Subsequently to Cock-eye Flinks (as the playbill has it), enter a vision in violet ruffles.
Wide-eyed, she came upon him in her misery, steadily trudging toward an unknown goal. I think he startled her a bit. Indeed, it must be admitted that Mr. Flinks, while a man of undoubted talent in his particular line of business, was, like many of your great geniuses, in outward aspect unprepossessing and misleading; for whereas he looked like a very shiftless and very dirty tramp, he was as a matter of fact as vile a rascal as ever pawned a swinish soul for whiskey.
“What are you doing here?” said Margaret, sharply. “Don’t you know this is private property?”
To his feet rose Cock-eye Flinks. “Lady,” said he, with humbleness, “you wouldn’t be hard on a poor workingman, would you? It ain’t my fault I’m here, lady—at least, it ain’t rightly my fault. I just climbed over the wall to rest a minute—just a minute, lady, in the shade of these beautiful trees. I ain’t a-hurting nobody by that, lady, I hope.”
“Well, you had no business to do it,” Miss Hugonin pointed out, “and you can just climb right back.” Then she regarded him more intently, and her face softened somewhat. “What’s the matter with your foot?” she demanded.
“Brakesman,” said Mr. Flinks, briefly. “Threw me off a train. He struck me cruel hard, he did, and me a poor workingman trying to make my way to New York, lady, where my poor old mother’s dying, lady, and me out of a job. Ah, it’s a hard, hard world, lady—and me her only son—and he struck me cruel, cruel hard, he did, but I forgive him for it, lady. Ah, lady, you’re so beautiful I know you’re got a kind, good heart, lady. Can’t you do something for a poor workingman, lady, with a poor dying mother—and a poor, sick wife,” Mr. Flinks added as a dolorous afterthought; and drew nearer to her and held out one hand appealingly.
Petheridge Jukesbury had at divers times pointed out to her the evils of promiscuous charity, and these dicta Margaret parroted glibly enough, to do her justice, so long as there was no immediate question of dispensing alms. But for all that the next whining beggar would move her tender heart, his glib inventions playing upon it like a fiddle, and she would give as recklessly as though there were no such things in the whole wide world as soup-kitchens and organised charities and common-sense. “Because, you know,” she would afterward salve her conscience, “I couldn’t be sure he didn’t need it, whereas I was quite sure I didn’t.”
Now she wavered for a moment. “You didn’t say you had a wife before,” she suggested.
“An invalid,” sighed Mr. Flinks—“a helpless invalid, lady. And six small children probably crying for bread at this very moment. Ah, lady, think what my feelings must be to hear ’em cry in vain—think what I must suffer to know that I summoned them cherubs out of Heaven into this here hard, hard world, lady, and now can’t do by ’em properly!” And Cock-eye Flinks brushed away a tear which I, for one, am inclined to regard as a particularly ambitious flight of his imagination.