UP-THE-LADDER CLUB SERIES.
ROUND ONE PLAY.
THE KNIGHTS OF THE WHITE SHIELD.
EDWARD A. RAND
AUTHOR OF "SCHOOL AND CAMP SERIES:" "PUSHING AHEAD; OR, BIG BROTHER DAVE," "ROY'S DORY AT THE SEA-SHORE," AND "LITTLE BROWN-TOP;" "BARK CABIN ON KEARSARGE," "SCHOONER ON THE BEACH," "NELLIE'S NEW YEAR," "CHRISTMAS JACK," "KINDLING-WOOD JIMMY," ETC.
TO KEN AND THE OTHER BOYS.
CHAPTER I. MAKING A CLUB II. THE GRAND MARCH III. FOR SUNDAY-SCHOOL SCHOLARS, AN OFFER IV. THE "PAMMERRAMMER" V. THE NATION'S BIRTHDAY VI. A SICK PATRIOT VII. THE NAILED DOOR AND WINDOW VIII. THE ENTERTAINMENT IX. THE CUPOLA X. AUNT STANSHY'S BOARDER XI. THE CLUB IN SPLINTERS XII. THE CLUB MENDED XIII. A KNIGHT GOES TO SEA XIV. SETTING A TRAP XV. THE FAIR XVI. THE FIRE XVII. TWO MUD-TURTLES XVIII. A NEW DEPARTURE XIX. THE WRECK XX. THE ROUND HIGHER UP
MAKING A CLUB.
There was a clattering of feet on the stairs leading to the chamber of Aunt Stanshy's barn. First there popped up one head and a pair of curious eyes. Then there popped up a second head and two more eyes. Then there popped up a third head and two more eyes.
"Jolly! Don't she beat all?"
It was Sid Waters who said this.
"It's de best barn in de lane," said Juggie Jones, a little colored boy, his dark eyes lighting up with true interest.
"Well, I think it is a pretty good barn," rejoined Charlie Macomber, with apparent unconcern. At the same time a secret pride was dwelling in his bosom, that suddenly made his jacket too tight for him. If Seamont, in which the barn was located, was one of the best of towns in the opinion of its inhabitants, this particular barn, in Charlie's estimate, was one of the best structures of that sort in the place. Below, on the first floor, there was a chance of a stall for Brindle, now grazing in a little pasture adjoining the garden. There was, also, a stall for a horse, and an extra stall, though empty, always gives dignity to a barn, suggesting what has been, and, while speaking of a glory departed, hints of that which may be another day.
But the chamber! What palace of gold ever had a room equal to that chamber? It had a row of barrels, behind which or in which you could safely hide. It had a ladder that would let you smartly bump your head against the highest rafter in the roof, a cross-beam, too, from which you could suspend a swing, and a window in the rear from which you could look upon the Missigatchee River (supposed to have been christened by the Indians). This river-view you could have had, if the window had not been boarded up, but there was a front window, whose big square shutter was generally open. This gave a boy a view of the lane and, if maliciously disposed, a chance to safely let drive an apple or a snow-ball at any "down-townie" that might rashly invade the neighborhood. There was also a window high up, at one end, well latticed with cobwebs. Then there was a closet, which was splendid for "Hy-spy," and—notice!—honor upon honor—there was a "cupelo," as Charlie called it, on top of the barn. Through the slats of the "cupelo," one could look upon the river shining gloriously at sunset, as if the sun were a Chinese mandarin that at this hour spread his yellow silk robe upon the river in a vain attempt to warm up the cold waters just from the sea. Besides this there were various attractions, such as oars in the corner, nets hanging from nails, and let it not be forgotten that a big strip of dried halibut dangled from a spike in the wall. To a hungry boy what is there better than such a halibut, unless it be two halibuts? Already there had been sly, toothsome pickings of this.
It is no wonder, then, that the soul of Sid Waters, to say nothing of his stomach in view of the halibut, was powerfully affected, and again he cried out, "Jolly!" Then he clapped his hands, shouting, "Just the place for a club!"
"A club" said Juggie Jones. "Got nuff dose on my wood-pile."
"He means an or-gorgan-gangor—" Charlie spoke very hesitatingly. It was a long word and threatened to catch crosswise in his windpipe and choke him.
"Organization?" inquired Sid. "O I will show you. We had plenty of 'em in Boston."
As Sid had just moved from the city, and especially a city so full of knowledge as Boston, Charlie and Juggie received this piece of news with all possible respect.
"We can make one right here," suggested Charlie.
"Yes, straight off," said the late citizen of Boston.
"But whar's de boys?" asked Juggie.
"O three will do," said Sid Waters, "for you don't want many to start with. I know the club will be popular after she has been started. And then, fellers," he said, in a quiet tone, "there's a better chance for offices in a small club, you know. We can fill 'em all now and get good berths."
It was a great temptation, but a conviction of the importance of numbers finally prevailed. The three pioneers in this great club movement saw also it would look better to defer all elections until others had joined, as it would give these a chance for position. The magnanimity native to the three conquered, and it was decided to accumulate more material before making the club.
"We might adjourn and meet in an hour," suggested Sid. "That would give us more opportunity to invite other fellers in."
How Charlie did admire Sid for his easy flow of language! The "lane," as Seamont called the narrow street before the barn, was now searched for recruits, and the barn-chamber was deserted a whole hour. The big horse-flies sawed on their bass-viols at their leisure. The warm gold of the sunshine undisturbed continued to decorate the floor of the chamber. Hark! There's a noise in the yard! It grows to a harried, breathless scramble on the stairs. Finally eight boys appeared, the future members of the club, save one or two later additions. There was Sid or Sidney Waters, aged eleven. He was the oldest boy present, and the brains really of the enterprise. He was a bit vain, rather selfish, and liked to have his own way, a very rare failing among boys. Still, he was a bright boy, and he had his generous impulses as well as his selfish ones. Rick Grimes, aged ten, was a stout, Dutchy kind of lad, rather slow and heavy, but well-meaning and pretty resolute. There was also Billy Grimes, Rick's cousin, and a year younger. You would have said that these two boys came from the same ancestral stock when you saw their cheeks. These had a well-filled look, as if padded for Thanksgiving.
This peculiarity of feature gave the cousins special titles in whose selection the boy-instinct for nicknames had shown its unerring accuracy of aim. One was "Choppy," and the other, Billy, was "Cousin Choppy." Their playmates were generally considerate and did not apply these titles unless they "got mad." Forgetting themselves, these titles might be sent flying about freely as snow-balls in a January thaw. There was Worthington Wentworth. It takes a long breath and a very straight throat to say that, and we will not repeat it, but will call him Wort Wentworth, as the boys did. His hair was twisted all over his head, like a brush fence, and his black eyes were very lively. He was one of the rogues of the club, and at school took more rattannings, as a mark of his teacher's affection, than any other boy. Juggie Jones—full name Jugurtha Bonaparte Jones—was a little colored fellow lately from the South, now living with his granny, a washer-woman, in a little yellow house at the head of the lane. He was always laughing and showing his white teeth. He was a great favorite with the boys. Wort and Juggie were of the same age as Charlie,—nine. Pip or Piper Peckham, aged eight, was a big-eyed, black-haired, little fellow with a peaked face. Timid, sensitive to neglect, very fond of notice, he was sometimes a subject for the tricks of his playmates. Then there was Tony or Antonio Blanco, a late arrival at Seamont. He was an olive-faced, black-haired, shy little fellow. When he spoke, he used English, but his accent was Italian. He was rarely heard from. An air of mystery encircled him. Whether his father was a count in Italy or a seller of pea-nuts in New York, no one at Seamont had been able to say for a month, and that was a long time in circles of gossip. It was finally asserted that his father lived in Italy. Tony was of the same age as Pip.
Concerning Charlie we shall find out farther along.
"Will the gentlemen please come to order," shouted Sid Waters, pompously," and sit—sit—on the floor?"
The meeting obeyed at once.
"Ahem—I 'spose we had better fill the offices first. Who will be president?"
This magnanimous tender of the office to any one present was received in silence. The meeting was overawed by the thought of this mighty honor so nigh at hand. All recovered in a short time, and several, including Pip Peckham, were about to sacrifice themselves for the common good, when Sid dexterously presented himself as an offering ahead of them all, and said: "Well, if nobody wants it, as I don't like to see an office go a-beggin', I'll—I'll take it!"
"Three cheers for our president!" said Charlie, magnanimously, and the three were given, though it must be confessed that several disappointed souls cheered faintly.
"We ought to have a governor," said Charlie.
"What! besides a president?" inquired Sid, a slight sneer noticeable in his tones.
"Don't they have a governor in Massachusetts?" inquired Charlie, triumphantly.
That settled it, for Massachusetts custom was plainly authority in this matter.
Rick Grimes was made governor.
"Treasurer now!" called out Sid.
"Charlie, would you like to be that?" he whispered. Charlie was about to say "Yes," when the fruit hanging before his thirsty lips was suddenly snatched away.
"I'd like that," piped a voice. It was Pip Peckham.
"Ahem!" said the president, "I think the office ought to be given to experience," and here he looked in the direction of Charlie.
"Who's he?" inquired Billy. "Who's Sperience?"
"Silence!" ordered the president. "Little boys must speak only when they are spoken to."
"Why couldn't we have two treasuries?" inquired Gov. Grimes, putting the thing for its keeper. This happy solution of a difficult problem was at once accepted. Charlie was named as the first official of this grade, and Pip as the second.
"We ought to have a keeper of the great seal," said the president.
"What is that?" asked the inquisitive Billy. The president was puzzled to say just what it did mean, "But," he affirmed, "I think we ought to have it. It is something, I know, and they put it on things."
"I know what it is," said Gov. Grimes, eagerly. "My uncle has two down on the wharf, in a tank, a great one and a little one, and I guess we could have the great one up here, and some one be keeper of it."
The contempt of the president was undisguised. "That isn't it! If I could only think, but there is so much noise! Order, gentlemen!"
Whatever noise had been made, the president was the author of the most of it, though he did not seem to know it.
"Perhaps we'd better 'journ that," said Gov. Grimes. "That's what they do to things in meetings, when they want to put them off, my father says."
"Well, we can do that, only I think we'd better have a—"
"I will!" shouted Wort, fearful that he might lose his chance for an office, and eagerly assenting beforehand to any thing that was coming.
"You be janitor, and take care of the—the—hall?" said Sid, looking round on the barn-chamber. "That's what I meant."
"There ought to be a sentinel," said Sid; "one, you know, to look after the door and not let any down-townies up. Will you, Juggie?"
"Yes," replied that man of war, Jugurtha Bonaparte Jones.
"Billy's got nothing," said Juggie.
"So he hasn't," said Gov. Grimes. "We ought to have a secretary, to put up notices and soon."
"Billy shall be that," declared the president. As Billy was backward in his studies and could not write, his office promised to be one of great honor and no duties. Every body had been pat into office except one, shy, silent, little olive-face, Tony. He was contented to be an unnoticed flower in the field. Charlie was the first to detect it, and whispered to Sid, "Tony hasn't got nothing."
It was felt to be a very small kind of a club that had not an office for every member, and Tony was made assistant-sentinel. The club was in raptures, every body in office!
"What shall be the name of the club?" asked the president. This was followed by a long discussion. Earth and sky were searched for a name.
"Call it Star Club," said Billy.
"No, that aint bright enough," replied the governor. The titles "Sun," "Moon," and "Comet" were successively rejected. "Let's ask teacher," chirped little Pip. The idea took, and it was resolved to visit "teacher" as soon as the club had been manufactured.
"I think we ought to pay something," suggested Charlie. The club resolved that each member should pay a cent a month.
"And what do with the money?" asked the governor.
"Buy swords," replied the martial Jugurtha.
The idea spread like wild-fire, and, not stopping to count how long at the above rate it would take to accumulate money sufficient to buy a sword for every one, the club voted Juggie's proposition a wise and patriotic one.
"I think," said the self-forgetful Sid, "that the president ought to have the first sword."
"And the governor next," said Rick.
"And the treasury next," said Charlie.
"I'm that, Charlie, too, and I want one," clamored Pip.
"A sentinel ought to have one fust, 'cause he's at de door, and might hab to dribe away down-townies," said Juggie.
"No, me first," said the governor.
"No, me," said the president.
"No, me," said the secretary.
It was "me!" "me!" "me!" all over the barn chamber, and the members of that swordless club were almost at swords' points.
"Sposin' we 'journ this," said Charlie the peace-maker, remembering the rule for "doing things" in meetings.
"Yes," exclaimed Sid, "and until we get a real sword each one can chalk a sword on his pants."
"Hurrah!" sang out Gov. Grimes, and each one, happy in the thought that he could have a sword as speedily as his neighbor, cheered lustily.
"Now, boys, let's go and see 'teacher' about our name," suggested the president. The barn was vacated at once, and the members of the club went down stairs as if a fire were after them, and then rushed along the lane, all heading for a cozy story-and-a-half house where "teacher" lived. "The Sunday-school teacher" was Miss Bertha Barry, brown-haired, brown-eyed, vivacious Bertha Barry. All the boys were in her class, save Tony.
"O, she won't do for a teacher," said old Mrs. Jones, when the pastor invited Bertha to enter the Sunday-school as a worker. "Too flighty!"
"She wont stick," growled Timothy Scriggins, a venerable male gossip, who scolded every body and every thing, satisfied only with Timothy Scriggins.
However, she did do and she did stick. The boys took a very positive fancy to this young, sprightly, energetic teacher, and their liking lasted. She compelled their respect and she won their hearts. They looked upon her as an older sister, and promptly confided to her their troubles and solicited her advice. In a troop, running, panting, they came into her yard and presented themselves at her door.
"Come into the sitting-room, boys. Glad to see you. Well!"
Her air said: "I wonder what brought my class in a body to me," something was evidently on the minds of all. The president quickly dissipated the mystery.
"We—we—" said Sid, trying to catch his breath, "have—formed a—club—and—want—you—to name it."
"Yes! yes! yes!" was the chorus coming from the eager faces turned up to Miss Bertha.
"Name a club? Dear me! What shall I tell you? Where is your club?"
"Here!" said Sid, looking round in pride.
"No; I mean, where do you hold your meetings?"
"In my barn," said Charlie. "You go in from the street and go up some stairs. It's up stairs."
"You might go up higher," added the governor. "There's a ladder there, so you can get up—up in the cupelo, but you wont want to go up there."
"Why, that suggests a name. It's a little odd, but you'll think of it every time you go up stairs and see the ladder. Call it 'Up-the-Ladder Club,' and then it will have a meaning that you are boys who mean to do your best, climbing up always, up, up, up!"
Miss Bertha here reached as high as she could, and her admirers, with sparkling eyes, stretched upward their small arms, also, shouting, "Up-the-Ladder Club! Up-the-Ladder Club!"
"I'll put it to vote, teacher," said the president, with dignity. "Those in favor of it, say 'Aye.'"
A ringing "Aye" was now given, and after it, came a sharp-featured, wrinkled face at the door.
"Land's sake, Bertha, what's the matter?"
"O it's only my class, grandmother."
"It scat me dreadfully. I thought it was fire," and, saying this, the old lady, with a sigh of relief, withdrew.
"And now, teacher, we want a badge; something to wear, you know," exclaimed Sid.
"What's that you have on?" Miss Bertha asked of Juggie.
"A sword," replied that warrior, displaying his right leg, on which he had already chalked a sword.
"That's for the down-townies," said the governor, in a martial tone.
"I'm—afraid—the 'down-townies' will laugh at that; are not you?"
The club had only thought of what they might do to the "down-townies," not at all of what the latter would do to them. They certainly had not given a thought to any ridicule these old enemies might heap upon them. A sadden chill now struck the sword-plan and it went down in the boys' estimation like the mercury in the glass on a cold day.
"Now, I don't want my class to be sword-boys. I can't say I fancy the idea. I will tell you something that I think will be nice, and I will make the badge."
Here the mercury began to climb the glass again, and that chilled look in the boys' faces began to thaw out.
"I will make you—each one of you—a pretty white shield, to be worn on the left arm, make it of pasteboard, so it will be stiff, and then cover it nicely with white silk."
The boys began to hurrah. The mercury was away up the glass now.
"A white shield, that will mean something. That means purity, honesty, every thing good and fair, and that your beautiful white shield will be your defense against harm. You are my knights of the white shield."
The applause following this was almost tumultuous.
"You are the Up-the-Ladder Club, that is, boys who are always going ahead in every thing good; climbing up, not lazy or bad, but boys, with an ambition—a true Up-the-Ladder Club—"
"Or," suggested Sid, impressively, "the Knights of the White Shield."
How Charlie did admire the ready wit of the president! The enthusiasm of the club increased. As in that reputed story of Maria Theresa, where her nobles are said to have surrounded her, and, waving their swords enthusiastically, pledged her their support, so the Up-the-Ladder Club waved their caps around this their young queen. The excitement became so intense it was necessary to open the door to give it suitable vent, and out into the open air went these newly-dubbed knights.
"There go Bertha Barry's boys, I know," growled Timothy Scriggins, who chanced to meet this band of knights issuing from the yard of their queen. "I never saw sich a teacher."
Well, the boys loved her. There was now a rush for the barn. When they had all safely arrived in the chamber, Charlie suddenly and soberly exclaimed, "There!"
"What's the matter?" inquired Sid. "You look pale. Has any one put his sword—I mean his shield into—I mean on you?"
Charlie did not feel like joking. A dark thought had overshadowed him and changed a peaceful to a threatening sky.
"What is it?" asked Gov. Grimes.
"I did not," replied Charlie, "ask Aunt Stanshy if we might have the barn!"
That was an omission indeed, and the club appreciated it, as "Aunt Stanshy" was well known by the boys. All the sunshine seemed to disappear suddenly and a cloud was on every thing.
Aunt Stanshy's name in full was Constantia, but, like the crown-jewels of England, it was only used on very important occasions. The house and barn both belonged to Aunt Stanshy, property that had been willed her by her father, Solomon Macomber, whose body slept under the wings of a blue-stone cherub in the cemetery. Her nephew, Charles, on the death of his wife, came to live with Aunt Stanshy, bringing his infant heir. When the father died, little Charlie was left in Aunt Stanshy's care. She was a tall, resolute woman, so tall that Simes Badger told Charlie that when he wanted to put colors on a flag-staff, he needn't go out of the house. That made Charlie mad. Aunt Stanshy had sharp, black eyes, and spectacles made them look all the sharper. As Charlie said, "Aunt Stanshy's eyes sometimes look as if they had snappin' crackers in 'em." Aunt Stanshy was really kind at heart and really loved Charlie, and he had all the comforts of home; but she would sometimes speak quick, and she was always sure to "speak her mind," be the rate of speech slow or quick. Simes Badger was a retired old salt and kept the light-house; not that scanty funds compelled him, but mostly because he must do something about the sea to keep him at all contented. Simes once remarked, "I'll allow that Stanshy is a leetle tart at times, and I've knowed her since she was a gal. But then if you take a good sour apple and stew it and sugar it, it makes a first-class apple-pie. Howsomever, it must be well stewed and well sugared." The boys now trembled lest this vigorous, resolute soul might not favor their plans, and denying it a place of meeting might end the days of the infant club.
"There," said Sid, mournfully, "we've made a club, but we've got no place to stick it in! How would it do to make Aunt Stanshy an honorary member of the club?"
The faces of all brightened at this happy thought.
"And not athk her to pay a thent a month, but ektheuth her," suggested Pip, who had a lisping style of speech.
This was another happy thought and acceptable to the club.
"I'll go and ask her," said Charlie. As he went down stairs, the members of the club gathered around the open window, anxiously looking out and awaiting the return of their embassador to her majesty in the kitchen, Constantia the first. Aunt Stanshy was washing clothes when Charlie entered. With a drooping head and faltering tongue he told about the club and asked for the barn, having announced her honorary membership, and also the remission of the monthly due. Aunt Stanshy had a streak of fun in her nature and a big one. When she looked out into the yard, and glancing up saw the seven sober, anxious faces at the barn window, she laughed and said, "Well, Charlie, have I got to lug a big, heavy white shield around?"
"O it's a beautiful one of pasteboard and silk."
"Well, well, say yes."
When he had gone, Aunt Stanshy took her hands out of the suds, sat down in a flag-bottomed chair by the store, and laughed till her sides ached. She was washing again when the granny of the "Sentinel" came in to help her. Granny took the flag-bottomed chair and asked, "What's de news, Stanshy?"
Aunt Stanshy burst out laughing, and the big ribbon-ends of her cap fluttered like a pennant at the mast-head.
"Why, I'm an honorary member and sha'n't have to pay a cent; ha, ha, ha!"
But Aunt Stanshy made no explanation. She only pounded her clothes and roared, so tickled was she. Subsiding, she soon broke out again.
"Why, chile, what's de matter?" asked granny. "You done gone crazy and sure for't."
"I'm an honorary member, and have got to wear a silk shield, I tell you."
Granny went home, shaking her head and saying, "I do b'lieve she's losin' her mind sure, and dat am mournfu' in one so young an' lubly."
THE GRAND MARCH.
"Please, aunty, lend me your wash-stick."
As he spoke Charlie was all excitement, running eagerly from the barn into the house. Obtaining the coveted treasure, he as eagerly ran back. Two minutes passed.
"May I have the curtain-stick up in your chamber that you don't want?"
"How do you know I don't want it?"
"'Cause it's doing nothing, standing up in the corner."
"O what eyes! Yes, you may have it."
Three minutes went.
"Aunty, couldn't I have the broom-handle out in the entry? Some of the boys knew you wouldn't let me, but I said you would. I knew you would let a feller take it," said the ingenious Charlie.
"For pity's sake, Charles Pitt Macomber, what next?"
This was Charlie's real name and used for greater impressiveness.
"That broom-handle is what I fasten the back window with, and if any bugglars get in tonight, I must blame you."
However, Charlie carried his point. In a few minutes he appeared again, and pointed at his shoulder.
"Aunty, see here!"
"Why, Charles Pitt, what have you done to your shoulder?"
Charlie grinned. There, on the left shoulder, was a chalk shield. "Teacher, of course, must have time to make our silk shields, and so we got up these."
Aunt Stanshy's eyes let out some funny, bright sparks.
"O, no, it's only the grand march."
"The grand march!"
"Yes, and see here, aunty. I have only this chalk shield, and you don't want your boy to go that way. Please let me take that old sword above the sitting-room mantel-piece," pleaded Charlie, with beseeching eyes.
"Grandsir's sword? O that wont do. Why, that sword was at the battles of Quebec and Banker Hill and Waterloo and—"
Constantia! In her loyalty to grandsir's memory, she was unconsciously mentioning places he had never been in! All this array of names only fired Charlie's ardor. At last Aunt Stanshy said, "There, take it! The next thing, I spose, you'll want me."
"We may; but you'd have to dress up in man's clothes, you know."
"Never!" said Aunt Stanshy, firmly. "Don't go out of the lane with grandsir's sword!"
"We'll be along soon."
"How will I know it? I may be up stairs."
"We will give three cheers under the window."
There was an increasing commotion in the barn chamber.
"Now, fellers!" exclaimed Sid Waters. "You won't be ready for the grand march."
"Yes, yes, yes," they shouted back.
"Is the chariot ready for the president?" inquired Sid.
"Yes," said Charlie, who purposed to furnish his go-cart for the occasion. "It's down in the yard."
"I have the first ride, you know."
"And I the second," said the governor.
"Yes, but the governor must go behind while the president rides."
Rick's heart sank within him, but all had promised to obey orders and there was no appeal.
"Every feller's—I mean knight's—uniform ready?" asked the president.
Charlie's certainly was. Every moment he could spare out of school that day, he had been sewing in his snug little bedroom. Such stitches! They looked like pairs of bars trying to straddle a brush fence. For epaulets he arranged pieces of black cloth, the center of each being brightened with a strip of red. His belt was made of white flannel dotted with a flaming row of red stars, and with these were interspersed various sizes of mild chocolate suns. Each of the other warriors sported a chalk shield, as did Charlie. This was the only thing in common. Other insignia varied in character, color, and size, as much as would those of Chinese, Anglo-Saxon and Zulu troops. Pip Peckham, in his anxiety for distinction, had chalked a shield on each shoulder! The cheapness of the material used would readily permit this, but Pip's appearance was insignificant beside Charlie's, who strode forward to the march, flourishing grandsir's sword. Not even Alexander, Julius Caesar, Napoleon, or General Grant, ever had a sword to be compared with Charlie's that day. The warriors moved out from their "armory" into the yard. Aunt Stanshy was up stairs making a bed. Suddenly under her window, arose a wild, semi-civilized, semi-barbarous shout.
"What is to pay?" she screamed. "O those little boobies!" and she sprang to the window. The "Grand March" had been inaugurated with full pomp. Sid Waters, as president, was sitting in the go-cart, his head ornamented with a huge smothering three-cornered hat, made out of a New York daily. Rick Grimes, as governor, was walking behind the go-cart, now and then giving the "chariot" an obsequious push, but impatiently awaiting his turn for a ride. Billy Grimes and Pip Peckham were serving as horses, and soldiers also, pulling along the president and sharing the broom-handle between them. Whether that handle might be a "musket" or a "spear," no one could say. Charlie served as a body-guard, now looking at Aunt Stanshy's window and then glancing in pride at grandsir's sword. Juggie was a color-bearer, and at the same time a color-guard of one appeared in the shape of Tony, flourishing Aunt Stanshy's clothes-stick. The colors were a very small American flag on a very long bean-pole. Twenty feet ahead of the whole procession, in solitary glory, walked Wort. He was a kind of "chief marshal," Sid had said, but Wort could not forget that he had also been made "keeper of the great seal" that very day, and in token of it he took along the borrowed curtain-stick.
This summons came not from the chief marshal but the president, and was promptly obeyed by all. Wort retreated from his advanced position and assumed command. "The grand review will now begin," he shouted. "The whole of you may get into line. Now forward! For—ward!"
"Say wheel, first!" called out Sid, not intending Aunt Stanshy or any other spectator should hear the advice be thought it necessary to give the chief marshal.
"Wheel first!" shouted Wort, but the only "wheel" that started was one on the go-cart, which concluded to leave its axle, much to the disgust of the president and the confusion of the company. Sid sprang from the cart. "Here, let me do it, Wort."
"Form in line!" Wort shouted majestically.
"Form in line!" Sid was whispering to several old veterans. "Where's Juggie?"
"Keep your bugle handy and sound it when Wort says, 'Charge!'"
Juggie proudly brandished a fish-horn which he had borrowed of Simes Badger.
"Shoulder arms!" screamed Wort.
"Ow, my teeth!" squeaked Pip, whose foot had been vigorously rammed by Billy Grimes.
"Order arms! Present arms! March! Charge!"
These directions followed one another so rapidly that only the oldest veterans, and they wildly, could attempt obedience.
"Blow your bugle!" shouted Sid to Juggie.
"Charge! Cavalry, forward!" Wort was shrieking.
It was a wild melee. The cavalry (go-cart) was shoved forward by Gov. Grimes, running it against Pip and Billy, while the "infantry" rushed ahead, each on his own hook, the color-bearer and the color-guard trying to get into place somewhere. Wort vainly endeavored to keep at the head of something or somebody. All this time Juggie was swelling his cheeks and sounding his horn, and this was the only thing that was successfully done. Fortunately the ground to be charged across was not a long stretch, and in a moment they were all shoving against the fence.
"Wort, you didn't do that right," claimed the president.
"Yes, I did."
"No, you're wrong," asserted Sid.
"Let me try?" asked Rick.
"No, this will do," said Sid. "You may march us, Rick."
This compromise was accepted. Away they all went, Rick strutting forward with great dignity, but Juggie waved his flag cautiously, for the flourishing of such a long pole might lead to his capsizing. Tony followed Juggie. Billy and Pip still tugged at the go-cart that the president continued to monopolize. Charlie solemnly guarded the precious freight in the "chariot." Wort, who had been at the head of the column, had now wandered to the rear, and his face wore a puzzled look, as if he did not know where to put the chief marshal.
"You ought to have two policemen in front," squeaked a little voice from the sidewalk. It was Tommy Keys, a small boy, who had seen a procession in Boston, and thought he knew how such things ought to be managed.
"Shet up," shouted the governor, indignant at even the faintest suggestion of weakness, and he rushed upon Tommy with a drawn clothes-stick. Away went the terrified Tommy.
"So may all our foes be routed!" said the president, and to this sentiment there was a response of three cheers. Alas, how soon all that pride was to be humiliated! The column was now nearing the head of the lane which ran into Water Street, the leading business avenue of the town. Sid, who always had an eye out to the course that was prudent, was exclaiming, in low tones, "Don't—don't go too near Water Street! Look out for down-townies, fellers!" It is often the case in a village of any size that there will be among the boys two parties representing two different sections and supposed to represent two different ideas and civilizations. Seamont had its boy-clans, those at the lower end of the village being the down-townies, and those at the upper end were designated as up-townies. The club belonged to the up-townies, "the only fit class for gentlemen," Sid had declared The down-townies delighted to hurl all kinds of epithets at the other boys, and these "gentlemen" up-townies could sling titles almost as successfully, and both sides would sometimes give additional flavor to their epithets by means of missiles, even as mothers sometimes season their injunctions to boys with a twig from the old apple-tree in the yard. The club had had no hand in these intestine feuds, but sympathized with the warriors in their neighborhood, the up-townies. There had been war recently between the two hostile sections, so that the boys did not venture far from their homes, and what did our valiant column now run into but a band of six belligerent down-townies! The club, at Sid's suggestion, had already passed a vote to give no quarter to down-townies, and that in case of trouble it should be "war to the last drop!" They prudently did not say what that drop might be, blood or only perspiration. Here was a grand test-hour close at hand. One of the down-townies raised a provoking cry, "Ho, fellers; see those little ragamuffins!"
He pointed toward the column, whose advance Juggie was enthusiastically stimulating by loud and prolonged blasts on the fish-horn.
"Boys, let's go for 'em," said one of the down-townies. Raising the war-whoop of the down-townies, which was a savage, senseless yell, and lacking the fine martial tones of the up-townies' battle-cry, the enemy made their charge. Sid Waters stepped, or leaped rather, from the "chariot" and ran toward the barn. Away went the "colors" in the hands of Juggie, almost capsizing him, as the tall standard swayed violently. Away went Wort, and away went Tony. Away rattled the go-cart, Billy and Pip making excellent time as they dragged it along. An engine rushing to a fire could not have gone much faster.
"Don't run!" shouted Gov. Grimes. "Stand your ground, my men! Rally!"
"No, sir," said Charlie, replying to the first appeal, and then, in response to the second, said, quickly, "Yes, sir."
Charlie was the only one among "my men" willing to "rally." But the governor was not discouraged. He was resolute, even at times to stubbornness.
He waved his clothes-stick and shrieked, "Come on! I defy you!"
Charlie also looked defiant; but he was so intent on facing the enemy that he did not pay proper attention to his armor, and the sword that had been so loyal to grandsir now turned into a rebel to Charlie. It did what swords will sometimes do; it insisted on mixing up with his chubby legs as he changed his position, and over he went! Rick had grappled the enemy, but it was a hopeless struggle, and things looked ominous for that fragment of the club now in the battle.
Suddenly a sharp, penetrating, commanding voice was heard. "Don't you touch 'em, you rascals," and a tall, resolute figure rose above the prostrate Charlie, flourishing a broom. It was Aunt Stanshy, who, from her window, had watched the boys, and, seeing the approach of that down-town thunder-cloud, rushed out to meet the storm. Her prowess was witnessed by Simes Badger, who, as a leading village gossip, was loafing away an hour of leisure in a flag-bottomed chair before Silas Trefethen's grocery. He told the story to all the village gossips of the masculine sex who gathered at the grocery as soon as they had swallowed their tea and had done as few chores at home as possible.
"Well!" said Simes, laughing.
He was a gaunt, long-drawn-out man, owning a straggling, gray beard, a pair of brown, twinkling eyes, and a nasal voice.
"I saw something, to-day, that beat the Dutch. It was Aunt Stanshy, and she did beat the Dutch; yes, she did, yaw, yaw, yaw! You see a parcel of young ones went up the lane in fine feather, colors flying and drums beat-in'." (This, to mildly put it, was a misstatement, as not a drum was there to be beaten; but Simes had a weakness for "misstatements.") "Well, they neared Water Street, and just then the enemy appeared, a lot of down-townies, yaw, yawl My, didn't those sojers scatter, all but two! I expected them two would be cut up like meat in a sausage-machine, but, turnin' to look down the lane, I saw a sight! It was Stanshy! She had left the house, broom in hand, and rushed up to the battle-ground, and there she stood among them down-townie chaps, and she fetched that broom backward an forward in grand style, as if sweepin' out of the way a lot of dirt!"
Here Simes, who always fancied that he was gifted with dramatic powers unusually fine, pulled a broom out of the stock in a neighboring barrel, and began to sway it backward and forward.
"My! didn't Stanshy sweep the battle-field? The enemy went down like leaves before a November gale!"
Simes, who was bound to act out the narrative, gave an unlucky sweep with his broom above the heads of his grinning and gaping auditors, and whacked Silas Trefethen, who was behind the counter putting up codfish.
"Mind, Simes, there! What are you up to, man?" shouted Silas, tartly, trying to make a stand against the staggering blow dealt amid the laughter of Simes's auditors.
"O, O! 'Scuse me, Silas! I was only 'lustratin'."
"'Lustrate next time on that post behind you. If Stanshy Macomber had such rigor in her arm as that, I pity those down-townies!"
Was not Aunt Stanshy indignant when she heard how Simes Badger had taken her off at the store! "I'll try my broom on him next time," she told Juggie's granny.
Aunt Stanshy was very popular with the club, who passed a vote of thanks to their honorary member. The down-townies, though, christened her "the dragon of the lane," and did not venture near her. Knowing that this fear existed, Sid Waters and other members of the club, especially the runaways, now ventured several times as far as Water Street, shouting defiance to imaginary enemies behind corners and trees. Sid was exceedingly daring with his tongue. It was noticed that he never again rode on such occasions. He evidently wished to have his legs handy, as he could rely on these better than the go-cart.
FOR SUNDAY-SCHOOL SCHOLARS, AN OFFER.
Charlie and Aunt Stanshy worshiped at St. John's. Dear old St. John's! It was a brick edifice, homely in its style, but glorious in its associations. It had two tiers of arched windows, the upper row letting light into a long, lofty gallery, that generally had for its occupants perhaps a dozen very shy auditors. If a "coaster" were in port over Sunday, then the heavy, shuffling tread of several men of the sea might be heard on the gallery stairs. This might happen when the service was a third through, and by the time it was two thirds through the shuffling tread might be heard on the stairs again, and this time echoing toward the door. The gallery was plain and old-fashioned in its finish, but it was supported by twisted wooden pillars considered to be marvels of architectural ingenuity in their day. The pews were old-fashioned in their form and decoration; but then they were surrounded by so many dear associations of the past, that when Aunt Stanshy entered one of those box pews she seemed to have stepped aboard a ship and it drifted her at once far, far away among old friends. On a rainy day, especially, did Aunt Stanshy enjoy the old church. True, not many would come out, and their heads above the backs of the pews looked like scattered turtle heads lifted above the surface of a pond in the woods. Aunt Stanshy was sure to be there, and, while she heard the rain beating upon the windows, there was the minister's voice reverently echoing in prayer, and Aunt Stanshy had such a sense of protection from this world's many storms. On fair-weather Sundays there would be quite a rush for the old church. The Browns, Pauls, Randalls, Jamesons, Tapieys, would turn up, smiling, radiant and self-assured as if they had never been absent from church a single service. Their manner almost seemed to declare that they had been there day and night. O, young people, do dare to be rainy-weather Christians!
Aunt Stanshy and Charlie were walking away from the church the noon of the Sunday after the grand march. At St. John's, the Sunday-school followed the morning service.
"Aunty," said Charlie, nudging his companion, "here comes somebody."
That somebody was Mr. Walton, to whom were intrusted the spiritual interests of the congregation. He was tall, stalwart, owned a fair complexion, and wore his hair rather long; hair, too, that would curl, no matter how patiently the brush and comb coaxed it to be straight and dignified. His blue eyes had a rather sharp look at first when turned toward you, but you soon felt that they were kindly, sympathetic, and magnetic. Mr. Walton was very friendly toward the boys, and for that reason he had a strong hold on the affections of many little fellows.
"Well, Miss Macomber, I am glad to see you out, and as for my boy here, I should miss him ever so much if he were not in my school."
"I should miss you, if you wasn't there," replied Charlie, anxious to return the compliment.
"Don't you know of some boy you could get into the school, Charlie?" asked Mr. Walton.
"I know of one who belongs to my club."
"You belong to a club! What is the name of it?"
"The U. T. L. Club."
"U. T. L.! What does that mean?"
"It is Miss Bertha Barry's notion, sir," explained Aunt Stanshy, with an air that was somewhat critical. Then she had noticed, or fancied that she had detected, that Mr. Walton, who was single, rather liked Miss Bertha and her ideas. He did not seem to notice Aunt Stanshy's tone, but remarked,
"U. T. L.! That means 'Up Too Late!'"
"Ha, ha, guess again," replied the delighted Charlie.
"Useful To Learn!"
"Up With The Lark!"
"You have got one word too many in there. 'Up The' is right."
"That's where I live," said Aunt Stanshy, proudly.
"It's 'Up The Ladder,' sir," said Charlie.
"Well, Up-the-Ladder boys ought to be making advances and going ahead all the time."
"That is what teacher says."
"What do you do in the club?"
"We had a grand march yesterday, and we have a pammerrammer next Saturday."
"All the boys in your club go to Sunday-school?"
"All except Tony."
"Who is Tony?"
"He's an Italian boy, and his father is away off."
"Couldn't you get him into your class?"
"I might try."
"I will make the club an offer. If they will get five boys into school and keep them there two months, I will give them a banner."
Charlie was delighted and promised to tell the boys in the club.
Mr. Walton here left Charlie and Aunt Stanshy, and went to his home. Aunt Stanshy greatly reverenced any one who led the worship of the congregation in the old church and encompassed such with a dignity-fence that was about as high as the famous steeple of old St. John's, and that was a landmark for souls at sea.
Then there was a family mystery about Mr. Walton that fascinated Aunt Stanshy. He lived with his old white-haired mother, and there were hints and whispers that the two mourned over a once wayward and now absent member of the family. It leaked out that this was a son younger than Mr. Walton, and he had married a beautiful foreign lady whom the clergyman loved also, but had relinquished to the younger brother. This younger son was off somewhere on the sea, it was whispered; but he had a child ashore. On stormy days, it was noticed that the white-haired mother would watch the steeple, which consisted of a series of diminutive houses rising one above the other, as if ambitious to fly, but finally relinquishing the task into the hands or wings rather of a gilded weather-cock. The mother would watch the pigeons flying into their hiding-places in the steeple, seeking a refuge from the wild storm, and then her eyes would be lifted higher to the weather-vane, as if seeking for news about the sea-wind. Still higher went her thoughts—to God.
"She's thinking of him, that son," said the observant neighbors, who never knowingly gave up a chance to see something. To Aunt Stanshy this bit of mystery only made Mr. Walton all the more interesting.
Mr. Walton thought the next day he would fish for scholars in the Grimes neighborhood, where Tony lived. Billy and Rick, or "the governor," as the club boys more generally called him now, lived in a long, low-roofed building that had two green doors. One door led into the home where lived Simes Badger when off duty at the light house. His wife took care of Tony. In the other part of the house lived Billy and the "governor" with Jotham and Ann Grimes. Billy was the child of Jotham and Ann. The "governor's" parents lived in Dakota, but kept him at the East for the sake of an education in its better schools. It was after dark when Mr. Walton chanced to reach the long, low-roofed house, and "rap-rap" went his vigorous knuckles against green door number one.
"Who's there?" sang out a boyish voice within.
"Tush, tush, Tony! Wait till I come," said Simes from his little bedroom at one side of the kitchen. He was off duty, Jotham Grimes having gone to the light-house. "It may be some sailor who wants me," added Simes. Mr. Walton, having heard a boy's voice, concluded its owner must still be at the door, and he announced his errand.
"It's rather late to call, but I wanted to know if you wouldn't like to come into our Sunday-school?"
"No, your old Sunday-school may go to the bottom of the sea," was the gruff reply of the disappointed Simes, who did not know his caller.
Mr. Walton felt that it might be prudent at that hour to withdraw, but he did not relinquish his intention to secure Tony; and Tony finally came to school.
The boy exceedingly interested the minister. "Where have I seen that face?" asked Mr. Walton, and with bowed head he sat in his study brooding over the problem, looking intently down as if trying to make out a pearl at the bottom of the sea.
"Auntie, what do you think a couple of standing up collars would cost?"
"A standing up collar, Charles Pitt! What do you want that for?"
"Why, we have a pammerrammer to-morrow, and I am the one to 'splain it; that is, me or the governor."
"He is gettin' to be a man!" thought Aunt Stanshy in sorrow. "A pammerrammer!" she inquired. "I most get into that. Do you have spectators?"
"O, yes. It is only a cent a ticket, and that will get you a reserved seat."
"Then I must take a reserved seat."
Aunt Stanshy told the boys she would come whenever they notified her that the pammerrammer was ready. A lively shout of announcement soon came from half a dozen heralds up in the barn window, and Aunt Stanshy dropped her sewing.
"All ready, aunty! Come now," shouted Charlie.
Aunt Stanshy quickened her steps into a run.
"There goes Stanshy," said Simes Badger, watching her from Silas Trefethen's grocery. "Runnin' t' a fire, I guess. She only needs an engine behind her t' make the thing complete."
Flying through the yard, Aunt Stanshy rushed up the barn chamber stairs. Passing the "sentinel" with the powerful aid of a cent, she looked around upon the chamber. In its center there was a stout wooden post, and between this post and a closet, at one end of the chamber, there had been suspended a dirty, ragged sheet, which the governor's aunt had taken from the attic and given to the club. Across this sheet stretched a panoramic strip of paper which Aunt Stanshy at once recognized as Charlie's handiwork. It took two boys, Sid and Wort, to stand at the two ends of the curtain and manage the "pammerrammer." As Sid unrolled the glorious succession of artistic beauties that Charlie had sketched, Wort at the other end pulled them along and rolled them up. In front of the curtain was ranged a plank. A carpenter's bench that bordered a wall of the barn supported one end of the plank, and a barrel the other end. This elevated roost was denominated "reserved seats," and all cent admissions secured "one of the most eligible chances in the Hall," so Sid declared. There was a string of sweet little beauties on the bench, girls from the neighborhood, and among them was little May Waters, her face one of wonderful vivacity, a kind of panorama in itself, where the most varied emotions chased one another in rapid succession. Aunt Stanshy found a sled to sit on, and the performance began. Gov. Grimes wished to try his hand first at explaining the pictures. He began, grandiloquently,
"This—this—is a building, no, Faneuil Hall. The next is a picture of a ship. That is a—"
"Don't roll her so tight, Wort," whispered a voice behind the curtain.
"Monkey!" said the governor, finishing his sentence, but unfortunately chancing to look toward that sensitive soul, Pip Peckham.
"I aint," said Pip.
"Who said you was?" inquired Wort.
"You!" charged Pip, turning to the governor.
"You looked at me."
"Silence in the audience!" shrieked Sid to the now jolly spectators.
"You've got your end all twisted up, Wort," said the governor.
"O dear!" groaned the president.
The straightening out of the last difficulty was effected after a while, and Gov. Grimes began again: "Here are some big, black dogs in a melon-patch."
"Bears, bears!" eagerly whispered Charlie, alarmed for the reputation of a club that could not tell the difference between dogs and bears.
"Well, bears, then," said the governor petulantly, "and I aint going to be it any more."
The discomfited lecturer insisted on resigning, and Charlie took the floor. He knew his old and beloved "pammerrammer" by heart, and he began promptly where the governor left off.
"Here are some bears in a melon-patch. There's a picture of Westminster Abbey, and here's a boy lifting a girl over a fence, and here's a flag from Europe, and here's one from some part of Asia or some other place."
In the midst of Charlie's glib description there was a crash. The plank, alias the reserved seats, did not have a firm support. Its weakness had been noticed, but not remedied.
"Who's the one to fix the bench?" inquired Sid.
"The governor," replied Wort.
But the governor was not one who believed in Aunt Stanshy's motto, "Do to-day's things to-day." She was trying to impress it on Charlie, but she could not be expected to stamp every mind in the club with the necessity of the injunction.
"One boy is enough for me," she would say.
The plank had remained firm as long as it could, but several wriggling children were too much even for the patience of a plank, and—down it went! Little May Waters dropped at the feet of Charlie as he was busily "'splaining." He gallantly picked her up and tried to comfort her, and various members of the club rushed to the rescue of other ladies. It was concluded now to adjourn the "pammerrammer."
"Man down in the yard!" called out Wort, who was "sentinel" when he had nothing else to do. Wort looked over the edge of the window-sill. About all he could see was an old hat, and a very bad hat at that.
"Let's sprinkle him! We can say we only saw a hat," and immediately scraping up with his foot a quantity of hay-seed, he liberally sprinkled the seedy hat. It was like unto like.
"Now look here," said Sid, "that was mean. If your father wore an old hat, how would you like to have a feller sprinkle hay-seed on it?"
Sid had a good deal of the gentleman about him.
"There he comes! There he comes! Put!" said Wort. A foot-step could be plainly heard on the stairs, and Wort started for the closet, again saying, "Put!"
"I am not going to run," said the governor, with his usual resoluteness.
"Nor I," said Sid.
"Nor I," said Charlie.
"Nor I," said Billy.
Others declared the same. They all stood their ground, or floor, rather. The noise on the stairs was continued, and soon a seed-strewn hat appeared in sight, and then a big head of hair, and then a man's body. The boys clustered closely together, and when the man turned toward them, they saw that the roughly-dressed man had a roughly featured face, but its expression was kindly.
"He will eat uth up," whispered Pip, trying to get behind Billy Grimes. The stranger was not a cannibal though. He took off his hat, shook it, and said, "If that was an accident, it's all right. If any one did it, meaning to do it, was it just the thing?"
The boys felt the appeal and shook their heads.
"We don't justify it, and I'm the president," said Sid, with a look of importance, "and no one of us that you see did it."
"I hope not. Sometimes folks are not lucky, and if any of your fathers went trampin' round and couldn't get work, you wouldn't like to have any body throw hay-seed on him."
"No, that's so," said Charlie. "It's too bad!"
The man turned to go down stairs.
"I—I guess my aunt could give you a job. She wanted somebody this morning to saw her wood."
"Did she? Where is she?"
"I'll show you," and Charlie's obliging drumsticks followed the man down stairs. Then he went into the kitchen and made an appeal for the stranger.
"Well, I'll give him the job," replied Aunt Stanshy.
In a minute more the man was at the wood-pile driving Aunt Stanshy's saw rapidly through a stick of pine.
The club had been looking out of the window while Charlie interceded for the man. When he joined his clubmates some one exclaimed, "What's that?"
It was a noise from the closet into which Wort had plunged, or, rather, a noise that started there, for it was continued down into the story below, even as the noise of a rushing snow-slide along a roof begins at the ridgepole, but ends on the ground beneath the eaves.
"It's Wort!" said Charlie, excitedly. "O dear! he's gone."
"Gone where?" inquired Sid. "Into the bowels of the earth?"
Charlie's answer was to rush down stairs, followed by the club in a very hasty and undignified way. There, at the end of a long spout that terminated eight inches from the floor, was a couple of good-sized legs squirming to get out. Then Wort's voice was heard, coming from the interior of the box, "Let me out! Let me out!"
"Can't you get out?" asked the governor.
"No, no! Let me out! Let me out—quick!"
It was even so. Wort must be let out.
"O, Aunt Stanshy, Wort—Wort—is in the fodder-box, and can't get out!" shrieked Charlie at the open kitchen window.
"What under the sun—" And, without a word more, Aunt Stanshy left the clothes she was washing and rushed into the yard.
"Come here, mister, and bring your saw," she said to the man at the wood-pile, "and, Charlie, bring a hammer from the nail-box on the entry-shelf!"
The man at the wood-pile rushed after Aunt Stanshy, saw in hand, while Charlie hurriedly brought the hammer.
"Now saw into that box and knock away with the hammer, mister. You see, Silas Trefethen wanted to hire my barn last winter, and thought he would put in what he called a fodder-box running down from the closet above to this floor, and then intended to knock the closet away when he had carried the box down here, thinking he might save some steps that way, but he was taken sick and the closet was left there; and that closet floor, I suppose, wasn't left just right."
Aunt Stanshy was talking while the man was sawing and hammering away. He plied his tools vigorously, and soon let Wort out into the full light of day once more. The boys shouted and laughed also as Wort wriggled forward into liberty. He looked up, but seeing that his liberator was the man he had seeded, he dropped his head, and, refusing to look again, slunk away with an air that indicated a strong desire to find another box where he could shut himself up for the present.
The man concluded who his enemy was, and he said, "I guess we are even now."
THE NATION'S BIRTHDAY.
"The great thing on the Fourth is to have a good time," said the president.
"No, the great thing," said the practical governor, "is to be sure and wake up in season."
"That's so," chimed several voices in chorus.
"How shall we fix it?" asked Pip.
"Tie your toe to the bed-post," said some one.
"Put a lot of stones in your bed," said Sid, "and then you can't sleep easy."
"Two sleep together and tie their toes to one another," said the governor.
Objections were found against all these plans, as they had been ineffectually tried by various members of the club.
"Go and holler under every boy's window," said Billy Grimes, with the air of one who had made an important discovery. "I will holler under your's, Pip," was his magnificent offer.
"But who will be the feller to go to your window?" asked Sid.
"Well, who will holler under my window?" said Sid.
"I," said Wort.
"And under yours?" continued the president.
"I," said Juggie.
"And who under Juggle's?"
"I," said Tony.
"And who under Tony's?"
"I," said Charlie.
"And who under Charlie's?"
That was a problem.
"Aunt Thanthy," suggested Pip.
"Aunt Stanshy is going out visiting," remarked Charlie.
There was a very sad pause. Despair was on the faces of the club. A happy thought came to Charlie. "Some one has got to sit up and wake the next one, and I will. I can take a nap the next forenoon, you know."
"Three cheers for Charlie!" called out Wort, and they were cordially given. It was arranged on the spot that Charlie should sit up. If Aunt Stanshy had been at home she would have vetoed the plan, but, purposing to be absent the night before the Fourth she had engaged Silas Junkins to stay with Charlie and guard the premises. Charlie had no difficulty in obtaining Silas's consent to the plan, and not only his consent, but also his co-operation. In the main entry of Aunt Stanshy's house was a tall, old-fashioned clock. It was an aged household servant, and had done duty in the entry many years. It always stood in one place, one particular corner in the rear of the entry. It is a wonder its voice did not show any sign of collapse, as it had called off the hours so many years. It would not have been strange if it had lost its patience. But uncomplainingly, even cheerily and without any sign of weakness, it told you what time it was. Charlie sometimes heard it in the night, and then it sounded like, "Cheer up! cheer up!" its pleasant voice halting on the "cheer," and then emphasizing the "up." It divided all its peals into two such notes, and when Charlie heard it strike one o'clock the effect was quite enlivening as be lay there in his dark little chamber. At an hour earlier, when it sounded twelve "Cheer ups," what a joyous procession of notes that was! It was like a watchman's voice ringing out "All's well!" twelve times. It occurred to Charlie that he might occupy a chair in the entry, and, if at all inclined to go to sleep, the striking of the clock would keep him awake. Silas Junking moved a table into the entry for Charlie, and set a lamp on it. At nine Silas, who enjoyed very much a large quantity of sleep, went to his rest in a little bedroom on the same floor with the entry.
"You can step into my room and wake me, Charlie, if any thing happens."
"O, I sha'n't need to," was the watchboy's very emphatic reply.
"Now all I've got to do," soliloquized Charlie, "is just to keep awake, and it is a great deal better than to go to sleep with a string tying your big toe to the bed-post. Hark, there is some one firing off a gun! Wont I wake 'em with a blow on my horn!" Here he saw himself, as he visited house after house, arousing boy after boy. It would be like the falling of a row of bricks, where the only need is to push over the first one and the whole set will follow. Every thing, though, depended on the fall of the first brick. Would Charlie do his part?
"I'll take this story-book about Indians, giants, and fairies," he said, "into the entry, and that will keep me awake splendid."
It was a book startling enough, and the trouble was that it was too startling.
After looking at the book a while, Charlie's mind was so peopled with ferocious giants, Indians on the war-path, fire-breathing dragons, and ghostly genii, that he transferred them to all the corners of the room, and especially to that receptacle of shadows, the space under the table, the very place where his legs were—ugh! Charlie did not like to look at the book, and, dared not, at the forms under the table! He shut the book and he shut his eyes. Hark, the clock was saying "Cheer up!" and somebody in the lane fired a pistol that seemed to say, "Wake up!" Yes, yes, that was all right, Charlie thought, but—but—he guessed he would close his eyes just this once—and close them just this once—and close them just this once—and in a few minutes the champion watchman was fast asleep! In an hour the clock struck again, and its voice seemed harsh, as if saying, "Young man, young man, wake up!" The notes had no startling effect on Charlie. Indeed, he heard them only as a very sweet, musical voice. The pistols and cannons going off in Water Street reached his ear as mild little pops. Things went on in this way till morning. About five Charlie dropped on the floor the book of Indians and dragons, that patiently had been resting in his lap all night. It roused him. He partially opened his eyes. Before him was an opened door that led into the parlor, and, sitting in his chair, he could see the parlor windows, whose curtains were up and whose panes were brightened by the light in the eastern sky. What did he see at those windows? Had some of the Indians, imagined to be under Charlie's table, gone to the outside of the windows, there to look in, grinning at him and shaking their head-feathers at a boy stupidly sitting near a table on which was a lighted lamp? Charlie rubbed his eyes for a better look, then rubbed again and again, and—and—were those Indians shouting, "Charlie, how are you?" He now sprang to his feet, fully awake, and there were several members of the club, their faces streaked with red chalk, their caps ornamented with all kinds of feathers, their—Charlie did not take another look at their decorations! He only glanced at the clock, exclaimed, "Five o'clock! Whew!" seized his cap, and rushed out-doors.
"Wake up, Charlie! Wake up, Charlie!" was the greeting of his comrades.
"Whew, fellers, aint this cheeky?" inquired Charlie.
"I should think it was—in you. Did your nap refresh you?" asked Sid.
"Why didn't you come round and wake me up?" said the governor.
"And me?" said Billy.
"And me?" said Pip.
"And me?" said Tony.
"You see—you see," replied Charlie, "I overslept."
"That is," said Sid, "you slept over the table. Three cheers for Charlie, our faithful watchman! I nominate Charlie for honorary sentinel."
The cheers were delivered, and Charlie was declared by the president to have been unanimously chosen honorary sentinel.
"You see, boys," said Sid, patronizingly, "I don't know what would have become of you if it hadn't been for me. My big brother Nehemiah was out banging away all night, and he got tired and came home about three, and said to me, 'You in bed now? I thought you were going to get up several hours earlier than the lark.' Well—after a while—I dressed quick, I tell you, and then I went and woke our governor, and Billy, and so on."
Sid omitted to say how long that "after a while" might be, and that his brother aroused him several times, and finally he got into his clothes. Nobody, however, was disposed to ask questions, as every one had slept later than he intended.
"Knights of the White Shield!" suddenly shouted Sid, "three good ringers on your bugles for our honorary member, Miss Stanshy Macomber? Here she comes!"
Aunt Stanshy was now returning from her visit, having concluded to make an early start for home, feeling somewhat anxious for its safety on "the glorious Fourth." The club separated into two ranks, and, as Aunt Stanshy passed along, each one of the "knights" touched his feathery head-gear, while every horn sent out as ringing a blast as possible.
"Massy!" cried Aunt Stanshy. "My ears!" Then she retreated to her home as quickly as possible lest another salute be tendered her.
What a day that was! What liberty! It seemed as if those patriots in the Up-the-Ladder Club had been oppressed by a terrible yoke of bondage, domestic especially, but it was all lifted and thrown off that day. There was freedom—to blow horns, freedom to fire crackers, freedom to "holler," freedom to crack torpedoes, freedom to buy pea-nuts, buns, ancient figs and dates and abominable cheap candy, freedom to make one's self as dirty, tired—and cross the next day—as possible! O, blessed liberty to boys who had patiently borne the yoke three hundred and sixty-four days, ever since the last Fourth! After a forenoon of miscellaneous and multiplied joys, the club planned to spend an afternoon in the woods. Emptying their pockets, they found that, altogether, they could raise eleven cents, and this was laid out in the judicious expenditure of as many buns as possible.
"It is proposed, White Shields," said Sid, "this afternoon that we spend a little time playing, a little time in bun-lunching, and then we will have a raft-race on the water near the railroad track."
This programme was carried out in part successfully. The games concluded with success, there was a successful time in eating, as far as the number of buns would permit. Then there was a little speech-making.
"I understand," said the president, as he concluded his remarks, "that the rights of one of our number have been interfered with. He has been forbidden to fire off any more crackers, and must confine himself to caps."
This announcement was followed by groans and hisses, even as thunder and lightning come after the black summer cloud. The person who had lost his freedom and been compelled to return to slavery was Charlie.
Aunt Stanshy had said to him at the dinner-table, "I don't want you to fire any more crackers to-day."
Charlie's chin went down.
"Because there is danger of setting fire to something. The wind is warm and dry."
Charlie's chin now went up.
"It was warm and dry, but the wind has just changed, and it is coming in from the sea, and it is damp and misty."
"But, that wont put out fires."
Charlie's chin now dropped again and dropped to stay. He went up stairs and, having a knack at rhyming, wrote a string of lines and put them in his pocket. Sid had found out the contents of Charlie's pocket when it had been emptied in behalf of the bun fund, and at the "collation" in the woods, he concluded his speech with these words: "I learn that the Hon. Charles Pitt Macomber, who has been forbidden to fire off crackers, has some poetry, and I will ask him to read it I would only add that freemen must stand for their rights." Cheers were now given for "the poet of the day." Charlie stood up and read these lines, which were subsequently found by Aunt Stanshy in the pocket of his pants, for these needed the help of her needle after the great and fatiguing duties of the Fourth. The name and age of the author, Charlie had been particular to place over the poetry. We give the lines exactly as they appear in the original now in our possession.
THE GLORIOUS FOURTH.
By C.P. MACOMBER, (nine years.)
"Hurrah for the Glorious Fourth of July, When sky-rockets mount to the sky, When fire-crackers are whizzing so fine, And all is Majesty Grandeur an' sublime.
"If I could have the whole day to myself, I would fire off crackers all day like an elf, The Giant Torpedoes would fall to the ground, And all would come down with a terrible sound.
"What good are little paper caps? I would not give two ginger snaps, They do not make a noise worth hearing, But fire-crackers, the ladies are fearing."
If Charlie should write this again, he would change the above, but it is too late to alter now, and we give it as preserved in our note-book. Furious applause followed this ebullition of poetic genius.
The collation was followed by the raft-race. The ditch that ran beside the railroad embankment widened in one place to forty feet. Half a dozen logs were here floating. The keeper of the great seal had brought with him a hammer and a handful of nails, and seeing on his way several strips of board, he had picked them up and now nailed the six logs together in pairs, making three rafts.
"There will now be a race between our first treasurer, our sentinel, and the keeper of the great seal," pompously announced Sid. "This will be the first race. I expected Tony and the governor would compete, but they have gone home. The Fourth was too much for them."
They both began to be sick after the collation. Rick, with his usual pertinacity, wanted to "stick it out," but his feelings overcame him, and he adjourned. He and Tony had eaten too much green-tinted candy. The participants in the raft-race were preparing for the contest, Charlie having already boarded his craft and pushed off into position, when a cry from Pip arrested the attention of all and made them think of something besides rafting.
"Down-townieth!" he shrieked, and pointed up the railroad embankment. There stood a stout boy whom Charlie recognized immediately as one of the evil force that raided on the club the day of the grand march! It was Tim Tyler, one of the hardest boys in Seamont, aged fifteen. Back of him was a smaller boy, but a competitor in vice, Bobby Landers. How many others might soon show themselves, no one could say, but the down-townies were clannish and loved to turn out in crowds, and to the club the probability appeared to be, that others would speedily rise up and charge along the railroad track. Sid Waters, who had urged freemen to stand for their rights, was now turning on his heel. He headed for a fence that separated the railroad lot from the woods. It was evident that the first club race would be, not on the water, but the land, and that Sid Waters's legs would take an unexpected but active part in it. Other legs followed his, and this race of freemen for their rights became a general one. At first, it was not positively certain who would reach the fence first and so beat in the race, but Sid's alacrity in starting was so great that he gained the prize, or would have taken it, had any been offered. The others though made very good time, and showed what freemen could do when hard pushed by their oppressors. Charlie, alas! was too far from shore to share in their good fortune, and, besides, Tim Tyler was on hand to object to any such movement.
"Don't be in too much of a hurry to leave," he said provokingly to Charlie, and seizing a pole left by one of the retreating club, pushed off the raft that Charlie had shoved near the shore.
"Leave me alone," growled Charlie.
"I have, haven't I? I don't see how any one could be much more aloner than you are off there."
Charlie looked like a jar of pickles, a keg of gunpowder, and a small thunder-cloud combined. He was so angry that he could now say nothing. When Tim had repeatedly pushed Charlie's vessel back from the shore, Charlie as obstinately pushing toward it again, Tim cried out, "Say, I will make you an offer. Do you see that?"
He pulled out of his pocket a dirty bottle and held it up.
"There, some of the best beer made anywhere is in that. If you will take a swaller, I'll let you come ashore."
Charlie could hardly contain himself now. He was scarcely able to sputter out this defiance, "When you catch me tasting that stuff, you'll know it!"
"O jest hear him, Bob!" said Tim, mockingly. "I s'pose this young sailor, who don't know enough about sailin' to get his craft ashore, has jined a temperance society."
"Yes," said Charlie, "I belong to Mr. Walton's at St. John's."
"What saint is that?"
The wrathful Charlie gave Tim a look of contempt and turned away.
"O, so he wont turn his pretty face this way, wont he?"
Having said this, Tim changed his tone and shouted fiercely, "You've got to look this way, sir. Bob, you get on that other raft and I will take this one here, and we will catch that young saint."
The two unoccupied rafts were immediately brought into service. Never did an innocent merchantman fleeing from two pirates make a harder exertion than did Charlie to get away from Tim and Bob. They gained on him, though, rapidly.
"There they come," thought Charlie, giving one look back at the dirty, saucy buccaneers. Tim had now reached the middle of the little pond when a thing greatly in his favor proved to be a serious thing against him, and that was the strength of his push. The fastenings of the log-raft were not equal to any violent pressure upon them, and suddenly they gave way and the logs separated. Tim's legs separated with them till they could part no farther, and then he tried to spring from one log to the other. Alas for him, he put his foot in the wrong place, and that wrong place was the water! Down he went into as thorough a bath as ever a young rascal got in this world. The water was not over his head, and he was soon on his feet, but the dip had been complete enough to satisfy the most vindictive members of the Up-the-Ladder Club, and Tim was spitting and sputtering, then spitting and sputtering again, trying to clear month, eyes, nose, ears, of the unwelcome, dirty ditch-water.
"Give—us—a—hand, Bob," he gasped.
Charlie did not stay to see any further developments, but pushed for the shore, safely reaching it, and then made his way to the fence, climbing it and gaining the wood-lot. In the meantime, the other members of the club had halted and were consulting together. It was Juggie who arrested their flight. "It is too bad," he said, "to leave Charlie."
That remark detained Billy, and then Sid, Wort, and Pip stopped.
Sid laughed and said, "My father has been in the army and he would call this the flying artillery. So you see it is all right."
"I'm afraid it's all wrong," said Billy, "to leave Charlie behind."
"Yes," said Wort, "to run away from a member of the club."
There was now a general feeling of indignation toward any member of the club that had deserted Charlie, if that member could be found, as each one's motive had not been to desert another, but the prudent impulse to save himself.
Sid was among the fiercest to shout and the most furious to propose. "Charlie deserted!" he said. "Who's deserted Charlie? That wont do! Back, fellers, to the rescue!"
A brave, sympathetic shout arose. A few minutes ago Sid would have been afraid of it as something that might attract the enemy's attention, but he calculated that they must now be at a safe distance from the down-townies.
"Let's make a flank movement on the enemy," said the president.
"What ith that?" asked Pip.
"Why, not so much to go at them as to go about them and take them unawares in the rear."
This mode of attack, which did not necessitate the actual facing of the enemy, was very popular and took wonderfully with the club. To Sid, in particular, it was a very agreeable mode. He boldly headed this movement. He intended to go off in a direction where no enemy would ever be met, but in his ignorance of the woods, he took a course that would have led the club back to the pond, and it was an agreeable thing for Charlie that he did, as that fugitive from the pirates soon was met.
"Hullo, there he is!" shouted Wort.
"Who?" asked Sid, trembling, and fearful that it might be Tim Taylor.
"Here I am, boys," shouted Charlie.
"Ho, to the rescue!" cried Sid, now taking long leaps forward. "Charlie, I rescue thee!"
"We are coming to fank de enemy," said Juggie, anxious to have a hand in winning the laurels now coming so rapidly to the Knights of the White Shield.
"Going to surround the enemy," exclaimed the warlike Sid, "and also rescue Charlie, but—but—we might as well go back now. Did you have a hard time, Charlie?"
"I did have a time, I tell you," and Charlie eagerly told the story of his adventures.
"How we will go back, boys," said the president, "and go round home through the woods."
"No, sir," declared Billy, who had somewhat of his cousin's resoluteness; "I'm going home the way we came, and if any body stops me, it is his lookout."
The heroic sentiment was loudly applauded, and the club returning valiantly stormed the railroad fence and carried it—a remarkable feat considering that there was nobody on it to oppose them.
Billy Grimes in his earnestness even brought down the top-rail with him.
"Stop, fellers!" warned Sid. "The enemy!" Lifting their eyes to the top of the high railroad embankment, they saw Tim in the act of chastising Bob. It was afterward ascertained that Tim was rewarding Bob for not helping him more efficiently at the time of the raft accident. Tim completed the bestowal of this reward, and then noticing the club, he shook his fist at them. He did not linger, but followed sullenly by Bob, passed down the other side of the embankment. The club did not find out whether this was an intended retreat, or simply the taking of a convenient route to reach home. They put their own construction on it, and the movement was judged to be "a shameful retreat by the enemy." Billy led off in a brave, determined charge up the embankment—Sid shouting, "Hurrah! Glory for us! Those getting the battle-field are victors, you know!"
Nobody disputed this, and the valiant knights continued their triumphant advance to their very homes.
The Fourth was drawing to a close. The sun was breaking out through the clouds that had covered the heavens, and so brilliant was the outburst of colors, it seemed as if the folds of an immense star-spangled banner had been suddenly let loose in the western sky. It very soon paled though. The clouds thickened everywhere and the easterly wind that had been blowing all the afternoon, bringing occasional mist, now drove to land a blinding fog. Finally it began to rain, and yet gently, as if reluctant to spoil any festivities of the Fourth. Gathering up all their pyrotechnic resources, it was found that the club boys could muster a few pin-wheels, five Roman candles, and a "flower-pot." Most of these had been stored in the barn, but were now moved out-doors and taken to the shelter of a stout leafy maple by the side of the lane.
"The rain wont trouble us here," said the president. "Where is Charlie?"
"He has gone to get his fire-works," replied Billy Grimes. "He left them in the house and it is locked, for his Aunt Stanshy has gone out, and he's waiting for her, I guess."
"We had better begin, fellers, and he will come soon. The rain is coming," said Sid, warned by a big drop that glancing through the branches smote him on the nose. Pin-wheels, candles, and the other attraction were pronounced a success, though their discharge was hastened on account of the thickening rain.
The boys separated, tired and sleepy, sorry to part with the Fourth, and yet secretly glad that there was such a thing as "bed."
"Whar's Charlie," asked Juggie, as the boys separated. No one knew. "Good-bye, Charlie!" shouted one after the other, and all hastened to their homes.
Charlie was where he had been the last twenty minutes, occupying a seat out in the porch at the back door and waiting for Aunt Stanshy. He had fallen asleep, so thoroughly tired was this patriotic young American, and the day for him was ending as it began—in a chair. Aunt Stanshy came at last, feeling her way through the shadows in the porch and striving to reach the back door, whose key she carried.
"What's this?" she said, running against the sleeper. "If it isn't that boy! And here the rain has been working round into the porch and it is coming on him! If you don't take cold, Charles Pitt Macomber, then I am mistaken! Wake up, wake up!"
A SICK PATRIOT.
The next morning, Aunt Stanshy was stirring at the usual hour, and her usual hour in summer was five. She did not generally expect to see Charlie down stairs until half past six. This morning, Aunt Stanshy; looked up at the clock on the high mantel-piece and saw that it was seven, then half after seven, then eight, and half after eight; but all this time there was neither sound nor sight of Charlie.
"Massy, where is that boy? I thought I would let him sleep, he was so tired, but he ought to be around now," reflected Aunt Stanshy.
She opened the door that led up to his chamber and slowly mounted the steep, narrow, yellow stairs, turning to the right into Charlie's sanctum. A turn to the left would have taken her to her own room. Peeping into Charlie's room, she saw the boy fast asleep on the bed. Stealing softly across the bare floor and reaching the red and yellow home-braided rug before his bed, she looked down on the sleeping Charlie. A smile parted his lips, and be murmured something unintelligible to Aunt Stanshy. Then she laid her hand on his head, giving a little start.
"That boy took cold last night, and is a bit feverish. I'll let him lie here a spell longer."
Saying this, she was about to turn away, when Charlie's eyes opened.
"That you—you, aunty?"
"I thought it was a dream. I had a dream, and thought we gave the down-townies an awful scare."
"You did? Was that what you were smiling at? I mean just now."
"I guess so. And then I believe we were going to give three cheers."
"Well, do you feel like getting up?"
He rose on his elbows, but sank back again.
"I guess, if you have no objection, aunty, I will lie a little longer."
"I guess you had better, for you took cold last night out in the porch. Would you like to take your breakfast in bed, and have my little table that I lend to people who are sick in bed?"
"And would you like to have a piece of toast, a little tea, and an orange?"
"O, yes. You are the best aunty in the world."
"Am I, dear?"
Aunt Stanshy was not very demonstrative, so that this "dear" was exceedingly precious to the warm-hearted Charlie, as was also a small hug that she gave him. While she was preparing his breakfast Charlie lay quietly in bed, and heard the sound of the rain on the slanting roof. To a tired boy in bed, and longing to have some excuse for absence from school, what music is sweeter than the sound of rain on the roof? Let it be a real north-easter sweeping in from the sea, pushing along a fleet of many clouds packed with a heavy cargo of rain, and, as it advances, let this wind sound many big, hoarse trumpets all about the houses and barns, up and down the streets! An organ in church played by Prof. Jump-up-and-down is nothing compared with such a north-easter; Charlie heard the grand music of the wind. By and by he heard Aunt Stanshy's step on the stairs. She came slowly up, up, and then Charlie saw her turning from the entry into his room, bringing the sick-table and Charlie's breakfast She bolstered him up in bed, putting two or three fat pillows behind his back. Then she put the little sick-table before him. One side had been hollowed in, so that an invalid could draw it close about his body. Charlie was now the invalid to do that thing. What tea! what toast! what an orange!
"Now that you have some strength, do you want to dress and then come down and sit with me in the sitting-room and see me iron?" asked Aunt Stanshy, after breakfast.
"O, yes, and not go to school?"
"No school to-day, when that cold is on you."
Charlie crawled into his clothes and went down stairs to the sitting-room. Aunt Stanshy was ironing. She generally did her ironing in the sitting-room, as the kitchen was very small, and, on a hot day, it was so hot there that one felt like sizzling at the touch of water.
"Here are some picture-books for you."
"O, thanks, thanks, aunty!"
"One of those picture-books is about Indian wars."
"Did you ever see an Injun?"
"Not the raving, tearing, tomahawk kind."
"I shouldn't want to see that one."
"Several years ago sort of tame ones used to come round and have baskets to sell. My great-great-grandmother had quite an adventure with the real kind once."
"O, tell it to me!"
Opening his eyes to that peculiar width appropriate to the hearing of an Indian story, Charlie intently listened.
"My great-great-grandmother was all alone one day in the house, for the men-folks had gone to market or somewhere. She happened to be looking out of the window, when she saw an Indian looking over the fence. What a customer! He was an ugly-looking crittur, I don't doubt. What could she do, for he might be tomahawking her in less than no time? Wimmin folks, in them days, were not like Miss Persnips, that keeps the little thread-and-needle store on the corner, without any snap to 'em. My great-great-grandmother just tore round that room at a lively rate. She slammed the shutters, she banged about the chairs. Then she pretended that there were lots of men-folks in the house, and she kept calling to Tom, Bill, Jerry, Nehemiah. O, she had a string of 'em, all on her tongue's end! I don't know but she pointed a gun out of the winder, man-fashion. What did that crittur do but gather up his traps and walk off as harmless as a bumble-bee when his sting is gone. I've heard with my own eyes my grandmother tell that story about her grandmother."
"Heard her with your eyes?"
"Of course not! With my ears, ears. Where are yours, for pity's sake? There is an old garrison-house on the other side of the river, and I will show it to you some time, or I will show you what is left. They have built over the garrison-house and back of it, making a farm-house of it, but there is something still to be seen."
"What a blessed old aunty!" thought Charlie. And the wind, what grand music it made! The chimney seemed to be a big bass-viol that this north-easter played on.
At noon Aunt Stanshy said, "What will you have for dinner?"
"May I order it, the way I did at a saloon in Boston last summer? May I write what I want on paper, and put it on the table?"
"Yes, if orderin' will make it taste better, and it seems to affect some folks' vittles that way."
So Charlie and Aunt Stanshy "played saloon." He wrote his order on a slip of paper, and left it on the table for her inspection while he went up stairs. Directing her spectacles toward it, she read, with some amazement, this request:
"Please bring me for dinner, a pickle Aunt Stanshy, would be what you know nice to toast."
"Toasted pickle!" exclaimed Aunt Stanshy, in alarm.
Charlie had now returned to the sitting-room.
"You don't mean, Charles Pitt, a toasted pickle!"
"Why, no; ha! ha! There are two things on that paper. I said, 'Please bring me for dinner, Aunt Stanshy, what you know to toast.' That is on one side, and on the other, 'A pickle would be nice,' and I see now that you could read the words straight across, and it would mean what you say; ha! ha! I don't expect a pickle, of course, for I am sick, you know."
She did not laugh. She was rather mortified to think she had not read the order aright. The noblest natures have their infirmities. Afterward, being ashamed of herself because she did not take pleasantly this unintended joke, she manifested her penitence by getting up an extra dinner for Charlie. There was more toast, and even of a finer quality. There was another orange, and there was some jelly that Aunt Stanshy took the pains to buy at Miss Persnips's store. This was a sweet but thin-voiced little woman, who sold a variety of things in a store on the corner of the lane and Water Street.
"It is nice to be sick, Aunt Stanshy."
"Do you think so?"
"Yes, just a grain sick."
It was so pleasant to be in the warm, comfortable sitting-room and watch the dreary weather out in the lane. The back side of the house butted on the lane, no fence intervening. Aunt Stanshy had no objection to such a close contact, but rather liked it, declaring it to be "social." She did not favor, though, the sociability that drunken sailors manifested several times when going from the saloons on Water Street down to their vessels at the wharf in which the lane ended. They would stagger against the house, pushing one another and bombarding it. Aunt Stanshy was on hand, though. A pail of freshly-drawn water, Arctic cold, and from an upper window, administered freely to the offenders, had been known to produce a healthy effect. Aunt Stanshy's remedies for various troubles might be vigorous, but they were generally effective. There was not much passing in the lane, that stormy day. A fisherman, in an oil-skin suit, went by, trundling a wheel-barrow of fish to a store in town. At noon, somebody else appeared.
"There's Mr. Walton," said Aunt Stanshy.
"And there's Tony with him," said Charlie.
"Where's his father?"
"Tony says he is in Europe."
"He the one that people say is an Italian, and—and—nobody knows what he is up to?"
"That's the one, aunty."
The minister and Tony, hand in hand, passed out of sight.
"This is the kind of day when Mr. Walton's mother will be watching the weather, looking up at the vane. People say that she has a great deal to say about the sea, and takes a great interest in sailors."
"Because they say she has a son somewhere at sea."
"And don't any one know where he is really?"
"No; and they have hinted and suspected and guessed and done every thing, except ask old Miss Walton right out, but they can't find out a thing. She's close as a clam in this matter."
By and by there appeared in the lane a drunken man. As he staggered along he was exposed to all the pitiless pelting of the wild north east rain, and moved away like a dark, forlorn shadow.
"Poor fellow!" the sympathizing Charlie exclaimed. "Who's that, I wonder?"
"A drunken man in the lane."
"If people would only take the water inside and the rum outside, sort of turnin' things round, it would be much better, better," said Aunt Stanshy, going to the window. She gave one look and came back to her ironing. Charlie thought he heard her sigh. He had already noticed that Aunt Stanshy never made fun of drunken people.
"Who is it?" he asked.
She did not answer, but taking up her flat-iron again, pounded the clothes with it vigorously, as if trying to call attention from herself to her work.
"Is she crying?" thought Charlie.
As if wet with her tears, her spectacles gleamed sharply. The muscles of her arms swelled as she pounded the innocent sheet before her, and Charlie was reluctant to ask again. For some time there was silence, the only interrupting sound being Aunt Stanshy's pound—pound—pound. Charlie sat in his chair, looking steadily out upon the somber, dripping rain.
"Don't you want to play something?"
It was Aunt Stanshy speaking. A troubled look on her face had passed away and she was ironing quietly again.
"Yes;" said Charlie, "you—you sick?"
Aunt Stanshy gave no answer to this, but asked again, "Don't you want to play?"
"O make believe, you know."
Charlie thought in silence.
"You lend me a box, aunty?"
"And that little broom you sweep with?"
The amateur ship-carpenter went to work.
"There is my mast," said Charlie, securing the broom to the bottom of the box which he had turned over. "Now I must have sails. It is going to be a monitor, too, like what I read about in a book the other day."
After some effort, and more tribulation, there appeared a splendid piece of naval architecture, a monitor with a turret, the deck bordered with a twine-railing, two sails hanging down from Aunt Stanshy's small broom.
"That broom makes me think of what I learned at school when I was a girl."
"What was that?"
"I am not much of a scholar, but I remember this. Admiral Tromp was a Dutchman, and commanded a fleet that went against the English. Tromp was so successful that he tied a broom to his mast-head and went sailing over the waters, and that meant he had swept his enemy from the sea, and if he hadn't, he would certainly do it and make clean work of it. Over the blue waters he went skipping along, feeling dreadful big, with that broom at the mast-head. The English boys, though, came at him again and whipped him, and poor Tromp was finally killed in a sea-fight. I don't know what became of his broom. You had better call that an English and not a Dutch broom."
When Charlie went up stairs that night, the Neponset as he called the monitor, was still sailing in the sitting-room, its sails all set, its broom at the mast-head. He thought it was splendid to be sick.
"How long do you think this sickness may go on?" was the last question he asked Aunt Stanshy that night.
"O, if it is a slow fever, it might last several weeks, but I don't want to discourage you."
"Discourage!" It was magnificent. Two or three weeks of toast and jelly and oranges and many soft words, and not a few hugs! That night he was dreaming of boxes of oranges he was emptying, and of glasses of jelly big as hogsheads, out of which he was taking jelly by the shovelful! The next morning he felt—though unwilling to confess it—much better. At noon keen old Dr. Pillipot happened to come along, and Aunt Stanshy referred Charlie's case to him. Old Dr. Pillipot bent his sharp, gray eyes down toward Charlie and made up a horrid face as he growled, "Let me see your tongue, young man. Hem! Looks quite well. Let me feel your pulse. So! Quite good. The weather has changed, and as it is mild and sunny, he might walk down to school this—afternoon.
"O dear!" groaned Charlie, when the doctor had left. "I wish I had scared his horse off when I saw him coming down the lane. You and I, aunty, did have such a nice time!"
O, the trials of this life!
Charlie, though, had a dose of comfort from Aunt Stanshy. She told him he need not go to school until the next day, and when the morning came, she said:
"I believe the Neponset took a cargo on board in the night."
There in the shadow of the mast-head was a column of doughnuts!
"You may take them all to school with you, Charlie."
Now he was glad that he was not sick. He disposed of six doughnuts that forenoon, and as these, if tied together, would have made good chain-shot for the monitor, and yet did not affect him unfavorably, it was proof that Charlie was restored to health.
THE NAILED DOOR AND WINDOW.
Charlie made a discovery in the barn. In that side toward the river there was a door on the first floor, and there was also a window in the chamber above. Not only was the door closed, and closed also was the wooden shutter of the window, but over each iron hook dropped in its staple and securing the door and window were two nails stoutly driven. All this Charlie had noticed before. He now traced these half-obliterated words in chalk on the door: "This is not to be opened." He was standing before this prohibition, wondering who put it there, and for what purpose, thinking how nice it would be to have the door open that the club might have a chance to get down that way into the dock. Then he thought how pleasant it would be, also, to have the window open that the club might have a lookout upon the river and off toward the sea, on whose blue rim, a mile away, could be seen the white tower of the light-house, where Simes Badger and his assistant served their country alternate days. Suddenly, Charlie heard a thick, hoarse voice behind him: "Your Aunt Stanshy in, sonny?"
Charlie turned, somewhat startled, and there was Simes Badger himself.
"She has gone out, I guess, sir."
"What are you looking at that door for? I don't believe your Aunt Stanshy wants you to open it."
"O, I was not going to open it."
If, after the half-effaced chalk-marks, Charlie had seen a written threat, "On pain of death," he could not have been more determined to let that window alone.