Lo, Michael (Chapter 4, page 2 of 8)

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Chapter 4

The boys' dormitory was presided over by a woman who, while thorough in all housekeeping arrangements, had certainly mistaken her calling as a substitute mother for boys. She kept their clothes in order, saw to it that their rooms were aired, their stockings darned and their lights out at exactly half-past nine, but the grimness of her countenance forbade any familiarity, and she never thought of gaining the confidence of her rough, but affectionate charges. There was no tenderness in her, and Mikky never felt like smiling in her presence. He came and went with a sort of high, unconscious superiority that almost irritated the woman, because she was not great enough to see the unusual spirit of the child; and as a consequence she did not win his heart.

But he did not miss the lack of motherliness in her, for he had never known a mother and was not expecting it.

The professors he grew to like, some more, some less, always admiring most those who seemed to him to deal in a fair and righteous manner with their classes--fairness being judged by the code in use among "the kids" in New York. But that was before he grew to know the president. After that his code changed.

His first interview with that dignitary was on an afternoon when he had been overheard by the matron to use vile language among the boys at the noon hour. She hauled him up with her most severe manner, and gave him to understand that he must answer to the president for his conduct.

As Mikky had no conception of his offence he went serenely to his fate walking affably beside her, only wishing she would not look so sour. As they crossed the campus to the president's house a blue jay flew overhead, and a mocking bird trilled in a live oak near-by. The boy's face lighted with joy and he laughed out gleefully, but the matron only looked the more severe, for she thought him a hardened little sinner who was defying her authority and laughing her to scorn. After that it was two years before she could really believe anything good of Mikky.

The president was a noble-faced, white-haired scholar, with a firm tender mouth, a brow of wisdom, and eyes of understanding. He was not the kind who win by great athletic prowess, he was an old-fashioned gentleman, well along in years, but young in heart. He looked at the child of the slums and saw the angel in the clay.

He dismissed the matron with a pleasant assurance and took Mikky to an inner office where he let the boy sit quietly waiting a few minutes till he had finished writing a letter. If the pen halted and the kind eyes furtively studied the beautiful face of the child, Mikky never knew it.

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