THE ANGEL OF THE TENEMENT
GEORGE MADDEN MARTIN
New York Bonnell, Silver & Co. 1897
Copyright by Bonnell, Silver & Co., 1897.
I. The Advent of the Angel 1
II. The Entertainers of the Angel 16
III. Introduces the Little Major 26
IV. The Angel Becomes a Fairy 37
V. The Angel Rescues Mr. Tomlin 55
VI. The Major Superintends the Angel's Education 72
VII. Miss Ruth makes the Acquaintance of Old G. A. R. 90
VIII. The Angel meets an old Friend 99
IX. Mary Carew is Tempted 111
X. The Major Obeys Orders 122
XI. Tells of the Tenement's Christmas 125
THE ANGEL OF THE TENEMENT.
THE ADVENT OF THE ANGEL.
The ladies of the Tenement felt that it was a matter concerning the reputation of the house. Therefore on this particular hot July morning they were gathered in the apartment of Miss Mary Carew and Miss Norma Bonkowski, if one small and dingy room may be so designated, and were putting the matter under discussion.
Miss Carew, tall, bony, and more commonly known to the Tenement as Miss C'rew, of somewhat tart and acrid temper, being pressed for her version of the story, paused in her awkward and intent efforts at soothing the beautiful, fair-haired child upon her lap and explained that she was stepping out her door that morning with her water-bucket, thinking to get breakfast ready before Miss Bonkowski awoke, when a child's frightened crying startled her, coming from a room across the hall which for some weeks had been for rent.
"At that," continued Miss Carew, moved to unwonted loquacity, and patting the child industriously while she addressed the circle of listening ladies, "at that, 'sure as life!' says I, and stepped across and opened the door, an' there, settin' on this shawl, its eyes big like it had jus' waked up, an' cryin' like to break its heart, was this here baby. I picked her right up an' come an' woke Norma, but it's nothin' we can make out, 'ceptin' she's been in that there room all night."
Many were the murmurs and ejaculations from the circle of wondering ladies, while Miss Bonkowski, a frowzy-headed lady in soiled shirt waist and shabby skirt, with a small waist and shoulders disproportionately broad; and with, moreover, a dab of paint upon each high-boned cheek,—nothing daunted by previous failures, leaned forward and putting a somewhat soiled finger beneath the child's pretty chin, inquired persuasively, "And isn't the darling going to tell its Norma its name?"
Miss Bonkowski spoke airily and as if delivering a part. But this the good ladies forgave, for was not this same Miss Norma the flower that shed an odor of distinction over the social blossoming of the whole Tenement? Was not Miss Bonkowski a chorus lady at The Garden Opera House?
So her audience looked on approvingly while Miss Norma snapped her fingers and chirruped to the baby encouragingly. "And what is the darling's name?" she repeated.
The little one, her pitiful sobbing momentarily arrested, regarded Miss Bonkowski with grave wonder. "Didn't a know I are Angel?" she returned in egotistical surprise.
"Sure an' it's the truth she's spakin', fer it's the picter of an angel she is," cried Mrs. O'Malligan, she of the first-floor front, who added a tidy sum to her husband's earnings by taking in washing, and in consequence of the size of these united incomes, no less than that of her big heart, was regarded with much respect by the Tenement, "just look at the swate face of her, would ye, an' the loikes of her illegant gown!"
"Won't it tell its Norma where it came from? Who brought the dearie here and left it in the naughty room? Tell its Norma," continued Miss Bonkowski, on her knees upon the bare and dirty floor, and eyeing the dainty embroidery and examining the quality of the fine white dress while she coaxed.
"Yosie brought Angel—" the child began, then as if the full realization of the strangeness of it all returned at mention of that familiar name, the baby turned her back on Norma and pulling at Mary Carew's dress imperatively, gazed up into that lady's thin, sharp face, "Angel wants her mamma,—take Angel to her mamma," she commanded, even while her baby chin was quivering and the big eyes winking to keep back the tears.
"Sure an' it shall go to its mammy," returned Mrs O'Malligan soothingly, "an' whir was it ye left her, me Angel?"
"Yes, tell its Norma where it left its mamma," murmured Miss Bonkowski coaxingly.
"Yosie bring Angel way a way," explained the baby obediently. "Yosie say Angel be a good girl and her come yite back. Where Yosie,—Angel wants Yosie to come now," and the plaintive little voice broke into a sob, as the child looked from one to the other of the circle beseechingly.
The ladies exchanged pitying glances while the persevering Miss Norma rattled an empty spool in a tin cup violently to distract the baby's thoughts. "And how old is Angel?" she continued.
Again the tears were checked, while the grave, disapproving surprise which Miss Bonkowski's ignorance seemed to call forth, once more overspread the small face, "Didn't a know her are three?" she returned reprovingly, reaching for the improvised and alluring plaything.
"Yes, yes," murmured Miss Bonkowski apologetically, "Angel is three years old, of course, a great, big girl."
"A gwate, big girl," repeated the baby, nodding her pretty head approvingly, "that what Yosie say," then with abrupt change of tone, "where her breakfast, her wants her milk!"
"An' she shall have it, sure," cried Mrs. O'Malligan promptly, and retired out the door with heavy haste, while Miss Bonkowski hospitably turned to bring forth what the apartment could boast in the way of breakfast.
Meanwhile the other ladies withdrew to the one window of the small room to discuss the situation.
"That's it, I'm sure," one was saying, while she twisted up her back hair afresh, "for my man, he says he saw a woman pass our door yesterday afternoon, kinder late, an' go on up steps with a young 'un in her arms. He never seen her come back, he says, but Mis' Tomlin here, she says, she seen a woman dressed nice, come down afterwards seemin' in a hurry, but she didn't have no child, didn't you say, Mis' Tomlin?"
Thus appealed to, timid little Mrs. Tomlin shifted her wan-faced, fretting baby from one arm to the other and asserted the statement to be quite true.
"An'ther case of desartion," pronounced Mrs. O'Malligan, having returned meanwhile with a cup filled with a thin blue liquid known to the Tenement as milk, "a plain case of desartion, an' whut's to be done about it, I niver can say!"
"Done!" cried Miss Bonkowski, on her knees before Mary and the child, crumbling some bread into the milk, "and what are the police for but just such cases?"
The other ladies glanced apprehensively at Mrs. O'Malligan, that lady's bitter hatred of these guardians of the public welfare being well known, since that day when three small O'Malligans were taken in the act of relieving a passing Italian gentleman of a part of his stock of bananas. Mrs. O'Malligan had paid their fines in the City Court, had thrashed them around as many times as her hot Irish temper had rekindled at the memory, but had never forgiven the police for the disgrace to the family of O'Malligan. And being the well-to-do personage of The Tenement, it should be remarked that Mrs. O'Malligan's sentiments were generally deferred to, if not always echoed by her neighbors.
"An' is it the polace ye'd be a-callin' in?" she burst forth volubly, reproach and indignation written upon the round red face she turned upon Miss Norma, "the polace? An' would ye be turnin' over the darlin' to the loikes of thim, to be locked up along with thaves an' murtherers afore night?" And, as a chorus of assenting murmurs greeted her, with her broad, flat foot thrust forward and hands upon her ample hips, Mrs. O'Malligan hurried on.
"The polace is it ye say? An' who but these same polace, I ask ye, was it, gettin' this Tiniment,—as has always held it's head up respectable,—a-gettin' this Tiniment in the noospapers last winter along of that case of small-pox, an' puttin' a yellow flag out, an afther that nobody a-willin' to give me their washin', an Miss C'rew here as could get no pants to make, an' yerself, Miss Norma, darlint, an' no disrespect to you a-spakin' out so bold, a-layin' idle because of no thayater a-willin' to have ye. An' wasn't it thim same polace crathurs, too, I'm askin' ye, as took our rainwather cistern away along of the fevers breakin' out, they made bold to say, the desaivin' crathers,—an' me a-niver havin' me washin' white a-since, for ye'll aisy see why, usin' the muddy wather as comes from that hydranth yirselves!"
Mrs. O'Malligan glanced around triumphantly, shook her head and hurried on. "An' agin, there's little Joey. Who was it but the polace as come arristin' the feyther of the boy for batin' of his own wife, and him sint up for a year, an' she a-dyin' along of bein' weakly an' nobody to support her, an' Joey left in this very Tiniment an orphan child! Don't ye be a-callin' in no polace for the loikes of this swate angel choild, Miss Norma darlint, don't ye be doin' it! An' the most of thim once foine Irish gintlemen, bad luck to the loikes of thim!"
Mrs. O'Malligan paused,—she was obliged to,—for breath, whereupon Miss Bonkowski very amiably hastened to declare she meant no harm, having absolutely no knowledge of the class whatever, "except," with arch humor, "as presented on the stage, where, as everybody who had seen them there knew, they were harmless enough, goodness knows!" And the airy chorus lady shrugged her shoulders and smiled at her own bit of pleasantry. "But for the matter of that, I still think something ought to be done, and what other means can we find for restoring the lost innocent?" and Miss Norma tossed her frizzled blonde head, quite enjoying, if the truth be told, the touch of romance about the affair. For once she seemed to be meeting, in real life, a situation worthy of the boards of The Garden Opera House, in whose stage vernacular a missing child was always a "lost innocent." "If we do not call on the police, Mrs. O'Malligan, how are we to ever find the child's mother?"
Here Mary Carew looked up, and there was something like a metallic click about Mary's hard, dry tones as she spoke, for the years she had spent in making jeans pantaloons at one dollar and a half a dozen had not been calculated to sweeten her tones to mellowness, nor to induce her to regard human nature with charity.
"Don't you understand?" she said bluntly, "all the huntin' in the world ain't goin' to find a mother what don't mean to be found?"
"But what makes you so sure she don't?" persisted Miss Bonkowski, letting the child take possession of spoon and cup, and quite revelling in the further touch of the dramatic developing in the situation.
Unconsciously Mary pressed the child to her as she spoke. "It's as plain as everything else that's wrong and hard in this world," she said, and each word clicked itself off with metallic sharpness and decision, "the mother brought the child here late yesterday, waited until it was asleep in the room over there, then went off and left it. Why she chose this here particular Tenement we don't know and likely never will, though I ain't no doubt myself there's a reason. It ain't a pretty story or easy to understand but it's common enough, and you'll find that mother never means to be found, an' in as big a city as this 'n', tain't no use to try."
"I will not—cannot—believe it," murmured Norma—in her best stage tones. Then she turned again to the child. "And how did it come here, dearie? Has baby a papa—where is baby's papa?"
The little one rattled the tin spoon around the sides of the cup. "Papa bye," she returned chasing a solitary crumb intently. "Yosie sick, mamma sick, Tante sick, but Angel, her ain't sick when she come way a way on—on—" a worried look flitted over the flushed little face, and she looked up at Norma expectantly as if expecting her to supply the missing word, "on,—Angel come way a way on—vaisseau—" at last with baby glee she brought the word forth triumphantly, "Papa bye and Angel and mamma and Tante and Yosie come way a way on vaisseau!"
"You see," said Mary Carew, looking at Norma, and the others shook their heads sadly.
Miss Bonkowski accepted the situation. "Though what a vasso is, or a tante either, is beyond me to say," she murmured.
"But what is goin' to be done with her, then?" ventured little Mrs. Tomlin, holding her own baby closer as she spoke.
There was a pause which nobody seemed to care to break, during which more than one of the women saw the child on Mary's knee through dim eyes which turned the golden hair into a halo of dazzling brightness. Then Norma got up and began to clear away the remains of breakfast and to clatter the crockery from stove and table together for washing, while Mary Carew, avoiding the others' glances, busied herself by awkwardly wiping the child's mouth and chin with a corner of her own faded cotton dress.
Submitting as if the process was a matter of course, the baby gazed meanwhile into Mary's colorless, bony and unlovely face. Perhaps the childish eyes found something behind its hardness not visible to older and less divining insight, for one soft hand forthwith stole up to the hollow cheek, while the other pulled at the worn sleeve for attention. "What a name?" the clear little voice lisped inquiringly.
Poor Mary looked embarrassed, but awkwardly lent herself to the caress as if, in spite of her shamefacedness, she found it not unpleasant.
The baby's eyes regarded her with sad surprise. "A got no name, poor—poor—a got no name," then she broke forth, and as if quite overcome with the mournfulness of Mary's condition, the little head burrowed back into the hollow of the supporting arm, that she might the better gaze up and study the face of this object for pity and wonder.
Poor Mary Carew—would that some one of the hundreds of un-mothered and unloved little ones in the great city had but found it out sooner—her starved heart had been hungering all her life, and now her arms closed about the child.
"I reckon I'll keep her till somebody comes for her," she said with a kind of defiance, as if ashamed of her own weakness, "it'll only mean," with a grim touch of humor in her voice, "it'll only mean a few more jean pantaloons a week to make any how."
"We'll share her keep between us alike, Mary Carew," declared Norma, haughtily, with a real, not an affected toss, of the frizzed head now, "what is your charge, is mine too, I'd have you know!"
"Sure, an' we'll all do a part for the name of the house," said Mrs. O'Malligan, "an' be proud." And the other ladies agreeing to this more or less warmly, the matter was considered as settled.
"An' as them as left her know where she is," said Mary Carew, the click quite decided again in her tones, "if they want her, they know where to come and get her—but—you hear to what I say, Norma, they'll never come!"
THE ENTERTAINERS OF THE ANGEL.
It was one thing for the good ladies of the Tenement to settle the matter thus, but another entirely for the high-spirited, passionate little stranger,—bearing every mark of refined birth and good breeding in her finely-marked features, her straight, slim white body, her slender hands and feet, her dainty ways and fearless bearing,—to adapt herself to the situation. The first excitement over, her terror and fright returned, and the cry went up unceasingly in lisping English interspersed with words utterly unintelligible to the two distracted ladies, begging to be taken to that mother of whom Mary Carew entertained so poor an opinion.
It was in vain that good woman, with a tenderness and patience quite at variance with her harsh tones, rocked, petted, coaxed and tried to satisfy with vague promises of "to-morrow." In vain did Norma, no less earnestly now that the touch of romance had faded into grim responsibility, whistle and sing and snap her fingers, the terror was too real, the sense of loss too poignant, the baby heart refused to be comforted, and it was only when exhaustion came that the child would moan herself to sleep in Mary's arms.
So passed several days, the baby drooping and pining, but clinging to Mary through it all, with a persistency which, while it won her heart entirely, sadly interfered with the progress of jean pantaloons.
As for the more material Norma, whose time, free from the requirements of her profession, had hitherto been largely given to reshaping her old garments in imitations of the ever-changing fashions, finding that the baby clung to Mary, she bore no malice, but good-naturedly turned her skill toward making the poor accommodations of their room meet the needs of the occasion, and in addition appointed herself maid to her small ladyship. And an arduous task it ultimately proved, for, as the child gradually became reconciled and began to play about, a dozen times a day a little pair of hands were stretched toward Norma and a sweet, tearful voice proclaimed in accents of anguished grief, "Angel's hands so-o-o dirty!"—which indeed they were each time, her surroundings being of that nature which rubbed off at every touch.
Indeed so pronounced was the new inmate's dislike to dirt, that Mary, sensitive to criticism, took to rising betimes these hot mornings and making the stuffy room sweet with cleanliness. Not so easy a task as one might imagine either, in an apartment which combined kitchen, laundry, bedroom, dining-room and the other conveniences common to housekeeping in a 12 x 15 space, as evidenced by the presence of a stove, a table with a tub concealed beneath, a machine, a bed, a washstand, two chairs, and a gayly decorated bureau, Norma's especial property, set forth with bottles of perfumery, a satin pin-cushion and a bunch of artificial flowers in a vase. And in putting the room thus to rights, when it is considered that every drop of water used upon floor, table or window, had to be carried up four flights of stairs, the sincerity of Mary's conversion to the angelic way of regarding things cannot be doubted.
Nor, if Mary's word can be taken, were these efforts wasted upon her little ladyship, who, awakened by the bustle on the very first occasion of Mary's crusade against the general disorder, sat up in the crib donated by Mrs. O'Malligan,—the last of the O'Malligans being now in trousers,—and hung over the side with every mark of approving interest. And happy with something to love and an object to work for, Mary continued to scrub on with a heart strangely light. "And I couldn't slight the corners if I wanted to," she told her neighbors, "with them great solemn eyes a-watchin' an' a-follerin' me."
It was on a morning following one of these general upheavals and straightenings that the three sat down to breakfast, the two ladies feeling unwontedly virtuous and elegant by reason of their clean surroundings. The Angel seeming brighter and more willing to leave Mary's side, Norma put her into one of their two chairs, and herself sat on the bed. But no sooner had the baby grabbed her cracked mug than her smooth forehead began to pucker, and, setting it down again, she regarded Norma earnestly. "Didn't a ought to say something?" she demanded, and her eyes grew dark with puzzled questioning.
"And what should you say, darling?" returned Norma, leaning over to crumble some bread into the milk which a little judicious pinching in other directions made possible for the child.
The baby studied her bread and milk intently. "Jesus"—she lisped, then hesitated, and her worried eyes sought Norma's again,—"Jesus"—then with a sudden joyful burst of inspiration, "Amen," she cried and seized her mug triumphantly.
"It's a blessing she is asking," said Norma with tears in her eyes, "I know, for I've seen it done on the stage, though what with the food being pasteboard cakes and colored plaster fruit, I never took much stock in it before," and she laughed somewhat unsteadily.
"Bread and butter, come to supper," sang the baby with sudden glee, "that what Tante says.—Where Angel's Tante?" and with the recollection her face changed, and the pretty pointed chin began to quiver. A moment of indecision, and she slipped down from her chair. "Kiss Angel bye," she commanded, tugging at Mary's skirts, "her goin' to Tante," the little face fierce with determination, every curl bobbing with the emphatic nods of the little head, "kiss her bye, C'rew," and the wild sobs began again.
So passed a week, but, for all the added care and responsibility, the longer this wayward, imperious little creature, with the hundred moods for every hour, was hers, the less was Mary Carew disposed to consider the possibility of any one coming to claim her. Not so with the blonde-tressed chorus lady, who combined more of worldly wisdom with her no less kindly heart. Patiently she tried to win the child's further confidence, to stimulate the baby memory, to unravel the lisped statements. But it was in vain. Smiles indeed, she won at length, through tears, and little sad returns to her playful sallies, but the little one's words were too few, her ideas too confused, for Norma to learn anything definite from her lispings.
But Norma was not satisfied. "My heart misgives me," she murmured in the tragic accents she so loved to assume,—one evening as she pinned on her cheap and showy lace hat and adjusted its wealth of flowers, preparatory to starting to the Garden Opera House, "my heart misgives me. It seems to me it is our duty, Mary, to do something about this,—to report it—somehow,—somewhere"—she ended vaguely. "Hadn't I better speak to a policeman after all?"
Mary Carew drew the child,—drowsing in her arms,—to her quickly. "No," she said, and her thin, bony face looked almost fierce, "no, for if you did and they couldn't find her people, which you know as well as I do they couldn't, do you s'pose they'd give her back to us? They'd put her in a refuge or 'sylum, that's what they'd do, where, while maybe she'd have more to eat, she'd be enough worse off, a-starvin' for a motherin' word!"
Miss Bonkowski, abashed at Mary's fierce attack, made an attempt to speak, but Mary, vehemently interrupting, hurried on: "I know whereas I speak, Norma Bonkowski, I know, I know. I've gone through it all myself. I ain't never told you," and the knobby face burned a dull red, "I was county poor, where I come from in the state, an' sent to th' poor-house at four years old, myself, and I know, Norma, the miseries whereas I speak of. And the Lord helpin' me," with grim solemnity, "an' since He sent you here huntin' a room, an' since He helped me get the machine, hard to run as it is, somehow I'm believin' more He's the Lord of us poor folks too,—an' Him a-helpin' me to turn out one more pair of pants a day, I'll never be the means of puttin' no child in a refuge no-how an' no time. An' there it is, how I feel about it!"
Miss Bonkowski turned from a partial view of herself such as the abbreviated glass to her bureau afforded. "Well," she said amiably, "coming as I did from across the ocean as a child," and she nodded her head in the supposed direction of the Atlantic, "and, until late years, always enjoying a good home, what with father getting steady work as a scene-painter, as I've told you often, and me going on in the chorus off and on, and having my own bit of money, I don't really know about the asylums in this country. But I have heard say they are so fine, people ain't against deserting their children just to get 'em in such places knowin' they'll be educated better'n they can do themselves."
Mary's pale eyes blazed. "Do you mean, Norma Bonkowski," she demanded angrily, "that you'd rather she should go?"
Miss Bonkowski shrugged her shoulders somewhat haughtily. "How you do talk, Mary! You know I don't,—but neither do I believe she is any deserted child, and it's worrying me constant, what we ought to do. Poor as I am, and what with father dying and the manager cutting my salary as I get older,—I'll admit it to you, Mary, though I wouldn't have him know I'm having another birthday to-day—" with a laugh and a shrug, "why, as I say, I am pretty poor, but every cent I've got is yours and the child's, and you know it, Mary Carew," and the good-hearted chorus-lady, with a reproachful backward glance at her room-mate, flounced out the door, leaving the re-assured Mary to sew, by the light of an ill-smelling lamp, until her return from the theatre near midnight.
INTRODUCES THE LITTLE MAJOR.
While the fine, embroidered dress in which the Angel had made her appearance was all Mrs. O'Malligan had claimed it as to daintiness and quality, after a few days' wear, its daintiness gave place to dirt, its quality thinned to holes.
Upon this the Tenement was called into consultation. The Angel must be clothed, but what, even from its cosmopolitan wardrobe, could the house produce suitable for angelic wear? Many lands indeed were represented by the inmates who now called its shelter home, but none from that country where Angels are supposed to have their being.
"On my word," quoth Miss Bonkowski to the ladies gathered in the room at her bidding, and Miss Norma gave an eloquent shrug and elevated her blackened eyebrows as she spoke, "on my word I believe her little heart would break if she had to stay in dirty, ragged clothes very long. Such a darling for being washed and curled, such a precious for always cleaning up! It makes me sure she must be different,"—Miss Norma was airy but she was also humble, recognizing perhaps her own inherent shrinking from too frequent an application of soap and water—"she's something different, born and bred, from such as me!"
But at this the ladies murmured. Miss Bonkowski had been their pride, their boast, nor did their allegiance falter now, even in the face of the Angel's claims to superiority.
Miss Bonkowski was not ungrateful for this expression of loyalty, which she acknowledged with a smile, as she tightened the buckle on the very high-heeled and coquettish slipper she was rejuvenating, but she protested, nevertheless, that all this did not alter the fact that the Angel must be clothed.
"As fer th' dirt," said the energetic Mrs. O'Malligan, on whose ample lap the Angel was at that moment sitting in smiling friendliness, "sure an' I'll be afther washin' her handful uv clothes ivery wake, meself, an' what with them dozens of dresses I'm doin' fer Mrs. Tony's childers all th' time, it's surely a few she'd be a-givin' me, whin I tell her about th' darlint, an' me a niver askin' fer nothin' at all, along of all mine bein' boys. Sure an' I'll be a-beggin' her this very day, I will, whin I carry me washin' home."
And Mrs. O'Malligan being as good as her word, and Mrs. Tony successfully interviewed, the good Irish lady returned home in triumph bearing a large bundle of cast-off garments, and at once summoned the Tenement to her apartments.
The first arrived ladies were already giving vent to their appreciation of the Tony generosity when Miss Carew and Miss Bonkowski arrived, Mary's bony face, in deference to the angelic prejudices now ruling her, red and smarting from an energetic application of the same soap as ministered to her room's needs, but beaming with a grim pride as she bore the radiant Angel, wild with delight at getting out of her narrow quarters.
Yielding to the popular voice, though not without reluctance, Mary placed her darling in Mrs. O'Malligan's lap, and the process of exhibiting and trying on the garments began at once.
For a time her small ladyship yielded graciously, until seeing her pretty feet bared that the little stockings and half worn shoes might be fitted, she suddenly cast her eyes about the circle of ladies, and won by the pretty, dark beauty of young Mrs. Repetto, the Tenement's bride of a month's standing, imperiously demanded that lady to take the pink toes to market.
Overcome with having the public attention thus drawn upon her, pretty Mrs. Repetto in the best Italian-English she could muster, confessed her inability to either understand or comply, whereupon the baby, bearing no malice in her present high good-humor, proceeded to take them herself.
"This little pig went to market," the angelic accents declared, while her ladyship smiled sweetly upon Mrs. Repetto, and Mary Carew breathlessly motioned for silence with all the pride of a doting parent.
"This little pig stayed home—" the ladies on the outskirts pressed near that they too might hear.
"This little pig had bread and cheese," whereupon Mrs. Repetto recovering, went down on her knees to be nearer the scene of exploit.
"This little pig had none;" the interest now was breathless, and as the last little pig went squeaking home the ladies nearest fell upon the darling and covered her with kisses.
"An' it's jus' that smart she is, all the time," declared Mary Carew proudly, "an' 'taint like she's showin' off, either, is it, Norma?"
When at last the trying on was over, and the Tony generosity was sufficiently enlarged upon, the ladies, as is the way with the best of the sex, fell into a mild gossip before separating. And while racy bits of Tenement shortcomings were being handed around, the small object of this gathering, too young, alas, to know the joys denied her because of her limited abilities to understand the nature of the conversation, slipped down from Mrs. O'Malligan's lap, and eluding Mary's absent hold, proceeded to journey about the room, until reaching the open door, she took her way, unobserved, out of the O'Malligan first floor front and leaving its glories of red plush furniture and lace curtains behind her, forthwith made her way out the hall door into the street.
The hot, garbage-strewn pavements and sunbaked gutters swarmed with the sons and daughters of the Tenement. Directly opposite its five-storied front was the rear entrance to the Fourth Regiment Armory. And there, at that moment, a sad-eyed, swarthy Italian,—swinging his hand-organ down on the asphalt pavement in front of the Armory's open doors, was beginning to grind out his melodies. And with the first note, children came running, from doorstep and curb, from sidewalk and gutter, while, at the same moment, in the open door of the Armory appeared a small, chubby-cheeked boy, who had upon his head a soldier cap so much too large for him as to cover the tips of his ears entirely, and who, moreover, wore, buckled about his waist, a belt gay as to trimmings and glittering with silver finishings. If the Fourth Regiment boasted a Company of Lilliputian Guards here surely was a member.
The Angel, in the Tenement door, was enchanted. How different a world from that upstairs room under the roof! She kept step to the music and nodded her head to the fascinating little boy in the Armory door. And the sharp eyes of that young gentleman had no sooner espied the nodding little creature in the doorway opposite, than heels together, head erect, up went a quick hand to the military cap. The Angel was being saluted, and while her ignorance of the fact prevented her appreciating that honor, the friendliness of the little boy was alluring. Down the steps she came, her little feet tripping to the measure of the music, her skirts outheld, and flitting across the pavement and over the curb, she made for the group of children in the street. Cobblestones, however, being strange to the baby feet, up those dancing members tripped and down the Angel fell, just as a wagon came dashing around the corner of the streets.
Out rushed the small boy from the Armory door, and, scattering the crowd around the organ, caught the fallen Angel by the arm, and raised his hand with an air of authority, as, with a grin, the driver on the wagon drew up his horse and surveyed the group, and the sad-eyed Italian, recognizing the superior attraction, shouldered his organ and moved on.
"Hello," cried the man on the wagon seeing the child was not hurt, "yer can soak me one if it ain't little Joe! Where'd yer git dem togs, kid? What'r' yer goin' in fer anyhow, baby perlice?"
The region in the neighborhood of Joey's waist swelled with pride, and his chubby face bore a look of wounded dignity. "There ain't no perlice about this yere, Bill, it's a sojer I be, see?"
Being pressed by Bill to explain himself, Joey unbent. "Yer see, Bill, Dad ain't never showed up fer to git me—seen anything of Dad since he got out, Bill?"
"What's he up to now?" queried Joey.
"Shovin' the queer," admitted Bill laconically, "nabbed right off an' in the cooler waitin' his turn, yer won't be troubled by him fer quite a spell, I'll give yer dat fer a pointer, see?"
Joey saw, and for the space of half a second seemed somewhat sobered by the intelligence. "I guessed as much," said he, "yer see, after he got nabbed first, mammy she—yer didn't know as mammy took an' died, did yer, Bill?" and Joey faltered and let the Angel take possession of his cap and transfer it to her own curly head while the Tenement children applauded with jeering commendation, seeing there was a standing feud between Joey and the rest of the juvenile populace over its possession.
"No," Bill allowed, he did not know it, but, seeing that she was always ailing, Bill was in no wise surprised.
"An'—an' since then, I'm stayin' over ter th' Arm'ry wid Old G. A. R. Yer know him, Bill, Old G. A. R. what takes care of th' Arm'ry. He was there afore yer left th' grocery."
Bill remembered the gentleman.
"I stays wid him an' he drills me an' makes me scrub, hully gee, how he do make me wash meself, Bill! An' there's one sojer-man, th' Cap'n, he give me these togs, he did, an' he tol' Old G. A. R. to lem'me eat along wid him over ter Dutchy's Res'traunt," nodding toward a cheap eating-house at the corner, "an' he'd stand fer it. They calls me major, all of 'em to th' Arm'ry, Bill, see?" and Joey was waxing voluble indeed, when he turned to see the mob of jeering children make off up the street, his cap in their midst, while the wailing Angel was being rescued from under the horse's very hoofs by Mary Carew.
Joey put his spirit of inquiry before even his cap. "Is she er Angel, say?" he inquired of Miss Carew, turning his back on Bill without ceremony who with a grin and a nod to the group of Tenement ladies at the door, drove off, "I heerd yer had er Angel over there, but I didn't know as it was straight, what they was givin' me, see?"
"That's what she is, the darling yonder," declared Miss Bonkowski from the curbstone, nodding airily, "you've got it straight this time, Joey. And if what Peter O'Malligan says about your picking her up just now is so, you're welcome to come over some time and play with her."
"Yes, it's true," supplemented Mary Carew, trying to pacify the struggling Angel in her arms who, gazing after the children, showed a decided inclination to descend to human level and mingle with them of earth, "it's true an' that's jus' what she is,—the Angel of this Tenement, an', as Norma says, you're free to come over and play with her, though there ain't many of you I'd say it to;" and with that the tall, gaunt Mary bearing the baby, followed Norma into the house and up the narrow, broken stairs, and along the dark halls past door after door closed upon its story of squalor and poverty, until, at last, panting with the child's weight, she reached their own abode under the roof.
"Which," as Mary had been wont, in the past, to observe, "was about as near Heaven as the poor need look to get." But now, for some reason, these bitter speeches were growing less frequent on Mary Carew's lips since she opened her door to entertain an Angel.
THE ANGEL BECOMES A FAIRY.
July passed, and in August, the heat in the room beneath the roof set the air to shimmering like a veil before the open window, and Mary Carew, gasping, found it harder and harder to make that extra pair of jean pantaloons a day. And, as though the manager at the Garden Opera House had divined that Miss Bonkowski had left another birthday behind her, like milestones along the way, that lady's salary received a cut on the first day of August.
At best, the united incomes of the two made but a meagre sum, and there was nothing for it now but to reduce expenses. The rent being one thing that was never cut, the result was a scantier allowance of food. Moreover, the mortals seeing to it that their heavenly visitant had her full craving satisfied, it was small wonder that the bones in Mary's face pressed more like knobs than ever against the tight-drawn skin, or that the spirits of the airy, hopeful, buoyant Norma flagged. Indeed, had not the warm-hearted, loving little creature, repaid them with quick devotion, filling their meagre lives with new interests and affections, despair or worse—regret for their generous impulse—must now have seized their hearts.
Invitations, too, grew rare, from the other ladies of the Tenement, bidding the little stranger whose simple friendliness and baby dignity had won them all, to dine or to sup, for hard times had fallen upon them also. A strike at a neighboring foundry, the shutting down of the great rolling-mill by the river had sent their husbands home for a summer vacation, with, unfortunately, no provision for wages, a state of affairs forbidding even angels' visits, when the angel possessed so human a craving for bread.
Even Mrs. O'Malligan, whose chief patron, Mrs. Tony, together with her children and their dozens of dresses, had gone for a summer outing, had no more on her table than her own family could dispose of.
But the Angel,—"'Eaving bless her," as Mrs. Tomlin was wont to observe when the Angel, coming to see the baby, would stand with grave wonder, touching the pallid little cheek with a rosy finger to make the baby smile,—the Angel noted nothing of all this. Even the memory of "Mamma" was fading, and Mary, Norma, the Tenement, the friendly children swarming staircase and doorway, were fast becoming her small world.
With instinct born of her profession, the chorus-lady had long ago recognized the wonderful grace and buoyancy of the child's every movement, and to her surprise found that the baby had quite a knowledge of dancing.
"Who taught you how, my precious?" she would ask, when the child, as if from the very love of motion, would catch and spread her skirts, and, with pointed toe, trip about the room, "tell your Norma who taught the darling how to dance?"
The baby glancing over her shoulder, with the little frown of displeasure that always greeted such ignorance on Norma's part, had but one reply: "Tante," she would declare, and continue her measured walk about the floor. So, for pastime, Norma began teaching her the figures of a dance then on the boards at the Opera House, to which her little ladyship lent herself with readiness. The motions, sometimes approaching the grotesque in the lean and elderly chorus-lady as she bobbed about the limited space, courtesying, twirling, pirouetting, her blonde hair done up in kids,—herself in the abbreviated toilet of pink calico sack and petticoat reserved for home hours, changed to unconscious grace and innocent abandon in the light, clean-limbed child, who learned with quickness akin to instinct, and who seemed to follow Norma's movements almost before they were completed.
"It is wonderful—amazing!" Miss Bonkowski would exclaim, pausing for breath, "it is genius," and her voice would pause and fall reverently before the words, and the lesson would be resumed with greater enthusiasm than before.
But many were the days when, Norma away at rehearsal and Mary Carew, hot, tired, alas, even cross,—totally irresponsive to anything but the stitching of jean pantaloons,—the Angel would grow tired of the stuffy room and long for the forbidden dangers and delights of Tenement sidewalks. Then, often, with nothing else to do, she would catch up her tiny skirts and whirl herself into the dance Norma had taught her, in and out among the furniture crowding the room, humming little broken snatches of music for herself, bending, swaying, her bright eyes full of laughter as they met Mary's tired ones, her curls bobbing, until breathless, hot and weary she would drop on the floor and fall asleep, her head pillowed on her soft dimpled arm.
But on one of these long, hot mornings when the heat seemed to stream in as from a furnace at the window and even the flies buzzed languidly, the Angel was seized with another idea for passing time. Her vocabulary of Tenement vernacular was growing too, and she chattered unceasingly.
"C'rew, didn't a fink Angel might go find her mamma?" she demanded on this particular morning.
"To-morrow," said C'rew, and the click in her tired voice sounded even above the whirring of the heavy machine, for C'rew's head ached and her back ached, and possibly her heart ached too, for herself and Norma and the child and poor people in one-windowed tenement rooms in general.
"Didn't a fink she might go play with little Joey?"
"No," said Mary decidedly, and she leaned back wearily and pushed her thin, colorless hair off her hot, throbbing temples, "no, you played down on the pavement with Joey an' th' rest yesterday, an the sun made you sick. But," with haste to avert the cloud lowering over the baby face, "if you'll be real good an' not worry her, you can go down an' see Mrs. O'Malligan."
Fair weather prevailed again on the pretty face, and at Mary's word the Angel was at the open door, tugging at the chair placed crossways to keep her from venturing out unobserved, and with a sigh and a guilty look at the pile of unfinished work, Mary rose and carried her down to the good Irish lady's door, and, with a word, hurried back.
Mrs. O'Malligan, big, beaming and red, smiled a moist but hearty welcome from over her tubs toward the little figure in the faded gingham standing shyly in the open doorway. "An' it's proud to see ye I am, me Angel," she declared, "though there's never a childer in call to be playin' wid ye."
But the Angel, nothing daunted, smiled back in turn, and climbed into a chair, and the two forthwith fell into friendly conversation, though it is doubtful if either understood one-half of what the other was talking about.
Presently Mrs. O'Malligan, with many apologies, went out into the back court to hang out the last of the family wash, and on her return, stopping short in the doorway, her jolly red face spread into a responsive smile. "The saints presarve us," she cried, "would ye look at the child?" for in the tub of blue rinsing water sat the gleeful Angel, water trickling from her yellow hair and from every stitch of clothing, while her evident enjoyment of the cool situation found a response in Mrs. O'Malligan's kind and indulgent heart.
"Angel take a baf," was the smiling though superfluous explanation which came from the infant Undine.
"An' it's right ye are," laughed Mrs. O'Malligan, "an' sure I'll be afther givin' ye a rale wan meself," and filling an empty tub with clean water, the brisk lady soon had the baby stripped to her firm, white skin and standing in the tub.
And what with the splashings of the naughty feet, and the wicked tumbles into the soap-suds every time the mischievous little body was rinsed, and Mrs. O'Malligan's "Whist, be aisy," and "It's a tormentin' darlint ye are," they heard nothing of the knocks at the door or the calls, nor knew that Miss Bonkowski, in street dress and hat, had entered, until she stood beside them with an armful of clean clothes.
"Was there ever such luck," she cried excitedly, "to find her all washed and just ready! Mary said she was here, and so I just brought her clean clothes down with me to save a trip back upstairs. Wipe her quickly, please," and with hands and tongue going, Miss Norma explained that one of the children in the juvenile dance on the boards at The Garden Opera House had been suddenly taken ill, and a matinee advertised for the next day.
"And it happens lucky enough," she went on, addressing the ladies who, catching wind of the excitement, had speedily gathered about the doorway, "it just happens I have been teaching her this very dance, and if she don't get frightened, I believe she will be able to take the place."
So saying, Miss Bonkowski gave a pull out and a last finishing pat to the strings of the embroidered muslin bonnet the child had worn on her first appearance, and taking her, clean, dainty, smiling and expectant, into her arms, Miss Norma plunged out of the comparative coolness of the Tenement hallway into the glare of the August sun.
But all this while the little brain was at work. "Goin' to Angel's mamma,—her goin' to her mamma," suddenly the child broke forth as Norma hurried along the hot streets, and the little hand beat a gleeful tattoo as it rested on Norma's shoulder.
Norma paused on the crowded sidewalk, to take breath beneath the shade of a friendly awning. "Not to-day, my angel," she panted, "to-day your Norma is going to take her precious where there are ever so many nice little girls for her to dance with."
"Angel likes to dance with little girls, Norma," admitted the baby, while Norma made ready to thread her way across the street through the press of vehicles.
"I'll not say one word to her about being frightened," reflected the wise chorus lady, "and she's such an eager little darling, thinking of other things and trying to do her best, maybe she won't think of it. If she can only keep the place while that child is sick,—what a help the money would be!"—and the usually hopeful Norma sighed as she hurried in the side entrance of the handsome stone building known to the public as The Garden Opera House.
* * * * *
The next afternoon, at The Garden Opera House, as the bell rang for the curtain to rise, Mary Carew, in best attire of worn black dress and cheap straw hat, was putting the Angel into the absent fairy's cast-off shell, which consisted of much white tarlatan as to skirts and much silver tinsel as to waist, with a pair of wonderful gauzy wings at sight of which the Angel was enraptured.
Miss Bonkowski being, as she expressed it, "on in the first scene," Mary Carew had been obliged to forsake jean pantaloons for the time being and come to take charge of the child, who in her earnest, quick, enthusiastic little fashion had done her part and gone through the rehearsal better even than the sanguine Norma had hoped, and after considerable drilling had satisfied the authorities that she could fill the vacancy.
As for the Angel, in her friendly fashion she had enjoyed herself hugely, accepting the homage of the other children like a small queen, graciously permitting herself to be enthused over by the various ladies who, like Norma, constituted "the chorus," and carrying home numerous offerings, from an indigestible wad of candy known as "an all-day-sucker," given her by her fairy-partner, to a silver quarter given her by the blonde and handsome tenor.
"She is the most fascinating little creature I ever met in my life," the prima donna had cried to the excited Miss Bonkowski, who had never been addressed by that great personage before,—"did you ever see such heavenly eyes,—not blue—violet—and such a smile—like the sun through tears! Who is she,—where did she come from? Such grace,—such poise!"
The Angel's story was recited to quite an audience, in Miss Bonkowski's most dramatic manner. But long before the chorus lady had finished, the great singer, lending but a wandering attention after the few facts were gathered, had coaxed the child into her silken lap, and with the mother touch which lies in every real woman's fingers from doll-baby days upward, was fondling and re-touching the rings of shining hair, and, with the mother-notes which a child within one's arms brings into every womanly woman's voice, was cooing broken endearments into the little ear.
Meanwhile the Angel gazed into the beautiful face with the calm and critical eyes of childhood. But what she saw there must have satisfied, for, with a sigh of content, she finally settled back against the encircling arm. "Pretty lady," was her candid comment. "Angel loves her."
Flattered and praised as she had been, it is doubtful if the great singer had ever received a tribute to her charms that pleased her more. "Bring her to my room to-morrow to dress her," she said to Miss Bonkowski in soft, winning tones that were nevertheless a command, unpinning the two long-stemmed roses she wore and putting them in the baby fingers, "and bring her early, mind!" And so it was that Mary Carew, nervous and awkward, was there now, doing her best to dress the excited little creature, whom nothing could keep still a second at a time.
"Thank you, ma'am," Mary managed to breathe as the great personage, turning the full radiance of her beauty upon the bewildered seamstress, took the necklace of flashing jewels from her maid's fingers and bade her help Mary.
The great lady laughed. "You're nervous, aren't you?" she said good-humoredly, too human not to be pleased at this unconscious tribute on Mary's part.
"If the child can only do it right, ma'am," said Mary, in a voice she hardly knew for her own, overcome this by graciousness no less than by the splendor.
"Right," said the lady, clasping a bracelet upon her round, white arm, and settling her trailing draperies preparatory to going on, "right! Of course she will, who ever heard of an Angel going wrong!" and laughing she sailed away.
"Now," cried Miss Bonkowski, rushing in a little later, "give her to me, quick, Mary! If you stand right here in the wings you can see nicely," and the excited lady, wonderful as to her blonde befrizzlement, gorgeous as to pink skirt, blue bodice and not the most cleanly of white waists, bore the Angel, like a rosebud in a mist of gauze, away.
Left alone amid the bustle and confusion Mary stood where Norma had directed, gazing out upon the stage like one in a dream. Never in all her colorless life had she been in the midst of such bewildering splendors before. Was it any wonder that Norma Bonkowski was different from the rest of the Tenement when she shared such scenes daily?
Still further dazed by the music and the glimpses she could catch of the brilliantly lighted house, Mary held her breath and clasped her hands as she gazed out on the stage where, across the soft green, from among the forest trees, into the twilighted opening, glided the fairies; waving their little arms, tripping slowly as if half-poised for flight, listening, bending, swaying, whirling, faster, swifter, they broke into "The Grand Spectacular Ballet of the Fairies," as the advertisements of the opera phrased it. Faster, swifter still, noiselessly they spun, here, there, in, out, in bewildering maze until, as the red and yellow lights cast upon the stage changed into green, their footsteps slackened, faltered, their heads, like tired flowers, drooped, and each on its mossy bank of green,—the fairies sank to sleep.
All? All but one; one was left, in whose baby mind was fixed an unfaltering supposition that she must dance, as she had done alone, over and over again at the rehearsals for her tiny benefit, until the music stopped. So, while Norma Bonkowski wrung her hands and the stage manager swore, and all behind the scenes was confusion and dismay, the Angel danced on.
The prima donna whose place it now was, as the forsaken princess, lost in the forest, to happen upon the band of sleeping fairies, waited at her entrance, watching the child as, catching and spreading her fan-like skirts of gauze, she bent, swayed, flitted to and fro, her eyes big and earnest with intentness to duty, her yellow hair flying, all unconscious, in the fierce glare of the colored lights, of the sea of faces in the house before her.
With a sudden flash of intuition Norma Bonkowski flew to the manager. "Stop the music, make them stop," she begged.
He glared at her savagely, but nevertheless communicated the order to the orchestra, and as the music waned to a mere wailing of the violin, the little dancer, rosy, hot, tired, whirled slower, slower,—then sank on her bed of green, and like her companions feigned sleep with the cunning pretence of childhood.
But not even then could the prima donna make her appearance, for, in the storm of applause which followed, the revived efforts of the orchestra were drowned.
The face of the manager broadened into smiles, Norma Bonkowski fell against Mary Carew with tears of relief, and the prima donna with good-natured readiness stepped upon the stage, lifted the now frightened child who, at the noise, had sprung up in alarm, and carried her out to the footlights, the other children peeping, but too well drilled, poor dears, to otherwise stir. The audience paused.
"Wave bye-bye to the little girl over there," whispered the prima donna with womanly readiness, nodding toward the nearest box, filled with children eagerly enjoying "The Children's Opera of the Princess Blondina and the Fairies."
Though frightened and ready to cry, the Angel waved her hand obediently, and the prima donna, nodding and smiling in the unaffected fashion which was half her own charm, carried the child off the stage amid applause as enthusiastic as she herself was used to receiving.
It had all taken place in a very few minutes, but as the smiling singer said, handing the Angel over to the manager, even in those few moments, "She has made the hit of the season," then, turning, re-entered the stage, her voice, with its clear bell-like tones, filling the house with the song, "Blondina Awakening The Fairies."
Nor did it end with this, for the Angel was forthwith engaged, at what seemed to Norma and Mary a fabulous price, to repeat her solo dance at every Wednesday and Saturday matinee during the further run of the opera.
THE ANGEL RESCUES MR. TOMLIN.
It was on the afternoon that Mary carried back her week's completed work that Norma, receiving an unexpected summons to the Opera House, was obliged, though with many misgivings, to leave the Angel in the charge of Joey. "But what else could I do," she reasoned afterward, "with Mrs. O'Malligan out and Mrs. Tomlin sick, and nobody else willing, it appeared, to see to her?"
True, she had cautioned Joey, over and over again about keeping the child away from the window, and about staying right in the room until her return; but, notwithstanding, Norma could hardly have gotten to the corner before Joey, promptly forgetting his promise, and finding the room a dull playground, was enticing his charge into the hall and straightway down the stairs.
At the bottom of the second flight, the two children came upon Mr. Tomlin entertaining two gentlemen callers. Only the week before, the Tenement had been called upon to mourn with the Tomlins, whose baby had been carried away in a little coffin after the fashion of tenement babies when the thermometer climbs up the scale near to one hundred. And since then, Mrs. Tomlin, refusing to be comforted, had taken to her bed, thus making it necessary for her husband to receive his company in the hall.
The callers, who, together with their host, were sitting on the steps, moved aside to allow the children to pass. The larger of the gentlemen was unpleasantly dirty, with a ragged beard and a shock of red hair. The other was a little man with quick black eyes and a pleasant smile. Passing these by, the Angel paused on the step above Mr. Tomlin and slipped her arms around his neck.
"Pick a back, my Tomlin," she sweetly commanded in the especially imperious tones she reserved for Mr. Tomlin's sex, "get up, horsey."
The good-natured giant, for such her Tomlin was, shouldered her as one would some precious burden liable to break, grinned, stood up and obediently trotted the length of the hall and back.
Joey, meanwhile, legs apart, stood eyeing the visitors attentively. "Keep up that kind of talk," the dirty gentleman was urging, "and we've got him. He's worth any three of ordinary strength, and he's a favorite with the men, too."
Here the horse and his rider returned. "What a got in a pocket for Angel?" the young autocrat proceeded to demand when lifted down. Of all her masculine subjects in the Tenement, Mr. Tomlin was her veriest slave.
He produced a soiled but gay advertising picture. Her ladyship put out her hand. "But you must give us a dance fer it," coaxed Mr. Tomlin, anxious to display the talent of the Tenement. "She's the young 'un as dances at the Op'ry House, the kid is," he explained to his visitors, "they've had her pictoor in the papers, too. Miss Bonkowski, the chorus-lady upstairs, she's got one of them, came out in a Sunday supplement, though I can't say I see the likeness myself."
At this, the two gentlemen, who had seemed decidedly bored than otherwise at the interruption, deigned to bestow a moment of their attention upon the beautiful child in the faded gingham dress.
"She got skeered to the theyater the other day," put in Joey, "an' most cried when they clapped so, an' they promised her anything she wanted if she wouldn't next time——"
"And her didn't cwy," declared the baby, turning a pair of indignantly reproachful eyes upon Joey, "her danced, her didn't cwy."
"Ain't yer goin' to dance fer us now?" coaxed Mr. Tomlin.
"No," said the Angel naughtily, then relenting at sight of her Tomlin's face, "her'll sing, her won't dance."
The pleasant gentleman, thinking, perhaps to please Mr. Tomlin, or maybe to get rid of them the sooner, produced a red ribbon badge. "Ef ze will sing," he said, showing his white teeth as he smiled, "ze shall hav it."
Turning to view this new party, her ladyship treated him to a brief examination, but evidently approving of him, began to sing with no more ado:
"Je suis si l'enfant gate Tra la la la, tra la la, Car je les aime les petits pates. Et les confitures, Si vous voulez me les donner Je suis tres bien oblige, Tra la la la, tra la la, Tra la la la, tra la la."
Only a word here and there could have been intelligible, but their effect upon the pleasant gentleman was instantaneous. He broke into a torrent of foreign exclamations and verbosity, showing his teeth and gesticulating with his hands.
A strange light came into the baby's face and she held out her arms to the little man entreatingly. "Oui, oui," she cried, a spot of red burning on each cheek, "you take Angel to her mamma, take Angel to her mamma!"
But here the door of the Tomlin's room opened hastily, and the neighbor who was sitting with the sick woman thrust out her head. "She's talkin' mighty wild an' out her head," she said, "you'd better come to her."
Mr. Tomlin rose hastily, while the dark little man, yielding to the child's entreaties, took her in his arms.
But the red-headed gentleman laid a dirty hand on Mr. Tomlin's arm. "Just as I was saying," he said, as if resuming a broken-off conversation, "no doctor, no medicine. Why? No work, no wages. Why? The heel of the rich man grinding the poor to the earth."
Mr. Tomlin hesitated.
"It's entirely a meeting of Union men. No violence advocated. A mass-meeting to discuss appointing committees to demand work."
"Ze outcry of ze oppressed," put in the pleasant gentleman, looking out from behind the Angel's fair little head, and showing his white teeth in his smile, "in zer union ees zere only strength."
Mr. Tomlin's door opened still more violently. "She's a-beggin' as you'll get her some ice," announced the neighbor, "she says she's burnin' up."
"God A'mighty!" burst forth the giant, "I ain't got a cent on earth to get her nothin'," and he turned toward the two men fiercely, his great brows meeting over his sullen eyes, "yes, I'll come, you can count on me," and he went in the door.
"Liberty Square by the statue, four o'clock," called the dirty gentleman after him, while the pleasant gentleman put the Angel hastily down. "Adieu, mon enfant," he cried, showing his teeth as he smiled back over his shoulder, and followed his companion down the stairs.
In time Joey and his weeping charge also reached the bottom. Not a word of the conversation had escaped the sharp ears of the Major. "It's past two, now," he soliloquized, "an' he said Liberty Square, four o'clock. I know where the statoo is. Yer follows the cars from front of th' arm'ry an' they goes right there, 'cause that's where the Cap'n's office is. Don'tcher cry no more, Angel," with insinuating coaxing in his tones, "I'll take yer there if yer wanter go."
The Angel slipped her hand in his obediently, and the two forthwith proceeded to leave the neighborhood of the Tenement behind them, undeterred by the friendly overtures of Petey O'Malligan and his colleagues to join in with their pastimes.
"We ain't got no time fer foolin'," confided Joey, hurrying her along, "there'll be flags an' hollerin', an' we wanter get there in time."
On reaching the car line the small Major was obliged to slacken his speed, for, while, in a measure, the Angel had caught the spirit of his enthusiasm, yet her legs refused to keep pace with his haste.
"Ef yer was still ter heaven, Angel," the Major pondered, as they stood on the street corner getting breath, "yerz wouldn't need ter use yer legs at all, would yer? Yer'd jus' take out an' fly across this yere street, waggins an' trucks an' all, wouldn't yer?"
The Angel cast her eyes upon him doubtfully.
"That's what my mammy tol' me about Angels," Joey declared stoutly.
"Angel didn't a never fly," nevertheless the baby stated with conviction.
Joey looked disappointed, and even unconvinced. Then his face brightened. "That's 'cause you was too little, like that canary at th' Res't'rant what ain't got its feathers yet. You was too little fer yer wings to have growed afore you come away," and his lively imagination having thus settled the problem, the two continued their way.
"Yer see how it is," he observed presently, evidently having been revolving the subject in his busy brain, "ef Mis' Tomlin had th' doctor an' some ice, she'd get well, she would, an' Mr. Tomlin, he's goin' to this yere meetin' to see about work, so's he can get 'em fer her. But 'tain't no use fer workin' men to beg for work these yere days," he added with a comical air of wisdom. "I heerd Old G. A. R. say, I did, to a man what comes ter talk politics wid him, that beggin' th' rich people to help yer was jus' like buttin' yer head agin a brick wall, so what good's it goin' ter do if he does go?"
The Angel nodded amiably, and slipped her hand in Joey's that she might the better keep up. They had passed the region of small shops and were passing through a better portion of the city. Before a tall stone house, one of a long row, a girl stood singing, while a boy played an accompaniment on a harp. As Joey and his charge reached them, a lady, with a group of children clustered about her, threw some pennies out the window to the young musicians.
"Did yer see that, Angel," demanded Joey, "did yer ketch onter that little game? We c'n do that. I c'n whis'le an' you c'n sing, an' we'll make 'nough to get Mis' Tomlin th' ice ourselves. If yer do," continued the wily Joey, "I tell yer what,—we'll go home on the cable cars, we will." And he hurried his small companion along the sunny sidewalks, still following the line of the cable cars, until they came to a business street again, this time of large and handsome stores. Here, before the most imposing, Joey paused, and cast a calculating eye upon the stream of shoppers passing in and out. "Now, Angel, sing," he commanded.
The footsore, tired Angel, hot and cross, declined to do it. "Her wants to sit down an' west," she declared.
"We'll sit down out there on ther curbstone an' rest soon as yer sing some," promised the Major. So, taking up their stand on the flagging outside the entrance of the big store, the bare-headed Angel, in her worn gingham frock, highbred and beautiful as a little princess, despite it, struck up with as much effect as a bird's twitter might make. Finding that his whistle in no way corresponded to the song, Joey wisely contented himself with holding out his soldier's cap.
Two such babies, one with so innocent, and the other with so comically knowing a smile, could not but attract attention. Some laughed, some sighed, some stopped to question, many dropped pennies and some put nickels, and even a dime or two into Joey's cap, while one stout and good-humored woman opened the paper bag she carried and put a sponge cake in each hand. But at this point, seeing that the policeman in charge of the crossing had more than once cast a questioning eye upon them, Joey decided to move on. "We'll have ter hurry anyhow," he observed, "ter get to ther speakin' in time. If you'll come on, Angel, 'thout restin', I'll tell yer what,—I'll buy yer a banana, I will, first ones we see." And the weary Angel, thus beguiled, dragged her tired feet along in Joey's wake.
* * * * *
The slanting rays from the setting sun were falling across Liberty Square, on the statue of that great American who declared all men to be created equal, on the sullen faces of hundreds of idle men who stood beneath its shadow, listening to speech after speech from various speakers, speeches of a nature best calculated to coax the smouldering resentment in their hearts into a blaze.
On the outskirts of the park-like square a small boy was urging a smaller girl to hurry. "Angel's legs won't go no more," the diminutive female was wailing as her companion dragged her along.
Meanwhile the impassioned words of the last oration were being echoed and emphasized by mutterings and imprecations. The mob, in fact, was beginning to respond, just as its promoters had intended that it should, and as their dangerous eloquence continued to pour forth, the emotions of the crowd accordingly grew fiercer, louder, until from sullen mutterings, the applauding echoes grew to clamor and uproar. And following the impassioned harangue of the last speaker upon the program—a red-haired gentleman, unpleasantly dirty—the cheers gave place to groans, the groans grew to threats, to curses, and the confusion spread like the roar of a coming storm.
Suddenly above the noise, came the measured tramp of feet. In the momentary lull succeeding, "The police, the police," a voice rang out on the silence, and the single cry swelled to a roar from hundreds of throats, and as suddenly died away to an expectant silence. At that a voice, loud with authority, rang out upon the stillness, "In the name of the Commonwealth," the measured words declared, "I command you to immediately and peaceably disperse!"
The answer came in a chorus of jeers, hoots, yells of derision, and the howling mob began to seize whatever promised to be a weapon of defense or attack. Growing in numbers as dusk fell, the crowd now was spreading back into the surrounding streets. Merchants who had not already done so, were hurriedly closing their stores. The cars were blocked, and foot travellers fleeing in all directions. From the thickest of the crowd, a mighty creature of bone and muscle, a giant in height and breadth, grasping an iron support twisted from a bench, had forced his way out to the street, and now was using it to pry up the bricks from the sidewalk, which in turn were seized by his companions.
Above the uproar and confusion the voice of authority, ringing out its words of command, was heard again.
Head and shoulders above the crowd, the giant stood erect, waving his iron bar above his head. "At 'em, men," he cried, "at 'em before they fire!"
But as he paused, another cry arose, a frightened, childish wail, that came from a very diminutive female clinging to his knees. "My Tomlin," it cried.
The giant's arm dropped, and as the crowd swept on and left him standing, Mr. Tomlin looked down to behold the Angel, and holding fast to her, the badly frightened but defiant personage of Joey.
The giant caught the Angel up in his arms. "Hold on to my coat," he cried to Joey, and speedily, such of the crowd as had not swept by in their charge against the police, fell back on either side before Mr. Tomlin's mighty fist. Fighting desperately, he reached the edge, and seizing Joey, dragged him across the car tracks as the crash of stones, the breaking of glass, the sharp crack of firearms, told of the meeting of the forces behind him.
Howls of rage, of pain, of defiance answered, followed by further crashing of stones and splintering of glass in street lights and car windows, and not until they were several squares removed from the scene of action did Mr. Tomlin pause. He then laid a heavy hand on Joey. "By all that's—" he began.
But Joey was ready for him, and hastily began to pour his earnings from his jacket pocket in a pile upon the flagging. "Me an' Angel made it a-singin' on the street fer to get ice fer Mis' Tomlin," the wily one explained. And the tender-hearted giant, gazing from one small figure to the other, forthwith began to sob like a child.
And, oh, the rejoicings of the distracted Tenement when the lost Angel was returned! And how Joey was seized and violently threatened to be as violently forgiven. Mrs. Tomlin, given ice to her heart's content, fell asleep, blessing the Angel for having rescued her husband from the almost certain hands of the law. And when, next day, it was learned that various and sundry of Mr. Tomlin's friends, among them the red-haired gentleman and his dark companion, had been arrested, while Mr. Tomlin was safe at home, the Angel became more than ever the pride and idol of the Tenement.
"There's some'n' mighty wrong," Mr. Tomlin was heard arguing soon after, "for a man with the bone and muscle to 'em as I've got, wantin' work an' willin' to do anything, yet havin' to starve—but whatever it is as is wrong, I'm thinkin' mobs ain't the way to right it."
"An' if he'd only hed th' sinse to make the furrin' gintleman as could talk the gibberish to question th' Angel choild," said Mrs. O'Malligan indignantly, "sure an' we moight have larned all about her by this toime, entoirely, for there's mony a thing she's tried to tell us an' can't for the want of a worrud. But foind me a man of yer as does any thinkin' 'thout his woman there to prompt him," she quoth contemptuously, "an' I'll foind ye a polaceman as isn't a meddler in other folks' affairs, as this yere mob is jist anither provin' of."
THE MAJOR SUPERINTENDS THE ANGEL'S EDUCATION.
"It's a nice, cool morning," said the ever sanguine Miss Bonkowski to Joey, one day late in September, "so, if you will give me your solemn promise—" and Miss Norma paused impressively, emphasizing her words with nods of her blonde head, "not to go to any speakings, nor yet to the dock to fish, nor to any fires, or to a procession, even if it's right around the corner," and Miss Norma drew breath as she finished the enumerating of his various exploits, "why, Angel here can play with you until Mary Carew comes down to get her."
The Major—his cap a little more battered, his belt somewhat the worse from constant wear, but clean as to face and hands, having just emerged from the morning inspection of the Armory janitor, better known to the neighborhood as Old G. A. R.—treated Miss Bonkowski to a salute and a confidential wink, and edged up to the smiling Angel's side. "Yer jus' leave her wid me," he responded reassuringly, "an' I ain't goin' to do nothin' as ain't square."
And Miss Norma, whose faith in human nature, phoenix-like, ever sprang up anew from the blighted hopes of former trust, accordingly turned her darling over to Joey and hurried off. "For she's obliged to have some one to play with and to get some fresh air somehow," the chorus-lady argued for her own re-assuring, though it remains a mystery as to how she could deceive herself into considering the garbage-scented atmosphere of the neighborhood as fresh, "and Joey's by far the best of the lot around here."
Meanwhile, the small subject of all this solicitude, in clean frock and smiling good-humor, responded at once to Joey's proposal, and the two sat down on the curbstone. In the constant companionship of their two months' acquaintance, the little Major's growing interest in the Angel had assumed almost fatherly proportions. Hitherto this zeal had taken itself out in various expeditions for her entertainment similar to the one ending in Mr. Tomlin's rescue. To-day it was produced in the shape of a somewhat damaged peach purchased with a stray penny. But the Angel, in her generous fashion, insisting on a division of the dainty, Joey at first stoutly declining, weakened and took half, seeing to it, however, that his was the damaged side.
"When yer was up there," he observed unctiously as he devoured his portion—and he nodded his round little head toward that foggy and smoky expanse about them, popularly believed by the population about the Tenement to be the abode of angels—"when yer was up there, yer had these kinder things every day, didn't yer?"
If her small ladyship's word could be taken for it, in that other life still remembered by her, she had everything, even to hoky-poky ad libitum, to her heart's content, though her testimony framed itself into somewhat more halting and uncertain English.
"What did yer do up there, anyhow?" queried Joey curiously.
"Danced," the Angel declared, daintily devoting herself to her portion of the peach, "her danced and—her danced."
This earthly vocation seemed to fail to appeal to Joey's imagination. "Nothin' else?" he demanded anxiously. "Didn't yer never do nothin' else?"
But the Angel had fallen to poking the green contents of the gutter with a stick, and seemed to find the present more fascinating to contemplate than the past.
"Didn't yer never go nowhere?" persisted Joey.
"Her went to school," the Angel admitted, or so it sounded to Joey.
"What 'ud yer do at school?" he inquired.
"Danced," was the Angel's unmistakable announcement.
Joey looked disgusted, but soon recovered and fell to revolving a new idea in his fertile young brain.
"I know where there is a school," he remarked. "I've never went, but I hung on ter the window-sill an' looked in, an' if yer went ter school up there, yer oughter be goin' down here, see!" And forthwith Joey arose.
Amiable as her small ladyship usually was, on this occasion, seeing determination written on Joey's small countenance, she rebelled. "Angel yants to stay here," the young lady declared, continuing to poke at the contents of the gutter.
"I don't wanter make her cry," argued Joey wisely, then cast about in his mind for an inducement. "They have parties to that school, they do," finally he observed, "fer I seen 'em settin' 'round tables an' eatin' one day."
The guileless infant rose to the bait at once, and dropped her stick and slipped her confiding hand in Joey's. "Angel likes to have parties," she declared, and thus lured on, she forthwith followed Joey down the street.
* * * * *
"Some one to see me," repeated pretty Miss Stannard, of the Darcy College Settlement's Free Kindergarten, and laying down her blocks she went to the door.
On the steps outside the entrance stood a small, chubby-cheeked boy smiling up out of knowing brown eyes from beneath a soldier's cap many sizes too large for him, while behind him stood a slender, graceful child with wonderful shining hair, and eyes equally as smiling.
The small boy treated the tall, pretty young lady to a most confiding nod and a wink. "I've brought her ter school," he remarked.
"Oh, have you?" returned the young lady laughing, "then I'd better invite you in, I suppose," and she led the way toward the entry-room where hung some dozens of shabby hats and bonnets. "And what is your name?" she inquired.
"Her name is Angel, it is," responded the little fellow briskly, with emphasis on the pronoun, as if to let the young lady understand at once that her interest need extend no further than to the prospective pupil.
"Didn't a know I are Angel?" queried the smiling cherub with her accustomed egotistical surprise.
"And what is your other name?" questioned Miss Stannard smiling.
"She ain't got no more," returned the escort succinctly.
"And what is yours?"
"Mine—oh, I'm just the Major, I am," with off-hand loftiness.
"Indeed? And where do you live, Major?"
"Fourth Reg'ment Arm'ry," responded the Major glibly.
"And the little girl,—Angel—you said—"
The Major looked somewhat surprised, "They come from Heaven,—Angels do, yer know," he remarked, staring a little at the tall young lady's want of such knowledge.
"Yes," responded the pretty lady gently, "but where is she living now?"
"Round by me," said the small boy briefly, showing some restlessness.
"With her father and mother?"
The Major, staring again, shook his head, and poor Miss Stannard, despairing, of learning anything definite from this source, asked if he would take her there after Kindergarten, and began to untie the little girl's cap.
Evidently gratified at this attention to his charge, the Major said that he would, and followed the two into the large, sunny room adjoining. "The children are just going on the circle," said the pretty young lady, "won't you take my other hand and go too."
The Major drew back hastily. "She's come ter school," he declared indicating the Angel, "there ain't no school in it fer me. I'm a sojer, I am."
"Then have a chair, sir, and watch us," said the young lady, with amused eyes, as she brought out a little red chair with polite hospitality.
The young gentleman graciously accepting it, the Angel was forthwith borne away to join the circle of children about the ring, and to Miss Stannard's surprise, with no more ado, joined in the game like one familiar with it all, waving her small hands, singing gaily and, when her turn arrived, flitting gaily about the circle until the sash strings of her little faded dress sailed straight out behind her.
And the game at an end, without waiting for direction or guidance, the newcomer marched with the other children about the big room and took her place with them at one of the tables spread with entrancing green and yellow papers. And here, absorbed in directing the work at her own table, and her two assistant teachers equally absorbed at theirs, Miss Stannard was presently aroused by a nudge from 'Tildy Peggins, the freckle-faced young person employed in a capacity of janitress and nursery maid.
"Look a-yonder to that young willain, Miss Ruth," urged 'Tildy, whose sentiments regarding the infant populace refused, despite all the efforts of her employers, to be tempered by Kindergarten views.
Miss Stannard looked up hastily, and so did the twenty pairs of eyes about her table.
From the depths of one pocket the Major had produced a cigarette, and from the mixed contents of another he had extracted a match, and as the twenty pairs of eyes fell on him, a fascinating curl of blue smoke was just issuing from his lips.
'Tildy Peggins folded her arms on her flat chest and gave vent to a groan. Already, with her gloomy views on Kindergarten regeneration versus innate depravity, she foresaw the contamination of every half-subjugated small masculine in the room.
Miss Stannard, with a shake of her head at 'Tildy, coughed slightly. Instantly the eyes of the school left the Major and fixed themselves expectantly on her pretty face.
"I thought you wanted to be a soldier, Major," she observed, addressing the small gentleman.
"I is goin' to be," returned that unabashed gentleman, calmly sticking a thumb in his belt, and in so doing pushing his jacket aside, so as to further expose the military trappings about his round little person, "I's a-goin' to be a sojer in the Fourth Regiment."
"No, indeed," said Miss Ruth, "the members of the Fourth Regiment are gentlemen, and a gentleman would never have smoked in here without asking if he might."
The Major looked somewhat moved out of his usual imperturbability. The curl of offending smoke ceased.
"I know a soldier," Miss Ruth went on calmly, "and what is more, he is a member of the Fourth Regiment, but he never would have done such a thing as you are doing."
The cigarette trembled in the Major's irresolute fingers.
"And even if you had asked first," the steady voice went on, "I would have said no, for such a thing as smoking is never allowed in this room."
The Major's irresolute brown eyes met Miss Stannard's resolute brown ones. Then the cigarette went out the open window behind him and the work at the tables went on.
Presently Miss Ruth looked up again. "Won't you come," she said pleasantly, touching a pile of the gay papers. "Are you not tired?"
The Major shook his head decidedly. "No, he would not," and finding a chip among the apparently inexhaustible stores of his pockets, he next produced a knife boasting an inch of blade and went to whittling upon 'Tildy's immaculate floor.
Miss Ruth saw it all, and presently saw the chip fall to the floor and the round head begin to nod. Then, with 'Tildy Peggins' gloomy and disapproving eye upon her at this act of overture, she crossed the room. "Major," said Miss Ruth, just a little plaintively, perhaps, "do you suppose you could do something for me?"
The Major was wide awake on the instant.
"These papers," explained Miss Ruth, while 'Tildy from her work of washing windows, shook her disapproving head, "put all like this in a pile on the table here, and all like this over here, and this color,—here," and before Miss Stannard had gotten over to her table again, the Major was deep in the seductive fascinations of Kindergarten.
It was when the three teachers, with 'Tildy's help, had at last distributed the sixty hats, hoods, and caps, and started the loitering groups on their homeward ways, that pretty Miss Stannard, putting on her own hat, addressed her new pupils. "Now, Major, I am ready," she said, and the three accordingly turned their steps toward the neighborhood of the Tenement.
Miss Ruth's small escort had quite an idea of the proper thing to do, and pointed out the landmarks as the three went along, the Angel's friendly hand slipped confidingly into that of her new friend.
"I did hear as so many died in this yere house of the fevers this summer," Joey remarked cheerfully, pointing to a wretched-looking tenement building they were passing; "they'll give yer a room there now fer nothin' to git a good name fer the house agin."
Miss Ruth shivered as they passed.
The Major next nodded toward a dingy saloon. "Here's where I take a schooner an' a free lunch sometimes," he remarked confidentially.
The tall young lady's brown eyes danced as she glanced down at the small person of the Major. "And how old are you, Major?" she inquired.
"Ha'f pas' seven, the Cap'n an' Old G. A. R., they say."
"The Captain? Old G. A. R.?"
"Uh, huh! The Cap'n's a good 'un, he is. He gim' me these yere togs, he did, an' he told Old G. A. R. I might sleep to th' Arm'ry, see?"
Miss Ruth saw, and was just about to pursue the subject of Old G. A. R., when the Angel dropped her hand and with a gleeful cry ran ahead, and Miss Stannard looked up to behold two females bearing down upon them. Miss Bonkowski and Mrs. O'Malligan in fact, nor did they pause in their haste, until the Angel was safe in Norma's embrace and the Major anything but safe, in the clutches of the irate Irish lady.
"An' it's yerself, ye limb, an' plaze to tell us whut ye mane by it?" the loud-voiced Mrs. O'Malligan demanded, "a-runnin' off with the childer agin, an' the whole Tiniment out huntin' an' her niver to be found at all, at all?"
But the sweet-faced, tall young lady coming to his rescue, the two women softened, and reaching the Tenement, insisted on Miss Stannard coming in, and hearing the Angel's story.
And on the way up to Miss Bonkowski's apartment, she learned that the Tenement, that morning, had been convulsed from cellar to garret, by the great honor bestowed upon it. For who but the Prima Donna, the Great Personage of Norma's professional world, had just driven away in her carriage after a visit of an hour and the Angel never to be found at all!
"An' ma'am," explained Mary Carew, her bony face swollen with crying, when Miss Stannard had been installed in one of the two chairs of the apartment, "an' ma'am, it was fer th' Angel she come. A offerin' Norma an' me anything we'd name to give her up, such a fancy as she's taken to her, an' wantin' her fer her own."
"And you, what did you say?" asked Miss Ruth, gently, watching Mary with tender eyes as she held the beautiful, chattering little creature so jealously in her arms, and thinking as she watched, of the life and reputation commonly accorded the great singer.
"Say?" came from Miss Bonkowski quickly, her befrizzled blonde tresses fairly a-tremble with her intensity, and sticking the hat-pin recklessly in and out of the lace hat she had taken off, "what did we say, you ask, and knowing, as you and every body must, the kind of life and future it would mean for a child that takes to things like this 'n does! With all her money and her soft, winning ways, it is better, far better, for the child with her disposition, to starve along with Mary an' me, than grow up to that, if it was nothing more to be afraid of than being left to servants and hotel people and dragged around from place to place in such a life as it is. Not that I mean, ma'am," and Miss Bonkowski spoke with quick pride, "that being in the profession need to make any body what they shouldn't be, for I know plenty of 'em of the best, and am one myself, though only a Chorus, but what with what's said about this one, even with her good heart and generous ways, she's not the one to have our Angel, though she meant it for the best."
"An' she said," Mary Carew took it up, "as how Norma's gettin' old, and 'll be dropped afore long from the Chorus, an' she offered her, she did, in this very room, a' here before me, to buy out a Costumer as is leavin' the business, an' start Norma in for herself, along of her knowin' how to run a business such as that."
"And oh girls," declared Miss Stannard as she told this part of the story to her assistant teachers afterward, "it was the bravest thing I've met among the poor people yet. Think of the courage of those two women, with poverty grimmer than they have yet known, ahead of them in all probability, yet determined to resist the temptation because they are assured it is not well for the child. Picture making jean pantaloons, year in, year out, at barely living wages, yet having the courage to put the matter so resolutely aside. After that, I could not bring myself to tell them they had done wrong in the beginning in not notifying the authorities. Of course there is some mystery about it. I cannot for a moment accept their explanation of it. The child, beyond question, is well born and has been carefully trained. And she goes about among all the strange, queer inmates of that Tenement house as fearlessly as a little queen. But, oh, the one that is a chorus-singer! If you could see her! So lean, so sallow, so airy and full of manner. But I will never laugh at another elderly chorus-singer again in my life, she is grand, she's heroic," and the pretty Kindergartner threaded gay worsteds into needles with a vigor which lent emphasis to her words.
"She's powerful stuck up, too," asserted the gloomy tones of 'Tildy Peggins, and she shook her mournful head, as she moved about straightening the disordered room for the next day, "there's a man lives in our Tenement wanted to keep comp'ny with her, but, la, she tossed her yellow head at his waffle cart, she did, an' she said if he'd had a settled h'occupation she might a thought about it in time, but she couldn't bring herself to consider a perambulating business, an' that was all there was to it. La, maybe she is grand an' 'eroic, but she's got a 'aughty 'eart, too, that woman has!"
MISS RUTH MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF OLD G. A. R.
The Angel, as the cooler weather came on, being suitably clothed by Miss Stannard and the invisible though still generous Mrs. Tony, and the good ladies of the Tenement seeing that she was properly fed, her little ladyship continued to thrive, and to pursue her way, sweet and innocent, in the midst of squalor, poverty and wickedness such as Mary and Norma could not always hide, even from her baby eyes.
True to the promise these ladies had made, she appeared regularly at Kindergarten in the charge of her faithful squire, the Major, whose own interest in the daily work had never flagged since the day he first agreed to help Miss Stannard.
It was with surprise, therefore, that, late in November, Miss Ruth noted the absence of the two for several successive days.
"Childern's obliged to get wore out fiddlin' with beads an' paper an' such, in time," said the perverse and unconverted 'Tildy Peggins. "That's the reason they's constant droppin' off, an' new ones comin' in. There ain't enough willainy in Kindergarten to keep their minds h'occupied. They's pinin' for the streets long afore you'd h'ever believe it,—their 'earts ain't satisfied with beads and paper, childern's obliged to have a little willainy mixed in."
But despite 'Tildy's pessimistic views, on the fifth morning of their absence, Miss Ruth had just determined to send around to the Tenement, when a knock summoned her to the door.
Outside stood the smiling Angel, in her little winter cloak and hood, her hand in that of a very large, very grizzled, and very military-looking man, who greeted Miss Stannard with a salute reminding her at once of Joey.
"What has become of my friend, the Major?" she inquired, ushering them into the school-room.
"Joey couldn't come," explained the Angel, mournfully.
"It was to tell you about him, ma'am, I stepped around," replied the man, gazing admiringly about the bright room, with its pictures, its growing plants, its tables, and dozens of little red chairs. "It is a pretty place now, I must say, and it's no wonder the little chap likes to come here. He's been that worried, and fretting so about the little one not getting to school, that I promised him I'd march her 'round here every day if he'd call a halt on his fretting."
"He is sick, then?" Miss Ruth inquired.
"Well, it didn't seem as if it was enough to lay him off duty," responded the man, as he regarded Miss Ruth with friendly gaze; "he's a knowin' little shaver, the Major is, and great on tryin' to help me."
"Are you the friend that he calls Old G. A. R.?" inquired Miss Ruth, with sudden intuition, as she smiled back into the weather-beaten face.
The old soldier chuckled. "He's told you about that, has he? 'Old G. A. R.!' Great name, ain't it?"
"Why does he call you by it?"
"Grand Army of the Republic, ma'am. I'm a member, and I reckon I do anecdote about it overmuch at times. The Reg'ment round there, they dubbed me that."
"And the Major?"
"That's right, ma'am, for'ard march! I'm gettin' to it. He was in the Arm'ry with me, the other day, a-pretendin' to help me clean up, and he fell off one of the cannon he was monkeyin' round. He didn't seem so bad hurt, at first, but somehow, after I come to think it over, he hasn't seemed to want to move round since, so I lay it to that."
"Have you had a doctor to see him?" asked Miss Ruth, waving the groups of arriving children on to 'Tildy's care.
"No, ma'am, I haven't. The officer that took the fancy to the little chap and pays for his eatin' along with me at the restaurant, he's been out of town for six weeks, and after leaving the baby here, I am on my way to his office now, to see if he has got back," and he stepped toward the door.
"I will take Angel home and stop by there and see Joey," said Miss Ruth.
"We'll be happy to have you, ma'am," and with a salute, the old soldier marched out the door.
* * * * *
"Indade, Miss Ruthie, an' it's proud I am to go wid ye," said Mrs. O'Malligan some hours later, in response to Miss Ruth's request to go over to the Armory with her, "just ye wait till I starts the Angel choild up the steps," and Mrs. O'Malligan accordingly, was soon accompanying Miss Ruth through the big door of the Armory.
The old soldier met them and led the way into a neat box of a room, very orderly, very spotless. Here, on a cot, lay the Major, his eyes turned to meet them expectantly. It was quite pitiful to see how these few days had changed him into the white little chap looking up from the pillow.
"Well, Major," began Miss Ruth, cheerily, and at sound of her bright, animated voice, a figure in the shadow on the other side of the cot looked up.
"Why, Mr. Dilke," cried Miss Ruth, at sight of the young and very properly attired gentleman who stood up to greet her.
The young gentleman came round and shook hands with evident pleasure. "So you are the wonderful 'Teacher,' Miss Stannard?"
"And you are the 'Cap'n'?" retorted Miss Ruth.
Here the Major, as he would have phrased it, "caught on." "She said yer was a gentleman what wouldn't a-smoked before ladies, she did," volunteered Joey.
Miss Ruth blushed and laughed and blushed again. "Well, he wouldn't, Joey," she reiterated stoutly.
Whereupon the boyishly smooth face of Mr. Dilke colored too, and being very big and blonde and diffident, he blushed very red indeed, while Joey, seeing something up, tried to wink his roguish eyes but failed for very weakness and found them full of tears instead.