Ont Daykumboa -
In the parlor of a dear old-fashioned country house two elderly ladies
are seated, one knitting, the other reading the report of yesterday's
sermons, giving bits aloud now and then; on the carpet a little boy
about three years of age is sprawling, apparently trying to swim on dry
The lady knitting is Miss Helena Oakstead, the lady reading is Miss
Judith Oakstead, and the small boy is Master Ralph Oakstead, the eldest
son of the youngest brother. If you go to the other side of the hall you
will find the eldest brother (Master Ralph's uncle) in his study,
writing an essay full of great big words. He is Professor Oakstead.
Master Ralph is spending the day with his relatives, and has gotten on
with them very well so far, as his sister Daisy, two years his senior,
whom he rules right royally, has acted as court interpreter; but she has
just departed for a drive with a neighboring friend, and the aunts are
left in sole charge of his Highness.
He is very gracious at first, looks over a picture-book with Miss
Helena, and makes eager but unintelligible remarks respecting the
"bow-wows" and "moos," to which Miss Helena answers, "Um, dear," as
being the safest thing to say. But now he is silent, and has been so for
at least ten minutes.
"How good Ralph is!" half whispers Miss Helena.
His Highness pricks up his ears.
"Yes, dear little fellow; and he has no one to play with, either."
His Highness sits up—he speaks.
"What is it, dear?" says Miss Judith.
"Ont daykumboa," repeats Master Ralph.
"What does the child mean?" asks Miss Helena.
"I don't know. What do you want, Ralphie?"
Ralph, with a look of mingled contempt and pity at his stupid relatives,
says, slowly but emphatically, "Ont daykumboa."
"Perhaps he is hungry. I'll go and get him a piece of cake," says Miss
The cake is brought, and promptly accepted; but it is evidently not the
thing for which his soul longs, for after devouring half the slice he
plaintively murmurs, "Ont daykumboa."
"Well, isn't that daykumboa?" says Miss Judith.
Ralph gives her a scornful look as sole answer, and finishes his cake in
awful silence. As the last crumb disappears he sighs, "Ont daykumboa."
"What on earth and under the sun does the child want!" is the combined
exclamation of the aunts.
"Perhaps Elijah can help us."
"Oh yes, he knows everything pretty nearly; but he may not like being
disturbed now—he's writing, you know."
"Well, perhaps Victoria might be able to tell; she used to take care of
So Victoria is summoned from the kitchen. She is a tall majestic
negress, who looks as if she had just stepped out of history. Her speech
does not quite come up to her stately mien.
"Why, what's de matter wi' de chile?" she queries.
All of Ralph's reply is lost except "daykumboa."
"Well, come 'long wi' Victoria—she git you kumboa. What, ain't gwine to
come? Oh laws! dat ain't bein' good bo'."
For Master Ralph has seated himself flatly on a footstool, and with his
back against the wall, refuses in the dumbest of dumb-show to be
entrapped into "gwine" anywhere.
Miss Helena suggests that they bring to him whatever they find that is
at all likely to be "daykumboa."
So at the feet of his Royal Highness is laid such a queer collection of
articles as never before appeared in that trim sitting-room: a Child's
History of England, a bottle of mucilage, a pair of scissors, a coal
shovel, a comb and brush, a bunch of flowers, a photograph album, a
bottle of ink, and goodness knows what besides. Miss Helena ransacks her
brains and her bureau, Miss Judith brings every portable in the room,
and Victoria literally squanders the contents of her larder, but all to
no purpose, and what is worse, his Highness, becoming alarmed at such
unusual behavior, begins to moan "Ont daykumboa" in a way that draws
tears to the eyes of his aunts.
"Judith," exclaims Miss Helena, "the case is getting desperate. We
must send for Elijah, no matter if he does get angry.—Victoria, just
go to the study, and tell the Professor that he must come here for a
few minutes. Do you hear—must!"
Victoria, looking as scared as only a solemn-natured darky can look,
departs, and returns speedily with the Professor.
"Is anything the matter with Alcibiades?" he asks. Alcibiades, be it
known, is what the Professor always calls Ralph—"for short," he says.
"He is in a most peculiar condition, Elijah—persists in calling for
daykumboa, and we can not understand what he means."
"What is it that you want, my boy?" inquires the Professor, bending his
dignified back and knees, so as to bring his gray head on a level with
Ralph's "curly pow."
Ralph turns to him with an expression of relief, as much as to say,
"Well, here's a reasonable being at last," and explains, "Ont
"And what is daykumboa?" says the Professor.
"Daykumboa," repeats Ralph, with a lingering hope that perhaps he is
going to get some satisfaction; but this creature is just as dull as the
rest, and his Highness, with great want of dignity, begins to whimper.
"The child seems to be in pain," says the Professor, standing up, and
regarding his nephew with concern. "Perhaps he has hurt himself."
"I never thought of that," cries Miss Judith.—"Have you hurt yourself,
"Ont daykumboa," is the only response.
"Looks like he gwine to hab a fit. I gib de chile a good warm bath, if
I's you," suggests Victoria.
Miss Helena eagerly catches at the straw.
"That's a good idea, Victoria. Just fill the little foot-tub with hot
water, and bring it right in here."
Victoria hurries off to get the bath, and the Professor, seized with a
new idea for the explanation of the mystery, goes to his study to search
his dictionary for "daykumboa" in some dead or living language.
The foot-tub is brought, and the aunts proceed to undress his Highness,
whereat he waxes wroth. They persist; there is a frightful howl, a
struggle, and the tub of hot water is very vigorously overturned among
the photographs, scissors, and eatables that strew the floor. The
Professor, in alarm, comes tearing in, a book in each hand. At that
moment a patter as of small feet is heard in the hall, and a little
figure with flying golden locks darts into the room.
Ralph rushes into her arms in a kind of ecstasy, crying, "Oh, daykumboa!
"What is it that Ralph is saying, Daisy?" eagerly asks Miss Helena, in
the lull that follows. "He has been wanting daykumboa all the
"He says, 'Daisy come back,'" answers the little girl. "That's what you
wanted—wasn't it, Ralphie?"
"Es, me ont daykumboa," assents his Highness.
The Professor regards his niece with humble admiration not unmixed with
awe, and retires to his study to lay his dictionaries by. Victoria rolls
her eyes ceilingward, and says, "Well, I declar'!" then falls to work
picking up the ruins of their various offerings, and the two ladies turn
to help her after a little silent astonishment.
Ten minutes after, his Highness is seen in the garden pouring sand down
his sister's neck, and sternly ordering her to "fit 'till," when she
objects, in a tone that makes his aunts wonder if this can be the same
boy who spent the greater part of two hours in wailing, "Ont daykumboa."