A tremendous tide of daring rose in Lemuel's breast. He was just going to go in and risk the same thing himself, when a voice in the crowd behind him said, "Hain't you had 'most enough, young feller? Some the rest of us would like a chance to see now."
Lemuel knew the voice, and turning quickly, he knew the impudent face it belonged to. He did not mind the laugh raised at his expense, but launched himself across the intervening spectators, and tried to seize the scamp who had got his money from him. The scamp had recognised Lemuel too, and he fell back beyond his grasp, and then lunged through the crowd, and tore round the corner and up the street. Lemuel followed as fast as he could. In spite of the weakness he had felt before, wrath and the sense of wrong lent him speed, and he was gaining in the chase when he heard a girl's voice, "There goes one of them now!" and then a man seemed to be calling after him, "Stop, there!" He turned round, and a policeman, looking gigantic in his belted blue flannel blouse and his straw helmet, bore down upon the country boy with his club drawn, and seized him by the collar.
"You come along," he said.
"I haven't done anything," said Lemuel, submitting, as he must, and in his surprise and terror losing the strength his wrath had given him. He could scarcely drag his feet over the pavement, and the policeman had almost to carry him at arm's length.
A crowd had gathered about them, and was following Lemuel and his captor, but they fell back when they reached the steps of the police-station, and Lemuel was pulled up alone, and pushed in at the door. He was pushed through another door, and found himself in a kind of office. A stout man in his shirt-sleeves was sitting behind a desk within a railing, and a large book lay open on the desk. This man, whose blue waistcoat with brass buttons marked him for some sort of officer, looked impersonally at Lemuel and then at the officer, while he chewed a quill toothpick, rolling it in his lips. "What have you got there?" he asked.
"Assaulting a girl down here, and grabbing her satchel," said the officer who had arrested Lemuel, releasing his collar and going to the door, whence he called, "You come in here, lady," and a young girl, her face red with weeping and her hair disordered, came back with him. She held a crumpled straw hat with the brim torn loose, and in spite of her disordered looks she was very pretty, with blue eyes flung very wide open, and rough brown hair, wavy and cut short, almost like a boy's. This Lemuel saw in the frightened glance they exchanged.
"This the fellow that assaulted you?" asked the man at the desk, nodding his head toward Lemuel, who tried to speak; but it was like a nightmare; he could not make any sound.
"There were three of them," said the girl with hysterical volubility. "One of them pulled my hat down over my eyes and tore it, and one of them held me by the elbows behind, and they grabbed my satchel away that had a book in it that I had just got out of the library. I hadn't got it more than——"
"What name?" asked the man at the desk.
"A Young Man's Darling," said the girl, after a bashful hesitation. Lemuel had read that book just before he left home; he had not thought it was much of a book.
"The captain wants to know your name," said the officer in charge of Lemuel.
"Oh," said the girl, with mortification. "Statira Dudley."
"What age?" asked the captain.
"Nineteen last June," replied the girl with eager promptness, that must have come from shame from the blunder she had made. Lemuel was twenty, the 4th of July.
"Weight?" pursued the captain.
"Well, I hain't been weighed very lately," answered the girl, with increasing interest. "I don't know as I been weighed since I left home."
The captain looked at her judicially.
"That so? Well, you look pretty solid. Guess I'll put you down at a hundred and twenty."
"Well, I guess it's full as much as that," said the girl, with a flattered laugh.
"Dunno how high you are?" suggested the captain, glancing at her again.
"Well, yes, I do. I am just five feet two inches and a half."
"You don't look it," said the captain critically.
"Well, I am," insisted the girl, with a returning gaiety.
The captain apparently checked himself and put on a professional severity.
"Sales-lady," said the girl.
"No. 2334 Pleasant Avenue."
The captain leaned back in his arm-chair, and turned his toothpick between his lips, as he stared hard at the girl.
"Well, now," he said, after a moment, "you know you've got to come into court and testify to-morrow morning."
"Yes," said the girl, rather falteringly, with a sidelong glance at Lemuel.
"You've got to promise to do it, or else it will be my duty to have you locked up overnight."
"Have me locked up?" gasped the girl, her wide blue eyes filling with astonishment.
"Detain you as a witness," the captain explained. "Of course, we shouldn't put you in a cell; we should give you a good room, and if you ain't sure you'll appear in the morning——"
The girl was not of the sort whose tongues are paralysed by terror. "Oh, I'll be sure to appear, captain! Indeed I will, captain! You needn't lock me up, captain! Lock me up!" she broke off indignantly. "It would be a pretty idea if I was first to be robbed of my satchel and then put in prison for it overnight! A great kind of law that would be! Why, I never heard of such a thing! I think it's a perfect shame! I want to know if that's the way you do with poor things that you don't know about?"
"That's about the size of it," said the captain, permitting himself a smile, in which the officer joined.
"Well, it's a shame!" cried the girl, now carried far beyond her personal interest in the matter.
The captain laughed outright. "It is pretty rough. But what you going to do?"
"Do? Why, I'd——" But here she stopped for want of science, and added from emotion, "I'd do anything before I'd do that."
"Well," said the captain, "then I understand you'll come round to the police court and give your testimony in the morning?"
"Yes," said the girl, with a vague, compassionate glance at Lemuel, who had stood there dumb throughout the colloquy.
"If you don't, I shall have to send for you," said the captain.
"Oh, I'll come," replied the girl, in a sort of disgust, and her eyes still dwelt upon Lemuel.
"That's all," returned the captain, and the girl, accepting her dismissal, went out.
Now that it was too late, Lemuel could break from his nightmare. "Oh, don't let her go! I ain't the one! I was running after a fellow that passed off a counterfeit ten-dollar bill on me in the Common yesterday. I never touched her satchel. I never saw her before——"
"What's that?" demanded the captain sharply.
"You've got the wrong one!" cried Lemuel. "I never did anything to the girl."
"Why, you fool!" retorted the captain angrily; "why didn't you say that when she was here, instead of standing there like a dumb animal? Heigh?"
Lemuel's sudden flow of speech was stopped at its source again. His lips were locked; he could not answer a word.
The captain went on angrily. "If you'd spoke up in time, may be I might 'a' let you go. I don't want to do a man any harm if I can't do him some good. Next time, if you've got a tongue in your head, use it. I can't do anything for you now. I got to commit you."
He paused between his sentences, as if to let Lemuel speak, but the boy said nothing. The captain pulled his book impatiently toward him, and took up his pen.
"What's your name?"
"I thought may be there was a mistake all the while," said the captain to the officer, while he wrote down Lemuel's name. "But if a man hain't got sense enough to speak for himself, I can't put the words in his mouth. Age?" he demanded savagely of Lemuel.
"A hundred and thirty."
"I could see with half an eye that the girl wan't very sanguine about it. But what's the use? I couldn't tell her she was mistaken. Height?"
"Five feet six."
"I help mother carry on the farm."
"Just as I expected!" cried the captain. "Slow as a yoke of oxen. Residence?"
The captain could not contain himself. "Well, Willoughby Pastures,— or whatever your name is,—you'll get yourself into the papers this time, sure. And I must say it serves you right. If you can't speak for yourself, who's going to speak for you, do you suppose? Might send round to the girl's house——No, she wouldn't be there, ten to one. You've got to go through now. Next time don't be such an infernal fool."
The captain blotted his book and shut it.
"We'll have to lock him up here to-night," he said to the policeman. "Last batch has gone round. Better go through him." But Lemuel had been gone through before, and the officer's search of his pockets only revealed their emptiness. The captain struck a bell on his desk. "If it ain't all right, you can make it right with the judge in the morning," he added to Lemuel.
Lemuel looked up at the policeman who had arrested him. He was an elderly man, with a kindly face, squarely fringed with a chin-beard. The boy tried to speak, but he could only repeat, "I never saw her before. I never touched her."
The policeman looked at him and then at the captain.
"Too late now," said the latter. "Got to go through the mill this time. But if it ain't right, you can make it right."
Another officer had answered the bell, and the captain indicated with a comprehensive roll of his head that he was to take Lemuel away and lock him up.
"Oh, my!" moaned the boy. As they passed the door of a small room opening on an inner corridor, a smell of coffee gushed out of it; the officer stopped, and Lemuel caught sight of two gentlemen in the room with a policeman, who was saying——
"Get a cup of coffee here when we want it. Try one?" he suggested hospitably.
"No, thank you," said one of the gentlemen, with the bland respectfulness of people being shown about an institution. "How many of you are attached to this station?"
"Eighty-one," said the officer. "Largest station in town. Gang goes on at one in the morning, and another at eight, and another at six P.M." He looked inquiringly at the officer in charge of Lemuel.
"Any matches?" asked this officer.
"Everything but money," said the other, taking some matches out of his waistcoat pocket.
Lemuel's officer went ahead, lighting the gas along the corridor, and the boy followed, while the other officer brought up the rear with the visitor whom he was lecturing. They passed some neat rooms, each with two beds in it, and he answered some question: "Tramps? Not much! Give them a board when they're drunk; send 'em round to the Wayfarers' Lodge when they're sober. These officers' rooms."
Lemuel followed his officer downstairs into a basement, where on either side of a white-walled, brilliantly lighted, specklessly clean corridor, there were numbers of cells, very clean, and smelling of fresh whitewash. Each had a broad low shelf in it, and a bench opposite, a little wider than a man's body. Lemuel suddenly felt himself pushed into one of them, and then a railed door of iron was locked upon him. He stood motionless in the breadth of light and lines of shade which the gas-light cast upon him through the door, and knew the gentlemen were looking at him as their guide talked.
"Well, fill up pretty well, Sunday nights. Most the arrests for drunkenness. But all the arrests before seven o'clock sent to the City Prison. Only keep them that come in afterwards."
One of the gentlemen looked into the cell opposite Lemuel's. "There seems to be only one bunk. Do you ever put more into a cell?"
"Well, hardly ever, if they're men. Lot o' women brought in 'most always ask to be locked up together for company."
"I don't see where they sleep," said the visitor. "Do they lie on the floor?"
The officer laughed. "Sleep? They don't want to sleep. What they want to do is to set up all night, and talk it over."
Both of the visitors laughed.
"Some of the cells," resumed the officer, "have two bunks, but we hardly ever put more than one in a cell."
The visitors noticed that a section of the rail was removed in each door near the floor.
"That's to put a dipper of water through, or anything," explained the officer. "There!" he continued, showing them Lemuel's door; "see how the rails are bent there? You wouldn't think a man could squeeze through there, but we found a fellow half out o' that one night— backwards. Captain came down with a rattan and made it hot for him."
The visitors laughed, and Lemuel, in his cell, shuddered.
"I never saw anything so astonishingly clean," said one of the gentlemen. "And do you keep the gas burning here all night?"
"Yes; calculate to give 'em plenty of light," said the officer, with comfortable satisfaction in the visitor's complimentary tone.
"And the sanitary arrangements seem to be perfect, doctor," said the other visitor.
"Yes," said the officer, "we do the best we can for 'em."
The visitors made a murmur of approbation. Their steps moved away; Lemuel heard the guide saying, "Dunno what that fellow's in for. Find out in the captain's room."
"He didn't look like a very abandoned ruffian," said one of the visitors, with both pity and amusement in his voice.
Lemuel stood and leaned his head against the wall of his cell. The tears that had come to his relief in the morning when he found that he was robbed would not come now. He was trembling with famine and weakness, but he could not lie down; it would be like accepting his fate, and every fibre of his body joined his soul in rebellion against that. The hunger gnawed him incessantly, mixed with an awful sickness.
After a long time a policeman passed his door with another prisoner, a drunken woman, whom he locked into a cell at the end of the corridor. When he came back, Lemuel could endure it no longer. "Say!" he called huskily through his door. "Won't you give me a cup of that coffee upstairs? I haven't had anything but an apple to eat for nearly two days. I don't want you to give me the coffee. You can take my clasp button——"
The officer went by a few steps, then he came back, and peered in through the door at Lemuel's face. "Oh! that's you?" he said: he was the officer who had arrested Lemuel.
"Yes. Please get me the coffee. I'm afraid I shall have a fit of sickness if I go much longer."
"Well," said the officer, "I guess I can get you something." He went away, and came back, after Lemuel had given up the hope of his return, with a saucerless cup of coffee, and a slice of buttered bread laid on the top of it. He passed it in through the opening at the bottom of the door.
"Oh, my!" gasped the starving boy. He thought he should drop the cup, his hand shook so when he took it. He gulped the coffee, and swallowed the bread in a frenzy.
"Here—here's the button," he said, as he passed the empty cup out to the officer.
"I don't want your button," answered the policeman. He hesitated a moment. "I shall be round at the court in the morning, and I guess if it ain't right we can make it so."
"Thank you, sir," said Lemuel, humbly grateful.
"You lay down now," said the officer. "We shan't put anybody in on you to-night."
"I guess I better," said Lemuel. He crept in upon the lower shelf, and stretched himself out in his clothes, with his arm under his head for a pillow. The drunken woman at the end of the corridor was clamouring to get out. She wished to get out just half a minute, she said, and settle with that hussy; then she would come back willingly. Sometimes she sang, sometimes she swore; but with the coffee still sensibly hot in his stomach, and the comfort of it in every vein, her uproar turned into an agreeable fantastic medley for Lemuel, and he thought it was the folks singing in church at Willoughby Pastures, and they were all asking him who the new girl in the choir was, and he was saying Statira Dudley; and then it all slipped off into a smooth, yellow nothingness, and he heard some one calling him to get up.
When he woke in the morning he started up so suddenly that he struck his head against the shelf above him, and lay staring stupidly at the iron-work of his door.
He heard the order to turn out repeated at other cells along the corridor, and he crept out of his shelf, and then sat down upon it, waiting for his door to be unlocked. He was very hungry again, and he trembled with faintness. He wondered how he should get his breakfast, and he dreaded the trial in court less than the thought of going through another day with nothing to eat. He heard the stir of the other prisoners in the cells along the corridors, the low groans and sighs with which people pull themselves together after a bad night; and he heard the voice of the drunken woman, now sober, poured out in voluble remorse, and in voluble promise of amendment for the future, to every one who passed, if they would let her off easy. She said aisy, of course, and it was in her native accent that she bewailed the fate of the little ones whom her arrest had left motherless at home. No one seemed to answer her, but presently she broke into a cry of joy and blessing, and from her cell at the other end of the corridor came the clink of crockery. Steps approached with several pauses, and at last they paused at Lemuel's door, and a man outside stooped and pushed in, through the opening at the bottom, a big bowl of baked beans, a quarter of a loaf of bread, and a tin cup full of coffee. "Coffee's extra," he said jocosely. "Comes from the officers. You're in luck, young feller."
"I ha'n't got anything to pay for it with," faltered Lemuel.
"Guess they'll trust you," said the man. "Any-rate, I got orders to leave it." He passed on, and Lemuel gathered up his breakfast, and arranged it on the shelf where he had slept; then he knelt down before it, and ate.
An hour later an officer came and unbolted his door from the outside. "Hurry up," he said; "Maria's waiting."
"Maria?" repeated Lemuel innocently.
"Yes," returned the officer. "Other name's Black. She don't like to wait. Come out of here."
Lemuel found himself in the corridor with four or five other prisoners, whom some officers took in charge and conducted upstairs to the door of the station. He saw no woman, but a sort of omnibus without windows was drawn up at the curbstone.
"I thought," he said to an officer, "that there was a lady waiting to see me. Maria Black," he added, seeing that the officer did not understand.
The policeman roared, and could not help putting his head in at the office door to tell the joke.
"Well, you must introduce him," called a voice from within.
"Guess you ha'n't got the name exactly straight, young man," said the policeman to Lemuel, as he guarded him down the steps. "It's Black Maria you're looking for. There she is," he continued, pointing to the omnibus, "and don't you forget it. She's particular to have folks recognise her. She's blacker 'n she's painted."
The omnibus was, in fact, a sort of aesthetic drab, relieved with salmon, as Lemuel had time to notice before he was hustled into it with the other prisoners, and locked in.
There were already several there, and as Lemuel's eyes accustomed themselves to the light that came in through the little panes at the sides of the roof, he could see that they were women; and by and by he saw that two of them were the saucy girls who had driven him from his seat in the Common that day, and laughed so at him. They knew him too, and one of them set up a shrill laugh. "Hello, Johnny! That you? You don't say so? What you up for this time? Going down to the Island? Well, give us a call there! Do be sociable! Ward 11's the address." The other one laughed, and then swore at the first for trying to push her off the seat.
Lemuel broke out involuntarily in all the severity that was native to him. "You ought to be ashamed of yourselves."
This convulsed the bold things with laughter. When they could get their breath, one of them said, "Pshaw! I know what he's up for: preaching on the Common. Say, young feller! don't you want to hold a prayer-meetin' here?"
They burst into another shriek of laughter, so wild and shrill that the driver rapped on the roof, and called down, "Dry up in there!"
"Oh, you mind your horses, and we'll look after the passengers. Go and set on his knee, Jen, and cheer him up a little."
Lemuel sat in a quiver of abhorrence. The girl appealed to remained giggling beside her companion.
"I—I pity ye!" said Lemuel.
The Irishwoman had not stopped bewailing herself, and imploring right and left an easy doom. She now addressed herself wholly to Lemuel, whose personal dignity seemed to clothe him with authority in her eyes. She told him about her children, left alone with no one to look after them; the two little girls, the boy only three years old. When the van stopped at a station to take in more passengers, she tried to get out—to tell the gentlemen at the office about it, she said.
After several of these halts they stopped at the basement of a large stone building, that had a wide flight of steps in front, and columns, like the church at Willoughby Pastures, only the church steps were wood, and the columns painted pine. Here more officers took charge of them, and put them in a room where there were already twenty-five or thirty other prisoners, the harvest of the night before; and presently another van-load was brought in.
There were many women among them, but here there was no laughing or joking as there had been in the van. Scarcely any one spoke, except the Irishwoman, who crept up to an officer at the door from time to time, and begged him to tell the judge to let her have it easy this time. Lemuel could not help seeing that she and most of the others were familiar with the place. Those two saucy jades who had mocked him were silent, and had lost their bold looks.
After waiting what seemed a long time, the door was opened, and they were driven up a flight of stairs into a railed enclosure at the corner of a large room, where they remained huddled together, while a man at a long desk rattled over something that ended with "God bless the commonwealth of Massachusetts." On a platform behind the speaker sat a grey-haired man in spectacles, and Lemuel knew that he was in the court-room, and that this must be the judge. He could not see much of the room over the top of the railing, but there was a buzz of voices and a stir of feet beyond, that made him think the place was full. But full or empty, it was the same to him; his shame could not be greater or less. He waited apathetically while the clerk read off the charges against the vastly greater number of his fellow-prisoners arrested for drunkenness. When these were disposed of, he read from the back of a paper, which he took from a fresh pile, "Bridget Gallagher, complained of for habitual drunkenness. Guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty, your honour," answered the Irishwoman who had come from Lemuel's station. "But make it aisy for me this time, judge, and ye'll never catch me in it again. I've three helpless childer at home, your honour, starvin' and cryin' for their mother. Holy Mary, make it aisy, judge!"
A laugh went round the room, which a stern voice checked with "Silence, there!" but which renewed itself when the old woman took the stand at the end of the clerk's long desk, while a policeman mounted a similar platform outside the rail, and gave his testimony against her. It was very conclusive, and it was not affected by the denials with which the poor woman gave herself away more and more. She had nothing to say when invited to do so except to beg for mercy; the judge made a few inquiries, apparently casual, of the policeman; then after a moment's silence, in which he sat rubbing his chin, he leaned forward and said quietly to the clerk,
"Give her three months."
The woman gave a wild Irish cry, "O my poor childer!" and amidst the amusement of the spectators, which the constables could not check at once, was led wailing below.
Before Lemuel could get his breath those bold girls, one after the other, were put upon the stand. The charge against them was not made the subject of public investigation; the judge and some other elderly gentleman talked it over together; and the girls, who had each wept in pleading guilty, were put on probation, as Lemuel understood it, and, weeping still and bridling a little, were left in charge of this elderly gentleman, and Lemuel saw them no more.
One case followed another, and Lemuel listened with the fascination of terror; the sentences seemed terribly severe, and out of all proportion to the offences. Suddenly his own name was called. His name had been called in public places before: at the school exhibitions, where he had taken prizes in elocution and composition; in church, once, when the minister had mentioned him for peculiar efficiency and zeal among other Sabbath-school teachers. It was sacred to him for his father's sake, who fell in the war, and who was recorded in it on the ugly, pathetic monument on the village green; and hitherto he had made it respected and even honoured, and had tried all the harder to keep it so because his family was poor, and his mother had such queer ways and dressed so. He dragged himself to the stand which he knew he must mount, and stole from under his eyelashes a glance at the court-room, which took it all in. There were some people, whom he did not know for reporters, busy with their pencils next the railings; and there was a semicircular table in the middle of the room at which a large number of policemen sat, and they had their straw helmets piled upon it, with the hats of the lawyers who sat among them. Beyond, the seats which covered the floor were filled with the sodden loafers whom the law offers every morning the best dramatic amusement in the city. Presently, among the stupid eyes fixed upon him, Lemuel was aware of the eyes of that fellow who had passed the counterfeit money on him; and when this scamp got up and coolly sauntered out of the room, Lemuel was held in such a spell that he did not hear the charge read against him, or the clerk's repeated demand, "Guilty or not guilty?"
He was recalled to himself by the voice of the judge. "Young man, do you understand? Are you guilty of assaulting this lady and taking her satchel, or not?"
"Not guilty," said Lemuel huskily; and he looked, not at the judge, but at the pretty girl, who confronted him from a stand at the other end of the clerk's desk, blushing to find herself there up to her wide-flung blue eyes. Lemuel blushed too, and dropped his eyes; and it seemed to him in a crazy kind of way that it was impolite to have pleaded not guilty against her accusation. He stood waiting for the testimony which the judge had to prompt her to offer.
"State the facts in regard to the assault," he said gravely.
"I don't know as I can do it, very well," began the girl.
"We shall be satisfied if you do your best," said the judge, with the glimmer of a smile, which spread to a laugh among the spectators, unrebuked by the constables, since the judge had invited it.
In this atmosphere of sympathy the girl found her tongue, and with a confiding twist, of her pretty head began again: "Well, now, I'll tell you just how it was. I'd just got my book out of the Public Library, and I was going down Neponset Street on my way home, hurrying along, because I see it was beginning to be pretty late, and the first thing I know somebody pulled my hat down over my eyes, and tore the brim half off, so I don't suppose I can ever wear it again, it's such a lookin' thing; any rate it ain't the one I've got on, though it's some like it; and then the next thing, somebody grabbed away the satchel I'd got on my arm; and as soon as I could get my eyes clear again, I see two fellows chasin' up the street, and I told the officer somebody'd got my book; and I knew it was one of those fellows runnin' away, and I said, 'There they go now,' and the officer caught the hind one, and I guess the other one got away; and the officer told me to follow along to the station-house, and when we got there they took my name, and where I roomed, and my age——"
"Do you recognise this young man as one of the persons who robbed you?" interrupted the judge, nodding his head toward Lemuel, who now lifted his head and looked his accuser fearlessly in her pretty eyes.
"Why, no!" she promptly replied. "The first thing I knew, he'd pulled my hat over my eyes."
"But you recognise him as one of those you saw running away?"
"Oh yes, he's one of them," said the girl.
"What made you think he had robbed you?"
"Why, because my satchel was gone!" returned the girl, with logic that apparently amused the gentlemen of the bar.
"But why did you think he had taken it?"
"Because I see him running away."
"You couldn't swear that he was the one who took your satchel?"
"Why, of course not! I didn't see him till I saw him running. And I don't know as he was the one, now," added the girl, in a sudden burst of generosity.
"And if it was to do over again, I should say as much to the officers at the station. But I got confused when they commenced askin' me who I was, and how much I weighed, and what my height was; and he didn't say anything; and I got to thinkin' may be it was; and when they told me that if I didn't promise to appear at court in the morning they'd have to lock me up, I was only too glad to get away alive."
By this time all the blackguard audience were sharing, unchecked, the amusement of the bar. The judge put up his hand to hide a laugh. Then he said to Lemuel, "Do you wish to question the plaintiff?"
The two young things looked at each other, and both blushed. "No," said Lemuel.
The girl looked at the judge for permission, and at a nod from him left the stand and sat down.
The officer who had arrested Lemuel took the stand on the other side of the rail from him, and corroborated the girl's story; but he had not seen the assault or robbery, and could not swear to either. Then Lemuel was invited to speak, and told his story with the sort of nervous courage that came to him in extremity. He told it from the beginning, and his adventure with the two beats in the Common made the audience laugh again. Even then, Lemuel could not see the fun of it; he stopped, and the stout ushers in blue flannel sacks commanded silence. Then Lemuel related how he had twice seen one of the beats since that time, but he was ashamed to say how he had let him escape out of that very room half an hour before. He told how he had found the beat in the crowd before the saloon, and how he was chasing him up the street when he heard the young lady hollo out, "There they go now!" and then the officer arrested him.
The judge sat a moment in thought; then said quietly, "The charge is dismissed;" and before Lemuel well knew what it meant, a gate was opened at the stand, and he was invited to pass out. He was free. The officer who had arrested him shook his hand in congratulation and excuse, and the lawyers and the other policemen gave him a friendly glance. The loafers and beats of the audience did not seem to notice him. They were already intent upon a case of coloured assault and battery which had been called, and which opened with the promise of uncommon richness, both of the parties being women.
Lemuel saw that girl who had accused him passing down the aisle on the other side of the room. She was with another girl, who looked older. Lemuel walked fast, to get out of their way; he did not know why, but he did not want to speak to the girl. They walked fast too, and when he got down the stairs on to the ground floor of the court- house they overtook him.
"Say?" said the older girl, "I want to speak to you. I think it's a down shame, the way that you've been treated; and Statira, she feels jus' 's I do about it; and I tell her she's got to say so. It's the least she can do, I tell her, after what she got you in for. My name's 'Manda Grier; I room 'th S'tira; 'n' I come 'th her this mornin' t' help keep her up; b't I didn't know 't was goin' to be s'ch a perfect flat-out!"
As the young woman rattled on she grew more and more glib; she was what they call whopper-jawed, and spoke a language almost purely consonantal, cutting and clipping her words with a rapid play of her whopper-jaw till there was nothing but the bare bones left of them. Statira was crying, and Lemuel could not bear to see her cry. He tried to say something to comfort her, but all he could think of was, "I hope you'll get your book back," and 'Manda Grier answered for her——
"Oh, I guess 't ain't the book 't she cares for. S' far forth 's the book goes, I guess she can afford to buy another book, well enough. B't I tell her she's done 'n awful thing, and a thing 't she'll carry to her grave 'th her, 'n't she'll remember to her dyin' day. That's what I tell her."
"She ha'n't got any call to feel bad about it," said Lemuel clumsily. "It was just a mistake." Then, not knowing what more to say, he said, being come to the outer door by this time, "Well, I wish you good morning."
"Well, good morning," said 'Manda Grier, and she thrust her elbow sharply into Statira Dudley's side, so that she also said faintly—
"Well, good morning!" She was fluent enough on the witness-stand and in the police station, but now she could not find a word to say.
The three stood together on the threshold of the court-house, not knowing how to get away from one another.
'Manda Grier put out her hand to Lemuel. He took it, and, "Well, good morning," he said again.
"Well, good morning," repeated 'Manda Grier.
Then Statira put out her hand, and she and Lemuel shook hands, and said together, "Well, good morning," and on these terms of high civility they parted. He went one way and they another. He did not look back, but the two girls, marching off with locked arms and flying tongues, when they came to the corner, turned to look back. They both turned inward, and so bumped their heads together.
"Why, you—coot!" cried 'Manda Grier, and they broke out laughing.
Lemuel heard their laugh, and he knew they were laughing at him; but he did not care. He wandered on, he did not know whither, and presently he came to the only place he could remember.
The place was the Common, where his trouble had begun. He looked back to the beginning, and could see that it was his own fault. To be sure, you might say that if a fellow came along and offered to pay you fifty cents for changing a ten-dollar bill, you had a right to take it; but there was a voice in Lemuel's heart which warned him that greed to another's hurt was sin, and that if you took too much for a thing from a necessitous person, you oppressed and robbed him. You could make it appear otherwise, but you could not really change the nature of the act. He owned this with a sigh, and he owned himself justly punished. He was still on those terms of personal understanding with the eternal spirit of right which most of us lose later in life, when we have so often seemed to see the effect fail to follow the cause, both in the case of our own misdeeds and the misdeeds of others.
He sat down on a bench, and he sat there all day, except when he went to drink from the tin cup dangling by the chain from the nearest fountain. His good breakfast kept him from being hungry for a while, but he was as aimless and as hopeless as ever, and as destitute. He would have gone home now if he had had the money; he was afraid they would be getting anxious about him there, though he had not made any particular promises about the time of returning. He had dropped a postal card into a box as soon as he reached Boston, to tell of his safe arrival, and they would not expect him to write again.
There were only two ways for him to get home: to turn tramp and walk back, or to go to that Mr. Sewell and borrow the money to pay his passage. To walk home would add intolerably to the public shame he must suffer, and the thought of going to Mr. Sewell was, even in the secret which it would remain between him and the minister, a pang so cruel to his pride that he recoiled from it instantly. He said to himself he would stand it one day more; something might happen, and if nothing happened, he should think of it again. In the meantime he thought of other things: of that girl, among the rest, and how she looked at the different times. As nearly as he could make out, she seemed to be a very fashionable girl; at any rate, she was dressed fashionably, and she was nice-looking. He did not know whether she had behaved very sensibly, but he presumed she was some excited.
Toward dark, when Lemuel was reconciling himself to another night's sleep in the open air, a policeman sauntered along the mall, and as he drew nearer the boy recognised his friendly captor. He dropped his head, but it was too late. The officer knew him, and stopped before him.
"Well," he said, "hard at it, I see."
Lemuel made no answer, but he was aware of a friendly look in the officer's face, mixed with fatherly severity.
"I was in hopes you had started back to Willoughby Pastures before this. You don't want to get into the habit of settin' round on the Common, much. First thing you know you can't quit it. Where you goin' to put up to-night?" "I don't know," murmured Lemuel.
"Got no friends in town you can go to?"
"Well, now, look here! Do you think you could find your way back to the station?"
"I guess so," said Lemuel, looking up at the officer questioningly.
"Well, when you get tired of this, you come round, and we'll provide a bed for you. And you get back home to-morrow, quick as you can."
"Thank you," said Lemuel. He was helpless against the advice and its unjust implication, but he could not say anything.
"Get out o' Boston, anyway, wherever you go or don't go," continued the officer. "It's a bad place."
He walked on, and left Lemuel to himself again. He thought bitterly that no one knew better than himself how luridly wicked Boston was, and that there was probably not a soul in it more helplessly anxious to get out of it. He thought it hard to be talked to as if it were his fault; as if he wished to become a vagrant and a beggar. He sat there an hour or two longer, and then he took the officer's advice so far as concerned his going to the station for a bed, swallowing his pride as he must. He must do that, or he must go to Mr. Sewell. It was easier to accept humiliation at the hands of strangers. He found his way there with some difficulty, and slinking in at the front door, he waited at the threshold of the captain's room while he and two or three officers disposed of a respectably dressed man, whom a policeman was holding up by the collar of his coat. They were searching his pockets and taking away his money, his keys, and his pencil and penknife, which the captain sealed up in a large envelope, and put into his desk.
"There! take him and lock him up. He's pretty well loaded," said the captain.
Then he looked up and saw Lemuel. "Hello! Can't keep away, eh?" he demanded jocosely. "Well, we've heard about you. I told you the judge would make it all right. What's wanted? Bed? Well, here!" The captain filled up a blank which he took from a pigeon-hole, and gave it to Lemuel. "I guess that'll fix you out for the night. And tomorrow you put back to Willoughby Pastures tight as you can get there. You're on the wrong track now. First thing you know you'll be a professional tramp, and then you won't be worth the powder to blow you. I use plain talk with you because you're a beginner. I wouldn't waste my breath on that fellow behind you."
Lemuel looked round, and almost touched with his a face that shone fiery red through the rusty growth of a week's beard, and recoiled from a figure that was fouler as to shirt and coat and trousers than anything the boy had seen; though the tramps used to swarm through Willoughby Pastures before the Selectmen began to lock them up in the town poorhouse and set them to breaking stone. There was no ferocity in the loathsome face; it was a vagrant swine that looked from it, no worse in its present mood than greedy and sleepy.
"Bed?" demanded the captain, writing another blank. "Never been here before, I suppose?" he continued with good-natured irony. "I don't seem to remember you."
The captain laughed, and the tramp returned a husky "Thank you, sir," and took himself off into the street.
Then the captain came to Lemuel's help. "You follow him," he said, "and you'll come to a bed by and by."
He went out, and, since he could do no better, did as he was bid. He had hardly ever seen a drunken man at Willoughby Pastures, where the prohibition law was strictly enforced; there was no such person as a thief in the whole community, and the tramps were gone long ago. Yet here was he, famed at home for the rectitude of his life and the loftiness of his aims, consorting with drunkards and thieves and tramps, and warned against what he was doing by a policeman, as if he was doing it of his own will. It was very strange business. If it was all a punishment for taking that fellow's half-dollar, it was pretty heavy punishment. He was not going to say that it was unjust, but he would say it was hard. His spirit was now so bruised and broken that he hardly knew what to think.
He followed the tramp as far off as he could and still keep him in sight, and he sometimes thought he had lost him, in the streets that climbed and crooked beyond the Common towards the quarter whither they were going; but he reappeared, slouching and shambling rapidly on, in the glare of some electric lights that stamped the ground with shadows thick and black as if cut in velvet or burnt into the surface. Here and there some girl brushed against the boy, and gave him a joking or jeering word; her face flashed into light for a moment, and then vanished in the darkness she passed into. It was that hot October, and the night was close and still; on the steps of some of the houses groups of fat, weary women were sitting, and children were playing on the sidewalks, using the lamp-posts for goal or tag. The tramp ahead of Lemuel issued upon a brilliantly lighted little square, with a great many horse-cars coming and going in it; a church with stores on the ground floor, and fronting it on one side a row of handsome old stone houses with iron fences, and on another a great hotel, with a high-pillared portico, where men sat talking and smoking.
People were waiting on the sidewalk to take the cars; a druggist's window threw its mellow lights into the street; from open cellar- ways came the sound of banjos and violins. At one of these cellar doors his guide lingered so long that Lemuel thought he should have to find the way beyond for himself. But the tramp suddenly commanded himself from the music, the light, and the smell of strong drink, which Lemuel caught a whiff of as he followed, and turning a corner led the way to the side of a lofty building in a dark street, where they met other like shapes tending toward it from different directions.
Lemuel entered a lighted doorway from a bricked courtyard, and found himself with twenty or thirty houseless comrades in a large, square room, with benching against the wall for them to sit on. They were all silent and quelled-looking, except a young fellow whom Lemuel sat down beside, and who, ascertaining that he was a new-comer, seemed disposed to do the honours of the place. He was not daunted by the reserve native to Lemuel, or by that distrust of strangers which experience had so soon taught him. He addressed him promptly as mate, and told him that the high, narrow, three-sided tabling in the middle of the room was where they would get their breakfast, if they lived.
"And I guess I shall live," he said. "I notice I 'most always live till breakfast-time, whatever else I do, or I don't do; but sometimes it don't seem as if I could saw my way through that quarter of a cord of wood." At a glance of inquiry which Lemuel could not forbear, he continued: "What I mean by a quarter of a cord of wood is that they let you exercise that much free in the morning, before they give you your breakfast: it's the doctor's orders. This used to be a school-house, but it's in better business now. They got a kitchen under here, that beats the Parker House; you'll smell it pretty soon. No whacking on the knuckles here any more. All serene, I tell you. You'll see. I don't know how I should got along without this institution, and I tell the manager so, every time I see him. That's him, hollering 'Next,' out of that room there. It's a name he gives all of us; he knows it's a name we'll answer to. Don't you forget it when it comes your turn."
He was younger than Lemuel, apparently, but his swarthy, large- mouthed, droll eyed face affirmed the experience of a sage. He wore a blue flannel shirt, with loose trousers belted round his waist, and he crushed a soft felt hat between his hands; his hair was clipped close to his skull, and as he rubbed it now and then it gave out a pleasant rasping sound.
The tramps disappeared in the order of their vicinity to the manager's door, and it came in time to this boy and Lemuel.
"You come along with me," he said, "and do as I do." When they entered the presence of the manager, who sat at a desk, Lemuel's guide nodded to him, and handed over his order for a bed.
"Ever been here before?" asked the manager, as if going through the form for a joke.
"Never." He took a numbered card which the manager gave him, and stood aside to wait for Lemuel, who made the same answer to the same question, and received his numbered card.
"Now," said the young fellow, as they passed out of another door, "we ain't either of us 'Next,' any more. I'm Thirty-nine, and you're Forty, and don't you forget it. All right, boss," he called back to the manager; "I'll take care of him! This way," he said to Lemuel. "The reason why I said I'd never been here before," he explained on the way down, "was because you got to say something, when he asks you. Most of 'em says last fall or last year, but I say never, because it's just as true, and he seems to like it better. We're going down to the dressing-room now, and then we're going to take a bath. Do you know why?"
"No," said Lemuel.
"Because we can't help it. It's the doctor's orders. He thinks it's the best thing you can do, just before you go to bed."
The basement was brightly lighted with gas everywhere, and a savoury odour of onion-flavoured broth diffused itself through the whole place.
"Smell it? You might think that was supper, but it ain't. It's breakfast. You got a bath and a night's rest as well as the quarter of a cord of wood between you and that stew. Hungry?"
"Not very," said Lemuel faintly.
"Because if you say you are they'll give you all the bread and water you can hold, now. But I ruther wait."
"I guess I don't want anything to-night," said Lemuel, shrinking from the act of beggary.
"Well, I guess you won't lose anything in the long run," said the other. "You'll make it up at breakfast."
They turned into a room where eight or ten tramps were undressing; some of them were old men, quite sodden and stupefied with a life of vagrancy and privation; others were of a dull or cunning middle-age, two or three were as young as Lemuel and his partner, and looked as if they might be poor fellows who had found themselves in a strange city without money or work. But it was against them that they had known where to come for a night's shelter, Lemuel felt.
There were large iron hooks hanging from the walls and ceiling, and his friend found the numbers on two of them corresponding to those given Lemuel and himself, and brass checks which they hung around their necks.
"You got to hang your things on that hook, all but your shoes and stockings, and you got to hang on to them, yourself. Forty's your number, and forty's your hook, and they give you the clothes off'n it in the morning."
He led the way through the corridor into a large room where a row of bath-tubs flanked the wall, half of them filled with bathers, who chatted in tones of subdued cheerfulness under the pleasant excitement of unlimited hot and cold water. As each new-comer appeared, a black boy, perched on a windowsill, jumped down and dashed his head from a large bottle which he carried.
"Free shampoo," explained Lemuel's mate. "Doctor's orders. Only you have to do the rubbing yourself. I don't suppose you need it, but some the pardners here couldn't sleep without it," he continued, as Lemuel shrank a little from the bottle, and then submitted. "It's a regular night-cap."
The tramps recognised the humour of the explanation by a laugh, intended to be respectful to the establishment in its control, which spread along their line, and the black boy grinned.
"There ain't anything mean about the Wayfarer's Hotel," said the mate, and they all laughed again, a little louder.
Each man, having dried himself from his bath, was given a coarse linen night-gown; sometimes it was not quite whole, but it was always clean; and then he gathered up his shoes and stockings and went out.
"Hold on a minute," said the mate to Lemuel, when they left the bath-room. "You ought to see the kitchen," and in his night-gown, with his shoes in his hand, he led Lemuel to the open door which that delicious smell of broth came from. A vast copper-topped boiler was bubbling within, and trying to get its lid off. The odour made Lemuel sick with hunger.
"Refrigerator in the next room," the mate lectured on. "Best beef- chucks in the market; fish for Fridays—we don't make any man go against his religion, in this house; pots of butter as big as a cheese,—none of your oleomargarine,—the real thing, every time; potatoes and onions and carrots laying around on the floor; barrels of hard-tack; and bread, like sponge,—bounce you up if you was to jump on it,—baked by the women at the Chardon Street Home—oh, I tell you we do things in style here."
A man who sat reading a newspaper in the corner looked up sharply. "Hello, there! what's wanted?"
"Just dropped in to wish you good night, Jimmy," said Lemuel's mate.
"You clear out!" said the man good-humouredly, as if to an old acquaintance, who must not be allowed to presume upon his familiarity.
"All right, Jimmy," said the boy. He set his left hand horizontally on its wrist at his left shoulder and cut the air with it in playful menace as the man dropped his eyes again to his paper. "They're all just so, in this house," he explained to Lemuel. "No nonsense, but good-natured. They're all right. They know me."
He mounted two flights of stairs in front of Lemuel to a corridor, where an attendant stood examining the numbers on the brass checks hung around tramps' necks as they came up with their shoes in their hands. He instructed them that the numbers corresponded to the cots they were to occupy, as well as the hooks where their clothes hung. Some of them seemed hardly able to master the facts. They looked wistfully, like cowed animals, into his face as he made the case clear.
Two vast rooms, exquisitely clean, like the whole house, opened on the right and left of the corridor, and presented long phalanxes of cots, each furnished with two coarse blankets, a quilt, and a thin pillow.
"Used to be school-rooms," said Lemuel's mate, in a low tone.
"Cots thirty-nine and forty," said the attendant, looking at their checks. "Right over there, in the corner."
"Come along," said the mate, leading the way, with the satisfaction of an habitue. "Best berth in the room, and about the last they reach in the morning. You see, they got to take us as we come, when they call us, and the last feller in at night's the first feller out in the morning, because his bed's the nearest the door."
He did not pull down the blankets of his cot at once, but stretched himself out in the quilt that covered them. "Cool off a little, first," he explained. "Well, this is what I call comfort, mate, heigh?"
Lemuel did not answer. He was watching the attendant with a group of tramps who could not find their cots.
"Can't read, I suppose," said the mate, a little disdainfully. "Well, look at that old chap, will you!" A poor fellow was fumbling with his blankets, as if he did not know quite how to manage them. The attendant had to come to his help, and tuck him in. "Well, there!" exclaimed the mate, lifting himself on his elbow to admire the scene. "I don't suppose he's ever been in a decent bed before. Hayloft's his style, or a board-pile." He sank down again, and went on: "Well, you do see all kinds of folks here, that's a fact. Sorry there ain't more in to-night, so 's to give you a specimen. You ought to be here in the winter. Well, it ain't so lonesome now, in summer, as it used to be. Sometimes I used to have nearly the whole place to myself, summer nights, before they got to passin' these laws against tramps in the country, and lockin' 'em up when they ketched 'em. That drives 'em into the city summers, now; because they're always sure of a night's rest and a day's board here if they ask for it. But winter's the time. You'll see all these cots full, then. They let on the steam-heat, and it's comfortable; and it's always airy and healthy." The vast room was, in fact, perfectly ventilated, and the poor who housed themselves that night, and many well-to-do sojourners in hotels, had reason to envy the vagrants their free lodging.
The mate now got under his quilt, and turned his face toward Lemuel, with one hand under his cheek. "They don't let everybody into this room, 's I was tellin' ye. This room is for the big-bugs, you know. Sometimes a drunk will get in, though, in spite of everything. Why, I've seen a drunk at the station-house, when I've been gettin' my order for a bed, stiffen up so 't the captain himself thought he was sober; and then I've followed him round here, wobblin' and corkscrewin' all over the sidewalk; and then I've seen him stiffen up in the office again, and go through his bath like a little man, and get into bed as drunk as a fish; and may be wake up in the night with the man with the poker after him, and make things hum. Well, sir, one night there was a drunk in here that thought the man with the poker was after him, and he just up and jumped out of this window behind you—three stories from the ground."
Lemuel could not help lifting himself in bed to look at it. "Did it kill him?" he asked. "Kill him? No! You can't kill a drunk. One night there was a drunk got loose, here, and he run downstairs into the wood-yard, and he got hold of an axe down there, and it took five men to get that axe away from that drunk. He was goin' for the snakes."
"The snakes," repeated Lemuel. "Are there snakes in the wood-yard?"
The other gave a laugh so loud that the attendant called out, "Less noise over there!"
"I'll tell you about the snakes in the morning," said the mate; and he turned his face away from Lemuel.
The stories of the drunks had made Lemuel a little anxious; but he thought that attendant would keep a sharp lookout, so that there would not really be much danger. He was very drowsy from his bath, in spite of the hunger that tormented him, but he tried to keep awake and think what he should do after breakfast.
"Come, turn out!" said a voice in his ear, and he started up, to see the great dormitory where he had fallen asleep empty of all but himself and his friend.
"Make out a night's rest?" asked the latter. "Didn't I tell you we'd be the last up? Come along!" He preceded Lemuel, still drowsy, down the stairs into the room where they had undressed, and where the tramps were taking each his clothes from their hook, and hustling them on.
"What time is it, Johnny?" asked Lemuel's mate of the attendant. "I left my watch under my pillow."
"Five o'clock," said the man, helping the poor old fellow who had not known how to get into bed to put on his clothes.
"Well, that's a pretty good start," said the other. He finished his toilet by belting himself around the waist, and "Come along, mate," he said to Lemuel. "I'll show you the way to the tool-room."
He led him through the corridor into a chamber of the basement where there were bright rows of wood-saws, and ranks of saw-horses, with heaps of the latter in different stages of construction. "House self-supporting, as far as it can. We don't want to be beholden to anybody if we can help it. We make our own horses here; but we can't make our saws, or we would. Ever had much practice with the wood- saw?"
"No," said Lemuel, with a throb of home-sickness, that brought back the hacked log behind the house, and the axe resting against it; "we always chopped our stove-wood."
"Yes, that's the way in the country. Well, now," said the other, "I'll show you how to choose a saw. Don't you be took in by no new saw because it's bright, and looks pretty. You want to take a saw that's been filed, and filed away till it ain't more 'n an inch and a half deep; and then you want to tune it up, just so,—like a banjo—not too tight, and not too slack,—and then it'll slip through a stick o' wood like—lyin'." He selected a saw, and put it in order for Lemuel. "There!" He picked out another. "Here's my old stand-by!" He took up a saw-horse, at random, to indicate that one need not be critical in that, and led through the open door into the wood-yard, where a score or two of saws were already shrilling and wheezing through the wood.
It was a wide and lofty shed, with piles of cord-wood and slabs at either end, and walled on the farther side with kindling, sawed, split, and piled up with admirable neatness. The place gave out the sweet smell of the woods from the bark of the logs and from the fresh section of their grain. A double rank of saw-horses occupied the middle space, and beside each horse lay a quarter of a cord of wood, at which the men were toiling in sullen silence for the most part, only exchanging a grunt or snarl of dissatisfaction with one another.
"Morning, mates," said Lemuel's friend cheerfully, as he entered the shed, and put his horse down beside one of the piles. "Thought we'd look in and see how you was gettin' along. Just stepped round from the Parker House while our breakfast was a-cookin'. Hope you all rested well?"
The men paused, with their saws at different slopes in the wood, and looked round. The night before, in the nakedness in which Lemuel had first seen them, the worst of them had the inalienable comeliness of nature, and their faces, softened by their relation to their bodies, were not so bad; they were not so bad, looking from their white nightgowns; but now, clad in their filthy rags, and caricatured out of all native dignity by their motley and misshapen attire, they were a hideous gang, and all the more hideous for the grin that overspread their stubbly muzzles at the boy's persiflage.
"Don't let me interrupt you, fellows," he said, flinging a log upon his horse, and dashing his saw gaily into it. "Don't mind me! I know you hate to lose a minute of this fun; I understand just how you feel about it, and I don't want you to stand upon ceremony with me. Treat me just like one of yourselves, gents. This beech- wood is the regular Nova Scotia thing, ain't it? Tough and knotty! I can't bear any of your cheap wood-lot stuff from around here. What I want is Nova Scotia wood, every time. Then I feel that I'm gettin' the worth of my money." His log dropped apart on each side of his horse, and he put on another. "Well, mates," he rattled on, "this is lovely, ain't it? I wouldn't give up my little quarter of a cord of green Nova Scotia before breakfast for anything; I've got into the way of it, and I can't live without it."
The tramps chuckled at these ironies, and the attendant who looked into the yard now and then did not interfere with them.
The mate went through his stint as rapidly as he talked, and he had nearly finished before Lemuel had half done. He did not offer to help him, but he delayed the remnant of his work, and waited for him to catch up, talking all the while with gay volubility, joking this one and that, and keeping the whole company as cheerful as it was in their dull, sodden nature to be. He had a floating eye that harmonised with his queer, mobile face, and played round on the different figures, but mostly upon Lemuel's dogged, rustic industry as if it really amused him.
"What's your lay, after breakfast?" he asked, as they came to the last log together.
"Lay?" repeated Lemuel.
"What you goin' to do?"
"I don't know; I can't tell yet."
"You know," said the other, "you can come back here, and get your dinner, if you want to saw wood for it from ten till twelve, and you get your supper if you'll saw from five to six."
"Are you going to do that?" asked Lemuel cautiously.
"No, sir," said the other; "I can't spare the time. I'm goin' to fill up for all day, at breakfast, and then I'm goin' up to lay round on the Common till it's time to go to the Police Court; and when that's over I'm goin' back to the Common ag'in, and lay round the rest of the day. I hain't got any leisure for no such nonsense as wood-sawin'. I don't mind the work, but I hate to waste the time. It's the way with most o' the pardners, unless it's the green hands. That so, pards?"
Some of them had already gone in to breakfast; the smell of the stew came out to the wood-yard through the open door. Lemuel and his friend finished their last stick at the same time, and went in together, and found places side by side at the table in the waiting- room. The attendant within its oblong was serving the men with heavy quart bowls of the steaming broth. He brought half a loaf of light, elastic bread with each, and there were platters of hard-tack set along the board, which every one helped himself from freely, and broke into his broth.
"Morning, Jimmy," said the mate, as the man brought him and Lemuel their portions. "I hate to have the dining-room chairs off a paintin' when there's so much style about everything else, and I've got a visitor with me. But I tell him he'll have to take us as he finds us, and stand it this mornin'." He wasted no more words on his joke, but plunging his large tin spoon into his bowl, kept his breath to cool his broth, blowing upon it with easy grace, and swallowing it at a tremendous rate, though Lemuel, after following his example, still found it so hot that it brought the tears into his eyes. It was delicious, and he was ravenous from his twenty-four hours' fast, but his companion was scraping the bottom of his bowl before Lemuel had got half-way down, and he finished his second as Lemuel finished his first.
"Just oncet more for both of us, Jimmy," he said, pushing his bowl across the board; and when the man brought them back he said, "Now, I'm goin' to take it easy and enjoy myself. I can't never seem to get the good of it, till about the third or fourth bowl. Too much of a hurry."
"Do they give you four bowls?" gasped Lemuel in astonishment.
"They give you four barrels, if you can hold it," replied the other proudly; "and some the mates can, pretty near. They got an awful tank, as a general rule, the pards has. There ain't anything mean about this house. They don't scamp the broth, and they don't shab the measure. I do wish you could see that refrigerator, oncet. Never been much at sea, have you, mate?"
Lemuel said he had never been at sea at all.
The other leaned forward with his elbows on each side of his bowl, and lazily broke his hard-tack into it. "Well, I have. I was shipped when I was about eleven years old by a shark that got me drunk. I wanted to ship, but I wanted to ship on an American vessel for New Orleans. First thing I knowed I turned up on a Swedish brig bound for Venice. Ever been to It'ly?"
"No," said Lemuel.
"Well, I hain't but oncet. Oncet is enough for me. I run away, while I was in Venice, and went ashore—if you can call it ashore; it's all water, and you got to go round in boats: gondolas they call 'em there—and went to see the American counsul, and told him I was an American boy, and tried to get him to get me off. But he couldn't do anything. If you ship under the Swedish flag you're a Swede, and the whole United States couldn't get you off. If I'd 'a' shipped under the American flag I'd 'a' been an American, I don't care if I was born in Hottentot. That's what the counsul said. I never want to see that town ag'in. I used to hear songs about Venice—'Beautiful Venice, Bride of the Sea;' but I think it's a kind of a hole of a place. Well, what I started to say was that when I turn up in Boston, now,—and I most generally do,—I don't go to no sailor boardin'-house; I break for the Wayfarer's Lodge, every time. It's a temperance house, and they give you the worth o' your money."
"Come! Hurry up!" said the attendant. He wiped the table impatiently with his towel, and stood waiting for Lemuel and the other to finish. All the rest had gone.
"Don't you be too fresh, pard," said the mate, with the effect of standing upon his rights. "Guess if you was on your third bowl, you wouldn't hurry."
The attendant smiled. "Don't you want to lend us a hand with the dishes?" he asked.
"Who's sick?" asked the other in his turn.
"Johnny's got a day off."
The boy shook his head. "No; I couldn't. If it was a case of sickness, of course I'd do it. But I couldn't spare the time; I couldn't really. Why, I ought to be up on the Common now."
Lemuel had listened with a face of interest.
"Don't you want to make half a dollar, young feller?" asked the attendant.
"Yes, I do," said Lemuel eagerly.
"Know how to wash dishes?"
"Yes," answered the boy, not ashamed of his knowledge, as the boy of another civilisation might have been. Nothing more distinctly marks the rustic New England civilisation than the taming of its men to the performance of certain domestic offices elsewhere held dishonourably womanish. The boy learns not only to milk and to keep the milk cans clean, but to churn, to wash dishes, and to cook.
"Come around here, then," said the attendant, and Lemuel promptly obeyed.
"Well, now," said his mate, "that's right. I'd do it myself, if I had the time." He pulled his soft wool hat out of his hip pocket. "Well, good morning, pards. I don't know as I shall see you again much before night." Lemuel was lifting a large tray, heavy with empty broth-bowls. "What time did you say it was, Jimmy?"
"Well, I just got time to get there," said the other, putting on his hat, and pushing out of the door.
At the moment Lemuel was lifting his tray of empty broth-bowls, Mr. Sewell was waking for the early quarter-to-eight breakfast, which he thought it right to make—not perhaps as an example to his parishioners, most of whom had the leisure to lie later, but as a sacrifice, not too definite, to the lingering ideal of suffering. He could not work before breakfast—his delicate digestion forbade that—or he would have risen still earlier, and he employed the twenty minutes he had between his bath and his breakfast in skimming the morning paper.
Just at present Mr. Sewell was taking two morning papers: the Advertiser which he had always taken, and a cheap little one- cent paper, which had just been started, and which he bad subscribed for experimentally, with the vague impression that he ought to encourage the young men who had established it. He did not like it very well. It was made up somewhat upon the Western ideal, and dealt with local matters in a manner that was at once a little more lively and a little more intimate than he had been used to. But before he had quite made up his mind to stop it, his wife had come to like it on that very account. She said it was interesting. On this point she used her conscience a little less actively than usual, and he had to make her observe that to be interesting was not the whole duty of journalism. It had become a matter of personal pride with them respectively to attack and defend The Sunrise, as I shall call the little sheet, though that was not the name; and Mr. Sewell had lately made some gain through the character of the police reports, which The Sunrise had been developing into a feature. It was not that offensive matters were introduced; the worst cases were in fact rather blinked, but Sewell insisted that the tone of flippant gaiety with which many facts, so serious, so tragic for their perpetrators and victims, were treated was odious. He objected to the court being called a Mill, and prisoners Grists, and the procedure Grinding; he objected to the familiar name of Uncle for the worthy gentleman to whose care certain offenders were confided on probation. He now read that department of The Sunrise the first thing every morning, in the hope of finding something with which to put Mrs. Sewell hopelessly in the wrong, but this morning a heading in the foreign news of the Advertiser caught his eye, and he laid The Sunrise aside to read at the breakfast-table. His wife came down in a cotton dress, as a tribute to the continued warmth of the weather, and said that she had not called the children, because it was Saturday, and they might as well have their sleep out. He liked to see her in that dress; it had a leafy rustling that was pleasant to his ear, and as she looked into the library he gaily put out his hand, which she took, and suffered herself to be drawn toward him. Then she gave him a kiss, somewhat less business-like and preoccupied than usual.
"Well, you've got Lemuel Barker off your mind at last," she divined, in recognition of her husband's cheerfulness.
"Yes, he's off," admitted Sewell.
"I hope he'll stay in Willoughby Pastures after this. Of course it puts an end to our going there next summer." "Oh, I don't know," Sewell feebly demurred.
"I do," said his wife, but not despising his insincerity enough to insist that he did also. The mellow note of an apostle's bell—the gift of an aesthetic parishioner—came from below, and she said, "Well, there's breakfast, David," and went before him down the stairs.
He brought his papers with him. It would have been her idea of heightened cosiness, at this breakfast, which they had once a week alone together, not to have the newspapers, but she saw that he felt differently, and after a number of years of married life a woman learns to let her husband have his own way in some unimportant matters. It was so much his nature to have some sort of reading always in hand, that he was certainly more himself, and perhaps more companionable with his papers than without them.
She merely said, "Let me take the Sunrise," when she had poured out his coffee, and he had helped her to cantaloupe and steak, and spread his Advertiser beside his plate. He had the Sunrise in his lap.
"No, you may have the Advertiser" he said, handing it over the table to her. "I was down first, and I got both the papers. I'm not really obliged to make any division, but I've seen the Advertiser, and I'm willing to behave unselfishly. If you're very impatient for the police report in the Sunrise I'll read it aloud for you. I think that will be a very good test of its quality, don't you?"
He opened the little sheet, and smiled teasingly at his wife, who said, "Yes, read it aloud; I'm not at all ashamed of it."
She put the Advertiser in her lap, and leaned defiantly forward, while she stirred her coffee, and Sewell unfolded the little sheet, and glanced up and down its columns. "Go on! If you can't find it, I can."
"Never mind! Here it is," said Sewell, and he began to read—
"'The mill opened yesterday morning with a smaller number of grists than usual, but they made up in quality what they lacked in quantity.'
"Our friend's metaphor seems to have weakened under him a little," commented Sewell, and then he pursued—
"'A reasonable supply of drunks were despatched—'
"Come, now, Lucy! You'll admit that this is horrible?" he broke off.
"No," said his wife, "I will admit nothing of the kind. It's flippant, I'll allow. Go on!"
"I can't," said Sewell; but he obeyed.
"'A reasonable supply of drunks were despatched, and an habitual drunk, in the person of a burly dame from Tipperary, who pleaded not guilty and then urged the "poor childer" in extenuation, was sent down the harbour for three months; Uncle Cook had been put in charge of a couple of young frailties whose hind name was woman—'
"How do you like that, my dear?" asked Sewell exultantly.
Mrs. Sewell looked grave, and then burst into a shocked laugh. "You must stop that paper, David! I can't have it about for the children to get hold of. But it is funny, isn't it? That will do—"
"No, I think you'd better have it all, now. There can't be anything worse. It's funny, yes, with that truly infernal drollery which the newspaper wits seem to have the art of." He read on—"—'when a case was called that brought the breath of clover blossoms and hay-seed into the sultry court-room, and warmed the cockles of the habitues' toughened pericardiums with a touch of real poetry. This was a case of assault, with intent to rob, in which a lithe young blonde, answering to the good old Puritanic name of Statira Dudley, was the complainant, and the defendant an innocent- looking, bucolic youth, yclept—'"
Sewell stopped and put his hand to his forehead.
"What is it, David?" demanded his wife. "Why don't you go on? Is it too scandalous?"
"No, no," murmured the minister.
"I can't go on. But you must read it, Lucy," he said, in quite a passion of humility. "And you must try to be merciful. That poor boy—that—"
He handed the paper to his wife, and made no attempt to escape from judgment, but sat submissive while she read the report of Lemuel's trial. The story was told throughout in the poetico-jocular spirit of the opening sentences; the reporter had felt the simple charm of the affair, only to be ashamed of it and the more offensive about it.
When she had finished Mrs. Sewell did not say anything. She merely looked at her husband, who looked really sick.
At last he said, making an effort to rise from his chair, "I must go and see him, I suppose."
"Yes, if you can find him," responded his wife, with a sigh.
"Find him?" echoed Sewell.
"Yes. Goodness knows what more trouble the wretched creature's got into by this time. You saw that he was acquitted, didn't you?" she demanded, in answer to her husband's stare.
"No, I didn't. I supposed he was convicted, of course."
"Well, you see it isn't so bad as it might be," she said, using a pity which she did not perhaps altogether feel. "Eat your breakfast now, David, and then go and try to look him up."
"Oh, I don't want any breakfast," pleaded the minister.
He offered to rise again, but she motioned him down in his chair. "David, you shall! I'm not going to have you going about all day with a headache. Eat! And then when you've finished your breakfast, go and find out which station that officer Baker belongs to, and he can tell you something about the boy, if any one can."
Sewell made what shift he could to grasp these practical ideas, and he obediently ate of whatever his wife bade him. She would not let him hurry his breakfast in the least, and when he had at last finished, she said, "Now you can go, David. And when you've found the boy, don't you let him out of your sight again till you've put him aboard the train for Willoughby Pastures, and seen the train start out of the depot with him. Never mind your sermon. I will be setting down the heads of a sermon, while you're gone, that will do you good, if you write it out, whether it helps any one else or not."
Sewell was not so sure of that. He had no doubt that his wife would set down the heads of a powerful sermon, but he questioned whether any discourse, however potent, would have force to benefit such an abandoned criminal as he felt himself, in walking down his brown- stone steps, and up the long brick sidewalk of Bolingbroke Street toward the Public Garden. The beds of geraniums and the clumps of scarlet-blossomed salvia in the little grass-plots before the houses, which commonly flattered his eye with their colour, had a suggestion of penal fires in them now, that needed no lingering superstition in his nerves to realise something very like perdition for his troubled soul. It was not wickedness he had been guilty of, but he had allowed a good man to be made the agency of suffering, and he was sorely to blame, for he had sinned against himself. This was what his conscience said, and though his reason protested against his state of mind as a phase of the religious insanity which we have all inherited in some measure from Puritan times, it could not help him. He went along involuntarily framing a vow that if Providence would mercifully permit him to repair the wrong he had done, he would not stop at any sacrifice to get that unhappy boy back to his home, but would gladly take any open shame or obloquy upon himself in order to accomplish this.
He met a policeman on the bridge of the Public Garden, and made bold to ask him at once if he knew an officer named Baker, and which station he could be found at. The policeman was over-rich in the acquaintance of two officers of the name of Baker, and he put his hand on Sewell's shoulder, in the paternal manner of policemen when they will be friendly, and advised him to go first to the Neponset Street station, to which one of these Bakers was attached, and inquire there first. "Anyway, that's what I should do in your place."
Sewell was fulsomely grateful, as we all are in the like case, and at the station he used an urbanity with the captain which was perhaps not thrown away upon him, but which was certainly disproportioned to the trouble he was asking him to take in saying whether he knew where he could find officer Baker.
"Yes, I do," said the captain. "You can find him in bed, upstairs, but I'd rather you wouldn't wake a man off duty, if you don't have to, especially if you don't know he's the one. What's wanted?"
Sewell stopped to say that the captain was quite right, and then he explained why he wished to see officer Baker.
The captain listened with nods of his head at the names and facts given. "Guess you won't have to get Baker up for that. I can tell you what there is to tell. I don't know where your young man is now, but I gave him an order for a bed at the Wayfarer's Lodge last night, and I guess he slept there. You a friend of his?"
"Yes," said Sewell, much questioning inwardly whether he could be truly described as such. "I wish to befriend him," he added savingly. "I knew him at home, and I am sure of his innocence."
"Oh, I guess he's innocent enough," said the captain. "Well, now, I tell you what you do, if you want to befriend him; you get him home quick as you can."
"Yes," said Sewell, helpless to resent the officer's authoritative and patronising tone. "That's what I wish to do. Do you suppose he's at the Wayfarer's Lodge now?" asked Sewell.
"Can't say," said the captain, tilting himself back in his chair, and putting his quill toothpick between his lips like a cigarette. "The only way is to go and see."
"Thank you very much," said the minister, accepting his dismissal meekly, as a man vowed to ignominy should, but feeling keenly that he was dismissed, and dismissed in disgrace.
At the Lodge he was received less curtly. The manager was there with a long morning's leisure before him, and disposed to friendliness that Sewell found absurdly soothing. He turned over the orders for beds delivered by the vagrants the night before, and "Yes," he said, coming to Lemuel's name, "he slept here; but nobody knows where he is by this time. Wait a bit, sir!" he added to Sewell's fallen countenance. "There was one of the young fellows stayed to help us through with the dishes, this morning. I'll have him up; or may be you'd like to go down and take a look at our kitchen? You'll find him there if it's the one. Here's our card, We can supply you with all sorts of firewood at less cost than the dealers, and you'll be helping the poor fellows to earn an honest bed and breakfast. This way, sir!"
Sewell promised to buy his wood there, put the card respectfully into his pocket, and followed the manager downstairs, and through the basement to the kitchen. He arrived just as Lemuel was about to lift a trayful of clean soup-bowls, to carry it upstairs. After a glance at the minister, he stood still with dropped eyes.
Sewell did not know in what form to greet the boy on whom he had unwillingly brought so much evil, and he found the greater difficulty in deciding as he saw Lemuel's face hardening against him.
"Barker!" he said at last. "I'm very glad to find you—I have been very anxious to find you."
Lemuel made no sign of sympathy, but stood still in his long check apron, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbow, and the minister was obliged to humble himself still further to this figure of lowly obstinacy.
"I should like to speak with you. Can I speak with you a few moments?"
The manager politely stepped into the storeroom, and affected to employ himself there, leaving Lemuel and the minister alone together.
Sewell lost no time. "I want you to go home, Barker. I feel that I am wholly to blame, and greatly to blame, for your coming to Boston with the expectation that brought you; and that I am indirectly responsible for all the trouble that has befallen you since you came. I want to be the means of your getting home, in any way you can let me."
This was a very different way of talking from the smooth superiority of address which the minister had used with him the other day at his own house. Lemuel was not insensible to the atonement offered him, and it was not from sulky stubbornness that he continued silent, and left the minister to explore the causes of his reticence unaided.
"I will go home with you, if you like," pursued the minister, though his mind misgave him that this was an extreme which Mrs. Sewell would not have justified him in. "I will go with you, and explain all the circumstances to your friends, in case there should be any misunderstanding—though in that event I should have to ask you to be my guest till Monday." Here the unhappy man laid hold of the sheep, which could not bring him greater condemnation than the lamb.
"I guess they won't know anything about it," said Lemuel, with whatever intention.
It seemed hardened indifference to the minister, and he felt it his disagreeable duty to say, "I am afraid they will. I read of it in the newspaper this morning, and I'm afraid that an exaggerated report of your misfortunes will reach Willoughby Pastures, and alarm your family."
A faint pallor came over the boy's face, and he stood again in his impenetrable, rustic silence. The voice that finally spoke from, it said, "I guess I don't want to go home, then."
"You must go home!" said the minister, with more of imploring than imperiousness in his command. "What will they make of your prolonged absence?"
"I sent a postal to mother this morning. They lent me one."
"But what will you do here, without work and without means? I wish you to go home with me—I feel responsible for you—and remain with me till you can hear from your mother. I'm sorry you came to Boston—it's no place for you, as you must know by this time, and I am sure your mother will agree with me in desiring your return."
"I guess I don't want to go home," said Lemuel.
"Are you afraid that an uncharitable construction will be placed upon what has happened to you by your neighbours?" Lemuel did not answer. "I assure you that all that can be arranged. I will write to your pastor, and explain it fully. But in any event," continued Sewell, "it is your duty to yourself and your friends to go home and live it down. It would be your duty to do so, even if you had been guilty of wrong, instead of the victim of misfortune."
"I don't know," said Lemuel, "as I want to go home and be the laughing-stock."
Against this point Sewell felt himself helpless. He could not pretend that the boy would not be ridiculous in the eyes of his friends, and all the more ridiculous because so wholly innocent. He could only say, "That is a thing you must bear," and then it occurred to him to ask, "Do you feel that it is right to let your family meet the ridicule alone?"
"I guess nobody will speak to mother about it, more than once," said Lemuel, with a just pride in his mother's powers of retort. A woman who, unaided and alone, had worn the Bloomer costume for twenty years in the heart of a commentative community like Willoughby Pastures, was not likely to be without a cutting tongue for her defence.
"But your sister," urged Sewell; "your brother-in-law," he feebly added.
"I guess they will have to stand it," replied Lemuel.
The minister heaved a sigh of hopeless perplexity. "What do you propose to do, then? You can't remain here without means. Do you expect to sell your poetry?" he asked, goaded to the question by a conscience peculiarly sore on that point.
It made Lemuel blush. "No, I don't expect to sell it, now. They took it out of my pocket on the Common."
"I am glad of that," said the minister as simply, "and I feel bound to warn you solemnly, that there is absolutely no hope for you in that direction."
Lemuel said nothing.
The minister stood baffled again. After a bad moment he asked, "Have you anything particular in view?"
"I don't know as I have."
"How long can you remain here?"
"I don't know exactly."
Sewell turned and followed the manager into the refrigerator room, where he had remained patiently whistling throughout this interview.
When he came back, Lemuel had carried one trayful of bowls upstairs, and returned for another load, which he was piling carefully up for safe transportation.
"The manager tells me," said Sewell, "that practically you can stay here as long as you like, if you work, but he doesn't think it desirable you should remain, nor do I. But I wish to find you here again, when I come back. I have something in view for you."
This seemed to be a question, and Lemuel said, "All right," and went on piling up his bowls. He added, "I shouldn't want you to take a great deal of trouble."