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The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter III

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"You took money?" said Dart.

The thief's head dropped.

"No. I was caught when I was taking it. I wasn't sharp enough. Someone came in and saw me, and there was a crazy row. I was sent to prison. There was no more trying after that. It's nearly two years since, and I've been hanging about the streets and falling lower and lower. I've run miles panting after cabs with luggage in them and not had strength to carry in the boxes when they stopped. I've starved and slept out of doors. But the thing I wanted to work out is in my mind all the time--like some machine tearing round. It wants to be finished. It never will be. That's all."

Glad was leaning forward staring at him, her roughened hands with the smeared cracks on them clasped round her knees.

"Things 'AS to be finished," she said. "They finish theirselves."

"How do you know?" Dart turned on her.

"Dunno 'OW I know--but I do. When things begin they finish. It's like a wheel rollin' down an 'ill." Her sharp eyes fixed themselves on Dart's. "All of us 'll finish somethin'-- 'cos we've begun. You will --Polly will--'e will--I will." She stopped with a sudden sheepish chuckle and dropped her forehead on her knees, giggling. "Dunno wot I 'm talking about," she said, "but it's true."

Dart began to understand that it was. And he also saw that this ragged thing who knew nothing whatever, looked out on the world with the eyes of a seer, though she was ignorant of the meaning of her own knowledge. It was a weird thing. He turned to the girl Polly.

"Tell me how you came here," he said.

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He spoke in a low voice and gently. He did not want to frighten her, but he wanted to know how SHE had begun. When she lifted her childish eyes to his, her chin began to shake. For some reason she did not question his right to ask what he would. She answered him meekly, as her fingers fumbled with the stuff of her dress.

"I lived in the country with my mother," she said. "We was very happy together. In the spring there was primroses and--and lambs. I --can't abide to look at the sheep in the park these days. They remind me so. There was a girl in the village got a place in town and came back and told us all about it. It made me silly. I wanted to come here, too. I--I came--" She put her arm over her face and began to sob.

"She can't tell you," said Glad. "There was a swell in the 'ouse made love to her. She used to carry up coals to 'is parlor an' 'e talked to 'er. 'E 'ad a wye with 'im--"

Polly broke into a smothered wail.

"Oh, I did love him so--I did!" she cried. "I'd have let him walk over me. I'd have let him kill me."

" 'E nearly did it," said Glad.

" 'E went away sudden an' she 's never 'eard word of 'im since."

From under Polly's face-hiding arm came broken words.

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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