_anybody_, even Clare! Nobody was to be trusted but yourself! It did
seem hard to Tommy.
They had scarcely turned the corner when they came upon the cart. The
baker was looking the other way, talking to some one, and Clare
thought to lay down the loaf and say nothing about it: there was no
occasion for the ceremony of apology where offence was unknown. But in
the very act the baker turned and saw him. He sprang upon him, and
collared him. The baker was not nice to look at.
"I have you!" he cried, and shook him as if he would have shaken his
"It's quite a mistake, sir!" was all Clare could get out, so fierce
was the earthquake that rattled the house of his life.
"Mistaken am I? I like that! - Police!"
And with that the baker shook him again.
A policeman was not far off; he heard the man call, and came running.
"Here's a gen'leman as wants the honour o' your acquaintance, Bob!"
said the baker.
But Tommy saw that, from his size, he was more likely to get off than
Clare if he told the truth.
"Please, policeman," he said, "it wasn't him; it was me as took the
"You little liar!" shouted the baker. "Didn't I see him with his hand
on the loaf?"
"He was a puttin' of it back," said Tommy. "I wish he'd been
somewheres else! See what he been an' got by it! If he'd only ha' let
me run, there wouldn't ha' been nobody the wiser. I _am_ sorry I
didn't run. Oh, I _ham_ so 'ungry!"
Tommy doubled himself up, with his hands inside the double.
"'Ungry, are you?" roared the baker. "That's what thieves off a
baker's cart ought to be! They ought to be always 'ungry - 'ungry to
all eternity, they ought! An' that's what's goin' to be done to 'em!"
"Look here!" cried a pale-faced man in the front of the crowd, who
seemed a mechanic. "There's a way of tellin' whether the boy's
speakin' the truth _now_!"
He caught up the restored loaf, halved it cleverly, and handed each of
the boys a part.
"Now, baker, what's to pay?" he said, and drew himself up, for the man
was too angry at once to reply.
The boys were tearing at the delicious bread, blind and deaf to all
"P'r'aps you would like to give _me_ in charge?" pursued their
"Sixpence," said the man sullenly.
The mechanic laid sixpence on the cover of the cart.
"I ought to ha' made you weigh and make up," he said. "Where's your
"Mind your own business."
"I mean to. Here! I want another sixpenny loaf - but I want it weighed
"I ain't bound to sell bread in the streets. You can go to the
shop. Them loaves is for reg'lar customers."
He moved off with his cart, and the crowd began to disperse. The boys
stood absorbed, each in what remained of his half-loaf.
When he looked up, Clare saw that they were alone. But he caught sight
of their benefactor some way off, and ran after him.
"Oh, sir!" he said, "I was so hungry, I don't know whether I thanked
you for the loaf. We'd had nothing to-day but the sweepings of a
"God bless my soul!" said the man. "People say there's a God!" he
"I think there must be, sir, for you came by just then!" returned
"How do you come to be so hard-up, my boy? Somebody's to blame
"There ain't no harm in being hungry, so long as the loaf comes!"
rejoined Clare. "When I get work we shall be all right!"
"That's your sort!" said the man. "But if there had been a God, as
people say, he would ha' made me fit to gi'e you a job, i'stead o'
stan'in' here as you see me, with ne'er a turn o' work to do for
"I'll work my hardest to pay you back your sixpence," said Clare.
"Nay, nay, lad! Don't you trouble about that. I ha' got two or three
more i' my pocket, thank God!"
"You have two Gods, have you, sir?" said Clare;" - one who does things
for you, and one who don't?"
"Come, you young shaver! you're too much for me!" said the man
Tommy, having finished his bread, here thought fit to join them. He
came slyly up, looking impudent now he was filled, with his hands
where his pockets should have been.
"It was you stole the loaf, you little rascal!" said the workman,
seeing thief in every line of the boy.
"Yes," answered Tommy boldly, "an' I don't see no harm. The baker had
lots, and he wasn't 'ungry! It was Clare made a mull of it! He's such
a duffer you don't know! He acshally took it back to the brute! He
deserved what he got! The loaf was mine. It wasn't his! _I_ stole it!"
"Oh, ho! it wasn't his! it was yours, was it? - Why do you go about
with a chap like this, young gentleman?" said the man, turning to
Clare. "I know by your speech you 'ain't been brought up alongside o'
sech as him!"
"I had to go away, and he came with me," answered Clare.
"You'd better get rid of him. He'll get you into trouble."
"I can't get rid of him," replied Clare. "But I shall teach him not to
take what isn't his. He don't know better now. He's been ill-used all
"You don't seem over well used yourself," said the man.
He saw that Clare's clothes had been made for a boy in good
circumstances, though they had been long worn, and were much
begrimed. His face, his tone, his speech convinced him that they had
been made for _him_, and that he had had a gentle breeding.
"Look you here, young master," he continued; "you have no right to be
in company with that boy. He'll bring you to grief as sure as I tell
"I shall be able to bear it," answered Clare with a sigh.
"He'll be the loss of your character to you."
"I 'ain't got a character to lose," replied Clare. "I thought I had;
but when nobody will believe me, where's my character then?"
"Now you're wrong there," returned the man. "I'm not much, I know; but
I believe every word you say, and should be very sorry to find myself
"Thank you, sir," said Clare. "May I carry your bag for you?"
If Clare had seen what then passed in Tommy's mind, at the back of
those glistening ferret-eyes of his, he would have been almost
reconciled to taking the man's advice, and getting rid of him. Tommy
was saying to himself that his pal wasn't such a duffer after all - he
was on the lay for the man's tools!
Tommy never reasoned except in the direction of cunning self-help - of
fitting means and intermediate ends to the one main object of
eating. It is wonderful what a sharpener of the poor wits hunger is!
"I guess I'm the abler-bodied pauper!" answered the man; and picking
up the bag he had dropped at his feet while they conversed, he walked
There are many more generous persons among the poor than among the
rich - a fact that might help some to understand how a rich man should
find it hard to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is hard for
everybody, but harder for the rich. Men who strive to make money are
unconsciously pulling instead of pushing at the heavy gate of the
"Tommy!" said Clare, in a tone new to himself, for a new sense of
moral protection had risen in him, "if ever you steal anything again,
either I give you a hiding, or you and I part company."
Tommy bored his knuckles into his red eyes, and began to
whimper. Again it was hard for Tommy! He had followed Clare, thinking
to supply what was lacking to him; to do for him what he was not
clever enough to do for himself; in short, to make an advantageous
partnership with him, to which he should furnish the faculty of
picking up unconsidered trifles. Tommy judged Clare defective in
intellect, and quite unpractical. He was of the mind of the
multitude. The common-minded man always calls the man who thinks of
righteousness before gain, who seeks to do the will of God and does
not seek to make a fortune, unpractical. He _will_ not see that the
very essence of the practical lies in doing the right thing.
Tommy, in a semi-conscious way, had looked to Clare to supply the
strength and the innocent look, while he supplied the head and the
lively fingers; and here was Clare knocking the lovely plan to pieces!
He did well to be angry! But Clare was the stronger; and Tommy knew
that, when Clare was roused, though it was not easy to rouse him, he
could and would and did fight - not, indeed, as the little coward said
to himself _he_ could fight, like a wild cat, but like a blundering
hornless old cow defending her calf from a cur.
In the heart of all his selfishness, however, Tommy did a little love
Clare; and his love came, not from Tommy, but from the same source as
his desire for food, namely, from the God that was in Tommy, the God
in whom Tommy lived and had his being with Clare. Whether Tommy's love
for Clare would one day lift him up beside Clare, that is, make him an
honest boy like Clare, remained to be seen.
Finding his demonstration make no impression, Tommy took his knuckles
out of his eye-holes and thrust them into his pocket-holes, turned his
back on his friend, and began to whistle - with a lump of self-pity in
Beating the town.
They turned their faces again toward the centre of the town, and
resumed their walk, taking in more of what they saw than while they
had not yet had the second instalment of their daily bread. What a
thing is food! It is the divineness of the invention - the need for the
food, and the food for the need - that makes those who count their
dinner the most important thing in the day, such low creatures:
nothing but what is good in itself can be turned into vileness. It is
a delight to see a boy with a good honest appetite; a boy that _loves_
his dinner is a loathsome creature. Eat heartily, my boy, but be ready
to share, even when you are hungry, and have only what you could eat
up yourself, else you are no man. Remember that you created neither
your hunger nor your food; that both came from one who cares for you
and your neighbours as well.
In the strength of the half-loaf he had eaten, the place looked to
Clare far more wonderful, and his hopes of earning his bread grew yet
more radiant. But he passed one shop after another, and always
something prevented him from going in. One after another did not look
just the right sort, did not seem to invite him: the next might be
better! I dare say but for that half-loaf, he would have made a trial
sooner, but I doubt if he would have succeeded sooner. He did not
think of going to parson, doctor, or policeman for advice; he went
walking and staring, followed by Tommy with his hands in his
pocketless pocket-holes. Clare was not yet practical in device, though
perfect in willingness, and thorough in design. Up one street and down
another they wandered, seeing plenty of food through windows, and in
carts and baskets, but never any coming their way, except in the form
of tempting odours that issued from almost every house, and grew in
keenness and strength toward one o'clock. Oh those odours! - agonizing
angels of invisible yet most material good! Of what joys has not the
Father made us capable, when the poorest necessity is linked with such
pain! What a tormenting thing - and what a good must be meant to come
out of it! - to be hungry, downright, cravingly hungry with the whole
microcosm, and not a halfpenny to buy a mouthful of assuagement! - to
be assailed with wafts of deliriously undefined promise, not one of
which seems likely to be fulfilled! - promise true to men hurrying home
to dinner or luncheon, but only rousing greater desire in such as
Clare and Tommy. Not one opportunity of appropriation presented
itself, else it would have gone ill with Tommy, now that the eyes and
ears of his guardian were on the alert. For Clare thought of him now
as a little thievish pup, for whose conduct, manners, and education he
The agony began at length to abate - ready to revive with augmented
strength when the next hour for supplying the human furnace should
begin to approach. Few even of those who know what hunger is,
understand to what it may grow - how desire becomes longing, longing
becomes craving, and craving a wild passion of demand. It must be
terrible to be hungry, and not know God!
As the evening came down upon them, worn out, faint with want,
shivering with cold, and as miserable in prospect as at the moment,
yet another need presented itself with equally imperative
requisition - that of shelter that they might rest. It was even more
imperative: they could not eat; they _must_ lie down!
Whether it be a rudiment retained from their remote ancestry, I cannot
tell, but any kind of suffering will wake in some a masterful impulse
to burrow; and as the boys walked about in their misery, white with
cold and hunger, Clare's eyes kept turning to every shallowest
archway, every breach in wall or hedge that seemed to offer the least
chance of covert, while, every now and then, Tommy would bolt from his
side to peer into some opening whose depth was not immediately patent
to his ferret-gaze. Once, in a lane on the outskirts of the town, he
darted into a narrow doorway in the face of a wall, but instantly
rushed back in horror: within was a well, where water lay still and
dark. Then first Clare had a hint of the peculiar dread Tommy had of
water, especially of water dark and unexpected. Possibly he had once
been thrown into such water to be got rid of. But Clare at the moment
was too weary to take much notice of his dismay.
It was an old town in which they were wandering, and change in the
channels of traffic had so turned its natural nourishment aside, that
it was in parts withering and crumbling away. Not a few of the houses
were, some from poverty, some from utter disuse, yielding fast to
decay. But there were other causes for the condition of one, which,
almost directly they came out of the lane I have just mentioned, into
the end of a wide silent street, drew the roving, questing eyes of
Clare and Tommy. The moon was near the full and shining clear, so that
they could perfectly see the state it was in. Most of its windows were
broken; its roof was like the back of a very old horse; its
chimney-pots were jagged and stumped with fracture; from one of them,
by its entangled string, the skeleton of a kite hung half-way down the
front. But, notwithstanding such signs of neglect, the red-brick wall
and the wrought-iron gate, both seven feet high, that shut the place
off from the street, stood in perfect aged strength. The moment they
saw it, the house seemed to say to them, "There's nobody here: come
in!" but the gate and the wall said, "Begone!"
The blacksmith and his forge.
At the end of the wall was a rough boarded fence, in contact with it,
and reaching, some fifty yards or so, to a hovel in which a
blacksmith, of unknown antecedents, had taken possession of a forsaken
forge, and did what odd jobs came in his way. The boys went along the
fence till they came to the forge, where, looking in, they saw the
blacksmith working his bellows. To one with the instincts of Clare's
birth and breeding, he did not look a desirable acquaintance. Tommy
was less fastidious, but he felt that the scowl on the man's brows
boded little friendliness. Clare, however, who hardly knew what fear
was, did not hesitate to go in, for he was drawn as with a cart-rope
by the glow of the fire, and the sparks which, as they gazed, began,
like embodied joys, to fly merrily from the iron. Tommy followed,
keeping Clare well between him and the black-browed man, who rained
his blows on the rosy iron in his pincers, as if he hated it.
"What do you want, gutter-toads?" he cried, glancing up and seeing
them approach. "This ain't a hotel."
"But it's a splendid fire," rejoined Clare, looking into his face with
a wan smile, "and we're so cold!"
"What's that to me!" returned the man, who, savage about something,
was ready to quarrel with anything. "I didn't make my fire to warm
little devils that better had never been born!"
"No, sir," answered Clare; "but I don't think we'd better not have
been born. We're both cold, and nobody but Tommy knows how hungry I
am; but your fire is so beautiful that, if you would let us stand
beside it a minute or two, we wouldn't at all mind."
"Mind, indeed! Mind what, you preaching little humbug?"
"Mind being born, sir."
"Why do you say _sir_ to me? Don't you see I'm a working man?"
"Yes, and that's why. I think we ought to say _sir_ and _ma'am_ to
every one that can do something we can't. Tommy and I can't make iron
do what we please, and you can, sir! It would be a grand thing for us
if we could!"
"Oh, yes, a grand thing, no doubt! - Why?"
"Because then we could get something to eat, and somewhere to lie
"Could you? Look at me, now! I can do the work of two men, and can't
get work for half a man!"
"That's a sad pity!" said Clare. "I wish I had work! Then I would
bring you something to eat."
The man did not tell them why he had not work enough - that his
drunkenness, and the bad ways to which it had brought him, with the
fact that he so often dawdled over the work that was given him, caused
people to avoid him.
"Who said I hadn't enough to eat? I ain't come to that yet, young 'un!
What made you say that?"
"Because when I had work, I had plenty to eat; and now that I have
nothing to do, I have nothing to eat. It's well I haven't work now,
though," added Clare with a sigh, "for I'm too tired to do any. Please
may I sit on this heap of ashes?"
"Sit where you like, so long 's you keep out o' my way. I 'ain't got
nothing to give you but a bar of iron. I'll toast one for you if you
would like a bite."
"No, thank you, sir," answered Clare, with a smile. "I'm afraid it
wouldn't be digestible. They say toasted cheese ain't. I wish I had a
"You're a comical shaver, you are!" said the blacksmith. "You'll come
to the gallows yet, if you're a good boy! Them Sunday-schools is doin'
a heap for the gallows! - That ain't your brother?"
By this time Tommy had begun to feel at home with the blacksmith, from
whose face the cloud had lifted a little, so that he looked less
dangerous. He had edged nearer to the fire, and now stood in the light
"No," answered Clare, with an odd doubtfulness in his tone. "I ought
to say _yes_, perhaps, for all men are my brothers; but I mean I
haven't any particular one of my very own."
"That ain't no pity; he'd ha' been no better than you. I've a brother
I would choke any minute I got a chance."
While they talked, the blacksmith had put his iron in the fire, and
again stood blowing the bellows, when his attention was caught by the
gestures of the little red-eyed imp, Tommy, who was making rapid signs
to him, touching his forehead with one finger, nodding mysteriously,
and pointing at Clare with the thumb of his other hand, held close to
his side. He sought to indicate thus that his companion was an
innocent, whom nobody must mind. In the blacksmith Tommy saw one of
his own sort, and the blacksmith saw neither in Tommy nor in Clare any
reason to doubt the hint given him. Not the less was he inclined to
draw out the idiot.
"Why do you let him follow you about, if he ain't your brother?" he
said. "He ain't nice to look at!"
"I want to make him nice," answered Clare, "and then he'll be nice to
look at. You mustn't mind him, please, sir. He's a very little boy,
and 'ain't been well brought up. His granny ain't a good woman - at
least not very, you know, Tommy!" he added apologetically.
"She's a damned old sinner!" said Tommy stoutly.
The man laughed.
"Ha, ha, my chicken! you know a thing or two!" he said, as he took his
iron from the fire, and laid it again on the anvil.
But besides the brother he would so gladly strangle, there was an
idiot one whom he had loved a little and teazed so much, that, when he
died, his conscience was moved. He felt therefore a little tender
toward the idiot before him. He bethought himself also that his job
would soon be at a stage where the fewer the witnesses the better, for
he was executing a commission for certain burglars of his
acquaintance. He would do no more that night! He had money in his
pocket, and he wanted a drink!
"Look here, cubs!" he said; "if you 'ain't got nowhere to go to, I
don't mind if you sleep here. There ain't no bed but the bed of the
forge, nor no blankets but this leather apron: you may have them, for
you can't do them no sort of harm. I don't mind neither if you put a
shovelful of slack and a little water now and then on the fire; and if
you give it a blow or two with the bellows now and then, you won't be
stone-dead afore the mornin'! - Don't be too free with the coals, now,
and don't set the shed on fire, and take the bread out of my poor
innocent mouth. Mind what I tell you, and be good boys."
"Thank you, sir," said Clare. "I thought you would be kind to us! I've
one friend, a bull, that's very good to me. So is Jonathan. He's a
horse. The bull's name is Nimrod. He wants to gore always, but he's
never cross with me."
The blacksmith burst into a roar of laughter at the idiotic
speech. Then he covered the fire with coal, threw his apron over
Clare's head, and departed, locking the door of the smithy behind him.
The boys looked at each other. Neither spoke. Tommy turned to the
bellows, and began to blow.
"Ain't you warm yet?" said Clare, who had seen his mother careful over
"No, I ain't. I want a blaze."
"Leave the fire alone. The coal is the smith's, and he told us not to
"He ain't no count!" said Tommy, as heartless as any grown man or
woman set on pleasure.
"He has given us a place to be warm and sleep in! It would be a shame
to do anything he didn't like. Have you no conscience, Tommy?"
"No," said Tommy, who did not know conscience from copper. The germ of
it no doubt lay in the God-part of him, but it lay deep. Tommy - no
worse than many a boy born of better parents - was like a hill full of
precious stones, that grows nothing but a few little dry shrubs, and
shoots out cold sharp rocks every here and there.
"If you have no conscience," answered Clare, "one must serve for
both - as far as it will reach! Leave go of that bellows, or I'll make
Tommy let the lever go, turned his back, and wandered, in such dudgeon
as he was capable of, to the other side of the shed.
"Hello!" he cried, "here's a door! - and it ain't locked, it's only
bolted! Let's go and see!"
"You may if you like," answered Clare, "but if you touch anything of
the blacksmith's, I'll be down on you."
"All right!" said Tommy, and went out to see if there was anything to
be picked up.
Clare got on the stone hearth of the forge, and lay down in the hot
ashes, too far gone with hunger to care for the clothes that were
almost beyond caring for. He was soon fast asleep; and warmth and
sleep would do nearly as much for him as food.
Tommy, out in the moonlight, found himself in a waste yard, scattered
over with bits of iron, mostly old and rusty. It was not an
interesting place, for it was not likely to afford him anything to
eat. Yet, with the instinct of the human animal, he went shifting and
prying and nosing about everywhere. Presently he heard a curious
sound, which he recognized as made by a hen. More stealthily yet he
went creeping hither and thither, feeling here and feeling there, in
the hope of laying his hand on the fowl asleep. Urged by his natural
impulse to forage, he had forgotten Clare's warning. His hand did find
her, and had it been his grandmother instead of Clare in the smithy,
he would at once have broken the bird's neck before she could cry out;
but with the touch of her feathers came the thought of Clare, and by
this time he understood that what Clare said, Clare would do.
He had some knowledge of fowls; he had heard too much talk about them
at his grandmother's not to know something of their habits; and
finding she sat so still, he concluded that under her might be
eggs. To his delight it was so. The hen belonged to a house at some
distance, and had wandered from it, in obedience to the secretive
instinct of animal maternity, strong in some hens, to seek a hidden
shelter for her offspring. This she had found in the smith's yard,
beneath the mould-board of a plough that had lain there for
years. Slipping his hand under her, Tommy found five eggs. In greedy
haste he took them, every one.
I must do him the justice to say that his first impulse was to dart
with them to Clare. But before he had taken a step toward him, again
he remembered his threat. With the eggs inside him, he could run the
risk; he would not mind a few blows - not much; but if he took them to