« НазадПродовжити »
As the train stood on an embankment, ing, “Well, I must have a brakeman's the step was too high for her to climb up, air to-day." so I offered to put the children up on the “Oh! Will you ring that bell ?” top step for her. Then came the difficulty “Certainly." I rang and, passing on, of her getting up herself. She called the was met by the porter coming to answer the porter, but the door was shut and there was bell. no answer.
“This is a private car," he said shortly, “Let me help you up, too," I said. blocking my way. “Here, you can reach the rail, and step in “I know it.” I looked him in the eye. my hand and spring up. I can help you “You can't go th’oo this car." perfectly well—as though you were mount- “Oh! yes, I can. I have got to go ing a horse," I added, seeing her hesitate through it. Move out of my way." And, without giving her time to think, I My tone and manner impressed him stooped and lifted her to the step. As she sufficiently, and he surlily moved aside, sprang up, the door opened, and a portly muttering to himself; and I passed on, just lady, richly dressed and with several dia- conscious that the stout lady had posted mond rings on, came out on the platform. herself at the opening of the passage-way She gazed on the little group with aston- behind, and had beckoned to the porter, ishment.
who sprang toward her with alacrity. As “Why, Eleanor, what is this? Who are I passed through the open saloon, the young these?”
lady was engaged in supplying my little “They are some poor children, Aunt, charges with large plates of bread and butwho have had no breakfast, and I am go- ter, while a grinning cook, in his white ing to give them some.”
apron and cap, was bringing a yet further "Why, they can't come in here, my dear. supply. She turned and smiled to me as I Those dirty little brats come in our car! passed. It is impossible, my dear.”
“Won't you have something, too? It is “Oh, no, it is not, Aunty,” said the a very poor apology for a breakfast; for we young girl with a laugh, “they have had had finished and cleared away, but if — " no breakfast.”
“These little tots don't appear to think so," “Give them food, my dear, if you please, I said, my ill humor evaporating under her but I beg you not to bring them into smile. this car. Look how dirty they are! Why, “Well, won't you have something?” they might give us all some terrible dis- “No, thank you very much; I must go ease!”
ahead and tell their mother what a good But Miss Eleanor had closed her ears to fairy they have found.” the old lady's expostulations, and was ar “Oh! it is nothing. To think of these ranging with a surly servant for something poor little things being kept without breakto eat for the children. And just then the fast all morning. My father will be very question of their invasion of the car was much disturbed to find that this car has settled by the train's starting. I undertook caused the delay.” to run forward alongside the car, but seeing “Not if he is like his sister,” I thought to an open ravine ahead spanned by a trestle, myself, but I only bowed, and said, “I will and that the train was quickening its speed, come back in a little while, and get them for I caught Dixie and threw him up on the rear their mother.” To which she replied that platform, and then swung myself up after she would send them to their mother by the him. The rear door was still unlocked, so porter, thereby cutting off a chance which I opened it to pass through the car. Just I had promised myself of possibly getting inside, the elderly lady was sitting back in another glimpse of her. But a sight at myan arm-chair with a novel in her lap, self at this moment in a mirror hastened my though she was engaged at the moment in departure. A large smudge of black was softly polishing her nails. She stopped long across my face, evidently from a hand of enough to raise her jewelled lorgnette, and one of the children. The prints of the fintake a shot at me through it:
gers in black were plain on my cheek, while "Are you the brakeman ?" she called a smear ran across my nose. No wonder "No, Madame," I said grimly, think- they thought me a brakeman.
As I reached the front door of the car I lady herself, and I never saw a more gratefound it locked and I could not open it. ful picture than that young girl, in her At the same moment the porter appeared fresh travelling costume, conveying those behind me.
children down the car aisle. Her greeting “Ef you'll git out of my way, I'll open of the tired mother was as pretty as anyit,” he said in a tone so insolent that my thing I ever saw, and a minute after, she gorge rose.
had gone, the mother offered me a part of I stood aside and, still muttering to him- a substantial supply of sandwiches which self, he unlocked the door, and with his she had brought her, so that I found myself hand on the knob, stood aside for me to not quite so much in sympathy as before pass. As I passed I turned to look for with the criticism of the road that was now Dixie who was following me, and I caught being bandied about the car, and which the words, “I'se tired o'po' white folks and appeared to have made all the passengers dogs in my car.” At the same moment as one. Dixie passed and he gave him a kick, which N ot long after this we dropped the pridrew a little yelp of surprise from him. My vate car at a station and proceeded on withblood suddenly boiled. The door was still out it. We had, however, not gone far when open and, quick as light, I caught the por- we stopped and were run into a siding and ter by the collar and with a yank jerked him again waited, and after a time, a train out on the platform. The door slammed whizzed by us—a special train with but two to as he came, and I had him to myself. private cars on it. It was going at a clipping With my hand still on his throat I gave him rate, but it did not run so fast that we did not a shake that made his teeth rattle.
recognize the private car we had dropped “You black scoundrel,” I said furiously. some way back, and it soon became known “I have a good mind to fling you off this throughout our train that we had been sidetrain, and break your neck.” The negro's tracked to let a special with private cars face was ashy.
have the right-of-way. I confess that my “Indeed, boss,” he said, “I didn' mean gorge rose at this, and when the man in no harm in the world by what I said. If I front of me declared that we were the most had known you was one of dese gentle- patient people on earth to give public franmens, I'd 'a' never said a word; nor suh, chises, pay for travelling on trains run by that I wouldn'. An’ I wouldn' 'a' tetched virtue of them, and then stand being your dorg for nuthin', no suh.”
shoved aside and inconvenienced out of all “Well, I'll teach you something,” I said. reason to allow a lot of bloated dead-heads “I'll teach you to keep a civil tongue in to go ahead of us in their special trains, I your head, at least.”
chimed in with him heartily. “Yes, suh, yes, suh,” he said, “I always "Well, the road belongs to them, don't is, I always tries to be, I just didn't know; it?” inquired a thin man with a wheezing nor suh, I axes your pardon. I didn' mean voice. “That was Canter's private train, nuthin' in the worl'."
and he took on the Argand car at that sta“Now go in there and learn to behave tion back there." yourself in the future," I said.
“They own the road!? How do they “Yes, suh, I will.” And, with another own it? How did they get it?" demanded bow, and a side look at Dix, who was now the first speaker warmly. growling ominously, he let himself in at the “Why, you know how they got it. They door and I passed on forward.
got it in the panic—that is, they got the controlling interest.”
“Yes, and then ran the stock down till IX
they had got control and then reorganized
and cut out those that wouldn't sell-or I PITCH MY TENT
couldn't-the widows and orphans and in
fants—that's the way they got it.” WHEN, a little later, my small charges “Well, the court upheld it?” were brought back to their mother (to “Yes, under the law they had had made whom I had explained their absence, thus themselves to suit themselves. You know relieving her anxiety), it was by the young how 'twas! You were there when 'twas done and saw how they flung their money now sent for them to come on. She had around or rather the Argand money- not seen him for months, and she was lookfor I don't believe they own the stock at all. ing forward to it now with a happiness that I'll bet a thousand dollars that every share was quite touching. Even the discomforts is up as collateral in old Argand's bank.” of the night could not dull her joy in the
"Oh! Well, it's all the same thing. anticipation of meeting her husband-and They stand in together. The bank lends she constantly en heartened her droopy little money; they buy the stock and put it up brood with the prospect of soon seeing their for the loan, and then run the road.” “dear Daddy."
“And us,” chipped in the other; for they I shall never forget the sight and smells of had now gotten into a high good humor that station, if I live to be a thousand years with each other—"they get our franchises old. It seemed to me a sort of temporary and our money, and then side-track us resting-place for lost souls—and I was one without breakfast while they go sailing by of them. The procession of tired, bedrag
-in cars that they call theirs, but which we gled travellers that streamed in through the pay for. I do think we are the biggest black gateways to meet worn watchers with fools!”
wan smiles on their tired faces, or to look “That's Socialistic!” said his friend anxiously and in vain for friends who had again. “You've been reading that fellow's not come, or else who had come and gone. articles in the Sunday papers. What's his I had no one to look for; so, after helping name?"
my neighbor and her frowsy little brood off, “No, I've been thinking. I don't care I sauntered along with Dix at my heel, what it is, it's the truth, and I'm tired of it.” feeling about as lonely as a man can feel on
“They say he's a Jew,” interrupted the this populated earth. After gazing about other.
and refusing sternly to meet the eye of any “I don't care what he is, it's the truth,” of the numerous cabmen who wildly waved asserted the other doggedly.
their whips toward me, shouting: “Kebsuh "Well, I rather think it is," agreed his -kebsuh-keb-keb-keh ? "with wearyfriend; “but then, I'm hungry and there ing iteration, I had about made up my isn't even any water on the car.”
mind to take the least noisy of them, when "And they guzzle champagne!” sneered I became conscious that my fellow-travthe other, “which we pay for,” he added. eller, Mrs. McNeil with her little clan was “You're a stockholder?”
passing out of the station unescorted and “Yes, in a small way; but I might as was looking about in a sort of lost way. well own stock in a paving-company to On my speaking to her, her face brightened Hell. My father helped to build this road for a moment, but clouded again instantly, and used to take great pride in it. They as she said, “Oh! sir, he's gone! He came used to give the stockholders then a free to meet me this morning; but the train was ride once a year to the annual meeting, and late and he couldn't wait or he'd lose his it made them all feel as if they owned the job, so he had to go, and the kind man at the road."
gate told me he left the message for me. “But now they give free passes not to the But however shall I get there with all the stockholders, but to the legislators and the children, for I haven't a cent left!” judges."
The tears welled up in her eyes as she "It pays better," said his friend, and they came to her sad little confession. And I both laughed. It appeared, indeed, rather said, “Oh! Well, I think we can manage it a good joke to them—or, at least, there was somehow. You have his address?”. nothing which they could do about it, so “Oh! yes, sir, I have it here," and she they might as well take it good-humoredly. pulled out an empty little pocket-book from
By this time I had learned that my neigh- the breast of her worn frock and while she bor was the wife of a man named McNeil, gave the baby to the eldest girl to hold, who was a journeyman machinist, but had tremblingly opened the purse. In it was been thrown out of work by a strike in only a crumpled letter and, besides this, a another city, and, after waiting around for key—these were all. She opened the letter months, had gone North to find employ- tenderly and handed it to me. I read the ment, and having at last gotten it, had address and fastened it in my memory.
“Now,” I said, “we'll straighten this out lied to her in saying that I had never met directly.” I turned and called a hackman. them before. “I want a carriage."
When we reached, after a good hour's There was a rush, but I was firm and in- drive, the little street for which we were sisted on a hack, but as none was to be had, bound, I found my forecast fairly correct. I was fain to content myself with a one- The dingy little house, on which was the horse cab of much greater age than di- rusted number given Mrs. McNeil in her mension.
husband's letter, was shut up and bore no Bundling them in and directing the evidence of having been opened, except a driver to go around and get the trunk from small flower-pot with a sprig of green in it the baggage-room, I mounted beside him in a dusty, shutterless window. It was the and took Dix between my feet and one of sort of house that is a stove in summer and the children in my arms, and thus made my an ice box in the winter. And there was a entry into the city of my future home. My whole street of them. After we had knocked loneliness had somehow disappeared several times and I had tried to peep over
My protégée's destination turned out to the fence at the end of the street, the door be a long way off, quite in one of the sub- of an adjoining tenement opened, and a urbs of the city, where working people had slatternly, middle-aged woman peeped out. their little homes—a region I was to be- “Are you Mrs. McNeil ?" she asked. come better acquainted with later. As we “Yes." began to pass bakeries and cook-shops, the “Well, here's your key. Your man told children began once more to clamor to their me to tell you't if you came while he was at mother for something to eat, on which the work, you'd find something to eat in the poor thing tried to quiet them with prom- back room 't he'd cooked this mornin' before ises of what they should have when they he went to work. The train was late, he reached home. But I could perceive that said, and he couldn't wait; but he'd be her heart was low within her, and I stopped home to-night, and he'd bring some coal at a cookshop and bought a liberal allow- when he came. What a fine lot o' children ance of bread and jam and cookies, on you have. They ought to keep you in cinwhich the young things fell to like fam- ders and wood. I wish I had some as big ished wolves, while their mother over as that; but mine are all little. My two whelmed me with blessings.
eldest died of scarlet fever two years ago. We had not gone far, and were still in the Drainage, they said.” centre of the city, when a handsome open She had come out and unlocked the door carriage drove by us, and as it passed, there and was now turning away. sat in it the young lady I had seen on the “I think your man had some one to take train, with a pleasant looking elderly man, the upstairs front room; but he didn't come whom I conjectured to be her father, and you'll have to get some one to do it who appeared in a very good humor with and you double up. The Argand Estate her or himself. As I was gazing at them, charges such rent, we all have to do that. her eyes fell full into mine, and after a Well, if I can help you, I'm right here." half-moment's mystification, she recog. I was struck by her kindness to the fornized me as I lifted my hat and her face lorn stranger, and the latter's touching reclit up with a pleasant smile of recognition. Ognition of it, expressed more in looks and I found my feelings divided between in tone than in words. pleasure at her sweet return of my bow H aving helped them into the house, and chagrin that she should find me in which was substantially empty, only one such a predicament; for I knew what a ri- room having even a pretence of furniture in diculous figure I must cut with the dog be- it, and that merely a bed, a mattress and a tween my feet and a chubby, frowsy child, broken stove, I gave the poor woman a litthickly smeared with jam, in my arms. In tle of my slender stock of money and left fact, I could see that the girl was talking her murmuring her thanks and assurances and laughing spiritedly with her father, that I had already done too much for them. evidently about us. I confess to a feeling of shame at the figure I must cut, and I As my finances were very low, I deterwondered if she would not think I had mined to find a boarding-house instead of wasting them at a hotel. I accordingly voices were so refined as to arrest my attenstopped at a sizable house which I recog- tion, and I was guilty of the impropriety of nized as a boarding-house on a street in a listening to them, partly out of sheer idleneighborhood which might, from the old ness, and partly because I wanted to know houses with their handsome doors and win- something of my boarding-house and of dows, have once been fashionable, though my fellow boarders. They were talking fashion had long since taken its flight to a about a ball of the night before, an account newer and gaudier part of the town, and the of which they had read in the papers, or houses were now giving place to shops and rather, as I learned, in a copy of a paper small grocers' markets. A large wistaria vine which they had borrowed, and they were coiled up to the top of a somewhat dilapi- as much interested in it as if they had been dated porch with classical pillars. The there themselves. “Oh, wouldn't you have landlady, Mrs. Kale, a pleasant looking, liked to see it?” said one. “It must have kindly woman, offered me a small back- been beautiful. I should have liked to see room on reasonable terms, it being, as she Miss—" (I could not catch the name). said, the dull season when her house was “She must have been exquisite in chiffon not full; and, having arranged for Dix and lace. She is so lovely anyhow. I did in a dingy little livery stable near by, I not know she had returned.” took it “temporarily," till I could look “I wonder Mr. — did not tell us." around.
Again I failed to hear the name. I found the company somewhat nonde- "For a very good reason, I suppose. script-ranging all the way from old ladies He did not know.” with false fronts and cracked voices to up- "He is dead in love with her.” pish young travelling men and their rather "Oh, you are so romantic!” said the sad-looking wives.
other, whom I took from her figure and Among the boarders, the two who inter- her feebleness to be the elder of the two. ested me most were two elderly ladies, sis "No; but any one can tell that at a ters. They did not take their meals at the glance." common table, but in their own apartment “What a pity he could not marry her. in the third story. There was an air of mys- Then we should be sure to see her as a tery about them. They had evidently seen bride.” better days, and Mrs. Kale treated them The other laughed. “What an idea! with a respect which she paid to no others We have nothing fit to go even to the of her variegated household. I made their church in.” acquaintance in the sitting-room which they “Why, we could go in the gallery. Oh, occasionally honored with their presence this bundle is so heavy! I don't believe I on Sunday evenings, by Mrs. Kale's espe- can ever get there to-day.” cial invitation, and I was much diverted “Oh, yes, you can. Now come on. with them. They were known as the Miss Don't give up. Here, rest it on the fence Tippses; but Mrs. Kale always spoke of a moment." them as “Miss Pansy” and “Miss Pinky.” As the lame one attempted to lift the It seems that she had known them in her bundle to rest it on the fence, it slipped to youth, “back East."
the ground, and she gave a little exclamaMy acquaintance with the two old ladies tion of fear. at this time was entirely accidental. The “Oh, dear! suppose it should get soiled!” morning after my arrival, as I started out I stepped forward and lifted it for her, to look around for an office, and also to and to my surprise found it very heavy. take Dix for a walk, as well as to take a Then, as they thanked me, it occurred to look at the city, I fell in with two quaint me to offer to carry the bundle for them looking old ladies who slipped out of the to the street car for which I supposed door just ahead of me, one of them slightly them bound. There was a little demur, lame, and each with a large bundle in her and I added, “I am at Mrs. Kale's also. arms. They were dressed in black, and I have just come.” This appeared to reeach wore a veil, which quite concealed lieve one of them at least, but the other said, their features. But as they walked along, “Oh, but we are not going to the street car. engaged in an animated conversation, their We don't ride in street cars."