Mr. Layton gave Little Albert a thoughtful stare. The lad was an excellent liar and a thief. The boy had shown those colors when he worked in his newspaper shop. There was no telling Little Albert would walk the straight and narrow if given a second chance. He might try to steal from his shop again, but if his needs were met he might grow into the potential he showed. Maybe if given a bed in his home, food from his table, and decent wages, Little Albert might escape the dark future the streets of East London promised.
“Do you promise to end this nasty habit of yours?” asked Mr. Layton.
“Ye mean me sticky fingers?”
Mr. Layton chuckled and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Yes. That nasty habit.”
Little Albert eyed him up and down, as if he feared Mr. Layton held a knife behind his back. “Do ye promise t’ give me good pay? An’ a place t’ stay? Do ye promise?”
“Yes. I promise.”
“Then I promise t’ no’ steal from ye again. I’ll redeem me self in yer eyes.”
Mr. Layton stood up, briefly rubbing his knee which ached from kneeling for too long. He scanned the crowd gathering around the printing press, their faces alight with amazement from the machine that earned him his living. Wait until they saw the mechanism in action. Once it started spitting out newspapers their mouths would be gaping open.
“You can start now,” said Mr. Layton as he went over to the machine with Little Albert on his heels.
“What do ye wish me t’ do?” asked the boy.
Mr. Layton pointed to a stack of newspapers. “Distribute those to the people in the crowd. And try to get the ninnies who are fascinated by the French exhibit to come here. They must see the wonders their own country can offer.”
As his newly acquired boss stood behind the printing press and began to show the crowd of onlookers how the machine functioned, Little Albert grabbed dozens of the Illustrated London News and shoved them into the hands of every person he came by.
Passing out the papers amongst the Great Exhibition, a display of humanity’s advancements and triumphs, Little Albert thought there was more to the Crystal Palace than the miraculous machines, pretty baubles, and wondrous technologies. It was capable of bringing together the world’s people, who were more than able of making such marvels. They were people capable of sins and greed and evil, but they were also capable of generosity and kindness and forgiveness. Perhaps something about the Crystal Palace and the collaboration of nations on such a project brought out the best of not just the world’s advancements, but of the people who created them.