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Chapter 9

IX.

"Come, turn out!" said a voice in his ear, and he started up, to see the great dormitory where he had fallen asleep empty of all but himself and his friend.

"Make out a night's rest?" asked the latter. "Didn't I tell you we'd be the last up? Come along!" He preceded Lemuel, still drowsy, down the stairs into the room where they had undressed, and where the tramps were taking each his clothes from their hook, and hustling them on.

"What time is it, Johnny?" asked Lemuel's mate of the attendant. "I left my watch under my pillow."

"Five o'clock," said the man, helping the poor old fellow who had not known how to get into bed to put on his clothes.

"Well, that's a pretty good start," said the other. He finished his toilet by belting himself around the waist, and "Come along, mate," he said to Lemuel. "I'll show you the way to the tool-room."

He led him through the corridor into a chamber of the basement where there were bright rows of wood-saws, and ranks of saw-horses, with heaps of the latter in different stages of construction. "House self-supporting, as far as it can. We don't want to be beholden to anybody if we can help it. We make our own horses here; but we can't make our saws, or we would. Ever had much practice with the wood- saw?"

"No," said Lemuel, with a throb of home-sickness, that brought back the hacked log behind the house, and the axe resting against it; "we always chopped our stove-wood."

"Yes, that's the way in the country. Well, now," said the other, "I'll show you how to choose a saw. Don't you be took in by no new saw because it's bright, and looks pretty. You want to take a saw that's been filed, and filed away till it ain't more 'n an inch and a half deep; and then you want to tune it up, just so,—like a banjo—not too tight, and not too slack,—and then it'll slip through a stick o' wood like—lyin'." He selected a saw, and put it in order for Lemuel. "There!" He picked out another. "Here's my old stand-by!" He took up a saw-horse, at random, to indicate that one need not be critical in that, and led through the open door into the wood-yard, where a score or two of saws were already shrilling and wheezing through the wood.

It was a wide and lofty shed, with piles of cord-wood and slabs at either end, and walled on the farther side with kindling, sawed, split, and piled up with admirable neatness. The place gave out the sweet smell of the woods from the bark of the logs and from the fresh section of their grain. A double rank of saw-horses occupied the middle space, and beside each horse lay a quarter of a cord of wood, at which the men were toiling in sullen silence for the most part, only exchanging a grunt or snarl of dissatisfaction with one another.

"Morning, mates," said Lemuel's friend cheerfully, as he entered the shed, and put his horse down beside one of the piles. "Thought we'd look in and see how you was gettin' along. Just stepped round from the Parker House while our breakfast was a-cookin'. Hope you all rested well?"

The men paused, with their saws at different slopes in the wood, and looked round. The night before, in the nakedness in which Lemuel had first seen them, the worst of them had the inalienable comeliness of nature, and their faces, softened by their relation to their bodies, were not so bad; they were not so bad, looking from their white nightgowns; but now, clad in their filthy rags, and caricatured out of all native dignity by their motley and misshapen attire, they were a hideous gang, and all the more hideous for the grin that overspread their stubbly muzzles at the boy's persiflage.

"Don't let me interrupt you, fellows," he said, flinging a log upon his horse, and dashing his saw gaily into it. "Don't mind me! I know you hate to lose a minute of this fun; I understand just how you feel about it, and I don't want you to stand upon ceremony with me. Treat me just like one of yourselves, gents. This beech- wood is the regular Nova Scotia thing, ain't it? Tough and knotty! I can't bear any of your cheap wood-lot stuff from around here. What I want is Nova Scotia wood, every time. Then I feel that I'm gettin' the worth of my money." His log dropped apart on each side of his horse, and he put on another. "Well, mates," he rattled on, "this is lovely, ain't it? I wouldn't give up my little quarter of a cord of green Nova Scotia before breakfast for anything; I've got into the way of it, and I can't live without it."

The tramps chuckled at these ironies, and the attendant who looked into the yard now and then did not interfere with them.

The mate went through his stint as rapidly as he talked, and he had nearly finished before Lemuel had half done. He did not offer to help him, but he delayed the remnant of his work, and waited for him to catch up, talking all the while with gay volubility, joking this one and that, and keeping the whole company as cheerful as it was in their dull, sodden nature to be. He had a floating eye that harmonised with his queer, mobile face, and played round on the different figures, but mostly upon Lemuel's dogged, rustic industry as if it really amused him.

"What's your lay, after breakfast?" he asked, as they came to the last log together.

"Lay?" repeated Lemuel.

"What you goin' to do?"

"I don't know; I can't tell yet."

"You know," said the other, "you can come back here, and get your dinner, if you want to saw wood for it from ten till twelve, and you get your supper if you'll saw from five to six."

"Are you going to do that?" asked Lemuel cautiously.

"No, sir," said the other; "I can't spare the time. I'm goin' to fill up for all day, at breakfast, and then I'm goin' up to lay round on the Common till it's time to go to the Police Court; and when that's over I'm goin' back to the Common ag'in, and lay round the rest of the day. I hain't got any leisure for no such nonsense as wood-sawin'. I don't mind the work, but I hate to waste the time. It's the way with most o' the pardners, unless it's the green hands. That so, pards?"

Some of them had already gone in to breakfast; the smell of the stew came out to the wood-yard through the open door. Lemuel and his friend finished their last stick at the same time, and went in together, and found places side by side at the table in the waiting- room. The attendant within its oblong was serving the men with heavy quart bowls of the steaming broth. He brought half a loaf of light, elastic bread with each, and there were platters of hard-tack set along the board, which every one helped himself from freely, and broke into his broth.

"Morning, Jimmy," said the mate, as the man brought him and Lemuel their portions. "I hate to have the dining-room chairs off a paintin' when there's so much style about everything else, and I've got a visitor with me. But I tell him he'll have to take us as he finds us, and stand it this mornin'." He wasted no more words on his joke, but plunging his large tin spoon into his bowl, kept his breath to cool his broth, blowing upon it with easy grace, and swallowing it at a tremendous rate, though Lemuel, after following his example, still found it so hot that it brought the tears into his eyes. It was delicious, and he was ravenous from his twenty-four hours' fast, but his companion was scraping the bottom of his bowl before Lemuel had got half-way down, and he finished his second as Lemuel finished his first.

"Just oncet more for both of us, Jimmy," he said, pushing his bowl across the board; and when the man brought them back he said, "Now, I'm goin' to take it easy and enjoy myself. I can't never seem to get the good of it, till about the third or fourth bowl. Too much of a hurry."

"Do they give you four bowls?" gasped Lemuel in astonishment.

"They give you four barrels, if you can hold it," replied the other proudly; "and some the mates can, pretty near. They got an awful tank, as a general rule, the pards has. There ain't anything mean about this house. They don't scamp the broth, and they don't shab the measure. I do wish you could see that refrigerator, oncet. Never been much at sea, have you, mate?"

Lemuel said he had never been at sea at all.

The other leaned forward with his elbows on each side of his bowl, and lazily broke his hard-tack into it. "Well, I have. I was shipped when I was about eleven years old by a shark that got me drunk. I wanted to ship, but I wanted to ship on an American vessel for New Orleans. First thing I knowed I turned up on a Swedish brig bound for Venice. Ever been to It'ly?"

"No," said Lemuel.

"Well, I hain't but oncet. Oncet is enough for me. I run away, while I was in Venice, and went ashore—if you can call it ashore; it's all water, and you got to go round in boats: gondolas they call 'em there—and went to see the American counsul, and told him I was an American boy, and tried to get him to get me off. But he couldn't do anything. If you ship under the Swedish flag you're a Swede, and the whole United States couldn't get you off. If I'd 'a' shipped under the American flag I'd 'a' been an American, I don't care if I was born in Hottentot. That's what the counsul said. I never want to see that town ag'in. I used to hear songs about Venice—'Beautiful Venice, Bride of the Sea;' but I think it's a kind of a hole of a place. Well, what I started to say was that when I turn up in Boston, now,—and I most generally do,—I don't go to no sailor boardin'-house; I break for the Wayfarer's Lodge, every time. It's a temperance house, and they give you the worth o' your money."

"Come! Hurry up!" said the attendant. He wiped the table impatiently with his towel, and stood waiting for Lemuel and the other to finish. All the rest had gone.

"Don't you be too fresh, pard," said the mate, with the effect of standing upon his rights. "Guess if you was on your third bowl, you wouldn't hurry."

The attendant smiled. "Don't you want to lend us a hand with the dishes?" he asked.

"Who's sick?" asked the other in his turn.

"Johnny's got a day off."

The boy shook his head. "No; I couldn't. If it was a case of sickness, of course I'd do it. But I couldn't spare the time; I couldn't really. Why, I ought to be up on the Common now."

Lemuel had listened with a face of interest.

"Don't you want to make half a dollar, young feller?" asked the attendant.

"Yes, I do," said Lemuel eagerly.

"Know how to wash dishes?"

"Yes," answered the boy, not ashamed of his knowledge, as the boy of another civilisation might have been. Nothing more distinctly marks the rustic New England civilisation than the taming of its men to the performance of certain domestic offices elsewhere held dishonourably womanish. The boy learns not only to milk and to keep the milk cans clean, but to churn, to wash dishes, and to cook.

"Come around here, then," said the attendant, and Lemuel promptly obeyed.

"Well, now," said his mate, "that's right. I'd do it myself, if I had the time." He pulled his soft wool hat out of his hip pocket. "Well, good morning, pards. I don't know as I shall see you again much before night." Lemuel was lifting a large tray, heavy with empty broth-bowls. "What time did you say it was, Jimmy?"

"Seven o'clock."

"Well, I just got time to get there," said the other, putting on his hat, and pushing out of the door.

At the moment Lemuel was lifting his tray of empty broth-bowls, Mr. Sewell was waking for the early quarter-to-eight breakfast, which he thought it right to make—not perhaps as an example to his parishioners, most of whom had the leisure to lie later, but as a sacrifice, not too definite, to the lingering ideal of suffering. He could not work before breakfast—his delicate digestion forbade that—or he would have risen still earlier, and he employed the twenty minutes he had between his bath and his breakfast in skimming the morning paper.

Just at present Mr. Sewell was taking two morning papers: the Advertiser which he had always taken, and a cheap little one- cent paper, which had just been started, and which he bad subscribed for experimentally, with the vague impression that he ought to encourage the young men who had established it. He did not like it very well. It was made up somewhat upon the Western ideal, and dealt with local matters in a manner that was at once a little more lively and a little more intimate than he had been used to. But before he had quite made up his mind to stop it, his wife had come to like it on that very account. She said it was interesting. On this point she used her conscience a little less actively than usual, and he had to make her observe that to be interesting was not the whole duty of journalism. It had become a matter of personal pride with them respectively to attack and defend The Sunrise, as I shall call the little sheet, though that was not the name; and Mr. Sewell had lately made some gain through the character of the police reports, which The Sunrise had been developing into a feature. It was not that offensive matters were introduced; the worst cases were in fact rather blinked, but Sewell insisted that the tone of flippant gaiety with which many facts, so serious, so tragic for their perpetrators and victims, were treated was odious. He objected to the court being called a Mill, and prisoners Grists, and the procedure Grinding; he objected to the familiar name of Uncle for the worthy gentleman to whose care certain offenders were confided on probation. He now read that department of The Sunrise the first thing every morning, in the hope of finding something with which to put Mrs. Sewell hopelessly in the wrong, but this morning a heading in the foreign news of the Advertiser caught his eye, and he laid The Sunrise aside to read at the breakfast-table. His wife came down in a cotton dress, as a tribute to the continued warmth of the weather, and said that she had not called the children, because it was Saturday, and they might as well have their sleep out. He liked to see her in that dress; it had a leafy rustling that was pleasant to his ear, and as she looked into the library he gaily put out his hand, which she took, and suffered herself to be drawn toward him. Then she gave him a kiss, somewhat less business-like and preoccupied than usual.

"Well, you've got Lemuel Barker off your mind at last," she divined, in recognition of her husband's cheerfulness.

"Yes, he's off," admitted Sewell.

"I hope he'll stay in Willoughby Pastures after this. Of course it puts an end to our going there next summer." "Oh, I don't know," Sewell feebly demurred.

"I do," said his wife, but not despising his insincerity enough to insist that he did also. The mellow note of an apostle's bell—the gift of an aesthetic parishioner—came from below, and she said, "Well, there's breakfast, David," and went before him down the stairs.

He brought his papers with him. It would have been her idea of heightened cosiness, at this breakfast, which they had once a week alone together, not to have the newspapers, but she saw that he felt differently, and after a number of years of married life a woman learns to let her husband have his own way in some unimportant matters. It was so much his nature to have some sort of reading always in hand, that he was certainly more himself, and perhaps more companionable with his papers than without them.

She merely said, "Let me take the Sunrise," when she had poured out his coffee, and he had helped her to cantaloupe and steak, and spread his Advertiser beside his plate. He had the Sunrise in his lap.

"No, you may have the Advertiser" he said, handing it over the table to her. "I was down first, and I got both the papers. I'm not really obliged to make any division, but I've seen the Advertiser, and I'm willing to behave unselfishly. If you're very impatient for the police report in the Sunrise I'll read it aloud for you. I think that will be a very good test of its quality, don't you?"

He opened the little sheet, and smiled teasingly at his wife, who said, "Yes, read it aloud; I'm not at all ashamed of it."

She put the Advertiser in her lap, and leaned defiantly forward, while she stirred her coffee, and Sewell unfolded the little sheet, and glanced up and down its columns. "Go on! If you can't find it, I can."

"Never mind! Here it is," said Sewell, and he began to read—

"'The mill opened yesterday morning with a smaller number of grists than usual, but they made up in quality what they lacked in quantity.'

"Our friend's metaphor seems to have weakened under him a little," commented Sewell, and then he pursued—

"'A reasonable supply of drunks were despatched—'

"Come, now, Lucy! You'll admit that this is horrible?" he broke off.

"No," said his wife, "I will admit nothing of the kind. It's flippant, I'll allow. Go on!"

"I can't," said Sewell; but he obeyed.

"'A reasonable supply of drunks were despatched, and an habitual drunk, in the person of a burly dame from Tipperary, who pleaded not guilty and then urged the "poor childer" in extenuation, was sent down the harbour for three months; Uncle Cook had been put in charge of a couple of young frailties whose hind name was woman—'

"How do you like that, my dear?" asked Sewell exultantly.

Mrs. Sewell looked grave, and then burst into a shocked laugh. "You must stop that paper, David! I can't have it about for the children to get hold of. But it is funny, isn't it? That will do—"

"No, I think you'd better have it all, now. There can't be anything worse. It's funny, yes, with that truly infernal drollery which the newspaper wits seem to have the art of." He read on—"—'when a case was called that brought the breath of clover blossoms and hay-seed into the sultry court-room, and warmed the cockles of the habitués' toughened pericardiums with a touch of real poetry. This was a case of assault, with intent to rob, in which a lithe young blonde, answering to the good old Puritanic name of Statira Dudley, was the complainant, and the defendant an innocent- looking, bucolic youth, yclept—'"

Sewell stopped and put his hand to his forehead.

"What is it, David?" demanded his wife. "Why don't you go on? Is it too scandalous?"

"No, no," murmured the minister.

"Well?"

"I can't go on. But you must read it, Lucy," he said, in quite a passion of humility. "And you must try to be merciful. That poor boy—that—"

He handed the paper to his wife, and made no attempt to escape from judgment, but sat submissive while she read the report of Lemuel's trial. The story was told throughout in the poetico-jocular spirit of the opening sentences; the reporter had felt the simple charm of the affair, only to be ashamed of it and the more offensive about it.

When she had finished Mrs. Sewell did not say anything. She merely looked at her husband, who looked really sick.

At last he said, making an effort to rise from his chair, "I must go and see him, I suppose."

"Yes, if you can find him," responded his wife, with a sigh.

"Find him?" echoed Sewell.

"Yes. Goodness knows what more trouble the wretched creature's got into by this time. You saw that he was acquitted, didn't you?" she demanded, in answer to her husband's stare.

"No, I didn't. I supposed he was convicted, of course."

"Well, you see it isn't so bad as it might be," she said, using a pity which she did not perhaps altogether feel. "Eat your breakfast now, David, and then go and try to look him up."

"Oh, I don't want any breakfast," pleaded the minister.

He offered to rise again, but she motioned him down in his chair. "David, you shall! I'm not going to have you going about all day with a headache. Eat! And then when you've finished your breakfast, go and find out which station that officer Baker belongs to, and he can tell you something about the boy, if any one can."

Sewell made what shift he could to grasp these practical ideas, and he obediently ate of whatever his wife bade him. She would not let him hurry his breakfast in the least, and when he had at last finished, she said, "Now you can go, David. And when you've found the boy, don't you let him out of your sight again till you've put him aboard the train for Willoughby Pastures, and seen the train start out of the depot with him. Never mind your sermon. I will be setting down the heads of a sermon, while you're gone, that will do you good, if you write it out, whether it helps any one else or not."

Sewell was not so sure of that. He had no doubt that his wife would set down the heads of a powerful sermon, but he questioned whether any discourse, however potent, would have force to benefit such an abandoned criminal as he felt himself, in walking down his brown- stone steps, and up the long brick sidewalk of Bolingbroke Street toward the Public Garden. The beds of geraniums and the clumps of scarlet-blossomed salvia in the little grass-plots before the houses, which commonly flattered his eye with their colour, had a suggestion of penal fires in them now, that needed no lingering superstition in his nerves to realise something very like perdition for his troubled soul. It was not wickedness he had been guilty of, but he had allowed a good man to be made the agency of suffering, and he was sorely to blame, for he had sinned against himself. This was what his conscience said, and though his reason protested against his state of mind as a phase of the religious insanity which we have all inherited in some measure from Puritan times, it could not help him. He went along involuntarily framing a vow that if Providence would mercifully permit him to repair the wrong he had done, he would not stop at any sacrifice to get that unhappy boy back to his home, but would gladly take any open shame or obloquy upon himself in order to accomplish this.

He met a policeman on the bridge of the Public Garden, and made bold to ask him at once if he knew an officer named Baker, and which station he could be found at. The policeman was over-rich in the acquaintance of two officers of the name of Baker, and he put his hand on Sewell's shoulder, in the paternal manner of policemen when they will be friendly, and advised him to go first to the Neponset Street station, to which one of these Bakers was attached, and inquire there first. "Anyway, that's what I should do in your place."

Sewell was fulsomely grateful, as we all are in the like case, and at the station he used an urbanity with the captain which was perhaps not thrown away upon him, but which was certainly disproportioned to the trouble he was asking him to take in saying whether he knew where he could find officer Baker.

"Yes, I do," said the captain. "You can find him in bed, upstairs, but I'd rather you wouldn't wake a man off duty, if you don't have to, especially if you don't know he's the one. What's wanted?"

Sewell stopped to say that the captain was quite right, and then he explained why he wished to see officer Baker.

The captain listened with nods of his head at the names and facts given. "Guess you won't have to get Baker up for that. I can tell you what there is to tell. I don't know where your young man is now, but I gave him an order for a bed at the Wayfarer's Lodge last night, and I guess he slept there. You a friend of his?"

"Yes," said Sewell, much questioning inwardly whether he could be truly described as such. "I wish to befriend him," he added savingly. "I knew him at home, and I am sure of his innocence."

"Oh, I guess he's innocent enough," said the captain. "Well, now, I tell you what you do, if you want to befriend him; you get him home quick as you can."

"Yes," said Sewell, helpless to resent the officer's authoritative and patronising tone. "That's what I wish to do. Do you suppose he's at the Wayfarer's Lodge now?" asked Sewell.

"Can't say," said the captain, tilting himself back in his chair, and putting his quill toothpick between his lips like a cigarette. "The only way is to go and see."

"Thank you very much," said the minister, accepting his dismissal meekly, as a man vowed to ignominy should, but feeling keenly that he was dismissed, and dismissed in disgrace.

At the Lodge he was received less curtly. The manager was there with a long morning's leisure before him, and disposed to friendliness that Sewell found absurdly soothing. He turned over the orders for beds delivered by the vagrants the night before, and "Yes," he said, coming to Lemuel's name, "he slept here; but nobody knows where he is by this time. Wait a bit, sir!" he added to Sewell's fallen countenance. "There was one of the young fellows stayed to help us through with the dishes, this morning. I'll have him up; or may be you'd like to go down and take a look at our kitchen? You'll find him there if it's the one. Here's our card, We can supply you with all sorts of firewood at less cost than the dealers, and you'll be helping the poor fellows to earn an honest bed and breakfast. This way, sir!"

Sewell promised to buy his wood there, put the card respectfully into his pocket, and followed the manager downstairs, and through the basement to the kitchen. He arrived just as Lemuel was about to lift a trayful of clean soup-bowls, to carry it upstairs. After a glance at the minister, he stood still with dropped eyes.

Sewell did not know in what form to greet the boy on whom he had unwillingly brought so much evil, and he found the greater difficulty in deciding as he saw Lemuel's face hardening against him.

"Barker!" he said at last. "I'm very glad to find you—I have been very anxious to find you."

Lemuel made no sign of sympathy, but stood still in his long check apron, with his sleeves rolled up to his elbow, and the minister was obliged to humble himself still further to this figure of lowly obstinacy.

"I should like to speak with you. Can I speak with you a few moments?"

The manager politely stepped into the storeroom, and affected to employ himself there, leaving Lemuel and the minister alone together.

William Dean Howells