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Two Prisoners   By: (1853-1922)

Book cover

First Page:

[Frontispiece: " STRAIGHT AWAY THE BIRD FLEW " See p. 63]

Two Prisoners

By Thomas Nelson Page

Illustrated in Color

by

Virginia Keep

New York

R. H. Russell

MCMIII

Copyright, 1898

By ROBERT HOWARD RUSSELL

Copyright, 1903

By HARPER & BROTHERS

To the memory of

ALFRED B. STAREY

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

are made to Messrs. Harper & Brothers, in whose magazine, Harper's Young People , when under the management of the late Alfred B. Starey, some years ago, this story in a condensed form first appeared. The story has been rewritten and amplified. T.N.P.

Illustrations

"Straight Away the Bird Flew" . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece

"Could See a Little Girl Walking About with her Nurse"

"Mildred Played Out of Doors all Day Long"

"'Are You a Princess?' Asked Molly"

"'Mother,' She Whispered"

Two Prisoners

Squeezed in between other old dingy houses down a dirty, narrow street paved with cobble stones, and having, in place of sidewalks, gutters filled with gray slop water, stood a house, older and dingier than the rest. It had a battered and knock kneed look, and it leant on the houses on either side of it, as if it were unable to stand up alone. The door was just on a level with the street, and in rainy weather the water poured in and ran through the narrow little passage leaving a silt of mud in which the children played and made tracks. The windows were broken in many places, and were stuffed with old rags, or in some places had bits of oilcloth nailed over the holes. It looked black and disreputable even in that miserable quarter, and it was. Only the poorest and the most unfortunate would stay in such a rookery. It seemed to be in charge of or, at least, ruled over by a woman named Mrs. O'Meath, a short, red faced creature, who said she had once been "a wash lady," but who had long given up a profession which required such constant use of water, and who now, so far as could be seen, used no liquid in any way except whiskey or beer.

The dingiest room in this house was, perhaps, the little hall cupboard at the head of the second flight of rickety stairs. It was small and dim. Its single window looked out over the tops of wretched little shingled houses in the bottom below to the backs of some huge warehouses beyond. The only break in the view of squalor was the blue sky over the top of the great branching elm shading the white back portico of a large house up in the high part of the town several squares off. In this miserable cupboard, hardly fit to be called a room, unfurnished except with a bed and a broken chair, lived a person a little girl if one could be said to live who lies in bed all the time. You could hardly tell her age, for the thin face looked much older than the little crooked body. There were lines around the mouth and about the white face which might have been worn by years or only by suffering. The bed ridden body was that of a child of ten or twelve. The arms and long hands looked as the face did older and as she lay in her narrow bed she might have been any moderate age. Her sandy hair was straight and faded; her dark eyes were large and sad. She was known to Mrs. O'Meath and the few people who knew her at all as "Molly." If she had any other name, it was not known. She had no father or mother, and was supposed by the lodgers to be some relative, perhaps a niece, of Mrs. O'Meath. She had never known her father. Her mother she remembered dimly, or thought she did; she was not sure. It was a dim memory of a great brightness in the shape of a young woman who was good to her and who seemed very beautiful, and it was all connected with green trees and grass, and blue skies, and birds flying about. The only other memory was of a parting, the lady covering her with kisses, and then of a great loneliness, when she did not come back, and then of a woman dropping her down the stairs and ever since then she had been lying in bed... Continue reading book >>




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