THE BISHOP'S SHADOW
Author of "Boys of the Central," "A Genuine Lady" etc.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY M. ECKERSON
"This learned I from the shadow of a tree That to and fro did sway upon a wall, Our shadow selves—our influence—may fall Where we can never be."
I. LOST—A POCKETBOOK
II. NAN'S NEW HOME
III. AN ACCIDENT
IV. TODE MEETS THE BISHOP
V. IN THE BISHOP'S HOUSE
VI. TODE'S NEW START
VII. AFTER TODE'S DEPARTURE
VIII. THEO'S SHADOW WORK
IX. THEO IN TROUBLE
X. A BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT
XI. THEO'S NEW BUSINESS
XII. NAN FINDS FRIENDS
XIII. NAN'S DEPARTURE
XIV. THEODORE GIVES CARROTS A CHANCE
XV. A STRIKE
XVI. CALLED TO GO UP HIGHER
XVII. FINAL GLIMPSES
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THEODORE BRYAN, SIGN-POLISHER
"HE'S AWAKIN' UP, I GUESS"
"OH, HOW PRETTY,—HOW PRETTY IT IS!"
"STOP THE CAR!"
THE BISHOP'S SHADOW
I. LOST—A POCKETBOOK
It was about ten o'clock in the morning and a northeast storm was raging in Boston.
The narrow crooked business streets were slippery with mud and thronged with drays and wagons of every description, which, with the continual passing of the street cars, made it a difficult and often a dangerous matter to attempt a crossing.
The rain came in sudden driving sheets, blotting out all but the nearest cars or vehicles, while the wind seemed to lie in wait at every corner ready to spring forth and wrest umbrellas out of the hands of pedestrians at the most critical points in the crossings.
Two ladies coming along Causeway street by the Union Depot, waited some minutes on the sidewalk watching for an opening in the endless stream of passing teams.
"There! We shan't have a better chance than this. Come on now," one of them exclaimed, stepping quickly forward as there came a little break in the moving line. She stepped in front of two cars that had stopped on parallel tracks and her companion hastily followed her. Just then there came a fierce gust that threatened to turn their umbrellas inside out. The lady in front clutched hers nervously and hurried forward. As she ran past the second car she found herself almost under the feet of a pair of horses attached to a heavy wagon. The driver yelled angrily at her as he hastily pulled up his team; a policeman shouted warningly and sprang toward her, and her friend stopped short with a low cry of terror. But though the pole of the wagon grazed her cheek and the shock threw her almost to the ground, the lady recovered herself and hurried across to the sidewalk.
It was then that a little ragged fellow of perhaps thirteen, slipped swiftly under the very feet of the horses, and, unheeding the savage shouts of the driver, wormed his way rapidly through the crowd and vanished. As he did so, the lady who had so narrowly escaped injury, turned to her friend and cried,
"Oh my pocketbook! I must have dropped it on the crossing."
"On the crossing, did you say?" questioned the policeman, and as she assented, he turned hastily back to the street, but the cars and teams had passed on and others were surging forward and no trace of the pocketbook was visible. The policeman came back and questioned the lady about it, promising to do what he could to recover it.
"But it's not probable you'll ever see a penny of the money again," he said. "Some rascally thief most likely saw ye drop it an' snatched it up."
The policeman was not mistaken. If he had turned through Tremont and Boylston streets he might have seen a ragged, barefooted boy sauntering along with his hands in his pockets, stopping now and then to look into a shop window, yet ever keeping a keenly watchful eye on every policeman he met. The boy looked as if he had not a penny in those ragged pockets of his, but one of his grimy hands clutched tightly the lost pocketbook, which his sharp eyes had seen as it fell beneath the feet of the horses, and which he had deftly appropriated as he wriggled through the mud.
Heedless of wind and rain the boy lounged along the street. It was not often that he found himself in this section of the city, and it was much less familiar to him than some other localities. He seemed to be wandering aimlessly along, but his restless eyes were on the watch for some retired spot where he might safely examine his prize and see how much money he had secured. For a long time he saw no place that seemed to him a safe one for his purpose, so he went on and on until suddenly he realised that he was tired. He was passing a large brownstone church at the moment, and he sat down on the steps to rest.
"My! But this is a gay ol' church!" he thought, as he looked curiously at the beautiful building. "Wonder where them steps go to."
Springing up he ran across the pillared porch to the foot of the stone stairs that led to the upper entrance to the chapel. Following a sudden impulse he started hastily up these stairs, his bare feet making no sound. At the top of the stairs he found himself shut in on two sides by a high stone balustrade, the chapel door forming the third side. This door was closed. He tried it softly and found it locked. Then he dropped down in the darkest corner of the landing, and, with eyes and ears still keenly alert, pulled from his pocket the mud-stained purse and examined it carefully. He found in it thirty-six dollars in bills and about a dollar more in silver.
The boy gave a gleeful, silent laugh. "Struck it rich this time," he said to himself.
He hunted up a crooked pin from somewhere about his dilapidated garments, and fastened the roll of bills as securely as he could inside the lining of his jacket, keeping the silver in his pocket. Then he again examined the book to be sure that he had overlooked nothing. On the inside of the leather was the name,
"R. A. RUSSELL,"
and there was also a card bearing the same name and an address. The card he tore into tiny bits and chewed into a pellet which he tossed over the stone balustrade. Then, with the pocketbook in his hand, he looked about him. There was a pastor's box fastened beside the door. He crowded the telltale book through the opening in the top of this box, and then with a satisfied air ran blithely down the stone steps. But he stopped short as he came face to face with the sexton who was just crossing the porch.
"Here, you! Where've you been? What you been up to?" cried the man, clutching at him angrily, but the boy was too quick.
He ducked suddenly, slipped under the sexton's hands and darted across the porch and down the steps. Then he stopped to call back,
"Be'n makin' 'rangements ter preach fer ye here next Sunday—yah! yah!" and with a mocking laugh he disappeared leaving the sexton shaking his fist in impotent wrath.
The boy ran swiftly on until he had gotten quite a distance from the church; then he slackened his pace and began to plan what he should do next. The sight of a confectioner's window reminded him that he was hungry, and he went into the store and bought two tarts which he ate as he walked on. After that he bought a quart of peanuts, two bananas and a piece of mince-pie, and having disposed of all these he felt hungry no longer.
Having in his possession what seemed to him a small fortune, he saw no necessity for working, so that night he did not go as usual to the newspaper office for the evening papers, but spent his time loafing around the busiest corners and watching all that went on about the streets. This unusual conduct attracted the attention of his cronies, and a number of newsboys gathered about him trying to find out the reason of his strange idleness.
"I say, Tode," called one, "why ain't ye gettin' yer papers?"
"Aw, he's come into a fortune, he has," put in another. "His rich uncle's come home an' 'dopted him."
"Naw, he's married Vanderbilt's daughter," sneered a third.
"Say, now, Tode, tell us w'at's up," whispered one, sidling up to him. "Hev ye swiped somethin'?"
Tode tried to put on an expression of injured innocence, but his face flushed as he answered, shortly,
"Come, hush yer noise, will ye! Can't a chap lay off fer one day 'thout all the town pitchin' inter him? I made a dollar extry this mornin'—that's all the' is about it," and stuffing his hands into his pockets he marched off to avoid further comment.
For the next week Tode "lived high" as he expressed it. He had from three to six meals a day and an unlimited amount of pie and peanuts besides, but after all he was not particularly happy. Time hung heavy on his hands sometimes—the more so as the boys, resenting his living in luxurious idleness, held aloof, and would have nothing to do with him. He had been quite a leader among them, and it galled him to be so left out and ignored. He began to think that he should not be sorry when his ill-gotten money was gone. He was thinking after this fashion one day as he strolled aimlessly down a side street. It was a quiet street where at that hour there was little passing, and Tode lounged along with his hands in his pockets until he came to a place where the sidewalk was littered with building material and where a large house was in course of construction. Perhaps the workmen were on a strike that day. At any rate none of them were about, and the boy sprang up onto a barrel that was standing near the curbstone, and sat there drumming on the head with two pieces of lath and whistling a lively air.
After a little his whistle ceased and he looked up and down the street with a yawn, saying to himself,
"Gay ol' street, this is! Looks like everybody's dead or asleep."
But even as he spoke a girl came hastily around the nearest corner and hurried toward him. She looked about fourteen. Her clothes were worn and shabby but they were clean, and in her arms she carried a baby wrapped in a shawl. She stopped beside Tode and looked at him with imploring eyes.
"Oh can't you help me to hide somewhere? Do! Do!" she cried, with a world of entreaty in her voice.
The boy glanced at her coolly.
"What ye want ter hide for? Been swipin' somethin'?" he questioned, carelessly.
The girl flashed at him an indignant glance, then cast a quick, frightened one behind her.
"No, no!" she exclaimed, earnestly. "I'm no thief. I'm running away from old Mary Leary. She's most killed my little brother giving him whiskey so's to make him look sick when she takes him out begging. Look here!"
She lifted the shawl that was wrapped about the child. Tode leaned over and looked at the little face. It was a pitiful little face—so white and thin, with sunken eyes and blue lips—so pitiful that it touched even Tode's heart, that was not easily touched.
"The ol' woman after ye?" he asked, springing down from the barrel.
"Yes, yes! Oh, do help me," pleaded the girl, the tears running down her cheeks as she gazed at the baby face. "I'm afraid he's going to die."
The boy cast a quick glance about him.
"Here!" he exclaimed, "squat down an' I'll turn this over ye."
He seized a big empty barrel that stood near. Without a word the girl slipped to the ground and he turned the barrel over her, kicking under the edge a bit of wood to give air. The next moment he stooped down to the opening and whispered,
"Hi! The ol' lady's a comin'. Don't ye peep. I'll fix her!"
Then he reseated himself again on the barrelhead and began to drum and whistle as before, apparently paying no heed to the woman who came along scolding and swearing, with half a dozen street children following at her heels. She came nearer and nearer but Tode drummed on and whistled unconcernedly until she stopped before him and exclaimed harshly,
"You boy—have you seen a girl go by here, with a baby?"
"Nope," replied Tode, briefly.
"How long you be'n settin' here?"
"'Bout two weeks," answered the boy, gravely.
The woman stormed and blustered, but finding that this made no impression she changed her tactics and began in a wheedling tone,
"Now, dearie, you'll help an ol' woman find her baby, won't ye? It's heartbroke I am for my pretty darlin' an' that girl has carried him off. Tell me, dearie, did they go this way?"
"I d' know nothin' 'bout yer gal," exclaimed Tode. "Why don't ye scoot 'round an' find her 'f she's cleared out?"
"An' ain't I huntin' her this blessed minute?" shrieked the woman, angrily. "I b'lieve ye have seen her. Like's not ye've hid her away somewheres."
Tode turned away from her and resumed his drumming while the woman cast a suspicious glance at the unfinished building.
"She may be there," she muttered and began searching through the piles of building material on the ground floor.
"Hope she'll break her ol' neck!" thought Tode, vengefully, as he whistled with fresh vigor.
The woman reappeared presently, and casting a threatening glance and a torrent of bad language at the boy, went lumbering heavily down the street with the crowd of noisy, curious children straggling along behind her.
When they had all disappeared around the corner of the street, Tode sprang down and putting his mouth to the opening at the bottom of the barrel whispered hastily,
"Keep still 'til I see if she's gone sure," and he raced up to the corner where he watched until the woman was out of sight. Then he ran back and lifted the barrel off, saying,
"It's all right—she's gone, sure 'nough."
The girl cast an anxious glance up and down the street as she sprang up.
"Oh dear!" she exclaimed. "I don't know where to go!" and Tode saw that her eyes were full of tears.
He looked at her curiously.
"Might go down t' the wharf. Ol' woman wouldn't be likely ter go there, would she?" he suggested.
"I don't think so. I've never been there," replied the girl. "Which way is it?"
"Come on—I'll show ye;" and Tode set off at a rapid pace.
The girl followed as fast as she could, but the child was a limp weight in her arms and she soon began to lag behind and breathe heavily. "What's the matter? Why don't ye hurry up?" exclaimed the boy with an impatient backward glance.
"I—can't. He's so—heavy," panted the girl breathlessly.
Tode did not offer to take the child. He only put his hands in his pockets and waited for her, and then went on more slowly.
When they reached the wharf, he led the way to a quiet corner where the girl dropped down with a sigh of relief and weariness, while he leaned against a post and looked down at her. Presently he remarked,
"What's yer name?"
"Nan Hastings," replied the girl.
"How'd she get hold o' ye?" pursued the boy, with a backward jerk of his thumb that Nan rightly concluded was meant to indicate the Leary woman.
She answered slowly, "It was when mother died. We had a nice home. We were not poor folks. My father was an engineer, and he was killed in an accident before Little Brother was born, and that almost broke mother's heart. After the baby came she was sick all the time and she couldn't work much, and so we used up all the money we had, and mother got sicker and at last she told me she was going to die." The girl's voice trembled and she was silent for a moment; then she went on, "She made me kneel down by the bed and promise her that I would always take care of Little Brother and bring him up to be a good man as father was. I promised, and I am going to do it."
The girl spoke earnestly with the light of a solemn purpose in her dark eyes.
Tode began to be interested. "And she died?" he prompted.
"Yes, she died. She wrote to some of her relatives before she died asking them to help Little Brother and me, but there was no answer to the letter, and after she died all our furniture was sold to pay the doctor and the funeral bills. The doctor wanted to send us to an orphan asylum, but Mary Leary had worked for us, and she told me that if we went to an asylum they would take Little Brother away from me and I'd never see him any more, and she said if I'd go home with her she'd find me a place to work and I could keep the baby. So I went home with her. It was a horrid place"—Nan shuddered—"and I found out pretty soon that she drank whiskey, but I hadn't any other place to go, so I had to stay there, but lately she's been taking the baby out every day and he's been growing so pale and sick-looking, and yesterday I caught her giving him whiskey, and then I knew she did it to make him look sick so that she would get more money when she went out begging with him."
"An' so you cut an' run?" put in Tode, as the girl paused.
"Yes—and I'll never go back to her, but—I don't know what I can do. Do you know any place where I can stay and work for Little Brother?"
The dark eyes looked up into the boy's face with a wistful, pleading glance, as the girl spoke.
"I'd know no place," replied Tode, shrugging his shoulders carelessly. He did not feel called upon to help this girl. Tode considered girls entirely unnecessary evils.
Nan looked disappointed, but she said no more.
"He's wakin' up, I guess," remarked Tode, glancing at the baby.
The little thing stirred uneasily, and then the heavy, blue-veined lids were lifted slowly, and a pair of big innocent blue eyes looked straight into Tode's. A long, steadfast, unchildlike look it was, a look that somehow held the boy's eyes in spite of himself, and then a faint, tremulous smile quivered over the pale lips, and the baby hands were lifted to the boy.
That look and smile had a strange, a wonderful effect on Tode. Something seemed to spring into life in his heart in that instant. Up to this hour he had never known what love was, for he had never loved any human being, but as he gazed into the pure depths of those blue eyes and saw the baby fingers flutter feebly toward him, his heart went out in love to the child, and he held out his arms to take him.
Nan hesitated, with a quick glance at Tode's dirty hands and garments, but he cried imperiously,
"Give him here. He wants to come to me," and she allowed him to take the child from her arms. As he felt himself lifted in that strong grasp, Little Brother smiled again, and nestled with a long breath of content against Tode's dirty jacket.
"See—he likes me!" cried the boy, his face all aglow with the strange, sweet delight that possessed him. He sat still holding the child, afraid to move lest he disturb his charge, but in a few minutes the baby began to fret.
"What's he want?" questioned Tode, anxiously.
Nan looked distressed. "I'm afraid he's hungry," she replied. "Oh dear, what shall I do!"
She seemed ready to cry herself, but Tode sprang up.
"You come along," he exclaimed, briefly, and he started off with the child still in his arms, and Nan followed wonderingly. She shrank back as he pushed open the door of a restaurant, but Tode went in and after a moment's hesitation, she followed.
"What'll he take—some beef?" inquired the boy.
"Oh no!" cried Nan, hastily, "some bread and milk will be best for him."
"All right. Here you—bring us a quart o' milk an' a loaf o' bread," called Tode, sharply, to a waiter.
When these were brought he added, "Now fetch on a steak an' a oyster stew."
Then he turned with a puzzled look to Nan. "How does he take it? D'ye pour it down his throat?" he asked.
"No, no!" cried Nan, hastily, as he seized the bowl of milk. "You must feed it to him with a spoon."
"All right!" and utterly regardless of the grinning waiters Tode began to feed the baby, depositing quite as much in his neck as in his mouth, while Nan looked on, longing to take the matter into her own hands, but afraid to interfere. Suddenly Tode glanced at her.
"Why don't ye eat?" he said, with a gesture toward the food on the table. The girl coloured and drew back.
"Oh I can't," she exclaimed, hastily, "I ain't—I don't want anything."
"Ain't ye hungry?" demanded Tode in a masterful tone.
"N—not much," stammered Nan, but the boy saw a hungry gleam in her eyes as she glanced at the food.
"Y'are, too! Now you jest put that out o' sight in a hurry!"
But Nan shook her head. "I'm no beggar," she said, proudly, "and some time I'm going to pay you for that," and she pointed to the bowl of bread and milk.
"Shucks!" exclaimed the boy. "See here! I've ordered that stuff an' I'll have it to pay for anyhow, so you might's well eat it. I don't want it," and he devoted himself again to the child.
Nan turned her head resolutely away, but she was so hungry and the food did smell so good that she could not resist it. She tasted the oysters and in three minutes the bowl was empty, and a good bit of the steak had disappeared before she pushed aside her plate.
"Thank you," she said, gratefully. "It did taste so good!"
"Huh!" grunted Tode. This was the first time in his life that anybody had said "thank you" to him.
He handed the baby over to Nan and, though he had said he was not hungry, finished the steak and a big piece of pie in addition and then the three left the restaurant.
II. NAN'S NEW HOME
As they went out, Nan looked anxiously from side to side, fearing to see or be seen by the Leary woman. Tode noticed her troubled look and remarked,
"Ye needn't ter fret. I wouldn't let her touch ye. We might's well go back to the wharf," he added.
So they returned to the corner they had left, and in a little while the baby dropped into a refreshing sleep in his sister's lap, while Tode sometimes roamed about the wharf, and sometimes lounged against a post and talked with Nan.
"What is your name?" she asked him, suddenly.
"Tode? That's a queer name."
"'Spect that ain't all of it. There's some more, but I've forgot what 'tis," the boy replied, carelessly.
"And where's your home, Tode?"
"Home? Ain't got none. Never had none—no folks neither."
"But where do you live?"
"Oh, anywheres. When I'm flush, I sleeps at the Newsboys' Home, an' when I ain't, I takes the softest corner I can find in a alley or on a doorstep," was the indifferent reply.
Nan looked troubled.
"But I can't do that," she said. "I can't sleep in the street with Little Brother."
"Why not?" questioned Tode, wonderingly.
"Oh because—girls can't do like that."
"Lots o' girls do."
"But—not nice girls, Tode," said Nan, wistfully.
"Well no, I don't 'spect they're nice girls. I don't know any girls 't amount to much," replied Tode, disdainfully.
Nan flushed at his tone, as she answered,
"But what can I do? Where can I go? Seems as if there ought to be some place where girls like me could stay."
"That's so, for a fact," assented Tode, then he added, thoughtfully, "The's one feller—mebbe you could stay where he lives. He's got a mother, I know."
"Oh if I only could, Tode! I'd work ever so hard," said Nan, earnestly.
"You stay here an' I'll see 'f I can find him," said the boy. Then he turned back to add suspiciously, "Now don't ye clear out while I'm gone."
Nan looked at him wonderingly.
"Where would I go?" she questioned, and Tode answered with a laugh,
"That a fact—ye ain't got no place to go, have ye?"
Then he disappeared and Nan waited anxiously for his return. He came back within an hour bringing with him a freckle-faced boy a year or so older than himself.
"This's the gal!" he remarked, briefly.
The newcomer looked doubtfully at Nan.
"See the little feller," cried Tode, eagerly. "Ain't he a daisy? See him laugh," and he chucked the baby clumsily under the chin.
The child's heavy eyes brightened and he smiled back into the friendly, dirty face of the boy.
The other boy looked at Tode wonderingly. "Didn't know 't you liked kids," he said, scornfully.
"So I don't—but this one's diff'runt," replied Tode, promptly. "You ain't no common kid, be ye, Little Brother?"
"What's his name?" questioned the boy.
"His name is David, but mother always called him Little Brother, and so I do," answered the girl, in a low tone. "Have you a mother?" she added, with an earnest look at the boy.
"Got the best mother in this town," was the prompt reply.
"Oh, won't you take me to her, then? Maybe she can tell me what to do," Nan pleaded.
"Well, come along, then," responded the boy, rather grudgingly.
"You come too, Tode," said Nan. "'Cause you know we might meet Mary Leary."
"All right. I'll settle her. Don't you worry," and Tode, with a very warlike air marched along at Nan's right hand.
"What's your mother's name?" questioned Nan, shyly, of the newcomer as the three walked on together.
"Hunt. I'm Dick Hunt," was the brief reply. Then Dick turned away from the girl and talked to Tode.
It was not very far to Dick's home. It was in one of the better class of tenement houses. The Hunts had three rooms and they were clean and comfortably furnished. Tode looked around admiringly as Dick threw open the door and led the way in. Tode had never been in rooms like these before. Nan—after one quick glance about the place—looked earnestly and longingly into Mrs. Hunt's kind motherly face. Dick wasted no words.
"Mother," he said, "this girl wants to stay here."
Mrs. Hunt was making paper bags. Her busy fingers did not stop for a moment, but she cast a quick, keen glance at Nan and Tode.
"What do you mean, Dick?" she said.
"Oh, Mrs. Hunt, if you only would let us stay here till I can find a place to work, I'd be so thankful. We'll have to stay in the street tonight—Little Brother and I—if you don't," urged Nan, eagerly.
Mrs. Hunt's kind heart was touched by the girl's pleading tone. She had girls of her own and she thought, "What if my Nellie had to spend the night in the street," but she said only:
"Sit down, my dear, and tell me all about it."
The kind tone and those two words "my dear," were almost too much for poor anxious Nan. Her eyes filled with tears and her voice was not quite steady as she told again her sorrowful little story, and when it was ended the mother's eyes too were dim.
"Give me that baby," she exclaimed, forgetting her work for the moment, and she took the little fellow tenderly in her arms. "You poor child," she added, to Nan, "of course you can stay here to-night. It's a poor enough place an' we're as pinched as we can be, but we'll manage somehow to squeeze out a bite and a corner for you for a day or two anyway."
Tode's face expressed his satisfaction as he turned to depart. Dick too looked pleased.
"Didn't I tell ye I'd got the best mother in this town?" he said, proudly, as he followed Tode down the stairs.
"Yes you did, an' 'twarn't no lie neither," assented Tode, emphatically; "but, see here, you can tell your mother that I'm agoin' to pay for that little feller's bread an' milk."
Dick looked at him curiously.
"You goin' to work again?" he questioned.
"'Course I am."
"Somebody's got your beat."
"Who?" Tode stopped short in angry surprise as he asked the question.
"That big red-headed feller that they call Carrots."
"Well—Carrots'll find himself knocked out o' business," declared Tode, fiercely.
When the newsboys assembled at the newspaper office a little later, Dick speedily reported Tode's remark, and soon all eyes were on the alert to see what would happen. Tode was greeted rather coldly and indifferently, but that did not trouble him. He bought his papers and set off for his usual beat. Scenting a fight a good many of the boys followed. As Dick had said, Tode found the big fellow on the ground, lustily crying his papers. Tode marched straight up to him.
"See here, Carrots, this's my beat. You clear out—d'ye hear?" he shouted.
The big fellow leered at him scornfully, and without a word in response, went on calling his papers.
Down on the ground went Tode's stock in trade, and he fell upon Carrots like a small cyclone fighting with teeth, nails, fists and heels, striking in recklessly with never a thought of fear.
Forgetful of possible customers, the boys quickly formed a ring, and yelled and hooted at the antagonists, cheering first one and then the other. But the contest was an unequal one. The red-headed boy was the bigger and stronger of the two and plucky as Tode was, he would have been severely treated had not the affair been ended by the appearance of a policeman who speedily separated the combatants.
"What's all this row about?" he demanded, sharply, as he looked from Tode's bleeding face to the big fellow's bruised eye.
"He took my beat. I've sold papers here for three years," cried Tode, angrily.
"What you got to say?" The policeman turned to the other.
"He give it up. He ain't sold a paper here for a week past," growled Carrots.
"Whose beat is it?" The man turned to the other boys as he asked the question.
"Reckon it's Tode's."
"He's o'ny been layin' off fer a spell."
"It's Tode's sure 'nough."
So they answered, and the officer turned again to Carrots.
"You're a bigger feller 'n he is. You let him alone an' go find a new beat for yourself, an' see 't I don't catch either of ye fightin' in the streets again, or I'll put ye where ye'll get another kind of a beat if ye don't walk straight. Now scatter—all of ye!"
The "fun" was over and the boys needed no second bidding. They scattered in all directions and the next moment, Tode's shrill voice rang out triumphantly, while his rival stalked gloomily off, meditating dire vengeance in the near future.
Meantime, after Tode and Dick had departed, Nan had spoken a few grateful words to Mrs. Hunt, and then laying the baby on the lounge, she said, earnestly,
"Please show me just how you make those bags. I'm sure I can do it."
It was simple work and it did not take her many minutes to master the details. Her quick eyes and deft fingers soon enabled her to do the work fully as well and as rapidly as Mrs. Hunt could do it.
"Well, I never! You certainly are a quick one," exclaimed the good woman as she gave up her seat to the girl. "Now if you can finish that job for me, I can get a little sewing done before dark."
"Oh yes, I can finish this easily," exclaimed Nan, delighted that there was something that she could do in return for the kindness shown her.
By and by, Jimmy, Nellie, and the younger children came in from school, staring in amazement at the two strangers who seemed so much at home there. Nan made friends with them at once, but she dreaded the arrival of the father.
"What if he shouldn't want us to stay?" she thought, anxiously, as she heard a heavy step on the stairs, and Nellie called out,
"Here comes father!"
There was a general rush of the children as he opened the door and he came into the room with boys and girls swarming over him. Nan's fears departed at the first sight of his honest, kindly face, and his cheery greeting to her.
"Wal' now, this is nice," he said, heartily, after hearing his wife's brief explanation. "Never can have too many little gals 'round to suit me, an' as fer this young man," he lifted Little Brother gently as he spoke, "he fits into this fam'ly jest like a book. Ted here's gettin' most too much of a man to be our baby any longer."
Ted's round face had lengthened as his father took up the baby, but it brightened at these words, and he straightened himself and slipped his hands into the pockets of the very short trousers he was wearing.
"I'll be a big man pretty soon," he remarked, and his father patted his head tenderly as he answered,
"So you will, sonny, so you will, an' the more you help other folks the faster you'll grow."
That was a happy evening for Nan. As she sat at the supper-table at "father's" right hand the only shadow on her satisfaction was the fear that she might not be allowed to remain in this friendly household. But somehow, even that thought could not cast a very dark shadow on her heart when she looked up into the sunshine of Father Hunt's plain face, or met the motherly smile of his good wife. She lent a helping hand whenever she saw an opportunity to do so, and the table was cleared, and the dishes washed so quickly that Mr. Hunt remarked to his wife,
"Look here, now, mother, why can't you an' me go somewheres this evening? You ain't been out with me for more'n a year, an' I feel's if I'd like a bit of an outin' to-night."
Mrs. Hunt looked up doubtfully, but Nan spoke up quickly,
"Do go, Mrs. Hunt. I'll take care of the children and be glad to."
"That's right! That's right!" exclaimed Mr. Hunt. "'Course ye will, an' I 'spect you'll make 'em have such a fine time that they'll be sorry when we get back."
Ted put his finger in his mouth and gloom gathered on his round face at this suggestion, but it vanished as Nan said,
"Teddy, I can cut fine soldiers out of paper, and animals too. After your father and mother go I'll cut some for you."
Teddy's face brightened at this promise, and he saw the door close behind his mother without shedding a single tear.
Nan put Little Brother to bed and then all the children gathered about the table and Nan drew men and animals on brown paper and cut them out, to the great delight of the children. Teddy especially was so interested that once Nellie remarked, "You needn't get quite into Nan's mouth, Ted."
Nan laughed. "If he only won't get his fingers cut instead of the paper," she said.
"There! I've got a whole fun'ral of horses," remarked Ted, in a tone of great satisfaction, as he ranged a long string of the figures two and two on the table.
"Look out, Ted, you'll knock over the lamp!" cried Jimmy, hastily.
The warning came too late. Even as the words were uttered, the chair on which Ted was standing slipped from under him, and as he struck out wildly to save himself from falling he hit the lamp and knocked it over on the table. The chimney rolled to the floor with a crash, and the burning oil spread over the table licking up Ted's horses and the scattered bits of paper as it went. Then a piece of the burning paper blew against Nellie's apron and the next instant that was blazing, and Nellie screaming with fright, while the other children ran crying into the inner room—all but Ted. He—petrified with terror—stood still with mouth and eyes wide open, gazing at the fiery stream rolling over the table.
It all happened in two or three seconds, but Nan did not lose her head. She jerked off Nellie's apron without regard to fastenings, and crammed it into the coalhod, then snatching up her old shawl which was lying on the lounge, she threw it over the burning lamp and gathered it closely over lamp, paper and all, so smothering the flames. In two minutes the danger was over, Nan had lighted another lamp that Nellie brought her, and the frightened children came creeping slowly back to the table.
Teddy did not care for paper men or animals any more that night. He was ready to go to bed, and Nellie undressed him and put him there, but the others sat up until the father and mother came home, all eager to tell the story of their danger and of Nan's bravery. The mother's eyes filled with tears as she put her arms about as many of the children as she could gather into them and looked at Nan in silent gratitude, while the father laid his hand kindly on the girl's brown hair as he said, gravely,
"Child, you've earned your place in this home. As long as I'm able to work you're just as welcome here as the rest—you and the baby too."
Nan's eyes were shining happily.
"'Twas nothing much to do," she answered, "and I'll find some way to pay for Little Brother and me if only we can stay here."
Dick had come in soon after his parents, and had listened in gloomy silence to the story of the children.
"Humph!" he said to himself. "Twasn't so awful much to put out that fire. I'd a done it in no time if I'd a been here."
It seemed to Dick that his father and mother were making altogether too much of this strange girl, and the evil spirit of jealousy reared its ugly head in his heart. He wished he had not brought those two home with him, anyhow.
When, the next day, Tode met him on the street and inquired about Nan and Little Brother, Dick replied, gruffly,
"Oh, they're all right 'nough."
"But are they goin' ter stay't your place?" questioned Tode.
"'Spect so." Dick's voice was gruffer than before.
"I'm agoin' 'round there to see 'em to-day," remarked Tode.
Dick made no reply.
Tode repeated, "Don't ye hear? I say I'm agoin' ter see 'em to-day."
"I heard what ye said. S'pose I'm deaf?" and Dick turned his back and marched off.
Tode looked after him angrily. "Like ter punch his head fer him," he said, under his breath. "Would, too, if his folks hadn't let Little Brother stay on there."
Nothing daunted by Dick's unfriendly manner, Tode presented himself that afternoon at Mrs. Hunt's door. He found that good woman and Nan both busy over the paper bags. All the children except Dick were at school, and Little Brother was lying on the old shawl at his sister's feet. Tode gave an awkward nod by way of greeting and dropped down on the floor beside the child.
"Hello, little chap!" he said.
There certainly was a mutual attraction between the two, for the baby again responded to his greeting with a smile, and held out his scrawny little hands.
Tode was delighted. He lifted the child in his arms and sat down with him in an old rocking-chair.
Nan cast a quick, disturbed glance at the two. She had dressed the baby in some clothes that Mrs. Hunt had found for her—a few that had survived Ted's rough usage. They were old but clean, and it was trying to Nan to see Little Brother's pure, sweet face and fresh garments held by Tode's dirty hands against his dirtier jacket. But the baby did not mind. He looked as contented as Tode did, and when the boy's grimy fingers touched his thin cheek, Little Brother laughed a soft, happy, gurgling laugh that was music in Tode's ears. But suddenly the boy's glance took in the contrast between his soiled hand and the little face against which it rested. For a moment he hesitated, then he arose hastily, placed the child gently on the old shawl again and said to Mrs. Hunt,
"Ye ain't got a bit o' soap you could lend me, have ye?"
Mrs. Hunt looked at him inquiringly, then she answered a little unwillingly, for even soap costs money, "You can take that bit on the shelf there."
Tode seized it and vanished. Few things escaped his quick eyes, and he had noticed a sink and a faucet in the hall outside the door. There he rubbed and scrubbed his hands for full five minutes vastly to their improvement, though even then he looked at them doubtfully.
"Can't do no better," he muttered, as he wiped them—well, he had only one place to wipe them, and he did the best he could. When he went back he glanced somewhat sheepishly at Mrs. Hunt as he put the remains of the soap back on the shelf, and again took up the baby. Nan smiled at him but she made no remark, and tried not to look at his jacket.
After he had gone Mrs. Hunt asked, thoughtfully, "How long have you known that boy, Nan?"
"I never saw him until yesterday," answered the girl. "He was good to me then."
"Yes, I know, an' of course you don't want to forget that, but, Nan, I'm afraid he's a bad boy. Dick says he is. He says he lies and steals and swears. I guess you don't want to have much to do with him."
Nan looked troubled. She answered, slowly,
"I guess he hasn't had much of a chance, Mrs. Hunt. He can't remember anything about his father and mother, and he says he's never had any home except the street. Do you s'pose 'twill hurt for him to come here sometimes to see Little Brother? 'Seems as if it might help him to be a better boy. He likes Little Brother."
For a moment Mrs. Hunt was silent. She was thinking how hard she tried to bring up her children to be good boys and girls, and yet they were not always good. She wondered what kind of a boy her Dick would have been if he, like Tode, had had no home and no one to keep him from evil ways.
"If that's so, there's some excuse for him," she said, in response to Nan's plea for Tode.
"P'raps 'twill help him somehow if he gets to carin' for that innocent baby, an' I don't mind his comin' here sometimes, only be careful that you don't learn any evil from him, my dear," and she leaned over and kissed the girl's cheek.
"Oh, Mrs. Hunt, I must be good always, you know, for Little Brother's sake. I can't ever forget or break my promise to mother," Nan answered, earnestly. And Mrs. Hunt, as she saw the solemn look in the dark eyes uplifted to her own, felt that she need not worry about Nan and Tode.
III. AN ACCIDENT
Tode Bryan was sauntering down the street, his hands in his pockets, as usual, when he was not selling papers. He was whistling a lively tune, but he was on the lookout for anything interesting that might happen. As he passed a fruit stand kept by an old woman, he slyly snatched a handful of peanuts which he ate as he went on. He had sold out his papers more quickly than usual, for it was still early in the evening, and the streets were full of business-men on their way to their homes.
Suddenly the boy stopped short and listened, and the next moment there was a general rush into doorways and side streets as a fire-engine came dashing around the corner, while the police rushed from side to side clearing the way through the narrow street.
As the engine passed, Tode, like every other boy within sight or hearing, raced madly after it, shouting and yelling "fire" with all the power of his healthy lungs. Hearing somebody say where the fire was, he slipped through a narrow cross street and an alley, so coming out ahead of the engine which the next moment swung around the nearest corner.
An old man was just crossing the street, and as he heard the clang of the gong and the clatter of the engine, he looked about in a dazed, frightened way, and, instead of hurrying across, hesitated a moment and then turned uncertainly back. The driver did his best to avoid him but when the engine had passed the old man lay motionless upon the ground.
Instantly a crowd gathered about him and Tode pressed forward to the front rank. One policeman was raising the old man's head and another was asking if anybody knew who the injured man was.
It was Tode, who, peering curiously at the pale face, remarked,
"I know him. He buys papers o' me."
"What's his name? Where does he live?" questioned the officer.
"Do' know. He keeps a bookstand down on School street."
"Well, we'll have to send him to the hospital. Ring up the ambulance, Dick," said the officer to his companion.
Tode was just dashing off after the engine when one of the policemen collared him.
"Here you!" he exclaimed. "None o' your cuttin' off! If you know this man you've got to go to the hospital an' 'dentify him."
Tode looked uncomfortable and tried to squirm out of the man's grasp—a fruitless effort, for his strength availed nothing against that iron grip. The boy had no idea what "'dentify" might mean but he had his reasons for preferring to keep at a distance from the guardians of the law. There was no help for it, however, so with many inward misgivings, he submitted and waited for the ambulance. When it appeared the still insensible old man was lifted in and Tode was ordered to the front seat where he rode securely between the driver and the policeman. The boy had never before been in a hospital and he felt very ill at ease when he found himself inside the building with its big rooms and long bare halls. He was left alone with the policeman for a while, and then both of them were called into another room and questioned in regard to the accident. Finally Tode was dismissed with strict orders to return the next day.
"He'll be here. I know him, an' if he don't show up, you jest send me word an' I'll find him for ye," the officer said to the doctor, with a threatening glance at the boy.
Tode said nothing, but in his heart he was determined not to return the next day. The officer, however, kept his eye on him, and the next afternoon pounced upon him and put him on a street car with strict orders to the conductor not to let him off until he reached the hospital. So finding himself thus under watch and ward, Tode concluded that he might as well obey orders, and he rang the bell at the hospital door. He was met by the doctor whom he had seen the night before, and taken at once to the ward where the injured man was lying.
As Tode gazed around the long room with its rows of white beds, a feeling of awe stole over him. He wanted to get away, for he did not know what to do or say.
The old man was lying as if asleep, but when the doctor spoke to him he looked up and his dim eyes brightened at sight of the familiar face of the boy.
"Oh, bishop, it's you is it? Got a paper for me?" he said with a feeble smile.
Tode wriggled uneasily as he answered gruffly, "Guess ye don't want none to-day, do ye?"
"No, I don't believe I do. You can bring me one to-morrow, bishop," and as he spoke the old man closed his eyes again, and turned his face away with a weary sigh.
"Come away now," said the doctor, and once outside the door he added, "He hasn't said as much as that before. Seeing some one he knew aroused him as I hoped it would. Why does he call you bishop?"
"I do' know," replied Tode, indifferently.
"Well, you must come again to-morrow. Here's a car ticket and a quarter. I'll give you the same when you come to-morrow. Be here about this time, will you?"
"All right—I'll come," answered the boy to whom the quarter was an inducement.
The old man remained at the hospital for several weeks and Tode continued to visit him there at first for the sake of the money and because he dared not disobey the doctor's orders, but after a while he became rather proud of the old man's evident liking for him, and he would often sit and talk with him for half an hour at a time.
One day Tode inquired curiously, "What d' ye call me bishop for? 'Tain't my name."
And the old man answered dreamily, "You remind me of a boy I knew when I was about your age. He used to say that he was going to be a bishop when he grew up and so we boys always called him 'bishop.'"
"An' did he?" questioned Tode.
"Become a bishop? No, he entered the army and died in his first battle."
"W'at's a bishop, anyhow?" asked Tode, after a moment's silence.
"You know what a minister is, Tode?"
"A preacher, ye mean?"
"Yes, a minister is a preacher. A bishop is a sort of head preacher—ranking higher, you know."
Tode nodded. "I'd rather be a soldier like that feller you knew," he remarked.
A day came when the old man was pronounced well enough to leave the hospital and the doctor ordered Tode to be on hand to take him home. The boy did not object. He was rather curious to see the little place in the rear of the bookstand where the old man lived alone. Since the accident the stand had been closed and Tode helped to open and air the room and then made a fire in the stove. When this was done the old man gave him money to buy materials for supper which of course the boy shared.
After this he came daily to the place to run errands or do anything that was wanted, and by degrees the old man came to depend more and more upon him until the business of the little stand fell almost wholly into the boy's hands, for the owner's head still troubled him and he could not think clearly. It was a great relief to him to have some one to look after everything for him. Tode liked it and the business prospered in his hands. If he lacked experience, he was quicker and sharper than the old man. The two took their meals together, and at night Tode slept on a blanket on the floor, and was more comfortable and prosperous than he had ever been in his life before. He had money to spend too, for old Mr. Carey never asked for any account of the sums that passed through the boy's hands. So he himself was undisturbed by troublesome questions and figures, the old man was content now, and each day found him a little weaker and feebler. Tode noticed this but he gave no thought to the matter. Why borrow trouble when things were so much to his mind? Tode lived in the present.
He still sold the evening papers, considering it wise to keep possession of his route against future need, and never a week passed that he did not see Little Brother at least twice. He would have liked to see the child every day, but he knew instinctively that he was not a favorite with the Hunts, and that knowledge made him ill at ease with them. But it could not keep him away altogether. He found too much satisfaction in Little Brother's love for him.
More than once Mrs. Hunt had remarked to Nan that she didn't "see what in the world made the baby so fond of that rough, dirty boy." Nan herself wondered at it though she kept always a grateful remembrance of Tode's kindness when she first met him.
Tode often brought little gifts to the child, and would have given him much more, but Nan would not allow it. The two had a long argument over the matter one day. It was a bright, sunny morning and Mrs. Hunt had said that the baby ought to be out in the fresh air, so Nan had taken him to the Common, and sat there keeping ever a watchful eye for their enemy, Mary Leary. Tode going down Beacon street espied the two and forgetting all about the errand on which he was bound, promptly joined them.
"He's gettin' fat—he is," the boy remarked, poking his finger at the dimple in the baby's cheek, then drawing it quickly away again with an uncomfortable expression. Tode never cared how dirty his hands were except when he saw them in contrast with Little Brother's pure face.
"Yes, he's getting well and strong," assented Nan, with a happy smile.
"I say, Nan, w'at's the reason you won't let me pay for his milk?" asked Tode, after a little.
Then it was Nan's turn to look uncomfortable, and the color rose in her cheeks as she answered, "I can pay now for all he needs. You know Mrs. Hunt gets a double quantity of bags and I work on them every day."
But this answer did not satisfy Tode. "That don't make no diff'runce," he growled. "Don't see why you won't let me do nothin' for him," and he cast a gloomy glance at the baby, but Little Brother laughed up at him and the gloom speedily melted away. After a moment's silence he added, slowly, "It's comin' cold weather. He'll want a jacket or somethin', won't he?"
"He'll have to have some warm clothes," replied Nan, thoughtfully, "but I can get them—I guess."
Tode turned upon her fiercely. "I s'pose you'd let him freeze to death 'fore you'd let me buy him any clothes," he burst out, angrily. "I sh'd like ter know w'at's the matter with ye, anyhow. Has that measly Dick Hunt ben stuffin' ye 'bout me?"
Nan coloured again and dropped her eyes.
"Say—has he? I'll give it ter him next time I catch him out!" and Tode ground his heel suggestively into the gravel walk.
"Oh, Tode, don't! Please don't fight Dick," pleaded Nan. "How can you when his mother's so good to Little Brother?"
"Don't care 'f she is. He ain't," was Tode's surly reply. "He don't want you'n him to stay there."
Nan's eyes were full of uneasiness.
"Did he say so?" she questioned, for she had noticed Dick's coldness and been vaguely disturbed by it.
The boy nodded. "Yes," he said, "he tol' me so. Said there's 'nough fer his father ter feed 'thout you'n him," and he pointed to the baby.
"But I work," pleaded Nan. "I pay for all we eat."
"But ye don't pay fer the rent an' the fire, an'—an' everything," Tode replied, with a note of triumph in his voice, "so now, ye better let me pay fer Little Brother an' then you c'n pay the rest."
Nan hesitated and her face was troubled. Finally she lifted her dark eyes to his and said bravely, "Tode, I guess I ought to tell you just why I couldn't anyway let you do for Little Brother as you want to. It's because—because you don't get your money the right way."
"Who says I don't? Did that Dick Hunt say so? I'll"—began Tode, fiercely, but Nan laid her hand on his arm and looked steadily into his face.
"Tode," she said, earnestly, "if you will look straight into Little Brother's eyes and tell me that you never steal—I'll believe you."
"I never"—began the boy, boldly; then he met a grave, sweet glance from the baby's big blue eyes, and he hesitated. The lying words died on his tongue, and turning his eyes away from the little face that he loved, he said gloomily, "What's that got to do with it anyhow? S'posin' I do hook a han'ful of peanuts sometimes. That ain't nothin'."
"Tode, do you want Little Brother to hook a handful of peanuts sometimes when he gets big?" asked Nan, quietly.
The boy turned his eyes again to the baby face and the hot blood burned in his own as he answered, quickly, "'Course I don't. He won't be that sort."
"No, he won't, if I can help it," replied Nan, gravely.
Tode dug his toe into the dirt in silence. Nan added, "Tode, by and by, when he gets bigger, would you want him to know that you were a thief?"
When Tode looked up there was a strange gravity in his eyes, and his lips were set in an expression of stern resolve.
"I've got ter quit it," he said, solemnly, "an' I will. Say, Nan," he added, wistfully, "if I quit now, ye wont ever let him know I used ter be—what you said, will ye?"
"No, Tode, never," answered Nan, quickly and earnestly. "And Tode, if you'll stick to it, and not steal or lie or swear, I shan't mind your helping me get things for Little Brother."
The boy's face brightened, and he drew himself up proudly. "It's a bargain, then," he said.
Nan looked at him thoughtfully. "I don't believe you know how hard it will be, Tode. I find it's awful hard to break myself of bad habits, and I don't s'pose you've ever tried to before, have you?"
Tode considered the question. "Guess not," he said, slowly, after a pause.
"Then I'm afraid you'll find you can't stop doing those bad things all at once. But you'll keep on trying, Tode. You won't give up 'cause it's hard work," Nan pleaded, anxiously.
"Nope," answered the boy, briefly, with a glance at the soft little fingers that were clasped about one of his.
When Nan went home he went with her to the door, loth to lose sight of the only creature in the world for whom he cared. As the door closed behind the two, he walked on thinking over what Nan had said. Much of it seemed to him "girls' stuff an' nonsense." "As if a fella couldn't stop swipin' things if he wanted to!" he said to himself.
As he went on he passed a fruit stand where a man was buying some bananas. In putting his change into his pocket he dropped a nickel, which rolled toward Tode who promptly set his foot on it, and then pretending to pull a rag off his torn trousers, he picked up the coin and went on chuckling over his "luck." But suddenly he stopped short and the hot color rose in his cheeks as he exclaimed with an oath,
"Done it again!"
He looked around for the man, but he had disappeared, and with an angry grunt Tode flung the nickel into the gutter and went on, beginning so soon to realise that evil habits are not overcome by simply resolving to conquer them. Tode never had made any such attempt before, and the discovery had rather a depressing effect on him. It made him cross, too, but to his credit be it said, the thought of giving up the struggle never once occurred to him.
He found old Mr. Carey asleep in his chair, and he awoke him roughly.
"See here!" he exclaimed, sharply. "Is this the way you 'tend to business when I'm gone? Some cove might a stole every book an' paper on the stand, and cleaned out the cash, too." He pulled open the drawer as he spoke. "No thanks to you that 'tain't empty," he grumbled. He had never spoken so sharply before, and the old man was vaguely disturbed by it. He got up and walked feebly across the room, rubbing his trembling fingers through his grey hair in a troubled fashion, as he answered slowly,
"Yes, yes, bishop—you're right. It was very careless of me to go to sleep so. I don't see how I came to do it. I'm afraid I'm breaking down, my boy—breaking down," he added, sadly.
As Tode looked at the old man's dim eyes and shaking hands a feeling of sympathy and compassion stole into his heart, and his voice softened as he said, "Oh, well, it's all right this time. Reckon I'll have to run the business altogether till you get better."
"I'm afraid you will, bishop. I'm not much good anyhow, nowadays," and the old man dropped again into his chair with a heavy sigh.
The weeks that followed were the most miserable weeks of Tode Byran's short life. He found out some things about himself that he had never before suspected. It was wholesome knowledge, but it was not pleasant to find that in spite of his strongest resolutions, those nimble fingers of his would pick up nuts and apples from street stands and his quick tongue would rattle off lies and evil words before he could remember to stop it. The other boys found him a most unpleasant companion in these days, for his continual failures made him cross and moody. He would speedily have given up the struggle but for Little Brother. Several times he did give it up for a week or two, but then he staid away from the Hunts' rooms until he grew so hungry for a sight of the baby face that he could stay away no longer. Nan came to understand what these absences meant, and always when he reappeared she would speak a word of encouragement and faith in his final victory. Tode had not cared at all for Nan at first, but in these days of struggle and failure he began to value her steadfast faith in him, and again and again he renewed his vow to make himself "fit to help bring up Little Brother," as he expressed it.
It was one day toward the close of winter that Tode noticed that Mr. Carey seemed more than usually dull and listless, dropping into a doze even while the boy was speaking to him, and he went to bed directly after supper. When the boy awoke the next morning the old man lay just as he had fallen asleep. He did not answer when Tode spoke to him, and his hands were cold as ice to the boy's touch.
Tode did not know what to do, but he finally hunted up the policeman, who knew him, and the two went back together and found the old man dead. As no relatives appeared, the city authorities took charge of the funeral, the books and the few pieces of furniture were sold to pay the expenses, and Tode found himself once more a homeless waif. He had not minded it before, but his brief experience of even this poor home had unfitted him for living and sleeping in the streets. He found it unpleasant too, to have no money except the little he could earn selling papers. He set himself to face his future in earnest, and came to the conclusion that it was time for him to get into some better paying business. After thinking over the matter for several days he went to Nan.
"You know them doughnuts you made th' other day?" he began.
"Yes," replied Nan, wonderingly. Mrs. Hunt had taught her to make various simple dishes, and as Tode had happened in the day she made her first doughnuts, she had given him a couple, which he had pronounced "prime!"
Now he went on, "I don't want to sleep 'round the streets any more. I'm sick of it, but I can't make money 'nough off papers to do anything else. I'm thinkin' of settin' up a stand."
"A bookstand, Tode?" questioned Nan, interestedly.
"No—a eatin' stand—fer the fellers ye know—newsboys an' such. 'F you'll make doughnuts an' gingerbread an' san'wiches fer me, I bet all the fellers'll come fer 'em."
"Now that ain't a bad idea, Tode," said Mrs. Hunt, looking up from her work. "Of course the boys would buy good homemade food instead of the trash they get from the cheap eatin' houses, an' Nan, I shouldn't wonder if you could earn more that way than by workin' at these bags."
Nan considered the matter thoughtfully, and finally agreed to give it a trial, and Tode went off highly pleased.
It took him two weeks to save enough to start his stand even in the simplest fashion, but when he did open it, he at first did a flourishing business. In the beginning the boys patronised him partly from curiosity and partly from good fellowship, but Nan's cookery found favour with them at once, and "Tode's Corner" soon became the favorite lunch counter for the city newsboys, and Tode's pockets were better filled than they had been since Mr. Carey's death.
For several weeks all went well, and the boy began to consider himself on the high road to fortune, but then came a setback.
One day his stand was surrounded by a crowd of boys all clamoring to be served at once, when the big fellow who had taken possession of Tode's newspaper route, months before, came along. He had never forgotten or forgiven the boy for getting the better of him on that occasion, and now he thought he saw a chance for revenge.
Creeping up behind the group of hungry boys, he suddenly hit one of them a stinging blow on the face, and as this one turned and struck back angrily at him, the big fellow flung him back with all his strength against Tode's stand. The stand was an old one and rickety—Tode had bought it secondhand—and it went down with a crash, carrying cookies, doughnuts, gingerbread, coffee, sandwiches, cups, plates and boys in one promiscuous mixture. Before the boys could struggle to their feet, Carrots, with his hands full of gingerbread, had disappeared around the nearest corner. There was a wild rush and a scramble, and when two minutes later, Tode stood gazing mournfully at the wreck, not an eatable bit remained. The boys had considered the wreckage as their lawful spoils, and every one of them had snatched as much as he could.
Later, however, their sense of justice led some of them to express, after their rough fashion, sympathy for Tode, and disapproval of his enemy's revengeful act. Besides, a few of them had enough conscience to acknowledge to themselves that they had not been entirely blameless. The result was that half a dozen of them went to Tode the next day and offered to "chip in" and set him up again.
Tode appreciated the spirit that prompted the offer, but he was also shrewd enough to foresee that should he accept it, these boys would expect favours in the way of prices and quantities when they dealt with him in the future, and so he declined.
"Reckin I can stan' on my own feet, boys," he answered. "I've been a-tinkerin' up the ol' stand, an' I'm a-goin' to start in again to-morrow. You fellers come here an' get yer breakfast, an' that's all the help I'll ask, 'cept that ev'ry last one o' ye'll give that Carrots a kick fer me."
"We will that!" shouted the boys. "We'll make him sorry fer himself!"
And the next day their sympathy took the practical form that Tode had suggested, for every one of them that had any money to spend, spent it at "Tode's Corner," so that his stand was cleared again, but in a very satisfactory fashion—a fashion that filled his pockets with dimes and nickels.
IV. TODE MEETS THE BISHOP
Sundays were Tode's dreariest days. He found that it did not pay to keep his stand open later than ten o'clock, and then after he had spent an hour with Little Brother and Nan, the time hung heavy on his hands. Sometimes he pored over a newspaper for a while, sometimes over something even more objectionable than the Sunday newspaper, and for the rest, he loafed around street corners and wharves with other homeless boys like himself.
One Sunday morning he was listlessly reading over some play-bills pasted on a fence, when the word "bishop" caught his eye, and he spelled out the announcement that a well-known bishop was to speak in St. Mark's Church, that afternoon.
"Cracky! I'd like to see a live bishop. B'lieve I'll go," he said to himself. Then looking down at his ragged trousers and dirty jacket, he added with a grin, "'Spect some o' them nobs'll most have a fit to see me there."
Nevertheless he determined to go. Old Mr. Carey had never called him anything but "bishop," and now the boy had a queer feeling as he read that word on the bill—a feeling that this bishop whom he had never seen had yet in some way something to do with him—though in what way he could not imagine.
He thought over the matter through the hours that followed, sometimes deciding that he would go, and again that he wouldn't, but he found out where St. Mark's Church was, and at three o'clock he was there.
He gave a little start and a shadow fell upon his face as he saw the pillared porch and the stone stairway. He seemed to see himself running up those stairs and stuffing that stolen pocketbook into the pastor's box that he remembered so clearly. These thoughts were not pleasant ones to him now, and Tode stopped hesitatingly, undecided whether to go on or to go in. It was early yet and no one was entering though the doors stood invitingly open.
While he hesitated, the sexton came out to the steps. Tode remembered him too, and looked at him with a grin that exasperated the man. "Get out o' this!" he exclaimed, roughly. "We don't want any o' your sort 'round here."
Of course that settled the matter for Tode. He was determined to go in now anyhow, but he knew better than to attempt it just then.
"Who wants to go int' yer ol' church," he muttered as he turned away. The man growled a surly response but Tode did not look back.
On the corner he stopped, wondering how he could best elude the unfriendly sexton and slip into the building, without his knowledge. He dropped down on the curbstone and sat there thinking for some time. At last a voice above him said quietly,
"Well, my boy, aren't you coming to church?"
Tode looked up, up a long way it seemed to him, into such a face as he had never before looked into. Instinctively he arose and stepped back that he might see more plainly those clear blue eyes and that strong, tender mouth. The boy gazed and gazed, forgetting utterly to answer.
"You are coming into church with me, aren't you?"
So the question was repeated, and Tode, still lookingly earnestly up into the man's face, nodded silently.
"That's right, my son—come," and a large, kindly hand was laid gently upon the boy's shoulder.
Without a word he walked on beside the stranger.
The sexton was standing in the vestibule as the two approached. A look of blank amazement swept across his face at sight of the boy in such company. He said no word, however, only stepped aside with a bow, but his eyes followed the two as they passed into the church together, and he muttered a few angry words under his breath.
As for Tode, some strange influence seemed to have taken possession of him, for he forgot to exult over the surly sexton. He passed him without a thought indeed, feeling nothing but a strange, happy wonder at the companionship in which he found himself.
The stranger led him up the aisle to one of the best pews, and motioned him in. Silently the boy obeyed. Then the man looking down with his rare, beautiful smile into the uplifted face, gently raised Tode's ragged cap from his rough hair, and laid it on the cushioned seat beside him. Then he went away, and Tode felt as if the sunlight had been suddenly darkened. His eyes followed the tall, strong figure longingly until it disappeared—then he looked about him, at the beautiful interior of the church. The boy had never been in such a place before, and he gazed wonderingly at the frescoes, the rich colours in the windows, the dark carved woodwork and the wide chancel and pulpit.
"Wat's it all for, I wonder," he said, half aloud, and then started and flushed as his own voice broke the beautiful, solemn silence.
People were beginning to come in and filling the seats about him, and many curious and astonished glances fell upon the boy, but he did not notice them. Presently a soft, low strain of music stole out upon the stillness. Surely a master hand touched the keys that day, for the street boy sat like a statue listening eagerly to the sweet sounds, and suddenly he found his cheeks wet. He dashed his hand impatiently across them wondering what was the matter with him, for tears were strangers to Tode's eyes, but in spite of himself they filled again, till he almost wished the music would cease—almost but not quite, for that strange happiness thrilled his heart as he listened.
Then far-off voices began to sing, coming nerrer and nearer, until a long line of white-robed men and boys appeared, singing as they walked, and last of all came the kingly stranger who had brought Tode into the church, and he went to the lectern and began to read.
"The—bishop!" Tode breathed the words softly, in a mixture of wonder and delight, as he suddenly realised who this man must be.
He sat through the remainder of the service in a dreamy state of strange enjoyment. He did not understand why the people around him stood or knelt at intervals. He did not care. When the bishop prayed, Tode looked around, wondering whom he was calling "Lord." He concluded that it must be the one who made the music.
He listened eagerly, breathlessly, to the sermon, understanding almost nothing of what was said, but simply drinking in the words spoken by that rich, sweet voice, that touched something within him, something that only Little Brother had ever touched before. Yet this was different from the feeling that the baby had awakened in the boy's heart. He loved the baby dearly, but to this great, grand man, who stood there above him wearing the strange dress that he had never before seen a man wear—to him the boy's whole heart seemed to go out in reverent admiration and desire. He knew that he would do anything that this man might ask of him. He could refuse him nothing.
"Ye are not your own. Ye are bought with a price."
These words, repeated again and again, fixed themselves in Tode's memory with no effort of his own. Buying and selling were matters quite in his line now, but he did not understand this. He puzzled over it awhile, then put it aside to be thought out at another time.
When the service was over, Tode watched the long line of choir boys pass slowly out, and his eyes followed the tall figure of the bishop till it disappeared from his wistful gaze. Then he looked about upon the kneeling congregation, wondering if the people were going to stay there all day. The bishop was gone, the music had ceased, and Tode did not want to stay any longer. He slipped silently out of the pew and left the church.
That evening he wandered off by himself, avoiding the Sunday gathering-places of the boys, and thinking over the new experiences of the afternoon. The words the bishop had repeated so often sung themselves over and over in his ears.
"Ye are not your own. Ye are bought with a price."
"Don't mean me, anyhow," he thought, "'cause I b'long ter myself, sure 'nough. Nobody ever bought me 't ever I heard of. Wonder who that Jesus is, he talked about so much. I wish—I wish he'd talk ter me—that bishop."
All the strange happiness that had filled his heart during the service in the church, was gone now. He did not feel happy at all. On the contrary, he felt wretched and utterly miserable. He had begun to have a distinct pride and satisfaction in himself lately, since he had stopped lying and stealing, and had set up in business for himself, and especially since Mrs. Hunt had begun to look upon him with more favour, as he knew she had—but somehow now all this seemed worthless. Although he had not understood the bishop's sermon, it seemed to have unsettled Tode's mind, and awakened a vague miserable dissatisfaction with himself. He was not used to such feelings. He didn't like them, and he grew cross and ugly when he found himself unable to shake them off.
He had wandered to the quiet corner of the wharf, where he and Nan and Little Brother had spent the first hours of their acquaintance, and he stood leaning against that same post, looking gloomily down into the water, when a lean, rough dog crept slowly toward him, wagging his stumpy tail and looking into the boy's face with eyes that pleaded for a friendly word. Generally Tode would have responded to the mute appeal, but now he felt so miserable himself, that he longed to make somebody or something else miserable too, so instead of a pat, he gave the dog a kick that sent it limping off with a yelp of pain and remonstrance. He had made another creature as miserable as himself, but somehow it didn't seem to lessen his own wretchedness. Indeed, he couldn't help feeling that he had done a mean, cowardly thing, and Tode never liked to feel himself a coward. He looked after the dog. It had crawled into a corner and was licking the injured paw. Tode walked toward the poor creature that looked at him suspiciously, yet with a faint little wag of its tail, as showing its readiness to forgive and forget, while at the same time ready to run if more abuse threatened.
Tode stooped and called, "Come here, sir!" and, after a moment's hesitation, the dog crept slowly toward him with a low whine, still keeping his bright eyes fastened on the boy's.
"Poor old fellow," Tode said, gently, patting the dog's rough head. "Is it hurt? Let me see." He felt of the leg, the dog standing quietly beside him.
"'Tain't broken. It'll be all right pretty soon. What's your name?" Tode said, and the dog rubbed his head against the boy's knee and tried to say with his eloquent eyes what his dumb lips could not utter.
"Got none—ye mean? You're a street dog—like me," the boy added. "Well, guess I'll go home an' get some supper," and he walked slowly away and presently forgot all about the dog.
He had lately hired a tiny garret room where he slept, and kept his supplies when his stand was closed. He went there now and ate his lonely supper. It had never before seemed lonely to him, but somehow to-night it did. He hurried down the food and started to go out again. As he opened his door, he heard a faint sound, and something moved on the dark landing.
"Who's there?" he called, sharply.
A low whine answered him, and from out the gloom two eyes gleamed and glittered. Tode peered into the shadow, then he laughed.
"So it's you, is it? You must have tagged me home. Come in here then if you want to," and he flung his door wide open and stepped back into the room.
Then out of the shadows of the dark landing the dog came slowly and warily, ready to turn and slink off if he met no welcome, but Tode was in the mood when even a strange dog was better than his own company. He fed the half-starved creature with some stale sandwiches, and then talked to him and tried to teach him some tricks until to his own surprise he heard the city clocks striking nine, and the long, lonely evening he had dreaded was gone.
"Well now, you're a heap o' company," he said to the dog. "I've a good mind ter keep ye. Say, d'ye wan' ter stay, ol' feller?"
The dog wagged his abbreviated tail, licked Tode's fingers, and rubbed his head against the ragged trousers of his new friend.
"Ye do, hey! Well, I'll keep ye ter-night, anyhow. Le' see, what'll I call ye? You've got ter have a name. S'posin' I call ye Tag. That do—hey, Tag?"
The dog gave a quick, short bark and limped gaily about the boy's feet.
"All right—we'll call ye Tag then. Now then, there's yer bed," and he threw into a corner an old piece of carpet that he had picked up on a vacant lot. The dog understood and settled himself with a long, contented sigh, as if he would have said:
"At last I've found a master and a home."
In a day or two Tag's lameness disappeared, and his devotion to his new master was unbounded. Tode found him useful, too, for he kept vigilant watch when the boy was busy at his stand, and suffered no thievish fingers to snatch anything when Tode's eyes and fingers were too busy for him to be on the lookout. The dog was such a loving, intelligent little creature, that he quickly won his way into Nan's heart, and he evidently considered himself the guardian of Little Brother from the first day that he saw Tode and the child together. Some dogs have a way of reading hearts, and Tag knew within two minutes that Tode loved every lock on Little Brother's sunny head.
A few days after that Sabbath that the boy was never to forget, he went to see Nan and the baby, and in the course of his visit, remarked,
"Nan, I seen the bishop last Sunday."
"What bishop?" inquired Nan.
"The one that talked at the big, stone church—St. Mark's, they call it."
"I wonder 't they let you in, if you wore them ragged duds," remarked Mrs. Hunt.
"The bishop asked me to go in an' he took me in himself," retorted Tode, defiantly.
"For the land's sake," exclaimed Mrs. Hunt. "He must be a queer kind of a bishop!"
"A splendid kind of a bishop, I should think," put in Nan, and the boy responded quickly,
"He is so! I never see a man like him."
"Never see a man like him? What d'ye mean, Tode?" questioned Mrs. Hunt.
Tode looked at her as he answered slowly, "He's a great big man—looks like a king—an' his eyes look right through a feller, but they don't hurt. They ain't sharp. They're soft, an'—an'—I guess they look like a mother's eyes would. I d'know much 'bout mothers, 'cause I never had one, but I should think they'd look like his do. I tell ye," Tode faced Mrs. Hunt and spoke earnestly, "a feller'd do 'most anything that that bishop asked him to—couldn't help it."
Mrs. Hunt stared in amazement at the boy. His eyes were glowing and in his voice there was a ring of deep feeling that she had never before heard in it. It made her vaguely uncomfortable. Her Dick had never spoken so about any bishop, nor indeed, about anybody else, and here was this rough street boy whom she considered quite unfit to associate with Dick—and the bishop himself had taken him into church.
Mrs. Hunt spoke somewhat sharply. "Well, I must say you were a queer-lookin' one to set in a pew in a church like St. Mark's."
Nan looked distressed, and Tode glanced uneasily at his garments. They certainly were about as bad as they could be. Even pins and twine could not hold them together much longer.
"Tode," Mrs. Hunt went on, "I think it's high time you got yourself some better clothes. Dear knows, you need 'em if ever a boy did, an' certainly you must have money 'nough now."
"'Spect I have. I never thought about it," replied Tode.
"Well, you'd better think about it, an' 'tend to it right away. 'F you're goin' to church with bishops you'd ought to look respectable, anyhow."
Something in the tone and emphasis with which Mrs. Hunt spoke brought the colour into Tode's brown cheeks, while Nan looked at the good woman in surprise and dismay. She did not know how troubled was the mother's heart over her own boy lately, as she saw him growing rough and careless, and that it seemed to her hard that this waif of the streets should be going up while her Dick went down.
Tode thought over what had been said, and the result was that the next time he appeared he was so changed that the good woman looked twice before she recognised him. His clothes had been purchased at a secondhand store, and they might have fitted better than they did, but they were a vast improvement on what he had worn before. He had scrubbed his face as well as his hands this time, and had combed his rough hair as well as he could with the broken bit of comb which was all he possessed in the way of toilet appliances. It is no easy matter for a boy to keep himself well washed and brushed with no face cloth or towel or brush, and no wash basin save the public sink. Tode had done his best however, and Nan looked at him in pleased surprise.
"You do look nice, Tode," she said, and the boy's face brightened with satisfaction.
All through that week Tode told himself that he would not go to the church again, yet day by day the longing grew to see the bishop's face once more and to hear his voice.
"W'at's the use! O'ny makes a feller feel meaner 'n dirt," he said to himself again and again, yet the next Sabbath afternoon found him hanging about St. Mark's hoping that the bishop would ask him in again. But the minutes passed and the bishop did not appear.
"Maybe he's gone in aready," the boy thought, peering cautiously through the pillars of the entrance. There was no one in sight, and Tode crept quietly across the porch through the wide vestibule to the church door. Only the sexton was there, and his back was toward the boy as he stood looking out of the opposite door.
"Now's my time," thought Tode, and he ran swiftly and silently up the aisle to the pew where the bishop had placed him. There he hesitated. He was not sure which of several pews was the one, but with a quick glance at the sexton's back, he slipped into the nearest, and hearing the man's footsteps approaching, dropped to the floor and crawled under the seat.
The sexton came slowly down the aisle, stopping here and there to arrange books or brush off a dusty spot. He even entered the pew where Tode was, and moved the books in the rack in front, but the boy lay motionless in the shadow, and the man passed on without discovering him.
Then the people began to come in, and Tode was just about to get up and sit on the seat, when a lady and a little girl entered the pew.
The boy groaned inwardly. "They'll screech if I get up now," he thought. "Nothin' for it but to lay here till it's over. Wal', I c'n hear him anyhow."
"Him," in Tode's thought was the bishop, and he waited patiently through the early part of the service, longing to hear again that rich, strong, thrilling voice. But alas for Tode! It was not the bishop who preached that day. It was a stranger, whose low monotonous voice reached the boy so indistinctly, that he soon gave up all attempts to listen, and before the sermon was half over he was sound asleep. Fortunately he was used to hard resting-places, and he slept so quietly that the occupants of the pew did not discover his presence at all.
The music of the choir and of the organ mingled with the boy's dreams, but did not arouse him, and when the people departed and the sexton closed the church and went home, Tode still slept on in darkness and solitude.
Usually there was an evening service, but on this occasion it was omitted, the rector being ill, so when Tode at last opened his eyes, it was to find all dark and silent about him. As he started up his head struck the bottom of the seat with a force that made him cry out and drop back again. Then as he lay there he put out his hands, and feeling the cushioned seat over his head, he knew where he was and guessed what had happened.
"Wal! I was a chump to go to sleep here!" he muttered, slowly, rising with hands outstretched. "'Spect I'll have ter get out of the window."
The street lights shining through the stained glass made a faint twilight in the church, but there was something weird and strange about being there alone at that hour that set the boy's heart to beating faster than usual.
He went to one of the windows and felt about for the fastenings, but he could not reach them. They were too high. He tried them all, but none were within his reach. Then he sat down in one of the pews and wondered what he should do next. He was wide awake now. It seemed to him that he could not close his eyes again that night, and indeed it was long after midnight before he did. He felt strangely lonely as he sat there through those endless hours, dimly hearing the voices and footsteps in the street without grow fewer and fainter, till all was silent save the clocks that rang out the creeping hours to his weary ears. At last his tired eyes closed and he slipped down on the cushioned seat and slept for a few hours, but he awoke again before daylight.
It was broad daylight outside before it was light enough in the church for the boy to see clearly, and then he looked hopelessly at the high window fastenings. He had tried every door but all were securely locked.
"Nothin' t' do but wait till that ol' cove comes back," he said to himself.
Then a thought flashed across his mind—a thought that made his heart stand still with dread. "S'posin' he don't come till next Sunday?"
Tode knew nothing about midweek or daily services. But he put this terrible thought away from him.
"I'll get out somehow if I have ter smash some o' them pictures," he said aloud, as he looked up at the beautiful windows.
The minutes seemed endless while the boy walked restlessly up and down the aisles thinking of his stand, and of the customers who would seek breakfast there in vain that morning. At last he heard approaching footsteps, then a key rattled in the lock, and Tode instinctively rolled under the nearest pew and lay still, listening to the heavy footsteps of the sexton as he passed slowly about opening doors and windows. The boy waited with what patience he could until the man passed on to the further side of the church, then he slid and crawled along the carpeted aisle until he reached the door, when springing to his feet he made a dash for the street. He heard the sexton shouting angrily after him, but he paid no heed. On and on he ran until he reached his room where Tag gave him a wildly delighted welcome, and in a very short time thereafter the stand at "Tode's Corner" was doing a brisk business.