Lo, Michael (Chapter 8, page 1 of 8)

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Chapter 8

Thirteen years in New York had brought many changes. Some of the well-remembered landmarks were gone and new buildings in their places. A prosperous looking saloon quite palatial in its entrance marked the corner where he used to sell papers. It used to be a corner grocery store. Saloons! Always and everywhere there were saloons! Michael looked at them wonderingly. He had quite forgotten them in his exile, for the college influence had barred them out from its vicinity.

The boy Mikky had been familiar enough with saloons, looking upon them as a necessary evil, where drinking fathers spent the money that ought to have bought their children food. He had been in and out of them commonly enough selling his papers, warming his feet, and getting a crust now and then from an uneaten bit on the lunch counter. Sometimes there had been glasses to drain, but Mikky with his observing eyes had early decided that he would have none of the stuff that sent men home to curse their little children.

College influence, while there had been little said on the subject, had filled the boy with horror for saloons and drunkards. He stood appalled now as he turned at last into an alley where familiar objects, doorsteps, turnings, cellars, met his gaze, with grog shops all along the way and sentinelling every corner.

A strange feeling came over him as memory stirred by long-forgotten sights awoke. Was this really the place, and was that opening beyond the third steps the very blind alley where Janie used to live? Things were so much dirtier, so much, worse in every way than he remembered them.

He hurried on, not noticing the attention he was attracting from the wretched little children in the gutters, though he scanned them all eagerly, hurriedly, with the, wild idea that Buck and the rest might be among them.

Yes, the alley was there, dark and ill-smelling as ever, and in its dim recesses on a dirty step a woman's figure hunched; a figure he knew at once that he had seen before and in that very spot. Who was she? What had they called her? Sally? Aunt Sal?

He hurried up to where she sat looking curiously, apathetically at him; her gray hair straggling down on her dirty cotton frock open at the neck over shrivelled yellow skin; soiled old hands hanging carelessly over slatternly garments; stockingless feet stuck into a great tattered pair of men's shoes. Nothing seemed changed since he saw her last save that the hair had been black then, and the skin not so wrinkled. Aunt Sally had been good natured always, even when she was drunk; her husband, when he came home was always drunk also, but never good natured. These things came back to the boy as he stood looking down at the wreck of a woman before him.

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