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human sympathy, no human gratitude; that he should be so high above
his companions that, though he never thought he was lonely, he could
not help feeling lonely. Not once did he wish himself rid of any
single member of his adopted family. It was living on his very body;
he was growing a little thinner every day; if things had gone on so,
he must before long have fallen ill; but he never thought of himself
at all, body or soul.

He had no human sympathy or gratitude, I say, but he had both sympathy
and gratitude from Abdiel. The dog never failed to understand what
Clare wished and expected him to understand. In Clare's absence he
took on himself the protection of the establishment, and was Tommy's

Though Tommy was of no use to earn bread, Clare did not therefore
allow him to be idle. He insisted on his keeping the place clean and
tidy, and in this respect Tommy was not quite a failure. He even made
him do some washing, though not much could be accomplished in that way
where there was so little to wash. Now that Abdiel was nurse, Tommy
had the run of the garden, and often went beyond it for an hour or two
without Clare's knowledge, but always took good care to be back before
his return.

A bale of goods happening to be unpacked in his presence one day,
Clare begged the head-shopman, who was also a partner, for a piece of
what it was wrapped in; and he, having noted how well he worked, and
being quite aware they could not get another such boy at such wages,
gave him a large piece of the soiled canvas. Now Mrs. Person had
taught Clare to work, - as I think all boys ought to be taught, so as
not to be helpless without mother or sister, - and with the help of a
needle and some thread the friendly girl gave him, he soon made of the
packing-sheet a pair of trousers for Tommy, of a primitive but not
unserviceable cut, and a shirt for himself, of fashion more primitive
still. He managed it this way: he cut a hole in the middle of a piece
of the stuff, through which to put his head, and another hole on each
side of that, through which to put his arms, and hemmed them all
round. Then, having first hemmed the garment also, he indued it, and
let the voluminous mass arrange itself as it might, under as much of
his jacket and trousers as cohered.

My reader may well wonder how, in what was called a respectable shop,
he could be permitted to appear in such poverty; but Mr. Maidstone
disliked the boy so much that he meant to send him away the moment he
found another to do his work, and gave orders that he should never
come up from the basement except when wanted to carry a parcel. The
fact was that his still, solemn, pure face was a haunting rebuke to
his master, although he did not in the least recognize the nature, or
this as the cause, of his dislike.

Chapter XXXV.

Clare disregards the interests of his employers.

Things went on for nearly a month, every one thriving but Clare. Yet
was Clare as peaceful as any, and much happier than Tommy, to whose
satisfaction adventure was needful.

One day, a lady, attracted by a muff in the shop-window labelled with
a very low price, entered, and requested to see it.

"We can offer you a choice from several of the sort, madam," said the
shopman. "It is one of a lot we bought cheap, but quite uninjured,
after a fire."

"I want to see the one in the window," the lady answered.

"I hope you will excuse me, madam," returned the shopman. "The muff is
in a position hard to reach. Besides, we must ask leave to take
anything down after the window is dressed for the day, and the master
is out. But I will bring you the same fur precisely."

So saying, he went, and returned presently with a load of muffs and
other furs, which he threw on the counter. But the lady had heard that
"there's tricks i' the world," and persisted in demanding a sight of
the muff in the window. Being a "tall personage" and cool, she carried
her point. The muff was hooked down and brought her - not
graciously. She glanced at it, turned it over, looked inside, and

"I will take it. Please bring a bandbox for it."

"I will, madam," said the man, and would have taken the muff. But she
held it fast, sought her purse, and laid the price on the counter. The
shopman saw that she knew what both of them were about, took up the
money, went and fetched a bandbox, put the muff in it before her eyes,
and tied it up. The lady held out her hand for it.

"Shall I not send it for you, madam?" he said.

"I do not live here," she answered. "I am on my way to the station."

"Here, Jack," cried the shopman to Clare, whom he caught sight of that
moment going down to the basement, "take this bandbox, and go with the
lady to the station."

If his transaction with the lady had pleased the man, he would not
have sent such a scarecrow to attend her, although she did not belong
to the town, and they might never see her again! The lady, on her
part, was about to insist on carrying the bandbox herself; but when
Clare came forward, and looked up smiling in her face, she was at once
aware that she might trust him. The man stood watching for the moment
when she should turn her back, that he might substitute another
bandbox for the one Clare carried; but Clare never looked at him, and
when the lady walked out of the shop, walked straight out after
her. Along the street he followed her steadily, she looking round
occasionally to see that he was behind her.

They had gone about half-way to the station, when from a side street
came a lad whom Clare knew as one employed in the packing-room. He
carried a box exactly like that Clare had in his hand, and came softly
up behind him. Clare did not turn his head, for he did not want to
talk to him while he was attending on the lady.

"Look spry!" he said in a whisper. "She don't twig! It's all right!
Maidstone sent me."

Clare looked round. The lad held out his bandbox for him to take, and
his empty hand to take Clare's instead. But Clare had by this time
begun to learn a little caution. Besides, the lady's interests were in
his care, and he could be party to nothing done behind her back! He
had not time to think, but knew it his duty to stick by the
bandbox. If we have come up through the animals to be what we are,
Clare must have been a dog of a good, faithful breed, for he did right
now as by some ancient instinct. He held fast to the box, neither
slackening his pace nor uttering a word. The lad gave him a great
punch. Clare clung the harder to the box. The lady heard something,
and turned her head. The boy already had his back to her, and was
walking away, but she saw that Clare's face was flushed.

"What is the matter?" she asked.

"I don't rightly know, ma'am. He wanted me to give him my bandbox for
his, and said Mr. Maidstone had sent him. But I couldn't, you
know! - except he asked you first. You did pay for it - didn't you,

"Of course I did, or he wouldn't have let me take it away! But if you
don't know what it means, I do. - You haven't been in that shop long,
have you?"

"Not quite a month, ma'am."

"I thought so!"

She said no more, and Clare followed in silence, wondering not a
little. When they reached the station, she took the bandbox, and
looked at the boy. He returned her gaze, his gray eyes wondering. She
searched her purse for a shilling, but, unable to find one, was not
sorry to give him a half-crown instead.

"You had better not mention that I gave you anything?" she said.

"I will not, ma'am, except they ask me," he answered.

"But," he added, his face in a glow of delight, "is all this for me?"

"To be sure," she answered. "I am much obliged to you for - carrying my
parcel. Be a honest boy whatever comes, and you will not repent it."

"I will try, ma'am," said Clare.

But, to speak accurately, he did not know what it was to _try_ to be
honest: he had never been tempted to be anything else, and had
scarcely had the idea of dishonesty in his mind except in relation to
Tommy. Do you say, "Then it was no merit to him"? Certainly it was
none. Who was thinking of merit? Not Clare. He is a sneak who thinks
of merit. He is a cad who can't do a gentlemanly action without
thinking himself a fine fellow! It might be a merit in many a man to
act as Clare did, but in Clare it was pure rightness - or, if you like
the word better, righteousness.

Clare as little thought what awaited him. Had there been any truth,
any appreciation of honesty in his vulgar heart, Mr. Maidstone could
not have done as now he did. When his messenger came back with the
tale of how he had been foiled, he said nothing, but his lips grew
white. He closed them fast, and went and stood near the door. When
Clare, unsuspecting as innocent, opened it, he was met by a blow that
dazed him, and a fierce kick that sent him on his back to the
curbstone. Almost insensible, but with the impression that something
was interfering between him and his work, he returned to the door. As
he laid his hand on it, it opened a little, and his master's face,
with a hateful sneer upon it, shot into the crack, and spit in
his. Then the door shut so sharply that his fingers caught an
agonizing pinch. At last he understood: he was turned off, and his
day's wages were lost!

What would have become of him now but for the half-crown the lady had
given him! She was not _quite_ a lady, or she would have walked out of
the shop, and declined to gain by frustrating a swindle; but she was a
good-hearted woman, and God's messenger to Clare. He bought a bigger
loaf than usual, at which, and the time of the day when he bought it,
and the half-crown presented in payment, Mr. Ball wondered; but
neither said anything - Mr. Ball from indecision, Clare from eagerness
to get home to his family.

Chapter XXXVI.

The policeman.

But, alas! Clare had made another enemy - the lad whose attempt to
change the bandboxes he had foiled. The fellow followed him,
lurkingly, all the way home - on the watch for fit place to pounce upon
him, and punish him for doing right when he wanted him to do wrong. He
saw him turn into the opening that led to the well, and thought now he
had him. But when he followed him in, he was not to be seen! He did
not care to cross the well, not knowing what might meet him on the
other side; but here was news to carry back! He did so; and his master
saw in them the opportunity of indulging his dislike and revenge, and
a means of invalidating whatever Clare might reveal to his discredit!

Clare and the baby and Tommy and Abdiel had taken their supper with
satisfaction, and were all asleep. It was to them as the middle of the
night, though it was but past ten o'clock, when Abdiel all at once
jumped right up on his four legs, cocked his ears, listened, leaped
off the bed, ran to the door, and began to bark furiously. He was
suddenly blinded by the glare of a bull's-eye-lantern, and received a
kick that knocked all the bark out of him, and threw him to the other
side of the room. A huge policeman strode quietly in, sending the
glare of his bull's-eye all about the room like a vital, inquiring
glance. It discovered, one after the other, every member of the
family. So tired was Clare, however, that he did not wake until seized
by a rough hand, and at one pull dragged standing on the floor.

"Take care of the baby!" he cried, while yet not half awake.

"_I'll_ take care o' the baby, never fear! - an' o' you too, you young
rascal!" returned the policeman.

He roused Tommy, who was wide awake, but pretending to be asleep, with
a gentle kick.

"Up ye get!" he said; and Tommy got up, rubbing his ferret eyes.

"Come along!" said the policeman.

"Where to?" asked Clare.

"You'll see when you get there."

"But I can't leave baby!"

"Baby must come along too," answered the policeman, more gently, for
he had children of his own.

"But she has no clothes to go in!" objected Clare.

"She must go without, then."

"But she'll take cold!"

"She don't run naked in the house, do she?"

"No; she can't run yet. I keep her in a blanket. But the blanket ain't
mine; I can't take it with me."

"You're mighty scrup'lous!" returned the policeman. "You don't mind
takin' a 'ole 'ouse an' garding, but you wouldn' think o' takin' a
blanket! - Oh, no! Honest boy _you_ are!"

He turned sharp round, and caught Tommy taking a vigorous sight at
him. Tommy, courageous as a lion behind anybody's back, dropped on the
rug sitting.

"We've done the house no harm," said Clare, "and I will _not_ take the
blanket. It would be stealing!"

"Then I will take it, and be accountable for it," rejoined the man. "I
hope that will satisfy you!"

"Certainly," answered Clare. "You are a policeman, and that makes it
all right."

"Rouse up then, and come along. I want to get home."

"Please, sir, wouldn't it do in the morning?" pleaded Clare. "I've no
work now, and could easily go then. That way we should all have a

"My eye ain't green enough," replied the policeman. "Look sharp!"

Clare said no more, but went to the baby. With sinking but courageous
heart, he wrapped her closer in her blanket, and took her in his
arms. He could not help her crying, but she did not scream. Indeed she
never really screamed; she was not strong enough to scream.

"Get along," said the policeman.

Clare led the way with his bundle, sorely incommoded by the size and
weight of the wrapping blanket, the corners of which, one after the
other, would keep working from his hold, and dropping and trailing on
the ground. Behind him came Tommy, a scarecrow monkey, with
mischievous face, and greedy beads for eyes - type not unknown to the
policeman, who brought up the rear, big enough to have all their sizes
cut out of him, and yet pass for a man. Down the stair they went, and
out at the front door, which Clare for the first time saw open, and so
by the iron gate into the street.

"Which way, please?" asked Clare, turning half round with the

"To the right, straight ahead. The likes o' you, young un, might know
the way to the lock-up without astin'!"

Clare made no answer, but walked obedient. It was a sad
procession - comical indeed, but too sad when realized to continue
ludicrous. The thin, long-bodied, big-headed, long-haired,
long-tailed, short-legged animal that followed last, seemed to close
it with a never-ending end.

There was no moon; nothing but the gas-lamps lighted Clare's _Via
dolorosa_. He hugged the baby and kept on, laying his cheek to hers to
comfort her, and receiving the comfort he did not seek.

They came at last to the _lock-up_, a new building in the rear of the
town-house. There this tangle of humanity, torn from its rock and
afloat on the social sea, drifted trailing into a bare brilliant room,
and at its head, cast down but not destroyed, went heavy-laden Clare,
with so much in him, but only his misery patent to eyes too much used
to misery to reap sorrow from the sight.

The head policeman - they called him the inspector - received the
charge, that of house-breaking, and entered it. Then they were taken
away to the lock-up - all but the faithful Abdiel, who, following,
received another of the kicks which that day rained on every member of
that epitome of the human family except the baby, who, small enough
for a mother to drown, was too small for a policeman to kick. The door
was shut upon them, and they had to rest in that grave till the
resurrection of the morning should bring them before the magistrate.

Their quarters were worse than chilly - to all but the baby in her
blanket manifoldly wrapped about her, and in Clare's arms. Tommy would
gladly have shared that blanket, more gladly yet would have taken it
all for himself and left the baby to perish; but he had to lie on the
broad wooden bench and make the best of it, which he did by snoring
all the night. It passed drearily for Clare, who kept wide awake. He
was not anxious about the morrow; he had nothing to be ashamed of,
therefore nothing to fear; but he had baby to protect and cherish, and
he dared not go to sleep.

Chapter XXXVII.

The magistrate.

The dawn came at last, and soon after the dawn footsteps, but they
approached only to recede. When the door at length opened, it was but
to let a pair of eyes glance round on them, and close again. The hours
seemed to be always beginning, and never going on. But at the long
last came the big policeman. To Clare's loving eyes, how friendly he

"Come, kids!" he said, and took them through a long passage to a room
in the town-hall, where sat a formal-looking old gentleman behind a

"Good morning, sir!" said Clare, to the astonishment of the
magistrate, who set his politeness down as impudence.

Nor was the mistake to be wondered at; for the baby in Clare's arms
hid, with the mountain-like folds of its blanket, the greater part of
his face, and the old gentleman's eyes fell first on Tommy; and if
ever _scamp_ was written clear on a countenance, it was written clear
on Tommy's.

"Hold your impudent tongue!" said a policeman, and gave Clare a cuff
on the head.

"Hold, John," interposed the magistrate; "it is my part to punish, not

"Thank you, sir," said Clare.

"I will thank _you_, sir," returned the magistrate, "not to speak till
I put to you the questions I am about to put to you. - What is the
charge against the prisoners?"

"Housebreaking, sir," answered the big man.

"What! Housebreaking! Boys with a baby! House-breakers don't generally
go about with babies in their arms! Explain the thing."

The policeman said he had received information that unlawful
possession had been taken of a building commonly known as The Haunted
House, which had been in Chancery for no one could tell how many
years. He had gone to see, and had found the accused in possession of
the best bedroom - fast asleep, surrounded by indications that they had
made themselves at home there for some time. He had brought them

The magistrate turned his eyes on Clare.

"You hear what the policeman says?" he said.

"Yes, sir," answered Clare.



"What have you to say to it?"

"Nothing, sir."

"Then you allow it is true?"

"Yes, sir."

"What right had you to be there?"

"None, sir. But we had nowhere else to go, and nobody seemed to want
the place. We didn't hurt anything. We swept away a multitude of dead
moths, and killed a lot of live ones, and destroyed a whole granary of
grubs; and the dog killed a great rat."

"What is your name?"

"Clare - Porson," answered Clare, with a little intervening hesitation.

"You are not quite sure?"

"Yes; that is my name; but I have another older one that I don't

"A bad answer! The name you go by is not your own! Hum! Is that boy
your brother?"

"No, sir."

"Your cousin?"

"No, sir; he's not any relation of mine. He's a tramp."

"And what are you?"

"Something like one now, sir, but I wasn't always."

"What were you?"

"Not much, sir. I didn't _do_ anything till just lately."

He could not bear at the moment to talk of his be-loved dead. He felt
as if the old gentleman would be rude to them.

"Is the infant there your sister?"

"She's my sister the big way: God made her. She's not my sister any
other way."

"How does she come to be with you then?"

"I took her out of the water-butt. Some one threw her in, and I heard
the splash, and went and got her out."

"Why did you not take her to the police?"

"I never thought of that. It was all I could do to keep her alive. I
couldn't have done it if we hadn't got into the house."

"How long ago is that?"

"Nearly a month, sir."

"And you've kept her there ever since?"

"Yes, sir - as well as I could. I had only sixpence a day."

"And what's that boy's name?"

"Tommy, sir. - I don't know any other."

"Nice respectable company you keep for one who has evidently been well
brought up!"

"Baby's quite respectable, sir!"


"And for Tommy, if I didn't keep him, he would steal. I'm teaching him
not to steal."

"What woman have you got with you?"

"Baby's the only woman we've got, sir."

"But who attends to her?"

"I do, sir. She only wants washing and rolling round in the blanket;
she's got no clothes to speak of. When I'm away, Tommy and Abdiel take
care of her."

"Abdiel! Who on earth is that? Where is he?" said the magistrate,
looking round for some fourth member of the incomprehensible family.

"He's not on earth, sir; he's in heaven - the good angel, you know,
sir, that left Satan and came back again to God."

"You must take him to the county-asylum, James!" said the magistrate,
turning to the tall policeman.

"Oh, he's all right, sir!" said James.

"Please, sir," interrupted Clare eagerly, "I didn't mean the dog was
in heaven yet. I meant the angel I named him after!"

"They _had_ a little dog with them, sir!"

"Yes - Abdiel. He wanted to be a prisoner too, but they wouldn't let
him in. He's a good dog - better than Tommy."

"So! like all the rest of you, you can keep a dog!"

"He followed me home because he hadn't anybody to love," said
Clare. "He don't have much to eat, but he's content. He would eat
three times as much if I could give it him; but he never complains."

"Have you work of any sort?"

"I had till yesterday, sir."


"At Mr. Maidstone's shop."

"What wages had you?"

"Sixpence a day."

"And you lived, all three of you, on that?"

"Yes; all four of us, sir."

"What do you do at the shop?"

"Please your worship," interposed policeman James, "he was sent about
his business yesterday."

"Yes," rejoined Clare, who did not understand the phrase, "I was sent
with a lady to carry her bandbox to the station."

"And when you came back, you was turned away, wasn't you?" said James.

"Yes, sir."

"What had you done?" asked the magistrate.

"I don't quite know, sir."

"A likely story!"

Clare made no reply.

"Answer me directly."

"Please, sir, you told me not to speak unless you asked me a

"I said, 'A likely story!' which meant, 'Do you expect me to believe

"Of course I do, sir."


"Because it is true."

"How am I to believe that?"

"I don't know, sir. I only know I've got to speak the truth. It's the
person who hears it that's got to believe it, ain't it, sir?"

"You've got to prove it."

"I don't think so, sir; I never was told so; I was only told I must
speak the truth; I never was told I must prove what I said. - I've been
several times disbelieved, I know."

"I should think so indeed!"

"It was by people who did not know me."

"Never by people who did know you?"

"I think not, sir. I never was by the people at home."

"Ah! you could not read what they were thinking!"

"Were you not believed when you were at home, sir?"

The magistrate's doubt of Clare had its source in the fact that,
although now he was more careful to speak the truth than are most
people, it was not his habit when a boy, and he had suffered severely
in consequence. He was annoyed, therefore, at his question, set him
down as a hypocritical, boastful prig, and was seized with a strong
desire to shame him.

"I remand the prisoner for more evidence. Take the children to the
workhouse," he said.

Tommy gave a sudden full-sized howl. He had heard no good of the

"The baby is mine!" pleaded Clare.

"Are you the father of it?" said the big policeman.

"Yes, I think so: I saved her life. - She would have been drowned if I
hadn't looked for her when I heard the splash!" reasoned Clare, his
face drawn with grief and the struggle to keep from crying.

"She's not yours," said the magistrate. "She belongs to the
parish. Take her away, James."

The big policeman came up to take her. Clare would have held her
tight, but was afraid of hurting her. He did draw back from the
outstretched hands, however, while he put a question or two.

"Please, sir, will the parish be good to her?" he asked.

"Much better than you."

"Will it let me go and see her?" he asked again, with an outbreaking

"You can't go anywhere till you're out of this," answered the big
policeman, and, not ungently, took the baby from him.

"And when will that be, please?" asked Clare, with his empty arms
still held out.

"That depends on his worship there."

"Hold your tongue, James," said the magistrate. "Take the boy away,

"Please, sir, where am I going to?" asked Clare.

"To prison, till we find out about you."

"Please, sir, I didn't mean to steal her. I didn't know the parish
wanted her!"

"Take the boy away, I tell you!" cried the magistrate angrily. "His

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldA Rough Shaking → online text (page 13 of 24)