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The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter III

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She drew her circle about the hearth again. The thief took the place next to her and she handed out food to him--a big slice of meat, bread, a thick slice of pudding.

"Fill yerself up," she said. "Then ye'll feel like yer can talk."

The man tried to eat his food with decorum, some recollection of the habits of better days restraining him, but starved nature was too much for him. His hands shook, his eyes filled, his teeth tore. The rest of the circle tried not to look at him. Glad and Polly occupied themselves with their own food.

Antony Dart gazed at the fire. Here he sat warming himself in a loft with a beggar, a thief, and a helpless thing of the street. He had come out to buy a pistol--its weight still hung in his overcoat pocket-- and he had reached this place of whose existence he had an hour ago not dreamed. Each step which had led him had seemed a simple, inevitable thing, for which he had apparently been responsible, but which he knew--yes, somehow he KNEW--he had of his own volition neither planned nor meant. Yet here he sat --a part of the lives of the beggar, the thief, and the poor thing of the street. What did it mean?

"Tell me," he said to the thief, "how you came here."

By this time the young fellow had fed himself and looked less like a wolf. It was to be seen now that he had blue-gray eyes which were dreamy and young.

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"I have always been inventing things," he said a little huskily. "I did it when I was a child. I always seemed to see there might be a way of doing a thing better--getting more power. When other boys were playing games I was sitting in corners trying to build models out of wire and string, and old boxes and tin cans. I often thought I saw the way to things, but I was always too poor to get what was needed to work them out. Twice I heard of men making great names and for tunes because they had been able to finish what I could have finished if I had had a few pounds. It used to drive me mad and break my heart." His hands clenched themselves and his huskiness grew thicker. "There was a man," catching his breath, "who leaped to the top of the ladder and set the whole world talking and writing--and I had done the thing FIRST--I swear I had! It was all clear in my brain, and I was half mad with joy over it, but I could not afford to work it out. He could, so to the end of time it will be HIS." He struck his fist upon his knee.

"Aw!" The deep little drawl was a groan from Glad.

"I got a place in an office at last. I worked hard, and they began to trust me. I--had a new idea. It was a big one. I needed money to work it out. I--I remembered what had happened before. I felt like a poor fellow running a race for his life. I KNEW I could pay back ten times--a hundred times--what I took."

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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