Page:Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.djvu/84

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The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

the best—or worst—it would only be a very few years. Even if he were able to have proper food and clothing and take reasonable care of himself, he could not live much longer; but when that time came, what was to become of them?

There would be some hope for the boy if he were more robust and if his character were less gentle and more selfish.

In order to succeed in the world it was necessary to be brutal, selfish and unfeeling: to push others aside and to take advantage of their misfortunes.

That was the ideal character.

Owen knew that Frankie's character did not come up to this lofty ideal.

Then there was Nora, how would she fare?

Owen stood up and began walking about the room, oppressed with a kind of terror. Presently he returned to the fire and began re-arranging his clothes that were drying. He found that the boots, having been placed too near the fire, had dried too quickly, and consequently the sole of one of them had begun to split away from the upper. He remedied this as well as he was able, and while turning the wetter parts of the clothing to the fire, he noticed the newspaper in the coat pocket. He drew it out with an exclamation of pleasure. Here was something to distract his thoughts. But as soon as he opened the paper his attention was rivetted by the staring headlines of one of the principal columns:




It was one of the ordinary crimes of poverty. The man had been without employment for many weeks and they had pawned or sold their furniture and other possessions. But even this resource must have failed at last, and one day the neighbours noticed that the blinds remained down and that there was a strange silence about the house. When the police entered they found, in one of the upper rooms, the dead bodies of the woman and the two children, with their throats cut, laid out side by side upon the bed, which was saturated with their blood.