“Couldn’t you bring her down here once in a while, Mr. O’Day?” he continued, a strange, pathetic note in his wheezing voice. “Just for ten minutes, you know, when she’s out with the dog, or walking with you. Nobody ever comes up these stairs but tramps and book agents—even the models steer clear. It would help a lot if you’d bring her. Wouldn’t you like to come, missy? What did you say her name was? Oh, yes—Masie—well, my child, that’s not what I’d call you; I’d call you—well, I guess I wouldn’t call you anything but just a dear, darling little girl! Yes, that’s just what I’d call you. And you are going to let me give them to her, aren’t you, Mr. O’Day?”
Felix grasped the old fellow’s thin, dry hand in his own strong fingers. For an instant a strange lump in his throat clogged his speech. “Of course, I’ll take the costumes, and many thanks for your wish to make the child happy,” he answered at last. “I am rather foolish about Masie myself; and may I tell you, Mr. Dogger, that you are a very fine old gentleman, and that I am delighted to have made your acquaintance, and that, if you will permit me I shall certainly come again?”
Dogger was about to reply when Masie, Looking up into the wizened face, cried: “And may I put them on when I like, if I’m very, very—oh, so very careful?”
“Yes, you buttercup, and you can wear them full of holes and do anything else you please to them, and I won’t care a mite.”
And then, with Jane Hoggson’s help, he put on Masie’s own hat and coat, which Ganger had hung on an easel, and Masie called Fudge from his mouse-hole, and Felix shook hands first with Nat and then with Sam, and last of all with Jane, who looked at him askance out of one eye as she bobbed him half a courtesy. And then everybody went out into the hall and said good-by once more over the banisters, Felix with the bundle under his arm, Masie throwing kisses to the two old gnomes craning their necks over the banisters, Fudge barking every step of the way down the stairs.
The glimpse which Felix had caught of these two poor, unappreciated old men, living contentedly from hand to mouth, gayly propping each other up when one or the other weakened, had strangely affected him. If, as he reasoned, such battered hulks, stranded these many years on the dry sands of incompetency, with no outlook for themselves across the wide sea over which their contemporaries were scudding with all sails set before the wind of success—if these castaways, their past always with them and their hoped-for future forever out of their reach, could laugh and be merry, why should not he carry some of their spirit into his relations with the people among whom his lot was now thrown?
That these people had all been more than good to him, and that he owed them in return something more than common politeness now took possession of his mind. Few such helping hands had ever been held out to him. When they bad been, the proffered palm had generally concealed a hidden motive. Hereafter he would try to add what he could of his own to the general fund of good-fellowship and good deeds.