Part 3 out of 6
the asthma bad. I know a feller what'll teach you how, an' sell you the
whistles to put in yer mouth. You've no notion how it works. You just go
around in the subbubs tellin' thet you've only been out of the 'orspittal
two days an' you walked all this way to get work an' couldn't get it, an'
you want five cents to get back--see? Why, I know a feller--course he's
been at it fer years an' he has his regular beats--folks don't seem to
remember--and be can work the ground over 'bout once in six months er so,
and he's made's high's thirty-eight dollars in a day at asthma work."
Sam paused triumphant to see what effect the statement had on his friend,
but Michael's face was toward his coffee cup.
"Seems sort of small business for a man!" he said at last, his voice steady
with control. "Don't believe I'd be good at that? Haven't you got something
that's real _work_?"
Sam's eyes narrowed.
"Ef I thought you was up to it," he murmured. "You'd be great with that
angel face o' yourn. Nobody'd ever suspect you. You could wear them clo'es
too. But it's work all right, an' mighty resky. Ef I thought you was up
to it--" He continued to look keenly at Michael, and Michael, with innate
instinct felt his heart beat in discouraged thumps. What new deviltry was
Sam about to propose?
"You used to be game all right!" murmured Sam interrogatively. "You never
used to scare easy--"
"Wal, I'll tell you," in answer to Michael's questioning eyes which
searched his little sharp wizened face--Michael was wondering if there was
anything in that face to redeem it from utter repulsiveness.
"You see it's a reg'ler business, an' you hev to learn, but I'd give you
pinters, all you'd need to know, I'm pretty slick myself. There's tools to
open things, an' you hev to be ready to 'xplain how you come thur an' jolly
up a parlor maid per'aps. It's easy to hev made a mistake in the house, er
be a gas man er a plumber wot the boss sent up to look at the pipes. But
night work's best pay after you get onto things. Thur's houses where you
ken lay your han's on things goin' into the thousands an' lots ov um easy
to get rid of without anybody findin' out. There's Buck he used to be great
at it. He taught all the gang. The day he lit out he bagged a bit o' glass
wuth tree tousand dollars, 'sides a whole handful of fivers an' tens wot he
found lyin' on a dressin' table pretty as you please. Buck he were a slick
one at it. He'd be pleased to know you'd took up the work--"
Sam paused and eyed Michael with the first friendly gleam he had shown in
his eyes, and Michael, with his heart in a tumult of varied emotions, and
the quick color flooding brow and cheek, tried to hold himself in check. He
must not speak too hastily. Perhaps he had not understood Sam's meaning.
"Where is Buck?" Michael looked Sam straight in the eye. The small pupils
seemed to contract and shut out even his gaze.
"They ain't never got a trace of Buck," he said evasively.
"But don't you know?" There was something in Michael's look that demanded
"I might an' I might not," responded Sam sullenly.
Michael was still for several seconds watching Sam; each trying to
understand the other.
"Do you think he will come hack where I can see him?" he asked at length.
"He might, an' he might not. 't depends. Ef you was in th' bizness he
might. It's hard to say. 't depends."
Michael watched Sam again thoughtfully.
"Tell me more about the business," he said at last, his lips compressed,
his brows drawn down into a frown of intensity.
"Thur ain't much, more t'tell," said Sam, still sullen. "I ain't sure
you're up to it?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Ain't sure you got de sand. You might turn faint and snitch." Sam leaned
forward and spoke in low rapid sentences. "Wen we'd got a big haul, 'sposen
you'd got into de house an' done de pinchin', and we got the stuff safe
hid, an' you got tuk up? Would you snitch? Er would you take your pill like
a man? That's what I'd want to be sure. Mikky would a' stood by the gang,
but you--you've had a edicashun! They might go soft at college. I ain't
much use fer edicated persons myself. But I'll give you a show ef you
promise stiff not to snitch. We've got a big game on to-night up on Madison
Avenue, an' we're a man short. Dere's dough in it if we make it go all
right. Rich man. Girl goin' out to a party to-night. She's goin' to wear
some dimons wurth a penny. Hed it in de paper. Brung 'em home from de bank
this mornin'. One o' de gang watched de feller come out o' de bank. It's
all straight so fur. It's a pretty big haul to let you in de first try, an'
you'll hev to run all de risks; but ef you show you're game we'll make it a
Michael held himself tensely and fought the desire to choke the fellow
before him; tried to remember that he was the same Sam who had once divided
a crust with him, and whom he had come to help; reflected that he might
have been as bad himself if he had never been taken from the terrible
environment of the slums and shown a better way; knew that if he for one
fraction of a second showed his horror at the evil plot, or made any
attempt to stop it all hope of reaching Sam, or Buck, or any of the others
was at an end; and with it all hope of finding any stray links of his own
past history. Besides, though honor was strong in him and he would never
"snitch" on his companions, it would certainly be better to find out as
much as possible about the scheme. There might be other ways besides
"snitching" of stopping such things. Then suddenly his heart almost stopped
beating, Madison Avenue! Sam had said Madison Avenue, and a girl! What if
it were Starr's jewels they were planning to take. He knew very little
about such matters save what he had read. It did not occur to him that
Starr was not yet "out" in society; that she would be too young to wear
costly jewels and have her costume put in the paper. He only knew that his
heart was throbbing again painfully, and that the fellow before him seemed
too vile to live longer on the same earth with Starr, little, beautiful,
He was quite still when Sam had finished; his face was white with emotion
and his eyes were blazing blue flames when he raised them to look at Sam.
Then he became aware that his answer was awaited.
"Sam, do you mean _burglary_?" He tried to keep his voice low and steady as
he spoke but he felt as if he had shouted the last word. The restaurant
was almost empty now, and the waiters had retired behind the scenes amid a
clatter of dishes.
"That's about as pretty a word as you can call it, I guess," said Sam,
drawing back with a snarl as he saw the light in Michael's eyes.
Michael looked him through for an instant, and if a glance can burn then
surely Sam's little soul shrank scorching into itself, but it was so brief
that the brain which was only keen to things of the earth had not analyzed
it. Michael dropped his glance to the table again, and began playing with
his spoon and trying to get calm with a deep breath as he used to when he
knew a hard spot in a ball game was coming.
"Well, why don't you speak? You 'fraid?" It was said with a sneer that a
devil from the pit might have given.
Then Michael sat up calmly. His heart was beating steadily now and he was
facing his adversary.
"No! I'm not afraid, Sam, if there were any good reason for going, but you
know I never could feel comfortable in getting my living off somebody else.
It doesn't seem fair to the other fellow. You see they've got a right to
the things they own and I haven't; and because I might be smart enough to
catch them napping and sneak away with what they prize doesn't make it
right either. Now that girl probably thinks a lot of her diamonds, you see,
and it doesn't seem quite the manly thing for a big strong fellow like me
to get them away from her, does it? Of course you may think differently,
but I believe I'd rather do some good hard work that would keep my muscles
in trim, than to live off some one else. There's a kind of pretty gray moss
that grows where I went to college. It floats along a little seed blown in
the air first and lodges on the limb of a tree and begins to fasten itself
into the bark, and grow and grow and suck life from the big tree. It
doesn't seem much at first, and it seems as if the big tree might spare
enough juice to the little moss. But wait a few years and see what happens.
The moss grows and drapes itself in great long festoons all over that tree
and by and by the first thing you know that tree has lost all its green
leaves and stands up here stark and dead with nothing on its bare branches
but that old gray moss which has to die too because it has nothing to live
on any longer. It never learned to gather any juice for itself. They call
the moss a parasite. I couldn't be a human parasite, Sam. You may feel
differently about it, but I couldn't. I really couldn't."
Michael's eyes had grown dreamy and lost their fire as he remembered the
dear South land, and dead sentinel pines with their waving gray festoons
against the ever blue sky. As he talked he saw the whole great out-of-doors
again where he had wandered now so many years free and happy; free from
burdens of humanity which were pressing him now so sorely. A great longing
to fly back to it all, to get away from the sorrow and the degradation and
the shame which seemed pressing so hard upon him, filled his heart, leaped
into his eyes, caught and fascinated the attention of the listening Sam,
who understood very little of the peroration. He had never heard of a
parasite. He did not know he had always been a human parasite. He was
merely astonished and a trifle fascinated by the passion and appeal in
Michael's face as he spoke.
"Gosh!" he said in a tone almost of admiration. "Gosh! Is that wot
edicashun done fer you?"
"Perhaps," said Michael pleasantly, "though I rather think, Sam, that I
always felt a bit that way, I just didn't know how to say it."
"Wal, you allus was queer!" muttered Sam half apologetically. "I couldn't
see it that way myself, as you say, but o' course it's your fun'ral! Ef you
kin scratch up enough grub bein' a tree, why that's your own lookout. Moss
is good 'nough fer me fer de present."
Michael beamed his wonderful smile on Sam and answered: "Perhaps you'll see
it my way some day, Sam, and then we can get a job together!"
There was so much comraderie in the tone, and so much dazzling brilliancy
in the smile that Sam forgot to be sullen.
"Wal, mebbe," he chuckled, "but I don't see no edicashun comin' my way dis
late day, so I guess I'll git along de way I be."
"It isn't too late yet, Sam. There's more than one way of getting an
education. It doesn't always come through college."
After a little more talk in which Sam promised to find out if there was
any way for Michael to visit Jim in his temporary retirement from the
law-abiding world, and Michael promised to visit Sam in the alley again at
an appointed time, the two separated.
Then Michael went forth to reconnoitre and to guard the house of Endicott.
With no thought of any personal danger, Michael laid his plans. Before
sundown, he was on hand, having considered all visible and invisible means
of ingress to the house. He watched from a suitable distance all who came
and went. He saw Mr. Endicott come home. He waited till the evening drew
near when a luxurious limousine stopped before the door; assured himself
that only Mrs. Endicott had gone out. A little later Mr. Endicott also left
the house. Starr had not gone out. He felt that he had double need to watch
now as she was there alone with only the servants.
Up and down he walked. No one passed the Endicott house unwatched by him.
None came forth or went in of whom he did not take careful notice.
The evening passed, and the master and mistress of the house returned. One
by one the lights went out. Even in the servants' rooms all was dark at
last. The night deepened and the stars thickened overhead.
The policeman's whistle sounded through the quiet streets and the city
seemed at last to be sinking into a brief repose. It was long past
midnight, and still Michael kept up his patrol. Up this side of the street,
down that, around the corner, through the alley at the back where "de kids"
had stood in silent respect uncovered toward his window years ago; back to
the avenue again, and on around. With his cheery whistle and his steady
ringing step he awakened no suspicion even when he came near to a
policeman; and besides, no lurkers of the dark would steal out while he was
so noisily in the neighborhood.
And so he watched the night through, till the morning broke and sunshine
flooded the; window of the room where Starr, unconscious of his vigil, lay
Busy milk wagons were making their rounds, and sleepy workmen with dinner
pails slung over their arms were striding to their day's work through the
cool of the morning, as Michael turned his steps toward his lodging. Broad
morning was upon them and deeds of darkness could be no more. The night was
passed. Nothing had happened. Starr was safe. He went home and to sleep
well pleased. He might not companion with her, but it was his privilege to
guard her from unsuspected evils. That was one joy that could not be taken
from him by the taint that was upon him. Perhaps his being a child of the
slums might yet prove to be a help to guard her life from harm.
It was the first week in September that Michael, passing through a crowded
thoroughfare, came face to face with Mr. Endicott.
The days had passed into weeks and Michael had not gone near his
benefactor. He had felt that he must drop out of his old friend's life
until a time came that he could show his gratitude for the past. Meantime
he had not been idle. His winning smile and clear eyes had been his
passport; and after a few preliminary experiences he had secured a position
as salesman in a large department store. His college diploma and a letter
from the college president were his references. He was not earning much,
but enough to pay his absolute expenses and a trifle over. Meantime he was
This Saturday morning of the first week of September he had come to the
store as usual, but had found that on account of the sudden death of a
member of the firm the store would be closed for the day.
He was wondering how he should spend his holiday and wishing that he might
get out into the open and breathe once more the free air under waving
trees, and listen to the birds, and the waters and the winds. He was half
tempted to squander a few cents and go to Coney Island or up the Hudson,
somewhere, anywhere to get out of the grinding noisy tempestuous city,
whose sin and burden pressed upon his heart night and day because of that
from which he had been saved; and of that from which he had not the power
to save others.
Then out of an open doorway rushed a man, going toward a waiting
automobile, and almost knocking Michael over in his progress.
"Oh! It is you, young man! At last! Well, I should like to know what you
have done with yourself all these weeks and why you didn't keep your
appointment with me?"
"Oh!" said Michael, pleasure and shame striving together in his face. He
could see that the other man was not angry, and was really relieved to have
"Where are you going, son?" Endicotts tone had already changed from
gruffness to kindly welcome. "Jump in and run down to the wharf with me
while you give an account of yourself. I'm going down to see Mrs. Endicott
off to Europe. She is taking Starr over to school this winter. I'm late
already, so jump in."
Michael seemed to have no choice and stepped into the car, which was
whirled through the intricate maze of humanity and machinery down toward
the regions where the ocean-going steamers harbor.
His heart was in a tumult at once, both of embarrassed joy to be in
the presence of the man who had done so much for him, and of eager
anticipation. Starr! Would he see Starr again? That was the thought
uppermost in his mind. He had not as yet realized that she was going away
for a long time.
All the spring time he had kept guard over the house in Madison Avenue. Not
all night of course, but hovering about there now and then, and for two
weeks after he had talked with Sam, nightly. Always he had walked that way
before retiring and looked toward the window where burned a soft light.
Then they had gone to the seashore and the mountains and the house had put
on solemn shutters and lain asleep.
Michael knew all about it from a stray paragraph in the society column of
the daily paper which he happened to read.
Toward the end of August he had made a round through Madison Avenue every
night to see if they had returned home, and for a week the shutters had
been down and the lights burning as of old. It had been good to know that
his charge was back there safely. And now he was to see her.
"Well! Give an account of yourself. Were you trying to keep out of my
sight? Why didn't you come to my office?"
Michael looked him straight in the eye with his honest, clear gaze that
showed no sowing of wild oats, no dissipation or desire to get away from
friendly espionage. He decided in a flash of a thought that this man should
never know the blow his beautiful, haughty wife had dealt him. It was true,
all she had said, and he, Michael, would give the real reason why he had
"Because I thought you had done for me far more than I deserved already,
and I did not wish to be any further burden to you."
"The dickens you did!" exclaimed Endicott. "You good-for-nothing rascal,
didn't you know you would be far more of a burden running off in that style
without leaving a trace of yourself behind so I could hunt you up, than if
you had behaved yourself and done as I told you? Here I have been doing
a lot of unnecessary worrying about you. I thought you had fallen among
thieves or something, or else gone to the dogs. Don't you know that is a
most unpardonable thing to do, run off from a man who has told you he wants
to see you? I thought I made you understand that I had more than a passing
interest in your welfare!"
The color came into the fine, strong face and a pained expression in his
"I'm sorry, sir! I didn't think of it that way. I thought you felt some
kind of an obligation; I never felt so, but you said you did; and I thought
if I got out of your way I would trouble you no more."
"Trouble me! Trouble me! Why, son, I like to be troubled once in a while by
something besides getting money and spending it. You never gave me a shadow
of trouble, except these last weeks when you've disappeared and I couldn't
do anything for you. You've somehow crept into my life and I can't get you
out. In fact, I don't want to. But, boy, if you felt that way, what made
you come to New York at all? You didn't feel that way the night you came to
my house to dinner."
Michael's eyes owned that this was true, but his firm lips showed that he
would never betray the real reason for the change.
"Realize? Realize what?"
"I didn't realize the difference between my station and yours, sir. There
had never been anything during my years in school to make me know. I am a
'child of the slums'"--unconsciously he drifted into quotations from Mrs.
Endicott's speech to him--"and you belong to a fine old family. I don't
know what terrible things are in my blood. You have riches and a name
beyond reproach--" He had seen the words in an article he had read the
evening before, and felt that they fitted the man and the occasion. He did
not know that he was quoting. They had become a part of his thoughts.
"I might make the riches if I tried hard," he held up his head proudly,
"but I could never make the name. I will always be a child of the slums, no
matter what I do!"
"Child of the fiddlesticks!" interrupted Endicott. "Wherever did you get
all that, rot? It sounds as if you had been attending society functions and
listening to their twaddle. It doesn't matter what you are the child of, if
you're a mind to be a man. This is a free country, son, and you can be and
climb where you please. Tell me, where did you get all these ideas?"
Michael looked down. He did not wish to answer.
"In a number of places," he answered evasively.
"For one thing, I've been down to the alley where I used to live." The eyes
were looking into his now, and Endicott felt a strange swelling of pride
that he had had a hand in the making of this young man.
"I know from what you've taken me--I can never be what you are!"
"Therefore you won't try to be anything? Is that it?"
"Oh, no! I'll try to be all that I can, but--I don't belong with you. I'm
of another class--"
"Oh, bosh! Cut that out, son! Real men don't talk like that. You're a
better man now than any of the pedigreed dudes I know of, and as for taints
in the blood, I could tell you of some of the sons of great men who have
taints as bad as any child of the slums. Young man, you can be whatever you
set out to be in this world! Remember that."
"Everyone does not feel that way," said Michael with conviction, though he
was conscious of great pleasure in Endicott's hearty words.
"Who, for instance?" asked Endicott looking at him sharply.
Michael was silent. He could not tell him.
"Who?" asked the insistent voice once more.
"The world!" evaded Michael.
"The world is brainless. You can make the world think what you like, son,
remember that! Here we are. Would you like to come aboard?"
But Michael stood back.
"I think I will wait here," he said gravely. It had come to him that Mrs.
Endicott would be there. He must not intrude, not even to see Starr once
more. Besides, she had made it a point of honor for him to keep away from
her daughter. He had no choice but to obey.
"Very well," said Endicott, "but see you don't lose yourself again. I want
to see you about something. I'll not be long. It must be nearly time for
starting." He hurried away and Michael stood on the edge of the throng
looking up at the great floating village.
It was his first view of an ocean-going steamer at close range and
everything about it interested him. He wished he might have gone aboard and
looked the vessel over. He would like to know about the engines and see the
cabins, and especially the steerage about which he had read so much. But
perhaps there would be an opportunity again. Surely there would be. He
would go to Ellis Island, too, and see the emigrants as they came into
the country, seeking a new home where they had been led to expect to
find comfort and plenty of work, and finding none; landing most of them,
inevitably, in the slums of the cities where the population was already
congested and where vice and disease stood ready to prey upon them. Michael
had been spending enough time in the alleys of the metropolis to be already
deeply interested in the problem of the city, and deeply pained by its
But his thoughts were not altogether of the masses and the classes as he
stood in the bright sunlight and gazed at the great vessel about to plow
its way over the bright waters. He was realizing that somewhere within
those many little windowed cabins was a bright faced girl, the only one of
womankind in all the earth about whom his tender thoughts had ever hovered.
Would he catch a glimpse of her face once more before she went away for the
winter? She was going to school, her father had said. How could they bear
to send her across the water from them? A whole winter was a long time; and
yet, it would pass. Thirteen years had passed since he went away from New
York, and he was back. It would not be so long as that. She would return,
and need him perhaps. He would be there and be ready when he was needed.
The fine lips set in a strong line that was good to see. There were the
patient, fearless lines of a soldier in the boy's face, and rugged strength
in spite of his unusual beauty of countenance. It is not often one sees a
face like Michael's. There was nothing womanish in his looks. It was rather
the completeness of strength and courage combined with mighty modelling
and perfection of coloring, that made men turn and look after him and look
again, as though they had seen a god; and made women exclaim over him. If
he had been born in the circles of aristocracy he would have been the idol
of society, the spoiled of all who knew him. He was even now being stared
at by every one in sight, and more than one pair of marine glasses from the
first cabin deck were pointed at him; but he stood deep in his thoughts and
utterly unconscious of his own attraction.
It was only a moment before the first warning came, and people crowded on
the wharf side of the decks, while others hurried down the gang plank.
Michael watched the confusion with eagerness, his eyes searching the decks
for all possible chance of seeing Starr.
When the last warning was given, and just as the gang plank was about to be
hauled up, Mr. Endicott came hurrying down, and Michael suddenly saw her
face in the crowd on the deck above, her mother's haughtily pretty face
just behind her.
Without in the least realizing what he was doing Michael moved through the
crowd until he stood close behind Starr's father, and then all at once he
became aware that her starry eyes were upon him, and she recognized him.
He lifted his hat and stood in reverent attitude as though in the presence
of a queen, his eyes glowing eloquently, his speaking face paying her
tribute as plainly as words could have done. The noonday sun burnished his
hair with its aureole flame, and more than one of the passengers called
attention to the sight.
"See that man down there!" exclaimed a woman of the world close behind Mrs.
Endicott. "Isn't he magnificent! He has a head and shoulders like a
young god!" She spoke as if her acquaintance with gods was wide, and her
neighbors turned to look.
"See, mamma," whispered Starr glowing rosily with pleasure, "they are
speaking of Michael!"
Then the haughty eyes turned sharply and recognized him.
"You don't mean to tell me that upstart has dared to come down and see us
off. The impudence of him! I am glad your father had enough sense not to
bring him on board. He would probably have come if he had let him. Come
away, Starr. He simply shall not look at you in that way!"
"What! Come away while papa is standing there watching us out of sight.
I simply couldn't. What would papa think? And besides, I don't see why
Michael shouldn't come if he likes. I think it was nice of him. I wonder
why he hasn't been to the house to explain why he never came for that
"You're a very silly ignorant little girl, or you would understand that he
has no business presuming to come to our house; and he knows it perfectly
well. I want you to stop looking in that direction at once. I simply will
not have him devouring you with his eyes in that way. I declare I would
like to go back and tell him what I think of him. Starr, stop I tell you,
But the noise of the starting drowned her words, and Starr, her cheeks like
roses and her eyes like two stars, was waving a bit of a handkerchief and
smiling and throwing kisses. The kisses were for her father, but the smiles
and the starry glances, and the waving bit of cambric were for Michael,
and they all travelled through the air quite promiscuously, drenching the
bright uncovered head of the boy with sweetness. His eyes gave her greeting
and thanks and parting all in one in that brief moment of her passing: and
her graceful form and dainty vivid face were graven on his memory in quick
sweet blows of pain, as he realized that she was going from him.
Slowly the great vessel glided out upon the bright waters and grew smaller
and smaller. The crowd on the wharf were beginning to break away and hurry
back to business or home or society. Still Michael stood with bared head
gazing, and that illumined expression upon his face.
Endicott, a mist upon his own glasses at parting from his beloved baby,
saw the boy's face as it were the face of an angel; and was half startled,
turning away embarrassedly as though he had intruded upon a soul at prayer;
then looked again.
"Come, son!" he said almost huskily. "It's over! We better be getting back.
The ride back to the office was a silent one. Somehow Endicott did not feel
like talking. There had been some differences between himself and his wife
that were annoying, and a strange belated regret that he had let Starr go
away for a foreign education was eating into his heart. Michael, on his
part, was living over again the passing of the vessel and the blessing of
Back in the office, however, all was different. Among the familiar walls
and gloomy desks and chairs Endicott was himself, and talked business. He
put questions, short, sharp and in quick succession.
"What are you doing with yourself? Working? What at? H'm! How'd you get
there? Like it? Satisfied to do that all your life? You're not? Well,
what's your line? Any ambitions? You ought to have got some notion in
college of what you're fit for. Have you thought what you'd like to do in
Michael hesitated, then looked up with his clear, direct, challenging gaze.
"There are two things," he said, "I want to earn money and buy some land in
the country, and I want to know about laws."
"Do you mean you want to be a lawyer?"
"What makes you think you'd be a success as a lawyer?"
"Oh, I might not be a success, but I need to know law, I want to try to
stop some things that ought not to be."
"H'm!" grunted Endicott disapprovingly. "Don't try the reform game, it
doesn't pay. However, if you feel that way you'll probably be all right to
start. That'll work itself off and be a good foundation. There's no reason
why you shouldn't be a lawyer if you choose, but you can't study law
selling calico. You might get there some day, if you stick to your
ambition, but you'd be pretty old before you were ready to practice if you
started at the calico counter and worked your way up through everything you
came to. Well, I can get you into a law office right away. How soon can
you honorably get away from where you are? Two weeks? Well, just wait a
Endicott called up a number on the telephone by his side, and there
followed a conversation, brief, pointed, but in terms that Michael could
barely follow. He gathered that a lawyer named Holt, a friend of Mr.
Endicott's, was being asked to take him into his office to read law.
"It's all right, son," said Endicott as he hung up the receiver and whirled
around from the 'phone. "You're to present yourself at the office as soon
as you are free. This is the address"--hurriedly scribbling something on a
card and handing it to him.
"Oh, thank you!" said Michael, "but I didn't mean to have you take any more
trouble for me. I can't be dependent on you any longer. You have done so
much for me--"
"Bosh!" said Endicott, "I'm not taking any trouble. And you're not
dependent on me. Be as independent as you like. You're not quite twenty-one
yet, are you? Well, I told you you were my boy until you were of age, and I
suppose there's nothing to hinder me doing as I will with my own. It's paid
well all I've done for you so far, and I feel the investment was a good
one. You'll get a small salary for some office work while you're studying,
so after you are twenty-one you can set up for yourself if you like. Till
then I claim the privilege of giving you a few orders. Now that's settled.
Where are you stopping? I don't intend to lose sight of you again."
Michael gave him the street and number. Endicott frowned.
"That's not a good place. I don't like the neighborhood. If you're going to
be a lawyer, you must start in right. Here, try this place. Tell the woman
I sent you. One of my clerks used to board there."
He handed Michael another address.
"Won't that cost a lot?" asked Michael studying the card. "Not any more
than you can afford," said Endicott, "and remember, I'm giving orders until
Michael beamed his brilliant smile at his benefactor.
"It is like a real father!" said the boy deeply moved. "I can never repay
you. I can never forget it."
"Well, don't!" said Endicott. "Let's turn to the other thing. What do you
want land for?"
Michael's face sobered instantly.
"For an experiment I want to try," he said without hesitation, and then,
his eyes lighting up, "I'll be able to do it now, soon, perhaps, if I work
hard. You see I studied agriculture in college--"
"The dickens you did!" exclaimed Endicott. "What did you do that for?"
"Well, it was there and I could, and I wanted to know about it."
"H'm!" said Endicott. "I wonder what some of my pedigreed million-dollar
friend's sons would think of that? Well, go on."
"Why, that's all," laughed Michael happily. "I studied it and I want to try
it and see what I can do with it. I want to buy a farm."
"How would you manage to be a farmer and a lawyer both?"
"Well, I thought there might he a little time after hours to work, and I
could tell others how--"
"Oh, I see you want to be a gentleman farmer," laughed Endicott. "I
understand that's expensive business."
"I think I could make it pay, sir." said Michael shutting his lips with
that firm challenge of his. "I'd like to try."
Endicott looked at him quizzically for a minute and then whirling around in
his office chair he reached out his hand to a pigeon hole and took out a
"I've a mind to let you have your try," said Endicott, chuckling as if it
were a good joke. "Here's a little farm down in Jersey. It's swampy and
thick with mosquitoes. I understand it won't grow a beanstalk. There
are twelve acres and a tumble-down house on it. I've had to take it in
settlement of a mortgage. The man's dead and there's nothing but the farm
to lay hands on. He hasn't even left a chick or child to leave his debt to.
I don't want the farm and I can't sell it without a lot of trouble. I'll
give it to you. You may consider it a birthday present. If you'll pay the
taxes I'll be glad to get it off my hands. That'll be something for you to
be independent about."
He touched a bell and a boy appeared.
"Take this to Jowett and tell him to have a deed made out to Michael
Endicott, and to attend to the transfer of the property, nominal sum.
The boy said, "Yes, sir," and disappeared with the paper.
"But I can't take a present like that from you after all you have done for
me," gasped Michael, a granite determination showing in his blue eyes.
"Nonsense," said Endicott. "Other men give their sons automobiles when they
come of age. Mayn't I give you a farm if I like? Besides, I tell you it's
of no account. I want to get rid of it, and I want to see what you'll make
of it. I'd like to amuse myself seeing you try your experiment."
"If you'll let me pay you for it little by little--"
"Suit yourself after you have become a great lawyer," laughed Endicott,
"but not till then, remember. There, cut it out, son! I don't want to be
thanked. Here's the description of the place and directions how to get
there. It isn't many miles away. If you've got a half holiday run down
and look it over. It'll keep you out of mischief. There's nothing like an
ambition to keep people out of mischief. Bun along now, I haven't another
minute to spare, but mind you turn up at Holt's office this day two weeks,
and report to me afterwards how you like it. I don't want to lose sight of
The entrance of another man on business cut short the interview, and
Michael, bestowing an agonizingly happy grip on Endicott's hand and a
brilliant smile like a benediction, took his directions and hurried out
into the street.
With the precious paper in his hand Michael took himself with all
swiftness to the DesBrosses Ferry. Would there be a train? It was almost
two o'clock. He had had no lunch, but what of that? He had that in his
heart which made mere eating seem unnecessary. The experiences of the past
two hours had lifted him above, earth and its necessities for the time. And
a farm, a real farm! Could it be true? Had his wish come true so soon? He
could scarcely wait for the car to carry him or the boat to puff its way
across the water. He felt as if he must fly to see his new possession. And
Mr. Endicott had said he might pay for it sometime when he got to be a
great lawyer. He had no doubt but that he would get there if such a thing
were possible, and anyhow he meant to pay for that ground. Meantime it was
his. He was not a poor nobody after all. He owned land, and a house.
His face was a mingling of delightful emotions as he stood by the rail of
the ferry-boat and let his imagination leap on ahead of him. The day was
perfect. It had rained the night before and everything, even the air seemed
newly washed for a fresh trial at living. Every little wavelet sparkled
like a jewel, and the sunlight shimmered on the water in a most alluring
way. Michael forgot for the moment the sorrow and misery of the crowded
city he was leaving behind him. For this afternoon at least he was a boy
again wandering off into the open.
His train was being called as he stepped from the ferry-boat. The next boat
would have missed it. He hurried aboard and was soon speeding through the
open country, with now and again a glimpse of the sea, as the train came
closer to the beach. They passed almost continuously beautiful resorts,
private villas, great hotels, miles of cottages set in green terrace with
glowing autumn flowers in boxes or bordering the paths.
Michael watched everything with deep interest. This was the land of his new
possession. Whatever was growing here would be likely to grow on his place
if it were properly planted and cared for. Ere this flowers had had little
part in his farming scheme, but so soon as he saw the brilliant display he
resolved that he must have some of those also. And flowers would sell as
well if not better than vegetables if properly marketed.
That vivid hedge of scarlet and gold, great heavy-headed dahlias they were.
He did not know the name, but he would find it out somehow. They would take
up little room and would make his new place a thing of beauty. Farther on,
one great white cottage spread its veranda wings on either side to a tall
fringe of pink and white and crimson cosmos; and again a rambling gray
stone piece of quaint architecture with low sloping roofs of mossy green,
and velvet lawn creeping down even to the white beach sands, was set about
with flaming scarlet sage. It was a revelation to the boy whose eyes had
never looked upon the like before. Nature in its wildness and original
beauty had been in Florida; New York was all pavements and buildings with a
window box here and there. He as yet knew nothing of country homes in their
luxury and perfection, save from magazine pictures. All the way along he
was picking out features that he meant some day to transfer to his own
It was after three when he reached the station, and a good fifteen minutes
walk to the farm, but every step of it was a delight.
Pearl Beach, they called the station. The beach was half a mile from the
railroad, and a queer little straggling town mostly cottages and a few
stores hovered between railroad and beach. A river, broad, and shallow,
wound its silver way about the village and lost itself in the wideness of
the ocean. Here and there a white sail flew across its gleaming centre, and
fishermen in little boats sat at their idle task. What if his land should
touch somewhere this bonny stream!
Too eager to wait for investigation he stopped a passing stranger and
questioned him. Yes, the river was salt. It had tides with the sea, too.
There was great fishing and sailing, and some preferred bathing there to
the ocean. Yes, Old Orchard farm was on its bank. It had a river frontage
of several hundred feet but it was over a mile back from the beach.
The stranger was disposed to delay and gossip about the death of the former
owner of Old Orchard and its probable fate now that the mortgage had
been foreclosed; but Michael with a happy light in his eyes thanked him
courteously and hurried on. Wings were upon his feet, and his heart was
light and happy. He felt like a bird set free. He breathed in the strong
salt air with delight.
And then the burden of the city came to him again, the city with all its
noise and folly and sin; with its smells and heat, and lack of air; with
its crowded, suffering, awful humanity, herded together like cattle, and
living in conditions worse than the beasts of the fields. If he could but
bring them out here, bring some of them at least; and show them what God's
earth was like! Ah!
His heart beat wildly at the thought! It was not new. He had harbored it
ever since his first visit to the alley. It was his great secret, his much
hoped for experiment. If he might be able to do it sometime. This bit of a
farm would open the way. There would be money needed of course, and where
was it to come from? But he could work. He was strong. He would give his
young life for his people--save them from their ignorance and despair. At
least he could save some; even one would be worth while.
So he mused as he hurried on, eyes and mind open to all he saw.
There was no fence in front of Old Orchard farm. A white road bordered with
golden rod and wild asters met the scraggly grass that matted and tangled
itself beneath the gnarled apple trees. A grassy rutted wagon track curved
itself in vistas between the trees up to the house which was set far back
from the road. A man passing identified the place for Michael, and looked
him over apprizingly, wondering as did all who saw him, at the power and
strength of his beauty.
The house was weather-beaten unpainted clapboards, its roof of curled and
mossy shingles possessing undoubted leakable qualities, patched here and
there. A crazy veranda ambled across the front. It contained a long low
room with a queer old-fashioned chimney place wide enough to sit in, a
square south room that must have been a dining-room because of the painted
cupboard whose empty shelves gazed ghastly between half-open doors, and a
small kitchen, not much more than a shed. In the long low room a staircase
twisted itself up oddly to the four rooms under the leaky roof. It was all
empty and desolate, save for an old cot bed and a broken chair. The floors
had a sagged, shaky appearance. The doors quaked when they were opened.
The windows were cobwebby and dreary, yet it looked to the eyes of the new
householder like a palace. He saw it in the light of future possibilities
and gloried in it. That chimney place now. How would it look with a great
log burning in it, and a rug and rocking chair before it. What would--Aunt
Sally--perhaps--say to it when he got it fixed up? Could he ever coax her
to leave her dirty doorstep and her drink and come out here to live? And
how would he manage it all if he could? There would have to be something to
feed her with, and to buy the rug and the rocking chair. And first of all
there would have to be a bath-tub. Aunt Sally would need to be purified
before she could enter the portals of this ideal cottage, when he had
made it as he wanted it to be. Paint and paper would make wonderful
transformations he knew, for he had often helped at remodelling the rooms
at college during summer vacations. He had watched and been with the
workmen and finally taken a hand. This habit of watching and helping had
taught him many things. But where were paper and paint and time to use
it coming from? Ah, well, leave that to the future. He would find a way.
Yesterday he did not have the house nor the land for it to stand upon. It
had come and the rest would follow in their time.
He went happily about planning for a bath-room. There would have to be
water power. He had seen windmills on other places as he passed. That was
perhaps the solution of this problem, but windmills cost money of course.
Still,--all in good time.
There was a tumbled-down barn and chicken house, and a frowzy attempt at a
garden. A strawberry bed overgrown with weeds, a sickly cabbage lifting
its head bravely; a gaunt row of currant bushes; another wandering,
out-reaching row of raspberries; a broken fence; a stretch of soppy bog
land to the right, and the farm trailed off into desolate neglect ending in
a charming grove of thick trees that stood close down to the river's bank.
Michael went over it all carefully, noted the exposure of the land, kicked
the sandy soil to examine its unpromising state, walked all around the bog
and tried to remember what he had read about cranberry bogs; wondered if
the salt water came up here, and if it were good or bad for cranberries;
wondered if cow peas grew in Jersey and if they would do for a fertilizing
crop as they did in Florida. Then he walked through the lovely woods,
scenting the breath of pines and drawing in long whiffs of life as he
looked up to the green roof over his head. They were not like the giant
pines of the South land, but they were sweeter and more beautiful in their
He went down to the brink of the river and stood looking across.
Not a soul was in sight and nothing moved save a distant sail fleeing
across the silver sheen to the sea. He remembered what the man had said
about bathing and yielding to an irresistible impulse was soon swimming
out across the water. It was like a new lease of life to feel the water
brimming to his neck again, and to propel himself with strong, graceful
strokes through the element where he would. A bird shot up into the air
with a wild sweet note, and he felt like answering to its melody. He
whistled softly in imitation of its voice, and the bird answered, and again
and again they called across the water.
But a look toward the west where the water was crimsoning already with the
setting sun warned him that his time was short, so he swam back to the
sheltered nook where he had left his clothes, and improvising a towel from
his handkerchief he dressed rapidly. The last train back left at seven. If
he did not wish to spend the night in his new and uninhabitable abode he
must make good time. It was later than he supposed, and he wished to go
back to the station by way of the beach if possible, though it was out of
his way. As he drew on his coat and ran his fingers through his hair in
lieu of a brush, he looked wistfully at the bright water, dimpling now with
hues of violet, pink, and gold and promising a rare treat in the way of a
sunset. He would like to stay and watch it. But there was the ocean waiting
for him. He must stand on the shore once and look out across it, and know
just how it looked near his own house.
He hurried through the grove and across the farm to the eastern edge, and
looking beyond the broken fence that marked the bounds of the bog land
over the waste of salt grass he could see the white waves dimly tumbling,
hurrying ever, to get past one another. He took the fence at a bound,
made good time over the uncertain footing of the marsh grass and was soon
standing on the broad smooth beach with the open stretch of ocean before
It was the first time he had ever stood on the seashore and the feeling of
awe that filled him was very great. But beyond any other sensation, came
the thought that Starr, his beautiful Starr, was out there on that wide
vast ocean, tossing in a tiny boat. For now the great steamer that had
seemed so large and palatial, had dwindled in his mind to a frail toy, and
he was filled with a nameless fear for her. His little Starr out there on
that fearful deep, with only that cold-eyed mother to take care of her. A
wild desire to fly to her and bring her back possessed him; a thrilling,
awesome something, he had never known before. He stood speechless before
it; then raised his eyes to the roseate already purpling in streaks for the
sunset and looking solemnly up he said, aloud:
"Oh, God, I love her!"
He stood facing the thought with solemn joy and pain for an instant, then
turned and fled from it down the purpling sands; fleeing, yet carrying his
secret with him.
And when he came opposite the little village he trod its shabby,
straggling, ill-paved streets with glory in his face; and walking thus with
hat in hand, and face illumined toward the setting sun, folks looked at him
strangely and wondered who and what he was, and turned to look again. In
that half-light of sunset, he seemed a being from another world.
A native watching, dropped his whip, and climbing down from his rough wagon
spoke the thought that all the bystanders felt in common:
"Gosh hang it! I thought he was one o' them glass angels stepped out of a
church winder over to 'Lizabeth-town. We don't see them kind much. I wonder
now how he'd be to live with. Think I'd feel kinder creepy hevin' him
'round all time, wouldn't you?"
All the way home the new thought came surging over him, he loved her and
she could never be his. It was deluging; it was beautiful; but it was
agonizing. He recalled how beautiful she had been as she waved farewell.
And some of her smiles had been for him, he was sure. He had known of
course that the kisses were for her father, and yet, they had been blown
freely his way, and she had looked her pleasure at his presence. There had
been a look in her eyes such as she had worn that day in the college chapel
when she had thrown precautions to the winds and put her arms about his
neck and kissed him. His young heart thrilled with a deep joy over the
memory of it. It had been wonderful that she had done it; wonderful! when
he was what he was, a _child of the slums_! The words seemed burned upon
his soul now, a part of his very life. He was not worthy of her, not worthy
to receive her favor.
Yet he closed his eyes, leaning his head against the window frame as the
train hurried along through the gathering darkness, and saw again the
bright lovely face, the dainty fingers blowing kisses, the lips wreathed
in smiles, and knew some of the farewell had been surely meant for him.
He forgot the beautiful villas along the way, forgot to watch for the
twinkling lights, or to care how the cottages looked at evening. Whenever
the track veered toward the sea and gave a glimpse of gray sky and yawning
ocean with here and there a point of light to make the darkness blacker, he
seemed to know instinctively, and opening his eyes strained them to look
across it. Out there in the blackness somewhere was his Starr and he
might not go to her, nor she come to him. There was a wide stretch of
unfathomable sea between them. There would always be that gray, impassable
sky and sea of impossibility between them.
As he neared New York, however, these thoughts dropped from him; and
standing on the ferry-boat with the million twinkling lights of the city,
and the looming blackness of the huddled mass of towering buildings against
the illuminated sky, the call of the people came to him. Over there in
the darkness, swarming in the fetid atmosphere of a crowded court were
thousands like himself, yes, _like himself_, for he was one of them. He
belonged there. They were his kind and he must help them!
Then his mind went to the farm and his plans, and he entered back into the
grind of life and assumed its burdens with the sweet pain of his secret
locked in his inmost heart.
"Sam, have you ever been in the country?"
It was Michael who asked the question. They were sitting in a small dismal
room that Michael had found he could afford to rent in a house on the
edge of the alley. Not that he had moved there, oh, no! He could not have
endured life if all of it that he could call his own had to be spent in
that atmosphere. He still kept his little fourth floor back in the dismally
respectable street. He had not gone to the place recommended by Endicott,
because he found that the difference he would have to pay would make it
possible for him to rent this sad little room near the alley; and for his
purposes this seemed to him an absolute necessity at present.
The weather was growing too cold for him to meet with his new-old
acquaintances of the alley out of doors, and it was little better indoors
even if he could have endured the dirt and squalor of those apartments that
would have been open to him. Besides, he had a great longing to show them
something brighter than their own forlorn homes.
There was a settlement house three or four blocks away, but it had not
drawn the dwellers in this particular alley. They were sunken too low,
perhaps, or there were so many more hopeful quarters in which to work;
and the city was so wide and deep and dark. Michael knew little about the
settlement house. He had read of such things. He had looked shyly toward
its workers now and then, but as yet knew none of them, though they had
heard now and again of the "Angel-man of the alley," and were curious to
find him out.
But Michael's enterprise was all his own, and his ways of working were his
own. He had gone back into the years of his childhood and found out from
his inner consciousness what it was he had needed, and now he was going
to try to give it to some other little "kids" who were as forlorn and
friendless as he had been. It wasn't much that he could do, but what he
could he would do, and more as soon as possible.
And so he had rented this speck of a room, and purified it. He had
literally compelled Sam to help him. That compelling was almost a modern
miracle, and wrought by radiant smiles, and a firm grip on Sam's shoulder
when he told him what he wanted done.
Together they had swept and scrubbed and literally scraped, the dirt from
"I don't see what you're making sech a darned fuss about dirt fer!"
grumbled Sam as he arose from his knees after scrubbing the floor for the
fourth time. "It's what we're all made of, dey say, an' nobuddy'll know de
"Just see if they won't, Sam," encouraged Michael as he polished off the
door he had been cleaning. "See there, how nice that looks! You didn't know
that paint was gray, did you? It looked brown before, it was so thick with
dirt. Now we're ready for paint and paper!"
And so, in an atmosphere of soap and water they had worked night after
night till very late; and Sam had actually let a well-planned and promising
raid go by because he was so interested in what he was doing and he was
ashamed to tell Michael of his engagement.
Sam had never assisted at the papering of a room before; in fact, it is
doubtful if he ever saw a room with clean fresh paper on its walls in all
his life, unless in some house he had entered unlawfully. When this one
stood arrayed at last in its delicate newness, he stood back and surveyed
it in awed silence.
Michael had chosen paper of the color of the sunshine, for the court was
dark and the alley was dark and the room was dark. The souls of the people
too were dark. They must have light and brightness if he would win them to
better things. Besides, the paper was only five cents a roll, the cheapest
he could find in the city. Michael had learned at college during vacations
how to put it on. He made Sam wash and wash and wash his hands before he
was allowed to handle any of the delicate paper.
"De paper'll jest git dirty right away," grumbled Sam sullenly, albeit he
washed his hands, and his eyes glowed as they used to when a child at a
rare "find" in the gutter.
"Wot'll you do when it gits dirty?" demanded Sam belligerently.
"Put on some clean," said Michael sunnily. "Besides, we must learn to have
clean hands and keep it clean."
"I wish we had some curtains," said Michael wistfully. "They had thin white
curtains at college."
"Are you makin' a college fer we?" asked Sam looking at him sharply.
"Well, in a way, perhaps," said Michael smiling. "You know I want you to
have all the advantages I had as far as I can get them."
Sam only whistled and looked perplexed but he was doing more serious
thinking than he had ever done in his life before.
And so the two had worked, and planned, and now to-night, the work was
The walls reflected the yellow of the sunshine, the woodwork was painted
white enamel. Michael had, just put on the last gleaming coat.
"We can give it another coat when it looks a little soiled," he had
remarked to Sam, and Sam, frowning, had replied: "Dey better hev dere han's
The floor was painted gray. There was no rug. Michael felt its lack and
meant to remedy it as soon as possible, but rugs cost money. There was a
small coal stove set up and polished till it shone, and a fire was laid
ready to start. They had not needed it while they were working hard. The
furniture was a wooden, table painted gray with a cover of bright cretonne,
two wooden chairs, and three boxes. Michael had collected these furnishings
carefully and economically, for he had to sacrifice many little comforts
that he might get them.
On the walls were two or three good pictures fastened by brass tacks; and
some of the gray moss and pine branches from Michael's own room. In the
central wall appeared one of Michael's beloved college pennants. It was
understood by all who had yet entered the sacred precincts of the room to
be the symbol of what made the difference between them and "the angel,"
and they looked at it with awe, and mentally crossed themselves in its
At the windows were two lengths of snowy cheese-cloth crudely hemmed by
Michael, and tacked up in pleats with brass-headed tacks. They were tied
back with narrow yellow ribbons. This had been the last touch and Sam sat
looking thoughtfully at the stiff angular bows when Michael asked the
"Have you ever been in the country?"
"Sure!" said Sam scornfully. "Went wid de Fresh Air folks wen I were a
"What did you think of it?"
"Don't tink much!" shrugged Sam. "Too empty. Nothin' doin'! Good 'nough fer
kids. Never again fer _me_."
It was three months since Michael had made his memorable first visit down
to Old Orchard Farm. For weeks he had worked shoulder to shoulder every
evening with Sam and as yet no word of that plan which was nearest his
heart had been spoken. This was his first attempt to open the subject.
That Sam had come to have a certain kind of respect and fondness for him he
was sure, though it was never expressed in words. Always he either objected
to any plan Michael suggested, or else he was extremely indifferent and
would not promise to be on hand. He was almost always there, however, and
Michael had come to know that Sam was proud of his friendship, and at least
to a degree interested in his plans for the betterment of the court.
"There are things in the country; other things, that make up for the stir
of the city," said Michael thoughtfully. This was the first unpractical
conversation he had tried to hold with Sam. He had been leading him up,
through the various stages from dirt and degradation, by means of soap
and water, then paper and paint, and now they had reached the doorway of
Nature's school. Michael wanted to introduce Sam to the great world of
out-of-doors. For, though Sam had lived all his life out-of-doors, it had
been a world of brick walls and stone pavements, with little sky and almost
no water. Not a green thing in sight, not a bird, nor a beast except of
burden. The first lesson was waiting in a paper bundle that stood under the
table. Would Sam take it, Michael wondered, as he rose and brought it out
unwrapping the papers carefully, while Sam silently watched and pretended
to whistle, not to show too much curiosity. "What tings?" at last asked
"Things like this," answered Michael eagerly setting out on the table an
earthen pot containing a scarlet geranium in bloom. It glowed forth its
brilliant torch at once and gave just the touch to the little empty clean
room that Michael had hoped it would do. He stood back and looked at it
proudly, and then looked at Sam to see if the lesson had been understood.
He half expected to see an expression of scorn on the hardened sallow face
of the slum boy, but instead Sam was gazing open-mouthed, with unmitigated
"Say! Dat's all right!" he ejaculated. "Where'd you make de raise? Say! Dat
makes de paper an' de paint show up fine!" taking in the general effect of
Then he arose from the box on which he had been sitting and went and stood
before the blossom.
"Say! I wisht Jim eud see dat dere!" he ejaculated after a long silence,
and there was that in the expression of his face that brought the quick
moisture to Michael's eyes.
It was only a common red geranium bought for fifteen cents, but it had
touched with its miracle of bright life the hardened soul of the young
burglar, and opened his vision to higher things than he had known. It was
in this moment of open vision that his heart turned to his old companion
who was uncomplainingly taking the punishment which rightfully belonged to
the whole gang.
"We will take him one to-morrow," said Michael in a low voice husky with
feeling. It was the first time Sam had voluntarily mentioned Jim and he had
seemed so loth to take Michael to see him in jail that Michael had ceased
to speak of the matter.
"There's another one just like this where I bought this one. I couldn't
tell which to take, they were both so pretty. We'll get it the first thing
in the morning before anybody else snaps it up, and then, when could we get
in to see Jim? Would they let us in after my office hours or would we have
to wait till Sunday? You look after that will you? I might get off at four
o'clock if that's not too late."
"Dey'll let us in on Sunday ef _you_ ask, I reckon," said Sam much moved.
"But it's awful dark in prison. It won't live, will it? Dere's only one
streak o' sun shines in Jim's cell a few minutes every day."
"Oh, I think it'll live," said Michael hastily, a strange choking sensation
in his throat at thought of his one-time companion shut into a dark prison.
Of course, he deserved to be there. He had broken the laws, but then no one
had ever made him understand how wrong it was. If some one had only tried
perhaps Jim would never have done the thing that put him in prison.
"I'm sure it will live," he said again cheerfully. "I've heard that
geraniums are very hardy. The man told me they would live all winter in the
cellar if you brought them up again in the spring."
"Jim will be out again in de spring," said Sam softly. It was the first
sign of anything like emotion in Sam.
"Isn't that good!" said Michael heartily. "I wonder what we can do to make
it pleasant for him when he comes back to the world. We'll bring him to
this room, of course, but in the spring this will be getting warm. And that
makes me think of what I was talking about a minute ago. There's so much
more in the country than in the city!"
"More?" questioned Sam uncomprehendingly.
"Yes, things like this to look at. Growing things that you get to love and
understand. Wonderful things. There's a river that sparkles and talks as it
runs. There are trees that laugh and whisper when the wind plays in their
branches. And there are wonderful birds, little live breaths of air with
music inside that make splendid friends when you're lonely. I know, for I
made lots of bird-friends when I went away from you all to college. You
know I was pretty lonely at first."
Sam looked at him with quick, keen wonder, and a lighting of his face that
made him almost attractive and sent the cunning in his eyes slinking out of
sight. Had this fine great-hearted creature really missed his old
friends when he went away? Had he really need of them yet, with all his
education--and--difference? It was food for thought.
"Then there's the sky, so much of it," went on Michael, "and so wide and
blue, and sometimes soft white clouds. They make you feel rested when you
look at them floating lazily through the blue, and never seeming to be
tired; not even when there's a storm and they have to hurry. And there's
the sunset. Sam, I don't believe you ever saw the sunset, not right anyway.
You don't have sunsets here in the city, it just gets dark. You ought to
see one I saw not long ago. I mean to take you there some day and we'll
watch it together. I want to see if it will do the same thing to you that
it did to me."
Sam looked at him in awe, for he wore his exalted look, and when he spoke
like that Sam had a superstitious fear that perhaps after all he was as old
Sal said, more of angel than of man.
"And then, there's the earth, all covered with green, plenty of it to lie
in if you want to, and it smells so good; and there's so much air,--enough
to breathe your lungs full, and with nothing disagreeable in it, no ugly
smells nor sounds. And there are growing things everywhere. Oh, Sam!
Wouldn't you like to make things like this grow?"
Sam nodded and put forth his rough forefinger shamedly to touch the velvet
of a green leaf, as one unaccustomed might touch a baby's cheek.
"You'll go with me, Sam, to the country sometime, won't you? I've got a
plan and I'll need you to help me carry it out. Will you go?"
"Sure!" said Sam in quite a different voice from any reluctant assent he
had ever given before. "Sure, I'll go!"
"Thank you, Sam," said Michael more moved than he dared show, "And now
that's settled I want to talk about this room. I'm going to have five
little kids here to-morrow early in the evening. I told them I'd show them
how to whittle boats and we're going to sail them in the scrub bucket.
They're about the age you and I were when I went away to college. Perhaps
I'll teach them a letter or two of the alphabet if they seem interested.
They ought to know how to read, Sam."
"I never learned to read--" muttered Sam half belligerently. "That so?"
said Michael as if it were a matter of small moment. "Well, what if you
were to come in and help me with the boats. Then you could pick it up when
I teach them. You might want to use it some day. It's well to know how, and
a man learns things quickly you know."
"I don't know's I care 'bout it," he said indifferently, but Michael saw
that he intended to come.
"Well, after the kids have gone, I won't keep them late you know, I wonder
if you'd like to bring some of the fellows in to see this?"
Michael glanced around the room.
"I've some pictures of alligators I have a fancy they might like to see.
I'll bring them down if you say so."
"Sure!" said Sam trying to hide his pleasure.
"Then to-morrow morning I'm going to let that little woman that lives in
the cellar under Aunt Sally's room, bring her sewing here and work all day.
She makes buttonholes in vests. It's so dark in her room she can't see and
she's almost ruined her eyes working by candle light."
"She'll mess it all up!" grumbled Sam; "an' she might let other folks in
an' they'd pinch the picters an' the posy."
"No, she won't do that. I've talked to her about it. The room is to be hers
for the day, and she's to keep it looking just as nice as it did when she
found it. She'll only bring her work over, and go home for her dinner.
She's to keep the fire going so it will be warm at night, and she's to try
it for a day and see how it goes. I think she'll keep her promise. We'll
try her anyway."
Sam nodded as to a superior officer who nevertheless was awfully foolish.
"Mebbe!" he said.
"Sam, do you think it would be nice to bring Aunt Sally over now a few
"No," said Sam shortly, "she's too dirty. She'd put her fingers on de wall
"But Sam, I think she ought to come. And she ought to come first. She's the
one that helped me find you--"
Sam looked sharply at Michael and wondered if he suspected how long that
same Aunt Sally had frustrated his efforts to find his friends.
"We could tell her not to touch things, perhaps--"
"Wal, you lemme tell her. Here! I'll go fix her up an' bring her now." And
Sam hurried out of the room.
Michael waited, and in a few minutes Sam returned with Aunt Sally. But it
was a transformed Aunt Sally. Her face had been painfully scrubbed in a
circle out as far as her ears, and her scraggy gray hair was twisted in a
tight knot at the back of her neck. Her hands were several shades cleaner
than Michael had ever seen them before, and her shoes were tied. She wore a
small three-cornered plaid shawl over her shoulders and entered cautiously
as if half afraid to come. Her hands were clasped high across her breast.
She had evidently been severely threatened against touching anything.
"The saints be praised!" she ejaculated warmly after she had looked around
in silence for a moment "To think I should ivver see the loikes uv this in
de alley. It lukes loike a palace. Mikky, ye're a Nangel, me b'y! An'
a rale kurtin, to be shure! I ain't seen a kurtin in the alley since I
cummed. An' will ye luke at the purty posy a blowin' as foine as ye plaze!
Me mither had the loike in her cottage window when I was a leetle gal! Aw,
me pure auld mither!"
And suddenly to Michael's amazement, and the disgust of Sam, old Sal sat
down on the one chair and wept aloud, with the tears streaming down her
seamed and sin-scarred face.
Sam was for putting her out at once, but Michael soothed her with his
cheery voice, making her tell of her old home in Ireland, and the kind
mother whom she had loved, though it was long years since she had thought
of her now.
With rare skill he drew from her the picture of the little Irish cottage
with its thatched roof, its peat fire, and well-swept hearth; the table
with the white cloth, the cat in the rocking chair, the curtain starched
stiffly at the window, the bright posy on the deep window ledge; and,
lastly, the little girl with clean pinafore and curly hair who kissed her
mother every morning and trotted off to school. But that was before the
father died, and the potatoes failed. The school days were soon over, and
the little girl with her mother came to America. The mother died on the way
over, and the child fell into evil hands. That was the story, and as it was
told Michael's face grew tender and wistful. Would that he knew even so
much of his own history as that!
But Sam stood by struck dumb and trying to fancy that this old woman had
ever been the bright rosy child she told about. Sam was passing through a
sort of mental and moral earthquake.
"Perhaps some day we'll find another little house in the country where you
can go and live," said Michael, "but meantime, suppose you go and see
if you can't make your room look like this one. You scrub it all up and
perhaps Sam and I will come over and put some pretty paper on the walls for
you. Would you like that? How about it, Sam?"
"Sure!" said Sam rather grudgingly. He hadn't much faith in Aunt Sally
and didn't see what Michael wanted with her anyway, but he was loyal to
Irish blessings mingled with tears and garnished with curses in the most
extraordinary way were showered upon Michael and at last when he could
stand no more, Sam said:
"Aw, cut it out, Sal. You go home an' scrub. Come on, now!" and he bundled
her off in a hurry.
Late as it was, old Sal lit a fire, and by the light of a tallow candle got
down on her stiff old knees and began to scrub. It seemed nothing short of
a miracle that her room could ever look like that one she had just seen,
but if scrubbing could do anything toward it, scrub she would. It was ten
years since she had thought of scrubbing her room. She hadn't seemed to
care; but to-night as she worked with her trembling old drink-shaken hands
the memory of her childhood's home was before her vision, and she worked
with all her might.
So the leaven of the little white room in the dark alley began to work.
"The Angel's quarters" it was named, and to be called to go within its
charmed walls was an honor that all coveted as time went on. And that was
how Michael began the salvation of his native alley.
Michael had been three months with the new law firm and was beginning
to get accustomed to the violent contrast between the day spent in the
atmosphere of low-voiced, quiet-stepping, earnest men who moved about in
their environment of polished floors, oriental rugs, leather chairs and
walls lined with leather-covered law books; and the evening down in the
alley where his bare, little, white and gold room made the only tolerable
spot in the neighborhood.
He was still occupying the fourth floor back at his original boarding
house, and had seen Mr. Endicott briefly three or four times, but nothing
had been said about his lodgings.
One morning he came to the desk set apart for him in the law office, and
found a letter lying there for him.
"Son:" it said, "your board is paid at the address given below, up to the
day you are twenty-one. If you don't get the benefit it will go to waste.
Mrs. Semple will make you quite comfortable and I desire you to move to
her house at once. If you feel any obligation toward me this is the way to
discharge it. Hope you are well, Tours, Delevan Endicott.'"
Michael's heart beat faster with varied emotions. It was pleasant to have
some one care, and of course if Mr. Endicott wished it so much he would
manage it somehow--perhaps he could get some night work or copying to
do--but he would never let him bear his expenses. That could not be.
He hurried off at the noon hour to find his benefactor and make this plain
with due gratitude. He found, however, that it was not so easy to change
this man's mind, once made up. Endicott would not hear to any change in
arrangements. He had paid the board for the remaining months of Michael's
minority and maintained his right to do so if he chose. Neither would he
let Michael refund him any of the amount.
So Michael moved, bag and baggage, and found the change good. The regular,
well-cooked meals gave zest to his appetite which had been going back on
him for sometime under his own economical regime, and the larger room with
better outlook and more air, to say nothing of a comfortable bed with
adjoining bath-room, and plenty of heat and light, made life seem more
worth while. Besides there were other boarders with whom he now came in
pleasant contact, and there was a large pleasant parlor with easy chairs
and an old-fashioned square piano which still retained much of its original
sweetness of tone.
Mrs. Semple had a daughter Hester, an earnest, gray-eyed girl with soft
brown hair and a firm little chin, who had taken an art course in Cooper
Institute and painted very good pictures which, however, did not sell.
Hester played the piano--not very well, it is true, but well enough to make
it pleasant to a lonely boy who had known no music in his life except the
birds or his own whistle. She played hymns on Sunday after church while
they waited for the dinner to be ready; and evenings after supper she
played other things: old ballads and tender, touching melodies from old
masters simplified, for such as she. Michael sometimes lingered a half hour
before hurrying away to the alley, and joined his rich natural tenor with
her light pretty soprano. Sometimes Will French, a young fellow who was in
the same law office and also boarded at Mrs. Semple's, stayed awhile and
sang bass. It was very pleasant and made it seem more as if he were living
in a home.
All this time Michael was carrying on his quiet work in the alley, saying
nothing about it to anybody. In the first place he felt shy about it
because of his personal connection with the place. Not that he wished to
hide his origin from his employers, but he felt he owed it to Mr. Endicott
who had recommended him, to be as respectable in their sight as possible;
and so long as they neither knew nor cared it did not matter. Then, it
never occurred to Michael that he was doing anything remarkable with his
little white room in the blackness of the stronghold of sin. Night after
night he gathered his newsboys and taught them whittling, basketry,
reading, arithmetic and geography, with a little philosophy and botany
thrown in unawares. Night after night the older fellows dropped in, one
or two at a time, and listened to the stories Michael told; sometimes of
college life and games in which they were of course interested; sometimes
of Nature and his experiences in finding an alligator, or a serpent, or
watching some bird. It was wonderful how interesting he managed to make
those talks. He never realized that he was preparing in the school of
experience to be a magnificent public speaker. With an audience as
difficult as any he could have found in the whole wide city, he managed to
hold them every time.
And the favorite theme often was agriculture. He would begin by bringing a
new little plant to the room, setting it up and showing it to them; talking
about conditions of soil and how plants were being improved. It was usually
the _résumé_ of some article on agriculture that he had taken time to read
at noon and was reviewing for their benefit.
They heard all about Burbank and his wonderful experiments in making plants
grow and develop, and as they listened they went and stood around the
blossom that Michael had just brought to them and looked with new wonder at
it. A flower was a strange enough sight in that court, but when they heard
these stories it became filled with new interest. For a little while they
forgot their evil plotting and were lifted above themselves.
Another night the talk would be on fertilizers, and how one crop would
sometimes give out something that another crop planted later, needed.
Little by little, because he talked about the things in which he himself
was interested, he was giving these sons of ignorance a dim knowledge of
and interest in the culture of life, and the tilling of the ground; getting
them ready for what he had hardly as yet dared to put into words even to
And one day he took Sam down to Old Orchard. It was the week before
Christmas. They had made their second visit to Jim the week before and he
had spoken of the spring and when he should get out into the world again.
He seemed to be planning to get even with those who had confined him for
his wrongdoing. Michael's heart was filled with anxiety for him.
There was something about Jim that appealed to Michael from the first.
He had seen him first standing behind the grating of his cell, a great
unkempt hulk of a fellow with fiery red hair and brown eyes that roved
restlessly, hungrily through the corridor. He would have been handsome but
for his weak, girlish chin. Jim had melted almost to tears at sight of the
scarlet geranium they had carried him on that first visit, and seemed to
care more for the appearance of his old comrade "Mikky" than ever Sam had
Jim was to get out in April. If only there were some place for him to go!
They talked of it on the way down, Sam seemed to think that Jim would find
it pretty hard to leave New York. Sam himself wasn't much interested in the
continued, hints of Michael about going to the country.
"Nothin' doin'" was his constant refrain when Michael tried to tell him how
much better it would be if some of the congested part of the city could be
spread out into the wide country: especially for the poor people, how much
greater opportunity for success in life there would be for them.
But Sam had been duly impressed with the wideness of the landscape, on this
his first long trip out of the city, and as Michael unfolded to him the
story of the gift of the farm, and his own hopes for it, Sam left off his
scorn and began to give replies that showed he really was thinking about
"Say!" said he suddenly, "ef Buck was to come back would you let him live
down to your place an' help do all them things you're plannin'?"
"I surely would," said Michael happily. "Say, Sam, do you, or do you _not_
know where Buck is?"
Sam sat thoughtfully looking out of the window. At this point he turned his
gaze down to his feet and slowly, cautiously nodded his head.
"I thought so!" said Michael eagerly. "Sam, is he in hiding for something
he has done?"
Still more slowly, cautiously, Sam nodded his head once more.
"Sam, will you send him a message from me?"
"Tell him that I love him," Michael breathed the words eagerly. His heart
remembered kindness from Buck more than any other lighting of his sad
childhood. "Tell him that I want him--that I need him! Tell him that I want
him to make an appointment to meet me somewhere and let us talk this plan
of mine over. I want him to go in with me and help me make that farm into
a fit place to take people who haven't the right kind of homes, where they
can have honest work and good air and be happy! Will you tell him?"
And Sam nodded his head emphatically.
"An' Jim'll help too ef Buck goes. That's dead sure!" Sam volunteered.
"And Sam, I'm counting on you!"
"Sure thing!" said Sam.
Michael tramped all over the place with Sam, showing him everything and
telling all his plans. He was very familiar with his land now. He had
planned the bog for a cranberry patch, and had already negotiated for the
bushes. He had trimmed up the berry bushes in the garden himself during
his various holiday trips, and had arranged with a fisherman to dump a few
haulings of shellfish on one field where he thought that kind of fertilizer
would be effective. He had determined to use his hundred-dollar graduation
present in fertilizer and seed. It would not go far but it would be a
beginning. The work he would have to get some other way. He would have but
little time to put to it himself until late in the summer probably, and
there was a great deal that ought to be done in the early spring. He would
have to be contented to go slow of course, and must remember that unskilled
labor is always expensive and wasteful; still it would likely be all he
could get. Just how he would feed and house even unskilled labor was a
problem yet to be solved.
It was a day of many revelations to Sam. For one thing even the bare snowy
stretch, of wide country had taken on a new interest to him since Michael
had been telling all these wonderful things about the earth. Sam's dull
brain which up to this time had never busied itself about anything except
how to get other men's goods away from them, had suddenly awakened to the
wonders of the world.
It was he that recognized a little colony of cocoons on the underside of
leaves and twigs and called attention to them.
"Say, ain't dem some o' de critters you was showin' de fellers t'other
And Michael fell upon them eagerly. They happened to be rare specimens, and
he knew from college experience that such could be sold to advantage to the
museums. He showed Sam how to remove them without injuring them. A little
further on they came to a wild growth of holly, crazy with berries and
burnished thorny foliage, and near at hand a mistletoe bough loaded with
tiny white transparent berries.
"Ain't dem wot dey sell fer Chris'sum greens?" Sam's city eyes picked them
out at once.
"Of course," said Michael delighted. "How stupid of me not to have found
them before. We'll take a lot back with us and see if we can get any price
for it. Whatever we get we'll devote to making the house liveable. Holly
and mistletoe ought to have a good market about now. That's another idea!
Why not cultivate a lot of this stuff right in this tract of land. It seems
to grow without any trouble. See! There are lots of little bushes. We'll
encourage them, Sam. And say, Sam, if you hadn't come along I might never
have thought of that. You see I needed you."
Sam grunted in a pleased way.
When they came to the house it looked to Michael still more desolate in the
snowy stretch of setting than it had when the grass was about it. His heart
"I don't know as we can ever do anything with the old shack," he said,
shaking his head wistfully. "It looks worse than I thought."
"'Tain't so bad," said Sam cheerfully. "Guess it's watertight." He placed
a speculative eye at the dusty window pane he had wiped off with his coat
sleeve. "Looks dry inside. 'Twould be a heap better'n sleepin' on de
pavement fer some. Dat dere fire hole would take in a big lot o' wood an' I
guess dere's a plenty round de place without robbin' de woods none."
Michael led him to the seashore and bade him look. He wanted to see what
effect it would have upon him. The coast swept wild and bleak in the cold
December day, and Sam shivered in his thin garments. A look of awe and fear
came into his face. He turned his back upon it.
"Too big!" he said sullenly, and Michael understood that the sea in its
vastness oppressed him.
"Yes, there's a good deal of it," he admitted, "but after all it's sort of
like the geranium flower."
Sam turned back and looked.
"H'm! I don't see nothin' like!" he grunted despairingly.
"Why, it's wonderful! Its beyond us! We couldn't make it. Look at that
motion! See the white tossing rim of the waves! See that soft green gray!
Isn't it just the color of the little down on the geranium leaf? See the
silver light playing back and forth, and look how it reaches as far as you
can see. Now, doesn't it make you feel a little as it did when you first
looked at the geranium?"
Michael looked down at Sam from his greater height almost wistfully. He
wanted him to understand, but Sam looked in vain.
"Not fer mine!" he shrugged. "Gimme the posy every time."
They walked in silence along the beach toward the flowing of the river, and
Sam eyed the ocean furtively as if he feared it might run up and engulf
them suddenly when they were not looking. He had seen the ocean from wharfs
of course; and once stole a ride in a pilot boat out into the deep a little
way; but he had never been alone thus with the whole sea at once as this
seemed. It was too vast for him to comprehend. Still, in a misty way he
knew what Michael was trying to make him understand, and it stirred him
They hired a little boat for a trifle and Michael with strong strokes rowed
them back to the farm, straight into the sunset. The sky was purple and
gold that night, and empurpled the golden river, whose ripples blended into
pink and lavender and green. Sam sat huddled in the prow of the boat facing
it all. Michael had planned it so. The oars dipped very quietly, and Sam's
small eyes changed and widened and took it all in. The sun slipped lower in
a crimson ball, and a flood of crimson light broke through the purple and
gold for a moment and left a thin, clear line of flame behind.
"Dere!" exclaimed Sam pointing excitedly. "Dat's like de posy. I kin see
_thet_ all right!"
And Michael rested on his oars and looked back at the sunset, well pleased
with this day's work.
They left the boat at a little landing where its owner had promised to get
it, and went back through the wood, gathering a quantity of holly branches
and mistletoe; and when they reached the city Michael found a good market
for it, and received enough for what he had brought to more than cover the
price of the trip. The best of it was that Sam was as pleased with the
bargain as if it were for his personal benefit.
When they parted Sam wore a sprig of mistletoe in his ragged buttonhole,
and Michael carried several handsome branches of holly back to his boarding
Most of this he gave to Hester Semple to decorate the parlor with, but
one fine branch he kept and carried to his room and fastened it over his
mirror. Then after looking at it wistfully for a long time he selected a
glossy spray containing several fine large berries, cut it off and packed
it carefully in a tiny box. This without name or clue to sender, he
addressed in printing letters to Starr. Mr. Endicott had asked him to mail
a letter to her as he passed by the box the last time he had been in the
office, and without his intention the address had been burned into his
memory. He had not expected to use it ever, but there could be no harm
surely in sending the girl this bit of Christmas greeting out of the
nowhere of a world of possible people. She would never know he had sent
it, and perhaps it would please her to get a piece of Christmas holly from
home. She might think her father had sent it. It mattered not, he knew, and
it helped him to think he might send this much of his thoughts over the
water to her. He pleased himself with thinking how she would look when
she opened the box. But whether she would be pleased or not he must only
surmise, for she would never know to thank him. Ah, well, it was as near as
he dared hope for touching life's happiness. He must be glad for what he
might have, and try to work and forget the rest.
Now about this time the law firm with whom Michael worked became deeply
interested in their new "boy." He studied hard, and seemed to know what he
was about all day. They saw signs of extraordinary talent in him. Once or
twice, thinking to make life pleasant for him, they had invited him to
their club, or to some evening's entertainment, and always Michael had
courteously declined, saying that he had an engagement for the evening.
They casually questioned Will French, the other student, who was a
happy-go-lucky; in the office because his father wished him to study
something and not because he wanted to. Will said that Michael went out
every evening and came in late. Mrs. Semple had remarked that she often
didn't know whether he came in at all until she saw him come down to
This report and a certain look of weariness about the eyes some mornings
led the senior member of the firm to look into Michael's affairs. The
natural inference was that Michael was getting into social life too
deeply, perhaps wasting the hours in late revelry when he should have
been sleeping. Mr. Holt liked Michael, and dreaded to see the signs of
dissipation appear on that fine face. He asked Will French to make friends
with him and find out if he could where he spent his evenings. Will readily
agreed, and at once entered on his mission with a zeal which was beyond all
"Hello, Endicott!" called Will as Michael reached the front door on his way
to his mission that same evening. "Where're you going? Wait, can't you, and
I'll walk along with you? I was going to ask you if you wouldn't go to a
show with me this evening. I haven't anything on for to-night and it's
As he spoke he seized his coat and hat which he had purposely left in the
hall near at hand, and put them on.
"Thank you," said Michael, as they went out together, "I'd be glad to go
with you but I have something that can't be put off."
"Well, go to-morrow night with me, will you? I like you and I think we
ought to be friends."
Will's idea was that they would get to talking at a "show" and he could
find out a good deal in that way. He thought it must be a girl. He had told
the senior Holt that it was a girl of course and he wouldn't take long to
spot her. It must be either a girl or revelry to take the fellow out every
night in the week so late.
"Well, I'm sorry," said Michael again, "but I'm afraid I have an engagement
every night. It's rather a permanent job I'm engaged in. What do you do
with your evenings?"
Will launched into a gay description of parties and entertainments to which
he had been bidden, and nice girls he knew, hinting that he might
introduce Michael if he was so inclined, and Michael talked on leading his
unsuspecting companion further and further from the subject of his own
evenings. Finally they came to a corner and Michael halted.
"I turn here," he said; "which way do you go?"
"Why, I turn too," laughed French. "That is, if you don't object. I'm out
for a walk and I don't care much what I do. If I'm not welcome just tell me
and I'll clear out."
"Of course you're quite welcome," said Michael; "I'm glad to have company,
but the quarter I'm walking to is not a pleasant one for a walk, and indeed
you mightn't like to return alone even so early in the evening if you walk
far. I had an unpleasant encounter myself once, but I know the ways of the
place now and it's different."
Will eyed him curiously.
"Is it allowable to ask where we're going?" he asked in a comical tone.
"Certainly. If you're bound to go I'll have to tell you all about it, but
I strongly advise you to turn back now, for it isn't a very savory
neighborhood, and I don't believe you'll care for it."
"Where thou goest I will go," mocked Will. "My curiosity is aroused. I
shall certainly go. If it's safe for you, it is for me. My good looks are
not nearly so valuable as yours, nor so noticeable. As I have no valuables
in the world, I can't be knocked down for booty."
"You see they all know me," explained Michael.
"Oh, they do! And can't you introduce me? Or don't you like to?"
"I suppose I can," laughed Michael, "if you really want me to, but
I'm afraid you'll turn and run when you see them. You see they're not
very--handsome. They're not what you're used to. You wouldn't want to know
"But you do."
"I had to," said Michael desperately. "They needed something and I had to
Up to this point Will French had been sure that Michael had fallen into the
hands of a set of sharpers, but something in his companion's tone made
him turn and look, and he saw Michael's face uplifted in the light of the
street lamp, glowing with, a kind of intent earnestness that surprised and
"Look here, man," he said. "Tell me who they are, and what you are doing,
Michael told him in a few words, saying little about himself, or his reason
for being interested in the alley in the first place. There were a few
neglected newsboys, mere kids. He was trying to teach them a few things,
reading and figures and a little manual training. Something to make life
more than a round of suffering and sin.
"Is it settlement work?" asked French. He was puzzled and interested.
"No," explained Michael, "there's a settlement, but it's too far away and
got too big a district to reach this alley. It's just my own little work."
"Who pays you for it?"
"Who pays me?"
"Yes, who's behind the enterprise? Who forks over the funds and pays you
for your job?"
Michael laughed long and loud.
"Well, now, I hadn't thought about pay, but I guess the kiddies themselves
do. You can't think how they enjoy it all."
"H'm!" said French, "I think I'll go along and see how you do it. I won't
scare 'em out, will I?"
"Well, now I hadn't thought of that," said Michael. "In fact, I didn't
suppose you'd care to go all the way, but if you think you do, I guess it
will be all right."
"Not a very warm welcome, I must say," laughed Will, "but I'm going just
the same. You get me in and I'll guarantee not to scare the crowd. Have any
time left over from your studies for amusement? If you do I might come in
on that. I can do tricks."
"Can you?" said Michael looking at his unbidden guest doubtfully. "Well,
we'll see. I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. It's very informal. Sometimes
we don't get beyond the first step in a lesson. Sometimes I have to stop
and tell stories."
"Good!" said Will. "I'd like to hear you."
"Oh, you wouldn't enjoy it, but there are a few books there. You might read
if you get tired looking around the room."
And so Michael and his guest entered the yellow and white room together.
Michael lit the gas, and Will looked about blinking in amazement.
Coming through the alley to the room had taken away Will's exclamatory
powers and exhausted his vocabulary. The room in its white simplicity,
immaculately kept, and constantly in touch with fresh paint to hide any
stray finger marks, stood out in startling contrast with the regions round
about it. Will took it all in, paint, paper, and pictures. The tiny stove
glowing warmly, the improvised seats, the blackboard in the corner, and the
bits of life as manifested in geranium, butterfly cocoons and bird's nests;
then he looked at Michael, tall and fine and embarrassed, in the centre of
"Great Scott!" he exclaimed. "Is this an enchanted island, or am I in my
But before he could be answered there came the sound of mattering young
feet and a tumult outside the door. Then eager, panting, but decorous,
they entered, some with clean faces, most of them with clean hands, or
moderately so, all with their caps off in homage to their Prince; and
Michael welcomed them as if he stood in a luxurious drawing room on Fifth
Avenue and these were his guests.
He introduced them, and Will entered into the spirit of the affair and
greeted them chummily. They stood shyly off from him at first with great
eyes of suspicion, huddled together in a group near Michael, but later when
the lesson on the blackboard was over and Michael was showing a set of
pictures, Will sat down in a corner with a string from his pocket and began
showing two of the boldest of the group some tricks. This took at once, and
when he added a little sleight-of-hand pulling pennies from the hair and
pockets and hands of the astonished youngsters and allowing them to keep
them after the game was over, they were ready to take him into their inner
circle at once.
When, however, Sam, who was most unaccountably late that night, sidled
in alone, he looked at the stranger with eyes of belligerence; and when
Michael introduced him as his friend, Sam's eyes glinted with a jealous
light. Sam did not like Michael to have any friends of that sort. This new
man had shiny boots, fine new clothes, wore his hair nicely brushed, and
manipulated a smooth handkerchief with fingers as white as any gentleman.
To be sure Michael was like that, but then Michael was Michael. He belonged
to them, and his clothes made him no worse. But who was this intruder? A
gentleman? All gentlemen were natural enemies to Sam.
"Come outside," said Sam to Michael gruffly, ignoring the white hand Will
held out cordially. Michael saw there was something on his mind.
"Will, can you amuse these kids a minute or two while I step out? I'll not
"Sure!" said Will heartily. He hadn't had such a good time in months and
what a story he would have to tell the senior partner in the morning.
"Ever try to lift a fellow's hand off the top of his head? Here, you kid,
sit in that chair and put your right hand flat on the top of your head.
Now, sonnie, you lift it off. Pull with all your might. That's it--"
Michael's eyes shone, and even Sam grinned surreptitiously.
"He'll do," he said to Sam as they went out. "He was lonesome this evening
and wanted to come along with me."
Lonesome! A fellow like that! It gave Sam a new idea to think about. Did
people who had money and education and were used to living in clothes like
that get lonesome? Sam cast a kindlier eye back at Will as he closed the
Alone in the dark cold entry where the wind whistled up from the river and
every crack seemed a conductor of a blast, Sam and Michael talked in low
"Say, he's lit out!" Sam's tone conveyed dismay as well as apology.
It was a sign of Michael's real eagerness that he knew at once who was
Sam grunted assent.
"Day er so ago, I tuk yer word to 'im but he'd gone. Lef' word he had a big
deal on, an' ef it came troo all right 'e'd send fer us. You see it wan't
safe round here no more. The police was onto his game. Thur wan't no more
hidin' fer him. He was powerful sorry not to see you. He'd always thought a
heap o' Mikky!"
"How long had he known I was here?" Michael's face was grave in the
darkness. Why had Buck not sent him some word? Made some appointment?
"Since you first cum back."
"Why--oh, Sam, why didn't he let me come and see him?"
"It warn't safe," said Sam earnestly. "Sure thing, it warn't! 'Sides--"
"Besides what, Sam?" The question was eager.
"'Sides, he knowed you'd had edicashun, an' he knowed how you looked on his
way o' livin'. He didn't know but--"
"You mean he didn't trust me, Sam?" Sam felt the keen eyes upon him even hi
"Naw, he didn't tink you'd snitch on him ner nothin', but he didn't know
but you might tink you had to do some tings what might kick it all up wid
him. You'd b'en out o' tings fer years, an' you didn't know de ways o' de
city. 'Sides, he ain't seed you like I done--"
"I see," said Michael, "I understand. It's a long time and of course he
only knows what you have told him, and if there was danger,--but oh, Sam, I
wish he could go down to Old Orchard. Did you ever tell him about it, and
about my plans?"
"Sure ting I did. Tole 'im all you tole me. He said 'twar all right. Ef he
comes out on dis deal he'll be back in a while, an' he'll go down dere ef
you want him. He said he'd bring a little wad back to make things go ef dis
deal went troo."
"Do you know what the deal is, Sam?"
"Is it dis--is it"--he paused for a word that would convey his meaning and
yet not offend--"is it--dangerous, Sam?"
"Sure!" admitted Sam solemnly as though it hurt him to pain his friend.
"Do you mean it will make more hiding for him?"
"Sure!" emphatically grave.
"I wish he hadn't gone!" There was sharp pain in Michael's voice.
"I wisht so too!'" said Sam with a queer little choke to his voice, "Mebbe
'twon't come off after all. Mebbe it'll git blocked. Mebbe he'll come
The anxiety in Sam's tone touched Michael, but another thought had struck
"Sam," said he plucking at the others sleeve in the darkness, "Sam, tell
me, what was Buck doing--before he went away. Was it all straight? Was he
in the same business with you?"
Sam breathed heavily but did not answer. At last with difficulty he