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Sam’s Boy
by [?]

It was getting late in the afternoon as Master Jones, in a somewhat famished condition, strolled up Aldgate, with a keen eye on the gutter, in search of anything that would serve him for his tea. Too late, he wished that he had saved some of the stale bread and damaged fruit which had constituted his dinner.

Aldgate proving barren, he turned up into the quieter Minories, skilfully dodging the mechanical cuff of the constable at the corner as he passed, and watching with some interest the efforts of a stray mongrel to get itself adopted. Its victim had sworn at it, cut at it with his stick, and even made little runs at it–all to no purpose. Finally, being a soft-hearted man, he was weak enough to pat the cowering schemer on the head, and, being frantically licked by the homeless one, took it up in his arms and walked off with it.

Billy Jones watched the proceedings with interest, not untempered by envy. If he had only been a dog! The dog passed in the man’s arms, and, with a whine of ecstasy, insisted upon licking his ear. They went on their way, the dog wondering between licks what sort of table the man kept, and the man speculating idly as to a descent which appeared to have included, among other things, an ant-eater.

“‘E’s all right,” said the orphan, wistfully; “no coppers to chivvy ‘im about, and as much grub as he wants. Wish I’d been a dog.”

He tied up his breeches with a piece of string which was lying on the pavement, and, his hands being now free, placed them in a couple of rents which served as pockets, and began to whistle. He was not a proud boy, and was quite willing to take a lesson even from the humblest. Surely he was as useful as a dog!

The thought struck him just as a stout, kindly-looking seaman passed with a couple of shipmates. It was a good-natured face, and the figure was that of a man who lived well. A moment’s hesitation, and Master Jones, with a courage born of despair, ran after him and tugged him by the sleeve.

“Halloa!” said Mr. Samuel Brown, looking round. “What do you want?”

“Want you, father,” said Master Jones.

The jolly seaman’s face broke into a smile. So also did the faces of the jolly seaman’s friends.

“I’m not your father, matey,” he said, good-naturedly.

“Yes, you are,” said the desperate Billy; “you know you are.”

“You’ve made a mistake, my lad,” said Mr. Brown, still smiling. “Here, run away.”

He felt in his trouser pocket and produced a penny. It was a gift, not a bribe, but it had by no means the effect its donor intended. Master Jones, now quite certain that he had made a wise choice of a father, trotted along a yard or two in the rear.

“Look here, my lad,” exclaimed Mr. Brown, goaded into action by intercepting a smile with which Mr. Charles Legge had favoured Mr. Harry Green, “you run off home.”

“Where do you live now?” inquired Billy, anxiously.

Mr. Green, disdaining concealment, slapped Mr. Legge on the back, and, laughing uproariously, regarded Master Jones with much kindness.

“You mustn’t follow me,” said Sam, severely; “d’ye hear?”

“All right, father,” said the boy, dutifully.

“And don’t call me father,” vociferated Mr. Brown.

“Why not?” inquired the youth, artlessly.

Mr. Legge stopped suddenly, and, putting his hand on Mr. Green’s shoulder, gaspingly expressed his inability to go any farther. Mr. Green, patting his back, said he knew how he felt, because he felt the same, and, turning to Sam, told him he’d be the death of him if he wasn’t more careful.

“If you don’t run away,” said Mr. Brown, harshly, as he turned to the boy, “I shall give you a hiding.”

“Where am I to run to?” whimpered Master Jones, dodging off and on.

“Run ‘ome,” said Sam.

“That’s where I’m going,” said Master Jones, following.