OLD PEGGY

TIM ROACH was not only selfish, but liked to make mischief. He resolved
to be revenged upon Johnny for declining to “treat” him to a dinner, and
having plenty of time on his hands, took pains to seek out the humble
home tenanted by old Peggy.

It was on the third floor of a tall, shabby brick house, not far from
the Chicago and Alton depot. Tim had been there before, and didn’t
require directions. He ascended the rickety staircase, nearly treading
on two dirty faced children belonging to a neighbor of Peggy’s, who were
playing on the landing. As a third child, older, made her appearance,
Tim stopped long enough to inquire, “Is Peggy at home?”

“Yes,” answered the girl. “She’s home, but, oh my, ain’t she tight!”

“That’s nothin’ new,” said Tim, composedly.

He knocked at Peggy’s door, and receiving no answer, opened it.

The old woman had thrown herself on a truckle bed at one corner of the
room, and was breathing noisily with her eyes half closed.

“Is it you, Johnny!” she asked, without turning her head.

“No, it’s me!”

“Who’s me?”

“Tim Roach.”

“What do you want?”

“I’ve just seed Johnny, Peggy.”

“Has he sold many matches? Where is he?”

“I seed him in an eatin’ house. He was eatin’ a bully dinner.”

“What!” exclaimed Peggy, now thoroughly roused, raising herself on her
elbow. “What’s that you say, Tim Roach?”

Tim, quite enjoying the commotion he had raised, repeated his
information.

“So he’s spendin’ my money in fillin’ his stomach, the little wretch!”
exclaimed Peggy. “That’s why he brings home so little money. The
ungrateful little imp that I’ve slaved and slaved for these last six
years, takin’ advantage of a poor old woman when her back’s turned!
Where was it, Tim, dear?”

Tim mentioned the restaurant.

“And what was he eatin’, Tim?”

“He ordered a cup o’ coffee and beefsteak—I don’t know what else he
had.”

“I’ll learn him to chate and decave me!” said the old woman, angrily.
“He only brought home twenty-five cents yesterday, and I takin’ care of
him, and buyin’ him close and vittles.”

“I guess he buys some dinner every day,” said Tim.

“And I never to suspect it! Tim, dear, you’re a good boy to come and
tell me. You wouldn’t treat your best friend that way?”

“No, I wouldn’t!” said Tim, virtuously. “What are you goin’ to do to
him, Peggy?”

“Where’s my stick, Tim? Do you see it anywhere?”

“No, I don’t,” answered Tim, after a search.

“Some of them children downstairs must have carried it off.”

“I can buy you a cane for ten cents.”

“And where would the ten cents come from I would like to know. I’ll bate
him wid my fists, the ongrateful young kid.”

“What are you goin’ to give me for tellin’ you, Peggy?” asked Tim.

“I’ll give you a penny the next time I see you,” said Peggy, vaguely.

“That isn’t enough. Give me a nickel to buy a glass of beer?”

“I haven’t got it, Tim. I wish I had, for I’m awful dhry myself.”

“I wouldn’t have come all the way to tell you if I’d know’d that,” said
Tim, discontentedly.

Just then a noise was heard on the stairs, and Tim, opening the door
wider, looked out.

“Here’s Johnny now, Peggy!” he said in excitement.

“Come home the middle of the afternoon, too, the young rascal!”
ejaculated the old woman. “I’ll fix him!”

“So here you are, you young——,” commenced Peggy, as Johnny made his
appearance, but the threat with which she was about to conclude, died in
the utterance, when she saw that Johnny was closely followed by a tall
man of middle age.

“Who are you, sir?” she asked irritably, “and what brings you here? If
you’re the agent, I haven’t got any money for you.”

“Don’t you remember me, Peggy?” asked Lyman, sinking with rare courage
into a chair which cracked under his weight.

“No, sir, I don’t. If I had my glasses, perhaps——”

“I see you’ve got company, Peggy,” continued Lyman, with a significant
look at Tim. “I would like to speak to you alone. It’ll be to your
advantage, mind,” he added, detecting a suspicious look on the old
woman’s face. “Just send the two boys out to play, and we’ll speak
together.”

“First, hand over what money you’ve got, Jack,” said Peggy. “I ain’t
goin’ to have you wastin’ it outside. Let me see your matches! How many
boxes did you sell?”

“Five,” answered Johnny.

“Only five!” exclaimed the old woman, holding up her hands. “You were
playin’ in the strates, I’ll be bound!”

“No, I wasn’t, Aunt Peggy. I tried to sell more, but——”

“Oh, yes, I understand! And you’d done so well you thought you’d buy
yourself a dinner off my money. Come here and let me shake you!”

“Tim told you!” said the little boy, with a reproachful look at his
betrayer.

“Yes, he told me, and he was a good bye for doin’ it.”

“He said he’d tell if I didn’t buy him some, too.”

“Is that threu?” asked Peggy.

“Hark to him!” said Tim, with virtuous indignation. “It’s a lie, and he
knows it.”

“Did you spend all the money, Jack?” demanded Peggy. “If you did——”

“But I didn’t, Aunt Peggy. Some good people gave me some money, and——”

“It was for me, then. How dared you spind it?”

“I’ve brought most of it home, Peggy. See here!” and Johnny took out a
handful of small silver coins and pennies, and poured them into the old
woman’s lap.

Peggy was agreeably surprised. She saw that there was nearly a dollar,
much more than Johnny generally brought home, and it put her in a good
humor.




“You’ve done well, Jack!” she said. “I won’t grudge the money you spent
for a bit of dinner. Now go out and play wid Tim.”

“I don’t want to play with him. He told on me.”

“My lad,” said Lyman, “can’t you bring a bottle of beer for your good
aunt and myself. Here’s money; you can bring back the change.”

“You go, Jack, for the gentleman,” said Peggy, quite restored to good
humor. “I don’t mind sayin’ that my throat is just parched with bein’ so
dhry.”

Johnny went out, and soon returned, for he had not far to go. In spite
of his company being so unwelcome, Tim went and returned with him.

“Won’t you give me a little, Peggy,” he asked.

“No, I won’t. You wanted Jack to trate you on my money. Now clear out,
and never let me see your ugly face here ag’in.”

“That’s the thanks I get for tellin’ you!” complained Tim. “And after
runnin’ myself out of breath, too!”

“Clear out wid you! And you, Jack, go back and see if you can’t sell
some more matches. It’s only the middle of the afternoon, and there’s
plenty of time before sunset to sell half-a-dozen boxes.”

Johnny obeyed, not unwillingly, for he was not partial to home, nor did
he enjoy Peggy’s company. Tim accompanied him, but Johnny, gentle as he
was, refused to have anything to say to him. Tim felt that he was badly
treated. Johnny turned his back on him, and Peggy had utterly failed to
acknowledge the service he had rendered her. Tim was of opinion that it
was a cold world, and that there was little encouragement to be
virtuous.