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The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter II

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"I--" he said, feeling the foolishness of the statement, but making it, nevertheless, "I am ill."

"Course yer ill. It's yer 'ead. Come along er me an' get a cup er cawfee at a stand, an' buck up. If yer've give me that quid straight-- wish-yer-may-die--I'll go with yer an' get a cup myself. I ain't 'ad a bite since yesterday--an' 't wa'n't nothin' but a slice o' polony sossidge I found on a dust-'eap. Come on, mister."

She pulled his coat with her cracked hand. He glanced down at it mechanically, and saw that some of the fissures had bled and the roughened surface was smeared with the blood. They stood together in the small space in which the fog enclosed them--he and she--the man with no To-morrow and the girl thing who seemed as old as himself, with her sharp, small nose and chin, her sharp eyes and voice --and yet--perhaps the fogs enclosing did it--something drew them together in an uncanny way. Something made him forget the lost clew to the lodging-house-- something made him turn and go with her--a thing led in the dark.

"How can you find your way?" he said. "I lost mine."

"There ain't no fog can lose me," she answered, shuffling along by his side; " 'sides, it's goin' to lift. Look at that man comin' to'ards us."

It was true that they could see through the orange-colored mist the approaching figure of a man who was at a yard's distance from them. Yes, it was lifting slightly--at least enough to allow of one's making a guess at the direction in which one moved.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"Apple Blossom Court," she answered. "The cawfee-stand's in a street near it--and there's a shop where I can buy things."

"Apple Blossom Court!" he ejaculated. "What a name!"

"There ain't no apple-blossoms there," chuckling; "nor no smell of 'em. 'T ain't as nice as its nime is--Apple Blossom Court ain't."

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"What do you want to buy? A pair of shoes?" The shoes her naked feet were thrust into were leprous-looking things through which nearly all her toes protruded. But she chuckled when he spoke.

"No, I 'm goin' to buy a di'mond tirarer to go to the opery in," she said, dragging her old sack closer round her neck. "I ain't ad a noo un since I went to the last Drorin'- room."

It was impudent street chaff, but there was cheerful spirit in it, and cheerful spirit has some occult effect upon morbidity. Antony Dart did not smile, but he felt a faint stirring of curiosity, which was, after all, not a bad thing for a man who had not felt an interest for a year.

"What is it you are going to buy?"

"I'm goin' to fill me stummick fust," with a grin of elation. "Three thick slices o' bread an' drippin' an' a mug o' cawfee. An' then I'm goin' to get sumethin' 'earty to carry to Polly. She ain't no good, pore thing!"

"Who is she?"

Stopping a moment to drag up the heel of her dreadful shoe, she answered him with an unprejudiced directness which might have been appalling if he had been in the mood to be appalled.

"Ain't eighteen, an' tryin' to earn 'er livin' on the street. She ain't made for it. Little country thing, allus frightened to death an' ready to bust out cryin'. Gents ain't goin' to stand that. A lot of 'em wants cheerin' up as much as she does. Gent as was in liquor last night knocked 'er down an' give 'er a black eye. 'T wan't ill feelin', but he lost his temper, an' give 'er a knock casual. She can't go out to-night, an' she's been 'uddled up all day cryin' for 'er mother."

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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