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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER XXIII. TELLING THE BAD NEWS.
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 All the way back to the forest not one word passed the lips of Joe. But when the two children, panting from their rapid run, reached the hut, he threw himself on the ground, covered his face for a brief instant, then asked Cecile to come to his side.  
"For I've a story to tell yer, little Missie," said Joe.
Cecile obeyed him at once. A great terror was over her, but this terror was partly assuaged by his first words.
"I ha' got some'ut to tell yer, Missie Cecile," said Joe Barnes, "some'ut 'bout my old life, the kind o' way I used to live in Paris and Lunnon."
At the words Cecile raised her little flower face with a sigh of relief; she was not going to hear of any fresh trouble; it was only an old, old woe, and Joe needed comfort.
"Dear Joe," said the little girl, "yes, tell me about Paris and London."
Joe felt himself shrinking away from the little caressing movement Cecile made. He looked at her for an instant out of two great hollow eyes, then began in a dull kind of voice.
"It don't make much real differ," he said, "only I thought as I'd like fur yer to know as it wor a werry bitter temptation.
"I remember the last night as I slept along o' my mother, Missie Cecile, how she petted me, and fondled of me.
"Then I wor stolen away, and my master brought me to Paris. We lived in a werry low part o' Paris, high up in a garret. I wor taught to play the fiddle—I wor taught by blows; and when they did not do, I wor made real, desperate hungry. I used to be given jest one meal a day, and when the others as did better nor me wor eating, I had to stand by and wait on 'em. Then, when I knew enough, I wor sent into the streets to play, and when I did not bring in enough money, I wor beat worse nor ever. One day my master sold me to an Englishman. Talk o' slaves! well, this man give my master a lot o' money fur me. I seed the money, and they told me as I wor apprenticed to him, and that I could not run away, for ef I did, the law 'ud bring me back. My new master tuk me to England. He tuk me to Lunnon. It wor bad in Paris, but in Lunnon it wor worse. I wor farther from my mother. I wor out o' my own country, and I did not know a word of English.
"Oh! I did find out wot hunger and cold and misery wor in London. Nobody—nobody give me even a kind word, except one poor lad worse off nor myself. He belonged to hour company, and he broke his leg. My master would not send him to 'orspitle, and he died. But afore he died he taught me a bit of English, and I picked up more by and by. I grew bigger, and the years went on. Oh! it wor a dreadful life. I did nothink but long for my mother and pine for the old home, and once I tried to run away. I wor found the first time, and kep' in a dark cellar on bread and water for a week arter.
"Then I seed you and Maurice at the night-school. I heerd you say you wor goin' to France, and when I heerd sech plucky words from sech a little mite as you, Missie, why I thought as I'd try to run away again; and the second time, no matter how, I succeeded. I had wot I called real luck, and I got to France, and there, jest outside Calais, I met you two, and I thought as I wor made. Oh, Missie Cecile, but for the purse o' gold—but for the purse o' gold, I might ha' been made."
Here Joe paused, again covered his face, and groaned most bitterly.
"The purse of gold is quite safe with Miss Smith in Paris," said Cecile, in a tone of surprise. "Dear Joe, I don't quite understand you. Those were dreadful days, but they are over. You will soon see your old mother again. All the dreadful days are over, Joe dear."
"Ah! Missie, but that's jest wot they ain't. But I likes to hear you say 'dear Joe' once again, for soon, when you know all, you'll hate me."
"Then may I kiss you before I know all? and I don't think I could hate you, Jography."
"Ah! yes," said Joe, receiving the little kiss with almost apath............
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