Part 2 out of 6
"Isn't there something you would like that I could do for you?" persisted
Starr earnestly, following him into the empty chapel where Mr. Endicott and
the president stood looking at a tablet on the wall by the further door.
"Your father has done everything for me," said Michael sunnily, with a
characteristic sweep of his hand that seemed to include himself, his
garments and his mental outfit. He turned upon her his blazing smile that
spoke more eloquently than words could have done.
"Yes, but that is papa," said Starr half impatiently, softly stamping her
daintily shod foot. "He did that because of what you did for _him_ in
saving my life. I should like to do something to thank you for what you did
for _me_. I'm worth something to myself you know. Isn't there something I
could do for you."
She stood still, looking up into his face anxiously, her vivid childish
beauty seeming to catch all the brightness of the place and focus it
upon him. The two men had passed out of the further door and on to the
recitation rooms. The girl and boy were alone for the moment.
"You have done something for me, you did a great deal," he said, his voice
almost husky with boyish tenderness. "I think it was the greatest thing
that anybody ever did for me."
"I did something for you! When? What?" questioned Starr curiously.
"Yes," he said, "you did a great thing for me. Maybe you don't remember it,
but I do. It was when I was getting well from the shot there at your house,
and your nurse used to bring you up to play with me every day; and always
before you went away, you used to kiss me. I've never forgotten that."
He said it quite simply as if it were a common thing for a boy to say to a
girl. His voice was low as though the depths of his soul were stirred.
A flood of pretty color came into Starr's cheeks.
"Oh!" she said quite embarrassed at the turn of the conversation, "but that
was when I was a baby. I couldn't do that now. Girls don't kiss boys you
know. It wouldn't be considered proper."
"I know," said Michael, his own color heightening now, "I didn't mean that.
I wanted you to know how much you had done for me already. You don't know
what it is never to have been kissed by your mother, or any living soul.
Nobody ever kissed me in all my life that I know of but you."
He looked down at the little girl with such a grave, sweet expression, his
eyes so expressive of the long lonely years without woman's love, that
child though she was Starr seemed to understand, and her whole young soul
went forth in pity. Tears sprang to her eyes.
"Oh!" she said, "That is dreadful! Oh!--I don't care if it isn't proper--"
And before he knew what she was about to do the little girl tilted to her
tiptoes, put up her dainty hands, caught him about the neck and pressed a
warm eager kiss on his lips. Then she sprang away frightened, sped across
the room, and through the opposite door.
Michael stood still in a bewilderment of joy for the instant. The
compelling of her little hands, the pressure of her fresh lips still
lingered with him. A flood tide of glory swept over his whole being. There
were tears in his eyes, but he did not know it. He stood with bowed head as
though in a holy place. Nothing so sacred, so beautiful, had ever come into
his life. Her baby kisses had been half unconscious. This kiss was given of
her own free will, because she wanted to do something for him. He did not
attempt to understand the wonderful joy that surged through his heart and
pulsed in every fibre of his being. His lonely, unloved life was enough to
account for it, and he was only a boy with a brief knowledge of life; but
he knew enough to enshrine that kiss in his heart of hearts as a holy
thing, not even to be thought about carelessly.
When he roused himself to follow her she had disappeared. Her father and
the president were listening to a recitation, but she was nowhere to be
seen. She had gone to her own room. Michael went down by himself in a
thicket by the lake.
She met him shyly at dinner, with averted gaze and a glow on her cheeks, as
if half afraid of what she had done, but he reassured her with his eyes.
His glance seemed to promise he would never take advantage of what she had
done. His face wore an exalted look, as if he had been lifted above earth,
and Starr, looking at him wonderingly, was glad she had followed her
They took a horseback ride to the college grove that afternoon, Mr.
Endicott, one of the professors, Starr and Michael. The president had
borrowed the horses from some friends.
Michael sat like a king upon his horse. He had ridden the college mule
bareback every summer, and riding seemed to be as natural to him as any
other sport. Starr had been to a New York riding school, and was accustomed
to taking her morning exercise with her father in the Park, or accompanied
by a footman; but she sat her Florida pony as happily as though he had been
a shiny, well-groomed steed of priceless value. Somehow it seemed to her
an unusually delightful experience to ride with this nice boy through the
beautiful shaded road of arching live-oaks richly draped with old gray
moss. Michael stopped by the roadside, where the shade was dense,
dismounted and plunged into the thicket, returning in a moment with two
or three beautiful orchids and some long vines of the wonderful yellow
jessamine whose exquisite perfume filled all the air about. He wreathed the
jessamine about the pony's neck, and Starr twined it about her hat and wore
the orchids in her belt.
Starr had never seen an orange grove before and took great delight in
the trees heavily loaded with fruit, green and yellow and set about by
blossoms. She tucked a spray of blossoms in her dark hair under the edge of
her hat, and Michael looked at her and smiled in admiration. Mr. Endicott,
glancing toward his daughter, caught the look, and was reminded of the time
when he had found the two children in his own drawing room being made
a show for his wife's guests, and sighed half in pleasure, half in
foreboding. What a beautiful pair they were to be sure, and what had the
future in store for his little girl?
On the way back they skirted another lake and Michael dismounted again to
bring an armful of great white magnolia blossoms, and dainty bay buds to
the wondering Starr; and then they rode slowly on through the wooded, road,
the boy telling tales of adventures here and there; pointing out a blue jay
or calling attention to the mocking bird's song.
"I wish you could be here next week," said the boy wistfully. "It will
be full moon then. There is no time to ride through this place like a
moonlight evening. It seems like fairyland then. The moonbeams make fairy
ladders of the jessamine vines."
"It must be beautiful," said Starr dreamily. Then they rode for a few
minutes in silence. They were coming to the end of the overarched avenue.
Ahead of them the sunlight shone clearly like the opening of a great tunnel
framed in living green. Suddenly Starr looked up gravely:
"I'm going to kiss you good-bye to-night when, we go away," she said
softly; and touching her pony lightly with the whip rode out into the
bright road; the boy, his heart leaping with joy, not far behind her.
Before supper Mr. Endicott had a talk with Michael that went further toward
making the fatherless boy feel that he had someone belonging to him than
anything that had happened yet.
"I think you have done enough for me, sir," said Michael respectfully
opening the conversation as Endicott came out to the porch where the boy
was waiting for him. "I think I ought to begin to earn my own living. I'm
old enough now--" and he held his head up proudly. "It's been very good of
you all these years--I never can repay you. I hope you will let me pay the
money back that you have spent on me, some day when, I can earn enough--"
Michael had been thinking this speech out ever since the president had told
him of Endicott's expected visit, but somehow it did not sound as well to
him when he said it as he had thought it would. It seemed the only right
thing to do when he planned it, but in spite of him as he looked into Mr.
Endicott's kind, keen eyes, his own fell in troubled silence. Had his words
sounded ungrateful? Had he seen a hurt look in the man's eyes?
"Son," said Endicott after a pause, and the word stirred the boy's heart
strangely, "son, I owe you a debt you never can repay. You gave me back my
little girl, flinging your own life into the chance as freely as if you
had another on hand for use any minute. I take it that I have at least a
father's right in you at any rate, and I mean to exercise it until you are
twenty-one. You must finish a college course first. When will that be?
Three years? They tell me you are doing well. The doctor wants to keep you
here to teach after you have graduated, but I had thought perhaps you would
like to come up to New York and have your chance. I'll give you a year or
two in business, whatever seems to be your bent when you are through, and
then we'll see. Which would you rather do? Or, perhaps you'd prefer to let
your decision rest until the time comes."
"I think I'm bound to go back to New York, sir," said Michael lifting his
head with that peculiar motion all his own, so like a challenge. "You know,
sir, you said I was to be educated so that I might help my friends. I have
learned of course that you meant it in a broader sense than just those few
boys, for one can help people anywhere; but still I feel as if it wouldn't
be right for me not to go back. I'm sure they'll expect me."
Endicott shrugged his shoulders half admiringly.
"Loyal to your old friends still? Well, that's commendable, but still I
fancy you'll scarcely find them congenial now. I wouldn't let them hang too
closely about you. They might become a nuisance. You have your way to make
in the world, you know."
Michael looked at his benefactor with troubled brows. Somehow the tone of
the man disturbed him.
"I promised," he said simply. Because there had bean so little in his
affections that promise had been cherished through the years, and meant
much to Michael. It stood for Principle and Loyalty in general.
"Oh, well, keep your promise, of course," said the man of the world easily.
"I fancy you will find the discharge of it a mere form."
A fellow student came across the campus.
"Endicott," he called, "have you seen Hallowell go toward the village
within a few minutes?"
"He just want, out the gate," responded Michael pleasantly.
Mr. Endicott looked up surprised.
"Is that the name by which you are known?"
"Endicott? Yes, sir, Michael Endicott. Was it not by your wish? I supposed
they had asked you. I had no other name that I knew."
"Ah! I didn't know," pondered Endicott.
There was silence for a moment.
"Would you,--shall I--do you dislike my having it?" asked the boy
delicately sensitive at once.
But the man looked up with something like tenderness in his smile.
"Keep it, son. I like it. I wish I had a boy like you. It is an old name
and a proud one. Be worthy of it."
"I will try, sir," said Michael, as if he were registering a vow.
There was an early supper for the guests and then Michael walked through
another sunset to the station with Starr. He carried a small box carefully
prepared in which reposed a tiny green and blue lizard for a parting gift.
She had watched the lizards scuttling away under the board sidewalks at
their approach, or coming suddenly to utter stillness, changing their
brilliant colors to gray like the fence boards that they might not be
observed. She was wonderfully interested in them, and was charmed with her
gift. The particular lizard in question was one that Michael had trained to
eat crumbs from his hand, and was quite tame.
The two said little as they walked along together. Each was feeling what a
happy time they had spent in one another's company.
"I shall write and tell you how the lizard is," said Starr laughing, "and
you will tell me all about the funny and interesting things you are doing,
"If--I may," said Michael wistfully.
At the station a New York acquaintance of the Endicotts' invited them to
ride in his private car which was on the side track waiting for the train
to pick them up. Michael helped Starr up the steps, and carried the lizard
into the car as well as the great sheaf of flowers she insisted on taking
There were some ladies inside who welcomed Starr effusively; and Michael,
suddenly abashed, laid down the flowers, lifted his cap and withdrew. A
sudden blank had come upon him. Starr was absorbed by people from another
world than his. He would have no opportunity to say good-bye--and she had
promised--But then of course he ought not to expect her to do that. She had
been very kind to him--
He was going down the steps now. An instant more and he would be on the
cinders of the track.
A sudden rush, a soft cry, caused him to pause on the second step of the
vestibuled car. It was Starr, standing just above him, and her eyes were
shining like her namesake the evening star.
"You were going without good-bye," she reproved, and her cheeks were rosy
red, but she stood her ground courageously. Placing a soft hand gently on
either cheek as he stood below her, his face almost on a level with hers,
she tilted his head toward her and touched his lips with her own red ones,
delicately as if a rose had swept them.
Simultaneously came the sound of the distant train.
"Good-bye, you nice, splendid boy!" breathed Starr, and waving her hand
darted inside the ear.
Mr. Endicott, out on the platform, still talking to the president, heard
the oncoming train and looked around for Michael. He saw him coming from
the car with his exalted look upon his face, his cap off, and the golden
beams of the sun again sending their halo like a nimbus over his hair.
Catching his hand heartily, he said:
"Son, I'm pleased with you. Keep it up, and come to me when you are ready.
I'll give you a start."
Michael gripped his hand and blundered out some words of thanks. Then the
train was upon them, and Endicott had to go.
The two younger ladies in the car, meantime, were plying Starr with
questions. "Who is that perfectly magnificent young man. Starr Endicott?
Why didn't you introduce him to us? I declare I never saw such a beautiful
face on any human being before."
A moment more and the private car was fastened to the train, and Starr
leaning from the window waved her tiny handkerchief until the train had
thundered away among the pines, and there was nothing left but the echo of
its sound. The sun was going down but it mattered not. There was sunshine
in the boy's heart. She was gone, his little Starr, but she had left the
memory of her soft kiss and her bright eyes; and some day, some day, when
he was done with college, he would see her again. Meantime he was content.
The joy of loving kindness in his life, and a sense that somebody cared,
seemed to have the effect of stimulating Michael's mind to greater
energies. He studied with all his powers. Whatever he did he did with his
might, even his play.
The last year of his stay in Florida, a Department of Scientific Farming
was opened on a small scale. Michael presented himself as a student.
"What do you want of farming, Endicott?" asked the president, happening to
pass through the room on the first day of the teacher's meeting with his
students. "You can't use farming in New York."
There was perhaps in the kindly old president's mind a hope that the boy
would linger with them, for he had become attached to him in a silent,
undemonstrative sort of way.
"I might need it sometime," answered Michael, "and anyway I'd like to
understand it. You said the other day that no knowledge was ever wasted.
I'd like to know enough at least to tell somebody else."
The president smiled, wondered, and passed on. Michael continued in the
class, supplementing the study by a careful reading of all the Agricultural
magazines, and Government literature on the subject that came in his way.
Agriculture had had a strange fascination for him ever since a noted
speaker from the North had come that way and in an address to the students
told them that the new field for growth to-day lay in getting hack to
nature and cultivating the earth. It was characteristic of Michael that he
desired to know if that statement was true, and if so, why. Therefore he
The three years flew by as if by magic. Michael won honors not a few, and
the day came when he had completed his course, and as valedictorian of his
class, went up to the old chapel for his last commencement in the college.
He sat on the platform looking down on the kindly, uncritical audience that
had assembled for the exercises, and saw not a single face that had come
for his sake alone. Many were there who were interested in him because they
had known him through the years, and because he bore the reputation of
being the honor man of his class and the finest athlete in school. But that
was not like having some one of his very own who cared whether he did well
or not. He found himself wishing that even Buck might have been there;
Buck, the nearest to a brother he had ever had. Would Buck have cared that
he had won highest rank? Yes, he felt that Buck would have been proud of
Michael had sent out three invitations to commencement, one to Mr.
Endicott, one to Starr, and one addressed to Buck, with the inner envelope
bearing the words "For Buck and 'the kids,'" but no response had come to
any of them. He had received back the one addressed to Buck with "Not
Called For" in big pink letters stamped across the corner. It had reached
him that morning, just before he came on the platform. He wished it had
not come till night; it gave him a lonely, almost forsaken feeling. He was
"educated" now, at least enough to know what he did not know; and there was
no one to care.
When Michael sat down after his oration amid a storm of hearty applause,
prolonged by his comrades into something like an ovation, some one handed
him a letter and a package. There had been a mistake made at the post
office in sorting the mail and these had not been put into the college box.
One of the professors going down later found them and brought them up.
The letter was from Mr. Endicott containing a businesslike line of
congratulations, a hope that the recipient would come to New York if he
still felt of that mind, and a check for a hundred dollars.
Michael looked at the check awesomely, re-read the letter carefully and
put both in his pocket. The package was tiny and addressed in Starr's
handwriting. Michael saved that till he should go to his room. He did not
want to open it before any curious eyes.
Starr's letters had been few and far between, girlish little epistles;
and the last year they had ceased altogether. Starr was busy with life;
finishing-school and dancing-school and music-lessons and good times.
Michael was a dim and pleasant vision to her.
The package contained a scarf-pin of exquisite workmanship. Starr had
pleased herself by picking out the very prettiest thing she could find. She
had her father's permission to spend as much as she liked on it. It was in
the form of an orchid, with a tiny diamond like a drop of dew on one petal.
Michael looked on it with wonder, the first suggestion of personal
adornment that had ever come to him. He saw the reminder of their day
together in the form of the orchid; studied the beautiful name, "Starr
Delevan Endicott," engraved upon the card; then put them carefully back
into their box and locked it into his bureau drawer. He would wear it the
first time he went to see Starr. He was very happy that day.
The week after college closed Michael drove the college mule to the county
seat, ten miles away, and bought a small trunk. It was not much of a trunk
but it was the best the town afforded. In this he packed all his worldly
possessions, bade good-bye to the president, and such of the professors as
had not already gone North for their vacations, took a long tramp to all
his old haunts, and boarded the midnight train for New York.
The boy had a feeling of independence which kept him from letting his
benefactor know of his intended arrival. He did not wish to make him any
unnecessary trouble, and though he had now been away from New York for
fourteen years, he felt a perfect assurance that he could find his way
about. There are some things that one may learn even at seven, that will
never be forgotten.
When Michael landed in New York he looked about him with vague bewilderment
for a moment. Then he started out with assurance to find a new spot for
himself in the world.
Suit-case he had not, nor any baggage but his trunk to hinder him. He had
discovered that the trunk could remain in the station for a day without
charge. The handsome raincoat and umbrella which had been a part of the
outfit the tailor had sent him that spring were all his encumbrances, so he
picked his way unhampered across Liberty Street, eyeing his former enemies,
the policemen, and every little urchin or newsboy with interest. Of course
Buck and the rest would have grown up and changed some; they wouldn't
likely be selling papers now--but--these were boys such as he had been. He
bought a paper of a little ragged fellow with a pinched face, and a strange
sensation came over him. When he left this city he was the newsboy, and now
he had money enough to buy a paper--and the education to read it! What a
difference! Not that he wanted the paper at present, though it might prove
interesting later, but he wanted the experience of buying it. It marked the
era of change in his life and made the contrast tremendous. Immediately his
real purpose in having an education, the uplift of his fellow-beings,
which had been most vague during the years, took form and leapt into vivid
interest, as he watched the little skinny legs of the newsboy nimbly
scrambling across the muddy street under the feet of horses, and between
automobiles, in imminent danger of his life.
Michael had thought it all out, just what he would do, and he proceeded to
carry out his purpose. He had no idea what a fine picture of well-groomed
youth and manly beauty he presented as he marched down the street. He
walked like a king, and New York abashed him no more now that he had come
back than it did before he went away. There are some spirits born that way.
He walked like a "gentleman, unafraid."
He had decided not to go to Mr. Endicott until he had found lodgings
somewhere. An innate delicacy had brought him to this decision. He would
not put one voluntary burden upon his kind benefactor. Born and bred in the
slums, whence came this fineness of feeling? Who shall say?
Michael threaded his way through the maze of traffic, instinct and vague
stirrings of memory guiding him to a quiet shabby street where he found a
dingy little room for a small price. The dangers that might have beset a
strange young man in the great city were materially lessened for him on
account of his wide reading. He had read up New York always wherever
he found an article or book or story that touched upon it; and without
realizing it he was well versed in details. He had even pondered for hours
over a map of New York that he found in the back of an old magazine,
comparing it with his faint memories, until he knew the location of things
with relation to one another pretty well. A stranger less versed might have
gotten into most undesirable quarters.
The boy looked around his new home with a strange sinking of heart, after
he had been out to get something to eat, and arranged for his trunk to be
sent to his room. It was very tiny and not over clean. The wall paper was
a dingy flowered affair quite ancient in design, and having to all
appearances far outlived a useful life. The one window looked out to brick
walls, chimneys and roofs. The noise of the city clattered in; the smells
and the heat made it almost stifling to the boy who had lived for thirteen
years in the sunshine of the South, and the freedom of the open.
The narrow bed looked uninviting, the bureau-washstand was of the cheapest,
and the reflection Michael saw in its warped mirror would have made any boy
with a particle of vanity actually suffer. Michael, however, was not vain.
He thought little about himself, but this room was depressing. The floor
was covered with a nondescript carpet faded and soiled beyond redemption,
and when his trunk was placed between the bureau and the bed there would be
scarcely room for the one wooden chair. It was not a hopeful outlook. The
boy took off his coat and sat down on the bed to whistle.
Life, grim, appalling, spectral-like, uprose before his mental vision,
and he spent a bad quarter of an hour trying to adjust himself to his
surroundings; his previous sunny philosophy having a tough tussle with the
sudden realities of things as they were. Then his trunk arrived.
It was like Michael to unpack it at once and put all his best philosophical
resolves into practice.
As he opened the trunk a whiff of the South, exhaled. He caught his breath
with a sudden keen, homesickness. He realized that his school days were
over, and all the sweetness and joy of that companionful life passed. He
had often felt alone in those days. He wondered at it now. He had never in
all his experience known such aloneness as now in this great strange city.
The last thing he had put into his trunk had been a branch of mammoth pine
needles. The breath of the tree brought back all that meant home to him. He
caught it up and buried his face in the plumy tassels.
The tray of the trunk was filled with flags, pennants, photographs, and
college paraphernalia. Eagerly he pulled them all out and spread them over
the bumpy little bed. Then he grabbed for his hat and rushed out. In a few
minutes he returned with a paper of tacks, another of pins, and a small
tack hammer. In an hour's time he had changed the atmosphere of the whole
place. Not an available inch of bare wall remained with, its ugly, dirty
wallpaper. College colors, pennants and flags were grouped about pictures,
and over the unwashed window was draped Florida moss. Here and there,
apparently fluttering on the moss or about the room, were fastened
beautiful specimens of semi-tropical moths and butterflies in the gaudiest
of colors. A small stuffed alligator reposed above the window, gazing
apathetically down, upon the scene. A larger alligator skin was tacked on
one wall. One or two queer bird's nests fastened to small branches hung
quite naturally here and there.
Michael threw down the hammer and sat down to survey his work, drawing a
breath of relief. He felt more at home now with the photographs of his
fellow students smiling down upon him. Opposite was the base-ball team,
frowning and sturdy; to the right the Glee Club with himself as their
leader; to the left a group of his classmates, with his special chum in the
midst. As he gazed at that kindly face in the middle he could almost hear
the friendly voice calling to him: "Come on, Angel! You're sure to win
Michael felt decidedly better, and fell to hanging up his clothes and
arranging his effects on clean papers in the rheumatic bureau drawers.
These were cramped quarters but would do for the present until he was sure
of earning some money, for he would not spend his little savings more than
he could help now and he would not longer be dependent upon the benefaction
of Mr. Endicott.
When his box of books arrived he would ask permission to put some shelves
over the window. Then he would feel quite cosy and at home.
So he cheered himself as he went about getting into his best garments, for
he intended to arrive at Madison Avenue about the time that his benefactor
reached home for the evening.
Michael knew little of New York ways, and less of the habits of society;
the few novels that had happened in his way being his only instructors on
the subject. He was going entirely on his dim memories of the habits of the
Endicott home during his brief stay there. As it happened Mr. Endicott was
at home when Michael arrived and the family were dining alone.
The boy was seated in the reception room gazing about him with the ease
of his habitual unconsciousness of self, when Endicott came down bringing
Starr with him. A second time the man of the world was deeply impressed
with the fine presence of this boy from obscurity. He did not look out of
place even in a New York drawing room. It was incredible; though of course
a large part of it was due to his city-made clothing. Still, that would not
by any means account for case of manner, graceful courtesy, and an instinct
for saying the right thing at the right time.
Endicott invited the lad to dine with them and Starr eagerly seconded the
invitation. Michael accepted as eagerly, and a few moments later found
himself seated at the elegantly appointed table by the side of a beautiful
and haughty woman who stared at him coldly, almost insultingly, and made
not one remark to him throughout the whole meal. The boy looked at her half
wonderingly. It almost seemed as if she intended to resent his presence,
yet of course that could not be. His idea of this whole family was the
highest. No one belonging to Starr could of course be aught but lovely of
Starr herself seemed to feel the disapproval of her mother, and shrink into
herself, saying very little, but smiling shyly at Michael now and then when
her mother was not noticing her.
Starr was sixteen now, slender and lovely as she had given promise of
being. Michael watched her satisfied. At last he turned to the mother
sitting in her cold grandeur, and with the utmost earnestness and deference
in his voice said, his glance still half toward Starr:
"She is like you, and yet not!"
He said it gravely, as if it were a discovery of the utmost importance to
them both, and he felt sure it was the key to her heart, this admission of
his admiration of the beautiful girl.
Mrs. Endicott froze him with her glance.
From the roots of his hair down to the tips of his toes and back again
he felt it, that insulting resentment of his audacity in expressing any
opinion about her daughter; or in fact in having any opinion. For an
instant his self-possession deserted him, and his face flushed with mingled
emotions. Then he saw a look of distress on Starr's face as she struggled
to make reply for her silent mother:
"Yes, mamma and I are often said to resemble one another strongly," and
there was a tremble in Starr's voice that roused all the manliness in
the boy. He flung off the oppression that was settling down upon him and
listened attentively to what Endicott was saying, responding gracefully,
intelligently, and trying to make himself think that it was his
inexperience with ladies that had caused him to say something
inappropriate. Henceforth during the evening he made no more personal
Endicott took the boy to his den after dinner, and later Starr slipped in
and they talked a little about their beautiful day in Florida together.
Starr asked him if he still rode and would like to ride with her in the
Park the next morning when she took her exercise, and it was arranged in
the presence of her father and with his full consent that Michael should
accompany her in place of the groom who usually attended her rides.
Mrs. Endicott came in as they were making this arrangement, and immediately
called Starr sharply out of the room.
After their withdrawal Endicott questioned the boy carefully about his
college course and his habits of living. He was pleased to hear that
Michael had been independent enough to secure lodgings before coming to his
house. It showed a spirit that was worth helping, though he told him that
he should have come straight to him.
As Endicott was going off on a business trip for a week he told Michael to
enjoy himself looking around the city during his absence, and on his return
present himself at the office at an appointed hour when he would put him in
the way of something that would start him in life.
Michael thanked him and went back to his hot little room on the fourth
floor, happy in spite of heat and dinginess and a certain homesick feeling.
Was he not to ride with Starr in the morning? He could hardly sleep for
thinking of it, and of all he had to say to her.
When Michael presented himself at the appointed hour the next morning he
was shown into a small reception room by a maid, and there he waited for
a full half hour. At the end of that time he heard a discreet rustle of
garments in the distance, and a moment later, became aware of a cold stare
from the doorway. Mrs. Endicott in an elaborate morning frock was surveying
him fixedly through a jewelled lorgnette, her chin tilted contemptuously,
and an expression of supreme scorn upon her handsome features. Woman of the
world that she was, she must have noted the grace of his every movement as
he rose with his habitual courtesy to greet her. Yet for some reason this
only seemed to increase her dislike.
There was no welcoming hand held out in response to his good morning, and
no answering smile displaced the severity of the woman's expression as she
stood confronting the boy, slowly paralyzing him with her glance. Not a
word did she utter. She could convey her deepest meaning without words when
But Michael was a lad of great self-control, and keen logical mind. He saw
no reason for the woman's attitude of rebuke, and concluded he must be
mistaken in it. Rallying his smile once more he asked:
"Is Miss Starr ready to ride, or have I come too early?"
Again the silence became impressive as the cold eyes looked him through,
before the thin lips opened.
"My daughter is not ready to ride--with YOU, this morning or at any other
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," said Michael now deeply astonished, and utterly
unable to fathom the woman's strange manner. "Have I misunderstood? I
thought she asked me to ride with her this morning. May I see her, please?"
"No, you may not see Miss Endicott!" said the cold voice. "And I have
come down to tell you that I consider your coming here at all a great
impertinence. Certainly my husband has fully discharged any obligations for
the slight service he is pleased to assume that you rendered a good many
years ago. I have always had my doubts as to whether you did not do more
harm than good at that time. Of course you were only a child and it was
impossible that you should have done any very heroic thing at that age. In
all probability if you had kept out of things the trouble never would have
happened, and your meddling simply gave you a wound and a soft bed for
a while. In my opinion you have had far more done for you than you ever
deserved, and I want you to understand that so far as my daughter is
concerned the obligation is discharged."
Michael had stood immovable while the cruel woman uttered her harangue, his
eyes growing wide with wonder and dark with a kind of manly shame for her
as she went on. When she paused for a moment she saw his face was white and
still like a statue, but there was something in the depth of his eyes that
held her in check.
With the utmost calm, and deference, although his voice rang with honest
indignation, Michael spoke:
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Endicott," he said, his tone clear and
attention-demanding, "I have never felt that there was the slightest
obligation resting upon any of this family for the trifling matter that
occurred when, as you say, I was a child. I feel that the obligation is
entirely the other way, of course, but I cannot understand what you mean.
How is my coming here at Mr. Endicott's invitation an impertinence?"
The woman looked at him contemptuously as though it were scarcely worth the
trouble to answer him, yet there was something about him that demanded an
"I suppose you are ignorant then," she answered cuttingly, "as you seem to
be honest. I will explain. You are not fit company for my daughter. It is
strange that you do not see that for yourself! A child of the slums, with
nothing but shame and disgrace for an inheritance, and brought up a pauper!
How could you expect to associate on a level with a gentleman's daughter?
If you have any respect for her whatever you should understand that it is
not for such as you to presume to call upon her and take her out riding. It
is commendable in you of course to have improved what opportunities have
been given you, but it is the height of ingratitude in a dependent to
presume upon kindness and take on the airs of an equal, and you might as
well understand first as last that you cannot do it. I simply will not have
you here. Do you understand?"
Michael stood as if rooted to the floor, horror and dismay growing in his
eyes; and stupor trickling through his veins. For a minute he stood after
she had ceased speaking, as though the full meaning of her words had been
slow to reach his consciousness. Yet outwardly his face was calm, and only
his eyes had seemed to change and widen and suffer as she spoke. Finally
his voice came to him:
"Madam, I did not know," he said in a stricken voice. "As you say, I am
ignorant." Then lifting his head with that fine motion of challenge to
the world that was characteristic of him whenever he had to face a hard
situation, his voice rang clear and undaunted:
"Madam, I beg your pardon. I shall not offend this way again. It was
because I did not understand. I would not hurt your daughter in any way,
for she has been the only beautiful thing that ever came into my life. But
I will never trouble her again."
The bow with which he left her and marched past her into the hall and out
of the great door where once his boy life had been freely laid down for her
child, could have been no more gracefully or dramatically effected if he
had been some great actor. It was natural, it was full of dignity and
reproach, and it left the lady feeling smaller and meaner than she had ever
felt in all of her rose-colored, velvet-lined existence. Somehow all the
contempt she had purposely prepared for the crushing of the lad, he had
suddenly flung from him as a hated garment and walked from her presence,
leaving it wrapped about herself.
"Well, really!" she gasped at last when she realized that he was gone and
her eloquence not half finished, "Well, really! What right had he to go
away like that without my permission. Impertinent to the end! One would
suppose he was a grand Duke. Such airs! I always told Delevan it was a
mistake to educate the masses. They simply don't know their place and will
not keep it."
Nevertheless, the selfish woman was much shaken. Michael had made her feel
somehow as if she had insulted a saint or a supernal being. She could not
forget how the light had sifted through his wonderful hair and glinted
through the depths of his great eyes, as he spoke those last words, and she
resented the ease with which he had left her presence. It had been too much
like the going of a victor, and not like one crushed back into his natural
place. She was cross all day in consequence.
Starr meanwhile was lingering upstairs waiting for Michael. She had been
purposely kept busy in a distant room at the back of the house by her
mother, and was not told of his coming. As an hour went by beyond the
appointed time she grew restless and disappointed; and then annoyed and
almost angry that he should have so easily forgotten her; but she did
not tell her mother, and the old Scotch nurse who would have been her
confidante had been sent on an errand to another part of the city.
Thus, as the days went by, and Michael came no more to the house, the girl
grew to think he did not want to come, and her slight disappointment and
mortification were succeeded by a haughty resentment, for her mother's
teaching had not been without some result in her character.
Michael had gone into the door of the Endicott mansion a boy with a light
heart and a happy vision of the future. He came out from there an hour
later, a man, with a heavy burden on his heart, and a blank vision of the
future. So much had the woman wrought.
As he walked from the house his bright head drooped, and his spirit was
troubled within him. He went as one in a terrible dream. His face had the
look of an angel newly turned out of paradise and for no fault of his own;
an angel who bowed to the Supreme mandate, but whose life was crushed
within him. People looked at him strangely, and wondered as they passed
him. It was as if Sorrow were embodied suddenly, and looking through
eyes intended for Love. For the first time Michael, beloved of all his
companions for his royal unselfishness, was thinking of himself.
Yet even so there was no selfishness in his thought. It was only as if that
which had always given him life and the breath of gladness had suddenly
been withdrawn from him, and left him panting, gasping in a wide and
Somehow he found his way to his room and locked the door.
Then the great spirit gave way and he flung himself upon the bed in supreme
exhaustion. He seemed not to have another atom of strength left wherewith,
to move or think or even breathe consciously. All his physical powers
had oozed away and deserted him, now in this great crisis when life's
foundations were shaken to their depths and nothing seemed to be any more.
He could not think it over or find a way out of the horror, he could only
lie and suffer it, fact by fact, as it came and menaced him, slowly,
cruelly throughout that length of day.
Gradually it became distinct and separated itself into thoughts so that he
could follow it, as if it were the separate parts of some great dragon come
to twine its coils about him and claw and crush and strangle the soul of
First, there was the fact like a great knife which seemed to have severed
soul from body, the fact that he might not see Starr, or have aught to do
with her any more. So deeply had this interdiction taken hold upon him that
it seemed to him in his agitation he might no longer even think of her.
Next, following in stern and logical sequence, came the reason for this
severing of soul from all it knew and loved; the fact of his lowly birth.
Coming as it did, out of the blue of a trustful life that had never
questioned much about his origin but had sunnily taken life as a gift,
and thought little about self; with the bluntness and directness of an
un-lovingkindness, it had seemed to cut and back in every direction, all
that was left of either soul or body, so that there came no hope of ever
catching things together again.
That was the way it came over and over again as the boy without a friend in
the whole wide world to whom he could turn in his first great trouble, lay
and took it.
Gradually out of the blackness he began to think a little; think back to
his own beginning. Who was he? What was he? For the first time in his life,
though he knew life more than most of the boys with whom he had associated,
the thought of shame in connection with his own birth came to him, and
burrowed and scorched its way into his soul.
He might have thought of such a possibility before perhaps, had not his
very youngest years been hedged about by a beautiful fancy that sprang from
the brain of an old Irish woman in the slums, whose heart was wide as her
ways were devious, and who said one day when little Mikky had run her an
errand, "Shure, an' then Mikky, yer an angel sthraight frum hiven an' no
misthake. Yer no jest humans like the rist av us; ye must av dhropped doon
frum the skoy." And from that it had gone forth that Mikky was the child of
the sky, and that was why no one knew who were his parents.
The bit of a fancy had guarded the boy's weird babyhood, and influenced
more than he knew his own thought of existence, until life grew too full to
think much on it.
Out of the darkness and murk of the slums the soul of Mikky had climbed
high, and his ambitions reached up to the limitless blue above him. It had
never occurred to him once that there might be an embargo put upon his
upward movements. He had taken all others to be as free hearted and
generous as himself. Heir of all things, he had breathed the atmosphere of
culture as though it were his right. Now, he suddenly saw that he had no
business climbing. He had been seized just as he was about to mount a
glorious height from which he was sure other heights were visible, when a
rude hand had brushed him back and dropped him as though he had been some
crawling reptile, down, down, down, at the very bottom of things. And the
worst of all was that he might not climb back. He might look up, he might
know the way up again, but the honor in him--the only bit of the heights he
had carried back to the foot with him--forbade him to climb to the dizzy
heights of glory, for they belonged to others: those whom fortune favored,
and on whose escutcheon there was no taint of shame.
And why should it be that some souls should be more favored than others?
What had he, for instance, to do with his birth? He would not have chosen
shame, if shame there was. Yet shame or not he was branded with it for life
because his origin was enveloped in mystery. The natural conclusion was
that sin had had its part.
Then through the boy's mind there tumbled a confusion of questions all more
or less unanswerable, in the midst of which he slept.
He seemed to have wandered out into the open again with the pines he loved
above him, and underneath the springy needles with their slippery resinous
softness; and he lay looking up into the changeless blue that covered all
the heights, asking all the tumultuous questions that throbbed through his
heart, asking them of God.
Silently the noises of the city slunk away and dropped into the ceaseless
calm of the southland he had left. The breeze fanned his cheek, the
pines whispered, and a rippling bird song touched his soul with peace. A
quietness came down upon his troubled spirit, and he was satisfied to take
the burden that had been laid him and to bear it greatly. The peace was
upon him when he awoke, far into the next morning.
The hot June sun streamed into his stuffy room and fell aslant the bed. He
was sodden and heavy with the heat and the oppression of his garments. His
head ached, and he felt as nearly ill as he had ever felt in his life. The
spectre of the day before confronted him in all its torturing baldness, but
he faced it now and looked it squarely in the eyes. It was not conquered
yet, not by any means. The sharp pain of its newness was just as great, and
the deep conviction was still there that it was because of wrong that this
burden was laid upon him, but there was an adjustment of his soul to the
inevitable that there had not been at first.
The boy lay still for a few minutes looking out upon a new life in which
everything had to be readjusted to the idea of himself and his new
limitations. Heretofore in his mind there had been no height that was not
his for the climbing. Now, the heights were his, but he would not climb
because the heights themselves might be marred by his presence. It was
wrong, it was unfair, that things should be so; but they were so, and as
long as Sin and Wrong were in the world they would be so.
He must look upon life as he had looked upon every contest through his
education. There were always things to be borne, hard things, but that only
made the conquest greater. He must face this thing and win.
And what had he lost that had been his before? Not the beautiful girl who
had been the idol of his heart all these years. She was still there, alive
and well, and more beautiful than ever. His devotion might yet stand
between her and harm if need arose. True, he had lost the hope of
companionship with her, but that had been the growth of a day. He had never
had much of it before, nor expected it when he came North. It would have
been a glory and a joy beyond expression, but one could live without those
things and be true. There was some reason for it all somewhere in the
infinite he was sure.
It was not like the ordinary boy to philosophize in this way, but Michael
had never been an ordinary boy. Ever his soul had been open to the
greatness of the universe and sunny toward the most trying surroundings. He
had come out of the hardest struggle his soul had yet met, but he had come
out a man. There were lines about his pleasant mouth that had not been
there the day before, which spoke of strength and self-control. There were
new depths in his eyes as of one who had looked down, and seen things
unspeakable, having to number himself with the lowly.
A new thought came to him while he lay there trying to take in the change
that had come to him. The thought of his childhood companions, the little
waifs like himself who came from the offscourings of the earth. They had
loved him he knew. He recalled slowly, laboriously, little incidents from
his early history. They were dim and uncertain, many of them, but little
kindnesses stood out. A bad out on his foot once and how Buck had bathed it
and bound it up in dirty rags, doing double duty with the newspapers for
several days to save his friend from stepping. There was a bitter cold
night way back as far as he could remember when he had had bad luck, and
came among the others supperless and almost freezing. Buck had shared a
crust and found a warm boiler-room where they crawled out of sight and
slept. There were other incidents, still more blurred in his memory, but
enough to recall how loyal the whole little gang had been to him. He
saw once more their faces when they heard he was going away to college;
blanched with horror at the separation, lighting with pleasure when he
promised to return!
The years, how they had changed and separated! Where were they, these who
really belonged to him; who were his rightful companions? What had the
years done to them? And he had a duty toward them unperformed. How was it
that he had been in the city all these hours and not even thought of going
to look for those loyal souls who had stood by him so faithfully when
they were all mere babies? He must go at once. He had lost his head over
attempting to reach things that were not for him, and this shock had come
to set him straight.
Gravely he rose at last, these thoughts surging through his brain.
The heat, the stifling air of the room, his recent struggling and the
exhausting stupor made him reel dizzily as he got up, but his mettle was up
now and he set his lips and went about making himself neat. He longed for a
dip in the crystal waters of the little lake at college. The tiny wash-bowl
of his room proved a poor substitute with its tepid water and diminutive
He went out and breakfasted carefully as if it were a duty, and then, with
his map in his pocket, started out to find his old haunts.
Thirteen years in New York had brought many changes. Some of the
well-remembered landmarks were gone and new buildings in their places. A
prosperous looking saloon quite palatial in its entrance marked the corner
where he used to sell papers. It used to be a corner grocery store.
Saloons! Always and everywhere there were saloons! Michael looked at them
wonderingly. He had quite forgotten them in his exile, for the college
influence had barred them out from its vicinity.
The boy Mikky had been familiar enough with saloons, looking upon them as a
necessary evil, where drinking fathers spent the money that ought to have
bought their children food. He had been in and out of them commonly enough
selling his papers, warming his feet, and getting a crust now and then from
an uneaten bit on the lunch counter. Sometimes there had been glasses to
drain, but Mikky with his observing eyes had early decided that he would
have none of the stuff that sent men home to curse their little children.
College influence, while there had been little said on the subject, had
filled the boy with horror for saloons and drunkards. He stood appalled
now as he turned at last into an alley where familiar objects, doorsteps,
turnings, cellars, met his gaze, with grog shops all along the way and
sentinelling every corner.
A strange feeling came over him as memory stirred by long-forgotten sights
awoke. Was this really the place, and was that opening beyond the third
steps the very blind alley where Janie used to live? Things were so much
dirtier, so much, worse in every way than he remembered them.
He hurried on, not noticing the attention he was attracting from the
wretched little children in the gutters, though he scanned them all
eagerly, hurriedly, with the, wild idea that Buck and the rest might be
Yes, the alley was there, dark and ill-smelling as ever, and in its dim
recesses on a dirty step a woman's figure hunched; a figure he knew at once
that he had seen before and in that very spot. Who was she? What had they
called her? Sally? Aunt Sal?
He hurried up to where she sat looking curiously, apathetically at him; her
gray hair straggling down on her dirty cotton frock open at the neck over
shrivelled yellow skin; soiled old hands hanging carelessly over slatternly
garments; stockingless feet stuck into a great tattered pair of men's
shoes. Nothing seemed changed since he saw her last save that the hair had
been black then, and the skin not so wrinkled. Aunt Sally had been good
natured always, even when she was drunk; her husband, when he came home was
always drunk also, but never good natured. These things came back to the
boy as he stood looking down at the wreck of a woman before him.
The bleary eyes looked up unknowing, half resentful of his intrusion.
"Aunt Sally!" impulsively cried the boyish voice. "Aren't you Aunt Sally?"
The woman looked stupidly surprised.
"I be," she said thickly, "but wot's that to yous? I beant no hant o'
"Don't you remember Mikky?" he asked almost anxiously, for now the feeling
had seized him that he must make her remember. He must find out if he could
whether anything was known of his origin. Perhaps she could help him.
Perhaps, after all, he might be able to trace his family, and find at least
no disgrace upon him.
"Mikky!" the woman repeated dully. She shook her head.
"Mikky!" she said again stolidly, "Wot's Mikky?"
"Don't you remember Mikky the little boy that sold papers and brought you
water sometimes? Once you gave me a drink of soup from your kettle. Think!"
A dim perception came into the sodden eyes.
"Thur wus a Mikky long ago," she mused. "He had hair like a h'angel, bless
the sweet chile; but he got shot an' never come back. That war long ago."
Michael took off his hat and the little light in the dark alley seemed to
catch and tangle in the gleam of his hair.
The old woman started as though she had seen a vision.
"The saints presarve us!" she cried aghast, shrinking back into her doorway
with raised hands, "an' who be yez? Yeh looks enough like the b'y to be the
father of 'im. He'd hair loike the verra sunshine itself. Who be yez? Spake
quick. Be ye man, b'y, er angel?"
There was something in the woman's tone that went to the heart of the
lonely boy, even while he recoiled from the repulsive creature before him.
"I am just Mikky, the boy, grown a little older," he said gently, "and I've
come back to see the place where I used to live, and find the people I used
"Y've lost yer way thin fer shure!" said the woman slightly recovering her
equilibrium. "The loikes uv yous nivver lived in dis place; fer ef yous
ain't angel you's gintulmun; an' no gintulmun ivver cum from the loikes o'
this. An' besoides, the b'y Mikky, I tel'd yez, was shot an' nivver comed
back no more. He's loikely up wid de angels where he b'longs."
"Yes, I was shot," said Michael, "but I wasn't killed. A good man sent me
to college, and I've just graduated and come back to look up my friends."
"Frinds, is it, ye'll be afther a findin'? Thin ye'd bist look ilsewhar,
fer thur's no one in this alley fit to be frinds with the loikes uv you. Ef
that's wot they does with b'ys at co-lidge a pity 'tis more uv um can't git
shot an' go there. But ef all yous tell is thrue, moi advice to yez is,
juist bate it as hoird as ivver yez kin out'n yere, an' don't yez nivver
set oies on this alley agin. Ye'd better stay to co-lidge all the days uv
yer loife than set fut here agin, fer juist let 'em got holt uv yez an'
they'll spile the pretty face uv ye. Look thar!" she pointed tragically
toward a wreck of humanity that reeled into the alley just then. "Would
yez loike to be loike that? My mon come home loike that ivvery day of his
loife, rist his bones, an' he nivver knowed whin he died."
Maudlin tears rolled down the poor creature's cheeks, for they could be no
tears of affection. Her man's departure from this life could have been
but a relief. Michael recoiled from the sight with a sickening sadness.
Nevertheless he meant to find out if this woman knew aught of his old
friends, or of his origin. He rallied his forces to answer her.
"I don't have to be like that," he said, "I've come down to look up my
friends I tell you, and I want you to tell me if you know anything about my
parents. Did you ever hear anything about me? Did anybody know who I was or
how I came to be here?"
The old woman looked at him only half comprehending, and tried to gather
her scattered faculties, but she shook her grizzled head hopelessly.
"I ain't niver laid oies on yea before, an' how cud I know whar yez cum
from, ner how yez cam to be here?" she answered.
He perceived that it would require patience to extract information from
"Try to think," he said more gently. "Can you remember if anyone ever
belonged to the little boy they called Mikky? Was there ever any mother or
father, or--anybody that belonged to him at all."
Again, she shook her head.
"Niver as Oi knows on. They said he just comed a wee babby to the coourt
a wanderin' with the other childer, with scarce a rag to his back, an' a
smile on him like the arch-angel, and some said as how he niver had no
father ner mother, but dthrapped sthraight frum the place where de angels
"But did no one take care of him, or ever try to find out about him?"
questioned Michael wistfully.
"Foind out, is it? Whist! An' who would tak toime to foind out whin ther's
so miny uv their own. Mikky was allus welcome to a bite an' a sup ef any uv
us had it by. There wuz old Granny Bane with the rheumatiks. She gave him a
bed an' a bite now an' agin, till she died, an afther that he made out to
shift fer hisse'f. He was a moighty indepindint babby."
"But had he no other name? Mikky what? What was his whole name?"
pursued Michael with an eagerness that could not give up the sought-for
The old woman only stared stupidly.
"Didn't he have any other name?" There was almost despair in his tone.
Another shake of the head.
"Juist Mikky!" she said and her eyes grew dull once more.
"Can you tell me if there are any other people living here now that used to
know Mikky? Are there any other men or women who might remember?"
"How kin Oi tell?" snarled the woman impatiently. "Oi can't be bothered."
Michael stood in troubled silence and the woman turned her head to watch a
neighbor coming down the street with a basket in her hand. It would seem
that her visitor interested her no longer. She called out some rough,
ribaldry to the woman who glanced up fiercely and deigned no further reply.
Then Michael tried again.
"Could you tell me of the boys who used to go with Mikky?"
"No, Oi can't," she answered crossly, "Oi can't be bothered. Oi don't know
who they was."
"There was Jimmie and Sam and Bobs and Buck. Surely you remember Buck, and
little Janie. Janie who died after Mikky went away?"
The bleared eyes turned full upon him again.
"Janie? Fine Oi remimber Janie. They had a white hurse to her, foiner'n any
iver cum to the coourt before. The b'ys stayed up two noights selling to
git the money fur it, an' Buck he stayed stiddy while she was aloive. Pity
"Where is Buck?" demanded Michael with a sudden twinging of his heart
strings that seemed to bring back the old love and loyalty to his friend.
Buck had needed him perhaps all these years and he had not known.
"That's whot the _po_lice would like fer yez to answer, I'm thinkin'!"
laughed old Sal. "They wanted him bad fer breakin' into a house an' mos'
killin' the lady an' gittin' aff wid de jewl'ry. He beat it dat noight an'
ain't none o' us seen him these two year. He were a slick one, he were
awful smart at breakin' an' stealin'. Mebbe Jimmie knows, but Jimmie, he's
in jail, serving his time fer shootin' a man in the hand durin' a dhrunken
fight. Jimmie, he's no good. Never wuz. He's jest like his foither. Bobs,
he got both legs cut aff, bein' runned over by a big truck, and he doied in
the horspittle. Bobs he were better dead. He'd uv gone loike the rist. Sam,
he's round these parts mostly nights. Ye'll hev to come at noight ef yez
want to see him. Mebbe he knows more 'bout Buck'n he'll tell."
Sick at heart Michael put question, after question but no more information
was forthcoming and the old woman showed signs of impatience again.
Carefully noting what she said about Sam and getting a few facts as to the
best time and place to find him Michael turned and walked sadly out of the
alley. He did not see the alert eyes of old Sal following him, nor the keen
expression of her face as she stretched her neck to see which way he turned
as he left the alley. As soon as he was out of sight she shuffled down
from her doorstep to the corner and peered after him through the morning
sunshine. Then she went slowly, thoughtfully back to her doorstep.
"Now whut in the divil could he be a wantin' wid Buck an' Sammie?" she
muttered to herself. "All that story 'bout his bein' Mikky was puttin' it
on my eye, I'll giv warnin' to Sammie this night, an' ef Buck's in these
pairts he better git out west some'res. The _po_lice uv got onto 'im. But
hoiwiver did they know he knowed Mikky? Poor little angel Mikky! I guv him
the shtraight about Bobs an' Jimmie, fer they wuz beyant his troublin' but
he'll niver foind Sammie from the directin' I sayed."
Michael, sorrowing, horror-filled, conscience-stricken, took his way to a
restaurant and ate his dinner, thinking meanwhile what he could do for
the boys. Could he perhaps visit Jimmie in prison and make his life more
comfortable in little ways? Could he plan something for him when he should
come out? Could he help Sam? The old woman had said little about Sam's
condition. Michael thought he might likely by this time have built up a
nice little business for himself. Perhaps he had a prosperous news stand in
some frequented place. He looked forward eagerly to meeting him again. Sam
had always been a silent child dependent on the rest, but he was one of the
little gang and Michael's heart warmed toward his former comrade. It could
not be that he would find him so loathsome and repulsive as the old woman
Sal. She made him heart-sick. Just to think of drinking soup from her dirty
kettle! How could he have done it? And yet, he knew no better life then,
and he was hungry, and a little child.
So Michael mused, and all the time with a great heart-hunger to know what
had become of Buck. Could he and Sam together plan some way to find Buck
and help him out of his trouble? How could Buck have done anything so
dreadful? And yet even as he thought it he remembered that "pinching" had
not been a crime in his childhood days, not unless one was found out. How
had these principles, or lack of principles been replaced gradually in his
own life without his realizing it at all? It was all strange and wonderful.
Practically now he, Michael, had been made into a new creature since he
left New York, and so gradually, and pleasantly that he had not at all
realized the change that was going on in him.
Yet as he thought and marvelled there shot through him a thought like a
pang, that perhaps after all it had not been a good thing, this making him
into a new creature, with new desires and aims and hopes that could never
be fulfilled. Perhaps he would have been happier, better off, if he had
never been taken out of that environment and brought to appreciate so
keenly another one where he did not belong, and could never stay, since
this old environment was the one where he must stay whether he would or no.
He put the thought from him as unworthy at once, yet the sharpness of the
pang lingered and with it a vision of Starr's vivid face as he had seen her
two nights before in her father's home, before he knew that the door of
that home was shut upon him forever.
Michael passed the day in idly wandering about the city trying to piece
together his old knowledge, and the new, and know the city in which he had
come to dwell.
It was nearing midnight, when Michael, by the advice of old Sal, and
utterly fearless in his ignorance, entered the court where his babyhood had
The alley was dark and murky with the humidity of the summer night; but
unlike the morning hours it was alive with a writhing, chattering, fighting
mass of humanity. Doorways were overflowing. The narrow alley itself seemed
fairly thronging with noisy, unhappy men and women. Hoarse laughs mingled
with rough cursing, shot through with an occasional scream. Stifling odors
lurked in cellar doorways and struck one full in the face unawares. Curses
seemed to be the setting for all conversation whether angry or jolly.
Babies tumbled in the gutter and older children fought over some scrap of
Appalled, Michael halted and almost turned back. Then, remembering that
this was where he had come from,--where he belonged,--and that his duty,
his obligation, was to find hie friends, he went steadily forward.
There sat old Sal, a belligerent gleam in her small sodden eyes. Four men
on a step opposite, with a candle stood between them, were playing cards.
Sal muttered a word as Michael approached and the candle was suddenly
extinguished. It looked as if one had carelessly knocked it down to the
pavement, but the glare nickered into darkness and Michael could no longer
see the men's faces. He had wondered if one of them was Sam. But when he
rubbed his eyes and looked again in the darkness the four men were gone and
the step was occupied by two children holding a sleeping baby between them
and staring at him in open mouthed admiration.
The flickering weird light of the distant street lamps, the noise and
confusion, the odors and curses filled him anew with a desire to flee, but
he would not let himself turn back. Never had Michael turned from anything
that was his duty from fear or dislike of anything.
He tried to enter into conversation with old Sal again, but she would have
none of him. She had taken "a wee drapth" and was alert and suspicious. In
fact, the whole alley was on the alert for this elegant stranger who was
none of theirs, and who of course could have come but to spy on some one.
He wanted Sam, therefore Sam was hidden well and at that moment playing a
crafty game in the back of a cellar on the top of an old beer barrel, by
the light of a wavering candle; well guarded by sentinels all along
the difficult way. Michael could have no more found him under those
circumstances than he could have hoped to find a needle in a haystack the
size of the whole city of New York.
He wandered for two hours back and forth through the alley seeing sights
long since forgotten, hearing words unspeakable; following out this and
that suggestion of the interested bystanders; always coming back without
finding Sam. He had not yet comprehended the fact that he was not intended
to find Sam. He had taken these people into his confidence just as he had
always taken everyone into his confidence, and they were playing him false.
If they had been the dwellers on Fifth Avenue he would not have expected
them to be interested in him and his plans and desires; but these were his
very own people, at least the "ownest" he had in the world, and among them
he had once gone freely, confidently. He saw no reason why they should have
changed toward him, though he felt the antagonism in the atmosphere as the
night wore on, even as he had felt it in the Endicott house the day before.
Heartsick and baffled at last he took his way slowly, looking back many
times, and leaving many messages for Sam. He felt as if he simply could
not go hack to even so uncomfortable a bed an he called his own in his new
lodgings without having found some clew to his old comrades.
Standing at the corner of the alley opposite the flaunting lights of the
saloon he looked back upon the swarming darkness of the alley and his heart
filled with a great surging wave of pity, love, and sorrow. Almost at his
feet in a dark shadow of a doorway a tiny white-faced boy crouched fast
asleep on the stone threshold. It made him think of little Bobs, and his
own barren childhood, and a mist came before his eyes as he looked up, up
at the sky where the very stars seemed small and far away as if the sky had
nothing to do with this part of the earth.
"Oh, God!" he said under his breath. "Oh, God! I must do something for
And then as if the opportunity came with the prayer there reeled into view
a little group of people, three or four men and a woman.
The woman was talking in a high frightened voice and protesting. The men
caught hold of her roughly, laughing and flinging out coarse jests. Then
another man came stealing from the darkness of the alley and joined the
group, seizing the woman by the shoulders and speaking words to her too
vile for repetition. In terrible fear the girl turned, for Michael could
see, now that she was nearer, that she was but a young girl, and that she
was pretty. Instantly he thought of Starr and his whole soul rose in mighty
wrath that any man should dare treat any girl as he had seen these do. Then
the girl screamed and struggled to get away, crying: "It ain't true, it
ain't true! Lem'me go! I won't go with you--"
Instantly Michael was upon them, his powerful arms and supple body dashing
the men right and left. And because of the suddenness of the attack coming
from this most unexpected quarter,--for Michael had stood somewhat in the
shadow--and because of the cowardliness of all bullies, for the moment he
was able to prevail against all four, just long enough for the girl to slip
like a wraith from their grasp and disappear into the shadows.
Then when the men, dazed from surprise, though not seriously hurt,
discovered that their prey was gone and that a stranger from the higher
walks of life had frustrated their plans they fell upon him in their wrath.
Michael brave always, and well trained in athletics, parried their blows
for an instant, but the man, the one who had come from the shadows of
the alley, whose face was evil, stole up behind and stabbed him in the
shoulder. The sudden faintness that followed made him less capable of
defending himself. He felt he was losing his senses, and the next blow from
one of the men sent him reeling into the street where he fell heavily,
striking his head against the curbing. There was a loud cry of murder from
a woman's shrill voice, the padded rush of the villains into their holes,
the distant ring of a policeman's whistle, and then all was quiet as a city
night could be. Michael lay white and still with his face looking up to the
faint pitying moon so far away and his beautiful hair wet with the blood
that was flowing out on the pavement. There he lay on the edge of the world
that was his own and would not own him. He had come to his own and his own
received him not.
Michael awoke in the hospital with a bandage around his head and a stinging
pain in his shoulder whenever he tried to move.
Back in his inner consciousness there sounded the last words he heard
before he fell, but he could not connect them with anything at first:
"Hit him again, Sam!"
Those were the words. What did they mean? Had he heard them or merely
dreamed them? And where was he?
A glance about the long room with its rows of white beds each with an
occupant answered his question. He closed his eyes again to be away from
all those other eyes and think.
Sam! He had been looking for Sam. Had Sam then come at last? Had Sam hit
him? Had Sam recognized him? Or was it another Sam?
But there was something queer the matter with his head, and he could not
think. He put up his right arm to feel the bandage and the pain in his
shoulder stung again. Somehow to his feverish fancy it seemed the sting of
Mrs. Endicott's words to him. He dropped his hand feebly and the nurse gave
him something in a spoon. Then half dreaming he fell asleep, with a vision
of Starr's face as he had seen her last.
Three weeks he lay upon that narrow white bed, and learned to face the
battalion of eyes from the other narrow beds around him; learned to
distinguish the quiet sounds of the marble lined room from the rumble of
the unknown city without; and when the nimble was the loudest his heart
ached with the thought of the alley and all the horrible sights and sounds
that seemed written in letters of fire across his spirit.
He learned to look upon the quiet monotonous world of ministrations as a
haven from the world outside into which he must presently go; and in his
weakened condition he shrank from the new life. It seemed to be so filled
with disappointments and burdens of sorrow.
But one night a man in his ward died and was carried, silent and covered
from the room. Some of his last moaning utterances had reached the ears of
his fellow sufferers with a swift vision of his life and his home, and his
mortal agony for the past, now that he was leaving it all.
That night Michael could not sleep, for the court and the alley, and the
whole of sunken humanity were pressing upon his heart. It seemed to be his
burden that he must give up all his life's hopes to bear. And there he had
it out with himself and accepted whatever should come to be his duty.
Meantime the wound on his head was healed, the golden halo had covered the
scar, and the cut in his shoulder, which had been only a flesh, wound, was
doing nicely. Michael, was allowed to sit up, and then to be about the room
for a day or two.
It was in those days of his sitting up when the sun which crept in for an
hour a day reached and touched to flame his wonderful hair, that the other
men of the ward began to notice him. He seemed to them all as somehow set
apart from the rest; one who was lifted above what held them down to sin
and earth. His countenance spoke of strength and self-control, the two
things that many of those men lacked, either through constant sinning or
through constant fighting with poverty and trouble, and so, as he began to
get about they sent for him to come to their bedsides, and as they talked
one and another of them poured out his separate tale of sorrow and woe,
till Michael felt he could bear no more. He longed for power, great power
to help; power to put these wretched men on their feet again to lead a new
life, power to crush some of the demons in human form who were grinding
them down to earth. Oh! for money and knowledge and authority!
Here was a man who had lost both legs in a defective machine he was running
in a factory. He was a skilled workman and had a wife and three little
ones. But he was useless now at his trade. No one wanted a man with no
legs. He might better be dead. Damages? No, there was no hope of that. He
had accepted three hundred dollars to sign a release. He had to. His wife
and children were starving and they must have the money then or perish.
There was no other way. Besides, what hope had he in fighting a great
corporation? He was a poor man, a stranger in this country, with no
friends. The company had plenty who were willing to swear it was the man's
Yonder was another who had tried to asphyxiate himself by turning on the
gas in his wretched little boarding-house room because he had lost his
position on account of ill health, and the firm wished to put a younger man
in his place. He had almost succeeded in taking himself out of this life.
Next him was one, horribly burned by molten metal which he had been
compelled to carry without adequate precautions, because it was a cheaper
method of handling the stuff and men cost less than machinery. You could
always get more men.
The man across from him was wasted away from insufficient food. He had been
out of work for months, and what little money he could pick up in odd jobs
had gone mostly to his wife and children.
And so it was throughout the ward. On almost every life sin,--somebody's
sin,--had left its mark. There were one or two cheery souls who, though
poor, were blest with friends and a home of some kind and were looking
forward to a speedy restoration; but these were the exception. Nearly all
the others blamed someone else for their unhappy condition and in nearly
every case someone else was undoubtedly to blame, even though in most cases
each individual had been also somewhat responsible.
All this Michael gradually learned, as he began his practical study of
sociology. As he learned story after story, and began to formulate the
facts of each he came to three conclusions: First, that there was not room
enough in the city for these people to have a fair chance at the great and
beautiful things of life. Second, that the people of the cities who had
the good things were getting them all for themselves and cared not a straw
whether the others went without. Third, that somebody ought to be doing
something about it, and why not he?
Of course it was absurd for a mere boy just out of college, with scarcely
a cent to his name--and not a whole name to call his own--to think of
attempting to attack the great problem of the people single-handed; but
still he felt he was called to do it, and he meant to try.
He hadn't an idea at this time whether anybody else had seen it just
this way or not. He had read a little of city missions, and charitable
enterprises, but they had scarcely reached his inner consciousness. His
impression gathered from such desultory reading had been that the effort
in that direction was sporadic and ineffective. And so, in his gigantic
ignorance and egotism, yet with his exquisite sensitiveness to the inward
call, Michael henceforth set himself to espouse the cause of the People.
Was he not one of them? Had he not been born there that he might be one of
them, and know what they had to suffer? Were they not his kindred so far as
he had any kindred? Had he not been educated and brought into contact with
higher things that he might know what these other human souls might be if
they had the opportunity? If he had known a little more about the subject
he would have added "and if they _would_." But he did not; he supposed all
souls were as willing to be uplifted as he had been.
Michael went out from the hospital feeling that his life work was before
him. The solemn pledge he had taken as a little child to return and help
his former companions became a voluntary pledge of his young manhood. He
knew very little indeed about the matter, but he felt much, and he was
determined to do, wherever the way opened. He had no doubt but that the way
"Now young man, take care of yourself," said the doctor in parting from
his patient a few days later, "and for the land's sake keep away from back
alleys at night. When you know a little more about New York you'll learn
that it's best to keep just as far away from such places as possible. Don't
go fooling around under the impression that you can convert any of those
blackguards. They need to be blown up, every one of them, and the place
obliterated. Mind, I say, keep away from them."
Michael smiled and thanked the doctor, and walked unsteadily down the
hospital steps on feet that were strangely wobbly for him. But Michael did
not intend to obey the doctor. He had been turning the matter over in his
mind and he had a plan. And that very night about ten o'clock he went back
to the alley.
Old Sal was sitting on her doorstep a little more intoxicated than the last
time, and the young man's sudden appearance by her side startled her into
an Irish howl.
"The saints presarve us!" she cried tottering to her feet. "He's cum back
to us agin, sure he has! There's no killin' him! He's an angel shure. B'ys
rin! bate it! bate it! The angel's here agin!"
There was a sound of scurrying feet and the place seemed to suddenly clear
of the children that had been under foot. One or two scowling men, or
curiously apathetic women in whose eyes the light of life had died and been
left unburied, peered from dark doorways.
Michael stood quietly until the howling of Sal had subsided, and then he
spoke in a clear tone.
"Can you tell if Sam has been around here to-night? Is he anywhere near
There was no answer for a minute but some one growled out the information
that he might and then he might not have been. Some one else said he had
just gone away but they didn't know where. Michael perceived that it was a
good deal as it had been before.
"I have brought a message for him, a letter," he said, and he spoke so that
anyone near-by might hear. "Will you give it to him when he comes. He will
want to see it, I am sure. It is important. I think he will be glad to get
it. It contains good news about an old friend of his."
He held out the letter courteously to old Sal, and she looked down at its
white crispness as though it had been a message from the lower regions sent
to call her to judgment. A letter, white, square-cornered and clean, with
clear, firm inscription, had never come within her gaze before. Old Sal
had never learned to read. The writing meant nothing to her, but the whole
letter represented a mystic communication from another world.
Instinctively the neighbors gathered nearer to look at the letter, and Sal,
seeing herself the centre of observation, reached forward a dirty hand
wrapped in a corner of her apron, and took the envelope as though it had
been hot, eyeing it all the while fearfully.
Then with his easy bow and touching his hat to her as though she had been a
queen, Michael turned and walked away out of the alley.
Old Sal stood watching him, a kind of wistful wonder in her bleary eyes.
No gentleman had ever tipped his hat to her, and no man had ever done her
reverence. From her little childhood she had been brought up to forfeit the
respect of men. Perhaps it had never entered her dull mind before that she
might have been aught but what she was; and that men might have given her
The neighbors too were awed for the moment and stood watching in silence,
till when Michael turned the corner out of sight, Sal exclaimed:
"Now that's the angel, shure! No gintlemin would iver uv tipped his 'at to
the loikes of Sal. Saints presarve us! That we should hev an angel in this
When Michael reached his lodging he found that he was trembling so from
weakness and excitement that he could scarcely drag himself up the three
flights to his room. So had his splendid strength been reduced by trouble
and the fever that came with his wounds.
He lay down weakly and tried to think. Now he had done his best to find
Sam. If Sam did not come in answer to his letter he must wait until he
found him. He would not give up. So he fell asleep with the burden on his
The letter was as follows:
"You can't have forgotten Mikky who slept with you in the boiler room, and
with whom you shared your crusts. You remember I promised when I went away
to college I would come back and try to make things better for you all? And
now I have come and I am anxious to find the fellows and see what we can do
together to make life better in the old alley and make up for some of the
hard times when we were children. I have been down to the alley but can get
no trace of you. I spent the best part of one night hunting you and then a
slight accident put me in the hospital for a few days, but I am well now
and am anxious to find you all. I want to talk over old times, and find out
where Buck and Jim are; and hear all about Janie and little Bobs.
"I am going to leave this letter with Aunt Sally, hoping she will give it
to you. I have given my address below and should be glad to have you come
and see me at my room, or if you would prefer I will meet you wherever you
say, and we will go together and have something to eat to celebrate.
"Hoping to hear from you very soon, I am as always,
"Your brother and friend,
"Address, Michael Endicott,
No ---- West 23rd St."
A few days later a begrimed envelope addressed in pencil was brought to the
door by the postman. Michael with sinking heart opened it. It read:
"MiKY ef yo be reely hym cum to KelLys karner at 10 tumoroW nite. Ef you
are mIK youz thee old whissel an doante bring no une wit yer Ef yO du I
wunt be thar.
Michael seated on his lumpy bed puzzled this out, word by word, until he
made fairly good sense of it. He was to go to Kelly's corner. How memory
stirred at the words. Kelly's corner was beyond the first turn of the
alley, it was at the extreme end of an alley within an alley, and had
no outlet except through Kelly's saloon. Only the "gang" knew the name,
"Kelly's Corner," for it was not really a corner at all only a sort of
pocket or hiding place so entitled by Buck for his own and "de kids"
private purpose. If Michael had been at all inclined to be a coward since
his recent hard usage in the vicinity of the alley he would have kept
away from Kelly's corner, for once in there with enemies, and alone, no
policeman's club, nor hospital ambulance would ever come to help. The
things that happened at Kelly's corner never got into the newspapers.
Memory and instinct combined to make this perfectly dear to Michael's mind,
and if he needed no other warning those words of the letter, "Don't bring
no one with you. If you do, I won't be there," were sufficient to make him
Yet Michael never so much as thought of not keeping the appointment. His
business was to find Sam, and it mattered as little to him now that danger
stood in the way as it had the day when he flung his neglected little body
in front of Starr Endicott and saved her from the assassin's bullet. He
would go, of course, and go alone. Neither did it occur to him to take
the ordinary precaution of leaving his name and whereabouts at the police
station to be searched for in case he did not turn up in reasonable time.
It was all in the day's work and Michael thought no more about the possible
peril he was facing than he had thought of broken limbs and bloody noses
the last hour before a football scrimmage.
There was something else in the letter that interested Michael and stirred
the old memories. That old whistle! Of course he had not forgotten that,
although he had not used it much among his college companions. It was a
strange, weird, penetrating sound, between a call and whistle. He and Buck
had made it up between them. It was their old signal. When Michael went to
college he had held it sacred as belonging strictly to his old friends,
and never, unless by himself in the woods where none but the birds and the
trees could hear, had he let its echoes ring. Sometimes he had flung it
forth and startled the mocking birds, and once he had let it ring into the
midst of his astonished comrades in Florida when he was hidden from their
view and they knew not who had made the sound. He tried it now softly, and
then louder and louder, until with sudden fear he stopped lest his landlady
should happen to come up that way and think him insane. But undoubtedly he
could give the old signal.
The next night at precisely ten o'clock Michael's ringing step sounded down
the alley; firm, decisive, secure. Such assurance must Daniel have worn as
he faced the den of lions; and so went the three Hebrew children into the
"It's him! It's the angel!" whispered old Sal who was watching. "Oi tould
yez he'd come fer shure!"
"He's got his nerve with him!" murmured a girl with bold eyes and a coarse
kind of beauty, as she drew further back into the shadow of the doorway.
"He ain't comin' out again so pretty I guess. Not if Sam don't like. Mebbe
he ain't comin' out 'tall!"
"Angels has ways, me darlint!" chuckled Sal. "He'll come back al roight,
On walked Michael, down the alley to the narrow opening that to the
uninitiated was not an opening between the buildings at all, and slipped in
the old way. He had thought it all out in the night. He was sure he knew
just how far beyond Sal's house it was; on into the fetid air of the close
dark place, the air that struck him in the face like a hot, wet blanket as
he kept on.
It was very still all about when he reached the point known as Kelly's
corner. It had not been so as he remembered it. It had been the place of
plots, the hatching of murders and robberies. Had it so changed that it was
still to-night? He stood for an instant hesitating. Should he wait a while,
or knock on some door? Would it be any use to call?
But the instinct of the slums was upon him again, his birthright. It seemed
to drop upon him from the atmosphere, a sort of stealthy patience. He would
wait. Something would come. He must do as he had done with the birds of the
forest when he wished to watch their habits. He must stand still unafraid
and show that he was harmless.
So he stood three, perhaps five minutes, then softly at first and gradually
growing clearer, he gave the call that he had given years before, a little
barefoot, hungry child in that very spot many times.
The echo died away. There was nothing to make him know that a group of
curious alley-dwellers huddled at the mouth of the trap in which he stood,
watching with eyes accustomed to the darkness, to see what would happen; to
block his escape if escape should be attempted.
Then out of the silence a sigh seemed to come, and out of the shadows one
shadow unfolded itself and came forward till it stood beside him. Still
Michael did not stir; but softly, through, half-open lips, breathed the
signal once more.
Sibilant, rougher, with a hint of menace as it issued forth the signal was
answered this time, and with a thrill of wonder the mantle of the old life
fell upon Michael once more. He was Mikky--only grown more wise. Almost the
old vernacular came to his tongue.
"Hi! Sam! That you?"
The figure in the darkness seemed to stiffen with sudden attention. The
voice was like, and yet not like the Mikky of old.
"Wot yous want?" questioned a voice gruffly.
"I want you, Sam. I want to see if you look as you used to, and I want to
know about the boys. Can't we go where there's light and talk a little?
I've been days hunting you. I've come back because I promised, you know.
You expected me to come back some day, didn't you, Sam?"
Michael was surprised to find how eager he was for the answer to this
"Aw, what ye givin' us?" responded the suspicious Sam. "D'yous s'pose I
b'lieve all that gag about yer comin' here to he'p we'uns? Wot would a guy
like yous wid all dem togs an' all dem fine looks want wid us? Yous has got
above us. Yous ain't no good to us no more."
Sam scratched a match on his trousers and lit an old pipe that he held
between his teeth, but as the match flared up and showed his own face a
lowering brow, shifty eyes, a swarthy, unkempt visage, sullen and sly, the
shifty eyes were not looking at the pipe but up at the face above him which
shone out white and fine with its gold halo in the little gleam in the dark
court. The watchers crowding at the opening of the passage saw his face,
and almost fancied there were soft shadowy wings behind him. It was thus
with old Sal's help that Michael got his name again, "The Angel." It was
thus he became the "angel of the alley."
"Sam!" he said, and his voice was very gentle, although he was perfectly
conscious that behind him there were two more shadows of men and more might
be lurking in the dark corners. "Sam, if you remember me you will know I
couldn't forget; and I do care. I came back to find you. I've always meant
to come, all the time I was in college. I've had it in mind to come back
here and make some of the hard things easier for"--he hesitated, and--"for
"How did yous figger yous was goin' to do that?" Sam asked, his little
shifty eyes narrowing on Michael, as he purposely struck another match to
watch the effect of his words.
Then Michael's wonderful smile lit up his face, and Sam, however much he
may have pretended to doubt, knew in his deepest heart that this was the
same Mikky of old. There was no mistaking that smile.
"I shall need you to help me in figuring that out, Sam. That's why I was so
anxious to find you."
A curious grunt from behind Michael warned him that the audience was being
amused at the expense of Sam, Sam's brows were lowering.
"Humph!" he said, ungraciously striking a third match just in time to watch
Michael's face. "Where's yer pile?"
"Got the dough?"
"Oh," said Michael comprehendingly, "no, I haven't got money, Sam. I've
only my education."
"An' wot good's it, I'd like to know. Tell me those?"
"So much good that I can't tell it all in one short talk," answered Michael
steadily. "We'll have to get better acquainted and then I hope I can make
you understand how it has helped. Now tell me about the others. Where is
There was a dead silence.
"It's hard to say!" at last muttered Sam irresponsibly.
"Don't you know? Haven't you any kind of an idea, Sam? I'd so like to hunt
The question seemed to have produced a tensity in the very atmosphere,
Michael felt it.
"I might, an' then agin' I might not," answered Sam in that tone of his
that barred the way for further questions.
"Couldn't you and I find him and--and--help him, Sam? Aunt Sally said he
was in trouble."
Another match was scratched and held close to his face while the narrow
eyes of Sam seemed to pierce his very soul before Sam answered with an ugly
"Oh, he don't need none o' your help, you bet. He's lit out. You don't need
to worry 'bout Buck, he kin take car' o' hisse'f every time."
"But won't he come back sometime?"
"Can't say. It's hard to tell," non-committally.
"And Jim?" Michael's voice was sad.
"Jim, he's doin' time," sullenly.
"I'm sorry!" said Michael sadly, and a strange hush came about the dark
group. Now why should this queer chap be sorry? No one else cared, unless
it might be Jim, and Jim had got caught. It was nothing to them.
"Now tell me about Janie--and little Bobs--" The questioner paused. His
voice was very low.
"Aw, cut it out!" snarled Sam irritably. "Don't come any high strikes on
their account. They're dead an' you can't dig 'em up an' weep over 'em.
Hustle up an' tell us wot yer wantin' to do."
"Well, Sam," said Michael trying to ignore the natural repulsion he felt
at the last words of his one-time friend, "suppose you take lunch with me
to-morrow at twelve. Then we can talk over things and get back old times.
I will tell you all about my college life and you must tell me all you are
Sam was silent from sheer astonishment. Take lunch! Never in his life had
he been invited out to luncheon. Nor had he any desire for an invitation
"Where?" he asked after a silence so long that Michael began to fear he was
not going to answer at all.
Michael named a place not far away. He had selected it that morning. It was
clean, somewhat, yet not too clean. The fare was far from princely, but it
would do, and the locality was none too respectable. Michael was enough
of a slum child still to know that his guest would never go with him to a
really respectable restaurant, moreover he would not have the wardrobe nor
the manners. He waited Sam's answer breathlessly.
Sam gave a queer little laugh as if taken off his guard. The place named
was so entirely harmless, to his mind, and the whole matter of the
invitation took on the form of a great joke.
"Well, I might," he drawled indifferently. "I won't make no promises, but
I might, an' then again I might not. It's jes' as it happens. Ef I ain't
there by twelve sharp you needn't wait. Jes' go ahead an' eat. I wouldn't
want to spoil yer digestion fer my movements."
"I shall wait!" said Michael decidedly with his pleasant voice ringing
clear with satisfaction. "You will come, Sam, I know you will. Good night!"
And then he did a most extraordinary thing. He put out his hand, his clean,
strong hand, warm and healthy and groping with the keenness of low, found
the hardened grimy hand of his one-time companion, and gripped it in a
Sam started back with the instant suspicion of attack, and then stood
shamedly still for an instant. The grip of that firm, strong hand, the
touch of brotherhood, a touch such as had never come to his life before
since he was a little child, completed the work that the smile had begun,
and Sam knew that Mikky, the real Mikky was before him.
Then Michael walked swiftly down that narrow passage,--at the opening of
which, the human shadows scattered silently and fled, to watch from other
furtive doorways,--down through the alley unmolested, and out into the
street once more.
"The saints presarve us! Wot did I tell yez?" whispered Sal. "It's the
angel all right fer shure."
"I wonder wot he done to Sam," murmured the girl. "He's got his nerve all
right, he sure has. Ain't he beautiful!"
Michael went early to his lunch party. He was divided between wondering if
his strange guest would put in an appearance at all; if he did, what he
should talk about; and how he would pilot him through the embarrassing
experience of the meal. One thing he was determined upon. He meant to find
out if possible whether Sam knew anything about his, Michael's, origin.
It was scarcely likely; and yet, Sam might have heard some talk by older
people in the neighborhood. His one great longing was to find out and clear
his name of shame if possible.
There was another thing that troubled Michael. He was not sure that he
would know Sam even supposing that he came. The glimpse he had caught
the night before when the matches were struck was not particularly
illuminating. He had a dim idea that Sam was below the medium height; with
thin, sallow face; small, narrow eyes; a slouching gait; and a head that
was not wide enough from front to back. He had a feeling that Sam had not
room enough in his brain for seeing all that ought to be seen. Sam did not
understand about education. Would he ever be able to make him understand?
Sam came shuffling along ten minutes after twelve. His sense of dignity
would not have allowed him to be on time. Besides, he wanted to see if
Michael would wait as he had said. It was a part of the testing of Michael;
not to prove if he were really Mikky, but to see what stuff he was made of,
and how much he really had meant of what he said.
Michael was there, standing anxiously outside the eating house. He did not
enjoy the surroundings nor the attention he was attracting. He was too well
dressed for that locality, but these were the oldest clothes he had. He
would have considered them quite shabby at college. He was getting worried
lest after all his plan had failed. Then Sam slouched along, his hat drawn
down, his hands in his pockets, and wearing an air of indifference that
almost amounted to effrontery. He greeted Michael as if there had been no
previous arrangement and this were a chance meeting. There was nothing
about his manner to show that he had purposely come late to put him to the
test, but Michael knew intuitively it was so.
"Shall we go in now?" said Michael smiling happily. He found he was really
glad that Sam had come, repulsive in appearance though he was, hard of
countenance and unfriendly in manner. He felt that he was getting on just a
little in his great object of finding out and helping his old friends, and
perhaps learning something more of his own history.
"Aw, I donno's I care 'bout it!" drawled Sam, just as if he had not
intended going in all the time, nor had been thinking of the "feed" all the
morning in anticipation.
"Yes, you better," said Michael putting a friendly hand on the others'
shoulder. If he felt a repugnance to touching the tattered, greasy coat of
his one-time friend, he controlled it, remembering how he had once worn
garments far more tattered and filthy. The greatness of his desire to
uplift made him forget everything else. It was the absorption of a supreme
task that had come upon the boy to the exclusion of his own personal
It was not that Michael was so filled with love for this miserable creature
who used to be his friend, nor so desired to renew old associations after
these long years of separation; it was the terrible need, the conditions
of which had been called vividly to his experience, that appealed to his
spirit like a call of authority to which he answered proudly because
of what had once been done for him. It had come upon him without his
knowledge, suddenly, with the revival of old scenes and memories, but as
with all workers for humanity it had gone so deeply into his soul as to
make him forget even that there was such a thing as sacrifice.
They passed into the restaurant. Michael in his well-made clothing and with
his strikingly handsome face and gold hair attracting at once every eye
in the place: Sam with an insolent air of assurance to cover a sudden
embarrassment of pride at the company he was in.
Michael gave a generous order, and talked pleasantly as they waited. Sam
sat in low-browed silence watching him furtively, almost disconcertingly.
It was when they had reached the course of three kinds of pie and a dab
of dirty looking, pink ice cream professing to be fresh strawberry, that
Michael suddenly looked keenly at his guest and asked:
"What are you doing now, Sam? In business for yourself?"
Sam's eyes narrowed until they were almost eclipsed, though a keen steel
glitter could be seen beneath the colorless lashes. A kind of mask,
impenetrable as lead, seemed to have settled over his face, which had been
gradually relaxing during the meal into a half indulgent grin of interest
in his queer host.
"Yas, I'm in business fer myself," he drawled at last after carefully
scrutinizing the other's face to be sure there was no underlying motive for
"News-stand?" asked Michael.
Sam finished his mince pie and began on the pumpkin before he answered.
"Wal, ther's sev'ral!"
"Is that so? Got more than one string to your bow? That's a good thing.
You're better off than I am. I haven't looked around for a job yet. I
thought I'd get at it to-morrow. You see I wanted to look you fellows up
first before I got tied down to anything where I couldn't get off when I
wanted to. Perhaps you can put me onto something. How about it?"
It was characteristic of Michael that he had not once thought of going to
Endicott for the position and help offered him, since the setting down
he had received from Mrs. Endicott. The time appointed for his going to
Endicott's office was long since passed. He had not even turned the matter
over in his mind once since that awful night of agony and renunciation.
Mrs. Endicott had told him that her husband "had done enough for him" and
he realized that this was true. He would trouble him no more. Sometime
perhaps the world would turn around so that he would have opportunity to
repay Endicott's kindness that he might not repay in money, but until then
Michael would keep out of his way. It was the one poor little rag of pride
he allowed himself from the shattering of all his hopes.
Sam narrowed his eyes and looked Michael through, then slowly widened them
again, an expression of real interest coming into them.
"Say! Do you mean it?" he asked doubtfully. "Be you straight goods? Would
you come back into de gang an not snitch on us ner nothin'?"
"I'm straight goods, Sam, and I won't snitch!" said Michael quickly. He
knew that he could hope for no fellow's confidence if he "snitched."
"Wal, say, I've a notion to tell yeh!"
Sam attacked his ice cream contemplatively.
"How would a bluff game strike you?" he asked suddenly as the last
delectable mouthful of cream disappeared and he pulled the fresh cup of
coffee toward him that the waiter had just set down.
"What sort?" said Michael wondering what he was coming on in the way of
revelation, but resolving not to be horrified at anything. Sam must not
suspect until he could understand what a difference education had made in
the way of looking at things.
"Wal, there's diffrunt ways. Cripple's purty good. Foot all tied up in
bloody rags, arm an' hand tied up, a couple o' old crutches. I could lend
the clo'es. They'd be short fer yeh, but that'd be all the better gag. We
cud swap an' I'd do the gen'lman act a while." He looked covetously at
Michael's handsome brown tweeds--"Den you goes fom house to house, er you
stands on de corner--"
"Begging!" said Michael aghast. His eyes were on his plate and he was
trying to control his voice, but something of his horror crept into his
tones. Sam felt it and hastened on apologetically--
"Er ef you want to go it one better, keep on yer good cloes an' have