But there were really not many people passing, for it was Thanksgiving day, and the shops were shut, and everybody who had a home to go to, and a dinner to eat, seemed to have gone home to Bert Hampton, the newsboy, stood trying in vain to sell the last Extra left on his hands by the dull business of the morning.
An old man, with a face that looked pinched, and who was dressed in a seedy black coat, stopped at the same doorway, and, with one hand on the latch, he appeared to hesitate between hunger and a sense of poverty, before going in.
It was possible, however, that he was considering whether he could afford himself the indulgence of a morning paper, seeing it was Thanksgiving day; so at least Bert thought, and addressed him accordingly:—
“Buy a paper, sir? All about the fire in East Boston, and arrest of safe-burglars in Springfield. Only two cents.”
The little old man looked at the boy, with keen gray eyes which seemed to light up the pinched look of his face, and answered in a shrill voice:—
“You ought to come down in your price, this time of day. You can’t expect to sell a morning paper at 12 o’clock for full price.”
“Well, give me a cent, then,” said Bert. “That’s less than cost; but never mind. I’m bound to sell out, anyhow.”
“You look cold,” said the old man.
“Cold,” replied Bert, “I’m nearly froze. And I want my dinner. And I’m going to have a big dinner, too, seeing it’s Thanksgiving day.”
“Ah! lucky for you, my boy!” said the old man. “You’ve a home to go to, and friends, too I hope.”
“No, sir; no home, and no friend—only my mother.” Bert hesitated and grew serious, then suddenly changed his tone—”and Hop Houghton. I told him to meet me here, and we’d have a first-rate Thanksgiving dinner together, for it’s no fun to be eating alone Thanksgiving day! It sets a fellow thinking,—if he ever had a home, and then hasn’t got a home any more.”
“It’s more lonesome not to eat at all,” said the old man, his gray eyes twinkling. “And what can a boy like you have to think of? Here, I guess I can find one cent for you—though there’s nothing in the paper, I know.”
The old man spoke with some feeling, his fingers trembled, and somehow he dropped two cents instead of one into Bert’s hand.