VOL. V. MAY, 1878. No. 7.
[Copyright, 1878, by Scribner & Co.]
HOW MANDY WENT ROWING WITH THE "CAP'N."
BY MARY HALLOCK FOOTE.
It was the month of May—the season of fresh shad and apple-blossoms on the Hudson River. "Bub" and "Mandy" Lewis knew more about the shad than they did about the apple-blossoms, for their father was a fisherman, and they lived in a little house built on a steep bank between the road above and the river below. Sometimes, on cool, damp spring evenings, the scent of the orchards came down to them from the hills above, but the smell of shad was much stronger and nearer.
Just in front of the house was an old wharf, where fishing-boats were moored, and nets spread for drying or mending. One morning, Bub and Mandy were sitting on the log which guards the edge of the wharf, watching their father and brother Jeff getting ready to spread the nets for next night's "haul." Jeff was busy with the buoy lines and sinkers, while the father bailed out the boat with an old tin pan. The children were rather subdued—Bub wondering how long it would be before he could "handle a boat" like Jeff and go out with his father? Mandy was expecting every moment to hear her mother's voice calling from the house. It was Monday morning, and Mandy knew her mother would soon be starting for the Hillard's, where she "helped" on Mondays and Saturdays.
These were the longest days of the week to Mandy, for then she had baby to tend all by herself and he was "such a bother!"
Yes, there it was: "Mandy!—Mandy!—Mandy Lewis! don't you hear?" Mandy kept her eyes gloomily fixed on the curve of her father's back, as it bent and rose in the boat below, in time with the scra-a-a-pe, swish, of the bailer.
"What's the use makin' b'l'eve you don't hear?" said Bub. "You know you've got to go!"
"I just wish mother'd make you tend baby once, and see how you'd like it!"—and Mandy rose with an impatient jerk of her bonnet-strings and slowly climbed the steep path to the house. Her mother, standing in the door-way with baby on one arm, shaded her eyes from the sun as she watched the cloudy face under the pink bonnet. It was always cloudy on Mondays and Saturdays.
"Seems as if you didn't love your little brother, Mandy—such work as you make of tendin' him! Just look how glad he is to see you," as baby leaned forward and began pulling at the pink bonnet. "He's just had his bread and milk, and if you set right there in the door, where he can watch the chickens, I shouldn't wonder if he'd be real good for ever so long. Father and Jeff wont be home to dinner, but there's plenty of bread and butter and cold beans in the closet for you and Bub. You can set the beans in the oven to warm, if you like—only be sure you put 'em on an old plate; and you can divide what's left of the ginger-bread between you."
"Oh, mother! can't we eat it now?" said Bub, who had watched his father and Jeff off in the boat, and, now returning to the house, didn't quite know what to do next.
"Why, it aint an hour sence breakfast! But you can do as you like; only, if Mandy eats hers, baby'll want it, sure. Better wait till he's asleep."
"All right; Mandy can wait," said Bub, cheerfully, as his mother set the plate of cake on the table before leaving the house.
"Oh, Bub, I'm awful hungry, too!" said Mandy. "You cut the cake in halves,—mind you cut fair,—and hold my piece for me where baby can't see it. Sit right here behind me."
So Mandy on the door-step, and Bub on the floor, with his back against the door, which he gently tilted as he munched his cake, were very silent and comfortable for a minute or two.
The hens crawed and cackled, with cozy, gossipy noises, in the sun before the door; the baby blinked and cooed contentedly.
"Ready for another bite?" said Bub, holding out Mandy's cake close to her left ear.
"In a min-ute," said Mandy, with her mouth full. "Bub Lewis, aint you ashamed of yourself? You've been eatin' off my piece! I saw you just now!"
"Aint, either! You can see great things with the back of your head! Here's your piece 'n' here's mine. Yours is ever so much bigger!"
"Well, you've been gobbling yours's fast's you could, and I only had two little bites off mine."
"Little bites! I sh'd think so! Don't know what you call big ones, then! So chuck full you couldn't speak half a minute ago. Here, hold your own cake, and let baby grab it!"
"Well, I'd rather give it all to him, than have you eat it up on the sly!"
Bub walked down toward the water without deigning a reply, but thought of several things on his way which would have been more withering than silence.
Mandy did not enjoy the rest of her cake very much,—eating it furtively, so baby should not want it, and dropping crumbs on his little white head, which he kept twisting around, to see what she was doing. She began to think that perhaps she had been rather hasty in accusing Bub; but surely that was the right-hand piece, instead of the left, he was biting from? Well, anyway, it didn't much matter now the cake was all eaten. The old rooster had wandered round the corner of the house, where he was presently heard calling to his favorite hen. She ran, and all the others followed. Baby grew restless, and made little impatient noises, and the sun was getting very hot and bright on the door-step. What was Bub doing down there among the nets on the drying-ground? He had been very still, with his head bent down and his hands moving about for ever so long.
Mandy felt that, after their late unpleasantness, it would be more dignified to take no notice of Bub for a while; but curiosity, and baby's restlessness, finally prevailed over pride, and rolling up her troublesome little burden in an old red shawl, she trotted with him down to the river.
"Bub," she said, after standing by him some time in silence, watching him driving a row of small sticks into the ground, "was it my piece you was bitin' off?"
"I told you 't wasn't. If you don't b'l'eve me, what's the use o' my sayin' so again?"
"Well, I'm sorry, Bub. I just caught a sight of you as I turned my head, an' I thought—"
"Oh, well, never mind what you thought; we've heard enough 'bout that cake! Shove your foot one side a little? I want to drive another spile there. Them's the hitchin' spiles on the inside."
"What you buildin'?" asked Mandy.
"Can't you see for yourself? What's built on spiles, I'd like to know! Meetinghouses, may be you think. This is Lewis's dock; all the day boats and barges stop here!"
"Where's the water?" asked Mandy.
"Oh, you wait till high tide, 'bout four o'clock this afternoon, 'n' you'll see water enough!"
Just then, a boy in a blue blouse, with a basket of fish over his shoulder, came whistling along.
"Perry! Perry Kent! Where you goin'?" Bub called.
"Down to little cove, to clean fish."
"Oh, can't I go along and help? I can scale a herrin' first-rate; father said so."
"Aint herrin'; they're shad; got to be cleaned very partic'lar, too. But come along, if you want to."
"Bub," said Mandy, in an eager whisper, "oh, Bub, wait for me! Baby's fast asleep. I'll lay him right down here, in his shawl; the nets'll keep the sun off, 'n' he'll be real cozy 'n' nice till we get back."
"Why don't you take him up to the house?" said Perry, looking with some interest at Mandy's bundle. "'Taint a very good place for him here. You'll find us at the cove, all right."
"He'll wake up sure, if I try to carry him up the hill. See how nice he lays; and I'll hang the end of the shawl over this net-pole. I can see it plain enough from the cove. If he wakes up, he'll be tumblin' round and pull it off, so I'll know when to come back for him."
"Well, it takes a girl for contrivance," Perry said; and it was something in his manner rather than the words which made Mandy, as she followed the two boys, vaguely feel she was disapproved of.
The cove was a half-circle of pebble beach, washed by the ripples of a slowly rising tide, with a wall of gray slate rock at the back. Hemlock-trees leaned from the steep wooded cliff above, the shadows of their boughs moving with the wind across the sunny face of the rock.
It was very warm and still and bright. Mandy climbed to a perch high up in the twisted roots of an old hemlock, who, having ventured too far over the edge of the cliff, was clinging there, desperately driving his tough toes into the crevices of the rock, and wildly waving his boughs upward and backward as if imploring help from his comrades, safe in the dark wood above.
The river spread broad and bright below her. Mandy listened, in happy silence, to all the mysterious rustlings and twitterings and cracklings in the wood above, and the sounds, far and near, from the river below. Now and then she looked to see if the shawl still fluttered from the net-pole. She was glad she came, and it seemed but a very little while before the fish were all cleaned, and the boys, sitting on a rock, skipping pebbles, and watching for Perry Kent's father, who was coming in his boat to take the fish up to the hotel.
Perry's father was always called Cap'n Kent. He kept a kind of floating restaurant. One end of his boat was boarded over into a closet, with shelves filled with a supply of fresh fruit and berries in the season, cider, cakes, pies, root-beer, lemons, crackers, etc. His customers were chiefly the "hands" on board sloops becalmed opposite the landing, or passing barges and canal-boats, slowly trailed in the wake of a panting propeller, or escorted by dingy little "tugs," struggling along like lively black beetles.
The "Cap'n" was a very tall man, and his arms were so long that, as he rowed, he sat quite upright, only stretching his arms back and forth, scarcely bending his body at all. This gave great dignity to his appearance in a boat. His feet were very long too, and when he walked he lifted the whole foot at once, and put it down flat. Of course he could not walk very fast; but so important a person as the "Cap'n" could never be in a hurry.
As he held his boat against a rock while Perry lifted in the basket of fish, he saw the wistful faces of the children standing on the beach. Now, the "Cap'n" considered himself a very good-natured man, and good-natured men are always fond of children. So he called out in a loud voice:
"Whose little folks are you?"
"Bub and Mandy Lewis," Mandy answered quickly.
Bub nudged her with his elbow.
"He spoke to me, Mandy!"
"Want to take a little row up to the hotel? Let's see—your folks live by the old fishin' dock, don't they? Wal, I can leave ye there comin' back. You can tell your Pa that Cap'n Kent took ye out rowin'."
"I'd like to go, if you please," said Bub, who was ready with an answer this time; "but Mandy, she's got to tend to the baby."
"The baby! What baby?" said the "Cap'n," while Mandy whispered, crossly, "Bub, I think you're real mean!"
"Oh, sir, baby's fast asleep up on the dryin'-ground, where the nets are! I could go as far as that, if you'd let me get out there,—if it wouldn't be too much trouble, sir."
"Course it would!" said Bub, emphatically.
But the "Cap'n," who was not so good-natured that he liked to have small boys answer for him, gravely considered the matter while he settled his oars in the rowlocks.
"Wal, it's some trouble, perhaps; but I don't mind puttin' myself out once in a while for a nice little gal. Step lively now, young man! Come along, sissy!"
Mandy sat radiant in the little bow-seat, as the boat pushed off. A great Albany "tow" was passing,—a whole fleet of barges and canal-boats lashed together,—with calves and sheep bellowing and bleating, cables creaking, clothes flapping on the lines; a big steamboat, with a freight-barge under each wing, plowing the water on ahead, and sending the waves chasing each other in shore.
The little boat danced gayly on the "rollers." A fresh wind blew toward them, and brought with it a shout of "Boat ahoy! Hello, Cap'n! Got any good stuff aboard?"
"Got some good cider," the "Cap'n" called in reply, with strong emphasis on the last word.
"Come alongside, then!"
The "Cap'n" condescended to lean a little on his oars in pursuit of a bargain, and sent the little boat spinning over the water toward one of the barges in the rear part of the "tow."
Some men in a row were lounging over the rail; one of them threw a rope, which hissed and splashed close to the boat. Perry caught it, and they were soon under the lee of the floating village.
While the store was unlocked, and its wares handed out, Mandy noticed, on the deck above, a woman washing a little boy three or four years old. He stood in an old wooden pail, with a rope tied to the handle,—his little white body, all naked and slippery, shining in the sun. One could hardly help noticing him, he screamed so lustily as the water was dashed over his head and shoulders.
Mandy saw how his face showed red and flushed with crying, under the dripping yellow locks.
She thought uneasily of the baby, lying all alone on the old dock; wondered if the sun had got round so as to shine in his face, and how long the "Cap'n" would stand there, talking with those men. She was happy again when the boat dropped behind and the "Cap'n" turned toward the shore.
"Perry," he said, "just look at my watch—there in my weskit-pocket on the starn-seat. What time's it got to be?"
"Twenty minutes to one," said Perry.
"What time'd I say we'd have them shad up there? One o'clock? Wal, one o'clock it'll be, then. Only we can't leave this little gal ashore till we come back."
"Oh, please——" Mandy began, in great dismay as she saw they were passing the fishing-dock. "The baby! He's there all alone, and—oh, Bub, the shawl's gone! I must go ashore, Cap'n Kent—please!"
"Never mind, sissy; baby's all right. Bless my soul! who'd want to carry off a baby? There aint no wild beasts roamin' round, and most of us's got babies enough o' our own to hum, without borryin of the neighbors. You'll find him there all safe enough when we get back. Them shad, ye see, was promised at one o'clock up to the hotel. Cap'n Kent, ye know, he never breaks his word."
"But you said——?" Mandy began, in a distressed voice, when Bub interrupted her.
"You'd better keep quiet, Mandy. You would come, 'n' now I hope you'll get enough of it!"
That was a very long twenty minutes to Mandy, while they drew slowly nearer and nearer to the steamboat-landing, and the little white and brown houses of the fishermen, scattered along shore, one by one were left behind.
"Now, Perry," the "Cap'n" said, as he unshipped his oars, while the children clambered out of the boat, "just look at that ere watch again. See if the Cap'n aint as good as his word. Five minutes to one, eh? Didn't I tell ye? Hello, sissy! Where's that gal goin' to now? What's your hurry? I'll take ye back in half an hour."
But Mandy was off, running like a young fox along the edge of the wharf.
"Cap'n," said Bub, "we're much obliged to you, sir, and I guess I'll go on too. Mandy's awful scared about the baby, and—"
"Lord, what a fuss 'bout a baby!" the "Cap'n" broke in with his loud voice, "Babies aint so easy got rid of. Wal, may be you'll go rowin' with the Cap'n again, some day. Tell yer Ma I've got some first-class lemons, if she wants to make pies for Sunday. Can't get no such lemons at the store."
But the "Cap'n's" last words were wasted, for Bub was already speeding off after Mandy.
When he reached the fishing-dock, there she sat, a dismal little heap, on the ground between the net-poles. She had lost her bonnet; she had fallen down and rubbed dust in her hair. Now she sat rocking herself to and fro, and sobbing.
"Oh, Bub! The baby!" was all she could say.
"Look here, Mandy! Stop cryin' a minute, will you?" said Bub. "It's after one o'clock; may be mother had only half a day at Hillard's, and come home 'n' found the baby down here; she could see the shawl from the house."
Mandy jumped up, "Let's go see. Quick!" she cried. But the string of one shoe was broken, and the shoe slipped at every step. She stooped to fasten it. "Don't wait, Bub. Go on, please!" Then she felt so tired and breathless with running and crying, that she dropped down on the ground again to wait for Bub's return.
She heard his feet running down the hill, and wondered if they brought good news.
No; the house was empty. No baby or mother there!
"I must go to Hillard's," said Bub. "You'd better stay, Mandy; you look 'most beat out."
His voice was very gentle, and Mandy could not bear it.
"Oh, Bub! don't be good to me. I'm a horrid wicked girl! What will mother say? How can I tell her?" Then she broke into sobs again.
It was dreadful, sitting there alone, after Bub's footsteps died away in the distance, thinking and wondering hopelessly about the baby. Mandy remembered how his little head, heavy with sleep, had drooped lower and lower, and tired her arms. How gladly would she feel that ache if she could only hold the warm little body in her arms again!
How still it was! She could hear the children at McNeal's, down the road, laughing and calling after their father as he went away to his work. There was fresh trouble in the thought of her father coming home at night. Would it not be better that she should go away and hide herself, where no reproachful eyes could reach her? Would they miss her, and feel sorry for poor little Mandy? Would her mother go about looking pale and quiet, thinking of her gently?
Hark! What noise was that under the drooping curtain of nets? Now she does not hear it; but presently it comes again—a soft, happy little baby voice, cooing and talking to itself.
With joyful haste, Mandy lifted the heavy festoon of nets, and crawled under. There, in the warm, sunny gloom, lying all rosy and tumbled, with his clothes around his neck, and the old red shawl hopelessly tangled round the bare and active legs, lay baby, cramming his fists in his mouth or tossing them about, while he talked stories to the gleams of sunlight that flickered down through the meshes of the nets.
How he had managed to roll so far, Mandy did not stop to wonder about. She scooped him up into her arms, the bare legs kicking and struggling, and crawled with him into the open air.
There she sat, hugging him close, with her cheek resting on his head, when the tired, anxious mother, hurrying on ahead of Bub, came running down the hill.
Many times after that, the baby was a "bother" to Mandy, but she was never heard to call him so.
THE SILLY GOOSE.
(An Old Story Re-told.)
BY E.A. SMULLER.
There's a queer old story which you shall hear. It happened, once on a time, my dear, That a goose went swimming on a pond, A pleasure of which all geese are fond. She sailed about, and to and fro, The waves bent under her breast of snow, And her red feet paddled about below, But she wasn't a happy goose—oh no!
It troubled her more than she could tell, That in the town where she chanced to dwell, The saying of "stupid as a goose," Was one that was very much in use. For sneers and snubbing are hard to bear, Be he man or beast I do not care, Or pinioned fowl of the earth or air, We're all of the same opinion there.
Now, as she pondered the matter o'er, A fox came walking along the shore; With a pleasant smile he bowed his head, "Good-evening, Mrs. Goose!" he said. "Good-evening, Mr. Fox!" quoth she, Looking across at him tremblingly, And, fearing he had not had his tea, Pushed a trifle farther out to sea.
She had little harm to fear from him; For, with all his tricks, he could not swim, And, indeed, his voice was sweet and kind. "Dear Mrs. Goose, you've a troubled mind; I only wish I could help you through, There's nothing I would not gladly do For such a beautiful bird as you." Which sounded nice, and was really true.
"Well, then, Mr. Fox," the goose replied, "It hurts my feelings, and wounds my pride, That in these days my sisters and I, Who saved old Rome by our warning cry, Should be called the silly geese. Ah, me! If I could learn something fine, you see, Like writing, or reading the A, B, C, What a happy, happy goose I'd be!"
"Now, would you, indeed!" Renard replied As the floating fowl he slyly eyed; "I hardly know what 'tis best to say, Let's think about it a moment, pray, I may help you yet, my dear, who knows?" So he struck a meditative pose, And thoughtfully laid his small, red toes, Up by the side of his pointed nose.
"Ah, yes!" he cried, "I have it at last: Your troubles, dear Mrs. Goose, are past; There is a school-master, wise and good, I know where he lives in yonder wood, To-morrow evening, you shall see In yon broad meadow his school will be, He'll bring you a book with the A, B, C, And he'll give his little lesson free."
But now just listen, and you shall hear About that fox; he went off, my dear, And he bought a coat, and a beaver hat, And a pair of specs, and a black cravat. Next evening he came dressed up to charm, With the little "Reader" under his arm, Where the goose stood waiting without alarm, For, indeed, she hadn't a thought of harm.
Had she looked at all, you would have thought She need not have been so quickly caught, For the long red bushy fox's tail, Swept over the meadow like a trail. But 'twas rather dark, for night was near, And another thing, I greatly fear. She felt too anxious to see quite clear; She was simply a goose of one idea.
The school-master opens wide his book, The goose makes a long, long neck, to look, He opens his mouth, as if to cough, When, snippety-snap! her head flies off. Now, cackle loudly her sisters fond, Who are watching proudly from the pond, While off to the town that lies beyond, The whole of the frightened flock abscond.
That day, the geese made a solemn vow, Which their faithful children keep till now, That, never shall goose or gosling look At any school-master or his book. So, if ever you should chance to hear Them talking of school, don't think it queer If they say some hard things, or appear To show a certain degree of fear; It is always so with geese, my dear.
BY HENRY BACON.
Parisians adore the sunshine. On a sunny day the many squares and parks are peopled by children dressed in gay costumes, always attended by parents or nurses. The old gingerbread venders at the gates find a ready sale for chunks of coarse bread (to be thrown to the sparrows and swans), hoops, jump-ropes, and wooden shovels,—for the little ones are allowed to dig in the public walks as if they were on private grounds and heirs of the soil. Here the babies build their miniature forts, while the sergents-de-ville (or policemen), who are old soldiers, look kindly on, taking special care not to trample the fortifications as they pass to and fro upon their rounds.
Here future captains and admirals sail their miniature fleet, and are as helplessly horror-stricken when the graceful swans sally out and attack their little vessels, as when from Fortress Monroe the spectators watched the "Merrimac" steam down upon the shipping in the roads.
Here the veterans, returned again to childhood, bask in the sun, and, watching the fort-building, forget their terrible campaigns amidst snows and burning sands, delighting to turn an end of the jumping rope or to trot a long-robed heiress on, perhaps, the only knee they have left.
Parisians are very fond of uniforms, and so begin to employ them in the dress of citizens as soon as they make their entry into the world, even before they are registered at the mayor's office; for the caps and cradles of a boy (or citoyen) are decorated with blue ribbons, and the girl (or citoyenne) with pink.
Every boys' or girls' school of any pretension has a distinctive mark in the dress, and so has each employment or trade,—the butcher's boy, always bareheaded, with a large basket and white apron; the grocer's apprentice, with calico over-sleeves and blue apron; and the pastry-cook's boy, dressed in white with white linen cap, who despises and ridicules the well-blacked chimney-sweep, keeping the while at a respectful distance. And we must not forget the beggars, with their carefully studied costumes of rags, or the little Italians, born in Paris, but wearing their so-called native costume, which has been cut and made within the city walls.
The little ones of the outskirts of the city are generally independent and self-reliant youngsters, and sometimes, before they are quite steady on their feet, we meet them already doing the family errands, trudging along, hugging a loaf of bread taller than themselves. But the rosy plumpness of the fields is wanting; for children are like chameleons, and partake of the color of the locality they inhabit, so these poor little ones are toned down by the smoke and dust of the workshops. Their play-ground is under the dusty, dingy trees of the wide avenues; but they have the same games of romps their peasant mothers brought from their country homes, and above the noise of the passing vehicles we often hear their voices as they dance round in a circle, and sing verses of some old provincial song.
The delightful hours spent in boyhood, going to and from school, are unknown in the gay French capital to children of well-to-do parents. Instead of starting early and lingering on the way, they watch from the window until a black one-horse omnibus arrives, when a sub-master takes charge of the pupil, and the omnibus goes from house to house, collecting all the scholars, who are brought home in the same manner, the sub-master sitting next the door, giving no chance to slip out to ride on top, or to beg the driver to trust a fellow with the reins; and as it is the custom to obey all in authority, the master is respected. Girls are either sent to boarding-school or go to a day-school; in the latter case, always accompanied by one of their parents or a trusty servant. But the parents, if their means will not permit them to send their boys to schools that support a one-horse omnibus, or if they have not a servant to go with them, perform that task themselves. In the schools for the poorer classes, when teaching is over, the children file out, two by two, the older children being appointed monitors, and the little processions disappear in different directions; the teachers standing at the gate until they are lost from sight, for they have not far to go, as there is a free school in each quarter.
But I pity the charity-school girls. Although always neatly and cleanly dressed, they are all alike, with white caps, and dresses which might have been cut from the same piece. They file through the streets or public gardens, under the charge of the "good sisters," and perhaps they stop to play or rest sometimes, but I never saw them do so. Perhaps there is no real reason to pity these charity-children, boys or girls; but I remember my own free and happy school-days in America, and so I pity them.
THE PETERKINS ARE OBLIGED TO MOVE.
BY LUCRETIA P. HALE.
Agamemnon had long felt it an impropriety to live in a house that was called a "semi-detached" house, when there was no other "semi" to it. It had always remained wholly detached as the owner had never built the other half. Mrs. Peterkin felt this was not a sufficient reason for undertaking the terrible process of a move to another house, when they were fully satisfied with the one they were in.
But a more powerful reason forced them to go. The track of a new railroad had to be carried directly through the place, and a station was to be built on that very spot.
Mrs. Peterkin so much dreaded moving that she questioned whether they could not continue to live in the upper part of the house and give up the lower part to the station. They could then dine at the restaurant, and it would be very convenient about traveling, as there would be no danger of missing the train, if one were sure of the direction.
But when the track was actually laid by the side of the house, and the steam-engine of the construction train puffed and screamed under the dining-room windows, and the engineer calmly looked in to see what the family had for dinner, she felt indeed that they must move.
But where should they go? It was difficult to find a house that satisfied the whole family. One was too far off, and looked into a tan-pit, another was too much in the middle of the town, next door to a machine shop. Elizabeth Eliza wanted a porch covered with vines, that should face the sunset, while Mr. Peterkin thought it would not be convenient to sit there looking toward the west in the late afternoon, (which was his only leisure time) for the sun would shine in his face. The little boys wanted a house with a great many doors, so that they could go in and out often. But Mr. Peterkin did not like so much slamming, and felt there was more danger of burglars with so many doors. Agamemnon wanted an observatory, and Solomon John a shed for a workshop. If he could have carpenters' tools and a work-bench, he could build an observatory, if it were wanted.
But it was necessary to decide upon something, for they must leave their house directly. So they were obliged to take Mr. Finch's at the Corners. It satisfied none of the family. The porch was a piazza, and was opposite a barn. There were three other doors,—too many to please Mr. Peterkin, and not enough for the little boys. There was no observatory, and nothing to observe, if there were one, as the house was too low, and some high trees shut out any view. Elizabeth Eliza had hoped for a view, but Mr. Peterkin consoled her by deciding it was more healthy to have to walk for a view, and Mrs. Peterkin agreed that they might get tired of the same every day.
And everybody was glad a selection was made, and the little boys carried their India rubber boots the very first afternoon.
Elizabeth Eliza wanted to have some system in the moving, and spent the evening in drawing up a plan. It would be easy to arrange everything beforehand, so that there should not be the confusion that her mother dreaded, and the discomfort they had in their last move. Mrs. Peterkin shook her head, she did not think it possible to move with any comfort. Agamemnon said a great deal could be done with a list and a programme.
Elizabeth Eliza declared if all were well arranged a programme would make it perfectly easy. They were to have new parlor carpets, which could be put down in the new house the first thing. Then the parlor furniture could be moved in, and there would be two comfortable rooms, in which Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin could sit, while the rest of the move went on. Then the old parlor carpets could be taken up for the new dining-room and the down-stairs bedroom, and the family could meanwhile dine at the old house. Mr. Peterkin did not object to this, though the distance was considerable, as he felt exercise would be good for them all. Elizabeth Eliza's programme then arranged that the dining-room furniture could be moved the third day, by which time one of the old parlor carpets would be down in the new dining-room, and they could still sleep in the old house. Thus there would always be a quiet, comfortable place in one house or the other. Each night when Mr. Peterkin came home, he would find some place for quiet thought and rest, and each day there should be moved only the furniture needed for a certain room. Great confusion would be avoided and nothing misplaced. Elizabeth Eliza wrote these last words at the head of her programme—"Misplace nothing." And Agamemnon made a copy of the programme for each member of the family.
The first thing to be done was to buy the parlor carpets. Elizabeth Eliza had already looked at some in Boston, and the next morning she went by an early train, with her father, Agamemnon, and Solomon John, to decide upon them.
They got home about eleven o'clock, and when they reached the house were dismayed to find two furniture wagons, in front of the gate, already partly filled! Mrs. Peterkin was walking in and out of the open door, a large book in one hand, and a duster in the other, and she came to meet them in an agony of anxiety. What should they do? The furniture carts had appeared soon after the rest had left for Boston, and the men had insisted upon beginning to move the things. In vain had she shown Elizabeth Eliza's programme, in vain had she insisted they must take only the parlor furniture. They had declared they must put the heavy pieces in the bottom of the cart, and the lighter furniture on top. So she had seen them go into every room in the house, and select one piece of furniture after the other, without even looking at Elizabeth Eliza's programme; she doubted if they could have read it, if they had looked at it.
Mr. Peterkin had ordered the carters to come, but he had no idea they would come so early, and supposed it would take them a long time to fill the carts.
But they had taken the dining-room sideboard first,—a heavy piece of furniture,—and all its contents were now on the dining-room tables. Then, indeed, they selected the parlor book-case, but had set every book on the floor. The men had told Mrs. Peterkin they would put the books in the bottom of the cart, very much in the order they were taken from the shelves. But by this time Mrs. Peterkin was considering the carters as natural enemies, and dared not trust them; besides, the books ought all to be dusted. So she was now holding one of the volumes of Agamemnon's Encyclopedia, with difficulty in one hand, while she was dusting it with the other. Elizabeth Eliza was in dismay. At this moment, four men were bringing down a large chest of drawers from her father's room and they called to her to stand out of the way. The parlors were a scene of confusion. In dusting the books, Mrs. Peterkin neglected to restore them to the careful rows in which they were left by the men, and they lay in hopeless masses in different parts of the room. Elizabeth Eliza sunk in despair upon the end of a sofa.
"It would have been better to buy the red and blue carpet," said Solomon John.
"Is not the carpet bought?" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin. And then they were obliged to confess they had been unable to decide upon one, and had come back to consult Mrs. Peterkin.
"What shall we do?" asked Mrs. Peterkin.
Elizabeth Eliza rose from the sofa and went to the door, saying, "I shall be back in a moment."
Agamemnon slowly passed round the room, collecting the scattered volumes of his Encyclopedia. Mr. Peterkin offered a helping hand to a man lifting a wardrobe.
Elizabeth Eliza soon returned. "I did not like to go and ask her. But I felt that I must in such an emergency. I explained to her the whole matter and she thinks we should take the carpet at Makillan's."
"Makillan's" was a store in the village, and the carpet was the only one all the family had liked without any doubt; but they had supposed they might prefer one from Boston.
The moment was a critical one. Solomon John was sent directly to Makillan's to order the carpet to be put down that very day. But where should they dine? where should they have their supper? where was Mr. Peterkin's "quiet hour?" Elizabeth Eliza, was frantic—the dining-room floor and table were covered with things.
It was decided that Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin should dine at the Bromwiches, who had been most neighborly in their offers, and the rest should get something to eat at the baker's.
Agamemnon and Elizabeth Eliza hastened away to be ready to receive the carts at the other house, and direct the furniture as they could. After all, there was something exhilarating in this opening of the new house, and in deciding where things should go. Gayly Elizabeth Eliza stepped down the front garden of the new home, and across the piazza, and to the door. But it was locked, and she had no keys!
"Agamemnon, did you bring the keys?" she exclaimed.
No, he had not seen them since the morning—when—ah—yes, the little boys were allowed to go to the house for their India rubber boots, as there was a threatening of rain. Perhaps they had left some door unfastened—perhaps they had put the keys under the door-mat. No, each door, each window was solidly closed, and there was no mat!
"I shall have to go to the school to see if they took the keys with them," said Agamemnon; "or else go home to see if they left them there." The school was in a different direction from the house, and far at the other end of the town for Mr. Peterkin had not yet changed the boys' school, as he proposed to do, after their move.
"That will be the only way," said Elizabeth Eliza; for it had been arranged that the little boys should take their lunch to school and not come home at noon.
She sat down on the steps to wait, but only for a moment, for the carts soon appeared turning the corner. What should be done with the furniture? Of course, the carters must wait for the keys, as she should need them to set the furniture up in the right places. But they could not stop for this. They put it down upon the piazza, on the steps, in the garden, and Elizabeth Eliza saw how incongruous it was! There was something from every room in the house! even the large family chest, which had proved too heavy for them to travel with, had come down from the attic, and stood against the front door.
And Solomon John appeared with the carpet woman, and a boy with a wheelbarrow bringing the new carpet. And all stood and waited. Some opposite neighbors appeared to offer advice, and look on, and Elizabeth Eliza groaned inwardly that only the shabbiest of their furniture appeared to be standing full in view.
It seemed ages before Agamemnon returned, and no wonder; for he had been to the house, then to the school, then back to the house, for one of the little boys had left at home the keys, in the pocket of his clothes. Meanwhile, the carpet woman had waited, and the boy with the wheelbarrow had waited, and when they got in they found the parlor must be swept and cleaned. So the carpet woman went off in dudgeon, for she was sure there would not be time enough to do anything.
And one of the carts came again, and in their hurry the men set the furniture down anywhere. Elizabeth Eliza was hoping to make a little place in the dining-room where they might have their supper and go home to sleep. But she looked out, and there were the carters bringing the bedsteads, and proceeding to carry them upstairs.
In despair Elizabeth Eliza went back to the old house. If she had been there she might have prevented this. She found Mrs. Peterkin in an agony about the entry oil-cloth. It had been made in the house, and how could it be taken out of the house? Agamemnon made measurements; it certainly could not go out of the front door! He suggested it might be left till the house was pulled down, when it could easily be moved out of one side. But Elizabeth Eliza reminded him that the whole house was to be moved without being taken apart. Perhaps it could be cut in strips narrow enough to go out. One of the men loading the remaining cart disposed of the question by coming in and rolling up the oil-cloth and carrying it off on top of his wagon.
Elizabeth Eliza felt she must hurry back to the new house. But what should they do?—no beds here, no carpets there! The dining-room table and sideboard were at the other house, the plates and forks and spoons here. In vain she looked at her programme. It was all reversed, everything was misplaced. Mr. Peterkin would suppose they were to eat there and sleep here, and what had become of the little boys?
Meanwhile, the man with the first cart had returned. They fell to packing the dining-room china. They were up in the attic, they were down in the cellar. Even one of them suggested to take the tacks out of the parlor carpets, as they should want to take them next. Mrs. Peterkin sunk upon a kitchen chair.
"Oh, I wish we had decided to stay and be moved in the house!" she exclaimed.
Solomon John urged his mother to go to the new house, for Mr. Peterkin would be there for his "quiet hour." And when the carters at last appeared carrying the parlor carpets on their shoulders she sighed and said, "There is nothing left," and meekly consented to be led away.
They reached the new house to find Mr. Peterkin sitting calmly in a rocking-chair on the piazza, watching the oxen coming into the opposite barn. He was waiting for the keys, which Solomon John had taken back with him. The little boys were in a horse-chestnut tree, at the side of the house.
Agamemnon opened the door. The passages were crowded with furniture, the floors were strewn with books, the bureau was upstairs that was to stand in a lower bedroom, there was not a place to lay a table, there was nothing to lay upon it; for the knives and plates and spoons had not come, and although the tables were there, they were covered with chairs and boxes.
At this moment came a covered basket from the lady from Philadelphia. It contained a choice supper, and forks and spoons, and at the same moment appeared a pot of hot tea from an opposite neighbor. They placed all this on the back of a book-case lying upset, and sat around it. Solomon John came rushing from the gate:
"The last load is coming. We are all moved!" he exclaimed, and the little boys joined in a chorus, "We are moved, we are moved!"
Mrs. Peterkin looked sadly round; the kitchen utensils were lying on the parlor lounge, and an old family gun on Elizabeth Eliza's hat-box. The parlor clock stood on a barrel; some coal-scuttles had been placed on the parlor table, a bust of Washington stood in the door-way, and the looking-glasses leaned against the pillars of the piazza. But they were moved! Mrs. Peterkin felt indeed that they were very much moved.
THE SING-AWAY BIRD.
BY LUCY LARCOM.
O Say, have you heard of the sing-away bird, That sings where the Runaway River Runs down with its rills from the bald-headed hills That stand in the sunshine and shiver? "O sing! sing-away! sing-away!" How the pines and the birches are stirred By the trill of the sing-away bird!
And the bald-headed hills, with their rocks and their rills, To the tune of his rapture are ringing. And their faces grow young, all their gray mists among, While the forests break forth into singing, "O sing! sing-away! sing-away!" And the river runs singing along; And the flying winds catch up the song.
It was nothing but—hush! a wild white-throated thrush, That emptied his musical quiver With a charm and a spell over valley and dell On the banks of the Runaway River. "O sing! sing-away! sing-away!" Yet the song of the wild singer had The sound of a soul that is glad.
And, beneath the glad sun, may a glad-hearted one Set the world to the tune of his gladness. The rivers shall sing it, the breezes shall wing it, Till life shall forget its long sadness. "O sing! sing-away! sing-away!" Sing, spirit, who knowest joy's Giver,— Sing on, by time's Runaway River!
BY MRS. E.W. LATIMER.
The following curious anecdote is from a book about elephants, written by a French gentleman, named Jacolliot, and we will let the author tell his own story:
In the autumn of 1876 I was living in the interior of Bengal, and I went to spend Christmas with my friend, Major Daly. The major's bungalow was on the banks of the Ganges near Cawnpore. He had lived there a good many years, being chief of the quartermaster's department at that station, and had a great many natives, elephants, bullock-carts, and soldiers under his command.
On the morning after my arrival, after a cup of early tea (often taken before daylight in India), I sat smoking with my friend in the veranda of his bungalow, looking out upon the windings of the sacred river. And, directly, I asked the major about his children (a boy and a girl), whom I had not yet seen, and begged to know when I should see them.
"Soupramany has taken them out fishing," said their father.
"Why, isn't Soupramany your great war-elephant?" I cried.
"Exactly so. You cannot have forgotten Soupramany!"
"Of course not. I was here, you know, when he had that fight with the elephant who went mad while loading a transport with bags of rice down yonder. I saw the mad elephant when he suddenly began to fling the rice into the river. His 'mahout' tried to stop him, and he killed the mahout. The native sailors ran away to hide themselves, and the mad elephant, trumpeting, charged into this inclosure. Old Soupramany was here, and so were Jim and Bessy. When he saw the mad animal, he threw himself between him and the children. The little ones and their nurses had just time to get into the house when the fight commenced."
"Yes," said the major. "Old Soup was a hundred years old. He had been trained to war, and to fight with the rhinoceros, but he was too old to hunt then."
"And yet," said I, becoming animated by the recollections of that day, "what a gallant fight it was! Do you remember how we all stood on this porch and watched it, not daring to fire a shot lest we should hit Old Soupramany? Do you remember too, his look when he drew off, after fighting an hour and a half, leaving his adversary dying in the dust, and walked straight to the 'corral,' shaking his great ears which had been badly torn, with his head bruised, and a great piece broken from one of his tusks?"
"Yes, indeed," said the major. "Well, since then, he is more devoted to my dear little ones than ever. He takes them out whole days, and I am perfectly content to have them under his charge. I don't like trusting Christian children to the care of natives; but with Old Soup I know they can come to no harm."
"What! you trust children under ten years of age to Soup, without any other protection?"
"I do," replied the major. "Come along with me, if you doubt, and we will surprise them at their fishing."
I followed Major Daly, and, after walking half a mile along the wooded banks of the river, we came upon the little group. The two children—Jim, the elder, being about ten—both sat still and silent, for a wonder, each holding a rod, with line, cork, hook and bait, anxiously watching the gay corks bobbing in the water. Beside them stood Old Soup with an extremely large bamboo rod in his trunk, with line, hook, bait, and cork, like the children's. I need not say I took small notice of the children, but turned all my attention to their big companion. I had not watched him long before he had a bite; for, as the religion of the Hindoos forbids them to take life, the river swarms with fishes.
The old fellow did not stir; his little eyes watched his line eagerly; he was no novice in "the gentle craft." He was waiting till it was time to draw in his prize.
At the end of his line, as he drew it up, was dangling one of those golden tench so abundant in the Ganges.
When Soupramany perceived what a fine fish he had caught, he uttered one of those long, low gurgling notes of satisfaction by which an elephant expresses joy; and he waited patiently, expecting Jim to take his prize off the hook and put on some more bait for him. But Jim, the little rascal, sometimes liked to plague Old Soup. He nodded at us, as much as to say, "Look out, and you'll see fun, now!" Then he took off the fish, which he threw into a water-jar placed there for the purpose, and went back to his place without putting any bait on Old Soup's hook. The intelligent animal did not attempt to throw his line into the water. He tried to move Jim by low, pleading cries. It was curious to see what tender tones he seemed to try to give his voice.
Seeing that Jim paid no attention to his calls, but sat and laughed as he handled his own line, Old Soup went up to him, and with his trunk tried to turn his head in the direction of the bait-box. At last, when he found that all he could do would not induce his willful friend to help him, he turned round as if struck by a sudden thought, and, snatching up in his trunk the box that held the bait, came and laid it down at the major's feet; then picking up his rod, he held it out to his master.
"What do you want me to do with this, Old Soup?" said the major.
The creature lifted one great foot after the other, and again began to utter his plaintive cry. Out of mischief, I took Jimmy's part, and, picking up the bait-box, pretended to run with it. The elephant was not going to be teased by me. He dipped his trunk into the Ganges, and in an instant squirted a stream of water over me with all the force and precision of a fire-engine, to the immense amusement of the children.
The major at once made Soup a sign to stop, and, to make my peace with the fine old fellow, I baited his hook myself. Quivering with joy, as a baby does when it gets hold at last of a plaything some one has taken from it, Old Soupramany hardly paused to thank me by a soft note of joy for baiting his line for him, before he went back to his place, and was again watching his cork as it trembled in the ripples of the river.
Four little houses, blue and round, Hidden away from sight and sound. What is in them? The leaves never tell, But they know the secret very well. The daisies know, and the clover knows; So does the pretty, sweet wild rose. Don't be impatient, only wait Just outside, at the leafy gate; Soon a fairy will open the door, And let out birdies—one, two, three, four!
UNDER THE LILACS.
BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT.
Every one was very kind to Ben when his loss was known. The Squire wrote to Mr. Smithers the boy had found friends and would stay where he was. Mrs. Moss consoled him in her way, and the little girls did their very best to "be good to poor Benny." But Miss Celia was his truest comforter and completely won his heart, not only by the friendly words she said and the pleasant things she did, but by the unspoken sympathy which showed itself, just at the right minute, in a look, a touch, a smile, more helpful than any amount of condolence. She called him "my man," and Ben tried to be one, bearing his trouble so bravely that she respected him, although he was only a little boy, because it promised well for the future.
Then she was so happy herself, it was impossible for those about her to be sad, and Ben soon grew cheerful again in spite of the very tender memory of his father laid quietly away in the safest corner of his heart. He would have been a very unboyish boy if he had not been happy, for the new place was such a pleasant one, he soon felt as if for the first time he really had a home.
No more grubbing now, but daily tasks which never grew tiresome, they were so varied and so light. No more cross Pats to try his temper, but the sweetest mistress that ever was, since praise was oftener on her lips than blame, and gratitude made willing service a delight.
At first it seemed as if there was going to be trouble between the two boys, for Thorny was naturally masterful, and illness had left him weak and nervous, so he was often both domineering and petulant. Ben had been taught instant obedience to those older than himself, and if Thorny had been a man Ben would have made no complaint; but it was hard to be "ordered round" by a boy, and an unreasonable one into the bargain.
A word from Miss Celia blew away the threatening cloud, however, and for her sake her brother promised to try to be patient; for her sake Ben declared he never would "get mad" if Mr. Thorny did fidget, and both very soon forgot all about master and man and lived together like two friendly lads, taking each other's ups and downs good-naturedly, and finding mutual pleasure and profit in the new companionship.
The only point on which they never could agree was legs, and many a hearty laugh did they give Miss Celia by their warm and serious discussion of this vexed question. Thorny insisted that Ben was bow-legged; Ben resented the epithet, and declared that the legs of all good horsemen must have a slight curve, and any one who knew anything about the matter would acknowledge both its necessity and its beauty. Then Thorny would observe that it might be all very well in the saddle, but it made a man waddle like a duck when afoot; whereat Ben would retort that for his part he would rather waddle like a duck than tumble about like a horse with the staggers. He had his opponent there, for poor Thorny did look very like a weak-kneed colt when he tried to walk; but he would never own it, and came down upon Ben with crushing allusions to centaurs, or the Greeks and Romans, who were famous both for their horsemanship and fine limbs. Ben could not answer that, except by proudly referring to the chariot-races copied from the ancients in which he had borne a part, which was more than some folks with long legs could say. Gentlemen never did that sort of thing, nor did they twit their best friends with their misfortunes, Thorny would remark, casting a pensive glance at his thin hands, longing the while to give Ben a good shaking. This hint would remind the other of his young master's late sufferings and all he owed his dear mistress, and he usually ended the controversy by turning a few lively somersaults as a vent for his swelling wrath, and come up with his temper all right again. Or, if Thorny happened to be in the wheeled chair, he would trot him round the garden at a pace which nearly took his breath away, thereby proving that if "bow-legs" were not beautiful to some benighted being, they were "good to go."
Thorny liked that, and would drop the subject for the time by politely introducing some more agreeable topic; so the impending quarrel would end in a laugh over some boyish joke, and the word "legs" be avoided by mutual consent till accident brought it up again.
The spirit of rivalry is hidden in the best of us, and is a helpful and inspiring power if we know how to use it. Miss Celia knew this, and tried to make the lads help one another by means of it,—not in boastful or ungenerous comparison of each other's gifts, but by interchanging them, giving and taking freely, kindly, and being glad to love what was admirable wherever they found it. Thorny admired Ben's strength, activity, and independence; Ben envied Thorny's learning, good manners, and comfortable surroundings; and, when a wise word had set the matter rightly before them, both enjoyed the feeling that there was a certain equality between them, since money could not buy health; and practical knowledge was as useful as any that can be found in books. So they interchanged their small experiences, accomplishments, and pleasures, and both were the better, as well as the happier, for it, because in this way only can we truly love our neighbor as ourself and get the real sweetness out of life.
There was no end to the new and pleasant things Ben had to do, from keeping paths and flower-beds neat, feeding the pets, and running errands, to waiting on Thorny and being right-hand man to Miss Celia. He had a little room in the old house, newly papered with hunting scenes, which he was never tired of admiring. In the closet hung several out-grown suits of Thorny's, made over for his valet, and, what Ben valued infinitely more, a pair of boots, well blacked and ready for grand occasions when he rode abroad, with one old spur, found in the attic, brightened up and merely worn for show, since nothing would have induced him to prick beloved Lita with it.
Many pictures, cut from illustrated papers, of races, animals and birds, were stuck round the room, giving it rather the air of a circus and menagerie. This, however, made it only the more home-like to its present owner, who felt exceedingly rich and respectable as he surveyed his premises; almost like a retired showman who still fondly remembers past successes, though now happy in the more private walks of life.
In one drawer of the quaint little bureau which he used, were kept the relics of his father; very few and poor, and of no interest to any one but himself,—only the letter telling of his death, a worn-out watch-chain, and a photograph of Senor Jose Montebello, with his youthful son standing on his head, both airily attired, and both smiling with the calmly superior expression which gentlemen of their profession usually wear in public. Ben's other treasures had been stolen with his bundle; but these he cherished and often looked at when he went to bed, wondering what heaven was like, since it was lovelier than California, and usually fell asleep with a dreamy impression that it must be something like America when Columbus found it,—"a pleasant land, where were gay flowers and tall trees, with leaves and fruit such as they had never seen before." And through this happy hunting-ground "father" was forever riding on a beautiful white horse with wings, like the one of which Miss Celia had a picture.
Nice times Ben had in his little room poring over his books, for he soon had several of his own; but his favorites were Hammerton's "Animals" and "Our Dumb Friends," both full of interesting pictures and anecdotes such as boys love. Still nicer times working about the house, helping get things in order; and best of all were the daily drives with Miss Celia and Thorny, when weather permitted, or solitary rides to town through the heaviest rain, for certain letters must go and come, no matter how the elements raged. The neighbors soon got used to the "antics of that boy," but Ben knew that he was an object of interest as he careered down the main street in a way that made old ladies cry out and brought people flying to the window, sure that some one was being run away with. Lita enjoyed the fun as much as he, and apparently did her best to send him heels over head, having rapidly learned to understand the signs he gave her by the touch of hand and foot, or the tones of his voice.
These performances caused the boys to regard Ben Brown with intense admiration, the girls with timid awe, all but Bab, who burned to imitate him, and tried her best whenever she got a chance, much to the anguish and dismay of poor Jack, for that long-suffering animal was the only steed she was allowed to ride. Fortunately, neither she nor Betty had much time for play just now, as school was about to close for the long vacation, and all the little people were busy finishing up, that they might go to play with free minds. So the "lilac-parties," as they called them, were deferred till later, and the lads amused themselves in their own way, with Miss Celia to suggest and advise.
It took Thorny a long time to arrange his possessions, for he could only direct while Ben unpacked, wondering and admiring as he worked, because he had never seen so many boyish treasures before. The little printing-press was his especial delight, and leaving everything else in confusion, Thorny taught him its use and planned a newspaper on the spot, with Ben for printer, himself for editor, and "Sister" for chief contributor, while Bab should be carrier and Betty office-boy. Next came a postage-stamp book, and a rainy day was happily spent in pasting a new collection where each particular one belonged, with copious explanations from Thorny as they went along. Ben did not feel any great interest in this amusement after one trial of it, but when a book containing patterns of the flags of all nations turned up, he was seized with a desire to copy them all, so that the house could be fitly decorated on gala occasions. Finding that it amused her brother, Miss Celia generously opened her piece-drawer and rag-bag, and as the mania grew till her resources were exhausted, she bought bits of gay cambric and many-colored papers, and startled the storekeeper by purchasing several bottles of mucilage at once. Bab and Betty were invited to sew the bright strips or stars, and pricked their little fingers assiduously, finding this sort of needle-work much more attractive than piecing bed-quilts.
Such a snipping and pasting, planning and stitching as went on in the big back room, which was given up to them, and such a noble array of banners and pennons as soon decorated its walls, would have caused the dullest eye to brighten with amusement, if not with admiration. Of course, the Stars and Stripes hung highest, with the English lion ramping on the royal standard close by; then followed a regular picture-gallery, for there was the white elephant of Siam, the splendid peacock of Burmah, the double-headed Russian eagle and black dragon of China, the winged lion of Venice, and the prancing pair on the red, white and blue flag of Holland. The keys and miter of the Papal States were a hard job, but up they went at last, with the yellow crescent of Turkey on one side and the red full moon of Japan on the other; the pretty blue and white flag of Greece hung below and the cross of free Switzerland above. If materials had held out, the flags of all the United States would have followed; but paste and patience were exhausted, so the busy workers rested awhile before they "flung their banner to the breeze," as the newspapers have it.
A spell of ship building and rigging followed the flag fit; for Thorny, feeling too old now for such toys, made over his whole fleet to "the children," condescending, however, to superintend a thorough repairing of the same before he disposed of all but the big man-of-war, which continued to ornament his own room, with all sail set and a little red officer perpetually waving his sword on the quarter-deck.
These gifts led to out-of-door water-works, for the brook had to be dammed up, that a shallow ocean might be made, where Ben's piratical "Red Rover," with the black flag, might chase and capture Bab's smart frigate, "Queen," while the "Bounding Betsey," laden with lumber, safely sailed from Kennebunkport to Massachusetts Bay. Thorny, from his chair, was chief-engineer, and directed his gang of one how to dig the basin, throw up the embankment, and finally let in the water till the mimic ocean was full; then regulate the little water-gate, lest it should overflow and wreck the pretty squadron of ships, boats, canoes, and rafts, which soon rode at anchor there.
Digging and paddling in mud and water proved such a delightful pastime that the boys kept it up, till a series of water-wheels, little mills and cataracts made the once quiet brook look as if a manufacturing town was about to spring up where hitherto minnows had played in peace and the retiring frog had chanted his serenade unmolested.
Miss Celia liked all this, for anything which would keep Thorny happy out-of-doors in the sweet June weather found favor in her eyes, and when the novelty had worn off from home affairs, she planned a series of exploring expeditions which filled their boyish souls with delight. As none of them knew much about the place, it really was quite exciting to start off on a bright morning with a roll of wraps and cushions, lunch, books, and drawing materials packed into the phaeton, and drive at random about the shady roads and lanes, pausing when and where they liked. Wonderful discoveries were made, pretty places were named, plans were drawn, and all sorts of merry adventures befell the pilgrims.
Each day they camped in a new spot, and while Lita nibbled the fresh grass at her ease, Miss Celia sketched under the big umbrella, Thorny read or lounged or slept on his rubber blanket, and Ben made himself generally useful. Unloading, filling the artist's water-bottle, piling the invalid's cushions, setting out the lunch, running to and fro for a flower or a butterfly, climbing a tree to report the view, reading, chatting, or frolicking with Sancho,—any sort of duty was in Ben's line, and he did them all well, for an out-of-door life was natural to him and he liked it.
"Ben, I want an amanuensis," said Thorny, dropping book and pencil one day, after a brief interval of silence, broken only by the whisper of the young leaves overhead and the soft babble of the brook close by.
"A what?" asked Ben, pushing back his hat with such an air of amazement that Thorny rather loftily inquired:
"Don't you know what an amanuensis is?"
"Well, no; not unless it's some relation to an anaconda. Shouldn't think you'd want one of them, anyway."
Thorny rolled over with a hoot of derision, and his sister, who sat close by, sketching an old gate, looked up to see what was going on.
"Well, you needn't laugh at a feller. You didn't know what a wombat was when I asked you, and I didn't roar," said Ben, giving his hat a slap, as nothing else was handy.
"The idea of wanting an anaconda tickled me so, I couldn't help it. I dare say you'd have got me one if I had asked for it, you are such an obliging chap."
"Of course I would if I could. Shouldn't be surprised if you did some day, you want such funny things," answered Ben, appeased by the compliment.
"I'll try the amanuensis first. It's only some one to write for me; I get so tired doing it without a table. You write well enough, and it will be good for you to know something about botany. I intend to teach you, Ben," said Thorny, as if conferring a great favor.
"It looks pretty hard," muttered Ben, with a doleful glance at the book laid open upon a strew of torn leaves and flowers.
"No, it isn't; it's regularly jolly, and you'd be no end of a help if you only knew a little. Now suppose I say, 'Bring me a "ranunculus bulbosus,"' how would you know what I wanted?" demanded Thorny, waving his microscope with a learned air.
"There are quantities of them all round us, and I want to analyze one. See if you can't guess."
Ben stared vaguely from earth to sky, and was about to give it up, when a buttercup fell at his feet, and he caught sight of Miss Celia smiling at him from behind her brother, who did not see the flower.
"S'pose you mean this? I don't call 'em rhinocerus bulburses, so I wasn't sure." And taking the hint as quickly as it was given, Ben presented the buttercup as if he knew all about it.
"You guessed that remarkably well. Now bring me a 'leontodon taraxacum,'" said Thorny, charmed with the quickness of his pupil and glad to display his learning.
Again Ben gazed, but the field was full of early flowers, and if a long pencil had not pointed to a dandelion close by he would have been lost.
"Here you are, sir," he answered with a chuckle, and Thorny took his turn at being astonished now.
"How the dickens did you know that?"
"Try it again, and may be you'll find out," laughed Ben.
Diving hap-hazard into his book, Thorny demanded a "trifolium pratense."
The clever pencil pointed, and Ben brought a red clover, mightily enjoying the joke, and thinking that this kind of botany wasn't bad fun.
"Look here, no fooling!" and Thorny sat up to investigate the matter, so quickly that his sister had not time to sober down. "Ah, I've caught you! Not fair to tell, Celia. Now, Ben, you've got to learn all about this buttercup, to pay for cheating."
"Werry good, sir; bring on your rhinoceriouses," answered Ben, who couldn't help imitating his old friend the clown when he felt particularly jolly.
"Sit there and write what I tell you," ordered Thorny, with all the severity of a strict schoolmaster.
Perching himself on the mossy stump, Ben obediently floundered through the following analysis, with constant help in the spelling and much private wonder what would come of it:
"Phaenogamous. Exogenous. Angiosperm. Polypetalous. Stamens, more than ten. Stamens on the receptacle. Pistils, more than one and separate. Leaves without stipules. Crowfoot family. Genus ranunculus. Botanical name, Ranunculus bulbosus."
"Jerusalem, what a flower! Pistols and crows' feet, and Polly put the kettles on, and Angy sperms and all the rest of 'em! If that's your botany I wont take any more, thank you," said Ben, as he paused as hot and red as if he had been running a race.
"Yes, you will; you'll learn that all by heart, and then I shall give you a dandelion to do. You'll like that, because it means dent de lion or lion's teeth, and I'll show them to you through my glass. You've no idea how interesting it is, and what heaps of pretty things you'll see," answered Thorny, who had already discovered how charming the study was, and had found great satisfaction in it since he had been forbidden more active pleasures.
"What's the good of it, any way?" asked Ben, who would rather have been set to mowing the big field than to the task before him.
"It tells all about it in my book here—'Gray's Botany for Young People.' But I can tell you what use it is to us," continued Thorny, crossing his legs in the air and preparing to argue the matter, comfortably lying flat on his back. "We are a Scientific Exploration Society, and we must keep an account of all the plants, animals, minerals and so on, as we come across them. Then suppose we get lost and have to hunt for food, how are we to know what is safe and what isn't? Come, now, do you know the difference between a toad-stool and a mushroom?"
"No, I don't."
"Then I'll teach you some day. There is sweet flag and poisonous flag, and all sorts of berries and things, and you'd better look out when you are in the woods or you'll touch ivy and dogwood, and have a horrid time if you don't know your botany."
"Thorny learned much of his by sad experience and you will be wise to take his advice," said Miss Celia, recalling her brother's various mishaps before the new fancy came on.
"Didn't I have a time of it, though, when I had to go round for a week with plantain leaves and cream stuck all over my face! Just picked some pretty red dogwood, Ben, and then I was a regular guy, with a face like a lobster and my eyes swelled out of sight. Come along and learn right away, and never get into scrapes like most fellows."
Impressed by this warning, and attracted by Thorny's enthusiasm, Ben cast himself down upon the blanket, and for an hour the two heads bobbed to and fro from microscope to book, the teacher airing his small knowledge, the pupil more and more interested in the new and curious things he saw or heard,—though it must be confessed that Ben infinitely preferred to watch ants and bugs, queer little worms and gauzy-winged flies, rather than "putter" over plants with long names. He did not dare to say so, however, but when Thorny asked him if it wasn't capital fun, he dodged cleverly by proposing to hunt up the flowers for his master to study, offering to learn about the dangerous ones, but pleading want of time to investigate this pleasing science very deeply.
As Thorny had talked himself hoarse, he was very ready to dismiss his class of one to fish the milk-bottle out of the brook, and recess was prolonged till next day. But both boys found a new pleasure in the pretty pastime they made of it, for active Ben ranged the woods and fields with a tin box slung over his shoulder, and feeble Thorny had a little room fitted up for his own use where he pressed flowers in newspaper books, dried herbs on the walls, had bottles and cups, pans and platters for his treasures, and made as much litter as he liked.
Presently, Ben brought such lively accounts of the green nooks where jacks-in-the-pulpit preached their little sermons, brooks beside which grew blue violets and lovely ferns, rocks round which danced the columbines like rosy elves, or the trees where birds built, squirrels chattered and woodchucks burrowed, that Thorny was seized with a desire to go and see these beauties for himself. So Jack was saddled and went, plodding, scrambling and wandering into all manner of pleasant places, always bringing home a stronger, browner rider than he carried away.
This delighted Miss Celia, and she gladly saw them ramble off together, leaving her time to stitch happily at certain dainty bits of sewing, write voluminous letters, or dream over others quite as long, swinging in her hammock under the lilacs.
SOMEBODY RUNS AWAY.
"School is done, Now we'll have fun,"
sung Bab and Betty, slamming down their books as if they never meant to take them up again, when they came home on the last day of June.
Tired teacher had dismissed them for eight whole weeks and gone away to rest; the little school-house was shut up, lessons were over, spirits rising fast, and vacation had begun. The quiet town seemed suddenly inundated with children all in such a rampant state that busy mothers wondered how they ever should be able to keep their frisky darlings out of mischief; thrifty fathers planned how they could bribe the idle hands to pick berries or rake hay; and the old folks, while wishing the young folks well, secretly blessed the man who invented schools.
The girls immediately began to talk about picnics, and have them, too; for little hats sprung up in the fields like a new sort of mushroom,—every hill-side bloomed with gay gowns, looking as if the flowers had gone out for a walk, and the woods were full of featherless birds chirping away as blithely as the thrushes, robins, and wrens.
The boys took to base-ball like ducks to water, and the common was the scene of tremendous battles waged with much tumult but little bloodshed. To the uninitiated it appeared as if these young men had lost their wits; for no matter how warm it was, there they were, tearing about in the maddest manner, jackets off, sleeves rolled up, queer caps flung on anyway, all batting shabby leather balls and catching the same as if their lives depended on it. Every one talking in his gruffest tone, bawling at the top of his voice, squabbling over every point of the game, and seeming to enjoy himself immensely in spite of the heat, dust, uproar, and imminent danger of getting eyes or teeth knocked out.
Thorny was an excellent player, but not being strong enough to show his prowess, he made Ben his proxy, and, sitting on the fence, acted as umpire to his heart's content. Ben was a promising pupil and made rapid progress, for eye, foot, and hand had been so well trained that they did him good service now, and Brown was considered a first-rate "catcher."
Sancho distinguished himself by his skill in hunting up stray balls, and guarding jackets when not needed, with the air of one of the Old Guard on duty at the tomb of Napoleon. Bab also longed to join in the fun, which suited her better than "stupid picnics" or "fussing over dolls;" but her heroes would not have her at any price, and she was obliged to content herself with sitting by Thorny, and watching with breathless interest the varying fortunes of "our side."
A grand match was planned for the Fourth of July; but when the club met, things were found to be unpropitious. Thorny had gone out of town with his sister to pass the day, two of the best players did not appear, and the others were somewhat exhausted by the festivities, which began at sunrise for them. So they lay about on the grass in the shade of the big elm, languidly discussing their various wrongs and disappointments.
"It's the meanest Fourth I ever saw. Can't have no crackers, because somebody's horse got scared last year," growled Sam Kitteridge, bitterly resenting the stern edict which forbade free-born citizens to burn as much gunpowder as they liked on that glorious day.
"Last year Jimmy got his arm blown off when they fired the old cannon. Didn't we have a lively time going for the doctors and getting him home?" asked another boy, looking as if he felt defrauded of the most interesting part of the anniversary, because no accident had occurred.
"Ain't going to be fire-works either, unless somebody's barn burns up. Don't I just wish there would," gloomily responded another youth who had so rashly indulged in pyrotechnics on a former occasion that a neighbor's cow had been roasted whole.
"I wouldn't give two cents for such a slow old place as this. Why, last Fourth at this time, I was rumbling through Boston streets up top of our big car, all in my best toggery. Hot as pepper, but good fun looking in at the upper windows and hearing the women scream when the old thing waggled round and I made believe I was going to tumble off," said Ben, leaning on his bat with the air of a man who had seen the world and felt some natural regret at descending from so lofty a sphere.
"Catch me cutting away if I had such a chance as that!" answered Sam, trying to balance his bat on his chin and getting a smart rap across the nose as he failed to perform the feat.
"Much you know about it, old chap. It's hard work, I can tell you, and that wouldn't suit such a lazy bones. Then you are too big to begin, though you might do for a fat boy if Smithers wanted one," said Ben, surveying the stout youth with calm contempt.
"Let's go in swimming, not loaf round here, if we can't play," proposed a red and shiny boy, panting for a game of leap-frog in Sandy pond.
"May as well; don't see much else to do," sighed Sam, rising like a young elephant.
The others were about to follow, when a shrill "Hi, hi, boys, hold on!" made them turn about to behold Billy Barton tearing down the street like a runaway colt, waving a long strip of paper as he ran.
"Now, then, what's the matter?" demanded Ben, as the other came up grinning and puffing, but full of great news.
"Look here, read it! I'm going; come along, the whole of you," panted Billy, putting the paper into Sam's hand, and surveying the crowd with a face as beaming as a full moon.
"Look out for the big show," read Sam. "Van Amburgh & Co.'s New Great Golden Menagerie, Circus and Colosseum, will exhibit at Berryville, July 4th, at 1 and 7 precisely. Admission 50 cents, children half-price. Don't forget day and date. H. Frost, Manager."
While Sam read, the other boys had been gloating over the enticing pictures which covered the bill. There was the golden car, filled with noble beings in helmets, all playing on immense trumpets; the twenty-four prancing steeds with manes, tails, and feathered heads tossing in the breeze; the clowns, the tumblers, the strong men, and the riders flying about in the air as if the laws of gravitation no longer existed. But, best of all, was the grand conglomeration of animals where the giraffe appears to stand on the elephant's back, the zebra to be jumping over the seal, the hippopotamus to be lunching off a couple of crocodiles, and lions and tigers to be raining down in all directions with their mouths wide open and their tails as stiff as that of the famous Northumberland House lion.
"Cricky! wouldn't I like to see that," said little Cyrus Fay, devoutly hoping that the cage, in which this pleasing spectacle took place, was a very strong one.
"You never would, it's only a picture! That, now, is something like," and Ben, who had pricked up his ears at the word "circus," laid his finger on a smaller cut of a man hanging by the back of his neck with a child in each hand, two men suspended from his feet, and the third swinging forward to alight on his head.
"I'm going," said Sam, with calm decision, for this superb array of unknown pleasures fired his soul and made him forget his weight.
"How will you fix it?" asked Ben, fingering the bill with a nervous thrill all through his wiry limbs, just as he used to feel it when his father caught him up to dash into the ring.
"Foot it with Billy. It's only four miles, and we've got lots of time, so we can take it easy. Mother wont care, if I send word by Cy," answered Sam, producing half a dollar, as if such magnificent sums were no strangers to his pocket.
"Come on, Brown; you'll be a first-rate fellow to show us round, as you know all the dodges," said Billy, anxious to get his money's worth.
"Well, I don't know," began Ben, longing to go, but afraid Mrs. Moss would say "No!" if he asked leave.
"He's afraid," sneered the red-faced boy, who felt bitterly toward all mankind at that instant, because he knew there was no hope of his going.
"Say that again, and I'll knock your head off," and Ben faced round with a gesture which caused the other to skip out of reach precipitately.
"Hasn't got any money, more likely," observed a shabby youth, whose pockets never had anything in them but a pair of dirty hands.
Ben calmly produced a dollar bill and waved it defiantly before this doubter, observing with dignity:
"I've got money enough to treat the whole crowd, if I choose to, which I don't."
"Then come along and have a jolly time with Sam and me. We can buy some dinner and get a ride home, as like as not," said the amiable Billy, with a slap on the shoulder, and a cordial grin which made it impossible for Ben to resist.
"What are you stopping for?" demanded Sam, ready to be off, that they might "take it easy."
"Don't know what to do with Sancho. He'll get lost or stolen if I take him, and it's too far to carry him home if you are in a hurry," began Ben, persuading himself that this was the true reason for his delay.
"Let Cy take him back. He'll do it for a cent; wont you, Cy?" proposed Billy, smoothing away all objections, for he liked Ben, and saw that he wanted to go.
"No, I wont; I don't like him. He winks at me, and growls when I touch him," muttered naughty Cy, remembering how much reason poor Sanch had to distrust his tormentor.
"There's Bab; she'll do it. Come here, sissy; Ben wants you," called Sam, beckoning to a small figure just perching on the fence.
Down it jumped and came fluttering up, much elated at being summoned by the captain of the sacred nine.
"I want you to take Sanch home, and tell your mother I'm going to walk, and may be wont be back till sundown. Miss Celia said I might do what I pleased, all day. You remember, now."
Ben spoke without looking up, and affected to be very busy buckling a strap into Sanch's collar, for the two were so seldom parted that the dog always rebelled. It was a mistake on Ben's part, for while his eyes were on his work, Bab's were devouring the bill, which Sam still held, and her suspicions were aroused by the boys' faces.
"Where are you going? Ma will want to know," she said, as curious as a magpie all at once.
"Never you mind; girls can't know everything. You just catch hold of this and run along home. Lock Sanch up for an hour, and tell your mother I'm all right," answered Ben, bound to assert his manly supremacy before his mates.
"He's going to the circus," whispered Fay, hoping to make mischief.
"Circus! Oh, Ben, do take me!" cried Bab, falling into a state of great excitement at the mere thought of such delight.
"You couldn't walk four miles," began Ben.
"Yes, I could, as easy as not."
"You haven't got any money."
"You have; I saw you showing your dollar, and you could pay for me, and Ma would pay it back."
"Can't wait for you to get ready."
"I'll go as I am. I don't care if it is my old hat," and Bab jerked it on to her head.
"Your mother wouldn't like it."
"She wont like your going, either."
"She isn't my missis now. Miss Celia wouldn't care, and I'm going, anyway."
"Do, do take me, Ben! I'll be just as good as ever was, and I'll take care of Sanch all the way," pleaded Bab, clasping her hands and looking round for some sign of relenting in the faces of the boys.
"Don't you bother; we don't want any girls tagging after us," said Sam, walking off to escape the annoyance.
"I'll bring you a roll of chickerberry lozengers, if you wont tease," whispered kind-hearted Billy, with a consoling pat on the crown of the shabby straw hat.
"When the circus comes here you shall go, certain sure, and Betty too," said Ben, feeling mean while he proposed what he knew was a hollow mockery.
"They never do come to such little towns; you said so, and I think you are very cross, and I wont take care of Sanch, so, now!" cried Bab getting into a passion, yet ready to cry, she was so disappointed.
"I suppose it wouldn't do—" hinted Billy, with a look from Ben to the little girl, who stood winking hard to keep the tears back.
"Of course it wouldn't. I'd like to see her walking eight miles. I don't mind paying for her; it's getting her there and back. Girls are such a bother when you want to knock round. No, Bab, you can't go. Travel right home and don't make a fuss. Come along, boys; it's most eleven, and we don't want to walk fast."
Ben spoke very decidedly, and, taking Billy's arm, away they went, leaving poor Bab and Sanch to watch them out of sight, one sobbing, the other whining dismally.
Somehow those two figures seemed to go before Ben all along the pleasant road, and half spoilt his fun, for though he laughed and talked, cut canes, and seemed as merry as a grig, he could not help feeling that he ought to have asked leave to go, and been kinder to Bab.
"Perhaps Mrs. Moss would have planned somehow so we could all go, if I'd told her. I'd like to show her round, and she's been real good to me. No use now. I'll take the girls a lot of candy and make it all right."
He tried to settle it in that way and trudged gayly on, hoping Sancho wouldn't feel hurt at being left, wondering if any of "Smither's lot" would be round, and planning to do the honors handsomely to the boys.
It was very warm, and just outside of the town they passed by a wayside watering-trough to wash their dusty faces and cool off before plunging into the excitements of the afternoon. As they stood refreshing themselves, a baker's cart came jingling by, and Sam proposed a hasty lunch while they rested. A supply of gingerbread was soon bought, and, climbing the green bank above, they lay on the grass under a wild cherry-tree, munching luxuriously while they feasted their eyes at the same time on the splendors awaiting them, for the great tent, with all its flags flying, was visible from the hill.
"We'll cut across those fields,—it's shorter than going by the road,—and then we can look round outside till it's time to go in. I want to have a good go at everything, especially the lions," said Sam, beginning on his last cookie.
"I heard 'em roar just now;" and Billy stood up to gaze with big eyes at the flapping canvas which hid the king of beasts from his longing sight.
"That was a cow mooing. Don't you be a donkey, Bill. When you hear a real roar, you'll shake in your boots," said Ben, holding up his handkerchief to dry after it had done double duty as towel and napkin.