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The Dawn of A To-morrow Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter IV

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"Wot 's up?" said Glad when the two men came in. "Is anythin' 'appenin'?"

"I have come up here to tell you something," Dart answered. "Let us sit down again round the fire. It will take a little time."

Glad with eager eyes on him handed the child to Polly and sat down without a moment's hesitance, avid of what was to come. She nudged the thief with friendly elbow and he started up awake.

" 'E 's got somethin' to tell us," she explained. "The curick 's come up to 'ear it, too. Sit 'ere, Polly," with elbow jerk toward the bundle of sacks. "It 's got its stummick full an' it 'll go to sleep fast enough."

So they sat again in the weird circle. Neither the strangeness of the group nor the squalor of the hearth were of a nature to be new things to the curate. His eyes fixed themselves on Dart's face, as did the eyes of the thief, the beggar, and the young thing of the street. No one glanced away from him.

His telling of his story was almost monotonous in its semi-reflective quietness of tone. The strangeness to himself--though it was a strangeness he accepted absolutely without protest--lay in his telling it at all, and in a sense of his knowledge that each of these creatures would understand and mysteriously know what depths he had touched this day.

"Just before I left my lodgings this morning," he said, "I found myself standing in the middle of my room and speaking to Something aloud. I did not know I was going to speak. I did not know what I was speaking to. I heard my own voice cry out in agony, `Lord, Lord, what shall I do to be saved?' "

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The curate made a sudden movement in his place and his sallow young face flushed. But he said nothing.

Glad's small and sharp countenance became curious.

" `Speak, Lord, thy servant 'eareth,' " she quoted tentatively.

"No," answered Dart; "it was not like that. I had never thought of such things. I believed nothing. I was going out to buy a pistol and when I returned intended to blow my brains out."

"Why?" asked Glad, with passionately intent eyes; "why?"

"Because I was worn out and done for, and all the world seemed worn out and done for. And among other things I believed I was beginning slowly to go mad."

From the thief there burst forth a low groan and he turned his face to the wall.

"I've been there," he said; "I 'm near there now."

Dart took up speech again.

"There was no answer--none. As I stood waiting--God knows for what--the dead stillness of the room was like the dead stillness of the grave. And I went out saying to my soul, `This is what happens to the fool who cries aloud in his pain.' "

"I've cried aloud," said the thief, "and sometimes it seemed as if an answer was coming--but I always knew it never would!" in a tortured voice.

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The Dawn of A To-morrow
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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