JACK was naturally very much excited by the new prospects that opened
out before him. He had seen little happiness in his short life. It is a
sad thing to say that he had hardly ever known what it was to eat a full
meal. Cold and pinching privation, and long, toilsome days in the
streets, had been his portion hitherto. Was it possible, he asked
himself, that all this was to be changed.
Was he to have a home like other boys, and a relation who was able to
supply him with the comforts of which he knew so little?
It seemed like a dream, and little Jack might have been tempted to
distrust the information which had been given to him. But somehow he
could not help feeling confidence in what Mark told him. He felt that
Mark would not deceive him, and the dream must come true after all.
Jack finished out the day as usual, and went home. Peggy’s attention was
at once called to the new basket.
“Where did that come from?” she asked.
“My basket was stolen, and a kind gentleman gave me money to buy this.”
Jack answered.
“Was the matches stole too?”
“Yes; he gave me money enough to buy as many as I lost.”
“Who stole ’em? Do you know?”
“I think it was Tim Roach. He was hangin’ round, at the time I lost it.”
“Did he snatch it from you?”
“No; I laid it down a minute while I went into a cigar store to get a
quarter changed for a gentleman who had just bought a box of matches,
when Tim picked it up and ran away.”
“I’d like to get hold of Tim!” said Peggy wrathfully. “I’d wring his
neck for him, the little wretch!”
Then a new and cunning idea came to Peggy.
“I tell you what to do, Jack,” she said; “just you go out to-morrow
mornin’ without any basket, and begin to cry, and tell people that
you’ve had your matches stolen. Then somebody’ll give you money, and you
can bring it home.”
“But that would be tellin’ a lie, Peggy,” objected Jack.
“And what if it is!” retorted Peggy. “You needn’t be so dreadfully good.
It ain’t a lie that’ll hurt anybody, and the gentlemen that gives you
the money won’t miss it.”
It occurred to Jack that it would suit his plans to go out the next
morning without the basket. Considering how he had been brought up, his
conscience was unusually tender, and he would not have liked to leave
the city without returning the basket and his stock-in-trade to Peggy.
Besides, she could have him arrested for theft, if she chose. He
decided, therefore, that he would make no further objection to Peggy’s
“Just as you say, Peggy,” he said, submissively.
“That’s a good boy!” said Peggy, good-humoredly. “That’s a pretty good
snap!” she said to herself, complacently. “I don’t know why we shouldn’t
foller it up. It’ll be more than the profit of the matches, and Jack can
do it two or three times a day.”
It did, indeed, seem a very ingenious method of raising money, and
answered the purpose of begging, without being open to the usual
[Illustration: The old woman drawing near the pallet, strove to catch
the words that fell from the boy’s lips.]
Jack usually got tired with being about the streets all day, and after
he had eaten the frugal supper with which Peggy had provided him, he lay
down on a pallet provided for him in the corner of the room, and was
soon asleep. But with such a momentous secret on his mind, it will not
be a matter of surprise that Jack’s thoughts, even in sleep, were
occupied with his new plan. Whenever he was restless he was apt to talk
in his sleep, and did so on the present occasion.
Peggy had not gone to bed, but sat in an old wooden rocking-chair,
smoking a pipe.
“What’s the boy sayin’?” she asked herself, as Jack began to talk. “I’ll
listen, and then if he’s been up to any mischief, he’ll out with it.”
She removed the pipe, and drawing near the pallet, bent over, and strove
to catch the disconnected words that fell from the boy’s lips.
“I’m goin’—to—my grandfather!” she heard Jack say, and the words
startled her.
“Who’s been talkin’ to him about his grandfather?” Peggy exclaimed,
startled. “I didn’t know he’d heard a word about him.”
“He says—he will—take me!” continued Jack, in a drowsy tone.
“He says he’ll take him!” repeated Peggy, in surprise and alarm. “Who’s
he, I’d like to know.”
Her suspicions fell at once upon Lyman. No one, so far as she knew, had
any knowledge of Jack’s relations except Lyman. Evidently Lyman had been
talking to the boy on the sly.
“The villain!” said Peggy, indignantly; “I know what he’s up to. He
wants to get the boy away from me, and get all the reward himself. He’s
going to leave Peggy out in the cowld, and abduct the boy on the sly.
I’ve found him out, the artful schamer. So he thinks he can over-rache
ould Peggy, does he? He’ll find it’s a cowld day when ould Peggy gets
Jack began to talk again.
“He says he’ll take me off in the cars,” he continued. “I like to ride
in the cars. My grandfather will give me enough to eat, and I won’t have
to sell matches for a livin’.”
“The ongrateful young kid,” commented Peggy, looking angrily at the
sleeping boy. “So he wants to lave me who’ve took care of him ever since
he was a babby, and he don’t mind it no more’n if I was a puppy dog. _I_
that have been a mother to him!”
Peggy rocked back and forward, and actually persuaded herself that
little Jack was very ungrateful. It is curious how we misrepresent
matters from our own point of view. It was Jack who had supported Peggy,
and she was far more indebted to him than he was to her, but somehow she
could not see it. She did, however, understand fully how unpleasant it
would be to lose Jack’s services, unless she could receive, as Lyman had
led her to expect, an adequate compensation from his grandfather.
Peggy deliberated as to what was best to be done. In the first place,
she wanted to find out for a certainty whether Lyman had really entered
into a conspiracy against her and meant to abduct Jack without her
knowledge or consent. It seemed on the whole, the best thing to get up
herself and follow Jack the next morning, and make sure that Lyman did
not have a secret conference with him.
When Jack was ready to start out the next morning, Peggy asked with
apparent carelessness, “Jack, dear, do you ever see the tall gentleman
that calls here sometimes?”
“Yes, Peggy; I saw him yesterday,” answered Jack, readily.
“And what did he say to you?” she asked eagerly.
“He didn’t speak to me at all.”
“That’s a lie!” Peggy said to herself. “He told the bye not to tell.”
But she didn’t think it best to charge Jack with it, and so through him
put Lyman on his guard.
“Remember, lad, you’ve got no better friend than ould Peggy. If you
should lave her, she’d die of grafe.”
“Thank you, Peggy,” said Jack, but he was not much impressed by this
declaration of affection from one who often beat and systematically
starved him.
Five minutes after Jack had left the house, Peggy threw on her old
cloak, and, at a safe distance, followed her youthful charge, meaning to
keep him under her eye, and watch lest he should be carried off by Lyman
Taylor. But luckily for Jack, whose meeting with Mark would otherwise
have been detected, she changed her plan, when she recognized a little
in advance Lyman himself on State Street.
“It’ll be better to watch him,” she decided, and gave up following Jack.
Meanwhile Jack had not been at his usual stand more than ten minutes,
when Mark came up.
“I am glad you are ahead of time, Jack,” he said. “Come along with me.”