THE WIT AND HUMOR OF AMERICA
In Ten Volumes
THE WIT AND HUMOR OF AMERICA
EDITED BY MARSHALL P. WILDER
Funk & Wagnalls Company New York and London
Copyright MDCCCCVII, BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY Copyright MDCCCCXI, THE THWING COMPANY
Ballade of Ping-Pong, A Alden Charles Noble 1690 Boat that Ain't, The Wallace Irwin 1764 Budge and Toddie John Habberton 1692 Cavalier's Valentine, A Clinton Scollard 1782 Conscientious Curate and the Beauteous Ballet Girl, The William Russell Rose 1756 Country School, The Anonymous 1734 Evan Anderson's Poker Party Benjamin Stevenson 1737 Experiences of Gentle Jane, The Carolyn Wells 1797 Few Reflections, A Bill Arp 1799 Great Celebrator, A Bill Nye 1784 Gusher, The Charles Battell Loomis 1656 He Wanted to Know Sam Walter Foss 1794 Hoss, The James Whitcomb Riley 1759 How I Spoke the Word Frank L. Stanton 1725 How Jimaboy Found Himself Francis Lynde 1765 How the Money Goes John G. Saxe 1780 "Hullo!" Sam Walter Foss 1706 Lugubrious Whing-Whang, The James Whitcomb Riley 1669 Millionaires, The Max Adeler 1675 Mystery of Gilgal, The Hay 1654 Natural Philosophy William Henry Drummond 1722 Nine Little Goblins, The James Whitcomb Riley 1635 Old-Fashioned Choir, The Benjamin F. Taylor 1790 Our Polite Parents Carolyn Wells 1688 Our Very Wishes Harriet Prescott Spofford 1637 Reflective Retrospect, A John G. Saxe 1703 Rule of Three, A Wallace Rice 1779 Runaway Toys, The Frank L. Stanton 1671 Soldier, Rest! Robert J. Burdette 1796 Tale of the Tangled Telegram, The Wilbur D. Nesbit 1709 Threnody, A George Thomas Lanigan 1754 Tim Flannigan's Mistake Wallace Bruce Amsbary 1673 University Intelligence Office, The John Kendrick Bangs 1727 Warrior, The Eugene Field 1708 When Doctors Disagree S. E. Kiser 1762 When the Little Boy Ran Away Frank L. Stanton 1792 Widow Bedott's Visitor, The Frances M. Whicher 1660
COMPLETE INDEX AT THE END OF VOLUME X.
THE NINE LITTLE GOBLINS
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
They all climbed up on a high board-fence— Nine little Goblins, with green-glass eyes— Nine little Goblins that had no sense, And couldn't tell coppers from cold mince pies; And they all climbed up on the fence, and sat— And I asked them what they were staring at.
And the first one said, as he scratched his head With a queer little arm that reached out of his ear And rasped its claws in his hair so red— "This is what this little arm is fer!" And he scratched and stared, and the next one said "How on earth do you scratch your head?"
And he laughed like the screech of a rusty hinge— Laughed and laughed till his face grew black; And when he choked, with a final twinge Of his stifling laughter, he thumped his back With a fist that grew on the end of his tail Till the breath came back to his lips so pale.
And the third little Goblin leered round at me— And there were no lids on his eyes at all— And he clucked one eye, and he says, says he, "What is the style of your socks this fall?" And he clapped his heels—and I sighed to see That he had hands where his feet should be.
Then a bald-faced Goblin, gray and grim, Bowed his head, and I saw him slip His eyebrows off, as I looked at him, And paste them over his upper lip; And then he moaned in remorseful pain— "Would—Ah, would I'd me brows again!"
And then the whole of the Goblin band Rocked on the fence-top to and fro, And clung, in a long row, hand in hand, Singing the songs that they used to know— Singing the songs that their grandsires sung In the goo-goo days of the Goblin-tongue.
And ever they kept their green-glass eyes Fixed on me with a stony stare— Till my own grew glazed with a dread surmise, And my hat whooped up on my lifted hair, And I felt the heart in my breast snap to As you've heard the lid of a snuff-box do.
And they sang, "You're asleep! There is no board-fence, And never a Goblin with green-glass eyes!— 'Tis only a vision the mind invents After a supper of cold mince-pies,— And you're doomed to dream this way," they said,— "And you sha'n't wake up till you're clean plum dead!"
OUR VERY WISHES
BY HARRIET PRESCOTT SPOFFORD
It was natural that it should be quiet for Mrs. Cairnes in her empty house. Once there had been such a family of brothers and sisters there! But one by one they had married, or died, and at any rate had drifted out of the house, so that she was quite alone with her work, and her memories, and the echoes in her vacant rooms. She hadn't a great deal of work; her memories were not pleasant; and the echoes were no pleasanter. Her house was as comfortable otherwise as one could wish; in the very centre of the village it was, too, so that no one could go to church, or to shop, or to call, unless Mrs. Cairnes was aware of the fact, if she chose; and the only thing that protected the neighbors from this supervision was Mrs. Cairnes's mortal dread of the sun on her carpet; for the sun lay in that bay-windowed corner nearly all the day, and even though she filled the window full of geraniums and vines and calla-lilies she could not quite shut it out, till she resorted to sweeping inner curtains.
Mrs. Cairnes did her own work, because, as she said, then she knew it was done. She had refused the company of various individuals, because, as she said again, she wouldn't give them house-room. Perhaps it was for the same reason that she had refused several offers of marriage; although the only reason that she gave was that one was quite enough, and she didn't want any boots bringing in mud for her to wipe up. But the fact was that Captain Cairnes had been a mistake; and his relict never allowed herself to dwell upon the fact of her loss, but she felt herself obliged to say with too much feeling that all was for the best; and she dared not risk the experiment again.
Mrs. Cairnes, however, might have been lonelier if she had been very much at home; but she was President of the First Charitable, and Secretary of the Second, and belonged to a reading-club, and a sewing-circle, and a bible-class, and had every case of illness in town more or less to oversee, and the circulation of the news to attend to, and so she was away from home a good deal, and took many teas out. Some people thought that if she hadn't to feed her cat she never would go home. But the cat was all she had, she used to say, and nobody knew the comfort it was to her. Yet, for all this, there were hours and seasons when, obliged to stay in the house, it was intolerably dreary there, and she longed for companionship. "Some one with an interest," she said. "Some one who loves the same things that I do, who cares for me, and for my pursuits. Some one like Sophia Maybury. Oh! how I should have liked to spend my last days with Sophia! What keeps Dr. Maybury alive so, I can't imagine. If he had only—gone to his rest"—said the good woman, "Sophia and I could join our forces and live together in clover. And how we should enjoy it! We could talk together, read together, sew together. No more long, dull evenings and lonely nights listening to the mice. But a friend, a dear sister, constantly at hand! Sophia was the gentlest young woman, the prettiest,—oh, how I loved her in those days! She was a part of my youth. I love her just as much now. I wish she could come and live here. She might, if there weren't any Dr. Maybury. I can't stand this solitude. Why did fate make me such a social old body, and then set me here all alone?"
If Sophia was the prettiest young woman in those days, she was an exceedingly pretty old woman in these, with her fresh face and her bright eyes, and if her hair was not all her own, she had companions in bangs. Dr. Maybury made a darling of her all his lifetime, and when he died he left her what he had; not much,—the rent of the Webster House,—but enough.
But there had always been a pea-hen in Mrs. Maybury's lot. It was all very well to have an adoring husband,—but to have no home! The Doctor had insisted for years upon living in the tavern, which he owned, and if there was one thing that his wife detested more than another, it was life in a tavern. The strange faces, the strange voices, the going and coming, the dreary halls, the soiled table-cloths, the thick crockery, the damp napkins, the flies, the tiresome menu—every roast tasting of every other, no gravy to any,—the all out-doors feeling of the whole business, your affairs in everybody's mouth, the banging doors, the restless feet, the stamping of horses in the not distant stable, the pandemonium of it all! She tried to make a little home in the corner of it; but it was useless. And when one day Dr. Maybury suddenly died, missing him and mourning him, and half distracted as she was, a thrill shot across the darkness for half a thought,—now at any rate she could have a home of her own! But presently she saw the folly of the thought,—a home without a husband! She staid on at the tavern, and took no pleasure in life.
But with Dr. Maybury's departure, the thought recurred again and again to Mrs. Cairnes of her and Sophia's old dream of living together. "We used to say, when we were girls, that we should keep house together, for neither of us would ever marry. And it's a great, great pity we did! I dare say, though, she's been very happy. I know she has, in fact. But then if she hadn't been so happy with him, she wouldn't be so unhappy without him. So it evens up. Well, it's half a century gone; but perhaps she'll remember it. I should like to have her come here. I never could bear Dr. Maybury, it's true; but then I could avoid the subject with her. I mean to try. What a sweet, comfortable, peaceful time we should have of it!"
A sweet, comfortable, peaceful time! Well; you shall see. For Mrs. Maybury came; of course she came. Her dear, old friend Julia! Oh, if anything could make up for Dr. Maybury's loss, it would be living with Julia! What castles they used to build about living together and working with the heathen around home. And Julia always went to the old East Church, too; and they had believed just the same things, the same election, and predestination and damnation and all; at one time they had thought of going out missionaries together to the Polynesian Island, but that had been before Julia took Captain Cairnes for better or worse, principally worse, and before she herself undertook all she could in converting Dr. Maybury,—a perfect Penelope's web of a work; for Dr. Maybury died as he had lived, holding her fondest beliefs to be old wives' fables, but not quarreling with her fidelity to them, any more than with her finger-rings or her false bangs, her ribbons, and what she considered her folderols in general. And how kind, she went on in her thoughts, it was of Julia to want her now! what comfort they would be to each other! Go,—of course she would!
She took Allida with her; Allida who had been her maid so long that she was a part of herself; and who, for the sake of still being with her mistress, agreed to do the cooking at Mrs. Cairnes's and help in the house-work. The house was warm and light on the night she arrived; other friends had dropped in to receive her, too; there were flowers on the table in the cosy red dining-room, delicate slices of ham that had been stuffed with olives and sweet herbs, a cold queen's pudding rich with frosting, a mold of coffee jelly in a basin of whipped cream, and little thin bread-and-butter sandwiches.
"Oh, how delightful, how homelike!" cried Mrs. Maybury. How unlike the great barn of a dining-room at the Webster House! What delicious bread and butter! Julia had always been such a famous cook! "Oh, this is home indeed, Julia!" she cried.
Alas! The queen's pudding appeared in one shape or another till it lost all resemblance to itself, and that ham after a fortnight became too familiar for respect.
Mrs. Cairnes, when all was reestablished and at rights, Sophia in the best bedroom, Allida in the kitchen, Sophia's board paying Allida's wages and all extra expense, Sophia's bird singing like a little fountain of melody in the distance, Mrs. Cairnes then felt that after a long life of nothingness, fate was smiling on her; here was friendship, interest, comfort, company, content. No more lonesomeness now. Here was a motive for coming home; here was somebody to come home to! And she straightway put the thing to touch, by coming home from her prayer-meeting, her bible-class, her Ladies' Circle, her First Charitable, and taking in a whole world of pleasure in Sophia's waiting presence, her welcoming smile, her voice asking for the news. And if Sophia were asking for the news, news there must be to give Sophia! And she went about with fresh eagerness, and dropped in here, there, and everywhere, and picked up items at every corner to retail to Sophia. She found it a little difficult to please Sophia about the table. Used to all the variety of a public-house, Mrs. Maybury did not take very kindly to the simple fare, did not quite understand why three people must be a whole week getting through with a roast,—a roast that, served underdone, served overdone, served cold, served warmed up with herbs, served in a pie, made five dinners; she didn't quite see why one must have salt fish on every Saturday, and baked beans on Sunday; she hankered after the flesh-pots that, when she had them, she had found tiresome, and than which she had frequently remarked she would rather have the simplest home-made bread and butter. Apples, too. Mrs. Cairnes's three apple-trees had been turned to great account in her larder always; but now,—Mrs. Maybury never touched apple-sauce, disliked apple-jelly, thought apple-pie unfit for human digestion, apple-pudding worse; would have nothing with apples in it, except the very little in mince-pie which she liked as rich as brandy and sherry and costly spices could make it.
"No profit in this sort of boarder," thought the thrifty Mrs. Cairnes. But then she didn't have Sophia for profit, only for friendliness and companionship; and of course there must be some little drawbacks. Sophia was not at all slow in expressing her likes and dislikes. Well, Mrs. Cairnes meant she should have no more dislikes to express than need be. Nevertheless, it made Mrs. Cairnes quite nervous with apprehension concerning Mrs. Maybury's face on coming to the dinner-table; she left off having roasts, and had a slice of steak; chops and tomato-sauce; a young chicken. But even that chicken had to make its reappearance till it might have been an old hen. "I declare," said Mrs. Cairnes, in the privacy of her own emotions, "when I lived by myself I had only one person to please! If Sophia had ever been any sort of a housekeeper herself—it's easy to see why Dr. Maybury chose to live at a hotel!" Still the gentle face opposite her at the table, the lively warmth of a greeting when she opened the door, the delight of some one with whom to talk things over, the source of life and movement in the house; all this far outweighed the necessity of having to plan for variety in the little dinners.
"I really shall starve to death if this thing does on," Mrs. Maybury had meanwhile said to herself. "It isn't that I care so much for what I have to eat; but I really can't eat enough here to keep me alive. If I went out as Julia does, walking and talking all over town, I daresay I could get up the same sort of appetite for sole-leather. But I haven't the heart for it. I can't do it. I have to sit at home and haven't any relish for anything. I really will see if Allida can't start something different." But Allida could not make bricks without straw; she could only prepare what Mrs. Cairnes provided, and as Mrs. Cairnes had never had a servant before, she looked on the whole tribe of them as marauders and natural enemies, and doled out everything from a locked store-room at so much a head. "Well," sighed Mrs. Maybury, "perhaps I shall get used to it." From which it will be seen that Julia's efforts after all were not particularly successful. But if Mrs. Cairnes had been lonely before Mrs. Maybury came, Mrs. Maybury was intolerably lonely, having come; the greater part of the time, Allida being in the kitchen, or out herself, and no one in the house but the sunshine, the cat, and the bird; and she detested cats, and had a shudder if one touched her. However, this was Julia's cat, this great black and white evil spirit, looking like an imp of darkness; she would be kind to it if it didn't touch her. But if it touched her—she shivered at the thought—she couldn't answer for the consequences. Julia was so good in taking her into her house, and listening to her woes, and trying to make her comfortable,—only if this monster tried to kill her bird,—Mrs. Maybury, sitting by herself, wept at the thought. How early it was dark now, too! She didn't see what kept Julia so,—really she was doing too much at her age. She hinted that gently to Julia when Mrs. Cairnes did return. And Mrs. Cairnes could not quite have told what it was that was so unpleasant in the remark. "My age," she said, laughing. "Why, I am as young as ever I was, and as full of life. I could start on an exploring expedition to Africa, to-morrow!" But she began to experience a novel sense of bondage,—she who had all her life been responsible to no one. And presently, whenever she went out, she had a dim consciousness in her mental background of Sophia's eyes following her, of Sophia's thoughts upon her trail, of Sophia's face peering from the bay-window as she went from one door to another. She begged some slips, and put a half dozen new flower-pots on a bracket-shelf in the window, in order to obscure the casual view, and left the inner curtain drawn.
She came in one day, and there was that inner curtain strung wide open, and the sun pouring through the plants in a broad radiance. Before she took off her bonnet she stepped to the window and drew the curtain.
"Oh!" cried Mrs. Maybury, "what made you do that? The sunshine is so pleasant."
"I can't have the sun streaming in here and taking all the color out of my carpet, Sophia!" said Julia, with some asperity.
"But the sun is so very healthy," urged Mrs. Maybury.
"Oh, well! I can't be getting a new carpet every day."
"You feel," said Mrs. Maybury, turning away wrath, "as you did when you were a little girl, and the teacher told you to lay your wet slate in your lap: 'It'll take the fade out of my gown,' said you. How long ago is it! Does it seem as if it were you and I?"
"I don't know," said Julia tartly. "I don't bother myself much with abstractions. I know it is you and I." And she put her things on the hall-rack, as she was going out again in the afternoon to bible-class.
She had no sooner gone out than Mrs. Maybury went and strung up every curtain in the house where the sun was shining, and sat down triumphantly and rocked contentedly for five minutes in the glow, when her conscience overcame her, and she put them all down again, and went out into the kitchen for a little comfort from Allida. But Allida had gone out, too; so she came back to the sitting-room, and longed for the stir and bustle and frequent faces of the tavern, and welcomed a book-canvasser presently as if she had been a dear friend.
Perhaps Julia's conscience stirred a little, too; for she came home earlier than usual, put away her wraps, lighted an extra lamp, and said, "Now we'll have a long, cosy evening to ourselves."
"We might have a little game of cards," said Sophia, timidly. "I know a capital double solitaire—"
"Cards!" cried Julia.
"Cards! And I just came from bible-class!"
"What in the world has that got to do with it?"
"Why, the Doctor and I used—"
"That doesn't make it any better."
"Why, Julia, you can't possibly mean that there's any harm,—that,—that it's wicked—"
"I think we'd better drop the subject, Sophia," said Julia loftily.
"But I don't want to drop the subject!" exclaimed Mrs. Maybury. "I don't want you to think that the Doctor would—"
"I can't help what the Doctor did. I think cards are wicked! And that's enough for me!"
"Well!" cried Mrs. Maybury, then in great dudgeon. "I'm not a member of the old East Church in good and regular standing for forty years to be told what's right and what's wrong by any one now!"
"If you're in good and regular standing, then the church is very lax in its discipline, Sophia; that's all I've got to say."
"But, Julia, things have been very much liberalized of late years. The minister's own daughter has been to dancing-school." The toss of Julia's head, and her snort of contempt only said, "So much the worse for the minister's daughter!"
"Nobody believes in infant damnation now," continued Mrs. Maybury.
"O Julia!" cried Mrs. Maybury, for the moment quite faint, "that is because," she said, as soon as she had rallied, and breaking the dreadful silence, "you never had any little babies of your own, Julia." This was adding insult to injury, and still there was silence. "I don't believe it of you, Julia," she continued, "your kind heart—"
"I don't know what a kind heart has to do with the immutable decrees of an offended deity!" cried the exasperated Julia. "And this only goes to show what forty years' association with a free-thinking—"
"You were right in the beginning, Julia; we had better drop the subject," said Mrs. Maybury; and she gathered up her Afghan wools gently, and went to her room.
Mrs. Maybury came down, however, when tea was ready, and all was serene again, especially as Susan Peyster came in to tell the news about Dean Hampton's defalcation at the village bank, and had a seat at the table.
"But I don't understand what on earth he has done with the money," said Mrs. Maybury.
"Gambled," said Susan.
"Cards," said Mrs. Cairnes. "You see!"
"Not that sort of gambling!" cried Susan. "But stocks and that."
"It's the same thing," said Mrs. Cairnes.
"And that's the least part of it! They do say"—said Susan, balancing her teaspoon as if in doubt about speaking.
"They say what?" cried Mrs. Cairnes.
But for our part, as we don't know Mr. Dean Hampton, and, therefore, can not relish his misdoings with the same zest as if we did, we will not waste time on what was said. Only when Susan had gone, Mrs. Maybury rose, too, and said, "I must say, Julia, that I think this dreadful conversation is infinitely worse and more wicked than any game of cards could be!"
"What are you talking about?" said Julia, jocosely, and quite good-humored again.
"And the amount of shocking gossip of this description that I've heard since I've been in your house is already more than I've heard in the whole course of my life! Dr. Maybury would never allow a word of gossip in our rooms." And she went to bed.
"You shall never have another word in mine!" said the thunderstricken Julia to herself. And if she had heard that the North Pole had tipped all its ice off into space, she wouldn't have told her a syllable about it all that week.
But in the course of a fortnight, a particularly choice bit of news having turned up, and the edge of her resentment having worn away, Mrs. Cairnes could not keep it to herself. And poor Mrs. Maybury, famishing now for some object of interest, received it so kindly that things returned to their former footing. Perhaps not quite to their former footing, for Julia had now a feeling of restraint about her news, and didn't tell the most piquant, and winked to her visitors if the details trenched too much on what had better be unspoken. "Not that it was really so very—so very—but then Mrs. Maybury, you know," she said afterward. But she had never been accustomed to this restraint, and she didn't like it.
In fact Mrs. Cairnes found herself under restraints that were amounting to a mild bondage. She must be at home for meals, of course; she had been in the habit of being at home or not as she chose, and often of taking the bite and sup at other houses, which precluded the necessity of preparing anything at home. She must have the meals to suit another and very different palate, which was irksome and troublesome. She must exercise a carefulness concerning her conversation, and that of her gossips, too, which destroyed both zest and freedom. She strongly suspected that in her absence the curtains were up and the sun was allowed to play havoc with her carpets. She was remonstrated with on her goings and comings, she who had had the largest liberty for two score years. And then, when the minister came to see her, she never had the least good of the call, so much of it was absorbed by Mrs. Maybury. And Mrs. Maybury's health was delicate, she fussed and complained and whined; she cared for the things that Mrs. Cairnes didn't care for, and didn't care for the things that Mrs. Cairnes did care for; Mrs. Cairnes was conscious of her unspoken surprise at much that she said and did, and resented the somewhat superior gentleness and refinement of her old friend as much as the old friend resented her superior strength and liveliness.
"What has changed Sophia so? It isn't Sophia at all! And I thought so much of her, and I looked forward to spending my old age with her so happily!" murmured Julia. "But perhaps it will come right," she reasoned cheerily. "I may get used to it. I didn't suppose there'd be any rubbing of corners. But as there is, the sooner they're rubbed off the better, and we shall settle down into comfort again, at last instead of at first, as I had hoped in the beginning."
Alas! "I really can't stand these plants of yours, Julia, dear," said Mrs. Maybury, soon afterward. "I've tried to. I've said nothing. I've waited, to be very sure. But I never have been able to have plants about me. They act like poison to me. They always make me sneeze so. And you see I'm all stuffed up—"
Her plants! Almost as dear to her as children might have been! The chief ornament of her parlors! And just ready to bloom! This was really asking too much. "I don't believe it's the plants at all," said Julia. "That's sheer nonsense. Anybody living on this green and vegetating earth to be poisoned by plants in a window! I don't suppose they trouble you any more than your lamp all night does me; but I've never said anything about that. I can't bear lamplight at night; I want it perfectly dark, and the light streams out of your room—"
"Why don't you shut the door, then?"
"Because I never shut my door. I want to hear if anything disturbs the house. Why don't you shut yours?"
"I never do, either. I've always had several rooms, and kept the doors open between. It isn't healthy to sleep with closed doors."
"Healthy! Healthy! I don't hear anything else from morning till night when I'm in the house."
"You can't hear very much of it, then."
"I should think, Sophia Maybury, you wanted to live forever!"
"Goodness knows I don't!" cried Mrs. Maybury, bursting into tears. And that night she shut her bedroom door and opened the window, and sneezed worse than ever all day afterward, in spite of the fact that Mrs. Cairnes had put all her cherished plants into the dining-room alcove.
"I can't imagine what has changed Julia so," sighed Mrs. Maybury. "She used to be so bright and sweet and good-tempered. And now I really don't know what sort of an answer I'm to have to anything I say. It keeps my nerves stretched on the qui vive all day. I am so disappointed. I am sure the Doctor would be very unhappy if he knew how I felt."
But Mrs. Maybury had need to pity herself; Julia didn't pity her. "She's been made a baby of so long," said Julia, "that now she really can't go alone." And perhaps she was a little bitterer about it than she would have been had Captain Cairnes ever made a baby of her in the least, at any time.
They were sitting together one afternoon, a thunderstorm of unusual severity having detained Mrs. Cairnes at home, and the conversation had been more or less acrimonious, as often of late. Just before dusk there came a great burst of sun, and the whole heavens were suffused with splendor.
"O Julia! Come here, come quick, and see this sunset!" cried Mrs. Maybury. But Julia did not come. "Oh! I can't bear to have you lose it," urged the philanthropic lover of nature again. "There! It's streaming up the very zenith. I never saw such color—do come."
"Mercy, Sophia! You're always wanting people to leave what they're about and see something! My lap's full of worsteds."
"Well," said Sophia. "It's for your own sake. I don't know that it will do me any good. Only if one enjoys beautiful sights."
"Dear me! Well, there! Is that all? I don't see anything remarkable. The idea of making one get up to see that!" And as she took her seat, up jumped the great black and white cat to look out in his turn. Mrs. Maybury would have been more than human if she had not said "Scat! scat! scat!" and she did say it, shaking herself in horror.
It was the last straw. Mrs. Cairnes took her cat in her arms and moved majestically out of the room, put on her rubbers, and went out to tea, and did not come home till the light up stairs told her that Mrs. Maybury had gone to her room.
Where was it all going to end? Mrs. Cairnes could not send Sophia away after all the protestations she had made. Mrs. Maybury could never put such a slight on Julia as to go away without more overt cause for displeasure. It seemed as though they would have to fight it out in the union.
But that night a glare lit the sky which quite outdid the sunset; the fire-bells and clattering engines called attention to it much more loudly than Sophia had announced the larger conflagration. And in the morning it was found that the Webster House was in ashes. All of Mrs. Maybury's property was in the building. The insurance had run out the week before, and meaning to attend to it every day she had let it go, and here she was penniless.
But no one need commiserate with her. Instead of any terror at her situation a wild joy sprang up within her. Relief and freedom clapped their wings above her.
It was Mrs. Cairnes who felt that she herself needed pity. A lamp at nights, oceans of fresh air careering round the house, the everlasting canary-bird's singing to bear, her plants exiled, her table revolutionized, her movements watched, her conversation restrained, her cat abused, the board of two people and the wages of one to come out of her narrow hoard. But she rose to the emergency. Sophia was penniless. Sophia was homeless. The things which it was the ashes of bitterness to allow her as a right, she could well give her as a benefactress. Sophia was welcome to all she had. She went into the room, meaning to overwhelm the weeping, helpless Sophia with her benevolence. Sophia was not there.
Mrs. Maybury came in some hours later, a carriage and a job-wagon presently following her to the door. "You are very good, Julia," said she, when Julia received her with the rapid sentences of welcome and assurance that she had been accumulating. "And you mustn't think I'm not sensible of all your kindness. I am. But my husband gave the institution advice for nothing for forty years, and I think I have rights there now without feeling under obligations to any. I've visited the directors, and I've had a meeting called and attended,—I've had all your energy, Julia, and have hurried things along in quite your own fashion. And as I had just one hundred dollars in my purse after I sold my watch this morning, I've paid it over for the entrance-fee, and I've been admitted and am going to spend the rest of my days in the Old Ladies' Home. I've the upper corner front room, and I hope you will come and see me there."
"Don't speak! Don't say one word! My mind was made up irrevocably when I went out. Nothing you, nothing any one, can say, will change it. I'm one of the old ladies now."
Mrs. Cairnes brought all her plants back into the parlor, pulled down the shades, drew the inside curtain, had the cat's cushion again in its familiar corner, and gave Allida warning, within half an hour. She looked about a little while and luxuriated in her freedom,—no one to supervise her conversation, her movements, her opinions, her food. Never mind the empty rooms, or the echoes there! She read an angry psalm or two, looked over some texts denouncing pharisees and hypocrites, thought indignantly of the ingratitude there was in the world, felt that any way, and on the whole, she was where she was before Sophia came, and went out to spend the evening, and came in at the nine-o'clock bell-ringing with such a sense of freedom, that she sat up till midnight to enjoy it.
And Sophia spent the day putting her multitudinous belongings into place, hanging up her bird-cage, arranging her books and her bureau-drawers, setting up a stocking, and making the acquaintance of the old ladies next her. She taught one of them to play double solitaire that very evening. And then she talked a little while concerning Dr. Maybury, about whom Julia had never seemed willing to hear a word; and then she read, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," and went to bed perfectly happy.
Julia came to see her the next day, and Sophia received her with open arms. Every one knew that Julia had begged her to stay and live with her always, and share what she had. Julia goes now to see her every day of her life, rain or snow, storm or shine; and the whole village says that the friendship between those two old women is something ideal.
THE MYSTERY OF GILGAL
BY JOHN HAY
The darkest, strangest mystery I ever read, or heern, or see Is 'long of a drink at Taggart's Hall— Tom Taggart's of Gilgal.
I've heern the tale a thousand ways, But never could git through the maze That hangs around that queer day's doin's; But I'll tell the yarn to youans.
Tom Taggart stood behind his bar, The time was fall, the skies was fa'r, The neighbors round the counter drawed, And ca'mly drinked and jawed.
At last come Colonel Blood of Pike, And old Jedge Phinn, permiscus-like, And each, as he meandered in, Remarked, "A whisky-skin."
Tom mixed the beverage full and fa'r, And slammed it, smoking, on the bar. Some says three fingers, some says two,— I'll leave the choice to you.
Phinn to the drink put forth his hand; Blood drawed his knife, with accent bland, "I ax yer parding, Mister Phinn— Jest drap that whisky-skin."
No man high-toneder could be found Than old Jedge Phinn the country round. Says he, "Young man, the tribe of Phinns Knows their own whisky-skins!"
He went for his 'leven-inch bowie-knife:— "I tries to foller a Christian life; But I'll drap a slice of liver or two, My bloomin' shrub, with you."
They carved in a way that all admired, Tell Blood drawed iron at last, and fired. It took Seth Bludso 'twixt the eyes, Which caused him great surprise.
Then coats went off, and all went in; Shots and bad language swelled the din; The short, sharp bark of Derringers, Like bull-pups, cheered the furse.
They piled the stiffs outside the door; They made, I reckon, a cord or more. Girls went that winter, as a rule, Alone to spellin'-school.
I've sarched in vain, from Dan to Beer- Sheba, to make this mystery clear; But I end with hit as I did begin,— WHO GOT THE WHISKY-SKIN?
BY CHARLES BATTELL LOOMIS
Of course an afternoon tea is not to be taken seriously, and I hold that any kind of conversation goes, as long as it is properly vacuous and irrelevant.
One meets many kinds of afternoon teas—the bored, the bashful, the intense, and once in a while the interesting, but for pure delight there is nothing quite equals the gusher. She is generally very pretty. Nature insists upon compensations.
When you meet a real gusher—one born to gush—you can just throw all bounds of probability aside and say the first thing that comes into your head, sure that it will meet with an appreciative burst of enthusiasm, for your true gusher is nothing if she is not enthusiastic. There are those who listen to everything you say and punctuate it with "Yes-s-s, yes-s-s, yes-s-s," until the sibilance gets on your nerves; but the attention of the Simon-pure gusher is purely subconscious. She could not repeat a thing of what you have told her a half minute after hearing it. Her real attention is on something else all the while—perhaps on the gowns of her neighbors, perhaps on the reflection of her pretty face—but never on the conversation. And why should it be? Is a tea a place for the exercise of concentration? Perish the thought.
You are presented to her as "Mr. Mmmm," and she is "delighted," and smiles so ravishingly that you wish you were twenty years younger. You do not yet know that she is a gusher. But her first remark labels her. Just to test her, for there is something in the animation of her face and the farawayness of the eye that makes you suspect her sincerity, you say:
"I happen to have six children—"
"Oh, how perfectly dee-ar! How old are they?"
She scans the gown of a woman who has just entered the room and, being quite sure that she is engaged in a mental valuation of it, you say:
"They're all of them six."
"Oh, how lovely!" Her unseeing eyes look you in the face. "Just the right age to be companions."
"Yes, all but one."
The eye has wandered to another gown, but the sympathetic voice says:
"Oh, what a pi-i-ty!"
"Yes, isn't it? But he's quite healthy."
It's a game now—fair game—and you're glad you came to the tea!
"Healthy, you say? How nice. It's perfectly lovely to be healthy. Do you live in the country?"
"Not exactly the country. We live in Madison Square, under the trees."
"Oh, how perfectly idyllic!"
"Yes; we have all the advantages of the city and the delights of the country. I got a permit from the Board of Education to put up a little bungalow alongside the Worth monument, and the children bathe in the fountain every morning when the weather is cold enough."
"Oh, how charming! How many children have you?"
"Only seven. The oldest is five and the youngest is six."
"Just the interesting age. Don't you think children fascinating?"
Again the roaming eye and the vivacious smile.
"Yes, indeed. My oldest—he's fourteen and quite original. He says that when he grows up he doesn't know what he'll be."
"Really? How cute!"
"Yes, he says it every morning, a half-hour before breakfast."
"Fancy! How old did you say he was?"
"Just seventeen, but perfectly girl-like and masculine."
She nods her head, bows to an acquaintance in a distant part of the room, and murmurs in musical, sympathetic tones:
"That's an adorable age."
"Yes. Did you say it was a girl?"
"Yes, his name's Ethel. He's a great help to her mother."
"Yes; I tell them there may be city advantages, but I think they're much better off where they are."
"Where did you say you were?"
"On the Connecticut shore. You see, having only the one child, Mrs. Smith is very anxious that it should grow up healthy" (absent-minded nods indicative of full attention), "and so little Ronald never comes to the city at all. He plays with the fisherman's child and gets great drafts of fresh air."
"Oh, how perfectly entrancing! You're quite a poet."
"No; I'm a painter."
Now she is really attentive. She thought you were just an ordinary beast, and she finds that you may be a lion. Smith? Perhaps you're Hopkinson Smith.
"Oh, do you paint? How perfectly adorable! What do you paint—landscapes or portraits?"
Again the eye wanders and she inventories a dress, and you say:—
"Do you ever allow visitors come to your studio?"
"Why, I never prevent them, but I'm so afraid it will bore them that I never ask them."
"Oh, how could anybody be bored at anything?"
"But every one hasn't your enthusiasm. My studio is in the top of the Madison Square tower, and I never see a soul from week's end to week's end."
"Oh, then you're not married."
"Dear, no; a man who is wedded to his art mustn't commit bigamy."
"Oh, how clever. So you're a bachelor?"
"Yes, but I have my wife for a chaperon and I'd be delighted to have you come and take tea with us some Saturday from six until three."
"Perfectly delighted!" Her eye now catches sight of an acquaintance just coming in, and as you prepare to leave her you say:—
"Hope you don't mind a little artistic unconventionality. We always have beer at our teas served with sugar and lemons, the Russian fashion."
"Oh, I think it's much better than cream. I adore unconventionality."
"You're very glad you met me, I'm sure."
"Awfully good of you to say so."
Anything goes at an afternoon tea. But it's better not to go.
THE WIDOW BEDOTT'S VISITOR
BY FRANCES M. WHICHER
Jest in time, Mr. Crane: we've jist this minit sot down to tea. Draw up a cheer and set by. Now, don't say a word: I shan't take no for an answer. Should a had things ruther different, to be sure, if I'd suspected you, Mr. Crane; but I won't appolligize,—appolligies don't never make nothin' no better, you know. Why, Melissy, you hain't half sot the table: where's the plum-sass? thought you was a-gwine to git some on't for tea? I don't see no cake, nother. What a keerless gal you be! Dew bring 'em on quick; and, Melissy, dear, fetch out one o' them are punkin pies and put it warmin'. How do you take your tea, Mr. Crane? clear, hey? How much that makes me think o' husband! he always drunk hisen clear. Now, dew make yerself to hum, Mr. Crane: help yerself to things. Do you eat johnny-cake? 'cause if you don't I'll cut some white bread. Dew, hey? We're all great hands for injin bread here, 'specially Kier. If I don't make a johnny-cake every few days he says to me, says he, "Mar, why don't you make some injin bread? it seems as if we hadn't never had none." Melissy, pass the cheese. Kier, see't Mr. Crane has butter. This 'ere butter's a leetle grain frouzy. I don't want you to think it's my make, for't ain't. Sam Pendergrass's wife (she 'twas Sally Smith) she borrowed butter o' me t'other day, and this 'ere's what she sent back. I wouldn't 'a' had it on if I'd suspected company. How do you feel to-day, Mr. Crane? Didn't take no cold last night! Well, I'm glad on't. I was raly afeard you would, the lectur'-room was so turrible hot. I was eny-most roasted, and I wa'n't dressed wonderful warm nother,—had on my green silk mankiller, and that ain't very thick. Take a pickle, Mr. Crane. I'm glad you're a favorite o' pickles. I think pickels a delightful beveridge,—don't feel as if I could make out a meal without 'em. Once in a while I go visitin' where they don't have none on the table, and when I git home the fust thing I dew's to dive for the butt'ry and git a pickle. But husband couldn't eat 'em: they was like pizen tew him. Melissy never eats 'em nother: she ain't no pickle hand. Some gals eat pickles to make 'em grow poor, but Melissy hain't no such foolish notions. I've brung her up so she shouldn't have. Why, I've heered of gals drinkin' vinegar to thin 'em off and make their skin delekit. They say Kesier Winkle—Why, Kier, what be you pokin' the sass at Mr. Crane for? Melissy jest helped him. I heered Carline Gallup say how't Kesier Winkle—Why, Kier, what do you mean by offerin' the cold pork to Mr. Crane? jest as if he wanted pork for his tea! You see, Kier's been over to the Holler to-day on bizness with old Uncle Dawson, and he come hum with quite an appertite: says to me, says he, "Mar, dew set on some cold pork and 'taters, for I'm as hungry as a bear." Lemme fill up your cup, Mr. Crane. Melissy, bring on that are pie: I guess it's warm by this time. There, I don't think anybody'd say that punkin was burnt a-stewin! Take another pickle, Mr. Crane. Oh, I was a-gwine to tell what Carline Gallup said about Kesier Winkle. Carline Gallup was a manty-maker—What, Kier? ruther apt to talk? well, I know she was; but then she used to be sewin' 't old Winkle's about half the time, and she know'd purty well what went on there: yes, I know sewin'-gals is ginerally tattlers.... But I was gwine to tell what Carline Gallup said. Carline was a very stiddy gal: she was married about a year ago,—married Joe Bennet,—Philander Bennet's son: you remember Phil Bennet, don't you, Mr. Crane?—he 'twas killed so sudding over to Ganderfield? Though, come to think, it must 'a' ben arter you went away from here. He'd moved over to Ganderfield the spring afore he was killed. Well, one day in hayin'-time he was to work in the hay-field—take another piece o' pie, Mr. Crane: oh, dew! I insist on't—well, he was to work in the hay-field, and he fell off the hay-stack. I s'pose 'twouldn't 'a' killed him if it hadn't 'a' ben for his comin' kermash onto a jug that was a-settin' on the ground aside o' the stack. The spine of his back went right onto the jug and broke it,—broke his back, I mean,—not the jug: that wa'n't even cracked. Cur'us, wa'n't it? 'Twas quite a comfort to Miss Bennet in her affliction: 'twas a jug she valleyed,—one 'twas her mother's....
Take another cup o' tea, Mr. Crane. Why, you don't mean to say you've got done supper! ain't you gwine to take nothin' more? no more o' the pie? nor the sass? Well, won't you have another pickle? Oh, that reminds me: I was a-gwine to tell what Carline Gallup said about Kesier Winkle. Why, Kier, seems to me you ain't very perlite to leave the table afore anybody else does. Oh, yes, I remember now; it's singin'-school night: I s'pose it's time you was off. Melissy, you want to go tew, don't you? Well, I guess Mr. Crane'll excuse you. We'll jest set back the table ag'in' the wall. I won't dew the dishes jest now. Me and Melissy does the work ourselves, Mr. Crane. I hain't kept no gal sense Melissy was big enough t' aid and assist me. I think help's more plague than profit. No woman that has growed-up darters needn't keep help if she's brung up her gals as she'd ought tew. Melissy, dear, put on your cloak: it's a purty tejus evenin'. Kier, you tie up your throat: you know you was complainin' of a soreness in't to-day; and you must be keerful to tie it up when you cum hum: it's dangerous t' egspose yerself arter singin'—apt to give a body the brown-critters,—and that's turrible. You couldn't sing any more if you should git that, you know. You'd better call for Mirandy and Seliny, hadn't you? Don't be out late.
Now, Mr. Crane, draw up to the stove: you must be chilly off there. You gwine to the party to Major Coon's day arter to-morrow? S'pose they'll give out ther invatations to-morrow. Do go, Mr. Crane: it'll chirk you up and dew you good to go out into society ag'in. They say it's to be quite numerous. But I guess ther won't be no dancin' nor highty-tighty dewin's. If I thought ther would be I shouldn't go myself; for I don't approve on 'em, and couldn't countenance 'em. What do you think Sam Pendergrass's wife told me? She said how't the widder Jinkins (she 'twas Poll Bingham) is a-havin' a new gownd made a purpose to wear to the party,—one of these 'ere flambergasted, blazin' plaid consarns, with tew awful wide kaiterin' flounces around the skirt. Did you ever! How reedickilous for a woman o' her age, ain't it? I s'pose she expects t' astonish the natyves, and make her market tew, like enough. Well, she's to be pitied. Oh, Mr. Crane, I thought I should go off last night when I see that old critter squeeze up and hook onto you. How turrible imperdent, wa'n't it! But seems to me I shouldn't 'a' felt as if I was obleeged to went hum with her if I'd 'a' ben in your place, Mr. Crane. She made a purty speech about me to the lectur': I'm 'most ashamed to tell you on't, Mr. Crane, but it shows what the critter is. Kier says he heered her stretch her neck acrost and whisper to old Green, "Mr. Green, don't you think the widder Bedott seems to be wonderfully took up with crainiology?" She's the brazin'-facedest critter 't ever lived; it does beat all; I never did see her equill. But it takes all sorts o' folks to make up the world, you know. What did I understand you to say, Mr. Crane?—a few minnits' conversation with me? Deary me! Is it anything pertickler, Mr. Crane? Oh, dear suz! how you dew frustrate me! Not that it's anything oncommon fer the gentlemen to ax to have private conversations with me, you know; but then—but then—bein' you, it's different: circumstances alter cases, you know. What was you a-gwine to say, Mr. Crane?
Oh, no, Mr. Crane, by no manner o' means; 'tain't a minute tew soon for you to begin to talk about gittin' married ag'in. I am amazed you should be afeerd I'd think so. See—how long's Miss Crane been dead? Six months!—land o' Goshen!—why, I've know'd a number of individdiwals get married in less time than that. There's Phil Bennet's widder 't I was a-talkin' about jest now,—she 'twas Louisy Perce: her husband hadn't been dead but three months, you know. I don't think it looks well for a woman to be in such a hurry; but for a man it's a different thing: circumstances alter cases, you know. And then, sittiwated as you be, Mr. Crane, it's a turrible thing for your family to be without a head to superintend the domestic consarns and 'tend to the children,—to say nothin' o' yerself, Mr. Crane. You dew need a companion, and no mistake. Six months! Good grevious! Why, Squire Titus didn't wait but six weeks after he buried his fust wife afore he married his second. I thought ther' wa'n't no partickler need o' his hurryin' so, seein' his family was all growed up. Such a critter as he pickt out, tew! 'Twas very onsuitable; but every man to his taste,—I hain't no dispersition to meddle with nobody's consarns. There's old farmer Dawson, tew,—his pardner hain't ben dead but ten months. To be sure, he ain't married yet; but he would 'a' ben long enough ago, if somebody I know on 'd gin him any incurridgement. But 'tain't for me to speak o' that matter. He's a clever old critter, and as rich as a Jew; but—lawful sakes!—he's old enough to be my father. And there's Mr. Smith,—Jubiter Smith: you know him, Mr. Crane,—his wife, (she 't was Aurory Pike) she died last summer, and he's ben squintin' round among the wimmin ever since, and he may squint for all the good it'll dew him so far as I'm consarned,—though Mr. Smith's a respectable man,—quite young and hain't no family,—very well off, tew, and quite intellectible,—but I'm purty partickler. Oh, Mr. Crane, it's ten years come Jinniwary sense I witnessed the expiration o' my belovid companion!—an uncommon long time to wait, to be sure; but 'tain't easy to find anybody to fill the place o' Hezekier Bedott. I think you're the most like husband of ary individdiwal I ever see, Mr. Crane. Six months! murderation! cur'us you should be afeard I'd think 'twas too soon. Why, I've knowed—
Mr. Crane—Well, widder, I've been thinking about taking another companion, and I thought I'd ask you—
Widow—Oh, Mr. Crane, egscuse my commotion; it's so onexpected. Jest hand me that are bottle of camfire off the mantletry shelf: I'm ruther faint. Dew put a little mite on my handkercher and hold it to my nuz. There, that'll dew: I'm obleeged tew ye. Now I'm ruther more composed: you may perceed, Mr. Crane.
Mr. C.—Well, widder, I was a-going to ask you whether—whether—
Widow—Continner, Mr. Crane,—dew. I know it's turrible embarrassin'. I remember when my dezeased husband made his suppositions to me he stammered and stuttered, and was so awfully flustered it did seem as if he'd never git it out in the world; and I suppose it's ginerally the case,—at least it has been with all them that's made suppositions to me: you see they're generally oncerting about what kind of an answer they're a-gwine to git, and it kind o' makes 'em narvous. But when an individdiwal has reason to s'pose his attachment's reciperated, I don't see what need there is o' his bein' flustrated,—though I must say it's quite embarrassin' to me. Pray continner.
Mr. C.—Well, then, I want to know if you're willing I should have Melissy.
Mr. C.—I hain't said anything to her about it yet,—thought the proper way was to get your consent first. I remember when I courted Trypheny we were engaged some time before mother Kenipe knew anything about it, and when she found it out she was quite put out because I didn't go to her first. So when I made up my mind about Melissy, thinks me, I'll do it right this time, and speak to the old woman first—
Widow—Old woman, hey! That's a purty name to call me!—amazin' perlite, tew! Want Melissy, hey! Tribble-ation! gracious sakes alive! Well, I'll give it up now! I always knowed you was a simpleton, Tim Crane, but, I must confess, I didn't think you was quite so big a fool. Want Melissy, dew ye? If that don't beat all! What an everlastin' old calf you must be, to s'pose she'd look at you! Why, you're old enough to be her father, and more, tew; Melissy ain't only in her twenty-oneth year. What a reedickilous idee for a man o' your age! As gray as a rat, tew! I wonder what this world is a-comin' tew: 'tis astonishin' what fools old widdiwers will make o' themselves! Have Melissy! Melissy!
Mr. C.—Why, widder, you surprise me. I'd no idee of being treated in this way, after you'd ben so polite to me, and made such a fuss over me and the girls.
Widow—Shet yer head, Tim Crane; nun o' yer sass to me. There's your hat on that are table, and here's the door; and the sooner you put on one and march out o' t'other the better it will be for you. And I advise you, afore you try to git married ag'in, to go out West and see 'f yer wife's cold; and arter yer satisfied on that p'int, jest put a little lampblack on yer hair,—'twould add to yer appearance, undoubtedly, and be of sarvice tew you when you want to flourish round among the gals; and when ye've got yer hair fixt, jest splinter the spine o' your back,—'twouldn't hurt your looks a mite: you'd be intirely unresistible if you was a leetle grain straiter.
Mr. C.—Well, I never!
Widow—Hold your tongue, you consarned old coot you! I tell you there's your hat, and there's the door: be off with yerself, quick metre, or I'll give ye a h'ist with the broomstick.
Widow (rising)—Git out, I say! I ain't a-gwine to stan' here and be insulted under my own ruff; and so git along; and if ever you darken my door ag'in, or say a word to Melissy, it'll be the wuss for you,—that's all.
Mr. C.—Treemenjous! What a buster!
Widow—Go 'long,—go 'long,—go long, you everlastin' old gum! I won't hear another word (stops her ears). I won't. I won't. I won't. (Exit Mr. Crane.)
* * * * *
(Enter Melissy, accompanied by Captain Canoot.)
Good-evenin', cappen! Well, Melissy, hum at last, hey? Why didn't you stay till mornin'? Purty business keepin' me up here so late waitin' for you, when I'm eny-most tired to death iornin' and workin' like a slave all day,—ought to ben abed an hour ago. Thought ye left me with agreeable company, hey? I should like to know what arthly reason you had to s'pose old Crane's was agreeable to me? I always despised the critter; always thought he was a turrible fool, and now I'm convinced on't. I'm completely dizgusted with him; and I let him know it to-night. I gin him a piece o' my mind't I guess he'll be apt to remember for a spell. I ruther think he went off with a flea in his ear. Why, cappen, did ye ever hear of such a piece of audacity in all yer born days? for him—Tim Crane—to durst to expire to my hand,—the widder o' Deacon Bedott! Jest as if I'd condescen' to look at him,—the old numskull! He don't know B from a broomstick; but if he'd 'a' stayed much longer I'd 'a' teached him the difference, I guess. He's got his walkin'-ticket now. I hope he'll lemme alone in futur'. And where's Kier? Gun home with the Cranes, hey! Well, I guess it's the last time. And now, Melissy Bedott, you ain't to have nothin' more to dew with them gals,—d'ye hear? You ain't to 'sociate with 'em at all arter this: 'twould only be incurridgin' the old man to come a-pesterin' me ag'in; and I won't have him round,—d'ye hear? Don't be in a hurry, cappen, and don't be alarmed at my gettin' in such a passion about old Crane's persumption. Mebby you think 'twas onfeelin' in me to use him so,—and I don't say but what 'twas, ruther; but then he's so awful dizagreeable tew me, you know: 'tain't everybody I'd treat in such a way. Well, if you must go, good-evenin'! Give my love to Hanner when you write ag'in: dew call frequently, Captain Canoot,—dew.
THE LUGUBRIOUS WHING-WHANG
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
The rhyme o' The Raggedy Man's 'at's best Is Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs,— 'Cause that-un's the strangest of all o' the rest, An' the worst to learn, an' the last one guessed, An' the funniest one, an' the foolishest.— Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
I don't know what in the world it means— Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!— An' nen when I tell him I don't, he leans Like he was a-grindin' on some machines An' says: Ef I don't, w'y, I don't know beans! Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
Out on the margin of Moonshine Land, Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs! Out where the Whing-Whang loves to stand, Writing his name with his tail in the sand, And swiping it out with his oogerish hand; Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
Is it the gibber of Gungs or Keeks? Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs! Or what is the sound that the Whing-Whang seeks? Crouching low by the winding creeks And holding his breath for weeks and weeks! Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
Anoint him, the wraithest of wraithly things! Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs! 'Tis a fair Whing-Whangess, with phosphor rings, And bridal-jewels of fangs and stings; And she sits and as sadly and softly sings As the mildewed whir of her own dead wings,— Tickle me, Dear, Tickle me here, Tickle me, Love, in me Lonesome Ribs!
THE RUNAWAY TOYS
BY FRANK L. STANTON
The Hobby Horse was so tired that day, With never a bite to eat, That he whispered the Doll: "I shall run away!" And he galloped out to the street With the curly-headed Doll Baby on his back; And hard at his heels went the Jumping Jack! And the little boy—he never knew, Though the little Steam Engine blew and blew!
Then the Humming Top went round and round, And crashed through the window-pane, And the scared Tin Monkey made a bound For the little red Railroad Train. The painted Duck went "Quack! quack! quack!" But the Railroad Train just whistled back! Till the Elephant saw what the racket meant And packed his trunk and—away he went!
The little Toy Sheep in the corner there Was bleating long and loud; But the Parrot said "Hush!" and pulled his hair, And he galloped off with the crowd! And the Tin Horn blew and the Toy Drum beat, But away they went down the frightened street, Till they all caught up with the Railroad Train, And they never went back to their homes again!
The blue policeman and all the boys Went racing away—away! For a big reward for the runaway Toys Was cried in the streets that day. But they kept right on round the world so wide, While the Little Boy stood on the steps and cried. Where did they go to, and what did they do? Bored a hole to China and—dropped through!
TIM FLANAGAN'S MISTAKE
BY WALLACE BRUCE AMSBARY
Dat Irishman named Flanagan, He's often joke wid me, He leeve here now mos' twanty year, Ver' close to Kankakee; I always look for chance to gat An' even op wid heem, But he's too smart, exception wance, Dis Irishman named Tim.
Wan Sunday tam' I'm walking out I meet Tim on de knoll, We bot' are hav' a promenade An' mak' a leddle stroll; We look down from de top of hill, An' on de reevere's edge Is w'at you call a heifer calf,— He stan' dere by de hedge.
Dat calf stan' still an' wag hees tail On eas' an' den wes' side, An' den he wag it to de sout' For whip flies off hees hide; I say to Tim dat heifer calf Dat stan' so quiet still, You can not push him on de stream; He say, "By gosh, I will."
An' den he grin an' smile out loud, He fall opon de groun', An' den he laugh wance mor' again An' roll de place aroun': He say, 'twill be a ver' good joke Opon dat heifer calf, An' wance mor' he start op h'right quick An' mak' de beeg horse laugh.
Says Tim, "You watch me now, ma frien', I'll geeve dat calf wan scare, I will rone down an' push him quick On Kankakee Reevere." An' he laugh out a beeg lot mor', Den he t'row off hees hat, An' start down hill two-forty gait, He fly as swif' as bat.
Dat calf he stan' an' wag hees tail For 'bout two t'ree tam' mor'; W'en Tim com' ronnin' down de hill She move two yard down shore; But Tim now com' lak' cannon ball, He can't turn right nor lef', He miss de calf an' den, by gosh! Fall on reevere himse'f.
Dose Sunday close dat Tim had on He wet dem t'roo an' t'roo, An' w'en he pick himse'f op slow An' walk heem out de sloo, He say, "Dat's good I mak' a laugh Before I tak' dat fall; I laugh not den, I hav' no fone Out of dis t'ing at all."
BY MAX ADELER
It had always been one of the luxuries of the Grimeses to consider what they would do if they were rich. Many a time George and his wife, sitting together of a summer evening upon the porch of their own pretty house in Susanville, had looked at the long unoccupied country-seat of General Jenkins, just across the way, and wished they had money enough to buy the place and give it to the village for a park.
Mrs. Grimes often said that if she had a million dollars, the very first thing she would do would be to purchase the Jenkins place. George's idea was to tear down the fences, throwing everything open, and to dedicate the grounds to the public. Mrs. Grimes wanted to put a great free library in the house and to have a club for poor working-women in the second-floor rooms. George estimated that one hundred thousand dollars would be enough to carry out their plans. Say fifty thousand dollars for purchase money, and then fifty more invested at six per cent. to maintain the place.
"But if we had a million," said George, "I think I should give one hundred and fifty thousand to the enterprise and do the thing right. There would always be repairs and new books to buy and matters of that kind."
But this was not the only benevolent dream of these kind-hearted people. They liked to think of the joy that would fill the heart of that poor struggling pastor, Mr. Borrow, if they could tell him that they would pay the whole debt of the Presbyterian Church, six thousand dollars.
"And I would have his salary increased, George," said Mrs. Grimes. "It is shameful to compel that poor man to live on a thousand dollars."
"Outrageous," said George. "I would guarantee him another thousand, and maybe more; but we should have to do it quietly, for fear of wounding him."
"That mortgage on the Methodist Church," said Mrs. Grimes. "Imagine the happiness of those poor people in having it lifted! And so easy to do, too, if we had a million dollars."
"Certainly, and I would give the Baptists a handsome pipe-organ instead of that wheezing melodeon. Dreadful, isn't it?"
"You can get a fine organ for $2,000," said Mrs. Grimes.
"Yes, of course, but I wouldn't be mean about it; not mean on a million dollars. Let them have a really good organ, say for $3,000 or $3,500; and then build them a parsonage, too."
"The fact is," said Mrs. Grimes, "that people like us really ought to have large wealth, for we know how to use it rightly."
"I often think of that," answered George. "If I know my own soul I long to do good. It makes my heart bleed to see the misery about us, misery I am absolutely unable to relieve. I am sure that if I really had a million dollars I should not want to squander it on mere selfish pleasure, nor would you. The greatest happiness any one can have is in making others happy; and it is a wonder to me that our rich people don't see this. Think of old General Jenkins and his twenty million dollars, and what we would do for our neighbors with a mere fraction of that!"
"For we really want nothing much for ourselves," said Mrs. Grimes. "We are entirely satisfied with what we have in this lovely little home and with your $2,000 salary from the bank."
"Almost entirely," said George. "There are some few little things we might add in—just a few; but with a million we could easily get them and more and have such enormous amounts of money left."
"Almost the first thing I would do," said Mrs. Grimes, "would be to settle a comfortable living for life on poor Isaac Wickersham. That man, George, crippled as he is, lives on next to nothing. I don't believe he has two hundred dollars a year."
"Well, we could give him twelve hundred and not miss it and then give the same sum to Widow Clausen. She can barely keep alive."
"And there's another thing I'd do," said Mrs. Grimes. "If we kept a carriage I would never ride up alone from the station or for pleasure. I would always find some poor or infirm person to go with me. How people can be so mean about their horses and carriages as some rich people are is beyond my comprehension."
It is delightful pastime, expending in imagination large sums of money that you haven't got. You need not regard considerations of prudence. You can give free rein to your feelings and bestow your bounty with reckless profusion. You obtain almost all the pleasure of large giving without any cost. You feel nearly as happy as if you were actually doing the good deeds which are the children of your fancy.
George Grimes and his wife had considered so often the benevolences they would like to undertake if they had a million dollars that they could have named them all at a moment's notice without referring to a memorandum. Nearly everybody has engaged in this pastime, but the Grimeses were to have the singular experience of the power to make their dream a reality placed in their hands.
For one day George came flying home from the bank with a letter from the executors of General Jenkins (who died suddenly in Mexico a week or two before) announcing that the General had left a million dollars and the country-seat in Susanville to George Grimes.
"And to think, Mary Jane," said George when the first delirium of their joy had passed, "the dear old man was kind enough to say—here, let me read it to you again from the quotation from the will in the letter: 'I make this bequest because, from repeated conversations with the said George Grimes, I know that he will use it aright.' So you see, dear, it was worth while, wasn't it, to express our benevolent wishes sometimes when we spoke of the needs of those who are around us?"
"Yes, and the General's kind remark makes this a sacred trust, which we are to administer for him."
"We are only his stewards."
"Stewards for his bounty."
"So that we must try to do exactly what we think he would have liked us to do," said George.
"Nothing else, dear?"
"Why, of course we are to have some discretion, some margin; and besides, nobody possibly could guess precisely what he would have us do."
"But now, at any rate, George, we can realize fully one of our longing desires and give to the people the lovely park and library?"
George seemed thoughtful. "I think, Mary Jane," he said, "I would not act precipitately about that. Let us reflect upon the matter. It might seem unkind to the memory of the General just to give away his gift almost before we get it."
They looked at each other, and Mrs. Grimes said:
"Of course there is no hurry. And we are really a little cramped in this house. The nursery is much too small for the children and there is not a decent fruit tree in our garden."
"The thing can just stay open until we have time to consider."
"But I am so glad for dear old Isaac. We can take care of him, anyhow, and of Mrs. Clausen, too."
"To be sure," said George. "The obligation is sacred. Let me see, how much was it we thought Isaac ought to have?"
"Twelve hundred a year."
"H-m-m," murmured George, "and he has two hundred now; an increase of five hundred per cent. I'm afraid it will turn the old man's head. However, I wouldn't exactly promise anything for a few days yet."
"Many a man in his station in life is happy upon a thousand."
"A thousand! Why, my dear, there is not a man of his class in town that makes six hundred."
"We must keep horses, and there is no room to build a stable on this place."
"Could we live here and keep the horses in the General's stables across the way, even if the place were turned into a park?"
"That is worth thinking of."
"It's a horrid thing to confess, but do you know, George, I've felt myself getting meaner and meaner, and stingier and stingier ever since you brought the good news."
George tried to smile, but the effort was unsuccessful; he looked half-vexed and half-ashamed.
"Oh, I wouldn't put it just that way," he said. "The news is so exciting that we hardly know at once how to adjust ourselves to it. We are simply prudent. It would be folly to plunge ahead without any caution at all. How much did you say the debt of the Presbyterian Church is?"
"Six thousand, I think."
"A good deal for a little church like that to owe."
"You didn't promise anything, Mary Jane, did you, to Mrs. Borrow?"
"No, for I had nothing to promise, but I did tell her on Sunday that I would help them liberally if I could."
"They will base large expectations on that, sure. I wish you hadn't said it just that way. Of course, we are bound to help them, but I should like to have a perfectly free hand in doing it."
There was silence for a moment, while both looked through the window at the General's place over the way.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" asked Mrs. Grimes.
"Lovely. That little annex on the side would make a snug den for me; and imagine the prospect from that south bedroom window! You would enjoy every look at it."
"George, dear, tell me frankly, do you really feel in your heart as generous as you did yesterday?"
"Now, my dear, why press that matter? Call it meaner or narrower or what you will; maybe I am a little more so than I was; but there is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the conservative instinct asserting itself; the very same faculty in man that holds society together. I will be liberal enough when the time comes, never fear. I am not going to disregard what one may call the pledges of a lifetime. We will treat everybody right, the Presbyterian Church and Mr. Borrow included. His salary is a thousand, I think you said?"
"Well, I am willing to make it fifteen hundred right now, if you are."
"We said, you remember, it ought to be two thousand."
"Who said so?"
"You did, on the porch here the other evening."
"I never said so. There isn't a preacher around here gets that much. The Episcopalians with their rich people only give eighteen hundred."
"And a house."
"Very well, the Presbyterians can build a house if they want to."
"You consent then to pledge five hundred more to the minister's salary?"
"I said I would if you would, but my advice is just to let the matter go over until to-morrow or next day, when the whole thing can be considered."
"Very well, but, George, sixty thousand dollars is a great deal of money, and we certainly can afford to be liberal with it, for the General's sake as well as for our own!"
"Everything depends upon how you look at it. In one way the sum is large. In another way it isn't. General Jenkins had just twenty times sixty thousand. Tremendous, isn't it? He might just as well have left us another million. He is in Heaven and wouldn't miss it. Then we could have some of our plans more fully carried out."
"I hate to be thought covetous," answered Mrs. Grimes, "but I do wish he had put on that other million."
The next day Mr. Grimes, while sitting with his wife after supper, took a memorandum from his pocket and said:
"I've been jotting down some figures, Mary Jane, just to see how we will come out with our income of sixty thousand dollars."
"If we give the place across the street for a park and a library and a hundred thousand dollars with which to run it, we shall have just nine hundred thousand left."
"We shall want horses, say a carriage pair, and a horse for the station wagon. Then I must have a saddle horse and there must be a pony for the children. I thought also you might as well have a gentle pair for your own driving. That makes six. Then there will have to be, say, three stable men. Now, my notion is that we shall put up a larger house farther up town with all the necessary stabling. Count the cost of the house and suitable appointments, and add in the four months' trip to Europe which we decided yesterday to take next summer, and how much of that fifty-four thousand do you think we shall have left at the end of the year?"
"But why build the house from our income?"
"Mary Jane, I want to start out with the fixed idea that we will not cut into our principal."
"Well, how much will we have over?"
"Not a dollar! The outlay for the year will approximate fifty-six thousand dollars."
"Large, isn't it?"
"And yet I don't see how we can reduce it if we are to live as people in our circumstances might reasonably be expected to live."
"We must cut off something."
"That is what I think. If we give the park and the library building to the town why not let the town pay the cost of caring for them?"
"Then we could save the interest on that other hundred thousand."
"Exactly, and nobody will suffer. The gift of the property alone is magnificent. Who is going to complain of us? We will decide now to give the real estate and then stop."
Two days later Mr. Grimes came home early from the bank with a letter in his hand. He looked white and for a moment after entering his wife's room he could hardly command utterance.
"I have some bad news for you, dear—terrible news," he said, almost falling into a chair.
The thought flashed through Mrs. Grimes' mind that the General had made a later will which had been found and which revoked the bequest to George. She could hardly whisper:
"What is it?"
"The executors write to me that the million dollars left to me by the General draws only about four per cent. interest."
"Four per cent! Forty thousand dollars instead of sixty thousand! What a frightful loss! Twenty thousand dollars a year gone at one breath!"
"Are you sure, George?"
"Sure? Here is the letter. Read it yourself. One-third of our fortune swept away before we have a chance to touch it!"
"I think it was very unkind of the General to turn the four per cents. over to us while somebody else gets the six per cents. How could he do such a thing? And you such an old friend, too!"
"Mary Jane, that man always had a mean streak in him. I've said so to myself many a time. But, anyhow, this frightful loss settles one thing; we can't afford to give that property across the street to the town. We must move over there to live, and even then, with the huge expense of keeping such a place in order, we shall have to watch things narrowly to make ends meet."
"And you never were good at retrenching, George."
"But we've got to retrench. Every superfluous expenditure must be cut off. As for the park and free library, that seems wild now, doesn't it? I don't regret abandoning the scheme. The people of this town never did appreciate public spirit or generosity, did they?"
"I'm very sorry you spoke to Mrs. Borrow about helping their church. Do you think she remembers it?"
"She met me to-day and said they were expecting something handsome."
Mr. Grimes laughed bitterly.
"That's always the way with those people. They are the worst beggars! When a lot of folks get together and start a church it is almost indecent for them to come running around to ask other folks to support it. I have half a notion not to give them a cent."
"Not even for Mr. Borrow's salary?"
"Certainly not! Half the clergymen in the United States get less than a thousand dollars a year; why can't he do as the rest do? Am I to be called upon to support a lot of poor preachers? A good deal of nerve is required, I think, to ask such a thing of me."
Two weeks afterward Mr. Grimes and his wife sat together again on the porch in the cool of the evening.
"Now," said Grimes, "let us together go over these charities we were talking about and be done with them. Let us start with the tough fact staring us in the face that, with only one million dollars at four per cent. and all our new and necessary expenses, we shall have to look sharp or I'll be borrowing money to live on in less than eight months."
"Well," said Mrs. Grimes, "what shall we cut out? Would you give up the Baptist organ that we used to talk about?"
"Mary Jane, it is really surprising how you let such things as that stay in your mind. I considered that organ scheme abandoned long ago."
"Is it worth while, do you think, to do anything with the Methodist Church mortgage?"
"How much is it?"
"Three thousand dollars, I think."
"Yes, three thousand from forty thousand leaves us only thirty-seven thousand. Then, if we do it for the Methodists we shall have to do it for the Lutherans and the Presbyterians and swarms of churches all around the country. We can't make flesh of one and fowl of another. It will be safer to treat them all alike; and more just, too. I think we ought to try to be just with them, don't you, Mary Jane?"
"And Mr. Borrow's salary?"
"Ha! Yes! That is a thousand dollars, isn't it? It does seem but a trifle. But they have no children and they have themselves completely adjusted to it. And suppose we should raise it one year and die next year? He would feel worse than if he just went along in the old way. When a man is fully adjusted to a thing it is the part of prudence, it seems to me, just to let him alone."
"I wish we could—"
"Oh, well, if you want to; but I propose that we don't make them the offer until next year or the year after. We shall have our matters arranged better by that time."
"And now about Isaac Wickersham?"
"Have you seen him lately?"
"Two or three days ago."
"Did he seem discontented or unhappy?"
"You promised to help him?"
"What I said was, 'We are going to do something for you, Isaac'"
"Something! That commits us to nothing in particular. Was it your idea, Mary Jane, to make him an allowance?"
"There you cut into our insufficient income again. I don't see how we can afford it with all these expenses heaping up on us; really I don't."
"But we must give him something; I promised it."
George thought a moment and then said:
"This is the end of September and I sha'nt want this straw hat that I have been wearing all summer. Suppose you give him that. A good straw hat is 'something.'"
"You remember Mrs. Clausen, George?"
"Have we got to load up with her, too?"
"Let me explain. You recall that I told her I would try to make her comfortable, and when I found that our circumstances were going to be really straitened, I sent her my red flannel petticoat with my love, for I know she can be comfortable in that."
"Of course she can."
"So this afternoon when I came up from the city she got out of the train with me and I felt so half-ashamed of the gift that I pretended not to see her and hurried out to the carriage and drove quickly up the hill. She is afraid of horses, anyhow."
"Always was," said George.
"But, George, I don't feel quite right about it yet; the gift of a petticoat is rather stingy, isn't it?"
"No, I don't think so."
"And, George, to be perfectly honest with ourselves now, don't you think we are a little bit meaner than we were, say, last June?"
George cleared his throat and hesitated, and then he said:
"I admit nothing, excepting that the only people who are fit to have money are the people who know how to take care of it."
OUR POLITE PARENTS
BY CAROLYN WELLS
When guests were present, dear little Mabel Climbed right up on the dinner-table And naughtily stood upon her head! "I wouldn't do that, dear," Mamma said.
Merry, funny little Moses Burnt off both his brothers' noses; And it made them look so queer Mamma said, "Why, Moses, dear!"
Johnny climbed up on the bed, And hammered nails in Mamma's head. Though the child was much elated, Mamma felt quite irritated.
A MERRY GAME
Betty and Belinda Ames Had the pleasantest of games; 'Twas to hide from one another Marmaduke, their baby brother.
Once Belinda, little love, Hid the baby in the stove; Such a joke! for little Bet Hasn't found the baby yet.
TOM AND GRANDPA
From his toes up to his shins Tom stuck Grandpa full of pins; Although Tom the fun enjoyed, Grandpapa was quite annoyed.
Bobby with the nursery shears Cut off both the baby's ears; At the baby, so unsightly, Mamma raised her eyebrows slightly.
One night, Jeanette, a roguish little lass, Sneaked in the guest room and turned on the gas; When morning dawned the guest was dead in bed, But "Children will be children," Mamma said.
A BALLADE OF PING-PONG
BY ALDEN CHARLES NOBLE
She wears a rosebud in her hair To mock me as it tosses free; Were I more wise and she less fair I fear that I should never be A victim to such witchery; For at her wiles and lovely arts I'm fain to laugh with her, while she Plays ping-pong with my heart of hearts.
The play's the thing; I wonder where, What courtier with what courtesy First played it, with what lady fair, To music of what minstrelsy? I wonder did he seem to see Such eyes wherein a sunbeam starts, And did he love (as I) while she Played ping-pong with his heart of hearts?
For battledore they called it, there In courts of gilded chivalry; No gallant ever lived to dare To doubt its airy potency; But now, that all the pageantry Of those dead emperors departs, I dream that she in memory Plays ping-pong with my heart of hearts.
Ah, maiden, I must sail a sea Whereof there are no maps or charts; Wilt thou sail too, and there with me Play ping-pong with my heart of hearts?
BUDGE AND TODDIE
BY JOHN HABBERTON
My Sunday dinner was unexceptional in point of quantity and quality, and a bottle of my brother-in-law's claret proved to be most excellent; yet a certain uneasiness of mind prevented my enjoying the meal as thoroughly as under other circumstances I might have done. My uneasiness came of a mingled sense of responsibility and ignorance. I felt that it was the proper thing for me to see that my nephews spent the day with some sense of the requirements and duties of the Sabbath; but how I was to bring it about, I hardly knew. The boys were too small to have Bible-lessons administered to them, and they were too lively to be kept quiet by any ordinary means. After a great deal of thought, I determined to consult the children themselves, and try to learn what their parents' custom had been.
"Budge," said I, "what do you do Sundays when your papa and mama are home? What do they read to you,—what do they talk about?"
"Oh, they swing us—lots!" said Budge, with brightening eyes.
"An' zey takes us to get jacks," observed Toddie.
"Oh, yes!" exclaimed Budge; "jacks-in-the-pulpit—don't you know?"
"Hum—ye—es; I do remember some such thing in my youthful days. They grow where there's plenty of mud, don't they?"
"Yes, an' there's a brook there, an' ferns, an' birch-bark, an' if you don't look out you'll tumble into the brook when you go to get birch."
"An' we goes to Hawksnest Rock," piped Toddie, "an' papa carries us up on his back when we gets tired."
"An' he makes us whistles," said Budge.
"Budge," said I, rather hastily, "enough. In the language of the poet
"'These earthly pleasures I resign,'
and I'm rather astonished that your papa hasn't taught you to do likewise. Don't he ever read to you?"
"Oh, yes," cried Budge, clapping his hands, as a happy thought struck him. "He gets down the Bible—the great big Bible, you know—an' we all lay on the floor, an' he reads us stories out of it. There's David, an' Noah, an' when Christ was a little boy, an' Joseph, an' turnbackPharo'sarmyhallelujah—"
"TurnbackPharo'sarmyhallelujah," repeated Budge. "Don't you know how Moses held out his cane over the Red Sea, an' the water went way up one side, an' way up the other side, and all the Isrulites went across? It's just the same thing as drownoldPharo'sarmyhallelujah—don't you know?"
"Budge," said I, "I suspect you of having heard the Jubilee Singers."
"Oh, and papa and mama sings us all those Jubilee songs—there's 'Swing Low,' an' 'Roll Jordan,' an' 'Steal Away,' an' 'My Way's Cloudy,' an' 'Get on Board, Childuns,' an' lots. An' you can sing us every one of 'em."
"An' papa takes us in the woods, an' makesh us canes," said Toddie.
"Yes," said Budge, "and where there's new houses buildin', he takes us up ladders."
"Has he any way of putting an extension on the afternoon?" I asked.
"I don't know what that is," said Budge, "but he puts an India-rubber blanket on the grass, and then we all lie down an' make b'lieve we're soldiers asleep. Only sometimes when we wake up papa stays asleep, an' mama won't let us wake him. I don't think that's a very nice play."
"Well, I think Bible stories are nicer than anything else, don't you?"
Budge seemed somewhat in doubt. "I think swingin' is nicer," said he—"oh, no;—let's get some jacks—I'll tell you what!—make us whistles, an' we can blow on 'em while we're goin' to get the jacks. Toddie, dear, wouldn't you like jacks and whistles?"
"Yesh—an' swingin'—an' birch—an' wantsh to go to Hawksnesh Rock," answered Toddie.
"Let's have Bible stories first," said I. "The Lord mightn't like it if you didn't learn anything good to-day."
"Well," said Budge, with the regulation religious-matter-of-duty face, "let's. I guess I like 'bout Joseph best."
"Tell us 'bout Bliaff," suggested Toddie.
"Oh, no, Tod," remonstrated Budge; "Joseph's coat was just as bloody as Goliath's head was." Then Budge turned to me and explained that "all Tod likes Goliath for is 'cause when his head was cut off it was all bloody." And then Toddie—the airy sprite whom his mother described as being irresistibly drawn to whatever was beautiful—Toddie glared upon me as a butcher's apprentice might stare at a doomed lamb, and remarked:
"Bliaff's head was all bluggy, an' David's sword was all bluggy—bluggy as everyfing."
I hastily breathed a small prayer, opened the Bible, turned to the story of Joseph, and audibly condensed it as I read:
"Joseph was a good little boy whose papa loved him very dearly. But his brothers didn't like him. And they sold him, to go to Egypt. And he was very smart, and told the people what their dreams meant, and he got to be a great man. And his brothers went to Egypt to buy corn, and Joseph sold them some, and then he let them know who he was. And he sent them home to bring their papa to Egypt, and then they all lived there together."
"That's ain't it," remarked Toddie, with the air of a man who felt himself to be unjustly treated. "Is it, Budge?"
"Oh, no," said Budge, "you didn't read it good a bit; I'll tell you how it is. Once there was a little boy named Joseph, an' he had eleven budders—they was awful eleven budders. An' his papa gave him a new coat, an' his budders hadn't nothin' but their old jackets to wear. An' one day he was carryin' 'em their dinner, an' they put him in a deep, dark hole, but they didn't put his nice new coat in—they killed a kid, an' dipped the coat—just think of doin' that to a nice new coat—they dipped it in the kid's blood, an' made it all bloody."
"All bluggy," echoed Toddy, with ferocious emphasis. Budge continued:
"But there were some Ishmalites comin' along that way, and the awful eleven budders took him out of the deep, dark hole, an' sold him to the Ishmalites, and they sold him away down in Egypt. An' his poor old papa cried, an' cried, 'cause he thought a big lion ate Joseph up; but he wasn't ate up a bit; but there wasn't no post-office nor choo-choos, nor stages in Egypt, an' there wasn't any telegraphs, so Joseph couldn't let his papa know where he was; an' he got so smart an' so good that the king of Egypt let him sell all the corn an' take care of the money; an' one day some men came to buy some corn, an' Joseph looked at 'em an' there they was his own budders! An' he scared 'em like everything; I'd have slapped 'em all if I'd been Joseph, but he just scared 'em, an' then he let 'em know who he was, an' he kissed 'em an' he didn't whip 'em, or make 'em go without their breakfast, or stand in a corner, nor none of them things; an' then he sent 'em back for their papa, an' when he saw his papa comin', he ran like everything, and gave him a great big hug and a kiss. Joseph was too big to ask his papa if he'd brought him any candy, but he was awful glad to see him. An' the king gave Joseph's papa a nice farm, an' they all had real good times after that."
"And they dipped the coat in the blood, an' made it all bluggy," reiterated Toddie.
"Uncle Harry," said Budge, "what do you think my papa would do if he thought I was all ate up by a lion? I guess he'd cry awful, don't you? Now tell us another story—oh, I'll tell you—read us 'bout—"
"'Bout Bliaff," interrupted Toddie.
"You tell me about him, Toddie," said I.
"Why," said Toddie, "Bliaff was a brate bid man, an' Dave was brate little man, an' Bliaff said, 'Come over here'n an' I'll eat you up,' an' Dave said, 'I ain't fyaid of you.' So Dave put five little stones in a sling an' asked de Lord to help him, an' let ze sling go bang into bequeen Bliaff's eyes an' knocked him down dead, an' Dave took Bliaff's sword an' sworded Bliaff's head off, an' made it all bluggy, an' Bliaff runned away." This short narration was accompanied by more spirited and unexpected gestures than Mr. Gough ever puts into a long lecture.
"I don't like 'bout Goliath at all," remarked Budge. "I'd like to hear 'bout Ferus."
"Ferus; don't you know?"
"Never heard of him, Budge."
"Why—y—y—!" exclaimed Budge; "didn't you have no papa when you was a little boy?"
"Yes, but he never told me about any one named Ferus; there's no such person named in Anthon's Classical Dictionary, either. What sort of a man was he?"
"Why, once there was a man, an' his name was Ferus—Offerus, an' he went about fightin' for kings, but when any king got afraid of anybody, he wouldn't fight for him no more. An' one day he couldn't find no kings that wasn't afraid of nobody. An' the people told him the Lord was the biggest king in the world, an' he wasn't afraid of nobody or nothing. An' he asked 'em where he could find the Lord, an' they said he was way up in heaven so nobody couldn't see him but the angels, but he liked folks to work for him instead of fight. So Ferus wanted to know what kind of work he could do, an' the people said there was a river not far off, where there wasn't no ferry-boats, cos the water run so fast, an' they guessed if he'd carry folks across, the Lord would like it. So Ferus went there, an' he cut him a good, strong cane, an' whenever anybody wanted to go across the river he'd carry 'em on his back.
"One night he was sittin' in his little house by the fire, an' smokin' his pipe an' readin' the paper, an' 'twas rainin' an' blowin' an' hailin' an' stormin', an' he was so glad there wasn't anybody wantin' to go 'cross the river, when he heard somebody call one 'Ferus!' An' he looked out the window, but he couldn't see nobody, so he sat down again. Then somebody called 'Ferus!' again, and he opened the door again, an' there was a little bit of a boy, 'bout as big as Toddie. An' Ferus said, 'Hello, young fellow, does your mother know you're out?' An' the little boy said, 'I want to go 'cross the river.'—'Well,' says Ferus, 'you're a mighty little fellow to be travelin' alone, but hop up.' So the little boy jumped up on Ferus's back, and Ferus walked into the water. Oh, my—wasn't it cold? An' every step he took that little boy got heavier, so Ferus nearly tumbled down an' they liked to both got drownded. An' when they got across the river Ferus said, 'Well, you are the heaviest small fry I ever carried,' and he turned around to look at him, an' 'twasn't no little boy at all—'twas a big man—'twas Christ. An' Christ said, 'Ferus, I heard you was tryin' to work for me, so I thought I'd come down an' see you, an' not let you know who I was. An' now you shall have a new name; you shall be called Christofferus, cos that means Christ-carrier.' An' everybody called him Christofferus after that, an' when he died they called him Saint Christopher, cos Saint is what they called good people when they're dead."
Budge himself had the face of a rapt saint as he told this story, but my contemplation of his countenance was suddenly arrested by Toddie, who, disapproving of the unexciting nature of his brother's recital, had strayed into the garden, investigated a hornet's nest, been stung, and set up a piercing shriek. He ran in to me, and as I hastily picked him up, he sobbed:
"Want to be wocked. Want 'Toddie one boy day.'"
I rocked him violently, and petted him tenderly, but again he sobbed:
"Want 'Toddie one boy day.'"
"What does the child mean?" I exclaimed.
"He wants you to sing to him about 'Charley boy one day,'" said Budge. "He always wants mama to sing that when he's hurt, an' then he stops crying."
"I don't know it," said I. "Won't 'Roll, Jordan,' do, Toddie?"
"I'll tell you how it goes," said Budge, and forthwith the youth sang the following song, a line at a time, I following him in words and air:
"Where is my little bastik gone?" Said Charley boy one day; "I guess some little boy or girl Has taken it away.
"An' kittie, too—where ish she gone? Oh, dear, what I shall do? I wish I could my bastik find, An' little kittie, too.
"I'll go to mamma's room an' look; Perhaps she may be there; For kittie likes to take a nap In mamma's easy chair.
"O mamma, mamma, come an' look? See what a little heap! Here's kittie in the bastik here, All cuddled down to sleep."
Where the applicability of this poem to my nephew's peculiar trouble appeared, I could not see, but as I finished it, his sobs gave place to a sigh of relief.
"Toddie," said I, "do you love your Uncle Harry?"
"Esh, I do love you."
"Then tell me how that ridiculous song comforts you?"
"Makes me feel good, an' all nicey," replied Toddie.
"Wouldn't you feel just as good if I sang, 'Plunged in a gulf of dark despair?'"
"No, don't like dokdishpairs; if a dokdishpair done anyfing to me, I'd knock it right down dead."
With this extremely lucid remark, our conversation on this particular subject ended; but I wondered, during a few uneasy moments, whether the temporary mental aberration which had once afflicted Helen's grandfather and mine was not reappearing in this, his youngest descendant. My wondering was cut short by Budge, who remarked, in a confident tone:
"Now, Uncle Harry, we'll have the whistles, I guess."
I acted upon the suggestion, and led the way to the woods. I had not had occasion to seek a hickory sapling before for years; not since the war, in fact, when I learned how hot a fire small hickory sticks would make. I had not sought wood for whistles since—gracious, nearly a quarter of a century ago! The dissimilar associations called up by these recollections threatened to put me in a frame of mind which might have resulted in a bad poem, had not my nephews kept up a lively succession of questions such as no one but children can ask. The whistles completed, I was marched, with music, to the place where the "Jacks" grew. It was just such a place as boys instinctively delight in—low, damp, and boggy, with a brook hiding treacherously away under overhanging ferns and grasses. The children knew by sight the plant which bore the "Jacks," and every discovery was announced by a piercing shriek of delight. At first I looked hurriedly toward the brook as each yell clove the air; but, as I became accustomed to it, my attention was diverted by some exquisite ferns. Suddenly, however, a succession of shrieks announced that something was wrong, and across a large fern I saw a small face in a great deal of agony. Budge was hurrying to the relief of his brother, and was soon as deeply imbedded as Toddie was in the rich black mud, at the bottom of the brook. I dashed to the rescue, stood astride the brook, and offered a hand to each boy, when a treacherous tuft of grass gave way, and, with a glorious splash, I went in myself. This accident turned Toddie's sorrow to laughter, but I can't say I made light of my misfortune on that account. To fall into clean water is not pleasant, even when one is trout-fishing; but to be clad in white pants, and suddenly drop nearly knee-deep in the lap of mother Earth is quite a different thing. I hastily picked up the children, and threw them upon the bank, and then wrathfully strode out myself, and tried to shake myself as I have seen a Newfoundland dog do. The shake was not a success—it caused my trouser-leg to flap dismally about my ankles, and sent the streams of loathsome ooze trickling down into my shoes. My hat, of drab felt, had fallen off by the brookside, and been plentifully spattered as I got out. I looked at my youngest nephew with speechless indignation.
"Uncle Harry," said Budge, "'twas real good of the Lord to let you be with us, else Toddie might have been drownded."
"Yes," said I, "and I shouldn't have much—"
"Ocken Hawwy," cried Toddie, running impetuously toward me, pulling me down, and patting my cheek with his muddy black hand, "I loves you for takin' me out de water."