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    Chapter 21

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    Chapter 21
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    He sat on the edge of the couch, gazing into space, lost in tragic thought; and Mary and I sat watching him, not quite certain whether we ought to withdraw with the rest. But he did not seem aware of our presence, so we stayed.

    In our world it is not considered permissible for people to remain in company without talking. If the talk lags, we have to cast hurriedly about in our minds for something to say--it is called "making conversation." But Carpenter evidently did not know about this custom, and neither of us instructed him. Once or twice I stole a glance at Mary, marvelling at her. All her life she had been a conversational volcano, in a state of perpetual eruption; but now, apparently she passed judgment on her own remarks, and found them not worth making.

    In the doorway of the room appeared the little boy who had been knocked down by the car. He looked at Carpenter, and then came towards him. When Carpenter saw him, a smile of welcome came upon his face; he stretched out an arm, and the little fellow nestled in it. Other children appeared in the doorway, and soon he had a group about him, sitting on his knees and on the couch. They were little gutter-urchins, but he, seemingly, was interested in knowing their names and their relationships, what they learned in school, and what games they played. I think he had Bertie's foot-ball crowd in mind, for he said: "Some day they will teach you games of love and friendship, instead of rivalry and strife."

    Presently the mother of the household appeared. She was distressed, because it did not seem possible that a great man should be interested in the prattle of children, when he had people like us, evidently rich people, to talk to. "You will bother the master," she said, in Spanish. He seemed to understand, and answered, "Let the children stay with me. They teach me that the world might be happy."

    So the prattle went on, and the woman stood in the doorway, with other women behind her, all beaming with delight. They had known all their lives there was something especially remarkable about these children; and here was their pride confirmed! When the little ones laughed, and the stranger laughed with them, you should have seen the pleasure shining from a doorway full of dusky Mexican faces!

    But after a while one of the children began to rub his eyes, and the mother exclaimed--it was so late! The children had stayed awake because of the excitement, but now they must go to bed. She bundled them out of the room, and presently came back, bearing a glass of milk and a plate with bread and an orange on it. The master might be hungry, she said, with a humble little bow. In her halting English she offered to bring something to us, but she did not suppose we would care for poor people's food. She took it for granted that "poor people's food" was what Carpenter would want; and apparently she was right, for he ate it with relish. Meantime he tried to get the woman to sit on the couch beside him; but she would not sit in his presence--or was it in the presence of Mary and me? I had a feeling, as she withdrew, that she might have been glad to chat with him, if a million-dollar movie queen and a spoiled young club man had not been there to claim prior rights.
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