Luclarion had been telling them of the wild little folk of Neighbor Street, and worse, of Arctic Street. She wanted to do something with them. She had tried to get them in with gingerbread and popcorn; they came in fast enough for those; but they would not stay. They were digging in the gutters and calling names; learning the foul language of the places into which they were born; chasing and hiding in alley-ways; filching, if they could, from shops; going off begging with lies on their lips. It was terrible to see the springs from which the life of the city depths was fed.
“If you could stop it there!” Luclarion said, and said with reason.
“Will you let me go?” asked Hazel of her mother, in good earnest.
“’Twon’t hurt her,” put in Luclarion. “Nothing’s catching that you haven’t got the seeds of in your own constitution. And so the catching will be the other way.”
The seeds of good,—to catch good; that was what Luclarion Grapp believed in, in those dirty little souls,—no, those clean little souls, overlaid with all outward mire and filth of body, clothing, speech, and atmosphere, for a mile about; through which they could no more grope and penetrate, to reach their own that was hidden from them in the clearer life beyond, than we can grope and reach to other stars.
“I will get Desire,” quoth Hazel, inspired as she always was, both ways.
Running in at the house in Greenley Street the next Thursday, she ran against Uncle Titus coming out.
“What now?” he demanded.
“Desire,” said Hazel. “I’ve come for her. We’re wanted at Luclarion’s. We’ve got work to do.”
“Humph! Work? What kind?”
“Play,” said Hazel, laughing. She delighted to bother and mystify Uncle Titus, and imagined that she did.
“I thought so. Tea parties?”
“Something like,” said Hazel. “There are children down there that don’t know how to grow up. They haven’t any comfortable sort of fashion of growing up. Somebody has got to teach them. They don’t know how to play ‘Grand Mufti,’ and they never heard of ’King George and his troops.’ Luclarion tried to make them sit still and learn letters; but of course they wouldn’t a minute longer than the gingerbread lasted, and they are eating her out of house and home. It will take young folks, and week-days, you see; so Desire and I are going.” And Hazel ran up the great, flat-stepped staircase.
“Lives that have no business to be,” said Uncle Titus to himself, going down the brick walk. “The Lord has His own ways of bringing lives together. And His own business gets worked out among them, beyond their guessing. When a man grows old, he can stand still now and then, and see a little.”
It was a short cross street that Luclarion lived in, between two great thoroughfares crowded with life and business, bustle, drudgery, idleness, and vice. You will not find the name I give it,—although you may find one that will remind you of it,—in any directory or on any city map. But you can find the places without the names; and if you go down there with the like errands in your heart, you will find the work, as she found it, to do.