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Across the Years by Eleanor H. Porter

'There is a Meester James Hadley


"I

had some trouble in New York findin' Jimmy's boardin'-place. There had been a fire the night before, an' his landlady had had ter move; but at last I found her an' asked anxiously fer Jimmy's things, an' if his pictures had been hurt.

"Jimmy's landlady was fat an' greasy an' foreign-lookin', an' she didn't seem ter understand what I was talkin' about till I repeated a bit sharply:--

"'Yes, his pictures. I've come fer 'em.'

"Then she shook her head.

"'Meester Hadley did not have any pictures.'

"'But he must have had 'em,' says I, 'fer them papers an' magazines he worked for. He made 'em!'

"She shook her head again; then she gave a queer hitch to her shoulders, and a little flourish with her hands.

"'Oh--ze pictures! He did do them--once--a leetle: months ago.'

"'But the prize,' says I. 'The prize ter James Hadley!'

"Then she laughed as if she suddenly understood.

"Oh, but it is ze grand mistake you are makin',' she cried, in her silly, outlandish way of talkin'. 'There is a Meester James Hadley, an' he does make pictures--beautiful pictures--but it is not this one. This Meester Hadley did try, long ago, but he failed to succeed, so my

son said; an' he had to--to cease. For long time he has worked for me, for the grocer, for any one who would pay--till a leetle while ago. Then he left. In ze new clothes he had bought, he went away. Ze old ones--burned. He had nothing else.'

"She said more, but I didn't even listen. I was back with Jimmy by the roadside, and his 'Don't--tell--the--folks' was ringin' in my ears. I understood it then, the whole thing from the beginnin'; an' I felt dazed an' shocked, as if some one had struck me a blow in the face. I wan't brought up ter think lyin' an' deceivin' was right.

"I got up by an' by an' left the house. I paid poor Jimmy's bill fer clothes--the clothes that I knew he wore when he stood tall an' straight in the doorway ter meet his mother's adorin' eyes. Then I went home.

"I told Sam that Jimmy's things got burned up in the fire--which was the truth. I stopped there. Then I went to see the girl--an' right there I got the surprise of my life. She knew. He had told her the whole thing long before he come home, an' insisted on givin' her up. Jest what he meant ter do in the end, an' how he meant ter do it, she didn't know; an' she said with a great sob in her voice, that she didn't believe he knew either. All he did know, apparently, was that he didn't mean his ma should find out an' grieve over it--how he had failed. But whatever he was goin' ter do, it was taken quite out of his hands at the last.

"As fer Bessie, now,--it seems as if she can't do enough fer Sam an' Mis' Hadley, she's that good ter 'em; an' they set the world by her. She's got a sad, proud look to her eyes, but Jimmy's secret is safe.


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