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Title: Lo, Michael!
Author: Hill, Grace Livingston, 1865-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lo, Michael!" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



LO, MICHAEL!

BY

GRACE LIVINGSTON HILL



  "But, lo, Michael, one of the
  chief princes, came to help me."

  --DANIEL, 10:13.



CHAPTER I


"Hi, there! Mikky! Look out!"

It was an alert voice that called from a huddled group of urchins in
the forefront of the crowd, but the child flashed past without heeding,
straight up the stone steps where stood a beautiful baby smiling on the
crowd. With his bundle of papers held high, and the late morning sunlight
catching his tangle of golden hair, Mikky flung himself toward the little
one. The sharp crack of a revolver from the opposite curbstone was
simultaneous with their fall. Then all was confusion.

It was a great stone house on Madison Avenue where the crowd had gathered.
An automobile stood before the door, having but just come quietly up, and
the baby girl three years old, in white velvet, and ermines, with her dark
curls framed by an ermine-trimmed hood, and a bunch of silk rosebuds poised
coquettishly over the brow vying with the soft roses of her cheeks came out
the door with her nurse for her afternoon ride. Just an instant the nurse
stepped back to the hall for the wrap she had dropped, leaving the baby
alone, her dark eyes shining like stars under the straight dark brows, as
she looked gleefully out in the world. It was just at that instant, as if
by magic, that the crowd assembled.

Perhaps it would be better to say that it was just at that minute that the
crowd focused itself upon the particular house where the baby daughter
of the president of a great defaulting bank lived. More or less all the
morning, men had been gathering, passing the house, looking up with
troubled or threatening faces toward the richly laced windows, shaking
menacing heads, muttering imprecations, but there had been no disturbance,
and no concerted crowd until the instant the baby appeared.

The police had been more or less vigilant all the morning but had seen
nothing to disturb them. The inevitable small boy had also been in
evidence, with his natural instinct for excitement. Mikky with his papers
often found himself in that quarter of a bright morning, and the starry
eyes and dark curls of the little child were a vision for which he often
searched the great windows as he passed this particular house: but the man
with the evil face on the other side of the street, resting a shaking hand
against the lamp post, and sighting the baby with a vindictive eye, had
never been seen there before. It was Mikky who noticed him first: Mikky,
who circling around him innocently had heard his imprecations against the
rich, who caught the low-breathed oath as the baby appeared, and saw the
ugly look on the man's face. With instant alarm he had gone to the other
side of the street, his eye upon the offender, and had been the first to
see the covert motion, the flash of the hidden weapon and to fear the
worst.

But a second behind him his street companions saw his danger and cried out,
too late. Mikky had flung himself in front of the beautiful baby, covering
her with his great bundle of papers, and his own ragged, neglected little
body; and receiving the bullet intended for her, went down with her as she
fell.

Instantly all was confusion.

A child's cry--a woman's scream--the whistle of the police--the angry roar
of the crowd who were like a pack of wild animals that had tasted blood.
Stones flew, flung by men whose wrongs had smothered in their breasts and
bred a fury of hate and murder. Women were trampled upon. Two of the great
plate glass windows crashed as the flying missiles entered the magnificent
home, regardless of costly lace and velvet hangings.

The chauffeur attempted to run his car around the corner but was held up at
once, and discreetly took himself out of the way, leaving the car in the
hands of the mob who swarmed into it and over it, ruthlessly disfiguring it
in their wrath. There was the loud report of exploding tires, the ripping
of costly leather cushions, the groaning of fine machinery put to torture
as the fury of the mob took vengeance on the car to show what they would
like to do to its owner.

Gone into bankruptcy! He! With a great electric car like that, and servants
to serve him! With his baby attired in the trappings of a queen and
his house swathed in lace that had taken the eyesight from many a poor
lace-maker! He! Gone into bankruptcy, and slipping away scot free, while
the men he had robbed stood helpless on his sidewalk, hungry and shabby and
hopeless because the pittances they had put away in his bank, the result of
slavery and sacrifice, were gone,--hopelessly gone! and they were too old,
or too tired, or too filled with hate, to earn it again.

The crowd surged and seethed madly, now snarling like beasts, now rumbling
portentously like a storm, now babbling like an infant; a great emotional
frenzy, throbbing with passion, goaded beyond fear, desperate with need;
leaderless, and therefore the more dangerous.

The very sight of that luxurious baby with her dancing eyes and happy
smiles "rolling in luxury," called to mind their own little puny darling,
grimy with neglect, lean with want, and hollow-eyed with knowledge
aforetime. Why should one baby be pampered and another starved? Why did the
bank-president's daughter have any better right to those wonderful furs and
that exultant smile than their own babies? A glimpse into the depths of the
rooms beyond the sheltering plate glass and drapery showed greater contrast
even than they had dreamed between this home and the bare tenements they
had left that morning, where the children were crying for bread and the
wife shivering with cold. Because they loved their own their anger burned
the fiercer; and for love of their pitiful scrawny babies that flower-like
child in the doorway was hated with all the vehemence of their untamed
natures. Their every breath cried out for vengeance, and with the brute
instinct they sought to hurt the man through his child, because they had
been hurt by the wrong done to their children.

The policeman's whistle had done its work, however. The startled inmates of
the house had drawn the beautiful baby and her small preserver within the
heavy carven doors, and borne them back to safety before the unorganized
mob had time to force their way in. Amid the outcry and the disorder no one
had noticed that Mikky had disappeared until his small band of companions
set up an outcry, but even then no one heard.

The mounted police had arrived, and orders were being given. The man who
had fired the shot was arrested, handcuffed and marched away. The people
were ordered right and left, and the officer's horses rode ruthlessly
through the masses. Law and order had arrived and there was nothing for the
downtrodden but to flee.

In a very short time the square was cleared and guarded by a large force.
Only the newspaper men came and went without challenge. The threatening
groups of men who still hovered about withdrew further and further. The
wrecked automobile was patched up and taken away to the garage. The street
became quiet, and by and by some workmen came hurriedly, importantly, and
put in temporary protections where the window glass had been broken.

Yet through it all a little knot of ragged newsboys stood their ground in
front of the house. Until quiet was restored they had evaded each renewed
command of officer or passer-by, and stayed there; whispering now and again
in excited groups and pointing up to the house. Finally a tall policeman
approached them:

"Clear out of this, kids!" he said not unkindly. "Here's no place for you.
Clear out. Do you hear me? You can't stay here no longer:"

Then one of them wheeled upon him. He was the tallest of them all, with
fierce little freckled face and flashing black eyes in which all the evil
passions of four generations back looked out upon a world that had always
been harsh. He was commonly known as fighting Buck.

"Mikky's in dare. He's hurted. We kids can't leave Mick alone. He might be
dead."

Just at that moment a physician's runabout drew up to the door, and the
policeman fell back to let him pass into the house. Hard upon him followed
the bank president in a closed carriage attended by several men in uniform
who escorted him to the door and touched their hats politely as he vanished
within. Around the corners scowling faces haunted the shadows, and murmured
imprecations were scarcely withheld in spite of the mounted officers. A
shot was fired down the street, and several policemen hurried away. But
through it all the boys stood their ground.

"Mikky's in dare. He's hurted. I seen him fall. Maybe he's deaded. We kids
want to take him away. Mikky didn't do nothin', Mikky jes' tried to save
der little kid. Mikky's a good'un. You get the folks to put Mikky out here.
We kids'll take him away"

The policeman finally attended to the fierce pleading of the ragamuffins.
Two or three newspaper men joined the knot around them and the story was
presently written up with all the racy touches that the writers of the hour
know how to use. Before night Buck, with his fierce black brows drawn in
helpless defiance was adorning the evening papers in various attitudes as
the different snapshots portrayed him, and the little group of newsboys and
boot-blacks and good-for-nothings that stood around him figured for once in
the eyes of the whole city.

The small band held their place until forcibly removed. Some of them were
barefoot, and stood shivering on the cold stones, their little sickly,
grimy faces blue with anxiety and chill.

The doctor came out of the house just as the last one, Buck, was being
marched off with loud-voiced protest. He eyed the boy, and quickly
understood the situation.

"Look here!" he called to the officer. "Let me speak to the youngster. He's
a friend, I suppose, of the boy that was shot?"

The officer nodded.

"Well, boy, what's all this fuss about?" He looked kindly, keenly into the
defiant black eyes of Buck.

"Mikky's hurted--mebbe deaded. I wants to take him away from dare," he
burst forth sullenly. "We kids can't go off'n' leave Mikky in dare wid de
rich guys. Mikky didn't do no harm. He's jes tryin' to save de kid."

"Mikky. Is that the boy that took the shot in place of the little girl?"

The boy nodded and looked anxiously into the kindly face of the doctor.

"Yep. Hev you ben in dare? Did youse see Mikky? He's got yaller hair. Is
Mikky deaded?"

"No, he isn't dead," said the physician kindly, "but he's pretty badly
hurt. The ball went through his shoulder and arm, and came mighty near some
vital places. I've just been fixing him up comfortably, and he'll be all
right after a bit, but he's got to lie very still right where he is and be
taken care of."

"We kids'll take care o' Mikky!" said Buck proudly. "He tooked care of
Jinney when she was sick, an' we'll take care o' Mikky, all right, all
right. You jes' brang him out an' we'll fetch a wheelbarry an' cart him
off'n yer han's. Mikky wouldn't want to be in dare wid de rich guys."

"My dear fellow," said the doctor, quite touched by the earnestness in
Buck's eyes, "that's very good of you, I'm sure, and Mikky ought to
appreciate his friends, but he's being taken care of perfectly right where
he is and he couldn't be moved. It might kill him to move him, and if he
stays where he is he will get well. I'll tell you what I'll do," he added
as he saw the lowering distress in the dumb eyes before him, "I'll give you
a bulletin every day. You be here to-night at five o'clock when I come out
of the house and I'll tell you just how he is. Then you needn't worry about
him. He's in a beautiful room lying on a great big white bed and he has
everything nice around him, and when I came away he was sleeping. I can
take him a message for you when I go in to-night, if you like."

Half doubtfully the boy looked at him.

"Will you tell Mikky to drop us down word ef he wants annythin'? Will you
ast him ef he don't want us to git him out?"

"Sure!" said the doctor in kindly amusement. "You trust me and I'll make
good. Be here at five o'clock sharp and again to-morrow at quarter to
eleven."

"He's only a slum kid!" grumbled the officer. "'Tain't worth while to take
so much trouble. 'Sides, the folks won't want um botherin' 'round."

"Oh, he's all right!" said the doctor. "He's a friend worth having. You
might need one yourself some day, you know. What's your name, boy? Who
shall I tell Mikky sent the message?"

"Buck," said the child gravely, "Fightin' Buck, they calls me."

"Very appropriate name, I should think," said the doctor smiling. "Well,
run along Buck and be here at five o'clock."

Reluctantly the boy moved off. The officer again took up his stand in front
of the house and quiet was restored to the street.

Meantime, in the great house consternation reigned for a time.

The nurse maid had reached the door in time to hear the shot and see the
children fall. She barely escaped the bullet herself. She was an old
servant of the family and therefore more frightened for her charge than
for herself. She had the presence of mind to drag both children inside the
house and shut and lock the door immediately, before the seething mob could
break in.

The mistress of the house fell in a dead faint as they carried her little
laughing daughter up the stairs and a man and a maid followed with the
boy who was unconscious. The servants rushed hither and thither; the
housekeeper had the coolness to telephone the bank president what had
happened, and to send for the family physician. No one knew yet just who
was hurt or how much. Mikky had been brought inside because he blocked the
doorway, and there was need for instantly shutting the door. If it had been
easier to shove him out the nurse maid would probably have done that. But
once inside common humanity bade them look after the unconscious boy's
needs, and besides, no one knew as yet just exactly what part Mikky had
played in the small tragedy of the morning.

"Where shall we take him?" said the man to the maid as they reached the
second floor with their unconscious burden.

"Not here, Thomas. Here's no place for him. He's as dirty as a pig. I can't
think what come over Morton to pull him inside, anyway. His own could have
tended to him. Besides, such is better dead!"

They hurried on past the luxurious rooms belonging to the lady of the
mansion; up the next flight of stairs, and Norah paused by the bath-room
door where the full light of the hall windows fell upon the grimy little
figure of the child they carried.

Norah the maid uttered an exclamation.

"He's not fit fer any place in this house. Look at his cloes. They'll have
to be cut off'n him, and he needs to go in the bath-tub before he can be
laid anywheres. Let's put him in the bath-room, and do you go an' call
Morton. She got him in here and she'll have to bathe him. And bring me a
pair of scissors. I'll mebbe have to cut the cloes off'n him, they're so
filthy. Ach! The little beast!"

Thomas, glad to be rid of his burden, dropped the boy on the bath-room
floor and made off to call Morton.

Norah, with little knowledge and less care, took no thought for the life
of her patient. She was intent on making him fit to put between her clean
sheets. She found the tattered garments none too tenacious in their hold
to the little, half-naked body. One or two buttons and a string were their
only attachments. Norah pulled them off with gingerly fingers, and holding
them at arm's length took them to the bath-room window whence she pitched
them down into the paved court below, that led to the kitchen regions.
Thomas could burn them, or put them on the ash pile by and by. She was
certain they would never go on again, and wondered how they had been made
to hold together this last time.

Morton had not come yet, but Norah discovering a pool of blood under the
little bare shoulder, lifted him quickly into the great white bath-tub and
turned on the warm water. There was no use wasting time, and getting blood
on white tiles that she would have to scrub. She was not unkind but she
hated dirt, and partly supporting the child with one arm she applied
herself to scrubbing him as vigorously as possible with the other hand.
The shock of the water, not being very warm at first, brought returning
consciousness to the boy for a moment, in one long shuddering sigh. The
eyelashes trembled for an instant on the white cheeks, and his eyes opened;
gazed dazedly, then wildly, on the strange surroundings, the water, and the
vigorous Irish woman who had him in her power. He threw his arms up with
a struggling motion, gasped as if with sudden pain and lost consciousness
again, relaxing once more into the strong red arm that held him. It was
just at this critical moment that Morton entered the bath-room.

Morton was a trim, apple-cheeked Scotch woman of about thirty years, with
neat yellow-brown hair coiled on the top of her head, a cheerful tilt to
her freckled nose, and eyes so blue that in company with her rosy cheeks
one thought at once of a flag. Heather and integrity exhaled from her very
being, flamed from her cheeks, spoke from her loyal, stubborn chin, and
looked from her trustworthy eyes. She had been with the bank president's
baby ever since the little star-eyed creature came into the world.

"Och! look ye at the poor wee'un!" she exclaimed. "Ye're hurtin' him,
Norah! Ye shouldn't have bathed him the noo! Ye should've waited the
docther's comin'. Ye'll mebbe kin kill him."

"Ach! Get out with yer soft talk!" said Norah, scrubbing the more
vigorously. "Did yez suppose I'll be afther havin' all this filth in the
nice clean sheets? Get ye to work an' he'p me. Do ye hold 'im while I
schrub!"

She shifted the boy into the gentler arm's of the nurse, and went to
splashing all the harder. Then suddenly, before the nurse could protest,
she had dashed a lot of foamy suds on the golden head and was scrubbing
that with all her might.

"Och, Norah!" cried the nurse in alarm. "You shouldn't a done that! Ye'll
surely kill the bairn. Look at his poor wee shoulder a bleedin', and his
little face so white an' still. Have ye no mercy at all, Norah? Rinse off
that suds at once, an' dry him softly. What'll the docther be sayin' to ye
fer all this I can't think. There, my poor bairnie," she crooned to the
child, softly drawing him closer as though he were conscious,--

"There, there my bairnie, it'll soon be over. It'll be all right in just a
minute, poor wee b'y! Poor wee b'y! There! There--"

But Norah did her perfect work, and made the little lean body glistening
white as polished marble, while the heavy hair hung limp like pale golden
silk.

The two women carried him to a bed in a large room at the back of the
house, not far from the nursery, and laid him on a blanket, with his
shoulder stanched with soft linen rags. Morton was softly drying his hair
and crooning to the child--although he was still unconscious--begging
Norah to put the blanket over him lest he catch cold; and Norah was still
vigorously drying his feet unmindful of Morton's pleading, when the doctor
entered with a trained nurse. The boy lay white and still upon the blanket
as the two women, startled, drew back from their task. The body, clean now,
and beautifully shaped, might have been marble except for the delicate blue
veins in wrists and temples. In spite of signs of privation and lack of
nutrition there was about the boy a showing of strength in well developed
muscles, and it went to the heart to see him lying helpless so, with his
drenched gold hair and his closed eyes. The white limbs did not quiver, the
lifeless fingers drooped limply, the white chest did not stir with any sign
of breath, and yet the tender lips that curved in a cupid's bow, were not
altogether gone white.

"What a beautiful child!" exclaimed the nurse involuntarily as she came
near the bed. "He looks like a young god!"

"He's far more likely to be a young devil," said the doctor grimly, leaning
over him with practised eyes, and laying a listening ear to the quiet
breast. Then, he started back.

"He's cold as ice! What have you been doing to him? It wasn't a case of
drowning, was it? You haven't been giving him a bath at such a time as
this, have you? Did you want to kill the kid outright?"

"Oauch, the poor wee b'y!" sobbed Morton under her breath, her blue eyes
drenched with tears that made them like blue lakes. "He's like to my own
wee b'y that I lost when he was a baby," she explained in apology to the
trained nurse who was not, however, regarding her in the least.

Norah had vanished frightened to consult with Thomas. It was Morton who
brought the things the doctor called for, and showed the nurse where to put
her belongings; and after everything was done and the boy made comfortable
and brought back to consciousness, it was she who stood at the foot of the
bed and smiled upon him first in this new world to which he opened his
eyes.

His eyes were blue, heavenly blue and dark, but they were great with a
brave fear as he glanced about on the strange faces. He looked like a wild
bird, caught in a kindly hand,--a bird whose instincts held him still
because he saw no way of flight, but whose heart was beating frightfully
against his captor's fingers. He looked from side to side of the room, and
made a motion to rise from the pillow. It was a wild, furtive motion, as of
one who has often been obliged to fly for safety, yet still has unlimited
courage. There was also in his glance the gentle harmlessness and appeal of
the winged thing that has been caught.

"Well, youngster, you had a pretty close shave," said the doctor jovially,
"but you'll pull through all right! You feel comfortable now?"

The nurse was professionally quiet.

"Poor wee b'y!" murmured Morton, her eyes drenched again.

The boy looked from one to another doubtfully. Suddenly remembrance dawned
upon him and comprehension entered his glance. He looked about the room and
toward the door. There was question in his eyes that turned on the doctor
but his lips formed no words. He looked at Morton, and knew her for the
nurse of his baby. Suddenly he smiled, and that smile seemed to light up
the whole room, and filled the heart of Morton with joy unspeakable. It
seemed to her it was the smile of her own lost baby come back to shine upon
her. The tears welled, up and the blue lakes ran over. The boy's face was
most lovely when he smiled.

"Where is--de little kid?" It was Morton whose face he searched anxiously
as he framed the eager question, and the woman's intuition taught her how
to answer.

"She's safe in her own wee crib takin' her morning nap. She's just new
over," answered the woman reassuringly.

Still the eyes were not satisfied.

"Did she"--he began slowly--"get--hurted?"

"No, my bairnie, she's all safe and sound as ever. It was your own self
that saved her life."

The boy's face lit up and he turned from one to another contentedly. His
smile said: "Then I'm glad." But not a word spoke his shy lips.

"You're a hero, kid!" said the doctor huskily. But the boy knew little
about heroes and did not comprehend.

The nurse by this time had donned her uniform and rattled up starchily to
take her place at the bedside, and Morton and the doctor went away, the
doctor to step once more into the lady's room below to see if she was
feeling quite herself again after her faint.

The nurse leaned over the boy with a glass and spoon. He looked at it
curiously, unknowingly. It was a situation entirely outside his experience.

"Why don't you take your medicine?" asked the nurse.

The boy looked at the spoon again as it approached his lips and opened them
to speak.

"Is--"

In went the medicine and the boy nearly choked, but he understood and
smiled.

"A hospital?" he finished.

The nurse laughed.

"No, it's only a house. They brought you in, you know, when you were hurt
out on the steps. You saved the little girl's life. Didn't you know it?"
she said kindly, her heart won by his smile.

A beautiful look rewarded her.

"Is de little kid--in this house?" he asked slowly, wonderingly. It was as
if he had asked if he were in heaven, there was so much awe in his tone.

"Oh, yes, she's here," answered the nurse lightly. "Perhaps they'll bring
her in to see you sometime. Her father's very grateful. He thinks it showed
wonderful courage in you to risk your life for her sake."

But Mikky comprehended nothing about gratitude. He only took in the fact
that the beautiful baby was in the house and might come there to see him.
He settled to sleep quite happily with an occasional glad wistful glance
toward the door, as the long lashes sank on the white cheeks, for the first
sleep the boy had ever taken in a clean, white, soft bed. The prim nurse,
softened for once from her precise attention to duties, stood and looked
upon the lovely face of the sleeping child, wondered what his life had
been, and how the future would be for him. She half pitied him that the
ball had not gone nearer to the vital spot and taken him to heaven ere he
missed the way, so angel-like his face appeared in the soft light of the
sick room, with the shining gold hair fluffed back upon the pillow now,
like a halo.



CHAPTER II


Little Starr Endicott, sleeping in her costly lace-draped crib on her downy
embroidered pillow, knew nothing of the sin and hate and murder that rolled
in a great wave on the streets outside, and had almost touched her own
little life and blotted it out. She knew not that three notable families
whose names were interwoven in her own, and whose blood flowed in her tiny
veins represented the great hated class of the Rich, and that those upon
whom they had climbed to this height looked upon them as an evil to be
destroyed; nor did she know that she, being the last of the race, and in
her name representing them all, was hated most of all.

Starr Delevan Endicott! It was graven upon her tiny pins and locket, upon
the circlet of gold that jewelled her finger, upon her brushes and combs;
it was broidered upon her dainty garments, and coverlets and cushions, and
crooned to her by the adoring Scotch nurse who came of a line that knew and
loved an aristocracy. The pride of the house of Starr, the wealth of the
house of Delevan, the glory of the house of Endicott, were they not all
hers, this one beautiful baby who lay in her arms to tend and to love. So
mused Morton as she hummed:

  "O hush thee my babie, thy sire was a knight,
  Thy mother a ladie, both gentle and bright--"

And what cared Morton that the mother in this case was neither gentle nor
bright, but only beautiful and selfish? It did but make the child the
dearer that she had her love to herself.

And so the little Starr lay sleeping in her crib, and the boy, her
preserver, from nobody knew where, and of nobody knew what name or fame,
lay sleeping also. And presently Delevan Endicott himself came to look at
them both.

He came from the swirl of the sinful turbulent world outside, and from his
fretting, petted wife's bedside. She had been fretting at him for allowing
a bank in which he happened to be president to do anything which should
cause such a disturbance outside her home, when he knew she was so nervous.
Not one word about the little step that had stood for an instant between
her baby and eternity. Her husband reminded her gently how near their baby
had come to death, and how she should rejoice that she was safe, but her
reply had been a rush of tears, and "Oh, yes, you always think of the baby,
never of me, your wife!"

With a sigh the man had turned from his fruitless effort to calm her
troubled mind and gone to his little daughter. He had hoped that his wife
would go with him, but he saw the hopelessness of that idea.

The little girl lay with one plump white arm thrown over her head, the
curling baby fingers just touching the rosy cheek, flushed with sleep.
She looked like a rosebud herself, so beautiful among the rose and lacey
draperies of her couch. Her dark curls, so fine and soft and wonderful,
with their hidden purple shadows, and the long dark curling lashes, to
match the finely pencilled brows, brought out each delicate feature of the
lovely little face. The father, as he looked down upon her, wondered how it
could have been in the heart of any creature, no matter how wicked, to put
out this vivid little life. His little Starr, his one treasure!

The man that had tried to do it, could he have intended it really, or was
it only a random shot? The testimony of those who saw judged it intention.
The father's quickened heart-beats told him it was, and he felt that the
thrust had gone deep. How they had meant to hurt him! How they must have
hated him to have wished to hurt him so! How they would have hurt his life
irretrievably if the shot had done its work. If that other little atom of
human life had not intervened!

Where was the boy who had saved his child? He must go and see him at once.
The gratitude of a lifetime should be his.

Morton divined his thought, as he stepped from the sacred crib softly after
bending low to sweep his lips over the rosy velvet of little Starr's cheek.
With silent tread she followed her master to the door:

"The poor wee b'y's in the far room yon," she said in a soft whisper, and
her tone implied that his duty lay next in that direction. The banker had
often noticed this gentle suggestion in the nurse's voice, it minded him
of something in his childhood and he invariably obeyed it. He might have
resented it if it had been less humble, less trustfully certain that
of course that was the thing that he meant to do next. He followed her
direction now without a word.

The boy had just fallen asleep when he entered, and lay as sweetly
beautiful as the little vivid beauty he had left in the other room. The man
of the world paused and instinctively exclaimed in wonder. He had been told
that it was a little gamin who had saved his daughter from the assassin's
bullet, but the features of this child were as delicately chiseled, his
form as finely modeled, his hair as soft and fine as any scion of a noble
house might boast. He, like the nurse, had the feeling that a young god lay
before him. It was so that Mikky always had impressed a stranger even when
his face was dirty and his feet were bare.

The man stood with bowed head and looked upon the boy to whom he felt he
owed a debt which he could never repay.

He recognized the child as a representative of that great unwashed throng
of humanity who were his natural enemies, because by their oppression and
by stepping upon their rights when it suited his convenience, he had risen
to where he now stood, and was able to maintain his position. He had no
special feeling for them, any of them, more than if they had been a pack of
wolves whose fangs he must keep clear of, and whose hides he must get as
soon as convenient; but this boy was different! This spirit-child with the
form of Apollo, the beauty of Adonis, and the courage of a hero! Could he
have come from the hotbeds of sin and corruption? It could not be! Sure
there must be some mistake. He must be of good birth. Enquiry must be made.
Had anyone asked the child's name and where he lived?

Then, as if in answer to his thought, the dark blue eyes suddenly opened.
He found them looking at him, and started as he realized it, as if a
picture on which he gazed had suddenly turned out to be alive. And yet,
for the instant, he could not summon words, but stood meeting that steady
searching gaze of the child, penetrating, questioning, as if the eyes would
see and understand the very foundation principles on which the man's life
rested. The man felt it, and had the sensation of hastily looking at his
own motives in the light of this child's look. Would his life bear that
burning appealing glance?

Then, unexpectedly the child's face lit up with his wonderful smile. He had
decided to trust the man.

Never before in all his proud and varied experience had Delevan Endicott
encountered a challenge like that. It beat through him like a mighty army
and took his heart by storm, it flashed into his eyes and dazzled him. It
was the challenge of childhood to the fatherhood of the man. With a strange
new impulse the man accepted it, and struggling to find words, could only
answer with a smile.

A good deal passed between them before any words were spoken at all, a good
deal that the boy never forgot, and that the man liked to turn back to in
his moments of self-reproach, for somehow that boy's eyes called forth the
best that was in him, and made him ashamed of other things.

"Boy, who is your father?" at last asked the man huskily. He almost dreaded
to find another father owning a noble boy like this--and such a father as
he would be if it were true that he was only a street gamin.

The boy still smiled, but a wistfulness came into his eyes. He slowly shook
his head.

"Dead, is he?" asked the man more as if thinking aloud. But the boy shook
his head again.

"No, no father," he answered simply.

"Oh," said the man, and a lump gathered in his throat. "Your mother?"

"No mother, never!" came the solemn answer. It seemed that he scarcely felt
that either of these were deep lacks in his assets. Very likely fathers and
mothers were not on the average desirable kindred in the neighborhood from
which he came. The man reflected and tried again.

"Who are your folks? They'll be worried about you. We ought to send them
word you're doing well?"

The boy looked amazed, then a laugh rippled out.

"No folks," he gurgled, "on'y jest de kids."

"Your brothers and sisters?" asked Endicott puzzled.

"None o' dem," said Mikky. "Buck an' me're pards. We fights fer de other
kids."

"Don't you know it's wrong to fight?"

Mikky stared.

Endicott tried to think of something to add to his little moral homily, but
somehow could not.

"It's very wrong to fight," he reiterated lamely.

The boy's cherub mouth settled into firm lines.

"It's wronger not to, when de little kids is gettin' hurt, an' de big
fellers what ought ter work is stole away they bread, an' they's hungry."

It was an entirely new proposition. It was the challenge of the poor
against the rich, of the weak against the strong, and from the lips of a
mere babe. The man wondered and answered not.

"I'd fight fer your little kid!" declared the young logician. He seemed to
know by instinct that this was the father of his baby.

Ah, now he had touched the responsive chord. The father's face lit up. He
understood. Yes, it was right to fight for his baby girl, his little Starr,
his one treasure, and this boy had done it, given his life freely. Was that
like fighting for those other unloved, uncared-for, hungry darlings? Were
they then dear children, too, of somebody, of God, if nobody else? The
boy's eyes were telling him plainly in one long deep look, that all the
world of little children at least was kin, and the grateful heart of the
father felt that in mere decency of gratitude he must acknowledge so much.
Poor little hungry babies. What if his darling were hungry! A sudden
longing seized his soul to give them bread at once to eat. But at least he
would shower his gratitude upon this one stray defender of their rights.

He struggled to find words to let the child know of this feeling but only
the tears gathering quickly in his eyes spoke for him.

"Yes, yes, my boy! You did fight for my little girl. I know, I'll never
forget it of you as long as I live. You saved her life, and that's worth
everything to me. Everything, do you understand?"

At last the words rushed forth, but his voice was husky, and those who knew
him would have declared him more moved than they had ever seen him.

The boy understood. A slender brown hand stole out from the white coverlet
and touched his. Its outline, long and supple and graceful, spoke of
patrician origin. It was hard for the man of wealth and pride to realize
that it was the hand of the child of the common people, the people who were
his enemies.

"Is there anything you would like to have done for you, boy?" he asked at
last because the depth of emotion was more than he could bear.

The boy looked troubled.

"I was thinkin', ef Buck an' them could see me, they'd know 'twas all
right. I'd like 'em fine to know how 'tis in here."

"You want me to bring them up to see you?"

Mikky nodded.

"Where can I find them, do you think?"

"Buck, he won't go fur, till he knows what's comed o' me," said the boy
with shining confidence in his friend. "He'd know I'd do that fur him."

Then it seemed there was such a thing as honor and loyalty among the lower
ranks of men--at least among the boys. The man of the world was learning a
great many things. Meekly he descended the two flights of stairs and went
out to his own front doorsteps.

There were no crowds any more. The police were still on duty, but curious
passersby dared not linger long. The workmen had finished the windows and
gone. The man felt little hope of finding the boys, but somehow he had a
strange desire to do so. He wanted to see that face light up once more.
Also, he had a curious desire to see these youngsters from the street who
could provoke such loving anxiety from the hero upstairs.

Mikky was right, Buck would not go far away until he knew how it was with
his comrade. He had indeed moved off at the officer's word when the doctor
promised to bring him word later, but in his heart he did not intend to let
a soul pass in or out of that house all day that he did not see, and so he
set his young pickets here and there about the block, each with his bunch
of papers, and arranged a judicious change occasionally, to avoid trouble
with the officers.

Buck was standing across the street on the corner by the church steps,
making a lively show of business now and then and keeping one eye on the
house that had swallowed up his partner. He was not slow to perceive that
he was being summoned by a man upon the steps, and ran eagerly up with his
papers, expecting to receive his coin, and maybe a glimpse inside the door.

"All about der shootin' of der bank millionaire's baby!" he yelled in his
most finished voice of trade, and the father, thinking of what might have
been, felt a pang of horror at the careless words from the gruff little
voice.

"Do you know a boy named Buck?" he questioned as he deliberately paid for
the paper that was held up to him, and searched the unpromising little face
before him. Then marvelled at the sullen, sly change upon the dirty face.

The black brows drew down forbodingly, the dark eyes reminded Mm of a caged
lion ready to spring if an opportunity offered. The child had become a man
with a criminal's face. There was something frightful about the defiant
look with which the boy drew himself up.

"What if I does?"

"Only that there's a boy in here," motioning toward the door, "would like
very much to see him for a few minutes. If you know where he is, I wish
you'd tell him."

Then there came a change more marvelous than before. It was as if the
divine in the soul had suddenly been revealed through a rift in the sinful
humanity. The whole defiant face became eager, the black eyes danced with
question, the brows settled into straight pleasant lines, and the mouth
sweetened as with pleasant thoughts.

"Is't Mikky?" He asked in earnest voice. "Kin we get in? I'll call de kids.
He'll want 'em. He allus wants der kids." He placed his fingers in his
mouth, stretching it into a curious shape, and there issued forth a shriek
that might have come from the mouth of an exulting fiend, so long and
shrill and sharp it was. The man on the steps, his nerves already wrought
to the snapping point, started angrily. Then suddenly around the corner at
a swift trot emerged three ragged youngsters who came at their leader's
command swiftly and eagerly.

"Mikky wants us!" explained Buck. "Now youse foller me, 'n don't you say
nothin' less I tell you."

They fell in line, behind the bank president, and followed awed within
the portal that unlocked a palace more wonderful than Aladdin's to their
astonished gaze.

Up the stairs they slunk, single file, the bare feet and the illy-shod
alike going silently and sleuth-like over the polished stairs. They skulked
past open doors with frightened defiant glances, the defiance of the very
poor for the very rich, the defiance that is born and bred in the soul from
a face to face existence with hunger and cold and need of every kind. They
were defiant but they took it all in, and for many a day gave details
highly embellished of the palace where Mikky lay. It seemed to them that
heaven itself could show no grander sights.

In a stricken row against the wall, with sudden consciousness of their own
delinquencies of attire, ragged caps in hands, grimy hands behind them,
they stood and gazed upon their fallen hero-comrade.

Clean, they had never perhaps seen his face before. The white robe that was
upon him seemed a robe of unearthly whiteness. It dazzled their gaze. The
shining of his newly-washed hair was a glory crown upon his head. They saw
him gathered into another world than any they knew. It could have seemed no
worse to them if the far heaven above the narrow city streets had opened
its grim clouds and received their comrade from their sight. They were
appalled. How could he ever be theirs again? How could it all have happened
in the few short hours since Mikky flashed past them and fell a martyr to
his kindly heart and saved the wicked rich man his child? The brows of Buck
drew together in his densest frown. He felt that Mikky, their Mikky was
having some terrible change come upon him.

Then Mikky turned and smiled upon them all, and in his dear familiar voice
shouted, "Say, kids, ain't this grand? Say, I jes' wish you was all in it!
Ef you, Buck, an' the kids was here in this yer grand bed I'd be havin' the
time o' me life!"

That turned the tide. Buck swallowed hard and smiled his darker smile,
and the rest grinned sheepishly Grandeur and riches had not spoiled their
prince. He was theirs still and he had wanted them. He had sent for them.
They gained courage to look around on the spotlessly clean room, on the
nurse in her crackling dignity; on the dish of oranges which she promptly
handed to them and of which each in awe partook a golden sphere; on the
handful of bright flowers that Morton had brought but a few minutes before
and placed on a little stand by the bed; on the pictures that hung upon the
walls, the like of which they had never seen, before, and then back to the
white white bed that held their companion. They could not get used to the
whiteness and the cleanness of his clean, clean face and hands, and bright
gold hair. It burned like a flame against the pillow, and Mikky's blue eyes
seemed darker and deeper than ever before. To Buck they had given their
obedient following, and looked to him for protection, but after all he was
one like themselves, only a little more fearless. To Mikky they all gave a
kind of far-seeing adoration. He was fearless and brave like Buck, but he
was something more. In their superstitious fear and ignorance he seemed to
them almost supernatural.

They skulked, silently down the stairs like frightened rabbits when the
interview was over, each clutching his precious orange, and not until the
great doors had closed upon them, did they utter a word. They had said very
little. Mikky had done all the talking.

When they had filed down the street behind their leader, and rounded the
corner out of sight of the house, Buck gathered them into a little knot and
said solemnly: "Kids. I bet cher Mik don't be comin' out o' this no more.
Didn't you take notice how he looked jes' like the angel top o' the
monnemunt down to the cemtary?"

The little group took on a solemnity that was deep and real.

"Annyhow, he wanted us!" spoke up a curly-headed boy with old eyes and a
thin face. He was one whom Mikky had been won't to defend. He bore a hump
upon his ragged back.

"Aw! he's all right fer us, is Mik," said Buck, "but he's different nor us.
Old Aunt Sal she said one day he were named fer a 'n'angel, an' like as not
he'll go back where he b'longs some day, but he won't never fergit us.
He ain't like rich folks what don't care. He's our pard allus. Come on,
fellers."

Down the back alley went the solemn little procession, single file, till
they reached the rear of the Endicott house, where they stood silent as
before a shrine, till at a signal from their leader, each grimy right hand
was raised, and gravely each ragged cap was taken off and held high in the
air toward the upper window, where they knew their hero-comrade lay. Then
they turned and marched silently away.

They were all in place before the door whenever the doctor came thereafter,
and always went around by the way of the alley afterward for their
ceremonial good night, sometimes standing solemnly beneath the cold stars
while the shrill wind blew through their thin garments, but always as long
as the doctor brought them word, or as long as the light burned in the
upper window, they felt their comrade had not gone yet.



CHAPTER III


Heaven opened for Mikky on the day when Morton, with the doctor's
permission, brought Baby Starr to see him.

The baby, in her nurse's arms, gazed down upon her rescuer with the
unprejudiced eyes of childhood. Mikky's smile flashed upon her and
forthwith she answered with a joyous laugh of glee. The beautiful boy
pleased her ladyship. She reached out her roseleaf hands to greet him.

The nurse held her down to the bed:

"Kiss the wee b'y, that's a good baby. Kiss the wee b'y. He took care of
baby and saved her life when the bad man tried to hurt her. Kiss the wee
b'y and say 'I thank you,'" commanded Morton.

The saving of her life meant nothing to little Starr, but she obediently
murmured 'I'ee tank oo!' as the nurse had drilled her to do before she
brought her, and then laid her moist pink lips on cheeks, forehead, eyes
and mouth in turn, and Mikky, in ecstasy, lay trembling with the pleasure
of it. No one had ever kissed him before. Kissing was not in vogue in the
street where he existed.

Thereafter, every day until he was convalescent, Starr came to visit him.

By degrees he grew accustomed to her gay presence enough to talk with her
freely as child with child. Her words were few and her tongue as yet quite
unacquainted with the language of this world; but perhaps that was all the
better, for their conversations were more of the spirit than of the tongue,
Mikky's language, of circumstance, being quite unlike that of Madison
Avenue.

Starr brought her wonderful electric toys and dolls, and Mikky looked at
them with wonder, yet always with a kind of rare indifference, because the
child herself was to him the wonder of all wonders, an angel spirit stooped
to earth. And every day, when the nurse carried her small charge away after
her frolic with the boy, she would always lift her up to the bed and say:

"Now kiss the wee b'y, Baby Starr, and thank him again fer savin' yer
life."

And Starr would lay her soft sweet mouth on hie as tenderly and gravely as
if she understood the full import of her obligation. At such times Mikky
would watch her bright face as it came close to his, and when her lips
touched his he would close his eyes as if to shut out all things else from
this sacred ceremony. After Starr and Morton were gone the nurse was wont
to look furtively toward the bed and note the still, lovely face of the boy
whose eyes were closed as if to hold the vision and memory the longer. At
such times her heart would draw her strangely from her wonted formality and
she would touch the boy with a tenderness that was not natural to her.

There were other times when Mr. Endicott would come and talk briefly with
the boy, just to see his eyes light and his face glow with that wonderful
smile, and to think what it would be if the boy were his own. Always Mikky
enjoyed these little talks, and when his visitor was gone he would think
with satisfaction that this was just the right kind of a father for his
little lovely Starr. He was glad the Baby Starr had a father. He had often
wondered what it would be like to have a father, and now he thought he saw
what the height of desire in a father might be. Not that he felt a great
need for himself in the way of fathers. He had taken care of himself since
he could remember and felt quite grown up and fathers usually drank; but a
baby like that needed a father, and he liked Starr's father.

But the dearest thing now in life for him was little Starr's kisses.

To the father, drawn first by gratitude to the boy who had saved his
child's life, and afterwards by the boy's own irresistible smile, these
frequent visits had become a pleasure. There had been a little boy before
Starr came to their home, but he had only lived a few weeks. The memory of
that golden, fuzzy head, the little appealing fingers, the great blue eyes
of his son still lingered bitterly in the father's heart. When he first
looked upon this waif the fancy seized him that, perhaps his own boy would
have been like this had he lived, and a strange and unexpected tenderness
entered his heart for Mikky. He kept going to the little invalid's room
night after night, pleasing himself with the thought that the boy was his
own.

So strong a hold did this fancy take upon the man's heart that he actually
began to consider the feasibility of adopting the child and bringing him
up as his own--this, after he had by the aid of detectives, thoroughly
searched out all that was known of him and found that no one owned Mikky
nor seemed to care what became of him except Buck and his small following.
And all the time the child, well fed, well cared for, happier than he had
ever dreamed of being in all his little hard life, rapidly convalesced.

Endicott came home one afternoon to find Mikky down in the reception room
dressed in black velvet and rare old lace, with his glorious sheaf of
golden hair which had grown during his illness tortured into ringlets, and
an adoring group of ladies gathered about him, as he stood with troubled,
almost haughty mien, and gravely regarded their maudlin sentimentalities.

Mrs. Endicott had paid no attention to the boy heretofore, and her sudden
interest in him came from a chance view of him as he sat up in a big chair
for the first time, playing a game with little Starr. His big eyes and
beautiful hair attracted her at once, and she lost no time in dressing him
up like a doll and making him a show at one of her receptions.

When her husband remonstrated with her, declaring that such treatment would
ruin the spirit of any real boy, and spoil him for life, she shrugged her
shoulders indifferently, and answered:

"Well, what if it does? He's nothing but a foundling. He ought to be glad
we are willing to dress him up prettily and play with him for a while."

"And what would you do with him after you were done using him for a toy?
Cast him aside?"

"Well, why not?" with another shrug of her handsome shoulders. "Or, perhaps
we might teach him to be a butler or footman if you want to be benevolent.
He would be charming in a dark blue uniform!"

The woman raised her delicate eyebrows, humming a light tune, and her
husband turned from her in despair. Was it nothing at all to her that this
child had saved the life of her baby?

That settled the question of adoption. His wife would never be the one
to bring up the boy into anything like manhood. It was different with a
girl--she must of necessity be frivolous, he supposed.

The next morning an old college friend came into his office, a plain
man with a pleasant face, who had not gone from college days to a bank
presidency. He was only a plain teacher in a little struggling college in
Florida, and he came soliciting aid for the college.

Endicott turned from puzzling over the question of Mikky, to greet his old
friend whom he had not seen for twenty years. He was glad to see him. He
had always liked him. He looked him over critically, however, with his
successful-business-man-of-New-York point of view. He noticed the plain
cheap business suit, worn shiny in places, the shoes well polished but
beginning to break at the side, the plentiful sprinkling of gray hairs, and
then hie eyes travelled to the kind, worn face of his friend. In spite of
himself he could not but feel that the man was happier than himself.

He asked many questions, and found a keen pleasure in hearing all about the
little family of the other, and their happy united efforts to laugh off
poverty and have a good time anyway. Then the visitor told of the college,
its struggles, its great needs and small funds, how its orange crop, which
was a large part of its regular income, had failed that year on account of
the frost, and they were in actual need of funds to carry on the work of
the immediate school year. Endicott found his heart touched, though he was
not as a rule a large giver to anything.

"I'd be glad to help you Harkness," he said at last, "but I've got a
private benevolence on my hands just now that is going to take a good deal
of money, I'm afraid. You see we've narrowly escaped a tragedy at our
house--" and he launched into the story of the shooting, and his own
indebtedness to Mikky.

"I see," said the Professor, "you feel that you owe it to that lad to put
him in the way of a better life, seeing that he freely gave his life for
your child's."

"Exactly!" said Endicott, "and I'd like to adopt him and bring him up as my
own, but it doesn't seem feasible. I don't think my wife would feel just
as I do about it, and I'm not sure I'd be doing the best after all for the
boy. To be taken from one extreme to another might ruin him."

"Well, Endicott, why don't you combine your debt to the child with
benevolence and send him down to us for a few years to educate."

Endicott sat up interestedly.

"Could I do that; Would they take so young a child? He can't be over
seven."

"Yes, we would take him, I think. He'd be well cared for; and his tuition
in the prep department would help the institution along. Every little
helps, you know."

Endicott suddenly saw before him the solution of his difficulties. He
entered eagerly into the matter, talking over rates, plans and so on. An
hour later it was all settled. Mikky was to take a full course with his
expenses all prepaid, and a goodly sum placed in the bank for his clothing
and spending money. He was to have the best room the school afforded, at
the highest price, and was to take music and art and everything else
that was offered, for Endicott meant to do the handsome thing by the
institution. The failure of the bank of which he was president had in no
wise affected his own private fortune.

"If the boy doesn't seem to develop an interest in some of these branches,
put some deserving one in his place, and put him at something else," he
said. "I want him to have his try at everything, develop the best that is
in him. So we'll pay for everything you've got there, and that will
help out some other poor boy perhaps, for, of course one boy can't do
everything. I'll arrange it with my lawyer that the payments shall be made
regularly for the next twelve years, so that if anything happens to me, or
if this boy runs away or doesn't turn out worthy, you will keep on getting
the money just the same, and some one else can come in on it."

Professor Harkness went away from the office with a smile on his face and
in his pocket three letters of introduction to wealthy benevolent business
men of New York. Mikky was to go South with him the middle of the next
week.

Endicott went home that afternoon with relief of mind, but he found in his
heart a most surprising reluctance to part with the beautiful boy.

When the banker told Mikky that he was going to send him to "college," and
explained to him that an education would enable him to become a good man
and perhaps a great one, the boy's face was very grave. Mikky had never
felt the need of an education, and the thought of going away from New York
gave him a sensation as if the earth were tottering under his feet. He
shook his head doubtfully.

"Kin I take Buck an' de kids?" he asked after a thoughtful pause, and with
a lifting of the cloud in his eyes.

"No," said Endicott. "It costs a good deal to go away to school, and there
wouldn't be anyone to send them."

Mikky's eyes grew wide with something like indignation, and he shook his
head.

"Nen I couldn't go," he said decidedly. "I couldn't take nothin' great like
that and not give de kids any. We'll stick together. I'll stay wid de kids.
They needs me."

"But Mikky--" the man looked into the large determined eyes and settled
down for combat--"you don't understand, boy. It would be impossible for
them to go. I couldn't send them all, but I _can_ send you, and I'm going
to, because you risked your life to save little Starr."

"That wasn't nothin' t'all!" declared Mikky with fine scorn.

"It was everything to me," said the man, "and I want to do this for you.
And boy, it's your duty to take this. It's everybody's duty to take the
opportunities for advancement that come to them."

Mikky looked at him thoughtfully. He did not understand the large words,
and duty meant to him a fine sense of loyalty to those who had been loyal
to him.

"I got to stay wid de kids," he said. "Dey needs me."

With an exasperated feeling that it was useless to argue against this
calmly stated fact, Endicott began again gently:

"But Mikky, you can help them a lot more by going to college than by
staying at home."

The boy's eyes looked unconvinced but he waited for reasons.

"If you get to be an educated man you will be able to earn money and help
them. You can lift them up to better things; build good houses for them to
live in; give them work to do that will pay good wages, and help them to be
good men."

"Are you educated?"

Thinking he was making progress Endicott nodded eagerly.

"Is that wot you does fer folks?" The bright eyes searched his face
eagerly, keenly, doubtfully.

The color flooded the bank-president's cheeks and forehead uncomfortably.

"Well,--I might--" he answered. "Yes, I might do a great deal for people, I
suppose. I don't know as I do much, but I could if I had been interested in
them."

He paused. He realized that the argument was weakened. Mikky studied his
face.

"But dey needs me now, de kids does," he said gravely, "Jimmie, he don't
have no supper most nights less'n I share; and Bobs is so little he can't
fight dem alley kids; n' sometimes I gets a flower off'n the florist's back
door fer little sick Jane. Her's got a crutch, and can't walk much anyhow;
and cold nights me an' Buck we sleeps close. We got a box hid away where we
sleeps close an' keeps warm."

The moisture gathered in the eyes of the banker as he listened to the
innocent story. It touched his heart as nothing ever had before. He
resolved that after this his education and wealth should at least help
these little slum friends of Mikky to an occasional meal, or a flower, or a
warm bed.

"Suppose you get Buck to take your place with the kids while you go to
school and get an education and learn how to help them better."

Mikky's golden head negatived this slowly.

"Buck, he's got all he kin do to git grub fer hisse'f an" his sister Jane.
His father is bad, and kicks Jane, and don't get her nothin' to eat. Buck
he has to see after Janie."

"How would it be for you to pay Buck something so that he could take your
place? I will give you some money that you may do as you like with, and you
can pay Buck as much as you think he needs every week. You can send it to
him in a letter."

"Would it be as much as a quarter?" Mikky held his breath in wonder and
suspense.

"Two quarters if you like."

"Oh! could I do that?" The boy's face fairly shone, and he came and threw
his arms about Endicott's neck and laid his face against his. The man
clasped him close and would fain have kept him there, for his well ordered
heart was deeply stirred.

Thus it was arranged.

Buck was invited to an interview, but when the silver half dollar was
laid in his grimy palm, and he was made to understand that others were to
follow, and that he was to step up into Mikky's place in the community of
the children while that luminary went to "college" to be educated, his face
wore a heavy frown. He held out the silver sphere as if it burned him.
What! Take money in exchange for Mikky's bright presence? Never!

It took a great deal of explanation to convince Buck that anything could be
better "fer de kids" than Mikky, their own Mikky, now and forever. He was
quick, however, to see where the good lay for Mikky, and after a few plain
statements from Mr. Endicott there was no further demur on the part of the
boy. Buck was willing to give up Mikky for Mikky's good but not for his
own. But it was a terrible sacrifice. The hard little face knotted itself
into a fierce expression when he came to say good-bye. The long scrawny
throat worked convulsively, the hands gripped each other savagely. It
was like handing Mikky over to another world than theirs, and though he
confidently promised to return to them so soon as the college should have
completed the mysterious process of education, and to live with them as of
yore, sleeping in Buck's box alongside, and taking care of the others when
the big alley kids grew troublesome, somehow an instinct taught them that
he would never return again. They had had him, and they would never
forget him, but he would grow into a being far above them. They looked
vindictively at the great rich man who had perpetrated this evil device of
a college life for their comrade. It was the old story of the helpless poor
against the powerful rich. Even heart-beats counted not against such power.
Mikky must go.

They went to the great station on the morning when Mikky was to depart
and stood shivering and forlorn until the train was called. They listened
sullenly while Professor Harkness told them that if they wished to be fit
to associate with their friend when he came out of college they must begin
at once to improve all their opportunities. First of all they must go to
school, and study hard, and then their friend in college would be proud to
call them friends. They did not think it worth while to tell the kindly but
ignorant professor that they had no time for school, and no clothes to wear
if they had the time or the inclination to go. Schools were everywhere,
free, of course, but it did not touch them. They lived in dark places and
casual crannies, like weeds or vermin. No one cared whether they went to
school. No one suggested it. They would have as soon thought of entering
a great mansion and insisting on their right to live there as to present
themselves at school. Why, they had to hustle for a mere existence. They
were the water rats, the bad boys, the embryo criminals for the next
generation. The problem, with any who thought of them was how to get rid of
them. But of course this man from another world did not understand. They
merely looked at him dully and wished he would walk away and leave Mikky to
them while he stayed. His presence made it seem as if their companion were
already gone from them.

It was hard, too, to see Mikky dressed like the fine boys on Fifth Avenue,
handsome trousers and coat, and a great thick overcoat, a hat on his
shining crown of hair that had always been guiltless of cap, thick
stockings and shining shoes on his feet that had always been bare and
soiled with the grime of the streets--gloves on his hands. This was a new
Mikky. "The kids" did not know him. In spite of their best efforts they
could not be natural. Great lumps arose in their throats, lumps that never
dared arise for hunger or cold or curses at home.

They stood helpless before their own consciousness, and Mikky, divining the
trouble with that exquisite keenness of a spirit sent from heaven to make
earth brighter, conceived the bright idea of giving each of his comrades
some article of his apparel as a remembrance. Mr. Endicott came upon
the scene just in time to keep Mikky from taking off his overcoat and
enveloping Buck in its elegant folds. He was eagerly telling them that Bobs
should have his undercoat, Jimmie his hat; they must take his gloves to
Jane, and there was nothing left for Sam but his stockings and shoes, but
he gave them all willingly. He seemed to see no reason why he could not
travel hatless and coatless, bare of foot and hand, for had he not gone
that way through all the years of his existence? It was a small thing to
do, for his friends whom he was leaving for a long time.

The bright face clouded when he was told he could not give these things
away, that it would not be fair to the kind professor to ask him to carry
with him a boy not properly dressed. But he smiled again trustfully when
Endicott promised to take the whole group to a clothing house and fit them
out.

They bade Mikky good-bye, pressing their grimy noses against the bars of
the station gate to watch their friend disappear from their bare little
lives.

Endicott himself felt like crying as he came back from seeing the boy
aboard the train. Somehow it went hard for him to feel, he should not meet
the bright smile that night when he went home.

But it was not the way of "the kids" to cry when tragedy fell among them.
They did not cry now--when he came back to them they regarded the banker
with lowering brows as the originator of their bereavement. They had no
faith in the promised clothing.

"Aw, what's he givin' us!" Buck had breathed under his breath. But to do
Buck credit he had not wanted to take Mikky's coat from him. When their
comrade went from them into another walk in life he must go proudly
apparelled.

Endicott led the huddled group away from the station, to a clothing house,
and amused himself by fitting them out. The garments were not of as fine
material, nor elegant a cut as those he had pleased himself by purchasing
for Mikky's outfit, but they were warm and strong and wonderful to their
eyes, and one by one the grimy urchins went into a little dressing room,
presently emerging with awe upon their faces to stand before a tall mirror
surveying themselves.

Endicott presently bade the little company farewell and with a conscience
at ease with himself and all mankind left them.

They issued from the clothing house with scared expressions and walked
solemnly a few blocks. Then Buck called them to a halt before a large plate
glass show-window.

"Take a good look at yersel's, kids," he ordered, "an' we'll go up to the
Park an' shine around, an' see how ther swells feels, then we'll go down to
Sheeny's an' sell 'em."

"Sell 'em! Can't we keep 'em?" pitifully demanded Bobs who had never felt
warm in winter in all his small life before.

"You wouldn't hev 'em long," sneered Buck. "That father o' yourn would hey
'em pawned 'afore night; You better enjoy 'em a while, an' then git the
money. It's safer!"

The children with wisdom born of their unhappy circumstances recognized
this truth. They surveyed themselves gravely in their fleeting grandeur and
then turned to walk up to the aristocratic part of town, a curious little
procession. They finished by rounding the Madison Avenue block, marched up
the alley, and gave the salute with new hats toward the window where their
Prince and Leader used to be. He was no longer there, but his memory was
about them, and the ceremony did their bursting little hearts good. Their
love for Mikky was the noblest thing that had so far entered their lives.

Jimmie suggested that they must let Jane see them before they disposed
forever of their elegant garments, so Bobs, minus coat, hat, stockings
and shoes was sent to bid her to a secluded retreat at the far end of the
alley. Bobs hurried back ahead of her little tapping crutch to don his fine
attire once more before she arrived.

Little Jane, sallow of face, unkempt of hair, tattered of clothing and
shivering in the cold twilight stood and watched the procession of pride as
it passed and repassed before her delighted eyes. The festivity might have
been prolonged but that the maudlin voice of Bobs' father reeling into the
alley struck terror to their hearts, and with small ceremony they scuttled
away to the pawnshop, leaving little Jane to hobble back alone to her
cellar and wonder how it would feel to wear a warm coat like one of those.

"Gee!" said Jimmie as they paused with one consent before the shop door,
and looked reluctantly down at their brief glory, "Gee! I wisht we could
keep jest one coat fer little Jane!"

"Couldn't we hide it some'ere's?" asked Sam, and they all looked at Buck.

Buck, deeply touched for his sister's sake, nodded.

"Keep Jim's," he said huskily, "it'll do her best."

Then the little procession filed proudly in and gave up their garments
to the human parasite who lived on the souls of other men, and came away
bearing the one coat they had saved for Janie, each treasuring a pitiful
bit of money which seemed a fortune in their eyes.

Little Jane received her gift with true spirit when it was presented,
skilfully hid it from her inhuman father, and declared that each boy should
have a turn at wearing the coat every Sunday at some safe hour, whereat
deep satisfaction, reigned among them. Their grandeur was not all departed
after all.

Meantime, Mikky, in his luxurious berth in a sleeper, smiled drowsily to
think of the fine new clothes that his friends must be wearing, and then
fell asleep to dream of little Starr's kisses on his closed eyelids.



CHAPTER IV


Into a new world came Mikky, a world of blue skies, song birds, and high,
tall pines with waving moss and dreamy atmosphere; a world of plenty to eat
and wear, and light and joy and ease.

Yet it was a most bewildering world to the boy, and for the first week he
stood off and looked at it questioningly, suspiciously. True, there were
no dark cellars or freezing streets, no drunken fathers or frightened
children, or blows, or hunger or privation; but this education he had come
to seek that he might go back to his own world and better it, was not a
garment one put on and exercised in so many times a day; it was not a
cup from which one drank, nor an atmosphere that one absorbed. It was a
strange, imperceptible thing got at in some mysterious way by a series of
vague struggles followed by sudden and almost alarming perceptions. For a
time it seemed to the boy, keen though his mind, and quick, that knowledge
was a thing only granted to the few, and his was a mind that would never
grasp it. How, for instance, did one know how to make just the right
figures under a line when one added a long perplexity of numbers? Mikky the
newsboy could tell like a flash how much change he needed to return to the
fat gentleman who occasionally gave him a five-dollar bill to change on
Broadway; but Mikky the scholar, though he knew figures, and was able to
study out with labor easy words in his papers, had never heard of adding up
figures in the way they did here, long rows of them on the blackboard. It
became necessary that this boy should have some private instruction before
he would be able to enter classes. Professor Harkness himself undertook the
task, and gradually revealed to the child's neglected understanding some of
the simple rudiments that would make his further progress possible. The sum
that was paid for his tuition made it quite necessary that the boy advance
reasonably, for his benefactor had made it understood that he might some
day visit the institution and see how he was getting on. So great pains
were taken to enlighten Mikky's darkness.

There was another thing that the boy could not understand, and that was the
discipline that ruled everywhere. He had always been a law unto himself,
his only care being to keep out of the way of those who would interfere
with this. Now he must rise with a bell, stay in his room until another
bell, eat at a bell, go to the hard bench in the schoolroom with another
bell, and even play ball when the recreation bell rang. It was hard on an
independent spirit to get used to all this, and while he had no mind to be
disorderly, he often broke forth into direct disobedience of the law from
sheer misunderstanding of the whole régime.

The boys' dormitory was presided over by a woman who, while thorough in
all housekeeping arrangements, had certainly mistaken her calling as a
substitute mother for boys. She kept their clothes in order, saw to it that
their rooms were aired, their stockings darned and their lights out at
exactly half-past nine, but the grimness of her countenance forbade any
familiarity, and she never thought of gaining the confidence of her rough,
but affectionate charges. There was no tenderness in her, and Mikky never
felt like smiling in her presence. He came and went with a sort of high,
unconscious superiority that almost irritated the woman, because she
was not great enough to see the unusual spirit of the child; and as a
consequence she did not win his heart.

But he did not miss the lack of motherliness in her, for he had never known
a mother and was not expecting it.

The professors he grew to like, some more, some less, always admiring most
those who seemed to him to deal in a fair and righteous manner with their
classes--fairness being judged by the code in use among "the kids" in New
York. But that was before he grew to know the president. After that his
code changed.

His first interview with that dignitary was on an afternoon when he had
been overheard by the matron to use vile language among the boys at the
noon hour. She hauled him up with her most severe manner, and gave him to
understand that he must answer to the president for his conduct.

As Mikky had no conception of his offence he went serenely to his fate
walking affably beside her, only wishing she would not look so sour. As
they crossed the campus to the president's house a blue jay flew overhead,
and a mocking bird trilled in a live oak near-by. The boy's face lighted
with joy and he laughed out gleefully, but the matron only looked the more
severe, for she thought him a hardened little sinner who was defying her
authority and laughing her to scorn. After that it was two years before she
could really believe anything good of Mikky.

The president was a noble-faced, white-haired scholar, with a firm tender
mouth, a brow of wisdom, and eyes of understanding. He was not the kind
who win by great athletic prowess, he was an old-fashioned gentleman, well
along in years, but young in heart. He looked at the child of the slums and
saw the angel in the clay.

He dismissed the matron with a pleasant assurance and took Mikky to an
inner office where he let the boy sit quietly waiting a few minutes till
he had finished writing a letter. If the pen halted and the kind eyes
furtively studied the beautiful face of the child, Mikky never knew it.

The president asked the boy to tell him what he had said, and Mikky, with
sweet assurance repeated innocently the terrible phrases he had used,
phrases which had been familiar to him since babyhood, conveying statements
of facts that were horrible, but nevertheless daily happenings in the
corner of the world where he had brought himself up.

With rare tact the president questioned the boy, until he made sure there
was no inherent rottenness in him: and then gently and kindly, but firmly
laid down the law and explained why it was right and necessary that there
should be a law. He spoke of the purity of God. Mikky knew nothing of God
and listened with quiet interest. The president talked of education and
culture and made matters very plain indeed. Then when the interview was
concluded and the man asked the boy for a pledge of good faith and clean
language from that time forth, Mikky's smile of approval blazed forth and
he laid his hand in that of the president readily enough, and went forth
from the room with a great secret admiration of the man with whom he had
just talked. The whole conversation had appealed to him deeply.

Mikky sought his room and laboriously spelled out with lately acquired
clumsiness a letter to Buck:

"Dear Buck we mussent yuz endecent langwidg enay moor ner swar. God donte
lyk it an' it ain't educated. I want you an' me to be educate. I ain't gone
to, donte yoo ner let de kids.--Mikky."

In due time, according to previous arrangement about the monthly allowance,
this letter reached Buck, and he tracked the doctor for two whole days
before he located him and lay in wait till he came out to his carriage,
when he made bold to hand over the letter to be read.

The doctor, deeply touched, translated as best he could. Buck's education
had been pitifully neglected. He watched the mystic paper in awe as the
doctor read.

"Wot's indecent langwidge?" he asked with his heavy frown.

The doctor took the opportunity to deliver a brief sermon on purity, and
Buck, without so much as an audible thank you, but with a thoughtful air
that pleased the doctor, took back his letter, stuffed it into his ragged
pocket and went on his way. The man watched him wistfully, wondering
whether Mikky's appeal could reach the hardened little sinner; and, sighing
at the wickedness of the world, went on his way grimly trying to make a few
things better.

That night "the kids" were gathered in front of little Janie's window,
for she was too weak to go out with them, and Buck delivered a lesson in
ethical culture. Whatever Mikky, their Prince, ordered, that must be done,
and Buck was doing his level best, although for the life of him he couldn't
see the sense in it. But thereafter none of "the kids" were allowed to use
certain words and phrases, and swearing gradually became eliminated from
their conversation. It would have been a curious study for a linguist to
observe just what words and phrases were cut out, and what were allowed to
flourish unrebuked; but nevertheless it was a reform, and Buck was doing
his best.

With his schoolmates Mikky had a curiously high position even from the
first. His clothes were good and he had always a little money to spend.
That had been one of Endicott's wishes that the boy should be like other
boys. It meant something among a group of boys, most of whom were the sons
of rich fathers, sent down to Florida on account of weak lungs or throats.
Moreover, he was brave beyond anything they had ever seen before, could
fight like a demon in defense of a smaller boy, and did not shrink from
pitching into a fellow twice his size. He could tell all about the great
base-ball and foot-ball games of New York City, knew the pitchers by name
and yet did not boast uncomfortably. He could swim like a duck and dive
fearlessly. He could outrun them all, by his lightness of foot, and was an
expert in gliding away from any hand that sought to hold him back. They
admired him from the first.

His peculiar street slang did not trouble them in the least, nor his lack
of class standing, though that presently began to be a thing of the past,
for Mikky, so soon as he understood the way, marched steadily, rapidly, up
the hill of knowledge, taking in everything that was handed out to him and
assimilating it. It began to look as if there would not be any left over
courses in the curriculum that might be given to some other deserving
youth. Mikky would need them all. The president and the professors
began presently to be deeply interested in this boy without a past; and
everywhere, with every one, Mikky's smile won his way; except with the
matron, who had not forgiven him that her recommendation of his instant
dismissal from the college had not been accepted.

The boys had not asked many questions about him, nor been told much. They
knew his father and mother were dead. They thought he had a rich guardian,
perhaps a fortune some day coming, they did not care. Mikky never spoke
about any of these things and there was a strange reticence about him that
made them dislike to ask him questions; even, when they came to know him
well. He was entered under the name of Endicott, because, on questioning
him Professor Harkness found he could lay no greater claim to any other
surname, and called him that until he could write to Mr. Endicott for
advice. He neglected to write at once and then, the name having become
fastened upon the boy, he thought it best to let the matter alone as there
was little likelihood of Mr. Endicott's coming down to the college, and
it could do no harm. He never stopped to think out possible future
complications and the boy became known as Michael Endicott.

But his companions, as boys will, thought the matter over, and rechristened
him "Angel"; and Angel, or Angel Endy he became, down to the end of his
college course.

One great delight of his new life was the out-of-door freedom he enjoyed. A
beautiful lake spread its silver sheet at the foot of the campus slope and
here the boy revelled in swimming and rowing. The whole country round
was filled with wonder to his city-bred eyes. He attached himself to the
teacher of natural sciences, and took long silent tramps for miles about.
They penetrated dense hammocks, gathering specimens of rare orchids and
exquisite flowers; they stood motionless and breathless for hours watching
and listening to some strange wild bird; they became the familiar of slimy
coiling serpents in dark bogs, and of green lizards and great black velvet
spiders; they brought home ravishing butterflies and moths of pale green
and gold and crimson. Mikky's room became a museum of curious and wonderful
things, and himself an authority on a wide and varied range of topics.

The new life with plenty of wholesome plain food, plenty of fresh air, long
nights of good sleep, and happy exercise were developing the young body
into strength and beauty, even as the study and contact, with life were
developing the mind. Mikky grew up tall and straight and strong. In all
the school, even among the older boys, there was none suppler, none so
perfectly developed. His face and form were beautiful as Adonis, and yet it
was no pink and white feminine beauty. There was strength, simplicity
and character in his face. With the acceptance of his new code of morals
according to the president, had grown gradually a certain look of high
moral purpose. No boy in his presence dared use language not up to the
standard. No boy with his knowledge dared do a mean or wrong thing. And
yet, in spite of this, not a boy in the school but admired him and was more
or less led by him. If he had been one whit less brave, one shade more
conscious of self and self's interests, one tiny bit conceited, this would
not have been. But from being a dangerous experiment in their midst Mikky
became known as a great influence for good. The teachers saw it and
marvelled. The matron saw it and finally, though grudgingly, accepted
it. The president saw it and rejoiced. The students saw it not, but
acknowledged it in their lives.

Mikky's flame of gold hair had grown more golden and flaming with the
years, so that when their ball team went to a near-by town to play, Mikky
was sighted by the crowd and pointed out conspicuously at once.

"Who is that boy with the hair?" some one would ask one of the team.

"That? Oh, that's the Angel! Wait till you see him play," would be the
reply. And he became known among outsiders as the Angel with the golden
hair. At a game a listener would hear:

"Oh, see! see! There'll be something doing now. The Angel's at the bat!"

Yet in spite of all this the boy lived a lonely life. Giving of himself
continually to those about him, receiving in return their love and
devotion, he yet felt in a great sense set apart from them all. Every now
and again some boy's father or mother, or both, would come down for a trip
through the South; or a sister or a little brother. Then that boy would be
excused from classes and go off with his parents for perhaps a whole week;
or they would come to visit him every day, and Michael would look on and
see the love light beaming in their eyes. That would never be for him. No
one had ever loved him in that way.

Sometimes he would close his eyes and try to get back in memory to the
time when he was shot; and the wonder of the soft bed, the sweet room, and
little Starr's kisses. But the years were multiplying now and room and
nurse and all were growing very dim. Only little Starr's kisses remained,
a delicate fragrance of baby love, the only kisses that the boy had ever
known. One day, when a classmate had been telling of the coming of his
father and what it would mean to him, Michael went into his room and
locking his door sat down and wrote a stiff school boy letter to his
benefactor, thanking him for all that he had done for him. It told briefly,
shyly of a faint realization of that from which he had been saved; it
showed a proper respect, and desire to make good, and it touched the heart
of the busy man who had almost forgotten about the boy, but it gave no hint
of the heart hunger which had prompted its writing.

The next winter, when Michael was seventeen, Delevan Endicott and his
daughter Starr took a flying trip through the South, and stopped for a
night and a day at the college.

The president told Michael of his expected coming. Professor Harkness had
gone north on some school business.

The boy received the news quietly enough, with one of his brilliant smiles,
but went to his room with a tumult of wonder, joy, and almost fear in his
heart. Would Mr. Endicott be like what he remembered, kind and interested
and helpful? Would he be pleased with the progress his protégé had made,
or would he be disappointed? Would there be any chance to ask after little
Starr? She was a baby still in the thoughts of the boy, yet of course she
must have grown. And so many things might have happened--she might not be
living now. No one would think or care to tell him.

Baby Starr! His beautiful baby! He exulted in the thought that he had flung
his little useless life, once, between her lovely presence and death! He
would do it again gladly now if that would repay all that her father had
done for him. Michael the youth was beginning to understand all that that
meant.

Those other friends of his, Buck, Jimmie, Bobs, and the rest, were still
enshrined in his faithful heart, though their memory had grown dimmer with
the full passing years. Faithfully every month the boy had sent Buck two
dollars from his pocket money, his heart swelling with pleasure that he was
helping those he loved, but only twice had any word come back from that far
city where he had left them. In answer to the letter which the doctor had
translated to them, there had come a brief laborious epistle, terse and
to the point, written with a stub of pencil on the corner of a piece of
wrapping paper, and addressed by a kindly clerk at the post office where
Buck bought the stamped envelope. It was the same clerk who usually paid
to the urchin his monthly money order, so he knew the address. For the
inditing of the letter Buck went to night school two whole weeks before he
could master enough letters and words to finish it to his satisfaction, It
read:

"Deer Mik WE WunT

"Buck."

The significant words filled the boy's heart with pride over his friend
whenever he thought of it, even after some time had passed. He had faith in
Buck. Somehow in his mind it seemed that Buck was growing and keeping pace
with him, and he never dreamed that if Buck should see him now he would not
recognize him.

When Mikky had been in Florida several years another letter had come from
Buck addressed in the same way, and little better written than the other.
Night school had proved too strenuous for Buck; besides, he felt he knew
enough for all practical purposes and it was not likely he would need to
write many letters. This, however, was an occasion that called for one.

"Dear Mikky Jany is DEAD sHe sayd tell yo hur LUV beeryd hur in owr kote we
giv hur ther wuz a angle wit pink wins on top uv the wite hurs an a wite
hors we got a lot uv flowers by yur money so yo needn sen no mor money kuz
we ken got long now til yo cum BUCK."

After that, though Michael had written as usual every month for some time
no reply had come, and the money orders had been returned to him as not
called for. Buck in his simplicity evidently took it for granted that Mikky
would not send the money and so came no more to the office, at least
that was the solution Michael put upon it, and deep down in his heart
he registered a vow to go and hunt up Buck the minute he was through at
college, and free to go back to New York and help his friends. Meantime,
though the years had dimmed those memories of his old life, and the days
went rapidly forward in study, he kept always in view his great intention
of one day going back to better his native community.

But the coming of Mr. Endicott was a great event to the boy. He could
scarcely sleep the night before the expected arrival.

It was just before the evening meal that the through train from New York
reached the station. Michael had been given the privilege of going down to
meet his benefactor.

Tall and straight and handsome he stood upon the platform as the train
rushed into the town, his cheeks glowing from excitement, his eyes bright
with anticipation, his cap in his hand, and the last rays of the setting
sun glowing in his golden hair, giving a touch like a halo round his head.
When Endicott saw him he exclaimed mentally over his strength and manly
beauty, and more than one weary tourist leaned from the open car window and
gazed, for there was ever something strange and strong and compelling about
Michael that reminded one of the beauty of an angel.



CHAPTER V


Michael met Mr. Endicott unembarrassed. His early life in New York had
given him a self-poise that nothing seemed to disturb; but when the father
turned to introduce his young daughter, the boy caught his breath and gazed
at her with deepening color, and intense delight.

She was here then, his Starr! She had come to see him, and she looked just
as he would have her look. He had not realized before that she would be
grown up, but of course she would, and the change in her was not so great
as to shock his memory. The clear white of her skin with its fresh coloring
was the same. New York life had not made it sallow. The roses were in her
cheeks as much as when she was a little child. Her eyes were the same, dark
and merry and looked at him straightly, unabashed, with the ease of a
girl trained by a society mother. The dark curls were there, only longer,
hanging to the slender waist and crowned with a fine wide Panama hat. She
gave him a little gloved hand and said: "I'm afraid I don't remember you
very well, but daddy has been telling me about you and I'm very glad to see
you."

She was only a little over twelve, but she spoke with ease and simplicity,
and for the first time in his life Michael felt conscious of himself. She
was so perfect, so lovely, so finished in every expression and movement.
She looked at him intelligently, politely curious, and no longer with the
baby eyes that wondered at nothing. He himself could not help wondering
what she must think of him, and for a few minutes he grew shy before her.

Mr. Endicott was surprised and pleased at the appearance of the boy. The
passing of the years had easily erased the tender feelings that Mikky the
little street urchin had stirred in his heart. This visit to the school and
college was not so much on account of the boy, to whom he had come to feel
he had discharged his full duty, but because of the repeated invitations on
the part of Professor Harkness and the president. It went not against him
to see the institution to which he had from time to time contributed, in
addition to his liberal allowance for the education of the boy. It was
perfectly convenient for him to stop, being on the regular route he had
laid out for his southern trip. His wife he had left at Palm Beach with her
fashionable friends; and with Starr as his companion, the father was
going through the orange belt on a tour of investigation with a view to
investments. It suited him perfectly to stop off and receive the thanks of
the college, therefore he stopped. Not that he was a heartless man, but
there were so many things in his world to make him forget, and a little
pleasant adulation is grateful to the most of us.

But when Michael in all his striking beauty stood before him with the
deference of a more than son, his heart suddenly gave a great leap back to
the day when he had first looked down upon the little white face on the
pillow; when the blue eyes had opened and Mikky had smiled. Michael smiled
now, and Endicott became aware at once of the subtle fascination of that
smile. And now the thought presented itself. "What if this were my son! how
proud I should be of him!"

Michael was indeed good to look upon even to the eyes of the city critic.
Endicott had taken care to leave orders with his tailor for a full outfit
to be sent to the boy, Spring and Fall, of suitable plain clothing for a
school boy, little realizing how unnecessary it would have been to have
dressed him so well. The tailor, nothing loth, had taken the measurements
which were sent to him from year to year in answer to the letter of the
firm, and had kept Michael looking as well as any rich man's son need
desire to look. Not that the boy knew nor realized. The clothes came to
him, like his board and tuition, and he took them well pleased and wrote
his best letter of thanks each year as Professor Harkness suggested; but he
had no idea that a part at least of his power of leadership with all the
boys of the school was due to his plain though stylishly cut garments. This
fact would not have counted for anything with boys who had been living in
Florida for years, for any plain decent clothes were thought fit, no matter
how they were cut; but the patronage of the school was at least one-half
made up of rich men's sons who were sent South for a few years to a milder
climate for their health. These as a rule, when they came, had exaggerated
ideas of the importance of clothes and prevailing modes.

And so it was that Michael did not look like a dowdy country boy to his
benefactor, but on the contrary presented a remarkable contrast with many
of the boys with whom Endicott was acquainted at home. There was something
about Michael even when he was a small lad that commanded marked attention
from all who saw him. This attention Endicott and his daughter gave now
as they walked beside him in the glow of the sunset, and listened as he
pointed out the various spots of interest in the little college town.

The institution boasted of no carriage, and the single horse-car that
travelled to the station belonged to the hotel and its guests. However, the
walk was not long, and gave the travellers an opportunity to breathe the
clear air and feel the stillness of the evening which was only emphasized
by each separate sound now and again.

Starr, as she walked on the inside of the board sidewalk, and looked down
at the small pink and white and crimson pea blossoms growing broad-cast,
and then up at the tallness of the great pines, felt a kind of awe stealing
upon her. The one day she had spent at Palm Beach had been so filled with
hotels and people and automobiles that she had had no opportunity to
realize the tropical nature of the land. But here in this quiet spot,
where the tiny station, the post office, the grocery, and a few scattered
dwellings with the lights of the great tourists' hotel gleaming in the
distance, seemed all there was of human habitation; and where the sky was
wide even to bewilderment; she seemed suddenly to realize the difference
from New York.

Michael had recovered his poise as soon as she no longer faced him, though
he was profoundly conscious of her presence there on the other side of her
father. But he talked easily and well. Yes, there was the hotel. It held
five hundred guests and was pretty well filled at this season of the
year. There were some distinguished people stopping there. The railroad
president's private car was on the track for a few hours last week. That
car over on the siding belonged to a great steel magnate. The other one had
brought the wife of a great inventor. Off there at the right toward the
sunset were the school and college buildings. No, they could not be seen,
until one passed the orange grove. Too bad there was no conveyance, but
the one little car turned off toward the hotel at this corner, and the one
beast of burden belonging to the college, the college Mule--Minus, by name,
because there were so many things that he was not--was lame to-day and
therefore could not be called into requisition to bring the guests from the
station.

Mr. Endicott felt that he was drawing nearer to nature in this quiet walk
than he had been since he was a boy and visited his grandfather's farm.
It rested and pleased him immensely, and he was charmed with the boy, his
protégé. His frank, simple conversation was free from all affectation on
the one hand, or from any hint of his low origin on the other hand. He felt
already that he had done a good thing in sending this boy down here to be
educated. It was worth the little money he had put into it.

Starr watched Michael shyly from the shelter of her father's side and
listened to him. He was not like the boys she met in New York. To begin
with he was remarkably fine looking, and added to that there was a mingled
strength and kindliness in his face, and above all about his smile, that
made her feel instinctively that he was nobler than most of them. She could
not think of a boy of her acquaintance who had a firm chin like that. This
boy had something about him that made the girl know instantly that he had
a greater purpose in life than his own pleasure. Not that she thought this
all out analytically. Starr had never learned to think. She only felt it
as she looked at him, and liked him at once. Moreover there was a sort of
glamour over the boy in her eyes, for her father had just been telling her
the story of how he had saved her life when she was barely two years
old. She felt a prideful proprietorship in him that made her shy in his
presence.

At the college president's gate, just on the edge of the campus, the
president came out with apologies. He had been detained on a bit of
business at the county seat five miles away, and had driven home with a
friend whose horse was very slow. He was sorry not to have done their
honored guests the courtesy of being at the station on their arrival.
Endicott walked with the president after the greetings, and Michael dropped
behind with Starr eagerly pointing out to her the buildings.

"That's the chapel, and beyond are the study and recitation rooms. The next
is the dining hall and servant's quarters, and over on that side of the
campus is our dormitory. My window looks down on the lake. Every morning I
go before breakfast for a swim."

"Oh, aren't you afraid of alligators?" exclaimed Starr shivering prettily.

Michael looked down at her fragile loveliness with a softened appreciation,
as one looks at the tender precious things of life that need protection.

"No," he answered without laughing, as some of the other boys would have
done at her girlish fears, "they never bother us here, and besides, I'm
sort of acquainted with them. I'm not afraid of them. Nothing will hurt you
if you understand it well enough to look out for its rights."

"Oh!" said Starr eyeing him in wonder. As if an alligator had rights! What
a strange, interesting boy. The idea of understanding an alligator. She was
about to ask how understanding the creature would keep one from being eaten
up when Michael pointed to the crimsoning West:

"See!" he said eagerly as if he were pointing to a loved scene, "the sun is
almost down. Don't you love to watch it? In a minute more it will be gone
and then it will be dark. Hear that evening bird? 'Tit-wiloo! Tit-wiloo!'
He sings sometimes late at night."

Starr followed his eager words, and saw the sun slipping, slipping like a
great ruby disc behind the fringe of palm and pine and oak that bordered
the little lake below the campus; saw the wild bird dart from the thicket
into the clear amber of the sky above, utter its sweet weird call, and
drop again into the fine brown shadows of the living picture; watched,
fascinated as the sun slipped lower, lower, to the half now, and now less
than half.

Breathless they both stood and let the two men go on ahead, while they
watched the wonder of the day turn into night. The brilliant liquid crimson
poured itself away to other lands, till only a rim of wonderful glowing
garnet remained; then, like a living thing dying into another life, it too
dropped away, and all was night.

"Why! How dark it is!" exclaimed Starr as she turned to her companion again
and found she could scarcely see his face. "Why! How queer! Where is the
twilight? Is anything the matter? I never saw it get dark all at once like
this!" She peered around into the strange velvet darkness with troubled
eyes.

Michael was all attention at once.

"No, that's all right," he assured her. "That's the way we do here. Almost
everybody from the north speaks about it at first. They can't understand
it. Its the difference in the position of the sun, nearer the equator, you
know. I'll show you all about it on the chart in the astronomical room if
you care to see. We haven't any twilight here. I should think twilight
would be queer. You wouldn't just know when night began and day ended. I
don't remember about it when I lived in New York. Look up there! That's the
evening star! It's come out for you to-night--to welcome another--Starr!"

Oh, Michael, of unknown origin! Whence came that skill of delicate
compliment, that grace of courtesy, that you, plucked from the slime of the
gutter, set apart from all sweetening influences of loving contact with,
womankind, should be able so gallantly and respectfully to guide the young
girl through the darkness, touching her little elbow distantly, tactfully,
reverently, exactly as the college president helps his wife across the
road on Sabbath to the church? Is it only instinct, come down from some
patrician ancestor of gallant ways and kind, or have you watched and caught
the knack from the noble scholar who is your ideal of all that is manly?

They walked silently through the warm darkness until they came within the
circle of light from the open door, and matron and teachers came out to
welcome the young stranger and bring her into the house.

Michael lingered for a moment by the door, watching her as she went with
the matron, her sweet face wreathed in smiles, the matron's thin arm around
her and a new and gentle look upon her severe countenance; watched until
they mounted the stairs out of sight; then he went out of doors.

Taking off his cap he stood reverently looking up at the star, communing
with it perhaps about the human Starr that had come back to him out of the
shadows of the past.

And she was a star. No one who saw her but acknowledged it. He marvelled as
he recalled the change wrought in the face of the matron and because of her
gentleness to the little girl forgave her all that she had not been to his
motherless boyhood.

Starr came down to dinner in a few minutes radiant in a little rosy frock
of soft Eastern silk, girdled with a fringed scarf of the same and a knot
of coral velvet in her hair. From the string of pearls about her white neck
to the dainty point of her slipper she was exquisite and Michael watched
her with open admiration; whereat the long lashes drooped shyly over the
girl's rosy cheeks and she was mightily pleased.

She sat at her father's side to the right of the president, with Michael
across the table. Well he bore the scrutiny of Endicott's keen eyes which
through all the conversation kept searching the intelligent face of the
boy.

The evening passed like a dream, and Michael lay awake again that night
thinking of all the pleasure in anticipation for the next day. At last, at
last he had some people who in a way he might call his own. They had cared
to come and see him after all the years! His heart swelled with joy and
gratitude.

The guests attended chapel exercises with the students the next morning,
and Michael saw with pride the eyes of his companions turn toward the
beautiful young girl, and look at him almost with envy. The color mounted
into his strong young face, but he sat quietly in his place and no one
would have guessed to look at him, the tumult that was running riot in his
veins. He felt it was the very happiest day of his life.

After chapel the guests were shown about the college buildings and campus.
The president and Endicott walked ahead, Michael behind with Starr,
answering her interested questions.

They had been through all the classrooms, the gymnasium, the dining hall,
servants' quarters and dormitories. They had visited the athletic ground,
the tennis courts, and gone down by the little lake, where Michael had
taken them out for a short row. Returning they were met by one of the
professors who suggested their going to hear some of the classes recite,
and as Mr. Endicott seemed interested they turned their steps toward the
recitation hall.

"I think," said Starr as they walked slowly across the campus together,
"that you must be a very brave boy. To think of you saving my life that way
when you were just a little fellow!"

She looked up, her pretty face full of childish feeling.

Michael looked down silently and smiled. He was wondering if any eyes were
ever as beautiful as those before him. He had never had even a little girl
look at him like that. The president's daughter was fat and a romp. She
never took time to look at the boys. The few other girls he knew, daughters
of the professors, were quiet and studious. They paid little attention to
the boys.

"I want to thank you for what you did," went on Starr, "only I can't think
of any words great enough to tell you how I feel about it. I wish there was
something I could do to show you how I thank you?"

She lifted her sweet eyes again to his. They were entering the large Hall
of the college now.

"This way," said Michael guiding her toward the chapel door which had just
swung to behind the two men.

"Isn't there something you would like that I could do for you?" persisted
Starr earnestly, following him into the empty chapel where Mr. Endicott and
the president stood looking at a tablet on the wall by the further door.

"Your father has done everything for me," said Michael sunnily, with a
characteristic sweep of his hand that seemed to include himself, his
garments and his mental outfit. He turned upon her his blazing smile that
spoke more eloquently than words could have done.

"Yes, but that is papa," said Starr half impatiently, softly stamping her
daintily shod foot. "He did that because of what you did for _him_ in
saving my life. I should like to do something to thank you for what you did
for _me_. I'm worth something to myself you know. Isn't there something I
could do for you."

She stood still, looking up into his face anxiously, her vivid childish
beauty seeming to catch all the brightness of the place and focus it
upon him. The two men had passed out of the further door and on to the
recitation rooms. The girl and boy were alone for the moment.

"You have done something for me, you did a great deal," he said, his voice
almost husky with boyish tenderness. "I think it was the greatest thing
that anybody ever did for me."

"I did something for you! When? What?" questioned Starr curiously.

"Yes," he said, "you did a great thing for me. Maybe you don't remember it,
but I do. It was when I was getting well from the shot there at your house,
and your nurse used to bring you up to play with me every day; and always
before you went away, you used to kiss me. I've never forgotten that."

He said it quite simply as if it were a common thing for a boy to say to a
girl. His voice was low as though the depths of his soul were stirred.

A flood of pretty color came into Starr's cheeks.

"Oh!" she said quite embarrassed at the turn of the conversation, "but that
was when I was a baby. I couldn't do that now. Girls don't kiss boys you
know. It wouldn't be considered proper."

"I know," said Michael, his own color heightening now, "I didn't mean that.
I wanted you to know how much you had done for me already. You don't know
what it is never to have been kissed by your mother, or any living soul.
Nobody ever kissed me in all my life that I know of but you."

He looked down at the little girl with such a grave, sweet expression, his
eyes so expressive of the long lonely years without woman's love, that
child though she was Starr seemed to understand, and her whole young soul
went forth in pity. Tears sprang to her eyes.

"Oh!" she said, "That is dreadful! Oh!--I don't care if it isn't proper--"

And before he knew what she was about to do the little girl tilted to her
tiptoes, put up her dainty hands, caught him about the neck and pressed a
warm eager kiss on his lips. Then she sprang away frightened, sped across
the room, and through the opposite door.

Michael stood still in a bewilderment of joy for the instant. The
compelling of her little hands, the pressure of her fresh lips still
lingered with him. A flood tide of glory swept over his whole being. There
were tears in his eyes, but he did not know it. He stood with bowed head as
though in a holy place. Nothing so sacred, so beautiful, had ever come into
his life. Her baby kisses had been half unconscious. This kiss was given of
her own free will, because she wanted to do something for him. He did not
attempt to understand the wonderful joy that surged through his heart and
pulsed in every fibre of his being. His lonely, unloved life was enough to
account for it, and he was only a boy with a brief knowledge of life; but
he knew enough to enshrine that kiss in his heart of hearts as a holy
thing, not even to be thought about carelessly.

When he roused himself to follow her she had disappeared. Her father and
the president were listening to a recitation, but she was nowhere to be
seen. She had gone to her own room. Michael went down by himself in a
thicket by the lake.

She met him shyly at dinner, with averted gaze and a glow on her cheeks, as
if half afraid of what she had done, but he reassured her with his eyes.
His glance seemed to promise he would never take advantage of what she had
done. His face wore an exalted look, as if he had been lifted above earth,
and Starr, looking at him wonderingly, was glad she had followed her
impulse.

They took a horseback ride to the college grove that afternoon, Mr.
Endicott, one of the professors, Starr and Michael. The president had
borrowed the horses from some friends.

Michael sat like a king upon his horse. He had ridden the college mule
bareback every summer, and riding seemed to be as natural to him as any
other sport. Starr had been to a New York riding school, and was accustomed
to taking her morning exercise with her father in the Park, or accompanied
by a footman; but she sat her Florida pony as happily as though he had been
a shiny, well-groomed steed of priceless value. Somehow it seemed to her
an unusually delightful experience to ride with this nice boy through the
beautiful shaded road of arching live-oaks richly draped with old gray
moss. Michael stopped by the roadside, where the shade was dense,
dismounted and plunged into the thicket, returning in a moment with two
or three beautiful orchids and some long vines of the wonderful yellow
jessamine whose exquisite perfume filled all the air about. He wreathed the
jessamine about the pony's neck, and Starr twined it about her hat and wore
the orchids in her belt.

Starr had never seen an orange grove before and took great delight in
the trees heavily loaded with fruit, green and yellow and set about by
blossoms. She tucked a spray of blossoms in her dark hair under the edge of
her hat, and Michael looked at her and smiled in admiration. Mr. Endicott,
glancing toward his daughter, caught the look, and was reminded of the time
when he had found the two children in his own drawing room being made
a show for his wife's guests, and sighed half in pleasure, half in
foreboding. What a beautiful pair they were to be sure, and what had the
future in store for his little girl?

On the way back they skirted another lake and Michael dismounted again to
bring an armful of great white magnolia blossoms, and dainty bay buds to
the wondering Starr; and then they rode slowly on through the wooded, road,
the boy telling tales of adventures here and there; pointing out a blue jay
or calling attention to the mocking bird's song.

"I wish you could be here next week," said the boy wistfully. "It will
be full moon then. There is no time to ride through this place like a
moonlight evening. It seems like fairyland then. The moonbeams make fairy
ladders of the jessamine vines."

"It must be beautiful," said Starr dreamily. Then they rode for a few
minutes in silence. They were coming to the end of the overarched avenue.
Ahead of them the sunlight shone clearly like the opening of a great tunnel
framed in living green. Suddenly Starr looked up gravely:

"I'm going to kiss you good-bye to-night when, we go away," she said
softly; and touching her pony lightly with the whip rode out into the
bright road; the boy, his heart leaping with joy, not far behind her.

Before supper Mr. Endicott had a talk with Michael that went further toward
making the fatherless boy feel that he had someone belonging to him than
anything that had happened yet.

"I think you have done enough for me, sir," said Michael respectfully
opening the conversation as Endicott came out to the porch where the boy
was waiting for him. "I think I ought to begin to earn my own living. I'm
old enough now--" and he held his head up proudly. "It's been very good of
you all these years--I never can repay you. I hope you will let me pay the
money back that you have spent on me, some day when, I can earn enough--"

Michael had been thinking this speech out ever since the president had told
him of Endicott's expected visit, but somehow it did not sound as well to
him when he said it as he had thought it would. It seemed the only right
thing to do when he planned it, but in spite of him as he looked into Mr.
Endicott's kind, keen eyes, his own fell in troubled silence. Had his words
sounded ungrateful? Had he seen a hurt look in the man's eyes?

"Son," said Endicott after a pause, and the word stirred the boy's heart
strangely, "son, I owe you a debt you never can repay. You gave me back my
little girl, flinging your own life into the chance as freely as if you
had another on hand for use any minute. I take it that I have at least a
father's right in you at any rate, and I mean to exercise it until you are
twenty-one. You must finish a college course first. When will that be?
Three years? They tell me you are doing well. The doctor wants to keep you
here to teach after you have graduated, but I had thought perhaps you would
like to come up to New York and have your chance. I'll give you a year or
two in business, whatever seems to be your bent when you are through, and
then we'll see. Which would you rather do? Or, perhaps you'd prefer to let
your decision rest until the time comes."

"I think I'm bound to go back to New York, sir," said Michael lifting his
head with that peculiar motion all his own, so like a challenge. "You know,
sir, you said I was to be educated so that I might help my friends. I have
learned of course that you meant it in a broader sense than just those few
boys, for one can help people anywhere; but still I feel as if it wouldn't
be right for me not to go back. I'm sure they'll expect me."

Endicott shrugged his shoulders half admiringly.

"Loyal to your old friends still? Well, that's commendable, but still I
fancy you'll scarcely find them congenial now. I wouldn't let them hang too
closely about you. They might become a nuisance. You have your way to make
in the world, you know."

Michael looked at his benefactor with troubled brows. Somehow the tone of
the man disturbed him.

"I promised," he said simply. Because there had bean so little in his
affections that promise had been cherished through the years, and meant
much to Michael. It stood for Principle and Loyalty in general.

"Oh, well, keep your promise, of course," said the man of the world easily.
"I fancy you will find the discharge of it a mere form."

A fellow student came across the campus.

"Endicott," he called, "have you seen Hallowell go toward the village
within a few minutes?"

"He just want, out the gate," responded Michael pleasantly.

Mr. Endicott looked up surprised.

"Is that the name by which you are known?"

"Endicott? Yes, sir, Michael Endicott. Was it not by your wish? I supposed
they had asked you. I had no other name that I knew."

"Ah! I didn't know," pondered Endicott.

There was silence for a moment.

"Would you,--shall I--do you dislike my having it?" asked the boy
delicately sensitive at once.

But the man looked up with something like tenderness in his smile.

"Keep it, son. I like it. I wish I had a boy like you. It is an old name
and a proud one. Be worthy of it."

"I will try, sir," said Michael, as if he were registering a vow.

There was an early supper for the guests and then Michael walked through
another sunset to the station with Starr. He carried a small box carefully
prepared in which reposed a tiny green and blue lizard for a parting gift.
She had watched the lizards scuttling away under the board sidewalks at
their approach, or coming suddenly to utter stillness, changing their
brilliant colors to gray like the fence boards that they might not be
observed. She was wonderfully interested in them, and was charmed with her
gift. The particular lizard in question was one that Michael had trained to
eat crumbs from his hand, and was quite tame.

The two said little as they walked along together. Each was feeling what a
happy time they had spent in one another's company.

"I shall write and tell you how the lizard is," said Starr laughing, "and
you will tell me all about the funny and interesting things you are doing,
won't you?"

"If--I may," said Michael wistfully.

At the station a New York acquaintance of the Endicotts' invited them to
ride in his private car which was on the side track waiting for the train
to pick them up. Michael helped Starr up the steps, and carried the lizard
into the car as well as the great sheaf of flowers she insisted on taking
with her.

There were some ladies inside who welcomed Starr effusively; and Michael,
suddenly abashed, laid down the flowers, lifted his cap and withdrew. A
sudden blank had come upon him. Starr was absorbed by people from another
world than his. He would have no opportunity to say good-bye--and she had
promised--But then of course he ought not to expect her to do that. She had
been very kind to him--

He was going down the steps now. An instant more and he would be on the
cinders of the track.

A sudden rush, a soft cry, caused him to pause on the second step of the
vestibuled car. It was Starr, standing just above him, and her eyes were
shining like her namesake the evening star.

"You were going without good-bye," she reproved, and her cheeks were rosy
red, but she stood her ground courageously. Placing a soft hand gently on
either cheek as he stood below her, his face almost on a level with hers,
she tilted his head toward her and touched his lips with her own red ones,
delicately as if a rose had swept them.

Simultaneously came the sound of the distant train.

"Good-bye, you nice, splendid boy!" breathed Starr, and waving her hand
darted inside the ear.

Mr. Endicott, out on the platform, still talking to the president, heard
the oncoming train and looked around for Michael. He saw him coming from
the car with his exalted look upon his face, his cap off, and the golden
beams of the sun again sending their halo like a nimbus over his hair.

Catching his hand heartily, he said:

"Son, I'm pleased with you. Keep it up, and come to me when you are ready.
I'll give you a start."

Michael gripped his hand and blundered out some words of thanks. Then the
train was upon them, and Endicott had to go.

The two younger ladies in the car, meantime, were plying Starr with
questions. "Who is that perfectly magnificent young man. Starr Endicott?
Why didn't you introduce him to us? I declare I never saw such a beautiful
face on any human being before."

A moment more and the private car was fastened to the train, and Starr
leaning from the window waved her tiny handkerchief until the train had
thundered away among the pines, and there was nothing left but the echo of
its sound. The sun was going down but it mattered not. There was sunshine
in the boy's heart. She was gone, his little Starr, but she had left the
memory of her soft kiss and her bright eyes; and some day, some day, when
he was done with college, he would see her again. Meantime he was content.



CHAPTER VI


The joy of loving kindness in his life, and a sense that somebody cared,
seemed to have the effect of stimulating Michael's mind to greater
energies. He studied with all his powers. Whatever he did he did with his
might, even his play.

The last year of his stay in Florida, a Department of Scientific Farming
was opened on a small scale. Michael presented himself as a student.

"What do you want of farming, Endicott?" asked the president, happening to
pass through the room on the first day of the teacher's meeting with his
students. "You can't use farming in New York."

There was perhaps in the kindly old president's mind a hope that the boy
would linger with them, for he had become attached to him in a silent,
undemonstrative sort of way.

"I might need it sometime," answered Michael, "and anyway I'd like to
understand it. You said the other day that no knowledge was ever wasted.
I'd like to know enough at least to tell somebody else."

The president smiled, wondered, and passed on. Michael continued in the
class, supplementing the study by a careful reading of all the Agricultural
magazines, and Government literature on the subject that came in his way.
Agriculture had had a strange fascination for him ever since a noted
speaker from the North had come that way and in an address to the students
told them that the new field for growth to-day lay in getting hack to
nature and cultivating the earth. It was characteristic of Michael that he
desired to know if that statement was true, and if so, why. Therefore he
studied.

The three years flew by as if by magic. Michael won honors not a few, and
the day came when he had completed his course, and as valedictorian of his
class, went up to the old chapel for his last commencement in the college.

He sat on the platform looking down on the kindly, uncritical audience that
had assembled for the exercises, and saw not a single face that had come
for his sake alone. Many were there who were interested in him because they
had known him through the years, and because he bore the reputation of
being the honor man of his class and the finest athlete in school. But that
was not like having some one of his very own who cared whether he did well
or not. He found himself wishing that even Buck might have been there;
Buck, the nearest to a brother he had ever had. Would Buck have cared that
he had won highest rank? Yes, he felt that Buck would have been proud of
him.

Michael had sent out three invitations to commencement, one to Mr.
Endicott, one to Starr, and one addressed to Buck, with the inner envelope
bearing the words "For Buck and 'the kids,'" but no response had come to
any of them. He had received back the one addressed to Buck with "Not
Called For" in big pink letters stamped across the corner. It had reached
him that morning, just before he came on the platform. He wished it had
not come till night; it gave him a lonely, almost forsaken feeling. He was
"educated" now, at least enough to know what he did not know; and there was
no one to care.

When Michael sat down after his oration amid a storm of hearty applause,
prolonged by his comrades into something like an ovation, some one handed
him a letter and a package. There had been a mistake made at the post
office in sorting the mail and these had not been put into the college box.
One of the professors going down later found them and brought them up.

The letter was from Mr. Endicott containing a businesslike line of
congratulations, a hope that the recipient would come to New York if he
still felt of that mind, and a check for a hundred dollars.

Michael looked at the check awesomely, re-read the letter carefully and
put both in his pocket. The package was tiny and addressed in Starr's
handwriting. Michael saved that till he should go to his room. He did not
want to open it before any curious eyes.

Starr's letters had been few and far between, girlish little epistles;
and the last year they had ceased altogether. Starr was busy with life;
finishing-school and dancing-school and music-lessons and good times.
Michael was a dim and pleasant vision to her.

The package contained a scarf-pin of exquisite workmanship. Starr had
pleased herself by picking out the very prettiest thing she could find. She
had her father's permission to spend as much as she liked on it. It was in
the form of an orchid, with a tiny diamond like a drop of dew on one petal.

Michael looked on it with wonder, the first suggestion of personal
adornment that had ever come to him. He saw the reminder of their day
together in the form of the orchid; studied the beautiful name, "Starr
Delevan Endicott," engraved upon the card; then put them carefully back
into their box and locked it into his bureau drawer. He would wear it the
first time he went to see Starr. He was very happy that day.

The week after college closed Michael drove the college mule to the county
seat, ten miles away, and bought a small trunk. It was not much of a trunk
but it was the best the town afforded. In this he packed all his worldly
possessions, bade good-bye to the president, and such of the professors as
had not already gone North for their vacations, took a long tramp to all
his old haunts, and boarded the midnight train for New York.

The boy had a feeling of independence which kept him from letting his
benefactor know of his intended arrival. He did not wish to make him any
unnecessary trouble, and though he had now been away from New York for
fourteen years, he felt a perfect assurance that he could find his way
about. There are some things that one may learn even at seven, that will
never be forgotten.

When Michael landed in New York he looked about him with vague bewilderment
for a moment. Then he started out with assurance to find a new spot for
himself in the world.

Suit-case he had not, nor any baggage but his trunk to hinder him. He had
discovered that the trunk could remain in the station for a day without
charge. The handsome raincoat and umbrella which had been a part of the
outfit the tailor had sent him that spring were all his encumbrances, so he
picked his way unhampered across Liberty Street, eyeing his former enemies,
the policemen, and every little urchin or newsboy with interest. Of course
Buck and the rest would have grown up and changed some; they wouldn't
likely be selling papers now--but--these were boys such as he had been. He
bought a paper of a little ragged fellow with a pinched face, and a strange
sensation came over him. When he left this city he was the newsboy, and now
he had money enough to buy a paper--and the education to read it! What a
difference! Not that he wanted the paper at present, though it might prove
interesting later, but he wanted the experience of buying it. It marked the
era of change in his life and made the contrast tremendous. Immediately his
real purpose in having an education, the uplift of his fellow-beings,
which had been most vague during the years, took form and leapt into vivid
interest, as he watched the little skinny legs of the newsboy nimbly
scrambling across the muddy street under the feet of horses, and between
automobiles, in imminent danger of his life.

Michael had thought it all out, just what he would do, and he proceeded to
carry out his purpose. He had no idea what a fine picture of well-groomed
youth and manly beauty he presented as he marched down the street. He
walked like a king, and New York abashed him no more now that he had come
back than it did before he went away. There are some spirits born that way.
He walked like a "gentleman, unafraid."

He had decided not to go to Mr. Endicott until he had found lodgings
somewhere. An innate delicacy had brought him to this decision. He would
not put one voluntary burden upon his kind benefactor. Born and bred in the
slums, whence came this fineness of feeling? Who shall say?

Michael threaded his way through the maze of traffic, instinct and vague
stirrings of memory guiding him to a quiet shabby street where he found a
dingy little room for a small price. The dangers that might have beset a
strange young man in the great city were materially lessened for him on
account of his wide reading. He had read up New York always wherever
he found an article or book or story that touched upon it; and without
realizing it he was well versed in details. He had even pondered for hours
over a map of New York that he found in the back of an old magazine,
comparing it with his faint memories, until he knew the location of things
with relation to one another pretty well. A stranger less versed might have
gotten into most undesirable quarters.

The boy looked around his new home with a strange sinking of heart, after
he had been out to get something to eat, and arranged for his trunk to be
sent to his room. It was very tiny and not over clean. The wall paper was
a dingy flowered affair quite ancient in design, and having to all
appearances far outlived a useful life. The one window looked out to brick
walls, chimneys and roofs. The noise of the city clattered in; the smells
and the heat made it almost stifling to the boy who had lived for thirteen
years in the sunshine of the South, and the freedom of the open.

The narrow bed looked uninviting, the bureau-washstand was of the cheapest,
and the reflection Michael saw in its warped mirror would have made any boy
with a particle of vanity actually suffer. Michael, however, was not vain.
He thought little about himself, but this room was depressing. The floor
was covered with a nondescript carpet faded and soiled beyond redemption,
and when his trunk was placed between the bureau and the bed there would be
scarcely room for the one wooden chair. It was not a hopeful outlook. The
boy took off his coat and sat down on the bed to whistle.

Life, grim, appalling, spectral-like, uprose before his mental vision,
and he spent a bad quarter of an hour trying to adjust himself to his
surroundings; his previous sunny philosophy having a tough tussle with the
sudden realities of things as they were. Then his trunk arrived.

It was like Michael to unpack it at once and put all his best philosophical
resolves into practice.

As he opened the trunk a whiff of the South, exhaled. He caught his breath
with a sudden keen, homesickness. He realized that his school days were
over, and all the sweetness and joy of that companionful life passed. He
had often felt alone in those days. He wondered at it now. He had never in
all his experience known such aloneness as now in this great strange city.

The last thing he had put into his trunk had been a branch of mammoth pine
needles. The breath of the tree brought back all that meant home to him. He
caught it up and buried his face in the plumy tassels.

The tray of the trunk was filled with flags, pennants, photographs, and
college paraphernalia. Eagerly he pulled them all out and spread them over
the bumpy little bed. Then he grabbed for his hat and rushed out. In a few
minutes he returned with a paper of tacks, another of pins, and a small
tack hammer. In an hour's time he had changed the atmosphere of the whole
place. Not an available inch of bare wall remained with, its ugly, dirty
wallpaper. College colors, pennants and flags were grouped about pictures,
and over the unwashed window was draped Florida moss. Here and there,
apparently fluttering on the moss or about the room, were fastened
beautiful specimens of semi-tropical moths and butterflies in the gaudiest
of colors. A small stuffed alligator reposed above the window, gazing
apathetically down, upon the scene. A larger alligator skin was tacked on
one wall. One or two queer bird's nests fastened to small branches hung
quite naturally here and there.

Michael threw down the hammer and sat down to survey his work, drawing a
breath of relief. He felt more at home now with the photographs of his
fellow students smiling down upon him. Opposite was the base-ball team,
frowning and sturdy; to the right the Glee Club with himself as their
leader; to the left a group of his classmates, with his special chum in the
midst. As he gazed at that kindly face in the middle he could almost hear
the friendly voice calling to him: "Come on, Angel! You're sure to win
out!"

Michael felt decidedly better, and fell to hanging up his clothes and
arranging his effects on clean papers in the rheumatic bureau drawers.
These were cramped quarters but would do for the present until he was sure
of earning some money, for he would not spend his little savings more than
he could help now and he would not longer be dependent upon the benefaction
of Mr. Endicott.

When his box of books arrived he would ask permission to put some shelves
over the window. Then he would feel quite cosy and at home.

So he cheered himself as he went about getting into his best garments, for
he intended to arrive at Madison Avenue about the time that his benefactor
reached home for the evening.

Michael knew little of New York ways, and less of the habits of society;
the few novels that had happened in his way being his only instructors on
the subject. He was going entirely on his dim memories of the habits of the
Endicott home during his brief stay there. As it happened Mr. Endicott was
at home when Michael arrived and the family were dining alone.

The boy was seated in the reception room gazing about him with the ease
of his habitual unconsciousness of self, when Endicott came down bringing
Starr with him. A second time the man of the world was deeply impressed
with the fine presence of this boy from obscurity. He did not look out of
place even in a New York drawing room. It was incredible; though of course
a large part of it was due to his city-made clothing. Still, that would not
by any means account for case of manner, graceful courtesy, and an instinct
for saying the right thing at the right time.

Endicott invited the lad to dine with them and Starr eagerly seconded the
invitation. Michael accepted as eagerly, and a few moments later found
himself seated at the elegantly appointed table by the side of a beautiful
and haughty woman who stared at him coldly, almost insultingly, and made
not one remark to him throughout the whole meal. The boy looked at her half
wonderingly. It almost seemed as if she intended to resent his presence,
yet of course that could not be. His idea of this whole family was the
highest. No one belonging to Starr could of course be aught but lovely of
spirit.

Starr herself seemed to feel the disapproval of her mother, and shrink into
herself, saying very little, but smiling shyly at Michael now and then when
her mother was not noticing her.

Starr was sixteen now, slender and lovely as she had given promise of
being. Michael watched her satisfied. At last he turned to the mother
sitting in her cold grandeur, and with the utmost earnestness and deference
in his voice said, his glance still half toward Starr:

"She is like you, and yet not!"

He said it gravely, as if it were a discovery of the utmost importance to
them both, and he felt sure it was the key to her heart, this admission of
his admiration of the beautiful girl.

Mrs. Endicott froze him with her glance.

From the roots of his hair down to the tips of his toes and back again
he felt it, that insulting resentment of his audacity in expressing any
opinion about her daughter; or in fact in having any opinion. For an
instant his self-possession deserted him, and his face flushed with mingled
emotions. Then he saw a look of distress on Starr's face as she struggled
to make reply for her silent mother:

"Yes, mamma and I are often said to resemble one another strongly," and
there was a tremble in Starr's voice that roused all the manliness in
the boy. He flung off the oppression that was settling down upon him and
listened attentively to what Endicott was saying, responding gracefully,
intelligently, and trying to make himself think that it was his
inexperience with ladies that had caused him to say something
inappropriate. Henceforth during the evening he made no more personal
remarks.

Endicott took the boy to his den after dinner, and later Starr slipped in
and they talked a little about their beautiful day in Florida together.
Starr asked him if he still rode and would like to ride with her in the
Park the next morning when she took her exercise, and it was arranged in
the presence of her father and with his full consent that Michael should
accompany her in place of the groom who usually attended her rides.

Mrs. Endicott came in as they were making this arrangement, and immediately
called Starr sharply out of the room.

After their withdrawal Endicott questioned the boy carefully about his
college course and his habits of living. He was pleased to hear that
Michael had been independent enough to secure lodgings before coming to his
house. It showed a spirit that was worth helping, though he told him that
he should have come straight to him.

As Endicott was going off on a business trip for a week he told Michael to
enjoy himself looking around the city during his absence, and on his return
present himself at the office at an appointed hour when he would put him in
the way of something that would start him in life.

Michael thanked him and went back to his hot little room on the fourth
floor, happy in spite of heat and dinginess and a certain homesick feeling.
Was he not to ride with Starr in the morning? He could hardly sleep for
thinking of it, and of all he had to say to her.



CHAPTER VII


When Michael presented himself at the appointed hour the next morning he
was shown into a small reception room by a maid, and there he waited for
a full half hour. At the end of that time he heard a discreet rustle of
garments in the distance, and a moment later, became aware of a cold stare
from the doorway. Mrs. Endicott in an elaborate morning frock was surveying
him fixedly through a jewelled lorgnette, her chin tilted contemptuously,
and an expression of supreme scorn upon her handsome features. Woman of the
world that she was, she must have noted the grace of his every movement as
he rose with his habitual courtesy to greet her. Yet for some reason this
only seemed to increase her dislike.

There was no welcoming hand held out in response to his good morning, and
no answering smile displaced the severity of the woman's expression as she
stood confronting the boy, slowly paralyzing him with her glance. Not a
word did she utter. She could convey her deepest meaning without words when
she chose.

But Michael was a lad of great self-control, and keen logical mind. He saw
no reason for the woman's attitude of rebuke, and concluded he must be
mistaken in it. Rallying his smile once more he asked:

"Is Miss Starr ready to ride, or have I come too early?"

Again the silence became impressive as the cold eyes looked him through,
before the thin lips opened.

"My daughter is not ready to ride--with YOU, this morning or at any other
time!"

"I beg your pardon, ma'am," said Michael now deeply astonished, and utterly
unable to fathom the woman's strange manner. "Have I misunderstood? I
thought she asked me to ride with her this morning. May I see her, please?"

"No, you may not see Miss Endicott!" said the cold voice. "And I have
come down to tell you that I consider your coming here at all a great
impertinence. Certainly my husband has fully discharged any obligations for
the slight service he is pleased to assume that you rendered a good many
years ago. I have always had my doubts as to whether you did not do more
harm than good at that time. Of course you were only a child and it was
impossible that you should have done any very heroic thing at that age. In
all probability if you had kept out of things the trouble never would have
happened, and your meddling simply gave you a wound and a soft bed for
a while. In my opinion you have had far more done for you than you ever
deserved, and I want you to understand that so far as my daughter is
concerned the obligation is discharged."

Michael had stood immovable while the cruel woman uttered her harangue, his
eyes growing wide with wonder and dark with a kind of manly shame for her
as she went on. When she paused for a moment she saw his face was white and
still like a statue, but there was something in the depth of his eyes that
held her in check.

With the utmost calm, and deference, although his voice rang with honest
indignation, Michael spoke:

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Endicott," he said, his tone clear and
attention-demanding, "I have never felt that there was the slightest
obligation resting upon any of this family for the trifling matter that
occurred when, as you say, I was a child. I feel that the obligation is
entirely the other way, of course, but I cannot understand what you mean.
How is my coming here at Mr. Endicott's invitation an impertinence?"

The woman looked at him contemptuously as though it were scarcely worth the
trouble to answer him, yet there was something about him that demanded an
answer.

"I suppose you are ignorant then," she answered cuttingly, "as you seem to
be honest. I will explain. You are not fit company for my daughter. It is
strange that you do not see that for yourself! A child of the slums, with
nothing but shame and disgrace for an inheritance, and brought up a pauper!
How could you expect to associate on a level with a gentleman's daughter?
If you have any respect for her whatever you should understand that it is
not for such as you to presume to call upon her and take her out riding. It
is commendable in you of course to have improved what opportunities have
been given you, but it is the height of ingratitude in a dependent to
presume upon kindness and take on the airs of an equal, and you might as
well understand first as last that you cannot do it. I simply will not have
you here. Do you understand?"

Michael stood as if rooted to the floor, horror and dismay growing in his
eyes; and stupor trickling through his veins. For a minute he stood after
she had ceased speaking, as though the full meaning of her words had been
slow to reach his consciousness. Yet outwardly his face was calm, and only
his eyes had seemed to change and widen and suffer as she spoke. Finally
his voice came to him:

"Madam, I did not know," he said in a stricken voice. "As you say, I am
ignorant." Then lifting his head with that fine motion of challenge to
the world that was characteristic of him whenever he had to face a hard
situation, his voice rang clear and undaunted:

"Madam, I beg your pardon. I shall not offend this way again. It was
because I did not understand. I would not hurt your daughter in any way,
for she has been the only beautiful thing that ever came into my life. But
I will never trouble her again."

The bow with which he left her and marched past her into the hall and out
of the great door where once his boy life had been freely laid down for her
child, could have been no more gracefully or dramatically effected if he
had been some great actor. It was natural, it was full of dignity and
reproach, and it left the lady feeling smaller and meaner than she had ever
felt in all of her rose-colored, velvet-lined existence. Somehow all the
contempt she had purposely prepared for the crushing of the lad, he had
suddenly flung from him as a hated garment and walked from her presence,
leaving it wrapped about herself.

"Well, really!" she gasped at last when she realized that he was gone and
her eloquence not half finished, "Well, really! What right had he to go
away like that without my permission. Impertinent to the end! One would
suppose he was a grand Duke. Such airs! I always told Delevan it was a
mistake to educate the masses. They simply don't know their place and will
not keep it."

Nevertheless, the selfish woman was much shaken. Michael had made her feel
somehow as if she had insulted a saint or a supernal being. She could not
forget how the light had sifted through his wonderful hair and glinted
through the depths of his great eyes, as he spoke those last words, and she
resented the ease with which he had left her presence. It had been too much
like the going of a victor, and not like one crushed back into his natural
place. She was cross all day in consequence.

Starr meanwhile was lingering upstairs waiting for Michael. She had been
purposely kept busy in a distant room at the back of the house by her
mother, and was not told of his coming. As an hour went by beyond the
appointed time she grew restless and disappointed; and then annoyed and
almost angry that he should have so easily forgotten her; but she did
not tell her mother, and the old Scotch nurse who would have been her
confidante had been sent on an errand to another part of the city.

Thus, as the days went by, and Michael came no more to the house, the girl
grew to think he did not want to come, and her slight disappointment and
mortification were succeeded by a haughty resentment, for her mother's
teaching had not been without some result in her character.

Michael had gone into the door of the Endicott mansion a boy with a light
heart and a happy vision of the future. He came out from there an hour
later, a man, with a heavy burden on his heart, and a blank vision of the
future. So much had the woman wrought.

As he walked from the house his bright head drooped, and his spirit was
troubled within him. He went as one in a terrible dream. His face had the
look of an angel newly turned out of paradise and for no fault of his own;
an angel who bowed to the Supreme mandate, but whose life was crushed
within him. People looked at him strangely, and wondered as they passed
him. It was as if Sorrow were embodied suddenly, and looking through
eyes intended for Love. For the first time Michael, beloved of all his
companions for his royal unselfishness, was thinking of himself.

Yet even so there was no selfishness in his thought. It was only as if that
which had always given him life and the breath of gladness had suddenly
been withdrawn from him, and left him panting, gasping in a wide and
unexpected emptiness.

Somehow he found his way to his room and locked the door.

Then the great spirit gave way and he flung himself upon the bed in supreme
exhaustion. He seemed not to have another atom of strength left wherewith,
to move or think or even breathe consciously. All his physical powers
had oozed away and deserted him, now in this great crisis when life's
foundations were shaken to their depths and nothing seemed to be any more.
He could not think it over or find a way out of the horror, he could only
lie and suffer it, fact by fact, as it came and menaced him, slowly,
cruelly throughout that length of day.

Gradually it became distinct and separated itself into thoughts so that he
could follow it, as if it were the separate parts of some great dragon come
to twine its coils about him and claw and crush and strangle the soul of
him.

First, there was the fact like a great knife which seemed to have severed
soul from body, the fact that he might not see Starr, or have aught to do
with her any more. So deeply had this interdiction taken hold upon him that
it seemed to him in his agitation he might no longer even think of her.

Next, following in stern and logical sequence, came the reason for this
severing of soul from all it knew and loved; the fact of his lowly birth.
Coming as it did, out of the blue of a trustful life that had never
questioned much about his origin but had sunnily taken life as a gift,
and thought little about self; with the bluntness and directness of an
un-lovingkindness, it had seemed to cut and back in every direction, all
that was left of either soul or body, so that there came no hope of ever
catching things together again.

That was the way it came over and over again as the boy without a friend in
the whole wide world to whom he could turn in his first great trouble, lay
and took it.

Gradually out of the blackness he began to think a little; think back to
his own beginning. Who was he? What was he? For the first time in his life,
though he knew life more than most of the boys with whom he had associated,
the thought of shame in connection with his own birth came to him, and
burrowed and scorched its way into his soul.

He might have thought of such a possibility before perhaps, had not his
very youngest years been hedged about by a beautiful fancy that sprang from
the brain of an old Irish woman in the slums, whose heart was wide as her
ways were devious, and who said one day when little Mikky had run her an
errand, "Shure, an' then Mikky, yer an angel sthraight frum hiven an' no
misthake. Yer no jest humans like the rist av us; ye must av dhropped doon
frum the skoy." And from that it had gone forth that Mikky was the child of
the sky, and that was why no one knew who were his parents.

The bit of a fancy had guarded the boy's weird babyhood, and influenced
more than he knew his own thought of existence, until life grew too full to
think much on it.

Out of the darkness and murk of the slums the soul of Mikky had climbed
high, and his ambitions reached up to the limitless blue above him. It had
never occurred to him once that there might be an embargo put upon his
upward movements. He had taken all others to be as free hearted and
generous as himself. Heir of all things, he had breathed the atmosphere of
culture as though it were his right. Now, he suddenly saw that he had no
business climbing. He had been seized just as he was about to mount a
glorious height from which he was sure other heights were visible, when a
rude hand had brushed him back and dropped him as though he had been some
crawling reptile, down, down, down, at the very bottom of things. And the
worst of all was that he might not climb back. He might look up, he might
know the way up again, but the honor in him--the only bit of the heights he
had carried back to the foot with him--forbade him to climb to the dizzy
heights of glory, for they belonged to others: those whom fortune favored,
and on whose escutcheon there was no taint of shame.

And why should it be that some souls should be more favored than others?
What had he, for instance, to do with his birth? He would not have chosen
shame, if shame there was. Yet shame or not he was branded with it for life
because his origin was enveloped in mystery. The natural conclusion was
that sin had had its part.

Then through the boy's mind there tumbled a confusion of questions all more
or less unanswerable, in the midst of which he slept.

He seemed to have wandered out into the open again with the pines he loved
above him, and underneath the springy needles with their slippery resinous
softness; and he lay looking up into the changeless blue that covered all
the heights, asking all the tumultuous questions that throbbed through his
heart, asking them of God.

Silently the noises of the city slunk away and dropped into the ceaseless
calm of the southland he had left. The breeze fanned his cheek, the
pines whispered, and a rippling bird song touched his soul with peace. A
quietness came down upon his troubled spirit, and he was satisfied to take
the burden that had been laid him and to bear it greatly. The peace was
upon him when he awoke, far into the next morning.

The hot June sun streamed into his stuffy room and fell aslant the bed. He
was sodden and heavy with the heat and the oppression of his garments. His
head ached, and he felt as nearly ill as he had ever felt in his life. The
spectre of the day before confronted him in all its torturing baldness, but
he faced it now and looked it squarely in the eyes. It was not conquered
yet, not by any means. The sharp pain of its newness was just as great, and
the deep conviction was still there that it was because of wrong that this
burden was laid upon him, but there was an adjustment of his soul to the
inevitable that there had not been at first.

The boy lay still for a few minutes looking out upon a new life in which
everything had to be readjusted to the idea of himself and his new
limitations. Heretofore in his mind there had been no height that was not
his for the climbing. Now, the heights were his, but he would not climb
because the heights themselves might be marred by his presence. It was
wrong, it was unfair, that things should be so; but they were so, and as
long as Sin and Wrong were in the world they would be so.

He must look upon life as he had looked upon every contest through his
education. There were always things to be borne, hard things, but that only
made the conquest greater. He must face this thing and win.

And what had he lost that had been his before? Not the beautiful girl who
had been the idol of his heart all these years. She was still there, alive
and well, and more beautiful than ever. His devotion might yet stand
between her and harm if need arose. True, he had lost the hope of
companionship with her, but that had been the growth of a day. He had never
had much of it before, nor expected it when he came North. It would have
been a glory and a joy beyond expression, but one could live without those
things and be true. There was some reason for it all somewhere in the
infinite he was sure.

It was not like the ordinary boy to philosophize in this way, but Michael
had never been an ordinary boy. Ever his soul had been open to the
greatness of the universe and sunny toward the most trying surroundings. He
had come out of the hardest struggle his soul had yet met, but he had come
out a man. There were lines about his pleasant mouth that had not been
there the day before, which spoke of strength and self-control. There were
new depths in his eyes as of one who had looked down, and seen things
unspeakable, having to number himself with the lowly.

A new thought came to him while he lay there trying to take in the change
that had come to him. The thought of his childhood companions, the little
waifs like himself who came from the offscourings of the earth. They had
loved him he knew. He recalled slowly, laboriously, little incidents from
his early history. They were dim and uncertain, many of them, but little
kindnesses stood out. A bad out on his foot once and how Buck had bathed it
and bound it up in dirty rags, doing double duty with the newspapers for
several days to save his friend from stepping. There was a bitter cold
night way back as far as he could remember when he had had bad luck, and
came among the others supperless and almost freezing. Buck had shared a
crust and found a warm boiler-room where they crawled out of sight and
slept. There were other incidents, still more blurred in his memory, but
enough to recall how loyal the whole little gang had been to him. He
saw once more their faces when they heard he was going away to college;
blanched with horror at the separation, lighting with pleasure when he
promised to return!

The years, how they had changed and separated! Where were they, these who
really belonged to him; who were his rightful companions? What had the
years done to them? And he had a duty toward them unperformed. How was it
that he had been in the city all these hours and not even thought of going
to look for those loyal souls who had stood by him so faithfully when
they were all mere babies? He must go at once. He had lost his head over
attempting to reach things that were not for him, and this shock had come
to set him straight.

Gravely he rose at last, these thoughts surging through his brain.

The heat, the stifling air of the room, his recent struggling and the
exhausting stupor made him reel dizzily as he got up, but his mettle was up
now and he set his lips and went about making himself neat. He longed for a
dip in the crystal waters of the little lake at college. The tiny wash-bowl
of his room proved a poor substitute with its tepid water and diminutive
towel.

He went out and breakfasted carefully as if it were a duty, and then, with
his map in his pocket, started out to find his old haunts.



CHAPTER VIII


Thirteen years in New York had brought many changes. Some of the
well-remembered landmarks were gone and new buildings in their places. A
prosperous looking saloon quite palatial in its entrance marked the corner
where he used to sell papers. It used to be a corner grocery store.
Saloons! Always and everywhere there were saloons! Michael looked at them
wonderingly. He had quite forgotten them in his exile, for the college
influence had barred them out from its vicinity.

The boy Mikky had been familiar enough with saloons, looking upon them as a
necessary evil, where drinking fathers spent the money that ought to have
bought their children food. He had been in and out of them commonly enough
selling his papers, warming his feet, and getting a crust now and then from
an uneaten bit on the lunch counter. Sometimes there had been glasses to
drain, but Mikky with his observing eyes had early decided that he would
have none of the stuff that sent men home to curse their little children.

College influence, while there had been little said on the subject, had
filled the boy with horror for saloons and drunkards. He stood appalled
now as he turned at last into an alley where familiar objects, doorsteps,
turnings, cellars, met his gaze, with grog shops all along the way and
sentinelling every corner.

A strange feeling came over him as memory stirred by long-forgotten sights
awoke. Was this really the place, and was that opening beyond the third
steps the very blind alley where Janie used to live? Things were so much
dirtier, so much, worse in every way than he remembered them.

He hurried on, not noticing the attention he was attracting from the
wretched little children in the gutters, though he scanned them all
eagerly, hurriedly, with the, wild idea that Buck and the rest might be
among them.

Yes, the alley was there, dark and ill-smelling as ever, and in its dim
recesses on a dirty step a woman's figure hunched; a figure he knew at once
that he had seen before and in that very spot. Who was she? What had they
called her? Sally? Aunt Sal?

He hurried up to where she sat looking curiously, apathetically at him; her
gray hair straggling down on her dirty cotton frock open at the neck over
shrivelled yellow skin; soiled old hands hanging carelessly over slatternly
garments; stockingless feet stuck into a great tattered pair of men's
shoes. Nothing seemed changed since he saw her last save that the hair had
been black then, and the skin not so wrinkled. Aunt Sally had been good
natured always, even when she was drunk; her husband, when he came home was
always drunk also, but never good natured. These things came back to the
boy as he stood looking down at the wreck of a woman before him.

The bleary eyes looked up unknowing, half resentful of his intrusion.

"Aunt Sally!" impulsively cried the boyish voice. "Aren't you Aunt Sally?"

The woman looked stupidly surprised.

"I be," she said thickly, "but wot's that to yous? I beant no hant o'
yourn."

"Don't you remember Mikky?" he asked almost anxiously, for now the feeling
had seized him that he must make her remember. He must find out if he could
whether anything was known of his origin. Perhaps she could help him.
Perhaps, after all, he might be able to trace his family, and find at least
no disgrace upon him.

"Mikky!" the woman repeated dully. She shook her head.

"Mikky!" she said again stolidly, "Wot's Mikky?"

"Don't you remember Mikky the little boy that sold papers and brought you
water sometimes? Once you gave me a drink of soup from your kettle. Think!"

A dim perception came into the sodden eyes.

"Thur wus a Mikky long ago," she mused. "He had hair like a h'angel, bless
the sweet chile; but he got shot an' never come back. That war long ago."

Michael took off his hat and the little light in the dark alley seemed to
catch and tangle in the gleam of his hair.

The old woman started as though she had seen a vision.

"The saints presarve us!" she cried aghast, shrinking back into her doorway
with raised hands, "an' who be yez? Yeh looks enough like the b'y to be the
father of 'im. He'd hair loike the verra sunshine itself. Who be yez? Spake
quick. Be ye man, b'y, er angel?"

There was something in the woman's tone that went to the heart of the
lonely boy, even while he recoiled from the repulsive creature before him.

"I am just Mikky, the boy, grown a little older," he said gently, "and I've
come back to see the place where I used to live, and find the people I used
to know."

"Y've lost yer way thin fer shure!" said the woman slightly recovering her
equilibrium. "The loikes uv yous nivver lived in dis place; fer ef yous
ain't angel you's gintulmun; an' no gintulmun ivver cum from the loikes o'
this. An' besoides, the b'y Mikky, I tel'd yez, was shot an' nivver comed
back no more. He's loikely up wid de angels where he b'longs."

"Yes, I was shot," said Michael, "but I wasn't killed. A good man sent me
to college, and I've just graduated and come back to look up my friends."

"Frinds, is it, ye'll be afther a findin'? Thin ye'd bist look ilsewhar,
fer thur's no one in this alley fit to be frinds with the loikes uv you. Ef
that's wot they does with b'ys at co-lidge a pity 'tis more uv um can't git
shot an' go there. But ef all yous tell is thrue, moi advice to yez is,
juist bate it as hoird as ivver yez kin out'n yere, an' don't yez nivver
set oies on this alley agin. Ye'd better stay to co-lidge all the days uv
yer loife than set fut here agin, fer juist let 'em got holt uv yez an'
they'll spile the pretty face uv ye. Look thar!" she pointed tragically
toward a wreck of humanity that reeled into the alley just then. "Would
yez loike to be loike that? My mon come home loike that ivvery day of his
loife, rist his bones, an' he nivver knowed whin he died."

Maudlin tears rolled down the poor creature's cheeks, for they could be no
tears of affection. Her man's departure from this life could have been
but a relief. Michael recoiled from the sight with a sickening sadness.
Nevertheless he meant to find out if this woman knew aught of his old
friends, or of his origin. He rallied his forces to answer her.

"I don't have to be like that," he said, "I've come down to look up my
friends I tell you, and I want you to tell me if you know anything about my
parents. Did you ever hear anything about me? Did anybody know who I was or
how I came to be here?"

The old woman looked at him only half comprehending, and tried to gather
her scattered faculties, but she shook her grizzled head hopelessly.

"I ain't niver laid oies on yea before, an' how cud I know whar yez cum
from, ner how yez cam to be here?" she answered.

He perceived that it would require patience to extract information from
this source.

"Try to think," he said more gently. "Can you remember if anyone ever
belonged to the little boy they called Mikky? Was there ever any mother or
father, or--anybody that belonged to him at all."

Again, she shook her head.

"Niver as Oi knows on. They said he just comed a wee babby to the coourt
a wanderin' with the other childer, with scarce a rag to his back, an' a
smile on him like the arch-angel, and some said as how he niver had no
father ner mother, but dthrapped sthraight frum the place where de angels
live."

"But did no one take care of him, or ever try to find out about him?"
questioned Michael wistfully.

"Foind out, is it? Whist! An' who would tak toime to foind out whin ther's
so miny uv their own. Mikky was allus welcome to a bite an' a sup ef any uv
us had it by. There wuz old Granny Bane with the rheumatiks. She gave him a
bed an' a bite now an' agin, till she died, an afther that he made out to
shift fer hisse'f. He was a moighty indepindint babby."

"But had he no other name? Mikky what? What was his whole name?"
pursued Michael with an eagerness that could not give up the sought-for
information.

The old woman only stared stupidly.

"Didn't he have any other name?" There was almost despair in his tone.

Another shake of the head.

"Juist Mikky!" she said and her eyes grew dull once more.

"Can you tell me if there are any other people living here now that used to
know Mikky? Are there any other men or women who might remember?"

"How kin Oi tell?" snarled the woman impatiently. "Oi can't be bothered."

Michael stood in troubled silence and the woman turned her head to watch a
neighbor coming down the street with a basket in her hand. It would seem
that her visitor interested her no longer. She called out some rough,
ribaldry to the woman who glanced up fiercely and deigned no further reply.
Then Michael tried again.

"Could you tell me of the boys who used to go with Mikky?"

"No, Oi can't," she answered crossly, "Oi can't be bothered. Oi don't know
who they was."

"There was Jimmie and Sam and Bobs and Buck. Surely you remember Buck, and
little Janie. Janie who died after Mikky went away?"

The bleared eyes turned full upon him again.

"Janie? Fine Oi remimber Janie. They had a white hurse to her, foiner'n any
iver cum to the coourt before. The b'ys stayed up two noights selling to
git the money fur it, an' Buck he stayed stiddy while she was aloive. Pity
she doied."

"Where is Buck?" demanded Michael with a sudden twinging of his heart
strings that seemed to bring back the old love and loyalty to his friend.
Buck had needed him perhaps all these years and he had not known.

"That's whot the _po_lice would like fer yez to answer, I'm thinkin'!"
laughed old Sal. "They wanted him bad fer breakin' into a house an' mos'
killin' the lady an' gittin' aff wid de jewl'ry. He beat it dat noight an'
ain't none o' us seen him these two year. He were a slick one, he were
awful smart at breakin' an' stealin'. Mebbe Jimmie knows, but Jimmie, he's
in jail, serving his time fer shootin' a man in the hand durin' a dhrunken
fight. Jimmie, he's no good. Never wuz. He's jest like his foither. Bobs,
he got both legs cut aff, bein' runned over by a big truck, and he doied in
the horspittle. Bobs he were better dead. He'd uv gone loike the rist. Sam,
he's round these parts mostly nights. Ye'll hev to come at noight ef yez
want to see him. Mebbe he knows more 'bout Buck'n he'll tell."

Sick at heart Michael put question, after question but no more information
was forthcoming and the old woman showed signs of impatience again.
Carefully noting what she said about Sam and getting a few facts as to the
best time and place to find him Michael turned and walked sadly out of the
alley. He did not see the alert eyes of old Sal following him, nor the keen
expression of her face as she stretched her neck to see which way he turned
as he left the alley. As soon as he was out of sight she shuffled down
from her doorstep to the corner and peered after him through the morning
sunshine. Then she went slowly, thoughtfully back to her doorstep.

"Now whut in the divil could he be a wantin' wid Buck an' Sammie?" she
muttered to herself. "All that story 'bout his bein' Mikky was puttin' it
on my eye, I'll giv warnin' to Sammie this night, an' ef Buck's in these
pairts he better git out west some'res. The _po_lice uv got onto 'im. But
hoiwiver did they know he knowed Mikky? Poor little angel Mikky! I guv him
the shtraight about Bobs an' Jimmie, fer they wuz beyant his troublin' but
he'll niver foind Sammie from the directin' I sayed."

Michael, sorrowing, horror-filled, conscience-stricken, took his way to a
restaurant and ate his dinner, thinking meanwhile what he could do for
the boys. Could he perhaps visit Jimmie in prison and make his life more
comfortable in little ways? Could he plan something for him when he should
come out? Could he help Sam? The old woman had said little about Sam's
condition. Michael thought he might likely by this time have built up a
nice little business for himself. Perhaps he had a prosperous news stand in
some frequented place. He looked forward eagerly to meeting him again. Sam
had always been a silent child dependent on the rest, but he was one of the
little gang and Michael's heart warmed toward his former comrade. It could
not be that he would find him so loathsome and repulsive as the old woman
Sal. She made him heart-sick. Just to think of drinking soup from her dirty
kettle! How could he have done it? And yet, he knew no better life then,
and he was hungry, and a little child.

So Michael mused, and all the time with a great heart-hunger to know what
had become of Buck. Could he and Sam together plan some way to find Buck
and help him out of his trouble? How could Buck have done anything so
dreadful? And yet even as he thought it he remembered that "pinching" had
not been a crime in his childhood days, not unless one was found out. How
had these principles, or lack of principles been replaced gradually in his
own life without his realizing it at all? It was all strange and wonderful.
Practically now he, Michael, had been made into a new creature since he
left New York, and so gradually, and pleasantly that he had not at all
realized the change that was going on in him.

Yet as he thought and marvelled there shot through him a thought like a
pang, that perhaps after all it had not been a good thing, this making him
into a new creature, with new desires and aims and hopes that could never
be fulfilled. Perhaps he would have been happier, better off, if he had
never been taken out of that environment and brought to appreciate so
keenly another one where he did not belong, and could never stay, since
this old environment was the one where he must stay whether he would or no.
He put the thought from him as unworthy at once, yet the sharpness of the
pang lingered and with it a vision of Starr's vivid face as he had seen her
two nights before in her father's home, before he knew that the door of
that home was shut upon him forever.

Michael passed the day in idly wandering about the city trying to piece
together his old knowledge, and the new, and know the city in which he had
come to dwell.

It was nearing midnight, when Michael, by the advice of old Sal, and
utterly fearless in his ignorance, entered the court where his babyhood had
been spent.

The alley was dark and murky with the humidity of the summer night; but
unlike the morning hours it was alive with a writhing, chattering, fighting
mass of humanity. Doorways were overflowing. The narrow alley itself seemed
fairly thronging with noisy, unhappy men and women. Hoarse laughs mingled
with rough cursing, shot through with an occasional scream. Stifling odors
lurked in cellar doorways and struck one full in the face unawares. Curses
seemed to be the setting for all conversation whether angry or jolly.
Babies tumbled in the gutter and older children fought over some scrap of
garbage.

Appalled, Michael halted and almost turned back. Then, remembering that
this was where he had come from,--where he belonged,--and that his duty,
his obligation, was to find hie friends, he went steadily forward.

There sat old Sal, a belligerent gleam in her small sodden eyes. Four men
on a step opposite, with a candle stood between them, were playing cards.
Sal muttered a word as Michael approached and the candle was suddenly
extinguished. It looked as if one had carelessly knocked it down to the
pavement, but the glare nickered into darkness and Michael could no longer
see the men's faces. He had wondered if one of them was Sam. But when he
rubbed his eyes and looked again in the darkness the four men were gone and
the step was occupied by two children holding a sleeping baby between them
and staring at him in open mouthed admiration.

The flickering weird light of the distant street lamps, the noise and
confusion, the odors and curses filled him anew with a desire to flee, but
he would not let himself turn back. Never had Michael turned from anything
that was his duty from fear or dislike of anything.

He tried to enter into conversation with old Sal again, but she would have
none of him. She had taken "a wee drapth" and was alert and suspicious. In
fact, the whole alley was on the alert for this elegant stranger who was
none of theirs, and who of course could have come but to spy on some one.
He wanted Sam, therefore Sam was hidden well and at that moment playing a
crafty game in the back of a cellar on the top of an old beer barrel, by
the light of a wavering candle; well guarded by sentinels all along
the difficult way. Michael could have no more found him under those
circumstances than he could have hoped to find a needle in a haystack the
size of the whole city of New York.

He wandered for two hours back and forth through the alley seeing sights
long since forgotten, hearing words unspeakable; following out this and
that suggestion of the interested bystanders; always coming back without
finding Sam. He had not yet comprehended the fact that he was not intended
to find Sam. He had taken these people into his confidence just as he had
always taken everyone into his confidence, and they were playing him false.
If they had been the dwellers on Fifth Avenue he would not have expected
them to be interested in him and his plans and desires; but these were his
very own people, at least the "ownest" he had in the world, and among them
he had once gone freely, confidently. He saw no reason why they should have
changed toward him, though he felt the antagonism in the atmosphere as the
night wore on, even as he had felt it in the Endicott house the day before.

Heartsick and baffled at last he took his way slowly, looking back many
times, and leaving many messages for Sam. He felt as if he simply could
not go hack to even so uncomfortable a bed an he called his own in his new
lodgings without having found some clew to his old comrades.

Standing at the corner of the alley opposite the flaunting lights of the
saloon he looked back upon the swarming darkness of the alley and his heart
filled with a great surging wave of pity, love, and sorrow. Almost at his
feet in a dark shadow of a doorway a tiny white-faced boy crouched fast
asleep on the stone threshold. It made him think of little Bobs, and his
own barren childhood, and a mist came before his eyes as he looked up, up
at the sky where the very stars seemed small and far away as if the sky had
nothing to do with this part of the earth.

"Oh, God!" he said under his breath. "Oh, God! I must do something for
them!"

And then as if the opportunity came with the prayer there reeled into view
a little group of people, three or four men and a woman.

The woman was talking in a high frightened voice and protesting. The men
caught hold of her roughly, laughing and flinging out coarse jests. Then
another man came stealing from the darkness of the alley and joined the
group, seizing the woman by the shoulders and speaking words to her too
vile for repetition. In terrible fear the girl turned, for Michael could
see, now that she was nearer, that she was but a young girl, and that she
was pretty. Instantly he thought of Starr and his whole soul rose in mighty
wrath that any man should dare treat any girl as he had seen these do. Then
the girl screamed and struggled to get away, crying: "It ain't true, it
ain't true! Lem'me go! I won't go with you--"

Instantly Michael was upon them, his powerful arms and supple body dashing
the men right and left. And because of the suddenness of the attack coming
from this most unexpected quarter,--for Michael had stood somewhat in the
shadow--and because of the cowardliness of all bullies, for the moment he
was able to prevail against all four, just long enough for the girl to slip
like a wraith from their grasp and disappear into the shadows.

Then when the men, dazed from surprise, though not seriously hurt,
discovered that their prey was gone and that a stranger from the higher
walks of life had frustrated their plans they fell upon him in their wrath.

Michael brave always, and well trained in athletics, parried their blows
for an instant, but the man, the one who had come from the shadows of
the alley, whose face was evil, stole up behind and stabbed him in the
shoulder. The sudden faintness that followed made him less capable of
defending himself. He felt he was losing his senses, and the next blow from
one of the men sent him reeling into the street where he fell heavily,
striking his head against the curbing. There was a loud cry of murder from
a woman's shrill voice, the padded rush of the villains into their holes,
the distant ring of a policeman's whistle, and then all was quiet as a city
night could be. Michael lay white and still with his face looking up to the
faint pitying moon so far away and his beautiful hair wet with the blood
that was flowing out on the pavement. There he lay on the edge of the world
that was his own and would not own him. He had come to his own and his own
received him not.



CHAPTER IX


Michael awoke in the hospital with a bandage around his head and a stinging
pain in his shoulder whenever he tried to move.

Back in his inner consciousness there sounded the last words he heard
before he fell, but he could not connect them with anything at first:

"Hit him again, Sam!"

Those were the words. What did they mean? Had he heard them or merely
dreamed them? And where was he?

A glance about the long room with its rows of white beds each with an
occupant answered his question. He closed his eyes again to be away from
all those other eyes and think.

Sam! He had been looking for Sam. Had Sam then come at last? Had Sam hit
him? Had Sam recognized him? Or was it another Sam?

But there was something queer the matter with his head, and he could not
think. He put up his right arm to feel the bandage and the pain in his
shoulder stung again. Somehow to his feverish fancy it seemed the sting of
Mrs. Endicott's words to him. He dropped his hand feebly and the nurse gave
him something in a spoon. Then half dreaming he fell asleep, with a vision
of Starr's face as he had seen her last.

Three weeks he lay upon that narrow white bed, and learned to face the
battalion of eyes from the other narrow beds around him; learned to
distinguish the quiet sounds of the marble lined room from the rumble of
the unknown city without; and when the nimble was the loudest his heart
ached with the thought of the alley and all the horrible sights and sounds
that seemed written in letters of fire across his spirit.

He learned to look upon the quiet monotonous world of ministrations as a
haven from the world outside into which he must presently go; and in his
weakened condition he shrank from the new life. It seemed to be so filled
with disappointments and burdens of sorrow.

But one night a man in his ward died and was carried, silent and covered
from the room. Some of his last moaning utterances had reached the ears of
his fellow sufferers with a swift vision of his life and his home, and his
mortal agony for the past, now that he was leaving it all.

That night Michael could not sleep, for the court and the alley, and the
whole of sunken humanity were pressing upon his heart. It seemed to be his
burden that he must give up all his life's hopes to bear. And there he had
it out with himself and accepted whatever should come to be his duty.

Meantime the wound on his head was healed, the golden halo had covered the
scar, and the cut in his shoulder, which had been only a flesh, wound, was
doing nicely. Michael, was allowed to sit up, and then to be about the room
for a day or two.

It was in those days of his sitting up when the sun which crept in for an
hour a day reached and touched to flame his wonderful hair, that the other
men of the ward began to notice him. He seemed to them all as somehow set
apart from the rest; one who was lifted above what held them down to sin
and earth. His countenance spoke of strength and self-control, the two
things that many of those men lacked, either through constant sinning or
through constant fighting with poverty and trouble, and so, as he began to
get about they sent for him to come to their bedsides, and as they talked
one and another of them poured out his separate tale of sorrow and woe,
till Michael felt he could bear no more. He longed for power, great power
to help; power to put these wretched men on their feet again to lead a new
life, power to crush some of the demons in human form who were grinding
them down to earth. Oh! for money and knowledge and authority!

Here was a man who had lost both legs in a defective machine he was running
in a factory. He was a skilled workman and had a wife and three little
ones. But he was useless now at his trade. No one wanted a man with no
legs. He might better be dead. Damages? No, there was no hope of that. He
had accepted three hundred dollars to sign a release. He had to. His wife
and children were starving and they must have the money then or perish.
There was no other way. Besides, what hope had he in fighting a great
corporation? He was a poor man, a stranger in this country, with no
friends. The company had plenty who were willing to swear it was the man's
own fault.

Yonder was another who had tried to asphyxiate himself by turning on the
gas in his wretched little boarding-house room because he had lost his
position on account of ill health, and the firm wished to put a younger man
in his place. He had almost succeeded in taking himself out of this life.

Next him was one, horribly burned by molten metal which he had been
compelled to carry without adequate precautions, because it was a cheaper
method of handling the stuff and men cost less than machinery. You could
always get more men.

The man across from him was wasted away from insufficient food. He had been
out of work for months, and what little money he could pick up in odd jobs
had gone mostly to his wife and children.

And so it was throughout the ward. On almost every life sin,--somebody's
sin,--had left its mark. There were one or two cheery souls who, though
poor, were blest with friends and a home of some kind and were looking
forward to a speedy restoration; but these were the exception. Nearly all
the others blamed someone else for their unhappy condition and in nearly
every case someone else was undoubtedly to blame, even though in most cases
each individual had been also somewhat responsible.

All this Michael gradually learned, as he began his practical study of
sociology. As he learned story after story, and began to formulate the
facts of each he came to three conclusions: First, that there was not room
enough in the city for these people to have a fair chance at the great and
beautiful things of life. Second, that the people of the cities who had
the good things were getting them all for themselves and cared not a straw
whether the others went without. Third, that somebody ought to be doing
something about it, and why not he?

Of course it was absurd for a mere boy just out of college, with scarcely
a cent to his name--and not a whole name to call his own--to think of
attempting to attack the great problem of the people single-handed; but
still he felt he was called to do it, and he meant to try.

He hadn't an idea at this time whether anybody else had seen it just
this way or not. He had read a little of city missions, and charitable
enterprises, but they had scarcely reached his inner consciousness. His
impression gathered from such desultory reading had been that the effort
in that direction was sporadic and ineffective. And so, in his gigantic
ignorance and egotism, yet with his exquisite sensitiveness to the inward
call, Michael henceforth set himself to espouse the cause of the People.

Was he not one of them? Had he not been born there that he might be one of
them, and know what they had to suffer? Were they not his kindred so far as
he had any kindred? Had he not been educated and brought into contact with
higher things that he might know what these other human souls might be if
they had the opportunity? If he had known a little more about the subject
he would have added "and if they _would_." But he did not; he supposed all
souls were as willing to be uplifted as he had been.

Michael went out from the hospital feeling that his life work was before
him. The solemn pledge he had taken as a little child to return and help
his former companions became a voluntary pledge of his young manhood. He
knew very little indeed about the matter, but he felt much, and he was
determined to do, wherever the way opened. He had no doubt but that the way
would open.

"Now young man, take care of yourself," said the doctor in parting from
his patient a few days later, "and for the land's sake keep away from back
alleys at night. When you know a little more about New York you'll learn
that it's best to keep just as far away from such places as possible. Don't
go fooling around under the impression that you can convert any of those
blackguards. They need to be blown up, every one of them, and the place
obliterated. Mind, I say, keep away from them."

Michael smiled and thanked the doctor, and walked unsteadily down the
hospital steps on feet that were strangely wobbly for him. But Michael did
not intend to obey the doctor. He had been turning the matter over in his
mind and he had a plan. And that very night about ten o'clock he went back
to the alley.

Old Sal was sitting on her doorstep a little more intoxicated than the last
time, and the young man's sudden appearance by her side startled her into
an Irish howl.

"The saints presarve us!" she cried tottering to her feet. "He's cum back
to us agin, sure he has! There's no killin' him! He's an angel shure. B'ys
rin! bate it! bate it! The angel's here agin!"

There was a sound of scurrying feet and the place seemed to suddenly clear
of the children that had been under foot. One or two scowling men, or
curiously apathetic women in whose eyes the light of life had died and been
left unburied, peered from dark doorways.

Michael stood quietly until the howling of Sal had subsided, and then he
spoke in a clear tone.

"Can you tell if Sam has been around here to-night? Is he anywhere near
here now?"

There was no answer for a minute but some one growled out the information
that he might and then he might not have been. Some one else said he had
just gone away but they didn't know where. Michael perceived that it was a
good deal as it had been before.

"I have brought a message for him, a letter," he said, and he spoke so that
anyone near-by might hear. "Will you give it to him when he comes. He will
want to see it, I am sure. It is important. I think he will be glad to get
it. It contains good news about an old friend of his."

He held out the letter courteously to old Sal, and she looked down at its
white crispness as though it had been a message from the lower regions sent
to call her to judgment. A letter, white, square-cornered and clean, with
clear, firm inscription, had never come within her gaze before. Old Sal
had never learned to read. The writing meant nothing to her, but the whole
letter represented a mystic communication from another world.

Instinctively the neighbors gathered nearer to look at the letter, and Sal,
seeing herself the centre of observation, reached forward a dirty hand
wrapped in a corner of her apron, and took the envelope as though it had
been hot, eyeing it all the while fearfully.

Then with his easy bow and touching his hat to her as though she had been a
queen, Michael turned and walked away out of the alley.

Old Sal stood watching him, a kind of wistful wonder in her bleary eyes.
No gentleman had ever tipped his hat to her, and no man had ever done her
reverence. From her little childhood she had been brought up to forfeit the
respect of men. Perhaps it had never entered her dull mind before that she
might have been aught but what she was; and that men might have given her
honor.

The neighbors too were awed for the moment and stood watching in silence,
till when Michael turned the corner out of sight, Sal exclaimed:

"Now that's the angel, shure! No gintlemin would iver uv tipped his 'at to
the loikes of Sal. Saints presarve us! That we should hev an angel in this
alley!"

When Michael reached his lodging he found that he was trembling so from
weakness and excitement that he could scarcely drag himself up the three
flights to his room. So had his splendid strength been reduced by trouble
and the fever that came with his wounds.

He lay down weakly and tried to think. Now he had done his best to find
Sam. If Sam did not come in answer to his letter he must wait until he
found him. He would not give up. So he fell asleep with the burden on his
heart.

The letter was as follows:

"Dear Sam:

"You can't have forgotten Mikky who slept with you in the boiler room, and
with whom you shared your crusts. You remember I promised when I went away
to college I would come back and try to make things better for you all? And
now I have come and I am anxious to find the fellows and see what we can do
together to make life better in the old alley and make up for some of the
hard times when we were children. I have been down to the alley but can get
no trace of you. I spent the best part of one night hunting you and then a
slight accident put me in the hospital for a few days, but I am well now
and am anxious to find you all. I want to talk over old times, and find out
where Buck and Jim are; and hear all about Janie and little Bobs.

"I am going to leave this letter with Aunt Sally, hoping she will give it
to you. I have given my address below and should be glad to have you come
and see me at my room, or if you would prefer I will meet you wherever you
say, and we will go together and have something to eat to celebrate.

"Hoping to hear from you very soon, I am as always,

"Your brother and friend,

"MIKKY.

"Address, Michael Endicott,
No ---- West 23rd St."

A few days later a begrimed envelope addressed in pencil was brought to the
door by the postman. Michael with sinking heart opened it. It read:

"MiKY ef yo be reely hym cum to KelLys karner at 10 tumoroW nite. Ef you
are mIK youz thee old whissel an doante bring no une wit yer Ef yO du I
wunt be thar.

"SAM."

Michael seated on his lumpy bed puzzled this out, word by word, until he
made fairly good sense of it. He was to go to Kelly's corner. How memory
stirred at the words. Kelly's corner was beyond the first turn of the
alley, it was at the extreme end of an alley within an alley, and had
no outlet except through Kelly's saloon. Only the "gang" knew the name,
"Kelly's Corner," for it was not really a corner at all only a sort of
pocket or hiding place so entitled by Buck for his own and "de kids"
private purpose. If Michael had been at all inclined to be a coward since
his recent hard usage in the vicinity of the alley he would have kept
away from Kelly's corner, for once in there with enemies, and alone, no
policeman's club, nor hospital ambulance would ever come to help. The
things that happened at Kelly's corner never got into the newspapers.

Memory and instinct combined to make this perfectly dear to Michael's mind,
and if he needed no other warning those words of the letter, "Don't bring
no one with you. If you do, I won't be there," were sufficient to make him
wise.

Yet Michael never so much as thought of not keeping the appointment. His
business was to find Sam, and it mattered as little to him now that danger
stood in the way as it had the day when he flung his neglected little body
in front of Starr Endicott and saved her from the assassin's bullet. He
would go, of course, and go alone. Neither did it occur to him to take
the ordinary precaution of leaving his name and whereabouts at the police
station to be searched for in case he did not turn up in reasonable time.
It was all in the day's work and Michael thought no more about the possible
peril he was facing than he had thought of broken limbs and bloody noses
the last hour before a football scrimmage.

There was something else in the letter that interested Michael and stirred
the old memories. That old whistle! Of course he had not forgotten that,
although he had not used it much among his college companions. It was a
strange, weird, penetrating sound, between a call and whistle. He and Buck
had made it up between them. It was their old signal. When Michael went to
college he had held it sacred as belonging strictly to his old friends,
and never, unless by himself in the woods where none but the birds and the
trees could hear, had he let its echoes ring. Sometimes he had flung it
forth and startled the mocking birds, and once he had let it ring into the
midst of his astonished comrades in Florida when he was hidden from their
view and they knew not who had made the sound. He tried it now softly, and
then louder and louder, until with sudden fear he stopped lest his landlady
should happen to come up that way and think him insane. But undoubtedly he
could give the old signal.

The next night at precisely ten o'clock Michael's ringing step sounded down
the alley; firm, decisive, secure. Such assurance must Daniel have worn as
he faced the den of lions; and so went the three Hebrew children into the
fiery furnace.

"It's him! It's the angel!" whispered old Sal who was watching. "Oi tould
yez he'd come fer shure!"

"He's got his nerve with him!" murmured a girl with bold eyes and a coarse
kind of beauty, as she drew further back into the shadow of the doorway.
"He ain't comin' out again so pretty I guess. Not if Sam don't like. Mebbe
he ain't comin' out 'tall!"

"Angels has ways, me darlint!" chuckled Sal. "He'll come back al roight,
ye'll see!"

On walked Michael, down the alley to the narrow opening that to the
uninitiated was not an opening between the buildings at all, and slipped in
the old way. He had thought it all out in the night. He was sure he knew
just how far beyond Sal's house it was; on into the fetid air of the close
dark place, the air that struck him in the face like a hot, wet blanket as
he kept on.

It was very still all about when he reached the point known as Kelly's
corner. It had not been so as he remembered it. It had been the place of
plots, the hatching of murders and robberies. Had it so changed that it was
still to-night? He stood for an instant hesitating. Should he wait a while,
or knock on some door? Would it be any use to call?

But the instinct of the slums was upon him again, his birthright. It seemed
to drop upon him from the atmosphere, a sort of stealthy patience. He would
wait. Something would come. He must do as he had done with the birds of the
forest when he wished to watch their habits. He must stand still unafraid
and show that he was harmless.

So he stood three, perhaps five minutes, then softly at first and gradually
growing clearer, he gave the call that he had given years before, a little
barefoot, hungry child in that very spot many times.

The echo died away. There was nothing to make him know that a group of
curious alley-dwellers huddled at the mouth of the trap in which he stood,
watching with eyes accustomed to the darkness, to see what would happen; to
block his escape if escape should be attempted.

Then out of the silence a sigh seemed to come, and out of the shadows one
shadow unfolded itself and came forward till it stood beside him. Still
Michael did not stir; but softly, through, half-open lips, breathed the
signal once more.

Sibilant, rougher, with a hint of menace as it issued forth the signal was
answered this time, and with a thrill of wonder the mantle of the old life
fell upon Michael once more. He was Mikky--only grown more wise. Almost the
old vernacular came to his tongue.

"Hi! Sam! That you?"

The figure in the darkness seemed to stiffen with sudden attention. The
voice was like, and yet not like the Mikky of old.

"Wot yous want?" questioned a voice gruffly.

"I want you, Sam. I want to see if you look as you used to, and I want to
know about the boys. Can't we go where there's light and talk a little?
I've been days hunting you. I've come back because I promised, you know.
You expected me to come back some day, didn't you, Sam?"

Michael was surprised to find how eager he was for the answer to this
question.

"Aw, what ye givin' us?" responded the suspicious Sam. "D'yous s'pose I
b'lieve all that gag about yer comin' here to he'p we'uns? Wot would a guy
like yous wid all dem togs an' all dem fine looks want wid us? Yous has got
above us. Yous ain't no good to us no more."

Sam scratched a match on his trousers and lit an old pipe that he held
between his teeth, but as the match flared up and showed his own face a
lowering brow, shifty eyes, a swarthy, unkempt visage, sullen and sly, the
shifty eyes were not looking at the pipe but up at the face above him which
shone out white and fine with its gold halo in the little gleam in the dark
court. The watchers crowding at the opening of the passage saw his face,
and almost fancied there were soft shadowy wings behind him. It was thus
with old Sal's help that Michael got his name again, "The Angel." It was
thus he became the "angel of the alley."

"Sam!" he said, and his voice was very gentle, although he was perfectly
conscious that behind him there were two more shadows of men and more might
be lurking in the dark corners. "Sam, if you remember me you will know I
couldn't forget; and I do care. I came back to find you. I've always meant
to come, all the time I was in college. I've had it in mind to come back
here and make some of the hard things easier for"--he hesitated, and--"for
_us_ all."

"How did yous figger yous was goin' to do that?" Sam asked, his little
shifty eyes narrowing on Michael, as he purposely struck another match to
watch the effect of his words.

Then Michael's wonderful smile lit up his face, and Sam, however much he
may have pretended to doubt, knew in his deepest heart that this was the
same Mikky of old. There was no mistaking that smile.

"I shall need you to help me in figuring that out, Sam. That's why I was so
anxious to find you."

A curious grunt from behind Michael warned him that the audience was being
amused at the expense of Sam, Sam's brows were lowering.

"Humph!" he said, ungraciously striking a third match just in time to watch
Michael's face. "Where's yer pile?"

"What?"

"Got the dough?"

"Oh," said Michael comprehendingly, "no, I haven't got money, Sam. I've
only my education."

"An' wot good's it, I'd like to know. Tell me those?"

"So much good that I can't tell it all in one short talk," answered Michael
steadily. "We'll have to get better acquainted and then I hope I can make
you understand how it has helped. Now tell me about the others. Where is
Buck?"

There was a dead silence.

"It's hard to say!" at last muttered Sam irresponsibly.

"Don't you know? Haven't you any kind of an idea, Sam? I'd so like to hunt
him up."

The question seemed to have produced a tensity in the very atmosphere,
Michael felt it.

"I might, an' then agin' I might not," answered Sam in that tone of his
that barred the way for further questions.

"Couldn't you and I find him and--and--help him, Sam? Aunt Sally said he
was in trouble."

Another match was scratched and held close to his face while the narrow
eyes of Sam seemed to pierce his very soul before Sam answered with an ugly
laugh.

"Oh, he don't need none o' your help, you bet. He's lit out. You don't need
to worry 'bout Buck, he kin take car' o' hisse'f every time."

"But won't he come back sometime?"

"Can't say. It's hard to tell," non-committally.

"And Jim?" Michael's voice was sad.

"Jim, he's doin' time," sullenly.

"I'm sorry!" said Michael sadly, and a strange hush came about the dark
group. Now why should this queer chap be sorry? No one else cared, unless
it might be Jim, and Jim had got caught. It was nothing to them.

"Now tell me about Janie--and little Bobs--" The questioner paused. His
voice was very low.

"Aw, cut it out!" snarled Sam irritably. "Don't come any high strikes on
their account. They're dead an' you can't dig 'em up an' weep over 'em.
Hustle up an' tell us wot yer wantin' to do."

"Well, Sam," said Michael trying to ignore the natural repulsion he felt
at the last words of his one-time friend, "suppose you take lunch with me
to-morrow at twelve. Then we can talk over things and get back old times.
I will tell you all about my college life and you must tell me all you are
doing."

Sam was silent from sheer astonishment. Take lunch! Never in his life had
he been invited out to luncheon. Nor had he any desire for an invitation
now.

"Where?" he asked after a silence so long that Michael began to fear he was
not going to answer at all.

Michael named a place not far away. He had selected it that morning. It was
clean, somewhat, yet not too clean. The fare was far from princely, but it
would do, and the locality was none too respectable. Michael was enough
of a slum child still to know that his guest would never go with him to a
really respectable restaurant, moreover he would not have the wardrobe nor
the manners. He waited Sam's answer breathlessly.

Sam gave a queer little laugh as if taken off his guard. The place named
was so entirely harmless, to his mind, and the whole matter of the
invitation took on the form of a great joke.

"Well, I might," he drawled indifferently. "I won't make no promises, but
I might, an' then again I might not. It's jes' as it happens. Ef I ain't
there by twelve sharp you needn't wait. Jes' go ahead an' eat. I wouldn't
want to spoil yer digestion fer my movements."

"I shall wait!" said Michael decidedly with his pleasant voice ringing
clear with satisfaction. "You will come, Sam, I know you will. Good night!"

And then he did a most extraordinary thing. He put out his hand, his clean,
strong hand, warm and healthy and groping with the keenness of low, found
the hardened grimy hand of his one-time companion, and gripped it in a
hearty grasp.

Sam started back with the instant suspicion of attack, and then stood
shamedly still for an instant. The grip of that firm, strong hand, the
touch of brotherhood, a touch such as had never come to his life before
since he was a little child, completed the work that the smile had begun,
and Sam knew that Mikky, the real Mikky was before him.

Then Michael walked swiftly down that narrow passage,--at the opening of
which, the human shadows scattered silently and fled, to watch from other
furtive doorways,--down through the alley unmolested, and out into the
street once more.

"The saints presarve us! Wot did I tell yez?" whispered Sal. "It's the
angel all right fer shure."

"I wonder wot he done to Sam," murmured the girl. "He's got his nerve all
right, he sure has. Ain't he beautiful!"



CHAPTER X


Michael went early to his lunch party. He was divided between wondering if
his strange guest would put in an appearance at all; if he did, what he
should talk about; and how he would pilot him through the embarrassing
experience of the meal. One thing he was determined upon. He meant to find
out if possible whether Sam knew anything about his, Michael's, origin.
It was scarcely likely; and yet, Sam might have heard some talk by older
people in the neighborhood. His one great longing was to find out and clear
his name of shame if possible.

There was another thing that troubled Michael. He was not sure that he
would know Sam even supposing that he came. The glimpse he had caught
the night before when the matches were struck was not particularly
illuminating. He had a dim idea that Sam was below the medium height; with
thin, sallow face; small, narrow eyes; a slouching gait; and a head that
was not wide enough from front to back. He had a feeling that Sam had not
room enough in his brain for seeing all that ought to be seen. Sam did not
understand about education. Would he ever be able to make him understand?

Sam came shuffling along ten minutes after twelve. His sense of dignity
would not have allowed him to be on time. Besides, he wanted to see if
Michael would wait as he had said. It was a part of the testing of Michael;
not to prove if he were really Mikky, but to see what stuff he was made of,
and how much he really had meant of what he said.

Michael was there, standing anxiously outside the eating house. He did not
enjoy the surroundings nor the attention he was attracting. He was too well
dressed for that locality, but these were the oldest clothes he had. He
would have considered them quite shabby at college. He was getting worried
lest after all his plan had failed. Then Sam slouched along, his hat drawn
down, his hands in his pockets, and wearing an air of indifference that
almost amounted to effrontery. He greeted Michael as if there had been no
previous arrangement and this were a chance meeting. There was nothing
about his manner to show that he had purposely come late to put him to the
test, but Michael knew intuitively it was so.

"Shall we go in now?" said Michael smiling happily. He found he was really
glad that Sam had come, repulsive in appearance though he was, hard of
countenance and unfriendly in manner. He felt that he was getting on just a
little in his great object of finding out and helping his old friends, and
perhaps learning something more of his own history.

"Aw, I donno's I care 'bout it!" drawled Sam, just as if he had not
intended going in all the time, nor had been thinking of the "feed" all the
morning in anticipation.

"Yes, you better," said Michael putting a friendly hand on the others'
shoulder. If he felt a repugnance to touching the tattered, greasy coat of
his one-time friend, he controlled it, remembering how he had once worn
garments far more tattered and filthy. The greatness of his desire to
uplift made him forget everything else. It was the absorption of a supreme
task that had come upon the boy to the exclusion of his own personal
tastes.

It was not that Michael was so filled with love for this miserable creature
who used to be his friend, nor so desired to renew old associations after
these long years of separation; it was the terrible need, the conditions
of which had been called vividly to his experience, that appealed to his
spirit like a call of authority to which he answered proudly because
of what had once been done for him. It had come upon him without his
knowledge, suddenly, with the revival of old scenes and memories, but as
with all workers for humanity it had gone so deeply into his soul as to
make him forget even that there was such a thing as sacrifice.

They passed into the restaurant. Michael in his well-made clothing and with
his strikingly handsome face and gold hair attracting at once every eye
in the place: Sam with an insolent air of assurance to cover a sudden
embarrassment of pride at the company he was in.

Michael gave a generous order, and talked pleasantly as they waited. Sam
sat in low-browed silence watching him furtively, almost disconcertingly.

It was when they had reached the course of three kinds of pie and a dab
of dirty looking, pink ice cream professing to be fresh strawberry, that
Michael suddenly looked keenly at his guest and asked:

"What are you doing now, Sam? In business for yourself?"

Sam's eyes narrowed until they were almost eclipsed, though a keen steel
glitter could be seen beneath the colorless lashes. A kind of mask,
impenetrable as lead, seemed to have settled over his face, which had been
gradually relaxing during the meal into a half indulgent grin of interest
in his queer host.

"Yas, I'm in business fer myself," he drawled at last after carefully
scrutinizing the other's face to be sure there was no underlying motive for
the question.

"News-stand?" asked Michael.

"Not eggs-act-ly!"

"What line?"

Sam finished his mince pie and began on the pumpkin before he answered.

"Wal, ther's sev'ral!"

"Is that so? Got more than one string to your bow? That's a good thing.
You're better off than I am. I haven't looked around for a job yet. I
thought I'd get at it to-morrow. You see I wanted to look you fellows up
first before I got tied down to anything where I couldn't get off when I
wanted to. Perhaps you can put me onto something. How about it?"

It was characteristic of Michael that he had not once thought of going to
Endicott for the position and help offered him, since the setting down
he had received from Mrs. Endicott. The time appointed for his going to
Endicott's office was long since passed. He had not even turned the matter
over in his mind once since that awful night of agony and renunciation.
Mrs. Endicott had told him that her husband "had done enough for him" and
he realized that this was true. He would trouble him no more. Sometime
perhaps the world would turn around so that he would have opportunity to
repay Endicott's kindness that he might not repay in money, but until then
Michael would keep out of his way. It was the one poor little rag of pride
he allowed himself from the shattering of all his hopes.

Sam narrowed his eyes and looked Michael through, then slowly widened them
again, an expression of real interest coming into them.

"Say! Do you mean it?" he asked doubtfully. "Be you straight goods? Would
you come back into de gang an not snitch on us ner nothin'?"

"I'm straight goods, Sam, and I won't snitch!" said Michael quickly. He
knew that he could hope for no fellow's confidence if he "snitched."

"Wal, say, I've a notion to tell yeh!"

Sam attacked his ice cream contemplatively.

"How would a bluff game strike you?" he asked suddenly as the last
delectable mouthful of cream disappeared and he pulled the fresh cup of
coffee toward him that the waiter had just set down.

"What sort?" said Michael wondering what he was coming on in the way of
revelation, but resolving not to be horrified at anything. Sam must not
suspect until he could understand what a difference education had made in
the way of looking at things.

"Wal, there's diffrunt ways. Cripple's purty good. Foot all tied up in
bloody rags, arm an' hand tied up, a couple o' old crutches. I could lend
the clo'es. They'd be short fer yeh, but that'd be all the better gag. We
cud swap an' I'd do the gen'lman act a while." He looked covetously at
Michael's handsome brown tweeds--"Den you goes fom house to house, er you
stands on de corner--"

"Begging!" said Michael aghast. His eyes were on his plate and he was
trying to control his voice, but something of his horror crept into his
tones. Sam felt it and hastened on apologetically--

"Er ef you want to go it one better, keep on yer good cloes an' have
the asthma bad. I know a feller what'll teach you how, an' sell you the
whistles to put in yer mouth. You've no notion how it works. You just go
around in the subbubs tellin' thet you've only been out of the 'orspittal
two days an' you walked all this way to get work an' couldn't get it, an'
you want five cents to get back--see? Why, I know a feller--course he's
been at it fer years an' he has his regular beats--folks don't seem to
remember--and be can work the ground over 'bout once in six months er so,
and he's made's high's thirty-eight dollars in a day at asthma work."

Sam paused triumphant to see what effect the statement had on his friend,
but Michael's face was toward his coffee cup.

"Seems sort of small business for a man!" he said at last, his voice steady
with control. "Don't believe I'd be good at that? Haven't you got something
that's real _work_?"

Sam's eyes narrowed.

"Ef I thought you was up to it," he murmured. "You'd be great with that
angel face o' yourn. Nobody'd ever suspect you. You could wear them clo'es
too. But it's work all right, an' mighty resky. Ef I thought you was up
to it--" He continued to look keenly at Michael, and Michael, with innate
instinct felt his heart beat in discouraged thumps. What new deviltry was
Sam about to propose?

"You used to be game all right!" murmured Sam interrogatively. "You never
used to scare easy--"

"Wal, I'll tell you," in answer to Michael's questioning eyes which
searched his little sharp wizened face--Michael was wondering if there was
anything in that face to redeem it from utter repulsiveness.

"You see it's a reg'ler business, an' you hev to learn, but I'd give you
pinters, all you'd need to know, I'm pretty slick myself. There's tools to
open things, an' you hev to be ready to 'xplain how you come thur an' jolly
up a parlor maid per'aps. It's easy to hev made a mistake in the house, er
be a gas man er a plumber wot the boss sent up to look at the pipes. But
night work's best pay after you get onto things. Thur's houses where you
ken lay your han's on things goin' into the thousands an' lots ov um easy
to get rid of without anybody findin' out. There's Buck he used to be great
at it. He taught all the gang. The day he lit out he bagged a bit o' glass
wuth tree tousand dollars, 'sides a whole handful of fivers an' tens wot he
found lyin' on a dressin' table pretty as you please. Buck he were a slick
one at it. He'd be pleased to know you'd took up the work--"

Sam paused and eyed Michael with the first friendly gleam he had shown in
his eyes, and Michael, with his heart in a tumult of varied emotions, and
the quick color flooding brow and cheek, tried to hold himself in check. He
must not speak too hastily. Perhaps he had not understood Sam's meaning.

"Where is Buck?" Michael looked Sam straight in the eye. The small pupils
seemed to contract and shut out even his gaze.

"They ain't never got a trace of Buck," he said evasively.

"But don't you know?" There was something in Michael's look that demanded
an answer.

"I might an' I might not," responded Sam sullenly.

Michael was still for several seconds watching Sam; each trying to
understand the other.

"Do you think he will come hack where I can see him?" he asked at length.

"He might, an' he might not. 't depends. Ef you was in th' bizness he
might. It's hard to say. 't depends."

Michael watched Sam again thoughtfully.

"Tell me more about the business," he said at last, his lips compressed,
his brows drawn down into a frown of intensity.

"Thur ain't much, more t'tell," said Sam, still sullen. "I ain't sure
you're up to it?"

"What do you mean by that?"

"Ain't sure you got de sand. You might turn faint and snitch." Sam leaned
forward and spoke in low rapid sentences. "Wen we'd got a big haul, 'sposen
you'd got into de house an' done de pinchin', and we got the stuff safe
hid, an' you got tuk up? Would you snitch? Er would you take your pill like
a man? That's what I'd want to be sure. Mikky would a' stood by the gang,
but you--you've had a edicashun! They might go soft at college. I ain't
much use fer edicated persons myself. But I'll give you a show ef you
promise stiff not to snitch. We've got a big game on to-night up on Madison
Avenue, an' we're a man short. Dere's dough in it if we make it go all
right. Rich man. Girl goin' out to a party to-night. She's goin' to wear
some dimons wurth a penny. Hed it in de paper. Brung 'em home from de bank
this mornin'. One o' de gang watched de feller come out o' de bank. It's
all straight so fur. It's a pretty big haul to let you in de first try, an'
you'll hev to run all de risks; but ef you show you're game we'll make it a
bargain."

Michael held himself tensely and fought the desire to choke the fellow
before him; tried to remember that he was the same Sam who had once divided
a crust with him, and whom he had come to help; reflected that he might
have been as bad himself if he had never been taken from the terrible
environment of the slums and shown a better way; knew that if he for one
fraction of a second showed his horror at the evil plot, or made any
attempt to stop it all hope of reaching Sam, or Buck, or any of the others
was at an end; and with it all hope of finding any stray links of his own
past history. Besides, though honor was strong in him and he would never
"snitch" on his companions, it would certainly be better to find out as
much as possible about the scheme. There might be other ways besides
"snitching" of stopping such things. Then suddenly his heart almost stopped
beating, Madison Avenue! Sam had said Madison Avenue, and a girl! What if
it were Starr's jewels they were planning to take. He knew very little
about such matters save what he had read. It did not occur to him that
Starr was not yet "out" in society; that she would be too young to wear
costly jewels and have her costume put in the paper. He only knew that his
heart was throbbing again painfully, and that the fellow before him seemed
too vile to live longer on the same earth with Starr, little, beautiful,
exquisite Starr.

He was quite still when Sam had finished; his face was white with emotion
and his eyes were blazing blue flames when he raised them to look at Sam.
Then he became aware that his answer was awaited.

"Sam, do you mean _burglary_?" He tried to keep his voice low and steady as
he spoke but he felt as if he had shouted the last word. The restaurant
was almost empty now, and the waiters had retired behind the scenes amid a
clatter of dishes.

"That's about as pretty a word as you can call it, I guess," said Sam,
drawing back with a snarl as he saw the light in Michael's eyes.

Michael looked him through for an instant, and if a glance can burn then
surely Sam's little soul shrank scorching into itself, but it was so brief
that the brain which was only keen to things of the earth had not analyzed
it. Michael dropped his glance to the table again, and began playing with
his spoon and trying to get calm with a deep breath as he used to when he
knew a hard spot in a ball game was coming.

"Well, why don't you speak? You 'fraid?" It was said with a sneer that a
devil from the pit might have given.

Then Michael sat up calmly. His heart was beating steadily now and he was
facing his adversary.

"No! I'm not afraid, Sam, if there were any good reason for going, but you
know I never could feel comfortable in getting my living off somebody else.
It doesn't seem fair to the other fellow. You see they've got a right to
the things they own and I haven't; and because I might be smart enough to
catch them napping and sneak away with what they prize doesn't make it
right either. Now that girl probably thinks a lot of her diamonds, you see,
and it doesn't seem quite the manly thing for a big strong fellow like me
to get them away from her, does it? Of course you may think differently,
but I believe I'd rather do some good hard work that would keep my muscles
in trim, than to live off some one else. There's a kind of pretty gray moss
that grows where I went to college. It floats along a little seed blown in
the air first and lodges on the limb of a tree and begins to fasten itself
into the bark, and grow and grow and suck life from the big tree. It
doesn't seem much at first, and it seems as if the big tree might spare
enough juice to the little moss. But wait a few years and see what happens.
The moss grows and drapes itself in great long festoons all over that tree
and by and by the first thing you know that tree has lost all its green
leaves and stands up here stark and dead with nothing on its bare branches
but that old gray moss which has to die too because it has nothing to live
on any longer. It never learned to gather any juice for itself. They call
the moss a parasite. I couldn't be a human parasite, Sam. You may feel
differently about it, but I couldn't. I really couldn't."

Michael's eyes had grown dreamy and lost their fire as he remembered the
dear South land, and dead sentinel pines with their waving gray festoons
against the ever blue sky. As he talked he saw the whole great out-of-doors
again where he had wandered now so many years free and happy; free from
burdens of humanity which were pressing him now so sorely. A great longing
to fly back to it all, to get away from the sorrow and the degradation and
the shame which seemed pressing so hard upon him, filled his heart, leaped
into his eyes, caught and fascinated the attention of the listening Sam,
who understood very little of the peroration. He had never heard of a
parasite. He did not know he had always been a human parasite. He was
merely astonished and a trifle fascinated by the passion and appeal in
Michael's face as he spoke.

"Gosh!" he said in a tone almost of admiration. "Gosh! Is that wot
edicashun done fer you?"

"Perhaps," said Michael pleasantly, "though I rather think, Sam, that I
always felt a bit that way, I just didn't know how to say it."

"Wal, you allus was queer!" muttered Sam half apologetically. "I couldn't
see it that way myself, as you say, but o' course it's your fun'ral! Ef you
kin scratch up enough grub bein' a tree, why that's your own lookout. Moss
is good 'nough fer me fer de present."

Michael beamed his wonderful smile on Sam and answered: "Perhaps you'll see
it my way some day, Sam, and then we can get a job together!"

There was so much comraderie in the tone, and so much dazzling brilliancy
in the smile that Sam forgot to be sullen.

"Wal, mebbe," he chuckled, "but I don't see no edicashun comin' my way dis
late day, so I guess I'll git along de way I be."

"It isn't too late yet, Sam. There's more than one way of getting an
education. It doesn't always come through college."

After a little more talk in which Sam promised to find out if there was
any way for Michael to visit Jim in his temporary retirement from the
law-abiding world, and Michael promised to visit Sam in the alley again at
an appointed time, the two separated.

Then Michael went forth to reconnoitre and to guard the house of Endicott.

With no thought of any personal danger, Michael laid his plans. Before
sundown, he was on hand, having considered all visible and invisible means
of ingress to the house. He watched from a suitable distance all who came
and went. He saw Mr. Endicott come home. He waited till the evening drew
near when a luxurious limousine stopped before the door; assured himself
that only Mrs. Endicott had gone out. A little later Mr. Endicott also left
the house. Starr had not gone out. He felt that he had double need to watch
now as she was there alone with only the servants.

Up and down he walked. No one passed the Endicott house unwatched by him.
None came forth or went in of whom he did not take careful notice.

The evening passed, and the master and mistress of the house returned. One
by one the lights went out. Even in the servants' rooms all was dark at
last. The night deepened and the stars thickened overhead.

The policeman's whistle sounded through the quiet streets and the city
seemed at last to be sinking into a brief repose. It was long past
midnight, and still Michael kept up his patrol. Up this side of the street,
down that, around the corner, through the alley at the back where "de kids"
had stood in silent respect uncovered toward his window years ago; back to
the avenue again, and on around. With his cheery whistle and his steady
ringing step he awakened no suspicion even when he came near to a
policeman; and besides, no lurkers of the dark would steal out while he was
so noisily in the neighborhood.

And so he watched the night through, till the morning broke and sunshine
flooded the; window of the room where Starr, unconscious of his vigil, lay
a-sleeping.

Busy milk wagons were making their rounds, and sleepy workmen with dinner
pails slung over their arms were striding to their day's work through the
cool of the morning, as Michael turned his steps toward his lodging. Broad
morning was upon them and deeds of darkness could be no more. The night was
passed. Nothing had happened. Starr was safe. He went home and to sleep
well pleased. He might not companion with her, but it was his privilege to
guard her from unsuspected evils. That was one joy that could not be taken
from him by the taint that was upon him. Perhaps his being a child of the
slums might yet prove to be a help to guard her life from harm.



CHAPTER XI


It was the first week in September that Michael, passing through a crowded
thoroughfare, came face to face with Mr. Endicott.

The days had passed into weeks and Michael had not gone near his
benefactor. He had felt that he must drop out of his old friend's life
until a time came that he could show his gratitude for the past. Meantime
he had not been idle. His winning smile and clear eyes had been his
passport; and after a few preliminary experiences he had secured a position
as salesman in a large department store. His college diploma and a letter
from the college president were his references. He was not earning much,
but enough to pay his absolute expenses and a trifle over. Meantime he was
gaining experience.

This Saturday morning of the first week of September he had come to the
store as usual, but had found that on account of the sudden death of a
member of the firm the store would be closed for the day.

He was wondering how he should spend his holiday and wishing that he might
get out into the open and breathe once more the free air under waving
trees, and listen to the birds, and the waters and the winds. He was half
tempted to squander a few cents and go to Coney Island or up the Hudson,
somewhere, anywhere to get out of the grinding noisy tempestuous city,
whose sin and burden pressed upon his heart night and day because of that
from which he had been saved; and of that from which he had not the power
to save others.

Then out of an open doorway rushed a man, going toward a waiting
automobile, and almost knocking Michael over in his progress.

"Oh! It is you, young man! At last! Well, I should like to know what you
have done with yourself all these weeks and why you didn't keep your
appointment with me?"

"Oh!" said Michael, pleasure and shame striving together in his face. He
could see that the other man was not angry, and was really relieved to have
found him.

"Where are you going, son?" Endicotts tone had already changed from
gruffness to kindly welcome. "Jump in and run down to the wharf with me
while you give an account of yourself. I'm going down to see Mrs. Endicott
off to Europe. She is taking Starr over to school this winter. I'm late
already, so jump in."

Michael seemed to have no choice and stepped into the car, which was
whirled through the intricate maze of humanity and machinery down toward
the regions where the ocean-going steamers harbor.

His heart was in a tumult at once, both of embarrassed joy to be in
the presence of the man who had done so much for him, and of eager
anticipation. Starr! Would he see Starr again? That was the thought
uppermost in his mind. He had not as yet realized that she was going away
for a long time.

All the spring time he had kept guard over the house in Madison Avenue. Not
all night of course, but hovering about there now and then, and for two
weeks after he had talked with Sam, nightly. Always he had walked that way
before retiring and looked toward the window where burned a soft light.
Then they had gone to the seashore and the mountains and the house had put
on solemn shutters and lain asleep.

Michael knew all about it from a stray paragraph in the society column of
the daily paper which he happened to read.

Toward the end of August he had made a round through Madison Avenue every
night to see if they had returned home, and for a week the shutters had
been down and the lights burning as of old. It had been good to know that
his charge was back there safely. And now he was to see her.

"Well! Give an account of yourself. Were you trying to keep out of my
sight? Why didn't you come to my office?"

Michael looked him straight in the eye with his honest, clear gaze that
showed no sowing of wild oats, no dissipation or desire to get away from
friendly espionage. He decided in a flash of a thought that this man should
never know the blow his beautiful, haughty wife had dealt him. It was true,
all she had said, and he, Michael, would give the real reason why he had
not come.

"Because I thought you had done for me far more than I deserved already,
and I did not wish to be any further burden to you."

"The dickens you did!" exclaimed Endicott. "You good-for-nothing rascal,
didn't you know you would be far more of a burden running off in that style
without leaving a trace of yourself behind so I could hunt you up, than if
you had behaved yourself and done as I told you? Here I have been doing
a lot of unnecessary worrying about you. I thought you had fallen among
thieves or something, or else gone to the dogs. Don't you know that is a
most unpardonable thing to do, run off from a man who has told you he wants
to see you? I thought I made you understand that I had more than a passing
interest in your welfare!"

The color came into the fine, strong face and a pained expression in his
eyes.

"I'm sorry, sir! I didn't think of it that way. I thought you felt some
kind of an obligation; I never felt so, but you said you did; and I thought
if I got out of your way I would trouble you no more."

"Trouble me! Trouble me! Why, son, I like to be troubled once in a while by
something besides getting money and spending it. You never gave me a shadow
of trouble, except these last weeks when you've disappeared and I couldn't
do anything for you. You've somehow crept into my life and I can't get you
out. In fact, I don't want to. But, boy, if you felt that way, what made
you come to New York at all? You didn't feel that way the night you came to
my house to dinner."

Michael's eyes owned that this was true, but his firm lips showed that he
would never betray the real reason for the change.

"I--didn't--realize--sir!"

"Realize? Realize what?"

"I didn't realize the difference between my station and yours, sir. There
had never been anything during my years in school to make me know. I am a
'child of the slums'"--unconsciously he drifted into quotations from Mrs.
Endicott's speech to him--"and you belong to a fine old family. I don't
know what terrible things are in my blood. You have riches and a name
beyond reproach--" He had seen the words in an article he had read the
evening before, and felt that they fitted the man and the occasion. He did
not know that he was quoting. They had become a part of his thoughts.

"I might make the riches if I tried hard," he held up his head proudly,
"but I could never make the name. I will always be a child of the slums, no
matter what I do!"

"Child of the fiddlesticks!" interrupted Endicott. "Wherever did you get
all that, rot? It sounds as if you had been attending society functions and
listening to their twaddle. It doesn't matter what you are the child of, if
you're a mind to be a man. This is a free country, son, and you can be and
climb where you please. Tell me, where did you get all these ideas?"

Michael looked down. He did not wish to answer.

"In a number of places," he answered evasively.

"Where!"

"For one thing, I've been down to the alley where I used to live." The eyes
were looking into his now, and Endicott felt a strange swelling of pride
that he had had a hand in the making of this young man.

"Well?"

"I know from what you've taken me--I can never be what you are!"

"Therefore you won't try to be anything? Is that it?"

"Oh, no! I'll try to be all that I can, but--I don't belong with you. I'm
of another class--"

"Oh, bosh! Cut that out, son! Real men don't talk like that. You're a
better man now than any of the pedigreed dudes I know of, and as for taints
in the blood, I could tell you of some of the sons of great men who have
taints as bad as any child of the slums. Young man, you can be whatever you
set out to be in this world! Remember that."

"Everyone does not feel that way," said Michael with conviction, though he
was conscious of great pleasure in Endicott's hearty words.

"Who, for instance?" asked Endicott looking at him sharply.

Michael was silent. He could not tell him.

"Who?" asked the insistent voice once more.

"The world!" evaded Michael.

"The world is brainless. You can make the world think what you like, son,
remember that! Here we are. Would you like to come aboard?"

But Michael stood back.

"I think I will wait here," he said gravely. It had come to him that Mrs.
Endicott would be there. He must not intrude, not even to see Starr once
more. Besides, she had made it a point of honor for him to keep away from
her daughter. He had no choice but to obey.

"Very well," said Endicott, "but see you don't lose yourself again. I want
to see you about something. I'll not be long. It must be nearly time for
starting." He hurried away and Michael stood on the edge of the throng
looking up at the great floating village.

It was his first view of an ocean-going steamer at close range and
everything about it interested him. He wished he might have gone aboard and
looked the vessel over. He would like to know about the engines and see the
cabins, and especially the steerage about which he had read so much. But
perhaps there would be an opportunity again. Surely there would be. He
would go to Ellis Island, too, and see the emigrants as they came into
the country, seeking a new home where they had been led to expect to
find comfort and plenty of work, and finding none; landing most of them,
inevitably, in the slums of the cities where the population was already
congested and where vice and disease stood ready to prey upon them. Michael
had been spending enough time in the alleys of the metropolis to be already
deeply interested in the problem of the city, and deeply pained by its
sorrows.

But his thoughts were not altogether of the masses and the classes as he
stood in the bright sunlight and gazed at the great vessel about to plow
its way over the bright waters. He was realizing that somewhere within
those many little windowed cabins was a bright faced girl, the only one of
womankind in all the earth about whom his tender thoughts had ever hovered.
Would he catch a glimpse of her face once more before she went away for the
winter? She was going to school, her father had said. How could they bear
to send her across the water from them? A whole winter was a long time; and
yet, it would pass. Thirteen years had passed since he went away from New
York, and he was back. It would not be so long as that. She would return,
and need him perhaps. He would be there and be ready when he was needed.

The fine lips set in a strong line that was good to see. There were the
patient, fearless lines of a soldier in the boy's face, and rugged strength
in spite of his unusual beauty of countenance. It is not often one sees a
face like Michael's. There was nothing womanish in his looks. It was rather
the completeness of strength and courage combined with mighty modelling
and perfection of coloring, that made men turn and look after him and look
again, as though they had seen a god; and made women exclaim over him. If
he had been born in the circles of aristocracy he would have been the idol
of society, the spoiled of all who knew him. He was even now being stared
at by every one in sight, and more than one pair of marine glasses from the
first cabin deck were pointed at him; but he stood deep in his thoughts and
utterly unconscious of his own attraction.

It was only a moment before the first warning came, and people crowded on
the wharf side of the decks, while others hurried down the gang plank.
Michael watched the confusion with eagerness, his eyes searching the decks
for all possible chance of seeing Starr.

When the last warning was given, and just as the gang plank was about to be
hauled up, Mr. Endicott came hurrying down, and Michael suddenly saw her
face in the crowd on the deck above, her mother's haughtily pretty face
just behind her.

Without in the least realizing what he was doing Michael moved through the
crowd until he stood close behind Starr's father, and then all at once he
became aware that her starry eyes were upon him, and she recognized him.

He lifted his hat and stood in reverent attitude as though in the presence
of a queen, his eyes glowing eloquently, his speaking face paying her
tribute as plainly as words could have done. The noonday sun burnished his
hair with its aureole flame, and more than one of the passengers called
attention to the sight.

"See that man down there!" exclaimed a woman of the world close behind Mrs.
Endicott. "Isn't he magnificent! He has a head and shoulders like a
young god!" She spoke as if her acquaintance with gods was wide, and her
neighbors turned to look.

"See, mamma," whispered Starr glowing rosily with pleasure, "they are
speaking of Michael!"

Then the haughty eyes turned sharply and recognized him.

"You don't mean to tell me that upstart has dared to come down and see us
off. The impudence of him! I am glad your father had enough sense not to
bring him on board. He would probably have come if he had let him. Come
away, Starr. He simply shall not look at you in that way!"

"What! Come away while papa is standing there watching us out of sight.
I simply couldn't. What would papa think? And besides, I don't see why
Michael shouldn't come if he likes. I think it was nice of him. I wonder
why he hasn't been to the house to explain why he never came for that
horseback ride."

"You're a very silly ignorant little girl, or you would understand that he
has no business presuming to come to our house; and he knows it perfectly
well. I want you to stop looking in that direction at once. I simply will
not have him devouring you with his eyes in that way. I declare I would
like to go back and tell him what I think of him. Starr, stop I tell you,
Starr!"

But the noise of the starting drowned her words, and Starr, her cheeks like
roses and her eyes like two stars, was waving a bit of a handkerchief and
smiling and throwing kisses. The kisses were for her father, but the smiles
and the starry glances, and the waving bit of cambric were for Michael,
and they all travelled through the air quite promiscuously, drenching the
bright uncovered head of the boy with sweetness. His eyes gave her greeting
and thanks and parting all in one in that brief moment of her passing: and
her graceful form and dainty vivid face were graven on his memory in quick
sweet blows of pain, as he realized that she was going from him.

Slowly the great vessel glided out upon the bright waters and grew smaller
and smaller. The crowd on the wharf were beginning to break away and hurry
back to business or home or society. Still Michael stood with bared head
gazing, and that illumined expression upon his face.

Endicott, a mist upon his own glasses at parting from his beloved baby,
saw the boy's face as it were the face of an angel; and was half startled,
turning away embarrassedly as though he had intruded upon a soul at prayer;
then looked again.

"Come, son!" he said almost huskily. "It's over! We better be getting back.
Step in."

The ride back to the office was a silent one. Somehow Endicott did not feel
like talking. There had been some differences between himself and his wife
that were annoying, and a strange belated regret that he had let Starr go
away for a foreign education was eating into his heart. Michael, on his
part, was living over again the passing of the vessel and the blessing of
the parting.

Back in the office, however, all was different. Among the familiar walls
and gloomy desks and chairs Endicott was himself, and talked business. He
put questions, short, sharp and in quick succession.

"What are you doing with yourself? Working? What at? H'm! How'd you get
there? Like it? Satisfied to do that all your life? You're not? Well,
what's your line? Any ambitions? You ought to have got some notion in
college of what you're fit for. Have you thought what you'd like to do in
the world?"

Michael hesitated, then looked up with his clear, direct, challenging gaze.

"There are two things," he said, "I want to earn money and buy some land in
the country, and I want to know about laws."

"Do you mean you want to be a lawyer?"

"Yes."

"What makes you think you'd be a success as a lawyer?"

"Oh, I might not be a success, but I need to know law, I want to try to
stop some things that ought not to be."

"H'm!" grunted Endicott disapprovingly. "Don't try the reform game, it
doesn't pay. However, if you feel that way you'll probably be all right to
start. That'll work itself off and be a good foundation. There's no reason
why you shouldn't be a lawyer if you choose, but you can't study law
selling calico. You might get there some day, if you stick to your
ambition, but you'd be pretty old before you were ready to practice if you
started at the calico counter and worked your way up through everything you
came to. Well, I can get you into a law office right away. How soon can
you honorably get away from where you are? Two weeks? Well, just wait a
minute."

Endicott called up a number on the telephone by his side, and there
followed a conversation, brief, pointed, but in terms that Michael could
barely follow. He gathered that a lawyer named Holt, a friend of Mr.
Endicott's, was being asked to take him into his office to read law.

"It's all right, son," said Endicott as he hung up the receiver and whirled
around from the 'phone. "You're to present yourself at the office as soon
as you are free. This is the address"--hurriedly scribbling something on a
card and handing it to him.

"Oh, thank you!" said Michael, "but I didn't mean to have you take any more
trouble for me. I can't be dependent on you any longer. You have done so
much for me--"

"Bosh!" said Endicott, "I'm not taking any trouble. And you're not
dependent on me. Be as independent as you like. You're not quite twenty-one
yet, are you? Well, I told you you were my boy until you were of age, and I
suppose there's nothing to hinder me doing as I will with my own. It's paid
well all I've done for you so far, and I feel the investment was a good
one. You'll get a small salary for some office work while you're studying,
so after you are twenty-one you can set up for yourself if you like. Till
then I claim the privilege of giving you a few orders. Now that's settled.
Where are you stopping? I don't intend to lose sight of you again."

Michael gave him the street and number. Endicott frowned.

"That's not a good place. I don't like the neighborhood. If you're going to
be a lawyer, you must start in right. Here, try this place. Tell the woman
I sent you. One of my clerks used to board there."

He handed Michael another address.

"Won't that cost a lot?" asked Michael studying the card. "Not any more
than you can afford," said Endicott, "and remember, I'm giving orders until
your majority."

Michael beamed his brilliant smile at his benefactor.

"It is like a real father!" said the boy deeply moved. "I can never repay
you. I can never forget it."

"Well, don't!" said Endicott. "Let's turn to the other thing. What do you
want land for?"

Michael's face sobered instantly.

"For an experiment I want to try," he said without hesitation, and then,
his eyes lighting up, "I'll be able to do it now, soon, perhaps, if I work
hard. You see I studied agriculture in college--"

"The dickens you did!" exclaimed Endicott. "What did you do that for?"

"Well, it was there and I could, and I wanted to know about it."

"H'm!" said Endicott. "I wonder what some of my pedigreed million-dollar
friend's sons would think of that? Well, go on."

"Why, that's all," laughed Michael happily. "I studied it and I want to try
it and see what I can do with it. I want to buy a farm."

"How would you manage to be a farmer and a lawyer both?"

"Well, I thought there might he a little time after hours to work, and I
could tell others how--"

"Oh, I see you want to be a gentleman farmer," laughed Endicott. "I
understand that's expensive business."

"I think I could make it pay, sir." said Michael shutting his lips with
that firm challenge of his. "I'd like to try."

Endicott looked at him quizzically for a minute and then whirling around in
his office chair he reached out his hand to a pigeon hole and took out a
deed.

"I've a mind to let you have your try," said Endicott, chuckling as if it
were a good joke. "Here's a little farm down in Jersey. It's swampy and
thick with mosquitoes. I understand it won't grow a beanstalk. There
are twelve acres and a tumble-down house on it. I've had to take it in
settlement of a mortgage. The man's dead and there's nothing but the farm
to lay hands on. He hasn't even left a chick or child to leave his debt to.
I don't want the farm and I can't sell it without a lot of trouble. I'll
give it to you. You may consider it a birthday present. If you'll pay the
taxes I'll be glad to get it off my hands. That'll be something for you to
be independent about."

He touched a bell and a boy appeared.

"Take this to Jowett and tell him to have a deed made out to Michael
Endicott, and to attend to the transfer of the property, nominal sum.
Understand?"

The boy said, "Yes, sir," and disappeared with the paper.

"But I can't take a present like that from you after all you have done for
me," gasped Michael, a granite determination showing in his blue eyes.
"Nonsense," said Endicott. "Other men give their sons automobiles when they
come of age. Mayn't I give you a farm if I like? Besides, I tell you it's
of no account. I want to get rid of it, and I want to see what you'll make
of it. I'd like to amuse myself seeing you try your experiment."

"If you'll let me pay you for it little by little--"

"Suit yourself after you have become a great lawyer," laughed Endicott,
"but not till then, remember. There, cut it out, son! I don't want to be
thanked. Here's the description of the place and directions how to get
there. It isn't many miles away. If you've got a half holiday run down
and look it over. It'll keep you out of mischief. There's nothing like an
ambition to keep people out of mischief. Bun along now, I haven't another
minute to spare, but mind you turn up at Holt's office this day two weeks,
and report to me afterwards how you like it. I don't want to lose sight of
you again."

The entrance of another man on business cut short the interview, and
Michael, bestowing an agonizingly happy grip on Endicott's hand and a
brilliant smile like a benediction, took his directions and hurried out
into the street.



CHAPTER XII


With the precious paper in his hand Michael took himself with all
swiftness to the DesBrosses Ferry. Would there be a train? It was almost
two o'clock. He had had no lunch, but what of that? He had that in his
heart which made mere eating seem unnecessary. The experiences of the past
two hours had lifted him above, earth and its necessities for the time. And
a farm, a real farm! Could it be true? Had his wish come true so soon? He
could scarcely wait for the car to carry him or the boat to puff its way
across the water. He felt as if he must fly to see his new possession. And
Mr. Endicott had said he might pay for it sometime when he got to be a
great lawyer. He had no doubt but that he would get there if such a thing
were possible, and anyhow he meant to pay for that ground. Meantime it was
his. He was not a poor nobody after all. He owned land, and a house.

His face was a mingling of delightful emotions as he stood by the rail of
the ferry-boat and let his imagination leap on ahead of him. The day was
perfect. It had rained the night before and everything, even the air seemed
newly washed for a fresh trial at living. Every little wavelet sparkled
like a jewel, and the sunlight shimmered on the water in a most alluring
way. Michael forgot for the moment the sorrow and misery of the crowded
city he was leaving behind him. For this afternoon at least he was a boy
again wandering off into the open.

His train was being called as he stepped from the ferry-boat. The next boat
would have missed it. He hurried aboard and was soon speeding through the
open country, with now and again a glimpse of the sea, as the train came
closer to the beach. They passed almost continuously beautiful resorts,
private villas, great hotels, miles of cottages set in green terrace with
glowing autumn flowers in boxes or bordering the paths.

Michael watched everything with deep interest. This was the land of his new
possession. Whatever was growing here would be likely to grow on his place
if it were properly planted and cared for. Ere this flowers had had little
part in his farming scheme, but so soon as he saw the brilliant display he
resolved that he must have some of those also. And flowers would sell as
well if not better than vegetables if properly marketed.

That vivid hedge of scarlet and gold, great heavy-headed dahlias they were.
He did not know the name, but he would find it out somehow. They would take
up little room and would make his new place a thing of beauty. Farther on,
one great white cottage spread its veranda wings on either side to a tall
fringe of pink and white and crimson cosmos; and again a rambling gray
stone piece of quaint architecture with low sloping roofs of mossy green,
and velvet lawn creeping down even to the white beach sands, was set about
with flaming scarlet sage. It was a revelation to the boy whose eyes had
never looked upon the like before. Nature in its wildness and original
beauty had been in Florida; New York was all pavements and buildings with a
window box here and there. He as yet knew nothing of country homes in their
luxury and perfection, save from magazine pictures. All the way along he
was picking out features that he meant some day to transfer to his own
little farm.

It was after three when he reached the station, and a good fifteen minutes
walk to the farm, but every step of it was a delight.

Pearl Beach, they called the station. The beach was half a mile from the
railroad, and a queer little straggling town mostly cottages and a few
stores hovered between railroad and beach. A river, broad, and shallow,
wound its silver way about the village and lost itself in the wideness of
the ocean. Here and there a white sail flew across its gleaming centre, and
fishermen in little boats sat at their idle task. What if his land should
touch somewhere this bonny stream!

Too eager to wait for investigation he stopped a passing stranger and
questioned him. Yes, the river was salt. It had tides with the sea, too.
There was great fishing and sailing, and some preferred bathing there to
the ocean. Yes, Old Orchard farm was on its bank. It had a river frontage
of several hundred feet but it was over a mile back from the beach.

The stranger was disposed to delay and gossip about the death of the former
owner of Old Orchard and its probable fate now that the mortgage had
been foreclosed; but Michael with a happy light in his eyes thanked him
courteously and hurried on. Wings were upon his feet, and his heart was
light and happy. He felt like a bird set free. He breathed in the strong
salt air with delight.

And then the burden of the city came to him again, the city with all its
noise and folly and sin; with its smells and heat, and lack of air; with
its crowded, suffering, awful humanity, herded together like cattle, and
living in conditions worse than the beasts of the fields. If he could but
bring them out here, bring some of them at least; and show them what God's
earth was like! Ah!

His heart beat wildly at the thought! It was not new. He had harbored it
ever since his first visit to the alley. It was his great secret, his much
hoped for experiment. If he might be able to do it sometime. This bit of a
farm would open the way. There would be money needed of course, and where
was it to come from? But he could work. He was strong. He would give his
young life for his people--save them from their ignorance and despair. At
least he could save some; even one would be worth while.

So he mused as he hurried on, eyes and mind open to all he saw.

There was no fence in front of Old Orchard farm. A white road bordered with
golden rod and wild asters met the scraggly grass that matted and tangled
itself beneath the gnarled apple trees. A grassy rutted wagon track curved
itself in vistas between the trees up to the house which was set far back
from the road. A man passing identified the place for Michael, and looked
him over apprizingly, wondering as did all who saw him, at the power and
strength of his beauty.

The house was weather-beaten unpainted clapboards, its roof of curled and
mossy shingles possessing undoubted leakable qualities, patched here and
there. A crazy veranda ambled across the front. It contained a long low
room with a queer old-fashioned chimney place wide enough to sit in, a
square south room that must have been a dining-room because of the painted
cupboard whose empty shelves gazed ghastly between half-open doors, and a
small kitchen, not much more than a shed. In the long low room a staircase
twisted itself up oddly to the four rooms under the leaky roof. It was all
empty and desolate, save for an old cot bed and a broken chair. The floors
had a sagged, shaky appearance. The doors quaked when they were opened.
The windows were cobwebby and dreary, yet it looked to the eyes of the new
householder like a palace. He saw it in the light of future possibilities
and gloried in it. That chimney place now. How would it look with a great
log burning in it, and a rug and rocking chair before it. What would--Aunt
Sally--perhaps--say to it when he got it fixed up? Could he ever coax her
to leave her dirty doorstep and her drink and come out here to live? And
how would he manage it all if he could? There would have to be something to
feed her with, and to buy the rug and the rocking chair. And first of all
there would have to be a bath-tub. Aunt Sally would need to be purified
before she could enter the portals of this ideal cottage, when he had
made it as he wanted it to be. Paint and paper would make wonderful
transformations he knew, for he had often helped at remodelling the rooms
at college during summer vacations. He had watched and been with the
workmen and finally taken a hand. This habit of watching and helping had
taught him many things. But where were paper and paint and time to use
it coming from? Ah, well, leave that to the future. He would find a way.
Yesterday he did not have the house nor the land for it to stand upon. It
had come and the rest would follow in their time.

He went happily about planning for a bath-room. There would have to be
water power. He had seen windmills on other places as he passed. That was
perhaps the solution of this problem, but windmills cost money of course.
Still,--all in good time.

There was a tumbled-down barn and chicken house, and a frowzy attempt at a
garden. A strawberry bed overgrown with weeds, a sickly cabbage lifting
its head bravely; a gaunt row of currant bushes; another wandering,
out-reaching row of raspberries; a broken fence; a stretch of soppy bog
land to the right, and the farm trailed off into desolate neglect ending in
a charming grove of thick trees that stood close down to the river's bank.

Michael went over it all carefully, noted the exposure of the land, kicked
the sandy soil to examine its unpromising state, walked all around the bog
and tried to remember what he had read about cranberry bogs; wondered if
the salt water came up here, and if it were good or bad for cranberries;
wondered if cow peas grew in Jersey and if they would do for a fertilizing
crop as they did in Florida. Then he walked through the lovely woods,
scenting the breath of pines and drawing in long whiffs of life as he
looked up to the green roof over his head. They were not like the giant
pines of the South land, but they were sweeter and more beautiful in their
form.

He went down to the brink of the river and stood looking across.

Not a soul was in sight and nothing moved save a distant sail fleeing
across the silver sheen to the sea. He remembered what the man had said
about bathing and yielding to an irresistible impulse was soon swimming
out across the water. It was like a new lease of life to feel the water
brimming to his neck again, and to propel himself with strong, graceful
strokes through the element where he would. A bird shot up into the air
with a wild sweet note, and he felt like answering to its melody. He
whistled softly in imitation of its voice, and the bird answered, and again
and again they called across the water.

But a look toward the west where the water was crimsoning already with the
setting sun warned him that his time was short, so he swam back to the
sheltered nook where he had left his clothes, and improvising a towel from
his handkerchief he dressed rapidly. The last train back left at seven. If
he did not wish to spend the night in his new and uninhabitable abode he
must make good time. It was later than he supposed, and he wished to go
back to the station by way of the beach if possible, though it was out of
his way. As he drew on his coat and ran his fingers through his hair in
lieu of a brush, he looked wistfully at the bright water, dimpling now with
hues of violet, pink, and gold and promising a rare treat in the way of a
sunset. He would like to stay and watch it. But there was the ocean waiting
for him. He must stand on the shore once and look out across it, and know
just how it looked near his own house.

He hurried through the grove and across the farm to the eastern edge, and
looking beyond the broken fence that marked the bounds of the bog land
over the waste of salt grass he could see the white waves dimly tumbling,
hurrying ever, to get past one another. He took the fence at a bound,
made good time over the uncertain footing of the marsh grass and was soon
standing on the broad smooth beach with the open stretch of ocean before
him.

It was the first time he had ever stood on the seashore and the feeling of
awe that filled him was very great. But beyond any other sensation, came
the thought that Starr, his beautiful Starr, was out there on that wide
vast ocean, tossing in a tiny boat. For now the great steamer that had
seemed so large and palatial, had dwindled in his mind to a frail toy, and
he was filled with a nameless fear for her. His little Starr out there on
that fearful deep, with only that cold-eyed mother to take care of her. A
wild desire to fly to her and bring her back possessed him; a thrilling,
awesome something, he had never known before. He stood speechless before
it; then raised his eyes to the roseate already purpling in streaks for the
sunset and looking solemnly up he said, aloud:

"Oh, God, I love her!"

He stood facing the thought with solemn joy and pain for an instant, then
turned and fled from it down the purpling sands; fleeing, yet carrying his
secret with him.

And when he came opposite the little village he trod its shabby,
straggling, ill-paved streets with glory in his face; and walking thus with
hat in hand, and face illumined toward the setting sun, folks looked at him
strangely and wondered who and what he was, and turned to look again. In
that half-light of sunset, he seemed a being from another world.

A native watching, dropped his whip, and climbing down from his rough wagon
spoke the thought that all the bystanders felt in common:

"Gosh hang it! I thought he was one o' them glass angels stepped out of a
church winder over to 'Lizabeth-town. We don't see them kind much. I wonder
now how he'd be to live with. Think I'd feel kinder creepy hevin' him
'round all time, wouldn't you?"

All the way home the new thought came surging over him, he loved her and
she could never be his. It was deluging; it was beautiful; but it was
agonizing. He recalled how beautiful she had been as she waved farewell.
And some of her smiles had been for him, he was sure. He had known of
course that the kisses were for her father, and yet, they had been blown
freely his way, and she had looked her pleasure at his presence. There had
been a look in her eyes such as she had worn that day in the college chapel
when she had thrown precautions to the winds and put her arms about his
neck and kissed him. His young heart thrilled with a deep joy over the
memory of it. It had been wonderful that she had done it; wonderful! when
he was what he was, a _child of the slums_! The words seemed burned upon
his soul now, a part of his very life. He was not worthy of her, not worthy
to receive her favor.

Yet he closed his eyes, leaning his head against the window frame as the
train hurried along through the gathering darkness, and saw again the
bright lovely face, the dainty fingers blowing kisses, the lips wreathed
in smiles, and knew some of the farewell had been surely meant for him.
He forgot the beautiful villas along the way, forgot to watch for the
twinkling lights, or to care how the cottages looked at evening. Whenever
the track veered toward the sea and gave a glimpse of gray sky and yawning
ocean with here and there a point of light to make the darkness blacker, he
seemed to know instinctively, and opening his eyes strained them to look
across it. Out there in the blackness somewhere was his Starr and he
might not go to her, nor she come to him. There was a wide stretch of
unfathomable sea between them. There would always be that gray, impassable
sky and sea of impossibility between them.

As he neared New York, however, these thoughts dropped from him; and
standing on the ferry-boat with the million twinkling lights of the city,
and the looming blackness of the huddled mass of towering buildings against
the illuminated sky, the call of the people came to him. Over there in
the darkness, swarming in the fetid atmosphere of a crowded court were
thousands like himself, yes, _like himself_, for he was one of them. He
belonged there. They were his kind and he must help them!

Then his mind went to the farm and his plans, and he entered back into the
grind of life and assumed its burdens with the sweet pain of his secret
locked in his inmost heart.



CHAPTER XIII


"Sam, have you ever been in the country?"

It was Michael who asked the question. They were sitting in a small dismal
room that Michael had found he could afford to rent in a house on the
edge of the alley. Not that he had moved there, oh, no! He could not have
endured life if all of it that he could call his own had to be spent in
that atmosphere. He still kept his little fourth floor back in the dismally
respectable street. He had not gone to the place recommended by Endicott,
because he found that the difference he would have to pay would make it
possible for him to rent this sad little room near the alley; and for his
purposes this seemed to him an absolute necessity at present.

The weather was growing too cold for him to meet with his new-old
acquaintances of the alley out of doors, and it was little better indoors
even if he could have endured the dirt and squalor of those apartments that
would have been open to him. Besides, he had a great longing to show them
something brighter than their own forlorn homes.

There was a settlement house three or four blocks away, but it had not
drawn the dwellers in this particular alley. They were sunken too low,
perhaps, or there were so many more hopeful quarters in which to work;
and the city was so wide and deep and dark. Michael knew little about the
settlement house. He had read of such things. He had looked shyly toward
its workers now and then, but as yet knew none of them, though they had
heard now and again of the "Angel-man of the alley," and were curious to
find him out.

But Michael's enterprise was all his own, and his ways of working were his
own. He had gone back into the years of his childhood and found out from
his inner consciousness what it was he had needed, and now he was going
to try to give it to some other little "kids" who were as forlorn and
friendless as he had been. It wasn't much that he could do, but what he
could he would do, and more as soon as possible.

And so he had rented this speck of a room, and purified it. He had
literally compelled Sam to help him. That compelling was almost a modern
miracle, and wrought by radiant smiles, and a firm grip on Sam's shoulder
when he told him what he wanted done.

Together they had swept and scrubbed and literally scraped, the dirt from
that room.

"I don't see what you're making sech a darned fuss about dirt fer!"
grumbled Sam as he arose from his knees after scrubbing the floor for the
fourth time. "It's what we're all made of, dey say, an' nobuddy'll know de
diffrunce."

"Just see if they won't, Sam," encouraged Michael as he polished off the
door he had been cleaning. "See there, how nice that looks! You didn't know
that paint was gray, did you? It looked brown before, it was so thick with
dirt. Now we're ready for paint and paper!"

And so, in an atmosphere of soap and water they had worked night after
night till very late; and Sam had actually let a well-planned and promising
raid go by because he was so interested in what he was doing and he was
ashamed to tell Michael of his engagement.

Sam had never assisted at the papering of a room before; in fact, it is
doubtful if he ever saw a room with clean fresh paper on its walls in all
his life, unless in some house he had entered unlawfully. When this one
stood arrayed at last in its delicate newness, he stood back and surveyed
it in awed silence.

Michael had chosen paper of the color of the sunshine, for the court was
dark and the alley was dark and the room was dark. The souls of the people
too were dark. They must have light and brightness if he would win them to
better things. Besides, the paper was only five cents a roll, the cheapest
he could find in the city. Michael had learned at college during vacations
how to put it on. He made Sam wash and wash and wash his hands before he
was allowed to handle any of the delicate paper.

"De paper'll jest git dirty right away," grumbled Sam sullenly, albeit he
washed his hands, and his eyes glowed as they used to when a child at a
rare "find" in the gutter.

"Wot'll you do when it gits dirty?" demanded Sam belligerently.

"Put on some clean," said Michael sunnily. "Besides, we must learn to have
clean hands and keep it clean."

"I wish we had some curtains," said Michael wistfully. "They had thin white
curtains at college."

"Are you makin' a college fer we?" asked Sam looking at him sharply.

"Well, in a way, perhaps," said Michael smiling. "You know I want you to
have all the advantages I had as far as I can get them."

Sam only whistled and looked perplexed but he was doing more serious
thinking than he had ever done in his life before.

And so the two had worked, and planned, and now to-night, the work was
about finished.

The walls reflected the yellow of the sunshine, the woodwork was painted
white enamel. Michael had, just put on the last gleaming coat.

"We can give it another coat when it looks a little soiled," he had
remarked to Sam, and Sam, frowning, had replied: "Dey better hev dere han's
clean."

The floor was painted gray. There was no rug. Michael felt its lack and
meant to remedy it as soon as possible, but rugs cost money. There was a
small coal stove set up and polished till it shone, and a fire was laid
ready to start. They had not needed it while they were working hard. The
furniture was a wooden, table painted gray with a cover of bright cretonne,
two wooden chairs, and three boxes. Michael had collected these furnishings
carefully and economically, for he had to sacrifice many little comforts
that he might get them.

On the walls were two or three good pictures fastened by brass tacks; and
some of the gray moss and pine branches from Michael's own room. In the
central wall appeared one of Michael's beloved college pennants. It was
understood by all who had yet entered the sacred precincts of the room to
be the symbol of what made the difference between them and "the angel,"
and they looked at it with awe, and mentally crossed themselves in its
presence.

At the windows were two lengths of snowy cheese-cloth crudely hemmed by
Michael, and tacked up in pleats with brass-headed tacks. They were tied
back with narrow yellow ribbons. This had been the last touch and Sam sat
looking thoughtfully at the stiff angular bows when Michael asked the
question:

"Have you ever been in the country?"

"Sure!" said Sam scornfully. "Went wid de Fresh Air folks wen I were a
kid."

"What did you think of it?"

"Don't tink much!" shrugged Sam. "Too empty. Nothin' doin'! Good 'nough fer
kids. Never again fer _me_."

It was three months since Michael had made his memorable first visit down
to Old Orchard Farm. For weeks he had worked shoulder to shoulder every
evening with Sam and as yet no word of that plan which was nearest his
heart had been spoken. This was his first attempt to open the subject.

That Sam had come to have a certain kind of respect and fondness for him he
was sure, though it was never expressed in words. Always he either objected
to any plan Michael suggested, or else he was extremely indifferent and
would not promise to be on hand. He was almost always there, however, and
Michael had come to know that Sam was proud of his friendship, and at least
to a degree interested in his plans for the betterment of the court.

"There are things in the country; other things, that make up for the stir
of the city," said Michael thoughtfully. This was the first unpractical
conversation he had tried to hold with Sam. He had been leading him up,
through the various stages from dirt and degradation, by means of soap
and water, then paper and paint, and now they had reached the doorway of
Nature's school. Michael wanted to introduce Sam to the great world of
out-of-doors. For, though Sam had lived all his life out-of-doors, it had
been a world of brick walls and stone pavements, with little sky and almost
no water. Not a green thing in sight, not a bird, nor a beast except of
burden. The first lesson was waiting in a paper bundle that stood under the
table. Would Sam take it, Michael wondered, as he rose and brought it out
unwrapping the papers carefully, while Sam silently watched and pretended
to whistle, not to show too much curiosity. "What tings?" at last asked
Sam.

"Things like this," answered Michael eagerly setting out on the table an
earthen pot containing a scarlet geranium in bloom. It glowed forth its
brilliant torch at once and gave just the touch to the little empty clean
room that Michael had hoped it would do. He stood back and looked at it
proudly, and then looked at Sam to see if the lesson had been understood.
He half expected to see an expression of scorn on the hardened sallow face
of the slum boy, but instead Sam was gazing open-mouthed, with unmitigated
admiration.

"Say! Dat's all right!" he ejaculated. "Where'd you make de raise? Say! Dat
makes de paper an' de paint show up fine!" taking in the general effect of
the room.

Then he arose from the box on which he had been sitting and went and stood
before the blossom.

"Say! I wisht Jim eud see dat dere!" he ejaculated after a long silence,
and there was that in the expression of his face that brought the quick
moisture to Michael's eyes.

It was only a common red geranium bought for fifteen cents, but it had
touched with its miracle of bright life the hardened soul of the young
burglar, and opened his vision to higher things than he had known. It was
in this moment of open vision that his heart turned to his old companion
who was uncomplainingly taking the punishment which rightfully belonged to
the whole gang.

"We will take him one to-morrow," said Michael in a low voice husky with
feeling. It was the first time Sam had voluntarily mentioned Jim and he had
seemed so loth to take Michael to see him in jail that Michael had ceased
to speak of the matter.

"There's another one just like this where I bought this one. I couldn't
tell which to take, they were both so pretty. We'll get it the first thing
in the morning before anybody else snaps it up, and then, when could we get
in to see Jim? Would they let us in after my office hours or would we have
to wait till Sunday? You look after that will you? I might get off at four
o'clock if that's not too late."

"Dey'll let us in on Sunday ef _you_ ask, I reckon," said Sam much moved.
"But it's awful dark in prison. It won't live, will it? Dere's only one
streak o' sun shines in Jim's cell a few minutes every day."

"Oh, I think it'll live," said Michael hastily, a strange choking sensation
in his throat at thought of his one-time companion shut into a dark prison.
Of course, he deserved to be there. He had broken the laws, but then no one
had ever made him understand how wrong it was. If some one had only tried
perhaps Jim would never have done the thing that put him in prison.

"I'm sure it will live," he said again cheerfully. "I've heard that
geraniums are very hardy. The man told me they would live all winter in the
cellar if you brought them up again in the spring."

"Jim will be out again in de spring," said Sam softly. It was the first
sign of anything like emotion in Sam.

"Isn't that good!" said Michael heartily. "I wonder what we can do to make
it pleasant for him when he comes back to the world. We'll bring him to
this room, of course, but in the spring this will be getting warm. And that
makes me think of what I was talking about a minute ago. There's so much
more in the country than in the city!"

"More?" questioned Sam uncomprehendingly.

"Yes, things like this to look at. Growing things that you get to love and
understand. Wonderful things. There's a river that sparkles and talks as it
runs. There are trees that laugh and whisper when the wind plays in their
branches. And there are wonderful birds, little live breaths of air with
music inside that make splendid friends when you're lonely. I know, for I
made lots of bird-friends when I went away from you all to college. You
know I was pretty lonely at first."

Sam looked at him with quick, keen wonder, and a lighting of his face that
made him almost attractive and sent the cunning in his eyes slinking out of
sight. Had this fine great-hearted creature really missed his old
friends when he went away? Had he really need of them yet, with all his
education--and--difference? It was food for thought.

"Then there's the sky, so much of it," went on Michael, "and so wide and
blue, and sometimes soft white clouds. They make you feel rested when you
look at them floating lazily through the blue, and never seeming to be
tired; not even when there's a storm and they have to hurry. And there's
the sunset. Sam, I don't believe you ever saw the sunset, not right anyway.
You don't have sunsets here in the city, it just gets dark. You ought to
see one I saw not long ago. I mean to take you there some day and we'll
watch it together. I want to see if it will do the same thing to you that
it did to me."

Sam looked at him in awe, for he wore his exalted look, and when he spoke
like that Sam had a superstitious fear that perhaps after all he was as old
Sal said, more of angel than of man.

"And then, there's the earth, all covered with green, plenty of it to lie
in if you want to, and it smells so good; and there's so much air,--enough
to breathe your lungs full, and with nothing disagreeable in it, no ugly
smells nor sounds. And there are growing things everywhere. Oh, Sam!
Wouldn't you like to make things like this grow?"

Sam nodded and put forth his rough forefinger shamedly to touch the velvet
of a green leaf, as one unaccustomed might touch a baby's cheek.

"You'll go with me, Sam, to the country sometime, won't you? I've got a
plan and I'll need you to help me carry it out. Will you go?"

"Sure!" said Sam in quite a different voice from any reluctant assent he
had ever given before. "Sure, I'll go!"

"Thank you, Sam," said Michael more moved than he dared show, "And now
that's settled I want to talk about this room. I'm going to have five
little kids here to-morrow early in the evening. I told them I'd show them
how to whittle boats and we're going to sail them in the scrub bucket.
They're about the age you and I were when I went away to college. Perhaps
I'll teach them a letter or two of the alphabet if they seem interested.
They ought to know how to read, Sam."

"I never learned to read--" muttered Sam half belligerently. "That so?"
said Michael as if it were a matter of small moment. "Well, what if you
were to come in and help me with the boats. Then you could pick it up when
I teach them. You might want to use it some day. It's well to know how, and
a man learns things quickly you know."

Sam nodded.

"I don't know's I care 'bout it," he said indifferently, but Michael saw
that he intended to come.

"Well, after the kids have gone, I won't keep them late you know, I wonder
if you'd like to bring some of the fellows in to see this?"

Michael glanced around the room.

"I've some pictures of alligators I have a fancy they might like to see.
I'll bring them down if you say so."

"Sure!" said Sam trying to hide his pleasure.

"Then to-morrow morning I'm going to let that little woman that lives in
the cellar under Aunt Sally's room, bring her sewing here and work all day.
She makes buttonholes in vests. It's so dark in her room she can't see and
she's almost ruined her eyes working by candle light."

"She'll mess it all up!" grumbled Sam; "an' she might let other folks in
an' they'd pinch the picters an' the posy."

"No, she won't do that. I've talked to her about it. The room is to be hers
for the day, and she's to keep it looking just as nice as it did when she
found it. She'll only bring her work over, and go home for her dinner.
She's to keep the fire going so it will be warm at night, and she's to try
it for a day and see how it goes. I think she'll keep her promise. We'll
try her anyway."

Sam nodded as to a superior officer who nevertheless was awfully foolish.

"Mebbe!" he said.

"Sam, do you think it would be nice to bring Aunt Sally over now a few
minutes?"

"No," said Sam shortly, "she's too dirty. She'd put her fingers on de wall
first thing--"

"But Sam, I think she ought to come. And she ought to come first. She's the
one that helped me find you--"

Sam looked sharply at Michael and wondered if he suspected how long that
same Aunt Sally had frustrated his efforts to find his friends.

"We could tell her not to touch things, perhaps--"

"Wal, you lemme tell her. Here! I'll go fix her up an' bring her now." And
Sam hurried out of the room.

Michael waited, and in a few minutes Sam returned with Aunt Sally. But it
was a transformed Aunt Sally. Her face had been painfully scrubbed in a
circle out as far as her ears, and her scraggy gray hair was twisted in a
tight knot at the back of her neck. Her hands were several shades cleaner
than Michael had ever seen them before, and her shoes were tied. She wore a
small three-cornered plaid shawl over her shoulders and entered cautiously
as if half afraid to come. Her hands were clasped high across her breast.
She had evidently been severely threatened against touching anything.

"The saints be praised!" she ejaculated warmly after she had looked around
in silence for a moment "To think I should ivver see the loikes uv this in
de alley. It lukes loike a palace. Mikky, ye're a Nangel, me b'y! An'
a rale kurtin, to be shure! I ain't seen a kurtin in the alley since I
cummed. An' will ye luke at the purty posy a blowin' as foine as ye plaze!
Me mither had the loike in her cottage window when I was a leetle gal! Aw,
me pure auld mither!"

And suddenly to Michael's amazement, and the disgust of Sam, old Sal sat
down on the one chair and wept aloud, with the tears streaming down her
seamed and sin-scarred face.

Sam was for putting her out at once, but Michael soothed her with his
cheery voice, making her tell of her old home in Ireland, and the kind
mother whom she had loved, though it was long years since she had thought
of her now.

With rare skill he drew from her the picture of the little Irish cottage
with its thatched roof, its peat fire, and well-swept hearth; the table
with the white cloth, the cat in the rocking chair, the curtain starched
stiffly at the window, the bright posy on the deep window ledge; and,
lastly, the little girl with clean pinafore and curly hair who kissed her
mother every morning and trotted off to school. But that was before the
father died, and the potatoes failed. The school days were soon over, and
the little girl with her mother came to America. The mother died on the way
over, and the child fell into evil hands. That was the story, and as it was
told Michael's face grew tender and wistful. Would that he knew even so
much of his own history as that!

But Sam stood by struck dumb and trying to fancy that this old woman had
ever been the bright rosy child she told about. Sam was passing through a
sort of mental and moral earthquake.

"Perhaps some day we'll find another little house in the country where you
can go and live," said Michael, "but meantime, suppose you go and see
if you can't make your room look like this one. You scrub it all up and
perhaps Sam and I will come over and put some pretty paper on the walls for
you. Would you like that? How about it, Sam?"

"Sure!" said Sam rather grudgingly. He hadn't much faith in Aunt Sally
and didn't see what Michael wanted with her anyway, but he was loyal to
Michael.

Irish blessings mingled with tears and garnished with curses in the most
extraordinary way were showered upon Michael and at last when he could
stand no more, Sam said:

"Aw, cut it out, Sal. You go home an' scrub. Come on, now!" and he bundled
her off in a hurry.

Late as it was, old Sal lit a fire, and by the light of a tallow candle got
down on her stiff old knees and began to scrub. It seemed nothing short of
a miracle that her room could ever look like that one she had just seen,
but if scrubbing could do anything toward it, scrub she would. It was ten
years since she had thought of scrubbing her room. She hadn't seemed to
care; but to-night as she worked with her trembling old drink-shaken hands
the memory of her childhood's home was before her vision, and she worked
with all her might.

So the leaven of the little white room in the dark alley began to work.
"The Angel's quarters" it was named, and to be called to go within its
charmed walls was an honor that all coveted as time went on. And that was
how Michael began the salvation of his native alley.



CHAPTER XIV


Michael had been three months with the new law firm and was beginning
to get accustomed to the violent contrast between the day spent in the
atmosphere of low-voiced, quiet-stepping, earnest men who moved about in
their environment of polished floors, oriental rugs, leather chairs and
walls lined with leather-covered law books; and the evening down in the
alley where his bare, little, white and gold room made the only tolerable
spot in the neighborhood.

He was still occupying the fourth floor back at his original boarding
house, and had seen Mr. Endicott briefly three or four times, but nothing
had been said about his lodgings.

One morning he came to the desk set apart for him in the law office, and
found a letter lying there for him.

"Son:" it said, "your board is paid at the address given below, up to the
day you are twenty-one. If you don't get the benefit it will go to waste.
Mrs. Semple will make you quite comfortable and I desire you to move to
her house at once. If you feel any obligation toward me this is the way to
discharge it. Hope you are well, Tours, Delevan Endicott.'"

Michael's heart beat faster with varied emotions. It was pleasant to have
some one care, and of course if Mr. Endicott wished it so much he would
manage it somehow--perhaps he could get some night work or copying to
do--but he would never let him bear his expenses. That could not be.

He hurried off at the noon hour to find his benefactor and make this plain
with due gratitude. He found, however, that it was not so easy to change
this man's mind, once made up. Endicott would not hear to any change in
arrangements. He had paid the board for the remaining months of Michael's
minority and maintained his right to do so if he chose. Neither would he
let Michael refund him any of the amount.

So Michael moved, bag and baggage, and found the change good. The regular,
well-cooked meals gave zest to his appetite which had been going back on
him for sometime under his own economical regime, and the larger room with
better outlook and more air, to say nothing of a comfortable bed with
adjoining bath-room, and plenty of heat and light, made life seem more
worth while. Besides there were other boarders with whom he now came in
pleasant contact, and there was a large pleasant parlor with easy chairs
and an old-fashioned square piano which still retained much of its original
sweetness of tone.

Mrs. Semple had a daughter Hester, an earnest, gray-eyed girl with soft
brown hair and a firm little chin, who had taken an art course in Cooper
Institute and painted very good pictures which, however, did not sell.
Hester played the piano--not very well, it is true, but well enough to make
it pleasant to a lonely boy who had known no music in his life except the
birds or his own whistle. She played hymns on Sunday after church while
they waited for the dinner to be ready; and evenings after supper she
played other things: old ballads and tender, touching melodies from old
masters simplified, for such as she. Michael sometimes lingered a half hour
before hurrying away to the alley, and joined his rich natural tenor with
her light pretty soprano. Sometimes Will French, a young fellow who was in
the same law office and also boarded at Mrs. Semple's, stayed awhile and
sang bass. It was very pleasant and made it seem more as if he were living
in a home.

All this time Michael was carrying on his quiet work in the alley, saying
nothing about it to anybody. In the first place he felt shy about it
because of his personal connection with the place. Not that he wished to
hide his origin from his employers, but he felt he owed it to Mr. Endicott
who had recommended him, to be as respectable in their sight as possible;
and so long as they neither knew nor cared it did not matter. Then, it
never occurred to Michael that he was doing anything remarkable with his
little white room in the blackness of the stronghold of sin. Night after
night he gathered his newsboys and taught them whittling, basketry,
reading, arithmetic and geography, with a little philosophy and botany
thrown in unawares. Night after night the older fellows dropped in, one
or two at a time, and listened to the stories Michael told; sometimes of
college life and games in which they were of course interested; sometimes
of Nature and his experiences in finding an alligator, or a serpent, or
watching some bird. It was wonderful how interesting he managed to make
those talks. He never realized that he was preparing in the school of
experience to be a magnificent public speaker. With an audience as
difficult as any he could have found in the whole wide city, he managed to
hold them every time.

And the favorite theme often was agriculture. He would begin by bringing a
new little plant to the room, setting it up and showing it to them; talking
about conditions of soil and how plants were being improved. It was usually
the _résumé_ of some article on agriculture that he had taken time to read
at noon and was reviewing for their benefit.

They heard all about Burbank and his wonderful experiments in making plants
grow and develop, and as they listened they went and stood around the
blossom that Michael had just brought to them and looked with new wonder at
it. A flower was a strange enough sight in that court, but when they heard
these stories it became filled with new interest. For a little while they
forgot their evil plotting and were lifted above themselves.

Another night the talk would be on fertilizers, and how one crop would
sometimes give out something that another crop planted later, needed.
Little by little, because he talked about the things in which he himself
was interested, he was giving these sons of ignorance a dim knowledge of
and interest in the culture of life, and the tilling of the ground; getting
them ready for what he had hardly as yet dared to put into words even to
himself.

And one day he took Sam down to Old Orchard. It was the week before
Christmas. They had made their second visit to Jim the week before and he
had spoken of the spring and when he should get out into the world again.
He seemed to be planning to get even with those who had confined him for
his wrongdoing. Michael's heart was filled with anxiety for him.

There was something about Jim that appealed to Michael from the first.

He had seen him first standing behind the grating of his cell, a great
unkempt hulk of a fellow with fiery red hair and brown eyes that roved
restlessly, hungrily through the corridor. He would have been handsome but
for his weak, girlish chin. Jim had melted almost to tears at sight of the
scarlet geranium they had carried him on that first visit, and seemed to
care more for the appearance of his old comrade "Mikky" than ever Sam had
cared.

Jim was to get out in April. If only there were some place for him to go!

They talked of it on the way down, Sam seemed to think that Jim would find
it pretty hard to leave New York. Sam himself wasn't much interested in the
continued, hints of Michael about going to the country.

"Nothin' doin'" was his constant refrain when Michael tried to tell him how
much better it would be if some of the congested part of the city could be
spread out into the wide country: especially for the poor people, how much
greater opportunity for success in life there would be for them.

But Sam had been duly impressed with the wideness of the landscape, on this
his first long trip out of the city, and as Michael unfolded to him the
story of the gift of the farm, and his own hopes for it, Sam left off his
scorn and began to give replies that showed he really was thinking about
the matter.

"Say!" said he suddenly, "ef Buck was to come back would you let him live
down to your place an' help do all them things you're plannin'?"

"I surely would," said Michael happily. "Say, Sam, do you, or do you _not_
know where Buck is?"

Sam sat thoughtfully looking out of the window. At this point he turned his
gaze down to his feet and slowly, cautiously nodded his head.

"I thought so!" said Michael eagerly. "Sam, is he in hiding for something
he has done?"

Still more slowly, cautiously, Sam nodded his head once more.

"Sam, will you send him a message from me?"

Another nod.

"Tell him that I love him," Michael breathed the words eagerly. His heart
remembered kindness from Buck more than any other lighting of his sad
childhood. "Tell him that I want him--that I need him! Tell him that I want
him to make an appointment to meet me somewhere and let us talk this plan
of mine over. I want him to go in with me and help me make that farm into
a fit place to take people who haven't the right kind of homes, where they
can have honest work and good air and be happy! Will you tell him?"

And Sam nodded his head emphatically.

"An' Jim'll help too ef Buck goes. That's dead sure!" Sam volunteered.

"And Sam, I'm counting on you!"

"Sure thing!" said Sam.

Michael tramped all over the place with Sam, showing him everything and
telling all his plans. He was very familiar with his land now. He had
planned the bog for a cranberry patch, and had already negotiated for the
bushes. He had trimmed up the berry bushes in the garden himself during
his various holiday trips, and had arranged with a fisherman to dump a few
haulings of shellfish on one field where he thought that kind of fertilizer
would be effective. He had determined to use his hundred-dollar graduation
present in fertilizer and seed. It would not go far but it would be a
beginning. The work he would have to get some other way. He would have but
little time to put to it himself until late in the summer probably, and
there was a great deal that ought to be done in the early spring. He would
have to be contented to go slow of course, and must remember that unskilled
labor is always expensive and wasteful; still it would likely be all he
could get. Just how he would feed and house even unskilled labor was a
problem yet to be solved.

It was a day of many revelations to Sam. For one thing even the bare snowy
stretch, of wide country had taken on a new interest to him since Michael
had been telling all these wonderful things about the earth. Sam's dull
brain which up to this time had never busied itself about anything except
how to get other men's goods away from them, had suddenly awakened to the
wonders of the world.

It was he that recognized a little colony of cocoons on the underside of
leaves and twigs and called attention to them.

"Say, ain't dem some o' de critters you was showin' de fellers t'other
night?"

And Michael fell upon them eagerly. They happened to be rare specimens, and
he knew from college experience that such could be sold to advantage to the
museums. He showed Sam how to remove them without injuring them. A little
further on they came to a wild growth of holly, crazy with berries and
burnished thorny foliage, and near at hand a mistletoe bough loaded with
tiny white transparent berries.

"Ain't dem wot dey sell fer Chris'sum greens?" Sam's city eyes picked them
out at once.

"Of course," said Michael delighted. "How stupid of me not to have found
them before. We'll take a lot back with us and see if we can get any price
for it. Whatever we get we'll devote to making the house liveable. Holly
and mistletoe ought to have a good market about now. That's another idea!
Why not cultivate a lot of this stuff right in this tract of land. It seems
to grow without any trouble. See! There are lots of little bushes. We'll
encourage them, Sam. And say, Sam, if you hadn't come along I might never
have thought of that. You see I needed you."

Sam grunted in a pleased way.

When they came to the house it looked to Michael still more desolate in the
snowy stretch of setting than it had when the grass was about it. His heart
sank.

"I don't know as we can ever do anything with the old shack," he said,
shaking his head wistfully. "It looks worse than I thought."

"'Tain't so bad," said Sam cheerfully. "Guess it's watertight." He placed
a speculative eye at the dusty window pane he had wiped off with his coat
sleeve. "Looks dry inside. 'Twould be a heap better'n sleepin' on de
pavement fer some. Dat dere fire hole would take in a big lot o' wood an' I
guess dere's a plenty round de place without robbin' de woods none."

Michael led him to the seashore and bade him look. He wanted to see what
effect it would have upon him. The coast swept wild and bleak in the cold
December day, and Sam shivered in his thin garments. A look of awe and fear
came into his face. He turned his back upon it.

"Too big!" he said sullenly, and Michael understood that the sea in its
vastness oppressed him.

"Yes, there's a good deal of it," he admitted, "but after all it's sort of
like the geranium flower."

Sam turned back and looked.

"H'm! I don't see nothin' like!" he grunted despairingly.

"Why, it's wonderful! Its beyond us! We couldn't make it. Look at that
motion! See the white tossing rim of the waves! See that soft green gray!
Isn't it just the color of the little down on the geranium leaf? See the
silver light playing back and forth, and look how it reaches as far as you
can see. Now, doesn't it make you feel a little as it did when you first
looked at the geranium?"

Michael looked down at Sam from his greater height almost wistfully. He
wanted him to understand, but Sam looked in vain.

"Not fer mine!" he shrugged. "Gimme the posy every time."

They walked in silence along the beach toward the flowing of the river, and
Sam eyed the ocean furtively as if he feared it might run up and engulf
them suddenly when they were not looking. He had seen the ocean from wharfs
of course; and once stole a ride in a pilot boat out into the deep a little
way; but he had never been alone thus with the whole sea at once as this
seemed. It was too vast for him to comprehend. Still, in a misty way he
knew what Michael was trying to make him understand, and it stirred him
uncomfortably.

They hired a little boat for a trifle and Michael with strong strokes rowed
them back to the farm, straight into the sunset. The sky was purple and
gold that night, and empurpled the golden river, whose ripples blended into
pink and lavender and green. Sam sat huddled in the prow of the boat facing
it all. Michael had planned it so. The oars dipped very quietly, and Sam's
small eyes changed and widened and took it all in. The sun slipped lower in
a crimson ball, and a flood of crimson light broke through the purple and
gold for a moment and left a thin, clear line of flame behind.

"Dere!" exclaimed Sam pointing excitedly. "Dat's like de posy. I kin see
_thet_ all right!"

And Michael rested on his oars and looked back at the sunset, well pleased
with this day's work.

They left the boat at a little landing where its owner had promised to get
it, and went back through the wood, gathering a quantity of holly branches
and mistletoe; and when they reached the city Michael found a good market
for it, and received enough for what he had brought to more than cover the
price of the trip. The best of it was that Sam was as pleased with the
bargain as if it were for his personal benefit.

When they parted Sam wore a sprig of mistletoe in his ragged buttonhole,
and Michael carried several handsome branches of holly back to his boarding
place.

Most of this he gave to Hester Semple to decorate the parlor with, but
one fine branch he kept and carried to his room and fastened it over his
mirror. Then after looking at it wistfully for a long time he selected a
glossy spray containing several fine large berries, cut it off and packed
it carefully in a tiny box. This without name or clue to sender, he
addressed in printing letters to Starr. Mr. Endicott had asked him to mail
a letter to her as he passed by the box the last time he had been in the
office, and without his intention the address had been burned into his
memory. He had not expected to use it ever, but there could be no harm
surely in sending the girl this bit of Christmas greeting out of the
nowhere of a world of possible people. She would never know he had sent
it, and perhaps it would please her to get a piece of Christmas holly from
home. She might think her father had sent it. It mattered not, he knew, and
it helped him to think he might send this much of his thoughts over the
water to her. He pleased himself with thinking how she would look when
she opened the box. But whether she would be pleased or not he must only
surmise, for she would never know to thank him. Ah, well, it was as near as
he dared hope for touching life's happiness. He must be glad for what he
might have, and try to work and forget the rest.



CHAPTER XV


Now about this time the law firm with whom Michael worked became deeply
interested in their new "boy." He studied hard, and seemed to know what he
was about all day. They saw signs of extraordinary talent in him. Once or
twice, thinking to make life pleasant for him, they had invited him to
their club, or to some evening's entertainment, and always Michael had
courteously declined, saying that he had an engagement for the evening.
They casually questioned Will French, the other student, who was a
happy-go-lucky; in the office because his father wished him to study
something and not because he wanted to. Will said that Michael went out
every evening and came in late. Mrs. Semple had remarked that she often
didn't know whether he came in at all until she saw him come down to
breakfast.

This report and a certain look of weariness about the eyes some mornings
led the senior member of the firm to look into Michael's affairs. The
natural inference was that Michael was getting into social life too
deeply, perhaps wasting the hours in late revelry when he should have
been sleeping. Mr. Holt liked Michael, and dreaded to see the signs of
dissipation appear on that fine face. He asked Will French to make friends
with him and find out if he could where he spent his evenings. Will readily
agreed, and at once entered on his mission with a zeal which was beyond all
baffling.

"Hello, Endicott!" called Will as Michael reached the front door on his way
to his mission that same evening. "Where're you going? Wait, can't you, and
I'll walk along with you? I was going to ask you if you wouldn't go to a
show with me this evening. I haven't anything on for to-night and it's
slow."

As he spoke he seized his coat and hat which he had purposely left in the
hall near at hand, and put them on.

"Thank you," said Michael, as they went out together, "I'd be glad to go
with you but I have something that can't be put off."

"Well, go to-morrow night with me, will you? I like you and I think we
ought to be friends."

Will's idea was that they would get to talking at a "show" and he could
find out a good deal in that way. He thought it must be a girl. He had told
the senior Holt that it was a girl of course and he wouldn't take long to
spot her. It must be either a girl or revelry to take the fellow out every
night in the week so late.

"Well, I'm sorry," said Michael again, "but I'm afraid I have an engagement
every night. It's rather a permanent job I'm engaged in. What do you do
with your evenings?"

Will launched into a gay description of parties and entertainments to which
he had been bidden, and nice girls he knew, hinting that he might
introduce Michael if he was so inclined, and Michael talked on leading his
unsuspecting companion further and further from the subject of his own
evenings. Finally they came to a corner and Michael halted.

"I turn here," he said; "which way do you go?"

"Why, I turn too," laughed French. "That is, if you don't object. I'm out
for a walk and I don't care much what I do. If I'm not welcome just tell me
and I'll clear out."

"Of course you're quite welcome," said Michael; "I'm glad to have company,
but the quarter I'm walking to is not a pleasant one for a walk, and indeed
you mightn't like to return alone even so early in the evening if you walk
far. I had an unpleasant encounter myself once, but I know the ways of the
place now and it's different."

Will eyed him curiously.

"Is it allowable to ask where we're going?" he asked in a comical tone.

Michael laughed.

"Certainly. If you're bound to go I'll have to tell you all about it, but
I strongly advise you to turn back now, for it isn't a very savory
neighborhood, and I don't believe you'll care for it."

"Where thou goest I will go," mocked Will. "My curiosity is aroused. I
shall certainly go. If it's safe for you, it is for me. My good looks are
not nearly so valuable as yours, nor so noticeable. As I have no valuables
in the world, I can't be knocked down for booty."

"You see they all know me," explained Michael.

"Oh, they do! And can't you introduce me? Or don't you like to?"

"I suppose I can," laughed Michael, "if you really want me to, but
I'm afraid you'll turn and run when you see them. You see they're not
very--handsome. They're not what you're used to. You wouldn't want to know
them."

"But you do."

"I had to," said Michael desperately. "They needed something and I had to
help them!"

Up to this point Will French had been sure that Michael had fallen into the
hands of a set of sharpers, but something in his companion's tone made
him turn and look, and he saw Michael's face uplifted in the light of the
street lamp, glowing with, a kind of intent earnestness that surprised and
awed him.

"Look here, man," he said. "Tell me who they are, and what you are doing,
anyway."

Michael told him in a few words, saying little about himself, or his reason
for being interested in the alley in the first place. There were a few
neglected newsboys, mere kids. He was trying to teach them a few things,
reading and figures and a little manual training. Something to make life
more than a round of suffering and sin.

"Is it settlement work?" asked French. He was puzzled and interested.

"No," explained Michael, "there's a settlement, but it's too far away and
got too big a district to reach this alley. It's just my own little work."

"Who pays you for it?"

"Who pays me?"

"Yes, who's behind the enterprise? Who forks over the funds and pays you
for your job?"

Michael laughed long and loud.

"Well, now, I hadn't thought about pay, but I guess the kiddies themselves
do. You can't think how they enjoy it all."

"H'm!" said French, "I think I'll go along and see how you do it. I won't
scare 'em out, will I?"

"Well, now I hadn't thought of that," said Michael. "In fact, I didn't
suppose you'd care to go all the way, but if you think you do, I guess it
will be all right."

"Not a very warm welcome, I must say," laughed Will, "but I'm going just
the same. You get me in and I'll guarantee not to scare the crowd. Have any
time left over from your studies for amusement? If you do I might come in
on that. I can do tricks."

"Can you?" said Michael looking at his unbidden guest doubtfully. "Well,
we'll see. I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. It's very informal. Sometimes
we don't get beyond the first step in a lesson. Sometimes I have to stop
and tell stories."

"Good!" said Will. "I'd like to hear you."

"Oh, you wouldn't enjoy it, but there are a few books there. You might read
if you get tired looking around the room."

And so Michael and his guest entered the yellow and white room together.
Michael lit the gas, and Will looked about blinking in amazement.

Coming through the alley to the room had taken away Will's exclamatory
powers and exhausted his vocabulary. The room in its white simplicity,
immaculately kept, and constantly in touch with fresh paint to hide any
stray finger marks, stood out in startling contrast with the regions round
about it. Will took it all in, paint, paper, and pictures. The tiny stove
glowing warmly, the improvised seats, the blackboard in the corner, and the
bits of life as manifested in geranium, butterfly cocoons and bird's nests;
then he looked at Michael, tall and fine and embarrassed, in the centre of
it all.

"Great Scott!" he exclaimed. "Is this an enchanted island, or am I in my
right mind?"

But before he could be answered there came the sound of mattering young
feet and a tumult outside the door. Then eager, panting, but decorous,
they entered, some with clean faces, most of them with clean hands, or
moderately so, all with their caps off in homage to their Prince; and
Michael welcomed them as if he stood in a luxurious drawing room on Fifth
Avenue and these were his guests.

He introduced them, and Will entered into the spirit of the affair and
greeted them chummily. They stood shyly off from him at first with great
eyes of suspicion, huddled together in a group near Michael, but later when
the lesson on the blackboard was over and Michael was showing a set of
pictures, Will sat down in a corner with a string from his pocket and began
showing two of the boldest of the group some tricks. This took at once, and
when he added a little sleight-of-hand pulling pennies from the hair and
pockets and hands of the astonished youngsters and allowing them to keep
them after the game was over, they were ready to take him into their inner
circle at once.

When, however, Sam, who was most unaccountably late that night, sidled
in alone, he looked at the stranger with eyes of belligerence; and when
Michael introduced him as his friend, Sam's eyes glinted with a jealous
light. Sam did not like Michael to have any friends of that sort. This new
man had shiny boots, fine new clothes, wore his hair nicely brushed, and
manipulated a smooth handkerchief with fingers as white as any gentleman.
To be sure Michael was like that, but then Michael was Michael. He belonged
to them, and his clothes made him no worse. But who was this intruder? A
gentleman? All gentlemen were natural enemies to Sam.

"Come outside," said Sam to Michael gruffly, ignoring the white hand Will
held out cordially. Michael saw there was something on his mind.

"Will, can you amuse these kids a minute or two while I step out? I'll not
be long."

"Sure!" said Will heartily. He hadn't had such a good time in months and
what a story he would have to tell the senior partner in the morning.

"Ever try to lift a fellow's hand off the top of his head? Here, you kid,
sit in that chair and put your right hand flat on the top of your head.
Now, sonnie, you lift it off. Pull with all your might. That's it--"

Michael's eyes shone, and even Sam grinned surreptitiously.

"He'll do," he said to Sam as they went out. "He was lonesome this evening
and wanted to come along with me."

Lonesome! A fellow like that! It gave Sam a new idea to think about. Did
people who had money and education and were used to living in clothes like
that get lonesome? Sam cast a kindlier eye back at Will as he closed the
door.

Alone in the dark cold entry where the wind whistled up from the river and
every crack seemed a conductor of a blast, Sam and Michael talked in low
tones:

"Say, he's lit out!" Sam's tone conveyed dismay as well as apology.

It was a sign of Michael's real eagerness that he knew at once who was
meant.

"Buck?"

Sam grunted assent.

"When?"

"Day er so ago, I tuk yer word to 'im but he'd gone. Lef' word he had a big
deal on, an' ef it came troo all right 'e'd send fer us. You see it wan't
safe round here no more. The police was onto his game. Thur wan't no more
hidin' fer him. He was powerful sorry not to see you. He'd always thought a
heap o' Mikky!"

"How long had he known I was here?" Michael's face was grave in the
darkness. Why had Buck not sent him some word? Made some appointment?

"Since you first cum back."

"Why--oh, Sam, why didn't he let me come and see him?"

"It warn't safe," said Sam earnestly. "Sure thing, it warn't! 'Sides--"

"Besides what, Sam?" The question was eager.

"'Sides, he knowed you'd had edicashun, an' he knowed how you looked on his
way o' livin'. He didn't know but--"

"You mean he didn't trust me, Sam?" Sam felt the keen eyes upon him even hi
the darkness.

"Naw, he didn't tink you'd snitch on him ner nothin', but he didn't know
but you might tink you had to do some tings what might kick it all up wid
him. You'd b'en out o' tings fer years, an' you didn't know de ways o' de
city. 'Sides, he ain't seed you like I done--"

"I see," said Michael, "I understand. It's a long time and of course he
only knows what you have told him, and if there was danger,--but oh, Sam, I
wish he could go down to Old Orchard. Did you ever tell him about it, and
about my plans?"

"Sure ting I did. Tole 'im all you tole me. He said 'twar all right. Ef he
comes out on dis deal he'll be back in a while, an' he'll go down dere ef
you want him. He said he'd bring a little wad back to make things go ef dis
deal went troo."

"Do you know what the deal is, Sam?"

"Sure!"

"Is it dis--is it"--he paused for a word that would convey his meaning and
yet not offend--"is it--dangerous, Sam?"

"Sure!" admitted Sam solemnly as though it hurt him to pain his friend.

"Do you mean it will make more hiding for him?"

"Sure!" emphatically grave.

"I wish he hadn't gone!" There was sharp pain in Michael's voice.

"I wisht so too!'" said Sam with a queer little choke to his voice, "Mebbe
'twon't come off after all. Mebbe it'll git blocked. Mebbe he'll come
back."

The anxiety in Sam's tone touched Michael, but another thought had struck
him hard.

"Sam," said he plucking at the others sleeve in the darkness, "Sam, tell
me, what was Buck doing--before he went away. Was it all straight? Was he
in the same business with you?"

Sam breathed heavily but did not answer. At last with difficulty he
answered a gruff, "Nope!"

"What was it, Sam? Won't you tell me?"

"It would be snitchin'."

"Not to me, Sam. You know I belong to you all."

"But you've got new notions."

"Yes," admitted Michael, "I can't help that, but I don't go back on you, do
I?"

"No, you don't go back on we'uns, that's so. But you don't like we's
doin's."

"Never mind. Tell me, Sam. I think I must know."

"He kep a gamein' den--"

"Oh, Sam!" Michael's voice was stricken, and his great athletic hand
gripped Sam's hard skinny one, and Sam in the darkness gripped back.

"I knowed you'd feel thet way," he mourned as if the fault were all in his
telling. "I wisht I hadn't 'a tole yer."

"Never mind, Sam, you couldn't help it, and I suppose I wouldn't have known
the difference myself if I hadn't gone away. We mustn't judge Buck harshly.
He'll see it the other way by and by."

Sam straightened perceptibly. There was something in this speech that put
him in the same class with Michael. He had never before had any qualms of
conscience concerning gambling, but now he found himself almost unawares
arrayed against it.

"I guess mebbe!" he said comfortingly, and then seeking to change the
subject. "Say, is dat guy in dere goin' along to de farm?"

"Who?"

"Why, dat ike you lef' in de room. Is he goin' down 'long when wees go?"

"Oh, Will French! No, Sam. He doesn't know anything about it yet. I may
tell him sometime, but he doesn't need that. He is studying to be a lawyer.
Perhaps some day if he gets interested he'll help do what I want for the
alley, and all the other alleys in the city; make better laws and see that
they're enforced."

"Laws!" said Sam in a startled voice. "What laws!"

Laws were his natural enemies he thought.

"Laws for better tenement houses, more room and more windows, better air,
cleaner streets, room for grass and flowers, pure milk and meat, and less
crowding and dirt. Understand?"

It was the first time Michael had gone so deep into his plans with Sam, and
he longed now to have his comradeship in this hope too.

"Oh, sure!" said Sam much relieved that Michael had not mentioned laws
about gambling dens and pickpockets. Sam might be willing to reform his own
course in the brilliant wake of Michael but as yet he had not reached the
point where he cared to see vice and dishonesty swept off the globe.

They went slowly back to the white room to find Will French leading a
chorus of small urchins in the latest popular melody while they kept time
with an awkward shuffle of their ill-shod feet.

Sam growled: "Cut it out, kids, you scratch de floor," and Will French
subsided with apologies.

"I never thought of the floor, Endicott. Say, you ought to have a gymnasium
and a swimming pool here."

Michael laughed.

"I wish we had," he declared, "but I'd begin on a bath-room. We need that
first of all."

"Well, let's get one," said Will eagerly. "That wouldn't cost so much. We
could get some people to contribute a little. I know a man that has a big
plumbing establishment. He'd do a little something. I mean to tell him
about it. Is there any place it could be put?"

Sam followed them wondering, listening, interested, as they went out
into the hall to see the little dark hole which might with ingenuity be
converted into a bath-room, and while he leaned back against the door-jamb,
hands in his pockets, he studied the face of the newcomer.

"Guess dat guy's all right," he reassured Michael as he helped him turn the
lights out a little later, while Will waited on the doorstep whistling a
new tune to his admiring following. Will had caught "de kids."

"I say, Endicott," he said as they walked up the noisy midnight street and
turned into the avenue, "why don't you get Hester to go down there and sing
sometime? Sunday afternoon. She'd go. Ask her."

And that night was the beginning of outside help for Michael's mission.

Hester fell into the habit of going down Sunday afternoons, and soon she
had an eager following of sad-eyed women, and eager little children; and
Will French spent his leisure hours in hunting up tricks and games and
puzzles, for "the kids."

Meantime, the account he had given to Holt and Holt of the way Michael
spent his evenings, was not without fruit.

About a week after French's first visit to the alley, the senior Mr. Holt
paused beside Michael's desk one afternoon just before going out of the
office and laid a bit of paper in his hand.

"French tells me you're interested in work in the slums," he said in the
same tone he used to give Michael an order for his daily routine. "I'd
like to help a little if you can use that." He passed on out of the office
before Michael had fully comprehended what had been said. The young man
looked down at the paper and saw it was a check made out to himself for one
hundred dollars!

With a quick exclamation of gratitude he was on his feet and out into the
hall after his employer.

"That's all right, Endicott. I don't get as much time as I'd like to look
after the charities, and when I see a good thing I like to give it a boost.
Call on me if you need money for any special scheme. And I'll mention it to
some of my clients occasionally," said the old lawyer, well pleased with
Michael's gratitude.

He did, and right royally did the clients respond. Every little while a
ten-dollar bill or a five, and now and then a check for fifty would find
its way to Michael's desk; for Will French, thoroughly interested, kept
Holt and Holt well supplied with information concerning what was needed.



CHAPTER XVI


Before the winter was over Michael was able to put in the bath-room and had
bought a plow and a number of necessary farm implements, and secured the
services of a man who lived near Old Orchard to do some early plowing and
planting. He was able also to buy seeds and fertilizer, enough at least to
start his experiment; and toward spring, he took advantage of a holiday,
and with Sam and a carpenter went down to the farm and patched up the old
house to keep out the rain.

After that a few cots, some boxes for chairs and tables, some cheap
comfortables for cool nights, some dishes and cooking utensils from the
ten-cent store, and the place would be ready for his alley-colony when he
should dare to bring them down. A canvas cot and a wadded comfortable would
be luxury to any of them. The only question was, would they be contented
out of the city?

Michael had read many articles about the feasibility of taking the poor of
the cities into the country, and he knew that experience had shown they
were in most cases miserable to get back again. He believed in his heart
that this might be different if the conditions were made right. In the
first place they must have an environment full of new interest to supply
the place of the city's rush, and then they must have some great object
which they would be eager to attain. He felt, too, that they should be
prepared beforehand for their new life.

To this end he had been for six months spending two or three hours a week
with five or six young fellows Sam had tolled in. He had brought the
agricultural papers to the room, and made much of the illustrations. The
boys as a rule could not read, so he read to them, or rather translated
into their own slang-ful English. He told them what wonders had been
attained by farming in the right way. As these fellows had little notion
about farming in any way, or little knowledge of farm products save as
they came to them through the markets in their very worst forms, it became
necessary to bring cabbages and apples, and various other fruits and
vegetables for their inspection.

One night he brought three or four gnarled, little green-skinned, sour,
speckled apples, poorly flavored. He called attention to them very
carefully, and then because an apple was a treat, however poor it might be,
he asked them to notice the flavor as they ate. Then he produced three or
four magnificent specimens of apple-hood, crimson and yellow, with polished
skin and delicious flavor, and set them in a row on the table beside some
more of the little specked apples. They looked like a sunset beside a
ditch. The young men drew around the beautiful apples admiringly, feeling
of their shiny streaks as if they half thought them painted, and listening
to the story of their development from the little sour ugly specimens they
had just been eating. When it came to the cutting up of the perfect apples
every man of them took an intelligent pleasure in the delicious fruit.

Other nights, with the help of Will and Hester, Michael gave demonstrations
of potatoes, and other vegetables, with regular lessons on how to get the
best results with these particular products. Hester managed in some skilful
manner to serve a very tasty refreshment from roasted potatoes, cooked just
right, at the same time showing the difference in the quality between the
soggy potatoes full of dry rot, and those that were grown under the right
conditions. Occasionally a cup of coffee or some delicate sandwiches helped
out on a demonstration, of lettuce or celery or cold cabbage in the form
of slaw, and the light refreshments served with the agricultural lessons
became a most attractive feature of Michael's evenings. More and more young
fellows dropped in to listen to the lesson and enjoy the plentiful "eats"
as they called them. When they reached the lessons on peas and beans the
split pea soup and good rich bean soup were ably appreciated.

Not that all took the lessons with equal eagerness, but Michael began to
feel toward spring that his original five with Sam as their leader would
do comparatively intelligent work on the farm, the story of which had been
gradually told them from night to night, until they were quite eager to
know if they might be included in those who were to be pioneers in the
work.

Will French faithfully reported the condition of the work, and more and
more friends and clients of the office would stop at Michael's desk and
chat with him for a moment about the work, and always leave something with
him to help it along. Michael's eyes shone and his heart beat high with
hopes in these days.

But there was still a further work for him to do before his crude
apprentices should be ready to be sent down into the wilds of nature.

So Michael began one evening to tell them of the beauty and the wonder
of the world. One night he used a cocoon as illustration and for three
evenings they all came with bated breath and watched the strange little
insignificant roll, almost doubting Michael's veracity, yet full of
curiosity, until one night it burst its bonds and floated up into the white
ceiling, its pale green, gorgeously marked wings working a spell upon their
hearts, that no years could ever make them quite forget. It was the miracle
of life and they had never seen it nor heard of it before.

Another night he brought a singing bird in a cage, and pictures of other
birds who were naturally wild. He began to teach them the ways of the birds
they would see in New Jersey, how to tell their songs apart, where to look
for their nests; all the queer little wonderful things that a bird lover
knows, and that Michael because of his long habits of roaming about the
woods knew by heart. The little bird in its cage stayed in the yellow and
white room, and strange to say thrived, becoming a joy and a wonder to
all visitors, and a marvel to those who lived in the court because of its
continuous volume of brilliant song, bursting from a heart that seemed to
be too full of happiness and must bubble over into music. The "kids" and
even the older fellows felt a proprietorship in it, and liked to come and
stand beneath the cage and call to it as it answered "peep" and peeked
between the gilded bars to watch them.

One night, with the help of Will French who had some wealthy friends,
Michael borrowed a large picture of a sunset, and spoke to them about the
sunlight and its effects on growing things, and the wonder of its departure
for the night.

By this time they would listen in awed silence to anything Michael said,
though the picture was perhaps one too many for most of them. Sam, however,
heard with approval, and afterwards went up reverently and laid his finger
on the crimson and the purple and the gold of the picture. Sam knew, and
understood, for he had seen the real thing. Then he turned to the others
and said:

"Say, fellers, it's aw-right. You wait till yer see one. Fine ez silk, an'
twicet as nateral."

One big dark fellow who had lately taken to coming to the gatherings,
turned scornfully away, and replied: "Aw shucks! I don't see nodding in
it!" but loyalty to Michael prevented others who might have secretly
favored this view from expressing it, and the big dark fellow found himself
in the minority.

And so the work went on. Spring was coming, and with it the end of Jim's
"term," and the beginning of Michael's experiment on the farm.

Meantime Michael was working hard at his law, and studying half the
night when he came back from the alley work. If he had not had an iron
constitution, and thirteen years behind him of healthy out-door life, with
plenty of sleep and exercise and good food, he could not have stood it. As
it was, the hard work was good for him, for it kept him from brooding over
himself, and his own hopeless love of the little girl who was far across
the water.

Some weeks after Christmas there had come a brief note from Starr, his name
written in her hand, the address in her father's.

"Dear Michael," it read,--

"I am just almost sure that I am indebted to you for the lovely little
sprig of holly that reached me on Christmas. I have tried and tried to
think who the sender might be, for you see I didn't know the writing, or
rather printing. But to-day it fell down from over the picture where I had
fastened, it on the wall, and I noticed what I had not seen before, 'A
Happy Christmas' in the very tiny little letters of the message cut or
scratched on the under side of the stem; and the letters reminded me of you
and the charming little surprises you used to send me long ago from Florida
when I was a little girl. Then all at once I was sure it was you who sent
the holly, and I am sitting right down to write and thank you for it. You
see I was very lonesome and homesick that Christmas morning, for most of
the girls in the school had gone home for Christmas, and mamma, who had
been intending to come and take me away to Paris for the holidays, had
written that she was not well and couldn't come after all, so I knew I
would have to be here all through the gay times by myself. I was feeling
quite doleful even with the presents that mamma sent me, until I opened the
little box and saw the dear little bright holly berries; that cheered me up
and made me think of home. I kept it on my desk all day so that the bright
berries would make me feel Christmassy, and just before dinner that night
what do you think happened? Why, my dear daddy came to surprise me, and we
took the loveliest trip together, to Venice and Florence and Rome. It was
beautiful! I wish you could have been along and seen everything. I know you
would have enjoyed it. I must not take the time to write about it because I
ought to be studying. This is a very pleasant place and a good school but I
would rather be at home, and I shall be glad when I am done and allowed to
come back to my own country.

"Thanking you ever so much for the pretty little Christmas reminder, for
you see I am sure you sent it, and wishing you a belated Happy New Year, I
am

"Your friend,

"STARR DELEVAN ENDICOTT."

Michael read and re-read the letter, treasured the thoughts and visions
it brought him, pondered the question of whether he might answer it, and
decided that he had no right. Then he put it away with his own heartache,
plunging into his work with redoubled energy, and taking an antidote of so
many pages of Blackstone when his thoughts lingered on forbidden subjects.
So the winter fled away and spring came stealing on apace.



CHAPTER XVII


As Michael had no definite knowledge of either his exact age, or what month
his birthday came, there could be no day set for his coming of age. The
little information that could be gathered from his own memory of how many
summers and winters he had passed showed that he was approximately seven
years old at the time of the shooting affray. If that were correct it would
make him between nineteen and twenty at the time of his graduation.

On the first day of July following his first winter in New York Michael
received a brief letter from Mr. Endicott, containing a check for a
thousand dollars, with congratulations on his majority and a request that
he call at the office the next day.

Michael, eager, grateful, overwhelmed, was on hand to the minute appointed.

The wealthy business man, whose banking affairs had long since righted
themselves, turned from his multifarious duties, and rested his eyes upon
the young fellow, listening half-amused to his eager thanks.

The young man in truth was a sight to rest weary eyes.

The winter in New York had put new lines into his face and deepened the
wells of his blue eyes; they were the work of care and toil and suffering,
but--they had made a man's face out of a boy's fresh countenance. There was
power in the fine brow, strength in the firm, well-moulded chin, and both
kindliness and unselfishness in the lovely curves of his pleasant lips. The
city barber had been artist enough not to cut the glorious hair too short
while yet giving it the latest clean cut curve behind the ears and in the
neck. By instinct Michael's hands were well cared for. Endicott's tailor
had looked out for the rest.

"That's all right, son," Endicott cut Michael's sentence short. "I'm
pleased with the way you've been doing. Holt tells me he never had a more
promising student in his office. He says you're cut out for the law, and
you're going to be a success. But what's this they tell me about you
spending your evenings in the slums? I don't like the sound of that. Better
cut that out."

Michael began to tell in earnest protesting words of what he was trying to
do, but Endicott put up an impatient hand:

"That's all very well, son, I've no doubt they appreciate your help and all
that, and it's been very commendable in you to give your time, but now you
owe yourself something, and you owe the world something. You've got to turn
out a great lawyer and prove to the world that people from that district
are worth helping. That's the best way in the long run to help those
people. Give them into somebody else's hands now. You've done your part.
When you get to be a rich man you can give them something now and then if
you like, but it's time to cut out the work now. That sort of thing might
be very popular in a political leader, but you've got your way to make and
it's time you gave your evenings to culture, and to going out into society
somewhat. Here's a list of concerts and lectures for next winter. You ought
to go to them all. I'm sorry I didn't think of it this winter, but perhaps
it was as well not to go too deep at the start. However, you ought to waste
no more time. I've put your application in for season tickets for those
things on that list, and you'll receive tickets in due time. There's an art
exhibition or two where there are good things to be seen. You've got to see
and hear everything if you want to be a thoroughly educated man. I said
a word or two about you here and there, and I think you'll receive some
invitations worth accepting pretty soon. You'll need a dress suit, and I
had word sent to the tailor about it this morning when it occurred to me--"

"But," said Michael amazed and perturbed, "I do not belong in society.
People do not want one like me there. If they knew they would not ask me."

"Bosh! All bosh! Didn't I tell you to cut that out? People don't know and
you've no need to tell them. They think you are a distant relative of mine
if they think anything about it, and you're not to tell them you are not.
You owe it to me to keep still about it. If I guarantee you're all right
that ought to suit anybody."

"I couldn't go where people thought I was more than I was," said Michael,
head up, eyes shining, his firmest expression on his mouth, but intense
trouble in his eyes. It was hard to go against his benefactor.

"You got all those foolish notions from working down there in the slums.
You're got a false idea of yourself and a false notion of right and wrong.
It's high time you stopped going there. After you've been to a dance or two
and a few theatre suppers, and got acquainted with some nice girls who'll
invite you to their house-parties you'll forget you ever had anything to do
with the slums. I insist that you give that work up at once. Promise me you
will not go near the place again. Write them a letter--"

"I couldn't do that!" said Michael, his face expressive of anguish fighting
with duty.

"Couldn't! Nonsense. There is no such word. I say I want you to do it.
Haven't I proved my right to make that request?"

"You have," said Michael, dropping his sorrowing eyes slowly, and taking
out the folded check from his pocket. "You have the right to ask it, but I
have no right to do what you ask. I have begun the work, and it would not
be right to stop it. Indeed, I couldn't. If you knew what it means to those
fellows--but I cannot keep this if you feel that way! I was going to use it
for the work--but now--"

Michael's pauses were eloquent. Endicott was deeply touched but he would
not show it. He was used to having his own way, and it irritated, while it
pleased him in a way, to have Michael so determined. As Michael stopped
talking he laid the check sadly on the desk.

"Nonsense!" said Endicott irritably, "this has nothing to do with the
check. That was your birthday present. Use it as you like. What I have
given I have given and I won't take back even if I have nothing more to do
with you from this time forth. I have no objection to your giving away as
much money as you can spare to benevolent institutions, but I say that I do
object to your wasting your time and your reputation in such low places.
It will injure you eventually, it can't help it. I want you to take your
evenings for society and for lectures and concerts--"

"I will go to the concerts and lectures gladly," said Michael gravely.
"I can see they will be fine for me, and I thank you very much for the
opportunity, but that will not hinder my work. It begins always rather late
in the evening, and there are other times--"

"You've no business to be staying out in places like that after the hour of
closing of decent places of amusement."

Michael refrained from saying that he had several times noticed society
ladies returning from balls and entertainments when he was on his way home.

"I simply can't have it if I'm to stand back of you."

"I'm, sorry," said Michael. "You won't ever know how sorry I am. It was so
good to know that I had somebody who cared a little for me. I shall miss it
very much. It has been almost like having a real father. Do you mean that
you will have to give up the--fatherliness?"

Endicott's voice shook with mingled emotions. It couldn't be that this
young upstart who professed to be so grateful and for whom he had done so
much would actually for the sake of a few wretched beings and a sentimental
feeling that he belonged in the slums and ought to do something for them,
run the risk of angering him effectually. It could not be!

"It means that I shall not do any of the things I had planned to do for
you, if you persist in refusing my most reasonable request. Listen, young
man--"

Michael noticed with keen pain that he had dropped the customary "son" from
his conversation, and it gave him a queer choky sensation of having been
cut off from the earth.

"I had planned"--the keen eyes searched the beautiful manly face before him
and the man's voice took on an insinuating tone; the tone he used when he
wished to buy up some political pull; the tone that never failed to buy his
man. Yet even as he spoke he felt an intuition that here was a man whom he
could not buy--

"I had planned to do a good many things for you. You will be through your
studies pretty soon and be ready to set up for yourself. Had you thought
ahead enough to know whether you would like a partnership in some old firm
or whether you want to set up for yourself?"

Michael's voice was grave and troubled but he answered at once:

"I would like to set up for myself, sir. There are things I must do, and I
do not know if a partner would feel as I do about them."

"Very well," said Endicott with satisfaction. He could not but be pleased
with the straightforward, decided way in which the boy was going ahead and
shaping his own life. It showed he had character. There was nothing Mr.
Endicott prized more than character--or what he called character: "Very
well, when you get ready to set up for yourself, and I don't think that
is going to be so many years off from what I hear, I will provide you an
office, fully furnished, in the most desirable quarter of the city, and
start you off as you ought to be started in order to win. I will introduce
you to some of my best friends, and put lucrative business in your way,
business with the great corporations that will bring you into immediate
prominence; then I will propose your name for membership in two or three
good clubs. Now those things I will do because I believe you have it in you
to make good; but you'll need the boosting. Every man in this city does.
Genius alone can't work you up to the top; but I can give you what you need
and I mean to do it, only I feel that you on your part ought to be willing
to comply with the conditions."

There was a deep silence in the room. Michael was struggling to master his
voice, but when he spoke it was husky with suppressed feeling:

"It is a great plan," he said. "It is just like you. I thank you, sir, for
the thought, with all my heart. It grieves me more than anything I ever had
to do to say no to you, but I cannot do as you ask. I cannot give up what
I am trying to do. I feel it would be wrong for me. I feel that it is
imperative, sir!"

"Cannot! Humph! Cannot! You are like all the little upstart reformers,
filled with conceit of course. You think there is no one can do the work
but yourself! I will pay some one to do what you are doing! Will that
satisfy you?"

Michael slowly shook his head.

"No one could do it for pay," he said with conviction. "It must be done
from--perhaps it is love--I do not know. But anyway, no one was doing it,
and I must, for THEY ARE MY PEOPLE!"

As he said this the young man lifted his head with that angel-proud look of
his that defied a universe to set him from his purpose, and Endicott while
he secretly reveled in the boy's firmness and purpose, yet writhed that he
could not control this strength as he would.

"Your people! Bosh! You don't even know that! You may be the son of the
richest man in New York for all you know."

"The more shame mine, then, if he left me where you found me! Mr. Endicott,
have you ever been down in the alley where I used to live? Do you know the
conditions down there?"

"No, nor I don't want to go. And what's more I don't want you to go again.
Whatever you were or are, you ought to see that you are mine now. Why,
youngster, how do you know but you were kidnapped for a ransom, and the
game went awry? There are a thousand explanations of your unknown presence
there. You may have been lost--"

"Then have I not a debt to the people with whom I lived!"

"Oh, poppycock!" exclaimed the man angrily. "We'd better close the
conversation. You understand how I feel. If you think it over and change
your mind come back and tell me within the week. I sail Saturday for
Europe. I may not be back in three or four months. If you don't make
up your mind before I go you can write to me here at the office and my
secretary will forward it. You have disappointed me beyond anything I could
have dreamed. I am sure when you think it over you will see how wrong you
are and change your mind. Until then, good-bye!"

Michael arose dismissed, but he could not go that way.

"I shall not change my mind," he said sadly, "but it is terrible not to
have you understand. Won't you let me tell you all about it? Won't you let
me explain?"

"No, I don't want to hear any explanations. There is only one thing for me
to understand and that is that you think more of a set of vagabonds in an
alley than you do of my request!"

"No! That is not true!" said Michael. "I think more of you than of any
living man. I do not believe I could love you more if you were my own
father. I would give my life for you this minute--"

"There is an old word somewhere that says, 'To obey is better than
sacrifice.' Most people think they would rather be great heroes than do the
simple every-day things demanded of them. The test does not always prove
that they would--"

Michael's head went up almost haughtily, but there were great tears in his
eyes. Endicott dropped his own gaze from that sorrowful face. He knew his
words were false and cruel. He knew that Michael would not hesitate a
second to give his life. But the man could not bear to be withstood.

"If you feel that way I cannot take this!" Michael sadly, proudly held out
the check.

"As you please!" said Endicott curtly. "There's the waste-basket. Put it in
if you like. It isn't mine any longer. You may spend it as you please. My
conditions have nothing to do with what is past. If you do not prize my
gift to you by all means throw it away."

With a glance that would have broken Endicott's heart if he had not been
too stubborn to look up, Michael slowly folded the check and put it back
into his pocket.

"I do prize it," he said, "and I prize it because you gave it to me. It
meant and always will mean a great deal to me."

"H'm!"

"There is one more thing perhaps I ought to tell you," hesitated Michael
"The farm. I am using it in my work for those people. Perhaps you will not
approve of that--"

"I have nothing further to do with the farm. You bought it, I believe. You
desired to pay for it when you were earning enough money to be able to do
so. That time has not yet come, therefore nothing further need be said. It
is your farm and you may use it as a pleasure park for pigs if you like. I
don't go back on my bargains. Good afternoon."

Endicott turned to the 'phone, took up the receiver and called up a number.
Michael saw that the conversation was ended. Slowly, with heavy step and
heavier heart, he went out of the office.

There were new lines of sadness on Michael's face that day, and when he
went down to the alley that evening his gentleness with all the little
"kids," and with the older ones, was so great that they looked at him more
than once with a new kind of awe and wonder. It was the gentleness of
sacrifice, of sacrifice for them, that was bringing with it the pain of
love.

Old Sal who came over to "look in" that evening, as she put it, shook her
head as she stumped back to her rejuvenated room with its gaudy flowered
wall, bit of white curtain and pot of flowers in the window, all the work
of Michael and his follower Sam.

"I'm thinkin' he'll disuppeer one o' these days. Ye'll wake up an' he'll
be gahn. He's not of this worrld. He'll sprid his wings an' away. He's a
man-angel, thet's wot he is!"

Michael went home that night and wrote a letter to Mr. Endicott that would
have broken a heart of stone, telling his inmost thought; showing his love
and anguish in every sentence; and setting forth simply and unassumingly
the wonderful work he was doing in the alley.

But though he waited in anxiety day after day he received not a word of
reply. Endicott read the letter every word, and fairly gloated over the
boy's strength, but he was too stubborn to let it be known. Also he rather
enjoyed the test to which he was putting him.

Michael even watched the outgoing vessels on Saturday, looked up the
passenger lists, went down to the wharf and tried to see him before he
sailed, but for some reason was unable to get in touch with him.

Standing sadly on the wharf as the vessel sailed he caught sight of
Endicott, but though he was sure he had been seen he received no sign of
recognition, and he turned away sick at heart, and feeling as if he had for
conscience's sake stabbed one that loved him.



CHAPTER XVIII


Those were trying days for Michael.

The weather had turned suddenly very warm. The office was sometimes
stifling. The daily routine got upon his nerves, he who had never before
known that he had nerves. There was always the aching thought that Starr
was gone from him--forever--and now he had by his own word cut loose from
her father--forever! His literal heart saw no hope in the future.

About that time, too, another sorrow fell upon him. He was glancing over
the paper one morning on his way to the office, and his eye fell on the
following item:

    LONE TRAIN BANDIT HURT IN FIGHT AFTER GETTING LOOT

    Captured by Conductor After He Had Rifled Mail Bags on Union Pacific
    Express

    Topeka, Kan., July--. A daring bandit was captured last night a
    he had robbed the mail car on Union Pacific train No. ---- which left
    Kansas City for Denver at 10 o'clock.

    The train known as the Denver Express, carrying heavy mail, was just
    leaving Kansas City, when a man ran across the depot platform and
    leaped into the mail car through the open door. The clerk in charge
    faced the man, who aimed a revolver at him. He was commanded to bind
    and gag his five associates, and obeyed. The robber then went through
    all the registered pouches, stuffing the packages into his pockets.
    Then he commanded the clerk to untie his comrades.

    At Bonner Springs where the train made a brief stop the bandit ordered
    the men to continue their work, so as not to attract the attention of
    persons at the station. When Lawrence was reached the robber dropped
    from the car and ran toward the rear of the train. The conductor
    summoned two Lawrence policemen and all three followed. After a quick
    race, and a struggle during which the bandit's arm was broken, he was
    captured. It appears that the prisoner is an old offender, for whom the
    police of New York have been searching in vain for the past ten months.
    He is known in the lower districts of New York City as "Fighting Buck,"
    and has a list of offenses against him too numerous to mention.

Michael did not know why his eye had been attracted to the item nor why he
had read the article through to the finish. It was not the kind of thing
he cared to read; yet of late all crime and criminals had held a sort of
sorrowful fascination for him. "It is what I might have done if I had
stayed in the alley," he would say to himself when he heard of some
terrible crime that had been committed.

But when he reached the end of the article and saw Buck's name his heart
seemed to stand still.

Buck! The one of all his old comrades whom he had loved the most, who had
loved him, and sacrificed for him; to whom he had written and sent money;
whose brain was brighter and whose heart bigger than any of the others; for
whom he had searched in vain, and found only to lose before he had seen
him; whom he had hoped yet to find and to save. Buck had done this, and was
caught in his guilt. And a government offense, too, robbing the mail bags!
It would mean long, hard service. It would mean many years before Michael
could help him to the right kind of life, even if ever.

He asked permission to leave the office that afternoon, and took the train
down to the farm where Sam had been staying for some weeks. He read the
article to him, hoping against hope that Sam would say there was some
mistake; would know somehow that Buck was safe. But Sam listened with
lowering countenance, and when the reading was finished he swore a great
oath, such as he had not uttered before in Michael's presence, and Michael
knew that the story must be true.

Nothing could be done now. The law must have its course, but Michael's
heart was heavy with the weight of what might have been if he could but
have found Buck sooner. The next day he secured permission to begin his
vacation at once, and in spite of great need of his presence at Old Orchard
he took the train for Kansas. He felt that he must see Buck at once.

All during that long dismal ride Michael's heart was beating over and over
with the story of his own life. "I might have done this thing. I would have
dared and thought it brave if I had not been taught better. I might be even
now in jail with a broken arm and a useless life: the story of my crime
might be bandied through the country in the newspapers if it had not been
for Mr. Endicott--and little Starr! And yet I have hurt his feelings and
alienated his great kindness by refusing his request. Was there no other
way? Was there no other way?" And always his conscience answered, "There
was no other way!"

Michael, armed with a letter from the senior Holt to a powerful member
of western municipal affairs, found entrance to Buck in his miserable
confinement quite possible. He dawned upon his one-time friend, out of the
darkness of the cell, as a veritable angel of light. Indeed, Buck, waking
from a feverish sleep on his hard little cot, moaning and cursing with the
pain his arm was giving him, started up and looked at him with awe and
horror! The light from the corridor caught the gold in Michael's hair and
made his halo perfect; and Buck thought for the moment that some new terror
had befallen him, and he was in the hands of the angel of death sent to
summon him to a final judgment for all his misdeeds.

But Michael met his old friend with tenderness, and a few phrases that had
been wont to express their childish loyalty; and Buck, weakened by the
fever and the pain, and more than all by his own defeat and capture, broke
down and wept, and Michael wept with him.

"It might have been me instead of you, Buck. If I had stayed behind, I'd
have done all those things. I see it clearly. I might have been lying here
and you out and free. Buck, if it could give you my chance in life, and
help you see it all as I do I'd gladly lie here and take your place."

"Mikky! Mikky!" cried Buck. "It's me own Mikky! You was allus willin' to
take de rubs! But, Mikky, ef you'd hed de trainin' you'd hev made de fine
robber! You'd hev been a peach an' no mistake!"

Michael had found a soft spot in the warden's heart and succeeded in doing
a number of little things for Buck's comfort. He hunted up the chaplain and
secured a promise from him to teach Buck to read and write, and also to
read to him all letters that Buck received, until such a time as he should
be able to read them for himself. He sent a pot of roses with buds and full
bloom to perfume the dark cell, and he promised to write often; while Buck
on his part could only say over and over; "Oh, Mikky! Mikky! Ef we wos oney
kids agin! Oh, Mikky, I'll git out o' here yit an' find ye. Ye'll not be
ashamed o' me. Ef I oney hadn't a bungled de job. It were a bum job! Mikky!
A bum job!"

Michael saw that there was little use in talking to Buck about his sin.
Buck had nothing whatever to build upon in the line of morals. To be loyal
to his friends, and to do his "work" so that he would not get caught were
absolutely the only articles in his creed. To get ahead of the rich, to
take from them that which was theirs if he could, regardless of life or
consequences, that was virtue; the rich were enemies, and his daring code
of honor gave them the credit of equal courage with himself. They must
outwit him or lose. If they died it was "all in the day's work" and their
loss. When his turn came he would take his medicine calmly. But the trouble
with Buck now was that he had "bungled the job." It was a disgrace on his
profession. Things had been going against him lately, and he was "down on
his luck."

Michael went back from the West feeling that the brief time allowed him
with Buck was all too short for what he wanted to do for him; yet he felt
that it had been worth the journey. Buck appreciated his sympathy, if he
did not have an adequate sense of his own sinfulness. Michael had talked
and pitied and tried to make Buck see, but Buck saw not, and Michael went
home to hope and write and try to educate Buck through sheer love. It was
all he saw to do.

It was about this time that Michael began to receive money in small sums,
anonymously, through the mail. "For your work" the first was labelled and
the remittances that followed had no inscriptions. They were not always
addressed in the same hand, and never did he know the writing. Sometimes
there would be a ten-dollar bill, sometimes a twenty, and often more,
and they came irregularly, enclosed in a thin, inner envelope of foreign
looking paper. Michael wondered sometimes if Starr could have sent them,
but that was impossible of course, for she knew nothing of his work,
and they were always postmarked New York. He discovered that such thin
foreign-looking envelopes could be had in New York, and after that he
abandoned all idea of trying to solve the mystery. It was probably some
queer, kind person who did not wish to be known. He accepted the help
gladly and broadened his plans for the farm accordingly.

Sam and his five friends had gone down early in the spring, bunking in the
old house, and enjoying the outing immensely. Under Sam's captaincy, and
the tutelage of an old farmer whom Michael had found, who could not work
much himself but could direct, the work had gone forward; Michael himself
coming down Saturdays, and such of the tail ends of the afternoons as he
could get. It is true that many mistakes were made through ignorance, and
more through stupidity. It is true that no less than five times the whole
gang went on a strike until Michael should return to settle some dispute
between the new scientific farming that he had taught them, and some old
superstition, or clumsy practice of the farmer's. But on the whole they did
tolerably good work.

The farm colony had been meantime increasing. Michael picked them up in
the alley; they came to him and asked to be taken on for a trial. They had
heard of the experiment through Sam, or one of the other boys who had come
back to the city for a day on some errand for the farm.

One glorious summer morning Michael took ten small eager newsboys down
to pick wild strawberries for the day, and they came back dirty, tired,
strawberry streaked, and happy, and loudly sang the praises of Old Orchard
as though it had been a Heaven. After that Michael had no trouble in
transplanting any one he wished to take with him.

He found a poor wretch who had lately moved with his family to one of the
crowded tenements in the alley. He was sodden in drink and going to
pieces fast. Michael sobered him down, found that he used to be a master
carpenter, and forthwith transplanted him to Old Orchard, family and all.

Under the hand of the skilled carpenter there sprang up immediately a
colony of tents and later small one-roomed shacks or bungalows. Michael
bought lumber and found apprentices to help, and the carpenter of the
colony repaired barns and outhouses, fences, or built shacks, whenever the
head of affairs saw fit to need another.

The only person in the whole alley whom Michael had invited in vain to the
farm was old Sally. She had steadily refused to leave her gaily papered
room, her curtained window and her geranium. It was a symbol of "ould
Ireland" to her, and she felt afraid of this new place of Michael's. It
seemed to her superstitious fancy like an immediate door to a Heaven, from
which she felt herself barred by her life. It assumed a kind of terror to
her thoughts. She was not ready to leave her little bit of life and take
chances even for Michael. And so old Sal sat on her doorstep and watched
the alley dwellers come and go, listening with interest to each new account
of the farm, but never willing to see for herself. Perhaps the secret of
her hesitation after all went deeper than superstition. She had received
private information that Old Orchard had no Rum Shop around the corner. Old
Sally could not run any risks, so she stayed at home.

But the carpenter's wife was glad to cook for the men when the busy days of
planting and weeding and harvesting came, and the colony grew and grew. Two
or three other men came down with their families, and helped the carpenter
to build them little houses, with a bit of garden back, and a bed of
flowers in front. They could see the distant sea from their tiny porches,
and the river wound its salty silver way on the other hand. It was a great
change from the alley. Not all could stand it, but most of them bore the
summer test well. It would be when winter set its white distance upon them,
chilled the flowers to slumber, and stopped the labor that the testing time
would come; and Michael was thinking about that.

He began hunting out helpers for his purposes.

He found a man skilled in agricultural arts and secured his services to
hold a regular school of agriculture during the winter for the men. He
found a poor student at Princeton who could run up on the train daily and
give simple lessons in reading and arithmetic. He impressed it upon Sam and
the other young men that unless they could read for themselves enough to
keep up with the new discoveries in the science other farmers would get
ahead of them and grow bigger potatoes and sweeter ears of corn than they
did. He kept up a continual sunny stream of eager converse with them about
what they were going to do, and how the place was going to grow, until they
felt as if they owned the earth and meant to show the world how well they
were running it. In short, he simply poured his own spirit of enthusiasm
into them, and made the whole hard summer of unaccustomed labor one great
game; and when the proceeds from their first simple crops came in from the
sale of such products as they did not need for their own use in the colony,
Michael carefully divided it among his various workmen and at his wish they
went in a body and each started a bank account at the little National Bank
of the town. It was a very little of course, absurdly little, but it made
the workers feel like millionaires, and word of the successes went back to
the city, and more and more the people were willing to come down, until by
fall there were thirty-eight men, women and children, all told, living on
the farm.

Of course that made little appreciable difference in the population of the
alley, for as soon as one family moved out another was ready to move in,
and there was plenty of room for Michael's work to go on. Nevertheless,
there were thirty-eight souls on the way to a better knowledge of life,
with clean and wholesome surroundings and a chance to learn how to read and
how to work.

The carpenter was set to get ready more tiny houses for the next summer's
campaign, the tents were folded away, the spring wheat was all in; the fall
plowing and fertilizing completed and whatever else ought to be done to
a farm for its winter sleep; half a dozen cows were introduced into the
settlement and a roomy chicken house and run prepared. Sam set about
studying incubators, and teaching his helpers. Then when the cranberries
were picked the colony settled down to its study.

The Princeton student and the agricultural student grew deeply interested
in their motley school, and finally produced a young woman who came down
every afternoon for a consideration, and taught a kindergarten, to which
many of the prematurely grown-up mothers came also with great delight and
profit, and incidentally learned how to be better, cleaner, wiser mothers.
The young woman of her own accord added a cooking school for the women and
girls.

Once a week Michael brought down some one from New York to amuse these poor
childish people. And so the winter passed.

Once a wealthy friend of Mr. Holt asked to be taken down to see the place,
and after going the rounds of the farm and making himself quite friendly
roasting chestnuts around the great open fire in the "big house," as the
original cottage was called, returned to New York with many congratulations
for Michael. A few days afterward he mailed to Michael the deed of the
adjoining farm of one hundred acres, and Michael, radiant, wondering, began
to know that his dreams for his poor downtrodden people were coming true.
There would be room enough now for many a year to come for the people he
needed to bring down.

Of course this had not all been done without discouragements. Some of the
most hopeful of the colonists had proved unmanageable, or unwilling to
work; some had run away, or smuggled in some whiskey. There had been two
or three incipient rows, and more than double that number of disappointing
enterprises, but yet, the work was going on.

And still, there came no word from Mr. Endicott.

Michael was holding well with his employers, and they were beginning to
talk to him of a partnership with them when he was done, for he had far
outstripped French in his studies, and seemed to master everything he
touched with an eagerness that showed great intellectual appetite.

He still kept up his work in the little white room in the alley, evenings,
though he divided his labors somewhat with Will French, Miss Semple and
others who had heard of the work and had gradually offered their services.
It had almost become a little settlement or mission in itself. The one
room had become two and a bath; then the whole first floor with a small
gymnasium. French was the enthusiastic leader in this, and Hester Semple
had done many things for the little children and women. The next set of
colonists for Michael's farm were always being got ready and were spoken of
as "eligibles" by the workers.

Hester Semple had proved to be a most valuable assistant, ever ready with
suggestions, tireless and as enthusiastic as Michael himself. Night after
night the three toiled, and came home happily together. The association
with the two was very sweet to Michael, whose heart was famished for
friends and relations who "belonged," But it never occurred to Michael to
look on Miss Semple in any other light than friend and fellow worker.

Will French and Michael were coming home from the office one afternoon
together, and talking eagerly of the progress at the farm.

"When you get married, Endicott," said Will, "you must build a handsome
bungalow or something for your summer home, down there on that knoll just
overlooking the river where you can see the sea in the distance."

Michael grew sober at once.

"I don't expect ever to be married, Will," he said after a pause, with one
of his far-away looks, and his chin up, showing that what he had said was
an indisputable fact.

"The Dickens!" said Will stopping in his walk and holding up Michael. "She
hasn't refused you, has she?"

"Refused me? Who? What do you mean?" asked Michael looking puzzled.

"Why, Hester--Miss Semple. She hasn't turned you down, old chap?"

"Miss Semple! Why, Will, you never thought--you don't think she ever
thought--?"

"Well, I didn't know," said Will embarrassedly, "it looked pretty much like
it sometimes. There didn't seem much show for me. I've thought lately you
had it all settled and were engaged sure."

"Oh, Will," said Michael in that tone that showed his soul was moved to its
depth.

"I say, old chap!" said Will, "I'm fiercely sorry I've butted in to your
affairs. I never dreamed you'd feel like this. But seeing I have, would
you mind telling me if you'll give me a good send off with Hester? Sort of
'bless-you-my-son,' you know; and tell me you don't mind if I go ahead and
try my luck."

"With all my heart, Will. I never thought of it, but I believe it would be
great for you both. You seem sort of made for each other."

"It's awfully good of you to say so," said Will, "but I'm afraid Hester
doesn't think so. She's all taken up with you."

"Not at all!" said Michael eagerly. "Not in the least. I've never noticed
it. I'm sure she likes you best."

And it was so from that night that Michael almost always had some excuse
for staying later at the room, or for going somewhere else for a little
while so that he would have to leave them half way home; and Hester and
Will from that time forth walked together more and more. Thus Michael took
his lonely way, cut off from even this friendly group.

And the summer and the winter made the second year of the colony at Old
Orchard.

Then, the following spring Starr Endicott and her mother came home and
things began to happen.



CHAPTER XIX


Starr was eighteen when she returned, and very beautiful. Society was made
at once aware of her presence.

Michael, whose heart was ever on the alert to know of her, and to find out
where Mr. Endicott was, saw the first notice in the paper.

Three times had Endicott crossed the water to visit his wife and daughter
during their stay abroad, and every time Michael had known and anxiously
awaited some sign of his return. He had read the society columns now for
two years solely for the purpose of seeing whether anything would be said
about the Endicott family, and he was growing wondrously wise in the ways
of the society world.

Also, he had come to know society a little in another way.

Shortly after his last interview with Endicott Miss Emily Holt, daughter of
the senior member of the firm of Holt and Holt, had invited Michael to dine
with her father and herself; and following this had come an invitation to a
house party at the Holts' country seat. This came in the busy season of the
farm work; but Michael, anxious to please his employers, took a couple of
days off and went. And he certainly enjoyed the good times to the full. He
had opportunity to renew his tennis in which he had been a master hand, and
to row and ride, in both of which he excelled. Also, he met a number of
pleasant people who accepted him for the splendid fellow he looked to be
and asked not who he was. Men of his looks and bearing came not in their
way every day and Michael was good company wherever he went.

However, when it came to the evenings, Michael was at a loss. He could not
dance nor talk small talk. He was too intensely in earnest for society's
ways, and they did not understand. He could talk about the books he had
read, and the things he had thought, but they were great thoughts and not
at all good form for a frivolous company to dwell upon. One did not want a
problem in economics or a deep philosophical question thrust upon one at a
dance. Michael became a delightful but difficult proposition for the girls
present, each one undertaking to teach him how to talk in society, but each
in turn making a miserable failure. At last Emily Holt herself set out to
give him gentle hints on light conversation and found herself deep in a
discussion of Wordsworth's poems about which she knew absolutely nothing,
and in which Michael's weary soul had been steeping itself lately.

Miss Holt retired in laughing defeat, at last, and advised her protégé to
take a course of modern novels. Michael, always serious, took her at her
word, and with grave earnestness proceeded to do so; but his course ended
after two or three weeks. He found them far from his taste, the most of
them too vividly portraying the sins of his alley in a setting of high
life. Michael had enough of that sort of thing in real life, and felt
he could not stand the strain of modern fiction, so turned back to his
Wordsworth again and found soothing and mental stimulus.

But there followed other invitations, some of which he accepted and some
of which he declined. Still, the handsome, independent young Adonis was
in great demand in spite of his peculiar habit of always being in earnest
about everything. Perhaps they liked him and ran after him but the more
because of his inaccessibility, and the fact that he was really doing
something in the world. For it began to be whispered about among those who
knew--and perhaps Emily Holt was the originator--that Michael was going
to be something brilliant in the world of worth-while-things one of these
days.

The tickets that Endicott promised him had arrived in due time, and anxious
to please his benefactor, even in his alienation, Michael faithfully
attended concerts and lectures, and enjoyed them to the full, borrowing
from his hours of sleep to make up what he had thus spent, rather than from
his work or his study. And thus he grew in knowledge of the arts, and in
love of all things great, whether music, or pictures, or great minds.

Matters stood thus when Starr appeared on the scene.

The young girl made her début that winter, and the papers were full of
her pictures and the entertainments given in her honor. She was dined and
danced and recepted day after day and night after night, and no débutante
had ever received higher praise of the critics for beauty, grace, and charm
of manner.

Michael read them all, carefully cut out and preserved a few pleasant
things that were written about her, looked at the pictures, and turned from
the pomp and pride of her triumph to the little snapshot of herself on
horseback in the Park with her groom, which she had sent to him when she
was a little girl. That was his, and his alone, but these others belonged
to the world, the world in which he had no part.

For from all this gaiety of society Michael now held aloof. Invitations
he received, not a few, for he was growing more popular every day, but he
declined them all. A fine sense of honor kept him from going anywhere that
Starr was sure to be. He had a right, of course, and it would have been
pleasant in a way to have her see that he was welcome in her world; but
always there was before his mental vision the memory of her mother's biting
words as she put him down from the glorified presence of her world, into an
existence of shame and sin and sorrow. He felt that Starr was so far above
him that he must not hurt her by coming too near. And so, in deference to
the vow that he had taken when the knowledge of his unworthiness had first
been presented to him, he stayed away.

Starr, as she heard more and more of his conquests in her world, wondered
and was piqued that he came not near her. And one day meeting him by chance
on Fifth Avenue, she greeted him graciously and invited him to call.

Michael thanked her with his quiet manner, while his heart was in a tumult
over her beauty, and her dimpled smiles that blossomed out in the old
childish ways, only still more beautifully, it seemed to him. He went in
the strength of that smile many days: but he did not go to call upon her.

The days passed into weeks and months, and still he did not appear, and
Starr, hearing more of his growing inaccessibility, determined to show the
others that she could draw him out of his shell. She humbled her Endicott
pride and wrote him a charming little note asking him to call on one of the
"afternoons" when she and her mother held court. But Michael, though he
treasured the note, wrote a graceful, but decided refusal.

This angered the young woman, exceedingly, and she decided to cut him out
of her good graces entirely. And indeed the whirl of gaiety in which
she was involved scarcely gave her time for remembering old friends. In
occasional odd moments when she thought of him at all, it was with a vague
kind of disappointment, that he too, with all the other things of her
childhood, had turned out to be not what she had thought.

But she met him face to face one bright Sunday afternoon as she walked on
the avenue with one of the many courtiers who eagerly attended her every
step. He was a slender, handsome young fellow, with dark eyes and hair and
reckless mouth. There were jaded lines already around his youthful eyes and
lips. His name was Stuyvesant Carter. Michael recognized him at once. His
picture had been in the papers but the week before as leader with Starr of
the cotillion. His presence with her in the bright sunny afternoon was to
Michael like a great cloud of trouble looming out of a perfect day. He
looked and looked again, his expressive eyes searching the man before him
to the depths, and then going to the other face, beautiful, innocent,
happy.

Michael was walking with Hester Semple.

Now Hester, in her broadcloth tailored suit, and big black hat with plumes,
was a pretty sight, and she looked quite distinguished walking beside
Michael, whose garments seemed somehow always to set him off as if they had
been especially designed for him; and after whom many eyes were turned as
he passed by.

Had it been but the moment later, or even three minutes before, Will French
would have been with them and Michael would have been obviously a third
member of the party, for he was most careful in these days to let them both
know that he considered they belonged together. But Will had stopped a
moment to speak to a business acquaintance, and Hester and Michael were
walking slowly ahead until he should rejoin them.

"Look!" said Hester excitedly. "Isn't that the pretty Miss Endicott whose
picture is in the papers so much? I'm sure it must be, though she's ten
times prettier than any of her pictures."

But Michael needed not his attention called. He was already looking with
all his soul in his eyes.

As they came opposite he lifted his hat with, such marked, deference to
Starr that young Stuyvesant Carter turned and looked at him insolently,
with a careless motion of his own hand toward his hat. But Starr, with
brilliant cheeks, and eyes that looked straight at Michael, continued her
conversation with her companion and never so much as by the flicker of an
eyelash recognized her former friend.

It was but an instant in the passing, and Hester was so taken up with
looking at the beauty of the idol of society that she never noticed
Michael's lifted hat until they were passed. Then Will French joined them
breezily.

"Gee whiz, but she's a peach, isn't she?" he breathed as he took his place
beside Hester, and Michael dropped behind, "but I suppose it'll all rub
off. They say most of those swells aren't real."

"I think she's real!" declared Hester. "Her eyes are sweet and her smile
is charming. The color on her cheeks wasn't put on like paint. I just love
her. I believe I'd like to know her. She certainly is beautiful, and she
doesn't look a bit spoiled. Did you ever see such eyes?"

"They aren't half as nice as a pair of gray ones I know," said Will looking
meaningfully at them as they were lifted smiling to his.

"Will, you mustn't say such things--on the street--anyway--and Michael
just behind--Why, where is Michael? See! He has dropped away behind and
is walking slowly. Will, does Michael know Miss Endicott? I never thought
before about their names being the same. But he lifted his hat to her--and
she simply stared blankly at him as if she had never seen him before."

"The little snob!" said Will indignantly. "I told you they were all
artificial. I believe they are some kind of relation or other. Come to
think of it I believe old Endicott introduced Michael into our office.
Maybe she hasn't seen him in a long time and has forgotten him."

"No one who had once known Michael could ever forget him," said Hester with
conviction.

"No, I suppose that's so," sighed Will, looking at her a trifle wistfully.

After the incident of this meeting Michael kept more and more aloof from
even small entrances into society; and more and more he gave his time to
study and to work among the poor.

So the winter passed in a round of gaieties, transplanted for a few weeks
to Palm Beach, then back again to New York, then to Tuxedo for the summer,
and Michael knew of it all, yet had no part any more in it, for now she had
cut him out of her life herself, and he might not even cherish her bright
smiles and words of the past. She did not wish to know him. It was right,
it was just; it was best; but it was agony!

Michael's fresh color grew white that year, and he looked more like the
man-angel than ever as he came and went in the alley; old Sally from her
doorstep, drawing nearer and nearer to her own end, saw it first, and
called daily attention to the spirit-look of Michael as he passed.

One evening early in spring, Michael was starting home weary and unusually
discouraged. Sam had gone down to the farm with Jim to get ready for the
spring work, and find out just how things were going and what was needed
from the city. Jim was developing into a tolerably dependable fellow save
for his hot temper, and Michael missed them from, the alley work, for the
rooms were crowded now every night. True Hester and Will were faithful, but
they were so much taken up with one another in these days that he did not
like to trouble them with unusual cases, and he had no one with whom to
counsel. Several things had been going awry and he was sad.

Hester and Will were ahead walking slowly as usual. Michael locked the door
with a sigh and turned to follow them, when he saw in the heavy shadows
on the other side of the court two figures steal from one of the openings
between the houses and move along toward the end of the alley. Something in
their demeanor made Michael watch them instinctively. As they neared the
end of the alley toward the street they paused a moment and one of the
figures stole back lingeringly. He thought he recognized her as a girl
cursed with more than the usual amount of beauty. She disappeared into the
darkness of the tenement, but the other after looking back a moment kept on
toward the street. Michael quickened his steps and came to the corner at
about the same time, crossing over as the other man passed the light and
looking full in his face.

To his surprise he saw that the man was Stuyvesant Carter!

With an exclamation of disgust and horror Michael stepped full in the
pathway of the man and blocked, his further passage.

"What are you doing here?" He asked in tones that would have made a brave
man tremble.

Stuyvesant Carter glared at the vision that had suddenly stopped his way,
drew his hat down over his evil eyes and snarled: "Get out of my way or
you'll be sorry! I'm probably doing the same thing that you're doing here!"

"Probably not!" said Michael with meaning tone. "You know you can mean no
good to a girl like that one you were just with. Come down here again at
your peril! And if I hear of you're having anything to do with that girl
I'll take means to have the whole thing made public."

"Indeed!" said young Carter insolently. "Is she your girl? I think not! And
who are you anyway?"

"You'll find out if you come down here again!" said Michael his fingers
fairly aching to grip the gentlemanly villain before him. "Now get out of
here at once or you may not be able to walk out."

"I'll get out when I like!" sneered the other, nevertheless backing rapidly
away through the opening given him. When he had reached a safe distance, he
added, tantalizingly: "And I'll come back when I like, too."

"Very well, I shall be ready for you, Mr. Carter!"

Michael's tones were clear and distinct and could be heard two blocks away
in the comparative stillness of the city night. At sound of his real name
spoken fearlessly in such environment, the leader of society slid away into
the night as if he had suddenly been erased from the perspective; nor did
sound of footsteps linger from his going.

"Who was dat guy?"

It was a small voice that spoke at Michael's elbow. Hester and Will were
far down the street in the other direction and had forgotten Michael.

Michael turned and saw one of his smallest "kids" crouching in the shadow
beside him.

"Why, Tony, are you here yet? You ought to have been asleep long ago."

"Was dat de ike wot comes to see Lizzie?"

"See here, Tony, what do you know about this?"

Whereupon Tony proceeded, to unfold a tale that made Michael's heart sick.
"Lizzie, she's got swell sence she went away to work to a res'trant at de
sheeshole. She ain't leavin' her ma hev her wages, an' she wears fierce
does, like de swells!" finished Tony solemnly as if these things were the
worst of all that he had told.

So Michael sent Tony to his rest and went home with a heavy heart, to wake
and think through the night long what he should do to save Starr, his
bright beautiful Starr, from the clutches of this human vampire.

When morning dawned Michael knew what he was going to do. He had decided to
go to Mr. Endicott and tell him the whole story. Starr's father could and
would protect her better than he could.

As early as he could get away from the office he hurried to carry out his
purpose, but on arriving at Mr. Endicott's office he was told that the
gentleman had sailed for Austria and would be absent some weeks, even
months, perhaps, if his business did not mature as rapidly as he hoped.
Michael asked for the address, but when he reached his desk again and tried
to frame a letter that would convey the truth convincingly to the absent
father, who could not read it for more than a week at least, and would
then be thousands of miles away from the scene of action, he gave it up as
useless. Something more effectual must be done and done quickly.

In the first place he must have facts. He could not do anything until he
knew beyond a shadow of doubt that what he feared was true absolutely. If
he could have told Mr. Endicott all would have been different; he was a man
and could do his own investigating if he saw fit. Michael might have left
the matter in his hands. But he could not tell him.

If there was some other male member of the family to whom he could go with
the warning, he must be very sure of his ground before he spoke. If there
were no such man friend or relative of the family he must do something
else--what? He shrank from thinking.

And so with the sources open to a keen lawyer, he went to work to ferret
out the life and doings of Stuyvesant Carter; and it is needless to say
that he unearthed a lot of information that was so sickening in its nature
that he felt almost helpless before it. It was appalling--and the more so
because of the rank and station of the man. If he had been brought up in
the slums one might have expected--but this!

The second day, Michael, haggard and worn with the responsibility, started
out to find that useful male relative of the Endicott family. There seemed
to be no such person. The third morning he came to the office determined
to tell the whole story to Mr. Holt, senior, and ask his advice and aid in
protecting Starr; but to his dismay he found that Mr. Holt, senior, had
been taken seriously ill with heart trouble, and it might be weeks before
he was able to return to the office.

Deeply grieved and utterly baffled, the young man tried to think what to do
next. The junior Mr. Holt had never encouraged confidences, and would not
be likely to help in this matter. He must do something himself.

And now Michael faced two alternatives.

There were only two people to whom the story could be told, and they were
Starr herself, and her mother!

Tell Starr all he knew he could not. To tell her anything of this story
would be gall and wormwood! To have to drop a hint that would blacken
another man's character would place him in a most awkward position. To
think of doing it was like tearing out his heart for her to trample upon.

Yet on the other hand Michael would far rather go into battle and face a
thousand bristling cannon mouths than meet the mother on her own ground and
tell her what he had to tell, while her steel-cold eyes looked him through
and through or burned him with scorn and unbelief. He had an instinctive
feeling that he should fail if he went to her.

At last he wrote a note to Starr:


"Dear Miss Endicott:

"Can you let me have a brief interview at your convenience and just as soon
as possible? I have a favor to ask of you which I most earnestly hope you
will be willing to grant.

"Sincerely yours,

"Michael."


He sent the note off with fear and trembling. Every word had been carefully
considered and yet it haunted him continually that he might have written
differently. Would she grant the interview? If she did not what then should
he do?

The next day he received a ceremonious little note on creamy paper crested
with a silver star monogramed in blue:


"Miss Endicott will receive Mr. Endicott to-morrow morning at eleven."


A shiver ran through him as he read, and consigned the elegant
communication to his waste-basket. It was not from his Starr. It was from
a stranger. And yet, the subtle perfume that stole forth from the envelope
reminded him of her. On second thought he drew it forth again and put it in
his pocket. After all she had granted the interview, and this bit of paper
was a part of her daily life; it had come from her, she had written it, and
sent it to him. It was therefore precious.

Starr had been more than usually thoughtful when she read Michael's note.
It pleased her that at last she had brought him to her feet, though not for
the world would she let him know it. Doubtless he wished her influence for
some position or other that he would have asked her father instead if he
had been at home. Starr knew nothing of the alienation between her father
and Michael. But Michael should pay for his request, in humility at least.
Therefore she sent her cool little stab of ceremony to call him to her.

But Michael did not look in the least humiliated as he entered the
luxurious library where Starr had chosen to receive him. His manner was
grave and assured, and he made no sign of the tumult it gave him to see her
thus in her own home once more where all her womanliness and charm were but
enhanced by the luxury about her.

He came forward to greet her just as if she had not cut him dead the very
last time they met; and Starr as she regarded him was struck with wonder
over the exalted beauty of manhood that was his unique dower.

"Thank you for letting me come," he said simply. "I will not intrude long
upon your time--"

Starr had a strange sensation of fear lest he was going to slip away from
her again before she was willing.

"Oh, that is all right," she said graciously; "won't you sit down. I am
always glad to do a favor for a friend of my childhood."

It was a sentence she had rehearsed many times in her mind, and it was
meant to convey reproach and indifference in the extreme, but somehow
as she fluttered into a great leather chair she felt that her voice was
trembling and she had miserably failed in what she had meant to do. She
felt strangely ashamed of her attitude, with those two dear soulful eyes
looking straight at her. It reminded her of the way he had looked when he
told her in the Florida chapel long ago that nobody but herself had ever
kissed him--and she had kissed him then. Suppose he should be going to ask
her to do it again! The thought made her cheeks rosy, and her society air
deserted her entirely. But of course he would not do that. It was a crazy
thought. What was the matter with her anyway, and why did she feel so
unnerved? Then Michael spoke.

"May I ask if you know a man by the name of Stuyvesant Carter?"

Starr looked startled, and then stiffened slightly.

"I do!" she answered graciously. "He is one of my intimate friends. Is
there anything he can do for you that you would like my intercession?"

Starr smiled graciously. She thought she understood the reason for
Michael's call now, and she was pleased to think how easily she could grant
his request. The idea of introducing the two was stimulating. She was
pondering what a handsome pair of men they were, and so different from each
other.

But Michael's clear voice startled her again out of her complacence.

"Thank God there is not!" he said, and his tone had that in it that made
Starr sit up and put on all her dignity.

"Indeed!" she said with asperity, her eyes flashing.

"Pardon me, Miss Endicott," Michael said sadly. "You do not understand my
feeling, of course!"

"I certainly do not." All Starr's icicle sentences were inherited from her
mother.

"And I cannot well explain," he went on sadly. "I must ask you to take it
on trust. The favor I have come to ask is this, that you will not have
anything further to do with that young man until your father's return. I
know this may seem very strange to you, but believe me if you understood
you would not hesitate to do what I have asked."

Michael held her with his look and with his earnest tones. For a moment she
could not speak from sheer astonishment at his audacity. Then she froze him
with a look copied from her mother's haughty manner.

"And what reason can you possibly give for such an extraordinary request?"
she asked at last, when his look compelled an answer.

"I cannot give you a reason," he said gravely. "You must trust me that this
is best. Your father will explain to you when he comes."

Another pause and then Starr haughtily asked:

"And you really think that I would grant such a ridiculous request which
in itself implies a lack of trust in the character of one of my warmest
friends?"

"I most earnestly hope that you will," answered Michael.

In spite of her hauteur she could not but be impressed by Michael's manner.
His grave tones and serious eyes told hear heart that here was something
out of the ordinary, at least she gave Michael credit for thinking there
was.

"I certainly shall not do anything of the kind without a good reason for
it." Starr's tone was determined and cold.

"And I can give you no reason beyond telling you that he is not such a man
as a friend of yours should be."

"What do you mean?"

"Please do not ask me. Please trust me and give me your promise. At least
wait until I can write to your father."

Starr rose with a look of her father's stubbornness now in her pretty face.

"I wish to be told," she demanded angrily.

"You would not wish to be told if you knew," he answered.

She stood looking at him steadily for a full moment, then with a graceful
toss of her lovely head, she said haughtily:

"I must decline to accede to your request, Mr. Endicott. You will excuse
me, I have a luncheon engagement now."

She stood aside for him to go out the door, but as he rose with pleading
still in his eyes, he said:

"You will write to your father and tell him what I have said? You will wait
until you hear from him?"

"It is impossible, Mr. Endicott." Starr's tone was freezing now, and he
could see that she was very angry. "Mr. Carter is my friend!" she flung at
him as he passed her and went out into the hall.

Another night of anguish brought Michael face to face with the necessity
for an interview with Starr's mother.

Taking his cue from the hour Starr had set for his call, he went a little
before eleven o'clock and sent up the card of the firm with his own name
written below; for he had very serious doubts of obtaining an interview at
all if the lady thought he might be there on his own business.

It is doubtful whether Mrs. Endicott recognized the former "Mikky"
under the title written below his most respectable law firm's name. Any
representative of Holt and Holt was to be recognized of course. She came
down within a half hour, quite graciously with lorgnette in her hand, until
she had reached the centre of the reception room where he had been put
to await her. Then Michael arose, almost from the same spot where she had
addressed him nearly four years before, the halo of the morning shining
through the high window on his hair, and with a start and stiffening of her
whole form she recognized him.

"Oh, it is _you_!" There was that in her tone that argued ill for Michael's
mission, but with grave and gentle bearing he began:

"Madam, I beg your pardon for the intrusion. I would not have come if there
had been any other way. I tried to find Mr. Endicott but was told he had
sailed--"

"You needn't waste your time, and mine. I shall do nothing for you. As I
told you before, if I remember, I think far too much already has been done
for you and I never felt that you had the slightest claim upon our bounty.
I must refuse to hear any hard luck stories."

Michael's face was a study. Indignation, shame and pity struggled with a
sudden sense of the ridiculousness of the situation.

What he did was to laugh, a rich, clear, musical laugh that stopped the
lady's tirade better than he could have done it in any other way.

"Well! Really! Have you come to insult me?" she said angrily. "I will call
a servant," and she stepped curtly toward the bell.

"Madam, I beg your pardon," said Michael quickly, grave at once. "I
intended no insult and I have come to ask no favor of you. I came because
of a serious matter, perhaps a grave danger to your home, which I thought
you should be made acquainted with."

"Indeed! Well, make haste," said Mrs. Endicott, half mollified. "My time is
valuable. Has some one been planning to rob the house?"

Michael looked straight in her face and told her briefly a few facts,
delicately worded, forcefully put, which would have convinced the heart of
any true mother that the man before her had none but pure motives.

Not so this mother. The more Michael talked the stiffer, haughtier, more
hateful, grew her stare; and when he paused, thinking not to utterly
overwhelm her with his facts, she remarked, superciliously:

"How could you possibly know all these things, unless you had been in the
same places where you claim Mr. Carter has been? But, oh, of course I
forgot! Your former home was there, and so of course you must have many
friends among--ah--_those people_!" She drew her mental skirts away from
contaminating contact as she spoke the last two words, and punctuated them
with a contemptuous look through the lorgnette.

"But, my dear fellow," she went on adopting the most outrageously
patronizing manner, "you should never trust those people. Of course you
don't understand that, having been away from them so many years among
respectable folks, but they really do not know what the truth is. I doubt
very much whether there is a grain of foundation for all that you have been
telling me."

"Madam, I have taken pains to look into the matter and I know that
every word which I have been telling you is true. Two of the meet noted
detectives of the city have been making an investigation. I would not have
ventured to come if I had not had indisputable facts to give you."

Mrs. Endicott arose still holding the lorgnette to her eyes, though she
showed that the interview was drawing to a close:

"Then young man," she said, "it will be necessary for me to tell you that
the things you have been saying are not considered proper to speak of
before ladies in respectable society. I remember of course your low origin
and lack of breeding and forgive what otherwise I should consider an
insult. Furthermore, let me tell you, that it is not considered honorable
to investigate a gentleman's private life too closely. All young men sow
their wild oats of course, and are probably none the worse for it. In fact,
if a man has not seen life he really is not worth much. It is his own
affair, and no business of yours. I must ask you to refrain from saying
anything of this matter to anyone. Understand? Not a word of it! My husband
would be deeply outraged to know that a young friend of his daughter's, a
man of refinement and position, had been the object of scandal by one who
should honor anyone whom he honors. I really cannot spare any more time
this morning."

"But madam! You certainly do not mean that you will not investigate this
matter for yourself? You would not let your daughter accept such a man as
her friend--?"

The lorgnette came into play again but its stare was quite ineffectual
upon Michael's white earnest face. His deep eyes lit with horror at this
monstrous woman who seemed devoid of mother-love.

"The time has come for you to stop. It is none of your business what I
mean. You have done what you thought was your duty by telling me, now put
the matter entirely out of your mind. Desist at once!"

With a final stare she swept out of the room and up the broad staircase and
Michael, watching her until she was out of sight, went out of the house
with bowed head and burdened heart. Went out to write a letter to Starr's
father, a letter which would certainly have performed its mission as his
other efforts had failed; but which because of a sudden and unexpected
change of address just missed him at every stopping place, as it travelled
its silent unfruitful way about the world after him, never getting anywhere
until too late.



CHAPTER XX


Starr was very angry with Michael when he left her. There was perhaps more
hurt pride and pique in her anger than she would have cared to own. He had
failed to succumb to her charms, he had not seemed to notice her as other
men did; he had even lost the look of admiration he used to wear when they
were boy and girl. He had refused utterly to tell her what she had a great
curiosity to know.

She had been sure, was sure yet, that if Michael would tell her what he
had against Stuyvesant Carter she could explain it satisfactorily. Her
flattered little head was almost turned at this time with the adoration she
had received. She thought she knew almost everything that Stuyvesant Carter
had ever done. He was a fluent talker and had spent many hours detailing
to her incidents and anecdotes of his eventful career. He had raced a good
deal and still had several expensive racing cars. There wasn't anything
very dreadful about that except, of course, it was dangerous. He used to
gamble a great deal but he had promised her he would never do it any more
because she thought it unrefined. Of course it wasn't as though he hadn't
plenty of money; and her mother had told her that all young men did those
things. No, not her father of course, for he had been unusual, but times
were different nowadays. Young men were expected to be a little wild. It
was the influence of college life and a progressive age she supposed. It
didn't do any harm. They always settled down and made good husbands after
they were married. Michael of course did not understand these things. He
had spent a great many years in Florida with a dear old professor and a lot
of good little boys. Michael was unacquainted with the ways of the world.

Thus she reasoned, yet nevertheless Michael's warning troubled her and
finally she decided to go to the best source of information and ask the
young man himself.

Accordingly three days after Michael's visit when he dropped in to ask if
she would go to the opera that evening with him instead of something else
they had planned to do together, she laughingly questioned him.

"What in the world can you ever have done, Mr. Carter, that should make you
unfit company for me?"

She asked the question lightly yet her eyes watched his face most closely
as she waited for the answer.

The blood rolled in dark waves over his handsome face and his brows grew
dark with anger which half hid the start of almost fear with which he
regarded her.

"What do you mean, Starr?" He looked at her keenly and could not tell if
she were in earnest or not.

"Just that," she mocked half gravely. "Tell me what you have been doing
that should make you unfit company for me? Some one has been trying to
make me promise to have nothing to do with you, and I want to know what it
means."

"Who has been doing that?" There were dangerous lights in the dark eyes,
lights that showed the brutality of the coward and the evildoer.

"Oh, a man!" said Starr provokingly; "but if you look like that I shan't
tell you anything more about it, I don't like you now. You look as if you
could eat me. You make me think there must be something in it all."

Quick to take the warning the young man brought his face under control and
broke into a hoarse artificial laugh. A sudden vision of understanding had
come to him and a fear was in his heart. There was nothing like being bold
and taking the bull by the horns.

"I'll wager I can explain the riddle for you," he said airily. "I lost my
way the other evening coming home late. You see there had been some mistake
and my car didn't come to the club for me. I started on foot, leaving word
for it to overtake me--" He lied as he went along. He had had a short
lifetime of practice and did it quite naturally and easily, "and I was
thinking about you and how soon I dared ask you a certain question, when
all at once I noticed that things seemed sort of unfamiliar. I turned to
go back but couldn't for the life of me tell which way I had turned at the
last corner--you see what a dangerous influence you have over me--and
I wandered on and on, getting deeper and deeper into things. It wasn't
exactly a savory neighborhood and I wanted to get out as soon as possible
for I suspected that it wasn't even very safe down there alone at that hour
of the night. I was hesitating under a street light close to a dark alley,
trying to decide which would be the quickest way out, and meditating what I
should do to find a policeman, when suddenly there loomed up beside me in
the dark out of the depths of the alley a great tall brute of a fellow with
the strangest looking yellow hair and a body that looked as if he could
play football with the universe if he liked, and charged me with having
come down there to visit his girl.

"Well, of course the situation wasn't very pleasant. I tried to explain
that I was lost; that I had never been down in that quarter of the city
before and didn't even know his girl. But he would listen to nothing. He
began to threaten me. Then I took out my card and handed it to him, most
unwisely of course, but then I am wholly unused to such situations, and I
explained to him just who I was and that of course I wouldn't want to come
to see _his_ girl, even if I would be so mean, and all that. But do you
believe me, that fellow wouldn't take a word of it. He threw the card on
the sidewalk, ground his heel into it, and used all sorts of evil language
that I can't repeat, and finally after I thought he was going to put me in
the ditch and pummel me he let me go, shouting after me that if I ever came
near his girl again he would publish it in the newspapers. Then of course
I understood what a foolish thing I had done in giving him my card. But it
was too late. I told him as politely as I knew how that if he would show me
the way to get home I would never trouble him again, and he finally let me
go."

Starr's eyes were all this time quizzically searching his face. "Was the
man intoxicated?" she asked.

"Oh, I presume so, more or less. They all are down there, though he was not
of the slums himself I should say. He was rather well dressed, and probably
angry that I had discovered him in such haunts."

"When did this happen?"

"About a week ago."

"Why didn't you tell me about it before?"

"Oh I didn't want to distress you, and besides, I've had my mind too full
of other things. Starr, darling, you must have seen all these weeks how
much I love you, and how I have only been waiting the proper opportunity to
ask you to be my wife--"

Starr was in a measure prepared for this proposal. Her mother had
instructed her that the alliance was one wholly within the pale of wisdom;
and her own fancy was quite taken up with this handsome new admirer who
flattered her hourly and showered attentions upon her until she felt quite
content with herself the world and him. There was a spice of daring about
Starr that liked what she thought was the wildness and gaiety of young
Carter, and she had quite made up her mind to accept him.

One week later the society papers announced the engagement, and the
world of gaiety was all in a flutter, over the many functions that were
immediately set agoing in their honor.

Michael, at his desk in the busy office, read, and bowed his head in
anguish. Starr, his bright beautiful Starr, to be sacrificed to a beast
like that! Would that he might once more save her to life and happiness!

For the next few days Michael went about in a state that almost bordered
on the frantic. His white face looked drawn, and his great eyes burned in
their clear setting like live coals. People turned to look after him on the
street and exclaimed: "Why, look at that man!" and yet he seemed more like
an avenging angel dropped down for some terrible errand than like a plain
ordinary man.

Mr. Holt noticed it and spoke to him about it.

"You ought to drop work and take a good vacation, Endicott," he said
kindly. "You're in bad shape. You'll break down and be ill. If I were in
your place I'd cancel the rent of that office and not try to start out for
yourself until fall. It'll pay you in the end. You're taking things too
seriously."

But Michael smiled and shook his head. He was to open his own office the
following week. It was all ready, with its simple furnishings, in marked
contrast to the rooms that would have been his if he had acceded to his
benefactor's request. But Michael had lost interest in office and work
alike, and the room seemed now to him only a refuge from the eyes of men
where he might hide with his great sorrow and try to study out some way to
save Starr. Surely, surely, her father would do something when he received
his letter! It was long past, time for an answer to have come. But then
there was the hope that he was already doing something, though he was
unwilling to afford Michael the satisfaction of knowing it.

He gave much thought to a possible cablegram, that he might send, that
would tell the story to the father while telling nothing to the world, but
abandoned the idea again and again.

Sam came up from the farm and saw Michael's face and was worried.

"Say, pard, wot yer bin doin' t'yersef? Better come down t' th' farm an'
git a bit o' fresh air."

The only two people who did not notice the change in Michael's appearance
were Hester and Will. They were too much engrossed in each other by this
time to notice even Michael.

They had fallen into the habit of leaving the rooms in the alley earlier
than Michael and going home by themselves.

They left him thus one night about three weeks after Starr's engagement had
been announced. Michael stayed in the room for an hour after all the others
had gone. He was expecting Sam to return. Sam had been up from the farm
several times lately and this time without any apparent reason he had
lingered in the city. He had not been to the room that night save for ten
minutes early in the evening when he had mumbled something about a little
business, and said he would be back before Michael left.

Michael sat for a long time, his elbow on the table, his head in his hands,
trying to think. A way had occurred to him which might or might not do
something to prevent Starr from throwing away her happiness. The morning
paper had hinted that plans for a speedy wedding were on foot. It was
rumored that Miss Endicott was to be married as soon as her father reached
home. Michael was desperate. He feared that now the father would arrive too
late for him to get speech with him. He had begun to know that it was hard
to convince people of the evil of those they had chosen as friends. It
would take time.

There was a way. He might have the whole story published in the papers. A
public scandal would doubtless delay if not altogether put a stop to this
alliance; but a public scandal that touched Mr. Carter would now also touch
and bring into publicity the girl whose life was almost linked with his.
Not until the very last resort would Michael bring about that publicity.
That such a move on his part would beget him the eternal enmity of the
entire Endicott family he did not doubt, but that factor figured not at all
in Michael's calculations. He was not working for himself in this affair.
Nothing that ever happened could make things right for him, he felt, and
what was his life, or good name even, beside Starr's happiness?

Wearily, at last, his problem unsolved, he got up and turned out the
lights. As he was locking the door his attention was arrested by two
figures standing between himself and the street light at the end of the
alley. It was a man and a woman, and the woman seemed to be clinging to the
man and pleading with him.

Such sights were not uncommon in the alley; some poor woman often thus
appealed to all that used to be good in the man she married, to make him
stay away from the saloon, or to give her a little of his money to buy food
for the children.

More than once in such instances Michael had been able successfully to add
his influence to the wife's and get the man to go quietly home.

He put the key hastily in his pocket and hurried toward the two.

"You shan't! You shan't! You shan't never go back to her!" he heard the
woman cry fiercely. "You promised me--"

"Shut up, will you? I don't care what I promised--" said the man in a
guarded voice that Michael felt sure he had heard before.

"I shan't shut up! I'll holler ef you go, so the police'll come. You've got
a right to stay with me. You shan't do me no wrong ner you shan't go back
to that stuck-up piece. You're mine, I say, and you promised--!"

With a curse the man struck her a cruel blow across the mouth, and tried to
tear her clinging hands away from his coat, but they only clung the more
fiercely.

Michael sprang to the woman's side like a panther.

"Look out!" he said in clear tones. "You can't strike a woman!" His voice
was low and calm, and sounded as it used to sound on the ball field when he
was giving directions to his team at some crisis in the game.

"Who says I can't?" snarled the man, and now Michael was sure he knew the
voice. Then the wretch struck the woman between her eyes and she fell
heavily to the ground.

Like a flash Michael's great arm went out and felled the man, and in the
same breath, from the shadows behind there sprang out the slender, wiry
figure of Sam and flung itself upon the man on the ground who with angry
imprecations was trying to struggle to his feet. His hand had gone to an
inner pocket, as he fell and in a moment more there was a flash of light
and Michael felt a bullet whiz by his ear. Nothing but the swerving of the
straggling figures had saved it from going through his brain. It occurred
to Michael in that instant that that was what had been intended. The
conviction that the man had also recognized him gave strength to his arm
as he wrenched the revolver from the hand of the would-be assassin. Nobody
knew better than Michael how easy it would be to plead "self-defense" if
the fellow got into any trouble. A man in young Carter's position with
wealth and friends galore need not fear to wipe an unknown fellow out of
existence; a fellow whose friends with few exceptions were toughs and jail
birds and ex-criminals of all sorts.

It was just as he gave Carter's wrist the twist that sent the revolver
clattering to the ground beside the unconscious woman that Michael heard
the hurried footsteps of the officer of the law accompanied by a curious
motley crowd who had heard the pistol shot and come to see what new
excitement life offered for their delectation. He suddenly realized how bad
matters would look for Sam if he should be found in the embrace of one of
Society's pets who would all too surely have a tale to tell that would
clear himself regardless of others. Michael had no care for himself. The
police all about that quarter knew him well, and were acquainted with his
work. They looked upon him with almost more respect than they gave the
priests and deaconesses who went about their errands of mercy; for
Michael's spirit-look of being more than man, and the stories that were
attached to his name in the alley filled them with a worshipful awe. There
was little likelihood of trouble for Michael with any of the officers he
knew. But Sam was another proposition. His life had not all been strictly
virtuous in the past, and of late he had been away in New Jersey so much
that he was little known, and would be at once suspected of having been the
cause of the trouble. Besides, the woman lay unconscious at their feet!

With a mighty effort Michael now reached forth and plucked Sam, struggling
fiercely, from the arms of his antagonist and put him behind him in the
doorway, standing firmly in front. Carter thus released, sprawled for
an instant in the road, then taking advantage of the momentary release
struggled to his feet and fled in the opposite direction from that in which
the officers were approaching.

"Let me go! I must get him!" muttered Sam pushing fiercely to get by
Michael.

"No, Sam, stay where you are and keep quiet. You'll gain nothing by running
after him. You'll only get into trouble yourself."

"I don't care!" said Sam frantically, "I don't care what happens to me.
I'll kill him. He stole my girl!"

But Michael stood before him like a wail of adamant in the strength that
was his for the extremity.

"Yes, Sam, my poor fellow. I know," said Michael gently, sadly. "I know,
Sam. He stole mine too!"

Sam subsided as if he had been struck, a low awful curse upon his lips, his
face pale and baleful.

"You, too?" The yearning tenderness went to Michael's heart like sweet
salve, even in the stress of the moment. They were brothers in sorrow, and
their brotherhood saved Sam from committing a crime.

Then the police and crowd swept up breathless.

"What does all this mean?" panted a policeman touching his cap respectfully
to Michael. "Some one been shooting?"

He stooped and peered into the white face of the still unconscious woman,
and then looked suspiciously toward Sam who was standing sullenly behind
Michael.

"He's all right," smiled Michael throwing an arm across Sam's shoulder, "He
only came in to help me when he saw I was having a hard time of it. The
fellow made off in that direction." Michael pointed after Carter whose form
had disappeared in the darkness.

"Any of the gang?" asked the officer as he hurried away.

"No!" said Michael. "He doesn't belong here!"

One officer hurried away accompanied by a crowd, the other stayed to look
after the woman. He touched the woman with his foot as he might have tapped
a dying dog to see if there was still life there. A low growl like a fierce
animal came from Sam's closed lips.

Michael put a warning hand upon, his arm.

"Steady, Sam, steady!" he murmured, and went himself and lifted the poor
pretty head of the girl from its stony pillow.

"I think you'd better send for the ambulance," he said to the officer.
"She's had a heavy blow on her head. I arrived just in time to see the
beginning of the trouble--"

"Ain't she dead?" said the officer indifferently. "Best get her into her
house. Don't reckon they want to mess up the hospital with such cattle as
this."

Michael caught the fierce gleam in Sam's eyes. A second more would have
seen the officer lying beside the girl in the road and a double tragedy to
the record of that night; for Sam was crouched and moving stealthily like a
cat toward the officer's back, a look of almost insane fury upon his small
thin face. It was Michael's steady voice that recalled him to sanity once
more, just as many a time in the midst of a game he had put self-control
and courage into the hearts of his team.

"Sam, could you come here and hold her head a minute, while I try to get
some water? Yes, officer, I think she is living, and she should be got to
the hospital as soon as possible. Please give the call at once."

The officer sauntered off to do his bidding. Michael and Sam began working
over the unconscious girl, and the crowd stood idly round waiting until the
ambulance rattled up. They watched with awe as the form of the woman was
lifted in and Michael and Sam climbed up on the front seat with the driver
and rode away; then they drifted away to their several beds and the street
settled into its brief night respite.

The two young men waited at the hospital for an hour until a white-capped
nurse came to tell them that Lizzie had recovered consciousness, and there
was hope of her life. Then they went out into the late night together.

"Sam, you're coming home with me to-night!" Michael put his arm
affectionately around Sam's shoulders, "You never would come before, but
you must come to-night."

And Sam, looking into the other's face for an instant, saw that in
Michael's suffering eyes that made him yield.

"I ain't fit!" Sam murmured as they walked along silently together. It was
the first hint that Sam had ever given that he was not every whit as good
as Michael; and Michael with rare tact had never by a glance let Sam know
how much he wished to have him cleaner, and more suitably garbed.

"Oh, we'll make that all right!" said Michael fervently thankful that
at last the time had come for the presentation of the neat and fitting
garments which he had purchased some weeks before for a present for Sam,
and which had been waiting for a suitable opportunity of presentation.

The dawn was hovering in the East when Michael led Sam up to his own room,
and throwing wide the door of his own little private bath-room told Sam to
take a hot bath, it would make him feel better.

While Sam was thus engaged Michael made a compact bundle of Sam's old
garments, and stealing softly to the back hall window, landed them by a
neat throw on the top of the ash barrel in the court below. Sam's clothes
might see the alley again by way of the ash man, but never on Sam's back.

Quite late that very same morning, when Sam, clothed and in a new and
righter mind than ever before in his life, walked down with Michael to
breakfast, and was introduced as "my friend Mr. Casey" to the landlady, who
was hovering about the now deserted breakfast table; he looked every inch
of him a respectable citizen. Not handsome and distinguished like Michael,
of course, but quite unnoticeable, and altogether proper as a guest at the
respectable breakfast table of Mrs. Semple.

Michael explained that they had been detained out late the night before by
an accident, and Mrs. Semple gave special orders for a nice breakfast to be
served to Mr. Endicott and his friend, and said it wasn't any trouble at
all.

People always thought it was no trouble to do things for Michael.

While they ate, Michael arranged with Sam to take a trip out to see Buck.

"I was expecting to go this morning," he said. "I had my plans all made.
They write me that Buck is getting uneasy and they wish I'd come, but
now"--he looked meaningly at Sam--"I think I ought to stay here for a
little. Could you go in my place? There are things here I must attend to."

Sam looked, and his face grew dark with sympathy. He understood.

"I'll keep you informed about Lizzie," went on Michael with delicate
intuition, "and anyway you couldn't see her for sometime, I think if you
try you could help Buck as much as I. He needs to understand that breaking
laws is all wrong. That it doesn't pay in the end, and that there has got
to be a penalty--you know. You can make him see things in a new way if you
try. Are you willing to go, Sam?"

"I'll go," said Sam briefly, and Michael knew he would do his best. It
might be that Sam's change of viewpoint would have more effect upon Buck
than anything Michael could say. For it was an open secret between Sam and
Michael now that Sam stood for a new order of things and that the old life,
so far as he was concerned, he had put away.

And so Sam was got safely away from the danger spot, and Michael stayed to
face his sorrow, and the problem of how to save Starr.



CHAPTER XXI


The papers the next morning announced that Mr. Stuyvesant Carter while
taking a short cut through the lower quarter of the city, had been cruelly
attacked, beaten and robbed, and had barely escaped with his life.

He was lying in his rooms under the care of a trained nurse, and was
recovering as rapidly as could be expected from the shock.

Michael reading it next morning after seeing Sam off to Kansas, lifted his
head with that quiet show of indignation. He knew that the message must
have been telephoned to the paper by Carter himself shortly after he had
escaped from the police. He saw just how easy it was for him to give out
any report he chose. Money and influence would buy even the public press.
It would be little use to try to refute anything he chose to tell about
himself.

The days that followed were to Michael one long blur of trouble. He haunted
Mr. Endicott's office in hopes of getting some news of his return but they
told him the last letters had been very uncertain. He might come quickly,
and he might be delayed a month yet, or even longer; and a cablegram might
not reach him much sooner than a letter, as he was travelling from place to
place.

After three days of this agony, knowing that the enemy would soon be
recovering from his bruises and be about again, he reluctantly wrote a note
to Starr:

"My dear Miss Endicott:

"At the risk of offending you I feel that I must make one more attempt to
save you from what I feel cannot but be great misery. The young man of whom
we were speaking has twice to my knowledge visited a young woman of the
slums within the last month, and has even since your engagement been
maintaining an intimacy with her which can be nothing but an insult to you.
Though you may not believe me, it gives me greater pain to tell you this
than anything I ever had to do before, I have tried in every way I know to
communicate with your father, but have thus far failed. I am writing you
thus plainly and painfully, hoping that though you will not take my word
for it, you will at least be willing to find some trustworthy intimate
friend of your family in whom you can confide, who will investigate this
matter for you, and give you his candid opinion of the young man. I can
furnish such a man with information as to where to go to get the facts.
I know that what I have said is true. I beg for the sake of your future
happiness that you will take means to discover for yourself.

"Faithfully yours,

"Michael"

To this note, within two days, he received a condescending, patronizing
reply:

"Michael:

"I am exceedingly sorry that you have lent yourself to means so low to
accomplish your end, whatever that may be. It is beyond me to imagine what
possible motive you can have for all this ridiculous calumny that you are
trying to cast on one who has shown a most noble spirit toward you.

"Mr. Carter has fully explained to me his presence at the home of that
girl, and because you seem to really believe what you have written me, and
because I do not like to have _anyone_ think evil of the man whom I am
soon to marry, I am taking the trouble to explain to you. The young woman
is a former maid of Mr. Carter's mother, and she is deeply attached to her.
She does up Mrs. Carter's fine laces exquisitely, and Mr. Carter has twice
been the bearer of laces to be laundered, because his mother was afraid to
trust such valuable pieces to a servant. I hope you will now understand
that the terrible things you have tried to say against Mr. Carter are
utterly false. Such things are called blackmail and bring terrible
consequences in court I am told if they become known, so I must warn you
never to do anything of this sort again. It is dangerous. If my father
were at home he would explain it to you. Of course, having been in that
out-of-the-way Florida place for so long you don't understand these things,
but for papa's sake I would not like you to get into trouble in any way.

"There is one more thing I must say. Mr. Carter tells me that he saw
you down in that questionable neighborhood, and that you are yourself
interested in this girl. It seems strange when this is the case, that you
should have thought so ill of him.

"Trusting that you will cause me no further annoyance in this matter,

"S.D. Endicott."

When Michael had read this he bowed himself upon his desk as one who had
been stricken unto death. To read such words from her whom he loved better
than his own soul was terrible! And he might never let her know that these
things that had been said of him were false. She would probably go always
with the idea that his presence in that alley was a matter of shame to him.
So far as his personal part in the danger to herself was concerned, he was
from this time forth powerless to help her. If she thought such things of
him,--if she had really been made to believe them,--then of course she
could credit nothing he told her. Some higher power than his would have to
save her if she was to be saved.

To do Starr justice she had been very much stirred by Michael's note, and
after a night of wakefulness and meditation had taken the letter to her
mother. Not that Starr turned naturally to her most unnatural mother for
help in personal matters usually; but there seemed to be no one else to
whom she could go. If only her father had been home! She thought of cabling
him, but what could she say in a brief message? How could she make him
understand? And then there was always the world standing by to peer
curiously over one's shoulder when one sent a message. She could not hope
to escape the public eye.

She considered showing Michael's note to Morton, her faithful nurse, but
Morton, wise in many things, would not understand this matter, and would be
powerless to help her. So Starr had gone to her mother.

Mrs. Endicott, shrewd to perfection, masked her indignation under a very
proper show of horror, told Starr that of course it was not true, but
equally of course it must be investigated; gave her word that she would do
so immediately and her daughter need have no further thought of the matter;
sent at once for young Carter with whom she held a brief consultation at
the end of which Starr was called and cheerfully given the version of the
story which she had written to Michael.

Stuyvesant Carter could be very alluring when he tried, and he chose to
try. The stakes were a fortune, a noble name, and a very pretty girl with
whom he was as much in love at present as he ever had been in his checkered
career, with any girl. Moreover he had a nature that held revenge long. He
delighted to turn the story upon the man who pretended to be so righteous
and who had dared to give him orders about a poor worthless girl of
the slums. He set his cunning intellect to devise a scheme whereby his
adversary should be caught in his own net and brought low. He found a
powerful ally in the mother of the girl he was to marry.

For reasons of ambition Mrs. Endicott desired supremely an alliance with
the house of Carter, and she was most determined that nothing should upset
her plans for her only daughter's marriage.

She knew that if her husband should return and hear any hint of the story
about Carter he would at once put an end to any relations between him and
Starr. He had always been "queer" about such things, and "particular," as
she phrased it. It would be mortifying beyond anything to have any balk in
the arrangements after things had gone thus far; and there was that hateful
Mrs. Waterman, setting her cap for him so odiously everywhere even since
the engagement had been announced. Mrs. Endicott intended to risk nothing.
Therefore she planned with the young people for an early marriage. She was
anxious to have everything so thoroughly cut and dried, and matters gone
so far that her husband could not possibly upset them when he returned.
Finally she cabled him, asking him to set a positive date for his
home-coming as the young people wished to arrange for an early wedding.
He cabled back a date not so very far off, for in truth, though he had
received none of Michael's warnings he was uneasy about this matter of his
daughter's engagement. Young Carter had of course seemed all right, and he
saw no reason to demur when his wife wrote that the two young people had
come to an understanding, but somehow it had not occurred to him that the
marriage would be soon. He was troubled at thought of losing the one bright
treasure of his home, when he had but just got her back again from her
European education. He felt that it was unfortunate that imperative
business had called him abroad almost as soon as she returned. He was in
haste to be back.

But when his wife followed her cable message with, a letter speaking of an
immediate marriage and setting a date but four days after the time set for
his arrival, he cabled to her to set no date until his return, which would
be as soon as he could possibly come.

However, Mrs. Endicott had planned well. The invitations had been sent out
that morning. She thought it unnecessary to cable again but wrote, "I'm
sorry, but your message came too late. The invitations are all out now, and
arrangements going forward. I knew you would not want to stop Starr's
plans and she seems to have her heart set on being married at once. Dear
Stuyvesant finds it imperative to take an ocean trip and he cannot bear the
thought of going without his wife. I really do not see how things could
possibly be held off now. We should be the laughing stock of society and
I am sure you would not want me to endure that. And Starr, dear child, is
quite childishly happy over her arrangements. She is only anxious to
have you properly home in time, so do hurry and get an earlier boat if
possible."

Over this letter Mr. Endicott frowned and looked troubled. His wife had
ever taken things in her own hands where she would; but concerning Starr
they had never quite agreed, though he had let her have her own way about
everything else. It was like her to get this marriage all fixed up while
he was away. Of course it must be all right, but it was so sudden! And his
little Starr! His one little girl!

Then, with his usual abrupt action he put the letter in his inner pocket
and proceeded to hurry his business as much as possible that he might take
an earlier boat than the one he had set. And he finally succeeded by dint
of working night as well as day, and leaving several important matters to
go as they would.

The papers at last announced that Mr. Delevan Endicott who had been abroad
for three months on business had sailed for home and would reach New York
nearly a week before the date set for the wedding. The papers also were
filled with elaborate foreshadowings of what that event was likely to mean
to the world of society.

And Michael, knowing that he must drink every drop of his bitter cup,
knowing that he must suffer and endure to the end of it, if perchance he
might yet save her in some miraculous way, read every word, and knew the
day and the hour of the boat's probable arrival. He had it all planned to
meet that boat himself. If possible he would go out on the pilot and meet
his man before he landed.

Then the silence of the great deep fell about the traveller; and the days
went by with the waiting one in the city; the preparations hurried forward
by trained and skilful workers. The Endicott home was filled with comers
and goers. Silks and satins and costly fabrics, laces and jewels and
rare trimmings from all over the world were brought together by hands
experienced in costuming the great of the earth.

Over the busy machinery which she had set going, Mrs. Endicott presided
with the calmness and positive determination of one who had a great purpose
in view and meant to carry it out. Not a detail escaped, her vigilant eye,
not an item was forgotten of all the millions of little necessities that
the world expected and she must have forthcoming. Nothing that could make
the wedding unique, artistic, perfect, was too hard or too costly to be
carried out. This was her pinnacle of opportunity to shine, and Mrs.
Endicott intended to make the most of it. Not that she had not shone
throughout her worldly career, but she knew that with the marriage of her
daughter her life would reach its zenith point and must henceforth begin
to decline. This event must be one to be remembered in the annals of
the future so long as New York should continue to marry and be given in
marriage. Starr's wedding must surpass all others in wonder and beauty and
elegance.

So she planned, wrought, carried out; and day by day the gleam in her eyes
told that she was nearing her triumph.

It did not disturb her when the steamer was overdue one whole day, and then
two. Starr, even amid the round of gaieties in her young set, all given in
her honor, found time to worry about her father; but the wife only found
in this fact a cause for congratulation. She felt instinctively that her
crucial time was coming when her husband reached home. If Michael had dared
to carry out his threats, or if a breath of the stories concerning young
Carter's life should reach him there would be trouble against which she had
no power.

It was not until the third morning with still no news of the vessel that
Mrs. Endicott began to feel uneasy. It would be most awkward to have to
put off the ceremony, and of course it would not do to have it without the
bride's father when he was hurrying to be present. If he would arrive just
in time so much the better; but late--ah--that would be dreadful! She
tightened her determined lips, and looked like a Napoleon saying to
herself, "There shall be no Alps!" In like manner she would have said if
she could: "There shall be no sea if I wish it."

But the anxiety she felt was only manifested by her closer vigilance over
her helpers as swiftly and hourly the perfected preparations glided to
their finish.

Starr grew nervous and restless and could not sleep, but hovered from room
to room in the daytime looking out of the windows, or fitfully telephoning
the steamship company for news. Her fiancé found her most unsatisfactory
and none of the plans he proposed for her diversion pleased her. Dark rings
appeared under her eyes, and she looked at him with a troubled expression
sometimes when she should have been laughing in the midst of a round of
pleasures.

Starr deeply loved her father, and some vague presentiment of coming
trouble seemed to shadow all the brightness of life. Now and then Michael's
face with its great, true eyes, and pleading expression came between
her and Carter's face, and seemed to blur its handsome lines; and then
indefinite questions haunted her. What if those terrible things Michael had
said were true? Was she sure, _sure_? And at times like that she fancied
she saw a weakness in the lines about Carter's eyes and mouth.

But she was most unused to studying character, poor child, and had no guide
to help her in her lonely problem of choosing; for already she had learned
that her mother's ways and hers were not the same; and--her father--did not
come. When he came it would be all right. It had to be, for there was no
turning back, of course, now. The wedding was but two days off.

Michael, in his new office, frankly acknowledged to himself these days that
he could not work. He had done all that he could and now was waiting for
a report of that vessel. When it landed he hoped to be the first man on
board; in fact, he had made arrangement to go out to meet it before it
landed. But it did not come! Was it going to be prevented until the day was
put off? Would that make matters any better? Would he then have more time?
And could he accomplish anything with Mr. Endicott, even, supposing he had
time? Was he not worse than foolish to try? Mr. Endicott was already angry
with him for another reason. His wife and Starr, and that scoundrel of a
Carter, would tell all sorts of stories. Of course he would believe them in
preference to his! He groaned aloud sometimes, when, he was alone in the
office: and wished that there were but a way he could fling himself between
Starr and all evil once for all; give his life for hers. Gladly, gladly
would he do it if it would do any good. Yet there was no way.

And then there came news. The vessel had been heard from still many miles
out to sea, with one of her propellers broken, and laboring along at great
disadvantage. But if all went well she would reach her dock at noon of the
following day--eight hours before the time set for the wedding!

Starr heard and her face blossomed, into smiles. All would go well after
all. She telephoned again to the steamship company a little while later and
her utmost fears were allayed by their assurances.

Mrs. Endicott heard the news with intense relief. Her husband would
scarcely have time to find out anything. She must take pains that he had no
opportunity to see Michael before the ceremony.

The young man heard and his heart beat wildly. Would the time be long
enough to save her?

Noon of the next day came, but the steamer had not yet landed, though the
news from her was good. She would be in before night, there was no doubt of
it now. Mr. Endicott would be in time for the wedding, but just that and no
more. He had sent reassurances to his family, and they were going forward
happily in the whirl of the last things.

But Michael in his lonely office hung up the telephone receiver with a
heavy heart. There would be no time now to save Starr. Everything was
against him. Even if he could get speech of Mr. Endicott which was doubtful
now, was it likely the man would listen at this the last minute? Of course
his wife and daughter and her fiancé could easily persuade him all was
well, and Michael a jealous fool!

As he sat thus with bowed head before his desk, he heard footsteps along
the stone floor of the corridor outside. They halted at his door, and
hesitating fingers fumbled with the knob. He looked up frowning and was
about to send any chance client away, with the explanation that he was
entirely too much occupied at present to be interrupted, when the face of
the woman who opened the door caught his attention.



CHAPTER XXII


It was Lizzie, with her baby in her arms; the girl he had defended in the
alley, and whose face he had last seen lying white and unconscious in the
moonlight, looking ghastly enough with the dark hair flung back against the
harsh pillow of stone.

The face was white now, but softened with the beauty of motherhood. The
bold, handsome features had somehow taken on a touch of gentleness, though
there glowed and burned in her dark eyes a fever of passion and unrest.

She stood still for a moment looking at Michael after she had closed the
door, and was holding the baby close as if fearing there might be some one
there who was minded to take it from her.

As Michael watched her, fascinated, cut to the heart by the dumb suffering
in her eyes, he was reminded of one of the exquisite Madonnas he had
seen in an exhibition not long ago. The draperies had been dainty and
cloud-like, and the face refined and wonderful in its beauty, but there had
been the same sorrowful mother-anguish in the eyes. It passed through his
mind that this girl and he were kin because of a mutual torture. His face
softened, and he felt a great pity for her swelling in his heart.

His eyes wandered to the little upturned face of the baby wrapped close
in the shabby shawl against its mother's breast. It was a very beautiful
little sleeping face, with a look still of the spirit world from which
it had but recently come. There was something almost unearthly in its
loveliness, appealing even in its sleep, with its innocent baby curves and
outlines. A little stranger soul, whose untried feet had wandered into
unwelcome quarters where sorrows and temptations were so thickly strewn
that it could not hope to escape them.

What had the baby come for? To make one more of the swarming mass of sinful
wretches who crowded the alley? Would those cherub lips half-parted now in
a seraphic smile live to pour forth blasphemous curses as he had heard even
very small children in the alley? Would that tiny sea-shell hand, resting
so trustingly against the coarse cloth of its mother's raiment, looking
like a rosebud gone astray, live to break open safes and take their
contents? Would the lovely little soft round body whose tender curves
showed pitifully beneath the thin old shawl, grow up to lie in the gutter
some day? The problem of the people had never come to Michael so forcibly,
so terribly as in that moment before Lizzie spoke.

"Be you a real lawyer?" she asked. "Kin you tell what the law is 'bout
folks and thin's?"

Michael smiled and rose to give her a chair as courteously as though she
had been a lady born.

"Sit down," he said. "Yes, I am a lawyer. What can I do for you?"

"I s'pose you charge a lot," said the girl with a meaning glance around the
room. "You've got thin's fixed fine as silk here. But I'll pay anythin' you
ast ef it takes me a lifetime to do it, ef you'll jest tell me how I kin
git my rights."

"Your rights?" questioned Michael sadly. Poor child! _Had_ she any rights
in the universe that he could help her to get? The only rights he knew for
such as she were room in a quiet graveyard and a chance to be forgotten.

"Say, ain't it against the law fer a man to marry a woman when he's already
got one wife?"

"It is," said Michael, "unless he gets a divorce."

"Well, I ain't goin' to give him no divorce, you bet!" said the girl
fiercely. "I worked hard enough to get a real marriage an' I ain't goin' to
give up to no fash'nable swell. I'm's good's she is, an' I've got my rights
an I'll hev 'em. An' besides, there's baby--!" Her face softened and took
on a love light; and immediately Michael was reminded of the madonna
picture again. "I've got to think o' him!" Michael marvelled to see that
the girl was revelling in her possession, of the little helpless burden who
had been the cause of her sorrow.

"Tell me about it." His voice was very gentle. He recalled suddenly that
this was Sam's girl. Poor Sam, too! The world was a terribly tangled mess
of trouble.

"Well, there ain't much to tell that counts, only he kep' comp'ny with me,
an' I wouldn't hev ennythin' else but a real marriage, an' so he giv in,
an' we hed a couple o' rooms in a real respectable house an' hed it fine
till he had to go away on business, he said. I never 'b'leeved that. Why he
was downright rich. He's a real swell, you know. What kind o' business cud
he have?" Lizzie straightened herself proudly and held her head high.

"About whom are you talking?" asked Michael.

"Why, my husband, 'course, Mr. Sty-ve-zant Carter. You ken see his name in
the paper real often. He didn't want me to know his real name. He hed me
call him Dan Hunt fer two months, but I caught on, an' he was real mad fer
a while. He said his ma didn't like the match, an' he didn't want folks to
know he'd got married, it might hurt him with some of his swell friends--"

"You don't mean to tell me that Mr. Stuyvesant Carter ever really married
you!" said Michael incredulously.

"Sure!" said Lizzie proudly, "married me jest like enny swell; got me a
dimon ring an' a silk lined suit an' a willer plume an everythin'." Lizzie
held up a grimy hand on which Michael saw a showy glitter of jewelry.

"Have you anything to show for it?" asked Michael, expecting her of course
to say no. "Have you any certificate or paper to prove that you were
married according to law?"

"Sure!" said Lizzie triumphantly, drawing forth a crumpled roll from the
folds of her dress and smoothing it out before his astonished eyes.

There it was, a printed wedding certificate, done in blue and gold with a
colored picture of two clasped hands under a white dove with a gold ring
in its beak. Beneath was an idealized boat with silken sails bearing two
people down a rose-lined river of life; and the whole was bordered with
orange blossoms. It was one of those old-fashioned affairs that country
ministers used to give their parishioners in the years gone by, and are
still to be had in some dusty corners of a forgotten drawer in country book
stores. But Michael recognized at once that it was a real certificate. He
read it carefully. The blanks were all filled in, the date she gave of the
marriage was there, and the name of the bridegroom though evidently written
in a disguised hand could be deciphered: "Sty. Carter." Michael did not
recognize the names of either the witnesses or the officiating minister.

"How do you happen to have Mr. Carter's real name here when you say he
married you under an assumed name?" he asked moving his finger thoughtfully
over the blurred name that had evidently been scratched out and written
over again.

"I made him put it in after I found out who he was," said Lizzie. "He
couldn't come it over me thet-a-way. He was awful gone on me then, an' I
cud do most ennythin' with him. It was 'fore she cum home from Europe! She
jes' went fer him an' turned his head. Ef I'd a-knowed in time I'd gone an'
tole her, but land sakes! I don't 'spose 'twould a done much good. I would
a-ben to her before, only I was fool 'nough to promise him I wouldn't say
nothin' to her ef he'd keep away from her. You see I needed money awful bad
fer baby. He don't take to livin' awful good. He cries a lot an' I bed to
hev thin's fer 'im, so I threatened him ef he didn't do sompin' I'd go tell
her; an' he up an' forked over, but not till I promised. But now they say
the papers is tellin' he's to marry her to-night, an' I gotta stop it
somehow. I got my rights an' baby's to look after, promise er no promise,
Ken I get him arrested?"

"I am not sure what you can do until I look into the matter," Michael said
gravely. Would the paper he held help or would it not, in his mission to
Starr's father? And would it be too late? His heavy heart could not answer.

"Do you know these witnesses?"

"Sure." said Lizzie confidently. "They're all swells. They come down with
him when he come to be married. I never seen 'em again, but they was real
jolly an' nice. They give me a bokay of real roses an' a bracelet made like
a snake with green glass eyes."

"And the minister? Which is his church?"

"I'm sure I donno," said Lizzie. "I never ast. He Come along an' was ez
jolly ez enny of 'em. He drank more'n all of 'em put together. He was awful
game fer a preacher."

Michael's heart began to sink. Was this a genuine marriage after all? Could
anything be proved? He questioned the girl carefully, and after a few
minutes sent her on her way promising to do all in his power to help her
and arranging to let her know as soon as possible if there was anything she
could do.

That was a busy afternoon for Michael. The arrival of the steamer was
forgotten. His telephone rang vainly on his desk to a silent room. He was
out tramping over the city in search of the witnesses and the minister who
had signed Lizzie's marriage certificate.

Meantime the afternoon papers came out with a glowing account of the
wedding that was to be, headed by the pictures of Starr and Mr. Carter, for
the wedding was a great event in society circles.

Lizzie on her hopeful way back to the alley, confident that Michael, the
angel of the alley, would do something for her, heard the boys crying the
afternoon edition of the paper, and was seized with a desire to see if her
husband's picture would be in again. She could ill spare the penny from her
scanty store that she spent for it, but then, what was money in a case like
this? Michael would do something for her and she would have more money.
Besides, if worst came to worst she would go to the fine lady and threaten
to make it all public, and she would give her money.

Lizzie had had more advantages than most of her class in the alley. She had
worked in a seashore restaurant several summers and could read a little.
From the newspaper account she gathered enough to rouse her half-soothed
frenzy. Her eyes flashed fire as she went about her dark little tenement
room making baby comfortable. His feeble wail and his sweet eyes looking
into hers only fanned the fury of her flame. She determined not to wait
for Michael, but to go on her own account at once to that girl that was
stealing away her husband, her baby's father, and tell her what she was
doing.

With the cunning of her kind Lizzie dressed herself in her best; a soiled
pink silk shirtwaist with elbow sleeves, a spotted and torn black skirt
that showed a tattered orange silk petticoat beneath its ungainly length,
a wide white hat with soiled and draggled willow plume of Alice blue, and
high-heeled pumps run over on their uppers. If she had but known it she
looked ten times better in the old Madonna shawl she had worn to
Michael's office, but she took great satisfaction in being able to dress
appropriately when she went to the swells.

The poor baby she wrapped in his soiled little best, and pinned a large
untidy pink satin bow on the back of his dirty little blanket. Then she
started on her mission.

Now Starr had just heard that her father's vessel would be at the dock in
a trifle over an hour and her heart was light and happy. Somehow all her
misgivings seemed to flee away, now that he was coming. She flew from one
room to another like a wild bird, trilling snatches of song, and looking
prettier than ever.

"Aw, the wee sweet bairnie!" murmured the old Scotch nurse. "If only her
man will be gude to her!"

There was some special bit of Starr's attire for the evening that had not
arrived. She was in a twitter of expectancy about it, to be sure it pleased
her, and when she heard the bell she rushed to the head of the stairs and
was half-way down to see if it had come, when the servant opened the door
to Lizzie and her baby.

One second more and the door would have closed hopelessly on poor Lizzie,
for no servant in that house would have thought of admitting such a
creature to the presence of their lady a few hours before her wedding; but
Starr, poised half-way on the landing, called, "What is it, Graves, some
one to see me?"

"But she's not the sort of person--Miss Starr!" protested Graves with the
door only open a crack now.

"Never mind, Graves, I'll see her for a minute. I can't deny anyone on my
wedding day you know, and father almost safely here. Show her into the
little reception room." She smiled a ravishing smile on the devoted Graves,
so with many qualms of conscience and misgivings as to what the mistress
would say if she found out, Graves ushered Lizzie and her baby to the room
indicated and Starr fluttered down to see her. So it was Starr's own doings
that Lizzie came into her presence on that eventful afternoon.

"Oh, what a sweet baby!" exclaimed Starr eagerly, "is he yours?" Lizzie's
fierce eyes softened.

"Sit down and tell me who you are. Wait, I'll have some tea brought for
you. You look tired. And won't you let me give that sweet baby a little
white shawl of mine. I'm to be married to-night and I'd like to give him a
wedding present," she laughed gaily, and Morton was sent for the shawl and
another servant for the tea, while Starr amused herself by making the baby
crow at her.

Lizzie sat in wonder. Almost for the moment she forgot her errand watching
this sweet girl in her lovely attire making much of her baby. But when
the tea had been brought and the soft white wool shawl wrapped around the
smiling baby Starr said again:

"Now please tell me who you are and what you have come for. I can't give
you but a minute or two more. This is a busy day, you know."

Lizzie's brow darkened.

"I'm Mrs. Carter!" she said drawing herself up with conscious pride.

"Carter?" said Starr politely.

"Yes, I'm the wife of the man you're goin' to marry to-night, an' this is
his child, I thought I'd come an' tell you 'fore 'twas too late. I thought
ef you had enny goodness in you you'd put a stop to this an' give me my
rights, an' you seem to hev some heart. Can't you call it off? You wouldn't
want to take my husband away from me, would you? You can get plenty others
an' I'm jest a plain workin' girl, an' he's mine anyhow, an' this is his
kid."

Starr had started to her feet, her eyes wide, her hand fluttering to her
heart.

"Stop!" she cried. "You must be crazy to say such things. My poor girl, you
have made a great mistake. Your husband is some other Mr. Carter I suppose.
My Mr. Carter is not that kind of a man. He has never been married--"

"Yes, he has!" interposed Lizzie fiercely, "He's married all right, an' I
got the c'tif'ct all right too, only I couldn't bring it this time cause I
lef' it with my lawyer; but you can see it ef you want to, with his name
all straight, "Sty-Vee-Zant Carter," all writ out. I see to it that he writ
it himself. I kin read meself, pretty good, so I knowed."

"I am very sorry for you," said Starr sweetly, though her heart was heating
violently in spite of her efforts to be calm and to tell herself that she
must get rid of this wretched impostor without making a scene for the
servants to witness: "I am very sorry, but you have made some great
mistake. There isn't anything I can do for you now, but later when I come
back to New York if you care to look me up I will try to do something for
baby."

Lizzie stood erect in the middle of the little room, her face slowly
changing to a stony stare, her eyes fairly blazing with anger.

"De'yer mean ter tell me yer a goin' t'go on an' marry my husban' jes'
ez ef nothin' had happened? Ain't yer goin' ter ast him ef it's true ner
nothin'? Ain't yer goin' t' find out what's true 'bout him? 'R d'ye want
'im so bad ye don't care who yer hurt, or wot he is, so long's he makes a
big splurge before folks? Ain't you a-goin' ter ast him 'bout it?"

"Oh, why certainly, of course," said Starr as if she were pacifying a
frantic child, "I can ask him. I will ask him of course, but I _know_ that
you are mistaken. Now really, I shall have to say good afternoon. I haven't
another minute to spare. You must go!"

"I shan't stir a step till you promise me thet you'll ast him right
straight away. Ain't you all got no telyphone? Well, you kin call him up
an' ast him. Jest ast him why he didn't never speak to you of his wife
Lizzie, and where he was the evenin' of Augus' four. That's the date on the
c'tif'ct! Tell him you seen me an' then see wot he says. Tell him my lawyer
is a goin' to fix him ef he goes on. It'll be in all the papers to-morrer
mornin' ef he goes on. An' you c'n say I shan't never consent to no
_di_-vorce, they ain't respectable, an' I got to think o' that on baby's
account."

"If you will go quietly away now and say nothing more about this to anyone
I will tell Mr. Carter all about you," said Starr, her voice trembling with
the effort at self-control.

"D'ye promus you will?"

"Certainly," said Starr with dignity.

"Will ye do it right off straight?"

"Yes, if you will go at once."

"Cross yer heart?"

"What?"

"Cross yer heart ye will? Thet's a sort o' oath t' make yer keep yer
promus," explained Lizzie.

"A lady needs no such thing to make her keep her promise. Don't you know
that ladies always keep their promises?"

"I wasn't so sure!" said Lizzie, "You can't most allus tell, 't's bes' to
be on the safe side. Will yer promus me yer won't marry him ef ye find out
he's my husband?"

"Most certainly I will not marry him if he is already married. Now go,
please, at once. I haven't a minute to spare. If you don't go at once I
cannot have time to call him up."

"You sure I kin trust you?"

Starr turned on the girl such a gaze of mingled dignity and indignation
that her eye quailed before it.

"Well, I s'pose I gotta," she said, dropping her eyes before Starr's
righteous wrath. "But 'no weddin' bells' fer you to-night ef yeh keep yer
promus. So long!"

Starr shuddered as the girl passed her. The whiff of unwashed garments,
stale cooking, and undefinable tenement odor that reached her nostrils
sickened her. Was it possible that she must let this creature have a hold
even momentarily upon her last few hours? Yet she knew she must. She knew
she would not rest until she had been reassured by Carter's voice and the
explanation that he would surely give her. She rushed upstairs to her own
private 'phone, locking the door on even her old nurse, and called up the
'phone in Carter's private apartments.

Without owning it to herself she had been a little troubled all the
afternoon because she had not heard from Carter. Her flowers had
come,--magnificent in their costliness and arrangement, and everything he
was to attend to was done, she knew, but no word had come from himself. It
was unlike him.

She knew that he had given a dinner the evening before to his old friends
who were to be his ushers, and that the festivities would have lasted late.
He had not probably arisen very early, of course, but it was drawing on
toward the hour of the wedding now. She intended to begin to dress at once
after she had 'phoned him. It was strange she had not heard from him.

After much delay an unknown voice answered the 'phone, and told her Mr.
Carter could not come now. She asked who it was but got no response, except
that Mr. Carter couldn't come now. The voice had a muffled, thick sound.
"Tell him to call me then as soon as possible," she said, and the voice
answered, "Awright!"

Reluctantly she hung up the receiver and called Morton to help her dress.
She would have liked to get the matter out of the way before she went about
the pretty ceremony, and submitted herself to her nurse's hands with an ill
grace and troubled thoughts. The coarse beauty of Lizzie's face haunted
her. It reminded her of an actress that Carter had once openly admired, and
she had secretly disliked. She found herself shuddering inwardly every time
she recalled Lizzie's harsh voice, and uncouth sentences.

She paid little heed to the dressing process after all and let Morton have
her way in everything, starting nervously when the 'phone bell rang, or
anyone tapped at her door.

A message came from her father finally. He hoped to be with her in less
than an hour now, and as yet no word had come from Carter! Why did he not
know she would be anxious? What could have kept him from his usual greeting
of her, and on their wedding day!

Suddenly, in the midst of Morton's careful draping of the wedding veil
which she was trying in various ways to see just how it should be put on at
the last minute, Starr started up from her chair.

"I cannot stand this, Mortie. That will do for now. I must telephone Mr.
Carter. I can't understand why he doesn't call me."

"Oh, but the poor man is that busy!" murmured Morton excusingly as she
hurried obediently out of the room. "Now, mind you don't muss that
beautiful veil."

But after a half hour of futile attempt to get into communication with
Carter, Starr suddenly appeared in her door calling for her faithful nurse
again.

"Mortie!" she called excitedly. "Come here quick! I've ordered the
electric. It's at the door now. Put on your big cloak and come with me!
I've got to see Mr. Carter at once and I can't get him on the 'phone."

"But Miss Starr!" protested Morton. "You've no time to go anywhere now, and
look at your pretty veil!"

"Never mind the veil, Mortie, I'm going. Hurry. I can't stop to explain.
I'll tell you on the way. We'll be back before anyone has missed us."

"But your mamma, Miss Starr! She will be very angry with me!"

"Mamma must not know. And anyway I must go. Come, if you won't come with me
I'm going alone."

Starr with these words grasped a great cloak of dark green velvet, soft and
pliable as a skin of fur, threw it over her white bridal robes, and hurried
down the stairs.

"Oh, Miss Starr, darlin'," moaned Morton looking hurriedly around for a
cloak with which to follow. "You'll spoil yer veil sure! Wait till I take
it off'n ye."

But Starr had opened the front door and was already getting into the great
luxurious car that stood outside.



CHAPTER XXIII


Michael, as he went about on his search kept crying over and over again
in his heart: "Oh, God! Do something to save her! Do something to save my
little Starr!"

Over and over the prayer prayed itself without seeming thought or volition
on his part, as he went from place to place, faithfully, keenly, step by
step, searching out what he needed to know. At last toward six o'clock, his
chain of evidence led him to the door of Stuyvesant Carter's apartments.

After some delay the door was opened reluctantly a little way by a
servant with an immobile mask of a face who stared at him stupidly, but
finally admitted that the three men whose names he mentioned were inside.
He also said that Mr. Carter was in, but could not be seen.

He closed the door on the visitor and went inside again to see if any of
the others would come out. There ensued an altercation in loud and somewhat
unsteady tones, and at last the door opened again and a fast looking young
man who admitted himself to be Theodore Brooks slid out and closed it
carefully behind him. The air that came with him was thick with tobacco
smoke and heavy with liquor, and the one glimpse Michael got of the room
showed a strange radiance of some peculiar light that glowed into the dusky
hall weirdly.

The heavy-eyed youth who stood braced against the wall uncertainly looked
into Michael's face with an impudent laugh.

"Well, parson, what's the grouch? Are you the devil or an angel sent to
bring retribution?" He ended with a silly laugh that told the experienced
ear of the young lawyer that the young man had been drinking heavily. And
this was the man whose name was signed as Rev. Theodore Brooks, D.D., on
the tawdry little marriage certificate that Michael held in his hand. His
heart sank at the futility of the task before him.

"Are you a minister?" asked Michael briefly.

"Am I a minister?" drawled young Brooks. "M-my-m-m-mnster! Well now that
get's my goat! Say, boys, he wants t' kno' 'f I'm a m-min'ster! Min-ster of
what? Min-ster plen-p'ten'sherry?"

"Did you ever perform a marriage?" asked Michael sharply to stop the loud
guffaw that was re-echoing through the polished corridors of the apartment.

"P'form a m'riage, d'ye say? No, but I'm goin' perform 't a marriage
to-night 'f the dead wakes up in time. Goin' t' be bes' man. Say, boys! Got
'im 'wake yet? Gettin' late!"

Michael in despair took hold of the other's arm and tried to explain what
he wanted to know. Finally he succeeded in bringing the matter into the
fellow's comprehension.

"Wedding, oh, yes, I 'member, peach of a girl! Stuyvy awfully fond of her.
No harm meant. Good joke! Yes,--I borr'wed Grand'F'ther Brooks's old gown'n
ban's. Awf'lly good disguise! No harm meant--on'y good joke--girl awf'lly
set on getting married. Stuyvy wanted t' please 'er--awfully good, joke--!"

"A ghastly joke, I should say, sir!" said Michael sternly and then the door
was flung open by hands from inside, loud angry voices protesting while
another hand sought unavailingly to close the door again, but Michael came
and planted himself in the open door and stood like an avenging angel come
to call to judgment. The scene that was revealed to him was too horrifying
for words.

A long banquet table stood in the midst of the handsome room whose
furnishings were of the costliest. Amid the scattered remains of the feast,
napkins lying under the table, upset glasses still dripping their ruby
contents down the damask of the tablecloth, broken china, scattered plates
and silver, stood a handsome silver bound coffin, within which, pallid and
deathlike, lay the handsome form of the bridegroom of the evening. All
about the casket in high sconces burned tall tapers casting their spectral
light over the scene.

Distributed about the room lounging in chairs, fast asleep on the couches,
lying under the table, fighting by the doorway, one standing on a velvet
chair raising an unsteady glass of wine and making a flabby attempt at a
drinking song, were ten young men, the flower of society, the expected
ushers of the evening's wedding.

Michael with his white face, his golden hair aflame in the flickering
candle light, his eyes full of shocked indignation, stood for a moment
surveying the scene, and all at once he knew that his prayer was answered.
There would be no wedding that night.

"Is this another of your ghastly jokes?" he turned to Brooks who stood by
as master of ceremonies, not in the least disturbed by the presence of the
stranger.

"That's just what it is," stuttered Brooks, "a j-j-joke, a p-p-p-pract'cal
joke. No harm meant, only Stuyvy's hard to wake up. Never did like gettin'
up in the mornin'. Wake 'im up boys! Wake 'im up! Time to get dressed for
the wedding!"

"Has anyone sent word to Miss Endicott?"

"Sent word to Mish Endicott? No, I'd 'no's they have. Think she'd care to
come? Say, boys, that's a good joke. This old fellow--don't know who he
is--devil'n all his angels p'raps--he s'gests we send word to Mish Endicott
t' come' th' fun'ral--"

"I said nothing of the kind," said Michael fiercely. "Have you no sense of
decency? Go and wash your face and try to realize what you have been doing.
Have some one telephone for a doctor. I will go and tell the family," and
Michael strode out of the room to perform the hardest task that had ever
yet fallen to his lot.

He did not wait for the elevator but ran down the flights of stairs trying
to steady his thoughts and realize the horror through which he had just
passed.

As he started down the last flight he heard the elevator door clang below,
and as it shot past him he caught a glimpse of white garments and a face
with eyes that he knew. He stopped short and looked upward. Was it--could
it be? But no, of course not. He was foolish. He turned and compelled his
feet to hurry down the rest of the stairs, but at the door his worst fears
were confirmed, for there stood the great electric car, and the familiar
face of the Endicott chauffeur assured him that some one of the family had
just gone to the ghastly spectacle upstairs.

In sudden panic he turned and fled up the stairs. He could not wait for
elevators now. He fain would have had wings, the wings of a protecting
angel, that he might reach her ere she saw that sight of horror.

Yet even as he started he knew that he must be too late.

Starr stopped startled in the open doorway, with Morton, protesting,
apprehensive, just behind her. The soft cloak slid away from her down the
satin of her gown, and left her revealed in all her wedding whiteness, her
eyes like stars, her beautiful face flushed excitedly. Then the eyes rested
on the coffin and its death-like occupant and her face went white as her
dress, while a great horror grew in her eyes.

Brooks, more nearly sober than the rest, saw her first, and hastened to do
the honors.

"Say, boys, she's come," he shouted. "Bride's come. Git up, Bobby Trascom.
Don't yer know ye mustn't lie down, when there's a lady present--Van--get
out from under that table. Help me pick up these things. Place all in a
mess. Glad to see you, Mish Endicott--" He bowed low and staggered as he
recovered himself.

Starr turned her white face toward him:

"Mr. Brooks," she said in a tone that sobered him somewhat, "what does it
mean? Is he dead?"

"Not at all, not at all, Mish Endicott," he tried to say gravely. "Have him
all right in plenty time. Just a little joke, Mish Endicott. He's merely
shlightly intoxicated--"

But Starr heard no more. With a little stifled cry and a groping motion
of her white-clad arms, she crumpled into a white heap at the feet of her
horrified nurse. It was just as she fell that Michael appeared at the door,
like the rescuing angel that he was, and with one withering glance at the
huddled group of men he gathered her in his arms and sped down the stairs,
faithful Morton puffing after him. Neither of them noticed a man who got
out of the elevator just before Starr fell and walking rapidly toward the
open door saw the whole action. In a moment more Mr. Endicott stood in the
door surveying the scene before him with stern, wrathful countenance.

Like a dash of cold water his appearance brought several of the
participants in the disgraceful scene to their senses. A few questions and
he was possessed of the whole shameful story; the stag dinner growing into
a midnight orgy; the foolish dare, and the reckless acceptance of it by the
already intoxicated bridegroom; the drugged drinks; and the practical joke
carried out by brains long under the influence of liquor. Carter's man who
had protested had been bound and gagged in the back room. The jokers had
found no trouble in securing the necessary tools to carry out their joke.
Money will buy anything, even an undertaker for a living man. The promise
of secrecy and generous fees brought all they needed. Then when the ghastly
work was completed and the unconscious bridegroom lying in state in his
coffin amid the debris of the table, they drowned the horror of their deed
in deeper drinking.

Mr. Endicott turned from the scene, his soul filled with loathing and
horror.

He had reached home to find the house in a tumult and Starr gone. Morton,
as she went out the door after her young mistress, had whispered to the
butler their destination, and that they would return at once. She had an
innate suspicion that it would be best for some one to know.

Mr. Endicott at once ordered the runabout and hastened after them, arriving
but a moment or two later. Michael had just vanished up the Apartment
stairs as he entered the lower hallway. The vague indefinite trouble that
had filled his mind concerning his daughter's marriage to a man he little
knew except by reputation, crystallized into trouble, dear and distinct, as
he hurried after his daughter. Something terrible must have come to Starr
or she would never have hurried away practically alone at a time like this.

The electric car was gone by the time Mr. Endicott reached the lower hall
again, and he was forced to go back alone as he came, without further
explanation of the affair than what he could see; but he had time in the
rapid trip to become profoundly thankful that the disgraceful scene he
had just left had occurred before and not after his daughter's marriage.
Whatever alleviating circumstances there were to excuse the reckless victim
of his comrade's joke, the fact remained that a man who could fall victim
to a joke like that was not the companion for his daughter's life; she who
had been shielded and guarded at every possible point, and loved as the
very apple of his eye. His feelings toward the perpetrators of this
gruesome sport were such that he dared not think about them yet. No
punishment seemed too great for such. And she, his little Starr, had looked
upon that shameful scene; had seen the man she was expecting to marry lying
as one dead--! It was too awful! And what had it done to her? Had it killed
her? Had the shock unsettled her mind? The journey to his home seemed
longer than his whole ocean voyage. Oh, why had he not left business to go
to the winds and come back long ago to shield his little girl!

Meantime, Michael, his precious burden in his arms, had stepped into the
waiting car, motioning Morton to follow and sit in the opposite seat. The
delicate Paris frock trailed unnoticed under foot, and the rare lace of
the veil fell back from the white face, but neither Michael nor the nurse
thought of satin and lace now, as they bent anxiously above the girl to see
if she still breathed.

All the way to her home Michael held the lovely little bride in his arms,
feeling her weight no more than a feather; fervently thankful that he might
bear her thus for the moment, away from the danger that had threatened her
life. He wished with all his heart he might carry her so to the ends of the
earth and never stop until he had her safe from all harm that earth could
bring. His heart thrilled wildly with the touch of her frail sweetness,
even while his anxious face bent over her to watch for signs of returning
consciousness.

But she did not become conscious before she reached the house. His strong
arms held her as gently as though she had been a baby as he stepped
carefully out and carried her to her own room; laying her upon the white
bed, where but two hours before the delicate wedding garments had been
spread ready for her to put on. Then he stood back, reverently looked upon
her dear face, and turned away. It was in the hall that he met her mother,
and her face was fairly disfigured with her sudden recognition of him.

"What! Is it you that have dared come into this house? The impertinence!
I shall report all your doings to my husband. He will be very angry. I
believe that you are at the bottom of this whole business! You shall
certainly be dealt with as you deserve!"

She hissed the words after him as Michael descended the stairs with bowed
head and closed lips. It mattered not now what she said or thought of him.
Starr was saved!

He was about to pass out into the world again, away from her, away even
from knowledge of how she came out of her swoon. He had no further right
there now. His duty was done. He had been allowed to save her in her
extremity!

But just as he reached it the door opened and Mr. Endicott hurried in.

He paused for an instant.

"Son!" said he, "it was you who brought her home!" It was as if that
conviction had but just been revealed to his perturbed mind. "Son, I'm
obliged. Sit here till I come. I want to speak with you."

The doctor came with a nurse, and Michael sat and listened to the distant
voices in her room. He gathered from the sounds by and by that Starr was
conscious, was better.

Until then no one had thought of the wedding or of the waiting guests that
would be gathering. Something must be done. And so it came about that as
the great organ sounded forth the first notes of the wedding march--for by
some blunder the bride's signal had been given to the organist when the
Endicott car drew up at the church--that Michael, bare headed, with his hat
in his hand, walked gravely up the aisle, unconscious of the battery of
eyes, and astonished whispers of "Who is he? Isn't he magnificent? What
does it mean? I thought the ushers were to come first?" until he stood
calmly in the chancel and faced the wondering audience.

If an angel had come straight down from heaven and interfered with their
wedding they could not have been more astonished. For, as he stood beneath
the many soft lights in front of the wall of living green and blossoms,
with his white face and grave sweet dignity, they forgot for once to study
the fashion of his coat, and sat awed before his beautiful face; for
Michael wore to-night the look of transport with chin uplifted, glowing
eyes, and countenance that showed the spirit shining through.

The organist looked down, and instinctively hushed his music. Had he made
some mistake? Then Michael spoke. Doubtless he should have gone to the
minister who was to perform the ceremony, and given him the message, but
Michael little knew the ways of weddings. It was the first one he had ever
attended, and he went straight to the point.

"On account of the sudden and serious illness of the groom," he said, "it
will be impossible for the ceremony to go on at this time. The bride's
family ask that you will kindly excuse them from further intrusion or
explanation this evening."

With a slight inclination of his head to the breathless audience Michael
passed swiftly down the aisle and out into the night, and the organist, by
tremendous self-control, kept on playing softly until the excited people
who had drifted usherless into the church got themselves out into their
carriages once more.

Michael walked out into the night, bareheaded still, his eyes lifted to the
stars shining so far away above the city, and said softly, with wondering,
reverent voice: "Oh, God! Oh, God!"



CHAPTER XXIV


Following hard upon the interrupted wedding came other events that not only
helped to hush matters up, but gave the world a plausible reason why the
ceremony did not come off as soon as the groom was convalescent from what
was reported in the papers to be an attack of acute indigestion, easily
accounted for by the round of banquets and entertainments which usually
precede a society wedding.

During that eventful night while Starr still lay like a crushed lily torn
rudely from its stem, her mother, after a stormy scene with her husband, in
which he made it plain to her just what kind of a man she was wanting her
daughter to marry, and during which she saw the fall of her greatest social
ambitions, was suddenly stricken with apoplexy.

The papers next morning told the news as sympathetically as a paper can
tell one's innermost secrets. It praised the wonderful ability of the woman
who had so successfully completed all the unique arrangements for what had
promised to be the greatest wedding of the season, if not of all seasons;
and upon whose overtaxed strength, the last straw had been laid in the
illness of the bridegroom. It stated that now of course the wedding would
be put off indefinitely, as nothing could be thought of while the bride's
mother lay in so critical a state.

For a week there were daily bulletins of her condition published always in
more and more remote corners of the paper, until the little ripple that had
been made in the stream of life passed; and no further mention was made of
the matter save occasionally when they sent for some famous specialist:
when they took her to the shore to try what sea air might do; or when they
brought her home again.

But all the time the woman lay locked in rigid silence. Only her cold eyes
followed whoever came into her room. She gave no sign of knowing what they
said, or of caring who came near her. Her husband's earnest pleas, Starr's
tears, drew from her no faintest expression that might have been even
imagined from a fluttering eyelash. There was nothing but that stony stare,
that almost unseeing gaze, that yet followed, followed wherever one would
move. It was a living death.

And when one day the release came and the eyes were closed forever from the
scenes of this world, it was a sad relief to both husband and daughter.
Starr and her father stole away to an old New England farm-house where Mr.
Endicott's elderly maiden sister still lived in the old family homestead; a
mild-eyed, low-voiced woman with plain gray frocks and soft white laces at
wrists and neck and ruched about her sweet old face above the silver of her
hair.

Starr had not been there since she was a little child, and her sad heart
found her aunt's home restful. She stayed there through the fall and until
after the first of the year; while her father came and went as business
dictated; and the Endicott home on Madison Avenue remained closed except
for the caretakers.

Meanwhile young Carter had discreetly escorted his mother to Europe, and
was supposed by the papers to be going to return almost immediately. Not a
breath of gossip, strange to say, stole forth. Everything seemed arranged
to quiet any suspicion that might arise.

Early in the fall he returned to town but Starr was still in New England.
No one knew of the estrangement between them. Their immediate friends were
away from town still, and everything seemed perfectly natural in the order
of decency. Of course people could not be married at once when there had
been a death in the family.

No one but the two families knew of Carter's repeated attempts to be
reconciled to Starr; of his feeble endeavor at explanation; of her
continued refusal even to see him; and the decided letter she wrote him
after he had written her the most abject apology he knew how to frame; nor
of her father's interview with the young man wherein he was told some facts
about himself more plainly than anyone, even in his babyhood, had ever
dared to tell him. Mr. Endicott agreed to keep silence for Starr's sake,
provided the young man would do nothing to create any gossip about the
matter, until the intended wedding had been forgotten, and other events
should have taken the minds of society, from their particular case. Carter,
for his own sake, had not cared to have the story get abroad and had
sullenly acceded to the command. He had not, however, thought it necessary
to make himself entirely miserable while abroad; and there were those who
more than once spoke his name in company with that of a young and dashing
divorcée. Some even thought he returned to America sooner than he intended
in order to travel on the same steamer that she was to take. However, those
whispers had not as yet crossed the water; and even if they had, such
things were too common to cause much comment.

Then, one Monday morning, the papers were filled with horror over an
unusually terrible automobile accident; in which a party of seven, of whom
the young divorcée was one and Stuyvesant Carter was another, went over an
embankment sixty feet in height, the car landing upside down on the rocks
below, and killing every member of the party. The paper also stated that
Mr. Theodore Brooks, intimate friend of Carter's, who was to have been best
man at the wedding some months previous, which was postponed on account of
the sudden illness and death of the bride's mother, was of the party.

Thus ended the career of Stuyvesant Carter, and thus the world never knew
exactly why Starr Endicott did not become Mrs. Carter.

Michael, from the moment that he went forth from delivering his message in
the church, saw no more of the Endicotts. He longed inexpressibly to call
and enquire for Starr; to get some word of reconciliation from her father;
to ask if there was not some little thing that he might be trusted to do
for them; but he knew that his place was not there, and his company was not
desired. Neither would he write, for even a note from him could but seem,
to Starr, a reminder of the terrible things of which he had been witness,
that is if anybody had ever told her it was he that brought her home.

One solace alone he allowed himself. Night after night as he went home
late he would walk far out of his way to pass the house and look up at her
window; and always it comforted him a little to see the dim radiance of her
soft night light; behind the draperies of those windows, somewhere, safe,
she lay asleep, the dear little white-faced girl that he had been permitted
to carry to her home and safety, when she had almost reached the brink of
destruction.

About a week after the fateful wedding day Michael received a brief note
from Starr.

"My dear Mr. Endicott:

"I wish to thank you for your trouble in bringing me home last week. I
cannot understand how you came to be there at that time. Also I am deeply
grateful for your kindness in making the announcement at the church. Very
sincerely, S.D.E."

Michael felt the covert question in that phrase: "I cannot understand how
you came to be there at that time." She thought, perhaps, that to carry his
point and stop the marriage he had had a hand in that miserable business!
Well, let her think it. It was not his place to explain, and really of
course it could make little difference to her what she believed about him.
As well to let it rest. He belonged out of her world, and never would he
try to force his way into it.

And so with the whiteness of his face still lingering from the hard days of
tension, Michael went on, straining every nerve in his work; keeping the
alley room open nightly even during hot weather, and in constant touch with
the farm which was now fairly on its feet and almost beginning to earn its
own living; though the contributions still kept coming to him quietly, here
and there, and helped in the many new plans that grew out of the many new
necessities.

The carpenter had built and built, until there were pretty little bungalows
of one and two and three rooms dotted all about the farm to be rented at a
low price to the workers. It had come to be a little community by itself,
spoken of as "Old Orchard Farms," and well respected in the neighborhood,
for in truth the motley company that Michael and Sam gathered there had
done far better in the way of law-and-orderliness than either had hoped.
They seemed to have a pride that nothing that could hurt "the boss's"
reputation as a landowner should be laid to their charge. If by chance
there came into their midst any sordid being who could not see matters in
that light the rest promptly taught him better, or else put him out.

And now the whole front yard was aflame with brilliant flowers in their
season. The orchard had been pruned and trimmed and grafted, and in the
spring presented a foreground of wonderful pink and white splendor; and at
all seasons of the year the grassy drive wound its way up to the old house,
through a vista of branches, green, or brown.

It had long been in Michael's heart to build over the old house--for what
he did not know. Certainly he had no hope of ever using it himself except
as a transitory dwelling; yet it pleased his fancy to have it as he dreamed
it out. Perhaps some day it might be needed for some supreme reason,
and now was the time to get it ready. So one day he took a great and
simple-hearted architect down to the place to stay over night and get an
idea of the surroundings; and a few weeks later he was in possession of
a plan that showed how the old house could be made into a beautiful new
house, and yet keep all the original outlines. The carpenter, pleased with
the prospect of doing something really fine, had undertaken the work and it
was going forward rapidly.

The main walls were to be built around with stone, old stone bought from
the ruins of a desolated barn of forgotten years, stone that was rusty and
golden and green in lovely mellow tones; stone that was gray with age and
mossy in place; now and then a stone that was dead black to give strength
to the coloring of the whole. There were to be windows, everywhere, wide,
low windows, that would let the sunlight in; and windows that nestled in
the sloping, rambling roofs that were to be stained green like the moss
that would grow on them some day. There was to be a piazza across the
entire front with rough stone pillars, and a stone paved floor up to which
the orchard grass would grow in a gentle terrace. Even now Sam and his
helpers were at work starting rose vines of all varieties, to train about
the trellises and twine about the pillars. Sam had elected that it should
be called "Rose Cottage." Who would have ever suspected Sam of having any
poetry in his nature?

The great stone fireplace with its ancient crane and place to sit inside
was to be retained, and built about with more stone, and the partitions
between the original sitting-room and dining-room and hall were to be torn
down, to make one splendid living-room of which the old fireplace should be
the centre, with a great window at one side looking toward the sea, and a
deep seat with book cases in the corner. Heavy beams were somehow to be put
in the ceiling to support it, and fine wood used in the wainscoting and
panelling, with rough soft-toned plaster between and above. The floors were
to be smooth, wide boards of hard wood well fitted.

A little gable was to be added on the morning-side of the house for a
dining-room, all windows, with a view of the sea on one side and the river
on the other. Upstairs there would be four bedrooms and a bath-room, all
according to the plan to be white wainscoting half-way up and delicately
vined or tinted papers above.

Michael took great pleasure in going down to look at the house, and
watching the progress that was made with it, as indeed the whole colony
did. They called it "The Boss's Cottage," and when they laid off work at
night always took a trip to see what had been done during the day, men,
women and children. It was a sort of sacred pilgrimage, wherein they saw
their own highest dreams coming true for the man they loved because he had
helped them to a future of possibilities. Not a man of them but wistfully
wondered if he would ever get to the place where he could build him a house
like that, and resolved secretly to try for it; and always the work went
better the next day for the visit to the shrine.

But after all, Michael would turn from his house with an empty ache in his
heart. What was it for? Not for him. It was not likely he would ever spend
happy hours there. He was not like other men. He must take his happiness in
making others happy.

But one day a new thought came to him, as he watched the laborers working
out the plan, and bringing it ever nearer and nearer to the perfect whole.
A great desire came to him to have Starr see it some day, to know what she
would think about it, and if she would like it. The thought occurred to him
that perhaps, some time, in the changing of the world, she might chance
near that way, and he have opportunity to show her the house that he had
built--for her! Not that he would ever tell her that last. She must never
know of course that she was the only one in all the world he could ever
care for. That would seem a great presumption in her eyes. He must keep
that to himself. But there would be no harm in showing her the house, and
he would make it now as beautiful as if she were to occupy it. He would
take his joy in making all things fair, with the hope that she might one
day see and approve it.

So, as the work drew near its completion he watched it more and more
carefully, matching tints in rooms, and always bringing down some new idea,
or finding some particular bit of furniture that would some day fit into
a certain niche. In that way he cheated the lonely ache in his heart, and
made believe he was happy.

And another winter drew its white mantle about its shoulders and prepared
to face the blast.

It bade fair to be a bitter winter for the poor, for everything was high,
and unskilled labor was poorly paid. Sickness and death were abroad, and
lurked in the milk supply, the food supply, the unsanitary tenements about
the alley; which, because it had not been so bad as some other districts
had been left uncondemned. Yet it was bad enough, and Michael's hands were
full to keep his people alive, and try to keep some of them from sinning.
For always where there is misery, there is the more sinning.

Old Sal sat on her doorstep shivering with her tattered shawl about her
shoulders, or when it grew too cold peered from her little muslin curtained
window behind the geranium, to see the dirty white hearse with its
pink-winged angel atop, pass slowly in and out with some little fragment
of humanity; and knew that one day her turn would come to leave it all and
go--! Then she turned back to her little room which had become the only
heaven she knew, and solaced herself with the contents of a black bottle!



CHAPTER XXV


During the years of his work in the alley Michael had become known more
and more among workers for the poor, and he found strength in their
brotherhood, though he kept mainly to his own little corner, and had little
time to go out into other fields. But he had formed some very pleasant
distant friendships among workers, and had met prominent men who were
interested in reforms of all sorts.

He was hurrying back to his boarding place one evening late in January with
his mind full of the old problem of how to reach the mass of humanity and
help them to live in decency so that they might stand some little chance of
being good as well as being alive.

At the crossing of another avenue he met a man whose eloquence as a public
speaker was only equalled by his indefatigable tirelessness as a worker
among men.

"Good evening, Endicott," he said cordially, halting in his rapid walk, "I
wonder if you're not the very man I want? Will you do me a favor? I'm in
great straits and no time to hunt up anybody."

"Anything I can do, Doctor, I am at your service," said Michael.

"Good! Thank you!" said the great man. "Are you free this evening for an
hour?"

"I can be," said Michael smiling. The other man's hearty greeting and warm
"thank you" cheered his lonely heart.

"Well, then you'll take my place at Madison Square Garden to-night, won't
you? I've just had a telegram that my mother is very ill, perhaps dying,
and I feel that I must go at once. I'm on my way to the station now. I
thought Patton would be at his rooms perhaps and he might help me out, but
they tell me he is out of town on a lecture tour."

"Take your place?" said Michael aghast. "That I'm sure I could never do,
Doctor. What were you going to do?"

"Why, there's a mass meeting at Madison Square Garden. We're trying to get
more playgrounds and roof gardens for poor children, you know. I was to
speak about the tenement district, give people a general idea of what
the need is, you know. I'm sure you're well acquainted with the subject.
They're expecting some big men there who can be big givers if they're
touched in the right way. You're very good to help me out. You'll excuse
me if I hurry on, it's almost train time. I want to catch the six o'clock
express West--"

"But, Doctor," said Michael in dismay, striding along by his side down the
street, "I really couldn't do that. I'm not a public speaker, you know--I
never addressed a big audience in my life! Isn't there some one else I
could get for you?"

It was odd that while he was saying it the vision of the church filled with
the fashionable world, waiting for a wedding which did not materialize,
came to his thoughts.

"Oh, that doesn't make the slightest difference in the world!" said the
worried man. "You know the subject from _a_ to _z_, and I don't know
another available soul to-night who does. Just tell them what you know, you
needn't talk long; it'll be all right anyway. Just smile your smile and
they'll give all right. Good night, and thank you from my heart! I must
take this cab," and he hailed a passing cab and sprang inside, calling out
above the city's din, "Eight o'clock the meeting is. Don't worry! You'll
come out all right. It'll be good practice for your business."

Michael stood still in the middle of the crowded pavement and looked after
the departing cab in dismay. If ever in all his life had he come to a spot
where he felt so utterly inadequate to fill a situation. Frantically he
tried as he started down the street again, to think of some one else to
ask. There seemed to be no one at all who was used to speaking that knew
the subject. The few who knew were either out of town or at a great
distance. He did not know how to reach them in time. Besides, there was
something about Michael that just would not let him shirk a situation no
matter how trying it was to him. It was one of the first principles he had
been taught with football, and before he reached his boarding place, his
chin was up, and his lips firmly set. Anyone who knew him well would have
felt sure Michael was going into a scrimmage and expected the fighting to
be hard.

It was Will French who dug it out of him after dinner, and laughed and
slapped him gleefully on the shoulder. Will was engaged to Hester now and
he was outrageously happy.

"Good work, old fellow! You've got your chance, now give it to 'em! I don't
know anybody can do it better. I'd like to bring a millionaire or two to
hear you. You've been there, now tell 'em! Don't frown like that, old
fellow, I tell you you've got the chance of your life. Why don't you tell
'em about the tenement in the alley?"

Michael's face cleared.

"I hadn't thought of it, Will. Do you think I could? It isn't exactly on
the subject. I understood him I was to speak of the tenement in relation to
the Playground."

"The very thing," said Will. "Didn't he tell you to say what you knew?
Well, give it to 'em straight, and you'll see those rich old fellows open
their eyes. Some of 'em own some of those old rickety shacks, and probably
don't know what they own. Tell 'em. Perhaps the old man who owns our
tenement will be there! Who knows?"

"By the way," said Michael, his face all alight, "did I tell you that
Milborn told me the other day that they think they're on track of the real
owner of our tenement? The agent let out something the last time they
talked with him and they think they may discover who he is, though he's
hidden himself well behind agents for years. If we can find out who he is
we may be able to help him understand what great need there is for him to
make a few changes--"

"Yes, a few changes!" sneered Will. "Tear down the whole rotten death-trap
and build a new one with light and air and a chance for human beings to
live! Give it to 'em, old man! He may be there to-night."

"I believe I will," said Michael thoughtfully, the look of winning
beginning to dawn on his speaking face; and he went up to his room and
locked his door.

When he came out again, Will who was waiting to accompany him to the
meeting saw in his eyes the look of the dreamer, the man who sees into the
future and prophesies. He knew that Michael would not fail in his speech
that night. He gave a knowing look to Hester as she came out to go with
them and Hester understood. They walked behind him quietly for the most
part, or speaking in low tones. They felt the pride and the anxiety of the
moment as much as if they had been going to make the speech themselves. The
angel in the man had dominated them also.

Now it happened that Starr had come down with her father for a week's
shopping the last time he ran up to his sister's and on this particular
evening she had claimed her father's society.

"Can't you stay at home, Daddy dear?" she asked wistfully. "I don't want to
go to Aunt Frances' 'quiet little evening' one bit. I told her you needed
me to-night as we've only a day or two more left before I go back."

Aunt Frances was Starr's mother's sister, and as the servants of the two
families agreed mutually, "Just like her, only more so." Starr had never
been quite happy in her company.

"Come with me for a little while, daughter. I'm sorry I can't stay at home
all the evening, but I rather promised I'd drop into a charitable meeting
at Madison Square for a few minutes this evening. They're counting on my
name, I believe. We won't need to stay long, and if you're with, me it will
be easier to get away."

"Agreed!" said Starr eagerly, and got herself ready in a twinkling. And so
it came about that as the roll of martial music poured forth from the fine
instruments secured for the occasion, and the leaders and speakers of the
evening, together with the presidents of this Society, and that Army, or
Settlement, or Organization for the Belief and Benefit of the Poor, filed
on to the great platform, that Starr and her father occupied prominent
seats in the vast audience, and joined in the enthusiasm that spread like
a wave before the great American Flag that burst out in brilliant electric
lights of red and white and blue, a signal that the hour and the moment was
come.

Michael came in with the others, as calmly as though he had spent his life
preparing for the public platform. There was fire in his eyes, the fire of
passion for the people of the slums who were his kin. He looked over the
audience with a throb of joy to think he had so mighty an opportunity. His
pulses were not stirred, because he had no consciousness of self in this
whole performance. His subject was to live before the people, he himself
was nothing at all. He had no fear but he could tell them, if that was all
they wanted. Burning sentences hot with the blood of souls had been pouring
through his mind ever since he had decided to talk of his people. He was
only in a hurry to begin lest they would not give him time to tell all he
knew! All he knew! Could it ever be told? It was endless as eternity.

With a strange stirring of her heart Starr recognized him. She felt the
color stealing into her face. She thought her father must notice it, and
cast a furtive glance at him, but he was deep in conversation about some
banking business, so she sat and watched Michael during the opening
exercises and wondered how he came to be there and what was his office
in this thing. Did lawyers get paid for doing something to help along
charitable institutions? She supposed so. He was probably given a seat on
the platform for his pains. Yet she could not help thinking how fine he
looked sitting there in the centre, the place of honor it would seem.
How came he there? He was taller than all the others, whether sitting or
standing, and his fine form and bearing made him exceedingly noticeable.
Starr could hear women about her whispering to their escorts: "Who is he?"
and her heart gave strange little throbs to think that she knew. It seemed
odd to her that she should be taken back by the sight of him now through
all the years to that morning in Florida when she had kissed him in the
chapel. Somehow there seemed something sweet and tender in the memory and
she dwelt upon it, while she watched him looking calmly over the audience,
rising and moving to let another pass him, bowing and smiling to a noted
judge who leaned over to grasp his hand. Did young lawyers like that get to
know noted judges? And wherever did he get his grace? There was rhythm and
beauty in his every motion. Starr had never had such a splendid opportunity
to look at him before, for in all that sea of faces she knew hers would be
lost to him, and she might watch him at her will.

"Daddy, did you know that Michael was up there?" she asked after a while
when her father's friend went back to his seat.

"Michael? No, where? On the platform? I wonder what in the world he is
doing there? He must be mixed up in this thing somehow, I understand he's
stuck at his mission work. I tried to stop him several years ago. Told him
it would ruin his prospects, but he was too stubborn to give up. So he's
here!"

And Mr. Endicott searched out Michael and studied the beautiful face
keenly, looking in vain for any marks of degradation or fast living. The
head was lifted with its conquering look; the eyes shone forth like jewels.
Michael was a man, a son--to be proud of, he told himself, and breathed a
heavy sigh. That was one time when his stubbornness had not conquered, and
he found himself glad in spite of himself that it had not.

The opening exercises were mere preliminary speeches and resolutions, mixed
with music, and interspersed by the introduction of the mayor of the
city and one or two other notables who said a few apathetic words of
commendation for the work in hand and retired on their laurels. "I
understand this Dr. Glidden who is to speak is quite an eloquent fellow,"
said Starr's father as the President got up to introduce the speaker of the
evening whom all had come to hear. "The man who was just talking with me
says he is really worth hearing. If he grows tiresome we will slip out. I
wonder which one he is? He must be that man with the iron-gray hair over
there."

"Oh, I don't want to go out," said Starr. "I like it. I never was in a
great meeting like this. I like to hear them cheer."

Her cheeks were rosy, for in her heart she was finding out that she had a
great longing to stay there and watch Michael a little longer.

"I am sorry to have to tell you that our friend and advertised speaker
for the evening was called away by the sudden and serious illness of
his mother, and left for the West on the six o'clock express," said the
chairman in his inadequate little voice that seemed always straining beyond
its height and never accomplishing anything in the way of being heard.

A sigh of disappointment swept over the part of the audience near enough to
the platform to hear, and some men reached for their hats.

"Well, now that's a pity," whispered Endicott. "I guess we better go before
they slip in any dry old substitutes. I've been seen here, that's enough."

But Starr laid a detaining hand on her father's arm.

"Wait a little, Daddy," she said softly.

"But he has sent a substitute," went on the chairman, "a man whom he says
is a hundred per cent. better able to talk on the subject than himself. He
spoke to me from the station 'phone just before he left and told me that he
felt that you would all agree he had done well to go when you had heard the
man whom he has sent in his place. I have the pleasure to introduce to you
Mr. Michael Endicott who will speak to you this evening on the "Needs of
the Tenement Dwellers"--Mr. Endicott."

Amid the silence that ensued after the feebly-polite applause Michael rose.
For just an instant he stood, looking over the audience and a strange
subtle thrill ran over the vast assemblage.

Then Michael, insensibly measuring the spacious hall, flung his clear,
beautiful voice out into it, and reached the uttermost bounds of the room.

"Did you know that there are in this city now seventy-one thousand eight
hundred and seventy-seven totally dark rooms; some of them connected with
an air-shaft twenty-eight inches wide and seventy feet deep; many of them
absolutely without access to even a dark shaft; and that these rooms are
the only place in the whole wide, beautiful world for thousands of little
children, unless they stay in the street?"

The sentence shot through the audience like a great deliberate bolt of
lightning that crashed through the hearts of the hearers and tore away
every vestige of their complacency. The people sat up and took notice.
Starr thrilled and trembled, she knew not why.

"There is a tenement with rooms like this, a 'dumb-bell' tenement, it is
called, in the alley where, for aught I know, I was born--"

"Oh!" The sound swept over the listeners in a great wave like a sob of
protest. Men and women raised their opera glasses and looked at the speaker
again. They asked one another: "Who is he?" and settled quiet to hear what
more he had to say.

Then Michael went on to tell of three dark little rooms in "his" tenement
where a family of eight, accustomed to better things, had been forced
by circumstances to make their home; and where in the dark the germs
of tuberculosis had been silently growing, until the whole family were
infected. He spoke of a little ten-year-old girl, living in one of these
little dark rooms, pushed down on the street by a playmate, an accident
that would have been thought nothing of in a healthy child, but in this
little one it produced tubercular meningitis and after two days of agony
the child died. He told of a delicate girl, who with her brother were the
sole wage earners of the family, working all day, and sewing far into the
night to make clothes for the little brothers and sisters, who had fallen
prey to the white plague.

He told instance after instance of sickness and death all resulting from
the terrible conditions in this one tenement, until a delicate, refined
looking woman down in the audience who had dropped in with her husband for
a few minutes on the way to some other gathering, drew her soft mantle
about her shoulders with a shiver and whispered: "Really, Charles, it can't
be healthy to have such a terrible state of things in the city where we
live. I should think germs would get out and float around to us. Something
ought to be done to clean such low creatures out of a decent community. Do
let's go now. I don't feel as if I could listen to another word. I shan't
be able to enjoy the reception."

But the husband sat frowning and listening to the end of the speech,
vouchsafing to her whisper only the single growl:

"Don't be a fool, Selina!"

On and on Michael went, literally taking his audience with him, through
room after room of "his" tenement, showing them horrors they had never
dreamed; giving them now and again a glimmer of light when he told of a
curtained window with fifteen minutes of sun every morning, where a little
cripple sat to watch for her sunbeam, and push her pot of geraniums along
the sill that it might have the entire benefit of its brief shining. He put
the audience into peals of laughter over the wit of some poor creatures in
certain trying situations, showing that a sense of humor is not lacking in
"the other half"; and then set them weeping over a little baby's funeral.

He told them forcibly how hard the workers were trying to clean out and
improve this terrible state of things. How cruelly slow the owner of this
particular tenement was even to cut windows into dark air shafts; how so
far it had been impossible to discover the name of the true owner of the
building, because he had for years successfully hidden behind agents who
held the building in trust.

The speech closed in a mighty appeal to the people of New York to rise up
in a mass and wipe out this curse of the tenements, and build in their
places light, airy, clean, wholesome dwellings, where people might live and
work and learn the lessons of life aright, and where sin could find no dark
hole in which to hatch her loathsome offspring.

As Michael sat down amid a burst of applause such as is given to few
speakers, another man stepped to the front of the platform; and the cheers
of commendation were hushed somewhat, only to swell and break forth again;
for this man was one of the city's great minds, and always welcome on any
platform. He had been asked to make the final appeal for funds for the
playgrounds. It had been considered a great stroke of luck on the part of
the committee to secure him.

"My friends," said he when the hush came at last and he could be heard, "I
appreciate your feelings. I would like to spend the remainder of the night
in applauding the man who has just finished speaking."

The clamor showed signs of breaking forth again:

"This man has spoken well because he has spoken from his heart. And he has
told us that he knows whereof he speaks, for he has lived in those tenement
rooms himself, one of the little children like those for whom he pleads. I
am told that he has given almost every evening for four years out of a busy
life which is just opening into great promise, to help these people of his.
I am reminded as I have been listening to him of Lanier's wonderful poem,
'The Marshes of Glynn.' Do you recall it?

  "'Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won
  God out of knowledge, and good out of infinite pain,
  And sight out of blindness, and purity out of a stain.'

"Let us get to work at once and do our duty. I see you do not need urging.
My friends, if such a man as this, a prince among men, can come out of the
slums, then the slums are surely worth redeeming."

The audience thundered and clamored and thundered again; women sobbed
openly, while the ushers hurried about collecting the eager offerings of
the people, for Michael had won the day and everybody was ready to give.
It sort of helped to get the burden of such a state of things off their
consciences.

Starr had sat through the whole speech with glowing cheeks and lashes wet.
Her heart throbbed with wonder and a kind of personal pride in Michael.
Somehow all the years that had passed between seemed to have dropped away
and she saw before her the boy who had told her of the Florida sunset, and
filled her with childish admiration over his beautiful thoughts. His story
appealed to her. The lives of the little ones about whom he had been
telling were like his poor neglected existence before her father took him
up; the little lonely life that had been freely offered to save her own.

She forgot now all that had passed between, her anger at his not coming to
ride; and after her return from abroad, not coming to call; nor accepting
her invitations; her rage at his interference in her affairs. Her
persistence in her own folly seemed now unspeakable. She was ashamed of
herself. The tears were streaming down her cheeks, but of this she was
quite unaware.

When the speeches were over and the uproar of applause had somewhat
subsided, Starr turned to her father her face aglow, her lashes still
dewy with tears. Her father had been silent and absorbed. His face was
inscrutable now. He had a way of masking his emotions even to those who
knew him best.

"Daddy, dear," whispered Starr, "couldn't we buy that tenement and build it
over? I should so love to give those little children happy homes."

Endicott turned and looked at his treasured child, her lovely face all
eagerness now. She had infinite faith in her father's ability to purchase
anything she wanted. The father himself had been deeply stirred. He looked
at her searchingly at first; then yearningly, tenderly, but his voice was
almost gruff as he said:

"H'm! I'll see about it!"

"Couldn't you let Michael know now, daddy? I think it would be such a help
to him to know that his speech has done some good." The voice was very
sweet and appealing. "Couldn't you send him word by one of the ushers?"

"H'm! I suppose I could." Endicott took out his fountain pen and a business
card, and began to write.

"You don't suppose, daddy, that the owner will object to selling? There
won't be any trouble about it that way, will there?"

"No, I don't think there'll be any trouble."

Endicott slipped the card into an envelope he found in his pocket and
calling an usher asked him to take it to the platform to Michael. What he
had written was this:

"I suppose you have been talking about my property. Pull the tenement down
if you like and build a model one. I'll foot the bills. D.E."

When Michael, surprised at receiving a communication on the platform, tore
the envelope open and read, his face fairly blazed with glory. Starr was
watching him, and her heart gave a queer little throb of pleasure at
the light in his eyes. The next instant he was on his feet, and with a
whispered word to the chairman, came to the front of the platform. His
raised hand brought instant silence.

"I have good news. May I share it with you? The owner of that tenement is
in this house, and has sent me word that he will tear it down and build a
model one in its place!"

The ring in Michael's voice, and the light on his face was equivalent to a
dozen votes of thanks. The audience rose to its feet and cheered:

"Daddy! Oh, daddy! Are you the owner?" There was astonishment, reproof,
excuse, and forgiveness all mingled in Starr's voice.

"Come Starr," said her father abruptly, "we'd better go home. This is a hot
noisy place and I'm tired."

"Daddy dear! Of course you didn't know how things were!" said Starr
sweetly. "You didn't, did you, daddy?"

"No, I didn't know," said Endicott evasively, "that Michael has a great
gift of gab! Would you like to stop and have an ice somewhere, daughter?"

"No, daddy, I'd rather go home and plan how to make over that tenement. I
don't believe I'd enjoy an ice after what I've heard to-night. Why is it
some people have so much more than others to start with?"

"H'm! Deep question, child, better not trouble your brains with it," and
Starr saw that her father, though deeply moved, did not wish to discuss the
matter.

The next day Michael called at Endicott's office but did not find him
in, and wrote a letter out of the overwhelming joy of his heart, asking
permission to call and thank his benefactor and talk over plans. The
following day he received the curt reply:

"Son:--Make your plans to suit yourself. Don't spare expense within reason.
No thanks needed. I did it for Starr. You made a good speech."

Michael choked down his disappointment over this rebuff, and tried to take
all the joy of it. He was not forgiven yet. He might not enter the sacred
precincts of intercourse again; but he was beloved. He could not help
feeling that, because of that "Son" with which the communication began. And
the grudging praise his speech received was more to Michael than all the
adulation that people had been showering upon him since the night of the
mass meeting. But Starr! Starr knew about it. He did it for Starr! She had
wanted it! She had perhaps been there! She must have been there, or how
else would she have known? The thought thrilled him, and thrilled him
anew! Oh, if he might have seen her before him! But then perhaps he would
not have been able to tell his story, and so it was just as well. But
Starr was interested in his work, his plans! What a wonderful thing to
have her work with him even in this indirect way. Oh, if some day! If--!

But right here Michael shut down his thoughts and went to work.



CHAPTER XXVI


Late in January Michael was taking his nightly walk homeward by way of the
Endicott home. He was convinced that Starr was still away from home, for he
had seen no lights now for several weeks in the room that he knew was her
own, but there was always the chance that she might have returned.

He was nearing the house when he saw from the opposite direction a man turn
the corner and with halting gait come slowly toward the house and pause
before the steps uncertainly. Something familiar in the man's attitude
caused Michael to hasten his steps, and coming closer he found that it was
Mr. Endicott himself, and that he stood looking up the steps of his home as
though they had been a difficult hill which he must climb.

Michael stopped beside him, saying good evening, the thrill of his voice
conveying his own joy in the meeting in addition to a common greeting.

"Is that you, Son?" asked the older man swaying slightly toward him. "I'm
glad you came. I feel strangely dizzy. I wish you'd help me in."

Michael's arm was about the other's shoulders at once and his ready
strength almost lifted his benefactor up the steps. His steady hand with
the key made short work of the night latch, and without waiting to call a
servant he helped Mr. Endicott up to his room and to his bed.

The man sank back wearily with a sigh and closed his eyes, then suddenly
roused himself.

"Thank you, Son; and will you send a message to Starr that I am not able to
come on to-night as I promised? Tell her I'll likely be all right to-morrow
and will try to come then. You'll find the address at the head of the
telephone list in the hall there. I guess you'll have to 'phone for the
doctor. I don't seem to feel like myself. There must be something the
matter. I think I've taken a heavy cold."

Michael hurried to the 'phone and called up the physician begging him to
come at once, for he could see that Mr. Endicott was very ill. His voice
trembled as he gave the message to the Western Union over the 'phone. It
seemed almost like talking to Starr, though he sent the telegram in her
father's name.

The message sent, he hurried back to the sick man, who seemed to have
fallen in a sort of stupor. His face was flushed and hot, the veins in his
temples and neck were throbbing rapidly. In all his healthy life Michael
had seen little of illness, but he recognized it now and knew it must be
a violent attack. If only he knew something to do until the doctor should
arrive!

Hot water used to be the universal remedy for all diseases at college. The
matron always had some one bring hot water when anyone was ill. Michael
went downstairs to find a servant, but they must all be asleep, for he had
been unusually late in leaving the alley that night.

However, he found that the bath-room would supply plenty of hot water, so
he set to work to undress his patient, wrap him in a blanket and soak his
feet in hot water. But the patient showed signs of faintness, and was
unable to sit up. A footbath under such conditions was difficult to
administer. The unaccustomed nurse got his patient into bed again with
arduous labor, and was just wondering what to do next when the doctor
arrived.

Michael watched the grave face of the old doctor as he examined the sick
man, and knew that his intuitions had been right. Mr. Endicott was very
seriously ill. The doctor examined his patient with deliberation, his face
growing more and more serious. At last he stepped out of the room and
motioned Michael to follow him.

"Are you a relative, young man?" he asked looking at Michael keenly.

"No, only one who is very much indebted to him."

"Well, it's lucky for him if you feel that indebtedness now. Do you know
what is the matter with him?"

"No," said Michael. "He looks pretty sick to me. What is it?"

"Smallpox!" said the doctor laconically, "and a tough case at that." Then
he looked keenly at the fine specimen of manhood before him, noting with
alert eye that there had been no blanching of panic in the beautiful face,
no slightest movement as if to get out of the room. The young man was not a
coward, anyway.

"How long have you been with him?" he asked abruptly.

"Since I telephoned you," said Michael, "I happened to be passing the house
and saw him trying to get up the steps alone. He was dizzy, he said, and
seemed glad to have me come to his help."

"Have you ever been vaccinated?"

"No," said Michael indifferently.

"The wisest thing for you to do would be to get out of the room at once and
let me vaccinate you. I'll try to send a nurse to look after him as soon as
possible. Where are the family? Not at home? And the servants will probably
scatter as soon as they learn what's the matter. A pity he hadn't been
taken to the hospital, but it's hardly safe to move him now. The fact is he
is a very sick man, and there's only one chance in a hundred of saving him.
You've run some big risks, taking care of him this way--"

"Any bigger than you are running, doctor?" Michael smiled gravely.

"H'm! Well, it's my business, and I don't suppose it is yours. There are
people who are paid for those things. Come get out of this room or I won't
answer for the consequences."

"The consequences will have to answer for themselves, doctor. I'm going to
stay here till somebody better comes to nurse him."

Michael's eyes did not flinch as he said this.

"Suppose you take the disease?"

Michael smiled, one of his brilliant smiles that you could almost hear it
was so bright.

"Why, then I will," said Michael, "but I'll stay well long enough to take
care of him until the nurse comes anyway."

"You might die!"

"Of course." In a tone with not a ruffle in the calm purpose.

"Well, it's my duty to tell you that you'd probably be throwing your life
away, for there's only a chance that he won't die."

"Not throwing it away if I made him suffer a little less. And you said
there was a chance. If I didn't stay he might miss that chance, mightn't
he?"

"Probably."

"Can I do anything to help or ease him?"

"Yes."

"Then I stay. I should stay anyway until some one came. I couldn't leave
him so."

"Very well, then. I'm proud to know a man like you. There's plenty to be
done. Let's get to work."

The hour that followed was filled with instructions and labor. Michael had
no time to think what would become of his work, or anything. He only knew
that this was the present duty and he went forward in it step by step.
Before the doctor left he vaccinated Michael, and gave him careful
directions how to take all necessary precautions for his own safety; but
he knew from the lofty look in the young man's face, that these were mere
secondary considerations with him. If the need came for the sake of the
patient, all precautions would be flung aside as not mattering one whit.

The doctor roused the servants and told them what had happened, and tried
to persuade them to stay quietly in their places, and he would see that
they ran no risks if they obeyed his directions. But to a man and a woman
they were panic stricken; gathering their effects, they, like the Arabs
of old, folded their tents and silently stole away in the night. Before
morning dawned Michael and his patient were in sole possession of the
house.

Early in the morning there came a call from the doctor. He had not been
able to secure the nurse he hoped to get. Could Michael hold the fort a
few hours longer? He would relieve him sooner if possible, but experienced
nurses for contagious cases were hard to get just now. There was a great
deal of sickness. He might be able to get one this morning but it was
doubtful. He had telephoned everywhere.

Of course Michael would hold the fort.

The doctor gave explicit directions, asked a number of questions, and
promised to call as soon as possible.

Michael, alone in the great silence that the occasional babble of a
delirious person emphasizes in an otherwise empty house, began to think of
things that must be done. Fortunately there was a telephone in the room.
He would not have to leave his patient alone. He called up Will French and
told him in a few words what had happened; laughed pleasantly at Will's
fears for him; asked him to look after the alley work and to attend to one
or two little matters connected with his office work which could not be put
off. Then he called up Sam at the farm, for Michael had long ago found it
necessary to have a telephone put in at Old Orchard.

The sound of Sam's voice cheered his heart, when, after Michael's brief
simple explanation of his present position as trained nurse for the head
of the house of Endicott who lay sick of smallpox, Sam responded with a
dismayed "Fer de lub o' Mike!"

When Michael had finished all his directions to Sam, and received his
partner's promise to do everything just as Michael would have done it, Sam
broke out with:

"Say, does dat ike know what he's takin' off'n you?"

"Who? Mr. Endicott? No, Sam, he doesn't know anything. He's delirious."

"Ummm!" grunted Sam deeply troubled. "Well, he better fin' out wen he gets
hisself agin er there'll be sompin' comin' to him."

"He's done a great deal for me, Sam."

"Ummm! Well, you're gettin' it back on him sure thing now, all right. Say,
you t' care o' yer'se'f, Mikky! We-all can't do nothin' w'th'ut yer. You
lemme know every day how you be."

"Sure Sam!" responded Michael deeply touched by the choking sound of Sam's
voice. "Don't you worry. I'm sound as a nut. Nothing'll happen to me. The
doctor vaccinated me, and I'll not catch it. You look after things for me
and I'll be on deck again some day all the better for the rest."

Michael sat back in the chair after hanging up the receiver, his eyes
glistening with moisture. To think the day had come when Sam should care
like that! It was a miracle.

Michael went back again to the bed to look after his patient, and after he
had done everything that the doctor had said, he decided to reconnoitre for
some breakfast. There must be something in the house to eat even if the
servants had all departed, and he ought to eat so that his strength should
be equal to his task.

It was late in the morning, nearly half-past ten. The young man hurried
downstairs and began to ransack the pantry. He did not want to be long away
from the upper room. Once, as he was stooping to search the refrigerator
for butter and milk he paused in his work and thought he heard a sound
at the front door, but then all seemed still, and he hurriedly put a few
things on a tray and carried them upstairs. He might not be able to come
down again for several hours. But when he reached the top of the stairs he
heard a voice, not his patient's, but a woman's voice, sweet and clear and
troubled:

"Daddy! Oh, daddy dear! Why don't you speak to your little girl? What is
the matter? Can't you understand me? Your face and your poor hands are so
hot, they burn me. Daddy, daddy dear!"

It was Starr's voice and Michael's heart stood still with the thrill of it,
and the instant horror of it. Starr was in there in the room of death with
her father. She was exposed to the terrible contagion; she, the beautiful,
frail treasure of his heart!

He set the tray down quickly on the hall table and went swiftly to the
door.

She sat on the side of the bed, her arms about her father's unconscious
form and her head buried in his neck, sobbing.

For an instant Michael was frozen to the spot with horror at her dangerous
situation. If she had wanted to take the disease she could not have found a
more sure way of exposing herself.

The next instant Michael's senses came back and without stopping to think
he sprang forward and caught her up in his arms, bearing her from the room
and setting her down at the bath-room door.

"Oh, Starr! what have you done!" he said, a catch in his voice like a sob,
for he did not know what he was saying.

Starr, frightened, struggling, sobbing, turned and looked at him.

"Michael! How did you come to be here? Oh, what is the matter with my
father?"

"Go wash your hands and face quickly with this antiseptic soap," he
commanded, all on the alert now, and dealing out the things the doctor
had given him for his own safety, "and here! rinse your mouth with this
quickly, and gargle your throat! Then go and change your things as quick as
you can. Your father has the smallpox and you have been in there close to
him."

"The smallpox!"

"Hurry!" commanded Michael, handing her the soap and turning on the hot
water.

Starr obeyed him because when Michael spoke in that tone people always did
obey, but her frightened eyes kept seeking his face for some reassurance.

"The smallpox! Oh, Michael! How dreadful! But how do you know? Has the
doctor been here? And how did you happen to be here?"

"I was passing last night when your father came home and he asked me to
help him in. Yes, the doctor was here, and will soon come again and bring a
nurse. Now hurry! You must get away from the vicinity of this room!"

"But I'm not going away!" said Starr stubbornly. "I'm going to stay by my
father. He'll want me."

"Your father would be distressed beyond measure if he knew that you were
exposed to such terrible danger. I know that he would far rather have you
go away at once. Besides, he is delirious, and your presence cannot do him
any good now. You must take care of yourself, so that when he gets well you
will be well too, and able to help him get back into health again."

"But you are staying."

"It does not matter about me," said Michael, "there is no one to care.
Besides, I am a man, and perfectly strong. I do not think I will take
the disease. Now please take off those things you wore in there and get
something clean that has not been in the room and go away from here as
quickly as you can."

Michael had barely persuaded her to take precautions when the doctor
arrived with a nurse and the promise of another before night.

He scolded Starr thoroughly for her foolhardiness in going into her
father's room. He had been the family physician ever since she was born,
knew her well; and took the privilege of scolding when he liked. Starr
meekly succumbed. There was just one thing she would not do, and that was
to go away out of the house while her father remained in so critical a
condition. The doctor frowned and scolded, but finally agreed to let her
stay. And indeed it seemed as if perhaps it was the only thing that could
be done; for she had undoubtedly been exposed to the disease, and was
subject to quarantine. There seemed to be no place to which she could
safely go, where she could be comfortable, and the house was amply large
enough for two or three parties to remain in quarantine in several
detachments.

There was another question to be considered. The nurses would have their
hands full with their patient. Some one must stay in the house and look
after things, see that they needed nothing, and get some kind of meals.
Starr, of course, knew absolutely nothing about cooking, and Michael's
experience was limited to roasting sweet potatoes around a bonfire at
college, and cooking eggs and coffee at the fireplace on the farm. But a
good cook to stay in a plague-stricken dwelling would be a thing of time,
if procurable at all; so the doctor decided to accept the willing services
of these two. Starr was established in her own room upstairs, which could
be shut away from the front part of the house by a short passage-way and
two doors, with access to the lower floor by means of the back stairs; and
Michael made a bed of the soft couch in the tiny reception room where he
had twice passed through trying experiences. Great curtains kept constantly
wet with antiseptics shut away the sick room and adjoining apartments from
the rest of the house.

It was arranged that Michael should place such supplies as were needed at
the head of the stairs, just outside the guarding curtains, and the nurses
should pass all dishes through an antiseptic bath before sending them
downstairs again. The electric bells and telephones with which the house
was well supplied made it possible for them to communicate with one another
without danger of infection.

Starr was at once vaccinated and the two young people received many
precautions, and injunctions, with medicine and a strict régime; and even
then the old doctor shook his head dubiously. If those two beautiful faces
should have to pass through the ordeal of that dread disease his old heart
would be quite broken. All that skill and science could do to prevent it
should be done.

So the house settled down to the quiet of a daily routine; the busy city
humming and thundering outside, but no more a part of them than if they
had been living in a tomb. The card of warning on the door sent all the
neighbors in the block scurrying off in a panic to Palm Beach or Europe;
and even the strangers passed by on the other side. The grocery boy and
the milkman left their orders hurriedly on the front steps and Michael and
Starr might almost have used the street for an exercise ground if they had
chosen, so deserted had it become.

But there was no need for them to go farther than the door in front, for
there was a lovely side and back yard, screened from the street by a high
wall, where they might walk at will when they were not too busy with their
work; which for their unskilled hands was hard and laborious. Nevertheless,
their orders were strict, and every day they were out for a couple of hours
at least. To keep from getting chilled, Michael invented all sorts of games
when they grew tired of just walking; and twice after a new fall of snow
they went out and had a game of snowballing, coming in with glowing faces
and shining eyes, to change wet garments and hurry back to their kitchen
work. But this was after the first few serious days were passed, and the
doctor had given them hope that if all went well there was a good chance of
the patient pulling through.

They settled into their new life like two children who had known each other
a long time. All the years between were as if they had not been. They made
their blunders; were merry over their work; and grew into each other's
companionship charmingly. Their ideas of cooking were most primitive and
had it not been possible to order things sent in from caterers they and the
nurses might have been in danger of starving to death. But as it was, what
with telephoning to the nurses for directions, and what with studying the
recipes on the outside of boxes of cornstarch and farina and oatmeal and
the like that they found in the pantry, they were learning day by day to do
a little more.

And then, one blessed day, the dear nurse Morton walked in and took off
her things and stayed. Morton had been on a long-delayed visit to her old
father in Scotland that winter; but when she saw in the papers the notice
of the calamity that had befallen the house of her old employer, she packed
her trunk and took the first steamer back to America. Her baby, and her
baby's father needed her, and nothing could keep Morton away after that.

Her coming relieved the situation very materially, for though she had never
been a fancy cook, she knew all about good old-fashioned Scotch dishes, and
from the first hour took up her station in the kitchen. Immediately comfort
and orderliness began to reign, and Starr and Michael had time on their
hands that was not spent in either eating, sleeping, working or exercise.

It was then that they began to read together, for the library was filled
with all the treasures of literature, to many of which Michael had never
had access save through the public libraries, which of course was not as
satisfactory as having books at hand when one had a bit of leisure in a
busy life. Starr had been reading more than ever before this winter while
with her aunt, and entered into the pleasant companionship of a book
together with zest.

Then there were hours when Starr played softly, and sang, for the piano was
far from the sick room and could not be heard upstairs. Indeed, if it had
not been for the anxious struggle going on upstairs, these two would have
been having a beautiful time.

For all unknowing to themselves they were growing daily into a dear delight
in the mere presence of one another. Even Michael, who had long ago laid
down the lines between which he must walk through life, and never expected
to be more to Starr than a friend and protector, did not realize whither
this intimate companionship was tending. When he thought of it at all he
thought that it was a precious solace for his years of loneliness; a time
that must be enjoyed to the full, and treasured in memory for the days of
barrenness that must surely follow.

Upstairs the fight went on day after day, until at last one morning the
doctor told them that it had been won, that the patient, though very much
enfeebled, would live and slowly get back his strength.

That was a happy morning. The two caught each, other's hands and whirled
joyously round the dining-room when they heard it; and Morton came in with
her sleeves rolled up, and her eyes like two blue lakes all blurred with
raindrops in the sunlight. Her face seemed like a rainbow.

The next morning the doctor looked the two over before he went upstairs and
set a limit to their quarantine. If they kept on doing well they would be
reasonably safe from taking the disease. It would be a miracle, almost, if
neither of them took it; but it began to look as if they were going to be
all right.

Now these two had been so absorbed in one another that they had thought
very little about the danger of their taking the disease themselves. If
either had been alone in the house with nothing to do but brood it would
have probably been the sole topic of thought, but their healthy busy hours
had helped the good work on, and so they were coming safely out from under
the danger.

It was one bright morning when they were waiting for the doctor to come
that Michael was glancing over the morning paper, and Starr trying a new
song she had sent for that had just come in the mail the evening before.
She wanted to be able to play it for Michael to sing.

Suddenly Michael gave a little exclamation of dismay, and Starr, turning on
the piano stool, saw that his face was white and he was staring out of the
window with a drawn, sad look about his mouth and eyes.

"What is it?" she asked in quick, eager tones of sympathy, and Michael
turning to look at her vivid beauty, his heart thrilling with the sound of
her voice, suddenly felt the wide gulf that had always been between them,
for what he had read in the paper had shaken him from his happy dream and
brought him back to a sudden realization of what he was.

The item in the paper that had brought about this rude awakening was an
account of how Buck had broken jail and escaped. Michael's great heart
was filled with trouble about Buck; and instantly he remembered that he
belonged to the same class with Buck; and not at all in the charmed circle
where Starr moved.

He looked at the girl with grave, tender eyes, that yet seemed to be less
intimate than they had been all these weeks. Her sensitive nature felt the
difference at once.

He let her read the little item.

Starr's face softened with ready sympathy, and a mingling of indignation.
"He was one of those people in your tenements you have been trying to
help?" she questioned, trying to understand his look. "He ought to have
been ashamed to get into jail after you had been helping him. Wasn't he a
sort of a worthless fellow?"

"No," said Michael in quick defense, "he never had a chance. And he was not
just one of those people, he was _the_ one. He was the boy who took care of
me when I was a little fellow, and who shared everything he had, hard crust
or warm cellar door, with me. I think he loved me--"

There was something in Michael's face and voice that warned Starr these
were sacred precincts, where she must tread lightly if she did not wish to
desecrate.

"Tell me about him," she breathed softly.

So Michael, his eyes tender, his voice gentle, because she had cared to
know, told her eloquently of Buck, till when he had finished her eyes were
wet with tears; and she looked so sweet that he had to turn his own eyes
away to keep from taking the lovely vision into his arms and kissing her.
It was a strange wild impulse he had to do this, and it frightened him.
Suppose some day he should forget himself, and let her see how he had dared
to love her? That must never be. He must put a watch upon himself. This
sweet friendship she had vouchsafed him must never be broken by word, look
or action of his.

And from that morning there came upon his manner a change, subtle,
intangible,--but a change.

They read and talked together, and Michael opened his heart to her as he
had not yet done, about his work in the alley, his farm colony, and his
hopes for his people; Starr listened and entered eagerly into his plans,
yet felt the change that had come upon him, and her troubled spirit knew
not what it was.



CHAPTER XXVII


All this while Michael had been in daily communication with Sam, as well as
with Will French, who with Hester's help had kept the rooms in the alley
going, though they reported that the head had been sorely missed.

Sam had reported daily progress with the house and about two weeks before
Michael's release from quarantine announced that everything was done, even
to the papering of the walls and oiling of the floors.

A fire had been burning in the furnace and fireplaces for several weeks, so
the plaster was thoroughly dry, and it was Michael's plan that Starr and
her father were to go straight down to the farm as soon as they were free
to leave the house.

To this end Hester and Will had been given daily commissions to purchase
this and that needful article of furniture, until now at last Michael felt
that the house would be habitable for Starr and her precious invalid.

During the entire winter Michael had pleased himself in purchasing rugs
here and there, and charming, fitting, furniture for the house he was
building. A great many things,--the important things,--had already been
selected, and Michael knew he could trust Hester's taste for the rest. For
some reason he had never said much to Starr about either Hester or Will,
perhaps because they had always seemed to him to belong to one another, and
thus were somewhat set apart from his own life.

But one morning, Starr, coming into the library where Michael was
telephoning Hester about some last purchases she was making, overheard
these words: "All right Hester, you'll know best of course, but I think you
better make it a dozen instead of a half. It's better to have too many than
too few; and we might have company, you know."

Now, of course, Starr couldn't possibly be supposed to know that it was a
question of dishes that was being discussed so intimately. In fact, she did
not stop to think what they were talking about; she only knew that he had
called this other girl "Hester"; and she suddenly became aware that during
all these weeks of pleasant intercourse, although she had addressed him as
Michael, he had carefully avoided using any name at all for her, except on
one or two occasions, substituting pronouns wherever possible. She had
not noticed this before, but when she heard that "Hester" in his pleasant
tones, her heart, brought the fact before her at once for invoice. Who was
this girl Hester? And why was she Hestered so carelessly as though he had
a right? Could it be possible that Michael was engaged to her? Why had she
never thought of it before? Of course it would be perfectly natural. This
other girl had been down in his dear alley, working shoulder to shoulder
with him all these years, and it was a matter of course that he must love
her, Starr's bright morning that but a moment before had been filled with
so much sunshine seemed suddenly to cloud over with a blackness that
blotted out all the joy; and though she strove to hide it even from
herself, her spirit was heavy with something she did not understand.

That evening Michael came into the library unexpectedly. He had been out in
the kitchen helping Morton to open a box that was refractory. He found the
room entirely dark, and thought he heard a soft sound like sobbing in one
corner of the room.

"Starr!" he said. "Starr, is that you?" nor knew that he had called her by
her name, though she knew it very well indeed. She kept quite still for an
instant, and then she rose from the little crumpled heap in the corner of
the leather couch where she had dropped for a minute in the dark to cry out
the strange ache of her heart when she thought Michael was safely in the
kitchen for a while.

"Why, yes, Michael!" she said, and her voice sounded choky, though she was
struggling to make it natural.

Michael stepped to the doorway and turned on the hall lights so that he
could dimly see her little figure standing in the shadow. Then he came over
toward her, his whole heart yearning over her, but a mighty control set
upon himself.

"What is the matter--dear?" He breathed the last word almost under his
breath. He actually did not realize that he had spoken it aloud. It seemed
to envelope her with a deep tenderness. It broke her partial self-control
entirely and she sobbed again for a minute before she could speak.

Oh, if he but dared to take that dear form into his aims and comfort her!
If he but dared! But he had no right!

Michael stood still and struggled with his heart, standing quite near her,
yet not touching her.

"Oh, my dear!" he breathed to himself, in an agony of love and
self-restraint. But she did not hear the breath. She was engaged in a
struggle of her own, and she seemed to remember that Hester-girl, and know
her duty. She must not let him see how she felt, not for anything in the
world. He was kind and tender. He had always been. He had denied himself
and come here to stay with them in their need because of his gratitude
toward her father for all he had done for him; and he had breathed that
"dear" as he would have done to any little child of the tenement whom he
found in trouble. Oh, she understood, even while she let the word comfort
her lonely heart. Why, oh why had she been left to trifle with a handsome
scoundrel? Why hadn't she been worthy to have won the love of a great man
like this one?

These thoughts rushed through her brain so rapidly that they were not
formulated at all. Not until hours afterward did she know they had been
thought; but afterwards she sorted them out and put them in array before
her troubled heart.

A minute she struggled with her tears, and then in a sweet little voice,
like a tired, naughty child she broke out:

"Oh, Michael, you've been so good to me--to us, I mean--staying here all
these weeks and not showing a bit of impatience when you had all that great
work in the world to do--and I've just been thinking how perfectly horrid
I was to you last winter--the things I said and wrote to you--and how I
treated you when you were trying to save me from an awful fate! I'm so
ashamed, and so thankful! It all came over me to-night what I owed you, and
I can't ever thank you. Can you forgive me for the horrid way I acted, and
for passing you on the street that Sunday without speaking to you--I'm so
ashamed! Will you forgive me?"

She put out her little hands with a pathetic motion toward him in the half
light of the room, and he took them in both his great warm ones and held
them in his firm grasp, his whole frame thrilling with her sweet touch.
"Forgive you, little Starr!" he breathed--"I never blamed you--" And there
is no telling what might not have happened if the doctor had not just then
unexpectedly arrived to perfect the arrangements for their going to the
farm.

When Michael returned from letting the doctor out, Starr had fled upstairs
to her room; when they met the next morning it was with the bustle of
preparation upon them; and each cast shy smiling glances toward the other.
Starr knew that she was forgiven, but she also knew that there was a wall
reared between them that had not been there before, and her heart ached
with the knowledge. Nevertheless, it was a happy morning, and one could not
be absolutely miserable in the company of Michael, with a father who was
recovering rapidly, and the prospect of seeing him and going with him into
the beautiful out-of-doors within a few hours.

Michael went about the work of preparing to go with a look of solemn joy.
Solemn because he felt that the wonderful companionship he had had alone
with Starr was so soon to end. Joyful because he could be with her still
and know she had passed through the danger of the terrible disease and come
safely out of the shadow with her beauty as vivid as ever. Besides, he
might always serve her, and they were friends now, not enemies--that was a
great deal!

The little world of Old Orchard stood on tiptoe that lovely spring morning
when the party came down. The winding road that led to the cottage was
arched all over with bursting bloom, for the apple trees had done their
best at decorating for the occasion and made a wondrous canopy of pink and
white for Starr to see as she passed under.

Not a soul was in sight as they drove up to the cottage save Sam, standing
respectfully to receive them in front of the piazza, and Lizzie, vanishing
around the corner of the cottage with her pretty boy toddling after--for
Lizzie had come down to be a waitress at Rose Cottage for the summer;--but
every soul on the farm was watching at a safe distance. For Sam, without
breathing a word, had managed to convey to them all the knowledge that
those who were coming as their guests were beloved of Michael, their
angel-hearted man. As though it had been a great ceremony they stood in
silent, adoring groups behind a row of thick hedges and watched them
arrive, each one glorying in the beauty of her whom in their hearts they
called "the boss's girl."

The room stood wide and inviting to receive them. There was a fire of logs
on the great hearth, and a deep leather chair drawn up before it, with a
smaller rocker at one side, and a sumptuous leather coach for the invalid
just to the side of the fireplace, where the light of the flames would not
strike the eyes, yet the warmth would reach him. Soft greens and browns
were blended in the silk pillows that were piled on the couch and on the
seats that appeared here and there about the walls as if they grew by
nature. The book-case was filled with Michael's favorites, Will French
had seen to this, and a few were scattered on the big table where a green
shaded lamp of unique design, a freshly cut magazine, and a chair drawn at
just the right angle suggested a pleasant hour in the evening. There were
two or three pictures--these Michael had selected at intervals as he
learned to know more about art from his study at the exhibitions.

"Oh!" breathed Starr. "How lovely! It is a real home!" and the thought
struck her that it would probably be Michael's and Hester's some day.
However, she would not let shadows come spoiling her good time now, for it
_was_ her good time and she had a right to it; and she too was happy in the
thought that she and Michael were friends, the kind of friends that can
never be enemies again.

The invalid sank into the cushions of the couch with a pleased light in his
eyes and said: "Son, this is all right. I'm glad you bought the farm," and
Michael turned with a look of love to the man who had been the only father
he had ever known. It was good, good to be reconciled with him, and to know
that he was on the road to health once more.

The doctor who had come down with them looked about with satisfaction.

"I don't see but you are fixed," he said to Endicott. "I wouldn't mind
being in your shoes myself. Wish I could stay and help you enjoy yourself.
If I had a pair of children like those I'd give up work and come buy a farm
alongside, and settle down for life."

The days at the farm passed in a sort of charmed existence for Starr and
her father. Everything they needed seemed to come as if by magic. Every
wish of Starr's was anticipated, and she was waited upon devotedly by
Lizzie, who never by so much as a look tried to win recognition. Starr,
however, always keen in her remembrances, knew and appreciated this.

After the first two days Michael was back and forth in the city. His
business, which had been steadily growing before his temporary retirement
from the world, had piled up and was awaiting his attention. His work in
the alley called loudly for him every night, yet he managed to come down to
the farm often and spent all his Sundays there.

It was one Saturday evening about three weeks after their arrival at the
farm, when they were all seated cosily in the living room of the cottage,
the invalid resting on the couch in the shadow, Starr seated close beside
him, the firelight glowing on her face, her hand in her father's; and
Michael by the table with, a fresh magazine which he was about to read to
them, that a knock came at the door.

Opening the door, Michael found Sam standing on the piazza, and another
dark form huddled behind Him.

"Come out here, can't yer, Buck's here!"' whispered Sam.

"Buck!" Michael spoke the word with a joyful ring that thrilled Starr's
heart with sympathy as she sat listening, her ears alert with interest.

"I'm so glad! So glad!" said Michael's voice again, vibrant with real
welcome. "Come in, Buck, I've a friend in here who knows all about you. No,
don't be afraid. You're perfectly safe. What? Through the windows? Well,
we'll turn the light out and sit in the firelight. You can go over in that
corner by the fireplace. No one will see you. The shades are down."

Michael's voice was low, and he stood within the doorway, but Starr,
because she understood the need, heard every word.

There was dissent in a low whisper outside, and then Sam's voice growled,
"Go on in, Buck, ef he says so." and Buck reluctantly entered, followed by
Sam.

Buck was respectably dressed in an old suit of Sam's, with his hands and
face carefully washed and his hair combed. Sam had imbibed ideas and was
not slow to impart them. But Buck stood dark and frowning against the
closed door, his hunted eyes like black coals in a setting of snow, went
furtively around the room in restless vigilance. His body wore the habitual
air of crouching alertness. He started slightly when anyone moved or spoke
to him. Michael went quickly over to the table and turned down the lamp.

"You won't mind sitting in the firelight, will you?" he said to Starr in a
low tone, and her eyes told him that she understood.

"Come over here, Buck," said Michael motioning toward the sheltered corner
on the other side of the fireplace from where Starr was sitting. "This is
one of my friends, Miss Endicott, Mr. Endicott. Will you excuse us if we
sit here and talk a few minutes? Miss Endicott, you remember my telling you
of Buck?"

Starr with sudden inspiration born of the moment, got up and went over to
where the dark-browed Buck stood frowning and embarrassed in the chimney
corner and put out her little roseleaf of a hand to him. Buck looked at it
in dismay and did not stir.

"Why don't yer shake?" whispered Sam.

Then with a grunt of astonishment Buck put out his rough hand and underwent
the unique experience of holding a lady's hand in his. The hunted eyes
looked up startled to Starr's and like a flash he saw a thought. It was as
if her eyes knew Browning's poem and could express his thought to Buck in
language he could understand:

  "All I could never be,
  All men ignored in me,
  This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped."

Somehow, Starr, with her smile and her eyes, and her gentle manner,
unknowingly conveyed that thought to Buck! Poor, neglected, sinful Buck!
And Michael, looking on, knew what she had done, and blessed her in his
heart.

Buck sat down in the chimney corner, half in shadow with the lights from
the great log flaring over his face. The shades were all drawn down, the
doors were closed He was surrounded by friendly faces. For a few minutes
the hunted eyes ceased their roving round the room, and rested on Starr's
sweet face as she sat quietly, holding her father's hand. It was a sight
such as poor Buck's eyes had never rested upon in the whole of his
checkered existence, and for the moment he let the sweet wonder of it
filter into his dark, scarred soul, with blessed healing. Then he looked
from Starr to Michael's fine face near by, tender with the joy of Buck's
coming, anxious with what might be the outcome; and for a moment the heavy
lines in forehead and brow that Buck had worn since babyhood softened with
a tender look. Perhaps 'tis given, once to even the dullest soul to see, no
matter how low fallen, just what he might have been.

They had been sitting thus for about fifteen minutes, quietly talking.
Michael intended to take Buck upstairs soon and question him, but, first he
wanted time to think what he must do. Then suddenly a loud knock startled
them all, and as Michael rose to go to the door there followed him the
resounding clatter of the tongs falling on the hearth.

A voice with a knife edge to it cut through the room and made them all
shiver.

"Good evening, Mr. Endicott!" it said. "I'm sorry to trouble you, but I've
come on a most unpleasant errand. We're after an escaped criminal, and
he was seen to enter your door a few minutes ago. Of course I know your
goodness of heart. You take 'em all in, but this one is a jail bird! You'll
excuse me if I take him off your hands. I'll try to do it as quietly and
neatly as possible."

The big, blustery voice ceased and Michael, looking at the sinister gleam
of dull metal in the hands of the men who accompanied the county sheriff,
knew that the crisis was upon him. The man, impatient, was already pushing
past him into the room. It was of no sort of use to resist. He flung the
door wide and turned with the saddest look Starr thought she ever had seen
on the face of a man:

"I know," he said, and his voice was filled with sorrow, "I know--but--he
was one whom I loved!"

"Wasted love! Mr. Endicott. Wasted love. Not one of 'em worth it!"
blustered the big man walking in.

Then Michael turned and faced the group around the fireplace and looking
from one to another turned white with amazement, for Buck was not among
them!

Starr sat beside her father in just the same attitude she had held
throughout the last fifteen minutes, his hand in hers, her face turned,
startled, toward the door, and something inscrutable in her eyes. Sam stood
close beside the fireplace, the tongs which he had just picked up in his
hands, and a look of sullen rage upon his face. Nowhere in the whole wide
room was there a sign of Buck, and there seemed no spot where he could
hide. The door into the dining-room was on the opposite wall, and behind
it the cheerful clatter of the clearing off of the table could be plainly
heard. If Buck had escaped that way there would have been an outcry from
Morton or the maid. Every window had its shade closely drawn.

The sheriff looked suspiciously at Michael whose blank face plainly showed
he had no part in making way with the outlaw. The men behind him looked
sharply round and finished with a curious gaze at Starr. Starr, rightly
interpreting the scene, rose to the occasion.

"Would they like to look behind this couch?" she said moving quickly to the
other side of the fireplace over toward the window, with a warning glance
toward Sam.

Then while the men began a fruitless search around the room, looking in the
chimney closet, and behind the furniture, she took up her stand beside the
corner window.

It had been Michael's thoughtfulness that had arranged that all the windows
should have springs worked by the pressing of a button like some car
windows, so that a touch would send them up at will.

Only Sam saw Starr's hand slide under the curtain a second, and unfasten
the catch at the top; then quickly down and touch the button in the window
sill. The window went up without a noise, and in a moment more the curtain
was moving out gently puffed by the soft spring breeze, and Starr had gone
back to her father's side. "I cannot understand it," said Michael, "he was
here a moment ago!"

The sheriff who had been nosing about the fireplace turned and came over
to the window, sliding up the shade with a motion and looking out into the
dark orchard.

"H'm! That's where he went, boys," he said. "After him quick! We ought to
have had a watch at each window as well as at the back. Thank you, Mr.
Endicott! Sorry to have troubled you. Good night!" and the sheriff
clattered after his men.

Sam quickly pulled down the window, fastening it, and turned a look of
almost worshipful understanding on Starr.

"Isn't that fire getting pretty hot for such a warm night?" said Starr
pushing back the hair from her forehead and bright cheeks. "Sam, suppose
you get a little water and pour over that log. I think we will not need any
more fire to-night anyway."

And Sam, quickly hastened to obey, his mouth stretching in a broad grin as
he went out the door.

"She'd make a peach of a burglar," he remarked to himself as he filled a
bucket with water and hurried back with it to the fire.

Michael, in his strait betwixt law and love, was deeply troubled and had
followed the men out into the dark orchard.

"Daddy, I think you'd better get up to your room. This excitement has been
too much for you," said Starr decidedly.

But Mr. Endicott demurred. He had been interested in the little drama that
had been enacted before him, and he wanted to sit up and see the end of it.
He was inclined to blame Michael for bringing such a fellow into Starr's
presence.

But Starr laughingly bundled him off to bed and sat for an hour reading
to him, her heart all the time in a flutter to know how things came out,
wondering if Sam surely understood, and put out the fire; and if it would
be safe for her to give him any broader hint.

At midnight, Michael lay broad awake with troubled spirit, wondering over
and over if there was anything he might have done for Buck if he had only
done it in time--anything that would have been right to do.

Softly, cautiously a man stole out of the darkness of the orchard until he
came and stood close to the old chimney, and then, softly stealing on the
midnight summer air there came a peculiar sibilant sound, clear, piercing,
yet blending with the night, and leaving no trace behind of its origin. One
couldn't tell from whence it came. But Michael, keeping vigil, heard, and
rose upon his elbow, alert, listening. Was that Buck calling him? It came
again, softer this time, but distinct. Michael sprang from his bed
and began hastily throwing on his garments. That call should never go
unanswered!

Stealthily, in the light of the low, late moon, a dark figure stole forth
from the old chimney top, climbed down on the ladder that had been silently
tilted against it, helped to lay the ladder back innocently in the deep
grass again, and joining the figure on the ground crept away toward the
river where waited a boat.

Buck lay down, in the bottom of the boat, covered with a piece of sacking,
and Sam took up the oars, when a long, sibilant whistle like a night bird
floated keenly through the air. Buck started up and turned suspicious eyes
on Sam:

"What's that?"

"It's Mikky, I reckon," said Sam softly, reverently. "He couldn't sleep.
He's huntin' yer!"

Buck lay down with a sound that was almost a moan and the boat took up its
silent glide toward safety.

"It's fierce ter leave him this 'a'way!" muttered Buck, "Yous tell him,
won't yer, an' her--she's a ly-dy, she is. She's all white! Tell her
Buck'll do ez much fer her some day ef he ever gits the chanct."

"In doin' fer her you'd be doin' fer him, I spekullate," said Sam after a
long pause.

"So?" said Buck

"So," answered Sam. And that was the way Sam told Buck of the identity of
Starr.

Now Starr, from her darkened window beside the great chimney, had watched
the whole thing. She waited until she saw Michael come slowly, sadly back
from his fruitless search through the mist before the dawning, alone, with
bowed head; and her heart ached for the problem that was filling him with
sorrow.



CHAPTER XXVIII


Starr was coming up to the city for a little shopping on the early morning
train with Michael. The summer was almost upon her and she had not prepared
her apparel. Besides, she was going away in a few days to be bridesmaid at
the wedding of an old school friend who lived away out West; and secretly
she told herself she wanted the pleasure of this little trip to town with
Michael.

She was treasuring every one of these beautiful days filled with precious
experiences, like jewels to be strung on memory's chain, with a vague
unrest lest some close-drawing future was to snatch them from her forever.
She wished with all her heart that she had given a decided refusal to her
friend's pleading, but the friend had put off the wedding on her account
to wait until she could leave her father; and her father had joined his
insistance that she should go away and have the rest and change after the
ordeal of the winter. So Starr seemed to have to go, much as she would
rather have remained. She had made a secret vow to herself that she would
return at once after the wedding in spite of all urgings to remain with
the family who had invited her to stay all summer with them. Starr had a
feeling that the days of her companionship with Michael might be short.
She must make the most of them. It might never be the same again after her
going away. She was not sure even that her father would consent to remain
all summer at the farm as Michael urged.

And on this lovely morning she was very happy at the thought of going with
Michael. The sea seemed sparkling with a thousand gems as the train swept
along its shore, and Michael told her of his first coming down to see the
farm, called her attention to the flowers along the way: and she assured
him Old Orchard was far prettier than any of them, now that the roses were
all beginning to bud. It would soon be Rose Cottage indeed!

Then the talk fell on Buck and his brief passing.

"I wonder where he can be and what he is doing," sighed Michael. "If he
only could have stayed, long enough for me to have a talk with him. I
believe I could have persuaded him to a better way. It is the greatest
mystery in the world how he got away with those men watching the house. I
cannot understand it."

Starr, her cheeks rosy, her eyes shining mischievously, looked up at him.

"Haven't you the least suspicion where he was hiding?" she asked.

Michael looked down at her with a sudden start, and smiled into her lovely
eyes.

"Why, no. Have you?" he said, and could not keep the worship from his gaze.

"Of course. I knew all the time. Do you think it was very dreadful for me
not to tell? I couldn't bear to have him caught that way before you'd had a
chance to help him; and when he used to be so good to you as a little boy;
besides, I saw his face, that terrible, hunted look; there wasn't anything
really wrong in my opening that window and throwing them off the track, was
there?"

"Did you open the window?"

Starr nodded saucily. "Yes, and Sam saw me do it. Sam knew all about it.
Buck went up the chimney right through that hot fire. Didn't you hear the
tongs fall down? He went like a flash before you opened the door, and one
foot was still in sight when that sheriff came in. I was so afraid he'd see
it. Was it wrong?"

"I suppose it was," he said sadly. "The law must be maintained. It can't be
set aside for one fellow who has touched one's heart by some childhood's
action. But right or wrong I can't help being glad that you cared to do
something for poor Buck."

"I think I did it mostly for--you?" she said softly, her eyes still down.

For answer, Michael reached out his hand and took her little gloved one
that lay in her lap in a close pressure for just an instant. Then, as if a
mighty power were forcing him, he laid it gently down again and drew his
hand away.

Starr felt the pressure of that strong hand and the message that it gave
through long days afterward, and more than once it gave her strength and
courage and good cheer. Come what might, she had a friend--a friend strong
and true as an angel.

They spoke no more till the train swept into the station and they had
hurried through the crowd and were standing on the front of the ferryboat,
with the water sparkling before their onward gliding and the whole, great,
wicked, stirring city spread before their gaze, the light from the cross on
Trinity Church steeple flinging its glory in their faces.

"Look!" said Michael pointing. "Do you remember the poem we were reading
the other night: Wordsworth's 'Upon Westminster Bridge.' Doesn't it fit
this scene perfectly? I've often thought of it when I was coming across in
the mornings. To look over there at the beauty one would never dream of all
the horror and wickedness and suffering that lies within those streets. It
is beautiful now. Listen! Do you remember it?

  "'Earth has not anything to show more fair:
  Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
  A sight so touching in its majesty:
  This City now doth like a garment wear

  "'The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
  Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
  Open unto the fields, and to the sky,
  All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

  "'Never did sun more beautifully steep
  In his first splendour valley, rock, or hill;
  Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

  "'The river glideth at its own sweet will:
  Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
  And all that mighty heart is lying still!'"

Starr looked long at the picture before her, and then at the face of her
companion speaking the beautiful lines word by word as one draws in the
outlines of a well-loved picture.

Michael's hat was off and the beauty of the morning lay in sunlight on his
hair and cheek and brow. Her heart swelled within her as she looked and
great tears filled her eyes. She dared not look longer lest she show her
deep emotion. The look of him, the words he spoke, and the whole wonderful
scene would linger in her memory as long as life should last.

Two days later Starr started West, and life seemed empty for Michael. She
was gone from him, but still she would come back. Or, would she come back
after all? How long could he hope to keep her if she did? Sad foreboding
filled him and he went about his work with set, strained nerves; for now
he knew that right or wrong she was heart of his heart, part of his
consciousness. He loved her better than himself; and he saw no hope for
himself at all in trying to forget. Yet, never, never, would he ask her to
share the dishonor of his heritage.

The day before Starr was expected to come back to Old Orchard Michael took
up the morning paper and with rising horror read:

    BANDIT WOUNDED AS FOUR HOLD UP TRAIN.

    Express Messenger Protects Cash During Desperate Revolver Duel in Car.

    Fort Smith, Ark.--Four bandits bungled the hold-up of a Kansas City
    passenger train, between Hatfield and Mena, Ark., early to-day. One was
    probably fatally wounded and captured and the others escaped after a
    battle with the Express Messenger in which the messenger exhausted his
    ammunition and was badly beaten.

    When the other robbers escaped the wounded bandit eluded the conductor,
    and made his way into the sleeper, where he climbed into an empty
    berth. But he was soon traced by the drops of blood from his wound. The
    conductor and a brakeman hauled him out and battled with him in the
    aisle amid the screams of passengers.

    The bandit aimed his revolver at the conductor and fired, but a sudden
    unsteady turn of his wrist sent the bullet into himself instead of the
    conductor. The wounded bandit received the bullet in his left breast
    near the heart and will probably die. The Express Messenger is in the
    hospital at Mena and may recover.

    Had the bullet of the bandit gone as intended it would more than likely
    have wounded one or two women passengers, who at the sound of trouble
    had jumped from their berths into the aisle and were directly in the
    path of the bullet.

    There is some likelihood that the captured bandit may prove to be the
    escaped convict, named "Buck," who was serving long sentence in the
    state penitentiary, and for whom the police have been searching in vain
    for the last three months.

Michael was white and trembling when he had finished reading this account.
And was this then to be the end of Buck. Must he die a death like that?
Disgrace and sin and death, and no chance to make good? Michael groaned
aloud and bowed his head upon the table before him, his heart too heavy
even to try to think it out.

That evening a telegram reached him from Arkansas.

"A man named 'Buck' is dying here, and calls incessantly for you. If you
wish to see him alive come at once."

Michael took the midnight train. Starr had telegraphed her father she would
reach Old Orchard in the morning. It was hard to have to go when, she was
just returning. Michael wondered if it would always be so now.

Buck roused at Michael's coming and smiled feebly.

"Mikky! I knowed you'd come!" he whispered feebly. "I'm done for, pardner.
I ain't long fer here, but I couldn't go 'thout you knowin'. I'd meant to
git jes' this one haul an' git away to some other country where it was
safe, 'nen I was goin' to try'n keep straight like you would want. I
would a'got trough all right, but I seen her,--the pretty lady,--your
girl,--standing in the aisle right ahin' the c'ndct'r, jes' es I wuz
pullin' the trigger knowed her right off, 'ith her eyes shinin' like two
stars; an' I couldn't run no resks. I ain't never bin no bungler at my
trade, but I hed to bungle this time 'cause I couldn't shoot your girl! So
I turned it jes' in time an' took it mese'f. She seen how 'twas 'ith me
that time at your house, an' she he'ped me git away. I sent her word I'd do
the same fer her some day, bless her--an' now--you tell her we're square!
I done the bunglin' fer her sake, but I done it fer you too, pard--little
pard--Mikky!"

"Oh, Buck!" Michael knelt beside the poor bed and buried his face in the
coverlet. "Oh, Buck! If you'd only had my chance!" he moaned.

"Never you mind, Mikky! I ain't squealin'. I knows how to take my dose. An'
mebbe, they'll be some kind of a collidge whar I'm goin', at I kin get a
try at yet--don't you fret, little pard--ef I git my chancet I'll take it
fer your sake!"

The life breath seemed to be spent with the effort and Buck sank slowly
into unconsciousness and so passed out of a life that had been all against
him.

Michael after doing all the last little things that were permitted him,
sadly took his way home again.

He reached the city in the morning and spent several hours putting to
rights his business affairs; but by noon he found himself so unutterably
weary that he took the two o'clock train down to the farm. Sam met him at
the station. Sam somehow seemed to have an intuition when to meet him,
and the two gripped hands and walked home together across the salt grass,
Michael telling in low, halting tones all that Buck had said. Sam kept his
face turned the other way, but once Michael got a view of it and he was
sure there were tears on his cheeks. To think of Sam having tears for
anything!

Arrived at the cottage Sam told him he thought that Mr. Endicott was taking
his afternoon nap upstairs, and that Miss Endicott had gone to ride with
"some kind of a fancy woman in a auto" who had called to see her.

Being very weary and yet unwilling to run the risk of waking Mr. Endicott
by going upstairs, Michael asked Sam to bolt the dining-room door and give
orders that he should not be disturbed for an hour; then he lay down on the
leather couch in the living-room.

The windows were open all around and the sweet breath of the opening roses
stole in with the summer breeze, while the drone of bees and the pure notes
of a song sparrow lulled him to sleep.



CHAPTER XXIX


Michael had slept perhaps an hour when he was roused by the sound of
voices, a sharp, hateful one with an unpleasant memory in it, and a sweet,
dear one that went to his very soul.

"Sit down here, Aunt Frances. There is no one about: Papa is asleep and
Michael has not yet returned from a trip out West. You can talk without
fear of being heard."

"Michael, Michael!" sniffed the voice. "Well, that's what I came to talk
to you about. I didn't want to say anything out there where the chauffeur
could hear; he is altogether too curious and might talk with the servants
about it. I wouldn't have it get out for the world. Your mother would have
been mortified to death about all this, and I can't see what your father
is thinking about. He never did seem to have much sense where you were
concerned--!"

"Aunt Frances!"

"Well, I can't help it. He doesn't. Now take this matter of your being down
here, and the very thought of you're calling that fellow Michael,--as if he
were a cousin or something! Why, it's simply disgusting! I hoped you
were going to stay out West until your father was well enough to go away
somewhere with you; but now that you have come back I think you ought to
leave here at once. People will begin to talk, and I don't like it. Why,
the fellow will be presuming on it to be intimate with you--"'

Michael was suddenly roused to the fact that he was listening to a
conversation not intended for his ears, and yet he had no way of getting
out of hearing without passing the door in the front of which the two women
were seated. Both the dining-room, door and the stairs were on the other
side of the room from him and he would have to run the risk of being seen,
by either or both of them if he attempted to cross to them. The windows
were screened by wire nailed over the whole length, so he could not hope to
get successfully out of any of them. There was nothing for it but to lie
still, and pretend to be asleep if they discovered him afterwards. It was
an embarrassing situation but it was none of his choosing.

There was a slight stir outside, Starr had risen, and was standing with her
back to the doorway.

"Aunt Frances! What do you mean? Michael is our honored and respected
friend, our protector--our--host. Think what he did for papa! Risked his
life!"

"Stuff and nonsense! Risked his life. He took the risk for perfectly good
reasons. He knew how to worm himself into the family again--"

"Aunt Frances! I will not hear you say such dreadful things. Michael is a
gentleman, well-educated, with the highest ideals and principles. If you
knew how self-sacrificing and kind he is!"

"Kind, yes kind!" sniffed the aunt, "and what will you think about it when
he asks you to marry him? Will you think he is kind to offer you a share in
the inheritance of a nobody--a charity--dependent--a child of the slums? If
you persist in your foolishness of staying here you will presently have all
New York gossiping about you, and then when you are in disgrace--I suppose
you will turn to me to help you out of it."

"Stop!" cried Starr. "I will not listen to another word. What do you mean
by disgrace? There could be no disgrace in marrying Michael. The girl who
marries him will be the happiest woman in the whole world. He is good and
true and unselfish to the heart's core. There isn't the slightest danger of
his ever asking me to marry him, Aunt Frances, because I am very sure he
loves another girl and is engaged to marry her; and she is a nice girl too.
But if it were different, if he were free and asked me to marry him I would
feel as proud and glad as if a prince of the highest realm had asked me to
share his throne with him. I would rather marry Michael than any man I ever
met, and I don't care in the least whether he is a child of the slums or a
child of a king. I know what he is, and he is a prince among men."

"Oh, really! Has it come to this? Then you are in love with him already and
my warning comes too late, does it? Answer me! Do you fancy yourself in
love with him."

"Aunt Frances, you have no right to ask me that question," said Starr
steadily, her cheeks very red and her eyes very bright.

Michael was sitting bolt upright on the couch now, utterly forgetful of
the dishonor of eavesdropping, fairly holding his breath to listen and
straining his ears that he might lose no slightest word. He was devouring
the dear, straight, little form in the doorway with his eyes, and her every
word fell on his tired heart like raindrops in a thirsty land, making the
flowers of hope spring forth and burst into lovely bloom.

"Well, I do ask it!" snapped the aunt hatefully. "Come, answer me, do you
love him?"

"That, Aunt Frances, I shall never answer to anybody but Michael. I must
refuse to hear another word on this subject."

"Oh, very well, good-bye. I'll leave you to your silly fate, but don't
expect me to help you out of trouble if you get into it. I've warned you
and I wash my hands of you," and the angry woman flouted out to her waiting
car, but the girl stood still in the doorway and said with dignity:

"Good afternoon, Aunt Frances. I shall never ask your help in any way."

Starr watched the car out of sight, great tears welling into her eyes and
rolling down her cheeks. Michael sat breathless on the couch and tried to
think what he ought to do; while his very being was rippling with the joy
of the words she had spoken.

Then she turned and saw him, and he stood up and held out his arms.

"Starr, my little Starr! My darling! Did you mean all you said? Would you
really marry me? I've loved you always, Starr, since first I saw you a tiny
little child; I've loved your soft baby kisses and those others you gave me
later when you were a little girl and I an awkward boy. You never knew how
dear they were, nor how I used to go to sleep at night dreaming over and
over again, those kisses on my face. Oh, Starr! answer me? Did you mean it
all? And could you ever love me? You said you would answer that question to
no one else but me. Will you answer it now, darling?"

For answer she came and stood within his arms, her eyes down-drooped, her
face all tears and smiles, and he folded her within his strong clasp and
stooping, whispered softly:

"Starr, little darling--my life--my love--my--_wife_!"

And then he laid his lips against hers and held her close.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weeks later when the roses were all aburst of bloom over the porch at
Rose Cottage and June was everywhere with her richness and perfection of
beauty, Starr and Michael were married on the piazza under an arch of
roses; and a favored few of society's cream motored down to Old Orchard to
witness the ceremony. In spite of all her disagreeable predictions and ugly
threats Aunt Frances was among them, smiling and dominating.

"Yes, so sensible of her not to make a fuss with her wedding just now, when
her father is getting his strength back again. Of course she could have
come to my house and been married. I begged her to--naturally she shrank
from another wedding in connection with the old home you know--but her
father seemed to dread coming into town and so I advised her to go ahead
and be married here. Isn't it a charming place? So rustic you know, and
quite simple and artistic too in its way. Michael has done it all, planned
the house and everything, of course with Starr's help. You know it's quite
a large estate, belonged to Michael's great grandfather once, several
hundred acres, and he has used part of it for charitable purposes; has a
farm school or something for poor slum people, and is really teaching them
to be quite decent. I'm sure I hope they'll be duly grateful. See those
roses? Aren't they perfectly _dear_?"

It was so she chattered to those in the car with her all the way down to
the farm; and to see her going about among the guests and smiling and
posing to Michael when he happened to come near her, you would have thought
the match all of her making, and never have dreamed that it was only
because Michael's great forgiving heart had said: "Oh, forgive her and ask
her down. She is your mother's sister, you know, and you'll be glad you did
it afterwards. Never mind what she says. She can't help her notions. It was
her unfortunate upbringing, and she's as much to be pitied as I for my slum
education."

The pretty ceremony under the roses was over, and Starr had gone upstairs
to change the simple embroidered muslin for her travelling frock and motor
coat, for Michael and Starr were to take their honeymoon in their own new
car, a wedding gift from their father; and Endicott himself was to go to
his sister's by rail in the company of Will French, to stay during their
absence and be picked up by them on their homeward route.

Michael stood among his friends on the piazza giving last directions to
French who was to look after his law business also during his absence,
and who was eager to tell his friend how he and Hester had planned to be
married early in the fall and were to go to housekeeping in a five-roomed
flat that might have been a palace from the light in Will's eyes. Hester
was talking with Lizzie who had edged near the porch with her pretty
boy hiding shyly behind her, but the smile that Hester threw in Will's
direction now and then showed she well knew what was his subject of
conversation.

All the little colony had been gathered in the orchard in front of the rose
arch, to watch the wedding ceremony, and many of them still lingered there
to see the departure of the beloved bride and groom. Aunt Frances levelled
her lorgnette at them with all the airs of her departed sister, and
exclaimed "Aren't they picturesque? It's quite like the old country to have
so many servants and retainers gathered about adoring, now isn't it!" And a
young and eager debutante who was a distant cousin of Starr's. replied:

"I think it's perfectly peachy, Aunt Frances."

Suddenly in one of Will's eager perorations about the flat and its outlook
Michael noticed the shy, eager look of Sam's face as he waited hungrily for
notice.

"Excuse me, Will, I must see Sam a minute," said Michael hurrying over to
where the man stood.

"Say, Mikky," said Sam shyly, grasping Michael's hand convulsively, "me an'
Lizzie sort o' made it up as how we'd get tied, an' we thought we'd do it
now whiles everybody's at it, an' things is all fixed Lizzie she wanted me
to ask you ef you 'sposed _she'd_ mind, ef we'uns stood thur on the verandy
whur yous did, arter you was gone?" Sam looked at him anxiously as though
he had asked the half of Michael's kingdom and scarcely expected to get it,
but Michael's face was filled with glory as he clasped the small hard hand
of his comrade and gripped it with his mighty hearty grip.

"Mind! She'd be delighted, Sam! Go ahead. I'm sorry we didn't know it
before. We'd have liked to give you a present, but I'll send you the deed
of the little white cottage at the head of the lane, the one that looks
toward the river and the sunset, you know. Will you two like to live
there?"

Sam's eyes grew large with happiness, and a mist came over them as he held
tight to the great hand that enclosed his own, and choked and tried to
answer.

Amid a shower of roses and cheers Michael and Starr rode into the sweet
June afternoon, alone together at last. And when they had gone beyond the
little town, and were on a stretch of quiet woodsy road, Michael stopped
the car and took his bride into his arms.

"Dear," he said as he tenderly kissed her, "I've just been realizing what
might have happened if Buck hadn't seen you in time and taken the shot
himself that I might have you, my life, my dear, precious wife!"

Then Starr looked up with her eyes all dewy with tears and said, "Michael,
we must try to save a lot of others for his sake." And Michael smiled and
pressed his lips to hers again, with deep, sweet understanding.

Then, when they were riding along again Michael told her of what Sam had
asked, and how another wedding was to follow theirs.

"Oh, Michael!" said Starr, all eagerness at once, "Why didn't you tell me
sooner! I would have liked to stay and see them married. Couldn't we turn
around now and get there in time if you put on high speed?"

"We'll try," said Michael reversing the car; and in an instant more it was
shooting back to Old Orchard, arriving on the scene just as Sam and Lizzie
were shyly taking their place, hand in hand, under the roses, in as near
imitation of Michael and Starr as their unaccustomedness could compass.

It was Jim who discovered the car coming up the orchard lane.

"For de lub o' Mike!" he exclaimed aloud. "Ef here don't come Mikky
hisse'f, and _her_! Hold up dar, Mister preacher. Don't tie de knot till
dey gits here!"

And a cheer arose loud and long and echoed through the trees and over the
river to the sea. Three cheers for the love of Michael!

Sam and Lizzie bloomed forth with smiles, and the ceremony went forward
with, alacrity now that the real audience was present.

An hour later, having done their part to make the wedding festivities as
joyous as their own had been, Michael and Starr started out again into the
waning day, a light on their faces and joy in their hearts.

Starr, her heart very full, laid her hand upon Michael's and said with
shining eyes:

"Michael, do you know, I found a name for you. Listen: 'And at that time
shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of
thy people: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that
shall be found written in the book.' Michael, you are _my prince_!"

And Michael as he stooped and kissed her, murmured, "My Starr."





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