THE LITTLE GOLD MINERS
OF THE SIERRAS
AND OTHER STORIES
D. LOTHROP & COMPANY
FRANKLIN AND HAWLEY STREETS
D. Lothrop & Company.
|The Little Gold Miners of the Sierras by Joaquin Miller.|
A Modern hero by Marion Harland.
Benny's Wigwam by Mary Catherine Lee.
Benny's Disappearance by Mary Catherine Lee.
How Two Schoolboys Killed a Bear by H. F. Marsh.
Pete's Printing Press by Kate Gannett Wells.
Aunt Elizabeth's Fence by George H. Hebard.
The Button Boy by A. M. Griffin.
Dan Hardy's Crippy by James Otis.
His Three Trials by Kate Gannett Wells.
In the Second Dormitory by John Preston True.
The Doughnut Bait by George Varney.
A Real Happening by Mary B. Claflin.
THE LITTLE GOLD MINERS OF THE SIERRAS.
Their mother had died crossing the plains, and their father had had a
leg broken by a wagon wheel passing over it as they descended the
Sierras, and he was for a long time after reaching the mines miserable,
lame and poor.
The eldest boy, Jim Keene, as I remember him, was a bright little
fellow, but wild as an Indian and full of mischief. The next eldest
child, Madge, was a girl of ten, her father's favorite, and she was wild
enough too. The youngest was Stumps. Poor, timid, starved Little Stumps!
I never knew his real name. But he was the baby, and hardly yet out of
petticoats. And he was very short in the legs, very short in the body,
very short in the arms and neck; and so he was called Stumps because he
looked it. In fact he seemed to have stopped growing entirely. Oh, you
don't know how hard the old Plains were on everybody, when we crossed
them in ox-wagons, and it took more than half a year to make the
journey. The little children, those that did not die, turned brown like
the Indians, in that long, dreadful journey of seven months, and stopped
growing for a time.
For the first month or two after reaching the Sierras, old Mr. Keene
limped about among the mines trying to learn the mystery of finding
gold, and the art of digging. But at last, having grown strong enough,
he went to work for wages, to get bread for his half-wild little ones,
for they were destitute indeed.
Things seemed to move on well, then. Madge cooked the simple meals, and
Little Stumps clung to her dress with his little pinched brown hand
wherever she went, while Jim whooped it over the hills and chased
jack-rabbits as if he were a greyhound. He would climb trees, too, like
a squirrel. And, oh!—it was deplorable—but how he could swear!
At length some of the miners, seeing the boy must come to some bad end
if not taken care of, put their heads and their pockets together and
sent the children to school. This school was a mile away over the
beautiful brown hills, a long, pleasant walk under the green California
Well, Jim would take the little tin dinner bucket, and his slate, and
all their books under his arm and go booming ahead about half a mile in
advance, while Madge with brown Little Stumps clinging to her side like
a burr, would come stepping along the trail under the oak-trees as fast
as she could after him.
But if a jack-rabbit, or a deer, or a fox crossed Jim's path, no matter
how late it was, or how the teacher had threatened him, he would drop
books, lunch, slate and all, and spitting on his hands and rolling up
his sleeves, would bound away after it, yelling like a wild Indian. And
some days, so fascinating was the chase, Jim did not appear at the
schoolhouse at all; and of course Madge and Stumps played truant too.
Sometimes a week together would pass and the Keene children would not be
seen at the schoolhouse. Visits from the schoolmaster produced no
lasting effect. The children would come for a day or two, then be seen
no more. The schoolmaster and their father at last had a serious talk
about the matter.
"What can I do with him?" said Mr. Keene.
"You'll have to put him to work," said the schoolmaster. "Set him to
hunting nuggets instead of bird's-nests. I guess what the boy wants is
some honest means of using his strength. He's a good boy, Mr. Keene;
don't despair of him. Jim would be proud to be an 'honest miner.' Jim's
a good boy, Mr. Keene."
"Well, then, thank you, Schoolmaster," said Mr. Keene. "Jim's a good
boy; and Madge is good, Mr. Schoolmaster; and poor starved and stunted
motherless Little Stumps, he is good as gold, Mr. Schoolmaster. And I
want to be a mother to 'em—I want to be father and mother to 'em all,
Mr. Schoolmaster. And I'll follow your advice. I'll put 'em all to work
a-huntin' for gold."
The next day away up on the hillside under a pleasant oak, where the air
was sweet and cool, and the ground soft and dotted over with flowers,
the tender-hearted old man that wanted to be "father and mother both,"
"located" a claim. The flowers were kept fresh by a little stream of
waste water from the ditch that girded the brow of the hill above. Here
he set a sluice-box and put his three little miners at work with pick,
pan and shovel. There he left them and limped back to his own place in
the mine below.
And how they did work! And how pleasant it was here under the broad
boughs of the oak, with the water rippling through the sluice on the
soft, loose soil which they shoveled into the long sluice-box. They
could see the mule-trains going and coming, and the clouds of dust far
below which told them the stage was whirling up the valley. But Jim kept
steadily on at his work day after day. Even though jack-rabbits and
squirrels appeared on the very scene, he would not leave till, like the
rest of the honest miners, he could shoulder his pick and pan and go
down home with the setting sun.
Sometimes the men who had tried to keep the children at school, would
come that way, and with a shy smile, talk very wisely about whether or
not the new miners would "strike it" under the cool oak among the
flowers on the hill. But Jim never stopped to talk much. He dug and
wrestled away, day after day, now up to his waist in the pit.
One Saturday evening the old man limped up the hillside to help the
young miners "clean up."
He sat down at the head of the sluice-box and gave directions how they
should turn off the most of the water, wash down the "toilings" very
low, lift up the "riffle," brush down the "apron," and finally set the
pan in the lower end of the "sluice-toil" and pour in the quicksilver to
gather up and hold the gold.
"What for you put your hand in de water for, papa?" queried Little
Stumps, who had left off his work, which consisted mainly of pulling
flowers and putting them in the sluice-box to see them float away. He
was sitting by his father's side, and he looked up in his face as he
"Hush, child," said the old man softly, as he again dipped his thumb and
finger in his vest pocket as if about to take snuff. But he did not take
snuff. Again his hand was reached down to the rippling water at the head
of the sluice-box. And this time curious but obedient Little Stumps was
Suddenly there was a shout, such a shout from Jim as the hills had not
heard since he was a schoolboy.
He had found the "color." "Two colors! three, four, five—a dozen!" The
boy shouted like a Modoc, threw down the brush and scraper, and kissed
his little sister over and over, and cried as he did so; then he
whispered softly to her as he again took up his brush and scraper, that
it was "for papa; all for poor papa; that he did not care for himself,
but he did want to help poor, tired, and crippled papa." But papa did
not seem to be excited so very much.
The little miners were now continually wild with excitement. They were
up and at work Monday morning at dawn. The men who were in the father's
tender secret, congratulated the children heartily and made them
presents of several small nuggets to add to their little horde.
In this way they kept steadily at work for half the summer. All the gold
was given to papa to keep. Papa weighed it each week, and I suppose
secretly congratulated himself that he was getting back about as much as
he put in.
Before quite the end of the third month, Jim struck a thin bed of blue
gravel. The miners who had been happily chuckling and laughing among
themselves to think how they had managed to keep Jim out of mischief,
began to look at each other and wonder how in the world blue gravel ever
got up there on the hill. And in a few days more there was a
well-defined bed of blue gravel, too; and not one of the miners could
make it out.
One Saturday evening shortly after, as the old man weighed their gold he
caught his breath, started, and stood up straight; straighter than he
had stood since he crossed the Plains. Then he hastily left the cabin.
He went up the hill to the children's claim almost without limping. Then
he took a pencil and an old piece of a letter, and wrote out a notice
and tacked it up on the big oak-tree, claiming those mining claims
according to miners' law, for the three children. A couple of miners
laughed as they went by in the twilight, to see what he was doing; and
he laughed with them. But as he limped on down the hill he smiled.
That night as they sat at supper, he told the children that as they had
been such faithful and industrious miners, he was going to give them
each a present, besides a little gold to spend as they pleased.
So he went up to the store and bought Jim a red shirt, long black and
bright gum boots, a broad-brimmed hat, and a belt. He also bought each
of the other children some pretty trappings, and gave each a dollar's
worth of gold dust. Madge and Stumps handed their gold back to "poor
papa." But Jim was crazy with excitement. He put on his new clothes and
went forth to spend his dollar. And what do you suppose he bought? I
hesitate to tell you. But what he bought was a pipe and a paper of
That red shirt, that belt and broad-brimmed hat, together with the shiny
top boots, had been too much for Jim's balance. How could a man—he
spoke of himself as a man now—how could a man be an "honest miner" and
not smoke a pipe?
And now with his manly clothes and his manly pipe he was to be so happy!
He had all that went to make up "the honest miner." True, he did not let
his father know about the pipe. He hid it under his pillow at night. He
meant to have his first smoke at the sluice-box, as a miner should.
Monday morning he was up with the sun and ready for his work. His
father, who worked down the Gulch, had already gone before the children
had finished their breakfast. So now Jim filled his brand-new pipe very
leisurely; and with as much calm unconcern as if he had been smoking for
forty years, he stopped to scratch a match on the door as he went out.
From under his broad hat he saw his little sister watching him, and he
fairly swelled with importance as Stumps looked up at him with childish
wonder. Leaving Madge to wash the few tin dishes and follow as she could
with Little Stumps, he started on up the hill, pipe in mouth.
He met several miners, but he puffed away like a tug-boat against the
tide, and went on. His bright new boots whetted and creaked together,
the warm wind lifted the broad brim of his sombrero, and his bright
new red shirt was really beautiful, with the green grass and oaks for a
background—and so this brave young man climbed the hill to his mine.
Ah, he was so happy!
HE TOOK THE LIMP YOUNG MINER IN HIS ARMS.
Suddenly, as he approached the claim, his knees began to smite together,
and he felt so weak he could hardly drag one foot after the other. He
threw down his pick; he began to tremble and spin around. The world
seemed to be turning over and over, and he trying in vain to hold on to
it. He jerked the pipe from his teeth, and throwing it down on the bank,
he tumbled down too, and clutching at the grass with both hands tried
hard, oh! so hard, to hold the world from slipping from under him.
"O, Jim, you are white as snow," cried Madge as she came up.
"White as 'er sunshine, an' blue, an' green too, sisser. Look at brurrer
'all colors,'" piped Little Stumps pitifully.
"O, Jim, Jim—brother Jim, what is the matter?" sobbed Madge.
"Sunstroke," murmured the young man, smiling grimly, like a true
Californian. "No; it is not sunstroke, it's—it's cholera," he added in
dismay over his falsehood.
Poor boy! he was sorry for this second lie too. He fairly groaned in
agony of body and soul.
Oh, how he did hate that pipe! How he did want to get up and jump on it
and smash it into a thousand pieces! But he could not get up or turn
around or move at all without betraying his unmanly secret.
A couple of miners came up, but Jim feebly begged them to go.
"Sunstroke," whispered the sister.
"No; tolera," piped poor Little Stumps.
"Get out! Leave me!" groaned the young red-shirted miner of the
The biggest of the two miners bent over him a moment.
"Yas; it's both," he muttered. "Cholera-nicotine-fantum!" Then he looked
at his partner and winked wickedly. Without a word, he took the limp
young miner up in his arms and bore him down the hill to his father's
cabin, while Stumps and Madge ran along at either side, and tenderly and
all the time kept asking what was good for "cholera."
The other old "honest miner" lingered behind to pick up the baleful pipe
which he knew was somewhere there; and when the little party was far
enough down the hill, he took it up and buried it in his own capacious
pocket with a half-sorrowful laugh. "Poor little miner," he sighed.
"Don't ever swear any more, Windy," pleaded the boy to the miner who had
carried him down the hill, as he leaned over him, "and don't never lie.
I am going to die, Windy, and I should like to be good. Windy, it
ain't sunstroke, it's"—
"Hush yer mouth," growled Windy. "I know what 'tis! We've left it on the
The boy turned his face to the wall. The conviction was strong upon him
that he was going to die. The world spun round now very, very fast
indeed. Finally, half-rising in bed, he called Little Stumps to his
"Stumps, dear, good Little Stumps, if I die don't you never, never try
for to smoke; for that's what's the matter with me. No, Stumps—dear
little brother Stumps—don't you never try for to go the whole of the
'honest miner,' for it can't be did by a boy! We're nothing but boys,
you and I, Stumps—Little Stumps."
He sank back in bed and Little Stumps and his sister cried and cried,
and kissed him and kissed him.
The miners who had gathered around loved him now, every one, for daring
to tell the truth and take the shame of his folly so bravely.
"I'm going to die, Windy," groaned the boy.
Windy could stand no more of it. He took Jim's hand with a cheery laugh.
"Git well in half an hour," said he, "now that you've out with the
And so he did. By the time his father came home he was sitting up; and
he ate breakfast the next morning as if nothing had happened. But he
never tried to smoke any more as long as he lived. And he never lied,
and he never swore any more.
Oh, no! this Jim that I have been telling you of is "Moral Jim," of the
Sierras. The mine? Oh! I almost forgot. Well, that blue dirt was the old
bed of the stream, and it was ten times richer than where the miners
were all at work below. Struck it! I should say so! Ask any of the old
Sierras miners about "The Children's Claim," if you want to hear just
how rich they struck it.
A MODERN HERO
It was a very humble house. Only a flat of three rooms on the third
floor of a tall tenement-house in a back street near the river. A
bedroom, a tiny parlor and a kitchen, which was also an eating-room,
made up the suite. The Briggses did all their daylight living in the
last-named apartment. The floor was painted yellow; the walls were
whitewashed; the furniture was homely, substantial and well-kept.
Everything was shining clean, and both windows were full of plants, many
of them in flower. Mrs. Briggs was fully persuaded in her own mind that
no other woman in the city had such a tale of daily mercies as herself.
Among them were the southern exposure of those windows and the
circumstance that a gap in the buildings back of them let in the
sunshine freely. Her nasturtiums blossomed there all winter; from a pot
she had suspended by strings from the top of the casing, sweet alysseum
flowed downward like a fountain of soft green waters tipped with white;
scarlet geraniums shot up rank shoots that had to be pruned into
reasonableness, and as to Christmas roses—"But there!" the worthy soul
would assure her acquaintances, "they do beat everything!"
This winter the calla was about to bloom. A kind lady had given the bulb
to Mrs. Briggs's son, and there was no telling the store he set by it.
Topliffe Briggs—alias, Top, Senior—was an engineer on the great North,
East, West and South Railway. He sat at the tea-table with his wife and
son at five-thirty one cloudy February afternoon. His next train went
out at six-forty-five. He had run "Her" into the station at four, and
his house was but two blocks away. Mrs. Briggs could see from those
unparalleled kitchen-windows the bridge by which the track crossed the
river separating the town from the marshes, and could calculate to a
minute when the familiar step would be heard on the stairs.
"You see we live by railroad time," was her modest boast. "And my
husband always comes straight home." She did not emphasize the "my,"
knowing in her compassionate heart what other husbands were prone to lag
by the way until they came home late and crookedly.
Top, Senior, was on time to-day. "I ken trust Her with Bartlett, you
see," he remarked to his wife. "He won't leave tel she's all trig an'
tidy for the next trip. I wisht I could be as sure o' Stokes!"
Mrs. Briggs looked up inquiringly.
"Stokes is a clever fellow," pursued Top Senior regretfully, slicing
vigorously into the cold corned beef, for he was hungry. "Smart as a
steel trap, and onderstan's his business. I never see a fireman what hed
a better chance o' risin' to an ingineer. He knows Her pretty nigh's
well ez I do. I've took real comfort in learning him all I could. But
I'm afeerd, sometimes, he's on a down-grade and the brakes don't work."
"You mean that he drinks, don't you, father?" asked the sharp-eyed boy
at his elbow.
"There, father!" interjected the mother. "You might 'a' known he'd
onderstan', no matter how you put it!"
"I ain't afeered o' my boy blabbin'!" The brawny hand stroked the thin
light hair of his only child. "An' I want he should learn to hate the
stuff. It's the devil's best drivin' wheel—liquor is. I'd ruther lay
you with my own han's 'cross the rails this very night, an' drive Her
right over you, than to know that you'd grow up a drunkard. Never do you
forget them words, Junior! I mean every one o' them!"
The boy started at the earnestness of the exhortation, winked hard to
keep his eyes dry, and changed the subject. "Hev you noticed my lily
to-day, mother? I guess it'll be wide open by the time you get in
They all turned to look at the tall stem, crowned by the unfolding
calyx. "Junior's goin' to be a master-hand with flowers," observed the
mother. "He saves me pretty nigh all the trouble o' takin' keer of 'em.
I've been thinkin' that might be a good business for him when he grows
She was always forecasting his future with more anxiety than generally
enters into maternal hopes and fears. When but a year old, he had fallen
from the arms of a neighbor who had caught him up from the floor in a
fit of tipsy fondness. The child's back and hip were severely injured.
He had not walked a step until he was five years of age, and would be
lame always. He was now twelve—a dwarf in statue, hump-backed,
weazen-faced and shrill-voiced, unsightly in all eyes but those of his
parents. To them he was a miracle of precocity and beauty. His mother
took in fine ironing to pay for his private tuition from a public
school-teacher who lived in the neighborhood. He learned fast and
eagerly. His father, at the teacher's suggestion, subscribed to a
circulating library and the same kind friend selected books for the
cripple's reading. There was a hundred dollars in the savings bank,
against the name of "Topliffe Briggs, Junior," deposited, dollar by
dollar, and representing countless acts of self-denial on the part of
the industrious couple, and his possible profession was a favorite theme
of family converse.
"For that matter, there's lot o' things a scholard like him ken do,"
rejoined Top, Senior, with affectionate confidence in his heir's talents
and acquirements. "'Tain't like 'twould be with a feller like me whose
arms an' legs is his hull stock in trade. Why, I min' seein' a leetle
rat of a man come on board one time 'scorted by a dozen 'o the biggest
bugs in the city, an' people a-stretchin' their necks out o' j'int to
ketch a look of him. Sech a mealy-faced, weak-lookin' atomy he was! But
millions o' people was a-readin' that very day a big speech he'd made in
Washin'ton, an' he'd saved the country from trouble more 'n once. He
mought 'a' been President ef he had chose to run. That's the good o'
hevin' a tiptop head-piece."
"I've made up my mind!" said Top, Junior, with an air. "I'm goin' to be
a Hero! Like Julius Cæsar an' Alexander an' William Tell an' Captain
John Smith, an' other men I've read about. I wish you would be a
Hero, father! It's ever so much nicer than runnin' an engine. Won't
you—please! You are strong enough and good enough for anything, an' you
know a great deal about things!"
The blue eyes were bright and wistful, his hand stole up to the bushy
whiskers, ginger-colored from exposure to the air and boiler-heat.
"Me, a hero! Haw! haw!" roared the engineer, letting fall his knife
and fork in his merriment. "I'd cut a figger at the head of an army,
or speakin' in Congress, or a-setten' on a gold throne, wouldn't I? No!
no! my man!" sobering down suddenly, into a sort of sad dignity. "Yer
father ain't got the brains nor the eddication for nothin' of that kind!
All he ken do is to live clean an' honest in the sight o' the Lord, an'
to run his ingine 'cordin' to the best o' his lights."
"The Lord's too reasonable to expect more of you'n to do your duty in
the place where's He's put you," said the wife gently.
"I hope he is, Mother! Ef he looked for more—or for any big thing 's
fur as that goes, the chances are He'd be disapp'inted. I hev plenty o'
time fur thinkin' while we're scootin' 'cross the level country an'
creepin' up steep grades, an' I've worked it out to my own satisfaction
that somethin' else I've got to be thankful fur, is that my way in
life's been marked down so plain. 'Seems if I he'd been sot onto rails
pretty much's She is, an' 's long ez I do my level best on that 'ar
line, why, it's all I ken do. That's the hull of it! I ain't no
speechifier, you see, Junior"—with an embarrassed laugh at the boy's
evident discontent—"I'll hev to depen' on you fur to say it—or maybe,
write done ship-shape, some o' these notions o' mine, some day. I'd git
better holt o' them myself ef I was to hear somebody what knowed how to
put things go over 'em. Mother! eddication wouldn't learn no woman how
to make better bread'n yourn. Fact is, there's nothin' ekal to home, an
home-vittles an' home-folks! With such a livin' ez I've took in, I
sha'n't need a bite at the Agapolis deepo. We're half an hour there, but
I hate the very smell o' them eatin' houses! An' please God!
I'll bring Her in at twelve—sharp!"
He pulled on his overcoat and felt in the pocket for his gloves. "I'm
main proud o' them fellers!" he said, fitting one to a hand half the
size of a leg-of-mutton and not unlike it in shape.
He had said the same thing every time he put them on since Christmas.
They were a holiday gift from the conductors on the line between the two
cities which was his semi-daily beat.
"I take a world o' comfort in them, this freezin' weather. Fact is,
Mother, this world's been pretty full o' comfort, all the way through,
for us—a nice easy grade—ef yer father ain't a Hero, Junior!
Six-twenty! I mus' be off! I like to be there in time to see thet Stokes
is on han' an' all right. Ef you don't min', Mother, we'll hev him to
dinner nex' Sunday. I want to do somethin' t'wards savin' Stokes.
'Specially ez he's on my line!"
At six-fifty, Top, Junior, from his post at the calla-window, saw the
long line of cars, spaced by dots of murkey red, the luminous plume of
smoke trailing, comet-wise, above them, slowly pass over the bridge. It
was a cloudy evening and the marsh-mists swallowed up the blinking
windows as soon as the train gained the other shore. Junior loved his
mother, but his father seemed to take most of the life and cheer out of
the room when he went. Existence stagnated for the boy who had no mates
of his own age.
"I wish he didn't hev to run in bad weather and nights!" he said,
"It's his business, child, an' your father ain't one to dodge his duty."
"I hate the word!" retorted the petted cripple. "When I'm a man I'll be
my own master, and switch Duty off the track."
The obnoxious word came up again in the course of the evening. In
reading aloud to his teacher they happened upon this definition of "a
hero," given by one of the characters in the story under his eyes: "One
who, in a noble work or enterprise, does more than his duty."
Junior looked up disappointed. "Is that the meaning of hero?" he said,
"That is one way of stating it. I doubt, myself, if we can do more than
our duty. What do you think, Mrs. Briggs?" asked the young woman. She
esteemed the honest couple for their sterling worth and sense, and liked
to draw them out.
"A person ken ondertake more, I 'spose. Ef they don't carry it through,
it's a sign 'twas meant fur them to go jest that fur, an' no further.
'Twon't do fur us to be skeery 'bout layin' holt of the handle the Good
Lord puts nighest to us, fur fear it's too big a thing fur us to manage.
That's what my husband says. An' if ever a man lived up to it, he does."
Top, Junior, looked sober and mortified. The heroism of common life does
not commend itself to the youthful imagination. When his lesson was
finished it was time for him to go to bed. "Wake me when father comes
in!" was the formula without which he never closed his eyes.
His mother never failed to do it, but he wanted to make sure of it. She
put on a lump of coal, just enough to keep the fire "in," and sat down
to the weekly mending. At eleven-forty, she would open the draughts and
cook the sausages ready-laid in the pan on the table. Top, Senior, liked
"something hot and hearty," after his midnight run, and this dispatched,
smoked the nightcap pipe of peace, Junior, rolled in a shawl, on his
knee. The wife's face and heart were calm with thankful content as the
hours moved on. She was rosy and plump, with pleasant blue eyes and
brown hair, a wholesome presence at the hearthstone, in her gown of
clean chocolate calico with her linen collar and scarlet cravat. Top,
Senior, had noticed and praised the new red ribbon. He comprehended that
it was put on to please him and Junior, both of whom liked to see
"Mother fixed up." In this life, they were her all, and she accounted
that life full and rich.
As she served, she heard the slow patter of February rain on the shelf
outside of the window, where her flowers stood in summer. The great city
was sinking into such half-sleep as it took between midnight and dawn;
the shriek and rush of incoming and outgoing trains grew less frequent.
She did not fret over the disagreeable weather. Top, Senior, had often
said that such made home and fire and supper more welcome.
At Junior's bed-time, he was eighty miles away, walking up and down the
muddy platform of the principal station of Agapolis, stamping his feet
at each turn in his promenade to restore the circulation. His was a fast
Express train, and he stood during most of the run, on the alert to
guard against accident. There was no more careful engineer on the road.
Fireman and brakeman were off for supper in or near the station. He
slouched as he walked, his hands thrust deep into his pockets; his
overcoat was heavy and too loose even for his bulky figure. He had
"taken it off the hands" of an engineer's widow whose husband was
dragged from under a wrecked train one night last summer. "Mother" used
to look grave when Top, Senior, began to wear it, but she was not a mite
notional—Mother wasn't, and she was glad now that poor Mrs. Wilson had
the money and he had the beaver-cloth coat. His face was begrimed with
smoke, his beard clogged with cinders and vapor. A lady, travelling
alone, hesitated visibly before she asked a question, looked surprised
when he touched his hat and turned to go half the length of the platform
that he might point out the parlor-car. He observed and interpreted
hesitation and surprise, and was good-humoredly amused.
"I s'pose I don't look much like what Junior calls 'a hero,'" he
meditated with a broader gleam. "What a cute young one he is! Please
God! he'll make a better figure in the world 'n his father hes
done. I hope that lily-flower o' hisn will be open in the mornin'.
'Seems if I got softer-hearted 'bout hevin thet boy disapp'inted every
day I live. Come summer, he shell hev a run or two on Her every week.
Mother 'n me hes got to make up to him for what he loses in not bein'
strong an' like other chillren. Mother—she's disposed to spile him jest
a leetle. But dear me! what a fustrate fault that is in a woman! She did
look good in that ere red neck-tie, to-night, an' she was always
The rain was fine and close, like a slanting mist that pierced the
pores, when the Express drew out of the station, and as it fell, it
froze. Stokes growled that "the track would be one glare of ice before
they got Her in." He was inclined to be surly to-night, an uncommon
circumstance with the young fellow, and after several attempts to
enliven him, Top, Senior, let him alone. He was not in a talkative mood
himself. The tea-table chat ran in his head and set him to dreaming and
calculating. In five years Junior would be seventeen—old enough, even
for a lad who was "not strong," to earn his living. If all went well,
there ought to be a hundred and fifty dollars in the bank by then. There
might be something in Mother's idea of setting him up as a florist. And
Mother could help with the flowers.
"Hello! ole feller! look out!"
Stokes had stumbled over the fuel in the tender, in replenishing the
boiler-fires. He recovered himself with an oath at the "slippery
rubbish." Something had upset his temper, but he neither spoke nor
looked like a man who had been drinking. The teazing, chilling drizzle
continued. The headlight of the locomotive glanced sharply from glazed
rails and embankments; the long barrel-back of the engine shone as with
"D'ye know that on a night like this She beats out the tune o' Home,
Sweet Home, 's plain as ever you heerd a band play it?" said Top,
Senior, cheerily out of the thickening damps. "It makes me see Mother 'n
the boy clear 's ken be. It's a great thing fur a man to hev a
comfortable home, 'n a good woman in it!"
Stokes burst out vehemently at that: "This is worse than a dog's life!
We—you 'n me—are no more to them selfish creturs in there"—nodding
backwards at the passenger cars—"then the ingine that draws 'em. I'm
sick o' freezin' an' slavin' an' bein' despised by men no better 'n I
be! How a man of any sperrit 'n' ambition ken stan' it fur twenty years
as you hev, beats my onderstandin'."
He will always remember the pause that prefaced the reply, and how Top,
Senior, patted the polished lever under his hand as he spoke: "She's a
pretty respectable cretur, take Her all in all. When you 'n I run into
the las' dark deepo that's waitin' fur us at the end, I hope we'll be
able to show's good stiffikits as hern. Here's the bridge! Will be soon
It was a long bridge, built far out to be above high tides. As they
touched it the furnace-door flew open. Some said, afterwards, that the
door was not properly secured, others spoke of a "back-draught," others
suspected that the fire was over-fed. The volume of flame that leaped
out licked the very faces of the two men. They recoiled with a bound
and made a simultaneous rush for the air-brake in the forward
passenger-car to stop the train and check the backward sweep of the
blaze. The passengers, seeing the flash and hearing the whistle and
shouts of "Down brakes!" pressed against the front windows and a dense
living mass blocked the door against which Topliffe Briggs flung all his
HE HELD FAST!
"Git in ef you ken," he said to the fireman. "I'll try Her!" He fastened
the shaggy great-coat up to his chin as he faced the pursuing fires,
walked forward to the stand where lapped and curled the fiercest flames,
laid hold of steam-brake and the lever by which he "drove" the engine.
His fur-lined gauntlets scorched and shrivelled as he grasped the bar;
the fire seized upon his hair and garments with an exultant roar. He
held fast. He must get the passengers off the floorless bridge that
might ignite at any moment. He must check the engine as soon as he
cleared the last pier, or the cars would take fire before they could be
uncoupled. He shut his eyes from the maddening heat and glare, and drove
straight on. Not so fast as to hurry the greedy flames that were doing
their worst upon him, but at a rate that ran them over the river and
upon solid earth as the fuel in the tender burst into a blaze and the
forward car began to crackle and smoke in the hot draught. At that point
steam and air-brakes did their work in effecting a safe halt.
"The fireman was badly scorched," reported the press next day, "but
train and passengers were saved by the heroism of the engineer."
The words flashed along the wires over land and ocean; were set up in
startling type in hundreds of newspaper offices while he who did not
know heroism by name was breathing his last on a mattress laid on the
yellow-painted floor of the room he had seen so "clear" when the
engine-throb and piston-beat played Home, Sweet Home. The sunshine
that had followed the rain touched the white cheek of the opened lily
before falling on his sightless eyes and charred right hand.
When they brought him in he knew whose silent tears dropped so fast upon
his face, and the poor burned lips moved in a husky whisper. The wife
put her ear close to his mouth not to lose his dying words:
"I was afraid you'd see that we was a-fire. From the winder. I hope
you—didn't—wake Junior!" The boy who had begged his father to be a
"Now, Pettikins," said Benny Briggs, on the first day of vacation, "come
along if you want to see the old Witch."
Pettikins got her little straw hat, and holding Benny's hand with a
desperate clutch, trotted along beside him, giving frequent glances at
his heroic face to keep up her courage. Her heart beat hard as they took
their way across to the island. The island is really no island at all,
but a lonely, lovely portion of Still Harbor, between Benny's home and
Grandma Potter's, which by means of a small inlet and a little creek,
and one watery thing and another, is so nearly surrounded by water as to
feel justified in calling itself an island. They crossed over the little
bridge that took them to this would-be island, and following an almost
imperceptible wood path, came within sight of the Witch's hut. It was a
deserted, useless, wood-chopper's hut, which the mysterious creature
whom the children called a witch had taken possession of not long
before. Here Fanny drew back. "O Benny, I am afraid," said she.
"Humph! she can't hurt you in the daytime," said Benny. "She ain't no
different in the daytime from any other old woman. It's only nights she
is a witch."
Fanny allowed herself to be led a few steps further, and then drew back
again. "O Benny," said she, "there's her broomstick! there it is, right
outside o' the door—and O Benny, Benny, there's her old black cat!"
"Wal, what on it, hey? What on it?" creaked a dreadful voice close
behind them. Then, indeed, Fanny shrieked and tried to run, but Benny's
hand held her fast. She hid her face against Benny's arm and sobbed.
It was the old Witch her very self. She looked at them out of her
glittering eyes—O how she did look at them!—with her head drooped
until her chin rested on her chest. This seemed to bring the arrows of
her eyes to bear upon the enemy with greater force and precision.
"There ain't any law ag'in my having a cat and a broomstick, is
there?" she asked in a voice like the cawing of a crow, bringing her
staff down with a thump at the words "cat" and "broomstick." "What are
you skeered of?"
"Why, you're queer, you know," said Benny desperately.
"Queer, queer?" piped the Witch; and then she laughed, or had a
dreadful convulsion, Benny couldn't tell which, ending in a long,
gurgling "Hoo-oo-oo!" on a very high key. "Now, s'pose you tell me what
is 't makes me queer," said she, sitting down on a log and extracting
from the rags on her bosom a pipe, which she prepared to smoke.
"Whew!" whistled Benny, "'twould take me from now till Christmas; I'd
rather you'd tell me."
The crone lighted her pipe. The match flaring upon her wrinkled,
copper-colored face and its gaunt features made her hideous. Poor little
Fanny, who ventured to peep out at this moment, sobbed louder, and
begged to go to her mother. The old woman puffed away at her pipe,
fixing her gaze upon the children.
"Got a mother, hey?" said she.
"And a father?"
She puffed and gazed.
"You wouldn't like to see 'em shot?"
At this Benny stood speechless, and Fanny set up such a cry to go home
that Benny was afraid he should have to take her away—that is, if the
Witch would let him. He began to consider his chances. Still the more
terrible the old Witch seemed, the more Benny wanted to see and hear
her. He whispered to Fanny:
"She won't hurt you, Pettikins—she can't; I won't let her. Hush a
minute, and see what I'm going to say to her!"
Fanny hushed a little, and Benny fixed an audacious gaze upon the
Witch—or a gaze which he meant should be audacious. "What is the
matter with you?" said he.
The old woman removed her pipe and sat holding it with her forefinger
lapped over it like a hook.
"They call it 'exterminated,'" said she, pushing back the broad-brimmed,
high-crowned man's hat that she wore, and showing her gray, ragged
locks. "I'm exterminated. You don't know what that is, I s'pose?"
"Exterminated, ex-ter-min-ated," said Benny, scratching his head,
"why, to—to—drive out—to—ah—put an end to—to—to—destroy
"I don't know what your book meaning is. I didn't get mine from books. I
got it all the way along—began to get it when I wasn't much bigger'n
that little gell," said the Witch, pointing at Fanny with her pipe. "I
didn't know what it meant when I first heard it, but I know now.
"I wish you'd tell us about it," said Benny. "Tell us about beginning to
learn it when you wa'n't much bigger'n Pettikins."
"That's when the colonel said we must move west'ard," said the witch,
laying her pipe down on the log, leaning her elbows on her knees, and
resting her bony jaws in the palms of her hands. "Injuns, before they're
exterminated, stick to their homes like other folks."
THEY ENCOUNTER THE WITCH.
"You ain't an Injun, be you!" gasped Benny, with a look and tone which
expressed volumes of consternation and disappointment at her utter
failure to come up to his ideal Indian. Why, she wasn't the least bit
like the pictures! She wasn't like the magnificent figures he had seen
in front of the cigar stores in New Haven. Where were all her feathers
and things—her red and yellow tunic, her gorgeous moccasons, her
earrings and noserings and bracelets and armlets and beads? Why, she was
ju-u-u-ust as ragged and dirty!
All this and more Benny's tone expressed when he said: "Why, you ain't
an Injun, be you?"
"Well, I was. I ain't nothing at all now. I ain't even a squaw, and
they said they was going to make a Christian on me. I was a
"Oh, yes," said Benny, looking at her now with the interest attaching to
one who had worn the feathers, and beads, and moccasons, and rings.
"Well, what did you do when the colonel told you to go West?"
"We had a fight."
That was satisfactory to Benny. "Which whipped?" he asked, with his own
native briskness, as if this, now, was common ground, and he was ready
to talk at his ease.
"Which a'most always whips? It was a hard fight. I hid behind a big tree
and watched it. When I saw my father shot I started to go to him and a
shot struck me. See there!" said she, pushing up her coarse gray locks
and showing a deeper, wider seam than the creases and wrinkles on her
face. "A bullet grazed me hard and I was stunned and blinded with the
blood, and couldn't run, but my people had to. They didn't any on 'em
see or know about me, I s'pose, and I laid there and sorter went to
sleep. Colonel Hammerton took a notion to pick me up when he rode over
the ground he had soaked with the blood of my people—ground that
belonged to my people," shrieked the woman, straightening herself up
and shaking her fists in the air.
Benny liked that. Even Fanny gazed at the strange creature with
fascination. And when the Indian's excitement abated and she ceased to
mutter and chatter to herself and sunk her face into her palms again,
gazing absently on the ground, Fanny pulled Benny's sleeve and
whispered, "Ask her what he did then, after he picked her up."
"What did he do with you then?" ventured Benny.
The old woman started, and gazed at them curiously, as if she had
forgotten all about them, and had to recall them out of the distant
past. "What did who do?" said she.
"What did Colonel Hammerton do with you when he picked you up?"
"Oh, I didn't know who picked me up—thought 'twas some of my people, I
s'pose. Colonel Hammerton carried me off to the fort, and then took me
to Washington: said he was going to make a Christian on me. I had to
stay in houses—sleep in houses!—like being nailed up in a box. Ugh!
what a misery 'tis to be made a Christian on! Hoo-oo-oo-oo-oo! You
wouldn't want to know all the racks and miseries and fights and grinds
on it. I guess they got sick on it themselves, for after I'd tried a
many times to get away from houses, and been brought back, I tried again
and they let me go, and I've been a-going ever since. I asked for my
people, and they told me they was exterminated, every one on 'em. Yes,
I've been a-going ever since, but I can't go any more. I hope they'll
let me stay in these forests 'till the Great Spirit takes me away to my
people. He can't find me in the houses, but if I keep out in the forest,
I hope he'll find me soon. It's been a weary, long time."
"Are you two hundred years old?" asked Benny softly. "That's what
"Two hunderd? Hoo-oo-oo-oo! two hunderd? I'm ten hundered, if I'm a
day," said the poor old creature. "But don't be afeard on me—I hope
there won't be anybody afeard on me here, for then they'd be driving
on me off, or shutting me up again somewhere where the Great Spirit
can't find me. Tell your people not to be skeered on me—ask 'em to let
me stay here."
The sad old eyes looked wistfully at Benny, whose generous heart took up
the poor Indian's cause at once.
"You can stay here fast enough," said he. "I know who these woods belong
to—some o' my relations. There won't anybody be afraid of you. Me 'n
'Bijah'll take care of you."
"O, bless you!" said she. "I thought I'd got to the right place when
I got here—it looked like it—it felt like it. It seemed a'most as if I
most expected to see wigwams. A-h-h-h-h, if I could sleep in a wigwam!"
Benny felt that he could sympathize with her in that. He and the boys
had played Indians and 'Bijah had built wigwams for them in the wood,
and he had greatly wished and entreated to be allowed to sleep all night
in one. But he could not guess at the longing of the aged to go back to
the things dear and familiar to them in childhood; he did not know that
all the old Indian's days were spent in dreaming of those things, and
that she often wandered all night in the woods, fancying herself
surrounded by the wigwams of her people—searching anxiously for that of
her father. Though Benny could understand nothing of the pathetic
sadness, he felt a strong desire to offer consolation and cheer, and he
said, "I can build wigwams. Me 'n 'Bijah'll make you a wigwam!"
But the aged Chetonquin muttered to herself in a tuneless quaver, and
shook her head doubtingly.
"What! She don't believe it!" Benny exclaimed to himself. "Don't
believe that 'Bijah can make wigwams! We'll show her!"
And he was so eager to be about it that he took leave directly of his
strange acquaintance, who seemed lost in reverie, and to have forgotten
When Mr. and Mrs. Briggs heard Benny's story of the poor Indian woman,
their excellent hearts were at once filled with compassion for so
forlorn a creature. Mr. Briggs had very radical theories about equal
mercy and justice for each member of the human race.
"It isn't likely," he often said, "that some have a right to be in this
world and others haven't;" and he immediately set himself to illustrate
his theories in the case of the Chetonquin.
Mrs. Briggs said there could be not doubt that she needed other things
besides wigwams, which conjecture was found to be sadly true upon
investigation. An attempt was made to put this last of the Chetonquins
into more comfortable quarters, but she received the suggestion with
dismay, and prayed so earnestly to be left on the spot she seemed to
think was like her own native forest, that it was decided to make her
as comfortable as possible there, since it was early summer and no harm
could come from exposure. When the weather was cold again, she would be
glad to be sheltered elsewhere. So Mr. and Mrs. Briggs, Grandma Potter
and 'Bijah, took care that she needed nothing, and left her to be happy
in her own way.
Her shattered mind, little by little, let go of everything save the
memories of her childhood. All the people of the neighboring region, old
and young, came to understand and respect the sorrows of the poor
creature they had talked of as a witch. But the most friendly people
seemed to disturb her—to break in upon her dreams—and children,
especially, were not allowed to visit her.
Benny could not forego, however, the pleasure he had promised himself,
of getting 'Bijah to help him make a fine wigwam in the woods, and
saying to old Winneenis—as she called herself—"There! what d'ye call
that? There's a wigwam for ye, 'n me 'n 'Bijah made it, too!"
Benny might make as many wigwams as he pleased, Mr. Briggs said, "but
he was not to go near or disturb old Winneenis."
One extremity of the island was in the vicinity of Grandma Potter's, and
Benny passed a good many days of his vacation at Grandma's. One day
Benny said to 'Bijah, "Now you can make that wigwam, can't you, 'Bijah?
You said you would when the hay was all in, and it is all in, ain't
it? Le's make it to-day over there in the woods, on the island. The boys
are coming over to-morrow, and I want to have it done before they get
here. Say, will you, 'Bijah?"
"Wal, I'd know but I can," said 'Bijah.
"I want a real one," said Benny, "life-size, just like them you saw
when you was out there to Dakota—none o' your baby-houses."
'Bijah went up-stairs into the barn chamber, humming The Sweet By and
By, and Benny accompanied him in doing both. 'Bijah opened an enormous
chest and pulled out a lot of old buffalo and other robes, the worn-out
and moth-eaten accumulation of years, not to say generations, and
sitting down, took out his jack-knife and ripped the ragged linings out
of several that were pretty well divested of their fur, and making a
pile of skins, old horse blankets and lap rugs, he said, "Now, then,
sir, we'll have a wigwam fit for old Black Hawk himself."
And you may be sure 'Bijah was as good as his word. He got out old Tom
and the wagon, and he and Benny and the skins and blankets all got in
and drove over to the woods on the island, and there 'Bijah cut poles
and made the finest wigwam ever seen this side of the Rocky
Mountains—or the other side either, for that matter. They spread
blankets on the ground inside, and Benny declared it wanted nothing but
a few Indians and tomahawks and bows and arrows lying round to make it
look just like the picture in his g'ography.
Benny's last thought was of his wigwam that night as he slid off into
the delicious sleep that only rosy-cheeked, tired boys know. He dreamed
he was the chief of a powerful tribe, and that he found old Winneenis,
not old any longer, but a little girl like Fanny, crying in the forest
because she couldn't find her way to her people, and that he took her by
the hand and led her home. Her shout of rapture when she found herself
once more with her people, wakened Benny, and he saw it was morning,
and the shout he had heard instead of being that of little Winneenis,
was grandma's voice calling him to get up. He was rather disappointed to
find he wasn't a powerful chief, but he consoled himself with the
thought of his uncommonly fine wigwam, and hurried down stairs to see
what time it was, for the boys were to come on the early train, and he
meant to go right over to the woods with them.
He had scarcely finished his breakfast when the boys arrived, and they
all started for the woods in great glee.
On the way, Benny told them the story of old Winneenis, and the boys
were full of wonder, interest, and curiosity to see her.
Upon reaching the wigwam, they admired its outside, agreed that nothing
in that style of architecture could surpass it.
"And now," said Benny, "see how nice 'tis inside," and he took a peep in
himself. "Why," whispered he, drawing back, "she's here—she's here in
the wigwam, sound asleep, and she looks awful glad. Sh-sh"—with a
warning shake of his finger—"we mustn't disturb her; father said I
mustn't. Le's go away and wait till she wakes up."
They each took a peep at the old Indian woman and went away softly.
They remained in sight of the wigwam, exhausting every device for
wearing away the time, and Joe's watch was frequently consulted. Time
and patience wore away together.
"There," said Charlie, at last, "we've waited long enough; we ought to
wake her up now."
"It might make her crazy again to see such a lot of us, and I—I don't
like to," said Benny. "I'll go 'n ask 'Bijah what to do."
They went and brought 'Bijah, who said he should think likely she
would want to sleep a spell, she must be pretty well beat out, pokin'
around all night. He'd heard her making them queer noises o'
hern—something like a hoarse kind o' Phœbe bird, it sounded, in the
"I shouldn't be surprised," he began, in a low tone, stooping and
peering in at the wigwam; but, contrary to his words, he did look very
much surprised indeed.
He stepped into the wigwam and touched the sleeper gently. Then he
shook his head at the boys and motioned them away, and when he came out,
they understood from his look, that old Winneenis was dead.
Wandering, as was her wont at night, she had come upon Benny's wigwam,
standing in the clear moonlight, and to her longing, bewildered mind it
had probably seemed the wigwam of her father. Who can ever know the joy,
the feeling of peace, and rest, and relief, with which she laid her
tired bones down in it, and fell asleep, a care-free child once more,
and thus passed from its door into the happy hunting-grounds? And Benny
always felt glad the wigwam had been built.
Every year a few of the blest among the boys of Still Harbor were taken
to New Haven or New London to see the Greatest Show on Earth, while the
unlucky remainder were obliged to content themselves with what
imagination could do for them. But one memorable year Mr. P. T. Barnum
landed and magnified himself on our own fences. His magnanimity ran over
and flamed into Still Harbor, bringing all his miracles and monsters to
our very doors, as it were, and we had no more miserable boys. But we
had plenty of boys who aspired to be miracles and monsters, or boys who
essayed the trapeze, the tight rope, the flying leap and all sorts of
possible and impossible acrobatic contortions and distortions.
Eminent among these was Benny Briggs, for if you looked high enough, you
could see him any day with a balancing pole in his hand, walking on the
ridge-poles and fences, or making of himself all sorts of peduncles and
pendulums; bringing about in his own individual person the most
astonishing inversions, subversions and retroversions, and the most
remarkable twists and lurches and topsey-turveys and topplings-over.
But there was one opportunity that Benny's soaring ambition had not
embraced. His active mind had never yet discovered the possibility of a
real tight rope. For a real tight rope he languished, on a tight rope he
yearned to walk. The clothes line was a little too slender; his sister
Fanny's skipping rope was not only too slender, but too short; and these
were the only ropes of his acquaintance. The ridge-poles and fences only
mocked at his ideal. He wanted something that hung unsupported;
something airy; something worthy of the acrobatic art, upon which he
could walk with credit and grace, and, reaching the end, bow and kiss
his hand to the spectators, before returning. For this he searched by
day, and of this he dreamed by night. And one day he found it.
"Benny," said his mother on the morning of that day, "your grandmother
Potter has sent for you to come over. She's going to have uncle John's
and uncle Calvin's boys there. You'll like that, won't you?"
"Hi!" shouted Benny, throwing up his new straw hat, the sign and seal of
pleasant summer weather, "I'd like to see the fellow that wouldn't!"
At nine o'clock that morning—at exactly nine o'clock—Benny started.
His mother remembered it well, for she looked up at the clock and said:
"Now, don't hurry, Benny; go along easily and you'll get there before
ten," for grandmother Potter's was scarcely two miles back in the
country, and Benny thought nothing of stepping over there, especially
when inducements were offered.
He called his dog Sandy, and marched off with a light step and a light
heart; but his hands remained at home, that is to say, his hands were
nowhere so much at home as in his trousers pockets, and there they
reposed, while Benny paced along, whistling "Not for Joseph, not if I
knows it," and Sandy nosing it all the way. His mother watched him with
pride as usual; the neighbors saw him go by and said, "There goes Benny
Briggs; he hain't broken his neck yet, but I presume to say that'll be
the next thing he does."
Uncle John's and uncle Calvin's boys from New Haven, arrived early at
grandmother Potter's, a place which seemed to them to contain all the
pleasures of all the spheres, for grandmother's weakness was for boys,
and nothing suited her better than getting all her grandsons together
and giving them "full swing," as Abijah called it, and Abijah was made
by nature to help grandmother out in her benevolent plans. He instituted
jolly measures, and contrived possibilities of riot and revel that no
mortal ever thought of before. As circuses were the fashion in urchin
society, on that particular day, Abijah, like a wizard, had called up
out of the farm resources, and out of certain mysterious resources of
his own, that were so plainly of unearthly origin that it was of no use
in the world to try to look into or understand them, such a circus as
would have made not only P. T. Barnum, but the ancient Romans themselves
perfectly miserable with envy. There was the trapeze, the tight rope,
the—well, alas, I don't know the names of them all, having had a
limited education in such matters, but there they all were, whatever
they are called—those things that make a perfect, finished,
spal-en-did, be-yeu-ti-ful circus. There were hoops with tissue
paper pasted over them, to be jumped through by the most wonderful
bareback riders on earth, and old Tom, grandmother's own horse, was
perfectly safe as a trained Arabian steed, when 'Bijah was there to see
how the thing was managed. Everything was safe and sure and delightful
when 'Bijah had charge of it. Nothing ever went wrong, or upset, or came
to a sorry end with him or his plans. He knew what he was about, and
ends with him were even more brilliant and satisfactory than beginnings
and means. I shouldn't dare to fully tell you what good times the boys
had at grandmother Potter's, especially on Fourth of Julys,
Thanksgivings, Christmases and birthdays, for fear of making all the
boys who couldn't go there, discontented and low spirited for the rest
of their lives. I'm sorry for those boys, but at the same time I may as
well go on and tell them about Benny Briggs. He was preparing to be
very discontented and low spirited just at the moment when Joe and Will
and Harry and Rob and Charlie and Morris and Cad were shouting their
exultation at the only wonderful circus on earth. They all decided that
the performances were not to begin, however, until Benny Briggs arrived.
There could be no circus without Ben. No, indeed! There were stars of
the arena among them, of various magnitudes, but Benny was the comet
that outshone and outstripped them all.
"Why don't he come along?" said Charlie, dancing a double-shuffle on the
barn floor to let off his impatience.
"Let's go and look for him," said Joe, and they all shuffled off down to
the gate, thinking to see Benny with his nose pointed straight for that
gate, or as straight as could be expected, considering its faithfulness
in another direction. But no Benny was to be seen.
"He can't be far off," said Joe, seizing an opportunity to look at his
new silver watch, "for it's half-past ten now, and Ben is always here
before ten—always was, I mean."
"Let's go up to the top of the hill and meet him," proposed Will; "we
can see him from there anyhow."
So Charlie and Joe and Morris and Will and Cad started for the top of
the hill, while Harry and Rob, who were a good deal inclined to wait for
things to come to them, remained to swing on the gate.
The five spies soon returned and reported that Benny was nowhere to be
seen. Impatience now seized them all, and they flocked into the house to
put it to grandma whether it wasn't mighty queer that Ben Briggs hadn't
"He hasn't come?" exclaimed grandma, looking up over her glasses at
the clock. "Why, what can be the matter? It's almost eleven o'clock!"
"It's one minute and a quarter past," said Joe, appealing to his watch.
"Your clock's 'leven minutes slow."
"O, get out!" said Charlie, with a contemptuous sniff. "All the clocks
are either fast or slow, according to that turnip."
Here would have ensued a good deal of pro and con about watches, but
grandma held them to the subject of Benny Briggs. She drew from them
that they had been to the very top of the hill and couldn't see him
Grandma was surprised and disappointed. "It's incomprehensible," said
"O, I say, grandma," groaned Charlie, flopping into a chair and fanning
himself, with his hat, "what a big word! In-com-pre-hen-si-ble! And
the other day you said Prist-by-te-ri-an-ism! O my!"
"P-p-p-p-pooh!" stuttered Morris, who was always a little ahead of
everybody, except in conversation; "I know a l-l-l-l-longer word."
"Let's hear you say it, then," shouted the rest of the boys.
"Takes you to make long words," said Charlie.
"I-i-i-i-i-i-i"—began Morris, embarrassed by the evident want of
confidence in his ability.
"Go it!" said Charlie.
"Fire away!" said Joe.
"In-co-co-co-co-co" proceeded Morris.
"Spell it!" suggested Harry.
"I-n, in, c-o-m-e, come," spelled Morris with great fluency, and then
"Income!" exclaimed two or three voices disdainfully. "Call that a
long word? Ho-ho!"
"N-n-no; wa-wa-wa-wait a minute," implored Morris, tugging at a button
on his jacket, and fixing a studious, inquiring gaze on the kitchen
"Write it," said Will.
"I c-c-c-c-can't," said poor Morris gloomily.
"Give it up, then," recommended Joe.
"No sir," said Charlie, putting his feet up in a second chair and
making himself comfortable, "I don't give it up, sir; I'm going to know
what this bumper of a word is."
"Well, how are we ever going to know if Morris can't say it nor spell it
nor write it?" demanded Joe.
"Mebby he can thing it," said little Cad.
"Good for you, Caddy!" said Charlie. "You've hit it; Morris can sing
fast enough. Now, Morris, we'll sing, 'I love to go to Sunday-school,'
and you sing your word instead of those. Begin, boys! Sing loud,
So the boys all sang softly—
I love, I love, I love, I love,
I love to go to Sunday-school—
except Morris, who sang with a triumphant shout
I love, I love, I love, I love,
and the boys gave him three cheers.
At that moment grandma purposely left the pantry door open, and there,
disclosed to view, was a land of promise; a row of delicious little
cakes, with chocolate frosting, smiling on the pantry shelf. The boys
instantly crossed over to this inviting land and took possession, while
grandma, who was sometimes rather unwise in her loving kindness, looked
"I do wish Benny was here," said she. "Boys," she added, as if a new
thought had come to her, "go and tell 'Bijah I want to speak to him."
The boys clattered out—a stampede of young colts, it seemed—and soon
returned, each doing his part in bringing 'Bijah, for every separate boy
had hold of him somewhere, as if at the least laxity on their part there
was danger of his escape. 'Bijah grinned broadly and bore it bravely.
"'Bijah," said grandma Potter, "I must have Benny here to dinner; I
can't have his place vacant. What can have kept him away?" she added,
as if to herself. "I hope he hasn't been doing anything he ought not
to—he's such a little rogue."
"Wal, I d' know's I should be for goin' so fur's to say that, Mis'
Potter, but Benny is curis, and mebby he has slipped over to Spain
or France before comin' round here," said 'Bijah.
"O dear!" groaned grandmother, the names of these far-away regions
giving her a sense of exposure and danger, "I hope nothing has happened
to my Benny. 'Bijah, you must harness up and go over and see what's the
"Yes'm," said 'Bijah, turning to obey, and every boy set up a petition
that he should go in the long wagon and let them go too. So in the long
wagon they went, shouting and whistling and singing along, with their
eyes wide open to catch a sight of Benny, if by chance he should be
coming, loitering on his way. But not one of them looked in the right
In spite of Benny's frequent little derelictions from the path he might
have been expected to walk in, his mother was greatly surprised and
troubled to hear that he had not arrived at his grandmother's, and,
furthermore, that he had not been seen on the road.
"Why, nothing could have tempted him to stay away from grandma's," said
she. "Still," she added after a moment's reflection, "he may have gone
by the Brook road and met Johnny Barstow. If he has, and then stopped to
do a little fishing, he would never think how the time was flying. I
never saw a boy who had so little idea of time as Benny."
"Wal," said 'Bijah, "we'll go down the brook road way 'n see 'f we c'n
ketch this young trout."
So they returned by the Brook, but found no Benny, and Johnny Barstow
hadn't seen him.
Every ray of the calm smile which usually shone in grandma Potter's face
faded when she saw 'Bijah and the boys come back without Benny and heard
of their fruitless search. She sat silently down in her rocking-chair,
and her dear, sweet old face was pale.
"'Bijah," said she at length, "you must take the colt and the light
buggy and go—go somewhere—anywhere—everywhere, until you find him.
No, boys, you can't go. 'Bijah mustn't be hindered."
'Bijah was at a loss where to go, but he obeyed directions, and went
somewhere, anywhere, and it seemed as if he had been everywhere, and
inquired at every house in and about Still Harbor, along the shore, in
the woods and through the fields, but nobody had seen Benny since about
nine o'clock that morning.
At last he went again to see if Benny, perhaps, had got home.
"What!" cried Mrs. Briggs, when she saw 'Bijah come the second time, "he
hasn't come? You haven't found him? O, my boy, my boy!"
"O, now, Mis' Briggs, don't you go to worry about Benny," said 'Bijah.
"I never see a boy 't knew how to take care of himself better'n Benny.
He'll turn up all right, you'll see."
But in spite of his apparent cheerfulness, 'Bijah was a good deal
troubled himself. Where could Benny be, unless at the bottom of the
'Bijah in his search had already been to Mr. Briggs' store to inquire
for Benny, and in starting to go there again, he met Mr. Briggs coming
home. He and 'Bijah discussed the possibilities and probabilities of
Benny's case, and Mr. Briggs agreed to send word over to grandma Potter
if Benny came home, and 'Bijah agreed to come directly over and tell
his father and mother if Benny should reach his grandmother's at the
The eleventh hour arrived, however, and still no Benny. The boys sat in
the barn door and wondered in voices hushed almost to whispers, where
Benny could be.
"Where is Benny?" asked little Fanny again and again. "O, where is
Benny?" moaned his poor mother; and the question sank like lead into his
father's heart. Grandma raised her gentle eyes and asked it of Heaven
itself, and you, my children, by this time are asking it of me. I feel
bound to tell you this much: Benny was—I shudder to say it—Benny was
enduring the fate once proposed for Mr. Jefferson Davis.
The sun was getting low, the shadows were long on the grass, and Benny's
pitiful shadow as it lengthened, stretched nearer and nearer home. Ah,
would he ever get there himself again?
It was milking time. 'Bijah sat milking the cows in the barnyard, when
in bounced Sandy. He hadn't come on Benny's account, that was plain. He
was thirsty, and begged for milk, which he had frequently had from
the hand of 'Bijah. He was no story-book dog—only quite a commonplace
fellow, who hadn't the faintest idea that he ought to have arrived here
hours ago, and won fame for himself by showing the way to Benny.
However, you'll see presently that he wasn't to blame for that.
THEY START IN SEARCH OF BENNY.
'Bijah stopped milking and sprang to his feet.
"Hello!" said he, "Sandy, I vum! That means 't Benny ain't fur off. You
don't ketch that feller to stir a peg from Benny 'f he c'n help
'Bijah gave Sandy some milk, feeling sure that if Benny was on earth,
Sandy would go straight back again to where he had left him. Benny was
not on earth, but Sandy, having finished his refreshment, without even
waiting to return thanks, trotted off across lots at a great pace,
'Bijah following in hot pursuit. Away they splashed through the marshy
meadows; jump, they went over the stone walls. "Land!" said 'Bijah.
"Where be you a-goin'?" as Sandy leaped across a ditch into the great
Kingsbury orchard. Mr. Kingsbury had died a year before. His wife had
closed the old homestead and gone to live with her daughter, and the
farm had been for sale ever since. 'Bijah sprang over the ditch and came
sprawling into the orchard.
When he had picked himself up, Sandy was nowhere to be seen. The
loneliness of the deserted farm and the soberness of approaching evening
were all about him.
"Hello!" he shouted, and he thought he heard a response. "Hello!" he
repeated, and he was sure of a faint, faint cry, towards which he
bounded, shouting, "Benny, Benny!" and presently directly over his head
he heard a voice which seemed to come from Heaven, saying:
"'Bijah, O 'Bijah, here, up here!"
'Bijah looked toward the sky, and behold, dangling from one of the
topmost branches of a famous big sour apple-tree, a pair of sturdy boy's
legs! And there was Sandy, lying on the ground beneath them.
"Jericho!" said 'Bijah; and he hadn't much more than said it before he
was scrambling up the tree like a great ourang-outang. With some
difficulty he unhooked Benny and brought him to earth, and his great
warm heart swelled with tender pity as he returned home with the poor
boy in his arms; and his shoulder was as wet with Benny's tears when he
reached there, as if he had been out in a thunder storm.
I dare say you will partly guess the story of Benny's misfortune, but
for the sake of those who are not good guessers, I shall tell you that
he had taken a fancy to cut across a corner of the Kingsbury farm that
morning, to make the distance to his grandmother's shorter, in his
unwise fashion, never considering that climbing walls and fences,
paddling through the marshy meadows and contriving to get over the ditch
would more than overbalance the few steps he saved.
When he reached the Kingsbury orchard, where all the apple boughs were
trained in horizontal lines, with a view to making them bear well, his
head seemed to swim with suggestions of tight ropes. Around and above
the air was filled with golden opportunities as near to tight ropes as
Paradise is near to Heaven itself. These precious opportunities
whispered to Benny, the charming visions beckoned, and Benny felt that
if it cost him two and sixpence, he must have a walk on some of those
Everything was just as it had been left when Mr. Kingsbury died. Against
one of the trees stood a ladder, and scattered all about under the trees
were the limbs that had been lopped off, under his direction, the very
day when he fell with apoplexy. Here and there they had been gathered up
in bristling piles.
Benny ascended into one after another of these blissful trees. At first
he walked on the lowest boughs, but gradually went higher and higher,
until he promenaded fearlessly on the very topmost. He bowed, he kissed
his hand, he turned and returned, he was happy and time sped swiftly by.
He was so absorbed in his delight, that he heard, as one who hears not,
a wagon go rattling along the road, and the shouting, whistling and
singing of boys. It was past noon before he recalled the object with
which he had left home that morning. He sat upon the very pinnacle of
achievement—that is to say, he sat upon the very highest point in the
orchard, his head up, his spirits up, with such a decidedly upward
tendency that it was hard for him to make up his mind to descend to the
plane of common life. However, he thought it must be something past ten
o'clock, so he slipped himself off his pinnacle, or was in the act of
doing so, when he missed his hold and went off with a sudden jerk.
Something scraped the whole length of his back, and seemed to hold him
in a relentless grip. It was the stump of a small branch, which had
caught him by the bottom of his loose jacket, and slipped up under it
quicker than a wink, as Benny slid down. It was one of those things of
which we say, "You couldn't do it again to save your life."
And there Benny, exalted, hung. The tips of his toes just touched a
bough below; with the tips of his fingers and thumb he could reach and
pick at the end of a branch above. He tried to throw his legs up and
catch on some salient point. He struggled to reach his elbows up and
pull himself back. He would have unbuttoned his jacket, and, slipping
his arms out, dropped to the ground, but it looked a long way, and
directly below him was a pile of the lopped-off branches, with their
sharp ends sticking up towards him like the spikes of cruel
chevaux-de-frise, and he didn't fancy dropping on those. He shouted
for help, but there was no one to hear him on the deserted farm, and the
few farmers who rattled by in their wagons paid no heed to a boy's
shout. Boys are always shouting, and the more hideous the noises they
make the more it is like them. Sandy, who had remained asleep in the
grass while Benny performed his manœuvres, thought no more of this
one than he had thought of the others. He supposed it was a part of the
fun—the very best part of it—as he opened one eye and saw those legs
dancing in air; and Benny's yells were the things to be expected of
Benny. But when Benny shouted, "Go, Sandy, go home!" and various other
commands to Sandy, hoping the dog might go and bring some one to his
rescue, as dogs always do in stories, Sandy sat upon his hind legs and
looked at Benny in amazement. These were remarks that had never been
made to him before, and he couldn't guess for his life what they meant.
Never had he been sent home. He had stuck to Benny through thick and
thin, during all his eventful life, and he meant to do it now. So there
he did stick, until he saw by the shadows that it was about milking
time, and being thirsty, to say nothing of hungry, and observing that
Benny was still engaged in dancing and tilting on the tips of his toes,
Sandy excused himself, went after his milk, and brought back deliverance
to Benny, as we have seen.
Poor, poor Benny! The joy of his return called out more tears than
smiles. Worn and faint and nervous, he was put to bed at grandma
Potter's, and it was many days before he was the same old Benny Briggs
again. In one respect he was never quite the same. His views in respect
to tight ropes had met with a radical change.
P. S. If any of you boys should say as Charlie Potter did, "Pooh! if
I'd been Benny Briggs I could have got down out of that tree," I'll
say to you as Benny said to him:
"Humph! I'd like to see you try it!"
HOW TWO SCHOOLBOYS KILLED A BEAR.
It was an unpleasant day. The gray clouds looked cold and dark, and the
wind was blowing a gale as the stage left the little village of Lowton
on its daily trip to the Summit. The weather prophets said it was the
equinoctial, although it was ten days too early if the almanac was
right; and every one predicted a storm, a northeaster that would set all
the streams boiling, and probably carry away all the bridges between
Lowton and the Summit.
But little for northeasters cared Leon and Sam Bearer, as they settled
themselves cosily inside. They each carried a shot-gun, and under the
care of their elder brother, Herbert, they were going on a two weeks'
hunt among the well stocked forests on the mountains back of the
At noon they stopped at the Half-Way House, a little hotel built just at
the rise of the mountain, where they were served with fresh venison in a
dining-room hung with great antlers from the deer killed by the
landlord, and his son, who was only fourteen years old—no older than
Sam. The boys became very much excited listening to their hunting
stories; and after dinner nothing but Herbert's decided command
prevented their loading the guns to be ready for any game they might see
on the road. The landlord and the driver said that they never saw any
deer driving along the road; but the boys thought it might be that they
would, and after they started a strict watch was kept, which resulted in
seeing forty-one squirrels but nothing larger.
They had not driven many miles up the mountain before it cleared off,
and the sun came out. The forest road, lined with ferns and banks of
moss, was very picturesque, and Leon and Sam enjoyed the ride as only
happy schoolboys can, in the pleasantest spot that boys can be—a forest
peopled with deer and squirrels. And when they reached the Summit House
they were in as good spirits as jolly boys could be who expected a
glorious chase the next day.
The hotel was a large, pleasant one, and on every side were the trophies
of game that so delight a boy's heart. The office and dining-room were
hung with antlers, and the hat rack in the hall was made from them. Then
there was a couch and some seats covered with bear skins and supported
by great branching antlers with so many prongs that Leon tired of
counting them, although he knew each one represented a year, and that he
could compute the deer's age by them. In the sitting-room there were a
stuffed deer, a fox, a number of similar animals, a partridge, some
pigeons and many small birds; and in the office were two large panthers
that looked very fierce and natural, their glass eyes glaring as if
watching a victim, their feet placed as if ready for a leap. But the
boys enjoyed most the deer in the large park back of the hotel. There
were four old deer and two pretty young fawns with glossy, spotted
coats, that Sam and Leon thought were the most beautiful animals they
had ever seen, as they ran and played together like lambs, jumping and
capering with a perfect grace that only deer possess.
After a nice venison supper the boys went to bed, and in a few minutes
both were dreaming of deer, and bears, panthers and hounds, and all the
excitements of the chase among the game-covered mountains.
Early in the morning, and long before Herbert was up, Sam and Leon were
out again watching the deer in the park, and examining again the
terrible panthers whose changeless eyes looked just as fierce as the
night before. Their guns were loaded, and when they had eaten breakfast
and the men were ready to start, the boys were off ahead ready for the
expected game. All the way up the mountain path to the runways they kept
the lead, occasionally stopping to rest in the shade of some great pine
where chattering squirrels were quarrelling over their breakfast. Often,
too, they would leave the path and plunge off in search of "track,"
which they failed to find, so that by the time the runways were reached
they were well tired.
The landlord stationed Sam and Leon on the lower runway, while he and
Herbert went to those higher up the mountain. There was a long time to
wait before any game could be expected, as the man who was to start the
hounds had a good distance to make before sending them off, and he was
only a half-hour ahead of the watchers.
Leon laid down to rest after making sure that his gun was in good order;
but Sam wandered around, looking for squirrels and "signs of game,"
until suddenly he heard, away back on the mountain, the bay of a hound.
This was a signal that the chase had begun, and he hurried back to the
watching-place to be ready for the deer, should the deer come. For
nearly an hour the boys stood with guns ready, every minute hoping to
see a deer. A squirrel running through the brush would bring their guns
to their faces, and at the slightest rustle of the bushes they would
start and listen. Meanwhile the hounds were surely coming nearer and
nearer, their excited barking proclaiming that they were close upon the
game; and at last Sam was sure they were down on the lower runway and,
turning to Leon in great excitement, he said, "Let's keep cool and we
can kill this deer! Then won't Herb be sorry he went further up?" Both
boys felt sure there must be a deer coming, although they had been told
that the hounds often came in without anything.
At last they could hear the brush crackling—yes, the hounds were surely
down on their runway; and in a minute the dogs and game did come in
sight together. But what a surprised pair of huntsmen they were when
they saw what the game was! Leon was frightened, while even Sam felt a
little uneasy. The hounds had not started a deer at all. Instead they
were pursuing an old bear, and two young cubs about the size of a large
dog. The old bear was very large and fierce, and whenever the hounds
came up with the cubs, that could not run very fast, she would turn
around and fight until the cubs ran on a few rods and then she would run
Just as the bear and cubs reached the watching place there was a fight,
and the great creature caught one of the hounds and hugged him in her
arms till he was breathless, all the time sitting up on her hind legs
and looking as tall as a man. While she was in this position Sam took
aim at her head and fired, and a moment later Leon fired too. Then the
bear started to run, and they both fired the other barrel of their
shot-guns, though without taking much aim, but a moment after they saw
her lying on the ground, surrounded by the pack.
By this time Herbert and the landlord had come down in hot haste to see
what the shooting was for, and in great surprise they gathered around
the huge creature which the boys had secured. Leon and Sam had really
killed a bear, a genuine black bear, a large one too—the landlord said
the largest he had seen that year; and there were never two prouder
fellows than these two schoolboys, as they surveyed their noble game.
But this was not all. The hounds were sent after the cubs, and in a few
minutes they were caught alive. They were taken to the hotel and caged.
Very quiet animals they were; in a few days they would eat from the
boys' hands, as tame as the fawns in the park, never trying to bite or
showing any crossness. With these pets and with their fine bear skin to
show, it is no wonder that the boys thought there was never a pleasanter
place than the hotel in the mountains; and it is not at all strange that
they hated to leave it when their two weeks were up. But they had a new,
strong cage made for the baby bears, and took them home to keep in the
little yard near the barn, where every boy, and nearly every man in town
came to see them, and to hear the story of their capture, and take the
dimensions of the handsome black bear skin. At school certainly nothing
else was talked of that term, and I fear the boys really believed they
were the best hunters in the State. How long their mamma will allow them
to keep their pets they do not know, but they hope it will be as long as
the two bears live and behave.
PETE'S PRINTING PRESS.
"What do you want for Christmas?" asked Mrs. Downs, in a kindly manner.
"I don't know, mother," replied Pete slowly. "Last year it was a
paint-box, bicycle, foils, and you said I could use Dick's foils—and
that you couldn't afford bicycles after the new carpet, so it got down
to a paint-box and that wasn't much of a Christmas."
"That's the comfort in regularly having Christmases; in time you get
what you want," answered his mother.
"That isn't always so. I think it depends on what a fellow wants; and
I've made a strike this year. I'm not going to say thank you for what I
don't want; only I don't exactly know what I do want. It must be
either—either—a—bicycle—or a printing press—or Indian clubs; and if
it is a bicycle, it must be the real kind—wooden ones are not allowed
in processions; and if it is clubs, I shall knock my head off; so it
better be a printing press. It doesn't make any difference to you this
year, does it, as we have not got to buy a new carpet? I have decided;
it shall be a printing press, and I shall get orders enough to pay for
"Not quite so fast, I don't know about the orders, and I do know
printing presses cost, and that Indian clubs are cheap."
"Oh! you can't put me off till another Christmas; it is like Alice in
Wonderland having jam to-morrow. And when to-morrow comes, it isn't
to-morrow. I am going to have it, and you can all club together and buy
it instead of giving me separately, sleeve buttons and scarf pins and
cologne and paper and pocket scissors. A fellow wants real things that
he can do something with. Printing press, now, you remember." And off
rushed Pete as Dick gave a low war-whoop, the signal for an incursion of
boys into the shed.
This shed was filled with relics of former joys, with the débris of
unsuccessful inventions, with tool-boxes whose tools were missing, with
oil cans without oil, with boards full of nails, with the wheels of
broken carts, and with strings, ropes and clothes lines of various
lengths; yet to a new-comer it was always an El Dorado of enjoyment.
Into this now sprang, tumbled, the cronies, Dick, Jack, Phil and Shel,
which latter name was a contraction for General Sheridan.
"I say," exclaimed Phil, "I am getting tired of your shed; haven't had
an idea in it for months—same old contrivances—get up something new."
"You just wait," said Pete, the proprietor.
"O come along, boys, if it is 'wait,' don't let us wait here," said
Shel, and off they started on a raid for fun. Pete returned from the
excursion to dream all night of what might and of what might not be. His
wishes became so thoroughly mixed that he fancied he had told his mother
he wanted nothing, not even Christmas itself; but the horror of such a
mistake effectually roused him.
The next morning there was no indication of forthcoming glories, except
that they had less than usual for breakfast; a kind of atonement to
which Mrs. Downs sometimes treated her family. Pete sighed. The
greetings for a merry Christmas were of doubtful value to him. He was of
a foreboding nature and experience had taught him to be prepared for
disappointment in the matter of presents. He went to church and noticed
carefully the style of type in the hymn books; he came home and took
down all his books from their shelves for the same purpose of
investigation. Even dinner itself failed to bring forgetfulness; for he
thought, if he could print bills-of-fare for such lengthy repasts he
might make money; though he felt he could never spell the queer French
names of dishes. At last the meal was ended, and the big parlor doors
were thrown open, displaying horizontal rows of evergreen, with various
knick-knacks fastened to these mysterious lines, which on inspection
proved to be the bars of an old-fashioned clotheshorse. It made one
think of sums in addition put down in agreeable shapes; one green line
of gifts and then another and another, which suddenly changed into a sum
in long division. Brown-looking packages lay about the feet of the
clotheshorse, and on them Pete fastened his eyes, for printing presses
His name was called several times and he received the very things he did
not want; sleeve buttons, scarfpins, cologne, and paper. He says, "thank
you," each time more faintly, whilst his mother's eyes twinkle. At last
Santa Claus tried to lift a big bundle; he puffed and panted and called
Pete to help him. Pete comes slowly forward, bends down to help, felt
something cold and hard beneath the wrapper, fumbled over it, clasped it
round, excitedly tried to lift it, whispered awestruck, "It is, it is
a self-inker;" bends further down, lifted it up awkwardly, and dropped
it on his little slippered foot, with a big bang and a painful, "oh!"
The scene was too funny for sympathy and the general laugh increased the
ache in the right-hand corner of the big toe on the left foot. Pete
limped out of the room and was soon forgotten in the universal
excitement; but when all were busy with their ice cream, he crept back
to his beloved bundle, unwrapped it, and lying flat down on his stomach
hugged himself to it, and gazed at it again. It was growing late. He
knew that as soon as the guests were gone he must do his share in
putting things to rights, restoring furniture to its place, and worse
than all, in smoothing out the wrapping paper and tying it up in little
bundles, and in unravelling all the knotted strings; for his mother was
accustomed to take off the edge of too great Christmas enjoyment, by
enforcement of this economical rule. That night he dreamed of Franklin,
of editors, of type setting, and of sensible mothers, who knew what
The next morning he woke with a sense of much to do, and soon began his
future career by sorting the type. This was a long job, for he had
several kinds; capitals and small letters, heavy face and light face
type, besides commas, hyphens and periods, and somehow everything was
mixed up. Now and then he stopped to admire his new gift and his own
energy, or to call some one to help him.
At last his task was done. Pete was a methodical boy and always finished
one job before he began another. "Now," said he, "what shall I do first?
set the type or ink the tablet? I'll ink the tablet and then print my
name, it is so short."
He began the inking process just as Dick announced himself by his
war-whoop, and called out,
"At it, are you! Got any orders! Shel has a big job—whole lots of
placards from his father, flaming ones to print, takes all kinds of
type; makes money on it; so busy he can't speak to a fellow, so I came
along here, for I'm one of the kind don't believe in orders for boys.
Learn by looking on, is my way—have all of the fun and—none of the ink
guess I'll say, seeing how your hands are. That isn't the way—your
mother will have something to say to that."
"You keep still and let me alone," answered Pete. "I'll come out all
right. I am going to set the type for Pete Downs, Centreville, Illinois,
U. S.," and he carefully began to insert the letters on the left hand of
the chase. He placed the chase in the body of the press, put some paper
on the pressure and began to work the handle up and down till the type
was well inked; he next marked out the size of his card on the pressure,
inserted his gauge pins, placed his card upon them, took hold of the
handle and pushed it up and down, thus bringing the card on the pressure
against the inked type; he pushed with all his might and lifted up his
work with a conqueror's air. Dick, who had been maliciously watching,
burst into peals of laughter. The name read thus:
Petedown, ne . S
"You've forgotten the quads," said Dick, "and you haven't enough ink.
You must put on spectacles to read it."
"That's nothing" replied Pete, growing red as he began to separate the
words and rub more ink on the tablet. Again he pressed down the handle,
lifted it up and gazed again. This time the name ran:
(ce rville, Ill )
The rest was so smutchy that not a letter was legible.
"Better go into partnership," said Dick; "you are not smart enough for
an apprentice, but on account of your capital you might be worth
something as a partner."
Pete cleaned the tablet with half the turpentine and benzine in the
bottle and began afresh. This time came out in watery lines:
"Why, what's the matter now?"
"Forgotten enough leads and a capital," replied Dick. "What is the use
in trying alone; go in with some boy who knows, and you'll get on."
"Perhaps. But I'll clear up first."
His mother had provided him with overalls for just such occasions; but
Pete was confident that printing was neater work than carpentering and
had avoided thinking of them. The ink was so imbedded in one corner of
the tablet and so scanty in another, that he tried to even the amount,
and then wash off the whole. Soon his finger-tips were coal black and
sticky; to remove this difficulty, he put finger by finger into the
turpentine, rendering that muddy and spreading five distinct streaks on
the back of his right hand. Then he poured benzine into the left hand
to rub on the back of the right hand. This operation sent ink and
benzine up his coat-sleeve, and all ten fingers became so useless that
in order to use them more freely he rubbed off their contents on
his—jacket. Seeing what he had done, his increasing fears brought
tears; to check which, he stuck his fingers into his eyes; which
hurting, sent more tears mingling with ink down his cheeks, just at the
moment that his mother appeared and that Dick's instinct led him to
disappear out of the window or door, he never knew which.
"My son, for shame!" said she; "how could you forget the overalls?"
"Oh! I don't know—wish I hadn't. I am going to take a partner and then
it won't happen again."
He cried, and was so funny-looking that there was nothing for his mother
to do but to laugh and advise speedy partnership.
"What boy would you have," asked he. "Dick has been here tormenting me,
I don't want him. I might try Shel; it need not be for life, you know.
He had a press last year and has got used to it."
"Very well," answered his mother. "I expected as much. Change your suit,
go ask him, and tell him I approve because his mother makes him wear
Pete had not anticipated such a speedy ending of his troubles, and
hastened away to do his mother's bidding. But whilst dressing, he
reflected that Shel knew too much and would snub him, and that Clarence
was the kind of boy who could get jobs easily. So he went to Clarence's
and proposed partnership.
"What terms?" demanded Clarence in a business-like manner, hands in his
pockets. "I'm pretty particular about the contract. Are you a
greenhorn? That's got to be taken into account."
"Well, yes, suppose I am now; but I need not be long if you keep your
bargain, besides my press is new and that counts for me."
"Well, yes, it does. Self-inker? lots of type?"
"Well, not so very much; self-inker though. Or come, you just go in and
try it for a month and we'll make terms afterwards."
"Pretty dangerous plan; but I'll try it, seeing it is a new press. I'll
come to your house right after dinner; and we have dinner right after
breakfast, so the kitchen work can be all done up. One gets hungry
between dinner and supper; and it's always a cold supper, so it needn't
be any work."
"Agreed," said Pete. "I know those tricks on meals, too."
The boys parted till half-past twelve, when Clarence appeared and set to
work in a vigorous manner to properly clean and ink the tablet. Pete,
with overalls on, watched every motion. His name was printed and came
out clear, beautiful:
Quads, leads, capitals, spelling all right. Pete felt as if he had done
"Now you try," said Clarence; and success again came in a dozen cards.
Then his name became an old story.
"I'll go and ask the cook," declared Pete, "if she don't want her name
printed," and off he ran.
"Certainly" was her obliging answer; she added slowly, "Only I haven't a
name good enough to print; you call me 'Hannah!' but if you put that on
a card it looks common; and if you say 'Ora,' no one will know it is me;
and if you only put my last name, they'll think the whole family has
called. You better take the nurse's name, 'Mehitable Jones,' you can't
get round that."
Hardly waiting till she had finished, Pete went to Mehitable, who kindly
consented to believe that she needed a dozen cards, and to write down
her name that it might be printed correctly. This looked like business.
The cards were quickly printed, and delivered, and the package was
marked on the wrapper "C. O. D."
"That is not my name," exclaimed Mehitable.
"Of course, that isn't your name," explained the boys; "cards are
inside. That means you must pay us right off, just what you please; we
didn't say anything about it first, because we trusted you—but we can't
afford to work for nothing."
"Well," said Mehitable, "here is five cents."
Pete's first money earned by honest hard labor; two and a half cents
apiece. "That's an unfortunate price for us," said Clarence, "though it
be convenient for the buyer. Let's keep all uneven sums as capital
towards other type, and all even sums we'll divide."
This was rather a shock at first to Pete; but with a partner who was
such a superior business man he would not dispute.
"The first great trouble," stated Clarence, "is to get orders; the
second, to execute them. You be the travelling agent and I'll be the
"Now," said Pete, "I won't. I want to print as well as you. I'll be
travelling agent in your family, and you in mine, and then we'll get
more out of each."
"That's an idea," replied Clarence; and the partnership, which to judge
by the angry looks of the past second seemed on the point of
dissolution, still remained unbroken.
That afternoon's success was marked, and afterwards when business called
Clarence away (for if the truth must be told), he was partner in two
other firms on strict terms of secrecy, Pete did not prosper. It was
always too much or too little ink; quads were not even and a sufficient
number of leads were seldom inserted. He often set the type the wrong
way so that it printed backwards, and worse than all he did not know how
to spell; and as he before had had occasion to accuse his mother of
moral reasons for her gifts, he now declared that she had only given him
the press, to teach him how to spell. One day she particularly
distressed both his memory and conscience by wishing him to print for
the nursery the motto, "Fidelity is a virtue;" and it came out,
"Fiddility is a virtu."
Notwithstanding this, the firm had made one dollar; and in the course of
the next two months Pete had acquired enough skill to feel himself an
A change had also come over Clarence; his spirit was too aspiring to be
bound by rules of constant neatness, and he grew jealous of Pete's
increasing ability. So he proposed a partnership on new terms; namely,
that the cash on hand should be devoted to the purchase of some new
fonts, and that afterwards the earnings should be divided; but that as
he would always ink the tablet, and as the workshop of the firm had been
transferred to his shed, he should have two thirds of the profits. Pete
objected, and insisted that until the business was on a better
foundation, all the profits should be turned in for the improvement of
their stock in trade.
"No," said Clarence, "I can't print all day and every day and not feel
any cents in my pocket. I want peanuts and candy and I want to give the
boys a treat, too, now and then. That's what I am going to print for,
after we have got these new fonts."
"Well, you can do as you please, I sha'n't try such things. I shall keep
my money for type and cards. We needn't quarrel yet till we have more
Clarence did not feel easy. Pete had shown more energy, patience and
neatness than he thought was right under the circumstances, though what
the circumstances were, he confessed to himself he did not know; and he
summed up the whole offence, when he was speaking of the affairs of the
concern to other boys, by saying, "O, Pete's getting too proud."
After the new type was bought, the following order was received for
twenty-five postal card notices:
Q. F. U.
will hold its tenth peripatetic occasion at 42 degrees 25 seconds North
Latitude 65 degrees 15 minutes 20 seconds West Longitude on the 10th
This was a very important order, requiring great care, received from an
older boy, a member of a secret society. Most obscure it seemed to the
firm. Clarence insisted on printing it in plain English and on setting
up in type: "A Walking match will take place, etc. etc." Pete thought
they had no right to argue about the matter, simply to do what was
"I should not mind it so much if they would not have such long words;
and we shall have to buy special marks for degrees, minutes, and
seconds—charge extra on that. But peripatetic—I didn't agree to print
such nonsense," said Clarence. "If we are going to do it I am going to
be quick about it and set it all up except the marks and see how it
He was in such a hurry that he set the type wrong three times. At last
"peripatetic" was right, but no space was left for the right number of
leads. Rejecting Pete's help, he lifted a row of type to make room, did
not hold it tight enough, the middle sank down, fell out and the line
went to pieces.
"I say now," he exclaimed, "I didn't do that—you did it—it did itself.
I never made 'a pie' in all my life, and see here, I won't have it said
that I made one now."
"I have made them lots of times," calmly said Pete.
"You! O yes! I dare say you have. But I never did, and that's why the
other boys want me in their business."
"What business? I would not get so excited just because of this pie."
"You would if your reputation depended on it."
"Why, I won't tell."
"But the other firms will have to know it; our honor is pledged to tell
whenever such a thing happens to any one of us."
"Are you in other business? Shel said you were, when he wanted us to
take him in, and I said you were not. That's the end of it. If you are
any one's else partner, you can't be mine, pie or no pie."
"Very well. Just as you please, you can take Shel. You always put on too
much ink and that wastes capital."
"Well, then, you put on too little ink, and blurred work don't bring
orders. I am done with you."
"And I with you."
"I shall bring up my cart to-morrow and take my things away."
"What are you going to do about those new fonts?"
"I would rather you would have them all than be partner with a boy who
invests in bogus firms."
"Bogus or not, I never mix accounts. You can have the first half and I
the second; only as 'x' and 'z' don't count I ought to have two more
letters in my half than you in yours."
"I should call that mixing halves, if you don't call it mixing
accounts," said Pete, who was so hurt by this unexpected closeness that
he instantly went off to get his cart. Meeting Shel on the way, he
retailed his wrongs and met with such hearty sympathy that he formed a
copartnership with him on the spot. Shel advised him to wait till
to-morrow before taking action and give Clarence time to think over the
matter and see if it would not be better for his pecuniary interests to
remain a silent partner.
"You know," urged he, "that he has got a good deal of type, and though
he works too quickly to admit him as active partner, he might do very
well as a retired one, and thus keep the peace. Then it is always a good
plan to have three partners; one of them, or all together—they somehow
act as judge. I must be off now." And the boys separated.
That afternoon it rained, and Pete had to stay at home. Early the next
day he drew his cart up the hill to Clarence's house with very forgiving
feelings, but found he had left word with the hired man that he had gone
off and wasn't going to have any more to do with him. Of course, honor
and justice then compelled him to take what belonged to him, especially
as the man told him that Clarence had expected him with his cart.
So Pete sadly entered the shed, looked at the forms, thought everything
was mixed up, and did what he always did when longing to speak right
out, but afraid to do so; he took hold of his lower lip with thumb and
forefinger and twirled it back and forth turning it over and under.
Clarence's little sister appeared whilst he was thus engaged, and seeing
the sadness of his eyes and the perplexity of his mouth and fingers, she
ventured to say, "It is too bad, and Clarence said it was, and that he
did not mean to upset the type, but that you got him so provoked he
could not help it, and that you could come and pick it out if you
choose, 'cause it was yours; but he—" and she stopped frightened.
"That's just what I shall do. You tell him it is a mighty mean trick;
that I have left him fifteen letters—you remember fifteen, not
thirteen," said Pete.
He had a hard time sorting the type; part of it was smashed, part of it
very dirty. His cart at last laden, he sorrowfully bore home his press
and its appendages, only to spend still more time in cleaning and
"getting it to rights." "I must finish that order," thought he, "for
orders are business; even if a firm is dissolved, the remaining partner
is bound to complete the work." So he manfully invested some capital in
the type for degrees, minutes and seconds, closed the contract and
received extra pay for his neatness and quickness.
But he grew tired and longed for companionship, so that when Shel
appeared, he found Pete quite dejected, willing to listen to terms of
partnership, but utterly unwilling to have anything more to do with
"Very well," said Shel, "I'll give him up if you'll give up some one
else, and then we'll start even."
"Why, I never thought of any one."
"Never mind," was the reply, "make believe you did; just like
politics—each of us gives up his best man and takes an unknown third
man. We must agree on one who has a self-inker larger than this and lots
of type. I want to extend the business."
"Why can't we begin at once as Jones, Downs & Co., and when we find the
right kind of boy let him be Co."
"Agreed, we'll get out hand-bills at once."
That evening the large trees on the road down to the village
post-office, the doors of the grocery, the dry goods, the apothecary and
provision stores—even the depot itself—bore large placards with the
JONES, DOWNS & CO.,
Orders promptly executed.
Many a tired man stopped his horse that night and through the next week
to read those staring notices. The schoolboys made fun of the new
concern, wondered how long it would last and tried to rouse distrust of
each other in the minds of the two partners, who saw that if they could
only obtain orders they could boast that they understood the tricks of
the trade and knew the use of advertisements; and so it proved.
For, the city music-teacher coming to the village was so amused by these
white patches on the trees that she sought their shop and gave them an
order to print her bill; and when the young townspeople received,
instead of a written bill, one printed in due form by those at whom they
had laughed, they became strangely silent. Soon came an order for some
tags for a large family with an endless amount of baggage, all to be
marked alike, as easier to read. An actual stranger sent an order for
work. The village calling increased so fast that it was difficult to
meet the demands for visiting cards. At last came an order from a church
fair for hand-bills, but of too large a size for their press. They had
often reflected upon the "Co." but had delayed action, which now became
imperative and necessitated partnership with the boy who would have the
biggest press, and this was Dick.
He was interviewed but proved refractory on a point of honor. "For,"
said he, "no one will know I am 'Co.' and if you are such a great firm,
I want the public honor of belonging to you."
What was to be done? the fair could not be delayed until matters were
settled; nor could the boys give up their job as being beyond their
"I'll tell you my terms," said Dick finally. "I'll put my press and all
its fixings into the concern if you'll let me have two thirds of the
profits on this job and on all the rest of the work you do this week. I
am 'hard up' and I know you have got orders ahead."
These were hard terms, but on the other hand, as Dick could command
custom, and was a good, clean printer, they acceded to his conditions
and printed the bills in startling type, using one or two kinds in the
same word, so as to make through the eye a vivid impression of the
meaning of the Fair.
From this time they had so much work to do in bill heads, tickets,
envelopes, etc., that they led a calm life of unbroken industry, laying
aside one quarter of their earnings each week as a fund for future stock
and dividing the other three quarters equally between them.
AUNT ELIZABETH'S FENCE.
The little village of H—— is a sort of double-header, having a centre
at each end, so to speak. The end nearest the railroad is known as "The
Three Corners," on account of a certain arrangement of the roads meeting
at that point, while the farther assemblage of houses bears a similar
appellation, "The Four Corners," for a similar reason. The two parts of
the town are in reality two distinct villages, although existing as one
corporate body, and are banded together like the Siamese twins by a road
leading directly from the heart of one to that of the other. On each
side of this rural street, at neighborly distances, stand pretty white
cottages, a story and a half high, nestling behind white fences under
shading maples. Midway between the two Centres these dwellings stand
further apart and are more evidently farmhouses; and just beyond a
peaceful green meadow one's attention is suddenly arrested by a queer
house—an architectural oddity, having an insignificant main part, and
numerous additions, of different heights, jutting forth in every
direction without any seeming plan, but looking as if they might have
crept together some cold winter's day for mutual warmth, or as if the
middle house was a bantam trying to shield an overgrown brood, a
solitary tower having the effect of a chicken on the mother hen's back.
It was in one of the rooms of this odd residence that our young hero,
Jem French, was born. His father, like his house, is decidedly odd. Mr.
Joseph French was a man of ideas, not a farmer as you might suppose from
his living in such a locality, but a Jack-at-all-trades, and in spite of
the proverb, good at all. Therein lays the secret of his queer-shaped
house. One of the little extensions is a tin shop where he mends the
pots and pans of the neighborhood, or creates any new vessels desired.
Another projection is devoted to carpenter work, and in a third addition
he makes boots and shoes for his own family and cobbles for others. In
the room above, with the big glass window, the rustic beaux and belles
sit like statuary, while he preserves their pictures in ambrotypes. Each
part of the building seems to be devoted to some specialty. But in one
part the door is always found to be locked and the window carefully
curtained, and even the children are forbidden to enter. In this room
Mr. French still spends hours and hours, sometimes days and weeks,
inventing, nobody knows what as yet.
Jem early bid fair to become another such man as his father, though
evidently that would not be to his pecuniary benefit, for the entire
surplus earnings of his parent had thus far been spent in obtaining
materials for further experimenting. Still Jem inherited the inventive
talent. He was envied and admired by schoolfellows and playmates. Not
even the richest among them could boast of owning such unique toys as
Jem was constantly making. The little stream that ran through the meadow
was spanned by miniature bridges of which he was sole architect. His
sailing craft, of all kinds, and fully rigged, swam in the placid
water. Dams were placed here and there, and sluice-ways conducted the
water to its work of turning sundry over-shot wheels which in their turn
operated little pumps or moved the machinery of a mill. He made his
sisters various mechanical figures which moved to the swinging of a
pendulum. Cardboard images were made to saw wood, fiddle, or dance for
hours together, the motive power being obtained from sand running
through an inverted cone. As for carving, he had ornamented the walls of
the house with a profusion of brackets, wall-pockets, and the like,
taking his designs of birds or flowers from nature's own pattern. He
was, in fact, a veritable young Yankee with his jack-knife, and few were
the things he could not fashion with it, and few the principles of
physics studied at school which he did not seek to embody or illustrate;
and he had advanced beyond the range of studies in a country school when
he was withdrawn by his father to assist in "doing the chores." Then
having little society except his own thoughts he gradually became
One day the mail-wagon stopped at his father's gate. "A letter for Mr.
French," said the carrier.
Even such a commonplace occurrence had an interest for the listless Jem
and he ran to pick it up. "It didn't come very far, I guess, for here is
the village postmark," said he to his mother who came to the door and
extended her hand for the epistle.
"It's from aunt Elizabeth," said she, looking at the superscription.
Jem puckered his lips to a whistle, for aunt Elizabeth was not on good
terms with her brother and had little intercourse with the family. What
news could his aunt have to impart, thus to break her usual silence? The
more he thought about it the stronger grew his curiosity. Nevertheless
it remained ungratified until his father made his appearance at the
supper-table and broke the seal.
If chirography gives any clew to the character of a writer, the person
who penned that letter was certainly plain, hard, and angular, while the
composition of the epistle indicated the author was in the habit of
bluntly freeing her mind. She began by telling her brother he was
shiftless, progressed by referring to the great number of mouths he had
to fill, and ended by offering to take the care of one of the children
off his hands, and requesting Jem should be sent to her house at the
"O father, do let me go," said Jem.
"Write to your aunt, and tell her to expect you next Thursday," said he,
The time that intervened seemed to drag slowly to Jem, but the supreme
moment finally came, and he stood at the gate with his best suit on.
"Be a good boy, and try to be useful to your aunt Elizabeth," were his
mother's parting words.
"Good-by, good-by," merrily shouted Jem, and waving a farewell salute
with his handkerchief he started away with a quick, elastic step that
would soon bring him to his destination only two miles away.
Miss Elizabeth French lived at the old homestead. She was a maiden lady
and had lived alone ever since the death of her father. Once a year she
made a bargain with the man who tilled the farm on shares and
occasionally asked him a few questions relative to the crops.
Further than that she had little to do with the outside world. One
consequence was that her house and its surroundings showed the urgent
need of a caring hand. Stones were missing from the chimney, and
shingles from the roof. The frame was out of repair and there were only
traces left of former coats of paint. Of the picket fence which had once
bounded her possessions in front, not even a post remained. Years
before, the slats had begun to decay, until the dilapidation became an
eyesore to even Miss Elizabeth herself. But when the cow-boys in search
of their charges that always pastured along the sides of the road,
rattled their sticks over its surface, it became a nuisance she could no
longer stand. So one morning after having been awakened unusually early
by her noisy tormentors, she had every vestige removed, and the
post-holes filled, leaving the yard as open and unprotected as the
It may have been the need of some one to help her put her outside world
to rights, and her knowledge of Jem's peculiar talents, that inspired
the unexpected invitation. However that might be, she stood at the
window watching as Jem, red-faced and dusty from his walk, came up the
"So ye've come, hev ye?" said she as she let him in and relieved him of
his satchel. "Ye look kind o' tuckered out. S'pose the folks must all be
well, or ye wouldn't hev come. Yer father ain't doin' nothin' yet, I
take it, 'cept shettin' himself up, same as ever, and leavin' his family
to shift for themselves? Hungry too, ain't ye? That 'minds me."
But first she took him to a little room he was to occupy, that he might
bathe his hands and face. The apartment was neat and cosey, for however
slack she may have been with the outside of her mansion, Miss French was
a good housekeeper. And by the time he had washed and looked over a
little pile of books that lay upon the old-fashioned bureau, his aunt
was calling him down to dinner.
"Well, Jem," said Miss Elizabeth, as they sat facing each other at the
little table, "it seems good to see somebody a-sittin' here an' eatin'
besides myself. Hope ye won't git lonesome."
"No danger of that, auntie, if you only give me something to do," was
the cheerful response.
"If that's all ye want, the land knows there's enough to be done," said
his aunt with a laugh.
"Well, then, what first?"
"Wal, what bothers me most jest now are them cattle walkin' round the
yard. T'want only yisterday Squire Mullins'es cow hed to eat up the top
of my pennyroyal geranium and trod down my eardrops and lady-slippers,
and now they ain't anything left but bachelor's-buttons that's worth
looking at. Ye might set somethin' alongside of the road, jest enough to
keep out the critters. Don't s'pose ye could build a fence, could ye?"
"Well, aunty," said Jem, "I never did build one, but I think I could.
What shall it be made of?"
"That's a question. I burned up all there was left of the old fence, for
kindlin' wood. You might find somethin' out in the old workshop nex' to
the barn. Father always use' to be tinkerin' around, an' there's lots of
rubbish up under the roof."
"What kind of a fence would you like?"
"Oh, anything. Anything to keep out the critters. Ef ye could think of
anything to git the best o' them cow-boys 'twould suit pretty well.
Them boys are gettin' to be a reg'lar nuisance. They go 'long drawin'
of their sticks on people's fences jist as if there was solid comfort in
that eternal rattle, rattle, rattle. What makes boys think they can't
never enjoy themselves unless they're a-makin' a noise? But I've had the
best of them for two or three years. They had to stop in front of my
place. But now the cows is gittin' to be wus than the racket, an' ef ye
could think of any way to kill two birds with one stun, jest do it. I'll
leave you to plan it your own way. Ye might look 'round this arternoon
an' see what there is to do with."
So when dinner was over Jem began to "look 'round." In the old workshop
were some sticks of timber that might serve for posts, but there were
few boards and not half enough for pickets. Knowing that his aunt would
be indisposed to lay out any money he looked very thoroughly through
sheds and barn. In the latter place he moved a pile of rubbish in hopes
of finding something beneath. The heap consisted mostly of half-inch
iron rods of various sizes, and he was about to go elsewhere when he
stumbled against a short piece and set it rolling to the middle of the
floor. Picking it up he threw it back into the corner, where it clanged
with a noise that sent a hen cackling from her nest in a remote part of
"Perhaps I could use these rods," mused he, "but then the boys could
make more noise than ever and that would hardly do."
Just then his face seemed to be illuminated by an inspiration. His eyes
twinkled with fun. But his reflections were interrupted by a call to
supper. Tea time was occupied in the discussion of family matters and
his aunt related bits of private history that kept his attention well
occupied until eight o'clock, at which time Miss Elizabeth usually
retired for the night. Jem was tired too, and was soon up-stairs and
It seemed hardly anytime at all ere Jem was in the barn again ready to
begin work on the fence. He had now a clear idea regarding it and,
smiling often, he worked with a will. First, he sorted the pieces of rod
into piles according to length. If took some little time to accomplish
this part of his task. Then, humming to himself as he worked, he would,
both listening and humming as he did it, strike each piece with a stick
to determine its suitability. If so, it was placed on some one of eight
piles which he had labelled with brown paper as "A," "B," and so on. If
not it was thrown back to the corner.
The next thing he did was to set two posts at each end of the proposed
line, with fifteen others at regular intervals between. Across the tops
he secured his principal rail, with another to correspond a few inches
from the ground. Boring holes through these cross rails he inserted one
of the iron bars, letting it project six inches at the top and resting
the bottom on a stake driven into the ground directly beneath it. The
next bar was shorter than the first and a longer stake had to be driven
in order that the top should be on a level with the first. As he went
on, the rods were inserted without any seeming regularity of spacing.
Passers-by stopped to gaze at the singular construction and made various
comments concerning it.
THE NEIGHBORS LOOKED ON IN BEWILDERMENT.
"That's a kinder queer pattern for a fence, ain't it?" queried a lad
who came along. "Here's a mistake, anyhow," said he, pointing to a space
between the fourteenth and fifteenth bars, which was twice as great as
any interval before. "Left one out, here. Or be ye going to leave this
cat hole for dogs to git through?"
"That's to make boys ask questions," was the only reply vouchsafed.
One old farmer advised him to "put all the bars of one length together.
Ye'll find it a good deal easier." Jem thanked him respectfully for the
advice but neglected to follow it. His aunt also came to the front door
occasionally to watch his progress, but shook her head as if doubtful of
either the ornament or utility of his work.
But Jem went on steadily with the undertaking until he reached the end
of his line, having just enough bars to finish, as it happened, or
perhaps as he had planned. At the bottom he then boarded the fence to
cover the stakes and the irregularity of the iron bars, and then he
announced the completion of the work to his aunt.
"'Tain't jest sech a fence as I had been thinking of, but I s'pose
it'll answer, only it won't be twenty-four hours before them everlastin'
boys 'll be drawin' of their sticks on it. But jest let me ketch 'em at
it an' I'll—I'll"—In fact his aunt seemed more troubled than pleased
with her new fence, but Jem only smiled at her apprehensions.
Our young fence-builder was up before the sun next morning, and
down-stairs peeping through the front blinds. At length he hears the
sound of tramping hoofs and a cow comes lazily down the road, cropping a
mouthful of grass here and there. On a distant fence he hears the old
familiar rattling. Will it be kept up when the new fence is reached? Ah!
there is the cow-boy. He is stopping to examine the new construction.
Now he is satisfied, swings the butt end of his whip against the first
rod, and starts along. Jem listens eagerly. A sound fills the air as of
some one playing a gigantic harp. The cow-boy stops in amazement at the
effect he has produced. Recovering from his astonishment he goes a
little further and again comes the sound of—a tune which seems to grow
familiar to the dazed performer. Finally he starts off on a run to the
very end of the fence, when the tune is finished.
At this point Jem is conscious of the presence of his aunt, craning her
neck through the window for a look. "Where's the music a-playin'?" said
Jem, laughing, pointed to the boy who had gone back to the starting
point and was about to repeat the performance.
"Here, you young rascal!" screamed Miss Elizabeth.
But the lad had started the tune again, and was not to be deterred by
threats, and Miss Elizabeth stared surprised and speechless as the note
vibrated with great resonance. As the air was finished the second time,
the boy acted as if suddenly made crazy. He shouted, he threw his cap in
the air and himself on the ground, screaming and laughing as he rolled
over and over on the grass. Suddenly he scrambled to his feet and ran
towards home leaving the cow to take care of herself.
"Mercy!" said Miss Elizabeth, "ef that don't beat anythin' I ever heard
on! A fence that'll play a tune! A 'Yankee Doodle' fence! What ever got
into your head to git up such a thing as that? You're your father's own
By this time the cow-boy had returned with half a dozen companions, all
as excited as himself.
Miss French was now as eager for the boys to draw their sticks on her
fence as she had been unwilling before. The patriotic tune rung out
again and again. The neighbors came to the scene and looked on in
"I knew that chap was up to sunthin'," Jem could hear the farmer say who
had proffered the advice on the day previous. "He's old Joe French's
boy, you know."
"You might a-known then he was smarter 'n lightnin'," said another.
"Guess I'll get him to build me a musical fence," remarked a third,
"only I'll hav' 'Home, Sweet Home,' cuz that's Samanthy's favorite
"He might fence in the meetin'-house with 'Old Hundred,'" suggested
But the novelty soon wore away and Miss French began to tire of the
ceaseless repetition. Besides the boys were too impatient to have their
turns in playing to allow their predecessors to finish ere they
commenced. To cap the climax, one boy, having concluded, turned about
and ran the other way playing the tune backwards to the great disgust of
both the builder and proprietoress. Miss Elizabeth rushed out.
"See here," cried she, "I guess you've played that fence long enough for
one morning. Now you'd better go home. Go home, I say!"
But the boys were not to be deprived of such an amusement, and they
hammered away furiously wherever they could get a chance. Unable to make
any impression upon them Miss Elizabeth turned fiercely upon poor Jem
and said in a voice that admitted no compromise, "Take it down, I can't
abide it no longer! It's wus than the cows!" and with that she seized
one of the bars, while Jem, alarmed for his marvellous fence, gave a
great leap and sprang—out of bed, broad awake.
THE BUTTON BOY.
The wind blew as it never had blown before.
I think it blew that boy straight through the gate, up the path, through
the door, and into the back parlor where the family sat. He stopped
there, gave a little puff of spent breath and sat down. He had a box
under his arm. It was flat and wide, a pasteboard box, and when he put
it down all the family dropped their books and looked at it attentively.
They were a very literary family and read so much that it was a great
compliment to any box to have them put down their books when they had
once taken them up.
"You haven't opened it yet?" asked the Mother.
"No," said the Boy scornfully; all the family had long ago agreed he had
a high caste of countenance which this manner suited remarkably
well—but he was not in the least conscious of it himself. "No, what's
the hurry? plenty of time to look in it when I get home."
"It's a suit, a suit of clothes," calmly said the Sister, picking up her
book again. Every one stared at the Sister who could see through a
pasteboard box. "Somebody has made a hole in the bottom of the box and I
see a button, a brass button," she explained.
True; there was a hole in the bottom of the box.
"He said, if I put the contents of this box to their proper use," said
the Boy, "every day as long as they would bear it, I would not only
learn something, but I should be his heir; so I might as well open the
lid and see what is inside. I thought books, for Uncle knows I always
put books to their proper use."
"Of course," said the Father; "it is books, no doubt."
"But," said the Sister, turning a page and reading all the time, "nobody
puts brass buttons on books."
"I think you might as well open the box," said the Mother, "I think we
are all curious"—
"Curious!" exclaimed the family indignantly.
"Curious-ly affected by your Uncle's making such a strange and
trifling condition after our Boy's visit to him," went on the Mother.
"But he is certainly very odd—I should really like to know why?"
"Don't take time to untie the knot," said the Father.
"Here's my knife," said the Elder Brother.
The Boy cut the string, the Sharp-eyed Sister looked over the top of her
book, the Father put on his glasses, and the lid was lifted. Yes, it was
a suit. A blue cloth suit, quite bright in color but of very fine
material and good make. It consisted of a pair of knickerbockers and a
tight jacket, and it was most extraordinary how the tailor had ever been
able to put on so many buttons. The jacket was double-breasted and there
were three rows down the front, a dozen in each, the size of a copper
penny. There were some fancy slits in the back; buttons to the number of
nine ornamented these. There were four on each sleeve; there were three
on each pocket of the breeches, and four again appeared on the outside
above the knee on each leg.
For a moment the family was silent.
"The buttons must have cost a great deal," said the Mother, finally, "I
should really like to know the price a dozen."
"You couldn't have made a hole anywhere in that box without striking a
button," said the Sharp-eyed Sister. She gave one a little knock,
adding, "Perhaps they are gold."
"I think," said the Father, taking off his glasses and wiping them, "I
think I would have a few removed."
"I have never observed anything like this in my Uncle's own dress,"
remarked the Elder Brother, "he certainly has peculiar taste in boy's
clothing. I think I'll drop in on him and ask him a few leading
questions as to his object."
"You will have 'to drop' after a special journey of twenty-five miles by
rail," said the Sharp-eyed Sister, "and he won't appreciate your thirst
During this time the Boy had said nothing, but the scornful caste had
entirely vanished from his countenance, for he had discovered a note in
one of the pockets and had been reading it. The family now saw this,
and, although they were not in the least hurry to hear its contents,
they ceased their remarks at once to kindly give him a chance to tell
them what he read. It was this: The suit was to be worn upon all
occasions until it should be outgrown or worn out, no risk of damage was
ever to be run with it, no allusion of any sort was ever to be made to
it by the Boy or the family, and no alterations of any description to be
made in it, unless to sew on a button when it should happen to come off.
"Wear that!" burst out the Boy scornfully, "does he think me an idiot?
Why, I'd be the laughing-stock of the town. I should think he saw enough
of me to know I have at least as much intelligence as most boys of my
"Very much more," said the Mother.
"I never saw such cloth," said the Sharp-eyed Sister, "it will never
wear out, and you are not growing very fast either."
"I would not like to wear it myself; I don't even know as I would like
to be in its society," observed the Elder Brother; "but neither would I
like to lose fifty thousand dollars."
"Well now," said the Mother with her mild smile, "there aren't so very
many; there aren't seven dozen, quite. They must be hollow for the suit
isn't so heavy."
"They are," said the Sister. "I've been sounding them. Put on the thing
and wear it. Don't be so silly as to throw away all that money. You
can't wear it more than two years."
"Two years!" said the Boy, turning red.
"People will get accustomed to you by that time," urged the Father.
"It is very extraordinary," said all the family with a wondering air,
and then they all fell to reading for a half-hour with their books
The Boy decided to wear the suit, and follow the conditions and wrote so
to his Uncle.
His first appearance in the street in his new attire was greeted by a
lady who stopped short and exclaimed, "Good gracious! what singular
parents that child must have, and he actually looks proud of his dress
"It's my caste of countenance," thought the Boy; but as he was quite
unaccustomed to have it connected with his dress, and disgusted, beside,
that he should be thought vulgar, he tried to alter the caste, though he
turned very red when people looked at him. For some time it went on this
same way; he caught glances and overheard remarks such as he had once
applied to other people but which he never dreamed could enter people's
minds in regard to him. Even his own family did not spare him. A dozen
times he was on the point of casting off the glittering suit and
renouncing the money it represented, but just as many times he thought
he would try it yet another day. But to do this he learned he must be
quiet and prefer the background and silence to the attention he was once
so eager to receive.
One day he sat in the sunlight with a book trying to read and wishing
very much to run outdoors and play with the rest of the boys, but kept
back by an uncomfortable recollection of a great deal of badgering. The
Sharp-eyed Sister was reading in the same room too, and every once in a
while she would blink, and wink, and frown, and look about; finally she
looked straight at him.
"You tiresome object," she cried, "do get out of the sun. I wondered
what it was dazzling my eyes like the reflection of seven dozen looking
glasses, and there it is your odious buttons."
The Boy got out of the sun without a reply; feeling a little restless he
moved now and then.
"Dear me," said the Mother starting from her nap with a jerk, "you do
After this the Boy concluded to go out. When his playfellows saw him
they all set up a shout but he said to himself, "If I don't think about
myself perhaps they won't think of me either," and he met them running
with an answering shout. He had never worked so hard at forgetting
himself before, and it answered so well that in the ardor of play, by
and by, he forgot the buttons too. They began a game of leap-frog, and
whether the fault of the back given him or whether his own fault, the
Boy missed twice jumping and hurt his temper. He began to dispute about
it with the Back, and presently they grew personal.
"Look here," cried the Boy angrily, "it was your fault, I say. If I
were in fault don't you suppose I'd own it?"
"No," said the Back, shortly.
The Boy smiled scornfully. "'Cause you don't understand such a thing
as owning up when you're in the wrong, eh? You act so. But all fellows
aren't made on your pattern, I'd have you know!"
"Nor all clothes on yours, Buttons, I'd have you know," said the Back
The Boy glared at him and began to stutter, "You let my clothes alone,
"Well," said the Back, "you say I don't know how to give a back; I say,
if I was buttoned up like you are, I wouldn't know how to take one. I
put it to vote—all in favor please say, aye, contrary, no."
"Aye!" shouted the boys.
"Ayes have it," said the Back. "Now, you know, everybody knows you
within ten miles by the name of the Button Boy, and I wouldn't seek any
more notoriety if I was you—I'd be content to come in second best on
leap-frog and say no more about it."
THE BOY GLARED AT HIM. "YOU LET MY CLOTHES ALONE!" SAID
All the boys began to hoot and laugh—none of them sympathized with him
in his moments of superiority, and his scornful air failed to impress
them as of old.
The Button Boy choked by anger and mortification could not reply. But
after a moment, "All right for you; I'll be even with you," he said,
with a nod to the chief laugher, and went away.
It was some time before he had his chance, and during that time things
went from bad to worse with his conspicuous dress, forcing him to be
unostentatious, exact—for his goings and comings could be seen for a
mile—even retiring. He found now that he began to think of some acts
and some speeches of his, in the time when he was not a Button Boy, with
as much mortification as the buttons often gave him; and he often
checked himself when half-way into some piece of conceited folly. Yet he
never forgot that he owed the Back "one," nor that it was he who had
given him the worst smart of this miserable period.
At last an event occurred in the family; the Uncle arrived unexpectedly
and stated his intention of spending the night. "That is," he said, "if
you will give me something better for my supper than a lot of quotations
and rules of grammar. I can't eat them, you know."
The family thought this a very odd speech and a very grumpy old
gentleman—but they didn't tell him so. He put on his spectacles and
looked at the Button Boy very attentively, but the Boy didn't mind; he
was too conscious of fulfilling faithfully for six months his part of
the contract, and, beside, he stood before the designer of the Buttons.
But when he took the glasses off and said, "Well, you must be pretty
fond of money. I don't think double the sum could hire me to make such a
show of myself," the Boy minded it exceedingly. He sat down for half an
hour and considered whether he wasn't doing a sort of mean thing after
all, and he became exceedingly miserable in the conclusion that he was
not at all the noble pattern of a boy he used to think he was.
In the morning the Uncle declared his intention of taking a walk and
invited his nephew to go with him. Very sure that the peculiar
disposition of the old gentleman was capable of bringing him into plenty
of unpleasant situations before they reached home again, the Boy found
himself almost indifferent to them. A feeling had been growing on him
that anything short of meanness or wrongdoing was not worth being
mortified about; he felt calm even at a public exhibition of the
buttons, he was so disturbed by the discovery of the unworthy motive
which had supported him in making a show of himself.
But the Uncle made himself such delightful company on their walk—they
left the town—that at last he forgot himself, forgot himself until they
saw before them a boy running. He knew him; it was the Back. He
stumbled, pitched, fell, picked himself up slowly, limped painfully to
the roadside and sat down there holding on to his ankle. The Boy and the
Uncle soon came up.
"Humph; sprained your ankle," said the Uncle.
"I think so," replied the Back, looking very white.
The Uncle took out his handkerchief, tore it in two, and dipping it in
the cold waters of the brook, tied it tightly about his limb.
"Thank you, sir," said the Back, almost groaning, "I guess I can't walk
just yet, I'll stay here till something comes along to take me in. The
trouble is—the trouble is, I ought to be going on, I ought not to lose
"Humph!" said the Uncle. "You might better have thought of that before
"What time is it, if you please?" asked the Back anxiously.
"Twenty minutes of eleven," replied the Uncle.
"Oh, dear," sighed the Back, "only hard running would do it now. I left
my sketch at home this morning, I took up another by mistake; it is to
try for the prize sketch, and the Master said, if I would get it into
the studio by eleven he would accept it, but he couldn't later, because
the rule is, any coming after that hour can't compete. I've worked so
hard at it, and I thought I had a good chance—oh, dear!"
"Let me see," considered the Uncle, turning to the Boy; "you stopped
with yours this morning and we saw a number there. Yours was undoubtedly
very good. Now open your portfolio and let me see yours," he added to
The Back hesitated, glanced at the Button Boy, then yielded.
"Humph!" observed the Uncle, and put on his glasses. "Well, I declare,
whom have we here? 'The Arrogant Page'; eh? well, I declare; look at
this, nephew—here you are with your buttons and your most scornful
expression—disdaining to pick up the little Prince's hat! Where did you
learn to draw like this, you rascal?"
"I had plenty of chances with the model," said the Back slyly; then he
sighed. "If I had got the prize I would have been sent to the Academy; I
can't go without. And I'm sure it is very original!"
"Tie up your portfolio, quick!" said the Button Boy. His face was
working. His eyes shone! They outshone his buttons seven dozen times.
"What are you going to do, you foolish fellow," cried the Uncle, "run
with it? It will take the prize from under your very nose and make a
show of you, too."
"Will you trust me?" asked the Button Boy of the Back, not minding his
Uncle. "You know I've often said I owed you one, but I don't mean it."
"O Buttons!" cried the Back, "will you? will you really do it?"
"There, Uncle," cried the Button Boy stripping off his jacket, "I can't
run in that tight thing. And if you choose to count this, you may. I
give up the money, sir."
In vain the Uncle shouted after him, "You young rascal! I'll be done
with you; what an exhibition you'll make now;" away he ran, fleet as a
deer. Then the Uncle clapped his hands vociferously, burst out with—"I
knew there was something in that lad!" chuckled till he was purple in
the face, and finally sat down by the Back and blew his nose very hard.
"Look here," said the Uncle to the Button Boy that evening, "I had a
purpose in putting you in this livery. You may guess, if you like, what
it was and I think it hasn't been a failure. Now, if you will go home
with me for the rest of the year we will hold to the contract and
suspend the buttons."
"Really," said the Mother, with her mild smile, "already, Brother, I
don't recognize my Boy; and I should like to ask you—"
"I am very much afraid," interrupted the Father, busily, "you will let
his mind vegetate; he is certainly not as thoroughly intellectual as
before he wore those buttons. I should like to ask you—"
"My dear Uncle," broke in the Sharp-eyed Sister, "if you will please
invent some kind of head-gear for the brains as good as this for the
"Yes," said the Elder Brother hastily, "I should like to ask you—"
But the Uncle was seized with such a severe sneezing fit that no one
could ask him after all.
DAN HARDY'S CRIPPY.
Among the flock of geese that toddled in and out of Farmer Hardy's
barnyard last winter, hissing in protest at the ice which covered the
pond so that there was no chance of a swimming match, was one remarkable
neither for its beauty, nor its grace. This particular goose was gray,
and was looked upon with no especial favor by Mrs. Hardy, who had great
pride in all the flock but the gray one.
When it was a little, fluffy, drab-colored gosling, one of the sheep had
stepped on it, crushing out its life so nearly that Mrs. Hardy had no
idea it would ever recover, but Dan begged for its life. He felt sure he
could set the broken leg, and he pleaded so hard that his mother finally
allowed him to make the attempt.
And he did succeed. The gosling was naturally a strong little thing,
and, thanks to Dan's nursing, was soon able to limp around the shed that
had been converted into an hospital. One of its legs was nearly a
quarter of an inch shorter than the other; but the little fellow
increased in strength as rapidly as he did in size, and seemed to
consider Dan as his owner and especial protector.
Like Mary's lamb, it followed Dan about whenever the opportunity
offered, until "Crippy"—which was the name Dan had given it—was known
in the village quite as well as the boy was.
Many were the long walks, confidential chats, when the boy talked and
the goose cackled, that Dan and Crippy had, and when the preparations
for the Thanksgiving festival were begun, the gray goose was decidedly
the fattest in the flock. Dan had always given Crippy a share of his
luncheon, or had supplied for him a separate and private allowance of
corn, and by this very care of his pet did he get into serious trouble.
"Dan's goose is the largest and the fattest, and I think we had better
kill him for the Thanksgiving dinner," Dan heard his father say three
days before Thanksgiving; and Mrs. Hardy replied:
"I had thought of that; gray feathers never bring as much money as white
ones, and the goose is terribly in the way; he is always in the house,
and always directly under foot."
Dan could hardly believe his own ears. The thought of killing and eating
Crippy seemed wicked. Why, he would as soon have thought his parents
would serve him up for dinner, as Crippy, and as for eating any of his
pet, it would, to his mind, be little short of cannabalism.
"You wouldn't be so wicked as to kill Crippy, would you, mother?" he
asked, while the big tears came into his eyes, almost spilling over the
"Why not?" Mrs. Hardy was so busily engaged in her work of making mince
pies that she did not notice the sorrow on Dan's face. "Why not? He's
only a goose, and gray. We've got to have one, and Crip is the fattest."
"But mother, I couldn't have poor Crippy killed. He an' I do love each
other so much."
"Now don't be foolish about a goose, Danny. Come help me stem these
Dan said nothing more, for he knew by the way she had spoken that his
mother had fully made up her mind and that it would be useless to try to
induce her to change her cruel plans. He stemmed the raisins as she had
requested; but he worked as quickly as possible, and when the task was
done he ran out to the barn.
When the gray goose toddled toward him immediately he opened the
barn-door, cackling and hissing with delight at seeing his young master,
the tears which Dan had managed to keep back, came at last, and, with
the goose in his arms, he seated himself on the barn floor with a
feeling in his heart that he and Crippy were the two most unhappy and
abused fellows in the world.
"O Crippy! they say they're goin' to kill you, an' I'd a heap sooner
they'd kill me! What shall we do, Crippy?"
The goose made no reply; he was perfectly content to nestle down in
Dan's arms, and, so far as he could see, he and his master were in
remarkably comfortable quarters.
Much as the goose had been petted by Dan, the affection bestowed upon
him just then seemed to surprise him, and while the boy was still crying
over him, he struggled until he got away, when he limped over to the
corn-bin as a gentle reminder that grain would please him far better
During that day and the next Dan spent his time alternately begging for
Crippy's life and petting him; but all to no purpose, so far as inducing
his mother to change her mind was concerned. On the following morning
the gray goose was to be killed, and Dan could see no way to save him.
That afternoon he spent the greater portion of his time with the doomed
Crippy, crying and talking until all the fowls must have wondered what
the matter was, for, there being no almanac in the barn, of course they
could have no idea Thanksgiving was so near. Suddenly Dan thought of a
plan by which Crippy might be saved. It was a desperate one, and almost
frightened him as he thought it over; but with his pet's life in the
balance he could not hesitate at anything.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Crippy," he said as he succeeded in
making the goose remain quietly in his arms by feeding him with corn.
"Uncle Robert lives in New York, an' he's awful good. I know if we could
find him he could save you. Now I'll get up in the night, an' come out
here for you. It's only seven miles, an' I'm most sure we could walk
there in a day. Then if he won't come out here to see mother,
Thanksgiving will be gone, an' they can't have you for dinner."
Crippy swallowed the corn greedily, and Dan looked upon this as a sign
that he not only understood what had been said, but was eating an
unusually hearty meal by way of preparation for the journey.
Under any less desperate circumstances Dan could not have been persuaded
to go away from home for an hour without asking his mother's permission,
and even as he was situated then, he felt that he was about to do
something which was almost wicked. But since he could save Crippy's life
in no other way, what could he do? He almost felt as if by taking the
goose away he was preventing his parents from committing a crime, for
it could hardly be less than one to kill so intelligent and loving a
But though he tried to persuade himself that what he was doing was,
under the circumstances, a favor to his parents, there was a big lump in
his throat as he did his work that night, and realized that in a few
hours neither his father nor his mother would know where he was. He was
more than usually careful about the kindling-wood and the water, and
when his mother spoke to him so kindly, he had the greatest difficulty
in keeping his secret.
It was only the thought that he was by no means "running away," that
prevented him from telling his mother what he intended to do. He argued
with himself that he was only going to uncle Robert's on business, and
that he should return the day after he arrived there; that would be
entirely different from running away.
During the evening Dan worked hard at a message which he was to leave
for his parents, feeling obliged to take every precaution lest they
should see what he was about, and, after the most painful efforts he
succeeded in printing this note:
CRIP & ME HAVE GORNE TO UNKLE ROBERTS
TO GET HIM TO COME UP HERE TO
YOU NOT TO KILL CRIP. WE WILL COME
DANIEL K. HARDY.
Dan had six cents which he had earned carrying milk, and his
preparations for the journey consisted simply in putting these in his
pocket, together with some corn for Crippy, and in placing the little
clock and some matches by the side of his bed, so that he might be able
to tell when the proper time had come for him to start.
Perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Hardy were surprised by Dan's unusually
affectionate manner when he bade them good-night; but if they were,
nothing was said about it, and the inmates of the Hardy farmhouse
retired on the night before the proposed execution of poor Crippy at the
usual early hour of nine o'clock.
Dan's idea was to lie awake until three in the morning, then steal
cautiously out of the house, get Crippy, and start. But it was much
harder work to remain awake than he had fancied, and before he had been
in bed an hour he was sleeping soundly.
But even though his eyes persisted in closing despite his will, Dan did
not sleep very long at a time. He was awake at least every half-hour,
and his small stock of matches was exhausted as early as two o'clock.
With no means of procuring a light, it would be impossible for him to
know when the time had come, and, since he did not dare to go to sleep
again, he concluded it would be better to set out at once than run the
risk of delaying until his father should awaken.
During the time he was making very awkward attempts to dress himself in
the darkness, his fingers trembling violently both from fear and the
cold, he fancied each moment that he could hear his parents moving
around, as if they had suspected his purpose, and were on the alert to
prevent him from carrying it into execution. It seemed too, as if each
particular board in the floor creaked in protest at what he was doing,
and to give the alarm.
The note which was to inform his parents of where he had gone, was
placed conspicuously on the chair by the bed, where his mother could not
fail to see it when she came to awaken him, and when that was done his
journey seemed more like some demand of business, and less like
disobedience to what he knew his parents' commands would be.
He did finally succeed in dressing himself, although his jacket was
buttoned in a very curious fashion; and then, with his shoes and mittens
in his hands, he started down stairs. If the boards of the floor had
tried to arouse his parents, the stairs appeared bent on awakening the
entire household—although he did his best to put as little weight as
possible upon them, they creaked and screamed in a most alarming
It seemed strange to him that his parents could sleep while so much
noise was being made; but when he finally succeeded in closing the
outside door behind him, there had been no sign made to show that his
departure was known.
Dan was so nervous and excited that he hardly felt the frost when he
stepped with stockinged feet upon the snow; but instinct prompted him
to put on his boots and mittens, and it only remained to get Crippy and
He almost expected that the goose would be waiting for him at the stable
door when he opened it; but, since he knew he should find his pet in the
warm box he had made for him, he was not greatly disappointed at not
seeing him ready for the journey. Besides, he had come an hour before he
told Crippy he would be there, which was sufficient reason why the goose
was not ready and anxious to start.
After groping his way around the barn to the corner in which was
Crippy's sleeping apartment, Dan was considerably surprised because the
goose was so very careless, both in regard to his safety, and the
possibility of arousing the household. He cackled and hissed when Dan
took him from the box, as if he preferred to be killed and served up for
the Thanksgiving dinner rather than go out of doors so early on a cold
Dan whispered that he knew it was hard to be obliged to start so early,
but that they must do so, and the more he explained matters the harder
the goose struggled, until it seemed much as if the attempt to save
Crippy's life would be a dismal failure.
"I'm doin' this so's you won't have to be killed, Crippy," whispered Dan
as he held the goose tightly clasped in his arms, "an' it does seem's if
you might help a feller instead of tryin' to wake up father an' mother."
Perhaps Crippy was weary with struggling—Dan thought he began to
realize his position—for he ceased all protests after his master's last
appeal, and, with his head tucked under Dan's coat, submitted quietly to
If he had not repeated to himself so many times that he was not running
away from home, but simply going to uncle Robert's to save poor Crippy's
life, Dan would have felt that he was doing something wrong because of
the warning cries uttered by everything around. The stable door, when he
tried to close it softly, shut with a spiteful clatter, and even the
snow gave forth a sharp, crunching sound such as he had never heard
before. But he must keep on, for to remain would be to see the plump,
brown body of poor Crippy on the Thanksgiving dinner table, while to go
on would be, at the worst, but a few hours' discomfort, with Crip's life
as the reward.
Once they were out of doors Crippy behaved much as if he had suddenly
realized how important it was for him to get away from the Hardy farm,
and Dan had no trouble with him while he was passing the house.
There seemed to be an unnatural stillness everywhere, amid which the
crunching of the dry snow sounded with a distinctness that almost
frightened the boy who was simply going to his uncle Robert's to spend a
day or two. But finally Dan was on the main road, where the snow was
frozen so hard that his footsteps could not be heard as distinctly, and
where the two tracks worn smooth by the runners of the sleighs, lay
spread out before him, looking like two satin ribbons on white
ON THE WAY.
Dan trudged slowly on, his heart growing lighter as the moments went by
and he knew he had actually gotten away without arousing any one; but
after he had walked some distance he began to realize how heavy Crippy
was. He had thought he could carry his pet almost any length of time;
but at the very commencement of his journey his arms began to ache.
"It's no use, Crippy, you'll have to walk some of the way," he said as
he put the goose on the snow, and then started off to show him he must
follow. Now a moonlight promenade on the snow, in the morning, with the
thermometer several degrees below zero, was not at all to Crip's liking,
and he scolded most furiously in his goose dialect, but he took good
care to run after his master at the same time.
As Mrs. Hardy had said, Crippy was very fat, and when he toddled on at
full speed he could only get along about half as fast as his master, so
that Dan's journey was made up with alternately trudging over the frozen
road, and waiting for his pet to overtake him.
And soon it was necessary to make a change even in this slow way of
travelling, for before Crippy had been half an hour on the road he
began to evince the most decided aversion to walking, and it became
necessary for Dan to take him in his arms again. On he walked, carrying
Crippy the greater portion of the time, and coaxing him along when it
became absolutely necessary for him to give his aching arms a little
relief, until the sun came up over the hills, and he could see the great
city but a short distance ahead of him.
During all this time he had not stopped once to rest; but now, since he
was so near his destination, at such an early hour in the morning, he
sat down in the snow and began to arrange with the discontented Crippy
as to how they might best find uncle Robert, for Dan had not the
slightest idea of where his relative lived.
"I'll tell you what we'll do, Crip," he said as he gave the goose a
handful of corn, contenting himself with half a biscuit he had taken
from the supper-table the night previous. "We'll walk right along till
we see uncle Robert, or some of the folks. It's the day before
Thanksgiving, you know, an' some of 'em will be sure to be out buyin'
Crippy had finished eating the corn as his master ceased speaking, and
he looked up sideways into Dan's face much as if he doubted the success
of their plan if carried out in that manner.
"Well, if we don't find him that way, we'll ask some of the boys, an'
they'll be sure to know," said Dan, replying as earnestly to Crippy's
look as if his pet had spoken.
Then the weary journey was resumed, much to Crippy's displeasure, even
though he was carried comfortably in Dan's arms, and it was not until
the outskirts of the city were reached that the goose was requested to
walk. There the pavements were free from snow, and Crippy could move
along much faster than on the icy road; but yet his progress was far
The great number of people, all of whom regarded the boy and the goose
curiously, bewildered both the travellers. More than once, when Dan was
sure Crippy was close at his heels, on looking around he would see the
goose standing on one foot near the curbstone, looking sideways at the
street much as if trying to decide whether he would continue to follow
his master, or toddle back home as fast as his legs of unequal length
would carry him.
"O come on, Crippy," Dan said in a tone that showed plainly how tired
and discouraged he was. "We sha'n't ever find uncle Robert this way, an'
if a strange dog comes along where will you be?"
It seemed very much as if Crippy had not realized that he might chance
to meet a dog, until Dan spoke of it, for then he ran hurriedly on as if
he fully understood the danger that might come to him by loitering on
But there were other enemies besides dogs, which Crippy was to meet
with, as he and Dan learned when they reached the more densely populated
portions of the city, and those enemies were boys.
Dan was walking slowly on, looking first at the houses in the hope of
seeing some of his uncle's family, and then at Crippy, to make sure he
was following, when half a dozen boys, who had been watching the
singular pair from the opposite side of the street, made a sudden dash
at the goose.
The first intimation Dan had that his pet was in danger, was when he
heard the shouts of the boys, followed by Crippy's angry hiss, and the
flapping of his wings. Quickly turning, Dan saw the goose closely
pressed by the boys, all of whom were trying to catch him, and some of
whom already had one or more feathers as trophies.
It did not take Dan many moments to catch his pet up in his arms, and
then he stood ready to do battle for the goose, while the city boys
advanced towards him threateningly.
There could have been but one result to such a battle, where six boys
attacked one who was hampered in his movements by the goose, and some
serious injury might have been done to both Dan and Crippy, had not a
policeman come from around the corner just at that instant. Dan's
assailants fled at the sight of the officer, and the country boy with
his heavy, noisy burden continued on his journey.
There was no further interruption for nearly an hour; for when Dan
carried the goose in his arms he was by no means the object of curiosity
he was with Crippy following him. At the expiration of that time it
dawned upon him that in a place as large as New York it was useless for
him to walk around in the hope of meeting his uncle, or any of his
"I declare, I don't know what to do, Crippy," he said as he seated
himself on a doorstep with the goose by his side, and looked mournfully
up and down the street. "I shouldn't wonder if we hadn't been more'n
half-way round the city in all this time, an' yet we hain't seen any of
uncle Robert's folks. What shall we do?"
Crippy made no reply to the question; but a boy about Dan's size, who
was looking wonderingly at the goose as he stood on his shortest leg in
a mournful way spoke:
"Wot is it yer don't know wot ter do?"
"I don't know how to find my uncle Robert. Crippy an' me come down to
see him, an' now we can't find his house."
"Do you call him Crippy?" asked the boy as he nodded toward the goose.
"Yas, he's Crippy Hardy. Mother was goin' to kill him for dinner
to-morrer, so we come down here to get uncle Robert to go up an' see
"How far have you come?"
"Did you walk?"
"Well," said the boy as he looked at Crippy in a critical way, "it seems
to me that's a mighty mean kind of a goose ter walk so far fur. He
hain't handsome no ways, an' I think he'd look a good deal better on
ther table roasted, than he does out here on ther street."
Up to that moment Dan had been disposed to trust this boy who was so
friendly; but when he spoke so slightingly of Crippy, he was
disappointed in him.
"You don't know Crippy, or you wouldn't say that," replied Dan gravely.
"I would walk seventeen times as far if it would keep him from gettin'
"Well, I tell yer wot it is," and the boy spoke like one thoroughly
conversant with geese and their ways, "he's got ter be a good deal
better'n he looks ter 'mount to anything."
"An' he is," replied Dan; and then he gave the stranger a full account
of Crippy's sagacity and wisdom, with such success that when he had
finished the goose evidently stood high in the city boy's estimation.
"He's prob'ly a mighty nice kind of a goose," said the boy; "but it
seems to me if I had a pet I'd want one that could sleep with me, an'
you know you couldn't take this goose to bed."
"I could if mother would let me, an' I don't see why she won't, for I
know Crippy would just snuggle right down as good as anybody could."
For some time the two discussed the question of pets in general, and
Crippy in particular, then the city boy remembered his mother sent him
on an errand which should have been done an hour before.
Dan felt more lonely than ever after this new-made friend had gone,
and, with Crippy in his arms, he started wearily out in search of uncle
Robert, hardly knowing where he was going. In his bewilderment he had
walked entirely around the same block four times, and an observant
policeman asked him where he was going.
Under the circumstances Dan did not require much urging to induce him to
tell the man his story.
"Do you know your uncle's name?" asked the officer.
"Uncle Robert Hardy."
"What is his business—I mean, what kind of work does he do?"
"He keeps store."
The officer led Dan to the nearest drug store, and there, after
consulting the directory, told him there were several Robert Hardys
mentioned, at the same time giving him a list of the names.
Dan took the paper with the written directions upon it, feeling more
completely at a loss to know how to proceed than he had before, and it
was in a dazed way that he listened to the instructions as to how he
should find the nearest Hardy.
But he started bravely off, still carrying Crippy, who seemed to have
doubled in weight, and when he had walked half an hour in the direction
pointed out by the policeman, he appeared to be no nearer his
destination than when he started.
"What can we do, Crippy?" he cried, as again he took refuge on a
doorstep, weary, hungry and foot-sore. He had seen no opportunity to buy
a breakfast with his six cents; it was then long past his usual time for
dinner, and his hunger did not tend to make him more cheerful.
The goose was as unable to answer this question as he had been the ones
Dan had previously asked, and the only reply he made was a loud
cackling, which, in his language, signified that he thought it quite
time that he had some dinner.
By this time, and Dan had not been on the doorstep more than five
minutes, a crowd of boys gathered around, all disposed to make sport of
the goose, and to annoy the boy.
"Say, country, why don't you sell your goose?"
"Where did the bird find you?"
"Does yer mother know you're so far away from home?"
These and other equally annoying questions Dan listened to until he
could no longer control himself, and he cried to his tormentors:
"See here, boys, if you had somethin' you thought a good deal of, an'
it was goin' to be killed an' roasted for dinner, what would you do?"
The boys were too much surprised by the question to reply, and Dan
"This goose is Crippy, an' I've had him ever since he was a baby, an'
got his leg broke. We come in here to find uncle Robert so's he could
tell mother not to kill poor Crip, an' now we can't find him,
an'—an'—well, we're jest two as lonesome fellers as you ever saw, an'
if you knew jest how we did feel you wouldn't stand there pokin' fun at
For a moment none of Dan's tormentors spoke, and then the tallest one
said sympathetically, as he seated himself by the country boy's side to
show that he took both the boy and the goose under his protecting arm:
"They sha'n't plague you any more, an' ef I'd 'a' known how you was
feelin' I wouldn't 'a' said a word. Now tell us all about it."
Dan was in that frame of mind where he needed sympathy, and he told the
whole story, while the entire party stood around, interrupting him now
and then by exclamations of surprise that his parents should have been
so cruel as to even think of killing that faithful Crippy.
This consolation, even though it did Dan no material good, was very
sweet to him, and he would have continued to sing the praise of his pet,
had not one of the boys proposed that an effort be made to find uncle
Robert's house. Then each one had a different plan to propose, none of
them thinking that at that hour—four o'clock in the afternoon—it might
be an act of charity first to give Dan and Crippy something to eat.
It surely seemed as if this discussion as to how the search should be
begun would continue until it would be too late to do anything, and
while each one was stoutly maintaining that his plan was the best, an
old-fashioned sleigh drawn by a clumsy-looking horse, stopped directly
opposite where the boys were holding their conference.
"Why, father!" cried Dan as he saw the occupant of the sleigh, and at
the same time he hugged Crippy close to him as if he believed his father
had come for the goose.
"Well, Dan, you did find your uncle Robert after all, didn't you?" asked
Mr. Hardy as he alighted, covered old Dobbin carefully with the robe,
and then went to where Dan was sitting, already deserted by his new-made
friends, who feared Mr. Hardy was about to inflict some signal
"No sir, I didn't find him," faltered Dan, wondering what his father
would do to him and Crippy.
"Why, haven't you been in yet?"
"In where?" asked Dan in surprise.
"In here, of course; this is where your uncle Robert lives," and Mr.
Hardy pointed to the house on the steps of which Dan had been sitting.
To his great surprise Dan learned that he had followed the policeman's
directions exactly; but, not knowing it, had neglected to look on the
house-doors for his uncle's name.
In a few moments more he and his father were in the house, while Crippy
was in the kitchen actually gorging himself with food.
When Mr. Hardy found the note Dan had left, he was not at all worried
about his son's safety; but when, later in the day, he had leisure, he
started to the city for the travellers, and, driving directly to his
brother's house, found them as has been seen.
It is easy to understand that after all this labor on Dan's part to save
his pet, Mr. Hardy readily promised that Crippy should be allowed to die
of old age, instead of being killed and roasted, and Dan, with Crippy
hugged very close to him, started for home with his father, sure that no
boy in all the wide world would spend a merrier Thanksgiving than he.
Crippy was also happy on that day, if food could make him so, and it is
safe to say that, if he survives the wonderfully big dinner Dan proposes
to give him this year, he will live to a green old age.
HIS THREE TRIALS.
AS CARPENTER AND CHEMIST.
For three years Hal had been trying to decide what should be his
business in life; and now at the age of fifteen, and in his last school
year, he was as far as ever from any fixed plan. A profession, he
argued, required too much study; a trade meant ten hours a day of hard
labor; he was too old for an office-boy; and he had no capital to put
into business. Well, if he could only even find out now for what he was
fitted, it would save time in the end.
"How do people ever sit still and think!" he exclaimed aloud. "I'll go
over and consult Ned."
Ned was two years his senior. He had started in life with the idea of
being a doctor, and had kept to it. Consequently he had little sympathy
with Hal's vagaries, and often chided him for his lack of definite
purpose. But as Hal's well-known war-whoop sounded under the window, he
came out on his steps.
"What's up?" he asked. "You look as black as a thunder cloud."
"Father says I've got to make up my mind what to do, and that if I don't
he'll do it for me," answered Hal laconically, "and that might not suit,
"I told you it would come to that if you did not look sharp," answered
Ned. "Take my advice now. A boy like you better begin with a trade and
work up to be boss mechanic; then when you are rich, buy a library and
turn scholar. There's a swell carpenter's school just started down at
the Institute, box and tools included in the tuition, so you'll have
some property at the end of the term, if you haven't ideas."
"I had thought of being a physicist, or chemist," replied Hal; "but
carpentering is really more in my line; might try it at least. Suppose I
talk it over at home."
"You better," said Ned, "than keep me out here bareheaded; good-by!"
"Much obliged and good-by," called out Hal, as he turned homewards.
It did not take long to obtain his parents' consent, as they hoped they
saw in this definite wish an earnest of practical ability which would
help them and him to decide the question of what he had better do. He
had owned one or two carpenter's chests and had broken several tools, so
that he knew something about their use which would count in the
Hal's pride suffered, however, when at the Institute he had to learn how
to strike square blows, and to practise the wrist, elbow and shoulder
movement, in striking with light tools. Then, too, he had to submit to
be taught how to drive nails just so many inches apart, exactly as if he
had never hammered before. He was as indignant, also, at being told to
neither split nor cut towards himself, as if he had never hurt his
At last he was permitted to begin to make a picture frame. Its four
sides had to be glued and dovetailed together, and the fitting required
careful measurements. As Hal was too anxious to go ahead to attend to
details, it is not surprising that the sides would not meet. The more he
planed and chiselled, the worse it grew, till in despair he took it home
for kindling wood.
Next he started on a bevelled-edge frame, and still despising exact
measurements, he made the inner curve too deep, thus injuring the effect
of his design.
Weary of mathematical carpentering, he turned to the ordinary, rough
work of making a miniature house frame. His previous mistakes had helped
him so much that here he soon went ahead of the other boys; but when he
reached the staircase he began to fail. The steps were not alike in
depth, nor were they placed at the right angles; he used up four blocks
of wood, succeeding on the fifth, though the stairs were still rather
His frame completed, he discovered that his acquaintances at the
Institute had advanced to the turning-lathe. Too vexed and proud to go
on and take up what they were leaving, he went into the moulding room.
All went well at first; the frame was evenly placed, put together and
inserted in the sand-box; but when he came back two days later and
lifted the upper half, the sand all fell out and spoilt his mould; for
he had paid very little attention to getting it into the completely
proper condition for receiving an impression.
This final failure at the Institute convinced him that nature had not
fitted him for a carpenter, which knowledge he bore calmly; for, as he
said, it was a saving of time to find out what he could not be. In his
need, he turned again to Ned, whom he had ignored during this two months
at the Institute. Ned looked as if he had expected him, but could only
learn that "carpentering had gone up," and that Hal would now like to
try his first idea and enter the chemical business, provided that Ned
would become a partner and put in some stock.
Ned demurred at first, but finally concluded it might be helping
himself, as a doctor, especially as the stock he had on hand and the use
of his laundry, could be considered an offset for Hal's capital.
"My laundry would do just as well," said Hal; "you ought to put in
"Oh, you had better take my laundry," replied Ned. "My mother does not
object to smells, for she thinks chemistry is going to revolutionize
perfumery. I've got some scales and a spirit-lamp, and we can get
bottles and tumblers enough."
"Yes, but you know we must have a round-bottomed receiver, a measuring
glass, crucibles, retorts and test-tubes."
"As you seem to know all about it," replied Ned carelessly, "you buy
them and come here to-morrow." Hal assented and they separated to meet
the next afternoon, when they began with a manual of chemistry as their
guide. They first distilled water; and then they analyzed it by boiling
But all this was too safe, they wished to venture upon something
dangerous; so they put three drops of nitric acid on a copper cent and
wrote out the result thus:
(1). 1 copper cent.
3 drops Nitric acid.
Result: A greenish liquid—nitrate of copper.
This formula was so pleasing that they continued to note down their work
somewhat as follows:
(2). 1 Shell.
6 drops nitric acid.
Result: Shell dissolved.
(3). Solution muriate of lime.
"Solution Carbonate of potassium.
From these simple but important discoveries they proceeded to move
difficult analyses and syntheses. They made ammonia water; they combined
weights; they experimented in acids, bases and salts; they produced
explosions; they almost set the house on fire with their experiments in
hydrogen; they tested iodine and chlorine.
The greatest hindrance to their advancement was the amount of care
required. They had burnt holes in their clothes; the laundry had became
an inconvenient refuge for the cats and dogs of the house; the younger
children could no longer play there, but broken glass should injure
them; and the maids dreaded entering a place where unlooked-for events
were always happening.
A crisis was at last developed by the gift of a friend who sent them
some lumps of "Sulphuret Potass" which the boys heated, when a strange
and still stranger odor arose. Absorbed in their experiments, they heard
neither approaching footsteps nor voices; the door was even opened, but
quickly shut. At last Ned's mother courageously rushed up to them
holding her handkerchief tight over her face, and insisted with
unmistakable gestures upon their leaving the laundry. The odor had
penetrated every nook and corner of the house, a committee meeting had
vanished, and windows were all thrown open.
"This is an end to your chemistry," she declared in injured tones; "you
have discovered nothing except how to make yourselves sick, have injured
your coats and trousers, and I won't have any more of it, do you
"Yes," said both boys meekly. Perhaps they were rather glad than
otherwise of any expression of authority which could plausibly end what
they were secretly longing to give up. As partners they had been
faithful to each other's interests; but did it pay to give up
base-ball, week after week, just to carry out an idea! Hal's money was
gone, and both boys had done a large amount of "trading" of books and
curiosities for some other boys' half-used chemical stock. Ned was sure
he knew enough to aid him in his profession; and Hal valued failure as
an exponent in indicating, negatively, his future career.
"Glad of it;" Ned ventured to assert at last when the family had
dispersed and windows were closed. "We must clean up, and we might as
well sell out the whole concern, take account of stock, and divide the
"Don't flatter yourself," replied Hal, "that there'll be much profit. If
there is I ought to have two thirds of it as I put in the most capital."
"Yes, as far as cash goes, but brains count too, and I think you will
admit that the ideas have been furnished by me chiefly; besides my
trousers were burned more than yours. But I don't care—divide things as
you like. I am agreed."
AS OFFICE BOY.
When all was definitely settled between Ned and himself, and the assets
of the firm disposed of, Hal felt, for some days, as if he had been to a
funeral. He wandered around the house disconsolately, and then,
suddenly, a new influence crossed his path which promised tangible and
immediate rewards in other fields of labor. Money prizes were offered to
graduates of the High Schools for the best two essays which should be
written, one on the Colonial Policy towards Quakers; the other on the
Value of Republican Government. The money was not considerable, but the
work looked toward political journalism, perhaps on to a career like
Motley's or Bancroft's. Hal had always been an attentive lounger around
newspaper offices on election nights, and in the Representatives Hall
of the State House when any interesting bill was being debated. This he
considered as proof of his love of history; history was the one study,
too, in which he invariably gained the highest marks at school. These
"indications" greatly encouraged him now. He felt impelled to write the
essays, even if they should be failures, because he was really
interested in the subjects and had often talked with his father about
The closing day of school soon came. The boys marched, sang, received
their diplomas and then threw up their hats, when free and in the
street. Very early the next morning Hal visited three libraries and took
down the titles of innumerable books and sketched two plans for he
intended, as I have before said, to write two essays, each in different
style thus to increase his chance of success. He selected "Nisus Sum"
and "America," as signatures. He furnished himself with a quart bottle
of ink, a box of pens, two dozens of lead pencils and two reams of
paper, and greatly enjoyed these preliminaries.
Thus equipped, he began with no depressing circumstances, except his
mother's words, that if by the first of September he had not decided
what he should like to do, she should decide for him. He went out of
town, as usual, in the hot weeks; he fished, and climbed hills, and got
lost, as usual; but through it all, he thought and read of the Colonial
Policy, and wondered whether he should have fallen in love with a Quaker
girl, and whether the troubles between England and Ireland arose from a
need of Republican government. In spite of his ramblings, and in spite
of some discouraged moods, some unexamined idea always urged him on, and
the result was that in two months he had prepared rough sketches of his
work, and his parents were, this time, convinced of his earnestness.
Coming home the very evening of the first day of September, the day and
the hour he had dreaded as the last of his liberty, because as he had
not made up his mind, it was to be made up for him, he saw two men
lifting his father out of a carriage. He stopped and looked at them. He
had no power to speak or help. He saw them carry his father up-stairs
and lay him on the bed. Then, at a word from his mother, he went for a
doctor. He never could recall the manner of his errand, but the
physician came; at last some one said to him:
"It is a slight shock of paralysis. If another does not follow, he will
soon get well." This was like saying to him, "If your father does not
die, he'll live."
How long was he to wait for that knowledge! An hour would be a year and
a year would be a century. He helped in all things as he was told to do;
but his fingers were like thumbs and his feet like clubs. He felt a
singular and confusing sense of identity with his father, as though the
paralysis had included him.
By and by, the room grew quiet. He and his mother were left alone; he
would have given anything if he had dared to speak or touch her. Nothing
was near him. Had he ever been a boy? Was there a prize essay? Were
there only three people in the world—his father, his mother and
Later came his uncle. His mother then called him by name for the first
time in those terrible hours, and bade him bid his father good-night.
As he went mechanically to do so, his father seemed to keep Hal's hand
in his own numb fingers, and to look most imploringly, the mother's hand
on to Harry's. The mother, as the hands met, said, "Hal will take care
of me, dear," and Hal exclaimed, "I will." Then they knew they were
right in their interpretation as the sick face brightened and the
eyelids slowly closed in weariness.
Hal went up-stairs to his own room. The thinking he did that night made
a man of him. He was sure his father would live, but also that his
salary would cease, and that he himself must help to support the family.
"And so help me God, I'll do it," said he, "but I'll win the prizes
too." The growing strength of his purpose soon overcame him and he fell
asleep to dream of Olympic games and wreaths of victory.
When the physician's visit was over the next day, the world did not look
quite so dark. Uncle Joe was to live with them awhile, and the father
was conscious and quiet.
"Good-by, mother," said Hal.
"Good-by," she answered.
The front door closed, and Hal went down town to the office of Newton &
Bryce, old friends of his father's. He walked up to the senior partner,
and said, very like a mechanical toy unwinding:
"My father has had a stroke of paralysis. He can't do anything for
months. I heard you say once that if you could get an office-boy who
could keep accounts you would make it worth while for him to stay with
you. I can."
"Stop, stop," said Mr. Bryce. "I had just heard of your father's illness
and am very sorry. But you talk so fast I don't understand you. What is
it you want? Who sent you?"
"No one. I suppose I did rattle on, but I had been saying over to myself
on the way down what I meant to say to you, like points in an essay."
"Points in an essay! The boy is a daft one."
"I'm all right, sir, or will be, if you take me. How much wages can you
The senior partner smiled. "Three dollars a week at first, and more by
and by—is that what you want?"
"I need my evenings, sir," said Hal. "I forgot to mention that."
"You can have them—but why?" As Hal made no reply, Mr. Bryce added
kindly: "Never mind. The boy I have goes to-night. I was to tell him
to-day whether I would take his brother, or make an arrangement with the
janitor. I have no opinion of office-boys I'll confess to you, young
sir. But for your father's sake, I am going to try you. Be here
to-morrow at eight o'clock, put the office in order, get the mail, and
have my table ready for me at half-past eight."
"Much obliged, thank you. For my father's sake, I'll furnish you with an
opinion of office-boys presently," said Hal. He started and got as far
as the door, when he turned back. "I really do thank you," said he.
"That's a new sort of boy, anyway—one consolation," said Mr. Bryce.
"But it will cost something to teach him. Bother the change!"
"Mother," said Hal on reaching home, "I've been and gone and done it. I
am an office-boy at three dollars a week now; more in prospect."
"You blessed child!" she exclaimed; and then she and Hal had a good
old-fashioned cry together which saved much talking, explanation, and
Hal's work was promptly done the next morning. Mr. Bryce's table was
ready at half-past eight, in ideal order. Yet though he went to the
bank, wrote, and added figures, he still had much idle time on his
hands. Therefore, the following day, when there was really nothing more
for him to do, he felt at liberty to seat himself at a table and begin
to write. Mr. Bryce, noticing him thus occupied, walked leisurely by and
beheld out of the corner of his eye two rolls of manuscript; but if the
boy could be silent, so could his master.
Still the master's curiosity was excited. This "new kind of office-boy"
piqued his interest. "I'll call him off, and see how he'll take it,"
reasoned Mr. Bryce; and he whistled. Hal came at once, alert, attentive,
and did the errands assigned. Mr. Bryce could not detect any sign of a
Thus passed the week. Hal bore home his first earnings, Saturday night,
and laid the bills on his father's bed with a deeper and more
pleasurable feeling of having done something worth doing than he had
ever felt or dreamt of before. Yet if any one had spoken a word of
appreciation to him, he could not have borne it.
That first week was the type of weeks to come. His office-work was not
heavy, though he was more and more trusted. At times he had to bite his
lips, as his brain came to a sudden stop in its work when the whistle
sounded for him in the midst of his own personal copying or reading. But
as the evenings grew longer and his father better, he had more time at
home to work on his essays. He had however, decided to give up trying
for two prizes, and he also had become very doubtful about the certainty
of receiving even one; as his ideal of an essay grew and perfected
itself, and as he realized how much hard work was required in both
reading and reflection and even in any truly logical arrangement of his
ideas. He had made several rough drafts of his essay. He had wholly
rewritten it twice. But the hard work of form, development and finish
remained. Still when he considered his previous failures as carpenter
and as chemist, he was determined to be patient with himself and try his
utmost with this plan. In this painstaking mood the essay was completed.
He sent it in on the last hour of the last day assigned.
Now that Hal had sent in his essay he felt weary, for the excitement of
composition and of haste had ceased; and he tormented himself, too, by
recalling sentence after sentence which he wished he could remodel. Also
memory brought back his past failures; he had not succeeded as chemist
or carpenter and all the boys knew it. What would they say when his name
would be posted on the bulletin, down town, as a Rejected Essayist?
Presently too, it was announced that the bestowal of the Old South
Prizes must be deferred as an unexpectedly large number of essays had
been presented! Hal whistled, shrugged his shoulders, refused to endure
the suspense, cast aside his interest in the matter, and resolved to
settle down into an office-boy.
He cleaned the office more vigorously than ever, and as he began a
catalogue of his employer's library, there arose the faint glimpse of a
new hope, in the thought that his present pursuit might eventuate in his
being a lawyer. But with it there came a hot flush of shame as he
remembered his many visions of the future; and to get rid of them he
would run to the bank on an errand with such fury that his haste
suggested a panic. But in spite of all his changes of intention he was
growing manly; making character, developing mental fibre and muscle; his
mother trusted him with her hopes and fears, and his father talked to
him with a respect that was very consoling to his wounded spirit. Also
the boys ceased to come for him in the evening; if they met him on the
street, they called him "a dig" and asked him what new hobby made him so
Some months had thus passed, when one day, Hal, who had almost forgotten
his history in his law, thought Mr. Bryce's whistle for him had a
peculiar sound. "Get your hat," said the lawyer, "and follow me. I want
you to go to the Court House."
Hal's active imagination instantly saw himself seated there as Judge.
Yes, law was his vocation. But when there, he was almost pushed into a
corner, while Mr. Bryce pointed him out to the clerk of the court. This
rather frightened Hal, but he felt reassured at the command to stay
where he was until the clerk should bid him go for Mr. Bryce, for the
latter could not afford to spend the morning in court waiting for his
case to come up.
It was a new world to Hal and his astonishment and interest was
increased as he recognized an old playmate in the one who was being
examined. An officer had removed the boy's jacket and was calling the
attention of the Judge to long, deep welts on the boy's back, the result
of lashes inflicted by his father, because his son earned but little.
The contents of a dirty paper-bag were also exhibited, as being the only
dinner allowed the boy, who, with his mouldy crust, walked three miles
each day to the shop where he worked. That very morning he had been so
dull, that some one, suspecting the truth, had told "the boss" of his
condition, and through an officer of the "Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Children," his case had been brought into court.
Poor Hal! perhaps he was born to be a philanthropist after all. He
resolved to interest himself in the S. P. C. C. Visions of "cases"
hunted out and brought before the officers, thrilled his soul. How he
ached for this particular boy! and how he contrived to make that boy
feel he was there and to tuck some lozenges into his hand, as his former
companion passed by him under the kind guardianship of the Secretary of
the Society; and then the clerk ordered him to find Mr. Bryce.
The next day, when he was summoned to Mr. Bryce's inner office, from
dreams of himself as the eminent legal adviser and prosecutor for the S.
P. C. C., that gentleman asked him rather quizzically how he liked
"court business." Hal replied that he did not know surely, but guessed
he might come to prefer it to office work and cataloguing.
"Well," said Mr. Bryce, "I am rather sorry to hear that, for I had
thought of raising your wages. However, I am doubtful about employing
essayists as office-boys. It might work badly."
"Has it, sir?" he asked; then in an embarrassed manner, "I am not
certain what you mean."
The lawyer made no reply, and Hal turned away crestfallen.
"O come back here, boy," called out Mr. Bryce then. "And by the way, can
you tell me who is Nisus Sum?"
Harry wriggled with conflicting sensations until he could scarcely
stand. At last he burst out: "What is that to you?"
"O not much!" replied Mr. Bryce, with an amused look, "only I hold an
essay to return to him."
Hal grew so white that his employer pitied him, and forebore.
"You did not know I was chairman of the committee on the Old South
Prizes, did you?" he added in a different tone.
"No, sir, I did not;" exclaimed Hal, flushing to his very temples.
"And I did not know that you were 'Nisus Sum' until ten minutes ago."
"Well, this may be fun to you, sir, but it isn't to me," said Hal,
almost with a sob.
"Look here, my boy, listen. You knew Mr. Akers died; well, he was one
of the judges, and I was asked to take his place, and I consented,
because I saw that I had an office-boy who would attend to his work."
Hal put his hand out vaguely towards the table as if to lean on it for
support. Mr. Bryce's tone involuntarily softened as he continued: "I
have been comparing the estimates sent in by the other judges, and I see
that we agree that the first prize for 'Colonial Policy' is taken by
"'Nisus Sum,'" said the boy dreamily, "first prize." Then suddenly, as
if beside himself, he twirled Mr. Bryce's chair round and round with the
poor man in it until the lawyer had to exert his strength to stop him.
"That'll do," exclaimed he. "Don't get frantic, but it was really very
risky for you to try to do my work and yours too. There was danger of
doing neither satisfactorily."
"Did I neglect anything, sir? you know I didn't. I began to read up for
the essay before father was taken sick, and then when that came, I was
bound I would do something at last."
"Well, well, you succeeded, didn't you? Go home now and tell them; only,
remember this," and Mr. Bryce grew stern, "don't think because you have
succeeded now that you always are to win. Stick to your daily work. Be a
good clerk first, that you may be a good historian later."
"Trust me," said Hal gravely, who felt the awe of success stealing over
him. He felt queer, yet happy and humble; and bowing low, he left the
room. It took but a few moments for him to rush home; and if his father
had not gained in strength he certainly would have suffered, for Hal
bounded into the room, upsetting the chairs and a table and spinning his
mother round in circles somewhat as he had treated Mr. Bryce, he
"I have won! I have won! first prize! Now you can be sick, father, as
long as you please."
Then followed explanation and a quiet talk which made Harry always look
back upon that evening as the happiest one of his boyhood.
It only remains to add that he was as good as his word; he was an able
clerk first, and an historian only as a middle-aged man.
IN THE SECOND DORMITORY.
Ramon Valdez was an acquisition. He was a Cuban. Father had picked him
up at Havana, where he was looking out for somebody who could teach
him English instead of the queer jabber that he learned, second-hand,
from a wizened little French adventurer, who had set up as a teacher of
languages, and had nearly forgotten even his own. I did get sold in the
most ridiculous way over father's telegram that announced his coming!
But that's all over—they have about forgotten it.
He was real fun after we got acquainted; he didn't seem to know anything
about base-ball, and couldn't catch a fly worth a cent! guess it is too
hot in Havana to play ball. He couldn't fish either, but it wasn't the
season for that, so we didn't care. But he could ride! He mounted the
colt one day, bareback, and went around the lot five times before he
fell off, and not one of us boys could stay on a rod. We respected him
some after that.
But he was queer! The first thing mother did was to buy him a lung
protector, as he wasn't acclimated yet, she said. Jack, the
six-year-old, got hold of it and put it on outside of his frock, and
then came galloping around with it on in that way. Well, Ramon came down
to breakfast the next morning with that protector on just as Jack had
fixed it! Then he wanted some "john-bread." Where he got it, I don't
know, but what he meant was "johnny-cake."
I heard him reciting some poetry to Mollie one night—that was father's
way in teaching languages, to make us commit poetry and recite to each
other—and this was what he made of it!
Zoze zevening bells,
Zoze zevening bells!
How may-nay tales zheir moozic tells
Of yuz an' home an' zat sweet time
W'en first I heard zheir queezing chime.
"Their what, Ramon?" cried Mollie.
"Zheir queezing chime," he repeated innocently, staring at her.
"Soothing, Ramon, soothing!" He laughed away too, like a good fellow,
and didn't get mad in the least. I suppose our Spanish was as funny to
him. He never laughed at us, though; I presume he was too polite.
But he just got into the ways of us boys about as quickly as any new boy
that ever came to the Highland School, and before he had been there two
weeks he was in a scrape!
It's dreadfully dull to be the teacher's son. You have to do just so,
you know, "to set a good example," and it isn't any fun. Father never
asked me to tell what was going on, no matter what was up; but he put me
"upon honor" not to go in myself, so of course I had to keep out. But
the fellows understood, and used to tell me all about it afterward, and
as somehow they always came to grief, I felt a little more contented
than I might have done.
One night we could not get to sleep.
The long moonbeams came down athwart the dormitory through the great
windows, and lay in broad parallelograms, bisected and quartered, upon
the floor. We got our geometry lesson out of the figures, and reeled off
a whole section of theorems, without the least effect. That ought, by
rights, to be enough to set a whole houseful of boys journeying into the
Land of Nod, but it didn't us.
Father heard us jabbering and came up to see what the matter was, but
our sudden interest in the science of planes and prisms so amused him
that he laughed all the way down-stairs; for Charlie Brown crept to the
door and heard him.
At last Frank Hapgood—"Happy-go-lucky"—sat up in desperation, flung
his pillow on the floor, got out of bed deliberately and sat down on it.
Nine other pillows, nine other white-robed figures solemnly followed
suit. Said Harry Eveleth, "Fellows, I've tried to do my duty and go to
sleep, and I can't. We must do something!"
A silence, broken by a sigh from Ramon. "Ah! on nights like zis I have
gone to ze—ze zoogar houses to sleep some time, in Habana!"
THE OLD HORSE WAS SLEEPY ... BUT THEY WERE READY AT
Frank "Happy" gave a start, looked at the circle intently, then gave a
little nod, and winked.
Eight others of the owl committee gave a simultaneous start in answer,
as though they had been unconsciously fooling around a galvanic battery.
The gentleman from Havana alone was quiet; he did not yet understand,
but the others did, and he was ready to follow. Texan herders say that a
drove of ten thousand cattle will sometimes at night leap to their feet
like a flash, without apparent cause or warning. There will be a roar of
thundering hoofs, a distant rumble, and that herd will have vanished
like smoke from the camp-fire, "on the stampede!" Our boys had
Ten or fifteen minutes later a certain wakeful teacher was pleasantly
made aware of the fact that a cataract of boys, each with one of the
nice white blankets belonging to Mrs. Teacher, tied across his
shoulders, was streaming down the lightning-rod by his window; and
stepping lightly thither, he caught a disconnected word or two about
"old Brown's sugar-house."
"How shall we get her out?"
"Tie up her feet in straw!"
"But the carriage will make such a racket!"
"Well"—after a moment's thought—"we can take the cart; that's been
There was a rumble, a slow sque-e-ak, and the cart was out without much
noise. Two boys at the thills and two more pushing behind, they softly
trundled it down the yard, stopping at every unusually loud squeak. It
was almost as light as day; only in the yard the trees cast a slight
shadow of tangled branches, leafless as they were.
There was a suppressed sense of excitement, a strained thrill of the
nerves that made thumby work of their handling the buckles. The old
horse was sleepy, and wouldn't "stand round" to order, and they had to
push her into place; but they were ready at last, and Happy-go-Lucky
whispered "Pile in!"
They piled in literally one above the other, and lay down upon the hay
in the bottom of the cart. There might yet be some stray wanderer to
meet and run the gauntlet of his cross-questioning. The wheel struck
a stone, and there was a jounce; the bottom fellows wriggled out, what
was left of them, and sat up, gasping. They had rather run the risk than
try that again. But they met no one.
THE RETURN OF THE VALIANT STAMPEDERS.
It was a night when there is no sound. The insects are dead, the birds
have gone South with the other members of the higher circles of society;
there was only the rattle of the heavy cart, springless and jolty, along
the dusty road that wound like a great horseshoe around the long slope
of the ridge that shot up suddenly into "Paradise Hill." Beyond the
river a dog barked, a mile away, and ended in a melancholy howl. Ramon
shivered, and drew his blanket around him; he had a superstitious fear
of that sound.
The mountains in the North never seemed so high and dark before. Then
they saw that it was a cloud, black, sullen-looking—great masses of
vapor heaped in billowy folds, blackening the slopes with shadow, and
barely touched above with silver-gilt.
"Looks a little like a storm to-morrow," said Harry.
No one answered him. The chatter had somehow died away, and they were
more intent on keeping warm than talking. It wasn't all their fancy
painted it—this clear, cold moonlight; it was icy.
"Never mind, boys!" cried Charlie Brown cheerfully, as they drew up at
an old hop-house by the side of the road, and got out stiffly, "we can
howl now if we like, and nobody to hear."
But nobody wanted to howl. They did want to get up the slope to the edge
of the woods, where the sugar-house was, and putting horse and cart
together in the shed, they scaled the fence and started up the hill at a
lumbering trot. Now that their beds were so far away they were sleepy
As it happened, just as they struck the fence, a brisk, elderly
gentleman, with iron-gray hair, and spectacles, and a queer twinkle in
his eye as he glanced up at the mass of clouds piling up in the
mountains, walked hurriedly down a narrow sheep-path through the
leafless woods, and entered the sugar-camp. It was dark in there,—dark
as Erebus; only in two or three places a ray of light streamed down
through the holes in the roof.
The gentleman in spectacles glanced around serenely; as though it was
quite the thing for him to be wandering around in the woods at that
unearthly hour; poked at the roof here and there with his cane, knocked
up a few shingles that let more light in on the subject of his
investigations, and came out again hastily as he heard the boys
approach, and disappeared in a clump of spruces. Five or ten minutes
afterward, he suddenly appeared at the bottom of the hill, backed the
horse out of the shed, put on the bridle, and removed his blanket,
sedately got in and drove quietly home.
Charlie Brown was the first up the hill, and heralded the sight of the
camp with a cheer. "Now then, lively! Out with your jack-knives and off
with a lot of spruce boughs!"
Then followed a great hacking of dull knives and cracking of limbs, with
the occasional swish of an armful into the camp. The boys worked like
beavers for a while, and got thoroughly warmed again, and the air within
was filled with resinous fragrance. That done and arranged to their
experienced leader's satisfaction, they wrapped themselves like Indians
in their blankets and tumbled down upon the heap of boughs; the air
trembled with a chorus of strange sounds as one by one they dropped off
into a drowsy sleep, with an occasional wriggle as a knot, or the end of
a limb, made itself felt through the many-folded blanket, and engraved a
distinct dent upon the sleeper's back; while overhead, the giant cloud
crept upward slowly, slowly toward the zenith, spreading east and west
without a break. One half of the valley had vanished in the blackest
shadow, and still the gilded edge swung steadily on, with the slow,
resistless sweep of misty legions upon legions, armed in ebon mail; vast
billows of night that drowned the scattered stars that met them, one by
one. Then it struck the full moon and blotted it from sight. The world
of the little valley dropped into night, and all was dark as Erebus. A
breath of wind whispered through the forest, and died away, sighing, in
Ramon awoke suddenly.
Straight from the centre of that sea of blackness, like the plummet of
an engineer, like the lead of a storm-tossed sailor, shot a drop of
rain. Down it came with unerring swiftness, right through one of the
spectacled gentleman's improvised "sky-lights" in the roof, and splashed
in the Cuban's face. Half-dreaming still, he sleepily rolled over out of
range; he had been awakened before in that way, and was used to it.
There was a slope now in the pile of boughs, and Harry Eveleth slid down
into the vacated place unconsciously. Splash! and the raindrop covered
his cheek with water. Dimly through his dormant brain the idea crept
that he was back in the dormitory, and some one was trying the old trick
of hanging a saturated sponge above his head; he had done it himself,
once, and this was retribution. With a smothered grunt of discontent he
gave Ramon a shove that sent him further, and rolled over into his
place. Frank Hapgood began to slide—began to dream that he was falling
down through a frightful place that had no bottom! The air whistled
shrilly past his head. The black walls of the pit shot upward swiftly
and he could see the faint light far up at the mouth of the shaft
growing dimmer until it too went out! He tried to scream, but the wind
caught the sound and carried it away with a rush of mocking laughter; he
tried to reach out and grasp the walls but his hands were bound! Then he
felt that he was drawing near the end; he had fallen miles!—and now his
speed was slackening, and he was falling so softly, so lightly, till at
last, like a downy feather he floated on the air, as a spirit from
another world. He had reached the centre of the earth!
Splash! came the rain upon his face, and the cold breath of the night
"Great Cæsar! boys, it's raining!"
There wasn't much doubt of that fact. And as stream after stream began
to pour through the roof there was a sudden resurrection among the white
mummies stretched upon the spruce boughs. Frank glanced around, and then
made another equally wise observation:
"This old shanty's mighty leaky!"
As the ground covered by the mansion thus disrespectfully alluded to was
about eight feet by twelve, and there were at that particular moment
sixteen different streams of water pouring down upon their heads, the
rest had already discovered the fact, and there was a hasty
"Can't we stop up the holes?"
"Nothing to do it with!" said Harry Eveleth mournfully. "And I've been
sitting in a puddle for the last two minutes!"
Ramon jumped. A waterspout had shot down the back of his neck. "We mus'
go out of zis! We soon shall be wetter; we can run to ze horse's house!"
"Good for you, Havana! your head's solid!" sang out Charlie Brown
heartily. "Now for it! Put your blankets over your heads, woman-fashion,
and travel like a blue streak; and—Jupiter Pluvius! how cold this rain
is!" His words ended in an involuntary chatter.
There was a momentary hesitation; then with a sigh they ducked under the
blankets and dashed out into the darkness and the rain which fell
hissing through the tossing limbs of the trees, and, stumbling over the
fence with a crash of breaking rails, they ran violently down a steep
place without the least idea of the direction, till they all brought up
in a heap in the bottom of a ditch, with some six inches of water for
company! However, within a few rods was the "horse's house." They
scrambled out and ran for it, their once white blankets streaming with
muddy water, chilled through and through with the cutting wind. They
reached it, crowded in, felt blindly around in the dark, and then came a
cry of dismay:
"The horse is gone!"
They looked at each other in silence. It was too dark in there to
distinguish a single feature, so they did not get much comfort from
that. For a full minute not a word was spoken. Then Frank Hapgood drew a
long breath and then ejaculated:
"Well, I'm blessed!"
"So ze horse is stole by ze ladrones," remarked Ramon philosophically.
"How we shall pay!"
"Pay! no; the beast untied the knot and walked home, which is what we
shall have to do—and it's raining brickbats!" snapped Harry, as a gust
of hail crashed upon the roof. "He did that once before."
Somehow their spirits rose a little at that; the indefiniteness of the
animal's fate had alarmed some of them, and pocket money was scanty.
They even cracked a feeble joke or two, in a half-hearted way, but the
steady splash and spatter of the rain chilled the fun all out of it, and
wet as they were, they huddled together among a lot of straw and
blankets until they were quite comfortably warm. They were even dozing
when Charlie Brown suddenly pointed to the doorway with a husky hurrah.
It was the gray light of a cold November dawn.
Father had some peculiar ideas when he built our house, and the
dining-room juts out from the rest like a great bay-window—a room with
three sides of glass. We were at breakfast, discussing buckwheats
diligently, when father glanced down the roadway and began to laugh.
We turned, looked, and then rushed to the great windows in a crowd. Up
the drive with slow and solemn tread, swaying under the gale, pelted
with rain, came the valiant stampeders, a procession of blanket-mantled
figures in dingy white, the water dripping from their coverings in
streams, squashing and churning in their boots as they splashed
indifferently onward through mud or grass alike; such miserable-looking
Frank looked up with a wan attempt at a smile as he passed under the
windows and saw the rows of grinning faces looking down, but the rest
kept their eyes fixed upon the ground.
Father went out upon the piazza. "Good-morning, boys! out for a
constitutional? nothing better to get up an appetite," he said with a
Frank laughed; he really couldn't help it, although a moment before he
had been mad with himself, the horse, the rain, and the world in
general. As they looked at each other sheepishly out of the corner of
their eyes the rest took it in, and began to grin at the ludicrous sight
of themselves, and for a few minutes very great was the hilarity.
"That's right; that's right. A hearty laugh is good medicine! but you
will need something more, so in with you, quick!"
And before they knew it, they were running the gauntlet of the rest of
us, and scudding for the dormitory, from whence came presently a sound
as of mighty rubbing, and the flavor of Jamaica ginger. But they had to
stay in bed all day, to their great disgust, and "ginger" was a
dangerous word to mention for weeks after; and for two whole terms not
one of those boys were in any of the scrapes that were going on. "They
had been there!" they said, with a rueful smile, which we could
appreciate. As father used to say, "There's nothing like learning the
logical sequence of consequences!" And they had a big washing bill that
THE DOUGHNUT BAIT.
A schoolboy a few weeks since told me of an amusing encounter that he
and his brother had just had with a bear. It was at Thanksgiving time,
and they were enjoying the few days' vacation in hunting in the Maine
woods. The locality, to be exact, was the north side of Roach River,
about half-way from the first pond to where the stream empties into
Near a deserted log hut, known as "McPheter's Camp," they had discovered
signs of a bear—his tracks, and the spot where he had lain down among
the tall dead grasses.
"Let's stay here all night and watch for him," said Willie—Willie was
the one who related the adventure to me.
"That wouldn't be right; for they're looking for us at home," replied
his brother Dick to this somewhat tempting invitation. "Besides there
might not come a bear here again for a week."
"Well, let's rest here a few minutes anyway," said Willie.
Opposite the door of the hut was its one window, the glass so covered
with cobwebs that very little light came through. It was dark enough in
there for a bear's den—he might, in fact, be in there. But flinging the
door wide open, the boys ventured in. There was a visible movement at
the window, but it proved to be only three or four great, gray spiders
hurrying to their coverts from the unwonted light.
"What's this, Dick?" and Will kicked a tangled mass of iron from a
corner into the sunshine.
Dick eyed it a moment. "Aha—it's a bear trap," said he.
"Well, we will catch him, now," said Will triumphantly.
"The old thing's too rusty and weak," Dick pronounced finally, after
examining it. "'Twouldn't hold a bear."
"Oh, let's just set it, anyhow, and try," coaxed Will.
After repeated efforts, in which Will got caught himself—or, rather,
his boot—they got the huge iron jaws wide open, and the trencher in
"Next thing we must shoot something for bait," said Will.
"I really think we haven't time, not to-night, Will," said Dick. "See!
it's almost sunset, and we are two miles from home through the woods."
"Well, then, I've got two doughnuts left. Let's put them on."
"Very well," laughed Dick, good-naturedly, "if you can wait for your
So the trap, with a doughnut tied to the trencher, was placed a few feet
just outside the cabin where any one within could plainly see it from
the window. The chain was made fast, and the other doughnut broken to
bits, and scattered about.
The next morning the boys were early on the tramp, in order to visit a
shallow pond some three miles eastward, where they expected to find
moose. After tiptoing about and impatiently watching the shores till
afternoon, they did see a moose; but before they were within range, he
turned to run.
"Fire, Will!" shouted Dick.
The report of two guns echoed from the woods about, while the moose with
a sudden bound or two, disappeared among the trees. They could hear the
great creature crashing through the woods, and they hurried on in
pursuit. After going about a mile they lost track of him, and they gave
it up as neither had detected any token that the animal was hurt.
The chase had led them near a trail that passed the McPheter's camp; and
they jokingly turned that way to see if anything had happened there.
"If that doughnut isn't gone, I'm going to eat it," murmured Will. "I'm
"I doubt that the birds and squirrels have left any till this time,"
"A large bird, or a gray squirrel would get caught, if they touched it,
wouldn't they?" questioned Will hopefully.
"Perhaps—if the old trap wasn't so rusty—but hush—there's the camp.
Supposing we keep behind it and go in until we see if there's anything
in the trap."
They opened the door softly, and moved lightly in and toward the window.
The first glance gave them a start. There was a big bear sitting bolt
upright, with his forepaws hanging, right before the window. He had
evidently heard the sound of their approach, and was looking around for
them. Dick gave one long, but weary look. Then he shouted:
"All right, Will. He's caught! The doughnut did it!"
For a moment the boys stood looking out of the window, and the bear sat
looking in. It was too much for Bruin—that gaze of exultant victory. He
struggled a moment with the trap, then, with one vigorous leap, he
cleared himself and went head and shoulders into that window.
Dick sprang for a hole in the low roof, and Will dashed out of the door.
He had just time to shut it behind him before the bear came bumping
It were hard to say who was hunter and who was hunted just then. Will
was outside, but virtually the bear's captive, as he stood braced back
against the door. Dick was creeping about on the rotten, creaking roof.
The bear was inside, vigorously snuffing about for his enemies. He
repeatedly tried the door, but it failed to open. He growled up the hole
in the roof at Dick, but couldn't reach him. There they were, three very
At last the boys heard the sound of rattling glass again; evidently the
bear was going to try the hunt outside. Will made a frantic endeavor to
open the door, but he had pushed so hard that now it stuck. He got it
open at last, and peeped in, just at the instant when the bear came
round the corner.
This was the situation now: Will was looking in after the bear, the bear
had come round after Will, and Dick, on the roof, was trying to get a
good sight at the bear without slipping off. By holding to the hole in
the roof with his foot, he found himself able to peep over the eaves;
and when the bear turned the corner, he with lucky aim, and plucky
quickness put a moose-charge into the back of the creature's head.
Will turned and was putting his gun out to fire, just as Dick dropped
down through the roof. But the bear lay still. Dick's shot had finished
There was, of course, great rejoicing between the two young hunters.
They started a fire, then took off Bruin's skin; and soon some most
delicious bearsteaks were broiling on the coals.
"I don't miss that doughnut at all, somehow," said Will as they sat at
A REAL HAPPENING.
Old Beppo and Nina, his wife, with their two boys, lived in one of those
little excavations which everybody who has visited Naples will remember.
I hardly know what to call them, for they certainly do not deserve the
name of dwellings. They are little holes dug in the sandy hillsides just
outside the busy city, where the poor people crawl in at night, and
where they keep their little belongings by day. The poor of Naples live
out of doors, as indeed the poor people all through Southern Italy do;
and it does not seem half as hard to be poor in Italy as elsewhere. The
beautiful, clear, blue sky overhead, and the soft, warm earth to sit and
lie upon, with the delicious air to breathe, and the great Duomos always
open to them where they can go at any hour of the day and feel that they
have just as much right as kings and princes—who wonders that they are
contented, lazy and dreamy? Give a Neapolitan beggar macaroni and
sunshine, and he will sit and dream away the hours with no thought or
care of what will come to-morrow. He has just energy to
whine—"Poverino Signorina"—and it matters little whether his
extended hand is filled with centismi or not; according as it may be,
he calls upon the "Sanctissmi Virgina" to bless or curse you and sinks
away into dreamy content till the next stranger approaches. Not so with
Old Beppo; he tugged all day grinding out dolorous tunes from his old
organ, and whether people paid him for grinding, or paid him to stop
grinding, all the same Old Beppo thought he was earning an honest
Everybody in the little neighborhood of Lazzaroni knew and loved Old
Beppo—why he was always called Old Beppo, I never knew, unless it was
because his home-life had given him a subdued, downcast look, and his
shoulders were more rounded and bent than even his heavy organ would
have made them if he could have had a little comfort and cheer in the
poor place he called home. Nina was a peevish, querulous wife—always
finding fault, and never satisfied with Beppo's earnings; true, it was
little enough he brought at night after trudging all day with his
hand-organ, and as he approached the little rookery at the end of the
day his steps grew languid and heavy, for he knew his only welcome would
be Nina's grumbling, fretful greeting; and poor Old Beppo, after
unstrapping his burden and eating his poor meal of macaroni, found rest,
not on the little seat outside his own door with his wife and children,
but on the sand-bank, or on a neighbor's doorseat where he could smoke
his pipe in peace beyond the sound of Nina's croaking, scolding voice.
The two boys were like their mother, and Beppo found little comfort in
them, so it must be confessed that when in the summer of 1860 Nina was
called away to a country where Old Beppo hoped she would not find so
much to scold about, his grief was not inconsolable, and a year later he
found a more congenial companion in a trim, pretty little widow whose
husband was taken off by the same scourge that carried Nina away. Italia
had one little boy who was, like his mother, amiable and pretty, with
the beautiful great black eyes of a true Italian, and all the
fascinating ways of a pretty child of nature. He might have been used
for a model of Italian child-beauty.
Old Beppo spent two peaceful and happy years with Italia, and then came
again the summer pestilence and poor Italia was one of the victims.
Little Dino was heartbroken at the loss of his mother, and Old Beppo,
after trying in vain to console the little boy, decided to take him,
with the two half-brothers, to America, as much perhaps to change the
scene for little Dino as to better his condition in our land of hope and
promise. Dino played the violin and accompanied Old Beppo in his
wanderings over the country for a time, until the old man became
restless and unhappy and longed for his native air. Dino had recovered
his childish spirits, and was happy in the freedom of our free sunny
summer weather where he had plenty to eat, and was petted and pampered
because of his pretty little ways and his bright black eyes. But Old
Beppo could not live away from his "beautiful Italy," and as soon as he
gathered pennies enough, he took passage for Naples and left the three
boys in America.
The two older boys were to look after little Dino and to give him such
care as he needed. True to their coarse nature and instincts, they
began, as soon as their father had left, to send Dino out with his
violin to earn not only his own bread but theirs; for they knew that his
attractive little face and winsome manners would win for them more
pennies than they could for themselves. This was true, but sometimes the
pennies failed, and the days were dull, and people did not care for
Dino's music; and then the brothers beat him and ill-treated him until
he could endure it no longer.
The summer was passing; the days were becoming cool, and the nights damp
and chilly, and oftentimes little Dino, rather than go to his brothers
where he was sure to meet with cruel treatment, would creep under an old
cart or under some door-steps and spend the night. This he did not
complain of until the nights grew frosty, and the poor little fellow
found himself stiff and cold when morning came; and then with the tears
streaming down his cheeks he longed for "My Italy. I 'fraid I freeze to
death, I want my mother," he said pitifully.
His brothers kept track of him and lost no opportunity to illtreat him,
and he resolved to run away from Boston and go to some place where they
could not find him. Accordingly one rainy, chilly night in November, he
took the cars and started to go—he knew not where, but anywhere beyond
the knowledge of the brothers who had whipped him until he bore the
marks all over his little body. Crouched down in a corner of the cars,
Dino was counting his pennies when the conductor found him and asked in
not the pleasantest tones where he wished to go.
Of course he had no idea how much money it took to ride in the cars even
a short distance; so he gave the conductor all the pennies he had, and
said, "I want to go so far."
LITTLE DINO AT THE FAIR.
It was on this dismal, chilly November night that little Dino found
himself in one of the suburban towns of Boston, where some young
ladies were holding a little sale for the benefit of a Home for
Orphan Children in their neighborhood. The day being so unpropitious,
visitors had been few and sales very slow. The young people, with rueful
faces, were talking in the twilight of their disappointed hopes, and
wondering if the evening would bring customers for the little articles
they had spent all their leisure summer hours upon, in the hope of
adding a large sum to the depleted treasury of the town, when suddenly a
child's voice was heard at the door, "Me want to play me fiddle for some
No one who saw that tiny boy with his pleading eyes, and his rich, soft
voice and his broken foreign accent, as he stood half clad in the chill
of that November night, can ever forget the picture. They were at a loss
to know what to do. They said, "But we don't want to hear your fiddle.
Where did you come from, and what is your name, and where are you going?
It is night and where will you sleep?"
"Me come from Naple," he said; and holding out his little brown hands he
displayed the scratches and said, "Me big brothers beat me, and scratch
me, and me run away."
"But where did you come from?" a half a dozen eager girls asked all at
"Me don't know. Me sleep under cart and me very cold. Can't me play me
fiddle for some supper?"
The tears began to start not only in the eyes of the little waif, but
handkerchiefs were in demand among all who stood listening to the story,
forgetful of sales or profits for the moment, and intent only upon
feeding the little orphan who stood before them.
"Come," they said, "and you shall have some supper; but where will you
"Me don't know. Me mother die, me father go back to Naple, and me cry."
The interest grew with every word he uttered, and the excitement ran
high among the enthusiastic young girls, each of whom fed and petted him
till the little fellow's countenance beamed with happiness. He had never
fallen into such hands before, and his sorrows, like all childish
sorrows, melted away under the first rays of loving kindness. He was
placed on the flower-stand, and there among the flowers, in the warm,
cheerful hall, he was reminded of his own beautiful Italy, the land of
flowers; and the notes of his little fiddle attracted the visitors so
that as the evening wore on, Dino found his friends increasing and his
pockets filling with pennies, and his eyes overflowing with joy.
Pointing to one of the ladies, he said in a plaintive tone, "Nobody love
me, nobody smile on me but her—and my mother die and I cry."
But the evening was wearing away. The flowers were fading, the people
were leaving one by one, and the hall would soon be deserted. What then
would become of poor Dino? It was decided at length, after much
consultation, to place him in the Orphans' Home.
The morning dawned and brought one of those clear, crisp November days
which are common in our New England after a rain, and Dino was taken to
his new home. This Home for Orphan Boys is a cosey, cheerful house, and
when Dino was introduced to the kind man who has charge and told if he
would be a good boy he should have a home there, have dinners and
suppers, have a place to sleep like other little boys, he gave a sigh of
relief, took a deliberate look around the sunny room, and then thrust
his little brown chubby hand into the pocket of his torn, dilapidated
trousers, and drew forth the pennies that were snugly tucked away in
their depths, and with a grateful smile, his black eyes fairly dancing
for joy, he handed them to the superintendent, saying, "You give me
home, I give you my pennies. I was so 'fraid I freeze to death."
It was touching to see how Dino clung to his little old fiddle. It
seemed to be the one connecting link between the days in Italy where he
had lived an easy, happy life with his mother whom he seemed to love so
dearly, and the new home which promised to give him shelter. His little
old fiddle was a source of much amusement to the children, whose tunes
he readily caught, and he soon became a great favorite. The visitors who
came to the Home always asked first for Dino, the Italian boy, and
seldom went away without leaving something for the little fellow.
As the days and weeks wore away, Dino constantly improved in mind and
manners, and developed all the sweetness of heart and disposition that
he promised on that November morning when he gave "his pennies for a
home." At the end of five years he left the Home and sought a place
where he could earn his own living.
Years passed and the memory of little Dino was fading out of the hearts
of those who had befriended him, when the Sabbath stillness of a
midsummer afternoon was broken by the sound of approaching footsteps, as
the family sat on the broad piazza of a pleasant country house. A young
gentleman was seen coming up the shady avenue, and the question went
around, "Who can the stranger be?"
The bell rang and the message came: "Say to the lady, Dino would like to
see her. I think she will remember the name."
As the lady approached—she of whom he had said on that dreary night in
November, "Nobody love me, nobody smile on me but her"—she recognized
the Italian eyes, and the old, sweet, musical accent with which she had
been familiar years before.
With a graceful bow, he said, as if to assure himself of a welcome,
"Madam, I should not have ventured in your presence if I had not been
informed by my friends at the Home, upon whom I have called, that you
would be glad to see me; for I felt that by my long silence I had
forfeited all claim to your friendship."
Of course he was most cordially welcomed, and invited to tell the story
of his long absence. He said, "I was earning an honest living in a
grocer's establishment as job-boy after I left the Home, when the idea
took possession of me that I must have more education, and I knew the
only way I could get it was to go into the country and work for my board
where I could go to school. I found a kind old farmer who gave me board
and lodging for what I could do out of schoolhours on the farm, and here
I remained for some years, Then came over me the old longing for music.
I had kept the little music I knew during my stay at the farm, for I
had led the Sabbath choir and the Sunday-school singing, and had never
missed a Sabbath while I was there. But I longed for some knowledge of
music. I felt that I could not live without it, and though the kind old
farmer offered me good wages if I would remain with him, and a generous
sum when I should become of age, I said, 'I cannot live without music,'
and so I bade adieu to my pleasant home, and went to a city where I
could hear music—my heart's great desire—and take lessons as soon as I
could earn money enough to pay for them. I soon found occupation, and
now I am earning an honest living." He then modestly added: "Perhaps,
madam, you will be gratified to learn that I have never tasted
intoxicating drink, nor spoken a profane word since I left the Home. I
have never forgotten the first passages of Scripture I learned from the
little Bible you gave me: 'There is not a word in my tongue but lo! O
Lord, thou knowest it altogether.'"
The little Italian beggar now has a wife and a pretty little boy in a
comfortable home of his own, and his testimony is, "If I had not been
cared for and instructed in that Christian Home, I should be a beggar
now as I was when I entered it."