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Thu May 20, 2010 7:04 pm

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Here comes a new Story of Our Little Newsboy.


Hurrying to catch a certain car at a certain corner late one stormy night, I was suddenly arrested by the sight of a queer-looking bundle lying in a door-way.

'Bless my heart, it's a child! O John! I'm afraid he's frozen!' I exclaimed to my brother, as we both bent over the bundle.

Such a little fellow as he was, in the big, ragged coat; such a tired, baby face, under the fuzzy cap; such a purple, little hand, still holding fast a few papers; such a pathetic sight altogether was the boy, lying on the stone step, with the snow drifting over him, that it was impossible to go by.

'He is asleep; but he'll freeze, if left so long. Here! wake up, my boy, and go home, as fast as you can,' cried John, with a gentle shake, and a very gentle voice; for the memory of a dear little lad, safely tucked up at home, made him fatherly kind to the small vagabond.

The moment he was touched, the boy tumbled up, and, before he was half awake, began his usual cry, with an eye to business.

'Paper, sir? "Herald!" "Transkip!" Last'--a great gape swallowed up the 'last edition,' and he stood blinking at us like a very chilly young owl.

'I'll buy 'em all if you'll go home, my little chap; it's high time you were abed,' said John, whisking the damp papers into one pocket, and his purse out of another, as he spoke.

'All of 'em?--why there's six!' croaked the boy, for he was as hoarse as a raven.

'Never mind, I can kindle the fire with 'em. Put that in your pocket; and trot home, my man, as fast as possible.'

'Where do you live?' I asked, picking up the fifty cents that fell from the little fingers, too benumbed to hold it.

'Mills Court, out of Hanover. Cold, ain't it?' said the boy, blowing on his purple hands, and hopping feebly from one leg to the other, to take the stiffness out.

'He can't go all that way in this storm--such a mite, and so used up with cold and sleep, John.'

'Of course he can't; we'll put him in a car,' began John; when the boy wheezed out,--

'No; I've got ter wait for Sam. He'll be along as soon's the theatre's done. He said he would; and so I'm waitin'.'

'Who is Sam?' I asked.

'He's the feller I lives with. I ain't got any folks, and he takes care o' me.'

'Nice care, indeed; leaving a baby like you to wait for him here such a night as this,' I said crossly.

'Oh, he's good to me Sam is, though he does knock me round sometimes, when I ain't spry. The big feller shoves me back, you see; and I gets cold, and can't sing out loud; so I don't sell my papers, and has to work 'em off late.'

'Hear the child talk! One would think he was sixteen, instead of six,' I said, half laughing.

'I'm most ten. Hi! ain't that a oner?' cried the boy, as a gust of sleet slapped him in the face, when he peeped to see if Sam was coming. 'Hullo! the lights is out! Why, the play's done, and the folks gone, and Sam's forgot me.'

It was very evident that Sam _had_ forgotten his little _protege_; and a strong desire to shake Sam possessed me.

'No use waitin' any longer; and now my papers is sold, I ain't afraid to go home,' said the boy, stepping down like a little old man with the rheumatism, and preparing to trudge away through the storm.

'Stop a bit, my little Casabianca; a car will be along in fifteen minutes; and while waiting you can warm yourself over there,' said John, with the purple hand in his.

'My name's Jack Hill, not Cassy Banks, please, sir,' said the little party, with dignity.

'Have you had your supper, Mr. Hill?' asked John, laughing.

'I had some peanuts, and two sucks of Joe's orange; but it warn't very fillin',' he said, gravely.

'I should think not. Here! one stew; and be quick, please,' cried John, as we sat down in a warm corner of the confectioner's opposite.

While little Jack shovelled in the hot oysters, with his eyes shutting up now and then in spite of himself, we looked at him and thought again of little Rosy-face at home safe in his warm nest, with mother-love watching over him. Nodding towards the ragged, grimy, forlorn, little creature, dropping asleep over his supper like a tired baby, I said,--

'Can you imagine our Freddy out alone at this hour, trying to 'work off' his papers, because afraid to go home till he has?'

'I'd rather not try,' answered brother John, winking hard, as he stroked the little head beside him, which, by the bye, looked very like a ragged, yellow door-mat. I _think_ brother John winked hard, but I can't be sure, for I know I did; and for a minute there seemed to be a dozen little newsboys dancing before my eyes.

'There goes our car; and it's the last,' said John, looking at me.

'Let it go, but don't leave the boy;' and I frowned at John for hinting at such a thing.

'Here is his car. Now, my lad, bolt your last oyster, and come on.'

'Good-night, ma'am! thankee, sir!' croaked the grateful little voice, as the child was caught up in John's strong hands and set down on the car-step.

With a word to the conductor, and a small business transaction, we left Jack coiled up in a corner to finish his nap as tranquilly as if it wasn't midnight, and a 'knocking-round' might not await him at his journey's end.

We didn't mind the storm much as we plodded home; and when I told the story to Rosy-face, next day, his interest quite reconciled me to the sniffs and sneezes of a bad cold.

'If I saw that poor little boy, Aunt Jo, I'd love him lots!' said Freddy, with a world of pity in his beautiful child's eyes.

And, believing that others also would be kind to little Jack, and such as he, I tell the story.

When busy fathers hurry home at night, I hope they'll buy their papers of the small boys, who get 'shoved back;' the feeble ones, who grow hoarse, and can't 'sing out;' the shabby ones, who evidently have only forgetful Sams to care for them; and the hungry-looking ones, who don't get what is 'fillin'.' For love of the little sons and daughters safe at home, say a kind word, buy a paper, even if you don't want it; and never pass by, leaving them to sleep forgotten in the streets at midnight, with no pillow but a stone, no coverlet but the pitiless snow, and not even a tender-hearted robin to drop leaves over them.


[The end]
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