Both Ben and Tom, the two thieves who “adopt” Ren from the orphanage, had lived far differently before they became thieves. Ren becomes curious about Tom’s background when he sees Tom’s writing on some patent medicine bottle labels (chapter 11). When he asks why his handwriting is so good, he finds out that Tom used to be a teacher. The story Tom tells concerns his friendship with another man, Christian. The problem began when both men fell in love with the same woman. Although she chose the wealthier Christian, she also continued her romance with Tom. In a confrontation between the two men when Tom was drunk, Christian became so distraught that he threatened suicide. Thinking that he was bluffing, Tom urged him to shoot himself, which he did. Overcome by guilt, Tom left the town.