A Broadway Villon
A BROADWAY VILLON
BY ARTHUR TRAIN
—Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying."
IT was five o'clock, Sunday afternoon, and the slanting sunbeams had crawled across the bed and up the walls and vanished somehow into the ceiling when Voltaire McCartney came to himself, kicked off the patchwork quilt, elevated his torso upon one elbow and took an observation out of the dingy window. The prospect of the Palisade to the north-west was undimmed, for the wind was blowing fresh from the sea and the smoke from the glucose factory on the Jersey side was making straight up the river in a long, black, horizontal bar, behind which the horizon glowed in a brilliant, translucent mass of cloud. McCartney swung his thin legs clear of the bed and fumbled with his left hand in the pocket of a plaid waistcoat dangling from the iron post. The act was unconscious, equivalent to the automatic groping for one's slippers which perchance the reader's own well-regulated feet perform on similar occasions. The pocket in question yielded a square of white tissue which the fingers deftly folded, transferred to the other hand, and then filled with tobacco. Like others nourished upon stimulants and narcotics, McCartney awoke absolutely, without a trace of drowsiness, nervously ready to do the next thing, whatever that might chance to be. His first act was to pull on his shoes, the second to slip his suspender over his rather narrow shoulders, and the third to light the cigarette. Then he sauntered across the room to the window-sill, upon which slept profoundly a small tortoise-shell cat, and picked up a pocket volume, well worn, which he shook open at a point designated by a safety match. For several moments he devoured the page with his eyes, his hollow face filled with peculiar exaltation. Then he expelled a cloud of smoke sucked from the glowing end of his cigarette, tossed away the butt, and thrust the book into his hip-pocket.
"O would there there a heaven to hear!
O would there were a hell to fear!
Ah, welcome fire, eternal fire.
To burn forever and not tire!
Better Ixion's whirling wheel.
And still at any cost to feel!
Dear Son of God, in mercy give
My soul to flames, but—let me LIVE!"
He turned away from the window and pale against the gaudy west his profile shone drawn and haggard. Restlessly he filched his pocket for another cigarette and tossed himself wearily into a painted rocker. The cat awakened, elongated herself in a prodigious and voluptuous yawn of her whole body, dropped to the floor and leaped with a single spring into her master's lap. He stroked her sadly.
"Isabeau! My poor Isabeau! I envy you—creature perfect in symmetry, perfect in feeling!"
The cat rubbed her head against the buttons of his coat. McCartney leaned back his head. The little room was bare of ornament or of furniture other than the chair, save for a deal table at the foot of the bed, bearing a litter of newspapers and yellow pad-paper.
"I am discouraged by the street.
The pacing of monotonous feet!"
murmured the man in the rocker. The light died out above the Palisades; the cat snuggled down between her master's legs.
"Dear Son of God, in mercy give
My soul to flames, but let me live!"
he added softly. Then he lifted the cat gently to the floor, threw on a short, faded reefer coat, and opened the door.
"Well, Isabeau, it's time for us to go out and earn our supper!"
McCartney gazed solemnly down from the small rostrum upon which he was standing at the end of the saloon without so much as a smile in answer to the roar of appreciation with which his time-worn anecdote had been received.
"Dot's goot!" shouted an abdominal 'Dutchman,' pounding the table with his beer mug. "Gif us 'n odder!"
"Ya!" exclaimed his confrère. "Dot feller, he was a corker, eh?" He put up his hands and making a trumpet of them bawled at McCartney. "Here, kommen sie unt haf a glass bier mit us!"
Three teamsters, a card-sharp, a porter, two cabbies, and a dozen unclassibles nodded their heads and stamped, while the bartender passed up a foaming stein to the performer. McCartney blew off the froth, bowed with easy grace to the assembled company, and drank. Then he descended to the table occupied by the Germans.
"May you all have better luck than the gentleman in my story," he remarked. "But I for one shall go straight to the other place. Heaven for climate—Hell for society, eh? Hoch der Kaiser!"
The Germans threw back their heads and laughed boisterously.
"Make that beer a sandwich, will you? Here, Bill, bring me a slice of cold beef and a cheese sandwich!"
The bartender opened a small ice chest and produced the desired edibles, to which variation in their offered hospitality the two interposed no objection, being in fact somewhat in awe of their intellectual, if not distinguished guest. As McCartney ate he produced a handful of transparent dice.
"Ever see any dice like those?" he asked, rolling them across the wet table. The first German examined them with approval.
"Dose is pooty, eh?" he remarked to his neighbor. "I trow you for die Schnapps, eh?"
McCartney watched them covetously as they emptied the leathern shaker, solemnly counting the spots at the conclusion of each cast.
"Here, let me show you how," volunteered their guest. "Poker hands." He rattled the dice and poured them forth. They came up indiscriminately.
"Not so goot, eh?" commented the German. "I'll trow you. I'll trow ennyboty mit clear dice. Venn dey ain't loated I can trow mit emnyboty." He held them up to the light. "Dese is clear—goot."
"Three times for a dollar," said McCartney.
"So," answered the German. He threw carefully, and counted two sixes, two aces, and a five. He left in the sixes and threw the others. This time he got an ace and two fives. Once more he put them back, but accomplished no better result.
"Now, I'll show you," said McCartney, and emptied the shaker. The dice tumbled upon the table to the tune of two aces, two sixes and a five. He put back the sixes and the five and threw another ace, a three and a five.
"I win," he remarked. "You don't know how!"
"Vat's dot? Don't know how, eh!" roared the other. "I trow you for fife dollars, see? Gif me dose leetle dice." He threw with a heavy bang that shook the table. Again he got two sixes, two aces and a five, and put back the latter. This time he secured another ace and leaned back and took a heavy draught of beer. "Full house! Beat dat eef you can!"
McCartney tossed the dice carelessly upon the board for two fours, one ace and two fives. To the amazement of the Germans, he left in the ace and returned the other four to the shaker. This time he got two more aces. His last throw gave him another ace and a five.
"Zum teuffel!" growled the German, thrusting his hand into his pocket and drawing forth a dirty wad of bills. "Here, take your money!" He handed McCartney six dollars.
"Kind sirs, good night," remarked McCartney, thrusting the bills into his waistcoat pocket and arising from his place. "I must betake me hence. Experience is the only teacher. Let me advise you never to play games of chance with strangers."
The two Germans stared at him stupidly.
"You don't understand? Permit me. You saw the dice were not loaded? Very good! You examined them? Very good again. Your powers of observation are uncultivated, merely. The stern mother of invention—that is to say necessity—has obeyed the law of evolution. Three of the dice in my pocket bear no even numbers. The information is well worth your six dollars. Again, good night."
"Betruger!" cried the loser of the six dollars, arising heavily and upsetting his beer. "Dot feller skivinded us mit dice geloaded! Sheet! Sheet!"
They blundered toward the side entrance, while McCartney side-stepped into an adjacent portal. Long Acre Square gleamed from end to end. Above him an electric display, momentarily vanishing and reappearing, heralded the attributes of the cigar sacred to the Scottish bard. Peering through the haze generated by the countless lights a few tiny stars repaid diligent search. A scanty number of pedestrians were abroad. The pantheon of delights shone silent save for an occasional clanging car. The Germans passed in search of an officer, excitedly jabbering about the "sheet." Their angry expressions reverberating along the concrete, fading gradually into the hum of the lower town.
Then slowly into view crept one of those anachronisms of the metropolis—a huge, shaggy horse slowly stalking northward, dragging a rickety express wagon whereon reposed a semi-somnolent yokel. Hitched by its shafts to the tail of the wagon trailed a decrepit brougham (destined, probably, for country depot service), behind this a debilitated Stanhope buggy, followed by a dog-cart, a spyder, a buckboard, with last of all a hoodless Victoria. This picturesquely mournful procession of vanished respectability staggered hesitatingly past our hero, who regarded it with vast amusement. To his fanciful imagination it appeared like the fleshless vertebræ of a sea-serpent slowly writhing into the obscurity of the night. Occasionally one of the component dorsals would strike an inequality in the pavement and start upon a brief frolic of its own, swinging out of line at a tangent until hauled back into place again by the pull of the shaggy horse. Sometimes all started in different directions at one and the same time and the semblance to a skeleton snake was heightened—even the ominous rattle was not wanting. The Victoria looked restful to McCartney, whose legs were always tired.
"Why should we fret that others ride?
Perhaps dull care sits by their side,
And leaves us foot men free!"
he hummed to himself, recollecting an old college glee.
"All the same that old bandbox looks not uncomfortable. How long is it since I have used a cushion! Poverty makes a poor bed-fellow!"
As the last equipage swung by, McCartney took a few steps in the same direction and clambered in. He had become a "footman" in fact, but a very undignified and luxurious footman, who lay back with his feet crossed against the box in front of him. Of all the lights on Broadway none glowed so comfortingly for McCartney as the tip of his cigarette.
"My prayer is answered," he remarked, softly to himself. "Thus do I escape the 'monotonous feet.' Had I only Isabeau I should have attained the height of human happiness—to have dined, to smoke, to ride on cushions under the starlight, to have six dollars, and not to know where one is going—a plethora of gifts. So I can spare Isabeau for the nonce. Doubtless she would not particularly care for the delights of locomotion."
Thus Voltaire sailed northward, noticed only by solitary policemen and lonely wayfarers. Near Eightieth Street his eye caught the burning circle of a clock pointing at half past nine, and he stretched himself and yawned again. They were passing the vestibule of an old church which contrasted quaintly with the more ambitious modern architecture of the neighborhood. From the interior floated out the gray unison of a hymn. McCartney swung himself to the ground and listened while the skeleton rattled up the avenue.
"Egad!" thought he, "yon prayerful folk are not troubled with my disorder. Hell is for them what Jersey City is for me—a vital reality."
A woman, her head shrouded in a worn gray shawl, approached timidly and stationed herself near the door. McCartney could see that she was weeping and that she had a baby in her arms. He grumbled a bit to himself at this business. It did not suit his fancy—his scheme, who had planned a continuation of this night of comedy so auspiciously begun, and disliked any incongruity.
"Broke?" he inquired without rising. The woman nodded. She was really weeping, he could see that.
"What's the matter?"
"Dan cleared out the flat and skipped yesterday afternoon. We've had nothing to eat—me and the kid—all day."
"Let's look at your hands."
The woman held out a thin, rough, red hand. McCartney gave it a glance and continued:
"What's your kid's name?"
McCartney gazed at her intently.
"Look here, do you think those folks in there would help you?"
"I don't know. It's better than the the Island."
"Don't try it," advised McCartney. "They'd think you were working some game on 'em. Leave this graft to me."
The woman started back, half frightened, but McCartney's smile reassured her.
"Here's yours on account." He handed her the five-dollar bill he had secured from the German*, "I know how. You don't. You need it. I don't." He waved aside her thanks. "Now go home, and, listen to me, don't take Dan back—he's no good."
The woman hurried away, and with her departure silence fell again.
McCartney seated himself upon the curb and lit still another cigarette eyeing the door expectantly. Once he arose and dropped a piece of silver into the poor-box inside the porch, listening intently to the loud rattle it made in falling. It was clearly the sole occupant, for no answering clink came in response.
"Alas for the rarity
Of Christian charity
Under the sun."
Softly murmured McCartney.
"You will be lonely in there all by yourself, little one. Here's a brother to keep you company," said he, pushing in another.
The hymn ceased and the congregation began to pass out. McCartney retired into the darkness of a corner, scrutinizing every face among the worshippers. Last of all came a little old man scuffling along with the aid of a cane. His snowy heard gave him an aspect singularly benign. McCartney Laughed to himself.
"Grandpa, I trust we shall become better acquainted," he remarked under his breath, as he followed the old fellow down the street.
The loud vibrations of the bell in the deserted rooms of the floor below brought no immediate response, and instead of a brighter blaze of hospitality, the light in the hall was hurriedly extinguished. McCartney only pressed his thumb to the round receptacle of the bell the more assiduously, repeating the process at varying intervals until the light again illumined the door. A shadow hesitated upon the late curtain, then the door itself was slowly, doubtfully opened, and the old man shuffled into the vestibule peering suspiciously through the iron fretwork. McCartney without going too close—he knew well the dread of human eyes, face to face—looked nonchalantly up and down the street, realizing that he must give his quarry time to regain the self-possession this midnight visit must have shattered. After a pause the bolt was shot and the door opened upon its chain.
"Was that you ringing? What do you want?"
"Yes, it was I who rang. I trust you'll excuse the lateness of my call. It's imperative for me to see you."
"Who are you? And what do you want to see me about?"
"My name is Blake. Blake of the 'Daily Dial.' It is a personal matter."
"Don't know you. Don't know any Blake. Don't read the 'Dial.' What is the personal matter?"
"For God's sake, sir, let me speak with you. It's a matter of life and death. Don't deny me, sir. Hear me first."
The little old man closed the dour, a couple of inches.
"Want money, eh?"
"Help, sir. Only a word of sympathy. I've a dying child——"
"Can't you come round in the morning?"
"It will be too late then. I implore you to listen to me for only a few moments. I've been waiting two hours upon the side-walk for you to return and it's too late for me to go elsewhere."
The door opened sufficiently for the old man to thrust his face close to the crack and inspect his visitor from head to heels. Evidently McCartney's appearance and the manner of his speech had made an impression which was now struggling with prudence and common sense. The Deacon, moreover, had a reputation to support. It would not do to turn an applicant away who might be in dire extremity—and who might go elsewhere and carry the tale with him.
"Won't a bed-ticket do you, eh? And come in the morning?"
McCartney saw the vacillation in the other's mind.
"I'm sorry, but I must see you now, if at all. To-morrow might be too late."
The owner of the house closed the door, unslipped the chain and retreated inside the hall to the foot of the stairs, leaving the way free for his visitor to follow. McCartney entered, hat in hand, and shut the door behind him, catching at a glance the austerity of the furniture and walls. To him every inch of the Brussels carpet, the ponderous, polished walnut hat-rack, the massive blue china stand with its lonely umbrella and stout bamboo cane, and the heavily framed oil copy of St. John spoke eloquently.
"I must ask your pardon again, sir, for disturbing you. But a man of your character, as you have no doubt discovered, must suffer for the sake of his reputation. I——"
McCartney swayed and seized a yellow-plush portière for support. In a moment he had regained control of himself—apparently.
"A touch of faintness. I haven't eaten since morning." He looked around for a chair. The old man made a show of concern.
"Nothing to eat! Dear me! Well, well! Come in and sit down. Perhaps I can find something."
Deacon Andrews led the way past the stairs and swung open the door to the dining-room. It had a musty smell, just a hint of the prison pen at noon time, and McCartney shuddered. The old man disappeared into the darkness, struck a sulphur match, a fact noted by his guest, and with some difficulty lighted a gas jet in a grotesquely proportioned chandelier. The gas which had blazed up, he turned down to half its original volume.
"There, sit down," said he, pointing to a mahogany chair shrouded in a ticking cover, and settled himself in another on the opposite side of a great desert of table. McCartney did as he was bidden, mentally tabulating the additional facts offered to his observation by the remainder of the room. There was evident the same bare vastness as in the outer hall. Two more oils, one of mythological, the other of religious purport, balanced each other over the wings of a huge black carven sideboard. For the rest the yellow and brown wall-paper repeated itself interminably into the shadow.
"Feel better?" asked the Deacon.
"Yes, much," answered McCartney. "I'm used to going without food. The body can stand suffering better than the mind—and the heart."
"Let's try and fix up the body first," remarked the Deacon, opening a compartment beneath the sideboard. "Here, try some of these," and he placed a plate of water biscuits upon the table.
McCartney essayed more or less successfully to eat one, while the old man retreated into the pantry and after a hollow ringing of water upon an empty sink, returned with a thick tumbler of Croton.
"Good, eh? Nothing like plain flour food and Adam's ale! Now, what is it you want to say. I must be getting to bed."
McCartney hastily swallowed the last of the biscuit and leaned forward.
"If I could be sure my dear wife and child could have this to-night, I should be happy indeed. Oh, sir, poverty can be borne—but to see those whom we love suffer and be powerless to help them—I can hardly address myself to you, sir. I have never asked for charity before. I'm a hard working man. I had a good position, a little home of my own and a wife and child whom I loved devotedly. I care for nothing else in the world. Then came the chance that ended so disastrously for us. I thought it was the tide in my affairs, you know, that might lead on to fortune. My wife was offered a position in a traveling company at sixteen dollars a week, and they agreed to take me with them as press agent at thirty-five—fifty dollars a week all told. Can you blame us?"
"I don't approve of play-acting," said the Deacon.
"Don't think the less of my wife for that. She meant it for the best." McCartney's face worked and he brushed his eves with the kick of his hand.
"Look here, what's the use wasting time," interrupted the Deacon. "How do I know who you are?"
"You have only my word, sir, that is true."
"What did you say you did for a living?"
"I'm a reporter. I live by my pen, sir, and I write articles on various subjects for the newspapers. I have even written a very modest book. Hut the modern public has crude taste in literature," sighed McCartney.
"Well, go on, now, and tell me about your trip or whatever it was," said the Deacon.
"I gave up for the time, as I said, the precarious livelihood of a space-writer. We sublet our rooms. I spent what little money I had saved upon a costume for my wife, and we started out making one-night stands."
"What was the name of your play?" inquired the Deacon abruptly.
"'The Two Orphans,'" replied McCartney without hesitation. "We got along well enough until we reached Rochester, and there the show broke down—went to the wall. We were stranded, without a cent, in a theatrical boarding-house. My wife was taken down with pneumonia and little Cathie——"
"Little what?" asked the Deacon.
"Short for Catherine—caught the croup. We had nowhere to turn. I pawned my watch to pay our board bill. We were sleeping in a single room—the three of us. For days I tramped the streets of Rochester looking for some work to do, but I was absolutely friendless and could find nothing. My wife got a little better, but little Catherine seemed to grow worse. I pawned my wife's wedding ring, all my clothes but those I have on, even my baby's tiny little bracelet we bought for her on her second birthday—Oh, God, how I suffered! We talked it all over and decided that as New York was the only place where I was known I had better return and earn enough money to send for them as soon as I could. The manager let me use his pass back to the city. I reached here three days ago, but I have found no work of any sort. Some of the press boys have shared their meals with me, but for the moment I'm penniless. Meantime, my wife is lying sick in a strange household and my little girl may be dying!" McCartney sobbed brokenly. "I'm at my last gasp. I've nowhere to sleep to-night. No money to buy breakfast. I can't even pay for a postage stamp to write to them!"
"What street did you stay in at Rochester?"
"1421 Maple Avenue," shot back McCartney. "I wish you could see my little Catherine—she's such a tiny ball of sunshine. Every morning she used to come and wake me, and say "Come, Daddy, come to breafcrust!' She couldn't pronounce the word right—I hope she never will. She called the little dog I gave her a fox 'terrial' dog. Some people say children are all alike. If they could only see her—if she's still alive. Why I wouldn't give ten cents to live if I could only make sure Edith would have enough to get along on and give Catherine a decent education. I want that girl to grow up into a fine noble woman like her mother. And to think the last time I saw her she was lying in a stuffy hall bed room in a third class lodging house, her little forehead burning with fever, with my poor sick wife stretched beside her. fearing to move lest she should wake the child. She may be dead by this time, for I've had no work for three days, and I've been able to send them nothing—nothing! They may have been turned out into the streets, for the board bill was a week overdue when I left them. Don't you see it drives me nearly mad? I'm worse off a thousand times than if I stayed there with them. Sometimes I think there can't be any God, for if there was He'd never let me suffer so. And all for a little money—just because I can't pay the fare back to my sick wife and dying baby— my poor, sweet, little baby!"
McCartney's voice broke and he buried his haggard face on his arms. For a moment or two neither spoke, then the Deacon sighed deeply.
"You do seem to have had hard luck," he remarked awkwardly. McCartney was still too overcome with emotion to reply. "I reckon I'll have to break my rule and help you without references. I don't believe in giving as a rule, unless you know who you are giving to."
He put his hand in his pocket.
"But I'll do it this time." He placed two quarters upon the table.
"There, half a dollar'll keep you nicely for a while. Of course, there's no use sendin' money to Rochester. Your landlady can't turn sick folks into the street, and if she does they can go to the hospital——"
He paused, startled by the look on McCartney's face, for the latter had risen like an avenging angel, white and trembling. Pointing at the two harmless coins, he cried:
"Is that your answer to the appeal of a starving man? Is that all your religion has done for you? Is that how you obey your Lord's teachings? 'Cup of cold water' indeed! Cold water! Cold water! That's what you've got instead of blood; you withered old epidermis! You miserable, dried up, apology for a human being!" He paused for breath, sweeping the room with indignant scorn.
"I know your kind! You old Christian Shylock! You bought those chromos at an auction! You took that old sideboard for a debt—yes, a debt at 18 per cent. interest. You don't pay a cent of taxes. You sing psalms and wear out your trousers on the platform at the prayer-meeting, and then loan out the church's money on worthless securities. You're too mean to keep a cat, for the cost of her milk. You read a penny newspaper and take books out of a circulating library. You put a petticoat on these chairs so your miserly little body won't wear out the seats."
The lean vagabond half shouted his anathema, the pallor of his face and brow darkening red from the violence of his passion. It was the very ecstasy of anger. Before it the little man with the white hair shrank into himself, diminishing into his chair, seeking moral opportunity of escape.
McCartney looked at the two coins contemptuously.
"Bah!" he exclaimed in disgust. "Half a dollar for a dying child and a starving woman, to say nothing of a shelterless man!" He broke into a mirthless laugh. "Allow me to return your generous answer to my application for assistance. A code of morals of my own, which doubtless you would not appreciate, compels me to restore what is obviously ten times more precious to the donor than to the recipient."
He fillipped the two coins across the table into the lap of his host, who still crouched furtively with his head near the table.
"It makes me sick to look at you! Who could gaze without disgust upon the spectacle of an ossified creature like yourself, creeping through bare, deserted old age towards a grave mortgaged to the Devil. Ugh! It is the horridest spectacle I have seen in a month."
"You're mad!" muttered the old man with hoarse fearfulness.
"Sometimes, but not now!" retorted McCartney. "I'll hold my evening session for Misers a moment longer. I pity you, Lord Pin-head Penurious! I pity you that you should have gone through life, a small term of say sixty years, in such stupidity. Sixty years of grubbing, of weighing meat and. adding figures, of watching the prices fools pay for stocks, and how many days oflife? How many good deeds? Oh, marvelous lack of wit! What know you of real happiness? Let me introduce myself, since you're so blind. What do you think I am, my good old Noddy Numbskull?"
"Crazy!" gasped the old man. "Do be quiet! Let me get you something more to eat."
"A thief, at your service. Oh, don't start. I'll not carry away your mahogany sideboard nor your bronze chandelier. I steal only to keep myself in purse—to live. You dig to add to the column of figures in your pass book. I walk among the gods. My brain is worth twenty gray bags like yours. I have thoughts and dreams in terms to you unintelligible. I can live more in a week than haply you have done in the course of your whole crawling existence. What do you know of the spirit? Behind your altar sits a calf of gold. You grovel before it and slip out at the bottom the shekels you drop in at the top. To you the moon will always be made of green cheese, that 'orbed maiden with white fire laden!' Your hands are callous from counting money, your brain is——"
The old fellow arose. "Leave my house! Get out of here!"
He was an absurd figure, not more than five feet high, in his black broadcloth suit and string tie as he faced McCartney's blazing eyes, and the latter laughed at him.
"I will fast enough. But you see I'm having a sensation—living. I'm doing good. Oh, yes, I am. If not to you, at least to myself. Do you think I'll ever forget little 'Cathie'? God! How I could have loved a real child! And I've only a cat." He laughed again. "I don't blame you for thinking me crazy—even you. Come now, wasn't my picture of the phthisic wife and moaning child worth a place on the line—I mean, wasn't it good, eh? Worth more than two beggarly quarters? It gave me a thrill—what I need—it'll keep me alive for another twenty-four hours, without this." He held up a nickel-plated hypodermic syringe. It shone in the gaslight, and the old man started back and held out his hands.
"Don't shoot!" he cried in senile terror.
"Carrion!" cried McCartney. "Why do I waste my time on you? Why? Because I'm in your debt. I owe you little Catherine. I shall never forget her. And you, you—you are her foster-father! God forbid!"
The old man sat down resignedly at the extreme side of the table.
"By God I pity you!" exclaimed the lean man. "Do you hear that? I pity you—I!— a wretched, drugged, wilted, useless bundle of nerves twisted into the image of a man; a chap born with a silver spoon, with gifts, who tossed them all into the gutter—threw 'a pearl away richer than all his tribe'; a miserable creature who can't live without this (he pressed the needles into his wrist) and yet I wouldn't change with you! I'm more of a man than you. My very wants are sweeter than any joys your brutish senses ran ever feel.
'O would there were a heaven to hear!
O would there were a hell to fear!
Dear Son of God, in mercy give
My soul to flames, but let me live!'
"You don't know what that means! Haven't the vaguest idea. You're a mummy. You'll be the same ten thousand years from now. I suppose you think I made it up, eh?
'I am discouraged by the street.
The tuning of monotonous feet.'
"That's all you want. You couldn't understand anything else, and yet it's my torture, and my salvation!"
The glow came hack into McCartney's eyes and he repeated——
"Yes, that picture of little Catherine was worth more than two quarters. It ought to have been good for twenty dollars. It's worth more than that to me."
McCartney's voice had grown strong and clear.
The old fellow looked at him sharply and changed his tone. He must get this madman out of his house. He must humor him.
"Come, come, that's all right. Cheer up! Why, I had a little girl of my own once."
McCartney pierced him through and through with swimming eyes.
"And her memory was only worth two miserable quarters? You lie, you wretched old man, you lie!"
The old fellow started back. The door banged. McCartney was gone.