The Clarion by Samuel Hopkins Adams - HTML preview
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Between two flames the man stood, overlooking the crowd. A soft breeze, playing about the torches, sent shadows billowing across the massed folk on the ground. Shrewdly set with an eye to theatrical effect, these phares of a night threw out from the darkness the square bulk of the man's figure, and, reflecting garishly upward from the naked hemlock of the platform, accentuated, as in bronze, the bosses of the face, and gleamed deeply in the dark, bold eyes. Half of Marysville buzzed and chattered in the park-space below, together with many representatives of the farming country near by, for the event had been advertised with skilled appeal: cf. the "Canoga County Palladium," April 15, 1897, page 4.
The occupant of the platform, having paused, after a self-introductory trumpeting of professional claims, was slowly and with an eye to oratorical effect moistening lips and throat from a goblet at his elbow. Now, ready to resume, he raised a slow hand in an indescribable gesture of mingled command and benevolence. The clamor subsided to a murmur, over which his voice flowed and spread like oil subduing vexed waters.
"Pain. Pain. Pain. The primal curse, the dominant tragedy of life. Who among you, dear friends, but has felt it? You men, slowly torn upon the rack of rheumatism; you women, with the hidden agony gnawing at your breast" (his roving regard was swift, like a hawk, to mark down the sudden, involuntary quiver of a faded slattern under one of the torches); "all you who have known burning nights and pallid mornings, I offer you r-r-r-release!"
On the final word his face lighted up as from an inner fire of inspiration, and he flung his arms wide in an embracing benediction. The crowd, heavy-eyed, sodden, wondering, bent to him as the torch-fires bent to the breath of summer. With the subtle sense of the man who wrings his livelihood from human emotions, he felt the moment of his mastery approaching. Was it fully come yet? Were his fish securely in the net? Betwixt hovering hands he studied his audience.
His eyes stopped with a sense of being checked by the steady regard of one who stood directly in front of him only a few feet away; a solid-built, crisply outlined man of forty, carrying himself with a practical erectness, upon whose face there was a rather disturbing half-smile. The stranger's hand was clasped in that of a little girl, wide-eyed, elfin, and lovely.
"Release," repeated the man of the torches. "Blessed release from your torments. Peace out of pain."
The voice was of wonderful quality, rich and unctuous, the labials dropping, honeyed, from the lips. It wooed the crowd, lured it, enmeshed it. But the magician had, a little, lost confidence in the power of his spell. His mind dwelt uneasily upon his well-garbed auditor. What was he doing there, with his keen face and worldly, confident carriage, amidst those clodhoppers? Was there peril in his presence? Your predatory creature hunts ever with fear in his heart.
"Guardy," the voice of the elfin child rang silvery in the silence, as she pressed close to her companion. "Guardy, is he preaching?"
"Yes, my dear little child." The orator saw his opportunity and swooped upon it, with a flash of dazzling teeth from under his pliant lips. "This sweet little girl asks if I am preaching. I thank her for the word. Preaching, indeed! Preaching a blessed gospel, for this world of pain and suffering; a gospel of hope and happiness and joy. I offer you, here, now, this moment of blessed opportunity, the priceless boon of health. It is within reach of the humblest and poorest as well as the millionaire. The blessing falls on all like the gentle rain from heaven."
His hands, outstretched, quivering as if to shed the promised balm, slowly descended below the level of the platform railing. Behind the tricolored cheesecloth which screened him from the waist down something stirred. The hands ascended again into the light. In each was a bottle. The speaker's words came now sharp, decisive, compelling.
"Here it is! Look at it, my friends. The wonder of the scientific world, the never-failing panacea, the despair of the doctors. All diseases yield to it. It revivifies the blood, reconstructs the nerves, drives out the poisons which corrupt the human frame. It banishes pain, sickness, weakness, and cheats death of his prey. Oh, grave, where is thy victory? Oh, death, where is thy power? Overcome by my marvelous discovery! Harmless as water! Sweet on the tongue as honey! Potent as a miracle! By the grace of Heaven, which has bestowed this secret upon me, I have saved five thousand men, women, and children from sure doom, in the last three years, through my swift and infallible remedy, Professor Certain's Vitalizing Mixture; as witness my undenied affidavit, sworn to before Almighty God and a notary public and published in every newspaper in the State."
Wonder and hope exhaled in a sigh from the assemblage. People began to stir, to shift from one foot to another, to glance about them nervously. Professor Certain had them. It needed but the first thrust of hand into pocket to set the avalanche of coin rolling toward the platform. From near the speaker a voice piped thinly:—
"Will it ease my cough?"
The orator bent over, and his voice was like a benign hand upon the brow of suffering.
"Ease it? You'll never know you had a cough after one bottle."
"Just a moment, my friend." The Professor was not yet ready. "Put your dollar back. There's enough to go around. Oh, Uncle Cal! Step up here, please." An old negro, very pompous and upright, made his way to the steps and mounted.
"You all know old Uncle Cal Parks, my friends. You've seen him hobbling and hunching around for years, all twisted up with rheumatics. He came to me yesterday, begging for relief, and we began treatment with the Vitalizing Mixture right off. Look at him now. Show them what you can do, uncle."
Wild-eyed, the old fellow gazed about at the people. "Glory! Hallelujah!" Emotional explosives left over from the previous year's revival burst from his lips. He broke into a stiff, but prankish double-shuffle.
"I'd like to try some o' that on my old mare," remarked a facetious-minded rustic, below, and a titter followed.
"Good for man or beast," retorted the Professor with smiling amiability. "You've seen what the Vitalizing Mixture has done for this poor old colored man. It will do as much or more for any of you. And the price is Only One Dollar!" The voice double-capitalized the words. "Don't, for the sake of one hundred little cents, put off the day of cure. Don't waste your chance. Don't let a miserable little dollar stand between you and death. Come, now. Who's first?"
The victim of the "cough" was first, closely followed by the mare-owning wit. Then the whole mass seemed to be pressing forward, at once. Like those of a conjurer, the deft hands of the Professor pushed in and out of the light, snatching from below the bottles handed up to him, and taking in the clinking silver and fluttering greenbacks. And still they came, that line of grotesques, hobbling, limping, sprawling their way to the golden promise. Never did Pied Piper flute to creatures more bemused. Only once was there pause, when the dispenser of balm held aloft between thumb and finger a cart-wheel dollar.
"Phony!" he said curtly, and flipped it far into the darkness. "Don't any more of you try it on," he warned, as the thwarted profferer of the counterfeit sidled away, and there was, in his tone, a dominant ferocity.
Presently the line of purchasers thinned out. The Vitalizing Mixture had exhausted its market. But only part of the crowd had contributed to the levy. Mainly it was the men, whom the "spiel" had lured. Now for the women. The voice, the organ of a genuine artist, took on a new cadence, limpid and tender.
"And now, we come to the sufferings of those who bear pain with the fortitude of the angels. Our women-folk! How many here are hiding that dreadful malady, cancer? Hiding it, when help and cure are at their beck and call. Lady," he bent swiftly to the slattern under the torch and his accents were a healing effluence, "with my soothing, balmy oils, you can cure yourself in three weeks, or your money back."
"I do' know haow you knew," faltered the woman. "I ain't told no one yet. Kinder hoped it wa'n't thet, after all."
He brooded over her compassionately. "You've suffered needlessly. Soon it would have been too late. The Vitalizing Mixture will keep up your strength, while the soothing, balmy oils drive out the poison, and heal up the sore. Three and a half for the two. Thank you. And is there some suffering friend who you can lead to the light?"
The woman hesitated. She moved out to the edge of the crowd, and spoke earnestly to a younger woman, whose comely face was scarred with the chiseling of sleeplessness.
"Joe, he wouldn't let me," protested the younger woman. "He'd say 't was a waste."
"But ye'll be cured," cried the other in exaltation. "Think of it. Ye'll sleep again o' nights."
The woman's hand went to her breast, with a piteous gesture. "Oh, my God! D'yeh think it could be true?" she cried.
"Accourse it's true! Didn't yeh hear whut he sayed? Would he dast swear to it if it wasn't true?"
Tremulously the younger woman moved forward, clutching her shawl about her.
"Could yeh sell me half a bottle to try it, sir?" she asked.
The vender shook his head. "Impossible, my dear madam. Contrary to my fixed professional rule. But, I'll tell you what I will do. If, in three days you're not better, you can have your money back."
She began painfully to count out her coins. Reaching impatiently for his price, the Professor found himself looking straight into the eyes of the well-dressed stranger.
"Are you going to take that woman's money?"
The question was low-toned but quite clear. An uneasy twitching beset the corners of the professional brow. For just the fraction of a second, the outstretched hand was stayed. Then:—
"That's what I am. And all the others I can get. Can I sell you a bottle?"
Behind the suavity there was the impudence of the man who is a little alarmed, and a little angry because of the alarm.
"Why, yes," said the other coolly. "Some day I might like to know what's in the stuff."
"Hand up your cash then. And here you are—Doctor. It is 'Doctor,' ain't it?"
"You've guessed it," returned the stranger.
At once the platform peddler became the opportunist orator again.
"A fellow practitioner, in my audience, ladies and gentlemen; and doing me the honor of purchasing my cure. Sir," the splendid voice rose and soared as he addressed his newest client, "you follow the noblest of callings. My friends, I would rather heal a people's ills than determine their destinies."
Giving them a moment to absorb that noble sentiment, he passed on to his next source of revenue: Dyspepsia. He enlarged and expatiated upon its symptoms until his subjects could fairly feel the grilling at the pit of their collective stomach. One by one they came forward, the yellow-eyed, the pasty-faced feeders on fried breakfasts, snatchers of hasty noon-meals, sleepers on gorged stomachs. About them he wove the glamour of his words, the arch-seducer, until the dollars fidgeted in their pockets.
"Just one dollar the bottle, and pain is banished. Eat? You can eat a cord of hickory for breakfast, knots and all, and digest it in an hour. The Vitalizing Mixture does it."
Assorted ills came next. In earlier spring it would have been pneumonia and coughs. Now it was the ailments that we have always with us: backache, headache, indigestion and always the magnificent promise. So he picked up the final harvest, gleaning his field.
"Now,"—the rotund voice sunk into the confidential, sympathetic register, yet with a tone of saddened rebuke,—"there are topics that the lips shrink from when ladies are present. But I have a word for you young men. Young blood! Ah, young blood, and the fire of life! For that we pay a penalty. Yet we must not overpay the debt. To such as wish my private advice—private, I say, and sacredly confidential—" He broke off and leaned out over the railing. "Thousands have lived to bless the name of Professor Certain, and his friendship, at such a crisis; thousands, my friends. To such, I shall be available for consultation from nine to twelve to-morrow, at the Moscow Hotel. Remember the time and place. Men only. Nine to twelve. And all under the inviolable seal of my profession."
Some quality of unexpressed insistence in the stranger—or was it the speaker's own uneasiness of spirit?—brought back the roving, brilliant eyes to the square face below.
"A little blackmail on the side, eh?"
The words were spoken low, but with a peculiar, abrupt crispness. This, then, was direct challenge. Professor Certain tautened. Should he accept it, or was it safer to ignore this pestilent disturber? Craft and anger thrust opposing counsels upon him. But determination of the issue came from outside.
"Lemme through." From the outskirts of the crowd a rawboned giant forced his way inward. He was gaunt and unkempt as a weed in winter.
"Here's trouble," remarked a man at the front. "Allus comes with a Hardscrabbler."
"What's a Hardscrabbler?" queried the well-dressed man.
"Feller from the Hardscrabble Settlement over on Corsica Lake. Tough lot, they are. Make their own laws, when they want any; run their place to suit themselves. Ain't much they ain't up to. Hoss-stealin', barn-burnin', boot-leggin', an' murder thrown in when—"
"Be you the doctor was to Corsica Village two years ago?" The newcomer's high, droning voice cut short the explanation.
"I was there, my friend. Testimonials and letters from some of your leading citizens attest the work—"
"You give my woman morpheean." There was a hideous edged intonation in the word, like the whine of some plaintive and dangerous animal.
"My friend!" The Professor's hand went forth in repressive deprecation. "We physicians give what seems to us best, in these cases."
"A reg'lar doctor from Burnham seen her," pursued the Hardscrabbler, in the same thin wail, moving nearer, but not again raising his eyes to the other's face. Instead, his gaze seemed fixed upon the man's shining expanse of waistcoat. "He said you doped her with the morpheean you give her."
"So your chickens come home to roost, Professor," said the stranger, in a half-voice.
"Impossible," declared the Professor, addressing the Hardscrabbler. "You misunderstood him."
"They took my woman away. They took her to the 'sylum."
Foreboding peril, the people nearest the uncouth visitor had drawn away. Only the stranger held his ground; more than held it, indeed, for he edged almost imperceptibly nearer. He had noticed a fleck of red on the matted beard, where the lip had been bitten into. Also he saw that the Professor, whose gaze had so timorously shifted from his, was intent, recognizing danger; intent, and unafraid before the threat.
"She used to cry fer it, my woman. Cry fer the morpheean like a baby." He sagged a step forward. "She don't haff to cry no more. She's dead."
Whence had the knife leapt, to gleam so viciously in his hand? Almost as swiftly as it was drawn, the healer had snatched one of the heavy torch-poles from its socket. Almost, not quite. The fury leapt and struck; struck for that shining waistcoat, upon which his regard had concentrated, with an upward lunge, the most surely deadly blow known to the knife-fighter. Two other movements coincided, to the instant. From the curtain of cheesecloth the slight form of a boy shot upward, with brandished arms; and the squarebuilt man reached the Hardscrabbler's jaw with a powerful and accurate swing. There was a scream of pain, a roar from the crowd, and an answering bellow from the quack in midair, for he had launched his formidable bulk over the rail, to plunge, a crushing weight, upon the would-be murderer, who lay stunned on the grass. For a moment the avenger ground him, with knees and fists; then was up and back on the platform. Already the city man had gained the flooring, and was bending above the child. There was a sprinkle of blood on the bright, rough boards.
"Oh, my God! Boy-ee! Has he killed you?"
"No: he isn't killed," said the stranger curtly. "Keep the people back. Lift down that torch."
The Professor wavered on his legs, grasping at the rail for support.
"You are a doctor?" he gasped.
"Can you save him? Any money—"
"Set the torch here."
"Oh, Boyee, Boyee!" The great, dark man had dropped to his knees, his face a mask of agony.
"Oh, the devil!" said the physician disgustedly. "You're no help. Clear a way there, some of you, so that I can get him to the hotel." Then, to the other. "Keep quiet. There's no danger. Only a flesh wound, but he's fainted."
Carefully he swung the small form to his shoulder, and forced a way through the crowd, the little girl, who had followed him to the platform, composedly trotting along in his wake, while the Hardscrabbler, moaning from the pain of two broken ribs, was led away by a constable. Some distance behind, the itinerant wallowed like a drunken man, muttering brilliant bargain offers of good conduct to Almighty God, if "Boyee" were saved to him.
Once in the little hotel room, the physician went about his business with swift decisiveness, aided by the mite of a girl, who seemed to know by instinct where to be and what to do in the way of handling towels, wash-basin, and the other simple paraphernalia required. Professor Certain was unceremoniously packed off to the drug store for bandages. When he returned the patient had recovered consciousness.
"Where's Dad?" he asked eagerly. "Did he hurt Dad?"
"No, Boyee." The big man was at the bedside in two long, velvety-footed steps. Struck by the extenuation of the final "y" in the term, the physician for the first time noted a very faint foreign accent, the merest echo of some alien tongue. "Are you in pain, Boyee?"
"Not very much. It doesn't matter. Why did he want to kill you?"
"Never mind that, now," interrupted the physician. "We'll get that scratch bound up, and then, young man, you'll go to sleep."
Pallid as a ghost, the itinerant held the little hand during the process of binding the wound. "Boyee" essayed to smile, at the end, and closed his eyes.
"Now we can leave him," said the physician. "Poppet, curl up in that chair and keep watch on our patient while this gentleman and I have a little talk in the outer room."
With a brisk nod of obedience and comprehension, the elfin girl took her place, while the two men went out.
"What do I owe you?" asked Professor Certain, as soon as the door had closed.
"Oh, that won't do."
"It will have to do."
"Courtesy of the profession? But—"
The other laughed grimly, cutting him short. "So you call yourself an M.D., do you?"
"Call myself? I am. Regular degree from the Dayton Medical College." He sleeked down his heavy hair with a complacent hand.
The physician snorted. "A diploma-mill. What did you pay for your M.D.?"
"One hundred dollars, and it's as good as your four-year P. and S. course or any other, for my purposes," retorted the other, with hardihood. "What's more, I'm a member of the American Academy of Surgeons, with a special diploma from St. Luke's Hospital of Niles, Michigan, and a certificate of fellowship in the National Medical Scientific Fraternity. Pleased to meet a brother practitioner." The sneer was as palpable as it was cynical.
"You've got all the fake trimmings, haven't you? Do those things pay?"
"Do they! Better than your game, I'll bet. Name your own fee, now, and don't be afraid to make it strong."
"I'm not in regular practice. I'm a naval surgeon on leave. Give your money to those poor devils you swindled to-night. I don't like the smell of it."
"Oh, you can't rile me," returned the quack. "I don't blame you regulars for getting sore when you see us fellows culling out coin from under your very noses, that you can't touch."
"Cull it, and welcome. But don't try to pass it on to me."
"Well, I'd like to do something for you in return for what you did for my son."
"Would you? Pay me in words, then, if you will and dare. What is your Vitalizing Mixture?"
"That's my secret."
"And the rest syrup and coloring matter, I suppose. A fine vitalizer!"
"It gets the money," retorted the other.
"And your soothing, balmy oils for cancer? Arsenious acid, I suppose, to eat it out?"
"What if it is? As well that as anything else—for cancer."
"Humph! I happened to see a patient you'd treated, two years ago, by that mild method. It wasn't cancer at all; only a benign tumor. Your soothing oils burned her breast off, like so much fire. She's dead now."
"Oh, we all make mistakes."
"But we don't all commit murder."
"Rub it in, if you like to. You can't make me mad. Just the same, if it wasn't for what you've done for Boyee—"
"Well, what about 'Boyee'?" broke in his persecutor quite undisturbed. "He seems a perfectly decent sort of human integer."
The bold eyes shifted and softened abruptly. "He's the big thing in my life."
"Bringing him up to the trade, eh?"
"No, damn you!"
"Damn me, if you like. But don't damn him. He seems to be a bit too good for this sort of thing."
"To tell you the truth," said the other gloomily, "I was going to quit at the end of this year, anyway. But I guess this ends it now. Accidents like this hurt business. I guess this closes my tour."
"Is the game playing out?"
"Not exactly! Do you know what I took out of this town last night? One hundred and ten good dollars. And to-morrow's consultation is good for fifty more. That 'spiel' of mine is the best high-pitch in the business."
"High-pitching," explained the quack, "is our term for the talk, the patter. You can sell sugar pills to raise the dead with a good-enough high-pitch. I've done it myself—pretty near. With a voice like mine, it's a shame to drop it. But I'm getting tired. And Boyee ought to have schooling. So, I'll settle down and try a regular proprietary trade with the Mixture and some other stuff I've got. I guess I can make printer's ink do the work. And there's millions in it if you once get a start. More than you can say of regular practice. I tried that, too, before I took up itinerating." He grinned. "A midge couldn't have lived on my receipts. By the way," he added, becoming grave, "what was your game in cutting in on my 'spiel'?"
"You ain't a government agent or a medical society investigator?"
The physician pulled out a card and handed it over. It read, "Mark Elliot, Surgeon, U.S.N."
"Don't lose any sleep over me," he advised, then went to open the outer door, in response to a knock.
A spectacled young man appeared. "They told me Professor Certain was here," he said. "What is it?" asked the quack.
"About that stabbing. I'm the editor of the weekly 'Palladium.'"
"Glad to see you, Mr. Editor. Always glad to see the Press. Of course you won't print anything about this affair?"
The visitor blinked. "You wouldn't hardly expect me to kill the story."
"Not? Does anybody else but me give you page ads.?"
"Well, of course, we try to favor our advertisers," said the spectacled one nervously.
"That's business! I'll be coming around again next year, if this thing is handled right, and I think my increased business might warrant a double page, then."
"But the paper will have to carry something about it. Too many folks saw it happen."
"Just say that a crazy man tried to interrupt the lecture of Professor Andrew Leon Certain, the distinguished medical savant, and was locked up by the authorities."
"But the knifing. How is the boy?"
"Somebody's been giving you the wrong tip. There wasn't any knife," replied the Professor with a wink. "You may send me two hundred and fifty copies of the paper. And, by the way, do what you can to get that poor lunatic off easy, and I'll square the bills—with commission."
"I'll see the Justice first thing in the morning," said the editor with enthusiasm. "Much obliged, Professor Certain. And the article will be all right. I'll show you a proof. It mightn't be a bad notion for you to drop in at the jail with me, and see Neal, the man that stab—that interrupted the meeting, before he gets talking with any one else."
"So it mightn't. But what about my leaving, now?" Professor Certain asked of the physician.
"Go ahead. I'll keep watch."
Shortly after the itinerant had gone out with the exponent of free and untrammeled journalism, the boy awoke and looked about with fevered anxiety for his father. The little nurse was beside him at once.
"You mustn't wiggle around," she commanded. "Do you want a drink?"
Gratefully he drank the water which she held to his lips. "Where's my Dad?" he asked.
"He's gone out. He'll come back pretty soon. Lie down."
He sank back, fixing his eyes upon her. "Will you stay with me till he comes?"
She nodded. "Does it hurt you much?" Her cool and tiny fingers touched his forehead, soothingly. "You're very hot. I think you've got a little fever."
"Don't take your hand away." His eyes closed, but presently opened again. "I think you're very pretty," he said shyly.
"Do you? I like to have people think I'm pretty. Uncle Guardy scolds me for it. Not really, you know, but just pretending. He says I'm vain."
"Is that your uncle, the gentleman that fixed my arm?"
"Yes. I call him Uncle Guardy because he's my guardian, too."
"I like him. He looks good. But I like you better. I like you a lot."
"Everybody does," replied the girl with dimpling complacency. "They can't help it. It's because I'm me!"
For a moment he brooded. "Am I going to die?" he asked quite suddenly.
"Die? Of course not."
"Would you be sorry if I did?"
"Yes. If you died you couldn't like me any more. And I want everybody to like me and think me pretty."
"I'm glad I'm not. It would be tough on Dad."
"My Uncle Guardy thinks your father is a bad man," said the fairy, not without a spice of malice.
Up rose the patient from his pillow. "Then I hate him. He's a liar. My Dad is the best man in the world." A brighter hue than fever burnt in his cheeks, and his hand went to his shoulder. "I won't have his bandages on me," he cried.
But she had thrown herself upon his arm, and pushed him back. "Oh, don't! Please don't," she besought. "Uncle Guardy told me to keep you perfectly quiet. And I've made you sit up—"
"What's all this commotion?" demanded Dr. Elliot brusquely, from the door.
"You said my father was a bad man," cried the outraged patient.
"Lie back, youngster." The physician's hand was gentle, but very firm. "I don't recall saying any such thing. Where did you get it?"
"I said you thought he was a bad man," declared the midget girl. "I know you do. You wouldn't have spoken back to him down in the square if you hadn't."
Her uncle turned upon her a slow, cool, silent regard. "Esmé, you talk too much," he said finally. "I'm a little ashamed of you, as a nurse. Take your place there by the bedside. And you, young man, shut your ears and eyes and go to sleep."
Hardly had the door closed behind the autocrat of the sick-room, when his patient turned softly.
"You're crying," he accused.
"I'm not!" The denial was the merest gasp. The long lashes quivered with tears.
"Yes, you are. He was mean to you."
"He's never mean to me." The words came in a sobbing rush. "But he—he—stopped loving me just for that minute. And when anybody I love stops loving me I want to die!"
The boy's brown hands crept timidly to her arm. "I like you awfully," he said. "And I'll never stop, not even for a minute!"
"Won't you?" Again she was the child coquette. "But we're going away to-night. Perhaps you won't see me any more."
"Oh, yes, I shall. I'll look for you until I find you."
"I'll hide," she teased.
"That won't matter, little girl." He repeated the form softly and drowsily. "Little girl; little girl; I'd do anything in the world for you, little girl, if ever you asked me. Only don't go away while I'm asleep."
Back of them the door had opened quietly and Professor Certain, who, with Dr. Elliot, had been a silent spectator of the little drama, now closed it again, withdrawing, on the further side, with his companion.
"He'll sleep now," said the physician. "That's all he needs. Hello! What's this?" In a corner of the sofa was a tiny huddle, outlined vaguely as human, under a faded shawl. Drawing aside the folds, the quack disclosed a wild little face, framed in a mass of glowing red hair.
"That Hardscrabbler's young 'un," he said. "She was crying quietly to herself, in the darkness outside the jail, poor little tyke. So I picked her up, and" (with a sort of tender awkwardness) "she was glad to come with me. Seemed to kind of take to me. Kiddies generally do."
"Do they? That's curious."
"I suppose you think so," replied the quack, without rancor.
"What are you going to do with her?"
"I'll see, later. At present I'm going to keep her here with us. She's only seven, and her mother's dead. Are you staying here to-night?"
"Got to. Missed my connection."
"Then at least you'll let me pay your hotel bill, if you won't take my money."
"Why, yes: I suppose so," said the other grudgingly. "I'll look at the boy in the morning. But he'll be all right. Only, don't take up your itinerating again for a few days."
"I'm through, I tell you. Give me a growing city to settle in and I'll go in for the regular proprietary manufacturing game. Know anything about Worthington?"
"Pretty good, live town?"
"First-class, and not too critical, I suppose, to accept your business," said Dr. Elliot dryly. "I'm on my way there now for a visit. Well, I must get my little girl."
The itinerant opened the door, looked, and beckoned. The boy lay on his pillow, the girl was curled in her chair, both fast asleep. Their hands were lightly clasped.
Dr. Elliot lifted his ward and carried her away. The itinerant, returning to the Hardscrabbler girl, took her out to arrange the night's accommodation for her. So, there slept that night under one roof and at the charge of Professor Andrew L. Certain, five human beings who, long years after, were destined to meet and mingle their fates, intricate, intimate strands in the pattern of human weal and woe.