Page:Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.djvu/393

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

The Widow's Son

'Keep up the fire with all the old paint that you can scrape off those things and any other old paint or rubbish that's here, and whenever it grows dull put more wood on. There's a lot of stuff here that's of no use except to be thrown away or burnt. Burn it all. If Hunter says anything, tell him that I lit the fire, and that I told you to keep it burning. If you want more wood, go out and take it.'

'All right,' replied Bert.

On his way out Owen spoke to Sawkins. His manner was so menacing, his face so pale, and there was such a strange glare in his eyes, that the latter thought of the talk there had often been about Owen being mad, and felt half afraid of him.

'I am going to the office to see Rushton. If Hunter comes here you say I told you to tell him that if I find the boy in that shop again without a fire I'll report it to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. And as for you, if the boy comes out here to get more wood, don't you attempt to interefere with him.'

'I don't want to interefere with the bloody kid,' grunted Sawkins. 'It seems to me as if he's gorn orf 'is bloody crumpet,' he added, as he watched Owen walking rapidly down the street. 'I can't understand why people can't mind their own business. Anyone would think the boy belonged to 'im.'

That was just how the matter presented itself to Owen. The idea that it was his own child who was to be treated in this way possessed and infuriated him as he strode savagely along. In the vicinity of the Grand Parade he passed, without seeing them, several groups of unemployed artizans whom he knew. Some of them were offended and remarked that he was getting stuck up, but others, observing how strange he looked, repeated the old prophecy that one of these days Owen would go out of his mind.

As he drew near to his destination large flakes of snow began to fall. He walked so rapidly and was in such a fury that by the time he reached the shop he was scarcely able to speak.

'Is—Hunter—or Rushton—here?' he demanded of the shopman.

'Hunter isn't, but the guvner is. What was it you wanted?'

'He'll soon—know—that,' panted Owen as he strode up to the office door, and without troubling to knock, flung it violently open and entered.