THE LITTLE BEGGAR GIRL.
DAISY was flitting from one room to the other, one cold winter's morning, putting everything in order for the day.
She had greatly improved in her method of house-keeping since her first attempt, and no longer wiped the windows with her apron, or the floor with Dick's socks. But everything was done as it should be done, and the consequence was, there were not two prettier rooms in the neighborhood than her own.
She was all alone this winter's morning. Dick had gone to work some hours before, and the old musician had long since regained his health, and had hired another room in the same house.
While she was flitting here and there, dusting the things, and softly humming to herself, there came a timid knock at the kitchen door, and, in answer to her pleasant " Come in," the door opened, and in walked a girl about her own age. Upon her head were a few pieces of what was once a hood, over her shoulders hang a tattered shawl, a faded calico dress clung tightly to her form, and her feet were bare, and blue with the cold.
In her hand was a basket, which she held towards Daisy, saying,-
" Have you any cold victuals ? "
" I will see," replied Daisy, looking compassionately at her. "Won't you sit down by the fire and warm you a minute? I should think your feet would be cold."
" They are, but I must not go to the fire ; they will ache if I do," was the reply.
" Why don't your folks buy you some shoes? I should think they would be ashamed to let you go out barefooted this cold weather," exclaimed Daisy, indignantly.
" I have no folks. I live with an old woman on ---- Street, and she gives me a place to sleep in, for begging for her. I did have a pair of shoes this winter, which a lady gave me, but the old woman got them, and sold them for rum, and since then I have had to go barefooted ; but I do not care so much for that, so long as I have a place to sleep in nights, instead of sleeping out-of-doors."
" Did you ever sleep out-of-doors ? " asked Daisy, in astonishment.
" 0, yes. I did all last summer; but it was warm then, and I did not mind it ; only I had to sleep with one eye open, for if the policemen had caught me, they would have sent me off somewheres, where I could never look in the shop-windows again, and see the pretty things."
" Did you not have some place that you called home, last summer ? "
" What did you do for food ? "
" I begged for myself then, and always had enough ; for I had my regular places to go to."
" But you have not always been without a home, have you ? "
" I guess so, - ever since I can remember, anyway."
" Have you no brothers or sisters ? "
" I have a brother somewheres in the city, but I don't see him very often."
" Why does n't he take care of you, buy some clothes, and get you some pretty rooms like these to live in ? " asked Daisy.
" He ! he ! " laughed the girl, apparently considering it a good joke.
" How old is he ? "
"I don't know."
" Don't know how old your brother is?" asked Daisy, surprised at such ignorance. " How large is he, then?"
" He is larger than I am."
" Then he ought to take care of you. My brother Dick is not much larger than I am, and be takes care of me."
"Truly?" said the girl, looking closely at Daisy, as though she very much doubted her statement.
" Yes, truly."
" Did he buy you that nice dress?"
'' And those shoes?"
" And does he hire these rooms for you?"
" Where does he get all his money?"
" He earns it. Works hard for it."
" 0, he does. He don't dodge around a corner when he sees a policeman, does he ? "
" I don't know what you mean," replied Daisy, who would have been very angry had she known the girl doubted her brother's honesty. " What does your brother do?" continued she.
" When he does anything, he blacks boots."
" I should think he had rather have a situation in some store or office; he would earn more money."
" I suppose he would, but how can he get the situation ? "
"Why can't he? My brother got one the second day trying."
" Of course, it's easy enough when one has recommendations ; but Jack has not got them, and do one will trust him."
" Dick did not have recommendations."
'' No ; and perhaps he can get your brother a place. I will ask him ; and, if he can, you will not have to go begging any more in the cold."
" Why not ? "
" Because your brother could take care of you, if he had a good situation."
" Ha, ha! he would be apt to tell me that he could n't spend his money so foolishly. He would go to see the negro minstrels every evening, if he had a paying situation; he goes there now real often, and does not have money enough left to buy him a new box of blacking, after his is all gone."
" And then?"
" Then he begs until he gets cents enough to buy another box with."
" I do not believe he is a good boy, if he had rather go to such places than care for his sister. Does he go to Sunday school ? "
" He went once, but his clothes were so ragged He was ashamed to go again."
" Why does n't he save his money, then, and buy him a nice suit ? "
" He never would do that; it would take him too long to save up enough. But I must go now ; for, if I don't get my basket full, the old woman will make me sleep out-of-doors to-night."
" Let me take your basket ; I will see if I have not something for you," said Daisy, taking the basket and going to the closet, the beggar girl looking with curiosity, as she opened the door, at the rows of white shelves, upon which everything was arranged in the nicest order.
" This is the best I can do for the old woman," said Daisy, putting into the basket a few slices of bread, and a small piece of cold meat. " What do you have to eat ? "
" I take what I want out of the basket, and hide it under my shawl until I get into my attic, then I eat it all by myself."
" I will fix you a cup of warm milk to drink, before you go out into the cold, if you would like it."
The beggar girl's eyes sparkled as she thanked Daisy. Evidently a cup of warm milk was a luxury to her.
" I should think it would be fun to live in these nice rooms, and have as much milk as you want to drink. Don't you never have to beg for food ? '' said she.
"No, indeed. My brother wouldn't let me," replied Daisy.
"I wish my brother was like him. But I am afraid, if I had rooms, I should n't know how to make them look as nice as these do."
" You could soon learn how. I did not know how myself, at first."
" And, if I had a new dress, I should not know how to make it."
" I do not make my own dresses. I run errands for a lady who lives across the street ; she takes in sewing, and has a machine, and whenever I have anything to make, that I cannot make myself, she makes it for me, for running her errands."
" I don't believe there would ever be a lady ' across the street ' for me. You are one of the lucky ones."
" Perhaps you would say Dick is a ' lucky one.' If he is, he makes his luck, for he works from seven o'clock in the morning, till eight at night. Does your brother work like that ? "
" No, indeed. he lounges about the streets, in the daytime, waiting for some one to come along who wants a shine, or else he goes off with other boys, nobody knows where."
" He will never be a lucky one, I am sure of that, unless he changes his course. Dick says that luck will not run after us ; we must chase it ; and if we do not have to run pretty hard to over. take it, we can call ourselves lucky."
" Perhaps you are right, but I could n't make Jack think so."
"Did you ever try?"
" I can't say that I ever did. If I should, he wouldn't listen to me."
"He would listen to you, if you knew how to talk as Dick does. Dick could make him ashamed of himself, I know."
" I guess he would find it harder work than chasing luck." And the girl laughed to herself at the thoughts of making her brother Jack ashamed of himself.
"Are you. going?" asked Daisy, as the girl arose, and placed the empty cup upon the table.
"Yes. I have some calls to make, which always pay best at this time, when people are just through dinner, and feel generous."
" O," thought Daisy to herself, after the girl had gone, " O, how thankful I am that my dear brother Dick is not like that girl's brother, What would become of me if he should spend his money at the negro minstrels', or his time lounging about the streets, or going off with idle boys ? But he never will be like that; he is too brave and noble.
" It seems that that poor girl is like myself, -- without father or mother, and with only one brother. How I wish he was more like Dick, for her sake. Perhaps if Dick knew him, he could teach him to be smart and honest, and teach him his duty to his sister.
"I shall have a long talk with Dick to-night, and perhaps if that girl comes here begging again, I can get her to bring her brother with her some time, so that ho can get acquainted with Dick; and who knows but we may be the means of making them both as happy as we are ourselves."
So thinking, the generous-hearted girl resumed her work.
" SAVE him! stop him ! quick! " cried an excited voice ; and Daisy, on her way to the corner grocery, saw a little child, not more than three years, running as fast as his toddling steps could carry him towards a street crossing, and down the street a horse and carriage were coming rapidly.
Behind the child ran the mother, whose excited cries were still in the air, for she knew that she could not reach her child in time to save him.
Daisy took in all at a glance, and being much nearer the little runaway than the lady, a few quick steps, and she had him in her arms, just as his feet were stepping off the curb-stone, and the horse and carriage dashed around the corner. A second more, and she would have been too late.
" Heaven bless you, little girl! You have saved my darling child from a terrible fate," cried the lady, hurrying up, pale with fright.
" It was easily done," replied Daisy, smiling. " 'Et me go, dirl! I ont to run ! " said the little boy, trying to pull himself from Daisy's hold.
" No, no, Henry! You shall not run again to-day, and you shall not get out of my arms until we are safe at home," said the lady, taking him up.
"What is your name, little girl?" continued she, turning to Daisy.
" Daisy Travers."
" Where do you live ? "
" Down that street, at number eight."
" I will call upon you this afternoon, and try to reward you for the great service you have done me."
" I do not wish to be rewarded for nothing," replied Daisy; but the lady had turned away with a nod and a smile, and, hailing a passing car, entered it, leaving Daisy to wonder if she really would call on her that afternoon.
"I shall take no reward if she offers one," said she to herself, as she entered the corner grocery ; " for Dick says, if we do a kind action, and take pay for it, it ceases to be a kind action, it is nothing more than working for pay. And I do not want pay for saving that little boy from death. It's pay enough for me to know that I was in time to save him."
When Dick came in to his dinner that day, Daisy had so much to tell him about her morning's adventure.
" You must not go out again this afternoon, Dick," said she, after she had told him everything there was to be told ; " for, if the lady comes, I want you to see her."
" I am afraid I cannot waste so much time, Daisy. She may not come, after all, and it would be foolish for me to wait here, when I should be at work."
Just then the door-bell rang.
" O, Dick, I believe there is the lady now. If it is, you will stay until she goes, won't you?"
" Yes," replied Dick, as he hurried to the door; and, on opening it, was not a little surprised to see a carriage waiting, and a fine-looking, well-dressed gentleman assisting a lady to alight from it.
" I have called to see a little girl named Daisy Travers," said the lady, in a pleasant voice, to Dick, as she ascended the steps, followed by the gentleman.
Dick bowed politely, and ushered them into the .kitchen, where Daisy was trying hard to look unconcerned, as she shoved to the wall the table at which they had been dining, and spread over it a pretty red cloth.
'' This is the little girl who saved our Henry's life," said the lady to the gentleman, as she seated herself in a chair Dick had placed for her, and drew Daisy to her side.
" There are not many girls of your age, who would have had presence of mind enough to do what you did," said the gentleman. " Here," continued he, " is something that I hope will partly repay the great debt we owe you." And he tried to put into Daisy's hand a roll of bills.
" I thank you, sir," said she, stepping back, and drawing herself up proudly; "but I had rather not take pay for what I did."
" Well, take it as a present from me, then," replied the gentleman, still holding out the roll of bills.
" It would be just the same thing ; and, if it were not, I never take presents from strangers."
" You are an odd little chick," said he, smiling. '"Where are your parents? They, perhaps, will not be so backward about taking that which is for your own good."
" I have no parents, sir. This is my brother Dick, and we live here all alone."
" Well, Dick,-- or Richard,--I will place this in your hands, with the privilege of spending it any way you think will benefit your sister the most."
" Excuse me, sir ; but I think it would be wrong to take it."
" What! are you stubborn too ? Where is your guardian ? Your sister must have the benefit of this money through somebody."
" We have no guardian, sir," replied Dick.
" No guardian ? Who takes care of you ? "
"We take care of ourselves,--we live on our own labor."
" Do you pretend to say that you support yourself and sister? for she is too young to do anything for herself."
"Yes, sir," replied Dick, proudly.
" You must have a paying situation for a boy of your size, to be able to do it," replied the gentleman, looking at Dick doubtingly.
" I have a situation in an office, where I earn six dollars a week; and as my work is through at three o'clock every day, I usually earn as much more a week, by doing odd jobs, running errands, or, when that kind of work is scarce, selling papers, -- so that we manage to live quite comfortably."
" I should think you would be glad to take the money I offered you, if you are as poor as that."
" We should have taken it, if we had earned it. Suppose you saw a little child about to be run over, and by a few quick steps you saved it. Would you have taken money for doing what you did?"
" But I am a man ; no one would have offered me money. It would have been my duty to have saved it, if I could," replied the gentleman.
" It was none the less Daisy's duty, and she has no desire to be paid for having performed it."
" You will take no reward, then ? "
" Indeed, we had rather not."
The gentleman seemed undecided what to do, and turned to his wife as though asking if she could assist him.
" There's Jenkins' place," ventured she ; " perhaps the boy -- "
"True! true!" interrupted the gentleman.
" Why did n't I think of that before ? " Then turning to Dick, " How would you like a better situation than you now have ? "
" It is what I have been seeking for a long while," he replied.
" Well, my name is Rockwood, -- Jacob Rockwood ; I keep a wholesale store on Fulton Street. I have a boy -- or, rather, a young man he is now -- in my store, who has been with me some years, and I have been intending to promote him for some time. He has considerable work to do, and that is what most of the young gentlemen nowadays are afraid of. I don't think that will worry you, though, and the place is open for you if you want to take it. Your wages will be the same as his have been.--twelve dollars a week."
Dick and Daisy exchanged glances of pleased surprise. Twelve dollars a week seemed a great fortune to them, and they could hardly believe their own sense of hearing.
" Would you like the place ? " asked Mr. Rockwood, smiling ; for he had seen the pleasure in their faces.
"Very much," replied Dick, "if it has nothing to do with rewarding Daisy for what she did this morning."
" O, it' has nothing to do with that, I assure you." Then, hastily changing the subject, --
" Shall I look for you Monday morning, at the store, or before that ? "
" I think I had better wait until Monday ; for I would give my present employer some notice that I am going to leave him, so that he can engage some one else."
" Very well, then. Monday it is. Now I should like to have you tell us your story,-- how you and your little sister came to be left all alone in the world, at the time when you most need a parent's love and advice."
Dick's story was soon told; and so plainly, that the two listeners almost seemed to see the moss-grown, country graveyard, the low-roofed farm- house, and the hills and valleys of his native village. Then he told of his journey to Boston ; how he met with kind friends, and his success in so readily procuring work.
"You have passed through much," remarked Mr. Rockwood, after Dick's story had been told, "but you have come out all right, and I have no doubt you will be one of our self-made men yet, if you continue as you have begun."
" With God's help, I shall try to be," replied Dick, fervently.
" You will be, I am sure of that. And this little sister of yours will rise with you, too," continued he, turning to Daisy, who had seated herself by the window where flourished her scarlet geranium, forming a pretty picture (as she sat, with her checks matching the scarlet blossom), which Mrs. Rockwood smilingly admired.
"I have two little girls at home," said she to Daisy, -- " one older, and the other younger than you are, with whom I should like to have you become acquainted. Have you many young friends in the city ? "
" I have none," replied Daisy.
" Then it would be pleasant for you to visit my daughters. They have a great many playthings, and could talk to you about them for a week, I believe ; for everything they have has a history of its own."
Daisy had rather she had said nothing about playthings. She wanted every one to think that she had outgrown such childish amusements now that she " kept house " ; and she might have hinted something to that effect, only she was a little shy of the stylish lady who came in a carriage. But it would never do to leave her in ignorance of her mistake; so, glancing around the tidy room to make her answer more impressive, she replied, --
" I should like very much to become acquainted with them, but I have so little time to myself, I am afraid it will be a long while before I shall be able to call."
" Nonsense ! " replied the lady, smiling to see the glance, and rightly guessing its meaning. " You should have no cause to be troubled about time ; if you are smart enough to keep this room in such good order, you should be smart enough to make a little extra time, once in a while. I shall send the carriage for you some day soon, and your brother can come in the evening, after he is through work. You will both have a good time, I am sure. Are you fond of flowers ? "
" Yes, ma'am, very," replied Daisy, looking proudly at her two plants in the window.
" Well, when you come to see my girls, they will show you just as many as you will care to see," replied Mrs. Rockwood.
"Have you many?"
" O, yes, indeed, and they are almost all in blossom."
" How I should like to see them," said Daisy, brushing some dust from a leaf of her scarlet geranium.
" You shall see them soon, and perhaps I will let you take some home with you; as, of some varieties, we have more than we care for. There is plenty of room for more plants on that windowseat." So saying, the lady arose, and going to the window, began to admire the beautiful flower, leaving her husband and Dick conversing earnestly together.
After many promises to the children, to see them soon again, Mr. and Mrs. Rockwood took their departure, and Daisy could scarcely wait till the front-door was closed after them, before exclaiming to her brother, --
" O, Dick, is n't it strange how this has turned out?"
" Hush, Daisy, they will hear you. Let us go into our room, and talk it over together."
" God has been very good to us, has he not, Dick?" said Daisy, after they had entered their own room.
" Yes, Daisy ; but we must not think that all this is given us for ourselves alone. It is given us that we may be the means of assisting others who are worse off than we were."
" I know it, Dick, but whom shall we assist ? "
" There is that little beggar girl whom you were telling me about the other day. Perhaps now, if we only knew where to find her, we might be the means of saving her brother, and making them both very happy."
"O, I wish we could, Dick; but how can we? Would you give them money ? "
" No, Daisy, not at present. If I should give money to that boy Jack now, I am afraid he would do little good with it. It would go quickly and foolishly. I would give him something that would be better for him at first, -- my situation at the office. Then I could talk to him, and raise his ambition. I would tell him my history, and how I earned money enough to make a nice home for myself and sister, and how he might do the same for himself and his sister, if he would only reform, and work with a will."
" I don't believe he would ever be like you, Dick, and I am afraid all the talking would not do any good. By what his sister said, I should , say he had rather be idle than work, and had rather spend his money going to circuses, than spend it to make himself a home, which he seems to care nothing about."
" That is because he never had a home, Daisy. He has always been in the streets, knocked here and there, with never a loving word to make him ambitious for something better. His only amusements have been those you have just mentioned, and is it any wonder he should go to those places, when they are the only gleams of sunlight in his dark life? Just let him know what the word ' home ' means, let him see how happy we are by our own exertions, let him know that he can be equally so, if he will ; then, if he does not spring into a new life, it will be a wonder."
"But perhaps, Dick, he may not be as fortunate as you were in getting work after office hours. Then he would get discouraged, and go back to his old life again."
" No, he would not, Daisy, if he began right. Every morning would find him more determined to succeed than ever, and I should always be near him to push him on. I would try to teach him to love and trust God so that he would always find comfort in all his troubles, knowing they were sent to him for his own good. And I would do for him what kind Mr. Williams did for us, surprise him once in a while with some provisions and other necessary things to help them along in their house-keeping."
" O, Dick ! you would do everything, and leave me nothing to do."
" There would be enough for you to do too, Daisy."
" What could I do after all that?"
" Why, there is the sister, as much of a little heathen as the brother is, I suppose. You must teach her her duty, or poor Jack will have a hard time of it."
"What could I teach her, Dick?"
" You must teach her, first her duty to God, then to her brother and her home. She said she should not know how to make rooms look as neat as these do, did n't she ? "
" Then you must teach her how; for Jack would n't like a dirty, disorderly home, any more than I should. You must teach her how to make their rooms look as cheerful as these do; and teach her how to cook, and--well, you will know after you get started, better than I can tell you."
" O, Dick, it will be fun. I wish I could begin right away."
" Ha, ha, Daisy ! and after all this talk we may never see either of them again."
" O yes, we will; for Mrs. Spalding across the street says she calls at her house nearly every day for cold victuals, and I will run in there this evening, and ask her if she will send her here, if she calls to-morrow."
" And how shall we see her brother ? He is the most important one."
" Why, I can get her to bring him here in the evening, when you are here, and can talk to him."
" That will do nicely. I hope they will come ; for I feel anxious to make them as happy as we are, little sister."
"That's grandpa '"cried Daisy, as the front door was heard to open and shut, and steps were heard in the entry. " I will call him in here, to tell him of our good fortune. Grandpa ! grandpa ! " called she, opening the door, and looking into the entry, where the old musician was busy rubbing his shoes on the coarse mat.
" Here I am, Daisy ; what can I do for you ? "
" We want you in here a minute. We have something to tell you."
" I should say it was good news, by the looks of your face."
" So it is, grandpa. Here, Dick, help him off with his coat. You have got to stay here all the evening with us now, grandpa. Dick is not going out again, and we will have a good time together."
"Hadn't I better go down-stairs and get my supper first, Daisy?" said he, smiling. "The landlady will not wait the table for me, I can assure you."
" Would you have a good supper if you went down ? "
" I am afraid not," replied he, making a wry face. " It's tea, toast, and herring night to-night, - last night we had herring, toast, and tea."
" Well, to-night's supper is an improvement on last night's, anyway," replied Dick, laughing.
" We shall not let you go down, shall we, Daisy ? "
" No, grandpa, for we can get you a better supper than you would have down-stairs. What would you say to some chocolate, toast, baked apples, and gingerbread that I made myself ? "
" What would I say? I am afraid I should not find time to say anything ; I should act. But are you not putting yourself out ? "
" Not a bit of it," replied Dick, laughingly.
" But you will be putting yourself outside of a good supper in less than ten minutes. I will set the table, Daisy, while you toast the bread. We had our meal three hours ago, but the good news has made us hungry enough to do justice to another."
" Ah, that reminds me I am to hear some good news. What is it about, Dick?"
" Wait till we are seated at the table, enjoying our supper, before I tell it. If I should tell it now, while I am setting the table, I would leave out the best part of it, or else break a plate. I never could do two things well at once," replied Dick, as he pulled out the table, and spread over it a clean white cloth, after folding and putting away the red one that was used only for ornament.
Grandfather Milly seated himself by the window, and watched the two while they were preparing the evening meal,-- Dick flitting from closet to table and back again, pausing once in a while on the way to utter some merry jest ; and Daisy, hovering around the stove, turning the bread that was toasting, or pouring boiling water from the bright tin teakettle on the scraped chocolate. The last act made the old musician jump from his seat, and run to her side, exclaiming, --
"Hold, hold, Daisy I Let me do that; your little hands are not strong enough to lift all that boiling water You will scald yourself, surely."
Daisy, laughing, allowed him to take the kettle from her, and watched him to see that he put the right amount of water with the chocolate.
"There, there, grandpa!" exclaimed she. at last. "There; you'll make it too weak." And grandpa, pouring with all the force possible, stopped suddenly, causing a lot of water to go over the hot stove, making a fearful sputtering.
" Ha, ha ! Grandpa will never make a cook ! " laughed Daisy.
" I am afraid not." replied the old man, laughing too. I thought of getting up a supper myself in my own room, and inviting you both in. But I shall not try after this, unless Daisy will come in and do all the cooking for me."
" I will do that any time," replied Daisy, good-naturedly.
Supper was soon ready ; and, before it was over, Dick had told of Daisy's adventure, and the result.
Mr. Milly listened with much interest to the narration, and could hardly express his joy when Dick spoke about his new situation, where he would earn twelve dollars a week.
" I am so glad for your sake, my boy," the old man exclaimed. " There will be no more running out in the snow and rain trying to sell papers or go errands; you will have all the time after six o'clock to rest and enjoy yourself in. That man is a gentleman, and he knew what he was about when he employed you."
" I was almost afraid to take the place," said Dick, " for fear he offered it as a roundabout payment to Daisy for what she did. If he had not spoken about promoting the young man who now fills it, and the wages he gets, I should have thought twelve dollars was too much for me."
" Tut ! tut ! not a bit of it. If he had offered fourteen dollars a week, you would be worth it, for I am sure you will be working every minute you are in. the store."
" That I will," Dick replied, " so long as I find anything to do."
THE next day everything happened just as Daisy hoped it would.
She had hardly got through her morning's work, before Mrs. Spalding sent the beggar girl over, and Daisy had a long talk with her, in which she made her promise to try to find her brother that day, and bring him there in the evening; for her brother Dick was very anxious to see him about a situation that he hoped he could get for him.
She had told her all the plans that had been made by Dick, for the good of her brother and herself; and after she began to understand their meaning, and began to think there might be something in what Daisy told her, her face became radiant ; and after Daisy had treated her to some bread. and a cup of hot milk, she left them, to begin the search for Jack.
In the meantime Dick had told his employer at the office, of the offer he had had from Mr. Rockwood.
" Then you are going to leave me ? " exclaimed he, throwing down his pen.
"Yes. sir," replied Dick. "I am sorry to do so, but you know just how I am situated. It would be wronging my sister and myself to refuse so good an offer."
" Yes, yes, I know. I can't say anything, and I congratulate you on your good fortune. But it's just my luck. I never could keep a boy whom I could trust, and when I get one whom I cannot trust, I have hard work to get rid of him. If I could afford to give you so much, you should not go anyway. As it is, haven't you some friend who would like to take your place here ? "
" I have no boy friends in the city ; but I know of a boy who is in want of a situation. I expect to see him this evening, and if I think he is to be trusted, I will let you know. I shall not leave you this week, so if he will not do, you will have time to get some one else."
After a little longer conversation, Dick resumed his work, and the hours passed swiftly away.
It was seven o'clock in the evening when the door-bell rang; and Daisy, opening the door, ushered in a girl and a boy, saying, --
" Here, Dick, here is Ella Turner, and her brother Jack whom you wanted to see."
Dick welcomed them both, and seated them near the fire ; then he turned his attention to the boy. At first sight he seemed to be a pretty rough specimen of a Boston boot-black. His hair was long, light, and naturally curly, but it looked as though it had not come in contact with a comb for many days. His eyes were light blue and rather small, and his face was fearfully freckled ; but for all that he was not a bad-looking boy. There was a merry, good-natured twinkle about his eyes that Dick rather liked, and he thought, had his hair been combed, his face and hands nicely washed, and instead of the soiled, ragged clothes, if he had on a neat, whole suit, he would be quite good-looking.
" I have sent for you," said Dick, " because I heard you would like to get a place. How would you like to work in an office ? "
" That depends upon the kind of work I should have to do," replied Jack, twisting up his old felt hat.
" You would have to keep everything in order, of course ; sweep, dust, and run errands for your employer."
" Couldn't you leave out the sweeping? That kind of work never did agree with me. I don't mind dusting an office much, because there are never many things in one, and running errands is not so bad when you can have some chum with you to talk with, but sweeping I never took naturally to."
" Of course you can't expect to have everything to please you. All persons, if they are ever so rich, have something to do that they had rather not. It will not take you more than twenty minutes every day to sweep the office thoroughly, and what's twenty minutes when you are sure of three dollars and a half every Saturday? "
" I have earned as much as that blacking boots, and had no one to order me."
" Yes, but you are never sure of earning so much. If you have a place, rain or shine, the money comes all the same, and you will not have to work at this place any longer than three o'clock every day."
" If that's the case, I should like it."
"What will you. do after three o'clock every day?"
" It will take all the time after that to get over the effects of sweeping in the morning."
"'What will you do?"
" Why, enjoy myself and be happy."
" Have you no desire to earn more money? "
" No, indeed ; why should I ? That will keep me handsomely, and pay my tailor."
" Where do you get your meals ? "
" Sometimes at one place, sometimes at another. It depends wholly upon how many shines I have before I get hungry."
" I should think you would rather have a home of your own, and have your meals at regular hours every day."
" Should you, really?" replied Jack, making a comical face.
" Yes; you could if you were not afraid of work, and would be willing to work after you are out of the office till eight o'clock in the evening, --perhaps not so long."
" Why didn't you make it as long as the moon shone, and skip going to bed? Then I would be all ready to go to the office in the morning."
" There would be no need of working quite so hard as that," replied Dick, smiling, as he caught his sister's eye, and knew she had no hopes of his making anything out of that little, light-haired boot-black.
" Last summer," continued Dick, " I was as poor as you are now. I and my little sister here used to live thirty miles from Boston, in a country town, till our father and mother died, and left us without friends or home; and after all the debts had been paid, we found we had only seven dollars that we could call our own. Daisy was to go to the poor-house, and I determined to walk to Boston, about which I had heard much, and seek my fortune. I thought, in a little while, if I worked hard, I could earn money enough to get my sister, and support her too ; but she begged so hard to go with me at first, that I could not refuse ; so trusting to God's mercy, we started on our journey one summer's morning, not knowing what might be before us, or caring, so long as we were together, and knew that a kind Father in heaven would watch over us.
" When we arrived in Boston, we had some trouble to find rooms to suit us, but at last we came across these, and we have lived here ever since. I have paid the rent every week in advance, and have earned money enough besides to buy food and clothes for us both."
" How much money did you say you had to start with ? " asked Jack, who appeared to be deeply interested.
" Seven dollars at first; then we sold our old house-dog, who followed us, for ten dollars more, to a kind-hearted farmer; that made seventeen dollars. But I put the ten dollars I got for the dog, in the bank."
" Seventeen dollars," repeated Jack. " If I had that much, I would never do any more work."
" What would you do?" asked Dick.
" I would put it in the bank, and live on the interest."
" I don't believe you would gain flesh if you did," replied Dick, smiling. " I'll tell you what I'll do for you; I will give you just as good a start as I had, if you will take as good care of your sister, as I take of mine. I will give you a suit of my clothes that are better than those you have on, hire you some rooms, pay a week's rent in advance, and get you that place at the office, that we have been talking about. Will you do it?"
" What will Ella be doing all the time?"
" Why, she will do for you, what my sister does for me,--keep your rooms in order, cook your food, and have your meals ready for you when you come home."
" Would n't it be just as well to change round a little ? Let me stay at home, and do the cooking, while she went to the office and worked till the moon went down," said Jack, with one finger on the side of his nose.
" You would not want your sister to work harder than you do, would you, when you are a great strong boy, able to take care of her ? I take great pleasure in taking care of Daisy. Besides, you would be benefited as much by your labor as she would. You would have a nice comfortable home of your own."
" I never thought it would be convenient to have a stationary home," replied Jack, shaking his head.
"Not convenient? Why?"
'' Because I should have to go to it every night, if I was ever so tired; while as it is, I can sleep just where I happen to be, when the sun goes down, no matter what part of the city I am."
" Then you prefer your old life to a better one ? " said Dick, in despair.
" I did not say that," replied Jack. " I should be a fool to refuse so good an offer, without giving it a trial. I will try your own way of living for a month; then, if I don't like it, I can back out, can't I ? "
" Make it two months instead of one. You can hardly get used to it in one month. If you will come with me now, I will show you the rooms you are to have. They are over these, and as they are up another flight the landlady does not ask so much for them ; but they are just as good every other way, and are furnished just as mine were when I first hired them ; so you will have a good chance to make improvements. If you want to begin your new life to-night, I will pay the landlady, and we will take up some wood and coal, and start a fire in the stove, so you can have a warm room to sleep in." Jack replied not, but followed Dick out of the room. As soon as the door had closed after them, the whole expression of his face changed. He was no longer the fun-loving, care-for-nothing boot-black, with an answer ready for all ; his eyes no longer shone with a merry, mischievous twinkle, but were dim with tears that he tried hard to keep from falling.
"Why do you do all this for me?" said he, touching Dick's arm.
" It is not much," replied Dick, surprised to see the change that had come over the boy. " I knew you were poor, and I thought you would like to have some one give you a first start in life, so you could go along smoothly by your own exertions afterwards. I began to think, down-stairs, that you did not care what become of you, but I do not think so now."
" I could not say what I wanted to before them. You must think that I am very lazy and ungrateful, but I will prove to you that I am neither, if I have a chance. I have tried hard to get a place, but no one seemed to like the looks of me; perhaps it was because I had no recommendations, and was so ragged. I had given up all hopes of ever being anybody, when you came with your kind offer. No. one ever spoke so kindly to me before. What made you? What am I to you, that you should take all this trouble for me?"
" You are a poor orphan boy like myself; is not that enough? God has been very kind to me, and with His help I shall try to brighten the life of every poor, friendless boy who crosses my path. Therefore I will be your friend, if you will let me."
" If I will let you ! " repeated Jack. " What would I not do to have you for a friend ? "
" So long as you do your duty as well as you know how, I shall be a true friend to you."
" I will do that, -- or at least I will never give you cause to say that I did not try to do it. If I fail--"
" You will not fail, never fear," interrupted Dick, placing the lamp which he held in his hand upon a table, and beginning to make the fire.
" We will have it looking more cheerful here, before your sister comes up. There is nothing like a bright, crackling fire on a winter's night to improve the looks of a room," continued he, pouring some coal over the blazing wood. '' That will do nicely. Now I will leave you. here a minute alone, and while I am gone I want you to make use of this water, soap, and towel, for I don't intend the girls shall know you when you go down." So saying, Dick left the room, soon returning with a suit of his own clothes across his arm.
" Here are the clothes that I promised you. They are whole and clean, and will last till you are able to buy more, I hope. You will not know yourself after you step into them."
Jack's toilet was soon completed, and after he had sufficiently admired the reflection of himself in the nine-by-twelve-inch looking-glass that hung between the windows, he followed Dick downstairs.
If Ella was surprised to see the change that had been made in her brother's appearance, he was no less surprised to see her. For Daisy had not been idle while Dick was at work. She had made Ella wash herself nicely, and comb her hair ; then she had dressed her in some of her own clothes which were partly worn, and which she had picked out for the occasion.
So a fine-looking group the children made when grandfather Milly opened the door; and. with his violin in his hand, paused on the threshold, undecided whether to advance or retreat.
" You have company," said he to Dick, smiling.
" Never mind, grandpa. Come right in. These two will be our near neighbors. So I want you to become acquainted with them; and I want them to hear that magic violin. They will know you better after hearing one of those famous tunes, than they would if they should talk to you for a month."
" Come now, Dick, that's not complimentary to my conversational powers," said grandpa, brushing down his beard, and trying to look savage.
'"Tis not that I like your conversation less, but that I like your music more," replied Dick, laughing, and placing for him a chair by the fire.
" Well, what shall I play?" said the old man, seating himself. " Shall it be something lively?"
" Yes, by all means, grandpa. We want no sad tunes to-night."
So the old musician began to play a spirited waltz, which caused. Jack and his sister to start with a pleased surprise. But soon over Jack's face, instead of surprise, came regret, and before the piece was ended, his eyes were full of tears.
"Why, what's the matter, Jack?" whispered Dick. " Don't you like the music ? "
"Halloo! how is this?" exclaimed the musician in surprise, after he had ended the piece. " I have played one of my liveliest pieces, and have made your friend cry."
" Don't stop playing, please," said Jack, hastily brushing away the tears.
" What makes you cry?" asked Dick and the old man together.
" I don't know. I can't help it. I always do when I go to hear the minstrels," replied Jack.
"Do you cry because you don't like music?" asked grandfather, looking severely at him.
" O, no, no ; it is not that. It is because I do like it, and I keep wishing I owned a violin, and could play upon it."
"Ah, so that's it," said grandpa, his face brightening. "Why don't you buy one, then? Have n't you money enough ? "
Jack shook his head.
"Why don't you earn money enough? You are as old and strong as Dick here, and he would not long want anything, if there was any way of getting it honestly."
Jack replied by opening his eyes a little wider. Undoubtedly the idea of himself being able to earn money enough to buy a violin, had never entered his mind before.
"O, if I only could! " exclaimed he, at last.
" Of course you can," replied grandpa Milly.
" Go to work and earn money enough to buy one, and I will give you a few lessons free, just to give you an idea of how to work it."
" Will you? Will you?" cried the boy, springing to his feet. "Then I shall certainly have one. It will not take me long to earn money enough."
" I want to ask you something, grandpa, before you advise him to buy a violin." said Dick. " He is a poor boy without father or mother, and left as I am with only one sister. All along he has led a useless life, -- spending for his own pleasure the little money he earned at blacking boots, while his sister wandered about the streets, barefooted, begging food for an old woman, who paid her by giving her a place to sleep in. Now, he has promised me that he will reform, and make for himself and sister a home; and I want to ask you if it would be right for him to spend his first earnings to gratify his own pleasure, when there are so many necessaries for him to procure ? Would n't it be better for him to wait until he can afford it ? "
" Yes, yes, certainly, if that is the case," replied Mr. Milly; and Jack sank into his chair again, his face only half expressing his disappointment.
" Ah," said he, " if I only had a violin to begin with, it seems to me everything would be easy afterwards."
" I am afraid if you had one, you like music so well, you would sit in a corner and play upon it as long as you had a corner to sit in," replied Dick.
"O, no, I should not. I should learn two or three tunes at first, then I should go into the streets and play for money, as others do."
" I believe the boy is right, Dick ! " exclaimed the old man, bringing his hand down smartly upon his knee. "He has the right stuff in him to make a true musician, or I am mistaken."
"I wish it might be so," replied Dick; "perhaps it would be better to let him have one at first, after all."
" There is no need of being in a hurry about it. I can begin to learn him on my own, evenings, and after he has learned several pieces, 't will be time enough for him to think of buying one for himself," said Mr. Milly.
" O, sir, you are so kind, you are all so kind," cried Jack, weeping again in his joy; and Ella looked on with wide-open eyes; for never, since she could remember, had she seen her brother cry before.
All this time Daisy was sitting alone, caring little about the music, and less about the conversation. She was anxious to take Ella upstairs to show her the rooms, and give her her first lesson in house-keeping, though what that lesson would be, she had not yet decided. Thought she to herself, " I cannot teach her how to wash dishes, because as yet she has no dishes to wash; neither can I tell her how to sweep, because she has no broom. The bed is already made, so I cannot show her how to make that. What can I do tonight, to give her some idea of house-keeping? I will just slip out of the room, and run up-stairs, to see if all the furniture is placed where it should he ; and, if it is not, I will call her up and tell her where to put everything to improve the appearance of her rooms." And Daisy, unnoticed, glided out of the kitchen, and hurried up-stairs.
Yes, everything was where it should be. There was the lounge against the wall, the table between the doors, and a chair by each of the windows. No chance for an improvement there: so Daisy went down-stairs again, a little disappointed that there were not more things in the room to place.
On to conclusion
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