MARK’S excitement was at fever heat. In the most wonderful manner he had
succeeded almost without an effort. He could not doubt that this boy was
the very one of whom he was in search.
He was apprehensive that Lyman would turn, and on recognizing him
penetrate his design and arrange to defeat it. But fortunately the
object of his dread appeared to have other business in hand and kept on
his way, never turning back.
“How old are you?” he asked, thinking it best to make assurance doubly
“Peggy says I’m goin’ on eight,” answered the match boy.
“That is the right age,” thought Mark.
“Have you always lived in Chicago?” he continued.
“No, sir; Peggy brought me from St. Louis when I was a very little
“I suppose you don’t remember much about St. Louis?”
“I don’t remember it at all.”
“What does Peggy do for a living?”
Jack shrugged his shoulders.
“Nothing much,” he answered; “she says she isn’t well enough to work.”
“Surely she does not depend wholly upon what you earn?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes she gets money in a letter. I think it comes
from her son.”
“Then she has a son?”
“Where does he live?”
“I saw one of his letters once. It said Fall River on the wrapper. I
think he works in a factory.”
“Fall River is a city in Massachusetts. I have never been there, but I
hear that they have factories there.”
“So you can read writing?” asked Mark after a pause.
“Yes, a little.”
“And I suppose you can read books and papers?”
“A little. I went to a primary school for a little while, and afterwards
a lady used to hear my lessons. She lived in the same place with us.”
“Did you like studying?”
“Ever so much. I should be happy if I could go to school again, but
Peggy says I know enough, and she needs me to earn my living.”
“Do you know the name of that gentleman you pointed out to me?”
“No, I don’t think I heard Peggy mention his name.”
“How long has he been in the habit of coming to see you and Peggy?”
“He has only been there two or three times. Peggy didn’t remember him at
first. I think they used to know each other a good while ago.”
“Suppose this gentleman’s story were true, and you had a grandfather at
the East who could take good care of you, would you be willing to go to
“Would he be kind to me? Do you know him?” asked the little fellow
“Yes, I know him, and I am sure he would be very kind to you. Would you
be willing to leave Peggy?”
“Yes,” answered little Jack promptly.
“How does she treat you?”
“If I bring home a good bit of money, she pats me on the head and says I
am a good boy, but if I am not lucky she is very cross, and sometimes
she beats me.”
Mark’s sympathies were aroused. Jack was so small, and weak in
appearance, that it seemed to him revolting to think of his being at the
mercy of a cruel old woman. Half unconsciously his fist doubled up, his
teeth closed firmly together, and he just wished he had the merciless
Peggy in his power.
“Is Peggy temperate?” he asked.
Jack looked at him inquiringly.
“Does she drink?” Mark asked, changing the form of his question.
“She drinks beer, and sometimes whiskey,” answered Jack.
“Does she get—drunk?”
“How does it affect her?”
“It makes her sleepy or cross. I always run away when she has been
drinking—when I can, but sometimes she locks the door and fastens me in.
Then, if I can, I hide under the bed.”
“Poor boy! you have a hard time of it. Now, Jack, can you keep a
Jack nodded, and his face assumed a cunning look, for the poor boy had
more than once felt obliged to practice dissimulation, in the rough
school in which he had been trained.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Then I am going to tell you a secret. Your grandfather sent me out here
to find you.”
“He sent you!” ejaculated Jack.
“But I thought he sent that gentleman—the one I pointed out to you.”
“No; that gentleman, as you call him, is your mother’s cousin. He is a
near relation of yours.”
“But he spoke to Peggy about carrying me back to my grandfather.”
“He has an object in view. He won’t give you up to your grandfather
unless he gets a large sum of money. I suppose he has promised to give
Peggy some of the money.”
“Yes, I heard him promise Peggy a hundred dollars.”
“Then I think he is going to cheat Peggy,” he said. “He wants five
thousand dollars for himself.”
“Why, that is a good deal more than a hundred dollars.”
“Yes, it is fifty times as much. Did Peggy seem to be satisfied with a
“No; she said it was very little, but he said perhaps my grandfather
would give her as much as that every year.”
“It is evident he proposes to take the old woman in.”
“I don’t care, if he will only take me back to my grandfather. Will he
give me enough to eat?”
“My poor child, are you hungry?” asked Mark, compassionately.
“Yes; I think I am always hungry,” sighed Jack. “Peggy says I eat too
“You don’t look much like it. Now Jack, one thing more. Would you be
willing to leave Peggy, and go to New York with me?”
“Would you take me to my grandfather?”
“Yes; that is just what I want to do.”
“I am ready to go now,” said Jack, putting his hand confidingly in
“That is well, but it will be better to wait till to-morrow. What time
do you get up in the morning?”
“About half-past eight or nine.”
“Then I will meet you to-morrow, somewhere about that time, and I will
have tickets ready to take us to New York. We can catch the ten o’clock
train. There isn’t any danger of Peggy keeping you, is there?”
“Not unless she thinks I am goin’ to run away.”
“She mustn’t suspect that. We must be sure to keep that from her. I
suppose you have no other clothes than those you have on?”
“I will hunt up a clothing-store, and get you fitted out before we
start. I shouldn’t like your grandfather to see you in that ragged
Jack looked down at his jacket, frayed, tattered and greasy, and said:
“I’ve often wished I had nice clothes like that boy,” and he pointed out
a boy of about his own age, dressed in knickerbockers.
“You shall have your wish to-morrow, Jack. Now I suppose you had better
go and buy some more matches, so that Peggy won’t suspect anything.”
“You’ll be sure to meet me to-morrow, Jack?”
“And don’t let Peggy suspect from your looks that anything is going on.”
“Everything looks favorable,” thought Mark as he walked slowly to his
hotel. “To-morrow at this time Peggy and the worthy Lyman will be
mourning for a lost boy.”