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by Calvin Johnson

Genre: Drama
Format of Original Source: Short Story
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Reviewed


“Do you mean you can’t pay?” asks Molly after a moment’s reflection. “Now what am I to do?”

“Throw me out,” instructs Tim, with contempt of her ignorance.

“Into the storm? Oh, no!”

“Why not?” he asks with suspicion.

“Faith, I wouldn’t treat a dog so,” replied Molly.

“Sure, not a dog,” agrees Tim; and waiting to be driven out stands arrow-straight in Danny’s old clothes, which are too big for him, wondering what the dog has to do with the matter.

“But you can pay,” says Molly after a moment. Faintly and eagerly she speaks, her hand pressing her heart to steady it in against the impulse of hope. “You can pay for that and much more–food and drink and warmth all the days of my life–and without money.” Tim shrewdly glances his question, but Molly shakes her head for answer.

“To-night I will keep secret and plan how to arrange it–and you may sleep here on the sofa before the fire and dream of good things for to-morrow; and only then”–she nods with mystery in her smile–“I will say what ye are to do.”


There are two messengers of the title: the main messenger is a homeless boy who scrabbles his way to earn a place in society; the other is a nautical lantern which is a metaphor for moral condut. The first quarter of the story is fairly interesting, concerning a mother’s efforts to get her promising son to knuckle down with his studies and made something of himself, and you might make a satisfying little tragedy out of her portion of the story. But once the son’s rival (the homeless boy) makes his appearance, the story wanders and meanders through many many events and years, until a final confrontation with the son concludes the story (in a rather unsatisfying way). Pass on the story of the waif; but you might look at the story of the mother. A side note: the author ambitiously uses the present tense throughout the story, making for awkward, unecessarily difficult reading.


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