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The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter II

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"Where is her mother?"

"In the country--on a farm. Polly took a place in a lodgin'-'ouse an' got in trouble. The biby was dead, an' when she come out o' Queen Charlotte's she was took in by a woman an' kep'. She kicked 'er out in a week 'cos of her cryin'. The life didn't suit 'er. I found 'er cryin' fit to split 'er chist one night --corner o' Apple Blossom Court-- an' I took care of 'er."


"Me chambers," grinning; "top loft of a 'ouse in the court. If anyone else 'd 'ave it I should be turned out. It's an 'ole, I can tell yer-- but it 's better than sleepin' under the bridges."

"Take me to see it," said Antony Dart. "I want to see the girl."

The words spoke themselves. Why should he care to see either cockloft or girl? He did not. He wanted to go back to his lodgings with that which he had come out to buy. Yet he said this thing. His companion looked up at him with an expression actually relieved.

"Would yer tike up with 'er?" with eager sharpness, as if confronting a simple business proposition. "She's pretty an' clean, an' she won't drink a drop o' nothin'. If she was treated kind she'd be cheerfler. She's got a round fice an' light 'air an' eyes. 'Er 'air 's curly. P'raps yer'd like 'er."

"Take me to see her."

"She'd look better to-morrow," cautiously, "when the swellin 's gone down round 'er eye."

Dart started--and it was because he had for the last five minutes forgotten something.

"I shall not be here to-morrow," he said. His grasp upon the thing in his pocket had loosened, and he tightened it.

"I have some more money in my purse," he said deliberately. "I meant to give it away before going. I want to give it to people who need it very much."

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She gave him one of the sly, squinting glances.

"Deservin' cases?" She put it to him in brazen mockery.

"I don't care," he answered slowly and heavily. "I don't care a damn."

Her face changed exactly as he had seen it change on the bridge when she had drawn nearer to him. Its ugly hardness suddenly looked human. And that she could look human was fantastic.

" 'Ow much 'ave yer?" she asked. " 'Ow much is it?"

"About ten pounds."

She stopped and stared at him with open mouth.

"Gawd!" she broke out; "ten pounds 'd send Apple Blossom Court to 'eving. Leastways, it'd take some of it out o' 'ell."

"Take me to it," he said roughly. "Take me."

She began to walk quickly, breathing fast. The fog was lighter, and it was no longer a blinding thing.

A question occurred to Dart.

"Why don't you ask me to give the money to you?" he said bluntly.

"Dunno," she answered as bluntly. But after taking a few steps farther she spoke again.

"I 'm cheerfler than most of 'em," she elaborated. "If yer born cheerfle yer can stand things. When I gets a job nussin' women's bibies they don't cry when I 'andles 'em. I gets many a bite an' a copper 'cos o' that. Folks likes yer. I shall get on better than Polly when I'm old enough to go on the street."

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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