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The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter II

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"Hell!" was all the creature said.

Dart took him by his greasy collar. Even the brief rush had left him feeling like a living thing--which was a new sensation.

"Give it up," he ordered.

The thief looked at him with a half-laugh and obeyed, as if he felt the uselessness of a struggle. He was not more than twenty-five years old, and his eyes were cavernous with want. He had the face of a man who might have belonged to a better class. When he had uttered the exclamation invoking the infernal regions he had not dropped the aspirate.

"I 'm as hungry as she is," he raved.

"Hungry enough to rob a child beggar?" said Dart.

"Hungry enough to rob a starving old woman--or a baby," with a defiant snort. "Wolf hungry-- tiger hungry--hungry enough to cut throats."

He whirled himself loose and leaned his body against the wall, turning his face toward it. Suddenly he made a choking sound and began to sob.

"Hell!" he choked. "I 'll give it up! I 'll give it up!"

What a figure--what a figure, as he swung against the blackened wall, his scarecrow clothes hanging on him, their once decent material making their pinning together of buttonless places, their looseness and rents showing dirty linen, more abject than any other squalor could have made them. Antony Dart's blood, still running warm and well, was doing its normal work among the brain-cells which had stirred so evilly through the night. When he had seized the fellow by the collar, his hand had left his pocket. He thrust it into another pocket and drew out some silver.

"Go and get yourself some food," he said. "As much as you can eat. Then go and wait for me at the place they call Apple Blossom Court. I don't know where it is, but I am going there. I want to hear how you came to this. Will you come?"

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The thief lurched away from the wall and toward him. He stared up into his eyes through the fog. The tears had smeared his cheekbones.

"God!" he said. "Will I come? Look and see if I'll come." Dart looked.

"Yes, you 'll come," he answered, and he gave him the money. "I 'm going back to the coffee-stand."

The thief stood staring after him as he went out of the court. Dart was speaking to himself.

"I don't know why I did it," he said. "But the thing had to be done."

In the street he turned into he came upon the robbed girl, running, panting, and crying. She uttered a shout and flung herself upon him, clutching his coat.

"Gawd!" she sobbed hysterically, "I thort I'd lost yer! I thort I'd lost all of it, I did! Strewth! I 'm glad I've found yer--" and she stopped, choking with her sobs and sniffs, rubbing her face in her sack.

"Here is your sovereign," Dart said, handing it to her.

She dropped the corner of the sack and looked up with a queer laugh.

"Did yer find a copper? Did yer give him in charge?"

"No," answered Dart. "He was worse off than you. He was starving. I took this from him; but I gave him some money and told him to meet us at Apple Blossom Court."

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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