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A Story Of Bleecker Street
by [?]

Mrs. Kane had put the baby to bed. The regular breathing from two little cribs in different corners told her that her day’s work was nearing its end. She paused at the window in the middle of her picking-up to look out at the autumn evening. The house stood on the bank of the East River near where the Harlem joins it. Below ran the swift stream, with the early twilight stealing over it from the near shore; across the water the myriad windows in the Children’s Hospital glowed red in the sunset. From the shipyard, where men were working overtime, came up the sound of hammering and careless laughter.

The peacefulness of the scene rested the tired woman. She stood absorbed, without noticing that the door behind her was opened swiftly and that some one came in. It was only when the baby, wakening, sat up in bed and asked with wide, wondering eyes, “Who is that?” that she turned to see.

Just inside the door stood a strange woman. A glance at her dress showed her to be an escaped prisoner. A number of such from the Island were employed under guard in the adjoining hospital, and Mrs. Kane saw them daily. Her first impulse was to call to the men working below, but something in the stranger’s look and attitude checked her. She went over to the child’s bed and stood by it.

“How did you get out?” she asked, confronting the woman. The question rose to her lips mechanically.

The woman answered with a toss of her head toward the hospital. She was young yet, but her face was old. Debauchery had left deep scars upon it. Her black hair hung in disorder.

“They’ll be after me,” she said hurriedly. Her voice was hoarse; it kept the promise of the face. “Don’t let them. Hide me there–anywhere.” She glanced uneasily from the open closet to the door of the inner room.

Mrs. Kane’s face hardened. The stranger was a convict, a thief perhaps. Why should she–A door slammed below, and there were excited voices in the hall, the tread of heavy steps on the stairs. The fugitive listened.

“That’s them,” she said. “Quick! lemme get in! O God!” she pleaded with desperate entreaty, as Mrs. Kane stood coldly unresponsive, “you have your baby. I haven’t seen mine in seven months, and they never wrote. I’ll never have the chance again.”

The steps had halted in the second-floor hall. They were on the last flight of stairs now. The mother’s heart relented.

“Here,” she said, “go in.”

The bedroom door had barely closed upon the fugitive when a man in a prison-keeper’s garb stuck his head in from the hall. He saw only the mother and the baby in its crib.

“Hang the woman!” he growled. “Did yez–“

A voice called from the lower hall: “Hey, Billy! she ain’t in there. She give us the slip, sure.”

The keeper withdrew his head, growling. In the street the hue and cry was raised; a prisoner had escaped.

When all was quiet, Mrs. Kane opened the bedroom door. She had a dark wrapper and an old gray shawl on her arm.

“Go,” she said, not unkindly, and laid them on the bed; “Go to your child.”

The woman caught at her hand with a sob, but she withdrew it hastily and went back to her baby’s crib.

The moon shone upon the hushed streets, when a woman, hooded in a gray shawl, walked rapidly down Fifth Street, eying the tenements with a searching look as she passed. On the stoop of one, a knot of mothers were discussing their household affairs, idling a bit after the day’s work. The woman halted in front of the group, and was about to ask a question, when one of the women arose with the exclamation:–

“Mother of God! it’s Mame.”

“Well,” said the woman, testily, “and what if it is? Am I a spook that ye need stare at me so? Ye knowed me well enough before. Where is Will?”