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PAGE 2

A Story That Never Ends
by [?]

“Hello,” he said, as the, boy drew near.

The boy stopped and smiled at Tommy without making reply.

“Where are you going?” said Tommy.

“I am carrying this bag of tools to my father,” the boy answered.

“Do you live here?” asked Tommy. “It doesn’t seem like much of a place.”

“No,” said the boy, “it isn’t much of a place, but I live here.”

“What sort of tools have you got in your bag? Who is your father?”

“My father is a carpenter,” answered the boy.

Tommy gave a long, low whistle. “A carpenter! Why my father owns a store, and we live in one of the best houses in town. Fairfield is the name of my town.”

The boy seemed neither to notice the whistle nor the brag; but, allowing the bag to slip from his shoulders to the ground, stood, still smiling, before Tommy.

Tommy, who somehow had forgotten his pain and thirst, felt embarrassed for a moment. He never before had made that announcement without its awakening at least a little sensation, even if it were no more than a boast in return.

“This is a dull old town,” he finally said. “Many jolly boys around?”

“A good many,” answered the boy.

“Do you get any time to play? I suppose though, you don’t – you have to work most of the time,” added Tommy, encouragingly.

“I work a good deal,” said the boy. “I get time to play, however. I like it.”

“Which, the work or the play?”

“Both.”

“Well,” said Tommy after a pause, “do you ever have any trouble with the boys you play with?”

“No,” said the boy, “I don’t think I do.”

“Well, you must be a queer sort of a boy! Now, there’s Bob Sykes, – perhaps you’ve noticed that my eye is hurt, and my face scratched some. Well, we had a little difficulty just a few moments ago; he insulted me, and I won’t take an insult from any one. And I told him to shut up his mouth, and he sassed me back, and called me names, and said I was stuck up and thought I was better than the other boys, and he’d show me that I wasn’t. Of course, I wouldn’t stand that, so I’ve had a fight, – and it isn’t the first one either.”

“Yes,” said the boy, “I know that. I feel very sorry for Bob. He hasn’t any mother to go to, you know. He had to wash the blood and dirt off his face as best he could at the town pump; and then wait around the streets until his father came from work. It is pretty hard for a boy to have no place to lay his head.”

“Why, do you know Bob Sykes?” asked Tommy.

“Yes,” answered the boy, “I’ve been with him a good deal.”

“Queer now,” mused Tommy. “I don’t remember of ever seeing you around. But now tell me what you would have done if he had provoked you, and insulted you, too?”

“I would have forgiven him,” answered the boy.

“Well, I did. There was one spell I just started in and forgave him every day for a week, that was seven times.”

“I would have forgiven him seventy times seven.”

“That is just what my mother always says. Perhaps you know my mother?”

“She knows me, too,” replied the boy.

“That is odd. I didn’t think she knew any of the boys Bob knows.”

“Bob does not know me,” replied the boy; “I know him.”

Just then Tommy’s attention was attracted by a flock of little brown birds passing over their heads. One of the birds flew low and fluttered as if wounded, and fell in the dust near, where it lay beating its little wings, panting and dying. The boy tenderly picked it up.

“Somebody’s hit him with a sling-shot,” said Tommy, carelessly.

The boy smoothed the bruised wing, and straightened the crushed and broken body. The bird ceased fluttering.

“I’m most sorry,” said Tommy, “I didn’t forgive Bob. It makes me feel bad, what you told me about his having no home. Now, mother is something like you. She don’t mind one’s being poor. Why, if I took Bob home with me, mother wouldn’t seem to see his clothes and ragged shoes. She’d just talk to him and treat him like he was the best dressed boy in town. There’s Bill Logan came home to dinner with me once. Mother made me ask him. He is a real poor boy; has to work. His mother washes. He didn’t know what to do nor how to act. He kept his hands in his pockets most all the time. Aunt Lilly said it was shocking. But mother said, ‘Never mind.’ She said she was glad he had his pockets; for his hands were rough and not too clean, and she thought they mortified him. Father went and kissed her then. Don’t tell this. I don’t know what makes me run on and tell you all these things. I never spoke of them before. But I know father was a poor, young working man when he married mother.”