Part 4 out of 7
witness tells the truth."
"That's all," said Sharpman, quickly; then, turning again toward the
court-room, he called:
Bachelor Billy arose from among the crowds on the front benches, and
made his way awkwardly around the aisle and up to the witness-stand.
After the usual preliminary questions had been asked and answered, he
waited, looking out over the multitude of faces turned toward him,
while Sharpman consulted his notes.
"Do you know this boy?" the lawyer asked, pointing to Ralph.
"Do I know that boy?" repeated Billy, pointing also to Ralph, "'deed I
do that. I ken 'im weel."
"When did you first see him?"
"An he's the son o' Robert Burnham, I seen 'im first i' the arms o'
'is mither a matter o' ten year back or so. She cam' t' the breaker
on a day wi' her gude mon, an' she had the bairnie in her arms. Ye'll
remember it, na doot, Mistress Burnham," turning to that lady as he
spoke, "how ye said to me 'Billy,' said ye, 'saw ye ever so fine a
"Well, never mind that," interrupted Sharpman; "when did you next see
"Never till I pickit 'im up o' the road."
"And when was that?"
"It'll be three year come the middle o' June. I canna tell ye the
"On what road was it?"
"I'll tell ye how it cam' aboot. It was the mornin' after the circus.
I was a-comin' doon fra Providence, an' when I got along the ither
side o' whaur the tents was I see a bit lad a-layin' by the roadside,
sick. It was him," pointing to Ralph and smiling kindly on him, "it
was Ralph yonner. I says to 'im, 'What's the matter wi' ye, laddie?'
says I. 'I'm sick,' says 'e, 'an' they've goned an' lef me.' 'Who's
lef' ye?' says I. 'The circus,' says he. 'An' ha' ye no place to go?'
says I. 'No,' says 'e, 'I ain't; not any.' So I said t' the lad as he
s'ould come along wi' me. He could na walk, he was too sick, I carried
'im, but he was no' much o' a load. I took 'im hame wi' me an' pit
'im i' the bed. He got warse, an' I bringit the doctor. Oh! but he
was awfu' sick, the lad was, but he pullit through as cheerfu' as ye
please. An' the Widow Maloney she 'tended 'im like a mither, she did."
"Did you find out where he came from?"
"Wull, he said little aboot 'imsel' at the first, he was a bit
afraid to talk wi' strangers, but he tellit, later on, that he cam'
fra Philadelphy. He tellit me, in fact," said Billy, in a burst of
confidence, "that 'e rin awa' fra th'auld mon, Simon Craft, him that's
a-settin' yonner. But it's small blame to the lad; ye s'ould na lay
that up again' 'im. He _had_ to do it, look ye! had ye not, eh,
Before Ralph could reply, Sharpman interrupted: "And has the boy been
with you ever since?"
"He has that, an' I could na think o' his goin' awa' noo, an it would
na be for his gret good."
"In your intercourse with the boy through three years, have you
noticed in him any indications of higher birth than is usually found
among the boys who work about the mines? I mean, do his manners, modes
of thought, impulses, expressions, indicate, to your mind, better
blood than ordinary?"
"Why, yes," replied the witness, slowly grasping the idea, "yes. He
has a way wi' 'im, the lad has, that ye'd think he did na belong amang
such as we. He's as gentle as a lass, an' that lovin', why, he's that
lovin' that ye could na speak sharp till 'im an ye had need to. But
ye'll no' need to, Mistress Burnham, ye'll no' need to."
The lady was sitting with her veil across her face, smiling now and
then, wiping away a tear or two, listening carefully to catch every
Then the witness was turned over to the counsel for the defence, for
"What else has the boy done or said to make you think he is of gentler
birth than his companions in the breaker?" asked Goodlaw, somewhat
"Why, the lad does na swear nor say bad words."
"He's tidy wi' the clothes, an' he _wull_ be clean."
"What else? wull, they be times when he says things to ye so quick
like, so bright like, so lofty like, 'at ye'd mos' think he was na
human like the rest o' us. An' 'e fears naught, ye canna mak' 'im
afeard o' doin' what's richt. D'ye min' the time 'e jumpit on the
carriage an' went doon wi' the rest o' them to bring oot the burnit
uns? an' cam' up alive when Robert Burnham met his death? Ah, mon! no
coward chiel 'd 'a' done like that."
"Might not a child of very lowly birth do all the things you speak of
under proper training and certain influences?"
"Mayhap, but it's no' likely, no' likely. Hold! wait a bit! I dinna
mean but that a poor mon's childer can be bright, braw, guid boys an'
girls; they be, I ken mony o' them mysel'. But gin the father an' the
mither think high an' act gentle an' do noble, ye'll fin' it i' the
blood an' bone o' the childer, sure as they're born. Now, look ye! I
kenned Robert Burnham, I kenned 'im weel. He was kind an' gentle an'
braw, a-thinkin' bright things an' a-doin' gret deeds. The lad's like
'im, mind ye; he thinks like 'im, he says like 'im, he does like 'im.
Truth, I daur say, i' the face o' all o' ye, that no son was ever more
like the father than the lad a-settin' yonner is like Robert Burnham
was afoor the guid Lord took 'im to 'imsel'."
Bachelor Billy was leaning forward across the railing of the
witness-stand, speaking in a voice that could be heard in the remotest
corner of the room, emphasizing his words with forceful gesticulation.
No one could for a moment doubt his candor and earnestness.
"You are very anxious that the plaintiff should succeed in this suit,
are you not?" asked Goodlaw.
"I dinna unnerstan' ye, sir."
"You would like to have this boy declared to be a son of Robert
Burnham, would you not?"
"For the lad's sake, yes. But I canna tell ye how it'll hurt me to
lose 'im fra ma bit hame. He's verra dear to me, the lad is."
"Have you presented any bill to Ralph's guardian for services to the
"Bill! I ha' no bill."
"Do you not propose to present such a bill in case the plaintiff is
successful in this suit?"
"I tell ye, mon, I ha' no bill. The child's richt welcome to all that
I 'a' ever done for 'im. It's little eneuch to be sure, but he's
welcome to it, an' so's 'is father an' 'is mother an' 'is gardeen; an'
that's what I tellit Muster Sharpman 'imsel'. An the lad's as guid to
them as 'e has been wi' me, they'll unnerstan' as how his company's a
thing ye canna balance wi' gold an' siller."
Mrs. Burnham leaned over to Goodlaw and whispered something to him. He
nodded, smiled and said to the witness: "That's all, Mr. Buckley," and
Bachelor Billy came down from the stand and pushed his way back to a
seat among the people.
There was a whispered conversation for a few moments between Sharpman
and his client, and then the lawyer said:--
"We desire to recall Mrs. Burnham for one or two more questions. Will
you be kind enough to take the stand, Mrs. Burnham?"
The lady arose and went again to the witness-stand.
Craft was busy with his leather hand-bag. He had taken a parcel
therefrom, unwrapped it and laid it on the table. It was the cloak
that Old Simon had shown to Robert Burnham on the day of the mine
disaster. Sharpman took it up, shook it out, carried it to Mrs.
Burnham, and placed it in her hands.
"Do you recognize this cloak?" he asked.
A sudden pallor overspread her face. She could not speak. She
was holding the cloak up before her eyes, gazing on it in mute
"Do you recognize it, madam?" repeated Sharpman.
"Why, sir!" she said, at last, "it is--it was Ralph's. He wore it the
night of the disaster." She was caressing the faded ribbons with her
hand; the color was returning to her face.
"And this, Mrs. Burnham, do you recognize this?" inquired the lawyer,
advancing with the cap.
"It was Ralph's!" she exclaimed, holding out her hands eagerly to
grasp it. "It was his cap. May I have it, sir? May I have them both? I
have nothing, you know, that he wore that night."
She was bending forward, looking eagerly at Sharpman, with flushed
face and eyes swimming in tears.
"Perhaps so, madam," he said, "perhaps; they go with the boy. If we
succeed in restoring your son to you, we shall give you these things
"What else have you that he wore?" she asked, impatiently. "Oh! did
you find the locket, a little gold locket? He wore it with a chain
round his neck; it had his--his father's portrait in it."
Without a word, Sharpman placed the locket in her hands. Her fingers
trembled so that she could hardly open it. Then the gold covers parted
and revealed to her the pictured face of her dead husband. The eyes
looked up at her kindly, gently, lovingly, as they had always looked
on her in life. After a moment her lips trembled, her eyes filled with
tears, she drew the veil across her face, and her frame grew tremulous
with deep emotion.
"I do not think it is necessary," said Sharpman, courteously, "to pain
the witness with other questions. I regard the identification of these
articles, by her, as sufficiently complete. We will excuse her from
The lady left the stand with bowed head and veiled face, and Conductor
Merrick was recalled.
"Look at that cloak and the cap," said Sharpman, "and tell me if they
are the articles worn by the child who was going to the city with this
old man after the accident."
"To the best of my recollection," said the witness, "they are the
same. I noticed the cloak particularly on account of the hole burned
out of the front of it. I considered it an indication of a very narrow
The witness was turned over to the defence for cross-examination.
"No questions," said Goodlaw, shortly, gathering up his papers as if
his defeat was already an accomplished fact.
"Mr. Craft," said Sharpman, "stand up right where you are. I want to
ask you one question. Did the child whom you rescued from the wreck
have on, when you found him, this cap, cloak, and locket?"
"And is the child whom you rescued that night from the burning car
this boy who is sitting beside you here to-day?"
"They are one and the same."
Mrs. Burnham threw back her veil, looked steadily across at Ralph,
then started to her feet, and moved slightly toward him as if to clasp
him in her arms. For a moment it seemed as though there was to be a
scene. The people in the audience bent forward eagerly to look into
the bar, those in the rear of the room rising to their feet.
The noise seemed to startle her, and she sank back into her chair and
sat there white and motionless during the remainder of the session.
Sharpman arose. "I believe that is our case," he said.
"Then you rest here?" asked the judge.
His Honor continued: "It is now adjourning time and Saturday night. I
think it would be impossible to conclude this case, even by holding an
evening session; but perhaps we can get through with the testimony so
that witnesses may be excused. What do you say, Mr. Goodlaw?"
Goodlaw arose. "It may have been apparent to the court," he said,
"that the only effort being put forth by the defence in this case is
an effort to learn as much of the truth as possible. We have called no
witnesses to contradict the testimony offered, and we expect to call
none. But, lest something should occur of which we might wish to take
advantage, we ask that the evidence be not closed until the meeting of
court on Monday next."
"Is that agreeable to you, Mr. Sharpman?" inquired the judge.
"Perfectly," replied that lawyer, his face beaming with good nature.
He knew that Goodlaw had given up the case and that his path was now
"Then, crier," said the judge, "you may adjourn the court until Monday
next, at two o'clock in the afternoon."
AT THE GATES OF PARADISE.
The result of the trial seemed to be a foregone conclusion. Every one
said there was no doubt, now, that Ralph was really Robert Burnham's
son. People even wondered why Mrs. Burnham did not end the matter by
acknowledging the boy and taking him to her home.
And, indeed, this was her impulse and inclination, but Goodlaw, in
whose wisdom she put much confidence, had advised her not to be in
haste. They had had a long consultation after the adjournment of court
on Saturday evening, and had agreed that the evidence pointed, almost
conclusively, to the fact that Ralph was Mrs. Burnham's son. But the
lawyer said that the only safe way was to wait until the verdict of
the jury should fix the status of the boy beyond question. It would be
but a day or two at the most.
Then Ralph might be taken by his mother, and proceedings could be at
once begun to have Simon Craft dismissed from the post of guardian.
Indeed, it had been with this end in view that Goodlaw had made his
cross-examination of Craft so thorough and severe. He had shown, as
he intended to, from the man's own lips that he was unfit to have
possession either of the child or of his property.
This danger was now making itself more and more apparent to Sharpman.
In the excitement of the trial, he had not fully realized the probable
effect which the testimony elicited from his client by the opposing
counsel might have.
Now he saw what it could lead to; but he had sufficient confidence in
himself to believe that, in the time before action in that phase of
the case should become necessary, he could perfect a plan by which to
avert disaster. The first and best thing to be done, however, under
any circumstances, was to keep the confidence and friendship of
Ralph. With this thought in mind, he occupied a seat with the boy as
they rode up from Wilkesbarre on the train that night, and kept him
interested and amused until they reached the station at Scranton.
He said to him that he, Sharpman, should go down to Wilkesbarre early
on Monday morning, and that, as it might be necessary to see Ralph
before going, the boy had better call at his office for a few moments
on Sunday evening. Ralph promised to do so, and, with a cordial
handshake, the lawyer hurried away.
It is seldom that the probable outcome of a suit at law gives so great
satisfaction to all the parties concerned in it as this had done.
Simon Craft was jubilant. At last his watching and waiting, his hoping
and scheming, were about to be rewarded. It came in the evening of
his life to be sure, but--better late than never. He had remained in
Wilkesbarre Saturday night. He thought it useless to go up to Scranton
simply to come back again on Monday morning. He spent the entire day
on Sunday planning for the investment of the money he should receive,
counting it over and over again in anticipation, chuckling with true
miserly glee at the prospect of coming wealth.
But Ralph was the happiest one of all. He knew that on the coming
Monday the jury would declare him to be Robert Burnham's son.
After that, there would be nothing to prevent his mother from taking
him to her home, and that she would do so there was no longer any
doubt. When he awoke Sunday morning and thought it all over, it seemed
to him that he had never been so near to perfect happiness in all his
The little birds that came and sang in the elm-tree by his window
repeated in their songs the story of his fortune. The kind old sun
beamed in upon him with warmest greeting and heartiest approval.
Out-of-doors, the very atmosphere of the May day was redolent with
all good cheer, and Ralph took great draughts of it into his lungs
as he walked with Bachelor Billy to the little chapel at the foot of
the hill, where they were used to going to attend the Sunday morning
service. In the afternoon they went, these two, out by the long way to
the breaker. Ralph looked up at the grim, black monster, and thought
of the days gone by; the days of watchfulness, of weariness, of
hopeless toil that he had spent shut up within its jarring walls.
But they were over now. He should never again climb the narrow steps
to the screen-room in the darkness of the early morning. He should
never again take his seat on the black bench to bend above the stream
of flowing coal, to breathe the thick dust, and listen to the rattling
and the roaring all day long. That time had passed, there was to be no
more grinding toil, no more harsh confinement in the heat and dust,
no more longing for the bright sunlight and the open air, nor for the
things of life that lay beyond his reach. The night was gone, the
morning was come, the May day of his life was dawning, wealth was
lying at his feet, rich love was overshadowing him; why should he not
"Seems jest as though I hadn't never had any trouble, Uncle Billy," he
said, "as though I'd been kind o' waitin' an' waitin' all along for
jest this, an' now it's here, ain't it?"
"An' some way it's all so quiet an' smooth like, so peaceful, don't
you know. She--she seems to be so glad 'at she needn't keep me away
from her no longer after the trial's over. I think she wants me to
come, don't you? It ain't like most law-suits, is it?"
"She's a lovin' lady, an' I'm a-thinkin' they're a-meanin' to deal
rightly by ye, Ralph."
There was a pause. They were sitting on the bank in the shadow of
the breaker, and the soft wind was bringing up to them the perfume
of apple-blossoms from the orchard down by the road-side. Silence,
indeed, was the only means of giving fitting expression to such quiet
joy as pervaded the boy's heart.
A man, driving along the turnpike with a horse and buggy, turned up
the road to the breaker, and stopped in front of Bachelor Billy and
"Is this Ralph?" he asked.
"Yes," said the boy, "that's me."
"Well, Mrs. Burnham would like to see you. She sent me over to bring
you. I went to your house, and they said most likely I'd find you up
here. Just jump in and we'll drive right down."
Ralph looked up inquiringly at Bachelor Billy.
"Go on, lad," he said; "when the mither sen's for ye, ye mus' go."
Ralph climbed up into the buggy.
"Good-by, Uncle Billy," he called out, as they started away down the
Bachelor Billy did not answer. A sudden thought had come to him; a
sudden fear had seized him. He stood for a moment motionless; then he
started to run after the retreating carriage, calling as he ran. They
heard him and stopped. In a minute he had reached them.
"Ralph," he said, hastily, "ye're not goin' now for gude? Ye'll coom
back the nicht, won't ye, Ralph? I couldn't--I couldn't abide to have
ye go this way, not for gude. It's--it's too sudden, d'ye see."
His voice was trembling with emotion, and the pallor about his lips
was heightened by the forced smile that parted them. Ralph reached out
from the buggy and grasped the man's rough hand.
"I ain't leavin' you for good, Uncle Billy," he said. "I'm comin' back
agin, sure; I promise I will. Would you ruther I wouldn't go, Uncle
"Oh, no! ye mus' go. I shouldn't 'a' stoppit ye. It was verra fulish
in me. But ye see," turning to the driver apologetically, "the lad's
been so long wi' me it's hard to part wi' 'im. An' it cam' ower me
so sudden like, that mayhap he'd not be a-comin' back, that I--that
I--wull, wull! it's a' richt, ye need na min' me go on; go on, lad,
an' rich blessin's go wi' ye!" and Bachelor Billy turned and walked
This was the only cloud in the otherwise clear sky of Ralph's
happiness. He would have to leave Bachelor Billy alone. But he had
fully resolved that the man who had so befriended him in the dark days
of his adversity should not fail of sharing in the blessings that were
now at hand.
His mind was full of plans for his Uncle Billy's happiness and
welfare, as they rode along through the green suburban streets, with
the Sunday quiet resting on them, to the House where Ralph's mother
waited, with a full heart, to receive and welcome her son.
She had promised Goodlaw that she would not take the boy to her home
until after the conclusion of the trial. He had explained to her that
to anticipate the verdict of the jury in this way might, in a certain
event, prejudice not only her interests but her son's also. And the
time would be so short now that she thought surely she could wait.
She had resolved, indeed, not to see nor to speak to the lad, out of
court, until full permission had been granted to her to do so. Then,
when the time came, she would revel in the brightness of his presence.
That there still lingered in her mind a doubt as to his identity was
nothing. She would not think of that. It was only a prejudice fixed
by long years of belief in her child's death, a prejudice so firmly
rooted now that it required an effort to cast it out.
But it would not greatly matter, she thought, if it should chance that
Ralph was not her son. He was a brave, good boy, worthy of the best
that could come to him, and she loved him. Indeed, during these last
few days her heart had gone out to him with an affection so strange
and a desire so strong that she felt that only his presence could
satisfy it. She could not be glad enough that the trial, now so nearly
to its close, would result in giving to her a son. It was a strange
defeat, indeed, to cause her such rejoicing. On this peaceful Sunday
morning her mind was full with plans for the lad's comfort, for his
happiness and his education. But the more she thought upon him the
greater grew her longing to have him with her, the harder it became
to repress her strong desire to see him, to speak to him, to kiss his
face, to hold him in her arms. In the quiet of the afternoon this
longing became more intense. She tried to put it away from her, but it
would not go; she tried to reason it down, but the boy's face, rising
always in her thought, refuted all her logic. She felt that he must
come to her, that she must see him, if only long enough to look into
his eyes, to touch his hand, to welcome him and say good-by. She
called the coachmen then, and sent him for the boy, and waited at the
window to catch the first glimpse of him when he should appear.
He came at last, and she met him in the hall. It was a welcome such as
he had never dreamed of. They went into a beautiful room, and she drew
his chair so close to hers that she could hold his hands, and smooth
his hair back now and then, and look down into his eyes as she talked
with him. She made him repeat to her the whole story of his life from
the time he could remember, and when he told about Bachelor Billy
and all his kindness and goodness, he saw that her eyes were filled
"We'll remember him," she said; "we'll be very good to him always."
"Mrs. Burnham," asked Ralph, "do you really an' truly believe 'at I'm
She evaded the question skilfully.
"I'm not Mrs. Burnham to you any more," she said. "You are my little
boy now and I am your mother. But wait! no; you must not call me
'mother' yet, not until the trial is over, then we shall call each
other the names we like best, shall we not?"
"Yes; an' will the trial be over to-morrow, do you think?"
"I hope so. I shall be glad to have it done; shall not you?"
"Oh, yes; but so long as it's comin' out so nice, I don't care so very
much. It's all so good now 'at it couldn't be much better. I could
stan' it another day or two, I guess."
"Well, my dear, we will be patient. It cannot but come out right. Are
you glad you are coming here to live with me, Ralph?"
"Yes, ma'am, I am; I'm very much delighted. I've always wanted a
mother; you don't know how much I've wanted a mother; but I never
'xpected--not till Gran'pa Simon come--I never 'xpected to get such a
lovely one. You don't know; I wisht I could tell you; I wisht I could
do sumpthin' so 'at you'd know how glad I am."
She leaned over and kissed him.
"There's only one thing you can do, Ralph, to show me that; you can
come back here when the trial is over and be my boy and live with me
"Oh, I'll come!"
"And then we'll see what you shall do. Would you like to go to school
"Oh, may I?"
"Certainly! what would you like to study?"
"Readin'. If I could only study readin' so as to learn to read real
good. I can read some now; but you know they's such lots o' things to
read 'at I can't do it fast enough."
"Yes, you shall learn to read fast, and you shall read to me. You
shall read books to me."
"What! whole books?--through?"
"Yes, would you like that?"
"Oh!" and the boy clasped his hands together in unspeakable delight.
"Yes, and you shall read stories to Mildred, your little sister. I
wonder where she is; wouldn't you like to see her?"
"Yes, ma'am, I would, very much."
"I'll send for her."
"You'll have books of your own, you know," continued the lady, as she
returned across the room, "and playthings of your own, and a room of
your own, near mine, and every night you'll kiss me good-night, will
you not, and every morning you will kiss me good-morning?"
"Oh, indeed I will! indeed!"
In through the curtained door-way came little Mildred, her blond
curls tossing about her face, her cheeks rosy with health, her eyes
sparkling with anticipation.
She had seen Ralph and knew him, but as yet she had not understood
that he was her brother. She could not comprehend it at once, there
were many explanations to be made, and Ralph's story was retold; but
when the fact of his relation to her became fixed in her mind, it was
to her a truth that could never afterward be shaken.
"And will you come to live with us?" she asked him.
"Yes," said Ralph, "I 'xpect to."
"And will you play with me?"
"Well, I--I don't know how to play girl's plays, but I guess I can
learn," he said, looking inquiringly up into his mother's face.
"You shall both learn whatever you like that is innocent and healthful
and pretty to play, my children."
The house-maid, at the door, announced dinner.
"Come," said the lady, placing an arm about each child, "come, let us
eat together and see how it seems."
She drew them gently to the dining-room and placed them at the table,
and sat where she could look from one to the other and drink in the
joy of their presence.
But Ralph had grown more quiet. It was all so new and strange to him
and so very beautiful that he could do little more than eat his food,
and answer questions, and look about him in admiring wonder.
When dinner was finished the afternoon had grown late, and Ralph,
remembering Bachelor Billy's fear, said that he ought to go. They did
not try to detain him; but, with many kind words and good-wishes and
bright hopes for the morrow, they kissed him good-night and he went
his way. The sky was still cloudless; the cool of the coming evening
refreshed the air, the birds that sing at twilight were already
breaking forth into melody as if impatient for the night, and Ralph
walked out through it all like one in a dream.
It was so much sweeter than anything he had ever heard of or thought
of, this taste of home, so much, so very much! His heart was like a
thistle bloom floating in the air, his feet seemed not to touch the
ground; he was walking as a spirit might have walked, buoyed up by
thoughts of all things beautiful. He reached the cottage that for
years had been his home, and entered it with a cry of gladness on
"Oh, Uncle Billy! it was--it was just like heaven!" He had thrown
himself upon a stool at the man's feet, and sat looking up into the
Bachelor Billy did not answer. He only placed his hand tenderly on the
boy's head, and they both sat, in silence, looking out through the
open door, until the pink clouds in the western sky had faded into
gray, and the deepening twilight wrapped the landscape, fold on fold,
in an ever thickening veil.
By and by Ralph's tongue was loosened, and he told the story of his
visit to Mrs. Burnham. He gave it with all fulness; he dwelt long and
lovingly on his mother's beauty and affection, on his sister's pretty
ways, on the splendors of their home, on the plans marked out for him.
"An' just to think of it!" he exclaimed, "after to-morrow, I'll be
there ev'ry day, _ev'ry day_. It's too beautiful to think of, Uncle
Billy; I can't help lookin' at myself an' wonderin' if it's me."
"It's verra fine, but ye've a richt to it, lad, an' ye desarve it, an'
it's a blessin' to all o' ye."
Again they fell into silence. The blue smoke from Billy's pipe went
floating into the darkness, and up to their ears came the sound of
distant church bells ringing out their music to the night.
Finally, Ralph thought of the appointed meeting at Sharpman's office,
and started to his feet.
"I mus' hurry now," he said, "or he'll think I ain't a-comin'."
The proposed visit seemed to worry Bachelor Billy somewhat. He did
not like Sharpman. He had not had full confidence in him from the
beginning. And since the interview on the day of Ralph's return from
Wilkesbarre, his faith in the pureness of the lawyer's motives had
been greatly shaken. He had watched the proceedings in Ralph's case as
well as his limited knowledge of the law would allow, and, though he
had discovered nothing, thus far, that would injure or compromise the
boy, he was in constant fear lest some plan should be developed by
which Ralph would be wronged, either in reputation or estate.
He hesitated, therefore, to have the lad fulfil this appointment.
"I guess I'd better go wi' ye," he said, "mayhap an' ye'll be afeared
a-comin' hame i' the dark."
"Oh, no, Uncle Billy!" exclaimed the boy, "they ain't no use in your
walkin' way down there. I ain't a bit afraid, an' I'll get home
early. Mr. Sharpman said maybe it wouldn't be any use for me to go to
Wilkesbarre to-morrow at all, and he'd let me know to-night. No, don't
you go! I'm a-goin' to run down the hill so's to get there quicker;
The boy started off at a rapid pace, and broke into a run as he
reached the brow of the hill, while Bachelor Billy unwillingly resumed
his seat, and watched the retreating form of the lad until it was
swallowed up in the darkness.
Ralph thought that the night air was very sweet, and he slackened his
pace at the foot of the hill, in order to enjoy breathing it.
He was passing along a street lined with pretty, suburban dwellings.
Out from one yard floated the rich perfume of some early flowering
shrub. The delicious odor lingered in the air along the whole length
of the block, and Ralph pleased his fancy by saying that it was
Farther on there was a little family group gathered on the porch,
parents and children, talking and laughing, but gently as became the
day. Very happy they seemed, very peaceful, untroubled and content. It
was beautiful, Ralph thought, very beautiful, this picture of home,
but he was no longer envious, his heart did not now grow bitter nor
his eyes fill full with tears. His own exceeding hope was too great
for that to-night, his own home joys too near and dear.
Still farther on there was music. He could look into the lighted
parlor and see the peaceful faces of those who stood or sat there. A
girl was at the piano playing; a young, fair girl with a face like the
faces of the pictured angels. They were all singing, a familiar sacred
song, and the words came floating out so sweetly to the boy's ears
that he stopped to listen:--
"O Paradise! O Paradise!
Who doth not crave for rest?
Who would not seek the happy land,
Where they that loved are blest;
Where loyal hearts and true
Stand ever in the light,
All rapture through and through,
In God's most holy sight?"
Oh, it was all so beautiful! so peaceful! so calm and holy!
Ralph tried to think, as he started on, whether there was anything
that he could have, or see, or do, that would increase his happiness.
But there was nothing in the whole world now, nothing more, he said to
himself, that he could think to ask for.
"Where loyal hearts and true,
Stand ever in the light."
The words came faintly from the distance to his ears as the music died
away, the gentle wind brought perfumed air from out the shadows of the
night to touch his face. The quiet stars looked down in peace upon
him, the heart that beat within his breast was full with hope, with
happiness, with calm content.
THE PURCHASE OF A LIE.
Lawyer Sharpman sat in his office on Sunday evening, meditating on his
success in the Burnham suit and planning to avert the dangers that
still lay in his path.
Old Simon's disclosures in court were a source of much anxiety to him.
Goodlaw's design in bringing them out was apparent, and he felt that
it must in some way be thwarted. Of what use was it to establish the
boy's identity if he could not control the boy's fortune? He was glad
he had asked Ralph to call. He intended, when he should come, to have
a long talk with him concerning his guardian. He hoped to be able to
work into the boy's mind a theory that he had been as well treated
during his stay with Simon Craft as circumstances would permit. He
would remind him, in the most persuasive manner possible, that Craft
was old and ill and easily annoyed, that he was poor and unable to
work, that his care for and maintenance of Ralph were deeds of the
purest generosity, and that the old man's entire connection with the
matter was very creditable to him, when all the adverse circumstances
against which he had to struggle were taken into account. If he could
impress this view of the case strongly enough upon Ralph's mind, he
should not greatly fear the result of possible proceedings for the
dismissal of the guardian. This, at any rate, was the first thing to
be done, and to-night was the time to do it.
He had been lying back in his chair, with his hands locked behind his
head. He now straightened himself, drew closer to the table, turned up
the gas, looked over some notes of evidence, and began to mark out a
plan for his address to the jury on the morrow. He was sitting in the
inner room, the door between that and the outer room being open, but
the street door closed.
After a little he heard some one enter and walk across the floor. He
thought it must be Ralph, and he looked up to welcome him. But it was
dark in the outer office, and he could not see who came, until his
visitor was fairly standing in the door-way of his room.
It was not Ralph. It was a young man, a stranger. He wore a pair of
light corduroy pantaloons, a checked vest, a double-breasted sack
coat, and a flowing red cravat.
He bowed low and said:--
"Have I the honor of addressing Mr. Sharpman, attorney at law?"
"That is my name," said the lawyer, regarding his visitor with some
curiosity, "will you walk in?"
"With pleasure, sir."
The young man entered the room, removed his high silk hat from his
head, and laid it on the table, top down. Then he drew a card case
from an inner pocket, and produced and handed to the lawyer a soiled
card on which was printed in elaborate letters the following name and
L. JOSEPH CHEEKERTON,
While Sharpman was examining the card, his visitor was forming in his
mind a plan of procedure. He had come there with a carefully concocted
lie on his tongue to swindle the sharpest lawyer in Scranton out of
enough money to fill an empty purse.
"Will you be seated, Mr. Cheekerton?" said the lawyer, looking up from
"Thank you, sir!"
The young man drew the chair indicated by Sharpman closer to the
table, and settled himself comfortably into it.
"It is somewhat unusual, I presume," he said, "for attorneys to
receive calls on Sunday evening:--
"But this motto I hold as a part of my creed,
The better the day, why, the better the deed.
"Excuse me! Oh, no; it doesn't hurt. I've been composing extemporaneous
verse like that for fifteen years. Philosophy and rhyme are my forte.
I've had some narrow escapes to be sure, but I've never been deserted
by the muses. Now, as to my Sunday evening call. It seemed to be
somewhat of a necessity, as I understand that the evidence will be
closed in the Burnham case at the opening of court to-morrow. Am
"It may be, and it may not be," said Sharpman, somewhat curtly. "I am
not acquainted with the plans of the defence. Are you interested in
"Indirectly, yes. You see, Craft and I have been friends for a good
many years, we have exchanged confidences, and have matured plans
together. I am pretty well acquainted with the history of his
successes and his failures."
"Then it will please you to know that he is pretty certain to meet
with success in the Burnham suit."
"Yes? I am quite delighted to hear it:--
"Glad to know that wit and pluck
Bring their owner such good-luck.
"But, between you and me, the old gentleman has brought some faculties
to bear on this case besides wit and pluck."
"Yes, indeed! You see, I knew all about this matter up to the time
the boy ran away. To tell the truth, the old man didn't treat the lad
just right, and I gave the little fellow a pointer on getting off. Old
Simon hasn't been so friendly to me since, for some reason.
"Strange what trifles oft will tend
To cool the friendship of a friend.
"In fact, I was not aware that the boy had been found, until I heard
that fact from his own lips one day last fall, in Wilkesbarre. We
met by a happy chance, and I entertained him on account of old
In a moment the story of Ralph's adventure in Wilkesbarre returned to
Sharpman, and he recognized Rhyming Joe as the person who had swindled
the lad out of his money. He looked at the young man sternly, and
"Yes; I have heard the story of that chance meeting. You were
very liberal on account of old acquaintance's sake, were you not?
entertained the boy till his pocket was empty, didn't you?" and the
lawyer cast a look of withering contempt on his visitor.
But Rhyming Joe did not wither. On the contrary, he broke into a merry
fit of laughter.
"Good joke on the lad, wasn't it?" he replied. "A little rough,
perhaps, but you see I was pretty hard up just then; hadn't had a
square meal before in two days. I'll not forget the boy's generosity,
though; I'll call and see him when he comes into his fortune; he'll be
delighted to receive me, I've no doubt.
"For a trifle like that he'll remember no more,
In the calm contemplation of favors of yore."
But, let that pass. That's a pretty shrewd scheme Old Simon has on
foot just now, isn't it? Did he get that up alone or did he have a
little legal advice? I wouldn't have said that he was quite up to it
all, himself. It's a big thing.
"A man may work hard with his hands and his feet
And find but poor lodging and little to eat.
But if he would gather the princeliest gains
He must smother his conscience and cudgel his brains."
Sharpman looked sternly across at his visitor. "Have you any business
with me?" he said; "if not, my time is very valuable, and I desire to
"I beg pardon, sir, if I have occupied time that is precious to you.
I had no particular object in calling except to gratify a slight
curiosity. I had a desire to know whether it was really understood
between you--that is whether the old man had enlightened you as to who
this boy actually is--that's all."
"There's no doubt as to who the boy is. If you've come here to give me
any information on that point, your visit will have been useless. His
identity is well established."
"Yes? Well, now I have the good-fortune to know all about that child,
and if you are laboring under the impression that he is a son of
Robert Burnham, you are very greatly mistaken. He is not a Burnham at
Sharpman looked at the young man incredulously. "You do not expect
me to believe that?" he said. "You certainly do not mean what you
There was a noise in the outer room as of some one entering from
the street. Sharpman did not hear it; he was too busily engaged in
thinking. Rhyming Joe gave a quick glance at the room door, which
stood slightly ajar, then, turning in his chair to face the lawyer, he
said deliberately and with emphasis:--
"I say the boy Ralph is not Robert Burnham's son."
For a moment Sharpman sat quietly staring at his visitor; then, in a
voice which betrayed his effort to remain calm, he said:--
"What right have you to make such a statement as this? How can you
"Well, in the first place I knew the boy's father, and he was not
Robert Burnham, I assure you."
"Who was he?"
"Simon Craft's son."
"Then Ralph is--?"
"Old Simon's grandchild."
"How do you happen to know all this?"
"Well, I saw the child frequently before he was taken into the
country, and I saw him the night Old Simon brought him back. He was
the same child. The young fellow and his wife separated, and the old
man had to take the baby. I was on confidential terms with the old
fellow at that time, and he told me all about it."
"Then he probably deceived you. The evidence concerning the railroad
disaster and the rescue of Robert Burnham's child from the wreck is
too well established by the testimony to be upset now by such a story
"Ah! let me explain that matter to you. The train that went through
the bridge was the express. The local was twenty minutes behind it.
Old Simon and his grandchild were on the local to the bridge. An
hour later they came down to the city on the train which brought the
wounded passengers. I had this that night from the old man's own lips.
I repeat to you, sir, the boy Ralph is Simon Craft's grandson, and I
In the outer room there was a slight noise as of some person drawing
in his breath sharply and with pain. Neither of the men heard it.
Rhyming Joe was too intent on giving due weight to his pretended
disclosure; Lawyer Sharpman was too busy studying the chances of
that disclosure being true. It was evident that the young man was
acquainted with his subject. If his story were false he had it too
well learned to admit of successful contradiction. It was therefore of
no use to argue with him, but Sharpman thought he would see what was
lying back of this.
"Well," he said, calmly, "I don't see how this affects our case.
Suppose you can prove your story to be true; what then?"
The young man did not answer immediately. He took a package of
cigarettes from his pocket and offered one to Sharpman. It was
declined. He lighted one for himself, leaned back in his chair,
crossed his legs, and began to study the ceiling through the rings
of blue smoke which came curling from his nostrils. Finally he said:
"What would you consider my silence on this subject worth, for a
period of say twenty-four hours?"
"I do not know that your silence will be of material benefit to us."
"Well, perhaps not. My knowledge, however, may be of material injury
"In what way?"
"By the disclosure of it to your opponent."
"What would he do with it?"
"Use it as evidence in this case."
"Well, had you not better go to him?"
Rhyming Joe laid his cigarette aside, straightened up in his chair,
and again faced the lawyer squarely.
"Look here, Mr. Sharpman," he said, "you know, as well as I do, that
the knowledge I hold is extremely dangerous to you. I can back up
my assertion by any amount of corroborative detail. I am thoroughly
familiar with the facts, and if I were to go on the witness-stand
to-morrow for the defendant in this suit, your hopes and schemes would
vanish into thin air. Now, I have no great desire to do this; I have
still a friendly feeling left for Old Simon, and as for the boy, he
is a nice fellow, and I would like to see him prosper. But in my
circumstances, as they are at present, I do not feel that I can afford
to let slip an opportunity to turn an honest penny.
"If a penny saved is a penny earned,
Then a penny found is a penny turned."
Sharpman was still looking calmly at his visitor. "Well?" he said,
"Well, to make a long story short, if I get two hundred dollars
to-night, I keep my knowledge of Simon Craft and his grandson to
myself. If I don't get two hundred dollars to-night, I go to Goodlaw
the first thing to-morrow morning and offer my services to the
defence. I propose to make the amount of a witness fee out of this
case, at any rate."
"You are attempting a game that will hardly work here," said Sharpman,
severely. "You will find yourself earning two hundred dollars for the
state in the penitentiary of your native city if you persist in that
"Very well, sir; you have heard my story, you have my ultimatum. You
are at liberty to act or not to act as you see fit. If you do not
choose to act it will be unnecessary for me to prolong my visit. I
will have to rise early in the morning, in order to get the first
Wilkesbarre train, and I must retire without delay.
"The adage of the early bird,
My soul from infancy has stirred,
And since the worm I sorely need
I'll practise, now, that thrifty creed."
Rhyming Joe reached for his hat.
Sharpman was growing anxious. There was no doubt that the fellow
might hurt them greatly if he chose to do so. His story was not an
improbable one. Indeed, there was good reason to believe that it might
be true. His manner tended to impress one with its truth. But, true or
false, it would not do to have the statement get before that jury. The
man must be detained, to give time for further thought.
"Don't be in a hurry," said Sharpman, mildly; "let's talk this matter
over a little more. Perhaps we can reach an amicable understanding."
Rhyming Joe detected, in an instant, the weakening on the lawyer's
part, and increased his audacity accordingly.
"You have heard my proposition, Mr. Sharpman," he said; "it is the
only one I shall make, and I must decline to discuss the matter
further. My time, as I have already intimated, is of considerable
value to me."
"But how can you expect me to decide on your proposition without first
consulting my client? He is in Wilkesbarre. Give us time. Wait until
morning; I'll go down on the first train with you."
"No, I don't care to have Old Simon consulted in this matter; if I
had cared to, I should have consulted him myself; I know where he is.
Besides, his interest in the case is very small compared with yours.
You are to get the lion's share, that is apparent, and you, of course,
are the one to pay the cost. It is necessary that I should have the
money to-night; after to-night it will be too late."
Sharpman arose and began pacing up and down the room. He was inclined
to yield to the man's demand. The Burnham suit was drawing rapidly to
a successful close. If this fellow should go on the witness-stand and
tell his plausible story, the entire scheme might be wrecked beyond
retrieval. But it was very annoying to be bulldozed into a thing in
this way. The lawyer's stubborn nature rebelled against it powerfully.
It would be a great pleasure, he thought, to defy the fellow and turn
him into the street. Then a new fear came to him. What would be the
effect of this man's story, with its air of genuineness, on the mind
of so conscientious a boy as Ralph? He surely could not afford to
have Ralph's faith interfered with; that would be certain to bring
He made up his mind at once. Turning quickly on his heel to face his
visitor, he said:--
"I want you to understand that I'm not afraid of you nor of your
story, but I don't want to be bothered with you. Now, I'll tell you
what I'll do. I'll give you one hundred dollars in cash to-night, on
condition that you will leave this town by the first train in the
morning, that you'll not go to Wilkesbarre, that you'll not come back
here inside of a year, and that you'll not mention a word of this
matter to any one so long as you shall live."
The lawyer spoke with determined earnestness. Rhyming Joe looked up at
the ceiling as if in doubt.
Finally, he said:--
"Split the difference and call it even,
A hundred and fifty and I'll be leavin'."
Sharpman was whirling the knob of his safe back and forth. At last he
flung open the safe-door.
"I don't care," he said, looking around at his visitor, "whether your
story is true or false. We'll call it true if that will please you.
But if I ever hear of your lisping it again to any living person, I
give you my word for it you shall be sorry. I pay you your own price
for your silence; now I want you to understand that I've bought it and
He had taken a package of bank-notes from a drawer in his safe, had
counted out a portion of them, and now handed them to Rhyming Joe.
"Certainly," said the young man, "certainly; no one can say that I
have ever failed to keep an honest obligation; and between you and me
there shall be the utmost confidence and good faith.
"Though woman's vain, and man deceives,
There's always honor among--gentlemen.
"I beg your pardon! it's the first time in fifteen years that I have
failed to find an appropriate rhyming word; but the exigencies of a
moment, you will understand, may destroy both rhyme and reason."
He was folding the bills carefully and placing them in a shabby purse
while Sharpman looked down on him with undisguised ill will.
"Now," said the lawyer, "I expect that you will leave the city on the
first train in the morning, and that you will not stop until you have
gone at least a hundred miles. Here! here's enough more money to pay
your fare that far, and buy your dinner"; and he held out, scornfully,
toward the young man, another bank-bill.
Rhyming Joe declined it with a courteous wave of his hand, and,
rising, began, with much dignity, to button his coat.
"I have already received," he said, "the _quid pro quo_ of the
bargain. I do not sue for charity nor accept it. Reserve your
financial favors for the poor and needy.
"Go find the beggar crawling in the sun,
Or him that's worse;
But don't inflict your charity on one
With well filled purse."
Sharpman looked amused and put the money back into his pocket. Then a
bit of his customary politeness returned to him.
"I shall not expect to see you in Scranton again for some time, Mr.
Cheekerton," he said, "but when you do come this way, I trust you will
honor me with a visit."
"Thank you, sir. When I return I shall expect to find that your
brilliant scheme has met with deserved success; that old Craft has
chuckled himself to death over his riches; and that my young friend
Ralph is happy in his new home, and contented with such slight remnant
of his fortune as may be left to him after you two are through with
it. By the way, let me ask just one favor of you on leaving, and
that is that the boy may never know what a narrow escape he has had
to-night, and may never know that he is not really the son of Robert
Burnham. It would be an awful blow to him to know that Old Simon is
actually his grandfather; and there's no need, now, to tell him.
"'Where ignorance is bliss,' you know the rest,
And a still tongue is generally the best."
"Oh, no, indeed! the boy shall hear nothing of the kind from me. I am
very much obliged to you, however, for the true story of the matter."
Under the circumstances Sharpman was outdoing himself in politeness,
but he could not well outdo Rhyming Joe. The young man extended his
hand to the lawyer with a respectful bow.
"I shall long remember your extreme kindness and courtesy," he said.
"Henceforth the spider of a friendship true,
Shall weave its silken web twixt me and you."
My dear sir, I wish you a very good night!"
The young man placed his silk hat jauntily on his head, and passed
through the outer office, whistling a low tune; out at the street door
and down the walk; out into the gay world of dissipation, down into
the treacherous depths of crime; one more of the many who have chained
bright intellects to the chariot wheels of vice, and have been dragged
through dust and mire to final and to irretrievable disaster.
A moment later a boy arose from a chair in the outer office and
staggered out into the street. It was Ralph. He had heard it all.
THE ANGEL WITH THE SWORD.
Ralph had entered the office just as Rhyming Joe reached the point of
his disclosure. He had heard him declare, in emphatic tones: "I say
the boy Ralph is not Robert Burnham's son."
It was as though some one had struck him. He dropped into a chair and
sat as if under a spell, listening to every word that was uttered. He
was powerless to move or to speak until the man who had told the cruel
story had passed by him in the dark and gone down the walk into the
Then he arose and followed him; he did not know just why, but it
seemed as if he must see him, if only to beg him to declare that the
story he had just heard him tell was all a lie. And yet Ralph believed
that Rhyming Joe had told the truth. Why should he not believe him
when Sharpman himself had put such faith in the tale as to purchase
the man's silence with money. But if the story were true, if it _were_
true, then it should be known; Mrs. Burnham should know it, Mr.
Goodlaw should know it, Mr. Sharpman should not conceal it, Rhyming
Joe must not be allowed to depart until he had told it on the
witness-stand, in open court. He must see him, Ralph thought; he must
find him, he must, in some way, compel him to remain. The sound of the
man's footsteps had not yet died away as the boy ran after him along
the street, but half-way down the block his breath grew short, his
heart began to pound against his breast, he pressed his hand to his
side as if in pain, and staggered up to a lamp-post for support.
When he recovered sufficiently to start on, Rhyming Joe had passed
out of both sight and hearing. Ralph hurried down the street until he
reached Lackawanna Avenue, and there he stopped, wondering which way
to turn. But there was no time to lose. If the man should escape him
now he might never see him again, he might never hear from his lips
whether the dreadful story was really and positively true. He felt
that Rhyming Joe would not lie to him to-night, nor deceive him, nor
deny his request to make the truth known to those who ought to know
it, if he could only find him and speak to him, and if the man could
only see how utterly miserable he was. He plunged in among the Sunday
evening saunterers, and hurried up the street, looking to the right
and to the left, before and behind him, hastening on as he could. Once
he thought he saw, just ahead, the object of his search. He ran up to
speak to him, looked into his face, and--it was some one else.
Finally he reached the head of the avenue and turned up toward the
Dunmore road. Then he came back, crossed over, and went down on the
other side of the street. Block after block he traversed, looking into
the face of every man he met, glancing into doorways and dark corners,
making short excursions into side streets; block after block, until
he reached the Hyde Park bridge. He was tired and disheartened as he
turned back and wondered what he should do next. Then it occurred to
him that he had promised to meet Mr. Sharpman that night. Perhaps the
lawyer was still waiting for him. Perhaps, if he should appeal to him,
the lawyer would help him to find Rhyming Joe, and to make the truth
known before injustice should be done.
He turned his steps in the direction of Sharpman's office, reached
it finally, went up the little walk, tried to open the door, and
found it locked. The lights were out, the lawyer had gone. Ralph was
very tired, and he sat down on the door-step to rest and to try to
think. He felt that he had made every effort to find Rhyming Joe and
had failed. To-morrow the man would be gone. Sharpman would go to
Wilkesbarre. The evidence in the Burnham case would be closed. The
jury would come into court and declare that he, Ralph, was Robert
Burnham's son--and it would be all a lie. Oh, no! he could not let
that be done. His whole moral nature cried out against it. He must
see Sharpman to-night and beg him to put a stop to so unjust a cause.
To-morrow it might be too late. He rose and started down the walk to
find the lawyer's dwelling. But he did not know in which direction to
turn. A man was passing along the street, and Ralph accosted him:--
"Please, can you tell me where Mr. Sharpman lives?" he asked.
"I don't know anything about him," replied the man gruffly, starting
In a minute another man came by, and Ralph repeated his question.
"I don't know where he does live, sonny," said the man, "but I know
where he would live if I had my choice as to his dwelling-place; he'd
reside in the county jail," and this man, too, passed on.
Ralph went back and sat down on the steps again.
The sky had become covered with clouds, no stars were visible, and it
was very dark.
What was to be done now? He had failed to find Rhyming Joe, he had
failed to find Lawyer Sharpman. The early morning train would carry
both of them beyond his reach. Suppose it should? Suppose the case at
Wilkesbarre should go on to its predicted end, and the jury should
bring in their expected verdict, what then?
Why, then the law would declare him to be Robert Burnham's son; the
title, the position, the fortune would all be his; Mrs. Burnham would
take him to her home, and lavish love and care upon him; all this
unless--unless he should tell what he had heard. Ah! there was a
thought. Suppose he should not tell, suppose he should let the case go
on just as though he had not known the truth, just as though he had
stayed at home that night instead of coming to the city; who would
ever be the wiser? who would ever suspect him of knowing that the
verdict was unjust? He might yet have it all, all, if only he would
hold his tongue. His heart beat wildly with the thought, his breath
came in gasps, something in his throat seemed choking him. But that
would be wrong--he knew it would be wrong, and wicked; a sense of
shame came over him, and he cast the tempting thought aside.
No, there was but one thing for him, as an honest boy, to do, and that
was to tell what he had heard.
If he could tell it soon enough to hold the verdict back, so much the
better, if he could not, still he had no right to keep his knowledge
to himself--the story must be known. And then farewell to all his
hopes, his plans, his high ambition. No beautiful home for him now,
no loving mother nor winsome sister nor taste of any joy that he had
thought to know. It was hard to give them up, it was terrible, but it
must be done.
He fell to thinking of his visit to his mother. It seemed to him as
though it were something that had taken place very long ago. It was
like a sweet dream that he had dreamed as a little boy. He wondered
if it was indeed only that afternoon that it had all occurred. It
had been so beautiful, so very beautiful; and now! Could it be that
this boy, sitting weak, wretched, disconsolate, on the steps of this
deserted office, in the night-time, was the same boy whose feet had
scarcely touched the ground that afternoon for buoyant happiness? Oh,
it was dreadful! dreadful! He began to wonder why he did not cry. He
put up his hands to see if there were any tears on his cheeks, but he
found none. Did only people cry who had some gentler cause for tears?
But the thought of what would happen if he should keep his knowledge
to himself came back again into his mind. He drove it out, but it
returned. It had a fascination about it that was difficult to resist.
It would be so easy simply to say nothing. And who would ever know
that he was not Mrs. Burnham's son? Why, Old Simon would know, but he
would not dare to tell; Lawyer Sharpman would know, but he would not
dare to tell; Rhyming Joe would know, but he would not dare to tell,
at least, not for a long time. And suppose it should be known after
a year, after two years or longer, who would blame him? he would be
supposed to have been ignorant of it all; he would be so established
by that time in his new home that he would not have to leave it. They
might take his property, his money, all things else, but he knew that
if he could but live with Mrs. Burnham for a year she would never let
him leave her, and that was all he cared for at any rate.
But then, he himself would know that he had no right there; he would
have to live with this knowledge always with him, he would have to
walk about with an ever present lie on his mind and in his heart. He
could not do that, he would not do it; he must disclose his knowledge,
and make some effort to see that justice was not mocked. But it was
too late to do anything to-night. He wondered how late it was. He
thought of Bachelor Billy waiting for him at home. He feared that the
good man would be worried on account of his long absence. A clock in a
church tower not far away struck ten. Ralph started to his feet, went
out into the street again, and up toward home.
But Uncle Billy! what would Uncle Billy say when he should tell him
what he had heard? Would he counsel him to hold his tongue? Ah, no!
the boy knew well the course that Uncle Billy would mark out for him.
But it would be a great blow to the man; he would grieve much
on account of the lad's misfortune; he would feel the pangs of
disappointment as deeply as did Ralph himself. Ought he not to be
spared this pain?
And then, a person holding the position of Robert Burnham's son could
give much comfort to the man who had been his dearest friend, could
place him beyond the reach of possible want, could provide well
for the old age that was rapidly approaching, could make happy and
peaceful the remnant of his days. Was it not the duty of a boy to
But, ah! he would not have the good man look into his heart and see
the lie there, not for worlds.
Ralph was passing along the same streets that he had traversed in
coming to the city two hours before; but now the doors of the houses
were closed, the curtains were drawn, the lights were out, there was
no longer any sound of sweet voices at the steps, nor any laughter,
nor any music in the air. A rising wind was stirring the foliage of
the trees into a noise like the subdued sobbing of many people; the
streets were deserted, a fine rain had begun to fall, and out on the
road, after the lad had left the suburbs, it was very dark. Indeed, it
was only by reason of long familiarity with the route that he could
find his way at all.
But the storm and darkness outside were not to be compared with the
tempest in his heart; that was terrible. He had about made up his
mind to tell Bachelor Billy everything and to follow his advice when
he chanced to think of Mrs. Burnham, and how great her pain and
disappointment would be when she should know the truth. He knew that
she believed him now to be her son; that she was ready to take him
to her home, that she counted very greatly on his coming, and was
impatient to bestow on him all the care and devotion that her mother's
heart could conceive. It would be a bitter blow to her, oh, a very
bitter blow. It would be like raising her son from the dead only to
lay him back into his grave after the first day.
What right had he to inflict such torture as this on a lady who had
been so kind to him? What right? Did not her love for him and his love
for her demand that he should keep silence? But, oh! to hear the sound
of loving words from her lips and know that he did not deserve them,
to feel her mother's kisses on his cheek and know that his heart was
dark with deep deceit. Could he endure that? could he?
As Ralph turned the corner of the village street, he saw the light
from Bachelor Billy's window shining out into the darkness. There were
no other lights to be seen. People went early to bed there; they must
rise early in the morning.
The boy knew that his Uncle Billy was waiting for him, doubtless with
much anxiety, but, now that he had reached the cottage, he stood
motionless by the door. He was trying to decide what he should do and
say on entering. To tell Uncle Billy or not to tell him, that was the
question. He had never kept anything from him before; this would be
the first secret he had not shared with him. And Uncle Billy had been
so good to him, too, so very good! Yes, he thought he had better tell
him; he would do it now, before his resolution failed. He raised his
hand to lift the latch. Again he hesitated. If he should tell him,
that would end it all. The good man would never allow him to act a
falsehood. He would have to bid farewell to all his sweet dreams of
home, and his high plans for life, and step back into the old routine
of helpless poverty and hopeless toil. He felt that he was not quite
ready to do that yet; heart, mind, body, all rebelled against it. He
would wait and hope for some way out, without the sacrifice of all
that he had longed for. His hand fell nerveless to his side. He still
stood waiting on the step in the beating rain.
But then, it was wrong to keep silent, wrong! wrong! wrong!
The word went echoing through his mind like the stern sentence of
some high court; conscience again pushed her way to the front, and
the struggle in the boy's heart went on with a fierceness that was
Suddenly the door was opened from the inside, and Bachelor Billy
stood there, shading his eyes with his hand and peering out into the
"Ralph," he said, "is that yo' a-stannin' there i' the rain? Coom in,
lad; coom in wi' ye! Why!" he exclaimed, as the boy entered the room,
"ye're a' drippin' wet!"
"Yes, Uncle Billy, it's a-rainin' pirty hard; I believe I--I believe I
did git wet."
The boy's voice sounded strange and hard even to himself. Bachelor
Billy looked down into his face questioningly.
"What's the matter wi' ye, Ralph? Soun's like as if ye'd been
a-cryin'. Anything gone wrong?"
"Oh, no. Only I'm tired, that's all, an'--an' wet."
"Ye look bad i' the face. Mayhap an' ye're a bit sick?"
"No, I ain't sick."
"Wull, then, off wi' the wet duddies, an' we'll be a-creepin' awa' to
As Ralph proceeded to remove his wet clothing, Bachelor Billy watched
him with increasing concern. The boy's face was white and haggard,
there were dark crescents under his eyes, his movements were heavy and
confused, he seemed hardly to know what he was about.
"Has the lawyer said aught to mak' ye unhappy, Ralph?" inquired Billy
"No, I ain't seen Mr. Sharpman. He wasn't in. He was in when I first
went there, but somebody else was there a-talkin' to 'im, an' I went
out to wait, an' w'en I got back again the office was locked, so I
didn't see 'im."
"Ye've been a lang time gone, lad?"
"Yes, I waited aroun', thinkin' maybe he'd come back, but he didn't. I
didn't git started for home" till just before it begun to rain."
"Mayhap ye got a bit frightened a-comin' up i' the dark?"
"No--well, I did git just a little scared a-comin' by old No. 10
shaft; I thought I heard a funny noise in there."
"Ye s'ould na be oot so late alone. Nex' time I'll go wi' ye mysel'!"
Ralph finished the removal of his wet clothing, and went to bed, glad
to get where Bachelor Billy could not see his face, and where he need
"I'll wait up a bit an' finish ma pipe," said the man, and he leaned
back in his chair and began again his slow puffing.
He knew that something had gone wrong with Ralph. He feared that he
was either sick or in deep trouble. He did not like to question him
too closely, but he thought he would wait a little before going to bed
and see if there were any further developments.
Ralph could not sleep, but he tried to lie very still. A half-hour
went by, and then Bachelor Billy stole softly to the bed and looked
down into the lad's face. He was still awake.
"Have you got your pipe smoked out, Uncle Billy?" he asked.
"Yes, lad; I ha' just finished it."
"Then are you comin' to bed now?"
"I thocht to. Do ye want for anything?"
"Oh, no! I'm all right."
The man began to prepare for bed.
After a while Ralph spoke.
"What is it, lad?"
"I've been thinkin', s'pose this suit should go against us, do you
b'lieve Mrs. Burnham would do anything more for me?"
"She's a gude woman, Ralph. Na doot she'd care for ye; but ye could
na hope to have her tak' ye to her hame, an they proved ye waur no'
"An' then--an' then I'd stay right along with you, wouldn't I?"
"I hope so, lad, I hope so. I want ye s'ould stay wi' me till ye find
a better place."
"Oh, I couldn't find a better place to stay, I know I couldn't, 'xcept
with my--'xcept with Mrs. Burnham."
"Wull, ye need na worry aboot the matter. Ye'll ha' naught to fear fra
the trial, I'm thinkin'. Gae to sleep noo; ye'll feel better i' the
mornin', na doot."
Ralph was silent, but only for a minute. A new thought was working
slowly into his mind.
"But, Uncle Billy," he said, "s'pose they should prove, to-morrow, 'at
Simon Craft is my own gran'father, would I have to--Oh! Uncle Billy!"
The lad started up in bed, sat there for a moment with wildly staring
eyes, and then sprang to the floor trembling with excitement and fear.
"Oh, don't!" he cried; "Uncle Billy, don't let him take me back there
to live with him! I couldn't stan' it! I couldn't! I'd die! I can't
go, Uncle Billy! I can't!"
"There, there, lad! ha' no fear; ye'll no' go back, I'll no' let ye."
The man had Ralph in his arms trying to quiet him.
"But," persisted the boy, "he'll come for me, he'll, make me go. If
they find out I'm his gran'son there at the court, they'll tell him to
take me, I know they will!"
"But ye're no' his gran'son, Ralph, ye've naught to do wi' 'im. Ye're
Robert Burnham's son."
"Oh, no, Uncle Billy, I ain't, I--" He stopped suddenly. The certain
result of disclosing his knowledge to his Uncle Billy flashed
warningly across his mind. If Bachelor Billy knew it, Mrs. Burnham
must know it; if Mrs. Burnham knew it, Goodlaw and the court must know
it, the verdict would be against him, Simon Craft would come to take
him back to the terrors of his wretched home, and he would have to
go. The law that would deny his claim as Robert Burnham's son would
stamp him as the grandson of Simon Craft, and place him again in his
Oh, no! he must not tell. If there were reasons for keeping silence
before, they were increased a hundred-fold by the shadow of this last
danger. He felt that he had rather die than go back to live with Simon
Bachelor Billy was rocking the boy in his arms as he would have rocked
"There, noo, there, noo, quiet yoursel'," he said, and his voice was
very soothing, "quiet yoursel'; ye've naught to dread; it'll a'
coom oot richt. What's happenit to ye, Ralph, that ye s'ould be so
"N--nothin'; I'm tired, that's all. I guess I'll go to bed again."
He went back to bed, but not to sleep. Hot and feverish, and with his
mind in a tumult, he tossed about, restlessly, through the long hours
of the night. He had decided at last that he could not tell what he
had heard at Sharpman's office. The thought of having to return to
Simon Craft had settled the matter in his mind. The other reasons
for his silence he had lost sight of now; this last one outweighed
them all, and placed a seal upon his tongue that he felt must not
Toward morning he fell into a troubled sleep and dreamed that Old
Simon was holding him over the mouth of Burnham Shaft, threatening to
drop him down into it, while Sharpman stood by, with his hands in his
pockets, laughing heartily at his terror. He managed to cry out, and
awoke both himself and Bachelor Billy. He started up in bed, clutching
at the coverings in an attempt, to save himself from apparent
disaster, trembling from head to foot, moaning hoarsely in his fright.
"What is it, Ralph, lad, what's ailin' ye?"
"Oh, don't! don't let him throw me--Uncle Billy, is that you?"
"It's me, Ralph. Waur ye dreamin'? There, never mind; no one s'all
harm ye, ye're safe i' the bed at hame. Gae to sleep, lad, gae to
"I thought they was goin' to throw me down the shaft. I must 'a' been
"Yes, ye waur dreamin'. Gae to sleep."
But Ralph did not go to sleep again that night, and when the first
gray light of the dawning day came in at the cottage window he arose.
Bachelor Billy was still wrapped in heavy slumber, and the boy moved
about cautiously so as not to waken him.
When he was dressed he went out and sat on a bench by the door. The
storm of the night before had left the air cool and sweet, and it
refreshed him to sit there and breathe it, and watch the sun as it
came up from behind the long slanting roof of Burnham Breaker.
But he was very miserable, very miserable indeed. It was not so much
the sense of fear, of pain, of disappointment that disturbed him now,
it was the misery of a fettered conscience, the shadow of an ever
Finally the door was opened and Bachelor Billy stepped out.
"Good mornin', Uncle Billy," said the boy, trying to speak cheerfully.
"Gude mornin' till ye, Ralph! Ye're up airly the mornin'. I mak' free
to say ye're a-feelin' better."
"Yes, I am. I didn't sleep very well, but I'm better this mornin'. I
wisht it was all over with--the trial I mean; you see it's a-makin' me
kind o' nervous an'--an' tired. I can't stan' much 'xcitement, some
"Wull, ye'll no' ha' lang to wait I'm a-thinkin'. It'll be ower the
day. What aboot you're gaein' to Wilkesbarre?"
"I don't know. I guess I'll go down to Mr. Sharpman's office after a
while, an' see if he's left any word for me."
Mrs. Maloney appeared at her door.
"The top o' the mornin' to yez!" she cried, cheerily. "It's a fine
Both Bachelor Billy and Ralph responded to the woman's hearty
greeting. She continued:
"Ye'll be afther gettin' out in the air, I mind, to sharpen up the
appetites; an' a-boardin' with a widdy, too, bad 'cess to ye!"
Mrs. Maloney was inclined to be jovial, as well as kind-hearted.
"Well, I've a bite on the table for yez, an ye don't come an' ate it,
the griddle-cakes'll burn an' the coffee'll be cowld, an'--why, Ralph,
is it sick ye are? sure, ye're not lookin' right well."
"I wasn't feelin' very good las' night, Mrs. Maloney, but I'm better
The sympathetic woman took the boy's hand and rubbed it gently, and,
with many inquiries and much advice, she led him to the table. He
forced himself to eat a little food and to drink something that the
good woman had prepared for him, which, she declared emphatically,
would drive off the "wakeness."
Bachelor Billy did not take his dinner with him that morning as usual.
He said he would come back at noon to learn whether anything new
had occurred in the matter of the lawsuit, and whether it would be
necessary for Ralph to go to Wilkesbarre.
He was really much concerned about the boy. Ralph's conduct since the
evening before had been a mystery to him. He knew that something was
troubling the lad greatly; but, whatever it was, he had faith that
Ralph would meet it manfully, the more manfully, perhaps, without his
help. So he went away with cheering predictions concerning the suit,
and with kindly admonition to the boy to remain as quiet as possible
and try to sleep.
But Ralph could not sleep, nor could he rest. He was laboring under
too much excitement still to do either. He walked nervously about the
cottage for a while, then he started down toward the city. He went
first to Sharpman's office, and the clerk told him that Mr. Sharpman
had left word that Ralph need not go to Wilkesbarre that day. Then he
went on to the heart of the city. He was trying to divert himself,
trying to drown his thought, as people try who are suffering from the
reproaches of conscience.
He walked down to the railroad station. He wondered if Rhyming Joe had
gone. He supposed he had. He did not care to see him now, at any rate.
He sat on a bench in the waiting-room for a few minutes to rest,
then he went out into the street again. But he was very wretched. It
seemed to him as though all persons whom he met looked down on him
disdainfully, as if they knew of his proposed deceit, and despised him
for it. A lady coming toward him crossed to the other side of the walk
before she reached him. He wondered if she saw disgrace in his face
and was trying to avoid him.
After that he left the busy streets and walked back, by a less
frequented route, toward home. The day was very bright and warm, but
the brightness had a cold glare in Ralph's eyes, and he actually
shivered as he walked on in the shade of the trees. He crossed to the
sunny side of the street, and hurried along through the suburbs and
up the hill.
Widow Maloney called to him as he reached the cottage door, to ask
after his health; but he told her he was feeling better, and went on
into his own room. He closed the door behind him, locked it, and threw
himself down upon the bed. He was very wretched. Oh, very wretched,
He had decided to keep silent, and to let the case at Wilkesbarre go
on to its expected end, but the decision had brought to him no peace;
it had only made him more unhappy than he was before. But why should
it do this? Was he not doing what was best? Would it not be better
for Uncle Billy, for Mrs. Burnham, for himself? Must he, for the sake
of some farfetched moral principle, throw himself into the merciless
clutch of Simon Craft?
Thus the fight began again, and the battle in the boy's heart went on
with renewed earnestness. He gave to his conscience, one by one, the
reasons that he had for acting the part of Robert Burnham's son; good
reasons they were too, overwhelmingly convincing they seemed to him;
but his conscience, like an angel with a flaming sword, rejected all
of them, declaring constantly that what he thought to do would be a
But whom would it wrong? Not Ralph Burnham, for he was dead, and it
could be no wrong to him; not Mrs. Burnham, for she would rejoice to
have this boy with her, even though she knew he was not her son; not
Bachelor Billy, for he would be helped to comfort and to happiness.
And yet there stood the angel with the flaming sword crying out always
that it was wrong.
But whom would it wrong? himself? Ah! there was a thought--would it be
Well, would it not? Had it not already made a coward of him? Was it
not degrading him in his own eyes? Was it not trying to stifle the
voice of conscience in his breast? Would it not make of him a living,
walking lie? a thing to be shunned and scorned? Had he a right to
place a burden so appalling on himself? Would it not be better to face
the toil, the pain, the poverty, the fear? Would it not be better even
to die than to live a life like that?
He sprang from the bed with clenched hands and flashing eyes and
swelling nostrils. A fire of moral courage had blazed up suddenly in
his breast. His better nature rose to the help of the angel with the
flaming sword, and together they fought, as the giants of old fought
the dragons in their path. Then hope came back, and courage grew, and
resolution found new footing. He stood there as he stood that day
on the carriage that bore Robert Burnham to his death, the light of
heroism in his eyes, the glow of splendid faith illuming his face. He
could not help but conquer. He drove the spirit of temptation from his
breast, and enthroned in its stead the principle of everlasting right.
There was no thought now of yielding; he felt brave and strong to meet
every trial, yes, every terror that might lie in his path, without
flinching one hair's breadth from the stern line of duty.
But now that his decision was made, he must act, and that promptly.
What was the first thing to be done? Why, the first thing always was
to confide in Uncle Billy, and to ask for his advice.
He seized his hat and started up the village street and across the
hill to Burnham Breaker There was no lagging now, no indecision in his
step, no doubt within his mind.
He was once more brave, hopeful, free-hearted, ready to do anything or
all things, that justice might be done and truth become established.
The sun shone down upon him tenderly, the birds sang carols to him on
the way, the blossoming trees cast white flowers at his feet; but he
never stayed his steps nor turned his thought until the black heights
of Burnham Breaker threw their shadows on his head.
AN EVENTFUL JOURNEY.
The shaft-tower of Burnham Breaker reached up so high from the surface
of the earth that it seemed, sometimes, as if the low-hanging clouds
were only a foot or two above its head. In the winter time the wind
swept wildly against it, the flying snow drifted in through the wide
cracks and broken windows, and the men who worked there suffered from
the piercing cold. But when summer came, and the cool breeze floated
across through the open places at the head, and one could look down
always on the green fields far below, and the blossoming gardens,
and the gray-roofed city, and the shining waters of the Lackawanna,
winding southward, and the wooded hills rising like green waves to
touch the far blue line of mountain peaks, ah, then it was a pleasant
place to work in. So Bachelor Billy thought, these warm spring days,
as he pushed the dripping cars from the carriage, and dumped each load
of coal into the slide, to be carried down between the iron-teethed
rollers, to be crushed and divided and screened and re-screened, till
it should pass beneath the sharp eyes and nimble fingers of the boys
who cleansed it from its slate and stone.
Billy often thought, as he dumped a carload into the slide, and saw a
huge lump of coal that glistened brightly, or glowed with iridescent
tints, or was veined with fossil-marked or twisted slate, that
perhaps, down below in the screen-room, Ralph's eyes would see the
brightness of the broken lump, or Ralph's fingers pick the curious
bits of slate from out the moving mass. And as he fastened up the
swing-board and pushed the empty car to the carriage, he imagined how
the boy's face would light up with pleasure, or his brown eyes gleam
with wonder and delight in looking on these strange specimens of
But to-day Ralph was not there. In all probability he would never
be there again to work. Another boy was sitting on his bench in the
screen-room, another boy was watching rainbow coal and fern-marked
slate. This thought in Bachelor Billy's mind was a sad one. He pushed
the empty car on the carriage, and sat down on a bench by the window
to consider the subject of Ralph's absence.
Something had gone wrong at the foot of the shaft. There were no cars
ready for hoisting, and Billy and his co-laborer, Andy Gilgallon, were
able to rest for many minutes from their toil.
As they sat looking down upon the green landscape below them, Bachelor
Billy's attention was attracted to a boy who was hurrying along the
turnpike road a quarter of a mile away. He came to the foot of the
hill and turned up the path to the breaker, looking up to the men in
the shaft-tower as he hastened on, and waving his hand to them.
"I believe it's Ralph," said Billy, "it surely is. An ye'll mind both
carriages for a bit when they start up, Andy, I'll go t' the lad," and
he hurried across the tracks and down the dark and devious way that
led to the surface of the earth.
At the door of the pump-room he met Ralph. "Uncle Billy!" shouted the
boy, "I want to see you; I've got sumpthin' to tell you."
Two or three men were standing by, watching the pair curiously, and
Ralph continued: "Come up to the tree where they ain't so much noise;
'twon't take long."
He led the way across the level space, up the bank, and into the
shadow of the tree beneath which the breaker boys had gathered a year
before to pass resolutions of sympathy for Robert Burnham's widow;
They were no sooner seated on the rude bench than Ralph began:--
"I ought to 'a' told you before, I done very wrong not to tell you,
but I couldn't raise the courage to do it till this mornin'. Here's
what I want you to know."
Then Ralph told, with full detail, of his visit to Sharpman's office
on Sunday evening, of what he had heard there, of his subsequent
journey through the streets of the city, of his night of agony, of his
morning of shame, of his final victory over himself.
Bachelor Billy listened with intense interest, and when he had heard
the boy's story to the end he dashed the tears from his eyes and said:
"Gie's your han' Ralph; gie's your twa han's! Ye're a braw lad. Son or
no son o' Robert Burnham, ye're fit to stan' ony day in his shoes!"
He was looking down with strong admiration into the boy's pale face,
holding the small hands affectionately in both of his.
"I come just as quick as I could," continued the boy, "after I got
over thinkin' I'd keep still about it, just as quick as I could, to
tell you an' ask you what to do. I'll do anything 'at you tell me it's
right to do, Uncle Billy, anything. If you'll only say I must do it,
I will. But it's awful hard to do it all alone, to let 'em know who I
am, to give up everything so, an' not to have any mother any more, nor
no sister, nor no home, nor no learnin', nor nothing; not anything at
all, never, any more; it's terrible! Oh, Uncle Billy, it's terrible!"
Then, for the first time since the dreadful words of Rhyming Joe fell
on his ears in the darkness of Sharpman's office, Ralph gave way to
tears. He wept till his whole frame shook with the deep force of his
Bachelor Billy put his arm around the boy and drew him to his side. He
smoothed back the tangled hair from the child's hot forehead and spoke
rude words of comfort into his ears, and after a time Ralph grew
"Do you think, Uncle Billy," asked Ralph, "'at Rhymin' Joe was
a-tellin' the truth? He used to lie, I know he did, I've heard 'im
"It looks verra like, Ralph, as though he might 'a' been a-tellin' o'
the truth; he must 'a' been knowin' to it all, or he could na tell it
"Oh! he was; he knew all about it. I remember him about the first
thing. He was there most all the time. But I didn't know but he might
just 'a' been lyin' to get that money."
"It's no' unlikely. But atween the twa, I'd sooner think it was the
auld mon was a-tellin' o' the lee. He has more to make out o' it, do
"Well, there's the evidence in court."
"True, but Lawyer Sharpman kens the worth o' that as well as ony o'
us. An he was na fearfu' that the truth would owerbalance it, he wadna
gi' a mon a hunderd an' fifty dollars to hold his tongue. I'm doubtfu'
for ye, Ralph, I'm verra doubtfu'."
Ralph had believed Rhyming Joe's story from the beginning, but he felt
that this belief must be confirmed by Uncle Billy in order to put it
beyond question. Now he was satisfied. It only remained to act.
"It's all true," he said; "I know it's all true, an' sumpthin's got to
be done. What shall I do, Uncle Billy?"
The troubled look deepened on the man's face.
"Whether it's fause or true," he replied, "ye s'ould na keep it to
yoursel'. She ought to know. It's only fair to go an' tell the tale to
her an' let her do what she thenks bes'."
"Must I tell Mrs. Burnham? Must I go an' tell her 'at I ain't her
son, an' 'at I can't live with her, an' 'at we can't never be happy
together the way we talked? Oh, Uncle Billy, I can't do that, I
He looked up beseechingly into the man's face. Something that he saw
there--pain, disappointment, affection, something, inspired him with
fresh courage, and he started to his feet and dashed the tears from
"Yes, I can do it too!" he exclaimed. "I can do anything 'at's right,
an' that's right. I won't wait; I'll go now."
"Don't haste, lad; wait a bit; listen! If the lady should be gone to
court ye mus' gae there too. If ye canna find her, ye mus' find her
lawyer. One or the ither ye s'ould tell, afoor the verdict comes;
afterwards it might be too late."
"Yes, I'll do it, I'll do it just like that."
"Mos' like ye'll have to go to Wilkesbarre. An ye do I'll go mysel'.
But dinna wait for me. I'll coom when I can get awa'. Ye s'ould go on
the first train that leaves."
"Yes, I unnerstan'. I'll go now."
"Wait a bit! Keep up your courage, Ralph. Ye've done a braw thing, an'
ye're through the worst o' it; but ye'll find a hard path yet, an'
ye'll need a stout hert. Ralph," he had taken both the boy's hands
into his again, and was looking tenderly into his haggard face and
bloodshot eyes; the traces of the struggle were so very plain--"Ralph,
I fear I'd cry ower ye a bit an we had the time, ye've sufferit so.
An' it's gude for ye, I'm thinkin', that ye mus' go quick. I'd make ye
weak, an' ye need to be strang. I canna fear for ye, laddie; ye ken
the right an' ye'll do it. Good-by till ye; it'll not be lang till I
s'all go to ye; good-by!"
He bent down and kissed the boy's forehead and turned him to face
toward the city; and when Ralph had disappeared below the brow of the
hill, the rough-handed, warm-hearted toiler of the breaker's head
wiped the tears from his face, and climbed back up the steep steps,
and the long walks of cleated plank, to engage in his accustomed task.
There was no shrinking on Ralph's part now. He was on fire with the
determination to do the duty that lay so plainly in his sight. He did
not stop to argue with himself, he scarcely saw a person or a thing
along his path; he never rested from his rapid journey till he reached
the door of Mrs. Burnham's house.
A servant came in answer to his ring at the bell, and gave him
pleasant greeting. She said that Mrs. Burnham had gone to Wilkesbarre,
that she had started an hour before, that she had said she would come
back in the early evening and would doubtless bring her son with her.
Ralph looked up into the woman's face, and his eyes grew dim.
"Thank you," he said, repressing a sob, and he went down the steps
with a choking in his throat and a pain at his heart.
He turned at the gate, and looked back through the half-opened door
into the rich shadows that lay beyond it, with a ray of crimson light
from the stained glass window cleaving them across, and then his eyes
were blinded with tears, and he could see no more. The gates of his
Eden were closed behind him; he felt that he should never enter them
But this was no time for sorrow and regret.
He wiped the tears from his eyes and turned his face resolutely toward
the heart of the city.
At the railroad station he was told that the next train would leave
for Wilkesbarre at twelve o'clock.
It lacked half an hour of that time now. There was nothing to do but
Back to Full Books