WHEREIN MRS. COMSTOCK MANIPULATES MARGARET AND BILLY ACQUIRES A RESIDENCE
Saturday morning Elnora helped her mother with the work. When she had finished Mrs. Comstock told her to go to Sintons’ and wash her Indian relics, so that she would be ready to accompany Wesley to town in the afternoon. Elnora hurried down the road and was soon at the cistern with a tub busily washing arrow points, stone axes, tubes, pipes, and skin-cleaning implements.
Then she went home, dressed and was waiting when the carriage reached the gate. She stopped at the bank with the box, and Sinton went to do his marketing and some shopping for his wife.
At the dry goods store Mr. Brownlee called to him, “Hello, Sinton! How do you like the fate of your lunch box?” Then he began to laugh—
“I always hate to see a man laughing alone,” said Sinton. “It looks so selfish! Tell me the fun, and let me help you.”
Mr. Brownlee wiped his eyes.
“I supposed you knew, but I see she hasn’t told.”
Then the three days’ history of the lunch box was repeated with particulars which included the dog.
“Now laugh!” concluded Mr. Brownlee.
“Blest if I see anything funny!” replied Wesley Sinton. “And if you had bought that box and furnished one of those lunches yourself, you wouldn’t either. I call such a work a shame! I’ll have it stopped.”
“Some one must see to that, all right. They are little leeches. Their father earns enough to support them, but they have no mother, and they run wild. I suppose they are crazy for cooked food. But it is funny, and when you think it over you will see it, if you don’t now.”
“About where would a body find that father?” inquired Wesley Sinton grimly. Mr. Brownlee told him and he started, locating the house with little difficulty. House was the proper word, for of home there was no sign. Just a small empty house with three unkept little children racing through and around it. The girl and the elder boy hung back, but dirty little Billy greeted Sinton with: “What you want here?”
“I want to see your father,” said Sinton.
“Well, he’s asleep,” said Billy.
“Where?” asked Sinton.
“In the house,” answered Billy, “and you can’t wake him.”
“Well, I’ll try,” said Wesley.
Billy led the way. “There he is!” he said. “He is drunk again.”
On a dirty mattress in a corner lay a man who appeared to be strong and well. Billy was right. You could not awake him. He had gone the limit, and a little beyond.
He was now facing eternity. Sinton went out and closed the door.
“Your father is sick and needs help,” he said. “You stay here, and I will send a man to see him.”
“If you just let him ’lone, he’ll sleep it off,” volunteered Billy. “He’s that way all the time, but he wakes up and gets us something to eat after awhile. Only waitin’ twists you up inside pretty bad.”