The Baldwin Library
Univcisity of Florida
A COCKNEY BOY
By EDWIN PUGH IRfng Circumstance
Contents.The Story of Hannah WrayEurus. an EpisodeThe Undoing of Matty WhiteThe WatchmakerAppearancesThe Martyrdom of the MouseThe LiarThe Man of SilenceThe Poor IdealistBettles, a Cockney IshmaelThe Little Lady, an Inconsequence A Singer of Dreams The Anterior TimeThe Inevitable Thing Consolation Crazy Madge The First StoneBlind Peter.
"A volume of short stories, each of which has its own strong, peculiar vein of interest and reality. Each story is in itself strikingly complete. The writer of these short stories displays decided talent." Boston Transcript.
"In his lighter vein, as in his moods of indignation and rebellion, Mr. Pugh is a realist of the best stamp. He seesand can show forth the pathos and the tenderness that abide in things as they are."The Academy (London).
"They have right feeling, some knowledge of the human heart, and touch life at many points."The Oiitlook.
"Mr. Edwin Pugh ... is a shrewd observer, and the dramatic value of a situation is never lost upon him."The Citizen.
11 Edwin Pugh is one of the younger English writers of fiction many readers are likely to make a particularly agreeable acquaintance with him in 'King Circumstance.' "Philadelphia Press.
"His stories are often witty and of original construction. His title is a very good one, and gives the key to the tone of the bookwhich is not far from Mr. Thomas Hardy's philosophy."Hartford Courant.
HENRY HOLT & CO. NEW YORK
A COCKNEY BOY
TKRitb ten illustrations
"A child is known by his doings'"
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 1898
This took is not for salt outside of the United States and Canada.
henry holt & CO.
THE MKRSHON COMPANY PRESS, RAHWAY, N. J.
I. His Father,........ i
II. His Prenatal Experiences..... g
III. He Asks and Answers Questions, ... 29
IV. He Rises to Occasions,..... 44
V. He Makes a Friend,...... 56
VI. He Faces the Inevitable..... 63
VII. He Goes on a Jaunt....... 80
VIII. He Entertains a Demon, .... 98
IX. His Fyanky,........ 117
X. He Plays at Kiss-in-the-Ring, 130
XI. He Catches Glimpses of the Feminine Heart, 150
XII. He Runs Away from the Inevitable, 164
XIII. He Strikes an Attitude, .... 188
XIV. He Suffers Loss,....... 194
XV. He Writes Letters, 212
XVI. He Falls Asleep,....... 223
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Tony's Mother, ......10
Mrs. Drum Leaves "The Jolly Anglers," 56
The Drums Go on a Jaunt,.....82
Mrs. Drum Will Take "A Mite of Warm Gin," 87
Tony's Fyanky, ........128
Honor Drum and Her Sweetheart, 150 Michael Drum Fills His Pipe......225
Tony Drum was born in Garden Row, a street on the left bank of the river Thames. Garden Row is a narrow, crooked by-way, with pavements less than a yard wide and many iron posts marking the steep curbs. The houses in Garden Row are old and big and have beetling roofs, the windows are small and deep-set, but the doors are wide and heavy. At one corner of the street is an inn called The Jolly Anglers," where many strange characters of the watersidebargees, lightermen, wharfingers, and othersforegather nightly. There are a few fusty shops modestly hiding their wares behind dirty windows, and an evil-smelling mews. The people who live in Garden Row are mostly
connected, more or less closely, with river business. They work, live, and die, hard.
Tony's parents were poor. His mother had been a domestic servant. His father was a musician and philosopher. But philosophy having no marketable value, Michael Drum was forced to use his talent of music. He blew a flute in the gusty streets for a meager livelihood. The flute is a thin, shrewish instrument, without body or soul, but he played it better than most men. Had he set his mind to the task, he might have found means to earn a less precarious subsistence than is to be got in the gutters and outside tavern doors; but, being a philosopher, he lacked ambition. There were many ways of improving his condition; he shunned them because they were unalluring to his vagabond temperament.
"A man can die but once in the ordinary course," he was wont to remark. But he is dead all his life if he works too hard."
He was none of your showy rascals. He was a man, middle-aged, commonplace, of spare figure and faltering gait. Exposure to wind and rain and
sun had mottled his long, thin face; his cheeks bulged a little from continued distention; his lips were shapeless and puckered into a grotesque primness; his eyes were bulging and watery. He had lank hands with big blue knuckles, and a hairy, sinewy neck. In his youth he may have been picturesque enough. He was a Penrith man. During his romantic years he had tended sheep on the hill slopes for an inexorable father. The life was ill-suited to his ardent nature, and he grew to hate it. He longed to taste Londonjust as many a heady boy in a tainted office longs to be an Et-trick shepherd. The clerk knows nothing of sheep-ticks; Michael knew nothing of London except that it was big and very fine. He blew his flute at fairs and dances with a heart full of splendid gloom. He had not learned philosophy then. He had ambitions. His flute was a possible scepter.
Of course, he found a woman to believe in him; one woman's heart is every dreamer's kingdom. His own sisters mocked him. His mother smiled on him fondly, but foolishly. His father, the
sturdy Dalesman, frowned and swore. He was without honor in his own country. So, at the end of each day, it was with a lightening- heart he leaped the low stone walls between the fields to meet his Agatha upon the steaming uplands. Her sympathetic little ear was ever open to the tale of his young hopes. He walked, protecting her with his arm, toward the sunset light; and she, listening and loving, gave him new courage and new food for visions.
He had lived twenty-five years, but was much younger than that, when he left her weeping at the crossroads one red spring morning, and set his face resolutely toward the end of his desires. A finger-post pointed him on" To London." His sweetheart dried her tears upon her apron and returned to her unending round of little duties; he, with a stiff lip and a bouncing heart, strode valiantly along the white road, southward.
He passed through many mighty towns, and saw much that kindled his wonder; but he would not loiter on the way, though his boots shredded from his feet, and the hot sun, beating on him, rotted
the clothes from his lusty limbs. With his stout staff swinging in his hand, he tramped forward, meeting the sun at each recurring noon, lying down at night with his face turned to the winking stars.
He entered London on a sweltering day in early June. The sky, between the housetops, was blue as the bosom of his own lakes; the streets were paved with gold. In parks and squares and trim, gray-walled gardens, tall trees drooped under their burden of leaves. There had been no rain for many days, but the dun roads were sweet with moisture. Beautiful women, gloriously arrayed, passed near him on the pavement, or sped by under gay parasols, in shining carriages. Even the fine gentlemen, afoot or on horseback, who did not look at him or anythingso lofty were they in their patrician polarity!compelled his unwilling admiration. He had no eyes for the meaner sights, no mind to penetrate beneath the sleek exterior of the city; his rustic soul was stirred to dumb amazement. He wandered on, reveling in sensations, until nightfall.
And then the darkness fell on him.
He was without plans, without resources. He had dreamed only of the far futurethe period of his fame; the intermediate stages he had overlooked. Accustomed to the hearty hospitality of the countryside, he had not reckoned with inhospitable Death on the cold stones of this southern city. He had tootled his way to London, winning here and there a bed or a meal or a lift in a jolting-cart, or even a handful of halfpence. But now, in this great town of growing gloom, there was none to listen to his music. He loitered at the Marble Arch, watching the press of people through his tears. A policeman threatened him with vague menaces, and Michael perceived by the flashlight of his anger that London was not so big after all, but only a big collection of little things. His blithe, wandering spirit rested on despair. Wearied with the adventures of the day, footsore and heart-sore, he sought a dark corner in a'noisome court and lay down to sleep. His prayer that night was for the decent shelter of one kind, natural tree.
The real Michael Drum awoke no more. He
was more truly dead than if he had ceased to breathe. It was another man that stretched his limbs in the dawn and rose up from the spot where Michael Drum had lain down. This man went along in the early morning shadow asking alms. That day he took his first lesson from Hunger in the School of the World, and was evermore the worse for his experience. The well-fed have set it on record that hunger is a good sauce; Michael Drum found it a bad diet, as others have done. He lost his youth in the struggle for bread, and with his youth all that had made him a little higher than the ruck. He went down into the deeps, and the scum hid him.
For some years he disappeared.
At last we find him againa husband and ratepayer, lodging in two rooms in Garden Row. He is now the philosopher, and plays his flute in a jaunty key. The goods of life are very good," he says, and drinks a little whisky o' nights at The Jolly Anglers for sweet fellowship's sake. Being an artist, he wears his hair long for the honor of tradition. His wife is about to become a mother
for the second time. It will be a girl," he says, because we want a boy this time, and there are too many women already." The child is a boy. Every birth of a child is the death of an illusion," he remarks. We will call him Tony, because there has never been one of that name in our family!"
his prenatal experiences.
Mrs. Drum's first child was a girl, whom she had named Honor. Honor was four years old when Tony was born. At five years she accepted him as her first responsibility. She dragged him up the stairs and down and about the street, expounding the world to him. She judged the world from what she knew of it (as we all do); and, as she had never journeyed beyond Garden Row, thought it a shabby affair, no doubt. She sometimes longed to be one of the soaring gulls above the wintry river, that she might take a loftier view of things. She asked her mother if all the world were like Garden Row, and Mrs. Drum said God forbid!" She asked her father, and Michael Drum replied in bitter words which the child did not understandnor the man either, for that matter. But hardship quickly blunted the edge of her
desire for knowledge. At nine years she was already a little woman, with many responsibilities to sober her and many harsh experiences upon which to found a theory of life. Yet she played still.
Tony was now a tiny, deformed miracle of five. He had a great shock head, obliquely set between high, pointed shoulders; a thick, humped body, and rickety legs. His face was white and wistful, with a wonderful breadth of brow, but tapering sharply to an elfin chin. His eyes were smoke-colored, large, deep, questioning. His mouth was pinched and wry. He could not walk upright, but shuffled onward, with his long arms dangling limply and his face to the ground. His sister watched over him, protected him, and loved him always. They were rarely apart; he never appeared in the streets without her.
It was known throughout the Row that Tony was foredoomed to early death: that was the one happy fact of his existence. He alone did not know it. In another sphere he might have thrived and flourished, his life might have borne noble
fruit, perhaps; as it was, grown to his full strength, he could have done little good in his small corner of the world, but infinite harm.
He was the pet of the Garden Row Mission Hall. He attended all the services held there, led the children's singing, and was cock of his class in the Sunday-school. He was very devout, and would listen to the longest homilies with the rapt face of an angel, whilst Honor, his sister, slumbered peacefully beside him. Yet Honor had the larger stock of faith.
Once he asked his sister, Honor, where did I come from? "
She replied, as in duty bound, God sent you, Tony."
He pondered the reply with a little puzzled knot of puckers on his brow.
" God lives in heaven, don't He? he said, at last.
" He does when He's at home," Honor said, striving to cope with the great demands of the subject. But generally He's out and about, doing good."
" Oh!" gasped Tony.
" He's everywhere, like, you see," said Honor.
" I see," said Tony. He dragged himself along beside her for a hundred yards, and then he asked, Is He in Garden Row ever, Honor? "
" Yes," she replied.
" Are you certain sure? he asked incredulously. Of course," she said.
" Well," he drawled, speaking a whit peevishly; I aint never noticed Him there."
Of course, the only meaning in his words was the obvious, childish one. But the men and women of the Row supplied another.
A day or two later, as Tony and Honor were sitting together under a cart in the mews, he asked her:
" Did you come from heaven too, Honor? Yes," she said.
He turned his eyes toward her and scanned her face keenly. Then he fitted his chin into the palms of his two bony hands, and, looking aside at the flying rain, said softly:
" I didn't see you there, Honor! "
She stared at him, her mouth agape.
" What did you say? she cried.
He replied, somewhat impatiently, I didn't see you there, in heaven, Honor." And he added, Whereabouts was you? "
She shook her head in dumb amazement at his words. He seemed not to notice her extreme surprise, but continued calmly:
" Was you anywhere near God's throne, Honor? I was quite close to it."
" Oh, Tony! she gasped out, between fear and admiration.
He narrowed his eyes and looked at her for signs of doubt. She dissembled.
" I had a gold crown on," said Tony. So p'r'aps you wouldn't hardly know me. And I wore a white robe. Do you know what a robe is, Honor? "
" No," she said.
" It's in the hymn, you know," he said. It's a sort of beautiful pinafore-all red and blue and green, with diamond buttons on, and velvet bows."
" And did you have one? asked Honor.
" I had two," said Tony, nodding; one for Sundays and one for weekdays, like Miss MacMann at the sweetstuff shop. The one for Sundays was the one with the diamond buttons on; the weekday one had only got pearlies on, but bigger'n you ever see!"
" What else did you have?" asked Honor eagerly.
For Tony had the true artist's knack of compelling belief even in the very teeth of probability.
" Oh! he said, I had a golden harp and a palm of victory."
" What's a palm of victory '? asked Honor. Don't you know? he cried. It's in the hymn."
" I don't know what it is," she said humbly. It's a sort of Bath bun, but better than that, and you can't never eat it up," he said. Why not? "
" Because it's everlasting. As soon as you bite one bit off another bit grows."
Here Honor asserted herself, and exclaimed: Garn!"
He was in nowise disconcerted. Straight!" he said.
Honor stared at him with troubled eyes. At last she asked:
" What is God like, Tony? "
" Oh, He is ever so old," Tony replied.
" Is He kind? she asked.
" He is like the superintendent," said Tony, with an air of explanation.
" I always thought God was like him somehow," said Honor.
" He's awful like him," Tony replied, his eyes bulging. Only bigger and older, of course. He is like the superintendent in other ways, too, you knowa bit strict, but wonderful kind, really, if you're good."
" And was you good, Tony?" asked Honor, yielding herself wholly to the fascinations of the subject.
" Of course I was," he said. Everybody is good in heaven. But even when I was bad Jesus was kind to me. Poor Jesus!"
" Oh! cried Honor in an awed whisper.
" I see where they stuck the nails in," said Tony, and he began to cry.
" He's happy now, though," said Honor in tones of consolation.
" He seemed a bit sad like, Honor," said Tony. Of course, He can't help remembering."
" No, of course not," she agreed.
Tony said no more on the subject just then, but lapsed into heavy thought. Honor watched him with new interest. Slowly she brought her mind to believe what Tony had said; it made plain many things in him which she had never understood. She grew hungry for further details of the other world, and tried by hints to draw them from her brother. But he was coyly silent.
At last he spoke again.
It was on a fair spring morning, and the Row was a riot of children. The air was warm and still, and games were in fevered progress. Honor was playing gobs with one Lucy Anders on the doorstep of the local sweep. Tony sat squatly on the pavement at her elbow. Suddenly he addressed Lucy Anders.
" Lucy," he said, do you know where babies come from? "
Lucy Anders was ten, and the question put her to the blush. She dug her forefinger into Honor's ribs and giggled. Honor blushed too. She struck away Lucy's hand half angrily.
" Don't let on as you know," she whispered.
Lucy gave an understanding nod.
" It's very awkward though, aint it, when they begin to ask questions?" she whispered back. Then she turned to Tony, and said, smiling blankly, No. Where do they come from, Tony? "
" They come from heaven," Tony answered.
" Oh, of course," Lucy said, winking at Honor. But how do you know? "
" I remember," he said.
Lucy opened her eyes wide.
" Don't tell lies! she said tartly.
" It aint lies," Tony said, becoming tearful with rage. 1 won't tell you now, see if I do."
And he snapped his jaws together.
But presently other children came round and one of them, Billy Aggs, was sucking a toffee-apple.
" Give us a bit, Billy," said Tony.
" Shan't," said Billy.
" All right, greedy guts," said Tony.
For a while he was moodily silent.
" You ought to see the toffee-apples they have in heaven," he said at last, unable to restrain himself longer. Ever so big. And nothink to pay for 'em!"
" Garn!" said Billy.
" See my linger wet," Tony said.
" What! nothink to pay? cried Billy.
" Nothink," replied Tony. You jest walk into the shops and take what you bloomin' well like toffee-apples, stickjaw, Jumbo-chains, everythink, and there's other sweets you aint never heard of. I see some like 'em once in the big shops in the big street when I was out with Honor and got lost a time ago, but the ones in heaven was bigger'n them."
" Is they cakes there, too? asked Mrs. Mellar's Agnes.
"Millions on 'em!" answered Tony. "And jam tarts and jumbles and fairy turnovers! "
" Oh! cried the children.
" Is they fruit there? said Billy Aggs.
"Fruit!" Tony laughed scornfully. I should think there was! All a-growing on the trees as thick as thick, like leaves. Apples and pears and strawberries and cherries and grapes and plums and everythink. And flowers, too! "
The children heaved a sigh of longing. Lucy Anders, the unbeliever, was seen to smack her lips and become preoccupied. The circle closed on Tony, and a stream of questions poured in upon him. He looked triumphantly from face to face, smiled, and refused to speak further.
" Go on, Tony," said Mrs. Mellar's Agnes breathlessly. Tell us some more about it."
He shook his head, sadly but firmly.
" I'll give you a button," said Billy Aggs. I'd give you a suck o' my toffee-apple, but it's all gone now."
Tony turned on him in great distress. I can't tell you any more," he wailed shrilly. It won'twon't come."
They eyed each other askance.
" I'm tired, Honor," Tony said. I want to be taken home. I want to go to sleep."
Honor rose at once, relinquishing a certain victory over Lucy Anders, and led him away. The children gazed after Tony with regretful faces, and when he had gone a few yards they followed him slowly. To them it seemed that the street was grown darker and narrower, the sky seemed very far away, and there was little sense in starting fresh games before bed.
Thenceforward Tony was never surprised. It mattered not what was shown to him, he had always seen a better one in heaven. By virtue of the fact of his previous exalted existence, he became an object of envy in the Row. He held a court of wide-eyed children every evening, and tribute to his genius was liberally rendered.
One gusty, rainy night an oil-shop, two streets distant from the Row, burst into sudden flame. The sky was flushed red and ribbed with rolling smoke. The house-roofs, with their tall, twisted chimneys, stood out stark and black against the glare.
Tony and Honor, sleeping on their rag bed, with interlocked arms, cheek to cheek, were aroused by the roar and tumult in the street, and, starting up, saw the bright sky.
" It's a fire," said Honor, darting to the door. I expect mother and father's gone," she added, looking round the room. I'm going too."
"Hooray!" cried Tony, capering and clapping his hands. Take me, Honor," he said.
" I can't," said Honor; it's such a night, and there'll be a 'orful crowd, and you'd get hurt."
" No, I wouldn't," he cried, trembling in his eagerness. Let me come, Honor."
" No," she said, pushing him away.
" Yes, let me," he pleaded, weeping now.
But she ran from the room and locked him in. As she sped downstairs she could hear his furious blows upon the door and his voice crying out hoarsely, Honor, Honor! "
His voice pursued her to the scene of the fire, and rang in her ears above the clamor of the crowd, the roar of the flames, and hiss of spouting water. Her enjoyment of the wild spectacle was marred.
Compunction stabbed her. She waited until the roof fell in with a thunderous crash in a cascade of sparks, then returned slowly homeward, shuddering in anticipation of her brother's reproaches.
But Tony was ever unexpected. She found him sitting calmly before the fire, with his back to the window, scornful of the murmurous crowd in the Row and the resplendent, sensational sky. He had lighted a tiny oil-lamp, and was going through a fragment of an old Bible, looking for words which he could spell. It was his favorite amusement on wet evenings. Honor noted his red eyelids and unsteady mouth. He greeted her with a wavering smile.
" Hullo! he said slowly. Been to the fire? "
" Yes," said Honor, drooping her head.
He spelt out with his finger When, when."
" It wasn't much of a fire, after all," Honor said to comfort him.
" Ah! he said, looking hard at her, you ought to see hell."
She started back aghast.
" Hell!" she cried.
He nodded Yes with gloomy self-possession.
" You aint never seen hell, have you, Tony? cried Honor in an awestruck whisper. She looked up at the luridly suggestive sky.
He nodded again, very gravely.
" Yes, I have," he said, throwing a startled glance into the darker corners of the room. Aint you never heard tell of the great gulf' as is fixed between heaven and hellthe one as Lazarus looked through when the rich man was in torment? "
" Yes," said Honor breathlessly. But what's it like? "
" The great gulf? "Yes."
Tony frowned. He seemed to be reflecting. It's a sort o' grating, for all the world like a tremenjous big sewer-sink," he said at length. Ohr" gasped Honor.
Her frightened gaze followed his about the room.
" I was playing one morning in the golden
streets," he said, solemnly and with restraint, when we went round a corner, and then we see it."
" The great gulf? "
" Yes. It was just agin the curb, but ever so big, and a sort o' red light was coming up out of it, like the steam do sometimes when it's perishing cold."
" Yes, go on," said Honor.
" The other boys was frightened, and run away," Tony said; but I never. I kneeled down on the curb and peeped through the grating. And then I see it."
Honor uttered a tiny shriek.
" Hell? she said again, craning her head forward and looking up into his face.
" Hell," he answered, staring fixedly at her. You never see such a sight. There was thethe devilall reda-hopping about in the fire. And there was all the wicked people a-crying and a-moaninga-weeping and a-wailing and a-gnash-ing of their teeth. And there was the fire roaring
that loud, and running after the wicked people in little streams like red-hot water, and a-burning them like anythink. There was all sorts o' ugly faces in the fireoh, such ugly ones! They'd ha' frightened a girl out of her senses. And every time they breathed, little flames, all colored, come out of their mouths, and their eyes was like Chinese lanterns in a garden on Guy Fox day."
"Wasn't you awful afraid?" said Honor.
" I was, rather," said Tony. 'Cos the wicked peoplesome of 'em was murderers and covered with bloodthey kept a-jumping up at me and a-shouting out, Gimme a drop o' water, Tony Drum! Oh, gimme a drop o'water!' I couldn't abear to see 'em, so I got up mighty quick, and cut off as fast as I could go. And I never went back to that street no more."
He turned from her and sighed. She stood, dazed with wonder, looking at the floor and shuddering. -
" Now, that was something like a fire, that was, Honor," Tony said, eying her over his shoulder. She stood transfixed.
His unique prenatal experiences safeguarded Tony against the remotest possibility of disappointment.
The children of the Sunday-school were taken once a year to Chingford for a happy day amid the dog-roses and donkeys. Tony could not go because of his infirmities. The brakes filled at the corner of the Row, and he stood watching them with the self-denying Honor by his side. His lip was curled in scorn, and, as the children were borne away in a happy uproar, he turned to his weeping sister, and said:
" I bet Chingford aint half as good as heaven! "
" But I aint been to heaven, you see," sobbed Honor.
He continued, ignoring her: It's all very well for them what don't remember where they come from 'fore they was born, but I do. Chingford! I wouldn't give a farden to go to no Chingford! "
And in the evening, when the children returned and told him of the manifold joys of the day, he listened with obvious effort. But that night, Honor, startled from her sleep, caught the sound
of his weeping. She sat up and asked compassionately :
" What are you crying for, Tony? "
" I aint a-crying, fathead," he said. I'm only a-breathing hard." And he kicked her savagely.
" Yes you are a-crying," said Honor.
He spluttered angrily for a moment. Then he broke down utterly, and clasped her about the neck, pressing his face against her breast. She soothed him in her arms.
" There, there, Tony, don't cry," she said.
" I aint a-crying 'cos I never went to the treat," he said jerkily.
" Aint you, Tony? she said. I thought you was."
" No," he said, with an emphatic shake of the head; I was jest wishin' I hadn't never been born, that's all. It's so much nicer up above the sky than what it is down here."
And he talked to her of heavenly bliss until the morning.
One day Billy Aggs asked him:
"And could you fly, Tony, when you was in heaven? "
" I should think I could," Tony said; and run, and jump."
" Wasn't you humpy neither?" asked Billy Aggs.
"Me!" cried Tony, in high surprise. "No fear! I could beat anybody at games, I could when I was in heaven!"
" I wonder as you ever left heaven to come down here," said Lucy Anders.
" I never wanted to, I can tell you," Tony said. But you all have to be born, sooner or later worse luck! You go to sleep one night, and when you wake up you're here."
" P'r'aps you hurt your back a-coming down, Tony," said Billy Aggs.
Tony looked at him with his head held askew.
" Yes, that was it," he said.
he asks and answers questions.
One day, when Tony was six years old, he was taken by his parents into the country. They traveled a great way northward on the roof of a tram-car into a region of wide green fields. Tony had seen trees and grass before in the waste spaces near his home, but not hills rising to the sky and flowers at his feet that he might pluck. He wearied his parents with numberless questions, and exhausted his childish imagination in frenzied conjecture. They ate tea in a fairy bower beside a pond, and afterward climbed a great mountain, and emerged from the breathless ascent on a wide, wind-swept road overlooking the whole earth. Tony could have stayed on the magic road all night, but his mother jerked him away by the arm, and they went into a hot, evil-smelling little public-house. There
they stayed for many hours, though the smoke
made Honor sick, and Tony fell asleep against her shoulder. At last they left the place and descended the mountain. It was now almost dark, and the wind was singing. Tony saw a line of dull red low down on the western sky-line, and thought that the world was afire. He told the thought to his father, who said:
" Aye, it's afire right enough! "
And under that depressing belief Tony began the homeward journey. Crossing the fields to the place where the tram-cars started, the party overtook a poor Italian with a monkey and an organ.
" Damme! give us a tune," said Michael Drum boisterously.
The Italian shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
" Too ver' tired," he said, smiling amiably upon Tony.
" Give us a tune, I say! cried Michael Drum.
The Italian was troubled, but smiled on. The monkey sprang upon his shoulder, chattering and scowling like an evil old man.
"Jacko!he too ver' tired!" said the Italian.
Tony and Honor gazed at the monkey, fascinated. Tony had crossed the fields in a stupor of sleep, crying persistently to be carried in his mother's arms; but now he was thoroughly aroused. Honor explained to him gravely that the monkey was a child of the Italian. And, indeed, there was some likeness between them; both had withered, yellow faces, and white teeth, and stiff black hair growing low on the forehead.
" Come, play up! cried Michael Drum.
" Yes, give us a tune," said his wife.
" Ahno! pleaded the Italian, whose belly was clamoring for supper. But he swung the organ over his shoulder and propped it on his stick before him.
" It is too ver' bad! he said.
He ground out a popular waltz. The monkey leaped down upon the ground, and doffed his tiny fez and made a jerky bow. Mrs. Drum sprang back with a scream, and the Italian grinned broadly.
" Bite! said he with much significance.
The ground was dry and the grass smooth. The
spirits she had imbibed at the inn worked furiously in Mrs. Drum, and she lifted a tentative leg, laughing, under the brim of her hat, at Michael. He put his hands to his sides and roared out:
" Ha, ha! Go on. Give us a step, old gal! "
Thus encouraged Mrs. Drum flung decorum to the winds and danced. The monkey sprang back upon his master's shoulder, spitting angrily.
" Bad Jacko! gurgled the Italian.
Tony and Honor stood looking on. The country wore a gray mantle of twilight. There was no moon yet, and the sky spread above them darkly. The blurred trees loomed black and formless, the grass gleamed silver through a ground-mist. Mrs. Drum danced on until the weary Italian stopped playing.
" No, no; go on," she cried when the music ceased.
" Ah, no," he murmured, preparing to obey, nevertheless.
The monkey leaped down upon the ground again and snatched at some wild flowers in Tony's hand. Tony screamed aloud in his terror, and Mrs. Drum
struck the monkey hard across the head with her umbrella. The fixed smile faded from the face of the Italian.
" I play no more for youpeegs! he said, hugging his ugly pet in his arms.
He glared at them vindictively, swung the organ on his back again, and trudged away across the fields. Tony listened in an agony of vague, childish shame, whilst his mother hurled abuse after the patient, plodding figure of the poor Italian.
" What a clucking hen you are, mother! said Michael Drum, laughing.
The events of the day had impressed Tony deeply.
" Father," he asked, why did the organ-man talk so funny, eh? "
" Because he is a foreigner, my son." Do all foreigners talk like that? More or less."
"And do they all have babies like the organ-man? Babies!"
" Honor said it was his baby." She was aptly named," said Michael Drum, looking wryly at his daughter.
" I only said it for a lark, Tony," said Honor. Isn't it his baby, then? "
" Far from it," said Michael Drum. In fact, it is one of the organ-man's fathers."
" How many fathers do organ-men have? "
" They would want a dozen to answer their questions if they were all like you."
" But, father, what is a foreigner? "
" Foreigners are men who don't live in their own country. I don't think I can make it plainer than that."
" What is a country? "
" A country is a big piece of dirt that everybody who is born on it is expected to feel sentimental about."
" What is sentimental'? "
" Two red noses touching one another on a starry night."
" How many countries are there, father? "
" Oneand some others."
" Don't ask so many questions, Tony," said his mother.
" Why not? asked Tony. There are so many things to ask questions about."
Michael Drum laughed. We must send the boy to school," he said.
So on a sultry day in late September Tony was taken to school. He went, holding his mother's hand, with a heart of fear. The school was St. Anselm's, a one-storied building of red brick standing in a field against the railway, and separated from the road by high tarred palings. A great gray church overshadowed the school, and in the churchyard were many gaunt trees, the ancestral home of a colony of rooks. A bell was pealing as Tony and his mother arrived at the school, and the children were pouring in through the iron gates in a wild, disordered stream. Tony scanned his future companions with eager, nervous curiosity, and his warm clasp tightened on his mother's hand. There were boys and girls of all sizes and sorts, a noisy, jostling mob, who returned his timid scrutiny with a bold, appalling gaze. He had im-
bibed an awful idea of the mysteries of education, in which the dread image of the birch prevailed, and he felt a great reverence for these initiated ones. They seemed to bear their sorrows lightly, and he was reassured.
His mother led him across the playground to a little wooden door, decorated with devices in iron. The door stood ajar, and a great babble of noises issued forth from within. Mrs. Drum knocked, and a white-haired dame appeared. She surveyed Tony in brisk, business fashionas a butcher might survey a calf ere buying it for the slaughter and began to talk with his mother. Onb' a few sentences passed, and Mrs. Drum turned to depart.
" Be a good boy, Tony," she said, stooping to kiss him.
He faltered, Yes, mother."
Then she hurried away, and he was left alone.
" Come, Tony Drum," said the white-haired lady, who proved to be the infant schoolmistress, and she took his hand.
" I will be good, ma'am," said Tony.
" That's right, Tony Drum," she responded cheerily, and led him into school.
He took his seat at the end of a long form, beside a chubby girl in a red flannel frock and white pinafore. The chubby girl had beautiful yellow hair of silky texture, and a haughty little profile; she did not look at Tony, but sat with her arms folded on her slate, and he thought how different she was from Honor. He was very lonely in that crowd of restless babes. He looked through the windows at the sky and the trees, and felt like a bird in a cage. The schoolmistress had betaken herself to the further end of the room to awe a class of bigger children with her white-haired presence; the class in which Tony had been placed was presided over by a lank damsel in skirts that were neither long nor short, but something between the two, as, indeed, she herself was something between child and woman. She was manipulating an abacus, and at signs from her, unintelligible to Tony, the children made mysterious noises. He mouthed silently when the children shouted, and felt that he was being educated at a great pace.
Later, the wonders of the alphabet were revealed to him. And so the first morning passed.
He sped homeward, glad to be in the free air again, and flooded his mother with the tale of his experiences. Honor laughed harshly at his loud enthusiasm. After the midday meal Mrs. Drum gave him a farthing and a handful of plums, and he went back to school again happy enough.
Thus his education was begun.
Life was easy and slow in the infant school of St. Anselm's. Learning was administered in wee sips, and the discipline was lax. Often, on a summer afternoon, when the gray floor was a mosaic of sunshine, half the tiny scholars would be asleep, and the teacher herself in a state of great drowsiness, so that her voice dwindled to a low drone, very soothing to the dulled senses of the children. And in the winter, when the window panes were starred with frost and the attendance was meager, the scholars would crowd about the glowing stove and watch the snow, as it clicked on the glass, whilst the white-haired schoolmistress read fairy tales from Andersen or Grimm. Often, a rusty rook,
perched on a lower bough, would peep in at the fire as if it longed to steal a little warmth to carry back to its bleak eyrie in the treetop. Once a. week a brisk young curate told them true stories from the Bible, of the Creation and the Flood, of the Patriarchs and Judges of Israel, of infant Samuel and the mighty David. He told them of the Christ too, and with enough dramatic power to raise in Tony's breast a storm of love and indignation. Tony thought that Christ must have been wonderfully like the brisk young curate.
One morning a messenger from the big girls' section of the school entered the infants' room and crossed to the mistress' desk. After some whispered talk, the mistress stood up and called out, "Tony Drum! "
Tony rose from his place, and answered shrilly, Yes, ma'am."
" Come here, Tony," said the mistress.
Tony left his seat and advanced timidly into the middle of the room. A guilty conscience, heavy-laden with secret crime, upbraided him, and he was full of dire misgiving.
" Tony," said the mistress, I have just heard very sad news of your sister."
Tony was relieved to find that he had not been called out for punishment. A healthy, working conscience is an awkward possession for a boy! He heaved a sigh of relief.
" Very sad news! repeated the mistress.
He now began to feel alarm, and his eyes widened.
" Why, ma'am," he cried, she wasn't even ill this morning, ma'am."
" I don't mean that she is ill."
" She can't never be dead? "
" What a very morbid child! said the mistress. I have not said that she is ill or dead, Tony. She is quite well, but very, very naughty."
" You're a liar," said Tony, quietly but with conviction. She aint nothink o' the sort. She's quite good, Honor is."
" You must not call me a liar. It is very rude."
" You must not tell lies. It is very wicked." Be silent."
" Yes, ma'am."
" Now you go with this little girl and do as you are told."
" Yes, ma'am."
He followed the girl out of the room, along a narrow passage, into the big girls' section. In one of the classrooms he found Honor.
She was lying on her back in the middle of the floor, kicking and screaming in a fit of puny hysterics. A haggard young mistress was bending over her in angry despair.
" Is this her brother, Amy? asked the young mistress.
" Yes, ma'am," said Amy.
Tony stood looking at his sister, and he was filled with sudden shame.
" What is your name, little boy?" asked the mistress.
He faltered a moment, then replied, William Smith, ma'am."
She stared at him and from him to> Amy. This is the wrong boy surely? No, ma'am, it isn't," said Amy.
" But he says his name is Smith."
" It might easily be Ananias, ma'am, but it aint Smith," said Amy pertly. She was in the seventh standard and knew the Scriptures. / know him well enough."
" She aint my sister," said Tony, blazing into sudden fury. She aintshe aintshe aint! "
Honor stopped screaming to listen.
" My sister's a carroty-headed gal, and she don't go to this here school at all, she don't," cried Tony.
Honor sat up suddenly.
" Oh, Tony! she exclaimed.
" You aint my sisteryou know you aint," said 'Tony. I wouldn't own you for no bloomin' sister!"
A grin overspread Honor's face.
" Dear me, this is very extraordinary! said the young mistress, growing more haggard.
" Take me back to the infants'," screamed Tony. I don't want to stick here, I don't."
There was nothing else to do, so they, took him
back, and the infant mistress told him about George Washington. He was not greatly interested. He went to his seat in silence, with a dark scowl upon his thin, wistful face.
He felt terribly ashamed of his family.
he rises to occasions.
In a little while Tony passed from the infants' to the boys' school. He wept bitterly at parting from his old schoolmistress, and she, touched by this token of a good heart, gave him many words of kind advice and four new farthings.
" What will you do with it? she asked him. I mean the money. I know what will happen to the advice."
" I shall buy a present for my dear mother," he said proudly.
".Good boy! said she.
He went out and bought a mouth-organ. He took it home and threw it in his mother's lap. What is this? asked Mrs. Drum. A presentfor you," he replied. She laughed.
" It aint any good to me," she said. I can't
play it." He was silent, so she added: But it was real kind of you to buy it for me, Tony."
" Yes, wasn't it! he said. I think I'm a very kind boy, mum, don't you? "
" H'm! she murmured doubtfully.
He picked up the mouth-organ.
" You must learn to play it, mum," he said.
" But there aint nobody to teach me."
" I will teach you," he said.
" Can you play it, then, Tony? "
" Not yet," he answered. But I'll learn, and then I'll teach you. See? "
" I see," nodded Mrs. Drum.
He went out and sat on the doorstep. He began to play the mouth-organ, and presently some children came round him.
" Let's have a go at it, Tony," said Billy Aggs.
" I would let you, but it aint mine," said Tony.
" Whose is it, then? "
" My mother's. I bought it for her. She says I am the kindest boy out." And he played on.
There was much trouble awaiting Tony in the
boys' school. On the first morning he was placed next to a freckled boy named Simmy Angus.
" You'll find him a very nice lad," said the master reassuringly, seeing that Tony trembled.
Tony said to the boy:
" Are you really nice? "
" What? growled Simmy.
" Are you really nice? "
" I'll break your jaw if you talk to me, you cheeky young swine! said Simmy.
" I knew you wasn't," sighed Tony. He sat in great fear.
" Hi, you, what's your name?" whispered Simmy.
" Tony Drum."
" Can you fight? "
Tony shook his head doubtfully.
" Not a bit? "
" I shall call you Humpy,' then," he said. Please don't call me that," said Tony. Yuss, I shall."
" It '11 hurt my feelings so."
" Your feelings be blow'd! Aint I got feelings, eh? And don't everybody call me The Spotted Worm'? How'd you like to be called a spotted worm? "
" I shouldn't like it a bit," Tony confessed. But then, I aint spotted, and you are."
" Bli' me!" cried Simmy. "I won't half give you somethink for that when I get you out."
"Oh, don't hit me," pleaded Tony. "Look here, I'll let you have a go on my mother's mouth-organ."
" Have you got it with you? Yes." Show."
Tony produced the mouth-organ. All right," said Simmy. You give it me, and I won't hit you." It's my mother's, or else I would." Well, let's hold it a minute." Don't keep it, will you? I aint no bloomin' thief! "
Tony handed over the mouth-organ, and Simmy Angus promptly slipped it into his pocket. Thank you," he said, chuckling. You aint a-going to keep it? Aint I? I thought I was." Give it back!" Not me." You're a thief! "
"And you're a liar! You said it was your mother's mouth-organ."
" So it is. I bought it for her."
" Don't try to stuff me up. I know better. What do your mother want with a penny mouth-organ? "
" Oh, give it me back."
Tony pleaded no more.
When morning lessons were over and the school was dismissed, a crowd of urchins, led by Simmy Angus, gathered about Tony, and followed him through the playground into the street. They cried out at him:
"Yah, Humpy! Yah, Humpy! Who cried
'cos he'd got his belly in the wrong place? Yah, Humpy, yah!"
They hustled him and buffeted him. They spat on his clothes and pelted him with mud and the refuse of the gutters.
He shuffled along as fast as his weak legs allowed, but his persecutors easily kept pace with him. At last he stood at bay against a wall.
"Oh, you poor miserable sinners!" he cried. Oh, you wicked, miserable sinners! Oh, aint I sorry for you all! "
They shouted in derisive chorus.
" It's all very fine for you to knock me about now," Tony said solemnly; but jest you wait till you're dead. Won't God pay you out then! Oh, my! won't he jest! "
" Look at him a-crying! jeered Simmy Angus. Look at Old Humpy a-crying! "
Tony lifted his head and faced his tormentors boldly.
"Me a-crying!" he said. "Gam wi' you! I aint the sort o' boy what cries. You couldn't
never make me cry, none of you, not if you was to hit me ever some bein' humpy an' all! "
A shower of blows fell upon him.
"Go on, then!" he shouted. "Hit me! hit me!"
They responded to the invitation with a will, and Tony laughed at them.
Suddenly a lank, frocked figure, all knees and elbows and flying hair, burst into the little group.
" Honor! screamed Tony.
" I'll show 'em!" she cried.
She caught Simmy Angus by the neck, and flung him on his back in the muddy road.
" You'll hit my little brother, will you, an' him a cripple!" she yelled, weeping profusely, as she bumped two sleek back heads together. I'll put the ten commandments on every one of your ugly faces, I will, and quicker'n you can think! "
" Honor! said Tony, leveling an accusing finger at Simmy Angus; that boy has got mother's mouth-organ."
" Fork it out, Funny Face!" commanded Honor, turning again on the downfallen Simmy.
He hastily dropped the mouth-organ at her feet, and fled.
"Oh, Tony!" cried Honor, kneeling down to hug him tenderly; 'ave they hurt you much, Tony? "
" Only in my feelings, Honor," he replied. The thumps an' pinches aint nothing at all. But they called methey called me names."
" Let 'em do it again, that's all," said Honor, white and quivering with rage. Let me catch 'em at it! I'll show 'em! I'll teach 'em how it feels to be hurt, I will. The nasty, spiteful little toads!"
" Well, you needn't cuddle me, Honor!" said Tony in an aggrieved tone.
" That's my love, dear," she said timidly.
" Yes, I know," he said; but it makes a fellow look such a fool! "
She loosed her embrace, and they walked sedately home. But Tony did not return to school that day, because he was suddenly struck down by sickness.
He lay for a dark month on the verge of death,
and the jaded dispensary doctor shook his bald head helplessly at each visit, saying always:
" Well, I will look in to-morrow, but-"
Yet Tony rallied, and in a little while was back again at school.
He was bullied, of course; but only at first, and not so badly. He had pluck to commend him to his mates, and if he could not give a blow he could take a dozen without wincing. He speedily made friends. His lessons gave him little trouble, for he was apt above his fellows, and as for the cane, after tasting it a few times, he scorned it altogether.
A dull year passed, and then, in his tenth year, Tony had an aging experience.
Returning from school one chill evening in March, he came upon a crowd at a little distance from his home. He pushed into it, and found that the cause of the commotion was a drunken woman. She lay in a degraded heap, outstretched, face downward, upon the pavement. There was a thin rain falling and the ground was sloppy. The woman's dress was stained with the mire. Her
hair was loose, and strayed about her head in wet, clotted strands. Her tawdry bonnet was crushed under her forehead; through her broken boots her stockings protruded in soiled white puckers. There were many boys of Tony's acquaintance in the crowd. They jested rudely upon the fallen woman, and Tony, though his heart shrank from it, joined them from a boyish feeling of emulation. His wit was keener than theirs, and his sallies provoked the loudest laughter.
" Come, old Mother Mud! he cried. I'll run you for a stiver! "
The woman stirred at the sound of his voice and moaned. She had laid still hitherto, with her head in a trickle of blood, as if stunned. Now she raised herself on her hands and turned her face to them,. Tony cried out in a stricken voice and fell on his knees beside her.
The drunken woman was his mother!
His heart seemed to snap apart within him:. The faces about him were the faces of leering devils; he heard the whisperings and brutal laughter of the crowd, and he was frozen with shame. He sobbed,
" Oh, mother, mother! and put his arm about her neck and tried to raise her up.
" Bli' me! if it aint Tony's old woman! he heard one of his schoolmates say. Oh, Lord! "
Tony sprang up, seething with rage, and struck blindly at the boy's face.
" 'Ere, Tony boy, gimme a hand! his mother mumbled.
She clung to him, trying to rise. He looked at her, his mother, and the tears rose in his eyes to blot out the sight of her shame.
" Oh, mother, mother! he cried again.
She got upon her feet and clung to him, but he was too weak to bear her weight, and she sank to the ground once more.
" Nobody loves me! she whimpered.
Tony crouched beside her in the rain, looking from face to face in the crowd. A bow-legged workman, with his bag of tools over his shoulder, stepped from the ranks.
" Is it your mother? "
Tony made the sad admission.
" D'ye live fur off? "
" In the next street."
" 'Ere," said Bow Legs. 'Old my bag, boy. Now then, one o' yer, gimme a hand."
He found one to help him, and between them they raised up Mrs. Drum and bore her along. Tony, bending under the bag, followed them at a trot. His mother, feeling herself in motion, began to sing, and the crowd jeered. She gave them shout for shout, and kicked her limp legs in a boneless sort of dance. Thus they made the journey home.
he makes a friend.
It was at this period that the prosperity of the Drums began to decline. Michael's health sometimes failed now, and when it happened that he could not follow his itinerant calling the family was sorely straitened in means. Mrs. Drum had hitherto preserved much of her youthful comeliness and high spirits, but under the growing burden of her household cares she became quickly old and peevish. Every day she had more frequent recourse to the bottle. She began to tipple on her errands, and usually was too much occupied with a new circle of acquaintance at The Jolly Anglers to keep her home clean or her person tidy. She became a bit of a shrew, and faded and shapeless. As her husband once remarked to her in their bickerings, he had to look into the parlor album to find the woman he married. Tony early bore a share
of the family responsibilities. Mrs. Drum confided much to him that she kept secret from her husband. Every Saturday, when Michael handed over her weekly stipend, Tony went with her to the pawnshop to redeem his Sunday suit, or Honor's silk frock, or maybe a blanket or a tablecloth. Mrs. Drum herself had no clothes left that a pawnbroker would lend a sixpence on. She seemed to feel no shame in these miserable dealings after a while, but made one of a party of slatterns like unto herself, and the business was always an excuse for a social dram. Tony ate many Banbury cakes in private bars with the gossips on these expeditions; nevertheless, he hated them.
He now, for the first time, perceived the righteousness of pride.
" Mum," he said one day, why don't you take Honor to the pawnshop sometimes, instead o' me?"
" God forbid that a daughter o' mine should ever know anythink o' such places," said Mrs. Drum earnestly. It would be a nice thing to have your own gal, after she was married, bringing
up as her own mother was the first one to introduce her to our common uncle."
" Will Honor get married some day, then? "
" I hope so," said his mother. She will if she plays her cards as well as I did."
At breakfast on the following day Tony asked his sister:
" Say, Honor, do you want to get married? "
" Me! cried Honor. Lord! what makes you start on that, Tony? I'm only fourteen as yet."
" But I mean when you grow up."
" No," said Honor, I don't want to get marriedto tie myself down and be one bloke's slave for life!"
"Nonsense, Honor!" said her mother.
" It's a curious thing," said Michael Drum, looking up from his newspaper; all maids, when they 'are fourteen or so, say they will never get married. And when they are thirty they begin to fear that they have told the truth."
" I do hate them nasty sneering remarks o' yourn," said Mrs. Drum, rubbing her nose.
" No flattery, please," said Michael.
Honor rose and went forth to her work. She had just left school, and was now engaged from eight to eight in a button factory.
When Tony was in the fifth standard it was discovered that he had a tuneful voice and a good ear, so he was made a member of the church choir.
Music was a great delight to him. His happiest hours were spent in St. Anselm's Church. It was a very beautiful church and very old. On practice nights when the interior was unlighted save for one blue glimmer of gas in the organ-loft, Tony would look down upon the dark stillness of the church and see white spirits flitting through the aisles. Their passing was as the passing of the wind. He could hear the soft sough of their ghostly robes trailing over the smooth stones, though the organ crashed out its music above his head and twenty lusty boys were singing in his ears. When there was a moon the painted windows were glorified, and on the'white stones about the font and altar there fell a mysterious moving radiance. The polished oak rails of the pews shone like bars of silver; every brass tablet on the towering walls was
a hole of light in the stone. In that place of splendid unrealities it was easy enough to forget the squalid life of home.
The blind organist, Paul Hands, had a strong liking for Tony. He would invite the boy to his house, and play to him on the violin. To Tony the music that he made was more wonderful than aught else in the world; but the organist would cry, in his despair:
" I am like a child building a mountain! "
Two sisters of the organist lived with him, pale-faced women with patient eyes and soft voices. They played, too, when their brother permitted, but usually their playing made him rage.
"How you mince!" he would cry. "One would think that music was asleep, and you were afraid of waking it! See here!"
He would snatch the violin, and prance blindly up the room, drawing out horrid skirls of sound.
" That is you," he would say, and laugh.
But he had softer moods in which he would play and sing entrancingly. At such times he was transfigured. Tony, watching him with fascinated
eyes, would think of him as of some sweet being of dreams.
" You pity me because I'm blind, don't you, boy? he once said to Tony. Well, you need not. It is I who have the advantage, for I see what I please."
Nevertheless, he could be bitter on the subject of his affliction.
" What is the use of sight to half the world? he asked his sisters. They see with their opinions. They are color-blinded by prejudice! "
" Hush, Paul! his sisters whispered.
One added: "The child is here."
" It was a child who spoke," he murmured, with a wintry smile.
Tony was growing old before his time, but Paul Hands lent him books to keep him young. Life swung back and Tony walked yet in childland that blessed land of moments, where things are not grimly relative, but lonely happenings of joy or terror. He stayed on the Hills of Faery whilst his. family groped in the Valley of Dry Bones. He towered above them. They had only facts to live
with. He could fit his surroundings to his liking. The highest building erected by men's hands has little power against a child's dream. Tony's world melted and was merged in the airy substance of his changing fancies.
he faces the inevitable.
But the awakening came.
One night, when Tony returned home, he found his parents in close council before the fire, and from the silence which greeted him he gathered that he had been the subject of their talk.
" Tony, my lad," said the father, there's been a bit of luck for you to-day." He looked across the hearth at his wife; Mrs. Drum nodded encouragement, and he went on. Perhaps you know things haven't gone too well with us lately. My health isn't what it was, there is foreign competition, and the national taste for sound music is showing sad signs of wear and tear." He chuckled; then perceiving that his wit was wasted, became suddenly gloomy. "So we're hard up. Your mother knocks off a penny here and a penny
therewe live on the fat o' the land instead o' the
lean, because it's cheaperand still we get worse off every clay. Now, Tony, don't you think that's a sad thing? "
" Yes, father," said Tony.
" Ah, now the Fifth Commandment's talking," cried Michael Drum. And that's a thing I like to hear. Always honor your father and your mother, Tony, and do your utter to keep them out of the home for decayed parents, by which I mean, of course, the workhouse! "
" Yes, father."
" Now we come to it," said Michael Drum. To-day a gentleman has been here asking after you. He's a sort of cousin of your mother's, and he dabbles in pork."
" A pork butcher," explained Mrs. Drum. And he wants a boy to help him on Saturdays, and he thought you'd do."
" A pork butcher! faltered Tony.
" It isn't exactly a genteel calling," Michael Drum conceded, but it's honest enough and profitable, I believe. You might do worse, my son."
" And you'll start to-morrow morning at half-past seven," said Mrs. Drum. He's going to give you eighteenpence and your meals. I call that good for a day's work, and I think you ought to be very grateful."
Tony sat down with bowed head, fumbling his cap nervously.
" But, mother," he began.
"You don't seem very glad about it," Mrs. Drum remarked. I suppose you think you never ought to go to work. And it isn't as if it'd interfere with your schooling, either. The blessed old School Board takes jolly good care of children nowadays. In my time boys was earning their living at ten."
" I think the School Board would do a lot of harm if it could," said Michael Drum. It would do away altogether with the national stock of fools first of all, and then, think how unhappy we should be. There's precious little laughter about now people have got to be so wise and miserable. When there are no fools left at all, it will be a close season for wit, I'm afraid. I can tell you of a man "
he paused. I beg your pardon, I can tell you nothing, for you are both sleepy. Give me a candle, mother, I'll go to roost. There's nothing in the jug. I hope I may dream a little beer."
He went off to bed, grinning amiably.
" Good-night, Tony," said Mrs. Drum, preparing to follow her husband. Don't wake Honor, she's got a faceache." She kissed him and went from the room.
Tony undressed with a sad heart, said his evening prayer, and slipped into bed beside his sister. Half the night he lay awake brooding, and the shadow of his trouble darkened his dreams.
On the morrow, seeing there was no appeal from his fate, he contrived to put a bright face on the matter and trudged manfully off to his work, upheld by a sense of duty. His first employer was a rough, ruddy-faced man, of blunt speech and violent manners. He set Tony to scraping a meat block at once; and when Tony cut his finger told him not to mind a little blood," but to suck it up to prevent waste and get along with the job." Tony's finger continued to dribble blood all the
morning, and as there was much rock-salt about used in the pickling of porkthe pain of his wound was considerable. For hours he was at the point of tears, and at last a harsh word from the butcher made him cry outright.
" Damme! cried the man. What a baby it is! Here, Baby, quit that and take this leg to Mrs. Marser'syou know the place."
Tony shouldered the wooden tray and trotted off down the street, glad to be away from his master. At the corner he ran into a party of two ladies and a gentleman. One of the ladies cried out, Tony! as he passed, and turning he recognized Harriet Hands. Hannah and Paul were with her.
" Why, Tony! cried Harriet Hands. Whatever are you doing? "
" I'm a pork butcher's errand-boy now, miss," said Tony.
" What? cried the organist loudly, what does he say he is? "
" But, surely you haven't left school just as you were getting on so nicely? said Harriet Hands.
" Oh, no! this is only a Saturday job," Tony explained.
" And do you like it? It aint so bad," said Tony stoutly.
She regarded him closely.
" You hand is bleeding! she exclaimed.
" Yes," said Tony, looking at his injured finger. I cut it with the cleaver. But it aint much."
" Tony," interposed the organist, you're no pork butcher. Cut away home."
" I can't do that, sir," said Tony. I've got to take this leg somewhere."
" Throw the damned thing into the gutter," said the blind man angrily. How dare they make a pork butcher of you? "
" S'sh! whispered his younger sister.
" You must have your finger doctored," said Harriet Hands.
She took Tony into a chemist's shop hard by, where his wound was dressed and bandaged. The blind organist and his younger sister conferred earnestly on the pavement.
" We think you had better go on with this work
just for to-day," said Hannah Hands to Tony. But we'll try to find you something better next week."
They bade him a friendly Good-by," and he pursued his errand with a fortified heart.
"Hullo, Baby!" cried the butcher on Tony's return. You've been gone a precious long time. What's that round your finger? "
"God's truth!" cried the butcher. "A little blood and salt wouldn't hurt you! A niminy-piminy lot of millinery props! "
He was very merry at Tony's expense, addressing him as Baby," and imploring him to be careful of his precious life. Next door was a grocer's shop, outside which stood a tow-headed youth, distributing handbills. Soon this youth took up the butcher's cry, and between them. Tony had a cruel time.
"Yah!-" howled Tow-head. "Who cried 'cos he cut his finger! "
His jeers provoking no rejoinder, he was inspired to throw a decayed potato at Tony. Tony
caught it in his hand and stood to return the missile. Tow-head fled into the shop. But the potato overtook him like an ordinance of judgment, smashing on the nape of his neck. This triumphant passage of arms cheered Tony greatly. Tow-head molested him no more.
But toward evening the rain began. The wind freshened. Tony stood under the canvas cover, shivering in the cold.
" Come, Baby, take your hands out o' your pockets," the butcher would cry. I don't pay babies for idling."
The butcher's wife brought out some hot coffee and bread and butter to Tony. He was grateful for the meal. For dinner he had had the half of a sheep's head; but the topography of a sheep's head is somewhat difficult, and Tony fared ill. The coffee put new life into him, and, the rain stopping just then, he began to hope that he would comfortably survive the evening. As it grew dark the gas was lighted, and the street assumed a cheerier aspect. The crowd thickened on the pavement, the hubbub increased.
" See nobody don't prig any o' that tripe, Baby," said the butcher.
" Yes, sir," answered Tony.
He was growing tired. Every moment his weariness increased. It was impossible to stand alone; he leaned against a meat block.
" Now then, Baby!" roared the butcher. Don't go to sleep. I don't pay babies to go to sleep. Slip about. Be live-ly! "
Tony shook himself, shuddering with drowsiness. He found his legs were grown terribly stiff; his feet were wet and sore; he had an aching in his back. A few paces to and fro relaxed his limbs a little and eased his joints, but he could not keep pacing to and fro forever. He glanced at the moon-faced clock upon the wall behind the shop counter. Ten minutes to eight. Another three hours or perhaps four.
" Buy, buy, buy, buy! yelled the butcher in his ear. Now, Baby, you do a bit o' shouting. I notice you aint overworking yourself."
Tony chirped feebly, "Buy, buy, buy, buy!"
At the sound of his own voice his ears tingled and his face glowed.
" 'God, there's a twitter! cried the butcher. Louder, Baby, louder! Chuck it off your chest! I thought yer mummy said you was in the choir. You in the choir. Wi' that voice! Bli' me, I pity the congregation, I do. You won't find me in your church, Baby!"
Evidently this was wit, for the mob of women about the butcher sniggered applause. Tony was filled with anger and shame.
"Blushing he is, too!" shouted the butcher. Bless you, ladies, he's no common kid. Why, it's worth a ha'penny on the pound to look at him! Show 'em your face, Baby. See how proud 'e is! He aint doing this for money. Not him. It's all on account of a little wager with my Lord Tom Noddy."
By and by, when the butcher grew tired of jesting, he became churlish, and railed at Tony. But his anger was more tolerable than his wit.
Nine o'clock struck. Tony, in his weariness, leaned again upon the meat block.
" None o' that lolling about, Baby. I won't have it," cried the butcher.
" I'm so tired, sir," pleaded Tony.
" Tired, are you! Well, it's healthy to be tired. An' you'll be worse 'fore you're done. There's another three hours yet."
Tony had been hoping that the shop closed at eleven. He felt he should never be able to stand upright for three more hours. Every minute seemed endless. He could have whimpered in his despair, but he was too much a man. The meat stank in his nostrils. The buzzing of the gas deafened him. Every passer-by who jostled him he hated from his heart. To see the misery of some filled him with vindictive glee; the gayety of others stirred his bile. How his head throbbed and swam! The wound in his hand burned and itched; he tickled the outside of the bandage with his finger, but that afforded him no relief. He felt he must go 'mad of his weariness.
What should he do to beguile the minutes? He would count each second, counting it a little slower than the clock. It was three minutes past nine
now. He would count four hundred, then it would be ten minutes past nine. He counted one hundred, and paused to reflect that he was counting very slowly. So much the better. He counted the next hundred slower still. Two hundred. How weary he was! Another hundredslower still this time. His heart lightened; this was a famous way to cheat Time. It must be quite ten minutes past nine already. But he would not look. He would count the other hundredvery, very slowly. What joy would be his if the clock pointed to the quarter! He got through the last hundred and drew a deep breath of satisfaction.
"Buy, buy, buy, buy!" shouted the butcher. 'Ere's a nobby bit o' pork for you, ladies! "
Tony turned and looked at the clock. It was six minutes past nine! He looked again and rubbed his eyes. Six minutes past! He was furious at Time's tardiness, and sick to his very heart.
" Go on, look at it! cried the butcher. All the lookin' in the world won't make a clock go faster!"
Tony could have wept. He caught his breath and turned away. All that weary while and only three minutes gone! He looked vacantly up at the windows of the opposite houses, where bright lights shone and within were rest and ease.
" 'Ere, take this to The Mowin' Head,' Baby, an' lively."
The butcher balanced the wooden tray upon Tony's shoulder, and he tottered away down the street. It was raining again, and the pavements shone wet. Heavily laden pedestrians bumped and jostled him. Urchins crossed his path. Refuse of paper and straw and vegetables tripped up his steps. Everything was an aggravation; he fumed at each new hindrance. Sometimes, groups of idlers blocked the pavement, and he had to step into the road. A boy snatched off his cap and flung it to the wind. Secure in the darkness of a narrow by-way, Tony wept freely.
He came at last to The Mowing Head," and delivered his burden to a servant-maid at the side door.
" Where's the chops? she asked.
" The what, ma'am? he stammered.
" Don't ma'am me!" cried the servant tartly; and you know very well what I said."
" I don't know where your bloomin' chops are," snarled the incensed Tony. Go and look for 'em."
" I'll tell your master of this, you saucy imp! the girl cried.
" Saucy yourself! muttered Tony, and strode haughtily away.
He sat down in a doorway to rest. The stone was wet, but it mattered not. The burden had been a heavy one, and he was hot under his damp clothes. The cold wind was pleasant on his burning head. The pitiless rain was powerless to harm him now; he felt it running through his hair, easing the fever of his brain. He leaned his back against the door and closed his smarting eyes. Sleep came to him and the world was blotted out.
The sound of a heavy thud awoke him. The door supporting his back had opened, and he lay sprawling on a bristling mat with the form of a woman towering over him.
"What are you doin' on my doorstep?" she cried, touching him with her foot. Come, get out of it."
< He stammered out an apology, picked up his wooden tray, and walked off. He was still half-dazed with slumber. As his full senses returned, he wondered how long he had been sitting there, and glanced at a clock. It was nearly eleven. He shuddered to think of the butcher's wrath, and broke into a shambling trot.
Perhaps the butcher was not used to overmuch conscientiousness in boys. He growled out a few angry sneers in response to Tony's feeble excuses, and bade him take up his old position.
The last hour Tony spent between sleeping and waking. He could not sit down, but he leaned on the meat block whenever opportunity offered, and thus contrived to snatch a few brief, refreshing naps. At twelve o'clock the shop was closed; the butcher handed him his wage, and he was free to go. It seemed incredible good fortune. He walked home through the now deserted streets, rejoicing in his liberty.
Michael Drum awaited him before a dwindling fire. Mrs. Drum was already gone to bed. There was a supper of potted salmon upon the table.
" Ah, Tony! said his father.
Tony put down his wages.
" No, no," cried Michael Drum, sweeping the money aside with a lordly gesture. It is yours. You have earned it." He peered at the silver. How much? Eighteenpence? I hope it may prove to be the nucleus of a considerable fortune, my son! "
Tony perceived that his father was drunk. He picked up the money and tied it slowly in a corner of his handkerchief.
" Eat, my son," said Michael Drum.
" It isn't for me, is it, father? "
" Yes, yes."
" Salmon!for me? "
" Yes, yes."
Tony fell to with a will.
" We have had visitors," said Michael Drum. "Paul Hands, Esquire the Misses Hands. Charming fellow! Charming girls! Paul
damme! it hardly seems a liberty!he spoke of
you-" Michael Drum rose unsteadily and lit
a cigar. Tony, my son," he said, with slow im-pressiveness; "we are not going to make a pork butcher of you, after all! "
he goes on a jaunt.
The morrow was Sunday, and the Drums, following an immemorial custom, lay abed till noon. At nine o'clock there came a thundering at the street door, and Michael Drum stumbled downstairs in his trousers and shirt to take in the Sunday newspaper. Tony, roused by the clamor, heard the pit-pat of his father's bare feet on the oilcloth and his shuddering breaths as he traveled swiftly back to bed. Silence descended again, and Tony returned to his broken dreams.
At late breakfast Michael Drum showed a mood of great cheerfulness. He sat jingling his money with beaming eyes and smiling lips, whilst the bacon frizzled in the pan, and Honor, proud to be useful, set out the teacups and saucers. During the meal the conversation turned on Mr. Paul Hands.
" A good, kind gentleman, though blind, poor fellow! said Mrs. Drum.
" A brother artist! cried Michael. Just that. You'll be putting me under an obligation,' says he, which, however, I am not too proud to incur.' Ha! ha! We understood one another at once that's the freemasonry of art. Damme, I'd do as much for him if our positions were reversed, and he knows it. That boy, your son, a pork butcher! No, no.' We are poor,' I said. We can't afford the luxury of pride.' Poor!' he cried. No man is poor who retains his self-respect.' It was like going to Sunday-school again. I felt positively moral, mother' poor, but honest,' instead of poor because honest,' like I've felt before."
" Ah! murmured Mrs. Drum. Poverty is no disgrace."
" Poverty is a disgraceto the rich," said Michael. But we won't talk about poverty to-day. What say to a jaunt? "
"Ah!" breathed Mrs. Drum,
" Let's hire a gig and drive out somewhere.
KewEppingor shall we keep it vague? Yes, we'll keep it vague."
At four o'clock, after an earlier dinner than usual, they chartered a gig from the greengrocer's at the corner and drove away past St. Anselm's School, shut and silent, into the wide, rolling countryi
There was a pleasant autumn crispness in the air. The grass was vividly green after the rains. The sun shone faintly in the hazy sky, drawing scarce a sparkle from the wet hedgerows, casting pale, indefinite shadows. The ditches overflowed with turbid water; the road was heavy with brown mud.
Michael drove, with his wife perched beside him on the box seat, Tony and Honor huddled in the body of the gig.
" This is proper!" cried Honor, her pale face kindling. See the blackberries, Tony? "
"An' the hip-se-haws!" cried Tony. "Why, the hedges is as red as red with 'em! That means a hard winter, don't it, father? Wow, there's a swallow! See its white belly? Can't they fly! eh?
They're not gone yet, so it's still summer. Father, how far can a swallow fly without stopping? Once, Nick Tolmers an' me found a martin's nest on the sand pits. They're a kind o' swallow, too."
" Hark to the national schoolboy! laughed Michael.
Tony sank into abashed silence. The gray mare trotted on. They crossed a bridge spanning a sluggish stream; an old man, in a great straw hat, was fishing from the puddled bank; some boys were tempting death among the reeds; in the distance was a moored barge, gaudy with red paint, from which arose spirals of blue smoke. Skirting the stream was a belt of wood, and for a while they journeyed in the shade of trees. A low bough took off Michael's hat and tore a plume from Mrs. Drum's bonnet. Michael cried Whoa! lustily; but Tony, having caught the hat in its flight, handed it up with an air of achievement, and the mare jogged on. They emerged from the wood and entered the hilly High Street of a little town. A Sabbath calm was here. The mare's hoofs
rattled on the cobbles, bringing sleepy faces to the windows, startling a brood of chickens.
" We'll stop here," said Michael Drum, pulling up at the sign of a Red Lion.
A squat-bodied ostler came forth yawning from the stables, and held the mare whilst they dismounted.
" Tea? asked the ostler.
" Ah! said Michael Drum, nodding.
The ostler's face became suddenly the mere rim of a black hole as he shouted Ma'am! "
A mellow-faced woman ambled out toward them, with head insinuatingly cocked aside and cheeks dimpling. The party followed her into the inn and up a flight of stairs to a large, light room overlooking a trim garden. In the room were two tables, spread with white cloths, a piano on a little plaform, various seats, and a great number of stuffed birds in glass cases. Michael Drum led the way to the table nearest the window, and they all sat down. The mellow-faced woman, having taken their order, had disappeared into the kitchen, from whence a pleasing clatter of crockery now
proceeded. Mrs. Drum remarked in a whisper that it was a pretty outlook. Tony and Honor shifted on their seats in restless constraint. Even Michael Drum was oppressed by the splendor of their proceedings, though he affected to be quite at ease. He had risen to examine a stuffed partridge; the handle of the door rattled, and he sped back to his seat, flushing guiltily, like a schoolboy caught at mischief.
A maid of comfortable proportions brought in the tea on a wide tray, and they at once fell to with gusto. After the meal they sat at the window, chatting and laughing. The sun had gone down, the blue of the sky deepened, and a few pale stars shone out. From churches, scattered far and wide over the green country, bells were pealing a summons to evensong. Mrs. Drum threw up the window, and a fruity scent was wafted in.
Some roysterers had gathered on the benches in the inn yard, and were waxing very merry over their beer. Tony, looking down on them, and marking their large recklessness of speech and manners, thought it must be fine to be a man.