Part 2 out of 3
an' made it all bloody."
"All bluggy," echoed Toddie, with ferocious emphasis. Budge
"But there were some Ishmalites comin' along that way, and the
awful eleven budders took him out of the deep dark hole, an' sold
him to the Ishmalites, an' they sold him away down in Egypt. An'
his poor old papa cried, an' cried, 'cause he thought a big lion
ate Joseph up; but he wasn't ate up a bit; but there wasn't no
post-office nor choo-choos, [Footnote: railway cars] nor stages in
Egypt, an' there wasn't any telegraphs, so Joseph couldn't let his
papa know where he was; an' he got so smart an' so good that the
king of Egypt let him sell all the corn an' take care of the
money; an' one day some men came to buy some corn, an' Joseph
looked at 'em an' there they was his own budders! An' he scared
'em like everything; I'D have SLAPPED 'em all if I'D been Joseph,
but he just scared 'em, an' then he let 'em know who he was, an'
he kissed 'em an' he didn't whip 'em, or make 'em go without their
breakfast, or stand in a corner, nor none of them things; an' then
he sent 'em back for their papa, an' when he saw his papa comin',
he ran like everything, and gave him a great big hug and a kiss.
Joseph was too big to ask his papa if he'd brought him any candy,
but he was awful glad to see him. An' the king gave Joseph's papa
a nice farm, an' they all had real good times after that."
"And they dipped the coat in the blood; an' made it all bluggy,"
"Uncle Harry," said Budge, "what do you think MY papa would do if
he thought I was all ate up by a lion? I guess he'd cry AWFUL,
don't you? Now tell us another story--oh, I'LL tell you--read us
"'Bout Bliaff," interrupted Toddie.
"YOU tell ME about him, Toddie," said I.
"Why," said Toddie, "Bliaff was a brate bid man, an' Dave was
brate little man, an' Bliaff said, 'Come over here'n an' I'll eat
you up,' an' Dave said, '_I_ ain't fyaid of you.' So Dave put five
little stones in a sling an' asked de Lord to help him, an' let ze
sling go bang into bequeen Bliaff's eyes an' knocked him down
dead, an' Dave took Bliaff's sword an' sworded Bliaff's head off,
an' made it all bluggy, an' Bliaff runned away." This short
narration was accompanied by more spirited and unexpected gestures
than Mr. Gough ever puts into a long lecture.
"I don't like 'bout Goliath at all," remarked Budge. "I'D like to
hear 'bout Ferus."
"Ferus; don't you know?"
"Never heard of him, Budge."
"Why--y--y--!" exclaimed Budge; "didn't you have no papa when you
was a little boy?"
"Yes, but he never told me about any one named Ferus; there's no
such person named in Anthon's Classical Dictionary, either. What
sort of a man was he?"
"Why, once there was a man, an' his name was Ferus--Offerus, an'
he went about fightin' for kings, but when any king got afraid of
anybody, he wouldn't fight for him no more. An' one day he
couldn't find no kings that wasn't afraid of nobody. An' the
people told him the Lord was the biggest king in the world, an' he
wasn't afraid of nobody or nothing. An' he asked 'em where he
could find the Lord, and they said he was way up in heaven so
nobody couldn't see him but the angels, but he liked folks to WORK
for him instead of fight. So Ferus wanted to know what kind of
work he could do, an' the people said there was a river not far
off, where there wasn't no ferry-boats, cos the water run so fast,
an' they guessed if he'd carry folks across, the Lord would like
it. So Ferus went there, and he cut him a good, strong cane, an'
whenever anybody wanted to go across the river he'd carry 'em on
"One night he was sittin' in his little house by the fire, and
smokin' his pipe an' readin' the paper, an' 'twas rainin' an'
blowin' an' hailin' an' stormin', an' he was so glad there wasn't
anybody wantin' to go 'cross the river, when he heard somebody
call out 'Ferus!' An' he looked out the window, but he couldn't
see nobody, so he sat down again. Then somebody called 'Ferus!'
again, and he opened the door again, an' there was a little bit of
a boy, 'bout as big as Toddie. An' Ferus said, 'Hullo, young
fellow, does your mother know you're out?' An' the little boy
said, 'I want to go 'cross the river.'--'Well,' says Ferus,
'you're a mighty little fellow to be travelin' alone, but hop up.'
So the little boy jumped up on Ferus's back, and Ferus walked into
the water. Oh, my--WASN'T it cold? An' every step he took that
little boy got heavier, so Ferus nearly tumbled down an' they
liked to both got drownded. An' when they got across the river
Ferus said, 'Well, you ARE the heaviest small fry I ever carried,'
an' he turned around to look at him, an' 'twasn't no little boy at
all--'twas a big man--'twas Christ. An' Christ said, 'Ferus, I
heard you was tryin' to work for me, so I thought I'd come down
an' see you, an' not let you know who I was. An' now you shall
have a new name; you shall be called CHRISTofferus, cos that means
Christ-carrier.' An' everybody called him Christofferus after
that, an' when he died they called him SAINT Christopher, cos
Saint is what they called good people when they're dead."
Budge himself had the face of a rapt saint as he told this story,
but my contemplation of his countenance was suddenly arrested by
Toddie, who, disapproving of the unexciting nature of his
brother's recital, had strayed into the garden, investigated a
hornet's nest, been stung, and set up a piercing shriek. He ran in
to me, and as I hastily picked him up, he sobbed:--
"Want to be wocked. [Footnote: Rocked.] Want 'Toddie one boy
I rocked him violently, and petted him tenderly, but again he
"Want 'Toddie one boy day.'"
"What DOES the child mean?" I exclaimed.
"He wants you to sing to him about 'Charley boy one day,'" said
Budge. "He always wants mamma to sing that when he's hurt, an'
then he stops crying."
"I don't know it," said I. "Won't 'Roll, Jordan,' do, Toddie?"
"I'LL tell you how it goes," said Budge, and forthwith the youth
sang the following song, a line at a time, I following him in
words and air:--
"Where is my little bastik [Footnote: Basket.] gone?"
Said Charley, one boy day;
"I guess some little boy or girl
Has taken it away.
"An' kittie, too--where ISH she gone?
Oh dear, what shall I do?
I wish I could my bastik find,
An' little kittie, too.
"I'll go to mamma's room an' look;
Perhaps she may be there;
For kittie likes to take a nap
In mamma's easy chair.
"O mamma, mamma, come an' look
See what a little heap!
Here's kittie in the bastik here,
All cuddled down to sleep."
Where the applicability of this poem to my nephew's peculiar
trouble appeared, I could not see, but as I finished it, his sobs
gave place to a sigh of relief.
"Toddie," said I, "do you love your Uncle Harry?"
"Esh, I DO love you."
"Then tell me how that ridiculous song comforts you."
"Makes me feel good, an' all nicey," replied Toddie.
"Wouldn't you feel just as good if I sang, 'Plunged in a gulf of
"No, don't like dokdishpairs; if a dokdishpair done anyfing to me,
I'd knock it right down dead."
With this extremely lucid remark, our conversation on this
particular subject ended; but I wondered, during a few uneasy
moments, whether the temporary mental aberration which had once
afflicted Helen's grandfather and mine was not reappearing in
this, his youngest descendant. My wondering was cut short by
Budge, who remarked, in a confident tone:--
"Now, Uncle Harry, we'll have the whistles, I guess."
I acted upon the suggestion, and led the way to the woods. I had
not had occasion to seek a hickory sapling before for years; not
since the war, in fact, when I learned how hot a fire small
hickory sticks would make. I had not sought wood for whistles
since--gracious, nearly a quarter of a century ago! The dissimilar
associations called up by these recollections threatened to put me
in a frame of mind which might have resulted in a bad poem, had
not my nephews kept up a lively succession of questions such as no
one but children can ask. The whistles completed, I was marched,
with music, to the place where the "Jacks" grew. It was just such
a place as boys instinctively delight in--low, damp, and boggy,
with a brook hiding treacherously away under overhanging ferns and
grasses. The children knew by sight the plant which bore the
"Jacks," and every discovery was announced by a piercing shriek of
delight. At first I looked hurriedly toward the brook as each yell
clove the air; but, as I became accustomed to it, my attention was
diverted by some exquisite ferns. Suddenly, however, a succession
of shrieks announced that something was wrong, and across a large
fern I saw a small face in a great deal of agony. Budge was
hurrying to the relief of his brother, and was soon as deeply
imbedded as Toddie was in the rich black mud, at the bottom of the
brook. I dashed to the rescue, stood astride the brook, and
offered a hand to each boy, when a treacherous tuft of grass gave
way, and, with a glorious splash, I went in myself. This accident
turned Toddie's sorrow to laughter, but I can't say I made light
of my misfortune on that account. To fall into CLEAN water is not
pleasant, even when one is trout-fishing; but to be clad in white
pants, and suddenly drop nearly knee-deep in the lap of mother
Earth is quite a different thing. I hastily picked up the
children, and threw them upon the bank, and then wrathfully strode
out myself, and tried to shake myself as I have seen a
Newfoundland dog do. The shake was not a success--it caused my
trouser-leg to flap dismally about my ankles, and sent the streams
of loathsome ooze trickling down into my shoes. My hat, of drab
felt, had fallen off by the brookside, and been plentifully
spattered as I got out. I looked at my youngest nephew with
"Uncle Harry," said Budge, "'twas real good of the Lord to let you
be with us, else Toddie might have been drownded."
"Yes," said I, "and I shouldn't have much--"
"Ocken Hawwy," cried Toddie, running impetuously toward me,
pulling me down, and patting my cheek with his muddy black hand,
"I LOVES you for takin' me out de water."
"I accept your apology," said I, "but let's hurry home." There was
but one residence to pass, and that, thank fortune, was so densely
screened by shrubbery that the inmates could not see the road. To
be sure, we were on a favorite driving road, but we could reach
home in five minutes, and we might dodge into the woods if we
heard a carriage coming. Ha! There came a carriage already, and
we--was there ever a sorrier-looking group? There were ladies in
the carriage, too--could it be--of course it was--did the evil
spirit, which guided those children always, send an attendant for
Miss Mayton before he began operations? There she was, anyway--
cool, neat, dainty, trying to look collected, but severely flushed
by the attempt. It was of no use to drop my eyes, for she had
already recognized me; so I turned to her a face which I think
must have been just the one--unless more defiant--that I carried
into two or three cavalry charges.
"You seem to have been having a real good time together," said
she, with a conventional smile, as the carriage passed. "Remember,
you're all going to call on me tomorrow afternoon."
Bless the girl! Her heart was as quick as her eyes--almost any
other young lady would have devoted her entire energy to laughing
on such an occasion, but SHE took her earliest opportunity to make
me feel at ease. Such a royal hearted woman deserves to--I caught
myself just here, with my cheeks growing quite hot under the mud
Toddie had put on them, and I led our retreat with a more stylish
carriage than my appearance could possibly have warranted, and
then I consigned my nephews to the maid with very much the air of
an officer turning over a large number of prisoners he had
captured. I hastily changed my soiled clothing for my best--not
that I expected to see any one, but because of a sudden increase
in the degree of respect I felt toward myself. When the children
were put to bed, and I had no one but my thoughts for companions,
I spent a delightful hour or two in imagining as possible some
changes of which I had never dared to think before.
On Monday morning I was in the garden at sunrise. Toddie was to
carry his expiatory bouquet to Miss Mayton that day, and I
proposed that no pains should be spared to make his atonement as
handsome as possible. I canvassed carefully every border, bed, and
detached flowering plant until I had as accurate an idea of their
possibilities as if I had inventoried the flowers in pen and ink.
This done, I consulted the servant as to the unsoiled clothing of
my nephews. She laid out their entire wardrobe for my inspection,
and after a rigid examination of everything I selected the suits
which the boys were to wear in the afternoon. Then I told the girl
that the boys were going with me after dinner to call on some
ladies, and that I desired that she should wash and dress them
"Tell me just what time you'll start, sir, and I'll begin an hour
beforehand," said she. "That's the only way to be sure that they
don't disgrace you."
For breakfast we had, among other things, some stewed oysters
served in soup-plates.
"O Todd," shrieked Budge, "there's the turtle-plates again--oh,
AIN'T I glad!"
"Oo--ee--turtle pyates," squealed Toddie.
"What on earth do you mean, boys?" I demanded.
"I'll show you," said Budge, jumping down from his chair and
bringing his plate of oysters cautiously toward me. "Now you just
put your head down underneath my plate, and look up, and you'll
see a turtle."
For a moment I forgot that I was not at a restaurant, and I took
the plate, held it up, and examined its bottom.
"There!" said Budge, pointing to the trademark, in colors, of the
makers of the crockery, "don't you see the turtle?"
I abruptly ordered Budge to his seat, unmoved even by Toddie's
"Dey ish turtles, but dey can't knawl awound like udder turtles."
After breakfast I devoted a great deal of fussy attention to
myself. Never did my own wardrobe seem so meager and ill--
assorted; never did I cut myself so many times while shaving;
never did I use such unsatisfactory shoe-polish. I finally gave up
in despair my effort to appear genteel, and devoted myself to the
bouquet. I cut almost flowers enough to dress a church, and then
remorselessly excluded every one which was in the least particular
imperfect. In making the bouquet I enjoyed the benefit of my
nephews' assistance and counsel and took enforced part in
conversation which flowers suggested.
"Ocken Hawwy," said Toddie, "ish heaven all like this, wif pretty
f'owers? Cos I don't see what ze angels ever turns out for if
"Uncle Harry," said Budge, "when the leaves all go up and down and
wriggle around so, are they talking to the wind?"
"I--I guess so, old fellow."
"Who are you making that bouquet for, Uncle Harry?" asked Budge.
"For a lady--for Miss Mayton--that lady that saw us all muddy
yesterday afternoon," said I.
"Oh, I like her," said Budge. "She looks so nice and pretty--just
like a cake--just as if she was good to eat--Oh, I just love her,
"Well, I respect her very highly, Budge."
"'Spect? What does 'spect mean?"
"Why, it means that I think she's a lady--a real pleasant lady-
just the nicest sort of lady in the world--the sort of person I'd
like to see every day, and like to see her better than any one
"Oh, why, 'spect an' love means just the same thing, don't they,
"Budge," I exclaimed, somewhat hastily "run ask Maggie for a piece
"All right," said Budge, moving off, "but they DO, don't they?"
At two o'clock I instructed Maggie to dress my nephews, and at
three we started to make our call. To carry Toddie's bouquet, and
hold a hand of each boy so as to keep them from darting into the
hedges for grasshoppers, and the gutters for butterflies, was no
easy work, but I managed to do it. As we approached Mrs.
Clarkson's boarding-house I felt my hat was over one ear, and my
cravat awry, but there was no opportunity to rearrange them, for I
saw Alice Mayton on the piazza, and felt that she saw me. Handing
the bouquet to Toddie, and promising him three sticks of candy if
he would be careful and not drop it, we entered the garden. The
moment we were inside the hedge and Toddie saw a man going over
the lawn with a lawn-mower, he shrieked: "Oh, deresh a cutter-
grass!" and dropped the bouquet with the carelessness born of
perfect ecstasy. I snatched it before it reached the ground,
dragged the offending youth up the walk, saluted Miss Mayton, and
told Toddie to give the bouquet to the lady. This he succeeded in
doing, but as Miss Mayton thanked him and stooped to kiss him he
wriggled off the piazza like a little eel, shouted, "Tum on!" to
his brother, and a moment later my nephews were following the
"cutter-grass" at a respectful distance in the rear.
"Those are my sister's best children in the world, Miss Mayton,"
"Bless the little darlings!" replied the lady; "I DO love to see
children enjoying themselves."
"So do I," said I, "when I'm not responsible for their well-being;
but if the effort I've expended on those boys had been directed
toward the interests of my employers, those worthy gentlemen would
consider me invaluable."
Miss Mayton made some witty reply, and we settled to a pleasant
chat about mutual acquaintances, about books, pictures, music, and
the gossip of our set. I would cheerfully have discussed Herbert
Spencer's system, the Assyrian Tablets, or any other dry subject
with Miss Mayton, and felt that I was richly repaid by the
pleasure of seeing her. Handsome, intelligent, composed,
tastefully dressed, without a suspicion of the flirt or the
languid woman of fashion about her, she awakened to the uttermost
every admiring sentiment and every manly feeling. But, alas, my
enjoyment was probably more than I deserved, so it was cut short.
There were other ladies boarding at Mrs. Clarkson's, and as Miss
Mayton truthfully observed at our first meeting, men were very
scarce at Hillcrest. So the ladies, by the merest accident, of
course, happened upon the piazza, and each one was presented to
me, and common civility made it impossible for me to speak to Miss
Mayton more than once in ten minutes. At any other time and place
I should have found the meeting of so many ladies a delightful
experience, but now--
Suddenly a compound shriek arose from the lawn, and all the ladies
sprang to their feet. I followed their example, setting my teeth
firmly and viciously, hoping that whichever nephew had been hurt
was BADLY hurt. We saw Toddie running towards us with one hand in
his mouth, while Budge ran beside him, exclaiming:--
"POOR little Toddie! Don't cry! DOES it hurt you awful? Never
mind--Uncle Harry'll comfort you. Don't cry, Toddie DE-ar!"
Both boys reached the piazza steps, and clambered up, Budge
"O, Uncle Harry, Toddie put his fingers in the little wheels of
the cutter-grass, an' it turned just the least little biddie, an'
it hurted him."
But Toddie ran up to me, clasped my legs, and sobbed.
"Sing 'Toddie one boy day.'"
My blood seemed to freeze. I could have choked that dreadful
child, suffering though he was. I stooped over him, caressed him,
promised him candy, took out my watch and gave it to him to play
with, but he returned to his original demand. A lady--the
homeliest in the party--suggested that she should bind up his
hand, and I inwardly blessed her, but he reiterated his request
for "Toddie one boy day," and sobbed pitifully.
"What DOES he mean?" asked Miss Mayton.
"He wants Uncle Harry to sing, 'Charley boy one day,'" explained
Budge; "he always wants that song when he's hurt any way."
"Oh, do sing it to him, Mr. Burton," pleaded Miss Mayton; and all
the other ladies exclaimed, "Oh, do!"
I wrathfully picked him up in my arms, and hummed the air of the
"Sit in a wockin'-chair," sobbed Toddie.
I obeyed; and then my tormentor remarked:--
"You don't sing the wydes (words),--I wants the wydes."
I sang the words as softly as possible with my lips close to his
ear, but he roared:--
"I don't know any more of it, Toddie," I exclaimed in desperation.
"Oh, I'll tell it all to you, Uncle Harry," said Budge. And there,
before that audience, and HER, I was obliged to sing that dreadful
doggerel, line for line, as Budge repeated it. My teeth were set
tight, my brow grew clammy, and I gazed upon Toddie with terrible
thoughts in my mind. No one laughed--I grew so desperate that a
titter would have given relief. At last I heard some one whisper:--
"SEE how he loves him! Poor man!--he's in perfect agony over the
Had not the song reached its natural end just then, I believe I
should have tossed my wounded nephew over the piazza rail. As it
was, I set him upon his feet, announced the necessity of our
departure, and began to take leave, when Miss Mayton's mother
insisted that we should stay to dinner.
"For myself, I should be delighted, Mrs. Mayton," said I; "but my
nephews have hardly learned company manners yet. I'm afraid my
sister wouldn't forgive me if she heard I had taken them out to
"Oh, I'll take care of the little dears," said Miss Mayton;
"they'll be good with ME, I KNOW."
"I couldn't be so unkind as to let you try it, Miss Mayton," I
replied. But she insisted, and the pleasure of submitting to her
will was so great that I would have risked even greater mischief.
So Miss Mayton sat down to dinner with Budge upon one side and
Toddie on the other, while I was fortunately placed opposite, from
which position I could indulge in warning winks and frowns. The
soup was served. I signaled the boys to tuck their napkins under
their chins, and then turned to speak to the lady on my right. She
politely inclined her head toward me, but her thoughts seemed
elsewhere; following her eyes, I beheld my youngest nephew with
his plate upraised in both hands, his head on the table-cloth, and
his eyes turned painfully upward. I dared not speak, for fear he
would drop the plate. Suddenly he withdrew his head, put on an
angelic smile, tilted his plate so part of its contents sought
refuge in the fold of Miss Mayton's dainty, snowy dress, while the
"Oo--ee--!--zha turtle on my pyate!--Budgie, zha turtle on my
Budge was about to raise the plate when he caught my eye and
desisted. Poor Miss Mayton actually looked discomposed for the
first time in her life, so far as I knew or could imagine. She
recovered quickly, however, and treated that wretched boy with the
most Christian forbearance and consideration during the remainder
of the meal. When the dessert was finished she quickly excused
herself, while I removed Toddie to a secluded corner of the
piazza, and favored him with a lecture which caused him to howl
pitifully, and compelled me to caress him and undo all the good
which my rebukes had done. Then he and Budge removed themselves to
the lawn, while I awaited Miss Mayton's reappearance, to offer an
apology for Toddie, and to make our adieus. It was the custom of
the ladies at Mrs. Clarkson's to stroll about the lovely rural
walks after dinner and until twilight; and on this particular
evening they departed in twos and threes, leaving me to make my
apology without witnesses. I was rather sorry they went; it was
not pleasant to feel that I was principally responsible for my
nephews' blunder, and to have no opportunity to allay my
conscience-pangs by conversation. It seemed to me Miss Mayton was
forever in appearing; I even called up my nephews to have some one
to talk to.
Suddenly she appeared, and in an instant I fervently blessed
Toddie and the soup which the child had sent upon its aimless
wanderings. I would rather pay the price of a fine dress than try
to describe Miss Mayton's attire; I can only say that in style,
color and ornament it became her perfectly, and set off the
beauties of a face which I had never before thought was more than
pleasing and intelligent. Perhaps the anger which was excusable
after Toddie's graceless caper had something to do with putting
unusual color into her cheeks, and a brighter sparkle than usual
in her eyes. Whatever was the cause, she looked queenly, and I
half imagined that I detected in her face a gleam of satisfaction
at the involuntary start which her unexpected appearance caused me
to make. She accepted my apology for Toddie with queenly
graciousness, and then, instead of proposing that we should follow
the other ladies, as a moment before I had hoped she would, she
dropped into a chair. I accepted the invitation; the children
should have been in bed half an hour before, but my sense of
responsibility had departed when Miss Mayton appeared. The little
scamps were safe until they should perform some new and unexpected
act of impishness. They retired to one end of the piazza, and
busied themselves in experiments upon a large Newfoundland dog,
while I, the happiest man alive, talked to the glorious woman
before me, and enjoyed the spectacle of her radiant beauty. The
twilight came and deepened, but imagination prevented the vision
from fading. With the coming of the darkness and the starlight,
our voices unconsciously dropped to lower tones, and HER voice
seemed purest music. And yet we said nothing which all the world
might not have listened to without suspecting a secret. The ladies
returned in little groups, but either out of womanly intuition or
in answer to my unspoken but fervent prayers, passed us and went
into the house. I was affected by an odd mixture of desperate
courage and despicable cowardice. I determined to tell her all,
yet I shrank from the task with more terror than ever befell me in
the first steps of a charge.
Suddenly a small shadow came from behind us and stood between us,
and the voice of Budge remarked:--
"Uncle Harry 'spects you, Miss Mayton."
"Suspects me?--of what, pray?" exclaimed the lady, patting my
"Budge!" said I--I feel that my voice rose nearly to a scream--
"Budge, I must beg of you to respect the sanctity of confidential
"What is it, Budge?" persisted Miss Mayton; "you know the old
adage, Mr. Burton: 'Children and fools speak the truth.' Of what
does he suspect me, Budge?"
"'Tain't SUS-pect at all," said Budge, "it's es-pect."
"Expect?" echoed Miss Mayton.
"No, not 'ex,' it's ES-spect. I know all about it, 'cause I asked
him. Espect is what folks do when they think you're nice, and like
to talk to you, and--"
"Respect is what the boy is trying to say, Miss Mayton," I
interrupted, to prevent what I feared might follow. "Budge has a
terrifying faculty for asking questions, and the result of some of
them, this morning, was my endeavor to explain to him the nature
of the respect in which gentlemen hold ladies."
"Yes," continued Budge, "I know all about it. Only Uncle Harry
don't say it right. What he calls espect _I_ calls LOVE."
There was an awkward pause--it seemed an age. Another blunder, and
all on account of those dreadful children. I could think of no
possible way to turn the conversation; stranger yet, Miss Mayton
could not do so either. Something MUST be done--I could at least
be honest, come what would--I would be honest.
"Miss Mayton," said I, hastily, earnestly, but in a very low tone,
"Budge is a marplot, but he is a truthful interpreter for all
that. But whatever my fate may be, please do not suspect me of
falling suddenly into love for a holiday's diversion. My malady is
of some months' standing. I--"
"I want to talk SOME," observed Budge. "You talk all the whole
time. I--I--when _I_ loves anybody I kisses them."
Miss Mayton gave a little start, and my thoughts followed each
other with unimagined rapidity. SHE did not turn the conversation
--it could not be possible that she COULD not. She was not angry,
or she would have expressed herself. Could it be that--
I bent over her and acted upon Budge's suggestion. As she
displayed no resentment, I pressed my lips a second time to her
forehead, then she raised her head slightly, and I saw, in spite
of darkness and shadows, that Alice Mayton had surrendered at
discretion. Taking her hand and straightening myself to my full
height, I offered to the Lord mere fervent thanks than he ever
heard from me in church. Then I heard Budge say, "_I_ wants to
kiss you, too," and I saw my glorious Alice snatch the little
scamp into her arms, and treat him with more affection than I ever
imagined was in her nature. Then she seized Toddie, and gave him a
few tokens of forgiveness--I dare not think they were of
Suddenly two or three ladies came upon the piazza.
"Come, boys," said I. "Then I'll call with the carriage tomorrow
at three, Miss Mayton. Good evening."
"Good evening," replied the sweetest voice in the world; "I'll be
ready at three."
"Budge," said I, as soon as we were fairly outside the hedge-gate,
"what do you like better than anything else in the world?"
"Candy," said Budge, very promptly.
"Oh, figs, an' raisins, an' dear little kittie-kitties, an' drums,
an' picture-books, an' little bakin' dishes to make mud-pies in,
an' turtles, an' little wheelbarrows."
"Oh, yes--great big black dogs--an' a goat, an' a wagon for him to
draw me in."
"Very well, old fellow--you shall have every one of those things
"Oh--h--h--h--h!" exclaimed Budge, "I guess you're something like
the Lord, ain't you?"
"What makes you think so, Budge?"
"Oh, 'cause you can do such lots of things at once. But ain't poor
little Tod goin' to have noffin'?"
"Yes, everything he wants. What would you like, Toddie?"
"Wants a candy cigar," replied Toddie.
"Don't want NUFFIN' else--don't want to be boddered wif LOTS of
The thoughts which were mine that night--the sense of how
glorious a thing it is to be a man and be loved--the humility that
comes with such a victory as I had gained--the rapid alternation
of happy thoughts and noble resolutions--what man is there who
does not know my whole story better than I can tell it? I put my
nephews to bed; I told them every story they asked for; and when
Budge, in saying his prayers, said "an' bless that nice lady that
Uncle Harry 'spects," I interrupted his devotions with a hearty
hug. The children had been awake so far beyond their usual hour
for retiring that they dropped asleep without giving any special
notice of their intention to do so. Asleep, their faces were
simply angelic. As I stood, candle in hand, gazing gratefully upon
them, I remembered a sadly neglected duty. I hurried to the
library and wrote the following to my sister:
"HILLCREST, Monday Night.
"DEAR HELEN:--I should have written you before had I been exactly
certain what to say about your boys. I confess that until now I
have been blind to some of their virtues, and have imagined I
detected an occasional fault. But the scales have fallen from my
eyes, and I see clearly that my nephews are angels--positively
angels. If I seem to speak extravagantly, I beg to refer you to
Alice Mayton for collateral evidence. Don't come home at all--
everything is just as it should be--even if you come, I guess I'll
invite myself to spend the rest of the summer with you; I've
changed my mind about its being a bore to live out of town and
take trains back and forth every day. Ask Tom to think over such
bits of real estate in your neighborhood as he imagines I might
"I repeat it, the boys are angels, and Alice Mayton is another,
while the happiest man in the white goods trade is
"Your affectionate brother
Early next morning I sought the society of my nephews. It was
absolutely necessary that I should overflow to SOME one--some one
who was sympathetic and innocent and pure. I longed for my sister
--my mother, but to SOME one I must talk at once. Budge fulfilled
my requirements exactly; he was an excellent listener, very
sympathetic by nature, and quick to respond. Not the wisdom of the
most reverend sage alive could have been so grateful to my ear as
that child's prattle was on that delightful morning. As for
Toddie--blessed be the law of compensation! his faculty of
repetition, and of echoing whatever he heard said, caused him to
murmur "Miff Mayton, Miff Mayton," all morning long, and the sound
gained in sweetness by its ceaseless iteration. To be sure, Budge
took early and frequent occasions to remind me of my promises of
the night before, and Toddie occasionally demanded the promised
candy cigar; but these very interruptions only added joy to my own
topic of interest each time it was resumed. The filling of Budge's
orders occupied two or three hours and all the vacant space in the
carriage; even then the goat and goat-carriage were compelled to
The program for the afternoon was arranged to the satisfaction of
every one. I gave the coachman, Mike, a dollar to harness the goat
and teach the children to drive him; this left me free to drive
off without being followed by two small figures and two pitiful
I always believed a horse was infected by the spirit of his
driver. My dear old four-footed military companions always seemed
to perfectly comprehend my desires and intentions, and certainly
my brother-in-law's horses entered into my own spirits on this
particular afternoon. They stepped proudly, they arched their
powerful necks handsomely, their feet seemed barely to touch the
ground; yet they did not grow restive under the bit, nor were they
frightened even at a hideous steam road-rolling machine which
passed us. As I drove up to Mrs. Clarkson's door I found that most
of the boarders were on the piazza--the memories of ladies are
usually good at times. Alice immediately appeared, composed of
course, but more radiant than ever.
"Why, where are the boys?" she exclaimed.
"I was afraid they might annoy your mother," I replied, "so I left
"Oh, mother hardly feels well enough to go today," said she; "she
is lying down."
"Then we can pick up the boys on the road," said I, for which
remark, my enchantress, already descending the steps, gave me a
look which the ladies behind her would have given their best
switches to have seen.
We drove off as decorously as if it were Sunday and we were
driving to church; we industriously pointed out to each other
every handsome garden and tasteful residence we passed; we met
other people driving, and conversed fluently upon their horses,
carriages and dress. But when we reached the edge of the town, and
I turned into "Happy Valley," a road following the depressions and
curves of a long, well-wooded valley, in which there was not a
single straight line, I turned and looked into my darling's face.
Her eyes met mine, and, although they were full of a happiness
which I had never seen in them before, they filled with tears, and
their dear owner dropped her head on my shoulder. What we said on
that long drive would not interest the reader. I have learned by
experience to skip all love talks in novels; no matter how
delightful the lovers may be. Recalling now our conversation, it
does not seem to me to have had anything wonderful it in. I will
only say that if I had been happy on the evening before, my
happiness now seemed to be sanctified; to be favored with the love
and confidence of a simple girl scarcely past her childhood is to
receive a greater honor than court or field can bestow; but even
this honor is far surpassed by that which comes to a man when a
woman of rare intelligence, tact and knowledge of society and the
world, unburdens her heart of all its hopes and fears, and
unhesitatingly leaves her destiny to be shaped by his love. Women
like Alice Mayton do not thus give themselves unreservedly away
except when their trust is born of knowledge as well as affection,
and the realization of all this changed me on that afternoon from
whatever I had been into what I had long hoped I might one day be.
But the hours flew rapidly, and I reluctantly turned the horses'
heads homeward. We had left almost the whole of "Happy Valley"
behind us, and were approaching residences again.
"Now we must be very proper," said Alice.
"Certainly," I replied, "here's a good--by to happy nonsense for
I leaned toward her, and gently placed one arm about her neck; she
raised her dear face, from which joy and trust had banished every
indication of caution and reserve, my lips sought hers, when
suddenly we heard a most unearthly, discordant shriek, which
presently separated into two, each of which prolonged itself
indefinitely. The horses started, and Alice--blessed be all
frights, now, henceforth, and forevermore!--clung tightly to me.
The sounds seemed to be approaching us, and were accompanied by a
lively rattling noise, that seemed to be made by something wooden.
Suddenly, as we approached a bend of the road, I saw my youngest
nephew appear from some unknown space, describe a parabolic curve
in the air, ricochet slightly from an earthy protuberance in the
road, and make a final stop in the gutter. At the same time there
appeared, from behind the bend, the goat, then the carriage
dragging on one side, and lastly, the boy Budge, grasping tightly
the back of the carriage body, and howling frightfully. A direct
collision between the carriage and a stone caused Budge to loose
his hold, while the goat, after taking in the scene, trotted
leisurely off, and disappeared in a road leading to the house of
his late owner.
"Budge," I shouted, "stop that bawling, and come here. Where's
"He--boo--hoo--went to--hoo--light his--boo--hoo--hoo--pipe, an' I
just let the--boo--hoo--whip go against to the goat, an' then he
"Nashty old goat scaddooed," said Toddie, in corroboration.
"Well, walk right home, and tell Maggie to wash and dress you,"
"O Harry," pleaded Alice, "after they've been in such danger! Come
here to your own Aunt Alice, Budgie dear,--and you, too, Toddie,--
you know you said we could pick the boys up on the road, Harry.
There, there--don't cry--let me wipe the ugly old dirt off you,
and kiss the face, and make it well."
"Alice," I protested, "don't let those dirty boys clamber all over
you in that way."
"Silence, sir," said she, with mock dignity; "who gave me my
lover, I should like to ask?"
So we drove up to the boarding-house with the air of people who
had been devoting themselves to a couple of very disreputable
children, and I drove swiftly away again, lest the children should
dispel the illusion. We soon met Mike, running. The moment he
recognized us, he shouted:--
"Aye, ye little dhivils,--beggin' yer pardon, Masther Harry, an'
thankin' the Howly Mither that their good-for-nothin' little bones
ain't broke to bits. Av they saw a hippypottymus hitched to
Pharaoh's chariot, they'd think 'emselves jist the byes to take
the bossin' av it, the spalpeens."
But no number of ordinary hippopotami and chariots could have
disturbed the heavenly tranquillity of my mind on this most
glorious of evenings. Even a subtle sense of the fitness of things
seemed to overshadow my nephews. Perhaps the touch of my
enchantress did it; perhaps it came only from the natural relapse
from great excitement; but no matter what the reason was, the fact
remains that for the rest of the evening two very dirty suits of
clothes held two children who gave one some idea of how the
denizens of Paradise might seem and act. They even ate their
suppers without indulging in any of the repulsive ways of which
they had so large an assortment, and they did not surreptitiously
remove from the table any fragments of bread and butter to leave
on the piano, in the card-basket, and other places inappropriate
to the reception of such varieties of abandoned property. They
demanded a song after supper, but when I sang, "Drink to Me only
with Thine Eyes," and "Thou, Thou, Reign'st in this Bosom," they
stood by with silent tongues and appreciative eyes. When they went
to bed, I accompanied them by special invitation, but they showed
no disposition to engage in the usual bedtime frolic and miniature
pandemonium. Budge, when in bed, closed his eyes, folded his hand
"Dear Lord, bless papa an' mamma, an' Toddie, an' Uncle Harry, an'
everybody else; yes, an' bless just lots that lovely, lovely lady
that comforted me after the goat was bad to me, an' let her
comfort me lots of times, for Christ's sake, Amen."
And Toddie wriggled, twisted, breathed heavily, threw his head
back, and prayed:
"Dee Lord, don't let dat old goat fro me into de gutter on my head
aden, an' let Ocken Hawwy an' ze pitty lady be dere netst time I
Then the good-night salutations were exchanged, and I left the
little darlings and enjoyed communion with my own thoughts which
were as peaceful and ecstatic as if the world contained no white
goods houses, no doubtful customers, no business competition, no
politics, gold rooms, stock-boards, doubtful banks, political
scandals, personal iniquity, nor anything which should prevent a
short vacation from lasting through a long lifetime.
The next morning would have struck terror to the heart of any one
but a newly accepted lover. Rain was falling fast, and in that
steady, industrious manner which seemed to assert an intention to
stick closely to business for the whole day. The sky was covered
by one impenetrable leaden cloud, water stood in pools in the
streets which were soft with dust a few hours before; the flowers
all hung their heads like vagabonds who had been awake all night
and were ashamed to face the daylight. Even the chickens stood
about in dejected attitudes, and stray roosters from other
poultry-yards found refuge in Tom's coop without first being
subjected to a trial of strength and skill by Tom's game-cock.
But no man in my condition of mind could be easily depressed by
bad weather. I would rather have been able to drive about under a
clear sky, or lounge under the trees, or walk to the post-office
in the afternoon by the road which passed directly in front of
Mrs. Clarkson's boarding-house; but man should not live for
himself alone. In the room next mine were slumbering two wee
people to whom I owed a great deal, who would mourn bitterly when
they saw the condition of the skies and ground--I would devote
myself to the task of making THEM so happy that they would forget
the absence of sunshine out of doors--I would sit by their bedside
and have a story ready for them the moment they awoke, and put
them in such a good humor that they could laugh, with me, at cloud
I began at once to construct a story for their especial benefit;
the scene was to be a country residence on a rainy day, and the
actors two little boys who should become uproariously jolly in
spite of the weather. Like most people not used to story-making,
my progress was not very rapid; in fact, I had got no farther than
the plot indicated above when an angry snarl came from the
"What's the matter, Budge?" I shouted, dressing myself as rapidly
"Ow--oo--ya--ng--um--boc--gaa," was the somewhat complicated
"What did you say, Budge?"
"Didn't say noffin'."
"Oh--that's what I thought."
"Don't WANT to be good--YA--A--A."
"Let's have some fun, Budge--don't you want to frolic?"
"No; I don't think frolic is nice."
"Don't you want some candy, Budge?"
"No--you ain't GOT no candy, I bleeve."
"Well, you sha'n't have any if you don't stop being so cross."
The only reply to this was a mighty and audible rustling of the
bedding in the boys' room, followed by a sound strongly resembling
that caused by a slap; then came a prolonged wail, resembling that
of an ungreased wagon-wheel.
"What's the matter, Toddie?"
"Budge s'apped me--ah--h--h--h!"
"What made you slap your brother, Budge?"
"You DID," screamed Toddie.
"I tell you I didn't--you're a naughty, bad boy to tell such lies,
"What DID you do, Budge?" I asked.
"Why--why--I was--I was turnin' over in bed, an' my hand was out,
and it tumbled against to Toddie--that's what."
By this time I was dressed and in the boy's room. Both my nephews
were sitting up in bed, Budge looking as sullen as an old jail-
bird, and Toddie with tears streaming all over his face.
"Boys," said I, "don't be angry with each other--it isn't right.
What do you suppose the Lord thinks when he sees you so cross to
"He don't think noffin'," said Budge; "you don't think he can look
through a black sky like that, do you?"
"He can look anywhere, Budge, and he feels very unhappy when he
sees little brothers angry with each other."
"Well, I feel unhappy, too--I wish there wasn't never no old rain,
"Then what would the plants and flowers do for a drink, and where
would the rivers come from for you to go sailing on?"
"An' wawtoo to mate mud-pies," added Toddie. "You's a naughty boy,
Buggie;" and here Toddie's tears began to flow afresh.
"I AIN'T a bad boy, an' I don't want no old rain nohow, an' that's
all about it. An' I don't want to get up, an' Maggie must bring me
up my breakfast in bed."
"Boo--hoo--oo," wept Toddie, "wants my brepspup in bed too."
"Boys," said I, "now listen. You can't have any breakfast at all
unless you are up and dressed by the time the bell rings. The
rising bell rang some time ago. Now dress like good boys, and you
shall have some breakfast, and then you'll feel a great deal
nicer, and then Uncle Harry will play with you and tell you
stories all day long."
Budge crept reluctantly out of bed and caught up one of his
stockings, while Toddie again began to cry.
"Toddie," I shouted, "stop that dreadful racket, and dress
yourself. What are you crying for?"
"Well, I feelsh bad."
"Well, dress yourself, and you'll feel better."
"Wantsh YOU to djesh me."
"Bring me your clothes, then--quick!"
Again the tears flowed copiously. "Don't WANT to bring 'em," said
"Then come here!" I shouted, dragging him across the room, and
snatching up his tiny articles of apparel. I had dressed no small
children since I was rather a small boy myself, and Toddie's
clothing confused me somewhat. I finally got something on him,
when a contemptuous laugh from Budge interrupted me.
"How you goin' to put his shirt on under them things?" queried my
"Budge," I retorted, "how are you going to get any breakfast if
you don't put on something besides that stocking?"
The young man's countenance fell, and just then the breakfast bell
rang. Budge raised a blank face, hurried to the head of the stairs
"What is it, Budge?"
"Was--was that the rising-bell or the breakfast-bell?"
"'Twas the breakfast-bell."
There was dead silence for a moment, and then Budge shouted:--
"Well, we'll call that the risin'-bell. You can ring another bell
for breakfast pretty soon when I get dressed." Then this volunteer
adjuster of household affairs came calmly back and commenced
dressing in good earnest, while I labored along with Toddie's
"Where's the button-hook, Budge?" said I.
"It's--I--oh--um--I put it--say, Tod, what did you do with the
"Didn't hazh no button-hook," asserted Toddie.
"Yes, you did; don't you remember how we was a playin' draw teef,
an' the doctor's dog had the toofache, and I was pullin' his teef
with the button-hook, an' you was my little boy, an' I gived the
toof-puller to you to hold for me? Where did you put it?"
"I'D no," replied Toddie, putting his hand in his pocket and
bringing out a sickly-looking toad.
"Feel again," said I, throwing the toad out the window, where it
was followed by an agonizing shriek from Toddie. Again he felt,
and his search was rewarded by the tension screw of Helen's
sewing-machine. Then I attempted some research myself, and
speedily found my fingers adhering to something of a sticky
consistency. I quickly withdrew my hand, exclaiming:--
"What nasty stuff HAVE you got in your pocket, Toddie?"
"'Taint nashty' tuff--it's byead an' 'lasses, an' its nice, an'
Budge an' me hazh little tea-parties in de kicken-coop, an' we
eats it, an' it's DOVELY."
All this was lucid and disgusting, but utterly unproductive of
button-hooks, and meanwhile the breakfast was growing cold. I
succeeded in buttoning Toddie's shoes with my fingers, splitting
most of my nails in the operation. I had been too busily engaged
with Toddie to pay any attention to Budge, who I now found about
half dressed and trying to catch flies on the windowpane.
Snatching Toddie, I started for the dining-room, when Budge
"Uncle Harry, YOU wasn't dressed when the bell rang, and YOU
oughtn't to have any breakfast."
True enough--I was minus collar, cravat, and coat. Hurrying these
on, and starting again, I was once more arrested:--
"Uncle Harry, must I brush my teeth this morning?"
"No--hurry up--come down without doing anything more, if you like,
but COME--it'll be dinner-time before we get breakfast."
Then that imp was moved, for the first time that morning, to
something like good-nature, and he exclaimed with a giggle:--
"My! What big stomachs we'd have when we got done, wouldn't we?"
At the breakfast table Toddie wept again, because I insisted on
beginning operations before Budge came. Then neither boys knew
exactly what he wanted. Then Budge managed to upset the contents
of his plate into his lap, and while I was helping him clear away
the debris, Toddie improved the opportunity to pour his milk upon
his fish, and put several spoonfuls of oatmeal porridge into my
coffee-cup. I made an early excuse to leave the table and turn the
children over to Maggie. I felt as tired as if I had done a hard
day's work, and was somewhat appalled at realizing that the day
had barely begun. I lit a cigar and sat down to Helen's piano. I
am not a musician, but even the chords of a hand-organ would have
seemed sweet music to me on that morning. The music-book nearest
to my hand was a church hymn-book, and the first air my eye struck
was "Greenville." I lived once in a town, where, on a single day,
a pedler disposed of thirty-eight accordeons, each with an
instruction-book in which this same air under its original name
was the ONLY air. For years after, a single bar of this air
awakened the most melancholy reflections in my mind, but now I
forgave all my musical tormentors as the familiar strains came
comfortingly from the piano-keys. But suddenly I heard an
accompaniment--a sort of reedy sound--and, looking around, I saw
Toddie again in tears. I stopped abruptly and asked:--
"What's the matter NOW, Toddie?"
"Don't want dat old tune; wantsh dancin' tune, so I can dance."
I promptly played "Yankee Doodle," and Toddie began to trot around
the room with the expression of a man who intended to do his whole
duty. Then Budge appeared, hugging a bound volume of "St.
Nicholas." The moment Toddie espied this he stopped dancing and
devoted himself anew to the task of weeping.
"Toddie," I shouted, springing from the piano-stool, "what do you
mean by crying at everything? I shall have to put you to bed
again, if you're going to be such a baby."
"That's the way he ALWAYS does, rainy days," explained Budge.
"Wantsh to see the whay-al what fwollowed Djonah," sobbed Toddie.
"Can't you demand something that's within the range of
possibility, Toddie?" I mildly asked.
"The whale Toddie means is in this big red book,--I'll find it for
you," said Budge, turning over the leaves.
Suddenly a rejoicing squeal from Toddie announced that leviathan
had been found, and I hastened to gaze. He was certainly a
dreadful-looking animal, but he had an enormous mouth, which
Toddie caressed with his pudgy little hand, and kissed with
tenderness, murmuring as he did so:--
"DEE old whay-al, I loves you. Is Jonah all goneded out of you
'tomach, whay-al? I finks 'twas weal mean in Djonah to get froed
up when you hadn't noffin' else to eat, POOR old whay-al."
"Of COURSE Jonah's gone," said Budge, "he went to heaven long ago
--pretty soon after he went to Nineveh an' done what the Lord told
him to do. Now swing us, Uncle Harry."
The swing was on the piazza under cover from the rain; so I
obeyed. Both boys fought for the right to swing first, and when I
decided in favor of Budge, Toddie went off weeping, and declaring
that he would look at his dear whay-al anyhow. A moment later his
wail changed to a piercing shriek; and running to his assistance,
I saw him holding one finger tenderly and trampling on a wasp.
"What's the matter, Toddie?"
"Oo--oo--ee--ee--ee--EE--I putted my finger on a waps, and--oo--
oo--the nasty waps--oo--bited me. An' I don't like wapses a bit,
but I likes whay-als--oo--ee--ee."
A happy thought struck me. "Why don't you boys make believe that
big packing-box in your play-room is a whale?" said I.
A compound shriek of delight followed the suggestion, and both
boys scrambled upstairs, leaving me a free man again. I looked
remorsefully at the tableful of books which I had brought to read,
and had not looked at for a week. Even now my remorse did not move
me to open them--I found myself instead attracted toward Tom's
library, and conning the titles of novels and volumes of poems. My
eye was caught by "Initial,"--a love-story which I had always
avoided because I had heard impressible young ladies rave about
it; but now I picked it up and dropped into an easy chair.
Suddenly I heard Mike the coachman shouting:--
"Go away from there, will ye? Ah, ye little spalpeen, it's good
for ye that yer fahder don't see ye perched up dhere. Go way from
dhat, or I'll be tellin' yer uncle."
"Don't care for nasty old uncle," piped Toddie's voice.
I laid down my book with a sigh, and went into the garden. Mike
saw me and shouted:--
"Misther Burthon, will ye look dhere? Did ye's ever see the loike
av dhat bye?"
Looking up at the play-room window, a long, narrow sort of loop-
hole in a Gothic gable, I beheld my youngest nephew standing
upright on the sill.
"Toddie, go in--quick!" I shouted, hurrying under the window to
catch him in case he fell outward.
"I tan't," squealed Toddie.
"Mike, run up-stairs and snatch him in; Toddie, go on, I tell
"Tell you I TAN'T doe in," repeated Toddie. "ZE bit bots ish ze
whay-al, an' I'ez Djonah, an' ze whay-al's froed me up, an' I'ze
dot to 'tay up here else ze whay-al 'ill fwallow me aden."
"I won't LET him swallow you. Get in now--hurry," said I.
"Will you give him a penny not to fwallow me no more?" queried
"Yes--a whole lot of pennies."
"Aw wight. Whay-al, don't you fwallow me no more, an' zen my Ocken
Hawwy div you whole lots of pennies. You must be weal dood whay-al
now, an' then I buys you some tandy wif your pennies, an'--"
Just then two great hands seized Toddie's frock in front, and he
disappeared with a howl, while I, with the first feeling of
faintness I had ever experienced, went in search of hammer, nails,
and some strips of board, to nail on the outside of the window-
frame. But boards could not be found, so I went up to the play-
room and began to knock a piece or two off the box which had done
duty as whale. A pitiful scream from Toddie caused me to stop.
"You're hurtin' my dee old whay-al; you's brakin' his 'tomach all
open--you's a baddy man--'TOP hurtin' my whay-al, ee--ee--ee,"
cried my nephew.
"I'm not hurting him, Toddie," said I; "I'm making his mouth
bigger, so he can swallow you easier."
A bright thought came into Toddie's face and shone through his
tears. "Then he can fwallow Budgie too, an' there'l be two
Djonahs--ha--ha--ha! Make his mouf so big he can fwallow Mike, an'
zen mate it 'ittle aden, so Mike tan' det OUT; nashty old Mike!"
I explained that Mike would not come upstairs again, so I was
permitted to depart after securing the window.
Again I settled myself with book and cigar; there was at least for
me the extra enjoyment that comes from the sense of pleasure
earned by honest toil. Pretty soon Budge entered the room. I
affected not to notice him, but he was not in the least abashed by
"Uncle Harry," said he, throwing himself in my lap between my book
and me, "I don't feel a bit nice."
"What's the matter, old fellow?" I asked. Until he spoke I could
have boxed his ears with great satisfaction to myself; but there
is so much genuine feeling in whatever Budge says that he commands
"Oh, I'm tired of playin' with Toddie, an' I feel lonesome. Won't
you tell me a story?"
"Then what'll poor Toddie do, Budge?"
"Oh, he won't mind--he's got a dead mouse to be Jonah now, so I
don't have no fun at all. Won't you tell me a story?"
"Tell me one that I never heard before at all."
"Well, let's see; I guess I'll tell--"
"Ah--ah--ah--ah--ee--ee--ee," sounded afar off, but fatefully. It
came nearer--it came down the stairway and into the library,
accompanied by Toddie, who, on spying me, dropped his inarticulate
utterance, held up both hands, and exclaimed:--
"Djonah bwoke he tay-al!"
True enough; in one hand Toddie held the body of a mouse, and in
the other that animal's caudal appendage; there was also
perceptible, though not by the sense of sight, an objectionable
odor in the room.
"Toddie," said I, "go throw Jonah into the chicken-coop, and I'll
give you some candy."
"Me too," shouted Budge, "cos I found the mouse for him."
I made both boys happy with candy, exacted a pledge not to go out
in the rain, and then, turning them loose on the piazza, returned
to my book. I had read perhaps half-a-dozen pages when there arose
and swelled rapidly in volume a scream from Toddie. Madly
determined to put both boys into chairs, tie them and clap
adhesive plaster over their mouths, I rushed out upon the piazza.
"Budgie tried to eat my candy," complained Toddie.
"I didn't," said Budge.
"What DID you do?" I demanded.
"I didn't bite it at all--I only wanted to see how it would feel
between my teeth--that's all."
I felt the corners of my mouth breaking down, and hurried back to
the library, where I spent a quiet quarter of an hour in pondering
over the demoralizing influence exerted upon principle by a sense
of the ludicrous. For some time afterward the boys got along
without doing anything worse than make a dreadful noise, which
caused me to resolve to find some method of deadening piazza-
floors if _I_ ever owned a house in the country. In the occasional
intervals of comparative quiet I caught snatches of very funny
conversation. The boys had coined a great many words whose meaning
was evident enough but I wonder greatly why Tom and Helen had
never taught them the proper substitutes.
Among others was the word "deader," whose meaning I could not
imagine. Budge shouted:--
"O Tod; there comes a deader. See where all them things like
rooster's tails are a-shakin'?--Well, there's a deader under
"Dasth funny," remarked Toddie.
"An' see all the peoples a-comin' along," continued Budge, "THEY
know 'bout the deader, an' they're goin' to see it fixed. Here it
comes. Hello, deader!"
"Hay-oh, deader," echoed Toddie.
What COULD deader mean?
"Oh, here it is right in front of us," cried Budge, "and AIN'T
there lots of people? An' two horses to pull the deader--SOME
deaders has only one."
My curiosity was too much for my weariness; I went to the front
window, and, peering through, saw--a funeral procession! In a
second I was on the piazza, with my hands on the children's
collars; a second later two small boys were on the floor of the
hall, the front door was closed, and two determined hands covered
two threatening little mouths.
When the procession had fairly passed the house I released the
boys and heard two prolonged howls for my pains. Then I asked
Budge if he wasn't ashamed to talk that way when a funeral was
"'TWASN'T a funeral," said he. "'Twas only a deader, an' deaders
can't hear nothin'."
"But the people in the carriages could," said I.
"Well," said he, "they was so glad that the other part of the
deader had gone to heaven that they didn't care WHAT I said.
Ev'rybody's glad when the other parts of deaders go to heaven.
Papa told me to be glad that dear little Phillie was in heaven,
an' I WAS, but I do want to see him again awful."
"Wantsh to shee Phillie aden awfoo," said Toddie, as I kissed
Budge and hurried off to the library, unfit just then to
administer farther instruction or reproof. Of one thing I was very
certain--I wished the rain would cease falling, so the children
could go out of doors, and I could get a little rest, and freedom
from responsibility. But the skies showed no signs of being
emptied, the boys were snarling on the stairway, and I was losing
my temper quite rapidly.
Suddenly I bethought me of one of the delights of my own childish
days--the making of scrap-books. One of Tom's library drawers held
a great many Lady's Journals. Of course Helen meant to have them
bound, but I could easily repurchase the numbers for her; they
would cost two or three dollars; but peace was cheap at that
price. On a high shelf in the playroom I had seen some
supplementary volumes of "Mercantile Agency" reports which would
in time reach the rag-bag; there was a bottle of mucilage in the
library-desk, and the children owned an old pair of scissors.
Within five minutes I had located two happy children on the bath-
room floor, taught them to cut out pictures (which operation I
quickly found they understood as well as I did) and to paste them
into the extemporized scrap-book. Then I left them, recalling
something from Newman Hall's address on "The Dignity of Labor."
Why hadn't I thought before of showing my nephews some way of
occupying their mind and hands? Who could blame the helpless
little things for following every prompting of their unguided
minds? Had I not a hundred times been told, when sent to the wood-
pile or the weediest part of the garden in my youthful days, that
"Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do?"
"Never again would I blame children for being mischievous when
their minds were neglected.
I spent a peaceful, pleasant hour over my novel, when I felt that
a fresh cigar would be acceptable. Going up-stairs in search of
one I found that Budge had filled the bathtub with water, and was
sailing boats, that is, hair-brushes. Even this seemed too mild an
offense to call for a rebuke, so I passed on without disturbing
him, and went to my own room. I heard Toddie's voice, and having
heard from my sister that Toddie's conversations with himself were
worth listening to, I paused outside the door. I heard Toddie
"Zere, pitty yady, 'tay ZERE. Now, 'ittle boy, I put you wif your
mudder, tause mudders likes zere 'ittle boys wif zem. An' you sall
have 'ittle sister tudder side of you,--zere. Now, 'ittle boy's
an' 'ittle girl's mudder, don't you feel happy?--isn't I awfoo
good to give you your 'ittle tsilderns? You ought to say, 'Fank
you, Toddie,--you'se a nice, fweet 'ittle djentleman.'"
I peered cautiously--then I entered the room hastily. I didn't say
anything for a moment, for it was impossible to do justice,
impromptu, to the subject. Toddie had a progressive mind--if
pictorial ornamentation was good for old books, why should not
similar ornamentation be extended to objects more likely to be
seen? Such may not have been Toddie's line of thought, but his
recent operations warranted such a supposition. He had cut out a
number of pictures, and pasted them upon the wall of my room--my
sister's darling room, with its walls tinted exquisitely in pink.
As a member of a hanging committee, Toddie would hardly have
satisfied taller people, but he had arranged the pictures quite
regularly, at about the height of his own eyes, had favored no one
artist more than another, and had hung indiscriminately figure
pieces, landscapes, and genre pictures. The temporary break of
wall-line, occasioned by the door communicating with his own room,
he had overcome by closing the door and carrying a line of
pictures across its lower panels. Occasionally, a picture fell off
the wall, but the mucilage remained faithful, and glistened with
its fervor of devotion. And yet so untouched was I by this
artistic display, that when I found strength to shout "Toddie!" it
was in a tone which caused this industrious amateur decorator to
start violently, and drop his mucilage-bottle, open end first,
upon the carpet.
"What will mamma say?" I asked.
Toddie gazed, first blankly and then inquiringly, into my face;
finding no answer or sympathy there, he burst into tears, and
The ringing of the lunch-bell changed Toddie from a tearful cherub
into a very practical, business-like boy, and shouting "Come on,
Budge!" he hurried down-stairs, while I tormented myself with
wonder as to how I could best and most quickly undo the mischief
Toddie had done.
I will concede to my nephews the credit of keeping reasonably
quiet during meals; their tongues doubtless longed to be active in
both the principal capacities of those useful members, but they
had no doubt as to how to choose between silence and hunger. The
result was a reasonably comfortable half-hour. Just as I began to
cut a melon, Budge broke the silence by exclaiming:--
"O Uncle Harry, we haven't been out to see the goat to-day!"
"Budge," I replied, "I'll carry you out there under an umbrella
after lunch, and you may play with that goat all the afternoon, if
"Oh, won't that be nice?" exclaimed Budge. "The poor goat! he'll
think I don't love him a bit, 'cause I haven't been to see him to-
day. Does goats go to heaven when they die, Uncle Harry?"
"Guess not--they'd make trouble in the golden streets, I'm
"Oh, dear! then Phillie can't see my goat. I'm so awful sorry,"
"_I_ can see your goat, Budgie," suggested Toddie.
"Huh!" said Budge, very contemptuously. "YOU ain't dead."
"Well, Izhe GOIN' to be dead some day 'an zen your nashty old goat
sha'n't see me a bit--see how he like ZAT." And Toddie made a
ferocious attack on a slice of melon nearly as large as himself.
After lunch Toddie was sent to his room to take his afternoon nap,
and Budge went to the barn on my shoulders. I gave Mike a dollar,
with instructions to keep Budge in sight, to keep him from teasing
the goat, and to prevent his being impaled or butted. Then I
stretched myself on a lounge, and wondered whether only half a day
of daylight had elapsed since I and the most adorable woman in the
world had been so happy together. How much happier I would be when
next I met her! The very torments of this rainy day would make my
joy seem all the dearer and more intense. I dreamed happily for a
few moments with my eyes open, and then somehow they closed,
without my knowledge. What put into my mind the wreck-scene from
the play of "David Copperfield," I don't know; but there it came,
and in my dream I was sitting in the balcony at Booth's, and
taking a proper interest in the scene, when it occurred to me that
the thunder had less of reverberation and more woodenness than
good stage thunder should have. The mental exertion I underwent on
this subject disturbed the course of my nap, but as wakefulness
returned, the sound of the poorly simulated thunder did not cease;
on the contrary, it was just as noisy, and more hopelessly a
counterfeit than ever. What could the sound be? I stepped through
the window to the piazza, and the sound was directly over my head.
I sprang down the terrace and out upon the lawn, looked up, and
beheld my youngest nephew strutting back and forth on the tin roof
of the piazza, holding over his head a ragged old parasol. I
"Go in, Toddie--this instant!"
The sound of my voice startled the young man so severely that he
lost his footing, fell, and began to roll toward the edge and to
scream, both operations being performed with great rapidity. I ran
to catch him as he fell, but the outer edge of the water-trough
was high enough to arrest his progress, though it had no effect in
reducing the volume of his howls.
"Toddie," I shouted, "lie perfectly still until uncle can get to
you. Do you hear?"
"Ess, but don't want to lie 'till," came in reply from the roof.
"'Tan't shee noffin' but sky an' rain."
"Lie still," I reiterated, "or I'll whip you dreadfully." Then I
dashed up-stairs, removed my shoes, climbed out and rescued
Toddie, shook him soundly, and then shook myself.
"I wazh only djust pyayin' mamma, an' walkin' in ze yain wif an
umbayalla," Toddie explained.
I threw him upon his bed and departed. It was plain that neither
logic, threats, nor the presence of danger could keep this
dreadful child from doing whatever he chose; what other means of
restraint could be employed? Although not as religious a man as my
good mother could wish, I really wondered whether prayer, as a
last resort, might not be effective. For his good, and my own
peace, I would cheerfully have read through the whole prayer-book.
I could hardly have done it just then, though, for Mike solicited
an audience at the back door, and reported that Budge had given
the carriage-sponge to the goat, put handfuls of oats into the
pump-cylinder, pulled hairs out of the black mare's tail, and
with a sharp nail drawn pictures on the enamel of the carriage-
body. Budge made no denial, but looked very much aggrieved, and
remarked that he couldn't never be happy without somebody having
to go get bothered; and he wished there wasn't nobody in the world
but organ-grinders and candy-store men. He followed me into the
house, flung himself into a chair, put on a look which I imagine
Byron wore before he was old enough to be malicious, and
"I don't see what little boys was made for anyhow; if ev'rybody
gets cross with them, an' don't let 'em do what they want to. I'll
bet when I get to heaven, the Lord won't be as ugly to me as Mike
is,--an' some other folks, too. I wish I could die and be buried
right away,--me an' the goat--an' go to heaven, where we wouldn't
Poor little fellow! First I laughed inwardly at his idea of
heaven, and then I wondered whether my own was very different from
it, or any more creditable. I had no time to spend even in pious
reflection, however. Budge was quite wet, his shoes were soaking,
and he already had an attack of catarrh; so I took him to his room
and re-dressed him, wondering all the while how much similar
duties my own father had had to do by me had shortened his life,
and how, with such a son as I was, he lived as long as he did. The
idea that I was in some slight degree atoning for my early sins,
so filled my thoughts, that I did not at first notice the absence
of Toddie. When it DID become evident to me that my youngest
nephew was not in the bed in which I had placed him, I went in
search of him. He was in none of the chambers, but hearing gentle
murmurs issue from a long, light closet, I looked in and saw
Toddie sitting on the floor, and eating the cheese out of a mouse-
trap. A squeak of my boots betrayed me, and Toddie, equal to the
emergency, sprang to his feet and exclaimed:--
"I didn't hurt de 'ittle mousie one bittie; I just letted him out,
and he runded away."
And still it rained. Oh, for a single hour of sunlight, so that
the mud might be only damp dirt, and the children could play
without tormenting other people! But it was not to be; slowly, and
by the aid of songs, stories, an improvised menagerie, in which I
personated every animal, besides playing ostrich and armadillo,
and a great many disagreements, the afternoon wore to its close,
and my heart slowly lightened. Only an hour or two more, and the
children would be in bed for the night, and then I would enjoy, in
unutterable measure, the peaceful hours which would be mine. Even
now they were inclined to behave themselves; they were tired and
hungry, and stretched themselves on the floor, to await dinner. I
embraced the opportunity to return to my book, but I had hardly
read a page, when a combined crash and scream summoned me to the
dining-room. On the floor lay Toddie, a great many dishes, a roast
leg of lamb, several ears of green corn, the butter-dish and its
contents, and several other misplaced edibles. One thing was quite
evident; the scalding contents of the gravy-dish had been emptied
on Toddie's arm, and how severely the poor child might be scalded
I did not know. I hastily slit open his sleeve from wrist to
shoulder, and found the skin very red; so, remembering my mother's
favorite treatment for scalds and burns, I quickly spread the
contents of a dish of mashed potato on a clean handkerchief, and
wound the whole around Toddie's arm as a poultice. Then I demanded
"I was only djust reatchin for a pieshe of bwed," sobbed Toddie,
"an' then the bad old tabo beginded to froe all its fings at me,
an' tumble down bang."
He undoubtedly told the truth as far as he knew it, but reaching
over tables is a bad habit in small boys, especially when their
mothers cling to old-fashioned heirlooms of tables, which have
folding leaves; so I banished Toddie to his room, supperless, to
think of what he had done. With Budge alone, I had a comfortable
dinner off the salvage from the wreck caused by Toddie, and then I
went up-stairs to see if the offender had repented. It was hard to
tell, by sight, whether he had or not, for his back was to me, as
he flattened his nose against the window, but I could see that my
poultice was gone.
"Where is what uncle put on your arm, Toddie?" I asked.
"I ate it up," said the truthful youth.
"Did you eat the handkerchief, too?"
"No; I froed nashty old handkerchief out the window--don't want
dirty old handkerchiefs in my nice 'ittle room."
I was so glad that his burn had been slight that I forgave the
insult to my handkerchief and called up Budge, so that I might at
once get both boys into bed, and emerge from the bondage in which
I had lived all day long. But the task was no easy one. Of course
my brother-in-law, Tom Lawrence, knows better than any other man
the necessities of his own children, but no children of mine shall
ever be taught so many methods of imposing upon parental good
nature. Their program called for stories, songs, moral
conversations, frolics, the presentation of pennies, the dropping
of the same, at long intervals, into tin savings banks, followed
by a deafening shaking-up of both banks; then a prayer must be
offered, and no conventional one would be tolerated; then the boys
performed their own devotions, after which I was allowed to depart
with an interchange of "God bless you's." As this evening I left
the room with their innocent benedictions sounding in my ears, a
sense of personal weakness, induced by the events of the day,
moved me to fervently respond "Amen!"
Mothers of American boys, accept from me a tribute of respect,
which no words can fitly express--of wonder greater than any of
the great things of the world ever inspired--of adoration as
earnest and devout as the Catholic pays to the Virgin. In a single
day, I, a strong man, with nothing else to occupy my mind, am
reduced to physical and mental worthlessness by the necessities of
two boys not overmischievous or bad. And you--Heaven only knows
how--have unbroken weeks, months, years, yes, lifetimes of just
such experiences, and with them the burden of household cares, of
physical ills and depressions, of mental anxieties that pierce
your hearts with as many sorrows as grieved the Holy Mother of
old. Compared with thy endurance, that of the young man, the
athlete, is as weakness; the secret of thy nerves, wonderful even
in their weakness, is as great as that of the power of the winds.
To display decision, thy opportunities are more frequent than
those of the greatest statesman; thy heroism laughs into
insignificance that of fort and field; thou art trained in a
school of diplomacy such as the most experienced court cannot
furnish. Do scoffers say thou canst not hold the reins of
government? Easier is it to rule a band of savages than to be the
successful autocrat of thy little kingdom. Compared with the ways
of men, even thy failures are full of glory. Be thy faults what
they may, thy one great, mysterious, unapproachable success places
thee, in desert, far above warrior, rabbi or priest.
The foregoing soliloquy passed through my mind as I lay upon the
bed where I had thrown myself after leaving the children's room.
Whatever else attempted to affect me mentally found my mind a
blank until the next morning, when I awoke to realize that I had
dropped asleep just where I fell, and that I had spent nearly
twelve hours lying across a bed in an uncomfortable position, and
without removing my daily attire. My next impression was that
quite a bulky letter had been pushed under my chamber-door. Could
it be that my darling--I hastily seized the envelope and found it
addressed in my sister's writing, and promising a more voluminous
letter than that lady had ever before honored me with. I opened
it, dropping an enclosure which doubtless was a list of
necessities which I would please pack, etc., and read as follows:--
"JULY 1, 1875.
"MY DEAR OLD BROTHER:--WOULDN'T I like to give you the warmest of
sisterly hugs? I can't believe it, and yet I'm in ecstasies over
it. To think that you should have got that perfection of a girl,
who has declined so many great catches--YOU, my sober, business-
like, unromantic big brother--oh, it's too wonderful! But now I
think of it, you're just the people for each other. I'd like to
say that it's just what I'd always longed for, and that I invited
you to Hillcrest to bring it about; but the trouble with such a
story would be that it wouldn't have a word of truth in it. You
always DID have a faculty of doing just what you pleased, and what
nobody ever expected you to do, but now you've exceeded yourself.
"And to think that my little darlings played an important part in
bringing it all about! I shall take the credit for THAT, for if it
hadn't been for me, who would have helped you, sir? I shall expect
you to remember both of them handsomely at Christmas.
"I don't believe I'm guilty of a breach of confidence in sending
the enclosed, which I have just received from my sister-in-law
that is to be. It will tell you some causes of your success of
which you, with a man's conceit, haven't imagined for a minute,
and it will tell you, too, of a maiden's first and natural fear
under such circumstances,--a fear which I know that you, with your
honest, generous heart, will hasten to dispel. As you're a man,
you're quite likely to be too stupid to read what's written
between the lines; so I'd better tell you that Alice's fear is
that in letting herself go so easily she may have seemed to lack
proper reserve and self-respect. You don't need to be told that no
woman alive has more of these very qualities.
"Bless your dear old heart, Harry,--you deserve to be shaken to
death if you're not the happiest man alive. I MUST hurry home and
see you both with my own eyes, and learn to believe that all this
wonderful glorious thing has come to pass. Give Alice a sister's
kiss from me (if you know how to give more than one kind), and
give my cherubs a hundred each from the mother that wants to see
them so much.
"With love and congratulations,
The other letter, which I opened with considerable reverence and
more delight, ran as follows:--
"HILLCREST, June 29, 1875.
"DEAR FRIEND HELEN:--Something has happened, and I am very happy,
but I am more than a little troubled over it, too, and as you are
one of the persons nearly concerned, I am going to confess to you
as soon as possible. Harry--your brother, I mean--will be sure to
tell you very soon, if he hasn't done so already, and I want to
make all possible haste to solemnly assure you that _I_ hadn't the
slightest idea of such a thing coming to pass, and I didn't do the
slightest thing to bring it about.
"I always thought your brother was a splendid fellow, and have
never been afraid to express my mind about him, when there was no
one but girls to listen. But out here I've somehow learned to
admire him more than ever. I cheerfully acquit HIM of
intentionally doing anything to create a favorable impression; if
his several appearances before me HAVE been studied, he is
certainly the most original being I ever heard of. Your children
are angels--you've told me so yourself, and I've my own very
distinct impression on the subject, but they DON'T study to save
their uncle's appearance. The figures that unfortunate man has cut
several times--well, I won't try to describe them on paper, for
fear he might some day see a scrap of it, and take offense. But he
always seems to be patient with them, and devoted to them, and I
haven't been able to keep from seeing that a man who could be so
lovable with thoughtless and unreasonable children must be
perfectly adorable to the woman he loved, if she were a woman at
all. Still, I hadn't the faintest idea that I would be the
fortunate woman. At last THE day came, but I was in blissful
ignorance of what was to happen. Your little Charley hurt himself,
and insisted upon Har--your brother singing an odd song to him;
and just when the young gentleman was doing the elegant to a dozen
of us ladies at once, too! If you COULD have seen his face!--it
was too funny, until he got over his annoyance, and began to feel
properly sorry for the little fellow--then he seemed all at once
to be all tenderness and heart, and I DID wish for a moment that
conventionalities didn't exist, and I might tell him that he was a
model. Then your youngest playfully spilt a plate of soup on my
dress (don't be worried--'twas only a common muslin, and 'twill
wash). Of course I had to change it, and as I retired the happy
thought struck me that I'd make so elaborate a toilet that I
wouldn't finish in time to join the other ladies for the usual
evening walk; consequence, I would have a chance to monopolize a
gentleman for half an hour or more--a chance which, no thanks to
the gentlemen who don't come to Hillcrest, no lady here has had
this season. Every time I peered through the blinds to see if the
other girls had started, I could see HIM, looking so distressed,
and brooding over those two children as if he was their mother,
and he seemed so good. He seemed pleased to see ME when I
appeared, and coming from such a man, the implied compliment was
fully appreciated; everything he said to me seemed a little more
worth hearing than if it had come from any man not so good. Then
suddenly your eldest insisted on retailing the result of a
conversation he had had with his uncle, and the upshot was that
Harry declared himself; he wasn't romantic a bit, but he was real
straightforward and manly, while I was so completely taken aback
that I couldn't think of a thing to say. Then the impudent fellow
kissed me, and I lost my tongue worse than ever. If I had known
anything of his feelings beforehand, I should have been prepared
to behave more properly; but--O Helen, I'm so glad I DIDN'T know!
I should be the happiest being that ever lived, if I wasn't afraid
that you and your husband might think that I had given myself away
too hastily. As to other people, we will see that they don't know
a word about it for months to come.
"DO write that I was not to blame, and make believe accept me as a
sister, because I CAN'T offer to give Harry up to any one else you
may have picked out for him. "Your sincere friend,
Was there ever so delightful a reveille? All the boyishness in me
seemed suddenly to come to the surface, and instead of saying and
doing the decorous things which novelists' heroes do under similar
circumstances, I shouted "Hurrah!" and danced into the children's
room so violently that Budge sat up in bed, and regarded me with
reproving eyes, while Toddie burst into a happy laugh, and
volunteered as a partner in the dance. Then I realized that the
rain was over, and the sun was shining--I could take Alice out for
another drive, and until then the children could take care of
themselves. I remembered suddenly, and with a sharp pang, that my
vacation was nearly at an end, and I found myself consuming with
impatience to know how much longer Alice would remain at
Hillcrest. It would be cruel to wish her in the city before the
end of August, yet I--
"Uncle Harry," said Budge, "my papa says 'tisn't nice for folks to
sit down and go to thinkin' before they've brushed their hair
mornin's--that's what he tells ME."
"I beg your pardon, Budge," said I, springing up in some
confusion; "I was thinking over a matter of a great deal of
"What was it--my goat?"
"No--of course not. Don't be silly, Budge."
"Well, I think about him a good deal, an' I don't think it's silly
a bit. I hope he'll go to heaven when he dies. Do angels have
goat-carriages, Uncle Harry?"
"No, old fellow--they can go about without carriages."
"When _I_ goesh to hebben," said Toddie, rising in bed, "Izhe
goin' to have lots of goat-cawidjes an' Izhe goin' to tate all ze
andjels a widen."
With many other bits of prophecy and celestial description I was
regaled as I completed my toilet, and I hurried out of doors for
an opportunity to think without disturbance. Strolling past the
henyard I saw a meditative turtle, and picking him up and shouting
to my nephews I held the reptile up for their inspection. Their
window-blinds flew open, and a unanimous though not exactly
harmonious "Oh!" greeted my prize.
"Where did you get it, Uncle Harry?" asked Budge.
"Down by the hen-coop."
Budge's eyes opened wide; he seemed to devote a moment to profound
thought, and then he exclaimed:--
"Why, I don't see how the hens COULD lay such a big thing--just
put him in your hat till I come down, will you?"
I dropped the turtle in Budge's wheelbarrow, and made a tour of
the flower-borders. The flowers, always full of suggestion to me,
seemed suddenly to have new charms and powers; they actually
impelled me to try to make rhymes,--me, a steady white-goods
salesman! The impulse was too strong to be resisted, though I must
admit that the results were pitifully meager:--
"As radiant as that matchless rose
Which poet-artists fancy;
As fair as whitest lily-blows,
As modest as the pansy;
As pure as dew which hides within
Aurora's sun-kissed chalice;
As tender as the primrose sweet--
All this, and more, is Alice."
In inflicting this fragment upon the reader, I have not the
faintest idea that he can discover any merit in it; I quote it
only that a subsequent experience of mine may be more
intelligible. When I had composed these wretched lines I became
conscious that I had neither pencil nor paper wherewith to
preserve them. Should I lose them--my first self-constructed poem?
Never! This was not the first time in which I had found it
necessary to preserve words by memory alone. So I repeated my
ridiculous lines over and over again, until the eloquent feeling
of which they were the graceless expression inspired me to
accompany my recital with gestures. Six--eight--ten--a dozen--
twenty times I repeated these lines, each time with additional
emotion and gestures, when a thin voice, very near me, remarked:--
"Ocken Hawwy, you does djust as if you was swimmin'."
Turning, I beheld my nephew Toddie--how long he had been behind
me I had no idea. He looked earnestly into my eyes and then
"Ocken Hawwy, your faysh is wed, djust like a wosy-posy."
"Let's go right in to breakfast, Toddie," said I aloud, as I
grumbled to myself about the faculty of observation which Tom's
children seemed to have.
Immediately after breakfast I despatched Mike with a note to
Alice, informing her that I would be glad to drive her to the
Falls in the afternoon calling for her at two. Then I placed
myself unreservedly at the disposal of the boys for the morning,
it being distinctly understood that they must not expect to see me
between lunch and dinner. I was first instructed to harness the
goat, which order I obeyed, and I afterward watched that grave
animal as he drew my nephews up and down the carriage-road, his
countenance as demure as if he had no idea of suddenly departing
when my back should be turned. The wheels of the goat carriage
uttered the most heartrending noises I had ever heard from
ungreased axle; so I persuaded the boys to dismount, and submit to
the temporary unharnessing of the goat, while I should lubricate
the axles. Half an hour of dirty work sufficed, with such
assistance as I gained from juvenile advice, to accomplish the
task properly; then I put the horned steed into the shafts, Budge
cracked the whip, the carriage moved off without noise, and Toddie
began to weep bitterly.
"Cawwidge is all bwoke," said he; "WHEELSH DON'T SING A BITTIE NO
MORE," while Budge remarked:--
"I think the carriage sounds kind o' lonesome now, don't you,
"Uncle Harry," asked Budge, a little later in the morning, "do you
know what makes the thunder?"
"Yes, Budge--when two clouds go bump into each other they make a
good deal of noise, and they call it thunder."
"That ain't it at all," said Budge. "When it thundered yesterday
it was because the Lord was riding along through the sky and the
wheels of his carriage made an awful noise, an' that was the
"Don't like nashty old 'funder," remarked Toddie. "It goesh into
our cellar an' makesh all ze milk sour--Maggie said so. An' so I
can't hazh no nice white tea for my brepspup."
"I should think you'd like the Lord to go a ridin', Toddie, with
all the angels running after him," said Budge, "even if the
thunder DOES make the milk sour. And 'tis so splendid to SEE the
"How do you see it, Budge?" I asked.
"Why, don't you know when the thunder bangs, and then you see an
awful bright place in the sky?--that's where the Lord's carriage
gives an awful pound, and makes little cracks through the floor of
heaven, an' we see right in. But what's the reason we can't ever
see anybody through the cracks, Uncle Harry?"
"I don't know--old fellow,--I guess it's because it isn't cracks
in heaven that look so bright,--it's a kind of fire that the Lord
makes up in the clouds. You'll know all about it when you get
"Well, I'll feel awful sorry if 'tain't anything but fire. Do you
know that funny song my papa sings 'bout:--
"'Roarin' thunders, lightenin's blazes,
Shout the great Creator's praises?'"
I don't know zactly what it means, but I think it's kind o'
splendid, don't you?"
I DID know the old song; I had heard it in a Western camp-meeting,
when scarcely older than Budge, and it left upon my mind just the
effect it seemed to have done on his. I blessed his sympathetic
young heart, and snatched him into my arms. Instantly he became
all boy again.
"Uncle Harry," he shouted, "you crawl on your hands and knees and
play you was a horse, and I'll ride on your back."