at her father's side to the right of the president, with Michael
across the table. Well he bore the scrutiny of Endicott's keen eyes which
through all the conversation kept searching the intelligent face of the
The evening passed like a dream, and Michael lay awake again that night
thinking of all the pleasure in anticipation for the next day. At last, at
last he had some people who in a way he might call his own. They had cared
to come and see him after all the years! His heart swelled with joy and
The guests attended chapel exercises with the students the next morning,
and Michael saw with pride the eyes of his companions turn toward the
beautiful young girl, and look at him almost with envy. The color mounted
into his strong young face, but he sat quietly in his place and no one
would have guessed to look at him, the tumult that was running riot in his
veins. He felt it was the very happiest day of his life.
After chapel the guests were shown about the college buildings and campus.
The president and Endicott walked ahead, Michael behind with Starr,
answering her interested questions.
They had been through all the classrooms, the gymnasium, the dining hall,
servants' quarters and dormitories. They had visited the athletic ground,
the tennis courts, and gone down by the little lake, where Michael had
taken them out for a short row. Returning they were met by one of the
professors who suggested their going to hear some of the classes recite,
and as Mr. Endicott seemed interested they turned their steps toward the
"I think," said Starr as they walked slowly across the campus together,
"that you must be a very brave boy. To think of you saving my life that way
when you were just a little fellow!"
She looked up, her pretty face full of childish feeling.
Michael looked down silently and smiled. He was wondering if any eyes were
ever as beautiful as those before him. He had never had even a little girl
look at him like that. The president's daughter was fat and a romp. She
never took time to look at the boys. The few other girls he knew, daughters
of the professors, were quiet and studious. They paid little attention to
"I want to thank you for what you did," went on Starr, "only I can't think
of any words great enough to tell you how I feel about it. I wish there was
something I could do to show you how I thank you?"
She lifted her sweet eyes again to his. They were entering the large Hall
of the college now.
"This way," said Michael guiding her toward the chapel door which had just
swung to behind the two men.