A Child Of The Rain
IT was the night that Mona Meeks,
the dressmaker, told him she
didn't love him. He couldn't
believe it at first, because he had
so long been accustomed to the idea that she
did, and no matter how rough the weather or
how irascible the passengers, he felt a song
in his heart as he punched transfers, and rang
his bell punch, and signalled the driver when
to let people off and on.
Now, suddenly, with no reason except a
woman's, she had changed her mind. He
dropped in to see her at five o'clock, just
before time for the night shift, and to give
her two red apples he had been saving for her.
She looked at the apples as if they were in-
visible and she could not see them, and stand-
ing in her disorderly little dressmaking parlor,
with its cuttings and scraps and litter of fab-
rics, she said:
"It is no use, John. I shall have to work
here like this all my life -- work here alone.
For I don't love you, John. No, I don't. I
thought I did, but it is a mistake."
"You mean it?" asked John, bringing up
the words in a great gasp.
"Yes," she said, white and trembling and
putting out her hands as if to beg for his
mercy. And then -- big, lumbering fool --
he turned around and strode down the stairs
and stood at the corner in the beating rain
waiting for his car. It came along at length,
spluttering on the wet rails and spitting out
blue fire, and he took his shift after a
gruff "Good night" to Johnson, the man he
He was glad the rain was bitter cold and
drove in his face fiercely. He rejoiced at
the cruelty of the wind, and when it hustled
pedestrians before it, lashing them, twisting
their clothes, and threatening their equilib-
rium, he felt amused. He was pleased at
the chill in his bones and at the hunger that
tortured him. At least, at first he thought it
was hunger till he remembered that he had
just eaten. The hours passed confusedly.
He had no consciousness of time. But it
must have been late, -- near midnight, --
judging by the fact that there were few per-
sons visible anywhere in the black storm,
when he noticed a little figure sitting at the
far end of the car. He had not seen the
child when she got on, but all was so curious
and wild to him that evening -- he himself
seemed to himself the most curious and the
wildest of all things -- that it was not surpris-
ing that he should not have observed the little
She was wrapped in a coat so much too
large that it had become frayed at the bottom
from dragging on the pavement. Her hair
hung in unkempt stringiness about her bent
shoulders, and her feet were covered with
old arctics, many sizes too big, from which
the soles hung loose.
Beside the little figure was a chest of dark
wood, with curiously wrought hasps. From
this depended a stout strap by which it could
be carried over the shoulders. John Billings
stared in, fascinated by the poor little thing
with its head sadly drooping upon its breast,
its thin blue hands relaxed upon its lap, and
its whole attitude so suggestive of hunger,
loneliness, and fatigue, that he made up his
mind he would collect no fare from it.
"It will need its nickel for breakfast," he
said to himself. "The company can stand
this for once. Or, come to think of it, I
might celebrate my hard luck. Here's to the
brotherhood of failures!" And he took a
nickel from one pocket of his great-coat and
dropped it in another, ringing his bell punch
to record the transfer.
The car plunged along in the darkness, and
the rain beat more viciously than ever in his
face. The night was full of the rushing sound
of the storm. Owing to some change of tem-
perature the glass of the car became obscured
so that the young conductor could no longer
see the little figure distinctly, and he grew
anxious about the child.
"I wonder if it's all right," he said to him-
self. "I never saw living creature sit so still."
He opened the car door, intending to speak
with the child, but just then something went
wrong with the lights. There was a blue and
green flickering, then darkness, a sudden halt-
ing of the car, and a great sweep of wind and
rain in at the door. When, after a moment,
light and motion reasserted themselves, and
Billings had got the door together, he turned
to look at the little passenger. But the car
It was a fact. There was no child there --
not even moisture on the seat where she had
"Bill," said he, going to the front door and
addressing the driver, "what became of that
little kid in the old cloak?"
"I didn't see no kid," said Bill, crossly.
"For Gawd's sake, close the door, John, and
git that draught off my back."
"Draught!" said John, indignantly, "where's
"You've left the hind door open," growled
Bill, and John saw him shivering as a blast
struck him and ruffled the fur on his bear-skin
coat. But the door was not open, and yet
John had to admit to himself that the car
seemed filled with wind and a strange
However, it didn't matter. Nothing mat-
tered! Still, it was as well no doubt to look
under the seats just to make sure no little
crouching figure was there, and so he did.
But there was nothing. In fact, John said to
himself, he seemed to be getting expert in
finding nothing where there ought to be some-
He might have stayed in the car, for there
was no likelihood of more passengers that
evening, but somehow he preferred going out
where the rain could drench him and the
wind pommel him. How horribly tired he
was! If there were only some still place away
from the blare of the city where a man could
lie down and listen to the sound of the sea
or the storm -- or if one could grow suddenly
old and get through with the bother of living
-- or if --
The car gave a sudden lurch as it rounded
a curve, and for a moment it seemed to be
a mere chance whether Conductor Billings
would stay on his platform or go off under
those fire-spitting wheels. He caught in-
stinctively at his brake, saved himself, and
stood still for a moment, panting.
"I must have dozed," he said to himself.
Just then, dimly, through the blurred win-
dow, he saw again the little figure of the
child, its head on its breast as before, its
blue hands lying in its lap and the curious
box beside it. John Billings felt a coldness
beyond the coldness of the night run through
his blood. Then, with a half-stifled cry, he
threw back the door, and made a desperate
spring at the corner where the eerie thing
And he touched the green carpeting on the
seat, which was quite dry and warm, as if no
dripping, miserable little wretch had ever
He rushed to the front door.
"Bill," he roared, "I want to know about
"The same kid! The wet one with the old
coat and the box with iron hasps! The one
that's been sitting here in the car!"
Bill turned his surly face to confront the
"You've been drinking, you fool," said he.
"Fust thing you know you'll be reported."
The conductor said not a word. He went
slowly and weakly back to his post and stood
there the rest of the way leaning against the
end of the car for support. Once or twice
"The poor little brat!" And again he
said, "So you didn't love me after all!"
He never knew how he reached home, but
he sank to sleep as dying men sink to death.
All the same, being a hearty young man, he
was on duty again next day but one, and
again the night was rainy and cold.
It was the last run, and the car was spin-
ning along at its limit, when there came a
sudden soft shock. John Billings knew what
that meant. He had felt something of the
kind once before. He turned sick for a
moment, and held on to the brake. Then
he summoned his courage and went around
to the side of the car, which had stopped.
Bill, the driver, was before him, and had a
limp little figure in his arms, and was carry-
ing it to the gaslight. John gave one look
"It's the same kid, Bill! The one I told
True as truth were the ragged coat dangling
from the pitiful body, the little blue hands,
the thin shoulders, the stringy hair, the big
arctics on the feet. And in the road not far
off was the curious chest of dark wood with
"She ran under the car deliberate!" cried
Bill. "I yelled to her, but she looked at me
and ran straight on!"
He was white in spite of his weather-beaten
"I guess you wasn't drunk last night after
all, John," said he.
"You -- you are sure the kid is -- is there?"
"Not so damned sure!" said Bill.
But a few minutes later it was taken away
in a patrol wagon, and with it the little box
with iron hasps.
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