The Widow O'Callaghan's Boys
BY GULIELMA ZOLLINGER
(1904, 10th edition)
Can't I depind on ye, b'ys?
It's your father's ways you have
For every one carried something
"Cheer up, Andy!" he said
Mrs. Brady looked at the tall, slender boy
Pat donned his apron
"I've good news for you, Fannie," said the General
The General makes the gravy
Pat doing the marketing
Pat and Mike building the kitchen
Up on the roof sat Mike with his knife
Barney and Tommie a-takin' care of the geese
The merchant turned to the girl clerk
Mrs. O'Callaghan looked astonished
Little Jim became downright sulky
In they came at that moment
Jim made a clatter with the dishes
Open the oven door, Jim
Look at that Jim work
Three cheers for Jim O'Callaghan
Pat and Mike were one on each side of him
When Mr. O'Callaghan died, after a long, severe, and expensive sickness, he left to his widow a state of unlimited poverty and seven boys.
"Sure, an' sivin's the parfect number," she said through her tears as she looked round on her flock; "and Tim was the bist man as iver lived, may the saints presarve him an' rist him from his dreadful pains!"
Thus did she loyally ignore the poverty. It was the last of February. Soon they must leave the tiny house of three rooms and the farm, for another renter stood ready to take possession. There would be nothing to take with them but their clothing and their scant household furniture, for the farm rent and the sickness had swallowed up the crop, the farming implements, and all the stock.
Pat, who was fifteen and the oldest, looked gloomily out at one of the kitchen windows, and Mike, the next brother, a boy of thirteen, looked as gloomily as he could out of the other. Mike always followed Pat's lead.
When eleven-year-old Andy was a baby Pat had taken him for a pet. Accordingly, when, two years later, Jim was born, Mike took him in charge. To-day Pat's arm was thrown protectingly over Andy's shoulders, while Jim stood in the embrace of Mike's arm at the other window. Barney and Tommie, aged seven and five respectively, whispered together in a corner, and three-year-old Larry sat on the floor at his mother's feet looking wonderingly up into her face.
Five days the father had slept in his grave, and still there was the same solemn hush of sorrow in the house that fell upon it when he died.
"And what do you intend to do?" sympathetically asked Mrs. Smith, a well-to-do farmer's wife and a neighbor.
The widow straightened her trim little figure, wiped her eyes, and replied in a firm voice: "It's goin' to town I am, where there's work to be got, as well as good schoolin' for the b'ys."
"But don't you think that seven boys are almost more than one little woman can support? Hadn't you better put some of them out—for a time?"—the kind neighbor was quick to add, as she saw the gathering frown on the widow's face.
"Sure," she replied, 'twas the Lord give me the b'ys, an' 'twas the Lord took away their blissid father. Do ye think He'd 'a' done ayther wan or the other if He hadn't thought I could care for 'em all? An' I will, too. It may be we'll be hungry—yis, an' cold, too—wanst in a while. But it won't be for long."
"But town is a bad place for boys, I'm told," urged the neighbor.
"Not for mine," answered the widow quietly. "They're their father's b'ys, an' I can depind on 'em. They moind me loightest word. Come here, Pat, an' Moike, an' Andy, an' Jim, an' Barney, an' Tommie!"
Obediently the six drew near. She raised Larry to her lap, and looked up touchingly into their faces. "Can't I depind on ye, b'ys?"
"Yes, mother, course you can," answered Pat for them all.
A moment the widow paused to steady her voice, and then resumed, "It's all settled. A-Saturday I goes to town to get a place. A-Monday we moves."
The neighbor saw that it was indeed settled, and, like a discreet woman, did not push her counsel further, but presently took her leave, hoping that the future might be brighter than it promised for Mrs. O'Callaghan and her boys.
* * * * *
"Aise 'em up an' down the hills, Pat, the dear bastes that your father loved!"
Mrs. O'Callaghan and Pat were driving to Wennott behind the team that was theirs no longer, and it was Saturday. No need to speak to Pat. The whip rested in the socket, and he wished, for his part, that the horses would crawl. He knew how poor they were, and he did not want to go to town. But mother said town, and town it must be.
Down across the railroad track, a little northeast of the depot, was a triangular bit of ground containing about as much as two lots, and on it had been erected a poor little shanty of two rooms. The widow knew of this place, and she meant to try to secure it.
"'Twill jist do for the loikes of us, Pat, for it's a low rint we're after, an' a place quiet loike an' free from obsarvers. If it's poor ye are, well an' good, but, says I, 'There's no use of makin' a show of it.' For it's not a pretty show that poverty makes, so it ain't, an', says I, 'A pretty show or none.' I see you're of my moind," she continued with a shrewd glance at him, "an' it heartens me whin ye agree with me, for your father's gone, an' him and me used to agree wonderful."
Pat's lips twitched. He had been very fond of his father. And all at once it seemed to him that town and the shanty were the two most desirable things in their future.
"But, cheer up, Pat! 'Twas your father as was a loively man, d'ye moind? Yon's the town. It's hopin' I am that our business'll soon be done."
Pat's face brightened a little, for he found the entry into even so small a town as Wennott a diversion. To-day he looked about him with new interest, for here were streets and stores that were to become familiar to him. They entered the town from the south and drove directly to its center, where stood the courthouse in a small square surrounded by an iron hitching-rack. Stores faced it on every side, and above the stores were the lawyers' offices. Which one belonged to the man who had charge of the place the widow wished to rent, she wondered, and Pat wondered, as she stood by, while he tied the horses.
Above the stores, too, were doctors' offices, and dentists' offices, dress-making-shops, and suites of rooms where young couples and, in some instances, small families lived.
"We'll jist be inquirin', Pat. 'Tis the only way. But what to ask for, I don't know. Shall I be sayin' the bit of a place beyant the tracks?"
"Yes, mother. That's what you want, ain't it?"
"Sure it is, an' nothin' else, nayther. It's your father's ways you have, Pat. 'Twas himsilf as wint iver straight after what he wanted."
Pat's eyes beamed and he held himself more proudly. What higher praise could there be for him than to be thought like his father?
It chanced that the first lawyer they asked was the right one.
"Luck's for us," whispered the little widow. "Though maybe 'twouldn't have been against us, nayther, if we'd had to hunt a bit."
And then all three set out to look at the poor little property.
"Sure, an' it suits me purpose intoirely," declared Mrs. O'Callaghan when the bargain had been concluded. "An' it's home we'll be goin' at wanst. We've naught to be buyin' the day, seein' we're movin' in on Monday."
Pat made no answer.
"Did you see thim geese a-squawkin' down by the tracks?" asked Mrs. O'Callaghan, as she and her son settled themselves on the high spring seat of the farm wagon.
"There's an idea," said his mother. "There's more than wan in the world as can raise geese. An' geese is nice atin', too. I didn't see no runnin' water near, but there's a plinty of ditches and low places where there'll be water a-standin' a good bit of the toime. An' thim that can't git runnin' water must take standin'. Yis, Pat, be they geese or min, in this world they must take what they can git an' fat up on it as much as they can, too."
The thin little woman—thin from overwork and anxiety and grief—spoke thus to her tall son, who, from rapid growing, was thin, too, and she spoke with a soberness that told how she was trying to strengthen her own courage to meet the days before her. Absorbed in themselves, mother and son paid no heed to their surroundings, the horses fell into their accustomed brisk trot, and they were soon out on the narrow road that lay between the fields.
"Now, Pat, me b'y," said Mrs. O'Callaghan, rousing herself, "you're the oldest an' I'll tell you my plans. I'm a-goin' to git washin' to do."
The boy looked at his mother in astonishment.
"I know I'm little," she nodded back at him, "but it's the grit in me that makes me strong. I can do it. For Tim's b'ys an' mine I can do it. Four days in the week I'll wash for other people, Friday I'll wash for my own, Saturday I'll mind for 'em, an' Sunday I'll rist."
A few moments there was silence. The widow seemed to have no more to say.
"An' what am I to do?" finally burst out Pat. "An' what's Mike to do? Sure we can help some way."
"That you can, Pat. I was comin' to that. Did you notice the biggest room in the little house we rinted the day?"
"I thought you did. You're an obsarvin' b'y, Pat, jist loike your father. Well, I belave that room will jist about hold three beds an' lave a nate little path betwane ivery two of 'em. It's my notion we can be nate an' clane if we are poor, an' it'll be your part to make ivery wan of thim beds ivery day an' kape the floor clane. Larry an' mesilf, we'll slape in the kitchen, an' it's hopin' I am you'll kape that shoinin', too. An' then there's the coal to be got in an' the ashes to be took out. It does seem that iverything you bring in is the cause of somethin' to be took out, but it can't be helped, so it can't, so 'Out with it,' says I. An' there's the dishes to be washed an'—I hate to ask you, Pat, but do you think you could larn cookin' a bit?"
She looked at him anxiously. The boy met her look bravely.
"If you can work to earn it, 'tis meself as can cook it, I guess," he said.
"Jist loike your father, you are, Pat. He wasn't niver afraid of tryin' nothin', an' siven b'ys takes cookin'. An' to hear you say you'll do it, whin I've larnt you, of course, aises me moind wonderful. There's some as wouldn't do it, Pat. I'm jist tellin' you this to let you know you're better than most." And she smiled upon him lovingly.
"If the most of 'em's that mean that they wouldn't do what they could an' their mother a—washin', 'tis well I'm better than them, anyway," returned Pat.
"Ah, but Pat, they'd think it benathe 'em. 'Tis some grand thing they'd be doin' that couldn't be done at all. That's the way with some, Pat. It's grand or nothin', an' sure an' it's ginerally nothin', I've noticed."
A mile they went in silence. And then Mrs. O'Callaghan said: "As for the rist, you'll all go to school but Larry, an' him I'll take with me when I go a—washin'. I know I can foind thim in the town that'll help a poor widow that much, an' that's all the help I want, too. Bad luck to beggars. I'm none of 'em."
Pat did not respond except by a kindly glance to show that he heard, and his mother said no more till they drove in at the farm gate.
"An' it's quite the man Pat is," she cried cheerily to the six who came out to meet them. "You'll do well, all of you, to pattern by Pat. An' it's movin' we'll be on Monday, jist as I told you. It's but a small place we've got, as Pat will tell you there. Close to the north side of the town it is, down by the railroad tracks, where you can see all the trains pass by day an' hear 'em by night; an' there's freight cars standin' about at all toimes that you can look at, an' they've got iron ladders on the inds of 'em, but you must niver be goin' a-climbin' on top of thim cars."
At this announcement Andy and Jim looked interested, and the eyes of Barney and Tommie fairly shone with excitement. The widow had accomplished her object. Her boys were favorably inclined toward the new home, and she slipped into her bedroom to shed in secret the tears she could no longer restrain.
Sunday dawned cold and blustering—a sullen day that seemed hardly to know which way was best to make itself disagreeable, and so tried them all. The stock had been removed. There was no work outside for the two oldest boys, no watching indoors by the hungry little brothers for Pat and Mike to be through milking, and feeding, and pumping water into the trough, so that they might all have breakfast together. Yes, there had been a little work. The two horses which, with the wagon, had been kindly lent them for their next day's moving were in the barn. Mike had fed and watered them, Pat had combed them, and both had petted them.
Many a time that day would Mrs. O'Callaghan slip out to stroke their noses and pat their glossy necks and say in a choked voice, "Tim's horses! Tim's horses! and we can't kape 'em!" And many a time that day would she smooth the signs of grief from her face to go into the house again with what cheer she could to her seven sons, who were gathered listlessly about the kitchen stove. Many a time that day would she tell herself stoutly, "I'll not give in! I'll not give in! I've to be brave for eight, so I have. Brave for my b'ys, and brave for mesilf. And shall I fret more than is good for Tim's horses whin I know it's to a kind master they're goin', and he himsilf a helpin' us to-morrow with the movin'? The Lord's will be done! There's thim that thinks the Lord has no will for horses and such. And 'tis mesilf is thankful that I can't agree with 'em."
Occasionally, as the morning passed, one of the boys stepped to the window for a moment, for even to glance out at flying flakes and a wintry landscape was a relief from the depression that had settled down upon them all.
That was a neighborhood of churches. Seven or eight miles from any town, it was remarkable to see three churches within half a mile of each other. Small, plain buildings they were, but they represented the firm convictions of the United Brethren, the United Presbyterians, and the Methodists for many miles around. Now all these people, vary as they might in church creeds, were united in a hearty admiration for plucky little Mrs. O'Callaghan. They all knew, though the widow would not own it, that destitution was at her door. The women feared that in taking her boys to town she was taking them to their ruin, while the men thought her course the only one, since a destitute woman can hardly run a farm with only seven growing boys to help her. And for a day or two there had been busy riding to and fro among the neighbors.
The snow fell fitfully, and the wind howled in gusts, but every farmer hitched up and took his wife and children with him, and no family went empty-handed. For every road to every church lay straight by the widow's door. Short cuts there were to be used on general occasions, but that morning there was but the one road. And so it fell out that by ten o'clock there was a goodly procession of farm wagons, with here and there a buggy, and presently the widow's fence was lined with teams, and the men, women, and children were alighting and thronging up the narrow path to Mrs. O'Callaghan's door. There was no merriment, but there was a kindly look on every face that was beautiful to see. And there were those between whom bitterness had been growing that smiled upon each other to-day, as they jostled burdens on the path; for every one carried something, even the children, who stumbled by reason of their very importance.
The widow looked out and saw the full hands, and her heart sank. Was she to be provided for by charity? She looked with her keen eyes into the crowd of faces, and her heart went up into her throat. It was not charity, but neighborliness and good will she read there.
"I'd be wan of 'em, if somebody else was me, may the Lord bless 'em," she said as she opened wide the door.
In they trooped, and, for a moment, everybody seemed to be talking at once.
It sometimes needs a great deal of talk to make a kind deed seem like nothing at all. Sometimes even a great deal of talk fails to do so. It failed to-day.
Tears were running unheeded down the widow's face. Not even her boys knew how everything was gone, and she left with no money to buy more. And everybody tried not to see the tears and everybody talked faster than ever. Then the first church bell rang out, and old and young turned to go. There came a little lull as one after another gave the widow's hand a cordial clasp.
"My friends," said Mrs. O'Callaghan—she could be heard now—"my dear friends, I thank you all. You have made my heart strong the day."
"I call that a pretty good way to put in time on Sunday," said one man to another as they were untying their teams.
"Makes going to church seem worth while, for a fact," returned his neighbor.
Not till the last vehicle had passed from sight did the widow look round upon what her neighbors had left her, and then she saw sufficient pantry stores to last even seven growing boys for a month. And among the rest of her gifts she found coal for a week. She had not noticed her sons as she busily took account of her stock, but when she had finished she said, "B'ys, b'ys! 'tis your father sees the hearts of these good people this day and rej'ices. Ah, but Tim was a ginerous man himsilf! It's hopin' I am you'll all be loike him."
That night when the younger boys were in bed and only Pat and Mike sat keeping her company, the widow rose from her seat, went to a box already packed and took therefrom an account book and pencil.
"They're your father's," she said, "but it's a good use I'll be puttin' 'em to."
Writing was, for the hand otherwise capable, a laborious task; but no help would she have from either of her sons.
"May I ask you not to be spakin'?" she said politely to the two. "It's not used to writin' I am, and I must be thinkin' besides."
Two hours she sat there, her boys glancing curiously at her now and then at first, and later falling into a doze in their chairs. She wrote two words and stopped. Over and over she wrote two words and stopped. Over and over until she had written two words and stopped fifty times. And often she wiped away her tears. At last her task was done, and there in the book, the letters misshapen and some of the words misspelled, were the names of all who had come to her that morning. Just fifty there were of them. She read them over carefully to see that she had not forgotten any.
"Maybe I'll be havin' the chance to do 'em a good turn some day," she said. "I will, if I can. But whether I do or not, I've got it here in writin', that when all was gone, and I didn't have nothin', the Lord sint fifty friends to help me out. Let me be gettin' down in the heart and discouraged again, and I'll take this book and read the Lord's doin's for me. Come Pat and Moike! It's to bed you must be goin', for we're to move to-morrow, do you moind?"
According to Mrs. O'Callaghan's plans, the moving was accomplished the next day. There was but one load of household goods, so that the two teams of their kind neighbor made only one trip, but that load, with the seven boys and their mother, filled the shanty by the tracks to overflowing. The little boys immediately upon their arrival had been all eyes for the trains, and, failing them, the freight cars. And they had reluctantly promised never to ascend the iron freight car ladders when they had been in their new home only one hour.
"Whin you're dailin' with b'ys take 'em in toime," was the widow's motto. "What's the use of lettin' 'em climb up and fall down, and maybe break their legs or arms, and then take their promise? Sure, and I'll take it before the harm's done, so I will."
Such tooting the delighted little fellows had never heard. "Barney!" whispered Tommie, in the middle of the night, with a nudge. "Barney! there's another of 'em!"
"And listen to the bell on it," returned Barney. "Ain't you glad we moved?"
And then they fell asleep to wake and repeat the conversation a little later. Larry was the only one who slept the night through. The rest were waked so many times by the unaccustomed noise that one night seemed like twenty.
"We'll be used to it in toime," said the heavy-eyed little widow to yawning Pat and Mike the next morning. "And the more things you get used to in this world the better for you. I belave it's quite something loike to be able to sleep with engines tootin' and blowin' off steam, and bells a-ringin', and cars a-bumpin'. Even a baby can slape where 'tis quiet, you know."
Breakfast had been over an hour.
"Now, Pat," said his mother, "that's not the way to make beds. Off with them covers and make 'em over again."
Mrs. O'Callaghan was standing in the doorway and looking in at the roomful of beds. "I don't mane it for unkindness, Pat, but sure and the way you've got 'em made up they look jist loike pigs' nests with covers over 'em. There, that's better," she commented when Pat had obediently made all the beds over again under her instructions. "You can't larn all there is to bed-makin' in a day. 'Tis practice makes parfect, as your copy book used to say. But I'm thinkin' you'll have it in a week, for you're your father's son, and he was a quick wan to larn, was Tim. And now I'll be teachin' you a bit of cookin' while I have the chance. You must larn that as quick as you can, Pat, for a poor cook wastes a sight, besides settin' dishes of stuff on the table that none but pigs can eat. And in most places the pigs would get their messes, but here we've got no pigs, and whativer you cook we've got to be eatin'. Andy was askin' for beans for to-morrow a bit ago. What's your ideas about bakin' beans, Pat? How would you do it?"
Pat thought a moment. "I'd wash 'em good, and put 'em in a pan, and bake 'em," he said.
"Sure, then, you've left out one thing. With that receipt, Pat, you'd need a hammer to crack 'em with after they was baked. No, no, Pat, you pick 'em over good and put 'em a-soak over night. In the mornin' you pick 'em over again, and wash 'em good and bile 'em awhile, and pour off the water, and bile 'em again in fresh water with jist enough salt in it, and then you put 'em in the oven and bake 'em along with a piece of pork that's been a-bilin' in another kittle all the toime."
Pat looked a trifle astonished, but all he said was, "Baked beans is a queer name for 'em, ain't it?"
Mrs. O'Callaghan smiled. "That's the short of it, Pat, jist the short of it. The names of things don't tell half there is to 'em sometoimes. And now for the dinner. It's belavin' I am you can cook it with me standin' by to help you out when you get into trouble."
Pat tied on a clean apron, washed his hands and set to work.
"That's it! That's it!" encouraged Mrs. O'Callaghan, from time to time, as the cooking progressed. "And I'll jist be tellin' you, Pat, you're not so green as some girls I've seen. I'd rather have a handy b'y as an unhandy girl any day."
A little later she stood in the shanty door. "Come, Moike!" she called. "Bring the little b'ys in to dinner. Pat's a-dishin' it a'ready."
Mike had been detailed by his prudent mother as a guard to prevent his small brothers from making too intimate acquaintance with freight cars and engines. He was by this time pretty hungry, and he marshaled in his squad with scant ceremony.
A week went by and the widow was settled. Each boy was placed in his proper class at the public school, and the mother had her coveted four washing places.
"I didn't come to town to be foolin' my toime away, so I didn't," said Mrs. O'Callaghan, as she sat down to rest with a satisfied face. "Pat," she continued, "you've done foine with the work this week. All I've to say is, 'Kape on.' It'll kape you busy at it with school on your hands, but, sure, them as is busy ain't in mischief, nayther."
The next week all went well with the widow and Larry as usual, but the boys at school found rough sailing.
"Ah, but Mrs. Thompson's the jewel!" cried Mrs. O'Callaghan on Monday evening. "She do be sayin' that Larry's a cute little fellow, and she has him in to play where she is, and he gets to hear the canary bird sing, so he does. Didn't I be tellin' you, Pat, that I knew there was them in this town would help me that way? But what makes you all look so glum? Didn't you foind the school foine the day? Niver moind! You ain't acquainted yet. And jist remember that iverybody has a deal to bear in this world, and the poor most of all. If anybody does you a rale wrong, come tell me of it. But if it's only nignaggin', say naught about it. 'Twon't last foriver, anyway, and them that's mane enough to nignag a poor b'y is too mane to desarve attintion, so they are."
The widow looked searchingly at her older sons. She saw them, under the tonic of her sound counsel, straighten themselves with renewed courage, and she smiled upon them.
"I'll niver be makin' Tim's b'ys weak-spirited by lettin' 'em tittle-tattle of what can't be helped," she thought.
"Now, b'ys, heads up and do your bist!" she said the next morning as she went to her work.
But it was one thing to hold up their heads at the shanty, and quite another to hold them up on the noisy, swarming campus where they knew nobody, and where the ill-bred bullies of the school felt free to jeer and gibe at their poor clothing and their shy, awkward ways.
"Patrick O'Callaghan!" yelled Jim Barrows derisively.
It was recess and the campus was overflowing with boys and girls, but Pat was alone. "Just over from the 'ould coonthry'," he continued. "You can tell by his clothes. He got wet a-comin', and just see how they've shrunk!"
The overgrown, hulking fellow lounged closer to the tall and slender Irish boy, followed by the rough set that acknowledged him as a leader. Some measured the distance from the ends of Pat's jacket sleeves to his wrists, while others predicted the number of days that must elapse before his arms burst through the sleeves.
The spirit of the country-bred boy quailed before this coarse abuse, which he knew not how to resent. He glanced about him, but no way of escape offered. He was hemmed in. And then the bell struck. Recess was over. He thought of his brothers in different grades from himself, though in the same building. "Is there them that makes it hot for 'em when they can?" he said anxiously to himself. "We'll have to be stayin' more together mornin's and noons and recesses, so we will."
But staying together did not avail. Jim Barrows and his set found more delight in tormenting several unresisting victims than they could possibly have enjoyed with only one.
"Ah, but this nignaggin's hard to stand!" thought Pat a week later. He was on his way to school. Pat was always last to get off on account of his work. That morning Jim Barrows was feeling particularly valiant. He thought of the "O'Callaghan tribe," as he called them, and his spirits rose. He was seventeen and large for his age. "Them low Irish needs somebody to keep 'em to their places," he said to himself, "and I'm the one to do it."
Just then he spied Andy a few steps ahead of him, Andy, who was only eleven, and small and frail. Two strides of his long legs overtook the little boy. A big, ugly hand laid itself firmly on the shrinking little shoulder. Words of abuse assailed the sensitive ears, and were followed by a rude blow. Then Jim Barrows, regarding his duty done for that time, lounged on, leaving the little fellow crying pitifully.
A few moments later, Pat came along, and, finding his favorite brother crying, insisted upon knowing the reason. And Andy told him. With all the abuse they had borne, not one of the brothers had been struck before. As Pat listened his anger grew to fury. His blue eyes flashed like steel.
"Cheer up, Andy!" he said, "and run on to school. You needn't be afraid. I can't go with you; I've business on hand. But you needn't be afraid."
He had just ten minutes till school would call. Who was that, two blocks off, loitering on a corner? Was it?—it was Jim Barrows.
With a dogged step that did not seem hurried, Pat yet went rapidly forward. Straight up to the bully he walked and looked him firmly in the eye. "You struck my brother Andy because you thought you could," he said. And then, in the language of those Western boys, "he lit into him." "'Tis Andy's fist is on you now!" he cried, while he rained blows on the hulking coward, who did not offer to defend himself. "And there!" with a tremendous kick as Jim Barrows turned to run, "is a taste of his foot. Touch him again if you dare!"
Needless to say, he didn't dare. "I hear your brother Andy's been fighting," said the principal, as he stopped Pat the next day in the street. "At least, there are marks of Andy's fist and Andy's foot on Jim Barrows." His eyes twinkled as he spoke and then grew grave again. "Fighting's a bad thing in general, but you are excusable, my lad, you are excusable."
Pat looked after the principal going with a quick firm step on his busy way, and thought him the finest man in town, for, so far, nobody had given the poor Irish boy a word of sympathy and encouragement.
That evening Pat ventured to tell his mother.
"And so that's what the principal said, is it?" commented Mrs. O'Callaghan. "He's a man of sinse. Your father was a man of great sinse, Pat. Fightin' is a bad thing, so it is. But your father's gone, and it's you must kape the little wans from harm in his place. You'd be but a bad brother to stand by and see any wan strike little Andy. There's some things has got to be put a stop to, and the sooner it's done the better, says I." Then after a pause, "I hope you larn your lessons, Pat?"
"I do, mother."
"I thought you would. Your father always larnt all that come handy to him. Larnin's no load, Pat. Larn all you can."
Now Pat, with the exception of Latin, was no whit behind other boys of his age, for he had been sent to school in the country from the time he was five years old. The fight being over, he gave his mind thoroughly to his books, a thing he could not do while he did not know what to expect from Jim Barrows and his set, and his class-standing was high.
And now the first of April was at hand. The O'Callaghans had been a month in town and the widow was beginning to see that she had overestimated the purchasing power of what she could earn at four washing places. Four dollars a week needed a supplement. How could it be supplied? Mrs. O'Callaghan cast about in her mind. She had already discovered that Wennott offered a poor field for employment, so far as boys were concerned, and yet, in some way, her boys must help her. By day, by night she thought and could hit upon nothing unless she took her sons from school.
"And that I'll not do," she said, "for larnin' is at the root of everything."
Is Friday an unlucky day? You could not get Mrs. O'Callaghan to think so, for it was upon the Friday that closed a week of anxious thinking that Mrs. Brady called at the shanty. Neither could you get Mrs. Brady to think so, for—but let us begin a little farther back. Hired girls, as they were called in Wennott, were extremely scarce. Mrs. Brady was without one—could not get one, though she had advertised long and patiently. Now she was tired to exhaustion. Sitting in the old wooden rocker that had been Mr. O'Callaghan's, Mrs. Brady rested a few moments closely surrounded on all sides by the O'Callaghan furniture.
"'Tis a bit snug, ma'am," Mrs. O'Callaghan had said when piloting her to this seat, "but it's my belafe my b'ys don't moind the snugness of it so much as they would if they was girls."
Mrs. Brady mechanically agreed.
The four walls of the kitchen were rather too close together to inclose a bed, a wash-bench, two tubs, a cooking stove, a table, seven Windsor chairs, the water pail, the cupboard, and the rocking-chair in which Mrs. Brady sat, and leave anything but a tortuous path for locomotion. The boys knew the track, however, and seldom ran up against anything with sufficient force to disturb it or their own serenity. But there was not a speck of dust anywhere, as Mrs. Brady noticed.
The widow's face was a little careworn and anxious as she sat close at hand in one of the wooden chairs listening to Mrs. Brady's explanation of her need of help.
"You have been recommended to me by Mrs. Thompson. Could you come to me to-morrow, Mrs. O'Callaghan? It will be a day of sweeping and general cleaning," she concluded.
The widow's countenance began to brighten. She saw her way out of the difficulty that had been puzzling her.
"I can't come mesilf," she answered politely, "for what with my sivin b'ys I've my own work that can't be neglected. But my son, Pat, will do it for you. I'll come with him jist to get him started loike, for he's niver swept a carpet, though he swapes a bare floor ilegant."
Well, to be sure, Mrs. Brady was not overjoyed. But she saw it was Pat or nobody, and she was very tired. So she agreed to try him.
"And when will you have him come?" asked Mrs. O'Callaghan. There was no doubt expressed on the mother's face; no fear lest her son might not be able to please.
"At eight," responded Mrs. Brady. "I cannot be ready for him sooner."
"Then together we'll be there, you may depind."
And Mrs. Brady, on the whole dissatisfied, went on her way. "If that boy—Pat, I think she called him—can do housework satisfactorily, he's the only boy that I've heard of here that can," she thought.
The next morning when the two presented themselves, Mrs. Brady, after showing Mrs. O'Callaghan where to leave her wraps, led the way at once to her bedroom. "Perhaps you will just make my bed for me before you go, Mrs. O'Callaghan," she insinuated. "It has been properly aired and is ready."
"Oh, Pat will make it for you, ma'am," was the answer, and again Mrs. Brady yielded.
"Now, Pat, on with your blouse."
The two women waited while Pat untied the bundle he carried and put on a clean cotton blouse.
"'Twas his father's blouse, ma'am. A bit loose now, but he'll grow to it. He's very loike his father."
Mrs. Brady looked at the tall, slender boy wearing his father's blouse and his mother's apron, with an old straw hat on his head for a dust protector, and then at the mother watching his every movement with loving eyes, and only anxious that he might give satisfaction. And all sense of incongruity vanished from her mind.
"Now, Pat, show the lady what you can do." And Pat obeyed as if he were five instead of fifteen. The dead father had trained his sons from their babyhood to yield implicit obedience to their mother. Deftly he set to work. He turned the mattress; he smoothed and tucked in each sheet and cover as he put it on; he beat up the pillows, and within ten minutes the bed was perfectly made. There was no need for Mrs. Brady to speak. She showed her surprise and delight in her face.
"I was thinkin' Pat could suit you, ma'am," smiled the mother. "And now, if you've more beds, maybe Pat had better make 'em before the dust of the swapin' is on him."
"I have no more this morning," responded Mrs. Brady courteously.
"Then, Pat, there's the broom." Then she turned to Mrs. Brady. "Now, ma'am, what's your ideas about swapin'? There's them that says, 'Swape aisy and not be gettin' the wools off the carpet.' But them wools don't many of 'em come off the carpet. There's a plinty of 'em comes on bare floors that ain't swept regular. I says, 'A vigorous swapin' and no light brushin' except by a lady loike yoursilf as hasn't got strength.'"
"Those are my ideas, too," said Mrs. Brady as with an air of satisfaction she began to spread the dust covers over her bed.
All day Pat swept and dusted and wiped paint and window panes, and at night he went home with seventy-five cents in his pocket.
The widow was getting supper, but she worked mechanically, for her heart was in her ears, and they were listening for Pat's step. The brothers, stowed here and there in chinks between the pieces of furniture, watched with eager eyes their mother's movements, and sniffed the savory odors that escaped from a perfectly clean saucepan in capable hands. But no boy lounged on the bed, nor even leaned against it, and no one sat in the father's chair. To sit there meant special honor at the hands of the family.
"And it's Pat will sit in the rocking-chair and rest himsilf this avenin'," cried Mrs. O'Callaghan, returning to her cooking from a brief trip to the door. "It's Pat'll be bringin' home money the night; honest money that he's earned."
The little boys appeared impressed, and on Mike's face came a look of determination that led his mother to say, "All in good toime, Moike. You're as willin' as Pat any day. I know that. And the way you look after the little b'ys, your father himsilf couldn't do better."
And then Pat came stepping in.
"Did she praise you, Pat?" cried the little woman as she dished up the supper. She was hungry for appreciation of her boy.
"She did that. She said, 'Patrick, you're elegant help, and will you come again next Saturday?"
"And what did you tell her?"
"I told her I would, and let that Jim Barrows keep a civil tongue in his head when he hears of it, or I'll be teaching him another lesson. He'll not be throwin' it up to me that it's girl's work I'm doin' if he knows what's best for him."
"Listen to me, Pat," said his mother, soberly. "I'll be tellin' you now my plans for you so you'll not be runnin' agin 'em. It's to be a gintleman you are, and gintlemen don't fight jist because some Jim Barrows of a fellow says tauntin' words to 'em. You had to kape him off Andy, but moindin' his impudence to yoursilf is another thing."
For the first time in his life Pat looked unconvinced of his mother's wisdom, and she went on soothingly, "But sure and I don't belave he'll be sayin' a word to you, Pat. And anyway you know how many of the blissid saints and angels was women on the earth, and how it was their work to kape things clane and pleasant for them they loved. And that ain't a work to be ashamed of by girl or b'y."
The little boys busily eating had seemed not to notice. Only Mike had looked on with interest. But into all their hearts had sunk the lesson that gentlemen did not fight.
"Are we all to be gintlemen?" asked Barney looking up when his plate was quite empty.
"Ivery wan of you. What should your father's b'ys be but gintlemen and him the best man as iver lived?"
It was not to be expected that in any place service such as Pat's would be willingly done without, least of all in Wennott. The more Mrs. Brady thought of it, the smaller and more unsatisfactory did Saturday appear, and on Friday morning she went again to the shanty.
"And I hope you're not come to say you've changed your moind about wantin' Pat to-morrow," said Mrs. O'Callaghan when civil greetings had been exchanged and Mrs. Brady sat once more in the rocker.
"In one sense I have changed my mind," answered Mrs. Brady with a smile. "I want Pat to-morrow, but I want him all the other days of the week, too."
The widow was silent. She had not planned so far as this. What would Pat say? Would he do it?
"I will give him his board and lodging and a dollar a week to help me Saturday and Sunday, and before and after school the other days of the week. Saturday he would have to work all day, of course, but Sunday he would have almost nothing to do," said Mrs. Brady. "The washing and ironing I put out," she added as Mrs. O'Callaghan still hesitated.
"You're very koind, ma'am," responded the widow after a pause. "I hope Pat'll go to you. I'll ask him."
"What makes you think he might not like to come?" inquired Mrs. Brady, anxious in her turn.
"Well, you see, ma'am, 'tis girl's work entoirely you want him to do. And Pat's been put on and made fun of almost more than he can bear since we moved to Wennott. Sure and them b'ys—I'd call 'em imps, only they're big for imps, bein' bigger and stouter than Pat himsilf—they sets on him and foretells when his arms is goin' to burst through his sleeves and such as that, loike an almanac, ma'am. And him a-loikin' nice clothes as well as any one, only he can't get 'em because it's poor we are, ma'am. Not that there's anything wrong about that. 'Tis the Lord's will that it's so, and we're doin' our best with it. But Pat's young. He didn't mean to tell me of it, but his moind bein' full of it, it slipped out.
"Pat, he done as I told him, and come to you a-Saturday, and he'd kape on comin' Saturdays, but I can't tell him he must go out to service loike a girl, when I know what thim b'ys will have in store for him. I must jist ask him, do you see? And what he'll say, I can't tell. He's mighty brave. Maybe he'll come. I've been tellin' him he's not to be lickin' that Jim Barrows if he is impudent to him."
"Does Pat fight?" asked Mrs. Brady doubtfully. "He seemed so amiable."
"And pleasant he is," cried the widow earnestly. "'Twas not for himsilf he fought, do you understand. 'Twas because Jim Barrows hurt Andy's feelin's and struck him besides. Andy's my third son, ma'am. He's only eleven, and not strong ayther. And Pat, he loves him better, I belave, than he does all the rest of the b'ys put together."
"Oh!" said Mrs. Brady with a relieved air.
"But havin' got a taste of makin' Jim Barrows kape off Andy has sort of got him in the notion of not takin' nothin' off him, do you see? But it's his father has a good influence over him yet. Tim's in his grave, ma'am, but it's meanin' I am he shall still rule his b'ys. And he does, too."
There was a certain part of Wennott which its own residents were wont to think was the part of town in which to live. Sometimes in confidence they even congratulated themselves over their own good fortune and commiserated the rest of the town who lived upon the flat lands.
The rest of the town were not discontented in the least. They thought northeast Wennott was a little far out, themselves. And it was a good three-quarters of a mile from the public square. But the knolls were not to be had any nearer, and those who owned them felt repaid for the walk it took to reach them. The places were larger, the air was fresher and sweeter, and there was only one knoll to rent among them all. Beyond the knolls were the northeast suburbs, built upon as flat land as any the town afforded, and farther on stretched rolling prairie, picturesquely beautiful. It was upon one of the knolls that Mrs. Brady lived, in a square house of an old-fashioned build, having a hall running through the center with rooms on each side. It fronted the west. To the left, as one entered, was the dining-room; to the right, the parlor, whose always open folding doors made the pleasant sitting-room a part of itself. There was a bay window in the east end of the sitting-room, and one's first glance in at the parlor door from the hall always traveled past everything else to rest on the mass of green and blossoms in the bay window. For Mrs. Brady was an expert at floriculture. Here and there on the lawn, not crowded, but just where it seemed natural to find them, were rosebushes of different varieties that waited patiently all winter for the appreciation of their beauty which summer was sure to bring, and among them were some of the kinds Mrs. Brady had loved in the Eastern home of her girlhood.
One stepped out from the south door of the sitting-room to find narrow beds for all sorts of summer blooms hugging the house, and looked about to see farther on occasional other beds. Everything was represented in her flower garden, from sweet alyssum and mignonette to roses and lilies, just as a little of all sweet qualities mingled themselves in her disposition. She was no longer young, and she had come to be quite frail.
"I hope he will come," she said as she let herself in at the front door.
From the shanty she had come the back way, a part of which followed the railroad track, and the walk had not been very long, but wearily she sank down to rest.
"He's such a handy boy," she thought. "If he shouldn't come!"
And down at the shanty Mrs. O'Callaghan, as she washed vigorously for her boys, was thinking, too.
"It's wishin' I am 'twas avenin'," she cried at last, "and then 'twould be off my moind, so 'twould. I can't tell no more than nothin' what Pat'll be sayin'. And what's worse, I can't tell what I want him to be sayin'. 'Tis the best I want him to be doin', but what's the best? If he don't go, there's a chance gone of earnin' what we need. And if he does go, I'll be at my wits' ends to kape him from settlin' that Jim Barrows. It's widows as has their trials when they've sivin b'ys on their hands, and all of 'em foine wans at that."
It was a very uncertain day. Cloud followed sunshine, and a sprinkle of rain the cloud, over and over again.
"Sure an' the weather an' me's as loike as two peas the day. We're nayther of us to be depinded on, so we ain't, not knowin' what we want. Look at my clothes not dryin' an' me a-frettin'. What's the use of it all? Let Pat do as he will, I'll think no more of it."
The little woman was capable. She could work; she could control her boys, though sometimes, when it seemed best, she could give control of them into their own hands, and she could govern her thoughts with some measure of success. So, casting her worries behind her, she went about brightly and cheerily as if nothing of an anxious nature lay before her, amusing Larry with chatter suited to his years, and making him contented to stay indoors while she toiled. For Mrs. O'Callaghan was as young as her youngest child, and as old as her oldest. It was easy for the boys to get close to mother. Only once did her mind revert to the forbidden theme. Dinner was over and she stood watching Pat, who was fast disappearing on his way to school.
"There's toimes to be spakin', and toimes to be kapin' still," she said. "Niver a word must I be sayin' till the rest of 'em's abed, and it's hard waitin', so it is. It's my belafe that's what makes some b'ys so unruly—takin' 'em at the wrong toime. Sure and b'ys has their feelin's loike the rest of the world. Spake to 'em by their lone silves when you've aught to say to 'em. There's niver a man of 'em all, not even Gineral Brady himsilf, would loike bein' bawled at in a crowd about somethin' that needed thinkin' over. And Gineral Brady's the foine man, too. Big and straight he walks, a-wearin' his plug hat, and old and young is plazed to meet him. Well, his business is done. There's no more foightin'. But he was a brave foighter! My Tim saw him at it more'n wanst. Tim was a long way behind the Gineral, but Tim, he done his duty, too. Sure some has to be behoind, and if that's your place, 'Make that place respicted,' says I."
She turned from the door and went back to her work.
"There's some as thinks the Gineral has a business," she went on. "There's them that calls him a banker. But what sort of a business is that now? Jist none at all. All he does is to take in the money, and put it in a safe place where nobody won't steal it, and hand it out again when it's needed, and lend a little now and then to somebody that wants it and is loikely to be payin' it back again. Anybody could do that. There's no work to it. And, by the same token, it's no business. When the war was over, the Gineral's business was done, I say, and it's hopin' I am it'll soon be evenin', for I'm wantin' to hear what Pat'll say."
It was, in the main, a quiet supper at the shanty, and, for the most part, a silent evening. One by one the boys went to bed, and Pat and his mother were left alone.
"Pat," began Mrs. O'Callaghan, in a tremble of eagerness and apprehension, "who do you think was here the mornin'?"
"Sure and I couldn't guess, mother dear. You'll have to be tellin' me."
"And so I will," was the prompt reply. "'Twas Mrs. Gineral Brady, then. And she loikes your work that well, Pat, she wants you to go to her house to live."
At first the boy looked bewildered. Then a light of understanding flashed over his face, and he blushed as if with shame. To go out to service like a girl! He couldn't do it, and he wouldn't. But even in his fierce young indignation he restrained himself. He had suffered so much of late that he was growing very careful about inflicting suffering upon others, especially upon his mother. He covered his eyes with his hand and sat quite still for a few moments before he inquired, "What did you tell her?"
"I told her I'd ask you, Pat. Only that." The boy wheeled round in the old Windsor chair in which he sat, threw his arms over the top of its back and buried his face. They had been in town now six weeks. Pat had learned by his experience in cooking how fast supplies went in a large family. Two weeks before, the generous contributions of their country neighbors had given entirely out, and Pat, as marketer, had learned how much money it took to buy with. Four dollars a week would not, could not, support the family even in summer time. Hard knowledge was this for a boy of fifteen to have, and hardly had it been learned. If he went, there was Jim Barrows and his set with more jeers and insults which he must not avenge. If he did not go—all at once he remembered that ride home from Wennott with his mother, when he had asked her what he could do and what Mike could do to help. Was this the answer? Was he to live out like a girl, and Mike to take his place with the work at home?
He lifted his face, and his blue eyes had a pleading look that went to the widow's heart. "Mother, tell me what I must do," he said.
"I can't, Pat dear. You must say for yoursilf."
There was loving sympathy in look and tone, but the little woman's determination was clear. Pat must decide for himself. And the young head went down again.
Ten long minutes went by before Pat spoke again, and his voice had a muffled sound, for his face was not lifted. "Mother, are you willin'?" he asked.
"I am, Pat, my son."
Heavier the dreadful prospect pressed upon him. He could trust his mother, and she was willing. Then it must be right.
More minutes went by. Pat had a telltale voice. Clear and musical, it had ever revealed to the mother the heart of her son. And its sadness and submission smote upon her as he said at last, "You may tell her I'll go, mother."
"I always knowed you was brave, Pat," said Mrs. O'Callaghan. Then a rough little hand was laid on his head—the hand of an honest washerwoman—and in a reverent tone came the words, "Your father was brave."
The boy looked up gratefully. To be likened to his father was dear to him.
"Yes, Pat," went on Mrs. O'Callaghan. "'Most anybody can take a noice payin' job as suits 'em, but it's the brave wans that takes the work they don't want to do and does it good, too."
And then the mother who had the courage to battle cheerfully for her children, and the son who had the courage to do what seemed best in the face of contempt and ridicule, went to their rest.
The next morning Pat stepped out into the kitchen and donned his apron in a downcast mood. The uplift of his mother's praise had passed, and the fact remained that to-day he was to go out to service like a girl. The little boys were up and stowed here and there waiting for breakfast. Some little boys cannot be kept in bed mornings as long as their elders could wish, and the widow's little boys were of that kind.
"Get up, if you want to," was Mrs. O'Callaghan's counsel to her youngest sons, "but see to it you don't get under Pat's feet. Nayther must you be runnin' out doors, for Moike to be haulin' you in when breakfast's ready."
These orders shut the little fellows into a narrow space, and they were always eager for the morning meal to be over. Andy and Jim were not in such a hurry to rise, having reached the age when boys need a deal of persuasion to get them up.
"They'll be along in a minute," thought the widow. "Here comes Moike."
Along they were in a minute, as their mother had predicted. The little woman was fond of effect. "There's toimes when it's the thing to spake before 'em all," she thought. "This is wan of 'em. Pat needs heartenin' a bit."
Then with an air of authority she said: "Pat, off with your apron!"
The rest were eyes and ears at once as their mother meant they should be, but Pat only stared in surprise. Some way he felt stupid this morning.
"Off with your apron," repeated Mrs. O'Callaghan, "and sit you down in the father's chair. I get the breakfast this mornin'."
With a shamefaced blush Pat obeyed, amid the wondering looks of his brothers.
"You'll be sayin' farewell to Pat this mornin'," went on the widow, her glance traveling from one to another. "It's lavin' us he is to go to Gineral Brady's to live. 'Tis hard toimes we've been havin' and harder's before us. Pat seen it and he's a-goin' to help. He'll be gettin' his board and he'll still be goin' to school."
At this Pat started.
"Did you think I'd be willin' for you to lave school, my son?" asked the mother tenderly.
Then turning to the rest once more, "And it's a dollar a week he'll be gettin' besides. He's his father's son, and he's got a head older than his years, or he'd niver 'a' been the brave b'y he is, nor seen nothin' to be brave about, nayther. And he'll be comin' to visit us when Mrs. Brady can spare him, and that'll be when his work's done, of course; and always he sits in his father's chair."
Redder and redder flushed Pat's cheeks, seeing which the widow adroitly drew the general attention to her second son.
"And here's the chance for Moike," she said, going busily on with her work. "Will you be makin' the beds and kapin' things shinin' and doin' the cookin' for us all?"
"You know I will, mother."
The little woman smiled. "Sure and I knowed you would. I jist asked you.
"Now, b'ys, there's what they call permotions. Often and often have I heard your father spake of 'em. We're havin' some of 'em this mornin'. Pat, he goes to earnin' money and his board. That gives Moike a chance to step up into his place, do you see? That's what permotions is for, I'm thinkin'—to give the wans behoind you a chance. Always step up when you honestly can, b'ys, if for no other reason, to give the wan behoind you a chance. There's no tellin' what he can do till he gets a chance, do you see? Tim, he wouldn't 'a' stayed foightin' a private if the wan ahead of him had only done his duty and stepped up. But some folks niver does their duty, and it's hopin' I am you'll none of you be loike 'em. It's a noice place Pat's goin' to, so 'tis. There's a queer little house with a glass roof on jist across the street from it, and, by the same token, it's a wonder how they can kape a glass roof on it. There's them that can't even kape their window glass in, so there is, but goes a-stuffin' up the holes with what they can get. It's full of plants, so 'tis, a sort of a garden house where they sells flowers for weddin's and funerals and such, and maybe Pat'll be showin' you through it some day when he gets acquainted. I'm told anybody can see it. Grane house, I belave they calls it, but why anybody should call a garden house a grane house I can't tell, for sure and it's not a bit of a grane idea to sell flowers if you can find them that has the money to buy 'em."
At this, quiet little Andy, who was fond of his book, glanced up. "Maybe they call it greenhouse because it's full of green things," he said.
The widow nodded two or three times in a convinced manner. "To be sure. That's the reason," she said. "And it's proud I am to have for my third son a b'y that can give the reasons of things. And there's another permotion we was forgettin'. Andy'll take Moike's place, so he will, and look after the little b'ys. A b'y that can give reasons can look after 'em wonderful, so he can, if he don't get so full of his reasons that he forgets the little b'ys entoirely. But Andy'll not be doin' that. I niver told you before, but your father's favorite brother was named Andy, and a great wan he was for reasons, as I've heard.
"Now breakfast's ready, so 'tis. I took my toime to it, for permotions always takes toime. There's them that wants permotion in such a hurry that they all but knocks over the wans in front of 'em. And that's bad, so 'tis. And no way at all, nayther. Jist kape yoursilf ready to step, and when the toime comes step aisy loike a gintleman, and then folks rej'ices with you, instead of feelin' of their bumps and wonderin' at your impudence. And the worst of them koind of tryin's after permotions is that it hurts them behoind you, for they're jist a-breathin' aisy, do you see, when back you come a-tumblin' a-top of 'em, and lucky you are if you don't go past 'em, and land nobody knows where."
Seldom were the little boys so deluged with wisdom beyond their power of comprehension, but this was a special occasion, and as the general effect of the widow's remarks was to stir up in all a determination to do their best just where they were, her aim had been accomplished. Pat, in particular, was encouraged. Perhaps he was in line of promotion. He hoped it might come soon.
"Now, Moike," cried Mrs. O'Callaghan when Pat was gone, "here's a chance for you. It's lucky I am to be at home the day. I'll be teachin' you a bit of all sorts, so I will, for you've everything to larn, Moike, and that's the truth, barrin' the lay of the tracks, and the switches, and the empty cars a-standin' about, and how to kape the little b'ys from hurtin' thimsilves."
Mike looked rather disheartened.
"You niver let 'em get hurted wanst, did you, Moike? And that's doin' well, too. I hope Andy'll be comin' up to you in that."
So encouragingly did his mother smile upon him as she said these last words that he visibly brightened. He was not tall and slender like Pat, but rather short and of a sturdy build. And he tied on his apron with determination in his eye.
"Do you know what you look loike, Moike?"
The boy glanced at her inquiringly.
"You look loike you was goin' to make short work of your larnin' and come up to Pat before you know it. I niver knowed a b'y to get the worst of it that looked that way out of his eye. It's a sort of 'do it I will, and let them stop me that can' look, Moike dear. Not that anybody wants to stop you, and it's an ilegant look, too, as I've often seen on your father's face when he had a hard job ahead of him."
By this time Mike was ready for anything. He really knew more than his mother gave him credit for, having furtively watched Pat more than once.
"Well, well, Moike!" exclaimed Mrs. O'Callaghan when the last bed was made. "That's a sight better as Pat's first try at bed-makin'. If he was here he'd say that wasn't so bad nayther, and it's yoursilf as knows Pat's an ilegant bed-maker. If you'd seen him astonishin' Mrs. Gineral Brady you'd 'a' seen a sight now. I was proud that day."
Mike smiled with satisfaction and reached for the broom. His mother said nothing, but not a move escaped her critical eye. As far as the beds could be moved, they were moved, and around them and under them went Mike's busy broom. Mike was warm-blooded, and it was a pretty red-faced boy that stood at last before his mother with the dustpan in his hand. There was strong approval on the little woman's face.
"Pat himsilf couldn't 'a' beat that. It's my belafe you've got a gift for swapin'," she said. "I can leave home to go to my washin' with an aisy mind, I see, and with no fears of chance callers foindin' dirty floors and mussy-lookin' beds a-disgracin' me. If widows is iver lucky, which I doubt, Moike, I'm lucky this far. I've got some wonderful foine sons, so I have."
Mike, at this, beamed with the consciousness that he was one of the sons and a fully appreciated one, too. A long time he had stood in the shadow of Pat's achievements. This morning he was showing what he could do.
"This permotion is pretty foine," said Mrs. O'Callaghan. "Moike, my b'y, you have stepped up aisy loike a gintleman into Pat's place, and now let's see you cook."
Mike looked crestfallen at once. "I can't cook, mother," he said. "Not the least in the world. Often and often I've watched Pat, but I never could get the hang of it."
The widow was silent a moment,
"Well, then!" she cried, "you've got the hang of bein' an honest b'y, and not pretindin' to do what you can't do, and that's better as bein' the best cook in the world. Niver do you pretind, Moike, not because there's always somebody about to foind you out, but because pretindin's mean. I'd have no pride left in me if I could think I had a pretindin' b'y about the house. And now, Moike, I'll teach you to cook. It's my belafe you can larn it. Why, Pat didn't know nothin' about it when he begun, and now he can cook meat and potatoes and such better as many a doless girl I've seen. You think Pat's cookin' tastes pretty good, don't you, Moike?"
"I do, mother," said Mike earnestly and without a tinge of jealousy in his tone. He loved and admired Pat with all his heart.
"You can larn it, too, if you only think so," encouraged Mrs. O'Callaghan.
"There's them that think's that cookin's a special gift, and they're right, too. But there's things about cookin' that anybody can attind to, such as havin' kettles and pans clean, and kapin' the fire up when it's needed, and not roastin' a body's brains out when it ain't needed. Yes, and there's other things," she continued with increasing earnestness. "There's them as thinks if they've a book or paper stuck about handy, and them a-poppin' down to read a bit ivery now and then, it shows that cookin's beneath 'em. And then the meat burns or it sogs and gets tough, the potatoes don't get the water poured off of 'em in toime, and things biles over on the stove or don't bile at all, at all, and what does all that show, Moike? Not that they're above cookin', but that they're lackin' in sinse. For a sinsible person always pays attintion to what they're at, but a silly is lookin' all ways but the right wan, and ten to wan but if you looked inside their skulls you'd foind 'em that empty it would astonish you. Not that I'm down on readin', but that readin' and cookin' hadn't ought to be mixed. Now, Moike, if any of these things I've been tellin' you of happens to your cookin', you'll know where to put the blame. Don't say, 'I wasn't made to cook, I guess'. That's what I wanst heard a silly say when she'd burnt the dinner. But jist understand that your wits must have been off a piece, and kape 'em by you nixt toime. But what's that n'ise?"
She stepped to the door. A short distance off Jim was trying to get something away from Barney, who was making up in roars what he lacked in strength. Up went Mrs. O'Callaghan's hands to curve around her mouth and form a speaking trumpet.
"Jim, come here!" she called.
Jim began to obey, and his mother, leaving Mike inside to think over her remarks on cooking, stood waiting for his lagging feet.
"Well, Jim," she said when he stood before her, "it's ashamed of you I am, and that's the truth. A big b'y loike you, noine years old, a-snatchin' something from little Barney and him only sivin! It's my belafe your father niver snatched nothin' from nobody."
At this Jim's countenance fell, for, in common with all his brothers, he shared a strong desire to be like his father.
"You may go now, but remember you'll be takin' Andy's place some day, a-carin' for the little wans."
The idea of taking Andy's place, even at so indefinite a period as sometime, quite took the edge off his mother's rebuke, and Jim went stepping off with great importance.
"Jim!" she called again, and the boy came back.
"That's a terrible swagger you've got on you, Jim. Walk natural. Your father was niver wan of the swaggerin' sort. And jist remember that takin' care of the little b'ys ain't lordin' it over 'em nayther."
"If I'm goin', I may as well go," thought Pat as he left his mother's door on that mid-April Saturday morning. And away he went on the railroad track at a rapid pace that did not give him much time to think.
It was the General himself who answered his knock that had a strange mixture of the bold and the timid. The General had been listening for that knock. He had been wondering what sort of a boy it was who was willing to go out by the day to do housework. The knock, told him. "He hates to come, but he comes, nevertheless," thought the General. And he arose and opened the door.
He looked into the boy's face and he saw a determined mouth and pleading eyes.
"Grit," thought the General. But he only said, "Come in, my boy."
"Yes, sir, if you please, sir, will you be tellin' Mrs. General Brady that I'm here, sir?" was Pat's answer as, with flushing cheeks, he stepped awkwardly into the room. What a fine soldierly bearing the General had, and how he must despise a boy who could turn himself into a girl!
"Sit down, Pat," said the General pleasantly. "That's your name, isn't it? I'll tell Mrs. Brady presently."
Pat sat down. He could not imagine the General with an apron on doing housework, though that was what he was trying to do while he sat there with cheeks that grew redder and more red.
"Mrs. Brady tells me you are excellent help, Pat," went on the General.
"Yes, sir," stammered Pat.
"Have you come to stay, or just for the day?"
The boy's eyes were almost beseeching as he answered, "I've come to stay, sir." What would the General think of him now?
"I suppose you like housework, then?"
"No, sir," came the answer in a low tone. "But father's gone, and there's mother and the boys and there's no work for boys in Wennott unless they turn themselves into girls."
"Better turn into a girl than into a tough from loafing on the streets, Pat," said the General heartily, as he rose from his chair. "I'll tell Mrs. Brady you are here."
There was not so much in what the genial master of the house had said, but Pat's head lifted a little. Perhaps the General did not despise him after all.
"I've good news for you, Fannie," said the General as he entered the dining-room. "Your boy has come, and come to stay."
"Oh, has he? I'm so glad." And she smiled her pleasure. "He's such a nice boy."
"He's a brave boy," said her husband with emphasis. "That boy has the grit of a hero. He may come into our kitchen for a time, but, please God, he shan't stay there. I know what he will have to take from those street boys for doing the best he can for his mother and younger brothers and he knows it, too. I saw it in his face just now. The boy that has the moral courage to face insult and abuse deserves to rise, and he shall rise. But, bless me! I'm getting rather excited over it, I see." And he smiled.
"Perhaps, Tom, you could shield him a little in the street," suggested Mrs. Brady.
"I'll do my best, my dear." And then the General went away to his bank, and Mrs. Brady went into the kitchen to see Pat.
Pat was sensitive. There was something in the General's manner as he left him, something in Mrs. Brady's tones as she directed him, that restored his self-respect.
"If only I never had to be goin' on the street till after dark, 'twouldn't be so bad," thought Pat. "But there's school, and there's Jim Barrows. I'll just have to stand it, that's what I will. Mother says I'm brave, but it's not very brave inside I'm feelin'. I'd run if I could."
But Pat was to learn some day, and learn it from the General's lips, that the very bravest men have been men who wanted to run and wouldn't.
At General Brady's there was light lunch at noon and dinner at five, which was something Pat had already become accustomed to from having to do his own family cooking for the last six weeks. He was pretty well used to hurrying home the moment the afternoon session of school was over to prepare the meal of the day for his hungry brothers and his tired mother. On Monday, therefore, he came flying into the Brady kitchen at fifteen minutes of five. There was the dinner cooking, with no one to watch it. Where was Mrs. Brady? Pat did not stop to inquire. His own experience told him that that dinner needed immediate attention.
Down went his books. He flew to wash his hands and put on his apron. He turned the water off the potatoes in a jiffy. "Sure and I just saved 'em, and that's all!" he cried, as he put them to steam dry.
"I'll peep in the oven, so I will," he said. "That roast needs bastin', so it does."
He heard the General come in.
"There's a puddin' in the warm oven," he continued, "but I don't know nothin' about that. It's long since we've had puddin' at home. I'll just dress the potatoes and whip 'em up light. I can do that anyway, and give the roast another baste. It's done, and I'll be settin' it in the warm oven along with the puddin'. For how do I know how Mrs. Brady wants her gravy? Where is she, I wonder?"
"Why, Pat," said a surprised voice, "can you cook?"
"Not much, ma'am," answered Pat with a blush. "But I can sometimes keep other people's cookin' from spoilin'."
"Well said!" cried the General, who was determined to make Pat feel at ease. "Fannie, give me an apron, and I'll make the gravy. I used to be a famous hand at it in the army."
Pat stared, and then such a happy look came into his eyes that the General felt a little moisture in his own.
"How that boy has been suffering!" he said to himself.
"I was detained by a caller," explained Mrs. Brady. "The dinner would surely have been spoiled if Pat had not come just when he did."
And then Pat's cup was full. He blushed, he beamed. Here was the General, the man whom his mother had held up to Pat's admiration, with an apron on, cooking! And Mrs. Brady said that he had saved the dinner.
"Let Jim Barrows say what he likes," he thought. "I'd not like to be eatin' any of his cookin'."
Cooking had risen in Pat's estimation.
"She asked me, 'Will you please not be nickin' or crackin' the dishes, Pat?' And says I, 'I'll be careful, Mrs. Brady.' But I wonder what makes 'em have these thin sort of dishes. I never seen none like 'em nowhere else."
Dinner was over and Pat was alone in the kitchen.
"But the General makin' the gravy was fine, and sure I never tasted no better gravy neither. I wish I could just be lettin' 'em know at home. Mike will have to be turnin' into a girl, too, one of these days, and it might ease him a bit if he could know the General wasn't above cookin'. My mother said I'd be comin' to visit 'em when my work was done, if Mrs. Brady could spare me."
A half-hour later a trim-looking boy presented himself at the sitting-room door.
"Come in, Pat," invited the General, looking up from his paper with a smile.
Pat smiled back again, but it was to Mrs. Brady that he turned as he entered the room.
"Mrs. Brady, ma'am," he said, "the dishes are done and the kitchen made neat. Will you have me to be doin' something more for you this evenin'?"
"No, Pat," replied Mrs. Brady kindly. "Your work, for to-day, is done. You may take off your apron."
"Yes, ma'am. Would you kindly be lettin' me go home a little while then?"
Pat's look was eager but submissive.
"Certainly, Pat," was the reply. "Take the kitchen key with you."
"Thank you, kindly, ma'am," returned Pat gratefully. And with another smile for the General, who had not resumed his reading, the boy left the room, and, shortly after, the house.
"Listen!" cried Mrs. O'Callaghan, with uplifted ringer. And the rollicking talk about her ceased on the instant.
"'Tis Pat's step I hear outside, and here he is, sure enough. Now, b'ys, don't all of you be on him at wanst. Let him sit down in the father's chair."
Pat, feeling the honor paid him, and showing that he felt it, sat down. The little boys crowded around him with their news. Jim and Andy got as near to him as they could for furniture, while Mike looked at him from the farther side of the tiny room with a heart full of love and admiration in his eyes. They had not seen Pat since Saturday morning except at school that day, and that was not like having him at home with them.
"And how does your work come on?" asked his mother as soon as she could get in a word.
"Fine," said Pat. "'Tis an elegant place." Then, with an air that tried hard to be natural, he added, "The General himself made the gravy to-day."
"What!" exclaimed his mother. "The Gineral!"
"He did," said Pat. "He put on one of Mrs. Brady's aprons, and 'twas fine gravy, too."
The widow looked her astonishment. "And do you call that foine?" she demanded at last. "The Gineral havin' to make his own gravy? What was you a-doin', Pat?"
"I was helpin' Mrs. Brady with the puddin' sauce and dishin' up. 'Twas behind we all was, owin' to a caller, and Mrs. Brady said if it hadn't been for me the dinner would have been spoiled sure. I got there just in time."
"The Gineral," said Mrs. O'Callaghan, looking about her impressively, "is the handsomest and the foinest gintleman in the town. Iverybody says so. And the Gineral ain't above puttin' an apron on him and makin' gravy. Let that be a lesson to you all. The war's over. You'll none of you iver be ginerals. But you can all make gravy, so you can."
"When, mother, when?" asked Barney and Tommie eagerly, who saw at once that gravy would be a great improvement on mud pies, their only culinary accomplishment at present.
"When?" repeated the widow. "All in good toime, to be sure. Pat will be givin' Moike the Gineral's receipt, and the b'y that steps into Moike's place—and that'll be Andy, I'm thinkin'—he'll larn it of Moike, and so on, do you see?"
"And I was just thinkin'," put in Pat, with an encouraging glance at Mike, "that Jim Barrows's cookin' was like to be poor eatin'."
"True for you, my b'y!" exclaimed the widow. "The idea of that Jim Barrows a-cookin' niver struck me before. But, as you say, no doubt 'twould be poor. Them that's not above nignaggin' the unfortunate is apt to be thinkin' themsilves above cookin', and if they tried it wanst, no doubt their gravy would be a mixture of hot water and scorch, with, like enough, too little salt in it if it didn't have too much, and full of lumps besides. 'Tis your brave foightin' men and iligant gintlemen loike the Gineral that makes the good gravy."
"Pat, I forgot to give Mr. Brady the list of things that I want sent up this morning."
Pat looked up from his dishwashing sympathetically, for there was perplexity in the kindly tone and on the face no longer young.
It was always a mystery to the boy why Mrs. Brady called her husband "Mr. Brady" when everybody else said General Brady.
"But it's none of my business, of course," he told himself.
It was Saturday morning.
"Do you think you could go down, Pat, when the dishes are finished?"
"Indeed, and I can that, ma'am," returned Pat heartily.
"Do so, then," was the reply. And Mrs. Brady walked away with a relieved air.
"I'm ready, ma'am," announced Pat, coming to the sitting-room door a little later. "Will you be havin' me to take the list to General Brady, or will you be havin' me to be doin' the buyin' myself?"
Mrs. Brady thought a moment. Her husband very much disliked marketing. If Pat should prove as capable in that direction as in every other, the General would be saved what was to him a disagreeable task. She resolved to try him. So she said, "You may do the buying yourself, Pat."
"Thank you kindly, ma'am," answered Pat respectfully.
"Do you like to buy things?" asked Mrs. Brady, surprised at the expression of anticipated pleasure on the boy's face.
"I don't like nothin' better, ma'am. 'Twas but a taste I'd got of it before I left home. Mike does our buyin' now. Buyin's next best to sellin', we both think."
He took the list Mrs. Brady held out and ran his eye over it. "I'll be takin' my basket and bring the little things home myself", he said. "Would you believe it, ma'am, some of them delivery boys is snoopy, I've been told. Not all of 'em, of course, but some of 'em just. Now raisins, you've got here. Raisins is mighty good, but let 'em buy their own,' says I. And don't you be doin' nothin' but restin', ma'am, while I'm gone. If I'm off enjoyin' myself 'tain't fair as you should be up here a-workin'. There's not much to be done anyway, but I'll get through with it," he ended with a smile.
Away went Pat, stepping jauntily with his basket on his arm. It was the first of June, and Wennott, embowered in trees, was beautiful. He had almost reached the square before he thought, "She never told me where to go. I can't be wastin' my time goin' back. I'll just step into the bank and ask the General."
Pat loved the General. A woman's apron was the bond that bound the poor Irish boy to the fine old soldier, and it was with the smile that the boy kept exclusively for him that he stepped in at the open door of the bank.
The General was engaged, but he found time to answer the smile and to say in his most genial tone, "In a moment, Pat."
He was soon at liberty, and then he said, "Now, Pat, what is it?"
"Please, sir, have you any one place where you want me to be tradin', or am I to buy where the goods suit me?"
"Are you doing the marketing to-day, Pat?"
"Yes, sir. Mrs. Brady give me leave."
"And what is your own idea about trading?"
"Buy where you can do the best for the money, sir," was the prompt reply.
The banker looked at him thoughtfully. He had the key to Pat's future now. He knew along what line to push him, for he was determined to push Pat. And then he said, "Buy where you think best. But did Mrs. Brady give you money?"
"She did, sir. This creditin' is poor business. Show 'em your money, and they'll do better by you every time."
The General listened in so interested a manner that Pat added, "It's because the storemen can get all the creditin' they want to do and more, too, but them as steps up with the cash, them's the ones they're after."
"And who taught you this, Pat?"
"Sure and my mother told me part of it, and part of it I just picked up. But I'll be goin' now, or Mrs. Brady will think I'm never comin'. She'll be teachin' me to-day to make a fine puddin' for your dinner."
The first store Pat went into had already several customers. As he entered, the clerks saw a tall boy wearing a blouse shirt and cottonade trousers, and having on his head a broad-brimmed straw hat well set back. And they seemed not at all interested in him. The basket on his arm was also against him. "Some greeny that wants a nickel's worth of beans, I suppose," said one.
But if the clerks seemed to make little of Pat, Pat, for his part, regarded them with indifference. The sight of the General making gravy had changed the boy's whole outlook; and he had come to feel that whoever concerned himself with Pat O'Callaghan's business was out of his province. Pat was growing independent.
Other customers came in and were waited upon out of their turn while Pat was left unnoticed.
"That's no way to do business," he thought, "but if they can stand it, I can." And he looked about him with a critical air. He was not going off in a huff, and perhaps missing the chance of buying to advantage for the General. At last a clerk drew near—a smallish, dapper young fellow of about twenty.
"I'll be lookin' at raisins," said Pat.
"How many'll you have?" asked the clerk, stepping down the store on the inside of the counter, while Pat followed on the outside.
"I said I'd be lookin' at 'em," answered Pat. "I don't want none of 'em if they don't suit."
The clerk glanced at him a little sharply, and then handed out a sample bunch of a poor quality.
Pat did not offer to touch them.
"They'll not do," he said. "Have you no better ones? I want to see the best ones you've got."
"What's the matter with these?" asked the clerk quickly.
"And how can I tell what's the matter with 'em? They're not the kind for General Brady, and that you know as well as I."
At mention of the General's name the clerk pricked up his ears. It would be greatly to his credit if, through him, their house should catch General Brady's trade. He became deferential at once. But he might as well have spared his pains. No one, with Pat as buyer, would be able to catch or to keep the General's trade. Whoever offered the best for the money would sell to him.
The boy had the same experience in every store he entered, as he went about picking up one article here and another there till all were checked off his list.
"There's more'n me thinks the General's a fine man," he thought as he went home. "There didn't nobody care about sellin' to me, but they was all after the General's trade, so they was. And now I must hurry, for my work's a-waitin' for me, and the puddin' to be learnin' besides. Would I be goin' back to live off my mother now, and her a-washin' to keep me? Indeed and I wouldn't. The meanest thing a boy can be doin', I believe, is to be lettin' his mother keep him if he can get a bit of work of any sort."
With his mother's shrewd counsel backing him up, and with the General constantly before him to be admired and imitated, Pat was developing a manly spirit. When he went to live with Mrs. Brady, he had offered his mother the dollar a week he was to receive as wages.
"Sure and I'll not be takin' it, Pat," said the little woman decidedly.
To-night he had come home again, and this time he had brought three dollars with him.
"I told you I'd not be takin' it, Pat, and I won't nayther." Though the widow would not touch the coin, she looked lovingly at her son and went on, "It's ginerous you are, loike your father, but you're helpin' me enough when you take your board off my hands. You must save your money to buy clothes for yoursilf, for you need 'em, Pat dear. Mrs. Brady can't be puttin' up with too badly dressed help. Now don't you be spakin' yet," she continued, as she saw him about to remonstrate. "It's a skame of my own I've got that I want to be tellin' you about, for it's a comfort you are to me, Pat. Many's the mother as can't say that to her oldest son, and all on account of the son bein' anything but a comfort, do you see? But I can say it, Pat, and mean it, too. A comfort you are to me."
Pat smiled as he listened.
"Do you know, Pat," pursued his mother earnestly, "as I'm goin' to my washin' places, I goes and comes different ways whiniver I can, for what's the use of always goin' the same way loike a horse in a treadmill when you don't have to? Course, if you have to, that's different.
"Well, Pat, sure there's an awful lot of cows kept in this town. And I've found out that most of 'em is put out to pasture in Jansen's pasture north of the railroad. It runs north most to the cemetery, I'm told. But what of that when the gate's at this end? You don't have to drive the cows no further than the gate, Pat, dear. And the gate you almost passes when you're goin' to Gineral Brady's by the back way up the track. It's not far from us, by no manes."