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- Tales of the Road - 44/44 -


girls--one of ten, another of about fourteen. They took turns at singing--sometimes in the same song.

"All three wore neat black clothes--not a spark of color about them except the sparkling keys of the concertina. They were not common looking, poorly clad, dirty street musicians. They were refined, even beautiful. The little group looked strangely out of place. I said to myself: 'How have these people come to this?'

"How those two girls could sing! Their voices were sweet and full. I quit my business, and a little bunch of us--two more of the boys on the road having joined me--stood on the sidewalk.

"The little girl sang this song," continued my companion, reading from a little printed slip:

"Dark and drear the world has grown as I wan-der all a-lone, And I hear the breezes sob-bing thro' the pines. I can scarce hold back my tears, when the southern moon ap-pears, For 'tis our humble cottage where it shines; Once again we seem to sit, when the eve-ning lamps are lit, With our faces turned to-ward the golden west, When I prayed that you and I ne'er would have to say 'Good-bye,' But that still to-gether we'd be laid to rest.

"As she sang, a lump kind of crawled up in my throat. None of us spoke.

"She finished this verse and went into the crowd to sell printed copies of their songs, leaving her older sister to take up the chorus. And I'll tell you, it made me feel that my lot was not hard when I saw one of those sweet, modest little girls passing around a cup, her mother playing in the dusty street, and her sister singing,--to just any one that would listen.

"The chorus was too much for me. I bought the songs. Here it is:

CHORUS.

"Dear old girl, the rob-in sings a-bove you, Dear old girl, it speaks of how I love you, The blind-ing tears are fall-ing, As I think of my lost pearl, And my broken heart is call-ing, Calling you, dear old girl.

"Just as the older sister finished this chorus and started to roll down the street a little brother, who until now had remained in his baby carriage unnoticed, the younger girl came where we were. I had to throw in a dollar. We all chipped in something. One of the boys put his fingers deep into the cup and let drop a coin. Tears were in his eyes. He went to the hotel without saying a word.

"The little girl went away, but soon she came back and said: 'One of you gentlemen has made a mistake. You aimed, mama says, to give me a nickel, but here is a five-dollar gold piece.'

"'It must be the gentleman who has gone into the hotel,' said I.

"Then I'll go find him,' said the little girl. 'Where is it?'

"Well, sir, what do you suppose happened? The little girl told the man who'd dropped in the five, how her father, who had been well to do, was killed in a mine accident in Colorado and that although he was considerable to the good, creditors just wiped up all he had left his family. The mother--the family was Italian--had taught her children music and they boldly struck out to make their living in the streets. It was the best they could do.

"The man who had put in the five was a jewelry salesman from New York. While out on a trip he had lost his wife and three children in the Slocum disaster. He just sent the whole family,--the mother, the two sisters, and the baby--to New York and told them to go right into his home and live there--that he would see them through.

"I was down at the depot when the family went aboard, and it was beautiful to see the mother take that man's hand in both of hers and the young girls hug him and kiss him like he was their father."


Tales of the Road - 44/44

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