A Brace Of Boys by Fitz Hugh Ludlow
I am a bachelor uncle. That, as a mere fact, might happen to
anybody; but I am a bachelor uncle by internal fitness. I am one
essentially, just as I am an individual of the Caucasian division of
the human race; and if, through untoward circumstanceswhich Heaven
forbidI should lose my present position, I shouldn't be surprised if
you saw me out in the Herald under Situations WantedMales. Thanks
to a marrying tendency in the rest of my family, I have now little need
to advertise, all the business being thrown into my way which a single
member of my profession can attend to. I suppose you won't agree with
me; but, do you know, sometimes I think it's better than having
children of one's own? People tell me that I'd feel very differently if
I did have any. Perhaps so, but then, too, I might be unwise with them;
I might bother them into mischief by trying to keep them out. I might
be avaricious of themmight be tempted to lock them up in my own
stingy old nursery-chest instead of paying them out to meet the bills
of humanity and keep the Lord's business moving. I might forget, when I
had spent my life in fining their gold and polishing their graven-work,
that they were still vessels for the Master's useI only the
Butlerthe sweetness and the spirit with which they brimmed all
belonging to His lips who tasted bitterness for me. Then, if seeking to
drain another's wine, I raised the chalice to my lips and found it
gall, or felt it steal into my old veins to poison the heart and
paralyze the hand which had kept it from the Master, what further good
would there be for me in the world? Who doesn't know, in some friend's
house, a closet containing that worst of skeletonsthe skeleton which,
in becoming naked, grim and ghastly, tears its way through our own
flesh and blood? To be an uncle is a different kind of thing. There you
have nothing of the excitement of responsibility to shake your judgment
That's what makes us bachelor uncles so much better judges of what's
good for children and their fathers and mothers. We know that nobody
will blame us if our nephews unjoint their knuckles or cut their
fingers off; so we give them five-bladed knives and boxing gloves. This
involves getting thanked at the time, which is pleasant; and if no
catastrophe occurs, when they have grown stout and ingenious, with what
calm satisfaction we hear people say, See what a pretty windmill the
child's whittled out with Uncle Ned's birthday present! or, That
boy's grown an inch round the chest since you set him sparring! Uncles
never get stale. They don't come every day like parents and plain
pudding; they're a sort of holiday relative with a plummy, Christmas
flavor about them. Everybody hasn't got them; they are not so rare as
the meteoric showers, but as occasional as a particularly fine day, and
whenever they come to a house they're in the nature of a pleasant
I meander, like a desultory, placid river of an old bachelor as I
am, through the flowery mead of several nurseries. I am detained by all
the little roots that run down into me to drink happiness, but I linger
longest among the children of my sister Lu.
Lu married Mr. Lovegrove. He is a merchant, retired, with a fortune
amassed by the old-fashioned slow process of trade, and regards the
mercantile life of the present day only as so much greed and gambling
Christianly baptized. For the ten years elapsing since he sold out of
Lovegrove, Cashdown &Co., he has devoted himself to his family and a
revival of letters, taking up again the Latin and Greek which he had
not looked at since his college days, until he dismissed teas and silks
to adorn a suburban villa with a spectacle of a prime Christian parent
and Pagan scholar. Lu is my favorite sister; Lovegrove an unusually
good article of brother-in-law; and I can not say that any of my nieces
and nephews interest me more than their two children, Daniel and Billy,
who are more unlike than words can paint them. They are far apart in
point of years; Daniel is twenty-two, Billy eleven. I was reminded of
this fact the other day by Billy, as he stood between my legs, scowling
at his book of sums.
'A boy has 85 turnips and gives his sister 80'pretty present for
a girl, isn't it? said Billy with an air of supreme contempt. Could
you stand such stuffsay?
I put on my instructive face and answered: Well, my dear Billy, you
know that arithmetic is necessary to you if you mean to be an
industrious man and succeed in business. Suppose your parents were to
lose all their property, what would become of them without a little son
who could make money and keep accounts?
Oh! said Billy with surprise. Hasn't father got enough stamps to
see him through?
He has now, I hope; but people don't always keep them. Suppose they
should go by some accident when your father was too old to make any
more stamps for himself?
You haven't thought of brother Daniel
True; for nobody ever had, in connection with the active employments
No, Billy, I replied; I forgot him; but then, you know, Daniel is
more of a student than a business man, and
Oh, Uncle Teddy! you don't think I meant he'd support them? I meant
I'd have to take care of father and mother and of all when they'd all
got to be old people together. Just think! I'm eleven and he's
twenty-two; so he is just twice as old as I am. How old are you?
Forty, Billy, last August.
Well, you aren't so awful old, and when I get to be as old as you
Daniel will be eighty. Seth Kendall's grandfather isn't more than that,
and he has to be fed with a spoon, and a nurse puts him to bed and
wheels him around in a chair like a baby. That takes the stamps, I
bet! Well, I'll tell you how I'll keep my accounts; I'll have a stick
like Robinson Crusoe, and every time I make a toadskin I'll gouge a
piece out of one side of the stick, and every time I spend one I'll
gouge a piece out of the other.
Spend a what! said the gentle and astonished voice of my sister
Lu, who, unperceived, had slipped into the room.
A toadskin, ma, replied Billy, shutting up Colburn with a farewell
glance of contempt.
Dear! dear! where does the boy learn such horrid words?
Why, ma! don't you know what a toadskin is? Here's one, said
Billy, drawing a dingy five-cent stamp from his pocket. And don't I
wish I had lots of 'em!
Oh! sighed his mother, to think I should have a child so addicted
to slang! How I wish he were like Daniel!
Well, mother, replied Billy, if you wanted two boys just alike
you'd oughter had twins. There ain't any use of my trying to be like
Daniel now when he's got eleven years the start. Whoop! There's a
dog-fight! Hear 'em! It's Joe Casey's dogI know his bark!
With these words my nephew snatched his Glengarry bonnet from the
table and bolted downstairs to see the fun.
What will become of him? said Lu hopelessly; he has no taste for
anything but rough play; and then such language as he uses! Why
isn't he like Daniel?
I suppose because his Maker never repeats himself. Even twins often
possess strongly marked individualities. Don't you think it would be a
good plan to learn Billy better before you try to teach him? If you do
you'll make something as good of him as Daniel; though it will be
rather different from that model.
Remember, Ned, that you never did like Daniel as well as you do
Billy. But we all know the proverb about old maids' daughters and old
bachelors' sons. I wish you had Billy for a monththen you'd see.
I'm not sure that I'd do any better than you. I might err as much
in other directions. But I'd try to start right by acknowledging that
he was a new problem, not to be worked without finding the value of 'x'
in his particular instance. The formula which solves one boy will no
more solve the next one than the rule of three will solve a question in
calculusor, to rise into your sphere, than the receipt for
one-two-three-four cake conduct you to a successful issue through plum
I excel in metaphysical discussions, and was about giving further
elaboration of my favorite idea when the door burst open. Master Billy
came tumbling in with a torn jacket, a bloody nose, the trace of a few
tears in his eyes, and the mangiest of cur dogs in his hands.
Oh my! my!! my!!! exclaimed his mother.
Don't you get scared, ma! cried Billy, smiling a stern smile of
triumph; I smashed the nose off him! He won't sass me again for
nothing this while! Uncle Teddy, d'ye know it wasn't a dogfight
after all? There was that nasty good-for-nothing Joe Casey 'n' Patsy
Grogan and a lot of bad boys from Mackerelville; and they'd caught this
poor little ki-oodle and tied a tin pot to his tail and were trying to
set Joe's dog on him, though he's ten times littler
You naughty, naughty boy! How did you suppose your mother'd feel to
see you playing with those ragamuffins?
Yes, I played 'em! I polished 'emthat's the play I did!
Says I, 'Put down that poor little pup! Ain't you ashamed of yourself,
Patsy Grogan?' 'I guess you don't know who I am,' says he. That's the
way they always say, Uncle Teddy, to make a fellow think they're some
awful great fighters. So says I again, 'Well, you put down that dog or
I'll show you who I am'; and when he held on, I let him have it.
Then he dropped the pup, and as I stooped to pick it up he gave me one
on the bugle.
Bugle! Oh! oh! oh!
The rest pitched in to help him; but I grabbed the pup, and while I
was trying to give as good as I gotonly a fellow can't do it well
with only one hand, Uncle Teddyup came a policeman and the whole
crowd ran away. So I got the dog safe, and here he is!
With that Billy set down his ki-oodle, bade farewell to every
fear, and wiped his bleeding nose. The unhappy beast slunk back between
the legs of his preserver and followed him out of the room, as Lu, with
an expression of maternal despair, bore him away for the correction of
his dilapidated raiment and depraved associations. I felt such sincere
pride in this young Mazzini of the dog-nation that I was vexed at Lu
for bestowing on him reproof instead of congratulation; but she was not
the only conservative who fails to see a good cause and a heroic heart
under a bloody nose and torn jacket. I resolved that if Billy was
punished, he should have his recompense before long in an extra holiday
at Barnum's or the Hippotheatron.
You already have some idea of my other nephew if you have noticed
that none of us, not even that habitual disrespecter of dignities,
Billy, ever called him Dan. It would have seemed as incongruous as to
call Billy William.
He was one of those youths who never give their parents a moment's
uneasiness; who never have to have their wills broken, and never forget
to put on their rubbers or take an umbrella. In boyhood he was intended
for a missionary. Had it been possible for him to go to Greenland's icy
mountains without catching cold, or to India's coral strand without
getting bilious, his parents would have carried out their pleasing
dream of contributing him to the world's evangelization. Lu and Mr.
Lovegrove had no doubt that he would have been greatly blessed if he
could have stood it. They brought him up in the most careful manner,
and I can not recollect the time when he was not president, secretary,
or something in some society of small yet good children. He was not
only an exemplar to whom all Lu's friends pointed their own nursery as
the little boy who could say most hymns and sit stillest in church, but
he was a reproof even unto his elders. One Sunday afternoon, in the
Connecticut village where my brother-in-law used to spend his summers,
when half of the congregation was slumbering under the combined effect
of the heat, a lunch of cheese and apples, and the sermon, my nephew,
then aged five, sat bolt upright in the pew, winkless as a demon
hearing a new candidate suspected of shakiness on a a card'nal p'int,
and mortified almost to death poor old Mrs. Pringle, who,
compassionating his years, had handed him a sprig of her meetin'-seed
over the back of the seat, by saying, in a loud and stern voice: I
don't eat things in church.
I should have spanked the boy when I got home, but Lu, with tears in
her eyes, quoted something about the mouths of babes and sucklings.
Both she and his father always encouraged old manners in him. I
think they took such pride in raising a peculiarly pale boy as a
gardener does in getting a nice blanch on his celery, and, so long as
he was not absolutely sick, the graver he was, the better. He was a
sensitive plant, a violet by a mossy stone, and all that sort of thing.
But when in his tenth year he had the measles, and was narrowly carried
through, Lu got a scare about him. During his convalescence, reading
aloud a life of Henry Martyn to amuse him, she found in it a picture of
that young apostle preaching to a crowd of Hindus without any boots on.
An American mother's association of such behavior with croup and ipecac
was too strong to be counteracted by known climatic facts; and from
that hour, as she never had before, Lu realized that being a missionary
might involve going to carry the gospel to the heathen in your
When they had decided that such a life would not do for him, his
training had almost entirely unfitted him for any other active calling.
The strict propriety with which he had been brought up had resulted in
weak lungs, poor digestion, sluggish circulation, and torpid liver.
Moreover, he was troubled with the painfulest bashfulness which ever
made a mother think her child too ethereal, or a dispassionate outsider
regard him as too flimsy, for this world. These were weights enough to
carry, even if he had not labored under that heaviest of all, a
No misnomer that last to any one who has ever frequented the
Atlantic Docks, or seen storage in any large port of entry. How does a
storehouse look? It's a vast, dark, cold chamber-dust an inch deep on
the floor, cobwebs festooning the girdersand piled from floor to
ceiling on the principle of getting the largest bulk into the least
room, with barrels, boxes, bales, baskets, chests, crates, and
carboysmerchandise of all description, from the rough, raw material
to the most exquisite choses de luxe. The inmost layers are
inextricable without pulling down the outer ones. If you want a
particular case of broadcloth you must clear yourself an alleyway
through a hundred tierces of hams, and last week's entry of clayed
sugars is inaccessible without tumbling on your head a mountain of
In my nephew's unfortunate youth such storage as this had minds. As
long as the crown of his brain's arch was not crushed in by some
intellectual Furman Street diaster, those stevedores of learning, the
schoolmasters, kept on unloading the Rome and Athens lighters into a
boy's crowded skull, and breaking out of the hold of that colossal old
junk, The Pure Mathematics, all the formulas which could be crowded
into the interstices between his Latin and Greek. At the time I
introduce Billy, both Lu and her husband were much changed. They had
gained a great deal in width of view and liberality of judgment. They
read Dickens and Thackeray with avidity; went now and then to the
opera; proposed to let Billy take a quarter at Dod-worth's; had statues
in their parlor without any thought of shame at their lack of
petticoats, and did multitudes of things which, in their early married
life, they would have considered shocking. Part of this change was due
to the great increase of travel, the wonderful progress in art and
refinement which has enlarged this generation's thought and corrected
its ignorant opinions; infusing cosmopolitanism into our manners by a
revolution so gradual that its subjects were a new people before their
combativeness became alarmed, yet so rapid that a man of thirty can
scarcely believe his birthday, and questions whether he has not added
his life up wrong by a century or so when he compares his own boy-Hood
with that of the present day. But a good deal of the transformation
resulted from the means of gratifying elegant tastes, the comfort,
luxury, and culture which came with Lovegrove's retirement on a
fortune. They had mellowed on the sunny shelves of prosperity, like
every good thing which has an astringent skin when it is green. They
would greatly have liked to see Daniel shine in society. Of his
erudition they were proud, even to worship. The young man never had any
business, and his father never seemed to think of giving him any;
knowing, as Billy would say, that he had stamps enough to see him
through. If Daniel liked, his father would have endowed a
professorship in some college and have given him the chair; but that
would have taken him away from his own room and the family physician.
Daniel knew how much his parents wished him to make a figure in the
world, and only blamed himself for his failure, magnanimously
forgetting that they had crushed out the faculties which enable a man
to mint the small change of everyday society in the exclusive
cultivation of such as fit him for smelting its ponderous ingots. With
that merciful blindness which alone prevents all our lives from
becoming a horror of nerveless reproach, his parents were equally
unaware of their share in the harm done him, when they ascribed to his
delicate organization the fact that, at an age when love runs riot in
all healthy blood, he could not see a balmoral without his cheeks
rivaling the most vivid stripe in it. They flattered themselves that he
would outgrow his bashfulness, but Daniel had no such hope, and
frequently confided in me that he thought he should never marry at all.
About two hours after Billy's disappearance under his mother's
convoy, the defender of the oppressed returned to my room bearing the
dog under his arm. His cheeks shone with washing like a pair of waxy
Spitzenbergs, and other indignities had been offered him to the extent
of the brush and comb. He also had a whole jacket on.
Well, Billy, said I, what are you going to do with your dog?
I don't know what I'm going to do. I've a great mind to be a bad,
disobedient boy with him, and not have my days long in the land
which the Lord my God giveth me.
I can't help it. They won't be long if I don't mind ma, she says;
and she wants me to be mean, and put Crab out in the street to have
Patsy catch him and tie coffee-pots to his tail. III
Here my small nephew dug his fist into his eye and looked down.
I told Billy to stop where he was, and went to intercede with Lu.
She was persuaded to entertain the angels of magnanimity and heroism in
the disguise of a young fighting character, and to accept my surety for
the behavior of his dog. Billy and I also obtained permission to go out
together and be gone the entire afternoon.
We put Crab on a comfortable bed of rags in an old shoe box, and
then strolled, hand-in-hand, across that most delightful of New York
breathing-places, Stuyvesant Square.
Uncle Teddy! exclaimed Billy with ardor; I wish I could do
something to show you how much I think of you for being so good to me.
I don't know how. Would it make you happy if I was to learn a hymn for
youa smashing big hymnsix verses, long metre, and no grumbling?
No, Billy; you make me happy enough just by being a good boy.
Oh, Uncle Teddy! replied Billy decidedly, I'm afraid I can't do
it. I've tried so often and I always make such an awful mess of it.
Perhaps you get discouraged too easily
Well, if a savings-bank won't do it, there ain't any chance for a
boy. I got father to get me a savings-bank once and began being good
just as hard as ever I could for three cents a day. Every night I got
'em, I put 'em in reg'lar, and sometimes I'd keep being good three
whole days running. That made a sight of money, I tell you. Then I'd do
something, ma said, to kick my pail of milk over, and those nights I
didn't get anything. I used to put in most of my marble and candy
What were you going to do with it?
It was for an Objeck, Uncle Teddy. That's a kind of Indian, you
know, that eats people and wants the gospel. That's what pa says,
anyway; I didn't ever see one.
Well, didn't that make you happyto help the poor little heathen
Oh, does it, Uncle Teddy? They never got a cent of it. One time I
was good so long I got scared. I was afraid I'd never want to fly my
kite on a roof again or go anywhere where I oughtn't, or have any fun.
I couldn't see any use of going and saving my money to send out to the
Objecks if it was going to make good boys of 'em. It was awful hard for
me to have to be a good boy, and it must be worse for them 'cause they
ain't used to it. So when there wasn't anybody upstairs I went and
shook a lot of pennies out of my chimney and bought ever so much taffy
and marbles and popcorn. Was that awful mean, Uncle Teddy?
The question involved such complications that I hesitated. Before I
could decide what to answer Billy continued:
Ma said it was robbing the heathen, and didn't I get it? I thought
if it was robbing I'd have a cop after me.
What's a 'cop'?
That's what the boys call a policeman, Uncle Teddy; and then I
should be taken away and put in an awful black place underground, like
Johnny Wilson when he broke Mrs. Perkins's window. I was scared, I tell
you. But I didn't get anything worse than a whipping, and having my
savings bank taken away from me with all that was left in it, I haven't
tried to be good since, much.
We now got into a Broadway stage going down, and being unable, on
account of the noise, to converse further upon those spiritual
conflicts of Billy's which so much interested me, we amused ourselves
with looking out until just as we reached the Astor House, when he
asked me where we were going.
Where do you guess? said I.
He cast a glance through the front window and his face became
irradiated. Oh, there's nothing like the simple, cheap luxury of
pleasing a child, to create sunshine enough for the chasing away of the
bluest adult devils!
We're going to Barnum's, said Billy, involuntarily clapping his
So we were; and, much as stuck-up people pretend to look down at the
place, I frequently am. Not only so, but I always see that class
largely represented there when I do go. To be sure, they always make
believe that they only come to amuse the children, or because their
country cousins visit them; and never fail to refer to the vulgar set
one finds there, and the fact of the animals smelling like anything but
Jockey Club; yet I notice that after they've been in the hall three
minutes they're as much interested as any of the people they come to
poh-poh, and only put on the high-bred air when they fancy some of
their own class are looking at them. I boldly acknowledge that I go
because I like it. I am especially happy, to be sure, if I have a child
along to go into ecstasies and give me a chance, by asking questions,
for the exhibition of that fund of information which is said to be one
of my chief charms in the social circle, and on several occasions has
led that portion of the public immediately about the Happy Family into
the erroneous impression that I was Mr. Barnum explaining his five
hundred thousand curiosities. On the present occasion we found several
visitors of the better class in the room devoted to the Aquarium. Among
these was a young lady, apparently about nineteen, in a tight-fitting
basque of black velvet, which showed her elegant figure to fine
advantage, a skirt of garnet silk, looped up over a pretty Balmoral,
and the daintiest imaginable pair of kid walking-boots. Her height was
a trifle over the medium, her eyes, a soft expressive brown, shaded by
masses of hair which exactly matched their color, and, at that
rat-and-miceless day, fell in such graceful abandon as to show at once
that nature was the only maid who crimped their waves into them. Her
complexion was rosy with health and sympathetic enjoyment; her mouth
was faultless, her nose sensitive, her manners full of refinement, and
her voice musical as a wood-robin's, when she spoke to the little boy
of six at her side, to whom she was revealing the palace of the great
show-king. Billy and I were flattening our noses against the abode of
the balloon-fish and determining whether he looked most like a
horse-chestnut burr or a ripe cucumber, when his eyes and my own
simultaneously fell on the child and lady. In a moment, to Billy the
balloon-fish was as though he had not been.
That's a pretty little boy! said I. And then I asked Billy one of
those senseless routine questions which must make children look at us,
regarding the scope of our intellects very much as we look at Bushmen.
How would you like to play with him?
Him! replied Billy scornfully, that's his first pair of boots;
see him pull up his little breeches to show the red tops to them! But,
crackey! isn't she a smasher!
After that we visited the wax figures and the sleepy snakes, the
learned seal, and the glass-blowers. Whenever we passed from one room
into another, Billy could be caught looking anxiously to see if the
pretty girl and child were coming, too.
Time fails me to describe how Billy was lost in the astonishment at
the Lightning Calculatorwanted me to beg the secret of that prodigy
for him to do his sums byfinally thought he had discovered it, and
resolved to keep his arm whirling all the time he studied his
arithmetic lesson the next morning. Equally inadequate is it to relate
in full how he became so confused among the waxworks that he pinched
the solemnest showman's legs to see if he was real, and perplexed the
beautiful Circassian to the verge of idiocy by telling her he had read
all about the way they sold girls like her in his geography.
We had reached the stairs to that subterranean chamber in which the
Behemoth of Holy Writ was wallowing about without a thought of the
dignity which one expects from a canonical character. Billy had always
languished upon his memories of this diverting beast, and I stood ready
to see him plunge headlong the moment that he read the signboard at the
head of the stairs. When he paused and hesitated there, not seeming at
all anxious to go down till he saw the pretty girl and the child
following aftera sudden intuition flashed across me. Could it be
possible that Billy was caught in that vortex which whirled me down at
ten yearsa little boy's first love?
We were lingering about the elliptical basin, and catching
occasional glimpses between bubbles of a vivified hair trunk of
monstrous compass, whose knobby lid opened at one end and showed a red
morocco lining, when the pretty girl, in leaning over to point out the
rising monster, dropped into the water one of her little gloves, and
the swash made by the hippopotamus drifted it close under Billy's hand.
Either in play, or as a mere coincidence, the animal followed it. The
other children about the tank screamed and started back as he bumped
his nose against the side; but Billy manfully bent down and grabbed the
glove, not an inch from one of his big tusks, then marched around the
tank and presented it to the lady with a chivalry of manner in one of
his years quite surprising.
That's a real nice boyyou said so, didn't you, Lottie? And I wish
he'd come and play with me, said the little fellow by the young lady's
side, as Billy turned away, gracefully thanked, to come back to me with
his cheeks roseate with blushes.
As he heard this, Billy sidled along the edge of the tank for a
moment, then faced about and said:
P'rhaps I will some daywhere do you live?
I live on East Seventeenth Street with papaand Lottie stays there
too nowshe's my cousin: where d'you live?
Oh, I live close byright on that big green square where I guess
the nurse takes you once in a while, said Billy patronizingly. Then,
looking up pluckily at the young lady, he added, I never saw you out
No, Jimmy's papa has only been in his new house a little while, and
I've just come to visit him.
Say, will you come and play with me some time? chimed in the
inextinguishable Jimmy. I've got a cooking stovefor real fireand
blocks and a ball with a string.
Billy, who belonged to a club for the practice of the great American
game, and was what A. Ward would call the most superior battest among
the I. G. B. B. C, or Infant Giants, smiled from that altitude upon
Jimmy, but promised to go and play with him the next Saturday
Late that evening, after we had got home and dined, as I sat in my
room over Pickwick, with a sedative cigar, a gentle knock at the door
told of Daniel. I called Come in! and, entering with a slow dejected
air, he sat down by my fire. For ten minutes he remained silent, though
occasionally looking up as if about to speak, then dropping his head
again to ponder on the coals. Finally I laid down Dickens, and spoke
You don't seem well to-night, Daniel?
I don't feel very well, uncle.
What's the matter, my boy?
OhahI don't know. That is, I wish I knew how to tell you.
I studied him for a few moments with kindly curiosity, then
answered: Perhaps I can save you the trouble by cross-examining it out
of you. Let's try the method of elimination. I know that you are not
harassed by any economical considerations, for you've all the money you
want; and I know that ambition doesn't trouble you, for your tastes are
scholarly. This narrows down the investigation of your
symptomslistlessness, general dejection, and allto three causes:
Dyspepsia, religious conflicts, love. Now is your digestion awry?
No, sir, good as usual. I'm not melancholy on religion and
You don't tell me you're in love?
WellyesI suppose that's about it, Uncle Teddy.
I took a long breath to recover from my astonishment at this
unimaginable revelation, then said:
Is your feeling returned?
I really don't know, uncle. I don't believe it is. I don't see how
it can be. I never did anything to make her love me. What is there in
me to love! I've borne enough for herthat is, nothing that could do
her any goodthough I've endured on her account, I may say, anguish.
So, look at it any way you please, I neither am, do, nor suffer
anything that can get a woman's love.
Oh, you man of learning! Even in love you tote your grammar along
with you, and arrange a divine passion under the active, passive, and
Daniel smiled faintly.
You've no idea, Uncle Teddy, that you are twitting on facts; but
you hit the truth there; indeed you do. If she were a Greek or Latin
woman I could talk Anacreon or Horace to her. If women only understood
the philosophy of the flowers as well as they do the poetry
Thank God they don't, Daniel! sighed out I devoutly.
Never mindin that case I could entrance her for hours, talking
about the grounds of difference between Linnaeus and Jussieu. Women
like the star business, they sayand I could tell her where all the
constellations are; but sure as I tried to get off any sentiment about
them, I'd break down and make myself ridiculous. But what earthly
chance would the greatest philosopher that ever lived have with the
woman he loved, if he depended for her favor on his ability to analyze
her bouquet or tell her when she might look out for the next
occultation of Orion? I can't talk bread and butter. I can't do
anything that makes a man even tolerable to a woman!
I hope you don't mean that nothing but bread and butter talk is
tolerable to a woman!
No; but it's necessary to some extentat any rate the ability
isin order to succeed in society; and it is in society men first meet
and strike women. And Uncle Teddy! I'm such a fish out of water in
society!such a dreadful floundering fish! When I see her dancing
gracefully as a swan swims, and feel that fellows, like little Jack
Mankyn, 'who don't know twelve times,' can dance to her perfect
admiration; when I see that she likes ease of mannersand all sorts of
men without an idea in their heads have thatwhile I turn all colors
when I speak to her, and am clumsy; and abrupt, and abstracted, and bad
at reparteeUncle Teddy! sometimes (though it seems so ungrateful to
father and mother, who have spent such pains for me)sometimes, do you
know, it seems to me as if I'd exchange all I've ever learned for the
power to make a good appearance before her!
Daniel, my boy, it's too much a matter of reflection with you! A
woman is not to be taken by laying plans. If you love the lady (whose
name I don't ask you because I know you'll tell me as soon as you think
best), you must seek her companionship until you're well enough
acquainted with her to have her regard you as something different from
the men whom she meets merely in society, and judge your qualities by
another standard than that she applies to them. If she's a sensible
girl (and God forbid you should marry her otherwise!) she knows that
people can't always be dancing, or holding fans, or running after
orange ice. If she's a girl capable of appreciating your best points
(and woe to you if you marry a girl who can't!), she'll find them out
upon closer intimacy, and once found they'll a hundred times outweigh
all brilliant advantages kept in the showcase of fellows who have
nothing on the shelves. When this comes about, you will pop the
question unconsciously, and, to adopt Milton, she will drop into your
lap, 'gatherednot harshly plucked.'
I know that's sensible, Uncle Teddy, and I'll try. Let me tell you
the sacredest of secretsregularly every day of my life I send her a
little poem fastened round the prettiest bouquet I can get at Hanfts.
Does she know who sends them?
She can't have any idea. The German boy that takes them knows not a
word of English except her name and address. You'll forgive me, Uncle,
for not mentioning her name yet? You see she may despise or hate me
some day when she knows who it is that has paid her these attentions;
and then I'd like to be able to feel that at least I've never hurt her
by any absurd connection with myself.
Forgive you? Nonsense! The feeling does your heart infinite credit,
though a little counsel with your head would show you that your only
absurdity is self-depreciation.
Daniel bade me good-night. As I put out my cigar and went to bed, my
mind reverted to the dauntless little Hotspur who had spent the
afternoon with me, and reversed his mother's wish, thinking: Oh, if
Daniel were more like Billy!
It was always Billy's habit to come and sit with me while I smoked
my after-breakfast cigar, but the next morning did not see him enter my
room till St. George's hands pointed to a quarter of nine.
Well, Billy Boy Blue, come blow your horn; what haystack have you
been under till this time of day? We shan't have a minute to look over
our spelling together, and I know a boy is going in for promotion next
week. Have you had your breakfast and taken care of Crab?
Yes, sir, but I didn't feel like getting up this morning.
Are you sick?
No-o-oit isn't that; but you'll laugh at me if I tell you.
Indeed, I won't, Billy!
Wellhis voice dropped to a whisper and he stole close to my
sideI had such a nice dream about her just the last thing
before the bell rang; and when I woke up I felt so queerso kinder
good and kinder badand I wanted to see her so much, that if I hadn't
been a big boy, I believe I should have blubbered. I tried ever so much
to go to sleep and see her again; but the more I tried the more I
couldn't. After all, I had to get up without it, though I didn't want
any breakfast, and only ate two buckwheat cakes, when I always eat six,
you know, Uncle Teddy. Can you keep a secret?
Yes, dear, so you couldn't get it out of me if you were to shake me
upside down like a savings-bank.
Oh, ain't you mean! That was when I was small I did that. I'll tell
you the secret, thoughthat girl and I are going to get married. I
mean to ask her the first chance I get. Oh, isn't she a smasher!
My dear Billy, shan't you wait a little while to see if you always
like her as well as you do now? Then, too, you'll be older.
I'm old enough, Uncle Teddy, and I love her dearly. I am as old as
the Kings of France used to be when they got marriedI read it in
Abbott's history. But there's the clock striking nine! I must run or I
shall get a tardy mark and perhaps she'll want to see my certificate
So saying, he kissed me on the cheek and set off for school as fast
as his legs could carry him. Oh, Love, omnivorous Love, that sparest
neither the dotard leaning on his staff nor the boy with pantaloons
buttoning on his jacketomnipotent Love, that, after parents and
teachers have failed, in one instant can make Billy try to become a
With both of my nephews hopelessly enamored and myself the confidant
of both, I had my hands full. Daniel was generally dejected and
distrustful; Billy buoyant and jolly. Daniel found it impossible to
overcome his bashfulness, was spontaneous only in sonnets, brilliant
only in bouquets. Billy was always coming to me with pleasant news,
told in his slangy New York boy vernacular. One day he would exclaim:
Oh, I'm getting on prime! I got such a smile off her this morning as I
went by the window! Another day he wanted counsel how to get a
valentine to herbecause it was too big to shove in a lamppost and she
might catch him if he left it on the steps, rang the bell, and ran
away. Daniel wrote his own valentine, but, despite its originality,
that document gave him no such comfort as Billy got from twenty-five
cents' worth of embossed paper, pink cupids, and doggerel.
Finally Billy announced to me that he had been to play with Jimmy
and got introduced to his girl.
Shortly after this Lu gave what they call a little companynot a
party, but a reunion of forty or fifty people with whom the family were
well acquainted, several of them living in our immediate neighborhood.
There was a goodly proportion of young fold and there was to be
dancing; but the music was limited to a single piano played by the
German exile usual on such occasions, and the refreshments did not rise
to the splendor of a costly supper. This kind of compromise with
fashionable gayety was wisely deemed by Lu the best method of
introducing Daniel to the beau mondea push given the timid
eaglet by the maternal bird, with a soft tree-top between him and the
vast expanse of society. How simple was the entertainment may be
inferred from the fact that Lu felt somewhat discomposed when she got a
note from one of her guests asking leave to bring along her niece who
was making her a few weeks' visit. As a matter of course, however, she
returned answer to bring the young lady and welcome.
Daniel's dressing-room having been given up to the gentlemen, I
invited him to make his toilet in mine, and indeed, wanting him to
create a favorable impression, became his valet pro tem., tying
his cravat and teasing the divinity-student look out of his side hair.
My little dandy Billy came in for another share of attention, and when
I managed to button his jacket for him so that it showed his shirt
studs like a man's, Count d'Orsay could not have felt a greater sense
of his sufficiency for all the demands of the gay world.
When we reached the parlor we found Pa and Ma Lovegrove already
receiving. About a score of guests had arrived. Most of them were old
married couples which, after paying their devoirs, fell in two like
unriveted scissors, the gentlemen finding a new pivot in pa and the
ladies in ma, where they mildly opened and shut upon such questions as
severally concerned them, such as The way gold closed and How the
Besides the old married people there were several old young men, of
distinctly hopeless and unmarried aspect, who, having nothing in common
with the other class, nor sufficient energy of character to band
themselves for mutual protection, hovered dejectedly about the arch
pillars or appeared to be considering whether on the whole it would not
be feasible and best to sit down on the centre-table. These subsisted
upon such crumbs of comfort as Lu could get an occasional chance to
throw them by rapid sorties of conversationbecame galvanically active
the moment they were punched up and fell flat the moment the punching
was remitted. I did all I could for them, but, having Daniel in tow,
dared not sail too near the edge of the Doldrums, lest he should drop
into sympathetic stagnation and be taken preternaturally bashful with
his sails all aback, just as I wanted to carry him gallantly into
action with some clipper-built cruiser of a nice young lady. Finally,
Lu bethought herself of that last plank of drowning conversationalists,
the photograph album. All the dejected young men made for it at once,
some reaching it just as they were about to sink for the last time, but
all getting a grip on it somehow and staying there, in company with
other people's babies whom they didn't know, and celebrities whom they
knew to death, until, one by one, they either stranded upon a motherly
dowager by the Fire-Place Shoals, or were rescued from the Sofa Reef by
some gallant wrecker of a strong-minded young lady, with a view of
taking salvage out of them in the German.
Besides these, were already arrived a dozen nice little boys and
girls who had been invited to make it pleasant for Billy. I had to
remind him of the fact that they were his guests, for, in comparison
with the queen of his affections, they were in danger of being despised
by him as small fry.
The younger ladies and gentlementhose who had fascinations to
disport or were in the habit of disporting what they considered
suchwere probably still at home consulting the looking-glass until
that oracle should announce the auspicious moment for their setting
Daniel was in conversation with a perfect godsend of a girl who
understood Latin and had taken up Greek.
Billy was taking a moment's vacation from his boys and girls, busy
with Old Maid in the extension room, and whispering, with his hand in
mine, Oh, don't I wish she were here! when a fresh invoice of
ladies, just unpacked from the dressing-room, in all the airy elegance
of evening costume, floated through the door. I heard Lu say:
Ah, Mrs. Rumbullion! happy to see your niece, too. How do you do,
At this last word Billy jumped as if he had been shot, and the bevy
of ladies opening about Sister Lu disclosed the charming face and
figure of the pretty girl we had met at Barnum's.
Billy's countenance rapidly changed from astonishment to joy.
Isn't that splendid, Uncle Teddy? Just as I was wishing it! It's
just like the fairy books! and, rushing up to the party of new-comers,
My dear Lottie! cried he, if I had only known you were coming I'd
have come after you!
As he caught her by the hand, I was pleased to see her soft eyes
brighten with gratification at his enthusiasm, but my sister Lu looked
on, naturally with astonishment in every feature.
Why Billy! said she, you ought not to call a strange young lady '
Lottie? Miss Pilgrim, you must excuse my wild boy
And you must excuse my mother, Lottie, said Billy, affectionately
patting Miss Pilgrim's rose kid, for calling you a strange young lady.
You are not strange at allyou're just as nice a girl as there is.
There are no excuses necessary, said Miss Pilgrim, with a
bewitching little laugh. Billy and I know each other intimately well,
Mrs. Lovegrove, and I confess that when I heard the lady Aunt had been
invited to visit was his mother, I felt all the more willing to
infringe on etiquette this evening, by coming where I had no previous
Don't you care! said Billy encouragingly, I'll introduce you to
every one of our family; I know 'em if you don't.
At this moment I came up as Billy's reinforcement, and, fearing
lest, in his enthusiasm, he might forget the canon of society which
introduced a gentleman to a lady, not a lady to him, I ventured to
suggest it delicately by saying, Billy, will you grant me the favor of
a presentation to Miss Pilgrim?
In a minute, Uncle Teddy, answered Billy, considerably lowering
his voice. The older people first; and after this reproof I was left
to wait in the cold until he had gone through the ceremony of
introducing to the young lady his father and his mother.
Billy, who had now assumed entire guardianship of Miss Pilgrim, with
an air of great dignity intrusted her to my care, and left us
promenading while he went in search of Daniel. I, myself, looked in
vain for that youth, whom I had not seen since the entrance of the last
comers. Miss Pilgrim and I found a congenial common ground in Billy,
whom she spoke of as one of the most delightfully original boys she had
ever met; in fact, altogether the most fascinating young gentleman she
had seen in New York society. You may be sure it wasn't Billy's left
ear which burned when I made my responses.
In five minutes he reappeared to announce, in a tone of
disappointment, that he could find Daniel nowhere. He could see a light
through his keyhole, but the door was locked and he could get no
admittance. Just then Lu came up to present a certainno, an
uncertainyoung man of the fleet stranded on parlor furniture earlier
in the evening. To Lu's great astonishment, Miss Pilgrim asked Billy's
permission to leave him. It was granted with all the courtesy of a
preux chevalier, on the condition, readily assented to, that she
should dance one Lancers with him during the evening.
Dear me! exclaimed Lu, after Billy had gone back like a superior
being, to assist at the childish amusement of his contemporaries,
would anybody ever suppose that was our Billy?
I should, my dear sister, said I, with proud satisfaction; but
you remember I always was just to Billy.
Left free, I went myself to hunt up Daniel. I found his door locked
and a light showing through the keyhole, as Billy had said. I made no
attempt to enter by knocking; but, going to my room and opening the
window next his, I leaned out as far as I could, shoved up his sash
with my cane and pushed aside his curtain. Such an unusual method of
communication could not fail to bring him to the window with a rush.
When he saw me, he trembled like a guilty thing, his countenance fell,
and, no longer able to feign absence, he unlocked his door and let me
enter by the normal mode.
Why, Daniel Lovegrove, my nephew, what does this mean; are you
Uncle Edward, I am not sick, and this means that I am a fool. Even
a little boy like Billy puts me to shame. I feel humbled to the very
dust. I wish I'd been a missionary and got massacred by savages. Oh,
that I'd been permitted to wear damp stockings in childhood, or that my
mother hadn't carried me through the measles! If it weren't wrong to
take my life into my own hands, I'd open that window andandsit in a
draught this very evening! Oh, yes! I'm just that bitter! Oh! Oh! Oh!
And Daniel paced the floor with strides of frenzy.
Well, my dear fellow, let's look at the matter calmly for a minute.
What brought on this sudden attack? You seemed doing well enough the
first ten minutes after we came down. I was only out of your sight long
enough to speak to the Rumbullion party who had just come in, and when
I turned you were gone. Now you are in this fearful condition. What is
there in the Rumbullions to start you off on such a bender of
bash-fulness as this which I here behold?
Rumbullions indeed! said Daniel. A hundred Rumbillions could not
make me feel as I do; but she can shake me into a whirlwind with
her little finger, and she came with the Rumbullions!
What! D'youMiss Pilgrim?
I labored with Daniel for ten minutes, using every encouragement and
argument I could think of, and finally threatened him that I would
bring up the whole Rumbullion party, Miss Pilgrim included, telling
them that he invited them to look at his conchological cabinet, unless
he instantly shook the ice out of his manner and accompanied me
downstairs. This dreadful menace had the desired effect. He knew that I
would not scruple to fulfil it; and at the same time that it made him
surrender it also provoked him with me to a degree which gave his eyes
and cheeks as fine a glow as I could have wished for the purpose of a
favorable impression. The stimulus of wrath was good for him, and there
was little tremor in his knees when he descended the stairs.
Well-a-dayso Daniel and Billy were rivals!
The latter gentleman met us at the foot of the staircase.
Oh, there you are, Daniel! said he, cheerily. I was just going to
look for you and Uncle Teddy. We wanted you for the dances. We have had
the Lancers twice and three round dances; and I danced the second
Lancers with Lottie. Now we're going to play some games to amuse the
children, you know, he added loftily with the adult gesture of
pointing his thumb over his shoulder at the extension room. Lottie's
going to play, too, so will you and Daniel, won't you, uncle? Oh, here
comes Lottie now! This is my brother, Miss Pilgrim; let me introduce
him to you. I'm sure you'll like him. There's nothing he don't know.
Miss Pilgrim had just come to the newel post of the staircase, and
when she looked into Daniel's face blushed like the red, red rose,
losing her self-possession perceptibly more than Daniel.
The courage of weak warriors and timid gallants mounts as the
opposite party's falls, and Daniel made out to say, in a firm tone,
that it was long since he had enjoyed the pleasure of meeting Miss
Not since Mrs. Cramcroud's last sociable, I think, replied Miss
Pilgrim, her cheeks and eyes still playing the telltale.
Oho! so you don't want any introduction, exclaimed Master Billy. I
didn't know you knew each other, Lottie.
I have met Mr. Lovegrove in society. Shall we go and join in the
To be sure we shall! cried Billy. You needn't mind; all the grown
people are going to.
On entering the parlor we found it as he had said. The guests being
almost all well acquainted with each other, at the solicitation of
jolly little Mrs. Bloomingal, Sister Lu had consented to make a
pleasant Christmas kind of time of it, in which everybody was permitted
to be young again and romp with the rompiest. We played Blindman's-buff
till we tired of thatDaniel, to Lu's great delight, coming out
splendidly as Blindman, and evincing such cheek in the style he
hunted down and caught the ladies, as satisfied me that nothing but his
sight stood in the way of his making an audacious figure in the world.
Then a pretty little girl, Tilly Turtelle, who seemed quite a premature
flirt, proposed Doorkeepera suggestion accepted with great éclat
by all the children, several grown people assenting.
To Billyquite as much on account of his shining prominence in the
executive faculties of his character, as hostwas committed the duty
of counting out the first person to be sent into the hall. There were
so many of us that Aina-maina-mona-mike would not go quite around;
but with that promptness of expedient which belongs to genius, Billy
instantly added on Intery-mintery-cutery-corn, and the last word of
the cabalistic formula fell upon me, Edward Balbus. I disappeared into
the entry amid peals of happy laughter from both old and young,
calling, when the door opened again to ask me who I wanted, for the
pretty, lisping flirt who had proposed the game. After giving me a
coquettish little chirrup of a kiss and telling me my beard scratched,
she bade me, on my return, send out to her Mither Billy Lovegrove. I
obeyed her; my youngest nephew retired and, after a couple of seconds,
during which Tilly undoubtedly got what she proposed the game for,
Billy being a great favorite with the little girls, she came back
pouting and blushing, to announce that he wanted Miss Pilgrim. The
young lady showed no mock modesty, but arose at once and laughingly
went out to her youthful admirer, who, as I afterward learned, embraced
her ardently and told her he loved her better than any girl in the
world. As he turned to go back she told him that he might send to her
one of her juvenile cousins, Reginald Rumbullion. Now, whether because
on this youthful Rumbullion's account Billy had suffered the pangs of
that most terrible passion, jealousy, or from his natural enjoyment of
playing practical jokes destructive of all dignity in his elders, Billy
marched into the room, and, having shut the door behind him, paralyzed
the crowded parlor by an announcement that Mr. Daniel Lovegrove was
I was standing at his side and could feel him' tremblesee him turn
Dear me! he whispered, in a choking voice; can she mean me?
Of course she does, said I. Who else? Do you hesitate? Surely you
can't refuse such an invitation from a lady.
No; I suppose not, said he, mechanically. And, amid much laughter
from the disinterested, while the faces of Mrs. Rumbullion and his
mother were spectacles of crimson astonishment, he made his exit from
the room. Never in my life did I so much long for that instrument,
described by Mr. Samuel Wellera pair of patent, double-million
magnifying microscopes of hex-tery power, to see through a deal door.
Instead of this I had to learn what happened only by report.
Lottie Pilgrim was standing under the hall burners with her elbow on
the newel-post, more vividly charming than he had ever seen her before,
at Mrs. Crajncroud's sociable or elsewhere. When startled by the
apparition of Mr. Daniel Lovegrove instead of little Rumbullion whom
she was expectingshe had no time to exclaim or hide her mounting
color, none at all to explain to her own mind the mistake that had
occurred, before his arm was clasped around her waist and his lips so
closely pressed to hers that, through her soft, thick hair she could
feel the throbbing of his temples. As for Daniel, he seemed in a
walking dream, from which he waked to see Miss Pilgrim looking into his
eyes with utter, though not incensed stupefaction,to stammer,
Forgive me! do forgive me! I thought you were in, earnest.
So I was, she said tremulously, as soon as she could catch her
voice, in sending for my cousin Reginald.
Oh dear, what shall I do! Believe me, I was told you wanted me. Let
me go and explain it to mother. She will tell the restI couldn't do
itI'd die of mortification. Oh, that wretched boy Billy!
On the principle already mentioned, his agitation reassured her.
Don't try to explain it nowit may get Billy a scolding. Are there
any but intimate family friends here this evening?
NoI believenoI'm sure, replied Daniel, collecting his
Then I don't mind what they think. Perhaps they'll suppose we've
known each other long; but we'll arrange it by and by. They'll think
the more of it the longer we stay out herehear them laugh! I must run
back now. I'll send you somebody.
A round of juvenile applause greeted her as she hurried into the
parlor, and a number of grown people smiled quite musically. Her quick
woman's wit told her how to retaliate and divide the embarrassment of
the occasion. As she passed me she said in an undertone:
Answer quick! Who is that fat lady on the sofa who laughed so
Mrs. Cromwell Craggs, said I, quietly.
Miss Pilgrim made a satirically low courtesy and spoke in a modest
but distinct voice:
I really must be excused for asking. I'm a stranger, you know; but
is there such a lady here as Mrs. CraggsMrs. Cromwell Craggs?
For, if so, the present doorkeeper would like to see Mrs. Cromwell
Then came the turn of the fat lady to be laughed at; but out she had
to go and get kissed like the rest of us. Before the close of the
evening Billy was made as jealous as his parents and I were surprised
to see Daniel in close conversation with Miss Pilgrim among the
geraniums and fuchsias of the conservatory.
A regular flirtation, said Billy, somewhat indignantly. The
conclusion which they arrived at was that after all no great harm had
been done, and that the dear little fellow ought not to be peached on
for his fun. If I had known at the time how easily they forgave him, I
should have suspected that the offence Billy had led Daniel into
committing was not unlikely to be repeated on the offender's own
account; but so much as I could see showed me that the ice was broken.
Billy's jealousy did not outlast the party. He became more and more
interested in his girl, and often went in the afternoon, after
getting out of school, ostensibly to play with Jimmy. Daniel's calls,
according to adult etiquette, made in the evening, did not interfere
with my younger nephew's, and as neither knew that the other, after his
fashion, was his most uncompromising rival, my position, as the
confidant of both, was one of extreme delicacy. But the matter was more
speedily settled than I expected.
Billy came to me one day and told me that he intended to get married
immediately; that he was going to speak to his Lottie that very
afternoon. He was prepared to meet every objection. He had asked his
father if he might, and his father said yes, if he had money enough to
support a wifeand Billy thought he had. He'd saved up all the money
his Uncle Jim and Aunt Jane had sent him for Christmas; and besides, if
he were once married, his father wouldn't see him want for stamps, he
knew. Then, too, he was going to leave school and be a merchant next
yearand I'd help him now and then, if he got hard up, wouldn't I? If
he were driven to it, he could be a good boy again, and save up the
money to buy Lottie presents with, instead of giving it to nasty old
Objecks. He was so much older than when he had the savings-bank that
he ought to have at least ten cents a day now for being good; didn't I
think that was fair? As to his age, if Lottie loved him, he didn't
careanyway he would be lots bigger than she was before longand he'd
often heard his ma say she approved of early marriages; hers and pa's
was one. So he ran off up Livingston Place, the most undaunted lover
that ever put an extra shine on his proposal boots, or spent half an
hour on the bow of his popping necktie.
Shortly after, Daniel went into the street. Not meaning to call upon
his inamorata, but drawn by the irresistible fascination of
passing her house, he strolled in the direction that Billy had gone. As
he came to the Rumbullions', something suddenly bade him entera whim
he called it, but not his ownone of the whims of destiny which are
Yes, sir, said the servant, Miss Pilgrim is in, I will call her.
His step was always light. He passed noiselessly into the front
parlor and sat down among the heavy brocatelle curtains which shadowed
the recess of one of the windows. He supposed Miss Pilgrim to be
upstairs, and while his heart fluttered, expecting her footfall at the
particular door, he heard an earnest boyish voice in the inside room.
Looking from his concealment he beheld Miss Pilgrim on a sofa in the
pier and sitting by her side, with her hand clasped in his, his brother
Billy. Before he could avoid it, he became aware that Billy was
unconsciously but eagerly forestalling him.
Now, Lottie, my dear Lottie! I wish you would! I'll do everything I
can to make you happy. If you'll only marry me, I'll be good all the
time! Come now! Say yes! Father's got a really nice place over the
stablethey only use it for a tool room now; we could clear it out and
have it scrubbed and go to housekeeping right away. Ma'd let us have
all her old set of chinai I've got a silver mug Uncle Teddy gave me and
a napkin ring and four spoons. As soon as I make my money I'll buy a
nice carriage and horses, any color you want 'em. Oh, my darling,
darling Lottie, I do love you so much and we could have such a splendid
time! Do say yes, Lottieplease, do please!
Miss Pilgrim looked at the earnest little suitor with a face in
which tender interest and compassion quite overrode any sense of the
whimsicality of the situation which might lurk there. Daniel's
astonishment at the sight was so great that he realized the entire
state of the case before he could recover himself sufficiently to rise
and go into the back room.
Billy jumped up and looked defiantly at the intruder. Miss Pilgrim
blushed violently, but turned away her head to avoid the exhibition of
a still more convulsing emotion than embarrassment.
I must beg your pardon, Miss Pilgrimand yours, too, Billy, began
Daniel in a hesitating way, hardly knowing how to treat the posture in
which he found things, butyou seethe fact is the servant said
she'd go to announce meand really when I came in, I hadn't any idea
you were here, or Billy either.
Then, said Billy, moderating the defiant attitude, you actually
weren't dodging around and trying to find out what Lottie and I were
about on the sly? Well, I'll believe you. I'm sure you couldn't be as
mean as that, when I'm the only brother you have got, that always
brings you oranges when you're sick, and never plays ball on the stairs
when you've got a headache. Now, then, I'll trust you, I've been asking
Lottie to marry me, and I want you to help me. Ask her if she won't,
Danielsee if she won't do it for you!
Miss Pilgrim had been trying to find words, but her face was too
much for her and she was obliged to seek retirement in her
handkerchief. As she drew it from her pocket, a well-worn piece of
paper followed it and fell upon the floor. Billy picked it up before
she noticed it, and was about to hand it to her, when his jealous eye
fell upon a withered rosebud sewed to its margin. As he looked at it,
with his little brows knit into a precocious sternness, he recognized
his brother's handwriting immediately beneath the flower. It was one of
the daily anonymous sonnets, of which Daniel had told me, and the bud a
relic of the bouquet accompanying it. Still Daniel was silent. What
else could he be?
Very well, very well, Master Daniel! exclaimed Billy, in a voice
trembling with grief and indignation, there's good enough reason why
you won't speak a word for me. You want her yourselfhere it is in
your own writing. No wonder you won't tell Lottie to be my wife, when
you're trying to take her away from me. Oh, Lottie, dear Lottie! I love
you just as much as he does, though I don't know everything and can't
write you poetry like it was out of the Fifth Reader! Daniel, how could
you go and write to my Lottie this way: 'My churner'no, it isn't
churner, it's charmer,'let me call thee mine'?
Forgetting the sacredness of private MS. in that of private grief,
he would have gone on, with a pause here and there for certainty of
spelling, to the conclusion of the poem, had not Lottie sprung up, with
her imploring face suffused by her discovery, for the first time, of
the identity of her secret lover and the escape of his sonnet from her
pocket. It was too late! There he stood before her unmistakably proved,
and herself unmistakably proving in what estimation she held his verses
Oh Billy, dear Billy! If you do love me, don't do so! So
exclaiming, she held out her hand, and Billy put the MS. into it with
all the dignity of a wounded spirit.
Mr. Lovegrove, said Miss Pilgrim, I don't know what to say.
I feel very much that way myself, said Daniel.
I don't, said Billy, now in command of his voice. I'll
tell you what it is: perhaps Daniel didn't know how much I wanted you,
Lottieand perhaps he wants you 'most as bad as I do. But whatever way
it is, I want you to choose between us, fair and square, and no
dodging. Come now! You can take just whichever one of us you please,
and the other won't lay up any grudge, though I know if that's me, or
like me, he'll feel awful. You can have till to-morrow morning to make
up your mind between me and Daniel, and if he won't say anything about
it to pa and ma till then, I won't. Good-by, dear Lottie!
He drew her face down to his, kissed her almost affectionately and
then marched out of the door, feeling, as he afterward told me, as if
he had blackened his boots all for nothing. Ah me! my dear Billy, how
many times we do that in this world! Of what followed when Daniel and
Miss Pilgrim were left alone, I have never had full details.
But I do know that the young lady obeyed Billy and made her choice.
Six months after that both my nephews stood up in Mrs. Rumbullion's
parlor to take their several shares in a ceremony in which Miss Pilgrim
was the central figure when it began, and Mrs. Daniel Lovegrove when it
concluded. Time and elasticity of boyhood had so closed the sharp but
evanescent wound in Billy's heart that he could stand the trial of
being groomsman where he had wanted to be groommore especially since
he was supported through the emergency by a little sister of Lottie's
who promised to be wondrously like her by the time Billy could stand up
in the more enviable capacity. Neither Daniel nor Lottie would listen
to any objection to such a groomsman on the score of his extreme youth,
for, as they said, Billy had been quite as instrumental in bringing
them together as any agent, save the Divinity shaping the ends and
tying all the knots in which there are heartstrings concerned, as well
as white ribbon.
Since then Lu has stopped wishing that Billy were like Daniel, for
she says that if he had been, there would never have been any Mrs.
Daniel Lovegrove in the world.