Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

BY

JOHN HABBERTON,

AUTHOR OF "HELEN'S BABIES,"

" BRUETON'S BAYOU," ETC.

PHILADELPHIA:
J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

LIPPINCOTT'S MONTHLY MAGAZINE.

DECEMBER, 1889.

ALL HE KNEW.

you ?

CHAPTER I. AS

8 the Capital Express train dashed into the village of Bruceton one

bright afternoon, a brakeman passing through a car was touched on the shoulder by a man who said,

“ The man that left this in the seat in front got out three stations back. You don't s'pose he'll want it again an' send back for it, do

The brakeman looked at an object which the speaker held up as he spoke: it was a small fig-box, such as train-boys sometimes succeed in imposing upon the travelling public, and it still contained several figs.

“Want it again ?” said the brakeman, with a scornful curl of the lip that gave his black moustache a Mephistophelian twist : “ of course not. He left it there so's to get rid of it, like most of 'em do. I wouldn't buy one of them boxes of -"

The brakeman suddenly ceased talking, and put both hands on the passenger's shoulders with the movement peculiar to train-men whose duty it is to rouse sleeping passengers, the effect always being to make the victim throw his head slightly backward. Then the brakeman looked a moment into the face before him,-it was small, weak-eyed, and characterless, and continued,

“Why, Sam Kimper, I didn't know you from Adam! That broadbrimmed low hat makes you look like somebody else. When did you

“This mornin'," said the passenger, dropping his eyes.

“Did, eh? Well, you needn't feel so bad about it, old man. Anybody's likely to get in trouble once in a while, you know. You got catched; some other folks 'most always don't ; that's about the difference. Let's see; how long was you-how long have you been away ?!

get out?"

[ocr errors]

“I was sent for two years an'a half,” said the passenger, raising his head again and looking almost manly, “ but, Mr. Briggs, I got all the shortenin' of time that's allowed for good conduct,-ev'ry day of it. If you don't believe it, I'll prove it to you. My term begun on the 11th of August, eighteen hundred an'

“Never mind the figures, old man: I'll take your word for it.”

“But I wanted you to be sure; I thought mebbe you'd tell other folks about it, seein' you're a good-hearted feller, an' know ev'rybody, an' I never done you no barm."

"I'll tell 'em anyway," said the brakeman, cheerily. “I ain't no saint, but I'm always ready to help a fellow up when he's down. I've got to get to the rear now, to uncouple a car we have to leave here. S’long, Sam.”

"Say, Mr. Briggs," said the passenger, hurrying along behind the brakeman," you don't s'pose there's any chance for me to get a job in the railroad-company's yard, do you?"

The brakeman turned with a sharp look which speedily softened as he saw an earnest appeal in the little man's face.

“Well, Sam,” he replied, his words dragging slowly along, “the yard's always full, an' men a-waitin'. You'd have to give bonds for good behavior, an' honesty, an' -"

“Never mind the rest, Mr. Briggs," said the ex-convict, shrinking an inch or two in stature. "I didn't know about that, indeed I didn't, or 1

“Well, you needn't be a-Mr.-Briggs-in' me, anyhow," said the brakeman. “I was only Jim before--you left town, Sam, an' I want you to go on callin' me Jim, just the same. Do you understand that, confound you ?”

“ “Yes, Mr.—Jim, I do; an' may God bless you for sayin' it!"

“Here we are; good luck by the car-load to you, Sam.” Then the brakeman looked back into the car and roared,

“ Bruceton."

The discharged prisoner consumed a great deal of time and distributed many furtive glances as he alighted, though he got off the train on the side opposite the little station. The train remained so long that when finally it started there was no one on the station platform but the agent, whose face was not familiar to the last passenger.

A gust of wind brought to the platform a scrap of a circus-poster which had been loosened by recent rain from a fence opposite the station. The agent kicked the paper from the platform ; Sam picked

. it up and looked at it; it bore a picture of a gorgeously-colored monkey and the head and shoulders of an elephant.

"Ain't you goin' to put it back ?” he asked.

“Not much," said the agent. “I don't rent that fence to the circus, or menagerie, or whatever it is."

“ Can I have it?”

“Findings are keeping, and the agent, “especially when they ain't worth looking for; that's railroad rule, and I guess circus-companies haven't got a better one."

The finder sat down on the platform, took a knife from his pocket,

and carefully cut the monkey and the elephant's head from the paper. Then he walked to the end of the platform and looked cautiously in the direction of the town. A broad road, crossed by a narrow street, led from the station ; into the street the little man hurried, believing himself

1 secure from observation, but just then the door of a coal-yard office opened, and Judge Prency, who had been county judge, and Deacon Quickset emerged. Both saw the new arrival, who tried to pass them without being recognized. But the deacon was too quick for him; planting himself in the middle of the sidewalk, which was as narrow as the deacon was broad, he stopped the wayfarer and said,“Samuel, I hope you're not going back to your old ways again,

I fighting, drinking, loafing, and stealing ?”

“No, deacon, I ain't. I'm a changed man.”

“That's what they all say, Samuel,” the deacon replied, not unkindly, “but saying isn't doing. Human nature's pretty weak when it don't lean on a stronger one.

“That's how I'm leanin', deacon."

“I'm glad to hear it, Samuel,” said the deacon, offering his hand, though in a rather conservative manner.

"Sam," said the judge, “I sentenced you, but I don't want you to think hard of me and take it out of my orchard and chicken-coop. It wasn't your first offence, you know.”

“Nor the tenth, judge. You did just right. I hope 'twas a warnin' to others."

“I think it was," said the judge, thrusting both hands into his pockets and studying the wall of the station as if it were the record of his own court.“ I think it was; and here's my hand, Sam, and my best wishes for a square start in life.”

As the judge withdrew his hand he left behind a little wad of paper which Sam recognized by sense of touch as the customary American substitute for the coin of the realm. The poor fellow did not know what to say : so he said nothing.

“Hurry along to your family, Sam. I hope you'll find them all well. I've told my wife to see to it that they didn't suffer while you were away, and I guess she's done it: she's that kind of woman.”

Sam hurried away. The deacon followed him with his eyes, and finally said,

“I wonder how much truth there was in him-about leaning on a higher power ?”

“Oh, about as much as in the rest of us, I suppose."

“What do you mean ?” The deacon snapped out this question; his words sounded like a saw-file at work. “Merely what I say,” the judge 'replied. “We all trust to our

“ religion while things go to suit us, but as soon as there's something unusual to be done in the way of business—we fall back on our old friend the devil, just as Sam Kimper used to do."

“Speak for yourself, judge, and for Sam, if you want to," said the deacon, with fine dignity," but don't include me among the rest of us.' Ġood-morning, judge.'

“Good-morning, deacon. No offence meant.”

« НазадПродовжити »