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Some of the party told me of the reception that followed, and of the little fellow who squirmed and squirmed in the grasp of the President's hand, twisting this way and that, in desperate search of something, until Mr. Roosevelt asked him whom he was looking for.
“The President,” gasped the lad, twisting harder to get away, for fear he would lose his chance. And then the look of amazed incredulity that came into his face when the man who still had him by the hand said that he was the President. He must have felt as I did when I first met King Christian in Copenhagen, and learned who the man in the blue overcoat was, with whom I had such a good time telling him all about my boyish ambitions and my father and home, while we climbed the stairs to the picture exhibition in the palace of Charlottenborg. The idea of a real king in an overcoat and a plain hat! I had had my doubts about whether he took off his crown when he went to bed at night.
That is the boy of it, I suppose; and they are all alike. If any, you would think the precocious youngster from the East-side Jewry would be excepted; but he is not. I have a
fairly representative specimen in mind, who wrote home from his vacation in Maine, “ Tom Reed has seen me twice." But when at last the privilege was vouchsafed to President Roosevelt, speech and sense forsook our East-sider, and he stood and looked on, gaping, the fine oration he had committed to memory clean gone out of his head. He explained his break after the President was gone.
“Why,” he gasped," he was just like any other plain-clothes man!”
A ribbon or sash, at least, with a few stars and crosses, a fellow might have expected. And, when you come to think of it, it is not so strange. Look at the general of the army in gala suit, and at the President, his commanderin-chief. Which makes me think again of Mr. Cleveland, who, when he was governor, togged out his staff in the most gorgeous clothes ever seen, and when heading it on his way to a public function, himself in plain black, was stopped by an underling, who took one glance at the procession and waved it back.
The band goes the other way," he said. Long years after, Mr. Cleveland had not stopped laughing at the recollection of the look
that sat upon the faces of the gold-laced company of distinguished citizens.
But I was thinking of President Roosevelt's affection for children. It is just the experience of an unspoiled nature that reaches out for what is pure and natural. I remember that the day we were making the trip of the tenement-house sweat-shops together, we came, in one of the Italian flats, upon a little family scene. A little girl was going to confirmation, all dressed in white, with flowers and veil. She stood by her grandmother's chair in the dingy room, a radiant vision, with reverently bowed head as the aged hand was laid in trembling benediction upon her brow. The Governor stopped on the threshold and surveyed the scene with kindling eyes.
“Sweet child,” he said, and learned her name and age from the parents, who received us with the hospitable courtesy of their people. “Tell them,” to the interpreter,
am glad I came in to see her, and that I believe she will be always as good and innocent as she is now, and a very great help to her mother and her venerable grandmother." That time I did get a chance to tell them who it was
that had come to the feast, so that it might add to the pleasure of the day for them. I just sneaked back and told them.
The children usually take to him, as he to them, in the same perfect good faith. We saw it in Mulberry Street, after he had gone, when two little tots came from over on the East Side asking for “the Commissioner," that they might obtain justice. I can see them now: the older a little hunchback girl, with her poor shawl pinned over her head and the sober look of a child who has known want and pinching poverty at an age when she should have been at play, dragging her reluctant baby brother by the hand. His cheeks were tear-stained, and his little nose was bruised and bloody, and he was altogether an unhappy boy, in his rôle of “evidence,” under the scrutiny of the big policeman at the door. It was very plain that he would much rather not have been there. But the decrees of fate were no more merciless than his sister's grasp on him as she marched him in and put the case to the policeman. They had come from Allen Street, then the Red Light District. Some doubtful “ladies ” had moved into their tenement, she explained, and
the other tenants had “made trouble" with the police. The “ladies,” locating the source of the trouble in their flat, had seized upon the child and punched ” his nose. They had even had to send for a doctor. She unrolled a bundle and showed a bottle of medicine in corroboration. Her brother had suffered and the household had been put to expense. Seeing which, she had collected her evidence and come straight to Police Headquarters to Commissioner.” Having said it, she waited calmly for directions, sure that when she found the Commissioner they would get justice.
And they did get it, though Roosevelt was no longer there. It was for him they had come. Nothing that happened in all that time showed better how deep was the mark he left. It was his legacy to Mulberry Street that the children should come there seeking justice, and their faith was not to be put to shame.
In those days he would sometimes slip away with me from Headquarters for an hour with the little Italians in the Sullivan Street Industrial School, or some other work of the Children's Aid Society, in which his father had borne a strong hand. It was after the first