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Title: Lo, Michael!
Author: Hill, Grace Livingston
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!" ***

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Lo, Michael!



by Grace Livingston Hill



Contents


 Chapter I
 Chapter II
 Chapter III
 Chapter IV
 Chapter V
 Chapter VI
 Chapter VII
 Chapter VIII
 Chapter IX
 Chapter X
 Chapter XI
 Chapter XII
 Chapter XIII
 Chapter XIV
 Chapter XV
 Chapter XVI
 Chapter XVII
 Chapter XVIII
 Chapter XIX
 Chapter XX
 Chapter XXI
 Chapter XXII
 Chapter XXIII
 Chapter XXIV
 Chapter XXV
 Chapter XXVI
 Chapter XXVII
 Chapter XXVIII
 Chapter XXIX



"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 tonight 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 tonight, 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 tomorrow 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 his 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 his 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 today 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
tonight—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 tonight 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 car.

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 today
lay in getting back 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.

Suitcase 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 off 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 cut 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 his 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 back 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 tonight? 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 tonight? 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 tomorrow 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 tomorrow. 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 back 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 tonight 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 tonight. 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. Run 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 tonight, 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 tomorrow," 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 tomorrow 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 tomorrow 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 tonight 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, Yours, 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
tonight 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 tomorrow 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,

    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 today 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 tomorrow 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 tonight!" Michael put his arm
affectionately around Sam's shoulders, "You never would come before,
but you must come tonight."

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 tonight, 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 tonight 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 tonight, 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 tomorrer 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 tonight 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
tonight '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 tonight 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 tonight,
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 tonight 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
tonight."

"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 tonight 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 tonight. 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 tonight as I promised? Tell her I'll likely be all
right tomorrow 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 tonight 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 tonight 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 today. 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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