As he was turning away in desperation he felt a tug at his elbow. Looking around, he saw a queer figure with a countenance that resembled a first attempt at a charcoal sketch from life: one cheek was larger than the other, the mouth was sadly out of drawing, the eyes shone out from among the bruises like the sun from behind the clouds. But if the features were disfigured, the smile was none the less courageous.
Sandy had found a friendly sympathizer at a neighboring farm-house, had been given a good breakfast, had made his toilet, and was ready for the next round in the fight of life.
“I’ll be doin’ yer job, sir, whatever it is,” he said pleasantly.
The man eyed him with misgiving, but his need was urgent.
“All you have to do is to stay in the car and look after the cattle. My man will meet you when you reach the city. Do you think you can do it?”
“Just keep company with the cows?” cried Sandy. “Sure and I can!”
So the bargain was struck, and that night found him in the great city with a dollar in his pocket and a promise of work in the morning.
Tired and sore from the experiences of the night before, he sought a cheap lodging-house near by. A hook-nosed woman, carrying a smoking lamp, conducted him to a room under the eaves. It was small and suffocating. He involuntarily lifted his hands and touched the ceiling.
“It’s like a boilin’ potato I feel,” he said; “and the pot’s so little and the lid so tight!”
He went to the window, and taking out the nail that held down the sash, pushed it up. Below him lay the great, bustling city, cabs and cars in constant motion, long lines of blazing lights marking the thoroughfares, the thunder of trains in the big station, and above and below and through it all a dull monotonous roar, like the faraway unceasing cry of a hungry beast.
He sank on his knees by the window, and a restless, nervous look came into his eyes.
“It presses in, too,” he thought. “It’s all crowdin’ over me. I’m just me by myself, all alone.” A tear made a white course down his grimy cheek, then another and another. He brushed them impatiently away with the cap he still held in his hand.
Rising abruptly, he turned away from the window, and the hot air of the room again smote him. The smoking lamp had blackened the chimney, and as he bent to turn it down, he caught his reflection in a small mirror over the table. What the bruises and swelling had left undone the cheap mirror completed. He started back. Was that the boy he knew as himself? Was that Sandy Kilday who had come to America to seek his fortune? He stared in a sort of fascinated horror at that other boy in the mirror. Before he had been afraid to be by himself, now he was afraid of himself.
He seized his cap, and blowing out the lamp, plunged down four flights of steep narrow steps and out into the street. A number of people were crowding into a street-car marked “Exposition.” Sandy, ever a straw in the current, joined them. Once more down among his fellow-men, he began to feel more comfortable. He cheerfully paid his entrance fee with one of the two silver coins in his pocket.