“There’s Mrs. Hosmer coming along the street,” said Hugh at that juncture. “She’s got a bundle with her, so I expect she’s been getting more sewing to do from your mother or mine, Thad. And that’s Mr. Hosmer just opened the door to let her in. He’s been watching for her, no doubt, because they say he’s always been a mighty good husband, and it nearly kills him to see her working so hard while he keeps on being too weak to be at his trade. We’ll meet her at the door.”
They walked along, and stopped just as the good woman came up. Mrs. Hosmer had snow-white hair, and a most amiable countenance. Every one who knew her understood that the poor woman possessed a big heart, and would share her last crust with a hungry man or child. Thad, gritting his teeth at what he anticipated he would see, watched the meeting. Hugh answered her pleasant greeting by saying:
“We chanced to come across a man who was inquiring for you, Mrs. Hosmer, and as he asked us to show him where you lived we have fetched him along. He can speak for himself now.”
The woman turned to look at the tramp. Up to then she had hardly noticed him, but now something seemed to stir within her bosom. They saw her start, and bending, look more closely, at the same time turning paler than usual.
“Oh! who can it be?” she said, weakly. “I seem to see something familiar about the figure, and the face, but it’s impossible, for my brother Lu has long been dead.”
“That’s where you’re mistaken, Matilda, because I’m that same Luther Corbley, and still alive and in the flesh, though pretty far gone, I’m afraid,” and he acted as if about to start into one of his hysterical coughing spells, then thought better of it, because Matilda was rushing toward him, dropping her bundle as she came.
Paying no attention to his soiled and ragged clothes, the good woman threw her arms about the neck of her long-lost brother, and actually kissed him again and again on his rough cheek. Hugh, watching closely, could see the man assume a pleased look, and once he thought he caught Wandering Lu actually winking his left eye in his direction, as though to say: “You see, she never will let me die on the road!”
THE BARNACLE THAT CAME TO STAY
The man in the doorway, Andrew Hosmer, had watched this remarkable scene with a variety of emotions. He realized that something in the nature of a calamity had come upon them, for if his poor, hard-working wife had found it difficult, even with the generous help of good friends in Scranton, to provide food for the two of them, however could she manage to add still another to the household, and feed a third mouth?
Still, this man was undoubtedly Luther Corbley, the brother of whom she had so often talked, and who was believed to be long since dead, because he led such an adventurous life. And surely they could not be so inhuman as to deny him at least temporary shelter, and a share of their slender meals.