"But I might as well get used to it," he reflected grimly. "Looks like the only way for me now."
A man came to the door fumbling for the key. He'd be a rich man, belonging as he did to this exclusive club and having a key to enter by the side door. The woman who had gotten out of the car with him waited at the bottom of the steps.
Donley came close, muttering in a shamed voice: "Could you stake me to the price of a meal, Sir? I've not eaten today."
"Sorry, fellow, but I've no change with me," the man said crisply.
Donley shrank back and hung over the railing with his back turned, until they should go.
"I didn't bring the right key," said the man to his companion. We must go to the other door."
"What did he want?" the woman asked, nodding toward Donley as they turned to the street.
"Price of a meal. Said he was hungry."
"Oh Larry! We can't go in and eat a meal we don't need, and leave a hungry man out here."
"There's one of them begging on every corner now. Likely he wants the money for booze. Anyway I have nothing less than ten dollars, and I don't see myself handing that to a bum."
"He looks hungry. I couldn't eat for thinking of him. You know what Christ says to the unrighteous in the day of judgment: 'I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat.' I don't want Him to say that to me. I'll have to give food to Christ, wait a minute; I have something in my purse."
Donley, with his back turned in shame, could hear it all. An electric shock passed through him. She was talking about Christ, just as his mother used to do back home. His mother had read that very same verse to him more than once. He could almost hear her saying it now. He had supposed vaguely that rich people didn't think about Christ, didn't need Him with all the other things that they had. But here was this woman, beautiful and gentle, dressed in luxurious clothes, talking about Christ, as if He were a real person to be met any moment.
She touched his arm, and he turned about. She was standing before him, looking up into his face. "Here is a dollar; buy yourself some food. And don't loose courage, even if things look hard. There's a job somewhere for you. I hope you'll find it soon."
He could only stammer pitifully: "I'll buy food, not booze. You've given me a fresh start, lady. I'll never forget your kindness."
"You'll be eating Christ's bread. Pass it on," she said and smiled at him in a friendly fashion, as if he were a man, not a bum. Then she was gone to join her escort who waited at the steps. She left a faint breath of sweetness behind.
Donley started toward the region of cheap eating houses. His head was up. A good meal would enable him to try again. He could get a meal for fifty cents; there would be half a dollar left ,Thver for food tomorrow. He ); ould be eating Christ's bread these two days. Again, that feeling as of an electric shock passed over him. Christ's bread! But, look here, one could not save up Christ's bread just for one's self!
An old man was shuffling along just ahead of him. Donley had seen him before at two places where he had asked for work. Poor old chap! It was hard times, looking for work when one got to that age. Maybe the old duffer was hungry, too. Christ's bread must be shared. Suddenly Donley felt a great uplifting of the heart. He, too, could give. A dollar was enough for both of them. Tomorrow? Well, Donley felt an amazing sureness ,sbout that.
"Hey, Buddy, what do you say to going in and getting us a good meal?"
The old man turned, his watery eyes blinking up at Donley. "You wouldn't go to fool me?" he quavered.
Donley assured him that he would not, but the old man couldn't believe it until he was seated at the oilcloth-covered table with a bowl of hot stew before him. Donley ordered grandly. They ate with concentration. Presently Donley noticed that the old man was wrapping up his buttered bread in a paper napkin.
"Well, Buddy, do you have too much?"
"N-no. There's a kid down here. Old man out on a drunk, nice kid. Had tough luck. He was crying a little when I passed; hungry. I aim to give him the bread."
Christ's bread! Donley was shaken as by a mystic presence, a third Guest, at that oilcloth-covered table. "Let's both take him our bread. We've got plenty without it. I'll wrap up my pie, too."
They wrapped up the food and carried it out with them. The old man led the way to where the boy stood with a few papers that he was trying to sell.
"Here, kid, eat this," said the old man proudly.
The boy began to greedily eat the bread; then he stopped, and called a dog that hung back in the alley; a frightened, lost dog, as one could see at a glance. "Here, Jack, you can have half," he said.
Christ's bread! Ah! Yes! It would go to the four-footed brother, too.
The kid stood up gamely now, and began to cry out his papers. He sold three while they watched.
"Good-by," said Donley to the old man. "There is a job for you somewhere. You'll find it soon; just hang on. You know"—his voice sank to a whisper—"what we have eaten is Christ's bread. A lady told me so when she gave me the dollar. We're naturally bound to have good luck."
"Yes sir," agreed the old man. "I've thought of a new place where maybe they need a night watchman. I wouldn't ask much pay. It would be a warm place to stay, though, and I'd earn enough to buy my eats. Yes sir, we're just naturally bound to have good luck."
Donley parted with his pensioners and went his way. He, too, had thought of a new place to ask for a job. He was turned down, but somehow it didn't hurt so much this time, and as he was going out the man said: "Come hack next week. Maybe things will open up a little by that time!'
As he turned away from the shop he noticed that the lost dog was following him. "Did you know furnished the grub, old fellow? I haven't got any more. But don't worry; we'll have more tomorrow."
In fondling the dog he felt a narrow strap around his neck, and found a license tag and an address.
"You're in luck," he said to the dog. "Someone wants you. Guess you'll eat tomorrow, all right. Come along, I'll take you home."
It was a long walk uptown, but after a while the dog was barking madly at a door which was opened by a starched, disapproving maid.
"Come in," she said coldly to Donley. "The master will see you. He told me to bring in the person who brought the dog home."
Donley hesitated. He could hardly say to this stranger that he had had to do it because he had eaten Christ's bread.
"He followed me from down in the market district. I stopped to pat him and I found the tag. I like dogs. wanted to bring him back to his own folks."
The keen-eyed man had meant to say sharply,"Didn't you steal him for the sake of the reward?" But he didn't say it. There was something of dignity about Donley that day. Instead, the man found himself saying, "I advertised in last night's paper. Ten dollars reward."
"I didn't know—I didn't see the paper. It wasn't for the reward—"
"I can see that. I'm glad it came to you. Thanks, and good luck to you."
Donley looked at the bill in his hand, half dazed. "I don't like to take it. I just wanted to do the dog a good turn,"
"Take it along. What you did is worth more than that to me. And if you want a job, come to my office tomorrow, I may have something for you."
Donley walked down the avenue, the bill clutched in his hand. A miracle! Had he been down and out, hopeless? There was Christ's bread. It had multiplied like the loaves and fishes that he had read about in the country Sunday School long ago, long, long ago. Once one had eaten it, one didn't need to be afraid of going hungry any more. There was enough of that bread for all. Here were courage, and a job, and a new chance, and always something to pass on to the other hungry ones. Oh, something more than the bread that one could see!
And the world could not beat the man who had eaten holy bread!