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A Hole In The Wall
by [?]


If any one had asked Johnny Morris who were his best friends, he would have answered,–

“The sun and the wind, next to mother.”

Johnny lived in a little court that led off from one of the busiest streets in the city,–a noisy street, where horse-car bells tinkled and omnibuses rumbled all day long, going and coming from several great depots near by. The court was a dull place, with only two or three shabby houses in it, and a high blank wall at the end.

The people who hurried by were too busy to do more than to glance at the lame boy who sat in the sunshine against the wall, or to guess that there was a picture-gallery and a circulating-library in the court. But Johnny had both, and took such comfort in them that he never could be grateful enough to the wind that brought him his books and pictures, nor to the sun that made it possible for him to enjoy them in the open air, far more than richer folk enjoy their fine galleries and libraries.

A bad fall, some months before the time this story begins, did something to Johnny’s back which made his poor legs nearly useless, and changed the lively, rosy boy into a pale cripple. His mother took in fine washing, and worked hard to pay doctors’ bills and feed and clothe her boy, who could no longer run errands, help with the heavy tubs, or go to school. He could only pick out laces for her to iron, lie on his bed in pain for hours, and, each fair day, hobble out to sit in a little old chair between the water-butt and the leaky tin boiler in which he kept his library.

But he was a happy boy, in spite of poverty and pain; and the day a great gust came blowing fragments of a gay placard and a dusty newspaper down the court to his feet, was the beginning of good fortune for patient Johnny. There was a theatre in the street beyond, and other pictured bits found their way to him; for the frolicsome wind liked to whisk the papers around the corner, and chase them here and there till they settled under the chair or flew wildly over the wall.

Faces, animals, people, and big letters, all came to cheer the boy, who was never tired of collecting these waifs and strays; cutting out the big pictures to paste on the wall with the leavings of mother’s starch, and the smaller in the scrap-book he made out of stout brown wrappers or newspapers, when he had read the latter carefully. Soon it was a very gay wall; for mother helped, standing on a chair, to put the large pictures up, when Johnny had covered all the space he could reach. The books were laid carefully away in the boiler, after being smoothly ironed out and named to suit Johnny’s fancy by pasting letters on the back. This was the circulating library; for not only did the papers whisk about the court to begin with, but the books they afterward made went the rounds among the neighbors till they were worn out.

The old cobbler next door enjoyed reading the anecdotes on Sunday when he could not work; the pale seamstress upstairs liked to look over advertisements of the fine things which she longed for; and Patsey Flynn, the newsboy, who went by each day to sell his papers at the station, often paused to look at the play-bills,–for he adored the theatre, and entertained Johnny with descriptions of the splendors there to be beheld, till he felt as if he had really been, and had known all the famous actors, from Humpty Dumpty to the great Salvini.

Now and then a flock of dirty children would stray into the court and ask to see the “pretty picters.” Then Johnny was a proud and happy boy; for, armed with a clothes-pole, he pointed out and explained the beauties of his gallery, feeling that he was a public benefactor when the poor babies thanked him warmly, and promised to come again and bring all the nice papers they could pick up.