On Picket Duty and Other Tales
by Louisa May Alcott
THE KING OF
CLUBS AND THE
QUEEN OF HEARTS.
THE CROSS ON THE
THE DEATH OF
ON PICKET DUTY.
WHAT air you thinkin' of, Phil?
"My wife, Dick."
"So was I! Aint it odd how fellers fall to thinkin' of thar little
women, when they get a quiet spell like this?"
"Fortunate for us that we do get it, and have such gentle bosom
guests to keep us brave and honest through the trials and temptations
of a life like ours."
October moonlight shone clearly on the solitary tree, draped with
gray moss, scarred by lightning and warped by wind, looking like a
venerable warrior, whose long campaign was nearly done; and
underneath was posted the guard of four. Behind them twinkled many
camp-fires on a distant plain, before them wound a road ploughed by
the passage of an army, strewn with the relics of a rout. On the
right, a sluggish river glided, like a serpent, stealthy, sinuous,
and dark, into a seemingly impervious jungle; on the left, a Southern
swamp filled the air with malarial damps, swarms of noisome life, and
discordant sounds that robbed the hour of its repose. The men were
friends as well as comrades, for though gathered from the four
quarters of the Union, and dissimilar in education, character, and
tastes, the same spirit animated all; the routine of camp life threw
them much together, and mutual esteem soon grew into a bond of mutual
Thorn was a Massachusetts volunteer; a man who seemed too early
old, too early embittered by some cross, for though grim of
countenance, rough of speech, cold of manner, a keen observer would
have soon discovered traces of a deeper, warmer nature hidden, behind
the repellent front he turned upon the world. A true New Englander,
thoughtful, acute, reticent, and opinionated; yet earnest withal,
intensely patriotic, and often humorous, despite a touch of Puritan
Phil, the "romantic chap," as he was called, looked his character
to the life. Slender, swarthy, melancholy eyed, and darkly bearded;
with feminine features, mellow voice and, alternately languid or
vivacious manners. A child of the South in nature as in aspect,
ardent, impressible, and proud; fitfully aspiring and despairing;
without the native energy which moulds character and ennobles life.
Months of discipline and devotion had done much for him, and some
deep experience was fast ripening the youth into a man.
Flint, the long-limbed lumberman, from the wilds of Maine, was a
conscript who, when government demanded his money or his life,
calculated the cost, and decided that the cash would be a dead loss
and the claim might be repeated, whereas the conscript would get both
pay and plunder out of government, while taking excellent care that
government got precious little out of him. A shrewd, slow-spoken,
self-reliant specimen, was Flint; yet something of the fresh flavor of
the backwoods lingered in him still, as if Nature were loath to give
him up, and left the mark of her motherly hand upon him, as she leaves
it in a dry, pale lichen, on the bosom of the roughest stone.
Dick "hailed" from Illinois, and was a comely young fellow, full of
dash and daring; rough and rowdy, generous and jolly, overflowing
with spirits and ready for a free fight with all the world.
Silence followed the last words, while the friendly moon climbed up
the sky. Each man's eye followed it, and each man's heart was busy
with remembrances of other eyes and hearts that might be watching and
wishing as theirs watched and wished. In the silence, each shaped for
himself that vision of home that brightens so many camp-fires, haunts
so many dreamers under canvas roofs, and keeps so many turbulent
natures tender by memories which often are both solace and salvation.
Thorn paced to and fro, his rifle on his shoulder, vigilant and
soldierly, however soft his heart might be. Phil leaned against the
tree, one hand in the breast of his blue jacket, on the painted
presentment of the face his fancy was picturing in the golden circle
of the moon. Flint lounged on the sward, whistling softly as he
whittled at a fallen bough. Dick was flat on his back, heels in air,
cigar in mouth, and some hilarious notion in his mind, for suddenly
he broke into a laugh.
"What is it, lad?" asked Thorn, pausing in his tramp, as if willing
to be drawn from the disturbing thought that made his black brows
lower and his mouth look grim.
"Thinkin' of my wife, and wishin' she was here, bless her heart!
set me rememberin' how I see her fust, and so I roared, as I always do
when it comes into my head."
"How was it? Come, reel off a yarn and let's hear houw yeou hitched
teams," said Flint, always glad to get information concerning his
neighbors, if it could be cheaply done.
"Tellin' how we found our wives wouldn't be a bad game, would it,
"I'm agreeable; but let us have your romance first."
"Devilish little of that about me or any of my doin's. I hate
sentimental bosh as much as you hate slang, and should have been a
bachelor to this day if I hadn't seen Kitty jest as I did. You see,
I'd been too busy larkin' round to get time for marryin', till a
couple of years ago, when I did up the job double-quick, as I'd like
to do this thunderin' slow one, hang it all!"
"Halt a minute till I give a look, for this picket isn't going to
be driven in or taken while I'm on guard."
Down his beat went Thorn, reconnoitring river, road, and swamp, as
thoroughly as one pair of keen eyes could do it, and came back
satisfied, but still growling like a faithful mastiff on the watch;
performances which he repeated at intervals till his own turn came.
"I didn't have to go out of my own State for a wife, you'd better
believe," began Dick, with a boast, as usual; "for we raise as fine a
crop of girls thar as any State in or out of the Union, and don't mind
raisin' Cain with any man who denies it. I was out on a gunnin' tramp
with Joe Partridge, a cousin of mine,—poor old chap! he fired his
last shot at Gettysburg, and died game in a way he didn't dream of the
day we popped off the birds together. It ain't right to joke that way;
I won't if I can help it; but a feller gets awfully kind of heathenish
these times, don't he?"
"Settle up them scores byme-by; fightin' Christians scurse raound
here. Fire away, Dick."
"Well, we got as hungry as hounds half a dozen mile from home, and
when a farm-house hove in sight, Joe said he'd ask for a bite and
leave some of the plunder for pay. I was visitin' Joe, didn't know
folks round, and backed out of the beggin' part of the job; so he
went ahead alone. We'd come up the woods behind the house, and while
Joe was foragin', I took are connoissance. The view was fust-rate,
for the main part of it was a girl airin' beds on the roof of a
stoop. Now, jest about that time, havin' a leisure spell, I'd begun
to think of marryin', and took a look at all the girls I met, with an
eye to business. I s'pose every man has some sort of an idee or
pattern of the wife he wants; pretty and plucky, good and gay was
mine, but I'd never found it till I see Kitty; and as she didn't see
me, I had the advantage and took an extra long stare."
"What was her good pints, hey?"
"Oh, well, she had a wide-awake pair of eyes, a bright, jolly sort
of a face, lots of curly hair tumblin' out of her net, a trig little
figger, and a pair of the neatest feet and ankles that ever stepped.
'Pretty,' thinks I; 'so far so good.' The way she whacked the
pillers, shooked the blankets, and pitched into the beds was a
caution; specially one blunderin' old featherbed that wouldn't do
nothin' but sag round in a pig-headed sort of way, that would have
made most girls get mad and give up. Kitty didn't, but just wrastled
with it like a good one, till she got it turned, banged, and spread
to suit her; then she plumped down in the middle of it, with a sarcy
little nod and chuckle to herself, that tickled me mightily.
'Plucky,' thinks I, 'better 'n' better.' Jest then an old woman came
flyin' out the back-door, callin', 'Kitty! Kitty! Squire Partridge's
son's here, 'long with a friend; been gunnin', want luncheon, and I'm
all in the suds; do come down and see to 'em.'
"'Where are they ?' says Kitty, scrambling up her hair and settlin'
her gown in a jiffy, as women have a knack of doin', you know.
"'Mr. Joe's in the front entry; the other man's somewheres round,
Billy says, waitin' till I send word whether they can stop. I darsn't
till I'd seen you, for I can't do nothin', I'm in such a mess,' says
the old lady.
"'So am I, for I can't get in except by the Error! Hyperlink
reference not valid. entry window, and he'll see me,' says Kitty,
gigglin' at the thoughts of Joe.
"'Come down the ladder, there's a dear. I'll pull it round and keep
it stiddy,' says her mother.
"'Oh, ma, don't ask me!' says Kitty, with a shiver. 'I'm dreadfully
scared of ladders since I broke my arm off this very one. It's so
high, it makes me dizzy jest to think of.'
"'Well, then, I'll do the best I can; but I wish them boys was to
Jericho!' says the old lady, with a groan, for she was fat and hot,
had her gown pinned up, and was in a fluster generally. She was goin'
off rather huffy, when Kitty called out,—
"'Stop, ma! I'll come down and help you, only ketch me if I
"She looked scared but stiddy, and I'll bet it took as much grit
for her to do it as for one of us to face a battery. It don't seem
much to tell of, but I wish I may be hit if it wasn't a right down
dutiful and clever thing to see done. When the old lady took her off
at the bottom, with a good motherly hug, I found myself huggin' my
rifle like a fool, but whether I thought it was the ladder, or Kitty,
I ain't clear about. 'Good,' thinks I; 'what more do you want?'
"A snug little property wouldn't a ben bad, I reckon. Well she had
it, old skin-flint, though I didn't know or care about it then. What
a jolly row she'd make if she knew I was tellin' the ladder part of
the story! She always does when I get to it, and makes believe cry,
with her head in my breast-pocket, or any such handy place, till I
take it out and swear I'll never do so ag'in. Poor little Kit, I
wonder what she's doin' now. Thinkin' of me, I'll bet."
Dick paused, pitched his cap lower over his eyes, and smoked a
minute with more energy than enjoyment, for his cigar was out and he
did not perceive it.
"That's not all, is it?" asked Thorn, taking a fatherly interest in
the younger man's love passages.
"Not quite. 'Fore long, Joe whistled, and as I always take short
cuts everywhar, I put in at the back-door, jest as Kitty come
trottin' out of the pantry with a big berry-pie in her hand. I
startled her, she tripped over the sill and down she come; the dish
flew one way, the pie flopped into her lap, the juice spatterin' my
boots and her clean gown. I thought she'd cry, scold, have hysterics,
or some confounded thing or other; but she jest sat still a minute,
then looked up at me with a great blue splosh on her face, and went
off into the good-naturedest gale of laughin' you ever heard in your
life. That finished me. 'Gay,' thinks I; 'go in and win.' So I, did;
made love hand over hand, while I stayed with Joe; pupposed a
fortnight after, married her in three months, and there she is, a
tip-top little woman, with a pair of stunnin' boys in her arms!"
Out came a well-worn case, and Dick proudly displayed the likeness
of a stout, much bejewelled young woman, with two staring infants on
her knee. In his sight, the poor picture was a more perfect work of
art than any of Sir Joshua's baby-beauties, or Raphael's Madonnas,
and the little story needed no better sequel than the young father's
praises of his twins, the covert kiss he gave their mother when he
turned as if to get a clearer light upon the face. Ashamed to show
the tenderness that filled his honest heart, he hummed "Kingdom
Coming," while relighting his cigar, and presently began to talk
"Now, then, Flint, it's your turn to keep guard, and Thorn's to
tell his romance. Come, don't try to shirk; it does a man good to talk
of such things, and we're all mates here."
"In some cases it don't do any good to talk of such things; better
let 'em alone," muttered Thorn, as he reluctantly sat down, while
Flint as reluctantly departed.
With a glance and gesture of real affection, Phil laid his hand
upon his comrade's knee, saying, in his persuasive voice, "Old fellow,
it will do you good, because I know you often long to speak of
something that weighs upon you. You've kept us steady many a time,
and done us no end of kindnesses; why be too proud to let us give our
sympathy in return, if nothing more?"
Thorn's big hand closed over the slender one upon his knee, and the
mild expression, so rarely seen upon his face, passed over it as he
"I think I could tell you almost anything if you asked me that way,
my boy. It isn't that I'm too proud,—and you're right about my
sometimes wanting to free my mind,—but it's because a man of forty
don't just like to open out to young fellows, if there is any danger
of their laughing at him, though he may deserve it. I guess there
isn't now, and I'll tell you how I found my wife."
Dick sat up, and Phil drew nearer, for the earnestness that was in
the man dignified his plain speech, and inspired an interest in his
history, even before it was begun. Looking gravely at the river and
never at his hearers, as if still a little shy of confidants, yet
grateful for the relief of words, Thorn began abruptly,—
"I never hear the number eighty-four without clapping my hand to my
left breast and missing my badge. You know I was on the police in New
York, before the war, and that's about all you do know yet. One bitter
cold night, I was going my rounds for the last time, when, as I turned
a corner, I saw there was a trifle of work to be done. It was a bad
part of the city, full of dirt and deviltry; one of the streets led to
a ferry, and at the corner an old woman had an apple- stall. The poor
soul had dropped asleep, worn out with the cold, and there were her
goods left, with no one to watch 'em. Somebody was watching 'em,
however; a girl, with a ragged shawl over her head, stood at the mouth
of an alley close by, waiting for a chance to grab something. I'd seen
her there when I went by before, and mistrusted she was up to some
mischief; as I turned the corner, she put out her hand and cribbed an
apple. She saw me the minute she did it, but neither dropped it nor
ran, only stood stocks still with the apple in her hand till came up.
"'This won't do, my girl,' said I. I never could be harsh with 'em,
poor things! She laid it back and looked up at me with a miserable
sort of a smile, that made me put my hand in my pocket to fish for a
ninepence before she spoke.
"'I know it won't,' she says. 'I didn't want to do it, it's so
mean, but I'm awful hungry, sir.'
"'Better run home and get your supper then.'
"'I've got no home.'
"'Where do you live?'
"'In the street.'
"'Where do you sleep?'
"'Anywhere; last night in the lock-up, and I thought I'd get in
there again, if I did that when you saw me. I like to go there, it's
warm and safe.'
"'If I don't take you there, what will you do?'
"'Don't know. I want to go over there and dance again, as I used
to; but being sick has made me ugly, so they won't have me, and no one
else will take me because I have been there once.'
"I looked where she pointed, and thanked the Lord that they
wouldn't take her. It was one of those low theatres that do so much
damage to the like of her; there was a gambling den one side of it, an
eating saloon the other, and at the door of it lounged a scamp I knew
very well, looking like a big spider watching for a fly. I longed to
fling my billy at him; but as I couldn't, I held on to the girl. I
was new to the thing then, but though I'd heard about hunger and
homelessness often enough, I'd never had this sort of thing, nor seen
that look on a girl's face. A white, pinched face hers was, with
frighted, tired-looking eyes, but so innocent; she wasn't more than
sixteen, had been pretty once I saw, looked sick and starved now, and
seemed just the most helpless, hopeless little thing that ever was.
"'You'd better come to the Station for to-night, and we'll see to
you to-morrow,' says I.
"'Thank you, sir,' says she, looking as grateful as if I'd asked
her home. I suppose I did speaks kind of fatherly. I ain't ashamed to
say I felt so, seeing what a child she was; nor to own that when she
put her little hand in mine, it hurt me to feel how thin and cold it
was. We passed the eating-house where the red lights made her face as
rosy as it ought to have been; there was meat and pies in the window,
and the poor thing stopped to look. It was too much for her; off came
her shawl, and she said in that coaxing way of hers,—
"'I wish you'd let me stop at the place close by and sell this;
they'll give a little for it, and I'll get some supper. I've had
nothing since yesterday morning, and maybe cold is easier to bear
"'Have you nothing better than that to sell?" I says, not quite
sure that she wasn't all a humbug, like so many of 'em. She seemed to
see that, and looked up at me again with such innocent eyes, I
couldn't doubt her when she said, shivering with something beside the
"'Nothing but myself.' Then the tears came, and she laid her head
down on my arm, sobbing,—'Keep me! oh, do keep me safe somewhere!'"
Thorn choked here, steadied his voice with a resolute hem! but
could only add one sentence more:
"That's how I found my wife."
"Come, don't stop thar? I told the whole o' mine, you do the same.
Whar did you take her? how'd it all come round?"
"Please tell us, Thorn."
The gentler request was answered presently, very steadily, very
"I was always a soft-hearted fellow, though you wouldn't think it
now, and when that little girl asked me to keep her safe, I just did
it. I took her to a good woman whom I knew, for I hadn't any women
belonging to me, nor any place but that to put her in. She stayed
there till spring working for her keep, growing brighter, prettier,
every day, and fonder of me I thought. If I believed in witchcraft, I
shouldn't think myself such a cursed fool as I do now, but I don't
believe in it, and to this day I can't understand how I came to do
it. To be sure I was a lonely man, without kith or kin, had never had
a sweetheart in my life, or been much with women since my mother died.
Maybe that's why I was so bewitched with Mary, for she had little ways
with her that took your fancy and made you love her whether you would
or no. I found her father was an honest fellow enough, a fiddler in
the some theatre, that he'd taken good care of Mary till he died,
leaving precious little but advice for her to live on. She'd tried to
get work, failed, spent all she had, got sick, and was going to the
devil, as the poor souls can hardly help doing with so many ready to
give them a shove. It's no use trying to make a bad job better; so the
long and short of it was, I thought she loved me; God knows I loved
her, and I married her before the year was out."
"Show us her picture; I know you've got one; all the fellows have,
though half of 'em won't own up."
"I've only got part of one. I once saved my little girl, and her
picture once saved me."
From an inner pocket Thorn produced a woman's housewife, carefully
untied it, though all its implements were missing but a little
thimble and from one of its compartments took a flattened bullet and
the remnants of a picture.
"I gave her that the first Christmas after I found her. She wasn't
as tidy about her clothes as I liked to see, and I thought if I gave
her a handy thing like this, she'd be willing to sew. But she only
made one shirt for me, and then got tired, so I keep it like an old
fool, as I am. Yes, that's the bit of lead that would have done for
me, if Mary's likeness hadn't been just where it was."
"You'll like to show her this when you go home, won't you?" said
Dick, as he took up the bullet, while Phil examined the marred
picture, and Thorn poised the little thimble on his big finger, with
"How can I, when I don't know where she is, and camp is all the
home I've got?"
The words broke from him like a sudden cry, when some old wound is
rudely touched. Both of the young men started, both laid back the
relics they had taken up, and turned their eyes from Thorn's face,
across which swept a look of shame and sorrow, too significant to be
misunderstood. Their silence assured him of their sympathy, and, as
if that touch of friendlessness unlocked his heavy heart, he eased it
by a full confession. When he spoke again, it was with the calmness of
repressed emotion; and calmness more touching to his mates than the
most passionate outbreak, the most pathetic lamentation; for the
coarse camp-phrases seemed to drop from his vocabulary; more than once
his softened voice grew tremulous, and to the words "my little girl,"
there went a tenderness that proved how dear a place she still
retained in that deep heart of his.
"Boys, I've gone so far; I may as well finish; and you'll see I'm
not without some cause for my stern looks and ways; you'll pity me,
and from you I'll take the comfort of it. It's only the old story,—I
married her, worked for her, lived for her, and kept my little girl
like a lady. I should have known that I was too old, too sober, for a
young thing like that; the life she led before the pinch came just
suited her. She liked to be admired, to dress and dance and make
herself pretty for all the world to see; not to keep house for a quiet
man like me. Idleness wasn't good for her, it bred discontent; then
some of her old friends, who'd left her in her trouble, found her out
when better times came round, and tried to get her back again. I was
away all day, I didn't know how things were going, and she wasn't open
with me, afraid, she said; I was so grave, and hated theatres so. She
got courage, finally, to tell me that she wasn't happy; that she
wanted to dance again, and asked me if she mightn't. I'd rather have
had her ask me to put her in a fire, for I did hate theatres,
and was bred to; others think they're no harm. I do; and knew it was a
bad life for a girl like mine. It pampers vanity, and vanity is the
Devil's help with such; so I said No, kindly at first, sharp and stern
when she kept on teasing. That roused her spirit. 'I will go!' she
said, one day. 'Not while you're my wife,' I answered back; and
neither said any more, but she gave me a look I didn't think she
could, and I resolved to take her away from temptation before worse
came of it.
"I didn't tell her my plan; but I resigned my place, spent a week
or more finding and fixing a little home for her out in the wholesome
country, where she'd be safe from theatres and disreputable friends,
and maybe learn to love me better when she saw how much she was to
me. It was coming summer, and I made things look as home-like and as
pretty as I could. She liked flowers, and I fixed a garden for her;
she was fond of pets, and I got her a bird, a kitten, and a dog to
play with her; she fancied gay colors and tasty little matters, so I
filled her rooms with all the handsome things I could afford, and
when it was done, I was as pleased as any boy, thinking what happy
times we'd have together and how pleased she'd be. Boys, when I went
to tell her and to take her to her little home, she was gone."
"With those cursed friends of hers; a party of them left the city
just then; she was wild to go; she had money now, and all her good
looks back again. They teased and tempted her; I wasn't there to keep
her, and she went, leaving a line behind to tell me that she loved the
old life more than the new; that my house was a prison, and she hoped
I'd let her go in peace. That almost killed me; but I managed to bear
it, for I knew most of the fault was mine; but it was awful bitter to
think I hadn't saved her, after all."
"Oh, Thorn! what did you do?"
"Went straight after her; found her dancing in Philadelphia, with
paint on her cheeks, trinkets on her neck and arms, looking prettier
than ever; but the innocent eyes were gone, and I couldn't see my
little girl in the bold, handsome woman twirling there before the
Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.. She saw me, looked scared at
first, then smiled, and danced on with her eyes upon me, as if she
"'See! I'm happy now; go away and let me be.'
"I couldn't stand that, and got out somehow. People thought me mad,
or drunk; I didn't care, I only wanted to see her once in quiet and
try to get her home. I couldn't do it then nor afterwards by fair
means, and I wouldn't try force. I wrote to her, promised to forgive
her, begged her to come back, or let me keep her honestly somewhere
away from me. But she never answered, never came, and I have never
"She wasn't worthy of you, Thorn; you jest forgit her."
"I wish I could! I wish I could!" in his voice quivered an almost
passionate regret, and a great sob heaved his chest, as he turned his
face away to hide the love and longing, still so tender and so strong.
"Don't say that, Dick; such fidelity should make us charitable for
its own sake. There is always time for penitence, always a certainty
of pardon. Take heart, Thorn, you may not wait in vain, and she may
yet return to you."
"I know she will! I've dreamed of it, I've prayed for it; every
battle I come out of safe makes me surer that I was kept for that,
and when I've borne enough to atone for my part of the fault, I'll be
repaid for all my patience, all my pain, by finding her again. She
knows how well I love her still, and if there comes a time when she is
sick and poor and all alone again, then she'll remember her old John,
then she'll come home and let me take her in."
Hope shone in Thorn's melancholy eyes, and long-suffering
all-forgiving love beautified the rough, brown face, as he folded his
arms and bent his gray head on his breast, as if the wanderer were
The emotion which Dick scorned to show on his own account was
freely manifested for another, as he sniffed audibly, and, boy-like,
drew his sleeve across his eyes. But Phil, with the delicate
perception of a finer nature, felt that the truest kindness he could
show his friend was to distract his thoughts from himself, to spare
him any comments, and lessen the embarrassment which would surely
follow such unwonted confidence.
"Now I'll relieve Flint, and he will give you a laugh. Come on
Hiram and tell us about your Beulah."
The gentleman addressed had performed his duty, by sitting on a
fence and "righting up" his pockets, to beguile the tedium of his
exile. Before his multitudinous possessions could be restored to
their native sphere, Thorn was himself again, and on his feet.
"Stay where you are Phil; I like to tramp, it seems like old times,
and I know you're tired. Just forget all this I've been saying, and
go on as before. Thank you, boys! thank you!" and with a grasp of the
two hands extended to him, he strode away along the path already worn
by his own restless feet.
"It's done him good, and I'm glad of that; but I'd like to see the
little baggage that bewitched the poor old boy, wouldn't you, Phil?"
"Hush! here's Flint."
"What's up naow? want me tew address the meetin', hey? I'm willin',
only the laugh's ruther ag'inst me, ef I tell that story; expect
yeu'll like it all the better fer that." Flint coiled up his long
limbs, put his hands in his pockets, chewed meditatively for a
moment, and then began with his slowest drawl—
"Waal, sir, it's pretty nigh ten year ago, I was damster daown tew
Oldtaown, clos't tew Banggore. My folks lived tew Bethel; there was
only the old man, and Aunt Siloam, keepin' house fer him, seein' as I
was the only chick he hed. I hedn't heared from 'em fer a long spell,
when there come a letter sayin' the old man was breakin' up. He'd said
it every spring fer a number er years, and I didn't mind it no more'n
the breakin' up er the river; not so much jest then; fer the gret
spring drive was comin' on, and my hands was tew full to quit work all
tew oncet. I sent word I'd be 'long fore a gret while, and bymeby I
went. I ought tew hev gone at fust; but they'd sung aout 'Wolf!' so
often I wasn't scared; an' sure 'nuff the wolf did come at last.
Father hed been dead an' berried a week when I got there, and aunt was
so mad she wouldn't write, nor scurcely speak tew me fer a
consider'ble spell. I didn't blame her a mite, and felt jest the wust
kind; so I give in every way, and fetched her raound. Yeou see I hed a
cousin who'd kind er took my place tew hum while I was off, an' the
old man hed left him a good slice er his money, an' me the farm,
hopin' to keep me there. He'd never liked the lumberin' bizness, an'
hankered arfter me a sight, I faound. Waal, seein' haow 'twas, I tried
tew please him, late as it was; but ef there was ennything I did
spleen ag'inst, it was farmin, 'specially arfter the smart times I'd
ben hevin, up Oldtaown way. Yeou don't know nothin' abaout it; but ef
yeou want tew see high dewin's, jest hitch onto a timber-drive an' go
it daown along them lakes and rivers, say from Kaumchenungamooth tew
Punnobscot Bay. Guess yeou'd see a thing or tew, an' find livin' on a
log come as handy as ef yeou was born a turtle.
"Waal, I stood it one summer; but it was the longest kind of a job.
Come fall I turned contrary, darned the farm, and vaowed I'd go back
tew loggin'. Aunt hed got fond er me by that time, and felt dreadful
bad abaout my leavin' on her. Cousin Siah, as we called Josiah,
didn't cotton tew the old woman, though he did tew her cash; but we
hitched along fust-rate. She was 'tached tew the place, hated tew hev
it let or sold, thought I'd go to everlastin' rewin ef I took tew
lumberin' ag'in, an' hevin' a tidy little sum er money all her own,
she took a notion tew buy me off. 'Hiram,' sez she, 'ef yeou'll stay
tew hum, merry some smart gal, an' kerry on the farm, I'll leave yeou
the hull er my fortin. Ef yeou don't, I'll leave every cent on't tew
Siah, though he ain't done as waal by me as yeou hev. Come,' sez she,
'I'm breakin' up like brother; I shan't wurry any one a gret while,
and 'fore spring I dessay you'll hev cause tew rejice that yeou done
as Aunt Si counselled yeou.'
"Now, that idee kinder took me, seein' I hedn't no overpaourin'
love fer cousin; but I brewdid over it a spell 'fore I 'greed.
Fin'lly, I said I'd dew it, as it warn't a hard nor a bad trade; and
begun to look raound fer Mis Flint, Jr. Aunt was dreadf'l pleased; but
'mazin pertickler as tew who was goan tew stan' in her shoes, when she
was fetched up ag'inst the etarnal boom. There was a sight er lovely
women-folks raound taown; but aunt she set her foot daown that Mis
Flint must be smart, pious, an' good-natered; harnsome she didn't say
nothin' abaout, bein' the humliest woman in the State er Maine. I hed
my own calk'lations on that pint, an' went sparkin' two or three er
the pootiest gals, all that winter. I warn't in no hurry, fer merryin'
is an awful resky bizness; an' I warn't goan to be took in by nobuddy.
Some haouw I couldn't make up my mind which I'd hev, and kept dodgin',
all ready to slew raound, an' hitch on tew ary one that seemed
likeliest. 'Long in March, aunt, she ketched cold, took tew her bed,
got wuss, an' told me tew hurry up, fer nary red should I hev, ef I
warn't safely merried 'fore she stepped out. I thought that was ruther
craoudin' a feller; but I see she was goan sure, an' I'd got intew a
way er considerin' the cash mine, so that it come hard to hear abaout
givin' on't up. Off I went that evenin' an' asked Almiry Nash ef she'd
hev me. No, she wouldn't; I'd shilly-shallyed so long, she'd got tired
er waitin' and took tew keepin' company with a doctor daown tew
Bang-gore, where she'd ben visitin' a spell. I didn't find that as
hard a rub to swaller, as I'd a thought I would, though Almiry was the
richest, pootiest, and good-naterest of the lot. Aunt larfed waal, an'
told me tew try agin; so a couple er nights arfter, I spruced up, an'
went over to Car'line Miles's; she was as smart as old cheese, an'
waal off intew the barg'in. I was just as sure she'd hev me, as I be
that I'm gittin' the rewmatiz a settin' in this ma'sh. But that minx,
Almiry, hed ben and let on abaout her own sarsy way er servin' on me,
an' Car'line jest up an' said she warn't goan to hev annybuddy's
leavin's; so daown I come ag'in.
"Things was gettin' desper't by that time; for aunt was failin'
rapid, an' the story hed leaked aout some way, so the hull taown was
gigglin' over it. I thought I'd better quit them parts; but aunt she
showed me her will all done complete, 'sceptin' the fust name er the
legatee. 'There,' sez she, 'it all depends on yeou, whether that
place is took by Hiram or Josiah. It's easy done, an' so it's goan
tew stan' till the last minnit.' That riled me consid'able, an' I
streaked off tew May Jane Simlin's. She want very waal off, nor extra
harnsome, but she was pious the wust kind, an' dreadf'l clever to them
she fancied. But I was daown on my luck agin; fer at the fust word I
spoke of merryin', she showed me the door, an' give me to understan'
that she couldn't think er hevin' a man that warn't a church-member,
that hadn't experienced religion, or even ben struck with conviction,
an' all the rest on't. Ef anny one hed a wanted tew hev seen a walkin'
hornet's nest, they could hev done it cheap that night, as I went hum.
I jest stramed intew the kitchen, chucked my hat intew one corner, my
coat intew 'nother, kicked the cat, cussed the fire, drawed up a
chair, and set scaoulin' like sixty, bein' tew mad for talkin'. The
young woman that was nussin' aunt,—Bewlah Blish, by name,—was a
cookin' grewel on the coals, and 'peared tew understan' the mess I was
in; but she didn't say nothin', only blowed up the fire, fetched me a
mug er cider, an' went raound so kinder quiet, and sympathizin', that
I faound the wrinkles in my temper gettin' smoothed aout 'mazin'
quick; an' 'fore long I made a clean breast er the hull thing. Bewlah
larfed, but I didn't mind her doin' on't, for she sez, sez she, real
sort o' cunnin',—
"'Poor Hiram! they didn't use yeou waal. Yeou ought to hev tried
some er the poor an' humly girls; they'd a' been glad an' grateful
fer such a sweetheart as yeou be.'
"I was good-natered agin by that time, an' I sez, larfin' along
with her, 'Waal I've got three mittens, but I guess I might's waal hev
'nother, and that will make two pair complete. Say, Bewlah, will yeou
"'Yes, I will,' sez she.
"'Reelly?' sez I.
"'Solemn trew,' sez she.
"Ef she'd up an' slapped me in the face, I shouldn't hev ben more
throwed aback, fer I never mistrusted she cared two chips for me. I
jest set an' gawped; fer she was solemn trew, I see that with half an
eye, an' it kinder took my breath away. Bewlah drawed the grewel off
the fire, wiped her hands, an' stood lookin' at me a minnet, then she
sez, slow an' quiet, but tremblin' a little, as women hev a way er
doin', when they've consid'able steam aboard,—
"'Hiram, other folks think lumberin' has spilt yeou; I don't; they
call yeou rough an' rewd; I know you've got a real kind heart fer
them as knows haow tew find it. Them girls give yeou up so easy,
'cause they never loved yeou, an' yeou give them up 'cause yeou only
thought abaout their looks an' money. I'm humly, an' I'm poor; but
I've loved yeou ever sence we went a-nuttin' years ago, an' yeou
shook daown fer me, kerried my bag, and kissed me tew the gate, when
all the others shunned me, 'cause my father drank an' I was shably
dressed, ugly, an' shy. Yeou asked me in sport, I answered in
airnest; but I don't expect nothin' unless yeou mean as I mean. Like
me, Hiram, or leave me, it won't make no odds in my lovin' er yeou,
nor helpin' er yeou, ef I kin.'
"'Tain't easy tew say haouw I felt, while she was goin' on that
way; but my idees was tumblin' raound inside er me, as ef half a dozen
dams was broke loose all tew oncet. One thing was ruther stiddier 'n
the rest, an' that was that I liked Bewlah morn'n I knew. I begun tew
see what kep me loopin' tew hum so much, sence aunt was took daown;
why I want in no hurry tew git them other gals, an' haow I come tew
pocket my mittens so easy arfter the fust rile was over. Bewlah was
humly, poor in flesh, dreadful freckled, hed red hair, black eyes, an'
a gret mold side er her nose. But I'd got wonted tew her; she knowed
my ways, was a fust rate housekeeper, real good-tempered, and pious
without flingin' on't in yer face. She was a lonely creeter,—her
folks bein' all dead but one sister, who didn't use her waal, an'
somehow I kinder yearned over her, as they say in Scripter. For all I
set an' gawped, I was coming raound fast, though I felt as I used tew,
when I was goin' to shoot the rapids, kinder breathless an' oncertin,
whether Id come aout right side up or not. Queer, warn't it?"
"Love, Flint; that was a sure symptom of it."
"Waal, guess 'twas; anyway I jumped up all er a sudden, ketched
Bewlah raound the neck, give her a hearty kiss, and sung aout, 'I'll
dew it sure's my name's Hi Flint!' The words was scurcely aout er my
maouth, 'fore daown come Dr. Parr. He'd ben up tew see aunt, an' said
she wouldn't last the night threw, prob'ly. That give me a scarer the
wust kind; an' when I told doctor haow things was, he sez, kinder
"'Better git merried right away, then. Parson Dill is tew come an'
see the old lady, an' he'll dew both jobs tew oncet.'
"'Will yeou, Bewlah?' sez I.
"'Yes, Hiram, to 'blige yeou,' sez she.
"With that, I put it fer the parson and the license; got 'em both,
an' was back in less'n half an haour, most tuckered aout with the
flurry er the hull concern. Quick as I'd been, Bewlah hed faound time
tew whip on her best gaoun, fix up her hair, and put a couple er white
chrissanthymums intew her hank'chif pin. Fer the fust time in her
life, she looked harnsome,—leastways I thought so,—with a pretty
color in her cheeks, somethin' brighter'n a larf shinin' in her eyes,
an' her lips smilin' an' tremblin', as she come to me an' whispered
so's't none er the rest could hear,—
"'Hiram, don't yeou dew it, ef yeou'd ruther not. I've stood it a
gret while alone, an' I guess I can ag'in.'
"Never yeou mind what I said or done abaout that; but we was
married ten minutes arfter, 'fore the kitchen fire, with Dr. Parr an'
oaur hired man, fer witnesses; an' then we all went up tew aunt. She
was goan fast, but she understood what I told her, hed strength tew
fill up the hole in the will, an' to say, a-kissin' Bewlah, 'Yeou'll
be a good wife, an' naouw yeou ain't a poor one.'
"I couldn't help givin' a peek tew the will, and there I see not
Hiram Flint, nor Josiah Flint, but Bewlah Flint, wrote every which
way, but as plain as the nose on yer face. 'It won't make no odds
dear,' whispered my wife, peekin' over my shoulder. 'Guess it won't!'
sez I, aout laoud; 'I'm glad on't, and it ain't a cent more'n yeou
"That pleased aunt. 'Riz me, Hiram,' sez she; an' when I'd got her
easy, she put her old arms raound my neck, an' tried to say, 'God
bless you, dear—,' but died a doin' of it; an' I ain't ashamed tew
say I boo-hooed real hearty, when I laid her daown, fer she was
dreadf'l good tew me, an' I don't forgit her in a hurry."
"How's Bewlah?" asked Dick, after the little tribute of respect all
paid to Aunt Siloam's memory, by a momentary silence.
"Fust-rate! that harum scarum venter er mine was the best I ever
made. She's done waal by me, hes Bewlah; ben a grand good
haousekeeper, kin kerry on the farm better'n me, any time, an' is as
dutif'l an' lovin' a wife as,—waal as annything that is extra
dutif'l and lovin'."
"Got any boys to brag of?"
"We don't think much o' boys daown aour way; they're 'mazin resky
stock to fetch up,—alluz breakin' baounds, gittin' intew the paound,
and wurry your life aout somehaow 'nother. Gals naow doos waal; I got
six o' the likeliest the is goin', every one on 'em is the very moral
of Bewlah,—red hair, black eyes, quiet ways, an' a mold side the
nose. Baby's ain't growed yet; but I expect tew see it in a
consid'able state o' forrardness, when I git hum, an' wouldn't miss it
fer the world."
The droll expressions of Flint's face, and the satisfied twang of
his last words, were irresistable. Dick and Phil went off into a
shout of laughter; and even Thorn's grave lips relapsed into a smile
at the vision of six little Flints with their six little moles. As if
the act were an established ceremony, the "paternal head" produced his
pocket-book, selected a worn, black and white paper, which he spread
in his broad palm, and displayed with the air of a connoisseur.
"There, thets Bewlah! we call it a cuttin'; but the proper name's a
silly-hoot I b'leeve. I've got a harnsome big degarrytype tew hum but
the heft on't makes it bad tew kerry raound, so I took this. I don't
tote it abaout inside my shirt as some dew,—it aint my way; but I
keep it in my puss long with my other valleu'bles, and guess I set as
much stoxe by it as ef it was all painted up, and done off to keell."
The "silly-hoot" was examined with interest, and carefully stowed
away again in the old brown wallet which was settled in its place
with a satisfied slap, then Flint said briskly,—
"Naouw, Phil, yeou close this interestin' and instructive meeting;
and be spry, fer time's most up."
"I haven't much to tell, but must begin with a confession which I
have often longed but never dared to make before, because I am a
"Sho! who's goan to b'leeve that o' a man who fit like a wild cat,
wuz offered fer permotion on the field, and wuz reported tew
headquarters arfter his fust scrimmage. Try ag'in, Phil."
"Physical courage is as plentiful as brass buttons, nowadays, but
moral courage is a rarer virtue; and I'm lacking in it, as I'll
prove. You think me a Virginian; I'm an Alabamian by birth, and was a
reb three months ago."
This confession startled his hearers, as he knew it would, for he
had kept his secret well. Thorn laid his hand involuntarily upon his
rifle, Dick drew off a little, and Flint illustrated one of his own
expressions, for he "gawped." Phil laughed that musical laugh of his,
and looked up at them with his dark face waking into sudden life as he
"There's no treason in the camp, for I'm as fierce a Federalist as
any of you now, and you may thank a woman for it. When Lee made his
raid into Pennsylvania, I was a lieutenant in the—well, never mind
what regiment, it hasn't signalized itself since, and I'd rather not
hit my old neighbors when they are down. In one of the skirmishes
during our retreat, I got a wound and was left for dead. A kind old
Quaker found and took me home; but though I was too weak to talk, I
had my senses by that time, and knew what went on about me.
Everything was in confusion, even in that well-ordered place; no
surgeon could be got at first, and a flock of frightened women thee'd
and thou'd one another over me, but hadn't wit enough to see that I
was bleeding to death. Among the faces that danced before my dizzy
eyes was one that seemed familiar, probably because no cap surrounded
it. I was glad to have it bending over me, to hear a steady voice say,
'Give me a bandage, quick!' and when none was instantly forthcoming to
me, the young lady stripped up a little white apron she wore, and
stanched the wound in my shoulder. I was not as badly hurt as I
supposed, but so worn-out, and faint from loss of blood, they believed
me to be dying, and so did I, when the old man took off his hat and
"'Friend, if thee has anything to say, thee had better say it, for
thee probably has not long to live.'
"I thought of my little sister, far away in Alabama, fancied she
came to me, and muttered, 'Amy, kiss me, good-by.' The women sobbed
at that; but the girl bent her sweet compassionate face to mine, and
kissed me on the forehead. That was my wife."
"So you seceded from Secession right away, to pay for that
"No, Thorn, not right away,—to my shame be it spoken. I'll tell
you how it came about. Margaret was not old Bent's daughter, but a
Virginia girl on a visit, and a long one it proved, for she couldn't
go till things were quieter. While she waited, she helped take care
of me; for the good souls petted me like a baby when they found that
a Rebel could be a gentleman. I held my tongue, and behaved my best
to prove my gratitude, you know. Of course, I loved Margaret very
soon. How could I help it? She was the sweetest woman I had ever
seen, tender, frank, and spirited; all I had ever dreamed of and
longed for. I did not speak of this, nor hope for a return, because I
knew she was a hearty Unionist, and thought she only tended me from
pity. But suddenly she decided to go home, and when I ventured to wish
she would stay longer, she would not listen, and said, "I must not
stay; I should have gone before."
"The words were nothing, but as she uttered them the color came up
beautifully over all her face, and her eyes filled as they looked
away from mine. Then I knew that she loved me, and my secret broke
out half against my will. Margaret was forced to listen, for I would
not let her go, but she seemed to harden herself against me, growing
colder, stiller, statelier, as I went on, and when I said in my
"'You should love me, for we are bid to love our enemies,' she
flashed an indignant look at me and said,—
"'I will not love what I cannot respect! Come to me a loyal man,
and see what answer I shall give you.'
"Then she went away. It was the wisest thing she could have done,
for absence did more to change me than an ocean of tears, a year of
exhortations. Lying there, I missed her every hour of the day,
recalled every gentle act, kind word, and fair example she had given
me. I contrasted my own belief with hers, and found a new
significance in the words honesty and honor, and, remembering her
fidelity to principle, was ashamed of my own treason to God and to
herself. Education, prejudice, and interest, are difficult things to
overcome, and that was the hottest fight I ever passed through, for,
as I tell you, I was a coward. But love and loyalty won the day, and,
asking no quarter, the Rebel surrendered."
"Phil Beaufort, you're a brick!" cried Dick, with a sounding slap
on his comrade's shoulder.
"A brand snatched from the burnin'. Hallelujah!" chanted Flint,
seesawing with excitement.
"Then you went to find your wife? How? Where?" asked Thorn,
forgetting vigilance in interest.
"Friend Bent hated war so heartily that he would have nothing to do
with paroles, exchanges, or any martial process whatever, but bade me
go when and where I liked, remembering to do by others as I had been
done by. Before I was well enough to go, however, I managed, by means
of Copperhead influence and returned prisoners, to send a letter to my
father and receive an answer. You can imagine what both contained; and
so I found myself penniless, but not poor, an outcast, but not alone.
Old Bent treated me like a prodigal son, and put money in my purse;
his pretty daughters loved me for Margaret's sake, and gave me a
patriotic salute all round when I left them, the humblest, happiest
man in Pennsylvania. Margaret once said to me that this was the time
for deeds, not words; that no man should stand idle, but serve the
good cause with head, heart, and hand, no matter in what rank; for in
her eyes a private fighting for liberty was nobler than a dozen
generals defending slavery. I remembered that, and, not having
influential friends to get me a commission, enlisted in one of her own
Virginia regiments, knowing that no act of mine would prove my
sincerity like that. You should have seen her face when I walked in
upon her, as she sat alone, busied with the army work, as I'd so often
seen her sitting by my bed; it showed me all she had been suffering in
silence, all I should have lost had I chosen darkness instead of
light. She hoped and feared so much she could not speak, neither could
I, but dropped my cloak, and showed her that, through love of her, I
had become a soldier of the Flag. How I love the coarse blue uniform!
for when she saw it, she came to me without a word and kept her
promise in a month."
"Thunder! what a harnsome woman!" exclaimed Flint, as Phil, opening
the golden case that held his talisman, showed them the beautiful,
beloved face of which be spoke.
"Yes! and a right noble woman too. I don't deserve her, but I will.
We parted on our wedding-day, for orders to be off came suddenly, and
she would not let me go until I had given her my name to keep. We were
married in the morning, and at noon I had to go. Other women wept as
we marched through the town, but my brave Margaret kept her tears till
we were gone, smiling, and waving her hand to me,—the hand that wore
the wedding-ring,—till I was out of sight. That image of her is
before me day and night, and day and night her last words are ringing
in my ears,—
"'I give you freely, do your best. Better a true man's widow than a
"Boys, I've only stood on the right side for a month; I've only
fought one battle, earned one honor; but I believe these poor
achievements are an earnest of the long atonement I desire to make
for five and twenty years of blind transgression. You say I fight
well. Have I not cause to dare much?—for in owning many slaves, I
too became a slave; in helping to make many freemen, I liberate
myself. You wonder why I refused promotion. Have I any right to it
yet? Are there not men who never sinned as I have done, and beside
whose sacrifices mine look pitifully small? You tell me I have no
ambition. I have the highest, for I desire to become God's noblest
work,—an honest man,—living, to make Margaret happy, in a love that
every hour grows worthier of her own,—dying, to make death proud to
Phil had risen while he spoke, as if the enthusiasm of his mood
lifted him into the truer manhood he aspired to attain. Straight and
strong he stood up in the moonlight, his voice deepened by unwonted
energy, his eye clear and steadfast, his whole face ennobled by the
regenerating power of this late loyalty to country, wife, and self,
and bright against the dark blue of his jacket shone the pictured
face, the only medal he was proud to wear.
Ah, brave, brief moment, cancelling years of wrong! Ah, fair and
fatal decoration, serving as a mark for a hidden foe! The sharp crack
of a rifle broke the stillness of the night, and with those hopeful
words upon his lips, the young man sealed his purpose with his life.
THE KING OF CLUBS AND THE QUEEN OF
A STORY FOR YOUNG AMERICA.
FIVE and twenty ladies, all in a row, sat on one side of the
hall, looking very much as if they felt like the little old woman who
fell asleep on the king's highway and awoke with abbreviated drapery,
for they were all arrayed in gray tunics and Turkish continuations,
profusely adorned with many-colored trimmings. Five and twenty
gentleman, all in a row, sat on the opposite side of the hall,
looking somewhat subdued, as men are apt to do when they fancy they
are in danger of making fools of themselves. They, also, were en
costume, for all the dark ones had grown piratical in red shirts, the
light ones nautical in blue; and a few boldly appeared in white,
making up in starch and studs what they lost in color, while all were
more or less Byronic as to collar.
On the platform appeared a pile of dumb-bells, a regiment of clubs,
and a pyramid of bean-bags, and stirring nervously among them a
foreign-looking gentleman, the new leader of a class lately formed by
Dr. Thor Turner, whose mission it was to strengthen the world's spine,
and convert it to a belief in air and exercise, by setting it to
balancing its poles and spinning merrily, while enjoying the
"Sun-cure" on a large scale. His advent formed an epoch in the
history of the town; for it was a quiet old village, guiltless of
bustle, fashion, or parade, where each man stood for what he was;
and, being a sagacious set, every one's true value was pretty
accurately known. It was a neighborly town, with gossip enough to
stir the social atmosphere with small gusts of interest or wonder,
yet do no harm. A sensible, free-and-easy town, for the wisest man in
it wore the worst boots, and no one thought the less of his
understanding; the belle of the village went shopping with a big
sun-bonnet and tin pail, and no one found her beauty lessened;
oddities of all sorts ambled peacefully about on their various
hobbies, and no one suggested the expediency of a trip on the wooden
horse upon which the chivalrous South is always eager to mount an
irrepressible abolitionist. Restless people were soothed by the
lullaby the river sang in its slow journey to the sea, old people
found here a pleasant place to make ready to die in, young people to
survey the world from, before taking their first flight, and
strangers looked back upon it, as a quiet nook full of ancient
legends and modern lights, which would keep its memory green when
many a gayer spot was quite forgotten. Anything based upon common
sense found favor with the inhabitants, and Dr. Turner's theories,
being eminently so, were accepted at once and energetically carried
out. A sort of heathen revival took place, for even the ministers and
deacons turned Musclemen; old ladies tossed bean-bags till their caps
were awry, and winter roses blossomed on their cheeks; school-children
proved the worth of the old proverb, "An ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure," by getting their backs ready before the burdens
came; pale girls grew blithe and strong swinging their dumb namesakes;
and jolly lads marched to and fro embracing clubs as if longevity were
corked up in those wooden bottles, and they all took "modest
quenchers" by the way.
August Bopp, the new leader of the class, was a German possessing
but a small stock of English, though a fine gynmast; and, being also
a bashful man, the appointed moment had no sooner arrived than he
found his carefully prepared sentences slipping away from his memory
as the ice appears to do from under unhappy souls first mounted upon
skates. An awful silence reigned; Mr. Bopp glanced nervously over his
shoulder at the staring rows, more appalling in their stillness than
if they had risen up and hooted at him, then piling up the bags for
the seventh time, he gave himself a mental shake, and, with a crimson
visage, was about to launch his first "Ladees und gentlemen," when the
door opened, and a small, merry-faced figure appeared, looking quite
at ease in the novel dress, as, with a comprehensive nod, it marched
straight across the hall to its place among the weaker vessels.
A general glance of approbation followed from the gentlemen's side,
a welcoming murmur ran along the ladies', and the fifty pairs of eyes
changed their focus for a moment. Taking advantage of which, Mr. Bopp
righted himself, and burst out with a decided,—
"Ladees und gentlemen: the time have arrived that we shall begin.
Will the gentlemen serve the ladees to a wand, each one, then spread
theirselves about the hall, and follow the motions I will make as I
Five minutes of chaos, then all fell into order, and nothing was
heard but the leader's voice and the stir of many bodies moving
simultaneously. An uninitiated observer would have thought himself in
Bedlam; for as the evening wore on, the laws of society seemed given
to the winds, and humanity gone mad. Bags flew in all directions,
clubs hurtled through the air, and dumb-bells played a castinet
accompaniment to peals of laughter that made better music than any
band. Old and young gave themselves up to the universal merriment,
and, setting dignity aside, played like happy-hearted children for an
hour. Stout Dr. Quackenboss gasped twice round the hall on one toe;
stately Mrs. Primmins ran like a girl of fifteen to get her pins home
before her competitor; Tommy Inches, four feet three, trotted away
with Deacon Stone on his shoulder, while Mr. Steepleton and Miss
Maypole hopped together like a pair of lively young ostriches, and Ned
Amandine, the village beau, blew arrows through a pop-gun, like a
modern Cupid in pegtops instead of pinions.
The sprightly young lady whose entrance had been so opportune
seemed a universal favorite, and was overwhelmed with invitations to
"bag," "hop," and "blow" from the gentlemen who hovered about her,
cheerfully distorting themselves to the verge of dislocation in order
to win a glance of approbation from the merry black eyes which were
the tapers where all these muscular moths singed their wings. Mr. Bopp
had never seen such a little piece of earnestness before, and began to
think the young lady must be training for a boat-race or the ring. Her
dumb-bells flew about till a pair of white arms looked like the sails
of a windmill; she hit out from the shoulder with a vigor that would
have done execution had there been anything but empty air to "punish;"
and the "one, two, three!" of the Zouave movement went off with a
snap; while the color deepened from pink to scarlet in her cheeks, the
black braids tumbled down upon her shoulders, and the clasp of her
belt flew asunder; but her eye seldom left the leader's face, and she
followed every motion with an agility and precision quite inspiring.
Mr. Bopp's courage rose as he watched her, and a burning desire to
excel took possession of him, till he felt as if his muscles were made
of India-rubber, and his nerves of iron. He went into his work heart
and soul, shaking a brown mane out of his eyes, issuing commands like
general at the head of his troops, and keeping both interest and fun
in full blast till people laughed who had not laughed heartily for
years; lungs got their fill for once, unsuspected muscles were
suddenly developed, and, when the clock struck ten, all were bubbling
over with that innocent jollity which makes youth worth possessing,
and its memory the sunshine of old age.
The last exercise was drawing to a close, and a large ring of
respectable members of society were violently sitting down and rising
up in a manner which would have scandalized Miss Wilhelmina Carolina
Amelia S. Keggs to the last degree, when Mr. Bopp was seen to grow
very pale, and drop in a manner which it was evident his pupils were
not expected to follow.
At this unexpected performance, the gentlemen took advantage of
their newly-acquired agility to fly over all obstacles and swarm on
to the platform, while the ladies successfully lessened their unusual
bloom by staring wildly at one another and suggesting awful
impossibilities. The bustle subsided, as suddenly as it arose; and
Mr. Bopp, rather damp about the head and dizzy about the eye, but
quite composed, appeared, saying, with the broken English and
appealing manner which caused all the ladies to pronounce him "a
dear" on the spot,—
"I hope you will excoose me for making this lesson to be more short
than it should; but I have exercise nine hours this day, and being
just got well from a illness, I have not recover the strength I have
lost. Next week I shall be able to take time by the hair, so that I
will not have so much engagements in one day. I thank you for your
kindness, and say good-efening."
After a round of applause, as a last vent for their spirits, the
class dispersed, and Mr. Bopp was wrestling with a vicious pin as he
put on his collar ("a sure sign he has no ma to see to his buttons,
poor lamb!" thought Mrs. Fairbairn, watching him from afar); when the
sprightly young lady, accompanied by a lad the masculine image of
herself, appeared upon the platform, saying, with an aspect as cordial
as her words,—
"Good-evening, Professor. Allow me to introduce my brother and
myself, Dick and Dolly Ward, and ask you in my mother's name, to come
home with us; for the tavern is not a cosy place, and after all this
exertion you should be made comfortable. Please come, for Dr. Turner
always stayed with us, and we promised to do the honors of the town to
any gentleman he might send to supply his place."
"Of course we did; and mother is probably freezing her blessed nose
off watching for us; so don't disappoint her, Bopp. It's all settled,
the sleigh's at the door, and here's your coat; so, come on!"
Dick was a fine sample of young America in its best aspect, and
would have said "How are you?" to Louis Napoleon if he had been at
hand, and have done it so heartily that the great Frenchman would
have found it hard to resist giving as frank an answer. Therefore no
wonder that Mr. Bopp surrendered at once; for the young gentleman
took possession of him bodily, and shook him into his coat with an
amiable impetuosity which developed a sudden rent in the well-worn
sleeve thereof, and caused an expression of dismay, to dawn upon the
"Beg pardon; never mind; mother'll sew you up in two seconds, and
your overcoat will hide the damage. Where is it? I'll get it, and
then we'll be off."
Mr. Bopp colored distressfully, looked up, looked down, and then
straight into the lad's face, saying simply,—
"Thank you; I haf no coat but one."
Dick opened his eyes, and was about opening his mouth also, for the
exit of some blunderingly good-natured reply, when a warning poke
from his sister restrained him, while Dolly, with the innocent
hypocrisy which is as natural to some women as the art of tying bows,
said, as she led the way out,—
"You see the worth of gymnastics, Dick, in this delightful
indifference to cold. I sincerely hope we may reach a like enviable
state of health, and look upon great-coats as effeminate, and
mufflers a weakness of the flesh. Do you think we shall, Mr. Bopp?"
He shook his head with a perceptible shiver as the keen north wind
smote him in the face, but answered, with a look half merry, half
"It is not choice, but what you call necessitee, with me; and I
truly hope you may never haf to exercise to keep life in you when you
haf sold your coat to pay a doctor's bill, or teach the art of
laughing while your heart is heavy as one stone. You would not like
that, I think, yet it is good, too; for small things make much
happiness for me, and a kind word is often better than a rix dollar."
There was something in the young man's tone and manner which
touched and won his hearers at once. Dolly secretly resolved to put an
extra blanket on his bed, and shower kind words upon him, while Dick
tucked him up in buffalo robes where he sat helplessly beaming down
upon the red hood at his side.
A roaring fire shone out hospitably as they came, and glorified the
pleasant room, dancing on ancient furniture and pictured walls till
the jolly old portraits seemed to wink a visible welcome. A
cheery-faced little woman, like an elder Dolly, in a widow's cap,
stood on the threshold, with a friendly greeting for the stranger,
which warmed him as no fine could have done.
If August Bopp had been an Englishman, he would have felt much, but
said less on that account; if he had been an American, he would have
tried to conceal his poverty, and impress the family with his past
grandeur, present importance, or future prospects; being a German, he
showed exactly what he was, with the childlike frankness of his race.
Having had no dinner, he ate heartily of what was offered him; being
cold, he basked in the generous warmth; being homesick and solitary,
he enjoyed the genial influences that surrounded him, and told his
story, sure of sympathy; for even in prosaic Yankeedom he had found
it, as travellers find Alpine flowers among the snow.
It was a simple story of a laborious boyhood, being early left an
orphan, with a little sister dependent on him, till an opening in
America tempted him to leave her and come to try and earn a home for
her and for himself. Sickness, misfortune, and disappointment had
been his companions for a year; but he still worked, still hoped, and
waited for the happy hour when little Ulla should come to him across
the sea. This was all; yet as he told it, with the magical
accompaniments of gesture, look, and tone, it seemed full of pathos
and romance to his listeners, whose faces proved their interest more
flatteringly than their words.
Mrs. Ward mended the torn coat with motherly zeal, and gave it many
of those timely stitches which thrifty women love to sew. The twins
devoted themselves to their guest, each in a characteristic manner.
Dick, as host, offered every article of refreshment the house
afforded, goaded the fire to a perpetual roar, and discussed
gymnastics, with bursts of boyish admiration for the grace and skill
of his new leader, whom he christened King of Clubs on the spot.
Dolly made the stranger one of them at once by talking bad German, as
an offset to his bad English, called him Professor in spite of all
denials, and unconsciously symbolized his future bondage by giving him
a tangled skein to hold for the furtherance of her mother's somewhat
The Cupid of the present day was undoubtedly "raised" in
Connecticut; for the ingenuity and shrewdness of that small personage
could have sprung from no other soil. In former times his stratagems
were of the romantic order. Colin bleated forth his passion in rhyme,
and cast sheep's eyes from among his flock, while Phyllis coquetted
with her crook and stuck posies in his hat; royal Ferdinand and
Miranda played at chess; Ivanhoe upset his fellow-men like ninepins
for love of lackadaisical Rowena; and "sweet Moll" turned the pages
while her lover, Milton, sang. But in our day the jolly little god,
though still a heathen in the severe simplicity of his attire, has
become modernized in his arts, and invented huskings, apple-bees,
sleigh-rides, "drop-ins," gymnastics, and, among his finer snares, the
putting on of skates, drawing of patterns, and holding skeins,—the
last-named having superior advantages over the others, as all will
testify who have enjoyed one of those hand-to-hand skirmishes.
August Bopp was three and twenty, imaginative, grateful, and
heart-whole; therefore, when he found himself sitting opposite a
blooming little damsel, with a head, bound by a pretty red snood,
bent down before him, and very close to his own a pair of distracting
hands, every finger of which had a hit to make, and made it, it is not
to be denied that he felt himself entering upon a new and very
agreeable experience. Where could he look but in the face opposite,
sometimes so girlishly merry and sometimes so beautifully shy? It was
a winning face, full of smooth curves, fresh colors, and sunshiny
twinkles,—a face every one liked, for it was as changeful as an April
day, and always pleasant, whether mischievous, mournful, or demure.
Like one watching a new picture, Mr. Bopp inspected every feature
of the countenance so near his own; and, as his admiration "grew by
what it fed on," he fell into a chronic state of stammer and blush;
for the frank eyes were very kind, the smooth cheeks reflected a
pretty shade of his own crimson, and the smiling lips seemed
constantly suggesting, with mute eloquence, that they were made for
kissing, while the expressive hands picked at the knots till the
Professor felt like a very resigned fly in the web of a most enticing
If the King of Clubs saw a comely face, the Queen of Hearts saw
what observing girls call a "good face;" and with a womanly respect
for strength, the manliest attribute of man, she admired the broad
shoulders and six feet one of her new master. This face was not
handsome, for, true to his fatherland, the Professor had an eminent
nose, a blonde beard, and a crop of "bonny brown hair" long enough to
have been gathered into a ribbon, as in the days of Schiller and Jean
Paul; but Dolly liked it, for its strength was tempered with
gentleness; patience and courage gave it dignity, and the glance that
met her own was both keen and kind.
The silk was wound at last, the coat repaired. Dick with difficulty
concealed the growing stiffness of his shoulders, while Dolly turned
up the lamp, which bluntly hinted bedtime, and Mrs. Ward successfully
devoured six gapes behind her hand, but was detected in the seventh by
Mr. Bopp, who glanced at the clock, stopped in the middle of a
sentence, and, with a hurried "goot-night," made for the door without
the least idea whither he was going. Piloted by Dick, he was installed
in the "best chamber," where his waking dreams were enlivened by a
great fire, and his sleeping ones by an endless succession of skeins,
each rapturously concluded in the style of Sam Weller when folding
carpets with the pretty maid.
"I tell you, Dolly, it won't do, and I'm not going to have it."
"Oh, indeed; and how will you help it, you absurd boy?"
"Why, if you don't stop it, I'll just say to Bopp,—'Look here, my
dear fellow; this sister of mine is a capital girl, but she will
"And it's a family failing, Dick," cut in Dolly.
"Not a bit of it. I shall say, 'Take care of your heart, Bopp, for
she has a bad habit of playing battle-door and shuttle-cock with
these articles; and, though it may be very good fun for a time, it
makes them ache when they get a last knock and are left to lie in a
"What eloquence! But you'd never dare to try it on Mr. Bopp; and I
shouldn't like to predict what would happen to you if you did."
"If you say 'dare,' I'll do it the first minute I see him. As for
consequences, I don't care that for 'em;" and Dick snapped his
fingers with an aspect of much disdain. But something in his sister's
face suggested the wisdom of moderation, and moved him to say, less
like a lord of creation, and more like a brother who privately adored
his sister, but of course was not going to acknowledge such a
"Well, but soberly, now, I wish you wouldn't plague Bopp; for it's
evident to me that he is hit; and from the way you've gone on these
two months, what else was to be expected? Now, as the head of the
family,—you needn't laugh, for I am,—I think I ought to interfere;
and so I put it to you,—do you like him, and will you have him? or
are you merely amusing yourself, as you have done ever since you were
out of pinafores? If you like him, all serene. I'd rather have him for
a brother than any one I know, for he's a regular trump though he is
poor; but if you don't, I won't have the dear old fellow floored just
because you like to see it done."
It may here be remarked that Dolly quite glowed to hear her brother
praise Mr. Bopp, and that she indorsed every word with mental
additions of double warmth; but Dick had begun all wrong, and,
manlike, demanded her confidence before she had made up her mind to
own she had any to bestow; therefore nothing came of it but vexation
of spirit; for it is a well-known fact that, on some subjects, if
boys will tease, girls will fib, and both maintain that it is right.
So Dolly whetted her feminine weapon, and assumed a lofty
"Dear me! what a sudden spasm of virtue; and why, if it is such a
sin, has not the 'head of the house' taken his sister to task before,
instead of indulging in a like degeneracy, and causing several
interesting persons to tear their hair, and bewail his forgetfulness,
when they ought to have blessed their stars he was out of the way?"
Dick snowballed a dozing crow and looked nettled; for he had
attained that age when "Tom Brown at Oxford" was the book of books,
the twelfth chapter being the favorite, and five young ladies having
already been endowed with the significant heliotrope flower; all of
which facts Dolly had skilfully brought to mind, as a return-shot for
his somewhat personal remarks.
"Bah! they were only girls, and it don't amount to anything among
us young folks; but Bopp is a grown man, and you ought to respect him
too much to play such pranks with him. Besides, he's a German, and
more tender-hearted than we rough Yankees, as any one can see by the
way he acts when you snub him. He is proud, too, for all his
meekness, and waits till he's sure you like him before he says
anything; and he'll need the patience of a family of Jobs at the rate
you're going on,—a honey-pot one day and a pickle-jar the next. Do
make up your mind, and say yes or no, right off, Dolly."
"Would you have me meet him at the door with a meek courtesy, and
say, 'Oh, if you please, I'm ready to say Yes, thank you, if you'll
be good enough to say, Will you'?"
"Don't be a goose, child; you know I mean nothing of the kind; only
you girls never will do anything straight ahead if you can dodge and
fuss and make a mess of it. Just tell me one thing: Do you, or don't
you, like old Bopp?"
"What an elegant way to put it! Of course I like him well enough as
a leader; he is clever, and sort of cunning, and I enjoy his funny
ways; but what in the world should I do with a great yellow-haired
laddie who could put me in his pocket, and yet is so meek that I
should never find the heart to henpeck him? You are welcome to him;
and since you love him so much, there's no need of my troubling
myself on his account; for with you for a friend, be can have no
earthly wish ungratified."
"Don't try to be cutting, Dolly, because you look homely when you
do, and it's a woman's business to be pretty, always. All I've got to
say is, you will be in a nice state of mind if you damage Bopp; for
every one likes him, and will be down upon you for a heartless little
wretch; and I shan't blame them, I promise you."
"I wish the town wouldn't put its fingers in other people's pies,
and you may tell it so, with my compliments; and all I have to
say is, that you men have more liberty than you know what to do with,
and we women haven't enough; so it's perfectly fair that we should
show you the worth of the thing by taking it away now and then. I
shall do exactly as I please; dance, walk, ride, and flirt, whenever
and with whomever I see fit; and the whole town, with Mr. Dick Ward
at their head, can't stop me if I choose to go on. Now, then, what
next?" After which declaration of independence, Dolly folded her
arms, wheeled about and faced her brother, a spirited statuette of
Self Will, in a red hood and mittens.
Dick sternly asked,—
"Is that your firm decision, ma'am?"
"And you will not give up your nonsense?"
"You are quite sure you don't care for Bopp?"
"I could slap him with all my heart."
"Very good. I shall see that you don't get a chance."
"I wouldn't try a skirmish, for you'll get beaten, Dick."
"We'll prove that, ma'am."
"We will, sir."
And the belligerents loftily paced up the lawn, with their purpose
so well expressed by outward signs, that Mrs. Ward knew, by the cock
of Dick's hat and the decided tap of Dolly's heels, that a storm was
brewing, before they entered the door.
This fraternal conversation took place some two months from the
evening of Mr. Bopp's advent, as the twins were strolling home from
school, which school must be briefly alluded to in order to explain
the foregoing remarks. It was an excellent institution in all
respects; for its presiding genius stood high in the townfolks'
esteem, and might have served as an example to Dr. Watts' "busy bee,"
in the zeal with which he improved his "shining hours," and laid up
honey against the winter, which many hoped would be long in coming.
All manner of aids were provided for sprouting souls and bodies,
diversions innumerable, and society, some members of which might have
polished off Alcibiades a la Socrates, or entertained Plato
with "æsthetic tea." But, sad to relate, in spite of all these
blessings, the students who resorted to this academy possessed an
Adam-and-Eve-like proclivity for exactly what they hadn't got and
didn't need; and, not contented with the pleasures provided, must
needs play truant with that young scamp Eros, and turn the ancient
town topsy-turvy with modern innovations, till scandalized spinsters
predicted that the very babies would catch the fever, refuse their
panada in jealous gloom, send billet-doux in their rattles, elope in
wicker-carriages, and set up housekeeping in dolls' houses, after the
Certain inflammable Southerners introduced the new game, and left
such romantic legends of their loves behind them that their
successors were fired with an ambition to do the like, and excel in
all things, from cricket to captivation.
This state of things is not to be wondered at; for America, being
renowned as a "fast" nation, has become a sort of hotbed, and seems
to force humanity into early bloom. Therefore, past generations must
not groan over the sprightly present, but sit in the chimney-corner
and see boys and girls play the game which is too apt to end in a
checkmate for one of the players. To many of the lookers-on, the new
order of things was as good as a puppet-show; for, with the
enthusiasm of youth, the actors performed their parts heartily,
forgetting the audience in their own earnestness. Bless us! what
revolutions went on under the round jackets, and what love-tokens lay
in the pockets thereof. What plots and counterplots occupied the heads
that wore the innocent-looking snoods, and what captives were taken in
the many-colored nets that would come off and have to be taken care
of. What romances blossomed like dandelions along the road to school,
and what tales the river might have told if any one could have learned
its musical speech. How certain gates were glorified by daily
lingerings thereat, and what tender memories hung about dingy desks,
old pens, and books illustrated with all manner of symbolical designs.
Let those laugh who will; older and wiser men and women might have
taken lessons of these budding heroes and heroines; for here all was
honest, sincere, and fresh; the old world had not taught them
falsehood, self-interest, or mean ambitions. When they lost or won,
they frankly grieved or rejoiced, and wore no masks except in play,
and then got them off as soon as possible. If blue-eyed Lizzie
frowned, or went home with Joe, Ned, with a wisdom older lovers would
do well to imitate, went in for another game of foot-ball, gave the
rejected apple to little Sally, and whistled "Glory Hallelujah,"
instead of "Annie Laurie," which was better than blowing a rival's
brains out, or glowering at woman-kind forever after. Or, when Tom put
on Clara's skates three successive days, and danced with her three
successive evenings, leaving Kitty to freeze her feet in the one
instance and fold her hands in the other, she just had a "good cry,"
gave her mother an extra kiss, and waited till the recreant Tom
returned to his allegiance, finding his little friend a sweetheart in
nature as in name.
Dick and Dolly were foremost in the ranks, and expert in all the
new amusements. Dick worshipped at many shrines, but most faithfully
at that of a meek divinity, who returned charming answers to the
ardent epistles which he left in her father's garden wall, where,
Pyramus and Thisbe-like, they often chatted through a chink; and Dolly
was seldom seen without a staff of aids who would have "fought, bled,
and died" for her as cheerfully as the Little Corporal's Old Guard,
though she paid them only in words; for her Waterloo had not yet
With the charming, perversity of her sex in such matters, no sooner
had Dolly declared that she didn't like Mr. Bopp, than she began to
discover that she did; and so far from desiring "to slap him," a
tendency to regard him with peculiar good-will and tenderness
developed itself, much to her own surprise; for with all her coquetry
and seeming coldness, Dolly had a right womanly heart of her own,
though she had never acknowledged the fact till August Bopp looked at
her with so much love and longing in his honest eyes. Then she found a
little fear mingling with her regard, felt a strong desire to be
respected by him, discovered a certain something which she called
conscience, restraining a reckless use of her power, and, soon after
her lofty denial to Dick, was forced to own that Mr. Bopp had become
her master in the finer species of gymnastics that came in with Adam
and Eve, and have kept all creation turning somersets ever since. Of
course these discoveries were unconfessed, even to that best bosom
friend which any of us can have; yet her mother suspected them, and,
with much anxiety, saw all, yet held her peace, knowing that her
little daughter would, sooner or later, give her a fuller confidence
than could be demanded; and remembering the happiest moments of her
own happy past, when an older Dick wooed another Dolly, she left that
flower, which never can be forced, to open at its own sweet will.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bopp, though carrying his heart upon his sleeve,
believed his secret buried in the deepest gloom, and enjoyed all the
delightful miseries lovers insist upon making for themselves. When
Dolly was quiet and absent, he became pensive, the lesson dragged,
and people fancied they were getting tired of the humbug; when Dolly
was blithe and bland, he grew radiant, exercised within an inch of
his life as a vent for his emotions, and people went home declaring
gymnastics to be the crowning triumph of the age; and when Dolly was
capricious, Mr. Bopp, became a bewildered weathercock, changing as
the wind changed, and dire was the confusion occasioned thereby.
Like the sage fowl in the story, Dick said nothing, but "kept up a
terrible thinking," and, not having had experience enough to know
that when a woman says No she is very apt to mean Yes, he took Dolly
at her word. Believing it to be his duty to warn "Old Bopp," he
resolved to do it like a Roman brother, regardless of his own
feelings or his sister's wrath, quite unconscious that the motive
power in the affair was a boyish love of ruling the young person who
ruled every one else.
Matters stood thus, when the town was electrified by a general
invitation to the annual jubilee at Jollyboys Hall, which this spring
flowered into a masquerade, and filled the souls of old and young with
visions of splendor, frolic, and fun. Being an amiable old town, it
gave itself up, like a kind grandma, to the wishes of its children,
let them put its knitting away, disturb its naps, keep its hands busy
with vanities of the flesh, and its mind in a state of chaos for three
mortal weeks. Young ladies were obscured by tarletan fogs, behind
which they concocted angels' wings, newspaper gowns, Minnehaha's
wampum, and Cinderella's slippers. Inspired but incapable boys
undertook designs that would have daunted a costumer of the first
water, fell into sloughs of despond, and, emerging, settled down from
peers and paladins into jovial tars, friar waterproofs, and officers
in miscellaneous uniforms. Fathers laughed or grumbled at the whole
thing and advanced pecuniary loans with good or ill grace, as the case
might be; but the mothers, whose interest in their children's pleasure
is a sort of evergreen that no snows of time can kill, sewed spangles
by the bushel, made wildernesses of tissue-paper blossom as the rose,
kept tempers sweet, stomachs full, and domestic machinery working
smoothly through it all, by that maternal magic which makes them the
human providences of this naughty world.
"What shall I go as?" was the universal cry. Garrets were taken by
storm, cherished relics were teased out of old ladies' lavendered
chests (happy she who saw them again!), hats were made into boots,
gowns into doublets, cloaks into hose, Sunday bonnets despoiled of
their plumage, silken cauliflowers sown broadcast over the land, and
cocked-up caps erected in every style of architecture, while "Tag,
Rag, and Bobtail" drove a smashing business, and everybody knew what
everybody else was going to be, and solemnly vowed they didn't—which
transparent falsehood was the best joke of the whole.
Dolly allowed her mates to believe she was to be the Queen of
Hearts, but privately laid hold of certain brocades worn by a trim
grandmother half a century ago, and one evening burst upon her
brother in a charming "Little Bo-Peep" costume, which, for the
benefit of future distressed damsels, may be described as a "white
silk skirt, scarlet overdress neatly bundled up behind," as ancient
ladies expressed it, blue hose with red clocks, high-heeled shoes
with silver buckles, a nosegay in the tucker, and a fly-way hat
perched in this case on the top of black curls, which gave additional
archness to Dolly's face as she entered, singing that famous ditty.
Dick surveyed her with approval, turning her about like a lay
figure, and expressing his fraternal opinion that she was "the
sauciest little turn-out he ever saw," and then wet-blanketed the
remarks by adding, "Of course you don't call it a disguise, do you?
and don't flatter yourself that you won't be known; for Dolly Ward is
as plainly written in every curl, bow, and gimcrack, as if you wore a
label on your back."
"Then I shan't wear it;" and off went the hat at one fell blow, as
Dolly threw her crook in one corner, her posy in another, and sat
down an image of despair.
"Now don't be a goose, and rip everything to bits; just wear a
domino over all, as Fan is going to, and then, when you've had fun
enough, take it off and do the pretty. It will make two rigs, you
see, and bother the boys to your heart's content."
"Dick, I insist upon kissing you for that brilliant suggestion; and
then you may run and get me eight yards of cambric, just the color of
Fan's; but if you tell any one, I'll keep her from dancing with you
the whole evening;" with which bribe and threat Dolly embraced her
brother, and shut the door in his face, while he, putting himself in
good humor by imagining she was somebody else, departed on his muddy
If the ghosts of the first settlers had taken their walks abroad on
the eventful Friday night, they would have held up their shadowy
hands at the scenes going on under their venerable noses; for strange
figures flitted through the quiet streets, and instead of decorous
slumber, there was decidedly,—"A sound of revelry by night"
Spurs clanked and swords rattled over the frosty ground, as if the
British were about to make another flying call; hooded monks and nuns
paced along, on carnal thoughts intent; ancient ladies and bewigged
gentlemen seemed hurrying to enjoy a social cup of tea, and groan over
the tax; barrels staggered and stuck through narrow ways, as if
temperance were still among the lost arts, while bears, apes, imps,
and elves pattered or sparkled by, as if a second Walpurgis Night had
come, and all were bound for Blocksberg.
"Hooray for the Rooster!" shouted young Ireland, encamped on the
sidewalk to see the show, as Mephistopheles' red cock's feather
skimmed up the stairs, and he left a pink domino at the ladies'
dressing-room door, with the brief warning, "Now cut your own capers
and leave me to mine," adding, as he paused a moment at the great
"By Jove! isn't it a jolly sight, though?"
And so it was; for a mammoth boot stood sentinel at the entrance; a
Bedouin Arab leaned on his spear in one corner, looking as if ready
"Fly to the desert, fly with me,"
to the pretty Jewess on his arm; a stately Hamlet, with
irreproachable legs, settled his plumage in another, still undecided
to which Ophelia he would first address "The honey of his music
Bluff King Hal's representative was waltzing in a way that would
have filled that stout potentate with respectful admiration, while
Queen Katherine flirted with a Fire Zouave. Alcipades whisked Mother
Goose about the room till the old lady's conical hat tottered on her
head, and the Union held fast to a very little Mac. Flocks of friars,
black, white, and gray, pervaded the hall, with flocks of ballet
girls, intended to represent peasants, but failing for lack of
drapery; morning and evening stars rose or set, as partners willed;
lively red demons harassed meek nuns, and knights of the Leopard, the
Lion or Griffin, flashed by, looking heroically uncomfortable, in
their gilded cages; court ladies promenaded with Jack tars, and dukes
danced with dairy-maids, while Brother Jonathan whittled, Aunt Dinah
jabbered, Ingomar flourished his club, and every one felt warmly
enthusiastic and vigorously jolly.
"Ach himmel! Das ist wunder schon!" murmured a tall, gray monk,
looking in, and quite unconscious that he spoke aloud.
"Hullo, Bopp! I thought you weren't coming," cried Mephistopheles
in an emphatic whisper.
"Ah, I guess you! yes, you are well done. I should like to be a
Faust for you, but I haf no time, no purse for a dress, so I throw
this on, and run up for a hour or two. Where is—who is all these
people? Do you know them?"
The one with the Pope, Fra Diavolo; the telegraph, and two knights
asking her to dance, is Dolly, if that's what you want to know. Go in
and keep it up, Bopp, while you can; I am off for Fan;" and
Mephistopheles departed over the banisters with a weird agility that
delighted the beholders; while the gray friar stole into a corner and
watched the pink domino for half an hour, at the end of which time his
regards were somewhat confused by discovering that there were two pink
damsels so like that he could not tell which was the one pointed out
by Dick and which the new-comer.
"She thinks I will not know her, but I shall go now and find out
for myself;" and, starting into sudden activity, the gray brother
strode up to the nearest pink lady, bowed, and offered his arm. With a
haughty little gesture of denial to several others, she accepted it,
and they joined the circle of many-colored promenaders that eddied
round the hall. As they went, Mr. Bopp scrutinized his companion, but
saw only a slender figure shrouded from head to foot, and the tip of a
white glove resting on his arm.
"I will speak; then her voice will betray her," he thought,
forgetting that his own was undisguisable.
"Madame, permit me that I fan you, it is so greatly warm."
A fan was surrendered with a bow, and the masked face turned fully
toward his own, while the hood trembled as if its wearer laughed
"Ah, it is you,—I know the eyes, the step, the laugh. Miss Dolly,
did you think you could hide from me?"
"I did not wish to," was the whispered answer.
"Did you think I would come?"
"I hoped so."
"Then you are not displease with me?"
"No; I am very glad; I wanted you."
The pink head drooped a little nearer, and another white glove went
to meet its mate upon his arm with a pretty, confiding gesture. Mr.
Bopp instantly fell into a state of bliss,—the lights, music, gay
surroundings, and, more than all, this unwonted demonstration, put
the crowning glory to the moment; and, fired with the hopeful omen,
he allowed his love to silence his prudence, and lead him to do, then
and there, the very thing he had often resolved never to do at all.
"Ah, Miss Dolly, if you knew how much, how very much you haf
enlarged my happiness, and made this efening shine for me, you would
more often be a little friendly, for this winter has been all summer
to me, since I knew you and your kind home, and now I haf no sorrow
but that after the next lesson I come no more unless you gif me leaf.
See now I must say this even here, when so much people are about us,
because I cannot stop it; and you will forgif me that I cannot wait
"Mr. Bopp, please don't, please stop!" began the pink domino in a
hurried whisper. But Mr. Bopp was not to be stopped. He had dammed up
the stream so long, that now it rushed on fast, full, and
uncontrollable; for, leading her into one of the curtained recesses
near by, he sat down beside her, and, still plying the fan, went on
"I feel to say that I lofe you, and tho' I try to kill it, my love
will not die, because it is more strong than my will, more dear than
my pride, for I haf much, and I do not ask you to be meine Frau till
I can gif you more than my heart and my poor name. But hear now; I
will work, and save, and wait a many years if at the end you will
take all I haf and say, 'August, I lofe you.' Do not laugh at me
because I say this in such poor words; you are my heart's dearest,
and I must tell it or never come again. Speak to me one kind yes, and
I will thank Gott in himmel for so much joy."
The pink domino had listened to this rapid speech with averted
head, and, when it ended, started up, saying eagerly, "You are
mistaken, sir, I am not Dolly;" but as she spoke her words were
belied, for the hasty movement displaced her mask, and Mr. Bopp saw
Dolly's eyes, a lock of dark hair, and a pair of burning cheeks,
before the screen was readjusted. With redoubled earnestness he held
her back, whispering,—
"Do not go mitout the little word, Yes, or No; it is not much to
"Well then, No!"
"You mean it? Dolly! truly mean it?"
"Yes, let me go at once, sir."
Mr. Bopp stood up, saying slowly,—"Yes, go now; they told me you
had no heart; I beliefe it, and thank you for that No;" then bowed,
and walked straight out of the hall, while the pink domino broke into
a fit of laughter, saying to herself,—
"I've done it! I've done it! but what a piece of work there'll be
"Dick, who was that tall creature Fan was parading with last night?
No one knew, and he vanished before the masks were taken off," asked
Dolly, as she and her brother lounged in opposite corners of the sofa
the morning after the masquerade, "talking it over."
"That was old Bopp, Mrs. Peep."
"Gracious me! why, he said he wasn't coming."
"People sometimes say what they don't mean, as you may have
"But why didn't he come and speak to a body, Dick?"
"Better employed, I suppose."
"Now don't be cross, dear, but tell me all about it, for I don't
understand how you allowed him to monopolize Fan so."
"Oh, don't bother, I'm sleepy."
"No you're not; you look wicked; I know you've been in mischief,
and I insist upon hearing all about it, so come and 'fess' this
Dolly proceeded to enforce her command by pulling away his pillow
and dragging her brother into a sitting posture in spite of his
laughing resistance and evident desire to exhaust her patience; for
Dick excelled in teasing, and kept his sister in a fidget from
morning till night, with occasional fits of penitence and petting
which lasted till next time. Therefore, though dying to 'fess,' he
was undecided as to the best method of executing that task in the
manner most aggravating to his listener and most agreeable to
himself, and sat regarding her with twinkling eyes, and his curly
pate in a high state of rumple, trying to appear innocently meek, but
"Now, then, up and tell," commanded Dolly.
"Well, if you won't take my head off till I'm done, I'll tell you
the best joke of the season. Are you sure the pink domino with Bopp
wasn't yourself,—for she looked and acted very like you?"
"Of course I am. I didn't even know he was there, and think it very
rude and ungentlemanly in him not to come and speak to me. You know
it was Fan, so do go on."
"But it wasn't, for she changed her mind and wore a black domino; I
saw her put it on myself. Her Cousin Jack came unexpectedly, and she
thought if she altered her dress and went with him, you wouldn't know
"Who could it have been, Dick?"
"That's the mystery, for, do you know, Bopp proposed to her."
"He didn't!" and Dolly flew up with a startled look that, to adopt
a phrase from his own vocabulary, was "nuts" to her brother.
"Yes he did; I heard him."
"When, where, and how?"
"In one of these flirtation boxes; they dropped the curtain, but I
heard him do it, on my honor I did."
"Persons of honor don't listen at curtains and key-holes. What did
"Oh, if it wasn't honorable to listen, it isn't to hear; so I won't
tell, though I could not help knowing it."
"Mercy! don't stop now, or I shall die with curiosity. I dare say I
should have done the same; no one minds at such a place, you know.
But I don't see the joke yet," said Dolly dismally.
"I do," and Dick went off into a shout.
"You idiotic boy, take that pillow out of your mouth, and tell me
the whole thing,—what he said, what she said, and what they both
did. It was all fun of course, but I'd like to hear about it."
"It may have been fun on her part, but it was solemn earnest on
his, for he went it strong I assure you. I'd no idea the old fellow
was so sly, for he appeared smashed with you, you know, and there he
was finishing up with this unknown lady. I wish you could have heard
him go on, with tears in his eyes"—
"How do you know if you didn't see him?"
"Oh, well, that's only a figure of speech; I thought so from his
voice. He was ever so tender, and took to Dutch when English was too
cool for him. It was really touching, for I never heard a fellow do
it before; and, upon my word, I should think it was rather a tough
job to say that sort of thing to a pretty woman, mask or no mask."
"What did she say?" asked Dolly, with her hands pressed tight
together, and a curious little quiver of the lips.
"She said, No, as short as pie-crust; and when he rushed out with
his heart broken all to bits apparently, she just burst out laughing,
and went and polked at a two-forty pace for half an hour."
Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. unclasped her hands, took a
long breath, and cried out,—
"She was a wicked, heartless hussy! and if I know her, I'll never
speak to her again; for if he was really in earnest, she ought to be
killed for laughing at him."
"So ought you, then, for making fun of poor Fisher when he went
down on his knees behind the huckleberry bushes last summer. He was
earnest enough, for he looked as black-and-blue as his berries when
he got home. Your theory is all right, ma'am, but your practice is
"Hold your tongue about that silly thing. Boys in college think
they know everything, can do everything, have everything, and only
need beckon, and all womankind will come and adore. It made a man of
him, and he'll thank me for taking the sentimental nonsense and
conceit out of him. You will need just such a lesson at the rate you
go on, and I hope Fan will give it to you."
"When the lecture is over, I'll go on with the joke, if you want to
"Isn't this enough?"
"Oh, bless you, no! the cream of it is to come. What would you give
to know who the lady was?"
"Five dollars, down, this minute."
"Very good, hand 'em over, and I'll tell you."
"Yes, and prove it."
Dolly produced her purse, and, bill in hand, sat waiting for the
disclosure. Dick rose with a melo-dramatic bow,—
"Lo, it was I."
"That's a great fib, for I saw you flying about the whole evening."
"You saw my dress, but I was not in it."
"Oh! oh! who
did I keep going to, then? and what
I do to make a fool of myself, I wonder?"
Purse and bill dropped out of Dolly's hand, and she looked at her
brother with a distracted expression of countenance. Dick rubbed his
hands and chuckled.
"Here's a jolly state of things. Now I'll tell you the whole story.
I never thought of doing it till I saw Bopp and told him who you
were; but on my way for Fan I wondered if he'd get puzzled between
you two; and then a grand idea popped into my head to puzzle him
myself, for I can take you off to the life. Fan didn't want me to,
but I made her, so she lent me hoops and gown and the pink domino,
and if ever I thanked my stars I wasn't tall, I did then, for the
things fitted capitally as to length, tho' I kept splitting something
down the back, and scattering hooks and eyes in all directions. I wish
you could have heard Jack roar while they rigged me. He had no dress,
so I lent him mine, till just before the masks were taken off, when we
cut home and changed. He told me how you kept running to him to tie up
your slippers, find your fan, and tell him funny things, thinking it
was me. I never enjoyed anything so much in my life."
"Go on," said Dolly in a breathless sort of voice, and the deluded
"I knew Bopp, and hovered near till he came to find out who I was.
I took you off in style, and it deceived him, for I'm only an inch or
two taller than you, and kept my head down in the lackadaisical way
you girls do; I whispered, so my voice didn't betray me; and was very
clinging, and sweet, and fluttery, and that blessed old goose was sure
it was you. I thought it was all over once, for when he came the heavy
in the recess, I got a bit flustered, he was so serious about it, my
mask slipped, but I caught it, so he only saw my eyes and forehead,
which are just like yours, and that finished him, for I've no doubt I
looked as red and silly as you would have done in a like fix."
"Why did you say No?" and Dolly looked as stern as fate.
"What else should I say? You told me you wouldn't have him, and I
thought it would save you the bother of saying it, and him the pain
of asking twice. I told him some time ago that you were a born flirt;
he said he knew it; so I was surprised to hear him go on at such a
rate, but supposed that I was too amiable, and that misled him. Poor
old Bopp, I kept thinking of him all night, as he looked when he said,
'They told me you had no heart, now I believe it, and I thank you for
that No.' It was rather a hard joke for him, but it's over now, and he
won't have to do it again. You said I wouldn't dare tell him about
you; didn't I? and haven't I won the"—
The rest of the sentence went spinning dizzily through Dick's head,
as a sudden tingling sensation pervaded his left ear, followed by a
similar smart in the right; and, for a moment, chaos seemed to have
come again. Whatever Dolly did was thoroughly done: when she danced,
the soles of her shoes attested the fact; when she flirted, it was
warm work while it lasted; and when she was angry, it thundered,
lightened, and blew great guns till the shower came, and the whole
affair ended in a rainbow. Therefore, being outwitted, disappointed,
mortified, and hurt, her first impulse was to find a vent for these
conflicting emotions, and possessing skillful hands, she left them to
avenge the wrong done her heart, which they did so faithfully, that if
ever a young gentleman's ears were vigorously and completely boxed,
Dick was that young individual. As the thunder-clap ceased, the gale
began and blew steadily for several minutes.
"You think it a joke, do you? I tell you, it's a wicked, cruel
thing; you've told a lie; you've broken August's heart, and made me
so angry that I'll never forgive you as long as I live. What do you
know about my feelings? and how dare you take it upon yourself to
answer for me? You think because we are the same age that I am no
older than you, but you're mistaken, for a boy of eighteen is a
boy, a girl is often a woman, with a woman's hopes and plans; you
don't understand this any more than you do August's love for me,
which you listened to and laughed at. I said I didn't like him, and I
didn't find out till afterward that I did; then I was afraid to tell
you lest you'd twit me with it. But now I care for no one, and I say I
do like him,—yes, I love him with all my heart and soul and might and
I'd die this minute if I could undo the harm you've done, and see him
happy. I know I've been selfish, vain, and thoughtless, but I am not
now; I hoped he'd love me, hoped he'd see I cared for him, that I'd
done trifling, and didn't mind if he was poor, for I'd enough
for both; that I longed to make his life pleasant after all his
troubles; that I'd send for the little sister he loves so well, and
never let him suffer any more; for he is so good, so patient, so
generous, and dear to me, I cannot do enough for him. Now it's all
spoilt; now I can never tell him this, never comfort him in any way,
never be happy again all my life, and you have done it."
As Dolly stood before her brother, pouring out her words with
glittering eyes, impetuous voice, and face pale with passionate
emotion, he was scared; for as his scattered wits returned to him, he
felt that he had been playing with edge tools, and had cut and slashed
in rather a promiscuous manner. Dazed and dizzy, he sat staring at the
excited figure before him, forgetting the indignity he had received,
the mistake he had made, the damage he had done, in simple wonder at
the revolutions going on under his astonished eyes. When Dolly stopped
for breath, he muttered with a contrite look,—
"I'm very sorry,—it was only fun; and I thought it would help you
both, for how the deuce should I know you liked the man when you said
you hated him?"
"I never said that, and if I'd wanted advice I should have gone to
mother. You men go blundering off with half an idea in your heads,
and never see your stupidity till you have made a mess that can't be
mended; we women don't work so, but save people's feelings, and are
called hypocrites for our pains. I never meant to tell you, but I
will now, to show you how I've been serving you, while you've been
harming me: every one of those notes from Fan which you admire so
much, answer so carefully, and wear out in your pocket, though copied
by her, were written by me."
"The devil they were!" Up flew Dick, and clapping his hand on the
left breast-pocket, out came a dozen pink notes tied up with a blue
ribbon, and much the worse for wear. He hastily turned them over as
Dolly went on.
"Yes, I did it, for she didn't know how to answer your notes, and
came to me. I didn't laugh at them, or make fun of her, but helped
her silly little wits, and made you a happy boy for three months,
though you teased me day and night, for I loved you, and hadn't the
heart to spoil your pleasure."
"You've done it now with a vengeance, and you're a pair of
deceitful minxes. I've paid you off. I'll give Fan one more
note that will keep her eyes red for a month; and I'll never love or
trust a girl again as long as I live,—never! never!"
Red with wrath, Dick flung the treasured packet into the fire,
punched it well down among the coals, flung away the poker, and
turned about with a look and gesture which would have been comically
tragic if they had not been decidedly pathetic, for, in spite of his
years, a very tender heart beat under the blue jacket, and it was
grievously wounded at the perfidy of the gentle little divinity whom
he worshipped with daily increasing ardor. His eyes filled, but he
winked resolutely; his lips trembled, but he bit them hard; his hands
doubled themselves up, but he remembered his adversary was a woman;
and, as a last effort to preserve his masculine dignity, he began to
As if the inconsistencies of womankind were to be shown him as
rapidly as possible, at this moment the shower came on, for, taking
him tenderly about the neck, Dolly fell to weeping so infectiously,
that, after standing rigidly erect till a great tear dropped off the
end of his nose, ignominiously announcing that it was no go, Dick
gave in, and laying his head on Dolly's shoulder, the twins quenched
their anger, washed away their malice, and soothed their sorrow by
one of those natural processes, so kindly provided for poor humanity,
and so often despised as a weakness when it might prove a better
strength than any pride.
Dick cleared up first, with no sign of the tempest but a slight
mist through which his native sunshine glimmered pensively.
"Don't dear, don't cry so; it will make you sick, and won't do any
good, for things will come right, or I'll make 'em, and we'll be
comfortable all round."
"No, we never can be as we were, and it's all my fault. I've
betrayed Fan's confidence, I've spoiled your little romance, I've
been a thoughtless, wicked girl, I've lost August; and, oh, dear me,
I wish I was dead!" with which funereal climax Dolly cried so
despairingly that, like the youngest Miss Pecksniff, she was indeed
"a gushing creature."
"Oh, come now, don't be dismal, and blame yourself for every
trouble under the sun. Sit down and talk it over, and see what can be
done. Poor old girl, I forgave you the notes, and say I was
wrong to meddle with Bopp. I got you into the scrape, and I'll get
you out if the sky don't fall, or Bopp blow his brains out, like a
second Werther, before to-morrow."
Dick drew the animated fountain to the wide chair, where they had
sat together since they were born, wiped her eyes, laid her wet cheek
against his own, and patted her back, with an idea that it was
soothing to babies, and why not to girls?
"I wish mother was at home," sighed Dolly, longing for that port
which was always a haven of refuge in domestic squalls like this.
"Write, and tell her not to stay till Saturday."
"No; it would spoil her visit, and you know she deferred it to help
us through this dreadful masquerade. But I don't know what to do."
"Why, bless your heart, it's simple enough. I'll tell Bopp, beg his
pardon, say 'Dolly's willing,' and there you are all taut and
"I wouldn't for the world, Dick. It would be very hard for you,
very awkward for me, and do no good in the end; for August is so proud
he'd never forgive you for such a trick, would never believe that I
'had a heart' after all you've said and I've done; and I should only
hear with my own ears that he thanked me for that No. Oh, why can't
people know when they are in love, and not go heels over head before
they are ready!"
"Well, if that don't suit, I'll let it alone, for that is all I can
suggest; and if you like your woman's way better, try it, only you'll
have to fly round, because to-morrow is the last night, you know."
"I shan't go, Dick."
"Why not? we are going to give him the rose-wood set of things,
have speeches, cheers for the King of Clubs, and no end of fun."
"I can't help it; there would be no fun for me, and I couldn't look
him in the face after all this."
"Oh, pooh! yes, you could, or it will be the first time you dared
not do damage with those wicked eyes of yours."
"It is the first time I ever loved any one." Dolly's voice was so
low, and her head drooped so much, that this brief confession was
apparently put away in Dick's pocket, and being an exceedingly novel
one, filled that inflammable youth with a desire to deposit a similar
one in the other pocket, which, being emptied of its accustomed
contents, left a somewhat aching void in itself and the heart
underneath. After a moment's silence, he said,—
"Well, if you won't go, you can settle it when he comes here,
though I think we should all do better to confess coming home in the
"He won't come here again, Dick."
"Won't he! that shows you don't know Bopp as well as I. He'll come
to say good-by, to thank mother for her kindness, and you and me for
the little things we've done for him (I wish I'd left the last
undone!), and go away like a gentleman, as he is,—see if he don't."
"Do you think so? Then I must see him."
"I'm sure he will, for we men don't bear malice and sulk and bawl
when we come to grief this way, but stand up and take it without
winking, like the young Spartan brick when the fox was digging into
him, you know."
"Then, of course, you'll forgive Fan."
"I'll be hanged if I do," growled Dick.
"Ah ha! your theory is very good, sir, but your practice is bosh,"
quoted Dolly, with a gleam of the old mischief in her face.
Dick took a sudden turn through the room, burst out laughing, and
came back, saying heartily,—
"I'll own up; it is mean to feel so, and I'll think about forgiving
you both; but she may stop up the hole in the wall, for she won't get
any more letters just yet; and you may devote your epistolary powers
to A. Bopp in future. Well, what is it? free your mind, and have done
with it; but don't make your nose red, or take the starch out of my
collar with any more salt water, if you please."
"No, I won't; and I only want to say that, as you owe the
explanation to us both, perhaps it would be best for you to tell
August your part of the thing as you come home to-morrow, and then
leave the rest to fate. I can't let him go away thinking me such a
heartless creature, and once gone it will be too late to mend the
matter. Can you do this without getting me into another scrape, do
"I haven't a doubt of it, and I call that sensible. I'll fix it
capitally,—go down on my knees in the mud, if it is necessary; treat
you like eggs for fear of another smash-up; and bring him home in such
a tip-top state, you'll only have to nod and find yourself Mrs. B. any
day you like. Now let's kiss and be friends, and then go pitch into
that pie for luncheon."
So they did, and an hour afterward were rioting in the garret under
pretence of putting grandma's things away; for at eighteen, in spite
of love and mischief, boys and girls have a spell to exorcise blue
devils, and a happy faculty of forgetting that "the world is hollow,
and their dolls stuffed with saw-dust."
Dick was right, for on the following evening, after the lesson, Mr.
Bopp did go home with him, "to say good-by, like a gentleman as he
was." Dolly got over the first greeting in the dusky hall, and as her
guest passed on to the parlor, she popped her head out to ask
"Did you say anything, Dick?"
"I couldn't; something has happened to him; he'll tell you about
it. I'm going to see to the horse, so take your time, and do what you
like," with which vague information Dick vanished, and Dolly wished
herself anywhere but where she was.
Mr. Bopp sat before the fire, looking so haggard and worn out that
the girl's conscience pricked her sorely for her part in the change,
but plucking up her courage, she stirred briskly among the tea-cups,
"What shall I give you, sir?"
"Thank you, I haf no care to eat."
Something in his spiritless mien and sorrowful voice made Dolly's
eyes fill; but knowing she must depend upon herself now, and make the
best of her position, she said kindly, yet nervously,—
"You look tired; let me do something for you if I can; shall I sing
for you a little? you once said music rested you."
"You are kind; I could like that I think. Excoose me if I am dull,
I haf—yes, a little air if you please."
More and more disturbed by his absent, troubled manner, Dolly began
a German song he had taught her, but before the first line was sung
he stopped her with an imploring—
"For Gott sake not that! I cannot hear it this night; it was the
last I sung her in the Vaterland."
"Mr. Bopp, what is it? Dick says you have a trouble; tell me, and
let us help you if we can. Are you ill, in want, or has any one
wronged or injured you in any way? Oh, let me help you!"
Tears had been streaming down Mr. Bopp's cheeks, but as she spoke
he checked them, and tried to answer steadily,—
"No, I am not ill; I haf no wants now, and no one has hurt me but
in kindness; yet I haf so great a grief, I could not bear it all
alone, and so I came to ask a little sympathy from your good Mutter,
who has been kind to me as if I was a son. She is not here, and I
thought I would stop back my grief; but that moosic was too much; you
pity me, and so I tell you. See, now! when I find things go bright
with me, and haf a hope of much work, I take the little store I saved,
I send it to my friend Carl Hoffman, who is coming from my home, and
say, 'Bring Ulla to me now, for I can make life go well to her, and I
am hungry till I haf her in my arms again.' I tell no one, for I am
bold to think that one day I come here with her in my hand, to let her
thank you in her so sweet way for all you haf done for me. Well, I
watch the wind, I count the days, I haf no rest for joy; and when Carl
comes, I fly to him. He gifs me back my store, he falls upon my neck
and does not speak, then I know my little Kind will never come, for
she has gone to Himmel before I could make a home for her on earth.
Oh, my Ulla! it is hard to bear;" and, with a rain of bitter tears,
poor Mr. Bopp covered up his face and laid it down on his empty plate,
as if he never cared to lift it up again.
Then Dolly forgot herself in her great sympathy, and, going to him,
she touched the bent head with a soothing hand; let her tears flow to
comfort his; and whispered in her tenderest voice,—
"Dear Mr. Bopp, I wish I could heal this sorrow, but as I cannot,
let me bear it with you; let me tell you how we loved the little
child, and longed to see her; how we should have rejoiced to know you
had so dear a friend to make your life happy in this strange land; how
we shall grieve for your great loss, and long to prove our respect and
love for you. I cannot say this as I ought, but, oh, be comforted, for
you will see the child again, and, remembering that she waits for you,
you will be glad to go when God calls you to meet your Ulla in that
"Ah, I will go now! I haf no wish to stay, for all my life is black
to me. If I had found that other little friend to fill her place, I
should not grieve so much, because she is weller there above than I
could make her here; but no; I wait for that other one; I save all my
heart for her; I send it, but it comes back to me; then I know my hope
is dead, and I am all alone in the strange land."
There was neither bitterness nor reproach in these broken words,
only a patient sorrow, a regretful pain, as if he saw the two lost
loves before him and uttered over them an irrepressible lament. It
was too much for Dolly and with sudden resolution she spoke out fast
"Mr. Bopp, that was a mistake. It was not I you saw at the masque;
it was Dick. He played a cruel trick; he insulted you and wronged me
by that deceit, and I find it very hard to pardon him."
"What! what is that!" and Mr. Bopp looked up with tears still
shining in his beard, and intense surprise in every feature of his
Dolly turned scarlet, and her heart beat fast as she repeated with
an unsteady voice,—
"It was Dick, not I."
A cloud swept over Mr. Bopp's face, and he knit his brows a moment
as if Dolly had not been far from right when she said "he never would
forgive the joke." Presently, he spoke in a tone she had never heard
before,—cold and quiet,—and in his eye she thought she read contempt
for her brother and herself,—
"I see now, and I say no more but this; it was not kind when I so
trusted you. Yet it is well, for you and Richart are so one, I haf no
doubt he spoke your wish."
Here was a desperate state of things. Dolly had done her best, yet
he did not, or would not, understand, and, before she could restrain
them, the words slipped over her tongue,—
"No! Dick and I never agree."
Mr. Bopp started, swept three spoons and a tea-cup off the table as
he turned, for something in the hasty whisper reassured him. The
color sprang up to his cheek, the old warmth to his eye, the old
erectness to his figure, and the eager accent to his voice. He rose,
drew Dolly nearer, took her face between his hands, and bending,
fixed on her a look tender yet masterful, as he said with an
earnestness that stirred her as words had never done before,—
he said No! do
you say, Yes?"
She could not speak, but her heart stood up in her eyes and
answered him so eloquently that he was satisfied.
"Thank the Lord, it's all right!" thought Dick, as, peeping in at
the window ten minutes later, be saw Dolly enthroned upon Mr. Bopp's
knee, both her hands in his, and an expression in her April
countenance which proved that she found it natural and pleasant to be
sitting there, with her head on the kind heart that loved her; to hear
herself called "meine _Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.
;" to know that she alone could comfort him for little Ulla's loss,
and fill her empty place.
"They make a very pretty landscape, but too much honey isn't good
for 'em, so I'll go in, and we'll eat, drink, and be merry, in honor
of the night."
He rattled the latch and tramped on the mat to warn them of his
approach, and appeared just as Dolly was skimming into a chair, and
Mr. Bopp picking up the spoons, which he dropped again to meet Dick,
with a face "clear shining after rain;" and kissing him on both
cheeks after the fashion of his country, he said, pointing to
"See, it is all fine again. I forgif you, and leave all blame to
that bad spirit, Mephistopheles, who has much pranks like that, but
never pays one for their pain, as you haf me. Heart's dearest, come
and say a friendly word to Richart, then we will haf a little
health,—Long life and happiness to the King of Clubs and the Queen
"Yes, August, and as he's to be a farmer, we'll add
another,—'Wiser wits and better manners to the Knave of Spades.'"
THE CROSS ON THE OLD CHURCH TOWER.
UP the dark stairs that led to his poor home strode a
gloomy-faced young man with despair in his heart and these words on
"I will struggle and suffer no longer; my last hope has failed, and
life, become a burden, I will rid myself of at once."
As he muttered his stern purpose, he flung wide the door and was
about to enter, but paused upon the threshold; for a glance told him
that he had unconsciously passed his own apartment and come up
higher, till he found himself in a room poorer but more cheerful than
Sunshine streamed in through the one small window, where a caged
bird was blithely singing, and a few flowers blossomed in the light.
But blither than the bird's song, sweeter than the flowers, was the
little voice and wan face of a child, who lay upon a bed placed where
the warmest sunbeams fell.
The face turned smiling on the pillow, and the voice said
"Come in, sir, Bess will soon be back if you will wait."
"I want nothing of Bess. Who is she and who are you?" asked the
intruder pausing as he was about to go.
"She is my sister, sir, and I'm 'poor Jamie' as they call me. But
indeed, I am not to be pitied, for I am a happy child, though it may
not seem so."
"Why do you lie there? are you sick?"
"No, I am not sick, though I shall never leave my bed again. See,
this is why;" and, folding back the covering, the child showed his
little withered limbs.
"How long have you lain here, my poor boy?" asked the stranger,
touched and interested in spite of himself.
"Three years, sir."
"And yet you are happy! What in Heaven's name have you to render
you contented, child?"
"Come sit beside me, and I'll tell you, sir; that is, if you please
I should love to talk with you, for it's lonely here when Bess is
Something in the child's winning voice, and the influence of the
cheerful room, calmed the young man's troubled spirit and seemed to
lighten his despair. He sat down at the bedside looking gloomily upon
the child, who lay smiling placidly as with skilful hands he carved
small figures from the bits of wood scattered round him on the
"What have you to make you happy, Jamie? Tell me your secret, for I
need the knowledge very much," said his new friend earnestly.
"First of all I have dear Bess," and the child's voice lingered
lovingly upon the name; "she is so good, so very good to me, no one
can tell how much we love each other. All day, she sits beside my bed
singing to ease my pain, or reading while I work; she gives me flowers
and birds, and all the sunshine that comes in to us, and sits there in
the shadow that I may be warm and glad. She waits on me all day; but
when I wake at night, I always see her sewing busily, and know it is
for me,—my good kind Bess!
"Then I have my work, sir, to amuse me; and it helps a little too,
for kind children always buy my toys, when Bess tells them of the
little boy who carved them lying here at home while they play out
among the grass and flowers where he can never be."
"What else, Jamie?" and the listener's face grew softer as the
cheerful voice went on.
"I have my bird, sir, and my roses, I have books, and best of all,
I have the cross on the old church tower. I can see it from my pillow
and it shines there all day long, so bright and beautiful, while the
white doves coo upon the roof below. I love it dearly."
The young man looked out through the narrow window and saw, rising
high above the house-tops, like a finger pointing heavenward, the old
gray tower and the gleaming cross. The city's din was far below, and
through the summer air the faint coo of the doves and the flutter of
their wings came down, like peaceful country sounds.
"Why do you love it, Jamie?" he asked, looking at the thoughtful
face that lit up eagerly as the boy replied,—
"Because it does me so much good, sir. Bess told me long ago about
the blessed Jesus who bore so much for us, and I longed to be as like
him as a little child could grow. So when my pain was very sharp, I
looked up there, and, thinking of the things he suffered, tried so
hard to bear it that I often could; but sometimes when it was too bad,
instead of fretting Bess, I'd cry softly, looking up there all the
time and asking him to help me be a patient child. I think he did; and
now it seems so like a friend to me, I love it better every day. I
watch the sun climb up along the roofs in the morning, creeping higher
and higher till it shines upon the cross and turns it into gold. Then
through the day I watch the sunshine fade away till all the red goes
from the sky, and for a little while I cannot see it through the dark.
But the moon comes, and I love it better then; for lying awake through
the long nights, I see the cross so high and bright with stars all
shining round it, and I feel still and happy in my heart as when Bess
sings to me in the twilight."
"But when there is no moon, or clouds hide it from you, what then,
Jamie?" asked the young man, wondering if there were no cloud to
darken the cheerful child's content.
"I wait till it is clear again, and feel that it is there, although
I cannot see it, sir. I hope it never will be taken down, for the
light upon the cross seems like that I see in dear Bessie's eyes when
she holds me in her arms and calls me her 'patient Jamie.' She never
knows I try to bear my troubles for her sake, as she bears hunger and
cold for mine. So you see, sir, how many things I have to make me a
"I would gladly lie down on your pillow to be half as light of
heart as you are, little Jamie, for I have lost my faith in everything
and with it all my happiness;" and the heavy shadow which had lifted
for a while fell back darker than before upon the anxious face beside
"If I were well and strong like you, sir, I think I should be so
thankful nothing could trouble me;" and with a sigh the boy glanced
at the vigorous frame and energetic countenance of his new friend,
wondering at the despondent look he wore.
"If you were poor, so poor you had no means wherewith to get a
crust of bread, nor a shelter for the night; if you were worn-out with
suffering and labor, soured by disappointment and haunted by
ambitious hopes never to be realized, what would you do, Jamie?"
suddenly asked the young man, prompted by the desire that every human
heart has felt for sympathy and counsel, even from the little creature
before him ignorant and inexperienced as he was.
But the child, wiser in his innocence than many an older
counsellor, pointed upward, saying with a look of perfect trust,—
"I should look up to the cross upon the tower and think of what
Bess told me about God, who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers,
and I should wait patiently, feeling sure he would remember me."
The young man leaned his head upon his folded arms and nothing
stirred in the room, but the wind that stole in through the roses to
fan the placid face upon the pillow.
"Are you weary waiting for me, Jamie dear? I could not come
before;" and as her eager voice broke the silence, Sister Bess came
The stranger, looking up, saw a young girl regarding him from
Jamie's close embrace, with a face whose only beauty was the light
her brother spoke of, that beamed warm and bright from her mild
countenance and made the poor room fairer for its presence.
"This is Bess, my Bess, sir," cried the boy, "and she will thank
you for your kindness in sitting here so long with me."
"I am the person who lodges just below you; I mistook this room for
my own; pardon me, and let me come again, for Jamie has already done
me good," replied the stranger as he rose to go.
"Bess, dear, will you bring me a cup of water?" Jamie said; and as
she hastened away, he beckoned his friend nearer, saying with a timid
"Forgive me, if it's wrong, but I wish you would let me give you
this; it's very little, but it may help some; and I think you'll take
it to please 'poor Jamie.' Won't you, sir?" and as he spoke, the child
offered a bright coin, the proceeds of his work.
Tears sprung into the proud man's eyes; he held the little wasted
hand fast in his own a moment, saying seriously,—
"I will take it, Jamie, as a loan wherewith to begin anew
the life I was about to fling away as readily as I do this;" and with
a quick motion he sent a vial whirling down into the street. "I'll try
the world once more in a humbler spirit, and have faith in you,
at least, my little Providence."
With an altered purpose in his heart, and a brave smile on his
lips, the young man went away, leaving the child with another happy
memory, to watch the cross upon the old church tower.
It was mid-winter; and in the gloomy house reigned suffering and
want. Sister Bess worked steadily to earn the dear daily bread so
many pray for and so many need. Jamie lay upon his bed, carving with
feeble hands the toys which would have found far readier purchasers,
could they have told the touching story of the frail boy lying meekly
in the shadow of the solemn change which daily drew more near.
Cheerful and patient always, poverty and pain seemed to have no
power to darken his bright spirit; for God's blessed charity had
gifted him with that inward strength and peace it so often brings to
those who seem to human eyes most heavily afflicted.
Secret tears fell sometimes on his pillow, and whispered prayers
went up; but Bess never knew it, and like a ray of sunshine, the
boy's tranquil presence lit up that poor home; and amid the darkest
hours of their adversity, the little rushlight of his childish faith
never wavered nor went out.
Below them lived the young man, no stranger now, but a true friend,
whose generous pity would not let them suffer any want he could
supply. Hunger and cold were hard teachers, but he learned their
lessons bravely, and though his frame grew gaunt and his eye hollow,
yet, at heart, he felt a better, happier man for the stern discipline
that taught him the beauty of self-denial and the blessedness of
loving his neighbor better than himself.
The child's influence remained unchanged, and when anxiety or
disappointment burdened him, the young man sat at Jamie's bedside
listening to the boy's unconscious teaching, and receiving fresh hope
and courage from the childish words and the wan face, always cheerful
With this example constantly before him, he struggled on, feeling
that if the world were cold and dark, he had within himself one true
affection to warm and brighten his hard life.
"Give me joy, Jamie! Give me joy, Bess! the book sells well, and we
shall yet be rich and famous," cried the young author as he burst
into the quiet room one wintry night with snow-flakes glittering in
his hair, and his face aglow with the keen air which had no chill in
it to him now.
Bess looked up to smile a welcome, and Jamie tried to cry "Hurrah;"
but the feeble voice faltered and failed, and he could only wave his
hand and cling fast to his friend, whispering, brokenly,—
"I'm glad, oh, very glad; for now you need not rob yourself for us.
I know you have, Walter; I have seen it in your poor thin face and
these old clothes. It never would have been so, but for Bess and me."
"Hush, Jamie, and lie here upon my arm and rest; for you are very
tired with your work,—I know by this hot hand and shortened breath.
Are you easy now? Then listen; for I've brave news to tell you, and
never say again I do too much for you,—the cause of my success."
"I, Walter," cried the boy; "what do you mean?"
Looking down upon the wondering face uplifted to his own, the young
man answered with deep feeling,—
"Six months ago I came into this room a desperate and despairing
man, weary of life, because I knew not how to use it, and eager to
quit the struggle because I had not learned to conquer fortune by
energy and patience. You kept me, Jamie, till the reckless mood was
passed, and by the beauty of your life showed me what mine should be.
Your courage shamed my cowardice; your faith rebuked my fears; your
lot made my own seem bright again. I, a man with youth, health, and
the world before me, was about to fling away the life which you, a
helpless little child, made useful, good, and happy, by the power of
your own brave will. I felt how weak, how wicked I had been, and was
not ashamed to learn of you the lesson you so unconsciously were
teaching. God bless you, Jamie, for the work you did that day."
"Did I do so much?" asked the boy with innocent wonder; "I never
knew it, and always thought you had grown happier and kinder because
I had learned to love you more. I'm very glad if I did anything for
you, who do so much for us. But tell me of the book; you never would
With a kindling eye Walter replied,—
"I would not tell you till all was sure; now, listen. I wrote a
story, Jamie,—a story of our lives, weaving in few fancies of my own
and leaving you unchanged,—the little counsellor and good angel of
the ambitious man's hard life. I painted no fictitious sorrows. What I
had seen and keenly felt I could truly tell,—your cheerful patience,
Bess's faithful love, my struggles, hopes, and fears. This book,
unlike the others, was not rejected; for the simple truth, told by an
earnest pen, touched and interested. It was accepted, and has been
kindly welcomed, thanks to you, Jamie; for many buy it to learn more
of you, to weep and smile over artless words of yours, and forget
their pity in their reverence and love for the child who taught the
man to be, not what he is, but what, with God's help, he will yet
"They are very kind, and so are you, Walter, and I shall be proud
to have you rich and great, though I may not be here to see it."
"You will, Jamie, you must; for it will be nothing without you;"
and as he spoke, the young man held the thin hand closer in his own
and looked more tenderly into the face upon his arm.
The boy's eyes shone with a feverish light, a scarlet flush burned
on his hollow cheek, and the breath came slowly from his parted lips,
but over his whole countenance there lay a beautiful serenity which
filled his friend with hope and fear.
"Walter bid Bess put away that tiresome work; she has sat at it all
day long, never stirring but to wait on me;" and as he spoke, a
troubled look flitted across the boy's calm face.
"I shall soon be done, Jamie, and I must not think of rest till
then, for there is neither food nor fuel for the morrow. Sleep,
yourself, dear, and dream of pleasant things; I am not very tired."
And Bess bent closer to her work, trying to sing a little song,
that they might not guess how near the tears were to her aching eyes.
From beneath his pillow Jamie drew a bit of bread, whispering to
his friend as he displayed it,—
"Give it to Bess; I saved it for her till you came, for she will
not take it from me, and she has eaten nothing all this day."
"And you, Jamie?" asked Walter, struck by the sharpened features of
the boy, and the hungry look which for a moment glistened in his eye.
"I don't need much, you know, for I don't work like Bess; but yet
she gives me all. Oh, how can I bear to see her working so for me,
and I lying idle here!"
As he spoke, Jamie clasped his hands before his face, and through
his slender fingers streamed such tears as children seldom shed.
It was so rare a thing for him to weep that it filled Walter with
dismay and a keener sense of his own powerlessness. Ho could bear any
privation for himself alone, but he could not see them suffer. He had
nothing to offer them; for though there was seeming wealth in store
for him, he was now miserably poor. He stood a moment, looking from
brother to sister, both so dear to him, and both so plainly showing
how hard a struggle life had been to them.
With a bitter exclamation, the young man turned away and went out
into the night, muttering to himself,—
"They shall not suffer; I will beg or steal first."
And with some vague purpose stirring within him, he went swiftly on
until he reached a great thoroughfare, nearly deserted now, but
echoing occasionally to a quick step as some one hurried home to his
"A little money, sir, for a sick child and a starving woman;" and
with outstretched hand Walter arrested an old man. But he only
wrapped his furs still closer and passed on, saying sternly,—
"I have nothing for vagrants. Go to work, young man."
A woman poorly clad in widow's weeds passed at that moment, and, as
the beggar fell back from the rich man's path, she dropped a bit of
silver in his hand, saying with true womanly compassion,—
"Heaven help you! it is all I have to give."
"I'll beg no more," muttered Walter, as he turned away burning with
shame and indignation; "I'll take from the rich what the poor
so freely give. God pardon me; I see no other way, and they
must not starve."
With a vague sense of guilt already upon him, he stole into a more
unfrequented street and slunk into the shadow of a doorway to wait
for coming steps and nerve himself for his first evil deed.
Glancing up to chide the moonlight for betraying him, he started;
for there, above the snow-clad roofs, rose the cross upon the tower.
Hastily he averted his eyes, as if they had rested on the mild,
reproachful countenance of a friend.
Far up in the wintry sky the bright symbol shone, and from it
seemed to fall a radiance, warmer than the moonlight, clearer than the
starlight, showing to that tempted heart the darkness of the yet
That familiar sight recalled the past; he thought of Jamie, and
seemed to hear again the childish words, uttered long ago, "God will
Steps came and went along the lonely street, but the dark figure in
the shadow never stirred, only stood there with bent head, accepting
the silent rebuke that shone down upon it, and murmuring, softly,—
"God remember little Jamie, and forgive me that my love for him led
As Walter raised his hand to dash away the drops that rose at the
memory of the boy, his eye fell on the ring he always wore for his
dead mother's sake. He had hoped to see it one day on Bess's hand,
but now a generous thought banished all others and with the energy of
an honest purpose be hastened to sell the ring, purchase a little food
and fuel, and borrowing a warm covering of a kindly neighbor, he went
back to dispense these comforts with a satisfaction he had little
thought to feel.
The one lamp burned low; a few dying embers lay upon the earth, and
no sound broke the silence but the steady rustle of Bess's needle,
and the echo of Jamie's hollow cough.
"Wrap it around Bess; she has given me her cloak, and needs it more
than I,—these coverings do very well;" and as he spoke, Jamie put
away the blanket Walter offered, and suppressing a shiver, hid his
purple hands beneath the old, thin cloak.
"Here is bread, Jamie; eat for Heaven's sake, no need to save it
now;" and Walter pressed it on the boy, but he only took a little,
saying he had not much need of food and loved to see them eat far
So in the cheery blaze of the rekindled fire, Bess and Walter broke
their long fast, and never saw how eagerly Jamie gathered up the
scattered crumbs, nor heard him murmur softly, as he watched them
with loving eyes,—
"There will be no cold nor hunger up in heaven, but enough for
all,—enough for all."
"Walter, you'll be kind to Bess when I am not here?" he whispered
earnestly, as his friend came to draw his bed within the ruddy circle
of the firelight gleaming on the floor.
"I will, Jamie, kinder than a brother," was the quick reply. "But
why ask me that with such a wistful face?"
The boy did not answer, but turned on his pillow and kissed his
sister's shadow as it flitted by.
Gray dawn was in the sky before they spoke again. Bess slept the
deep, dreamless sleep of utter weariness, her head pillowed on her
arms. Walter sat beside the bed, lost in sweet and bitter musings,
silent and motionless, fancying the boy slept. But a low voice broke
the silence, whispering feebly.
"Walter, will you take me in your strong arms and lay me on my
little couch beside the window? I should love to see the cross again,
and it is nearly day."
So light, so very light, the burden seemed, Walter turned his face
aside lest the boy should see the sorrowful emotion painted there,
and with a close embrace he laid him tenderly down to watch the first
ray climbing up the old gray tower.
"The frost lies so thickly on the window-panes that you cannot see
it, even when the light comes, Jamie," said his friend, vainly trying
to gratify the boy's wish.
"The sun will melt it soon, and I can wait,—I can wait, Walter;
it's but a little while;" and Jamie, with a patient smile, turned his
face to the dim window and lay silent.
Higher and higher crept the sunshine till it shone through the
frostwork on the boy's bright head; his bird awoke and carolled
blithely, but he never stirred.
"Asleep at last, poor, tired little Jamie; I'll not wake him till
the day is warmer;" and Walter, folding the coverings closer over the
quiet figure, sat beside it, waiting till it should wake.
"Jamie dear, look up, and see how beautifully your last rose has
blossomed in the night when least we looked for it;" and Bess came
smiling in with the one white rose, so fragrant but so frail.
Jamie did not turn to greet her, for all frost had melted from the
boy's life now; another flower had blossomed in the early dawn, and
though the patient face upon the pillow was bathed in sunshine,
little Jamie was not there to see it gleaming on the cross. God had
Spring showers had made the small mound green, and scattered
flowers in the churchyard. Sister Bess sat in the silent room alone,
working still, but pausing often to wipe away the tears that fell upon
a letter on her knee.
Steps came springing up the narrow stairs and Walter entered with a
beaming face, to show the first rich earnings of his pen, and ask her
to rest from her long labor in the shelter of his love.
"Dear Bess, what troubles you? Let me share your sorrow and try to
lighten it," he cried with anxious tenderness, sitting beside her on
the little couch where Jamie fell asleep.
In the frank face smiling on her, the girl's innocent eyes read
nothing but the friendly interest of a brother, and remembering his
care and kindness, she forgot her womanly timidity in her great
longing for sympathy, and freely told him all.
Told him of the lover she left years ago to cling to Jamie, and how
this lover went across the sea hoping to increase his little fortune
that the helpless brother might be sheltered for love of her. How
misfortune followed him, and when she looked to welcome back a
prosperous man, there came a letter saying that all was lost and he
must begin the world anew and win a home to offer her before he
claimed the heart so faithful to him all these years.
"He writes so tenderly and bears his disappointment bravely for my
sake; but it is very hard to see our happiness deferred again when
such a little sum would give us to each other."
As she ceased, Bess looked for comfort into the countenance of her
companion, never seeing through her tears how pale it was with sudden
grief, how stern with repressed emotion. She only saw the friend whom
Jamie loved and that tie drew her toward him as to an elder brother to
whom she turned for help, unconscious then how great his own need was.
"I never knew of this before, Bess; you kept your secret well" he
said, trying to seem unchanged.
The color deepened in her cheek; but she answered simply, "I never
spoke of it, for words could do no good, and Jamie grieved silently
about it, for he thought it a great sacrifice, though I looked on it
as a sacred duty, and he often wearied himself to show in many loving
ways how freshly he remembered it. My grateful little Jamie."
And her eyes wandered to the green tree-tops tossing in the wind,
whose shadows flickered pleasantly above the child.
"Let me think a little, Bess, before I counsel you. Keep a good
heart and rest assured that I will help you if I can," said Walter,
trying to speak hopefully.
"But you come to tell me something; at least, I fancied I saw some
good tidings in your face just now. Forgive my selfish grief, and see
how gladly I will sympathize with any joy of yours."
"It is nothing, Bess, another time will do as well," he answered,
eager to be gone lest he should betray what must be kept most closely
"It never will be told, Bess,—never in this world," he sighed
bitterly as he went back to his own room which never in his darkest
hours had seemed so dreary; for now the bright hope of his life was
"I have it in my power to make them happy," he mused as he sat
alone, "but I cannot do it, for in this separation lies my only hope.
He may die or may grow weary, and then to whom will Bess turn for
comfort but to me? I will work on, earn riches and a name, and if that
hour should come, then in her desolation I will offer all to Bess and
surely she will listen and accept. Yet it were a generous thing to
make her happiness at once, forgetful of my own. How shall I bear to
see her waiting patiently, while youth and hope are fading slowly, and
know that I might end her weary trial and join two faithful hearts?
Oh, Jamie, I wish to Heaven I were asleep with you, freed from the
temptations that beset me. It is so easy to perceive the right, so
hard to do it."
The sound of that familiar name, uttered despairingly, aloud, fell
with a sweet and solemn music upon Walter's ear. A flood of tender
memories swept away the present, and brought back the past. He
thought of that short life, so full of pain and yet of patience, of
the sunny nature which no cloud could overshadow, and the simple
trust which was its strength and guide.
He thought of that last night and saw now with clearer eyes the
sacrifices and the trials silently borne for love of Bess.
The beautiful example of the child rebuked the passion of he man,
and through the magic of affection strengthened generous impulses and
banished selfish hopes.
"I promised to be kind to Bess, and with God's help I will keep my
vow. Teach me to bear my pain, to look for help where you found it,
little Jamie;" and as he spoke, the young man gazed up at the shining
cross, striving to see in it not merely an object of the dead boy's
love, but a symbol of consolation, hope, and faith.
"It is a noble thing to see an honest man cleave his own heart in
twain to fling away the baser part of it."
These words came to Walter's mind and fixed the resolution wavering
there, and as his glance wandered from the gray tower to the
churchyard full of summer stillness, he said within himself,—
"This is the hardest struggle of my life, but I will conquer and
come out from the conflict master of myself at least, and like Jamie,
try to wait until the sunshine comes again, even if it only shine upon
me, dead like him."
It was no light task to leave the airy castles built by love and
hope, and go back cheerfully to the solitude of a life whose only
happiness for a time was in the memory of the past. But through the
weeks that bore one lover home, the other struggled to subdue his
passion, and be as generous in his sorrow as he would have been in
It was no easy conquest; but he won the hardest of all victories,
that of self, and found in the place of banished pride and bitterness
a patient strength, and the one desire to be indeed more generous than
a brother to gentle Bess. He had truly, "cleft his heart in twain and
flung away the baser part."
A few days before the absent lover came, Walter went to Bess, and,
with a countenance whose pale serenity touched her deeply, he laid
his gift before her, saying,—
"I owe this all to Jamie; and the best use I can make of it is to
secure your happiness, as I promised him I'd try to do. Take it and
God bless you, Sister Bess."
"And you, Walter, what will your future be if I take this and go
away to enjoy it as you would have me?" Bess asked, with an
earnestness that awoke his wonder.
"I shall work, Bess, and in that find content and consolation for
the loss of you and Jamie. Do not think of me; this money will do me
far more good in your hands than my own. Believe me it is best to be
so, therefore do not hesitate."
Bess took it, for she had learned the cause of Walter's restless
wanderings and strange avoidance of herself of late, and she judged
wisely that the generous nature should be gratified, and the hard-won
victory rewarded by the full accomplishment of its unselfish end. Few
words expressed her joyful thanks, but from that time Walter felt that
he held as dear a place as Jamie in her grateful heart, and was
Summer flowers were blooming when Bess went from the old home a
happy wife, leaving her faithful friend alone in the little room
where Jamie lived and died.
Years passed, and Walter's pen had won for him an honored name.
Poverty and care were no longer his companions; many homes were open
to him, many hearts would gladly welcome him, but he still lingered
in the gloomy house, a serious, solitary man, for his heart lay
beneath the daisies of a child's grave.
But his life was rich in noble aims and charitable deeds, and with
his strong nature softened by the sharp discipline of sorrow, and
sweetened by the presence of a generous love, he was content to dwell
alone with the memory of little Jamie, in the shadow of "the cross
upon the tower."
THE DEATH OF JOHN.
This is not a tale, but a true history.—ED.
FROM "HOSPITAL SKETCHES."
HARDLY was I settled again, when the inevitable bowl
appeared, and its bearer delivered a message I had expected, yet
dreaded to receive:—
"John is going, ma'am, and wants to see you, if you can come."
"The moment this boy is asleep; tell him so, and let me know if I
am in danger of being too late."
My Ganymede departed, and while I quieted poor Shaw, I thought of
John. He came in a day or two after the others; and, one evening,
when I entered my "pathetic room," I found a lately emptied bed
occupied by a large, fair man, with a fine face, and the serenest
eyes I ever met. One of the earlier comers had often spoken of a
friend, who had remained behind, that those apparently worse wounded
than himself might reach a shelter first. It seemed a David and
Jonathan sort of friendship. The man fretted for his mate, and was
never tired of praising John,—his courage, sobriety, self-denial,
and unfailing kindliness of heart; always winding up with, "He's an
out an' out fine feller, ma'am; you see if he ain't."
I had some curiosity to behold this piece of excellence, and when
he came, watched him for a night or two, before I made friends with
him; for, to tell the truth, I was a little afraid of the stately
looking man, whose bed had to be lengthened to accommodate his
commanding stature; who seldom spoke, uttered no complaint, asked no
sympathy, but tranquilly observed what went on about him; and, as he
lay high upon his pillows, no picture of dying statesman or warrior
was ever fuller of real dignity than this Virginia blacksmith. A most
attractive face he had, framed in brown hair and beard, comely
featured and full of vigor, as yet unsubdued by pain; thoughtful and
often beautifully mild while watching the afflictions of others, as
if entirely forgetful of his own. His mouth was grave and firm, with
plenty of will and courage in its lines, but a smile could make it as
sweet as any woman's; and his eyes were child's eyes, looking one
fairly in the face with a clear, straightforward glance, which
promised well for such as placed their faith in him. He seemed to
cling to life, as if it were rich in duties and delights, and he had
learned the secret of content. The only time I saw his composure
disturbed was when my surgeon brought another to examine John, who
scrutinized their faces with an anxious look, asking of the
elder,—"Do you think I shall pull through, sir?" "I hope so, my
man." And, as the two passed on, John's eye still followed them, with
an intentness which would have won a clearer answer from them, had
they seen it. A momentary shadow flitted over his face; then came the
usual serenity, as if, in that brief eclipse, he had acknowledged the
existence of some hard possibility, and, asking nothing, yet hoping
all things, left the issue in God's hands, with that submission which
is true piety.
The next night, as I went my rounds with Dr. P., I happened to ask
which man in the room probably suffered most; and, to my great
surprise, he glanced at John:—
"Every breath he draws is like a stab; for the ball pierced the
left lung, broke a rib, and did no end of damage here and there; so
the poor lad can find neither forgetfulness nor ease, because he must
lie on his wounded back or suffocate. It will be a hard struggle and
a long one, for he possesses great vitality; but even his temperate
life can't save him; I wish it could."
"You don't mean he must die, Doctor?"
"Bless you, there's not the slightest hope for him; and you'd
better tell him so before long; women have a way of doing such things
comfortably, so I leave it to you. He won't last more than a day or
two, at furthest."
I could have sat down on the spot and cried heartily, if I had not
learned the wisdom of bottling up one's tears for leisure moments.
Such an end seemed very hard for such a man, when half a dozen
worn-out, worthless bodies round him were gathering up the remnants
of wasted lives, to linger on for years perhaps, burdens to others,
daily reproaches to themselves. The army needed men like
John,—earnest, brave, and faithful; fighting for liberty and justice
with both heart and hand, true soldiers of the Lord. I could not give
him up so soon, or think with any patience of so excellent a nature
robbed of its fulfilment, and blundered into eternity by the rashness
or stupidity of those at whose hands so many lives may be required. It
was an easy thing for Dr. P. to say, "Tell him he must die," but a
cruelly hard thing to do, and by no means as "comfortable" as he
politely suggested. I had not the heart to do it then, and privately
indulged the hope that some change for the better might take place, in
spite of gloomy prophecies, so, rendering my task unnecessary. A few
minutes later, as I came in again with fresh rollers, I saw John
sitting erect, with no one to support him, while the surgeon dressed
his back. I had never hitherto seen it done; for, having simpler
wounds to attend to, and knowing the fidelity of the attendant, I had
left John to him, thinking it might be more agreeable and safe; for
both strength and experience were needed in his case. I had forgotten
that the strong man might long for the gentler tendance of a woman's
hands, the sympathetic magnetism of a woman's presence, as well as the
feebler souls about him. The Doctor's words caused me to reproach
myself with neglect, not of any real duty perhaps, but of those little
cares and kindnesses that solace homesick spirits, and make the heavy
hours pass easier. John looked lonely and forsaken just then, as he
sat with bent head, hands folded on his knee, and no outward sign of
suffering, till, looking nearer, I saw great tears roll down and drop
upon the floor. It was a new sight there; for though I had seen many
suffer, some swore, some groaned, most endured silently, but none
wept. Yet it did not seem weak, only very touching, and straightway my
fear vanished, my heart opened wide and took him in, as, gathering the
bent head in my arms, as freely as if he had been a little child, I
said,—"Let me help you bear it, John."
Never, on any human countenance, have I seen so swift and beautiful
a look of gratitude, surprise, and comfort, as that which answered me
more eloquently than the whispered,—
"Thank you ma'am; this is right good! this is what I wanted!"
"Then why not ask for it before?"
"I didn't like to be a trouble; you seemed so busy, and I could
manage to get on alone."
"You shall not want it any more, John."
Nor did he; for now I understood the wistful look that sometimes
followed me, as I went out, after a brief pause beside his bed, or
merely a passing nod, while busied with those who seemed to need me
more than he, because more urgent in their demands; now I knew that
to him, as to so many, I was the poor substitute for mother, wife, or
sister, and in his eyes no stranger, but a friend who hitherto had
seemed neglectful; for, in his modesty, he had never guessed the
truth. This was changed now; and, through the tedious operation of
probing, bathing, and dressing his wounds, he leaned against me,
holding my hand fast, and, if pain wrung further tears from him, no
one saw them fall but me. When he was laid down again, I hovered
about him, in a remorseful state of mind that would not let me rest,
till I had bathed his face, brushed his "bonny brown hair," set all
things smooth about him, and laid a knot of heath and heliotrope on
his clean pillow. While doing this, he watched me with the satisfied
expression I so linked to see; and when I offered the little nosegay,
held it carefully in his great hand, smoothed a ruffled leaf or two,
surveyed and smelt it with an air of genuine delight, and lay
contentedly regarding the glimmer of the sunshine on the green.
Although the manliest man among my forty, he said, "Yes, ma'am," like
a little boy; received suggestions for his comfort with the quick
smile that brightened his whole face; and now and then, as I stood
tidying the table by his bed, I felt him softly touch my gown, as if
to assure himself that I was there. Anything more natural and frank I
never saw, and found this brave John as bashful as brave, yet full of
excellences and fine aspirations, which, having no power to express
themselves in words, seemed to have bloomed into his character and
made him what he was.
After that night, an hour of each evening that remained to him was
devoted to his ease or pleasure. He could not talk much, for breath
was precious, and he spoke in whispers; but from occasional
conversations, I gleaned scraps of private history which only added
to the affection and respect I felt for him. Once he asked me to
write a letter, and, as I settled pen and paper, I said, with an
irrepressible glimmer of feminine curiosity, "Shall it be addressed
to wife, or mother, John?"
"Neither, ma'am; I've got no wife, and will write to mother myself
when I get better. Did you think I was married because of this?" he
asked, touching a plain ring he wore, and often turned thoughtfully
on his finger when he lay alone.
"Partly that, but more from a settled sort of look you have,—a
look which young men seldom get until they marry."
"I don't know that; but I'm not so very young, ma'am; thirty in May
and have been what you might call settled this ten years; for
mother's a widow; I'm the oldest child she has, and it wouldn't do
for me to marry until Lizzie has a home of her own, and Laurie's
learned his trade; for we're not rich, and I must be father to the
children, and husband to the dear old woman, if I can."
"No doubt but you are both, John; yet how came you to go to war, if
you felt so? Wasn't enlisting as bad as marrying?"
"No, ma'am, not as I see it, for one is helping my neighbor, the
other pleasing myself. I went because I couldn't help it. I didn't
want the glory or the pay; I wanted the right thing done, and people
kept saying the men who were in earnest ought to flight. I was in
earnest, the Lord knows! but I held off as long as I could, not
knowing which was my duty; mother saw the case, gave me her ring to
keep me steady, and said 'Go;' so I went."
A short story and a simple one, but the man and the mother were
portrayed better than pages of fine writing could have done it.
"Do you ever regret that you came, when you lie here suffering so
"Never ma'am; I haven't helped a great deal, but I've shown I was
willing to give my life, and perhaps I've got to; but I don't blame
anybody, and if it was to do over again, I'd do it. I'm a little
sorry I wasn't wounded in front; it looks cowardly to be hit in the
back, but I obeyed orders, and it doesn't matter in the end, I know."
Poor John! it did not matter now, except that a shot in front might
have spared the long agony in store for him. He seemed to read the
thought that troubled me, as he spoke so hopefully when there was no
hope, for he suddenly added,—
"This is my first battle; do they think it's going to be my last?"
"I'm afraid they do, John."
It was the hardest question I had ever been called upon to answer;
doubly hard with those clear eyes fixed on mine, forcing a truthful
answer by their own truth. He seemed a little startled at first,
pondered over the fateful fact a moment, then shook his head, with a
glance at the broad chest and muscular limbs stretched out before
"I'm not afraid, but it's difficult to believe all at once. I'm so
strong it don't seem possible for such a little wound to kill me."
Merry Mercutio's dying words glanced through my memory as he
spoke:—"'Tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door,
but 'tis enough." And John would have said the same, could he have
seen the ominous black holes between his shoulders, he never had;
and, seeing the ghastly sights about him, could not believe his own
wound more fatal than these, for all the suffering it caused him.
"Shall I write to your mother, now?" I asked, thinking that these
sudden tidings might change all plans and purposes; but they did not;
for the man received the order of the Divine Commander to march, with
the same unquestioning obedience with which the soldier had received
that of the human one, doubtless remembering that the first led him to
life, and the last to death.
"No, ma'am; to Laurie just the same; he'll break it to her best,
and I'll add a line to her myself when you get done."
So I wrote the letter which he dictated, finding it better than any
I had sent; for, though here and there a little ungrammatical or
inelegant, each sentence came to me briefly worded, but most
expressive; full of excellent counsel to the boy, tenderly
"bequeathing mother and Lizzie" to his care, and bidding him good-by
in words the sadder for their simplicity. He added a few lines with
steady hand, and, as I sealed it, said, with a patient sort of sigh,
"I hope the answer will come in time for me to see it;" then, turning
away his face, laid the flowers against his lips, as if to hide some
quiver of emotion at the thought of such a sudden sundering of all the
These things had happened two days before; now John was dying, and
the letter had not come. I had been summoned to many death-beds in my
life, but to none that made my heart ache as it did then, since my
mother called me to watch the departure of a spirit akin to this in
its gentleness and patient strength. As I went in, John stretched out
"I knew you'd come! I guess I'm moving on, ma'am."
He was; and so rapidly that, even while he spoke, over his face I
saw the gray veil falling that no human hand can lift. I sat down by
him, wiped the drops from his forehead, stirred the air about him
with the slow wave of a fan, and waited to help him die. He stood in
sore need of help,—and I could do so little; for, as the doctor had
foretold, the strong body rebelled against death, and fought every
inch of the way, forcing him to draw each breath with a spasm, and
clench his hands with an imploring look, as if he asked, "How long
must I endure this, and be still?" For hours he suffered dumbly,
without a moment's respite, or a moment's murmuring; his limbs grew
cold, his face damp, his lips white, and, again and again, he tore
the covering off his breast, as if the lightest weight added to his
agony; yet through it all, his eyes never lost their perfect
serenity, and the man's soul seemed to sit therein, undaunted by the
ills that vexed his flesh.
One by one the men woke, and round the room appeared a circle of
pale faces and watchful eyes, full of awe and pity; for, though a
stranger, John was beloved by all. Each man there had wondered at his
patience, respected his piety, admired his fortitude, and now lamented
his hard death; for the influence of an upright nature had made itself
deeply felt, even in one little week. Presently, the Jonathan who so
loved this comely David came creeping from his bed for a last look and
word. The kind soul was full of trouble, as the choke in his voice,
the grasp of his hand betrayed; but there were no tears, and the
farewell of the friends was the more touching for its brevity.
"Old boy, how are you?" faltered the one.
"Most through, thank heaven!" whispered the other.
"Can I say or do anything for you anywheres?"
"Take my things home, and tell them that I did my best."
"I will! I will!"
"Good-by, John, good-by!"
They kissed each other, tenderly as women, and so parted; for poor
Ned could not stay to see his comrade die. For a little while, there
was no sound in the room but the drip of water from a stump or two,
and John's distressful gasps, as he slowly breathed his life away. I
thought him nearly gone, and had just laid down the fan, believing
its help to be no longer needed, when suddenly he rose up in his bed,
and cried out with a bitter cry that broke the silence, sharply
startling every one with its agonized appeal,—
"For God's sake, give me air!"
It was the only cry pain or death had wrung from him, the only boon
he had asked; and none of us could grant it, for all the airs that
blew were useless now. Dan flung up the window. The first red streak
of dawn was warming the gray east, a herald of the coming sun. John
saw it, and with the love of light which lingers in us to the end,
seemed to read in it a sign of hope of help, for, over his whole face
there broke that mysterious expression, brighter than any smile, which
often comes to eyes that look their last. He laid himself gently down;
and, stretching out his strong right arm, as if to grasp and bring the
blessed air to his lips in a fuller flow, lapsed into a merciful
unconsciousness, which assured us that for him suffering was forever
past. He died then; for, though the heavy breaths still tore their way
up for a little longer, they were but the waves of an ebbing tide that
beat unfelt against the wreck, which an immortal voyager had deserted
with a smile. He never spoke again, but to the end held my hand close,
so close that when he was asleep at last, I could not draw it away.
Dan helped me, warning me as he did so, that it was unsafe for dead
and living flesh to lie so long together; but though my hand was
strangely cold and stiff, and four white marks remained across its
back, even when warmth and color had returned elsewhere, I could not
but be glad that, through its touch, the presence of human sympathy,
perhaps, had lightened that hard hour.
When they had made him ready for the grave, John lay in state for
half an hour, a thing which seldom happened in that busy place; but a
universal sentiment of reverence and affection seemed to fill the
hearts of all who had known or heard of him; and when the rumor of
his death went through the house, always astir, many came to see him,
and I felt a tender sort of pride in my lost patient; for he looked a
most heroic figure, lying there stately and still as the statue of
some young knight asleep upon his tomb. The lovely expression which so
often beautifies dead faces soon replaced the marks of pain, and I
longed for those who loved him best to see him when half an hour's
acquaintance with Death had made them friends. As we stood looking at
him, the ward master handed me a letter, saying it had been forgotten
the night before. It was John's letter, come just an hour too late to
gladden the eyes that had longed and looked for it so eagerly; yet he
had it; for, after I had cut some brown locks for his mother, and
taken off the ring to send her, telling how well the talisman had done
its work, I kissed this good son for her sake, and laid the letter in
his hand, still folded as when I drew my own away, feeling that its
place was there, and making myself happy with the thought, even in his
solitary place in the "Government Lot," he would not be without some
token of the love which makes life beautiful and outlives death. Then
I left him, glad to have known so genuine a man, and carrying with me
an enduring memory of the brave Virginia blacksmith, as he lay
serenely waiting for the dawn of that long day which knows no night.