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Title: Walled In - A True Story of Randall's Island
Author: Stoddard, William O.
Language: English
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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 "Walled In - A True Story of Randall's Island" ***

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Walled In


[Illustration: THE WALLED IN REGIMENT.]



  Walled In

  A True Story of Randall’s Island

  BY

  William O. Stoddard

  AUTHOR OF

  “Dab Kinzer,” “Crowded out of Crowfield,”
  “Saltillo Boys,” etc., etc.

  _Illustrated_

  [Illustration]

  New York      Chicago      Toronto

  Fleming H. Revell Company

  M DCCC XCIX



Copyright, 1897,

BY

FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY



CONTENTS


 CHAP.                            PAGE

     I. THE HIGH STONE WALL          9

    II. SUPPER TIME                 20

   III. EVENING VISITORS            31

    IV. BEHIND BOLTS AND BARS       42

     V. JIM’S PLOT FOR LIBERTY      51

    VI. PLANS FOR ACTION            61

   VII. ONE PLAN THAT FAILED        70

  VIII. NEW IDEAS THAT CAME         80

    IX. GETTING OVER THE WALL       91

     X. A NEW HOME OF REFUGE       102

    XI. JIM’S HIDING PLACE         114

   XII. THE STOLEN MONEY           124



ILLUSTRATIONS.


  THE WALLED IN REGIMENT.                     _Frontispiece_

  THE SILENT PRINTING OFFICE.                 _Facing p._ 48

  THEY ALL STOOD STILL WHILE THE DRUM BEAT.       “   “   82



Walled In



I

THE HIGH STONE WALLS


When the world was made, a number of islands were loosely scattered
around at the mouth of the Hudson River. To this day, the old river
works steadily on, trying to change the saltness of the Atlantic by
pouring in fresh water, and trying to widen its own mouth by washing
away these islands, but the ocean is as salt as it was a thousand years
ago and the islands are of about the same size that they ever were,
so far as anybody can see. When they were put there, however, and for
nobody knows how long afterward, there was not a boy or girl to have
been found upon either of them, while nowadays there are swarms and
swarms, from every nation this side of Asia, and they are of all sorts
and sizes.

Some of the ways and doings of those boys and girls cannot be rightly
told without first asking those who are to hear the story to take a
look at a map of New York City and of the land and water around it. The
map shows everything pretty clearly excepting the people and the houses
they live in.

One of the boys belonging to this story might have required a sharp
search to find him, on a particular morning, early in the spring. Not
that he seemed to be hiding, or that he was alone. On the contrary, he
stood nearly in the middle of a long line of boys. There were over four
hundred of them, dressed all alike, in jackets and trousers of dark,
thick gray cloth. Their caps and shoes were of the same pattern, all
along the line.

Stationed at intervals, here and there, were boys no larger than the
rest, in uniforms of dark, but bright blue cloth, with red stripes
on their arms, and these were officers and this was a battalion, and
it was marching briskly forward to the spirited music of half a dozen
drums and several shrill fifes.

It was a kind of charge, across the level, gravelly parade-ground, and
the boys were marching well, but right before them stood a high and
frowning stone wall and it was of no use to charge against it. It could
neither be broken through nor climbed and this one boy, in the middle
of the line, was staring at it as if he hated it, while he marched. His
feet kept time with the music and perfect pace with the feet of the
other boys, but there was an angry look in his black eyes and a hot
flush on his face, as if the wall had spoken to him, saying something
to rouse his temper and make him answer back. What he did say, was, in
a whisper that the next boy to him heard:

“I will!--See if I don’t!”

“What?” whispered the other boy.

“I’ll go over it, some day.”

“I’ll go with you, then. I can climb anything you can----”

“_Halt!_”

The clear-voiced command was at that instant heard, all along the line,
and every boy stood still in his tracks.

They were a pretty well drilled battalion.

“About,--_face_!”

In an instant the long, double lines stood, with their backs to the
wall and facing the parade-ground.

Away out in the middle of it stood the commander, the drill-master of
that very remarkable battalion. He was a handsome, pleasant eyed man,
of about twenty-five, dressed in a trim blue uniform, very like that of
a United States Army officer. He was really a naval officer, detailed
there by the Government to be practically the colonel of a regiment
of pretty wild boys. He was there to teach them discipline, order,
obedience, only a shade or so more strictly than if they had been
cadets at West Point, or the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Other commands had been given and obeyed, and the entire force was now
marching around the broad enclosure by companies, six of them, and each
company was composed of boys of nearly the same height.

The first company consisted of boys, the oldest of whom may have been
eighteen, and the rear company was made up of little fellows as young
as twelve, or even younger.

Very nearly all of them, white or colored, moved as if they liked the
idea of being young soldiers, but they had not been recruited like
other soldiers. Some of them were there because they had no other
home to go to nor any other school to be taught in. Many, however,
were there for other reasons. For instance, that tall young fellow in
command of the foremost company. The captain, in bright, blue uniform
who handled his men so well. He is here for highway robbery and it will
be a long time before they let him out, although he is one of the
best behaved boys in the House of Refuge. He is not here altogether as
a punishment, however, nor are any of his companions, no matter what
their fault was. This is not a place of judgment, but of help and hope,
and, not long ago, a well-known literary man, after inspecting the
whole institution, said to the Superintendent:

“Sir, this is one of the footprints of Christ on earth. It is an
effort, in His name, to seek and to save that which was lost.”

“Thank God!” replied the officer. “About eighty-five out of every
hundred do well and become good citizens. We keep track of them, long
after they leave us.”

Nevertheless, the House of Refuge has to be a kind of prison. It is on
Randall’s Island, separated from the city of New York, on Manhattan
Island, by a swiftly running branch of the East River, which is not a
river at all, but an arm of the sea, and its rapid current is made by
the changing tides.

If, in one view, this is a prison, in another it is a great boarding
school, with very remarkable appliances for the education and
discipline of its pupils.

The entire enclosure, of which the parade-ground is a part, contains
several acres. The stone wall, twenty feet high, in front of which the
battalion halted, guards all of one of the sides of the enclosure and
parts of two other sides.

The remaining lengths of those two are protected just as well by high
buildings but on the southern side a tall chimney sticks up from a
range of buildings that are not so high. They contain a steam engine,
machinery and several kinds of workshops.

The drill was long and must have been tiresome, particularly to the boy
who carried and pounded the big, bass drum and to the other boy who
carried the flag. It all but blew him over, more than once, for there
were sharp gusts of March wind, now and then. He looked relieved, very
much so, when the battalion at last halted on the side nearest the
green lawn and the buildings, and was ordered to “break ranks.”

That command dispersed the young soldiers and sent them off to fun of
their own making, just as the order to assemble for drill had found
them, scattered here and there. It had not been a regular “school day”
and none of them had been in the vast schoolroom in the main building,
busy with books. At the moment when the military instructor’s whistle
had sounded, a brisk game of base ball had been going on in the ball
ground, next to the parade-ground. On that itself, a number of knots of
boys had been skylarking. Most of them had been indoors, however, and
of these, some had been in the conservatory, learning to be gardeners;
others in the printing shop; in the tailor-shop; in the shoe-shop; in
the stocking factory; in the carpenter shop; in the rope and matting
shop; and so on. It was not the season for farm work and none had been
away outside, on the island farm learning to be farmers as they soon
were to be, later in the spring. Moreover, the model ship, in front of
the main building, toward the East River, had a deserted look, but it
was waiting for the boys to come, crew after crew, and play sailors
under the nautical instructor. In that way many of them were to get
themselves ready to go to sea, really some day.

Jim, the boy who had hated the wall, had been in the printing shop, and
he had walked out of it with a look on his face as if he did not care
much for drill or for printing or for anything else. He was a tall,
wiry looking boy, of not much over fourteen, and he might have seemed
even good looking if he had not been so downcast. That was hardly the
right word for it, either, for right along with what some people might
have mistaken for sullenness was another look that was full of the
most determined pluck. It had stuck to his face during drill-time and
had grown stronger when he stared at the wall. It was there now, as
he walked along with the other boys, toward the entrance of the shop
buildings.

“I don’t belong here!” came out in another whisper, that nobody heard.
“I never did it! I never did it! I’ve been here long enough! I won’t
stay any longer. I’m going to climb that wall, somehow. I’m going to be
free and go where I choose!”

That was it. He was struggling with a sense of injustice, in some way
done him, and it was stirred up to unusual bitterness by a longing for
freedom. It was as natural as breathing to hate to be shut in and to
hate the wall and to study how it could be climbed over, and to dream
of all the wonderful things beyond it.

“Jim!” said a boy of his own size who was walking with him. “You can’t
do it!--You can’t even get a chance to try.--Then, if you did get out,
there’s the East River to cross and we never could swim it. What’s
more, if we got to New York, we’d be known by our clothes and the cops
would catch us and send us back. It’s no use!”

“I will, though,” said Jim. “You see if I don’t. I don’t belong here!”

And then he added, in his hot and angry thoughts, but not aloud:

“I’ve been here a whole year and I ought not to have been sent here. I
didn’t do it!--I never stole a cent of that money,--I don’t care what
they say.--When I get out, though, I won’t go back to uncle John’s
house. He’s as hard as flint. Aunt Betty isn’t, though. I’d like to see
her. She tried to keep me from being sent here.”



II

SUPPER TIME


No boy has ears keen enough to hear a woman who is speaking fifty miles
away from him. Nevertheless, Jim might have been glad to hear what a
woman was saying, in a farmhouse away up the Hudson, at the very moment
when the battalion he was in was halted in front of the wall. She was a
kindly faced, middle aged woman, and she was speaking with more energy
than seemed naturally to belong to her, for she did not look energetic.

“John Bronson,” she said, “I suppose you did what you thought was
right, but I never did believe Jim took that money!”

“Well!” sharply responded a large, heavy looking man, who sat near
her. “You are all wrong! Nobody else could possibly have taken it. The
court said so. Jim was the only one who could have got at it, anyhow.
Besides, he was seen a spending money in the village, too. He took it.”

“I’ll never believe it!” she said. “I don’t care how they made it look.
He never confessed it, either.”

“Jim always was obstinate, and you know it,” said her husband, sternly.
“He never would give in. The House of Refuge men’ll bring him to his
senses, though. He’ll learn something, there.”

“He has been there a whole year,” she said, sadly enough. “O, how I
want to see him, sometimes!”

Something else cut off the talk about Jim, at that point. He did not
hear the remarks of Aunt Betty, or Uncle John, but it was just as
impossible for any boy or girl on Randall’s Island,--for there were
many girls there,--to have heard what people were saying, over in
the great city, so near at hand. Part of that city of New York is on
Manhattan Island, but a larger part, with not nearly so many people in
it, is on the mainland, above the arm of the sea known as Harlem River.
It begins just above the upper end of Randall’s Island.

Away up in that new part of the city, a girl of about Jim’s age, and a
boy who may have been a little older but was no taller, were standing
in front of another kind of stone wall and were talking about it.

This wall was about twelve feet high and was roughly made, with a
rugged face, very different from the smooth finish of the barrier
around the parade-ground. In fact it was nothing at all but the side
of a new street. An old road which once had run along there had been
contented to go down into a hollow and come up again on the higher
ground beyond. Now, however, that the city had spread out and taken
in all that land, it had been best to make a level. All high places
were cut down and across all low places the streets were carried on
“viaducts.” These left the ground on either side of such a street away
down below it, looking more of a hollow than ever.

One of these streets was a broad avenue, promising to be good looking
after it was finished, but very ugly now. It was so much wider than the
old road it was taking the place of that it cut off an old front yard
entirely, and the house there which had been a number of feet from its
old front gate was now almost exactly on a line with the stone wall at
the edge of the avenue. That was the reason why the girl looked hard at
the wall and at the house and then turned to the boy, exclaiming:

“Why, Rodney Nelson! Your folks are just walled in! How on earth are
you going to get out?”

It looked like it, for the side streets, crossing the avenue at the
ends of the square, were built up in the same way and on the fourth
side, to which their backs were turned, were the backs of a solid row
of buildings, fronting upon another avenue.

“You can’t get over that wall,” said Rodney. “Billy’s tried it,
everywhere, and he can climb anything that isn’t straight up and down.”

He seemed to be pretty cheerful about it, nevertheless, whoever Billy
might be.

“Tell you what,” she said, “you can come across and get out through our
house and the shop, till you can put up some stairs, or a ladder.”

“Guess we’ll have to,” replied Rodney, “but Billy’s got to stay at
home, now. They finished the last of that wall, this morning. Come on
upstairs and see how mother’s going to get in, this evening.”

In half a minute more they were up in the room over the parlor and she
at once remarked:

“O! I see! your mother’ll climb in at the second story windows.”

“She won’t have to climb,” said Rodney. “Look here.”

The Nelson house was old, but it was not large. That second story had
but four rooms, two of them of good size, two of them, at each end of
its entry, quite small. The large front room, however, had an ample bay
window that jutted out, now, almost over the edge of the wall. That was
not the window Rodney went to, but the one in the little room on the
left, and he had it open in a twinkling.

“There, Millie,” he said, “I can nail down some pieces of board and
mother can step right in. She won’t need any ladder. We can change
things around, too, and bring the parlor up here.”

“That’ll do,” said Millie, “but it isn’t as good as a door. I wouldn’t
want to live in a house that’s upside down, anyway. That avenue won’t
be anything but mud, till they pave it and put in the sidewalks. I’m
glad we can’t be walled in or lose our doors and windows.”

“It changes everything for us,” said Rodney. “I don’t quite know what
to make of it, yet, but I’ve loads of work to do, all day, to have
things right when mother comes home.”

“So have I!” exclaimed Millie, and away she went, downstairs, to go
home across lots, while he stepped out of the window and turned to
stare, in a puzzled way, at all of his house that stuck up above the
new avenue. It certainly was not the same house it had been, and all
the ground around it was walled in, but, after all, Rodney was the same
boy.

How about all those other boys, over on Randall’s Island? They too were
walled in, but were they not the same boys? Did the house they were in
change them?

At all events, like Rodney, they had “loads of work to do,” all day,
until supper time. Then indeed there was a curious kind of coming in to
supper, for this, too, was part of their schooling and their discipline.

All over the enclosure and in every workshop, could be heard the tap of
a drum. Everywhere, work stopped. There were minutes of preparation
and of “putting away things.” Then another drum-tap was heard, and from
all directions compact and orderly squads of young fellows began to
march toward the great dining-room, supper-room, of the House. Every
boy was “tallied,” on leaving his place of work, and he was counted
again as he went in to supper. Every sentry on duty; every boy in the
“office”; promoted there for good behavior; every inmate of the House
was at that hour reported and the Superintendent knew where he was and
what he was doing.

All but a very few of the boys were either eating supper or taking
their regular turns as waiters, under the supervision of a blue-coated
gentleman who was all the while explaining the supper management to
half a dozen visitors.

The supper was plentiful, of good quality, well cooked, and there
was absolute fairness in the way it was served. There were many
tables, each large enough for a dozen or so of boys to sit around
it comfortably, and each table had its own boy watcher, a kind of
corporal, promoted to that post, temporarily, for good conduct. There
could be no favoritism shown by the waiters, for among them, to and
fro, walked the regular officers of the Institution. Anyhow, the supper
of those hundreds of young fellows, so many of whom would otherwise
have gone without any supper, was worth anybody’s while to go and see,
for it suggested something that was said, once: “I was hungry and ye
fed Me.”

Hundreds of boys, and not a word from one of them, even to his next
neighbor, for the rule of the place was that there should be no talking
at the table. Therefore, at all of the many tables arranged around the
great dining hall, the most noticeable person present was Silence.

So it was, although not so perfectly, at Uncle John Bronson’s house,
fifty miles away, up the Hudson, but the silence was broken there, at
last.

“John!” exclaimed Aunt Betty. “I can’t help thinking of Jim. I wish I
knew what he is doing and how they treat him.”

“I guess they treat him well enough,” he responded, grimly. “But it
doesn’t do any good for us to talk about him.”

“Well, I s’pose it doesn’t,” she said. “But it seems as if he had lost
everything. When a boy is sent to such a place, you take away from him
all he has----”

“No, you don’t,” he exclaimed. “They say it’s a good place. Besides,
he did it, himself, when he stole the money. He’d always been kind o’
reckless and self-willed. I guess he’ll learn something.”

“When a boy loses his good name, and his self-respect, and his
liberty,” slowly replied Aunt Betty, looking sorrowfully through the
window near her, “I think he loses about everything there is.”

Uncle John may have acted from what he thought was a sense of duty, in
something he had done concerning Jim, but he looked very uncomfortable,
just now. He sat there, with a face that grew redder and redder, all
the while Aunt Betty was gone into the kitchen, after the teapot and
the other things that belonged to the farmhouse supper-table. It might
have been better for them both if Jim had been there, instead of at one
of the tables in the House of Refuge.



III

EVENING VISITORS


Rodney had said enough to Millie to make it plain that his mother was
accustomed to go out to work and that she earned barely enough for them
to live on. He may have been thinking of that, now, as he stared at his
house.

“It’s a big avenue,” he said, “but mother’s got to sell one of our
lots to pay off the taxes and assessments for having it done. I don’t
care if the city does pay for What land they take. It’s hard on
mother.--She’ll be awful tired, but supper’s ready. Good one, too.
Don’t I Wish I could find something to do, now I’m out of school? I’ve
tried in dozens of places. Guess there are too many boys.--Hullo!”

“Me b’ye,” came at that moment in a deep, good-humored voice, behind
him, “what ye want is a dure, where the small windy is. I can put wan
in, chape.”

“That’s what we want, Pat,” said Rodney.

“It’s a dure was in a building we tore down,” said Pat, “and it’s a
good big wan. All it wants is puttin’ in, and a dure step to the walk,
wid a good rail, and ye’ll be as well aff as iver ye was, wid a foine
front on the aveny.”

“I’ll tell mother,” said Rodney, with a keen and hopeful survey of the
place where the door was to be.

“’Twon’t cost her much,” added Pat, “and the likes of her don’t want to
be climbin’ in and out o’ windies.”

Away he went and Rodney was still considering the matter when he was
again spoken to.

“O Rodney! This is dreadful! Seems to me as if they were taking away
everything.”

“Mother!” exclaimed Rodney. “We’ll have a door, there, instead of a
window----” and he rapidly explained Pat’s offer.

“Tell him to go ahead!” said Mrs. Nelson. “No matter what it is, so
long as it’s a door. But somebody’s neck’ll be broken, yet, tumbling
down that wall, into our garden.”

She said that as she was getting in at the window, after Rodney had
taken away a bundle she had carried.

“I’ll take it downstairs,” he said, as he followed her. “The parlor’s
got to come up here, but we can leave the dining-room where it is, and
the kitchen. Billy’s been walking around, all day, at the foot of the
wall, trying to find a place to climb out, but there isn’t any.”

At that very moment, a bearded, contented looking face, appeared at the
bay window.

“Ba-a-beh!” it remarked.

“Mother!” exclaimed Rodney. “How on earth did that fellow get out? Even
a goat can’t climb up and down a wall.”

“I don’t care how he got out,” she replied, wearily. “I must have my
supper.--O, dear! What are we to do! I feel clean discouraged.”

Downstairs they went and both of them seemed to be carrying heavier
burdens than the bundle, whatever it was. Rodney had evidently been
both housekeeper and cook and a little table was set in the kitchen,
handy to the stove and the teapot, but Mrs. Nelson walked straight on
and out at the back door.

“How high those walls are!” she said. “Yes, I suppose the Kirbys would
let us get out through their place, but I’d rather have a door of my
own.”

“So would I,” said Rodney. “I’ll tell Pat to go ahead and put one in,
as soon as I can see him, to-morrow.”

“Ba-a-beh!” came, just then, in a tone of strong approval, from a
friend whose left horn was almost under Rodney’s elbow.

“I say, mother,” exclaimed Rodney, “how did he get down here again.
Guess there’s a weak spot in that wall, somewhere.”

That might be, but Mrs. Nelson was too tired to be interested in goats
and walls, and she went into the house. It was a great mystery to her
son, however, for he had inspected the entire enclosure, that day,
accompanied by Billy, and had decided that no fellow could get out
unless he used a ladder.

“He’s about the smartest goat there is,” remarked Rodney, “but I’d
better watch him and see how he does it.”

Supper time came and went, everywhere, and after that the evening
shadows began to settle down over the city. Then anybody looking in
that direction from a distance would have seen a kind of glow in the
sky above it, coming up from all the lights that were burning along
all the hundreds of streets. There was no moon to speak of but there
were lights, in front windows of dwellings and business places, and the
stars helped also, so that it seemed a pleasant kind of evening.

There was one street, on the eastern side of the city, which projected
nearly a hundred feet out into the East River in the form of a wooden
pier. Only one solitary street-lamp was burning on the pier and beyond
it all was a gloomy glimmer of rippling, rushing water. A swift tide
was rushing out and a brisk wind was blowing.

The one lamp was on the left side of the pier, at the head of a flight
of wooden steps, leading down to a float, and by the float was moored
a small but serviceable steam tugboat. In that light, all that could
be seen of her was a stumpy, sheetiron engine chimney; a lot of small
windows, lighted up inside; some steam from a puffing pipe; and the
rest of the boat had to be taken for granted. There were puffs and
coughs of steam because the boat was at that moment casting loose her
hawser and setting out upon a voyage.

She did not go directly across, but in a slanting, southerly course,
out of which she was quickly compelled to veer, yet more to starboard,
that is, to her right, by a vast blaze of glitter and puff and a
warning hoot of a steam whistle which came swiftly up from the
southward. The glittering ranges of windows and the two huge, black
pipes that towered above them, belonged to one of the largest “Sound
Steamers.” She was so large, indeed, that when the tug had passed her
and steered into her wake, the swell it was rocked in called out an
exclamation of:

“O!--Well!--I declare!” from one of two gentlemen who were sitting in
the little cabin.

The next words he uttered, as he once more squared himself in the seat
he had been so suddenly pitched out of, were:

“What a swell!--But what I was saying about Jim is this:--He isn’t so
bad a boy----”

“Not bad at all, I think,” said the other.

“But then I can’t get at him. I’ve tried again and again----”

“So have I. He’s a complete puzzle.”

“And he isn’t sullen, either, and he isn’t exactly rebellious, but you
can’t make any impression on him.”

“He says he was unjustly convicted and it works on him worse and worse,
all the time. We can’t help it, though----”

“Of course we can’t, but I’m afraid it’ll hurt him, all his life----”

“To be sure it will, but we must do our duty. Some of the boys are
turning out splendidly. I’ve been hearing good news from several of
mine.”

“So have I, but I don’t mean to give up Jim. There’s the making of a
man in that boy.”

“He is doing well in the school.”

“He is the best type-setter in the printing office.”

“I wish he was out. There are a dozen more that ought never to have
been sent there. I don’t mean that none of them did wrong, but it hurts
some boys, worse than others, to be shut up. They feel a sting----”

“Here we are----”

They had talked pretty steadily all the way, but the tug was now at
her wharf on Randall’s Island, and these were two of the managers of
the Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents. The boys were
“in prison and they visited them.” They were men of wealth, education,
unusual intelligence. There were others like them who came and worked
as they did, and it was curious how strong a hold the youngsters
seemed to have upon them. Of course the boys liked their friendly,
sympathizing visitors, but probably none of them ever knew, at least
while on the Island, what a study and worry they were to such men as
these, as well as to the exceedingly capable and faithful officers who
were all the while in charge of them. Many learned more after going out
into the world and finding that even then these friends of theirs did
not let go of them but followed them with help and hope and sympathy.

So this great school, with its high, stone walls and its rigid
discipline and its likeness to a prison, was after all a splendid token
of the love that goes out after even the very bad boys whom some people
are willing to give up and to throw away. The other name of that Love
is very sacred and beautiful.

Jim was not a bad boy, but he felt like one, that night. He felt bad,
all over, and angry, and rebellious, and almost hopeless, for he was
all the while thinking of the wall and of how high it was, and of all
the great world of life and liberty that lay beyond it.

So far as he could see, there were to be long years of House of
Refuge life, during which he was to know little and see nothing at
all of that wide, bright world, and the thought was very terrible.
He thought a great deal and imagined a great deal, but not among any
of his imaginings did there come any idea that he had an interest in
another boy, over in New York City,--a boy whose house and garden had
been walled in by new streets. Jim knew nothing of Rodney; nor of his
mother; nor of Billy the goat; nor of Millie Kirby. He could not have
guessed that they were ever to be of any importance to him, over on the
Island, listening and waiting for the rap of the drum that was shortly
to tell him and all the rest that it was bedtime.



IV

BEHIND BOLTS AND BARS


Bedtime at the House of Refuge was quite an affair. Wherever there
might be a squad of boys, in any part of the buildings or grounds, at
the tap of the drum, they were expected to “fall in,” like soldiers,
and march toward the dormitory. Each detachment was sure to have its
own officer, a boy promoted, for good behavior and trustworthiness, to
be corporal, sergeant, or lieutenant.

The dormitory itself was a remarkable sleeping place. It contained a
separate room for each boy, but the rooms were not arranged like those
of a hotel or a dwelling. There was one immense room, with plenty of
windows for daylight and plenty of burners for gaslight. All around the
sides of this room ran a broad, empty space, or passage-way, and inside
of this, up and down the middle, had been constructed two tiers, one
above another, of little bedrooms. Each tier was composed of two rows
of rooms, set back to back with their faces toward the outer windows.
The face or front of each room was made of slender, upright steel bars,
not much more than two inches apart, and each room had a door, made
in the same way, shutting with a strong, spring lock. Of course, each
room was small and the beds were only wide enough for one boy, but they
were very clean and comfortable. There was plenty of light when light
was needed; plenty of air, always; and then perfect silence to sleep
soundly in was secured by the rule which forbade talking or any kind of
skylarking in the dormitory.

Watchmen patrolling around the upper or lower tier of cells, or rooms,
could at any time see the entire inside of each, as they walked by. The
outer doors of the dormitory closed with strong and intricate locks,
of a peculiar pattern. Beyond these were other doors, with watchmen,
and beyond all was the open parade-ground inclosure and its high stone
wall. Beyond this was the chilling, rushing, impassable tide of the
deep and pitiless East River. No boy could hope to get out from one of
those sleeping cells and into the city,--into liberty and the world
until the appointed time should come for him.

The dormitory was as still as still could be, that night, when Jim lay
upon his bed and thought of it all, and he grew bitter at heart with
the seeming impossibility of even getting a chance to try Whether or
not he could climb the outer wall.

“I’m about the best climber on the training ship, when they send us
into the rigging,” he said to himself. “I could go up on a rope or
anything. If I could have some of the other fellows with me! Some
things I guess I couldn’t do alone. I don’t want any but plucky fellows
and good climbers. I don’t belong here. I never did it and I’ve been
here long enough. I’m going to get out, if I can.--There, he’s just
gone by.”

That meant the passage of a watchman, on his patrol, and Jim obeyed a
strong, angry impulse, to jump out of bed and stare after him through
the grated door of his cage.

“It’s just like what they put wild animals in, in a menagerie,” he
thought, fiercely, as his fingers griped the slim, but strong steel
rods.

O!--How he wanted to break out! He drew back, a moment, and then he
threw himself, with all his might, against the grating.

He did not care if it hurt him. He was so sore inside that it almost
felt good to be pained a little, outside.

Click!

“What was that?--What?--The door is open?--What have I done?--I
couldn’t have broken it!”

That was so. Every rod in the grating near him and in the door, was
perfectly sound and whole, and yet,--he could hardly believe his
eyes,--the door of his cage was now standing ajar, as if inviting him
to push it open wider and walk out into the roomy corridor. He did so,
but it was very much as if it were all a dream.

Jim’s first feeling was a strong sense of exhilaration, for one of the
barriers he had been thinking of had unexpectedly given way. It was
such a strong barrier, too, with its steel gratings and its lock. He
turned and stared at his open door and empty bedroom and he came near
exclaiming aloud:

“How did it happen?”

He knew the door had been shut as carefully as usual by the officer who
had been in charge of the boys when they marched into the dormitory.

He examined the look.

It was a very pretty, very perfect lock, but he saw that its strong,
brass tongue, that played back and forth on its spring when a key
worked it, could also be pushed back by his finger, pressing on its
end. Then he almost shut the door and could see that the brass tongue
was short and would only go under its catch, on the upright at the
side, about half an inch or so.

“That’s it!” exclaimed Jim. “I can see, now. When I pushed so hard, I
bent the grating, for those light steel bars are springy. They sprung
out so far that they pulled out that tongue beyond the catch and so the
door slipped open. I can do it again,--Why,--I can get out into the
corridor as often as I want to, but I mustn’t let anybody know how it’s
done. Not even the other fellows.--I’ll look at their locks.”

It seemed to him as if his very breathing could be heard by somebody,
and so he hardly breathed as he stepped softly along to the next door.
The gas-jet near him had been turned low and the light was dim, but he
could see that the boy in that cell was sleeping soundly, after his
hard work in one of the shops and his long drill-marching.

“He isn’t one of the fellows I want,” thought Jim. “He can’t climb
worth a cent and he hollers when he’s hurt.”

That would never do, for Jim was beginning to feel like a captain,
hunting up recruits for some difficult and almost desperate enterprise.
Nevertheless, he tried the lock of that boy’s door.

“Yes,” he said to himself, “they are all alike. I can get my finger in
over the end of the catch-bolt and push it back.--There, I’ve opened
that door, but I’ll shut it again. Guess I’ll go back to bed, too,
before anybody comes to catch me. I know I can open the doors, but what
good’ll that do? I’ve got to think about it.”

[Illustration: THE SILENT PRINTING OFFICE.]

Silently, with his heart beating hard and his breath coming short, Jim
slipped back to his own door, and through it, and pulled it shut behind
him. He made no noise in doing so,--only a slight click as the bolt
sprang into the hasp,--but he did not feel safe until the bedclothes
were over him and he could seem to be asleep. Not many minutes passed
before he heard the feet of another watchman, or it may have been the
same man,--going along the corridor.

“I’d have been caught,” he thought. “I must look out for that.”

During all those minutes, and long afterward, he lay and thought of
locks, locks, locks, on all the doors he knew of in that House of
Refuge. He made up his mind to examine them, every chance he could get,
and he thought of all sorts of impossible ways of opening them.

It was more and more like a dream until his eyes closed and he was
asleep, and he slipped at once into a real dream of having passed all
the locked doors, only to find himself standing in front of a stone
wall twenty feet high.

Away over in one of the northern wards of the city of New York, Rod
Nelson, as sound asleep as Jim, was also dreaming and he too had a
stone wall to dream of. He was not trying to climb it himself, however,
for he was only looking on while his bearded friend Billy walked up the
side of that wall into the avenue, remarking, triumphantly:

“Ba-a-a-beh!”

When morning came, the usual round of activities began, everywhere.
The boys in the House of Refuge dormitory dressed themselves in their
rooms. Then, as the Superintendent’s assistant came and let them out,
they all marched away to breakfast. Jim went with the rest, but he gave
a keen, inquiring side-glance, at the lock of every door they passed.
He thought he saw something worth remembering in the lock of the great,
outer door of the dormitory itself.

“He only turned his key in it once,” he said to himself. “I’ve seen
them turn it away around three times. What does that mean? I don’t know
much about locks. They say these are the best and safest kind, though.”



V

JIM’S PLOT FOR LIBERTY


Women, like Mrs. Nelson, who go out to work for other people, have to
get up early, but her first thought, and Rodney’s, was more about the
door she was to go out by than even about breakfast.

“I’m going right off to find Pat,” said Rodney, as he helped her
through the upper side-window.

Nevertheless, before setting out on that errand, he went down into the
garden and took a long look at all the land which had been walled in.
It might be as good as ever, for a garden, but it had a queer, shut-up
appearance.

“Where’s Billy?” he inquired, aloud. “Hullo. There he is, out on the
avenue. How did the old rascal foot it up that wall?”

There was Billy, indeed, with his toes on the very edge, and with a
wisp of something green sticking out at one side of his mouth.

“Greens!” exclaimed Rodney. “He can steal from a grocer’s wagon better
than any other goat I know of.--We used to have a garden. Tell you
what, we can make garden of our lots and all the others, too, if we can
only have it ploughed. But how would a horse and plough ever get down
here?”

It was a pretty deep question and he gave it up, for that time. In a
minute more he was upstairs and out through the window, on his errand
to Pat. So far as he knew, he left the house without a living soul in
it, but before he reached the next corner, the door of the little back
bedroom, at the head of the stairs, went to with a sharp slam. It must
have been a strong draft of air that did it, or else the door shut
itself.

Pat was found and a bargain was made but Rodney did not see the new
door. That is, the old door that was to take the place of the window.
In fact, he felt like being satisfied with almost anything.

When he reached home again, he closed the window carefully behind him
and went down and out for another look around at his vacant land.
Hardly was he beyond the back doorstep, however, before he was hailed
with:

“Rodney!--Do look up there!--Doesn’t he look funny! How did he ever
manage to get there?”

“Why!--Millie!” exclaimed Rodney.

“Ba-a-a-beh!” came almost piteously down from the upper back window, on
the left. It Was Rodney’s own room and the window had been left open,
to air it, and there was Billy.

“I don’t care so much how he got in,” said Rodney, “but there he is and
we must get him out, somehow.”

At that very hour, the breakfast room at the House of Refuge was full
of hungry boys but it was wonderfully quiet. There was a slight
rattle of crockery, and now and then a low-spoken word from one of the
officers, but the eyes of those watchful guardians were everywhere and
the rules of order were thoroughly enforced. Beyond a doubt, this also
was a valuable part of the schooling the boys were getting but it was a
kind of restraint and was in danger of being mistaken for oppression.
It is one of the traditions of the House that all of the half-way
rebellions among the young fellows have broken out in the dining-room
or in the schoolroom, where the discipline is so complete, and never in
any manner out of doors, no matter how severe might be the drill of the
parade-ground.

Jim, at his own table, was willing enough to be silent, then and there,
but he was ready to burst with his great secret and was anxious to find
somebody, the right boy, to tell it to. He thought them over, one by
one, for he knew them all, but it was not easy to decide among them.
He was compelled, at all events, to wait for a proper opportunity,
and that could not come for hours, yet. His next experiences must
necessarily come to him at his type-setting work, at his “case” in the
printing room.

This was a light and pleasant place to be in. It had altogether an air
of regular business and not at all of restriction, unless it might
be in the clock work precision of whatever was going on and in the
fact that there was no talking, no communication, among the many busy
“typos.”

Jim had a slip of printed “copy” put before him, on his case, and the
moment he saw it he remarked to himself:

“Star Spangled Banner?--If I haven’t had to set that up four times! I
know where that comes from. The Superintendent is always telling us we
are Americans. Going to be citizens. So is the Military Instructor.
They’re both naval officers--I’m an American, but loads of the other
fellows are not. It’s my flag--I’ll set it up----”

There was something in it. A great deal more teaching than he or any of
the others knew was in the flag, the starry flag of freedom, that was
carried at the head of the parade-ground battalion; that was displayed
in the larger rooms of the House; that hung over the principal’s
platform in the schoolroom; and that so finely ornamented the handsome
lecture room in the main building. It had something to do with the
other teachings and with some of the traditions that passed around
among the boys. How some had gone out from that place to be sailors in
the navy; others to be soldiers and even officers in the army; and how
that and everything else, to them and all other boys, depended on good
behavior.

Jim was thinking about it, now, but his uppermost thought was that
sailors went all over the world, into far off seas, into foreign lands,
in freedom; and that soldiers, especially cavalry soldiers, rode
across the plains and among the mountains, seeing and doing wonderful
things, in freedom. O, how he longed for something wild and dashing and
adventurous,--something like the very dash for freedom that he was even
now looking forward to and trying to plan!

He naturally supposed that his undertaking, if he should make it, would
have to do with the various kinds of persons near him, and would as
soon have thought of China, as of a boy and girl who were looking at a
goat, in a second story window, over in the city. He was not in their
thoughts either, and Millie’s next remark was:

“Mother says you can go through our house as much as you want to. She
won’t look the back door----”

“I’ll come right over and see her, soon as I’ve got Billy down,” said
Rodney. “I want to find out how he got into my room.”

“I’ll wait,” said Millie. “Mother said she wanted to see you--” but he
had already darted into the house.

In a moment more the door of his bedroom was opened and out sprang
Billy. Without stopping to explain how he got in, or in what freak of
goat-mind he butted that door shut, he showed Rod that he could at
least go downstairs. Rod followed him out and Millie shouted:

“There he goes!--Now you come right along with me!”

She was a short, thin, dark haired girl, with eyes and a face that
seemed all one flush and sparkle of go and energy. Her very voice had
in it something peremptory and Rod stepped off as obediently as if
she had been a school-teacher. He knew the way through the gap in the
fence and through the Kirby back-yard, and he knew that they had a hall
running through the house to the street door. That opened on an old
avenue that was all built up and almost all the lower stories of the
houses were used for business purposes. Mr. Kirby was a printer and his
ground floor was his shop, with a steam engine in the rear room. There
were two stories above for the family to live in and the hall went all
the way through.

“Thank you ever so much,” said Rodney to Mrs. Kirby, when she came
downstairs, “but we’re going to have a door put in and then we won’t
have to climb through the window----”

“You can use our hall till then,” said Mrs. Kirby, with a voice and
manner precisely like Millie’s, “but I can’t have you bringing any
other boys to tramp through. Mr. Kirby’s workmen are bad enough----”

Something else called her and she was gone before Rodney could think
what to say to her, but she had used one word that fitted closely to
all he had been thinking about while he was looking at the walls and
the land and the house.

“Workmen?” he said. “Tell you what, Millie, don’t I wish I had a
trade! I’m afraid I ain’t going to get one. They say there isn’t any
chance for boys, nowadays----”

“I can set type,” said Millie, “when there’s any to set, but father
says it’s awful dull times. I want to do something else.”

“I’m going to!” exclaimed Rodney. “You see if I don’t. I won’t let my
mother work to support me. I’m going to get out, somehow.”

So he too had a feeling that he was somehow penned in. Circumstances
were against him and he must climb over them or get around them. Billy
the goat had somehow or other circumvented the walls created by the
streets and avenues. What a goat could do, a boy could do, but then
Rodney did not as yet quite understand how Billy had managed to perform
his feat.



VI

PLANS FOR ACTION


Different people have different kinds of difficulties to overcome.
Rodney Nelson, over in the city, felt as if he were shut up from doing
anything better than the work of changing his mother’s furniture from
one room to another. He had no trade; nothing that he could earn money
with; no prospects for the future. Jim, setting up type at his case
in the printing office of the House of Refuge, felt almost as if he
had no hope whatever. He had a new experience before him, however, and
it began to come soon after he got out upon the parade-ground. It was
not yet time for the afternoon drill and all the boys were at liberty
to do as they pleased. Some of them were playing ball; some were at
leap-frog; some were simply skylarking, as they called it, and that
meant all sorts of rough fun. It was Jim’s time for selecting the boys
to whom he could tell his secret and get them to join him in whatever
he was going to do. He was just going to speak to one boy, when
something came into his mind that made him stop.

“No, I guess I won’t tell him,” he said to himself. “I don’t belong
here, but he does. I couldn’t look the Superintendent in the face if I
should let that fellow out. It’s the best place for him. He didn’t know
a thing when he came here. Now he can read and write and make shoes----”

Just then one of the officers passed him, with a nod and a smile, and
Jim could smile back, as he touched his hat, for he had less of a sort
of guilty feeling which had troubled him. He turned and looked at the
great crowd of boys, scattered over the enclosure, and his thought took
a wider form.

“Let ’em all out!” he exclaimed. “Why, it would be the worst thing in
the world for most of ’em.”

That did not change his idea concerning himself and he may not have
been a good judge of what was best for others, for, before the
afternoon was over there were four boys besides himself who knew about
the dormitory door-locks.

“If yours won’t spring open, mine will,” he said. “Just you wait,
anyhow, till I come and let you out.”

They were excited enough about it, but each boy of them seemed to feel,
as strongly as he did, that it would be doing the hundreds of others
hurt instead of good to let them out of that place.

The Superintendent and the Managers might even have been gratified if
they could have known how clear was the opinion expressed that they
were “doing first-rate” with the youngsters under their charge.

That was not the only matter that Jim had to study, during that very
long day. He believed that he knew every stone in the parade-ground
wall, already, and now he found himself studying the buildings also,
and wondering how he should ever manage to lead a squad of escaping
boys right through them. Getting out of a bedroom was only a kind of
beginning, after all, and Jim’s heart sank within him, for he thought:

“They are stronger than the wall is, and beyond them is the East
River.--I don’t care! It’s just the awfullest kind of thing to do, but
I’m going to do it, somehow!”

No point or place in all the barriers of the House of Refuge seemed to
promise a door through which he could get out.

That very evening, over in their house, Rodney and his mother were also
discussing the door question, but they were also wondering over the
fact that Billy the goat had evidently found one, for that remarkable
animal was again missing.

“He can stay outside, too,” said Rodney, “if we’re going to have a
garden.”

“He’d eat up everything we planted,” remarked Mrs. Nelson. “We’ve
three whole lots of our own, and we can garden all the rest till they
build on them. That won’t be for ever so long.”

“It’s about all I can do,” said Rodney, and he seemed to have a
hopeless feeling about it and he went to bed thinking:

“If there’s anything that just tires a fellow out, it’s having nothing
to do.”

Jim, on the other hand, marched into the dormitory, with the rest,
feeling tired all over because he had something to do and did not yet
know how to do it. He lay awake a long time, listening to the faint
sounds which now and then disturbed the silence. No kind of rules could
prevent some stirring until all the boys were asleep, but one sound
that Jim waited for was that of the feet of the watchman, patrolling
the corridor. He heard it come and go, more than once, before he
cautiously arose and went to his steel-barred gate.

He had been studying that matter and he did not bang himself against
it, this time. He folded his coverlet and poked it in among the middle
bars, so that it covered three of them. Then he put on his stockings
and his shoes, pulled his bedstead nearer, lay down on his back and
drove both feet against the padded spot, with all his might. The
coverlet had prevented any noise, but he had to try again and again.

“There!” he whispered, at last. “I’ve done it! The door’s open!”

Off came his shoes and in an instant he was out in the corridor, but
there he paused, for a strange, guilty feeling came over him. He almost
felt as if he were stealing something. He did not quite understand it,
but he mustered all his resolution and went on. In less than three
minutes he had his four friends, in their stocking feet, out of their
cells.

“Come on!” he whispered. “All we can do, to-night, is to find out how.”

They only dared to nod at him, in reply, as they followed him to the
large door, leading out of the dormitory. It was not grated but made
solidly, of wood, and it had a stern, forbidding look. Jim leaned
forward and felt of the lock.

“There!” he said. “Hush--sh!--They only turned the key once, when they
locked it. If they’d turned it twice I couldn’t have opened it.”

Slowly, heavily, reluctantly, the massive door came open, as he pulled,
and he could peep out. O, how his heart was beating! The other boys
stood and watched him as if he were a kind of hero, but he suddenly
closed the door.

“He’s coming!” he whispered. “We’ve got to wait for some night when the
watchman’s asleep. Get back to bed!”

There was a swift flitting along the corridor, a careful pulling to of
five grated doors, and the patrol who went by them a minute or so later
discovered no sign of anything unusual.

Jim lay awake for a while. There was a glow of exultation all over
him, for he felt that he had gained one point now. Then he thought of
the great world of freedom he hoped to escape into.

“Spring is here,” he thought. “Pretty soon things’ll be green and
growing. I want to go up and see our place, but I won’t go in. I want
to see Aunt Betty, but I don’t want to see Uncle John. He’d say I did
wrong to get out. I don’t believe she would. There’s a farm here and
lots o’ greenhouses, but only a few boys can work in them. I mean to be
out in the country when summer comes.”

Between him and the country, however, lay the great city, and between
Randall’s Island and that ran the deep, swift tides of the East River.
It made him shiver to think of that, but he could see, in his mind’s
eye, not only the river, with the wharves and buildings on the opposite
side, but the one little wharf on this side, where the little tug that
belonged to the House of Refuge was sure to be moored, each night,
after all its trips to and fro were ended. He knew she was there,
now, a tight little craft, mostly chimney and cabin, and just then he
suddenly sat up in bed.

“That’s it!” he said, almost aloud. “I remember! There’s a little
lifeboat on top,--on the roof deck. If we could get her! There might be
a watchman on the wharf.--There might not.--I guess we could get her
into the water. O!”

There seemed to be really less water in the East River, now he had
thought of that boat, but he sank back on his pillow and went to sleep
while he went over and over the obstacles that lay between him and the
wharf where the tug was moored. His boy associates, curiously enough,
were long since sleeping soundly, as if they had been contented to
leave all the required thinking and all the anxiety to their busy
minded and daring young captain.



VII

ONE PLAN THAT FAILED


Early hours were the rule of the dormitory, but general conversation
could not begin at once on getting up. Jim did not feel like speaking
to anybody. His first strong impression was that any officer who looked
him in the face might see there that something was going on. His next,
as he met his confederates, one by one, was that he could see by their
faces that they were trying to keep a secret.

After that, he was little surprised to find himself making the same
remark concerning some of the smaller boys. He thought no more about
that, for they were very apt to get into scrapes, but they did indeed
have something on their minds, every inch as heavy, for them, as was
the load he carried himself.

He had already learned over again one thing that he had known before.
This was that all his hopes and plans must wait awhile. He would have
to go along and let things turn up, one after another. Nobody can ever
tell what is coming next or how their plans will unexpectedly run into
those of other people.

Mrs. Nelson and Rodney, for instance, could hardly say that they had
any plans, beyond hoping to sell one of their town lots for enough to
pay the taxes and assessments on the rest; and having a door put in;
and having a garden. She could not afford to keep Rodney any longer at
school. He was old enough to earn something, and, besides, what if she
should get sick or be out of work?

“I’ve got to do something,” he said, as he was carrying a chair
upstairs. “Millie Kirby can set type. I wish I could. But she learned
how in her father’s shop.”

She was a stirring kind of girl, anyhow, and he was a little afraid of
her, but when he came downstairs again, she was in the back doorway,
calling out:

“Rodney! Rodney!--You must come over to our house, right away! Billy’s
down in our cellar and we can’t get him out. He’s drank up all the milk
and he’s eaten all the vegetables. He tried to butt me and mother, too.”

“How did he get there!” exclaimed Rodney, setting out at once. “The old
rascal!”

“The cellar was shut up, all night,” she said, “and the things were put
into it to keep them safe, and when we went down, this morning, there
was Billy, ready to fight us.”

“He’s the worst old goat!” said Rodney, “and he doesn’t belong to me,
anyhow.”

He went in a hurry, however, and in a few minutes he began to
understand the matter. The cellar stairs went down from a door opening
into the hall.

“That was open when you and I went through, yesterday,” said Rodney to
Millie. “He just followed us. Why, it’s through this hall he gets out
into the street, sometimes. He watches till the door’s open. I guess he
got into my room through that front window.”

That was not all, if Rodney had but known the working of the mind of a
goat. Having once gone downstairs successfully, in his own house, the
next time he saw stairs before him, they seemed to promise to let him
out into liberty, and so he was now down in the Kirby cellar, a very
much bewildered goat. His plans had all gone wrong and he was glad to
have his own best friend take him by the horns and lead him upstairs
again.

“There he goes!” shouted Millie, but Rodney was just then listening
ruefully to Mrs. Kirby’s energetic account of all the robbery and other
mischief Billy had accomplished in her cellar.

He was glad enough to get away homeward and carry an account of
Billy’s transactions to Pat the carpenter, up on the new avenue.

“The baste!” exclaimed Patrick. “But thim will climb anywhere.--Luk at
that? It’s a big hole for wan dure but it’s the good job I’m makin.”

“I can paint it,” said Rod. “I guess I can paint all the side of the
house. ’Twon’t take much, all that’s above the street.--Then if I could
get the garden ploughed----”

“Why not?” exclaimed Pat. “Sure, I know a man wid a small horse and a
plough of his own. If Billy can come through Kirby’s hall, why can’t a
pony? I’ll see to that same.”

It was a ray of hope for Rod, although he doubted if Mrs. Kirby would
let a horse of any kind go through her house. He said he would see her
about it, but what he really meant was that he would speak to Millie.

That was a long day to quite a number of people. Nowhere, however, was
there more of it than among some of the boys who spent part of its
afternoon in a long, hard drill on the House of Refuge parade-ground.

Most of them marched pretty well, but there were several middle-sized
boys, in the third company from the front, who had to be spoken to,
several times, for the way they missed step.

Jim was not near enough to them, when the line halted before the wall
and faced about, to notice how they craned their heads around and
stared at it. What could they have been thinking about, in or on that
gray, stony face?

Jim himself had thought of it and had studied it, and it seemed to him
to be all the while coming between him and the island wharf. Still, he
paid particular attention to his orders and his marching, just as he
had, in the earlier part of the day, to his type-setting tasks.

The close of the day came, at last, in a dim, foggy kind of dusk that
promised darkness much earlier than usual. The parade-ground, and all
the rest of the wide enclosure, outside of the buildings, seemed to be
deserted. Inside of the buildings, however, there suddenly arose a kind
of buzz, that quickly amounted to something like an excitement. A rumor
whispered its way around among the boys that three of their number were
missing and could not be found.

They did not know that the first difficulty which troubled their
officers, just then, was that there was not a sufficient number of
themselves for indoor duty and, at the same time, to spare searchers
for stray boys over so large a space and in so many places. Nearly a
score of the older and more trustworthy boys were therefore picked
out as helpers, and they were quickly scurrying hither and thither,
in all directions. Jim felt especially gratified that the Assistant
Superintendent, a handsome young naval officer whom he could not help
liking, chose him for one of the hunters. He knew that neither of the
fellows were missing whom he intended as the crew of his boat, and he
went out into the dim, gloomy parade-ground with a perfect fever of
curiosity to discover what any other fellows were up to.

“They can’t get away,” he said to his blue uniformed friend, “but what
can they be trying to do?”

“We’ll see,” said the officer, “but we can’t find a trace of them.”

It was indeed a pretty long time before they did so. Every nook and
cranny of the shops and other buildings and of all the walled-in ground
had been gone over and it was, fast getting into the shape of a mystery.

Jim was carrying a lantern, but the officer held in his hand a
different kind of light, a reflector, a “bull’s-eye,” that would
throw a stream of light ahead like a small locomotive headlight. He
was busily throwing it in all directions and just now, as if by mere
accident, he sent it up to the roof of the large building next to the
engine building. It was not so very high, but was much higher than the
latter and it had several chimneys, coming out just above its eaves.

“Hullo!” exclaimed Jim.

“There they are!” said the officer, almost laughing; and then he
shouted, commandingly:

“Come down, boys! We’ll put up a ladder.”

They had not gone up there by a ladder, but, with wonderful pluck and
agility, by way of the water-pipe at one end of the building. They had
then intended to have remained hidden, each behind a chimney, until all
should be quiet within the enclosure.

After that they would have had to come down into the parade-ground
again and hunt for some means of scaling the wall. As for anything
beyond that, when they came down and were questioned, it seemed that
all their small plot went no further. They did not know what they meant
to do after getting over the wall.

“They might have known they’d be missed, right away,” thought Jim.
“Glad they didn’t fall and break their necks. Best thing for ’em that
they got caught. But I’ve learned one thing. That high building has
water pipes on this side but the engine building hasn’t any. It’s a low
building, too. I wish there was some way for getting on the roof of it
and down the other side, but there isn’t any.”

So there his own plan broke down again, just as had the thoughtless
undertaking of smaller boys. Nevertheless, an hour or so after they
were all safely locked up in the dormitory, he was out of his own cell
and in four others, one after another, telling his friends he believed
he had discovered a pathway which might lead them all to the wharf on
the bank of the river.



VIII

NEW IDEAS THAT CAME


It is not always pleasant to have to wait, but there are a great many
things to be learned, sometimes, while one is waiting.

Jim was now studying the House of Refuge, all over, all the while, and
at first even the officers seemed like a part of the barrier he would
have to break through in order to get out. Then, as he thought of them,
he found himself wishing he could tell them he was not intending to run
away from them, not at all, but only from the idea of being shut up. He
longed for freedom. The House had been a sort of home, for a long time,
but he wanted to escape from its unchanging routine of work and school
and drill, and firm, though kindly discipline. No such thing was known
there as corporal punishment, but all the rules were rigidly enforced,
and Jim wanted to get away from them. Most of all, however, he wanted
to escape from the sting and shame of being in prison, and from the
injustice of being there for something he did not do. More than once
he half wished he could explain himself to one of the Managers, a
gentleman who used to come and sit down with the boys and talk with
them. They told that man everything, somehow, as if he were an older
brother.

Not only Jim but his confederates grew a little feverish, as the days
went by. They even ran risks of discovery, for night after night they
were out in the corridor, minutes at a time, trying the lock of the
great door and peering furtively into the passage-way beyond to see
what the watchman was doing. Jim knew more, now, about the tug and the
wharf, and he had had opportunities for examining both sides of the
engine house.

“It’s too high to climb,” he said, “unless we can get something to
climb with. They never leave out a ladder, anywhere. It’s nothing but
walls, walls, walls!”

He could not solve that problem, yet, but one of Rodney Nelson’s had
been solved for him. Mrs. Kirby had permitted Pat’s friend to take his
pony and plow through her hall, and the garden had been thoroughly
ploughed and harrowed. Rodney was having plenty of work, therefore,
although he would rather have been learning a trade. Most of the ground
was to be planted in potatoes, but Millie Kirby told Rodney that if it
were hers she would make every inch of it grow something.

She was over there, at the house, one evening, just after supper and
they were all out on the sidewalk, looking at the new door. Billy the
goat was standing with his forefeet on the edge of the wall, near them,
looking down as if he were anxious to see his new vegetables begin to
come up in that garden.

“Mrs. Nelson,” came from behind them, “I want to spake to ye about
another job.”

[Illustration: THEY ALL STOOD STILL WHILE THE DRUM BEAT.]

“Pat,” she said, “but what a big door!”

“Isn’t it fine, ma’am?” replied Pat. “Now he’s painted it green, with
red siding, and all the rest of the hoose white. It’s the good painter
he is, for a b’ye----”

“But the doors big enough for the biggest kind of house----” began
Millie.

“That’s it,” said Pat. “It kem out of an owld grocery-sthore front.
It’s a sthore dure and not a hoose dure at all. What yez want, Mrs.
Nelson, is to put a sthore behind that dure. The front room there is
for that. Sure, the big, bay windy is there to show things in. Ye could
sell all that comes from the garden, and hooks and eyes, and tay and
coffee and sugar, and mebbe onything.”

“That’s it, mother,” shouted Rodney, but Pat had more to say and he
went on:

“What yez want, now, is a counter and some shelvin’, and a whole lot of
thim was thrown away from a place I know of, yisther-day. It’ll all go
in, there, aisy, and the b’ye could paint it----”

“Fetch it right along,” said Rodney, and his mother repeated it.

“Fetch it along,” she said. “Why, we could keep a thread-needle store,
and no rent to pay.”

“I’ll come and ’tend counter, too,” said Millie: “while you’re out and
Rodney’s at work in the garden. Besides, he could carry newspapers----”

“I must go, now,” interrupted Pat, “but I’ll do that, at wanst, and
by-and-bye yez can take out the middle partition, and have the whole
flure in wan, and there’s your big sthore.”

He was off, leaving them to consider the matter, but the next remark
was from Billy and it had a doubtful sound.

“Ba-a-ah-eh-beh!” he remarked.

The making of the new avenue and the laying of its neat, stone
sidewalk, went rapidly on. It was already a thoroughfare, with wagons
and foot passengers using it all the while. Only a few days later, Pat
and Rodney spent an evening putting in the shelves and the counters.
They would look shabby enough until they were painted, but there was a
kind of promise in them.

“It’s the fine sthore ye’ll have,” said Pat, “and no trouble with ony
landlord. Many’s the sthore’d do well, if it wasn’t for havin’ rint to
pay.”

“It’ll be long before it pays us anything, I’m afraid,” said Mrs.
Nelson. “We mustn’t wait till Rodney can gather potatoes from that
garden, though. I must see about getting something else.”

“I’m going to do that, myself,” remarked Rodney.

The bright, spring days were doing all they could for the gardens in
the city and everywhere else, and there came one very bright day to
Randall’s Island. The very water of the East River, on either side of
the island, seemed to dance in the sunlight, and the mad rush of the
tide through Little Hellgate channel, between that and Ward’s Island,
northerly, was all one glitter. The great city of New York, over on
Manhattan Island, was looking its very best, but the boys in the House
of Refuge parade-ground could not see it. They could see nothing
outside of their stone walled enclosure, but one boy saw something
inside of it, just after the battalion broke ranks, which made him
stand still and almost turn pale. The drums had ceased their beating,
but his heart took up the business and went on, beating hard, for a
full minute. He looked, he looked again, he stared earnestly at the
roof of the engine house, and he exclaimed, aloud:

“That’s it!--That’ll do!”

Then he stooped and picked up a clutter of rope that lay upon the
ground and threw it into a large, empty box, like a dry goods case,
which stood near the corner of the base ball ground.

“I guess they won’t take it in,” he said, “and if they don’t, it’ll be
there. I won’t say anything to the boys, yet.”

Precisely what he meant, he did not explain, but there was a flush on
his face and a bright light in his eyes, all supper time.

Everything went on as usual, and in due season the long column of gray
uniformed youngsters, larger and smaller, tramped into the dormitory
and they were toled off to their sleeping cages. Not one was missing,
for those who were still detained outside, on various duties, were all
considered accounted for.

Jim was not one of these, and all he seemed to have to do was to get
into bed and go to sleep. He got into his bed, indeed, in the most
orderly way, but he did not go to sleep. No boy could do more than shut
his eyes, by main force, when all the rest of him was in such a tingle.

Jim had a curious sensation of feeling very brave, himself, but of not
being exactly sure of the pluck and steadiness of his comrades that
were to be. His next idea was that he had enough and to spare for the
whole party and that he could and would see them through.

He was their captain and the whole responsibility of success or failure
rested upon him. It grew heavier, too, during three long hours that he
deemed it well to wait, before he arranged his bed-battering ram and
began to try his heels upon the springing steel rods of his grating.

The door seemed to open harder than usual, and he was afraid he was
making a noise that would be heard by the wrong persons, but at that
moment the lock-bolt clicked.

“It’s open!” he said to himself. “Now for the big door, before I stir
’em up. I must see how things are.”

O, how carefully he fingered the lock of that strong, wooden portal!

“They only turned it once!” he said. “It’s a slipping!”

It slipped silently back and he turned the knob and pulled. Then, as he
peered furtively out, he drew a very long breath and wheeled around
and darted along the corridor.

He opened one of the doors, but just behind it stood a boy, fully
dressed, with a pair of shoes in one hand.

“How is it, Jim?”

“Murphy’s asleep! Come!”

Another door was visited and another boy stepped forth to hear the same
news, with the order:

“Follow Joe! Wait at the door.”

Two more cages let out their actually trembling boys, and now all five
of them stood in line at the main doorway.

Jim looked out and turned and raised his hand. In a moment more, that
door was shut behind them and four of them had made their silent,
stocking-footed way, to another, similar barrier, at the end of the
hall. Their captain was leaning over the slumbering watchman, for in
his relaxed hand, almost let go of, was a bunch of keys, and to take
them away without waking him was a delicate piece of work. It was more
than that, for Jim felt that it was something very like stealing. He
would not have had one of the Managers see him do it for the world. He
felt mean, even after he got the keys, but he seemed to get over it
while he was opening the outer door with one of them. Then the hardest
thing to do was to carry back the Whole bunch and put it silently down
by the watchman, so that he need not miss them.

Jim did it, and he felt less like a thief after giving back those
keys, but in a half minute more he and his friends were out on the
parade-ground, clustering close to the shadowy wall of the engine
house. They had accomplished a great deal, but they had not yet
escaped, by any means.



IX

GETTING OVER THE WALL


There were lights, here and there, in some of the windows of the House
of Refuge buildings and there were others, like street-lamps, outside,
but all was silence.

The boys themselves had hardly dared to whisper, but now one of them
asked:

“Jim, how are we to climb the wall?”

“We won’t climb it,” said Jim. “See! right here! Three empty boxes and
a board! We are going over the roof.”

“But we can’t get down on the other side,” whispered another boy.

“Yes, we can,” replied Jim triumphantly, as he held up a coil of small
rope that he pulled out of a box. “Wait and see. Let’s pile up these
things.”

It was easy work for five strong, active boys, to put those boxes one
on top of another, but even then the board only reached from the
topmost box to a little above the eaves of the building.

“Now, boys,” said Jim, “soon as I’m up, throw me the end of the rope.”

Not many young fellows could have gone up that board as he did, or,
afterward, up the steep, slippery slates of the roof, with a coil of
rope in one hand. It was first-rate gymnastics, with a chance for a
slide and a heavy fall, but Jim reached the ridge, just as one of his
followers came up over the eaves, after making several small failures
to climb the board.

“Now for the rope,” said Jim, as he passed it around a chimney that
came up through the ridge, tied it at the ends and threw the loop
down toward the head of the board. He could hold it steady and it was
all they needed. Very quickly, all five were perched in a row, like
blackbirds on a fence.

“What’s next?” they asked.

“Glad we all had so much practice on the training ship,” replied Jim.
“It takes a sailor to go down by a rope. This one’s long enough to hang
down, double, almost to the ground. It won’t be much of a drop, then.
I’ll go first. Hold hard! Steady, now!”

Even yet, he had not told them the whole of his plan, but they were
learning to trust him and they were eager enough to do just as he said.

On the whole, they had at least learned soldierly obedience and good
discipline in the school they were escaping from.

Down went Jim, hand over hand, to the eaves on the outer side of the
engine house, and then he disappeared. They had hardly been able to see
him, anyhow, and now they waited, half shivering, till a warning tug
at the rope told them he had safely reached the ground. He had really
found little difficulty in doing that and the hardest share really fell
upon the last boy of all, for it seemed to him as if the other four had
taken all night for it.

“Wait, now,” said Jim, as he untied the ends of the rope.

“Leave it,” said one of the boys. “We don’t want it any more.”

“I’ll show you,” said Jim, as he drew down the full length of the
untied rope, coiled it and made a hank of it. “If they find it on the
other side, they won’t know how we got down.”

He threw it with all his might; it cleared the roof-ridge and down it
slid into the parade-ground to keep its own secret.

“What are we going to do, now, Jim?”

“Come on!” he said. “Follow me!--The lifeboat on the tug!”

“I just want to yell!” exclaimed the boy he had called Joe. “We’re
going to beat ’em, this time.”

“Glad it’s so dark,” said Jim. “Don’t you make a sound! Step carefully!”

Like so many young panthers, prowling in the woods, they went forward,
a step at a time, single file, until they had cleared the corner of
the main building and were in the broad, well kept grounds between that
and the East River. Jim himself wanted to shout when he saw the water
and, far beyond it, the glimmering midnight lamps of the city.

There, only a short distance from them, now, was the wharf at which the
tug was moored and over the wooden-railed walk leading down to it was a
bright gaslight burning.

“Down!” said Jim. “We must creep, now. Not on all fours.--Creep!”

So they did, and a watchman who was patrolling the entire front of the
House did not catch a glimpse of them. Head foremost, they followed
their leader, down the wooden-railed companion way to the wharf.

“There might have been a man on guard here,” said Jim, “but there
isn’t.”

There was a light in the cabin of the tug and another in the engine
room, but no living being was to be seen as they scurried up the bit
of ladder that took them to the upper deck, the roof, of the tug, where
the lifeboat lay.

“Quick, boys!” said Jim. “Over with her! There isn’t a minute to
spare!--Don’t you see? There’s a stir in the House! We are missed,
already!”

The lifeboat’s fastenings were good, but they were arranged for her
easy launching. She was loose in a moment. Then there was a shove, a
grating sound, a splash in the water,--but Jim’s exulting:

“Now, boys! Down we go! She’ll float. All we’ve got to do is to bail
her out--” was followed by a loud shout from the front door of the main
building and through all its corridors there were hurrying feet and
rapidly given orders, for the officers had found five sleeping cells
wide open and not a boy in one of them.

About the last place in the world where anyone would look for a missing
boy, at about two o’clock in the morning, would be in a lifeboat on
the outer side of a steam tug in the East River.

The startled officers of the House of Refuge were not at first thinking
of the river, but of things inside of their high, strong walls, which
no boy could climb over or get through.

Jim and his friends in the little lifeboat were baling her out rapidly.
Of course, it had filled on plunging in, but very quickly enough was
out for another boy to clamber down and help without sinking her
gunwale under. Then they all came down, and they seemed to be one
shiver of mingled fear, excitement and exultation. In a minute more,
the oars were out, and, just as two or three men with lanterns came
hurrying down toward the wharf, Jim exclaimed, under his breath:

“Pull, boys!--I’ll steer out into the dark. We’ll go with the tide.
They’ll come after us with the tug. It’s going to be a race!”

Four boys at the oars and one to steer made a fair crew for so small
a boat. She was swift, too, and so was the tide that swept her onward,
but her pursuers knew, now, that she was gone and steam was already up
on the tug. Only a minute or so more was wasted by them in waiting for
the engineer, and another minute in casting loose, but every second of
those minutes was made the most of by the runaways.

“There goes her whistle!” exclaimed one of the rowers. “She’s after
us----”

“She can go faster than we can.”

“We’ve a good start.”

“No talking, boys,” said Jim. “Our chance is good, yet,--Hullo!”

Not far ahead of him, as he sat in the stern of the boat, he could see
the lights on a great Sound steamer, as she came puffing along against
the tide, but it struck him that she had made her appearance, suddenly,
as if she had been hidden.

“Hurrah!” he shouted. “That saves us!”

“What is it, Jim?”

“Anything happened to the tug?”

“What’s coming?”

“Coming?” said Jim. “Why, we are pulling right into the thickest fog
you ever saw. It’ll cover us up so they can’t follow us. It isn’t the
tug I’m afraid of, now.”

“What then, Jim?”

“It’s the telegraph!” said Jim. “Our getting out’ll be known at every
police station in the city, inside of five minutes. We must get ashore
as quick as we can.”

“It’s an awful swift tide,” said Joe. “Why don’t you run right ashore?”

“You can’t tell where you’re going, in this fog,” said Jim, anxiously,
for it seemed to him that they had gone more than far enough to have
crossed the East River at that narrow place, even in a slanting
direction. So they had, and all the while they had heard the steam
whistles of all sorts of steamers answering each other through the fog.
On, on, they went, the four rowers pulling desperately, until Jim
asked, hoarsely, as he looked at something just beyond them:

“Boys!--What’s this?--I don’t know much about New York----”

He was from the country, but three of them were city boys and it was
one of these who now responded:

“Hush, Jim! If you haven’t steered right into the Harlem River! That’s
the Third Avenue swing-bridge. Go right under it. ’Twasn’t far to come,
either.”

Right over their heads, now, for a moment, was the vast shadow of the
bridge, and then, as they shot swiftly out beyond it, Joe whispered:

“North shore, Jim. We can get right in among the lumber yards. Best
kind of hiding place.--We’re safe!”

It was but a minute, after that, before all five of them were standing
on a wharf, looking back at the lifeboat, as she disappeared in the
fog, for Jim had shoved her off and the tide had caught her.

“I don’t care where it carries her,” he said. “When they find her, she
can’t tell them where she left us.”



X

A NEW HOUSE OF REFUGE


Jim had a very clear idea that the city of New York, with its thousands
of sharp-eyed policemen, was no place for him. His four friends,
however, were better acquainted with it and they now proposed to work
their way down town before daylight, to hiding places they said they
knew of. They urged him to come with them but he responded:

“Too many of us together, all in House of Refuge grey jackets. We’d
better scatter. I’m for the country!”

Then it was “Good-bye, Jim!” all around, and “O! If you haven’t done
it!”--“You’re the best kind of fellow!”--“Hope we’ll see you again,
some day.”

“Not in the House of Refuge,” said Jim. “I won’t let them catch
me. Now you’re out, keep out, but I tell you what, boys, we haven’t
anything to say against any of those officers.”

So they all said, and they were off, working their stealthy way along
among the huge piles of lumber. How the rest got out of the lumber
yard, Jim never knew, but he found a gap in its high, picket fence,
squeezed through it, and found himself in an open street. It was pretty
well lighted, except for the fog, and Jim saw something, at once, that
made him shiver, a little.

“Just what I was afraid of!” he said. “I must wait till he moves on. He
might pick me up, any way, for being here at this time o’ night.”

He did not know that the policeman he saw, standing under the lamp
at the street corner, was already warned and was on the lookout for
five boys who had escaped from Randall’s Island. He was a real danger,
therefore, and Jim did well to wait patiently until the officer marched
away into the mist. Jim went forward, then, and his main idea was to
get as far away as possible from the water-front.

“Hullo!” he exclaimed at the end of many minutes of brisk walking.
“What’s this?”

Before him seemed to be a vast hollow, and the street he was on ran
right across it, without any buildings on either side.

“New street,” he said. “It’s the new part of the city.--There!--That’s
the rap of a policeman’s club on the sidewalk. My only chance is to
hide!”

Down he went, over the wall-like side of that new street, clinging with
toes and fingers to rough projections. In a moment more he was at the
bottom, crouching close and looking up while a man in a blue uniform
strolled slowly along the sidewalk.

“It isn’t as high as the wall around the parade-ground,” thought Jim.
“That’s too smooth to climb.--I hope the other fellows’ll get away,
now they’re out. It wasn’t just right for me to let ’em out, but I
couldn’t help it. It’d be awful if all the boys in the House got away!
I don’t belong there, though. But what can I do? Where on earth can I
go?--Anyhow, I must keep hid till daylight.”

It was cold, it was foggy, and his heart sank within him as he crept
slowly along the base of the wall, on a kind of exploring expedition.
It was dreary waiting, but the time did wear away and the fog cleared
when the sun rose.

People were arising, also, and Rodney Nelson was among those who were
up and dressed very early. He had business on his hands, now, and he
stepped right out of his own room and across the entry, into what he
was beginning to call “the store.” It did indeed contain a great deal
of counter and some shelving, but nothing as yet, that looked like a
stock of goods.

“We’ll have some, I guess,” said Rodney. “I’ll go out and take a look
at the garden. Nothing has sprouted yet, but lettuce and radishes, but
it’s going to be the bulliest kind of garden.”

Downstairs he went, and his mother was busy around the stove when he
passed through the kitchen. Somebody seemed to be calling him, around
the corner of the house. He heard a loud:

“Ba a-a-beh?” like a question.

“Guess he’d like some breakfast,” said Rodney, as he stepped forward.

There was Billy, looking down from the edge of the sidewalk, but it was
not the goat that gave Rodney such a start of surprise. Right before
him stood a boy of about his own age and size, dressed from head to
foot in dark, grey cloth. He seemed a healthy enough boy, but just
now his face was very pale. He had been standing, for Rodney had seen
him, close to the wall, where the house came against it, as if he were
hiding. On the sidewalk above, and less than a hundred yards away, a
policeman was walking leisurely along toward the Nelson place.

“Hullo!” said Rodney. “Who are you? What are you down here for?”

It was all right to question him, but the stranger’s face flushed
suddenly and he breathed a long, choking kind of breath, before he
exclaimed:

“I say, were you ever in prison?” His voice had a husky, despairing
tone.

“No, I never was!” replied Rodney, with strong emphasis. “Was you?”

“Yes, I was,” came promptly back. “My name’s Jim Harris, and I didn’t
do a thing. Didn’t steal a cent. But I’ve been in the House of Refuge
for a good deal more’n a year----”

“And you got out?” shouted Rodney, enthusiastically. “Hurrah!”

“I got out last night,” said Jim, “and they’re after me, now----”

“Rodney!” exclaimed an excited voice behind him. “Don’t you let them
get him! I saw him, from our house, and I came over to tell you. If you
do let them get him!”

“Of course I won’t, Millie,” said Rodney, “but he must come right into
the house. They’d know him, right away, by his rig.”

Millie was thinking with all her might, and her eyes were dancing their
liveliest.

“Rod!” she said. “Take him in! Get him something to eat. I’ll go and
get some of Tom’s old clothes. Mother’d let him have ’em all, before
she’d see him sent to prison again. O, dear me! It was awful! And he
didn’t do anything to be sent there for, either.”

“I guess it was awful----” said Rodney, but she interrupted him:

“I’ll be back as quick as I can. Besides, I want to know how he got
out. He must be real hungry----” and away she went.

“Come on, Jim,” said Rodney. “You’ll be safe, in our house. I’m glad
you didn’t do it, though. Tell you what, if it had been me, I’d ha’
broke loose. How’d you ever manage to do it? Tell us----”

“I will,” said Jim, as he followed his new friend, but a sudden change
had come over him.

His step was light and springy, and his face was bright with new hope.
He had watched there in the raw, chilly morning until he had grown
almost desperate. Not that he had wished himself back in the House of
Refuge, but that he had felt very tired, very hungry, and altogether
uncertain what to do next, or where to go.

“Mother!” shouted Rodney, with a sort of effort not to shout quite so
loud:

“He’s from Randall’s Island! He got away last night, and the cops are
after him. Millie’s going to bring him some of Tom’s clothes----”

“Rodney!” she exclaimed. “Why, how did he get here?--~Now, you keep
still and let him tell me all about it.”

That was precisely what Rod was very willing to do, and Jim was glad
enough to tell them everything.

“O, Rod!” said his mother. “What if it had been you!--His uncle ought
to be put there, himself,--and what could his aunt have been thinking
of----”

“’Twasn’t her fault,” said Jim, “and the money was really gone.
Somebody took it, but I didn’t, and Uncle John may not have been so
much to blame. He never liked me anyhow----”

“He ought not to have sent you to jail,” said Mrs. Nelson, positively.
“And I suppose they treated you awfully. Did they flog you much?”

“No, they didn’t,” said Jim. “They never flog anybody. It’s the best
place in the world for loads of those boys. They get a chance to learn
something and they have to behave themselves. What I mean is that I
didn’t do anything to go there for, and I didn’t belong there. They’re
the best kind of men for the boys that ought to be there.”

He really came up with a good deal of energy to the defence of the
House of Refuge and its management, but he was tremendously in earnest
in his assertion that he would not go back there again. He had hardly
completed his wonderful story of escape, before the door of the kitchen
opened, half stealthily, and they heard the voice of Mrs. Kirby:

“Go right in, Millie. Don’t say a word. Don’t speak about him. Somebody
else might be there and hear you. Don’t you run any risk of anybody’s
knowing what they’re for. If they don’t fit him, I can alter them----”

“Come right in, Mrs. Kirby,” called out Mrs. Nelson, but Millie was in
first, with her arms full of coats, trousers and other matters, that
had nothing grey about them.

“That’s the checker!” shouted Rod. “That old blue. It’s patched, some,
but it’ll do first-rate. He won’t look like the same fellow. Come on,
Jim. Come into the front room and put ’em on. Mother, you tell ’em just
how it was.--Guess the cops won’t get him out of our house.”

There was plainly no danger that anybody now in it would help them,
and Jim’s possible peril from anybody else was certainly very much less
when, a few minutes later, he came back into the kitchen. Mrs. Nelson
had, meantime, been telling his story, as he told it, with sympathetic
additions of her own.

“It fits him!” shouted Millie, but her mother exclaimed:

“Rodney! What did you put on him that old red necktie for?”

“Guess there isn’t anything like it on Randall’s Island,” said Rodney.
“All he’s got to do, now, is to keep still till they stop hunting for
him.”

“They’re hunting, everywhere, just now,” remarked Jim. “I wish I knew
what had become of those other fellows.”

“Just you come and eat your breakfast,” said Mrs. Nelson. “Don’t mind
them----”

“We must go home,” said Millie, “and I can’t come right back. I’ve a
lot of type-setting to do----”

“I can set type,” said Jim. “I was in the printing office, all the
while.”

“That’s it!” exclaimed Mrs. Kirby. “Come right over, after breakfast.
The last place they’d look into would be Mr. Kirby’s office. You can
earn something, too.”



XI

JIM’S HIDING PLACE


Jim enjoyed his breakfast, exceedingly. It was the first he had eaten,
for a long time, without any rules against talking. It seemed as if
everybody in the room talked all the while. After it was over, he and
Rodney went to the door and looked out.

The wide, bare space, in which the Nelson garden was beginning to grow,
was not much like the House of Refuge parade-ground, although it seemed
to have pretty high, stone walls on three of its sides and a row of
buildings on the other. These were different buildings and nearly in
the middle of the row was the Kirby place, instead of the Randall’s
Island printing office. It looked very much as if all this had been
getting ready to take Jim in, whenever he should get away from the
Island. He had a strong, oppressive feeling, however, that he had not
yet entirely escaped.

“They’ll think it was awful wrong for me to get away,” he thought.
“It’s just as if it was as bad as stealing to have ever been sent
there. How shall I get rid of it?”

He had all the while, month after month, been suffering under a sense
of terrible injustice, and now it stung him again, for it was following
him, and so, he knew, were men who deemed it their duty to catch him
and take him back.

Rodney, too, was thinking of that.

“Jim,” he said, “Kirby’s printing office is better than working in our
garden. They might see you, from the sidewalk, and ask where you came
from.”

“I guess I could tell ’em, with these clothes on,” laughed Jim, for his
spirits were improving and it seemed to him as if Randall’s Island were
drifting away.

At that very moment, in the Bronson farmhouse, away up the Hudson,
they were talking about Jim.

A man had come in, just at breakfast time, and had said something which
made everybody jump.

“What’s that, Squire? Did you say it was a telegraphic despatch from
Randall’s Island that Jim’s got out?”

“Thank God if he had!” exclaimed Aunt Betty, and it looked as if she
would have clapped her hands, or danced, if she had not been so anxious
to hear.

“Jim and four more of ’em,” said the Squire. “It doesn’t tell how they
did it, but they might come right here, or he might, and you’d ought to
know.”

“I’d like to know all about it,” said Uncle John Bronson, slowly. “If
you hear anything more, let me know. Jim may not come this way.”

“Perhaps not,” said the Squire, “but I just want to say one thing.
We’re old neighbors, and Jim’s a right likely young fellow. I can’t
guess how he beat ’em, but if he should get up this way, and you or his
aunt knew where he was, you needn’t say too much to me. You see, it
would be my duty to catch him, and I’d have to do my duty----”

“O, no! Never!” broke in Aunt Betty. “I wouldn’t say a word! I wouldn’t
be so mean as to put that on you. John wouldn’t either.”

“Why, Squire,” said Uncle John, “I don’t know a word about it----”

“No more do I,” said the Squire, turning to go out. “Good morning.--But
he’s a plucky young fellow, now, I tell you. How they did it, I don’t
see.--I’d have to take him. Of course I would. I’d do my duty.--But I
don’t really believe they need Jim Harris, much, on Randall’s Island.”

So different people, in places widely apart, were aware of Jim’s escape
and were taking their own peculiar view of the matter. Quite a number
were wishing they knew how he did it but they had not yet found out.

A sea tide ebbs with as much force and swiftness as it flowed in with,
and it will carry loads both ways. This was the reason why when the
House of Refuge lifeboat was found, some hours after it was shoved off
by Jim and his crew, it was found knocking against the side of a pier
away down, near the middle of the city. Therefore it gave no hint as to
where it had landed the runaways. Only an hour or so later, however,
the police knew a little more, for they managed to capture poor Joe. He
had been altogether too confident and had walked out into the street
too soon, without changing his grey uniform for every day clothes. He
was a little chopfallen, at first, but he really could not tell much
about the other boys. He was at once ferried over to the Island and
brought face to face with his old friends, the officers.

“What did you run away for, Joe?” asked the pleasant faced
Superintendent.

“I--I don’t know, sir,” replied Joe.

“Didn’t we treat you well?” asked the Military Instructor, for Joe had
been a lieutenant in one of the companies.

“Of course you did,” said Joe. “But, tell you what, I’d as lief come
back, but then, any fellow’d get away, if he had Jim to show him how.”

“Big adventure!” exclaimed another officer.

That was indeed a part of it, and there was no reason, now, why Joe
should conceal anything. He went with them to the dormitory and
explained about the locks. Then they walked out into the parade-ground,
where the empty boxes still lay at the machine shop wall.

“We went over the roof,” said Joe, and every man who heard him tell how
they did it agreed with the Superintendent.

“Jim is a genius!” he exclaimed. “Not one boy in a thousand could have
planned and carried out that escape.”

“He’s a captain!” added the skipper of the steam tug. “But we’d have
caught ’em, if it hadn’t been for that fog.”

“We shall get them all, before long,” said Jim’s friend, the naval
officer. “All but Jim. I’m afraid we’ve lost him. I’m sorry. I did want
to do something more for that boy.”

The very kindly man in charge of the House of Refuge printing office
also remarked that it was a pity Jim should run away, just when he was
learning his trade so fast and so well. He could hardly have guessed
that Jim was already at a case in another shop, setting type as busily
as usual.

Mr. Kirby himself, a grey-haired, silent man, with a queer kind of
smile on his face, was working at the press in another room, but Jim
was not the only type-setter. At the next case stood Millie, and
between them and the door were other ranges of cases, and two of
these were journeymen printers. All were seemingly absorbed in their
type-sticking when a man in a blue uniform opened the street door and
strolled in.

“Where’s Kirby?” he asked.

“In the press room,” said Millie, but her hand slipped, as she spoke,
and all the type in her half filled “stick” went rattling down on the
floor.

“That’s all pi,” laughed the policeman as he strode on to the press
room door.

“Kirby,” he said, “did you hear about the escape of those young
fellows, last night, from the House of Refuge?”

“Got out, did they?” asked Mr. Kirby. “I guess it isn’t in the papers.”

“Too soon,” said the officer. “I don’t believe they want it printed,
either. It’s no fault of theirs, but they want to catch the boys.
Smartest escape----” and then he went on with an account of it
which contained as many blunders as Jim was just then making in his
type-setting. At the end of it, however, the officer said:

“You see, two of ’em are printers, and one’s a pretty good one. They’re
likely to look for work in their own trade, soon as they can get off
their prison rig. If they should come to you, now----”

“A boy’d be just hidden away in one of the big printing houses, down
town,” said Mr. Kirby. “You couldn’t find him.”

“Yes, we could,” said the officer. “Every man and boy in each one
of them is already registered by the place itself and by the trades
unions. We could find out just where he came from.”

“Then why don’t you register my office?” asked Mr. Kirby. “You can take
down the name of every fellow here, this morning, so that if any new
fellow should come you could mark him. Register me.”

“I don’t need to,” said the officer. “Nor your daughter, nor the hands.
I’ll remember all of ’em, well enough. If I see a new boy here, any
time, I can ask about him.”

“Of course,” said Mr. Kirby, but Millie was picking up her scattered
type and the jour’ printers exchanged winks as the policeman walked
out.

Those very printers, that morning, had threatened to leave the shop if
Mr. Kirby took in a new boy who was not a member of their Printers’
Union.

“Just you listen to me, boys,” Mr. Kirby had said. “There isn’t one of
you mean enough----” and he told them the whole story.

He was right. Not one of them was mean enough to give up Jim. Their
very hearts went out to a fellow who had been shut up unjustly and who
had made so daring an escape. It was not at all, they said, as if he
had really deserved to be shut up.



XII

THE STOLEN MONEY


When Rodney Nelson parted from Jim, at Kirby’s printing office, that
morning, he walked away with a strange look of energy and determination
on his face. What the meaning of it was did not come out until his
mother reached home, after her hard day’s work. She was very tired and
for once she actually complained and said how hard it was.

“Mother!” instantly burst from Rodney. “That’s it. I guess you won’t
have to work so hard, any more----”

“Why Rodney, what do you mean?”

“I’ve been at it, all day, mother. I’ve found people,--found ’em
easy,--that’ll let us have things to sell. Don’t you see? You own your
store, and you’ve cash to start with, and you don’t pay rent or clerk
hire. Your credit’s good and they want to see you about it.”

“Rodney!” she exclaimed. “Of course we can! But what made you think of
it?”

“It was Jim,” said Rodney. “I thought if he could find a way out, I
could.”

“I won’t go out to work any more----” and Mrs. Nelson almost cried as
she and her boy went over the particulars of it and she saw how easy it
would be.

There were days and days, after that, during which nothing exciting
happened, but in each of which a great deal of work was done. Aunt
Betty Bronson, in her farmhouse home, passed them in a state of half
nervous expectation. There was a kind of daily disappointment, too,
until one broad, bright noon when she met Uncle John, at the door, with
a face that was almost blazing.

“Letter from Jim!” she exclaimed. “He’s safe and they can’t catch him.”

“Stop right there, Betty,” he said. “I don’t want to know where he is.
I’m glad he’s doing well. Don’t say any more, now.”

“I won’t, then,” she replied, but it was hard to keep her word.

As for Uncle John, there was something heavy on his mind, for he sat
down to his dinner with a face that looked very much as if he were
about to be taken sick.

“I know it kind o’ hurts him,” thought Aunt Betty, “but he ought never
to have been so hard on Jim about that money. I never believed Jim took
it!”

If Uncle John doubted it, he did not say so, but that was an important
day for all of them. Just a little after dinner time, Rodney and his
mother were in their store. It was getting to look very business like
and several customers had been waited on and had gone out, while Billy
looked hard at the things in the show window and remarked, repeatedly:

“Ba-a-a-beh!”

Nobody else was there, therefore, when Millie came hurrying up the
back stairs and dashed in, exclaiming:

“Mrs. Nelson! Rodney! One of the men told father the police have found
out! Jim’s up in the back room, now. They’ve caught three of the other
boys that were with him. Father says he mustn’t come back to the shop!”

“He must get out of town!” said Mrs. Nelson, excitedly. “Rodney can go
along and help!--He must jump!”

“So they all say,” gasped Millie, all out of breath. “Father and the
men gave him ten dollars. He hasn’t any time to spare. They’re watching
the shop!”

Rodney had rushed for the back room and there was Jim, looking pretty
cool but with a very determined expression gathering around his mouth.

“Jim!” exclaimed Rodney. “I’ll be ready in a minute. I can show you how
to get out, if we’re quick about it.”

“All right,” said Jim, and he added, to himself: “I want to see Aunt
Betty once more, and tell her I didn’t do it. Then I’ll go somewhere
else, where they don’t know me. I won’t let them take me back to the
Island.”

In the store, Millie was saying:

“I’ve come to ’tend shop while Rod’s gone. I’d rather, a hundred times,
any day, than stand and set type.”

“You stay here, then,” said Mrs. Nelson, “while I go and get a
luncheon-tin filled for them to take along. They mustn’t catch Jim!”

It was hardly any time at all before all was ready, but the good-byes
were said in a hurry, for Rodney remarked to Jim:

“We can do it, if we’re off before any of ’em see us go. We can catch a
train and then we’re all right.”

They had evidently talked it all over before hand, because it was
likely to happen, and so they were not altogether taken by surprise
when it came.

It was not very late in that afternoon when a pair of young fellows
were walking along a country road and one of them turned to the other,
saying:

“This road takes us right around the village, Rodney. I guess we won’t
meet anybody but we can cut across a field if we do.”

“We can cut before they know who it is,” said Rodney, but he felt a
great deal more nervousness than Jim was showing, and he looked at him
with open admiration.

“I say, Rodney,” remarked Jim, half a mile further on, “this isn’t
night, it’s daytime, but it kind o’ feels as if the House of Refuge
dormitory was only a little way behind me----”

“Hope it isn’t catching up,” said Rodney.

Jim said nothing, but it was not long before he led the way through a
front gate, around through a shrubberied houseyard, and right in at a
kitchen door.

“Aunt Betty?” he exclaimed.

“Jim!” almost screamed Mrs. Bronson, Springing forward to throw her
arms around his neck. “You? Here?--O, my boy! My boy! I’m so glad! What
would your mother say, if she were alive!--They didn’t catch you, did
they?”

“No, Aunt Betty,” said Jim. “This is Rodney Nelson. He isn’t one of the
House of Refuge boys. He and his folks helped me. I’ll tell you all
about it----”

“Not now!--Not now!” she said, excitedly. “O dear! What shall I do with
you! What shall I say to your uncle? It’s awful!”

“I’d say it was!” suddenly broke in a deep, strong voice in the
doorway. “Worst thing could ha’ happened to me! Mrs. Bronson, I just
don’t want to know it’s Jim. Wish I hadn’t happened to come----”

“Why, Squire,” she said, “it is Jim, and he’s got away from all of ’em.”

“I don’t want to do any such duty,” groaned the Squire. “It’s hard
on me to have to take him. I knew his father and his mother.--Wish I
wasn’t a justice-peace! Who cares what he stole!--That money----”

“That money----” came like an echo, from a voice that was drawing
nearer, in the next room.

“John!” shouted Aunt Betty. “You won’t have the Squire take Jim?”

“O, Betty!” exclaimed Uncle John. “Why, Squire, I don’t know what to
say. It’s awful!--Tell you what.--I can’t, but I must.--Jim never stole
a cent.--Betty, do you mind those old, blue jeans overalls?--I had ’em
on, that day. When the money was missed, I was so torn up by it, I
didn’t remember where I’d put ’em. I found ’em, hangin’ up in the barn,
three days ago, and there was the fifty dollars, in one o’ the pockets.
I was most sick. O, Jim, I’m a poor, old, miserable sinner! I’m glad
you got out----”

“Thank God!” ejaculated the Squire. “I haven’t got to do it! Hurrah!”

“Hurrah!” shouted Rodney, but Jim could not have said a word, if he had
tried, for Aunt Betty was almost choking him.

“It’s all right, Bronson,” said the Squire. “I’ll telegraph to the
New York authorities. ’Twon’t really hurt Jim, in the long run. I’m
going----”

“I’ll go, too,” said Rodney. “I want to send word to our folks.”

“Come right back, Rodney,” said Jim.

“I will,” said Rodney, but he was hurrying away with the Squire and one
of the consequences was that when, just before supper time, Mr. and
Mrs. Kirby came over to the Nelson store to ask if there was any news,
a telegraph messenger went in with them.

“Read it aloud! What is it?” exclaimed Mrs. Kirby. “Is it from Rod?”

“O, do hear!” said Mrs. Kirby, and she read:

“Mother. We got here. They found the money. Jim’s all right. He didn’t
do it. Tell Millie. Tell everybody.”

“Whoop!” shouted Mr. Kirby, but his wife was reaching out after the
telegram that Mrs. Nelson was waving, like a flag, and Millie was
dancing.

“Ba-a-a-beh!” remarked a bearded friend of the family, in the doorway.

Away over on Randall’s Island, in the main office of the House of
Refuge, a bright-faced officer was reading a very much longer telegram.
When it was completed, he remarked, to a pair of his blue uniformed
associates and to another pair who were not in uniform:

“I’m glad he is innocent. I’m glad we did our duty by him.--Well, after
all, I’m glad the right boy got away.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Only a few years have gone by. Only long enough for the new avenue to
be built up on both sides. In the middle of the western side is a sign
that reads “R. Nelson,” and the Nelson family live under that store.
They have frequent visits from a young man they call “Jim,” who runs
a printing office, in a village about fifty miles up the Hudson. He
lives at the Bronson farm, near the village, and when he comes to the
city he spends a great deal of his time at the house of Mr. Kirby, the
printer, on the other avenue, for he worked in Kirby’s shop, once. He
told them, at his last visit, of a grand time he had had with a friend
of his named Joe, a junior officer on one of the Sound Steamers, who
came all the way up there to let him know how well three of their old
friends were doing. Boys who once climbed over walls with them and were
now sailors in the Navy.

“Rodney,” said Jim, “I’m glad, for me and for them, that it turned
out just as it did. It was best for all of us. But somehow the whole
business makes me think of what I heard the Superintendent say, once,
to some of those Managers:

“In prison, and ye visited ME.”



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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