“That Hardscrabbler’s young ’un,” he said. “She was crying quietly to herself, in the darkness outside the jail, poor little tyke. So I picked her up, and” (with a sort of tender awkwardness) “she was glad to come with me. Seemed to kind of take to me. Kiddies generally do.”
“Do they? That’s curious.”
“I suppose you think so,” replied the quack, without rancor.
“What are you going to do with her?”
“I’ll see, later. At present I’m going to keep her here with us. She’s only seven, and her mother’s dead. Are you staying here to-night?”
“Got to. Missed my connection.”
“Then at least you’ll let me pay your hotel bill, if you won’t take my money.”
“Why, yes: I suppose so,” said the other grudgingly. “I’ll look at the boy in the morning. But he’ll be all right. Only, don’t take up your itinerating again for a few days.”
“I’m through, I tell you. Give me a growing city to settle in and I’ll go in for the regular proprietary manufacturing game. Know anything about Worthington?”
“Pretty good, live town?”
“First-class, and not too critical, I suppose, to accept your business,” said Dr. Elliot dryly. “I’m on my way there now for a visit. Well, I must get my little girl.”
The itinerant opened the door, looked, and beckoned. The boy lay on his pillow, the girl was curled in her chair, both fast asleep. Their hands were lightly clasped.
Dr. Elliot lifted his ward and carried her away. The itinerant, returning to the Hardscrabbler girl, took her out to arrange the night’s accommodation for her. So, there slept that night under one roof and at the charge of Professor Andrew L. Certain, five human beings who, long years after, were destined to meet and mingle their fates, intricate, intimate strands in the pattern of human weal and woe.
OUR LEADING CITIZEN
The year of grace, 1913, commended itself to Dr. L. Andre Surtaine as an excellent time in which to be alive, rich, and sixty years old. Thoroughly, keenly, ebulliently alive he was. Thoroughly rich, also; and if the truth be told, rather ebulliently conscious of his wealth. You could see at a glance that he had paid no usurious interest to Fate on his success; that his vigor and zest in life remained to him undiminished. Vitality and a high satisfaction with his environment and with himself as well placed in it, radiated from his bulky and handsome person; but it was the vitality that impressed you first: impressed and warmed you; perhaps warned you, too, on shrewder observation. A gleaming personality, this. But behind the radiance one surmised fire. Occasion given, Dr. Surtaine might well be formidable.