Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

“ You would not have the boy go naked ? she returned, with again a touch of indignation. She had been thinking how easily a man of Stephen's social position could get him a place if he would. Then recollecting her manners, she added, “I should get him better clothes if he had a place. Wouldn't you like to get a place now, Charley ?”

“Yes," said Charley, from under the counterpane, and began to peep at the visitor.

not an ill-looking boy — only roguish to a degree. His eyes, as black as his sister's, but only half as big, danced and twinkled with mischief Archer would have taken him off to his ragged class, but even of rags he had not at the moment the complement necessary for admittance. He left them, therefore, with a few commonplaces of religious phrase, falling utterly meaningless. But he was not one to confine his ministrations to words : he was an honest man.

He was

VOL. II.

с

Before the next Sunday it was clear to him that he could do nothing for the soul of Sara until he had taken the weight of her brother off it.

When he called the next Sunday the same vision precisely met his view.

She might have been sitting there ever since, with those wonderfully-patched trousers in her hands, and the boy beside her, gnawing at his lump of bread. But many a long seam had passed through her fingers since then, for she worked at a clothes-shop all the week with the sewing-machine, whence arose the possibility of patching Charley's clothes, for the overseer granted her a cutting or two now and then.

After a little chat, Stephen put the question :

“ If I find a place for Charley, will you go to Providence Chapel next Sunday ?”

“I will go anywhere you please, Mr. Archer,” she answered, looking up quickly with a flushed face. She would have accompanied him to any casino in London just as readily: her sole thought was to keep Charley out of prison. Her father had been in prison once; to keep her mother's child out of prison was the grand object of her life.

Well,” he resumed, with some hesitation, for he had arrived at the resolution through difficulties, whose fogs yet lingered about him, “if he will be an honest, careful boy, I will take him myself.”

Charley! Charley !” cried Sara, utterly neglectful of the source of the benefaction; and rising, she went to the bed and hugged him.

“ Don't, Sara!” said Charley, petulantly. “I don't want girls to squash me. Leave go, I say. You mend my trousers, and I'll take care of myself.”

“ The little wretch!” thought Stephen. Sara returned to her seat, and her needle went almost as fast as her sewing-machine. A glow had arisen now, and rested on her pale cheek: Stephen found himself staring at a kind of transfiguration, back from the ghostly to the human. His admiration extended itself to her deft and slender fingers and there brooded until his conscience informed him that he was actually admiring the breaking of the Sabbath ; whereupon he rose. But all the time he was about amongst the rest of his people, his thoughts kept wandering back to the desolate room, the thankless boy, and the ministering woman. Before leaving, however, he had arranged with Sara that she should bring her brother to the shop the next day.

The awe with which she entered it was not shared by Charley, who was never ripe for anything but frolic. Had not Stephen been influenced by a desire to do good, and possibly by another feeling too embryonic for detection, he would never have dreamed

of making an errand boy of a will-o'-thewisp. As such, however, he was installed, and from that moment an anxiety unknown before took possession of Stephen's bosom. He was never at ease, for he never knew what the boy might be about. He would have parted with him the first fortnight, but the idea of the prison had passed from Sara's heart into his, and he saw that to turn the boy away from his first place would be to accelerate his gravitation thitherward. He had all the tricks of a newspaper boy indigenous in him. Repeated were the complaints brought to the shop. One time the paper was thrown down the area, and brought into the breakfast-room defiled with wet. At another it was found on the doorstep, without the bell having been rung, which could hardly have been from forgetfulness, for Charley's delight was to set the bell ringing furiously, and then wait till the cook appeared, taking good care however to

« AnteriorContinuar »