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Chapter 5

V.

Lemuel stretched the note between his hands, and pored so long upon it that the clerk began to tap impatiently with his finger-tips on the register. "It won't go?" faltered the boy, looking up at the clerk's sharp face.

"It won't go here," replied the clerk. "Got anything else?"

Lemuel's head whirled; the air seemed to darken around him, as he pored again upon the note, and turned it over and over. Two tears scalded their way down his cheeks, and his lips twitched, when the clerk added, "Some beats been workin' you?" but he made no answer. His heart was hot with shame and rage, and heavy with despair. He put the note in his pocket, and took his bag and walked out of the hotel. He had not money enough to get home with now, and besides he could not bear to go back in the disgrace of such calamity. It would be all over the neighbourhood, as soon as his mother could tell it; she might wish to keep it to herself for his sake, but she could not help telling it to the first person and every person she saw; she would have to go over to the neighbours to tell it. In a dreary, homesick longing he saw her crossing the familiar meadows that lay between the houses, bareheaded, in her apron, her face set and rigid with wonder at what had happened to her Lem. He could not bear the thought. He would rather die; he would rather go to sea. This idea flashed into his mind as he lifted his eyes aimlessly and caught sight of the tall masts of the coal-ships lying at the railroad wharves, and he walked quickly in the direction of them, so as not to give himself time to think about it, so as to do it now, quick, right off. But he found his way impeded by all sorts of obstacles; a gate closed across the street to let some trains draw in and out of a station; then a lot of string teams and slow, heavy-laden trucks got before him, with a turmoil of express wagons, herdics, and hacks, in which he was near being run over, and was yelled at, sworn at, and laughed at as he stood bewildered, with his lank bag in his hand. He turned and walked back past the hotel again. He felt it an escape, after all, not to have gone to sea; and now a hopeful thought struck him. He would go back to the Common and watch for those fellows who fooled him, and set the police on them, and get his money from them; they might come prowling round again to fool somebody else. He looked out for a car marked like the one he had followed down from the Common, and began to follow it on its return. He got ahead of the car whenever it stopped, so as to be spared the shame of being seen to chase it; and he managed to keep it in sight till he reached the Common. There he walked about looking for those scamps, and getting pushed and hustled by the people who now thronged the paths. At last he was tired out, and on the Beacon Street mall, where he had first seen those fellows, he found the very seat where they had all sat together, and sank into it. The seats were mostly vacant now; a few persons sat there reading their evening papers. As the light began to wane, they folded up their papers and walked away, and their places were filled by young men, who at once put their arms round the young women with them, and seemed to be courting. They did not say much, if anything; they just sat there. It made Lemuel ashamed to look at them; he thought they ought to have more sense. He looked away, but he could not look away from them all, there were so many of them. He was all the time very hungry, but he thought he ought not to break into his half-dollar as long as he could help it, or till there was no chance left of catching those fellows. The night came on, the gas-lamps were lighted, and some lights higher up, like moonlight off on the other paths, projected long glares into the night and made the gas look sickly and yellow. Sitting still there while it grew later, he did not feel quite so hungry, but he felt more tired than ever. There were not so many people around now, and he did not see why he should not lie down on that seat and rest himself a little. He made feints of reclining on his arm at first, to see if he were noticed; then he stretched himself out, with his bag under his head, and his hands in his pockets clutching the money which he meant to make those fellows take back. He got a gas-lamp in range, to keep him awake, and lay squinting his eyes to meet the path of rays running down from it to him. Then he shivered, and rose up with a sudden start. The dull, rich dawn was hanging under the trees around him, while the electric lamps, like paler moons now, still burned among their tops. The sparrows bickered on the grass and the gravel of the path around him.

He could not tell where he was at first; but presently he remembered, and looked for his bag. It was gone; and the money was gone out of both his pockets. He dropped back upon the seat, and leaning his head against the back, he began to cry for utter despair. He had hardly ever cried since he was a baby; and he would not have done it now, but there was no one there to see him.

When he had his cry out he felt a little better, and he got up and went to the pond in the hollow, and washed his hands and face, and wiped them on the handkerchief his mother had ironed for him to use at the minister's; it was still in the folds she had given it. As he shook it out, rising up, he saw that people were asleep on all the benches round the pond; he looked hopelessly at them to see if any of them were those fellows, but he could not find them. He seemed to be the only person awake on the Common, and wandered out of it and down through the empty streets, filled at times with the moony light of the waning electrics, and at times merely with the grey dawn. A man came along putting out the gas, and some milk-carts rattled over the pavement. By and by a market-wagon, with the leaves and roots of cabbages sticking out from the edges of the canvas that covered it, came by, and Lemuel followed it; he did not know what else to do, and it went so slow that he could keep up, though the famine that gnawed within him was so sharp sometimes that he felt as if he must fall down. He was going to drop into a doorway and rest, but when he came to it he found on an upper step a man folded forward like a limp bundle, snoring in a fetid, sodden sleep, and, shocked into new strength, he hurried on. At last the wagon came to a place that he saw was a market. There were no buyers yet, but men were flitting round under the long arcades of the market-houses, with lanterns under their arms, among boxes and barrels of melons, apples, potatoes, onions, beans, carrots, and other vegetables, which the country carts as they arrived continually unloaded. The smell of peaches and cantaloupes filled the air, and made Lemuel giddy as he stood and looked at the abundance. The men were not saying much; now and then one of them priced something, the owner pretended to figure on it, and then they fell into a playful scuffle, but all silently. A black cat lay luxuriously asleep on the canvas top of a barrel of melons, and the man who priced the melons asked if the owner would throw the cat in. There was a butcher's cart laden with carcasses of sheep, and one of the men asked the butcher if he called that stuff mutton. "No; imitation," said the butcher. They all seemed to be very good-natured. Lemuel thought he would ask for an apple; but he could not.

The neighbouring restaurants began to send forth the smell of breakfast, and he dragged up and down till he could bear it no longer, and then went into one of them, meaning to ask for some job by which he could pay for a meal. But his shame again would not let him. He looked at the fat, white-aproned boy drawing coffee hot from a huge urn, and serving a countryman with a beefsteak. It was close and sultry in there; the open sugar-bowl was black with flies, and a scent of decaying meat came from the next cellar. "Like some nice fresh dough-nuts?" said the boy to Lemuel. He did not answer; he looked around as if he had come in search of some one. Then he went out, and straying away from the market, he found himself after a while in a street that opened upon the Common.

He was glad to sit down, and he said to himself that now he would stay there, and keep a good lookout for the chaps that had robbed him. But again he fell asleep, and he did not wake now till the sun was high, and the paths of the Common were filled with hurrying people. He sat where he had slept, for he did not know what else to do or where to go. Sometimes he thought he would go to Mr. Sewell, and ask him for money enough to get home; but he could not do it; he could more easily starve.

After an hour or two he went to get a drink at a fountain he saw a little way off, and when he came back some people had got his seat. He started to look for another, and on his way he found a cent in the path, and he bought an apple with it—a small one that the dealer especially picked out for cheapness. It seemed pretty queer to Lemuel that a person should want anything for one apple. The apple when he ate it made him sick. His head began to ache, and it ached all day. Late in the afternoon he caught sight of one of those fellows at a distance; but there was no policeman near. Lemuel called out, "Stop there, you!" but the fellow began to run when he recognised Lemuel, and the boy was too weak and faint to run after him.

The day wore away and the evening came again, and he had been twenty-four hours houseless and without food. He must do something; he could not stand it any longer; there was no sense in it. He had read in the newspapers how they gave soup at the police-stations in Boston in the winter; perhaps they gave something in summer. He mustered up courage to ask a gentleman who passed where the nearest station was, and then started in search of it. If the city gave it, then there was no disgrace in it, and Lemuel had as much right to anything that was going as other people; that was the way he silenced his pride.

But he missed the place; he must have gone down the wrong street from Tremont to Washington; the gentleman had said the street that ran along the Common was Tremont, and the next was Washington. The cross-street that Lemuel got into was filled with people, going and coming, and lounging about. There were girls going along two or three together with books under their arms, and other girls talking with young fellows who hung about the doors of brightly lighted shops, and flirting with them. One of the girls, whom he had seen the day before in the Common, turned upon Lemuel as he passed, and said, "There goes my young man now! Good evening, Johnny!" It made Lemuel's cheek burn; he would have liked to box her ears for her. The fellows all set up a laugh.

Towards the end of the street the crowd thickened, and there the mixture of gas and the white moony lights that glared higher up, and winked and hissed, shone upon the faces of a throng that had gathered about the doors and windows of a store a little way down the other street. Lemuel joined them, and for pure listlessness waited round to see what they were looking at. By and by he was worked inward by the shifting and changing of the crowd, and found himself looking in at the door of a room, splendidly fitted up with mirrors and marble everywhere, and coloured glass and carved mahogany. There was a long counter with three men behind it, and over their heads was a large painting of a woman, worse than that image in the garden. The men were serving out liquor to the people that stood around drinking and smoking, and battening on this picture. Lemuel could not help looking, either. "What place is this?" he asked of the boy next him.

"Why, don't you know?" said the boy. "It's Jimmy Baker's. Just opened."

"Oh," said Lemuel. He was not going to let the boy see that he did not know who Jimmy Baker was. Just then something caught his eye that had a more powerful charm for him than that painting. It was a large bowl at the end of the counter, which had broken crackers in it, and near it were two plates, one with cheese, and one with bits of dried fish and smoked meat. The sight made the water come into his mouth; he watched like a hungry dog, with a sympathetic working of the jaws, the men who took a bit of fish, or meat, or cheese, and a cracker, or all four of them, before or after they drank. Presently one of the crowd near him walked in and took some fish and cracker without drinking at all; he merely winked at one of the bar- tenders, who winked at him in return.

A tremendous tide of daring rose in Lemuel's breast. He was just going to go in and risk the same thing himself, when a voice in the crowd behind him said, "Hain't you had 'most enough, young feller? Some the rest of us would like a chance to see now."

Lemuel knew the voice, and turning quickly, he knew the impudent face it belonged to. He did not mind the laugh raised at his expense, but launched himself across the intervening spectators, and tried to seize the scamp who had got his money from him. The scamp had recognised Lemuel too, and he fell back beyond his grasp, and then lunged through the crowd, and tore round the corner and up the street. Lemuel followed as fast as he could. In spite of the weakness he had felt before, wrath and the sense of wrong lent him speed, and he was gaining in the chase when he heard a girl's voice, "There goes one of them now!" and then a man seemed to be calling after him, "Stop, there!" He turned round, and a policeman, looking gigantic in his belted blue flannel blouse and his straw helmet, bore down upon the country boy with his club drawn, and seized him by the collar.

"You come along," he said.

"I haven't done anything," said Lemuel, submitting, as he must, and in his surprise and terror losing the strength his wrath had given him. He could scarcely drag his feet over the pavement, and the policeman had almost to carry him at arm's length.

A crowd had gathered about them, and was following Lemuel and his captor, but they fell back when they reached the steps of the police-station, and Lemuel was pulled up alone, and pushed in at the door. He was pushed through another door, and found himself in a kind of office. A stout man in his shirt-sleeves was sitting behind a desk within a railing, and a large book lay open on the desk. This man, whose blue waistcoat with brass buttons marked him for some sort of officer, looked impersonally at Lemuel and then at the officer, while he chewed a quill toothpick, rolling it in his lips. "What have you got there?" he asked.

"Assaulting a girl down here, and grabbing her satchel," said the officer who had arrested Lemuel, releasing his collar and going to the door, whence he called, "You come in here, lady," and a young girl, her face red with weeping and her hair disordered, came back with him. She held a crumpled straw hat with the brim torn loose, and in spite of her disordered looks she was very pretty, with blue eyes flung very wide open, and rough brown hair, wavy and cut short, almost like a boy's. This Lemuel saw in the frightened glance they exchanged.

"This the fellow that assaulted you?" asked the man at the desk, nodding his head toward Lemuel, who tried to speak; but it was like a nightmare; he could not make any sound.

"There were three of them," said the girl with hysterical volubility. "One of them pulled my hat down over my eyes and tore it, and one of them held me by the elbows behind, and they grabbed my satchel away that had a book in it that I had just got out of the library. I hadn't got it more than——"

"What name?" asked the man at the desk.

"A Young Man's Darling," said the girl, after a bashful hesitation. Lemuel had read that book just before he left home; he had not thought it was much of a book.

"The captain wants to know your name," said the officer in charge of
Lemuel.

"Oh," said the girl, with mortification. "Statira Dudley."

"What age?" asked the captain.

"Nineteen last June," replied the girl with eager promptness, that must have come from shame from the blunder she had made. Lemuel was twenty, the 4th of July.

"Weight?" pursued the captain.

"Well, I hain't been weighed very lately," answered the girl, with increasing interest. "I don't know as I been weighed since I left home."

The captain looked at her judicially.

"That so? Well, you look pretty solid. Guess I'll put you down at a hundred and twenty."

"Well, I guess it's full as much as that," said the girl, with a flattered laugh.

"Dunno how high you are?" suggested the captain, glancing at her again.

"Well, yes, I do. I am just five feet two inches and a half."

"You don't look it," said the captain critically.

"Well, I am," insisted the girl, with a returning gaiety.

The captain apparently checked himself and put on a professional severity.

"What business—occupation?"

"Sales-lady," said the girl.

"Residence?"

"No. 2334 Pleasant Avenue."

The captain leaned back in his arm-chair, and turned his toothpick between his lips, as he stared hard at the girl.

"Well, now," he said, after a moment, "you know you've got to come into court and testify to-morrow morning."

"Yes," said the girl, rather falteringly, with a sidelong glance at
Lemuel.

"You've got to promise to do it, or else it will be my duty to have you locked up overnight."

"Have me locked up?" gasped the girl, her wide blue eyes filling with astonishment.

"Detain you as a witness," the captain explained. "Of course, we shouldn't put you in a cell; we should give you a good room, and if you ain't sure you'll appear in the morning——"

The girl was not of the sort whose tongues are paralysed by terror. "Oh, I'll be sure to appear, captain! Indeed I will, captain! You needn't lock me up, captain! Lock me up!" she broke off indignantly. "It would be a pretty idea if I was first to be robbed of my satchel and then put in prison for it overnight! A great kind of law that would be! Why, I never heard of such a thing! I think it's a perfect shame! I want to know if that's the way you do with poor things that you don't know about?"

"That's about the size of it," said the captain, permitting himself a smile, in which the officer joined.

"Well, it's a shame!" cried the girl, now carried far beyond her personal interest in the matter.

The captain laughed outright. "It is pretty rough. But what you going to do?"

"Do? Why, I'd——" But here she stopped for want of science, and added from emotion, "I'd do _any_thing before I'd do that."

"Well," said the captain, "then I understand you'll come round to the police court and give your testimony in the morning?"

"Yes," said the girl, with a vague, compassionate glance at Lemuel, who had stood there dumb throughout the colloquy.

"If you don't, I shall have to send for you," said the captain.

"Oh, I'll come," replied the girl, in a sort of disgust, and her eyes still dwelt upon Lemuel.

"That's all," returned the captain, and the girl, accepting her dismissal, went out.

Now that it was too late, Lemuel could break from his nightmare. "Oh, don't let her go! I ain't the one! I was running after a fellow that passed off a counterfeit ten-dollar bill on me in the Common yesterday. I never touched her satchel. I never saw her before——"

"What's that?" demanded the captain sharply.

"You've got the wrong one!" cried Lemuel. "I never did anything to the girl."

"Why, you fool!" retorted the captain angrily; "why didn't you say that when she was here, instead of standing there like a dumb animal? Heigh?"

Lemuel's sudden flow of speech was stopped at its source again. His lips were locked; he could not answer a word.

The captain went on angrily. "If you'd spoke up in time, may be I might 'a' let you go. I don't want to do a man any harm if I can't do him some good. Next time, if you've got a tongue in your head, use it. I can't do anything for you now. I got to commit you."

He paused between his sentences, as if to let Lemuel speak, but the boy said nothing. The captain pulled his book impatiently toward him, and took up his pen.

"What's your name?"

"Lemuel Barker."

"I thought may be there was a mistake all the while," said the captain to the officer, while he wrote down Lemuel's name. "But if a man hain't got sense enough to speak for himself, I can't put the words in his mouth. Age?" he demanded savagely of Lemuel.

"Twenty."

"Weight?"

"A hundred and thirty."

"I could see with half an eye that the girl wan't very sanguine about it. But what's the use? I couldn't tell her she was mistaken. Height?"

"Five feet six."

"Occupation?"

"I help mother carry on the farm."

"Just as I expected!" cried the captain. "Slow as a yoke of oxen.
Residence?"

"Willoughby Pastures."

The captain could not contain himself. "Well, Willoughby Pastures,— or whatever your name is,—you'll get yourself into the papers this time, sure. And I must say it serves you right. If you can't speak for yourself, who's going to speak for you, do you suppose? Might send round to the girl's house——No, she wouldn't be there, ten to one. You've got to go through now. Next time don't be such an infernal fool."

The captain blotted his book and shut it.

"We'll have to lock him up here to-night," he said to the policeman. "Last batch has gone round. Better go through him." But Lemuel had been gone through before, and the officer's search of his pockets only revealed their emptiness. The captain struck a bell on his desk. "If it ain't all right, you can make it right with the judge in the morning," he added to Lemuel.

Lemuel looked up at the policeman who had arrested him. He was an elderly man, with a kindly face, squarely fringed with a chin-beard. The boy tried to speak, but he could only repeat, "I never saw her before. I never touched her."

The policeman looked at him and then at the captain.

"Too late now," said the latter. "Got to go through the mill this time. But if it ain't right, you can make it right."

Another officer had answered the bell, and the captain indicated with a comprehensive roll of his head that he was to take Lemuel away and lock him up.

"Oh, my!" moaned the boy. As they passed the door of a small room opening on an inner corridor, a smell of coffee gushed out of it; the officer stopped, and Lemuel caught sight of two gentlemen in the room with a policeman, who was saying——

"Get a cup of coffee here when we want it. Try one?" he suggested hospitably.

"No, thank you," said one of the gentlemen, with the bland respectfulness of people being shown about an institution. "How many of you are attached to this station?"

"Eighty-one," said the officer. "Largest station in town. Gang goes on at one in the morning, and another at eight, and another at six P.M." He looked inquiringly at the officer in charge of Lemuel.

"Any matches?" asked this officer.

"Everything but money," said the other, taking some matches out of his waistcoat pocket.

Lemuel's officer went ahead, lighting the gas along the corridor, and the boy followed, while the other officer brought up the rear with the visitor whom he was lecturing. They passed some neat rooms, each with two beds in it, and he answered some question: "Tramps? Not much! Give them a board when they're drunk; send 'em round to the Wayfarers' Lodge when they're sober. These officers' rooms."

Lemuel followed his officer downstairs into a basement, where on either side of a white-walled, brilliantly lighted, specklessly clean corridor, there were numbers of cells, very clean, and smelling of fresh whitewash. Each had a broad low shelf in it, and a bench opposite, a little wider than a man's body. Lemuel suddenly felt himself pushed into one of them, and then a railed door of iron was locked upon him. He stood motionless in the breadth of light and lines of shade which the gas-light cast upon him through the door, and knew the gentlemen were looking at him as their guide talked.

"Well, fill up pretty well, Sunday nights. Most the arrests for drunkenness. But all the arrests before seven o'clock sent to the City Prison. Only keep them that come in afterwards."

One of the gentlemen looked into the cell opposite Lemuel's. "There seems to be only one bunk. Do you ever put more into a cell?"

"Well, hardly ever, if they're men. Lot o' women brought in 'most always ask to be locked up together for company."

"I don't see where they sleep," said the visitor. "Do they lie on the floor?"

The officer laughed. "Sleep? They don't want to sleep. What they want to do is to set up all night, and talk it over."

Both of the visitors laughed.

"Some of the cells," resumed the officer, "have two bunks, but we hardly ever put more than one in a cell."

The visitors noticed that a section of the rail was removed in each door near the floor.

"That's to put a dipper of water through, or anything," explained the officer. "There!" he continued, showing them Lemuel's door; "see how the rails are bent there? You wouldn't think a man could squeeze through there, but we found a fellow half out o' that one night— backwards. Captain came down with a rattan and made it hot for him."

The visitors laughed, and Lemuel, in his cell, shuddered.

"I never saw anything so astonishingly clean," said one of the gentlemen. "And do you keep the gas burning here all night?"

"Yes; calculate to give 'em plenty of light," said the officer, with comfortable satisfaction in the visitor's complimentary tone.

"And the sanitary arrangements seem to be perfect, doctor," said the other visitor.

"Oh, perfect."

"Yes," said the officer, "we do the best we can for 'em."

The visitors made a murmur of approbation. Their steps moved away;
Lemuel heard the guide saying, "Dunno what that fellow's in for.
Find out in the captain's room."

"He didn't look like a very abandoned ruffian," said one of the visitors, with both pity and amusement in his voice.

William Dean Howells