It was Sunday morning before the merry party broke up and streamed out through Kling’s lower shop, and so on into the street. Everybody had had the time of their lives. Such remarks as “Would ye have believed it of Otto?” or, “Wasn’t Masie the sweetest thing ye ever saw?” or, “Just think of Mr. O’Day fixing up that old junk room the way he did—ye can’t beat him nowheres!” or, “Oh, I tell ye, Otto struck it rich when he took him on!”, were heard on all sides.
So loud were the laughter and chatter, the good nights and good-bys, that big Tom McGinniss moved over from the opposite curb.
“Halloo, John!” cried the policeman. “I thought I couldn’t be mistaken. And Kitty, that you with your coffee-pot? I just come up from Lexington Avenue and heard the row, wondering what was up. Is it up-stairs ye were? What! Dutchy givin’ a ball? Oh, ye can’t mean it! No, thank ye, Kitty, it will be too late for ye all—I’ll drop in to-morrow night. Well, take care of yourselves,” and he disappeared in the darkness.
Felix watched the throng disperse, bade Kitty and John good night, and, turning sharply, directed his steps toward Madison Square. Here he sank upon a bench, away from the glare of an overhead lamp. For some minutes he sat without moving, his mind wholly absorbed with the events of the preceding hours. The roar and crush of the room came back to him. He caught again the light in Masie’s eyes as she followed his lead in the dance and the mob of happy faces crowding to her side, and then with a shudder he confronted the gaunt sorrow that had hourly dogged his steps. An overpowering sense of depression now took possession of him. Pushing back his hat as if to give himself more air, he was about to resume his walk when he became conscious that something had stirred at the far end of the seat.
Straightening his broad shoulders, his quick, alert manner returning, he moved nearer, his eyes searching the gloom. A newsboy, a little chap of seven or eight, his papers under him, lay fast asleep.
For an instant he watched the rise and fall of the boy’s breath, adjusted the short, patched coat about the little fellow’s knees, and then slid back to his end of the bench.
“Same old grind,” he said to himself, “no home— no money—cold—maybe hungry. Never too young to suffer—never too old to eat your heart out. What a damnable world it is!”
Rising to his feet, he felt in his pocket for a coin, widened the pocket of the waif’s jacket, and slipped it in. The boy stirred, tightened his grasp on his papers, and lay still.
Felix looked down at him for a moment, turned, and with lightened steps continued his walk.
“Well, thank God,” he said as he neared “The Avenue,” “Masie was happy one night in her life.”