THE NEWSBOY'S DEBT
( A Victorian Tale ) Anon Newsboy Only last year, at Christmas Tide While pacing down the the city street A tiny, ill-clad paperboy As ragged as you'd ever meet Raised his torn cap with purple hands Said, "Paper sir, The Evening News?" He brushed away a freezing tear And shivered, "Oh sir, don't refuse!" "How many have you?... never mind! I'll take them all and here's a crown, You'll get change there, across the street My office is the third one down. What is your name?" "Jim Hanley, sir." "And tell me... when did you last eat?" "I don't recall... I'll get your change." And off he darted, down the street. "Why, where's that boy?... and where's the change? He should have brought an hour ago. Ah well, ah well... they're all alike, I was a fool to tempt him so!" Just two days later as I sat, Half dozing in my office chair, I heard a timid knock and called In my brusque Manner, "Who is there?" An urchin entered, barely seven And stood half doubtful at the door. "Sir, if you please... My brother, Jim... The one you gave the crown, before, 'E couldn't bring the money, sir Because 'is back was 'urted so. 'E didn't mean to keep the change But sir, 'e wanted you should know. 'E got runned over up the street One wheel went tight across 'is back And t'other mashed 'is feet and something Gave 'is 'ead an awful smack!" They took 'im to the 'orspital, One of the newsboys knew it was Jim. And I went too because you see We were two brothers... I and 'im. This mornin' when they brought 'im to, 'E cried because you might 'ave thought 'Ed stole the crown 'e lorst that day, And kept the change 'e never brought. When 'e gets well... 'e won't be long, If you will call the money, 'lent' 'E says 'e'll work 'is fingers orf At what 'e owes you... every cent!" "Your brother's badly had!... run out, And hail a cab and wait for me, Why, I'd give a thousand crowns... For such an honest boy, as he." In half an hour, we stood together, Looking down at poor, pale Jim. A nurse beside us softly whispered, "Do not try to talk to him." I thought him smiling in his sleep And scarce believed her when she said, Smoothing away the tangled hair From childish brow, "The boy is dead!" I turned and something in my throat Made it impossible to speak My sight was blurred as tears cascaded, Unchecked, down my manly cheek. Dead?... dead so soon, how young he looked, Pale and cold as marble rare, Poor lad!... Well, he would live in Heaven And God's sweet love... will warm him there.
The end