The Minister's Charge
William D. Howells
Part 2 out of 7
After a long time a policeman passed his door with another prisoner,
a drunken woman, whom he locked into a cell at the end of the
corridor. When he came back, Lemuel could endure it no longer.
"Say!" he called huskily through his door. "Won't you give me a cup
of that coffee upstairs? I haven't had anything but an apple to eat
for nearly two days. I don't want you to _give_ me the coffee.
You can take my clasp button----"
The officer went by a few steps, then he came back, and peered in
through the door at Lemuel's face. "Oh! that's you?" he said: he was
the officer who had arrested Lemuel.
"Yes. Please get me the coffee. I'm afraid I shall have a fit of
sickness if I go much longer."
"Well," said the officer, "I guess I can get you something." He went
away, and came back, after Lemuel had given up the hope of his
return, with a saucerless cup of coffee, and a slice of buttered
bread laid on the top of it. He passed it in through the opening at
the bottom of the door.
"Oh, my!" gasped the starving boy. He thought he should drop the
cup, his hand shook so when he took it. He gulped the coffee, and
swallowed the bread in a frenzy.
"Here--here's the button," he said, as he passed the empty cup out
to the officer.
"I don't want your button," answered the policeman. He hesitated a
moment. "I shall be round at the court in the morning, and I guess
if it ain't right we can make it so."
"Thank you, sir," said Lemuel, humbly grateful.
"You lay down now," said the officer. "We shan't put anybody in on
"I guess I better," said Lemuel. He crept in upon the lower shelf,
and stretched himself out in his clothes, with his arm under his
head for a pillow. The drunken woman at the end of the corridor was
clamouring to get out. She wished to get out just half a minute, she
said, and settle with that hussy; then she would come back
willingly. Sometimes she sang, sometimes she swore; but with the
coffee still sensibly hot in his stomach, and the comfort of it in
every vein, her uproar turned into an agreeable fantastic medley for
Lemuel, and he thought it was the folks singing in church at
Willoughby Pastures, and they were all asking him who the new girl
in the choir was, and he was saying Statira Dudley; and then it all
slipped off into a smooth, yellow nothingness, and he heard some one
calling him to get up.
When he woke in the morning he started up so suddenly that he struck
his head against the shelf above him, and lay staring stupidly at
the iron-work of his door.
He heard the order to turn out repeated at other cells along the
corridor, and he crept out of his shelf, and then sat down upon it,
waiting for his door to be unlocked. He was very hungry again, and
he trembled with faintness. He wondered how he should get his
breakfast, and he dreaded the trial in court less than the thought
of going through another day with nothing to eat. He heard the stir
of the other prisoners in the cells along the corridors, the low
groans and sighs with which people pull themselves together after a
bad night; and he heard the voice of the drunken woman, now sober,
poured out in voluble remorse, and in voluble promise of amendment
for the future, to every one who passed, if they would let her off
easy. She said aisy, of course, and it was in her native accent that
she bewailed the fate of the little ones whom her arrest had left
motherless at home. No one seemed to answer her, but presently she
broke into a cry of joy and blessing, and from her cell at the other
end of the corridor came the clink of crockery. Steps approached
with several pauses, and at last they paused at Lemuel's door, and a
man outside stooped and pushed in, through the opening at the
bottom, a big bowl of baked beans, a quarter of a loaf of bread, and
a tin cup full of coffee. "Coffee's extra," he said jocosely. "Comes
from the officers. You're in luck, young feller."
"I ha'n't got anything to pay for it with," faltered Lemuel.
"Guess they'll trust you," said the man. "Any-rate, I got orders to
leave it." He passed on, and Lemuel gathered up his breakfast, and
arranged it on the shelf where he had slept; then he knelt down
before it, and ate.
An hour later an officer came and unbolted his door from the
outside. "Hurry up," he said; "Maria's waiting."
"Maria?" repeated Lemuel innocently.
"Yes," returned the officer. "Other name's Black. She don't like to
wait. Come out of here."
Lemuel found himself in the corridor with four or five other
prisoners, whom some officers took in charge and conducted upstairs
to the door of the station. He saw no woman, but a sort of omnibus
without windows was drawn up at the curbstone.
"I thought," he said to an officer, "that there was a lady waiting
to see me. Maria Black," he added, seeing that the officer did not
The policeman roared, and could not help putting his head in at the
office door to tell the joke.
"Well, you must introduce him," called a voice from within.
"Guess you ha'n't got the name exactly straight, young man," said
the policeman to Lemuel, as he guarded him down the steps. "It's
Black Maria you're looking for. There she is," he continued,
pointing to the omnibus, "and don't you forget it. She's particular
to have folks recognise her. She's blacker 'n she's painted."
The omnibus was, in fact, a sort of aesthetic drab, relieved with
salmon, as Lemuel had time to notice before he was hustled into it
with the other prisoners, and locked in.
There were already several there, and as Lemuel's eyes accustomed
themselves to the light that came in through the little panes at the
sides of the roof, he could see that they were women; and by and by
he saw that two of them were the saucy girls who had driven him from
his seat in the Common that day, and laughed so at him. They knew
him too, and one of them set up a shrill laugh. "Hello, Johnny! That
you? You don't say so? What you up for _this_ time? Going down
to the Island? Well, give us a call there! Do be sociable! Ward 11's
the address." The other one laughed, and then swore at the first for
trying to push her off the seat.
Lemuel broke out involuntarily in all the severity that was native
to him. "You ought to be ashamed of yourselves."
This convulsed the bold things with laughter. When they could get
their breath, one of them said, "Pshaw! I know what he's up for:
preaching on the Common. Say, young feller! don't you want to hold a
They burst into another shriek of laughter, so wild and shrill that
the driver rapped on the roof, and called down, "Dry up in there!"
"Oh, you mind your horses, and we'll look after the passengers. Go
and set on his knee, Jen, and cheer him up a little."
Lemuel sat in a quiver of abhorrence. The girl appealed to remained
giggling beside her companion.
"I--I pity ye!" said Lemuel.
The Irishwoman had not stopped bewailing herself, and imploring
right and left an easy doom. She now addressed herself wholly to
Lemuel, whose personal dignity seemed to clothe him with authority
in her eyes. She told him about her children, left alone with no one
to look after them; the two little girls, the boy only three years
old. When the van stopped at a station to take in more passengers,
she tried to get out--to tell the gentlemen at the office about it,
After several of these halts they stopped at the basement of a large
stone building, that had a wide flight of steps in front, and
columns, like the church at Willoughby Pastures, only the church
steps were wood, and the columns painted pine. Here more officers
took charge of them, and put them in a room where there were already
twenty-five or thirty other prisoners, the harvest of the night
before; and presently another van-load was brought in.
There were many women among them, but here there was no laughing or
joking as there had been in the van. Scarcely any one spoke, except
the Irishwoman, who crept up to an officer at the door from time to
time, and begged him to tell the judge to let her have it easy this
time. Lemuel could not help seeing that she and most of the others
were familiar with the place. Those two saucy jades who had mocked
him were silent, and had lost their bold looks.
After waiting what seemed a long time, the door was opened, and they
were driven up a flight of stairs into a railed enclosure at the
corner of a large room, where they remained huddled together, while
a man at a long desk rattled over something that ended with "God
bless the commonwealth of Massachusetts." On a platform behind the
speaker sat a grey-haired man in spectacles, and Lemuel knew that he
was in the court-room, and that this must be the judge. He could not
see much of the room over the top of the railing, but there was a
buzz of voices and a stir of feet beyond, that made him think the
place was full. But full or empty, it was the same to him; his shame
could not be greater or less. He waited apathetically while the
clerk read off the charges against the vastly greater number of his
fellow-prisoners arrested for drunkenness. When these were disposed
of, he read from the back of a paper, which he took from a fresh
pile, "Bridget Gallagher, complained of for habitual drunkenness.
Guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty, your honour," answered the Irishwoman who had come from
Lemuel's station. "But make it aisy for me this time, judge, and
ye'll never catch me in it again. I've three helpless childer at
home, your honour, starvin' and cryin' for their mother. Holy Mary,
make it aisy, judge!"
A laugh went round the room, which a stern voice checked with
"Silence, there!" but which renewed itself when the old woman took
the stand at the end of the clerk's long desk, while a policeman
mounted a similar platform outside the rail, and gave his testimony
against her. It was very conclusive, and it was not affected by the
denials with which the poor woman gave herself away more and more.
She had nothing to say when invited to do so except to beg for
mercy; the judge made a few inquiries, apparently casual, of the
policeman; then after a moment's silence, in which he sat rubbing
his chin, he leaned forward and said quietly to the clerk,
"Give her three months."
The woman gave a wild Irish cry, "O my poor childer!" and amidst the
amusement of the spectators, which the constables could not check at
once, was led wailing below.
Before Lemuel could get his breath those bold girls, one after the
other, were put upon the stand. The charge against them was not made
the subject of public investigation; the judge and some other
elderly gentleman talked it over together; and the girls, who had
each wept in pleading guilty, were put on probation, as Lemuel
understood it, and, weeping still and bridling a little, were left
in charge of this elderly gentleman, and Lemuel saw them no more.
One case followed another, and Lemuel listened with the fascination
of terror; the sentences seemed terribly severe, and out of all
proportion to the offences. Suddenly his own name was called. His
name had been called in public places before: at the school
exhibitions, where he had taken prizes in elocution and composition;
in church, once, when the minister had mentioned him for peculiar
efficiency and zeal among other Sabbath-school teachers. It was
sacred to him for his father's sake, who fell in the war, and who
was recorded in it on the ugly, pathetic monument on the village
green; and hitherto he had made it respected and even honoured, and
had tried all the harder to keep it so because his family was poor,
and his mother had such queer ways and dressed so. He dragged
himself to the stand which he knew he must mount, and stole from
under his eyelashes a glance at the court-room, which took it all
in. There were some people, whom he did not know for reporters, busy
with their pencils next the railings; and there was a semicircular
table in the middle of the room at which a large number of policemen
sat, and they had their straw helmets piled upon it, with the hats
of the lawyers who sat among them. Beyond, the seats which covered
the floor were filled with the sodden loafers whom the law offers
every morning the best dramatic amusement in the city. Presently,
among the stupid eyes fixed upon him, Lemuel was aware of the eyes
of that fellow who had passed the counterfeit money on him; and when
this scamp got up and coolly sauntered out of the room, Lemuel was
held in such a spell that he did not hear the charge read against
him, or the clerk's repeated demand, "Guilty or not guilty?"
He was recalled to himself by the voice of the judge. "Young man, do
you understand? Are you guilty of assaulting this lady and taking
her satchel, or not?"
"Not guilty," said Lemuel huskily; and he looked, not at the judge,
but at the pretty girl, who confronted him from a stand at the other
end of the clerk's desk, blushing to find herself there up to her
wide-flung blue eyes. Lemuel blushed too, and dropped his eyes; and
it seemed to him in a crazy kind of way that it was impolite to have
pleaded not guilty against her accusation. He stood waiting for the
testimony which the judge had to prompt her to offer.
"State the facts in regard to the assault," he said gravely.
"I don't know as I can do it, very well," began the girl.
"We shall be satisfied if you do your best," said the judge, with
the glimmer of a smile, which spread to a laugh among the
spectators, unrebuked by the constables, since the judge had invited
In this atmosphere of sympathy the girl found her tongue, and with a
confiding twist, of her pretty head began again: "Well, now, I'll
tell you just how it was. I'd just got my book out of the Public
Library, and I was going down Neponset Street on my way home,
hurrying along, because I see it was beginning to be pretty late,
and the first thing I know somebody pulled my hat down over my eyes,
and tore the brim half off, so I don't suppose I can ever wear it
again, it's such a lookin' thing; any rate it ain't the one I've got
on, though it's some like it; and then the next thing, somebody
grabbed away the satchel I'd got on my arm; and as soon as I could
get my eyes clear again, I see two fellows chasin' up the street,
and I told the officer somebody'd got my book; and I knew it was one
of those fellows runnin' away, and I said, 'There they go now,' and
the officer caught the hind one, and I guess the other one got away;
and the officer told me to follow along to the station-house, and
when we got there they took my name, and where I roomed, and my age----"
"Do you recognise this young man as one of the persons who robbed
you?" interrupted the judge, nodding his head toward Lemuel, who now
lifted his head and looked his accuser fearlessly in her pretty
"Why, no!" she promptly replied. "The first thing I knew, he'd
pulled my hat over my eyes."
"But you recognise him as one of those you saw running away?"
"Oh yes, he's one of _them_," said the girl.
"What made you think he had robbed you?"
"Why, because my satchel was gone!" returned the girl, with logic
that apparently amused the gentlemen of the bar.
"But why did you think _he_ had taken it?"
"Because I see him running away."
"You couldn't swear that he was the one who took your satchel?"
"Why, of course not! I didn't _see_ him till I saw him running.
And I don't know as he was the one, now," added the girl, in a
sudden burst of generosity.
"And if it was to do over again, I should say as much to the
officers at the station. But I got confused when they commenced
askin' me who I was, and how much I weighed, and what my height was;
and _he_ didn't say anything; and I got to thinkin' may be it
_was_; and when they told me that if I didn't promise to appear
at court in the morning they'd have to lock me up, I was only too
glad to get away alive."
By this time all the blackguard audience were sharing, unchecked,
the amusement of the bar. The judge put up his hand to hide a laugh.
Then he said to Lemuel, "Do you wish to question the plaintiff?"
The two young things looked at each other, and both blushed. "No,"
The girl looked at the judge for permission, and at a nod from him
left the stand and sat down.
The officer who had arrested Lemuel took the stand on the other side
of the rail from him, and corroborated the girl's story; but he had
not seen the assault or robbery, and could not swear to either. Then
Lemuel was invited to speak, and told his story with the sort of
nervous courage that came to him in extremity. He told it from the
beginning, and his adventure with the two beats in the Common made
the audience laugh again. Even then, Lemuel could not see the fun of
it; he stopped, and the stout ushers in blue flannel sacks commanded
silence. Then Lemuel related how he had twice seen one of the beats
since that time, but he was ashamed to say how he had let him escape
out of that very room half an hour before. He told how he had found
the beat in the crowd before the saloon, and how he was chasing him
up the street when he heard the young lady hollo out, "There they go
now!" and then the officer arrested him.
The judge sat a moment in thought; then said quietly, "The charge is
dismissed;" and before Lemuel well knew what it meant, a gate was
opened at the stand, and he was invited to pass out. He was free.
The officer who had arrested him shook his hand in congratulation
and excuse, and the lawyers and the other policemen gave him a
friendly glance. The loafers and beats of the audience did not seem
to notice him. They were already intent upon a case of coloured
assault and battery which had been called, and which opened with the
promise of uncommon richness, both of the parties being women.
Lemuel saw that girl who had accused him passing down the aisle on
the other side of the room. She was with another girl, who looked
older. Lemuel walked fast, to get out of their way; he did not know
why, but he did not want to speak to the girl. They walked fast too,
and when he got down the stairs on to the ground floor of the court-
house they overtook him.
"Say?" said the older girl, "I want to speak to _you_. I think
it's a down shame, the way that you've been treated; and Statira,
she feels jus' 's I do about it; and I tell her she's got to say so.
It's the least she can do, I tell her, after what she got you
_in_ for. My name's 'Manda Grier; I room 'th S'tira; 'n' I
come 'th her this mornin' t' help keep her up; b't I _didn't_
know 't was goin' to be s'ch a _perfect_ flat-out!"
As the young woman rattled on she grew more and more glib; she was
what they call whopper-jawed, and spoke a language almost purely
consonantal, cutting and clipping her words with a rapid play of her
whopper-jaw till there was nothing but the bare bones left of them.
Statira was crying, and Lemuel could not bear to see her cry. He
tried to say something to comfort her, but all he could think of
was, "I hope you'll get your book back," and 'Manda Grier answered
"Oh, I guess 't ain't the book 't she cares for. S' far forth 's the
book goes, I guess she can afford to buy another book, well enough.
B't I tell her she's done 'n awful thing, and a thing 't she'll
carry to her grave 'th her, 'n't she'll remember to her dyin' day.
That's what _I_ tell her."
"She ha'n't got any call to feel bad about it," said Lemuel
clumsily. "It was just a mistake." Then, not knowing what more to
say, he said, being come to the outer door by this time, "Well, I
wish you good morning."
"Well, good morning," said 'Manda Grier, and she thrust her elbow
sharply into Statira Dudley's side, so that she also said faintly--
"Well, good morning!" She was fluent enough on the witness-stand and
in the police station, but now she could not find a word to say.
The three stood together on the threshold of the court-house, not
knowing how to get away from one another.
'Manda Grier put out her hand to Lemuel. He took it, and, "Well,
good morning," he said again.
"Well, good morning," repeated 'Manda Grier.
Then Statira put out her hand, and she and Lemuel shook hands, and
said together, "Well, good morning," and on these terms of high
civility they parted. He went one way and they another. He did not
look back, but the two girls, marching off with locked arms and
flying tongues, when they came to the corner, turned to look back.
They both turned inward, and so bumped their heads together.
"Why, you--coot!" cried 'Manda Grier, and they broke out laughing.
Lemuel heard their laugh, and he knew they were laughing at him; but
he did not care. He wandered on, he did not know whither, and
presently he came to the only place he could remember.
The place was the Common, where his trouble had begun. He looked
back to the beginning, and could see that it was his own fault. To
be sure, you might say that if a fellow came along and offered to
pay you fifty cents for changing a ten-dollar bill, you had a right
to take it; but there was a voice in Lemuel's heart which warned him
that greed to another's hurt was sin, and that if you took too much
for a thing from a necessitous person, you oppressed and robbed him.
You could make it appear otherwise, but you could not really change
the nature of the act. He owned this with a sigh, and he owned
himself justly punished. He was still on those terms of personal
understanding with the eternal spirit of right which most of us lose
later in life, when we have so often seemed to see the effect fail
to follow the cause, both in the case of our own misdeeds and the
misdeeds of others.
He sat down on a bench, and he sat there all day, except when he
went to drink from the tin cup dangling by the chain from the
nearest fountain. His good breakfast kept him from being hungry for
a while, but he was as aimless and as hopeless as ever, and as
destitute. He would have gone home now if he had had the money; he
was afraid they would be getting anxious about him there, though he
had not made any particular promises about the time of returning. He
had dropped a postal card into a box as soon as he reached Boston,
to tell of his safe arrival, and they would not expect him to write
There were only two ways for him to get home: to turn tramp and walk
back, or to go to that Mr. Sewell and borrow the money to pay his
passage. To walk home would add intolerably to the public shame he
must suffer, and the thought of going to Mr. Sewell was, even in the
secret which it would remain between him and the minister, a pang so
cruel to his pride that he recoiled from it instantly. He said to
himself he would stand it one day more; something might happen, and
if nothing happened, he should think of it again. In the meantime he
thought of other things: of that girl, among the rest, and how she
looked at the different times. As nearly as he could make out, she
seemed to be a very fashionable girl; at any rate, she was dressed
fashionably, and she was nice-looking. He did not know whether she
had behaved very sensibly, but he presumed she was some excited.
Toward dark, when Lemuel was reconciling himself to another night's
sleep in the open air, a policeman sauntered along the mall, and as
he drew nearer the boy recognised his friendly captor. He dropped
his head, but it was too late. The officer knew him, and stopped
"Well," he said, "hard at it, I see."
Lemuel made no answer, but he was aware of a friendly look in the
officer's face, mixed with fatherly severity.
"I was in hopes you had started back to Willoughby Pastures before
this. You don't want to get into the habit of settin' round on the
Common, much. First thing you know you can't quit it. Where you
goin' to put up to-night?" "I don't know," murmured Lemuel.
"Got no friends in town you can go to?"
"Well, now, look here! Do you think you could find your way back to
"I guess so," said Lemuel, looking up at the officer questioningly.
"Well, when you get tired of this, you come round, and we'll provide
a bed for you. And you get back home to-morrow, quick as you can."
"Thank you," said Lemuel. He was helpless against the advice and its
unjust implication, but he could not say anything.
"Get out o' Boston, anyway, wherever you go or don't go," continued
the officer. "It's a bad place."
He walked on, and left Lemuel to himself again. He thought bitterly
that no one knew better than himself how luridly wicked Boston was,
and that there was probably not a soul in it more helplessly anxious
to get out of it. He thought it hard to be talked to as if it were
his fault; as if he wished to become a vagrant and a beggar. He sat
there an hour or two longer, and then he took the officer's advice
so far as concerned his going to the station for a bed, swallowing
his pride as he must. He must do that, or he must go to Mr. Sewell.
It was easier to accept humiliation at the hands of strangers. He
found his way there with some difficulty, and slinking in at the
front door, he waited at the threshold of the captain's room while
he and two or three officers disposed of a respectably dressed man,
whom a policeman was holding up by the collar of his coat. They were
searching his pockets and taking away his money, his keys, and his
pencil and penknife, which the captain sealed up in a large
envelope, and put into his desk.
"There! take him and lock him up. He's pretty well loaded," said the
Then he looked up and saw Lemuel. "Hello! Can't keep away, eh?" he
demanded jocosely. "Well, we've heard about you. I told you the
judge would make it all right. What's wanted? Bed? Well, here!" The
captain filled up a blank which he took from a pigeon-hole, and gave
it to Lemuel. "I guess that'll fix you out for the night. And
tomorrow you put back to Willoughby Pastures tight as you can get
there. You're on the wrong track now. First thing you know you'll be
a professional tramp, and then you won't be worth the powder to blow
you. I use plain talk with you because you're a beginner. I wouldn't
waste my breath on that fellow behind you."
Lemuel looked round, and almost touched with his a face that shone
fiery red through the rusty growth of a week's beard, and recoiled
from a figure that was fouler as to shirt and coat and trousers than
anything the boy had seen; though the tramps used to swarm through
Willoughby Pastures before the Selectmen began to lock them up in
the town poorhouse and set them to breaking stone. There was no
ferocity in the loathsome face; it was a vagrant swine that looked
from it, no worse in its present mood than greedy and sleepy.
"Bed?" demanded the captain, writing another blank. "Never been here
before, I suppose?" he continued with good-natured irony. "I don't
seem to remember you."
The captain laughed, and the tramp returned a husky "Thank you,
sir," and took himself off into the street.
Then the captain came to Lemuel's help. "You follow him," he said,
"and you'll come to a bed by and by."
He went out, and, since he could do no better, did as he was bid. He
had hardly ever seen a drunken man at Willoughby Pastures, where the
prohibition law was strictly enforced; there was no such person as a
thief in the whole community, and the tramps were gone long ago. Yet
here was he, famed at home for the rectitude of his life and the
loftiness of his aims, consorting with drunkards and thieves and
tramps, and warned against what he was doing by a policeman, as if
he was doing it of his own will. It was very strange business. If it
was all a punishment for taking that fellow's half-dollar, it was
pretty heavy punishment. He was not going to say that it was unjust,
but he would say it was hard. His spirit was now so bruised and
broken that he hardly knew what to think.
He followed the tramp as far off as he could and still keep him in
sight, and he sometimes thought he had lost him, in the streets that
climbed and crooked beyond the Common towards the quarter whither
they were going; but he reappeared, slouching and shambling rapidly
on, in the glare of some electric lights that stamped the ground
with shadows thick and black as if cut in velvet or burnt into the
surface. Here and there some girl brushed against the boy, and gave
him a joking or jeering word; her face flashed into light for a
moment, and then vanished in the darkness she passed into. It was
that hot October, and the night was close and still; on the steps of
some of the houses groups of fat, weary women were sitting, and
children were playing on the sidewalks, using the lamp-posts for
goal or tag. The tramp ahead of Lemuel issued upon a brilliantly
lighted little square, with a great many horse-cars coming and going
in it; a church with stores on the ground floor, and fronting it on
one side a row of handsome old stone houses with iron fences, and on
another a great hotel, with a high-pillared portico, where men sat
talking and smoking.
People were waiting on the sidewalk to take the cars; a druggist's
window threw its mellow lights into the street; from open cellar-
ways came the sound of banjos and violins. At one of these cellar
doors his guide lingered so long that Lemuel thought he should have
to find the way beyond for himself. But the tramp suddenly commanded
himself from the music, the light, and the smell of strong drink,
which Lemuel caught a whiff of as he followed, and turning a corner
led the way to the side of a lofty building in a dark street, where
they met other like shapes tending toward it from different
Lemuel entered a lighted doorway from a bricked courtyard, and found
himself with twenty or thirty houseless comrades in a large, square
room, with benching against the wall for them to sit on. They were
all silent and quelled-looking, except a young fellow whom Lemuel
sat down beside, and who, ascertaining that he was a new-comer,
seemed disposed to do the honours of the place. He was not daunted
by the reserve native to Lemuel, or by that distrust of strangers
which experience had so soon taught him. He addressed him promptly
as mate, and told him that the high, narrow, three-sided tabling in
the middle of the room was where they would get their breakfast, if
"And I guess I shall live," he said. "I notice I 'most always live
till breakfast-time, whatever else I do, or I don't do; but
sometimes it don't seem as if I _could_ saw my way through that
quarter of a cord of wood." At a glance of inquiry which Lemuel
could not forbear, he continued: "What I mean by a quarter of a cord
of wood is that they let you exercise that much free in the morning,
before they give you your breakfast: it's the doctor's orders. This
used to be a school-house, but it's in better business now. They got
a kitchen under here, that beats the Parker House; you'll smell it
pretty soon. No whacking on the knuckles here any more. All serene,
I tell you. You'll see. I don't know how I should got along without
this institution, and I tell the manager so, every time I see him.
That's him, hollering 'Next,' out of that room there. It's a name he
gives all of us; he knows it's a name we'll answer to. Don't you
forget it when it comes your turn."
He was younger than Lemuel, apparently, but his swarthy, large-
mouthed, droll eyed face affirmed the experience of a sage. He wore
a blue flannel shirt, with loose trousers belted round his waist,
and he crushed a soft felt hat between his hands; his hair was
clipped close to his skull, and as he rubbed it now and then it gave
out a pleasant rasping sound.
The tramps disappeared in the order of their vicinity to the
manager's door, and it came in time to this boy and Lemuel.
"You come along with me," he said, "and do as I do." When they
entered the presence of the manager, who sat at a desk, Lemuel's
guide nodded to him, and handed over his order for a bed.
"Ever been here before?" asked the manager, as if going through the
form for a joke.
"Never." He took a numbered card which the manager gave him, and
stood aside to wait for Lemuel, who made the same answer to the same
question, and received his numbered card.
"Now," said the young fellow, as they passed out of another door,
"we ain't either of us 'Next,' any more. I'm Thirty-nine, and you're
Forty, and don't you forget it. All right, boss," he called back to
the manager; "I'll take care of him! This way," he said to Lemuel.
"The reason why I said I'd never been here before," he explained on
the way down, "was because you got to say something, when he asks
you. Most of 'em says last fall or last year, but I say never,
because it's just as true, and he seems to like it better. We're
going down to the dressing-room now, and then we're going to take a
bath. Do you know why?"
"No," said Lemuel.
"Because we can't help it. It's the doctor's orders. He thinks it's
the best thing you can do, just before you go to bed."
The basement was brightly lighted with gas everywhere, and a savoury
odour of onion-flavoured broth diffused itself through the whole
"Smell it? You might think that was supper, but it ain't. It's
breakfast. You got a bath and a night's rest as well as the quarter
of a cord of wood between you and that stew. Hungry?"
"Not very," said Lemuel faintly.
"Because if you say you are they'll give you all the bread and water
you can hold, now. But I ruther wait."
"I guess I don't want anything to-night," said Lemuel, shrinking
from the act of beggary.
"Well, I guess you won't lose anything in the long run," said the
other. "You'll make it up at breakfast."
They turned into a room where eight or ten tramps were undressing;
some of them were old men, quite sodden and stupefied with a life of
vagrancy and privation; others were of a dull or cunning middle-age,
two or three were as young as Lemuel and his partner, and looked as
if they might be poor fellows who had found themselves in a strange
city without money or work. But it was against them that they had
known where to come for a night's shelter, Lemuel felt.
There were large iron hooks hanging from the walls and ceiling, and
his friend found the numbers on two of them corresponding to those
given Lemuel and himself, and brass checks which they hung around
"You got to hang your things on that hook, all but your shoes and
stockings, and you got to hang on to _them_, yourself. Forty's
your number, and forty's your hook, and they give you the clothes
off'n it in the morning."
He led the way through the corridor into a large room where a row of
bath-tubs flanked the wall, half of them filled with bathers, who
chatted in tones of subdued cheerfulness under the pleasant
excitement of unlimited hot and cold water. As each new-comer
appeared, a black boy, perched on a windowsill, jumped down and
dashed his head from a large bottle which he carried.
"Free shampoo," explained Lemuel's mate. "Doctor's orders. Only you
have to do the rubbing yourself. I don't suppose _you_ need it,
but some the pardners here couldn't sleep without it," he continued,
as Lemuel shrank a little from the bottle, and then submitted. "It's
a regular night-cap."
The tramps recognised the humour of the explanation by a laugh,
intended to be respectful to the establishment in its control, which
spread along their line, and the black boy grinned.
"There ain't anything mean about the Wayfarer's Hotel," said the
mate, and they all laughed again, a little louder.
Each man, having dried himself from his bath, was given a coarse
linen night-gown; sometimes it was not quite whole, but it was
always clean; and then he gathered up his shoes and stockings and
"Hold on a minute," said the mate to Lemuel, when they left the
bath-room. "You ought to see the kitchen," and in his night-gown,
with his shoes in his hand, he led Lemuel to the open door which
that delicious smell of broth came from. A vast copper-topped boiler
was bubbling within, and trying to get its lid off. The odour made
Lemuel sick with hunger.
"Refrigerator in the next room," the mate lectured on. "Best beef-
chucks in the market; fish for Fridays--we don't make any man go
against his religion, in _this_ house; pots of butter as big as
a cheese,--none of your oleomargarine,--the real thing, every time;
potatoes and onions and carrots laying around on the floor; barrels
of hard-tack; and bread, like sponge,--bounce you up if you was to
jump on it,--baked by the women at the Chardon Street Home--oh, I
tell you we do things in style here."
A man who sat reading a newspaper in the corner looked up sharply.
"Hello, there! what's wanted?"
"Just dropped in to wish you good night, Jimmy," said Lemuel's mate.
"You clear out!" said the man good-humouredly, as if to an old
acquaintance, who must not be allowed to presume upon his
"All right, Jimmy," said the boy. He set his left hand horizontally
on its wrist at his left shoulder and cut the air with it in playful
menace as the man dropped his eyes again to his paper. "They're all
just so, in this house," he explained to Lemuel. "No nonsense, but
good-natured. _They're_ all right. They know me."
He mounted two flights of stairs in front of Lemuel to a corridor,
where an attendant stood examining the numbers on the brass checks
hung around tramps' necks as they came up with their shoes in their
hands. He instructed them that the numbers corresponded to the cots
they were to occupy, as well as the hooks where their clothes hung.
Some of them seemed hardly able to master the facts. They looked
wistfully, like cowed animals, into his face as he made the case
Two vast rooms, exquisitely clean, like the whole house, opened on
the right and left of the corridor, and presented long phalanxes of
cots, each furnished with two coarse blankets, a quilt, and a thin
"Used to be school-rooms," said Lemuel's mate, in a low tone.
"Cots thirty-nine and forty," said the attendant, looking at their
checks. "Right over there, in the corner."
"Come along," said the mate, leading the way, with the satisfaction
of an _habitue_. "Best berth in the room, and about the last
they reach in the morning. You see, they got to take us as we come,
when they call us, and the last feller in at night's the first
feller out in the morning, because his bed's the nearest the door."
He did not pull down the blankets of his cot at once, but stretched
himself out in the quilt that covered them. "Cool off a little,
first," he explained. "Well, this is what I call comfort, mate,
Lemuel did not answer. He was watching the attendant with a group of
tramps who could not find their cots.
"Can't read, I suppose," said the mate, a little disdainfully.
"Well, look at that old chap, will you!" A poor fellow was fumbling
with his blankets, as if he did not know quite how to manage them.
The attendant had to come to his help, and tuck him in. "Well,
there!" exclaimed the mate, lifting himself on his elbow to admire
the scene. "I don't suppose he's ever been in a decent bed before.
Hayloft's _his_ style, or a board-pile." He sank down again,
and went on: "Well, you do see all kinds of folks here, that's a
fact. Sorry there ain't more in to-night, so 's to give you a
specimen. You ought to be here in the winter. Well, it ain't so
lonesome now, in summer, as it used to be. Sometimes I used to have
nearly the whole place to myself, summer nights, before they got to
passin' these laws against tramps in the country, and lockin' 'em up
when they ketched 'em. That drives 'em into the city summers, now;
because they're always sure of a night's rest and a day's board here
if they ask for it. But winter's the time. You'll see all these cots
full, then. They let on the steam-heat, and it's comfortable; and
it's always airy and healthy." The vast room was, in fact, perfectly
ventilated, and the poor who housed themselves that night, and many
well-to-do sojourners in hotels, had reason to envy the vagrants
their free lodging.
The mate now got under his quilt, and turned his face toward Lemuel,
with one hand under his cheek. "They don't let _every_body into
this room, 's I was tellin' ye. This room is for the big-bugs, you
know. Sometimes a drunk will get in, though, in spite of everything.
Why, I've seen a drunk at the station-house, when I've been gettin'
my order for a bed, stiffen up so 't the captain himself thought he
was sober; and then I've followed him round here, wobblin' and
corkscrewin' all over the sidewalk; and then I've seen him stiffen
up in the office again, and go through his bath like a little man,
and get into bed as drunk as a fish; and may be wake up in the night
with the man with the poker after him, and make things hum. Well,
sir, one night there was a drunk in here that thought the man with
the poker was after him, and he just up and jumped out of this
window behind you--three stories from the ground."
Lemuel could not help lifting himself in bed to look at it. "Did it
kill him?" he asked. "Kill him? _No_! You can't kill a _drunk_. One
night there was a drunk got loose, here, and he run downstairs into
the wood-yard, and he got hold of an axe down there, and it took five
men to get that axe away from that drunk. He was goin' for the snakes."
"The snakes," repeated Lemuel. "Are there snakes in the wood-yard?"
The other gave a laugh so loud that the attendant called out, "Less
noise over there!"
"I'll tell you about the snakes in the morning," said the mate; and
he turned his face away from Lemuel.
The stories of the drunks had made Lemuel a little anxious; but he
thought that attendant would keep a sharp lookout, so that there
would not really be much danger. He was very drowsy from his bath,
in spite of the hunger that tormented him, but he tried to keep
awake and think what he should do after breakfast.
"Come, turn out!" said a voice in his ear, and he started up, to see
the great dormitory where he had fallen asleep empty of all but
himself and his friend.
"Make out a night's rest?" asked the latter. "Didn't I tell you we'd
be the last up? Come along!" He preceded Lemuel, still drowsy, down
the stairs into the room where they had undressed, and where the
tramps were taking each his clothes from their hook, and hustling
"What time is it, Johnny?" asked Lemuel's mate of the attendant. "I
left my watch under my pillow."
"Five o'clock," said the man, helping the poor old fellow who had
not known how to get into bed to put on his clothes.
"Well, that's a pretty good start," said the other. He finished his
toilet by belting himself around the waist, and "Come along, mate,"
he said to Lemuel. "I'll show you the way to the tool-room."
He led him through the corridor into a chamber of the basement where
there were bright rows of wood-saws, and ranks of saw-horses, with
heaps of the latter in different stages of construction. "House
self-supporting, as far as it can. We don't want to be beholden to
anybody if we can help it. We make our own horses here; but we can't
make our saws, or we would. Ever had much practice with the wood-
"No," said Lemuel, with a throb of home-sickness, that brought back
the hacked log behind the house, and the axe resting against it; "we
always chopped our stove-wood."
"Yes, that's the way in the country. Well, now," said the other,
"I'll show you how to choose a saw. Don't you be took in by no new
saw because it's bright, and looks pretty. You want to take a saw
that's been filed, and filed away till it ain't more 'n an inch and
a half deep; and then you want to tune it up, just so,--like a
banjo--not too tight, and not too slack,--and then it'll slip
through a stick o' wood like--lyin'." He selected a saw, and put it
in order for Lemuel. "There!" He picked out another. "Here's
_my_ old stand-by!" He took up a saw-horse, at random, to
indicate that one need not be critical in that, and led through the
open door into the wood-yard, where a score or two of saws were
already shrilling and wheezing through the wood.
It was a wide and lofty shed, with piles of cord-wood and slabs at
either end, and walled on the farther side with kindling, sawed,
split, and piled up with admirable neatness. The place gave out the
sweet smell of the woods from the bark of the logs and from the
fresh section of their grain. A double rank of saw-horses occupied
the middle space, and beside each horse lay a quarter of a cord of
wood, at which the men were toiling in sullen silence for the most
part, only exchanging a grunt or snarl of dissatisfaction with one
"Morning, mates," said Lemuel's friend cheerfully, as he entered the
shed, and put his horse down beside one of the piles. "Thought we'd
look in and see how you was gettin' along. Just stepped round from
the Parker House while our breakfast was a-cookin'. Hope you all
The men paused, with their saws at different slopes in the wood, and
looked round. The night before, in the nakedness in which Lemuel had
first seen them, the worst of them had the inalienable comeliness of
nature, and their faces, softened by their relation to their bodies,
were not so bad; they were not so bad, looking from their white
nightgowns; but now, clad in their filthy rags, and caricatured out
of all native dignity by their motley and misshapen attire, they
were a hideous gang, and all the more hideous for the grin that
overspread their stubbly muzzles at the boy's persiflage.
"Don't let me interrupt you, fellows," he said, flinging a log upon
his horse, and dashing his saw gaily into it. "Don't mind _me!_
I know you hate to lose a minute of this fun; I understand just how
you feel about it, and I don't want you to stand upon ceremony with
_me._ Treat me just like one of yourselves, gents. This beech-
wood is the regular Nova Scotia thing, ain't it? Tough and knotty! I
can't bear any of your cheap wood-lot stuff from around here. What I
want is Nova Scotia wood, every time. Then I feel that I'm gettin'
the worth of my money." His log dropped apart on each side of his
horse, and he put on another. "Well, mates," he rattled on, "this is
lovely, ain't it? I wouldn't give up my little quarter of a cord of
green Nova Scotia before breakfast for anything; I've got into the
way of it, and I can't live without it."
The tramps chuckled at these ironies, and the attendant who looked
into the yard now and then did not interfere with them.
The mate went through his stint as rapidly as he talked, and he had
nearly finished before Lemuel had half done. He did not offer to
help him, but he delayed the remnant of his work, and waited for him
to catch up, talking all the while with gay volubility, joking this
one and that, and keeping the whole company as cheerful as it was in
their dull, sodden nature to be. He had a floating eye that
harmonised with his queer, mobile face, and played round on the
different figures, but mostly upon Lemuel's dogged, rustic industry
as if it really amused him.
"What's your lay, after breakfast?" he asked, as they came to the
last log together.
"Lay?" repeated Lemuel.
"What you goin' to do?"
"I don't know; I can't tell yet."
"You know," said the other, "you can come back here, and get your
dinner, if you want to saw wood for it from ten till twelve, and you
get your supper if you'll saw from five to six."
"Are you going to do that?" asked Lemuel cautiously.
"No, sir," said the other; "I can't spare the time. I'm goin' to
fill up for all day, at breakfast, and then I'm goin' up to lay
round on the Common till it's time to go to the Police Court; and
when that's over I'm goin' back to the Common ag'in, and lay round
the rest of the day. I hain't got any leisure for no such nonsense
as wood-sawin'. I don't mind the work, but I hate to waste the time.
It's the way with most o' the pardners, unless it's the green hands.
That so, pards?"
Some of them had already gone in to breakfast; the smell of the stew
came out to the wood-yard through the open door. Lemuel and his
friend finished their last stick at the same time, and went in
together, and found places side by side at the table in the waiting-
room. The attendant within its oblong was serving the men with heavy
quart bowls of the steaming broth. He brought half a loaf of light,
elastic bread with each, and there were platters of hard-tack set
along the board, which every one helped himself from freely, and
broke into his broth.
"Morning, Jimmy," said the mate, as the man brought him and Lemuel
their portions. "I hate to have the dining-room chairs off a
paintin' when there's so much style about everything else, and I've
got a visitor with me. But I tell him he'll have to take us as he
finds us, and stand it this mornin'." He wasted no more words on his
joke, but plunging his large tin spoon into his bowl, kept his
breath to cool his broth, blowing upon it with easy grace, and
swallowing it at a tremendous rate, though Lemuel, after following
his example, still found it so hot that it brought the tears into
his eyes. It was delicious, and he was ravenous from his twenty-four
hours' fast, but his companion was scraping the bottom of his bowl
before Lemuel had got half-way down, and he finished his second as
Lemuel finished his first.
"Just oncet more for both of us, Jimmy," he said, pushing his bowl
across the board; and when the man brought them back he said, "Now,
I'm goin' to take it easy and enjoy myself. I can't never seem to
get the good of it, till about the third or fourth bowl. Too much of
"Do they give you four bowls?" gasped Lemuel in astonishment.
"They give you four barrels, if you can hold it," replied the other
proudly; "and some the mates _can_, pretty near. They got an
awful tank, as a general rule, the pards has. There ain't anything
mean about this house. They don't scamp the broth, and they don't
shab the measure. I do wish you could see that refrigerator, oncet.
Never been much at sea, have you, mate?"
Lemuel said he had never been at sea at all.
The other leaned forward with his elbows on each side of his bowl,
and lazily broke his hard-tack into it. "Well, I have. I was shipped
when I was about eleven years old by a shark that got me drunk. I
wanted to ship, but I wanted to ship on an American vessel for New
Orleans. First thing I knowed I turned up on a Swedish brig bound
for Venice. Ever been to It'ly?"
"No," said Lemuel.
"Well, I hain't but oncet. Oncet is enough for _me_. I run
away, while I was in Venice, and went ashore--if you can call it
ashore; it's all water, and you got to go round in boats: gondolas
they call 'em there--and went to see the American counsul, and told
him I was an American boy, and tried to get him to get me off. But
he couldn't do anything. If you ship under the Swedish flag you're a
Swede, and the whole United States couldn't get you off. If I'd 'a'
shipped under the American flag I'd 'a' been an American, I don't
care if I was born in Hottentot. That's what the counsul said. I
never want to see that town ag'in. I used to hear songs about
Venice--'Beautiful Venice, Bride of the Sea;' but I think it's a
kind of a hole of a place. Well, what I started to say was that when
I turn up in Boston, now,--and I most generally do,--I don't go to
no sailor boardin'-house; I break for the Wayfarer's Lodge, every
time. It's a temperance house, and they give you the worth o' your
"Come! Hurry up!" said the attendant. He wiped the table impatiently
with his towel, and stood waiting for Lemuel and the other to
finish. All the rest had gone.
"Don't you be too fresh, pard," said the mate, with the effect of
standing upon his rights. "Guess if you was on your third bowl, you
The attendant smiled. "Don't you want to lend us a hand with the
dishes?" he asked.
"Who's sick?" asked the other in his turn.
"Johnny's got a day off."
The boy shook his head. "No; I couldn't. If it was a case of
sickness, of course I'd do it. But I couldn't spare the time; I
couldn't really. Why, I ought to be up on the Common now."
Lemuel had listened with a face of interest.
"Don't you want to make half a dollar, young feller?" asked the
"Yes, I do," said Lemuel eagerly.
"Know how to wash dishes?"
"Yes," answered the boy, not ashamed of his knowledge, as the boy of
another civilisation might have been. Nothing more distinctly marks
the rustic New England civilisation than the taming of its men to
the performance of certain domestic offices elsewhere held
dishonourably womanish. The boy learns not only to milk and to keep
the milk cans clean, but to churn, to wash dishes, and to cook.
"Come around here, then," said the attendant, and Lemuel promptly
"Well, now," said his mate, "that's right. I'd do it myself, if I
had the time." He pulled his soft wool hat out of his hip pocket.
"Well, good morning, pards. I don't know as I shall see you again
much before night." Lemuel was lifting a large tray, heavy with
empty broth-bowls. "What _time_ did you say it was, Jimmy?"
"Well, I just got time to get there," said the other, putting on his
hat, and pushing out of the door.
At the moment Lemuel was lifting his tray of empty broth-bowls, Mr.
Sewell was waking for the early quarter-to-eight breakfast, which he
thought it right to make--not perhaps as an example to his
parishioners, most of whom had the leisure to lie later, but as a
sacrifice, not too definite, to the lingering ideal of suffering. He
could not work before breakfast--his delicate digestion forbade
that--or he would have risen still earlier, and he employed the
twenty minutes he had between his bath and his breakfast in skimming
the morning paper.
Just at present Mr. Sewell was taking two morning papers: the
_Advertiser_ which he had always taken, and a cheap little one-
cent paper, which had just been started, and which he bad subscribed
for experimentally, with the vague impression that he ought to
encourage the young men who had established it. He did not like it
very well. It was made up somewhat upon the Western ideal, and dealt
with local matters in a manner that was at once a little more lively
and a little more intimate than he had been used to. But before he
had quite made up his mind to stop it, his wife had come to like it
on that very account. She said it was interesting. On this point she
used her conscience a little less actively than usual, and he had to
make her observe that to be interesting was not the whole duty of
journalism. It had become a matter of personal pride with them
respectively to attack and defend _The Sunrise_, as I shall
call the little sheet, though that was not the name; and Mr. Sewell
had lately made some gain through the character of the police
reports, which _The Sunrise_ had been developing into a feature. It
was not that offensive matters were introduced; the worst cases
were in fact rather blinked, but Sewell insisted that the tone of
flippant gaiety with which many facts, so serious, so tragic for
their perpetrators and victims, were treated was odious. He objected
to the court being called a Mill, and prisoners Grists, and the
procedure Grinding; he objected to the familiar name of Uncle for
the worthy gentleman to whose care certain offenders were confided
on probation. He now read that department of _The Sunrise_ the first
thing every morning, in the hope of finding something with which to put
Mrs. Sewell hopelessly in the wrong, but this morning a heading in
the foreign news of the _Advertiser_ caught his eye, and he laid
_The Sunrise_ aside to read at the breakfast-table. His wife came
down in a cotton dress, as a tribute to the continued warmth of the
weather, and said that she had not called the children, because it was
Saturday, and they might as well have their sleep out. He liked to
see her in that dress; it had a leafy rustling that was pleasant to
his ear, and as she looked into the library he gaily put out his hand,
which she took, and suffered herself to be drawn toward him. Then she
gave him a kiss, somewhat less business-like and preoccupied than
"Well, you've got Lemuel Barker off your mind at last," she divined,
in recognition of her husband's cheerfulness.
"Yes, he's off," admitted Sewell.
"I hope he'll stay in Willoughby Pastures after this. Of course it
puts an end to our going there next summer." "Oh, I don't know,"
Sewell feebly demurred.
"_I_ do," said his wife, but not despising his insincerity
enough to insist that he did also. The mellow note of an apostle's
bell--the gift of an aesthetic parishioner--came from below, and she
said, "Well, there's breakfast, David," and went before him down the
He brought his papers with him. It would have been her idea of
heightened cosiness, at this breakfast, which they had once a week
alone together, not to have the newspapers, but she saw that he felt
differently, and after a number of years of married life a woman
learns to let her husband have his own way in some unimportant
matters. It was so much his nature to have some sort of reading
always in hand, that he was certainly more himself, and perhaps more
companionable with his papers than without them.
She merely said, "Let me take the _Sunrise_," when she had
poured out his coffee, and he had helped her to cantaloupe and
steak, and spread his _Advertiser_ beside his plate. He had the
_Sunrise_ in his lap.
"No, you may have the _Advertiser_" he said, handing it over
the table to her. "I was down first, and I got both the papers. I'm
not really obliged to make any division, but I've seen the
_Advertiser_, and I'm willing to behave unselfishly. If you're
very impatient for the police report in the _Sunrise_ I'll read
it aloud for you. I think that will be a very good test of its
quality, don't you?"
He opened the little sheet, and smiled teasingly at his wife, who
said, "Yes, read it aloud; I'm not at all ashamed of it."
She put the _Advertiser_ in her lap, and leaned defiantly
forward, while she stirred her coffee, and Sewell unfolded the
little sheet, and glanced up and down its columns. "Go on! If you
can't find it, I can."
"Never mind! Here it is," said Sewell, and he began to read--
"'The mill opened yesterday morning with a smaller number of grists
than usual, but they made up in quality what they lacked in
"Our friend's metaphor seems to have weakened under him a little,"
commented Sewell, and then he pursued--
"'A reasonable supply of drunks were despatched--'
"Come, now, Lucy! You'll admit that this is horrible?" he broke off.
"No," said his wife, "I will admit nothing of the kind. It's
flippant, I'll allow. Go on!"
"I can't," said Sewell; but he obeyed.
"'A reasonable supply of drunks were despatched, and an habitual
drunk, in the person of a burly dame from Tipperary, who pleaded not
guilty and then urged the "poor childer" in extenuation, was sent
down the harbour for three months; Uncle Cook had been put in charge
of a couple of young frailties whose hind name was woman--'
"How do you like that, my dear?" asked Sewell exultantly.
Mrs. Sewell looked grave, and then burst into a shocked laugh. "You
must stop that paper, David! I can't have it about for the children
to get hold of. But it _is_ funny, isn't it? That will do--"
"No, I think you'd better have it all, now. There can't be anything
worse. It's funny, yes, with that truly infernal drollery which the
newspaper wits seem to have the art of." He read on--"--'when a case
was called that brought the breath of clover blossoms and hay-seed
into the sultry court-room, and warmed the cockles of the
habitues' toughened pericardiums with a touch of real poetry.
This was a case of assault, with intent to rob, in which a lithe
young blonde, answering to the good old Puritanic name of Statira
Dudley, was the complainant, and the defendant an innocent-
looking, bucolic youth, yclept--'"
Sewell stopped and put his hand to his forehead.
"What is it, David?" demanded his wife. "Why don't you go on? Is it
"No, no," murmured the minister.
"I can't go on. But you must read it, Lucy," he said, in quite a
passion of humility. "And you must try to be merciful. That poor
He handed the paper to his wife, and made no attempt to escape from
judgment, but sat submissive while she read the report of Lemuel's
trial. The story was told throughout in the poetico-jocular spirit
of the opening sentences; the reporter had felt the simple charm of
the affair, only to be ashamed of it and the more offensive about
When she had finished Mrs. Sewell did not say anything. She merely
looked at her husband, who looked really sick.
At last he said, making an effort to rise from his chair, "I must go
and see him, I suppose."
"Yes, if you can find him," responded his wife, with a sigh.
"Find him?" echoed Sewell.
"Yes. Goodness knows what more trouble the wretched creature's got
into by this time. You saw that he was acquitted, didn't you?" she
demanded, in answer to her husband's stare.
"No, I didn't. I supposed he was convicted, of course."
"Well, you see it isn't so bad as it might be," she said, using a
pity which she did not perhaps altogether feel. "Eat your breakfast
now, David, and then go and try to look him up."
"Oh, I don't want any breakfast," pleaded the minister.
He offered to rise again, but she motioned him down in his chair.
"David, you shall! I'm not going to have you going about all day
with a headache. Eat! And then when you've finished your breakfast,
go and find out which station that officer Baker belongs to, and he
can tell you something about the boy, if any one can."
Sewell made what shift he could to grasp these practical ideas, and
he obediently ate of whatever his wife bade him. She would not let
him hurry his breakfast in the least, and when he had at last
finished, she said, "Now you can go, David. And when you've found
the boy, don't you let him out of your sight again till you've put
him aboard the train for Willoughby Pastures, and seen the train
start out of the depot with him. Never mind your sermon. I will be
setting down the heads of a sermon, while you're gone, that will do
_you_ good, if you write it out, whether it helps any one else
Sewell was not so sure of that. He had no doubt that his wife would
set down the heads of a powerful sermon, but he questioned whether
any discourse, however potent, would have force to benefit such an
abandoned criminal as he felt himself, in walking down his brown-
stone steps, and up the long brick sidewalk of Bolingbroke Street
toward the Public Garden. The beds of geraniums and the clumps of
scarlet-blossomed salvia in the little grass-plots before the
houses, which commonly flattered his eye with their colour, had a
suggestion of penal fires in them now, that needed no lingering
superstition in his nerves to realise something very like perdition
for his troubled soul. It was not wickedness he had been guilty of,
but he had allowed a good man to be made the agency of suffering,
and he was sorely to blame, for he had sinned against himself. This
was what his conscience said, and though his reason protested
against his state of mind as a phase of the religious insanity which
we have all inherited in some measure from Puritan times, it could
not help him. He went along involuntarily framing a vow that if
Providence would mercifully permit him to repair the wrong he had
done, he would not stop at any sacrifice to get that unhappy boy
back to his home, but would gladly take any open shame or obloquy
upon himself in order to accomplish this.
He met a policeman on the bridge of the Public Garden, and made bold
to ask him at once if he knew an officer named Baker, and which
station he could be found at. The policeman was over-rich in the
acquaintance of two officers of the name of Baker, and he put his
hand on Sewell's shoulder, in the paternal manner of policemen when
they will be friendly, and advised him to go first to the Neponset
Street station, to which one of these Bakers was attached, and
inquire there first. "Anyway, that's what I should do in your
Sewell was fulsomely grateful, as we all are in the like case, and
at the station he used an urbanity with the captain which was
perhaps not thrown away upon him, but which was certainly
disproportioned to the trouble he was asking him to take in saying
whether he knew where he could find officer Baker.
"Yes, I do," said the captain. "You can find him in bed, upstairs,
but I'd rather you wouldn't wake a man off duty, if you don't have
to, especially if you don't know he's the one. What's wanted?"
Sewell stopped to say that the captain was quite right, and then he
explained why he wished to see officer Baker.
The captain listened with nods of his head at the names and facts
given. "Guess you won't have to get Baker up for that. I can tell
you what there is to tell. I don't know where your young man is now,
but I gave him an order for a bed at the Wayfarer's Lodge last
night, and I guess he slept there. You a friend of his?"
"Yes," said Sewell, much questioning inwardly whether he could be
truly described as such. "I wish to befriend him," he added
savingly. "I knew him at home, and I am sure of his innocence."
"Oh, I guess he's _innocent_ enough," said the captain. "Well,
now, I tell you what you do, if you want to befriend him; you get
him home quick as you can."
"Yes," said Sewell, helpless to resent the officer's authoritative
and patronising tone. "That's what I wish to do. Do you suppose he's
at the Wayfarer's Lodge now?" asked Sewell.
"Can't say," said the captain, tilting himself back in his chair,
and putting his quill toothpick between his lips like a cigarette.
"The only way is to go and see."
"Thank you very much," said the minister, accepting his dismissal
meekly, as a man vowed to ignominy should, but feeling keenly that
he was dismissed, and dismissed in disgrace.
At the Lodge he was received less curtly. The manager was there with
a long morning's leisure before him, and disposed to friendliness
that Sewell found absurdly soothing. He turned over the orders for
beds delivered by the vagrants the night before, and "Yes," he said,
coming to Lemuel's name, "he slept here; but nobody knows where he
is by this time. Wait a bit, sir!" he added to Sewell's fallen
countenance. "There was one of the young fellows stayed to help us
through with the dishes, this morning. I'll have him up; or may be
you'd like to go down and take a look at our kitchen? You'll find
him there if it's the one. Here's our card, We can supply you with
all sorts of firewood at less cost than the dealers, and you'll be
helping the poor fellows to earn an honest bed and breakfast. This
Sewell promised to buy his wood there, put the card respectfully
into his pocket, and followed the manager downstairs, and through
the basement to the kitchen. He arrived just as Lemuel was about to
lift a trayful of clean soup-bowls, to carry it upstairs. After a
glance at the minister, he stood still with dropped eyes.
Sewell did not know in what form to greet the boy on whom he had
unwillingly brought so much evil, and he found the greater
difficulty in deciding as he saw Lemuel's face hardening against
"Barker!" he said at last. "I'm very glad to find you--I have been
very anxious to find you."
Lemuel made no sign of sympathy, but stood still in his long check
apron, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbow, and the minister was
obliged to humble himself still further to this figure of lowly
"I should like to speak with you. Can I speak with you a few
The manager politely stepped into the storeroom, and affected to
employ himself there, leaving Lemuel and the minister alone
Sewell lost no time. "I want you to go home, Barker. I feel that I
am wholly to blame, and greatly to blame, for your coming to Boston
with the expectation that brought you; and that I am indirectly
responsible for all the trouble that has befallen you since you
came. I want to be the means of your getting home, in any way you
can let me."
This was a very different way of talking from the smooth superiority
of address which the minister had used with him the other day at his
own house. Lemuel was not insensible to the atonement offered him,
and it was not from sulky stubbornness that he continued silent, and
left the minister to explore the causes of his reticence unaided.
"I will go home _with_ you, if you like," pursued the minister,
though his mind misgave him that this was an extreme which Mrs.
Sewell would not have justified him in. "I will go with you, and
explain all the circumstances to your friends, in case there should
be any misunderstanding--though in that event I should have to ask
you to be my guest till Monday." Here the unhappy man laid hold of
the sheep, which could not bring him greater condemnation than the
"I guess they won't know anything about it," said Lemuel, with
It seemed hardened indifference to the minister, and he felt it his
disagreeable duty to say, "I am afraid they will. I read of it in
the newspaper this morning, and I'm afraid that an exaggerated
report of your misfortunes will reach Willoughby Pastures, and alarm
A faint pallor came over the boy's face, and he stood again in his
impenetrable, rustic silence. The voice that finally spoke from, it
said, "I guess I don't want to go home, then."
"You _must_ go home!" said the minister, with more of imploring
than imperiousness in his command. "What will they make of your
"I sent a postal to mother this morning. They lent me one."
"But what will you do here, without work and without means? I wish
you to go home with me--I feel responsible for you--and remain with
me till you can hear from your mother. I'm sorry you came to Boston--it's
no place for you, as you must know by this time, and I am sure your
mother will agree with me in desiring your return."
"I guess I don't want to go home," said Lemuel.
"Are you afraid that an uncharitable construction will be placed
upon what has happened to you by your neighbours?" Lemuel did not
answer. "I assure you that all that can be arranged. I will write to
your pastor, and explain it fully. But in any event," continued
Sewell, "it is your duty to yourself and your friends to go home and
live it down. It would be your duty to do so, even if you had been
guilty of wrong, instead of the victim of misfortune."
"I don't know," said Lemuel, "as I want to go home and be the
Against this point Sewell felt himself helpless. He could not
pretend that the boy would not be ridiculous in the eyes of his
friends, and all the more ridiculous because so wholly innocent. He
could only say, "That is a thing you must bear," and then it
occurred to him to ask, "Do you feel that it is right to let your
family meet the ridicule alone?"
"I guess nobody will speak to mother about it, more than once," said
Lemuel, with a just pride in his mother's powers of retort. A woman
who, unaided and alone, had worn the Bloomer costume for twenty
years in the heart of a commentative community like Willoughby
Pastures, was not likely to be without a cutting tongue for her
"But your sister," urged Sewell; "your brother-in-law," he feebly
"I guess they will have to stand it," replied Lemuel.
The minister heaved a sigh of hopeless perplexity. "What do you
propose to do, then? You can't remain here without means. Do you
expect to sell your poetry?" he asked, goaded to the question by a
conscience peculiarly sore on that point.
It made Lemuel blush. "No, I don't expect to sell it, now. They took
it out of my pocket on the Common."
"I am glad of that," said the minister as simply, "and I feel bound
to warn you solemnly, that there is absolutely _no_ hope for
you in that direction."
Lemuel said nothing.
The minister stood baffled again. After a bad moment he asked, "Have
you anything particular in view?"
"I don't know as I have."
"How long can you remain here?"
"I don't know exactly."
Sewell turned and followed the manager into the refrigerator room,
where he had remained patiently whistling throughout this interview.
When he came back, Lemuel had carried one trayful of bowls upstairs,
and returned for another load, which he was piling carefully up for
"The manager tells me," said Sewell, "that practically you can stay
here as long as you like, if you work, but he doesn't think it
desirable you should remain, nor do I. But I wish to find you here
again, when I come back. I have something in view for you."
This seemed to be a question, and Lemuel said, "All right," and went
on piling up his bowls. He added, "I shouldn't want you to take a
great deal of trouble."
"Oh, it's no trouble," groaned the minister. "Then I may depend upon
seeing you here any time during the day?"
"I don't know as I'm going away," Lemuel admitted.
"Well, then, good-bye, for the present," said Sewell, and after
speaking again to the manager, and gratefully ordering some kindling
which he did not presently need, he went out, and took his way
homeward. But he stopped half a block short of his own door, and
rang at Miss Vane's. To his perturbed and eager spirit, it seemed
nothing short of a divine mercy that she should be at home. If he
had not been a man bent on repairing his wrong at any cost to
others, he would hardly have taken the step he now contemplated
without first advising with his wife, who, he felt sure, would have
advised against it. His face did not brighten at all when Miss Vane
came briskly in, with the "_How_ d'ye do?" which he commonly
found so cheering. She pulled up the blind and saw his knotted brow.
"What is the matter? You look as if you had got Lemuel Barker back
on your hands."
"I have," said the minister briefly.
Miss Vane gave a wild laugh of delight. "You _don't_ mean it!"
she sputtered, sitting down before him, and peering into his face.
"What _do_ you mean?"
Sewell was obliged to possess Miss Vane's entire ignorance of all
the facts in detail. From point to point he paused; he began really
to be afraid she would do herself an injury with her laughing.
She put her hand on his arm and bowed her head forward, with her
face buried in her handkerchief. "What--what--do you suppose-pose--
they did with the po-po-_po_em they stole from him?"
"Well, one thing I'm sure they _didn't_ do," said Sewell
bitterly. "They didn't _read_ it."
Miss Vane hid her face in her handkerchief, and then plucked it
away, and shrieked again. She stopped, with the sudden calm that
succeeds such a paroxysm, and, "Does Mrs. Sewell know all about
this?" she panted.
"She knows everything, except my finding him in the dish-washing
department of the Wayfarer's Lodge," said Sewell gloomily, "and my
coming to you."
"Why do you come to me?" asked Miss Vane, her face twitching and her
"Because," answered Sewell, "I'd rather not go to her till I have
Miss Vane gave way again, and Sewell sat regarding her ruefully.
"What do you expect me to do?" She looked at him over her
handkerchief, which she kept pressed against her mouth.
"I haven't the least idea what I expected you to do. I expected you
to tell me. You have an inventive mind."
Miss Vane shook her head. Her eyes grew serious, and after a moment
she said, "I'm afraid I'm not equal to Lemuel Barker. Besides," she
added, with a tinge of trouble, "I have _my_ problem, already."
"Yes," said the minister sympathetically. "How has the flower
charity turned out?"
"She went yesterday with one of the ladies, and carried flowers to
the city hospital. But she wasn't at all satisfied with the result.
She said the patients were mostly disgusting old men that hadn't
been shaved. I think that now she wants to try her flowers on
criminals. She says she wishes to visit the prisons."
Sewell brightened forlornly. "Why not let her reform Barker?"
This sent Miss Vane off again. "Poor boy!" she sighed, when she had
come to herself. "No, there's nothing that I can do for him, except
to order some firewood from his benefactors."
"I did that," said Sewell. "But I don't see how it's to help Barker
"I would gladly join in a public subscription to send him home. But
you say he won't _go_ home?"
"He won't go home," sighed the minister. "He's determined to stay. I
suspect he would accept employment, if it were offered him in the
Miss Vane shook her head. "There's nothing I can think of except
shovelling snow. And as yet it's rather warm October weather."
"There's certainly no snow to shovel," admitted Sewell. He rose
disconsolately. "Well, there's nothing for it, I suppose, but to put
him down at the Christian Union, and explain his checkered career to
everybody who proposes to employ him."
Miss Vane could not keep the laughter out of her eyes; she nervously
tapped her lips with her handkerchief, to keep it from them.
Suddenly she halted Sewell, in his dejected progress toward the
door. "I might give him my furnace?"
"Furnace?" echoed Sewell.
"Yes. Jackson has 'struck' for twelve dollars a month, and at
present there is a 'lock-out,'--I believe that's what it's called.
And I had determined not to yield as long as the fine weather
lasted. I knew I should give in at the first frost. I will take
Barker now, if you think he can manage the furnace."
"I've no doubt he can. Has Jackson really struck?" Miss Vane nodded.
"He hasn't said anything to me about it."
"He probably intends to make special terms to the clergy. But he
told me he was putting up the rates on all his 'famblies' this
"If he puts them up on me, I will take Barker too," said the
minister boldly. "If he will come," he added, with less courage.
"Well, I will go round to the Lodge, and see what he thinks of it.
Of course, he can't live upon ten dollars a month, and I must look
him up something besides."
"That's the only thing I can think of at present," said Miss Vane.
"Oh, you're indefinitely good to think of so much," said Sewell.
"You must excuse me if my reception of your kindness has been
qualified by the reticence with which Barker received mine, this
"Oh, do tell me about it!" cried Miss Vane.
"Sometime I will. But I can assure you it was such as to make me
shrink from another interview. I don't know but Barker may fling
your proffered furnace in my teeth. But I'm sure we both mean well.
And I thank you, all the same. Good-bye."
"Poor Mr. Sewell!" said Miss Vane, following him to the door. "May I
run down and tell Mrs. Sewell?"
"Not yet," said the minister sadly. He was too insecure of Barker's
reception to be able to enjoy the joke.
When he got back to the Wayfarer's Lodge, whither he made himself
walk in penance, he found Lemuel with a book in his hand, reading,
while the cook stirred about the kitchen, and the broth, which he
had well under way for the mid-day meal, lifted the lid of its
boiler from time to time and sent out a joyous whiff of steam. The
place had really a cosiness of its own, and Sewell began to fear
that his victim had been so far corrupted by its comfort as to be
unwilling to leave the Refuge. He had often seen the subtly
disastrous effect of bounty, and it was one of the things he
trembled for in considering the question of public aid to the poor.
Before he addressed Barker, he saw him entered upon the dire life of
idleness and dependence, partial or entire, which he had known so
many Americans even willing to lead since the first great hard times
began; and he spoke to him with the asperity of anticipative
"Barker!" he said, and Lemuel lifted his head from the book he was
reading. "I have found something for you to do. I still prefer you
should go home, and I advise you to do so. But," he added, at the
look that came into Lemuel's face, "if you are determined to stay,
this is the best I can do for you. It isn't a full support, but it's
something, and you must look about for yourself, and not rest till
you've found full work, and something better fitted for you. Do you
think you can take care of a furnace?"
"Hot air?" asked Lemuel.
"I guess so. I took care of the church furnace, last winter."
"I didn't know you had one," said the minister, brightening in the
ray of hope. "Would you be willing to take care of a domestic
furnace--a furnace in a private house?"
Lemuel pondered the proposal in silence. Whatever objections there
were to it in its difference from the aims of his ambition in coming
to the city of Boston, he kept to himself; and his ignorance of city
prejudices and sophistications probably suggested nothing against
the honest work to his pride. "I guess I should," he said at last.
"Well, then, come with me."
Sewell judged it best not to tell him whose furnace he was to take
care of; he had an impression that Miss Vane was included in the
resentment which Lemuel seemed to cherish toward him. But when he
had him at her door, "It's the lady whom you saw at my house the
other day," he explained. It was then too late for Lemuel to rebel
if he had wished, and they went in.
If there was any such unkindness in Lemuel's breast toward her, it
yielded promptly to her tact. She treated him at once, not like a
servant, but like a young person, and yet she used a sort of respect
for his independence which was soothing to his rustic pride. She put
it on the money basis at once; she told him that she should give him
ten dollars a month for taking care of the furnace, keeping the
sidewalk clear of snow, shovelling the paths in the backyard for the
women to get at their clothes-lines, carrying up and down coal and
ashes for the grates, and doing errands. She said that this was what
she had always paid, and asked him if he understood and were
Lemuel answered with one yes to both her questions, and then Miss
Vane said that of course till the weather changed they should want
no fire in the furnace, but that it might change, any day, and they
should begin at once and count October as a full month. She thought
he had better go down and look at the furnace and see if it was in
order; she had had the pipes cleaned, but perhaps it needed
blacking; the cook would show him how it worked. She went with him
to the head of the basement stairs, and calling down, "Jane, here is
Lemuel, come to look after the furnace," left him and Jane to
complete the acquaintance upon coming in sight of each other, and
went back to the minister. He had risen to go, and she gave him her
hand, while a smile rippled into laughter on her lips.
"Do you think," she asked, struggling with her mirth to keep unheard
of those below, "that it is quite the work for a literary man?"
"If he is a man," said Sewell courageously, "the work won't keep him
from being literary."
Miss Vane laughed at his sudden recovery of spirit, as she had
laughed at his dejection; but he did not care. He hurried home, with
a sermon kindling in his mind so obviously, that his wife did not
detain him beyond a few vital questions, and let him escape from
having foisted his burden upon Miss Vane with the simple comment,
"Well, we shall see how that will work."
As once before, Sewell tacitly took a hint from his own experience,
and enlarging to more serious facts from it, preached effort in the
erring. He denounced mere remorse. Better not feel that at all, he
taught; and he declared that what is ordinarily distinguished from
remorse as repentance, was equally a mere corrosion of the spirit
unless some attempt at reparation went with it. He maintained that
though some mischiefs--perhaps most mischiefs--were irreparable so
far as restoring the original status was concerned, yet every
mischief was reparable in the good-will and the good deed of its
perpetrator. Do what you could to retrieve yourself from error, and
then, not leave the rest to Providence, but keep doing. The good,
however small, must grow if tended and nurtured like a useful plant,
as the evil would certainly grow, like a wild and poisonous weed, if
left to itself. Sin, he said, was a terrible mystery; one scarcely
knew how to deal with it or to attempt to determine its nature; but
perhaps--he threw out the thought while warning those who heard him
of its danger in some aspects--sin was not wholly an evil. We were
so apt in this world of struggle and ambition to become centred
solely in ourselves, that possibly the wrong done to another,--the
wrong that turned our thoughts from ourselves, and kept them bent in
agony and despair upon the suffering we had caused another, and knew
not how to mitigate--possibly this wrong, nay, certainly this wrong,
was good in disguise. But, returning to his original point, we were
to beware how we rested in this despair. In the very extremity of
our anguish, our fear, our shame, we were to gird ourselves up to
reparation. Strive to do good, he preached; strive most of all to do
good to those you have done harm to. His text was "Cease to do
He finished his sermon during the afternoon, and in the evening his
wife said they would run up to Miss Vane's. Sewell shrank from this
a little, with the obscure dread that Lemuel might have turned his
back upon good fortune, and abandoned the place offered him, in
which case Sewell would have to give a wholly different turn to his
sermon; but he consented, as indeed he must. He was as curious as
his wife to know how the experiment had resulted.
Miss Vane did not wait to let them ask. "My dear," she said, kissing
Mrs. Sewell and giving her hand to the minister in one, "he is a
pearl! And I've kept him from mixing his native lustre with Rising
Sun Stove Polish by becoming his creditor in the price of a pair of
overalls. I had no idea they were so cheap, and you can see that
they will fade, with a few washings, to a perfect Millet blue. They
were quite his own idea, when he found the furnace needed blacking,
and he wanted to use the fifty cents he earned this morning toward
the purchase, but I insisted upon advancing the entire dollar
myself. Neatness, self-respect, awe-inspiring deference!--he is each
and every one of them in person."
Sewell could not forbear a glance of triumph at his wife.
"You leave us very little to ask," said that injured woman.
"But I've left myself a great deal to tell, my dear," retorted Miss
Vane, "and I propose to keep the floor; though I don't really know
where to begin." "I thought you had got past the necessity of beginning,"
said Sewell. "We know that the new pearl sweeps clean,"--Miss Vane
applauded his mixed metaphor--"and now you might go on from that point."
"Well, you may think I'm rash," said Miss Vane, "but I've thoroughly
made up my mind to keep him."
"Dear, _dear_ Miss Vane!" cried the minister. "Mrs. Sewell
thinks you're rash, but I don't. What do you mean by keeping him?"
"Keeping him as a fixture--a permanency--a continuosity."
"Oh! A continuosity? I know what that is in the ordinary acceptation
of the term, but I'm not sure that I follow your meaning exactly."
"Why, it's simply this," said Miss Vane. "I have long secretly
wanted the protection of what Jane calls a man-body in the House,
and when I saw how Lemuel had blacked the furnace, I knew I should
feel as safe with him as with a whole body of troops."
"Well," sighed the minister, "you have not been rash, perhaps, but
you'll allow that you've been rapid."
"No," said Miss Vane, "I won't allow that. I have simply been
intuitive--nothing more. His functions are not decided yet, but it
is decided that he is to stay; he's to sleep in the little room over
the L, and in my tranquillised consciousness he's been there years
"And has Sibyl undertaken Barker's reformation?" asked Sewell.
"Don't interrupt! Don't anticipate! I admit nothing till I come to
it. But after I had arranged with Lemuel I began to think of Sibyl."
"That was like some ladies I have known of," said Sewell. "You women
commit yourselves to a scheme, in order to show your skill in
reconciling circumstances to the irretrievable. Well?"
"_Don't_ interrupt, David!" cried his wife.
"Oh, let him go on," said Miss Vane. "It's all very well, taking
people into your house on the spur of the moment, and in obedience
to a generous impulse, but when you reflect that the object of your
good intentions slept in the Wayfarer's Lodge the night before, and
in the police-station the night before that, and enjoys a newspaper
celebrity in connection with a case of assault and battery with
intent to rob,--why, then you _do_ reflect!"
"Yes," said Sewell, "that is just the point where I should begin."
"I thought," continued Miss Vane, "I had better tell Sibyl all about
it, so if by any chance the neighbours' kitchens should have heard
of the case--they read the police reports very carefully in the
"They do in some drawing-rooms," interrupted Sewell.
"It's well for you they do, David," said his wife. "Your
_protege_ would have been in your Refuge still, if they didn't."
"I see!" cried the minister. "I shall have to take the
_Sunrise_ another week."
Miss Vane looked from one to the other in sympathetic ignorance, but
they did not explain, and she went on.
"And if they should hear Lemuel's name, and put two and two
together, and the talk should get to Sibyl--well, I thought it all
over, until the whole thing became perfectly lurid, and I wished
Lemuel Barker was back in the depths of Willoughby Pastures----"
"I understand," said Sewell. "Go on!"
Miss Vane did so, after stopping to laugh. "It seemed to me I
couldn't wait for Sibyl to get home--she spent the night in
Brookline, and didn't come till five o'clock--to tell her. I began
before she had got her hat or gloves off, and she sat down with them
on, and listened like a three-years' child to the Ancient Mariner,
but she lost no time when she understood the facts. She went out
immediately and stripped the nasturtium bed. If you could have seen
it when you came in, there's hardly a blossom left. She took the
decorations of Lemuel's room into her own hands at once; and if
there is any saving power in nasturtiums, he will be a changed
person. She says that now the great object is to keep him from
feeling that he has been an outcast, and needs to be reclaimed; she
says nothing could be worse for him. I don't know how she knows."
"Barker might feel that he was disgraced," said the minister, "but I
don't believe that a whole system of ethics would make him suspect
that he needed to be reclaimed."
"He makes me suspect that _I_ need to be reclaimed," said Miss
Vane, "when he looks at me with those beautiful honest eyes of his."
Mrs. Sewell asked, "Has he seen the decorations yet?"
"Not at all. They are to steal upon him when he comes in to-night.
The gas is to be turned very low, and he is to notice everything
gradually, so as not to get the impression that things have been
done with a design upon him." She laughed in reporting these ideas,
which were plainly those of the young girl. "Sh!" she whispered at
A tall girl, with a slim vase in her hand, drifted in upon their
group like an apparition. She had heavy black eyebrows with
beautiful blue eyes under them, full of an intensity unrelieved by
"Aunty!" she said severely, "have you been telling?"
"Only Mr. and Mrs. Sewell, Sibyl," said Miss Vane. "_Their_
knowing won't hurt. He'll never know it."
"If he hears you laughing, he'll know it's about him. He's in the
kitchen, now. He's come in the back way. Do be quiet." She had given
her hand without other greeting in her preoccupation to each of the
Sewells in turn, and now she passed out of the room.
"What makes Lemuel such a gift," said Miss Vane, in a talk which she
had with Sewell a month later, "is that he is so supplementary."
"Do you mean just in the supplementary sense of the term?"
"Well, not in the fifth-wheel sense. I mean that he supplements us,
all and singular--if you will excuse the legal exactness."
"Oh, certainly," said Sewell; "I should like even more exactness."
"Yes; but before I particularise I must express my general
satisfaction in him as a man-body. I had no idea that man bodies in
a house were so perfectly admirable."
"I've sometimes feared that we were not fully appreciated," said
"The house is another thing with a man-body in it. I've often gone
without little things I wanted, simply because I hated to make Sarah
bring them, and because I hated still worse to go after them,
knowing we were both weakly and tired. Now I deny myself nothing. I
make Lemuel fetch and carry without remorse, from morning till
night. I never knew it before, but the man-body seems never to be
tired, or ill, or sleepy."
"Yes," said Sewell, "that is often the idea of the woman-body. I'm
not sure that it's correct."
"Oh, _don't_ attack it!" implored Miss Vane. "You don't
_know_ what a blessing it is. Then, the man-body never
complains, and I can't see that he expects anything more in an order
than the clear understanding of it. He doesn't expect it to be
accounted for in any way; the fact that you say you want a thing is
enough. It is very strange. Then the moral support of the presence
of a man-body is enormous. I now know that I have never slept
soundly since I have kept house alone--that I have never passed a
night without hearing burglars or smelling fire."
"And now I shouldn't mind a legion of burglars in the house; I
shouldn't mind being burned in my bed every night. I feel that
Lemuel is in charge, and that nothing can happen."
"Is he really so satisfactory?" asked Sewell, exhaling a deep
"He is, indeed," said Miss Vane. "I couldn't, exaggerate it."
"Well, well! Don't try. We are finite, after all, you know. Do you
think it can last?"
"I have thought of that," answered Miss Vane. "I don't see why it
shouldn't last. I have tried to believe that I did a foolish thing
in coming to your rescue, but I can't see that I did. I don't see
why it shouldn't last as long as Lemuel chooses. And he seems
perfectly contented with his lot. He doesn't seem to regard it as
domestic service, but as domestication, and he patronises our
inefficiency while he spares it. His common-sense is extraordinary--
it's exemplary; it almost makes one wish to have common-sense one's-
self." They had now got pretty far from the original proposition,
and Sewell returned to it with the question, "Well, and how does he
supplement you singularly?"
"Oh! oh, yes!" said Miss Vane. "I could hardly tell you without
going into too deep a study of character."
"I'm rather fond of that," suggested the minister.
"Yes, and I've no doubt we should all work very nicely into a sermon
as illustrations; but I can't more than indicate the different
cases. In the first place, Jane's forgetfulness seems to be growing
upon her, and since Lemuel came she's abandoned herself to ecstasies
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