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    Homeless

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    Chapter 25
    Previous Chapter
    One cold morning at Penzance I got into an omnibus at the station to
    travel to the small town of St. Just, six or seven miles away. Just
    before we started, a party of eight or ten queer-looking people came
    hurriedly up and climbed to the top seats. They were men and women,
    with two or three children, the women carelessly dressed, the men
    chalky-faced and long-haired, in ulsters of light colours and large
    patterns. When we had travelled two or three miles one of the outside
    passengers climbed down and came in to escape from the cold, and edged
    into a place opposite mine. He was a little boy of about seven or eight
    years old, and he had a small, quaint face with a tired expression on
    it, and wore a soiled scarlet Turkish fez on his head, and a big
    pepper-and-salt overcoat heavily trimmed with old, ragged imitation
    astrachan. He was keenly alive to the sensation his entrance created
    among us when the loud buzz of conversation ceased very suddenly and
    all eyes were fixed on him; but he bore it very bravely, sitting back
    in his seat, rubbing his cold hands together, then burying them deep in
    his pockets and fixing his eyes on the roof. Soon the talk recommenced,
    and the little fellow, wishing to feel more free, took his hands out
    and tried to unbutton his coat. The top button--a big horn button--
    resisted the efforts he made with his stiff little fingers, so I undid
    it for him and threw the coat open, disclosing a blue jersey striped
    with red, green velvet knickerbockers, and black stockings, all soiled
    like the old scarlet flower-pot shaped cap. In his get-up he reminded
    me of a famous music-master and composer of my acquaintance, whose
    sense of harmony is very perfect with regard to sounds, but exceedingly
    crude as to colours. Imagine a big, long-haired man arrayed in a
    bottle-green coat, scarlet waistcoat, pink necktie, blue trousers,
    white hat, purple gloves and yellow boots! If it were not for the fact
    that he wears his clothes a very long time and never has them brushed
    or the grease spots taken out, the effect would be almost painful. But
    he selects his colours, whereas the poor little boy probably had no
    choice in the matter.

    By-and-by the humorous gentlemen who sat on either side of him began to
    play him little tricks, one snatching off his scarlet cap and the other
    blowing on his neck. He laughed a little, just to show that he didn't
    object to a bit of fun at his expense, but when the annoyance was
    continued he put on a serious face, and folding up his cap thrust it
    into his overcoat pocket. He was not going to be made a butt of!

    "Where is your home?" I asked him.

    "I haven't got a home," he returned.

    "What, no home? Where was your home when you had one?"

    "I never had a home," he said. "I've always been travelling; but
    sometimes we stay a month in a place." Then, after an interval, he
    added: "I belong to a dramatic company."

    "And do you ever go on the stage to act?" I asked.

    "Yes," he returned, with a weary little sigh.

    Then our journey came to an end, and we saw the doors and windows of
    the St. Just Working Men's Institute aflame with yellow placards
    announcing a series of sensational plays to be performed there.

    The queer-looking people came down and straggled off to the Institute,
    paying no attention to the small boy. "Let me advise you," I said,
    standing over him on the pavement, "to treat yourself to a stiff
    tumbler of grog after your cold ride," and at the same time I put my
    hand in my pocket.

    He didn't smile, but at once held out his open hand. I put some pence
    in it, and clutching them he murmured "Thank you," and went after the
    others.
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    Chapter 25
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