“They don’t generally,” said Jimmie Dale coolly. “It’s a fad of mine—Bert Hagan.”
The lad, hanging to the table, turned his head away for a moment—and there was silence.
Presently Hagan spoke again. “I’ll go,” he said numbly. “I won’t make any trouble. Would—would you mind not speaking loud? I—I wouldn’t like her to know.”
“Her?” said Jimmie Dale softly.
The boy tiptoed across the room, opened a connecting door a little, peered inside, opened it a little wider—and looked over his shoulder at Jimmie Dale.
Jimmie Dale crossed to the boy, looked inside the other room—and his lip twitched queerly, as the sight sent a quick, hurt throb through his heart. A young woman, younger than the boy, lay on a tumble-down bed, a rag of clothing over her—her face with a deathlike pallor upon it, as she lay in what appeared to be a stupor. She was ill, critically ill; it needed no trained eye to discern a fact all too apparent to the most casual observer. The squalor, the glaring poverty here, was even more pitifully in evidence than in the other room—only here upon a chair beside the bed was a cluster of medicine bottles and a little heap of fruit.
Jimmie Dale drew back silently as the boy closed the door.
Hagan walked to the table and picked up his hat.
“I’m—I’m ready,” he said brokenly. “Let’s go.”
“Just a minute,” said Jimmie Dale. “Tell us about it.”
“Twon’t take long,” said Hagan, trying to smile. “She’s my wife. The sickness took all we had. I—I kinder got behind in the rent and things. They were going to fire us out of here—to-morrow. And there wasn’t any money for the medicine, and—and the things she had to have. Maybe you wouldn’t have done it—but I did. I couldn’t see her dying there for the want of something a little money’d buy—and—and I couldn’t”—he caught his voice in a little sob—“I couldn’t see her thrown out on the street like that.”
“And so,” said Jimmie Dale, “instead of putting old Isaac’s cash in the safe this evening when you locked up, you put it in your pocket instead—eh? Didn’t you know you’d get caught?”
“What did it matter?” said the boy. He was twirling his misshappen hat between his fingers. “I knew they’d know it was me in the morning when old Isaac found it gone, because there wasn’t anybody else to do it. But I paid the rent for four months ahead to-night, and I fixed it so’s she’d have medicine and things to eat. I was going to beat it before daylight myself—I”—he brushed his hand hurriedly across his cheek—“I didn’t want to go—to leave her till I had to.”
“Well, say”—there was wonderment in Jimmie Dale’s tones, and his English lapsed into ungrammatical, reassuring vernacular—“ain’t that queer! Say, I’m no detective. Gee, kid, did you think I was? Say, listen to this! I cracked old Isaac’s safe half an hour ago—and I guess there won’t be any idea going around that you got the money and I pulled a lemon. Say, I ain’t superstitious, but it looks like luck meant you to have another chance, don’t it?”