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Helen's Babies by John Habberton

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"No, thank you, Budge, not on the dirt."

"Then let's play menagerie, an' you be all the animals."

To this proposition I assented, and after hiding ourselves in one
of the retired angles of the house, so that no one could know who
was guilty of disturbing the peace by such dire noises, the
performance commenced. I was by turns a bear, a lion, a zebra, an
elephant, dogs of various kinds, and a cat. As I personated the
latter-named animals, Toddie echoed my voice.

"Miauw! Miauw!" said he, "dat's what cats saysh when they goesh
down wells."

"Faith, an' it's him that knows," remarked Mike, who had invited
himself to a free seat in the menagerie, and assisted in the
applause which had greeted each personation.

"Would ye belave it, Misther Harry, dhat young dhivil got out the
front door one mornin' afore sunroise, all in his little noight-
gown, an' wint over to the doctor's an' picked up a kitten lyin'
on the kitchen door-mat, an' throwed it down dhe well. The docthor
wasn't home, but the missis saw him, an' her heart was dhat
tindher that she hurried out and throwed boords down for dhe poor
little baste to stand on, an' let down a hoe on a sthring, an'
whin she got dhe poor little dhing out, she was dhat faint that
she dhrapped on dhe grass. An' it cost Mr. Lawrence nigh onto
thirty dollars to have dhe docthor's well claned out."

"Yes," said Toddie, who had listened carefully to Mike's recital,
"an' kitty-kitty said, 'Miauw! Miauw!' when she goed down ze well.
An' Mish Doctor sed, 'Bad boy--go home--don't never tum to my
housh no more,'--dat's what she said to me. Now be some more
animals, Ocken Hawwy. Can't you be a whay-al?"

"Whales don't make a noise, Toddie; they only splash about in the

"Zen grop in the cistern an' 'plash, can't you?"

Lunch-time, and after it the time for Toddie to take his nap. Poor
Budge was bereft of a playmate, for the doctor's little girl was
sick; so he quietly followed me about with a wistful face, that
almost persuaded me to take him with me on my drive--OUR drive.
Had he grumbled, I would have felt less uncomfortable; but there's
nothing so touching and overpowering to either gods or men as the
spectacle of mute resignation. At last, to my great relief, he
opened his mouth.

"Uncle Harry," said he, "do you 'spose folks ever get lonesome in

"I guess not, Budge."

"Do little boy-angels' papas an' mammas go off visitin', an' stay
so long?"

"I don't exactly know, Budge, but if they do, the little boy-
angels have plenty of other little boy-angels to play with, so
they can't very well be lonesome."

"Well, I don't b'leeve they could make ME happy, when I wanted to
see my papa an' mamma. When I haven't got anybody to play with,
then I want papa an' mamma SO bad--so bad as if I would die if I
didn't see 'em right away."

I was shaving, and only half-done, but I hastily wiped off my
face, dropped into a rocking-chair, took the forlorn little boy
into my arms, and kissed him, caressed him, sympathized with him,
and devoted myself entirely to the task and pleasure of comforting
him. His sober little face gradually assumed a happier appearance;
his lips parted in such lines as no old master ever put upon angel
lips; his eyes from being dim and hopeless, grew warm and lustrous
and melting. At last he said:--

"Uncle Harry, I'm EVER so happy now. An' can't Mike go around with
me and the goat all the time you're away riding? An' bring us home
some candy, an' marbles--oh, yes--an' a new dog."

Anxious as I was to hurry off to meet my engagement, I was rather
disgusted as I unseated Budge and returned to my razor. So long as
he was lonesome and I was his only hope, words couldn't express
his devotion, but the moment he had, through my efforts, regained
his spirits, his only use for me was to ask further favors. Yet in
trying the poor boy, judicially, the evidence was more dangerous
to humanity in general than to Budge; it threw a great deal of
light upon my own peculiar theological puzzles, and almost
convinced me that my duty was to preach a new gospel.

As I drove up to the steps of Mrs. Clarkson's boarding-house it
seemed to me a month had elapsed since last I was there, and this
apparent lapse of time was all that prevented my ascribing to
miraculous agencies the wonderful and delightful change that
Alice's countenance had undergone in two short days. Composure,
quickness of perception, the ability to guard one's self, are
indications of character which are particularly in place in the
countenance of a young lady in society, but when, without losing
these, the face takes on the radiance born of love and trust, the
effect is indescribably charming--especially to the eyes of the
man who causes the change. Longer, more out-of-the-way roads
between Hillcrest and the Falls I venture to say were never known
than I drove over that afternoon, and my happy companion, who in
other days I had imagined might one day, by her decision,
alertness and force exceed the exploits of Lady Baker or Miss
Tinne, never once asked if I was sure we were on the right road.
Only a single cloud came over her brow, and of this I soon learned
the cause.

"Harry," said she, pressing closer to my side, and taking an
appealing tone, "do you love me well enough to endure something
unpleasant for my sake?"

My answer was not verbally expressed, but its purport seemed to be
understood and accepted, for Alice continued:--

"I wouldn't undo a bit of what's happened--I'm the happiest,
proudest woman in the world. But we HAVE been very hasty, for
people who have been mere acquaintances. And mother is dreadfully
opposed to such affairs--she is of the old style, you know."

"It was all my fault," said I. "I'll apologize promptly and
handsomely. The time and agony which I didn't consume in laying
siege to your heart I'll devote to the task of gaining your
mother's good graces."

The look I received in reply to this remark would have richly
repaid me had my task been to conciliate as many mothers-in-law as
Brigham Young possesses. But her smile faded as she said:--

"You don't know what a task you have before you. Mother has a very
tender heart, but it's thoroughly fenced in by proprieties. In her
day and set, courtship was a very slow, stately affair, and mother
believes it the proper way now; so do I, but I admit possible
exceptions, and mother doesn't. I'm afraid she won't be patient if
she knows the whole truth, yet I can't bear to keep it from her.
I'm her only child, you know."

"DON'T keep it from her," said I, "unless for some reason of your
own. Let me tell the whole story, take all the responsibility, and
accept the penalties, if there are any. Your mother is right in
principle, if there IS a certain delightful exception that we know

"My only fear is for YOU," said my darling, nestling closer to me.
"She comes of a family that can display most glorious indignation
when there's a good excuse for it, and I can't bear to think of
YOU being the cause of such an outbreak."

"I've faced the ugliest of guns in honor of one form of love,
little girl," I replied, "and I could do even more for the
sentiment for which YOU'RE to blame. And for my own sake, I'd
rather endure anything than a sense of having deceived any one,
especially the mother of such a daughter. Besides, you're her
dearest treasure, and she has a right to know of even the least
thing that in any way concerns you."

"And you're a noble fellow, and--" Whatever other sentiment my
companion failed to put into words was impulsively and eloquently
communicated by her dear eyes.

But oh, what a cowardly heart your dear cheek rested upon an
instant later, fair Alice! Not for the first time in my life did I
shrink and tremble at the realization of what duty imperatively
required--not for the first time did I go through a harder battle
than was ever fought with sword and cannon, and a battle with
greater possibilities of danger than the field ever offered. I won
it, as a man must do in such fights, if he deserves to live; but I
could not help feeling considerably sobered on our homeward drive.

We neared the house, and I had an insane fancy that instead of
driving two horses I was astride of one, with spurs at my heels
and a saber at my side.

"Let me talk to her NOW, Alice, won't you? Delays are only

A slight trembling at my side,--an instant of silence that seemed
an hour, yet within which I could count but six footfalls, and
Alice replied:--

"Yes; if the parlor happens to be empty, I'll ask her if she won't
go in and see you a moment." Then there came a look full of
tenderness, wonder, painful solicitude, and then two dear eyes
filled with tears.

"We're nearly there, darling," said I, with a reassuring embrace.

"Yes, and you sha'n't be the only hero," said she, straightening
herself proudly, and looking a fit model for a Cenobia.

As we passed from behind a clump of evergreens which hid the house
from our view, I involuntarily exclaimed, "Gracious!" Upon the
piazza stood Mrs. Mayton; at her side stood my two nephews, as
dirty in face, in clothing, as I had ever seen them. I don't know
but that for a moment I freely forgave them, for their presence
might grant me the respite which a sense of duty would not allow
me to take.

"Wezhe comed up to wide home wif you," exclaimed Toddie, as Mrs.
Mayton greeted me with an odd mixture of courtesy, curiosity and
humor. Alice led the way into the parlor whispered to her mother,
and commenced to make a rapid exit, when Mrs. Mayton called her
back, and motioned her to a chair. Alice and I exchanged sidelong

"Alice says you wish to speak with me, Mr. Burton," said she. "I
wonder whether the subject is one upon which I have this afternoon
received a minute verbal account from the elder Master Lawrence."

"If you refer to an apparently unwarrantable intrusion upon your
family circle, Mrs.--"

"I do, sir," replied the old lady. "Between the statements made by
that child, and the hitherto unaccountable change in my daughter's
looks during two or three days, I think I have got at the truth of
the matter. If the offender were any one else, I should be
inclined to be severe; but we mothers of only daughters are apt to
have a pretty distinct idea of the merits of young men, and--"

The old lady dropped her head; I sprang to my feet, seized her
hand, and reverently kissed it; then Mrs. Mayton, whose only son
had died fifteen years before, raised her head and adopted me in
the manner peculiar to mothers, while Alice burst into tears and
kissed us both.

A few moments later, as three happy people were occupying
conventional attitudes, and trying to compose faces which should
bear the inspection of whoever might happen into the parlor, Mrs.
Mayton observed:--

"My children, between us this matter is understood, but I must
caution you against acting in such a way as to make the engagement
public at once."

"Trust me for that," hastily exclaimed Alice.

"And me," said I.

"I have no doubt of the intentions and discretion of either of
you," resumed Mrs. Mayton, "but you cannot possibly be too
cautious." Here a loud laugh from the shrubbery under the windows
drowned Mrs. Mayton's voice for a moment, but she continued:
"Servants, children,"--here she smiled, and I dropped my head--
"persons you may chance to meet--"

Again the laugh broke forth under the window.

"What CAN those girls be laughing at?" exclaimed Alice, moving
toward the window, followed by her mother and me.

Seated in a semicircle on the grass were most of the ladies
boarding at Mrs. Clarkson's, and in front of them stood Toddie, in
that high state of excitement to which sympathetic applause always
raises him.

"Say it again," said one of the ladies.

Toddie put on an expression of profound wisdom, made violent
gestures with both hands and repeated the following, with frequent

"Azh wadiant azh ze matchless wose
Zat poeck-artuss fanshy;
Azh fair azh whituss lily-blowzh;
Azh moduss azh a panzhy;
Azh pure azh dew zat hides wiffin
Awwahwah's sun-tissed tsallish;
Azh tender azh ze pwimwose fweet
All zish, and moah, izh Alish."

I gasped for breath.

"Who taught you all that, Toddie?" asked one of the ladies.

"Nobody didn't taught me--I lyned [Footnote: learned] it."

"When did you learn it?"

"Lyned it zish mornin'. Ocken Hawwy said it over, an' over, an'
over, djust yots of timezh, out in ze garden."

The ladies all exchanged glances--my lady readers will understand
just how, and I assure gentlemen that I did not find their glances
at all hard to read. Alice looked at me inquiringly, and she now
tells me that I blushed sheepishly and guiltily. Poor Mrs. Mayton
staggered to a chair, and exclaimed:--

"Too late! too late!"

Considering their recent achievements, Toddie and Budge were a
very modest couple as I drove them home that evening. Budge even
made some attempt at apologizing for their appearance, saying that
they couldn't find Maggie, and COULDN'T wait any longer; but I
assured him that no apology was necessary. I was in such excellent
spirits that my feeling became contagious; and we sang songs, told
stories, and played ridiculous games most of the evening, paying
but little attention to the dinner that was set for us.

"Uncle Harry," said Budge, suddenly, "do you know we haven't ever
sung,--'Drown old Pharaoh's Army Hallelujah,' since you've been
here? Let's do it now." "All right, old fellow." I knew the song
--such as there was of it--and its chorus, as EVERY one does who
ever heard the Jubilee Singers render it; but I scarcely
understood the meaning of the preparations which Budge made. He
drew a large rocking-chair into the middle of the room, and

"There, Uncle Harry--you sit down. Come along, Tod--you sit on
that knee, and I'll sit on this. Lift up both hands, Tod, like I
do. Now we're all ready, Uncle Harry."

I sang the first line,--

"When Israel was in bondage, they cried unto de Lord," without any
assistance, but the boys came in powerfully on the refrain,
beating time simultaneously with their four fists upon my chest. I
cannot think it strange that I suddenly ceased singing, but the
boys viewed my action from a different standpoint.

"What makes you stop, Uncle Harry?" asked Budge.

"Because you hurt me badly, my boy; you mustn't do that again."

"Why, I guess you ain't very strong; that's the way we do to papa,
an' it don't hurt HIM."

Poor Tom! No wonder he grows flat--chested.

"Guesh you's a ky--baby," suggested Toddie.

This imputation I bore with meekness, but ventured to remark that
it was bed-time. After allowing a few moments for the usual
expressions of dissent, I staggered up--stairs with Toddie in my
arms, and Budge on my back, both boys roaring in refrain of the
negro hymn:--

"I'm a rolling through an Unfriendly World."

The offer of a stick of candy to whichever boy was first
undressed, caused some lively disrobing, after which each boy
received the prize. Budge bit a large piece, wedged it between his
cheek and his teeth, closed his eyes, folded his hands on his
breast, and prayed:--

"Dear Lord, bless papa an' mamma, an' Toddie an' me, an' that
turtle Uncle Harry found: and bless that lovely lady Uncle Harry
goes riding with an' make 'em take me too, an' bless that nice old
lady with white hair, that cried, and said I was a smart boy.

Toddie sighed as he drew his stick of candy from his lips; then he
shut his eyes and remarked:

"Dee Lord, blesh Toddie, an' make him good boy, an' blesh zem
ladies zat told me to say it aden;" the particular "it" referred
to being well understood by at least three adults of my

The course of Budge's interview with Mrs. Mayton was afterward
related by that lady, as follows:--She was sitting in her own room
(which was on the parlor-floor, and in the rear of the house), and
was leisurely reading "Fated to be Free," when she accidentally
dropped her glasses. Stooping to pick them up, she became aware
that she was not alone. A small, very dirty, but good-featured boy
stood before her, his hands behind his back, and an inquiring look
in his eyes.

"Run away, little boy," said she. "Don't you know it isn't polite
to enter rooms without knocking?"

"I'm lookin' for my uncle," said Budge, in most melodious accents,
"an' the other ladies said you would know when he would come

"I'm afraid they were making fun of you--or me," said the old
lady, a little severely. "I don't know anything about little boys'
uncles. Now run away, and don't disturb me any more."

"Well," continued Budge, "they said your little girl went with
him, and you'd know when SHE would come back."

"I haven't any little girl," said the old lady, her indignation,
at a supposed joke, threatening to overcome her dignity. "Now, go

"She isn't a VERY little girl," said Budge, honestly anxious to
conciliate; "that is, she's bigger'n _I_ am, but they said you was
her mother, an' so she's you're little girl, isn't she? _I_ think
she's lovely, too."

"Do you mean Miss Mayton?" asked the lady, thinking she had a
possible clue to the cause of Budge's anxiety.

"Oh, yes--that's her name--I couldn't think of it," eagerly
replied Budge. "An' ain't she AWFUL nice?--_I_ KNOW she is!"

"Your judgment is quite correct, considering your age," said Mrs.
Mayton, exhibiting more interest in Budge than she had heretofore
done. "But what makes you think she is nice? You are rather
younger than her male admirers usually are."

"Why, my Uncle Harry told me so," replied Budge, "an' HE knows

Mrs. Mayton grew vigilant at once, and dropped her book.

"Who IS your Uncle Harry, little boy?"

"He's Uncle Harry; don't you know him? He can make nicer whistles
than my papa can. An' he found a turtle--"

"Who is your papa?" interrupted the lady.

"Why, he's papa--I thought everybody knew who HE was."

"What is your name?" asked Mrs. Mayton.

"John Burton Lawrence," promptly answered Budge.

Mrs. Mayton wrinkled her brows for a moment, and finally asked:--

"Is Mr. Burton the uncle you are looking for?"

"I don't know any Mr. Burton," said Budge, a little dazed; "uncle
is mamma's brother, an' he's been livin' at our house ever since
mamma an' papa went off visitin', an' he goes ridin' in our
carriage, an'--"

"Humph!" remarked the lady, with so much emphasis that Budge
ceased talking. A moment later she said:--

"I didn't mean to interrupt you, little boy; go on."

"An' he rides with just the loveliest lady that ever was. HE
thinks so, an' _I_ KNOW she is. An' he 'spects her."

"What?" exclaimed the old lady.

"--'Spects her, I say--that's what HE says. _I_ say 'spects means
just what _I_ call LOVE. Cos if it don't, what makes him give her
hugs and kisses?"

Mrs. Mayton caught her breath, and did not reply for a moment. At
last she said:--

"How do you know he--gives her hugs and kisses?"

"Cos I saw him, the day Toddie hurt his finger in the grass-
cutter. An' he was so happy that be bought me a goat-carriage next
morning--I'll show it to you if you come down to our stable, an'
I'll show you the goat too. An' he bought--"

Just here Budge stopped, for Mrs. Mayton put her handkerchief to
her eyes. Two or three moments later she felt a light touch on her
knee, and, wiping her eyes, saw Budge looking sympathetically into
her face.

"I'm awful sorry you feel bad," said he.

"Are you 'fraid to have your little girl ridin' so long?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Mrs. Mayton, with great decision.

"Well, you needn't be," said Budge, "for Uncle Harry's awful
careful an' smart."

"He ought to be ashamed of himself!" exclaimed the lady.

"I guess he is, then," said Budge, "cos he's ev'rything he ought
to be. He's awful careful. T'other day, when the goat ran away,
an' Toddie an' me got in the carriage with them, he held on to her
tight, so she couldn't fall out."

Mrs. Mayton brought her foot down with a violent stamp.

"I know you'd 'spect HIM, if you knew how nice he was," continued
Budge. "He sings awful funny songs, an' tells splendid stories."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed the angry mother.

"They ain't no nonsense at all," said Budge. "I don't think it's
nice for to say that, when his stories are always about Joseph,
an' Abraham, an' Moses, an' when Jesus was a little boy, an' the
Hebrew children, an' lots of people that the Lord loved. An' he's
awful 'fectionate, too."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Mrs. Mayton.

"When we says our prayers we prays for the nice lady what he
'spects, an' he likes us to do it," continued Budge.

"How do you know?" demanded Mrs. Mayton.

"Cos he always kisses us when we do it, an' that's what my papa
does when he likes what we pray."

Mrs. Mayton's mind became absorbed in earnest thought, but Budge
had not said all that was in his heart.

"An' when Toddie or me tumbles down an' hurts ourselves, 'tain't
no matter what Uncle Harry's doin' he runs right out an' picks us
up an' comforts us. He froed away a cigar the other day, he was in
such a hurry when a wasp stung me, an' Toddie picked the cigar up
and ate it, an' it made him AWFUL sick."

The last-named incident did not affect Mrs. Mayton deeply, perhaps
on the score of inapplicability to the question before her. Budge
went on:--

"An' wasn't he good to me today? Just cos I was forlorn, cos I
hadn't nobody to play with, an' wanted to die an' go to heaven, he
stopped shavin', so as to comfort me."

Mrs. Mayton had been thinking rapidly and seriously, and her heart
had relented somewhat toward the principal offender.

"Suppose," said she, "that I don't let my little girl go riding
with him any more?"

"Then," said Budge, "I know he'll be awful, awful unhappy, an'
I'll be awful sorry for him, cos nice folks oughtn't to be made

"Suppose, then, that I DO let her go," said Mrs. Mayton.

"Then I'll give you a whole stomachful of kisses for being so good
to my uncle," said Budge. And assuming that the latter course
would be the one adopted by Mrs. Mayton, Budge climbed into her
lap and began at once to make payment.

"Bless your dear little heart!" exclaimed Mrs. Mayton; "you're of
the same blood, and it IS good, if it IS rather hasty."

As I arose the next morning, I found a letter under my door.
Disappointed that it was not addressed in Alice's writing, I was
nevertheless glad to get a word from my sister, particularly as
the letter ran as follows:--

"JULY 1, 1875.

"DEAR OLD BROTHER,--I've been recalling a fortnight's experience
WE once had of courtship in a boarding-house, and I've determined
to cut short our visit here, hurry home, and give you and Alice a
chance or two to see each other in parlors where there won't be a
likelihood of the dozen or two interruptions you must suffer each
evening now. Tom agrees with me, like the obedient old darling
that he is; so please have the carriage at Hillcrest station for
us at 11:40 Friday morning. Invite Alice and her mother for me to
dine with us Sunday,--we'll bring them home from church with us.

"Lovingly, your sister, HELEN.

"P. S. Of course you'll have my darlings in the carriage to
receive me.

"P. P. S. WOULD it annoy you to move into the best guest-chamber?
--I can't bear to sleep where I can't have THEM within reach."

Friday morning they intended to arrive,--blessings on their
thoughtful hearts!--and THIS was Friday. I hurried into the boys'
room, and shouted:--

"Toddie! Budge! who do you think is coming to see you this

"Who?" asked Budge.

"Organ-grinder?" queried Toddie.

"No, your papa and mamma."

Budge looked like an angel in an instant, but Toddie's eyes
twitched a little, and he mournfully murmured:--

"I fought it wash an organ-grinder."

"O Uncle Harry!" said Budge, springing out of bed in a perfect
delirium of delight, "I believe if my papa an' mamma had stayed
away any longer, I believe I would DIE. I've been SO lonesome for
'em that I haven't known what to do--I've cried whole pillowsful
about it, right here in the dark."

"Why, my poor old fellow," said I, picking him up and kissing him,
"why didn't you come and tell Uncle Harry, and let him try to
comfort you?"

"I COULDN'T," said Budge; "when I gets lonesome, it feels as if my
mouth was all tied up, an' a great big stone was right in here."
And Budge put his hand on his chest.

"If a big'tone wazh inshide of ME," said Toddie, "I'd take it out
an' frow it at the shickens."

"Toddie," said I, "aren't you glad papa an' mamma are coming?"

"Yesh," said Toddie, "I fink it'll be awfoo nish. Mamma always
bwings me candy fen she goes away anyfere."

"Toddie, you're a mercenary wretch."

"AIN'T a mernesary wetch; Izhe Toddie Yawncie."

Toddie made none the less haste in dressing than his brother,
however. Candy was to him what some systems of theology are to
their adherents--not a very lofty motive of action but sweet, and
something he could fully understand; so the energy displayed in
getting himself tangled up in his clothes was something wonderful.

"Stop, boys," said I, "you must have on clean clothes to-day. You
don't want your father and mother to see you all dirty, do you?"

"Of course not," said Budge.

"Oh, Izh I goin' to be djessed up all nicey?" asked Toddie.
"Goody! goody! goody!"

I always thought my sister Helen had an undue amount of vanity,
and here it was reappearing in the second generation.

"An' I wantsh my shoes made all nigger," said Toddie.


"Wantsh my shoesh made all nigger wif a bottle-bwush, too," said

I looked appealingly at Budge, who answered:--

"He means he wants his shoes blacked, with the polish that's in a
bottle, an' you rub it on with a brush."

"An' I wantsh a thath on," continued Toddie.

"Sash, he means," said Budge. "He's awful proud."

"An' Ize doin' to wear my takker-hat," said Toddie. "An' my wed

"That's his tassel-hat an' his red gloves," continued the

"Toddie, you can't wear gloves such hot days as these," said I.

A look of inquiry was speedily followed by Toddie's own
unmistakable preparations for weeping; and as I did not want his
eyes dimmed when his mother looked into them I hastily exclaimed:--

"Put them on, then--put on the mantle of rude Boreas, if you
choose; but don't go to crying."

"Don't want no mantle-o'-wude-bawyusses," declared Toddie,
following me phonetically, "wantsh my own pitty cozhesh, an'
nobody eshesh."

"O Uncle Harry!" exclaimed Budge, "I want to bring mamma home in
my goat-carriage!"

"The goat isn't strong enough, Budge, to draw mamma and you."

"Well, then, let me drive down to the depot just to SHOW papa an'
mamma I've got a goat-carriage--I'm sure mamma would be very
unhappy when she found out I had one, and she hadn't seen it first

"Well, I guess you may follow me down, Budge, but you must drive
very carefully."

"Oh, yes--I wouldn't get us hurt when mamma was coming, for
ANYthing." "Now, boys," said I, "I want you to stay in the house
and play this morning. If you go out of doors you'll get
yourselves dirty."

"I guess the sun'll be disappointed if it don't have us to look
at," suggested Budge.

"Never mind," said I, "the sun's old enough to have learned to be

Breakfast over, the boys moved reluctantly away to the play-room,
while I inspected the house and grounds pretty closely, to see
that everything should at least fail to do my management
discredit. A dollar given to Mike and another to Maggie were of
material assistance in this work, so I felt free to adorn the
parlors and Helen's chamber with flowers. As I went into the
latter room I heard some one at the wash-stand, which was in the
alcove, and on looking I saw Toddie drinking the last of the
contents of a goblet which contained a dark-colored mixture.

"Ize takin' black medshin," said Toddie; "I likes black medshin
awfoo muts."

"What do you make it of?" I asked, with some sympathy, and tracing
parental influence again. When Helen and I were children we spent
hours in soaking liquorice in water and administering it as

"Makesh it out of shoda mitsture," said Toddie.

This was another medicine of our childhood days, but one prepared
according to physician's prescription, and not beneficial when
taken ad libitum. As I took the vial--a two-ounce one--I asked:--

"How much did you take, Toddie?"

"Took whole bottoo full--twas nysh," said he.

Suddenly the label caught my eye--it read PAREGORIC. In a second I
had snatched a shawl, wrapped Toddie in it, tucked him under my
arm, and was on my way to the barn. In a moment more I was on one
of the horses and galloping furiously to the village, with Toddie
under one arm, his yellow curls streaming in the breeze. People
came out and stared as they did at John Gilpin, while one old
farmer whom I met turned his team about, whipped up furiously, and
followed me, shouting "Stop thief!" I afterward learned that he
took me to be one of the abductors of Charley Ross, with the lost
child under my arm, and that visions of the $20,000 reward floated
before his eyes. In front of an apothecary's I brought the horse
suddenly upon his haunches, and dashed in, exclaiming:--

"Give this child a strong emetic--quick. He's swallowed poison!"

The apothecary hurried to his prescription-desk, while a
motherly-looking Irish woman upon whom he had been waiting,
exclaimed, "Holy Mither! I'll run an' fetch Father O'Kelley," and
hurried out. Meanwhile Toddie, upon whom the medicine had not
commenced to take effect, had seized the apothecary's cat by the
tail, which operation resulted in a considerable vocal protest
from that animal.

The experiences of the next few moments were more pronounced and
revolutionary than pleasing to relate in detail. It is sufficient
to say that Toddie's weight was materially diminished, and that
his complexion was temporarily pallid. Father O'Kelley arrived at
a brisk run, and was honestly glad to find that his services were
not required, although I assured him that if Catholic baptism and
a sprinkling of holy water would improve Toddie's character, I
thought there was excuse for several applications. We rode quietly
back to the house, and while I was asking Maggie to try to coax
Toddie into taking a nap, I heard the patient remark to his

"Budgie, down to the village I was a whay-al. I didn't froe up
Djonah, but I froed up a whole floor full of uvver fings." During
the hour which passed before it was time to start for the depot,
my sole attention was devoted to keeping the children from soiling
their clothes; but my success was so little, that I lost my temper
entirely. First they insisted upon playing on a part of the lawn
which the sun had not yet reached. Then, while I had gone into the
house for a match to light my cigar, Toddie had gone with his damp
shoes into the middle of the road, where the dust was ankle deep.
Then they got upon their hands and knees on the piazza and played
bear. Each one wanted to pick a bouquet for his mother, and Toddie
took the precaution to smell every flower he approached--an
operation which caused him to get his nose covered with lily-
pollen, so that he looked like a badly used prize-fighter. In one
of their spasms of inaction, Budge asked:--

"What makes some of the men in church have no hair on the tops of
their heads, Uncle Harry?"

"Because," said I, pausing long enough to shake Toddie for trying
to get my watch out of my pocket, "because they have bad little
boys to bother them all the time, so their hair drops out."

"I dess MY hairs is a-goin' to drop out pitty soon, then,"
remarked Toddie, with an injured air.

"Harness the horses, Mike," I shouted.

"An' the goat, too," added Budge.

Five minutes later I was seated in the carriage, or rather in
Tom's two-seated open wagon. "Mike," I shouted, "I forgot to tell
Maggie to have some lunch ready for the folks when they get here--
run, tell her, quick, won't you?"

"Oye, oye, sur," said Mike, and off he went.

"Are you all ready, boys?" I asked.

"In a minute," said Budge; "soon as I fix this. Now," he
continued, getting into his seat, and taking the reins and whip,
"go ahead."

"Wait a moment, Budge--put down that whip, and don't touch the
goat with it once on the way. I'm going to drive very slowly--
there's plenty of time, and all you need to do is to hold your

"All right," said Budge, "but I like to look like mans when I

"You may do that when somebody can run beside you. Now!"

The horses started at a gentle trot, and the goat followed very
closely. When within a minute of the depot, however, the train
swept in. I had intended to be on the platform to meet Tom and
Helen, but my watch was evidently slow. I gave the horses the
whip, looked behind and saw the boys were close upon me, and I was
so near the platform when I turned my head that nothing but the
sharpest of turns saved me from a severe accident. The noble
animals saw the danger as quickly as I did, however, and turned in
marvelously small space; as they did so, I heard two hard thumps
upon the wooden wall of the little depot, heard also two frightful
howls, saw both my nephews considerably mixed up on the platform,
while the driver of the Bloom-Park stage growled in my ear:--

"What in thunder did you let 'em hitch that goat to your axle-tree

I looked, and saw the man spoke with just cause. How the goat's
head and shoulders had maintained their normal connection during
the last minute of my drive, I leave for naturalists to explain. I
had no time to meditate on the matter just then, for the train had
stopped. Fortunately the children had struck on their heads, and
the Lawrence-Burton skull is a marvel of solidity. I set them upon
their feet, brushed them off with my hands, promised them all the
candy they could eat for a week, wiped their eyes, and hurried
them to the other side of the depot. Budge rushed at Tom,

"See my goat, papa!"

Helen opened her arms, and Toddie threw himself into them,

"Mam--MA! shing 'Toddie one-boy-day!'"

How uncomfortable a man CAN feel in the society of a dearly-loved
sister and an incomparable brother-in-law I never imagined until
that short drive. Helen was somewhat concerned about the children,
but she found time to look at me with so much of sympathy, humor,
affection, and condescension that I really felt relieved when we
reached the house. I hastily retired to my own room, but before I
had shut the door Helen was with me, and her arms were about my
neck; before the dear old girl removed them we had grown far
nearer to each other than we had ever been before.

And how gloriously the rest of the day passed off. We had a
delightful little lunch, and Tom brought up a bottle of Roederer,
and Helen didn't remonstrate when he insisted on its being drank
from her finest glasses, and there were toasts drank to "Her" and
"Her Mother," and to the Benedict that was to be. And then Helen
proposed "the makers of the match--Budge and Toddie!" which was
honored with bumpers. The gentlemen toasted did not respond, but
they stared so curiously that I sprang from my chair and kissed
them soundly, upon which Tom and Helen exchanged significant

Then Helen walked down to Mrs. Clarkson's boarding-house, all for
the purpose of showing a lady there with a skirt to make over just
how she had seen a similar garment rearranged exquisitely. And
Alice strolled down to the gate with her to say good-by; and they
had so much to talk about that Helen walked Alice nearly to our
house, and then insisted on her coming the rest of the way so she
might be driven home. And then Mike was sent back with a note to
say to Mrs. Mayton that her daughter had been prevailed upon to
stay to evening dinner, but would be sent home under capable
escort. And after dinner was over and the children put to bed, Tom
groaned that he MUST attend a road-board meeting, and Helen begged
us to excuse her just a minute while she ran into the doctor's to
ask how poor Mrs. Brown had been doing, and she consumed three
hours and twenty-five minutes in asking, bless her sympathetic

The dreaded ending of my vacation did not cause me as many pangs
as I had expected. Helen wanted to know one evening why, if her
poor, dear Tom could go back and forth to the city to business
every day, her lazy big brother couldn't go back and forth to
Hillcrest daily, if she were to want him as a boarder for the
remainder of the season. Although I had for years inveighed
against the folly of cultivated people leaving the city to find
residences, Helen's argument was unanswerable and I submitted. I
did even more; I purchased a lovely bit of ground (though the deed
stands in Tom's name for the present), and Tom has brought up
several plans of cottage-houses, and every evening they are spread
on the dining-room table, and there gather round them four people,
among whom are a white-goods salesman, and a young lady with the
brightest of eyes and cheeks full of roses and lilies. This
latter-named personage has her own opinions of the merits of all
plans suggested, and insisted that whatever plan IS adopted MUST
have a lovely room to be set apart as the exclusive property of
Helen's boys. Young as these gentlemen are I find frequent
occasions to be frightfully jealous of them, but they are unmoved
by either my frowns or persuasions--artifice alone is able to
prevent their monopolizing the time of an adorable being of whose
society I cannot possibly have too much. She insists that when the
ceremony takes place in December, they shall officiate as
groomsmen, and I have not the slightest doubt that she will carry
her point. In fact, I confess to frequent affectionate advances
toward them myself, and when I retire without first seeking their
room and putting a grateful kiss upon their unconscious lips, my
conscience upbraids me with base ingratitude. To think I might yet
be a hopeless bachelor had it not been for them, is to overflow
with thankfulness to the giver of HELEN'S BABIES.


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