The Minister's Charge
William D. Howells

Part 1 out of 7

Anne Folland, Eric Eldred, Charles Franks, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team










On their way back to the farm-house where they were boarding, Sewell's
wife reproached him for what she called his recklessness. "You had no
right," she said, "to give the poor boy false hopes. You ought to have
discouraged him--that would have been the most merciful way--if you
knew the poetry was bad. Now, he will go on building all sorts of
castles in the air on your praise, and sooner or later they will come
tumbling about his ears--just to gratify your passion for saying
pleasant things to people."

"I wish you had a passion for saying pleasant things to me, my dear,"
suggested her husband evasively.

"Oh, a nice time I should have!"

"I don't know about _your_ nice time, but I feel pretty certain
of my own. How do you know--Oh, _do_ get up, you implacable
cripple!" he broke off to the lame mare he was driving, and pulled
at the reins.

"Don't saw her mouth!" cried Mrs. Sewell.

"Well, let her get up, then, and I won't. I don't like to saw her
mouth; but I have to do something when you come down on me with your
interminable consequences. I dare say the boy will never think of my
praise again. And besides, as I was saying when this animal
interrupted me with her ill-timed attempts at grazing, how do you
know that I knew the poetry was bad?"

"How? By the sound of your voice. I could tell you were dishonest in
the dark, David."

"Perhaps the boy knew that I was dishonest too," suggested Sewell.

"Oh no, he didn't. I could see that he pinned his faith to every

"He used a quantity of pins, then; for I was particularly profuse of
syllables. I find that it requires no end of them to make the worse
appear the better reason to a poet who reads his own verses to you.
But come, now, Lucy, let me off a syllable or two. I--I have a
conscience, you know well enough, and if I thought--But pshaw! I've
merely cheered a lonely hour for the boy, and he'll go back to
hoeing potatoes to-morrow, and that will be the end of it."

"I _hope_ that will be the end of it," said Mrs. Sewell, with
the darkling reserve of ladies intimate with the designs of

"Well," argued her husband, who was trying to keep the matter from
being serious, "perhaps he may turn out a poet yet. You never can
tell where the lightning is going to strike. He has some idea of
rhyme, and some perception of reason, and--yes, some of the lines
_were_ musical. His general attitude reminded me of Piers
Plowman. Didn't he recall Piers Plowman to you?"

"I'm glad you can console yourself in that way, David," said his
wife relentlessly.

The mare stopped again, and Sewell looked over his shoulder at the
house, now black in the twilight, on the crest of the low hill
across the hollow behind them. "I declare," he said, "the loneliness
of that place almost broke my heart. There!" he added, as the faint
sickle gleamed in the sky above the roof, "I've got the new moon
right over my left shoulder for my pains. That's what comes of
having a sympathetic nature."

* * * * *

The boy was looking at the new moon, across the broken gate which
stopped the largest gap in the tumbled stone wall. He still gripped
in his hand the manuscript which he had been reading to the

"There, Lem," called his mother's voice from the house, "I guess
you've seen the last of 'em for one while. I'm 'fraid you'll take
cold out there 'n the dew. Come in, child."

The boy obeyed. "I was looking at the new moon, mother. I saw it
over my right shoulder. Did you hear--hear him," he asked, in a
broken and husky voice,--"hear how he praised my poetry, mother?"

* * * * *

"Oh, _do_ make her get up, David!" cried Mrs. Sewell. "These
mosquitoes are eating me alive!"

"I will saw her mouth all to the finest sort of kindling-wood, if
she doesn't get up this very instant," said Sewell, jerking the
reins so wildly that the mare leaped into a galvanic canter, and
continued without further urging for twenty paces. "Of course,
Lucy," he resumed, profiting by the opportunity for conversation
which the mare's temporary activity afforded, "I should feel myself
greatly to blame if I thought I had gone beyond mere kindness in my
treatment of the poor fellow. But at first I couldn't realise that
the stuff was so bad. Their saying that he read all the books he
could get, and was writing every spare moment, gave me the idea that
he _must_ be some sort of literary genius in the germ, and I
listened on and on, expecting every moment that he was coming to
some passage with a little lift or life in it; and when he got to
the end, and hadn't come to it, I couldn't quite pull myself
together to say so. I had gone there so full of the wish to
recognise and encourage, that I couldn't turn about for the other
thing. Well! I shall know another time how to value a rural
neighbourhood report of the existence of a local poet. Usually there
is some hardheaded cynic in the community with native perception
enough to enlighten the rest as to the true value of the phenomenon;
but there seems to have been none here. I ought to have come sooner
to see him, and then I could have had a chance to go again and talk
soberly and kindly with him, and show him gently how much he had
mistaken himself. Oh, _get_ up!" By this time the mare had
lapsed again into her habitual absent-mindedness, and was limping
along the dark road with a tendency to come to a full stop, from
step to step. The remorse in the minister's soul was so keen that he
could not use her with the cruelty necessary to rouse her flagging
energies; as he held the reins he flapped his elbows up toward his
face, as if they were wings, and contrived to beat away a few of the
mosquitoes with them; Mrs. Sewell, in silent exasperation, fought
them from her with the bough which she had torn from an overhanging

In the morning they returned to Boston, and Sewell's parish duties
began again; he was rather faithfuller and busier in these than he
might have been if he had not laid so much stress upon duties of all
sorts, and so little upon beliefs. He declared that he envied the
ministers of the good old times who had only to teach their people
that they would be lost if they did not do right; it was much
simpler than to make them understand that they were often to be good
for reasons not immediately connected with their present or future
comfort, and that they could not confidently expect to be lost for
any given transgression, or even to be lost at all. He found it
necessary to do his work largely in a personal way, by meeting and
talking with people, and this took up a great deal of his time,
especially after the summer vacation, when he had to get into
relations with them anew, and to help them recover themselves from
the moral lassitude into which people fall during that season of
physical recuperation.

He was occupied with these matters one morning late in October when
a letter came addressed in a handwriting of copybook carefulness,
but showing in every painstaking stroke the writer's want of
training, which, when he read it, filled Sewell with dismay. It was
a letter from Lemuel Barker, whom Sewell remembered, with a pang of
self-upbraiding, as the poor fellow he had visited with his wife the
evening before they left Willoughby Pastures; and it enclosed
passages of a long poem which Barker said he had written since he
got the fall work done. The passages were not submitted for Sewell's
criticism, but were offered as examples of the character of the
whole poem, for which the author wished to find a publisher. They
were not without ideas of a didactic and satirical sort, but they
seemed so wanting in literary art beyond a mechanical facility of
versification, that Sewell wondered how the writer should have
mastered the notion of anything so literary as publication, till he
came to that part of the letter in which Barker spoke of their
having had so much sickness in the family that he thought he would
try to do something to help along. The avowal of this meritorious
ambition inflicted another wound upon Sewell's guilty consciousness;
but what made his blood run cold was Barker's proposal to come down
to Boston, if Sewell advised, and find a publisher with Sewell's

This would never do, and the minister went to his desk with the
intention of despatching a note of prompt and total discouragement.
But in crossing the room from the chair into which he had sunk, with
a cheerful curiosity, to read the letter, he could not help some
natural rebellion against the punishment visited upon him. He could
not deny that he deserved punishment, but he thought that this, to
say the least, was very ill-timed. He had often warned other sinners
who came to him in like resentment that it was this very quality of
inopportuneness that was perhaps the most sanative and divine
property of retribution; the eternal justice fell upon us, he said,
at the very moment when we were least able to bear it, or thought
ourselves so; but now in his own case the clear-sighted prophet
cried out and revolted in his heart. It was Saturday morning, when
every minute was precious to him for his sermon, and it would take
him fully an hour to write that letter; it must be done with the
greatest sympathy; he had seen that this poor foolish boy was very
sensitive, and yet it must be done with such thoroughness as to cut
off all hope of anything like literary achievement for him.

At the moment Sewell reached his desk, with a spirit disciplined to
the sacrifice required of it, he heard his wife's step outside his
study door, and he had just time to pull open a drawer, throw the
letter into it, and shut it again before she entered. He did not
mean finally to conceal it from her, but he was willing to give
himself breath before he faced her with the fact that he had
received such a letter. Nothing in its way was more terrible to this
good man than the righteousness of that good woman. In their case,
as in that of most other couples who cherish an ideal of dutiful
living, she was the custodian of their potential virtue, and he was
the instrument, often faltering and imperfect, of its application to
circumstances; and without wishing to spare himself too much, he was
sometimes aware that she did not spare him enough. She worked his
moral forces as mercilessly as a woman uses the physical strength of
a man when it is placed at her direction.

"What is the matter, David?" she asked, with a keen glance at the
face he turned upon her over his shoulder.

"Nothing that I wish to talk of at present, my dear," answered
Sewell, with a boldness that he knew would not avail him if she
persisted in knowing.

"Well, there would be no time if you did," said his wife. "I'm
dreadfully sorry for you, David, but it's really a case you can't
refuse. Their own minister is taken sick, and it's appointed for
this afternoon at two o'clock, and the poor thing has set her heart
upon having you, and you must go. In fact, I promised you would.
I'll see that you're not disturbed this morning, so that you'll have
the whole forenoon to yourself. But I thought I'd better tell you at
once. It's only a child--a little boy. You won't have to say much."

"Oh, of course I must go," answered Sewell, with impatient
resignation; and when his wife left the room, which she did after
praising him and pitying him in a way that was always very sweet to
him, he saw that he must begin his sermon at once, if he meant to
get through with it in time, and must put off all hope of replying
to Lemuel Barker till Monday at least. But he chose quite a
different theme from that on which he had intended to preach. By an
immediate inspiration he wrote a sermon on the text, "The tender
mercies of the wicked are cruel," in which he taught how great harm
could be done by the habit of saying what are called kind things. He
showed that this habit arose not from goodness of heart, or from the
desire to make others happy, but from the wish to spare one's-self
the troublesome duty of formulating the truth so that it would
perform its heavenly office without wounding those whom it was
intended to heal. He warned his hearers that the kind things spoken
from this motive were so many sins committed against the soul of the
flatterer and the soul of him they were intended to flatter; they
were deceits, lies; and he besought all within the sound of his
voice to try to practise with one another an affectionate sincerity,
which was compatible not only with the brotherliness of
Christianity, but the politeness of the world. He enforced his
points with many apt illustrations, and he treated the whole subject
with so much fulness and fervour, that he fell into the error of the
literary temperament, and almost felt that he had atoned for his
wrongdoing by the force with which he had portrayed it.

Mrs. Sewell, who did not always go to her husband's sermons, was at
church that day, and joined him when some ladies who had lingered to
thank him for the excellent lesson he had given them at last left
him to her.

"Really, David," she said, "I wondered your congregation could keep
their countenances while you were going on. Did you think of that
poor boy up at Willoughby Pastures when you were writing that

"Yes, my dear," replied Sewell gravely; "he was in my mind the whole

"Well, you were rather hard upon yourself; and I think I was rather
too hard upon you, that time, though I was so vexed with you. But
nothing has come of it, and I suppose there are cases where people
are so lost to common sense that you can't do anything for them by
telling them the truth."

"But you'd better tell it, all the same," said Sewell, still in a
glow of righteous warmth from his atonement; and now a sudden
temptation to play with fire seized him. "You wouldn't have excused
me if any trouble had come of it."

"No, I certainly shouldn't," said his wife. "But I don't regret it
altogether if it's made you see what danger you run from that
tendency of yours. What in the world made you think of it?"

"Oh, it came into my mind." said Sewell.

He did not find time to write to Barker the next day, and on
recurring to his letter he saw that there was no danger of his
taking another step without his advice, and he began to postpone it;
when he had time he was not in the mood; he waited for the time and
the mood to come together, and he also waited for the most
favourable moment to tell his wife that he had got that letter from
Barker and to ask her advice about answering it. If it had been
really a serious matter, he would have told her at once; but being
the thing it was, he did not know just how to approach it, after his
first concealment. He knew that, to begin with, he would have to
account for his mistake in attempting to keep it from her, and would
have to bear some just upbraiding for this unmanly course, and would
then be miserably led to the distasteful contemplation of the folly
by which he had brought this trouble upon himself. Sewell smiled to
think how much easier it was to make one's peace with one's God than
with one's wife; and before he had brought himself to the point of
answering Barker's letter, there came a busy season in which he
forgot him altogether.


One day in the midst of this Sewell was called from his study to see
some one who was waiting for him in the reception-room, but who sent
in no name by the housemaid.

"I don't know as you remember me," the visitor said, rising
awkwardly, as Sewell came forward with a smile of inquiry. "My
name's Barker."

"Barker?" said the minister, with a cold thrill of instant
recognition, but playing with a factitious uncertainty till he could
catch his breath in the presence of the calamity. "Oh yes! How do
you do?" he said; and then planting himself adventurously upon the
commandment to love one's neighbour as one's-self, he added: "I'm
very glad to see you!"

In token of his content, he gave Barker his hand and asked him to be

The young man complied, and while Sewell waited for him to present
himself in some shape that he could grapple with morally, he made an
involuntary study of his personal appearance. That morning, before
starting from home by the milk-train that left Willoughby Pastures
at 4.5, Barker had given his Sunday boots a coat of blacking, which
he had eked out with stove-polish, and he had put on his best
pantaloons, which he had outgrown, and which, having been made very
tight a season after tight pantaloons had gone out of fashion in
Boston, caught on the tops of his boots and stuck there in spite of
his efforts to kick them loose as he stood up, and his secret
attempts to smooth them down when he had reseated himself. He wore a
single-breasted coat of cheap broadcloth, fastened across his chest
with a carnelian clasp-button of his father's, such as country youth
wore thirty years ago, and a belated summer scarf of gingham, tied
in a breadth of knot long since abandoned by polite society.

Sewell had never thought his wife's reception-room very splendidly
appointed, but Barker must have been oppressed by it, for he sat in
absolute silence after resuming his chair, and made no sign of
intending to open the matter upon which he came. In the kindness of
his heart Sewell could not refrain from helping him on.

"When did you come to Boston?" he asked with a cheeriness which he
was far from feeling.

"This morning," said Barker briefly, but without the tremor in his
voice which Sewell expected.

"You've never been here before, I suppose," suggested Sewell, with
the vague intention of generalising or particularising the
conversation, as the case might be.

Barker abruptly rejected the overture, whatever it was. "I don't
know as you got a letter from me a spell back," he said.

"Yes, I did," confessed Sewell. "I did receive that letter," he
repeated, "and I ought to have answered it long ago. But the fact
is--" He corrected himself when it came to his saying this, and
said, "I mean that I put it by, intending to answer it when I could
do so in the proper way, until, I'm very sorry to say, I forgot it
altogether. Yes, I forgot it, and I certainly ask your pardon for my
neglect. But I can't say that as it's turned out I altogether regret
it. I can talk with you a great deal better than I could write to
you in regard to your"--Sewell hesitated between the words poems and
verses, and finally said--"work. I have blamed myself a great deal,"
he continued, wincing under the hurt which he felt that he must be
inflicting on the young man as well as himself, "for not being more
frank with you when I saw you at home in September. I hope your
mother is well?"

"She's middling," said Barker, "but my married sister that came to
live with us since you was there has had a good deal of sickness in
her family. Her husband's laid up with the rheumatism most of the

"Oh!" murmured Sewell sympathetically. "Well! I ought to have told
you at that time that I could not see much hope of your doing
acceptable work in a literary way; and if I had supposed that you
ever expected to exercise your faculty of versifying to any serious
purpose,--for anything but your own pleasure and entertainment,--I
should certainly have done so. And I tell you now that the specimens
of the long poem you have sent me give me even less reason to
encourage you than the things you read me at home."

Sewell expected the audible crash of Barker's air-castles to break
the silence which the young man suffered to follow upon these words;
but nothing of the kind happened, and for all that he could see,
Barker remained wholly unaffected by what he had said. It nettled
Sewell a little to see him apparently so besotted in his own
conceit, and he added: "But I think I had better not ask you to rely
altogether upon my opinion in the matter, and I will go with you to
a publisher, and you can get a professional judgment. Excuse me a

He left the room and went slowly upstairs to his wife. It appeared
to him a very short journey to the third story, where he knew she
was decking the guest-chamber for the visit of a friend whom they
expected that evening. He imagined himself saying to her when his
trial was well over that he did not see why she complained of those
stairs; that he thought they were nothing at all. But this sense of
the absurdity of the situation which played upon the surface of his
distress flickered and fled at sight of his wife bustling cheerfully
about, and he was tempted to go down and get Barker out of the
house, and out of Boston if possible, without letting her know
anything of his presence.

"Well?" said Mrs. Sewell, meeting his face of perplexity with a
penetrating glance. "What is it, David?"

"Nothing. That is--everything! Lemuel Barker is here!"

"Lemuel Barker? Who is Lemuel Barker?" She stood with the pillow-
sham in her hand which she was just about to fasten on the pillow,
and Sewell involuntarily took note of the fashion in which it was

"Why, surely you remember! That simpleton at Willoughby Pastures."
If his wife had dropped the pillow-sham, and sunk into a chair
beside the bed, fixing him with eyes of speechless reproach; if she
had done anything dramatic, or said anything tragic, no matter how
unjust or exaggerated, Sewell could have borne it; but she only went
on tying the sham on the pillow, without a word. "The fact is, he
wrote to me some weeks ago, and sent me some specimens of a long

"Just before you preached that sermon on the tender mercies of the

"Yes," faltered Sewell. "I had been waiting to show you the letter."

"You waited a good while, David."

"I know--I know," said Sewell miserably. "I was waiting--waiting--"
He stopped, and then added with a burst, "I was waiting till I could
put it to you in some favourable light."

"I'm glad you're honest about it at last, my dear!"

"Yes. And while I was waiting I forgot Barker's letter altogether. I
put it away somewhere--I can't recollect just where, at the moment.
But that makes no difference; he's here with the whole poem in his
pocket, now." Sewell gained a little courage from his wife's
forbearance; she knew that she could trust him in all great matters,
and perhaps she thought that for this little sin she would not add
to his punishment. "And what I propose to do is to make a complete
thing of it, this time. Of course," he went on convicting himself,
"I see that I shall inflict twice the pain that I should have done
if I had spoken frankly to him at first; and of course there will be
the added disappointment, and the expense of his coming to Boston.
But," he added brightly, "we can save him any expense while he's
here, and perhaps I can contrive to get him to go home this

"He wouldn't let you pay for his dinner out of the house anywhere,"
said Mrs. Sewell. "You must ask him to dinner here."

"Well," said Sewell, with resignation; and suspecting that his wife
was too much piqued or hurt by his former concealment to ask what he
now meant to do about Barker, he added: "I'm going to take him round
to a publisher and let him convince himself that there's no hope for
him in a literary way."

"David!" cried his wife; and now she left off adjusting the shams,
and erecting herself looked at him across the bed, "You don't intend
to do anything so cruel."


"Yes! Why should you go and waste any publisher's time by getting
him to look at such rubbish? Why should you expose the poor fellow
to the mortification of a perfectly needless refusal? Do you want to
shirk the responsibility--to put it on some one else?"

"No; you know I don't."

"Well, then, tell him yourself that it won't do."

"I have told him."

"What does he say?"

"He doesn't say anything. I can't make out whether he believes me or

"Very well, then; you've done your duty, at any rate." Mrs. Sewell
could not forbear saying also, "If you'd done it at first, David,
there wouldn't have been any of this trouble."

"That's true," owned her husband, so very humbly that her heart
smote her.

"Well, go down and tell him he must stay to dinner, and then try to
get rid of him the best way you can. Your time is really too
precious, David, to be wasted in this way. You _must_ get rid
of him, somehow."

Sewell went back to his guest in the reception-room, who seemed to
have remained as immovably in his chair as if he had been a sitting
statue of himself. He did not move when Sewell entered.

"On second thoughts," said the minister, "I believe I will not ask
you to go to a publisher with me, as I had intended; it would expose
you to unnecessary mortification, and it would be, from my point of
view, an unjustifiable intrusion upon very busy people. I must ask
you to take my word for it that no publisher would bring out your
poem, and it never would pay you a cent if he did." The boy remained
silent as before, and Sewell had no means of knowing whether it was
from silent conviction or from mulish obstinacy. "Mrs. Sewell will
be down presently. She wished me to ask you to stay to dinner. We
have an early dinner, and there will be time enough after that for
you to look about the city."

"I shouldn't like to put you out," said Barker.

"Oh, not at all," returned Sewell, grateful for this sign of
animation, and not exigent of a more formal acceptance of his
invitation. "You know," he said, "that literature is a trade, like
every other vocation, and that you must serve an apprenticeship if
you expect to excel. But first of all you must have some natural
aptitude for the business you undertake. You understand?" asked
Sewell; for he had begun to doubt whether Barker understood
anything. He seemed so much more stupid than he had at home; his
faculties were apparently sealed up, and he had lost all the
personal picturesqueness which he had when he came in out of the
barn, at his mother's call, to receive Sewell.

"Yes," said the boy.

"I don't mean," continued Sewell, "that I wouldn't have you continue
to make verses whenever you have the leisure for it. I think, on the
contrary, that it will give a grace to your life which it might
otherwise lack. We are all in daily danger of being barbarised by
the sordid details of life; the constantly recurring little duties
which must be done, but which we must not allow to become the whole
of life." Sewell was so much pleased with this thought, when it had
taken form in words, that he made a mental note of it for future
use. "We must put a border of pinks around the potato-patch, as
Emerson would say, or else the potato-patch is no better than a
field of thistles." Perhaps because the logic of this figure rang a
little false, Sewell hastened to add: "But there are many ways in
which we can prevent the encroachment of those little duties without
being tempted to neglect them, which would be still worse. I have
thought a good deal about the condition of our young men in the
country, and I have sympathised with them in what seems their want
of opportunity, their lack of room for expansion. I have often
wished that I could do something for them--help them in their doubts
and misgivings, and perhaps find some way out of the trouble for
them. I regret this tendency to the cities of the young men from the
country. I am sure that if we could give them some sort of social
and intellectual life at home, they would not be so restless and

Sewell felt as if he had been preaching to a dead wall; but now the
wall opened, and a voice came out of it, saying: "You mean something
to occupy their minds?"

"Exactly so!" cried Sewell. "Something to occupy their minds. Now,"
he continued, with a hope of getting into some sort of human
relations with his guest which he had not felt before, "why
shouldn't a young man on a farm take up some scientific study, like
geology, for instance, which makes every inch of earth vocal, every
rock historic, and the waste places social?" Barker looked so
blankly at him that he asked again, "You understand?"

"Yes," said Barker; but having answered Sewell's personal question,
he seemed to feel himself in no wise concerned with the general
inquiry which Sewell had made, and he let it lie where Sewell had
let it drop. But the minister was so well pleased with the fact that
Barker had understood anything of what he had said, that he was
content to let the notion he had thrown out take its chance of
future effect, and rising, said briskly: "Come upstairs with me into
my study, and I will show you a picture of Agassiz. It's a very good

He led the way out of the reception-room, and tripped lightly in his
slippered feet up the steps against which Barker knocked the toes of
his clumsy boots. He was not large, nor naturally loutish, but the
heaviness of the country was in every touch and movement. He dropped
the photograph twice in his endeavour to hold it between his stiff
thumb and finger.

Sewell picked it up each time for him, and restored it to his
faltering hold. When he had securely lodged it there, he asked
sweetly: "Did you ever hear what Agassiz said when a scheme was once
proposed to him by which he could make a great deal of money?"

"I don't know as I did," replied Barker.

"'But, gentlemen, _I've no time to make money_.'" Barker
received the anecdote in absolute silence, standing helplessly with
the photograph in his hand; and Sewell with a hasty sigh forbore to
make the application to the ordinary American ambition to be rich
that he had intended. "That's a photograph of the singer Nilsson,"
he said, cataloguing the other objects on the chimney-piece. "She
was a peasant, you know, a country girl in Norway. That's Grevy, the
President of the French Republic; his father was a peasant. Lincoln,
of course. Sforza, throwing his hoe into the oak," he said,
explaining the picture that had caught Barker's eye on the wall
above the mantel. "He was working in the field, when a band of
adventurers came by, and he tossed his hoe at the tree. If it fell
to the ground, he would keep on hoeing; if it caught in the branches
and hung there, he would follow the adventurers. It caught, and he
went with the soldiers and became Duke of Milan. I like to keep the
pictures of these great Originals about me," said Sewell, "because
in our time, when we refer so constantly to law, we are apt to
forget that God is creative as well as operative." He used these
phrases involuntarily; they slipped from his tongue because he was
in the habit of saying this about these pictures, and he made no
effort to adapt them to Barker's comprehension, because he could not
see that the idea would be of any use to him. He went on pointing
out the different objects in the quiet room, and he took down
several books from the shelves that covered the whole wall, and
showed them to Barker, who, however, made no effort to look at them
for himself, and did not say anything about them. He did what Sewell
bade him do in admiring this thing or that; but if he had been an
Indian he could not have regarded them with a greater reticence.
Sewell made him sit down from time to time, but in a sitting posture
Barker's silence became so deathlike that Sewell hastened to get him
on his legs again, and to walk him about from one point to another,
as if to keep life in him. At the end of one of these otherwise
aimless excursions Mrs. Sewell appeared, and infused a gleam of hope
into her husband's breast. Apparently she brought none to Barker; or
perhaps he did not conceive it polite to show any sort of liveliness
before a lady. He did what he could with the hand she gave him to
shake, and answered the brief questions she put to him about his
family to precisely the same effect as he had already reported its
condition to Sewell.

"Dinner's ready now," said Mrs. Sewell, for all comment. She left
the expansiveness of sympathy and gratulation to her husband on most
occasions, and on this she felt that she had less than the usual
obligation to make polite conversation. Her two children came
downstairs after her, and as she unfolded her napkin across her lap
after grace she said, "This is my son, Alfred, Mr. Barker; and this
is Edith." Barker took the acquaintance offered in silence, the
young Sewells smiled with the wise kindliness of children taught to
be good to all manner of strange guests, and the girl cumbered the
helpless country boy with offers of different dishes.

Mr. Sewell as he cut at the roast beef lengthwise, being denied by
his wife a pantomimic prayer to be allowed to cut it crosswise,
tried to make talk with Barker about the weather at Willoughby
Pastures. It had been a very dry summer, and he asked if the fall
rains had filled up the springs. He said he really forgot whether it
was an apple year. He also said that he supposed they had dug all
their turnips by this time. He had meant to say potatoes when he
began, but he remembered that he had seen the farmers digging their
potatoes before he came back to town, and so he substituted turnips;
afterwards it seemed to him that dig was not just the word to use in
regard to the harvesting of turnips. He wished he had said, "got
your turnips in," but it appeared to make no difference to Barker,
who answered, "Yes, sir," and "No, sir," and "Yes, sir," and let
each subject drop with that.


The silence grew so deep that the young Sewells talked together in
murmurs, and the clicking of the knives on the plates became
painful. Sewell kept himself from looking at Barker, whom he
nevertheless knew to be changing his knife and fork from one hand to
the other, as doubt after doubt took him as to their conventional
use, and to be getting very little good of his dinner in the process
of settling these questions. The door-bell rang, and the sound of a
whispered conference between the visitor and the servant at the
threshold penetrated to the dining-room. Some one softly entered,
and then Mrs. Sewell called out, "Yes, yes! Come in! Come in, Miss
Vane!" She jumped from her chair and ran out into the hall, where
she was heard to kiss her visitor; she reappeared, still holding her
by the hand, and then Miss Vane shook hands with Sewell, saying in a
tone of cordial liking, "_How_ d'ye do?" and to each of the
young people as she shook hands in turn with them, "How d'ye
_do_, dear?" She was no longer so pretty as she must have once
been; but an air of distinction and a delicate charm of manner
remained to her from her fascinating youth.

Young Sewell pushed her a chair to the table, and she dropped softly
into it, after acknowledging Barker's presentation by Mrs. Sewell
with a kindly glance that probably divined him.

"You must dine with us," said Mrs. Sewell. "You can call it lunch."

"No, I can't, Mrs. Sewell," said Miss Vane. "I could once, and
should have said with great pleasure, when I went away, that I had
been lunching at the Sewells; but I can't now. I've reformed. What
have you got for dinner?"

"Roast beef," said Sewell.

"Nothing I dislike more," replied Miss Vane. "What else?" She put on
her glasses, and peered critically about the table.

"Stewed tomatoes, baked sweet potatoes, macaroni."

"How unimaginative! What are you going to have afterwards?"

"Cottage pudding."

"The very climax of the commonplace. Well!" Miss Vane began to pull
off her gloves, and threw her veil back over her shoulder. "I will
dine with you, but when I say dine, and people ask me to explain, I
shall have to say, 'Why, the Sewells still dine at one o'clock, you
know,' and laugh over your old-fashioned habits with them. I should
like to do differently, and to respect the sacredness of broken
bread and that sort of thing; but I'm trying to practise with every
one an affectionate sincerity, which is perfectly compatible not
only with the brotherliness of Christianity, but the politeness of
the world." Miss Vane looked demurely at Mrs. Sewell. "I can't make
any exceptions."

The ladies both broke into a mocking laugh, in which Sewell joined
with sheepish reluctance; after all, one does not like to be
derided, even by one's dearest friends.

"As soon as I hear my other little sins denounced from the pulpit,
I'm going to stop using profane language and carrying away people's
spoons in my pocket."

The ladies seemed to think this also a very good joke, and his
children laughed in sympathy, but Sewell hung his head; Barker sat
bolt upright behind his plate, and stared at Miss Vane. "I never
have been all but named in church before," she concluded, "and I've
heard others say the same."

"Why didn't you come to complain sooner?" asked Sewell.

"Well, I have been away ever since that occasion. I went down the
next day to Newport, and I've been there ever since, admiring the

"On the lawns or on the ladies?" asked Sewell.

"Both. And sowing broadcast the seeds of plain speaking. I don't
know what Newport will be in another year if they all take root."

"I dare say it will be different," said Sewell. "I'm not sure it
will be worse." He plucked up a little spirit, and added: "Now you
see of how little importance you really are in the community; you
have been gone these three weeks, and your own pastor didn't know
you were out of town."

"Yes, you did, David," interposed his wife. "I told you Miss Vane
was away two weeks ago."

"Did you? Well I forgot it immediately; the fact was of no
consequence, one way or the other. How do you like that as a bit of
affectionate sincerity?"

"I like it immensely," said Miss Vane. "It's delicious. I only wish
I could believe you were honest." She leaned back and laughed into
her handkerchief, while Sewell regarded her with a face in which his
mortification at being laughed at was giving way to a natural
pleasure at seeing Miss Vane enjoy herself. "What do you think," she
asked, "since you're in this mood of exasperated veracity--or
pretend to be--of the flower charity?"

"Do you mean by the barrel, or the single sack? The Graham, or the
best Haxall, or the health-food cold-blast?" asked Sewell.

Miss Vane lost her power of answering in another peal of laughter,
sobering off, and breaking down again before she could say, "I mean
cut flowers for patients and prisoners."

"Oh, that kind! I don't think a single pansy would have an
appreciable effect upon a burglar; perhaps a bunch of forget-me-nots
might, or a few lilies of the valley carelessly arranged. As to the
influence of a graceful little _boutonniere_, in cases of
rheumatism or cholera morbus, it might be efficacious but I can't
really say."

"How perfectly cynical!" cried Miss Vane. "Don't you know how much
good the flower mission has accomplished among the deserving poor?
Hundreds of bouquets are distributed every day. They prevent crime."

"That shows how susceptible the deserving poor are. I don't find
that a bowl of the most expensive and delicate roses in the centre
of a dinner-table tempers the asperity of the conversation when it
turns upon the absent. But perhaps it oughtn't to do so."

"I don't know about that," said Miss Vane; "but if you had an
impulsive niece to supply with food for the imagination, you would
be very glad of anything that seemed to combine practical piety and
picturesque effect."

"Oh, if you mean that," began Sewell more soberly, and his wife
leaned forward with an interest in the question which she had not
felt while the mere joking went on.

"Yes. When Sibyl came in this morning with an imperative demand to
be allowed to go off and do good with flowers in the homes of
virtuous poverty, as well as the hospitals and prisons, I certainly
felt as if there had been an interposition, if you will allow me to
say so."

Miss Vane still had her joking air, but a note of anxiety had crept
into her voice.

"I don't think it will do the sick and poor any harm," said Sewell,
"and it may do Sibyl some good." He smiled a little in adding: "It
may afford her varied energies a little scope."

Miss Vane shook her head, and some lines of age came into her face
which had not shown themselves there before. "And you would advise
letting her go into it?" she asked.

"By all means," replied Sewell. "But if she's going to engage
actively in the missionary work, I think you'd better go with her on
her errands of mercy."

"Oh, of course, she's going to do good in person. What she wants is
the sensation of doing good--of seeing and hearing the results of
her beneficence. She'd care very little about it if she didn't."

"Oh, I don't know that you can say that," replied Sewell in
deprecation of this extreme view. "I don't believe," he continued,
"that she would object to doing good for its own sake."

"Of course she wouldn't, David! Who in the world supposed she
would?" demanded his wife, bringing him up roundly at this sign of
wandering, and Miss Vane laughed wildly.

"And is this what your doctrine of sincerity comes to? This
fulsomeness! You're very little better than one of the wicked, it
seems to me! Well, I _hoped_ that you would approve of my
letting Sibyl take this thing up, but such _unbounded_ encouragement!"

"Oh, I don't wish to flatter," said Sewell, in the spirit of her
raillery. "It will be very well for her to go round with flowers;
but don't let her," he continued seriously--"don't let her imagine
it's more than an innocent amusement. It would be a sort of hideous
mockery of the good we ought to do one another if there were
supposed to be anything more than a kindly thoughtfulness expressed
in such a thing."

"Oh, if Sibyl doesn't feel that it's real, for the time being she
won't care anything about it. She likes to lose herself in the
illusion, she says."

"Well!" said Sewell with a slight shrug, "then we must let her get
what good she can out of it as an exercise of the sensibilities."

"O my dear!" exclaimed his wife, "You _don't_ mean anything so
abominable as that! I've heard you say that the worst thing about
fiction and the theatre was that they brought emotions into play
that ought to be sacred to real occasions."

"Did I say that? Well, I must have been right. I--"

Barker made a scuffling sound with his boots under the table, and
rose to his feet. "I guess," he said, "I shall have to be going."

They had all forgotten him, and Sewell felt as if he had neglected
this helpless guest. "Why, no, you mustn't go! I was in hopes we
might do something to make the day pleasant to you. I intended

"Yes," his wife interrupted, believing that he meant to give up one
of his precious afternoons to Barker, and hastening to prevent the
sacrifice, "my son will show you the Public Garden and the Common,
and go about the town with you." She rose too, and young Sewell,
accustomed to suffer, silently acquiesced. "If your train isn't to
start very soon--"

"I guess I better be going," said Barker, and Mrs. Sewell now gave
her husband a look conveying her belief that Barker would be happier
if they let him go. At the same time she frowned upon the monstrous
thought of asking him to stay the night with them, which she
detected in Sewell's face.

She allowed him to say nothing but, "I'm sorry; but if you really

"I guess I better," persisted Barker. He got himself somehow to the
door, where he paused a moment, and contrived to pant, "Well, good
day," and without effort at more cordial leave-taking, passed out.

Sewell followed him, and helped him find his hat, and made him shake
hands. He went with him to the door, and, beginning to suffer afresh
at the wrong he had done Barker, he detained him at the threshold.
"If you still wish to see a publisher, Mr. Barker, I will gladly go
with you."

"Oh, not at all, not at all. I guess I don't want to see any
publisher this afternoon. Well, good afternoon!" He turned away from
Sewell's remorseful pursuit, and clumsily hurrying down the steps,
he walked up the street and round the next corner. Sewell stood
watching him in rueful perplexity, shading his eyes from the mild
October sun with his hand; and some moments after Barker had
disappeared, he remained looking after him.

When he rejoined the ladies in the dining-room they fell into a
conscious silence.

"Have you been telling, Lucy?" he asked.

"Yes, I've been telling, David. It was the only way. Did you offer
to go with him to a publisher again?"

"Yes, I did. It was the only way," said Sewell.

Miss Vane and his wife both broke into a cry of laughter. The former
got her breath first. "So _that_ was the origin of the famous
sermon that turned all our heads grey with good resolutions." Sewell
assented with a sickly grin. "What in the world _made_ you
encourage him?"

"My goodness of heart, which I didn't take the precaution of mixing
with goodness of head before I used it."

Everything was food for Miss Vane's laugh, even this confession.
"But what is the natural history of the boy? How came he to write
poetry? What do you suppose he means by it?"

"That isn't so easy to say. As to his natural history, he lives with
his mother in a tumbledown, unpainted wooden house in the deepest
fastness of Willoughby Pastures. Lucy and I used to drive by it and
wonder what kind of people inhabited that solitude. There were milk-
cans scattered round the door-yard, and the Monday we were there a
poverty-stricken wash flapped across it. The thought of the place
preyed upon me till one day I asked about it at the post-office, and
the postmistress told me that the boy was quite a literary
character, and read everything he could lay his hands on, and 'sat
up nights' writing poetry. It seemed to me a very clear case of
genius, and the postmistress's facts rankled in my mind till I
couldn't stand it any longer. Then I went to see him. I suppose Lucy
has told you the rest?"

"Yes, Mrs. Sewell has told me the rest. But still I don't see how he
came to write poetry. I believe it doesn't pay, even in extreme
cases of genius."

"Ah, but that's just what this poor fellow didn't know. He must have
read somewhere, in some deleterious newspaper, about the sale of
some large edition of a poem, and have had his own wild hopes about
it. I don't say his work didn't show sense; it even showed some rude
strength, of a didactic, satirical sort, but it certainly didn't
show poetry. He might have taken up painting by a little different
chance. And when it was once known about the neighbourhood that he
wrote poetry, his vanity was flattered--"

"Yes, I see. But wasn't there any kind soul to tell him that he was
throwing his time away?"

"It appears not."

"And even the kind soul from Boston, who visited him," suggested
Mrs. Sewell. "Go on, David."

"Visited him in spite of his wife's omniscience,--even the kind soul
from Boston paltered with this plain duty. Even he, to spare himself
the pain of hurting the boy's feelings, tried to find some of the
lines better than others, and left him with the impression that he
had praised them."

"Well, that was pretty bad," said Miss Vane. "You had to tell him
to-day, I suppose, that there was no hope for him?"

"Yes, I had to tell him at last, after letting him waste his time
and money in writing more stuff and coming to Boston with it. I've
put him to needless shame, and I've inflicted suffering upon him
that I can't lighten in the least by sharing."

"No, that's the most discouraging thing about pitying people. It
does them no manner of good," said Miss Vane, "and just hurts you.
Don't you think that in an advanced civilisation we shall cease to
feel compassion? Why don't you preach against common pity, as you
did against common politeness?"

"Well, it isn't quite such a crying sin yet. But really, really,"
exclaimed Sewell, "the world seems so put together that I believe we
ought to think twice before doing a good action."

"David!" said his wife warningly.

"Oh, let him go on!" cried Miss Vane, with a laugh. "I'm proof
against his monstrous doctrines. Go on, Mr. Sewell."

"What I mean is this." Sewell pushed himself back in his chair, and
then stopped.

"Is what?" prompted both the ladies.

"Why, suppose the boy really had some literary faculty, should I
have had any right to encourage it? He was very well where he was.
He fed the cows and milked them, and carried the milk to the
crossroads, where the dealer collected it and took it to the train.
That was his life, with the incidental facts of cutting the hay and
fodder, and bedding the cattle; and his experience never went beyond
it. I doubt if his fancy ever did, except in some wild, mistaken
excursion. Why shouldn't he have been left to this condition? He
ate, he slept, he fulfilled his use. Which of us does more?"

"How would you like to have been in his place?" asked his wife.

"I couldn't _put_ myself in his place; and therefore I oughtn't
to have done anything to take him out of it," answered Sewell.

"It seems to me that's very un-American," said Miss Vane. "I thought
we had prospered up to the present point by taking people out of
their places."

"Yes, we have," replied the minister, "and sometimes, it seems to
me, the result is hideous. I don't mind people taking themselves out
of their places; but if the particles of this mighty cosmos have
been adjusted by the divine wisdom, what are we to say of the
temerity that disturbs the least of them?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Miss Vane, rising. "I'm almost afraid
to stir, in view of the possible consequences. But I can't sit here
all day, and if Mrs. Sewell will excuse me, I'll go at once. Yes, 'I
guess I better be going,' as your particle Barker says. Let us hope
he'll get safely back to his infinitesimal little crevice in the
cosmos. He's a very pretty particle, don't you think? That thick,
coarse, wavy black hair growing in a natural bang over his forehead
would make his fortune if he were a certain kind of young lady."

They followed her to the door, chatting, and Sewell looked quickly
out when he opened it for her.

As she shook his hand she broke into another laugh. "Really, you
looked as if you were afraid of finding him on the steps!"

"If I could only have got near the poor boy," said Sewell to his
wife, as they returned withindoors. "If I could only have reached
him where he lives, as our slang says! But do what I would, I
couldn't find any common ground where we could stand together. We
were as unlike as if we were of two different species. I saw that
everything I said bewildered him more and more; he couldn't
understand me! Our education is unchristian, our civilisation is
pagan. They both ought to bring us in closer relations with our
fellow-creatures, and they both only put us more widely apart! Every
one of us dwells in an impenetrable solitude! We understand each
other a little if our circumstances are similar, but if they are
different all our words leave us dumb and unintelligible."


Barker walked away from the minister's door without knowing where he
was going, and with a heart full of hot pain. He burned with a
confused sense of shame and disappointment and anger. It had turned
out just as his mother had said: Mr. Sewell would be mighty
different in Boston from what he was that day at Willoughby
Pastures. There he made Barker think everything of his poetry, and
now he pretended to tell him that it was not worth anything; and he
kept hinting round that Barker had better go back home and stay
there. Did he think he would have left home if there had been
anything for him to do there? Had not he as much as told him that he
was obliged to find something to make a living by, and help the
rest? What was he afraid of? Was he afraid that Barker wanted to
come and live off _him_? He could show him that there was no
great danger. If he had known how, he would have refused even to
stay to dinner.

What made him keep the pictures of these people who had got along,
if he thought no one else ought to try? Barker guessed to himself
that if that Mr. Agassiz had had to get a living off the farm at
Willoughby Pastures, he would have _found_ time to make money.
What did Mr. Sewell mean by speaking of that Nilsson lady by her
surname, without any Miss or Mrs.? Was that the way people talked in

Mr. Sewell had talked to him as if he were a baby, and did not know
anything; and Barker was mad at himself for having stayed half a
minute after the minister had owned up that he had got the letter he
wrote him. He wished he had said, "Well, that's all I want of
_you_, sir," and walked right out; but he had not known how to
do it. Did they think it was very polite to go on talking with that
woman who laughed so much, and forget all about him? Pretty poor
sort of manners to eat with her bonnet on, and tell them she hated
their victuals.

Barker tried to rage against them in these thoughts, but at the
bottom of all was a simple grief that he should have lost the friend
whom he thought he had in the minister; the friend he had talked of
and dreamed of ever since he had seen and heard him speak those
cordial words; the friend he had trusted through all, and had come
down to Boston counting upon so much. The tears came into his eyes
as he stumbled and scuffled along the brick pavements with his
uncouth country walk.

He was walking up a straight, long street, with houses just alike on
both sides and bits of grass before them, that sometimes were gay
with late autumn flowers. A horse-car track ran up the middle, and
the cars seemed to be tinkling by all the time, and people getting
on and off. They were mostly ladies and children, and they were very
well dressed. Sometimes they stared at Barker, as they crossed his
way in entering or issuing from the houses, but generally no one
appeared to notice him. In some of the windows there were flowers in
painted pots, and in others little marble images on stands.

There were more images in the garden that Barker came to presently:
an image of Washington on horseback, and some orator speaking, with
his hand up, and on top of a monument a kind of Turk holding up a
man that looked sick. The man was almost naked, but he was not so
bad as the image of a woman in a granite basin; it seemed to Barker
that it ought not to be allowed there. A great many people of all
kinds were passing through the garden, and after some hesitation he
went in too, and walked over the bridge that crossed the pond in the
middle of the garden, where there were rowboats and boats with
images of swans on them. Barker made a sarcastic reflection that
Boston seemed to be a great place for images, and passed rather
hurriedly through the garden on the other side of the bridge. There
were beds of all kinds of flowers scattered about, and they were
hardly touched by the cold yet. If he had been in better heart, he
would have liked to look round a little; but he felt strange, being
there all alone, and he felt very low-spirited.

He wondered if this were the Public Garden that Mrs. Sewell had
spoken of, and if that kind of grove across the street were the
Common. He felt much more at home in it, as he wandered up and down
the walks, and finally sat down on one of the iron benches beside
the path. At first he obscurely doubted whether he had any right to
do so, unless he had a lady with him; most of the seats were
occupied by couples who seemed to be courting, but he ventured
finally to take one; nobody disturbed him, and so he remained.

It was a beautiful October afternoon; the wind, warm and dry, caught
the yellow leaves from the trees overhead in little whiffs, and blew
them about the grass, which the fall rains had made as green as May;
and a pensive golden light streamed through the long loose boughs,
and struck across the slopes of the Common. Slight buggies flashed
by on the street near which he sat, and glistening carriages, with
drivers dressed out in uniform like soldiers, rumbled down its

While he sat looking, now at the street and now at the people
sauntering and hurrying to and fro in the Common, he tried to decide
a question that had mixed itself up with the formless resentment he
had felt ever since Mr. Sewell played him false. It had got out in
the neighbourhood that he was going to Boston before he left home;
his mother must have told it; and people would think he was to be
gone a long time. He had warned his mother that he did not know when
he should be back, before he started in the morning; and he knew
that she would repeat his words to everybody who stopped to ask
about him during the day, with what she had said to him in reply:
"You better come home to-night, Lem; and I'll have ye a good hot
supper waitin' for ye."

The question was whether he should go back on the five o'clock
train, which would reach Willoughby Centre after dark, and house
himself from public ignominy for one night at least, or whether
self-respect did not demand that he should stay in Boston for
twenty-four hours at any rate, and see if something would not
happen. He had now no distinct hope of anything; but his pride and
shame were holding him fast, while the home-sickness tugged at his
heart, and made him almost forget the poverty that had spurred him
to the adventure of coming to Boston. He could see the cows coming
home through the swampy meadow as plain as if they were coming
across the Common; his mother was calling them; she and his sister
were going to milk in his absence, and he could see her now, how she
looked going out to call the cows, in her bare, grey head, gaunt of
neck and cheek, in the ugly Bloomer dress in which she was not
grotesque to his eyes, though it usually affected strangers with
stupefaction or alarm. But it all seemed far away, as far as if it
were in another planet that he had dropped out of; he was divided
from it by his failure and disgrace. He thought he must stay and try
for something, he did not know what; but he could not make up his
mind to throw away his money for nothing; at the hotel, down by the
depot, where he had left his bag, they were going to make him pay
fifty cents for just a room alone.

"Any them beats 'round here been trying to come their games on

At first Barker could not believe himself accosted, though the young
man who spoke stood directly in front of him, and seemed to be
speaking to him. He looked up, and the young man added, "Heigh?"

"Beats? I don't know what you mean," said Barker.

"Confidence sharps, young feller. They're 'round everywheres, and
don't you forget it. Move up a little!"

Barker was sitting in the middle of the bench, and at this he pushed
away from the young man, who had dropped himself sociably beside
him. He wore a pair of black pantaloons, very tight in the legs, and
widening at the foot so as almost to cover his boots. His coat was
deeply braided, and his waistcoat was cut low, so that his plastron-
scarf hung out from the shirt-bosom, which it would have done well
to cover.

"I tell you, Boston's full of 'em," he said excitedly. "One of 'em
come up to me just now, and says he, 'Seems to me I've seen you
before, but I can't place you.' 'Oh yes,' says I, 'I'll tell you
where it was. I happened to be in the police court one morning when
they was sendin' you up for three months.' I tell you he got round
the corner! Might 'a' played checkers on his coat tail. Why, what do
you suppose would been the next thing if I hadn't have let him know
I saw through him?" demanded the young man of Barker, who listened
to this adventure with imperfect intelligence. "He'd 'a' said,
'Hain't I seen you down Kennebunk way som'eres?' And when I said,
'No, I'm from Leominster!' or where-ever I was from if I was green,
he'd say, 'Oh yes, so it _was_ Leominster. How's the folks?'
and he'd try to get me to think that _he_ was from Leominster
too; and then he'd want me to go off and see the sights with him;
and pretty soon he'd meet a feller that 'ud dun him for that money
he owed him; and he'd say he hadn't got anything with him but a
cheque for forty dollars; and the other feller'd say he'd got to
have his money, and he'd kind of insinuate it was all a put-up job
about the cheque for forty dollars, anyway; and that 'ud make the
first feller mad, and he'd take out the check, and ask him what he
thought o' that; and the other feller'd say, well, it was a good
cheque, but it wan't money, and he wanted money; and then the first
feller'd say, 'Well, come along to the bank and get your money,' and
the other'd say the bank was shut. 'Well, then,' the first feller'd
say, 'well, sir, I ain't a-goin' to ask any favour of _you_.
How much _is_ your bill?' and the other feller'd say ten
dollars, or fifteen, or may be twenty-five, if they thought I had
that much, and the first feller'd say, 'Well, here's a gentleman
from up my way, and I guess he'll advance me that much on my cheque
if I make it worth his while. He knows me.' And the first thing you
know--he's been treatin' you, and so polite, showin' you round, and
ast you to go to the theayter--you advance the money, and you keep
on with the first feller, and pretty soon he asks you to hold up a
minute, he wants to go back and get a cigar; and he goes round the
corner, and you hold up, and _hold_ up, and in about a half an
hour, or may be less time, you begin to smell a rat, and you go for
a policeman, and the next morning you find your name in the papers,
'One more unfortunate!' You look out for 'em, young feller! Wish I
_had_ let that one go on till he done something so I could
handed him over to the cops. It's a shame they're allowed to go
'round, when the cops knows 'em. Hello! There _comes_ my mate,
_now_." The young man spoke as if they had been talking of his
mate and expecting him, and another young man, his counterpart in
dress, but of a sullen and heavy demeanour very unlike his own brisk
excitement, approached, flapping a bank-note in his hand. "I just
been tellin' this young feller about that beat, you know."

"Oh, he's all right," said the mate. "Just seen him down on Tremont
Street, between two cops. Must ha' caught him in the act."

"You don't say so! Well, that's good, anyway. Why! didn't you' get
it changed?" demanded the young man with painful surprise as his
mate handed him the bank-note.

"No, I didn't. I been to more'n twenty places, and there ain't no
small bills nowhere. The last place, I offered 'em twenty-five cents
if they'd change it."

"Why didn't you offer 'em fifty? I'd 'a' give fifty, and glad to do
it. Why, I've _got_ to have this bill changed."

"Well, I'm sorry for you," said the mate, with ironical sympathy,
"because I don't see how you're goin' to git it done. Won't you move
up a little bit, young feller?" He sat down on the other side of
Barker. "I'm about tired out." He took his head between his hands in
sign of extreme fatigue, and drooped forward, with his eyes fixed on
the ground.

Lemuel's heart beat. Fifty cents would pay for his lodging, and he
could stay till the next day and prolong the chance of something
turning up without too sinful a waste of money.

"How much is the bill?" he asked.

"Ten dollars," said the young man despondently.

"And will you give me fifty cents if I change it?"

"Well, I said I'd give fifty cents," replied the young man gloomily,
"and I will."

"It's a bargain," said Lemuel promptly, and he took from his pocket
the two five-dollar notes that formed his store, and gave them, to
the young man.

He looked at them critically. "How do I know they're good?" he
asked. "You're a stranger to me, young feller, and how do I know you
ain't tryin' to beat me?" He looked sternly at Lemuel, but here the
mate interposed.

"How does _he_ know that you ain't tryin' to beat _him_?"
he asked contemptuously. "I never saw such a feller as you are! Here
you make me run half over town to change that bill, and now when a
gentleman offers to break it for you, you have to go and accuse him
of tryin' to put off counterfeit money on you. If I was him I'd see
you furder."

"Oh, well, I don't want any words about it. Here, take your money,"
said the young man. "As long as I said I'd do it, I'll do it. Here's
your half a dollar." He put it, with the bank-note, into Lemuel's
hand, and rose briskly. "You stay here, Jimmy, till I come back. I
won't be gone a minute."

He walked down the mall, and went out of the gate on Tremont Street.
Then the mate came to himself. "Why, I've _let_ him go off with
both them bills now, and he owes me one of 'em." With that he rose
from Lemuel's side and hurried after his vanishing comrade; before
he was out of sight he had broken into a run.

Lemuel sat looking after them, his satisfaction in the affair
alloyed by dislike of the haste with which it had been transacted.
His rustic mind worked slowly; it was not wholly content even with a
result in its own favour, where the process had been so rapid; he
was scarcely able to fix the point at which the talk ceased to be a
warning against beats and became his opportunity for speculation. He
did not feel quite right at having taken the fellow's half-dollar;
and yet a bargain was a bargain. Nevertheless, if the fellow wanted
to rue it, Lemuel would give him fifteen minutes to come back and
get his money; and he sat for that space of time where the others
had left him. He was not going to be mean; and he might have waited
a little longer if it had not been for the behaviour of two girls
who came up and sat down on the same bench with him. They could not
have been above fifteen or sixteen years old, and Lemuel thought
they were very pretty, but they talked so, and laughed so loud, and
scuffled with each other for the paper of chocolate which one of
them took out of her pocket, that Lemuel, after first being abashed
by the fact that they were city girls, became disgusted with them.
He was a stickler for propriety of behaviour among girls; his mother
had taught him to despise anything like carrying-on among them, and
at twenty he was as severely virginal in his morality as if he had
been twelve.

People looked back at these tomboys when they had got by; and some
shabby young fellows exchanged saucy speeches with them. When Lemuel
got up and walked away in reproving dignity, one of the hoydens
bounced into his place, and they both sent a cry of derision after
him. But Lemuel would not give them the satisfaction of letting them
know that he heard them, and at the same time he was not going to
let them suppose that they had driven him away. He went very slowly
down to the street where a great many horse-cars were passing to and
fro, and waited for one marked "Fitchburg, Lowell, and Eastern
Depots." He was not going to take it; but he meant to follow it on
its way to those stations, in the neighbourhood of which was the
hotel where he had left his travelling-bag. He had told them that he
might take a room there, or he might not; now since he had this
half-dollar extra he thought that he would stay for the night; it
probably would not be any cheaper at the other hotels.

He ran against a good many people in trying to keep the car in
sight, but by leaving the sidewalk from time to time where it was
most crowded, he managed not to fall very much behind; the worst was
that the track went crooking and turning about so much in different
streets, that he began to lose faith in its direction, and to be
afraid, in spite of the sign on its side, that the car was not going
to the depots after all. But it came in sight of them at last, and
then Lemuel, blown with the chase but secure of his ground, stopped
and rested himself against the side of a wall to get his breath. The
pursuit had been very exhausting, and at times it had been
mortifying; for here and there people who saw him running after the
car had supposed he wished to board it, and in their good-nature had
hailed and stopped it. After this had happened twice or thrice,
Lemuel perceived that he was an object of contempt to the passengers
in the car; but he did not know what to do about it; he was not
going to pay six cents to ride when he could just as well walk, and
on the other hand he dared not lose sight of the car, for he had no
other means of finding his way back to his hotel.

But he was all right now, as he leaned against the house-wall,
panting, and mopping his forehead with his handkerchief; he saw his
hotel a little way down the street, and he did not feel anxious
about it.

"Gave you the slip after all," said a passer, who had apparently
been interested in Lemuel's adventure.

"Oh, I didn't want to catch it," said Lemuel.

"Ah, merely fond of exercise," said the stranger. "Well, it's a very
good thing, if you don't overdo it." He walked by, and then after a
glance at Lemuel over his shoulder, he returned to him. "May I ask
why you wanted to chase the car, if you didn't want to catch it?"

Lemuel hesitated; he did not like to confide in a total stranger;
this gentleman looked kind and friendly, but he was all the more
likely on that account to be a beat; the expression was probably
such as a beat would put on in approaching his intended prey. "Oh,
nothing," said Lemuel evasively.

"I beg your pardon," said the stranger, and he walked away with what
Lemuel could only conjecture was the air of a baffled beat.

He waited till he was safely out of sight, and then followed on down
the street towards his hotel. When he reached it he walked boldly up
to the clerk's desk, and said that he guessed he would take a room
for the night, and gave him the check for his bag that he had
received in leaving it there.

The clerk wrote the number of a room against Lemuel's name in the
register, and then glanced at the bag. It was a large bag of oil-
cloth, a kind of bag which is by nature lank and hollow, and must be
made almost insupportably heavy before it shows any signs of
repletion. The shirt and pair of everyday pantaloons which Lemuel
had dropped that morning into its voracious maw made no apparent
effect there, as the clerk held it up and twirled it on the crook of
his thumb.

"I guess I shall have to get the money for that room in advance," he
said, regarding the bag very critically. However he might have been
wounded by the doubt of his honesty or his solvency implied in this
speech, Lemuel said nothing, but took out his ten-dollar note and
handed it to the clerk. The latter said apologetically, "It's one of
our rules, where there isn't baggage," and then glancing at the note
he flung it quickly across the counter to Lemuel. "That won't do!"

"Won't do?" repeated Lemuel, taking up the bill.

"Counterfeit," said the clerk.


Lemuel stretched the note between his hands, and pored so long upon
it that the clerk began to tap impatiently with his finger-tips on
the register. "It won't go?" faltered the boy, looking up at the
clerk's sharp face.

"It won't go here," replied the clerk. "Got anything else?"

Lemuel's head whirled; the air seemed to darken around him, as he
pored again upon the note, and turned it over and over. Two tears
scalded their way down his cheeks, and his lips twitched, when the
clerk added, "Some beats been workin' you?" but he made no answer.
His heart was hot with shame and rage, and heavy with despair. He
put the note in his pocket, and took his bag and walked out of the
hotel. He had not money enough to get home with now, and besides he
could not bear to go back in the disgrace of such calamity. It would
be all over the neighbourhood, as soon as his mother could tell it;
she might wish to keep it to herself for his sake, but she could not
help telling it to the first person and every person she saw; she
would have to go over to the neighbours to tell it. In a dreary,
homesick longing he saw her crossing the familiar meadows that lay
between the houses, bareheaded, in her apron, her face set and rigid
with wonder at what had happened to her Lem. He could not bear the
thought. He would rather die; he would rather go to sea. This idea
flashed into his mind as he lifted his eyes aimlessly and caught
sight of the tall masts of the coal-ships lying at the railroad
wharves, and he walked quickly in the direction of them, so as not
to give himself time to think about it, so as to do it now, quick,
right off. But he found his way impeded by all sorts of obstacles; a
gate closed across the street to let some trains draw in and out of
a station; then a lot of string teams and slow, heavy-laden trucks
got before him, with a turmoil of express wagons, herdics, and
hacks, in which he was near being run over, and was yelled at, sworn
at, and laughed at as he stood bewildered, with his lank bag in his
hand. He turned and walked back past the hotel again. He felt it an
escape, after all, not to have gone to sea; and now a hopeful
thought struck him. He would go back to the Common and watch for
those fellows who fooled him, and set the police on them, and get
his money from them; they might come prowling round again to fool
somebody else. He looked out for a car marked like the one he had
followed down from the Common, and began to follow it on its return.
He got ahead of the car whenever it stopped, so as to be spared the
shame of being seen to chase it; and he managed to keep it in sight
till he reached the Common. There he walked about looking for those
scamps, and getting pushed and hustled by the people who now
thronged the paths. At last he was tired out, and on the Beacon
Street mall, where he had first seen those fellows, he found the
very seat where they had all sat together, and sank into it. The
seats were mostly vacant now; a few persons sat there reading their
evening papers. As the light began to wane, they folded up their
papers and walked away, and their places were filled by young men,
who at once put their arms round the young women with them, and
seemed to be courting. They did not say much, if anything; they just
sat there. It made Lemuel ashamed to look at them; he thought they
ought to have more sense. He looked away, but he could not look away
from them all, there were so many of them. He was all the time very
hungry, but he thought he ought not to break into his half-dollar as
long as he could help it, or till there was no chance left of
catching those fellows. The night came on, the gas-lamps were
lighted, and some lights higher up, like moonlight off on the other
paths, projected long glares into the night and made the gas look
sickly and yellow. Sitting still there while it grew later, he did
not feel quite so hungry, but he felt more tired than ever. There
were not so many people around now, and he did not see why he should
not lie down on that seat and rest himself a little. He made feints
of reclining on his arm at first, to see if he were noticed; then he
stretched himself out, with his bag under his head, and his hands in
his pockets clutching the money which he meant to make those fellows
take back. He got a gas-lamp in range, to keep him awake, and lay
squinting his eyes to meet the path of rays running down from it to
him. Then he shivered, and rose up with a sudden start. The dull,
rich dawn was hanging under the trees around him, while the electric
lamps, like paler moons now, still burned among their tops. The
sparrows bickered on the grass and the gravel of the path around

He could not tell where he was at first; but presently he
remembered, and looked for his bag. It was gone; and the money was
gone out of both his pockets. He dropped back upon the seat, and
leaning his head against the back, he began to cry for utter
despair. He had hardly ever cried since he was a baby; and he would
not have done it now, but there was no one there to see him.

When he had his cry out he felt a little better, and he got up and
went to the pond in the hollow, and washed his hands and face, and
wiped them on the handkerchief his mother had ironed for him to use
at the minister's; it was still in the folds she had given it. As he
shook it out, rising up, he saw that people were asleep on all the
benches round the pond; he looked hopelessly at them to see if any
of them were those fellows, but he could not find them. He seemed to
be the only person awake on the Common, and wandered out of it and
down through the empty streets, filled at times with the moony light
of the waning electrics, and at times merely with the grey dawn. A
man came along putting out the gas, and some milk-carts rattled over
the pavement. By and by a market-wagon, with the leaves and roots of
cabbages sticking out from the edges of the canvas that covered it,
came by, and Lemuel followed it; he did not know what else to do,
and it went so slow that he could keep up, though the famine that
gnawed within him was so sharp sometimes that he felt as if he must
fall down. He was going to drop into a doorway and rest, but when he
came to it he found on an upper step a man folded forward like a
limp bundle, snoring in a fetid, sodden sleep, and, shocked into new
strength, he hurried on. At last the wagon came to a place that he
saw was a market. There were no buyers yet, but men were flitting
round under the long arcades of the market-houses, with lanterns
under their arms, among boxes and barrels of melons, apples,
potatoes, onions, beans, carrots, and other vegetables, which the
country carts as they arrived continually unloaded. The smell of
peaches and cantaloupes filled the air, and made Lemuel giddy as he
stood and looked at the abundance. The men were not saying much; now
and then one of them priced something, the owner pretended to figure
on it, and then they fell into a playful scuffle, but all silently.
A black cat lay luxuriously asleep on the canvas top of a barrel of
melons, and the man who priced the melons asked if the owner would
throw the cat in. There was a butcher's cart laden with carcasses of
sheep, and one of the men asked the butcher if he called that stuff
mutton. "No; imitation," said the butcher. They all seemed to be
very good-natured. Lemuel thought he would ask for an apple; but he
could not.

The neighbouring restaurants began to send forth the smell of
breakfast, and he dragged up and down till he could bear it no
longer, and then went into one of them, meaning to ask for some job
by which he could pay for a meal. But his shame again would not let
him. He looked at the fat, white-aproned boy drawing coffee hot from
a huge urn, and serving a countryman with a beefsteak. It was close
and sultry in there; the open sugar-bowl was black with flies, and a
scent of decaying meat came from the next cellar. "Like some nice
fresh dough-nuts?" said the boy to Lemuel. He did not answer; he
looked around as if he had come in search of some one. Then he went
out, and straying away from the market, he found himself after a
while in a street that opened upon the Common.

He was glad to sit down, and he said to himself that now he would
stay there, and keep a good lookout for the chaps that had robbed
him. But again he fell asleep, and he did not wake now till the sun
was high, and the paths of the Common were filled with hurrying
people. He sat where he had slept, for he did not know what else to
do or where to go. Sometimes he thought he would go to Mr. Sewell,
and ask him for money enough to get home; but he could not do it; he
could more easily starve.

After an hour or two he went to get a drink at a fountain he saw a
little way off, and when he came back some people had got his seat.
He started to look for another, and on his way he found a cent in
the path, and he bought an apple with it--a small one that the
dealer especially picked out for cheapness. It seemed pretty queer
to Lemuel that a person should want anything for one apple. The
apple when he ate it made him sick. His head began to ache, and it
ached all day. Late in the afternoon he caught sight of one of those
fellows at a distance; but there was no policeman near. Lemuel
called out, "Stop there, you!" but the fellow began to run when he
recognised Lemuel, and the boy was too weak and faint to run after

The day wore away and the evening came again, and he had been
twenty-four hours houseless and without food. He must do something;
he could not stand it any longer; there was no sense in it. He had
read in the newspapers how they gave soup at the police-stations in
Boston in the winter; perhaps they gave something in summer. He
mustered up courage to ask a gentleman who passed where the nearest
station was, and then started in search of it. If the city gave it,
then there was no disgrace in it, and Lemuel had as much right to
anything that was going as other people; that was the way he
silenced his pride.

But he missed the place; he must have gone down the wrong street
from Tremont to Washington; the gentleman had said the street that
ran along the Common was Tremont, and the next was Washington. The
cross-street that Lemuel got into was filled with people, going and
coming, and lounging about. There were girls going along two or
three together with books under their arms, and other girls talking
with young fellows who hung about the doors of brightly lighted
shops, and flirting with them. One of the girls, whom he had seen
the day before in the Common, turned upon Lemuel as he passed, and
said, "There goes my young man _now_! Good evening, Johnny!" It
made Lemuel's cheek burn; he would have liked to box her ears for
her. The fellows all set up a laugh.

Towards the end of the street the crowd thickened, and there the
mixture of gas and the white moony lights that glared higher up, and
winked and hissed, shone upon the faces of a throng that had
gathered about the doors and windows of a store a little way down
the other street. Lemuel joined them, and for pure listlessness
waited round to see what they were looking at. By and by he was
worked inward by the shifting and changing of the crowd, and found
himself looking in at the door of a room, splendidly fitted up with
mirrors and marble everywhere, and coloured glass and carved
mahogany. There was a long counter with three men behind it, and
over their heads was a large painting of a woman, worse than that
image in the garden. The men were serving out liquor to the people
that stood around drinking and smoking, and battening on this
picture. Lemuel could not help looking, either. "What place is
this?" he asked of the boy next him.

"Why, don't you know?" said the boy. "It's Jimmy Baker's. Just

"Oh," said Lemuel. He was not going to let the boy see that he did
not know who Jimmy Baker was. Just then something caught his eye
that had a more powerful charm for him than that painting. It was a
large bowl at the end of the counter, which had broken crackers in
it, and near it were two plates, one with cheese, and one with bits
of dried fish and smoked meat. The sight made the water come into
his mouth; he watched like a hungry dog, with a sympathetic working
of the jaws, the men who took a bit of fish, or meat, or cheese, and
a cracker, or all four of them, before or after they drank.
Presently one of the crowd near him walked in and took some fish and
cracker without drinking at all; he merely winked at one of the bar-
tenders, who winked at him in return.

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

"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

"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

"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

"What business--occupation?"

"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

"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 _any_thing 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?"

"Lemuel Barker."

"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.

"Five feet six."


"I help mother carry on the farm."

"Just as I expected!" cried the captain. "Slow as a yoke of oxen.

"Willoughby Pastures."

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

"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.

"Oh, perfect."

"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


Back to Full Books